Jimmy Scarecrow's Christmas





MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN





JIMMY SCARECROW led a sad life in the winter. Jimmy's greatest grief was

his lack of occupation. He liked to be useful, and in winter he was

absolutely of no use at all.



He wondered how many such miserable winters he would have to endure. He

was a young Scarecrow, and this was his first one. He was strongly made,

and although his wooden joints creaked a little when the wind blew he

did not grow in the least rickety. Every morning, when the wintry sun

peered like a hard yellow eye across the dry corn-stubble, Jimmy felt

sad, but at Christmas time his heart nearly broke.



On Christmas Eve Santa Claus came in his sledge heaped high with

presents, urging his team of reindeer across the field. He was on his

way to the farmhouse where Betsey lived with her Aunt Hannah.



Betsey was a very good little girl with very smooth yellow curls, and

she had a great many presents. Santa Claus had a large wax doll-baby for

her on his arm, tucked up against the fur collar of his coat. He was

afraid to trust it in the pack, lest it get broken.



When poor Jimmy Scarecrow saw Santa Claus his heart gave a great leap.

"Santa Claus! Here I am!" he cried out, but Santa Claus did not hear

him.



"Santa Claus, please give me a little present. I was good all summer and

kept the crows out of the corn," pleaded the poor Scarecrow in his

choking voice, but Santa Claus passed by with a merry halloo and a great

clamour of bells.



Then Jimmy Scarecrow stood in the corn-stubble and shook with sobs until

his joints creaked. "I am of no use in the world, and everybody has

forgotten me," he moaned. But he was mistaken.



The next morning Betsey sat at the window holding her Christmas

doll-baby, and she looked out at Jimmy Scarecrow standing alone in the

field amidst the corn-stubble.



"Aunt Hannah?" said she. Aunt Hannah was making a crazy patchwork quilt,

and she frowned hard at a triangular piece of red silk and circular

piece of pink, wondering how to fit them together. "Well?" said she.



"Did Santa Claus bring the Scarecrow any Christmas present?"



"No, of course he didn't."



"Why not?"



"Because he's a Scarecrow. Don't ask silly questions."



"I wouldn't like to be treated so, if I was a Scarecrow," said Betsey,

but her Aunt Hannah did not hear her. She was busy cutting a triangular

snip out of the round piece of pink silk so the piece of red silk could

be feather-stitched into it.



It was snowing hard out of doors, and the north wind blew. The

Scarecrow's poor old coat got whiter and whiter with snow. Sometimes he

almost vanished in the thick white storm. Aunt Hannah worked until the

middle of the afternoon on her crazy quilt. Then she got up and spread

it out over the sofa with an air of pride.



"There," said she, "that's done, and that makes the eighth. I've got one

for every bed in the house, and I've given four away. I'd give this away

if I knew of anybody that wanted it."



Aunt Hannah put on her hood and shawl, and drew some blue yarn stockings

on over her shoes, and set out through the snow to carry a slice of

plum-pudding to her sister Susan, who lived down the road. Half an hour

after Aunt Hannah had gone Betsey put her little red plaid shawl over

her head, and ran across the field to Jimmy Scarecrow. She carried her

new doll-baby smuggled up under her shawl.



"Wish you Merry Christmas!" she said to Jimmy Scarecrow.



"Wish you the same," said Jimmy, but his voice was choked with sobs, and

was also muffled, for his old hat had slipped down to his chin. Betsey

looked pitifully at the old hat fringed with icicles, like frozen tears,

and the old snow-laden coat. "I've brought you a Christmas present,"

said she, and with that she tucked her doll-baby inside Jimmy

Scarecrow's coat, sticking its tiny feet into a pocket.



"Thank you," said Jimmy Scarecrow faintly.



"You're welcome," said she. "Keep her under your overcoat, so the snow

won't wet her, and she won't catch cold, she's delicate."



"Yes, I will," said Jimmy Scarecrow, and he tried hard to bring one of

his stiff, outstretched arms around to clasp the doll-baby.



"Don't you feel cold in that old summer coat?" asked Betsey.



"If I had a little exercise, I should be warm," he replied. But he

shivered, and the wind whistled through his rags.



"You wait a minute," said Betsey, and was off across the field.



Jimmy Scarecrow stood in the corn-stubble, with the doll-baby under his

coat and waited, and soon Betsey was back again with Aunt Hannah's crazy

quilt trailing in the snow behind her.



"Here," said she, "here is something to keep you warm," and she folded

the crazy quilt around the Scarecrow and pinned it.



"Aunt Hannah wants to give it away if anybody wants it," she explained.

"She's got so many crazy quilts in the house now she doesn't know what

to do with them. Good-bye--be sure you keep the doll-baby covered up."

And with that she ran across the field, and left Jimmy Scarecrow alone

with the crazy quilt and the doll-baby.



The bright flash of colours under Jimmy's hat-brim dazzled his eyes, and

he felt a little alarmed. "I hope this quilt is harmless if it is

crazy," he said. But the quilt was warm, and he dismissed his fears.

Soon the doll-baby whimpered, but he creaked his joints a little, and

that amused it, and he heard it cooing inside his coat.



Jimmy Scarecrow had never felt so happy in his life as he did for an

hour or so. But after that the snow began to turn to rain, and the crazy

quilt was soaked through and through: and not only that, but his coat

and the poor doll-baby. It cried pitifully for a while, and then it was

still, and he was afraid it was dead.



It grew very dark, and the rain fell in sheets, the snow melted, and

Jimmy Scarecrow stood halfway up his old boots in water. He was saying

to himself that the saddest hour of his life had come, when suddenly he

again heard Santa Claus' sleigh-bells and his merry voice talking to his

reindeer. It was after midnight, Christmas was over, and Santa was

hastening home to the North Pole.



"Santa Claus! dear Santa Claus!" cried Jimmy Scarecrow with a great sob,

and that time Santa Claus heard him and drew rein.



"Who's there?" he shouted out of the darkness.



"It's only me," replied the Scarecrow.



"Who's me?" shouted Santa Claus.



"Jimmy Scarecrow!"



Santa got out of his sledge and waded up. "Have you been standing here

ever since corn was ripe?" he asked pityingly, and Jimmy replied that he

had.



"What's that over your shoulders?" Santa Claus continued, holding up his

lantern.



"It's a crazy quilt."



"And what are you holding under your coat?"



"The doll-baby that Betsey gave me, and I'm afraid it's dead," poor

Jimmy Scarecrow sobbed.



"Nonsense!" cried Santa Claus. "Let me see it!" And with that he pulled

the doll-baby out from under the Scarecrow's coat, and patted its back,

and shook it a little, and it began to cry, and then to crow. "It's all

right," said Santa Claus. "This is the doll-baby I gave Betsey, and it

is not at all delicate. It went through the measles, and the

chicken-pox, and the mumps, and the whooping-cough, before it left the

North Pole. Now get into the sledge, Jimmy Scarecrow, and bring the

doll-baby and the crazy quilt. I have never had any quilts that weren't

in their right minds at the North Pole, but maybe I can cure this one.

Get in!" Santa chirruped to his reindeer, and they drew the sledge up

close in a beautiful curve.



"Get in, Jimmy Scarecrow, and come with me to the North Pole!" he

cried.



"Please, how long shall I stay?" asked Jimmy Scarecrow.



"Why, you are going to live with me," replied Santa Claus. "I've been

looking for a person like you for a long time."



"Are there any crows to scare away at the North Pole? I want to be

useful," Jimmy Scarecrow said, anxiously.



"No," answered Santa Claus, "but I don't want you to scare away crows. I

want you to scare away Arctic Explorers. I can keep you in work for a

thousand years, and scaring away Arctic Explorers from the North Pole is

much more important than scaring away crows from corn. Why, if they

found the Pole, there wouldn't be a piece an inch long left in a week's

time, and the earth would cave in like an apple without a core! They

would whittle it all to pieces, and carry it away in their pockets for

souvenirs. Come along; I am in a hurry."



"I will go on two conditions," said Jimmy. "First, I want to make a

present to Aunt Hannah and Betsey, next Christmas."



"You shall make them any present you choose. What else?"



"I want some way provided to scare the crows out of the corn next

summer, while I am away," said Jimmy.



"That is easily managed," said Santa Claus. "Just wait a minute."



Santa took his stylographic pen out of his pocket, went with his lantern

close to one of the fence-posts, and wrote these words upon it:





NOTICE TO CROWS

Whichever crow shall hereafter hop, fly, or flop

into this field during the absence of Jimmy

Scarecrow, and therefrom purloin, steal, or

abstract corn, shall be instantly, in a twinkling

and a trice, turned snow-white, and be ever after

a disgrace, a byword and a reproach to his whole

race.

Per order of SANTA CLAUS.



"The corn will be safe now," said Santa Claus, "get in." Jimmy got into

the sledge and they flew away over the fields, out of sight, with merry

halloos and a great clamour of bells.



The next morning there was much surprise at the farmhouse, when Aunt

Hannah and Betsey looked out of the window and the Scarecrow was not in

the field holding out his stiff arms over the corn stubble. Betsey had

told Aunt Hannah she had given away the crazy quilt and the doll-baby,

but had been scolded very little.



"You must not give away anything of yours again without asking

permission," said Aunt Hannah. "And you have no right to give anything

of mine, even if you know I don't want it. Now both my pretty quilt and

your beautiful doll-baby are spoiled."



That was all Aunt Hannah had said. She thought she would send John

after the quilt and the doll-baby next morning as soon as it was light.



But Jimmy Scarecrow was gone, and the crazy quilt and the doll-baby with

him. John, the servant-man, searched everywhere, but not a trace of them

could he find. "They must have all blown away, mum," he said to Aunt

Hannah.



"We shall have to have another scarecrow next summer," said she.



But the next summer there was no need of a scarecrow, for not a crow

came past the fence-post on which Santa Claus had written his notice to

crows. The cornfield was never so beautiful, and not a single grain was

stolen by a crow, and everybody wondered at it, for they could not read

the crow-language in which Santa had written.



"It is a great mystery to me why the crows don't come into our

cornfield, when there is no scarecrow," said Aunt Hannah.



But she had a still greater mystery to solve when Christmas came round

again. Then she and Betsey had each a strange present. They found them

in the sitting-room on Christmas morning. Aunt Hannah's present was her

old crazy quilt, remodelled, with every piece cut square and true, and

matched exactly to its neighbour.



"Why, it's my old crazy quilt, but it isn't crazy now!" cried Aunt

Hannah, and her very spectacles seemed to glisten with amazement.



Betsey's present was her doll-baby of the Christmas before; but the doll

was a year older. She had grown an inch, and could walk and say,

"mamma," and "how do?" She was changed a good deal, but Betsey knew her

at once. "It's my doll-baby!" she cried, and snatched her up and kissed

her.



But neither Aunt Hannah nor Betsey ever knew that the quilt and the doll

were Jimmy Scarecrow's Christmas presents to them.





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