The Christmas Goose At The Cratchits'





CHARLES DICKENS



You might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered

phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course; and in truth,

it was something like it in that house. Mrs. Cratchit made the gravy

(ready before-hand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter

mashed the potatoes with incredible vigor; Miss Belinda sweetened up the

apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him

in a tiny corner, at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for

everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their

posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for

goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set

on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs.

Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge

it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long-expected gush of

stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all around the board,

and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table

with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried hurrah!



There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was

such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were

the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by the apple-sauce and

mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family;

indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small

atom of a bone on the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every

one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were

steeped in sage and onion to the eye-brows! But now, the plates being

changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone--too nervous

to bear witnesses--to take the pudding up, and bring it in.



Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning

out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the backyard, and

stolen it, while they were merry with the goose; a supposition at which

the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were

supposed.



Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell

like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and

a pastry cook's next door to each other, with a laundress next door to

that! That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered,

flushed, but smiling proudly, with the pudding like a speckled

cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of

ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.



Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he

regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs. Cratchit since

their marriage. Mrs. Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind,

she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour.

Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it

was at all a small pudding for so large a family. It would have been

flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a

thing.



At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth

swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted and

considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a

shovelful of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew

round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a

one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass--two

tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.



These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden

goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while

the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob

proposed:



A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!



Which all the family re-echoed.



God bless us every one! said Tiny Tim, the last of all.







GOD BLESS US EVERY ONE



JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



[From Sketches in Prose.]



God bless us every one! prayed Tiny Tim,

Crippled, and dwarfed of body, yet so tall

Of soul, we tiptoe earth to look on him,

High towering over all.



He loved the loveless world, nor dreamed, indeed,

That it, at best, could give to him, the while,

But pitying glances, when his only need

Was but a cheery smile.



And thus he prayed, God bless us every one!

Enfolding all the creeds within the span

Of his child-heart; and so, despising none,

Was nearer saint than man.



I like to fancy God, in Paradise,

Lifting a finger o'er the rhythmic swing

Of chiming harp and song, with eager eyes

Turned earthward, listening--



The Anthem stilled--the angels leaning there

Above the golden walls--the morning sun

Of Christmas bursting flower-like with the prayer,

God bless us Every One!





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