The Birds' Christmas Carol
BIRDS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1888, BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1914 AND 1916, BY KATE DOUGLAS RIGGS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE
THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM
EIGHT HUNDREDTH THOUSAND
The Riverside PressCAMBRIDGE ∑ MASSACHUSETTS
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
TO THE THREE DEAREST CHILDREN
IN THE WORLD
CONTENTS AND LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
- "The little Ruggleses bore it bravely" (page 36)Frontispiece
- I.A Little Snow Bird1
- "She is a little Christmas Child"7
- II.Drooping Wings10
- III.The Birds' Nest15
- Carol at her window21
- IV."Birds of a Feather Flock Together"22
- The "Window School"31
- V.Some Other Birds are taught to Fly32
- "I want ter see how yer goin' ter behave"39
- VI."When the pie was opened,
- The birds began to sing!" }48
- "The Ruggleses never forgot it"55
- "I beat the hull lot o' yer!"62
- VII.The Birdling flies away63
- "My Ain Countree"65
- "I thought of the Star in the East"69
THE BIRDS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL
A LITTLE SNOW BIRD
t was very early Christmas morning, and in the stillness of the dawn,with the soft snow falling on the house-tops, a little child was born inthe Bird household.
They had intended to name the baby Lucy, if it were a girl; but they hadnot expected her on Christmas morning, and a real Christmas baby was notto be lightly named—the whole family agreed in that.
They were consulting about it in the nursery. Mr. Bird said that he hadassisted in naming the three boys, and that he should leave this matterentirely to Mrs. Bird; Donald wanted the child called "Dorothy," after apretty, curly-haired girl who sat next him in school; Paul choose"Luella," for Luella was the nurse who had been with him during his[Pg 2]whole babyhood, up to the time of his first trousers, and the namesuggested all sorts of comfortable things. Uncle Jack said that thefirst girl should always be named for her mother, no matter how hideousthe name happened to be.
Grandma said that she would prefer not to take any part in thediscussion, and everybody suddenly remembered that Mrs. Bird had thoughtof naming the baby Lucy, for Grandma herself; and, while it would beindelicate for her to favor that name, it would be against human naturefor her to suggest any other, under the circumstances.
Hugh, the "hitherto baby," if that is a possible term, sat in one cornerand said nothing, but felt, in some mysterious way, that his nose wasout of joint; for there was a newer baby now, a possibility he had nevertaken into consideration; and the "first girl," too,—a still higherdevelopment of treason, which made him actually green with jealousy.
But it was too profound a subject to be settled then and there, on thespot; besides, Mamma had not been asked, and everybody felt it ratherabsurd, after all, to forestall a decree that was certain to beabsolutely wise, just, and perfect.
The reason that the subject had been brought up at all so early in theday lay in the fact that Mrs.[Pg 3] Bird never allowed her babies to go overnight unnamed. She was a person of so great decision of character thatshe would have blushed at such a thing; she said that to let blessedbabies go dangling and dawdling about without names, for months andmonths, was enough to ruin them for life. She also said that if onecould not make up one's mind in twenty-four hours it was a signthat—But I will not repeat the rest, as it might prejudice you againstthe most charming woman in the world.
So Donald took his new velocipede and went out to ride up and down thestone pavement and notch the shins of innocent people as they passed by,while Paul spun his musical top on the front steps.
But Hugh refused to leave the scene of action. He seated himself on thetop stair in the hall, banged his head against the railing a few times,just by way of uncorking the vials of his wrath, and then subsided intogloomy silence, waiting to declare war if more "first girl babies" werethrust upon a family already surfeited with that unnecessary article.
Meanwhile dear Mrs. Bird lay in her room, weak, but safe and happy, withher sweet girl baby by her side and the heaven of motherhood openingagain before her. Nurse was making gruel in the kitchen, and the roomwas dim and quiet. There was a cheerful[Pg 4] open fire in the grate, butthough the shutters were closed, the side windows that looked out on theChurch of Our Saviour, next door, were a little open.
Suddenly a sound of music poured out into the bright air and driftedinto the chamber. It was the boy choir singing Christmas anthems. Higherand higher rose the clear, fresh voices, full of hope and cheer, aschildren's voices always are. Fuller and fuller grew the burst of melodyas one glad strain fell upon another in joyful harmony:—
Carol the good tidings,
And pray a gladsome Christmas
For all your fellow-men:
Carol, brothers, carol,
Christmas Day again."
One verse followed another, always with the same sweet refrain:—
For all your fellow-men:
Carol, brothers, carol,
Christmas Day again."
Mrs. Bird thought, as the music floated in upon her gentle sleep, thatshe had slipped into heaven with her new baby, and that the angels werebidding[Pg 5] them welcome. But the tiny bundle by her side stirred a little,and though it was scarcely more than the ruffling of a feather, sheawoke; for the mother-ear is so close to the heart that it can hear thefaintest whisper of a child.
She opened her eyes and drew the baby closer. It looked like a rosedipped in milk, she thought, this pink and white blossom of girlhood, orlike a pink cherub, with its halo of pale yellow hair, finer than flosssilk.
Carol the good tidings,
The voices were brimming over with joy.
"Why, my baby," whispered Mrs. Bird in soft surprise, "I had forgottenwhat day it was. You are a little Christmas child, and we will name you'Carol'—mother's Christmas Carol!"
"What!" said Mr. Bird, coming in softly and closing the door behind him.
"Why, Donald, don't you think 'Carol' is a sweet name for a Christmasbaby? It came to me just a moment ago in the singing, as I was lyinghere half asleep and half awake."
"I think it is a charming name, dear heart, and[Pg 6] sounds just like you,and I hope that, being a girl, this baby has some chance of being aslovely as her mother;"—at which speech from the baby's papa Mrs. Bird,though she was as weak and tired as she could be, blushed withhappiness.
And so Carol came by her name.
Of course, it was thought foolish by many people, though Uncle Jackdeclared laughingly that it was very strange if a whole family of Birdscould not be indulged in a single Carol; and Grandma, who adored thechild, thought the name much more appropriate than Lucy, but was gladthat people would probably think it short for Caroline.
Perhaps because she was born in holiday time, Carol was a very happybaby. Of course, she was too tiny to understand the joy ofChristmas-tide, but people say there is everything in a good beginning,and she may have breathed in unconsciously the fragrance of evergreensand holiday dinners; while the peals of sleigh-bells and the laughter ofhappy children may have fallen upon her baby ears and wakened in them aglad surprise at the merry world she had come to live in.
Her cheeks and lips were as red as holly-berries; her hair was for allthe world the color of a Christmas candle-flame; her eyes were bright asstars; her laugh like a chime of Christmas-bells, and her tiny handsforever outstretched in giving.
Such a generous little creature you never saw! A spoonful of bread andmilk had always to be taken by Mamma or nurse before Carol could enjoyher supper; whatever bit of cake or sweetmeat found its way into herpretty fingers was straightway broken in half to be shared with Donald,Paul, or Hugh; and when they made believe nibble the morsel withaffected enjoyment, she would clap her hands and crow with delight.
"Why does she do it?" asked Donald thoughtfully. "None of us boys everdid."
"I hardly know," said Mamma, catching her darling to her heart, "exceptthat she is a little Christmas child, and so she has a tiny share of theblessedest birthday the world ever knew!"
t was December, ten years later.
Carol had seen nine Christmas trees lighted on her birthdays, one afteranother; nine times she had assisted in the holiday festivities of thehousehold, though in her babyhood her share of the gayeties wassomewhat limited.
For five years, certainly, she had hidden presents for Mamma and Papa intheir own bureau drawers, and harbored a number of secrets sufficientlylarge to burst a baby brain, had it not been for the relief gained bywhispering them all to Mamma, at night, when she was in her crib, aproceeding which did not in the least lessen the value of a secret inher innocent mind.
For five years she had heard "'Twas the night before Christmas," andhung up a scarlet stocking many sizes too large for her, and pinned asprig of holly on her little white nightgown, to show Santa[Pg 11] Claus thatshe was a "truly" Christmas child, and dreamed of fur-coated saints andtoy-packs and reindeer, and wished everybody a "Merry Christmas" beforeit was light in the morning, and lent every one of her new toys to theneighbors' children before noon, and eaten turkey and plum-pudding, andgone to bed at night in a trance of happiness at the day's pleasures.
Donald was away at college now. Paul and Hugh were great manly fellows,taller than their mother. Papa Bird had gray hairs in his whiskers; andGrandma, God bless her, had been four Christmases in heaven.
But Christmas in the Birds' Nest was scarcely as merry now as it used tobe in the bygone years, for the little child, that once brought such anadded blessing to the day, lay month after month a patient, helplessinvalid, in the room where she was born. She had never been very strongin body, and it was with a pang of terror her mother and father noticed,soon after she was five years old, that she began to limp, ever soslightly; to complain too often of weariness, and to nestle close to hermother, saying she "would rather not go