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A Christmas story.
Start of Story
It was so long ago that the whole world has forgotten the date and even
the name of the little town in which lived a little boy whose name was
Little Hans lived with his aunt, who was quite an old lady. She was not
always kind to Hans, but this made no difference to him. He loved her
just the same, and forgot that she was ever cross and very unkind to him
Hans went to school with many other boys, but he was not clothed as they
were. He had to wear the same clothes both week days and Sundays; the
same even in the summer that he wore in the winter.
It was now midwinter, when everything was wrapped in snow and glazed
with ice, while the north winds sang loud and whistled down the
chimneys, played very roughly with the bare trees, and crept through
every crack and crevice of the house. The frost, too, was busy pinching
the cheeks and biting the toes of the boys, and making them run, jump
and dance to keep warm.
The children were wild with the excitement and the joy that was astir at
this time. For there were secrets in the air. Every one was busy making
gifts for some loved one.
It was the night before Christmas, the one great birthday on which the
whole world rejoiceth and when all endeavor to make their fellow men
The schoolmaster and all of his pupils started for the midnight worship
and prayer at the church. All of the boys were well clothed, with heavy
coats, fur caps, thick mittens, and very heavy and warm shoes. But
little Hans had only a poor, plain, ragged suit, with no overcoat, no
mittens, and his shoes were only wooden ones. It was a very cold night,
and the boys and the schoolmaster had to walk very fast to keep warm.
But little Hans did not mind the cold so much, because the stars smiled
down upon him and seemed like so many diamonds set in a deep blue
canopy, each one glittering and flashing in the darkness. The snow, too,
was a sparkling mass, and Hans wondered if the stars could see
themselves reflected in the tiny snow crystals which covered the earth.
At last they reached the church, whose windows were shedding forth a
soft, golden light on the stillness and darkness of the cold winter
night. This little group of worshipers quietly passed into the church
and sank noiselessly into their pews. It was a beautiful place to Hans.
He loved it dearly, and was always happy to come here. The candles were
all lighted, and they burned steadily brighter and brighter, filling the
church with a beautiful mellow light. The grand old organ softly and
clearly sent forth its tones, each one growing richer, deeper and
sweeter, and gradually the voices of the choir boys and the tones of the
organ filled the old church with such beautiful music that little Hans's
heart seemed to bound within him,
his whole soul was enraptured,
while there shone from his face a radiance that only a divine
inspiration could bring forth.
At length, after the people had sung, each one knelt and offered
thanksgiving to the Heavenly Father, little Hans, too, knelt and offered
thanks for the blessings which he had received during that year, and for
the tender care of the Father of all.
The people then quietly passed out of the warm church into the cold of
the night. Hans was the last one out, and as he carefully made his way
down the icy steps he noticed a little boy no larger than himself
sitting on the steps, with his head resting against the church. He was
fast asleep. His face was beautiful, and seemed clothed in a golden
light. Beside him, tied in a cloth, were a square, a hammer, a saw and
other tools of a carpenter. He had neither shoes nor stockings on his
feet, although his clothing was spotless and of the purest white. It
grieved Hans that the child should have no shoes, not even one to place
for the Christ-child to fill with gifts.
Hans stooped and took from his right foot the wooden shoe and placed it
in front of the sleeping child, so that the Christ-child would not pass
him by. Hans then limped along on the ice and snow, not feeling how cold
it was, but only thinking of the poor child asleep out in the cold.
The other boys were talking of the good things awaiting them at home, of
the feasts, the plum pudding, the Christmas trees, and the many drums,
wagons and blocks the Christ-child would put in their shoes that night.
When Hans arrived home he found his aunt awaiting him, and when she saw
that he had only one shoe, and he had told her all about the other one,
she was very angry with him, and sent him to bed. Hans placed the wooden
shoe from his left foot at the fireside, hoping that the Christ-child
would remember him as he passed by.
The first sunbeam that crept into Hans's bedroom and kissed him the next
morning awoke him, and he bounded downstairs, and flew to the great open
fireplace to find his shoe.
Hans rubbed his eyes and caught his breath, for, to his great surprise,
there were both of his wooden shoes, filled with beautiful toys; by the
fireside he found warm clothing and many other things to make him
comfortable and happy.
Hearing loud voices, Hans went to the door. The people were standing in
a crowd about the priest, who was talking to them. He told Hans that
where he had seen the child asleep on the church steps there was now in
the window above a beautiful crown set with precious jewels. He said
that the child was the Christ-child, whom the Heavenly Father had again
sent among men on earth for that night, and that it was He with whom
Hans had shared his wooden shoes.
The people bowed themselves before that miracle that the good God had
seen fit to work, to reward the faith and charity of a child.
Francois Coppee, [Adapted]