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ADAM WHITE'S VISION
"OH, dear it is Christmas again!" sighed old dark White as he ruefully eyed a rusty old ham that hung unsaleable a year in his store. "Christmas and I shall have to give away at least twenty dollars' worth of provisions again. That's an absurd custom, of expecting us to give to the poor. It's very strange that just because we happen to have a little more of this world's goods than some one else, we must provide for all the lame and lazy. Now, those women who go round collecting provisions for the poor always happen to be our best customers, and we don't dare to refuse. Besides, it looks well to see " Adam White, provisions worth twenty dollars," on the subscription-list. I suppose," he said again, with a deep sigh-" I suppose they will be round to-night, and I'd better look up what I can give to them."
So he took down the rusty ham, and looked at it over and over, saying, "I might have sold that to some one at half-price," and then he seemed to have a sudden idea; for he said in addition, "But it's well I didn't, or I'd have been obliged to give a good one now."
Then he gathered together some other articles, two mouldy sacks of flour, some wormy dried apples and peaches, a half-barrel of sugar that had had kerosine oil spilt into it, and to these he added a sack of spoilt coffee, and some rice, in among which was spilled flax seed. And he flattered himself, he had done his duty to the poor for another year to come. He said
"The ladies on the committee, they never look at the things you give; you must never look a gift horse in the mouth,' and the poor dare not find fault with them, because they know if they do they will never get anything more. It don't do for poor folks to be ungrateful," and here he chuckled and rubbed his bony blue hands together. "Besides," he continued, "perhaps they won't know the difference. At any rate, I've done my duty-my duty." And he gave directions to his clerks, wrapped himself up in comforters till only the tip of his thin little blue nose, and a pair of sharp grey eyes shone out; and he looked like an Egyptian mummy just come to life, as he started to his cosy home.
Here he put himself before the warm fire and put on his slippers and dressing-gown, put the tips of his thin fingers together, and, with a self-satisfied smile on his weazened face, calmly waited his dinner.
The old housekeeper brought it in, and he ate, after having asked a blessing, in the course of which he told the Almighty One
what a good man Adam White was;
Then he smoked his pipe in bachelor comfort, made a mental calculation of his money in the bank, and his prosperous business, said a prayer, and went to bed.
"We'll never have any Christmas again, Sammy," said a wee Her yellow-haired child of six, in a plaintive thin little voice. clothes were insufficient for the season, and her blue little cheeks had two glistening tears quivering on them.
"It's too bad, I say, Sammy," she continued; isn't it? don't think it's right. Mamma says it is, but I think not; and, And she ended this Sammy, I believe God has forgotten us."
sentence in a whisper.
"Oh, no, He hasn't," said Sammy, a poor, pale child of eight, whose ragged clothes could hardly cover his shrunken body, which looked all too small for the large head with its high forehead.
"Well, perhaps He hasn't, but if He hasn't he might just send us toys, and candies, and boots for you, Sammy, and a shawl for mamma; and oh, everything nice, just like manima says we had 'fore papa died and went to Heaven. It makes me mad, for I think I've got just as good a right as those little girls to have a Christmas. I think mamma might if she had tried, and I just don't care so there!" And the little head drooped and big tears gathered in the blue eyes, and the little child sobbed as if her heart would break.
"Don't cry, Nellie," said Sammy taking her head on his bony "Don't cry; look at the pretty things in this baker's
You know mamma let us come out to see the stores and we must go back pretty soon."
She raised her head and Sammy tenderly dried her eyes with his cold little hand; and she soon became interested in the beautiful delicacies in the baker's window, presently saying:
"Oh, Sammy, if I had just a little teeney taste of that gingercake in the window, I wouldn't ask anything nicer. Don't you think the baker would give us some if I asked him, and told him I was hungry?"
"You know, Nellie, mamma wouldn't like it--she has forbidden us to beg."
"But she don't know how hungry I am. you know."
She is never hungry,
"Yes, Nellie, I know she says so, but sometimes I think she is. Last night, you know, she said so, and there was only four
potatoes; she gave three to you and baby, and I had one, and, do you know? I saw her eating the peels afterwards. Oh, Nellie! it is too bad!" And here his voice choked, but he soon continued. "I could work some, I know I could; but everybody laughs at my rags and says 'Get out, you little beggar!' and they think I am too little-they don't think I'm eight."
"Sammy, let's go home; I'm cold, and its no use staying here any longer. Sammy, lets pray 'fore we get home and ask God to remember us."
In crossing the "Playa" the two waifs knelt down and prayed a simple prayer wherein Sammy prayed for his mother, and Nellie that God might remember them with "a Christmas.”
A little bare room; a delicate, consumptive woman, a fretful, puny baby; a tiny fire, and a supper of roast potatoes and two buns were what these little ones found on coming "home" from their view of the good things and pleasant things they must not have.
Mamma," said Nelly, "don't you think you could make us a little Christmas; just a little one, not to cost much money, you
"Darling, mamma would if she could; but she can't this time. Perhaps she can do something New Year's. Come, now, and eat your supper. I have two nice buns for you that I am sure you will like."
"I am not very hungry to-night, mamma," said Nellie, who remembered what Tommy had said. But she ate part of what was given her, and then went to bed beside the sleeping baby; and soon her troubles were forgotten in dreams.
Sammy soon followed, and Mrs. Ellis continued to work at the coarse garment for which she would receive enough to keep from starving, for two days, her helpless babes. It had been a year and more since her brave, loving husband was dead; and for more than six months, with failing health, the gaunt wolf of poverty had left off peering in at the window and boldly walked in the door. She thought of her past life, and dared not look to the future, for that was only a grave for herself and destitution of the bitterest kind for her three sensitive children.
She still sewed and shivered and dreamed, when Sammy, after a silence so long that she thought him asleep, suddenly rose up on his elbow saying,
"Mamma, do cats and dogs have souls ?" "No, Sammy, why?"
"Is it wrong for them to steal when they are hungry?"
"No, I think not, as they do not know right from wrong?" "Then I just wish I was a dog or a cat, that I might steal for you and Nellie and baby-so there!" and he ended with a doleful
The mother consoled him as best she could, and, her work being finished, she crept into the bed with all her little ones, and went to sleep with tears in her faded eyes.
Adam White, had gone to his bed the same night in a spirit of ublime peace with God and his fellow-men. He pulled his red flannel nightcap down over his ears, and his little blue nose was all that was to be seen. He shut his eyes resolutely till the three wrinkles at the corners seemed but one; but he could not go to sleep. He turned, he tossed, but he could not even feel sleepy; and whether the idea of its being Christmas Eve was what troubled his rest, or whether some dim and almost forgotten remembrances of other Christmas Days came back, I do not know; but he found himself thinking of the time when he was a boy and at home; of the little red stocking he had hung in the chimney-piece, and of the pretty toys he had had. From those his thoughts had wandered to his mother, his good father, and finally to his little golden-haired brother who was so many years younger than himself, years that were every one marked with a tiny grave-stone in the churchyard.
His youth, playmates, and brother, all came to him now so vividly, that he thought regretfully of that brother dead, neglected, and left to die because he had married sweet Grace Eliott, instead of the wealthy bride his older brother had chosen.
"Ah well," sighed Adam White, "he deserved it, and he did well to change his name. He made his bed, and so he lay on it."
But yet he could not sleep. The midnight bells rang out joyously, as if to sound the glad tidings that a child was born in Bethlehem; and Adam White began to recal that old, sweet story, till all at once he found himself marching with a vast throng, and, strangely enough, he was laden with the rusty old ham, the spoilt rice, sugar, and flour he had that day given to the poor, and they weighed heavy. He noticed also that all that great throng carried burdens, some of them great and heavy, and some of them only cups of cold water.
Onward and upward marched the throng, still augmenting, till at last, borne on by the pressure, Adam White found himself before a stable wherein lay a lovely babe in a manger. Then the heavens opened, and such divine music sounded as was never heard this side
their gates, and rank on rank of gleaming angels, legion on legion of cherubim and seraphim, rested on clouds of dazzling white.
All the crowd, as they drew near to the babe in the manger, cast to the earth their gifts and worshipped Him. Piles on piles of costly stuffs, and perfumes and rich jewels, lay heaped up before Him, and sometimes some one would come with a cup of crystal water, and tremblingly offer it to Him, and then go on his way so happy as to seem radiant.
Adam White began to tremble when his turn drew near, and he hung back. But all the angels and seraphim and cherubim said in voices low and sweet, "And what have you to offer our Lord, Adam White ?"
'Only this ham and this flour and this sugar and rice and coffee; but they were not for Him, I was only going to give them to the poor."
Then the Holy Babe raised himself and said, "Know ye not that whatsoever ye do unto them ye,do also unto me?"
Then all the seraphim and cherubim rustled their wings and repeated sadly the words of the Holy One. And all at once the earth at his feet opened, and millions of demons laughed in his face and said, "He was going to give them to the poor, ah! ah !”
And he felt himself falling, falling into that dark abyss, with those horrid faces, and he clutched wildly, desperately, and cried out, and found himself in bed.
He sat up and rubbed his eyes. He must have dreamed all that, but, good Heavens! how real! He seemed to see those faces yet, and the Holy Babe-it had the face of his young brother, who died and left his three babes orphans. Adam White sat up there in bed with the Christmas bells yet chiming, and cried.
He said, too, "Of what avail if I gain all the wealth of the world and lose my own soul? Please God, I will take Charlie's widow and babies and keep them, and I will change all those provisions, I will, so help me God."
With the earliest light of morning, Adam White was up, and he astonished his housekeeper by being so cheerful, and by telling her to prepare a room at once for his sister-in-law and her babies. She cried with delight, and all at once the strings that had so long tightened the heart of Adam White gave way, as he thought of the sweet voices of children in his dreary home.
"Miss Bridget," says he "here's fifty dollars, rig up a Christmas-tree for the little ones, nice and handsome," and he started for his store. There he solemnly threw all his wretched things in the vault, and sent out the waggons laden with many and worthy gifts to our Lord, through His deputies, the poor.
Then he took a close, warm carr iage, and drove to the wretched