A tumult of applause stopped him, and he sat down.
Brooke was defeated promptly, and known ever after
as “The Old Rag
The Santa Claus of Cedar Hill
Christmas Eve had come and the year of 1850. For two weeks snow had rushed over the creaking gable of the forest above Martha Vaughn’s, to pile in drifts or go hissing down the long hillside. A freezing blast had driven it to the roots of the stubble and sown it deep and rolled it into ridges and whirled it into heaps and mounds, or flung it far in long waves that seemed to plunge, as if part of a white sea, and break over fence and roof and chimney in their downrush. Candle and firelight filtered through frosty panes and glowed, dimly, under dark fathoms of the snow sheet now flying full of voices. Mrs. Vaughn opened her door a moment to peer out. A great horned owl flashed across the light beam with a snap and rustle of wings and a cry “oo-oo-oo,” lonely, like that, as if it were the spirit of darkness and the cold wind. Mrs. Vaughn started, turning quickly and closing the door.
“Ugh! what a sound,” said Polly. “It reminds me of a ghost story.”
“Well,” said the widow, “that thing belongs to the only family o’ real ghosts in the world.”
“What was it?” said a small boy. There were Polly and three children about the fireplace.
“An air cat,” said she, shivering, her back to the fire. “They go ‘round at night in a great sheet o’ feathers an’ rustle it, an’ I declare they do cry lonesome. Got terrible claws, too!”
“Ever hurt folks?” one of the boys inquired.
“No; but they’re just like some kinds o’ people—ye want to let ’em alone. Any one that’ll shake hands with an owl would be fool enough to eat fish-hooks. They’re not made for friendship—those owls.”
“What are they made for?” another voice inquired.
“Just to kill,” said she, patting a boy’s head tenderly. “They’re Death flying round at night—the angel o’ Death for rats an’ rabbits an’ birds an’ other little creatures. Once,—oh, many years ago,—it seemed so everything was made to kill. Men were like beasts o’ prey, most of ’em; an’ they’re not all gone yet. Went around day an’ night killing. I declare they must have had claws. Then came the Prince o’ Peace.”
“What did he do to ’em, mother?” said Paul—a boy of seven.
“Well, he began to cut their claws for one thing,” said the mother. “Taught ’em to love an’ not to kill. Shall I read you the story—how he came in a manger?”