“Here are silver and gold,
The one for a day of remembrance between thee and dishonour,
The other for a day of plenty between thee and want.”
She went to her bed, presently, where the girl lay sleeping, and, lifting dark masses of her hair, kissed a ruddy cheek. Then the widow stood a moment, wiping her eyes.
A Christmas Adventure
Long before daylight one could hear the slowing of the wind. Its caravan now reaching eastward to mid-ocean was nearly passed. Scattered gusts hurried on like weary and belated followers. Then, suddenly, came a silence in which one might have heard the dust of their feet falling, their shouts receding in the far woodland. The sun rose in a clear sky above the patched and ragged canopy of the woods—a weary multitude now resting in the still air.
The children were up looking for tracks of reindeer and breaking paths in the snow. Sunlight glimmered in far-flung jewels of the Frost King. They lay deep, clinking as the foot sank in them. At the Vaughn home it was an eventful day. Santa Claus—well, he is the great Captain that leads us to the farther gate of childhood and surrenders the golden key. Many ways are beyond the gate, some steep and thorny; and some who pass it turn back with bleeding feet and wet eyes, but the gate opens not again for any that have passed. Tom had got the key and begun to try it. Santa Claus had winked at him with a snaring eye, like that of his aunt when she had sugar in her pocket, and Tom thought it very foolish. The boy had even felt of his greatcoat and got a good look at his boots and trousers. Moreover, when he put his pipe away, Tom saw him take a chew of tobacco—an abhorrent thing if he were to believe his mother.
“Mother,” said he, “I never knew Santa Claus chewed tobacco.”
“Well, mebbe he was Santa Claus’s hired man,” said she.
“Might ‘a’ had the toothache,” Paul suggested, for Lew Allen, who worked for them in the summer time, had an habitual toothache, relieved many times a day by chewing tobacco.
Tom sat looking into the fire a moment.
Then he spoke of a matter Paul and he had discussed secretly.
“Joe Bellus he tol’ me Santa Claus was only somebody rigged up t’ fool folks, an’ hadn’t no reindeers at all.”