So saying, He broke a branch from the fir-tree that grew near the door, and He planted it in the ground and disappeared. And the branch grew into a great tree, and every year it bore wonderful fruit for the kind children.
XXVI. THE FIRST NEW ENGLAND CHRISTMAS*
“From Stone and Fickett’s “Every Day Life in the Colonies;” copyrighted 1905, by D. C. Heath & Co. Used by permission.
G. L. STONE AND M. G. FICKETT
It was a warm and pleasant Saturday—that twenty-third of December, 1620. The winter wind had blown itself away in the storm of the day before, and the air was clear and balmy. The people on board the Mayflower were glad of the pleasant day. It was three long months since they had started from Plymouth, in England, to seek a home across the ocean. Now they had come into a harbour that they named New Plymouth, in the country of New England.
Other people called these voyagers Pilgrims, which means wanderers. A long while before, the Pilgrims had lived in England; later they made their home with the Dutch in Holland; finally they had said goodbye to their friends in Holland and in England, and had sailed away to America.
There were only one hundred and two of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower, but they were brave and strong and full of hope. Now the Mayflower was the only home they had; yet if this weather lasted they might soon have warm log-cabins to live in. This very afternoon the men had gone ashore to cut down the large trees.
The women of the Mayflower were busy, too. Some were spinning, some knitting, some sewing. It was so bright and pleasant that Mistress Rose Standish had taken out her knitting and had gone to sit a little while on deck. She was too weak to face rough weather, and she wanted to enjoy the warm sunshine and the clear salt air. By her side was Mistress Brewster, the minister’s wife. Everybody loved Mistress Standish and Mistress Brewster, for neither of them ever spoke unkindly.
The air on deck would have been warm even on a colder day, for in one corner a bright fire was burning. It would seem strange now, would it not, to see a fire on the deck of a vessel? But in those days, when the weather was pleasant, people on shipboard did their cooking on deck.
The Pilgrims had no stoves, and Mistress Carver’s maid had built this fire on a large hearth covered with sand. She had hung a great kettle on the crane over the fire, where the onion soup for supper was now simmering slowly.
Near the fire sat a little girl, busily playing and singing to herself. Little Remember Allerton was only six years old, but she liked to be with Hannah, Mistress Carver’s maid. This afternoon Remember had been watching Hannah build the fire and make the soup. Now the little girl was playing with the Indian arrowheads her father had brought her the night before. She was singing the words of the old psalm: