Cold and tired Captain Tracy was, after a night’s march in the streets and a day’s fighting; but he was not too weary to smile at the dear faces around him, or to pat Kitty’s head when she brought his warm stockings and would put them on the tired feet, herself.
Suddenly there was a sharp, quick bark outside the door. “What’s that?” cried Harry
“Oh, I forgot. Open the door. Here, Fido, Fido!”
Into the room there sprang a beautiful little King Charles spaniel, white, with tan spots, and ears of the longest, softest, and silkiest.
“What a little dear!” exclaimed Kitty; “where did it come from?”
“From the battle of Trenton,” said her father. “His poor master was shot. After the red-coats had turned their backs, and I was hurrying along one of the streets where the fight had been the fiercest, I heard a low groan, and, turning, saw a British officer lying among a number of slain. I raised his head; he begged for some water, which I brought him, and bending down my ear I heard him whisper, ’Dying—last battle—say a prayer.’ He tried to follow me in the words of a prayer, and then, taking my hand, laid it on something soft and warm, nestling close up to his breast—it was this little dog. The gentleman—for he was a real gentleman—gasped out, ’Take care of my poor Fido; good-night,’ and was gone. It was as much as I could do to get the little creature away from his dead master; he clung to him as if he loved him better than life. You’ll take care of him, won’t you, children? I brought him home to you, for a Christmas present.”
“Pretty little Fido,” said Kitty, taking the soft, curly creature in her arms; “I think it’s the best present in the world, and to-morrow is to be real Christmas, because you are home, papa.”
“And we’ll eat the turkey,” said Harry, “and shellbarks, lots of them, that I saved for you. What a good time we’ll have! And oh, papa, don’t go to war any more, but stay at home, with mother and Kitty and Fido and me.”
“What would become of our country if we should all do that, my little man? It was a good day’s work that we did this Christmas, getting the army all across the river so quickly and quietly that we surprised the enemy, and gained a victory, with the loss of few men.”
Thus it was that some of the good people of 1776 spent their Christmas, that their children and grandchildren might spend many of them as citizens of a free nation.
From “Kristy’s Queer Christmas,” Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1904.
It was just before Christmas, and Mr. Barnes was starting for the nearest village. The family were out at the door to see him start, and give him the last charges.
“Don’t forget the Christmas dinner, papa,” said Willie.