As Granny and she got ready for bed that night, Gretchen put her arms softly around Granny’s neck, and whispered: “What a beautiful Christmas we have had to-day, Granny! Is there anything in the world more lovely than Christmas?”
“Nay, child, nay,” said Granny, “not to such loving hearts as yours.”
XXXIV. CHRISTMAS ON BIG RATTLE*
* This story was first printed in the Youth’s Companion, Dec. 14, 1905.
THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS
Archer sat by the rude hearth of his Big Rattle camp, brooding in a sort of tired contentment over the spitting fagots of var and glowing coals of birch.
It was Christmas Eve. He had been out on his snowshoes all that day, and all the day before, springing his traps along the streams and putting his deadfalls out of commission—rather queer work for a trapper to be about.
But Archer, despite all his gloomy manner, was really a sentimentalist, who practised what he felt.
“Christmas is a season of peace on earth,” he had told himself, while demolishing the logs of a sinister deadfall with his axe; and now the remembrance of his quixotic deed added a brightness to the fire and to the rough, undecorated walls of the camp.
Outside, the wind ran high in the forest, breaking and sweeping tidelike over the reefs of treetops. The air was bitterly cold. Another voice, almost as fitful as the sough of the wind, sounded across the night. It was the waters of Stone Arrow Falls, above Big Rattle.
The frosts had drawn their bonds of ice and blankets of silencing snow over all the rest of the stream, but the white and black face of the falls still flashed from a window in the great house of crystal, and threw out a voice of desolation.
Sacobie Bear, a full-blooded Micmac, uttered a grunt of relief when his ears caught the bellow of Stone Arrow Falls. He stood still, and turned his head from side to side, questioningly.
“Good!” he said. “Big Rattle off there, Archer’s camp over there. I go there. Good ’nough!”
He hitched his old smooth-bore rifle higher under his arm and continued his journey. Sacobie had tramped many miles—all the way from ice-imprisoned Fox Harbor. His papoose was sick. His squaw was hungry. Sacobie’s belt was drawn tight.
During all that weary journey his old rifle had not banged once, although few eyes save those of timberwolf and lynx were sharper in the hunt than Sacobie’s. The Indian was reeling with hunger and weakness, but he held bravely on.
A white man, no matter how courageous and sinewy, would have been prone in the snow by that time.
But Sacobie, with his head down and his round snowshoes padding! padding! like the feet of a frightened duck, raced with death toward the haven of Archer’s cabin.
Archer was dreaming of a Christmas-time in a great faraway city when he was startled by a rattle of snowshoes at his threshold and a soft beating on his door, like weak blows from mittened hands. He sprang across the cabin and pulled open the door.