The Brower house was alight in every window, and there was the sound of many voices in the hall. The door flew open upon a laughing crowd of boys and girls. Peggy, all glowing and rosy with the wind, stood utterly bewildered until Esther rushed forward and hugged and shook her.
“It’s a party!” she exclaimed. “One of your mother’s waffle suppers! We’re all here! Isn’t it splendid?”
“But, but, but—” stammered Peggy.
“‘But, but, but,’” mimicked Esther. “But this is your vacation, don’t you see?”
A Christmas story by Francois Coppee; adapted and translated by Alma J. Foster
Once upon a time—so long ago that everybody has forgotten the date—in a city in the north of Europe—with such a hard name that nobody can ever remember it—there was a little seven-year-old boy named Wolff, whose parents were dead, who lived with a cross and stingy old aunt, who never thought of kissing him more than once a year and who sighed deeply whenever she gave him a bowlful of soup.
But the poor little fellow had such a sweet nature that in spite of everything, he loved the old woman, although he was terribly afraid of her and could never look at her ugly old face without shivering.
As this aunt of little Wolff was known to have a house of her own and an old woollen stocking full of gold, she had not dared to send the boy to a charity school; but, in order to get a reduction in the price, she had so wrangled with the master of the school, to which little Wolff finally went, that this bad man, vexed at having a pupil so poorly dressed and paying so little, often punished him unjustly, and even prejudiced his companions against him, so that the three boys, all sons of rich parents, made a drudge and laughing stock of the little fellow.
The poor little one was thus as wretched as a child could be and used to hide himself in corners to weep whenever Christmas time came.
It was the schoolmaster’s custom to take all his pupils to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and to bring them home again afterward.
Now, as the winter this year was very bitter, and as heavy snow had been falling for several days, all the boys came well bundled up in warm clothes, with fur caps pulled over their ears, padded jackets, gloves and knitted mittens, and strong, thick-soled boots. Only little Wolff presented himself shivering in the poor clothes he used to wear both weekdays and Sundays and having on his feet only thin socks in heavy wooden shoes.
His naughty companions noticing his sad face and awkward appearance, made many jokes at his expense; but the little fellow was so busy blowing on his fingers, and was suffering so much with chilblains, that he took no notice of them. So the band of youngsters, walking two and two behind the master, started for the church.