Hamilton Wright Mabie.

Famous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... online

. (page 4 of 22)
Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 4 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the stream, and trace the course of the Golden River under
the ground, until it emerges in the Treasure Valley. And at
the top of the cataract of the Golden River are still to be
seen two black stones, round which the waters howl
moumfuUy every day at sunset, and these stones are
ca&ed by the people of the valley The Black Brofhers.



Digitized byCjOOQlC



m

THE SNOW-IMAGE: A CHILDISH MIRACUS

ONE afternoon of a cold winter's day, when the sun shone
forth with chilly brightness, after a long storm, two
children asked leave of their mother to run out and play in
the new-fallen snow. The elder child was a girl, whom,
because she was of a tender and modest disposition, and
was thought to be very beautiful, her parents, and other
people who were familiar with her, used to call \^oIet. But
her brotho* was known by the style and title of Peony, on
account gf the ruddiness of his broad and round little phiz,
which made everybody think of sunshine and great soEuieC
flowers. The father of these two children, a certain Mr.
lindsey, it is important to say, was an excellent but ex-
ceedin^y matter-of-fact sort of man, a dealer in hardware,
and was sturdily accustomed to take what is called the
common-s«nse view of all matters that came under Us con-
sideration. Wth a heart about as tender as other people's,
he had a head as hard and impenetrable, and therefore, per-
haps, as empty, as one of the iron pots which it was a part
of his business to sell. The mother's character, on the other
hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of unworldly beauty
— a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had survived
out of her imaginative youth, and still kept itself alive amid
the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood.

So, Violet and Peony, as I began with saying, besought
their motho* to let them run out and play in the new snow;
for, though it had looked so dreary and dismal, drifting

37



Digitized byCjOOQlC



38 Stories Every Child Should Know

downward out of the gray sky, it had a very cheerful aspect,
now that the sun was shining on it. The children dwelt in
a city, and had no wider play-place than a little garden before
the house, divided by a white fence from the street, and with
a pear-tree and two or three plum-trees overshadowing it,
and some rose-bushes just in front of the parlour-windows.
The trees and shrubs, however, were now leafless, and their
twigs were enveloped in the light snow, which thus made
a kind of wintry foliage, with here and there a pendent icicle
for the fruit.

"Yes, Violet — ^yes, my little Peony," said their kind
mother; "you may go out and play in the new snow."

Accordingly, the good lady bundled up her darlings in
woollen jackets and wadded sacks, and put comforters round
their necks, and a pair of striped gaiters on each little pair of
legs, and worsted mittens on their hands, and gave them a
kiss apiece, by way of a spell to keep away Jack Frost.
Forth sallied the two children, with a hop-skip-and-jump,
that carried them at once into the very heart of a huge snow-
drift, whence A^olet emerged like a snow-bunting, while little
Peony floimdered out with his roimd face in full bloom.
Then what a merry time had they! To look at them, frolick-
ing in the wintry garden, you would have thought that the
dark and pitiless storm had been sent for no other purpose
but to provide a new plaything for Violet and Peony; and
that they themselves had been created, as the snow-birds
were, to take delight only in the tempest, and in the white
mantle which it spread over the earth.

At last, when they had frosted one another all over with
handfuls of snow, Violet, after laughing heartily at little
Peony's figure, was struck with a new idea.

"You look exactly like a snow-image, Peony," said she,
** if your cheeks were not so red. And that puts me in mindl



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Swruhlmage 39

Let us make an image out of snow— an image of a little
girl — and it shall be our sister, and shall run about and play
with us all winter long. Won't it be nice ? "

"O, yesi'^ cried Peony, as plainly as he could speak, for
he was but a little boy. ''That will be nice! And mamma
shall see it!''

''Yes," answered Violet; "mamma shall see the new
little girl. But she must not make her come into the warm
parlour; for, you know, our little snow-sister will not love
the warmth."

And forthwith the children began this great business of
making a snow-image that should run about; while their
mother, who was sitting at the window and overheard some
of their talk, could not help smiling at the gravity with which
they set about it. They really seemed to imagine that there
would be no dijBGlculty whatever in creating a live little girl
out of the snow. And, to say the truth, if miracles are ever
to be wrought, it will be by putting our hands to the work
in precisely such a simple and imdoubting frame of mind
as that in which Violet and Peony now undertook to perform
one, without so much as knowing that it was a miracle. So
thought the mother; and thought, likewise, that the new
snow, just fallen from heaven, would be excellent material
to make new beings of, if it were not so very cold. She
gazed at the children a moment longer, delighting to watch
tiieir little figures— the girl, tall for her age, graceful and
agile, and so delicately coloured that she looked like a cheer-
ful thought, more than a physical reality; while Peony
expanded in breadth rather than height, and rolled along
on his short and stiuxly legs as substantial as an elephant,
though not quite so big. Then the mother resumed her
work. What it was I forget; but she was either trimming a
silken bonnet for Violet, or darning a pair of stockings for



Digitized



by Google



40 Stories Every ChUd Should Know

little Peony's short It^ Again, however, and again, and
yet other agains, she could not help turning her head
to the window to see how the children got on with their
snow-image.

Indeed, it was an exceedingly pleasant sig^t, those bright
little souls at their task! Moreover, it was really wonderful
to observe how knowingly and skUfuUy they managed
the matter. Violet assumed the chief direction, and
told Peony what to do, while, with her own delicate
fingers, she shaped out all the nicer parts of the snow-figure.
It seemed, in fact, not so much to be made by the children,
as to grow up under their hands, while they were pla3ring
and prattling about it. Their mother was quite surprised
at this; and the longer she looked, the more and more
siuprised she grew.

"What remarkable children mine are!** thought she,
smiling with a mother's pride; and, smiling at herself, too,
for being so proud of them. "What other children could
have made anything so like a little girl's figure out of snow
at the first trial? Well; but now I must finish Peony's new
frock, for his grandfather is coming to-morrow, and I want
the little fellow to look handsome."

So she took up the frock, and was soon as busily at work
again with her needle as the two children with their snow-
image. But still, as the needle travelled hither and thither
through the seams of the dress, the mother made her toil
light and happy by listening to the airy voices of Violet and
Peony. They kept talking to one another all the time, their
tongues being quite as active as their feet and hands. Ex-
cept at intervals, she could not distinctly hear what was said,
but had merely a sweet impression that they were in a most
loving mood, and were enjo3nng themselves highly, and that
the business of making the snow-image went prosperously



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Snow-Image 41

on. Now and then, however, when \^olet and Peony hap-
pened to raise their voices, the words were as audible as if
they had been spoken in the very parlour, where the mother
sat. O how delightfully those words echoed in her heart,
even though they meant nothing so very wise or wonderful,
after all!

But you must know a mother Ibtens with her heart, much
more than with her ears; and thus she b often delighted
with the triUs of celestial music, when other people can hear
nothing of the kind.

"Peony, Peony I" cried Violet to her brother, who had
gone to another part of the garden, "bring me some of that
fresh snow. Peony, from the very farthest comer, where we
have not been trampling. I want it to shape our little snow-
sister's bosom with. You know that part must be quite
pure, just as it came out of the skyP'

"Here it is, Violet!" answered Peony, in his bluflf tone —
but a very sweet tone, too — ^as he came floundering through
the half-trodden drifts. "Here is the snow for her little
bosom. O Violet, how beau-ti-ful she begins to look!"

"Yes," said Violet, thoughtfully and quietly; "our snow-
sister does look very lovely. I did not quite know. Peony,
that we could make such a sweet little girl as this."

The mother, as she listened, thought how fit and de-
lightful an incident it would be, if fairies, or, still better,
if angel-children were to come from paradise, and play
invisibly with her own darlings, and help them to make
their snow-image, giving it the features of celestial baby-
hood! Violet and Peony would not be aware of their im-
mortal playmates — only they could see that the image grew
very beautiful while they worked al it, and would think that
they themselves had done it all.

•'My little gurl and boy deserve such playmates, if mortal



Digitized



by Google



43 Siories Every ChUd Should Know

children ever didl" said the mother to herself; and then she
smiled again at her own motherly pride.

Neverdidess, the ideas seized upon her imagmation; and
ever and anon, she took a ^impse out of the window, half
dreaming that she might see the golden-haired children of
paradise sporting with her own golden-haired Violet and
bright-cheeked Peony.

Now, for a few moments, there was a busy and earnest,
but indistinct hum of the two children's voices, as A^olet and
Peony wrought together with one happy consent. Violet
still seemed to be the guiding spirit, while Peony acted rather
as a labourer, and brought her the snow from far and near.
And yet the little urchin evidently had a proper understand-
ing of the matter, too!

"Peony, Peony I" cried Violet; for the brother was again
at the other side of the garden. "Bring me those lig^t
wreaths of snow that have rested on the lower branches of
the pear-tree. You can clamber on the snow-drift. Peony,
and reach them easily. I must have them to make some
rin^ets for our snow-^ter's head!"

"Here they are, Violet!" answered the little boy. "Take
care you do not break them. Well done! Well done! How
pretty!"

"Does she not look sweet?" said Violet, with a very
satisfied tone; "and now we must have some little shining
bits of ice, to make the brightness of her eyes. She is not
finished yet. Mamma will see how very beautiful she is;
but papa will say, 'Tush! nonsense! — come in out of the
cold!'"

"Let us call mamma to look out," said Peony; and then
he shouted lustily, "Manuna! mamma!! mamma!!! Look
out, and see what a nice 'ittle girl we are making. "

The mother put down her work, /or an instant, and looked



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Snow-Image 43

out of the window. But it so happened that the sun — for
this was one of the shortest days of the whole year — ^had
sunken so nearly to the edge of the world, that his setting
shine came obliquely into the lady's eyes. So she was
dazzled, you must understand, and could not very distincdy
observe what was in the garden. Still, however, through all
that bright, blinding dazzle of the sun and the new snow, she
beheld a small white figure in the garden, that seemed to have
a wonderfid deal of hmnan likeness about it. And she saw
'^olet and Peony — ^indeed, she looked more at them than at
the image — she saw the two children still at work; Peony
bringing fresh snow, and Violet applying it to the figure as
scientifically as a sculptor adds clay to his model. Indis-
tinctly as she discerned the snow-child, the mother thought to
herself that never before was there a snow-figure so cimninj^y
made, nor ever such a dear little gurl and boy to make it.

"They do everything bettCT than other children/' svd
she, very complacendy. "No wonder &^y make better
snow-images!"

She sat down again to her work, and made as much haste
with it as possible; because twilight would soon come, and
Peony's frock was not yet finished, and grandfather was
expected, by railroad, pretty early in the morning. Faster
and faster, therefore, went her flying fingers. The children^
likewise, kept busily at work in the garden, and still the
mother listened, whenever she coidd catch a word. She
was amused to observe how their little imaginations had got
mixed up with what they were doing, and were carried away
by it. They seemed positively to think that the snow-child
would run about and play with them.

" What a nice playmate she will be for us, all winter long! *'
said Violet. "I hope papa will not be afraid of her giving
lis a cold! Sha'n't you love her dearly. Peony?"



Digitized



by Google



44 Stories Every Child Should Know

"O jesl^ cried Peony. ''And I will hug her and she
shall sit down close by me, and drink some of my warm
milk!"

"O no, Peony!" answered \^olet, with grave wisdom.
''That will not do at all. Warm milk will not be wholesome
for our little snow-sister. Litde snow-people, like her, eat
nothing but icicles. No, no, Peony; we must not give her
an3rthing warm to drink!"

There was a nunute or two of silence; for Peony, whose
short legs were never weary, had gone on a {Hlgrimage again
to the other side of the garden. All of a sudden, "^olet cried
out, loudly and joyfully

"Look h^re. Peony! Come quickly! A light has been
shining on her cheek out of that rose-coloured cloud! and
the colour does not go away ! Is not that beautiful ! "

"Yes; it is beau-ti-ful," answered Peony, pronouncing the
three syllables with deliberate accuracy. "O Violet, only
look at her hair! It is all like gold!"

"O, certainly," said Violet, with tranquillity, as if it were
very much a matter of course. "That colour^ you know,
comes from the golden clouds, that we see up there in the
sky. She is almost finished now. But her lips must be
made very red — ^redder than her cheeks. Perhaps, Peony,
it will make them red if we both kiss them!"

Accordingly, the mother heard two smart little smacks,
as if both her children were kissing the snow-image on its
frozen mouth. But, as this did not seem to make the lips
quite red enough, Violet next proposed that the snow-child
should be invited to kiss Peony's scarlet cheek.

"Come, 'ittle snow-sister, kiss me!" cried Peony.

"There! she has kissed you," added Violet, "and now
her lips are very red. And she blushed a little, tool"

"O, what a cold kiss!" cried Peony.



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The :^furuhitnage 45

Just then, there came a breeze of the pure west-wind,
sweeping through the garden and rattling the parlour*
windows. It sounded so wintry cold, that the mother was
about to tap on the window-pane with her thimbled finger,
to sunmion the two children in, when they both cried out
to her with one voice. The tone was not a tone of surprise,
although they were evidently a good deal excited ; it appeared
rather as if thev were very much rejoiced at some event that
had now happened, but which they had been looking for,
and had reckoned upon all along.

"Mammal mammal We have finished our little snow-
sister, and she is running about the garden with usP'

"What imaginative little beings my children are! " thought
the mother, putting the last few stitches into Peony's frock.
"And it is strange, too, that they make me almost as much
a child as they themselves are! I can hardly help believing,
now, that the snow-image has really come to life!"

"Dear mammal" cried "Wolet, "pray look out and see
what a sweet playmate we havel"

The mother, being thus entreated, could no longer delay
to look forth from the window. The sun was now gone out
of the sky, leaving, however, a rich inheritance of his bright-
ness among those purple and golden clouds which make the
sunsets of winter so magnificent. But there was not the
slightest g^eam or dazzle, either on the window or on the
snow; so that the good lady could look all over the garden,
and see everything and everybody in it. And what do you
think she saw there? A^olet and Peony, ot course, her own
two darling children. Ah, but whom or what did she see
besides? Why, if you will believe me, there was a small
figure of a giri, dressed all in white, with rose-tinged cheeks
and rin^ets of golden hue, playing about the garden with
the two children 1 A stranger though she was, the child



Digitized



by Google



46 Stories Every Child Should Know

seemed to be on as familiar terms with Violet and Peony, and
they with her, as if all the three had been playmates during
the whole of their little lives. The mother thought to her-
self that it must certainly be the daughter of one of the
neighbours, and that, seeing Violet, and Peony in the gar-
den, the child had run across the street to play with them.
So this kind lady went to the door, intending to invite the
little runaway into her comfortable paxloiu:; for, now that
the sunshine was withdrawn, the atmosphere, out of doors,
was already growing very cold.

But, after opening the house-door, she stood an instant
on the threshold, hesitating whether she ought to ask the
child to come in, or whether she should even speak to her.
Indeed, she almost doubted whether it were a real child,
after all, or only a Ught wreath of the new-fallen snow, blown
hither and thither about the garden by the intensely cold
west-wind. There was certainly something very singular
in the aspect of the little stranger. Among all the children
of the neighbourhood, the lady could remember no such face,
with its pure white, and delicate rose-colour, and the golden
ringlets tossing about the forehead and cheeks. And as for
her dress, which was entirely of white, and fluttering in
the breeze, it was such as no reasonable woman would put
upon a little girl, when sending her out to play, in the depth
of winter. It made this kind and careful mother shiver only
to look at those small feet, with nothing in the world on them,
except a very thin pair of white slippers. Nevertheless, airily
as she was clad, the child seemed to feel not the slightest
inconvenience from the cold, but danced so lightly over the
snow that the tips of her toes left hardly a print in its surface;
while Violet could but just keep pace with her, and Peony*s
short legs compelled him to lag behind.

Once, in the course of their play, the strange child placed



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Snouhlmage 47

hersdf between \^olet and Peony, and taking a hand of each,
skipped merrily forward, and they along with her. Almost
immediately, however, Peony puUed away his little fist, and
began to rub it as if the fingers were tinj^g with cold; while
Violet also released hersdf, though with less abruptness,
gravely remarking that it was b^er not to take hold of
hands. The white-robed damsel said not a word, but
danced about, just as merrily as before. If Violet and
Peony did not choose to play with her, she could make just
as good a playmate of the brisk and cold west-wind, which
kept blowing her all about the garden, and took such liberties
with her, that they seemed to have been friends for a long
time. All this while, the mother stood on the threshold,
wondering how a little girl could look so much like a fljdng
snow-drift, or how a snow-drift could look so very like a
Uttlegiri.

She called A^olet, and whispered to her.

''Violet, my darling, what is this child's name?'' asked
she. ''Does she live near us?''

"Why, dearest mamma," answered \^olet, laughing to
think that her mother did not comprehend so very plain an
a£Fair, " this is our little snow-sister, whom we have just been
makingi''

"Yes, dear mamma," cried Peony, running to his mother
and looking up simply into her face, "This is our snow«
image! Is it not a nice 'ittle child?"

At this instant a flock of snow-birds came flitting throuj^
the air. As was very natmral, they avoided Violet and
Peony. But — and this looked strange — they flew at once
to the white-robed child, fluttered eagerly about her head,
alighted on her shoulders, and seemed to claim her as an
old acquaintance. She, on her part, was evidently as glad
to see these little birds, old Winter's grandchildren, as they



Digitized



by Google



48 Stories Every ChOd Shatdd Know

were to see her, and welcomed them by holding out both her
bands. Hereupon, they each and all tried to alight on her
two palms and ten small fingers and thumbs, crowding one
another off, with an immense fluttering of their tiny wings.
One dear little bird nestled tenderly in her bosom; another
put its bill to her lips. They were as joyous, all the while,
and seemed as much in their element, as you may have seen
them when sporting with a snow-storm.

^olet and Peony stood laughing at this pretty sight: for
they enjoyed the merry time which their new playmate was
having with their small-winged visitants, almost as much
as if they themselves took part in it.

^'^olet," said her mother, greatly perplexed, ''tell me the
truth, without any jest. Who is this little girl ? **

''My darling mamma," answered Violet, looking serious^
into her mother's face, and apparently surprised that she
should need any further explanation, "I have told you truly
who she is. It is our little snow-image, which Peony and
I have been making. Peony will tell you so, as well as I.''

"Yes, mamma," asseverated Peony, with much gravity
in his crimson little phiz, "this is 'ittle snow-child. Is not
she a nice one ? But, mamma, her hand, is oh, so very cold! "

While mamma still hesitated what to think and what to do,
the street-gate was thrown open, and the father of ^olet
and Peony appeared, wrapped in a pilot-cloth sack, with a
fur cap drawn down over his ears, and the thickest of gloves
upon his hands. Mr. Lindsey was a middle-aged man, with
a weary and yet a happy look in his wind-flushed and frost-
pinched face, as if he had been busy all the day long, and
was ^ad to get back to his quiet home. His eyes brightened
at the sight of his wife and children, although he could not
help uttering a word or two of surprise, at finding the whole
family in the open air, on so bleak a day, and after sunset



Digitized byCjOOQlC



The Snow-Image 49

too. He soon perceived the little white stranger, sporting
to and fro in the garden, like a dancing snow-wreath, and
the flock of snow-birds fluttering about her head.

"Pray, what little girl may that be?" inquired this very
sensible man. "Surely her mother must be crazy, to let
her go out in such bitter weather as it has been to-day, with
only that flimsy white gown and those thin slippers!"

"My dear husband," said his wife, "I know nomoreabout
the little thing than you do. Some neighbour's child, I
suppose. Our Violet and Peony," she added, laughing at
herself for repeating so absiurd a story, "insist that she is
nothing but a snow-image, which they have been busy about
in the garden, almost all the afternoon."

As she said this, the mother glanced her eyes toward the
spot where the children's snow-image had been made. What
was her surprise, on perceiving that there was not the
slightest trace of so much labour! — no image at all — ^no
piled up heap of snow — ^nothing whatever, save the prints of
little footsteps aroimd a vacant space!

"This is very strange!" said she.

"What is strange, dear mother?" asked Violet. "Dea.
father, do not you see how it is? This is our snow-image,
which Peony and I have made, because we wanted another
playmate. Did not we, Peony?"

"Yes, papa," said crimson Peony. "This be our 'ittle
snow-sister. Is she not beau-ti-ful? But she gave me such
a cold kiss!"

"Pooh, nonsense, children!" cried their good, honest
father, who, as we have already intimated, had an exceed-
ingly common-sensible way of looking at matters. "Do
not tell me of making live figures out of snow. Come, wife;
this little stranger must not stay out in the bleak air a mo-
ment longer. We will bring her into the parlour; and you



Digitized



by Google



so Stories Every Ckild Should Know

shall give her a supper ci warm bread and milky and make
her as comfortable as jrou can. Meanwhile^ I will inquire
among the neighbours; or, if necessary, send the dty-crier


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 4 of 22)