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Produced by Stacy Brown Thellend, Barbara Tozier, Bill
Tozier and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
http://www.pgdp.net







CHRISTMAS STORIES
AND LEGENDS


COMPILED BY
PHEBE A. CURTISS

Author of "White Gifts
for the King"




MEIGS PUBLISHING CO.
INDIANAPOLIS, IND.


Copyright 1916

BY

MEIGS PUBLISHING CO.
Indianapolis, Indiana




FOREWORD


No greater teaching force has ever been discovered than the story and
no one has ever lived who used that force so skillfully as did our
Great Teacher.

It is not strange, then, that among all the stories that have ever
been written or told none are so dear to us as the stories and legends
which center in His birth.

Young and old alike delight in them and never tire of hearing them.

Unusual care has been taken in compiling this little volume and each
story has its own sweet lesson. Each one is from the pen of one who
has imbibed the real spirit of Christmas. They were chosen as being
particularly well adapted to use in connection with the Christmas
Service "White Gifts for the King," but they will prove attractive and
helpful at any time during the year.

It is our earnest wish that this little book may find its way into
many homes and schools and Sunday Schools and that its contents may
help to give a deeper appreciation of the true Christmas spirit.




CONTENTS

Page
I. The Legend of the "White Gifts" - Phebe A. Curtiss 9

II. Her Birthday Dream - Nellie C. King 13

III. The Fir Tree - Hans Andersen - adapted by J. H. Stickney 25

IV. The Little Match Girl - Hans Andersen 37

V. Little Piccola - Nora A. Smith 41

VI. The Shepherd's Story - Dr. Washington 47

VII. The Story of Christmas - Nora A. Smith 63

VIII. The Legend of the Christmas Tree - Lucy Wheelock 69

IX. Little Jean - French of Francois Coppe. Translated by
Nannie Lee Frayser 71

X. How the Fir Tree Became the Christmas Tree - Aunt Hede
in Kindergarten Magazine 77

XI. The Magi in the West and Their Search for the
Christ - Frederick E. Dewhurst 79

XII. Little Gretchen and the Wooden Shoe - Elizabeth
Harrison 93

XIII. The Little Shepherd - Maud Lindsay 105

XIV. Babouscka - Carolyn S. Bailey 109

XV. The Boy with the Box - May Griggs Van Voorhis 113

XVI. The Worker in Sandal wood - Marjorie L. C. Pickthall 125

XVII. The Shepherd Who Didn't Go - Jay T. Stocking 135

XVIII. Paulina's Christmas - Adapted from Anna Robinson's
"Little Paulina" 145

XIX. Unto Us a Child Is Born - Phebe A. Curtiss 153

XX. The Star - Florence M. Kingsley 159




THE LEGEND OF THE "WHITE GIFTS"

As Told by Phebe A. Curtiss


A great many years ago in a land far away from us there was a certain
king who was dearly beloved by all of his people. Men admired him
because he was strong and just. In all of his dealings they knew they
could depend upon him. Every matter that came to his consideration was
carefully weighed in his mind and his decisions were always wise.
Women trusted him because he was pure and true, with lofty thoughts
and high ambitions, and the children loved him because of his
gentleness and tenderness toward them. He was never so burdened with
affairs of state that he could not stop to speak a pleasant word of
greeting to the tiniest child, and the very poorest of his subjects
knew they could count upon his interest in them.

This deep-seated love and reverence for their king made the people of
this country wish very much for a way in which to give expression to
it so that he would understand it. Many consultations were held and
one after another the plans suggested were rejected, but at last a
most happy solution was found. It was rapidly circulated here and
there and it met with the most hearty approval everywhere.

It was a plan for celebrating the King's birthday.

Of course, that had been done in many lands before, but there were
certain features about this celebration which differed materially from
anything that had ever been tried. They decided that on the King's
birthday the people should all bring him gifts, but they wanted in
some way to let him know that these gifts were the expression of a
love on the part of the giver which was pure and true and unselfish,
and in order to show that, it was decided that each gift should be a
"White Gift."

The King heard about this beautiful plan, and it touched his heart in
a wonderful way. He decided that he would do his part to carry out the
idea and let his loving subjects know how much he appreciated their
thoughtfulness.

You can just imagine the excitement there was all over the land as the
King's birthday drew near. All sorts of loving sacrifices had been
made and everyone was anxious to make his gift the very best he had to
offer. At last the day dawned, and eagerly the people came dressed in
white and carrying their white gifts. To their surprise they were
ushered into a great, big room - the largest one in the palace. They
stood in silence when they first entered it, for it was beautiful
beyond all expression. It was a _white_ room; - the floor was white
marble; the ceiling looked like a mass of soft, white fluffy clouds;
the walls were hung with beautiful white silken draperies, and all the
furnishings were white. In one end of the room stood a stately white
throne, and seated upon it was their beloved ruler and he was clad in
shining white robes, and his attendants - all dressed in white - were
grouped around him.

Then came the presentation of the gifts. What a wealth of them there
was - and how different they were in value. In those days it was just
as it is now - there were many people who had great wealth, and they
brought gifts which were generous in proportion to their wealth.

One brought a handful of pearls, another a number of carved ivories.
There were beautiful laces and silks and embroideries, all in pure
white, and even splendid white chargers were brought to his majesty.

But many of the people were poor - some of them very poor - and their
gifts were quite different from those I have been telling about. Some
of the women brought handfuls of white rice, some of the boys brought
their favorite white pigeons, and one dear little girl smilingly gave
him a pure white rose.

It was wonderful to watch the King as each one came and kneeled before
him as he presented his gift. He never seemed to notice whether the
gift was great or small; he regarded not one gift above another so
long as all were white. Never had the King been so happy as he was
that day and never had such real joy filled the hearts of the people.
They decided to use the same plan every year, and so it came to pass
that year after year on the King's birthday the people came from here
and there and everywhere and brought their white gifts - the gifts
which showed that their love was pure, strong, true and without stain,
and year after year the King sat in his white robes on the white
throne in the great white room and it was always the same - he regarded
not one gift above another so long as all were _white_.




HER BIRTHDAY DREAM[*]

By Nellie C. King


Marcia Brownlow came out of the church, and walked rapidly down the
street. She seemed perturbed; her gray eyes flashed, and on her cheeks
glowed two red spots. She was glad she was not going home, so she
wouldn't have to take a car, but could walk the short distance to Aunt
Sophy's, where she had been invited to dine and visit with her special
chum, Cousin Jack - who was home from college for the short
Thanksgiving vacation. She slowed up as she reached her destination,
and waited a little before going in - she wanted to get calmed down a
bit, for she didn't want her friend to see her when she felt so "riled
up." Back of it was a secret reluctance to meet Jack - he was so
different since the Gipsy Smith revival; of course, he was perfectly
lovely, and unchanged toward her, but - somehow, she felt uncomfortable
in his presence - and she didn't enjoy having her self-satisfaction
disturbed.

As she entered the dining-room, she was greeted with exclamations of
surprise and pleasure.

"Why, Marcia!" said Aunt Sophia; "we had given you up! I almost never
knew of your being late in keeping an appointment."

"You must excuse me, Auntie; and lay this offense to the charge of our
Sunday school superintendent," answered Marcia.

"I suppose Mr. Robinson is laying his plans for Christmas," remarked
Uncle John. "He believes in taking time by the forelock - and a very
commendable habit it is, too."

"Yes," answered Marcia laconically.

Jack glanced at her keenly. "Is there anything new in the Christmas
line?" he asked.

The gray eyes grew black, and the red spots burned again, as Marcia
replied: "Well, I should think so - he proposes to turn things
topsy-turvy!"

"My! What does he want to do?" inquired Cousin Augusta.

"Oh, he calls it the 'White Gift Christmas'; but the long and short of
the matter is, that he proposes to 'turn down' Santa Claus, and all
the old time-honored customs connected with Christmas that are so dear
to the hearts of the children, and have the school do the giving. He
has a big banner hung up in the Sunday school room bearing the words,
'Gifts for the Christ-Child'."

"An excellent idea," exclaimed Uncle John, "but I don't see much of an
innovation about that; you have always made the children's giving a
part of your Christmas celebration, have you not?"

"Certainly!" rejoined Marcia. "They have always brought their little
gifts for the poor, and that is all right; but this time there are no
gifts to the Sunday school at all."

"Not even to the Primary School?" asked Augusta.

"Well," admitted Marcia, "Mr. Robinson gave the children their choice
today, whether they would have the old Christmas or the 'White Gift
Christmas,' and they all voted for the new idea."

"Why then should the children be obliged to have gifts, if they don't
want them?" laughed Augusta.

"Oh, children are always taken with novelty, and Mr. Robinson told it
to them in such a way that fancy was captivated; but I don't think
they really understood what they were giving up."

"Marcia, it seems to me that your are emphasizing the wrong side of
the subject if I understand it aright," said Jack.

"Why, do you know about it?" asked Marcia, in surprise.

"Not much," replied Jack; "but I read the White Gift story in the
'Sunday School Times,' and the report of the Painesville experiment."

"Well, Jack, tell us what you know about this mysterious 'White
Gift'," commanded his father.

"I would rather Marcia should tell it, father; I know so little."

"Oh, go on, Jack," urged Marcia; "you can't possibly know less about
it than I do, for I confess I was so full of the disappointment of the
little ones that the other side of it didn't impress me very much."

"Well, as I remember it," said Jack, "the gist of the plan is
this - that Christmas is Christ's birthday, and we should make our
gifts to him, instead of to one another; and the idea of the White
Gift was suggested by the story of the Persian king named Kublah Khan,
who was a wise and good ruler, and greatly beloved. On his birthday
his subjects kept what they called the 'White Feast.' This was
celebrated in an immense great white banqueting-hall, and each one of
his subjects brought to their king a white gift to express that the
love and loyalty of their hearts was without stain. The rich brought
white chargers, ivory and alabaster; the poor brought white pigeons,
or even a measure of rice; and the great king regarded all gifts
alike, so long as they were white. Have I told it right, cousin?"
queried Jack.

"Yes, I think so. It is a beautiful thought, I must confess, and might
be all right in a large, rich Sunday school; but in a mission school
like ours I am sure it will be a failure. It will end in our losing
our scholars. I don't believe in taking up new ideas without
considering whether they are adapted to our needs or not. But please,
dear folkses, don't let us say anything more about it," pleaded
Marcia, and so the subject was dropped.

That evening as Jack Thornton bade his cousin good-bye, he placed in
her hand a little package, saying: "I am so sorry, Marcia, that I
can't be here for your birthday, but here is my remembrance. Now don't
you dare open it before Tuesday, and, dear, you may be sure it is a
'white gift,' and may you have a 'white birthday'." And before she
could say a word, he had opened the door, and was gone.

Touched by his thoughtful gift and his words, she said to herself: "A
'white birthday!' I always have perfectly beautiful birthdays." And so
she did; for she was always looking out for other people's birthdays,
and making much of them; and so she always got the gospel measure:
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and
shaken together, and running over, shall man give into your bosom."

But these thoughts were crowded out by the pressure of things to be
done - father and mother had gone into the country to visit a sick
friend, and the younger brothers and sisters surrounded her and
clamored for songs and Bible stories, and as she was a good older
sister she devoted herself to them until their bedtime. Then, turning
out the lights, she sat down in an easy chair before the library
grate, and yielded herself to the spell of the quiet hour. The
strained, irritated nerves relaxed, and a strange, sweet peace stole
over her. As she gazed dreamily into the fire, a star seemed to rise
out of the glowing coals, and beam at her with a beautiful soft
radiance, and the words of the Evangel came into her mind: "And when
they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding joy; and when they
were come into the house they saw the young child, with Mary his
mother, and they fell down and worshipped him; and when they had
opened their treasures they presented unto him gifts, gold,
frankincense and myrrh." She repeated the words over and over to
herself. How simple and restful they were; how direct and genuine and
satisfying was this old-time giving! There it was - Gifts for the
Christ-Child - "They presented unto him gifts, gold, frankincense and
myrrh." She remembered reading somewhere that the gold represented our
earthly possessions, the frankincense typified our service and the
myrrh our suffering for his sake.

As she gazed into the fire, and mused, she fell asleep, and all these
thoughts were woven into the fabric of a dream - and who shall say that
God does not speak to his children still in dreams?

She dreamed that it was the morning of her birthday. She heard cheery
voices in the hall calling out to one another: "This is Marcia's
birthday. Wish you many returns of the day!" There was an excited
running to and fro between the different rooms, and gleeful
exclamations - but no one came near her! She sat up in bed listening,
and wondering what it could mean! Why, mother always came into her
room, and folded her to her heart, and said those precious things that
only a mother can say; and the children always scrambled to see who
should be the first to give sister a birthday kiss. Were they playing
some joke on her? She would be quiet and watch, and so not be taken
unawares.

Presently they went trooping happily downstairs into the dining-room,
and she heard father's voice say: "Good morning, children; I wish you
many happy returns of Marcia's birthday."

What did it all mean? Was she going crazy? Or were they just going to
surprise her by some novel way of celebrating her birthday? She arose,
and with trembling fingers dressed herself hastily, and stole softly
down the stairs, and looked into the dining-room. Hush! - father was
asking a blessing. He returned thanks for dear Marcia's birthday, and
asked that it should be a happy day for them all. Beside each plate
save her own, were various packages; and these were opened amid
ejaculations of surprise and pleasure, and sundry hugs and kisses.

After the first burst of happiness had subsided, Marcia braced herself
and entered the dining-room, saying with forced gayety: "Good morning,
dear ones all." They looked up with blank, unanswering faces, and
said: "Good morning, Marcia" - that was all. But Marcia's heart leaped
at the recognition of her presence, for she had begun to fear that she
was dead, and that it was her spirit that was wandering about.

She stooped and kissed her mother, who murmured abstractedly, "Yes,
dear," never once looking up from the presents she was examining. With
a sinking heart she turned away from her mother and went and stood
behind her father's chair, and leaning over whispered in his ear:
"Dear father, have you forgotten that this is my birthday?" He
answered kindly but absent-mindedly: "Why, daughter, am I likely to
forget it with all these tokens around me?" - and he waved his hand
toward the gifts piled around his plate. This was almost more than
Marcia could bear, for father was always specially tender and
attentive to her on her birthday. She always sat on his knee a while;
and he told her what a joy and comfort she was to him, and he always
paid her some pretty compliment that made her girlish heart swell with
innocent pride, for every girl knows that compliments from one's
father are a little sweeter than any others.

In vain she hung around waiting for some clue to this mysterious,
unnatural conduct of the family. They were all absorbed in plans for
spending this birthday - Marcia's birthday, but no reference whatever
was made to what she liked; no one consulted her as to what she wanted
to do, or to have done. The boys were going skating in the forenoon;
the little girls were to invite four of their friends to help serve
the first dinner in the new doll's house, and in the afternoon father
would take them all for an automobile ride into the country to a dear
friend's - all but Marcia, who couldn't bear to get into an auto since
a terrible accident she had been in a few weeks ago. A troop of her
girl friends came in, and in a conventional way wished her "many happy
returns" of the day; and then proceeded to ignore her, and gave gifts
to other members of the family. "It is a wonder," thought Marcia,
bitterly, "that they didn't have a birthday party for Marcia with
Marcia left out."

And so it went on all through that strange, miserable day; while they
were all busy celebrating her birthday, she herself was neglected and
ignored as she sat in the quiet house alone in the twilight - for she
had no heart to light the gas - just homesick for the personal love
which had characterized all her birthdays and all her home life
heretofore, there came a timid knock on the door, and as Marcia opened
it, there stood little crippled Joe, one of her scholars in the
Mission Sunday school. As he saw her, he gave a little exclamation of
surprise and delight, and said: "O Miss Marshay! I hearn last night
'twas yer berthday today, an' I wanted to guv yer suthin' white, like
Mr. Robinson he told us 'bout, don't yer know? - an' 'caus yer has
allers treated me so white - 'n' - 'n' I didn't hev nuthin', 'n so I
axed Him, ye know, what yer telled us 'bout in Sunday school - Jesus;
who died on the cross, and who's allers willin' to help a poor
feller - an' I axed Him to help me get suthin' real nice 'n' white fer
uer birthday; 'n I kep' me eyes peeled all day 'xpectin' it, 'n just
now a reel swell feller buyed a paper of me, 'n then he guv he this
here bunch uv white sweet smellin' posies, 'thout my sayin' a word.
Here they be, Miss Marshay fer yer. Giminy, teacher, ain't them purty?
An' O, teacher - He made 'm in the fust place 'n had the man guv them
to me, 'n so I reckon He 'n me's pardners in this here white gift
bizness." And he held up in his thin, grimy hand a bunch of white,
sweet-scented violets.

Marcia's first impulse was to catch up the little fellow and his gift
in her arms, and baptize them with a flood of tears from her own
overcharged heart! But she hadn't taught boys in a Mission Sunday
school class for nothing - Joe would have thought she had gone crazy,
or been struck silly, or was sick unto death; so she controlled
herself, and kneeling beside him took the violets reverently in both
her hands, saying in a choked voice: "Joe, they are just beautiful!
This is the only really truly white gift I have had today, and I don't
deserve it - but I thank Him and you."

The boy looked at her with shining face, drew his hand across his
eyes, and then answered brightly: "Oh, that's all right, Miss Marshay;
'tenny rate 'tis with me, 'n' I reckon 'tis with Him" - and seizing his
crutch, he hopped like a little sparrow through the door and onto the
street, and she heard his boyish voice calling out: "Evenin' papers,
last edishun - all 'bout the big graft 'sposure."

Just then the big white touring car discharged its merry load at the
door, and the house was filled with the chatter and laughter of the
children. In vain she tried to find a quiet corner where she could be
alone with her heart - it was impossible to escape from the hilarious
celebration of her birthday. She was so glad when the children said
good-night and went off to bed, and she could seek the quiet of her
own room.

As she bade her father good night, he said: "Well, daughter, I hope
you have enjoyed your birthday and all your gifts?"

At this all the honesty of her nature, all the hatred of sham, rose up
in one indignant outburst, and she exclaimed: "I have had no gifts,
neither has this been my birthday celebration."

"Why, Marcia!" said her father in an aggrieved tone, "this certainly
is your birthday, and we have been very happy in keeping it for love
of you."

"I have failed to see any manifestation of love to me," retorted
Marcia. "You may have had a happy time, but I have not been in it; you
have given gifts to one another, but I have had just one" - and she
held up the bunch of violets. "This is a gift of love from little lame
Joe, in answer to his prayer, and in pity for my hungry heart."

There was silence in the room for a moment, and then her father
answered: "It seems to me, daughter, that when you get right down to a
personal application, what you believe in after all is a 'white
birthday'."

The words went through her like an electric shock, and with a start
she awoke, and sat upright in her chair; and, lo, it was all a dream!

Marcia looked around the room, shook herself a little, stirred the
fire, and put on fresh coal. She laughed at the remembrance of her
dream, and its absurdity! How glad she was that it was only a dream!
But was it only a dream? Was it not a reality? Was not this the way
she had kept the Lord's birthday? When she had opened her Christmas
treasure, how much had been given Him and for love of Him? How large a
place had she given Him in the season's activity? Had she ever made
room for Him as the central figure of it all; or had he been crowded
out, and His rightful place given to Santa Claus and the world's
merry-making?

In the light of the Spirit she saw that the Star of Bethlehem always
leads to the cross of Calvary. She had never liked to think about the
cross before, but now it was all illumined with the glory of the love
which gave to us God's best, his only begotten Son. She remembered how
the Lord Jesus had said: "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto
Me." She saw that it is as we see Christ on the cross for us that we
are drawn to Him.

In that still hour, on her knees, at the foot of the cross, Marcia
with great gladness made her first "White Gift" unto her Lord - she
gave HERSELF to Him.

[*] By permission of the author and the publisher, Pittsburgh
Christian Advocate.




THE FIR TREE[*]

Adapted by J. H. Stickney


Far away in the forest, where the warm sun and the fresh air made a
sweet resting place, grew a pretty little fir tree. The situation was
all that could be desired; and yet it was not happy, it wished so
much to be like its tall companions, the pines and firs which grew
around it.

The sun shone, and the soft air fluttered its leaves, and the little
peasant children passed by, prattling merrily; but the fir tree did


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