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soft and warm, and about equal as to talking. For though baby could
babble, he couldn't purr, and though Fluffy could purr, she couldn't
babble, while neither could stand up on their hind-legs for more than
two seconds together.

But when it came to climbing, baby was nowhere. Fluffy was but three
months old, but she was oftener on the roof of her house - where baby
could _never_ have got - than in it, while if dear mamma came near her,
with her long flounces, Fluffy was on them at once, and stuck there like
a hairy burr. That was the sad thing about Fluffy, she was such a
gad-about, being everywhere where you didn't expect her to be; and so
tiny that even when you did expect her, nobody knew she was there.

She was lost about ten times a day, and found in the most astonishing
places. Once in mamma's work-box, where she was looked for, but not
seen, being taken for a ball of worsted; and once in papa's
shooting-jacket pocket, who took her to his office with him, under the
impression that she was his seal-skin tobacco pouch.

Moreover, a very fashionable lady called one day, and took Fluffy right
away with her, the poor little dear having clung to her mantle, and been
amalgamated with its fur trimmings.

To say that dear papa was "weak" about the fair Persian is to take a
very favorable view of his devotion to her; but dear mamma said it was
"quite ridiculous to make such a fuss about a kitten" - and never herself
lost a chance of picking it up and fondling it in her arms. The rest of
the family were described by their cousin Charley, who lived over the
way, as "sunk in the Persian superstition," and even as "addicted to
nigger worship" - an allusion to Fluff's sable hue.

And now comes the best part of the story, which is, of course, the
"creepy-crawly" and horrible part.

Cousin Charley had a mastiff dog called Jumbo, ever so high and ever so
huge, with great hanging chaps (which are pronounced chops, you know) on
both sides of his jaws. If you never saw him open his mouth, I can
scarcely give you any idea of it; but if you have seen pictures of
Vesuvius during an eruption, think of the crater. It was said by his
master that Jumbo would never hurt a fly, but that was not the point
with those who were not flies, and all these stood in great fear of him.
It is very little satisfaction to one who meets an elephant in his
morning's walk, in a narrow way, to have read that that creature is the
most gentle of mammals (or mammoths); and similarly there was no knowing
what catastrophe might not take place from the presence of Jumbo, though
he might not mean to bring it about. He was positively too tremendous
for society; while, out-of-doors, I never knew a dog so respected - and
avoided - by other dogs.

To see Jumbo and Fluff together was to behold the meeting of two
extremes of the animal creation; the introduction of the King of
Brobdingnag to the Princess of Lilliput, or of Chang, the Chinese giant,
to Mrs. General Tom Thumb. Yet, if you will believe me, on Jumbo's first
appearance on our drawing-room rug, Fluff scampered up to him (all on
one side, as usual) and hung on to his tail! The moment was one of
terrible suspense, not only to her, but to the spectators generally,
except Charley, who said, "Oh, Jumbo won't mind," which might or might
not have been the case; for it is my fixed conviction that that noble
animal was totally unaware of what was taking place, so to speak, behind
his back, and to this hour is ignorant of the indignity that was put
upon him.

One Sunday morning, in midwinter, Jumbo called without his master, and
walked into the back parlor without being announced; there was no living
creature there except himself and Fluff, and when the family entered the
room _there was only Jumbo_. They looked everywhere for his late (yes,
his _late_) companion; but she had vanished. Whither? To this vital
question it seemed to their horrified minds that there was but one
reply; it was in vain for Jumbo to assume an indifferent air, as though
he would say, "How should _I_ know?" The accusation that trembled on
every lip was, "The dog has swallowed her." He looked about the same
size as usual, but that was nothing; fifty Fluffs would not have made
any external difference. One of his chaps, indeed, seemed to hang a
little lower than usual, but she was not there. He yawned - nobody
believed in _that_; it was just what a dog would do, conscious of crime
and assuming unconcern - and everybody shuddered. What might not that
enormous throat have swallowed, and thought nothing of it? Messengers
were dispatched at once for Charley, who came and cross-examined the
animal; but he only shook his head and wagged his tail. These actions
might have been proofs of his innocence if Fluff had still been with us,
but as it was, it only showed his callousness - the callousness of

All sat round Jumbo in a circle, and listened in solemn silence. Even
the tiniest mew of farewell would have been welcome, but it was not
vouchsafed. Nothing was heard but the thumping of that wicked tail (to
which they had once seen Fluffy cling) upon the bear-skin rug on which
they had so often lost her. She was not there now, for they took it up
and shook it. She was not in the envelope case upon the writing-table;
nor in the coal-scuttle, for they took the coals out one by one, to be
quite sure; nor in the work-box, for it was Sunday, and it was not
there; nor up the curtains, for they examined them with "the steps"; nor
up the chimney, for the fire was alight; nor in either of papa's boots,
which were set on the fender to get warm. She was gone from their sight
like a beautiful dream, though still, alas! in a manner, _present_.

Dear papa was the first to recover from the catastrophe. "Whatever has
taken place, my dears," said he, "we must go to church; the last bell is
already ringing."

Dear mamma sighed, and took the hands of the two youngest children,
leaving her muff to hang from her neck by its ribbon. She felt that in
that hour of trouble the clasp of her fingers would be a comfort to

The whole family walked together like a funeral procession, and they
could see the neighbors draw long faces, under the impression that there
had been some fatal domestic calamity to account for such looks of woe.
Even Charley was affected, though he could hardly believe even yet in
his favorite's guilt, while Jumbo came behind with his tail between his
legs - either from the stings of conscience, or because he knew he would
be left as usual at the church door.


I am afraid the thoughts of some of the little party wandered a little,
during the first part of the service, in the supposed direction in which
Fluff had gone; but the sermon riveted their attention. They wished
sincerely Jumbo could have been there to hear it, for it was upon
cruelty to animals. It had just begun, and dear mamma had for the first
time got rid of her books and placed her hands in her muff, when she
drew them sharply out again and turned very red. At the same time a
piteous little mew pervaded the sanctuary. At home we could not have
heard it a yard away, but the church, being built for sound, developed
those delicate notes. At the same time all the people on the right hand
of the aisle began to smile. Fluff's little black face had presented
itself at that end of the muff. Dear mamma hastened to close it up with
her hand, and then all the people on the left hand of the aisle began to
smile. Fluff's little black face had peered out at the other end. Then
dear mamma, in desperation, put in both her hands, and then the
imprisoned Fluff began to mew indeed. "How hard must that heart be,"
said the clergyman, going on with his subject, "who would ill use an
innocent, helpless kitten!" "Like _me_, like _me_," said Fluff, or so it
seemed to say, in its piteous way. The people in both aisles fixed their
eyes on dear mamma, who in vain pretended to be rapt in the sermon; they
knew very well by this time what was wrapped in her muff, and in the end
dear mamma had to go. The denunciations of the clergyman against cruel
people followed her down the aisle, and were supposed, no doubt, by
those who didn't know her, to have a personal application, for Fluff
was mewing all the way. It was altogether a most terrible business.
What all the family felt, however, when they got home, was that an
apology was, in the first place, due to Jumbo for the imputation on his
character, and it was offered (on a plate of beef bones) in the amplest
manner, and accepted in a similar spirit.



The shop of Mr. Onosander Golong looked, that 24th of December, like a
bower. Two young cedar-trees stood one on each side of the doorway; long
garlands of evergreen, sprinkled with bright berries, were festooned all
over the walls; and every turkey there, and there were lots of them,
hanging like some new kind of gigantic fruit from the mass of green that
covered the ceiling, had a gay ribbon tied around its neck. And such a
wonderful picture in the way of freshness and color as the big window
presented to the passers-by! Bunches of crisp light green celery leaning
up against heaps of brown, pink-eyed potatoes and honest red onions;
fiery-looking peppers side by side with golden oranges and yellow
lemons; hard, smooth, shining cranberries trying to look as though they
were sweet; great fat pumpkins; piles of green and piles of rosy apples;
bunches of fragrant thyme; and more turkeys, some with and some without
their feathered coats, but all, as I said before, with gay ribbons
around their necks. Dear me! if Santa Claus could have only looked into
that window and peeped into that shop, how pleased he would have been,
and how he would have laughed! And he certainly would have taken Mr.
Onosander Golong for a long-lost brother, for never before did mortal
man so strongly resemble the children's old Christmas friend. Snow-white
hair, long snow-white beard, twinkling blue eyes, round, fat, red,
good-natured face, a fur cap on his head, bunches of holly berries
pinned here and there on his shaggy jacket, and a laugh - good gracious!
such a loud, hearty, mirth-provoking laugh, that the very people on the
street, hearing it, began to smile, and feel that Christmas was here
indeed. And I tell you Mr. Onosander Golong was busy that day, and so
were all the men and boys employed by him. Turkeys and other things that
had been ordered the evening before, turkeys and other things that had
been ordered early that morning, and turkeys and other things being
ordered all the time, were to be packed away in huge baskets, and sent
to their respective destinations. But he wasn't so busy but that he
stopped a moment from his work to give a piece of meat to a poor dog
that had trotted hopefully into the shop (having evidently translated
the name "Golong" over the door into "Come in"), and was asking for it
with his eyes. And as he rose from patting the dog, he saw two children
standing before him, also asking for something with their eyes. They
were poorly dressed children, but the girl had a sweet, bright face, and
the boy was as jolly-looking a little fellow as you could find anywhere.
His cheeks were as round, if not as red, as Mr. Golong's, and his merry
black eyes actually danced in his head. Now if there was one place in
Mr. Onosander Golong's heart softer than the rest, it was the place he
kept for children; and so when he saw these two looking up in his
face - the boy with boyish boldness, and the girl with girlish
shyness - he said, in the cheeriest, kindest manner, "Well, small people,
what can I do for you?"

"We would like to tell you a story," answered the boy, in a frank,
pleasant voice.

"Tell me a story!" repeated Mr. Golong, in a tone of great surprise.

"Yes, sir, please - a Christmas story," was the reply.

"Bless my heart! what a queer idea!" said Mr. Golong, and he laughed a
silent laugh that half closed his eyes and wrinkled his nose in the
funniest way.

"Wouldn't you like to hear one?" asked the girl, coaxingly.

"Of course I would - I'm very fond of stories - but I don't see how I can
spare the time. We're so busy just now, and likely to be until night,"
said Mr. Golong.

"It's only a short one," said the boy.

"A very short one," added the girl.

"Well, go ahead," said the good-natured old fellow. And he sat down on a
barrel of potatoes, and his young visitors placed themselves one on each
side of him.

"One Christmas-time," the boy began, "there was a big tenement-house in
this city, and ten families lived in it, and every one of these families
'cept one knew they were a-going to have turkey for their Christmas
dinner. They knew it sure the day before Christmas, all 'cept this one.
The family that wasn't sure the day before Christmas morning lived on
the top floor, and it was - it was - "

"Mrs. Todd, Neal Todd, Hetty Todd, and Puppy Todd," prompted the girl.

"Yes, it was them," said the boy, and went on with his story again:
"Mrs. Todd was Neal's and Hetty's mother - they hadn't any father; he
died three years ago - and Puppy was their dog. Mrs. Todd is one of the
best mothers ever lived, and she sews button-holes on boys' jackets for
a big store; and Hetty cleans up the house, and gets the supper, and
such things; and I - I mean Neal - runs errands for folks when he can get
a chance after school. His mother wants him to go to school till he's
fourteen anyhow, 'cause a boy that has some education can get along
better than a boy that don't know anything. And this family, though they
were very poor, had always managed to have a turkey dinner till the
Christmas I'm telling about, and Mrs. Todd she loved turkey."

"Didn't Hetty and Neal?" asked Mr. Golong, closing his eyes and
wrinkling his nose again; and he hurried away to wait on a stout lady,
all covered with glittering jet ornaments and bugles, who must have been
a very particular customer, she talked so loud and so much.

"Didn't Hetty and Neal?" he repeated, when he came back.

"Oh, my! I guess they did!" said the girl, her eyes sparkling.

"They'd 'a been funny fellows if they didn't," added the boy; "but, 'pon
their words and honors, they wanted it more for their mother - she's such
a good mother, and has so few good things to eat - than they did for
themselves. And it made them feel awful bad when she came home and cried
'cause some wicked thief had stolen her pocket-book with half a week's
earnings in it, and the two-dollar bill that the boss had given her to
buy a Christmas dinner with besides. And so the boy Neal - he's kind of a
nice chap, ain't he, Hetty?"

"Awful nice," replied Hetty, with a mischievous little giggle.

"And he says to his sister - she's awful nice, ain't she, Hetty?"

"Kind of nice," said Hetty, with another little giggle.

"He says to his sister," continued the boy, "'Don't say anything to
mother, but put on your hat, and bring a basket, and we'll make a try
for a merry Christmas dinner - turkey and all.' And they went round the
corner to a beautiful market, kept by a gentleman who looked exactly
like Santa Claus - "

Mr. Onosander Golong laughed aloud this time, and flew to wait on
another particular customer.

"So he looked like Santa Claus?" he said, with a chuckle, when he sat
down on the barrel of potatoes again.

"The very image of him!" said the girl, with great emphasis.

"The boy," began the boy once more, "had run errands for him two or
three times, and each time had got two apples or oranges besides the
reg'lar pay; and he was good to cats and dogs. So this chap went to this
gentleman - he took his sister along, 'cause he thought Mr. Golong would
like to see her - and they told him their story. And the boy says, when
it was done, 'If you would only trust us for a turk - I mean, a turkey,
and a few other things, I'll work for you all holiday week, and another
week too, after school. My name's Neal Todd, and my mother is a real
nice woman, and I love her just as you used to love your mother when you
was a little boy.' And the gentleman, says he, 'Being as it's
Christmas-time, and I look so much like Santa Claus, I'll do it.' And he
did. And that's all."

Mr. Onosander Golong burst out a-laughing, and oh! how he laughed! He
laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks. He laughed until he nearly
fell off the barrel. He laughed until everybody far and near who heard
him laughed too, and the very roosters in the poultry shop over the way
joined in, and crowed with all their might and main. And they got the

[Illustration: "AND THEY GOT THE TURKEY!"]


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Online LibraryVariousHarper's Young People, December 23, 1879 → online text (page 3 of 4)