The Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories For Children online

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[Transcriber's Note: The Table of Contents was added by the transcriber.]

























'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In the hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below -
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name -
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer! Now, Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away! Dash away! Dash away! All!"

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas, too.
And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.
His eyes - how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings - then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"


'Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring - excepting a mouse.
The stockings were flung in haste over the chair,
For hopes of St. Nicholas were no longer there.
The children were restlessly tossing in bed,
For the pie and the candy were heavy as lead;
While mamma in her kerchief, and I in my gown,
Had just made up our minds that we would not lie down,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I went with a dash,
Flung open the shutter, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of noon-day to objects below.

When what to my long anxious eyes should appear
But a horse and a sleigh, both old-fashioned and queer;
With a little old driver, so solemn and slow,
I knew at a glance it must be Dr Brough.
I drew in my head, and was turning around,
When upstairs came the Doctor, with scarcely a sound,
He wore a thick overcoat, made long ago,
And the beard on his chin was white with the snow.
He spoke a few words, and went straight to his work;
He felt all the pulses, - then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
With a nod of his head to the chimney he goes: -
"A spoonful of oil, ma'am, if you have it handy;
No nuts and no raisins, no pies and no candy.
These tender young stomachs cannot well digest
All the sweets that they get; toys and books are the best.
But I know my advice will not find many friends,
For the custom of Christmas the other way tends.
The fathers and mothers, and Santa Claus, too,
Are exceedingly blind. Well, a good-night to you!"
And I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight:
These feastings and candies make Doctors' bills right!"


Bertie was a very good boy. He was kind, obedient, truthful, and
unselfish. He had, however, one great fault, - he always forgot.

No matter how important the errand, his answer always was, "I forgot."
When he was sent with a note to the dress-maker his mother would find
the note in his pocket at night. If he was sent to the store in a
great hurry, to get something for tea, he would return late, without
the article, but with his usual answer.

His father and mother talked the matter over, and decided that
something must be done to make the little boy remember.

Christmas was near, and Bertie was busy making out a list of things
which Santa Claus was to bring him.

"Santa Claus may forget some of those things," said his mother.


"He cannot," replied Bertie; "for I shall write sled, and skates, and
drum, and violin, and all the things on this paper. Then when Santa
Claus goes to my stocking he will find the list. He can see it and put
the things in as fast as he reads."

Christmas morning came, and Bertie was up at dawn to see what was in
his stocking. His mother kept away from him as long as she could, for
she knew what Santa Claus had done.

Finally she heard him coming with slow steps to her room. Slowly he
opened the door and came towards her. He held in his hand a list very
much longer than the one he had made out. He put it in his mother's
hand, while tears of disappointment fell from his eyes.

"See what Santa Claus left for me; but I think he might have given me
one thing besides."

His mother opened the roll. It was a list of all the errands Bertie
had been asked to do for six months. At the end of all was written, in
staring capitals, "I FORGOT."

Bertie wept for an hour. Then his mother told him they were all
going to grandpa's. For the first time he would see a Christmas-tree.
Perhaps something might be growing there for him.

It was very strange to Bertie, but on grandpa's tree he found
everything he had written on his list. Was he cured of his bad habit?
Not all at once; but when his mother saw that he was particularly
heedless she would say, "Remember, Santa Claus does not forget."



It was Christmas Day, and Toddy and Tita were alone. Papa and mamma
had gone out West to see their big boy who was ill. They had promised
to be home for Christmas, but a big snow had blocked the railroad
track, and nurse was afraid the train would be delayed until the day
after Christmas. What a dull Christmas for two little girls, all alone
in the great city house, with only the servants! They felt so lonely
that nurse let them play in the big drawing-room instead of in the
nursery, so they arranged all the chairs in a row, and pretended
it was a snowed-up train. Tita was the conductor, and Toddy was the
passengers. Just as they were in the midst of it, they heard music in
the street, and, running to the window, they saw a little boy outside,
singing and beating a tambourine.

"Why," said Tita, "his feet are all bare!"

"Dess he hanged up bofe stockin's an' his shoes, too," said Toddy.

"Let's open the window and ask him."

But the great window was too high to reach, so they took papa's cane
and pushed it tip. The little boy smiled, but they could not hear what
he said, so they told him to come in, and ran to open the big front
door. He was a little frightened at first, but the carpet felt warm to
his poor bare feet.

He told them that his name was Guido, and that he had come from Italy,
which is a much warmer country than ours, and that he was very poor,
so poor that he had no shoes, and had to go singing from house to
house for a few pennies to get some dinner. And he was _so_ hungry.

"Poor little boy!" said Tita. "Our mamma is away, and we're having a
pretty sad Christmas, but we'll try to make it nice for _you._"

So they played games, and Guido sang to them. Then the folding doors
rolled back, and there was the dining-room and the table all set, and
Thomas, the black waiter, smiling, just as if it had been a big dinner
party instead of two very little girls. Nurse said: "Well, I never!"
when she saw Guido, but she felt so sorry for the lonely little girls
that she let him come to the table. And _such_ a dinner as he ate! He
had never had one like it before. "It is a fairy tale," he said.

Just as dessert came on, the door opened and in rushed mamma and papa;
the train had gotten in, after all. They were so glad to see their
darlings happy instead of moping that they gave them each some extra
kisses. You may be sure little Guido never went hungry and barefoot
after that. Long afterward he would say: "That was a fairy Christmas!"

That night, after Tita had said her prayers, she said:

"Mamma, I know something. Whenever you feel sad and lonely, if you
will just find somebody sadder and lonelier than yourself and cheer
them up, it will make you all right."

And I think that that was the very best kind of a Christmas lesson of
love. Don't you?



Did you ever know a boy
Make believe he had a toy?
That's the way
Babies play;
Babies who are young and small
Make believe they play at ball!


"Boys," said Mrs. Howard one morning, looking up from a letter she was
reading, "I have had a letter from your grandmamma. She writes that
she is returning to England shortly."

The boys went on with their breakfast without showing any great amount
of interest in this piece of news, for they had never seen their
grandmother, and therefore could not very well be expected to show any
affection for her.

Now Mrs. Howard, the mother of two of the boys and aunt to the third
little fellow, was a widow and very poor, and often found it a hard
task to provide for her "three boys," as she called them, for, having
adopted her little orphan nephew, she always treated him as her own
son. She had sometimes thought it strange that old Mrs. Howard should
not have offered to provide for Leslie herself but she had never done
so, and at last Mrs. Howard had ceased to expect it. But now, right at
the end of her letter, Grandmamma Howard wrote: -

"I have been thinking that perhaps it would come a little hard on you
to support not only your own two boys, but poor Alice's son, and so,
on my return to England, I propose, if you are willing, to adopt one
of them, for I am a lonely old woman and shall be glad of a young face
about me again."

After thinking the matter over, Mrs. Howard decided she would say
nothing about their grandmother's intention to the boys, as she
thought that it was just possible she might change her mind again.

Time passed on, and winter set in, and full of the delights of
skating, the boys forgot all about the expected arrival of their

During the Christmas holidays the boys one morning started off to
Broome Meadow for a good day's skating on the pond there. They carried
their dinner with them, and were told to be sure and be home before

As they ran along the frosty road they came suddenly upon a poor old
woman, so suddenly that Leslie ran right up against her before he
could stop himself. The old woman grumbled about "lazy, selfish boys,
only thinking of their own pleasure, and not caring what happened to a
poor old woman!"

But Leslie stopped at once and apologized, in his polite little way,
for his carelessness.

"I _am_ sorry," he said. "I hope I did not hurt you; and you have such
heavy parcels to carry too. Won't you let me help you?"

"Oh! come on, Leslie," said his cousins; "we shall never get to the
pond at this rate!"

"Yes, go on," said the old woman sharply; "your skating is of a great
deal more importance than an old woman, eh?"

But Leslie's only answer was to take the parcels and trudge merrily
along beside his companion.

On the way to her cottage the old woman asked him all sorts of
questions about himself and his cousins, and then, having reached her
cottage, dismissed him with scarcely a "thank you" for the trouble he
had taken. But Leslie did not take it much to heart.

He raced along, trying his hardest to overtake his cousins before they
reached the pond, and was soon skimming about with the rest of them.

Squire Leaholme, in whose grounds the boys were skating, afterwards
came down to the pond to watch the fun, and, being a kind-hearted old
gentleman, offered to give a prize of a new pair of skates to the boy
who should win the greatest number of races.

As it was getting late, it was arranged that the racing should come
off on the following day, and the Squire invited all the boys who took
part in it, to come up to his house to a substantial tea, after the
fun was over.

How delighted Leslie was, for he was a first-rate skater, and he _did_
so want a new pair of skates!

But the Squire's skates were not to be won by him, for on the
following day as he and his cousins were on their way to the pond,
they came across the queer old woman whom they had met on the previous

She was sitting on the ground, and seemed to be in great pain. The
boys stopped to ask what ailed her, and she told them that she had
slipped and twisted her foot, and was afraid that her ankle was
sprained, for she could not bear to put it to the ground.


"You musn't sit here in the cold," said Leslie; "come, try and get up,
and I will help you home."

"Oh! Leslie," cried both his cousins, "don't go. You will be late for
the races, and lose your chance of the prize."

Poor Leslie! He turned first red, then white, and then said, in a
husky tone of voice -

"Never mind - you go on without me."

"You're a good laddie," said the old woman. "Will you be _very_ sorry
to miss the fun?"

Leslie muttered something about not minding _much_, and then the brave
little fellow set himself to help the poor old woman home, as gently
and tenderly as he could.

She would not let him come in with her, but told him to run off as
quickly as he could, and perhaps after all, he would not be too late
for the skating. But Leslie could not bear to leave her alone and in
pain, so he decided to run home and fetch his Aunt.

When Mrs. Howard arrived at the cottage, you can think how surprised
she was to find that Leslie's "poor old woman" was none other than
Grandmamma Howard herself, who wishing to find out the real characters
of her grandsons, had chosen to come in this disguise to the little
village where they lived.

You will easily guess which of the three boys Grandmamma chose to be
her little companion. And oh! what a lovely Grandmamma she was, as not
only Leslie, but his cousins too, found out. She always seemed to know
exactly what a boy wanted, and still better, to give it to him.

Walter and Stanley often felt terribly ashamed of the selfish manner
in which they had behaved, and wished they were more like Leslie.

But Grandmamma told them that it was "never too late to mend," and
they took her advice, and I am quite sure that at the present moment
if they were to meet a poor old woman in distress by the roadside,
they would not pass her by, as they once did Grandmamma Howard.



It was the week before Christmas, and the dolls In the toy-shop played
together all night. The biggest one was from Paris.

One night she said, "We ought to have a party before Santa Claus
carries us away to the little girls. I can dance, and I will show you

"I can dance myself if you will pull the string," said a "Jim Crow"

"What shall we have for supper?" piped a little boy-doll in a Jersey
suit. He was always thinking about eating.

"Oh, dear," cried the French lady, "I don't know what we shall do for

"I can get the supper," added a big rag doll. The other dolls had
never liked her very well, but they thanked her now. She had taken
lessons at a cooking-school, and knew how to make cake and candy.
She gave French names to everything she made, and this made it taste
better. Old Mother Hubbard was there, and she said the rag doll did
not know how to cook anything.

They danced in one of the great shop-windows. They opened a toy piano,
and a singing-doll played "Comin' through the Rye," The dolls did
not find that a good tune to dance by; but the lady did not know any
other, although she was the most costly doll in the shop. Then they
wound up a music-box, and danced by that. This did very well for some
tunes; but they had to walk around when it played "Hail Columbia," and
wait for something else.

The "Jim Crow" doll had to dance by himself, for he could do nothing
but a "break-down." He would not dance at all unless some one pulled
his string. A toy monkey did this; but he would not stop when the
dancer was tired.

They had supper on one of the counters. The rag doll placed some boxes
for tables. The supper was of candy, for there was nothing in the shop
to eat but sugar hearts and eggs. The dolls like candy better than
anything else, and the supper was splendid. Patsy McQuirk said he
could not eat candy. He wanted to know what kind of a supper it
was without any potatoes. He got very angry, put his hands into his
pockets, and smoked his pipe. It was very uncivil for him to do so in
company. The smoke made the little ladies sick, and they all tried to
climb into a "horn of plenty" to get out of the way.

Mother Hubbard and the two black waiters tried to sing "I love Little
Pussy;" but the tall one in a brigand hat opened his mouth wide,
that the small dollies were afraid they might fall into it. The clown
raised both arms in wonder, and Jack in the Box sprang up as high as
me could to look down into the fellow's throat.

All the baby-dolls in caps and long dresses had been put to bed. They
woke up when the others were at supper, and began to cry. The big doll
brought them some candy, and that kept them quiet for some time.

The next morning a little girl found the toy piano open. She was sure
the dolls had been playing on it. The grown-up people thought it had
been left open the night before; but they do not understand dolls as
well as little people do.



Grandma Burns sat knitting busily in the sun one bright morning the
week before Christmas. The snow lay deep, and the hard crust glistened
like silver. All at once she heard little sighs of grief outside her
door. When she opened it there sat Peter and Jimmy Rice, two very poor
little boys, with their faces in their hands; and they were crying.

"My patience!" cried grandma. "What can be the matter with two bright
little boys this sunny morning?"

"We don't have no good times," sighed little Peter.

"We can't slide. We haven't any sleds," whimpered Jimmy.

"Why, of course boys can't have a good time without sleds," said
grandma, cheerily. "Let us look about and see if we can't find
something." And grandma's cap-border bobbed behind barrels and boxes
in the shed and all among the cobwebs in the garret; but nothing could
be found suitable.

"Hum! I do believe this would do for little Pete;" and the dear old
lady drew a large, pressed-tin pan off the top shelf in the pantry.
A long, smooth butter-tray was found for Jimmy. Grandma shook her
cap-border with laughter to see them skim over the hard crust in their
queer sleds. And the boys shouted and swung their hands as they flew
past the window.

"I do expect they'll wear 'em about through," murmured grandma; "but
boys must slide, - that's certain."

And the pan was scoured as bright as a new silver dollar and the red
paint was all gone off the wooden tray when Peter and Jimmy brought
their sleds back.

Grandma knitted faster than ever all that day, and her face was bright
with smiles. She was planning something. She went to see Job Easter
that night. He promised to make two small sleds for the pair of socks
she was knitting.

When the sleds were finished she dyed them red and drew a yellow
horse upon each one. Grandma called them horses, but no one would have
suspected it. Then the night before Christmas she drew on her great
socks over her shoes to keep her from slipping, put on her hood and
cloak, and dragged the little sleds over to Peter and Timmy's house.

She hitched them to the door-latch, and went home laughing all the


It had seemed to the little Wendell children that they would have
a very sad Christmas. Mama had been very ill, and papa had been so
anxious about mama that he could not think of anything else.

When Christmas Day came, however, mama was so much better that she
could lie on the lounge. The children all brought their stockings into
her room to open them.

"You children all seem as happy as if you had had your usual Christmas
tree," said mama, as they sat around her.

"Why, I _never_ had such a happy Christmas before," said sweet little
Agnes. "And it's just because you are well again."

"Now I think you must all run out for the rest of the day," said the
nurse, "because your mama wants to see you all again this evening."

"I wish we could get up something expressly for mama's amusement,"
said Agnes, when they had gone into the nursery.

"How would you like to have some tableaux in here?" asked their French
governess, Miss Marcelle.

"Oh, yes," they all cried, "it would be fun, mama loves tableaux."

So all day long they were busy arranging five tableaux for the
evening. The tableaux were to be in the room which had folding-doors
opening into Mrs. Wendell's sitting-room.


At the proper time Miss Marcelle stepped outside the folding-doors
and made a pretty little speech. She said that some young ladies and
a young gentleman had asked permission to show some tableaux to Mrs.
Wendell if she would like to see them. Mrs. Wendell replied that she
would be charmed.

Then mademoiselle announced the tableaux; opening the doors wide for
each one. This is a list of the tableaux: First, The Sleeping Beauty;
second, Little Red Riding Hood; third, The Fairy Queen; fourth, Old
Mother Hubbard; fifth, The Lord High Admiral.

Miss Marcelle had arranged everything so nicely, and Celeste, the
French maid, helped so much with the dressing, that the pictures all
went off without a single mistake.



Mama was delighted. She said she must kiss those dear young ladies,
and that delightful young man who had given her such a charming

So all the children came in rosy and smiling.

"Why, didn't you know us?" asked the little Lord Admiral.

"I know this," said mama, "I am like Agnes; I _never_ had such a happy
Christmas before."



Do you know, when we are having such good times at Christmas, what


Online LibraryVariousThe Night Before Christmas and Other Popular Stories For Children → online text (page 1 of 2)