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THE CHRISTMAS TREE.
BY MARY IOWITT.
E all looked at the picture, and agreed that it
was a very pretty one; and from looking at it we began to talk about Christmas and Christmas trees in general; and the children would not be satisfied, unless I told them about good Mrs. Kinderliebe and her two remarkable Christmases.
“You have all heard about fairy-godmothers,” said I, “and you know that they are always very small, and very neat and prim, with little feet and hands, and little neat old-fashioned faces, with gray hair, and lace-bordered caps. Well, just such a nice little, neat old lady was Frau Kinderliebe, or Mrs. Kinderliebe, as we will call her. She lived in the prettiest house in the whole town, and yet she had not all the house to herself, for she had only one floor, and a very
learned old Professor lived up stairs above her. He was just as unlike her as he could be. He was big, and brown, with a large old dry face, hands, and feet; he did not look very clean either, and there was such a smell of tobacco-smoke about him, that it always made the dear old fairy-godmother cough whenever she talked to him. He was a very good man, however, for all that—and so learned !
The fairy-godmother was a widow; she had been a widow I can't tell you how many years, and the death of her husband had been a very great trouble to her. She managed, however, to be very cheerful and happy, she had been so for many, many years; and the way she contrived to be so was by always doing good and kind actions. She never seemed to think about herself, except she could make somebody happy, or be of use to them. In summer, you saw her going out with a basket in her hand full of cakes, or fruit, or flowers, and they always were for some poor or sick person, to whom they would bring a pleasure. In the winter, you would see her going through the snow and frost all the same, in a little pair of clogs, and a fur cloak, and little velvet bonnet; and sometimes, Barbele, her
old servant, was trudging beside her with a lantern, if it was at night, and a large bundle of warm clothing, or something of that sort, which she was carrying to some poor half-starved creature. And it was wonderful how much sewing and knitting her dear little fingers did, and her fingers were hardly any larger than yours; but then she had such a large heart, it was large enough for an emperor !
The fairy-godmother loved everything that lived ; but most of all did she love little children. She was an old woman, you must remember, but that did not matter; she was as merry as a child herself; she knew all sorts of riddles and nursery songs, and such wonderful stories! and, what was better than all, she never was tired of telling them. Besides this, she knew how to make all kinds of gingerbread and sugar cakes, and candies, and preserves; and she had almonds, and raisins, and apples, and all sorts of nice things standing in her closet; and she used to say to old Barbele, “Do find some child or other, Barbele, to eat some of our good things, for it is a shame we should eat them all ourselves;” and old Barbele, who had lived so long with her mistress that she was
very like her in many things, used to go and fetch in the
poor milkwoman's little children, who lived at the next door, or the little chimney-sweeper, and then what a feast they had.
The fairy-godmother often used to say how glad she was that as long as the world stood there always would be plenty of children; and whenever she saw them at play, she smiled so pleasantly, and when she saw any in trouble she used to go and wipe away their tears and comfort them; and if she saw them quarrelling, she went among them and talked to them so lovingly, that you would always be sure to see them kissing and embracing and all good friends again. I cannot tell you how she loved little children, and how they all loved her; but then you must remember she was just like a fairy-godmother.
“ If it were not for the Professor,” Mrs. Kinderliebe used to say to Barbele, “I should like us to have some poor orphan child to live with us; I think we could make her happy and good. Yes, if it were not for the Professor, one would have one; but he cannot bear a noise, Barbele, so we must give it up;" and with that the fairy-godmother sighed, and so did old Bar
bele, who thought of all things, she should like to have a pair of little shoes to clean every morning, and to lay a little knife and fork beside the old lady's for dinner. They both thought a great deal about it; but the old Professor, who was so learned and who could not bear a noise, always stood like a bugbear in the way.
One night, it was just at the beginning of December, the Professor was heard shutting his room door overhead and then coming down stairs, very slowly and very quietly, as he always did; and then he knocked at the fairy-godmother's door, and when she told him to come in, he walked in, with his hat in his hand, as he always did when he came to call upon her, for he was very polite. He looked very sad, and scarcely smiled when he spoke to her; and anybody could see that he had a great trouble on his mindand so he had! Before long, he pulled a letter out of his pocket, which was sealed with black, and he began to tell her that this letter had brought him the news of the death of a friend, a very learned man, too, who lived in Tübingen, a young man whom the Professor had taught himself; and he and his wife,