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THE TRACT MAGAZINE.
THE HOLLY CART.
WAS sitting last Christmas in the warm corner of our bright farm-house kitchen, watching my group of merry children as they decked it gaily
with holly boughs. When it began to grow dusk, and the work was done, they all clustered about me, begging that I would tell them a story.
"Well,” I said, “ while I have been watching you put up that holly, my thoughts have gone back to a Christmas long ago. The story of that time will be rather
grave, but I do not think I can remember any other just now.”
“Mother's stories are always nice : please do tell us," said one and another; and I began
“The Christmas of which I was thinking was long ago, when I was quite a girl. Your grandfather, whom you hardly remember, was living then, and my dear old granny; and uncle Charles and aunt Susan were a little boy and girl. It was a sad Christmas for us ; father had been many months without work, and we all began to lose hope, and to doubt whether better times would ever come.
6. Christmas Day would be to-morrow, as Charlie said, and almost every one in our village was busy with preparations for the great holiday. All the chimneys were sending out puffs of black smoke, and now and then some one came down the little street laden with Christmas fare ; a fine goose, a leg of pork, or a basket of bright golden oranges; while the boys pelted every passer and each other with snowballs, and laughed merrily at each hit or miss. But granny and I sat very quiet by our little fire; we should have no bigger dinner to cook to-morrow than on
any other day; and, for my part, I felt so sad that I could have been almost angry with the happy neighbours.
«"Hallo! Ellen, look out! cried a merry voice; and my brother Charlie threw up the window behind me, and jumped into the room.
“What are you thinking of, Charlie,' said I, 'letting the cold air in when granny's cough is so bad?' and my ill-temper was going to show itself by a hearty box on the ears; when granny's look stopped me. I'm sure no one could have felt angry long where granny was.'
“Nonsense, Ellen,' said Charlie, you're always such a fidget; granny don't mind; and just you hear what I'm come to tell you. Farmer Johnson is coming down the street with his cart piled up with holly, and every one is buying some to put up in their windows: I want a penny or two, please; and won't I make the room bright against father comes home at night; you never saw such holly!'
“Granny looked sad, and answered quietly, I am afraid, Charlie, we must do without holly in our window this Christmas; I have no pence to give you."
“ The tears came into Charlie's eyes. That's too bad,' he said; all the other boys will have some, and they will say we are mean if we don't.'
“Granny stroked Charlie's hot cheek. Yes, my boy, I know it seems hard,' she said ; but it wouldn't be honest to spend money on holly while your poor father can scarce find bread for us all.'
“Poor boy,' she said to me, as Charlie went slowly and sadly away, “it's early for him to learn what want and trouble mean.'
*** How much you think of Charlie,' said I, a little jealously; I'm sure he is not the only one it's hard on; he hasn't to leave his school, and to work hard all day, and sew all the evening like I have; and as for you, I'm sure you knit those stockings till you must be sick of the very sight of the needles and worsted.'
Yes, my child, I know how you feel it, and I am not less sorry for you than for Charlie ; but you are older, and can understand better who it is that sends this trouble on us all, and can have the comfort of feeling that you are doing your duty, and helping father and me.'
"Am I really helping ? said I. 6. Indeed you are, my child; and, Ellen, you must not give over praying and hoping; we are soon going to begin
a new year: who knows whether better times may not come with it? Any way God's time is the right time.
“Just at that moment we heard the sound of cartwheels. Farmer Johnson passed our little window, and in a minute we heard a thundering rap at the door.
There, child, let me open it,' said granny ; "I will just tell him we don't want any."
"A merry Christmas to you,' cried Farmer Johnson in his hearty voice; and if any one deserves à merry Christmas, 'tis you, Widow Houghton; that I say, and that I'll stand to; and how's the little maid ? Well, Ellen,' he went on, looking into the room, 'want some of my
best holly this Christmas, I hope?'
“Not to-day, neighbour,' said granny, Ellen and I have made up our minds to do without holly this year.'
" Eh! but that's a pity, said he ; a bit of holly looks seasonable, and cheers one up; for my part, I should scarce think it Christmas if my missis didn't put up a bough or two in the old chimney corner and about. However, if you won't buy, at least you'll come and look at my load; ' and he beckoned me outside the door.
“ As soon as I was by the cart be said, 'I can guess the meaning of your not wanting any holly, but I ain't going to stand that, you know ; 80 hold out your apron, hold it out wide, lass. Why, whatever would my missis say if I told her I had left the old woman without a bit of holly!'
“I held out my apron as I was bid—for I knew Farmer Johnson's way, and that it was no use talking when once he had got an idea in his head, -and he piled it as full as it could hold of boughs full of glossy leaves and bright red berries. Little Susy toddled out after me, and held out her pinafore. Well, little 'un, so you must have a piece too, must you," said our kind neighbour; and she was soon laden to her heart's content.
Granny held up her hands with surprise as we went back into the cottage. • That's just like Christmas time, she said ; 'every one has a kind word and kind deed then, bless God for it:' as for me, my ill-humour could not stand Farmer Johnson's kind smile and words.
Now, Ellen,' said Charlie, 'I am sure you may put away that stupid sewing for once and help me, and we'll make the cottage look so smart that father won't know it.'
"I put up my work with a good will, and was going to begin in earnest, when granny said- .
“Children, can't you think of a use for some of that holly, better than putting it all up in this room ?'
“* Better than this room! no, that I'm sure I can't ! said Charlie; 'we don't want it upstairs, nor outside the house, do we?
“But I thought I knew what granny meant, and I said, · Let us take some of the best boughs to the school, Charlie.' Ay, do, dears,' said granny,
• and I wish I could go too, but it would be over-long for me to walk there to-day and to-morrow both.'
“So we three children took each a large bough, and set out to carry them to the ladies, who would, we knew, be busy decking the school-rooms for the Christmas entertainment to the poor old people. On our way we met a gentleman, whom we had not often seen before, though we knew that his name was Mr. Norton, and that he had just come to live near the village.
Stop, children,' he said, as we passed him, will you sell me that fine holly?'
“ Charlie looked at me; I made my best curtsey, and answered, 'I don't think we can, sir.'
“I will give you sixpence for those three boughs, for it is very fine. Did you find it yourselves ?'
“No, sir, Farmer Johnson gave us a great deal, and granny bade us take these three boughs to the school.?
“Oh, that alters the case, my littlo girl,' said Mr. Norton.
“Please, sir, Farmer Johnson is just down there with his cart; he has brought it to sell, and you can have as much as you like, sir.'
“ And if Farmer Johnson is selling his holly, how came he to give you all this?' said the gentleman; and as he walked beside us looking so kind, I told him our story, how father had been without work for ever so long, and granny knitted all the day to buy us bread. But granny says a new year is coming, and maybe it will be a happier one,' said I.
I trust it may,' said Mr. Norton ; ' and now run along briskly and keep yourselves warm. I must go
I must go and find Farmer Johnson, and he turned down the street, while we went on to the church.
“I am glad you have brought this holly, my children,' said the rector's lady, my kind teacher at Sunday school, not only because we were really needing more