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The Bell Sprite

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How the bells did ring ! One would have supposed they had a fit or had gone mad, if everybody hadn't known what they were making such a noise about. First one, then the otiier, and then all together ; and not in one church, but in all the churches, for it vas Ohristmas day morning. But when the chimes began it was lovelier and brigliter and more merry than ever ; little May Nelson thought so, as a sweet, old-fashioned hymn came floating out in the olear, still air from the belfry of the churoh in the next street. She was lying on a bed in such a poor, little room. There were only two really bright things in it - th sunshine on the floor, and her own sweet, bright, little face. " I'm so glad the sun is shining," she said. " I don't feel half so lonely when you're gone if the sun shines, mother." Mrs. Nelson was putting on a bonnet and shawl as May spoke, and she turned round, showing a kind, pleasant face, but one that looked tired and thin, and said, as she went to the side of the bed and leaned over to kiss her : "I'm glad it shmes, too, darling ; and I wish I could make this a real shiny Christmas for you all day long." " Why, so you have, mother," said May, putting two little, thin a-ms round her neck. "lt's a lovely Christmas, I'm sure ; so much jollier than it was last year, 'cause I can sit up while you're gene. And then, I've got so much this year - grapes and oranges and two books. There's just. two things I want, mother." "What, dear? Rurry, I'm late now to do Mrs. Johnson's hair, I'm afraid. " " You to stay home all day ; an' something live to stay home when you can't." " What would become of all the heads if I should stay home? And where would the bread and butter come from ? But perhaps I can get a kitten for you somewhere. " "Oh! splendid!" And May almost jumped. But she didn't, because she couldn't - she had some trouble with the spine. So her mother kissed her, and went out to her long day's work of hairdressing at ever so many houses, and May was all alone. 8he lay quite still for a little while, listening to the bells that were still chiming. And, when they stopped, she thought how nice it was to have two new books, and sucia a nice, warm room to be in; and not to be like some poor little newsboys she had been reading abouf , who had to sleep in areas or iiny oid bos they could ünd. Presently, a voice right in her ear said: "Jan't it jolly, though?" She turned her head, and there, sitting on her pillow, was the oddesfc little man, just about as long as my hand, dressed in a snit of gray, with slnebed sleeves, yfrar bluo showed through, and ft little goldcolorod cap on his head. There he sat, as quiet .e, could be, and with such a merry, kind faCe - sort of old, and yet it wasn't, eitlicr. "How do you do?"ho said, as May looked round. "Wlio in the world ars you?"she siiid. " You oao'; be Banta Claus. Yon ain't big eüough." "Not a bit of it," langhed the elf. "I'm the Bell Sprite. I come, I go here, there, everywhere. Nebody sees me or hears me; they only feel me. I get int people's hearts, whether they will or no. Sometimos it's hard digging; but I do get in, if Ikeep at it long enougb. But I love the hearts best that are witte open for me, like yours - pleasant kind of hearts that see things right, Dear ! dear ! I've had a dreadful time in the next Street digging into soine children's hearts who squabbled in a shocking way over. their presenta. I declare I'm, tired out!" And he put on a cómica! look of despair. " Why, how do you get round ?" eaid May. " I go anywhere where the sound of any bell goes; no matter where. Oh ! I've seen lots of things in my time." " Oh I do teil me about 'em." " Ho ! ho !" laughed the elf. "Why, I never could get through, I're lived ahvays - long before thei-e wereanybells. But stay !" ahd he put his finger to his foreheatt, and then nodded his head in a knowing way. " 111 teil you one story - one I'm. fond. of myself." , " Oh ! do," said May, settling herself in bed. "Jet21ë see," said the Bell Sprite, " this is what they cali Centennial year. What a fuss the people do make about it, to be sure ! A century ! Why, it's nothing. I'll go further back than that for you, and teil you of a Christmas day, j more than 200 years ago. It was down near the soa in whatis-now Maine. But the only name the place I'm going to teil yoú ab'(M had then was ' The Garrfrch House.' There ruled at that time in England the Puritan1, Oliyer Cromwell, who thoiïght he wás doing the very best thihg fov his 'country when he cut off the ilead of the King, Charles I. ; and then he exiled a great many friends of the dead fcmg, who were called cavaliers. One colony landed at Boston. But there were so many Purifcans there that they were afraid to stay Klere; and so they went further eastward along the coast to the Spanish colony. And there they were afraid to keep them, beoaüse they did not dare to riicpiense Cromwell; so the poor people had to go still further into the wilderness. " Fortunately, it was spring, and growing warmer every day, and at last they made a stop at the top of a high hill, and deciüed to build a house. These men were not used to working and cutting down trees, and their wives did not know how to oook their food at flrst, and, in the learniug, they wasted a great deal of precious food, because it often wasn't fit to eat and had to be thrown away. So the supplies began to get low beforo the house was finished. They cut down the iargest trees they could find, and squared them off, and then laid them one upon another, with joints into each other at the corners. That we cali dove-tailing. And they built the upper story of the house to project over the lower part. In the flooï they made holes to put the barrels of muskets through, so they could shoot lndians or wild animáis, if they carne close to the house. For the country was f uil of lndians then, and they hated 1he white people, who came and took their land, and never askcd them whether they were willing or not. And so ihey burned the houses and killed the white men and their wives and little children whenever they f ound the chance to do so. And when the house was built, the men drove trees into the ground closely together around it, to make a stockade. And by that rime winter had come and the different families, who had been living in little huts made of birch-bark during the warm weather were all very glad to go into it to live, and to have a real roof over their heads once more. " There were only two children in the house - Eleanor and Roland Plaisted. They were 8 and 10 years old. Roland was the eldest, and took great care of his little sister. In the summer they hadn't minded much being in a strange, wild country ; for they had played in the forest, all day long, when the men had been cutting the trees, or they had made ships of sheets of birch-bark, and put on acorns for passengers, and sent them sailing down tbe little river. Sometimes they kept right side up tül they were out of sight, and sometimes they tipped over right away. But it was all great fun until winter came ; and then, when they were shut up in the little rooms, they didn't like it at all. The rooms were so low that their father could only just stand p in them, and then his head nearly touched the ceiling; and when he went through the doorways he had to bend way, way down, for fear of hitting his head, The children longed for the great hall at Plaisted Grange, that had been such a fine place to play in ; and for the fire-place, with a settle on each side, where they had sat on winter evenings with old Balph, the gamekeeper. They had a íire, of course, because there was such a lot of wood to burn ; but the fireplace was a Little one, and the rooms were very small and very full of people. And there was no hall at all ; for the space at the head and foot of the stairs was not nearly so large as the landing by the window on the staircase at home. They were pinched and cold, too, for their clotlies had not been made to wear in such a cold climate, and, besides, they were nearly worn out. Koland's üne black-velvet snit was torn and dirty, and nearly all the nap was worn off the velvet ; and Eleanor's pretty, quilted satin pettiooat was frayed and torn, too, and her bodice was sadly soiled, which distressed her very much, for she was a neat little girl. Their shoes had been gone long before, and their hair was not kept in the beautiful, long eurls that it had been in England. It was matted and tangled - Roland's as well as his sister's ; and his mamma would not cut it off, because she said he would look like a ' Boundhead ' then. So it came to be the day before Christmas ; and it was very, very cold and gloomy, and the snow lay very deep about the house. The women were all busy with the loom in one of the chambers, trying to weave some cloth, to make some clothes for themselves and for their husbands and children. The men sat huddled gloomily over the fire, and talked in a dreary way of their sad condition ; for their stock of food was almost gone, and the snow was so deep that they were afraid to try to get to the Spanish colony for help. And they were afraid of the lndians besides. A.8 they talked, one of the men md ; " 'This is the day bef ore Ohristmas. I had woll-nigh forgotteu it.' " 'Ay, so had we all, Squire,' said anothor. And theh, as he t'ook liléanor oh his kliee, he said : 'There can be nb hoiidays, tiiis year - no mask,ers 'and hb yule log, not even ,a Christmas carol from the waits, jny little lassie. There is no Christmas here.' " ' I know that,' said Eleanor. ' But mamma tol'd me we could keep Christmas in hearts; , for Jesus was born to help everybody to be good, even in a cold land like this, even lf we cbuld hot be merry.' "'Bless thy sweet he"rï !' Said ïhe man, 'r.nd tiiy mother, too; for,' he added, turning to the men, ' sweet Mistress Plaisted has a brave hearfc under her bodice, and it ill becomes us to sit crooning over the fire like old beldames when her gentle hands hold the tpugh flax for us. and she alone of lis all remembers the Óhristmas-tide in the spirit of it. Whc will come with me to try for a shot at the birds we saw but now flying just without the stockade ?' " So the children were left alone: and they sat down by the hearth, made of square, red tiles, and huddled as close to the fire as they could. ' What makes everybody so cross, tb-day, Eolly V said Eleanor, bpröading her hands over the fire. ' Nobody is pleasant now, as they used to be in the summertime in the wood.' " 'It isn't cross, dear Nelly,' said her brother. ' But don't you know they are all frightened, lest we would starve? The grain is almost gone, and we have no more to make bread.' " ' Gone ! Eolly, there was so much of it, too!' "'Yes, I know. But Cliñord said some strange animal must have burrowed up and carried it off; for there is a hole in the ground in the cellar.' " ' Oh ' what shall we do ? It will be dreadf ui to starve'- and Nelly began to cry softly - ' and to starve on Christmas day, of all the days !' " ' Oh ! we shall not starve to-morrow, only the uaeat is uil Lohe. I he&rd them whispering aboiit it to-day ; and mamma does not know that, and you must not teil, Nelly.' " Eleanor looked into the fire for a few minutes, and then said : 'And can we do nothing to help, brother?' " ' I don't know, I'm sure. I wieh we could cheer them up.' " 'We might eat only a very, very little. ' " ' That would only make them all sorry.' "'Oh!' paid Eoland, 'it makes me sorry, too, when I think of the good times we had at home, two years ago, and to think there will be no joy bells, to-morrow. Thai makes mammá sad, I i know.' "And then Eoland began to teil his sister about the timéis they had at home, for she had boen so very little when they had last kept the holidays that she couldn't remember anything about it, for that had been two years before. The last Christmas in England, they had been hiding away in the house of a Puritan f riend from the soldiers. And ii oland told his sister how the bells rang in the morning, and the village children sang a carol under the windows, and of how mother had lovod to hear it. "Suddenly Eleanor .iumped and clappcd her hands. ' Why can't we sing a carol out by thestairsin the morning?' " ' So we can, if ybu know one,' said Bolaidi " ' I do know part of one, and you can teil me the rest; and then we can sing it, to-morrow morning, while it is yet quite dark.' " ' I never thought of that,' said Nelly, ' Oh waifc, tlioügh; I have something that will do. See !' And she opened a tiny, little cupboard and took out a little triangle. " ' Why !' said Koland. ' Where did it come from ? It's the one I had from the maskers, so long ago. ' ",' Mamma fcund it at the .bottom of the old chest, yesterday; and I was going to give it to you, to-morrow.' " 'It will do nicely.'said Eoland, and he struck it. ' Ting, tang, tong ' rang out; and the children smothered it in Nelly's petticoat for fear the sound should betray their secret. But I heard it, and was there in a second. It souuded like a bell; and wüen I got there and found it a mistake I stayed, because I knew they meant it for a bell. Oh ! how blue and cold those dear children were ! It makes me shiver when I think of it. " 'Squire Plaisted and his wife taliied a long time, that night, and Eoland heard his father say that somebody must have courage on the morrow to try to reach the Spanish colony and get help from them, or they should surely starve. ' But,' he said, ' the men are all afraid of getting lost in the forest and perishing in the snow, and I must go myself. If we could but shoot some game, it would be a blessing; for the meat we had is spoiled, you know. ' "'Yes,' said his wife, 'I know it. But do not despair. The morrow is Christmas day, and it may bring us good eheer.' " Scarcely the faintest streak of dawn was in the sky when the two children crept out on to the landing in the staircase ; and presently all the people in the house thought they were dreaming of home and the Christmas carol. But it wasn't a dream, for the little triangle, under Eoland's vigorous strokes, pealed away as hard as ever it could, and two sweet little voices sang, in the darkness and the cold in the soÜtary house in the wilderness, the sweet old earol : " God re8t you merry gentlemen ; Let nothing you dismay, For JeKUB (Jbrist our Savior Was born upon this day, To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray. Oh ! tidings of comfort and joy, For Jesus Christ our Savior "Was born on Christmas day.' "Everybody in the house listened, and tears stood iu some eyes as the children sang all the sweet verses that they had heard often before at home. And when they stopped, a voice down-stairs cried : ' A merry Christmas, brave little ones. Nothing shall dismay us, and I, for one, will start for the Spanish colony as soon as it is light ! ' ' And I ! ' ' And I ! ' carne from other rooms. And so, helped by the little children, they started off. " Three of the men stayed, and all the women; and whon they were gone those that were left feit very sad, because it was a hard journey through the snow and the wild forest. ín the middle of the day the children were playing together in the room up-stairs, where the muskets were kept in a rack; and presently Eoland heard a strange rubbing and snilïing at the side of the house under them. He looked out of the window, and saw that tho gato of the stockade was open, and that there were tracks in the snow that he knew very well. It wasn't Indians; but it was a big, black bear. Eoland knew if he could orly kill that bear they would have meat for ftome time 5: and he determinad to try to kill it himself, bbcanse he was afraid if he ran to pall one of the men that the bear woiild go away. , fie didn't dare to fire without telling iüleanor what, it was, for she was in constant terror of Indians ; so he whispered to her softly thrct he was going to try to shoot a boar, and then he very softly pulled a plug out of one of the holes in the floor, and, looking through, saw the bear just underneath. Very quiokly and very softly he took a gun from the i-ack, where they always stood loaded, and put it carefully into the hol?; bilt, in sLite oí all his care, he made a little noise, .and Master Bruin looked up just as Boland pulled the trigger. As it happened, nearly the whole charge went into his eye, and with one long, horrible howl, the bear dropped dead, and the snow round him was covereít with blood. "Suoh a fright as the garrison had ! The men drew their pistols and ran for their guns, not knowing what had happened. The women ran to flnd the children; and there stood Koland, as proud as a king, with such a color in his pale cheeks as hadn't been seen for many a day. How they praised and petted him I could never teil you, nor of how they enjoyed, tlibir fámouB dínner oí steak; for one would have to be as huhgry ás they were to know how they did enjoy it. Best of all, that very night, the men whb had gone to the other colony came back safe and soilnd, with plenty of provisions for the cold months before them. They had met messengers coming to them on the way, and so it was a right ' merry Christmas.' after all. Such a capital rug as that bear-skin made for the children to He on by the fire, and it was always called Koland'sbear." "There," said the elf, folding his arms and twinkling his bright little eyes, "isn'tthata good story?" " Splendid," said May. "Howlwish I could have given 'em some of these oranges, too; I'vé got such a lot. But what became of 'em ? Did they ever go backto England?" "No, they never did. They grew to love the old Garrison House and to ieel that it was home ; and by-and-by others were built, and there was a colony. And both Eleanor and Boland grew up and married and died, leaving ever so many children and grandéhildren. And, come to think of it," added the elf, thoughtfully, "it was two of Boland's grandchildren who squabbled so this morning ; and yoti, Miss May, are very like your grandmother Eleanor, with ever so many 'greats' before it." "Was she my grandmother 1" said May, opening her eyes very wide. " ïour veiry ówñ; Way back, to be sure ; but still yours," Said the elf. "And the old house, did it fail down or burn down ?" " Not a bit of it. There it stands to this very day ; very old and decayed outside, but with the logs almost as sound and true as when they were laid more than 200 years ago. And you may see it for yours'elf if you ever go to York, in Maine." "But I never shall," said May. "I can't get up." "We'll see," said the elf. And he passed his hand to the back of her head, and it feit cold oñ tier neck. He mumbled something to himself, gaye a íunny little sniff, and was gone, crying: "Goodby, till neit year;" But as he stood for a minute, looking in her face, hair began to grow on it, and he grew bigger and bigger, and his eyes grew bigger, too, and his mouth disappeared, and his noso grew out to be - that of the most cunning Scotch terrier that was ever born. May gazed at him, rubbed her eyes, said, "Oh! thank you, sir !" and opened them wide, to see her mother standing beside her, laughing. " Oh ! how you jumped when he put his cold nose on your neck. See what a present you have to-day. John, the stabieman sent it to you." "Oh! dear doggie," said May. "But it was the Bell Sprite, mother. And why are you home now ?" " Mrs. Johnson didn't need me, after all. So here we are, to eat our Christmas dinnertogether." " And a fairy came and told me a lovely story, mother," said May. ' Did it ! Teil it to me, after dinner." Now, that was a kind of mother worth having. She never made fun of fairies. It's really astonishing how much some people don't know, and how they don't believe in fairies or elves. If they did believe in them, the fairies would teil them stories, too. And they never will until they do.


Old News
Michigan Argus