Christmas Jenny by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Christmas Jenny was published in Harper’s Bazaar on December 22, 1888. “Bein’ a missionary to robins an’ starvin’ chippies an’ little deaf an’ dumb children is jest as good as some other kinds, an’ that’s what she is.”
Cornelius Krieghoff, House in Snow, Ritchies, Toronto
The day before there had been a rain and a thaw, then in the night the wind had suddenly blown from the north, and it had grown cold. In the morning it was very clear and cold, and there was the hard glitter of ice over everything. The snow-crust had a thin coat of ice, and all the open fields shone and flashed. The tree boughs and trunks, and all the little twigs, were enamelled with ice. The roads were glare and slippery with it, and so were the door-yards. In old Jonas Carey’s yard the path that sloped from the door to the well was like a frozen brook.
Quite early in the morning old Jonas Carey came out with a pail, and went down the path to the well. He went slowly and laboriously, shuffling his feet, so he should not fall. He was tall and gaunt, and one side of his body seemed to slant toward the other, he settled so much more heavily upon one foot. He was somewhat stiff and lame from rheumatism.
He reached the well in safety, hung the pail, and began pumping. He pumped with extreme slowness and steadiness; a certain expression of stolid solemnity which his face wore never changed.
When he had filled his pail he took it carefully from the pump spout, and started back to the house, shuffling as before. He was two thirds of the way to the door, when he came to an extremely slippery place. Just there some roots from a little cherry-tree crossed the path, and the ice made a dangerous little pitch over them.
Old Jonas lost his footing, and sat down suddenly; the water was all spilled. The house door flew open, and an old woman appeared.
“Oh, Jonas, air you hurt?” she cried, blinking wildly and terrifiedly in the brilliant light.
The old man never said a word. He sat still and looked straight before him solemnly. “Oh, Jonas, you ‘ain’t broke any bones, hev you?” The old woman gathered up her skirts and began to edge off the door-step, with trembling knees. Then the old man raised his voice — “Stay where you be,” he said, imperatively. “Go back into the house!”
He began to raise himself, one joint at a time, and the old woman went back into the house, and looked out of the window at him.
When old Jonas finally stood upon his feet it seemed as if he had actually constructed himself, so piecemeal his rising had been. He went back to the pump, hung the pail under the spout, and filled it. Then he started on the return with more caution than before. When he reached the dangerous place his feet flew up again, he sat down, and the water was spilled.
The old woman appeared in the door; her dim blue eyes were quite round, her delicate chin was dropped. “Oh, Jonas!”
“Go back!” cried the old man, with an imperative jerk of his head toward her, and she retreated. This time he arose more quickly, and made quite a lively shuffle back to the pump.
But when his pail was filled and he again started on the return, his caution was redoubled. He seemed to scarcely move at all. When he approached the dangerous spot his progress was hardly more perceptible than a scaly leaf-slug’s. Repose almost lapped over motion. The old woman in the window watched breathlessly.
The slippery place was almost passed, the shuffle quickened a little — the old man sat down again, and the tin pail struck the ice with a clatter.
The old woman appeared. “Oh, Jonas!”
Jonas did not look at her; he sat perfectly motionless. “Jonas, air you hurt? Do speak to me for massy sake!” Jonas did not stir.
Then the old woman let herself carefully off the step. She squatted down upon the icy path, and hitched along to Jonas. She caught hold of his arm — “Jonas, you don’t feel as if any of your bones were broke, do you?” Her voice was almost sobbing, her small frame was all of a tremble.
“Go back!” said Jonas. That was all he would say. The old woman’s tearful entreaties did not move him in the least. Finally she hitched herself back to the house, and took up her station in the window. Once in a while she rapped on the pane, and beckoned piteously.
But old Jonas Carey sat still. His solemn face was inscrutable. Over his head stretched the icy cherry branches, full of the flicker and dazzle of diamonds. A woodpecker flew into the tree and began tapping at the trunk, but the ice-enamel was so hard that he could not get any food. Old Jonas sat so still that he did not mind him. A jay flew on the fence within a few feet of him; a sparrow pecked at some weeds piercing the snow-crust beside the door. Over in the east arose the mountain, covered with frosty foliage full of silver and blue and diamond lights. The air was stinging. Old Jonas paid no attention to anything. He sat there.
The old woman ran to the door again. “Oh, Jonas, you’ll freeze, settin’ there!” she pleaded. “Can’t you git up? Your bones ain’t broke, air they?” Jonas was silent.
“Oh, Jonas, there’s Christmas Jenny comin’ down the road — what do you s’pose she’ll think?”
Old Jonas Carey was unmoved, but his old wife eagerly watched the woman coming down the road. The woman looked oddly at a distance: like a broad green moving bush; she was dragging something green after her too. When she came nearer one could see that she was laden with evergreen wreaths; her arms were strung with them; long sprays of ground-pine were wound around her shoulders, she carried a basket trailing with them, and holding also many little bouquets of bright-colored everlasting flowers. She dragged a sled, with a small hemlock-tree bound upon it. She came along sturdily over the slippery road. When she reached the Carey gate she stopped and looked over at Jonas. “Is he hurt?” she sung out to the old woman.
“I dunno — he’s fell down three times.”
Jenny came through the gate, and proceeded straight to Jonas. She left her sled in the road. She stooped, brought her basket on a level with Jonas’s head, and gave him a little push with it. “What’s the matter with ye?” Jonas did not wink. “Your bones ain’t broke, are they?”
Jenny stood looking at him for a moment. She wore a black hood, her large face was weather-beaten, deeply tanned, and reddened. Her features were strong, but heavily cut. She made one think of those sylvan faces with features composed of bark-wrinkles and knot-holes, that one can fancy looking out of the trunks of trees. She was not an aged woman, but her hair was iron gray, and crinkled as closely as gray moss.
Finally she turned toward the house. “I’m comin’ in a minute,” she said to Jonas’s wife, and trod confidently up the icy steps.
“Don’t you slip,” said the old woman, tremulously.
“I ain’t afraid of slippin’.” When they were in the house she turned around on Mrs. Carey, “Don’t you fuss, he ain’t hurt.”
“No, I don’t s’pose he is. It’s jest one of his tantrums. But I dunno what I am goin’ to do. Oh, dear me suz, I dunno what I am goin’ to do with him sometimes!”
“Leave him alone — let him set there.”
“Oh, he’s tipped all that water over, an’ I’m afeard he’ll — freeze down. Oh dear!”
“Let him freeze! Don’t you fuss, Betsey.”
“I was jest goin’ to git breakfast. Mis’ Gill she sent us in two sassage-cakes. I was goin’ to fry ’em, an’ I jest asked him to go out an’ draw a pail of water, so’s to fill up the tea-kittle. Oh dear!”
Jenny set her basket in a chair, strode peremptorily out of the house, picked up the tin pail which lay on its side near Jonas, filled it at the well, and returned. She wholly ignored the old man. When she entered the door his eyes relaxed their solemn stare at vacancy, and darted a swift glance after her.
“Now fill up the kittle, an’ fry the sassages,” she said to Mrs. Carey.
“Oh, I’m afeard he won’t git up, an’ they’ll be cold! Sometimes his tantrums last a consider’ble while. You see he sot down three times, an’ he’s awful mad.”
“I don’t see who he thinks he’s spitin’.”
“I dunno, ‘less it’s Providence.”
“I reckon Providence don’t care much where he sets.”
“Oh, Jenny, I’m dreadful afeard he’ll freeze down.”
“No, he won’t. Put on the sassages.”
Jonas’s wife went about getting out the frying-pan, crooning over her complaint all the time. “He’s dreadful fond of sassages,” she said, when the odor of the frying sausages became apparent in the room.
“He’ll smell ’em an’ come in,” remarked Jenny, dryly. “He knows there ain’t but two cakes, an’ he’ll be afeard you’ll give me one of ’em.”
She was right. Before long the two women, taking sly peeps from the window, saw old Jonas lumberingly getting up. “Don’t say nothin’ to him about it when he comes in,” whispered Jenny.
When the old man clumped into the kitchen, neither of the women paid any attention to him. His wife turned the sausages, and Jenny was gathering up her wreaths. Jonas let himself down into a chair, and looked at them uneasily. Jenny laid down her wreaths. “Goin’ to stay to breakfast?” said the old man.
“Well, I dunno,” replied Jenny. “Them sassages do smell temptin’.”
All Jonas’s solemnity had vanished, he looked foolish and distressed.
“Do take off your hood, Jenny,” urged Betsey. “I ain’t very fond of sassages myself, an’ I’d jest as liv’s you’d have my cake as not.”
Jenny laughed broadly and good-naturedly, and began gathering up her wreaths again. “Lor’, I don’t want your sassage-cake,” said she. “I’ve had my breakfast. I’m goin’ down to the village to sell my wreaths.”
Jonas’s face lit up. “Pleasant day, ain’t it?” he remarked, affably.
Jenny grew sober. “I don’t think it’s a very pleasant day; guess you wouldn’t if you was a woodpecker or a blue-jay,” she replied.
Jonas looked at her with stupid inquiry.
“They can’t git no breakfast,” said Jenny. “They can’t git through the ice on the trees. They’ll starve if there ain’t a thaw pretty soon. I’ve got to buy ’em somethin’ down to the store. I’m goin’ to feed a few of ’em. I ain’t goin’ to see ’em dyin’ in my door-yard if I can help it. I’ve given ’em all I could spare from my own birds this mornin’.”
“It’s too bad, ain’t it?”
“I think it’s too bad. I was goin’ to buy me a new caliker dress if this freeze hadn’t come, but I can’t now. What it would cost will save a good many lives. Well, I’ve got to hurry along if I’m goin’ to git back to-day.”
Jenny, surrounded with her trailing masses of green, had to edge herself through the narrow doorway. She went straight to the village and peddled her wares from house to house. She had her regular customers. Every year, the week before Christmas, she came down from the mountain with her evergreens. She was popularly supposed to earn quite a sum of money in that way. In the summer she sold vegetables, but the green Christmas traffic was regarded as her legitimate business — it had given her her name among the villagers. However, the fantastic name may have arisen from the popular conception of Jenny’s character. She also was considered somewhat fantastic, although there was no doubt of her sanity. In her early youth she had had an unfortunate love affair that was supposed to have tinctured her whole life with an alien element. “Love-cracked,” people called her.
“Christmas Jenny’s kind of love-cracked,” they said. She was Christmas Jenny in midsummer, when she came down the mountain laden with green peas and string-beans and summer squashes.
She owned a little house and a few acres of cleared land on the mountain, and in one way or another she picked up a living from it.
It was noon to-day before she had sold all her evergreens and started up the mountain road for home. She had laid in a small stock of provisions, and she carried them in the basket which had held the little bunches of life-everlasting and amaranth flowers and dried grasses.
The road wound along the base of the mountain. She had to follow it about a mile, then she struck into a cart-path which led up to the clearing where her house was.
After she passed Jonas Carey’s there were no houses and no people, but she met many living things that she knew. A little field-mouse scratching warily from cover to cover, lest his enemies should spy him, had appreciative notice from Jenny Wrayne. She turned her head at the call of a jay, and she caught a glimmer of blue through the dazzling white boughs. She saw with sympathetic eyes a woodpecker drumming on the ice-bound trunk of a tree. Now and then she scattered, with regretful sparseness, some seeds and crumbs from her parcels.
At the point where she left the road for the cart-path there was a gap in the woods, and a clear view of the village below. She stopped and looked back at it. It was quite a large village; over it hung a spraying net-work of frosty branches; the smoke arose straight up from the chimneys. Down in the village street a girl and a young man were walking, talking about her, but she did not know that.
The girl was the minister’s daughter. She had just become engaged to the young man, and was walking with him in broad daylight with a kind of shamefaced pride. Whenever they met anybody she blushed, and at the same time held up her head proudly, and swung one arm with an airy motion. She chattered glibly and quite loudly to cover her embarrassment.
“Yes,” she said, in a sweet, crisp voice, “Christmas Jenny has just been to the house, and we’ve bought some wreaths. We’re going to hang them in all the front windows. Mother didn’t know as we ought to buy them of her, there’s so much talk, but I don’t believe a word of it, for my part.”
“What talk?” asked the young man. He held himself very stiff and straight, and never turned his head when he shot swift smiling glances at the girl’s pink face.
“Why, don’t you know? It’s town-talk. They say she’s got a lot of birds and rabbits and things shut up in cages, and half starves them; and then that little deaf and dumb boy, you know — they say she treats him dreadfully. They’re going to look into it. Father and Deacon Little are going up there this week.”
“Are they?” said the young man. He was listening to the girl’s voice with a sort of rapturous attention, but he had little idea as to what she was saying. As they walked, they faced the mountain.
It was only the next day when the minister and Deacon Little made the visit. They started up a flock of sparrows that were feeding by Jenny’s door; but the birds did not fly very far, they settled into a tree and watched. Jenny’s house was hardly more than a weather-beaten hut, but there was a grape-vine trained over one end, and the front yard was tidy. Just before the house stood a tall pine-tree. At the rear, and on the right stretched the remains of Jenny’s last summer’s garden, full of plough ridges and glistening corn stubble.
Jenny was not at home. The minister knocked and got no response. Finally he lifted the latch, and the two men walked in. The room seemed gloomy after the brilliant light outside; they could not see anything at first, but they could hear a loud and demonstrative squeaking and chirping and twittering that their entrance appeared to excite.
At length a small pink and white face cleared out of the gloom in the chimney-corner. It surveyed the visitors with no fear nor surprise, but seemingly with an innocent amiability.
“That’s the little deaf and dumb boy,” said the minister, in a subdued voice. The minister was an old man, narrow-shouldered, and clad in long-waisted and crinkly black. Deacon Little reared himself in his sinewy leanness until his head nearly touched the low ceiling. His face was sallow and severely corrugated, but the features were handsome.
Both stood staring remorselessly at the little deaf and dumb boy, who looked up in their faces with an expression of delicate wonder and amusement. The little boy was dressed like a girl, in a long blue gingham pinafore. He sat in the midst of a heap of evergreens, which he had been twining into wreaths; his pretty, soft, fair hair was damp, and lay in a very flat and smooth scallop over his full white forehead.
“He looks as if he was well cared for,” said Deacon Little. Both men spoke in hushed tones — it was hard for them to realize that the boy could not hear, the more so because every time their lips moved his smile deepened. He was not in the least afraid.
They moved around the room half guiltily, and surveyed everything. It was unlike any apartment that they had ever entered. It had a curious sylvan air; there were heaps of evergreens here and there, and some small green trees leaned in one corner. All around the room — hung on the walls, standing on rude shelves — were little rough cages and hutches, from which the twittering and chirping sounded. They contained forlorn little birds and rabbits and field-mice. The birds had rough feathers and small, dejected heads, one rabbit had an injured leg, one field-mouse seemed nearly dead. The men eyed them sharply. The minister drew a sigh; the deacon’s handsome face looked harder. But they did not say what they thought, on account of the little deaf and dumb boy, whose pleasant blue eyes never left their faces. When they had made the circuit of the room, and stood again by the fireplace, he suddenly set up a cry. It was wild and inarticulate, still not wholly dissonant, and it seemed to have a meaning of its own. It united with the cries of the little caged wild creatures, and it was all like a soft clamor of eloquent appeal to the two visitors, but they could not understand it.
They stood solemn and perplexed by the fireplace. “Had we better wait till she comes?” asked the minister.
“I don’t know,” said Deacon Little.
Back of them arose the tall mantel-shelf. On it were a clock and a candlestick, and regularly laid bunches of brilliant dried flowers, all ready for Jenny to put in her basket and sell.
Suddenly there was a quick scrape on the crusty snow outside, the door flew open, and Jonas Carey’s wife came in. She had her shawl over her head, and she was panting for breath.
She stood before the two men, and a sudden crust of shy formality seemed to form over her. “Good-arternoon,” she said, in response to their salutations.
She looked at them for a moment, and tightened her shawl-pin; then the restraint left her. “I knowed you was here,” she cried, in her weak, vehement voice; “I knowed it. I’ve heerd the talk. I knowed somebody was goin’ to come up here an’ spy her out. I was in Mis’ Gregg’s the other day, an’ her husband came home; he’d been down to the store, an’ he said they were talkin’ ’bout Jenny, an’ sayin’ she didn’t treat Willy and the birds well, an’ the town was goin’ to look into it. I knowed you was comin’ up here when I seed you go by. I told Jonas so. An’ I knowed she wa’n’t to home, an’ there wa’n’t nothin’ here that could speak, an’ I told Jonas I was comin’. I couldn’t stan’ it nohow.
“It’s dreadful slippery. I had to go on my hands an’ knees in some places, an’ I’ve sot down twice, but I don’t keer. I ain’t goin’ to have you comin’ up here to spy on Jenny, an’ nobody to home that’s got any tongue to speak fer her.”
Mrs. Carey stood before them like a ruffled and defiant bird that was frighting herself as well as them with her temerity. She palpitated all over, but there was a fierce look in her dim blue eyes.
The minister began a deprecating murmur which the deacon drowned. “You can speak for her all you want to, Mrs. Carey,” said he. “We ‘ain’t got any objections to hearin’ it. An’ we didn’t know but what she was home. Do you know what she does with these birds and things?”
“Does with ’em? Well, I’ll tell you what she does with ’em. She picks ’em up in the woods when they’re starvin’ an’ freezin’ an’ half dead, an’ she brings ’em in here, an’ takes care of ’em an’ feeds ’em till they git well, an’ then she lets ’em go again. That’s what she does. You see that rabbit there? Well, he’s been in a trap. Somebody wanted to kill the poor little cretur. You see that robin? Somebody fired a gun at him an’ broke his wing.
“That’s what she does. I dunno but it ‘mounts to jest about as much as sendin’ money to missionaries. I dunno but what bein’ a missionary to robins an’ starvin’ chippies an’ little deaf an’ dumb children is jest as good as some other kinds, an’ that’s what she is.
“I ain’t afeard to speak; I’m goin’ to tell the whole story. I dunno what folks mean by talkin’ about her the way they do. There, she took that little dumbie out of the poor-house. Nobody else wanted him. He don’t look as if he was abused very bad, far’s I can see. She keeps him jest as nice an’ neat as she can, an’ he an’ the birds has enough to eat, if she don’t herself.
“I guess I know ’bout it. Here she is goin’ without a new caliker dress, so’s to git somethin’ for them birds that can’t git at the trees, ’cause there’s so much ice on ’em.
“You can’t tell me nothin’. When Jonas has one of his tantrums she can git him out of it quicker’n anybody I ever see. She ain’t goin’ to be talked about, and spied upon, if I can help it. They tell about her bein’ love-cracked. Hm, I dunno what they call love-cracked. I know that Anderson fellar went off an’ married another girl, when Jenny jest as much expected to have him as could be. He ought to ha’ been strung up. But I know one thing — if she did git kind of twisted out of the reg’lar road of lovin’, she’s in another one, that’s full of little dumbies an’ starvin’ chippies an’ lame rabbits, an’ she ain’t love-cracked no more’n other folks.”
Mrs. Carey, carried away by affection and indignation, almost spoke in poetry. Her small face glowed pink, her blue eyes were full of fire, she waved her arms under her shawl. The little meek old woman was a veritable enthusiast.
The two men looked at each other. The deacon’s handsome face was as severe and grave as ever, but he waited for the minister to speak. When the minister did speak it was apologetically. He was a gentle old man, and the deacon was his mouth-piece in matters of parish discipline. If he failed him he betrayed how feeble and kindly a pipe was his own. He told Mrs. Carey that he did not doubt everything was as it should be; he apologized for their presence; he praised Christmas Jenny. Then he and the deacon retreated. They were thankful to leave that small vociferous old woman, who seemed to be pulling herself up by her enthusiasm until she reached the air over their heads, and became so abnormal that she was frightful. Indeed everything out of the broad common track was a horror to these men and to many of their village fellows. Strange shadows that their eyes could not pierce lay upon such, and they were suspicious. The popular sentiment against Jenny Wrayne was originally the outcome of this characteristic, which was a remnant of the old New England witchcraft superstition. More than anything else, Jenny’s eccentricity, her possibly uncanny deviation from the ordinary ways of life, had brought this inquiry upon her. In actual meaning, although not even in self-acknowledgment, it was a witch-hunt that went up the mountain road that December afternoon.
They hardly spoke on the way. Once the minister turned to the deacon. “I rather think there’s no occasion for interference,” he said, hesitatingly.
“I guess there ain’t any need of it,” answered the deacon.
The deacon spoke again when they had nearly reached his own house. “I guess I’ll send her up a little somethin’ Christmas,” said he. Deacon Little was a rich man.
“Maybe it would be a good idea,” returned the minister. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Christmas was one week from that day. On Christmas morning old Jonas Carey and his wife, dressed in their best clothes, started up the mountain road to Jenny Wrayne’s. Old Jonas wore his great-coat, and had his wife’s cashmere scarf wound twice around his neck. Mrs. Carey wore her long shawl and her best bonnet. They walked along quite easily. The ice was all gone now; there had been a light fall of snow the day before, but it was not shoe-deep. The snow was covered with the little tracks of Jenny’s friends, the birds and the field-mice and the rabbits, in pretty zigzag lines.
Jonas Carey and his wife walked along comfortably until they reached the cart-path, then the old man’s shoestring became loose, and he tripped over it. He stooped and tied it laboriously; then he went on. Pretty soon he stopped again. His wife looked back. “What’s the matter?” said she.
“Shoestring untied,” replied old Jonas, in a half inarticulate grunt.
“Don’t you want me to tie it, Jonas?”
Jonas said nothing more; he tied viciously.
They were in sight of Jenny’s house when he stopped again, and sat down on the stone wall beside the path. “Oh, Jonas, what is the matter?”
Jonas made no reply. His wife went up to him, and saw that the shoestring was loose again. “Oh, Jonas, do let me tie it; I’d just as soon as not. Sha’n’t I, Jonas?”
Jonas sat there in the midst of the snowy blackberry vines, and looked straight ahead with a stony stare.
His wife began to cry. “Oh, Jonas,” she pleaded, “don’t you have a tantrum to-day. Sha’n’t I tie it? I’ll tie it real strong. Oh, Jonas!”
The old woman fluttered around the old man in his great-coat on the wall, like a distressed bird around her mate. Jenny Wrayne opened her door and looked out, then she came down the path. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Oh, Jenny, I dunno what to do. He’s got another — tantrum!”
“Has he fell down?”
“No; that ain’t it. His shoestring’s come untied three times, an’ he don’t like it, an’ he’s sot down on the wall. I dunno but he’ll set there all day. Oh, dear me suz, when we’d got most to your house, an’ I was jest thinkin’ we’d come ‘long real comfort’ble! I want to tie it fer him, but he won’t let me, an’ I don’t darse to when he sets there like that. Oh, Jonas, jest let me tie it, won’t you? I’ll tie it real nice an’ strong, so it won’t undo again.”
Jenny caught hold of her arm. “Come right into the house,” said she, in a hearty voice. She quite turned her back upon the figure on the wall.
“Oh, Jenny, I can’t go in an’ leave him a-settin’ there. I shouldn’t wonder if he sot there all day. You don’t know nothin’ about it. Sometimes I have to stan’ an’ argue with him for hours afore he’ll stir.”
“Come right in. The turkey’s most done, an’ we’ll set right down as soon as ’tis. It’s ’bout the fattest turkey I ever see. I dunno where Deacon Little could ha’ got it. The plum-puddin’s all done, an’ the vegetables is ‘most ready to take up. Come right in, an’ we’ll have dinner in less than half an hour.”
After the two women had entered the house the figure on the wall cast an uneasy glance at it without turning his head. He sniffed a little.
It was quite true that he could smell the roasting turkey, and the turnip and onions, out there.
In the house, Mrs. Carey laid aside her bonnet and shawl, and put them on the bed in Jenny’s little bedroom. A Christmas present, a new calico dress, which Jenny had received the night before, lay on the bed also. Jenny showed it with pride. “It’s that chocolate color I’ve always liked,” said she. “I don’t see what put it into their heads.”
“It’s real handsome,” said Mrs. Carey. She had not told Jenny about her visitors; but she was not used to keeping a secret, and her possession of one gave a curious expression to her face. However, Jenny did not notice it. She hurried about preparing dinner. The stove was covered with steaming pots; the turkey in the oven could be heard sizzling. The little deaf and dumb boy sat in his chimney-corner, and took long sniffs. He watched Jenny, and regarded the stove in a rapture, or he examined some treasures that he held in his lap. There were picture-books and cards and boxes of candy and oranges. He held them all tightly gathered into his pinafore. The little caged wild things twittered sweetly, and pecked at their food. Jenny laid the table with the best table-cloth and her mother’s flowered china. The mountain farmers, of whom Jenny sprang, had had their little decencies and comforts, and there were china and a linen table-cloth for a Christmas dinner, poor as the house was.
Mrs. Carey kept peering uneasily out of the window at her husband on the stone wall.
“If you want him to come in you’ll keep away from the window,” said Jenny; and the old woman settled into a chair near the stove.
Very soon the door opened, and Jonas came in. Jenny was bending over the potato kettle, and she did not look around. “You can put his great-coat on the bed, if you’ve a mind to, Mrs. Carey,” said she.
Jonas got out of his coat, and sat down with sober dignity: he had tied his shoestring very neatly and firmly. After a while he looked over at the little deaf and dumb boy, who was smiling at him, and he smiled back again.
The Careys staid until evening. Jenny set her candle in the window to light them down the cart-path. Down in the village the minister’s daughter and her betrothed were out walking to the church, where there was a Christmas tree. It was quite dark. She clung closely to his arm, and once in a while her pink cheek brushed his sleeve. The stars were out, many of them, and more were coming. One seemed suddenly to flash out on the dark side of the mountain.
“There’s Christmas Jenny’s candle,” said the girl. And it was Christmas Jenny’s candle, but it was also something more. Like all common things, it had, and was, its own poem, and that was — a Christmas star.