The Mexia Weekly Herald (Mexia, Tex.), Vol. 12, Ed. 1 Thursday, December 14, 1911 Page: 3 of 16
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running uut fur the pitcher of water and
breaking its thin film ice as she came in again,
the ruddy gleam of the fire playing upon her
"Oh, yon Haven't any rag here, hav.e you7
V\ ell. my apron will <lo,' and she dipped a cor-
ner into the water. "Now, you must let me
wash away that ugly blood.''
Hither the wound was smarting sorely, or
Old Pop was stupefied by his fall, for lie made
no resistance. Softly and tenderly, as snow-
flakes, fell the touch of Elsie's hands upon
that bowed head. "It is not much," she said,
when at last the blood was all carefully wash-
ed away ; "you should hold cold water to the
bump—that's what mother always does for
me; and now, if 1 only had a cobweb!"
This humble aspiration was easily met in
the rickety old hut. almost by the reaching
of her hand, for spiders had woven there un-
indebted for '."any a day, The blood ,v?c tnoi?
stanched to Elsie's ful 1 content.
"Now, I'll go." said the child, quietly, as
with nimble hands she placed fresh sticks upon
the fire. "Do you feel any better, sir?"
"Hey?" very gruffly.
"Von feel better. I hope? Does your head
hurt you now, sir?"
No ; go home."
^lsic moved sadly toward the door, and then
—child that she was—a sudden impulse caused
her to go back to him.
"Poor old man!" she almost whispered.
"Your heart has been broken."
His start frightened her. She believed he
would strike her on the spot; but he only lifted
his head and looked wearily into her face.
"Because—because you arc so very cross;
and you cannot be cheered even in these merry
Christmas times. Why. it comes day after to-
morrow. . You surely will be the only person
in the whole world who does not keep Christ-
mas!" and Elsie gazed at him in innocent dis-
"Christmas!" echoed Old Pop, gloomily; "I
have almost forgotten what that is."
"Forgotten Christmas! Why, 1 think if I
were to grow twice as old as you are 1 could
never forget that! It's the dear Christ's birth-
day, you know, and everyone, even the most
miserable cannot help being happier on that
"Happy?" whispered Old Pop under his
breath, and looking absently at Elsie as she
seated herself at his feet—"Happy! Happy!
"Yes, happy." repeated Elsie, gently. "Shall
1 tell you all about it?"
The old man nodded, never taking his eyes
"Why, It's Christ's birthday—and was he
not a good, a holy child?"
A gleam like something from the past shot
across the furrowed face, and Elsie read her
"Oh, he was so pure, so noble! Never did
He hold one harsh or wicked thought—mother
has told me this often. He could not, you
know; never had the slightest quarrel; never
did anything the least bit wrong; and was
always making everybody about him happy—
just completely good and wise. Oh He was a
blessed, blessed child. I am sure, and his days
must have been like pure sunshine, with none
of the dreadful trials that came to him after-
ward. You've heard all about it, haven't you?
How they persecuted and tortured him, and
all for no harm He had done whatever?"
The gleam of memory again, as with trou
hied eyes lie looked into that little upturned
"But it is all over now," resumed Elsie,
brightening. "The Saints in heaven are never
sad, and surely He is gladdest of all; and
whenever his birthday comes, oh! I am cer-
tain all his childish thoughts must come back
to hint. Then He visits earth as the Christ-
child—comes to see all of us little children. We
cannot see him. but I know He comes and
blesses all of us, and makes us, oh, so happy.
Mother says He enters everybody's heart and
whispers, "Love the children for my sake,'
and he makes them feel like giving all the
boys and girls a holiday, and having lovely
green trees for them hung with toys and all
kinds of beautiful things: and the rich give to
the poor, and the poor are loving and gentle
to each other, for He tells them how He loves
th—" tinif everybody. Yes, I am sure He does,"
cried Elsie, clasping her hands.
"No, He does not—not always," sighed the
old man. "He has not crept into my heart,
little girl; I am lonely, lonely."
. "Ah, but He will, though, insisted Elsie,
looking brightly into his eyes and shaking
her sunny curls against his breast. "He will;
it is not too late yet."
The old man shook his head, gazing wistful-
ly into her face.
"Yes, He will; f am sure of it. Why, the
wood has nearly burned away. Poor old man!
How many, many cold days you must sit here
shivering, while we are warm and comfortable
down in the village. Why don't you come and
live there, and get nice clothes and—"
The hermit glared at her so wildly that, in
very fear, Elsie moved toward the door. Stand-
ing outside she looked in to say:
''Goodbye! Re sure to keep that bump wet.
May some of us children come soon and
gather wood for you ?"
"No. no, little girl. Here, wait a minute,"
and with a half troubled, half pleased expres-
sion on his worn face, Old Pop picked a large
maple leaf from the floor and proceeded to
take something from a rough box in the corner
of his cabin. '
Elsie was only a child, and a girl -child too;
who can blame her that she raised on tiptoe
"Here, child, take this."
A leaf full of coarse maple sugar. Elsie
felt disappointed, scarcely knowing why, but
no duchess could have received it with a truer
instinct of politeness than she.
"Thank you, sir."
l ite mute figure, as it stood watching Elsie
tripping back over the hills, was different in
its aspect from that which two hours before
had forbidden her approach. The same form
and facc but with no anger in its gesture, nor
fierceness in its look. The noonday suit lay
warmly upon the ground, shining through a
network of shadows, the pines seemed whis-
pering softly among themselves, and the
icicles upon the hemlock branches were melt-
ing slowly away.
Turning at last with a long sigh the old
man moved toward his cabin, but, instead of
entering, walked around it to where his don-,
key stood in a rough boarded-up shed, filled
at one end with poor hay mingled thickly with
dried leaves, and in its remaining portion with
a provident supply of fagots. These later were
jTftir r:ilty (tarred to stormv davs, but the her-
mit seemed anxious not to let Elsie's firef
light die away and he felt scarcely strong
enough to collect wood, as usual, from the
hills. Lifting an armful from his store, he
moved slowly into the hut.
That night the moonlight shone "trough
the cracks of the cabin roof, falling in silverv
lines across the bed of dried leaves upon which
()l<l Pop was lying. Poor old man! What a
terrible anguish possessed his soul! Moan
after moan escaped him, and his strained eyes
stared into the darkness with all the wildness
"O Cod," lie cried again and again, "is it
too late? Is it too late? Oh. my girl, my
poor lost girl, forgive me. I am broken heart-
ed. I am all alone."
How the wind moaned among the pines!
The old man had often before shaped whim-
sical thoughts from their weird whisperings,
,"l will! 1 will!" he cried, joyfully, and lie
awoke to find himself alone in the silent hut,
the undried tc-\s stilll coursing down his
cheek. Gleams of gold and crimson were flash-
ing through the openings of the roof,'and the
pines were silent in the pure morning air. With
an almost boyish leap the hermit rc e from his
couch, busy thoughts crowding upon him, long-
buried memories springing into his confused
After an hour of busy preparation, during
which Old Pop was forced to stand still many
times to collect his ideas, a bright fire blazed
upon the hearth, lightening the face of the old
man as he sat enjoying his very singular
bachelor breakfast. Next the donkey was per-
mitted to indulge in his own peculiar repast,
turning his head as lie ate in sheer surprise at
the gentle strokes falling upon his lean sides.
"We are going to town today, my friend,
and you shall have oats for Christinas."
The donkey, notwithstanding his superfluity
of ear, did not seem to hear the remark, but
crunched away as unconcerned as possible.
It was strange to see the old man draw from
a box something that had once been a hand-
some fur-trimmed cloak, faded and moth-eaten
now. and throw it with oldtime grace about his
shoulders, very strange to mark him, after
looking warilv from his cabin door, lift a plank
front the broken flooring and take from it a
pouch well filled with silver pieces, and strange
still, to see him soon afterward mounting upon
his donkey, a long, empty sack hung across the
time-stained saddle, !ii- cloak flapping in the
keen morning air and a smile of something like
joy upon his face.
Was it really < )ld Pop or was it the shade of
Santa Clans hound on an errand for the Christ-
"What did she sav?" lie muttered to himself
"Was It Really Old Pop, or the Shade of
but now they seemed to respond with an al-
most human anguish. He raised his head
and listened. The rush of mingled voices
settled into a cry—"Alone! Alone!"
He could hear the words distinctly, though
he knew it was but the pines that spoke; yet
there was comfort in them for him—a some-
thing akin to sympathy in their despairing cry
—in its very truthfulness—and he fell asleep
listening to their plaintive repetition growing
fainter and fainter as it floated off into the
night: "Alone! Alone!"
Of all the tender, beautiful dreams stealing
into the soul of God's chidren on that glorious
night, none were more tender, more beautiful,
than that sent to the lonely sleeper among the
pines. He thought there came to him, as he
lay upon his bed, a gentle child, radiant with
light. In his misery he would have repulsed
it, but the little one clung to him so closely, and
nested its head so lovingly upon his bosom, lie
could not force it away. Resting there softly, it
lingered, even while in his dream he slept a
peaceful slumber, smiling upon him when he
awoke with an angelic lustre in its loving,
"Do not be lonely," said the child, "the world
is rich for thee even now. Why not do tin-
Clasping the little one closer and close*
while the tears fell upon its golden hair, "What
can I do?" he whispered.
"T.ove us all, love all little children," an-
swered the sweet voice. "Bless those that come
to thee, make them happier for my sake."
as lie rode along toward the distant city. "Ah,
ves, that was it—'lovely green Christmas trees
hung with toys and all kinds of beautiful
log, jog, went the donkey, shambling on a
little more quickly, for habit s sake, whenever a
stray team or wagon—and there were more
of thetn that morning than usual—passed along
the road. Into the bustling city at last, and
straight, iti spite of contrary jerks from the scat
of government, to the shabby corner where, at
long intervals, the hermit's supplies were gen-
"Not here, old friend," pleaded the master,
with a gentle application of the stick, "g long!
Glad to stop anywhere after this outrage to
his better judgment, the donkey obeyed with
sullen grace when his master "pulled up at a
showy store, whose windows had within a day
or two blossomed into a very paradise of toys
for the Christ-child's sake.
"Here they are," said < 'Id Pop, "toy s and
all kinds of beautiful things." And, sack in
hand, he slid down from his sullen friend and
hastened through the gayly-decked doorway.
It was a sight worth seeing—the light in < >ld
Pop's eyes as, with trembling hands, toy after
toy was dropped tenderly into the sack.
"Give me what the boys like. Now give me
something for girls," he repeated over and over
again, until he had nearly as much as the don-
key could carry. After paying for his treasures
with the scrupulous care of one unused to
spending, the old man went into an adjoining
candy shop. He soon came out, chuckling
softly to himself. Spying a book store directly
opposite, he hurried across the street, heedless
of the staring eyes bent front every quarter
upon him. The book seller stared no less when
he saw an outlandish-looking old man enter his
store, anJ, setting a huge sack upon the coun-
ter, accost him with:
"(jive me picture books for the babies—blue
pictures, red pictures, 'Hey diddle-diddle, the
Cat and the Fiddle,' 'Old Mother in a Shoe,'—
here, put them in this sack; I'll pay for them—
'Bean Stalks and Giant Killers.' "
Was memory taking him back to his own
boyhood, or was she busy with later years?
That night—it was Christmas eve—the
Christ-child sought the sleeper again, still with
the same holy radiance, the same human love
beaming from his eyes.
"I have come to play with thee," said the
I lie old man feit nis infirmities tail aw^
as. with a bounding heart, he sported with the
child, and, in a shadow of golden light, chased
it around and around the hemlock tree before
his door. When at last he clasped it in his
arms the little one nestled in his bosom saying:
"Thou know est. me now-—peace be thine!"
With these sweet Words still lingering in his
ear the sleeper awoke—a new life flowing in
his veins, and the glorious Christmas dawn
flooding the eastern sky with splendor.
It was to be a busy day with Old Pop; for
he had much to do at home—yes, home now,
since love hallowed it—and lie must be. in the
village betimes to confer with his only male
acquaintance, the schoolmaster.
A notice, in great, dazzling letters, was stuck
upon the school room door:
"THE HERMIT OF THE HILLS I V-
YITES HIS FRIENDS. THE CHILDREN,
ONE AND ALL. TO VISIT HIM TODAY,
ON THE RINGING OF THE SC HOOL
HOUSE BELL, AT NOON."
Such news a> this was not long in flying
through the village. The children whose hearts
had danced to the tune of "Merry Christmas '
since before daylight, were half wild with ex-
"Why, what can it mean?' thev asked each
other, with wondering eyes. "'His friends, the
children'—why that's the queerest part of it:!"
Even the grown people were filled with as-
tonishment and vague uneasiness; hi fact,
they would have put their fiat against pro-
ceeding in the affair at all, but for the open
sanction of the school master.
At last the familiar ding-dong of the school
house bell—weeter to the expectant ears than
all other Christmas hells—sounded forth its
welcome summons, The children, wrapped in
their thick coats and warm shawls, poured
forth from every lane in the village—some in
laughing groups, sortie alone, and some with
arms lovingly entwined: while the school-
master trudged on in their midst, intending to
form them in line at the foot of the hermit's
Thi- tremendous feat of drill scrgeantry fin-
ally accomplished, the procession commenced
"Three cheers for Old Pop." cried a half
do/en voices, as his familiar form, arrayed in
the unfamiliar cloak, advanced to meet them.
\ startled half wa\ response was the result.
Mos^ of the children were too surprised, too
expectant, to lake up a new idea suddenly; but
when the top was fairly reached, ami their ho-t
received them with a hearty welcome and es
tended arms; and when, above all, thev -.aw
what had been prepared for them, shout after
shout rent the air.
"Oh, what a beautiful tree; Hurrah! Three
cheers for Old Pop! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Dozens of the frantic little creatures rushed
■tip to where Old Pop had seated himself, and
threw their arms about his neck. Elsie was
foremost about them.
"Poor Old Pop! Dear Old Pop!" she whis-
pered* pressing her rosy check against his sunk-
en face, "Why, you are crying and there you've
made us all so happy."
"Mr. Schoolmaster," said he, "you know the
wants of these little creatures better than I
do; will you give them each something from
the tree in Old Pop's name?"
ft was beautiful to see the merry crowd
sobered in a moment by their new friend's
emotion, and the almost reverance with which
they regarded him as he stood there holding
As the schoolmaster approached the tree all
eves were turned upon it with renewed inter-
est. and well they might he, for never was
Christmas tree more generously laden. It was
the same hemlock that the children had asked
him for—and it had stood phantom-like in the
early dawn like the shadow in the old man's
heart. Now, in the pure daylight, every deli-
cate fibre quivered with its fullness of life, even
with the frost of midwinter and from Heaven's
own fountain the rich sunshine poured upon it.
tipping every branch with molted light. No
need of waxen candles there. Glowing and
sparkling in the sunlight hung toys and all
kinds of beautiful things in abundance; not
with things that boys and girls would like;
and I do believe that, with clearer than mortal
eves, all might have seen a -wect image of the
Christ-child hovering above the tree.
The silence was broken bv the schoolmaster,
who. true to his calling, shouted in a brave,
"Take your places! Boys on this side of the
open space, girls on the other!"
It is useless to dwell further upon the scene,
or to attempt to describe the delight of each
young heart when, in the name of Old Pop.
the gifts were distributed one by one. We
must hasten to the moment when, after many
a hearty "Thank you. sir!" and round after
round of "cheers for Old Pop" shouted in every
possible treble note, the joyous little folk ran
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Houx, N. P. The Mexia Weekly Herald (Mexia, Tex.), Vol. 12, Ed. 1 Thursday, December 14, 1911, newspaper, December 14, 1911; Mexia, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth302362/m1/3/: accessed January 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Gibbs Memorial Library.