SANTA CLAUS AND THE CHRIST-CHILD.
Down Pine Street a hundred rills were rushing, as though each had its special and important mission to perform in advancing the prosperity of the queen city of the Pacific. Men passed along fearlessly, cased in the invulnerable armor of India-rubber10 coats and glazed caps, and now and then a woman dared to trust her dainty little feet to the mercy of mud and water.
Minnie Bell had been very uneasy all day, for she had been promised the pleasure of a walk on Montgomery Street, and she intended to choose a few rare gifts from all the Christmas treasures that brightened the gay shop-windows.
Minnie had not yet learned the woman's lesson, to smile when the heart aches, and be gentle in disappointment, so tears filled her large blue eyes, and the rosy lips pouted with vexation, as she looked out on the pouring rain. Her mamma was a fair, dashing woman, who loved Montgomery Street as well as Minnie herself; doated upon the theatre, opera, and every thing gay, but, of all things in the world, disliked to be annoyed by the petulance and nonsense of children. She lay all day upon a luxurious11 couch, reading "Les Miserables," leaving Minnie, poor little miserable of the household, to take care of herself, and thus I found her alone in the hall, picking in pieces the flowers of a pretty worsted lamp-mat, the very spirit of discontent and mischief. It takes so little to make a child happy, that I am always sorry to see a shadow upon their young faces at the time when this life should be all sunshine, so I called the little one to me, and taking her upon my lap, told her the story of Santa Claus and the Christ-child.
More than eighteen hundred years ago, one fair bright night, when the moon was casting her floods of silver light upon the mountains and valleys of Judea, it seemed to pause in worshipful wonder over the little village of Bethlehem.
Diamonds sparkled in the dew-drops, and emeralds in the green grass of the12 meadows, where the shepherds fed their flocks by night. The shepherds were amazed, as the holy light shed its soft brilliancy around them, and even the grazing flocks forgot the dewy grass, as a sweet, unknown voice, from the viewless air, told them how that night the fair Christ-child was born at Bethlehem, and lay cradled in a manger, with horned oxen feeding near him. A thousand angel voices joined in the rich deep melody of praise and gladness, and the first Christmas carol echoed and re-echoed through the mountains and valleys of Judea.
Wise men from the East, brought golden treasure, jewels, and rare perfumes, as offerings to the pure Christ-child. There he lay in the arms of his fair virgin mother, Mary, with all the native beauty of infancy brightening every feature of his lovely face, and that rare halo of divinity13 about him that even the inspiration of Raphael and Murillo has but half portrayed. These immortal artists had only the colors of earth to paint the brightness of heaven. The wise men bowed in adoration before the Christ-child and worshiped him as their temporal king, and for their rich gifts received blessings, and went away well pleased to their luxurious homes. Then came an old man, trembling with timid humility. He was but a poor keeper of the flocks upon the mountains, and brought only the few pale flowers of winter, as tokens of his devoted homage.
"Sweet mother," said he, kneeling, "I have nothing but these poor flowers and the unchanging love of a devoted heart to lay at the feet of the dear Christ-child; but, thrice-blessed mother, do not turn away from this humble offering. I bring thee all I have." Smiles, like the golden14 light of morning, shone upon the face of the fair Christ-child, and he took the flowers more pleased than with all the rich treasures of the East, that lay unnoticed around him.
The holy mother blessed the poor man, and with a voice teeming with maternal love and divine richness, she said: "Thy pure, loving heart is an offering dearer to the Christ-child than all the riches of the world, and these flowers are a fitting token of thy love. Thou shalt not die as other men do, but thou shalt sleep, to awaken each Christmas eve, and gladden young hearts through all time, and in all lands, with thy welcome Christmas gifts, and the blessing of the Christ-child shall rest upon the spirits of childhood through the holy Christmas season."
And thus it is that in all countries we hear of the good Santa Claus, who brings15 such beautiful presents on Christmas eve. In the cold north countries he wraps himself in furs, and rides swiftly over the crusted snow in a sleigh drawn by reindeers, his long beard shining with the frost of winter. In the sunny South he rides in a light car decked with flowers.
"But, May," said the now happy Minnie, smiling; "when Santa Claus comes to San Francisco he'd better bring his India-rubber coat and overshoes."
"I've no doubt he will, darling," said I, kissing the little face beaming with earnestness and beauty; "and perhaps he'll bring his umbrella, too, but 'twill make him no Paul Pry—I'm sure he won't intrude."
"No, indeed," said Minnie, "I want to see him too much for that. Do you think, May, if I sit up till ten o'clock, I shall see dear old Santa Claus?"
"I think, little one, if you go to bed at eight and sleep sweetly, he may come to you in your dreams. He generally manages to come when children are sleeping."
Thus it was that little Minnie forgot all her sorrows and disappointments in the anticipated vision of the good Santa Claus. The rain fell heavily, but in the sunny heart of childhood all was happiness.
Now, a "Merry Christmas" to you all—young and old! May the blessing of the pure Christ-child attend you, and Santa Claus be munificent in his beautiful Christmas gifts!