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A Napa Christchild; and Benicia's Letters

Crescimir felt his way along through the vegetable garden


Crescimir the Illyrian lived alone improving his lands and selling vegetables to the Yankee traders who came up the river in their little schooners; he was always busy ploughing and dressing the gardens or clearing away the chaparral.

Two years had been spent here since he had left his fatherland, amid the wild scenes of the Julian Alps. It was on a Christmas Eve that he had bidden his old friends good bye and at each return of the day he thought more sadly of his lonely life, sighing for the old mountain village where he had so often made merry with his comrades.

There was one bright spot in Crescimir's daily routine and he prized that above all the day, for it showed to him that there was one person who did think of him, though who he could never learn. For a year or more he had found each day at his cabin door a bunch of garden flowers and in their place he daily left a bunch of his sweetest onions or some rare vegetable, which were always taken away.

The rain began to fall, after Crescimir, having made the horse and cattle right for the night, started to his cabin. The barn was on the summit of the knoll, at the foot of which, by the arroyo, he had built his little house of one room.

Crescimir felt his way along through the vegetable garden, carrying the milk pail in one hand and holding the lantern out before him with the other; the light

glistened upon the tall stalks of last year's maize and gleamed back from the glossy, pungent leaves of the bay tree, from the tin pail and his wet boots, all reflected in the little pools fast collecting in the path. As he neared the cabin the rain fell as it seldom does, save in the tropics, and Crescimir entering the cabin closed the door with a noise, warning the storm not to encroach on the little bit of the world which was his own.

Inside the cabin there was a blazing wood-fire on the open hearth and a lighted candle on the table; the interior was homelike and comfortable; in one corner stood the bed with white cover, there were two arm chairs, a tall dresser and two tables, one of the tables set for supper, which consisted simply of bread and milk which Crescimir was ready for as soon as he had washed his hands at the pump in the little "lean-to," and exchanged his long boots for a pair of easy slippers.

Over the fireplace hung a bunch of crimson toyone berries and a branch of hemlock, which Crescimir had hung there to mark the holiday. He did not sit down at once to his meal, but stood, leaning against the chimney piece, meditatively picking off bits of the hemlock and throwing them into the fire where they crackled with a merry noise and blazed up, scenting the room with their fragrance of the forest.

As he threw the bits into the fire he sang that melody which the Illyrian children sing when bearing home their Christmas trees, found always in the deep forests; it was a song dear to him and the words brought up memories of all his happy home life and he grew sad as he thought of the lonely present.

"Deep in the wilds of Illyria's mountains Under a hemlock tree, Good Spirits buried a wonderful treasure, Long years ago for me. There in the gloom by a snow-born fountain We found the hemlock tree, Bore it away with loud notes of pleasure, Hearts overrunning with glee. Here is my hemlock tree Christchild kiss it for me, Make every branch bear A gift that is fair, This glossy-leaved hemlock tree, Evergreen hemlock tree.

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