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A Napa Christchild; and Benicia's Letters

Thou art no Austrian Christchild


Hemlock ne'er blooms unless kissed by the Christchild, Glossy-leaved hemlock tree! Come little Christchild and breathe on its branches That its fair blossoms we see; Kissed by the lips of the Heavenly Christchild, Blessed by the wind so free, Grown o'er the treasure the Good Spirits planted Wondrous its fruit must be! 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."

"Alas for me," exclaimed Crescimir, "my happy Christchild days are over and I fear he has forgotten where I live out in Alta California and will never bring me anything again."

Just as the song was finished, a sound was heard at the door but Crescimir thinking that it was the wind, gave no attention to it, sitting down to his supper.

He had not eaten the first spoonful of his bread and milk when the door opened and by the aid of the firelight, for the draught extinguished the candle, he saw a pretty, little, golden haired child in a short, white frock which reached to the knees; the child wore neither hat, shoes, nor stockings and, what seemed most remarkable, was dry despite the heavy rain. The little creature as quietly closed the door as he had opened it, and smiling, walked up

to the hearth, spreading out before it his tiny, pink hands.

[Illustration: Scroll]

II.

As the little visitor stretched out his hands to warm them at the fire, his shadow formed a flickering cross upon the floor. Crescimir noticed this, and also wondering at the mysterious advent of the child, which coming so closely upon his song, caused him almost to think that he must be dreaming.

"Art thou the Christchild?" he said finally, to the little figure which stood with its back toward him gazing up at the branch of hemlock above the fireplace.

The child turned around and looking merrily at Crescimir, broke into a fit of boisterous laughter, but did not answer.

"Thou art not a very polite little boy, to break into a house this way and then not answer a simple question. Thou art no Austrian Christchild, I am sure of that. No matter," he added, as he saw the little face pucker up for a cry, "wait till we are better acquainted and then we can talk it all over."

The child smiled again and made a sign indicating that he wanted the hemlock branch above his head. Crescimir took it down for him and as soon as the little creature received it, he began hopping about the room, holding the branch aloft and humming the melody which Crescimir had just been singing.

"Truly, thou art a strange little elf, but I know how to tell if thou art mortal. Wilt thou have thy supper?" and he held out a spoonful of the bread and milk to the dancing figure. The child immediately stopped his whirling, and running to Crescimir, eagerly ate the food, and then climbing into his lap, sat there quietly, with expectant face as if anticipating a share in the rest of the supper. So Crescimir took one spoonful and the Christchild the next, until the bowl was empty.


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