|“Why, take them back, of course,” said Chris,
“And put them where they were before;
Let’s go at once.” – “No, stop,” said
“The clock has only just struck four.”
“There’s no one stirring in the street,
The shops will not be open yet,
And we should have to wait about
Four hours in the cold and wet.”
“And now that I’ve made up my mind,
I don’t feel half so much afraid.”
Then took to flight that evil Sprite,
And John lay down his weary head.
At six o’clock the boys went out,
The snow was falling in the street.
And through the bitter morning air,
They ran along with naked feet.
They watched the busy town wake up,
Undoing shutter, bolt, and bar;
But full two hours they stopped about,
Before that door was set ajar.
John quickly slipped the shoes inside,
And then as quickly walked away,
And with a lighter heart he went
To face the labours of the day.
Fast fell the feathery floating snow,
In whirling currents driven round,
Or fluttered down in silent showers
Of fleecy flakes upon the ground.
With broom in hand, and shivering limbs,
The little sweepers bravely stood,
And faced the cutting north-east wind,
That seemed to chill their very blood.
A lady, in a house close by,
Who often watched the little boys,
Heard many times, that stormy day,
A deep cough mingling with the noise.
She rose up from her blazing fire,
And from the window looked about,
And hard at work amongst the snow,
She spied the ragged sweepers out.
“Do, Geraldine, look here,” she said,
“How thin that youngest boy has grown;
Poor little wretch! – how cold he looks,
He’s little more than skin and bones.”
|“Poor little boy!” said Geraldine,
“I never saw a whiter face;
I think they must be honest boys,
They keep so constant to their place.”
“There’s Frank and Freddy’s worn-out shoes,
I think, mamma, would fit them well.”
“Perhaps they would, I’ll have them brought,
My dear, if you will ring the bell.”
“And there’s your brothers’ old great coats,
They’ll never put them on again;
But they will keep these children warm,
In many a storm of wind and rain.”
“And give them something nice to eat;
I don’t mean dry old crusts of bread,
But good mince-pies,” said Geraldine,
“You know we’ve such a number made.”
“Well, do so, if you like, my dear.”
“Oh! thank you; they shall have some pies.”
Poor John, and little Christopher,
They hardly could believe their eyes.
They took the clothes, and nice mince-pies,
They bowed and thanked, and bowed again,
Then scampered down the splashy streets,
And reached their own dull dirty lane.
And there they fitted on the coats,
And turned the pockets inside out.
Stuck up the collars round their ears,
Put on the shoes, and marched about.
They rubbed their hands and laughed again,
And twisted one another round,
And then John turned a somerset,
And cleared the bedstead with a bound.
“But now for these fine Christmas pies”
He said, and smacked his lips with glee,
“They’re just the things you wanted, Chris,
There’s two for you, and two for me.”
“We never had such luck before,
We never dreamt of such a thing.”
“I think ‘twas mother’s angel, John,
Who had that order from the King.”
“You don’t mean that in earnest, Chris?”
“Why not?” said Chris, “I’m sure I do.
I say, John, if we died to-night,
Should we both go to heaven too?”