How Felicity Found Christmas
LONG ago, on a plateau in the midst of the Sunset Mountains, there stood the walled city of Zirconia. Surrounded by lofty crags, it was much cut off from the world, but there were rumors that once a broad road had led down to tbe Plains below; that carriages had rolled over it carrying ladies in gay silks and satins and gentlemen in tight breeches and very wonderful waistcoats; that troops of scarlet-coated officers had cantered up and down; that carts had labored along it, drawn by sleek white donkeys and carrying children laden with flowers from the valleys. However, if such had ever been the case, it had been very long ago. Now, no one stirred outside the high gray walls, and the road was overgrown with bashes.
Moreover, the people of Zirconia, if they had ever been gay and happy, had completely forgotten how. From the King down to the very children they were a silent, dour race that never laughed or sang or danced or played. .All day long they worked at their various tasks, and at night they slept, and dreamed fitful dreams. There were no such things as holidays in the Kingdom of Zirconia.
During the summer months, life in the city became a little brighter. The sun shone and flowers blossomed and occasionally a man or a woman would rest from his vork and gaze away at the far-off peaks as if some wonderful vision were almost appearing to him But, evidently, it never did actually appear, for presently he would resume hi3 work, sighing.
But summer in the mountains lasts only a short time, and when the blustering winds began to whistle and the white snow began to pile in drifts along the streets, a gloom that could almost be felt descended upon Zirconia and did not lift until the crocuses were blooming once more by the hedgerows. Moreover, during the winter, the sun never shone, but always was hidden by a thick, gray, low-hanging cloud that made a curious yellow light in the streets. People used to say that if that cloud ever dispersed happiness and gaiety would come again to Zirconia. But the cloud was always there.
King Dolor ruled over the Kingdom of Zirconia. He —as a tail, stern-looking man, and like his subjects he was verg/ melancholy. No one had ever, as far as they could remember, seen him smile, not even his children. His visits to the Royal Nurseries left their Highnesses, Princess Felicity, Prince Christopher John, Princess Dorothea Prudence and Prince Frederick Michael cast in profound gloom. As for Prince Anthony Paul, who was -erg/ g/oung and was much given to falling over his
own fat legs, he used to retire to a corner on catching sight of his father’s tall, black-robed figure, and frankly howl. Moreover, so whole-hearted were his bellows that conversation became difficult. So usually the older children stood in a straight row and bowed and curtsied nervously, and King Dolor looked at them with his handsome, sad eyes, and Prince Anthony Paul roared lustily. It was all very uncomfortable.
PRINCESS FELICITY was considering all this one morning late in the fall as she walked sedately up and down a garden path. The snow had been swept away into banks on each side.
“Just where the marigolds used to grow,” mused Felicity to herself and pondered on whether undetected she could play leap-frog over the stump where her bird-cage had stood in the summer. Certainly, the palace windows looked blank enough, but still one could never tell. Princess Felicity sighed and walked past the stump, being careful to point her toes out. Miss Knoawl, the governess, was very particular about toes.
She had just reached the point where the path followed the garden wall when she heard a chuckle above her. In the wall beside her was an embrasure, and in the embrasure a little old woman was crouched, cackling with laughter. Her lank, gray hair hung to her shoulders, and innumerable little bristles stuck out straight from her chin. Also Felicity suspected that she had no teeth. The Princess thought her, extremely unattractive.
She decided to skip away very quickly as if she had remem-
FeUcity utas rather frightened, but then she forgot to be frightened because the Bear looked so embarrassed.
But on the other hand, the old woman was laughing and laughter was rare in Zirconia. Felicity decided to stay.
The old woman peered at her with very bright eyes and suddenly stopped laughing.
“Staring ain’t mannerses,” she said crossly.
Felicity nodded gravely. “I know,” she said, “We had a governess once who was furious because Frederick Michael was always staring. But he really couldn’t help it, she was so very ugly. She bulged,” added Felicity by way of explanation.
“And is it because I'm ugly you stare?” asked the old woman, and she pointed an incredibly crooked finger at the little girl.
“No,” said Felicity, “at least, not altogether, because you don’t bulge. I stopped because I won-
dered why you were laughing. Nobody laughs here except sometimes Anthony Paul, and his is not a proper laugh, only a chuckle. And besides he is young and very fat,” ended Felicity severely. There were times, as when he hurled a wet sponge at her, when Felicity disapproved strongly of Prince Anthony Paul.
The old woman was chuckling again.
“Do you know why that is?” she said,
“Why, ’tis as nobody don’t laugh no more?”
“No,” said Felicity, “Are the stories the maids whisper really true? Was Zirconia ever a gay city?”
“’Twas so,” said the old woman, nodding gravely. “Too gay, perhaps. Too thoughtless, anyhow. So the fairieses were angry and they said nobody wouldn’t never laugh again until something’s remembered as has been long forgotten.”
“Oh,” cried Felicity breathlessly,
“What has to be remembered?”
“Nobody knows” said the old woman,
“Nobody excepting me and I can’t tell. But young thingses have good memories. Supposing a little girl of
about--” The old woman paused. “How old might
you be now,” she said. “Speak up, do.”
“Ten,” said Felicity.
“Just so” said the old woman, “Supposing a little girl of about ten should hunt for whatever ’tis as is forgotten and should find it before the swallows fly off in January, why there’s no saying what might happen. But if she didn’t,” ended the old woman, and she began to gather her torn rags of clothing about her and hoist herself erect, “nobody won’t never be happy again. Even Anthony Paul will forget to laugh in his bath."
The old woman’s voice had changed as she talked until at the end it was no longer cracked and harsh, but sweet and low and tender. A mist from the garden had swept about her and through it Felicity could see her standing in the embrasure. To the child’s eyes she seemed to have grown young and unshrunken and graceful and her face, like her voice, had become gentle and beautiful. She was disappearing slowly.
“Oh,” cried Felicity desperately, “Oh, wait! I can’t remember anything I’ve forgotten. Unless—it wouldn’t be anything in the old toy cupboard, would it? Andy Turp, my golliwog that Frederick Michael’s nose bled on, is there. I had quite forgotten him.”
The figure was growing fainter and fainter. Her voice came back like an echo, faint and laughing and sweet.
“No,” it said, “Not Andy Turp. Outside the city you’ll find it, little Princess. Look in the Plains-”
And she was gone.
T-TER Royal Highness the Princess Felicity walked back to the palace very thoughtfully. She ate her lunch absently, even finishing a large plate of rice pudding, which ordinarily she detested, without knowing in the least what it was. Then she repaired to the old toy cupboard in the schoolroom.
Andy Turp was on the top shelf with the velvet elephant that had been banished because it leaked sawdust. It was a pink velvet elephant and had a limp and dispirited look. As a conversationalist it lacked energy. Therefore, Andy Turp was not sorry when Felicity opened the cupboard door and stood on tip-toe to reach him.
“Here is my mistress,” he said to the Pink Velvet Elephant politely. “She must want me again. Good-bye.”
“And so we all sat—and sat—and sat—” said the Pink Elephant, continuing a story he had begun the June before.
Princess Felicity’s fingers touched Andy Turp’s leg. She pulled him out quickly, accompanied by a showrer of dust. The servants did not consider the
old toy cupboard worth cleaning.
“Andy Turp,’’ said Felicity, “We are going down to the Plains to remember something that has been long forgotten and it isn’t you, my darling golliwog,” she ended. When alone she was often very affectionate to Andy Turp, but he understood and did not mind. “We must prepare,” said the Princess Felicity.
So first she put on Christopher John’s leggings because, as she told herself, she might be going to have adventures Rough and Violent. “And if I do,” she said, “Christopher John’s leggings, being a man’s, will make me feel much braver. And then besides, mine won’t be scratched with the brambles.”
Then she picked up Andy Turp and slipped off down the staircase and out the palace doors and along the deserted streets and through the little gate that stood by the big gate through which the carriages had once rolled. The guardhouse was just above the little gate, but the guards were inside having an early tea. From the smell, they appeared to be having fresh gingerbread.
Princess Felicity sniffed longingly and then stepped off down the hill. She swung Andy Turp by one leg jauntily, attempting to look very nonchalant, and she talked to herself in order that the golliwog might understand what they were about. He was a dear golliwog but rather stupid, and besides it was much more cheerful to hear a voice even if it was only her own.
“Well,” she said, “I’m to remember something that’s been long forgotten,
That would be easy for Frederick Michael because he always is learning his
lessons seven times and forgetting them. Or would it be Miss Knoawl’s umbrella with the dog’s head handle that Dorothea dropped down the well. Or perhaps,” she ended sternly, “it would be more likely to be Anthony Paul’s handkerchief when he was a cold.”
She had taken the old path without thinking and nowshe was following it downward. Already twilight was gathering and, in the city behind her, lights were beginning to twinkle. Although a sad place, still it was home and probably there had been strawberry jam for tea in the schoolroom. The Princess Felicity swung Andy Turp very violently by the leg to keep her spirits up.
It was a cold night and outside the city walls the snowhad drifted in high piles. It made the little Princess so tired that at length she crawled into a cave and curled up in a corner. Something big and warm already was there but it did not seem to object to sharing its bed.
TACHEN she awoke next morning, the other occupant ’’'’of the cave, however, had gone. But there was some honey and berries spread out on several large leaves and there was a distinct odor of Bear.
“How Christopher John’s eyes will stick out,” thought Felicity complacently. And, absent-mindedly, she used Andy Turp for a napkin to wipe the honey off her mouth.
All that day and for six days following she kept on down the mountains. The drifts were hard to climb through and even with Christopher John’s leggings it was very cold. Sometimes she got in thick forests where the gloom and shadows frightened her and sometimes she was in the open where nothing but sky and snow could be seen on any hand. Once she nearly slid down a crevice in the rocks. But alw'ays, though she had long ago left any pretence of a path, she kept on downward and she and Andy Turp thought as hard as possible trying to remember something they had long ago forgotten.
When the twilight began to gather each evening and the stars to twinkle, and when there were strange and frightening noises in the underbrush, she w-ould search for a cave; and every night, wherever she might be, she always found one. Sometimes the big, warm, furry form was already curled up in a corner and sometimes it did not come in till she was almost asleep. Either way Felicity did not mind. It made her warm and comfortable and kept her from being frightened when the wolves nowled.
In the morning there were always berries and honey for her to eat. Sometimes there were nuts, too, and then Felicity used to fill her pockets. She was very fond of
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How Felicity Found Christmas
Continued from page 19
nuts and besides Miss Knoawl used to say that too much honey made her complexion bad.
PY THE seventh day she was so accustomed to finding herself alone when she awoke that she received a shock when she opened her eyes, to see a large bear leaning against the wall. He was squinting at the sunshine outside and was smoking a large black pipe. Felicity saw that he had been trying on one of Christopher John’s leggings. It was buttoned by one button at the bottom but had evidently not met farther up. It flopped dolefully about his ankle.
Felicity sat up, rather frightened because he was so very large, and reached for Andy Turp, and on seeing her awake the Bear lumbered to his feet until he remembered the legging, when he sat down again abruptly. He looked so embarrassed that Felicity forgot to be frightened.
“Good-morning.” she said.
“Have some honey,” replied the Bear. “I suppose you like honey?”
“Yes, I do,” said the little Princess politely.
“Yes,” said the Bear, “Yes. I rather thought you would. Most people do. I like it myself. But do have some.” He sighed deeply. “Or some berries?” he said.
He reached down and tugged quickly at the legging.
“My leg,” he explained, catching Felicity’s eye, “Is itchy. Perhaps, if you don’t mind, I'd better just retire and put a little liniment on it.”
He shuffled off to a corner and Felicity could see his back heaving. Then one of Christopher John’s buttons flew off sharply and hit the wall, dropping with a sharp click to the floor.
“Your legging, I think,” said the Bear, returning. “Dear me, I’m afraid you’ve lost a button. And now, if you’ve quite finished, I’ll show you the road downward.”
He led her outside the cave and plunged down a little path through the underbrush. Felicity followed. Presently they came out into the open. They were at the top of a high hill that dipped and curved downward for what seemed to Felicity like miles and miles. They could not even see the bottom. But from their very feet, down all the mountain side, like a twisting silver ribbon, curled a narrow path of sparkling, glinting ice.
“My Private Slide,” explained the Bear proudly. “Sit down at the top. That’s right. Are you ready? One—two —three—and away you go.”
“Oh!” said Felicity breathlessly.
She found herself sliding down the mountain very quickly. Already, when she looked around over her shoulder, the Bear had changed from a Very Large Bear to a Very Small One. But he was still waving what Felicity was sure were meant to be Encouraging Waves. She swung Andy Turp furiously in the air in reply. Then she settled back to enjoy herself.
Down she sped. Forests flashed by, a river frozen over in parts but here and there breaking through in little bubbling, shooting waterfalls, a deep gorge with bare rocky walls from which hung icicles in shining spears.
“I do hope they don’t fall on me,”
said Felicity, “Don’t you. Andy Turp?”
Andy Turp said he did and they didn’t.
A Jack Rabbit stopped to watch her flying past and a deer raised a startled head from the bracken. The sunbeams turned everything they touched to glittering diamonds.
“Oh,” said Felicity with a deep sigh of enjoyment, “if we can only find what has been long forgotten, Andy Turp, and the big cloud rolls away from Zirconia! I love winter when the sun shines. Christopher John and I will build Very Private Slides in the garden,” she ended in a businesslike voice.
And then the slide suddenly stopped.
Felicity shot through the air and landed in a deep snowbank. She jumped up quickly, brushed the snow off briskly and looked about her. She was in a clearing and just ahead of her stood a little house, a house with a red gabled roof and tiny diamond-paned windows. At the door hung an iron lantern and on each side of the stone step stood two little fat fir trees. Felicity walked to the door and looked in.
At first she could see nothing but piles and masses of green stuff, green boughs heaped on the floor, green wreaths with clusters of crimson berries, green sprigs with waxen white berries, a green tree in a red pot. But there were people there, too. There was a brown, laughing man and a beautiful, laughing lady and three fat, laughing children and a boy of about her own age with curly fair hair and very blue eyes. They were all looking at her.
Felicity made the deep curtsy she had been taught to do when she encountered the court ladies in the palace. She wanted very much to be polite but she wanted still more to ask a question because Andy Turp was most frightfully anxious to know the answer.
“How-do-you-do?” she said all in a rush and very breathlessly, “I-am-Princess -Felicity -andI - come - from - Zirconia—and-oh-please what is it?” And she waved Andy Turp, still clutched by one leg, at the greens and the wreaths and the tree.
The boy with the fair hair laughed.
“Hello,” he said, “I’m Peter. And— don’t you know?—it’s Christmas Eve.”
“Christmas Eve?” said Felicity.
“Yes,” said Peter, “Come and help.” He put out a brown, dirty little hand and drew Felicity inside.
So Felicity helped. She made wreaths and hung them in the diamond-paned windows. She twined green boughs down the funny little crooked staircase. She mounted a chair and stirred the Christmas pudding, using both hands and sticking the tip of her tongue out very earnestly, because that brought you luck. She hung shining red balls on the tree. Her cheeks were pink with excitement and her eyes were very bright. She had never been so happy. And all the time she was conscious of the smiling, tender look of the beautiful lady.
Finally Peter drew her aside.
“And here are the stockings,” he said, “You hang stockings on Christmas Eve, you know. This one is Young Nicholas’. See what I’m going to stick in the toe.”
Out of a box, with great caution, he drew an animal, an animal with a fierce pine cone body and fat acorn legs and a sweeping pine needle tail.
“It is a Very Curious Animal,” explained Peter proudly: “itshead is cut out of an apple. I made it myself, only mother helped.”
The Princess Felicity stared at the Very Curious Animal. Then she looked over at Young Nicholas, who, with his fat legs very wide apart and a rapt expression on his dirty little face, was watching the candles being put on the tree.
“Oh dear,” she cried, “I had quite forgotten Anthony Paul, and he doesn’t even know it’s Christmas Eve.”
Then she picked up Andy Turp and walked up to the beautiful lady.
“Goodbye,” she said, “You have been very good to me and I would like to stay with you, but I must hurry home. You see I must tell Christopher John and
Dorothea and all of them about Christmas. They have never had it before.”
She felt the beautiful lady pick her up in her arms, and she heard her voice say:
“Yes, go, my baby. Tell them all, everyone, about Christmas.”
Strangely enough, her voice sounded to Felicity like the voice of the old woman in the palace gardens just before she had disappeared.
rT''HE next minute the little girl was E running through the snow. Her arms were still full of greens, and their pungent, spicy scent seemed to wrap itself around her like a cloak and carry her through the air. It was like the Slide, only not so bumpy. It was like flying, only faster. And although it had taken her seven days to descend the mountain, within seven minutes she was standing just within the city gates.
To her surprise, everyone seemed to be gathered in the Square before the palace. King Dclor was there, his face sadder than Felicity had remembered. The Royal Princess, Christopher John and Frederick Michael, were there. Princess Dorothea was there and she was grasping by one hand, very firmly, Prince Anthony Paul. He was wriggling violently and appeared to be on the point of a howl. And about them, in sad, solemn little groups stood all the townspeople. The yellow cloud hung low over the city.
Felicity ran forward to the centre of the Square, up to a tall soldier who had often been on guard outside the Royal Nurseries.
“Pick me up,” she commanded. “Up on your shoulder, Adolphus.”
The soldier swung her up high in the air. Prince Christopher John fixed his eyes accusingly on his leggings, which were battered.
“I have been down to the Plains,” said the Princess Felicity in her high childish little voice. “It is Christmas Eve. I am to tell you that tomorrow is Christmas. See, here are the Christmas greens!”
And as she spoke the yellow cloud that for years had hung over Zirconia seemed to billow and waver and melt. Then it floated gently from over the city and the last rays of the setting sun sparkled on the Palace spires.
The townspeople gazed in wonder, hardly able to believe what they saw. And then King Dolor sprang forward.
“Look, my people,” he cried. “The cloud has departed. It was the Spirit of Christmas we had forgotten and have remembered!”
'T'HAT evening there was wild exciteE ment in Zirconia. The city gates were thrown open and troops of men went to and fro bearing green branches and holly and mistletoe with which to trim their houses. While in the kitchens the women bustled backwards and forwards dragging out long-forgotten recipes for plum pudding and mince pies, and darting across the street to borrow a few raisins here and a bit of peel there. For so long no one had had the heart to make puddings that supplies were rather short.
The light from their open doors streamed across the snow to the Square where the maidens and young men were dancing. And presently delightful smells began to steal out into the clear, frosty air.
Everywhere there was gay talk and laughter and good wishes.
In the Palace, the little princes and princesses had been put to bed, and there was silence in the night nurseries. Only the Princess Felicity was still awaka. When she sat up in bed she could see through the open door into Prince Anthony Paul’s room where he was lying asleep in his cot. A fire was burning in his grate and before it were hanging the stockings; one for herself, one for Dorothea, one for Christopher John, one for Frederick Michael, one for Anthony Paul, and one, a very small one, for Andy Turp. The Princess Felicity heaved a little sigh of happiness and cuddled dowm very far under the blankets.