The story of an Icicle who discovered what Christmas means
ANNE ELIZABETH WILSONDecember151930
The Icicle That Had a Warm Heart
The story of an Icicle who discovered what Christmas means
ANNE ELIZABETH WILSON
ALL the icicles were hanging in a row on the eavestrough, enjoying the wonderful cool weather. “If it lasts a little longer,” said the Crooked Icicle’s mother, “you’ll be a week old—one of the oldest children I ever had. But remember this, you will have to be very hard-hearted.” She was a handsome woman, long and slender but hard as flint. Never once during the recent thaw had she melted, even to the extent of a single tear, though surely she had had enough to make her weep. Five children melted away before her very eyes, and her late husband nothing but a trickle!
But the little Crooked Icicle glistened playfully; which is a very dangerous thing for an icicle to do. It means that he is flirting with the sun, and it is difficult not to melt when the warmth of a December sun beats full upon you; it is so likely to touch your heart.
“You seem to forget,” reproved his mother frostily, “that it is almost Chris mas. And if you can last until then—who knows? It is a wonderful fact that Christmas trees are often decorated with icicles, though, of course, they are only glass. But think, my dear, if the opportunity could ever come to an icicle with a heart like mine, for instance; an icicle,” she went on almost dreamily, “that might never melt! But I have no hope for you.” She looked at him disgustedly. “I don’t know how you have lived this long, you are so foolishly softhearted. Stop that silly sparkling!”
He winked in the bright light, and somehow the sweet warmth that pierced him made him strangely happy. What if it cost a little of his twisted length? It was so lovely.
Drip, drip, drip . . .
“Stop it, I say!” His mother was almost frantic at his wilfulness. “You’ll have no point left.”
But the Crooked Icicle was glistening more rashly than ever, and drops were running down his sides. He had forgotten all about the sun now, for there were three small sparrows looking up at him delightedly. The drops fell on their little brown heads and splashed around them. Before long there was a comfortable puddle, and they were dipping their beaks and wings in it, bathing and flapping and chirping deliciously. The Crooked Icicle dripped and dripped. He thought the sound they were making the prettiest thing he had ever heard.
“Stop it, stop it, stop it!” shrieked his terrified mother.
“You’re just like your father.
Oh, don’t, don’t, don’t!”
Just then a biting gust of wind rushed by and the sun went behind a cloud.
“Saved !” she gasped. “Can’t you see that everything is trying to make you sensible? And look at you now, nothing but a water-ice! Anyone with a spoon could eat you.”
But he was freezing again, and he laughed most unbecomingly at his mother, for really he had melted into an almost straight spike. She glanced at him furiously, but she had to admit to herself that he was much improved.
For an hour or so it remained so cold that all the icicles became as brittle as glass. The sun had hidden itself away, and the angry wind kept rushing up and down spitefully.
“Klink!” A long icicle at the end of the trough was whipped off and fell tinkling to the stone walk, shattered into a hundred shining bits.
The Crooked Icicle’s mother almost lost her own hold at the sound.
“But still,” she admonished her son sternly, “that is the only way for a proper icicle to die. Did you hear him as he went? A noble sound and full of music; not like a dripping waterspout, as I fear you will go.” But she clung with considerable fright as the next gust went by.
A LL that night the bitter wind snapped and snarled at them, cutting behind and beneath them and singing insults in their terrified ears. When morning came only six of the original fifteen or more remained, but the Crooked Icicle and his mother were among them.
“Now, my dear,” she said with satisfaction, “you are nearer a week old by one day and one frightful night. Don’t spoil everything by being foolish today.”
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The sun was back in full force that morning, but the air was brisk and cool so that his mother did not feel so nervous when the Crooked Icicle sparkled just a little. She even thought that he looked almost handsome, now that he had straightened somewhat.
She had almost forgotten to worry about him when, about noon, she was horrified to hear again that baleful sound of dripping. Imagine her indignation and despair when she discovered that her son, forgetful even of her presence, was melting happily away in a very stream.
She looked down to see how much of him had gone, and there stood a little long-haired dog, ears pricked up and tongue lolling out, lapping up the delicious
trickle of cool water as it fell. Every now and then he looked up gratefully at the icicle, and then hurried lapping again so that he wouldn’t miss a drop.
“Look at him, look at him,” called the Crooked Icicle to his distracted mother. “There wasn’t a bit of water anywhere— everything frozen solid—even his own bowl. And he’d been playing hard all morning and was just dying of thirst.” “Yes,” said his mother, “and you will die soon yourself because of his thirst, my dear. If you could only see yourself ! You have hardly any waist left. You’ll break ia two before long, and then think what you’ll be—nothing but a bump. And you vie re beginning to look so well.”
“I don’t mind, really,” he answert: calmly. “My tip never was straigl anyway.” And he continued to melt ju: the same, for the sun was looking straigl: through him.
Yet when the afternoon came he ha: developed quite a presentable new ti; and a friendly cool wind had fanned I: to a fine frozen point. So it happend that when he was a week old he hat become a beautiful, long, straight iciclt “It is simply that you are luckier tha' you deserve,” said his mother, still ur> convinced that a soft heart ever did an icicle the least goôd.
HTHEN came Christmas Eve. H;
mother knew it was, for she had see them take in the little fir tree that sat ini pot by the door. And all that evening tb door was opening and shutting, fe people were coming and going and ringir; the bell. Sometimes the door would sht; with such a bang that all the icicles ha! to hold on desperately for fear they woull be shaken off the eavestrough entirely.
“I wish I could see in the window," said the little Icicle That Used To B Crooked. “I’d love to see a Christmas tree.”
“Yes, and you could be looking in tb window by now, if you hadn’t let yourseli melt away and lose all your length. You would have been at least three inch« longer if you hadn’t broken in two.” Still, he was not downhearted. It was such a lovely night, and there were so many things going on. They could hea; the music from inside, and it made the eavestrough shake a little, so that they tingled and thrilled. The Little Iciclt shivered with the strange wonderful sensation, and he thought he could feel himself humming a little in rhythm.
Finally, very late, the music stopped. People came trooping out, and the door thumped after them. It was a cheerful slam-banging, but the poor icicles hung on in very terror. What with all the trembling and shivering they had done with the music, they were quite unnerved. Then, as the last guest left—“Bang!" Two of them let go; they couldn’t hold on any longer.
“It sounds as though you’d broken the glass in the door, my dear,” said a woman’s voice.
“It’s only the icicles,” laughed the mar, and as he wrapped his coat around him and stood in the doorway his head knocked down another!
“Well,” said the Little Icicle to his mother, “perhaps I wasn’t long enough to look in the window, but, at least, melting a
little kept me from being so long that I was knocked off.”
His mother said nothing, but she was very provoked. No matter how obstinate and stubborn he was about being softhearted, it always seemed to turn out for the best.
CHRISTMAS morning found only three icicles left; the Icicle That Used To Be Crooked, his mother, and one very hard-hearted little fellow who said nothing, but just froze on.
“Now, my dear, you must look your best. It might happen. I don’t mind if you glisten a bit this morning. I don’t think you’ll melt, the air is so cold.”
So they hung and sparkled and thought about the Christmas tree. The morning was well on when the little girl came out of the house and looked at them all.
“My, you’re pretty,” she said. “I’d love to have one of you on the tree.” “You see!” whispered the Little Icicle’s mother triumphantly. “It is happening!” “I’ll count out for the one I’ll take,” the little girl went on thoughtfully. “Now —eenie, meenie, minie, mo . . But when she had counted them all out, she forgot whether it was the two left out or the one counted in that should be chosen. She stood up on the step and reached as far as she could stretch. "Whichever one I touch first,” she said—and her hand brushed the Little Icicle!
As he snapped off, his mother was so proud that, for the first time in her life, a tear trickled down her shiny nose.
“Good-by, my dear. Think of me when you are hanging on the tree. I shall never forget this day.”
When the little girl’s hand closed over him, the Icicle felt his heart warming all through him. Never had the sun seemed so sweet as this. He was happy beyond anything he had ever dreamed.
She took him into the house and everything there seemed brilliant and wonderful. When he saw the tree, he reflected its every beautiful color and silvery glint. He felt like a little bottle of dancing light.
Then the little girl picked up a piece of tinsel cord, and tied it about his neck. In the very centre of the low branches she fastened him securely, and there he swung, triumphant and proud at last. He wished so much that his mother could see him.
But when all the people had gone to sit down at a marvellous white and silver table, he heard a pathetic small voice rising right beside him.
"I’m so thirsty, I’m so thirsty,” it said. “They were so excited about the presents this morning they forgot to give me a drink.” It was the tree itself !
“My goodness,” thought the Icicle, “this won’t do at all—a Christmas tree thirsty on Christmas Day!” And he promptly began to melt.
“What’s that?” said the tree. “A drop of water! Oh, another, another!”
The Icicle’s very heart was melting with sympathy now.
“How good,” sighed the tree.
By this time the Icicle was melting so fast that his ne«k slipped out of the tinsel collar and he fell down into the green wooden tub that held the tree; right down to the earth around its roots.
“How cool and lovely,” said the tree. “I feel as though I were outside again and an icicle had dropped on my roots.”
“It has, it has,” said the Icicle comfortingly, and as he lay on the tree’s sweet-smelling earth, he thought he had never felt anything so soft and so good —not even the little girl’s hand. Because she, after all, had only wanted him; she had not needed him.
His heart, now soft and warm beyond any hope of ever freezing again, felt another close beside it as warm as itself. He melted toward it, and as he mingled with the close-curled roots he knew that of all icicles he had not been chosen in vain to hang upon a Christmas tree.
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