AN ORIGINAL "JUST MARY" STORY WHICH PARENTS CAN READ ALOUD TO CHILDREN ON CHRISTMAS EVE...
MARY E. GRANNANDecember151953
A GIFT FOR THE PRINCESS
AN ORIGINAL "JUST MARY" STORY WHICH PARENTS CAN READ ALOUD TO CHILDREN ON CHRISTMAS EVE...
MARY E. GRANNAN
HERE BEGINS A TALE of the olden days when mice talked with men, and when Kings rode in silver coaches, six days out of seven. On the seventh day the coaches were golden. These things you need to know, because in the story there is a mouse called Little Crumb, a toymaker called Jabez, and a King called His Majesty.
It was Christmas time over all the world, but most especially in the toyshop of Jabez Pring. The old toymaker opened the door of his shop and stepped out into the morning. It was a lovely day, white and beautiful. Soft snowflakes clung like fallen stars to the holly wreath on the ancient brass knocker. Jabez left them there to twinkle a greeting to the day, but he swept the snow from his shutters, unfastened their creaking clasps and threw them open. He stepped back to survey the toys in the window.
The dolls in their gay boxes stared at him in bored silence. The flannel elephants viewed their flannel toes. The Monkeys-on-the-sticks paid no heed, but the jacks-in-the-boxes with their fluted frills and conical caps seemed to be saying, "You have done well, Jabez Pring. Your toys should please even the most fastidious of Christmas shoppers. It would not surprise us if His Majesty the King came this way to choose a gift for his little granddaughter, the Princess Tanya.”
The old man laughed suddenly and merrily. His attention had been drawn by a fat little mouse who came out of the Noah’s Ark and made his way through its brightly painted animals to the bow of the ship. The mouse yawned and stretched, and then, spying Jabez, began to totter in a most exaggerated fashion, as if he were about to faint from hunger.
Through his laughter the old man called, "That is enough of your tricks, Little Crumb. That will do. I am coming in to get our breakfast.”
HALF HOUR LATER the mouse patted his bulging stonj^m with satisfaction, and said, "Jabez Pring, now that I am full of good crumpets, I am ready for anything. What are we going to do today?”
The toymaker tipped back on his chair and gave the matter some thought. "Little Crumb,” he said, "what do you say to our making a rag doll, from the bits and pieces that are littering our work bench?”
"I say yes,’ ” laughed the mouse. And he turned a somersault over the sugar bowl. "We’ll make the funniest friendliest rag doll that ever sat on a toyshop shelf.”
Jabez winked at his little friend. "Just what well do,” he agreed. His eyes glowed at the thought of coming achievement. "We’ll stuff her with sheep’s wool, Little Crumb, so she’ll be soft and warm in the arms of the little girl who will hold her.”
"We must give her a name too, Jabez,” said the eager little mouse. "That,” smiled the toymaker, "I shall let you decide, Little Crumb.”
Little Crumb bowed at this honor, and with his paws clasped behind his back, he walked up and down the table top, speaking his thoughts aloud. "A name for the rag doll. Let me see! Not Annabelle. Not Katrine. Not Sarah, or Marie. Not Florabelle or Eloise. Not Tildy Jane or Milly. Jabez, l have a name for her. We'll call her Jolly Holly.”
ApfOOD! GOOD!” said the old toymaker. "It’s a fine name for a Christmas doll. When she’s finished, we’ll stick a sprig of holly behind her ear, and she’ll smile 'Merry Christmas’ to all who come to buy. Little Crumb, your chore will be to gnaw some yellow calico into tiny strips for her hair. Jolly Holly must have yellow hair.”
The toyshop echoed with laughter all that morning as Jolly Holly came to life, under the deft hands of her makers.
Little Crumb sang as he worked:
JOLLY HOLLY’S HAIR IS GOLDEN ALL JAGGEDY AND RAGGY I’LL GNAW AND CHAW THE CALICO TILL IT IS NICE AND SHAGGY.
Jabez, still laughing, said, "You’d better do less singing and more 'gnawing and chawing,’ Master Mouse. I’m away ahead of you.”
'S3Y MIDAFTERNOON the rag doll was finished. She was all that Jabez and Little Crumb had hoped she would be. Her patchwork dress of many colors hung comfortably about her soft warm body. Her little boots of green cotton were laced in red. Her shaggy golden curls, "chawed” so diligently by Little Crumb, were most becoming. Her blue button eyes twinkled merrily in the dull light of the workshop, and her red button nose was pert and funny.
"But I like her velvet mouth best of all,” said Little Crumb, clapping his paws. "She’s got such a wide smile that she makes me feel like laughing too.” He gamboled across the workbench, to where the doll sat propped against the button box, and said, "Jolly Holly, how would you like to lise in the castle on the hill? How would you like to play with the little Princess Tanya?” The toymaker gasped at the impertinence of the suggestion. "A rag doll for a Princess!” he said. "Don’t be silly, Little Crumb. If ever His Majesty did honor us with a visit, I would not even consider showing Jolly Holly to him.” "Tanya would love her,” said the confident little mouse. "And there is no 'IF’ about His Majesty’s coming to our shop,” said the little mouse. He is going to 'honor us’ with a visit. There’s a tweak in my tail that tells me he will come tomorrow.”
HETHER OR NOT the tweak was a figment of Little Crumb’s imagination, there is no way of knowing. But imaginary or otherwise, the mouse’s prediction came true. The silver coach of His Majesty rattled over the cobblestones the very next morning, and stopped outside the toyshop of Jabez Pring.
"Toymaker,” said the monarch, on entering the shop, "I have heard that you are a skilled craftsman, and,” he added on looking about him, "I am inclined to agree.”
Jabez bowed his homage and gratitude.
His Majesty picked up a Jack-in-the-box from the counter and unhooked its clasp. Jack jumped up and stared at him boldly. Jack paid homage to no one.
"Impudent fellow,” laughed the King.
"He is indeed, Sire,” said the smiling Jabez.
"And now to business,” said His Majesty. "I have promised my little granddaughter a doll for Christmas, Jabez Pring. You are to make one of exquisite beauty for her. I have arranged with my cabinetmakers, couturiers, and jewelers to supply you with wood, fabrics and precious stones to suit your purpose. I shall bring Her Royal Highness to your shop on the Eve of Christmas, and I shall expect the doll to be ready at that time.”
"It will be ready, Your Majesty,” said Jabez.
"Your payment will be a bag of golden coins,” said the King, "so I shall expect something worthy.” PLEASE TURN OVER
HE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED were not happy ones for Little Crumb. Jabez Pring was busy with knife, chisel and needle, from sun-up so sun-down. He scarcely lifted his eyes from his work, and he spoke not at all. There was no laughter in the toyshop now . Little Crumb complained of this.
"But I dare not laugh, Little Crumb,” said Jabez. If I laughed my knife might slip and cut the nose from the face I am carving.
"I’d like to nip the nose from that proud face,” said Little Crumb, forcing back the tears that were welling up in his beadlike eyes. "That s w hat I d like to do," he repeated as he walked away.
His Majesty’s doll was finished two days before the appointed time. Jabez,
without asking the help of Little Crumb, chose Stephana as a suitable name for the beautiful creature who now' lay in state in her casket of gold. She wore a coronet of diamonds on her fair tresses Her ermine bordered cloak of raspberry velvet was lined with satin. Her gown, embroidered with amethysts, was of the palest shell pink. Her jeweled eyes were sapphires. Her lips were of rubies, and her teeth, seed pearls. She was a masterpiece.
gT WAS HIGH NOON on Christmas Eve when the little Princess Tanya danced into the toyshop, followed by her grandfather and his royal assembly. The little princess was dressed in white rabbit skin from tip to toe, and looked like a pretty bunny as she hopped about the shop. Her delighted eyes fell almost immediately on Jolly Holly, who still sat with outstretched arms, on the second shelf.
"I see my doll,” cried Tanya. "I love her, Jabez Pring. Thank you so much! I love her. I love her.”
"But you are mistaken, Your Highness,” said Jabez Pring. "Jolly Holly is not your doll. See,” he said, pointing to the golden box, "this is your doll. Her name is Stephana.”
The little girl looked at the jeweled beauty, and backed away. "I do not like hef,” she said. "Her glass eyes stare at me.”
"Glass,” spluttered the King. "Her eyes are of sapphires! This is the most beautiful doll I have ever seen.”
The little Princess turned to Jabez. "Give Stephana to Grandpapa, and I shall get my own doll from the shelf.” She climbed up behind the counter and reached for Jolly Holly.
Little Crumb, under the counter, spun on his tail in merriment.
The bewildered King looked at the more bewildered Jabez. It is all right, Toymaker,” he said. "You have done your work well.” He beckoned an
attendant to give Jabez the bag of coins.
"But, Your Majesty,” murmured Jabez, "the rag doll is worth nothing.”
"She seems to be worth a great deal to my granddaughter, laughed the King. "She has chosen the rag doll as her Christmas gift. Merry Christmas to you, Toymaker.”
"Merry Christmas to you, Sire, and God save the King, said Jabez, bowing the royal party from his shop.
J^ijLs HE WATCHED the little Princess climb into the silver coach, with Jolly Holly clasped tightly in her arms, Jabez looked down on the beautiful doll she had left behind. He shook his head and muttered: "I just don’t understand.”
"I do,” said Little Crumb, leaping from his hiding. "You and His Majesty forgot that Her Royal Highness was just an everyday little girl in heart. When w'ill people learn,” he went on, "that they don’t have to spend a bag of golden coins to please a child.”
"Is it,” asked Jabez, thoughtfully, "that mice are more clever than men?
"Could be,” laughed Little Crumb. "And now', how about closing up the shop and getting me some Christmas cheese? Because,” he threatened, "I have a feeling if I don’t get some soon, I’m going to nip the nose off Stephana.”
Here ends the tale of the olden times, when mice talked with men, and
when kings rode in coaches of silver six days out of seven. ★
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