HOW SANTA CLAUS FOUND THE POOR-HOUSE       91


easier life. There were a good many queer people in the poor-house, "flighty in their heads and wearin' in their ways," she said, and sometimes they must have been trying to the patience. 
   Once in a great while, indeed, Mrs. Pynchum was good-natured, and then, sometimes for a whole evening, the poor-house would seem like home. All those who lived there would then sit around the fire and roast apples; and Mrs. Pynchum would even unlock the closet under the back stairs, where there was a great bag full of nuts that Sandy Gooding and Gobaly had gathered; and Uncle Sim Perkins would tell stories. 
   But it happened very unfortunately that Mrs. Pynchum never had one of her good-natured days on Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or any holiday. She was sure to say on those days that she was "all tried to pieces."
   And everybody was frightened and unhappy when Mrs. Pynchum was "all tried to pieces," and so that was the reason why Gobaly's heart sank as he remembered, while he was shoveling the path through the snow, that the next day was Christmas. 
   Some people from the village went by with a Christmas-tree, which they had cut down in the woods just beyond the poor- house; there were children in the party, and they called to Gobaly and wished him a merry Christmas, and asked him if they were going to have a Christmas-tree at his house, and expressed great surprise that he was n't going to hang up his stocking. Then one of the children suddenly ex- claimed: 
   "Why, that 's the poor-house! It 's never Christmas there!" Poor Gobaly's heart sank still more as he caught these words, and somehow he felt very tired, and minded the cold, as he had not thought of minding it a

moment before, and the snow-bank looked as if he never could shovel through it. For though Gobaly was stout-hearted, he did n't like to be reminded that he was "town's poor," and that Christmas was nothing to him. 
   Just then he caught sight of Methuselah's little pinched face pressed against the window-pane. Methuselah always had, even when he was a baby, a worn and pallid face, like a little old man, and that was why they called him Methuselah. It was cold in the front room but Methuselah had wrapped himself in a piece of an old quilt and stolen into the back room and to the window, where he could see Gobaly shoveling the snow. 
   Methuselah never was quite happy when  Gobaly was out of his sight. 
   Gobaly went up to the window. 
   "To-morrow 's Christmas, 'Thusely!" he said. 
   "Is it? Do you s'pose she knows it? She 'll be all tried to pieces,' won't she?" 
   ("She" always meant Mrs. Pynchum in the poor-house; nobody there ever spoke of her in any other way.) 
   Gobaly was sadly afraid that she would, but he said, cheerfully: 
   "May be she won't. May be she 'll let me take you out on my sled; and one Christmas there was turkey and plum-pudding." 
   "Must have been a good many Christ mases ago; I can't remember it!" said Methuselah. "Some folks have 'em every Christmas, Uncle Sim says, but perhaps it is n't true. Gobaly, do you believe there really is any Santa Claus, such as Uncle Sim tells about, or did he make it all up?  To be sure, he showed me a picture of him." 
   "I know there is," said Gobaly firmly, "because I 've seen presents that he brought to boys and girls in the village."


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