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
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.
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.)
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
"I know there is," said Gobaly firmly, "because I 've seen presents
that he brought to boys and girls in the village."