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Kindergarten Gems by  Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen

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BAB'S THANKSGIVING

"For the joys and for the blessings

Of another goodly year,

For the wealth of golden harvests,

Father, now our praises hear,"

sang the clear, sweet voice from the great cathedral, filling it from dome to dome with the richest of melody. She did not see the sweet-voiced singer, she did not know what meant the song, that poor little waif, crouching so timidly in the shelter of the great entrance. She wrapped the thin worn shawl more closely about her, and again inclined her head to listen. The voice of the singer was silent, and in its place she heard the full rich tones of the organ; then in an instant a whole chorus of voices took up the galdsome song and sung it with such force and meaning that poor, dear Bab could scarce keep from entering in to look upon the singers. She wondered [88] why they were there and what the song meant. It was a very happy one, and she had never heard any other at all like it. It was the night before Thanksgiving Day, and the choir of the cathedral was having its last rehearsal before the services of the next day.

"Oh! I'm so cold and tired!" sighed wee Bab, as she wrapped herself up once more, and held her cold, thin hands to her lips that the warm breath might take the ache away. The music grew fainter and fainter, and farther away, until it sounded like a dream of joy and comfort to the little orphan. "So sweet," she whispered, and then the heavy eyelids drooped, the great, sad eyes were covered, and little Bab had gone to sleep.

We who have our friends, our homes and happy firesides, can never know what such a life as Bab's really is. No father, no mother, no home but such as she might find in lonely shed or grimy hovel. The papers she sold would only buy her the poorest of food—nothing more. She could not remember ever having had a real dinner  and warm clothing; she must not even think of it, since of course she could not have it. She slept on, and dreamed the prettiest dream—she was lifted up by tender hands, and soothed by loving voices; strong arms carried her into a happy home, where all was warm and bright; her old snowy garments were taken off, and in their place such soft, clinging, warm ones came; the tired, cold feet were resting upon the fender before the bright, grate fire, and upon a table by her side was set the most tempting lunch; a beautiful girl, like some good fairy, with kind eyes and sunshiny hair, sat beside her, and softly sung to herself the words which had floated out so sweetly from the church,

"For the joys and for the blessings

Of another goodly year,

For the wealth of golden harvests,

Father, now our praises hear,"

Well might Bab have wished such a dream to last forever, but a voice had wakened her, and she was once more only the Bab of old times, cold and hungry. Changed like, Cinderella, from the loveliest lady of the court [89] to the little girl who sat and dreamed in the ashes. The door of the vestibule swung open, a bright light flooded the entrance, making the snow upon the stone steps and walks sparkle like myriads of diamonds. Bab crouched more closely to the door; the singers were coming out. One by one she watched them pass, never making a noise or uttering a sound; but at last, as she gazed upon a face so fair and beautiful, her eyes danced with glad surprise, her lips parted, and rising to her feet she grasped the hand of the lady, saying, " 'Twas you, I remember, and you were so  kind."

But the singer looked kindly down upon her and said, " 'Twas I? What do you mean, my dear? And then Bab remembered it was all a dream. She had really never been in the lovely house and never seen the kind face before, so she shrunk back once more into the shadowy corner, and in fright and embarrassment hung her pretty head; but the singer followed her.

"Tell me, child, who are you?"

"I'm only Bab, who sells papers," answered the child.

"Only Bab, who sells papers! Well, I think you're a very brave little girl to go about selling papers, so tiny and young as you are. Now tell me why you are here and where you live."

"Oh!" sighed Bab, "it's so cold to-night, and my feet were so tired, and would not stop aching. Your feet don't grow cold and ache, do they? Well, I had to stop some place, else a policeman would want me to go to the orphan asylum. Tip wants me to go there, but I won't. Tip's a newsboy, and sells papers just like I do. He says it's all right for boys, but he don't think it's very erspec'able for girls; but I can't help it. I was coming by here and I heard such sweet music, so I stepped in to listen, and I guess I must have gone to sleep. My home is just anywhere and nowhere, but I'll go now. Was it you I heard singing?"

By this time a number of singers stood watching and wondering about the child. A gentleman said, "We cannot leave her here. Where could we take her?"

Bab's beautiful lady looked down at her and said, "Little Bab, will [90] you come home with me to-night? I think you would be happy, and I should like you to."

Bab's eyes beamed with gladness. "Oh, will you sing for me? That song you sang in the church? But maybe I oughtn't to come; you don't have the likes of me in your house, I suppose; but I'll only stay a little while," she said, in her quaint, old way. And then she was lifted up in the arms of the good man and carried to the singer's home. Nothing so good had ever happened to Bab before. It all seemed too good to last. Perhaps, after all, she was asleep and would presently awake to find it all a dream. But when she was carried into the house, and then into her beautiful lady's own room, and her ragged garments had been replaced by nice worm ones, she knew that must be real, and that it was not a dream, although it was very much like the one she had while sleeping in the old cathedral entrance. She walked across the room and stood beside her beautiful lady.

"Now you will sing for me?" she asked, "And, please, I do so want to know who you are. What may I call you?"

"Yes, child, I'll sing for you now, and my name? It is Helen." Then she sat down at the piano, her fingers wandered lovingly over the ivory keys, and she sang again the Thanksgiving song:

"For the joys and for the blessings

Of another goodly year,

For the wealth of golden harvests,

Father, now our praises hear,"

She had finished, and looking down into the childish face at her side, she saw that it was sad and thoughtful.

"Tell me why you sing that, and what it means," said Bab. And there, nestled closely in the loving arms, she heard the story of Thanksgiving—how God sent the bright sunshine, warm rains and drifting snows; the birds and blossoms, the seed time and harvests; all that make us good and happy. And of how, one day in every year, the people do not work, but go to [ [91] church, and visit the poor and sick people, where they sing songs of thanks and praise to Him who has cared for them and given them so much. "And that is the reason," said Helen, "that we call it Thanksgiving Day. It will be to-morrow, and you shall go to the church with me and hear the songs and the story which is always told the children on that day as one part of the service."

Bab was very happy. "I think a great many good things have happened to me," she said. "I should like to learn the song you sing, so that I, too, might sing with them. May I?"

Her voice was surprisingly sweet, and she soon learned to sing the Thanksgiving song, so that on the morrow, when Helen went into the great cathedral, and up the stairway into the balcony where the choir sat, Bab, in her pretty, warm clothing, followed after. When they rose to sing, she, too, stood up, and the childish voice blended sweetly with the full, rich one of the beautiful lady, and together floated out over the great audience—

"For the joys and for the blessings

Of another goodly year,

For the wealth of golden harvests,

Father, now our praises hear,"

All wondered who the child might be, but no one guessed that she was Bab, the timid little news-girl who had cried, "Evening Post!" Bab continued to live with the beautiful lady, and was her little sister. Never again need she wander about the streets homeless and uncared for. By her kind deed to Helen and her friends, Bab showed how much she thanked them for their goodness. Nor does she forget her old friend; for when Thanksgiving comes around, there is always some little token for each, to show them that they are remembered, and to tell them that Thanksgiving Day has come. Again she goes with Helen to the old catherdral, where she stood so long ago, and sings once more—

"For the joys and for the blessings

Of another goodly year,

For the wealth of golden harvests,

Father, now our praises hear,"


Unto thee, who art the Giver,

Unto thee, whose name is dear,

Unto thee, supreme above us,

Father, now our praises hear."


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