THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE
N the little village of Swansea, lived a widow
with her two children, Mary and Benjamin. The mother was a
very good woman, always ready to nurse the sick, food the
hungry, or do anything she could to help those who needed
Indians lived in the forest about Swansea, and this good
woman was always kind to them. When they were ill she went
to see them, and made them broth, and gave them medicine.
She tried to teach them about God.
Many of them came to her house, and she read the Bible to
them. Nearly all of the Indians loved her and would do
anything for her.
Among the Indians who came to this house was one named
Warmsly. He was very fond of cider and would ask for it at
When cider has stood for some time, we say it becomes
"hard." Hard cider is not fit to drink. It is only fit to
make vinegar. Warmsly liked the hard cider best.
One day he came to the house and asked Mary for hard cider.
"I cannot give it to you," she said. "It makes you drunk."
Then Warmsly grew angry and said, "You get cider, quick."
 Mary called her mother, who said, "No, Warmsly, cider is
Then the Indian pretended to be sick and said he needed it
"No, you can never get cider here," said Mary's mother
Oh, how angry Warmsly was then! His wicked eyes flashed as
he said, "You be sorry! Me pay you. Big fight soon! Indians
kill all English. Me pay you! Ugh!"
Sure enough, the "big fight" came sooner than any one
thought. The very next Sunday, as they were coming home from
church, the Indians fell upon the people, killing many and
burning their homes. This, you remember, was the beginning
of King Philip's War.
But the Indians remembered the kind woman who had been their
friend. They did not harm her family or her home.
But she did not forget the angry words of Warmsly. "I know
quite well the other Indians will not harm us, but I am
afraid of Warmsly," she would say. For a long time after
this she would not allow Mary or Benjamin to go away from
the house alone.
The summer passed and Warmsly did not come. At last Philip
was dead and the dreadful war was ended. Autumn came, and
with it, peace and thanksgiving.
 "I think Warmsly must have been killed in the war," said
the mother, at last.
One day, early in November, she began to make her winter's
supply of candles. She hung two great kettles of tallow over
the fire to melt.
"I think we will make a Christmas candle such as we used to
have in England when I was a little girl," she told the
Mary clapped her hands in delight, for she had never had a
There were no stockings hung up on Christmas eve in the old
Puritan homes. No Christmas trees sparkled with lighted
candles and bowed under their load of toys and pretty gifts.
There was no Santa Claus, and no gay holiday for the Puritan
fathers and mothers thought such things were foolish and
"I think there can be no harm in a Christmas candle,"
thought Benjamin's mother, as she sent him to find a goose
When he came back, she showed him how to put a little powder
into it. Very carefully the quill of powder was tied to a
wick which hung over a small stick.
Then Mary and Benjamin held the stick and let the wick down
into the melted tallow. When they drew it up, it was covered
with the tallow. This soon grew hard, and they dipped it
again. Now they could hardly see the quill or the wick
 because of the thick white coat of tallow around them. The
candle grew thicker each time it was dipped, and at last it
"The candle grew thicker each time
it was dipped"
"Now you must not put it where it is too cold or it will
crack," said their mother. So they put
it up on the kitchen shelf where they could look at it.
"Oh, it is more than a month until Christmas," said the
mother. "The candle will grow yellow and ugly if you leave
 So it was carefully wrapped in paper and put away in a box;
but every few days the children would get it out and look at
it. They would gently rub its smooth sides and wonder just
where that quill of powder was hidden.
Would Christmas never come? Weeks before, they had invited
every child in the school to a Christmas party, but since
there were only ten pupils, it did not make a very large
party after all.
Benjamin hunted for the rosiest apples and the sweetest
nuts, and put them away for the candle party. From the beams
above the fireplace hung many ears of pop corn, dry and
At last Christmas day came. But no one thought of staying
home from school or work because it was Christmas. So the
children all went to school, and it was well they did, for
the day would have seemed endless to them. The party was to
be in the evening, as of course the candle must not be
lighted until dark.
But "dark" comes very early at Christmas time, and as soon
as the little folks were made clean and ready after school,
it was time to go to the party.
In the big kitchen a fire burned merrily in the fireplace.
How the flames snapped and crackled as they leaped up the
Benjamin passed the rosy-cheeked apples, and the children
put them in a row on the hearth to
 roast. On the bricks near the fire they placed a pile of
chestnuts and covered them with hot ashes.
The powder candle was lighted and placed upon the table, and
all the other candles were snuffed out.
By and by the chestnuts on the hearth began to burst their
shells and pop out. At each loud pop the children would jump
and look at the candle.
"When that candle goes off, you will not think it a
chestnut," laughed Benjamin. "It will make a noise like a
Then the story-telling began. The children did not have
story books in those days. All the stories they knew were
those told them by parents and friends. These were usually
true stories of the wild life of those early times.
"What a fuss Tige is making!" said Mary. "What do you
suppose he is barking and growling at?"
"I hear voices outside," answered her mother. "Very likely
some of the parents have come for their children. I will go
out and quiet Tige, and tell them he is tied."
When she stepped to the door she could hear voices near the
old cider press. Surely those tall, dark figures were not
those of her neighbors. When her eyes had grown more used to
the darkness, she could see plainly the forms of three
Indians, who now came toward the house.
 She hurried into the house and locked the door. She had
hardly reached the room where the children were when, with
a loud crash, the Indians broke open the door and came in.
Great was her terror when she saw that their leader was
"Cider, now!" said Warmsly, as he sat down near the table.
What could the woman do? She must not give him the cider.
There is nothing more terrible than a drunken Indian. "It
must be getting late," she thought, "and the men will soon
come for their children. If I can only get Warmsly's mind
off the cider until then!"
She passed the Indians apples, and nuts, cold meat, and
bread, and they ate greedily. But they did not forget the
cider. "White squaw get cider, quick," said Warmsly, shaking
his big tomahawk with an ugly look.
"She passed the Indians apples"
"Oh, if the neighbors would only come now!" thought the
mother, as she went slowly to the cupboard. She took down
a large brown pitcher and set it on the table. Then she
slowly walked back to the cupboard and took down her pewter
mugs, one at a time.
The Indians watched her with eager eyes. "White squaw get
cider, quick," repeated Warmsly, looking uglier than ever.
But the words were hardly out of his mouth
when there was a great flash of light. Puff!
 bang! went the candle with a noise like the firing of a
cannon. Benjamin had put too much powder in the quill. There
was a loud rattling of dishes and windows. The children
screamed in terror. Even the fire was much scattered and
dimmed with a shower of ashes. Then all was strangely still.
The rank powder smoke filled the room and everything was
hidden in thick darkness.
When the smoke cleared away, the reviving light of the fire
showed the hatchets of the Indians on the floor, and the
kitchen door wide open. Not a savage was to be seen. No
doubt they thought the white men were upon them, so they
made their way back to the forest as fast as possible.
That was the last the colonists ever saw of Warmsly.
The neighbors had heard the noise of the candle, and now
came to take their children home from the party. How
astonished they were to hear the story of the Indians! "God
has been very good to us in saving thee and our children
from the savages," they said.
Each year after that a Christmas candle was burned in many
homes, and the story of how one saved the children of
Swansea never grew old. When the children who were at that
party grew to be men and women, they told it to their
children and grandchildren. And the grandchildren have
passed the story down to us.