| This Way to Christmas|
|by Ruth Sawyer|
|Stranded in upstate New York with just seven days to go until Christmas, a lonesome boy comes up with an ingenious way to bring Christmas to the equally lonesome inhabitants of his small mountain community, all of whom were spending the winter far from home. Visiting each in turn, David befriends his neighbors and delights in hearing the Christmas stories they share with him, stories they heard in their homelands long ago. A final celebration brings all the neighbors of different nationalities together, forging relationships that will outlast the holiday season and sending a message of hope to a war-torn world. Ages 9-12 |
THE CHAPTER AFTER THE END
HE last thing David remembered that
night was hearing Mr. Peter's voice
booming out a "Merry Christmas" to each of
the departing guests. Incredible and humiliating
as it might seem, Johanna had had to help
him to bed! He was so worn out with the work
and the joy of all that had happened that day
that his eyes would not stay open long enough
for him to make the proper going-to-bed arrangements for himself.
And the first thing David thought about when
he woke Christmas morning was the locked-out
fairy. Yes, even before he thought about the
gift that was coming that day from father.
Where was the fairy? He had not seen him
for two days, had not come upon a single track
that might have been his in all his tramping
through the woods for greens. He did not like
to think it, but perhaps the fairy was shivering
 and hungry in some hollow tree or deserted
rabbit-burrow, homesick and alone, while he,
David, had almost, yes, had almost unlocked
the door that led back into his old world—almost found opening-time.
It did not seem fair that now the fairy should
be left out, when his own happiness was the
fairy's doing, after all; when he would never
have found the way to Christmas or the way
out of loneliness if the fairy had not made the
trail for him to follow. He made up his mind
at once, even before he was out of bed, that he
would spend Christmas day hunting for the
fairy and seeing to it that he had all the
comforts that mere mortals could supply.
Then he remembered the Christmas gift that
was coming. Perhaps it was something he
could share with the fairy. He had thought
about it a good many times in the days since
father's letter had come; and he had speculated
a good deal as to what it could be. It might be
some strange curiosity from the East—father
was tremendously interested in curiosities; or
it might be books, as father was fond of books.
Of one thing he was certain, it would be
something that father would like himself; he could
not imagine father choosing anything else.
 Breakfast was late. They had seen
Christmas day in before the last guest had gone the
night before; and when there are no stockings
to empty, no presents to unwrap, there is no
need to hurry breakfast along or speed the day.
Everybody was in rare good humor. Mr. Peter
swung David to his shoulder and marched
three times round the table, singing, "Good
"Faith, 'tis the best keeping of Christmas I
have seen since I came to this country," was
"I think 'tis the best I ever had," said
"I know what I'm going to do," shouted Mr.
Peter. "I'm going to steal the chart and take
it back with me to the city; and next year when
the notion begins to take me that I want to
dodge Christmas again I'll unroll the chart, take
a good look at it, and make straight for the
right road. And I tell you what!" He put
two hands on David's shoulders. "I believe
it would be just as well to have you along, young
man. With you there, and Barney and Johanna,
I couldn't go wrong, you know; and
we could take a lot of other poor, tired mortals
on the road with us and show them such a
 Christmas as would warm their hearts and keep
their memories green for the rest of their lives."
"Aye, that's true," agreed Johanna. "But
if ye don't sit down and stop talking, Mr.
Peter, ye'll be taking the road to a cold breakfast."
They were not half through when a knocking
came at the front door. Barney answered it,
and came back in a moment with a puzzled
smile on his face.
" 'Tis your friend, the trapper," he said to
David. "He'll not come in; but he wants to
be speaking with ye, laddy."
Wondering much what it could mean, David
slipped from his chair and went into the hall.
The trapper was standing just inside the door,
and he was holding something small and gray
in his great fur mitten.
"Nicholas Bassaraba has brought you
something. It was there this morning, hanging on a
peg in the woodshed. See!" He held up the
coat of a gray squirrel.
"Where— How did it get there?"
The trapper shrugged his shoulders.
"Ah—how should I know? But I can guess.
And you? Where are your wits, your fancy,
 David took the skin between his hands,
rubbing his fingers through the soft fur.
"You think he brought it back? That he—"
"Is it not possible? He has gone back to his
country—his people. He is no longer what you
call 'locked out.' So he gives back again what
he borrowed from Nicholas Bassaraba—the
coat. Ah, he is a fairy of honor; and I bring
it to you, my friend. It may be that is what
the manikin intends when he hangs it on the
peg. At any rate, it is yours to keep always;
a symbol, a memory of how you found the way
to the cabins and the hearts of some lonely men.
Yes, this you shall keep; while we keep other
memories. It is well."
He turned toward the door to be gone, but
David held him back.
"But it isn't just memories, you know. I'm
coming back again and again to hear more
stories of the gipsies. And in the spring,
Barney says, perhaps you'll help me find a
den of young foxes or raccoons. I've always
wanted to have some to tame."
The trapper smiled.
"Even so. We will go together. It is not
hard to find the litters of young things in the
spring; they are very plentiful."
 After the trapper had gone David stood a
minute thinking before he went back to his
breakfast. So this was a white winter. And
Johanna had said that about as often as a
white winter the fairy raths opened on Christmas
Eve—just for that night. Somehow the
fairy must have known this would happen; and
he had gone back to Ireland, back to his rath,
a locked-out fairy no longer.
There was a broad smile of happiness on
David's face as he took his seat at the table
"Ye certainly look pleased with your
present," teased Barney. "What did he bring ye
now—just a squirrel's skin?"
"No, not just! Wait until to-night and I'll
tell you and Johanna one of your own Irish
stories. Only this one will have American
improvements." And David nodded his head
mysteriously after Johanna's own fashion.
It was then that the telephone rang and
Barney answered it. If there had been a
puzzled smile on his face before, when the
trapper came, there was a veritable labyrinth
of expressions now as he came back to the
kitchen. There was a tangle of mystery,
astonishment, delight, incredulity, and
excite-  ment; and even Johanna herself could not guess
what lay at the heart of it all.
"Speak up, Barney, man," she cried. "What
has happened ye?"
And Mr. Peter slapped him on the back and
thundered at him: "Wake up, sir! You look
as if you'd been dreaming about fairies!"
"Maybe I have," chuckled Barney; then he
sobered. "No, 'twas the station-agent that
'phoned. He says the wee lad's Christmas
present has come from across the water, and
he's sending it up this minute by the stage-driver."
"Is it as large as that?" gasped David in
"Aye, it's a good size." And Barney chuckled
harder than ever.
Johanna looked at him sharply.
"Faith, I'm believing ye know what the wee
"Maybe I do, but I'm not going to be telling
one of ye—not till it gets here."
It was a very excited group that gathered in
the window nook and waited for the stage-driver
to make the trip up to the hilltop. It
would take some time, they knew, for the
going was slow, as he had reported the night
 before, and they all waited with a reasonable
amount of patience. All but Barney. He
strode up and down the living-room,
slapping his knees and chuckling to himself as
if he were bursting with the rarest, biggest
piece of news a man ever had to keep to
"For the love of St. Patrick, can't ye sit down
and keep quiet a minute, man?" Johanna asked
in desperation. "By the way ye are acting
ye'll have the lad thinking his father's sent him
a live elephant or some one o' those creatures
that run wild in the East."
With a final triumphant whoop Barney sprang
to the door and threw it open.
" 'Tis almost here!" he cried. "I can hear
the bells on the sleigh."
"So can I," cried David. "And there's the
team and the sleigh and— Why, there's
somebody in it besides the driver!"
He was off from the window-seat and beside
Barney at the door, and the others followed
quickly, as the driver touched the team with
his whip and the sleigh flew into plain view.
Yes, there certainly was some one on the seat
with the driver!
"Mercy on us!" gasped Johanna.
 "Merry Christmas!" shouted Barney and
Mr. Peter together.
But David could not shout. He could only
keep whispering to himself, over and over:
"Mother! It's mother!"
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics