|The Christmas Porringer|
|by Evaleen Stein|
|An earthenware porringer, bought by a little Flemish girl of Bruges as a gift for the Christ child and stolen by Robber Hans, finally brings much happiness to her and her grandmother, the lace maker. Ages 6-9 |
HANS TURNS SAILOR
S Hans turned away from the quay his heart was
lighter than it had been for many a day. He
straightened up, and no longer sought all the
narrower by-ways as he had long grown used to doing;
but beginning to feel already like an honest man, he
walked boldly down the chief streets of the city. And
though now and then people glanced at him and drew
away from him, he
 looked straight ahead, his mind busy with plans for the
He crossed the Grande Place, and presently, as he
passed the doorway of the cathedral of Saint Sauveur,
he saw an old woman crouching against the wall and
begging for alms. With a sudden impulse he thrust his
hand into the pocket where lay the silver pieces Father
Deaf-and-Blind had paid for the stolen cup, and
drawing them out he dropped them into the old woman's
lap, and hastened on before she could speak for
When he got back to his hut it was almost dusk. He
made a fire with the last bit of wood, and ate the last
crusts of bread he
 could find in the cupboard; and then, filled with
thoughts of the next day, and saying over to himself
with a sort of pleased surprise, "I am really going to
be a sailor again! I am going to the sea!" he went to
sleep and slept soundly until daybreak.
As soon as Hans awakened he remembered what he was to
do, and so he made himself as tidy as he could; which
was not much, to be sure, but still he looked a little
less unkempt than usual. Just before he started out,
he happened to put his hand in his pocket and there
was still the porringer! He quickly drew
away his fingers from it as if it burned them—but then again
 put back his hand and took out the little dish.
He scowled a little as he looked at the troublesome
porringer and remembered that after he had left old
Father Deaf-and-Blind the morning before, he had meant
to take it back as soon as dark fell and leave it on
the doorstep where he had found it. He was annoyed that
his mind had been so full of his new plans that he had
forgotten all about it when night came, and now he knew
he would not have time to hunt up the little yellow
house, even if he wanted to restore the porringer by
daylight and run the risk of having to make explanation
of his act.
So holding it a moment
uncer-  tainly, presently he walked over to the empty cupboard
and stood it up at the back of the shelf. He thought
that when he came back at the end of the week, he would
see about taking it to the little house. Then he pulled
the door shut behind him, and leaving the hut set out
for the quay.
At the end of a week the fishing vessel was again
moored in the old canal of Bruges. The catch had been
good, and there was a great chattering among the
fish-wives who came to buy the fish as they were
unloaded from the vessel. By and by, a group of them
caught sight of Hans, who was busily helping carry
the cargo to shore.
 "Look!" they cried, pointing their fingers at him,
"There is Hans the Robber! We have missed him for a
whole week! So he has turned sailor again! Ho! Ho!
Hans, Hans! Didst thou rob the captain of that coat?"
"No!" said Captain Helmgar, who was close by and
listening sharply to their wagging tongues, "No! Hush
your clamor! I gave him the coat myself, and he is the
best sailor that ever trod yonder deck!" and he waved
his hand toward the vessel beside him.
Now, Captain Helmgar quickly understood from the
fish-wives' talk that Hans had indeed borne a bad name,
as he had suspected the day he had first talked with
 him. But, nevertheless, he determined to give him a
fair chance to earn an honest living. In the week
Hans had been on the vessel he had proven a fine sailor
and had worked hard and faithfully; and Captain
Helmgar thought it a shame not to help him if he
was really trying to do better. So, when he paid him
his wages for the week's work, he shook him heartily
by the hand and told him that he had done well, and
that the next day they would set out again and that
he would expect Hans to go with
them. "And you might as well live on the boat while
you work for me," added Captain Helmgar kindly,
"for perhaps you have no home of your own."
 "No," said Hans, "I have none; nothing but an old
tumbledown hut that I would be glad never to see again!"
But just then he remembered the porringer, which
had quite passed out of his mind in the busy week of
the new life he had begun. He felt that he must get it
if it was still where he had left it; for though he
considered that the little dish had caused him no end
of bother, he had not given up the idea of taking it
back where it belonged.
So turning again to Captain Helmgar, he said, "It is
only a miserable place, the old hut, but there is
something there I must get before I come to stay on the
"Very well," replied the
cap-  tain, "go and get whatever you want; but be sure
and be back by afternoon, for there will be plenty of
work here to get ready for sailing
As Hans started off down the street he decided that
this was as good a time as any to hunt for
the little yellow house; for if he could slip away from the
fishing vessel for a little while that evening, as he
hoped, he wanted to know exactly where the house stood so he
need waste no time finding it.
So he threaded his way through the maze of
cobble-paved streets as nearly as he could remember in
the direction he had gone on the night before
 last he turned into The Little Street Of The Holy
Ghost, and, looking down it, yes, he was certain this
was the one for which he was searching.
Slackening his steps, as he walked slowly along he kept
looking out for the little house, which he had passed
hurriedly that Christmas eve and without especially
noticing it; though he remembered that it stood on a
corner, and he felt sure he would know it again.
Before long he came to it, and, sure enough, he knew
it at once. There was the wooden step on which the
porringer had stood, and Karen, with her little shawl
pinned about her shoulders, was sweeping it. As Hans
 slowly by, suddenly he stopped and said to Karen, "What
is thy name, little girl?"
Karen timidly lifted her blue eyes to his, and "Karen,
sir," she answered simply.
"Hast thou any brothers or sisters?" continued Hans.
"No, sir," said Karen wonderingly, "there is no one but
Grandmother and me. Did you want to see Grandmother?"
"No, no," muttered Hans hastily; and then, feeling
that he must make some excuse for his questions, "I
was only hunting where some one lives," he added, and
with an awkward bow to the little girl he passed
hurriedly on; though in doing so his keen eyes had
noticed Grandmother at the
 window bending over her lace-pillow.
"So," he said to himself, "that is the child the
porringer belongs to; and her Grandmother is a lace-maker!"
And again shame came to him because he had taken
the gift he felt sure had been meant for the little
He went on to the old tumbledown hut and pushed open
the door. No one had disturbed the place since he had
left it; indeed, it had been deserted when Hans had
taken possession of it, and since then no one had dared
molest it. The hut looked very bare and forlorn as Hans
stepped into it, and there was really nothing in it
that he cared to take with him; that is, nothing but
 the little porringer, which still stood back in the
dusty corner of the old cupboard. As he lifted it down
and looked at it, he fancied that Emschen smiled up
at him happily from between the rose-trees of the
bowl; and he tucked it very carefully into the pocket
of the decent coat Captain Helmgar had given him.
"Then he went back, retracing his steps all the way
till he reached The Little Street Of The Holy Ghost.
When again he came to the yellow house the door
was closed; and he had half a notion that he would
hurriedly set the porringer down on the step, even if
it was daylight.
But as he glanced up at the two little windows,
 Grandmother and Karen, and he could not do it right
under their eyes!
Hans frowned; it seemed as if he never could get rid of
this last bit of stolen property. For though he really
wanted to give the porringer back to Karen, he
could not bring himself to take
it to her and tell her he had
stolen it; nor could he bear to
have her see him leave it on the step and guess that he
had been a thief.
So there seemed nothing left for him to do but to carry
it on to the fishing vessel and put it in the locker
where he kept his few clothes, and then wait for
evening or some other chance to restore it. But the
chance did not
 come that evening, for Captain Helmgar had many
things for the sailors to do on the vessel, and so
Hans had to put off taking home the porringer till some
other time when he would return to Bruges.
And the odd part about it all was that the longer Hans
had the little porringer near him, the more attached to
it he grew, and the more he came to hate the thought of
giving it up! He kept it in his locker, and every day
he looked at it until he became almost superstitious
about it. Sometimes the little girl in it made him
think of Karen, but more often it was Emschen, and
always when he tried hard to do well he thought the
face smiled at him but when sometimes at first the
 work seemed hard and he would half think of going back
to his old robber life, then the little girl in the
porringer looked so sad and mournful that Hans always
gave over those half formed ideas and kept honestly on,
doing his work so well that Captain Helmgar came more
and more to trust and depend upon him.
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