|The Birds' Christmas Carol|
|by Kate Douglas Wiggin|
|Heartwarming story of the life of Carol Bird, who, though sickly herself, brings sunshine to all those around her, including the nine Ruggles children, whom she invites to a special Christmas dinner and celebration. Classic holiday book first published in 1887 and beloved by generations of children. Attractive color illustrations enliven the text. 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Ages 9-11 |
"BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER"
NCLE Jack did really come on the twentieth. He was not detained
by business, nor did he get left behind nor snowed up, as
frequently happens in stories, and in real life too, I am
afraid. The snow-storm came also; and the turkey nearly died a
natural and premature death from overeating. Donald came, too;
Donald, with a line of down upon his upper lip, and Greek and
Latin on his tongue, and stores of knowledge in his handsome
head, and stories—bless me, you could n't turn over a chip
without reminding Donald of something that happened "at College."
One or the other was always at Carol's bedside, for they fancied
her paler than she used to be, and they could not bear her out of
sight. It was Uncle Jack, though, who sat beside her in the
winter twilights. The room was quiet, and almost dark, save for
the snow-light outside, and the flickering flame of the
that danced over the "Sleeping Beauty's" face, and touched the
Fair One's golden locks with ruddier glory. Carol's hand (all
too thin and white these latter days) lay close clasped in Uncle
Jack's, and they talked together quietly of many, many things.
"I want to tell you all about my plans for Christmas this year,
Uncle Jack," said Carol, on the first evening of his visit,
"because it will be the loveliest one I ever had. The boys laugh
at me for caring so much about it; but it is n't altogether
because it is Christmas nor because it is my birthday; but long,
long ago, when I first began to be ill, I used to think, the
first thing when I waked on Christmas morning, 'To-day is
Christ's birthday—and mine!' I did not put the words close
together, you know, because that made it seem too bold; but I first said,
'Christ's birthday,' out loud, and then, in a minute, softly to
myself—'and mine!' 'Christ's
birthday—and mine!' And so I do not quite
feel about Christmas as other girls do. Mamma says she supposes
that ever so many other children have been born on that day. I
often wonder where they are, Uncle Jack, and whether it is a dear
thought to them, too, or whether I am so much in bed, and so
often alone, that it means
 more to me. Oh, I do hope that none
of them are poor, or cold, or hungry; and I wish—I wish they
were all as happy as I, because they are my little brothers and
sisters. Now, Uncle Jack dear, I am going to try and make
somebody happy every single Christmas that I live, and this year
it is to be the 'Ruggleses in the rear.' "
"That large and interesting brood of children in the little house
at the end of the back garden?"
"Yes; is n't it nice to see so many together?—and, Uncle
Jack, why do the big families live in the small houses, and the
small families in the big houses? We ought to call
them the Ruggles children, of course; but Donald began talking of
them as the 'Ruggleses in the rear,' and Papa and Mamma took it
up, and now we cannot seem to help it. The house was built for
Mr. Carter's coachman, but Mr. Carter lives in Europe, and the
gentleman who rents his place does n't care what happens to it,
and so this poor Irish family came to live there. When they
first moved in, I used to sit in my window and watch them play in
their back yard; they are so strong, and jolly, and
then, one day, I had a terrible headache, and Donald asked
them if they would please not scream quite so loud, and they
 explained that they were having a game of circus, but that they
would change and play 'Deaf and Dumb Asylum' all the afternoon."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Uncle Jack, "what an obliging family, to be
"Yes, we all thought it very funny, and I smiled at them from the
window when I was well enough to be up again. Now, Sarah Maud
comes to her door when the children come home from school, and if
Mamma nods her head, 'Yes,' that means 'Carol is very well,' and
then you ought to hear the little Ruggleses yell,—I believe they
try to see how much noise they can make; but if Mamma shakes her
head, 'No,' they always play at quiet games. Then, one day,
'Cary,' my pet canary, flew out of her cage, and Peter Ruggles
caught her and brought her back, and I had him up here in my room
to thank him."
"Is Peter the oldest?"
"No; Sarah Maud is the oldest—she helps do the washing; and
Peter is the next. He is a dressmaker's boy."
"And which is the pretty little red-haired girl?"
"And the fat youngster?"
 "And that—most freckled one?"
"Now, don't laugh—that's Peoria!"
"Carol, you are joking."
"No, really, Uncle dear. She was born in Peoria; that's all."
"And is the next boy Oshkosh?"
"No," laughed Carol, "the others are Susan, and Clement, and
Eily, and Cornelius; they all look exactly alike, except that some
of them have more freckles than the others."
"How did you ever learn all their names?"
"Well, I have what I call a 'window-school.' It is too cold now;
but in warm weather I am wheeled out on my balcony, and
the Ruggleses climb up and walk along our garden fence, and sit
down on the roof of our carriage-house. That brings them quite
near, and I tell them stories. On Thanksgiving
Day they came up for a few minutes,—it was quite
warm at eleven
o'clock,—and we told each other what we had to be thankful for;
but they gave such queer answers that Papa had to run away for
fear of laughing; and I could n't understand them very well.
Susan was thankful for 'trunks,' of all things in the world;
Cornelius, for 'horse cars;' Kitty, for 'pork steak;' while Clem,
who is very quiet, brightened up when I came to
 him, and said he
was thankful for 'his lame puppy.' Was n't that pretty?"
"It might teach some of us a lesson, might n't it, little girl?"
"That's what Mamma said. Now I'm going to give this whole
Christmas to the Ruggleses; and, Uncle Jack, I earned part of the
"You, my bird; how?"
"Well, you see, it could not be my own, own Christmas if Papa
gave me all the money, and I thought to really keep Christ's
birthday I ought to do something of my very own; and so I talked
with Mamma. Of course she thought of something lovely; she always
does: Mamma's head is just brimming over with
all I have to do is ask, and out pops the very one I want. This
thought was to let her write down, just as I told her, a
description of how a little girl lived in her own room for three
years, and what she did to amuse herself; and we sent it to a
magazine and got twenty-five dollars for it. Just think!"
"Well, well," cried Uncle Jack, "my little girl a real author!
And what are you going to do with this wonderful 'own' money of
"I shall give the nine Ruggleses a grand Christmas dinner here in
this very room—that will be
 Papa's contribution,—and afterwards
a beautiful Christmas tree, fairly blooming with presents—that
will be my part; for I have another way of adding to my
twenty-five dollars, so that I can buy nearly anything I choose. I
should like it very much if you would sit at the head of the
table, Uncle Jack, for nobody could ever be frightened of you,
you dearest, dearest, dearest thing that ever was! Mamma is going
to help us, but Papa and the boys are going to eat together
downstairs for fear of making the little Ruggleses shy; and after
we've had a merry time with the tree we can open my window and
all listen together to the music at the evening church-service,
if it comes before the children go. I have written a letter to
the organist, and asked him if I might have the two songs I like
best. Will you see if it is all right?"
BIRDS' NEST, December 21, 188-.
DEAR MR. WILKIE,—I am
the little girl
who lives next door to the church, and,
as I seldom go out, the music on practice days and Sundays is one
of my greatest pleasures.
I want to know if you can let the boys sing "Carol, brothers,
carol," on Christmas night, and if the boy who sings "My ain
countree" so beautifully may please sing that too. I think it is
the loveliest song in the world, but it always makes me cry;
does n't it you?
If it is n't too much trouble, I hope they can sing them both
quite early, as after ten o'clock I may be asleep.
Yours respectfully, CAROL BIRD.
 P.S.—The reason I like "Carol, brothers, carol," is because the
choir-boys sang it eleven years ago, the morning I was born, and
put it into Mamma's head to call me Carol. She did n't remember
then that my other name would be Bird, because she was half
asleep, and could n't think of but one thing at a time. Donald
says if I had been born on the Fourth of July they would have
named me "Independence," or if on the twenty-second of February,
"Georgina," or even "Cherry," like Cherry in "Martin Chuzzlewit;"
but I like my own name and birthday best.
Uncle Jack thought the letter quite right, and did not even smile
at her telling the organist so many family items.
The days flew
by as they always fly in holiday time, and it was Christmas Eve
before anybody knew it. The family festival was quiet and very
pleasant, but quite overshadowed by the grander preparations for
next day. Carol and Elfrida, her pretty German nurse, had
ransacked books, and introduced so many plans, and plays, and
customs and merry-makings from Germany, and Holland, and England
and a dozen other countries, that you would scarcely have known how
or where you were keeping Christmas. The dog and the cat had
enjoyed their celebration under Carol's direction. Each had a
tiny table with a lighted candle in the
 center, and a bit of
Bologna sausage placed very near it; and everybody laughed till
the tears stood in their eyes to see Villikins and Dinah struggle
to nibble the sausages, and at the same time to evade the candle
flame. Villikins barked, and sniffed, and howled in impatience,
and after many vain attempts succeeded in dragging off the prize,
though he singed his nose in doing it. Dinah, meanwhile, watched
him placidly, her delicate nostrils quivering with expectation,
and, after all excitement had subsided, walked with dignity to
the table, her beautiful gray satin trail sweeping behind her,
and, calmly putting up one velvet paw, drew the sausage gently
down, and walked out of the room without turning a hair, so to
speak. Elfrida had scattered handfuls of seeds over the snow in
the garden, that the wild birds might have a comfortable
breakfast next morning, and had stuffed bundles of dried grasses
in the fireplaces, so that the reindeer of Santa Claus could
refresh themselves after their long gallops across country. This
was really only done for fun, but it pleased Carol.
And when, after dinner, the whole family had gone to church to
see the Christmas decorations, Carol limped out on her
slender crutches, and with Elfrida's help, placed all the family
boots in a row
 in the upper hall. That was to keep the dear ones
from quarreling all through the year. There were Papa's stout
top boots; Mamma's pretty buttoned shoes next; then Uncle Jack's,
Donald's, Paul's and Hugh's; and at the end of the line her own
little white worsted slippers. Last, and sweetest of all, like
the little children in Austria, she put a lighted candle in her
window to guide the dear Christ-child, lest he should stumble in
the dark night as he passed up the deserted street. This done,
she dropped into bed, a rather tired, but very happy Christmas
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