A Cornish Tale about Our L’il Village by Sal Tregenna. The translated version.
Well me dears, by the time you read this it will be Christmas Eve, and you’ll all be ready for Christmas, and the dear children will be bursting with excitement, and counting the minutes until bed-time so as they can hitch up their stocking’s! And I’m sure I hope they’ll all be filled up, and bursting with good things, I do.
And now, seeing that Christmas is a children’s time, and that there would not be no Christmas worth keeping up, if it wasn’t for children, I’m going to write special for them this time. I’m going to tell them a little story about what happened one Christmas years ago, to two dear little children who had found out the real meaning of Christmas, and it’s a story that’ll do you grown-up ones good, too, if you mine to read it! The story begins in the proper way, like all good stories do. “Once upon a time, there lived in a little cottage, in a dear little village, a man and his wife, and their two little children, Tom and Mary. Tom was nine and Mary was just about eight, and their Daddy used to work on a farm, so you can fancy Tom and Mary wasn’t used to no great luxuries. Plain and simple fare, and plain and simple lives was their lot, but you would’n meet with two happier children not if you travelled the wide world over.”
Well, Christmas was drawing near, and like all other children, Tom and Mary were pretty and excited wondering what Father Christmas was going to put in their stockings. Every evening after supper was over, they’d all set around the fire, and Tom and Mary would holler up the chimney and tell ‘Santa’ what they’d like. Tom always wanted a train, and Mary allways wanted a dolly, among other things. One evening while this here game was going on Tom’s Father said, “My dear children, have you ever stopped to think how many children there is in the world, and how many stockings poor old Father Christmas has got to full up! If I was you I should’nt go asking for too much, because the poor old man won’t be able to carry it all.” “But Jackie Mason said Santa was going to bring him a bike, and a train and lines, and a gramophone, and ‘hundreds of things besides didn’t he ‘a Tom?” squeaks Mary, “Yes, he did,” said Tom, “and like I said to him, I don’t see why he should bring so many good things to him and poke me and Mary off with a little old sixpenny toy each, like he did last year!” Tom’s Mummy said, “Well, my dear, Jackie Mason isn’t strong and well like you be, and perhaps Santa Claus brings him better things because the poor little chap is so poorly sometimes. What do you think Daddy?” An’ Daddy said that was the reason, for certain. Then Mary said, “Aw, but Mum, Jackie Mason said Santa always brings a present for his Mummy and his Daddy besides all what he brings for him. Why doesn’t he bring presents for you and Dad?” “For the very same reason dears,” said their Mummy. “I dares Santa knows what a trial it is to Mister and Missus Mason to have a poor delicate little boy to look after, and he leaves a present for them too, to cheer them up.” Then she put away her mending and went to get the candle to put Tom and Mary to bed. And while she was out in the back house their Dad said, “You children could save up any odd coppers you get between now and Christmas and buy a little present for your Mam. You can do it all up nice, and us’ll put it in a stocking and hang it up for her, all perfect. Only you must not squeak a word about it! Us’ll keep it a lovely secret, us three!” The children were delighted, and went off to bed full of great plans. “And I’ll tell you what, Mary,” whispered Tom, just before they falled off to sleep. “If us can get enough money we’ll get something for Dad, too, and give him a grand prize too.”
CHOOSING THE PRESENTS.
Well, the weeks went by, and it was the day before Christmas Eve. Tom and Mary had saved up all their odd coppers, and they had the grand sum of eighteen pence. Course, that doesn’t seem a great lot, but it did to them, because they weren’t used to having much money. In the afternoon they went down and gazed in the shop windows, and tried to make up their minds what to buy. And at last they decided on a lovely brown teapot for their Mummy, with a ring o’ roses around it. “I know she wants a new one,” said Tom, “cuz there’s a bit knocked off the spout on the old one, and he dribbles most horrible, and I heard her say to Dad her wished her could afford a new one. Better go in and ask how much he is.” So in they goes and asked the price of the tea pot, and when the woman said he was two shilling’s, they were ready to cry. “Two shilling’s!” said Mary, when they go outside, “and’ us only have one and six and besides there’s Dad’s present to think about,” Then Tom had a brainwave. “Never mind, Mary, let’s go around singing carols, and try to get a mite more!” “But I can’t half sing; you know that,” said Mary, “with the tears running down her face. You always says I makes ‘ee all out.! “Never mind,” said Tom, “let’s try it!” So after a brave old persuasion they decided to make a start down to the Squire’s soon’s ever it got dummitty. “And seeing it wasn’t really Christmas till tomorrow, perhaps us shall be the first to go around,” said Tom.
“GOOD KING WENCESLAS!”
And so about a hour after, two little trembling children creeped up the Squire’s drive, through the rain, and the falling darkness, and at last fixed their selves up outside a lighted window in the front of the house. “Come on, Mary, think of that tea pot! Us got to give it lip if Mummy’s going have her Christmas present!”
And then they pitched up “Hark the Herald Angels sing.” And I’m sure the angels were listening, and were well pleased with their singing, though it wasn’t exactly in tune, and though Mary’s poor little voice wasn’t no more musical than a bee in a bottle! Anyway, they got through and then the door opened and the Squire and his Lady came out. Mary would have ran away if Tom hadn’t hollered “Tea pot” in her ear! “What did you say?” asked the Squire’s lady, looking very surprised. And then it all came out in a rush, and Tom told her how they wanted to buy the tea pot for his Mum, and something for his Daddy, too. And Squire put his hand in his pocket and gave Tom half-a-crown’ “But you got to sing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ to me before you go” he said “because that’s the one I like best.” And Tom and Mary sang with all their hearts, you may depend, and then went away as proud as if they owned the parish.
But when they got half way home they had to pass Widow Brown’s Cottage, and the blind wasn’t drawn, and they could see Widow Brown and her little boy, Sammy, sitting in the firelight. “Let’s give them a carol, Mary,” said Tom. “It might cheer them up, and I don’t suppose the other carol singers stop here, because they’m too poor to give them nort.” So they went forward outside the window, and just as they were going to pitch up, they heard Sam say, “I wish Santa would bring me that motor up in shop window, Ma.” “But it costs a shilling dear,” said Missus Brown, “so he won’t bring it for certain.” And then Tom saw a great shining teardrop fall down in Missus Brown’s lap. They creeped away, and after a minute Tom said, “Mary, if Santa won’t take the motor to Sammy, me and you will! I don’t believe Santa knows where Sam lives, because he never gave him anything last year! Us got four shilling’s now. That’s two shilling’s for Ma’s teapot, and a shilling for the motor for Sammy, and that leaves a shilling for Dad.” Mary thought they ought to spend the same on Dad’s present as they did on Mam’s, and they had a brave argument. But in the end they agreed to go and buy the teapot and the motor, and try to get another shilling next day to make up Dad’s money. And they never saw a silent figure that was following them, and listening to all they were saying!
BUYING’ THE PRESENT!
A few minutes later they were in the shop and had bought the teapot and the motor, and just as they were coming out of the shop, they saw the Squire standing inside the door! “Well,” said he, “and what about a present for your Dad? I been following you, and I know your plans, me dears, yes I do! I thought I’d make sure what you were up to with your money, and now I find you haven’t spent it upon yourselves, I’m going to help you to pick out a present for your Daddy!” No words can tell how glad the children were. In the end they bought a nice warm pair of wool gloves for their Dad, and the Squire and the shop keeper helped them to tie up the parcels, and write the names all on of them. Then they went ‘home, and smuggled their parcels upstairs, and hid them away under the bed. Next evening as soon as it got dimmitty they sneaked away off down Widow Brown’s and put the parcel upon the door step. Then they knocked the door and ran away, and hid in the bushes on the other side of the road. But they heard Sammy’s cries of delight when they found the motor, and they went away home to hang up their own stocking’s. I wish you could have been there Christmas morning when they woke up! Never in all their lives had Santa gave them so many toys, and such good ones. I guess that ole Squire must have seen Santa somewhere and put in a good word for them! And for their Mammy and Daddy, well they were glad over their presents, that they fairly cried with joy. And later on, when they went to Church Christmas morning with their Dad, they saw Sammy Brown, and he told them that Santa had given a grand motor, and later on in the evening he came back again and brought a picture book for Sam, and a great basket of good things for Christmas. That old Squire again. I shouldn’t wonder! I tell you my dears, if you give the right ‘spirit of Christmas there’s no end to it because other folks catches the infection, too!