The Three Kings; A Legend of the Middle Ages
-by John of Hildesheim
Modernized by H. S. Morris
Her father had died when she was a baby, and her mother was very poor and had to work hard all day in the fields for a few sous.
Little Piccola had no dolls and toys, and she was often hungry and cold, but she was never sad nor lonely.
What if there were no children for her to play with! What if she did not have fine clothes and beautiful toys! In summer there were always the birds in the forest, and the flowers in the fields and meadows, -- the birds sang so sweetly, and the flowers were so bright and pretty!
In the winter when the ground was covered with snow, Piccola helped her mother, and knit long stockings of blue wool.
The snow-birds had to be fed with crumbs, if she could find any, and then, there was Christmas Day.
But one year her mother was ill and could not earn any money. Piccola worked hard all the day long, and sold the stockings which she knit, even
when her own little bare feet were blue with the cold.
As Christmas Day drew near she said to her mother, "I wonder what the good Saint Nicholas will bring me this year. I cannot hang my stocking in the fireplace, but I shall put my wooden shoe on the hearth for him. He will not forget me, I am sure."
"Do not think of it this year, my dear child," replied her mother. "We must be glad if we have bread enough to eat."
But Piccola could not believe that the good saint would forget her. On Christmas Eve she put her little wooden patten on the hearth before the fire, and went to sleep to dream of Saint Nicholas.
As the poor mother looked at the little shoe, she thought how unhappy her dear child would be to find it empty in the morning, and wished that she had something, even if it were only a tiny cake, for a Christmas gift. There was nothing in the house but a few sous, and these must be saved to buy bread.
When the morning dawned Piccola awoke and ran to her shoe.
Saint Nicholas had come in the night. He had not forgotten the little child who had thought of him with such faith.
See what he had brought her. It lay in the
wooden patten, looking up at her with its two bright eyes, and chirping contentedly as she stroked its soft feathers.
A little swallow, cold and hungry, had flown into the chimney and down to the room, and had crept into the shoe for warmth.
Piccola danced for joy, and clasped the shivering swallow to her breast.
She ran to her mother's bedside. "Look, look!" she cried. "A Christmas gift, a gift from the good Saint Nicholas!" And she danced again in her little bare feet.
Then she fed and warmed the bird, and cared for it tenderly all winter long; teaching it to take crumbs from her hand and her lips, and to sit on her shoulder while she was working.
In the spring she opened the window for it to fly away, but it lived in the woods near by all summer, and came often in the early morning to sing its sweetest songs at her door.
BY COUNT FRANZ POCCI [TRANSLATED]
Marie. They were obedient and pious and the joy and comfort of their poor parents.
One winter evening, this good family gathered about the table to eat their small loaf of bread, while the father read aloud from the Bible. Just as they sat down there came a knock on the window, and a sweet voice called: --
"O let me in! I am a little child, and I have nothing to eat, and no place to sleep in. I am so cold and hungry! Please, good people, let me in!"
Valentine and Marie sprang from the table and ran to open the door, saying: --
"Come in, poor child, we have but very little ourselves, not much more than thou hast, but what we have we will share with thee."
The stranger Child entered, and going to the fire began to warm his cold hands.
The children gave him a portion of their bread, and said: --
"Thou must be very tired; come, lie down in our bed, and we will sleep on the bench here before the fire."
Then answered the stranger Child: "May God in Heaven reward you for your kindness."
They led the little guest to their small room, laid him in their bed, and covered him closely, thinking to themselves: --
"Oh! how much we have to be thankful for! We have our nice warm room and comfortable
bed, while this Child has nothing but the sky for a roof, and the earth for a couch."
When the parents went to their bed, Valentine and Marie lay down on the bench before the fire, and said one to the other: --
"The stranger Child is happy now, because he is so warm! Good-night!"
Then they fell asleep.
They had not slept many hours, when little Marie awoke, and touching her brother lightly, whispered:
"Valentine, Valentine, wake up! wake up! Listen to the beautiful music at the window."
Valentine rubbed his eyes and listened. He heard the most wonderful singing and the sweet notes of many harps.
The children listened to the beautiful singing, and it seemed to fill them with unspeakable happiness.
They saw a rosy light in the east, and, before the house in the snow, stood a number of little children holding golden harps and lutes in their hands, and dressed in sparkling, silver robes.
Full of wonder at this sight, Valentine and Marie continued to gaze out at the window, when they heard a sound behind them, and turning saw the stranger Child standing near. He was clad in a golden garment, and wore a glistening, golden crown upon his soft hair. Sweetly he spoke to the children:
"I am the Christ Child, who wanders about the world seeking to bring joy and good things to loving children. Because you have lodged me this night I will leave with you my blessing."
As the Christ Child spoke He stepped from the door, and breaking off a bough from a fir tree that grew near, planted it in the ground, saying: --
"This bough shall grow into a tree, and every year it shall bear Christmas fruit for you."
Having said this He vanished from their sight, together with the silver-clad, singing children -- the angels.
And, as Valentine and Marie looked on in wonder, the fir bough grew, and grew, and grew, into a stately Christmas Tree laden with golden apples, silver nuts, and lovely toys. And after that, every year at Christmas time, the Tree bore the same wonderful fruit.
And you, dear boys and girls, when you gather around your richly decorated trees, think of the two poor children who shared their bread with a stranger child, and be thankful.
So he went forth and came to a right great king, whom fame said was the greatest of the world. And when the king saw him he received him into his service, and made him to dwell in his court.
Upon a time a minstrel sang before him a song in which he named oft the devil. And the king, who was a Christian, when he heard him name the devil, made anon the sign of the cross.
And when Christopher saw that he marveled, and asked what the sign might mean. And because
the king would not say, he said: "If thou tell me not, I shall no longer dwell with thee."
And then the King told him, saying: "Alway when I hear the devil named make I this sign lest he grieve or annoy me."
Then said Christopher to him: "Fearest thou the devil? Then is the devil more mighty and greater than thou art. I am then deceived, for I had supposed that I had found the most mighty and the most greatest lord in all the world! Fare thee well, for I will now go seek the devil to be my lord and I his servant."
So Christopher departed from this king and hastened to seek the devil. And as he went by a great desert he saw a company of knights, and one of them, a knight cruel and horrible, came to him and demanded whither he went.
And Christopher answered: "I go to seek the devil for to be my master."
Then said the knight: "I am he that thou seekest."
And then Christopher was glad and bound himself to be the devil's servant, and took him for his master and lord.
Now, as they went along the way they found there a cross, erect and standing. And anon as the devil saw the cross he was afeared and fled. And when Christopher saw that he marveled and demanded why he was afeared, and why he fled
away. And the devil would not tell him in no wise.
Then Christopher said to him: "If thou wilt not tell me, I shall anon depart from thee and shall serve thee no more."
Wherefore the devil was forced to tell him and said: "There was a man called Christ, which was hanged on the cross, and when I see his sign I am sore afraid and flee from it."
To whom Christopher said: "Then he is greater and more mightier than thou, since thou art afraid of his sign,and I see well that I have labored in vain, and have not founden the greatest lord of the world. I will serve thee no longer, but I will go seek Christ."
And when Christopher had long sought where he should find Christ, at last he came into a great desert, to a hermit that dwelt there. And he inquired of him where Christ was to be found.
Then answered the hermit: "The king whom thou desirest to serve, requireth that thou must often fast."
Christopher said: "Require of me some other thing and I shall do it, but fast I may not."
And the hermit said: "Thou must then wake and make many prayers."
And Christopher said: "I do not know how to pray, so this I may not do."
And the hermit said: "Seest thou yonder deep and wide river, in which many people have perished? Because thou art noble, and of high stature and strong of limb, so shalt thou live by the river and thou shalt bear over all people who pass that way. And this thing will be pleasing to our Lord Jesu Christ, whom thou desirest to serve, and I hope he shall show himself to thee."
Then said Christopher: "Certes, this service may I well do, and I promise Him to do it."
Then went Christopher to this river, and built himself there a hut. He carried a great pole in his hand, to support himself in the water, and bore over on his shoulders all manner of people to the other side. And there he abode, thus doing many days.
And on a time, as he slept in his hut, he heard the voice of a child which called him: --
"Christopher, Christopher, come out and bear me over."
Then he awoke and went out, but he found no man. And when he was again in his house he heard the same voice, crying: --
"Christopher, Christopher, come out and bear me over."
And he ran out and found nobody.
And the third time he was called and ran thither, and he found a Child by the brink of the river, which prayed him goodly to bear him over the water.
And when he was escaped with great pain, and passed over the water, and set the Child aground, he said: --
"Child, thou hast put me in great peril. Thou weighest almost as I had all the world upon me. I might bear no greater burden."
And the Child answered: "Christopher, marvel thee nothing, for thou hast not only borne all the world upon thee, but thou hast borne Him that created and made all the world, upon thy shoulders. I am Jesu Christ the King whom thou servest. And that thou mayest know that I say the truth, set thy staff in the earth by thy house, and thou shalt see to-morn that it shall bear flowers and fruit."
And anon the Child vanished from his eyes.
And then Christopher set his staff in the earth, and when he arose on the morn, he found his staff bearing flowers, leaves, and dates.
THE CHRISTMAS ROSE AN OLD LEGEND BY LIZZIE DEAS [ADAPTED]
WHEN the Magi laid their rich offerings of myrrh, frankincense, and gold, by the bed of the sleeping Christ Child, legend says that a shepherd maiden stood outside the door quietly weeping.
She, too, had sought the Christ Child. She, too, desired to bring him gifts. But she had nothing to offer, for she was very poor indeed. In vain she had searched the countryside over for one little flower to bring Him, but she could find neither bloom nor leaf, for the winter had been cold.
And as she stood there weeping, an angel passing saw her sorrow, and stooping he brushed aside the snow at her feet. And there sprang up on the spot a cluster of beautiful winter roses, -- waxen white with pink tipped petals.
"Nor myrrh, nor frankincense, nor gold," said the angel, "is offering more meet for the Christ Child than these pure Christmas Roses."
Joyfully the shepherd maiden gathered the flowers and made her offering to the Holy Child.