A CHRISTMAS STORY
 

This story, published in 1884 and discovered on the bookshelves of the Mather Homestead, was written by Massachusetts author Mrs. Sophia P. Snow, and published in this book of Christmas stories by Henry 
Floy, Stephen Tyng Mather's brother-in-law.  It tells the delightful story of two young children on Christmas Eve who had lost their mother and whose father had lost Christmas in his heart. 

We hope that this story brings you a smile this Christmas season! 
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Annie and Willie's Prayer
by Mrs. Sophia P. Snow

‘Twas the night before Christmas:
"Good-night," had been said,
And Annie and Willie had crept into bed.
There were tears on their pillows, and tears in their eyes,
And each little bosom was heaving with sighs;
For to-night their stern fathers's command had been given
That they should retire precisely at seven--
Instead of at eight-- for they trouble him more
With questions unheard of than ever before.
He had told them he thought this delusion a sin,
No such creature as "Santa Claus" ever had been;
And he hoped, after this, he should never more hear
How he scrambled down chimneys with presents each year.
And this was the reason that two little heads
So restlessly toss'd on their soft, downy beds.
Eight, nine, and the clock on the step toll'd ten;
Not a word had been spoken by either, till then;
When Willie’s sad face from the blanket did peep,
And whispered, "Dear Annie, is 'ou fast aseep?"
"Why no, Brother Willie," a sweet voice replies,
"I've long tried in vain, but I can't shut my eyes;
For somehow it makes  me so sorry because
Dear papa has said there is no 'Santa Claus.'
Now we know there is, and it can't be denied,
For he came every year before mamma died;
But, then, I've been thinking that she used to pray,
And God would hear everything mamma would say,
And maybe she ask'd him to send Santa Claus here
With the sack full of presents he brought every year."
"Well, why tan't we pay, dust as mama did den, 
And ask Dod to send him with pesents aden?
"I've been thinking so too," -- and with out a word more
Four little bare feet bounded out on the floor, 
And four little knees the soft carpet press'd,
And two tiny hands were clasp'd close to each breast.
"Now Willie, you know we must firmly believe
That the presents we ask for we're sure to receive;
You must wait very still till I say the 'Amen,'
And by that you will know that your turn has come then."
'Dear Jesus, look down on my brother and me,
And grant us the favor we're asking of thee.
I want a wax dolly, a tea-set, and ring,
And an ebony work-box that shuts with a spring:
Bless papa, dear Jesus, and cause him to see
That Santa Claus loves us as much as does he:
Don't let him get fretful and angry again
At dear brother Willie and Annie. Amen."
"Pease, Desus, 'et Santa Taus tum down to-night,
And bing us some pesents before it is 'ight;
I want he sood div' me a nice 'ittle sed,
Wid bight shinin 'unners, and all painted 'ed;
A box full of tandy, a book, and a toy,
Amen. And den, Desus, I'll be a dood boy."

THEIR REST
Their prayers being ended, they rais'd up their heads,
And, with hearts light and cheerful, again sought their beds.
They were soon lost in slumber, both peaceful and deep,
And with fairies in dream-land were roaming in sleep.

Eight, nine, and the little French clock had struck ten,
Ere the father had thought of his children again:
He seems now to hear Annie's half suppress'd sighs,
And to see the big tears stand in Willie's blue eyes.
"I was harsh with my darlings," he mentally said,
"And should not have sent them so early to bed;
But then I was troubled; my feelings found vent?;
For bank-stock to-day has gone down ten per cent.
But of course they've forgotten their troubles ere this,
And that I denied them the thrice-ask’d-for kiss:
But, just to make sure, I'll steal up to their door--
To my darlings I never spoke harshly before."

So saying, he softly ascended the stairs,
And arrived at the door to hear both of their prayers;
His Annie's "Bless papa" drew forth the big tears,
And Willie's grave promise fell sweet on his ears.
"Strange-- Strange -- I'd forgotten," said he, with a sigh,
"How I long'd when a child to have Christmas draw nigh."
I'll atone for my harshness," he inwardly said,
"By answering their prayers ere I sleep in my bed." 
Then he turn'd to the stairs and softly went down,
Threw off velvet slippers and silk dressing-gown,
Donn'd hat, coat, and boots, and was out in the street--
A millionaire facing the cold, driving sleet!
Not stopp'd he until he had brought every thing,
From the box full of candy to the tiny gold ring;
Indeed, he kept adding so much to his store, 
That the various presents outnumber'd a score.
Then homeward he turn'd, when his holiday load,
With Aunt Mary's help, in the nursery was stow'd.
Miss Dolly was seated beneath a pine tree,
By the side of a table spread out for her tea;
A work-box, well fill'd, in the center was laid,
And on it the ring for which Annie had pray'd;
A soldier in uniform stood by a sled 
"With bright shining runners, and all painted red."
There were balls, dogs, and horses; books pleasing to see;
And birds of all colors were perch'd in the tree;
While Santa Claus, laughing, stood up in the top,
As if getting ready more presents to drop.

Now as the fond father the picture survey'd,
He thought for his trouble he'd amply been paid;
And he said to himself, as he brush'd off a tear,
"I'm happier to-night than I've been for a year;
I've enjoy'd more true pleasure than ever before;
What care I if bank-stock falls ten percent. more!
Hereafter I'll make it a rule, I believe,
To have Santa Claus visit us each Christmas Eve."

So thinking, he gently extinguish'd the light,
And, tripping down stairs, retired for the night.

THE MORNING
As soon as the beams of the bright morning sun
Put the darkness to flight, and the stars by one,
Four little blue eyes out of sleep open'd wide,
And at the same moment the presents espied;
Then out of their beds they sprang with a bound,
And the very gifts pray'd for were all of them found.
They laugh'd and they cried, in their innocent glee,
And shouted for papa to come quick, and see
What presents old Santa Claus brought in the night,
(Just the things that they wanted!) and left before light.
"And now," added Annie, in voice soft and low,
"You'll believe there's a Santa Claus, papa, I know;"
While dear little Willie climb'd up on his knee,
Determin'd no secret between them should be.
And told, in soft whispers, how Annie had said
That their dear blessed mamma, so long ago dead,
Used to kneel down and pray, by the side of her chair,
And that God up in heaven had answer'd her prayer.
"Den we dot up and pay'd dust well as we took,
And Dod answer'd our payers; now wasn't he dood?"
"I should say that he was, if he sent you all these,
And knew just what presents my children would please.
(Well, well, let him think so, the dear little elf;
'Twould be cruel to tell him I did it myself.")
____
Blind father! who caus'd your stern heart to relent,
And the hasty words spoken so soon to repent?
'Twas the Being who bade you steal softly up stairs,
And made you his agent to answer their prayers.

Sophia P. Snow