The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle
She is not finished yet. Mamma will see how very beautiful she is; but papa will say, 'Tush! nonsense!--come in out of the cold!' "
"Let us call mamma to look out," said Peony; and then he shouted lustily, "Mamma! mamma!! mamma!!! Look out, and see what a nice 'ittle girl we are making!"
The mother put down her work for an instant, and looked out of the window.
But it so happened that the sun--for this was one of the shortest days of the whole year--had sunken so nearly to the edge of the world that his setting shine came obliquely into the lady's eyes.
So she was dazzled, you must understand, and could not very distinctly observe what was in the garden.
Still, however, through all that bright, blinding dazzle of the sun and the new snow, she beheld a small white figure in the garden, that seemed to have a wonderful deal of human likeness about it.
And she saw Violet and Peony,--indeed, she looked more at them than at the image,--she saw the two children still at work; Peony bringing fresh snow, and Violet applying it to the figure as scientifically as a sculptor adds clay to his model.
Indistinctly as she discerned the snow-child, the mother thought to herself that never before was there a snow-figure so cunningly made, nor ever such a dear little girl and boy to make it.
"They do everything better than other children," said she, very complacently. "No wonder they make better snow-images!"
She sat down again to her work, and made as much haste with it as possible; because twilight would soon come, and Peony's frock was not yet finished, and grandfather was expected, by railroad, pretty early in the morning.
Faster and faster, therefore, went her flying fingers. The children, likewise, kept busily at work in the garden, and still the mother listened, whenever she could catch a word.
She was amused to observe how their little imaginations had got mixed up with what they were doing, and carried away by it.
They seemed positively to think that the snow-child would run about and play with them.
"What a nice playmate she will be for us, all winter long!" said Violet. "I hope papa will not be afraid of her giving us a cold! Sha'n't you love her dearly, Peony?"
"Oh yes!" cried Peony. "And I will hug her, and she shall sit down close by me and drink some of my warm milk!"
"Oh no, Peony!" answered Violet, with grave wisdom.
"That will not do at all. Warm milk will not be wholesome for our little snow-sister.
Little snow people, like her, eat nothing but icicles. No, no, Peony; we must not give her anything warm to drink!"
There was a minute or two of silence; for Peony, whose short legs were never weary, had gone on a pilgrimage again to the other side of the garden.
All of a sudden, Violet cried out, loudly and joyfully,--"Look here, Peony! Come quickly!
A light has been shining on her cheek out of that rose-colored cloud! and the color does not go away! Is not that beautiful!"
"Yes; it is beau-ti-ful," answered Peony, pronouncing the three syllables with deliberate accuracy.
"O Violet, only look at her hair! It is all like gold!"
"Naughty father!" cried Peony, stamping his foot, and--I shudder to say--shaking his little fist at the common-sensible man.
"We told you how it would be! What for did you bring her in?"
And the Heidenberg stove, through the isinglass of its door, seemed to glare at good Mr. Lindsey, like a red-eyed demon, triumphing in the mischief which it had done!
This, you will observe, was one of those rare cases, which yet will occasionally happen, where common-sense finds itself at fault.
The remarkable story of the snow-image, though to that sagacious class of people to whom good Mr. Lindsey belongs it may seem but a childish affair, is, nevertheless, capable of being moralized in various methods, greatly for their edification.
One of its lessons, for instance, might be, that it behooves men, and especially men of benevolence, to consider well what they are about, and, before acting on their philanthropic purposes, to be quite sure that they comprehend the nature and all the relations of the business in hand.
What has been established as an element of good to one being may prove absolute mischief to another; even as the warmth of the parlor was proper enough for children of flesh and blood, like Violet and Peony,--though by no means very wholesome, even for them,--but involved nothing short of annihilation to the unfortunate snow-image.
But, after all, there is no teaching anything to wise men of good Mr. Lindsey's stamp.
They know everything,--oh, to be sure!--everything that has been, and everything that is, and everything that, by any future possibility, can be.
And, should some phenomenon of
nature or providence transcend their system, they will not recognize it, even if it come to pass under their very noses.
"Wife," said Mr. Lindsey, after a fit of silence, "see what a quantity of snow the children have brought in on their feet!
It has made quite a puddle here before the stove. Pray tell Dora to bring some towels and mop it up!"
"Oh certainly," said Violet, with tranquillity, as if it were very much a matter of course. "That color, you know, comes from the golden clouds, that we see up there in the sky.
She is almost finished now. But her lips must be made very red,--redder than her cheeks. Perhaps, Peony, it will make them red if we both kiss them!"
Accordingly, the mother heard two smart little smacks, as if both her children were kissing the snow-image on its frozen mouth.
But, as this did not seem to make the lips quite red enough, Violet next proposed that the snow-child should be invited to kiss Peony's scarlet cheek.
"Come, 'ittle snow-sister, kiss me!" cried Peony.
"There! she has kissed you," added Violet, "and now her lips are very red. And she blushed a little, too!"
"Oh, what a cold kiss!" cried Peony.
Just then, there came a breeze of the pure west-wind, sweeping through the garden and rattling the parlor-windows.
It sounded so wintry cold, that the mother was about to tap on the window-pane with her thimbled finger, to summon the two children in, when they both cried out to her with one voice.
The tone was not a tone of surprise, although they were evidently a good deal excited; it appeared rather as if they were very much rejoiced at some event that had now happened, but which they had been looking for, and had reckoned upon all along.
"Mamma! mamma! We have finished our little snow-sister, and she is running about the garden with us!"
At length, after a vast deal of trouble, he chased the little stranger into a corner, where she could not possibly escape him.
His wife had been looking on, and, it being nearly twilight, was wonder-struck to observe how the snow-child gleamed and sparkled, and how she seemed to shed a glow all round about her; and when driven into the corner, she positively glistened like a star!
It was a frosty kind of brightness, too, like that of an icicle in the moonlight. The wife thought it strange that good Mr. Lindsey should see nothing remarkable in the snow-child's appearance.
"Come, you odd little thing!" cried the honest man, seizing her by the hand, "I have caught you at last, and will make you comfortable in spite of yourself.
We will put a nice warm pair of worsted stockings on your frozen little feet, and you shall have a good thick shawl to wrap yourself in.
Your poor white nose, I am afraid, is actually frost-bitten. But we will make it all right. Come along in."
And so, with a most benevolent smile on his sagacious visage, all purple as it was with the cold, this very well-meaning gentleman took the snow-child by the hand and led her towards the house.
She followed him, droopingly and reluctant; for all the glow and sparkle was gone out of her figure; and whereas just before she had resembled a bright, frosty, star-gemmed evening, with a crimson gleam on the cold horizon, she now looked as dull and languid as a thaw.
As kind Mr. Lindsey led her up the steps of the door, Violet and Peony looked into his face,--their eyes full of tears, which froze before they could run down their cheeks,--and again entreated him not to bring their snow-image into the house.
"Not bring her in!" exclaimed the kind-hearted man. "Why, you are crazy, my little Violet!--quite crazy, my small Peony!
She is so cold, already, that her hand has almost frozen mine, in spite of my thick gloves. Would you have her freeze to death?"
His wife, as he came up the steps, had been taking another long, earnest, almost awe-stricken gaze at the little white stranger.
She hardly knew whether it was a dream or no; but she could not help fancying that she saw the delicate print of Violet's fingers on the child's neck.
It looked just as if, while Violet was shaping out the image, she had given it a gentle pat with her hand, and had neglected to smooth the impression quite away.
"After all, husband," said the mother, recurring to her idea that the angels would be as much delighted to play with Violet and Peony as she herself was,--"after all, she does look strangely like a snow-image! I do believe she is made of snow!"The Snow Image: A Childish Miracle 1
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