Christmas A Story
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It was in October that Mary Chavah burned over the grass of her lawn, and the flame ran free across the place where in Spring her wild flower bed was made. Two weeks later she had there a great patch of purple violets. And all Old Trail Town, which takes account of its neighbours' flowers, of the migratory birds, of eclipses, and the like, came to see the wonder.
"Mary Chavah!" said most of the village, "you're the luckiest woman alive. If a miracle was bound to happen, it'd get itself happened to you."
"That is miracles," Jenny wrote back. "They do come natural—we don't know how."
"At this rate," said Ellen Bourne, one of Mary's neighbours, "you'll be having roses bloom in your yard about Christmas time. For a Christmas present."
"I don't believe in Christmas," Mary said. "I thought you knew that. But I'll take the roses, though, if they come in the Winter," she added, with her queer flash of smile.
When it was dusk, or early in the morning, Mary Chavah, with her long shawl over her head, stooped beside the violets and loosened the earth about them with her whole hand, and as if she reverenced violets more than finger tips. And she thought:—
But whatever she thought about it, Mary kept in her heart. For it was as if not only Spring, but new life, or some other holy thing were nearer than one thought and had spoken to her, there on the edge of Winter.
And Old Trail Town asked itself:—
"Ain't Mary Chavah the funniest? Look how nice she is about everything—and yet you know she won't never keep Christmas at all. No, sir. She ain't kept a single Christmas in years. I donno why...."
Moving about on his little lawn in the dark, Ebenezer Rule was aware of two deeper shadows before him. They were between him and the leafless lilacs and mulberries that lined the street wall. A moment before he had been looking at that darkness and remembering how, once, as a little boy, he had slept there under the wall and had dreamed that he had a kingdom.
"Who is't?" he asked sharply.
"Hello, Ebenezer," said Simeon Buck, "it's only me and Abel. We're all."
Ebenezer Rule came toward them. It was so dark that they could barely distinguish each other. Their voices had to do it all.
"Oh, nothing," said Ebenezer, irritably, "not a thing."
He did not ask them to go in the house, and the three stood there awkwardly, handling the time like a blunt instrument. Then Simeon Buck, proprietor of the Simeon Buck North American Dry Goods Exchange, plunged into what they had come to say.
"Ebenezer," he said, with those variations of intonation which mean an effort to be delicate, "is—is there any likelihood that the factory will open up this Fall?"
"No, there ain't," Ebenezer said, like something shutting.
"Nor—nor this Winter?" Simeon pursued.
"No, sir," said Ebenezer, like something opening again to shut with a bang.
"Well, if you're sure—" said Simeon.
Ebenezer cut him short. "I'm dead sure," he said. "I've turned over my orders to my brother's house in the City. He can handle 'em all and not have to pay his men a cent more wages." And this was as if something had been locked....