A Christmas Story
from Francois Coppee
It was so long ago that the whole world has forgotten the date
and even the name of the little town in which lived a little
boy whose name was Hans.
Little Hans lived with his aunt, who was quite an old lady.
She was not always kind to Hans, but this made no difference
to him. He loved her just the same, and forgot that she was ever
cross and very unkind to him at times.
Hans went to school with many other boys, but he was not clothed
as they were. He had to wear the same clothes both week days
and Sundays; the same even in the summer that he wore in the
It was now midwinter, when everything was wrapped in snow and
glazed with ice, while the north winds sang loud and whistled
down the chimneys, played very roughly with the bare trees, and
every crack and crevice of the house. The frost, too, was busy
pinching the cheeks and biting the toes of the boys, and making
them run, jump and dance to keep warm.
The children were wild with the excitement and the joy that
was astir at this time. For there were secrets in the air. Every
one was busy making gifts for some loved one.
It was the night before Christmas, the one great birthday on
which the whole world rejoiceth and when all endeavor to make
their fellow men happy.
The schoolmaster and all of his pupils started for the midnight
worship and prayer at the church. All of the boys were well clothed,
with heavy coats, fur caps, thick mittens, and very heavy and
warm shoes. But
little Hans had only a poor, plain, ragged suit, with no overcoat,
no mittens, and his shoes were only wooden ones. It was a very
cold night, and the boys and the schoolmaster had to walk very
fast to keep warm. But little Hans did not mind the cold so much,
because the stars smiled down upon him and seemed like so many
diamonds set in a deep blue canopy, each one glittering and flashing
in the darkness. The snow, too, was a sparkling mass, and Hans
wondered if the stars could see themselves reflected in the tiny
snow crystals which covered the earth.
At last they reached the church, whose windows were shedding
forth a soft, golden light on the stillness and darkness of the
cold winter night. This little group of worshipers quietly passed
into the church
and sank noiselessly into their pews. It was a beautiful place
to Hans. He loved it dearly, and was always happy to come here.
The candles were all lighted, and they burned steadily brighter
and brighter, filling the church with a beautiful mellow light.
The grand old organ softly and clearly sent forth its tones,
each one growing richer, deeper and sweeter, and gradually the
voices of the choir boys and the tones of the organ filled the
old church with such beautiful music that little Hans's heart
seemed to bound within him, and his whole soul was enraptured,
while there shone from his face a radiance that only a divine
inspiration could bring forth.
At length, after the people had sung, each one knelt and offered
thanksgiving to the Heavenly Father, little Hans, too, knelt
and offered thanks for the blessings which he had received during
that year, and for the tender care of the Father of all.
The people then quietly passed out of the warm church into the
cold of the night. Hans was the last one out, and as he carefully
made his way down the icy steps he noticed a little boy no larger
than himself sitting on the steps, with his head resting against
the church. He was fast asleep. His face was beautiful, and seemed
clothed in a golden light. Beside him, tied in a cloth, were
a square, a hammer, a saw and other tools of a carpenter. He
had neither shoes nor stockings on his feet, although his clothing
was spotless and of the purest white. It grieved Hans that the
child should have no shoes, not even one to place for the Christ-child
to fill with gifts.
Hans stooped and took from his right foot the wooden shoe and
placed it in front of the sleeping child, so that the Christ-child
would not pass him by. Hans then limped along on the ice and
snow, not feeling how cold it was, but only thinking of the poor
child asleep out in the cold.
The other boys were talking of the good things awaiting them
at home, of the feasts, the plum pudding, the Christmas trees,
and the many drums, wagons and blocks the Christ-child would
put in their shoes that night.
When Hans arrived home he found his aunt awaiting him, and when
she saw that he had only one shoe, and he had told her all about
the other one, she was very angry with him, and sent him to bed.
Hans placed the wooden shoe from his left foot at the fireside,
hoping that the Christ-child would remember him as he passed
The first sunbeam that crept into Hans's bedroom and kissed
him the next morning awoke him, and he bounded downstairs, and
flew to the great open fireplace to find his shoe.
Hans rubbed his eyes and caught his breath, for, to his great
surprise, there were both of his wooden shoes, filled with beautiful
toys; by the fireside he found warm clothing and many other things
to make him comfortable and happy.
Hearing loud voices, Hans went to the door. The people were
standing in a crowd about the priest, who was talking to them.
He told Hans that where he had seen the child asleep on the church
steps there was now in
the window above a beautiful crown set with precious jewels.
He said that the child was the Christ-child, whom the Heavenly
Father had again sent among men on earth for that night, and
that it was He with whom Hans had shared his wooden shoes.
The people bowed themselves before that miracle that the good
God had seen fit to work, to reward the faith and charity of