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The Christmas Child   By: (1832-1911)

Book cover

First Page:

THE CHRISTMAS CHILD

BY

HESBA STRETTON

AUTHOR OF "JESSICA'S FIRST PRAYER"

ILLUSTRATED BY K. STREET

NEW YORK THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO. PUBLISHERS

COPYRIGHT, 1909 BY THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO.

Published, September, 1909

THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.

[Illustration: NATHAN LIGHTED HER STEPS]

[Illustration: Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE COMING OF JOAN 1

II. JOAN'S SEARCH 10

III. THE CHILD IN THE MANGER 28

IV. LOST AND FOUND 40

ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

Nathan lighted her steps Frontispiece

The two were never apart 8

Joan saw her aunt standing by her bedside 54

Nathan came upstairs to visit Rhoda 60

THE CHRISTMAS CHILD

CHAPTER I

THE COMING OF JOAN

Along some parts of the coast in South Wales the mountains rise abruptly from the shore, with only a narrow shingle between them and the sea.

High above the coast, however, there are warm, sunny little valleys and dells among the hills, where sheep can find pasture and a fold; and here there are many small farmsteads, surrounded by wild rocks and bleak uplands, where the farmer and his family live with their servants, if they happen to have any, as they used to do in old times, sitting in the same kitchen, and taking their meals together as one household.

Miss Priscilla Parry was the last of three leaseholders of one of these little farms. Her grandfather had enclosed the meadows and the corn fields from the open mountain, on condition that he should have a lease for three lives from the owner of the land. His own and his son's had been two of the lives, and Priscilla's was the third.

The farm was poor, for the land was hard to cultivate. In every field there were places where the rocks pierced through the scanty soil, and stood out, grey and sharp, amid the grass and the ripening corn. The salt laden winds and the fogs from the sea swept over them. Miss Priscilla spent no money in draining or manuring them; for was not the lease to pass away when she died, and she was nearly sixty years of age already?

But the sheep and the cows throve wonderfully on the short, sweet herbage they browsed on the mountains; and her butter and cheese, and the mutton she sold to the butchers, were known through all the country. Nobody could produce finer. Every one knew she was saving money up in her little mountain farmstead, and the money was being carefully laid by for Rhoda Parry, the niece she had adopted in her infancy and brought up as her own child.

Miss Priscilla was a spare, hard featured woman, with a weather stained face, and hands as horny as a man's with farm work. Twice a week she wore a bonnet and shawl, when she went to market or church. All other times her head was covered by a cotton hood, which could not be damaged by rain, snow, or wind; and in bad weather she often went about her farm with an old sack over her shoulders. Her shoes were as thick and as heavily nailed as old Nathan's, her head servant, and she strode in and out of her sheds and stables and pigsties as if she had been a man. It was said she could get more work done for smaller wages than any farmer in the country.

There was not a prettier girl in all the parish, which was ten miles across, than Rhoda Parry, and she was always prettily and daintily dressed. She had her share of the work to do, but it was the easiest and most pleasant... Continue reading book >>




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