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The Nuts   By: (1837-1898)

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THE NUTS

A Christmas Story for my Children and Grandchildren

By Georg Ebers

The wounded colonel, whom we were nursing back to health in our house, was not allowed to walk long, and in the after noon, after he had pottered about a little, he was obliged to rest in the comfortable old easy chair, which was known as grandfather's chair.

When twilight fell, our dear guest lighted the last of the three pipes, which the doctor permitted him to smoke every day, and made a sign to the children, which the young people obeyed gladly, for they loved to listen to his stories.

The convalescent was under orders not to talk for more than half an hour at a time, for his wounds were so severe that our experienced physician declared it to be contrary to the laws of nature and quite phenomenal that he should be among the living at all.

As for his stories, they had never failed to hold the attention of his audience; this was partly due to the fact that he usually had to break them off at the point where the interest had reached its climax. Moreover, the deep voice of the narrator was much gentler than one would have expected, after looking at the broad shouldered, heavy figure, and there lay in his suppressed, and often whispered tones a secret charm, which the children were not the only ones to feel; besides which his eyes produced their share of the profound impression, for every emotion that disturbed his easily excited soul found a reflection therein.

That the colonel openly preferred our six year old Hermy to his brothers and sisters was due to the circumstance that the child had once burst into tears at a look from the officer, which the latter employed to call the children to order, if they were inattentive, or exhibited signs of unbelief when he had not expected it. After this Hermy was so evidently his darling that there was no further chance for Hermy's younger sister, who had at first promised to be the favourite, and I shall never forget the soft, almost motherly, caressing tones that came from that grey bearded man with the large round head and strong face, when he sought to comfort the child.

It was remarkable to see how easily this man, who was accustomed to obedience, and famous for his bravery and keen energy, could become a child among children. He had lost a beloved wife, a little son, about Hermy's age, and a young daughter, and no doubt our numerous family reminded him of these departed ones. As for his tales, he separated them into distinct categories. Some of them he began with the words: "Here I am," and then he held himself strictly to the truth. Others began: "Once upon a time." While the former were drawn mostly from his own full and eventful life, the latter were fairy stories, pure and simple, sometimes already well known, sometimes made up, wherein fairies, ghosts, elves, gnomes, goblins and dragons, will o' the wisps, nixies, kelpies and dwarfs disported themselves.

Christmas was approaching, and the next day, Christmas eve, the tree was to be lighted. On the twenty third of December, a little while before the hour for story telling, Hermy came home, and exhibited to his brothers the trifling presents, which he had chosen: an eraser for his father, a lead pencil for his mother, a bag of nuts for his grandmother, and similar trifles which, though insignificant in themselves, had nevertheless exhausted his little store of savings. His elder brothers, to whom he had exhibited with great pride these purchases, expressed none of the admiration which he had expected, but began to tease him by calling the things "trash," as indeed they were, and poking fun at the "wonderful presents" of their small brother; they would have been less cruel, perhaps, had he been one of their sisters.

Karl wanted to know what their father, who never was known to make a drawing, would do with an eraser, and Kurt added that he did not see the use of giving their grandmother nuts, when she had more in her own garden than all of them put together would receive on ten Christmas eves... Continue reading book >>




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