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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sample Sunday: The Romance of a Christmas Card

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The newest addition to the Legacy Vintage Collection is a heartwarming tale set in Beulah, New Hampshire, in 1916, where one special Christmas card has the power to unite the town in the spirit of the season, as two wayward sons find their way home and a lonely young mother’s prayers are answered. In this sample from Chapter Two, Reba Larrabee, the minister's wife, finds inspiration for a Christmas card in her best friend Letty:

Letty, do you remember I told you I'd been trying my hand on some verses for a Christmas card?"

"Yes; have you sent them anywhere?"

"Not yet. I couldn't think of the right decoration and color scheme and was afraid to trust it all to the publishers. Now I've found just what I need for one of them, and you gave it to me, Letty!"


"Yes, you; tonight, as I came down the road. The house looked so quaint, backed by the dark cedars, and the moon and the snow made everything dazzling. I could see the firelight through the open window, the Hessian soldier andirons, your mother's portrait, the children asleep in the next room, and you, wrapped in your cape waiting or watching for something or somebody."

"I wasn't watching or waiting! I was dreaming," said Letty hurriedly.

"You looked as if you were watching, anyway, and I thought if I were painting the picture I would call it 'Expectancy,' or 'The Vigil,' or 'Sentry Duty.' However, when I make you into a card, Letty, nobody will know what the figure at the window means, till they read my verses."

"I'll give you the house, the room, the andirons, and even mother's portrait, but you don't mean that you want to put me on the card?" And Letty turned like a startled deer as she rose and brushed a spark from the hearth-rug.

"No, not the whole of you, of course, though I'm not clever enough to get a likeness even if I wished. I merely want to make a color sketch of your red-brown cape, your hair that matches it, your ear, an inch of cheek, and the eyelashes of one eye, if you please, ma'am."

"That doesn't sound quite so terrifying." And Letty looked more manageable.

"Nobody'll ever know that a real person sat at a real window and that I saw her there; but when I send the card with a finished picture, and my verses beautifully lettered on it, the printing people will be more likely to accept it."

"And if they do, shall I have a dozen to give to my Bible class?" asked Letty in a wheedling voice.

"You shall have more than that! I'm willing to divide my magnificent profits with you. You will have furnished the picture and I the verses. It's wonderful, Letty—it's providential! You just are a Christmas card tonight! It seems so strange that you even put the lighted candle in the window when you never heard my verse. The candle caught my eye first, and I remembered the Christmas customs we studied for the church festival—the light to guide the Christ Child as he walks through the dark streets on the Eve of Mary."

"Yes, I thought of that," said Letty, flushing a little. "I put the candle there first so that the house shouldn't be all dark when the Pophams went by to choir-meeting, and just then I—I remembered, and was glad I did it!"

"These are my verses, Letty." And Reba's voice was soft as she turned her face away and looked at the flames mounting upward in the chimney:

“My door is on the latch tonight,
The hearth fire is aglow.
I seem to hear swift passing feet—
The Christ Child in the snow.
My heart is open wide tonight
For stranger, kith or kin.
I would not bar a single door
Where Love might enter in!”

There was a moment's silence and Letty broke it. "It means the sort of love the Christ Child brings, with peace and goodwill in it. I'm glad to be a part of that card, Reba, so long as nobody knows me, and—"

Here she made an impetuous movement, and, covering her eyes with her hands, burst into a despairing flood of confidence, the words crowding each other and tumbling out of her mouth as if they feared to be stopped:

"After I put the candle on the table . . . I could not rest for thinking . . . I wasn't ready in my soul to light the Christ Child on his way . . . I was bitter and unresigned . . . it is three years tonight since the children were born . . . and each year I have hoped and waited and waited and hoped, thinking that David might remember. David, my brother, their father! Then the fire on the hearth, the moon, and the snow quieted me, and I felt that I wanted to open the door, just a little. No one will notice that it's ajar, I thought, but there's a touch of welcome in it, anyway. And after a few minutes I said to myself: 'It's no use, David won't come; but I'm glad the firelight shines on mother's picture, for he loved mother, and if she hadn't died when he was scarcely more than a boy, things might have been different . . . the reason I opened the bedroom door—something I never do when the babies are asleep—was because I needed the sight of their faces to reconcile me to my duty and take the resentment out of my heart . . . and it did flow out, Reba—out into the stillness. It is so dazzling white outside, I couldn't bear for my heart to be shrouded in gloom!"

"Poor Letty!" And Mrs. Larrabee furtively wiped away a tear. "How long since you have heard? I didn't dare ask."

"Not a word, not a line for nearly three months, and for the half-year before that it was nothing but a note, sometimes with a five-dollar bill enclosed. David seems to think it the natural thing for me to look after his children; as if there could be no question of any life of my own."

Letty and Reba don't know it yet, but that little Christmas card is going to have a big impact on the whole town, and especially on those two friends!
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The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Professionally edited and formatted for today's e-readers, and featuring chapter artwork, a glossary, and the touching Christmas poem "Das Krist Kindel." Download the Legacy Vintage Collection Enhanced eBook Edition today for 99