Twelve by the Mail
And he talked about farming, but you couldn't hear much of what he said, because of the coughing and gasping.
It was November coming. He had a cold, such a violent cold that he used a bed sheet instead of a handkerchief; and yet he had to accompany the servant girls and initiate them into their winter service, he said; but his cold would go when he went out woodcutting, which he had to do, because he was master sawyer for the firewood guild. His evenings he spent cutting soles for skates, knowing that in a few weeks there would be good use for these amusing shoes.
Now came the last passenger, a little old mother, with her firepot. She was cold, but her eyes sparkled like two bright stars. She carried a flowerpot with a little fir tree growing in it.
"I shall guard and nurse this tree, so that it may grow large by Christmas Eve and reach from the ground right up to the ceiling, and be covered with lighted candles, golden apples, and little cut-out paper decorations. This fire-kettle warms like a Stove. I take the storybook from my pocket and read aloud, so that all the children in the room become quiet. But the dolls on the tree come to life, and the little wax angel on top of the tree shakes its golden tinsel wings, flies down from the green top, and kisses in the room, yes, the poor children, too, who stand outside and sing the Christmas carol about the star of Bethlehem."
"And now the coach can drive again," said the sentry. "We have the twelve. Let another coach drive up!"
"First let the twelve come inside," said the Captain of the Guard, " one at a time. I'll keep the passports. Each is good for a month; when that has passed, I'll write a report of their behavior on each passport. Be so good, Mr. January; please step inside."
And in he went.
When a year has passed, I shall be able to tell you what the twelve have brought you, me, and all of us. I don't know it now, and they probably don't know it themselves, for these are strange times we live in.