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A Very Old Christmas Story by Evelyn Steward

 

A Very Old Christmas Story.

Tess looked out of the small window. Snow was coming down thick. It was November, far too early for a snowfall such as this.

She sighed. When she left for work this morning, the sun was shining. Cold, she granted, but a clear sky. Who would have thought that the skies would darken and her patch of the earth would be carpeted in huge flakes of white?.

She had worn only a light jacket and court shoes. Still, the bus stopped just outside the office. She would be fine.… At least she had a scarf, thin but it might help.

At 5 p.m. she made her way to the bus stop and waited. And waited! After an hour she realised that the bus was not coming and started to walk. Her court shoes sank into two inches of wet snow. Her feet became icy cold. She needed a distraction.

Tess recalled a story her friend Paula once told her. It was handed down through Paula’s family. A strange but enlightening tale.

‘Jed walked to the door, calling over his shoulder to Alice, his wife, ‘I am going out to feed the animals. I will check the supplies as well.’

Alice walked over and touched his arm. ‘Be careful. I thought I heard a wild cat out there at dawn.’

‘I heard it too,’ Jed replied, closing the door behind him.

The snow was quite deep, even though he had cleared away as much as possible the day before. Unlocking the barn door, he checked that everything was as it should be. The two milk cows lowed at him as he filled up their byres.

Talking to the pair of heavy horses he kept to draw the wagon, he mashed them down. Then, a good rub and brush. Jed also checked the shoes. They had to be ready in case he needed the wagon.

The chickens got corn. Then it was the turn of the water. When all that was done, he checked how much feed there was. Not as much as he had hoped. A few days, no more. He would have to try to get into town to the feed store.

As Jed locked the barn door, it began to snow again. He swore under his breath. There was enough snow already. A journey into town would be hazardous enough without more coming down. Squaring his shoulders, he walked back to the cabin.

“Low?” Asked Alice. Jed nodded
‘My stores are also low. Flour, salt, sugar. I am trying to stretch them, but we all have to eat!’ she said. “The eggs help but the chickens are in moult and not laying so well.”

‘I know, Alice. It’s snowing again.’

A few days later, whilst doing his daily rounds, Jed saw a strange light in the barn. It was up in the loft area. He
climbed up the ladder and made his way to the far corner.

In amongst the straw was a strange glow. Scraping away loose straw, Jed knelt down and looked at the object.

It was glowing a kind of green colour. A little pot with a label around the top. It said ‘For someone in need.’

Jed was astonished. He was in need. Did this mean him? And who put it there?

Jed spent quite a while mulling over the pot and the message. Finally, looking into the pot, he discovered lots of coins, enough to buy feed for the rest of the winter.

Alice could understand his misgiving, but would not dismiss a ‘Gift’ such as this, wherever it came from.

Jed brought out the horses and hitched them up to the wagon. “ We must try to drive to town and pick up some feed for the animals. Get the children ready quick, Alice, the day is wasting.”

Alice prepared the three children, getting into the wagon in ten minutes. Jed clucked at the horses and off they went.

The snow on the trail was not as deep as Jed expected. He did not realise that the ‘Gift’ worked in other ways too. They arrived in town after only an hour, pulling the horses to a stop outside the feed store. Alice took the children to buy groceries and little things for Christmas gifts for the young ones.

All in all, Alice and Jed enjoyed a wonderful Holiday season with their family thankful for the precious ‘Gift’ that came from nowhere and lasted until spring melted all the snow away.” Tess put her key in the lock and stepped inside. She was so glad not to have to spend winter in deep snow, like Jed. Happy she lived in modern times and had a cosy warm place to come home to.

The phone rang.

“Paula, I was just thinking about you. I rarely see you these days. Can you come over, say for Christmas Eve?”

(C) Evelyn J. Steward. November, 2018.

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