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  • The Legend of the Christmas Rose
    Page 2
    Continued from page 1

    Here they halted and talked together in low tones, while the child drew aside into the shadow of the house to watch what they would do.

    She saw them take out from their wallets the things which they had brought, and realised for the first time that they were presents for the Infant King. There was the loaf of barley-bread, the home-made cheese, a handful of dried fruit and the fleece of a lamb, white and soft, fit to wrap around a baby's limbs this cold wintry night. There were other things besides, but all were poor simple gifts, and the shepherds looked at the array half sadly.

    'They make but a poor show,' said one with shame.

    'They are indeed but simple offerings,' said another; 'but He will understand that it is our best we give with the true love of our hearts.'

    'Ay, surely,' said a third,' and poor though they be, they are better than nothing. It would be a sin indeed to come empty-handed to greet our King this night.'

    Those words fell on the listening ears of the child, and when she heard them, all hope and joy died out of her heart. She had no gift to offer. She looked down at her little empty sun-browned hands and a great sob rose in her throat. If it were a sin to go in without a gift, then she must stay outside. She had come so far and longed so greatly to see the Infant King, and now it was all no use, the sight was not for her. Perhaps if she crept near the door she might peep in when it was opened and catch if it were only a glimpse, while she herself remained unseen.

    The shepherds knocked at the door and reverently bared their heads. A low sweet voice bade them enter, and the door was opened. Pressing forward, the child tried to look in. There in the soft light she saw a fair young mother with head bent low, and behind her an ox and an ass feeding from a low manger. She tried to see the Bambino, but the forms of the kneeling shepherds came between, and even as she looked, the door was shut and she was left outside.

    Then it seemed as if her heart would break. She was so weary and so footsore, and all her trouble had been for nought. The King was so near, only a wall between Him and her, and yet she was not to see Him. She threw herself down on the hard gravel and buried her head in her arms, while the sobs came thick and fast and her tears made the very ground wet.

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    Steedman, Amy. Legends and Stories of Italy: for Children. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, [1909]. 3-9

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