This is from a book called Parables for Little People by J. W. G. Ward. It was published in 1921, consisting of 52 ‘sermonettes’ as they are called. I thought this was going to turn into a sort of ‘A Christmas Carol’ sort of story, but it’s not, really. I thought it was nice. (Not that I dislike ‘A Christmas Carol’—it’s perfectly fine. It’s just cliched now.)
LESSONS OF THE SNOW
Bah! Snow again!” Mr. Hyam Evercross turned from the window of his breakfast-room to the fire he had left, and sat down again. He was cross. In fact, he was Evercross—that was his name and he lived up to it!
What was the matter with him? you ask. Nothing much. He wanted to go out that morning, that was all, and being quite strong and well, he could not help shivering when the snow came. Poor people who had only half the clothes that Hyam wore, and who never had half as much to eat, whose boots let the cold slush in—these could go out in the vilest of weather, and they could not possibly feel the cold as he did! That is why he did not relish walking through the slushy streets.
But you will ask now, “Why did he not call a cab if he didn’t like walking in the snow?”
Ah, that proves that you do not know Mr. Evercross. He was not poor. He could have hired half-a-dozen cabs if he liked. But the fact was, he had always to find something to grumble at, and the snow was something that did not often give him a chance.
His man brought in the breakfast, and politely wished his master Good Morning! But Hyam did not answer for he was not like you—you always
remember your manners, and you don’t sulk when things are not to your liking!
James retired from the room as quickly as he could, and hem uttered to himself, “The wind’s in the east again! We’re in for another day of it!” Though I do not think he meant that the day was going to be windy so much as breezy!
Hyam did not eat anything. “Who wants breakfast a morning like this?” he growled. “How am I to get to the city?” And it did not improve on his temper a bit when a boy hurled a snow-ball at him later, which sent his hat rolling along the street.
I hope that you would never throw snow-balls at old gentlemen in the street, because it is not quite fair. It is not playing the game. But in this case, I am not very sorry for Hyam deserved a good deal more.
Well, he got to the city all right, though he managed to make most people miserable who came within sound of his sharp tongue. And it was as much as the car conductor could do to keep from telling Hyam what he thought of him.
That night, when the house was quiet and Hyam Evercross sat in the firelight to save gas, a strange little elf blew into the room. He kept as far from the fire as he could, and he called across the room, “Well, sir! How now?”
Hyam had to look twice before he could see anyone, then he growled, “Well? No, decidedly not! I am far from well after a day like this! But who may you be?”
“I am the Prince of the Snowflakes,” was the reply.
“Are you! Well I wish you had kept them to
yourself instead of making making such a mess of the streets.”
“Come, come, come,” said the prince. “Why talk like that?”
“I will do nothing of the kind,” replied he. “Why should I come with you?”
“Well, that is not quite what I meant when I said come, but still it is not a bad idea. Suppose you do come with me. I may be able to show you something you have never seen before.”
If there was anything that Mr. Evercross did not like it was to have to go out when once he had got back to the cosy fire, but there was no help for it. The little prince pulled at his dressing-gown, and soon they were floating through space as well as Peter Pan could do it!
“Where are we going?” asked Mr. Evercross, rather angrily.
“To what is called the Black Country—where your old smoky chimneys have nearly spoiled the glory of God’s beautiful earth,” was the answer. “You will see what I have done there.”
Soon they came to it, and Hyam did open his eyes! They were open before, of course, but now they were wider than ever! It was as though a magician had been at work for the whole countryside was changed.
“Well, do you like it?” asked the prince. “Not bad for one night’s work, is it?”
“I think it is wonderful,” cried the man. “I never thought the snow could have made such a difference. Why, it used to be horrible looking out from the train. But, unhappily, it can’t last.”
“But why do you say that? Surely it is better
to have things looking beautiful even if it is only for a few hours than always to have them ugly. And why don’t you try to make things a bit better in the world? You are always complaining about people and making the most of their bad points. Why don’t you look for the best? And they are all the better for hearing a good word now and then, instead of being reminded of their faults.”
The man listened. No one had ever dared to speak like that to him before. Then he took out his notebook and wrote by the light of the moon, “Note: It is worth while making the best of things, no matter how ugly they may be!”
They now went on to the open country.
“Look at this field,” said the prince. “Now listen! Can you hear anything?”
“No,” replied Hyam. “What should I hear?”
“Well, last week I was passing this field, and I heard a lot of tiny voices crying out that it was cold there. What do you think it was?”
“Not babies?” said the man, for the only thing that cried as far as he knew was a baby.
The prince burst out laughing. “No, no! You are quite wrong. It was all the seeds the farmer had put into the ground, ready for next year’s crops. So I just threw one of my white coverlets over them to keep them warm, and now there is not a sound. They are all fast asleep.”
Out came the notebook again, and Hyam wrote, “Note: Snow makes the earth happy by giving it a warm covering.” And he added to himself, “I must go round some of those poor houses near me and see if they have fires and plenty of bedclothes as soon as I get home again.”
Just then it started to snow again. At first there were only a few light flakes, but in a moment, great swirling masses were coming down.
“I think I would like to get back home,” said Mr. Evercross to the prince, “that is, unless you particularly want me to stay. You see, I have an idea that perhaps there may be some one not far from where I live I could help. I can’t bear to think that they might not have any coal a night like this.”
The prince looked quite pleased. “You have learned some of the lessons of the snow, I think. Well, there is just one more I want you to get before we part. Would you mind counting the flakes?”
Hyam looked up, but though he tried his best, he saw it was impossible.
“I’m afraid I can’t, and yet I used to think I was good at figures! These are to much for me. Do you particularly want to know how many there are?”
“No!” replied the prince, “but I wanted you to try.”
“But why?” the man asked, more puzzled than ever.
“Just for this reason: you have had much to complain about and I know that occasionally you get cross. Do you know why? It is because you have forgotten to count your blessings!”
Mr. Evercross looked as though he wanted to say something, but could not find words, but the snow-clad prince did not seem to notice and he went on:
“If you would only look up and try to count the
many things you have to make you thankful to the Giver of good, you’d find that you could no more count them than you can count the falling flakes. Now we are back! Remember the lessons of the snow, and the next time you feel like . . .”
The prince’s voice seemed to die away in the distance as, with a violent start, Mr. Evercross woke up!
“Bless me!” he said. “Who would have thought it! Lessons of the snow—why, I never thought of them before. Where’s that notebook of mine? I mustn’t forget them!”
It took him a minute or two, biting his pencil, before he could recall what the prince had said, but then he wrote:
- Always make the best of things.
- Try to make some one comfortable and happy.
- Count your blessings—that is, if you can!
“It is only 8 o’clock,” he observed. “Why, James and I could take a few spare blankets round to-night.”
And as he pulled on his boots he was humming,
“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
His name is no longer Hyam Evercross, but one that sounds very much better—Hyam Everglad.