I had another post planned for today, but that one will be pushed back, as I just discovered this gem. This very well may be the very best story I have ever read in one of my storybooks. I think I’ll always remember this Christmas story, and will share it every Christmas from now on. A Tale of a Tail, written by Mary J. J. Wrinn, was found in John Martin’s Big Book for Little Folk, Number Three. This is a fantastic illustrated children’s book, published in 1919, and has many charming pages, but this one…. just read it.
A Tale of a Tail
Mary J. J. Wrinn.
Reynardita Fox emptied her much worn purse on the table. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty cents, she counted. How she had economized to save that sum! It was every penny of her spending money for ten weeks.
To-morrow would be Christmas. That fifty cents was to buy a present for her best-beloved, Reynard Fox. It was to be a sensible gift this year—five inches of best gray fox fur to mend a tear in his tail. For, one day, some brambles had caught in Reynard’s exquisite tail and had torn off the top, leaving a ragged, shabby end. It had been a sore trial for Mr. Fox to wear so jagged a tail, but he had uttered not one word of complaint. He had just made the best of it.
So, to-morrow Reynardita meant to surprise him! She had found a shop that sold a marvelous five-inch length of fur for fifty cents. It was gray and silky and of exquisite quality. Would half-past eight ever come so the store would be opened? Reynardita could hardly wait to go out and buy her best-beloved’s gift.
With a beaming face she gathered up the coins and jingled them. “To-morrow will be Christmas!” she sang joyously. “To-morrow will—“
In the midst of her song the door bell rang. Who could it be so early in the morning? She hastened to the door to admit a messenger with a note from Widow Muskrat. During the night her home down the river had been flooded, and the water had carried away all her possessions. She herself had caught a severe cold.
Reynardita Fox put on her hat, buttoned her fur coat, slipped her precious purse into her muff, and went straight to Mrs. Muskrat.
The very first thing to be done was to search for a safe hole. They found one high on the bank. But what is a house with nothing to eat in it? Mrs. Fox thought of her Christmas savings. She had dreamed how Reynard’s eyes would sparkle at sight of that five inches of marvelous gray fur. If she used one coin she could not buy it.
But poor Mrs. Muskrat was hungry. And it was Christmas time. Reynardita could not see her starve. She would have to find some cheaper fur for Reynard’s tail! After all, Reynard did not need such expensive fur, whereas Mrs. Muskrat had to have a home and a Christmas dinner. So, with half her savings, Reynardita bought warmth and food to put into the new house.
Then, leaving Mrs. Muskrat safe in her warm home with a fine Christmas dinner in her pantry, Reynardita set off to find her best-beloved’s gift.
“The Christmas spirit will be in the cheap fur just the same,” thought Mrs. Fox as she entered a fur shop on the corner. But no inexpensive fur was to be found there. Reynardita tried another shop, and another, and still another, but not a bit of gray fox fur could she buy for her price.
There was one store left. It was a Department store way off at the very end of Nowhere. Reynardita had to walk. She could spare not one penny for a ride. But she hummed to her heart all the way, and the cheer of coming Christmas made her forget that she was tired.
It was almost dusk when she, at last, stood before the gaily dressed windows of the store. “If I don’t find it here,” she said softly to herself, “I’ll have just to make the best of it and buy something else. Reynard will love whatever I give him. But I do want five inches of gray fur to mend his poor torn tail!”
The fur-by-the-inch counter was crowded. So, until her turn, Mrs. Fox amused herself by looking at the powders, perfumes, and sachets on the next counter.
At length, the clerk was able to wait on her. He brought out several kinds of fur. With trembling paws, Mrs. Fox examined them. And there it was, the shade of gray she wanted, and at her price! Reynardita bought five inches.
“Now,” thought she, as she hugged the box to her heart on the way home, “every morning when he goes to business he can wave to me over the bushes, as he used to do. To-night I shall sew it on for him!” Her heart felt so light that the box of fur seemed to grow lighter than air.
Finally, she reached home. At the foot of the stoop she stopped to take out her key. But the door opened form the inside. Reynard was home early and had seen her coming up the path. The candles were lighted and the kettle was on. But Reynardita just couldn’t wait until after supper to show her gift.
“See what I have for you, Reynard,” she said. “I have bought some gray fur to mend your raggedy tail.”
Reynardita untied the string. She took off the cover. Then she gave a little scream of disappointment. Instead of the five inches of gray fox fur, there was a white powder-puff! The wrapper in the store had made a mistake.
But Reynard snatched up the gift, and with the cheer of Christmas in his heart, just for fun, he clapped it on the end of his torn tail. The magic of Reynardita’s love was in that powder-puff, and it stuck. Reynard did the fox-trot around the room, waving his tail with its powder-puff tip. Reynardita shook with laughter at the antics of her best-beloved. But it really did look gorgeous—that white tip in the midst of gray.
“Why, my dearest,” said Reynard, when he stopped for breath, “this is better than sewing a piece on my tail. When I wave to you now, this will shine through the bushes until I am quite out of sight. It’s wonderful, the best Christmas present I’ve ever had! Now here is yours.”
From his inside pocket Reynard drew a brand new purse filled with bright coins for Reynardita to get whatever she wanted most.
“Buy me a powder-puff tip for my tail, too,” she said.
Reynard did, that very night.
Every since that jolly Christmas Eve, foxes’ tails have had white powder-puff tips. Love can put magic on everything!