754 TWELVE BY THE MAIL
At length appeared the last passenger, the old Mother with her fire-stool. The old lady was cold, but her eyes glistened like two bright stars. She carried a flower-pot with a little fir tree.
1 This tree I will guard and cherish, that it may grow large by Christmas Eve, and may reach from the ground to the ceiling, and may rear itself upward with flaming candles, golden apples, and little carved figures. The fire-stool warms like a stove. I bring the story-book out of my pocket and read aloud, so that all the children in the room become quite quiet; but the little figures on the trees become lively, and the little waxen angel on the top spreads out his wings of gold leaf, flies down from his green perch, and kisses great and small in the room, yes, even the poor children who stand outside, singing the carol about the Star of Bethlehem.'
' Well, now the coach may drive away !' said the sentry : * we have the whole twelve. Let a new chaise drive up.'
1 First let all the twelve come in to me,' said the captain on duty, e one after the other. The passports I will keep here. Each of them is available for a month ; when that has passed, I shall write their behaviour on each passport. Mr. January, have the goodness to come here.'
And Mr. January stepped forward.
When a year is passed I think I shall be able to tell you what the twelve have brought to me, and to you, and to all of us. Now I do not know it, and they don't know it themselves, probably, for we live in strange times.
The Emperor's horse was shod with gold. It had a golden shoe on each of its feet.
And why was this ?
He was a beautiful creature, with delicate legs, bright intelligent eyes, and a mane that hung down over his neck like a veil. He had carried his master through the fire and smoke of battle, and heard the bullets whistling around him, had kicked, bitten, and taken part in the fight when the enemy