By Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
HE came so softly, when all the children were fast asleep, that not one heard him. There was a loud ringing of bells on the eve of New Year’s Day, but the little New Year did not make any sound when he came at twelve o’clock. No one would have known that he had passed by if it had not been for his footprints in the snow.
Oh, they were such tiny footprints! Some people said that they could not see them at all, not even through their spectacles.
Then the sun shone like a gold crown on top of the high hills and it was New Year’s Day. It was a holiday, so all the children went out to play.
Gerald put on his warmest pair of mittens and took his new snow shovel out into the garden. He had decided to build the largest snow fort that had ever stood in the garden, and, when it was finished, he would ask the boy who lived next door to storm it with him. That was what Gerald was going to do first of all.
He dug up great blocks of snow and began piling them, one on top of the other, to make the walls of the fort. He put his shovel in the snow again. What did he see? Why, there was a row of wee little footprints in the snow, as tiny as if an elf had made them. They went on and on, in a little path. Gerald dropped his snow shovel and followed the footprints. They led him through the garden, and back of the house, and as far as the barn. At the barn door they stopped. Gerald opened the door and went inside the barn.
He had forgotten to feed his rabbits and the hens and the old horse which lived in the barn. They were waiting for their New Year’s dinner. How glad they were of it! The rabbits munched their carrots, the hens cackled a “thank you” for their corn, and the old horse seemed to neigh “Happy New Year” when Gerald filled his trough with hay.
“I will never forget you again,” Gerald said. “Now I must look at those queer little footprints again.”
But when he went out they were gone from the snow.
“I am going to slide downhill all day,” Frances said as she put on her cap and coat and went outdoors with her new sled. The sled was painted blue and gold; the runners were almost as shining as glass. “It’s New Year’s Day so I shall play all day long,” Frances said, but just then mother came to the door with a basket.
“I want you to carry this basket of jelly and cold turkey and cookies to grandmother for her dinner,” mother said to Frances. “I think you had better go now for it is quite a long way. Put it on your sled and then you can go faster with it.”
Frances did as her mother asked her but she scowled as she drew the sled with the basket on top out of the gate and down the road. She had not gone very far when she came to the hill. It was full of children, sliding down like the wind, and laughing with the fun.
“Come, Frances!” they called. “It never was so slippery before. Do come and slide!”
Frances watched them a moment. Then she set grandmother’s basket in a corner of the fence and joined the children on the hill.
It was when Frances had slid down the hill only once that she saw the wee, wee footprints as tiny as a fairy’s in the snow. None of the other children seemed to see them so Frances drew her sled and followed them. The footprints led away from the hill and over the field, among the tree stumps and bushes. They ended in the fence where grandmother’s New Year’s dinner was hid.
Frances set the basket on her sled and looked about her. Why, there were the same wee footprints again, leading her out to the road, and going ahead of her, down the road. It was such fun to follow them that Frances ran. On and on went the little footprints, up one street and down another. All at once they stopped. Frances looked up in surprise. The strange, tiny footprints had stopped at grandmother’s white front gate.
Frances was just in time for grandmother’s New Year’s dinner. She made the tea, and they sat together at grandmother’s little round table and had a happy, cozy time. After dinner Frances kissed grandmother good-by and started home.
“I am always going to do what mother asks me to after this,” she said. “I wonder where those little footprints will go now?” But when Frances went out through grandmother’s front gate, there were no footprints to be seen in the snow.
Some people who wore spectacles did not see the footprints of the little New Year. Perhaps it was only those who needed him who walked in the fairy pathway he made in the snow.
Kindergarten and the First Grade 2(1). January 1917. 25.