The Snow-image

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf


One afternoon of a cold winter's day, when the sun shone forth with

chilly brightness, after a long storm, two children asked leave of

their mother to run out and play in the new-fallen snow.

The elder child was a little girl, whom, because she was of a tender

and modest disposition, and was thought to be very beautiful, her

parents and other people who w
re familiar with her used to call


But her brother was known by the title of Peony, on account of the

ruddiness of his broad and round little phiz, which made everybody

think of sunshine and great scarlet flowers.

"Yes, Violet--yes, my little Peony," said their kind mother; "you may

go and play in the snow."

Forth sallied the two children, with a hop-skip-and-jump that carried

them at once into the very heart of a huge snowdrift, whence Violet

emerged like a snow bunting, while little Peony floundered out with his

round face in full bloom.

Then what a merry time had they! To look at them frolicking in the

wintry garden, you would have thought that the dark and pitiless storm

had been sent for no other purpose but to provide a new plaything for

Violet and Peony; and that they themselves had been created, as the

snowbirds were, to take delight only in the tempest and in the white

mantle which it spread over the earth.

At last, when they had frosted one another all over with handfuls of

snow, Violet, after laughing heartily at little Peony's figure, was

struck with a new idea.

"You look exactly like a snow-image, Peony," said she, "if your cheeks

were not so red. And that puts me in mind! Let us make an image out of

snow--an image of a little girl--and it shall be our sister, and shall

run about and play with us all winter long. Won't it be nice?"

"Oh, yes!" cried Peony, as plainly as he could speak, for he was but a

little boy. "That will be nice! And mamma shall see it!"

"Yes," answered Violet; "mamma shall see the new little girl. But she

must not make her come into the warm parlor, for, you know, our little

snow-sister will not love the warmth."

And forthwith the children began this great business of making a

snow-image that should run about; while their mother, who was sitting

at the window and overheard some of their talk, could not help smiling

at the gravity with which they set about it. They really seemed to

imagine that there would be no difficulty whatever in creating a live

little girl out of the snow.

Indeed, it was an exceedingly pleasant sight--those bright little souls

at their tasks. Moreover, it was really wonderful to observe how

knowingly and skillfully they managed the matter. Violet assumed the

chief direction and told Peony what to do, while, with her own delicate

fingers, she shaped out all the nicer parts of the snow-figure.

It seemed, in fact, not so much to be made by the children, as to grow

up under their hands, while they were playing and prattling about it.

Their mother was quite surprised at this; and the longer she looked,

the more and more surprised she grew.

Now, for a few moments there was a busy and earnest but indistinct hum

of the two children's voices, as Violet and Peony wrought together with

one happy consent. Violet still seemed to be the guiding spirit; while

Peony acted rather as a laborer and brought her the snow from far and

near. And yet the little urchin evidently had a proper understanding of

the matter.

"Peony, Peony!" cried Violet; for her brother was at the other side of

the garden. "Bring me those light wreaths of snow that have rested on

the lower branches of the pear tree. You can clamber on the snowdrift,

Peony, and reach them easily. I must have them to make some ringlets

for our snow-sister's head!"

"Here they are, Violet!" answered the little boy. "Take care you do not

break them. Well done! Well done! How pretty!"

"Does she not look sweet?" said Violet, with a very satisfied tone;

"and now we must have some little shining bits of ice to make the

brightness of her eyes. She is not finished yet. Mamma will see how

very beautiful she is; but papa will say, 'Tush! nonsense! come in out

of the cold!'"

"Let us call mamma to look out," said Peony; and then he shouted,

"Mamma! mamma!! mamma!!! Look out and see what a nice 'ittle girl we

are making!"

"What a nice playmate she will be for us all winter long!" said Violet.

"I hope papa will not be afraid of her giving us a cold! Shan't you

love her dearly, Peony?"

"Oh, yes!" cried Peony. "And I will hug her and she shall sit down

close by me and drink some of my warm milk."

"Oh, no, Peony!" answered Violet, with grave wisdom. "That will not do

at all. Warm milk will not be wholesome for our little snow-sister.

Little snow-people, like her, eat nothing but icicles. No, no, Peony;

we must not give her anything warm to drink!"

There was a minute or two of silence; for Peony, whose short legs were

never weary, had gone again to the other side of the garden. All of a

sudden, Violet cried out, loudly and joyfully:

"Look here, Peony! Come quickly! A light has been shining on her cheek

out of that rose-colored cloud! And the color does not go away! Is not

that beautiful?"

"Yes, it is beau-ti-ful," answered Peony, pronouncing the three

syllables with deliberate accuracy. "O Violet, only look at her hair!

It is all like gold!"

"Oh, certainly," said Violet, as if it were very much a matter of

course. "That color, you know, comes from the golden clouds that we

see up there in the sky. She is almost finished now. But her lips must

be made very red--redder than her cheeks. Perhaps, Peony, it will make

them red if we both kiss them!"

Accordingly, the mother heard two smart little smacks, as if both her

children were kissing the snow-image on its frozen mouth. But as this

did not seem to make the lips quite red enough, Violet next proposed

that the snow-child should be invited to kiss Peony's scarlet cheek.

"Come, 'ittle snow-sister, kiss me!" cried Peony.

"There! she has kissed you," added Violet, "and now her lips are very

red. And she blushed a little, too!"

"Oh, what a cold kiss!" cried Peony.

Just then there came a breeze of the pure west wind sweeping through

the garden, and rattling the parlor windows. It sounded so wintry cold

that the mother was about to tap on the window-pane with her thimbled

finger to summon the two children in when they both cried out to her

with one voice:

"Mamma! mamma! We have finished our little snow-sister, and she is

running about the garden with us!"

"What imaginative little beings my children are!" thought the mother,

putting the last few stitches into Peony's frock. "And it is strange,

too, that they make me almost as much a child as they themselves are! I

can hardly help believing now that the snow-image has really come to


"Dear mamma!" cried Violet, "pray look out and see what a sweet

playmate we have!"

The mother, being thus entreated, could no longer delay to look forth

from the window. The sun was now gone out of the sky, leaving, however,

a rich inheritance of his brightness among those purple and golden

clouds which make the sunsets of winter so magnificent.

But there was not the slightest gleam or dazzle, either on the window

or on the snow; so that the good lady could look all over the garden

and see everything and everybody in it. And what do you think she saw

there? Violet and Peony, of course, her own two darling children.

Ah, but whom or what did she see besides? Why, if you will believe

me, there was a small figure of a girl, dressed all in white, with

rose-tinged cheeks and ringlets of golden hue, playing about the garden

with the two children!

A stranger though she was, the child seemed to be on as familiar terms

with Violet and Peony, and they with her, as if all the three had been

playmates during the whole of their little lives.

The mother thought to herself that it must certainly be the daughter of

one of the neighbors, and that, seeing Violet and Peony in the garden,

the child had run across the street to play with them.

So this kind lady went to the door, intending to invite the little

runaway into her comfortable parlor; for, now that the sunshine was

withdrawn, the atmosphere out of doors was already growing very cold.

But, after opening the house door, she stood an instant on the

threshold, hesitating whether she ought to ask the child to come in, or

whether she should even speak to her. Indeed, she almost doubted whether

it were a real child after all, or only a light wreath of the new-fallen

snow, blown hither and thither about the garden by the intensely cold

west wind.

There was certainly something very singular in the aspect of the little

stranger. Among all the children of the neighborhood the lady could

remember no such face, with its pure white and delicate rose-color, and

the golden ringlets tossing about the forehead and cheeks.

And as for her dress, which was entirely of white, and fluttering in the

breeze, it was such as no reasonable woman would put upon a little girl

when sending her out to play in the depth of winter. It made this kind

and careful mother shiver only to look at those small feet, with nothing

in the world on them except a very thin pair of white slippers.

Nevertheless, airily as she was clad, the child seemed to feel not the

slightest inconvenience from the cold, but danced so lightly over the

snow that the tips of her toes left hardly a print in its surface; while

Violet could but just keep pace with her, and Peony's short legs

compelled him to lag behind.

All this while, the mother stood on the threshold, wondering how a

little girl could look so much like a flying snowdrift, or how a

snowdrift could look so very like a little girl.

"Violet, my darling, what is this child's name?" asked she. "Does she

live near us?"

"Why, dearest mamma," answered Violet, laughing to think that her mother

did not comprehend so very plain an affair, "this is our little

snow-sister whom we have just been making!"

"Yes, dear mamma," cried Peony, running to his mother and looking up

simply into her face. "This is our snow-image! Is it not a nice 'ittle


"Violet," said her mother, greatly perplexed, "tell me the truth without

any jest. Who is this little girl?"

"My darling mamma," answered Violet, looking seriously into her mother's

face, surprised that she should need any further explanation, "I have

told you truly who she is. It is our little snow-image which Peony and I

have been making. Peony will tell you so, as well as I."

"Yes, mamma," asseverated Peony, with much gravity in his crimson little

phiz; "this is 'ittle snow-child. Is not she a nice one? But, mamma, her

hand is, oh, so very cold!"

While mamma still hesitated what to think and what to do, the street

gate was thrown open and the father of Violet and Peony appeared,

wrapped in a pilot-cloth sack, with a fur cap drawn down over his ears,

and the thickest of gloves upon his hands.

Mr. Lindsey was a middle-aged man, with a weary and yet a happy look in

his wind-flushed and frost-pinched face, as if he had been busy all the

day long and was glad to get back to his quiet home. His eyes brightened

at the sight of his wife and children, although he could not help

uttering a word or two of surprise at finding the whole family in the

open air on so bleak a day, and after sunset, too.

He soon perceived the little white stranger, sporting to and fro in the

garden like a dancing snow-wreath, and the flock of snowbirds fluttering

about her head.

"Pray, what little girl may that be?" inquired this very sensible man.

"Surely her mother must be crazy to let her go out in such bitter

weather as it has been to-day, with only that flimsy white gown and

those thin slippers!"

"My dear husband," said his wife, "I know no more about the little thing

than you do. Some neighbor's child, I suppose. Our Violet and Peony,"

she added, laughing at herself for repeating so absurd a story, "insist

that she is nothing but a snow-image which they have been busy about in

the garden almost all the afternoon."

As she said this, the mother glanced her eyes toward the spot where the

children's snow-image had been made. What was her surprise on perceiving

that there was not the slightest trace of so much labor!--no image at

all!--no piled-up heap of snow!--nothing whatever save the prints of

little footsteps around a vacant space!

"This is very strange!" said she.

"What is strange, dear mother?" asked Violet. "Dear father, do not you

see how it is? This is our snow-image, which Peony and I have made

because we wanted another playmate. Did not we, Peony?"

"Yes, papa," said crimson Peony. "This be our 'ittle snow-sister. Is she

not beau-ti-ful? But she gave me such a cold kiss!"

"Poh, nonsense, children!" cried their good, honest father, who had a

plain matter-of-fact way of looking at matters. "Do not tell me of

making live figures out of snow. Come, wife; this little stranger must

not stay out in the bleak air a moment longer. We will bring her into

the parlor; and you shall give her a supper of warm bread and milk, and

make her as comfortable as you can."

So saying, this honest and very kind-hearted man was going toward the

little white damsel, with the best intentions in the world. But Violet

and Peony, each seizing their father by the hand, earnestly besought him

not to make her come in.

"Nonsense, children, nonsense, nonsense!" cried the father, half-vexed,

half-laughing. "Run into the house, this moment! It is too late to play

any longer now. I must take care of this little girl, or she will catch

her death-a-cold!"

And so, with a most benevolent smile, this very well-meaning gentleman

took the snow-child by the hand and led her toward the house.

She followed them, droopingly and reluctant, for all the glow and

sparkle were gone out of her figure; and whereas just before she had

resembled a bright, frosty, star-gemmed evening, with a crimson gleam on

the cold horizon, she now looked as dull and languid as a thaw.

As kind Mr. Lindsey led her up the steps of the door, Violet and Peony

looked into his face, their eyes full of tears, which froze before they

could run down their cheeks, and entreated him not to bring their

snow-image into the house.

"Not bring her in!" exclaimed the kind-hearted man. "Why, you are crazy,

my little Violet--quite crazy, my small Peony! She is so cold already

that her hand has almost frozen mine, in spite of my thick gloves. Would

you have her freeze to death?"

His wife, as he came up the steps, had been taking another long, earnest

gaze at the little white stranger. She hardly knew whether it was a

dream or no; but she could not help fancying that she saw the delicate

print of Violet's fingers on the child's neck. It looked just as if,

while Violet was shaping out the image, she had given it a gentle pat

with her hand, and had neglected to smooth the impression quite away.

"After all, husband," said the mother, "after all, she does look

strangely like a snow-image! I do believe she is made of snow!"

A puff of the west wind blew against the snow-child, and again she

sparkled like a star.

"Snow!" repeated good Mr. Lindsey, drawing the reluctant guest over his

hospitable threshold. "No wonder she looks like snow. She is half

frozen, poor little thing! But a good fire will put everything to


The common-sensible man placed the snow-child on the hearthrug, right in

front of the hissing and fuming stove.

"Now she will be comfortable!" cried Mr. Lindsey, rubbing his hands and

looking about him, with the pleasantest smile you ever saw. "Make

yourself at home, my child."

Sad, sad and drooping, looked the little white maiden as she stood on

the hearthrug, with the hot blast of the stove striking through her like

a pestilence. Once she threw a glance toward the window, and caught a

glimpse, through its red curtains, of the snow-covered roofs and the

stars glimmering frostily and all the delicious intensity of the cold

night. The bleak wind rattled the window panes as if it were summoning

her to come forth. But there stood the snow-child, drooping, before the

hot stove!

But the common-sensible man saw nothing amiss.

"Come, wife," said he, "let her have a pair of thick stockings and a

woolen shawl or blanket directly; and tell Dora to give her some warm

supper as soon as the milk boils. You, Violet and Peony, amuse your

little friend. She is out of spirits, you see, at finding herself in a

strange place. For my part, I will go around among the neighbors and

find out where she belongs."

The mother, meanwhile, had gone in search of the shawl and stockings.

Without heeding the remonstrances of his two children, who still kept

murmuring that their little snow-sister did not love the warmth, good

Mr. Lindsey took his departure, shutting the parlor door carefully

behind him.

Turning up the collar of his sack over his ears, he emerged from the

house, and had barely reached the street-gate when he was recalled by

the screams of Violet and Peony and the rapping of a thimbled finger

against the parlor window.

"Husband! husband!" cried his wife, showing her horror-stricken face

through the window panes. "There is no need of going for the child's


"We told you so, father!" screamed Violet and Peony, as he re-entered

the parlor. "You would bring her in; and now our poor--dear--beau-ti-ful

little snow-sister is thawed!"

And their own sweet little faces were already dissolved in tears; so

that their father, seeing what strange things occasionally happen in

this everyday world, felt not a little anxious lest his children might

be going to thaw, too. In the utmost perplexity, he demanded an

explanation of his wife.

She could only reply that, being summoned to the parlor by the cries of

Violet and Peony, she found no trace of the little white maiden, unless

it were the remains of a heap of snow which, while she was gazing at it,

melted quite away upon the hearthrug.

"And there you see all that is left of it!" added she, pointing to a

pool of water in front of the stove.

"Yes, father," said Violet, looking reproachfully at him through her

tears, "there is all that is left of our dear little snow-sister!"

"Father!" cried Peony, stamping his foot, and--I shudder to say--shaking

his little fist at the common-sensible man. "We told you how it would

be. What for did you bring her in?"

And the stove, through the isinglass of its door, seemed to glare at

good Mr. Lindsey, like a red-eyed demon triumphing in the mischief which

it had done!