The Snow Image and other stories Part 1

Web Novel The Snow Image and other stories Part 1. If you are looking for The Snow Image and other stories Part 1 you are coming to the right place.
The Snow Image and other stories is a Webnovel created by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

The Snow Image.

by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

THE SNOW-IMAGE:

A CHILDISH MIRACLE

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 were familiar with her, used to call Violet. But her brother was known by the style and t.i.tle of Peony, on account of the ruddiness of his broad and round little phiz, which made everybody think of sunshine and great scarlet flowers. The father of these two children, a certain Mr. Lindsey, it is important to say, was an excellent but exceedingly matter-of-fact sort of man, a dealer in hardware, and was st.u.r.dily accustomed to take what is called the common-sense view of all matters that came under his consideration.

With a heart about as tender as other people’s, he had a head as hard and impenetrable, and therefore, perhaps, as empty, as one of the iron pots which it was a part of his business to sell. The mother’s character, on the other hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of unworldly beauty,–a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had survived out of her imaginative youth, and still kept itself alive amid the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood.

So, Violet and Peony, as I began with saying, besought their mother to let them run out and play in the new snow; for, though it had looked so dreary and dismal, drifting downward out of the gray sky, it had a very cheerful aspect, now that the sun was shining on it. The children dwelt in a city, and had no wider play-place than a little garden before the house, divided by a white fence from the street, and with a pear-tree and two or three plum-trees overshadowing it, and some rose-bushes just in front of the parlor-windows. The trees and shrubs, however, were now leafless, and their twigs were enveloped in the light snow, which thus made a kind of wintry foliage, with here and there a pendent icicle for the fruit.

“Yes, Violet,–yes, my little Peony,” said their kind mother, “you may go out and play in the new snow.”

Accordingly, the good lady bundled up her darlings in woollen jackets and wadded sacks, and put comforters round their necks, and a pair of striped gaiters on each little pair of legs, and worsted mittens on their hands, and gave them a kiss apiece, by way of a spell to keep away Jack Frost. Forth sallied the two children, with a hop-skip-and-jump, that carried them at once into the very heart of a huge snow-drift, 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 beer created, as the snow-birds 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. And, to say the truth, if miracles are ever to be wrought, it will be by putting our hands to the work in precisely such a simple and undoubting frame of mind as that in which Violet and Peony now undertook to perform one, without so much as knowing that it was a miracle. So thought the mother; and thought, likewise, that the new snow, just fallen from heaven, would be excellent material to make new beings of, if it were not so very cold.

She gazed at the children a moment longer, delighting to watch their little figures,–the girl, tall for her age, graceful and agile, and so delicately colored that she looked like a cheerful thought more than a physical reality; while Peony expanded in breadth rather than height, and rolled along on his short and st.u.r.dy legs as substantial as an elephant, though not quite so big. Then the mother resumed her work.

What it was I forget; but she was either tr.i.m.m.i.n.g a silken bonnet for Violet, or darning a pair of stockings for little Peony’s short legs.

Again, however, and again, and yet other agains, she could not help turning her head to the window to see how the children got on with their snow-image.

Indeed, it was an exceedingly pleasant sight, those bright little souls at their task! Moreover, it was really wonderful to observe how knowingly and skilfully they managed the matter. Violet a.s.sumed 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.

“What remarkable children mine are!” thought she, smiling with a mother’s pride; and, smiling at herself, too, for being so proud of them. “What other children could have made anything so like a little girl’s figure out of snow at the first trial? Well; but now I must finish Peony’s new frock, for his grandfather is coming to-morrow, and I want the little fellow to look handsome.”

So she took up the frock, and was soon as busily at work again with her needle as the two children with their snow-image. But still, as the needle travelled hither and thither through the seams of the dress, the mother made her toil light and happy by listening to the airy voices of Violet and Peony. They kept talking to one another all the time, their tongues being quite as active as their feet and hands. Except at intervals, she could not distinctly hear what was said, but had merely a sweet impression that they were in a most loving mood, and were enjoying themselves highly, and that the business of making the snow-image went prosperously on. Now and then, however, when Violet and Peony happened to raise their voices, the words were as audible as if they had been spoken in the very parlor where the mother sat. Oh how delightfully those words echoed in her heart, even though they meant nothing so very wise or wonderful, after all!

But you must know a mother listens with her heart much more than with her ears; and thus she is often delighted with the trills of celestial music, when other people can hear nothing of the kind.

“Peony, Peony!” cried Violet to her brother, who had gone to another part of the garden, “bring me some of that fresh snow, Peony, from the very farthest corner, where we have not been trampling. I want it to shape our little snow-sister’s bosom with. You know that part must be quite pure, just as it came out of the sky!”

“Here it is, Violet!” answered Peony, in his bluff tone,–but a very sweet tone, too,–as he came floundering through the half-trodden drifts. “Here is the snow for her little bosom. O Violet, how beau-ti-ful she begins to look!”

“Yes,” said Violet, thoughtfully and quietly; “our snow-sister does look very lovely. I did not quite know, Peony, that we could make such a sweet little girl as this.”

The mother, as she listened, thought how fit and delightful an incident it would be, if fairies, or still better, if angel-children were to come from paradise, and play invisibly with her own darlings, and help them to make their snow-image, giving it the features of celestial babyhood! Violet and Peony would not be aware of their immortal playmates,–only they would see that the image grew very beautiful while they worked at it, and would think that they themselves had done it all.

“My little girl and boy deserve such playmates, if mortal children ever did!” said the mother to herself; and then she smiled again at her own motherly pride.

Nevertheless, the idea seized upon her imagination; and, ever and anon, she took a glimpse out of the window, half dreaming that she might see the golden-haired children of paradise sporting with her own golden-haired Violet and bright-cheeked Peony.

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, too!

“Peony, Peony!” cried Violet; for her brother was again 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 sweetly?” 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 l.u.s.tily, “Mamma! mamma!! mamma!!! Look out, and see what a nice ‘ittle girl we are making!”

The mother put down her work for an instant, and looked out of the window. But it so happened that the sun–for this was one of the shortest days of the whole year–had sunken so nearly to the edge of the world that his setting shine came obliquely into the lady’s eyes.

So she was dazzled, you must understand, and could not very distinctly observe what was in the garden. Still, however, through all that bright, blinding dazzle of the sun and the new snow, she beheld a small white figure in the garden, that seemed to have a wonderful deal of human likeness about it. And she saw Violet and Peony,–indeed, she looked more at them than at the image,–she saw the two children still at work; Peony bringing fresh snow, and Violet applying it to the figure as scientifically as a sculptor adds clay to his model.

Indistinctly as she discerned the snow-child, the mother thought to herself that never before was there a snow-figure so cunningly made, nor ever such a dear little girl and boy to make it.

“They do everything better than other children,” said she, very complacently. “No wonder they make better snow-images!”

She sat down again to her work, and made as much haste with it as possible; because twilight would soon come, and Peony’s frock was not yet finished, and grandfather was expected, by railroad, pretty early in the morning. Faster and faster, therefore, went her flying fingers.

The children, likewise, kept busily at work in the garden, and still the mother listened, whenever she could catch a word. She was amused to observe how their little imaginations had got mixed up with what they were doing, and carried away by it. They seemed positively to think that the snow-child would run about and play with them.

“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!

Sha’n’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 on a pilgrimage 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, p.r.o.nouncing the three syllables with deliberate accuracy. “O Violet, only look at her hair!

It is all like gold!”

“Oh certainly,” said Violet, with tranquillity, 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. The tone was not a tone of surprise, although they were evidently a good deal excited; it appeared rather as if they were very much rejoiced at some event that had now happened, but which they had been looking for, and had reckoned upon all along.

“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 st.i.tches 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 life!”

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