The Mouse And The Moonbeam by Eugene Field

Whilst you were sleeping, little Dear-my-Soul, strange things happened; but that I saw and heard them, I should never have believed them. The clock stood, of course, in the corner, a moonbeam floated idly on the floor, and a little mauve mouse came from the hole in the chimney corner and frisked and scampered in the light of the moonbeam upon the floor. The little mauve mouse was particularly merry; sometimes she danced upon two legs and sometimes upon four legs, but always very daintily and always very merrily.

“Ah, me!” sighed the old clock, “how different mice are nowadays from the mice we used to have in the good old times! Now there was your grandma, Mistress Velvetpaw, and there was your grandpa, Master Sniffwhisker,–how grave and dignified they were! Many a night have I seen them dancing upon the carpet below me, but always the stately minuet and never that crazy frisking which you are executing now, to my surprise–yes, and to my horror, too.”

“But why shouldn’t I be merry?” asked the little mauve mouse. “To-morrow is Christmas, and this is Christmas eve.”

“So it is,” said the old clock. “I had really forgotten all about it. But tell me, what is Christmas to you, little Miss Mauve Mouse?”

“A great deal to me!” cried the little mauve mouse. “I have been very good a very long time: I have not used any bad words, nor have I gnawed any holes, nor have I stolen any canary seed, nor have I worried my mother by running behind the flour-barrel where that horrid trap is set. In fact, I have been so good that I’m very sure Santa Claus will bring me something very pretty.”

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This seemed to amuse the old clock mightily; in fact, the old clock fell to laughing so heartily that in an unguarded moment she struck twelve instead of ten, which was exceedingly careless and therefore to be reprehended.

“Why, you silly little mauve mouse,” said the old clock, “you don’t believe in Santa Claus, do you?”

“Of course I do,” answered the little mauve mouse. “Believe in Santa Claus? Why shouldn’t I? Didn’t Santa Claus bring me a beautiful butter-cracker last Christmas, and a lovely gingersnap, and a delicious rind of cheese, and–and–lots of things? I should be very ungrateful if I did not believe in Santa Claus, and I certainly shall not disbelieve in him at the very moment when I am expecting him to arrive with a bundle of goodies for me.

“‘Thy father sleeps,’ said the little Master, ‘and it is well that it is so; for that I love thee Dimas, and that thou shalt walk with me in my Father’s kingdom, I would show thee the glories of my birthright.’

“Then all at once sweet music filled the air, and light, greater than the light of day, illumined the sky and fell upon all that hill-side. The heavens opened, and angels, singing joyous songs, walked to the earth. More wondrous still, the stars, falling from their places in the sky, clustered upon the old olive-tree, and swung hither and thither like colored lanterns. The flowers of the hill-side all awakened, and they, too, danced and sang. The angels, coming hither, hung gold and silver and jewels and precious stones upon the old olive, where swung the stars; so that the glory of that sight, though I might live forever, I shall never see again. When Dimas heard and saw these things he fell upon his knees, and catching the hem of the little Master’s garment, he kissed it.

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“‘Greater joy than this shall be thine, Dimas,’ said the little Master; ‘but first must all things be fulfilled.’

“All through that Christmas night did the angels come and go with their sweet anthems; all through that Christmas night did the stars dance and sing; and when it came my time to steal away, the hill-side was still beautiful with the glory and the music of heaven.”

“Well, is that all?” asked the old clock.

“No,” said the moonbeam; “but I am nearly done. The years went on. Sometimes I tossed upon the ocean’s bosom, sometimes I scampered o’er a battle-field, sometimes I lay upon a dead child’s face. I heard the voices of Darkness and mothers’ lullabies and sick men’s prayers–and so the years went on.

“I fell one night upon a hard and furrowed face. It was of ghostly pallor. A thief was dying on the cross, and this was his wretched face. About the cross stood men with staves and swords and spears, but none paid heed unto the thief. Somewhat beyond this cross another was lifted up, and upon it was stretched a human body my light fell not upon. But I heard a voice that somewhere I had heard before,–though where I did not know,–and this voice blessed those that railed and jeered and shamefully entreated. And suddenly the voice called ‘Dimas, Dimas!’ and the thief upon whose hardened face I rested made answer.

“Then I saw that it was Dimas; yet to this wicked criminal there remained but little of the shepherd child whom I had seen in all his innocence upon the hill-side. Long years of sinful life had seared their marks into his face; yet now, at the sound of that familiar voice, somewhat of the old-time boyish look came back, and in the yearning of the anguished eyes I seemed to see the shepherd’s son again.

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“‘The Master!’ cried Dimas, and he stretched forth his neck that he might see him that spake.

“‘O Dimas, how art thou changed!’ cried the Master, yet there was in his voice no tone of rebuke save that which cometh of love.

“Then Dimas wept, and in that hour he forgot his pain. And the Master’s consoling voice and the Master’s presence there wrought in the dying criminal such a new spirit, that when at last his head fell upon his bosom, and the men about the cross said that he was dead, it seemed as if I shined not upon a felon’s face, but upon the face of the gentle shepherd lad, the son of Benoni.

“And shining on that dead and peaceful face, I bethought me of the little Master’s words that he had spoken under the old olive-tree upon the hill-side: ‘Your eyes behold the promised glory now, O Dimas,’ I whispered, ‘for with the Master you walk in Paradise.’”

* * * * *

Ah, little Dear-my-Soul, you know–you know whereof the moonbeam spake. The shepherd’s bones are dust, the flocks are scattered, the old olive-tree is gone, the flowers of the hill-side are withered, and none knoweth where the grave of Dimas is made. But last night, again, there shined a star over Bethlehem, and the angels descended from the sky to earth, and the stars sang together in glory. And the bells,–hear them, little Dear-my-Soul, how sweetly they are ringing,–the bells bear us the good tidings of great joy this Christmas morning, that our Christ is born, and that with him he bringeth peace on earth and good-will toward men.

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