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The Sabots Of Little Wolff
by [?]

Once upon a time–it was so long ago that the whole world has forgotten the date–in a city in the north of Europe–whose name is so difficult to pronounce that nobody remembers it–once upon a time there was a little boy of seven, named Wolff, an orphan in charge of an old aunt who was hard and avaricious, who only embraced him on New-Year’s Day, and who breathed a sigh of regret every time that she gave him a porringer of soup.

But the poor little chap was naturally so good that he loved the old woman just the same, although she frightened him very much, and he could never see without trembling the great wart, ornamented with four gray hairs, which she had on the end of her nose.

As the aunt of Wolff was known through all the village to have a house and an old stocking full of gold, she did not dare send her nephew to the school for the poor. But she so schemed to obtain a reduction of the price with the school-master whose school little Wolff attended, that the bad teacher, vexed at having a scholar so badly dressed and who paid so poorly, punished him very often and unjustly with the backboard and fool’s cap, and even stirred his fellow-pupils against him, all sons of well-to-do men, who made the orphan their scapegoat.

The poor little fellow was therefore as miserable as the stones in the street, and hid himself in out-of-the-way corners to cry; when Christmas came.

The night before Christmas the school-master was to take all of his pupils to the midnight mass, and bring them back to their homes.

Now, as the winter was very severe that year, and as for several days a great quantity of snow had fallen, the scholars came to the rendezvous warmly wrapped and bundled up, with fur caps pulled down over their ears, double and triple jackets, knitted gloves and mittens, and good thick nailed boots with strong soles. Only little Wolff came shivering in the clothes that he wore week-days and Sundays, and with nothing on his feet but coarse Strasbourg socks and heavy sabots, or wooden shoes.

His thoughtless comrades made a thousand jests over his sad looks and his peasant’s dress. But the orphan was so occupied in blowing on his fingers, and suffered so much from his chilblains, that he took no notice of them; and the troop of boys, with the master at their head, started for the church.

It was fine in the church, which was resplendent with wax-candles; and the scholars, excited by the pleasant warmth, profited by the noise of the organ and the singing to talk to each other in a low voice. They boasted of the fine suppers that were waiting for them at home. The son of the burgomaster had seen, before he went out, a monstrous goose that the truffles marked with black spots like a leopard. At the house of the first citizen there was a little fir-tree in a wooden box, from whose branches hung oranges, sweetmeats, and toys. And the cook of the first citizen had pinned behind her back the two strings of her cap, as she only did on her days of inspiration when she was sure of succeeding with her famous sugar-candy. And then the scholars spoke, too, of what the Christ-child would bring to them, of what he would put in their shoes, which they would, of course, be very careful to leave in the chimney before going to bed. And the eyes of those little chaps, lively as a parcel of mice, sparkled in advance with the joy of seeing in their imagination pink paper bags of burnt almonds, lead soldiers drawn up in battalions in their boxes, menageries smelling of varnished wood, and magnificent jumping-jacks covered with purple and bells.