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A HOSPITAL CHRISTMAS

By

LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

This edition published by Dreamscape Media LLC, 2018

www.dreamscapeab.com * info@dreamscapeab.com

1417 Timberwolf Drive, Holland, OH 43528

877.983.7326


About Louisa May Alcott:

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she also grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Alcott's family suffered from financial difficulties, and while she worked to help support the family from an early age, she also sought an outlet in writing. She began to receive critical success for her writing in the 1860s. Early in her career, she sometimes used the pen name A. M. Barnard, under which she wrote novels for young adults that focused on spies, revenge, and cross dressers.

Published in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts and is loosely based on Alcott's childhood experiences with her three sisters. The novel was very well received and is still a popular children's novel today, filmed several times.

Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist and remained unmarried throughout her life. She died from a stroke, two days after her father died, in Boston on March 6, 1888.

Source: Wikipedia

A Hospital Christmas

Adapted by Stephen W. Hines

"Merry Christmas!" "Merry Christmas!" "Merry Christmas, and lots of 'em, Ma'am!" echoed from every side as Miss Hale entered her ward in the gray December dawn. No wonder the greetings were hearty, that thin faces brightened, and eyes watched for the coming of this small luminary more eagerly than for the rising of the sun.

When the patients had awakened that morning, each man found that, in the silence of the night, some friendly hand had laid a little gift beside his bed. Very humble little gifts they were, but well chosen and thoughtfully bestowed by one who made the blithe anniversary pleasant even in a hospital and sweetly taught the lesson of the hour—Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man.

"I say, Ma'am, these are just splendid. I've dreamt about such for a week, but I never thought I'd get 'em," cried one poor fellow surveying a fine bunch of grapes with as much satisfaction as if he had found a fortune.

"Thank you kindly, Miss, for the paper and the fixings. I hated to keep borrowing, but I hadn't any money," said another, eyeing his gift with happy anticipations of the home letters with which the generous pages should be filled.

"They are dreadful soft and pretty, but I don't believe I'll ever wear 'em out; my legs are so wimbly there's no go in 'em," whispered a fever patient looking sorrowfully at the swollen feet ornamented with a pair of carpet slippers gay with roses and evidently made for his special need.

"Please hang my posy basket on the gas burner in the middle of the room where all the boys can see it. It's too pretty for one alone."

"But then you can't see it yourself, Joe, and you are fonder of such things than the rest," said Miss Hale, taking both the little basket and the hand of her pet patient, a lad of twenty, dying of rapid consumption.

"That's the reason I can spare it for a while, because I shall feel 'em in the room just the same, and they'll do the boys good. You pick out the one you like best for me to keep and hang up the rest till by and by, please."

She gave him a sprig of mignonette, and he smiled as he took it, for it reminded him of her in her sad-colored gown. Although Miss Hale was quiet and unobtrusive, she had created a gratitude in the hearts of those about her that was like the fresh scent of a flower to the lonely lad who never had known womanly tenderness and care until he found them in a hospital. Joe's prediction was verified; the flowers did do the boys good. All welcomed them with approving glances, and all felt their refining influence more or less keenly, from cheery Ben, who paused to fill the cup inside with fresher water, to surly Sam, who stopped growling as his eye rested on a geranium very like the one blooming in his sweetheart's window when they parted a long year ago.

"Now, as this is to be a merry day, let us begin to enjoy it at once. Fling up the window, Ben, and Barney, go for breakfast while I finish washing faces and settling bedclothes."

With which directions the little woman fell to work with such infectious energy that, in fifteen minutes, thirty gentlemen with clean faces and hands were partaking of refreshments with as much appetite as their various conditions would permit. Meantime the sun came up, looking bigger, brighter, and jollier than usual, as he is apt to do on Christmas days. Not a snowflake chilled the air that blew in as blandly as if winter had relented and wished the "boys" the compliments of the season in his mildest mood. A festival smell pervaded the whole house, and appetizing rumors of turkey, mince pie, and oysters for dinner circulated through the wards. When breakfast was done, the wounds dressed, directions for the day delivered, and as many of the disagreeables as possible were over, the fun began. In any other place, that would have been considered a very quiet morning, but to the weary invalids prisoned in that room, it was quite a whirl of excitement. None were dangerously ill but Joe, and all were easily amused since weakness, homesickness, and ennui made every trifle a joke or an event.

In came Ben, looking like a "Jack in the Green," with his load of hemlock and holly. Such of the men as could get about and had a hand to lend, lent it, and soon, under Miss Hale's directions, a green bough hung at the head of each bed suspended from the gas burners and nodding over the fireplace, while the finishing effect was designed to be a cross and crown at the top and bottom of the room. Great was the interest, many were the mishaps, and frequent was the laughter that attended this performance. Wounded men, when convalescent, are particularly jovial.

When "Daddy Mills," as one venerable volunteer was irreverently christened, expatiated learnedly upon the difference between "spruce, hemlock, and pine," how they all listened, each thinking of some familiar wood still pleasantly haunted by boyish recollections of stolen nuts, maple syrup, and squirrel nests. When quiet Hayward amazed the company by coming out strong in a most unexpected direction and telling with much effect the story of a certain "fine old gentleman" who supped on hemlock tea and died directly, what commendations were bestowed upon the unfortunate fellow in language more hearty than classical, as a twig of the historical tree was passed 'round like a new style of refreshment, that inquiring parties might satisfy themselves regarding the flavor of the Socratic draught. When Barney the buffoon essayed a grand ornament above the door, and relying upon one insufficient nail, descended to survey his success with the proud exclamation, "Look at the neatness of that job, gentlemen"— at which point the whole thing tumbled down about his ears—how they all shouted. But poor Pneumonia Ned, having lost his voice, could only make ecstatic demonstrations with his legs.

When Barney cast himself and his hammer despairingly upon the floor, and Miss Hale, stepping into a chair, pounded stoutly at the traitorous nail and performed some miracle with a bit of string that made all fast, what a burst of applause arose from the beds. When a gruff Dr. Bangs came in to see what all the noise was about, the same intrepid lady not only boldly explained but also stuck a bit of holly in his button hole. Not only that, but she wished him a merry Christmas with such a face full of smiles that the crabbed old doctor felt himself giving in very fast and bolted out again, calling Christmas a humbug. He predicted that over the thirty emetics he would have to prescribe on the morrow, but indignant denials followed him down the hallway. And when all was done, everybody agreed with Joe when he said, "I think we are coming to Christmas in great style; things look so green and pretty, I feel as I was settin' in a bower."

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