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Specifically, it explores the way the oppositions common to male- and female-authored fictions blond-passive-chaste; dark-aggressive-sexual serve to divide women from each other. For all their apparent differences, the two rivals are shown to be more co-conspirators, both equally subject to male authority, continuously perpetuated by the myths of our culture. In fact, Harriet Spofford is the first woman writer to introduce us to a serial detective in crime fiction, anticipating latter detectives created by such authors as Metta Victor and Anna Katharine Green.

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There are so many more stories to be found, perhaps leaving us to wonder if Mr. Furbush does somehow live on in the stacks of old libraries. The works collected in A Scarlet Poppy are light satire, quite different from the more somber collection Old Madame and Other Tragedies These stories reflect the dry humor, realities, believable dialect, and even restraint of New England life, all of which earned her high praise. Yet the women in these narratives remain as strong as ever. They face the realistic necessities of life, live with the limited perceptions of their men, and triumph through the art they create.

Spofford always finds the cerulean and azure threads woven into the browns and grays of the New England life and the women she knew so well. Photo by Mary H. Northend, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Cindy Murillo is Associate Professor of English and teaches courses in composition and literature. There was the place they were to stay,—a kind of inn, or lodging-house, but not at all like those you know about.

It was a low, flat-roofed, stone building, with no windows and only one large door. There were no nicely furnished bed rooms inside, and no soft white beds for the tired travelers; there were only little places built into the stones of the wall, something like the berths on steamboats nowadays, and each traveler brought his own bedding.

No pretty garden was in front of the inn, for the road ran close to the very door, so that its dust lay upon the doorsill. All around the house, to a high, rocky hill [Pg 65] at the back, a heavy stone fence was built, so that the people and the animals inside might be kept safe. Mary and Joseph could not get very near the inn; for the whole road in front was filled with camels and donkeys and sheep and cows, while a great many men were going to and fro, taking care of the animals. Some of these people had come to Bethlehem to pay their taxes, as Mary and Joseph had done, and others were staying for the night on their way to Jerusalem, a large city a little further on.

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The yard was filled, too, with camels and sheep; and men were lying on the ground beside them, resting and watching and keeping them safe. The inn was so full and the yard was so full of people that there was no room for anybody else, and the keeper had to take Joseph and Mary through the house and back to the high hill, where they found another place that was used for a stable.

This had only a door and front, and deep caves were behind, stretching far into the rocks. This was the spot where Christ was born.

Think how poor a place! There were mangers all around the cave, where the cattle and sheep were fed, and great heaps of hay and straw were lying on the floor. Then, I think, there were brown-eyed cows and oxen there, and quiet, woolly sheep, and perhaps even some dogs that had come in to take care of the sheep. And there in the cave, by and by, the wonderful baby [Pg 66] came, and they wrapped Him up and laid Him in a manger.

All the stars in the sky shone brightly that night, for they knew the Christ-child was born, and the angels in heaven sang together for joy. The angels knew about the lovely child, and were glad that He had come to help the people on earth to be good. There lay the beautiful baby, with a manger for His bed, and oxen and sheep all sleeping quietly round Him. His mother watched Him and loved Him, and by and by many people came to see Him, for they had heard that a wonderful child was to be born in Bethlehem.

All the people in the inn visited Him, and even the shepherds left their flocks in the fields and sought the child and His mother. But the baby was very tiny, and could not talk any more than any other tiny child, so He lay in His mother's lap, or in the manger, and only looked at the people. So after they had seen Him and loved Him, they went away again.

After a time, when the baby had grown larger, Mary took Him back to Nazareth, and there He lived and grew up. And He grew to be such a sweet, wise, loving boy, such a tender, helpful man, and He said so many good and beautiful things, that everyone who knew Him, loved Him. Many of the things He said are in the Bible, you know, and a great many beautiful stories of the things He used to do while He was on earth. He loved little children like you very much, and often used to take them up in His arms and talk to them. This is the reason; because Christ, who was born on Christmas Day, has helped us all to be good so many, many times, and because He was the best Christmas present the world ever had!

Used by permission of the authors and also of the publishers—Houghton, Mifflin and Company. All at once they heard a timid knock at the door, and one ran to open it. There, outside in the cold and the darkness, stood a child with no shoes upon his feet and clad in thin, ragged garments.

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He was shivering with cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself. They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their supper with him, and gave him their bed, while they slept on a hard bench. In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music and, looking out, they saw a band of children in shining garments approaching the house.

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They were playing on golden harps, and the air was full of melody. Suddenly the Stranger Child stood before them; no longer cold and ragged, but clad in silvery light. His soft voice said: "I was cold and you took Me in. I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was tired, and you gave Me your bed. I am the Christ Child, wandering through the world to bring peace and happiness to all good children. As you have given to Me, so may this tree every year give rich fruit to you.

So saying, He broke a branch from the fir tree that grew near the door, and He planted it in the ground and [Pg 70] disappeared. But the branch grew into a great tree, and every year it bore wonderful golden fruit for the kind children. Used by permission of the authors and the publishers—Milton Bradley Company. Long ago, and far from here, in a country with a name too hard to pronounce, there lived a little boy named Jean.

In many ways, he was just like the boys here, for there are many Johns over here, are there not?

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Then too, Jean lived with his auntie, and some of our boys do that too. His father and mother were dead, and that is true here sometimes, isn't it? But in some ways things were quite different with Jean. In the first place his auntie was very, very cross, and she often made him climb up his ladder to his little garret room to go to sleep on his pallet of straw, without any supper, save a dry crust.

His stockings had holes in the heels, and toes and knees, because his auntie never had time to mend them, and his shoes would have been worn out all the time if they had not been such strong wooden shoes—for in that country the boys all wore wooden shoes.


Jean did many a little service around the place, for his auntie made him work for his daily bread, and he chopped the wood and swept the paths and made the fires and ran the errands, but he never heard anyone say "Thank you. Jean's happiest days were at school, and I wonder if he was like our boys in that?

There his playmates wore much better clothes and good stockings too, and warm top coats, but they never thought of making fun of Jean, for they all loved to play with him. One morning Jean started off to school which was next to the big church , [Pg 72] and when he got there he found the children all so happy and gay and dressed in their best clothes, and he heard one boy say, "Won't it be jolly tomorrow with the big tree full of oranges and popcorn and candy, and the candles burning? And Jean began to wonder about that beautiful tree and wish that one would grow at his house.

And he thought about his wooden shoes and knew there would be no goodies in them for him in the morning. Then he heard one boy say, "Don't you love Christmas? Jean thought it was beautiful in there! The soft light, the warm pleasant air, the flowers, and the marble altar, and then the music!