It was Christmas Eve. The night was very dark and the snow falling fast, as Hermann, the charcoal-burner, drew his cloak tighter around him, and the wind whistled fiercely through the trees of the Black Forest. He had been to carry a load to a castle near, and was now hastening home to his little hut. Although he worked very hard, he was poor, gaining barely enough for the wants of his wife and his four little children. He was thinking of them, when he heard a faint wailing. Guided by the sound, he groped about and found a little child, scantily clothed, shivering and sobbing by itself in the snow.
“Why, little one, have they left thee here all alone to face this cruel blast?”
The child answered nothing, but looked piteously up in the charcoal-burner’s face.
“Well, I cannot leave thee here. Thou would’st be dead before the morning.”
So saying, Hermann raised it in his arms, wrapping it in his cloak and warming its little cold hands in his bosom. When he arrived at his hut, he put down the child and tapped at the door, which was immediately thrown open, and the children rushed to meet him.
“Here, wife, is a guest to our Christmas Eve supper,” said he, leading in the little one, who held timidly to his finger with its tiny hand.
“And welcome he is,” said the wife. “Now let him come and warm himself by the fire.”
The children all pressed round to welcome and gaze at the little new-comer. They showed him their pretty fir-tree, decorated with bright, colored lamps in honor of Christmas Eve, which the good mother had endeavored to make a _f