From When All the World is Kin, by Ellen Geyer, Bradshaw-Diehl Company, Huntington, WV., undated; pp. 69-71.
Her father had died when she was a baby, and her mother was poor and had to work very hard all day in the fields for a few pennies.
Little Piccola had no dolls and toys, and she was often hungry and cold, but she was never sad nor lonely.
What if there were not children for her to play with! What if she did not have fine clothes and beautiful toys! In the summer there were always the birds in the forest, and the flowers in the fields and meadows, — the birds sang so sweetly and the flowers were so bright and pretty!
In the winter when the ground was covered with snow, Piccola helped her mother, and knit long stockings of blue wool.
The snow-birds had to be fed with crumbs, if she could find any, and then, there was Christmas Day.
But one year her mother was ill and could not earn any money. Piccola worked hard all day long, and sold the stockings which she knit, even when her own little bare feet were blue with cold.70
As Christmas Day drew near she said to her mother, “I wonder what the good Saint Nicholas will bring me this year? I cannot hang my stockings in the fire place, but I shall put my wooden shoe on the hearth for him. He will not forget me, I am sure.”
“Do not think of it this year, my dear child,” replied her mother. “We must be glad if we have bread enough to eat.”
But Piccola could not believe that the good saint would forget her. On Christmas Eve she put her little wooden shoe on the hearth before the fire, and went to sleep to dream of Saint Nicholas.
As the poor mother looked at the little shoe, she thought how unhappy her dear child would be to find it empty in the morning, and wished she had something, even if it were only a tiny cake, for a Christmas gift. But there were only a few pennies in the house and these must be saved for bread.
When the morning dawned Piccola awoke and ran to her shoe.
Saint Nicholas had come in the night. He had not forgotten the little girl who had had such faith in him.
See what he had brought her. It lay in the wooden shoe, looking up at her with its two 71 bright eyes, and chirping contentedly as she stroked its soft feathers.
A little swallow, cold and hungry, had flown into the chimney and down to the room, and had crept into the shoe for warmth.
Piccola danced for joy, and clasped the shivering swallow to her breast.
She ran to her mother’s bed side. “Look, look!” she cried. “A Christmas gift, a gift from good Saint Nicholas!” And she danced again in her little bare feet.
Then she fed and warmed the bird, and cared for it tenderly all winter long; teaching it to take crumbs from her hand and her lips, and to sit on her shoulder while she was working.
In the spring she opened the window for it to fly away, but it lived in the woods nearby all summer, and came often in the early morning to sing its sweetest songs at her door.
* Olcott Good Stories for Great Days Houghton Mifflin
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