Up the Chimney Christmas Play - First Scene
Up the Chimney Christmas Play - First Scene
Written by: Shepherd Knapp
The curtain opens, and you see a room in a house and four people, just as Mother Goose promised. On one side is a fire-place, and notice the stockings hanging by it. At the back is a window, looking out into the street, but you cannot see anything there, because it is dark out of doors. The little girl's name is Polly, but the first one to speak is her brother, named JACK, who looks up from his letter and says:
Mother, how do you spell "friend"?
MOTHER answers: F, r, i, e, n, d. Have you nearly finished your letter, Jack?
Yes, says JACK, still writing. Then he stops, straightens up and says, There! It's all done. Shall I read it to you, Mother?
Do, MOTHER answers. And Father puts down his newspaper to listen, and Polly stops writing. Mother goes on knitting, because she can knit and listen at the same time.
So JACK reads: "Dear Santa Claus, I have been very good this year—most of the time; and I wish you would bring me a toy soldier. I am very well and I hope you are. Your loving little friend, Jack." Is that all right, Mother?
It is a very good letter, says MOTHER; only I thought you were going to speak about that pair of warm gloves for Father.
Oh, I forget that, says JACK, looking a little bit ashamed. I'll put it in a postscript. So he goes on writing, and so does Polly. JACK says his words aloud while he writes them: "P.S.—Fa—ather—would—like—a—pair—of—warm—gloves."
MOTHER looks over at Polly, who seems to have finished, and says: Polly, let us hear your letter.
So POLLY reads: "Dear Santa Claus, I am so glad that tomorrow is Christmas. We have all hung up our stockings, and I think I would like best to have a doll in short dresses. I love you very much. Your little friend, Polly. P.S.—I think Mother would like a ball of white knitting cotton." I had to put that in a postscript, Mother, because I forgot, too.
And now FATHER, who has been listening all this time, says: Where will you put the letters?—on the mantel-piece or in the stockings?
Oh, on the mantel-piece, answers JACK. We always put them on the mantel-piece. Don't you remember that, Father?
Yes, I believe I do, now that you speak of it, says FATHER.
Then the children put the two letters on the mantel-piece, standing them against the clock, so that they can be easily seen. While they are doing this, some one passes the window, walking along the street, and there comes a knock at the door.
Come in, says FATHER; and in comes a little woman, rather old, and rather bent, and rather lame.
Why, if it isn't little Nurse Mary, cries FATHER, and they all rise up to greet her. She kisses both the children, and shakes hands with Father and Mother.
Here's a chair for you, Nurse Mary, says JACK.
Let me take your cloak and hood, Nurse Mary, says POLLY.
When they were all seated again, FATHER says, I am afraid I shall have to give you a little scolding, Mary, for coming out on such a cold night. It really don't do, you know.
Now, Doctor John, NURSE MARY answers, What do you expect? Haven't I seen you every Christmas Eve since you were half the size of Master Jack here, and didn't I knit with my own hands the first little stocking you ever hung up for Santa Claus, and don't I remember how frightened you were that time when we heard the reindeers on the roof, and when the handful of walnuts came tumbling down the chimney? And do you expect me to stay away on Christmas Eve, like some lonely old woman, who never was nurse to any children at all, let alone two generations of them? What are you thinking of, Doctor John?
I am thinking, says FATHER smiling, that if you hadn't come, we should have missed you dreadfully. But tell me, Nurse Mary, how are you feeling?
Well, answers NURSE MARY, to speak the truth, Doctor John, I think you must give me some medicine.
Medicine? cries MOTHER.
Are you sick, Nurse Mary? asks POLLY.
Yes, Miss Polly, sick, and very sick, too, NURSE MARY answers.
But how? asks FATHER. What's wrong? Where is the trouble?
First of all, in my back, Doctor John, says NURSE MARY. Today, after sweeping and scrubbing a little, and baking a Christmas cake, I just ironed out a few pieces, my best cap and apron, and the likes of that, and before I had finished, I give you word my back began to ache. Now what do you make of it? And then, my joints—stiff! Yes, Dr. John, stiff! How am I to do my work with stiff joints, I'd like to know?
I see, says FATHER, shaking his head. This is a serious matter. But cheer up, Nurse Mary; I believe I have the very thing that will help you. He opens his medicine case, which stands on the table, and takes out a little bottle. Here it is, he says, and let me tell you how to take it; for with this medicine that is the most important part. You must find some children to give it to you. If you take it from grown-up people, it will do you no good at all, so you must find a child somewhere, or two would be better, one to pour it out and one to hold the spoon—
Oh, let me pour it out, cries JACK.
And let me hold the spoon, cries POLLY.
Why, that will do finely, says FATHER, and hands Jack the bottle. And now I must go out, he continues; for old Mrs. Cavendish is sick and has sent for me. It may be quite late, when I come home. He begins to put on his overcoat.
And I, says MOTHER, have some Christmas bundles to tie up. If Nurse Mary goes before I come back, will you both go quietly to bed like good children?
Yes, Mother, cry POLLY and JACK together.
Well, good night, then, Mary dear, says MOTHER.
Good night, Nurse Mary, says FATHER. Then Mother and Father both go out, the one to her own room and the other to the street.
Come, Nurse Mary, says JACK, you must take your medicine.
Do you suppose it is very bitter? asks NURSE MARY.
I think it is, says JACK, looking into the bottle and smelling it. It looks bitter and it smells bitter.
But you mustn't mind that, Nurse Mary, says POLLY; because it will make you well.
All right, says NURSE MARY. Pour it out.
Then Polly holds the spoon, and Jack carefully pours the medicine into it. Nurse Mary opens her mouth, swallows the dose, and makes a wry face, shuddering.
Was it horrid? asks JACK.
Horrid! answers NURSE MARY.
Do you feel better? asks POLLY.
I can't tell yet, answers NURSE MARY. I suppose I must wait a little for the medicine to work.
And while we are waiting, says JACK, tell us about when Father was a little boy.
So Nurse Mary sits down, and takes Polly on her lap, while Jack sits on a stool at her feet, and then NURSE MARY begins, When Dr. John was a very little boy—
But, Nurse Mary, JACK says, interrupting, he wasn't named "Dr. John" then, was he?
No, answers NURSE MARY, he was just "Master John" then. Well, when he was a very little boy, so that I could carry him upstairs to bed without any trouble at all, he was the most beautiful boy you ever saw. He had fat rosy cheeks, and fine big eyes, and stout little legs.
Was he big enough to walk, when you first took care of him? asks POLLY.
No, indeed, answers NURSE MARY; and the first time he ever went to a Christmas tree, I had to carry him. I held him up to see the candles.
Did he like it? asks JACK.
I think that he was just a wee bit frightened, says NURSE MARY, but I'll tell you what he did like. You know the little figures of Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child in the manger, that you always set out on Christmas Day, with the cows and the sheep standing all about? The children both nod. Well, when your father saw that, and heard your grandparents and all the older brothers and sisters singing "The Carol of the Friendly Beasts"—just as you will sing it again tomorrow—he held out his hands and danced up and down in my arms. I tell you, I could hardly hold him.
Nurse Mary, says POLLY, won't you sing us "The Carol of the Friendly Beasts" now?
In my old cracked voice? says NURSE MARY. Well, if you will both help me, I'll try.
So the three of them together sing:
THE CAROL OF THE FRIENDLY BEASTS1
Jesus our brother, strong and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude,
And the friendly beasts around him stood.
I, said the cow, all white and red,
I gave him my manger for his bed,
I gave him my hay to pillow his head.
I, said the camel, yellow and black,
Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought him a gift in the wise man's pack.
I, said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
I carried his mother uphill and down,
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town.
I, said the sheep, with the curly horn,
I gave him my wool for his blanket warm,
He wore my coat on Christmas morn.
I, said the dove, from my rafter high,
Cooed him to sleep that he should not cry,
We cooed him to sleep my mate and I.
And every beast, by some good spell
In the stable dark, was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Immanuel.
When the carol is finished, NURSE MARY looks at the clock, and says, My dears, it is time we were all in bed, or Santa Claus when he comes, will find us awake, and that would never do. So I must be going home.
But how do you feel? asks POLLY. Has the medicine done your back good?
My back? says NURSE MARY. Why, I had forgotten all about my back—not an ache in it.
And your joints? asks JACK.
I wouldn't know I had any joints, answers NURSE MARY. I declare, I believe I could dance the Highland Fling. But where is my cloak?
Then Polly gets the cloak and hood, and helps her put them on, and as Nurse Mary goes out at the door,
Good-night, Nurse Mary, cry JACK and POLLY.
Good-night, my dears, NURSE MARY answers. And the door closes behind her.
Now while the children had their backs turned, a funny thing happened, for out of the fire-place there stepped, without making a sound, a little man dressed all in green. Jack and Polly, when they turn about, see him standing there.
Why, who are you? asks JACK, standing still, but very bravely keeping in front of Polly.
The little green man says never a word, but after waiting a moment with his finger on his lips, he beckons to them to come forward, and slowly, for they are a little frightened, they obey him. When they are quite close, he looks cautiously around, and then draws a large white letter out of his pocket, and hands it to Jack. Jack looks at it, and shows it to Polly. Then he looks at the little green man, who nods his head with a funny little jerk.
Shall I open it? asks JACK. And the little green man nods again. So Jack opens it.
Shall I read it? asks JACK. And the little green man nods again. So Jacks begins to read: "My dear Children all over the world, I, who write you this letter, am your old friend Santa Claus, and how shall I tell you the sad news, for tonight is the night when I ought to get into my reindeer sleigh and go about filling your precious stockings with Christmas gifts, and I cannot do it because I am sick. My back aches like a tooth ache, and every joint in my whole body is so stiff that I can hardly move. Old Father Time, who pretends to be something of a doctor, says the trouble is that I am growing old—the idea of it! I sent him packing about his business, I can tell you. But all the same I do feel mighty queer, and that's a fact. And the worst of it is that this is Christmas Eve, and here I am shut up indoors in my house at the North Pole, and every stocking in the world is hanging empty. I cannot bear to have Christmas come and go without any word at all from me, so I have gotten my good little friends the gnomes and fairies and elves to help me out. They had some old fairy toys, that are almost as good as new, and these they are going to carry about to all the children; and although these gifts are rather different from what you usually receive from me, I hope they will at least keep you from forgetting poor old Santa Claus."
Jack and Polly look sadly at one another, and then at the little green man. He reaches out his hand, takes the letter, folds it up, replaces it in the envelope, and tucks it away in his pocket. Then he brings out two little packages, all in green paper, tied with green string, and gives one to Polly and one to Jack. Then, quick as a flash, he has disappeared in the fire-place.
Where did he go to? asks POLLY, after a moment of surprise.
Up the chimney, says JACK.
But what has he given to us? says POLLY, looking at the little green package in her hand.
Let's open them, says JACK.
So the two children untie the strings, and open the papers, and soon hold up the things they have found inside. Jack has a pair of spectacles with large round glasses and black rims. Polly has a curious little brown cap. They look at them in perplexity.
Oh, there is some writing fastened to mine, says POLLY.
And to mine, too, adds JACK.
"A fairy wishing-cap am I;
So put me on, and away you fly.
Wherever you wish, 'tis there you'll be,
And quicker than saying three-times-three."
Polly puts the cap on her head. Then JACK reads:
"Fairy spectacles are we;
Put us on, and you shall see
Things you never saw before,
Easy as saying four-times-four."
Jack puts the spectacles on his nose, and begins to go about the room looking at everything through them.
Oh, Polly, he exclaims, I can see all sorts of queer things. I can see what is in the table drawer without opening it, and I can see the pictures in the books right through the covers. And oh, Polly, look here. He is looking into the fire-place, when he says this. I can see now how the little green man went up the chimney, for there are steps in the side, all the way up. Look at them.
POLLY looks. Then she says, I don't see any steps, Jack.
It's the fairy spectacles, Polly, cries JACK. Isn't it wonderful?
Jack! says POLLY suddenly, do you know what we must do? We must go to Santa Claus, and carry him the medicine that cured Nurse Mary's back and joints. You will go first up the chimney, and I will go after, stepping just where I see you step, and then at the top I will take tight hold of your hand, and with my wishing cap on I will wish to be at Santa Claus' house at the North Pole.
Splendid! Let's start this minute, cries JACK.
Polly takes the spoon, and Jack takes the medicine bottle, and one after the other they go up the chimney.
A moment later MOTHER comes in. Children, she begins, looking about; but then she continues, Oh, I see: they have gone to bed. She goes across to the other door and listens. Then she says: Not a sound! They are fast asleep already.
So she takes the lamp from the table, and carries it out with her, leaving the room all in black darkness.
And that is the end of the First Scene.