Page:Our American Holidays - Christmas.djvu/291

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by one. He knew the voice of the clock well, but it never before sounded so loud or so solemn: five—six—seven—eight—nine—ten— eleven—twelve. It was Christmas Day.

As the last echo died away, a new sound took its place. From afar off came the babble of tiny voices drawing nearer. Anything so gay and charming was never dreamed of before,—half a laugh, half a song, the tones blended into an enchanting peal, like the bells on a frolic. Above the old tower the sounds clustered and increased,—then a long, distressed cry came from the owl, and a bubbling laugh floated in on the wind. Roger could not stand it. Wild to see, he flew to the window, and tried to stretch his neck in such a way as to catch what was going on above; but it was a vain attempt, and just then the church-bells began to ring all together, a chime, a Christmas chime, only the sounds were infinitely small, as if baby hands had laid hold on the ropes. But his sharpened senses brought every note and change to Roger’s ears, and they were so merry and so lovely that he felt he must get nearer or die; and almost before he knew it he was climbing the dark belfry-stairs as fast as his feet could carry him, never thinking of fear or darkness, only of the elfin bells which were pealing overhead.

Up, up, through the long slits in the tower the moon could be seen sailing in the cold,