A Family Tradition...
“It was some time in the 18th century, a mere week from Christmas. Squire Sydney lived in a lovely country villa with his wife and their only child, Elizabeth. The household was already preparing for the Christmas festivities, when a letter arrived. The import of it—oh, I don’t know, it may have been from a sick relative. In any case, the news it brought was urgent and both parents had to leave at once, but they promised Elizabeth that they would return in time for Christmas day.
“The poor child missed them terribly, but held out hope that they would come back soon. Christmas Day dawned, passed, and soon the day turned to evening. Her parents still had not come home. Elizabeth had been waiting for them all day by the window, but there was no sign of them at all. What was worse, it began to snow. She could barely see through the windowpanes, but refused to leave her place when the Chief Steward begged her to take some food.
“The Steward went down to the kitchen to see how the preparations for Christmas Dinner were getting along. What was his surprise and dismay to find the cook crying into her apron and the goose, which should have been roasting on the fire, standing on the silver dish, very much alive.”
The Watson children sat spellbound, their eyes wide with wonder as Donna continued her story,
“The Chief Steward scolded the cook for not attending to her duties. Still weeping, she told him that she had begun to do her work same as on any Christmas Day; yet, just when she commenced cutting the goose’s neck, she thought of how the poor thing shouldn’t die on such a lovely day as Christmas.
“Well, as you may imagine, the Steward was thinking only of the little child upstairs who needed her dinner. He bade the cook to finish her work, but she just couldn’t do it. Not on Christmas. They argued for a time, until Elizabeth, hearing the commotion, came down herself to find what the matter was.
“When told the story by both cook and steward, she looked at the goose. Its neck was red from the incision made by the knife, and she came near and put her arm around it.
" ‘I would gladly give up a goose for Christmas Dinner,’ she said, ‘if I could only have my parents with me.’ She leaned against the goose’s head and tear slipped down her face. ‘I wish they were home.’
“For a moment all was silent. Then the goose, hitherto silent, began to make a great noise. Wriggling out of Elizabeth’s arms, it flapped its wings, trumpeting loudly. In the twinkling of an eye, it flew over the heads of the servants and out the kitchen door. The steward and his assistants pursued the goose and found to their amazement that the door to the outside was open. They could hear the goose’s cries echoing in woods! Determined not to lose such a bird, they followed after the goose, trudging through the thick snow and the bitter wind. Still they heard its cries. The steward was prepared to shoot the fowl if it would not come down on its own.”
The youngest children gasped with fright, while the older ones leaned forward to catch every word.
“Then, one of the manservants called loudly in alarm. In the distance, he could barely make out a carriage, which had fallen into a ditch. Hurrying to the spot, the attendants found two men collapsed in the snow bank, with a woman kneeling beside them. It was a coachmen—and Elizabeth’s parents!
“Squire Sydney and his wife had been in a great hurry to return home. The coachman, driving too fast through the thick snow, did not see the ditch until too late, and the carriage had fallen into it. Thrown from his seat, the coachmen struck the side of the ditch and became unconscious. Squire Sydney, in his own efforts to dislodge the carriage from the frozen mud, slipped and hurt his leg. Elizabeth’s mother could not leave them and there they had remained for many hours in the cold.
“At once, the servants helped all three back to the warmth and safety of the villa, and what was Elizabeth’s joy when she saw her mother and father! In a few days’ time, Squire Sydney was well again, and the coachman got along back home to his own family for the holidays. The steward said later that it was mere luck that the goose had flown near to the fallen carriage, but Elizabeth Sydney always insisted that the Christmas goose had granted her wish that her parents come home. Even to this day, it is said that whoever finds a goose with an open wound on its neck, will have his wish granted on Christmas Day.”
The children sat back, immensely relieved that all had turned out well in the end.
“Is that really true, Miss Donna?” Billy Watson asked breathlessly. “Is there really a Christmas Goose?”
“And does he truly grant wishes?” Timmy, his twin, wanted to know.
“Well, Elizabeth Sydney thought so—and she was my great-great-four more times great-grandmother.”
“But that was only one Christmas,” Matthew, the oldest boy, objected. “There weren’t any wishes granted after that.”
“Oh, yes there were, Matthew,” Donna said. “Elizabeth’s servants knew of the event, and she liked to tell her companions of it, too. Soon, others began to see the goose and their wishes were granted whenever they did. My family has kept memoirs of some of their stories. The last time the Christmas Goose was seen was some forty-seven years ago, by a poor laborer in Kent named Higgins.”
“But people can imagine things sometimes, can’t they?” Matthew said doubtfully.
“Shush, Matthew. Miss Sidney wouldn’t lie,” Peggy said firmly. Though fourteen, she was the eldest in the family, and Matthew at once dropped his skepticism. Peggy leaned forward earnestly. “Where can one find the Christmas Goose?”
“I don’t know,” Donna laughed. “He comes when he’s needed, that’s all I can tell.”
“Could he stop the war?” Billy asked.
“Birds don’t stop wars, Billy,” Matthew said. “Some wishes are too big to grant.”
“...maybe he can help Daddy keep his job,” Peggy murmured, half-aloud.