The Bells! The Bells!

A story was written (by Raymond MacDonald Alden) in 1906 called “Why The Bells Chimed”

The backdrop to this tale is a church set on a high hill in the centre of a great city in a far-off country.

The church was a magnificent building, but the strangest thing about it was the wonderful chime of bells.

 The belfry was set in a great, grey tower, with ivy growing over it as far up as anyone could see.

 Now, all the people knew that at the top of the tower was a chime of Christmas bells that had hung there ever since the church had been built, bells that sounded like angels high in the pure clean sky.

 It was the custom on Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to the Christ-child. When the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, there used to come sounding through the music of the choir the Christmas chimes far up in the tower.

 But for many years they had never been heard, despite the magnificence of the gifts.

 Although the services were splendid and the offerings plenty, only the roar of the wind could be heard, far up in the stone tower.

 Some miles from the city, in a small village, lived a boy named Pedro and his younger brother. They had heard of the service in the church on Christmas Eve, and had a secret plan to go and see the beautiful celebration.

 It was cold and snowy on the day before Christmas, when the two lads slipped quietly out of their home, and started to walk to the city.

 When they were about to enter one of the great gates in the wall that surrounded the city, they came across a poor woman who had fallen in the snow, too sick and tired to get in where she might have found shelter.

 Pedro knelt down beside her and tried to rouse her, by rubbing some snow on her face. But when he had looked at her for a moment, he stood up again and said:

 “It’s no good, Little Brother. You will have to go on alone.”

“Alone?” cried his brother, “And you not see the Christmas Festival?”

 But Pedro insisted.  He said that he would stay with the woman and make sure that she didn’t freeze to death

 Then Pedro added “if you get a chance to slip up to the altar without getting in anyone’s way, take this little silver piece of mine, and lay it down for my offering when no one is looking. Don’t forget where you have left me, and forgive me for not going with you.”

 So it was. Pedro’s little brother went to the service, while Pedro stayed behind, trying to keep the woman warm as she lay in the snow

 The great church was a wonderful place that night. Everyone said that it had never looked so bright and beautiful before and the service and the singing were breathtaking.

 At the close of the service came the procession with offerings to be laid on the altar. Rich men and great men marched proudly up to lay down their gifts to the Christ-child. Some brought wonderful jewels, some baskets of gold so heavy that they could scarcely carry them down the aisle. A great writer laid down a book that he had been working on for years.

And last of all walked the king of the country, hoping with all the rest to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells. There went a great murmur through the church as the people saw the king take from his head the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and lay it gleaming on the altar as his offering to the holy Child. “Surely.” everyone said, “we shall hear the bells now, for nothing like this has ever happened before.”

 But still only the cold old wind was heard in the tower.

 The procession was over, and the choir began the closing hymn. Suddenly the organist stopped playing, and everyone looked at the old minister who was standing by the altar holding up his hand for silence. Not a sound could be heard from anyone in the church, but as all the people strained their ears to listen there came softly, but distinctly swinging through the air, the sound of the chimes in the tower. Then they all stood up together and stared straight at the altar to see what great gift had awakened the long-silent bells.

 But all that the nearest of them saw was the childish figure of Little Brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking, and had laid Pedro’s little piece of silver on the altar.

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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