Toby was mad. “It isn’t fair!” he said as he stomped around the kitchen. “Why does it always happen this way?” he asked his mother. Jeb and Harriet, his big brother and sister, always had all the fun.
And tonight they were going out again on a sleigh ride with the older boys and girls from some of the farms nearby. Toby couldn’t go along because he was “too little.” Would he ever not be “too little” for all the things he wanted to do?
“When will I be big enough, Mama? That’s what I want to know.” Mama smiled. “Maybe next year you’ll be big enough to go. But right now, it’s time for bed,” she said.
Toby went up to the bedroom he shared with baby Sarah. “Look how much bigger I am than Sarah. Why do Harriet and Jeb always do things together, and I get stuck with the baby?” he complained.
But Mama just hugged Toby and smiled again. “Some day you’ll be big. I promise you that,” she said. Then she tucked Toby and Sarah under their warm quilts and kissed them goodnight.
Just as Toby closed his eyes, he heard a jingling noise outside. He jumped out of bed and looked out the window of his room just in time to see Harriet and Jeb climbing into a sleigh. It was pulled by a beautiful chestnut horse. The sleigh was full of laughing boys and girls dressed in hats and mittens and heavy scarves.
The horse stamped its hooves, and the boy driving the sleigh called, “Come on, Harriet and Jeb. What a ride we’re going to have tonight!” As the sleigh pulled away from the door of the house, Toby could hear the riders sing, “Dashing through the snow, In a one-horse open sleigh...”
The next day was Christmas Eve. Papa called to Harriet and Jeb, “We have an important job to do this morning. We must go to the woods and cut down our Christmas tree.” “I’ll come, too!” shouted Toby. “You’d better stay here with Mama and Sarah,” said Papa. “Maybe next year you’ll be big enough to help.”
Toby was so disappointed that tears came to his eyes. Then Mama had an idea! While the others went for the tree, she and Toby made long strings of red cranberries for decorations. Little Sarah watched them. She kept laughing and trying to grab the cranberries. It wasn’t such a bad morning after all.
Just before lunch, Papa and Harriet and Jeb came stomping into the house, half covered with snow. They were dragging a huge tree. “Let’s hurry and eat our lunch,” said Papa, “so we can get this tree decorated.” That afternoon, Papa set up the tree in the parlor.
The whole family gathered to put colored balls and sparkling tinsel on it. Then Toby said, “Look what Mama and I made this morning for our tree.” He proudly brought in his strings of cranberries. Jeb helped him hang them from even the tallest branches. Toby was sure that his decorations were the prettiest ones of all.
That night, Harriet and Jeb and Toby all hung their stockings on the fireplace. Harriet hung up one of her long, blue stockings. Jeb’s brown stocking had a hole in the toe. He hoped none of his presents would fall through the hole! Toby hung up his favorite green stocking. They also put up a little red-and-white-striped one for baby Sarah because she was too small to do it herself.
Then Mama said, “Now it’s off to bed for Toby and Sarah.” “This early?” said Toby. He thought about begging to stay up just a little longer. But for once, he didn’t protest. Because, after all, tomorrow would be Christmas!
But after Toby was in bed, he had barely closed his eyes when Papa and Mama came into the bedroom. Could it be time to get up already? “Don’t go to sleep quite yet, little ones,” Papa said to Toby and Sarah. “Mama and Harriet and Jeb and I have a big surprise for you.”
Mama and Papa carried Sarah and Toby, both of them wrapped in the warm quilts, to the door of their house. There, right in front of the house, was a beautiful sleigh! It was painted red and was decorated with little round silver bells. Quickly, the whole family piled into the sleigh. Bells tinkled as they slowly started to glide across the snow.
Soon they were speeding along in the open fields to the clip-clop of horse’s hooves and the jingling of bells. It seemed to Toby that they must be flying! And as they rode, they began to sing:
Dashing through the snow,
In a one-horse open sleigh,
O’er the fields we go,
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bobtail ring,
Making spirits bright,
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight!
Jingle bells! Jingle bells!
Jingle all the way!
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh!
As they started back toward home, Papa slowed the horse to an easy trot. The swaying of the sleigh and the tinkling of the bells made it hard for Toby to keep his eyes open.
Toby leaned his head against Papa’s big shoulder. He smiled up at Papa and whispered, “This is the best Christmas surprise I’ve ever had!”
And as Toby’s eyes slowly shut in sleep, he hummed to himself, “Jingle all the way...”