Harriet Bredon Goes Shopping
A Christmas Story for my Readers

By: Will B
(© 2010 by the author)

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

It was Christmas Eve, 1837, and the vicarage of St. Botolphs’ had been made ready as far as possible for the Christmas luncheon planned for the next day.


The church had been made as beautiful as possible for the Christmas Eve service. The choirs had practiced and the music they created with their voices was as the music of the angels.


Harriet’s husband, the Reverend Peter Bredon, Vicar of St. Botolph’s, had written a sermon of which he could be justly proud (or he would have been, if he hadn’t been so modest!).


Still, with everything ready for the great celebration of the Birth of Our Savior, Harriet Bredon could not relax. She paced the floor, wondering…just what could she get for her husband as a last minute Christmas surprise.


“Dorothy,” she called to her maid, “Get my cloak. We’re going to the shops.”


“Yes, mum,” said Dorothy, dropping a slight curtsey as she came into the room, dressed for going outside in the cold, and carrying Harriet’s cloak and muffler.


The two women went out into the afternoon dusk, determined to find just that right little something for Harriet’s husband.


“We must hurry, Dorothy,” Harriet said. “It looks like it’s going to snow any minute.”


They went to several shops and then Harriet saw one thing that her husband would appreciate—a beautiful white silk scarf!  “I’ll take that, if you please,” she said to the clerk.


“Yes, ma’am, and a Merry Christmas to you,” the clerk said.


In another shop, Harriet found a box of chocolate bon-bons, which her husband loved. She bought those, and went to two more stores. In the last one she found a beautiful burgundy dressing gown.


“I think that Reverend Bredon will like that one,” she said to Dorothy.


“Oh, yes, mum, I’m sure he will.”


Dorothy carried the scarf and the bon-bons and Harriet carried the dressing gown. It was getting dark now, and a few snow flakes were dancing in the air.


Through the gloom of the afternoon, they heard the bells of St. Botolph’s chiming the quarter hour.


They were three blocks from home, when Harriet and Dorothy came upon a little boy sitting on the curb, crying. He had fallen and cut his knee and the blood was flowing freely.


Harriet just couldn’t pass by on the other side of the street. “Quick, Dorothy, hand me the scarf!”


Harriet knelt down and wrapped the scarf around the boy’s knee, just as the boy’s mother came up.


“Oh, thank you, ma’am, for helping my son—but I’m afraid the scarf is wounded. That blood won’t come out,” the mother said.


“No matter, my dear. Just take your son home and wash his knee again and keep him warm,” Harriet said as she walked away.


They were a block closer to home, and Harriet saw three children, one blind girl and one crippled boy with a little girl, standing on the corner, begging from the passers-by.


“Please, lady. We’re so hungry. Can you spare a few pence so we can buy some bread?” the crippled boy asked.


“Oh, of course, my child.” Harriet opened her reticule, and handed the boy five shillings—and then said, “and here’s something else I think you will like.” She gave the three children the dozen bon-bons.


Dorothy looked at her mistress in open-mouthed awe. “Mrs. Bredon, those were the Reverend’s bon-bons.”


“Well, I don’t think he’ll mind doing without,” Harriet said, walking towards home.


The bells of St. Botolph’s chimed the half-hour.


It was snowing heavier now.


The two women were just one block from the vicarage, one block from the warmth of the fire, one block from the comforting cup of tea.


The bells of St. Botolph’s chimed the three quarters, and the snow was falling so heavily that visibility was limited. The cold was bitter.


Harriet stopped aghast! She saw a little match girl, who raised her cup of matches to offer them for sail and then suddenly keeled over and collapsed in the street.


Without thinking, Harriet took the dressing gown she had bought for her husband, wrapped it around the little girl and picked her up to carry her to the vicarage.


“Dorothy, run and get Dr. Buchanan, and ask him to come to the vicarage, quickly. Run. RUN!” Harriet almost shouted.


She carried the little girl to the vicarage and took her up to her own bedroom, where she laid her on the bed and covered her with the best quilt she had.


In a few minutes Dr. Buchanan arrived, and examined the girl.


“Och, Mrs. Bredon, ‘tis no more than exhaustion, hunger and cold that caused her to faint. I see no sign of the phosphorous poisoning that attacks so many of these poor girls and boys who work in the match factories,” Dr. Buchanan said. “But what’s to become of her? She can’t go back to that life. She’ll surely die in time!”


Harriet Bredon stood tall and said, “She’s not going back to that life. I’m going to keep her here, and see that she’s cared for.”


“You’re a remarkable woman, Mrs. Bredon. I take my hat off to you,” said the good doctor, as he took his leave.


Harriet left the little girl sleeping, and went down stairs. “Where is the Reverend, Dorothy?” she asked.


“Please, mum, he asked me to tell you he was in the church, and he would be glad if you would join him there.”


Harriet left the vicarage and went into the church. The first thing she saw as her husband kneeling in prayer before the altar, The second thing she saw was her white scarf, looking as good as new—and then a box with a dozen bon-bons in it—and then, her husband’s dressing gown, folded neatly.


“What?....How….” She said.


“I don’t know, my dear.” All I can tell you is that a few minutes ago a tall man came to the door of the vicarage, and asked me to give these to you. Although he was dressed in the clothes of a Londoner, his face was radiant, and I thought I saw a shepherd’s crook in his hand.”


“Did he say anything else, Mr. Bredon?”


“Yes, Mrs. Bredon. He said that “Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these…”


No more words were necessary as Harriet and Peter knelt in the candle-lit church, contemplating the miracle.



The End



I wish all of you a blessed holiday season.


As always my thanks to my reader, mentor, and friend, “Critter.”



Posted: 12/17/10