by Sarah Earlene Shere, ©2022

(Jan. 1, 2022) — High in the church tower, the large, bronze bell rang the midnight hour. Slowly it swayed, causing the heavy clapper inside it to rhythmically hit the side of the old bell with a gong that reverberated across the moor. Another year had come to a close; a new year was on the threshold, bringing with it the promise of a hope-filled future. Throughout the small village, the residents now opened their doors wide and shouted into the crisp winter night, “Welcome!” to all things good that knocked on the door of the New Year. With laughter, they returned indoors to their candlelights and fires they refused to put out. Hurrying to bed, the excitement of the party plans for the morrow kept many young hearts awake and aflutter.

Meanwhile, at the bell pull, a small lad strained from the weight of the bronze giant, landing as firmly as he could after the airborne flight with each ring. With silent tears freezing upon his cheeks, his sweet soprano voice softly sang the song his mother had taught him long ago in their cottage amongst the heather:

“Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the hills,
and picked the daisies fine;
but we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
but seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.”

With a final pull, the breathless lad released the rope and staggered back with a shiver. The exertion had not warmed him as much as he had hoped. Wrapping his slender arms around himself, he reluctantly stepped out into the snow. His numb feet refused to feel the cobblestones beneath him, making it difficult to take the few steps from the bell tower to the main doors of the church. Finally, he reached the large wooden doors. Using nearly all the strength he had left, he leaned upon the handles and fell across the church’s threshold, landing face down. 

The small boy was roused by a sudden warmth covering his body, from the toes breaking through his worn shoes to the top of his thinly capped head. Slowly, he raised himself onto his knees that poked through his torn breeches. Aware of his surroundings, he quickly removed his cap, letting his headful of blond curls glisten in the candlelight. He fixed his large hazel eyes on the cross that stood at the end of the aisle. “Beggin’ your pardon, Sir. I just come in to get warm. I promise I won’t be no trouble.” Standing up, he made his way to the front. “I know it ain’t proper to be the first to cross a threshold on the New Year’s Day without a gift, but, You see, all I have is me.” Arriving at the altar, he knelt down. “So, if You would be so good as to accept me, I’ll consider that I’ve done my part.”

Just then, a soft hand laid upon the lad’s shoulder. Turning, he gasped and sprang into the arms of his mother. Nestling against her warm bosom, he wept against her ivory-colored neck. “Oh, Mummy! I’ve missed you! But how are you here?”

His mother’s laughter was like the sound of the wooden chimes that used to dance in the breeze of their old home. His fingers became tangled in her golden-red curls as she pulled him away in order to look into his eyes with her green ones. “Oh, Laddie, I have not come to you as much as you have come to me. The angels have given you back to me, and we shall never be apart again!”

Mother and child embraced with laughter as warmth and music enveloped them.

The next morning, a frozen boy, surrounded by a pile of snow, was removed from the open doorway of the church. Two superstitious cleaning women shook their heads and wagged their tongues, “Filthy little urchin!  Probably came in to steal the candlesticks.” “And ain’t it a shame he had to be the first one to cross the church’s threshold on the New Year’s Day, him with no gift to give and that blond hair? Mark me, that means trouble for the church, and likely all who enter, for the rest of this year!”

Hushabye, little wandering child.

Holy Jesus, meek and mild,

Receives your gift right from the start,

For all He wants is all your heart. 

Hushabye, sweet, frightened boy,

In God’s strong arms find all your joy.

Hope is born in all things new;

The old shall die, and leave what’s true.

Rejoice, ye children of the earth;

In Jesus Christ find your rebirth!

The bells ring out to spread their cheer,

Wishing peace for your new year!

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  1. For more Victorian fantasy stories from Sarah Earlene Shere, check out the Whitstead Christmastide and Harvestide Anthologies on Amazon!

    Sarah Earlene Shere is an author, actress and cosplayer in her native home of Southern California. In the early 1990’s, Sarah fell in love with storytelling at the age of eleven. As she’s grown closer to God and fallen in love with Jesus, her stories have become biblical and allegorical, reflecting her favorite authors, John Bunyan and Hans Christian Andersen. Since 2018, Sarah has been acting with the Long Beach based Masquer Theatre Company. In 2017 she started volunteering with a local cosplay non-profit, Kids Can Cosplay. Sarah’s stories and writings are under Hosanna Heralds on Facebook and WordPress. She prays you are blessed by these stories!

    https://www.amazon.com/Whitstead-Christmastide-Speculative-Steve-Rzasa/dp/B08SGCD31R/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?crid=JITYYXJ8SW5S&keywords=Whitstead&qid=1641056673&sprefix=whitstead%2Caps%2C150&sr=8-3