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IT was bitterly coldthe sky gleamed with starsand not a breeze was stirring

BumpAn old pot was thrown at the neighborshouse doorsBangBangwent the gunfor they were welcoming the New YearIt was New Year's EveThe church clock was striking twelve

Tan-ta-ra-ra The mail came inThe great carriage stopped at the gate of the townThere were twelve persons in itall the places were taken

HurrahHurrah!”sang the people in the houses of the townfor the New Year was being welcomedand they had just risen with the filled glass in the their handto drink success to the new year

Happy New Year!”was the cry.“A pretty wifeplenty of moneyand no sorrow or care!”

This wish was passed roundand then glasses were clashed together till they rang againand in front of the town gate the post-carriage stopped with the strange gueststhe twelve travelers

And who were these strangersEach of them had his passport and his luggage with himthey even brought presents for me and for you and for all the people of the little townWho are theyWhat did they want and what did they bring with them

Good morning!”they cried to the sentry at the town gate

Good morning!” replied the sentryfor the clock struck twelve

Your name and profession?”the sentry inquired of the one who alighted first from the carriage

See yourselfin the passport,”replied the man.“I am myself!”And a capital fellow he lookedarrayed in a bear-skin and fur boots.“I am the man on whom many persons fix their hopesCome to me tomorrowand I'll give you a New Year s presentI throw pence and dollars among the peopleI even give ballsthirty-one ballsbut I cannot devote more than thirty-one nights to thisMy ships are frozen inbut in my office it is warm and comfortableI'm a merchantMy name is JANUARYand I only Carry accounts with me.”

Now the second alightedHe was a merry companionhe was a theater directormanager of the masque ballsand all the amusements one can imagineHis luggage consisted of a great tub

We'll knock more than the cat out of the tub at the Shrovetide sports,” said he.“I'll prepare a merry tune for you and myself tooI have the shortest lifetime of whole familyfor I only become twenty-eightSometimes they pop me in an extra daybut I trouble myself very little about thatHurrah!”

You must not shout so!”said the sentry

CertainlyI may shout!”retorted the man.“I'm Prince Carnivaltraveling under the name of FEBRU-ARY!”

The third now got outHe looked like Fasting itselfbut carried his nose very highfor he was related to the Forty Knights”,and was a weather prophetBut that's not a profitable officeand that's why he praised fastingIn his buttonhole he had a little bunch of violetsbut they were very small

MARCHMARCH!”the fourth called after himand slapped him on the shoulder.“Into the guardroomthere is punchI can smell it.”

But it was not truehe only wanted to make an APRIL fool of himfor with that the fourth began his career in the townHe looked very jovialdid little workbut had the more holidays

Up and down it goes with one 's humor!”said he;“now rainnow sunshineI can a kind of house and office-letting agentalso a manager of funeralsI can both laugh and cryaccording to circumstancesHere in this box I have my summer wardrobebut it would be very foolish to put it onHere I am nowOn Sundays I go out walking in shoes and silk stockingsand with a muff!”

After hima lady came out of the carriageShe called herself Miss MAYShe wore a summer costume and overshoesa light green dressand anemones in her hairand she was so scented with wood ruff that the sentry had to sneeze

God bless you!”she saidand that was her salutation

How pretty she wasAnd she was a singernot a theater singerbut a singer of the woodsfor she roamed through the gay green forestand sang there for her own amusement

Now comes the young dame!”said those in the carriage

And the young dame stepped outdelicateproudand prettyIt was easy to see that she was Mistress JUNEaccustomed to be served by drowsy marmotsShe gave a great feast on the longest day of the yearthat the guests might have time to partake of the many dishes at her tableSheindeedkept her own carriagebut still she traveled in the mail with the restbecause she wanted to show that she was not high-mindedBut she was not without protectionher elder brother JULY was with her

He was a plump young fellowclad in summer garmentsand with a Panama hatHe had but little baggage with himbecause it was cumbersome in the great heattherefore he had only swimming-drawersand those are not much

Then came the mother herselfMadam AUGUSTwholesale dealer in fruitproprieties of a large number of fishpondsand land cultivatorin a great crinolineshe was fat and hotcould use her hands welland would herself carry out beer to the workmen in the fields

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,”said she:“that is written in the BookAfterwards one can have dancing in the green woodand the harvest feasts!”

She was a thorough housewife

After her a man came out of the coacha painterMrMaster-colourerThe forest had to receive himthe leaves were to change their coloursbut how beautifullyWhen he wished itsoon the wood gleamed with redyel-lowand brownThe master whistled like the black mag-piewas a quick workmanand wound the brown green hop plants round his beer-jugThat was an ornament for the jugand he had a good idea of ornamentThere he stood with his colour potand that was his whole luggage

A landed proprietor followed himone who cared for the ploughing and preparing of the landand also for field sportsHe brought his dog and his Run with himand had nuts in his game-bag.“CrackCrack!”He had much baggageeven an English ploughand he spoke of farmingbut one could scarcely hear what he saidfor the coughing and gasping of his neighbor

It was NOVEMBER who cameHe was very much plagued by a colda violent coldso that he used a sheet and not a pocket-handkerchiefand yethe saidhe was obliged to accompany the servant girls to their new winter placesHe said he should get rid of his cold when he went out wood-cuttingand had to saw and split woodfor he was master-sawyer to the firewood guildHe spent his evenings cutting the wooden soles for skatesfor he knewhe saidthat in a few weeks there would be occasion to use these amusing shoes

At length appeared the last passengerthe old Mother with her fire-stoolThe old lady was coldbut her eyes glistened like two bright starsShe carried a flower-pot with a little fir tree

This tree I will guard and cherishthat it may grow large by Christmas Eveand may reach from the ground to the ceilingand may rear itself upward with flaming candlesgolden applesand little carved figuresThe fire-stool warms like a stoveI bring the story-book out of my pocket and read aloudso that all the children in the room become quite quietbut the little figures on the trees be-come livelyand the little waxen angel on the top spreads out his wings of gold leafflies down from his green perchand kisses great and small in the roomyeseven the poor children who stand outsidesinging the carol about the Star of Bethlehem.”

Wellnow the coach may drive away!”said the sentry:“we have the whole twelveLet a new chaise drive up.”

First let all the twelve come in to me,”said the captain on duty,“one after the otherThe passports I will keep hereEach of them is available for a monthwhen that has passedI shall write their behavior on each pass-portMrJanuaryhave the goodness to come here.”

And MrJanuary stepped forward

When a year is passed I think I shall be able to tell you what the twelve have brought to meand to youand to all of usNow I do not know itand they don't know it themselvesprobablyfor we live in strange times



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