IT IS A HARMLESS WISH to want a little notice to be taken of one's name, and a number
of peoples besides Mr Balliboy, the Norbury carrier, like attention to be paid
to their names when they are written down. Children will write their names upon
a fair stretch of yellow sand, young men will carve their names upon an old oak
in the forest, and even the most simple peasant will like to see his name
printed in a newspaper.
of his life Mr Balliboy was satisfied with having his name written upon the
side of his van, and he was always pleased and interested when anyone paused in
the street to read his name. But Mr Balliboy's pride in his name made him do
more than one foolish thing. Once he cut 'Mr Balliboy, Carrier,' with his
market knife, upon one of the doors of Mr Told's old barn, and again upon the
right-hand post of the village pound. But, on going to see how the names looked
next Sunday—and perhaps hoping that a stranger might be regarding them with
interest—he discovered, to his sorrow, that the rude village boys had changed
the first letters of the name into an unpleasant and ill-sounding word.
was a lonely man, and a bachelor—for no young woman would ever look at his name
twice, and none had ever wished to have his name written beside hers in a
Christmas Eve Mr Balliboy journeyed, as was his wont, to Weyminster. His van
was full of country women, each one of whom thought herself to be of the
highest quality, for each had put on the finest airs with her market clothes,
and so dressed, could talk in a superior manner.
Balliboy had certainly one reason for happiness— other than the ordinary
joyfulness of the merry season — which was that his rival, John Hawkins, had
passed by with his van empty of customers—yet Mr Balliboy was sad. His sadness
came, strangely enough, only because he wished, for the first time in his life,
to give a Christmas present.
have been only to give himself pleasure that he wished to do this, for whatever
the present was that he should buy, he determined that a label should be tied
on it, with his name written clearly upon it—'From Mr Balliboy.'
present would be, and to whom it should be given, Mr Balliboy did not know. He
decided to buy some- thing that he fancied, and then allow destiny to decide to
whom the gift should go.
Balliboy reached the town he walked about the streets in order to see what
could be bought for money. Many a shop window did he look into, and many a time
did he stand and scratch his head, wondering what he should buy.
one oddity that he fancied in a toy-shop—a demon holding a fork in his hand,
upon which he was raising a naked young woman. Mr Balliboy thought the demon
might do, but over the young woman he shook his head.
Balliboy moved to another window. Here at once he saw what pleased him—a little
cross, made of cardboard and covered with tinsel, that shone and glistened
before Mr Balliboy's admiring eyes.
Balliboy purchased the cross for a shilling, and attached a label to it with
his name written large. . . .
a change comes over a scene, now so happy and gay, but in one moment altered
into a frown.
as Mr Balliboy had buttoned the cross into his pocket the streets of Weyminster
showed this changed look.
shoppers' merriment and joyful surprise at what they saw in the windows gave
place to a sad and tired gaze. The great church that so many hurried by in
order to reach their favourite tavern appeared more dark and sombre than a
winter's day should ever have made it.
warm drinks served out by the black-haired Mabel at the 'Rod and Lion' could
not make the drinkers forget that care and trouble could cut a Christmas cake
and sing a Christmas carol as well as they.
general gloom of the town touched Mr Balliboy, and, had he not had the present
hid in his coat, he might have entered an inn too, in order to drown the
troubled feelings that moved about him, in a deep mug.
having bought the Christmas present, he had now the amusement of seeking the
right person to give it to. And so, instead of walking along the street with
downcast eyes, he walked along smiling.
was yet some way off his van, he could see that a figure was standing beside
it, who seemed to be reading his name. And whoever this was, Mr Balliboy
determined, as he walked, that it should be the one to receive his Christmas
drew nearer he saw that the figure was that of a young woman—wrapped in a thin
cloak—who showed by her wan look and by her shape that she expected soon to be
little distance from his van Mr Balliboy waited, pretending to admire a row of
bottles in a wine merchant's shop window, but, at the same time, keeping an eye
upon the woman.
a thief—was she come there to steal?'
policeman, with a fine military strut, evidently thought so.
stand about here,' he shouted. 'Go along home with you!'
policeman seized her roughly.
doing no harm,' the woman said, looking at the name again, I am only waiting
for Mr Balliboy.'
along, you lying drab,' grumbled the policeman.
have pushed her along, only Mr Balliboy, who had heard his name mentioned, came
'ee poor Mary,' he asked, 'who was to have married the carpenter at Shelton?'
policeman winked twice at Mr Balliboy, smiled, and walked on.
it,' asked Mr Balliboy kindly, as soon as the policeman was out of hearing,
'that made 'ee wish to study and remember the name of a poor carrier?'
to ask you,' said the young woman, 'whether you would take me as far as the
"Norbury Arms". Here is my fare,' and she handed Mr Balliboy a shilling—the
price of the cross.
Balliboy put the shilling into his pocket.
into the van,' he said, 'and 'tis to be hoped they t'others won't mind 'ee.'
the most respectable of the people of the village had come to town in Mr
Balliboy's van. There was even rich Mrs Told, clad in warm furs, whose own
motor car had met with an accident the day before. There were others too, as
comfortably off—Mrs Potten and Mrs Biggs—and none of these, or even his lesser
customers, did Mr Balliboy wish to offend. He looked anxiously up the street
and then into the van. The young woman's clothes were rags, her toes peeped
from her shoes, and she sighed woefully.
Balliboy gave her a rug to cover her. 'Keep tight hold of 'en,' he said, 'for t'other
women be grabbers.'
change in the town from joy to trouble had caused the women who had journeyed
with Mr Balliboy that day to arrive at the van a little late and in no very
they did come, they were not best pleased to see a poor woman—worse clothed
than a tramp—sitting in the best seat in the van, with her knees covered by Mr
only Mary,' said Mr Balliboy, hoping to put them at their ease. "Tis only
thik poor toad.'
it?' cried Mrs Biggs angrily, 'who did deceive Joseph with her wickedness. What
lady would ride with her?
out at once, Mr Balliboy—the horrid wretch.'
her!' cried Mrs Told. 'Just look at her,' and she whispered unpleasant words to
Balliboy hesitated. He hardly knew what to do. He had more than once borrowed a
little straw from Mrs Told's stackyard, and now he did not want to offend her.
He had a
mind to order Mary out, only—putting his, hand under his coat to look at his
watch—he felt the Christmas present that he had purchased—the cardboard cross.
needn't sit beside her,' he said coaxingly to Mrs Told, 'though she's skin be
as white and clean as any lamb's.'
have no lousy, breeding beggar with we,' shouted Mrs Biggs, who had taken a
little too much to drink at the tavern.
alone,' said Mr Balliboy, scratching his head and wondering what he had better
her out,' cried Mrs Potten, and, climbing into the van, she spat at the woman.
her,' screamed Mrs Told. 'Away with her! away with her!' cried all the women.
it not been that Mr Balliboy had taken Mary's shilling and so made her free of
his van, with the right to be carried as far as the 'Norbury Arms', he might
have performed the commands of the drunken women and thrown Mary into the
street. But, as he had taken her shilling, Mr Balliboy bethought him of what
was his own. The woman had read his name; he had taken her fare.
alone,' said Mr Balliboy gruffly to Mrs Biggs, who had laid hands upon the
to John Hawkins; he'll take us home,' said Mrs Told angrily.
Balliboy winced. He knew how glad his rival would be to welcome all his
what evil has she done?' Mr Balliboy asked in a milder tone.
accord the women shouted out Mary's sorrow. 'Away with her! away with her!'
Balliboy put his hand into his coat, but it was not his watch that he felt for
this time—it was his Christmas gift.
with your own selves,' he said stoutly. 'Thik maiden be going wi' I, for 'tis
me own van.'
Balliboy took his seat angrily and the women left him.
that what had happened that afternoon was likely to have a lasting effect upon
his future. Everyone in the village would side with the women with whom he had
quarrelled, and the story of his mildness to Mary would not lose in the
before very long an accident happened that troubled Mr Balliboy even more than
the loss of his customers—in the middle of a long and lonely road his van broke
tried to start the engine, but with no success.
carriers passed him by, amongst whom was John Hawkins, and many were the taunts
and unseemly jests shouted at him by the Christmas revellers who sat therein.
all was silence, and the road utterly deserted, for the hour was near midnight.
while Mr Balliboy busied himself, with the aid of the van lamps, trying to find
the mischief. But all at once and without any warning the lamps went out.
shivered. The weather was changed, a sharp frost had set in, and the stars
shone brightly. Someone groaned. Mary's pains had come upon her.
going,' said Mr Balliboy, 'to get some help for 'ee.'
Balliboy had noticed a little cottage across the moor, with a light in the
window. He hurried there, but before he reached the cottage the light had
vanished, and, knock as he would at the door, no one replied.
I to do?' cried Mr Balliboy anxiously, and looked up at the sky. A large and
brightly shining star appeared exactly above his van.
Balliboy looked at his van and rubbed his eyes. The van was lit up, and beams
of strange light seemed to emanate from it.
on fire, I do hope,' said Mr Balliboy. He began to run and came quickly to the
now resting comfortably, while two shining creatures with white wings leaned
over her. Upon her lap was her new-born babe, smiling happily.
Balliboy fumbled in his coat for his Christmas gift.
stepped into the van and held out the cross to the babe. Mary looked proudly at
her infant, and the babe, delighted with the shining toy, took hold of the
cross. The Angels wept.