N.B.: If you are not familiar with Hans Christian Andersen's short story "The Little Match Girl," you may want to read it before you proceed. Otherwise, what you find behind the cut might not make much sense.
The sleigh slewed around at the end of Money Trap Lane.
COME ON, ALBERT.
“You know you’re not supposed to do this sort of thing, master. You know what happened last time.”
THE HOGFATHER CAN DO IT, THOUGH.
“But … little match girls dying in the snow is part of what the Hogswatch spirit is all about, master,” said Albert desperately. “I mean, people hear about it and say, ‘We may be poorer than a disabled banana and only have mud and old boots to eat, but at least we’re better off than the poor little match girl,’ master. It makes them feel happy and grateful for what they’ve got, see.”
I KNOW WHAT THE SPIRIT OF HOGSWATCH IS, ALBERT.
“Sorry, master. But, look, it’s all right, anyway, because she wakes up and it’s all bright and shining and tinkling music and there’s angels, master.”
AH. THEY TURN UP AT THE LAST MINUTE WITH WARM CLOTHES AND A HOT DRINK?
Oh dear, thought Albert. The master’s really in one of his funny moods now.
“Er. No. Not exactly at the last minute, master. Not as such.”
“More sort of just after the last minute.” Albert coughed nervously
YOU MEAN AFTER SHE’S—
“Yes. That’s how the story goes, master, ‘s not my fault.”
WHY NOT TURN UP BEFORE? AN ANGEL HAS QUITE A LARGE CARRYING CAPACITY.
“Couldn’t say, master. I suppose people think it’s more … satisfying the other way …” Albert hesitated, and then frowned. “You know, now that I come to tell someone …”
Death looked down at the shape under the falling snow. The he set the lifetimer on the air and touched it with a finger. A spark flashed across.
“You ain’t really allowed to do that,” said Albert, feeling wretched.
THE HOGFATHER CAN. THE HOGFATHER GIVES PRESENTS … THERE’S NO BETTER PRESENT THAN A FUTURE.
“Yeah, but …”
“All right, Master.”
Death scooped up the girl and strode to the end of the alley.
The snowflakes fell like angel’s feathers. Death stepped out into the street and accosted two figures who were tramping through the drifts.
TAKE HER SOMEWHERE WARM AND GIVE HER A GOOD DINNER, he commanded, pushing the bundle into the arms of one of them. AND I MAY WELL BE CHECKING UP LATER.
Then he turned and disappeared into the swirling snow.
Constable Visit looked down at the little girl in his arms, and then at Corporal Nobbs.
“What’s this all about, corporal?”
Nobby pulled aside the blanket.
“Search me,” he said. “Looks like we’ve been chosen to do a bit of charity.”
“I don’t call it very charitable, just dumping someone on people like this.”
“Come on, there’ll still be some grub left in the Watch-house,” said Nobby. He’d got a very deep and certain feeling this was expected to him. He remembered a big man in a grotto, although he couldn’t quite remember the face. And he couldn’t quite remember the face of the person who had handed over the girl, so that meant it must have been the same one.
Shortly afterward there was some tinkling music and a very bright light and two rather affronted angels, but Albert threw snowballs at them until they went away.
Terry Pratchett (b. 1948)
I am not really a Terry Pratchett fan, but I do dearly love this sequence from his 1996 novel Hogfather. The Hogfather is somewhat akin to Father Christmas or Santa Claus; he wears a red, fur-trimmed cloak, rides a sleigh pulled by four wild boars, and grant's children's wishes on Hogswatchnight. In the novel named after him, Death (the one speaking in capital letters) fills in for the Hogsfather, who has gone missing, and ends up wreaking a certain amount of havoc by taking the wishes too literally.
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