The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales HTML version
Christmas Before Last
Full title: CHRISTMAS BEFORE LAST, OR, THE FRUIT OF THE FRAGILE
The "Horn o' Plenty" was a fine, big, old-fashioned ship, very high in the bow, very high
in the stern, with a quarter-deck always carpeted in fine weather, because her captain
could not see why one should not make himself comfortable at sea as well as on land.
Covajos Maroots was her captain, and a fine, jolly, old-fashioned, elderly sailor he was.
The "Horn o' Plenty" always sailed upon one sea, and always between two ports, one on
the west side of the sea, and one on the east. The port on the west was quite a large city,
in which Captain Covajos had a married son, and the port on the east was another city in
which he had a married daughter. In each family he had several grandchildren; and,
consequently, it was a great joy to the jolly old sailor to arrive at either port. The Captain
was very particular about his cargo, and the "Horn o' Plenty" was generally laden with
good things to eat, or sweet things to smell, or fine things to wear, or beautiful things to
look at. Once a merchant brought to him some boxes of bitter aloes, and mustard plasters,
but Captain Covajos refused to take them into his ship.
"I know," said he, "that such things are very useful and necessary at times, but you would
better send them over in some other vessel. The 'Horn o' Plenty' has never carried any
thing that to look at, to taste, or to smell, did not delight the souls of old and young. I am
sure you cannot say that of these commodities. If I were to put such things on board my
ship, it would break the spell which more than fifty savory voyages have thrown around
There were sailors who sailed upon that sea who used to say that sometimes, when the
weather was hazy and they could not see far, they would know they were about to meet
the "Horn o' Plenty" before she came in sight; her planks and timbers, and even her sails
and masts, had gradually become so filled with the odor of good things that the winds
that blew over her were filled with an agreeable fragrance.
There was another thing about which Captain Covajos was very particular; he always
liked to arrive at one of his ports a few days before Christmas. Never, in the course of his
long life, had the old sailor spent a Christmas at sea; and now that he had his fine
grandchildren to help make the holidays merry, it would have grieved him very much if
he had been unable to reach one or the other of his ports in good season. His jolly old
vessel was generally heavily laden, and very slow, and there were many days of calms on
that sea when she did not sail at all, so that her voyages were usually very, very long. But
the Captain fixed the days of sailing so as to give himself plenty of time to get to the
other end of his course before Christmas came around.