December Holidays

Part III

The New Library

Jonathan walked onstage and said, “First, I want to wish everyone a very happy Winter Solstice Eve. I also want to thank you for being so welcoming to me and Oliver.”

“I have some surprises for you this evening which I hope you like.”

Jonathan left the platform and walked over to a pair of doors that led to the secret, new room. They were of the French door style with lots of glass panes. The cream colored shades on the inside were pulled down. There was a cloth-covered sign above them. He reached up and removed the cloth. Gold lettering on the wooden plaque read ‘The Library’.

Everyone rose from their seats and gathered around.

“I’ll be right back. I need to turn up the lamps in the room,” said Jonathan.

He opened one door and slipped inside. The door was quickly shut before anyone could stick a nose in. After a couple of minutes, the doors swung open.

“Everybody, please come in. I would like to present to you your new Library.”

The animals quickly squeezed through the doors, and their eyes opened wide in amazement. In the centre of the large room, was a tall blue-spruce holiday tree. It had been decorated with numerous red ornaments, gingerbread figures, and garlands. Although there were no candles on the tree, light from the many wall lamps sparkled off of the adornments. It had been beautifully decorated by Jonathan and Oliver.

On the left side of the room, there was a long table that immediately attracted the attention of the younger animals. The table held a fabulous wooden train set. It had been built and assembled by Morris Muskrat and Birk Beaver. It was their Winter Solstice Eve gift to the residents. A shiny red engine was connected to several gondola cars. Each car was painted a different bright colour. At the rear was a small red caboose. The train set wasn’t sitting on a flat table. The setup was designed so that the train would roll down a hill, through a tunnel, and around a figure-eight curve before coming to a stop.

A short ladder made it easy for the smaller animals to climb onto the table. From there it was an easy jump to board the train. Birk helped the animals get on the train and made sure everyone was safely seated. The gondola cars were full in a couple of minutes. Morris pulled the train up the hill, and it was ready for its first trip.

“All aboard!” he yelled. “Here we go!”

He gave the train a push. It rolled down the hill and gained speed. Around a turn it went and through the tunnel. After the tunnel it made two more turns and rolled to a stop. Everyone was thrilled and yelled with glee.

“Do it again! Do it again!”

It was the first of many trips for the little train that night.


The New Library

As the young ones played with the train, the other animals investigated the rest of the Library. Almost three walls were lined with wooden book shelves, which extended from floor to ceiling. They had a rich cherry finish. Behind the train table they were already stacked with books.

Sharing the right wall with the bookshelves, was a large blackboard. Near the blackboard were four tables. Each had a white tablecloth, and lighted candles were decoratively placed. The tables were overflowing with mouth-watering goodies.

A large punch bowl graced the centre of the first table. It was filled with eggnog and floating orange slices. Surrounding the bowl, was a sumptuous selection of fruits and cheeses. There was also a giant tea pot on the table. The second table had cauldrons of steaming soups. There were chicken, pumpkin, vegetable, mushroom, and onion from which to choose. The other two tables were loaded with pumpkin and chocolate cream pies, raisin and apple scones, and several kinds of muffins and cookies.

The back one-third of the room was divided from the front by a low wall and swinging door. On the right were two desks and more shelves. In the centre of the back wall, was a large fireplace. It easily warmed the room. On the left was …… Well, it’s difficult to describe what was on the left. It was some kind of large wooden and metal machine. It was Jonathan’s “Pride and Joy”.

After several minutes Jonathan asked for everyone’s attention.

“Everybody, please let me introduce the main features of your Library. The beautiful train set was built by Morris Muskrat and Birk Beaver. This is just a beginning. I hope you will enjoy adding scenery. It can also be expanded.

“As you can see, much of the wall space is taken up by bookshelves. Over here on the right, we have already begun adding books. This is the start of your Ballymore Library. In January I and my son will offer classes in reading, writing, and basic mathematics. Our hope is that at least one member of each family will learn to read.”

He then walked through the little door to the back of the room and stood beside his ‘Pride and Joy’. There was a neat pile of printed papers next to the strange-looking machine. They appeared to be some kind of newsletter. He picked them up and distributed them to everyone.

“You are holding the first edition of the Ballymore Tale. It will be a weekly newsletter written and published by myself and Oliver. I’ll read part of it to you.”

He then read an introduction, which explained the purpose of the paper. The animals stared at the groupings of letters on the paper.

“With our teaching and this machine, it is my hope that it will not be long before the letters on the paper make sense to you.”

Jonathan gently put his wing on the big machine. “This is my ‘Pride and Joy’. It’s a printing press, and it will create the newsletter. Let me demonstrate.”

He took a roller and dipped it in a bucket of black ink. After wiping off the excess, he rolled it over a plate that had hundreds of tiny metal letters arranged on it. This resulted in a thin layer of ink on the top of each letter. He took a new sheet of paper and slid it into a wooden tray. The tray slid into the top of the machine above the letter plate. He pulled on a lever, and the tray moved down towards the letter plate. The paper made firm contact with the letters, and the ink transferred onto the paper. Then, he raised the lever, removed the paper from the machine, and held it up.

“Here is another copy of the Ballymore Tale. It is identical to what you hold. As you can see, my printing press allows me to easily create many copies.”

The animals were excited and confused at the same time. They certainly understood the train set, but they weren’t sure about the teaching and newsletter. The paper they held was full of the strange letters. Bartholomew stepped forward.

“Jonathan has presented much to us tonight. I can tell you that it is all good and will benefit us greatly. For those of you who wish to learn to read, it will take effort, but it will be worth it. I encourage you to try. This is another important step for Ballymore.

“I want to thank Jonathan, Oliver, and everybody who has made this wonderful room possible. Now, let’s enjoy the food, exchange our gifts, and have fun. Happy Winter Solstice Eve, to everyone.”

The animals believed in and trusted Bartholomew. Everyone clapped and then many headed for the food tables.

Earlier, all the gifts had been left in the back of the meeting room. Several animals brought them into the Library and placed them under the holiday tree. The next few hours were spent exchanging, opening, trying on, staring at, playing with, and enjoying the presents. They were also spent eating too much.

The train set was the big favourite. A line formed because everyone who could fit in a gondola car wanted a ride.

The celebration went on until midnight when the church bell from Waterford bonged twelve times. It was now officially Winter Solstice Day, and it was time for the traditional fireworks display. Upon hearing the bongs, everyone quickly moved outside to the front of the pavilion. It was a cold night, but no one noticed. The fireworks were a fitting end to the celebration. They lasted about fifteen minutes after which the crowd broke up and drifted home. Family oriented festivities would continue in the morning at each home. The afternoon and evening were reserved for visiting friends.

After the fireworks Bartholomew went back to the Library with his brother and nephew to shut off the oil lamps. The fire was now dying down.

They wished each other a happy Winter Solstice Day again and hugged. They looked around and marvelled at what had been created.

Bartholomew said, “This is going to mean so much to everyone. They don’t yet appreciate the possibilities. I can’t thank you both enough. It was only last month that you arrived, and you already mean so much to Ballymore and to me.”

Jonathan said, “I only wish we had come sooner. Now that we’re here, we will do our best to be worthy of Ballymore. Thank you brother for taking us in and making us feel so welcome, so quickly.”

Oliver said, “I’m very happy here too. Happy Winter Solstice, uncle Bart.”

The three owls hugged again as the last flames from the fire died. The remaining hot coals bathed everything and everyone in a warm holiday glow. The future importance of this new Library was even greater than anyone could have imagined on that Winter Solstice night of 1891.