Read THE OLD WOMAN IN THE SHOE of Boy Blue and His Friends, free online book, by Etta Austin Blaisdell and Mary Frances Blaisdell, on ReadCentral.com.

You remember I told you that Boy Blue lived on a big farm.

In the winter Boy Blue could not go to school because the school-house was so far from his home.

So Mary’s mother said, “Boy Blue can spend the winter with us and go to school with Mary.”

Of course the children thought that would be fine.

Mary didn’t have any brothers or sisters, and sometimes she was rather lonely.

So Boy Blue went to spend the winter with Mary.

He was sorry to leave Fire-cracker and his eight white Snowballs.

“I shall be back in the spring,” he said. “John will have to take care of you this winter.”

Boy Blue had never seen such a large school in all his life.

In the little country school there were only ten children.

In Mary’s school there were fifty boys and girls in one room, and there were ten rooms in the school-house.

Now it was winter, and there was snow on the ground.

The children had been to school three months.

Every afternoon they had great fun coasting down the long hill behind the school-house.

One day Miss Smith said, “Children, do you know what month this is?”

“Yes, yes!” they all said. “This is December.”

“Christmas comes this month,” said one little girl.

Then they all talked at once.

Oh, how they liked Christmas, and Santa Claus and Christmas trees!

They hoped Santa Claus would bring them many presents.

At last Miss Smith said, “Shall we have a Christmas tree this year in school?”

Of course they all wanted one.

“I know something better than a Christmas tree,” said Miss Smith.

“Something better than a Christmas tree!” said Mistress Mary. “What can it be?”

“I must tell you about it,” said Miss Smith. “You know I have told you about Mrs. Brown.”

“Yes,” said Boy Blue, “she is the ‘Old Woman in the Shoe.’”

Miss Smith laughed. “Is that what you call her?” she said.

“Yes,” said Mary, “you know she has a great many children.”

“Well, Tommy and Betty Brown have been sick a long time.

“Mrs. Brown has had to work very hard to get food to eat.

“I am afraid they will not have a happy Christmas.

“I think we might have a Christmas box, and fill it with all kinds of good things.

“We can put things to eat and wear in the box, and you can bring some toys, too.

“Then on Christmas day we can send the box to Mrs. Brown.

“That would make her happy, and it would make us happy, too.”

The children all thought this was a very good idea.

Jack said, “I think it would be great fun if we could have a box the shape of a big shoe. I know my father could make us one. I will ask him to-night.”

So Jack’s father made a big wooden shoe, and the boys helped him paint it black.

When the shoe was finished, the children began to fill it.

In the toe of the shoe Jack put two large squashes.

Mary brought a bag of potatoes and some big red apples.

Boy Blue wrote a letter to his mother and told her about the Christmas shoe.

So Mrs. Snow sent a roasted chicken, a dozen eggs, and some fresh butter that she had made.

I cannot tell you all the things that found their way into that wooden shoe.

There was everything that hungry little boys and girls like to eat.

There were games and toys for the boys, and dolls with pretty dresses for the girls.

And there was a fine new dress for Mrs. Brown, too.

The day before Christmas the shoe was ready and Mr. Horne came for it with a big wagon.

Miss Smith put a card in the shoe.

It said:

“A Merry Christmas to Mrs. Brown and all the little Browns, from Maggie’s and Tommy’s schoolmates.”

“Look, Mamma!” said little Maggie Brown. “What is that wagon stopping here for, and what is that funny thing in it?”

Mrs. Brown came to the window just as Mr. Home took the shoe out of the wagon.

“Why, it is a big shoe,” laughed Mrs. Brown. “I guess it is for me to keep you all in.”

Tommy, and Katie, and Mary, and Alice, all ran to see.

Oh, they were so happy when the shoe was brought in and they found it was something for them!

Mrs. Brown was happy, too, to think that her children would have such a merry Christmas.

She told Mr. Horne to wish all the children who sent the shoe a very, very happy Christmas.

“And tell them,” she said, “to come and see ‘the Old Woman in the Shoe’ and her children!”

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
There came a big spider
And sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.