Once upon a time there was a King called Wenceslas and he was Good.
Well, one Boxing Day (which is the Special Day of St. Stephen, who is a Martyr), King Wenceslas was having his Late Dinner. It was an extra nice dinner because of the Left-overs from Christmas.
“I’ll just draw the curtains, I think,” said Good King Wenceslas, “it looks so cold and snowy, and that Moon makes me feel chilly.”
So he got up and went to the window to pull the purple velvet curtains. He pressed his nose against the window-pane and stared outside.
“Do you know,” he said to himself, “I do believe that I can see someone over there picking up sticks. How cold for him! He must be Gathering Winter Fuel!”
He turned round to his Page Boy, who was just putting the Mince Pies down by the fire to keep warm, while the King was drawing the curtains.
“Come here a minute, Page, and have a look!” he said. “Do you know who that man is? I don’t remember seeing him before. Where does he live?”
The Page got up from the Fireplace and dusted some ashes off his knees. His face was Rather Hot and Red with stooping down so near the fire with the Mince Pies. He went and stood by the King and stared out, too. His nose went flatter on the window-pane, because it wasn’t so bony as the King’s.
“Well, yes, Your Majesty,” he said. “I do know who he is, but I don’t remember his name. He lives a Good League Hence at the bottom of the Mountain.”
“Where at the bottom of the Mountain?” asked Good King Wenceslas. “Don’t be so vague, child. Can’t you be more explicit?”
“Well, you know that Fountain called after St. Agnes?” said the Page.
“Of course I do, considering I pass it every day,” said Good King Wenceslas, Rather Tartly.
“Well, his house is by that fence near there,” said the Page.
“Good gracious me!” said Good King Wenceslas, all Astonished. “So he lives in that Tumble-down Place, does he? I know what! Let’s give him a surprise! You go and get some Turkey and some Mince Pies and some Wine and some Logs (I’ll help you to carry them), and don’t forget to put on your Outdoor Shoes.”
So they started out in the cold windy dark, and the Snow was very Deep and Crisp and Even.
“Won’t it be fun,” said Good King Wenceslas, “when we get to his house and lay the table for real Late Dinner?”
The Page didn’t answer because he was getting very tired. His legs were shorter than Good King Wenceslas’, and so the snow was very deep for him. It was like trying to walk fast when you’re paddling in Rather Deep Water.
“Please can we go a little slower?” he panted. “I am so tired and my feet are so cold that I can’t feel them at all.”
“Cheer up!” said Good King Wenceslas. “Think of the lovely surprise the Poor Man will have. We’ll soon be there now.”
“I can’t go any further,” said the Page. “I do believe my feet must be hard and white like ice by now. Do let’s go back.”
So Good King Wenceslas said to God:
“Would you mind, please Dear Lord, doing something about my Page’s poor cold feet? Because I can’t carry everything myself, and if we go back the Poor Man won’t have his Late Dinner.”
And God said he would. So Good King Wenceslas said to the Page:
“I’ll go in front and stamp with my feet so as to make Good Big Footmarks. Then you follow behind and tread in them. You’ll find them quite warm, like Wellington Boots.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” said the Page, “only don’t take too long steps or I won’t be able to tread in the holes properly.”
So that was how they walked, in Indian File, and each time the Page trod in Good King Wenceslas’ footsteps it was like putting his leg into a warm woolly boot! It really was Most Surprising!
When they got to the Poor Man’s house he had not come back from Gathering Winter Fuel yet, so Good King Wenceslas and the Page laid the table and put the Turkey and Mince Pies and Things all ready and made up the fire with the logs.
“We’d better get back,” said the Page, “because I completely forgot that I’d put Your Majesty’s Mince Pies to keep hot. They’ll be burnt if we don’t hurry.”
So they hurried back so as not to waste the Pies, and God made Good King Wenceslas’ foot-steps warm again for the Page because of what he once said about if you do anything kind to anyone you are really doing it for him. And he wouldn’t want the poor Page’s feet to get frozen because of being Kind, would he? So he always helps People when they are charitable.
When they got home, the Pies weren’t actually burnt but just a little caught on One Side, and when the Poor Man got home he had an Absolutely Stupendous Surprise, and so, on the whole, it was all Very Satisfactory, wasn’t it?
Now, there are two Special Days belonging to this story. One belongs to Good King Wenceslas who Looked Out on the Feast of Stephen, and the other, of course, is St. Stephen’s Day, which is Boxing Day. Good King Wenceslas’ Day is September 28th, because, on that day he was Murdered for being a. Christian. (So he was a Martyr.)