The Kindness of Mrs. Sweetbriar
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It was the late afternoon of Christmas Eve, and everyone in the city of Fairhaven was hurrying to finish their business before the evening's festivities.
Shoppers were in more of a hurry than before, and became a little sharp with it. Apothecaries hastily prepared packets of nutmeg and cloves, bay leaves and peppercorns, and the coffee roaster ground more fresh beans for his impatient customers. The watchmaker urged platinum fobs and enameled chatelaines on indecisive purchasers, while across the street, stationers sold beaded greeting cards and bright wrapping papers to last-minute gift-givers.
Brand had finally finished chopping wood for old Mrs. Witherspoon, and she had given him four eggs, a jar of stewed apricots, and three copper pennies, telling him that he was a good worker and a nice boy. He knew she earned her living by selling her eggs and apricots, keeping only a very few for herself, so this was a very generous gift, and he was grateful....
Now Brand clutched his three pennies and looked through the window of the confectionery recommended by Mrs. Witherspoon.
So he entered the shop a bit hesitantly, and listened to patrons placing their orders. He saw Mrs. Sweetbriar measure the bright candies into small red-striped bags, and noticed that she always added an extra candy to the bag after measuring. She smiled and greeted each customer, even the ones who scowled and said they had been waiting a long time and didn't want to be late for Christmas festivities. He began to relax in the warm, sugary air of the shop, and decided that any candy purchased here was sure to be delicious.
"Hello, young man," she said to him eventually. "What would you like this Christmas Eve?" A long red curl had come loose from one side of her bun, and she brushed it back carelessly.
"Mrs. Witherspoon sent me. I don't know how much I can get for this." And Brand placed his three pennies on the counter.
"Well, for a friend of Mrs. W. I can be quite generous! What's your pleasure, honey?"
"I don't quite know," Brand admitted. "What kind is your favorite?"
"That's easy," she chuckled. "Strawberry bonbons are what I like best. Have you tried one?" And she place a small candy on the counter in front of him, the red wrapper flecked with gold and topped with green, like a real strawberry. "Go on, taste it."
Suddenly, the hard candy cracked, and a sweet and tangy gel exploded in his mouth, tasting even more strongly of strawberry. He must have shown his delighted surprise, because Mrs. Sweetbriar laughed.
"That's the best part, honey," she said. "The only thing that compares is a rum ball – but I don't think you'd like those." This last was said with a chuckle.
"Can I have three pennies' worth of these strawberry ones?" asked Brand. "In a pretty striped bag for my sisters?"
"Oh, for your sisters, you say? What lucky girls." She filled a red-striped bag right to the top, and tied it with a silver ribbon. She handed it over with another strawberry bonbon and said, "Here's one you can enjoy on your way home. God by you, honey."
"Thank you, Mrs. Sweetbriar. You've given me merry Christmas."
And as Brand left the warm and scented shop, he popped the beautiful candy into his mouth.
Related article: 20 Ways to Increase Your Happiness by Being Kind
Fairhaven Christmas Eve on Amazon.
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