Brightly shone the moon that night, tho' the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath'ring winter fuel."
This was the song played by a minstrel in a human village not far from the Smurf Forest, which Grandpa Smurf had taken Sassette to for his own personal Christmas present he wanted to share with the young female Smurfling. Throughout the marketplace there was a lot of commotion as jesters and acrobats put on their entertainments for the masses, marketers were selling crafts of all kinds, and merchants were peddling all sorts of food and drink. One of them was juggling a few apples around from his cart when one of them fell to the ground.
"So this is what a human village is like during Christmas, Grampy?" Sassette asked as she and Grandpa Smurf peered out from behind the wagon of the apple cart, watching the apple fall to the ground.
"Not too different from our own village, youngster...only much bigger," Grandpa Smurf said. He picked up the apple that had fallen. "Care for a bite?"
"All of this is just so exciting for me to watch, I can't even think of eating," Sassette said. "Smurf at the toys that are being smurfed, especially that puppet that the old man is smurfing with. Can we smurf a closer look?"
"Why, certainly, Sassy," Grandpa Smurf said. "But let's make sure that the humans don't smurf us."
The elder Smurf and the Smurfling crossed safely between the carts on the street when nobody was looking, with Grandpa Smurf still carrying the apple with him. In an alley that the two Smurfs passed by, a hooded figure peered out and watched the scene with wicked delight.
"Christmas, my favorite time of year," the hooded figure said. "It's when everybody's purse is full of gold, and just ripe for the picking." He watched as a man was pulling out gold from his purse to purchase a necklace that a woman was selling. "There's a fat juicy Christmas goose just waiting to be plucked."
The hooded figure slipped out of the alley, ready to make his move. He passed by Sassette and Grandpa Smurf as they were passing through, trying not to be noticed.
Grandpa Smurf barely spotted the human figure. "Now that was a close one," he exhaled with some relief.
"Grandpa, look," Sassette said, pointing toward the same human figure and watching as he was secreting the other man's coin purse out of his coat pocket. "Why did that human steal the other one's money?"
Grandpa saw the same thing happen. "I don't know, Sassy, but not all humans have smurfy intentions in mind."
The other man felt something missing from his pocket, and then turned around and noticed. "My money is gone!" he cried out.
"Slippery salamanders, Grampy, that hooded man's getting away," Sassette said as they both watched him make a run with the other man's coin purse.
"Not for long, if my aim is smurf," Grandpa Smurf said. He threw his apple straight at the hooded man's hands, knocking the coin purse to the ground and causing him to yelp in pain.
The other man heard his coin purse jingle. He turned to see the hooded figure. "My money!" he cried out. "Stop! Thief!"
"Ah, curses," the hooded figure said as he ran for the safety of an alleyway to hide in.
"Smurfabunga! That was an awesome move you smurfed!" Sassette said, hugging Grandpa Smurf.
"After all these years, I haven't lost my smurfing arm," Grandpa Smurf said. "Of course, now we just lost a very good apple."
"We'll smurf another one, won't we, Grampy," Sassette said. "After all, you know how to smurf things out in the world better than any of us can."
"That may be true, young one, but let me tell you, humans aren't always known for smurfing a charitable spirit among even themselves," Grandpa Smurf said.
One of the marketers, an old man who was selling puppets, looked at his wares and then at the passing crowd with a sigh. "Alas, my little ones, it seems that no one is interested in adopting you," he said sadly. "Come, I will take you home where we are needed." He grabbed the handles of his cart and started pulling it down the road away from the marketplace.
"It's so sad that nobody wants his toys, Grampy," Sassette said, as she and Grandpa Smurf watched the old man head away with his wagon.
"Well, maybe someone does," Grandpa Smurf said, noticing a young boy racing up to the wagon.
"Sir, please wait," the boy called out. "I've been admiring your toys."
The old man stopped his cart to answer the boy. "Ah, don't be shy," he said. "Come closer and let me show you one of them." He pulled out one of his puppets and demonstrated how it moved by pulling on its strings from both ends. "So, you really like my funny little puppets?"
"Oh, yes, sir," the boy said, sounding very excited as he watched the toy in action.
"I am sure that you will give this one a good home," the old man said, sounding pleased as he gave the boy the puppet in his hand. "Have a merry Christmas."
"For me?" the boy said, sounding grateful. "Oh, thank you, kind sir. I'll never forget it."
"Hans!" another voice broke in, sounding upset.
"Father, I was just...," the boy said as he watched a man wearing fine clothes approach him, looking rather stern.
"How many times have I told you, boy, not to consort with peasants?" the father said as he dragged the boy to the carriage where his wife was waiting in. "These poor people live in hovels across the river, while you live in a fine home, so keep away from them."
"Oh, Willem, must you be so harsh?" the wife scolded.
"Miranda, our son must know the true station in life that he belongs in," Willem responded. "And one of those lessons is not to accept gifts from them." He grabbed the puppet from Hans and threw it under the carriage.
"But the nice old man made that puppet, Father," Hans commented.
"I will get you much better toys than that, my son," Willem said as he got into the carriage with his son and wife. The driver immediately got the carriage going, and Sassette and Grandpa Smurf watched along with the old man as the puppet was crushed under the wheels of the carriage as it drove off.
"That wasn't a very nice father to just smurf that boy's toy away from him like that, Grampy," Sassette said.
"Unfortunately, that's how humans who have money treat those who don't have much to live on, Sassy," Grandpa Smurf said. "If only I could give that human a good piece of my smurf...but alas, he isn't my child to smurf care of."
"If only more children had fathers like Pappy Smurf," Sassette said.
The old man shed a tear as he watched one of his hand-crafted works get destroyed with such callousness. All he wanted was to see children be happy playing with the toys that he made for them, but it looked like Hans will never have the chance to do so.
As he picked up his cart and moved on, the female jewelry merchant greeted him. "Leaving so soon, Gustav?" she asked, sounding concerned.
"It's my wife," the old man replied. "She's been so sick, and I have the doctor looking in on her. I must go to see how she is doing."
"I only hope for the best, Gustav," the jewelry merchant said with some honest feeling.
"Why does that old man smurf so unhappy, Grampy?" Sassette asked as she and Grandpa Smurf watched Gustav depart from the village.
"I honestly don't know, my grandsmurf, but it may be worth following him just to find out," Grandpa Smurf said.
And so the two Smurfs followed the old man as he carried his cart from the center of the village to the outskirts, where the poorest of its human residents live. At one of the houses, Gustav stopped and met with an old graying bearded man who was at the door.
"Doctor," Gustav greeted. "My wife! How is she?"
"I've done all that I could with her, Gustav, but her spirit is very weak," the doctor replied. "She's resting quietly now in the other room."
"Tell me, is there anything that I could do?" Gustav asked.
"Perhaps with the Christmas season, her spirit may be revived," the doctor said. "Otherwise, this may be her..."
"I know what you're going to say," Gustav said, keeping the doctor from saying anything more. "Thank you for coming, and merry Christmas to you."
The two Smurfs watched through the window as the doctor took his leave from the house, and Gustav entered the bedroom with one of his puppets. "Elise, my darling, this is one of my puppets," he said as she slowly opened her eyes to see him.
"Oh, it is a Jumping Jill," Elise said as she reached out and pulled one of the strings to make the puppet move. "It reminds me of a Christmas long ago...with children's laughter, people singing...and I hung a Christmas star on top of the tree."
"Yes, my dear, and we made Christmas wishes on it," Gustav said, smiling along with his wife.
Elise took hold of the puppet and looked sadly at it. "Alas, those days seem like they won't happen ever again. And I fear that Christmas wishes won't come true anymore for me."
"They can come true, Elise," Gustav said, pulling a book from a nearby table. "Remember the story about Christmas elves, how they come to those in need at this time of year to offer the desires of their hearts."
"This time it will take more than just fairy tales to truly make this a merry Christmas," Elise said, not wishing to look at the picture Gustav was showing her from the book of a Christmas elf. "Now, please, darling, I need my rest."
Gustav watched as his wife closed her eyes and went back to sleep. He loved seeing her going to sleep in the years they had together, but he never liked the idea that one of these days Elise would never wake up. The village preacher tried to offer some comfort in the hope that they would be united together in heaven, but that to him seemed more of a fairy tale than the Christmas elves he believed in.
Gustav sighed as he left the bedroom and quietly closed the door. "If only I could make a Christmas eve that is bright enough to cheer her up," he said to himself. "I would long to see the rosy color come back to her cheeks."
Sassette felt a tear coming from her eye watching the scene. "Oh, Grampy, isn't there anything we can do to help them?"
Grandpa Smurf thought for a moment, and then suddenly: "I think I have it! Come along, little one, it's time for us to smurf back to the village!"
Sassette followed Grandpa Smurf as they leaped off the windowsill and headed out of the village, trying to keep themselves from being seen, even though there were very few humans outside that night because of the snow.
Gustav's attention was briefly turned toward the window, where he for a moment thought he saw two pairs of tiny footprints in the snow on the windowsill. He thought that maybe there were Christmas elves that had visited him, but then suddenly the wind covered the footprints back up until he couldn't see any evidence that there was anybody on his windowsill, even elves.