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Cover from 1924 release from Bobbs-Merrill Co.


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Why the Chimes Rang 

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When Anne was growing up, her bachelor uncle, Bill was an important "live in" member of their family. Every Christmas Eve, she and her brothers would gather in their uncle's room, and he would read Raymond Mac Donald Alden's wonderful story.  The picture above comes from the well worn copy he shared with them (1924 publication by Bobbs-Merrill Co.). 

Mr. Alden's mother wrote Pansy Books, (a type of Sunday school fiction) during the beginning of the 20th century.  Unable to meet her publisher's deadline because of illness, she asked her son to write a story.  He stayed up all night to complete this well known contribution to Christmas literature.  The original version along with other stories by Alden can be found at .

I have taken the liberty of adapting Alden's story to shorten it and make it a little more significant for our society today. 

I hope you enjoy this reading and Anne's harp and keyboard accompaniment. 

Why the Chimes Rang
Raymond Mac Donald Alden
Adapted by G. Wakenhut

Long ago, in a land far, far away, lived a young boy and his little brother. Their parents were very very poor, and the boys had little other than their happiness for each other. They were so poor, that in fact, they had never been to the city. Others had told them of the wonders of the city, but there was one story that seemed more exciting than all the rest. It was about the church at the center of the city. It was said that it was possibly, the most magnificent church in the world.

It was so big that when you stood at its entrance, it was almost impossible to see the altar at the other end. When the pipe organ played, the ground carried the movements of its long pipes for many miles. It was also said that on the special eve of Christmas, that there were so many candles on the altar that the glow and warmth given off was equal to that of the noon-day sun.

But most exiting of all was the story about the church’s steeple. This magnificent structure stretched clear up into the sky and beyond the clouds. People said that even on a clear day, it was impossible to see the cross at its top.

And then there were the bells in that steeple. Legend was that when they chimed, they were so pure that their ringing was like flakes of ice crystals cascading down the brilliance of angel’s wings. No one in recent times had ever heard them. But the grandparents of their grandparents had. Reportedly the bells would only ring when the most precious of all gifts was placed on the altar Christmas Eve. But for years, all that was heard from the steeple on Christmas Eve was the cold course wind that wrapped its mighty gusts around its bricks.

For years, people had been bringing wonderful gifts to this altar, but still, the bells would not ring. Some even were beginning to think that there were no bells, and the story was just a fantasy.

Well, the two brothers decided to make a pilgrimage to the city and experience this wonderful church and what better time to do it but on Christmas Eve, if by chance, those bells should ring.

Early in the morning, they set off on their journey because there was considerable distance to cover if they were to arrive at the city by evening. They bundled up tightly against the bitter winter in their tattered coats and scarves and put on their worn boots because the white pureness of the snow was very chilling and deep.

Along their way, they tried to share their excitement with their fellow travelers who passed them. But all were in too much of a hurry and too busy to stop and discover the wonderment that enwrapped the two boys. So they continued their journey sharing their anticipation with each other.

The sun began to set in the late afternoon, and the cold chill of the coming evening was creeping under their coats. Tired from the labor of their journey, they looked ahead and from within the encroaching darkness the emerging night lights of the city provided their needed encouragement.

Hurrying their step, the oldest suddenly noticed a black robe almost covered with the deep fluffy snow and lying in the ditch. Apparently, the other travelers had been too engrossed in their efforts to wonder about this unusual occurrence.

The boys, with their concern, quickly ran to the ditch, pushed back the snow and pulled away the robe to discover the ashened face of an old woman. Fearing that she was dead, the oldest placed his cheek next to the lady’s, and luckily, he could feel the faint warmth and moisture of the old lady’s breath. He reached under her arm, and tried to help her stand, but there was no strength left in her muscles to aid his effort. He then tried to pick her up and carry her, but her body was so limp, that it was impossible for him to move her.

Knowing she would eventually freeze to death if he left her, he told his brother to go on to the church. Then, at least his younger brother would be able to experience the wonders of its sanctuary. He would remain with the old woman, and perhaps the his little brother could bring help when he returned. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver coin that he had been saving. He told his brother to take it with him, and since it was such a meager gift, he should place it on the magnificent altar with all its candles when no one was looking.

As his brother was leaving, the older boy removed his own coat, and wrapping the old woman in it, he began to rub her wrinkled cheeks with his hands, hoping his warmth would add to her life. He also pulled a roll from his pocket. Perhaps this food he had brought to share with his brother might help to sustain the old lady.

When the little brother arrived at the church, he was overwhelmed with its magnificent grandeur. His breath, caught in the amazement of the church’s beauty, he quietly sneaked through its huge golden doors and into the midst of the thousands of people who were there to worship.

The choir’s voice was loud and true, and the music of such a quality that only God could create. The immense stained glass windows surrounding the sanctuary shared the beauty of stories from times long ago.

His eyes were drawn toward the altar, where he was surprised to see the long line of those bearing gifts. They were presenting wonderful carvings, expressive paintings, and dishes made of the finest bronze and even some of gold. But none of these gifts made the bells ring. Then finally, the king himself approached the altar and removed his beautiful golden crown with all its sparkling emeralds, sapphires and rubies. No one had ever given such a gift. Surely the king’s offering would cause the bells to ring.

But alas, trying as hard as they could, the people still could not hear the beauty of the bells. Unable to contain their disappointment, the worshipers began filing out through the big golden doors taking with them even more doubts about the legend of the bells high in the steeple.

But then, the most amazing things began to occur. High up in the steeple above the church, the cold, bitter winds ceased, and were replaced by the gentle warmth of emerging crystal clear bells. Yes, the bells were ringing. The candles on the altar grew brighter, the sound of the choir became and more beautiful, and the bass notes of the organ made the whole church illuminate with a wonderful glow of living energy.

All turned to witness this miracle to see only a small boy trying to hide behind the altar so no one would witness his shabbiness and the tiny offering he had placed on the altar that cold, snowy evening.

Alden's original version of this story can be found at


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