- Author: Valerie Tripp
- Illustrators: Dan Andreasen
- First Published: May 1999. Originally Published in American Girl Magazine, Nov/Dec 1995, under the title Nellie's Gift
- Setting: Mount Bedford, New York, Winter 1904
- In relation to Samantha's Central Series: Before the events of Samantha's Surprise
- Samantha Parkington
- Nellie O'Malley
- Ida Dean
- Helen Whitney
- Ruth Adams
- Edith Eddleton
- Clarisse Van Sicklen
Only in Samantha's Winter Party
- Mr. O'Malley
Samantha calls out "Let's race!" as she skated across Culpepper's Pond as fast as she could. Ida, Helen, Ruth, and Nellie skated right behind Samantha. The girls skidded up to the edge of the pond at the same time, ending thee race with a tie. The girls collapsed on the bench in a giggling heap. Ida comments it was so cold, she could barely untie her skates. Samantha says she hopes it stayed cold so they could skate during their Christmas vacation, and the other girls agree with her. It was the coldest winter anyone could remember and with Culpepper's pond frozen solid, skating was all the rage. Almost everyday Samantha, Ida, Helen, and Ruth left school and headed straight to the pond with their ice skates. That Friday afternoon was especially fun because Nellie was able to skate with them. Nellie was a good skater and was teaching the other girls various skating tricks like figure eights. All the girls liked it when Nellie joined them, but she could only skate on Mondays and Fridays due to her servant work for Mrs. Van Sicklen.
Samantha looked at the crowd of skaters as she unbuckled her skates. Two of them left the crowd and as they got closer to the bench, Samantha saw they were Edith and Clarisse. Samantha politely greeted Edith, but Edith remains blunt and explains she was having a party Monday after school. Her mother was making her invite all of the girls in her class so Samantha and the others, except Nellie, were invited. Edith adds they had to come because they were going to practice the song for their Christmas Pageant. Samantha asks "Monday?" and Helen blurts out that they would miss skating with Nellie. Edith sniffs and tells the girls they didn't need to stay at the party long so they could have time to skate with the servant girl.
Clarisse had been staring at Nellie's old and rusty skates as Edith talked. She whispers something to Edith, and the two smirked. As they skated away, Clarisse stated loudly that she thought it was pathetic the way Nellie always tried to keep up with her betters. Nellie quickly bent down to gather up her school books, but Samantha could see Nellie's face was red. Samantha was so angry at Clarisse and Edith that she wanted to punch them, but instead she tells Nellie to ignore them. Helen sticks her tongue out at Edith and Clarisse's backs as Ida wishes she didn't have to go to the party as she knew it wouldn't be fun. Samantha gets and idea and suggests they have their own special party next Friday, and the other girls eagerly agree. Samantha suggests they could skate first and later hold the party in her house. She suggests they could sing carols, eat cookies, drink cocoa, and Helen suggests they could give each other presents. "Special presents for our most special friends." All of the girls except for Nellie agree with the plan. When Nellie remained silent, Samantha immediately realized why. Nellie had no money and couldn't possibly buy presents for the four of them. Samantha starts to feel guilty as she brought up the party idea to make her feel better, but now she was afraid it only made her feel worse.
Samantha thought hard as the other three girls chatted on about the party. After the others left for home, Samantha smiled at Nellie. She suggests that they could get together and make presents for the other girls. Nellie looked uncertain as she asked if it would be okay to bring homemade gifts when the other girls would have store bought ones. Samantha assures Nellie that good gifts don't have to cost money as she recalled seeing someone make really nice Christmas corsages out of pine cones. Nellie loves the idea of making grown-up corsages and asks if Samantha still remembered how to make them. Samantha thinks she still does and suggests that they meet up tomorrow afternoon and collect lots of pine cones. Nellie smiles and says she'll bring the basket.
The next afternoon, Samantha and Nellie walked through the woods just behind the Van Sicklen's house, filling up Nellie's basket with pine cones. Nellie warns Samantha that the area was marshy and could have some puddles the size of a small lake. Samantha assures Nellie that all of the puddles were frozen as she kicks the snow aside to show the ice. Samantha looks around and comments it was very pretty, but Nellie adds it was cold as well and she suggests they go back inside.The two hurry back into Samantha's house and sit around the kitchen table, where all of the materials for the corsages was laid out. The girls began eagerly and Samantha says the others were going to be so pleased with
their homemade gifts and Nellie says it would be a surprise. But making the corsages was a lot harder then Samantha had remembered, and the girls grew quieter and more discouraged as they struggled. After a couple of hours, the table was sticky with glue and paint and littered with ribbon pieces, crushed holly sprigs, and clumps of wadded up paper. Samantha wrinkled her brow as she held up her angled-looking pine cone. She comments she must have forgotten a step as her pine cone looked nothing like corsages. Nellie sighs and tells Samantha kindly that the corsages were a good idea, but they weren't working out. Samantha suggests they could add jingle bells, but Nellie shook her head and grinned a little as she commented they'd need something more than jingle bells to make the pin cones look any good. "We'd need something magic."
Samantha admitted she was right and they might as well throw their stuff away. The girls throw away their supplies into Nellie's basket and Samantha suggested they could make something else or even find something for the girl's gifts, but Nellie firmly says no. She knew Samantha was only trying to help her, but she couldn't Nellie tosses another pine cone into the basket and dusted her hands as she said Clarisse was right, that servant girls shouldn't try to 'keep up'. Nellie simply didn't have the money to spend like Samantha and her friends did. Samantha felt helpless as she asked if Nellie was still going to the party. She told Nellie the party would be fun, with or without presents. She says no one expected or cared if she brought anything, but Nellie interrupts and says she would care. She picked up her basket, saying she would get rid of it, and left. Samantha slumped at the table. She had hurt Nellie's pride, and now she might not come to the party at all. It seemed that the more Samantha tried to help, the more she made things worse.Samantha, Helen, Ruth, and Ida rushed to the pond after Edith's party on Monday, but they couldn't find Nellie and no one saw her that afternoon. Ruth asks why Nellie wasn't there, commenting that Nellie never missed a Monday afternoon. Helen hopes out loud that Nellie would still come to the party on Friday as it wouldn't be any fun without her, and Samantha said nothing. She realized that Nellie was avoiding them, and she decides to talk to her about it. After skating, Samantha went to the Van Sicklen's house and knocked on the door. Nellie's father opened the door and after greeting each other, Samantha asks if she could see Nellie. Mr. O'Malley seemed to hesitate, but he smiled and invited Samantha to wait inside. Samantha waited in the hallway and listened to Mr. O'Malley talking to Nellie in the kitchen. When he told Nellie Samantha was here, she heard Nellie shout "Oh, no!", and Samantha's heart sank. When Nellie appeared and greeted Samantha, she appeared nervous. Samantha tells Nellie they missed her at the pond and Nellie nervously explains she was busy. Samantha, who had never seen Nellie so stiff and unfriendly, asks if they could go in the kitchen and talk a while Nellie quickly says no, they couldn't, and suddenly says she had to go back to her work. She opened the door and thanked Sam for coming, but she had better go now. Next thing Samantha knew, she was back outside. Samantha had the bitter feeling that she lost her friend and Nellie no longer wanted to see or talk to her. Samantha trudged back home sadly.
The day of the party was dreary and cold. When the girls went to the pond after school, Samantha was sad, but not surprised, to see that Nellie didn't come. The girls skated a while, but Helen suggests that Nellie was waiting at Samantha's house. The girls went to the house, but Nellie wasn't there either. Samantha says glumly that they might as well have some refreshments. But just as the girls got their first cup of cocoa, Nellie appeared at the door to the parlor, with a big red bow in her hair and a big smile. The girls cry out Nellie's name in delight as they rushed to her. Ida says they were afraid she wasn't coming and Helen says now that she was here, the party could begin. Samantha was too relieved and delighted to say anything, so instead she sat at the piano and started to play 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' as loudly as she could. The girls sang to the music, not caring that they were messing up the lyrics. Singing made them hungry, so they ate cookies and drank hot cocoa next to the fireplace. As Ida finished her cup, she suggested that they open their presents. Samantha watched Nellie carefully fro the corner of her eye. While Nellie didn't bring any packages with her, she still watched her friends exchange gifts with happy, glowing eyes.
Samantha hands Nellie a big box, explaining they all pitched in to buy it. Nellie thanks Samantha politely but when she opened her gift, her face grew pink and she thanked her again. She pulled out a beautiful pair of new ice skates. Suddenly, Nellie stood up, holding the skates to her chest, and told the girls to get their skates and follow her as she had a surprise for them. The girls giggled and chatted as they grabbed their coats and followed Nellie. The sun was setting and a few evening starts were appearing as Nellie led the girls through the woods behind the Van Sicklen's house.When Nellie stopped, the girls gasped with amazement.Nellie had swept the snow off the giant puddles to make one big pond to skate on. The pond was rimmed with candles and small bouquets of holly sprigs, and Nellie had hung lanterns, the failed pine cone corsages, and paper snowflakes from the tree branches. Samantha whispers that it was just like an enchanted forest and the girls murmur in agreement. At that moment, Mr. O'Malley appeared with his violin and as the girls strapped on their skates, he played a waltz. Samantha skated next to Nellie and told her it was beautiful. Nellie beamed as she explained how she and her dad came early that morning to decorate the forest and check the ice safety. But it was Nellie's idea to begin with; she made the decorations with the scraps from their failed corsages. Nellie explains that she was making them in the kitchen on the day Samantha came over, and the reason why she was unfriendly that day was because she wanted her gift to be a surprise. Samantha says it was the most wonderful surprise she ever saw, and she didn't know how Nellie did it. Nellie smiled and twirled in a little circle on the ice. "Oh, it was just a little magic."
Meet The Author
Valerie Tripp shares a story how one cold winter afternoon, her daughter led her to a spot in the woods. She found a series of small ponds that turned out to be frozen puddles among the trees. They didn't have skates, so they slipped and slided in their boots. She comments that it was pretty in the woods and the ponds seemed to be made just for them, and that was where she got the idea for the story.
Looking Back: Ice Skating in 1904
Discusses ice skating in turn of the century America. Topics covered:
- Why ice skating was so popular in the 1900s, and the use of skating chairs for those who couldn't skate.
- The various materials skate blades were made out of, and how changes in the ice skate design allowed skaters to perform more complex moves on the ice.
- The various places where people skated in New York in the early 1900s, and the use of skaters' lamps to help people skate in the dark.
- Madge Syers' successful career as a competing ice skater, including the all-male world championship that she had won in 1902.
- The restrictions competing female ice skaters had due to being unable to perform moves that had their skirts fly past their knees, which eventually created a separate ice skating championship for women.
- How Sonja Henie influenced ice skating for other women skaters, and her rise to fame by the 1930s, where she was beginning to appear in Hollywood movies.
Activity: Make Snow Candles
Instructions on how to make candles molded by snow or sand.