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"What is this talking I hear?" snapped the evil general. All the soldiers saluted and all was quiet. But no tinsel glistened, no garland swayed, and no ball hung from any branch. The soldiers' quarters were deserted, and the general lived in a big fancy place, away from the soldiers' unkempt place.

Each soldier got in line. On a higher stool, the general would scoop something into a dish and hand it down to the soldier waiting there. When his dish was handed back, he had his eyes closed, hoping for a mouthwatering steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, but it always turned out to be lumpy gruel or stale biscuits.

That night, the same thing happened. Every unhappy soldier got lumpy gruel. They each stirred their gruel three times, and made a face, then repeated it. Then they took a spoonful and sniffed it, waving the smell afterward.

After that, they held their noses as they took a big bite. They coughed and choked and gulped rusty water to help take away the taste. The soldiers were miserable.

The next day was Christmas Eve. Had there ever been such bustling and such noise! The sounds of wrapping, the shouts of no tape--it was so busy and exciting.

"Santa Claus is going to come!" cried Susie happily, "and Jesus was born on Christmas Day!"

"Very good, Susie," said Mrs. Smith. "I'm proud of you!" Susie smiled with glee. How exciting! Christmas Eve!


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