The sun came out after stormy weather, and Violet and her brother Peony wanted to play in the newly fallen snow. So after their mother had carefully clothed them, they went outside and began to make a snow image. They decided that their work of art would be a little girl. She would be their sister. When they finished, they would show her to their mother, but they would warn her not to bring her into the house, because she would not like the heat.
Mrs. Lindsey, their mother, overheard their conversation. She noted that they believed that they could create a snow image endowed with life. She occasionally glanced out the window to watch them. She was surprised at the consummate skill with which they molded the snow image.
Mrs. Lindsey had a poetic soul. As she busied herself with needlework, it occurred to her that it would be nice if some fairies would secretly descend from heaven and help her children with invisible hands, so that their creation would become a perfect image of a little girl.
When their project was nearly complete, they asked their mother to look at it. As she peered out the window, it was her unbiased opinion that it was the best snow image that any children had ever made.
She returned to her work, but kept listening to her children with one ear. They seemed to think that their snow image would actually romp and play with them. They expected that she would be their playmate all winter long.
As they continued to work on their project, they wondered what their new playmate would eat. Peony planned to share his warm milk with her. To this Violet objected. She wisely observed that anything warm would harm their snow-sister. She suggested that the best food for their new playmate would be icicles.
After the children put the finishing touches on their masterpiece, the snow image began to move and started to play with them. Violet and Peony called their mother, asking her to see their new playmate.
When Mrs. Lindsey saw a third child playing with her children, she thought it was the daughter of one of their neighbors. However, she had never seen her before. In fact, she wondered whether the child was real, since she closely resembled a flying snowdrift. It had become dark outside, so perhaps her eyes were playing tricks on her.
The child’s clothes and shoes were as white as snow. Mrs. Lindsey thought that they were not warm enough, and her first impulse was to invite the child inside to warm up. Nevertheless, she hesitated.
She finally summoned her daughter and asked who the new child was. Violet told her that it was the snow-child that they had been making. Peony ran up to his mother and verified his sister’s statement.
Mother was incredulous and was not sure how she should react. Then Father came home.
When Mrs. Lindsey asked who the child was, his wife admitted that she did not know. Then she laughingly told him that the children claimed that it was a snow-child that they had made. As she said this, she glanced at the place where the children were making the snow image. To her surprise, there was nothing there.
Mr. Lindsey was a sensible man. When the children insisted that she was indeed their snow-child, he noticed that the child wore flimsy clothes, and decided to take her to a warm place before she froze to death.
Mrs. Lindsey halfway believed the children. She suggested that the child may be an angel who had come to play with the children. However, when her husband began to laugh, she admitted that it was a foolish thought.
In spite of his children’s earnest pleas, Mr. Lindsey was determined to save the little girl from hypothermia. She ran away as he approached. He had trouble catching her. Once he even fell down in the snow. As the neighbors watched, it seemed to them that Mr. Lindsey was chasing a snowdrift.
He finally caught her. As he took her hand, he noticed how cold it was. In spite of the pleas and tears of his children, he led her inside. As Mrs. Lindsey examined the child, she noticed the imprint of Violet’s finger on the child’s neck. Her thoughts reverted to the idea that an angel had come to play with her children, and she expressed the opinion that the child really was made of snow. However, the sober reasoning of her sensible husband soon made her change her mind.
The sensible, benevolent gentleman led the snow-child into his comfortable parlor. He put her on a hearth rug near a Heidelberg stove.
After urging his wife to fetch a woolen shawl and thick stockings for the child and give her a warm supper, Mr. Lindsey went out to look for the parents of their guest.
Before Mr. Lindsey had gone far, he heard the children scream, and his wife tapped on the window to bring him back into the house. With tears in their eyes, the children told their father that their snow-child had melted and reproached him for bringing her into the house.
Mrs. Lindsey explained that she had left the room to fetch the shawl and socks. When she returned, summoned by the children’s cries, she saw no trace of the child, except probably a little pile of snow on the hearth rug, which soon melted.
When Mr. Lindsey saw the water on the floor, he concluded that the children had dragged in a lot of snow on their feet.
Throughout the tale, Hawthorne tries to straddle the line between illusion and reality. He repeatedly throws out hints that the lively snow image might not be real, such as the observation that neighbors thought that Mr. Lindsey was chasing a snowdrift.
Was the miracle merely an illusion of the children? Judge for yourself.
Since I no longer have access to a hard-copy edition of Hawthorne’s tale, I consulted an online version presented by Classical Authors.