In my favorite passage, Cecile and her father invite their neighbors the Pommiers and Pigeons over for Christmas Eve. Also invited is six-year-old Jacques Gaux, a poor, neglected boy the Auclairs look after as they can, who watched Cecile set up the family's new nativity set earlier that afternoon.
...Jacques Gaux came hurrying in through the shop, looking determined and excited. He forgot to speak to the visitors and went straight to Cecile, holding out something wrapped in a twist of paper, such as the merchants used for small purchases.
“I have a surprise for you,” he said. “It is for the creche, for the little Jesus.”
When she took off the paper, she held in her hand Jacques’s well-known beaver.
“Oh, Jacques, how nice of you! I don’t believe there was ever a beaver in a creche before.” She was a little perplexed; the animal was so untraditional—what was she to do with him?
“He isn’t new,” Jacques went on anxiously. “He’s just my little old beaver the sailor made me, but he could keep the baby warm. I take him to bed with me when I’m cold sometimes, and he keeps me warm.”
Madame Pommier’s sharp ears had overheard this conversation, and she touched Cecile with the end of her crutch. “Certainly, my dear, put it there with the lambs, before the manger. Our Lord died for Canada as well as for the world over there, and the beaver is our very special animal.”
Immediately Madame Pigeon and her six children arrived. Auclair brought out his best liqueurs, and the Pommiers and Pigions, being from the same parish in Rouen, began recalling old friends at home. Cecile was kept busy filling little glasses, but she noticed that Jacques was content, standing beside the creche like a sentinel, paying no heed to the Pigeon children or anyone else, quite lost in the satisfaction of seeing his beaver placed in a scene so radiant. Before the evening was half over, he started up suddenly and began looking for his coat and cap. Cecile followed him into the shop.
“Don’t you want your beaver, Jacques? Or will you leave him until Epiphany?”
He looked up at her, astonished, a little hurt, and quickly thrust his hands behind him. “Non, c’est pour toujours [No, it’s forever],” he said decisively, and went out of the door.
“See, madame,” Madame Pommier was whispering to Madame Pigeon, “we have a bad woman amongst us, and one of her clients makes a toy for her son, and he gives it to the Holy Child for a birthday present. That is very nice.”
--From Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather, Book 2 Cecile and Jacques, chapter IX