“You dear little fairy tale lover,” she said. “Do you know that it is because of you that this desert has blossomed? If you had never made all those visits to the Little Sisters of the Poor, and had never won old Madame Desire’s love and confidence by your sympathy, if you had never told Jules the story of the giant scissors, and wished so loud that you could fly to her rescue, old monsieur would never have known that his sister is living. Even then, I doubt if he would have taken this step, and brought her back home to live, if your stories of your mother and the children had not brought his own childhood back to him. He said that he used to sit there hour after hour, and hear you talk of your life at home, until some of its warmth and love crept into his own frozen old heart, and thawed out its selfishness and pride.”
Joyce lifted her radiant face, and looked towards the half opened window, as she caught the sound of chimes. Across the Loire came the deep-toned voice of a cathedral bell, ringing for vespers.
“Listen!” she cried. “Peace on earth,—good-will—oh, Cousin Kate! It really does seem to say it! My Christmas has begun the day before.”
Long before the Christmas dawn was bright enough to bring the blue parrots into plain view on the walls of Joyce’s room, she had climbed out of bed to look for her “messages from Noel.” The night before, following the old French custom, she had set her little slippers just outside the threshold. Now, candle in hand, she softly slipped to the door and peeped out into the hall. Her first eager glance showed that they were full.
Climbing back into her warm bed, she put the candle on the table beside it, and began emptying the slippers. They were filled with bonbons and all sorts of little trifles, such as she and Jules had admired in the gay shop windows. On the top of one madame had laid a slender silver pencil, and monsieur a pretty purse. In the other was a pair of little wooden shoes, fashioned like the ones that Jules had worn when she first knew him. They were only half as long as her thumb, and wrapped in a paper on which was written that Jules himself had whittled them out for her, with Henri’s help and instructions.
“What little darlings!” exclaimed Joyce. “I hope he will think as much of the scrap-book that I made for him as I do of these. I know that he will be pleased with the big microscope that Cousin Kate bought for him.”
She spread all the things out on the table, and gave the slippers a final shake. A red morocco case, no larger than half a dollar, fell out of the toe of one of them. Inside the case was a tiny buttonhole watch, with its wee hands pointing to six o’clock. It was the smallest watch that Joyce had ever seen, Cousin Kate’s gift. Joyce could hardly keep back a little squeal of delight. She wanted to wake up everybody on the place and show it. Then she wished that she could be back in the brown house, showing it to her mother and the children. For a moment, as she thought of them, sharing the pleasure of their Christmas stockings without her, a great wave of homesickness swept over her, and she lay back on the pillow with that miserable, far-away feeling that, of all things, makes one most desolate.