“’I know. And that is why I came. They are your people; and you did not know.’
“And then the child took him on another road, one that was smooth and soft, and the air that blew over it was warm and fragrant. On it the women wore jewels and laces and gorgeous gowns; and men threw gold away to see it shine in the sunlight, threw it that others might see them throw.
“‘Why do we come here?’ the man asked. ’They are not waiting. They do not need.’
“The child looked up in his face. ’They, too, are waiting—for some one to let them know. And they, too, need, for hearts hurt everywhere. Sometimes the loneliest ones are here.’
“Before answer could be made, the main road was left, and in a tiny by-path they heard the laughter of children’s voices; and, looking ahead, they saw a little house with wreaths in the windows through which the glow of firelight sent threads of dancing light upon the snow, and the door was open.
“‘We will go in,’ said the child, ‘for there is welcome.’
“Inside, the mother and the father and all the children were hanging holly on the walls and bringing bundles and boxes and queer-shaped packages from the other rooms and hiding them under chairs and tables and in out-of-the-way places; and presently a row of stockings was hung from the chimneypiece, and the children clapped their hands and danced round and round the room. And then they threw their arms around their father and mother and kissed them good night and left them that Kris Kringle might come in.
“‘They have no money, but are very rich,’ said the child. ’They love much.’
“Over long roads and short ones, over some that were dark and some that were bright, they went their way, and presently they came to a shabby, snow-covered street where children were pressing their faces against shop-windows, and men and women were hurrying in and out of crowded stores; and the child loosened his hold upon the man’s hand. ‘I must go now,’ he said.
“‘Oh no, you must not go!’ Quickly the man reached for him. ’You must not go. I do not even know your name!’
“The child shook his head. ’I cannot stay. And some day you will know my name.’
“‘But why did you come? If you must leave me, why did you come?’
“‘Why did I come?’ In the crowd he was slipping away, but the light in his face streamed through it. ’I came to bring Good-Will to men. I came that Men might Know.’”
A CHANGE OF PLANS