When Kitty was informed that this was Santa Claus’s Partner’s party, and that she was to be the hostess, she was at first a little shy, partly, perhaps, on account of the strangeness of being in such a big, fine house, and partly on account of the solemn presence of James, until the latter had relieved her in ways of which that austere person seemed to have the secret where children were concerned. Finally she was induced to take the children over the house, and the laughter which soon came floating back from distant rooms showed that the ice was broken.
Only two rooms, the library and the dining-room, were closed, and they were not closed very long.
Just as it grew dark Kitty was told to marshal her eager forces and James with sparkling eyes rolled back the folding doors.
The children had never seen anything before in all their lives like that which greeted their eyes. The library was a bower of evergreen and radiance. In the centre was a great tree of crystal and stars which reflected the light of a myriad twinkling candles. It had undoubtedly come from fairy-land, if the place was not fairy-land itself, on the border of which they stood amazed.
Kitty was asked by Mr. Livingstone to lead the other children in, and as she approached the tree she found facing her a large envelope addressed to,
Santa Claus’s Partner, Miss Kitty Clark.
This she was told to open and in it was a letter from Santa Claus himself.
It stated that the night before, as the writer was engaged in looking after presents for some poor children, he saw a little girl in a shop engaged in the same work, and when he reached a certain hospital he found that she had been there, too, before him, and now as he had to go to another part of the world to keep ahead of the sun, he hoped that she would still act for him and look after his business here. The letter was signed,
Your partner, Santa Claus.
The postscript suggested that a few of the articles he had left on the tree for her were marked with names, but that others were unmarked, so that her friends might choose what they preferred, and he had left his pack at the foot of the tree as a grab-bag.
This letter broke the spell and next moment every one was shouting and rollicking as though they lived there.
In all the throng there was no one so delighted as Mr. Clark. Livingstone had had no idea how clever he was. He was the soul of the entertainment. It was he who discovered first the packages for each little one; he who, without appearing to do so, guided them in their march around the tree, so that all might find just the presents that suited them. He seemed to Livingstone’s quickened eye to divine just what each child liked and wished. He appeared to know all that Livingstone desired to know.
At length, he alone of all the guests had received no present. The others had their little arms packed so full that Livingstone had to step forward to the tree to help a small tot bear away his toppling load.