“When I got into your car it was just for the adventure. To breathe for a moment the air I once breathed—to fancy that Marion’s ghost might sit beside me for one little moment, as she will sit beside you to the end of your days.
“I have played all roles but that of robber—but when I saw the things that you had bought with Marion’s money for Marion’s children—it went to my head—and I wanted them in the worst way for those poor kiddies—who haven’t any dolls or Christmas dinners.
“I am playing Santa Claus for them to-night. I shall take the things down and leave them in their poor rooms. It will be up to you to come and take them away. It will be up to you, too, to give this note to the police and steal my freedom.
“You used to be a good sport, Whiting. I have nothing against you except that you stole Marion—perhaps this will square our accounts. And if your children are, because of me, without their dolls to-morrow, you can remember this, that the kiddies are happy below stairs—since Dick Turpin dwells aloft!
“From among the
rest I have chosen for myself a squat bottle, a box
of biscuits, and a tin of the little imported sausages that you
taught me to like.
“Well, my dear
fellow, happy days! To-morrow morning I shall
breakfast at your expense, unless you shall decide that I must
breakfast behind bars.
“If you should
come to-night, you will find in the window a red
candle shining. They have put it there to guide St. Nicholas and a
certain Fluffy Ruffles doll!
He found an envelope, sealed, and addressed it. Then he went to work.
Four trips he made down the stairs. Four times he tiptoed into the shadowed room, where the long red candle burned. And when he turned to take a last look there on the table beside the tree stood the blue doll for Milly and the Fluffy Ruffles doll for Pussy and the rattles and rings and blocks for the baby, and on the chairs and the shelf above the tree were the other things—the great cake and the fruit and the big basket and the boxes of candy.
And for the little mother there were the violets and a note:
“The red candle winked at your window and brought me in. It is useless to search for me—for now and then a Prince passes and goes on. And he is none the less a Prince because you do not know him.”
And now there was that other note to deliver. Out in the cold once more, he found the moon gone and the snow falling. As he passed the saint on the old church, it seemed to smile down at him. The towers and gables were sheeted with white. His footsteps made no sound on the padded streets.
He left the note at Whiting’s door. He fancied that, as the footman held it open, he saw Marion shining on the stairs!