THE SHADOW OF DEATH
The kettle was singing merrily on the stove, and Mrs. Gray was setting the breakfast table, when Emily awoke on Christmas morning. Her father was just coming in from out-of-doors bringing a breath of the fresh winter air with him.
“A Merry Christmas,” he called to her. “A Merry Christmas t’ my maid!”
“And did Santa Claus come?” she asked, looking around expectantly.
“Santa Claus? There now!” he exclaimed, “an’ has th’ old rascal been forgettin’ t’ come again? Has you seen any signs o’ Santa Claus bein’ here?” he asked of Mrs. Gray, as though thinking of it for the first time. Then, turning towards the wall back of the stove, he exclaimed, “Ah! Ah! an’ what’s this?”
Emily looked, and there, sitting upon the shelf, was a doll!
“Oh! Oh, th’ dear little thing!” she cried. “Oh, let me have un!”
Mrs. Gray took it down and handed it to her, and she hugged it to her in an ecstasy of delight. Then she held it off and looked at it, and hugged again, and for very joy she wept. It was only a poor little rag doll with face and hair grotesquely painted upon the cloth, and dressed in printed calico—but it was a doll—a real one—the first that Emily had ever owned. It had been the dream of her life that some day she might have one, and now the dream was a blessed reality. Her happiness was quite beyond expression as she lay there on her bed that Christmas morning pressing the doll to her breast and crying. Poverty has its seasons of recompense that more than counterbalance all the pleasures that wealth can buy, and this was one of those seasons for the family of Richard Gray.
Presently Emily stopped crying, and through the tears came laughter, and she held the toy out for her father and mother to take and examine and admire.
A little later Mrs. Gray came from the closet holding a mysterious package in her hand.
“Now what be this? ‘Twere in th’ closet an’ looks like somethin’ more Santa Claus were leavin’.”
“Well now!” exclaimed Richard, “what may that be? Open un an’ we’ll see.”
An investigation of its contents revealed a couple of pounds of sugar, some currants, raisins and a small can of butter.
“Santa Claus were wantin’ us t’ have a plum puddin’ I’m thinkin’,” said Mrs. Gray, as she examined each article and showed it to Emily. “An’ we’re t’ have sugar for th’ tea and butter for th’ bread. But th’ puddin’s not t’ get all th’ raisins. Emily’s t’ have some t’ eat after we has breakfast.”
Dinner was a great success. There were roast ptarmigans stuffed with fine-chopped pork and bread, and the unwonted luxuries of butter and sugar—and then the plum pudding served with molasses for sauce. That was fine, and Emily had to have two helpings of it. If Bob had been with them their cup of happiness would have been filled quite to the brim, and more than once Emily exclaimed: