“Pete! Pete!” came the piping but happy voice from the inner room.
Skiddles hesitated. Mr. Carter made no sign.
“Pete! Pete!” shrilled the voice again.
Slowly, very slowly, Skiddles turned and went back into the bedroom.
“You see,” said Mr. Carter, smiling, “he won’t be too unhappy away from me, Mrs. Bailey.”
On his way home the philanthropist saw even more evidences of Christmas gaiety along the streets than before. He stepped out briskly, in spite of his sixty-eight years; he even hummed a little tune.
When he reached the house on the avenue he found his secretary still at work.
“Oh, by the way, Mr. Mathews,” he said, “did you send that letter to the woman, saying I never paid attention to personal appeals? No? Then write her, please, enclosing my check for two hundred dollars, and wish her a very Merry Christmas in my name, will you? And hereafter will you always let me see such letters as that one—of course after careful investigation? I fancy perhaps I may have been too rigid in the past.”
“Certainly, sir,” answered the bewildered secretary. He began fumbling excitedly for his note-book.
“I found the little dog,” continued the philanthropist. “You will be glad to know that.”
“You have found him?” cried the secretary. “Have you got him back, Mr. Carter? Where was he?”
“He was—detained—on Oak Street, I believe,” said the philanthropist. “No, I have not got him back yet. I have left him with a young boy till after the holidays.”
He settled himself to his papers, for philanthropists must toil even on the twenty-fourth of December, but the secretary shook his head in a daze. “I wonder what’s happened?” he said to himself.
XXV. THE FIRST CHRISTMAS-TREE
BY LUCY WHEELOCK
Two little children were sitting by the fire one cold winter’s night. All at once they heard a timid knock at the door and one ran to open it.
There, outside in the cold and darkness, stood a child with no shoes upon his feet and clad in thin, ragged garments. He was shivering with cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself.
“Yes, come in,” cried both the children. “You shall have our place by the fire. Come in.”
They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their supper with him, and gave him their bed, while they slept on a hard bench.
In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music, and looking out, they saw a band of children in shining garments, approaching the house. They were playing on golden harps and the air was full of melody.
Suddenly the Strange Child stood before them: no longer cold and ragged, but clad in silvery light.
His soft voice said: “I was cold and you took Me in. I was hungry and you fed Me. I was tired and you gave Me your bed. I am the Christ-Child, wandering through the world to bring peace and happiness to all good children. As you have given to Me, so may this tree every year give rich fruit to you.”