But Little Girl knew better than that, too, for there on the hearth was the little Black Coal, which had given her Two Shoes and Bright Light, and tight in her hand she held a holly berry which one of the Christmas Sprites had placed there. More than all that, there she was on the hearth-rug herself, just as Santa had left her, and that was the best proof of all.
The trouble was, Daddy himself had never been a Little Girl, so he couldn’t tell anything about it, but we know she hadn’t been dreaming, now, don’t we, my dears?
VII. “A CHRISTMAS MATINEE"*
This story was first published in the Youth’s Companion, vol. 74.
MRS. M.A.L. LANE
It was the day before Christmas in the year 189-. Snow was falling heavily in the streets of Boston, but the crowd of shoppers seemed undiminished. As the storm increased, groups gathered at the corners and in sheltering doorways to wait for belated cars; but the holiday cheer was in the air, and there was no grumbling. Mothers dragging tired children through the slush of the streets; pretty girls hurrying home for the holidays; here and there a harassed-looking man with perhaps a single package which he had taken a whole morning to select—all had the same spirit of tolerant good-humor.
“School Street! School Street!” called the conductor of an electric car. A group of young people at the farther end of the car started to their feet. One of them, a young man wearing a heavy fur-trimmed coat, addressed the conductor angrily.
“I said, ‘Music Hall,’ didn’t I?” he demanded. “Now we’ve got to walk back in the snow because of your stupidity!”
“Oh, never mind, Frank!” one of the girls interposed. “We ought to have been looking out ourselves! Six of us, and we went by without a thought! It is all Mrs. Tirrell’s fault! She shouldn’t have been so entertaining!”
The young matron dimpled and blushed. “That’s charming of you, Maidie,” she said, gathering up her silk skirts as she prepared to step down into the pond before her. “The compliment makes up for the blame. But how it snows!”
“It doesn’t matter. We all have gaiters on,” returned Maidie Williams, undisturbed.
“Fares, please!” said the conductor stolidly.
Frank Armstrong thrust his gloved hand deep into his pocket with angry vehemence. “There’s your money,” he said, “and be quick about the change, will you? We’ve lost time enough!”
The man counted out the change with stiff, red fingers, closed his lips firmly as if to keep back an obvious rejoinder, rang up the six fares with careful accuracy, and gave the signal to go ahead. The car went on into the drifting storm.
Armstrong laughed shortly as he rapidly counted the bits of silver lying in his open palm. He turned instinctively, but two or three cars were already between him and the one he was looking for.