At seven o’clock a bell was rung, and then the folding doors of the room where the Christmas-tree stood were thrown open, and a crowd of children came trooping in.
They laughed and shouted and pointed, and all talked together, and after a while there was music, and presents were taken from the tree and given to the children.
How different it all was from the great wide, still sky house!
But the star had never been so happy in all its life; for the little boy was there.
He stood apart from the other children, looking up at the star, with his hands clasped behind him, and he did not seem to care for the toys and the games.
At last it was all over. The lights were put out, the children went home, and the house grew still.
Then the ornaments on the tree began to talk among themselves.
“So that is all over,” said a silver ball. “It was very gay this evening—the gayest Christmas I remember.”
“Yes,” said a glass bunch of grapes; “the best of it is over. Of course people will come to look at us for several days yet, but it won’t be like this evening.”
“And then I suppose we’ll be laid away for another year,” said a paper fairy. “Really it seems hardly worth while. Such a few days out of the year and then to be shut up in the dark box again. I almost wish I were a paper doll.”
The bunch of grapes was wrong in saying that people would come to look at the Christmas-tree the next few days, for it stood neglected in the library and nobody came near it. Everybody in the house went about very quietly, with anxious faces; for the little boy was ill.
At last, one evening, a woman came into the room with a servant. The woman wore the cap and apron of a nurse.
“That is it,” she said, pointing to the golden star. The servant climbed up on some steps and took down the star and put it in the nurse’s hand, and she carried it out into the hall and upstairs to a room where the little boy lay.
The sweet-faced lady was sitting by the bed, and as the nurse came in she held out her hand for the star.
“Is this what you wanted, my darling?” she asked, bending over the little boy.
The child nodded and held out his hands for the star; and as he clasped it a wonderful, shining smile came over his face.
The next morning the little boy’s room was very still and dark.
The golden piece of paper that had been the star lay on a table beside the bed, its five points very sharp and bright.
But it was not the real star, any more than a person’s body is the real person.
The real star was living and shining now in the little boy’s heart, and it had gone out with him into a new and more beautiful sky country than it had ever known before—the sky country where the little child angels live, each one carrying in its heart its own particular star.