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99 Linwood Street
by [?]

A Christmas Story

A gray morning, the deck wet, the iron all beaded with frost, all the longshoremen in heavy pea-jackets or cardigans, the whole ship in a bustle, and the favored first-class passengers just leaving.

One sad-looking Irish girl stands with her knit hood already spotted with the rime, and you cannot tell whether those are tears which hang from her black eyelashes or whether the fog is beginning to freeze there. What you see is that the poor thing looks right and left and up the pier and down the pier, and that in the whole crowd–they all seem so selfish–she sees nobody. Hundreds of people going and coming, pushing and hauling, and Nora’s big brother is not there, as he promised to be and should be.

Mrs. Ohstrom, the motherly Swedish woman, who has four children and ten tin cups and a great bed and five trunks and a fatuous, feckless husband makes time, between cousins and uncles and custom-house men and sharpers, to run up every now and then to say that Nora must not cry, that she must be easy, that she has spoken to the master and the master has said they are three hours earlier than they were expected. And all this was so kindly meant and so kindly said that poor Nora brushed the tears away, if they were tears, and thanked her, though she did not understand one word that dear Mrs. Ohstrom said to her. What is language, or what are words, after all?

And the bright-buttoned, daintily dressed little ship’s doctor, whom poor Nora hardly knew in his shore finery,–he made time to stop and tell her that the ship was too early, and that she must not worry. Father, was it, she was waiting for? “Oh, brother! Oh, he will be sure to be here! Better sit down. Here is a chair. Don’t cry. I am afraid you had no breakfast. Take this orange. It will cheer you up. I shall see you again.”

Alas! the little doctor was swept away and forgot Nora for a week, and she “was left lamenting.”

For one hour went by, and two, and three. The Swedish woman went, and the doctor went, and the girl could see the captain go, and the mate that gave them their orders every morning. The custom-house people began to go. The cabs and other carriages for the gentry had gone long before.

And poor Nora was left lamenting.

Then was it that that queer Salvation Army girl, with a coal-scuttle for a bonnet, came up again. She had smiled pleasantly two or three times before, and had asked Nora to eat a bun. Poor Nora broke down and cried heartily this time. But the other was patient and kind, and said just what the others had said. Only she did not go away. And she had the sense to ask if Nora knew where the brother lived.

“Why, of course I do, miss. See, here is the paper.”

And the little soldier lass read it: “99 Linwood Street, Boston.”

“My poor child, what a pity you did not let us see it before!”

Alas and alas! Nora’s box was of the biggest. But the army lass flinched at nothing.

An immense wagon, with two giant horses, loaded with the most extraordinary chests which have been seen since the days of the Vikings. Piled on the top were many feather-beds, and on the top of the feather-beds a Scandinavian matron. With Mike, the good-natured teamster, who was at once captain and pilot of this craft, the army lass had easily made her treaty, when he was told the story. He was to carry Nora and her outfit to the Linwood Street house after he had taken these Swedes to theirs. “And indade it will not be farr, miss. There ‘s a shorrt cut behind Egan’s, if indade he did not put up a tinimint house since I was that way.” And with new explanations to Nora that all was right, that indeed it was better this way than it would have been had her brother been called from his work, she was lifted, without much consent of her own, to the driver’s seat, and her precious “box” was so placed that she could rest her little feet upon it.