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A Defender Of The Faith
by [?]

It was now Tom’s turn to be stumped, but he wouldn’t let it be known. He only said, “Aw,” contemptuously and coughed for more crushing arguments.

“I knows dey’s a Santy Claus,” said dreamy-eyed Sam.

“Ef dey is why’n’t he never come here?” retorted Tom.

“I jes’ been thinkin’ maybe ouah house is so little he miss it in de night; dey says he’s a ol’ man an’ I ‘low his sight ain’ good.”

Tom was stricken into silence for a moment by this entirely new view of the matter, and then finding no answer to it, he said “Aw” again and looked superior, but warningly so.

“Maybe Thanty’s white an’ don’ go to see col’red people,” said the little girl.

“But I do know coloured people’s houses he’s been at,” contended Sam. “Aw, dem col’red folks dat’s got the money, dem’s de only ones dat Santy Claus fin’s, you bet.”

Arabella at the window shuddered at the tone of the sceptic; it reminded her so much of the world she knew, and it was hard to believe that her friends who prided themselves on their unbelief could have anything in common with a little coloured newsboy down on “D” Street.

“Tell you what,” said Sam again, “let’s try an’ see if dey is a Santy. We’ll put a light in the winder, so if he’s ol’ he can see us anyhow, an’ we’ll pray right hard fu’ him to come.”

“Aw,” said Tom.

“Ith been good all thish month,” chirped the little girl.

The other children joined with enthusiasm in Sam’s plan, though Tom sat upon the bed and looked scornfully on.

Arabella escaped from the window just as Sam brought the smoky lamp and set it on the sill, but she still stood outside the palings of the fence and looked in. She saw four little forms get down on their knees and she crept up near again to hear.

Following Sam’s lead they began, “Oh, Santy,” but Tom’s voice broke in, “Don’t you know the Lord don’t ‘low you to pray to nobody but Him?”

Sam paused, puzzled for a minute, then he led on: “Please ‘scuse, good Lord, we started wrong, but won’t you please, sir, send Santy Clause around. Amen.” And they got up from their knees satisfied.

“Aw,” said Tom as Arabella was turning wet-eyed away.

It was a good thing the reporter left as soon as she did, for in a few minutes a big woman pushed in at the gate and entered the house.

“Mammy, mammy,” shrieked the children.

“Lawsy, me,” said Martha, laughing, “who evah did see sich children? Bless dey hearts, an’ dey done sot dey lamp in de winder, too, so’s dey po’ ol’ mammy kin see to git in.”

As she spoke she was taking the lamp away to set it on the table where she had placed her basket, but the cry of the children stopped her. “Oh, no, mammy, don’t take it, don’t take it, dat’s to light Santy Claus in.”

She paused a minute bewildered and then the light broke over her face. She smiled and then a rush of tears quenched the smile. She gathered the children into her arms and said, “I’s feared, honey, ol’ man Santy ain’ gwine fu’ you to-night.”

“Wah’d I tell you?” sneered Tom.

“You hush yo’ mouf,” said his mother, and she left the lamp where it was.

As Arabella Coe wended her way home that night her brain was busy with many thoughts. “I’ve got my story at last,” she told herself, “and I’ll go on up and write it.” But she did not go up to write it. She came to the parting of the ways. One led home, the other to the newspaper office where she worked. She laughed nervously, and took the former way. Once in her room she went through her small store of savings. There was very little there, then she looked down ruefully at her worn boots. She did need a new pair. Then, holding her money in her hand, she sat down to think.

“It’s really a shame,” she said to herself, “those children will have no Christmas at all, and they’ll never believe in Santa Claus again. They will lose their faith forever and from this it will go to other things.” She sat there dreaming for a long while and the vision of a very different childhood came before her eyes.

“Dear old place,” she murmured softly, “I believed in Santa Claus until I was thirteen, and that oldest boy is scarcely ten.” Suddenly she sprung to her feet. “Hooray,” she cried, “I’ll be defender of the faith,” and she went out into the lighted streets again.

The shopkeepers looked queerly at Arabella that night as she bought as if she were the mother of a large and growing family, and she appeared too young for that. Finally, there was a dress for mother.

She carried them down on “D” Street and placed them stealthily at the door of Number Ten. She put a note among the things, which read: “I am getting old and didn’t see your house last year, also I am getting fat and couldn’t get down that little stove pipe of yours this year. You must excuse me. Santa Claus.” Then looking wilfully at her shoes, but nevertheless with a glow on her face, she went up to the office to write her story.

There were joyous times at Number Ten the next day. Mother was really surprised, and the children saw it.

“Wha’d I tell you,” said dreamy Sam.

Tom said nothing then, but when he went down to the avenue to sell the morning papers, all resplendent in a new muffler, he strode up to a boy and remarked belligerently, “Say, if you says de ain’t no Santy Claus again, I’ll punch yo’ head.”