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How It All Happened
by [?]

It was a small room, with nothing in it but a bed, two chairs, and a big chest. A few little gowns hung on the wall, and the only picture was the wintry sky, sparkling with stars, framed by the uncurtained window. But the moon, pausing to peep, saw something pretty and heard something pleasant. Two heads in little round nightcaps lay on one pillow, two pairs of wide-awake blue eyes stared up at the light, and two tongues were going like mill clappers.

“I’m so glad we got our shirts done in time! It seemed as if we never should, and I don’t think six cents is half enough for a great red flannel thing with four button-holes–do you?” said one little voice, rather wearily.

“No; but then we each made four, and fifty cents is a good deal of money. Are you sorry we didn’t keep our quarters for ourselves?” asked the other voice, with an under-tone of regret in it.

“Yes, I am, till I think how pleased the children will be with our tree, for they don’t expect anything, and will be so surprised. I wish we had more toys to put on it, for it looks so small and mean with only three or four things.”

“It won’t hold any more, so I wouldn’t worry about it. The toys are very red and yellow, and I guess the babies won’t know how cheap they are, but like them as much as if they cost heaps of money.”

This was a cheery voice, and as it spoke the four blue eyes turned toward the chest under the window, and the kind moon did her best to light up the tiny tree standing there. A very pitiful little tree it was–only a branch of hemlock in an old flower-pot, propped up with bits of coal, and hung with a few penny toys earned by the patient fingers of the elder sisters, that the little ones should not be disappointed.

But in spite of the magical moonlight the broken branch, with its scanty supply of fruit, looked pathetically poor, and one pair of eyes filled slowly with tears, while the other pair lost their happy look, as if a cloud had come over the sunshine.

“Are you crying, Dolly?”

“Not much, Polly.”

“What makes you, dear?”

“I didn’t know how poor we were till I saw the tree, and then I couldn’t help it,” sobbed the elder sister, for at twelve she already knew something of the cares of poverty, and missed the happiness that seemed to vanish out of all their lives when father died.

“It’s dreadful! I never thought we’d have to earn our tree, and only be able to get a broken branch, after all, with nothing on it but three sticks of candy, two squeaking dogs, a red cow, and an ugly bird with one feather in its tail;” and overcome by a sudden sense of destitution, Polly sobbed even more despairingly than Dolly.

“Hush, dear; we must cry softly, or mother will hear, and come up, and then we shall have to tell. You know we said we wouldn’t seem to mind not having any Christmas, she felt so sorry about it.”

“I must cry, but I’ll be quiet.”

So the two heads went under the pillow for a few minutes, and not a sound betrayed them as the little sisters cried softly in one another’s arms, lest mother should discover that they were no longer careless children, but brave young creatures trying to bear their share of the burden cheerfully.

When the shower was over, the faces came out shining like roses after rain, and the voices went on again as before.

“Don’t you wish there really was a Santa Claus, who knew what we wanted, and would come and put two silver half-dollars in our stockings, so we could go and see Puss in Boots at the Museum to-morrow afternoon?”