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One Cent: A Christmas Story
by [?]

SCENE I—DOWN

Mr. Starr rose very early that day. The sun was not up. Yet, certainly, it was too light to strike a match. Ah, Mr. Starr, a match may be an economy!

So it was that when, as always, the keys jingled out from his trousers pockets upon the floor, and the money as well, one cent rolled under the bureau unseen by Mr. Starr. He went down to his work now, after he had gathered up the rest of the money and the keys, and answered yesterday’s letters.

Then, of course, he could loiter over his breakfast.

But not too long. Clara, his wife, was in good spirits, and the boys were very jolly, but Mr. Starr, all the same, did the duty next his hand. He “kissed her good-by,” and started down-town. Edgar stopped, him to ask for fifty cents for his lunch; the postman wanted fifteen for an underpaid parcel; Susan, the maid, asked for ten for some extra milk; and then he kissed his hand to the parlor window, and was off.

No! He was not off.

For Clara threw up the window and waved her lily hand. Mr. Starr ran back to the door. She flung it open.

“My dear John, here is your best coat. That coat you have on has a frayed button. I saw it yesterday, and I cannot bear to have you wear it at the Board.”

“Dear Clara, what a saint you are!” One more kiss, and Mr. Starr departed.

And loyally he did the duty next his hand. He stopped and signed the sewerage petition; he looked in on poor Colt and said a cheerful word to him; he bade Woolley, the fruit man, send a barrel of Nonesuches to old Mrs. Cowen; he was on time at the Board meeting, took the chair, and they changed the constitution. He looked in at the office and told Mr. Freemantle he should be late, but that he would look at the letters when he came back, and then, ho! for East Boston!

If only you knew, dear readers, that to East Boston you must go by a ferry-boat, as if it were named Greenbush, or Brooklyn, or Camden.

As Mr. Starr took the street car after he had crossed the ferry, to go into the unknown parts of East Boston, he did notice that he gave the conductor his last ticket. But what of that? “End of the route” came, and he girded his loins, trudged over to the pottery he was in search of, found it at last, found the foreman and gave his orders, and then, through mud unspeakable, waded back to the street car. He was the only passenger. No wonder! The only wonder was that there was a car.

“Ticket, sir,” said the conductor, after half a mile.

MR. STARR (SMILING). I have no ticket, but you may sell me a dollar’s worth. (FEELS FOR POCKETBOOK.) Hello! I have not my pocketbook; changed my coat.

CONDUCTOR (SAVAGELY). They generally has changed their coats.

MR. STARR (WITH DIGNITY, OFFERING A FIVE-CENT NICKEL). There’s your fare, man.

CONDUCTOR. That won’t do, mud-hopper. Fare’s six cents.

MR. STARR (WELL REMEMBERING THE CENT, WHICH IS, ALAS UNDER THE BUREAU, AND GROVELLING FOR IT IN BOTH POCKETS). I have a cent somewhere.

CONDUCTOR (STOPPING CAR AND RETURNING FIVE-CENT PIECE). We’ve had enough of you tramps who change your coats and cannot find your pennies. You step off–and step off mighty quick.

Mr. Starr declines; when they come to Maverick Square he will report the man to the superintendent, who knows him well. Slight scuffle. Mr. Starr resists. Conductor calls driver. Mr. Starr is ejected. Coat torn badly and hat thrown into mud. Car departs.

TABLEAU.

SCENE II

UP

(MUDDY STREET IN EAST BOSTON. Mr. STARR, WIPING HIS HAT WITH HIS HANDKERCHIEF, SOLUS.)