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Tilly’s Christmas
by [?]

‘I’m so glad to-morrow is Christmas, because I’m going to have lots of presents.’

‘So am I glad, though I don’t expect any presents but a pair of mittens.’

‘And so am I; but I shan’t have any presents at all.’

As the three little girls trudged home from school they said these things, and as Tilly spoke, both the others looked at her with pity and some surprise, for she spoke cheerfully, and they wondered how she could be happy when she was so poor she could have no presents on Christmas.

‘Don’t you wish you could find a purse full of money right here in the path?’ said Kate, the child who was going to have ‘lots of presents.’

‘Oh, don’t I, if I could keep it honestly!’ and Tilly’s eyes shone at the very thought.

‘What would you buy?’ asked Bessy, rubbing her cold hands, and longing for her mittens.

‘I’d buy a pair of large, warm blankets, a load of wood, a shawl for mother, and a pair of shoes for me; and if there was enough left, I’d give Bessy a new hat, and then she needn’t wear Ben’s old felt one,’ answered Tilly.

The girls laughed at that; but Bessy pulled the funny hat over her ears, and said she was much obliged but she’d rather have candy.

‘Let’s look, and maybe we can find a purse. People are always going about with money at Christmas time, and some one may lose it here,’ said Kate.

So, as they went along the snowy road, they looked about them, half in earnest, half in fun. Suddenly Tilly sprang forward, exclaiming,–

‘I see it! I’ve found it!’

The others followed, but all stopped disappointed; for it wasn’t a purse, it was only a little bird. It lay upon the snow with its wings spread and feebly fluttering, as if too weak to fly. Its little feet were benumbed with cold; its once bright eyes were dull with pain, and instead of a blithe song, it could only utter a faint chirp, now and then, as if crying for help.

‘Nothing but a stupid old robin; how provoking!’ cried Kate, sitting down to rest.

‘I shan’t touch it. I found one once, and took care of it, and the ungrateful thing flew away the minute it was well,’ said Bessy, creeping under Kate’s shawl, and putting her hands under her chin to warm them.

‘Poor little birdie! How pitiful he looks, and how glad he must be to see some one coming to help him! I’ll take him up gently, and carry him home to mother. Don’t be frightened, dear, I’m your friend;’ and Tilly knelt down in the snow, stretching her hand to the bird, with the tenderest pity in her face.

Kate and Bessy laughed.

‘Don’t stop for that thing; it’s getting late and cold: let’s go on and look for the purse,’ they said moving away.

‘You wouldn’t leave it to die!’ cried Tilly. ‘I’d rather have the bird than the money, so I shan’t look any more. The purse wouldn’t be mine, and I should only be tempted to keep it; but this poor thing will thank and love me, and I’m so glad I came in time.’

Gently lifting the bird, Tilly felt its tiny cold claws cling to her hand, and saw its dim eyes brighten as it nestled down with a grateful chirp.

‘Now I’ve got a Christmas present after all,’ she said, smiling, as they walked on. ‘I always wanted a bird, and this one will be such a pretty pet for me.’

‘He’ll fly away the first chance he gets, and die anyhow; so you’d better not waste your time over him,’ said Bessy.

‘He can’t pay you for taking care of him, and my mother says it isn’t worth while to help folks that can’t help us,’ added Kate.

‘My mother says, “Do as you’d be done by;” and I’m sure I’d like any one to help me if I was dying of cold and hunger. “Love your neighbour as yourself,” is another of her sayings. This bird is my little neighbour, and I’ll love him and care for him, as I often wish our rich neighbour would love and care for us,’ answered Tilly, breathing her warm breath over the benumbed bird, who looked up at her with confiding eyes, quick to feel and know a friend.