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Christmas; or, The Good Fairy
by [?]

“Poor fellow!” said Eleanor, involuntarily.

“Now,” said her aunt, “suppose Owen’s wife should get up on Christmas morning and find at the door a couple of dozen of oranges, and some of those nice white grapes, such as you had at your party last week; don’t you think it would make a sensation?”

“Why, yes, I think very likely it might; but who else, aunt? You spoke of a great many.”

“Well, on the lower floor there is a neat little room, that is always kept perfectly trim and tidy; it belongs to a young couple who have nothing beyond the husband’s day wages to live on. They are, nevertheless, as cheerful and chipper as a couple of wrens; and she is up and down half a dozen times a day, to help poor Mrs. Owen. She has a baby of her own, about five months old, and of course does all the cooking, washing, and ironing for herself and husband; and yet, when Mrs. Owen goes out to wash, she takes her baby, and keeps it whole days for her.”

“I’m sure she deserves that the good fairies should smile on her,” said Eleanor; “one baby exhausts my stock of virtues very rapidly.”

“But you ought to see her baby,” said Aunt E.; “so plump, so rosy, and good-natured, and always clean as a lily. This baby is a sort of household shrine; nothing is too sacred or too good for it; and I believe the little thrifty woman feels only one temptation to be extravagant, and that is to get some ornaments to adorn this little divinity.”

“Why, did she ever tell you so?”

“No; but one day, when I was coming down stairs, the door of their room was partly open, and I saw a pedler there with open box. John, the husband, was standing with a little purple cap on his hand, which he was regarding with mystified, admiring air, as if he didn’t quite comprehend it, and trim little Mary gazing at it with longing eyes.

“‘I think we might get it,’ said John.

“‘O, no,’ said she, regretfully; ‘yet I wish we could, it’s so pretty !'”

“Say no more, aunt. I see the good fairy must pop a cap into the window on Christmas morning. Indeed, it shall be done. How they will wonder where it came from, and talk about it for months to come!”

“Well, then,” continued her aunt, “in the next street to ours there is a miserable building, that looks as if it were just going to topple over; and away up in the third story, in a little room just under the eaves, live two poor, lonely old women. They are both nearly on to ninety. I was in there day before yesterday. One of them is constantly confined to her bed with rheumatism; the other, weak and feeble, with failing sight and trembling hands, totters about, her only helper; and they are entirely dependent on charity.”

“Can’t they do any thing? Can’t they knit?” said Eleanor.

“You are young and strong, Eleanor, and have quick eyes and nimble fingers; how long would it take you to knit a pair of stockings?”

“I?” said Eleanor. “What an idea! I never tried, but I think I could get a pair done in a week, perhaps.”

“And if somebody gave you twenty-five cents for them, and out of this you had to get food, and pay room rent, and buy coal for your fire, and oil for your lamp—-“

“Stop, aunt, for pity’s sake!”

“Well, I will stop; but they can’t: they must pay so much every month for that miserable shell they live in, or be turned into the street. The meal and flour that some kind person sends goes off for them just as it does for others, and they must get more or starve; and coal is now scarce and high priced.”

“O aunt, I’m quite convinced, I’m sure; don’t run me down and annihilate me with all these terrible realities. What shall I do to play good fairy to these poor old women?”