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Christmas; or, The Good Fairy
by [?]

“If you will give me full power, Eleanor, I will put up a basket to be sent to them that will give them something to remember all winter.”

“O, certainly I will. Let me see if I can’t think of something myself.”

“Well, Eleanor, suppose, then, some fifty or sixty years hence, if you were old, and your father, and mother, and aunts, and uncles, now so thick around you, lay cold and silent in so many graves–you have somehow got away off to a strange city, where you were never known–you live in a miserable garret, where snow blows at night through the cracks, and the fire is very apt to go out in the old cracked stove–you sit crouching over the dying embers the evening before Christmas–nobody to speak to you, nobody to care for you, except another poor old soul who lies moaning in the bed. Now, what would you like to have sent you?”

“O aunt, what a dismal picture!”

“And yet, Ella, all poor, forsaken old women are made of young girls, who expected it in their youth as little as you do, perhaps.”

“Say no more, aunt. I’ll buy–let me see–a comfortable warm shawl for each of these poor women; and I’ll send them–let me see–O, some tea–nothing goes down with old women like tea; and I’ll make John wheel some coal over to them; and, aunt, it would not be a very bad thought to send them a new stove. I remember, the other day, when mamma was pricing stoves, I saw some such nice ones for two or three dollars.”

“For a new hand, Ella, you work up the idea very well,” said her aunt.

“But how much ought I to give, for any one case, to these women, say?”

“How much did you give last year for any single Christmas present?”

“Why, six or seven dollars for some; those elegant souvenirs were seven dollars; that ring I gave Mrs. B. was twenty.”

“And do you suppose Mrs. B. was any happier for it?”

“No, really, I don’t think she cared much about it; but I had to give her something, because she had sent me something the year before, and I did not want to send a paltry present to one in her circumstances.”

“Then, Ella, give the same to any poor, distressed, suffering creature who really needs it, and see in how many forms of good such a sum will appear. That one hard, cold, glittering ring, that now cheers nobody, and means nothing, that you give because you must, and she takes because she must, might, if broken up into smaller sums, send real warm and heartfelt gladness through many a cold and cheerless dwelling, through many an aching heart.”

“You are getting to be an orator, aunt; but don’t you approve of Christmas presents, among friends and equals?”

“Yes, indeed,” said her aunt, fondly stroking her head. “I have had some Christmas presents that did me a world of good–a little book mark, for instance, that a certain niece of mine worked for me, with wonderful secrecy, three years ago, when she was not a young lady with a purse full of money–that book mark was a true Christmas present; and my young couple across the way are plotting a profound surprise to each other on Christmas morning. John has contrived, by an hour of extra work every night, to lay by enough to get Mary a new calico dress; and she, poor soul, has bargained away the only thing in the jewelry line she ever possessed, to be laid out on a new hat for him.

“I know, too, a washerwoman who has a poor, lame boy–a patient, gentle little fellow–who has lain quietly for weeks and months in his little crib, and his mother is going to give him a splendid Christmas present.”

“What is it, pray?”

“A whole orange! Don’t laugh. She will pay ten whole cents for it; for it shall be none of your common oranges, but a picked one of the very best going! She has put by the money, a cent at a time, for a whole month; and nobody knows which will be happiest in it, Willie or his mother. These are such Christmas presents as I like to think of–gifts coming from love, and tending to produce love; these are the appropriate gifts of the day.”