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The Kid Hangs Up His Stocking
by [?]

The clock in the West Side Boys’ Lodging-house ticked out the seconds of Christmas eve as slowly and methodically as if six fat turkeys were not sizzling in the basement kitchen against the morrow’s spread, and as if two-score boys were not racking their brains to guess what kind of pies would go with them. Out on the avenue the shopkeepers were barring doors and windows, and shouting “Merry Christmas!” to one another across the street as they hurried to get home. The drays ran over the pavement with muffled sounds; winter had set in with a heavy snow-storm. In the big hall the monotonous click of checkers on the board kept step with the clock. The smothered exclamations of the boys at some unexpected, bold stroke, and the scratching of a little fellow’s pencil on a slate, trying to figure out how long it was yet till the big dinner, were the only sounds that broke the quiet of the room. The superintendent dozed behind his desk.

A door at the end of the hall creaked, and a head with a shock of weather-beaten hair was stuck cautiously through the opening.

“Tom!” it said in a stage-whisper. “Hi, Tom! Come up an’ git on ter de lay of de Kid.”

A bigger boy in a jumper, who had been lounging on two chairs by the group of checker players, sat up and looked toward the door. Something in the energetic toss of the head there aroused his instant curiosity, and he started across the room. After a brief whispered conference the door closed upon the two, and silence fell once more on the hall.

They had been gone but a little while when they came back in haste. The big boy shut the door softly behind him and set his back against it.

“Fellers,” he said, “what d’ye t’ink? I’m blamed if de Kid ain’t gone an’ hung up his sock fer Chris’mas!”

The checkers dropped, and the pencil ceased scratching on the slate, in breathless suspense.

“Come up an’ see,” said Tom, briefly, and led the way.

The whole band followed on tiptoe. At the foot of the stairs their leader halted.

“Yer don’t make no noise,” he said, with a menacing gesture. “You, Savoy!”–to one in a patched shirt and with a mischievous twinkle,–“you don’t come none o’ yer monkey-shines. If you scare de Kid you’ll get it in de neck, see!”

With this admonition they stole upstairs. In the last cot of the double tier of bunks a boy much smaller than the rest slept, snugly tucked in the blankets. A tangled curl of yellow hair strayed over his baby face. Hitched to the bedpost was a poor, worn little stocking, arranged with much care so that Santa Claus should have as little trouble in filling it as possible. The edge of a hole in the knee had been drawn together and tied with a string to prevent anything falling out. The boys looked on in amazed silence. Even Savoy was dumb.

Little Willie, or, as he was affectionately dubbed by the boys, “the Kid,” was a waif who had drifted in among them some months before. Except that his mother was in the hospital, nothing was known about him, which was regular and according to the rule of the house. Not as much was known about most of its patrons; few of them knew more themselves, or cared to remember. Santa Claus had never been anything to them but a fake to make the colored supplements sell. The revelation of the Kid’s simple faith struck them with a kind of awe. They sneaked quietly downstairs.

“Fellers,” said Tom, when they were all together again in the big room,–by virtue of his length, which had given him the nickname of “Stretch,” he was the speaker on all important occasions,–“ye seen it yerself. Santy Claus is a-comin’ to this here joint to-night. I wouldn’t ‘a’ believed it. I ain’t never had no dealin’s wid de ole guy. He kinder forgot I was around, I guess. But de Kid says he is a-comin’ to-night, an’ what de Kid says goes.”