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The Little Dollar’s Christmas Journey
by [?]

“It is too bad,” said Mrs. Lee, and she put down the magazine in which she had been reading of the poor children in the tenements of the great city that know little of Christmas joys; “no Christmas tree! One of them shall have one, at any rate. I think this will buy it, and it is so handy to send. Nobody would know that there was money in the letter.” And she enclosed a coupon in a letter to a professor, a friend in the city, who, she knew, would have no trouble in finding the child, and had it mailed at once. Mrs. Lee was a widow whose not too great income was derived from the interest on some four per cent government bonds which represented the savings of her husband’s life of toil, that was none the less hard because it was spent in a counting-room and not with shovel and spade. The coupon looked for all the world like a dollar bill, except that it was so small that a baby’s hand could easily cover it. The United States, the printing on it said, would pay on demand to the bearer one dollar; and there was a number on it, just as on a full-grown dollar, that was the number of the bond from which it had been cut.

The letter travelled all night, and was tossed and sorted and bunched at the end of its journey in the great gray beehive that never sleeps, day or night, and where half the tears and joys of the land, including this account of the little dollar, are checked off unceasingly as first-class matter or second or third, as the case may be. In the morning it was laid, none the worse for its journey, at the professor’s breakfast plate. The professor was a kindly man, and he smiled as he read it. “To procure one small Christmas tree for a poor tenement,” was its errand.

“Little dollar,” he said, “I think I know where you are needed.” And he made a note in his book. There were other notes there that made him smile again as he saw them. They had names set opposite them. One about a Noah’s ark was marked “Vivi.” That was the baby; and there was one about a doll’s carriage that had the words “Katie, sure,” set over against it. The professor eyed the list in mock dismay.

“How ever will I do it?” he sighed, as he put on his hat.

“Well, you will have to get Santa Claus to help you, John,” said his wife, buttoning his greatcoat about him. “And, mercy! the duckses’ babies! don’t forget them, whatever you do. The baby has been talking about nothing else since he saw them at the store, the old duck and the two ducklings on wheels. You know them, John?”

But the professor was gone, repeating to himself as he went down the garden walk, “The duckses’ babies, indeed!” He chuckled as he said it, why I cannot tell. He was very particular about his grammar, was the professor, ordinarily. Perhaps it was because it was Christmas eve.

Down town went the professor; but instead of going with the crowd that was setting toward Santa Claus’s headquarters, in the big Broadway store, he turned off into a quieter street, leading west. It took him to a narrow thoroughfare, with five-story tenements frowning on either side, where the people he met were not so well dressed as those he had left behind, and did not seem to be in such a hurry of joyful anticipation of the holiday. Into one of the tenements he went, and, groping his way through a pitch-dark hall, came to a door way back, the last one to the left, at which he knocked. An expectant voice said, “Come in,” and the professor pushed open the door.