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She found an apple for each boy,
thanked and praised each one separately; and the interview would have
been perfect, had she not innocently asked Tom what was the matter with
his eye. Tom's eye! Why, it was the black eye John Flagg gave him. I am
sorry to say Bill Floyd sniggered; but Pat came to the front this time,
and said "a man hurt him." Then Alice produced some mittens, which had
been left, and asked whose those were. But the boys did not know.

"I say, fellars, I'm going down to the writing-school, at the Union,"
said Pat, when they got into the street, all of them being in the mood
that conceals emotion. "I say, let's all go."

To this they agreed.

"I say, I went there last week Monday, with Meg McManus. I say, fellars,
it's real good fun."

The other fellows, having on the unfamiliar best rig, were well aware
that they must not descend to their familiar haunts, and all consented.

To the amazement of the teacher, these three hulking boys allied
themselves to the side of order, took their places as they were bidden,
turned the public opinion of the class, and made the Botany Bay of the
school to be its quietest class that night.

To his amazement the same result followed the next night. And to his
greater amazement, the next.

To Alice's amazement, she received on Twelfth Night a gilt valentine
envelope, within which, on heavily ruled paper, were announced these

MARM,--The mitins wur Nora Killpatrick's. She lives inn Water
street place behind the Lager Brewery.

Yours to command,

The names which they could copy from signs were correctly spelled.

To Pat's amazement, Tom Mulligan held on at the writing-school all
winter. When it ended, he wrote the best hand of any of them.

To my amazement, one evening when I looked in at Longman's, two years to
a day after Alice's tree, a bright black-eyed young man, who had tied up
for me the copy of Masson's "Milton," which I had given myself for a
Christmas present, said: "You don't remember me." I owned innocence.

"My name is Mulligan--Thomas Mulligan. Would you thank Mr. John Flagg,
if you meet him, for a Christmas present he gave me two years ago, at
Miss Alice MacNeil's Christmas-tree. It was the best present I ever had,
and the only one I ever deserved."

And I said I would do so.

* * * * *

I told Alice afterward never to think she was going to catch all the
fish there were in any school. I told her to whiten the water with
ground-bait enough for all, and to thank God if her heavenly fishing
were skilful enough to save one.




"And how is he?" said Robert, as he came in from his day's work, in
every moment of which he had thought of his child. He spoke in a whisper
to his wife, who met him in the narrow entry at the head of the stairs.
And in a whisper she replied.

"He is certainly no worse," said Mary: "the doctor says, maybe a shade
better. At least," she said, sitting on the lower step, and holding her
husband's hand, and still whispering,--"at least he said that the
breathing seemed to him a shade easier, one lung seemed to him a little
more free, and that it is now a question of time and nourishment."


"Yes, nourishment,--and I own my heart sunk as he said so. Poor little
thing, he loathes the slops, and I told the doctor so. I told him the
struggle and fight to get them down his poor little throat gave him more
flush and fever than any thing. And then he begged me not to try that
again, asked if there were really nothing that the child would take, and
suggested every thing so kindly. But the poor little thing, weak as he
is, seems to rise up with supernatural strength against them all. I am
not sure, though, but perhaps we may do something with the old milk and
water: that is really my only hope now, and that is the reason I spoke
to you so cheerfully."

Then poor Mary explained more at length that Emily had brought in Dr.
Cummings's Manual[1] about the use of milk with children, and that they
had sent round to the Corlisses', who always had good milk, and had set
a pint according to the direction and formula,--and that though dear
little Jamie had refused the groats and the barley, and I know not what
else, that at six he had gladly taken all the watered milk they dared to
give him, and that it now had rested on his stomach half an hour, so
that she could not but hope that the tide had turned, only she hoped
with trembling, because he had so steadily refused cow's milk only the
week before.

[1] Has the reader a delicate infant? Let him send for
Dr. Cummings's little book on Milk for Children.

This rapid review in her entry, of the bulletins of a day, is really the
beginning of this Christmas story. No matter which day it was,--it was a
little before Christmas, and one of the shortest days, but I have
forgotten which. Enough that the baby, for he was a baby still, just
entering his thirteenth month,--enough that he did relish the milk, so
carefully measured and prepared, and hour by hour took his little dole
of it as if it had come from his mother's breast. Enough that three or
four days went by so, the little thing lying so still on his back in his
crib, his lips still so blue, and his skin of such deadly color against
the white of his pillow, and that, twice a day, as Dr. Morton came in
and felt his pulse, and listened to the panting, he smiled and looked
pleased, and said, "We are getting on better than I dared expect." Only
every time he said, "Does he still relish the milk?" and every time was
so pleased to know that he took to it still, and every day he added a
teaspoonful or two to the hourly dole,--and so poor Mary's heart was
lifted day by day.

This lasted till St. Victoria's day. Do you know which day that is? It
is the second day before Christmas; and here, properly speaking, the
story begins.



St. Victoria's day the doctor was full two hours late. Mary was not
anxious about this. She was beginning to feel bravely about the boy, and
no longer counted the minutes till she could hear the door-bell ring.
When he came he loitered in the entry below,--or she thought he did. He
was long coming up stairs. And when he came in she saw that he was
excited by something,--was really even then panting for breath.

"I am here at last," he said. "Did you think I should fail you?"

Why, no,--poor innocent Mary had not thought any such thing. She had
known he would come,--and baby was so well that she had not minded his

Morton looked up at the close drawn shades, which shut out the light,
and said, "You did not think of the storm?"

"Storm? no!" said poor Mary. She had noticed, when Robert went to the
door at seven and she closed it after him, that some snow was falling.
But she had not thought of it again. She had kissed him, told him to
keep up good heart, and had come back to her baby.

Then the doctor told her that the storm which had begun before daybreak
had been gathering more and more severely; that the drifts were already
heavier than he remembered them in all his Boston life; that after half
an hour's trial in his sleigh he had been glad to get back to the stable
with his horse; and that all he had done since he had done on foot, with
difficulty she could not conceive of. He had been so long down stairs
while he brushed the snow off, that he might be fit to come near the

"And really, Mrs. Walter, we are doing so well here," he said
cheerfully, "that I will not try to come round this afternoon, unless
you see a change. If you do, your husband must come up for me, you know.
But you will not need me, I am sure."

Mary felt quite brave to think that they should not need him really for
twenty-four hours, and said so; and added, with the first smile he had
seen for a fortnight: "I do not know anybody to whom it is of less
account than to me, whether the streets are blocked or open. Only I am
sorry for you."

Poor Mary, how often she thought of that speech, before Christmas day
went by! But she did not think of it all through St. Victoria's day. Her
husband did not come home to dinner. She did not expect him. The
children came from school at two, rejoicing in the long morning session
and the half holiday of the afternoon which had been earned by it. They
had some story of their frolic in the snow, and after dinner went
quietly away to their little play-room in the attic. And Mary sat with
her baby all the afternoon,--nor wanted other company. She could count
his breathing now, and knew how to time it by the watch, and she knew
that it was steadier and slower than it was the day before. And really
he almost showed an appetite for the hourly dole. Her husband was not
late. He had taken care of that, and had left the shop an hour early.
And as he came in and looked at the child from the other side of the
crib, and smiled so cheerfully on her, Mary felt that she could not
enough thank God for his mercy.



Five and twenty miles away was another mother, with a baby born the same
day as Jamie. Mary had never heard of her and never has heard of her,
and, unless she reads this story, never will hear of her till they meet
together in the other home, look each other in the face, and know as
they are known. Yet their two lives, as you shall see, are twisted
together, as indeed are all lives, only they do not know it--as how
should they?

A great day for Huldah Stevens was this St. Victoria's day. Not that she
knew its name more than Mary did. Indeed it was only of late years that
Huldah Stevens had cared much for keeping Christmas day. But of late
years they had all thought of it more; and this year, on Thanksgiving
day, at old Mr. Stevens's, after great joking about the young people's
housekeeping, it had been determined, with some banter, that the same
party should meet with John and Huldah on Christmas eve, with all
Huldah's side of the house besides, to a late dinner or early supper, as
the guests might please to call it.

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Details about documents: New York apostille.
Keywords: mulligan, school, husband, children, present, cheerfully, huldah, dinner, stairs, afternoon
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