Chapter 172767804

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172767804
Full Date1898-02-14
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Word Count6323
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947)
Trove TitleThe Coming of the Child. A Story of a Christmas Gift
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THE COMING OF THE CHILD,

COMPLETE IN THIS ISSUE.

A STORY OF A CHRISTMAS OIFT,

by ADELINE SERGEANT,

Author of "Jaoobi's Wife," "No Suint,"i ' "The Idolmnker," "No Other Way, V. "A Rogue's Daughter," &o., ito.

1 corvniQin. : ./- CHAPTER I.

fN the edgo of a groat moor, whore scarcely u tree broke the the level lines, wliero tho wind in tho winter months, and in summer tho sua blazed with a scorching beat which seemed us if it would vegetation ex cept the golden g o i- s 0 and

j purple heather— there, m a little dip or hollow of the ground, slightly protected by a bit of broken bank from tho fury of tlio elements, stood two or thrco tiny cottages, roughly built of gray stone and roofed with purple slates, 011 whioli a few groat stones wero placed tit- intervals to keep them from being dispersed by the frequent gnlos. In warmor woatliur the sombre colour of the place was relioved by growths of creeping golden lichen and bronzo-greon moss, and tho cold gray stones of tlio wulls wero partly i hidden by hardy monthly roses and honey- : suckle, while u patoh of garden ground was . gay. with pinks and pansies, hollyhooka and I sunflowers. With ft bright blue sky, in whioh the larks wero singing, overhead, and . a blaze of annuals in tho garden beds, the littlo. cottages looked gay and comfortable enough, und had more than 01100 tempted a passer-by to wish that ho could find for him self some such peaeoful home in tho wilderness, But in winter the seeno was obnuged, The snow driftod over tho moorlund until there was nothing hut a broad expanse of whiteness to bo soon, and although a broken (bit of ground sheltered tho buildings a littlo, I the garden beds would all bo hidden and tho ' roof piled high with 'snow. Then tho scene was desolate indeed, and the only sign of cheerfulness came from the rod light of a fire gleaming through some uncurtained window, or tho appearance of living beings at- the cottage doors. But the dwellers in these cottages, for the most part, indignantly repudiated any charge of lonoliness or desolation. They wero not so fur from tlio outer world ub at first appeared. Thoy woro only 011 tho edge ' 1 of tho'raonr ; tho nearest markot town was . loss than two miles awuy — and what woro . two miles, unless one woro weak or infirm, or tho paths woro utterly obliterated by rushing torrents und piles of drifting enow ? Besides, there woro lundraurks. A numbor iof tall poles hud been placed at fairly I regular intervals alongside tho path which - led from tho cottages to tho town, so that ; when tho snow wus vory deep tho wayfarer i might find tho hidden traok by means of these I signal-posts. Indeed, far from boing un- ' populur, tho cottages woro vory muoli dosired, as thoy were woll built and let only to respectable tenants at a comparatively low rent.' Ono of them wus ocoupiod by a lonely Bpinster, who, hud once been a housekeeper, hut had retired from servioowith a small ponsion ; anothor by a stonemason, his wifo, und a brood of rosy, noisy, dirty-fuood and ; riotous children; and tlio third by a widow ! who kopt liorsolf and hor two children aloof ' from tlio others, and wus votod "proud" in consequence. It wus at tlio flrolit window of tlio widow's cottage that tho two oliildron stood on tlio afternoon of Christmas Eve, pressing their faces against tlio penes und straining their : eyes to distinguish the long-oxpeetod figuro I of thoir mother 011 tlio pathway from tlio ' town. Thoy wore not so robust-looking as tlio stonemason's children next door, but thoy j woro scrupulously neat and clean, and hud tho refinement, of t nppoaranoo which is ! generally thought to botokon gontility of I breeding, although it somotimos procoeds from insufficiency of nourishing food. The oldor of tho two was a hoy nbout oight or nine yours old, witli a thoughtful brow, curiously olcuraud limpidhuzolcyes, uudamiu- - gled gravity and seusitivoncss of oxpressiou, as if lie reflected more deeply and hud borne moro > trouble tliuu most hoys of his ago. Ilarry j had, in faot, keen his motlior's friend and : comforter as woll ns hor child during the ; years of hot- widowhood. Ho wus wiso bo- j yond his ugo in tlio knowledge that comes of ' a long;coiitinuod strugglo with poverty and griof; yot . companionship with his mother and a certain droumy Htrain of ohuraoteL- had : kept liim quaintly ignorant of the world and of many ordinary facts of life, < His littlo sister Kutio, who was only seven yours old, was a far jnoro eommoiiplaeo child than ho, hut alio was rcmurkuhly winning, ! with a sweet littlo face which peeped out ' hotiveen a mass of tangled brown eurls, and a contented smile for ovor lingering in her big brown eyes. Of eourso, Harry was the leader of tho two. Whatever ho said or did wus perfect in Katie's eyes, . und she would have followed him into duugor or unto death with eomploto faitli in his puwei' of protecting her and of its " all cuming right in tlio end." "Mummy's a long timo," sho said at lust, when tho dusk lmd begun to deepen and tho signposts woro lost ill the twilight haze. "She will soon come," said Harry, en couragingly. "Sho said sho would be a loug time doing her shopping, aud she wus going to get some uico things for Christmas, you know. Oranges, Kutio, and uruokcra, por lmps, aud a Christinas present for you atidme. " Won't S-mt,u Ciaus eume this your, then?" Katie inquired with interest. "I'don't know," Hurry unsworod doubt fully. "I'uskcd mother this morning, and sho said she thought wo woro too poov, and lived too far away from tho town tor Santa Gluustocomennylongor. But she said that sho would try to bring us something liorsolf. if the . lady paid her for hor work." Oh," suid Katie, only liulf understand ing and much more placid ubout tho possi bility than Hurry seemed to be ; for his fore head puckered a little und his faco looked mournful, us ho murmured, "I hope the ludy won't forgot. Sho did promise; but mothor says thut ladies don't ill ways keep (their word." . . -'Won't muiumy bring us any presents if flio naughty ludjr doesn't pay hor?" said Katie, catching his look unu' puokoriug up her own smooth littlo brows, us if bIio woro » going to' ory; . "Iam 'fruid not," snid Harry; "but liovor - mind, Kutio, wo'll keep Christmas somehow, . you'll see; Why, perhaps I Bliall have a presont for you : yon'll.Koo." Ho waggod his head at lier-us ho spoke, and his fiugors groped in ono-of his pookots for a walnut wliioh ho know-was reposing thore.' When Kiitio had gono to bed thut night.'hu meant to make it into a beautiful bout for lior — a boat with a- maBt and a tiny red flng— whioh' she could sail in a basin of Wilier 011 Christmas Day morning. " I see mummy," Katie prosontly an nounced in a tono of triumph. And surely thore wus a figuro of a woman dimly seen, coming down tho alopo to tho garden gate. Harry vusliod to tho door, unlookod it, und dragged it open, heedless of the ioy wind whioli blow into the cottuge kitchen, whoro tho red glow' of the fire was already begin ning to fadofor want offuol. Mrs, Derrick oamo slowly up tho pathway - to the door. Sho hud a.murket basket on hor linn, but even- Hurry's eyo could see that it was oiniiiously light. She was a pule, sad- fuocd woman, still young, who had once been .. pretty, but tho prottiness had all boon worn "niwuy'by troublo ; andithoro was no unswor- lingsmilo upon hor lips as sho ontercd the oottago and shut tho-door behind hor. .ffHavo you got the Kismus prosents?" Katie lisped. Did tho ludy forgpt to pay you, mother ?" Ooid Hurry, wutoliinjrhis mother's faoo. .Mrs.' Derrick' set nor baskot down, and turned hor buok on tho children for u minute or two. Thon alio tried to speak cheerfully, 'hut her ohcerfulness was rather a dismal . failure'. " ' " ' ' ' "

"Tho ludy bus-gone out of- town," she said. "She- won't' be buuk qutil after the Now Your, no wo'; must inuiiuge as well as we oan till then, . We must have .uuivOhristniqe presents another duy." " - 1 She began to ; tuko a ! few— vory few — packages out ot the busket. uind sot them on tho table : as ;sho spoke. 1 I . havo hi ought some bvcadr nud.baoou,'' 'she said, "and wo lmvo;somo tea .and sugar left, so woshuu't starve at any rate.. I could not gut anything else. You mustn't mind, -children. I will got you tho orunges untl things anothor time." . '! Won't. Bantu Ciaus eoinu then?" BUid Katie,, with drooping lips. _ - "Not ho," said Mrs. Derrick, rather, 1 bitterly; - " Ho comes to rich pcoplo, not to pool- ones liko us," 1 - . - ' . . Kutio began to ory, moro on uccouut of tho strango accent in- hor mother's vaioo than beouuso of the desertion of Santa Cluus. , But Harry comforted hor, and did Ins best to comfort his mothor also. But cvon I10 wus perhaps a little disappointed, because when Katio hud gone to bed lie said to his mother in rather a wistful tono : "Don't you think, mothor, that: as the lady didn't puy you, and us Santa Ciaus has gone away, tho Christ- Child lumsolt might come aud bring us a Christmas present,;" But Mrs. Derrick only sighed and shook her head. Tho Oln-iatmns night was vory still. Thore wus 110 -wind and tlio joy-bells- from tho old stooplo in the town had flouted uoross the wold, even to tho littlo eottugos on tlio odgo of tlio moor. Mrs, Derrick, lying wnkoful and Ayntuhful in her hod; heard th'om and wondered whotlier tho message tlmt tlioy spoke wero truo for her and liors— Peace and goodwill to men!" For the joy of the ohildron's Cliristmus hud been spoiled by the cruel thoughtlessness of a rioli woman, who had gono awuy to umnso herself witli her friends, leaving the pale seamstress unpaid, although sho hud toiled for days at her sowing machine to finish the work that was wanted, before Christmas Day. Mrs. Dorriok know . thut sho dared not complain, for if she did sho might lose tho work wliioh was her chief support. Things were bad enough ns it was, and she could not tako the bread out of her children's mouths by making a fuss about that unpaid hill. But sho was sore at heart, not only for her bliildron's disappointment, but for tho scanty faro which was not likely to put muoh strength into their young limbs or bring the colour to thoir ulieoks. Tired out, alio at length foil into a dreamless slumber, hut she had not calcu lated oii tho fact that tho children would bo uwttko long beforo dawn, 111 tho hope that Santa Cluus would after all bring his accustomed tributo. It wus Hurry who woke firAt and sut up for some time in his littlo ti-iiekle-bod, wondering and waiting for some thing to happen — ho scarcely knew what, Kutio stirred uneasily in hor sleep ns Bho lay by her mother's side, hut was suddonly roused by a touch from hor brother's liand und a whispor in hor ear. " Katie, got up," I10 said. " Don't wuko mother. Let's go downstairs. I believe wo shall find somothmg thore." His oyos wero wido with excitement. Ho had already parliully dressed himself, and in the cold winter's morning I10 wub careful to help his littlo sister into her warm stockings and to muffle lior up in 11 big shuwl beforo tuking her hand to loHd her down the durk, wooden stuirs. Mrs. Dorriok slumbered peacefully and tlio children wero oaroful not to disturb lior. When thoy renoliod tho foot of the stairs Harry paused and listened. "Ilionrd something," he said. "I heard it when I wus upstairs, and that's why I got up. Don't you hear it, Katio ?" Katio stared round her in tho darkness. She was too muoh excited to bo afraid, although thore was scurcoly a glimmer of light in the passugo. "Thore, said Harry, lifting his fingor. "Don't you hear?" And cortuinly a slight sound camo to thoir cars, hut it was moro liko tho cry of a child than any other sound. " It is a baby crying," said Kutio. "It is Mrs. Jarrold'B baby noxt door." "No, it isn't," said Harry, in great ox- citomont. "I bolievo it is the Christ-Child that mother told us about, and that Ho's come to bring ub somo, presents. Lot's look into tlio kitoliou aud seo if Ho's thero." Thoy opoued tho kilohcu door. Hurry elamberod up to tlio mutitelpioco and found the mutches, thou lighted a candle aud looked round, Thero wus no sign of tiny visitor. ' Again tho faint ory pierced thoir oars. "It is— it is He," said Harry breathlessly. " Ho may ho waiting for us to' lot Him in. Wait a ininuto, Katio. You stay hero 'whilo I go and unfasten, tho door." But Katie, with hor thick gray shawl trailing boliind licr, would not bo kopt hack, aud peorcd out of the open door into 'tho snow-covored world, whoro the faint dawn had scarcely yot begun to mnko itsolf folt. Mrs. Dorriok's oottago had a small porch lioforo tho door aud a rough wooden seat inside it. On this scat, whioli waa com paratively dry and shnltorod, something that looked like a bundlo of ulothcs was now lying. OurofuUy shading tho Hume of tlio candle witli ono hand from the draught, Hurry went down to oxamino it, and at thut very momont a little cry came again frum the bundle. Evidently it contained a child. Ho unfolded a cornor or two of tho rod shawl wliioh was tied round it. A littlo buby- i'uco appeared, witli a pair of sleepy eyes, Hturing at tlio eundio flauio, as if fuscinateil by the brightness. Hurry instantly turned towards tlio garden to seo whether someone did not linger in its sliodoH. Then suddonly recollecting himsolf, ho uttered au ejaculation lmlf of amiizemout and half of pity. ' ' Of oourso it is the Christmas prosoul. Porhups it is tho Christ- Child himself. Auy- how Ho has sent it. Tako the cuudlo, Katie, , I am going to bring the Christinas present into the kitchen," Kutio held tlio tin candlestick very much on 0110 side, but tho fiamo guvo light enough to Harry as he carefully lifted tho littlo oreaturo from the wooden scut and carried it into the house. Tho liaby was quito warm und com fortable. It hnd ovidontly not boon dopositcd tlioro vory long. Hurry dragged a cushion from his mother's chair and luid tlio child upon it, 011 tho liourthrug. Tlio fire hail been carefully banked up with peat the night before, und with very littlo coaxing it sprang up into a flame. Then, witli the greatest delight in tho ivurld, us if the bub.y hud been a toy for their espooial gratification, tlio two oliildron knelt down und' began to discu- eumbor tho littlo oreaturo from its manifold wrappings. It nud been woll protected against the cold, and 11 bottle of milk was fastened to its clothes. Tlio milk, was, however, now almost cold, and Harry was carefully deliberating whether ho ought to warm it, when .au interruption oeoiirrcd. f Mrs. Dorriok hud Blopt on for somo minutes after Kutio' s dopurture, and it wus perhaps only a motlior's instinet that rousod her when tho child's place at her side grew oold. Sho raised herself at lust and stretohed out lior hand, ns slio often did lit. night to seo thut the child wus warmly covored, but her hand mot only un empty -space. For a momont sho wns startled. Thon she remem bered that it was Christmas Duy iiiorning, and a thought of what must havo happouod brought a sud smilo to hor lips. - i " Thoy havo gono to look for thoir Christ- . mas prosonts, I suppose, : poor oliildron. Hurry ! Kate ! " she culled out, " whoro are you?" But thoro wus 110 roply. Thon slid struck a light, and found that Hurry's hod also was ompty, and somo strange muffled sounds cumo to lior ears from tho kitolicn. " Thoy'll oatoh their. doaths of cold," slio said to horsolf, us she hastily wrapped a olouk round her and proeeedod to descend the stairs. But at the foot of tho stairs a strango sight mot hor eyes. Tho kitchen door was open, and tho kitchen wus all illuminated by tho rod glow of tho blazing flro, wliiio lior oliildron knolt beside a wliito-gowned buby oreaturo, who cooed und urowed und stretohed liis limbs luxuriously in the warmth, us if lie woro in tho downiest . of oradlos und 111 tho cosiest of nurseries, instead of being ouly a little wuif and stray 011 a rag carpet and a kitchen floor. CHAPTER II. , ' A ATIE said proudly, " It's a Christ- ¥ 1; mas present, mummy." ,, "Is it pno of tho Jurrblds'.ahild-, I \ ronP" Mrs, Dorriok inquired, with -A a note' of astonishment in lior voioo. " Oh, no,',' said Harry oagoi'ly. "Why, mother, it is A, beautiful baby, and nono of the Jarrolds' ohildro'u ure beautiful, you know; aud it's all white arid soft, und pretty. See how it smiles. We found it on the seat in tho porch."

-. "The Christ-Gluld put it thoro for us," Bind'' Kutio, , catching ui> lior brother's words und nodding ompliatieally. . " On tho Heat in the poroh ? ..Loft thoro by somo trump, I (oppose; " said .Mrs". 'Derrick, almost oroiilhless with horror. , , . . . "i don't" think it "could bo -a tramp's ioluld,'f wild Hurry, sagely. "It is. muoli too nicely .dressed :for, that, I suppose, mother," witli a dawning jsenso, of saying Hoiiiqthing that was unlikeVi'jrit-nofso nrilikely rid'to be absurd." ' " I- suppose' yqn don't think it is— tlio Child Himsolf." : ; .Mis. Dorriok , oonlil not iforheav a little luugh, but' it was .11 laugh, which hud somo tromulousuoss in it. ( i :"Dour Hurryi" siio siiid, "of oourso you know that is imposslblo." i- 'f l um sura you tcld us u story something liko. it," said Hurry, in an injured tono, " about somo people who took in u littlo pliild from tho siroots iind lie turned out to bo tho Lord Jesus- Christ himself. And thero was imothor story about a man currying a child ovor a rivor, nud lie found 011 tho other side ; that I10 lmd been carrying tho Lord. If theso stories wore true"— indignantly — "I don't at all seo why the Christ-Child should not eomofous." "Let me look nt the baby P" said Mrs. Derrick, avoiding argumont; "Poor littlo thing, I wonder whom it belongs to. Got ino a sauuopan, Hurry. I will warm some unllc for it. That can do no harm, at any l-nto," sho said in a lower tono.'ns if in com munion with liorsolf. Tlio child nestled at onco into her motherly arms, und Mrs. Derrick lookod at it atten tively. "It is not a poor child," she said after a moment's examination of its olothos and uppoarauoo. "It has been beautifully kept, iind tho roho's lovely. 1 darosay it will he oluimod beforo very long." "Claimed! But it is our baby," said Harry, turning round to look at his mothor. " You don't mean tlmt anybody oan tako it away from us, do you, mother?" "You only found it, you see, Harry," said liis mothor soothingly. "It does not belong to us." " But it wns loft ut our door," said Harry, "und so it wus meant to oomo to us. Why, it's our Christmas presont." "A vory oxponsivo Christmas present," said - Iuh mothor witli a rather droury laugh. "Why, it's as much us I oun do to feed and clotho tho two of you. . You don't suppose I want unotlior, do you ? Howovor, it's all right," she added, seeing Hurry's face of woo. "Porlmps we shall find out whoro it came from by und byu." " And if it hus ooine from tlio Christ-Child, or even from Santa Cluus, you'll lot ur keep it, won't you, mothor ? " suid Hurry insinuat ingly. Mrs. Dorriok thought it wisest to make no roply. WI1011 buby lmd been fed, sho took -it up stairs and laid it to sloop in hor own bed, while slio and tho oliildron dressed thomsolvos for the day. It wus almost broad daylight when thoy settled down to their morning meal. Mrs. Derrick had sighed ovor tho faot that sho had nothing to giro tliem hut por- l idgo and a little weak toa and bread, but slio need not iiavo concerned liorsolf. The oliildron woro quito too happy in talking ovor the udvent of tlio baby to taku any notice of wlmt thoy uto. Furi.lior oxumination of tlio child's elotlies puzzled Mrs. Derrick oxtromoly. All tho littlo garmonts woro exquisitely fine and trimmed with beautiful laco and embroidery, but the pretty elotlies lmd boon covered by a very common shawl, round wliioh a sort of rug hud boon folded, and tho whole scoured by a ragged crimson tahleoovor, whioh lmd boon tied by tlio corners into knots so as to limko it appear like a bundle of clothes. Mrs. Derrick's motherly heart roso up 111 indignation as slio thought of tho porils of cold aud hungor to whioli tho littlo oreaturo lmd been exposed. " It is just a cliunuo thut tho oliildron found it in time," slio said, " but what I am to do with it, lam enrol don't know. I ean(t koop.it, that's very eertiiiii." Slio had forgotten to caution Hnrry and Katio not to say any tiling about thoir now- found trcuHiiro. for it did. not oeour to her thut thoy would immediately inform all tho Jarrold oliildron with an air of proud pro prietorship tlmt a- now baby hud como to tliem in tlio night. "Not a brand now baby, you know," Hnrry explained, " because mother says it must bo six months old. I suppose it is what you'd cull a secondhand haby, but as good us now.". Tlio result of which communication, was that Mrs. Jurrold camo hastily to tho houso to (piiii nil possiblo information, aud wus loud in lior praisos of tho beautiful oliild und of tho olothos in wliioh it was dressed. Mrs. Dorriok hud never likoil lior before, but tho woman's friendliness and good naturo diHurmnd lior prejudices. " It's a good filing it eume to you nnd not cither to me or Miss Binks," said Mrs., Jarrold. " When I lmd my seventh, Jurrold liu was so put out lis never was, and said lio . would not liuvo unotlior baby in tho houso if it woro over so ; and as for Miss Binks, you know what a sour old thing slio is. She'd havo let thu baby froezo in tlio snow ns , liko us not, or sent it to tho workhouse. But I, suppose it will oomo to that in the long run anyhow," she said, contemplating tho child reflectively. " Don't you think somebody will olaim it ?" said Mrs. Dorriok, anxiously., " Claim it ? Lord lovo you, no. Who- ever's put it ut your door wants to got rid of it. You mark my words. Thorn's no liamo on the child's elotlies, I suppose ? " "Only initiuls, " suid Mrs. Dorriok. "Tlioy look liko L.C., but I can't quito muko. thorn out." " And thoro was 110 papor, or 110 money, or nothing?" " Nothing ut nil." " Jarrold's going into the town," observed the mother of .thai seven, "and if, you liko iio'll say a word to tlio police for you or give notico at the workhouse." But hero Harry, who had been standing by, intorfored indignantly. "Iudooil wo ure not going to send the baby to tlio workhouse," ho said, " It is our very own Christmas pre sent sent, to Kutio and 111c, und wo menu to keop it." " I am sure I wisli we could," said Mrs, Derrick faintly. " But I don't seo how." She stopped short, not liking to muko uny sort of complaint of her poverty in tho pre sence of tho prosperous stoucmusou's wifo. Poor as shu was, Mrs. Dorriok wus almost unduly proud, and could not lioai' to bo pitied. Hor girlhood lmd been spoilt amid vory different surroundings from those in which she now found liorsolf. Slio lmd boon tho daughter of a country elorgymun, and knew too woll for lior own imppitiosa wlmt- eiliioii- tion und roilnomont meant. It was this flavour of aloofness which liud caused somo roHuntment against lior in thu minds of Mrs. Jarrold aud lior neighbour Miss Binlcs. But Mrs. Jarrold forgot lior ill-fooling, as lior oyos rested on the Bounty furniture aud the remains of tlio pour meal whioli still lingered on tlio tablo. For tho baby proved suoli an engrossing source of ououpation that Mrs. Dorriok lmdnotyot 'reduced the kitchen to its normal stnto of tidiness. " Well, to ha sura," Mrs. Jurrold suid to liorsolf— hut sho hud the wit not to suy it aloud— " to think of thut being, all tlioy had for breakfast this ' Cliristmus rimming; and 110 preparations for tho diniior thiit I oun 'seo; Well,,! must bo off," sho said abruptly. ' " I liuvo got a , good pieco of boot anil ; plum pudding to soo to. Your timo will ho a good lilt tukon up if you'ro going to look uftor tlmt baby," Mrs. Derrick. ' '"Suppose you sond your children to 1110 and let tliem 'havo' their .dinners' ulong with us. You'ro kindly welcome yoursolf, . too, if you liko to como. ; But I know tlmt you're 11" hit high, and perhaps you would not liko to sit down witli Jnrrold aud 1110 und tho uliildrou. However, I don't hear any inulico, so you send iii ; your two -about 1 o'clock, v. nnd lot thorn liuvo their share' of what's going oii and u game -with tho uhiklren afterwards, It will do them good."'' ' Mrs. Dorriok hesitated, but finally nooopted the invitation fifr tho children. The tempta tion, was too grout; she could riot deprive Hnrry -nnd Kutio of their ono olmneo of a littlo Christmas jollity. But Hnrry refused to go. > Katie might go, ho said, but ho should stay with his mothor and tho Christ mas baby. Lutor in the day Miss Binks also took the opportunity of onlling to know the truo state of affairs. Sho was exceedingly indignant with Mrs. Derrick for taking in a strange child. '(Who knows wlmt, diseases it may not bring into tho houses," sho said. "Soarlet fever, mouslos, whooping cough — you don't know wlmt may ho upon it. There's a deal of smallpox ut Bowden, I hear. I should got rid of the child as soon us possible if I were you." 1 . . ,

" Indeed. I never saw a healthior, finer baby," said Mrs. Derrick, witli uuswering indignation. "Tnero's nothing tho matter witli it, and 110 tramp's child would liavo such beautiful elotlies." "Stolen, most likely," said Miss Binks witli a sniff. But slio was not. so mininiublo lis slio looked, for in n'littln timo sbo roturnod witli two oorered dishos in lior hands. I don't suppose, with nil this upsot, you had tinio to got yourself muoli of a dinner," slio said ungraciously. " AnilT liuvo conked 11 deal moro than I want for ono ; bo if you won't bo offondod I will taku tho liberty Bf bringing you a bit of turkoy I havo hnd sont up from my old pluoo whoro I was house- kcopor no long, und somo minco pios from tlio same plnco. They'll just go mouldy on my shelves, and I duro soy your boy oun finish tlnsm. Boys uro always hungry." AudMiss Bihks whisked out of tho houso so quickly tlmt Mrs. Derrick hud no limo to dcclino the offered dainties. . After all, sho was very glad of them for Harry's sako. It was something for tho hoy to got a good dinner 01100 iir a way. Sho lmd a peaeoful sonso of tho real kindliness of her neighbours — tlio neighbours on whom sho hnd hitherto lookod down — and slio resolved to he moro neighbourly liorsolf for tho future. After all, Hurry and Kate would liavo to earn thoir own living, aud it was no use to bring thorn up as alio herself hud been brought up, without enduring any hardness or roughness of the outer world. The strange buby had brought kindness nnd ovon happiness in its train. Slio had an unoxpeoted visitor in tho oourso of tho afternoon. Mr. Jurrold, who with his ohildron had tramped into tho town to go to oliuroh, considorcd it his duty to notify at tlio polioo station tho fuot that a child hud been found that morning in Mrs. Dorriok's poroh, and muoli to Hnrry's terror, 11 burly conHtablo limdo his appearance to inquiro into tho muttor. "But you shan't tako him away," said Harry, with clenched fists nnd burning cheeks. " It is our baby, and we aro going to keop it bccudso it eume as u Christmas presont on Cliristmus morning." "All, well, thnt's for your mother to suy, isn't it?" said tho officor, and ho lookod at Mrs. Derrick with a quizzical smilo. " I don't mind keeping tho baby for a duy or two," suid Mrs. Dorriok roluctuntly. " But if nobody turns up to olaim it, I don't know wliatT am to do." " Bottor lot it go to tlio workhouse," said the constable. " It will bo lookod after there better than you can look after it. I will tako it myself, if you liko ; or you can go nloug with 1110, mid bring it." "I will keop it for a day or two," said Mrs. Dorriok ; but sho would not say moro, and avoided tho glunoo of Harry's pleading oyos. Tho constublo departed, having noted down vurious particulars us to tho finding of tho buby, and Mrs. Derrick soothed Hurry's fours und devoted herself to the child, who was indcod so rosy and contented and beuuti- ful thut she folt us if slio, too, could not make up hor mind to purt with it. The day wont by. nnd the noxt day fol lowed with littlo chungo. Mrs. Dorriok's neighbours wero very kind to her for a day or two, sending hor milk for tho baby and all sorts of unoxpeoted presents, so that us Harry said, " thoy really had moro Christmas things tlmn thoy ovor hud in thoir lives bofore. And didn't 1 tell you, mothor," ho conoludod triumphantly, "tlmt tho Ohrist-Ohild would send us presents ?" . But Mrs. Derriok turned away with a teur in hor oyo. Sho had alroudy grown fond of tho little waif nnd stray, hut sho did not know how to muko up her mind to koop it. It was a Borious undertaking— another mouth to feed, und if tho baby romuincd unolaimed, another oliild to olotho and maintain. In justice to hor own oliildron, sho folt that shq ought not to do it, nnd yot it seomod vory hard to sond this lovely baby to ho turned into a common workhouso child. In a week's timo the constahlo again knocked nt tlio widoiv'H door. "Woll, missis," lie said, "and how's tho kid ? We have hnd bills out saying thut it wns found, but wo liuvo had' 110 inquiries. Those thut owned it have thoir own reasons for wanting to got rid of it, I oxpeot, so you'd host muko up your mind what to do. Are you going to keep it or not ?7 Mrs. Derriok wus thankful that Harry was not there. " I should like to koop it," sho said thoughtfully, " hut I don't know that I oun. It is hard work to make ends moot with only the two. oliildron, and if,', thoro wero. three, I. think wo should Bturvo.'! , ' " Tlio workhouse is the, best plaoefor it," said the constahlo. , .' Mrs. Dorriok sighed. . Boforo sho could' make up hor mind to answer, littlo Kutio put in un appealing word. " Mummy," slio said, " if tho Christ- Child sent tho baby to us, don't you think He meant us to keep it? I should think Ho wouldn't liko us Bonding it away ?" ' " Perhaps that is truo,'( suid Mrs. Dorriok, in 11 tono of doop fcoliiig. " Porlmps it wus God who sont tlio oliild to tho door, und if He did, it doesn't scorn right to let it go to tho workhouso. Ho that sont it will provide for it. Thank you, constable, I liuve decided. I will koop tho baby. It is. a .Christmas present, as the children say, and it is riot tho right tiling to throw a gift uwuy," Sho Binilcd through tlio tenrs us sho con cluded, and hold tlio haby more closely to lier' breast. "The coming of tlio oliild may bring us huppiness;" she thought .to herself, " as thu coming of tho Oliild of Bethlehem brought peace and goodwill into tho world." "Well, I'm blowod," wus tho constable's ejaculation, as ho turned to leavo tho cottuge. But on second thoughts lie faced round again. " My missis '.would lmvo dono tlio same," ho suid. " Sho told mo so when I mentioned tho buby to lior, and if ovor you want it off your hutids, ma'am, you'd better tip hor tho word boforo you sond it to the workhouso." ' Ho was gone, and Mrs; Derrick wus left with Katie und tho oliild. u It wus u relief to her to feel tlmt Bho would not havo to announce the baby's dopurture to Hurry when lie cumo 111 from school. But how she was going to make ends- meet, and .earn sutfioient . for herself and tlio children she hardly know. But she was not culled upon to solve the problem after all. When a faw weeks lmd elapsed, , her friend, the . burly eouHtuhio, nailed again in company with a tall man, whoso stooping shoulders und anxious face told of cures und troublos which wero almost moro than ho could bear. And it wus in a- hesitating, yet rather pompous voice, that the constable introduced him. . "Wo think wo have found the. baby's father, Mrs. Derriok— ut least this gentleman lost Mb haby in a queer sort of way lust Cliristmus Evo. We think it must be. the sumo ono us was brought to yuur door. It was an old servant' witli u spite against the family tlmt stolo the ohild, bgt sho lias con fessed what alio did and how she took tho baby, uwuy from ils homo arid laid it ut your door,' without Allowing of 'earing whotlier there wus .uny Doily inside-' the house that would look nftor it." ' ' ; Mrs. 'Derrick rose and oxhibitod the baby,: and the baby's elotlies, wliioh were instuntly identified. But lior'lieurt sunk at the thought of parting witli tlio ohild. " It is you that I havo to thunk for your euro of my ohild, '(1 said tho tall- nmn,' taking tho infant tendorly to 1 liis- 'ririiis. " Bolieve mo, my wifo und ' I ; will" never bo able to repay — —"but tlio words died upoir his Hps. Ho was looking .straight into Mrs. Dorriok's fttuo, instead of at tlio alooping child whom lie lmd token from lier. "Is it possiblo?" ho orlod. "Mary, oun it .he you?" And sho horaelf unswored with trembling lipB,..but with' u, oortaiu dignity, "Yob, Robert, it is I. But I thought that, liko tho rest of my family, you lmd abandoned mo." "You worn vory muoli mistaken, thon," ho answered qiiiolrly. "Why, riiy dear cousin, I huve sought for you evory whoro on hearing of your husband's dentil. Why did yon not lot jno know what, became of you? I urii sure you have ' lmd a hard timo of it! To , think it was you who saved my littlo ohild from starvation or a workhouso life ! And thoso aro your oliildron. You must get on your things and como homo with mo at onoo. My wifo would never forgive me if I did not bring you book. Tlmnka to your euro of tho oliild wo lmvo found von at last, and wo Blmll nover loso sight of you again." Ho kept hie word, and in all tho years of advancing happinnss und prosperity that fol lowed for horsolf and lior children, Mury Derrick's heart wus kept soft nnd tender by tho roiucmbranco of that Cliristmus gilt which tho Ohrist-Ohild had brought most surely to hor door, and which for tlio sako of her ohildron's faith slio had not turned away, ran xnd.