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the faint and far-off blaring of a dreamy waltz, blown breeze-like over the drowsy ear of night, had sounded sweeter to me had I stood amidst the band, with every bellowing horn about my ears, and the drums and clashing cymbals howling mad.

I couldn't work, I couldn't read, I couldn't rest; I could only pace about. I heard the clock strike ten, and strike it hard ; I heard it strike eleven, viciously; and twelve it held out at arm's length, and struck it full between the eyes, and let it drop-stone dead. 0 I saw the blood ooze from its ears, and saw the white foam freeze upon its lips! I was alone-alone!

It was three o'clock before the boy returned.

“Been a long while,” he began, “but I had a fearful time with the old man, and he went on so when I did git him in I was ’most afeared to leave him; but he kind o'went to sleep at last, and Molly she come over to see how Sis was a-gittin’; and Sis said she'd like to see you if you'd come now, you know, while they ain't no racket goin' on.”

“Come, then,” said I, buttoning my coat closely at the throat, “I am ready”; and a moment later we had stepped into the frosty night. We moved along in silence, the little fellow half running, half sliding along the frozen pavement in the lead; and I noted, with a pleasurable thrill, that he had donned the little fuzzy cap and mittens, and from time to time was flinging, as he ran, admiring glances at his shadow on the snow.

Our way veered but a little from the very center of the city, but led mainly along through narrow streets and alley-ways, where the rear ends of massive business blocks had dwindled down to insignificant proportions to leer grimly at us as we passed little grated windows and low, scowling doors. Occasionally we passed a clump of empty boxes, barrels, and such débris and merchandise as had been crowded pell-mell from some inner storage by their newer and more dignified companions; and now and then we passed an empty bus, bulging up in the darkness like a behemoth of the olden times; or, jutting from still narrower passages, the sloping ends of drays and carts innumerable. And along even as forbidding a defile as this we groped until we came upon a low, square brick building that might have served at one time as a wash-house, or, less probably, perhaps, a dairy. There was but one window in the front, and that but little larger than an ordinary pane of glass. In the sides, how

. ever, and higher up, was a row of gratings, evidently designed more to serve as ventilation than as openings for light. There was but one opening, an upright doorway, half above ground, half below, with little narrow side-steps leading down to it. A light shone

. dimly from the little window, and as the boy motioned me to pause and listen, a sound of female voices talking in undertones was audible, mingled with a sound like that of some one snoring heavily.

"Hear the old man a-gittin' in his work?" whispered the boy. I nodded. "He's asleep?"

“You bet he's asleep!” said the boy, still in a whisper; “and he'll jist about stay with it thataway fer five hours, anyhow. What time you got now, Cap?”

"A quarter now till four," I replied, peering at my watch.

“W’y, it's Christmas, then !” he cried in muffled rapture of delight; but abruptly checking his emotion, he beckoned me a little farther from the door, and spoke in a confidential whisper.

“Cap, look here, now ; 'fore we go in I want you to promise me one thing—'cause you can fix it and she'll never drop! Now, here, I want to put up a job on Sis, you understand !"

“What!" I exclaimed, starting back and staring at the boy in amazement. "Put up a job on Sis ?”

“Oh, look here, now, Cap; you ain't a-goin' back on a feller like that!” broke in the little fellow, in a mingled tone of pleading and reproof; "and if you don't help a feller I'll haf to wait till broad daylight, 'cause we ain't got no clock.”

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“No clock !" I repeated with increased bewilderment.

"Oh, come, Cap, what do you say? It ain't no lie, you know; all you got to do'll be to jist tell Sis it's Christmas—as though you didn't want me to hear, you know; and then she'll git my 'Christmas gift! first, you know ;-and, oh, lordy! won't she think she's played it fine!" And as I slowly comprehended the meaning of the little fellow's plot I nodded my willingness to assist in “putting up the job.”

"Now, hold on a second !” continued the little fellow, in the wildest glee, darting through an opening in a high board fence a dozen steps away, and in an instant reappearing with a bulky parcel, which, as he neared me, I discovered was a paper flour-sack half filled, the other half lapped down and fastened with a large twine string. “Now this stuff," he went on excitedly, "you must juggle in without Sis seein' it—here, shove it under your 'ben, here—there—that's business! Now when you go in, you're to set down with the other side to’rds the bed, you see, and when Sis hollers 'Christmas gift, you know, you jist kind o' let it slide down to the floor like, and I'll nail it slick enough—though I'll p’tend, you know, it ain't Christmas yet, and look sold out, and say it wasn't fair fer you to tell her, and all that; and then I'll open up suddent-like, and if you don't see old Sis bug out them eyes of hern I don't want a cent!” And as the gleeful boy concluded his speech, he put his hands over his mouth and dragged me down the little, narrow steps.

"Here's that feller come to see you, Sis !” he announced abruptly, opening the door and peering in. “Come on," he said, turning to

I followed, closing the door, and looking curiously around. A squabby, red-faced woman, sitting on the edge of a low bed, leered upon me, but with no salutation. An old cook-stove, propped up with bricks, stood back against the wall directly opposite, and through the warped and broken doors in front sent out a dismal sug

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gestion of the fire that burned within. At the side of this, prone upon the floor, lay the wretched figure of a man, evidently in the deepest stage of drunkenness, and thrown loosely over him was an old tattered piece of carpet and a little checkered shawl.

There was no furniture to speak of; one chair—and that was serving as a stand-stood near the bed, and a high hump-shouldered bottle sitting on it, a fruit-can full of water, and a little dim and smoky lamp that glared sulkily.

“Jamesy, can't you git the man a cheer er somepin'?” queried a thin voice from the bed; at which the red-faced woman rose reluctantly with the rather sullen words: “He can sit here, I reckon," while the boy looked at me significantly and took up a position near the “stand.”

“So this is Sis?” I said, with reverence.

The little haggard face I bent above was beautiful. The eyes were dark and tender—very tender, and though deeply sunken were most childish in expression and star-pure and luminous. She reached a wasted little hand out to me, saying simply: “It was mighty good in you to give them things to Jamesy, and send me that mo—that—that little box, you know—on’y I guess I–I won't need it.” As she spoke a smile of perfect sweetness rested on the face, and the hand within my own nestled in dove-like peace.

The boy bent over the white face from behind and whispered something in her ear, trailing the little laughing lips across her brow as he looked up.

“Not now, Jamesy; wait a while."

“Ah!” said I, shaking my head with feigned merriment, “don't you two go to plotting about me!”

"Oh, hello, no, Cap!” exclaimed the boy, assuringly. “I was on’y jist a-tellin' Sis to ast you if she mightn't open that box now -honest! And you jist ask her if you don't believe me I won't

-I listen.” And the little fellow gave me a look of the most penetra

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tive suggestiveness; and when a moment later the glad words, “Christmas gift! Jamesy," rang out quaveringly in the thin voice, the little fellow snatched the sack up, in a paroxysm of delight, and before the girl had time to lift the long dark lashes once upon his merry face, he had emptied its contents out tumultuously upon the bed.

“You got it on to me, Sis !” cried the little fellow, dancing wildly round the room; “got it on to me this time! but I'm game, don't you fergit, and don't put up nothin' snide! How'll them shoes there ketch you? and how's this fer a cloak?-is them enough beads to suit you? And how's this fer a hat-feather and all? And how's this fer a dress—made and everything? and I'd 'a' got a corsik with it if he'd on'y had any little enough. You won't look fly ner nothin' when you throw all that style on you in the morning !Guess not!" And the delighted boy went off upon another wild excursion round the room.

"Lean down here,” said the girl, a great light in her eyes and the other slender hand sliding from beneath the covering. "Here is the box you sent me, and I've opened it-it wasn't right you know, but somepin' kind o' said to open it 'fore morning_and—and I opened it.” And the eyes seemed asking my forgiveness, yet were filled with great bewilderment. "You see," she went on, the thin voice falling in a fainter tone, "I knowed that money in the boxthat is, the billsI knowed them bills 'cause one of 'em had a inkspot on it, and the other ones had been pinned with it—they wasn't pinned together when you sent 'em, but the holes was in where they had been pinned, and they was all pinned together when Jamesy had 'em-'cause Jamesy used to have them very bills-he didn't think I knowed,—but onc't when he was asleep, and father was a-goin' through his clothes, I happened to find 'em in his coat 'fore he did; and I counted 'em, and hid 'em back ag'in, and father didn't find 'em, and Jamesy never knowed it.--I never said nothin',

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