Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

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TIMOTHYS CHRISTMAS TREE.

Newyddion
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[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] TIMOTHYS CHRISTMAS TREE. By ALICE & CLAUDE ASKEW, Authors of "The Shulamite." "Anna of the Plains," "The Premier's Datigl-,ter." "The House Next Door." &c. H Buy a paper, sir, eveniir paper, sir 1 Werry wet night, sir." Timothy O'Hara, better known to his inti- mates as Tim, piped his thin, brave cry, and it joined in with the clang and clamour of he great city-it mixed with the voice of London. He was a small, red-haired imp, with a pair if roguish grey eyes, and a dare-devil impu- lent little face. His nose was short, and per. laps over broad at the bridge. His mouth was red and warm, curiously suggestive of a sinted flower. His little body, indifferently slothed in rags, had a lissom strength about it-v, taking grace. He wore boots through which the tips of pink toes protruded. His hands were grimy and blue with the cold, the bitter cold of a December afternoon, an afternoon merging into the dusk of evening. Buy a paper, sir! 'A'penny paper I He shrilled the words out. pressing his wares apon a portly old gentleman who happened to oe passing at the moment—a man whom Timothy might have been sharp enough to I know was unlikely to buy any paper which belonged to the halfpenny press. Yet men of this prosperous, over-fed City type sometimes aondescended, especially about Christmas- time, to bestow the grace of a few coppers on shivering newsboys, and then to pass on with munificent smile, omnipotent in their way as Jove. I don't want your trash, boy Out of my pay! Timothy slunk back, deterred and dis- mayed, for he was the type of lad who feels a rough word almost more than a blow then, with a whimsical shrug of his thin shoulders, he darted down the busy. street, raising his voice again and again, to be rewarded once or twice by the sale of a newspaper, and to glean at last the rich dole of sixpence from a kind-faced old lady, who glanced at the child with dim and sympathetic blue eyes. "My poor boy. you look very cold," she re- marked, in the thin, piping voice of age. She felt cold herself, for all the protection of her warm sable cape, but she had forgotten that the blood of youth is warm blood, and Tim, with his natural shrewdness, was not going to remind her of this fact. "Cold, my lady? I'm freezin', but, praise ^be blessed saints it won't be winter for aver." He rubbed his dirty little face with small red fingers, and began to shiver artistically. But Christmas will have to come before the nice hot davs-before the summer," re- marked the old lady, gently. "I suppose you are looking forward to Christmas, laddie I" z, She thought of her own grandchildren as she spoke, to whom the word Christmas meant so much, but this waif of the City laughed in her face. Christmas! Bless you, lady, Christmas won't do nothin' for me, or for my old gran' He shuffled in his big boots. "It won't be much of a merry Christmas for either of us," he went on, wistfully, "with no fire in the grate and little enough food in our stomachs." Was the child's cry only the professional whine of the streets, or was it a true appeal, straight from Heaven knows what den of misery? Mrs. Adair could not make up her mind, could not decide, but she supplemented her gift of sixpence with a fat and shining half-crown, before she passed on to mix with the merging shadows of ever-changing London. Timothy screwed up his eyes and winked, then he blew on his cold fingers. He had had a stroke of luck to-night—rare luck. It would be foolish to go on selling any more papers such a cold, miserable afternoon. He would go back to his gran', he and his half-crown together back to the attic where they lodged and half starved. For the tale he had told was a true tale, only the tragedy of it didn't come home so much to the lad himself or to his bedridden old Irish grandmother as it would have done to Mrs. Adair, had she really believed the full truth of his words. For Timothy had been bedfellow to poverty and hunger for so long' that he had grown to regard them as inseparable com- panions to human existence. He didn't ex- pect, it was beyond his wildest dreams to ex- pect, ever to feel really warm during the winter, or to have enough food to satisfy the healthy craving of his boyish appetite-not sufficient food for two days running, that is to say. Also, he was fully aware that the attic where he and his gran' lodged was as dirty as a room could well be-smoke-be- grimed and cobwebbed, the small broken window indifferently stuffed with rags and paper, but it was home. He was more sorry for his gran' than for himself—the poor, bedridden old soul, who couldn't enjoy the gay humour of the streets as he could, feast her eyes against shop win- dows, or sniff the beautiful fragrance of warm food steaming out from restaurants and cookshops. But Mrs. O'Hara was a cheerful person, thankful for the three shillings weekly which the charity of thu parish bestowed upon her, appreciat; of the devotion of her grandson, and the splendid way the little fellow fought the ever daily battle of driving the black wolf from the door, by gaining enough money from the sale of his papers to keep body and soul alive. She prayed to all the saints for him, prais- ing him for the brave boy he was, eloquent in her requests, her desires; and she oiever failed to remind Tim, even on those evenings when he came back weary and dispirited, kaving failed to sell the requisite number of papers, that Mary-Blessed Mother-would be making it up to him later on, no doubt; und that when folk got to Paradise they would soon forget all that hunger and thirst meant. Also, that holy Saint Patrick himself had had a rough time of it when a lad, and wasn't it a fine thing to play the man and not let the tears come ? But there would be no tears to-night, there would be jubilation, ecstasy, joyfulness. Also, there was no doubt that a holy angel had been watching over Tim that afternoon, an angel who had guided the kind old lady to open her purse and extract the shining half, crown, Shure, I've news to be telling ye my- self," Mrs. O'Hara began after she had smiled and crooned over her grandson. Then she went on to tell small, eager-eyed Tim how his Reverence the Protestant priest had been round to see her, and had been telling her of Ithe fine Sunday-school treat prepared for the boys and girls who had been regular in their attendance at Sunday-school—the big tree, loaded with gifts, a present on it for each aild. Then, with a beaming smile, the old woman presented Tim with a printed card, which, as the boy saw at once, bore a ¡ different name on it from his own. I know that, sorra. What do you tako I me for?" laughed gran' and it was evident from her manner that she guessed what had happened. The Protestant clergyman had strayed into the wrong room and had mis- taken Bridget O'Hara for the mother of one I of his own flock. It was fairly clear that gran' had not undeceived him, but intended Tim to go to the Protestant treat and receive « present from the Christmas-tree. "Over one hundred children. Shure, ye'll elip in with the rest, Tim, an' there'll be no questions asked." she announced, cheerfully. "Besides, any way, ye've got a ticket." Tim flushed a warm and painful red. He 'knew perfectlv well to whom the card be- longed—to the rjoy on tile noor Detow-a- lad who had boasted of a bedridden relation—but the temptation to follow gran's advice was a very sharp one. He guessed that t he old woman was right. Small inquiries would be made at the treat as to who he was, for there would be strange, pretty ladies helping at the tea- tables and dispensing presents from the tree, ladies all unknown to Little Anne-street, who always came down at Christmas time, though, then flitted away for another long year, and these lovely, dainty creatures wouldn't know the difference between himself and Bob Barwood. They would smile on each child who came in and handed up a card—a beautiful warm smile. For Tim, though he had never attended a treat, had heard all about the working of them from Bob Barwood, who had often twitted the little red-haired Papist with the fact that he had never seen, nor was aver likely to behold, that glorious shining crea- tion, a real Christmas-tree. For the Roman Catholic priest who looked after Little Anne- street was a poor, half-starved saint, who worried far too much over t hn miserable spiritual condition cf his parishioners to think of such superfluities as Christmas trees. Also, he had no money to spend; he was almost as penniless as those he ministered to. But Bob—so he had confessed a wr-vk ago with a sniff, a confession which came back to Tim now—thought he had no chance of attending the Christmas tree this year. He had not been regular enough in his attendance, and so had been refused a card, even though he had tearfully explained that he had been obliged to stay at home to look after his sick mother, who had been worse than usual the last month, and had needed as much of her son's time as he could spare. But this excuse was frowned over—disbelieved. Timothy had listened and condoled; but now it appeared that Bob's teacher had re- lented, and actually begged a card for him— the card the vicar had brovght round. Bob might never know that the card had been sent, though for it was doubtful, now that his mother was getting steadily worse, if he would ever find time to attend Sunday-school again; and, meanwhile, the tree blazed brightly before Timothy's mental vision, the dazzling Christmas tree he had so often dreamt about and never seen. "'Tain't the game, gran' He muttered the brave words, words he had somehow managed to pick up, and whose meaning he but dimly grasped. Then his small face whitened, and he made his slow way to the door. I'm going to give 'is card to Bob," the child said, firmly. What should I be passin' myself off as Bob for? Shure, think shame of yourself, gran'. 'Twould be .-e dliirty trick entoirelv." Gran' watched him to the door, then a big sob heaved her shrunken breast, for there was a look in Timothy's eyes that told her how much her grandson was renouncing and what pleasure did the crater ever have? she asked herself—the darling bhoy that he was—the pride of her life. It was some time before Tim climbed back to the attic, and when he finally came in there was a faint touch of defiance in his manner, also a faint trembling of the under- lip. It appeared, gran' discovered by judi- cious questioning, that Bob Barwood's grati- tude for the return of the admission card had not been excessive, also that he had expressed his disapproval of Mrs. O'Hara's conduct in receiving it from the unsuspecting clergyman, and had apparently detected her little plan that Tim should personate his chum. "Ah the dhirty black heart of the little scoundrel!" exclaimed gran' with uplifted hands: "an' not a Clacent word o' thanks to be giving ye, Tim dear, for a' your trouble in returning him his card. Shure, he'll be seeing the beautiful Christmas tree, and ye be missing the fun of it altogither, sorra the dav Her grief, her disappointment, was loud- voiced and excessive, all the more vehement when she discovered that Tim's eyes were blinking,; and when, in the darkness of the shadows, the little lad confessed to her how all his heart and soul had been set for a long time on seeing the dazzling Christmas tree of his dreams, and now he had lost his one chance. There was something appallingly pathetic in Tim's childish lament, and this longing to ibehold a real Christmas tree, and feast his eyes on spangled stars, golden apples, and coloured candles. It was the greatest desire that he had even known, and gran' caught her breath as she listened to the earnest little voice, and she had some difficulty in prevent- ing one or two hot tears from streaming down her furrowed and wrinkled cheeks. She, poor, half-starved old soul, bond- woman of poverty from her youth upward, had outlived most of her illusions, her dreams, and retained no ideas at all on the subject of Christmas trees but it was different with her grandson. He. at any rate. could find all the, beauty that his little soul desired in the tree that he was apparently never to behold. Mrs. O'Hara. in her dismay and perplexity, lifted up her voice to the saints and prayed more earnestly than she had done for years, and she bade Tim join in her prayer too. It was a queer enough episode-an old woman and a little street arab, crouched up together in the corner of a small attic, both of them ill-sufficientlv clad and poorly fed, yet not praying for a warm fire in the grate, nor for food and lights, and all the ordinary necessities of life, but exhausting themselves in vague, formless petitions that Timothy O'Hara should behold that wonderful thing— a Christmas tree—and this before another winter had come and gone. Shure, be a good bhoy, an' the saints'll answer." whispered gran', reassuringly. There had' been a long pause after the last words of the prayer had died away. Tim shivered a little. He wasn't so sure as his gran' was that the saints would answer his petition. Perhaps they only listened to very, very good boys indeed. It was the next day that' he met with his accident—the accident which was to take him into the big ward of a great London hospital —and to draw a crowd of anxious faces round his bed—strange, unknown faces. Such an everyday accident-just one of life's minor tragedies—an accident not even reported in the papers—treated as naught by busy press- men. He had been dashing across the road late in the evening, desperately anxious to sell a few more papers, half blinded by the driving snow, which seemed literally to sluice in streams from the sky. He was knocked down by two plunging carriage horses, knocked down and stunned, and so mercifully unconscious of the rain of hoofs which descended upon him, and the cruel blows dealt his limp, senseless little form. Unaware, too, that the lady whose carriage had knocked him down was the very Mrs. who had preSientecT him with half- a-crown the day before, and whose tears how fell fast down her pale cheeks as she watched Tim's apparently lifeless body being tenderly ¡ raised by two big policemen to the awe- struck whisper of the crowd-the inevitable London crowd. Tim was driven in Mrs. Adair's carriage to the hospital, and the head of the little street arab rested for a few moments on the breast of the woman who had mothered more than one child in her time, and whose heart bled over this waif of the streets, the child whom her plunging horses had maimed and pretty nearly killed, and'it was no less a person than Mrs. Adair herself who, later on, made her way to gran's miserable attic and told the poor old soul what had happened to her grandson. Mrs. O'Hara's wild, unrestrained grief was terrible to witness, and the tale she had to tell of the brave fight she and Tim had made for so long brought hot tears into the rich woman's eyes. This was the first time she had come into actual contact with real poverty, and she was impressed, as so many nau oeen ueiuio nci, by the wonderful patiences and. heroism of the poor, for she saw a hero in Tim, and thimking of her own grandsons, just back from their various public schools, lads whose comfort was so carefully ministered to, she marvelled still more how it was that Tim. at an age when youth requires special protecting and help, could have not only supported himself, but been the mainstay of his old gran'. She took Mrs. O'Hara away from the miser- I able attic, and established the old Irish- woman in comfortable rooms in a decent neighbourhood, but it was doubtful if gran' was really impressed by this change in her circumstances, or if the good food and warm, cheerfully-lighted bedroom comforted her sick soul. For all she could do was to utter prayers to the saints, those white, daz- zling saints, who might be too busy to listen to the petitions of such an one as her- self-an old woman half distraught with grief. But she mumbled her prayers and vows all the same, and clutched with trembling, shaky fingers at her beads. And so the days wore on—the grey days edging towards Christmas. Tim opened his eyes to a knowledge of the things that are, also to a curious sense of past pain. He felt heavy and languid—just as if he had had a bad dream, a dream it would be good to forget. Then he realised with a start of intense surprise that he was tn a nice clean bed in a hospital ward. also that his lower limbs were all swathed up in bandages. He rubbed his hot forehead. What could have happened to him? And even as he asked the question, he recollected that amazing, terrific moment when he had fallen is it were under the very feet of two plunging horses—that second when fiery sparks had flashed across his eyes, and he had heard the rushing of many waters in his ears. You're feeling better now, aren't you? More yourself again? A kindly-faced woman asked the question. She was dressed in a nice blue linen frock, and wore a cap and beautiful white cuffs and collar. Tim realised at once that he was being spoken to 'by a nurse of the hospital, and he liked the feel of the woman's cool, firm fingers when she took his limp hand' in hers. She was so motherly, so protecting, and when, with a little sniffle in his voice, he began to tell her what he could remember of his acci- dent, and inquire as to what had happened to old gran', her talk was comforting and re- assuring. She told the poor little anxious breadwinner that Mrs. O'Hara was living, as it were, in the very lap of luxury, and all because Mrs. Adair's horses had run over the old woman's grandson. "Blessed saints!" muttered the child. 'Twas a good job they did, then, if it has brought luck to old gran' Then he raised wistful eyes to Nurse Emma's face. "My legs feel mighty quare, and so does my back. Shall I iver be able to run about again, nurse, do you think? He thought as he spoke of all the dreadful things that he had heard happened in hospitals-of ghastly operations, when help- less patients lost their limbs and came out of their wards maimed and crippled. Bless the child, you will be all right in a few weeks' time," answered Nurse Emma, cheerfully. "You may have to go about on crutches for a bit, but you won't mind that, will you, Tim? Then, because she didn't want to tell the child what a hard fight he had made for life, or how precarious his plight had been, she changed the conversation by announcing, in a loud. cheerful whimper, that this was Christmas Eve, and that there was to be a splendid Christmas tree in the ward next day. isuch a Christmas tree It was to reach pretty well to the ceiling, and everyone in the hospital was to receive a gift from its royal branches, and as to the candles, well, nobody would be able to count the candles on it, there would be so many. — "It will shine—it will shine as the sun? asked Tim. His forehead was puckered up with excitement, his lips were twitching. "It will glitter beautifully." answered Nurse Emma, soothingly. Then she bent rather anxiously over Timothy. Don't excite yourself so, dear," she said in her cool, soft voice. Thinking of the Christmas tree you'll see to-morrow mustn't make you feel ill to- night." Tim blinked at her and smiled. Be aisy in yer mind, darlint nurse." He ;b°airied all over his face. "But shouldn't I be stirred and glad when the blessed saints have an- swered the prayer of Timothy O'Hara? For I've been thirsting all me life to see a Christ- mas tree." His eyes grew big with expectancy-wi t h hope. "An' the top of it will reach the ceiling," he went on, an' the branches will be laden with gifts, an' it will glitter like the sun an' the stars." He thought of Bcb Barwood and the ticket for the Sunday-school treat which he had re- stored to his friend; and a smile lit up his face-the ineffable smile of the conqueror. "Praise God," he muttered, "that I did the right thing by Bob, and that till holy saints remembered me and gran' He was to be grateful for greater mer- cies in the years ahead, for honest employ- ment-found him by Mrs. Adair—and for the comfortable home where old gran' ended her days. But perhaps, when all is said and done, the most rapturous moment in Timothy O'Hara's whole life was that dazzling won- derful second when his eyes fell on the Christ- mas tree and its glory-the Christmas tree of his dreams and prayers. [THE END.] Mrs. CTIAS. SUGDEN, who will appear next week at the TivoliTheatre, Pentre, in the thrilling drama, The Ruin of Her Life." I I I

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