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. There was a moment's silence. Bud was Jessie's big brother, who had “gone West” in Flanders a year before. Then Sue said: “No, Jessie, an ordinary stocking won't be big enough. You put in your silk ones done up in tissue-paper. We’ll make a stocking, of bright cambric, you know, with little bells
You see, Sue's mother has a room downstairs, so she can come in to meals on her good days. This was evidently one of them, because her voice sounded natural; and when she 's suffering, it 's different. The doctor's eyes brightened when he heard it, and he said quickly: “Don’t plan any more just yet. I 'll bring Mother in,
attached,—something really gay. All the girls and boys will be glad to help us fill it.” “Three cheers!” exclaimed the doctor, enthusiastically. “That 's a dandy idea!” “What are you talking about?” came a voice from across the hall.
Sue. Perhaps she 'll give us some ideas.” He came back with Mrs. Gardner in his arms, and tucked her up on the davenport, where she looked like a fragile sort of queen. Her hair has grown almost white since the accident, but she's awfully pretty and wears the most adorable negligées. Jo Lambert says it 's worth being an invalid to wear such exquisite things as Mrs. Gardner does; but I know better. I caught a glimpse of her face once, on one of her bad days, and after that I understood exactly why the doctor could n’t leave her to go to France. Well, Mrs. Gardner did have ideas. She knew what it was to be tied to her bed, and she suggested all sorts of things for Miss Lucia's comfort that were simply great. We got terribly excited. It was almost dark before we broke up, after planning to meet next morning to make the stocking. Sue rushed up into the attic and found some pink and blue sateen, which we decided to use, because Miss Lucia is so dainty, though, until the very last minute, Louise Topping stuck out for red and white. Louise is the kind who would never think of using anything but red ribbon on a Christmas package; but she's awfully good-natured, and agreed with Dr. Gardner that the color was a small matter compared with the contents, and we all went home full of excitement to tell our families about the scheme. Every one was on time next morning except Jo, who had gone down town to get the bells. We went into the Gardners' dining-room and laid our material on the table. Sue had been cutting newspaper patterns of stockings ever since breakfast, and had three sizes for us to choose from. Jessie was sure the small one would n’t hold everything, and the largest looked perfectly enormous; but when we began comparing notes we decided it would be none too big. You see, all our families wanted a hand in it. Most of them, even our fathers and mothers, had been to school to Miss Lucia, and they were as thrilled over the idea as we were; so at last Sue cut the stocking from the largest pattern. It was a gay affair—half pink, half blue, with a gold draw-string at the top to keep things from falling out, and darling little gilt bells all round the edges. We just squealed with delight when it was done, and carried it in to show to Mrs. Gardner, who smiled her pleasure, though she did n’t speak a word, and I knew by the look in her eyes that she was suffering. The doctor came home then and was just as enthusiastic as could be. There 's no wet blanket about Dr. Gardner, though I knew he was worried, and after a minute he left us and went into his wife's room and closed the door. I suppose he was afraid one of her attacks of pain was coming. Sometimes they last for days, and Christmas was less than a week away; but this time it was a false alarm. She was better next morning, and kept well all Christmas week; and I don't know what we should have done without her, for she was every bit as interested in having that stocking just right as we were. Well—you never saw anything grow like that idea! Somehow or other, people got wind of it, and lots of them sent in donations. The day before Christmas, when we all met at Sue's with the things we 'd collected, we wondered if the stocking, enormous as we had thought it, would hold them all. We 'd meant not to put our names on the gifts, but Mrs. Gardner said it would please Miss Lucia to know who had remembered her, and the doctor seconded the idea. His own contribution was a receipted bill for a whole year, attached to a little nonsense rhyme. He did n’t intend us to see it, but
Jo said it was n’t fair to put things in secretly, and she opened it and read the rhyme aloud:
“There was an old doctor who guessed
We all laughed, and Jessie said that if he'd agree to send that sort of bill to her, that she 'd consider indulging in a nervous breakdown. We had a glorious morning. Mrs. Gardner was feeling especially well, and she made us bring everything into her room. I 'll never forget how sweet she looked propped up against the pillows, surrounded by the things that were to fill Miss Lucia's stocking. Such a miscellaneous collection! We laughed over some, and nearly cried over others. Even the janitor of the old schoolbuilding was represented. He 's wild about flowers, and had sent some of his choicest seeds, about a dozen varieties; and his little boy had put in a package of kid hair-curlers! Where he got them, we could n’t remotely guess. Jo's father had sent two boxes of stunning note-paper—every envelop stamped! There was an exquisite gold-banded cup and saucer from Mrs. O'Day, who 's done Miss Lucia's washing for years. Of course, lots of people sent handkerchiefs, and Jessie's small sister had parted with her dearest treasure—the coral beads her uncle brought her from Bermuda. Mrs. Gardner wept when she found that the teachers in Miss Lucia's building had collected forty dollars; but I think the most beautiful gift of all was Bob Sawyer's Croix de Guerre. We all sniffed a bit over that, because we knew that Bob's family had never taken much interest in him, and that it was really Miss Lucia's influence and encouragement that had made a man of him. He had come back a year before, minus an arm, but was back at his old job in the First National Bank. Of course, I can't enumerate everything. Some things just refused to go into the stocking—among others, the knitted shawl from Mrs. Gardner. She made it herself—a whole year's work, because most days she can’t work at all. It was certainly the most Christmasy-looking stocking that Santa ever filled. Some one had sent a pincushion made around a doll, and we put that at the top, the head peeking up above the big gilt bow that tied the things in place. We had
to stay till Dr. Gardner came home, just to see what he 'd say. And he did n’t disappoint us! He 'd brought a basket of fruit to add to the donations, and it was arranged that he leave everything with Miss Lydia, and tell her to hang up the stocking after Miss Lucia was asleep. Then he sent us all out of Mrs. Gardner's room, and told her that if she wanted to eat Christmas dinner with the family, she must be quiet for the next three hours. Oh, how we girls did long to see Miss Lucia open that stocking! Of course, no one did see her, except Miss Lydia; but the doctor, who sneaked over soon after breakfast, gave us a graphic account. Miss Lucia was sitting up in bed with Bob's Croix de Guerre pinned to her nightgown. She looked better than she had for days, and Mrs. Gardner's shawl was over her shoulders, and Jessie's silk stockings spread out in her lap. “Doctor,” she said, “I 'm going to get well, if it's only to wear these silk stockings. I've always been crazy to own a pair.” Then she got him to tell her how the whole thing started, and she laughed and cried, and said nobody in the world ever had such good friends as she. The doctor had to admire everything, even the kid hair-curlers; and he said that he really thought we were better doctors than he. And it did look that way, because Miss Lucia began to get well right off, so in time she was able to do some tutoring, and Miss Lydia went back to her job in the bank. But the very best part of the story is to come. It started a year later, and this time it was Miss Lucia who had the idea. She called Sue and me in one day, and said that a “beautiful deed” like ours ought to be passed along, and wanted to know if we 'd mind if she sent the stocking to old Mr. Currey, president of the First National Bank.
Now was n’t that just like Miss Lucia? .
Though he 's been sick for months, not one of us would have thought of sending anything to Mr. Currey, because he has everything that money can buy, and occupies the best rooms in the Hillcrest House. But when it dawned on us that he had n’t the ghost of a family, and when we remembered how nice he always was about buying advertising space in the “High School Bulletin,” we told Miss Lucia that of course we did n’t mind, and that we 'd help fill the stocking. And poor Mr. Currey was so pleased that he
cried! The nurse told Miss Lucia so; and what 's more, he got well, too, so that Dr. Gardner declared that there was some sort of witchcraft about that stocking. And it was Mr. Currey who had the best idea of all. It was still another Christmas, and Sue and Molly were just home from Vassar for the holidays, feeling pretty “chesty” about being “college women,” but not quite above hunting ads for the “Bulletin” with Jess and me, who are two years younger and don't graduate from High till June. We were passing the bank, and Jessie said we must go in and get Mr. Currey to sign up for the whole back cover. We used to be rather in awe of him, but since the stocking affair he ’s been quite jolly. He happened to be busy just then, and motioned us to wait in his private room, where he always interviews us. And what do you think we found lying on his desk? The same old stocking that we had made for Miss Lucia two years before! Sue pounced on our old friend and held it admiringly aloft. “I wonder,” she said, laughing, “whose dark hours you 'll gladden this Christmas, little Sunbeam!” “I was thinking of sending it to Tommy Hollis.” We all turned round, to see Mr. Currey right behind us. “Sit down,” he said; and as there were n’t chairs enough, Sue and I perched on his flat-topped desk. “I wonder,” he went on, “if you young ladies will help me fill it—I mean, buy the stuff for me. I’m rather stupid when it comes to getting things for a fourteen-year-old boy. It 's so long since I’ve been one.” I did n’t wonder he was a bit stumped, for Tommy Hollis had been laid up for six months with infantile paralysis. He lived with an aunt, who was a dressmaker and too busy to give him much attention, so Tommy's days were pretty drab and dreary. But nothing would stump Sue Gardner. She 's too much a chip of the old block. “I think that 's a wonderful idea,” she said. “Mother was speaking of Tommy yesterday, and that we must do something for him. Give me a pencil, Mr. Currey, and we'll make a list.” In fifteen minutes we had a list that was destined to take care of Tommy's weary hours for some time to come; but Mr. Currey was n’t through with us. “I was just reading in the paper,” he said, “how some of the ex-service men in the hospitals are having a lonely time of it. That does n’t seem right, does it? I was wondering if we could send them some Christmas stockings. You see—I know what it means to be sick, with no one to care whether you ’re running a temperature or not; and those men and boys who lost their health for their country—why— Well, anyway,” he ended hurriedly, blowing his nose as if a sudden cold had struck him,
“I’ll finance the project if you girls will do.
the work. Go as far as you like.” Well! For a few minutes there was a regular riot in the private sanctum of the president of our First National Bank. Would we do the work? He did n’t have to
ask twice. In fact, we forgot all about securing our ad for the “Bulletin.” And that 's why I'm sitting here surrounded by whirring sewing-machines and snippings of colored cambric, while Miss Lucia Little is sewing on gilt bells as if her life depended on it, and, in her room across the hall, Mrs. Gardner is doing up fascinating packages in enough red ribbon to satisfy even Louise Topping.
That 's all. I don't see why the doctor wanted me to write it; but I'll say one thing on my own account: If you want to enjoy a real worth-while Christmas, just make a stocking for some one who 's sick or lonely, and watch it grow!
Wishin’ “Merry Chris'mus” an’ “Happy New-Year's day”!
Ellis Parker Butler.