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Title: Angel Unawares - A Story of Christmas Eve
Author: Williamson, A. M. (Alice Muriel), 1869-1933, Williamson, C. N. (Charles Norris), 1859-1920
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Angel Unawares - A Story of Christmas Eve" ***

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Angel Unawares


A Story of Christmas Eve



BY


C. N. and A. M. WILLIAMSON



HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS


NEW YORK AND LONDON



Angel Unawares



Copyright, 1916, by Harper & Brothers

Printed in the United States of America

Published October, 1916



ANGEL UNAWARES



IF Angel Odell hadn't had a French nursery governess, and if that
French governess hadn't suddenly recognized her lost lover in a
wounded French sergeant on the sea-front, the Valois story would
have been a Christmas tragedy instead of--what it turned out to be.
This was strange, because neither the little American girl nor her
governess nor her governess's lover had ever heard of the Valois
family, nor had the Valois family heard of them. But most things
that happen are strange, if seen from every point of view.

At first, when Mademoiselle Rose gave a little scream and rushed
away from her charge to a good-looking soldier with his arm in a
sling, Angel stood still, extremely interested. Her mother did not
know about the lost lover. One need not tell all one's heart
secrets to one's employer on being engaged at a Paris agency! But
Mademoiselle cried in the night sometimes and gazed at a
photograph, so Angel (whose bed was in the same room) had asked
questions safer to answer than leave unanswered. When she saw the
meeting she quickly put two and two together in her intelligent,
seven-year-old brain.

"That's Claude," said the child to herself. "So he's alive, after
all. My goodness _me!_ what a nice Christmas present for
Mademoiselle! I'm glad it's after lunch instead of before, though,
for I _was_ hungry, and I expect she'll want to talk to him a long
time. I suppose she'll introduce him to me and we'll all three walk
up and down."

Instead of walking, however, Mademoiselle and her Christmas present
sat down on one of the seats placed at regular intervals along the
Mentone sea front. Apparently Mademoiselle forgot Angel's
existence, and "Claude" had not observed it. The child stood
neglected until she was tired and very bored. Then, too polite to
interrupt (a succession of nursery governesses of several nations
had instructed her never to interrupt), she decided to go home.

"Home" was a hotel; and Mrs. Odell, Angel, and Mademoiselle had
arrived only the day before from Paris, Mademoiselle had been in
Mentone before (that was one reason for engaging her), but Angel
and her mother never had. Angel's father was one of several
brilliant young men in the American Embassy, where he was well
content for himself, but found the idea of bombs on heads he loved
bad for his nerves; accordingly, wife and child had been sent to
safety in the south of France, somewhat against the former's will.
At the moment, Elinor Odell was getting off letters, meaning to go
out later and buy Christmas toys. So it happened that, just as
Angel was wondering which turn to take, Angel's mother was writing:
"Mademoiselle is young and pretty, but as trustworthy as if she
were a _hundred_. She never loses sight of the Angel-Imp for an
instant."

The Angel-Imp in question wished that streets going inland from the
Promenade du Midi didn't look so much alike. They all seemed to
have rivers or gardens running up the middle, and pointed blue
mountains at the back, except the ones farther along, where the
shops were. Angel remembered a bridge. She thought the right turn
was near. Yes, that must be the street! You walked along that for a
while, and then you had to turn again. You passed villas with
gardens.

By and by Angel forgot to look for landmarks; there were so many
things which amused her: children riding on donkeys led by brown
old women in funny hats like toadstools; a flock of very white
sheep with long, silky hair, being driven by a fur-coated boy into
an olive wood; bands of soldiers black as jet, wearing queer red
caps on their woolly heads. It was all so interesting and exciting
that when Angel remembered herself she was not quite sure she knew
where she was.

This would have been rather frightening if the realization
hadn't come just outside the half-open gates of a garden lovely
as fairy-land. It had been winter in Paris. Here it was summer;
yet to-morrow was going to be Christmas. Angel could not understand.
The thing was like a dream, and held her fascinated. She was an
imaginative child, and it thrilled her to say to herself, "Maybe
this garden is fairyland!" Although, of course, the common-sense
side of her answered, "Pooh! You know very well, you silly, there's
no such place."

Anyhow, the garden _looked_ like fairyland. It was exactly what
fairyland ought to be; and even mother (who was a grown-up, though
father often called her "child") said that no really nice person
would swear there weren't any fairies in the world.

Hundreds and maybe thousands of orange and lemon trees made a
sparkling green roof for a carpet of purply-blue violets, white
carnations, and roses of every shade from palest coral pink to
deepest crimson. The flowers grew in the midst of young grass which
the sun, shining through tree-branches, lit with the vivid green of
emeralds. It shone also on the countless globes of the oranges and
lemons, making them glow like lighted lamps of pale topaz and
transparent red-gold among the dark-green leaves.

"Fairy Christmas trees!" thought Angel Odell. And it seemed to her
that the invisible hand of an equally invisible fairy clutched her
dress and began to pull her through the open gateway. After all,
why should the gates be open if people were not expected to walk
into the garden?

"I don't care. I _will_ go in, whether it's fairyland or not,"
Angel decided.

Nothing else seemed important except the garden and what might
happen to her there when she had once got past the gates. Not
Mademoiselle Rose, not her Claude, not going home to the hotel, and
not even seeing mother.

Angel let the unseen hand guide her through the gates, and on the
other side the mysterious beauty of the garden was more thrilling
than ever, because it was all around her and under her feet and
over her head. The road looked as if no wagons ever went over it,
though it was wide enough for them to pass. It was golden-brown in
patches, but was overgrown with a film of green, almost like lace.
The orange-trees were planted so that they made long, straight
aisles shut in at the far end with a misty curtain of blue. Down
each aisle a narrow, gold-brown path ran between the flowers; and,
fascinated, the child from another land began slowly to follow one
of the ways. A vague fancy stole through her mind that the silence
and heavy perfume of lemon blossoms were, somehow, parts of each
other. It was as if she were about to find out a wonderful secret;
and, looking up through the green net to a sky of blue, shot with
rose, she wandered on with a sense of waiting.

Not only did little paths run the length of those long, straight
aisles, but crossed from one aisle into another, until Angel lost
count, as from violets she visited roses, and from roses passed to
carnations and stocks. Beyond the arbor of orange- and lemon-trees
showered a golden rain of mimosas, and close by clustered a grove
of palms, with tall-trunked, date-laden giants rearing their crests
in the middle of the group, and in an outer ring, low-plumed dwarfs
whose feathered branches drooped to earth.

Angel Odell associated palms with large pots in halls and
conservatories. She had not known until to-day that they could grow
out of doors. Staring at the grove in wonder, she caught sight of
something red which showed between the trailing fronds of a palm
like a green-domed tent. And mixed in with the something red was
something white that moved. Almost before she knew what she was
doing, Angel had stooped down and crept beneath the drapery of
rustling plumes.

The "red thing" was an old knitted shawl, spread over a wooden
seat of the right height for a child; and the "white thing" was a
half-Persian kitten. It was sitting on the shawl, too earnestly
ironing its silver ruff with a pink tongue to feel the slightest
concern in the intrusion of a stranger.

"Oh, you lovely catkin!" exclaimed Angel. Cautiously she subsided
on to the end of the wooden seat, and, slipping off her gray
mittens, began to smooth the fluffy back. On her thumb glittered a
large diamond in a ring of her mother's she had picked up on the
dressing-table and forgotten to take off. Seeing that the object of
her attentions did not openly object to them, and, indeed, appeared
hypnotized by the flashing stone, she transferred the white ball of
fur from the red shawl to her gray-corduroy lap. It was velvet
corduroy, and even more delightful to sit on than knitted wool. The
kitten submitted in a dignified, aloof manner to the child's
caresses, and Angel sat rigidly still, hardly daring to breathe
lest the haughty creature should take offense.

It was just then that a woman suddenly appeared from, it seemed,
nowhere in particular. Angel's heart gave a jump. What if the
woman--just a mere woman, not a fairy at all--owned the garden, and
should scold the little stranger girl for coming in, sitting down,
and playing with her kitten?

"Maybe if I don't move or make any noise she'll go away and won't
see me," the child thought.

To her no grown-up person could be really young, but _for_ a
grown-up this woman looked youngish, about as young as mother.
Mother had been twenty-eight on her last birthday, and looked
almost like a little girl before she was dressed in the morning,
with clouds of dark hair falling around her small, white face and
shading her big, blue eyes.

This woman had dark hair, too, but Angel could not see what color
her eyes were. She was looking down. Her eyelashes were long and
black, like mother's, yet she was not like mother in any other way.
Mother's face was rather round, and nearly always smiling and
happy. This woman's face, though pretty--yes, Angel thought it
pretty, and, like a picture of the Madonna Mademoiselle had--was
very grave and sad. That was strange, in this beautiful garden full
of flowers and sunshine; like a wrong note in music, if Angel
mischievously struck a key while mother was playing something gay
and sweet. Besides, the woman had on a dress that wasn't pretty at
all, or like the dresses mother wore. It was brown, and plain,
without any trimming, almost like a servant's dress. Angel wished
she would go away, but she didn't; she stooped down and began to do
two very queer things. Both were queer for a woman to do, and one
was dreadful.

The first thing--the thing that was only queer--was to cover up a
bed of very delicate flowers, whose name Angel had never heard,
with gray stuff such as kitchen towels are made of, only much
thicker and rougher. The woman had been carrying a large bundle of
this in her arms, and in covering the bed she supported the gray
stuff on sticks higher than the flowers.

The other queer thing she did, which was dreadful as well as queer,
was to cry. It seemed awful to Angel that a grown-up woman should
cry--cry in a beautiful garden, where she thought she was alone.
And on Christmas Eve! Angel felt quite sick. Her throat filled as
if she, too, were going to cry. It was all she could do not to give
the kitten a nervous squeeze. She was seized with a wild wish to
rush out and try to comfort the woman; but instinct even more than
childish shyness held her back. Angel knew that, if she had stolen
away to cry where she hoped not to be seen, she would hate to have
a strange person jump out and surprise her. Probably she would hate
it even more if she were a grown-up.

The child hidden under the palm-tree and the woman outside were so
near to each other that the child could hear the woman give choking
sobs which it seemed as if she tried to swallow. Perhaps she didn't
try hard enough at first, for the sobs, instead of stopping, came
faster and harder, and Angel's large, horrified eyes saw tears run
down the woman's face and splash on to the flowers. Suddenly,
however, the gasping ceased. The woman let fall an end of the
bagging not yet draped over the sticks, and sprang to her feet with
the quick grace of a frightened fawn. Not that Angel definitely
thought of any such simile, but away in the back of her mind dimly
materialized the picture of a deer she had once seen rise up among
the tall grasses in a public park.

The young woman fumbled in the pocket of her shabby brown dress and
found a handkerchief. She hurriedly dabbed her eyes, and rubbed her
cheeks hard, as if to make them so red that the redness of her
eyelids might not be noticed.

"She must have heard some noise," thought Angel; and as the thought
formed she, too, heard what the woman had heard--the pat-pat of
footsteps coming lightly and quickly across grass. Then from under
the green-and-gold mimosas a man appeared--a tall, youngish man,
very thin and pale, carrying a thing which seemed a mysterious
object for a man to carry in his arms; but then, everything about
this fairy garden was mysterious and puzzling.

Heavily leaning against the man's shoulder and hanging down over
his back was a pine-tree, small for a pine-tree, but large for a
person to carry. He came on with his head bent, and at first did
not see the woman, so--apparently--he was not in search of her. But
he limped as he walked, and the woman cried out sharply:

"Oh, Paul, you've hurt yourself! You've had a fall!"

He looked up, surprised. "Why, dear one, I didn't know you were
here," he said. "I did slip on a stone coming down the mountain.
But it's nothing. I've wrenched my ankle a little, that's all."

"And you had that long, hard walk afterward!" the woman exclaimed.
"My poor Paul! You out of bed only three days ago. It's too cruel.
Everything goes against us."

"Everything?" He caught her up and a look of alarm or anxiety
chased away the smile he had put on to reassure her. "Has bad news
come, then? But yes--you needn't answer. I know it has. I wish I
hadn't said you might open the avocat's letter! You've been crying,
Suze."

The woman spoke English as if it were her own language, but
the man had an accent which showed that he was not born to it.
Even Angel--listening half against her will--noticed that, almost
unconsciously. But she had been forced to think a great deal about
"accent" in the last few months since she had come to live in Paris
and talk with a French governess. She had picked up French quickly,
as children do, but was always having the word "accent, accent!"
drummed into her head.

"I couldn't help crying a little," said Suze. "I didn't mean to let
you know. I thought you'd be longer away."

"You mustn't try to hide your feelings from me, dear," the man
said. "Troubles will be lighter if you let me bear them with you."

"But you--you're always trying to cheer me up, no matter what's
happened," the woman reminded him, almost reproachfully. Angel
realized that they must be husband and wife. They were about the
right age for each other, she thought; and even a child could see
by the look in their eyes that they loved one another dearly. "You
pretend now that you're not hurt, but you are; you're suffering--
your face shows it. Ah! the dear face, so white, so patient! I
hoped I should have good news for you when you came back. I hoped
that in spite of everything we might have a little peace, a little
happiness, just enough to last us over Christmas, if no more. But
what's the use of our hoping? Always comes another blow!" Her sobs
broke out again. Tears poured over her cheeks.

The man stooped and laid the little pine-tree on the grass, letting
it down carefully, not to break the branches. Then he took his wife
in his arms and pressed her head against his shoulder. They looked
two pathetic figures in their plain, rather shabby clothes,
clinging together in the garden where everything save themselves
was singing with joy of life and beauty.

"You mustn't give way like this, Suze," said the man, gently.
"Think of the children."

"I know," she sobbed, "I hate myself for breaking down. I ought to
think of _you_ as well as the children, though you'd never tell me
to do that. You never think of yourself, except of what you can do
for me and them. This Christmas tree you've brought! Even if you'd
been well, it would have been a big adventure, toiling up into the
mountains, tired after a day's work in the garden; looking for the
right tree, sure to grow in the worst place to get at; cutting it
down with an ax that's no more than a toy, and then bringing the
thing home on your back! Why, it would be hard labor for a strong
man---"

"Love gives strength," he soothed her, stroking her ruffled dark
hair; and Angel thought that she had never seen a man's hand so
thin. "I've done myself no harm, truly, dear one. I may not be very
strong yet, but I'm getting on. Last week you said you were
thankful, whatever happened, to have me out of bed---"

"You oughtn't to have been out!" Suze broke in, rebelliously. "If
we weren't so poor---"

"Never mind. It did me no real harm. I've had no relapse. And we've
got each other and the children. There are rich people who'd change
with us. Let's forget the bad news and the other troubles till
after Christmas---"

"How _can_ we forget being hungry?"

"By eating an orange!" The man tried to laugh. "We've got plenty of
those."

"Just now we have. But if we're turned out?"

"We must do as Adam and Eve did when they were turned out of Eden.
They found work, I suppose. So shall we. Though God knows it almost
kills me to think of what I've brought on you and the babies."

"Don't say 'you'! You've never brought anything but happiness to us
or anybody."

"I'm afraid--I've thought, sometimes--I had no right to marry you."

"Why, life wouldn't have been life for me without you, Paul!"

"Or for me without you, Suze."

"And all we've gone through has only drawn us closer together. But
this last blow is different. It's too cruel! . . . That Judas of a
man, Siegel, making us believe he was our good friend and he doing
you a great kindness selling you this garden and the business so
cheap! Think, Paul, how he described it, only last August, just
after I found you in Antwerp when you were getting well after your
wound. Would one _believe_ a man could make up his mind to ruin
another who'd nearly given his life for his country? Plan and plan
to rob him of his savings, pretending all the time to open the
gates of Paradise---"

"Well, in one way this _is_ Paradise," said Paul, lifting his eyes
to the sky which showered sunset roses through silver branches of
olives, gold branches of mimosas.

"Paradise with the serpent of deceit in it!" cried Suze. "The Nice
lawyer says in his letter--_I'm_ not sorry you let me open it--that
Siegel drew up the deeds so cleverly it's almost impossible to
convict him of swindling. Monsieur Vignal thinks no business man
would lend money on the chance of what you might get back from your
deposit with Siegel if you sued him for false pretenses. And yet,
in the next sentence, Vignal advises you to stand up against Siegel
trying to turn you out because you can't and won't and oughtn't to
pay the rest. He says, 'hold on to the place if you possibly can,
and make Siegel attack you in the courts, so you can have a chance
of bringing out the real facts and perhaps proving that you're an
injured man.' He thinks if you could stop here instead of
submitting to be turned out, the courts would very likely decide
that you'd paid Siegel already as much as the business is worth,
and the place would be accounted ours. Isn't that a mockery, when
Monsieur Vignal knows as well as we do we haven't a penny to live
on--that the Riviera's empty these war days, that nobody buys our
plants, and you can't fill orders from over the Swiss or Italian
frontiers, even if you could get _half_ as many as Siegel's lying
books showed?"

"Vignal means well," said the man. "It's good of him to advise me
without asking for pay."

"No more than a Frenchman ought to do for a Belgian!" the woman
retorted. "The refugees who ask for charity get all the sympathy.
We, who ask only for work--"

"We have received kindness, too. Don't let's doubt God's goodness
on the eve of Christmas--the day when He gave His only Son for us
all, my Suze! . . . 'Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.'
Well, there's _no_ evil in this day--or to-morrow. There sha'n't
be. Let's trust; let's not stop hoping, for not to hope is death.
You go to the children, dearest, now, and I'll slip around the back
way with this tree, so they sha'n't see it till it's lighted and
decorated to-night---"

"Lighted and decorated!" Suze echoed, with a laugh that came
trembling out of tears.

"Yes," insisted Paul, "trust me. Your husband isn't an artist for
nothing! Come along. No more time for repining if the tree's to be
ready before the children's bedtime. I tell you, it will be a great
work!"

"You're the most wonderful man in the world!" breathed Suze senior.
"And we _adore you_--our soldier who fights for us always. Oh, but
listen! There's Paulette calling me. I told the two I'd be back
before they finished their Christmas present for father. Guess what
it is--but no, it wouldn't be fair to the poor little things.
They're coming to look for me. If you go by the mimosa path you can
get away before they see you."

Without a word, the man picked up the miniature pine-tree and,
shouldering it, limped off almost at a run. At the same instant the
woman went down on her knees and began once more to drape the gray
bagging over the flower-bed, as if nothing had happened to
interrupt her task.

"Here I am, by the palm-grove. Come and help me cover the flowers!"
she cried, almost cheerily, in answer to a child shouting "Maman!
Maman!"

At the silver sound of the little voice, the kitten in Angel Odel's
lap stiffened itself for a spring. Mechanically her hands tightened
on the ball of fluff, but it wriggled free, and, with a jump,
landed clear of the palm, on the grass beyond. Small as it was, the
little animal left the fronds rustling in its wake, and the woman
on her knees, looking up with a start, caught a glimpse of
something gray under the tree. Two pinafored children, emerging
from a side-path, caught the same glimpse, and as the younger
snatched up the kitten the elder took a step forward and parted the
long green plumes of the agitated palm.

"Why, mother!" she exclaimed in French, "there's a strange child
under our tree, sitting on _our_ seat! Oh, but a beautiful child in
splendid clothes. Can she be real, or--oh, mother! Is she the
Christmas fairy father says God sends to bless those who love one
another?"

Without answering, the woman got up from her knees. Flushed with
embarrassment, she peeped over her daughter's golden head. The
younger girl peeped, also, hanging shyly to her mother's dress. It
was a horrid moment for Angel Odell.

The children were smaller than she--not more than six and four
years old at most--and they were, Angel saw at a glance, pretty as
life-size dolls, with their yellow curls, rose-red cheeks, and
pink pinafores. Their great blue eyes stared at her, not with anger,
but bewildered admiration. Even their mother did not look as if
she meant to scold or sweep the intruder angrily out of her
hiding-place. But, child as she was, Angel realized that she had
been doing a forbidden thing, a shameful thing. She had been
eavesdropping. She had seen the woman crying; she had heard her
talking over family secrets with her husband; she had come to know
what she had no right to know, and what those two had meant for
each other's hearts alone. Ever since she was old enough to learn
anything, she had been taught that "eavesdropping" was one of those
disgusting sins no honorable girl or boy could possibly commit. Her
father himself had said those very words; unforgettable words,
because father was Angel's hero. What would he think if he could
see her now? Somehow, she _must_ atone!

"I--I didn't _mean_ to hide," she stammered. "I looked in--the gate
was open. I thought--maybe it was a fairy garden--"

"Oh, mother, you see she _is_ a fairy," gasped Suze junior, the
elder of the children.

"Perhaps," agreed Suze senior, doubtfully. And her eyes challenged
the stranger. "Who are you, really? Where do you come from?"

"I--I _often_ play I'm a fairy." The culprit seized the straw
held out to her. "I--expect I _am_ one. I know the _me_ in the
looking-glass is, and sometimes I can't tell which is which
Mademoiselle plays _she_ can't, either. She says when I come in,
'Which is this, today, the angel or the fairy?' My name's Angela."

"Oh mother!" breathed both children together, their eyes round with
awe. "An angel and a fairy."

"And I'm lost," the wonderful visitor hurried on, heading off an
answer from mother. "I don't know where I live."

"She doesn't know where she lives," murmured Suze and Paulette, in
chorus. "Then she can stay always and live with us, can't she?"

"Perhaps she wouldn't want to do that," said Suze senior. "Perhaps
_she_ has a mother waiting for her somewhere."

"But do fairies have mothers?" Paulette wanted to know.

"Or angels?" added Suze. "I always thought they hadn't."

"_I_ have," the visitor announced, hastily. "Some kinds of angels
do--the kind like me. My name's Angel Odell."

"Well, I _never_ supposed angels had last names," Paulette
reflected, aloud. "I thought they were just called Gabriel or
something like that, and that they were generally boys."

"Oh _no!_" Angel Odell announced, with decision. "Boys are _never_
angels, anyhow, not in America where I live when I'm home."

"She lives in America," the two children repeated to their mother.
"That's not fairyland or heaven, is it?"

"Fairyland can be anywhere, your father says," Suze senior
answered. "But see, it's going to be twilight soon! I think we must
try to find out where Angel Odell lives, and take her home. She
says she's lost--so her mother will be anxious."

"She thinks I'm with my governess," said Angel.

"Oh, fairy angels have _governesses_," the elder sister mourned,
another illusion gone. "That's as bad as being a real child and
going to school." The two spoke English or French indiscriminately,
seeming hardly to know which language they used, but luckily Angel
understood French very well, thanks to Paris and Mademoiselle Rose.

"I like my governess," she explained. "She's very pretty and she's
engaged to a soldier. That's why I'm lost. Because she met him by
the sea, instead of his being dead as she thought, so she forgot to
watch me. I was going home alone when I saw your garden gate open,
and it looked just like fairyland. If you please, I wish you would
find where I live. It's a--hotel, and it has a garden, too, but not
like this."

Suze senior set her wits to work. She knew that, in those days of
war, not many hotels were open in Mentone. She questioned Angel,
and, learning that the hotel garden was high above the sea, with
glass screens to keep off the wind and a view where you saw the
town all piled together on the side of a hill with dark, tall trees
on top, she guessed the Bellevue.

"We'll all three put on our hats and cloaks, and take you back to
your mother," she said, with the thought in her mind, perhaps, that
Paul would be glad of the children's absence while he did his part
of the tree-dressing. "Suze and Paulette will leave you the kitten
to play with, and you won't mind being alone here again for a few
minutes, while we get ready?"

Even if Angel had minded, now that a blue veil of twilight was
dropping over the garden, she would have said "No," bravely,
to wipe off ever so little, if she could, of the stain of
eavesdropping. But suddenly, when the children's mother asked
that question, and she realized that she would have the place to
herself, the most wonderful idea came into her head, straight and
direct as a bee flies into an open flower. She happened at the
moment to be putting on her mittens preparatory to a start, when
a glint of her mother's diamond flashed up from her plump little
thumb to her eyes. The flash was an inspiration. When the
children and their mother were out of the way she would pull off
her hair-ribbon and tie the ring to the kitten's neck. Then, when
they had taken her home and come back, Suze and Paulette would find
the ring and think it the magic gift of a fairy, because (they would
say to each other) no ordinary little girl could have a gorgeous
diamond like that to give away.

Oh, it was a splendid idea! Angel was sure her mother would approve
when she had thoroughly explained, for mother was rich. Angel had
often heard servants at home and in hotels, away over across the
sea in America, telling one another that Mrs. Odell's father was
Cyrus P. Holroyd, one of the big millionaires. Mother herself had
heaps and heaps of money, too much to please father; and grandpa--
that very Cyrus P. Holroyd--was always sending presents of jewelry
and things. He sent beautiful presents to Angel, as well. Probably
she would find some from him when she went home, for when you
visited at grandpa's house in New York, it was the rule to begin
Christmas on Christmas Eve, and have still _more_ things on
Christmas morning, too, when you thought you had got all there
were.

No sooner had Suze senior and her two children turned their backs
than Angel proceeded hurriedly to carry out her idea. The kitten,
unused to being personally decorated at Christmas or any other
time, resisted the ribbon with some determination. But Angel was
even more determined, and, as in war, size counted. Before the trio
returned, ready for their walk, the bow had been tied and the
victim had dashed angrily away. This vanishing act suited Angel
precisely, for the bright blue of the ribbon was conspicuous on the
white fur, even in twilight, and to have the fairy's legacy
discovered in the fairy's presence would have been premature. In
fact, it would have spoiled everything, and Angel encouraged the
animal's exit with a suppressed "Scat!"

The first hotel they tried was the right one. Angel knew it by the
gate. But it was rather a long walk to get there, and Suze senior--
who told Angel that she was "Madame Valois"--shyly refused the
little girl's insistent plea to "come in and meet mother."

"I must take the children back to their supper," she explained.
"Already it's getting dark, and--it's Christmas Eve, you know. I
hope your mother won't have had time to worry. Tell her we brought
you home as soon as--as you were found."

A faint fear that some gentle hint of reproach lurked in the kind
words (as she had hidden under the palm) stirred in Angel's mind,
making her wish all the more to benefit the Valois family, and so
justify her eavesdropping. She pictured, with joy, the sensational
discovery of the diamond ring, perhaps while the children were
receiving their presents from the Christmas tree. She did hope it
might happen then! So anxious was she to tell her mother the story
of the fairy garden that, after the good-bys, she bounded into the
hotel like a bomb. Her mother's suite was on the first floor, and
in her haste to get to it Angel would have dashed past a group in
the hall, had not the _concierge_ headed her off.

"Here she is, Mademoiselle! Now everything is all right!" he
exclaimed, as joyously as though great news had come from the
front. And out from the group tottered Mademoiselle Rose, to
precipitate herself upon the child and drench her velvet hood with
a waterspout of tears.

Angel had not been left in ignorance by her relatives that she was
a young person of some charm and importance, but never in her life
had she been so overwhelmed with adjectives, in any language.
Mademoiselle Rose, shedding tears which looked to Angel's
astonished gaze the size of pebbles, called her a lamb, a saint, an
adored cherub, and many other things which Angel determined to
bring up in future if ever she were scolded. It appeared that the
distracted governess, on waking from her dream of love with Claude,
had nearly fainted on finding Angel gone. She had left her soldier
on his crutches, to rush here and there, searching wildly for her
charge. She had described the child to every one she met, and asked
in vain for news of her. She had dashed into shops and houses, she
had been led to the _gendarmerie_ and had sobbed out her story of
loss, reluctantly pausing to see details industriously written
down; and at last she had run all the way to the hotel, hoping
against hope that the lost one had returned.

Her state of mind, as described by herself, was tragic when she had
ransacked the rooms and asked questions of servants and visitors,
only to be assured that her charge had not come home. She blamed
herself entirely, not Angel in the least; therefore Angel felt
kindly toward Mademoiselle, and attempted to comfort her by saying
how glad she ought to be, anyhow, that Claude was alive. The young
Frenchwoman hysterically admitted this, and was in the act of
expressing also her thankfulness that Madame had not yet returned,
to suffer, when Madame herself walked in, followed by a
_commissionaire_ bearing many bundles. She looked rosy and
girlish, but at sight of Mademoiselle on her knees in the hall,
bathing Angel with tears, her bright color ebbed.

"What _has_ happened?" she stammered, her big, dark eyes appealing
to _concierge_, governess, and all Angel's other satellites.

It was the child who answered, before any one else could speak.
"Oh, mother!" she gasped, drawing in a long breath, "I haven't been
runned over by a moting-car, or bited by a mad dog, or drownded in
the sea, or anything bad, but only just lost for a _very_ little
while; and it was lovely, in a fairy garden. And I want to tell you
about it _quick_, because I gave them your ring what has one big
di'mond and little ones all the way 'round, tied to their white
kitten's neck."

"Good gracious!" ejaculated Elinor Odell, as Angel paused at the
end of that long-drawn breath. "What _does_ she mean, Mademoiselle?"

"I do not know yet, Madame," the governess apologized, getting to
her feet and wiping her eyes with the drier of two damp
handkerchiefs. "The blessed one has but just come in, when I was
about to go out once more and search. There has been no time to
hear, but, praise, le bon Dieu, she is at least safe and unhurt."

"I will telephone the good news to the _gendarmerie_," murmured the
_concierge_.

Elinor Odell adored her child, not knowing for certain which she
loved better than the other, if either--Dick, her husband, or his
daughter and hers. She was warm-hearted, and deep-hearted, too; but
circumstances had very early in her life of twenty-eight years
developed the practical side of her nature. She had learned how to
control herself and to control others. Also she was quick--perhaps
too quick--in forming conclusions. Had she not grown up as the only
child of a widowed millionaire, she might have been just the
beautiful, intelligent, emotional girl she looked, and nothing
more; but to her father she owed much besides money and position;
she owed many qualities. One of them was a slight surface hardness,
like a cooling crust over boiling lava. She realized instantly
that, no matter what the "Angel-Imp's" adventure had been, there
was no longer any need to worry about the child. She took in that
fact, and even as she mentally gave thanks for it she took in
something else also. Persons in a garden whither Angel had strayed
or been invited had apparently persuaded the innocent and impulsive
little girl to give away a valuable diamond ring. Prejudice
instantly built up within Elinor a barrier against some one
unknown. She didn't mean to reproach Angel, but she did mean to
catechize her, and she intended to get back her father's last
year's Christmas present.

"All's well that ends well," she quoted, with the radiant smile
which had helped to give Elinor Holroyd the reputation of a beauty.
"Come, Angel, come Mademoiselle, let's go up to our own rooms and
tell one another everything." Then, when the governess and child
had been started off in advance, she paused for whispered
instructions concerning the bundles. They contained the Christmas
presents which she had gone out to buy for Angel, but, luckily, the
little girl was too excited to notice and wonder inconveniently.
She wasn't even thinking of the gifts from her grandfather in
America, which she confidently expected.

"Now, my Angel-Imp, tell me all about it," began Elinor, when the
lights were switched on in the sitting-room. "Or will you wait
until we've taken off your hat and coat?"

But the child was not in the mood to wait for an earthquake. She
began pouring forth her story, aided and supplemented, at first, by
Mademoiselle, who found it necessary to explain Claude. After
alternately blaming and defending her absent-mindedness, however,
the word passed from Rose to Angel, who was quick to seize the
advantage. She alone knew the whole story, so she alone could tell
how she had wanted to go home; how she hadn't liked to bother
Mademoiselle; how she had got lost, and how, just then, she had
found herself at the gate of the "fairy garden."

"I truly _almost_ b'lieved it was," she announced, earnestly,
"because you said, 'who knows if there aren't fairies?' So they
must have gardens. Anyhow, the children are as pretty as fairies,
but I don't think they can be as happy, because their mother cried,
and their father's been wounded, and cheated, too, by a horrid man
who's going to take everything away from them, even the garden, and
the oranges--the last things they've got to eat. And they're
_dreadfully_ poor--oh, as poor as poor! That's what their mother
was crying about when she left the children in the house so they
wouldn't know. And when their father came home and found her
putting flowers to bed and crying on them, she cried more because
he was carrying such a heavy Christmas tree and had hurt his foot
getting it, and he was so pale and thin, she _couldn't_ stop when
he asked her. Besides, she'd had _such_ bad news in a letter while
he was gone! It was about the nasty man who took all their money
and was going to take back the garden, too. That was why I was sure
you'd want me to give them your di'mond ring that you hardly ever
wear. It's always lying around somewhere, mother, so when I found
it on my thumb--you see, I forgot to put it back on your table--I
thought it would be _just_ the thing, and a lovely surprise for
the children when they found it tied to the cat's neck with my
hair-ribbon. I 'spect they must be finding it now, because they
brought me here--they and their mother, while their father was putting
the dec'rations on the Christmas tree--and by this time maybe they're
home. Their name's Valois--Suzanne and Paulette Valois, and their
mother's Suzanne, too, or Susan, because _she's_ English and
they're Belgian. And don't you think if grandpa sent me any
presents I can give some to them? There's a whole pile of letters
on the table. Maybe there's one from grandpa to say--"

"Stop--stop!" cried Elinor, catching the child before she could
spring on the latest arrivals from the post. "It seems to me that
you've been in rather too much of a hurry already, with your
Christmas presents to the Valois family, though I know you meant
for the best, darling. Now, the next thing to do is to explain how
Father and Mother Valois happened to talk so much about their
troubles before a stranger they'd never seen before---"

"Oh, they didn't see me then. I thought I telled you that!" broke
in the child. "I eavesdropped, under a tree with branches most to
the ground. I went in to play with the _fluffiest_ white kitten,
and it was while I was there they talked."

"How do you know they didn't see you?" inquired Elinor, judicially.

"Because if they had they wouldn't have talked, with me listening,"
Angel carefully made clear to the slow comprehension of a grown-up.

"I'm not so sure," murmured the grownup. She did not speak the
words aloud, because she wished her Angel-Imp to go on believing,
as long as she might, that human nature was all good. It occurred
to her that a tree must have abnormally thick branches, if a child
in a pearl-gray velvet hood and coat trimmed with glistening
chinchilla were to remain invisible throughout a long and intimate
conversation. It occurred to her, also, that the velvet and
chinchilla simply shouted "Money!" People were extraordinarily
subtle, sometimes, when they had an object to gain, as she had
learned in her girlhood through sad experience. She, too, had had
faith in everybody when she was Angel's age, and even years older,
but her father had thought it best that for self-protection she
should be enlightened early. She did not quite believe in Angel's
fairies of the fairy garden. The story, even as the child told it,
had discrepancies.

"I fancy, darling," Elinor suggested, "that your new friends can't
be so dreadfully poor as they made you think. You see, if they
were, they'd have no money to spend on a Christmas tree--"

"It was growing on a mountain," Angel defended her friends.

"Perhaps, but it wasn't growing all ready decorated. You said that
the father--what's his name--Valois?--stayed at home to decorate
the tree while the rest of the family brought you home--and told
you all about themselves, their name and everything, I suppose, so
you might know where to find them again and take me to see them,
perhaps. It was good of them to bring you, of course, and I'm
grateful. _I_ should have cried, like Madame Valois, if I'd come
back while you were lost. But, all the same, dear--"

She stopped short, because she did not wish the child--so young, so
sweet, so warmhearted--to be disillusioned. The thought in her
mind, however, was that Monsieur Valois and his English wife might
not have been so eager to tell their name had they learned in time
about the diamond ring. They might not have made it so easy to find
them in their fairy garden as it was now! But even though their
name was known, it would be difficult to get back the ring, unless
she--Elinor Odell--chose to take strenuous measures. It would be so
simple for these people to say, when inquiries were made about the
ring, and a sum of money offered in its place, that they had never
seen it; that some one outside must have noticed the glittering
thing tied to the cat's neck, and stolen it. That, she thought, was
almost certain to be the excuse they would make; and her heart,
which could be warm and generous as Angel's, hardened toward the
people of the garden.

"I suppose, unless I want a horrid fuss, I shall have to give up
the ring for lost, or else offer nearly the full value as a bribe,"
she said to herself.

Nevertheless, she rang, and bade a waiter ask the manager of the
hotel to step to her sitting-room for a moment. Meanwhile, until he
should come, she glanced at the letters. There were many, and among
them was one addressed to "Miss Angela Odell. To be opened by
herself," in Cyrus Holroyd's handwriting. But before it could be
passed to its owner a knock announced the manager of the hotel.

He was delighted to hear that the missing little one was safe, and
listened politely to Mrs. Odell's questions concerning the Valois
family. At first the name suggested nothing, but when he learned
that the man was "a gardener, or horticulturist, or something," he
remembered. Ah yes, to be sure! There was such a person, a Belgian
refugee, but with money, it would appear, for he had bought
property from a Swiss who had lived for some years in Mentone. Not
a property of great value, no. And it was said that the Swiss--
Siegel his name was--had let his business decline. After selling it
he had gone away at once. No one knew much about Valois except that
he had an English Wife, a good-looking young woman, who had visited
all the hotels earlier in the season, trying to get work as a
teacher of her own language, or as a seamstress. That would look as
if Valois had found the business profit disappointing. But then,
there was nothing for any one in these days. The only thing to do
was to hold on.

Yes, the only thing to do was to hold on. But it took money to hold
on. Mrs. Odell was ready to admit that the Valois family might be
unfortunate, yet she was all the more sure she would never see her
diamond ring again. Neither would she see the Valoises, husband or
wife, unless she went, or sent---

"A young man who wishes to speak for a moment with Madame,"
announced a waiter at the door, and presented a bit of pasteboard.
It was a business card, on which was printed--not engraved--in
large, plain letters, "Paul Valois, Horticulturist."

So, after all, he had come! But, no doubt, only to try and get
money.

"Mademoiselle, will you go with Angel to her room and take off her
hat and coat?" Elinor hastily cleared the field for action.

"Oh, here's a letter from her grandfather, in New York. You may
read it to her. And presently I will call her in to tell me what he
says."

The tall French girl whisked away the small American child. The
door was shut between the two rooms, and at the outer one, leading
into the corridor, a tap sounded.

"Come in!" cried Elinor, clothing herself with dignity. But it was
not Paul Valois, horticulturist, who entered. It was Mrs. Odell's
own Irish-American maid, with an immense parcel.

"It comes from Paris, and it's for little Miss Angel," she said,
leaving the door open. "Oh, Madame, it's sure to be that wonderful
doll we talked of."

Then, just in time to catch these words--appropriate words for
Christmas Eve--a tall, thin young man appeared on the threshold.
His hat was in his hand, and the scar of a wound still showed red
on his forehead. Though the night was cold, and Elinor Odell had
been glad of her sables, he wore no overcoat. His clothes looked
more suitable for summer than for winter, even in the south of
France, and she wondered if it were a trick to catch her sympathy.
She could not help thinking that he had a good, brave face, not the
face of a trickster; but she deliberately put herself in the
judgment seat. It would take more than a pair of fine eyes and a
broad forehead with a soldier's scar, to charm her out of it!

"Good evening," she greeted him pleasantly, in French. "It was you,
I think, who kindly sent your wife here with my little lost girl
this evening. I'm glad to be able to thank you both for what you
did." Designedly she let the man have a "lead," and waited
curiously to see what use he would make of it.

He did not keep her long in suspense. "Oh, Madame, we did nothing
at all," he replied, giving his case away unexpectedly. "My
children thought your little girl must be a fairy. You see, my wife
tells them wonderful stories. She comes from a county in England
where they still believe in the 'wee folk'--Devonshire. Perhaps
you've been there? It was a great joy to them to have the visit,
and the walk was a pleasure. We are all glad if you have been
spared anxiety; but I fear you must have been anxious about another
loss. It is for that reason I have hurried here, on a bicycle
borrowed from our nearest neighbor. The little lady amused herself
tying a ribbon and a beautiful ring to the neck of my children's
pet, a white kitten given by that same neighbor who lent the
bicycle. Then she must have forgotten to take it off. It was only a
few minutes ago that my Paulette found the ring, when she came
home. I have brought it to you."

"How good of you to take so much trouble!" exclaimed Elinor. But
something inside her whispered, "He thought it would be safer to
claim the regard than to keep the diamond."

The Belgian took from his pocket a clean handkerchief with a knot
tied in the corner, and from the knot produced the ring.

"La voilà, Madame," he said, simply, as he laid the shining thing
on the letter-strewn table. "And now I will not disturb you longer.
Permit me to wish for you and the little fairy who visited us a
happy Christmas."

So he was leaving the reward to her generosity! Wasn't that rather
clever of him?

"Thank you for the wishes as well as for bringing back my ring,"
said Elinor. "And--you must, of course, allow me to recompense your
kindness. A souvenir of it, and of my daughter, for your children's
Christmas---"

As she spoke, she took from her gold-chain bag a fat bundle of
notes and quickly selected one for five hundred francs. The ring
was worth this sum many times over, but it seemed to her that a
hundred dollars was not an ungenerous present. If the man were
really poor--and honest--he ought to be well satisfied. She watched
his face as, with a smile, she held out the French note.

He flushed so deeply that the scar on his forehead turned purple.

"It isn't as much as he expected!" thought Elinor. She waited,
however, for him to speak.

"Oh, Madame, I thank you!" he stammered. "But I could not possibly
accept a reward. I am only too glad to have found the ring."

He seemed actually to be going, to be hurrying away in order to
escape persuasion; yet Elinor, in her experience, realized that the
move might be meant only to draw her on. She was almost sure that
the man would pause at the door, but rather than see him thus
humiliated (because she couldn't help liking his face) she
persisted. "You surely must take the money, or I shall be hurt."

The face, which she liked, grew a shade redder, and then became
suddenly paler than before. "Please do not say that, Madame," he
pleaded, "because it would be--it would be a thing I _could_ not
do, to take money for returning to a lady her lost property. It
would make me worse than a beggar."

A little, tingling thrill shot through Elinor's veins. She felt
ashamed, for this outburst was genuine. Not even a cynic could
mistake it, and she hated herself because she was a cynic. Still,
she would not give up her point--less than ever would she give it
up; for now she began earnestly to want the man to have her money.

"You shouldn't feel like that," she argued. "You didn't ask me for
anything. I give of my own free will. You see, I wish to be even
with you. You've done me a kindness. Let me repay it."

It seemed to her that Paul Valois looked at her almost pityingly.
"Madame," he said, "will you not grant a man the happiness of
giving, not of selling, the one thing in his power, on the eve of
Christmas? It has made me happy that through us, in a way, you have
been saved from pain at this time when the world should be glad. To
pay me for that joy would kill it."

Elinor blushed. "But--but--my little girl tells me--" She stumbled
on, awkwardly, and abashed by her awkwardness. "I think by accident
she overheard that--that--you had some trouble. Do you think you're
right to refuse? Wouldn't your wife feel--"

"She would feel as I do. I can always be sure of her." Paul Valois
lifted his head with a radiant look; and Elinor Odell, gazing at
him, fascinated, suddenly realized something Christ-like in his
type. With that light in his eyes he might have stood as a model to
an artist for a portrait of Christ. Elinor wondered how she had
dared to offer such a man money. She felt humble before him, and
asked herself how, since he would accept no payment, she could
atone for the mean way in which she had misjudged him.

"We didn't know that the fairy heard what we said to each other,"
he went on. "My children call the palm under which she sat their
'summer-house,' because the long fronds fall down and touch the
ground. It is like a green tent. But I am sorry if she felt sad for
us. Tell her she must not be sad. We have each other, and that is
everything. Some way will open. Meanwhile, it is Christmas! Now,
Madame, you understand, I have left my children's tree unfinished.
I must make haste. Adieu. Bonne Nolë."

Before she could speak again, he was gone.

Five hundred francs! How mean the notes looked, how paltry seemed
the spirit in which she had offered it, grudging and judging, and
thinking herself generous!

Springing up on the impulse, she flung open the door between the
sitting-room and Angela's bedroom. "Your man from the fairy garden
has been here," she said in a strained, nervous way. "He has
brought back the ring you tied to the kitten's neck."

"Oh, isn't that too bad!" exclaimed Angel, looking up from her
grandfather's letter, which she had held in her own hands for
Mademoiselle to read aloud. "Didn't you beg him please to keep it
for the children?"

"No, I didn't do that, but--" she hesitated--"I tried to make him
take some money instead."

Angel opened her eyes very wide. "I s'pose he wouldn't take it,
Mummy."

"Why do you 's'pose' that?" Elinor wanted to know.

"O-oh--just because. He isn't--he isn't _that_ kind of a man. Don't
you remember, Mummy, you say that often to me, when I ask you in
the street to give money to some one who looks poor?"

Elinor hung her head like a child. Angel knew more about character
by instinct, it seemed, than she had learned through her years of
experience! But then, it occurred to her, perhaps, after all, she
had not gone about learning her lessons in the right way. Maybe it
was just as wise, if not wiser, to believe people _might_ be good
until you found out that they were bad, instead of beginning the
other way around!

"What would you have done in my place?" she asked Angel.

The child was silent for a moment. "If he wouldn't keep the ring,
why, I s'pose I should have thought and thought of some other way
to make him and big Suze and little Suze and Paulette--and the
kitten--all happy for Christmas!" she exclaimed, on an inspiration.
"Oh, mother, we _must_ do something. I shall have a horrid
Christmas if we can't. And that would be a shame because grandpa's
sent me a--a--_what_ did you call it, Mademoiselle?"

"A check," said Rose, starting out of a brown study about _her_
Christmas, and how she was to spend a part of it with Claude.

"Yes, a big check. Mummy, how much money did you want to give the
children's father?"

"A hundred dollars," Elinor replied.

"Is that much?"

"It must have seemed so to him."

"Well, it doesn't to me. Grandpa's sent me five hundred to buy
myself just what I like, to make my Christmas happy."

"And what would you like?" asked Elinor, thinking that the child's
mind had slid away from the Valois family.

"I'd like to make the people in the fairy garden happy."

"But, a check's the same as money," her mother explained. "You just
said yourself he isn't the kind of man--"

"Oh, but I wouldn't give _him_ the check," Angel cut in,
importantly. "I--I'd lend it to him. No, I mean I'd lend him all
he'd paid the nasty man who really owned the garden. And then I'd
buy the garden from the nasty man myself if I had enough left, or
if I hadn't I'd ask you to. And when the garden was ours, the
children's father could have it _rented_ to him, couldn't he?
Wouldn't that be a good idea?"

"A splendid idea," said Elinor, "But what do you know about rents
and such things?"

"I heard grown-up Suze talk about them to Paul," explained Angel,
calmly.

"What a head she has! Is it not so, Madame!" cried Rose, working up
to the favor she meant to beg for to-morrow.

"Grandpa is always saying I have a great business head," Angel
remarked, with extreme self-satisfaction. "And, Mummy, if you think
it's a splendid idea, can't we go out now and 'range it all with
Paul and Suze? I should love to. It's the _only_ thing I'd like to
make my Christmas happy with grandpa's money. If we went in a
carriage and made the horses run fast maybe we could see the
Christmas tree."

Again the small, hard voice whispered in Elinor's ear. "Yes, you
could see the Christmas tree, which Paul Valois is rich enough to
decorate. Then you will know for _certain_ if he rings true."

She did already know "for certain"; the best side of her reminded
the other side. But Angel was clamoring, spoiled-child fashion, for
her to say "yes," so she said it. Conscience and inclination and
the child's pleading forced it from her, and the rest followed like
a whirlwind. Angel seized her lately discarded hat and coat.
Mademoiselle rang for a servant to call a cab. Elinor hurried off
to get ready. And in less than ten minutes they were on their way
to the fairy garden, without having so much as opened father's
present from Paris.

Many months, perhaps even years, had passed since carriage-wheels
rolled over the grass-grown road that led in from the big, rusty
iron gates. Horses' hoofs under their windows made so strange a
sound in the ears of the Valois family that they stopped singing
the beautiful hymn of Noel they had begun round the Christmas tree.
They stood still, listening in great surprise; and though the room
was lit only by one kitchen lamp and a tallow candle (not counting
the lights on the tree) Elinor Odell in the act of descending from
her cab could see through an uncurtained window the man, the woman,
and their two children, hand in hand, making a ring round the
dark-green pyramid of pine-branches.

She and Angel had come alone. Mademoiselle Rose was staying at home
to write Claude that Madame Odell had given her Christmas free--the
charming, kind lady! Now "the charming, kind lady" and her little
girl knocked almost timidly at the front door of the red-roofed
white cottage--a queer, low-browed cottage built for peasants, in
the old days when Mentone belonged to the Prince of Monaco. In a
minute the door opened. Paul had answered the knock, carrying the
lamp, and, lighted in that theatrical way from below, his face
looked more than ever like the face in a picture. Happiness had
been washed from it by the pallor of dismay for an instant, Suze
having suggested the advent of Siegel; but even in the midst of his
amazement he smiled a welcome for Elinor and Angel.

"This is an unexpected pleasure, Madame," he said, with the
graciousness of a banished prince. "Yet it is a real pleasure. Have
you brought the fairy to see our Christmas tree?"

"Yes," answered Elinor. "She wanted to come. And--to propose a
plan. It's all hers. May we really see the Christmas tree?"

"Indeed we shall be glad," said Paul, and, making no excuses for
the poorness of his show, he ushered the beautifully dressed woman
and her child into the room.

It was a small, plain room, with white-washed walls and little
furniture; but he or his wife had made it charming with trails of
ivy and wreaths of mistletoe and holly. The kitchen lamp had a
shade of red chiffon fashioned from some old hat trimming of
Susan's. The tree (center of the picture for which all else was a
frame) stood bravely up in a green-painted tub packed with earth.
Over the brown sandy surface Paul had laid velvety bits of moss and
ferns from the mountainside. Odds and ends of tallow candle saved
from time to time had their ugliness hidden in orange-red globes of
mandarins, cleverly emptied of their pulp, and hung from the
branches by handles of thin wire. Through the semi-transparent
skins the light filtered with a soft, warm glow. Susan had threaded
red berries and scarlet geraniums from the garden into long chains,
which Paul had looped intricately over the tree. He had collected
silver paper from tobacco-smoking friends, and cut out stars and
crescents to sprinkle here and there. Tufts of cotton stolen from
an old quilt gave an effect of scattered snowflakes, and a
quantity of powdered isinglass which had once formed a stove window
glittered on the green pine-needles like diamonds. As for presents,
Santa Claus seemed to have thought that with so beautiful a
tree they would scarcely be needed. He had provided two dolls,
brightly painted and cut out of cardboard. They were dressed in
accordion-pleated, pink tissue-paper and had hats to match. One
hung on the right side of the tree, and one on the left, and midway
between each a gingerbread elephant was suspended.

There were the "decorations" which Elinor had sagely told herself
no poor man could afford.

"Oh, mother!" gasped Angel, "did you ever, ever see such a
_lov-elly_ Christmas tree in all your life?"

Elinor's eyes saw the mandarin lanterns shine through tears. "Never
one so sweet," she said. And sensitive Susan Valois knew that she
was not "making fun."

The woman of experience found herself stammering like a school-girl
as she tried to explain Angel's plan without hurting the dear
creatures' feelings. But the child, with no such fear in her heart,
made it quite clear, without embarrassment. "You see," she said,
"the fairy garden will belong to all of us together. And I shall be
like a grown-up person because you will have to pay me the rent,
the way people do to grandpa's agent, such a _nice_ man with a bald
head and a wart on his nose. Perhaps if you take care of the garden
well, and plant lots of flowers, we shall all get rich from it like
grandpa is. You _will_ say yes, won't you? And it'll be the very
happiest night of my life."

"Of mine, too," vowed Elinor, and meant it. So what could Paul and
Suze do but say "yes," and add that it was the happiest night of
their lives also.

"Then it's settled, isn't it, mother?" breathed Angel. "Is that
all, or have I forgotten anything?"

Elinor bent over her, on a sudden impulse. "Father has sent you a
wonderful doll from Paris, dear," she whispered. "I haven't opened
the box, but I know what's in it, for a letter came in the post: a
doll that talks and walks and has real hair and eyelashes. So,
would you like to spare a family of dolls I bought for you before I
had the letter? Would you like to spare them to these little
girls?"

"I know what I forgot!" exclaimed Angel. "I forgot to tell Paulette
and Suze that Santa Clause left something with me for them. I
'spect he hadn't time to come back himself. He has so much to do
for all the children 'most everywhere in the world, whose fathers
are in the war. I shouldn't wonder if what he left is dolls--lots
of dolls. Maybe quite big dolls."

Paulette rushed to her mother and whispered, as Angel's mother had
whispered.

"She says, now she _knows_ your little girl is a fairy," Susan
explained aloud.

"I think," said Elinor, "this house is full of fairies to-night.
And they've brought me a better Christmas present than was ever
brought by Santa Claus--a present of something I lost a long time
ago: a warm spot that had fallen out of my heart."



THE END





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