The Philanthropist's Christmas





JAMES WEBER LINN





"DID you see this committee yesterday, Mr. Mathews?" asked the

philanthropist. His secretary looked up.



"Yes, sir."



"You recommend them then?"



"Yes, sir."



"For fifty thousand?"



"For fifty thousand--yes, sir."



"Their corresponding subscriptions are guaranteed?"



"I went over the list carefully, Mr. Carter. The money is promised, and

by responsible people."



"Very well," said the philanthropist. "You may notify them, Mr. Mathews,

that my fifty thousand will be available as the bills come in."



"Yes, sir."



Old Mr. Carter laid down the letter he had been reading, and took up

another. As he perused it his white eyebrows rose in irritation.



"Mr. Mathews!" he snapped.



"Yes, sir?"



"You are careless, sir!"



"I beg your pardon, Mr. Carter?" questioned the secretary, his face

flushing.



The old gentleman tapped impatiently the letter he held in his hand.



"Do you pay no attention, Mr. Mathews, to my rule that no personal

letters containing appeals for aid are to reach me? How do you account

for this, may I ask?"



"I beg your pardon," said the secretary again. "You will see, Mr.

Carter, that that letter is dated three weeks ago. I have had the

woman's case carefully investigated. She is undoubtedly of good

reputation, and undoubtedly in need; and as she speaks of her father as

having associated with you, I thought perhaps you would care to see her

letter."



"A thousand worthless fellows associated with me," said the old man,

harshly. "In a great factory, Mr. Mathews, a boy works alongside of the

men he is put with; he does not pick and choose. I dare say this woman

is telling the truth. What of it? You know that I regard my money as a

public trust. Were my energy, my concentration, to be wasted by

innumerable individual assaults, what would become of them? My fortune

would slip through my fingers as unprofitably as sand. You understand,

Mr. Mathews? Let me see no more individual letters. You know that Mr.

Whittemore has full authority to deal with them. May I trouble you to

ring? I am going out."



A man appeared very promptly in answer to the bell.



"Sniffen, my overcoat," said the philanthropist.



"It is 'ere, sir," answered Sniffen, helping the thin old man into the

great fur folds.



"There is no word of the dog, I suppose, Sniffen?"



"None, sir. The police was here again yesterday, sir, but they said as

'ow----"



"The police!" The words were fierce with scorn. "Eight thousand

incompetents!" He turned abruptly and went toward the door, where he

halted a moment.



"Mr. Mathews, since that woman's letter did reach me, I suppose I must

pay for my carelessness--or yours. Send her--what does she say--four

children?--send her a hundred dollars. But, for my sake, send it

anonymously. Write her that I pay no attention to such claims." He went

out, and Sniffen closed the door behind him.



"Takes losin' the little dog 'ard, don't he?" remarked Sniffen, sadly,

to the secretary. "I'm afraid there ain't a chance of findin' 'im now.

'E ain't been stole, nor 'e ain't been found, or they'd 'ave brung him

back for the reward. 'E's been knocked on the 'ead, like as not. 'E

wasn't much of a dog to look at, you see--just a pup, I'd call 'im. An'

after 'e learned that trick of slippin' 'is collar off--well, I fancy

Mr. Carter's seen the last of 'im. I do, indeed."



Mr. Carter meanwhile was making his way slowly down the snowy avenue,

upon his accustomed walk. The walk, however, was dull to-day, for

Skiddles, his little terrier, was not with him to add interest and

excitement. Mr. Carter had found Skiddles in the country a year and a

half before. Skiddles, then a puppy, was at the time in a most

undignified and undesirable position, stuck in a drain tile, and unable

either to advance or to retreat. Mr. Carter had shoved him forward,

after a heroic struggle, whereupon Skiddles had licked his hand.

Something in the little dog's eye, or his action, had induced the rich

philanthropist to bargain for him and buy him at a cost of half a

dollar. Thereafter Skiddles became his daily companion, his chief

distraction, and finally the apple of his eye.



Skiddles was of no known parentage, hardly of any known breed, but he

suited Mr. Carter. What, the millionaire reflected with a proud

cynicism, were his own antecedents, if it came to that? But now Skiddles

had disappeared.



As Sniffen said, he had learned the trick of slipping free from his

collar. One morning the great front doors had been left open for two

minutes while the hallway was aired. Skiddles must have slipped down the

marble steps unseen, and dodged round the corner. At all events, he had

vanished, and although the whole police force of the city had been

roused to secure his return, it was aroused in vain. And for three

weeks, therefore, a small, straight, white bearded man in a fur overcoat

had walked in mournful irritation alone.



He stood upon a corner uncertainly. One way led to the park, and this he

usually took; but to-day he did not want to go to the park--it was too

reminiscent of Skiddles. He looked the other way. Down there, if one

went far enough, lay "slums," and Mr. Carter hated the sight of slums;

they always made him miserable and discontented. With all his money and

his philanthropy, was there still necessity for such misery in the

world? Worse still came the intrusive question at times: Had all his

money anything to do with the creation of this misery? He owned no

tenements; he paid good wages in every factory; he had given sums such

as few men have given in the history of philanthropy. Still--there were

the slums. However, the worst slums lay some distance off, and he

finally turned his back on the park and walked on.



It was the day before Christmas. You saw it in people's faces; you saw

it in the holly wreaths that hung in windows; you saw it, even as you

passed the splendid, forbidding houses on the avenue, in the green that

here and there banked massive doors; but most of all, you saw it in the

shops. Up here the shops were smallish, and chiefly of the provision

variety, so there was no bewildering display of gifts; but there were

Christmas-trees everywhere, of all sizes. It was astonishing how many

people in that neighbourhood seemed to favour the old-fashioned idea of

a tree.



Mr. Carter looked at them with his irritation softening. If they made

him feel a trifle more lonely, they allowed him to feel also a trifle

less responsible--for, after all, it was a fairly happy world.



At this moment he perceived a curious phenomenon a short distance before

him--another Christmas-tree, but one which moved, apparently of its own

volition, along the sidewalk. As Mr. Carter overtook it, he saw that it

was borne, or dragged, rather by a small boy who wore a bright red

flannel cap and mittens of the same peculiar material. As Mr. Carter

looked down at him, he looked up at Mr. Carter, and spoke cheerfully:



"Goin' my way, mister?"



"Why," said the philanthropist, somewhat taken back, "I was!"



"Mind draggin' this a little way?" asked the boy, confidently, "my hands

is cold."



"Won't you enjoy it more if you manage to take it home by yourself?"



"Oh, it ain't for me!" said the boy.



"Your employer," said the philanthropist, severely, "is certainly

careless if he allows his trees to be delivered in this fashion."



"I ain't deliverin' it, either," said the boy. "This is Bill's tree."



"Who is Bill?"



"He's a feller with a back that's no good."



"Is he your brother?"



"No. Take the tree a little way, will you, while I warm myself?"



The philanthropist accepted the burden--he did not know why. The boy,

released, ran forward, jumped up and down, slapped his red flannel

mittens on his legs, and then ran back again. After repeating these

manoeuvres two or three times, he returned to where the old gentleman

stood holding the tree.



"Thanks," he said. "Say, mister, you look like Santa Claus yourself,

standin' by the tree, with your fur cap and your coat. I bet you don't

have to run to keep warm, hey?" There was high admiration in his look.

Suddenly his eyes sparkled with an inspiration.



"Say, mister," he cried, "will you do something for me? Come in to

Bill's--he lives only a block from here--and just let him see you. He's

only a kid, and he'll think he's seen Santa Claus, sure. We can tell him

you're so busy to-morrow you have to go to lots of places to-day. You

won't have to give him anything. We're looking out for all that. Bill

got hurt in the summer, and he's been in bed ever since. So we are

giving him a Christmas--tree and all. He gets a bunch of things--an air

gun, and a train that goes around when you wind her up. They're great!"



"You boys are doing this?"



"Well, it's our club at the settlement, and of course Miss Gray thought

of it, and she's givin' Bill the train. Come along, mister."



But Mr. Carter declined.



"All right," said the boy. "I guess, what with Pete and all, Bill will

have Christmas enough."



"Who is Pete?"



"Bill's dog. He's had him three weeks now--the best little pup you ever

saw!"



A dog which Bill had had three weeks--and in a neighbourhood not a

quarter of a mile from the avenue. It was three weeks since Skiddles had

disappeared. That this dog was Skiddles was of course most improbable,

and yet the philanthropist was ready to grasp at any clue which might

lead to the lost terrier.



"How did Bill get this dog?" he demanded.



"I found him myself. Some kids had tin-canned him, and he came into our

entry. He licked my hand, and then sat up on his hind legs. Somebody'd

taught him that, you know. I thought right away, 'Here's a dog for

Bill!' And I took him over there and fed him, and they kept him in

Bill's room two or three days, so he shouldn't get scared again and run

off; and now he wouldn't leave Bill for anybody. Of course, he ain't

much of a dog, Pete ain't," he added, "he's just a pup, but he's mighty

friendly!"



"Boy," said Mr. Carter, "I guess I'll just go round and"--he was about

to add, "have a look at that dog," but fearful of raising suspicion, he

ended--"and see Bill."



The tenements to which the boy led him were of brick, and reasonably

clean. Nearly every window showed some sign of Christmas.



The tree-bearer led the way into a dark hall, up one flight--Mr. Carter

assisting with the tree--and down another dark hall, to a door, on

which he knocked. A woman opened it.



"Here's the tree!" said the boy, in a loud whisper. "Is Bill's door

shut?"



Mr. Carter stepped forward out of the darkness.



"I beg your pardon, madam," he said. "I met this young man in the

street, and he asked me to come here and see a playmate of his who is, I

understand, an invalid. But if I am intruding----"



"Come in," said the woman, heartily, throwing the door open. "Bill will

be glad to see you, sir."



The philanthropist stepped inside.



The room was decently furnished and clean. There was a sewing machine in

the corner, and in both the windows hung wreaths of holly. Between the

windows was a cleared space, where evidently the tree, when decorated,

was to stand.



"Are all the things here?" eagerly demanded the tree-bearer.



"They're all here, Jimmy," answered Mrs. Bailey. "The candy just came."



"Say," cried the boy, pulling off his red flannel mittens to blow on his

fingers, "won't it be great? But now Bill's got to see Santa Claus. I'll

just go in and tell him, an' then, when I holler, mister, you come on,

and pretend you're Santa Claus." And with incredible celerity the boy

opened the door at the opposite end of the room and disappeared.



"Madam," said Mr. Carter, in considerable embarrassment, "I must say

one word. I am Mr. Carter, Mr. Allan Carter. You may have heard my

name?"



She shook her head. "No, sir."



"I live not far from here on the avenue. Three weeks ago I lost a little

dog that I valued very much. I have had all the city searched since

then, in vain. To-day I met the boy who has just left us. He informed me

that three weeks ago he found a dog, which is at present in the

possession of your son. I wonder--is it not just possible that this dog

may be mine?"



Mrs. Bailey smiled. "I guess not, Mr. Carter. The dog Jimmy found hadn't

come off the avenue--not from the look of him. You know there's hundreds

and hundreds of dogs without homes, sir. But I will say for this one, he

has a kind of a way with him."



"Hark!" said Mr. Carter.



There was a rustling and a snuffing at the door at the far end of the

room, a quick scratching of feet. Then:



"Woof! woof! woof!" sharp and clear came happy impatient little barks.

The philanthropist's eyes brightened. "Yes," he said, "that is the dog."



"I doubt if it can be, sir," said Mrs. Bailey, deprecatingly.



"Open the door, please," commanded the philanthropist, "and let us see."

Mrs. Bailey complied. There was a quick jump, a tumbling rush, and

Skiddles, the lost Skiddles, was in the philanthropist's arms. Mrs.

Bailey shut the door with a troubled face.



"I see it's your dog, sir," she said, "but I hope you won't be thinking

that Jimmy or I----"



"Madam," interrupted Mr. Carter, "I could not be so foolish. On the

contrary, I owe you a thousand thanks."



Mrs. Bailey looked more cheerful. "Poor little Billy!" she said. "It'll

come hard on him, losing Pete just at Christmas time. But the boys are

so good to him, I dare say he'll forget it."



"Who are these boys?" inquired the philanthropist. "Isn't their

action--somewhat unusual?"



"It's Miss Gray's club at the settlement, sir," explained Mrs. Bailey.

"Every Christmas they do this for somebody. It's not charity; Billy and

I don't need charity, or take it. It's just friendliness. They're good

boys."



"I see," said the philanthropist. He was still wondering about it,

though, when the door opened again, and Jimmy thrust out a face shining

with anticipation.



"All ready, mister!" he said. "Bill's waitin' for you!"



"Jimmy," began Mrs. Bailey, about to explain, "the gentleman----"



But the philanthropist held up his hand, interrupting her. "You'll let

me see your son, Mrs. Bailey?" he asked, gently.



"Why, certainly, sir."



Mr. Carter put Skiddles down and walked slowly into the inner room. The

bed stood with its side toward him. On it lay a small boy of seven,

rigid of body, but with his arms free and his face lighted with joy.



"Hello, Santa Claus!" he piped, in a voice shrill with excitement.



"Hello, Bill!" answered the philanthropist, sedately.



The boy turned his eyes on Jimmy.



"He knows my name," he said, with glee.



"He knows everybody's name," said Jimmy. "Now you tell him what you

want, Bill, and he'll bring it to-morrow.



"How would you like," said the philanthropist, reflectively,

"an--an----" he hesitated, it seemed so incongruous with that stiff

figure on the bed--"an air-gun?"



"I guess yes," said Bill, happily.



"And a train of cars," broke in the impatient Jimmy, "that goes like

sixty when you wind her?"



"Hi!" said Bill.



The philanthropist solemnly made notes of this.



"How about," he remarked, inquiringly, "a tree?"



"Honest?" said Bill.



"I think it can be managed," said Santa Claus. He advanced to the

bedside.



"I'm glad to have seen you, Bill. You know how busy I am, but I hope--I

hope to see you again."



"Not till next year, of course," warned Jimmy.



"Not till then, of course," assented Santa Claus. "And now, good-bye."



"You forgot to ask him if he'd been a good boy," suggested Jimmy.



"I have," said Bill. "I've been fine. You ask mother."



"She gives you--she gives you both a high character," said Santa Claus.

"Good-bye again," and so saying he withdrew. Skiddles followed him out.

The philanthropist closed the door of the bedroom, and then turned to

Mrs. Bailey.



She was regarding him with awestruck eyes.



"Oh, sir," she said, "I know now who you are--the Mr. Carter that gives

so much away to people!"



The philanthropist nodded, deprecatingly.



"Just so, Mrs. Bailey," he said. "And there is one gift--or loan

rather--which I should like to make to you. I should like to leave the

little dog with you till after the holidays. I'm afraid I'll have to

claim him then; but if you'll keep him till after Christmas--and let me

find, perhaps, another dog for Billy--I shall be much obliged."



Again the door of the bedroom opened, and Jimmy emerged quietly.



"Bill wants the pup," he explained.



"Pete! Pete!" came the piping but happy voice from the inner room.



Skiddles hesitated. Mr. Carter made no sign.



"Pete! Pete!" shrilled the voice again.



Slowly, very slowly, Skiddles turned and went back into the bedroom.



"You see," said Mr. Carter, smiling, "he won't be too unhappy away from

me, Mrs. Bailey."



On his way home the philanthropist saw even more evidences of Christmas

gaiety along the streets than before. He stepped out briskly, in spite

of his sixty-eight years; he even hummed a little tune.



When he reached the house on the avenue he found his secretary still at

work.



"Oh, by the way, Mr. Mathews," he said, "did you send that letter to the

woman, saying I never paid attention to personal appeals? No? Then write

her, please, enclosing my check for two hundred dollars, and wish her a

very Merry Christmas in my name, will you? And hereafter will you always

let me see such letters as that one--of course after careful

investigation? I fancy perhaps I may have been too rigid in the past."



"Certainly, sir," answered the bewildered secretary. He began fumbling

excitedly for his note-book.



"I found the little dog," continued the philanthropist. "You will be

glad to know that."



"You have found him?" cried the secretary. "Have you got him back, Mr.

Carter? Where was he?"



"He was--detained--on Oak Street, I believe," said the philanthropist.

"No, I have not got him back yet. I have left him with a young boy till

after the holidays."



He settled himself to his papers, for philanthropists must toil even on

the twenty-fourth of December, but the secretary shook his head in a

daze. "I wonder what's happened?" he said to himself.





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