St. Nicholas/Volume 41/Number 2/Miss Santa Claus of the Pullman

St. Nicholas
Miss Santa Claus of the Pullman (conclusion) by Annie Fellows Johnston



Author of “The Little Colonel” books, and other stories

Chapter V


A half-grown boy, a suitcase in one hand and a pile of packages in his arms. dashed toward the car, leaving a furry old gentleman-in the sleigh to hold the horses. The old gentleman’s coat was fur, and his cap was fur, and so was the great rug which covered him. Under the fur cap was thick white hair, and all over the lower part of his face was a bushy white beard. And his checks were red, and his eves were laughing, and if he was n't Santa Claus's own self, he certainly looked enough like the nicest pictures of him to be his own brother.

On the seat beside him was a young girl, who, waiting only long enough to plant a kiss on one of those rosy cheeks above the snowy beard, sprang out of the sleigh and ran after the boy as hard as she could go. She was not more than sixteen, but she looked like a full-grown young lady to Libby, for her hair was tucked up under her little fur cap with its scarlet quill, and the long, fur-bordered red coat she wore reached her ankles. One hand was thrust through a row of holly wreaths, and she was carrying all the bundles both arms could hold.

By the time the boy had deposited his load in the section opposite the children’s and dashed back down the aisle, there was a call of “All aboard!” They met at the door, he and the pretty girl, she laughing and nodding her thanks over her pile of bundles. He raised his hat and bolted past, but stopped an instant, just before jumping off the train, to run back and thrust his head in the door and call out laughingly, “Good-by, Miss Santa Claus!”

Everybody in the car looked up and smiled, and turned and looked again as she went up the aisle, for a lovelier Christmas picture could not be imagined than the one she made in her long red coat, her arms full of packages and wreaths of holly. The lttle fur cap with its scarlet feather was powdered with snow, and the frosty wind had brought such a glow to her cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes, that she looked the living embodiment ot Christmas cheer. Her entrance
seemed to bring with it the sense of all holiday joy, just as the cardinal’s first note holds in it the sweetness of a whole spring. Will'm edged along the seat until he was close beside Libby, and the two sat and stared at her with wide-eyed interest.

That boy had called her Miss Santa Claus!

If the sleigh which brought her had been drawn by reindeer, and she had carried her pack on her back instead of in her arms, they could not have been more spellbound. They scarcely breathed for a few moments. The radiant, glowing creature took off the long red coat and gave it to the porter to hang up, then she sat down and began sorting her packages into three piles. It took some time to do this, as she had to refer constantly to a list of names on a long strip of paper, and compare them with the names on the bundles. While she was doing this, the conductor came for her ticket, and she asked several questions.

Yes, he assured her, they were due at Eastbrook in fifteen minutes, and would stop there long enough to take water.

“Then I ’ll have plenty of time to step off with these things,” she said. “And I 'm to leave some at Centerville, and some at Ridgely.”

When the conductor said something about helping Santa Claus, she answered laughingly, “Yes, Uncle thought it would be better for me to bring these breakable things instead of trusting them to the chimney route.” Then, in answer to a question which Libby did not hear, “Oh, that will be all right. Uncle telephoned all down the line and arranged to have some one meet me at each place.”

When the train stopped at Eastbrook, both the porter and conductor came to help her gather up her first pile of parcels, and people in the car stood up and craned their necks to see what she did with them. Libby and Will'm could see. They were on the side next to the station. She gave them to several people who seemed to be waiting for her. Almost immediately she was surrounded by a crowd of young men and girls, all shaking hands with her and talking at once. From the remarks which floated in through the open vestibule, it seemed that they all must have been at some party with her the night before. A chorus of good-bys and Merry Christmases followed her into the car when she had to leave them and hurry aboard. This time she came in empty-handed, and this time people looked up and smiled openly into her face, and she smiled back as if they were all friends, sharing their good times together.

At Centerville, she darted out with the second lot. Farther down, a number of people were leaving the day coaches, but no one was getting off the Pullman. She did not leave the steps, but leaned over and called to an old colored man who stood with a market-basket on his arm, “This way, Mose. Quick!”

Then Will'm and Libby heard her say: “Tell ‘Old Miss’ that Uncle Norse sent this holly. He wanted her to have it because it grew on his own place and is the finest in the country. Don't knock the berries off, and do be careful of this biggest bundle. I would n’t have it broken for anything. And—oh, yes, Mose” (this in a lower tone), “this is for you.”

What it was that passed from the little white hand into the worn brown one of the old servitor was not discovered by the interested audience inside the car, but they heard a chuckle so full of pleasure that some of them echoed it unconsciously.

“Lawd bless you, li'l’ miss, you sho’ is de flowah of de Santa Claus fambly!”

When she came in this time, a motherly old lady near the door stopped her, and smiling up at her through friendly spectacles, asked if she was going home for Christmas.

“Yes!” was the enthusiastic answer. “And you know what that means to a freshman—her first home-coming after her first term away at school. I should have been there four days ago. Our vacation began last Friday, but I stopped over for a house-party at my cousin’s. I was wild to get home, but I could n’t miss this visit, for she ’s my dearest chum as well as my cousin, and last night was her birthday. Maybe you noticed all those people who met me at Eastbrook. They were at the party.”

“That was nice,” answered the little old lady, bobbing her head. “Very nice, my dear. And now you ’ll be getting home at the most beautiful time in all the year.”

“Yes, I think so,” was the happy answer. “Christmas eve to me always means going around with Father to take presents, and I would n’t miss it for anything in the world. I 'm glad there ’s enough snow this year for us to use the sleigh. We had to take the auto last year, and it was n’t half as much fun.”

Libby and Will’'m scarcely moved after that, all the way to Ridgely. Nor did they take their eyes off of her. Mile after mile they rode, barely batting an eyelash, staring at her with unabated interest. At Ridgely, she handed off all the rest of the packages and all of the holly wreaths but two. These she hung up out of the way over her windows, then, taking out a magazine, settled herself comfortably in the end of the seat to read.

On her last trip up the aisle she had noticed the wistful, unsmiling faces of her little neighbors across the way, and she wondered why it was that the only children in the coach should be the only ones who seemed to have no share in the general joyousness. Something was wrong, she felt sure, and while she was cutting the leaves of the magazine, she stole several glances in their direction. The little girl had an anxious pucker of the brows sadly out of place in a face that had not yet outgrown its baby innocence of expression. She looked so little and lorn, and troubled about something, that Miss Santa Claus made up her mind to comfort her as soon as she had an opportunity. She knew better than to ask for her confidence, as the well-meaning lady had done earlier in the day.

When she began to read, Will'm drew a long breath and stretched himself. There was no use watching now when it was evident that she was n't going to do anything for a while, and sitting still so long had made him fidgety. He squirmed off the seat and up onto the next one, unintentionally
wiping his feet on Libby's dress as he did so. It brought a sharp reproof from the overwrought Libby, and he answered back in the same spirit.

Neither was conscious that their voices could be heard across the aisle above the notse of the train. The little fur cap with the scarlet feather bent over the magazine without the slightest change in posture, but there was no more turning of pages. The piping, childish voices were revealing a far more interesting story than the printed one the girl was scanning. She heard her own name mentioned. They were disputing about her.

Too restless to sit still, and with no way in which to give vent to his all-consum-ing energy, Will'm was ripe for a squabble. It came very soon, and out of many allusions to past and present, and dire threats as to what might happen to him at the end of the journey if he did n't mend his wavs, the interested listener gathered the principal facts in their history. The fuss ended in a shower of tears on Will'm's part, and the consequent smudging of his face with his grimy little hands which wiped them away, so that he had to be escorted once more behind the curtain to the shining faucets and the basin with the chained-up hole at the bottom.

When they came back, Miss Santa Claus had put away her magazine and taken out some fancy-work. All she seemed to be doing was winding some red yarn over a pencil, around and around and around. But presently she stopped and tied two ends with a jerk, and went snip, snip with her scissors, and there in her fingers was a soft fuzzy ball. When she had snipped some more, and trimmed it all over, smooth and even, it looked like a little red cherry. In almost no time she had two wool cherries lying in her lap. She was just beginning the third when the big ball of yarn slipped out of her fingers, and rolled across the aisle right under Libby’s feet. She sprang to pick it up and take it back.

“Thank you, dear,” was all that Miss Santa Claus said; but such a smile went with it that Libby, smoothing her skirts over her knees as she primly took her seat again, felt happier than she had since leaving the Junction. It was n't two minutes till the ball slipped and rolled away again. This time Will'm picked it up, and she thanked him in the same way. But very soon, when both scissors and ball spilled out of her lap and Libby politely brought her one and Will'm the other, she did not take them.

“I wonder,” she said, “if you children could n’t climb up here on the seat with me and hold this old Jack and Jill of a ball and scissors. Every time one falls down and almost breaks its crown, the other goes tumbling after. I 'm in such a hurry to get through. Could n’t you stay and help me a few minutes?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Libby, primly and timidly, sitting down on the edge of the opposite seat with the ball in her hands. Miss Santa Claus put an arm around Will'm and drew him up on the seat beside her. “There,” she said. “You hold the scissors, Will'm, and when I 'm through winding the ball that Libby holds, I ’ll ask you to cut the yarn for me. Did you ever see such scissors, Libby? They 're made in the shape of a witch, See! she sits upon the handles, and when the blades are closed, they make the peak of her long, pointed cap. They came from the old witch town of Salem.”

Libby darted a half-frightened look at her. She had called them both by name! Had she been listening down the chimney, too? And those witch scissors! They looked as if they might be a charm to open all sorts of secrets. Maybe she knew some charm to keep stepmothers from being cruel. Oh, if she only dared to ask! Of course Libby knew that one must n't “pick up” with strangers and tell them things. Miss Sally had warned her against that. But this was different. Miss Santa Claus was more than just a person.

If Pan were to come piping out of the woods, who, with any music in him, would not respond with all his heart to the magic call? If Titania were to beckon with her gracious wand, who would not be drawn into her charmed circle gladly? So it was these two little wayfarers heard the call and swayed to the summons of one who not only shed the influence, but shared the name of the wonderful Spirit of Yule.



With Libby to hold the ball and unwind the yarn as fast as it was needed, and Will'm to cut it with the witch scissors every time Miss Santa Claus said “snip!” it was not long before half a dozen little wool cherries lay in her lap. Then they helped twist the yarn into cords on which to tie the balls, and watched with eyes that never lost a movement of her deft fingers, while she fastened the cords to the front of a red crocheted jacket, which she took from her suitcase.

“There!” she exclaimed, holding it up for them to admire. “That is to go in the stocking of a poor little fellow no larger than Willm. He ’s lame, and has to stay in bed all the time, and he asked Santa Claus to bring him something soft and warm to put on when he is propped up in bed to look at his toys.”

Out of a dry throat Libby at last brought up the question she had been trying to find courage for:

“Is Santa Claus your father?”

“No, but Father and Uncle Norse are so much like him that people often get them all mixed up, just as they do twins, and since Uncle Santa has grown so busy, he gets Father to attend to a great deal of his business. In fact, our whole family has to help. He could n’t possibly get around to everybody as he used to when the cities were smaller and fewer. Lately, he has been leaving more and more of his work to us. He ’s even taken to adopting people into his family so that they can help him. In almost every city in the world now, he has an adopted brother or sister or relative of some sort, and sometimes children not much bigger than you ask to be counted as members of his family. It ’s so much fun to help.”

Libby pondered over this news a moment before she asked another question: “Then does he come to see them and tell them what to do?”

“No, indeed! Nobody ever sees him. He just sends messages, something like wireless telegrams. You know what they are?”

Libby shook her head. She had never heard of them. Miss Santa Claus explained. “And his messages pop into your head just that way,” she added. “I was as busy as I could be one day, studying my algebra lesson, when all of a sudden, pop came the thought into my head that little Jamie Fitch wanted a warm red jacket, to wear when he sat up in bed, and that Uncle Santa wanted me to make it. I went down-town that very afternoon and bought the wool, and I knew that I was not mistaken by the way I felt afterward, so glad, and warm, and Christmasy. That's why all his family love to help him. He gives them such a happy feeling while they are doing it.

It was Will’m’s turn now for a question. He asked it abruptly, with a complete change of base:

“Did you ever see a stepmother?”’

“Yes, indeed! And Cousin Rosalie has one. She ’s Uncle Norse’s wife. I 've just been visiting them.”

“Has she got a tush?”

“A what?” was the astonished answer.

“He means tusk,” explained Libby. “All the cruel ones have ’em, Susie Peters says.”

“It ’s a tooth that sticks away out,” Will’m added eagerly, at the same time pulling his lip down at one side to show a little white tooth in the place where the dreadful fang would have grown, had he been the cruel creature in question.

“Mercy, no!” was the horrified exclamation. “That kind live only in fairy tales along with ogres and giants. Did n’t you know that?”

Will'm shook his head. “Me an’ Libby was afraid ours would be that way, and if she is, we 're going to do something to her. We ’re going to shut her up in a nawful dark cellar, or—or something.

Miss Santa looked grave. Here was a dreadful misunderstanding. Somebody had poisoned these baby minds with suspicions and doubts which might embitter their whole lives. If she had been only an ordinary fellow passenger, she might not have felt it her duty to set them straight. But no descendant of the family of which she was a member, could come face to face with such a wrong without the impulse to make it right. It was an impulse straight from the sky road. In the carol service in the chapel, the night before she left school, the dean had spoken so beautifully of the way they might all follow the star, this Christmas-tide, with their gifts of frankincense and myrrh, even if they had no gold. Here was her opportunity, she thought, if she were only wise enough to say the right thing!

Before she could think of a way to begin, a waiter came through the car, sounding the first call for dinner. Time was flying. She ’d have to hurry, and make the most of it before the journey came to an end. Putting the little crocheted jacket back into her suitcase and snapping the clasps, she stood up.

“Come on,” she said, holding out a hand to each. “We ’ll go into the dining-car and get something to eat.”

Libby thought of the generous supper in the pasteboard box which they had been told to eat as soon as it was dark, but she allowed herself to be led down the aisle without a word. A higher power was in authority now. She was as one drawn into a fairy ring.

Now, at last, the ride on the Pullman blossomed into all that Will'm had pictured it to be. There was the gleam of glass, the shine of silver, the glow of shaded candles, and himself at one of the little tables, while the train went flying through the night like a mighty winged dragon, breathing smoke and fire as it flew.

Miss Santa Claus studied the printed card beside her plate a moment, and then looked into her pocket-book before she wrote the order. She smiled a little while she was writing it. She wanted to make this meal one that they would always remember, and was sure that children who lived at such a place as the Junction had never before eaten strawberries on Christmas eve; a snow-covered Christmas eve at that. She had been afraid for just a moment, when she first peeped into her purse, that there was n't enough left for her to get them.

No one had anything to say while the order was being filled. Will'm and Libby were too busy looking at the people and things around them, and their companion was too busy thinking about something she wanted to tell them after a while. Presently, the steward passed their table, and Will'm gave a little start of recognition, but he said nothing. It was the same man whose locket he had found, and who had promised to tell Santa Claus about him. Evidently he had told, for here was Will'm in full enjoyment of what he had longed for. The man did not look at Will’m, however. He was too busy attending to the wants of impatient grown people to notice a quiet little boy who sat next the wall and made no demands.

Then the waiter came, balancing an enormous tray on one hand, high above his head, and the children watched him with the breathless fascination with which they would have watched a juggler play his tricks. It was a simple supper, for Miss Santa Claus was still young enough to remember what had been served to her in her nursery days, but it was crowned by a dish of enormous strawberries, such as Will’m had seen in the refrigerator of the car kitchen, but nowhere else. They never grew that royal size at the Junction.

But what made the meal one of more than mortal enjoyment, and transformed the earthly food into ambrosia of the gods, was that, while they sifted the powdered sugar over their berries, Miss Santa Claus began to tell them a story. It was about the Princess Ina, who had six brothers whom a wicked witch changed into swans. It was a very interesting story, the way she told it, and more than once both Libby and Will'm paused with their spoons half-way from berries to mouth, the better to listen. It was quite sad, too, for only once in twenty-four hours, and then just for a few moments, could the princes shed their swanskins and be real brothers again. At these times they would fly back to their sister Ina, and with tears in their eyes, beg her to help them break the cruel charm.

At last she found a way, but it would be a hard way for her. She must go alone, and in the fearsome murk of the gloaming, to a spot where wild asters grew. The other name for them is star-flower. If she could pick enough of these star-flowers to weave into a mantle for each brother, which would cover him from wing-tip to wing-tip, then they would be free from the spell as soon as it was thrown over them. But the flowers must be gathered in silence. A single word spoken aloud would undo all her work. And it would be a hard task, for the star-flowers grew only among briers and weeds, and her hands would be scratched with thorns and stung by nettles. Yet, no matter how badly she was torn or blistered, she must not break her silence by one word of complaint,

Now the way Miss Santa told that story made you feel that it was you and not the Princess Ina who was groping through the fearsome gloaming after the magic flowers. Once Libby felt the scratch of the thorns so plainly that she said “O-o-oh” in a whisper, and looked down at her own hands, half expecting to see blood on them. And Will'm forgot to eat entirely, when it came to the time of weaving the last mantle and there was n’t quite enough material to piece it out to the last wing-tip. Still, there was enough to change the last swan back into a real brother again, even if one arm never was quite as it should be; and when all six brothers stood around their dear sister, weeping tears of joy at their deliverance, Will’m’s face shone as if he had just been delivered from the same fate himself.

“Now,” said Miss Santa Claus, when the waiter had brought the bill and gone back for some change, “you must never, never forget that story as long as you live. I’ve told it to you because it ’s a true charm that can be used for many things. Aunt Ruth told it to me. She used it long ago. when she wanted to change Rosalie into a real daughter, and I used it once when I wanted to change a girl who was just a pretend friend into a real one. And you are to use it to change your stepmother into a real mother! I’ll tell you how when we go back to our seats.”

On the way back, they stopped in the vestibule between the cars for a breath of fresh air, and to look out on the snow-covered country, lying white in the moonlight. The flakes were no longer falling.

“I see the sky road!” sang out Will'm, in a happy sort of chant, pointing up at the glittering milky way. “Pretty soon the drate big reindeer 'll come running down that road!”

“And the Christmas angels,” added Libby, reverently, in a half-whisper.

“And there ’s where the star-flowers grow,” Miss Santa Claus chimed in, as if she were singing. “Once there was a dear poet who called the stars ‘the forget-me-nots of the angels.” I believe I ’ll tell you about them right now, while we 're out here where we can look up at them. Oh, I wonder if I can make it plain enough for you to understand me!”

With an arm around each child’s shoulder to steady them while they stood there, rocking and swaying with the motion of the lurching train, she began:

“It ’s this way: when you go home, probably there ’ll be lots of things that you won't like, and that you won’t want to do. Things that will seem as disagreeable as Ina’s task was to her. They won't scratch and blister your hands, but they ‘ll make you feel all scratchy, and hot, and cross. But if you go ahead as Ina did, without opening your lips to complain, it will be like picking a little white star-flower whose name is obedience. The more you pick of them the more you will have to weave into your mantle. And sometimes you will see a chance to do something to help her or to please her, without waiting to be asked. You may have to stop playing to do it, and give up your own pleasure. That will scratch your feelings some, but doing it will be like picking a big, golden star-flower whose name is kindness. And if you keep on doing this, day after day as Ina did, with never a word of complaint, the time will come when you have woven a big, beautiful mantle whose name is love. And when it is big enough to reach from ‘wing-tip to wing-tip,” you ’ll find that she has grown to be just like a real mother. Do you understand ?”

“Yes, ma'am,” answecred Libby, solemnly. Will'm did not answer, but the far-off look in his eyes showed that he was pondering over what she had just told them.

“Now we must run along in,” she said briskly. “It ’s cold out here.” Inside, she looked at her watch. It was after seven. Only a little more than an hour, and the children would be at the end of their journey. Not much longer than that, and she would reach hers. It had been a tiresome
day for both Libby and Will'm. Although their eyes shone with the excitement of it, the sandman was not far away. It was their regular bedtime, and they were yawning. At a word from Miss Santa Claus, the porter brought pillows and blankets. She made up a bed for each on opposite seats, and tucked them snugly in.

“Now,” she said, bending over them, “you ’ll have time for a nice long nap before your father comes to take you off. But before you go to sleep, I want to tell you one more thing that you must remember forever: you must always get the right kind of start. It 's like hooking up a dress, you know. If you start crooked, it will keep on being crooked all the way down to the bottom, unless you undo it and begin over. So if I were you, I ’d begin to work that star-flower charm the first thing in the morning. Remember you can work it on anybody if you try hard enough. And remember that it is true, just as true as it is that you 're each going to have a Christmas stocking!”

She stooped over each in turn and kissed their eyelids down with a soft touch of her smiling lips that made Libby thrill for days afterward, whenever she thought of it. It seemed as if some royal spell had been laid upon them with these kisses: some spell to close their eyes to nettles and briers, and help them to see only the star-flowers.

In less than five minutes, both Libby and Will'm were sound asleep, and the porter was carrying the holly wreaths and the red coat and the suit-case back to the state-room which had been vacated at the last stopping-place. In two minutes more, Miss Santa Claus had emptied her suitcase out on the seat beside her, and was scrabbling over the contents in wild haste. Tor no sooner had she mentioned stockings to the children, than pop had come one of those messages straight from the sky road, which could not be disregarded. Knowing that she would be on the train with the two children from the Junction, Santa Claus was leaving it to her to provide stockings for them.

It worried her at first, for she could n't sce her way clear to doing it on such short notice and in such limited quarters. But she had never failed him since he had first allowed her the pleasure of helping him, and she did n’t intend to now. Her mind had to work as fast as her fingers. There was n’t a single thing among her belongings that she could make stockings of, unless—she sighed as she picked it up and shook out the folds of the prettiest kimono she had ever owned. It was the softest possible shade of gray with white cherry blossoms scattered over it, and it was bordered in wide bands of satin the exact color of a shining ripe red cherry. There was nothing else for it, the lovely kimono must be shorn of its glory, at least on one side. Maybe she could split what was left on the other side, and reborder it all with narrower bands. But even if she could n’t, she must take it. The train was leaping on through the night. There was no time to spare.

Snip! snip! went the witch scissors, and the long strip of cherry satin was loose in her hands. Twenty minutes later two bright red stockings lay on the seat in front of her, bordered with silver tinsel. She had run the seams hastily with white thread, all she had with her, but the stitches did not show, being on the inside. Even if they had pulled themselves into view in places, all defects in sewing were hidden by the tinsel with which the stockings were bordered. She had unwound it from a wand which she was carrying home with several other favors from the german of the night before. The wand was so long that it went into her suitcase only by laying it in diagonally. It had been wrapped around and around with yards of tinsel, tipped with a silver-gauze butterfly.

While she stitched, she tried to think of something to put into the stockings. Her only hope was in the train-boy, and she sent the porter to bring him. But when he came, he had little to offer. As it was Christmas eve, everybody had wanted his wares, and he was nearly sold out. Not a nut, not an apple, not even a package of chewing-gum could he produce. But he did have, somewhere among his things, he said, two little toy lanterns, with red glass sides, filled with small mixed candies, and he had several oranges left. Earlier in the day he had had small glass pistols filled with candy. He departed to get the stock still on hand.

When the lanterns proved to be miniature conductor’s lanterns, Miss Santa Claus could have clapped her hands with satisfaction. Children who played train so much would be delighted with them. She thrust one into each stocking with an orange on top. They just filled the legs, but there was a dismal limpness of foot which sadly betrayed its emptiness. With another glance at her watch, Miss Santa Claus hurried back to the dining-car. The tables were nearly empty, and she found the steward by the door. She showed him the stockings and implored him to think of something to help fill them. Had n’t he nuts, raisins, anything, even little cakes, that she could get in a hurry?

He suggested salted almonds and after-dinner mints, and sent a waiter flying down the aisle to get some. While she waited, she explained that they were for two children who had come by themselves all the way from the Junction. It was little Will'm’s first ride on a Pullman. The words “Junction” and “Will’m” seemed to recall something to the steward.

“I wonder if it could be the same little chap who found my locket,” he said. “I took his name, intending to send him something Christmas, but was so busy I never thought of it again.”

The waiter was back with the nuts and mints. Miss Santa Claus paid for them, and hurriedly returned to the state-room. She had to search through her things again to find some tissue-paper to wrap the salted almonds in. They 'd spoil the red satin if put in without covering. While she was doing it the steward came to the door.

“I beg pardon, miss,” he said, ‘“but would you mind showing me the little fellow? If it is the same one, I ’d like to leave him a small trick I ’ve got here.”

She pointed down the aisle to the seat where Will'm lay sound asleep, one dimpled fist cuddled under his soft chin. After a moment’s smiling survey, the man came back.

“That ’s the kid, all right,”” he told her. “And he seemed to be so powerful fond of anything that has to do with a train, I thought it would please him to find this in his stocking.”

He handed her a small-sized conductor’s punch. “I use it to keep tally on the order cards,” he explained, “but I won’t need it on the rest of this run.”

“How lovely!” exclaimed Miss Santa Claus. “I know he ’ll be delighted, and I ’m much obliged to you myself, for helping me make his stocking fuller and nicer.”

She opened the magazine after he had gone, and, just to try the punch, closed it down on one of the leaves. Clip it went, and the next instant she uttered a soft little cry of pleasure. The clean-cut hole that the punch had made in the margin was star-shaped, and on her lap, where it had fallen from the punch, was a tiny white paper star.

“Oh, it will help him to remember the charm!” she whispered, her eyes shining with the happy thought. “If I only had some kind of a reminder for Libby, too!”

Then, all of a sudden came another message, straight from the sky road! She could give Libby the little gold ring which had fallen to her lot the night before in her slice of the birthday cake. There had been a ring, a thimble, and a dime in the cake, and she had drawn the ring. It was so small, just a child’s size, that she could n’t wear it, but she was taking it home to put in her memory book. It had been such a beautiful evening that she wanted to mark it with that little golden circlet, although, of course, it was n't possible for her to forget such a lovely time, even in centuries. And Libby might forget about the star-flowers unless she had a daily reminder.

She held it in her hand a moment, hesitating, till the message came again, “Send it! Then there was no longer any indecision. When she shut it in its little box. and stuffed the box down past the lantern and the orange and the nuts and the peppermints into the very toe, such a warm, glad Christmasy feeling sent its glow through her, that she knew past all doubting she had interpreted the sky road message aright.

Many of the passengers had left the car by this time, and the greater number of those who remained were nodding uncomfortably in their seats. But those who happened to be awake and alert, saw a picture they never forgot, when a lovely young girl, her face alight with the joy of Christmas love and giving, stole down the aisle and silently fastened something on the back of the seat above each little sleeper. It was a stocking, red and shining as a cherry, and silver-bordered with glistening fairy fringe.

When they looked again, she had disappeared, but the stockings still hung there, tokens which were to prove to those same little sleepers on their awakening that the star-flower charm is true.

For love indeed works miracles, and every message from the sky road is but an echo of the one the Christmas angels sang when first they came along that shining highway, the heralds of good-will and peace to all the earth.