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It Was the Same Christmas Morning

A Christmas Story for Girls

In Philadelphia the rich and the poor live cheek by jowl—or rather, back to back. Between the streets of the rich and parallel to them, run the alleys of the poor. The rich man's garage jostles elbows with the poor man's dwelling.

In a big house fronting on one of the most fashionable streets lived a little girl named Ethel. Other people lived in the big house also, a father, a mother, a butler, a French maid, and a host of other servants. Back of the big house was the garage. Facing the garage on the other side of the alley was a little, old one-story-and-a-half brick house. In this house dwelt a little girl named Maggie. With her lived her father who was a labourer; her mother, who took in washing; and half a dozen brothers, four of whom worked at something or other, while the two littlest went to school.

Ethel and Maggie never played together. Their acquaintance was simply a bowing one—better perhaps, a smiling one. From one window in the big playroom which was so far to one side of the house that Ethel could see past the garage and get a glimpse of the window of the living-room in Maggie's house, the two little girls at first stared at each other. One day Maggie nodded and smiled, then Ethel, feeling very much frightened, for she had been cautioned against playing with or noticing the children in the alley, nodded and smiled back. Now neither of the children felt happy unless they had held a pantomimic conversation from window to window at some time during the day.

It was Christmas morning. Ethel awoke very early, as all properly organized children do on that day at least. She had a beautiful room in which she slept alone. Adjacent to it, in another room almost as beautiful, slept Celeste, her mamma's French maid. Ethel had been exquisitely trained. She lay awake a long time before making a sound or movement, wishing it were time to arise. But Christmas was strong upon her, the infection of the season was in her blood. Presently she slipped softly out of bed, pattered across the room, paused at the door which gave entrance to the hall which led to her mother's apartments, then turned and plumped down upon Celeste.

"Merry Christmas," she cried shaking the maid.

To awaken Celeste was a task of some difficulty. Ordinarily the French woman would have been indignant at being thus summarily routed out before the appointed hour but something of the spirit of Christmas had touched her as well. She answered the salutation of the little girl kindly enough, but as she sat up in bed she lifted a reproving finger.

"But," she said, "you mus' keep ze silence, Mademoiselle Ethel. Madame, vôtre maman, she say she mus' not be disturb' in ze morning. She haf been out ver' late in ze night and she haf go to ze bed ver' early. She say you mus' be ver' quiet on ze Matin de Noël!"

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