Susy Diller's Christmas Feast by
"Please'm, only a penny. I'm most froze and starved!"
The carriage stood at the edge of the sidewalk, and Mrs. Linley was just
going out with her two children to buy some Christmas gifts. Nellie was
all scarlet and ermine, her sweet, happy face framed in with golden
curls, and Master Frank not a whit behind in elegance, though a trifle
more haughty, as you could tell by the wide distance he gave the
miserable little beggar.
"Get away!" said Mrs. Linley, with a disdainful sweep of the hand.
The woman and the child looked at each other—one of those glances that
stamp a face upon one's memory. Mrs. Linley was always afraid of street
trash. They might have fever, or small pox, or some other infection,
lurking in their rags.
The carriage drove on. The children were happy, generous, well-behaved,
and belonged to a Christian family. They were going to prove all this
now. Besides gifts for mama and papa, and some little cousins, half a
dozen poor children were to be remembered.
They spent all the pleasant, sunshiny middle of the day going from shop
to shop. What hosts of tempting things! A perfect Santa Clause revel
everywhere. It was like a glimpse of fairy-land.
Frank and Nellie laughed and talked, ran to mama with a hundred pretty
things, but did not tease.
They had quite a load in the carriage. And oh! wouldn't lame Johnny
Ashton be delighted with his books, and the wheel-chair mama had bought
him, and Susy Dorr would be the happiest of the happy in her new plaid
dress, and her teacups and saucers.
"Poor children love to play just as well as rich children, don't they,
mama?" said grave, sweet Nellie.
"I hope you will never forget, my dear, that we are all created alike,
and that all the poor little ones are just as precious in God's sight."
"And it is so nice to make them happy!"
Mrs. Linley gave her darling a smile.
"And Christ the Lord was born for everybody," Frank added in a
reflective manner. "My teacher told me so on Sabbath,—so that all
little children might be saved, and,—have a merry Christmas."
"Maybe they can't all have a merry Christmas. Some are very poor and
sick, and nobody seems to care for them—like the little beggar-girl who
stood watching us when we started. O mama! isn't it hard? What becomes
The sweet face was full of tender pity.
"God takes care of them, like the sparrows," said Frank.
Mrs. Linley did not answer. Already her heart condemned her, for after
all, she was a kind-hearted woman. She half expected to find the
wretched object on her doorstep. If so, she would try to make amends for
her harsh words. But she was not there.
When they returned home from shopping, they shivered with the cold and
ran to the register. Then papa came home, and they had the happiest
Christmas eve imaginable. Of course one cannot make one's charities go
all around the world, but Mrs. Linley thought she had stretched hers a
long distance. So she had. And yet she might have given the child at her
door a few pennies. But street-beggars were so often thieves!
Meanwhile the little beggar girl wandered on. For nearly a week she had
slept in the station-house and begged a little during the day, just
enough to keep body and soul together. She used to sell matches and
pins, but she had no capital to buy a new stock, and there were so many
in the trade. A month ago the old woman with whom she had lived died
suddenly. Then she had to live the best she could.
She went on asking now and then for a penny. Some gave the forlorn
little beggar a scowl, some did not even deign to look, and one or two
men spoke roughly to her. Oh! She was so hungry and so cold.
The bright sunshine did not seem to warm her a bit. She looked wistfully
into basement windows. She stared at the merry, happy children who ran
by in warm clothing. Her shoes were out to the ground; her tatters
flapped in the biting wind.
It was growing colder and colder. She ran along until she came to a
restaurant. Such a delightful, savory smell came through the grating,
and a faint warmth that was most grateful to her. Not a mouthful of
anything had she eaten since yesterday noon. People went along with
great market baskets full; men with bundles in their arms, girls and
boys with Christmas gifts,—all hurrying homeward.
"Move on, move on, there!" said the stern voice of a policeman.
What if she was arrested and sent to prison? She would have something to
eat. And the pain gnawing at her stomach was so hard to bear. There was
a jacket she might steal—the men around would be sure to see her. She
reached out her hand.
No, she couldn't. She never had been a thief. She remembered her mother,
who had died two years ago. The pretty lady getting into the carriage
had made her think of her! Oh! how good it was that the dear mother
could never be hungry again. And she had said, "Jennie, never tell a
lie, never steal."
She sat down on a doorstep and began to cry. It was very cold now, and
she was so chilled that the tears froze on her thin cheeks. She curled
herself up in the corner. If she could only get to sleep.
"Hillo!" said a cheerful voice, and some one shook her by the shoulder.
"You'll freeze to death here! It's pinching cold! You better run home."
"Lemme be. I haven't any home. And I was almost asleep. You've brought
all the old pain back."
Sturdy young Susy Diller, herself a poor working girl, dragged up the
forlorn little object and scanned the thin, blue face.
"Where have you been?"
"Station-houses and such," the child answered sullenly. "After old Molly
died, they turned me out. I hadn't any capital, so I had to go out of
trade. I've tried to beg—"
Susy stood considering. What would Granny say if she brought the poor
thing home? "Don't you ask another one to your Christmas party," she had
said already. "There won't be room for 'em to stand on one foot." Susy
drew her sleeve across her eyes. Somehow her heart had grown very tender
since she had been going to the mission school. A little scene flashed
into her mind: On Sabbath, Mr. Linley, the most splendid man in the
world, Susy insisted to Granny, had been explaining to the boys and
girls how even the Saviour of all the world had been houseless.
"I wish I'd been there!" said Susy bravely, "I'd a' took Him in."
"Susy," replied Mr. Linley, "when we do such a thing for the very
poorest and meanest, we do it for the Lord." And then he read the
beautiful commendation that the Saviour was to bestow at the last upon
those who did what they could in this world, picturing their blessed joy
and surprise as they said: "Lord, when saw we Thee hungry and fed Thee,
or sick and ministered unto Thee?" He had a way of making such vivid
pictures that the boys used to listen wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
So Susy had announced to Granny that she meant to give a Christmas
party, and repeated to her all the conversation at the Sabbath-school as
she always did.
"I thought you was going to get that nice new jacket? And you have just
"I'll wait two or three weeks for that," declared Susy. "You see it's so
much nicer on Christmas. I don't understand a bit how the Saviour did
come down to earth, but it seems good to think He was a little boy,
though He was a good sight better'n any of us. When you think of all
that, you can get kinder nigh to him, just as I do to Mr. Linley, our
"And maybe, if we ask in the poor and lame, He will look down and think
Susy Diller is trying to keep Christmas the right way. There'll be lame
Tim Jenkins,—you know he was run over by the street cars,—-and Humpy,
whose mother is dead, and the little Smith that I set up in the paper
business, and Kit Benner, who's been sick and lost his place, and—"
It was then that Granny had said: "Don't ask another one. There won't be
room enough for 'em to stand on one foot."
"And we'll have a rousin' turkey,—I know where I can get one real
cheap,—and cranberry sauce, and pickles, and mince pie. A regular
feast, and no mistake!"
But finally Susy had found two more; so now there were six of them. Susy
had work in a factory and took care of Granny, who was too old to do
much of anything, and was almost bent double with rheumatism. They had a
room on the second floor of a tumble-down barrack, and one small bedroom
out of it; but Granny thought it almost a palace, because Susy was so
good to her.
And now here was one more to share their Christmas dinner. What would
Granny say! But the young missionary did not stop long to consider the
matter,—here was a case of real suffering, and Susy's conscience
quickly adjusted itself—
"Come along," said Susy to the little vagrant, thinking somehow of the
Lord of all who had not where to lay His head.
"For maybe if He was here," she soliloquized, "we shouldn't be able to
tell Him from anyone else. And it's just—anybody."
Susy took the little estray by the arm, and hurried her along. Poor
little Jennie! her feet seemed hardly to touch the ground, they were so
cold and numb. She didn't much care even if she was being taken to the
But she wasn't. After a while she felt the warmth and heard the voices,
but she was so tired and sleepy that she dropped into a little heap
before the fire and only heard her young rescuer say:—
"Let her sleep, Granny; it'll do her more good than anything else."
"But, Susy, child, we can't take care of her all the time. And—"
Granny stopped there, looking into Susy's eyes.
"It's Christmas eve, Granny. I feel as if we ought to do something, even
if we have only a manger to take people into."
By and by, Jennie Morgan, the poor little waif, woke up, had some
supper, and told her story. It was like hundreds of others, only her
mother was a beautiful lady. She had seen some one in the street this
morning that looked just like her.
"She's smart and chipper, Granny, and she'll soon be better," said Susy.
Jennie's cheeks were very red the next morning, and her eyes very
bright; moreover, her voice had a curious tremble in it, but she
declared she was quite well. It was so delightful to be housed and warm,
and to have no great hungry pangs gnawing at her stomach.
Susy went out a while, and Granny prepared her turkey to roast. Poor
Jennie thought there never had been such a savory fragrance before.
It was a famous Christmas feast. There were lame Tim with a clean face,
and a new red necktie to do honor to the occasion; Humpy, as the little
fellow was called, who sold pins, tape, and shoe strings on the corner,
and had grown deformed from a bad fall; Kit Benner, looking white enough
and thin enough to frighten you; three others, and the little stray
Jennie Morgan, besides Granny, in a new cap and new calico gown.
Such a time as they had! They were so crowded around the table that
they had hardly elbow room. They made jokes, laughed, drank Granny's
health in the fragrant coffee, and were as happy as the happiest.
Meanwhile, over at Mr. Linley's they had a grand tree. Nellie, dressed
like a fairy, distributed the gifts, carefully laying aside those for
the poor. Of course they could not ask such people into their
festivities. It was honor enough to hang their gifts on their beautiful
tree. Then Mrs. Linley played, and they had some charming carols.
They had two or three songs sung also at Susy Diller's. Susy had learned
them at the mission school. Finally Jennie begged to lie down in the
corner by the stove, for she felt a little chilly, and her head was
"O Susy, won't you sing again?" she pleaded. "It's like heaven. Mother
used to tell me about it. And do you suppose that the Lord Jesus cares
for little girls who have to live on the street and sleep where they
can? Sometimes they can't help lying and stealing."
"Yes, He does care. Mr. Linley told me so. You see," and Susy laid her
forefinger in the palm of the other hand, "you see this is the way: He
puts the thought into other people's hearts, 'cause He isn't here any
more to do the work."
"Oh!" said Jennie slowly, and with a sage nod, "wouldn't it be good,
Susy, if He would put it into the hearts of rich folks? they could do so
"Sometimes He does. Look at the newsboys' dinner! And there's a good
Poor Jennie sighed a little. She could not make it out straight in her
The crowd went away presently, declaring that it was the jolliest sort
of a Christmas. They thanked Susy and Granny over and over again.
The next day was Sabbath. Susy begged Mr. Linley to come and see the
little sick girl at her house. And one way and another, the story of the
Christmas feast came out.
For Jennie, the little beggar girl, was very sick. Cold and hunger had
done their worst. It had been so hard and dreary since her mother died,
with no one to care for her, and to have to dodge around continually,
kicked and cuffed and almost starved. And if the Lord up above did
"She's a pretty sick little girl," said Susy, "but Granny and I will do
our best to pull her through."
Mr. Linley felt the pulse and shook his head. The fever was high and
there was no strength to battle with it.
And then he looked into Susy's great, wistful eyes, and was touched to
the heart. The child had learned the sweetest and noblest lesson of all.
She had gone out into the highway and hedges, she had gathered in the
lame and the halt and the blind.
"You see I've grown fond of her, a'ready," explained Susy. "I'd do
anything for her."
"I'm afraid it's too late. I will send in a doctor, and some delicacies
from the house."
"If you please, I'd rather not have you do the last. You see Granny
spoke a little cross at first, and now she's trying to make it all up to
her. She'll feel better if she does everything; and she's a good heart,
What a point of conscience here amid poverty and ignorance!
"The lessons have not all been on my side," said Mr. Linley to his wife
afterward. "The poor little factory girl has taught me something that I
shall never forget. To think of her going without her coat that she
might provide a dinner for some homeless, hungry children. I wish you
would go and see them, my dear." Mrs. Linley went with her husband.
Susy stared as if she had seen an angel. Granny dropped a curtesy, and
dusted a chair with her apron.
"Little Jennie," Susy whispered, "poor little girl, can't you open your
eyes a minute?"
She opened them—wider—wider. Then she rose a little and stared
around—stretched out her trembling hands toward Mrs. Linley, and
"O mother! mother! Susy said I should find you. I tried to be good, not
to lie or steal, though I was nearly starved. And Susy's been so—kind.
She brought me in—to the Christmas—dinner—"
Mrs. Linley caught the swaying form in her arms. The last words quivered
slowly on her lips and her eyes drooped. She remembered just where she
had seen the child, and a pang of bitter self-upbraiding pierced her
heart. She kissed the still lips for her mother's sake, and laid her
gently down. Had Susy and Granny entertained an angel unawares, while
her blind eyes had not been able to discern "the least of these?"
"Oh!" said Susy sobbing, "I'm so glad you came. I s'pose she thought it
was her own mother, for she has talked about her all the time. Poor
little girl! I shall always be thankful that I brought her in out of the
cold, though I never guessed she was going to die."
"The fame of your Christmas feast has gone up among the angels, Susy,"
said Mr. Linley reverently. "And now, my dear girl, have little Jennie
buried where you like, and bring the bill to me. I want a little share
in your good work."
Mr. and Mrs. Linley walked home quietly. Had her beautiful Christmas
tree borne any such fruit as this?
"For I was an hungered and ye fed me."