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Adela Cathcart, Volume 2 by George MacDonald

There stood a girl about the size of Chrissy


"After

a few years, when Christmas began to be considered tolerably capable of taking care of herself, the vigilance of my uncle gradually relaxed a little. A month before her thirteenth birthday, as near as my uncle could guess, the girl disappeared. She had gone to the day-school as usual, and was expected home in the afternoon; for my uncle would never part with her to go to a boarding-school, and yet wished her to have the benefit of mingling with her fellows, and not being always tied to the button-hole of an old bachelor. But she did not return at the usual hour. My uncle went to inquire about her. She had left the school with the rest. Night drew on. My uncle was in despair. He roamed the streets all night; spoke about his child to every policeman he met; went to the station-house of the district, and described her; had bills printed, and offered a hundred pounds reward for her restoration. All was unavailing. The miscreants must have seen bills, but feared to repose confidence in the offer. Poor Uncle Peter drooped and grew thin. Before the month was out, his clothes were hanging about him like a sack. He could hardly swallow a mouthful; hardly even sit down to a meal. I believe he loved his Little Christmas every whit as much as if she had been his own daughter--perhaps more--for he could not help thinking of what she might have been if he had not rescued her; and he felt that God had given her to him as certainly as if she had been his own child, only that she had come in another
way. He would get out of bed in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, and go wandering up and down the streets, and into dreadful places, sometimes, to try to find her. But fasting and watching could not go on long without bringing friends with them. Uncle Peter was seized with a fever, which grew and grew till his life was despaired of. He was very delirious at times, and then the strangest fancies had possession of his brain. Sometimes he seemed to see the horrid woman she called her aunt, torturing the poor child; sometimes it was old Pagan Father Christmas, clothed in snow and ice, come to fetch his daughter; sometimes it was his old landlady shutting her out in the frost; or himself finding her afterwards, but frozen so hard to the ground that he could not move her to get her indoors. The doctors seemed doubtful, and gave as their opinion--a decided shake of the head.

"Christmas-day arrived. In the afternoon, to the wonder of all about him, although he had been wandering a moment before, he suddenly said--

"'I was born on Christmas-day, you know. This is the first Christmas-day that didn't bring me good luck.'

"Turning to me, he added--

"'Charlie, my boy, its' a good thing ANOTHER besides me was born on Christmas-day, isn't it?'

"'Yes, dear uncle,' said I; and it was all I could say. He lay quite quiet for a few minutes, when there came a gentle knock to the street door.

"'That's Chrissy!' he cried, starting up in bed, and stretching out his arms with trembling eagerness. 'And me to say this Christmas-day would bring me no good!'

"He fell back on his pillow, and burst into a flood of tears.

"I rushed down to the door, and reached it before the servant. I stared. There stood a girl about the size of Chrissy, with an old battered bonnet on, and a ragged shawl. She was standing on the door-step, trembling. I felt she was trembling somehow, for I don't think I saw it. She had Chrissy's eyes too, I thought; but the light was dim now, for the evening was coming on.

"All this passed through my mind in a moment, during which she stood silent.

"'What is it?' I said, in a tremor of expectation.

"'Charlie, don't you know me?' she said, and burst into tears.

"We were in each other's arms in a moment--for the first time. But Chrissy is my wife now. I led her up stairs in triumph, and into my uncle's room.

"'I knew it was my lamb!' he cried, stretching out his arms, and trying to lift himself up, only he was too weak.

"Chrissy flew to his arms. She was very dirty, and her clothes had such a smell of poverty! But there she lay in my uncle's bosom, both of them sobbing, for a long time; and when at last she withdrew, she tumbled down on the floor, and there she lay motionless. I was in a dreadful fright, but my mother came in at the moment, while I was trying to put some brandy within her cold lips, and got her into a warm bath, and put her to bed.

"In the morning she was much better, though the doctor would not let her get up for a day or two. I think, however, that was partly for my uncle's sake.

"When at length she entered the room one morning, dressed in her own nice clothes, for there were plenty in the wardrobe in her room, my uncle stretched out his arms to her once more, and said:

"'Ah! Chrissy, I thought I was going to have my own way, an die on Christmas-day; but it would have been one too soon, before I had found you, my darling."

END OF THE SECOND VOLUME


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