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    One Cent

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    Chapter 8
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    A CHRISTMAS STORY

    DOWN

    Mr. Starr rose very early that day. The sun was not up. Yet, certainly, it was too light to strike a match. Ah, Mr. Starr, a match may be an economy!

    So it was that when, as always, the keys jingled out from his trousers pockets upon the floor, and the money as well, one cent rolled under the bureau unseen by Mr. Starr. He went down to his work now, after he had gathered up the rest of the money and the keys, and answered yesterday's letters.

    Then, of course, he could loiter over his breakfast.

    But not too long. Clara, his wife, was in good spirits, and the boys were very jolly, but Mr. Starr, all the same, did the duty next his hand. He "kissed her good-by," and started down-town. Edgar stopped, him to ask for fifty cents for his lunch; the postman wanted fifteen for an underpaid parcel; Susan, the maid, asked for ten for some extra milk; and then he kissed his hand to the parlor window, and was off.

    No! He was not off.

    For Clara threw up the window and waved her lily hand. Mr. Starr ran back to the door. She flung it open.

    "My dear John, here is your best coat. That coat you have on has a frayed button. I saw it yesterday, and I cannot bear to have you wear it at the Board."

    "Dear Clara, what a saint you are!" One more kiss, and Mr. Starr departed.

    And loyally he did the duty next his hand. He stopped and signed the sewerage petition; he looked in on poor Colt and said a cheerful word to him; he bade Woolley, the fruit man, send a barrel of Nonesuches to old Mrs. Cowen; he was on time at the Board meeting, took the chair, and they changed the constitution. He looked in at the office and told Mr. Freemantle he should be late, but that he would look at the letters when he came back, and then, ho! for East Boston!

    If only you knew, dear readers, that to East Boston you must go by a ferry-boat, as if it were named Greenbush, or Brooklyn, or Camden.

    As Mr. Starr took the street car after he had crossed the ferry, to go into the unknown parts of East Boston, he did notice that he gave the conductor his last ticket. But what of that? "End of the route" came, and he girded his loins, trudged over to the pottery he was in search of, found it at last, found the foreman and gave his orders, and then, through mud unspeakable, waded back to the street car. He was the only passenger. No wonder! The only wonder was that there was a car.

    "Ticket, sir," said the conductor, after half a mile.

    MR. STARR (SMILING). I have no ticket, but you may sell me a dollar's worth. (FEELS FOR POCKETBOOK.) Hello! I have not my pocketbook; changed my coat.

    CONDUCTOR (SAVAGELY). They generally has changed their coats.

    MR. STARR (WITH DIGNITY, OFFERING A FIVE-CENT NICKEL). There's your fare, man.

    CONDUCTOR. That won't do, mud-hopper. Fare's six cents.

    MR. STARR (WELL REMEMBERING THE CENT, WHICH IS, ALAS UNDER THE BUREAU, AND GROVELLING FOR IT IN BOTH POCKETS). I have a cent somewhere.

    CONDUCTOR (STOPPING CAR AND RETURNING FIVE-CENT PIECE). We've had enough of you tramps who change your coats and cannot find your pennies. You step off--and step off mighty quick.

    Mr. Starr declines; when they come to Maverick Square he will report the man to the superintendent, who knows him well. Slight scuffle. Mr. Starr resists. Conductor calls driver. Mr. Starr is ejected. Coat torn badly and hat thrown into mud. Car departs.

    TABLEAU.

    SCENE II

    UP

    (MUDDY STREET IN EAST BOSTON. Mr. STARR, WIPING HIS HAT WITH HIS HANDKERCHIEF, SOLUS.)

    MR. STARR. If only Clara had not been so anxious about the Board meeting! (EYES FIVE-CENT PIECE.) Where can that penny be? (SEARCHES IN POCKETS, IS SEARCHING WHEN--) (ENTER R. H. U. E. SPAN OF WILD HORSES, SWIFTLY DRAGGING A CARRYALL. IN THE CARRYALL TWO CHILDREN SCREAMING. SPEED OF HORSES, 2.41.)

    MR. STARR. Under the present circumstances life is worthless, or nearly so. Let me bravely throw it away!

    (RUSHES UPON THE SPAN. CATCHES EACH HORSE BY THE BIT, AND BY SHEER WEIGHT CONTROLS THEM. HORSES ON THEIR METTLE; Mr. Starr ON HIS. ENTER, RUNNING, JOHN CRADOCK.)

    JOHN CRADOCK. Whoa, whoa! Ha! they stop. How can I thank you, my man? You have saved my children's lives.

    MR. STARR (STILL HOLDING BITS). You had better take the reins.

    John Cradock mounts the seat, seizes reins, but is eager to reward the poor, tattered wretch at their heads. Passes reins to right hand, and with left feels for a half eagle, which he throws, with grateful words, to Mr. Starr. Mr. Starr leaves the plunging horses, and they rush toward Prescott Street. (EXEUNT JOHN CRADOCK, HORSES AND CHILDREN.)

    Half amused, half ashamed, Mr. Starr picks up the coin, which he also supposes to be half an eagle.

    It proves to be a bright penny, just from the mint.

    Mr. Starr lays it with delight upon the five-cent nickel. (ENTER A STREET CAR, L. H. L. E. Mr. STARR WAVES HIS HAND WITH DIGNITY, AND ENTERS CAR. PAYS HIS FARE, SIX CENTS, AS HE PASSES CONDUCTOR.)

    In fifteen minutes they are at Maverick Square. Mr. Starr stops the car at the office of Siemens & Bessemer, and enters. Meets his friend Fothergill.

    FOTHERGILL. Bless me, Starr, you are covered with mud! Pottery, eh? Runaway horse, eh? No matter; we are just in time to see Wendell off. William, take Mr. Starr's hat to be pressed. Put on this light overcoat, Starr. Here is my tweed cap. Now, jump in, and we will go to the "Samaria" to bid Wendell good-by.

    And indeed they both found Wendell. Mr. Starr bade him good-by, and advised him a little about the man be was to see in Dresden. He met Herr Birnebaum, and talked with him a little about the chemistry of enamels. Oddly enough, Fonseca was there, the attache, the same whom Clara had taken to drive at Bethlehem. Mr. Starr talked a little Spanish with him. Then they were all rung onshore.

    TABLEAU: DEPARTING STEAMER. CROWD WAVES HANDKERCHIEFS.

    SCENE III

    CHRISTMAS--THE END

    At Mr. Starr's Christmas dinner, beside their cousins from Harvard College and their second cousins from Wellesley College and their third cousins from Bradford Academy, they had young Clifford, the head book-keeper. As he came in, joining the party on their way home from church, he showed Mr. Starr a large parcel.

    "It's the 'Alaska's' mail, and I thought you might like to see it."

    "Ah, well!" said Mr. Starr, "it is Christmas, and I think the letters can wait, at least till after dinner."

    And a jolly dinner it was. Turkey for those who wished, and goose for those who chose goose. And when the Washington pie and the Marlborough pudding came, the squash, the mince, the cranberry-tart, and the blazing plum-pudding, then the children were put through their genealogical catechism.

    "Will, who is your mother's father's mother's father?"

    "Lucy Pico, sir!" and then great shouting. Then was it that Mr. Starr told the story which the reader has read in scene one,--of the perils which may come when a man has not a penny. He did not speak hastily, nor cast reproach on Clara for her care of the button. Over that part of the story he threw a cautious veil. But to boys and girls he pointed a terrible lesson of the value of one penny.

    "How dangerous, papa, to drop it into a box for the heathen!"

    But little Tom found this talk tiresome, and asked leave to slip away, teasing Clifford as he went about some postage-stamps Clifford had promised him.

    "Go bring the parcel I left on the hall table, and your papa will give you some Spanish stamps."

    So the boy brought the mail.

    "What in the world is this?" cried Mr. Starr, as he cut open the great envelope; and more and more amazed he was as he ran down the lines:--

    "'Much Esteemed and Respected Senor, Don JOHN STARR, Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece:

    "'SENOR,--It is with true yet inexpressible satisfaction that I write this private note, that I may be the first of your friends in Madrid to say to you that the order for your creation as a Knight Companion of the much esteemed and truly venerable Order of the Golden Fleece passed the seals of the Chancellerie yesterday. His Majesty is pleased to say that your views on the pacification of Porto Rico coincide precisely with his own; that the hands of the government will be strengthened as with the force of giants when he communicates them to the very excellent and much honored governor of the island, and that, as a mark of his confidence, he has the pleasure of sending to you the cordon of the order, and of asking your acceptance.'

    "My dear Lady Dulcinea del Toboso, that is what came to you when that Cradock man threw a cent into the mud for me."

    "But, papa, what are the other letters?"

    "Oh, yes, what are they? Here is English; it's from Wendell. H'm--h'm--h'm. Shortpassage. Worcestershire-- h'm--Wedgewood--h'm--Staffordshire--h'm. Why, Clara, George, listen:

    "'I suppose you will not be surprised when I say that your suggestion made on the deck of the 'Samaria,' as to oxalate of strontium, was received with surprise by Herr Fernow and Herr Klee. But such is the respect in which suggestions from America are now held, that they ordered a trial at once in the Royal kilns, the result of which are memoranda A and B, enclosed. They are so much delighted with these results that they have formed a syndicate with the Winkels, of Potsdam, and the Schonhoffs, of Berlin, to undertake the manufacture in Germany; and I am instructed to ask you whether you will accept a round sum, say 150,000 marks, for the German patent, or join them, say as a partner, with twenty per cent of stock in their adventure.'

    "I think so," said Mr. Starr. "That is what the bright penny comes to at compound interest. Let us try Birnebaum's letter."

    "'GOTTFRIEED BIRNEBAUM to JOHN STARR:

    "'MY HONORED SIR,--I am at a loss to express to you the satisfaction with which I write. The eminently practical suggestions which you made to me so kindly and freely, as we parted, have, indeed, also proved themselves undoubtedly to be of even the first import. It has to me been also, indeed, of the very first pleasure to communicate them, as I said indeed, to the first director in charge at the works at Sevres, as I passed through Paris, and now yet again, with equal precision also and readiness, to the Herr first fabricant at Dresden. Your statement regarding the action of the oxides of gold, in combination with the tungstate of bdellium, has more than in practice verified itself. I am requested by the authorities at Dresden to ask the acceptance, by your accomplished and highly respected lady, of a dinner-set of their recent manufacture, in token small of their appreciation, renewed daily, of your contribution so valuable to the resources of tint and color in their rooms of design; and M. Foudroyant, of Sevres, tells me also, by telegraph of to-day, that to the same much esteemed and highly distinguished lady he has shipped by the 'San Laurent' a tea-service, made to the order of the Empress of China, and delayed only by the untoward state of hostilities, greatly to be regretted, on the Annamite frontier.'"

    Mr. Starr read this long-winded letter with astonishment.

    "Well, Dulcinea, you will be able to give a dinner- party to the King of Spain when he comes to visit you at Toboso.

    "So much for Brother Cradock's penny."

    "Dear John, till I die I will never be afraid to call you back when your buttons are tattered."

    "And for me," said little Jack, "I will go now and look under the bureau for the lost cent, and will have it for my own."

    (ENTER SERVANTS, R. H. L. E., I WITH THE DRESDEN CHINA.

    THEY MEET OTHER SERVANTS, L. H. L. E., WITH THE SEVRES CHINA.)

    TABLEAU.

    CURTAIN.
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