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In Luck by Mrs. Zadel B. Gustafson


Lily De Koven was in luck. Luck, you know, is a word which stands for that which comes to you without your having done anything to get it for yourself; and as she had never done anything to bring about such results, I call it the good luck of little Lily De Koven that she had been born in a lovely home, to kind parents, and was growing up with all the most pleasant things of life around her. She had a little maid to braid her pretty yellow hair, lace her dainty boots, go up stairs and down stairs, or stay in her little lady's chamber dressing and making over the dresses of Lily's family of dolls.

One day, when Lily was not very well, and was lying in bed propped up by the pillows, her maid came in with a new doll, larger and handsomer than all the others.

Lily received the new doll calmly, for if it did not suit her she knew she could have another, so she had no cause for excitement. She looked it over carefully, touched the spring which made its eyes roll, drew off one of its tiny silk shoes and stockings, passed her hand over the lace train.

"I'll keep it," said Lily; "and now you bring me the whole family."

When all her dolls, little and big—all of them had been handsome in their day, but some of them were a little the worse for wear—were laid on the bed, she put the new one, with curling yellow hair almost exactly like her own, on the pillow beside her, and took up the others one by one.

"You can throw this one away," she said at last, holding out one which had a broken arm, and was leaking sawdust at the elbow; "I don't want but twelve children, anyway."

When her maid went out, Lily looked at her new doll, touched its hair and rich costume, but there was not any wonder in it for her; there had never been a time when she had not had as pretty dolls as money could buy; so Lily sighed and fell asleep almost immediately. Now Lily's maid left the disgraced doll on a chair in the kitchen, and there Mary the cook found it. It had on a pretty muslin dress and sash, and nice embroidered underwear, just like any fashionable young lady. It was Christmas week, and Mary had bought a doll to give to her little niece on Christmas-day, and seeing at once what a treasure this costume would be, she took it off, did it up as fresh as new, and made the doll she had bought look quite like a princess in it. So the old broken-armed doll had not a rag left of its former glory. But luck sometimes comes even to dolls.

Three days later, early in the cold morning, a little girl stood ankle-deep in the new-fallen snow in front of the grand house where Lily De Koven with her twelve waxen children lived.

This little girl was Biddy O'Dolan, and Biddy O'Dolan was in luck on this cold morning.

She had on nothing that you would call clothes; she had on duds. She had no parents and no home. She had some straw in a cellar, where other children who wore duds slept at night on other bunches of straw. She was a rag-picker and an ash girl, and sometimes was very hungry, and sometimes was beaten by other poor hungry wretches, who, because they were miserable, wanted to hurt somebody—not knowing any better—and so beat Biddy O'Dolan because there was no one to interfere. In spite of all these things, Biddy was sometimes merry, which I think is wonderful.


On this cold morning, in front of the wide stone steps of Lily De Koven's home, Biddy had found an ash can, and, poking over the ashes, had found and pulled out the very broken-armed doll which Lily had ordered to be thrown away, which Mary the cook had stripped of its fine robes, and which had last of all been swept up and put in the ash barrel, and so had come to the lowest possible condition of a once rich doll. Biddy held it out, and looked straight before her for a moment, at nothing in particular, in a kind of stupefied delight; for a doll, even such a doll as this, had never been in her little cramped, purple hands before. Then suddenly she tucked it in her breast, drew her dingy sacque around it tight, caught up her rag bag, and with a scared glance at the windows of Lily's fine home, she ran down the street.

Her heart beat so that it was like a little hammer striking quick blows against the breast of the doll. Biddy had never had anything to love, and from the moment she had got this doll hidden in her bosom she loved it, and I think she was in good luck to have found something which could bring her this dear feeling. And as for the doll, in its proudest days it had never been loved, and now, when forlorn and cast out, it had found a warm heart, and had come, if it could only have known it, into the best luck of its whole life.

I should like to tell you the whole story of Biddy O'Dolan—of what she did for the doll, and what the doll did for her; but to-day I want to call your attention to something else, and if you will heed my wish, I will heed yours, and soon tell you the rest of Biddy's story.

The good things that come to us have a way—which you will notice if you are observant—of seeming to connect themselves together in a circle of sweet thoughts and hopes, just as our friends might join hands and make a ring around us.

It was so with Biddy that day. As she ran on with her doll she was constantly thinking of something which she had hardly thought of since it had happened two years before. It was this: Biddy had been run over by a horse and cart, and carried, much hurt, to one of the New York hospitals for children. There she had been tenderly cared for, which was a great mystery to Biddy, and on Christmas morning she had waked up to find beautiful fresh Christmas greens on the wall at the foot of her little cot and around the window, and a lady standing in this window, while a little girl held out to Biddy a bunch of flowers that smelled as sweet as a whole summer garden.

Biddy had not understood the meaning of these things; she had only wearily noticed that the little girl was pretty, and not at all like her, and that the flowers and greens were "jolly." That day, when she fled with her doll, she thought of the hospital; and though she did not understand any better than before why there should be such great difference in the lives of little children, she for the first time felt that the lady and her little girl had been kind, had been sorry for her. So you see that even after so long a time as a whole year, a little seed of kindness may sprout in the heart; and don't you think, dear children of New York, you who have every day the good luck of health, happy homes, and pleasant things, that it would be delightful to bring just one taste of such luck to the little ones in the New York hospitals? Would you not like to blessedly surprise them on next Christmas morning? You know the best hospital in the world can not be like home with father and mother in it. But if you want to make the hospitals seem almost like home to the little children for a whole happy day, you can not begin too soon to look over all your little treasures, and choose all you can part with. You all have cast-off toys, story-books that have been read through, and boxes full of odds and ends, and it takes very little to brighten the face of a poor sick child lying alone in a hospital cot. A single pretty picture-card will do it. Then, too, you can save your pennies and dimes, so that before Christmas comes you can go into the stores and buy some of the books and playthings that children like best; and all of you who can must tie on your warm hoods and scamper away into the woods after the lovely prince's-pine and scarlet berries. All the pretty things you can gather to make bright the place where these other children stay will make your own Christmas one of the merriest you ever knew, for when you are pulling out the "goodies" from your plump bunchy stockings at home, you will like to think of so many other little eyes and hands and hearts brimful of the Christmas happiness which you have made.