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Will's face. I understand now what all their whisperings meant this afternoon. They were concocting this plan. I couldn't have believed it of them ?"

“ Children are curious bodies," said Mr. Smith.

“I thought I heard some one in the next room," I remarked, “ while you were out, and became really nervous for a while. I heard the breathing of some one near me, also; but tried to argue myself into the belief that it was only imagination.

Thus we conned over the little incident, while we arranged the children's toys.

“I know who Kriss Kringle is! I know !” was the triumphant affirmation of one and another of the children, as we gathered at the breakfast table next morning.

“Do you, indeed ?" said I, trying to look grave. 6 Yes; it is papa.

Papa, Kriss Kringle! How can that be ?” Oh, we know! We found out !" “ Indeed!"

And we made, of course, a great wonder of this assertion. The merry elves! What a happy Christmas it was for them. Ever since, they have dated from the time when they found out who Kriss Kringle was.

It is all to no purpose that we pleasantly suggest the possibility of their having dreamed of what they allege to have occurred under their actual vision; they have recorded it in their memories, and refer to it as a veritable fact.

Dear children! How little they really ask of us, to make them happy. Did we give them but

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a twentieth part of the time we devote to business, care, and pleasure, how greatly would we promote their good, and increase the measure of their enjoyment. Not alone at Christmas time, but all the year should we remember and care for their pleasures; for, the state of innocent pleasure, in children, is one in which good aflections are implanted, and these take root and grow, and produce fruit in after life.

G

CHAPTER I X.

NOT AT HOME.

NEVER but once did I venture upon the utterance of that little white lie, “Not at home," and then I was well punished for my weakness and folly. It occurred at a time when there were in my family two new inmates : a niece from New York, and a raw Irish girl that I had taken a few days before, on trial.

My niece, Agnes, was a young lady in her nineteenth year, the daughter of my brother. I ,

I had not seen her before since her school-girl days; and knew little of her character. Her mother I had always esteemed as a right-thinking, true-hearted woman. I was much pleased to have a visit from Agnes, and felt drawn toward her more and more every day. There was something pure and good about her.

Now, Aggy, dear,” said I to her, one morning after breakfast, as we took our work and retired from the dining-room to one of the parlors, where I was occasionally in the habit of sitting,

we must sew for dear life until dinner time, so as to finish these two frocks for the children to wear this evening. It isn't right, I know, to impose on you in this way. But you sew so quick and neatly; and then it will help me

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through, and leave me free to visit Girard College with you this afternoon."

“Don't speak of it, aunt,” returned Agnes.“ I'm never happier than when employed. And, besides, it's only fair that I should sew for you in the morning, if you are to go pleasuring with me in the afternoon.”

Lightly the hours flew by, passed in cheerful conversation. I found that the mind of my niece had been highly cultivated; that her tastes were refined, and her moral sense acute. To say that I was pleased with her, would but half express what I felt.

There was to be a juvenile party at the house of one of our acquaintances that evening, to which the children were invited; and we were at work in preparing dresses and other matters suitable for them to appear in.

Twelve o'clock came very quickly—too quickly for me, in fact; for I had not accomplished near so much as I had hoped to do. It would require the most diligent application, through every moment of time that intervened until the dinner hour, for us to get through with what we were doing, so as to have the afternoon to ourselves for the intended excursion.

As the clock rung out the hour of noon, I exclaimed: “Is it possible ! I had no idea that it so late.

How slowly I do seem to get along !"

Just at this moment the bell rung.

“ Bless me! I hope we are not to have visitors this morning,” said I, as I let my hands fall in

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my lap. I thought hurriedly for a moment, and then remarked, in a decided way:

“Of course we cannot see any one. engaged.”

By this time I heard the footsteps of Mary on her way from the kitchen, and I rally passed quickly to the parlor door to intercept and give her my instructions.

Say that I'm engaged,” was on my tongue. But, somehow or other, I had not the courage to give these words utterance. The visitor might be a person to whom such an excuse for not appearing would seem unkind, or be an offence. In this uncertain state, my mind fell into confusion. Mary was before me, and awaiting the direction she saw that I was about giving.

Say that I'm not at home, if any one asks to see me," came in a sudden impulse from my lips.

And then my cheeks flushed to think that I had instructed my servant to give utterance to a falsehood.

Yes, mim," answered the girl, glancing into my face with a knowing leer, that produced an instant sense of humiliation; and away she went to do my bidding

I did not glance towards Agnes, as I returned to my seat and took up my work. I had not the courage to do this. That I had lowered myself in her estimation, I felt certain.

I heard the street door open, and bent, involuntarily, in a listening attitude. The voice of a lady uttered my name.

“She's not at home, mim,” came distinctly on

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