These are real-life incidents. Miss Bell spent several days this Christmas month, as one of the employees-pro-tem of a large departmental store
DOROTHY G. BELLDecember151922
"SHALL I have Santa Claus send it?” inquired the Toyland saleswoman.
"No, of course not,” replied the five-year-old customer indignantly, “have it sent C.O.D.”
The little girl, under the guidance of her mother, had just purchased the largest and most expensive doll in the department store. The girl behind the counter wrote the address of one of the most palatial homes of the city on the C.O.D. slip and, with a keen sense of disappointment, watched the pair disappear into the seething mass of Christmas shoppers.
The charms of every doll in the department had failed to please this critical young lady.
“Is that all you have?” she had asked.
“I’m afraid that is the best we can do,” the girl had told her.
“Oh dear, I do like things how I like them, but I suppose this will have to do,” as she picked up a pink-cheeked doll. Then as a new thought came to her:
“Which is the most expensive?”
The girl had indicated a doll almost as big as the child herself.
“Then I want that," she had declared, quite decisively.
These two had bought and bought well, but the girl who served them seemed to sense failure.
“Get the Christmas spirit and instil it into your customers,” the manager of the children’s new gift department had said to her that morning. “The more of it they get, the better they’ll buy.”
This child and her mother had frigidly failed to catch that spirit, which the girl had tried to toss to them across the counter and which she herself, up to now, had felt.
Suddenly, quite tired out, she sank on a corner of a packing case. All around her were the sounds of Christmas revelry apparent in the toy department of the big store, but she failed to hear the unmusical squeak of newly-purchased tin horns, the demonstrating whizz of mechanical toys, the almost incessant popping of exploding balloons, the shuffling of hundreds of tiny feet or the high pitch of small excited voices. The whine of a discontented voice still rattled in her ears. Her eyes drifted out across the sea of shoppers to the far side of the toy department, to the newly-built partition that portrayed the snow-capped peaks of Santa’s mountain home, but they did not see it. They were filled with the vision of a cloudy, almost tearful face of a child who could find nothing among the thousands of gifts that could give her genuine joy.
A Christmas Tragedy
WITH a start she realized the tragedy of it. The phantom of Santa Claus and his prancing, fleet-footed reindeer were strangers in the life of this child. His well-filled sack of toys for good little boys and girls held no thrill for her, offered no enticement to win his notice.
She did not know the lure of a fireplace stocking, through which a legful of simple playthings must be gone through before the inevitable orange in the toe can be reached on Christmas morning. Her Christmas season lacked that mystery which is the most enviable part of Christmas. To this little girl it was simply a day when her father’s money loaded her with a few more gifts, most of which had lost their novelty and from which she was unable to derive much pleasure.
“Miss Santy”—for so she was known by the children who visited the store most, because she had always a bright word to say and a new toy or two to show them— was so engrossed in her thoughts that she did not hear, at first, a small voice beside her or notice a tousled head that reared itself just above the counter.
“Please ma’m,” the voice spoke again, “how much is dis here?”
Miss Santy got wearily to her feet and made her way toward the object on the counter indicated by the boy’s grubby forefingers, a sailor doll, in jaunty cap and full flaring trousers, which she had not yet put away from the last sale.
“Hope it ain’t no more’n a dollar, ’cause that’s all I got,” the voice went on, while the girl examined the tag.
“Yes, it is more than a dollar,” she replied, “It’s three.” Then absently:
“Guess you will have to find yourself some other kind of a Christmas present, sonny.”
The wistful brown eyes that had been so covetously glued to the doll filled with sudden fire.
“Say,” he said scornfully, “d’ye t’ink I’d quit eatin’ for t’ree days and take a lickin’ from Pop every night, jes’ to buy a doll for m’self?”
Then and not till then did Miss Santy look directly enough at her customer to note his wan cheeks and the dark circles under his deep eyes, full now of bitter disappointment.
“No, of course I don’t think that,” apologized Miss Santy quickly. “Won’t you tell me about it?'
“Well, there ain’t not’in’ to tell, ’ceptin’ Sis’ll cry an’ cry if she don’t get dat doll."
And the small boy, just to prove his own manliness, blinked his black eyes and dragged a ragged sleeve across his face.
Miss Santy encouraged him.
“Sis believes in Santy Claus,” he went on. “Of course she’s only small. When she don’ git not’in’ fer Christmas she jes tinks it’s ’cause he can’t fin’ our place. Last year she got sick and ever since she can’t walk. She likes boys much better’n girls an’ says she bets if she’d been a boy, she wouldn’t ’a’ got sick. Onct a guy what sells papers wid me, tole me a story ’bout a feller what run away to sea. I tole it to Sis and gee, she liked it an’ said she wished she had sum’thin’ what looked like a sailor to play wid, so she could talk to it and make up stories ’bout it. I tole her maybe Santy’d find us this year and bring her sum’thin’ like that. I jes’ can’t git no more’n a dollar, ’cause Pop, he won’t believe me no more, when I tell ’im how some guys swiped my paper money, or how I los’ it. An’ gee, he wallops sum’thin’ awful.”
There was a perceptible sniffle and the boy turned from the counter. Miss Santy picked up the tag on the doll again and examined it through a gathering mist.
“Boy,” she said, “if I haven’t made the stupidest mistake! Why this doll is only a dollar after all. The ‘one’ was smudged and it looked a bit like a three,” and quickly she snipped the price tag from the doll and hastily began to wrap it up. “Now, won’t Sis be tickled?”
“Oh, gee, yeh,” cried the boy, dazed by his good fortune. “Oh ain’t it good you found out in time,” and, releasing a crumpled dollar bill upon the counter and clutching his new treasure to him, he marched off triumphant.
Miss Santy wrote out a slip, pulled out a well-worn bag from beneath the counter, extracted a bill from it and rang up a three dollar sale on the cash register.
Pinched for Speeding
DING-A-LING, a-ling!” Miss Santy glanced up, conscious of something else about to happen in her busy life. There was an excited buzz. The crowd parted. A tiny tot, not more than three years old, dashed through the opening at break-neck speed, in a beautiful, selfpropelled, bright red automobile. His flying yellow curls and happy face proclaimed his utter abandon of the troubles that might be—probably would be—in store for him when mother caught up and the bright blue tag, streaming from the wheel, flaunted the still purchasable possibilities of the racing car.
Miss Santy stepped out from behind the counter and held up her hand.
“I’m the traffic cop,” she said. “You’re arrested for speeding.”
The youngster beamed his appreciation of the joke.
“Come on to jail with me. Let’s put the car back in the garage first, though, shall we?” And the adventuresome Barney Oldfield was piloted back to the motor car department and to the frenzied mother from whom he had escaped.
Mother, in her relief at finding the wayward one, was inclined to scold, but the girl who stood all day long behind the toy counter intervened.
“It’s just the Christmas Spirit,” she exclaimed.
As she threaded her way through the crowd, back to her counter, a small hand slipped itself into hers.
“Miss Santy,” whispered a childish voice, “Miss Santy, my mummie’s going to buy my Christmas present to-day.. She always buys me something useful. Please get her to get me something I can break. I wouldn’t like to ask her; it might hurt her feelings, but will you?”
“Just another form of Christmas spirit, a longing unfulfilled because it might hurt mother’s feelings,” said Miss Santy. I wish mothers understood as well as I do the value of cheap and breakable toys.”
And then one more worth-while incident happened in Miss Santy’s department that afternoon, that tugged again at heart and purse strings.
A little girl who had not seen many hard winters, because there were not half a dozen winters of any kind yet in her life, reached out a tremulous hand and fondly caressed the gaudily-painted face of a rag doll, which lay on the counter. As she caught Miss Santy’s eye, she drew hastily back her hand, and turned to go.
“It’s all right, dear, don’t go,’’ counselled Miss Santy. “Do you like it?”
“I should say I do. I love toys, but my mother always gives me stockings on Christmas.” A generous bystander overheard, intervened, and signalled the girl that he would pay for the doll. A glance at ragged shoes, through which there was an occasional flash of white flesh as the child walked away, hugging that rag doll to her breast, showed that such a gift as stockings was a needful one.
Christmas day, with its joys and its sorrows past, there still stalks tragedy through the aisles of the department store and it often presents itself in the form of an apologetic, almost tearful, mother, at the exchange wicket.
“Do you wish to get some other toy, madam?” is the formal query for the sake of that Department’s sales reputation.
“No, thank you,” comes the shaky reply, “I’d rather take it out in groceries.”
A BUSTLING, fussy, little man stepped hastily up to the show case and, fixing the eye of the sales girl behind it, demanded quite suddenly: “If you were my wife, what would you want for Christmas?”
The first shock over, the girl began to think of just what she would like and after viewing and discussing many possibilities the customer decided on a bead bag.
As the girl was making out her slip, the man went suddenly white. “My Heavens!” he whispered hoarsely, “I just remember now hearing my wife once say ‘Mrs. Robinson has taken to carrying one of those abominable bead bags!’ Thank you, thank you! I’m sorry. I’ll bring my wife to-morrow.” And the little man, quite overcome, bustled away.
Two women walked past a show case, in which fancy scarfs were being displayed. The eye of one was attracted to a particularly bright and finely-knitted one.
“I must get that scarf for George for Christmas,” she said.
“But, dearie, you know George simply despises that color. He won’t like it.” “Well, I like it and it’s a bargain too,” snapped the other and immediately completed the purchase.
The Christmas shopping period is a trying time for poor defenseless husbands and it takes a ready-made hero to enter into the Christmas Spirit after a bout of Christmas shopping with his wife.
I was making my escape down the stairway toward the end of one of several days spent making observations in the store. At the top of the first flight I passed a man—a wild man—his hands shoved deep into his pockets, scowling at the ground and pacing up and down. "Lost something?” I queried.
“Good Lord, yes—my wife,” he snapped, and just at that moment the good lady herself appeared.
“Dear, have I kept you waiting?” The woman’s syrupy tone drifted through the (banister gratings as I descended. “Sorry I couldn’t quite finish my shopping, because I ran out of money. . . .Thanks, dear. Now will you meet me in an hour, and make it the rest room, will you, so that I can sit down if you are late.”
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