The Thin Little Lonely One

Annie Hamilton Donnell

From The Girl's Own Paper and Woman's Magazine Dec 1916, Volume 38, Page(s) 140


Drawn by Gordon Browne.


It had never occurred to Timothy to boast that he had seen more Christmas trees than any other twelve-year-old boy in the country. For one thing, Timothy was not a boaster, and for another, the kind of Christmas trees that he had seen had looked very much like any other trees. They had not been Christmasy Christmas trees — no tinsel or glitter or colour, and not a single present on them.

This year Timothy felt a good deal more than twelve years old. Importance oozed out of him, for he was to cut all the trees himself, undictated to and unwatched.

Mr. Stokes, the man Timothy lived with (and, incidentally, worked for), had broken his leg a week or two before tree-cutting time, and his rough wood was no place for a man on crutches. It was not to be thought of that the usual sale of Christmas trees be omitted. Simon Stokes never omitted a chance to make money. For years he had sent a certain number of shapely little trees to the nearest town to be trimmed and lighted and laden with gifts for little children, though the trimming and lighting and little children did not form any part of Simon Stokes' plans. He even did not know that a child lived with him. Timothy was only Timothy.

“Now, see you pick out a good one for the orphanage. They pay especial high for a good one, them ladies do. Last year's weren't big enough to suit 'em. There's a tree up other side o'—”

“I know! I know!” Timothy interrupted eagerly. Hadn't he already picked out the “Orphanage Tree”? For some reason that Timothy did not quite understand, the orphanage Christmas trees interested him most, and especially this year. Why, he really would be sending that tree to the orphans! He would pick it out and patiently hack at its trunk with his lean little arms, and bind its branches to its sides, and make a neat bundle of it — that was doing something toward sending a tree!

“I know exactly the one,” Timothy said. “I know those rich ladies 'll like that one — it's just as even-looking all round — when it's all trimmed up.”

Timothy had a mental vision of the orphans' tree “all trimmed up.” It was a beautiful vision, if a little unlike the reality, for Timothy had never seen an actual one. There were hundreds of little oil lamps lighting Timothy's vision-tree.

It was mid-December, but almost spring-mild. Or perhaps it was the warm little wave of excitement that made the day so comfortable to Timothy. He wore his raggedly old sweater unbuttoned, and even forgot the upper button of his flannel shirt.

“This is a nice day to cut Christmas trees,” beamed Timothy. “I'll leave the orphan tree till last, so's to have it to look ahead to. I'll begin with just common Christmas trees.”

Those were thrilling enough, but of course not to hold a candle — a Christmas tree candle — to the tree for little orphans!

In the night a clever idea had come to Timothy. It had grown and grown until now it was a big idea. He carried it about with him all the time he was selecting and sawing and binding up. Perhaps it was that idea that made Timothy so warm. Anyway, he hugged it up to him and kept getting better and better acquainted with it. By the time he got to the orphan tree how he liked that idea!

“I'll do it!” Timothy said aloud. Saying thoughts aloud makes them kind of vows. The beautiful idea was to trim this tree he was going to send the orphans.

The Orphan Tree Timothy did not tie up into a big bundle, like the rest. Not yet — how could he until it was trimmed? He hurried back to the old farmhouse that he had called home for five years, ever since Simon Stokes had discovered working possibilities in the tiny boy's wiry little body and had offered to adopt him.

Up in the room under the eaves where the idea had been born, Timothy went to work on it. He got out his jackknife and bits of wood and sandpaper. Somewhere in the boy's active brain a wonder-working talent lay, and at its bidding Timothy, in his few leisure hours, whittled and sandpapered crude little works of art. Never mind what they might have been under more favourable circumstances, they were really remarkable little toys now. A set of doll's furniture was made and only needed to be packed. There was a tiny cradle, too, that a little unknown girl-orphan's doll could lie in. Timothy had spent a good deal of time making that diminutive cradle; its rockers were fastened cleverly to the bottom with wooden pegs of Timothy's own devising.

But these things were not enough to trim a tree. There must be one more, anyway, and Timothy decided it must be a very-little-child toy. He wanted an assortment of ages.

Bears — blacksmith bears — that was what! There was just time to make them if he hurried.

He had seen a toy like this once in the town in a special “Christmas display”; he knew how to make a better one! The bears should look like bears; they were to be arranged so that by pulling apart and pushing together two wooden levers they would beat upon a little wooden anvil with two tiny wooden hammers. Up and down — up and down — the blacksmith bears should pound industriously.

Timothy worked fast and eagerly. Little red happy spots blossomed out on his cheeks. He had never “trimmed” a tree before — it was great.

The three “trimmings” finished, and carefully wrapped up to make them mysterious, Timothy ticketed them. He cut out of a box cover three neat little cards and wrote on them: For the Thinnest One, For the Littlest One, For the Loneliest One.

The spelling was carefully correct. Timothy looked up “thinnest” in Mr. Stokes' ancient dictionary, to make sure of the right number of n's. The cradle was for the Thinnest One. The chairs and table looked sociable and the Loneliest One would like that. And of course, the Littlest One would like bears.

He took the toys down to the wood and fastened them securely in the undermost branches of the orphan tree, out of sight to casual notice. Then he bundled the tree and tied it. The two happy spots were still in his cheeks and two happy lights shone in his eyes. All around, under and over, were freckles and tough brown skin, but those little lights and spots made plain little Timothy handsome. For the first time in his twelve years of life he felt of importance in the world.

“I hope the bears 'll work all right,” Timothy thought as he went back to the house. Oh, but they would — he knew those bears! The Littlest One would only have to do his part.

The trees were duly taken to the town and distributed. On the day before Christmas a number of ladies assembled in the committee room of the orphanage to trim the Christmas tree. How could they know it was already trimmed?

“It is a beauty this year!” Alicia Wellington exclaimed admiringly, as the shapely branches opened out. “Not much like last year's. I think the Lord planted this one for a little orphans' tree!”

“Speaking of orphans,” one of the other ladies said, “when are you going to adopt one, as you once said you would, Alicia? You haven't given up the idea, have you?”

“Oh, no, don't give it up, Alicia! You would make such a darling mother,” chimed in another voice. “You really must choose one.” The voice had the sound of a mother in it. Alicia turned quickly.

“What do you know about choosing, Elinor West? Your little sons did not have to be chosen.”

“No,” laughed the voice, “I had to take them just as they were! Thomas Two now — I had to take him, little red head and all. Oh, Alicia,” the mother-voice softened, “choose one, dear, choose one! You are losing so much. Come home with me to-night and watch Thomas Two hang up his stocking.”

“Don't,” interposed Alicia, “you hurt! I have never given it up, Elinor; but I haven't found him yet. Don't you see? I love every little one of them in this big house; but there isn't any of them the right one. I can't help believing I shall recognise mine.”

“Perhaps,” nodded Elinor. In her heart she was thanking the Lord that He had chosen hers for her.

The work of unpacking bundles and assorting gay decorations preparatory to putting them in place on the tree went on rather silently. Then Alicia, who was bending the tree-branches back into position, uttered a soft little cry. She had discovered that the orphan tree was already trimmed. One at a time she read the dangling little cards.

“Oh!” softly cried Alicia. Her throat suddenly contracted and tears sprang to her eyes. She would not disclose her find to the others — not for a minute. She wanted those little cards to herself. She knew — she knew! Some inner mother voice told her that a thin little lonely one had written those cards. She read it — in the painful, cramped little words.

Very gently, all by herself, she unwrapped the three bundles and studied the cleverly constructed contents. A child had made them, and a child who was little and lonely and thin. Alicia gazed through her tears, a throbbing ache in her heart. What had happened to her? Had she found hers?

“See,” she said quietly, a moment later, “see what I have found, will you? Someone has sent three little orphans a present. The dearest little things! I mean to find out who it was.”

The others examined and admired. The mother-one thrilled. “Why,” she said, “the trees come from the same place every year. It ought to be easy to find out where from. Ask the superintendent, Alicia. I'm sure somebody said the trees were brought to town in a wagon, so it can't be very far — where's Alicia? I'm talking to her!”

Alicia had already gone to find the superintendent. He was not in his office and she had to wait. Waiting was not easy to Alicia. She went back reluctantly to join the other women. All the morning her mind dwelt on the “Thin Little Lonely One!” Could it be she had created him entirely out of her own fancy? No — no — somewhere she would find him!

“If it was a child that made those darling little toys, and Alicia's sure it is, then he ought to come to this tree,” Elinor West declared with emphasis. “We must find out somehow before to-night. If you could go in your car, Alicia — you haven't any little stockings to hang up. I mean go wherever the superintendent says the tree came from, and see if it was a child —”

“I know, I am going,” Alicia said quietly. She and her swift car would find that Thin Little Lonely One in time.

The superintendent himself did not know, but he made inquiries. Simon Stokes' farm was the place, ten miles out. He was the man that had supplied their Christmas tree every year for nobody knew how long.

To the farm of Simon Stokes went Alicia in her car. She was curiously impatient. What was she to find? All the way she fluttered her hands nervously in her big muff. Alicia the Calm — excited!

It was Timothy who answered her knock on the weather-worn old front door — thin and little and lonely-looking Timothy! She recognised him at once. When she had made known her errand and, astonished and thrilled, little Timothy had hurried away to put on his best clothes for the orphans' tree, Alicia turned to Simon Stokes.


Drawn by Gordon Browne.


“Are you his — does he belong to you?” she asked. But she knew she had read in Timothy's face that he did not belong.

“If anyone — if I should find a home for him, where he could be sure of — of love and of being educated — you would not make any objection, would you, Mr. Stokes?”

It was Christmas time o' year — was that why Simon Stokes answered he would not stand in the boy's way? Let her find the boy that kind of a home if she could — Timothy was a good boy — mebbe he'd ought to have a better chance — mebbe 'twas only right.

So it came about that for the first time the boy who had seen so many Christmas trees saw a Christmasy one, aglow with colour and lights and gifts. And he had gifts, too. His empty little cup suddenly ran over. But something bigger was hung on the orphan tree for this Thin Little Lonely One — a home and mother-love.