The Brick Moon and Other Stories HTML version
99 Linwood Street
A CHRISTMAS STORY
A gray morning, the deck wet, the iron all beaded with frost, all the longshoremen in
heavy pea-jackets or cardigans, the whole ship in a bustle, and the favored first-class
passengers just leaving.
One sad-looking Irish girl stands with her knit hood already spotted with the rime, and
you cannot tell whether those are tears which hang from her black eyelashes or whether
the fog is beginning to freeze there. What you see is that the poor thing looks right and
left and up the pier and down the pier, and that in the whole crowd--they all seem so
selfish--she sees nobody. Hundreds of people going and coming, pushing and hauling,
and Nora's big brother is not there, as he promised to be and should be.
Mrs. Ohstrom, the motherly Swedish woman, who has four children and ten tin cups and
a great bed and five trunks and a fatuous, feckless husband makes time, between cousins
and uncles and custom-house men and sharpers, to run up every now and then to say that
Nora must not cry, that she must be easy, that she has spoken to the master and the master
has said they are three hours earlier than they were expected. And all this was so kindly
meant and so kindly said that poor Nora brushed the tears away, if they were tears, and
thanked her, though she did not understand one word that dear Mrs. Ohstrom said to her.
What is language, or what are words, after all?
And the bright-buttoned, daintily dressed little ship's doctor, whom poor Nora hardly
knew in his shore finery,--he made time to stop and tell her that the ship was too early,
and that she must not worry. Father, was it, she was waiting for? "Oh, brother! Oh, he
will be sure to be here! Better sit down. Here is a chair. Don't cry. I am afraid you had no
breakfast. Take this orange. It will cheer you up. I shall see you again."
Alas! the little doctor was swept away and forgot Nora for a week, and she "was left
For one hour went by, and two, and three. The Swedish woman went, and the doctor
went, and the girl could see the captain go, and the mate that gave them their orders every
morning. The custom-house people began to go. The cabs and other carriages for the
gentry had gone long before.
And poor Nora was left lamenting.
Then was it that that queer Salvation Army girl, with a coal-scuttle for a bonnet, came up
again. She had smiled pleasantly two or three times before, and had asked Nora to eat a
bun. Poor Nora broke down and cried heartily this time. But the other was patient and
kind, and said just what the others had said. Only she did not go away. And she had the
sense to ask if Nora knew where the brother lived.