A Gift Without Its Giver
Morning: December 24, 1776, London, England
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An early snow had come upon the sleeping city of London, England. The branches on the leafless trees shivered in the chilly wind. Brick houses in neat rows stood quietly. The gray and white sky sprinkled shavings of snow. Its little flakes fell on a very unpretentious tent on one of the rooftops. At the entrance of this small tent, stood a small, lonely box, in white wrapper and a bright, silky, red bow.
“What is this?” asked the occupant of the tent, “A present?”
A girl, that was fourteen or fifteen or along there, slowly removed the attractive box from its place and set it down in before her. She examined it thoroughly, “No note.” She shook the box – not a sound. What was in it? Was it empty?
She opened the mysterious package. Inside was a yarn, dark blue-green scarf folded ever so neatly. She wrapped the scarf around her neck. “Bless Mike’s soul.” she thought. She slid her finger across the clean, white box. Grabbing the ribbon, she left the tent and sat at the edge of the roof with her legs hanging down. She watched the sleeping city come to life as she braided the ribbon into her hair.
The stores and shops began to open, houses began to show activity. Pretty soon it was like any other busy morning. The streets began to fill with wagons and buggies pulled by horses. People started to enter the stores, shops, and workshops. Orphans roamed the streets and alleys. As she watched she noticed a boy (about her age) on a roof slap a chimney sweep no older than six. The six-year-old boy was covered in soot and had a chimney brush in his hand.
It reminded her of a couple months ago when she saved a Mike from his abusive master. He had been sold by his poverty-stricken parents when he was only four. His sweep master got all the money while he forced to work for nothing. She got up and started to run – jumping from rooftop to rooftop.
Mike (who was now ten) had fortunately (with her help) acquired a job at a local playhouse during his period of freedom. She had promised to visit him this Christmas, but he didn’t know she was in the city yet. She swiftly climbed down a building, using the window sills as foot holds, and started to weave through the people.
She stopped in front of a store then walked in. An aroma of peppermint filled the air. She walked up to the counter and waited until the lady had finished helping her customers.
“Good morning, Caroline. How is your mother doing this morning?”
“She is well. Thank you. You are most likely looking for Father.”
She nodded her head.
“You will locate him in the workshop.”
Caroline sighed and pointed her to the workshop.
She walked in and knocked on the wall, “Uncle Monty!”
“Rooftop! How are you this evening.”
Rooftop (for this is our friend) smiled, “You always put a smile on someone’s face. Even when that someone is an orphan – rejected by everyone else.”
Uncle Monty was a fat, old, jolly man who knew a little thing or two about everything. He was like family to everyone, but especially to the orphans like Rooftop.
“What a fine scarf. How did you come across it?”
“I was a present and I believe I know who gave it to me.”
“Michael? The sweep boy?”
“He is no longer a sweep boy. I helped him find a job at the playhouse.”
“Well, that is certainly good to learn. How do you know it is from him?”
“This scarf is a blue-green color. Mike and William are the only ones (besides you) who know my favorite color is this shade.
And William hasn’t come back from his trip with his parents yet.”
“I see. Oh, your request came in recently.” Monty said with a smile.
Monty left and came back with a box. Rooftop smiled and grabbed the box. Suddenly she sniffed the air, “The scent of peppermint is undoubtedly strong?”
“Yes, I have been perfecting them for the past year. I have some that have hardened. Would you like some?”
“Yes, for Mike.” Rooftop went over to a bowl of assorted cookies and start stuffing the hot cookies into a towel.
Monty chuckled as he handed her some peppermint sticks, “Hungry?”
“Oh no, these are for Mike.”
“Then here take this.” Monty handed her a small, fur blanket.
“I ain’t takin’ that.” Rooftop quickly said, forgetting to use proper English.
“I cannot accept this.” Monty corrected, “And you are taking this. If you will not accept this – give it to Michael.”
“But it is too much.”
“Rooftop, you went through the trouble of going through thirty miles to tell me my mother was dreadfully ill.”
“Fine, I’ll take it.”
Rooftop left the store. The next day – Christmas Day, Rooftop ran through the crowds all the way to the playhouse. With everything in one arm, Rooftop went around to the back and peered through a frosted window. Ten-year-old Mike was in an unused room filled with his cleaning supplies for the playhouse. He was nibbling on a dry piece of brown bread with his back facing her.
Rooftop laid down the fur blanket and placed the box and then the basket filled with cookies and peppermint sticks on it. She grabbed a small rock and climbed up the building next to the playhouse then threw the rock down at the door.