Now she leaned against a wall, exhausted. None of this seemed as bad to her as the loss of Mary. The doll had become her contact with anything left of love and warmth and laughter. For the first time she could remember, tears rolled down her cheeks, and she began to cry.
Another bag lady came by, one Meg had sometimes talked to on warmer days when they could take a break and sit in the park. She was alarmed to see Meg crying, and stopped to ask what was wrong.
With great effort, between sobs and sniffles, Meg told her the story of the doll and all she meant.
“Oh God”, the other woman said, “how I wish I could help! But I just aint got any money—made some today, but I ate and bought some for tomorrow, because I can’t count on anything. You know.” She put her arm around Meg and patted her.
It was almost Christmas. The two women had not even noticed they were standing near the front of a big department store, where people on their way home were coming out and waiting for taxis. An old gentleman, dressed in fine clothes and carrying shopping bags laden with fancy wrapped gifts, had listened to Meg tell the story of the doll. It just happened that he had once been a very poor child, and he remembered a train he had been given for Christmas, which he had lost when he was sent to an orphanage. He stepped over to Meg.
“Excuse me, Ma’am, but I couldn’t help overhearing . How much money will you need to get your doll?”
Meg was so upset she didn’t even withdraw from this stranger as she usually would have, and answered simply, “Eight dollars and thirty-five cents.”
With that the gentleman juggled his packages, reached in his pocket and took out a twenty dollar bill, which he gave to Meg.
“Merry Christmas,”, he smiled, and jumped into a taxi and was gone before she could even thank him.
Meg looked at a clock in the store window. It was almost six. She would never make it. Just then a taxi pulled up. Throwing caution to the winds, Meg waved the twenty dollar bill at the driver.
“Wait!” she commanded, and grabbing her two bags from the shopping cart, got into the taxi and gave the address of the store that held her doll.
When the taxi pulled up in front of the store, she had five minutes to spare. She paid the driver the five dollar fee and took her bags and ran into the store.
With trembling hands she pulled the receipt from her pocket, and clutching her money asked the dark man for the doll. He saw the money in her hands and mentally counted it. He could see twenty five dollars. He reached under the counter and got the doll and laid it on the counter.
“Twenty-five dollars,” he said.
She had been counting out the money, and now she stopped.
“But the receipt says I owe eighteen,” she protested.
“Int’rest”, the man grunted.
Bag ladies have no power. That was one of the most terrible things Meg had found about being so poor—that you had no power, no protection of any kind, you were at the mercy of everyone. But she would have Mary.