At last the day had come to open the money boxes! How long it had taken to fill them! What hard work it had meant, what careful saving, what giving up of candy and nice ribbons and special treats! To Hilda and Mona it had seemed as though they would never be allowed to open them, and sometimes they had even said it wasn’t worthwhile putting the money in.
But at last the day had come! It was a week before Christmas, and of course everybody was wanting all the money he could find for presents and new dresses and things. How glad the children were that they had heeded their mother and had kept the boxes unopened till now! Mother was right, after all.
Click! went the key in Mona’s little cash box, and there inside she saw the pile of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and one half dollar. What joy! She counted it all up, and Hilda counted it afterward, just to make sure it was right. Four dollars and fifty-one cents! What a lot of money for a little girl!
“Now you open yours,” said Mona. “I wonder how much you have saved.”
Hilda’s was a strange looking money box, and it certainly held money tightly. It was such a job to get it out. She had to use a knife, but as she poked it in, out came the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and two half dollars. It was a lovely sight.
“Oh,” said Mona, “you have more than I!”
“It looks like it,” said Hilda. “Let’s count it up. One, two, three. Why, I believe there’s more than five dollars!”
And so there was. It came to $5.28. How happy they were! Never had they had so much money to spend all at once.
Then came the big question. What should they spend it on? Soon they realized how little they had really saved.
There were so many things they wanted to buy, and most of them cost more than they had saved.
Mona thought she would like to get a pretty dress, but how far would $4.51 go? Hilda’s first thought was for a beautiful handbag, the kind with two pockets in the middle and a mirror. But again, how far would $5.28 go? Then they talked of other things they would like—so many things—but try as they would they could not stretch their money nearly far enough to cover all their desires.
“I’m getting tired of trying to decide,” said Hilda. “This money is a bother.”
“Do you know,” said Mona, “I wonder whether the trouble is that we are trying to spend it all on ourselves?”
Hilda sat very quiet and still. “Perhaps it is,” she said.
“Just for fun,” said Mona, “let’s try to think how we could spend it on some other people.”
“Mom, for instance,” said Hilda.
“Yes, or Grandma,” said Mona.
“All right. You write down what you would buy for them and I’ll do the same.”
So they both found pencil and paper and began to write. Hilda soon made a long list—long enough to use up her $5.28 many times over.
“You don’t seem to have put down much, Mona,” she said, looking at her paper.
“No,” said Mona, “but I’ve got an idea! I’ve thought of something that would be a beautiful present for both Mom and Grandma.”
“Oh, tell me,” said Hilda.
“Well,” said Mona, “you know how Mom has been longing to have Grandma come down here to stay with her for a while? Well, the only reason Grandma doesn’t come is that she can’t afford the fare and Mom can’t afford to send it to her. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to send Grandma her fare ourselves, and invite her down to surprise Mom?”
“Mona, you are a genius!” said Hilda. “I should enjoy that much more than a new handbag. Let’s do it right now.”
“Isn’t it just lovely?” said Mona. “I’m so glad you like the idea. I’d much rather see Mom happy than have a new dress. Let’s get a pen and some writing paper. You’ll write the letter, won’t you?”
“All right,” said Hilda. “You tell me what to say.”
So together they wrote to Grandma:
“Our dear Grandma,
“We all want you very much to come down here for Christmas. Mona and I have been saving up for a long time, and we want to pay your fare. You will find it in this letter. Please be sure to come soon. We shall expect you next week.
“With lots of love from Hilda and Mona.”
“Oh, Mona,” said Hilda when she had finished writing; “whatever will Mom say when Grandma comes?”
“Oh, that’s part of the joy. She’ll be so pleased and surprised she won’t know what to do with herself.”
Picking up their money and putting on their coats, the two went down to the post office, bought a postal money order for $9, and mailed it to Grandma. Chuckling all over and enjoying their secret immensely, they returned home to await the big surprise.
For the next few days the girls could not settle down to anything. Every footstep made them jump, and every creak of the front gate gave them a start. They felt inside themselves that they had done something big and beautiful, and they just couldn’t keep still.
Every now and then they would burst out laughing, for no apparent reason whatever. Mother wondered what could have gone wrong with them. They often had innocent little secrets they tried to keep from her, but this was rather mysterious.
Then at last came a different knock at the door.
“Hilda, there’s someone at the door,” called Mother. “Please go and see who it is.”
But Hilda guessed that the great moment had come, and she wanted Mother to have the surprise they had planned so long. “Do please go yourself, Mom,” she said.
So Mother hurried to the door, thinking it was the postman or the milkman. She opened the door—and there stood Grandma, with her handbags and trunk, as though she had come to stay a month.
“Mother!” cried Mom. “Whoever—whatever! Isn’t this wonderful! But how did you come? Who could have dreamed you would be here for Christmas!”
“Why, didn’t you expect me?” said Grandma, equally surprised.
There was a loud giggle in the background.
“Those girls!” said Grandma. “I guess they are at the bottom of this.”
Then came the explanations, and everyone was happy.
After the excitement had died down, Grandma called the girls to her and, slowly and mysteriously, opened her trunk.
“I’m not too old to use my fingers yet,” she said, pulling out a couple of packages. “Here’s a little dress I’ve been making for you, Mona, and for you, Hilda, I’ve got a wee handbag.”
“Oh, no!” cried the girls together, looking at each other in amazement.
“Why, don’t you want them?” asked Grandma.
“Want them! They are just perfect,” said Hilda. “But how did you know? They are the very things we were going to buy for ourselves with the money we had saved in our boxes.”
“Were you!” exclaimed Grandma. “Do you know, girls,” she said, “I believe the Bible is right when it says, ‘He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again’ ” (Proverbs 19:17).
The Storybook, Character Building Stories for Children, R & H Publishing Association, ©1989, 72–78.