"Buy a match, sir?"
The man did not even seem to see her, though the way his steps quickened implied he had heard her. His breath puffed out in the bitterly cold air and hung like icicles before falling. He had a thick woolen coat and cap. If he cared the petite child wore threadbare rags and looked pale as the snow piled around, it did not show.
Most ignored her. She drifted among the busy streets like a ghost. Always the same plea. Buy a match for a coin. Coins she could use to buy shelter for just one night. One bowl of thin soup. Anything to resist winter's melodic siren song of death.
As night fell, the streets emptied. No one wanted to be out. Not in the dark. Not in the cold. The little matchgirl huddled in the corner of an alley and tried to breathe on her hands to warm them. She could not remember ever feeling warm. Summer and the bright sun seemed a distant memory. Had she been hap