« PreviousContinue »
a pair of home-made snow-shoes. Grandma later that evening, as Ann struggled with the Lewis had knit some red wristlets for me, fastening of her new gown, “I did n't know I and Cousin Lucy a cap to match. I was the was so tired," she remarked, with a little happiest boy in the state of Maine!"
sigh of weariness. Tom paused a moment.
And she repeated the words at intervals “But somehow, Ann, what I remember all during the week that followed. So that most was the spirit of the day itself. Cousin Lucy had worked hard, I know, and in the evening had a lot of the neighbors in; but she was the life of the crowd. Ann, I'd like you to meet and really know Cousin Lucy. I wish she 'd ask us to visit them sometime."
“Somehow, I never supposed—” Ann began hesitatingly.
“Supposed what?” Tom asked.
"Well, I guess I never gave your firtree cousins much thought, Tom. I did n't think you cared particularly. You've never talked much about them nor made any effort to
“Yes, I know," Tom broke in, “and the more shame to me, too. It's queer sometimes, that, no matter how much you may think of people, you just sort of drift apart. But you 'd better get to bed now, Ann; you look tired to death."
Christmas day dawned upon a clear and sparkling world. There had been a flurry of snow during the
"'WHEN WILL YOU HAVE YOUR VACATION, TOM?' (SEE PAGE 165) night, and in the keen morning sunlight everything shone clean and it was a rather wan little figure that faced freshly garbed. Within the house, fires Tom across the breakfast-table the morning blazed; the tang of evergreen mingled with after New Year's. There was a pile of the odor of half-burned candles. The scar- letters beside her plate. let splash of holly berries gleamed amid their "I know exactly, Tom Brewster, what 's gloss of green leaves, and there was a happy in every one of these missives. I could read confusion of torn wrappings, broken seals, them off to you with my eyes shut. I never and piled-up gifts. The dinner was a suc feel that Christmas is really over for another cess, as Ann's dinners always were; but year," she added ironically, "until assured
Cordelia's arrival had not reached you in time, but I need not have worried. She was much taken with that case for holding her yarn. She'd had one and lost it.
And Katy was real pleased with that pretty handkerchief.
that my gifts have arrived and are herewith acknowledged with due and proper gratefulness."
Tom grinned as he opened up his morning paper.
There was a silence for several minutes while Ann slowly slit the seals one by one. She picked up a square white envelop that bore her father's well-known handwriting, and a minute later a sudden exclamation made Tom look up.
"Why, Tom-Tom Brewster!”
Ann's eyes glanced down the single page; then she began to read aloud:
“My dear Ann:
"Perhaps you won't remember it, but you gave me a muffler for Christmas once long ago, when you were a very little girl. You picked it out yourself, and I 'll say this—that you showed remarkably good taste. That muffler, or what 's left of it, is tucked away somewhere in the attic
The one you sent this year gives me almost as much pleasure as did that other one, although I suppose I 'll have to concede that these new styles are really prettier (but not any warmer or more useful) than the old. Your mother thinks they must be coming back into favor again, but I don't care whether they are or not. They 're warm and they help keep a clean collar clean. For my part, I 'm glad we 're getting away from the showy Christmases of the last few years and down to a simpler, saner giving and receiving. "Lots of love and thanks to you and Tom,
Ann drew forth a small folded sheet that had been tucked inside the other one. It read:
"I'm just going to add a line to put in with your father's, for we have a house full of company and there 's no time now for a real letter. Your box this year, although something of a surprise, was none the less welcome. I have thought for several years that we ought all of us to give simpler gifts. A remembrance, no matter how small, if carefully and thoughtfully chosen to meet the need or desire of the recipient, carries with it more of the real Christmas spirit than the costliest gift or one chosen at random. I don't know when I've had an apron given me before! I began to think they had gone out of fashion. I put yours right on, and your father said it made him think of when you children were little. The boys will write you themselves, but I 'll just say that Ned and Harold both remarked that it seemed fine to get a stick-pin once more. (You know we've always tried to think up something different, with the result that both are rather low on that article.) We've had lots of fun with Hugh's game. He confided to me that he'd been hoping somebody would give him one. So you see, Ann dear, we are all pleased with our things and send you our grateful thanks. Love to you both from,
“MOTHER. "P.S. I was afraid my letter telling of your Aunt
“My dear Ann:
"When we opened your box on Christmas morning, I thought I had never seen anything so attractive. Seals and ribbons and greetings may not mean so much, perhaps, to you city people; but for us isolated ones, they add a great deal to our enjoyment and appreciation. Your gifts fulfilled certain long-felt desires, one or two of which I suspect are older than you are, Ann. Perhaps you cannot understand the joy of receiving something you 've always wanted, yet did not really need. The necessary things we can and do buy, as a rule, but the others—the little amenities of life-it is for these that Christmas was instituted. The wise men might have brought other and needed things to the Bethlehem manger, but they did n't. They brought gold and frankincense and myrrh! I am writing with my beautiful pin before me on the table. You see, it is the first one-the first really nice pin-I 've ever owned. That is fulfilled desire number one. The second is the sight of your Cousin Henry enjoying a bit of leisure before the fire with his new book. I suppose Tom may have told you that once, as a young man, your Cousin Henry made this very trip to the headwaters' of the Peace River. So few new and worth-while books find their way to us. Louise and the boys will write later, so I 'll only say that Alec actually takes his big flash-light to bed with him; Joe is inordinately proud of that safetyrazor; and as for little Henry-well his father and I both feel that we ought to thank you on our own behalf, for all our efforts to make an out-ofdoor lad of him seem to have failed hitherto. He is the student of the family, but the new skates lure him outside and help to strike the proper balance. Louise loves her beaded bag, as, indeed, what girl would n't! And as for Grandma Lewis, she fairly flaunts that bit of rose-point. She confided to me that at eighty years she had at last given up all hope of ever possessing a piece of real lace!
"I have written a long letter, but I doubt if, after all, I 've really succeeded in expressing even a small part of our appreciation to you and Tom for your carefully chosen gifts. To feel that a certain thing has been chosen especially for you, to fit your own individuality and particular desire, if not always need, -this, it has always seemed to me, is the true spirit of Christmas. And I think you have found it, Ann. Before closing I want to ask if you and Tom can't arrange to make us a visit this summer? “Wishing you both a Happy New Year,
Ann Brewster laid down the letter with Tom pushed back his chair from the table. something that was half a sob and half a “Seems to me, Ann dear, that we've had laugh. "I'm just too ashamed to live!" the answer to our query, 'What's wrong with
"Why, what 's the matter, Ann?” Tom Christmas?' Cousin Lucy is right. To looked puzzled.
make the gift fit the person. When you go to “Cousin Lucy speaks of my 'carefully buy a dress or I a suit of clothes, we choose chosen gifts. And—and they were n't at all. the particular cut suited to our own individThey were n't even meant for any of them. uality, don't we? Not to some one else's. You see,” Ann swallowed the lump in her And could n't that rule apply as well to the throat, "I've always just chosen their things selecting of gifts? You've sort of stumbled at random. Yes I have, Tom. One of those upon the truth this year, Ann, but—" Christmas obligations you spoke of the other Tom stopped, whistling thoughtfully as he night, to be disposed of with as little time drew on his overcoat. There was a misty and effort as possible. And then last week, light in Ann's eyes as she stood beside him. when I was hurrying to get everything off, "When will you have your vacation, Tom?" Nancy Wells came over and I left a lot of “August probably," Tom answered. things for her to finish wrapping while I “Well, we 're going to spend it with our dashed off to the dressmaker's. And I sup- fir-tree cousins, and after that-let's see. pose, in some way, I got the fir-tree cousins' It will be only four months until Christmas and the home pile mixed.”
comes again. Tom, I can hardly wait!"
To bless our Christmas fire,
That any can desire.
So, out across the drifting snow,
Our Christmas song speeds true;
To light our wish to you.
Edith Ballinger Price.
By RALPH HENRY BARBOUR
SYNOPSIS OF PREVIOUS INSTALMENT NED and Laurie Turner, fifteen years of age, twins, and as like as two peas in a pod, arrive at Orstead, New York, from their home in California, to enter the Hillman School. Losing their way in the village, they make inquiries of a girl of their own age in a white middy suit. Later in the day they set out for a walk and come across a quaint little house, in a side street, whose lower floor is occupied by a store. In quest of cold drinks, the twins enter and are waited on by the girl in the white middy.
try to break him of it, but it 's no use. It 's
fierce." CAKES AND ALE
“Of course you don't use slang?” asked "HELLO!” exclaimed the twins in one voice. Polly, demurely. “Who wants the root
"Hello," replied the girl, and they sus- beer?' pected that she was smiling, although their "You take it," said Laurie, hurriedly. eyes were still too unused to the dimness of “No, you,” said Ned. “You 're fonder of the little store for them to be certain. She it than I am, Laurie. I don't mind, really!" was still only a vague figure in white, with a Laurie managed a surreptitious kick on deeper blur where her face should have been. his brother's shin. “Tell you what," he Treading on each other's heels, Ned and exclaimed, "we'll mix 'em!" Laurie followed her to the other side. The Ned agreed, though not enthusiastically, twilight brightened and objects became more and with the aid of a third glass, the deed distinct. They were in front of a sort of was done. The boys tasted experimentally, trough-like box in which, half afloat in a each asking a question over the rim of his pool of ice-water, were bottles of tonic and glass. Then looks of relief came over both soda and ginger-ale. Behind it was a counter faces and they sighed ecstatically. on which reposed a modest array of pastry. “Corking!" they breathed in unison. “What do you want?" asked the girl in the Polly laughed. “I never knew any one to middy.
do that before," she said. "I'm glad you “Ginger-ale," answered Ned. "Say, do · like it. I'll tell the other boys about it." you live here?”
"No, you must n't," protested Ned. "It's "No, this is the shop," was the reply. “I our invention. We 'll call it-call it live upstairs."
“Call it an Accident,” suggested Laurie. “Oh, well, you know what I mean," mut- “We'll call it a Polly,” continued the other. tered Ned. “Is this your store?”
"It really is bully. It 's- it's different; “It 's my mother's. I help in it after- is n't it, Laurie? Have another?” noons. My mother is Mrs. Deane. The “Who were those on?” was the suspicious boys call her the Widow. I'm Polly Deane." reply.
"Please to know you," said Laurie. “Our “You. The next is on me. Only maybe name 's Turner. I'm Laurie and he 's Ned. another would n't taste as good, eh?” Let me open that for you."
“Don't you fool yourself! I'll risk that.” “Oh, no, thanks. I 've opened hundreds However, the third and fourth bottles, of them. Oh dear! You said ginger-ale, properly combined though they were, lacked did n't you? And I 've opened a root-beer. novelty, and it was some time before the last It 's so dark in here in the afternoon." glass was emptied. Meanwhile, of course, “That 's all right,” Ned assured her.
they talked. The boys acknowledged that, like root-beer. We'd just as soon have it as so far, they liked what they had seen of the ginger-ale. Would n't we, Laurie?''
school. Mention of the doctor and Miss “Yet bet! We 're crazy about it."
Hillman brought forth warm praise from “Are you sure? It 's no trouble to- Well, Polly. “Every one likes the doctor ever so thisis ginger-ale, anyway. I'm awfully sorry!" much," she declared. “And Miss Tabitha
“What do we care?” asked Ned. “We is-' don't own it."
“Miss what?" interrupted Laurie. “Don't own it?" repeated Polly, in a puz- “Miss Tabitha. That's her name." zled tone.
Polly laughed softly. "They call her "Tab“That 's just an expression of his,” ex- by,'— the boys, I mean, - but they like her. plained Laurie. "He's awfully slangy. I She 's a dear, even if she does look sort of
Laurie coughed furiously. Ned's hand came "She '
sshe's just Miss Comfort, I forth empty. He turned away from tempta- guess," replied Polly. "She lives on the tion. “They look mighty good,” he said. next corner, in the house with the white "If we 'd seen those before we 'd had all shutters. She 's quite old, almost seventy that ginger-ale
I suppose, and she makes the nicest cake in Polly spoke detachedly. "You can have Orstead. Everybody goes to her for cakes. credit if you like," she said, placing the That 's the way she lives, I guess.” empty bottles aside. “The doctor lets the “Maybe we'd ought to help her,” sugboys run bills here up to a dollar. They gested Ned, mentally choosing the largest can't go over a dollar, though."
and fattest cakes on the tray. “I guess we'll “Personally,” observed Laurie, jingling take a couple. How much are they?"
, some coins in a trousers pocket, “I prefer to "Six cents apiece," said Polly. “Do you pay cash. Still, there are times—”
want them in a bag?” “Yes, a fellow gets short now and then,” "No, thanks.” Ned handed one of the said Ned, turning for another look at the cakes to Laurie; "we'll eat them now.” pastry counter. “Maybe, just for—for con- Then, between mouthfuls: “Maybe you ’d venience, it would be a good plan to have an better charge this to us. If we 're going to