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Christmas, 190 1.
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LI) CURMUDGEON gat in his
lonely villa and cursed Christ
ina. He cursed the compli
ments of the season; he cursed
the waifs; he cursed Christmas
boxes (these with extreme
unction); he cursed the Yule
log; he cursed turkey and goose, plum pud
tliug and mince pie, snap-dragon and Santa
Clans in short, he cursed Christmas and
all its joys!
"Ilap, rap, rap, rap, rap!"
A whole-souled knock at the street door.
Curmudgeon cursed the knocker, and, in-
terceijting the maid in the hall, growled out instructions that he was out.
"Out be hanged!" cried a voice through-the letter box. "Bowled out, you mean!
1 sec you, Curmudgeon, by the hat rack. Open the door, my son, or I'll play a tin
whistle on the doorstep."
Curmudgeon opened the door and confronted his neighbor like a thunderstorm that
had made a mistake in the season.
"Now, sir, what the dev "
"Devil be hanged!" quoth Felix, bursting into the hall like a forlorn hope through
a breach. "This is Christmas eve Christmas eve, Curmudgeon! Good old Christmas
eve! Good old Santa Cluus! Good old Curmudgeon! Join in the chorus, and I'll tip
you a stave."
He lifted up his voice and sang:
"God rest you, merry gentlemen,
Till daylight doth appear!"
Felix was a member of the stock exchange; he had been toasting Christmas, and
he and Curmudgeon had been boys together; so that there was really no excuse for
that merry gentleman's inquiry as to whether Felix had mistaken his semidetached
villa lor the county asylum. Felix laughed like rude Boreas in a good humor, and his
Jaugh woidd have made a charity school forget its misery.
But it was lost on Cunnuilgeon. He had made up his mind to celebrate Christmas
eve by a cheerful grizzle over his solitary fire and a festive growl over his solitary
"What on earth do you want at this unearthly hour?" he asked, peevishly. "And
what do you mean by this unearthly behavior?" he added, savagely.
The maid beamed in the background, but, catching Curmudgeon's fiery eye, she
(led to the underground kitchen and cheered herself with the thought that Robert
would be off duty at ten.
"Unearthly hour! Good heavens, man, it isn't half-past seven, and to-morrow's
"I don't carc whether it's seven o'clock,
eleven o'clock or one o'clock, or whether
to-morrow's Christinas day or Judgment
day. I believe, Felix, that this house is
mine. What do you want?"
"You!" roared Felix, and the hall gas
flickered as he laughed. "We want you to
come in next door and help us to be festive
and free. I've got a few pals, and the
missis has got a few pals, and as for Geoff
and Maidie, they've got all the children of
the terrace. Slip on your coat, man, to
keep out the blizzard, and come along."
Curmudgeon groaned, and came along
like a snail unwilling. He hated most
tilings, but especially he hated children.
He closed his street door behind them in
"Come along," said Felix. "We'll kick
up our heels to-night and be boys again
Curmudgeon was already kicking up his
heels. Some juvenile criminal had made a
slide before his very gate. Curmudgeon's
feet flickered in the starlight on a level
wilh Felix's shoulder, and but for Felix's
support he would gleefully have flung him
self on his back in the snow.
"A slide!" said Felix. "Hooray! Come
He took a short run and a long slide,
and knocked a terraceful of postman's
knocks. He was so pleased at this per
formance that he gave himself an enthusi
astic encore, and slid till he had made a
20-foot death trap.
Curmudgeon stood shivering and unen-
thusiastic. He did not approve of grown
men making fools of themselves and slides before other people's gates, and told Felix
so in language that was forcible and free.
"All right; I've done now,", said Felix. "I'll send the boy out to throw some
sand over it."
He bore the despairing Curmudgeon into his bright hall. Tom, the page of all
work, went out to throw sand over the slide; and did it so thoroughly that 20 minutes
later, when a demand arose for his services, they found him, after a quarter of an
hour's calling and ringing, the leader of a string of butcher's boys, and baker's boys,
and poulterer's boys, sliding before the house, oblivious to all the world.
But long before this Curmudgeon had been welcomed in the drawing-room hilari
ously. Codger and Corkywax and Buffer had wrung him by the hands and slapped him
on the back, Mrs. Felix and Mrs. Felix's gossips had wished hiin a "Merry Christmas,"
and a horde of children, white-frocked and velvet-suited, had hailed him as a man
and a "gran'papa."
"And now," said Felix, standing on the hearthrug and beaming like a winter sun,
"let us. bo happy."
Whereupon Curmudgeon, snubbing Codger and Cockywax and Mrs. Felix impar
tially, retired into himself and the most obscure corner of the room, and looked as
happy as Daniel in the den of lions. A small child pursued him and tried to tug him
in front of the fire, but, finding that Curmudgeon stuck to his corner like a periwinkle
to hia shell, gave up the attempt and climbed on his knee.
-"Boh!" said Curmudgeon, with forced mirth. He would rather have had black
beetles crawl over him than children. But "Boh!" said the small child, with a shriek
of delight. She held a sprig of mistletoe, and, standing on Curmudgeon's knee, she
held it over his head and kissed him moistly in the left eye, after which atrocity she
lost her balance and fell at full length on the rug. They picked her up, and, hesitating
for an anxious moment whether to laugh or ory, she laughed like a set of musical bells.
"Maidie's not hurt, Mr. Turmudgeon," she said, to reassure him. Curmudgeon
refrained from expressing his disappointment, and she captured him by escalade once
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at her fall, dispersed.
"I know you!" she said, confidentially.
"Indeed!" growled Curmudgeon. "Well, I don't know you, you know."
"What!" cried Mrs. Felix, who was watching with maternal pride. "You don't
know our Maidie? I am shocked, Mr. Curmudgeon. She's passed you with ber mail
cart scores of times."'
"O, indeed!" said Curmudgeon, trying to feign interest in bis tormentor.
Scores of children passed him scores of times with mail carts the terrace was
By ALFRED HURRY
A Child Climbed on His Knees.
rich in both. Scores of cats fought in his
garden at nights as well, but he did not
know which was Felix's cat. If he had he
would have singled it out for the largest
lump of coal. How was he to know the
"Mr. Curmudgeon," she whispered, put
ting her lips to his ear, "I'se come to
"O! What for?"
"For muddying your tlothes. I'se so sor
ry. It runned away with me."
"What runned away with you?"
"My mail cart. It was Wilberforce's
fault, really. He was so naughty; O, Mr. Turmudgeon, he was so naughty that I had
to speak severey to him, and it runucd into your legs."
Curmudgeon remembered that yesterday he had been surprised by a shock behind
the knees, and, turning wrathfully, had discovered an alarmed infant with a mail
cart, packed full of frightened dolls.
"All right," he growled. "It didn't hurt. I wasn't angry, Maidie."
Relieved to hear that the old gentleman's looks had belied him, Maidie kissed him
in both eyes. Curmudgeon blinked and stilled a despairing "Ugh!"
"Now, ladies and gentlemen," said Felix, "I am about to douse the glim I mean
I am about to turn the gas out. No kissing aloud, please. Now, Geoff, ready with
Almost before the younger gentlemen had had time to range themselves by the
side of the younger ladies the room was dark and Geoff's magic lantern was in opera
tion, and the hands of the youths found the bands of the maidens.
A skeleton flashed on the screen. Geoff, with youthful prodigality, bad given his
piece de resistance first. Chorus of delight from the younger spectators and cries of
mock terror from Felix.
"I'se not frightened, Mr. Turmudgeon, is you?" whispered a still, small voice.
Curmudgeon reassured the small owner of the voice. It tickled his ear. He
writhed like a red Indian at the stake.
A boar at bay was depicted.
"O, look, Mr. Turmudgeon! Just(look at that pretty pig o-o-h! and that naughty
A frightened face burrowed in Curmudgeon's neck.
"Give us something pretty, Geoff," cried Felix. "We don't want blood and bones
on Christmas eve. Give us the clown whacking the pantaloon with his sausages. That's
it! Hit him again, Joey!"
A shout of laughter shook the chandelier.
"Tomfoolery," muttered Curmudgeon. "Grown-ups are worse than the children."
Isn t it funny? whispered the still,
small voice, as Geoff worked the slide for
all he was worth, and the sausages-flickered
like cycle spokes.
And, behold, it was funny. Curmudgeon
was petrified to find himself laughing.
What had come to him? Was he a little
boy with a frill round his neck, and was
the voice in his cars Nesta's, and were
they sitting with papa and mamma at
. No. That was half a century ago. He
had stood at Baby Xesta's grave with her
children. And he, Curmudgeon, was not
a little boy with a rosy face and an appe
tite for bread and milk any longer, but a
lonely old man whose collars were derided
by an irreverent generation. Amid the
laughter one sigh was breathed.
Another picture. The whisper went
round the room: "Darby and Joan!" The
two withered faces close together drew
another laugh from the darkened room,
and another sigh from the old man.
A cheek was pressed against his, as in
the picture, and Maidie whispered, with a
gurgle at the quaint conceit:
"We'a Darby and Joan, Mr. 'Turmudg
eon. I love oo oo pretty man."
Curmudgeon gasped. It was a long time
since anyone had felt moved to remark
that they loved him. The dark room
turned to a sunny old garden. In the shade
of the trees hung a swing, ia which two
children nestled, a fuir-haired little boy
and a baby belle with dark eyes and clus
tering curls. Curmudgeon knew the little
boy; but the little girl ah, Winnie. She
came from the garden next door, and they
were sweethearts. Where was Winnie
now? Was she keeping Christmas with
grandchildren climbing on her knee, or
III Jlk lili
waiting for it in Kensal Green?
"Hallo, Curmudgeon, buck up! What's the matter?"
The magic lantern was over, and the room bright with light.
"Xothing! Buck up yourself, Felix. Let's play blind man's buff and I'll be blind
A shriek of joy from the children. Mrs. Felix's eyebrows went up. Codger, Cocky
wax and Buffer gasped.
When blind man's buff palled they played hunt the slipper and puss in the corner;
(i ml, finally, when they had exhausted all the recognized games and themselves, they
played go us you jileaso and romped indiscriminately. Felix, in a dunce's cap from a
bonbon, told impromptu fairy tales to a charmed circle; and Codger, in a Red Riding
Hood costume, from the same waidrohe, played the famous heroine to the life; while
Curmudgeon's impersonation of the wolf knocked Lauri into a cocked hat.
Then they had supper, and, "for the first time for live-and-twenty years, sir," Cur
mudgeon ate a mince pie. - He was incited to this outrage on his digestion by Maidie,
who sat on his knee munching her third, and strewing his trousers with crumbs.
And later, when Maidie and Geoff had gone to bed, and the other children had de
parted under the escort of rosy-cheeked nursemaids, and Mrs. Felix and her gossips
were discussing the affairs of the terrace, and Buffer had fallen asleep, Felix and
Codger and Cockywax played many keen rubbers of whist; and Curmudgeon, who loved
whist, but hated losing halfpence, Inst eightpence with cheerinejs of a jubilee plunger.
Somewhere ajjout midnight a faint wail was wafted from the upp" regions, and
Mrs. Felix, rushing up, returned with the intelligence that Maidie was as wide awake
as noonday, and insisted on Curmudgeon's going up to sing her to sleep. Cur
mudgeon detested being interrupted at whist, and he was nothing of a singer, but he
went up like a Briton and sang "Three Blind Mice" and "Frog lie Would A-Wooing
Go," and told the Homeric story of the "Brave Tin Soldier," till at length, promising
to marry him when she was "growed up" in a year and a half at the outside Maidie
Christmas broke bright and clear. Curmudgeon, drowsily wondering how he had
got there, turned over in bed and listened to the "Sweep yer door, mum?" of the
street boys and the scraping of their spades. Annually, on every Christmas morning,
it had been his custom to turn over thus and breathe anathemas on the day. But this
Christmas morning he murmured something that may have been a curse, but which
certainly sounded like a "Good old Christmas!" He had neither headache nor heart
ache, and, tucking himself up, almost wondering why "mamma" didn't come and do it
for him, Curmudgeon felt young again. London Black and White.