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THE SEMI-WEEKLY TRIBUNE. NORTH PLATTE, NEBRASKA.
John Henry on Christmas Presents By GEORGE V.HOBAfJT (Copyright, ir McUluro Noifipapor Sjuillcate) AY! Did you ovor tnko what little was loft and atari out to buy friend wlfo a Christmas token 7 A quaint pantlmo, Is It not? Well, to mako a long story loso Its cunning, I clinked a fow Iron men to gether one morn ing rocently and started out to And something now and nifty In tho gift lino for Poaches. I was breezing for a department store when I run across Hop Hardy, limping In tho direction of a tazlcab stand. "Up late, aren't you, Hop?" I In quired, glancing at tho Watorbury. "I suro am running behind my Belied ulo this morning, John, Hep wheozed. "Accident." "What's tho matter? Fuse blow out and loavo you and your favorlto bar tender In darkness?" I ventured. "Nix," ho anBworod; "I Interpolated a now Btop in tho Tango about flvo this a. m. and my partnor, nn Impul sive llttlo thing from Spokano, didn't sot my signal, with tho result that sho stopped on mo and lost ono of her TYonch noels somowhoro bolweon my nnklo and my instop. I had to wait till a Doctor Shop was open so ho could probo for it. Tho mcdlclno ped dler found it all right and my left I Is a bit wobbly, but I'll bo in iped arona tonight when tho boll , clamoring for my favorlto rag, caii bet on that, John, old pal." "Tho danco bug has you for fair, hasn't it, Hop?" I laughod. "Not at all," Hop camo back; "but liko a lot of other ginks who havo boon going through Hfo with Btoop shoul dora and plantation foot I'vo suddenly discovered how to bo graceful and 1 havo to Btay up all night to sco if othor pcoplo notice it. Whore nro you going?" "I'm 'going down to soo ono of thoso 8toroo and mako a fool out of ilfty dol lars llttlo Christmas present for Poaches," I answered. "Fifty dollars!" Hop sneered. "Say, John, If I had a wlfo, and wo woro npoaklng to each other, fifty dollars wouldn't buy tho ribbon around tho hundlo. Fifty dollars! You mako a noiflo liko a plko." "Suro!" I snapped back. "If you had a wlfo you'd tako hor down to your favorlto jowolry Btoro and lot tho clorkB throw diamonds at hor till thoy roll exhausted. But I'm Just a rogular A Lot of Eager Dames Were Pawing Over Some Chinchilla Ribbon. human bolng, working Tor a living, and ovory timo 1 boo a hundred dollar bill 1 get red In tho faco and want a drink of water. You know, Hop, my father didn't spend hlo Hfo wrapping it up In tmndlca and throwing it into an iron -voodshod against tho time i became old enough to uso it us a torch!" 'Say!" chlrpod Hop, who hadu't paid tho slightest attention to what 1 was saying, ' why don't you got hor an emerald nocklncoY Somo Idea what? 1 saw ono tho other day for $3,000. Walt a minute! I'll glvo you a card to tho managor. ' "Glvo It to tho chauffeur,'1 I said aa 1 pushed Hep into tho taxi. "Dy tho timo ho gets you homo you'll owo blm enough to buy emeralds. ' Then 1 loft him flat and mosoyed off for a department storo to got a Christmas prcsont for friend wife. Say I did you ovor get tangled up In ono of thoso department storo mobs und havo a crowd of perfect ladles uso you for a doormat? I got mine! Thoy certainly taught mo tho Iluor ta glide, all right! At tho door a nlco young man with a pink nocktlo and a quick forehead bowed to mo. "What do you wish?" he asked. "Well,'' I said, "I'm down hero to got a Christmas present for friend wlfo. I would liko something which would' afford hor groat pleasuro when I glvo It to her and which I could use nfterward aa a ponwlpor or a llshlng rod." "Second floor to tho right tako tho elovator," said tho man. Did you ovor try to tako an elova tor In a department storo and find that 3,913 other American citizens and cltlzoncttes woro nlso trying to tako tho samo olovator? How sweet It Is to mingle In the arms of utter strangers and to feel tho prcsHuro of a foot wo never hopo to moot again! I was standing by ono of tho coun ters on tho second floor whon a shrill volco crept up ovor a fow bales of dry The Pale Young Woman Fainted. goods nnd said, "Aro you a buyer or I a handlor?" "I am looking for a Christmas pros ent for friend wlfo," I answored "1 want to got BomothliiK that will look swoll on tho parlor tablo and may bo used lator on as a tobacco Jar or a trousor stretcher!" "Fourth floor to tho loft tako tho elovator!" Bald tho shrill volco, but shrlllor. With bowed head I walked away. 1 bogan to fool sorry for friend wlfo. Nobody scomod to bo very much In terested whether alio got a Christmas prosont or not. On tho fourth floor I Btoppcd at a counter whero a lot of cagor dames woro pawing ovor somo chinchilla rib bon and chiffon ovorsklrts. It reminded mo of tho way an emo tional hen digs up a grub In tho gar don. 1 onjoyod tho oxcltomcntof tho game for about ton minutes and thon I aald to tho clork bohtnd tho countor who was roforeelng tho match, "Can you toll mo whoro I can buy a ster ling sllvor Christmas prcsont for frlond wlfo which I couid uso after ward ns a night koy or a bath spongo?" "Fifth floor to tho rear tako tho elovator!" Bald tho clork. On tho fifth floor I wont ovor to a tablo whero a young lady waB soiling "Tho Llfo and Libraries of Androw Carnogio" at four dollars a month and fifty cents a wook, and in throo years it Is yours If you don't loso tho re ceipts. Sho gavo mo a glad smllo and I folL a thrill of oncouragomont. "Excuso mo." I said, "but I am look- Ing for a Christmas prcsont for friend wlfo which will mako all tho nolcli- bora jealous, and which I can uso aft- torward as an nsh rccolvor or a pockot flask." Tho young lady cut out tho elccles nnd pointed to tho northwest. I wont ovor thoro. To my aurprlso I found anothor counter. A palo young woman was behind It. I was just about to ask hor tho fatal quostlon when a young man wearing a ragtime expression on hla fnco ruahod up and said to tho nalo vnuim lady behind the countor; "I nm look ing for a suitable present for a young lady friend of mlno with iroldcn brown lialr. Could you plcaso suggest some thing?" Tho palo young woman showed nor teeth and nnawored nlm In a low, rumbling volco, and tho man wont away. Then camo nn old ladv who anlil; "i bought Bomo organdlo dross goods for a shirt waist lust Tuosday, and would liko to oxchnngo thorn for a iuubIo box for my daughter's llttlo boy, Freddie, tf you plcaso!'1 Tho nalo vounir woman attain Rhnwmt hor tooth and tho old lady ducked for covor. Attor about Ilfty pooplo had rushed nil to tho nalo vonnc woman and thon rushed away again, I wont ovor and spoKo to nor. "1 nm looklnc.-' I said, "for a ChrlRi mas prosont for frlond wlfo. l want to get Bomcthlng that will give hor a great amount of plcasuro and which 1 can uso later on as a pipe cleaner or a pair of suspendorsl" The palo young woman fainted, ho I moved ovor. At nnother counter anothor young lady said to mo: "Have you boon waited on?" "No," I replied i "I havo boon stopped on, Bat on and walked on, but I havo not yet heon waited on." "What do you wish?" Inquired tho young woman. "I am looking for n Christmas pres ent for friend wife," ho Bald. "I want to buy hor something that will bring great Joy to her heart, and which 1 might uso afterward as a pair of clip pers or a shaving mug." Tho young lady caught nfo with her dreamy eyes and hold mo up against tho wall. "You," sho screamed, "you complete a total of 25,493 pcoplo who have been in this department Btoro today without knowing what they uro doing bore, and I refuse to be a human encylopo dla for tho sako of eight dollars a week. Go on, now; throw yourself In to second Bpecd and climb tho hill!" I began to apologize, but sho reached down under tho counter and pullod out a club. "This," sho said, with a wild look In hor Bido iampB, "this la happy Yule tide, but, nevertheless, tho next guy that leaves his brains at homo and trios to mako mo toll him what Is a good Christmas present for his wlfo will get a bittor wallop across tho forehead!" Tho girl was right, so I went homo without a present. I Bupposo I'll havo to tano Hep's tip and get thoso emeralds after all. 13 ut first I'll go down to tho deli catessen storo and seo if thoro's any thing thoro. THE MYSTERY OF CHRISTMAS One Day of the Year That All Other Days Are Learning to Envy and Imitate. It neoma to me that alwayB.'as tho 24th of Dccombor commenced to shorten, tho white, fleecy biiow began to fall, says a writer In tho Crafts man. When tho street lamps flick ered up liko candles on an altar, thoy gazed on a wo,rld that was whlto. The strife of tho city was muffled. Carts wont by, but you had to peer out througn tho blinds to know that thoy woro passing they mado no sound. An atmoBphoro of gentleness had de scended. Everyone In tho houso went about with stealth, as though planning Bomo sccrot kindness. And thon tho night and tho trying to kcop nwako till Santa Claus should como. And tho waking up, with tho frost weaving patterns on tho panes. Somowhcro far away a harp was ho- Ing played, and a cornot was challeng ing thq Bllenco. Tho tuno thoy played was nn accompaniment to tho most beautiful legond In tho world. At first, dreamily, you tried to remember why for onco tho darkness was not frightening, and thon, "Ah, it's Christ mas!" As you turned, your foot mado tho paper crack, and at tho ond of the hod you woro too content nnd happy oven to look at your presents. Why was It that next day ovorybody and ovorythlng waB difforont? Tho air was full of bolls Blnglng riotously. Every ono, for this ono day, ceased to think of his own happiness and found hap piness In bringing choorfulness to othors. Tho stern gulf which Is fixed between children nnd grown-ups had vanished there woron't nny grown ups. Somowhcro in your childish hoart you wondered why every day couldn't bo mado a day of kindness. And that wondor of a child's heart Is tho Christmas message. Onco a yoar, by a dlvlno conspiracy, all tho ships of our hopos and fears turn back from their voyaglngs to tho harbor of tondornos8. Thoy nro borno back on tho croat of a whlto tldo of mysticism thnt swoopB round tho world. A truco of God Is declared to all fightings, and mon and womon walk as chlldron through a world that 1b kind. Thoy commonco to glvo nnd censo toaunox; thoy act in tho bollet that God is in his hoaven. Tho spirit Is ono tremu lous whlto day of unsolflshncss a day which gradually somo other days In tho year aro learning to envy and Imi tate. Why We Burn Candles. Tho custom of burning candles on tho Christmas treo comes from two sources. Tho Romans burned candles nt tho feast of Saturn ns a sign of good cheor, whllo tho Jowb burned candles during tho feast of tho Dedication, which hnppcned to fall about tho samo timo as that of Saturn In tho Roman calendar. It is qulto possible that for this reason thoro would havo boon many candles burning all ovor Palos tlno about tho timo of tho birth of Christ, nnd from this comes tho torm "Feast of Lights," which Ib tho hnmo used In tho Grcok church for Christ mas day. A Christmas Hint. To thoso- who may hnvo become tired of tho old-fashioned games usual at Christmas the following mny bo found suitable: Hunt up a lot of poor pooplo that havo not got any Christmas dinner nnd go nnd give them ono. N. 1). This game may bo played by any number ot persona. Welcome to Christmas! Christmas, crown 'o tho year! Gold en clasp to Its round of light and shadow. Truly tho bolls of It shall ring out, "Plaguo l bnnlsh, poaco I bring!" Welcome It royally. Spread out tor soul and sense n feast ot good things. Martha McWIIllams. Santa Mike- zA Christmas Convict Story Br T. C. BRIDGES S THE December night closed across tho dosolnto moor, tho snow ceased falling, tho clouds broke, and a bril liant moon shed Its ntlvor light across tho wldo stretcheB of rolling whlto ness. With tho change, it began to freeze fiercely, coating the sodden drifts with a crisp film of lco. At ovory stop M i k o Dompsoy'a tired feet broko through this coating, and sank dcop Into soft stuff beneath, making tho traveling bo terribly hard that, In spite of tho bitter cold, porsplration, stood In beads on IiIb thin, brown faco. Ho was breathing hard, and evi dently desporatoly weary, yet ho nov cr stopped for ti moment, though now aud then, as ho plowed his way on wards, ho would turn his head and cast an approhcnslvo glanco back over his Bhoulder. Had anyono been near enough to watch him, thoy would easily havo un derstood his hnsto. Tho drab livery plentifully besprinkled with broad ar rows marked him aa ono of tho stato's unwilling guests. As a matter of fact, Mike Dempsoy had been for tho last threo years a prison inmate, and it was with tho Intention of escaping an other seven years of unappreciated hospitality that ho had, a few hours previously, "dono a bunk" undor cov er of tho sudden snowstorm. "I'vo puzzled thlm screws, that's wan thing sure," ho muttered to him self, nnd In splto of his fatigue a alight chuckle escaped his thin lips. "But faith, I'vo puzzled mesilf, too, and I don't know whero I am no more than Adam. v "If I cud only git a landmark of somo sort!" ho went on. "Eanst I cud find my road to tho railway, I'd win clear. Mlko Dempsoy wasn't a navvy slvcn years for nothing." Ilo crunched lila slow way across a Hat valley, jumped a llttlo brook and pushed up tho steep slope boyond. A gleam of light In tho noxt valley attracted his attention. It camo from a lighted window, and thoro was something comforting to tho lonely fugltivo in tho red glow cast upon tho glittering biiow. Without hesita tion, ho started downhill toward it. Presently ho was cautiously ap proaching a Bmall house, which stood In a tiny garden surrounded by a low dry-stono wall. Thoro wa8 a gate In front, hut Mlko proforrod to approach It Was a Man Lying Flat on His Face. from tho back, and clnmboring gin gorly ovor tho wall cropt up to tho window from which tho light camo. Raising Himself till his head was on a level with tho sill, ho peered through tho uncurtatnod window into a barely furnished living room, light od by a great lire of glowing turf. A couch stood In ono cornor, on which lay a youngish man whoso ban daged head showed him to bo tho victim of somo accidont. On a chair bcsldo him sat a sweet-faced worn an, and on ho barn earthen floor played two children a curly-halrod boy of about sovon, nnd a chubby girl a year or so youngor. Hut what arrested Miko'B attention was a llttlo fir tree, not moro than four foot high, which stood tanted In an old bucket, on tho tablo in tho mlddlo ot tho room. For a moment It puzzled Mlko, Then ho gavo a llttlo gasp. OVfB Hi 1 n m "Ucggor, If It am t a Lnrlstinas tree! Why, 'tis Christmas eve, 1 do bolave, though, faith, I'd lost thrack of tho date In tho ould Btono Jug on tho nlll. Hut whoro's tho prialnts? 'Tia no bare as mo own pockot," he went on wondclngly. At that moment, tho boy got up, aud going forward to the woman, pulled at her dress to attract her attontlon. "Mother, Isn't Santa Claus coming? He's awful late. We shan't have no Klsmas tree if ho doosn t como soon. ' "It's the snow, dearie,' explained the mother. "Such a bad storm that I oxpect ho was lato in stnrtlng. But now It's cleared up, I darosay ho'll bo horo soon." Her words woro cheery, but Mlko caught tho anxious glance she gavo her husband. "Go out nnd sco if William's in sight yet, Alice," said tho man. "Ho ought to havo been hero an hour ago. I only hopo nothing ha3 happened to tho poor old follow." Mlko dropped on hands and knees behind tho anglo of tho wall as tho door opened, and tho woman stood on tho threshold looking nut down tho empty snowclnd valley. Somehow tho pathos of tho bare llt tlo Christmas tree and tho anxious family appealed to his hardened old soul, and when the door closed again ho rose to his feet, and instead of fol lowing out his first Intention nnd en tering tho house to demand food and clothes, climbed tho wall again and mado off down tho valley. "If William's coming this way, there'll bo a road of sorts," he said to himself. And suro enough thoro was. Though covored deep In snow, ho found that thoro was a path down tho valloy, which ho had llttlo doubt would lead eventually to tho main road to town. Ho had gone another mile when a dark patch in the snow straight ahead attracted his attention, and ho caught his breath sharply as ho stopped bo- sldo it. For it was a man lying flat on his face, nnd, judging by tho snow which almost covered his body, ho had been thoro in tho samo position for somo time. Beside him lay a halfllllcd sack, also covered with snow. Mike gavo a sharp glance around. The moonlight horizon was still bare. Ho stooped and turned tho man over. "Dead!" ho muttered. "Dead and cold!" as ho laid his hand against tho chill cheek. For a moment ho stood staring at tho dead man's face, which was that of a llttlo old man, wizened and beard ed, and very much of Mlko's own typo and build. Then, Uko a flash, it camo to tho convict that here at last was his chanco, and a thrill shot through his weary frame. "He'll not need thlm duds any moro," ho muttered, and, dropping on his knees in the snow, began with trembling lingers to strip the dead man of his clothos. Thoy woro worn and old, but to Mlko as precious as broadcloth, for onco ho was rid of his convict garb ho had multiplied his chances ot es capo a hundredfold. Not till ho had completed tho wholo change of costume down to boots and lint, and had buried hla broad ar rows deep in a neighboring drift, did Mlko bothlnk hlniBclf of tho sack. Ho snatched it up eagerly, hoping it might contain food, and turned the contents out upon tho snow. A small drum, a bag of lead sol diers, a cheap doll, a box of wax tnpors, and ono ot crackers, and a couple of packets of sweets. Not an article of tho lot which had cost 25 eonts, nnd tho valuo of tho wholo not flvo dollars. Mike stood and stared at them. Tho box of soldiers had fallen open. Ho stooped nnd picked up tho llttlo paint ed figures, and replaced them care fully. "So 'twas poor ould Santy Claus," ho muttered. "And tho children will bo waiting on him. 'Twas hard luck intolroly." Again ho bent down and quickly bundlod everything back Into tho sack. Ho laid this by tho dead body, and turning on his heel, walked rapidly awny. Ho could not bo moro than four or flvo m from tho town now, and with . .a knowlodgo of rail way matters It would bo easy enough to stow away In a truck, and lying under a tarpaulin bo carried scores ot miles away from tho hntcd prison. Besides thoro wnB monoy In his trousers pockets. Only a llt tlo, but plenty to buy food and drink, a clay pipo, and a plug of tobacco. Mlko's mouth watered as ho thought ot n square meal. Ho tried to keep hla thoughtB on tho proapoct of theao almoat forgotten luxuries, yot, somehow It was difficult. Tho picture soon through tho cottage window kopt rising boforo his mind, and though ho did his boBt to thrust It asldo, tho effort was unavailing. Long years ago Mlko had a homo ot his own, n wlfo, and a baby. Wlfo and baby both had died, awopt away In n woo by an epidemic of dlph thoria, and that had boon tho begin ning of tho Irish navvy's downfall But ho had nover forgotton them, and tonight thoy seemed strangely near him. A sound botween a grunt and a groan burst from his lips; ho stopped and looked back. ' 'Tin a fool yo are, Mlko Dempsoy!" he oxclnlmod aloud. "Git along wld yo, and don't bo dolaytng for tho screws to naD ye!" Again ho started forward, but moro slowly than before, and honad not gono a hundred yards before onco moro ho camo to a dead stop. J is no use, ' he groaned. "I'll Just run back nn-lavo thlm things at tho dure. Thoro'll bo timo to reach town by midnight." Tho bitter wind was in his faco as ho turned back up tho hill, but now Mike did not hcsltnto for a momont. Head down, ho hurried onwards, and presently was again bcsldo tho corpso ot Santa Claus' frozen messenger. Without a glanco nt tho body ho snatched up the sack, flung it over his shoulder, and continued IiIb way up tho valley. Tho glow from tho lighted window throw its red beam across tho snow ns ho rounded tho curvo and camo within sight of tho lonely cottago and a corresponding glow warmed Mikes heart as ho thought of the pleasuro ot tho children when thoy found their long-delayed Christmas gifts. Seeing no sign of life, ho slipped In at tho front gate, and, stopping very qulotly up tho path, gained tho door, dropped his snck, and giving ono sharp tap, turned tho bolt. Rut ho had not counted on tho cnger children, nnd boforo he could got round "All Right," He Said Sullenly, "I'll Come Quiet." the anglo of the houso curly-locks camo flying after him. "William, whero is Santy Clau3?" piped tho childish treble. "It ain't William, sonny. Tell your mammy as William's got lost, and I Drought the things Instead. Now I've got to go, for I'm in a mighty hurry." "I expect you are!" camo a Jeering voice, and a blue-uniformed man car rying a carbine stepped out from tho dark shadow round tho corner, fol lowed instantly by a second. Mlko gavo ono glanco around. But ho was cornered. Tho wall cut ott escape. "All right," ho said Bullenly, "I'll como qulot." "You'd hotter," retorted tho warder. whoso temper long hours in tho snow had not improved. "Mammy, tho policemen havo took Sanjty Claus," cried tho llttlo lad. Mlko glanced up. Tho boy's mother was standing by, hor faco blank with amazement. ' "What does this mean?" sho cried. "Is It William?" "Not unless he's changed his namo slnco morning, missus," replied tho warden. "Ho was Michael Dompsoy whon ho bunked from Moorlands Just after dinner." "But I don't understand. He's got William Croker's clothos on, nnd ho'a brought tho things from Ashampton that William wont to fetch." Tho othor wardor a grizzled, elder ly man shook his head. "You'vo got mo, missus. I don't know what hla llttlo gamo is no mora than you." "Most Uko ho has murdored Wil liam," put in tho younger warder sour ly. "Ho said William was lost, mam ray," explained tho boy, "so he's brought tho things Instead. And hero thoy Is, all safe." "Best mako a clean breast of it, Dempsoy," suggested tho eldor war der. "Go and find out yoursoir," flashed tho old convict. "William's down tho valley thoro." "You tako the chap Into tho house, Gcorgo," said tho older warder. "I'll go down nnd sco." Half an hour lator ho returned. "I'vo found William," ho said briefly. "Ho's frozo to death. Dompsoy took his clothes, but ho didn't havo no hand in killing him." "Then, in tho namo of sense, what did ho como back hero for instead ot skimming out?" Inquired the youngor wardor, in blank surprise "Ho camo to bring our Kiaraas pres ents," explained curly-locks. "Ho told mo bo." "Woll, of all tho ovorlastlng fools," gasped tho Junior warder. Ills sonlor wheeled on him sharply. "A good thing It there woro a tew" moro fools ot that kind In Moorlands. Ay and outsldo, too!" Ho turned to Mlko: "Oonio along, Dcmpsey," ho said In n moro kindly tono. "I'll see as tho governor Knows now It was wo como to tako you. And i reckon your play ing Santy Claus won't do you no harm in hla eyes, any more than It nas in mine!" 0