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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, December 22, 1929, Image 100

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The Fourteenth Christmas —By Fannie Hurst
\ A Different Christ
j mas Story From the Pen
• of One of the Lenders
» Among IFriters of Short
Fiction—Another First-
Run Story by Miss Hurst
lf r ill Be a Feature of
The Star's Magazine
Next Sunday.
OWN around the Bowery, Christ
. m \ mas week comes in murkily. Even
•' M m more so than in the old days when
M X there was an air of lurid festivity to
this down-at-the-heel section of the
greatest metropolis of the world. All that has
gone now. There are no more knee-high swing
ing doors to invite the sordid reveler or the
threadbare celebrant. All that refnains of a
picturesque yesterday are the rows of lean and
. lusterless buildings which house petty shops and
lunch-counter eating-places and men’s hotels,
where the wayfarer may obtain a cot for 15
cents and a cruller for 5.
Tom Mason, who had a three days’ growth of
m beard, a turned-up cdat-collar and a pulled
down cap-visor, and who walked close to the
sordid buildings, as if for their sordid protection.
- was one of hundreds who presented almost pre
cisely his personal appearance as Christmas
week descended sootily upon the Bowery.
'J'RV as you would, however, it was impossible
*' to keep out that permeating sense of holi
day. There was tinsel-fringe already dangling
In the sooty window of a second-hand shoe
store. On a level with the elevated railroad
rows of unwashed windows showed the dim out
line of holly wreaths. Up in the sleeping ward
of the men’s hotel where Tom Mason was in
the habit of hiring a cot for 15 cents a night,
some wag had pasted a red-paper Santa Claus
against the window pane. In spite of one’s self,
even when one had every reason to desire to for
get or ignore, Christmas week elbowed its way
’ into these murky recesses of the city.
Once Tom, lurking along as he was wont to
do. pausing for a while in doorways, chatting
with the dim outline of figures who joined him
there and then ambling along again, picking up
a window-washing or a floor-sweeping joh here
and there, paused before the plate-glass window
of a telegraph office.
The Christmas blurbs displayed there sent a
laugh along Tom’s ironic slanting mouth
-Wire to Mother." “Let Mother Hear From Vou
This Christmas." "Wire Happiness to That
Jb Aching, Waiting Heart Back There." "It’s
Cristinas, Remember the Folks Back Home."
Sentimentally that was revolting to the sophisti
cated mind of Tom Mason. Wire the little
• mother. Send greetings back to the doting sis
. ter. Remember the forsaken—the deserted wife.
weie the phrases that slurred across Mason’s
mind, a mind not too deadened to function
1 ironically on occasion.
Melodramatic appeal like this, Mason rea
c sened. had its place after all. More than one
Bowery bum reading these snide reminders
• might quite conceivably slink back home to
gladden some waiting heart. Sentimental ad
vertising like this was a commentary upon the
seniimentality of the country. Americans were
r a susceptible species, all right, easily reached by
way of the most obvious emotion.
• 'J'HUS Tom Mason, ambling away his furtive,
meaningless days, was apt- upon occasion to
reason or meditate. But most of the time it was
jusi a case of apathy with him. One had to
pass the days somehow, and one had to eat to
live, so for the mo6t part life with him consisted
of working the few hours a day necessary to put
food in his body and then lay that body on a
cot A failure of a man if ever there was one:
and a failure that had come about without any
particular reason.
Indeed, it was a failure that was inconceivable
to those who had known him in his youth, when
life had promised and even been fulfilled to the
- extent of marriage with a woman of his own
' / excellent social sphere, subsequent success in
business and the establishment of a home and
family. The decline, when it began, had beer
relentless and consistent. Os course the element
• of drink had started it. A drunken father and
-a drunken husband coming home to intimidate
■ children and wife was not conducive to happi
• ness, neither was it to bring about success in hie
well established business affiliations.
The decline and fall of Tom Mason was the
old soiled, repetitious one of appetites, the
- j
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It i vas a third-rate sentimentality that uas revolting to the sophisticated mind
of lorn Mason. But cheap and melodramatic ap/teal like this, Mason reasoned,
had its place after all—and it did with him.
alienated affections of family and broken for*
It had been 14 years since Tom had encoun
tered any members of that family, although
from time to time he had read in the daily
newspapers accounts and notices that kept him
in touch with some of its doings. He knew
that his three children had married out of the
nest of the home he had created for them.
Good, substantial marriages. He knew that the
house in Brlarcliff Manor that had been bought
and paid for in the heyday of his well-being
was still occupied by the woman who was still
legally bound to him as wife. He thought of
her sometimes, as he thought of everything in
his apathy, dimly and without affection. She
had been a high-spirited girl, who rode a horse
magnificently and who had won him with the
quality of her vitality, good nature and good
humor. Whatever had come subsequently they
had enjoyed the brief heyday of their well-being
together. Their children had come healthily
and in close succession; their founding of the
family had at the time seemed well worth the
doing. The changes began to come when the
changes in Tom began to set in. Lurid, terrible,
frightening changes. Children who shrank
from him. A cold, hating, alienated wife
Debts Decline. Catastrophe.
Then Tom’s disappearance.
It was bitter to the man who had spent 14
years slinking close to the sinister buildings of
the Bowery to look back upon the horror of the
decline and fall of his empire. And there wa3
no doubt about it, sneer as he would inwardly
at the second-rate appeal of the telegraph ad
vertisements, some of his apathy seemed to fail
away from him at Chrlstmastide and an ache
in his heart begin to gnaw its way through.
More probably than not there were white
haired mothers who would burn candlelights in
windows on Christmas eve for recalcitrant sons
who. Instead of returning to them, would be
lurking in Bowery dives on Christmas eve.
Fourteen Christmases on that Bowery had
brought a chonic chill to the heart of Tom
Mas< n. After all it was impossible, if you were
human, not to recall happier Christmasea.
Christmas, ot all the periods of the year, empha
sises man’s dependability upon man.
''J'HERE had been happy, glowing Christmases
in Tom’s life; as a child In the home of his
parents; as a father and husband in the home
he had created for his wife and children. At
the home in Briarcliff Manor there had been
one Christmas when his three babies just for
fun and excitement of it had been brought in to
the laden Christmas table in an enormous wash
basket that was all decorated in holly sprigs.
There had been a Christmas eve In that same
big house when he and his wife had worked
until past midnight decorating three individual
Christmas trees for the three babies.
Yes, Tom, even as the 'others who slunk
through these Bowery Christmases, had his
memories. This Christmas, for some reason or
another, probably because his vitality was at
lowest ebb, the memories lay damper and
heavier on his spirit than they had in all the
14 years. It seemed to Tom that his life was
like a gray procession composed of day-by-days
that were marching like gray cowled figures,
one by one, to his grave. Was a loveless, luster
less life such as his worth the living, after all?
Time and time again this Christmas, as the
holly wreaths began to shine dimly through the
dirty windows of his district, Tom found him
self asking this sinister question. Was this
cowled, gray procession of his days worth the
living? More and more frequently, as these
thoughts squatted upcn him, Tom found his
badly shod feet wandering down toward Brook
lyn Bridge.
Countless men and women had jumped off
it for surcease from the misery ot failure.. It
seemed as good away as any to avoid the one
more meaningless Christmas. And yet some
how there was not in Tom the courage, or the
cowardice, call It what you will, to take this
way out, although all the while there was boil
ing within him the consciousness that another
of the Christmases similar to the 14 behind it
would not be endurable.
And so, in spite of his sophisticated abhor
rence of the second-rate sentimentality of the
write-to-mother blurbs on the plate-glass win
dow front of the telegraph office, Tom found
himself on Christmas eve standing on the porch
of the house he had built for his wife and fam
ily in Briarcliff Manor.
Either he had rung the bell or some one inside
had opened the door to the crunching of his
footsteps along the gravel walk. The figure of
his wife, smaller than he remembered it, waa
standing in the doorway with a lighted candle in
her hand. It smote Tom as laughable, that
lighted candle. All that was needed now was
the blinding snowstorm to give the picture the
final melodramatic touch. “Come in, Tom,"
said his wife, almost in the manner of one who
had been waiting an'arrival and had opened the
door to greet him.
On her words, the wind blew out the candle.
All that Tom foolishly could And to say waa,
“Your candle’s gone out, Pauline.”
“It’s all right,” she said evenly. “Come in.
It was only burning for you.”
(Copyright, 1M».)
Hard-Boiled Santa .
Continued from Tenth Page
doctors.” There was a curious mixture of em
barrassment and pride about the boy then.
“Well, there’s doctors in Mexico City and
hospitals—good ones. Don’t you worry, Buddy,
I’m goin’ to he’p you, like your dad would he'p
you if he had the chance.”
“Before I’d take he’p from a skunk like him
I’d rot!” said the boy.
Jensen smiled. “Guess it’s Jest as well you
and your old" man never met up. Buddy,” ha
said. “But you’re goin’ to Mexico jest the same.”
The boy was thoughtful. He was considering
the proposition.
“When do you reckon them officers will be
ba’k for me?” he asked.
“Expectin’ ’em any time now,” said Jensen.
“Then there ain’t no use tryin’ to get me
across to Mexico,” said the boy. “There wouldn’t
be time to go up to the Panhandle and get the
girl. And I won’t go without her. Takes a man
like my father to do a thing like that!”
“No. you ain’t like him,” said Jensen. "But
there’ll be time, all right. There’s away.
Leave it to me, Buddy. I’ll see you get plenty
of time. You saddle that pinto pony of mine
and get goin.’ I’ll Ax it. I’ve always liked you.
Buddy. Shake ”
The boy put his hand into Jensen’s and grip
ped it. You sure are kind.” he said. “I ain’t
forgotten how you give me the boose the day
I rode Tornado. The girl’s the best friend I
got. I reckon, but you’re next.”
“W EL L’” Jensen the next night when
the sheriff returned, “still lookin’ tor
Tom Runyon?”
The officers’ faces were stern “Yes, and quit
your foolin’. We got proof that a man by that
name's been here .on this here ranch for a
“Longer’n that,” said Jensen. “Tom Runyon
is my name and I’ve been workin’ here best
part of Ave years now when I ain’t been boot
leggin*. That good-lookin’-kld stuff don’t At me.
but the name sure is mine. Reckon I’m your
Thjy looked at each other. Something damn
funny about this! “Well.” said one of the rev
enue officers grimly: “It’s a cinch we ain’t goin*
back to headquarters without no prisoner at
all. You’ll nave to come along with us. seein’
you’re Tom Runyon and the warrant's sworn
out in that name. You bootleggers up to all
kinds of dodges. Guess there’s another Tom
Runyon that we ll have to get later. But you’ll
do for now. Sheriff, got your bracelets?”
So Hardboiled Jensen rode away, rode away
calling “So-long” to the astonished out At. He
couldn’t wave goodby to them on account of
the handcuffs. Rode away smiling. By the
time they’d And out their mistake the boy and
the girl he married would be safe in Mexico
But he was in for it. They’d And out how
he’d fooled them and it would go hard with
him when they tried him for that old crime.
Robbing the mails. That’s what they’d say
he’d dont. And he wouldn't be able to prove
he hadn’t. For # he’d have to stand trial
now. He’d given himself up. And willingly l
Funny how just finding out you had a kid of
your own by a woman you’d loved—a game kid,
too—made it easy to do things like this.
(Copyright, 1929.)
U. S. Market for Porto Rico .
£>ORTC RICO has found business in the
United States is good, a revie of the past
20 years indicates. From 1910 to 1914, the agri
cultural exports to the United States averaged
537.000.000. This figure was increased to $62,-
500,000 during the succeeding Ave years, and for
the past 10 years it has been $91,000,000.
Sugar and tobacco, of course, made up the
greater part of the exposed products.

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