Newspaper Page Text
R. PETERS brung you some mail, Miss Pam," announced Aunt Sally, coming into the cozy sitting room with four damp letters. Pamela looked them over knowing ly, felt of their soft contents and smiled grimly. "The regular Christmas donations of handkerchiefs has begun," she ob served in a dry but humorous voice. "This is from Lottie Preston. This," fingering a thinner envelope ginger ly, "1b probably a pin cushion cover fran Geraldine, and this very fat ^velope contains a linen initial handkerchief from Molly Drew. "Last year, Aunt Sally, I received IT handkerchiefs and three em broidered cushion tops that bore unmistakable marks of previous Christmas travels. I received three Invitations to spend Christmas with relatives—Salina and Pauline, of course, and the Prestons—all of whom had gaps to be filled in, and I filled them as usual. I spent $32 for Christmas gifts that I didn't en joy giving because I knew they were expected, and made three trips to the city for the express purpose •f suiting everybody as nearly as possible, and in consequence I grew so tired that I was cross to you for two whole days before I left on my Christmas tour. "This year I shall not make a single present outside of my imme diate family—which means just us two, Aunt Sally, for I intend to make myself a handsome Christmas present instead of wasting my mon ey on the relatives who dump all their left-overs on me. I shall'not accept a single invitation, either. I have lost the Christmas spirit." AtJSit Sally's honest black face took on a look of perplexity, where upon Miss Pamela went on to ex plain the situation. "I am tired of being a Christmas scapegoat, she declared with JT? snirtt "Everything unpleasant is loaded on my shoulders because I happen to be unmarried." 'I do wish to goodness sake you had-a-married!" exclaimed Aunt Sally in a tone that gave Pamela to understand that all hope been relinquished. had Was cut out an ohL maid,' Aunt Sally maintained, sorrowfully, whereupon Pamela shrugged her Well-set shoulders in half humorous despair. or,* £?, vV6d her faithful iVT, ^an&eGO/a at old servant descended to her together jWith the little Country home which was the most undesirable of "effects" mentioned in the paternal will "to be equally divided among my three daughters." Pamela being unmarried, had no need of the negotiable property which her sisters' hus bands eagerly desired for the purpose of en larging their business operations, so Pamela •bad accepted the country house and a third of a maternal income, which barely sufficed to cover the taxes and repairs. "Now we shall see what Salina has to say," observed Pamela as she opened her sister's hurriedly scrawled letter. "Dear Pamela," she read aloud. "Please don't take offense at what I have done, for I simply had to take advantage of your Irrespon sibility at a pinch. The Kensingtons—you re imember them, don't you, Jim's sister and fam ily—have just come back from Texas, of course expecting to be invited here for Christ jinaB. That is what we'd have to do if I didn't have you to fall back on. I'm sending them all down to you to spend the holidays, we simply can't have them here, for the reason that we've invited the Masons, Jim's business friends, you know. It is likely that iTom Mason will, be here if he can get away ifrom a pressing business engagement, and as ,he was rather attentive to Geraldine last sum liner at the mountains something may come of this Christmas visit. Tou know how fastidi ous Tom is and how a crowd of noisy children would annoy him. I know men of his kind— they are as sensitive as girls, and I don't pro pose, to spoil my daughter's prospects for the take of the Kensington's. "Geraldine is packing a box of things for the Kensingtons which we will send by ex press to-day, so you needn't go to any expense buying Christmas presents for them. I hope you'll have a real pleasant Christmas and come to see us as soon after the holidays as possible." Pamela threw down the letter with a deter mined gesture and for a few moments she thought deeply, painstakingly, with her smooth forehead puckered in a very unusual frown. "Aunt Sally," she said suddenly, "could you possibly make out to spend Christmas week in the pasture cabin?" "For what, Miss Pam?" asked the negress In a puzzled voice. "For peace—I'm going to spend Christmas as I please. The Kensingtons can come if they like and make merry in my house, but I am not going to be a Christmas scapegoat any longer. Can you make the cabin do. Aunt Sally?" "Deed an' I can,' was the confident answer. «I can cook the bestes' kind in a fireplace, Jes' like ny old mammy could. Ben can haul us down all the bed close an' things we need." Fortunately Salina was at home when Pam ela's telephone tall reached her, so there was mm delay. She vas surprised to receive a mes- sage from her sister and still more surprised at its purport. "You have made other Christmas plans!" she repeated in blank amazement. "Yes, I'm real sorry you will oe put out Sa lina," came the brisk, businesslike answer— "What did you say?—O, no, Salina, I couldn't possibly do that, but my house will be here, open to your guests, so send them right along just as you planned, only tell them that I have made arrangements to be away over Christ mas—What?—They can't cook? Then I don't see but that you'd better send Geraldine down to entertain them, as she is such an excellent manager and hostess." Salina's answering voice was exceedingly sharp. "Geraldine can't possibly be spared," she snapped. "I wrote you that the Masons are going to be with us, and we hope to have Tom if he can possibly get off, and I really think something definite may come of his visit, for I'm almost certain he admires Geraldine. Just giv* the Kensingtons a sort of a camp Christmas and they'll be perfectly satisfied." "Very well," Pamela answered, cheerfully, "send them down and let them have a camp Christmas, as you say. I'll see that the house is well stocked with provisions and will leave the key under the doorstep—don't forget to tell them that, Salina, or they won't be able to get in, mind." Pamela dropped tie receiver to choke off Salina's parting protest, and hurried away fearful of being recalled. She went the rounds of the village stores, ordering what she need ed to tide herself and the Kensingtons through the holiday week. It was a snowy morning and walking was very disagreeable and tiring, so by the time Pamela reached her own gate she was glad to climb up beside old Ben on the bob sled that was taking the last consignment of household stuff to the cabin In the pasture where Aunt Sally already held cheerful sway. The next morning was clear and very cold. Pamela, in her warm but humble cabin sitting room, thought of the Kensingtons. "Ben had better lay the fires up at the house so that it won't take too long to warm up after they come," she said. "You tell him about it, Aunt Sally, when he brings down the groceries." Pamela settled herself to a pleasant task, which was nothing less than the ordering of a long-wlshed-for winter coat with fur trim mings, which was to be her, Chiistmas present to herself. She had a $30 check saved to pay for it, and was about to inclose it in the care fully written letter, to whinh she hai pinned a clipping from the cloak maker's catalogue, when Aunt Sally called to her from the front door. "Dey's come!" she announced. "Why, dey's most all growed up! I expected for to see a passel of chilluns." "They're just big, Aunt Sally, not grown," Pamela explained, watching the stumbling de scent of the six Kensingtons from the station hack. "The oldest girl can't be over 15, for she was born while Salina was spending the summer witti us when Geraldine had her third But she didn't even begin another letter. Instead she rose and flung on her coat and hood preparatory to going out. "I'm going up to the house, Aunt Sally," she announced to her surprised servant. "I'll pretend I'm a neighbor who wants to see the lady of the place." Pamela rang her own doorbell rather tim idly, and was admitted by a tall, rather pale girl in a skimpy plaid dress. The girl led her to the dining room, where the other four were seated before an open fire. In a deep-seated rocker, with a well worn shawl about her thin shoulders, sat a gaunt-looking woman of middle age, who In troduced herself as Mrs. Kensington, a rela tive-in-law of Miss Pamela. "You are not very well, are you?" Pamela asked, as she accepted a chair beside the fire. "I'm a great deal better than I was last year," waB the cheerful answer. Miss Pamela left such a kind note of wel come for us. She must be a very nice per son. "O, yes," said Pamela, with a flush of shame as she remembered the Indifferent wording of that reluctant note. "Well, I must go. Thank you for letting me warm up. I hope you'll have a real nice Christmas here." She rushed out into the keen, wintry day in a rage against herself and Salina and Jim, who had combined in that shabby treatment of the needy Kensingtons. Outside of her gate she narrowly escaped being run over by a trig little cutter with two occupants, one of whom she recognized with a start of amazement as her old friend, Tom Mason. He looked exceedingly well-to-do in his fur great coat and his smooth, blond face had a fresh, boyish charm that made him look much younger than he really was, for Pamela knew that he was exactly her own age—31. "May I stop?" he asked, as he threw back the lap robes. "The south-bound train ran off the trqck just below the station here and I took that opportunity to give myself the pleasure of calling on you." "I'm not living there just at present," said Pamela, with a backward nod of her head, "but I'll be glad to have you go down to my cabin with me. And O, I do need sensible advice just this moment, and I'm awfully glad to see you, Tom." Seated before Aunt Sally's nicely laid table in the lean-to kitchen, Pamela poured out the story of the Kensingtons. ''Do tell me what I can do to ease my con- ft birthday. I remember Sa lina told us the whole Ken singtons' history when she received her sister-in-law's announcement of the child's birth—four girls and a boy." "That last un walks ter rible puny," Aunt Sally ob served with something akin to pity. "Tkat must be the moth er. She has had a lot of sickness, I understand. The father died three years ago, but according to Jim and Salina he wasn't of much account anyway—a profes sor, or something bookish, I believe." Pamela went back to her writing, but seemed unable to finish it to her satisfac tion. She could not put her mind to it instead, she kept thinking uf the Ken singtons, of Salina and Ger aldine, and lastly of Tom Mason, whose supposed fancy for the former sur prised and rather Irritated Pamela, who had always considered Tom thoroughly sensible. "I suppose his money has spoiled him," she said to herself as her mind went back to the days when Tom was her school friend, before the Masons made their fortune in Pennsylvania oil lands. "Certainly Tom Mason of old would not have thought of marrying an affected, vain girl like Geraldine. How Salina has spoiled that girl! Whew, there goes the ink all over my letter. Now I shall have to write an other!" science and give those people a real good time," she begged. "Why, give them a rousing good Christmas tree. Ill help," Tom offered cheerfully. "Geraldine is sending a Christmas box for .the Kensingtons, but I don't believe there'll be enough in It to make the tree look real fes tive," said Pamela, "so we'd better do what we can at the village." The tree trimming began that evening with great gusto. Tom opened Geraldine's Christ mas box expectantly and out tumbled a lot of antiquated toys, half a dozen summer hats, stained and crushed beyond repair, some worn and none too clean waists and two drag gled, silk-lined skirts. In the bottom of the box were two baskets of cheap candy and a cake and a few shopworn Christmas cards. Tom's wholesome face had taken on a look of deep disgust. He caught up the arm ful of rumpled finery and flung it violently on the glowing coals of the big fireplace. "So much for Geraldine's generosity!" he exclaimed in a voice that would have made Geraldine's ears burn furiously, had she heard it. At 10 o'clock Tom took his cheerful leave, promising to return by 10 o'clock on Christ mas morning. Tom reappeared promptly at the appointed hour, with additional packages, which he stotwed in a corner, for they did not seem de signed for the tree. At 11:30 the jangle of sleigh bells an nounced the arrival of the guests, who trooped in rather timidly, bewildered by the littleness and humbleness of the cabin, evidently, but Tom soon put them at ease. By the time dinner was over the guests were as happy as birds, even to the pale, weak looking mother, who glowed with the reflected happiness of her children. And the Christmas tree surprise! It was almost too much to be quietly borne by chil dren who had known so very little of Christ mas lavishness. Laden with gifts, they de parted all a-quiver with gratitude. "It has been a great success!" Tom de clared when the Jangle of sleigh bells had died away on the icy uight air. "One phase of it is regrettable, though, and that is the dissat isfaction it has left in my mind." "What d9 you mean?" Pamela asked, frank ly surprised. "It has made me feel dissatisfied with my bachelor existence. It is lonely at best and a pretty selfish way of living." "So unmarried men are selfish and irre sponsible as well as unmarried women, are they?" mused Pamela. "I'm rather glad to hear that because I have so often been cen sured for selfishness and obstinacy and—" "Do you ever think seriously of getting married, Pam?" Tom broke in. "I haven't for years," was the frank an swer. "I have thought of it a good deal lately very lately," he declared, significantly. "If you could make up your mind to marry me, Pam ela, we could have many a. Christmas like this, for we certainly—" "Marry you!" Pamela echoed, turning her crimsoning face toward the speaker. "Why, I never once thought of—not for years, that is," she interrupted herself to say truthfully. "But once you did think of me," Tom cried, triumphantly. "I wanted you years ago, Pam, but now I want you a great deal more. At 31 a man knows his mind perfectly, especially if it concerns a woman that he has known and cared for all his life." Then for the first time the remembrance of Geraldine's expectations surged through Pamela's mind. She spoke of it in a confused, embarrassed way, whereupon Tom laughed and said he guessed the Clydes would survive the disappointment, especially as he had never given them any grounds for such expectations. "Come, Pam, give me my answer," he urged, "and don't forget that the season called for—a joyous one to me." Aunt Sally, listening eagerly behind the half-shut kitchen door, saw rather than heard what followed. She smiled a big, intensely gratified smile as she turned back to her fra grant old pipe. "Thank the good Lord, she's settled at last!" she exclaimed, gratefully. Then, after a long, delicious pull at her faithful pipe, she added, triumphantly, she's done better'n any of 'em, too, if is a Christmas scaoecost." a Mina Dare's Real Christmas (3 2 By MARGARET LYLE Of course your Christmas day is entirely taken up," Bald the caller— "you are going away or entertain ing at home?" "I haven't kept Christmas for sev eral years," re plied Mrs. Dare— "not since my hus band died!" The visitor, who only knew her hostess slightly, murmured: "In deed!" sympathet ically, and glanced round the beautl fully furnished room. Mrs. Dare was barely 30, a wealthy and yet, at a season when the poorest get so their lives, she was lonely and desolate. Mina Dare col ored slightly, and, seeming to think some explanation was necessary, added: "We had only been married a year, and on Christmas day he—he was killed in an accident." Even after the lapse of seven years she could scarcely speak with calmness of that dreadful catastrophe which had robbed her life of all light and zest. "Since then," she went on, after a moment's pause, "I have never kept Christmas' at all I couldn't." Miss Ancrum, the caller, sympa thized, albeit she thought her hostess morbid and self-indulgent. "But still—the religious part of Christmas day?" she ventured. Mrs. Dare shook her head. "We had been to church In the morning," she said, brokenly. "No—Christmas day has nothing but painful memories for me." Miss Ancrum spoke a few kindly words, then passed on to other things. Just before taking her leave she ven tured, half timidly: "I wonder if I could ask you to help me on Christ mas day? We are giving a dinner and entertainment to a number of the very poorest in the East end, and it is so difficult to get adequate assist ance." "I!" gasped Mina Dare. "I—!" "Yes, it is just such as you that we need. Perhaps you will think it over, and let me know by Christmas eve at latest. I should be deeply grate ful." She said good-by and went her way, diplomatically leaving her host ess to thresh out the proposition in solitude. Mina Dare found It difficult to re fuse the request, though at flrst she felt inclined to do so. She would really be doing nothing on Christmas day, and helping to brighten, for one day in the year, lives generally gray and sordid, would not be "keeping Christmas," so far as she was con cerned. Still, it was more because she was really ashamed to refuse her friend's request than for any better reason, that Mrs. Dare at length wrote and volunteered her services for Christmas day. A long, wide room, naturally bare »nough, but made bright with bunting and a profusion of holly, mistletoe, and other evergreens two long tables spread bountifully with Christmas fare and all down the tables rows of pale, thin, but happy, and for once, at least, clean faces—these were what Mina Dare saw when she entered with Miss Ancrum the hall where Bome 300 poor little ones were being regaled. All were meanly dressed some were in actual rags many were barefoot ed none boasted even decent shoes. Mlna's heart went out to the little guests/and she thought with a pang of the seven selfish years of brooding and useless solitude. Soon she was waiting on the chil dren, talking to them, even laughing with them. In helping others her own grief seemed to be soothed and she proved herself an admirable assistant. After the dinner there was an enter tainment—magic lantern, singing and playing. Mrs. Dare both played and sang well, and became a huge favor ite, singing pretty nursery ballads, to the delight of the youngsters, and ac companying other singers. But when at last the children filed out, cheering and singing, and Miss Ancrum began to thank her helpers, Mina Dare held up her hand. "Don't thank me," she said. "You ought to rebuke me that I have never before thought of help ing to make others happy, whatever I might feel myself. I have been happy to-day all my heart was in the work. I have been selfish—very selfish. I have learned a lesson this Christmas which I hope may serve me, not at Christmas time only, but throughout the year." Miss Ancrum clasped the speaker's hand warmly in her own. "We have Christ's own promise," she said, soft ly. "that whoso ministers to his little ones shall reap his reward." Mina's eyes filled with tears of hap piness and her pretty face flushed as she turned to go to her bome. All the way through the snowy streets she murmured joyfully to herself: "In asmuch as ye do it unto one of the «aat of these—"