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THE CHRISTMAS PARTY., Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY.
**Oom« on, Dinks, do sit down and let's ret" started," cried Marjory Gaile, impatiently. "Dinks." said Nurse, in a beseeching tone, "-we're waiting for you." "Just two shakes," replied Dinks. "I must tie up this parcel ; it's for Black wig. Mother's going to put it on the tree." " Pease tie my feeder," clamored Girlie; and just at that moment her twin brother, the Boy, knocked his spoon off the table, and promptly clambered down from his chair to pick it up. Nurse -was in despair. " Look what ■vou're doing, Boy," she cried, as the table cloth rumpled up and the milk jug was nearly on the floor. Boy climbed back to his place. "Hurry up, Dinks," pleaded Marjory. "Begin without him, nurse." "No. dent'," shouted Dinks. "I'm just ready." But the string he was tying round the parcel broke, and there was going to be more delay. Lunch was late as it was, and now the soup was getting cold. Nurse seized the parcel in one hand and put it on the mantelpiece, while she grabbed hold of Dinks with the other and dragged him to his chair. Dinks felt inclined to whimper; but he was 10 years old now, and began to feel that he was a man. Besides, it was his duty to say grace. So he covered his blue eyes witn hio little fat hand and repeated very nieely: "For what we are about to receive, Lord, make us truly thankful." The children were excited. So was Nurse, if the truth were told. It was Christmas Eve, and they were going to have a party that night. And there was ever so much to do alter lunch before the guests arrived. Father had brought homo a great Christmas tree and stuck it in a tab of earth in the bay window of the drawing room. But it had still to be decked out. The gifts for the guests had to he tied on, and the Christmas crackers, and the fairy balls, and the little wax candles. It would take the children all afternoon to do that. And then they were all to be dressed. Oh, they would never be ready in time! "Now, be quick!" said Nurse. "Girlie, that's not the way to hold your spoon. Sap quietly, Diaks, and don't slister." ,T Wfll the p'um pudding burn high up?" asked the Boy. "Will it b'aze up to the woof?'* "Don't be silly," said Marjory, reprovingly; "it will just have wee curlywuriv blue flames all over it." "Will B'ackwig be frightened?" Girlie wanted to know. "No," answered Dinks, in a big, scornful voice. He ridiculed the very idea. "Blackwig is ten—the same as me." "Funny, said Marjory, "and Annette Is twelve—same as me." " Stop talking now, and be quick," said Nurse, as she doled out plates of rice. " Marjory, keep quiet j give Girlie some mflk.*' " Won't they speak to us?" asked Girlie. " They can't,'' said Marjory; " they don't know any English." '* You mustn't call him Blackwig," said Nurse; "you must call him his right name." "But I can't say his right name," said Dinks. ... «*lt*3 Francois," said Marjory, with a brave attempt to pronounce it rightly. She had begun French at school, and knew that "bon" sounded "bong."_ " And, they've got no daddy," said the Boy. "Their daddy was a soldier, and got deaded at —at—at " he forgot where. "At Liege." Marjory supplied tho name of the place, but she called it "Leege." "And they've got no muvver," sighed Girlie, with a long-drawn wail on tho "no." "Oh, yes, they have," cried Dinks; "only they don't know where she is." "Did they lose her on the great big steamboat?" asked Girlie. She had heard the story from her own mother several times. "Yes, you know that," said Marjory impatiently; and Nurse added "Do be quick and get done." Dinks clattered his plate away from him and jumped up, shouting: "Where's another string? I want to tie Blackwig's parcel." "Don't call him Blackwig any more," said Nurse ; " call him Frangsoys—that's his right name." And just then Mother put her head in at the nursery door. " I'm ready, children. Como along. Wipe your mouth Boy. Have you got the candles, Ma>jory!" 11. Fiv« o'clock came. The guests began to arrive. Marjory and Dinks stood ir the hall with their mother to receive them : the twins were upstairs in the drawing room with Aunt MaYo and Miss Dubbs. Every time the door opened the new moon looked straight down from the star-lit sky and seemed to say " I wish you a pleasant evening," while a blast of keen frosty air shlvi-r "\ in ns though it too wanted to enjoy the warmth of the blazing fires. First to come were the Frobishers, Tom ;ind l-v.irl. was almost too big for -\ crKldrcn'.s party: he had a fur cuilar on lis overcoat ; but Pearl, wrapped up in cape and comforter, was full of glee anil ready for all the fun. She said " A happy Christmas " as she shook hands with Mrs Gaile, because her mother had told her to; then the threw her arms round Marjory's neck and asked in a loud whisper : " Are they coming?" The door opened again and another cold blast brought in the three Cunninghams. The eldest was dieted in black, and everybody thought it was very funny to wear a black frock to a party when she was not in mourning. Then they noticed that the middle one was all in yellow, and tha youngest all in red: and "it dawned on them that black, yellow, and red were the Belgian colors and everybody wasdel'ghtei The door opened a "great many time 3 in the next quarter of an hour. Every time a swirl of cold air swept in, hungry for the warmth, and every tune it swept in with it, a little group of rosy-cheeked, brighteyed • children, who looked very solemn for a moment or two, but soon forgot their shyness in the bright, cheery light of the drawing room lamps. There were the Murrays and the Orwella and the Thomsons and the Wimperleys, and ever so many more. Last of all came the Dents —they had been told to come last. For Marjory wanted all her guests to be gathered to welcome the little strangers they were to bring with them. Everybody was in the drawing room now and every eyo was on the doorway when Jack Dent, and his sister Ruth entered. There was a sudden hush. Jack led in a little blaelcduered girl by the hand, and Kuth. led is a little black-haired boy. Mrs Gaile vent forward to greet them. Sho spoke to the little strangers in French so that nobody knew what she said, and all they ooul« ihear of the softly spoken answers was something like "buz- war" from -the boy. and something about "No-al" from the girl, Then the little strangers were introduced to the company. "Tlda. is Annette," said Mrs Gaile, "and this is Francois. They are two dear little children from Belgium who have been driven from their home by the *rnel German*.' I'm afraid jtou won't bo
A STORY FOR CHILDREN. [Specially Written tor the 'Star.'] i [Copyright.]
able to talk with them much; bat I'm -we you will make them as happy as you can to-night." Then everybody in the room stood up and shouted " Hip-hip-hurrah!" again and again, and waved their handkerchiefs. And Girlie ran up to the little Belgians and cried: " I want to tiss Annette; I want to tiss B'ackwig too." And both Vnnette -and Francois smiled through their blushes. They understood what Oirlie's kiss meant anyhow. 111. " Father's ready now," said Mrs Gaile, as a sign that it was time to go to tea. Boy wished they could have the Christmas tree first, but Aunt Maisie reminded him of the plum pudding-, which was going to be all over curly-blue blazes, and he was reconciled to "waiting. The party marched downstairs to the dining room with all due ceremony, arm in arm. Tom Frobisher led the way, with Marjory for his partner. Then came Hugo Wimperley with the black Cunningham girl. Teddy Orwell followed with Ruth Dent, and Dinks with May Murray, who war far too big for him. Jack Dent kept Annette beside him, and Francois came after him with Girlie. And so they all got downstairs and squeezed into their places round the table, which, notwithstanding it was so big, was not quite big enough. Then mother took her place behind the tea cups and father came in. Father looked very serious with his great spectacles on, and not at all happy. Ha said grace in so low a voice that nobody heard it, and never spoke another word, and he ran away before tea was half done. The fact is he was shy. Fathers are often very, very shy: tfiey aro not like mothers at all. Nobody talked much at first. How could they talk and cat mince pies at the same time. But after father had disappeared and the plum pudding was brought in—it was a huge plum pudding: nurse and the servant carried it between them: it had a sprig of holly on the top with bright-red berries, and it was all aflame and steaming like a volcano- - then the tongues were loosed and everybody was speaking out at once. They clapped their hands till the blue fires burned themselves out, and Aunt Maisie stnck_ the carving knife into the bulging fat sides. Miss Dubba and the servant carried the plates round and poured the sauce, amid a perfect babel of voices. When everyone talks at once nobody ean hear anything; bat anybody could see that they were all very happy. " I want to pnll my c'acker wif you," said Girlie to Blackwig. It was Francois who got the red paper cap and stuck it on his head. But when he pulled his cracker with Girlie, it was Girlie who got the dainty bluo collar, which looked very nice on her white dress. There was a perfect fusillade round the table as the crackers went off, and soon there was a brave show of hats and caps and collars of all sorts of shapes and hues, and a great litter of scraps and tinsel on the table and on the floor. IV. And now they all went up again to the drawing room. They were ready for games and fun. "What should they play first? Should they spin-the-plate or have Lubin Loo? Mother .decided for spin-the-plate. So they made a big circle of chairs and sofas and took numbers all round: and Aunt Maisie was just going to set the plate a twirling for the start, when goodness me, what a growl. It sounded a3 if all the big dogs in the country were on the landing just outside the door, as if a whole menagerie of lions and tigers had broken loose and bounded up the stairs. The boys tried to look brave, but the girls screamed, and poor little Annette, who was a stranger, remember, ran and clasped her brother in her arms, and began to cry. But Aunt Maisie just stood up with the plate in her hand and smiled. Sho did not seem to be afraid at all. Almost immediately the door opened, and a great big—just a man—scampered in on his hands and knees, and bowf-wowf-wowf-ed to all the company. There was silence for a second or two: it was a relief to know that it was not a lion anyhow. Then Girlie shouted out in glee: " It's Uncle Bob," and ran and hugged him very tight. "Uncle Bob!" Uncle Bob!" cried all the children at once, for they all knew him, " you did give us a fright." "Did I? I'm sorry," said Uncle Bob, still sitting on the floor. " I thought you knew I always come in like this." Then the game went on, and Uncle Bob was number 31. And after he had spoken a word or two with the grownups he was kept busy running after that plate into every corner of the room; for number 31 was called regularly every second time. When he had given a turn to ever so many numbers he spau the plate and called " 18 "; but nobody ran out to get it. Ho looked surprised. Aunt Maisie, however, whispered something in his ear which made him lift his eyebrows and form his lips into a great round 0. though he said nothing. Then he seized the plate just as it was falling, span it again and called "dix-huit." Little black-haired Annette sprang across the room in time to catch it, while everybody applauded; and she too, when she set the plate a spinning, cried out " trente-et-un." It was quite clear that Uncle Bob was a favorite. Lubin Loo followed spin-the-plate, and the Haymakers followed Lubin Loo. It was a great party. Even Tom Frobisher forgot he was almost too bi", and enjoyed himself thoroughly. And when the three Cunningham girls, in their black, yellow, and red dresses, made a tableau with Annette and Francois sitting on the guanaco rug in front of them, everybody thought it was sploudid, and after they had cheered till they were tired, seeing they did not know the Belgian National Anthem, they sang ' God Save the King' instead. V. It was when she was sitting very still and quiet in the tableau that Uncle Bob took a long good look at Annette. Then he turned to Mrs Gaile—he called her Polly, becauso he was grown up—and said in a low voice : " I say, Polly, who •ire these Belgian kiddies vou'vo got a Kold of?" " They're two little refugees that the Dents aro taking care o|," answered Mrs Gaile. " Their father was killed at Liege, and their mother brought them away from Brussels when the Germans wero approaching tho city, but somehow she got separated from them on the way across and they don't know where she is." * j "Queer," said Uncle Bob, "what's their name?" " I'm not quite sure," answered Mrs Gaile again, " I asked the little girl, and it sounded Hko • Lovely,' I couldn't catch it clearly; but of course it can't be that." "Lovely!" said Uncle Bob, "Lovely! Laveleye—was it Laveleye?" and no asked the question quite eagerly. I " Yea," said Mrs Gaile, " I believe that would be it. Annette Laveleye—yes. that's what she said." "Great Jehoshaphat !" said Uncle Bob, and he got so excited that he could hardly keep his voice low enough not to let the children hear him. But they were having some fruit now, and the I boys were crunching ajgples while the
girls were racking oranges, and trying not to let the juice run down on their clothes. " Great Jehoshaphat!" said Uncle Bob, " I do believe it's that -woman's children." "What -woman, Bob?" asked Mrs Gaile. " I -was called in last week, on Wednesday, no, it was Friday, to see a patient, a Belgian refugee woman that tho Halcrofts nave got with them, and that girl's as like her as two peas. I saw her again on Monday, and I couldn't find anything wrong. I'm sure she is just pining. She told me she fled from Brussels after Liege fell; her husband was a captain'of artillery, and was killed by a shell. She got as far as Ostend, she says, with her two children, a boy and a girl, and somehow in the crush at the boat she lost hold of them. Sho thought they were getting on board, too, in the crowd,-but she couldn't find them afterwards. And ever since she came to the Halcrofts she has been too ill to do anything. Her name's Madame Laveleye, but I never asked her what her children's names were. But that girl's as like her as a kitten's like a cat." Uncle Bob was quite excited. " Annette, Annette/' he called the little blackhaired maiden to him. " Tell me," he said to her, and he spoke in her own language, " tell me about your mother. What is she like? Has she black hair, and thin hands, and a tiny little mole on her cheek here?" VI. Uncle Bob was a doctor. That is why he was late for the party, and couldn't come till after tea. He lived in another town 12 miles off, and his car was standing at the door waiting for him. "Look here, Polly, he said, "it's five minutes to eight, can you keep them till nine o'clock, and I'll run over and see. I'm sure its their mother. I'll be back in an hour." The children wondered what had become of him when they missed him. " It's too bad of Uncle Bob to go away," said Dinks. " I sup Dose he's gone to see a patient," said Marjory ; " but I didn't hear the telephone, did you?" " He's away to make sick people better," said Girlie, with a child's sublime faith. It was Uncle Bob who was to strip the Christmas tree. He could do it so well, and reach up to the topmost branches, standing on a chair;' and he said such funny things when he handed down the parcels. But Aunt Maisie did it instead. And nurse held the step-ladder while she climbed. And if she did not say funny things, sho said nice things, which was nearly as good. There was a present for everybody. Tom Frobisher was mighty afraid that the golliwog, high up in front, might be for him, but it wasn't. It was for little Dicky Thomson, who was as pleased as Punch with it; and Tom was as delighted as he was relieved when he had a little packet given him, which' ho found contained a famous knife. There was a beautiful green scarf for May Murray, whose hair was auburn, and a wonderful aeroplane for Teddy Orwell, who meant to bo an airship man when he grew up. Ruth Dent's gift was a book, which she began to read straight away, which was not very polite of her. And Francois, when he opened his parcel, the parcel Dinks had tied up at lunch time, discovered a fine big pistol and a box of cartridges. He was a proud boy. He fired a shot at once. Or course there wore no bullets in the cartridges, but they made a great bang, and all the girls covered their ears with their hands. It did not take very long to 6trip tho tree; but it took a long time to open the parcels, and compare the gifts, and see what everybody eko had got, and talk about them, a<id tie them all up again. So that fathers and big brothers were beginning to appear in greatcoats and cap 6 to convoy the little folks home, when who-o-op, \yho-o-op' three great yells of a motor siren were heard outside, and a car ran panting up to the front of the house. "It's Uncle Bob back again," cried - a dozoii voices. VII. Sure enough it was Undo Bob back again. They could feel the whiff of cold blowing up the stairs and into tho drawing room when the door opened. They could hoax his cheery voice as ho entered, but they could not make out what he said ; there was someone with him, thcy were sure of that. There was his foot on the soft-carpeted stair, but ho was climbing slowly, not two steps at a, time, as ho usually did. He reached tho landing, and those in tho drawing loom who were nearest the door saw him and somebody whom he had on his arm. "Who is it?" they whispered. Quietness spread over the room; thero was mystery about. Presently Uncle Bob stood • in the doorway, by his side a tall figure in black, a lady. She had a little cap above her raven hair, and a motor veil tiad under her chin. Sho looked very thin and pale; but there was a wonderful gleam in her eyes as she glanced here ar.d there among tho children all standing round and watching her, as though she were looking for eomeone. " Mama! Mama!" cam© a scream from a corner. It was Annette-. With one bound sho crossed tho floor and jumped into the lady's arms. She nearly knocked hoi- over, she flew at her so vehemently. Francois was only a moment behind her. He, too, leaped up and clasped his mother round the neck. For it was their mother, really and truly. They dragged her into the room; they plated her in a chair ; they climbed on her knees; they forgot all about the party and tho other guests and j their hostess and everybody and everything. They cried for very joy, and tho lady cried too. And then they took her veil off and her cloak, and spoke to her in their own French tongue, asking her where 6he had been, and why was she so , thin, and how did sho leave them, and : had people been kind to her, and would j .she never, never, never go away again. It was a very glad reunion. " j The guests slipped away in little grfr.ip.-j : with their fathers and brothers; all ex- ' cept the Dents, who could not leave with- ! out their little Belgian friends. Mrs Gaih and her children and Jack and Ruth wore down in the dining room—they had left Annette and Francois alone with their mother—while Uncle Bob was busy at the telephone ringing up the Dents' home to rco whether thero was room there for Madame Laveleye too, or would sho need to be separated from her little ones again. There was room, and Uncle Bob would pack them all into Ins car and run them round presently; it was no distance. Undo Bob went up r.rd told the Belgians about the arrangement. Annettekissed him for joy. And so wraps were got and ecarves were wound round throats and woolly gloves drawn on and good-nights said, a.id Uncle Bob's motor whirred and whisked them all away. "Well, hasn't it been a happy party," eaid mother as she and the children went upstairs again and looked for a moment into th>j untidy drawing room. "Now, Bov and Girlie must get off to Blanket Bay." "But why did B'ackwig hug the h'aek lady?" asked Girlie. j '' Oh, mother," cried Marjory, " isn't it ' lovely?" | "Bb.ekwig's gone end forgotten his I pistol!" said Dinks in a disgusted tone. The E.vn.
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY., Issue 15683, 23 December 1914
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