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[All Rights Reserved.] CHRISTMAS INTERVIEW

$y OJ. B. BTOtiiJf. IJf you, are a Londoner, you will knot* thai lovely old Queen Anne house in Brain atone. Buildings, desecrated by having its opposite neighbor converted into a motor shop. From the top atory of No. 11 in Braaistone Buildings you can see (if you are, a Londoner, of course), coming over the, laofa of Gray's Inn, the bare, snaketike of ttie'bigg*it plana tree in Bray's Int Gardens. } Onetimes a. fat climbs up after an **yjaren£ly pigeon. 'Lien the pigeo.. flies away, and {eaves the cat wondering, with distressful "miaou-miaou," how she is going to get down again. " . . „ Besides his own cat, "John Dominic, and the pigeons and tha ropka in Grays Jnp, Dickie Hurlbut had much to occupy , him. In the first he was only twenty, and when one is twenty, with a Streak of literary talent, the world is a very wonderful place, teeming with the most exciting adventures. But on Christ - mas Eve, as Dickie sat in his window and gazed ai the window of the girl opposite, and tho Christmas bells began to ring out, ha was longing to be a small boy again and run to his mother, for the girl had a Christmas tree, and was hanging things on it. It ,always seemed to Dickie j a, fine day when she came to the window. • Somehow, as he sat by his own window and wrote short stories, which met with an j even shorter reception from disbelieving j editors, he wanted the pretty girl to come | and lean over him. He was sure that he i could write so much better if she were to I lend tie sunshine of her presence to his ; shabby attic. Besides, he was so sad and j lonely that he felt very much like the little boy who, because no one loved him, was going into tho garden to eat worms. Unfortunately, there were no worms nearer than Gray's Inn Gardens. Besides, it was raining hard, and it seemed unfair to the rooks and the pigeons to rob them of their daily food. The girl was very beautiful, with laughing blue eyes and golden hair—hair winch lit up hei window like sunshine. Once she had coma to the window with it all loose, and Dickie lost his heart to her on the spot. She, however, retreated with a little cry of dismay-, for her white arms shone through the glittering masses which enveloped her. For a long time after that—several days at least—neither of them came to the window. Dickie was afraid, and she was afraid. Then he met her in Gray's Inn Gardens, wearing a jacket of grey squirrel fur, which mads her white throat seem the whiter, and, after that, all Dickie's heroines wore jackets of grey squirrel fur, until one editor sarcastically wrote to inquire whether he^—Dickie—was an agent for a f irr company. As tho bells rang out, and Dickie could see the white hands of the girl weaving gold tissues amid the green branches of the little Christmas tree, ha became desperate. Nearly every day for three months he had seen her. All he knew about her was that her father' was a provision merchant, that her name waa Grace Elkington, and that she was a governess. Sometimes Dickie could hear her laugh. Sometimes she" seemed quite sad. Then he opened his window as much as to say that he sympathised with her. and the girl opened her window a little just to show that she understood, and shyly retreated. A dozen times Dickie called himself ferocious names because he had not the courage to speak to her in Gray's Inn Gardens instead of shyly hurrying past and raising his hat. At first the girl colored slightly and took no notice of him. As he went back to his attic, crushed and dispirited, he told himself that he was. an idiot to think that she could behave in any other way. Well-brought-up young girls, except in stories, did not speak to strangers, especially in London. Then, when she saw his distress, she bowed slightly in response to his reverentially-raised hat, and ran away, aa if qvercome by her own daring. The next day she did not come to the window at all. For several days it re(mained closed, except when she was not 'there. Dickie thought that he had mortally offended her, and was about to make up his mind to go back to his widowed mother in the country and renounce his ambitiona, when he saw her again. The next time he raised his hat she did not run. Only her heightened color and somewhat stiff little bow made him sure that she was aware of his existence. "If my mother knew her, how much easier it would make thing 3," he mused. But he could not ask his mother to leave her snug little home and come up to town on Christmas Eve. And there was the girl on the opposite side of the way, with her pretty tinsel gifts shining on the green Branches; and here was he, Dickie, in his shabby attic, wondering why, if Heaven had made her so fair and sweet, all her sweetness should be lavished on the Christmas tree, when a desperately lonely and sentimental young man, his heart filled with Christmas memories, would have given the world just to touch her hand. A*knock at the door roused him from his reverie, and Sarah Jane, the "only general," bustled in with his supper, a diminutive haddock and toast and tea. "Tain't much of a 'addick," she said, mournfully. " Does look as if it had pined away trying to find itself, don't it, sir?" "It does, indeed." "But, seeing you're off your feed, sir, it don't matter so much. Don't made no difference to you, sir, whether you has a new laid 'un or a egg as started to leave Its 'appy "ome in Booshia last spring. Only yeetiddy mornin*, sir, I shoved you. in a tuppenny-apenny one myseU— got it at Elkington's, over the way—and you didn't even touch it. This mornin's egg was a Booshian, and you didn't chip the shell. • "What's the matter, sir? You ain't ill?" She put dawn the tray on the table and anxiously regarded him, as "John Dominic," the old black cat, took his place by the side of the typewriter and anxiously awaited his share of the ""addick." "No," eaid Dickie, with a forced smile. "I'm not ill, thank you, Sarah Jane. It's those bells," Sarah Jana fchook a grimy paw in the direction of the sound. "Drat 'eml 'Ow they do worrit one, air I Most folks is out having a good time with their fam'lieS, and you an' me ain't got no fam'lies, so we 'as to stop at 'ome and work jus' the, game as if it wasn't 'oliday time. StriKes me, air"—«he rubbed away a black spot from her pretty face with an equally griniv aproa-f" strikes me, sir, you an' me'll have to go off on our own. Nobody ain't never-— - She stopped short. "Bleat if I wasn't forgettin' all about 'im, sir." ' "All about who?" "The old geni ovei tho way—Mr Elkington, six." "Old gent over the way? What about hunt" "He came over a nower ago to know If you was in, sir, and I told him you wan so busy in Fleet street you didn't know whenyou'd be back." "What made you say that, Sarah Jane?" "Instino', air, instino'. I wasn't goin.' to let on as yon didn't get plenty of work. He asked me if you wrote stories in tha peuny papers, and I said most of 'em, sir.** "That was very good of you, Sarah Jana. You're, sure he really wanted to see mar You're nob making a mistake?" "Noi nruch, sir. His pretty daughter was -with 'im, sir»-the- on© with the golden 'ape. BV» » real gentleman, sir. Gave/ me. m. ebillin^ ,, "I see. Did he leave any message?" Wild hopes began to fjifc through the yopng man's brain that the old gentleman was about to invite him to spend Christmas Sva with Wa lovely daughter. Then tit* absurdity of eueh a suppositiea forced, a groan from him. » In course ho left a mesaddge, ah*. Mo neld aa I was to tell you as he'd com* 440k soon, and take his chance of findin' ypu in* B« n»ay bo hero now, sir. There's iJomeone ringin' qut boll same aa if it oelonged to him. Shall I bring him up,

Dickie hastily brushed h,is hair, threw himself inte? an armchair by the fire, and began to read one of hv* own MSS. with an air of profound abstraction. "You're aure Mr H'lirlbut's; in?" asked a voice on the landing. " Certain, sure, sir. - He told me to show you up and take wvay the (eft thjngsi but in my 'urry I foigot 'em." "Nevef mind the tea things. Say Mr Elkington, from over the way, would be ' glad of a few minutes' conversation with , him." I "Yes, sir, but you've on)y gpt to open I the door and t«*ll him so yourself. That'll j leave my 'ands free for tho tea things." "Thank you." Someone knocked at the | door and coughed in a deprecating' manI nejfI " Como in," shouted Dickie. I Mr Elkington, a toll, good-looking man ! of about 50, came in, and Dickie boweyj In the manner of one of the heroes of hi* own | romances. "Won't you sit down? Any- ' thing I can do for you?" , . Mr Elkington apologised for his inttu- ' sion. •' You can do a good deal for me, ,Mr Hurlbut, if you choose. I'm told < vou're a writina gentleman," he added, somewhat timidly for such a stout, prosperous looking man. "I have that honor." " Yes, it ie an honor, I'm sure, Mr HurJbut. Excuse me for suggesting it, but do you want to earn a ten-pound note? "Earn a ten-pound note?" "Yes; and if I like the story I'll make it fifteen." Dickie gasped. " My bene—— . " Oh no. I'm not. It's purely business, Mr Hurlbut. And a* it's Christmas Eve I'm able to spare tho time to go into the matter." „„ _. ~ ~ "Well, what is it?" Dickie grew cold, for the word "business" invariably sent a shiver "down his spine. "Oh, it's nothing much—nothing much. I just want you to write a Christmas story for me-only a little one—bringing in a wealthv provision merchant—that s me-rwho loved a beautiful and wealthy widow —that's her." "Is she reillv beautiful?' "Of course, she isn't, not really: but I've got to make her believa so, or she won't accept me. It's her money 1 m after." . . ~ ~ .. Dickie regarded him sorrowfully. At this season of the year, too. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr Elkington. You haven't even the excuse of being poor. I repeat, you ought to be ashamed to come to me* with such a proposal." :, \Vhy?" Mr Elkington sharply demanded. "Isn't it your duty to your neighbor to take cave of your neighbors monev whoirshe doesn't know how to do it herself? "That's taking a Christmassy interest in vour neighbor's affairs, surely i Besides, two other men are after.her." "1 see." " She's romantic, and I want to take her the story as a Christmas offering, as if I'd written it myself. I propose to her in the story, and she isso touched, she accepts me. Honestlv. young man. I'm very fond of her, and "it's the only way I can get ahead of the others. Something striking s got to be done at once, or it's all U P with my chances. Will you do it?" "If you give me your word of honor that you'ro really fond of the lady as well as her money, and that you'll be good to her, I'll do my best." Mr Etkirujtoii gave his word of honor as a resi>ectabtlo provision merchant, and Dickie agreed to feet to work on the story. "How long will it take?" demanded Mr Elkington. . . " As it is to be so short, I can do it in an hour on the typewriter. I'd better come over and read it to you before you send it." He paused, as if struck by a sudden thought. "We ought to havo a third person present to give an impartial opinion about it." " Just what I was going to propose," Mr Elkington said, with a chuckle. "Grace will be only too pleased." "Grace?" " Ye?, my daughter. She knows a lot about books, and has taken a greater interest in them erer since you came to live opposite us. In an hour, mind," and Mr Elkincton bustled off. • j So her name was Grace! Dickie sat down j in front of the typewriter and whacked away at a rate which caused JehuDominic to jump from the and curl himself up in the armchair. n. Dickie finished the slory, then, as he pub the sheets together, turned severely to John Dominic. "There you sit curled up in my chair, looking as pleased as if I hadn't taken the hist downward step to ruin. Why should I degrade myself by writing such a story for a mean old man, when the Chrfetmas belle are ringing out sweet messages of hope and comfort to all the world? What will the girl say when she roalises what a cad I am, John Dominic?" John Dominic, gathering from the distressful tone of his master's voice that I there was trouble ahead, got up and slowly came to Dickie, rubbing his age-whitening whiekers against his hand and looking up at him with topaz eyes. "Don't do it, Dickie." he seemed to say. "If we love the girl, she'll despise us for helping that mean old scoundrel, her father." " I know she will, but it's the only way I can get to see her. Were you ever in love, John Dominic?" "Ever in love! Miaou! Miaou 1 What d'you take me for?" mewed John Dominic. That settled it. John Dominic, when Dickie first came to town, had adopted him, loved him, slept at the foot of his bed, and helped him by sitting close to the typewriter as Dickie worked. When he thought Dickie had worked late enough, John Dominic invariably placed a velvet paw on the top of the typewriter, yawned, stretched himself, and led the way to bed. If Dickie refused to take the hint, John Dominio came back and set up such a Wood-curdling "miaou - miaou!" that Dickie had to give in. Dickie often read a story to John Dominic. If the latter approved of it, he ruhbed against Dickie's shoulder; if he were bored, he jumped down from the little typewriting table and made for the door. Then Dickie rewrote the story. But now John Dominic waß clearly making for the door, and, in despair, Dickie called to him to come back. "I'll alter it," he said, succinctly, as John Dominic hesitated on the threshold. "You're quite right. It's unworthy of me, and I'll not do it. Grace," there was a real rapture in mentioning her name, if only to John Dominic, "Grace would despise me." He sat down and Wrote- a story, put into it all the despair and love o± a young man for a beautiful girl who made his garret a palace to him when she looked at him from over tho way. But | the beautiful girl did not know of the young man's love until one Christmas, weary and faint with cold and hunger, he staggered to her door, laid the story of his love upon the step, stretched himself beside it, and was rapidly sinking into the sleep that knows- no waking when she opened the door and Sarah Jana put in her head again. "The old gent t'other side of the way has sent in to say he's waitin' for you, sir." "AH right, I'm coming." " So'm I." John Dominic rose, stretched himself, and looked up at Dickie. " I've (got to stand by you if there's going to be a row," his manner implied. *' Thanks, ©ld chap." Dickie said, gratefully. "I knew you'd seo me through." He took hid hat, tucked John Dominic under his arm, went downstairs, crossed the road, and knocked at the opposite door. The pretty maid servant, as she. let him in, looked with undisguised amusement at John Dominic, who returned her glance with sombre dignity. " This way, if you gease, sir," ehe. said. " Master and Miss race are. waiting for you ia the drawing room." <• ! With a 'haaiuwr haart, Dicki* put down his hat and followed her. " See me famugh, John a*» me through," ha munauwd, impWrixgly and. the aext momast found himself taint selrmiily pressnUd te " My daughter, Gra«e." "My daughter, Grace"—a dream >*j delight—looked sorrowfully at Dicklv.; Then John Dominio was introduced, and ' sho took him in her arms. Pickie fancied ! there -were tears in her eyes as she did so. Why did she look at him so sadly ? The truth suddenly flashed upon Dickie. j

She thought him base, unworthy of h«f,in that He 'ftad fallen, eo "low as to, comply with |>or father's wi«h. . Although Dickie's heart almost broke, his eyes niet> hers* "wfth an eloquent plea for a little patience, a little toleration, ere she-judged him, sent him forth into £he outer darkness, /where, loye. could not follow/ The girl, touched by all that his look conveyed, lifted forget-me-not eyes to his in startled comprehension. H You're not going to shatter to ask. "You neeoii't be so cruel at thia happy, holy time when, for the sake of One Who came to save us oil, we should be glad and happy too." Dickie bowed his head over his papers. " Better sit here, Mr Hurlbut," the old gentleman said, and his voice sounded- far more refined than it had been before. "We«are curious, my daughter especially 60, to hear your story, and how you are going to help me propitiate the wealthy widow."

"Yes," answered Dickie, "I will read my story to you>. John Dominic is my mascot. He always sits at my elbow when I read one of "my stories to him. If he does not approve of it ho makes for the door. I have an odd fancy, Miss Elkington, that I ehould liko to leave thia story to him. If ho makes for the door, I shall know that it has failed to please you. What do you say?" The young girl gazed into John Dominic's topaz eyes as he blissfully purred in the sweet haven of her arms. "Yes," she said, steadily, although her eyes still wore the same sad look, " I will abide by John Dominic's decision. If he approves of tho story I will ask you to give him to me for a Christmas present."

John Dominic struggled out; of her arms, walked across the table, and anxiously looked into his master's face. "Here, I say, this is a little too much," his manner implied. "I know," Dickie 6oftly explained to his only friend, " I know. But if I am to fo into tho darkness, with the Christmas ells ringing! tho knell of all my hopes, I couldn't bear to have ypu witness my sorrow. John Dominic, you must stay with her." " Won't you begin, Mr Hurlbut?" the old gentleman said, a little testily. "Yes." Dickie bowed to Miss Elkington. "I will begin." The girl sat opposite him, as the old gentleman lit his pipe and arranged himself in a comfortable armchair. "Now," he said, "fire away." # Dickie gave one glance at Grace Elkington, and "fired away." The story he read was evidently not the one the old gentleman expected, for it narrated his own early struggles, the way in which ho had come to town, his heartbreaking disappointments, how he had endeavored to tell the world all that he wanted to, and how badly the world had requited him because his message to it was so crude and immature. Ho described how ho had nearly died in hi 3 garret, and would havo died had not a beautiful girl opposite come to her window to bring him fresh liffe and hope. Day by day sha had irspired him to do better work, had shaped and moulded his thoughts. At last, when his heart was almost breakipg for tho love of her, the misery of never having spoken to her, the girl's father had come to him with a mean and unworthy proposal. The young man, knowing that be could never "meet the girl in any other wav, had acquiesced in this proposal; but, at "the last moment, hie one friepd and faithful follower had pointed out that it %vas nobler to lose his lovd and keep his honor untarnished than to win her at the cost of his self-respect. And then " "And then? A pretty kettle of fish!" shouted the old gentleman, jumping, up in a fury. "D'you mean to say, sir, that I bribed yon to go a mean and unworthy thing? You promised " But tho girl rose from her seat at the other side of the table, came round to Dickie, and laid her hand on his shoulder. "And then?" she said, in a low, thrilling voice. "And then?" Dickie helplessly gathered up hie MS. "And then, John Dominic?" the girl asked again. John Dominic rose, stretched himself, stood midway between them, came back to Dickie, and nestled against him. "And then," the old gentleman broko in, " vou'd better ask Mr Hurlbut to stay and dine with us." " But—thor-rich widow?" faltered Dickie, as tho sheets of his story fluttered down upon the table. "There wasn't any rich widow," said tho old gentleman, shortly. "I wanted to test you, and you have stood the test. ; Grace will explain the rest of it much better than an old fool like myself," and he bustled out of the room.

The girl took John Dominic again in her arms, came to Dickie as he stood, not daring to iook into her face. " This—is—the—story—of—our—lives ?" "Ihis^—is—the—story—of—our—lives."

"I am holding John Dominic in my arms. Won't you take him from me?"

Dickie gathered them both to his heart. " Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong!' rang out the bells, and blessed them both.

Half an hour later the old gentleman, after being afflicted with an entirely gratuitous cough outside, put his head in at the door. '" Dinner's still waiting. If yoa don't come at once, I—l'll take in the rich widow. Come on John Dominic" And John Dominic " came on." [The Enl.]

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Bibliographic details

[All Rights Reserved.] CHRISTMAS INTERVIEW, Evening Star, Issue 15683, 23 December 1914

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3,762

[All Rights Reserved.] CHRISTMAS INTERVIEW Evening Star, Issue 15683, 23 December 1914

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