When Father and Mother Rebelled by Eleanor
“'Tain't more 'n a month ter Christmas, Lyddy Ann; did ye know it?”
said the old man, settling back in his chair with a curiously resigned
“Yes, I know, Samuel,” returned his wife, sending a swift glance
over the top of her glasses.
If Samuel Bertram noticed the glance he made no sign. “Hm!” he
murmured. “I've got ten neckerchiefs now. How many crocheted
bed-slippers you got?—eh?”
“Oh, Samuel!” remonstrated Lydia Ann feebly.
“I don't care,” asserted Samuel with sudden vehemence, sitting erect
in his chair. “Seems as if we might get somethin' for Christmas 'sides
slippers an' neckerchiefs. Jest 'cause we ain't so young as we once was
ain't no sign that we've lost all our faculty for enj'yment!”
“But, Samuel, they're good an' kind, an' want ter give us
somethin',” faltered Lydia Ann; “and—”
“Yes, I know they're good an' kind,” cut in Samuel wrathfully.
“We've got three children, an' each one brings us a Christmas present
ev'ry year. They've got so they do it reg'lar now, jest the same as
they—they go ter bed ev'ry night,” he finished, groping a little for
his simile. “An' they put jest about as much thought into it, too,” he
“My grief an' conscience, Samuel,—how can you talk so!” gasped the
little woman opposite.
“Well, they do,” persisted Samuel. “They buy a pair o' slippers an'
a neckerchief, an' tuck 'em into their bag for us—an' that's done; an'
next year they do the same—an' it's done again. Oh, I know I'm
ongrateful, an' all that,” acknowledged Samuel testily, “but I can't
help it. I've been jest ready to bile over ever since last Christmas,
an' now I have biled over. Look a-here, Lyddy Ann, we ain't so awful
old. You're seventy-three an' I'm seventy-six, an' we're pert as
sparrers, both of us. Don't we live here by ourselves, an' do most all
the work inside an' outside the house?”
“Yes,” nodded Lydia Ann timidly.
“Well, ain't there somethin' you can think of sides slippers you'd
like for Christmas—'specially as you never wear crocheted
Lydia Ann stirred uneasily. “Why, of course, Samuel,” she began
hesitatingly, “bed-slippers are very nice, an'—”
“So's codfish!” interrupted Samuel in open scorn. “Come,” he coaxed,
“jest supposin' we was youngsters again, a-tellin' Santa Claus what we
wanted. What would you ask for?”
Lydia Ann laughed. Her cheeks grew pink, and the lost spirit of her
youth sent a sudden sparkle to her eyes. “You'd laugh, dearie. I ain't
a-goin' ter tell.”
“I won't—'pon honor!”
“But it's so silly,” faltered Lydia Ann, her cheeks a deeper pink.
“Me— an old woman!”
“Of course,” agreed Samuel promptly. “It's bound ter be silly, ye
know, if we want anythin' but slippers an' neckerchiefs,” he added with
a chuckle. “Come—out with it, Lyddy Ann.”
“It's—it's a tree.”
“Dampers and doughnuts!” ejaculated Samuel, his jaw dropping. “A
“There, I knew you'd laugh,” quavered Lydia Ann, catching up her
“Laugh? Not a bit of it!” averred Samuel stoutly. “I—I want a tree
“Ye see, it's just this,” apologized Lydia Ann feverishly. “They
give us things, of course, but they never make anythin' of doin' it,
not even ter tyin' 'em up with a piece of red ribbon. They just slip
into our bedroom an' leave 'em all done up in brown paper an' we find
'em after they're gone. They mean it all kind, but I'm so tired of gray
worsted and sensible things. Of course I can't have a tree, an' I don't
suppose I really want it; but I'd like somethin' all pretty an' sparkly
an'—an' silly, you know. An' there's another thing I want—ice cream.
An' I want to make myself sick eatin' it, too,—if I want to; an' I
want little pink-an'-white sugar pep'mints hung in bags. Samuel, can't
you see how pretty a bag o' pink pep'mints 'd be on that green tree?
An'—dearie me!” broke off the little old woman breathlessly, falling
back in her chair. “How I'm runnin' on! I reckon I am in my
For a moment Samuel did not reply. His brow was puckered into a
prodigious frown, and his right hand had sought the back of his
head—as was always the case when in deep thought. Suddenly his face
“Ye ain't in yer dotage—by gum, ye ain't!” he cried excitedly. “An'
I ain't, neither. An' what's more, you're a-goin' ter have that
tree—ice cream, pink pep'mints, an' all!”
“Oh, my grief an' conscience—Samuel!” quavered Lydia Ann.
“Well, ye be. We can do it easy, too. We'll have it the night 'fore
Christmas. The children don't get here until Christmas day, ever, ye
know, so 't won't interfere a mite with their visit, an' 'twill be all
over 'fore they get here. An' we'll make a party of it, too,” went on
Samuel gleefully. “There's the Hopkinses an' old Mis' Newcomb, an'
Uncle Tim, an' Grandpa Gowin'—they'll all come an' be glad to.”
“Samuel, could we?” cried Lydia Ann, incredulous but joyous. “Could
“I'll get the tree myself,” murmured Samuel, aloud, “an' we can buy
some o' that shiny stuff up ter the store ter trim it.”
“An' I'll get some of that pink-an'-white tarl'tan for bags,” chimed
in Lydia Ann happily: “the pink for the white pep'mints, an' the white
for the pink. Samuel, won't it be fun?” And to hear her one would have
thought her seventeen instead of seventy-three.
* * * * *
A week before Christmas Samuel Bertram's only daughter, Ella, wrote
this letter to each of her brothers:
It has occurred to me that it might be an excellent idea if we would
plan to spend a little more time this year with Father and Mother when
we go for our usual Christmas visit; and what kind of a scheme do you
think it would be for us to take the children, and make a real family
reunion of it?
I figure that we could all get there by four o'clock the day before
Christmas, if we planned for it; and by staying perhaps two days after
Christmas we could make quite a visit. What do you say? You see Father
and Mother are getting old, and we can't have them with us many more
years, anyway; and I'm sure this would please them—only we must be
very careful not to make it too exciting for them.
The letters were dispatched with haste, and almost by return mail
came the answers; an emphatic approval, and a promise of hearty
cooperation signed “Frank” and “Ned.” What is every one's business is
apt to be no one's business, however, and no one notified Mr. and Mrs.
Samuel Bertram of the change of plan, each thinking that one of the
others would attend to it.
“As for presents,” mused Ella, as she hurried downtown two days
before Christmas, “I never can think what to give them; but, after all,
there's nothing better than bed-slippers for Mother, and a warm
neckerchief for Father's throat. Those are always good.”
The day before Christmas dawned clear and cold. It had been expected
that Ella, her husband, and her twin boys would arrive at the little
village station a full hour before the train from the north bringing
Ned, Mrs. Ned, and little Mabel, together with Frank and his wife and
son; but Ella's train was late—so late that it came in a scant five
minutes ahead of the other one, and thus brought about a joyous
greeting between the reunited families on the station platform itself.
“Why, it's not so bad we were late, after all,” cried Ella. “This is
fine—now we can all go together!”
“Jove! but we're a cheery sight!” exclaimed Ned, as he counted off
on his fingers the blooming faces of those about him. “There are ten of
“Only fancy what they'll say at the house when they catch their
first glimpse of us!” chuckled Frank. “The dear old souls! How Father's
eyes will shine and Mother's cap-strings bob! By the way, of course
they know we're coming to-day?”
There was a moment's silence; then Ella flushed. “Why!
didn't—didn't you tell them?” she stammered.
“I? Why, of course not!” cried Frank. “I supposed you were going to.
But maybe Ned-” He paused and turned questioning eyes on his brother.
Ned shook his head. “Not I,” he said.
“Why, then—then they don't know,” cried Ella, aghast. “They don't
know a thing!”
“Never mind, come on,” laughed Ned. “What difference does it make?”
“'What difference does it make'!” retorted Ella indignantly. “Ned
Bertram, do you suppose I'd take the risk of ten of us pouncing down on
those two poor dears like this by surprise? Certainly not!”
“But, Ella, they're expecting six of us tomorrow,” remonstrated
“Very true. But that's not ten of us today.”
“I know; but so far as the work is concerned, you girls always do
the most of that,” cut in Ned.
“Work! It isn't the work,” almost groaned Ella. “Don't you see,
boys? It's the excitement—'twouldn't do for them at all. We must fix
it some way. Come, let's go into the waiting-room and talk it up.”
It was not until after considerable discussion that their plans were
finally made and their line of march decided upon. To advance in the
open and take the house by storm was clearly out of the question,
though Ned remarked that in all probability the dear old creatures
would be dozing before the fire, and would not discover their approach.
Still, it would be wiser to be on the safe side; and it was unanimously
voted that Frank should go ahead alone and reconnoiter, preparing the
way for the rest, who could wait, meanwhile, at the little hotel not
far from the house.
The short winter day had drawn almost to a close when Frank turned
in at the familiar gate of the Bertram homestead. His hand had not
reached the white knob of the bell, however, when the eager expectancy
of his face gave way to incredulous amazement; from within, clear and
distinct, had come the sound of a violin.
“Why, what—” he cried under his breath, and softly pushed open the
The hall was almost dark, but the room beyond was a blaze of light,
with the curtains drawn, and apparently every lamp the house contained
trimmed and burning. He himself stood in the shadow, and his entrance
had been unnoticed, though almost the entire expanse of the room before
him was visible through the half-open doorway.
In the farther corner of the room a large evergreen tree, sparkling
with candles and tinsel stars, was hung with bags of pink and white
tarletan and festoons of puffy popcorn. Near it sat an old man playing
the violin; and his whole wiry self seemed to quiver with joy to the
tune of his merry “Money Musk.” In the center of the room two
gray-haired men were dancing an old-time jig, bobbing, bowing, and
twisting about in a gleeful attempt to outdo each other. Watching them
were three old women and another old man, eating ice cream and
contentedly munching peppermints. And here, there, and everywhere was
the mistress of the house, Lydia Ann herself, cheeks flushed and
cap-strings flying, but plainly in her element and joyously content.
For a time the man by the hall door watched in silent amazement;
then with a low ejaculation he softly let himself out of the house, and
hurried back to the hotel.
“Well?” greeted half a dozen voices; and one added: “What did they
Frank shook his head and dropped into the nearest chair. “I—I
didn't tell them,” he stammered faintly.
“Didn't tell them!” exclaimed Ella. “Why, Frank, what was the
trouble? Were they sick? Surely, they were not upset by just seeing
you!” Frank's eyes twinkled “Well, hardly!” he retorted. “They—they're
having a party.”
“A party!” shrieked half a dozen voices.
“Yes; and a tree, and a dance, and ice cream, and pink peppermints,”
Frank enumerated in one breath.
There was a chorus of expostulation; then Ella's voice rose
dominant. “Frank Bertram, what on earth do you mean?” she demanded.
“Who is having all this?”
“Father and Mother,” returned Frank, his lips twitching a little.
“And they've got old Uncle Tim and half a dozen others for guests.”
“But, Frank, how can they be having all this?” faltered Ella. “Why,
Father's not so very far from eighty years old, and—Mabel, Mabel, my
dear!” she broke off in sudden reproof to her young niece, who had come
under her glance at that moment. “Those are presents for Grandpa and
Grandma. I wouldn't play with them.”
Mabel hesitated, plainly rebellious. In each hand was a gray worsted
bed-slipper; atop of her yellow curls was a brown neckerchief, cap
There were exclamations from two men, and Ned came forward
hurriedly. “Oh, I say, Ella,” he remonstrated, “you didn't get those
for presents, did you?”
“But I did. Why not?” questioned Ella.
“Why, I got slippers, you see. I never can think of anything else.
Besides, they're always good, anyhow. But I should think you, a
woman, could think of something—”
“Never mind,” interrupted Ella airily. “Mother's a dear, and she
won't care if she does get two pairs.”
“But she won't want three pairs,” groaned Frank; “and I got slippers
There was a moment of dismayed silence, then everybody laughed.
Ella was the first to speak. “It's too bad, of course, but never
mind. Mother'll see the joke of it just as we do. You know she never
seems to care what we give her. Old people don't have many wants, I
Frank stirred suddenly and walked the length of the room. Then he
“Do you know,” he said, a little unsteadily, “I believe that's a
“A mistake? What's a mistake?”
“The notion that old people don't have any—wants. See here. They're
having a party down there—a party, and they must have got it up
themselves. Such being the case, of course they had what they wanted
for entertainment—and they aren't drinking tea or knitting socks.
They're dancing jigs and eating pink peppermints and ice cream! Their
eyes are like stars, and Mother's cheeks are like a girl's; and if you
think I'm going to offer those spry young things a brown neckerchief
and a pair of bed-slippers you're much mistaken—because I'm not!”
“But what—can—we do?” stammered Ella.
“We can buy something else here—to-night—in the village,” declared
Frank; “and to-morrow morning we can go and give it to them.”
“I haven't the least idea,” retorted Frank, with an airy wave of his
hands. “Maybe 'twill be a diamond tiara and a polo pony. Anyway, I know
what 'twon't be—'twon't be slippers or a neckerchief!”
* * * * *
It was later than usual that Christmas morning when Mr. and Mrs.
Samuel Bertram arose. If the old stomachs had rebelled a little at the
pink peppermints and ice cream, and if the old feet had charged toll
for their unaccustomed activity of the night before, neither Samuel nor
Lydia Ann would acknowledge it.
“Well, we had it—that tree!” chuckled Samuel, as he somewhat
stiffly thrust himself into his clothes.
“We did, Samuel,—we did,” quavered Lydia Ann joyfully, “an' wa'n't
it nice? Mis' Hopkins said she never had such a good time in all her
“An' Uncle Tim an' Grandpa Gowin'—they was as spry as crickets, an'
they made old Pete tune up that 'Money Musk' three times 'fore they'd
“Yes; an'—my grief an' conscience, Samuel! 'tis late, ain't it?”
broke off Lydia Ann, anxiously peering at the clock. “Come, come, dear,
you'll have ter hurry 'bout gettin' that tree out of the front room
'fore the children get here. I wouldn't have 'em know for the world how
silly we've been—not for the world!”
Samuel bridled, but his movements showed a perceptible increase of
“Well, I do' know,” he chuckled.
“'T wa'n't anythin' so awful, after all. But, say,” he called
triumphantly a moment later, as he stooped and picked up a small object
from the floor, “they will find out if you don't hide these 'ere
The tree and the peppermints had scarcely disappeared from the
“front room” when Frank arrived.
“Oh, they're all coming in a minute,” he laughed gayly in response
to the surprised questions that greeted him. “And we've brought the
children, too. You'll have a houseful, all right!”
A houseful it certainly proved to be, and a lively one, too. In the
kitchen “the girls” as usual reigned supreme, and bundled off the
little mother to “visit with the boys and the children” during the
process of dinner-getting, and after dinner they all gathered around
the fireplace for games and stories.
“And now,” said Frank when darkness came and the lamps were lighted,
“I've got a new game, but it's a very mysterious game, and you, Father
and Mother, must not know a thing about it until it's all ready.” And
forthwith he conducted the little old man and the little old woman out
into the kitchen with great ceremony.
“Say, Samuel, seems as if this was 'most as good as the party,”
whispered Lydia Ann excitedly, as they waited in the dark. “I know it;
an' they hain't asked us once if we was gettin' too tired! Did ye
notice, Lyddy Ann?”
“Yes, an' they didn't make us take naps, either. Ain't it nice? Why,
Samuel, I—I shan't mind even the bed-slippers now,” she laughed.
“Ready!” called Frank, and the dining-room door was thrown wide
The old eyes blinked a little at the sudden light, then widened in
amazement. Before the fireplace was a low sewing-table with a chair at
each end. The table itself was covered with a white cloth which lay in
fascinating little ridges and hillocks indicating concealed treasures
beneath. About the table were grouped the four eager-eyed grandchildren
and their no less eager-eyed parents. With still another ceremonious
bow Frank escorted the little old man and the little old woman to the
waiting chairs, and with a merry “One, two, three!” whisked off the
For one amazed instant there was absolute silence; then Lydia Ann
drew a long breath.
“Samuel, Samuel, they're presents—an' for us!” she quavered
joyously. “It's the bed-slippers and the neckerchiefs, an' they did 'em
all up in white paper an' red ribbons just for us.”
At the corner of the mantelpiece a woman choked suddenly and felt
for her handkerchief. Behind her two men turned sharply and walked
toward the window; but the little old man and the little old woman did
not notice it. They had forgotten everything but the enchanting array
of mysteries before them.
Trembling old hands hovered over the many-sized, many-shaped
packages, and gently patted the perky red bows; but not until the
grandchildren impatiently demanded, “Why don't you look at 'em?” did
they venture to untie a single ribbon. Then the old eyes shone, indeed,
at sight of the wonderful things disclosed; a fine lace tie and a
bottle of perfume; a reading-glass and a basket of figs; some dates,
raisins, nuts, and candies, and a little electric pocket lantern which
would, at the pressure of a thumb, bring to light all the secrets of
the darkest of rooms. There were books, too, such as Ella and Frank
themselves liked to read; and there was a handsome little clock for the
mantel—but there was not anywhere a pair of bed-slippers or a
At last they were all opened, and there remained not one little red
bow to untie. On the table, in all their pristine glory, lay the
presents, and half-buried in bits of paper and red ribbon sat the
amazed, but blissfully happy, little old man and little old woman.
Lydia Ann's lips parted, but the trembling words of thanks froze on her
tongue—her eyes had fallen on a small pink peppermint on the floor.
“No, no, we can't take 'em,” she cried agitatedly. “We hadn't ought
to. We was wicked and ongrateful, and last night we—we—” She paused
helplessly, her eyes on her husband's face. “Samuel, you—you tell,”
Samuel cleared his throat.
“Well, ye see, we—yes, last night, we—we—” He could say no more.
“We—we had a party to—to make up for things,” blurted out Lydia
Ann. “And so ye see we—we hadn't ought ter take these—all these!”
Frank winced. His face grew a little white as he threw a quick
glance into his sister's eyes; but his voice, when he spoke, was clear
and strong from sheer force of will.
“A party? Good! I'm glad of it. Did you enjoy it?” he asked.
Samuel's jaw dropped. Lydia Ann stared speechlessly. This cordial
approval of their folly was more incomprehensible than had been the
failure to relegate them to naps and knitting earlier in the afternoon.
“And you've got another party to-night, too; haven't you?” went on
Frank smoothly. “As for those things there”—he waved his hand toward
the table—“of course you'll take them. Why, we picked them out on
purpose for you,—every single one of them,—and only think how we'd
feel if you didn't take them! Don't you—like them?”
“'Like them'!” cried Lydia Ann, and at the stifled sob in her voice
three men and three women caught their breath sharply and tried to
swallow the lumps in their throats. “We—we just love them!”
No one spoke. The grandchildren stared silently, a little awed.
Ella, Frank, and Ned stirred restlessly and looked anywhere but at each
Lydia Ann flushed, then paled. “Of course, if—if you picked 'em out
'specially for us—” she began hesitatingly, her eyes anxiously
scanning the perturbed faces of her children.
“We did—especially,” came the prompt reply.
Lydia Ann's gaze drifted to the table and lingered upon the clock,
the tie, and the bottle of perfume. “'Specially for us,” she murmured
softly. Then her face suddenly cleared. “Why, then we'll have to take
them, won't we?” she cried, her voice tremulous with ecstasy. “We'll
just have to—whether we ought to or not!”
“You certainly will!” declared Frank. And this time he did not even
try to hide the shake in his voice.
“Oh!” breathed Lydia Ann blissfully. “Samuel, I—I think I'll take a