A Christmas Party by John Strange Winter
It was getting very near Christmas-time, and all the boys at Miss
Ware's school were talking excitedly about going home for the holidays,
of the fun they would have, the presents they would receive on
Christmas morning, the tips from Grannies, Uncles, and Aunts, of the
pantomimes, the parties, the never-ending joys and pleasures which
would be theirs.
I shall go to Madame Tussaud's and to the Drury Lane pantomime,
said young Fellowes, and my Mother will give a party, and Aunt
Adelaide will give another, and Johnny Sanderson and Mary Greville, and
ever so many others. I shall have a splendid time at home. Oh, Jim, I
wish it were all holidays, like it is when one's grown up.
My Uncle Bob is going to give me a pair of skatesclippers,
remarked Harry Wadham.
My Father's going to give me a bike, put in George Alderson.
Will you bring it back to school with you? asked Harry.
Oh, yes, I should think so, if Miss Ware doesn't say no.
I say, Shivers, cried Fellowes, where are you going to spend your
I'm going to stop here, answered the boy called Shivers, in a very
Herewith old Ware?oh, my! Why can't you go home?
I can't go home to India, answered Shivers. His real name, by the
bye, was EgertonTom Egerton.
Nowho said you could? But haven't you any relations anywhere?
Shivers shook his head. Only in India, he said miserably.
Poor old chap; that's rough luck for you. Oh, I'll tell you what it
is, you fellows: if I couldn't go home for the holidaysespecially
ChristmasI think I'd just sit down and die.
Oh, no, you wouldn't, said Shivers; you'd hate it and you'd get
ever so homesick and miserable, but you wouldn't die over it. You'd
just get through somehow, and hope something would happen before next
year, or that some kind fairy or other would
Bosh! there are no fairies nowadays, said Fellowes. See here,
Shivers: I'll write home and ask my Mother if she won't invite you to
come back with me for the holidays.
Will you really?
Yes, I will: and if she says yes, we shall have such a splendid
time, because, you know, we live in London, and go to everything, and
have heaps of tips and parties and fun.
Perhaps she will say no, suggested poor little Shivers, who had
steeled himself to the idea that there would be no Christmas holidays
for him, excepting that he would have no lessons for so many weeks.
My Mother isn't at all the kind of woman who says no, Fellowes
In a few days' time, however, a letter arrived from his Mother which
he opened eagerly.
My own darling boy, it said, I am so very sorry to have to tell
you that dear little Aggie is down with scarlet fever, and so you
cannot come home for your holidays, nor yet bring your young friend
with you, as I would have loved you to do if all had been well here.
Your Aunt Adelaide would have had you there, but her two girls have
both got scarlatinaand I believe Aggie got hers there, though, of
course, poor Aunt Adelaide could not help it. I did think about your
going to Cousin Rachel's. She most kindly offered to invite you, but,
dear boy, she is an old lady, and so particular, and not used to boys,
and she lives so far from anything which is going on that you would be
able to go to nothing; so your Father and I came to the conclusion that
the very best thing that you could do under the circumstances is for
you to stay at Miss Ware's and for us to send your Christmas to you as
well as we can. It won't be like being at home, darling boy, but you
will try and be happywon't you, and make me feel that you are helping
me in this dreadful time.
Dear little Aggie is very ill, very ill indeed. We have two nurses.
Nora and Connie are shut away in the morning-room and to the back
stairs and their own rooms with Miss Ellis, and have not seen us since
the dear child was first taken ill. Tell your young friend that I am
sending you a hamper from Buzzard's, with double of everything, and I
am writing to Miss Ware to ask her to take you both to anything that
may be going on in Cross Hampton. And tell him that it makes me so much
happier to think that you won't be alone.
Your Own Mother.
This letter will smell queer, darling: it will be fumigated before
It must be owned that when Bertie Fellowes received this letter,
which was neither more nor less than a shattering of all his Christmas
hopes and joys, that he fairly broke down, and, hiding his face upon
his arms as they rested on his desk, sobbed aloud.
The forlorn boy from India, who sat next to him, tried every boyish
means of consolation that he could think of. He patted his shoulder,
whispered many pitying words, and, at last, flung his arm across him
and hugged him tightly, as, poor little chap, he himself many times
since his arrival in England had wished someone would do to him. At
last Bertie Fellowes thrust his Mother's letter into his friend's hand.
Read it, he sobbed.
So Shivers made himself master of Mrs Fellowes' letter and
understood the cause of the boy's outburst of grief.
Old fellow, he said at last, don't fret over it. It might be
worse. Why, you might be like me, with your Father and Mother thousands
of miles away. When Aggie is better, you'll be able to go homeand
it'll help your Mother if she thinks you are almost as happy as if you
were at home. It must be worse for hershe has cried ever so over this
lettersee, it's all tear-blots.
The troubles and disappointments of youth are bitter while they
last, but they soon pass, and the sun shines again. By the time Miss
Ware, who was a kind-hearted, sensible, pleasant woman, came to tell
Fellowes how sorry she was for him and his disappointment, the worst
had gone by, and the boy was resigned to what could not be helped.
Well, after all, one man's meat is another man's poison, she said,
smiling down on the two boys; poor Tom has been looking forward to
spending his holidays all alone with us, and now he will have a friend
with him. Try to look on the bright side, Bertie, and to remember how
much worse it would have been if there had been no boy to stay with
I can't help being disappointed, Miss Ware, said Bertie, his eyes
filling afresh and his lips quivering.
No, dear boy; you would be anything but a nice boy if you were not.
But I want you to try and think of your poor Mother, who is full of
trouble and anxiety, and to write to her as brightly as you can, and
tell her not to worry about you more than she can help.
Yes, said Bertie; but he turned his head away, and it was evident
to the school-mistress that his heart was too full to let him say more.
Still, he was a good boy, Bertie Fellowes, and when he wrote home to
his Mother it was quite a bright every-day letter, telling her how
sorry he was about Aggie, and detailing a few of the ways in which he
and Shivers meant to spend their holidays. His letter ended thus:
Shivers got a letter from his Mother yesterday with three pounds in
it: if you happen to see Uncle Dick, will you tell him I want a
The last day of the term came, and one by one, or two by two, the
various boys went away, until at last only Bertie Fellowes and Shivers
were left in the great house. It had never appeared so large to either
of them before. The schoolroom seemed to have grown to about the size
of a church; the dining-room, set now with only one table, instead of
three, was not like the same; while the dormitory, which had never
before had any room to spare, was like a wilderness. To Bertie Fellowes
it was all dreary and wretchedto the boy from India, who knew no
other house in England, no other thought came than that it was a
blessing that he had one companion left.
It is miserable, groaned poor Bertie, as they strolled into the
great echoing schoolroom after a lonely tea, set at one corner of the
smallest of the three dining-tables; just think if we had been on our
way home nowhow different!
Just think if I had been left here by myself, said Shivers, and he
gave a shudder which fully justified his name.
Yesbut began Bertie, then shamefacedly and with a blush,
added: you know, when one wants to go home ever so badly, one never
thinks that some chaps haven't got a home to go to.
The evening went by; discipline was relaxed entirely, and the two
boys went to bed in the top empty dormitory, and told stories to each
other for a long time before they went to sleep. That night Bertie
Fellowes dreamt of Madame Tussaud's and the great pantomime at Drury
Lane, and poor Shivers of a long creeper-covered bungalow far away in
the shining East, and they both cried a little under the bed-clothes.
Yet each put a brave face on their desolate circumstances to each
other, and so another day began.
This was the day before Christmas Eve, that delightful day of
preparation for the greatest festival in all the yearthe day when in
most households there are many little mysteries afoot, when parcels
come and go, and are smothered away so as to be ready when Santa Claus
comes his rounds; when some are busy decking the rooms with holly and
mistletoe; when the cook is busiest of all, and savoury smells rise
from the kitchen, telling of good things to be eaten on the morrow.
There were some preparations on foot at Minchin House, though there
was not the same bustle and noise as is to be found in a large family.
And quite early in the morning came the great hamper which Mrs Fellowes
had spoken of in her letter to Bertie. Then just as the early dinner
had come to an end, and Miss Ware was telling the two boys that she
would take them round the town to look at the shops, there was a
tremendous peal at the bell of the front door, and a voice was heard
asking for Master Egerton. In a trice Shivers had sprung to his feet,
his face quite white, his hands trembling, and the next moment the door
was thrown open, and a tall, handsome lady came in, to whom he flew
with a sobbing cry of: Aunt Laura! Aunt Laura!
Aunt Laura explained in less time than it takes me to write this,
that her husband, Colonel Desmond, had had left to him a large fortune,
and that they had come as soon as possible to England, having, in fact,
only arrived in London the previous day.
I was so afraid, Tom darling, she said, in ending, that we should
not get here till Christmas Day was over, and I was so afraid you might
be disappointed, that I would not let Mother tell you that we were on
our way home. I have brought a letter from Mother to Miss Wareand you
must get your things packed up at once and come back with me by the
six-o'clock train to town. Then Uncle Jack and I will take you
everywhere, and give you a splendid time, you dear little chap, here
all by yourself.
For a minute or two Shivers' face was radiant; then he caught sight
of Bertie's down-drooped mouth, and turned to his Aunt.
Dear Aunt Laura, he said, holding her hand very fast with his own,
I'm awfully sorry, but I can't go.
Can't go? and why not?
Because I can't go and leave Fellowes here all alone, he said
stoutly, though he could scarcely keep a suspicious quaver out of his
voice. When I was going to be alone, Fellowes wrote and asked his
Mother to let me go home with him, and she couldn't, because his sister
has got scarlet fever, and they daren't have either of us; and he's got
to stay hereand he's never been away at Christmas beforeandandI
can't go away and leave him by himself, Aunt Lauraand
For the space of a moment or so, Mrs Desmond stared at the boy as if
she could not believe her ears; then she caught hold of him and half
smothered him with kisses.
Bless you, you dear little chap, you shall not leave him; you shall
bring him along and we'll all enjoy ourselves together. What's his
name?Bertie Fellowes. Bertie, my man, you are not very old yet, so
I'm going to teach you a lesson as well as ever I canit is that
kindness is never wasted in this world. I'll go out now and telegraph
to your MotherI don't suppose she will refuse to let you come with
A couple of hours later she returned in triumph, waving a telegram
to the two excited boys.
God bless you, yes, with all our hearts, it ran; you have taken a
load off our minds.
And so Bertie Fellowes and Shivers found that there was such a thing
as a fairy after all.