Mr. Holiday by
Mr. Holiday stepped upon the rear platform of his car, the Mishawaka,
exactly two seconds before the express, with a series of faint,
well-oiled jolts, began to crawl forward and issue from beneath the
glass roof of the Grand Central into the damp, pelting snow. Mr. Holiday
called the porter and told him for the good of his soul that fifty years
ago travelling had not been the easy matter that it was to-day. This off
his mind, he pulled an Evening Post from his pocket and dismissed the
porter by beginning to read. He still wore his overcoat and high silk
hat. These he would not remove until time had proved that the
temperature of his car was properly regulated.
He became restless after a while and hurried to the forward compartment
of the Mishawaka to see if all his trunks had been put on. He counted
them over several times, and each time he came to the black trunk he
sniffed and wrinkled up his nose indignantly. The black trunk was filled
with the most ridiculous and expensive rubbish that he had ever been
called upon to purchase. When his married daughters and his wife had
learned, by "prying," that he was going to New York on business, they
had gathered about him with lists as long as his arm, and they had
badgered him and pestered him until he had flown into a passion and
snatched the lists and thrown them on the floor. But at that the ladies
had looked such indignant, heart-broken daggers at him that, very
ungraciously, it is true, and with language that made their
sensibilities hop like peas in a pan, he had felt obliged to relent. He
had gathered up the lists and stuffed them into his pocket, and had
turned away with one bitter and awful phrase.
"Waste not, want not!" he had said.
He now glared and sniffed at the black trunk, and called for the porter.
"Do you know what's in that trunk?" he said in a pettish, indignant
voice. "It's full of Christmas presents for my grandchildren. It's got
crocodiles in it and lions and Billy Possums and music-boxes and dolls
and yachts and steam-engines and spiders and monkeys and doll's
furniture and china. It cost me seven hundred and forty-two dollars and
nine cents to fill that trunk. Do you know where I wish it was?"
The porter did not know.
"I wish it was in Jericho!" said Mr. Holiday.
He fingered the brass knob of the door that led forward to the regular
coaches, turned it presently, and closed it behind him.
His progress through the train resembled that of a mongoose turned
loose in new quarters. Nothing escaped his prying scrutiny or love of
petty information. If he came to a smoking compartment, he would thrust
aside the curtain and peer in. If it contained not more than three
persons, he would then enter, seat himself, and proceed to ask them
personal questions. It was curious that people so seldom resented being
questioned by Mr. Holiday; perhaps his evident sincerity in seeking for
information accounted for this; perhaps the fact that he was famous, and
that nearly everybody in the country knew him by sight. Perhaps it is
impossible for a little gentleman of eighty, very smartly dressed, with
a carnation in his buttonhole, to be impertinent. And then he took such
immense and childish pleasure in the answers that he got, and sometimes
wrote them down in his note-book, with comments, as:
"Got into conversation with a lady with a flat face. She gave me her age
as forty-two. I should have said nearer sixty.
"Man of fifty tells me has had wart on nose for twenty-five years; has
had it removed by electrolysis twice, but it persists. Tell him that I
have never had a wart."
He asked people their ages, whence they came, where they were going;
what they did for a living; if they drank; if they smoked; if their
parents were alive; what their beefsteak cost them a pound; what kind of
underwear they wore; what church they attended; if they shaved
themselves; if married; if single; the number of their children; why
they did not have more children; how many trunks they had in the
baggage-car; whether they had seen to it that their trunks were put on
board, etc. Very young men sometimes gave him joking and sportive
answers; but it did not take him long to catch such drifts, and he
usually managed to crush their sponsors thoroughly. For he had the great
white dignity of years upon his head; and the dignity of two or three
hundred million dollars at his back.
During his peregrinations he came to a closed door which tempted him
strangely. It was probably the door of a private state-room; it might be
the door of a dust closet. He meditated, with his finger upon the knob.
"I'll just open it slowly," he thought, "and if I make a mistake I'll
say I thought it was a smoking compartment."
As the door opened a smell of roses came out. Huddled into the seat that
rides forward was a beautiful girl, very much dishevelled and weeping
bitterly, with her head upon one of those coarse white pillows which the
Pullman Company provides. Her roses lay upon the seat opposite. She was
so self-centred in her misery that she was not aware that the door had
been opened, a head thrust in and withdrawn, and the door closed. But
she was sure that a still, small voice had suddenly spoken in her mind,
and said: "Brace up." Presently she stopped crying, as became one who
had been made the subject of a manifestation, and began to put her hair
in order at the narrow mirror between the two windows. Meanwhile, though
Mr. Holiday was making himself scarce, as the saying is, he was consumed
with interest to know why the beautiful girl was weeping. And he meant
to find out.
But in the meantime another case provoked his interest. A handsome woman
of thirty-five occupied Section 7 in Car 6. She was dressed in
close-fitting black, with a touch of white at her throat and wrists.
Mr. Holiday had seen her from the extreme end of the car, and by the
time he was opposite to where she sat it became necessary for him to
have an answer to the questions that had presented themselves about her.
Without any awkward preliminaries, he bent over and said:
"I've been wondering, ma'am, if you are dressed in black for your father
or your husband."
She looked up, recognized the famous eccentric, and smiled.
"Won't you sit down, Mr. Holiday?" she said, and made room for him.
"I wear black," she said, when he had seated himself, "not because I am
in mourning for anybody, but because I think it's becoming to me. You
see, I have very light-colored hair."
"Does all that hair grow on your head?" Mr. Holiday asked, simply and
"Every bit of it," she said.
"I have a splendid head of hair, too," he commented. "But there's a
young man in the car back of this who'll be twenty-two years of age in
February, and he's got more dandruff than hair. Where are you going?"
"Is that your home?"
"No. I'm a bird of passage."
"What is your name?"
"I am Miss Hampton," she said, and she hoped that he might have heard of
her. But he hadn't. And she explained herself. "I'm to play at the
Euclid Theatre Christmas night."
"An actor?" he said.
"Well," she admitted, "some say so, and some won't hear of it."
"How much money do you earn?"
"Two hundred dollars a week."
Mr. Holiday wrote that in his note-book.
"I've got some little nieces and nephews in New York," she volunteered.
"Don't you think it's hard to be a genuine aunt and to have to spend
Christmas alone in a strange place?"
"Not for two hundred dollars a week," said Mr. Holiday
unsympathetically. "You ought to thank your stars and garters."
Presently, after patting her on the back with two fingers, he rose,
bowed, and passed on down the aisle. On the right, in the end section,
was a very old couple, with snow-white hair, and a great deal of
old-fashioned luggage. Mr. Holiday greeted them cordially, and asked
their ages. The old gentleman was seventy-six and proud of it; the old
lady was seventy. Mr. Holiday informed them that he was eighty, but that
they were probably the next oldest people on the train. Anyway, he would
find out and let them know. They smiled good-naturedly, and the old lady
cuddled a little against the old gentleman, for it was cold in that car.
Mr. Holiday turned abruptly.
"I forgot to ask you where you are going?" he said.
They told him that they were going to spend Christmas with their
daughter and son-in-law and the new baby in Cleveland. It was a long
journey. But the season made them feel young and strong. Did Mr. Holiday
think there was any danger of being delayed by the snow? It was coming
down very fast. They could not remember ever to have been in a
sleeping-car when it was snowing so hard outside. Mr. Holiday said that
he would ask the conductor about the snow, and let them know.
In the smoking compartment of the next car forward sat a very young man,
all alone. He looked at once sulky and frightened. He wasn't smoking,
but was drumming on the window sill with his finger nails. He had a
gardenia in his button-hole, and was dressed evidently in his very best
suit—a handsome dark gray, over a malaga-grape-colored waistcoat. In
his necktie was a diamond horseshoe pin.
"Young man," said Mr. Holiday, seating himself, "what makes you look so
The young man started to say, "None of your business," but perceived in
time the eager face and snow-white hair of his questioner, and
"Why," he said tolerantly, "do I look as savage as all that?"
"It isn't money troubles," said Mr. Holiday, "or you would have pawned
that diamond pin."
"Wouldn't you be cross," said the young man, "if you had to look forward
to sitting up all night in a cold smoking compartment?"
"Can't you get a berth?"
"I had a drawing-room," said the young man, "but at the last minute I
had to give it up to a lady."
Mr. Holiday's eyes twinkled with benign interest. He had connected the
gardenia in the young man's coat with the roses of the girl who
"I know," he said, "drawing-room, Car 5. She was crying, but I told her
to brace up, and I guess she's stopped."
The young man jumped to his feet.
"Oh!" he said.
Mr. Holiday chuckled.
"I was right," he said. "I've been right seven times out of the ten for
twenty-five years. I've kept a record."
Upon an impulse the young man checked his headlong inclination to rush
to the girl who was weeping.
"If you are right as often as that," he said, "for God's sake tell me
what to do."
"Certainly," said Mr. Holiday, "and it won't cost you a cent. What's the
"She" said the young man with an accent, for there was but the one,
"came to the station to see me off. She gave me this." He touched the
gardenia gently. "I gave her some roses. Just as the train started to
pull out I dared her to come with me … she came!"
"Tut—tut!" said Mr. Holiday.
"What are we to do?" cried the young man.
"Go back and sit with her," said Mr. Holiday, "and leave the door wide
open. I'm going through the train now to see who's on board; so don't
worry. Leave it all to me."
The last car forward before you came to the baggage-car and the express
car was a common day coach. It was draughty. It had been used as a
smoker in a period not so very remote. A dog must have passed an
uncomfortable night in it.
Near the rear door sat a man in a new derby hat and a new black coat.
Further forward on the same side three children had stuffed themselves
into one seat. The middle child, a well-grown girl of thirteen or
fourteen, seemed by her superior height to shelter the little tots at
her side. Only the blue imitation sailor caps of these appeared above
the top of the seat; and the top of each cap, including that worn by the
older girl, had a centrepiece of white about the size of a gentleman's
visiting card. Mr. Holiday promised himself the pleasure of
investigating these later. In the meanwhile his interest was excited by
the ears of the man in the new derby. They were not large, but they had
an appearance of sticking out further than was necessary; and Mr.
Holiday was about to ask their owner the reason why, when he noticed for
himself that it was because the owner's hair had been cut so very, very
short. Indeed, he had little gray eighth-inch bristles instead of hair.
Mr. Holiday wondered why. He seated himself behind the man, and leaned
forward. The man stirred uneasily.
"I should think you'd be afraid of catching cold in this draughty car
with your hair cut so short," said Mr. Holiday.
"I am," said the man tersely.
"Why did you let them cut it so short then?"
"Let them!" grunted the man, with ineffable scorn. "Let them! You'd have
"I would not," retorted Mr. Holiday crisply. "My wife cuts my hair for
me, just the way I tell her to."
The man turned a careworn, unhappy face.
"My wife used to cut mine," he said. "But then I—I got into the habit
of having it done for me…. Ever been to Ohio Penitentiary, mister? …
That's the finest tonsorial parlor in America—anything from a shave to
the electric treatment."
"Ohio Penitentiary is a jail for felons," said Mr. Holiday severely.
"Quite so," said the man, "as I was telling you."
His voice had a plaintive, subdued note of defiance in it. It was that
of a person who is tired of lying and beating about the bush.
"When did you get out?" asked Mr. Holiday simply.
"Eight days ago," said the man, "and when I get good and sick of looking
for jobs and getting turned down—I guess I'll go back."
"First they make you work," said Mr. Holiday with a pleased chuckle,
"and then they won't let you work. That's the law. But you take my
advice—you fool 'em!"
"I never fooled anybody," said the man, and he ripped a holy name from
the depths of his downheartedness.
Mr. Holiday had extracted his note-book, and under cover of the
seat-back was preparing to take notes and make comments.
"What did you use to do for a living—before?" he asked.
"I was teller in a bank."
"And what happened?"
"Then," said the man, "the missus had twins, followed by typhoid fever."
His admissions came with hopeless frankness. "And I couldn't pay for all
that luxury. So I stole."
"What bank were you teller in?"
"The Painsville Bank—Painsville. I'm going to them now to—to see if
they won't let up. The wife says that's the thing to do—go right to the
boil of trouble and prick it."
"What did your wife do while you were away?" asked Mr. Holiday
"She did odd jobs, and brought the twins up healthy."
"I remember the Painsville business," said Mr. Holiday, "because I own
stock in that bank. You only took about two hundred dollars."
"That was all I needed," said the man. "It saved the missus and the
kids—so what's the odds?"
"But don't you intend to pay it back?"
"Not if the world won't let me earn any money. I tried for jobs all
to-day, and yesterday, and the day before. I told my story straight. The
missus wrote that was the thing to do. But I guess she's wrong for once.
What would you do if you were a banker and I came to you and said: 'I'm
just out of jail, where I went for stealing; but I mean to be honest.
Won't you give me work?'"
Mr. Holiday wondered what he would do. He was beginning to like the
"Do you know who I am?" he asked.
"Everybody knows you by sight, Mr. Holiday."
"Then you know," said the little old gentleman, "that I've sent plenty
of people to jail in my time—plenty of them."
"I've heard that said," said the man.
"But," said Mr. Holiday sharply, "nobody ever tells stories about the
wrongdoers I have forgiven. Your case never came to me. I believe I
would have shown mercy."
He closed his note-book and rose.
"Keep telling your story straight, my man, and asking for work."
He paused, as if waiting a reply; but the man only grunted, and he
passed forward to the children. First he examined the visiting-card
effects on the tops of their hats, and noticed that these were paper
labels sewed down, and bearing the names and destinations of the little
passengers. Freddie, Alice, and Euphemia Caldwell, reading from left to
right, were consigned in the care of the conductor to Silas Caldwell,
Alice had her arms around Freddie and Euphemia, and her pretty head was
bent first to one and then to the other. Mr. Holiday seated himself
gently behind the trio, and listened for some time. He learned that
"mother" was in the hospital, and "father" had to be with her, and that
the children were going to "Uncle Silas" until sent for. And Uncle Silas
was a very "grouchy" man, and one must mind one's P's and Q's, and never
be naughty, or Uncle Silas would have the law of one. But she, Alice,
would take care of them.
"Going to spend Christmas with Uncle, are you?" piped Mr. Holiday
suddenly; "that's right!"
The little tots, very much interested and startled, faced about, but
Alice looked like a little reproving angel.
"Oh!" she said, climbing out of the seat, "I must speak with you
Mr. Holiday was actually surprised; but he went aside with the child,
where the tots could not hear.
Absolutely without consciousness of doing so, Alice patted and
rearranged the old gentleman's carnation, and talked to him in a gentle,
"I've done everything I could," she said, "to keep the idea of Christmas
away from them. They didn't know when it came until you spoke. But now
they know, and I don't know what I shall do … our uncle," she
explained, "doesn't celebrate Christmas; he made father understand that
before he agreed to take us until mother got well. So father and I
agreed we'd keep putting Christmas off until mother was well and we were
all together again. But now they'll want their Christmas—and I can't
give it to them."
"Well, well," said Mr. Holiday cheerfully. "I have put my foot in it.
And I suppose Freddie and Euphemia will carry on and raise Cain when
they find there's no Santy Claus in Painsville?"
"Don't you fret, Alice," said Mr. Holiday. "When I get people in trouble
I get 'em out. Your Uncle Silas is a friend of mine—he has to be. I'm
going to send him a telegram." He smiled, and chucked her under the
chin. "I'm not much on Christmas myself," he said, "but an obligation's
an obligation." He shook hands with her, nodded in a friendly way to
the ex-convict, and passed out of the car on his return journey,
consulting his note-book as he went.
First he revisited the old couple, and told them that next to himself
they were in fact the oldest persons on the train, and that they need
not worry about the snow because he had asked the conductor about it,
and the conductor had said that it was all right. Then he started to
revisit Miss Hampton, but was turned from his purpose by a new face in
the car. The new face rose, thin and white, on a long thin neck from a
clerical collar, and its owner was busy with a pad and a pencil.
"Writing a sermon?" asked Mr. Holiday.
The clergyman looked up and smiled.
"No, sir," he said. "I'm doing a sum in addition, and making heavy work
"I'll do it for you," said Mr. Holiday eagerly. He was a lightning
adder, and not in the least averse to showing off. The clergyman, still
smiling, yielded up the pad.
"I'm trying to make it come to two thousand dollars," he said, "and I
"That's because," said Mr. Holiday, returning the pad after one swift
glance up and down the columns, "it only comes to thirteen hundred and
twenty-five dollars. You had the answer correct."
"It's for repairs to the church," said the clergyman dismally. "The
contractor calls for two thousand; and I'm just about ready to give up."
"Well," said Mr. Holiday, "I'm going to get my dinner now, and maybe
later I can give you some idea how to raise the balance. I've raised a
good deal of money in my time." He chuckled.
"I know that, Mr. Holiday," said the clergyman, "and I should be glad of
any—suggestion that you might care to make."
Mr. Holiday seated himself facing Miss Hampton. She smiled, and nodded,
and laid aside the book she had been reading. Mr. Holiday's
"I'm going to turn you out of this section," he said.
"Why?" She smiled.
"Because there's a young friend of mine wants it," he said.
"Now, really!" said Miss Hampton, still smiling.
"You're going to carry your duds to the drawing-room, Car 5," he said.
Then, the twinkle in his eyes becoming exceedingly gossipy and sportive,
he told her about the young people who had eloped without exactly
meaning to. Miss Hampton was delighted.
She and Mr. Holiday hurried to the drawing-room in Car 5, of which the
door had been left wide open, according to Mr. Holiday's orders. The
young people looked very happy and unhappy all at once, and as soon as
Mr. Holiday had begun to state their situation to them without mincing,
they assumed a tremendous pair of blushes, which they were not able to
efface for a long time.
"And now," he finished, glaring at the uncomfortable young man, "you
bring your duds and put them in Miss Hampton's section. And then you
gather up Miss Hampton's duds and bring 'em in here." And he turned and
shook his finger at the girl. "Mind you," he said, "don't you ever run
away again without a chaperon. They don't grow on every bush."
Somehow, Mr. Holiday had overlooked the other drawing-room (B) in Car 5.
Now he came suddenly upon it, and peered in, for the door was ajar. But
he drew back with a sharp jerk as if he had seen a rattlesnake. All the
kindness went out of the old gentleman's face, and between anger and
hatred he turned white.
"Jolyff!" he muttered. And, all the elasticity gone from his gait, he
stumbled back to his own car, revolving and muttering unchristian
thoughts. For he and Jolyff had been meeting all their lives, it seemed,
in court and out; sometimes with the right on one side, sometimes on the
other. Each had cost the other a thousand wicked threats and a mint
Mr. Holiday's wanderings through the train had aroused all the kindlier
feelings in his nature. He was going home to his wife and family:
expensive and foolish as it seemed, he had the trunk full of toys for
the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren, and he was glad of it. He
had put things right for two prepossessing young people who had made a
wrong start; he had been gallant to an actress; he had determined to
help the clergyman out with his repair fund; to find work for a convict,
and to see to it that three children should have a pleasant visit with
an uncle who was really crotchety, disagreeable, and mean.
But now he did not care about pleasant things any more. He could think
of nothing but Jolyff; of nothing but old sores that rankled; of great
deals that had gone wrong, through his enemy. And in that spirit he
picked at his Christmas Eve dinner, and went to bed.
It seemed to Mr. Holiday every time he woke, which was often, that the
train had just started to move, after standing still for a long time,
and that the porter had never before allowed his car to grow so cold. He
turned the current into the reading light at the head of his bed and
consulted his watch.
Two o'clock. He got to wondering at exactly what hour all those hundreds
of years ago Christ had been born. Had it been as cold as this in the
old barn? Whew!
No, Bethlehem was in the semi-tropics or thereabout, but the common car
in which the three children were passing the night was not. This thought
came to Mr. Holiday without invitation, and, like all unwelcome guests,
made a long stay. So persistent, indeed, was the thought, meeting his
mind at every turn and dogging its footsteps, that he forgot all about
Jolyff and all about everything else. Finally he rang for the porter,
but had no answer. He rang again and again. Then the train jolted slowly
to a standstill, and Mr. Holiday got up and dressed, and went forward
once more through the narrow aisles of thick curtains to the common car.
But the passengers in that car had amalgamated. Alice and the convict,
blue with cold, were in the same seat, and Alice was hugging Freddie,
who slept fitfully, to her breast, and the convict was hugging Euphemia,
who cried gently and softly like a cold and hungry kitten, to his. The
convict had taken off his overcoat and wrapped it as well as he could
about all the children.
Mr. Holiday tapped the convict on the shoulder. "Merry Christmas!" he
said cynically. The convict started and turned. "Bring these babies back
to my car," said Mr. Holiday, "and help me put 'em to bed." "That's a
good deed, Mr. Holiday," said the convict. He started to put on his
overcoat. The undressing and putting to bed had not waked Freddie.
Euphemia had stopped crying. And Alice, when the two men had helped her
with her dress, which buttoned down the back, had suddenly flung her
arms first around one and then around the other, and given each a kiss
The convict buttoned his coat and turned up his collar.
"Good-night, sir," he said, "and thank you."
Mr. Holiday waved the thanks aside and pointed to a door of shining
"There's a bed for you, too," he said gently.
The convict hesitated.
Then—it may have been owing to the sudden starting of the train—he
lurched against the door, and with a sound that was mighty like a sob
thrust it open and slammed it shut behind him.
Mr. Holiday smiled and went back to his own bed. This time he slept
At seven o'clock the porter called him, according to orders. The train
was standing still.
"Merry Christmas, Mistah Holiday, sah!" grinned the porter. "Seven
"Merry Christmas," said Mr. Holiday. "Why are we stopping?"
"We's snowed in," grinned the porter.
"Snowed in!" exclaimed Mr. Holiday. "Where?"
"'Tween Albany and Buffalo, sah. Dey ain't any name to de place. Dey
ain't any place."
"There are three children," said Mr. Holiday, "in the stateroom next to
this and a gentleman in the other stateroom. You call 'em in about an
hour and ask 'em what they'll take for breakfast. Bring me some coffee,
and ask the conductor how late we're going to be."
With his coffee Mr. Holiday learned that the train might be twenty-four
hours late in getting to Cleveland. The conductor supposed that ploughs
were at work along the track; but the blizzard was still raging.
That he would be separated from his wife on Christmas Day for the first
time in their married life did not amuse Mr. Holiday; and although too
much of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren bored him to
extinction, still he felt that any festive day on which they were not
all with him was a festive day gone very wrong indeed. But it was not as
a sop to his own feelings of disappointment that he decided to celebrate
Christmas in the train. It was a mixture of good-nature and, I am
afraid, of malice. He said to himself:
"I shall invite all the passengers to one-o'clock dinner and a Christmas
tree afterward with games and punch. I shall invite the conductor and
the brakeman; the porters shall come to serve dinner. I shall invite the
engineer and the fireman and the express-man. I shall invite everybody
The old gentleman sucked in his lips tightly and dwelt upon this
thought with satisfaction. Jolyff loved a party; Jolyff loved to drink
healths, and clap people on the back, and make little speeches, and
exert himself generally to amuse less gifted persons and make them feel
at home. And it was pleasant to think of him as sitting alone while a
fine celebration was banging and roaring in the very next car—a
celebration to which even an ex-convict had been invited.
First, Mr. Holiday summoned Miss Hampton and the girl who had run away
to be his aides-de-camp. They decided that the party was really for the
benefit of Freddie, Alice, and Euphemia, so these were packed off at
once to the common car to be as far as possible from the scene of
preparations. Then, with Mr. Holiday's porter, and his cook, and the
ex-convict as men of all work, commenced the task of ordering the car
for a crowd and decorating it, and improvising a Christmas tree. Miss
Hampton set to work with a wooden bucket, sugar, rum, brandy, eggs,
milk, and heaven knows what not, to brew a punch. Every now and then Mr.
Holiday appeared, to see how she was getting on, and to taste the
concoction, and to pay her pretty, old-fashioned compliments. The girl
who had run away was helping the porter to lay the table and trying to
write invitations to the passengers at the same time, Mr. Holiday having
furnished her from his note-book with all of their names. Now and then
there were hurried consultations as to what would be a suitable gift for
a given person. The "next oldest" people in the train were to receive a
pair of the silver candlesticks from the table. The train hands were to
receive money, and suddenly Mr. Holiday discovered that he had only a
few dollars in cash with him. He sought out the clergyman.
"Merry Christmas!" he said.
"Merry Christmas!" said the clergyman.
"Have you," said Mr. Holiday, "any of your rebuilding fund with you?"
"Why, yes," said the clergyman, smiling, "some two hundred dollars, and
I cannot deny that it is agony to me to carry about so large a sum."
Mr. Holiday simply held out his hand, palm up.
"Why—what—" began the clergyman in embarrassment.
"I will give you my check for that sum," said Mr. Holiday, "and
something over for your fund. I hope you will dine with me, in my car,
at one o'clock."
He hurried away with the two hundred dollars. It was his intention to
sample Miss Hampton's punch again; but he turned from this on a sudden
impulse and sought out the young man who had been run away with. With
this attractive person he talked very earnestly for half an hour, and
asked him an infinite number of questions; just the kind of questions
that he had asked the young men who had aspired to the hands of his own
daughters. And these must have been satisfactorily answered, because at
the end of the interview Mr. Holiday patted the young man on the back
and said that he would see him later.
Next he came face to face with Mr. Jolyff, and the two old gentlemen
stared at each other coldly, but without any sign of recognition.
Once—ever so many years ago—they had been intimate friends. Mr.
Holiday had never had any other friend of whom he had been so fond. He
tried now to recall what their first difference had been, and because he
could not he thought he must be growing infirm. And he began to think of
his approaching party with less pleasure. He had let himself in for a
good deal of bother, he thought.
But this time Miss Hampton made him take a whole teaspoonful of punch,
and told him what a dear he was, and what a good time everybody was
going to have, and that she would do anything in the world for him; she
would even recite "The Night Before Christmas" for his company, if he
asked her. And then they did a great deal of whispering, and finally Mr.
"But suppose they balk?"
"Nonsense," said Miss Hampton; "would you and I balk if we were in their
The pretty actress and the old gentleman laughed and bowed to each
other, and exchanged the most arch looks imaginable. And then Miss
"Good Lord—it's twelve-thirty."
Then there came to them a sudden dreadful smell of burning feathers.
They dashed into the observation end of the car and found the ex-convict
smothering an incipient conflagration of the Christmas tree, which was
made of dusters, with his hands.
The girl who had run away was despatching the porter with the last batch
of invitations. The ex-convict showed them his burned hands.
"You go and feel the champagne," said Mr. Holiday, "that'll cool'em."
Mr. Holiday himself went to fetch the children. In his pockets were the
envelopes containing money for the train hands, the envelope containing
a check for the two hundred dollars that he had borrowed from the
clergyman, and enough over to complete the rebuilding fund which the
clergyman had tried so hard to collect. And there was an envelope for
the ex-convict—not with money in it, but with an I.O.U.
"I.O.U. A Good Job," Mr. Holiday had written on a card and signed his
name. And he had taken out of his satchel and transferred to his
waistcoat pocket a pair of wonderful black pearls that he sometimes wore
at important dinners. And he was going to give one of these to Miss
Hampton and one to the girl who had run away. And then there were all
the wonderful toys and things for Alice, and Freddie, and Euphemia, and
he was going to present them with the black trunk, too, so that they
could take their gifts off the train when it eventually got to
Painsville. And Mr. Holiday had thought of everybody, and had prepared a
little speech to speak to his guests; and for two of his guests he had
arranged one of the greatest surprises that can be sprung on two guests;
and he ought to have been perfectly happy. But he wasn't.
When he passed the door of Mr. Jolyff's drawing-room he noted that it
was tightly closed. And it ought to have pleased him to see how his
enemy had taken his exclusion from the party to heart, and had shut
himself away from any sign or sound of it. But, although he smiled
cynically, he wasn't altogether pleased. And presently he made a wry
mouth, as if he were taking something unpleasant; and he began to hustle
Freddie and Euphemia so as to get away from that closed door as quickly
The girl who had run away was talking with Mr. Holiday when suddenly she
began to grow conscious and uncomfortable. She gave one swift look about
her, and saw that all the passengers, and all the train hands, and
porters, and the express-man were looking at her and smiling, and she
saw that they had ranged themselves against the sides of the car and
were making themselves as small as possible. Then she saw the young man
looking at her with a wonderful, nervous, radiant look. And then she saw
that the clergyman was standing all by himself, in a space that the
crowd had just managed to leave open for him, and that he had on his
surplice, and that he was marking a place in his prayer-book with one
finger. Then she understood.
Instinctively she caught Mr. Holiday's arm and clung to it, and Mr.
Holiday, smiling, patted her hand and began to draw her gently toward
the young man and the clergyman. It looked for a moment as if she were
going to hang back, and protest, and make a scene. But just when
everybody was beginning to fear the worst, and to look frightfully
nervous and uncomfortable, a wonderful and beautiful expression came
into her face, and her eyes lighted, and seemed to grow larger and
darker all at the same time. And if there were any present who had
regarded the impromptu wedding as something of a joke, these now had
their minds changed for them in the quickest kind of a jiffy. And if
there were any present who doubted of the beauty and dignity of love,
these had their minds changed for them, too. And they knew that they
were witnesses, not to a silly elopement, but to the great occasion in
the lives of two very young people who were absolutely sure of their
love for each other, and who would cherish each other in sickness and
peril, in good times and bad, in merry times and in heart-breaking
times, until death did them part.
And then suddenly, just when the clergyman was about to begin, just when
Miss Hampton had succeeded in righting herself from smothering a sob,
Mr. Holiday, whose face, had you but noticed it, had been growing longer
and longer, and drearier and drearier, gave a half-strangled cry:
Wholly oblivious to everything and everybody but what was in his mind at
the moment, he dropped the bride's hand as if it had been a red-hot
horseshoe and started to bolt from the car. But, strangely enough, the
old face that had grown so long and dreary was now wreathed in smiles,
and he was heard to mutter as he went:
"Just a minute, while I get Jolyff!"
* * * * *
Mr. Jolyff and Mr. Holiday lifted their glasses. And Mr. Holiday said,
so that all could hear:
"I drink to my old friends and to my new friends. And I drink to the
lesson of Christmas. For Christmas," said he, and he smiled in a
wonderful way, "teaches us that in all the world there is absolutely
nothing that we cannot forgive…."
The two very old gentlemen clinked their glasses together, and, looking
each other affectionately in the eyes, might have been heard to mutter,
somewhat brokenly, each the other's Christian name.