"No, indeed!" she replied. "Why should I?"
"I didn't think you would," he said slowly; "but some women would have had a fit!"
"I wasn't built that way," she laughed. "I think I enjoyed it more than any of the rest of you!"
"My dearest wife!" he said gravely, while his lips found their favorite spot where a curl strayed over her forehead,--"My dearest wife!"
She heard with almost a start. Did he realize his words, or was it simply an impulsive phrase? A story had been told her once--but, no, that did not belong to Christmas Eve!
"It was all a happening," he went on. "I spied the mistletoe when I was coming home, and it set me to wondering if it wouldn't help out; so I brought it along. I wanted those dear women to have a real Christmas merry-making, not a sham affair. Take such folks, they'll generally sit around and talk, and laugh a little, and think they are celebrating something. I wanted them to have a young Christmas. And I didn't catch anybody after all," he ended, a plaintive note in his voice.
"You didn't try to catch anybody, did you?" she smiled.
"What ever put such a thing into your head?" he demanded fiercely.
She laughed. "I have seen you a few times before to-night."
He frowned--then broke into a chuckle.
"Bless you!" he said fervently.
"Nelson Randolph!" she suddenly cried out, trying to break away from him, "The windows! I forgot!"
"What's the matter with them?" he twinkled. "They're all shut."
"But the shades! They're up!--Nelson!"
"What if they are?" he returned comfortably.
"Somebody may look in!"
He smilingly held her tight. "If any wanderer is abroad in this cold, he ought to be rewarded with a picture of domestic bliss."
"But if Mrs. Betts should be coming home late!--"
"She'd probably be disappointed that it was only I, instead of some other woman's husband."
"Nelson, do let me go!...I think we might find easier seats," she laughed, as she came back to him.
He turned her toward the little mantel clock. It was two minutes of twelve.
"Almost Christmas morning!" she said softly. "I wonder if they'll call us up to-night."
"Hardly. We should have heard before. Everything was complete at ten o'clock."
"How surprised they were!" she mused smilingly. "I'm so glad you did it for them."
"I am glad you did it!" he amended.
She started to reply, but he lifted a detaining finger. The city hall clock was striking the hour.
"My princess,"--his lips touched her own,--"I wish you the joyfulest Christmas--"
"Ting! ting! Ting! ti-i-ng!" broke in imperiously.
"Go," he urged, loosing his clasp.
"Oh, Mis' Randolph! is that you?" came in Miss Crilly's clear voice. "We all wish you a merry, merry Christmas, and we thank you more than we can ever tell if we live to be a hundred years old!
They piled into my room to wait till Christmas morning, for they would have me do the talking, though I can't do it half so well as some of the rest of 'em! Oh, you don't know how surprised we were!
We stood talking in my door. Mis' Albright and Miss Mullaly and Miss Major and I, and I said, 'Come in and sit down!' So I struck a light, and happened to glance this way! Well, I gave one scream, and looked round to make sure where I was; and Miss Mullaly she squealed out, 'How came that here?' Then I spun across the room lively! And when I picked up your card with its dear little piece of mistletoe--well, you could have knocked me down easy! We heard little shouts and laughs all up and down, and Miss Major said, 'I wonder--' and ran right off to her room quick. Then the others caught on, and they went! I had to follow, of course, to see! And when we found there was a 'phone in every room--we just didn't know what to do! Why, if I wake up in the night I shall want to run over here to feel of it, just to make sure it is true! To think of your doing it for us!"
"I didn't! It is Mr. Randolph you ought to be thanking, not me!
There was a dash across the room and the receiver was caught from her hand.
"No, no! I had nothing to do with it! I only filled my wife's order--that's all!"
"Nelson Randolph!" she expostulated. "Let me have the telephone!"
But he shook his head. "Thank you, Miss Crilly, on her behalf!
I'm mighty glad you like them. What's that? Oh, well, if she did, I should be there beside her, thanking Him for giving me so good a wife!"
"What are you talking about? I want to know!"
With a smile he relinquished the instrument.
"I heard you say that! I told him that Miss Mullaly said you ought to get down on your knees every day of your life and thank the Lord for giving you such a good husband."
"You can tell Miss Mullaly that is just what I do!"
"My! I will. Isn't this fun, to be talking with you this way!--and at midnight, too! Oh, why didn't I think of it when he was there! Well, you thank him for us all! You ought to have heard us gabble when we found those five-dollar gold pieces in our baskets! It was lovely of him to do it! And those shoes you gave me--did you crochet them yourself?"
"All those st.i.tches for me! They're beautiful! I've always wished I had some of that kind. And--just think!--I shouldn't be here to-night if it hadn't been for you! Oh, I couldn't thank you enough if I should live to be a thousand years old! You'll be sure and come to our tree, won't you?"
"We will look in on you some time during the evening. We can run away from the Dudleys' for a little while."
"Well, I am so full of happiness I believe one drop more would make my eyes spill over! I never thought I should chime in with Mis'
Puddicombe, but to-night I do! June Holiday Home _is_ the gate of heaven--and all because of you and Polly!"
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