When the Yule Log Burns: A Christmas Story, by Leona Dalrymple, Part VI

When the Yule Log Burns

Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done.  We are currently reading Leona Darlymple's When the Yule Log Burns: A Christmas Story.  This book will have 14 parts.

IV

Embers

And in the morning--there was the royal glitter of a Christmas ice-storm to bring boyhood memories crowding again, boughs sheathed in crystal armor and the old barn roof aglaze with ice.  Yes--Ralph thrilled--and there were the Christmas bunches of oats on the fences and trees and the roof of the barn--how well he remembered!  For the old Doctor loved this Christmas custom too and never forgot the Christmas birds.  And to-day--why of course--there would be double allowances of food for the cattle and horses, for old Toby the cat and Rover the dog.  Hadn't Ralph once performed this cherished Christmas task himself!

But now, clamoring madly at his door was a romping swarm of youngsters eager to show Uncle Ralph the Christmas tree which, though he had helped to trim it the night before, he inspected in great surprise.  And here in his chair by another Yule-log he found Roger, staring wide-eyed at the glittering tree with his thin little arms full of Christmas gifts.  Near him was Sister Madge whose black eyes, Ralph saw with approval, were very soft and gentle, and beyond in the coffee-fragrant dining-room Aunt Ellen and old Annie conspired together over a mammoth breakfast table decked with holly.

"Oh, John, dear," Ralph heard his mother say as the Doctor came in, "I've always said that Christmas is a mother's day.  Wasn't the first Christmas a mother's Christmas and the very first tree--a mother's tree?" and then the Doctor's scandalized retort--"Now--now, now, see here, Mother Ellen, it's a father's day, too, don't you forget that!"

And so on to the Christmas twilight through a day of romping youngsters and blazing Yule-logs, of Christmas gifts and Christmas greetings--of a haunting shame for Doctor Ralph at the memory of the wild Christmas he had planned to spend with Griffin and Edwards.

With the coming of the broad shadows which lay among the stiff, ice-fringed spruces like iris velvet, Doctor Ralph's nieces and nephews went flying out to help old Asher feed the stock.  By the quiet fire the Doctor beckoned Ralph.

"Suppose, my boy," he said, "suppose you take a look at the little lad's leg here.  I've sometimes wondered what you would think of it."

Coloring a little at his father's deferential tone Ralph turned the stocking back from the pitiful shrunken limb and bent over it, his dark face keen and grave.  And now with the surgeon uppermost, Roger fancied Doctor Ralph's handsome eyes were nothing like so tired.  Save for the crackle of the fire and the tick of the great clock, there was silence in the firelit room and presently Roger caught something in Doctor Ralph's thoughtful face that made his heart leap wildly.

"An operation," said the young Doctor suddenly--and halted, meeting his father's eyes significantly.

"You are sure!" insisted the old Doctor slowly.  "In my day, it was impossible--quite impossible."

"Times change," said the younger man.  "I have performed such an operation successfully myself.  I feel confident, sir--" but Roger had caught his hand now with a sob that echoed wildly through the quiet room.

"Oh, Doctor Ralph," he blurted with blazing, agonized eyes, "you don't--you can't mean, sir, that I'll walk and run like other boys--and--and climb the Cedar King--" his voice broke in a passionate fit of weeping.

"Yes," said Doctor Ralph, huskily, "I mean just that.  Dad and I, little man, we're going to do what we can."

By the window Sister Madge buried her face in her hands.

"Come, come, now Sister Madge," came the Doctor's kindly voice a little later, "you've cried enough, lass.  Roger is fretting about you and Doctor Ralph here, he says he's going to take you for a little sleigh-ride if you'll honor him by going."

Outside a Christmas moon rode high above a sparkling ice-bright world and as the sleigh shot away into its quiet glory, Ralph, meeting the dark, tear-bright eyes of Sister Madge, tucked the robes closer about her with a hand that shook a little.

"'Gipsy' Hildreth!" he said suddenly, smiling, but the hated nickname to-night was almost a caress.  "Tell me," Ralph's voice was very grave--"You've been sewing?  Mother spoke of it."

"There was nothing else," said Sister Madge.  "I could not leave Roger."

"And now Mother wants you to stay on with her.  You--you'll do that?"

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

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