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

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.

"Oh, grandpop," cried little John Leslie 3rd, bolting into the study in great excitement--"Come see Roger!  We kids have made him the Christmas king and he's got a crown o' holly on and--and a wand and he's a-tappin' us this way with it to make us Knights.  And I'm the Fir-tree Knight--and Bob--he's a Cedar Knight and Ned's a spruce and Roger--he says his pretty sister tells him stories like that smarter'n any in the books.  Oh--do hurry!"

The old Doctor held out his hand to his son.

"Well, Doctor Ralph," he said huskily, "suppose we go tell mother."

So while the Doctor told Aunt Ellen, Ralph bent his knee to this excited Christmas King enthroned in the heart of the fire-shadows.

"Rise--" said Roger radiantly, tapping him with a cedar wand, "I--I dub thee first of all my knights--the good, kind Christmas Knight!"

"And here," said Ralph, smiling, "here's Sister Madge.  What grand title now shall we give to her?"  But as Sister Madge knelt before him with firelit shadows dancing in her sweet, dark eyes, Roger dropped the wand and buried his face on her shoulder with a little sob.

"Nothing good enough for Sister Madge, eh?" broke in the old Doctor, looking up.  "Well, sir, I think you're right."

Now in the silence Aunt Ellen spoke and her words were like a gentle Christmas benediction.

"'Unto us,'" said Aunt Ellen Leslie as she turned the Christmas log, "'this night a son is given!'"

But Ralph, by the window, had not heard.  For wakening again in his heart as he stared at the peaceful, moonlit, "God-made" hills--was the old forgotten boyish love for this rugged, simple life of his father's dwarfing the lure of the city and the mockery of his fashionable friends.  And down the lane of years ahead, bright with homely happiness and service to the needs of others--was the dark and winsome face of Sister Madge, stirring him to ardent resolution.

Part Two

In Which We Light the New Log with the Embers of the Old

I

The Fire Again

"Doctor!" said little Roger slyly, "you got your chin stuck out!"

The Doctor stroked his grizzled beard in hasty apology.

"God bless my soul," he admitted guiltily.  "I do believe I have.  You've been so quiet," he added accusingly, "curled up there by the fire that I must certainly have gotten lonesome.  And I most always stick out my chin that way when I'm lonesome."

Roger, by way of reparation, betook himself to the arm of the Doctor's chair.

The Doctor's arm closed tight around him.  A year ago this little adopted son of his had been very lame.  It was the first Christmas in his life, indeed, that he had walked.

"Out there," said the Doctor, "the winter twilight's been fighting the alder berries with purple spears.  It's conquered everything in the garden and covered it up with misty velvet save the snow and the berries.  But the twilight's using heavier spears now and likely it'll win. I want the alder berries to win out, drat it!  Their blaze is so bright and cheerful."

Roger accepted the challenge to argument with enthusiasm.

"I want the twilight to win," he said.

The Doctor looked slightly scandalized.

"Oh, my, my, my, my!" he said.  "I can't for the life of me understand any such gloomy preference as that.  Bless me, if I can."

"Why," crowed Roger jubilantly, "I can, 'cause the more twilighty it gets, the more it's Christmas eve!"

The Doctor regarded his small friend with admiration.

"By George," he admitted, "I do believe you have me there--" but the Doctor's kindly eyes did not fire to the name of Christmas as Roger thought they ought.

"Almost," he said, "I thought you were going to stick out your chin again.  And you're not lonesome now 'cause I'm here an' pretty noisy."

"Hum!" said the Doctor.

"Man to man, now!" urged Roger suddenly.

This was the accepted key to a confessional ceremony which required much politeness and ruthless honesty.

"Well, Mr. Hildreth," began the Doctor formally.

Roger's face fell.

"I'm your adopted son," he hinted, "and you said that made my name same as yours."

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