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

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.

"Mr. Leslie!" corrected the Doctor, and Roger glowed.

"Well, Mr. Leslie," went on the Doctor thoughtfully, "I'm chuck full of grievances.  There's the rheumatism in my leg, for instance.  That's no sort of thing to have at Christmas."

"But that's better," said Roger.  "You said so this morning.  I 'spect you been thinkin' too much about it like you said I did when my leg was stiff."

"Ahem!  And I did hope somebody would come home for Christmas.  I like a house full of romping youngsters--"

Roger pointed an accusing finger.

"Aunt Ellen says every blessed one of your children, an' your grand-children too, begged and begged you to come to the city for Christmas an'--an' you wouldn't go 'cause you're old-fashioned and like a country Christmas so much better--an'--an' because you'd promised to teach me to skate on the Deacon's pond an' take me sleighin'."

"Dear me," said the Doctor helplessly, "for such a mite of a kiddy, you do seem remarkably well informed."

"Man to man," reminded Roger inexorably and the Doctor aired his final grievance.

"And then there's that youngest son of mine--"

"Doctor Ralph?"

"Doctor Ralph!  What right had he, I'd like to know, to marry that pretty sister of yours and go off honeymooning holiday time.  Didn't he know that we needed him and Sister Madge here for Christmas?  I miss 'em both.  Young pirate!"

Roger's heart swelled with loyalty.  It was Doctor Ralph's skilful hand that had helped him walk.

"Most likely," he said fairly, "I'm a little to blame there.  After I came home from the hospital, I did tell Sister Madge to marry him--"

"Most likely," acknowledged the Doctor, "I said something similar to Doctor Ralph.  I can't have you shouldering all the responsibility.  Well, your Honor, there's the Christmas evidence.  What's the verdict?"

Roger considered.  This man to man game had certain phraseological conclusions.

"No case!" he said suddenly, nor would he alter his decision when the Doctor protested against its severity.

"You had so awful many peoply sort of places to go," pointed out Roger, and the Doctor laughed.

"And let you spend this first Christmas on your two legs in a city?" he demanded.  "Well, I guess not!  No-sir-ee-bob!  There!--the alder berries have faded out and the garden's thick with twilight."

"And it's Christmas eve!" cried Roger, his black eyes shining with delight.

"Speaking of Christmas," said the Doctor, sniffing luxuriously, "I feel that I ought to slip out to the kitchen for a minute or so.  I do smell something tremendously Christmasy and spicy--"

Roger caught his breath.  With a Christmas intrigue as surely in the air as the smell of spice, here was dangerous ground.

"Aunt Ellen," he faltered, "Aunt Ellen said she couldn't pos'bly be bothered with--with any men folks in the kitchen--not even me."

"Pooh!" rebelled the Doctor largely, "that's merely a ruse of hers to protect the cookies.  And what I'd like to know is just this--what's Aunt Ellen doing in the kitchen anyway?  Certainly old Annie's able to do the Christmas fussing for three people.  Aunt Ellen ought to be in here with us.  That was part of my lonesome grievance but I forgot to mention it."

Roger, shivering apprehensively, visioned suspicious stores of Christmas delicacies--holly and evergreen--and a supper table set for ten!  And off somewhere among those purple spears of twilight old Asher, the hired man, was waiting at the station with the big farm sleigh.

He must keep his eye upon the Doctor until six o'clock, and lure him away from the window.

"Tell me a story," begged Roger--"over here by the fire."  And his voice was so very tremulous and urgent that the hungry Doctor abandoned his notion of a Christmas cookie, and complied.

To Roger, in a nervous ecstasy of anticipation, the story was a blurred hodge-podge of phrases and crackling fire, distant noises of clinking china and hurrying feet, and wild flights of imagination....  Old Asher must be coming past the red barn now ... and now down the hill ... and now past the Deacon's pond ... and now--

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