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

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.

Now, whether it was the scheming excitement of a busy day or the warmth of a busy log or the rambling yarn of a busy Doctor, who may say?  Certainly Roger fell asleep at a fictional crisis and remained asleep for all that Jim furtively nudged him.

"There!" said the Doctor as the clock struck eight, "that's all.  To bath and beds, every one of you!  Annie's had a lamp on the kitchen table this half hour ready to light you up the stairs.  My!  My!  My!--but there's a busy day ahead.  Roger!  Well, of all ungrateful listeners!  Roger!"

But in the end, the Doctor carried Roger up to bed, preceded by Annie with the lamp.  And while Annie was turning back quilts and smoothing pillows and fumbling at windows, with the freedom of long service she soundly berated the Doctor for postponing the bed-time hour with his Christmas twaddle.

"And Mister Muggs there," she said severely, "has had one apple too many, I'm thinkin', and the last one as big as his head.  He'll need a pill before morning.  The child's packed himself that hard and round ye fear to touch him."  And then because Muggs was such a very little boy Annie was minded to assist with his bath, and laid kindly hands upon an indefinite outer garment which began immediately beneath his arm-pits and ended at his shoe-tops in singular fringe.

"An', ma'am," she explained to Aunt Ellen a little later, "I had to let him go in to his bath by himself.  No more had I touched his bushel-basket of rags--an' they were hitched over his shoulders with school straps and somebody's shirtwaist underneath--than he let out a terrific shriek (ye must have heard him) an' all the boys come runnin' and crowdin' round him and starin' so frightened at me, an' his brother yelled at him to keep quiet or something or somebody'd get him, and he kept quiet that sudden I could fairly see the child swell.  He's unnatural still and unnatural full, ma'am, an' the Doctor better leave his pills handy."

Bathed and freshly night-gowned, the Doctor's guests tumbled, a little noisily into bed.  Only Jim lay silent and wakeful.  Once he nudged his bed-fellow.

"Luke," he whispered, "d'ye think I'd orta tell 'em?"

"Aw," said Luke sleepily, "dry up, Jim!  Gosh, ain't the bed soft!"

Jim sighed.

Christmas came to the old farmhouse with the distant echo of village bells at midnight but, long before that, Christmas, in a fur cap and great-coat had swept up the driveway with a jingle of sleigh-bells, behind old Polly, the Doctor's mare, his sleigh packed high with bundles.  By the light of a late moon, flinging festal silver on the snow, it might be seen that Christmas resembled a somewhat guilty looking old gentleman with a grizzled beard.

"I'll catch old Scratch!" he admitted, suddenly overcome by the bulbous appearance of the sleigh, "but Ellen may say what she will.  She couldn't have thought of everything!"

No call for pills came that night from Muggs, asleep in a crib that had seen much service.  He was awake however long before daylight, trembling with excitement.

"Mike, oh Mike!" he called hoarsely.  "Wake up.  It's Christmas mornin'."

Mike, in a big bed with Marty Fay, sat up.

"Don't you dare open your mouth to-day!" he cried in blood-thirsty accents, "or Mom Murphy'll git ye surer'n scat.  Ain't I schemed enuff to git ye here?  Huh?  Wanta be sent home--huh?"  Muggs ducked beneath the blankets with a shivering wail.


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