Pokey Entertains for Christmas
It's lucky Christmas is not always like this, or the festival would be a nightmare. First of a new Peter and Pokey series.
NORMA PHILLIPS MUIR
"PETER, wake up, dear, it’s Christmas,” I cried softly, prodding my husband gently in the ribs as I spoke.
There was no answer aside from a somnolent grunt.
"Peter, you gotta get up, dear, it’s Christmas,” I reiterated, “PETER!”
“ALL RIGHT!” he howled with a testiness that showed he’d heard me before.
■“Gosh all gracious, has a man got to be equipped with shock absorbers and bumpers to protect him from his own wife?” and he rubbed the rib I had massaged, with tender fingers.
“If you wake those kids up before you’ve had time to razzle the furnace into active service I’ll pat you with my mashie,” I threatened. “The minute they waken they’ll want to be up and they can’t with the house as cold as Christmas at the North Pole.”
“Women, Wives, and Workers of the World,” declaimed Peter standing up in the middle of the bed and waving his arms before him. “All I ask you to lend me is your ears. Not that I haven’t a couple of my own, but mama put in wadding when father came home drunk. I would ask you—”
“You nut,” I cried, “get out of the middle of that bed and get your dry goods on,” and I gave the bed clothes a savage pull with the result that Peter lost his balance and in an effort to avoid falling on me took a high dive over the foot-board.
“Jumping Jeremiah,” he hollered as he hit the floor, and then I saw him skid across the room and bring up sharply against the door jamb.
“P-P-P-eter,” I gasped.
“Sufferin’ Sockeye, what sort of a trap have I stepped into?” he howled, and he hopped on one foot to the light and
switched it on. “What in---” he began,
and then I started to cry, for Peter, with a look which carried destruction in its wake, had merely lifted his foot and waved it at me.
For some time he had been talking of getting a new silk katy and I had purchased it for his Christmas present.
Wishing him to find it first thing in the morning, I had placed it at the foot of the bed.
He’d found it all right. The lid of the hat box had, in his wild leap, been jammed clean up to his calf, and below the lid, crown up, was that lovely shiny, thirteen dollar lid. Peter’s skinny foot and his lean shank had gone through the crown of that hat as though he’d been practising for a week.
“Ringed, by gravy,” he said, and then removing the silken fetters he strode to the bed and waved the wreck in my face.
“ ’Spose this is my share of a merry Christmas?” he snarled. “ ’Spose because you gave it to me I’ll have to wear it like a halo or hurt your feelings. Of all the places in the house you had to choose the one where ruination lay in wait for my hat. Merry Christmas, Bah!” and
Peter turned off the light and hopped into bed again.
“Do you suppose it could be mended, Peter ?” I asked meekly.
“Yah, I don’t,” he retorted. “If the recording angel was as good at mending as at book-keeping and was given that hat to repair he’d hand in his resignation rather than lose his reputation. G’night.”
“But Peter, it isn’t night,” I suggested. “You got up to fix the furnace, dear.” “Oh, by golly, what’s the use,” he asked. “I ought to get used to the fact that life with you ain’t ever going to be what it ought to be, but at that I’m not kicking. You get the Bits dressed while I give the furnace a Christmas message.”
“Let’s take ’em in now,” I said. “The excitement’ll keep them warm for a few minutes and I don’t want you to miss any of their joy.”
“Atta kid,” agreed Peter, and then in answer to excited cries from the nursery we raced down the hall, assuring the Bits as we went that Santa Claus had come.
In five minutes we were all lined up, and with Peter and me leading, the quartette moved off toward the living room, singing, “Away in a Manger.” Pansy joined us half way down the hall, and a moment later the file broke and five excited humans burst into the living room and capered before the laden tree.
“Pansy,” I yelled above the din a few minutes later, “bring breakfast in. Fill your face with food and you’ll feel better,” I said to Peter who had tripped over a train and skinned his shin. “There’s only one way to soothe a man and that’s to hang out the feed bag full and frequent.”
“What’re we having breakfast in here for?” he asked as Pansy and I arrived with the kitchen table.
“That,” I informed him, “is your Christmas surprise.”
“Three rousing cheers,” said Peter, “while I assure you that I appreciate your effort, I’d just as soon have had my surprise in the dining-room.”
“It is,” I grinned. “Come on and mama’ll show you,” and I led him in and waved a hand toward the table.
“Who’s coming here to-day ?” he howled, turning on me.
“The Newtons and the Rawdons, dear,” I said. “You’ve been talking about entertaining the senior partners ever since your name was painted in gilded letters on the frosted glass of the front door just ahead of the ‘and Co.,’ and so I planned this for a surprise.” “Well,” he said coldly, “when there are fifty-two Sundays in the world to pick from I don’t see why you had to spoil the only Christmas we’ve had since the Bits were old enough to play. You make me sick.”
“As far as that goes, I’d never advertise you'for an appetizer,” I retorted.
“I always sorta thought of Christmas as a home day—” sighed Peter.
“Who’s asking you to léave your happy home?” I inquired. “It’s just as well to invite somebody in to help us through the evening if we want to preserve the Christmas spirit of peace and good will for the entire day.”
“Something in that, all right,” he agreed dispiritedly. “You are positively deadly in your enthusiasm,” I remarked.
“Why should I tie my tail in a knot?”asked Peter coldly. “It isn’t my party. By the way, what are we having t’eat?”
“Just the usual Christmas stuff,” I said, “but I wondered if you wouldn’t make the punch for me.” “Now you’re shouting,” he grinned. “I wondered when you were coming to the essentials. I’d better get at it.”
“Draw it mild, Peter,” I advised. “You know I’ve no head for the hard stuff and I certainly am not going to abstain at my own party,”
“You have a coupla cares,” he warned, marching kitchenward, and thereafter I heard the pulling of corks and the burbling of the bosky beverage.
“I used four bottles of grape juice and a pint of whisky with the juice of eight lemons, old sock,” he said when he rejoined me. “Come on out and pass on it.”
I pronounced it all to the vineyard and then winking at Pansy to add another two bottles of grape juice as per arrangement, I led Peter to our room.
“About your Christmas present to me, dear,” I began.
“M’lord yes,” he bellowed,
“I understand, dear,” I interrupted gently. “I knew that with business so pressing and the twins to think of and everything—so I just picked out a little gift for myself.”
“But I—” began Peter.
“I tell you it’s all right,” I assured him. “Here it is, and thank you so very much—
DARLING,” and before Peter got his breath back I flung open the closet door and lifted out the hanger which held my Christmas present from my husband — an orchid velvet dinner dress.
“My sad Aunt,” yelled Peter. “You got more nerve than a human fly—why don’t you give me credit for a pair of brains? I bought you a present myself.”
“W-w-w-hy Peter Ronald, you perfect duck,” I exclaimed, going for him with Tom Longboat’s record broken before I started.
“Get off,” he cried pushing me away. “You give me a distinct pain.”
“Smother your groans, buddy,” I advised, “and shell out. I’ll be back in a minute.”
It’s no use talking, you can do a lot more with a man if you’re dressed for the work than if you take on the job with your hair stringy, and, believe me, it didn’t take me long to hop into that new dress and run a comb through my impermanent wave.
“Peter, look at me, but only use one eye at a time if you value your sight,” I cried.
“Where’s the dagger or the vial of poison?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t tell me that get-up’s for use in anything less than grand opera!” he begged. “Listen,” as Pansy’s voice sounded from the kitchen, “there’s somebody paging the Duchess Delilah.”
“I think you’re perfectly horrid,” I whispered, catching my breath in a peach of a sob and allowing my eyes to moisten up, as I can do as easy as turning on a tap.
“For gosh sake, don’t drip on it,” yelled Peter. “It may be all right for sunny days but it wasn’t created as a health-hope. Where’s the rest of it?”
But I had started to take it off. As a matter of record it wasn’t extremely decollete but it was sleeveless and had a pseudo-generous V in the back and front, and Peter evidently was thinking of Jack’s morals.
“I didn’t mean it, Kid,” he said, coming close enough to stop my hands from loosening the fasteners. “Keep it on and pretend you’re a lady, and wear this with it.”
“This” was a goregeous cameo-cut amethyst on a thread-like chain of white gold, and looked as though it had been designed to go with the dress. Nevertheless I wasn’t going to let Peter see that I was won so quickly, after the nasty things he had said, so I turned it over as though in search of a price-mark.
“It’s very pretty,” I admitted. “But I had thought that pearls—■—”
“Pearls are for purity,” said Peter.
For a half a moment I wouldn’t have wanted to risk the family fortunes on a bet as to whether I was going to wallop him one or laugh, but there was the faintest suspicion of a twinkle in Peter’s eye and before I knew what I was up to I had burst into laughter with Peter not a half a lap behind me.
“You look like a Bolshevick’s bride,” he cried, hugging me, “but how’n heck am I going to live up to you?”
“Your Tuxedo’ll help you over the worst to-night,” I told him, and then we were at it again.
“Nix,” he said decisively, “nix on the swank and sweat on Christmas day for this wise guy. You’ve got on enough finery for the whole street and that’s no lie. If I marked a large card ‘Revelation’ and hung it around your neck the only ginks who wouldn’t get a laugh out of it would be the preacher and the tax collector.”
“Cut out the rhetoric and climb into that dinner-suit,” I commanded. “It’s either that or a wooden kimona for you, m’lad.”
The afternoon passed uneventfully. The Bits had a long sleep and Peter went for a drive and came home quite cheerful. As for me I found a good book and reclined on the chesterfield reading, and stopping every so often to admire my gown and pendant. Just as well I had one afternoon’s pleasure out of it. Somehow one never feels the same about a gown after it’s been to the cleaners.
“That’s your big bugs for you,” I said to Peter five minutes before our guests arrived. “I asked them to come early but they’d perjure their souls rather than punish etiquette by arriving ahead of time. Gives me a nausea.”
“Well, hang onto it,” advised Peter. “I didn’t plan this party, you know, and if it goes off without a calamity happening I’ll never again doubt an all-wise Providence.”
“One more peep out of you and you’ll be getting aconite to take down your temperature,” I threatened.
“There’s the bell. Thanks be to gosh, it’s the company and we’re saved from murder,” and with a sweet smile I want to meet them.
Mrs. Newton and Mrs. Rawdon both carried small covered baskets and immediately following greeting they inquired for the “dear babies.”
“We brought a little gift for each of them,” smiled Mrs. Rawdon, nodding toward the baskets. “I hope they’ll like them.”
I heard a movement in the basket nearest me and my heart dipped the dips till it rested just above the vanity plate in my heel. In the nursery the baskets were handed to the Bits, and when they were opened disclosed two beautiful Maltese kittens.
“We wanted Persians but the man said they don’t make good pets for children,” apologized Mrs. Newton. “Aren’t these sweet little things?”
“They certainly are,” I agreed. “It’ll be too bad to drown them.” I added mentally and then I begged them to excuse me for ten minutes while I put the Bits to bed.
They went to sleep like cherubs, dinner was announced on the very minute and the first two courses had made a transient appearance and just as Pansy brought in that noble bird the bell rang.
“Tell whoever it is that I am engaged, Pansy,” I directed her as she hastened from the room.
“Such an awkward hour for anyone to come,” I said to Mrs. Newton who had smiled at me as though to say, How we women do suffer,” and then I heard voices raised in altercation.
“Don’t you be maligning a woman’s character to me, said a man’s voice. “Tellin’ me Mrs. Ronald’s engaged when I know she’s married and has twins. You^go and
tell her we come--”
“ ’Gainst my jcdgement, 'gainst my jedgement,” broke in another voice.
“May the Lord have mercy on my soul,” I ejaculated. “It’s my country cousins.” “The skeleton’s come out of the closet,” grinned Peter, and then as I gave him a nasty look he added: “Your cousins are so thoughtless, dear.”
“Ruthie,” broke in a voice at the dining-room, door, “that girl, ot yours—oh! you got
“Hello, Uncle Josiah,” I said hoping my voice was warmer than my feet at the moment. “When-d you come to
“Jest got in,” he announced smiling at the toute ensemble disarmingly. “Me and Hetty was sent delegates to the Sabbath School Convention and so Lizzie came too and we thought we’d stay a spell.”
“H’lo, Aunt Hetty,” I said. “Go right into my room and take off your things. Of course you’ve had dinner.”
“Nothin’ but a hard-boiled egg and some ham sandwiches and bananas on the train,” mourned Uncle Josiah. “That’s a fine looking turkey, Ruthie, and I’m no fool at judging birds. I’ll bet his liver’s as tasty as—”
“You’ll want a wash,” I interrupted, conscious of the amusement which was being afforded my guests.
“I had a hot bath last night, Ruthie,” said Uncle Josiah aggrievedly. “Aunt Hetty she filled up the station’ry tub in the woodshed and I sluiced me good. I’m ready, but just give me a plate in the kitchen. I’m more at home there and if you put another leaf in, you’ll hafta drain the lake,” and he waggled a stubby finger at my cherished centre decoration, where a little mirror surrounded by mossy logs gave the appearance of a woodland pool.
Aunt Hetty had stood in silent embarrassment during Uncle’s recital of home rituals and behind her Aunt Lizzie stood and sniffed sourly.
“Peter, dear, if you’ll just begin to carve, Pansy and I will effect the necessary changes,” I said lightly. “You and Aunt Lizzie go and take off your hats and coats,” I directed the female frictionists, and then when they had momentarily disappeared I threw up my hands in token of my helplessness.
“ ’Twas ever thus since childhood’s hour,” I quoted.
Continued on page 47
Pokey Entertains for Christmas
Continued from page 19
“I never planned a spree of power but the darn thing went cock-eyed.”
Everybody shrieked, but I was hot and cold by turns, for heaven only knew what these connections of mine would pull before the night was spent.
“You’ve done yourselves pretty proud, heven’t yeh?” complimented Uncle Josiah. “Don’t mind if I do hev a little more of thet turkey, Peter. No, no, don’t slice any of the white meat for me, just give me the neck to pick. I like a hand piece.”
“What’s in your stuffin’, dearie?” asked Aunt Hetty. “Tastes sorta flat to me. Didn’t you have no onions?”
“It’s chestnut stuffing, Aunt Hetty,” I faltered.
“Anybody who wasn’t so old they couldn’t taste woulda known that,” spoke up Aunt Eliza.
“Isn’t the mushroom sauce delicious?” broke in Mrs. Newton, and I sent her a grateful glance.
“Pansy, will you please attend to your work?” I suggested as she stood, openmouthed, listening in, and I motioned for her to remove our plates and the food which had composed the principal course in the meal.
“Mince pie, Ruthie?” queried Uncle Josiah smacking his lips.
“No, English plum pudding, Uncle,” I said. “Hope you’re not disappointed?”
“When folks gits to be my age they don’t count on anything,” he said resignedly. “What’s these little glasses for?”
“Peter, your punch!” I exclaimed.
“Gosh, yes,” said Peter delightedly, and Messrs. Rawdon and Newton sat back and brightened considerably.
“Why, Ruthie,” began Aunt Hetty.
Pansy entered the room, bearing aloft on the silver platter the huge plum pudding, which according to the best English traditions was ablaze. My proud eyes sought Peter’s face, and it, too, was ablaze—with pride. It’s just as well we had those few seconds of satisfaction. They were the last we were to know for some little time. I saw Uncle’s eyes widen, but I thought it was merely with delight.
“Fire,” he yelled, jumping to his feet and overturning his chair. “Git the hose, Peter , and save the women and children.”
“You old fool,” hollered Peter, but Uncle was too (far gone to hear him. Shouting directions to everybody, he leaned far over the table and grabbed the carafe from the serving table. There was a shrill scream, a sound of liquid traveling through space, and then a hiss, a loud cuss and a thump.
“Peter,” I screamed. “Peter, stop him,” but Uncle was not to be stopped. Dimly I saw Mrs. Newton half rise and then duck. There was another crash and I saw her no more, and then Uncle Josiah lost his balance and fell across the table. For a moment the table toppled crazily, and then, with Uncle’s legs uppermost and a shower of silver in the Christmas air, the table went over.
Peter was the first to speak.
“I knew it,” he said. “Never for a moment did I doubt it.”
“Shut up and get busy,” I said. “This is no testimonial meeting. Haul Aunt Eliza out of the wreckage and biff her on the head if you can’t shut her up otherwise. Gosh all Henery!”
Peter and other male members of the salvage crew worked steadily for the next five minutes and recovered most of the bodies. We had to sacrifice a bit of the punch, which I was grateful had not been on the table, to quiet Aunt Hetty and Mrs. Rawdon.
Pansy we picked up from on top of Mrs. Newton. Her face was a mass of livid-looking flesh from which the water was rolling away in various swift little streams. She put a dazed hand to her face and then turning to Uncle Josiah who was sitting, stunned-like, on one of the hollow logs she said:
“You damned old hay-and-hogger, I’ll get you yet.”
“Pansy,” I said sternly, “keep quiet or I’ll dismiss you.”
“You can’t, I’ve resigned,” she said, “but I’ll stay long enough to git even with him. Roll over, lady, and shake a leg,” and she stirred Mrs. Newton gently with her toe.
“Peter,” I appealed.
“Dear Mrs. Newton,” he said gently, “let me help you rise.”
He did and she did, but I’d never have recognized her if it hadn’t been for an odd bit of black velvet and cut steel that was visible. As for her face—she apparently didn’t have any, but as far as the pudding went she was well served. She must have fallen plumb on it and from her appearance, instead of picking it off, she had eaten her way half way out, and had weakened at the half-way post. One thing’s certain, she and that pudding were so much one that it was hard to tell which was which.
“Good heaven’s, what we need for this job’s a road scraper,” I said. “Give me the pie knife, Peter, and you get the wooden spatula in the kitchen, Pansy, and give me a hand.”
“Courage, Maude,” cried her husband. “Hee Haw,” tittered Aunt Eliza hysterically.
“You keep quiet or I’ll fan you with the furnace shovel,” I said to her and then Pansy and I put our strength into the business of excavating Mrs. Newton from her plummy predicament.
“Don’t stand around like a statue of leisure,” I snapped at Peter. “Get a basin of water and some towels, and Mr. Rawdon, I leave it to you to keep one eye on my relatives and the other on the punch bowl and see that they don’t get too friendly.”
In another two minutes Mrs. Newton had emerged from the pudding and was in the act of leaving the dining room for our bedroom when her eyes fell on Pansy.
“That poor child is badly burned,” she said. “Never mind me, do something for her. I’d suggest a doctor.”
“That isn’t a burn I don’t think,” I giggled. “Come here, Pansy,” and seizing what looked to be a bit of loose skin I pulled and her livid mask came away.
“O-h-h-h-h-” shrieked Mrs. Newton, “how horrible!”
“I’m going to be sick,” moaned Mrs. Rawdon.
“Wait a minute, that wasn’t hide,” I cried. “That’s only wax.”
“Wax!” they chorused.
“Ruth,” said Peter sternly, striding over to me, “you aren’t yourself dear, you’d better come and lie down.”
“It’s wax I tell you,” I giggled. “Look,” and I peeled a layer she hadn’t noticed off of Mrs. Newton’s hand.
“Where’d it come from?” demanded Peter.
“Well,” I hesitated, “you see I wanted to have everything nice in honor of our guests, and I knew if I asked you to get me some brandy to burn on the pudding you’d throw a fit, so I just cut a circle in the top of the pudding and set a can of that stuff they call ‘Bottled Blaze’ in it, a sort of inebriated wax, and then Pansy put a match to it. If it hadn’t been for that congenital old idiot everything would have been all right.”
“Sweet skunkowski,” shrilled Peter.
“So original,” murmured the ladies, and I’ll announce that I was relieved they weren’t going to sue me for damages.
Mrs. Newton’s gown was ruined, but she was a good sport and lied about it like a lady, saying it was old anyway, when I knew better, for when she was lying on the floor I’d seen that the hem was only basted in. But far was it from me to tell her that.
I put my rose velvet dressing gown at her disposal until her chauffeur could arrive with another dress, and then we went back to the living room.
Peter arrived with ice cream and I went into the kitchen to put chocolate sauce on it and superintend the coffee service.
“Did you fix the log, Pansy?” I inquired.
“Yes’m,” she said, “and I hope I get a chance to fix that old farmer as well.”
“You just forget that,” I said sharply. “I’ll attend to him.”
“ ’Spose you light the fire, dear?” I suggested mildly as I entered the living room with the tea-waggon, and Peter knelt on the rug and struck a match.
There was a loud crackle, a sudden flare, and flames shot up and out. With a loud roar Peter leaped backward, taking the fur rug with him, but it was too late. It had caught fire.
“Oh P-p-p-p-eter,” I wailed, “do something!”
With one awful glare at me he grabbed the rug, and passed from the room and a moment later the bear rug was renewing acquaintance with the world of its youth —snow and starry night.
“What did you put on that log?” asked Peter in a deadly tone as he reentered the room.
“N-n-n-othing,” I said. “Pansy may have put a little coal-oil on it to make it burn brightly.”
“If one of us doesn’t land in a padded cell it won’t be your fault,” he stated, as he brushed a hand over his face and brought his eyebrows and half the extra tooth brush he calls his moustache with the hand.
“Singed b’gracious,” he announced, and then after a moment’s silence, “if you swear to me that there isn’t anything extra and Christmasy in the coffee, we might try it. Take a small sip for the first one, folks,” he advised.
I was terribly humiliated, but as Pansy Evangeline appeared at that moment with the tray of sherbet glasses filled with ice cream and chocolate sauce, and a silver plate containing
Christmas cakes I omitted the repartee.
Peter and his guests had been into the punch bowl a couple of times, but it wasn’t until Aunt Eliza reeled into the room that I suspected the worst as far as she was concerned.
“Peter, is Aunt Eliza sick?” I asked him.
“Not shick, jush feel’n fine,” asserted the cause of my worry.
“Mr. Rawdon, I left her in your care,” I reminded him, but the mirth in his eyes led me to expect no sympathy there.
“He’sh been very careful’a me,” insisted Aunt Eliza. “Nobody coulda been carefuller, sho won’t you shcold him, Ruthie.”
“Ye gods, is there any dirty wallop left in Fate’s mit for me?” I inquired of the gathering. “Aunt Eliza, you go right to bed.”
“Ain’t shleepy,” she insisted, and Mrs. Newton and Mrs. Rawdon choked over their coffee and their eyes were full of laughs.
“Peter,” I said firmly, “you take Aunt Eliza into the guest room and put her to bed.”
“Naughty, naughty,” said she, wobbling a finger at him, and then she focused her gaze on the finger and watched its gyrations delightedly.
Peter took her arm and was about to lead her from the room when she wrenched away from him, and made tracks for Mr. Newton who was standing beneath the light.
“ ’Liza caughtcha,” she simpered, and before the astounded man could move she gave him a resounding kiss and then pointed the still uncertain finger at the sprig of mistletoe above him.
“Didn’t forget a darn thing to make this a success, didja?” said Peter, and then he led my aunt away.
“Well,”. I said, “there’s one thing certain, this party hasn’t been a slow one, if I do say it myself.”
I hoped that Aunt Eliza was the last number on the program, but she wasn’t. Just as I finished pouring Mr. Newton a second cup of coffee, Aunt Hetty burst into sudden loud tears, and from the look which passed between the two men I knew they had been liberal with her, too.
“Frank, you ought to be ashamed,” gasped Mrs. Rawdon.
“Aunt Hetty, you straighten up quick,” I ordered her. “What’s the matter with you?”
“I don’t like gravy on ice cream,” she sobbed,“never did. You shoulda asked me before you rooned it.”
‘.‘Excuse me for five minutes,” I begged, and snaking Aunt Hetty after me so fast that she snapped going around the corner I got her out of the room. Something in the way her throat worked, and in the expression of her eyes and mouth warned me that her case was more advanced and I was right.
“Now,” I said, rejoining my guests, “if there is anything more let it come now or forever hold its peace. Uncle, how are you feeling?”
“Fine, Ruthie,” he responded. “I hold it like a man.”
Peter came back and we settled in front of the fire in a quiet that seemed ominous after the uproar.
“There’s one thing I will say for my wife,” grinned Peter. “She never lets me get feeling stagnated. Life here is never monotonous.”
“No wonder you seem so ready for your work and so glad to get to the office,” said Mr. Rawdon cordially, and I was the only one who got the barb in his benevolence.
“Peter, bring that small rug in from the nursery,” I said watching the kittens’ futile effort to attain comfort on the bare floor. “Those dear little pets aren’t cumfy.”
“If you’d get paralysis of the perceptions I’d be able to sit down for a moment on this joyous Christmas day,” he remarked as he left the room.
I noted a look of intelligence dawning in Uncle’s eye and wondered what was coming.
“Ruthie,” he said, “we brought some presents for the children and forgot to bring them in. I’ll get ’em now.”
“I’m glad that’s all,” I sighed in relief, but I sighed too soon.”
Uncle returned to the room with his hands behind his back, and then brought them suddenly around and down, depositing before I could more than yell, a couple of curious looking canines.
It was all over in a moment, I had that to be thankful for. If it had been a
long drawn out affair I couldn’tjhave stood it, but the pups made a bee-line for the kittens and the fight was on.
One of the kittens by a lucky leap landed on the one pup’s back and did some of the finest claw-hammer work it’s ever been my privilege to witness. The pup finally freed himself oi his bareback blighter by the simple expedient of knocking her off by attempting to go under the chesterfield with her, and the result was that the cat was left clinging to the chesterfield, still spitting and hissing while the dog stayed put.
The other kitten, not quite so quick, lost the tip of its tail before it managed to sight a limb to climb up, and it was Peter’s misfortune that the limb was his.
Just as he stepped inside the door the dog and cat reached it, and the cat, seeing something tall and thin proceeded to shinny up it, while Peter shook a wicked shimmy and called on the celestial powers for aid. Finally he pulled it loose and flung it, and what it landed on just happened to be the top of the piano—my piano of course, and before I could extricate myself from the tea waggon the playful little pet had made his monogram and crest on the walnut surface.
“Holy Hannibal,” howled Peter, caressing his leg. “Enough’s too much to-day. Who let that dog in and sicced it on me? Hey?”
“Calm yourself dear,” I said. “There’s another one under the chesterfield.”
“Three sets of twins are two too many for any house,” yelled my lord and master as he hauled the growling dog out from its refuge and assisted it down cellar where its partner was recovering its sang froid.
The kittens I shut in the kitchen and then we returned to our convulsed and laughter weak guests.
“I can’t stand any more,” I said quietly. “I’ve gotta a limit and it’s reached.”
The sympathetic silence which followed was broken by the pealing of the doorbell.
“Gracious Godfrey, what now?” bellowed Peter.
We waited to hear Pansy open the door but the house was filled with utter stillness, until the bell rang again, longer and louder.
“Pansy,” I yelled, throwing etiquette to the winds, “answer that door.”
For a moment there wasn’t a sound to be heard and then as the bell reiterated its summons there came a sepulchral groan, a rush of feet, the sound of skidding, and a heavy fall.
“Pansy,” I shrieked, whirling the portieres back-—and then I’d have given a front tooth if I hadn’t done it.
Lying prone on the floor, and yet struggling to attain a perpendicular position lay Pansy. Her feet were entangled in something dark and spangly which I recognized as the train of Mrs. Newton’s temporarily discarded dinner gown. A pair of long, white kid gloves wrinkled ridiculously on her skinny arms, and half on and half off her head, rakishly tilted over one eye which rolled wildly, was Mrs. Rawdon’s picture hat.
“Pansy Evangeline,” I heard myself say faintly, and then turning to my husband who was opening and shutting his mouth without achieving any sound therefrom, I said:
“Peter, I believe you’d better—” and at that moment the floor rose up and hit me a wallop.
When I opened my eyes there was no one in the room but Peter, and he was bending anxiously over me while I was conscious of something cold and wet trickling down the neck of my dress.
“Ruth, darling, speak to me,” he begged in agony, “just one word.”
“Bunk,” I said succinctly.
“W-w-w-hat?” he gasped.
“Bunk,” I repeated, “that’s what all this palaver about the Christmas spirit is. The emblem oughtn’t to be a cherub with an ukelele! It ought to be the devil rampant on a red-hot pitchfork with a row of mosquitoes and wasps alternating on his tail, all in action. Peace on earth! Bah!”
“Now you’ll feel better,” soothed Peter, but at that moment a timorous voice spake from the doorway where Pansy Evangeline stood:
“G-g-good night ma’am, and—Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas,” I yelled. “C’ri you beat it? Merry Christmas! Gosh!” *H* ++