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spell, and I'll be back ;” and vanished in the closet with an old flannel shirt and the whiskey. The door closed but imperfectly, and the following dialogue was distinctly audible :
“Now, sonny, whar does she ache worst?”
“Sometimes over yar and sometimes under yer; but it's most powerful from yer to yer. Rub yer, dad.”
A silence seemed to indicate a brisk rubbing. Then Johnny:
“ Hevin' a good time out yar, dad?” “ Yes, sonny." “ To-morrer's Chrismiss, – ain't it?” “Yes, sonny. How does she feel now?"
“ Better. Rub a little furder down. Wot's Chrismiss, any way? Wot's it all about ?”
“Oh, it's a day.”
This exhaustive definition was apparently satisfactory, for there was a silent interval of rubbing. Presently Johnny again :
“ Mar sez that everywhere else but yer everybody gives things to everybody Chrismiss, and then she jist waded inter you. She sez thar 's a man they call Sandy Claws, not a white man, you know, but a kind o' Chinemin, comes down the chimbley night afore Chrismiss and gives things to chillern,
boys like me. Puts 'em in their butes! Thet's what she tried to play upon me. Easy, now, pop, whar are you rubbin' to, thet 's a mile from the place. She jest made that up, did n't she, jest to aggrewate me and you? Don't rub thar. . . . Why, dad !”
In the great quiet that seemed to have fallen upon the house the sigh of the near pines and the drip of leaves without was very distinct. Johnny's voice, too, was lowered as he went on: “Don't you take on now, for I'm gettin' all right fast. Wot's the boys doin' out thar?”
The Old Man partly opened the door and peered through. His guests were sitting there sociably enough, and there were a few silver coins and a lean buckskin purse on the table.
“ Bettin' on suthin', little game or ’nother. They ’re all right, he replied to Johnny, and recommenced his rubbing
“I'd like to take a hand and win some money,” said Johnny reflectively, after a pause.
The Old Man glibly repeated what was evidently a familiar formula, that if Johnny would wait until he struck it rich in the tun. nel, he'd have lots of money, etc., etc.
“Yes,” said Johnny, “but you don't. And whether you strike it or I win it, it ’s about the same.
It's all luck. But it's mighty cur'o's about Chrismiss, – ain't it? Why do they call it Chrismiss ?”
Perhaps from some instinctive deference to the overhearing of his guests, or from some vague sense of incongruity, the Old Man's reply was so low as to be inaudible beyond the room.
“Yes,” said Johnny, with some slight abatement of interest, “I've heerd o' him before. Thar, that 'll do, dad. I don't ache near so bad as I did. Now wrap me tight in this yer blanket. So. Now,” he added in a muffled whisper, “ sit down yer by me till I go asleep." To assure himself of obedience, he disengaged one hand from the blanket, and, grasping his father's sleeve, again composed himself to rest.
For some moments the Old Man waited patiently. Then the unwonted stillness of the house excited his curiosity, and without moving from the bed he cautiously opened the door with his disengaged hand, and looked into the main room. To his infinite surprise it was dark and deserted. But even then a smouldering log on the hearth broke, and by the upspringing blaze he saw the figure of Dick Bullen sitting by the dying embers.
Dick started, rose, and came somewhat unsteadily toward him.
“ Whar's the boys ?” said the Old Man.
“Gone up the cañon on a little pasear. They're coming back for me in a minit. I'm waitin' round for 'em. What are you starin' at, Old Man ?” he added, with a forced laugh ; " do you think I'm drunk ? "
The Old Man might have been pardoned the supposition, for Dick's eyes were humid and his face flushed. He loitered and lounged back to the chimney, yawned, shook himself, buttoned up his coat and laughed.
Liquor ain't so plenty as that, Old Man. Now don't you git up,” he continued, as the Old Man made a movement to release his sleeve from Johnny's hand. mind manners. Sit jest whar you be; I'm goin' in a jiffy. Thar, that's them now.”
There was a low tap at the door. Dick Bullen opened it quickly, nodded “Goodnight” to his host, and disappeared. The Old Man would have followed him but for the hand that still unconsciously grasped his
6 Don't you 66 Are you
sleeve. He could have easily disengaged it; it was small, weak, and emaciated. But perhaps because it was small, weak, and emaciated he changed his mind, and, drawing his chair closer to the bed, rested his head upon it. In this defenceless attitude the potency of his earlier potations surprised him. The room flickered and faded before his
eyes, reappeared, faded again, went out, and left him — asleep.
Meantime Dick Bullen, closing the door, confronted his companions. ready ?” said Staples. “ Ready,” said Dick; " what's the time?" "Past twelve," was the reply; "can you make it ?- it's nigh on fifty miles, the round trip líther and
“I reckon," returned Dick shortly. 66 Whar's the mare ? ” “ Bill and Jack's holdin' her at the crossin'.' 6. Let 'em hold on a minit longer,” said Dick.
He turned and reëntered the house softly. By the light of the guttering candle and dying fire he saw that the door of the little room was open. He stepped toward it on tiptoe and looked in. The Old Man had fallen back in his chair, snoring, his helpless feet thrust out in a line with his collapsed shoulders, and his hat pulled over his eyes.