Peace On Earth, Good-Will to Dogs

As though the word were wings the Lay Reader snatched his hat and sped out into the night.

It was astonishing how all the warm housey air seemed to rush out with him, and all the shivery frost rush back.

A little bit listlessly Flame dragged down the bandage from her eyes.

"It must be the creaks on the stairs that make it so awfully lonely all of a sudden," argued Flame. "It must be because the dogs snore so.... No mere man could make it so empty." With a precipitous nudge of the memory she dashed to the door and helloed to the fast retreating figure. "Oh, Bertrand! Bertrand!" she called, "I got sort of mixed up. It's the second door on the left! And if you don't find 'em there you'd better go up in Mother's room and turn out the silver chest! Hurry!"

Rallying back to the bright Christmas kitchen for the real business at hand, an accusing blush rose to the young spot where the dimple had been.

"Oh, Shucks!" parried Flame. "I kissed a Bishop before I was five!—What's a Lay Reader?" As one humanely willing to condone the future as well as the past she rolled up her white sleeves without further introspection, and dragged out from the protecting shadow of the sink the "humpiest box" which had so excited her emotions at home in an earlier hour of the day. Cracklingly under her eager fingers the clumsy cover slid off, exposing once more to her enraptured gaze the gay-colored muslin layer of animal masks leering fatuously up at her.

Only with her hand across her mouth did she keep from crying out. Very swiftly her glance traveled from the grinning muslin faces before her to the solemn fur faces on the other side of the room. The hand across her mouth tightened.

"Why, it's something like Creation," she giggled. "This having to decide which face to give to which animal!"

As expeditiously as possible she made her selection.

"Poor Miss Flora must be so tired of being so plain," she thought. "I'll give her the first choice of everything! Something really lovely! It can't help resting her!"

With this kind idea in mind she selected for Miss Flora a canary's face.—Softly yellow! Bland as treacle! Its swelling, tender muslin throat fairly reeking with the suggestion of innocent song! No one gazing once upon such ornithological purity would ever speak a harsh word again, even to a sparrow!

Nudging Miss Flora cautiously from her sonorous nap, Flame beguiled her with half a doughnut to her appointed chair, boosted her still cautiously to her pinnacle of books, and with various swift adjustments of fasteners, knotting of tie-strings,—an extra breathing hole jabbed through the beak, slipped the canary's beautiful blond countenance over Miss Flora's frankly grizzled mug.

For a single terrifying instant Miss Flora's crinkled sides tightened,—a snarl like ripped silk slipped through her straining lungs. Then once convinced that the mask was not a gas-box she accepted the liberty with reasonable sang-froid and sat blinking beadily out through the canary's yellow-rimmed eye-sockets with frank curiosity towards such proceedings as were about to follow. It was easy to see she was accustomed to sitting in chairs.

For the Wolf Hound Flame chose a Giraffe's head. Certain anatomical similarities seemed to make the choice wise. With a long vividly striped stockinet neck wrinkling like a mousquetaire glove, the neat small head that so closely fitted his own neat small head, the tweaked, interrogative ears,—Beautiful-Lovely, the Wolf Hound, reared up majestically in his own chair. He also, once convinced that the mask was not a gas-box, resigned himself to the inevitable, and corporeally independent of such vain props as Chemistries or Sermons, lolled his fine height against the mahogany chair-back.

To Blunder-Blot, the trim Dalmatian, Flame assigned the Parrot's head, arrogantly beaked, gorgeously variegated, altogether querulous.

For Lopsy, the crafty Setter, she selected a White Rabbit's artless, pink-eared visage.

Yet out of the whole box of masks it had been the Bengal Tiger's fiercely bewhiskered visage that had fascinated Flame the most. Regretfully from its more or less nondescript companions, she picked up the Bengal Tiger now and pulled at its real, bristle-whiskers. In one of the chairs a dog stirred quite irrelevantly. Cocking her own head towards the wood-shed Flame could not be perfectly sure whether she heard a twinge of cat or a twinge of conscience. The unflinching glare of the Bengal Tiger only served to increase her self-reproach.

"After all," reasoned Flame, "it would be easy enough to set another place! And pile a few extra books!... I'm almost sure I saw a black plush bag in the parlor.... If the cat could be put in something like a black plush bag,—something perfectly enveloping like that? So that not a single line of its—its figure could be observed?... And it had a new head given it? A perfectly sufficient head—like a Bengal Tiger?—I see no reason why—"

In five minutes the deed was accomplished. Its lovely sinuous "figure" reduced to the stolid contour of a black plush work-bag, its small uneasy head thrust into the roomy muslin cranium of the Bengal Tiger, the astonished Cat found herself slumping soggily on a great teetering pile of books, staring down as best she might through the Bengal Tiger's ear at the weirdest assemblage of animals which any domestic cat of her acquaintance had ever been forced to contemplate.

Coincidental with the appearance of the Cat a faint thrill passed through the rest of the company.... Nothing very much! No more, no less indeed, than passes through any company at the introduction of purely extraneous matter. From the empty plate which she had commandeered as a temporary pillow the Yellow Canary lifted an interrogative beak.... That was all! At Flame's left, the White-Haired Rabbit emitted an incongruous bark.... Scarcely worth reporting! Across the table the Giraffe thumped a white, plumy tail. Thoughtfully the Parrot's hooked nose slanted slightly to one side.

"Oh, I wish Bertrand would come!" fretted Flame. "Maybe this time he'll notice my 'Christmas Crossing' sign!" she chuckled with sudden triumph. "Talk about surprises!" Very diplomatically as she spoke she broke another doughnut in two and drew all the dogs' attention to herself. Almost hysterical with amusement she surveyed the scene before her. "Well, at least we can have 'grace' before the Preacher comes!" she laughed. A step on the gravel walk startled her suddenly. In a flash she had jerked down the blind-folding handkerchief across her eyes again, and folding her hands and the doughnut before her burst softly into paraphrase.

'Now we—sit us down to eat
Thrice our share of Flesh and Sweet.
If we should burst before we're through,
Oh what in—Dogdom shall we do?'

Thus it was that the Master of the House, returning unexpectedly to his unfamiliar domicile, stumbled upon a scene that might have shaken the reason of a less sober young man.

Startled first by the unwonted illumination from his kitchen windows, and second by the unprecedented aroma of Fir Balsam that greeted him even through the key-hole of his new front door, his feelings may well be imagined when groping through the dingy hall he first beheld the gallows-like structure reared in the kitchen doorway.

"My God!" he ejaculated, "Barrett is getting ready to hang himself! Gone mad probably—or something!"

Curdled with horror he forced himself to the object, only to note with convulsive relief but increasing bewilderment the cheerful phrasing and ultimate intent of the structure itself. "'Christmas Crossing'?" he repeated blankly. "'Look out for Surprises'?—'Shop, Cook, and Glisten'?" With his hand across his eyes he reeled back slightly against the wall. "It is I that have gone mad!" he gasped.

A little uncertain whether he was afraid of What-He-Was-About-to-See, or whether What-He-Was-About-to-See ought to be afraid of him, he craned his neck as best he could round the corner of the huge buffet that blocked the kitchen vista. A fresh bewilderment met his eyes. Where he had once seen cobwebs flapping grayly across the chimney-breast loomed now the gay worsted recommendation that dogs specially, should be considered in the Christmas Season. Throwing all caution aside he passed the buffet and plunged into the kitchen.

"Oh, do hurry!" cried an eager young voice. "I thought my hair would be white before you came!"

Like a man paralyzed he stopped short in his tracks to stare at the scene before him! The long, bright table! The absolutely formal food! A blindfolded girl! A perfectly strange blindfolded girl ... with her dark hair forty years this side of white—begging him to hurry!... A Black Velvet Bag surmounted by a Tiger's head stirring strangely in a chair piled high with books!... Seated next to the Black Velvet Bag a Canary as big as a Turkey Gobbler!... A Giraffe stepping suddenly forward with—with dog-paws thrust into his soup plate!... A White Rabbit heavily wreathed in holly rousing cautiously from his cushions!... A Parrot with a twitching black and white short-haired tail!... An empty chair facing the Girl! An empty chair facing the Girl.

"If this is madness," thought Delcote quite precipitously, "I am at least the Master of the Asylum!"

In another instant, with a prodigious stride he had slipped into the vacant seat.

"... So sorry to have kept you waiting," he murmured.

At the first sound of that unfamiliar voice, Flame yanked the handkerchief from her eyes, took one blank glance at the Stranger, and burst forth into a muffled, but altogether blood-curdling scream.

"Oh ... Oh ... Owwwwwwww!" said the scream.

As though waiting only for that one signal to break the spell of their enchantment, the Canary leaped upward and grabbed the Bengal Tiger by his muslin nose,—the White Rabbit sprang to "point" on the cooling turkey, and the Red and Green Parrot fell to the floor in a desperate effort to settle once and for all with the black spot that itched so impulsively on his left shoulder!

For a moment only, in comparative quiet, the Concerned struggled with the Concerned. Then true to all Dog Psychology,—absolutely indisputable, absolutely unalterable, the Non-Concerned leaped in upon the Non-Concerned! Half on his guard, but wholely on his itch, the jostled Parrot shot like a catapult across the floor! Lost to all sense of honor or table-manners the benign-faced Giraffe with his benign face still towering blandly in the air, burst through his own neck with a most curious anatomical effect,—locked his teeth in the Parrot's gay throat and rolled with him under the table in mortal combat!

Round and round the room spun the Yellow Canary and the Black Plush Bag!

Retreating as best she could from her muslin nose,—the Bengal Tiger or rather that which was within the Bengal Tiger, waged her war for Freedom! Ripping like a chicken through its shell she succeeded at last in hatching one front paw and one hind paw into action. Wallowing,—stumbling,—rolling,—yowling,—she humped from mantle-piece to chair-top, and from box to table.

Loyally the rabbit-eared Setter took up the chase. Mauled in the scuffle he ran with his meek face upside down! Lost to all reason, defiant of all morale, he proceeded to flush the game!

Dish-pans clattered, stools tipped over, pictures banged on the walls!

From her terrorized perch on the back of her chair Flame watched the fracas with dilated eyes.

Hunched in the hug of his own arms the Stranger sat rocking himself to and fro in uncontrollable, choking mirth,—"ribald mirth" was what Flame called it.

"Stop!" she begged. "Stop it! Somebody stop it!"

It was not until the Black Plush Bag at bay had ripped a red streak down Miss Flora's avid nose that the Stranger rose to interfere.

Very definitely then, with quick deeds, incisive words, he separated the immediate combatants, and ordered the other dogs into submission.

"Here you, Demon Direful!" he addressed the white Wolf Hound. "Drop that, Orion!" he shouted to the Irish Setter. "Cut it out, John!" he thundered at the Coach Dog.

"Their names are 'Beautiful-Lovely'!" cried Flame. "And 'Lopsy!' and 'Blunder-Blot!'"

With his hand on the Wolf Hound's collar, the Stranger stopped and stared up with frank astonishment, not to say resentment, at the girl's interference.

"Their names are what?" he said.

Something in the special intonation of the question infuriated Flame.... Maybe she thought his mouth scornful,—his narrowing eyes...? Goodness knows what she thought of his suddenly narrowing eyes!

In an instant she had jumped from her retreat to the floor.

"Who are you, anyway?" she demanded. "How dare you come here like this? Butting into my party!... And—and spoiling my discipline with the dogs! Who are you, I say?"

With Demon Direful, alias Beautiful-Lovely tugging wildly at his restraint, the Stranger's scornful mouth turned precipitously up, instead of down.

"Who am I?" he said. "Why, no one special at all except just—the Master of the House!"

"What?" gasped Flame.

"Earle Delcote," bowed the Stranger.

With a little hand that trembled perfectly palpably Flame reached back to the arm of the big carved chair for support.

"Why—why, but Mr. Delcote is an old man," she gasped. "I'm almost sure he's an old man."

The smile on Delcote's mouth spread suddenly to his eyes.

"Not yet,—Thank God!" he bowed.

With a panic-stricken glance at doors, windows, cracks, the chimney pipe itself, Flame sank limply down in her seat again and gestured towards the empty place opposite her.

"Have a—have a chair," she stammered. Great tears welled suddenly to her eyes. "Oh, I—I know I oughtn't to be here," she struggled. "It's perfectly ... awful! I haven't the slightest right! Not the slightest! It's the—the cheekiest thing that any girl in the world ever did!... But your Butler said...! And he did so want to go away and—And I did so love your dogs! And I did so want to make one Christmas in the world just—exactly the way I wanted it! And—and—Mother and Father will be crazy!... And—and—"

Without a single glance at anything except herself, the Master of the House slipped back into his chair.

"Have a heart!" he said.

Flame did not accept this suggestion. With a very severe frown and downcast eyes she sat staring at the table. It seemed a very cheerless table suddenly, with all the dogs in various stages of disheveled finery grouped blatantly around their Master's chair.

"I can at least have my cat," she thought, "my—faithful cat!" In another instant she had slipped from the table, extracted poor Puss from a clutter of pans in the back of a cupboard, stripped the last shred of masquerade from her outraged form, and brought her back growling and bristling to perch on one arm of the high-backed chair. "Th—ere!" said Flame.

Glancing up from this innocent triumph, she encountered the eyes of the Master of the House fixed speculatively on the big turkey.

"I'm afraid everything is very cold," she confided with distinctly formal regret.

"Not for anything," laughed Delcote quite suddenly, "would I have kept you waiting—if I had only known."

Two spots of color glowed hotly in the girl's cheeks.

"It was not for you I was waiting," she said coldly.

"N—o?" teased Delcote. "You astonish me. For whom, then? Some incredible wight who, worse than late—isn't going to show up at all?... Heaven sent, I consider myself.... How else could so little a girl have managed so big a turkey?"

"There ... isn't any ... carving knife," whispered Flame.

The tears were glistening on her cheeks now instead of just in her eyes. A less observing man than Delcote might have thought the tears were really for the carving knife.

"What? No carving knife?" he roared imperiously. "And the house guaranteed 'furnished'?" Very furiously he began to hunt all around the kitchen in the most impossible places.

"Oh, it's furnished all right," quivered Flame. "It's just chock-full of dead things! Pressed flowers! And old plush bags! And pressed flowers! And—and pressed flowers!"

"Great Heavens!" groaned Delcote. "And I came here to forget 'dead things'!"

"Your—your Butler said you'd had misfortunes," murmured Flame.

"Misfortunes?" rallied Delcote. "I should think I had! In a single year I've lost health,—money,—most everything I own in the world except my man and my dogs!"

"They're ... good dogs," testified Flame.

"And the Doctor's sent me here for six months," persisted Delcote, "before he'll even hear of my plunging into things again!"

"Six months is a—a good long time," said Flame. "If you'd turn the hems we could make yellow curtains for the parlor in no time at all!"

"W—we?" stammered Delcote.

"M—Mother," said Flame. "... It's a long time since any dogs lived in the Rattle-Pane House."

"Rattle-Brain house?" bridled Delcote.

"Rattle-Pane House," corrected Flame.

A little bit worriedly Delcote returned to his seat.

"I shall have to rend the turkey, instead of carve it," he said.

"Rend it," acquiesced Flame.

In the midst of the rending a dark frown appeared between Delcote's eyes.

"These—these guests that you were expecting—?" he questioned.

"Oh, stop!" cried Flame. "Dreadful as I am I never—never would have dreamed of inviting 'guests'!"

"This 'guest' then," frowned Delcote. "Was he...?"

"Oh, you mean ... Bertrand?" flushed Flame. "Oh, truly, I didn't invite him! He just butted in ... same as you!"

"Same as ... I?" stammered Delcote.

"Well..." floundered Flame. "Well ... you know what I mean and ..."

With peculiar intentness the Master of the House fixed his eyes on the knotted white handkerchief which Flame had thrown across the corner of her chair.

"And is this 'Bertrand' person so ... so dazzling," he questioned, "that human eye may not look safely upon his countenance?"

"Bertrand ... dazzling?" protested Flame. "Oh, no! He's really quite dull.... It was only," she explained with sudden friendliness, "It was only that I had promised Mother not to 'see' him.... So, of course, when he butted in I...."

"O—h," relaxed the Master of the House. With a precipitous flippancy of manners which did not conform at all to the somewhat tragic austerity of his face he snatched up his knife and fork and thumped joyously on the table with the handles of them. "And some people talk about a country village being dull in the Winter Time!" he chuckled. "With a Dog's Masquerade and a Robbery at the Rectory all happening the same evening!" Grabbing her cat in her arms, Flame jerked her chair back from the table.

"A—a robbery at the Rectory?" she gasped. "Why—why, I'm the Rectory! I must go home at once!"

"Oh, Shucks!" shrugged the Master of the House. "It's all over now. But the people at the railroad station were certainly buzzing about it as I came through."

"B—buzzing about it?" articulated Flame with some difficulty.

Expeditiously the Master of the House resumed his rending of the turkey.

"Are you really from the Rectory?" he questioned. "How amusing.... Well, there's nothing really you could do about it now.... The constable and his prisoner are already on their way to the County Seat—wherever that may be. And a freshly 'burgled' house is rather a creepy place for a young girl to return to all alone.... Your parents are away, I believe?"

"Con—stable ... constable," babbled Flame quite idiotically.

"Yes, the regular constable was off Christmasing somewhere it seems, so he put a substitute on his job, a stranger from somewhere. Some substitute that! No mulling over hot toddies on Christmas night for him! He saw the marauder crawling in through the Rectory window! He saw him fumbling now to the left, now to the right, all through the front hall! He followed him up the stairs to a closet where the silver was evidently kept! He caught the man red-handed as it were! Or rather—white-handed," flushed the Master of the House for some quite unaccountable reason. "To be perfectly accurate," he explained conscientiously, "he was caught with a pair of—of—" Delicately he spelt out the word. "With a pair of—c-o-r-s-e-t-s rolled up in his hand. But inside the roll it seemed there was a solid silver—very elaborate carving set which the Parish had recently presented. The wretch was just unrolling it,—them, when he was caught."

"That was Bertrand!" said Flame. "My Father's Lay Reader."

It was the man's turn now to jump to his feet.

"What?" he cried.

"I sent him for the carving knife," said Flame.

"What?" repeated the man. Consternation versus Hilarity went racing suddenly like a cat-and-dog combat across his eyes.

"Yes," said Flame.

From the outside door the sound of furious knocking occurred suddenly.

"That sounds to me like—like parents' knocking," shivered Flame.

"It sounds to me like an escaped Lay Reader," said her Host.

With a single impulse they both started for the door.

"Don't worry, Little Girl," whispered the young Stranger in the dark hall.

"I'll try not to," quivered Flame.

They were both right, it seemed.

It was Parents and the Lay Reader.

All three breathless, all three excited, all three reproachful,—they swept into the warm, balsam-scented Rattle-Pane House with a gust of frost, a threat of disaster.

"F—lame," sighed her Father.

"Flame!" scolded her Mother.

"Flame?" implored the Lay Reader.

"What a pretty name," beamed the Master of the House. "Pray be seated, everybody," he gestured graciously to left and right,—shoving one dog expeditiously under the table with his foot, while he yanked another out of a chair with his least gesticulating hand. "This is certainly a very great pleasure, I assure you," he affirmed distinctly to Miss Flamande Nourice. "Returning quite unexpectedly to my new house this lonely Christmas evening," he explained very definitely to the Rev. Flamande Nourice, "I can't express to you what it means to me to find this pleasant gathering of neighbors waiting here to welcome me! And when I think of the effort you must have made to get here, Mr. Bertrand," he beamed. "A young man of all your obligations and—complications—"

"Pleasant ... gathering of neighbors?" questioned Mrs. Nourice with some emotion.

"Oh, I forgot," deprecated the Master of the House with real concern. "Your Christmas season is not, of course, as inherently 'pleasant' as one might wish.... I was told at the railroad station how you and Mr. Nourice had been called away by the illness of a relative."

"We were called away," confided Mrs. Nourice with increasing asperity, "called away at considerable inconvenience—by a very sick relative—to receive the present of a Piebald pony."

"Oh, goody!" quickened Flame and collapsed again under the weight of her Mother's glance.

"And then came this terrible telephone message," shuddered her Mother. "The implied dishonor of one of your Father's most trusted—most trusted associates!"

"I was right in the midst of such an interesting book," deplored her Father. "And Uncle Wally wouldn't lend it."

"So we borrowed Uncle Wally's new automobile and started right for home!" explained her Mother. "It was at the Junction that we made connections with the Constable and his prisoner."

"His—victim," intercepted the Lay Reader coldly.

At this interception everybody turned suddenly and looked at the Lay Reader. His mouth was twisted very slightly to one side. It gave him a rather unpleasant snarling expression. If this expression had been vocal instead of muscular it would have shocked his hearers.

"Your Father had to go on board the train and identify him," persisted Flame's Mother. "It was very distressing.... The Constable was most unwilling to release him. Your Father had to use every kind of an argument."

"Every ... kind," mused her Father. "He doesn't even deny being in the house," continued her Mother, "being in my closet, ... being caught with a—a—"

"With a silver carving knife and fork in his hand," intercepted the Lay Reader hastily.

"Yet all the time he persists," frowned Flame's Mother, "that there is some one in the world who can give a perfectly good explanation if only,—he won't even say 'he or she' but 'it', if only 'it' would."

Something in the stricken expression of her daughter's face brought a sudden flicker of suspicion to the Mother's eyes.

"You don't know anything about this, do you, Flame?" she demanded. "Is it remotely possible that after your promise to me,—your sacred promise to me—?" The whole structure of the home,—of mutual confidence,—of all the Future itself, crackled and toppled in her voice.

To the Lay Reader's face, and right through the Lay Reader's face, to the face of the Master of the House, Flame's glance went homing with an unaccountable impulse.

With one elbow leaning casually on the mantle-piece, his narrowed eyes faintly inscrutable, faintly smiling, it seemed suddenly to the young Master of the House that he had been waiting all his discouraged years for just that glance. His heart gave the queerest jump.

Flame's face turned suddenly very pink.

Like a person in a dream, she turned back to her Mother. There was a smile on her face, but even the smile was the smile of a dreaming person.

"No—Mother," she said, "I haven't seen Bertrand ... to-day."

"Why, you're looking right at him now!" protested her exasperated Mother.

With a gentle murmur of dissent, Flame's Father stepped forward and laid his arm across the young girl's shoulder. "She—she may be looking at him," he said. "But I'm almost perfectly sure that she doesn't ... see him."

"Why, whatever in the world do you mean?" demanded his wife. "Whatever in the world does anybody mean? If there was only another woman here! A mature ... sane woman! A——" With a flare of accusation she turned from Flame to the Master of the House. "This Miss Flora that my daughter spoke of,—where is she? I insist on seeing her! Please summon her instantly!"

Crossing genially to the table the Master of the House reached down and dragged out the Bull Dog by the brindled scuff of her neck. The scratch on her nose was still bleeding slightly. And one eye was closed.

"This is—Miss Flora!" he said.

Indignantly Flame's Mother glanced at the dog, and then from her daughter's face to the face of the young man again.

"And you call that—a lady?" she demanded.

"N—not technically," admitted the young man.

For an instant a perfectly tense silence reigned. Then from under a shadowy basket the Cat crept out, shining, sinuous, with extended paw, and began to pat a sprig of holly cautiously along the floor.

Yielding to the reaction Flame bent down suddenly and hugging the Wolf Hound's head to her breast buried her face in the soft, sweet shagginess.

"Not sanitary, Mother?" she protested. "Why, they're as sanitary as—as violets!"

As though dreaming he were late to church and had forgotten his vestments, Flame's Father reached out nervously and draped a great string of ground-pine stole-like about his neck.

"We all," broke in the Master of the House quite irrelevantly, "seem to have experienced a slight twinge of irritability—the past few minutes. Hunger, I've no doubt!... So suppose we all sit down together to this sumptuous—if somewhat chilled repast? After the soup certainly, even after very cold soup, all explanations I'm sure will be—cheerfully and satisfactorily exchanged. Miss—Flame I know has a most amusing story to tell and—"

"Oh, yes!" rallied Flame. "And it's almost all about being blindfolded and sending poor Mr. Lorello—"

"So if by any chance, Mr.—Mr. Bertrand," interrupted the Master of the House a bit abruptly, "you happen to have the carving knife and fork still on your person ... I thought I saw a white string hanging—"

"I have!" said the Lay Reader with his first real grin.

With great formality the Master of the House drew back a chair and bowed Flame's Mother to it.

Then suddenly the Red Setter lifted his sensitive nose in the air, and the spotted Dalmatian bristled faintly across the ridge of his back. Through the whole room, it seemed, swept a curious cottony sense of Something-About-to-Happen! Was it that a sound hushed? Or that a hush decided suddenly to be a sound?

With a little sharp catch of her breath Flame dashed to the window, and swung the sash upward! Where once had breathed the drab, dusty smell of frozen grass and mud quickened suddenly a curious metallic dampness like the smell of new pennies.

"Mr. ... Delcote!" she called.

In an instant his slender form silhouetted darkly with hers in the open window against the eternal mystery and majesty of a Christmas night.

"And then the snow came!"


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