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Chapter 2


Watkins, opening the door for himself and struggling into the room with an armful of parcels: "I'm with you there, Clarence. Christmas is at the root of Christmas shopping, and Christmas giving, and all the rest of it. Oh, you needn't be afraid, Lucy. I didn't hear any epithets; just caught the drift of your argument through the keyhole. I've been kicking at the door ever since you began. Where shall I dump these things?"

Mrs. Fountain: "Oh, you poor boy! Here—anywhere—on the floor—on the sofa—on the table." She clears several spaces and helps Watkins unload. "Clarence! I'm surprised at you. What are you thinking of?"

Fountain: "I'm thinking that if this goes on, I'll let somebody else arrange the presents."

Watkins: "If I saw a man coming into my house with a load like this to-night, I'd throw him into the street. But living in a ninth-story flat like you, it might hurt him."

Mrs. Fountain, reading the inscriptions on the packages: "'For Benny from his uncle Frank.' Oh, how sweet of you, Frank! And here's a kiss for his uncle Frank." She embraces him with as little interruption as possible. "'From Uncle Frank to Jim.' Oh, I know what that is!" She feels the package over. "And this is for 'Susy from her aunt Sue.' Oh, I knew she would remember her namesake. 'For Maggie. Merry Christmas from Mrs. Watkins.' 'Bridget, with Mrs. Watkins's best wishes for a Merry Christmas.' Both the girls! But it's like Sue; she never forgets anybody. And what's this for Clarence? I must know! Not a bath-gown?" Undoing it: "I simply must see it. Blue! His very color!" Holding it up: "From you, Frank?" He nods. "Clarence!"

Watkins: "If Fountain tries to kiss me, I'll—"

Fountain: "I wouldn't kiss you for a dozen bath-gowns." Lifting it up from the floor where Mrs. Fountain has dropped it: "It is rather nice."

Watkins: "Don't overwhelm me."

Mrs. Fountain, dancing about with a long, soft roll in her hand: "Oh, oh, oh! She saw me gloating on it at Shumaker's! I do wonder if it is."

Fountain, reaching for it: "Why, open it—"

Mrs. Fountain: "You dare! No, it shall be opened the very last thing in the morning, now, to punish you! How is poor Sue? I saw her literally dropping by the way at Shumaker's."

Watkins, making for the door: "Well, she must have got up again. I left her registering a vow that if ever she lived to see another Christmas she would leave the country months before the shopping began. She called down maledictions on all the recipients of her gifts and wished them the worst harm that can befall the wicked."

Mrs. Fountain: "Poor Sue! She simply lives to do people good, and I can understand exactly how she feels toward them. I'll be round bright and early to-morrow to thank her. Why do you go?"

Watkins: "Well, I can't stay here all night, and I'd better let you and Clarence finish up." He escapes from her detaining embrace and runs out.

William Dean Howells

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