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Chapter 3


Mrs. Fountain, intent upon her roll: "How funny he is! I wonder if he did hear anything but our scolding voices? Where were we?"

Fountain: "I had just called you a serpent."

Mrs. Fountain, with amusement: "No, really?" Feeling the parcel: "If it's that Spanish lace scarf I can tell her it was machine lace. I saw it at the first glance. But poor Sue has no taste. I suppose I must stand it. But I can't bear to think what she's given the girls and children. She means well. Did you really say serpent, Clarence? You never called me just that before."

Fountain: "No, but you called me a laughing hyena, and said I scoffed at everything sacred."

Mrs. Fountain: "I can't remember using the word hyena, exactly, though I do think the way you talk about Christmas is dreadful. But I take back the laughing hyena."

Fountain: "And I take back the serpent. I meant dove, anyway. But it's this Christmas-time when a man gets so tired he doesn't know what he's saying."

Mrs. Fountain: "Well, you're good, anyway, dearest, whatever you say; and now I'm going to help you arrange the things. I suppose there'll be lots more to-morrow, but we must get rid of these now. Don't you wish nobody would do anything for us? Just the children—dear little souls! I don't believe but what we can make Jim and Susy believe in Santa Claus again; Benny is firm in the faith; he put him into his prayer. I declare, his sweetness almost broke my heart." At a knock: "Who's that, I wonder? Come in! Oh, it's you, Maggie. Well?"

William Dean Howells

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