William's Christmas Eve

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It was Christmas. The air was full of excitement and secrecy. William, whose old-time faith in notes to Father Christmas sent up the chimney had died a natural death as the result of bitter experience, had thoughtfully presented each of his friends and relations with a list of his immediate requirements.
He had a vague and not unfounded misgiving that his family would begin at the bottom of the list instead of the top. He was not surprised, therefore, when he saw his father come home rather later than usual carrying a parcel of books under his arm. A few days afterwards he announced casually at breakfast:

"Well, I only hope no one gives me 'The Great Chief,' or 'The Pirate Ship,' or 'The Land of Danger' for Christmas."

His father started.

"Why?" he said sharply.

"Jus' 'cause I've read them, that's all," explained William with a bland look of innocence.

The glance that Mr. Brown threw at his offspring was not altogether devoid of suspicion, but he said nothing. He set off after breakfast with the same parcel of books under his arm and returned with another. This time, however, he did not put them in the library cupboard, and William searched in vain.

The question of Christmas festivities loomed large upon the social horizon.

"Robert and Ethel can have their party on the day before Christmas Eve," decided Mrs. Brown, "and then William can have his on Christmas Eve."

William surveyed his elder brother and sister gloomily.

"Yes, an' us eat up jus' what they've left," he said with bitterness. "I know!"

Mrs. Brown changed the subject hastily.

"Now let's see whom we'll have for your party, William," she said, taking out pencil and paper. "You say whom you'd like and I'll make a list."

"Ginger an' Douglas an' Henry and Joan," said William promptly.

"Yes? Who else?"

"I'd like the milkman."

"You can't have the milkman, William. Don't be so foolish."

"Well, I'd like to have Fisty Green. He can whistle with his fingers in his mouth."

"He's a butcher's boy, William! You can't have him?"

"Well, who can I have?"

"Johnnie Brent?"

"I don't like him."

"But you must invite him. He asked you to his."

"Well, I didn't want to go," irritably, "you made me."

"But if he asks you to his you must ask him back."

"You don't want me to invite folks I don't want?" William said in the voice of one goaded against his will into exasperation.

"You must invite people who invite you," said Mrs. Brown firmly, "that's what we always do in parties."

"Then they've got to invite you again and it goes on and on and on," argued William. "Where's the sense of it? I don't like Johnnie Brent an' he don't like me, an' if we go on inviting each other an' our mothers go on making us go, it'll go on and on and on. Where's the sense of it? I only jus' want to know where's the sense of it?"

His logic was unanswerable.

"Well, anyway, William, I'll draw up the list. You can go and play."

William walked away, frowning, with his hands in his pockets.

"Where's the sense of it?" he muttered as he went.

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