Last Christmas Was A Year Ago by James Whitcomb Riley


Last Christmas was a year ago
Says I to David, I-says-I,
“We’re goin’ to mornin’ service, so
You hitch up right away: I’ll try
To tell the girls jes what to do
Fer dinner. We’ll be back by two.”
I didn’t wait to hear what he
Would more’n like say back to me,
But banged the stable-door and flew
Back to the house, jes plumb chilled through.

Cold! Wooh! how cold it was! My-oh!
Frost flyin’, and the air, you know–
“Jes sharp enough,” heerd David swear,
“To shave a man and cut his hair!”
And blow and blow! and snow and SNOW,
Where it had drifted ‘long the fence
And ‘crost the road,–some places, though,
Jes swep’ clean to the gravel, so
The goin’ was as bad fer sleighs
As ‘t was fer wagons,–and both ways,
‘Twixt snow-drifts and the bare ground, I’ve
Jes wondered we got through alive;
I hain’t saw nothin’ ‘fore er sence
‘At beat it anywheres I know–
Last Christmas was a year ago.

And David said, as we set out,
‘At Christmas services was ’bout
As cold and wuthless kind o’ love
To offer up as he knowed of;
And, as fer him, he railly thought
‘At the Good Bein’ up above
Would think more of us–as he ought–
A-stayin’ home on sich a day
And thankin’ of him thataway.
And jawed on in an undertone,
‘Bout leavin’ Lide and Jane alone
There on the place, and me not there
To oversee ’em, and p’pare
The stuffin’ for the turkey, and
The sass and all, you understand.

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I’ve always managed David by
Jes sayin’ nothin’. That was why
He’d chased Lide’s beau away–’cause Lide
She’d allus take up Perry’s side
When David tackled him; and so,
Last Christmas was a year ago,–
Er ruther ’bout a week afore,–
David and Perry’d quarr’l’d about
Some tom-fool argyment, you know,
And pap told him to “Jes git out
O’ there, and not to come no more,
And, when he went, to shet the door!
And as he passed the winder, we
Saw Perry, white as white could be,
March past, onhitch his hoss, and light
A see-gyar, and lope out o’ sight.
Then Lide she come to me and cried.
And I said nothin’–was no need.
And yit, you know, that man jes got
Right out o’ there’s ef he’d be’n shot–
P’tendin’ he must go and feed
The stock er somepin’. Then I tried
To git the pore girl pacified.

But gittin’ back to–where was we?–
Oh, yes–where David lectered me
All way to meetin’, high and low,
Last Christmas was a year ago.
Fer all the awful cold, they was
A fair attendunce; mostly, though,
The crowd was ’round the stoves, you see,
Thawin’ their heels and scrougin’ us.
Ef’t ‘adn’t be’n fer the old Squire
Givin’ his seat to us, as in
We stompted, a-fairly perishin’,
And David could ‘a’ got no fire,
He’d jes ‘a’ drapped there in his tracks.
And Squire, as I was tryin’ to yit
Make room fer him, says, “No; the facks
Is I got to git up and git
‘Ithout no preachin’. Jes got word–
Trial fer life–can’t be deferred!”
And out he put. And all way through
The sermont–and a long one, too–
I couldn’t he’p but think o’ Squire
And us changed round so, and admire
His gintle ways–to give his warm
Bench up, and have to face the storm.
And when I noticed David he
Was needin’ jabbin’, I thought best
To kind o’ sort o’ let him rest–
‘Peared like he slep’ so peacefully!
And then I thought o’ home, and how
And what the girls was doin’ now,
And kind o’ prayed, ‘way in my breast,
And breshed away a tear er two
As David waked, and church was through.

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By time we’d “howdyed” round, and shuck
Hands with the neighbors, must ‘a’ tuck
A half-hour longer: ever’ one
A-sayin’ “Christmas-gift!” afore
David er me–so we got none.
But David warmed up, more and more,
And got so jokey-like, and had
His sperits up, and ‘peared so glad,
I whispered to him, “S’pose you ast
A passel of ’em come and eat
Their dinners with us.–Girls ‘s got
A full-and-plenty fer the lot
And all their kin.” So David passed
The invite round. And ever’ seat
In ever’ wagon-bed and sleigh
Was jes packed, as we rode away–
The young folks, mild er so along,
A-strikin’ up a sleighin’ song.
Tel David laughed and yelled, you know,
And jes whirped up and sent the snow
And gravel flyin’ thick and fast–
Last Christmas was a year ago.
W’y, that-air seven-mild ja’nt we come–
Jes seven mild scant from church to home–
It didn’t ‘pear, that day, to be
Much furder railly ‘n ’bout three.

But I was purty squeamish by
The time home hove in sight and I
See two vehickles standin’ there
Already. So says I, “Prepare!”
All to myse’f. And presently
David he sobered; and says he,
“Hain’t that-air Squire Hanch’s old
Buggy,” he says, “and claybank mare?”
Says I, “Le’s git in out the cold–
Your company’s nigh ’bout froze.” He says,
“Whose sleigh’s that-air a-standin’ there?”
Says I, “It’s no odds whose–you jes
Drive to the house and let us out,
‘Cause we’re jes freezin’, nigh about.”
Well, David swung up to the door
And out we piled. At first I heerd
Jane’s voice; then Lide’s–I thought afore
I reached that girl I’d jes die, shore;
And when I reached her, wouldn’t keered
Much ef I had, I was so glad,
A-kissin’ her through my green veil,
And jes excitin’ her so bad
‘At she broke down, herse’f–and Jane
She cried–and we all hugged again.
And David–David jes turned pale!–
Looked at the girls and then at me,
Then at the open door–and then
“Is old Squire Hanch in there?” says he.
The old Squire suddently stood in
The doorway, with a sneakin’ grin.
“Is Perry Anders in there, too?”
Says David, limberin’ all through,
As Lide and me both grabbed him, and
Perry stepped out and waved his hand
And says, “Yes, pap.” And David jes
Stooped and kissed Lide, and says, “I guess
Your mother’s much to blame as you.
Ef she kin resk him, I kin too.”

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The dinner we had then hain’t no
Bit better’n the one to-day
‘At we’ll have fer ’em. Hear some sleigh
A-jinglin’ now.–David, fer me,
I wish you’d jes go out and see
Ef they’re in sight yit. It jes does
Me good to think, in times like these,
Lide’s done so well. And David he’s
More tractabler ‘n what he was
Last Christmas was a year ago.

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