Story type: Literature
Cousin Myra had come to spend Christmas at “The Firs,” and all the junior Osbornes were ready to stand on their heads with delight. Darby–whose real name was Charles–did it, because he was only eight, and at eight you have no dignity to keep up. The others, being older, couldn’t.
But the fact of Christmas itself awoke no great enthusiasm in the hearts of the junior Osbornes. Frank voiced their opinion of it the day after Cousin Myra had arrived. He was sitting on the table with his hands in his pockets and a cynical sneer on his face. At least, Frank flattered himself that it was cynical. He knew that Uncle Edgar was said to wear a cynical sneer, and Frank admired Uncle Edgar very much and imitated him in every possible way. But to you and me it would have looked just as it did to Cousin Myra–a very discontented and unbecoming scowl.
“I’m awfully glad to see you, Cousin Myra,” explained Frank carefully, “and your being here may make some things worth while. But Christmas is just a bore–a regular bore.”
That was what Uncle Edgar called things that didn’t interest him, so that Frank felt pretty sure of his word. Nevertheless, he wondered uncomfortably what made Cousin Myra smile so queerly.
“Why, how dreadful!” she said brightly. “I thought all boys and girls looked upon Christmas as the very best time in the year.”
“We don’t,” said Frank gloomily. “It’s just the same old thing year in and year out. We know just exactly what is going to happen. We even know pretty well what presents we are going to get. And Christmas Day itself is always the same. We’ll get up in the morning, and our stockings will be full of things, and half of them we don’t want. Then there’s dinner. It’s always so poky. And all the uncles and aunts come to dinner–just the same old crowd, every year, and they say just the same things. Aunt Desda always says, ‘Why, Frankie, how you have grown!’ She knows I hate to be called Frankie. And after dinner they’ll sit round and talk the rest of the day, and that’s all. Yes, I call Christmas a nuisance.”
“There isn’t a single bit of fun in it,” said Ida discontentedly.
“Not a bit!” said the twins, both together, as they always said things.
“There’s lots of candy,” said Darby stoutly. He rather liked Christmas, although he was ashamed to say so before Frank.
Cousin Myra smothered another of those queer smiles.
“You’ve had too much Christmas, you Osbornes,” she said seriously. “It has palled on your taste, as all good things will if you overdo them. Did you ever try giving Christmas to somebody else?”
The Osbornes looked at Cousin Myra doubtfully. They didn’t understand.
“We always send presents to all our cousins,” said Frank hesitatingly. “That’s a bore, too. They’ve all got so many things already it’s no end of bother to think of something new.”
“That isn’t what I mean,” said Cousin Myra. “How much Christmas do you suppose those little Rolands down there in the hollow have? Or Sammy Abbott with his lame back? Or French Joe’s family over the hill? If you have too much Christmas, why don’t you give some to them?”
The Osbornes looked at each other. This was a new idea.
“How could we do it?” asked Ida.
Whereupon they had a consultation. Cousin Myra explained her plan, and the Osbornes grew enthusiastic over it. Even Frank forgot that he was supposed to be wearing a cynical sneer.
“I move we do it, Osbornes,” said he.
“If Father and Mother are willing,” said Ida.
“Won’t it be jolly!” exclaimed the twins.
“Well, rather,” said Darby scornfully. He did not mean to be scornful. He had heard Frank saying the same words in the same tone, and thought it signified approval.
Cousin Myra had a talk with Father and Mother Osborne that night, and found them heartily in sympathy with her plans.
For the next week the Osbornes were agog with excitement and interest. At first Cousin Myra made the suggestions, but their enthusiasm soon outstripped her, and they thought out things for themselves. Never did a week pass so quickly. And the Osbornes had never had such fun, either.
Christmas morning there was not a single present given or received at “The Firs” except those which Cousin Myra and Mr. and Mrs. Osborne gave to each other. The junior Osbornes had asked that the money which their parents had planned to spend in presents for them be given to them the previous week; and given it was, without a word.
The uncles and aunts arrived in due time, but not with them was the junior Osbornes’ concern. They were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. Osborne. The junior Osbornes were having a Christmas dinner party of their own. In the small dining room a table was spread and loaded with good things. Ida and the twins cooked that dinner all by themselves. To be sure, Cousin Myra had helped some, and Frank and Darby had stoned all the raisins and helped pull the home-made candy; and all together they had decorated the small dining room royally with Christmas greens.
Then their guests came. First, all the little Rolands from the Hollow arrived–seven in all, with very red, shining faces and not a word to say for themselves, so shy were they. Then came a troop from French Joe’s–four black-eyed lads, who never knew what shyness meant. Frank drove down to the village in the cutter and brought lame Sammy back with him, and soon after the last guest arrived–little Tillie Mather, who was Miss Rankin’s “orphan ‘sylum girl” from over the road. Everybody knew that Miss Rankin never kept Christmas. She did not believe in it, she said, but she did not prevent Tillie from going to the Osbornes’ dinner party.
Just at first the guests were a little stiff and unsocial; but they soon got acquainted, and so jolly was Cousin Myra–who had her dinner with the children in preference to the grown-ups–and so friendly the junior Osbornes, that all stiffness vanished. What a merry dinner it was! What peals of laughter went up, reaching to the big dining room across the hall, where the grown-ups sat in rather solemn state. And how those guests did eat and frankly enjoy the good things before them! How nicely they all behaved, even to the French Joes! Myra had secretly been a little dubious about those four mischievous-looking lads, but their manners were quite flawless. Mrs. French Joe had been drilling them for three days–ever since they had been invited to “de Chrismus dinner at de beeg house.”
After the merry dinner was over, the junior Osbornes brought in a Christmas tree, loaded with presents. They had bought them with the money that Mr. and Mrs. Osborne had meant for their own presents, and a splendid assortment they were. All the French-Joe boys got a pair of skates apiece, and Sammy a set of beautiful books, and Tillie was made supremely happy with a big wax doll. Every little Roland got just what his or her small heart had been longing for. Besides, there were nuts and candies galore.
Then Frank hitched up his pony again, but this time into a great pung sleigh, and the junior Osbornes took their guests for a sleigh-drive, chaperoned by Cousin Myra. It was just dusk when they got back, having driven the Rolands and the French Joes and Sammy and Tillie to their respective homes.
“This has been the jolliest Christmas I ever spent,” said Frank, emphatically.
“I thought we were just going to give the others a good time, but it was they who gave it to us,” said Ida.
“Weren’t the French Joes jolly?” giggled the twins. “Such cute speeches as they would make!”
“Me and Teddy Roland are going to be chums after this,” announced Darby. “He’s an inch taller than me, but I’m wider.”
That night Frank and Ida and Cousin Myra had a little talk after the smaller Osbornes had been haled off to bed.
“We’re not going to stop with Christmas, Cousin Myra,” said Frank, at the end of it. “We’re just going to keep on through the year. We’ve never had such a delightful old Christmas before.”
“You’ve learned the secret of happiness,” said Cousin Myra gently.
And the Osbornes understood what she meant.