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´╗┐Title: Colonel Crockett's Co-operative Christmas
Author: Hughes, Rupert, 1872-1956
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Colonel Crockett's Co-operative Christmas" ***

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COL. CROCKETT'S CO-OPERATIVE CHRISTMAS

RUPERT HUGHES

[Illustration]



Colonel Crockett's Co-operative Christmas


[Illustration: LAST NIGHT I ATE A HORRIBLE MOCKERY OF A CHRISTMAS DINNER
IN A DESERTED RESTAURANT]



                              [Illustration]

                Colonel Crockett's Co-operative Christmas

                             By Rupert Hughes


                         Philadelphia and London
                       George W Jacobs and Company



                           COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY
                        GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY
                       _Published September, 1906_

                          _All rights reserved_
                          _Printed in U. S. A._



Illustrations


  Last night I ate a horrible mockery of a Christmas
    dinner in a deserted restaurant                          _Frontispiece_

  As blue as all the swear words ever swore                _Facing page_ 14

  He said if I ever come near again he'd sic the dogs on me              18

  "Only one thousand plunks," says he                                    40

  James J. James, Publicity Expert                                       48

  Old Miss Samanthy Clay got a box of cigars meant for Judge Randolph    60

[Illustration]



Foreword


Of all the strange gatherings that have distinguished Madison Square
Garden, the strangest was probably on the occasion, last Christmas,
when the now well-known Colonel D. A. Crockett, of Waco, rented the vast
auditorium for one thousand dollars, and threw it open to the public.
As he is going to do it again this coming Christmas, an account of
the con-, in-, and re-ception of his scheme may interest some of the
thousands who find themselves every Christmas in the Colonel's plight.
My plan to describe it was frustrated by the receipt, from his wife,
of three letters he wrote her. It seems only fair, then, that the author
of an achievement which is likely to become an institution should be
allowed to be the author of its history. I shall, therefore, content
myself with publishing verbatim two of the Colonel's own letters.

RUPERT HUGHES



LETTER ONE


_New York, N. Y., Dec. 26, 1904._

FRIEND WIFE:

The miserablest night I ever spent in all my born days--the solitariest,
with no seconds--was sure this identical Christmas night in New York
City. And I've been some lonesome, too, in my time.

I've told you how, as a boy, I shipped before the mast--the wrong
mast--and how the old tub bumped a reef and went down with all
hands--and feet--except mine. You remember me telling how I grabbed
aholt of a large wooden box and floated on to a dry spot. It knocked the
wind out of my stummick considerable, but I hung on kind of unconscious
till the tide went out. When I come to, I looked round to see where
in Sam Hill I was at, and found I was on a little pinhead of an island
about the size a freckle would be on the moon. All around was mostly
sky, excepting for what was water. And me with nothing to drink it with!

I set down hard on the box and felt as blue as all the swear words ever
swore. There was nothing in sight to eat, and that made me so hungry
that me and the box fell over backward. As I laid there sprawled out,
with my feet up on the box, I looked between my knees and read them
beautiful words, "Eat Buggins' Biscuit," in plain sight before me on
the end of the box.

[Illustration: AS BLUE AS ALL THE SWEAR WORDS EVER SWORE]

Well, me and friend Buggins inhabited that place--about as big as one
of Man Friday's footprints--for going on four weeks. When tide was in,
I held the box on my head to keep my powder dry. 'Long toward the end of
my visit, just before the ship that saved me hove in sight, I began to
feel a mite tired of that place. I kind o' felt as if I'd saw about all
that was int'resting on that there island. I thought I was unhappy and I
had a sneaking idea I was lonesome. But I see I was mistaken. I hadn't
spent a Christmas night alone in a big city then.

Then once when I was prospecting for our mine, I was snowed up in a
pass. I reckon I've told you how I got typhoid fever and wrestled it
out all day by my lonesome; unparalleled thirst, Boston baked brains,
red flannel tongue, delirium dreamins, and self-acting emetic, down
to the final blissful "Where am I at?" and on through the nice long
convalescence till my limbs changed from twine strings to human members.
Six weeks doing time as doctor, patient, trained nurse and fellow-Mason
all in one, was being alone right smart. But it wasn't a patch on the
little metrolopis of Manhattan on Santy Claus day.

Then once I had a rather unrestful evening out in the western part
of Texas. A fellow sold me a horse right cheap, and later a crowd
of gentlemen accused me of stealing it, and I was put in jail with a
promise of being lynched before breakfast. That was being uncomfortable
some, too. But I wished last night that my friend, Judge Watson, hadn't
come along that night and identified me. It would have saved me from
New Yorkitis.

Then there was the night when I proposed for your hand and you sent me
to your pa, and he said if I ever come near again he'd sic the dogs on
me. I spent that night at a safe distance from the dogs, leaning on a
fence, and not noticing it was barb wire till I looked at my clothes and
my hide next day. I watched your windows till the light went out and all
my hope with it--and on after that till, as the poet says, till daylight
doth appear.

Then there's the time I told you about, when--but there's no use of
making a catalog of every time I've been lonesome. I have taken my pen
in hand to inform you that last night beat everything else on my private
list of troubles. My other lonely times was when I was alone, but the
lonesomest of all was in the heart of the biggest crowd on this here
continent.

[Illustration: HE SAID IF I EVER COME NEAR AGAIN HE'D SIC THE DOGS ON ME]

There was people a-plenty. But I didn't know one gol-darned galoot. I
had plenty of money, but nobody to spend it on--except tiptakers. I was
stopping at this big hotel with lugsury spread over everything, thicker
than sorghum on corn pone. But lonely--why, honey, I was so lonely that,
as I walked along the streets, I felt as if I'd like to break into some
of the homes and compel 'em at the point of my gun to let me set in and
dine with 'em.

I felt like asking one of the bell-boys to take me home and get his ma
to give me a slice of goose and let her talk to me about her folks.

There was some four million people in a space about the size of our
ranch. There was theatres to go to--but who wants to go to the theatre
on Christmas?--it's like going to church on the Fourth of July. There
were dime muzhums, penny vawdevilles, dance-halls.

There was a big dinner for news-boys. The Salvation Army and the
Volunteers gave feeds to the poor. But I couldn't qualify. I wasn't
poor. I had no home, no friends, no nothing.

The streets got deserteder and deserteder. A few other wretches was
marooned like me in the hotel corridors. We looked at each other like
sneak-thieves patroling the same street. Waiters glanced at us pitiful
as much as to say, "If it wasn't for shrimps like you, I'd be home with
my kids."

The worst of it was, I knew there were thousands of people in town in
just my fix. Perhaps some of them were old friends of mine that I'd have
been tickled to death to fore-gather with; or leastways, people from my
State. Texas is a big place, but we'd have been brothers and sisters--or
at least cousins once removed--for Christmas' sake. But they were
scattered around at the St. Regis or the Mills Hotel, the Martha
Washington or somewhere, while I was at the Waldorf-hyphen-Astoria.

It was like the two men that Dickens--I believe it was Dickens--tells
about: Somebody gives A a concertina, but he can't play on it; winter
coming on and no overcoat; he can't wear the concertina any more than
he can tootle it. A few blocks away is a fellow, Mr. B. He can play a
concertina something grand, but he hasn't got one and his fingers itch.
He spends all his ready money on a brand-new overcoat, and just then
his aunt sends him another one. He thinks he'll just swap one of them
overcoats for a concertina. So he advertises in an exchange column.
About the same time, A advertises that he'll trade one house-broken
concertina for a nice overcoat. But does either A or B ever see B's or
A's advertisements? Not on your beautiful daguerreotype.

That was the way with us-all in New York. The town was full of lonesome
strangers, and we went moping round, stumbling over each other and not
daring to speak.

They call us "transients" here. It's like a common sailor that's lost at
sea; he's only a "casualty." So us poor, homeless dogs in New York are
only transients. Why, do you know, I was that lonely I could have stood
out in the square like a lonely old cow in the rain, and just mooed for
somebody to take me in.

I'd have telegraphed for you and the childern to come to town, but Texas
is so far away, and you'd have got here too late, and you couldn't come
anyway, being sick, as you wrote me, and one of the kids having malary.
How is his blessed self to-day? I hope you're feeling better. Telegraph
if you ain't, and I'll take the first train home.

Well, last night I ate a horrible mockery of a Christmas dinner in a
deserted restaurant, and it gave me heartburn (in addition to heartache)
and a whole brood-stable of nightmares. I went to bed early, and stayed
awake late. Gee! that was an awful night.

I tried Philosophy--the next station beyond Despair. I said to myself,
"You old fool, why in the name of all that's sensible should you feel
so excited about one day more than another?" I wasn't so lonely the
day before Christmas, I ain't so lonely to-day, but then I was like
a small boy with the mumps and the earache on the Fourth of July.
The firecrackers will pop just as lively another day, but--well, the
universe was simply throwed all out of gear, like it must have been
when Joshua held up the moon--or was it the sun?

You remember reading me once about--I reckon it was Mr. Aldrich's
pleasing idea of the last man on earth; everybody killed off by a
pestilence or something, and him setting there by his lonely little
lonesome; and what would he have done if he had heard his door-bell
ring? Well, I reckon he'd have done what I'd have done if I'd met a
friend--given one wild whoop, wrapped his arms round his neck, kissed
him on both cheeks, and died with a faint gurgle of joy. I'd of been
glad to have died so, too.

Finally, I swore that if I ever foresaw myself being corralled again in
a strange city on Christmas, I'd put on a sandwich board or something
and march up and down the streets with a sign like this:


                               I'm lonely!
                         I'm homesick for a real
                                Christmas!
                          There must be others.
                           Let's get together!
                         Meet me at the Fountain
                             in Union Square!
                  We'll hang our stockings on the trees.
                   Perhaps some snow will fall in 'em.
                           Come one--Come all!
                          Both great and small!


I bet such a board would stir up a procession of exiles a mile and a
half long. And we'd get together and have a good crying match on each
other's shoulders, and wring each other's hands, while the band played
Old Lang's Sign.

But it's over now. I've lived through the game of Christmas solitaire
in a big city, and I feel as relieved as a man just getting out of a
dentist's office. He's minus a few molars, and aches considerable, but
he's full of a pleasing emptiness.

But let me say right here, and put it in black and white: If I'm ever
dragged away from home again on Christmas, I'll take laughing-gas enough
for a day and two nights, or I'll take some violent steps to get
company, if I have to hire a cayuse and a lariat and rustle Broadway,
rounding up a herd of other unbranded stray cattle.

Well, this is a long letter for me, honey, and I will close. Love and
kisses to the sweet little kids and to the best wife a fellow ever had.

Your loving

AUSTIN.


P. S. I pulled off the deal all right. The syndicate buys the mine.
I get $500,000 in cash and $500,000 in stock, and I start for home
in three days. We'll hang up our stockings on New Year's Day.



Between Letters


The Fates accepted Colonel Crockett's challenge, and, by an irresistible
syndication of events, forced him to be alone in New York again the very
next Christmas. After a series of masterly financial strokes, he had
felt rich enough in his two millions to spend a year abroad with his
family. A cablegram called him to America early in December, to a
directors' meeting. Expecting to return at once, he had left his family
in Italy. A legal complication kept him postponing his trip from day
to day; and finally an important hearing, in which he was a valued
witness, was postponed by the referee--or deferee--till after the
holidays. The Colonel saw himself confronted with another Christmas
far away from any of his people. The first two days he spent in violent
profanity, and in declining invitations which he received from business
acquaintances to share their homes. Then he set out to make the occasion
memorable. Once more we may leave the account to him.



LETTER TWO


_New York, N. Y., Dec. 28, 1905._

FRIEND WIFE:

Well, I've been and went and gone and done it! And golly, but it was
fun--barring wishing you and the little ones had of been here, too. Next
year we'll arrange it so, for I'm going to do it again. You remember
Artemus Ward's man who "had been dead three weeks and liked it." Well,
that's me. This camping out in New York is getting to be a habit. I'm
sending you a bundle of newspaper clippings as big as a stovepipe--all
about Yours Truly.

As soon as I saw that circumstances had organized a pool to corner me
and my Christmases, I spent a couple of days sending up rain-making
language. Then I settled down to work like a bronco does to harness
after kicking off the dashboard and snapping a couple of traces.

"If I've got to be alone this Christmas," I says to myself, "I'll make
it the gol-blamedest, crowdedest solitude ever heard of this side of
the River."

I looked for the biggest place in town under one roof. Madison
Square Garden was _it_. You remember it. We was there to the Horse
Show--so-called. You recollect, I reckon, that the Garden holds right
smart of people. At a political meeting once they got 14,000 people into
it, and there was still room for Grover Cleveland to stand and make
a speech.

Well, feeling kind o' flush and recklesslike, I decided to go and see
the manager, or janitor, or whatever he is. And go I did. I says to him:
"Could I rent your cute little shack for one evening--Christmas night?"

"Certainly, sir," he says. "There happens to be nothing doing this
Christmas."

"How much would it set me back?" I says very polite.

"Only one thousand plunks," says he smiling.

"But, my dear Gaston," I says with a low bow, "I don't want to buy your
little Noah's Ark for the baby. I only want to borrow it for one evening."

"One thou. is our bargain-counter limit," he says. "I couldn't make it
less for the poor old Czar of Rooshy."

I kind o' hesitated, remembering the time when a thousand dollars would
have kept me comfortable for about three years. It's hard to get over
the habit of counting your change. Then Mr. Janitor, seeing me kind o'
groggy, says, a little less polite:

"If that's more than you care to pay for a single room you can get a cot
for five cents on the Bowery; for a quarter you can get a whole suite."

[Illustration: "ONLY ONE THOUSAND PLUNKS," SAYS HE]

That riled me. I flashed a wad of bills on him that made his eyes look
like two automobile lamps. He could see it wasn't Confederate money,
either. Then I shifted my cigar to detract attention while I swallowed
my Adam's apple, and I says:

"I was only hesitating, my boy, because I wondered if your nice young
Garden would be big enough. You haven't got a couple more to rent at the
same price?"

He wilted and caved in like a box of ice cream does just before you get
home with it. Then he began to bow lower, and we cut for a new deal. He
took the lead.

He says what might I be wanting to use the Garden for?

"Oh, I won't bulge the walls or strain the floor," I says. "I only want
it for a Christmas tree. I am going to invite my friends to a little
party."

"Whew, but you must be popular!" he says. "Who the dickens are you?
Brother Teddy, or Mother Eddy?"

"I'm Colonel D. Austin Crockett, of Waco," I says as meek as I could.

"Pleased to meet you, Colonel," he says. "What you running
for?--District Attorney? Or are you starting a new Mutual Benefit Life
Assassination?"

"Neither," I says; "I'm a stranger in New York."

"But these friends of yours?" he gasped. "Is all Waco coming up here on
an excursion? Is the town going to move bodily?"

"Mr. Prosecutor," I says, "if you'll stop cross-examining a minute, and
let me tell how it all happened, it will save right smart of time. I am
a stranger here to about four million people. They are strangers to me.
We ought to know each other. So I'm going to give a little Madison
Square Garden warming and invite 'em in."

"What are you going to sell 'em--prize poultry, or physical culture?"

"I've nothing to sell. I'm just going to entertain 'em."

"Well, I've heard of Southern hospitality," he says, "but this beats me.
How much you going to charge a head?"

"Nothing. Everything is to be free. Admission included."

"Not on your dear old Lost Cause!" he exclaims. "Leastways not in our
little doll's house. Not for ten thousand dollars! Why, man, do you
realize that if you offered these New York, Brooklyn, Bronx, Hackensack
and Hoboken folks a free show, more'n two thousand women would get
trampled to death? Did you ever see a bargain-counter crowd on
Twenty-third Street? Well, that's only for a chance to get something
they don't want at a fishbait price. But if you offered them a free,
'take-one' chance--holy keewhiz!--I can just see it now! The Garden
ain't half big enough in the first place. There's enough Take-One'ers in
these parts to fill the old Coliseum. And they'd make the wild animals
look like a cage of rabbits or white mice."

Well, the upshot of it was, he persuaded me to charge an admission; so
we set it at $1.00 a head "on the hoof." I wrote out a card and sent it
to all the papers to print at advertising rates. It cost right smart,
but it looked neat:


    TO EVERY STRANGER IN NEW YORK, AND HIS LADY

    If you are not otherwise engaged on Christmas night, the honor of
    your presence at Madison Square Garden is requested by

    DAVID AUSTIN CROCKETT

    _Colonel Fifth Texas Cavalry, C. S. A._

    Music, Dancing, Refreshments, Souvenirs. For the purpose of keeping
    out the undesirable element a charge of $1.00 will be made.


I knew that them magic words, "Refreshments" and "Souvenirs," would hit
'em hard. In order to whet the public interest, I asked the papers where
I advertised to give the thing some editorial or other reference. But
they was very cold and said the best they could do was to send their
dramatic critics to criticise the show afterward. A lot of good that
would do me! So I took more space in advertising.

In a day or two I was visited at the hotel by one of the most imperent
young fellows I ever met up with. He sent up a card, "_James J. James,
Publicity Expert._" I said to show him in, and he sort of oozed through
the door--he was that oily. He looked about to see if we was alone; then
winked slow and important, and says:

"What's your game, Colonel? It looks pretty slick, but I can't quite
make it out. It's a new bunco, all right, but slick as it looks, it
ain't quite so slick as it ought to be."

"Look here, you cub," I roared, "if you imply that I have any evil
motives in this, I'll shoot you so full of holes you'll look like a
mosquito net!"

He wasn't a bit scared; he simply winked the other eye, and said in a
kind of foreign-sounding language:

"Forget it, Colonel! Cut it out! Back to the alfalfa with your Buffalo
Bill vocabulary! If you are really on the level, you don't need to prove
it with artillery. But it makes no diff. to me about that. My business
is producing fame, not merit. Once more I ask, what's your lay?"

[Illustration: JAMES J. JAMES, PUBLICITY EXPERT]

I overcame a desire to kick him through the ceiling, and told him I
proposed to entertain the strangers in New York.

"Strangers in New York?--Why, that means everybody! There's been only
one man born in New York since the war, and he's kept in alcohol at a
dime muzhum. Your idea is really to give old New York a Christmas party,
eh? Very pretty! Very pretty, indeed! But if you insist on exploding
money all over the place, I don't see why you shouldn't get a run for
it. Besides, I need a bit of it myself. What you want is a press agent.
You're starting all wrong. People in New York can't understand or
believe anything except through the language of the press agent. You
take one on your staff, and in three days you'll be so famous that, if
a child in a kindergarten is asked who is the Queen of Holland, it will
answer: 'Colonel Crockett, of Waco.'"

Well, he poured out the most remarkable string of talk I ever heard, and
before I knew it he had made me promise to trust my soul and my scheme
to him; to be surprised at nothing that might appear in the papers, and
to refer all reporters to him. The next morning I found my name on the
front page of every journal, with my picture in most of them. It seems
I had held at bay two hundred angry Italians who were trying to mob a
Chinese laundryman. The evening papers said that I had stopped a runaway
coach-and-four on Fifth Avenue, that morning, by lassoing the leader. On
the coach were Mrs. Aster, Mrs. Fitch, Reggie Vanderbuilt, George Goold,
Harry Leer and a passel of other "Among those presents." That night I
went to a music-hall--according to the next morning's papers--and broke
up the show by throwing a pocketful of solitaires to the chorus girls.
The next day three burglars got into my room; I held them up in a
corner, took away their masks, spanked them, and gave them each a
hundred-dollar bill to help them to avoid temptation. That afternoon
the three big life-insurance companies asked me to be president. And so
on--you can read for yourself in the clippings--only for Heaven's sake
don't believe any of it. In every article was a neat allusion to my
Christmas party.

I wanted to kill James J. James, and I scoured the town for him, but he
dodged me. He kept his word, though. For the last few days I've been the
most talked-of man in town. Looks like I'd been the Only man in New
York.

And now to tell about my little party. For two days a regiment of men
was working in the Garden under my direction--and at my expense. It was
like paying the war appropriation of Russia. But it was worth it.

At six o'clock Christmas night the crowd began to line up at the Garden
doors. At 6:30 a platoon of police arrived. At 6:40 the line reached
twice around the Garden. At 6:45 they sent for more police. At 7:15
every street was solid with people. They called out the police reserves
and clubbed about four hundred innocent bystanders insensible. At 7:45
the fire department was called and played the hose on the crowd.

This thinned 'em off a bit on the outsquirts. Then the ambulances give
out and the fainting women was carried home in express wagons and
wheelbarrows. The subway was the only line that could run cars.

At 8:30 the doors opened. You should of seen the rush. The Galveston
flood wasn't in it. At 8:45 the Garden was so full they closed the
doors. That sent some of the outside crowd home.

The Garden was a beautiful sight. On the tower outside, in big electric
letters, there was a sign, "Merry Christmas to you and yours."

Inside it was decorated with holly leaves and berries--tons and tons of
it. At one end was built a big house with a chimbly and an old-fashioned
fireplace. The roof of the house was covered with snow (cotton), and
the sky back of it was full of electric stars that twinkled something
beautiful. And there was a moon that looked like the real thing.

There was four bands in the balconies and a chorus of angels with real
wings and electric halos. They sang "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men,"
written for the occasion by Mr. De Koven.

By and by all the bands bust out gorgeous, and then Santy Claus appeared
in a sleigh drawed by six real live stuffed reindeers. He run along the
sky on unseen grooves and drove up to the roof of the house, and slid
down the chimbly with a pack of presents. He filled all the stockings
with candy cornycopies and toys, and a lot of attendants passed 'em out
to the childern. You should of heard them squeal with joy--poor little
tots, living in hotels and apartment places where Santy Claus would of
had to come up the steam radiator or the gas-log pipe to get in. Well,
my Santy Claus had to make sixteen trips to satisfy the childern.

The Garden was divided into sections, one for every State and Territory,
with its own shield in electric lights and colors. There was a native of
every State in charge, and every State had its own big Christmas tree,
and reception-room and refreshments. Some of the people I noticed seemed
to of been born in several States at once, the way they passed from one
booth to another fillin' up their pockets and stummicks. I reckon they
paid for it the next day in doctors' bills.

But there was nary a sign of rowdyism. That dollar admission was a
regular sieve for straining out the toughs. Then there were policemen
everywhere, and every other man nearly was a plain-clothes man or a
detective. Besides, after sober consideration, and on advice from the
Gardeners, I cut out all drinks, except soft stuff. So there were no
jags, except what some people brought with them from their Christmas
dinners and loaded plum puddings.

And then, of course, that peculiar something we get into us at Christmas
time filled everybody with a sort of loving fellowship and a hankering
to hug their neighbors and divvy up their funds like a Mutual Life
Insurance Company prospectus says it's a-going to do some day.

In the centre of the hall there was a big sign in electric letters:

      EVERYBODY IS HEREBY
    INTRODUCED TO EVERYBODY
    ELSE--FOR TO-NIGHT ONLY


At every State booth you'd see people gathering and recognizing old
friends or introducing theirselves to new ones. It was surprising how
each State had its gathering.

At the Texas booth there was a big, immense crowd. A lot of them turned
out to be old friends of ours; school friends of yours, ranch friends
of mine, people I had worked for, people who had worked me--or for me.
A lot of them sent their love and a Merry Christmas to you. I remember
especially---- [Here we omit a list of names, somewhat lacking in
universal interest.]

I had advertised that people who wanted to give each other Christmas
presents could have them hung on the State trees. My attendants gave
them checks for their gifts and there wasn't many mix-ups. Old Miss
Samanthy Clay got a box of cigars meant for Judge Randolph, and he got
a pair of silver-buckle garters meant for her. But most of them come out
right, and several of them was so surprised at getting presents in New
York that they bust out crying. Major Calhoun's whiskers was soaking wet
with tears when he got a bottle of old Bourbon from Judge Payton.

[Illustration: OLD MISS SAMANTHY CLAY GOT A BOX OF CIGARS MEANT FOR
JUDGE RANDOLPH]

Rich folks who had been poor men met charter-members of the "I'm on to
your origin" association. But the Christmas spirit made them forget to
be snobs. You'd hear millionaires telling plain people how they used to
play Hallowe'en jokes, how they scraped up to buy their mothers little
Christmas gifts--what ridiculous things they used to get and give!

All evening as fast as anybody went out they'd let somebody else in.
Along about eleven o'clock a lot of the people began to go home. Then a
new crowd come in. People who had taken their childern home and put them
to bed would come back for more fun. Others, who had spent the evening
dining, began to dribble in.

All the actor-people and singers came. It was good to see them. Some
of them told me what a god-send such a thing was to them, homeless by
profession. A lot of them brought their wives and babies. One father was
playing Romeo in Newark, his wife was playing Little Eva in Harlem, and
their daughter was playing Camille on Broadway. You should of seen them
rejoicing round the Kansas tree!

About midnight the big refreshment hall was opened and everybody that
could squeeze in set down to long tables where I had supper served.
I had some of the best after-dinner speakers in town come in, and you
should of heard some of the funny stories--it would of brought back dear
old childhood memories. Mayor McClellan gave us all a welcome, and then
there was Chauncey Depew, of course, and Simeon Ford, and Augustus
Thomas, and Wilton Lackaye, and Job Hedges, and Lemuel Ely Quigg, and
General Horace Porter, and a passel of others.

They all made the most surprising allusions to your poor old husband.
They called me Daddy and sang about me being a jolly good fellow. And
one of them christened me "Santy Crockett." Why, my ears burned so hot
I near set my collar on fire! It sure was worth all I spent, and I had
a terrible time to keep from blubbering. I must of swallowed about four
hundred and eleven Adam's apples.

Finally they called on me for a speech. I just kind o' gibbered--I don't
know what. The papers say I said: "Merry Christmas, my childern! This
old world sure is some comfortable, after all. The only trouble is that
the right people can't seem to get together at the right time often
enough. But this here Christmas supper tastes to me terrible much like
More. I'm going to try it again. And I hereby invite you all that ain't
in any better place or any better world to meet me here a year from
to-night. And so God bless you all, and--and God bless everybody!"

Then after a lot of song-singing and hand-wringing we all went home,
tears in every eye and smiles on every mouth. The remnants of food
and toys made more than the twelve baskets full of Scripture. I sent
them round to the Hospitals and Orphant Asylums. I've engaged the
Garden again for next Christmas and paid a deposit down. It ain't the
extravagance it looks, either, for while the expenses was high--twelve
thousand-odd dollars--they took in at the door nearly eighteen thousand
dollars. I sent the profit to the Salvation Army and the Volunteers, and
now I'm being prayed for and hallelooyied for everywhere there's a bass
drum. But I'd do it again if it cost me twenty thousand. It's worth
that and more to have your heart nearly break wide open with joy and
fellowship.

It was broad daylight when I got to bed, all wore out with happiness.
I cuddled up, like I was a little boy once more in the days when I used
to get up Christmas morning, cold and early, and look at my presents and
then crawl back under the covers again with a double armful of toys, to
keep warm and sleep some more.

If only you and the chicks had of been there! Next time you shall be.

Your loving

AUSTIN.


[Illustration]

[Illustration]





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