Editor’s note: This short story was published in Good Housekeeping under Byrd Spilman Dewey’s pen name “Judith Sunshine.” It is a humorous tale of an eventful Christmas.
A Suitable Christmas Present
What Happened From Not Having a Carving Knife.
DICK AND Maggie had been married only three months. As is often the case, some of their wedding presents were duplicates, while some other things, just as necessary, were forgotten altogether. The worst of it was, that, as they lived in a village, and the presents were all from dear friends or relatives, they could not exchange them, as we are told they sometimes do in the cities. However, Maggie being a sensible little woman, with the knack of making things do, they had got along very well.
It was the first of December, and Maggie, as she arranged the tea-table, was reviewing, mentally, her list of presents for Christmas. It had been a busy year—first, the endless preparations for the wedding, and since then, the setting to rights and making pretty of her little home—that she had not found the time for much “fancy-work,” so she would have to buy the most of them.
She knew just what Mother and the girls would like—Father, too—in fact, her list was all complete and satisfactory, with the exception of something for Dick. “Last, but not least, oh, no!” she thought to herself with a happy smile. If he only smoked! To be sure, she was glad he did not; she thought it an untidy, expensive habit, but there were always so many pretty things one could give a smoker.
Here the click of the gate latch interrupted her thoughts, and she flew to open the door.
During the progress of their evening meal, Maggie was so unusually quiet, that Dick finally noticed it, and asked,
“What’s up, little woman? Anything gone wrong today?”
“You seem so quiet.”
“Oh, I’ve been thinking.”
“That’s nothing new. What about?”
“About Christmas. I can’t think of anything to give you; you have everything.”
“That’s so. Don’t give me anything. You have given me yourself; that will do for one while.”
“What rubbish!” she said, with a pleased blush. “Anyway, I want to give you something; it would not seem like Christmas if I didn’t!”
“Well, get something we will both enjoy—something we need about the house. That will do first-rate.”
The next day, as soon as Maggie had finished washing the dinner-dishes, and had tidied the kitchen, she donned her stylish walking suit, and set out for one of the two hardware stores of the village. Not finding anything that suited her rather fastidious taste, she left an order with the proprietor, to be sent to the city and filled. Then, visiting some other stores to complete her list of presents, she turned her face homeward, with a feeling of satisfaction that the problem was solved.
The following week, Maggie invited her Mother, Mrs. Ripple, and the girls, Annie and Katie, to spend a long day with her. Pa Ripple was to come home with Dick at noon. It was an occasion when Dick and Maggie felt very anxious that their little establishment should have its “best foot foremost;” for, although the family had “dropped in” singly, time and again, at meal-time, this was their first attempt to have them all at a formal dinner.
The table looked very pretty in all the bravery of bridal linen, china and silver. As Maggie proudly surveyed it, she heard her father and Dick come in. The latter came hurrying out, his arms full of bundles. “See here, Pet.” He began, in a pleased tone, “I saw them unpacking these grapes and oranges as we came along, and I thought they would give just the right look to the table. And look at this,” opening a long package, “I remembered how I have had to carve with the butcher-knife all along, and thought it would never do with all our finery, today, and I saw this nice carving set at Hardy’s, and I couldn’t resist. Perhaps it was extravagant,” he continued, answering an inexplicable look on her face, “but we will call it part of our Christmas in advance. Is it all right?”
“Yes, of course, you dear fellow!” she answered, swallowing a great many unspoken thoughts. “It is just what I was wishing for. Now go in, and make yourself charming, while I take up dinner.”
“You are sure you are pleased? I thought it would just suit!”
“Yes, yes!” she said hurriedly, “go, or things will scorch!”
When all were seated around the glittering table, and Dick, with a flourish, took up the new carving knife and fork, Annie and Katie exchanged glances, and then looked at Mrs. Ripple.
“Something new?” asked the latter.
“Yes,” said Dick, “I got them today; I was tired of carving with the butcher-knife.”
Katie looked at Annie again, and both giggled.
“What’s the joke?” said Dick.
“Nothing,” said Katie. Pa and Ma Ripple were both smiling now, and Dick looked stupidly from one to the other.
“I declare, I don’t see anything funny!” he said at last.
“Tell him!” “Tell him!” cried the two girls, now laughing outright.
“Yes do,” said Dick.
“There, there, girls, don’t be silly! They are laughing, Dick, because when we went to the city shopping, two weeks ago, we all settled on a handsome carving set as a Christmas present for you and Maggie; for we remembered you had none, and thought it would please you both.”
“Did you! cried Maggie, “and only last week, I left an order for one at Steele’s for Dick’s Christmas gift, because he told me to get something we both wanted, and I thought we needed that most of all.”
“There! I knew you were not pleased somehow, when I came with this! No wonder!”
“Ha! ha! ha!” “He! he! he!” “Ho! ho! ho!”
Long and loud, they all laughed, some one of them beginning again, and so starting the others, every time there was a pause. It was a merry meal.
As they arose from the table there were sounds of an arrival in front of the house—wheels, then the gate latch clicking, and voices. Going out, they found Dick’s father and mother, just in from their home in the country. As soon as the confusion had subsided, they were told the “carving-set joke.” They were not so much amused as had been expected, but looked at each other, and said:
“Well, did you ever!”
“Now what’s the matter!” exclaimed Dick.
“Why, Pa and I,” said his mother, “had sent for one, too. We noticed, when we were here last, that you didn’t have one.”
Here the old lady’s voice was drowned in shouts of laughter. How they laughed, and laughed!
“I hope and trust,” said Dick finally, wiping his eyes, “that nobody else has noticed that we haven’t a carving-set!”
Read more of Byrd Spilman Dewey’s short stories in “The Collected Works of Byrd Spilman Dewey.” – click here to order.