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Christmas Eve At Swamp’s End
by [?]

As for poor little Pattie Batch, all this while, she sat alone, a doleful heart, in the shack at the edge of the big, black woods, quite unaware of the momentous advent of a Christmas baby at Swamp’s End. The Christmas wind was still high, still shaking the cabin, still rattling the door, still howling like a wild beast in the night, still roaring in the red stove; and snow was falling again–a dry dust of snow which veiled the wondering stars. It was no longer a jolly, rollicking Christmas wind. The gale, now, it seemed, was become inimical to the lonely child: wild, vaunting, merciless, terrible with cold. Pattie Batch, disconsolate, sighed more often than a tender heart could bear to sanction in a child, and found swift visions in the glowing coals, though no enlivening tableaux; but–dear brave and human little one!–she presently ejaculated “Shoot it, anyhow!” and began at once to cheer up. And she was comfortably toasting her shins, in a placid delusion of stormy, mile-wide privacy, her mother’s old-fashioned long black skirt drawn up from her dainty toes (of which, of course, the imminent John Fairmeadow was never permitted to be aware), when, all at once, and clamouring above the old wind’s howling, there was a tremendous knocking at the door–a knocking so loud, and commanding, and prolonged, that Pattie Batch jumped like a fawn in alarm, and stood for a moment with palpitating heart and a mighty inclination to fly to the bedroom and lock herself in. Presently, however, she mustered courage to call “Come in!” in a sufficient tone: whereupon, the door was immediately flung wide, and big John Fairmeadow, with a wild, dusty blast of the gale, strode in with a gigantic basket, and slammed the door behind him, leaving the shivering, tenacious Shadow, which had secretly followed from Swamp’s End, to keep cold vigil outside.

“Hello, there, Pattie Batch!” John Fairmeadow roared. “Merry Christmas!”

Pattie Batch stared.

“Hello, I say!” John Fairmeadow cried, again. “Merry Christmas, ye rascal!”

Pattie Batch, gulping her delight, and quite incapable of uttering a word, because of it, flew to the kitchen, instead of to the bedroom, and returned with a broom, with which, while the Shadow peeked in at the window, she brushed, and scraped, and slapped John Fairmeadow so vigorously that John Fairmeadow scampered into a corner and stood at bay.

“Look out, there, Polly Pry!” he shouted, in a rage; “don’t you dare look at my basket.”

Pattie Batch had been doing nothing of the sort.

“Don’t you so much as squint at my basket,” John Fairmeadow growled.

Pattie Batch instantly did, of course–and with her eyes wide and sparkling, too. It was really something more than a squint.

“Keep your eyes off that basket, Miss Pry!” John Fairmeadow commanded, again. “Huh!” he complained, emerging from his refuge and throwing his mackinaw and cap on the floor; “anybody’d think there was something in that basket for you.”

“There ith,” Pattie Batch gasped, in ecstasy.

“Is!” John Fairmeadow scornfully mocked. “Huh!”

Pattie Batch caught John Fairmeadow by the two lapels of his coat–and she stood on tiptoe–and she wouldn’t let John Fairmeadow turn his head away–(as if John Fairmeadow cared to evade those round, glowing eyes!)–and she looked into his gray eyes with a bewitching conglomeration of hope, amusement, curiosity and adoring childish affection. “There ith, too,” she chuckled, her lisp getting the better of her. “Yeth, there ith. I know you, Mithter Fairmeadow.”

John Fairmeadow ridiculously failed to smother a chuckle in a growl.

“Doth it bite?” Pattie Batch inquired, maliciously feigning a terrific fright.

“Nonsense!” John Fairmeadow declared; “it hasn’t a tooth in its head.” He added, with one eye closed, and palms lifted: “But–aha!–just you wait and see.”

“Well,” Pattie Batch drawled, “I th’pose it’th a turkey. It’th thertainly thome thin’ t’ eat,” she declared.