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On Christmas Day in the Morning
by [?]

And all the angels in heaven do sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
And all the bells on earth do ring,
On Christmas Day in the morning.


That Christmas Day virtually began a whole year beforehand, with a red-hot letter written by Guy Fernald to his younger sister, Nan, who had been married to Samuel Burnett just two and one-half years. The letter was read aloud by Mrs. Burnett to her husband at the breakfast table, the second day after Christmas. From start to finish it was upon one subject, and it read as follows:


It’s a confounded, full-grown shame that not a soul of us all got home for Christmas–except yours truly, and he only for a couple of hours. What have the blessed old folks done to us that we treat them like this? I was invited to the Sewalls’ for the day, and went, of course–you know why. We had a ripping time, but along toward evening I began to feel worried. I really thought Ralph was home–he wrote me that he might swing round that way by the holidays–but I knew the rest of you were all wrapped up in your own Christmas trees and weren’t going to get there.

Well, I took the seven-thirty down and walked in on them. Sitting all alone by the fire, by George, just like the pictures you see of “The Birds All Flown,” and that sort of thing. I felt gulpish in my throat, on my honour I did, when I looked at them. Mother just gave one gasp and flew into my arms, and Dad got up more slowly–he has that darned rheumatism worse than ever this winter–and came over and I thought he’d shake my hand off. Well–I sat down between them by the fire, and pretty soon I got down in the old way on a cushion by mother, and let her run her fingers through my hair, the way she used to–and Nan, I’ll be indicted for perjury if her hand wasn’t trembly. They were so glad to see me it made my throat ache.

Ralph had written he couldn’t get round, and of course you’d all written and sent them things–jolly things, and they appreciated them. But–blame it all–they were just dead lonesome–and the whole outfit of us within three hundred miles, most within thirty!

Nan–next Christmas it’s going to be different. That’s all I say. I’ve got it all planned out. The idea popped into my head when I came away last night. Not that they had a word of blame–not they. They understood all about the children, and the cold snap, and Ed’s being under the weather, and Oliver’s wife’s neuralgia, and Ralph’s girl in the West, and all that. But that didn’t make the thing any easier for them. As I say, next year–But you’ll all hear from me then. Meanwhile–run down and see them once or twice this winter, will you, Nan? Somehow it struck me they aren’t so young as–they used to be.

Splendid winter weather. Margaret Sewall’s a peach, but I don’t seem to make much headway. My best to Sam.

Your affectionate brother,


Gay Nan had felt a slight choking in her own throat as she read this letter. “We really must make an effort to be there Christmas next year, Sam,” she said to her husband, and Sam assented cheerfully. He only wished there were a father and mother somewhere in the world for him to go home to.

Guy wrote the same sort of thing, with more or less detail, to Edson and Oliver, his married elder brothers; to Ralph, his unmarried brother; and to Carolyn–Mrs. Charles Wetmore, his other–and elder–married sister. He received varied and more or less sympathetic responses, to the effect that with so many little children, and such snowdrifts as always blocked the roads leading toward North Estabrook, it really was not strange–and of course somebody would go next year. But they had all sent the nicest gifts they could find. Didn’t Guy think mother liked those beautiful Russian sables Ralph sent her? And wasn’t father pleased with his gold-headed cane from Oliver? Surely with such presents pouring in from all the children, Father and Mother Fernald couldn’t feel so awfully neglected.