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The Christmas Gifts Of Thaddeus
by [?]

That you may thoroughly comprehend how it happened that on last Christmas Day Thaddeus meted out gifts of value so unprecedented to the domestics of what he has come to call his “menagerie”–the term menage having seemed to him totally inadequate to express the state of affairs in his household–I must go back to the beginning of last autumn, and narrate a few of the incidents that took place between that period and the season of Peace on Earth and Good-will to Men. Should I not do so there would be many, I doubt not, who would deem Thaddeus’s course unjustifiable, especially when we are all agreed that Christmas Day should be for all sorts and conditions of men the gladdest, happiest day of all the year.

Thaddeus and Bessie and the little Thad had returned to their attractive home after an absence of two months in a section of the Adirondacks whither the march of civilization had not carried such comforts as gas, good beds, and other luxuries, to which the little family had become so accustomed that real camp-life, with its beds of balsam, lights of tallow, and “fried coffee,” possessed no charms for them. They were all renewed in spirit and quite ready to embark once more upon the troubled seas of house-keeping; and, as they saw it on that first night at home, their crew was a most excellent one. The cook rose almost to the exalted level of a chef in the estimation of Thaddeus as course upon course, to the number of seven, each made up of some delicacy of the season, came to the table and received the indorsement which comes from total consumption. They were well served, too, these courses; and the two heads of the family, when Mary, the waitress, would enter the butler’s pantry, leaving them alone and unobserved, nodded their satisfaction to each other across the snow-white cloth, and by means of certain well-established signals, such as shaking their own hands and winking the left eye simultaneously, with an almost vicious jerk of the head, silently congratulated themselves upon the prospects of a peaceful future in a domestic sense.

“That was just the best dinner I have had in centuries,” said Thaddeus, as they adjourned to the library after the meal was over. “The broiled chicken was so good, Bess, that for a moment I wished I were a bachelor again, so that I could have it all; and after I got over my first feeling of hesitation over the oysters, and realized that it was September with an R–belated, it is true, but still there–and ate six of them, I think I could have gone downstairs and given cook a diamond ring with seven solitaires in it and a receipted bill for a seal-skin sacque. I don’t see how we ever could have thought of discharging her last June, do you?”

“It was a good dinner,” said Bessie, discreetly ignoring the allusion to their intentions in June; for she had a well-defined recollection that at that time Bridget had given signs of emotional insanity every time she was asked to prepare a five-o’clock breakfast for Thaddeus and his friends, to the number of six, who had acquired the habit of going off on little shooting trips every Saturday, making the home of Thaddeus their headquarters over Sunday, when the game the huntsmen had bagged the day before had to be plucked, cleaned, and cooked by her own hands for dinner. “And it was nicely selected, too,” she added. “I sometimes think that I’ll let Bridget do the ordering at the market.”

“H’m! Well,” said Thaddeus, shaking his head dubiously, “I haven’t a doubt that Bridget could do it, and would be very glad to do it; but I don’t believe in setting a cook up in business.”