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Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking
by [?]

“It’s my way of doin’,” said Whistling Dick. “Easy goes. You can depress de muzzle of dat twelve-incher, and run ‘er back on de trucks. I remains, as de newspapers says, ‘in yer midst.'”

“All right,” said Boston, lowering his piece, as the other returned and took his seat again on a projecting plank in a pile of timber. “Don’t try to leave; that’s all. I wouldn’t miss this chance even if I had to shoot an old acquaintance to make it go. I don’t want to hurt anybody specially, but this thousand dollars I’m going to get will fix me for fair. I’m going to drop the road, and start a saloon in a little town I know about. I’m tired of being kicked around.”

Boston Harry took from his pocket a cheap silver watch, and held it near the fire.

“It’s a quarter to nine,” he said. “Pete, you and Blinky start. Go down the road past the house, and fire the cane in a dozen places. Then strike for the levee, and come back on it, instead of the road, so you won’t meet anybody. By the time you get back the men will all be striking out for the fire, and we’ll break for the house and collar the dollars. Everybody cough up what matches he’s got.”

The two surly tramps made a collection of all the matches in the party, Whistling Dick contributing his quota with propitiatory alacrity, and then they departed in the dim starlight in the direction of the road.

Of the three remaining vagrants, two, Goggles and Indiana Tom, reclined lazily upon convenient lumber and regarded Whistling Dick with undisguised disfavour. Boston, observing that the dissenting recruit was disposed to remain peaceably, relaxed a little of his vigilance. Whistling Dick arose presently and strolled leisurely up and down keeping carefully within the territory assigned him.

“Dis planter chap,” he said, pausing before Boston Harry, “w’ot makes yer t’ink he’s got de tin in de house wit’ ‘im?”

“I’m advised of the facts in the case,” said Boston. “He drove to Noo Orleans and got it, I say, to-day. Want to change your mind now and come in?”

“Naw, I was just askin’. Wot kind o’ team did de boss drive?”

“Pair of grays.”

“Double surrey?”


“Women folks along?”

“Wife and kid. Say, what morning paper are you trying to pump news for?”

“I was just conversin’ to pass de time away. I guess dat team passed me in de road dis evenin’. Dat’s all.”

As Whistling Dick put his hands in his pockets and continued his curtailed beat up and down by the fire, he felt the silk stocking he had picked up in the road.

“Ther bloomin’ little skeezicks,” he muttered, with a grin.

As he walked up and down he could see, through a sort of natural opening or lane among the trees, the planter’s residence some seventy- five yards distant. The side of the house toward him exhibited spacious, well-lighted windows through which a soft radiance streamed, illuminating the broad veranda and some extent of the lawn beneath.

“What’s that you said?” asked Boston, sharply.

“Oh, nuttin’ ‘t all,” said Whistling Dick, lounging carelessly, and kicking meditatively at a little stone on the ground.

“Just as easy,” continued the warbling vagrant softly to himself, “an’ sociable an’ swell an’ sassy, wit’ her ‘Mer-ry Chris-mus,’ Wot d’yer t’ink, now!”

* * * * *

Dinner, two hours late, was being served in the Bellemeade plantation dining-room.

The dining-room and all its appurtenances spoke of an old regime that was here continued rather than suggested to the memory. The plate was rich to the extent that its age and quaintness alone saved it from being showy; there were interesting names signed in the corners of the pictures on the walls; the viands were of the kind that bring a shine into the eyes of gourmets. The service was swift, silent, lavish, as in the days when the waiters were assets like the plate. The names by which the planter’s family and their visitors addressed one another were historic in the annals of two nations. Their manners and conversation had that most difficult kind of ease–the kind that still preserves punctilio. The planter himself seemed to be the dynamo that generated the larger portion of the gaiety and wit. The younger ones at the board found it more than difficult to turn back on him his guns of raillery and banter. It is true, the young men attempted to storm his works repeatedly, incited by the hope of gaining the approbation of their fair companions; but even when they sped a well-aimed shaft, the planter forced them to feel defeat by the tremendous discomfiting thunder of the laughter with which he accompanied his retorts. At the head of the table, serene, matronly, benevolent, reigned the mistress of the house, placing here and there the right smile, the right word, the encouraging glance.