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The Old Man’s Christmas
by [?]


Though there was wrong on both sides, they never would have separated had it not been for the old man.

He was Ben’s father, and Ben was an only child–a spoiled, selfish, high-tempered lad, who had grown up with the idea that his father, Anson English, or the “old man,” as his dutiful son called him, was much richer than he really was, and that he had no need of any personal effort–any object in life, aside from the pursuit of pleasure.

Ben’s mother had died when he was fifteen years old and his father had never married again. Yet it was not any allegiance to her memory which had kept Anson English from a second marriage. He remembered her, to be sure, and scarcely a day passed without his mentioning her. But after her death, as during her weary life, he used her name as a synonym for all that was undesirable. He compared everybody to “‘Liz’beth,” and always to her disadvantage. He had a word of praise and encouragement and approval for every housewife in the neighborhood except–his own. Whatever went wrong, in doors or out, “‘Liz’beth” was the direct or indirect cause.

During the first five years of her married life, Elizabeth made strenuous exertions to please her husband. She wept her sweet eyes dim over her repeated failures. Then she found that she had been attempting an impossible labor, and grew passively indifferent–an indifference which lasted until death kindly released her.

Elizabeth had been a tidy housekeeper during these first years.

“You’d scrub and scour a man out ‘er house an’ home!” was all the praise her husband gave her for her order and cleanliness; and to his neighbors, to whom he was fond of paying informal visits, he would often say–“Liz’beth’s at it again–sweepin’ and cleanin’, so I cleared out. Never see her without out a broom in her hand. I’d a good deal rather have a little more dirt, than so much tearin’ ’round. ‘Liz’beth tires me, with her ways.”

Yet, when in the indifference of despair which seized upon Elizabeth before her death, she allowed her house to look after itself, Anson was no better satisfied.

“I’ve come over to find a place to set down,” he would tell his neighbors. “‘Liz’beth’s let things ‘cumulate, till the house is a sight to see–she’s gettin’ dreadful slack, somehow. A man likes order when he goes home to rest from all his cares.”

Even when she died she displeased him by choosing a busy season for the occasion.

“Just like ‘Liz’beth, to die in hayin’ time,” he said. “Everything got to stop–hay spoilin’–men idle. Women never seem to have no system about work matters–no power of plannin’ things, to make it convenient like for men folks.”

Yet after she was gone, Anson found how much help she had been to him, how wonderful her economy had been, how light her expenditures. He knew he could never find any one to replace her, in these respects, and as money considerations were the main ones in his mind he believed it would be the better economy to remain a widower, and hire his work done.

So during those most critical years of Ben’s life, he had been without a woman’s guidance or care.

At eighteen he was all that arrogance, conceit, selfishness, and high temper could render him. Yet he was a favorite with the fair sex for all that, as he had a manly figure, and a warm, caressing way when he chose, that won their admiration and pleased their vanity.

Anson English favored early marriages, and began to think it would be better all around if Ben should bring a wife home.

She could do the work better than hired help, and keep the money all in the family. And Ben would not waste his time and means on half a dozen, as he was now doing, but would stay at home, no doubt, and settle down into a sensible, practical business man. Yes, Ben ought to marry, and his father told him so.