There are no more Christmas stories to write. Fiction is exhausted;
and newspaper items, the next best, are manufactured by clever young
journalists who have married early and have an engagingly pessimistic
view of life. Therefore, for seasonable diversion, we are reduced
to very questionable sources--facts and philosophy. We will begin
with--whichever you choose to call it.
Children are pestilential little animals with which we have to cope
under a bewildering variety of conditions. Especially when childish
sorrows overwhelm them are we put to our wits' end. We exhaust our
paltry store of consolation; and then beat them, sobbing, to sleep. Then
we grovel in the dust of a million years, and ask God why. Thus we call
out of the rat-trap. As for the children, no one understands them except
old maids, hunchbacks, and shepherd dogs.
Now comes the facts in the case of the Rag-Doll, the Tatterdemalion,
and the Twenty-fifth of December.
On the tenth of that month the Child of the Millionaire lost her
rag-doll. There were many servants in the Millionaire's palace on the
Hudson, and these ransacked the house and grounds, but without finding
the lost treasure. The child was a girl of five, and one of those
perverse little beasts that often wound the sensibilities of wealthy
parents by fixing their affections upon some vulgar, inexpensive toy
instead of upon diamond-studded automobiles and pony phaetons.
The Child grieved sorely and truly, a thing inexplicable to the
Millionaire, to whom the rag-doll market was about as interesting as Bay
State Gas; and to the Lady, the Child's mother, who was all form--that
is, nearly all, as you shall see.
The Child cried inconsolably, and grew hollow-eyed, knock-kneed,
spindling, and corykilverty in many other respects. The Millionaire
smiled and tapped his coffers confidently. The pick of the output of
the French and German toymakers was rushed by special delivery to the
mansion; but Rachel refused to be comforted. She was weeping for her
rag child, and was for a high protective tariff against all foreign
foolishness. Then doctors with the finest bedside manners and
stop-watches were called in. One by one they chattered futilely about
peptomanganate of iron and sea voyages and hypophosphites until their
stop-watches showed that Bill Rendered was under the wire for show or
place. Then, as men, they advised that the rag-doll be found as soon
as possible and restored to its mourning parent. The Child sniffed at
therapeutics, chewed a thumb, and wailed for her Betsy. And all this
time cablegrams were coming from Santa Claus saying that he would soon
be here and enjoining us to show a true Christian spirit and let up on
the pool-rooms and tontine policies and platoon systems long enough to
give him a welcome. Everywhere the spirit of Christmas was diffusing
itself. The banks were refusing loans, the pawn-brokers had doubled
their gang of helpers, people bumped your shins on the streets with red
sleds, Thomas and Jeremiah bubbled before you on the bars while you
waited on one foot, holly-wreaths of hospitality were hung in windows of
the stores, they who had 'em were getting their furs. You hardly knew
which was the best bet in balls--three, high, moth, or snow. It was no
time at which to lose the rag-doll or your heart.
If Doctor Watson's investigating friend had been called in to solve this
mysterious disappearance he might have observed on the Millionaire's
wall a copy of "The Vampire." That would have quickly suggested, by
induction, "A rag and a bone and a hank of hair." "Flip," a Scotch
terrier, next to the rag-doll in the Child's heart, frisked through the
halls. The hank of hair! Aha! X, the unfound quantity, represented the
rag-doll. But, the bone? Well, when dogs find bones they--Done! It were
an easy and a fruitful task to examine Flip's forefeet. Look, Watson!
Earth--dried earth between the toes. Of course, the dog--but Sherlock
was not there. Therefore it devolves. But topography and architecture
The Millionaire's palace occupied a lordly space. In front of it was a
lawn close-mowed as a South Ireland man's face two days after a shave.
At one side of it, and fronting on another street was a pleasaunce
trimmed to a leaf, and the garage and stables. The Scotch pup had
ravished the rag-doll from the nursery, dragged it to a corner of
the lawn, dug a hole, and buried it after the manner of careless
undertakers. There you have the mystery solved, and no checks to write
for the hypodermical wizard or fi'-pun notes to toss to the sergeant.
Then let's get down to the heart of the thing, tiresome readers--the
Christmas heart of the thing.
Fuzzy was drunk--not riotously or helplessly or loquaciously, as you or
I might get, but decently, appropriately, and inoffensively, as becomes
a gentleman down on his luck.
Fuzzy was a soldier of misfortune. The road, the haystack, the
park bench, the kitchen door, the bitter round of eleemosynary
beds-with-shower-bath-attachment, the petty pickings and ignobly
garnered largesse of great cities--these formed the chapters of his
Fuzzy walked toward the river, down the street that bounded one side of
the Millionaire's house and grounds. He saw a leg of Betsy, the lost
rag-doll, protruding, like the clue to a Lilliputian murder mystery,
from its untimely grave in a corner of the fence. He dragged forth the
maltreated infant, tucked it under his arm, and went on his way crooning
a road song of his brethren that no doll that has been brought up to the
sheltered life should hear. Well for Betsy that she had no ears. And
well that she had no eyes save unseeing circles of black; for the faces
of Fuzzy and the Scotch terrier were those of brothers, and the heart of
no rag-doll could withstand twice to become the prey of such fearsome
Though you may not know it, Grogan's saloon stands near the river and
near the foot of the street down which Fuzzy traveled. In Grogan's,
Christmas cheer was already rampant.
Fuzzy entered with his doll. He fancied that as a mummer at the feast of
Saturn he might earn a few drops from the wassail cup.
He set Betsy on the bar and addressed her loudly and humorously,
seasoning his speech with exaggerated compliments and endearments, as
one entertaining his lady friend. The loafers and bibbers around caught
the farce of it, and roared. The bartender gave Fuzzy a drink. Oh, many
of us carry rag-dolls.
"One for the lady?" suggested Fuzzy impudently, and tucked another
contribution to Art beneath his waistcoat.
He began to see possibilities in Betsy. His first-night had been a
success. Visions of a vaudeville circuit about town dawned upon him.
In a group near the stove sat "Pigeon" McCarthy, Black Riley, and
"One-ear" Mike, well and unfavorably known in the tough shoestring
district that blackened the left bank of the river. They passed a
newspaper back and forth among themselves. The item that each solid and
blunt forefinger pointed out was an advertisement headed "One Hundred
Dollars Reward." To earn it one must return the rag-doll lost, strayed,
or stolen from the Millionaire's mansion. It seemed that grief still
ravaged, unchecked, in the bosom of the too faithful Child. Flip, the
terrier, capered and shook his absurd whisker before her, powerless to
distract. She wailed for her Betsy in the faces of walking, talking,
mama-ing, and eye-closing French Mabelles and Violettes. The
advertisement was a last resort.
Black Riley came from behind the stove and approached Fuzzy in his
one-sided parabolic way.
The Christmas mummer, flushed with success, had tucked Betsy under his
arm, and was about to depart to the filling of impromptu dates
"Say, 'Bo," said Black Riley to him, "where did you cop out dat doll?"
"This doll?" asked Fuzzy, touching Betsy with his forefinger to be sure
that she was the one referred to. Why, this doll was presented to me by
the Emperor of Beloochistan. I have seven hundred others in my country
home in Newport. This doll--"
"Cheese the funny business," said Riley. "You swiped it or picked it up
at de house on de hill where--but never mind dat. You want to take fifty
cents for de rags, and take it quick. Me brother's kid at home might be
wantin' to play wid it. Hey--what?"
He produced the coin.
Fuzzy laughed a gurgling, insolent, alcoholic laugh in his face. Go to
the office of Sarah Bernhardt's manager and propose to him that she be
released from a night's performance to entertain the Tackytown Lyceum
and Literary Coterie. You will hear the duplicate of Fuzzy's laugh.
Black Riley gauged Fuzzy quickly with his blueberry eye as a wrestler
does. His hand was itching to play the Roman and wrest the rag Sabine
from the extemporaneous merry-andrew who was entertaining an angel
unaware. But he refrained. Fuzzy was fat and solid and big. Three inches
of well-nourished corporeity, defended from the winter winds by dingy
linen, intervened between his vest and trousers. Countless small,
circular wrinkles running around his coat-sleeves and knees guaranteed
the quality of his bone and muscle. His small, blue eyes, bathed in the
moisture of altruism and wooziness, looked upon you kindly, yet without
abashment. He was whiskerly, whiskyly, fleshily formidable. So, Black
"Wot'll you take for it, den?" he asked.
"Money," said Fuzzy, with husky firmness, "cannot buy her."
He was intoxicated with the artist's first sweet cup of attainment.
To set a faded-blue, earth-stained rag-doll on a bar, to hold mimic
converse with it, and to find his heart leaping with the sense of
plaudits earned and his throat scorching with free libations poured in
his honor--could base coin buy him from such achievements? You will
perceive that Fuzzy had the temperament.
Fuzzy walked out with the gait of a trained sea-lion in search of other
cafés to conquer.
Though the dusk of twilight was hardly yet apparent, lights were
beginning to spangle the city like pop-corn bursting in a deep skillet.
Christmas Eve, impatiently expected, was peeping over the brink of the
hour. Millions had prepared for its celebration. Towns would be painted
red. You, yourself, have heard the horns and dodged the capers of the
"Pigeon" McCarthy, Black Riley, and "One-ear" Mike held a hasty converse
outside Grogan's. They were narrow-chested, pallid striplings, not
fighters in the open, but more dangerous in their ways of warfare than
the most terrible of Turks. Fuzzy, in a pitched battle, could have eaten
the three of them. In a go-as-you-please encounter he was already
They overtook him just as he and Betsy were entering Costigan's Casino.
They deflected him, and shoved the newspaper under his nose. Fuzzy could
"Boys," said he, "you are certainly damn true friends. Give me a week to
think it over."
The soul of a real artist is quenched with difficulty.
The boys carefully pointed out to him that advertisements were soulless,
and that the deficiencies of the day might not be supplied by the
"A cool hundred," said Fuzzy thoughtfully and mushily.
"Boys," said he, "you are true friends. I'll go up and claim the reward.
The show business is not what it used to be."
Night was falling more surely. The three tagged at his sides to the foot
of the rise on which stood the Millionaire's house. There Fuzzy turned
upon them acrimoniously.
"You are a pack of putty-faced beagle-hounds," he roared. "Go away."
They went away--a little way.
In "Pigeon" McCarthy's pocket was a section of one-inch gas-pipe eight
inches long. In one end of it and in the middle of it was a lead plug.
One-half of it was packed tight with solder. Black Riley carried a
slung-shot, being a conventional thug. "One-ear" Mike relied upon a
pair of brass knucks--an heirloom in the family.
"Why fetch and carry," said Black Riley, "when some one will do it for
ye? Let him bring it out to us. Hey--what?"
"We can chuck him in the river," said "Pigeon" McCarthy, "with a stone
tied to his feet."
"Youse guys make me tired," said "One-ear" Mike sadly. "Ain't progress
ever appealed to none of yez? Sprinkle a little gasoline on 'im, and
drop 'im on the Drive--well?"
Fuzzy entered the Millionaire's gate and zigzagged toward the softly
glowing entrance of the mansion. The three goblins came up to the gate
and lingered--one on each side of it, one beyond the roadway. They
fingered their cold metal and leather, confident.
Fuzzy rang the door-bell, smiling foolishly and dreamily. An atavistic
instinct prompted him to reach for the button of his right glove. But he
wore no gloves; so his left hand dropped, embarrassed.
The particular menial whose duty it was to open doors to silks and laces
shied at first sight of Fuzzy. But a second glance took in his passport,
his card of admission, his surety of welcome--the lost rag-doll of the
daughter of the house dangling under his arm.
Fuzzy was admitted into a great hall, dim with the glow from unseen
lights. The hireling went away and returned with a maid and the Child.
The doll was restored to the mourning one. She clasped her lost darling
to her breast; and then, with the inordinate selfishness and candor of
childhood, stamped her foot and whined hatred and fear of the odious
being who had rescued her from the depths of sorrow and despair. Fuzzy
wriggled himself into an ingratiatory attitude and essayed the idiotic
smile and blattering small talk that is supposed to charm the budding
intellect of the young. The Child bawled, and was dragged away, hugging
her Betsy close.
There came the Secretary, pale, poised, polished, gliding in pumps, and
worshipping pomp and ceremony. He counted out into Fuzzy's hand ten
ten-dollar bills; then dropped his eye upon the door, transferred it to
James, its custodian, indicated the obnoxious earner of the reward with
the other, and allowed his pumps to waft him away to secretarial
James gathered Fuzzy with his own commanding optic and swept him as far
as the front door.
When the money touched fuzzy's dingy palm his first instinct was to take
to his heels; but a second thought restrained him from that blunder
of etiquette. It was his; it had been given him. It--and, oh, what an
elysium it opened to the gaze of his mind's eye! He had tumbled to the
foot of the ladder; he was hungry, homeless, friendless, ragged, cold,
drifting; and he held in his hand the key to a paradise of the mud-honey
that he craved. The fairy doll had waved a wand with her rag-stuffed
hand; and now wherever he might go the enchanted palaces with shining
foot-rests and magic red fluids in gleaming glassware would be open to
He followed James to the door.
He paused there as the flunky drew open the great mahogany portal for
him to pass into the vestibule.
Beyond the wrought-iron gates in the dark highway Black Riley and his
two pals casually strolled, fingering under their coats the inevitably
fatal weapons that were to make the reward of the rag-doll theirs.
Fuzzy stopped at the Millionaire's door and bethought himself. Like
little sprigs of mistletoe on a dead tree, certain living green thoughts
and memories began to decorate his confused mind. He was quite drunk,
mind you, and the present was beginning to fade. Those wreaths and
festoons of holly with their scarlet berries making the great hall
gay--where had he seen such things before? Somewhere he had known
polished floors and odors of fresh flowers in winter, and--and some one
was singing a song in the house that he thought he had heard before.
Some one singing and playing a harp. Of course, it was Christmas--Fuzzy
though he must have been pretty drunk to have overlooked that.
And then he went out of the present, and there came back to him out of
some impossible, vanished, and irrevocable past a little, pure-white,
transient, forgotten ghost--the spirit of _noblesse oblige_. Upon a
gentleman certain things devolve.
James opened the outer door. A stream of light went down the graveled
walk to the iron gate. Black Riley, McCarthy, and "One-ear" Mike saw,
and carelessly drew their sinister cordon closer about the gate.
With a more imperious gesture than James's master had ever used or could
ever use, Fuzzy compelled the menial to close the door. Upon a gentleman
certain things devolve. Especially at the Christmas season.
"It is cust--customary," he said to James, the flustered, "when a
gentleman calls on Christmas Eve to pass the compliments of the season
with the lady of the house. You und'stand? I shall not move shtep till
I pass compl'ments season with lady the house. Und'stand?"
There was an argument. James lost. Fuzzy raised his voice and sent it
through the house unpleasantly. I did not say he was a gentleman. He was
simply a tramp being visited by a ghost.
A sterling silver bell rang. James went back to answer it, leaving Fuzzy
in the hall. James explained somewhere to some one.
Then he came and conducted Fuzzy into the library.
The lady entered a moment later. She was more beautiful and holy than
any picture that Fuzzy had seen. She smiled, and said something about a
doll. Fuzzy didn't understand that; he remembered nothing about a doll.
A footman brought in two small glasses of sparkling wine on a stamped
sterling-silver waiter. The Lady took one. The other was handed to
As his fingers closed on the slender glass stem his disabilities dropped
from him for one brief moment. He straightened himself; and Time, so
disobliging to most of us, turned backward to accommodate Fuzzy.
Forgotten Christmas ghosts whiter than the false beards of the most
opulent Kris Kringle were rising in the fumes of Grogan's whisky. What
had the Millionaire's mansion to do with a long, wainscoted Virginia
hall, where the riders were grouped around a silver punch-bowl, drinking
the ancient toast of the House? And why should the patter of the cab
horses' hoofs on the frozen street be in any wise related to the sound
of the saddled hunters stamping under the shelter of the west veranda?
And what had Fuzzy to do with any of it?
The Lady, looking at him over her glass, let her condescending smile
fade away like a false dawn. Her eyes turned serious. She saw something
beneath the rags and Scotch terrier whiskers that she did not
understand. But it did not matter.
Fuzzy lifted his glass and smiled vacantly.
"P-pardon, lady," he said, "but couldn't leave without exchangin'
comp'ments sheason with lady th' house. 'Gainst princ'ples gen'leman do
And then he began the ancient salutation that was a tradition in the
House when men wore lace ruffles and powder.
"The blessings of another year--"
Fuzzy's memory failed him. The Lady prompted:
"--Be upon this hearth."
"--The guest--" stammered Fuzzy.
"--And upon her who--" continued the Lady, with a leading smile.
"Oh, cut it out," said Fuzzy, ill-manneredly. "I can't remember. Drink
Fuzzy had shot his arrow. They drank. The Lady smiled again the smile of
her caste. James enveloped and re-conducted him toward the front door.
The harp music still softly drifted through the house.
Outside, Black Riley breathed on his cold hands and hugged the gate.
"I wonder," said the Lady to herself, musing, "who--but there were so
many who came. I wonder whether memory is a curse or a blessing to them
after they have fallen so low."
Fuzzy and his escort were nearly at the door. The Lady called: "James!"
James stalked back obsequiously, leaving Fuzzy waiting unsteadily, with
his brief spark of the divine fire gone.
Outside, Black Riley stamped his cold feet and got a firmer grip on his
section of gas-pipe.
"You will conduct this gentleman," said the lady, "Downstairs. Then tell
Louis to get out the Mercedes and take him to whatever place he wishes