Six months from that day upon which old Mars, God of War had angrily thrown down his cannons, tanks, gas-bombs and so on, fuming at Man’s inability to “stand up to it,” Gadsby’s mansion was dark again. Not totally dark; just his parlor lamp, and a light or two in halls and on stairways. And so this history found Nancy and Kathlyn out on that moon-lit porch; Nancy sobbing, fighting it off, and sobbing again. Tall, studious, loving Kathlyn, sitting fondly by Nancy’s tiny form, said;—
“Now, sis; I wouldn’t cry so much, for I don’t think that conditions, just now, call for it.”
“B-b-b-but I’d stop if I could, wouldn’t I?” and poor Nancy was sobbing again. “Now, wait!” and Kathlyn, uncommonly cross, vigorously shook Nancy’s arm. “You can’t gain a thing this way. Mama is probably all right. Oh, is that you, Daddy?”
His Honor sat down by his two girls. Gadsby was not looking good. Black rings around his always laughing orbs; a hard cast to that jovial mouth; a gray hair or two, cropping up amongst his wavy brown. But Gadsby was not old. Oh, no; far from it. Still, that stoop in walking; that odd, limp slump in sitting; that toning down in joviality, had, for six months past, had all Branton Hills sympathizing with its popular Mayor.
Days; days; days! And, oh! that tough part,—nights, nights, nights! Nights of two young chaps, in full clothing, only just napping on a parlor couch. Nights of two girls nodding in chairs in a dimly,—oh, so dimly a lit room.
It got around almost to Christmas, only a fortnight to that happy day; but,—happy in Gadsby’s mansion? Finally Frank took a hand:—
“Now, kid, do try to stop this crying! You know I’m not scolding you, darling, but, you just can’t go on, this way; and that’s that!”
“I’m trying so hard, hubby!”
Now Nancy was of that good, sturdy old Colonial stock of His Honor and Lady Gadsby; and so, as Christmas was approaching, and many a bunch of holly hung in Broadway’s big windows, and as many a Salvation Army Santa Claus stood at its curbs, Nancy’s constitution won out; but a badly worn young lady was in and out of Gadsby’s mansion daily; bringing baby Lillian to kiss Grandma, and riding back with Frank at about six o’clock.
Old Doctor Wilkins, coming in on a cool, sharp night, found His Honor, Nancy, Kathlyn, Bill, Julius, Lucy, Mary, Frank and John all in that big parlor.
“Now, you bunch, it’s up to you. Lady Gadsby will pull through all right,” (Nancy rushing wildly to kiss him!) “it hangs now upon good nursing; and I know you will furnish that. And I will say without a wisp of a doubt, that a calm, happy room; not too many around; and—and—hmmm!! Julius, can’t you hunt around in our woods that you and Kathlyn know so thoroughly, and find a tall, straight young fir; cut it down, rig it up with lights and a lot of shiny stuff; stand it up in your Ma’s room, and——”
’Tis a night, almost Christmas,
And all through that room
A warm joy is stirring;
No sign of a gloom.
And “Ma,” sitting up,
In gay gown, and cap,
No, no! Will not start
On a long wintry nap!
For, out on that lawn
A group of girls stand;
A group singing carols
With part of our Band.
And that moon, in full vigor,
Was lustrous; and lo!
Our Lady is singing!
Aha, now I know
That Nancy and Kathlyn
And Julius and Bill
And also His Honor,
Will sing with a will!
And Old Doctor Wilkins
Amidst it all stands;
Smiling and nodding,
And rubbing his hands;
And, sliding out, slyly;
Calls back at that sight:—
“Happy Christmas to all;
And to all a Good Night!”
Along about midnight a happy group sat around Gadsby’s parlor lamp, as Dr. Wilkins was saying;—
“Stopping a war; that is, stopping actual military combat, is not stopping a war in all its factors. During continuous hard strain a human mind can hold up; and it is truly amazing how much it can stand. Day by day, with that war-strain of worry pulling it down, it staunchly holds aloof, as a mighty oak in facing a storm. But it has a limit!! With too much and too long strain, it will snap; just as that mighty oak will fall, in a long fight. Lady Gadsby will avoid such a snap though it is by a narrow margin.”
As this group sat in that holly-hung parlor, with that big cloth sign in big gold capitals; HAPPY CHRISTMAS, across its back wall; with horns tooting outdoors; with many a window around town aglow with tiny, dancing tallow-dip lights; with baby Lillian “all snuggling—so warm in a cot; as vision of sugar plums”— (and why shouldn’t a baby think of sugar plums on that night, almost Christmas?); as, I say, this happy group sat around Gadsby’s lamp, Mars, that grim old war tyrant, was far, far away. Upstairs, calmly snoozing on a big downy pillow, Lady Gadsby was now rapidly coming back again to that buxom, happy-go-lucky First Lady of Branton Hills.