It was the afternoon of the day before Christmas. Mrs. Alexander had been
driving about all the morning, leaving presents at the houses of her friends. She
lunched alone, and as she rose from the table she spoke to the butler: "Thomas,
I am going down to the kitchen now to see Norah. In half an hour you are to bring
the greens up from the cellar and put them in the library. Mr. Alexander will be
home at three to hang them himself. Don't forget the stepladder, and plenty of
tacks and string. You may bring the azaleas upstairs. Take the white one to Mr.
Alexander's study. Put the two pink ones in this room, and the red one in the
A little before three o'clock Mrs. Alexander went into the library to see that
everything was ready. She pulled the window shades high, for the weather was
dark and stormy, and there was little light, even in the streets. A foot of snow had
fallen during the morning, and the wide space over the river was thick with flying
flakes that fell and wreathed the masses of floating ice. Winifred was standing by
the window when she heard the front door open. She hurried to the hall as
Alexander came stamping in, covered with snow. He kissed her joyfully and
brushed away the snow that fell on her hair.
"I wish I had asked you to meet me at the office and walk home with me,
Winifred. The Common is beautiful. The boys have swept the snow off the pond
and are skating furiously. Did the cyclamens come?"
"An hour ago. What splendid ones! But aren't you frightfully extravagant?"
"Not for Christmas-time. I'll go upstairs and change my coat. I shall be down in a
moment. Tell Thomas to get everything ready."
When Alexander reappeared, he took his wife's arm and went with her into the
library. "When did the azaleas get here? Thomas has got the white one in my
"I told him to put it there."
"But, I say, it's much the finest of the lot!"
"That's why I had it put there. There is too much color in that room for a red one,
Bartley began to sort the greens. "It looks very splendid there, but I feel piggish to
have it. However, we really spend more time there than anywhere else in the
house. Will you hand me the holly?"