Page's Short Stories HTML version
How the Captain made Christmas
It was just a few days before Christmas, and the men around the large fireplace at the
club had, not unnaturally, fallen to talking of Christmas. They were all men in the prime
of life, and all or nearly all of them were from other parts of the country; men who had
come to the great city to make their way in life, and who had, on the whole, made it in
one degree or another, achieving sufficient success in different fields to allow of all being
called successful men. Yet, as the conversation had proceeded, it had taken a reminiscent
turn. When it began, only three persons were engaged in it, two of whom, McPheeters
and Lesponts, were in lounging-chairs, with their feet stretched out towards the log fire,
while the third, Newton, stood with his back to the great hearth, and his coat-tails well
divided. The other men were scattered about the room, one or two writing at tables, three
or four reading the evening papers, and the rest talking and sipping whiskey and water, or
only talking or only sipping whiskey and water. As the conversation proceeded around
the fireplace, however, one after another joined the group there, until the circle included
every man in the room.
It had begun by Lesponts, who had been looking intently at Newton for some moments as
he stood before the fire with his legs well apart and his eyes fastened on the carpet,
breaking the silence by asking, suddenly: "Are you going home?"
"I don't know," said Newton, doubtfully, recalled from somewhere in dreamland, but so
slowly that a part of his thoughts were still lingering there. "I haven't made up my mind --
I'm not sure that I can go so far as Virginia, and I have an invitation to a delightful place -
- a house-party near here."
"Newton, anybody would know that you were a Virginian," said McPheeters, "by the way
you stand before that fire."
Newton said, "Yes," and then, as the half smile the charge had brought up died away, he
said, slowly, "I was just thinking how good it felt, and I had gone back and was standing
in the old parlor at home the first time I ever noticed my father doing it; I remember
getting up and standing by him, a little scrap of a fellow, trying to stand just as he did,
and I was feeling the fire, just now, just as I did that night. That was -- thirty-three years
ago," said Newton, slowly, as if he were doling the years from his memory.
"Newton, is your father living?" asked Lesponts. "No, but my mother is," he said; "she
still lives at the old home in the country."
From this the talk had gone on, and nearly all had contributed to it, even the most reticent
of them, drawn out by the universal sympathy which the subject had called forth. The
great city, with all its manifold interests, was forgotten, and the men of the world went
back to their childhood and early life in little villages or on old plantations, and told
incidents of the time when the outer world was unknown, and all things had those strange
and large proportions which the mind of childhood gives. Old times were ransacked and