The Seeker

Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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How the Christmas Saint was Proved

The whispering died away as they heard heavy steps and saw a line of light under the shut door. Then a last muffled caution from the larger boy on the cot.

"Now, remember! There ain't any, but don't you let on there ain't—else he won't bring you a single thing!

"Before the despairing soul on the trundle-bed could pierce the vulnerable heel of this, the door opened slowly to the broad shape of Clytemnestra. One hand shaded her eyes from the candle she carried, and she peered into the corner where the two beds were, a flurry of eagerness in her face, checked by stoic self-mastery.

At once from the older boy came the sounds of one who breathes labouredly in deep sleep after a hard day. But the littler boy sat rebelliously up, digging combative fists into eyes that the light tickled. Clytemnestra warmly rebuked him, first simulating the frown of the irritated.

"Now, Bernal! Wide awake! My days alive! You act like a wild Indian's little boy. This'll never do. Now you go right to sleep this minute, while I watch you. Look how fine and good Allan is." She spoke low, not to awaken the one virtuous sleeper, who seemed thereupon to breathe with a more swelling and obtrusive rectitude.

"Clytie—now—ain't there any Santa Claus?"

"Now what a sinful question that is!"

"But is there?"

"Don't he bring you things?"

"Oh, there ain't any!" There was a sullen desperation in this, as of one done with quibbles. But the woman still paltered wretchedly.

"Well, if you don't lie down and go to sleep quicker'n a wink I bet you anything he won't bring you a single play-pretty."

There came an unmistakable blare of triumph into the busy snore on the cot.

But the heart of the skeptic was sunk. This evasion was more disillusioning than downright confession. A moment the little boy regarded her, wholly in sorrow, with big eyes that blinked alarmingly. Then came his last shot; the final bullet which the besieged warrior will sometimes reserve for his own destruction. There could no longer be any pretense between them. Bravely he faced her.

"Now—you just needn't try to keep it from me any longer! I know there ain't any——" One tensely tragic second he paused to gather himself—"It's all over town!" There being nothing further to live for, he delivered himself to grief—to be tortured and destroyed.

Clytie set the candle on the bureau and came to hover him. Within the pressing arms and upon the proffered bosom he wept out one of those griefs that may not be told—that only the heart can understand. Yet, when the first passion of it was spent she began to reassure him, begging him not to be misled by idle gossip; to take not even her own testimony, but to wait and see what he would see. At last he listened and was a little soothed. It appeared that Santa Claus was one you might believe in or might not. Even Clytie seemed to be puzzled about him. He could see that she overflowed with belief in him, yet he could not make her confess it in plain straight words....