Through the night Dick slept as only an active, tired
out boy can sleep.
If he woke once he had no recollection of it in the
This, too, despite the fact that it
was Christmas, and he had all of a boy’s natural
desire to know what the day was to bring him.
Rat-tat-tat! sounded Mrs. Prescott’s
soft fist on Dick’s bedroom door that morning.
“Wake up, son!” Mrs. Prescott called for
the second time.
“I I’m awake,” gasped
“Get up, then, son. Have you forgotten
that this is Christmas?”
“No’m; I haven’t.”
Dick’s feet struck the floor heavily, and he
reached out for his clothing. “Merry Christmas,
mother! Is dad there?”
“He’s out in the kitchen, raking the fire.
Don’t you hear him?”
“Yes’m. Say, mother, have you seen
your presents yet?”
“I found a handsome gold chain from your father
on my bureau.”
“Was that all you found?”
“Where did you look?” chuckled Dick.
“Why, on the parlor table, as usual, to be sure.”
“Better look again, mother,” laughed Dick.
By this time he was nearly dressed.
He heard Mrs. Prescott going back into the parlor.
“I don’t find anything
else here for me,” Mrs. Prescott called back
in a puzzled voice.
“Mother, at this rate, you’ll
soon be needing specs,” called Dick, throwing
open his bedroom door and looking out.
“But I don’t see anything
else for me, Richard,” insisted his mother, as
the boy entered the parlor.
“Look again, mother. Surely, you ”
Then Dick halted suddenly, staring
hard at the table, and at the mantel beyond.
“Why, I left ”
he began, and then looked more puzzled. At last
he grinned as the solution of the mystery came into
“It’s just one of dad’s
jokes,” he laughed. “Or else dad forgot.
I gave it to him last night, to lay on the table after
you had gone to bed. You see, mother, this is
the first Christmas that I have had money of my own
with which to buy you something really nice. I’ll
ask dad where it is.”
“Who’s taking my name
in vain?” called Mr. Prescott, as he came through
the hallway and looked in the parlor. “Merry
“Same to you, sir. But,
say, what happened to that little package I handed
you for mother?”
“I put it on the table before
retiring last night,” replied Mr. Prescott.
“It must be there but it isn’t,
“Honest, now, dad, this isn’t a joke,
“Not on my part, anyway,” replied the
elder Prescott rather blankly.
“Now, I suppose that you’re
both playing a little joke on me, trying to make me
curious and impatient,” laughed Dick’s
“But where is the package?”
demanded Dick, exploring all around. His father
lent a helping hand in the search.
“Oh, never mind, Dick, dear,”
urged his mother. “My surprise is bound
to turn up. It couldn’t have walked out
of these rooms. Look at your own package, my
Dick turned to glance eagerly at a
not very large box, against which rested a card bearing
his own name. He saw, at a glance, that the box
bore the imprint of one of the Gridley jewelers.
“I can guess!” cried Dick. “I
know what’s in the box!”
“Suppose you made a wrong guess?”
laughed his mother teasingly. “Better open
it and make sure.”
Dick picked up the box with trembling fingers.
“Mighty light, whatever it is,” he murmured.
Then he took off the cover.
“What’s this?” choked Dick.
For all he saw resting in the box
was a slip of white paper on which had been poorly
printed, in lead pencil, the words:
“Merry Christmas, Master Butt-in!”
“Some of Dad’s fooling,” laughed
Dick a moment later.
“Not much it isn’t,”
retorted Mr. Prescott, taking a quick step forward.
“Let me see that paper.”
Dick handed it over, and his father read the words.
“What on earth does this mean?”
he demanded. “What we put in that box was
your first watch, Dick. A silver-cased watch and
a very neat gold-plated chain.”
One look at his father and a swift
glance at his mother convinced the boy that they had
not been parties to any joke. Yet where were the
watch and chain?
“Who could have left this slip
of paper here?” asked Mrs. Prescott.
“Hardly any one outside of the
family,” replied Mr. Prescott. “I
don’t understand this at all.”
“And mother’s gift, too?”
pondered Dick aloud, growing more puzzled every instant.
“Well, certainly no one else
has been in this flat,” went on Mrs. Prescott.
But Dick flew first to one parlor
window, and then to the other. Next he crossed
the parlor in two bounds, dashing to his bedroom.
He came back, holding the slip of paper he had taken
from the outer door the night before.
“The two slips look as though
they had been printed by the same fellow, don’t
they?” inquired the boy.
“Yes,” nodded Mr. Prescott.
Dick told him about finding the other slip on the
door the evening before.
“But who could play such a mean
trick?” insisted Mrs. Prescott.
“The fit-thrower, very likely,” Dick answered.
“The fit what?”
Then Dick hastily recalled to them his adventures
of the day before.
“And one parlor window is fastened,”
Dick went on. “The other has its catch
slipped. The fit-thrower must have climbed up
in the night, slipped the catch with a thin blade
and prowled around in here just to spoil our Christmas.”
“It looks that way,” nodded
Mr. Prescott slowly, his usually calm eyes filled
with disappointment. Then he added, to his wife:
“My dear, I’m very glad, indeed, that
I placed your chain on your bureau last night, instead
of leaving it here on the parlor table.”
“And poor Dick doesn’t
get any present!” cried Mrs. Prescott, her eyes
filling a bit. “O Dick, this year we thought
we’d please you more by putting all the money
we could spare into one present, so we got your watch
and chain that you’ve wanted for so long.
It’s it’s too, too bad!”
Mrs. Prescott, though seldom given
to tears, now sank to the sofa, pulled out her handkerchief
and gave brief vent to her own great disappointment.
“Never mind, mother; it may
turn up all right yet,” urged Dick soothingly,
as he rested one arm around her waist. “But
if Mr. Fits really did break in here and take your
present, then I feel as though I’d enjoy trailing
him to the end of the earth and seeing him shoved
away behind strong bars!”
“It seems almost fantastic,”
declared Mr. Prescott, “but I’m afraid,
Dick, that the scoundrel you’ve told us about
really did break in here on purpose to spoil your
Christmas. If he didn’t come in person he
must have sent someone.”
“Oh, well, anyway,” protested
Dick, trying to stifle his disappointment, both on
his mother’s account and his own, “probably
we’ll all live to see more Christmases.
But, mother, I’m awfully sorry about the loss
of your gift. Dad thought, too, that I had made
a fine choice.”
“Indeed you did, young man,”
remarked Mr. Prescott. “You know, my dear,
that the last time you went to the opera house it was
a gala occasion, and you regretted that you didn’t
have a really nice fan to carry? Dick remembered
that, and he got you a fan. It was a handsome
one. I didn’t believe that a young boy
could have as much taste as our son displayed in choosing
that fan. And now it isn’t here!”
Then each tried to cheer the other
up, but despite their best efforts it started in as
a gloomy Christmas morning. The Prescotts, while
not by any means poverty stricken, were yet in very
moderate circumstances. Dick knew well enough
that his parents would not be able to duplicate his
much-wanted Christmas gift, and that he would have
to wait until some dim time in the future before he
could hope to carry a watch of his own.
So all three went out to the breakfast
table. Dick, to do him justice, thought more
of his mother’s loss than of his own.
“Are you going to the police
about this, my dear?” Mrs. Prescott asked her
“I could,” the elder Prescott
replied, “but I don’t imagine it would
do much good. The stuff that has been taken isn’t
likely to be restored to us. I doubt if the police
would think it even worth any effort. It isn’t
an important robbery, as crime goes. It was just
a little trick of revenge.”
“Mr. Fits is revenged all right,
then,” admitted Dick, with a bitter smile.
“Oh, I only hope that I get a fair chance to
pay him back one of these near days! But, at
any rate, my Christmas isn’t going to be spoiled.
You have already agreed to my going away on the camping
trip to-morrow, and that is going to be more fun for
me than two Christmases.”
“I’m glad you’re
looking forward so to enjoying your vacation in the
forest,” smiled Mrs. Prescott. “It
does seem fortunate that you have such a treat at
hand to repay you for your disappointment.”
Suddenly Dick looked blank for an
instant. Laying down his knife he employed his
right hand in making a frantic thrust into one of his
trousers’ pockets. Then he fished up a banknote.
“Thank goodness that is all
right,” he gasped. “Mr. Fits didn’t
think to look for that. It’s my five dollars
left out of Mrs. Dexter’s present, and is the
money that I’m going to pay my share of the camp
expenses with. But, on second thought, I believe
I’ll drop out of that camping scheme.”
“Why?” asked Mr. Prescott,
in a rather sharp, queer voice.
“Because this five dollars will
fool Mr. Fits in another way. I can go to-morrow
and get mother another fan like the first one.”
Mr. Prescott’s eyes flashed
proudly for a moment as he answered, a bit huskily.
“You could do that, of course,
young man, but your mother would never forgive you
for cheating yourself out of the one pleasure you want
“Sometimes,” spoke Dick
gravely, “there’s more fun in doing without
a pleasure, when you can find another that is worth
more to you.”
The tears stood in Mrs. Prescott’s
eyes. She rose and dropped both arms around her
“If we absolutely needed your
money, Dick,” she said, “I know how cheerfully
you would do without your pleasure for our sakes.
But this is a case where your going camping will be
worth more to us all than anything else that five
dollars would buy. Besides, think how disappointed
your friends would be over not having their leader.”
“I appreciate your mother’s
feelings so much, lad,” went on Mr. Prescott,
“that I forbid you to spend your remaining money
on anything for your mother. She has had her
greatest happiness in knowing that you spent half
of the first considerable sum of money you ever had
in buying something for her. That is as far as
you can go. Illness alone preventing, Dick, you’ll
go camping, and you’ll pay your full share into
the camping fund. Besides, I’m glad to say
that the indications are that a much better business
year is coming, and that probably we’ll soon
be able to have all the things within reason that
we may want.”
So Christmas, if it ran rather shy
on presents in the Prescott household, was at least
a season of extremely good feeling among three people
whose sympathies ran staunchly together.
“The fellows will be waiting
to see me,” laughed Dick after breakfast.
“So, if I haven’t anything to show ’em,
at least I’ve got something to tell them that
will make their hair stand up. And I wonder if
Mr. Fits visited any of their homes last night?”
Laughing, though doubtless he felt
quite unlike it, Dick Prescott put on coat and hat
and went out into the Gridley streets.