Read ON CHRISTMAS GIFTS of Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War , free online book, by Finley Peter Dunne, on ReadCentral.com.

The approach of Christmas is heralded in Archey Road by many of the signs that are known to the less civilized and more prosperous parts of the city. The people look poorer, colder, and more hopeful than at other times. The bakeries assume an old country appearance of gayety. The saloons are well filled. Also, if you have your eyes about you, you may catch a glimpse, now and then, through a frosted window-pane of a stunted Christmas tree, laden slenderly with glass balls and ropes of red popcorn, the work of painful hands after the childher are abed. Mr. Dooley knew Christmas was coming by the calendar, the expiration of his quarterly license, and Mr. Hennessy coming in with a doll in his pocket and a rocking-chair under his arm.

“Prisints?” said the philosopher.

“Yis,” said Mr. Hennessy. “I had to do it. I med up me mind this year that I wudden’t buy anny Chris’mas prisints or take anny. I can’t afford it. Times has been fearful ha-ard, an’ a look iv pain comes over th’ ol’ woman’s face whin I hold out fifty cints fr’m me salary on Saturdah night. I give it out that I didn’t want annything, but they’se so much scurryin’ ar-round an’ hidin’ things whin I go in that I know they’ve got something f’r me. I cudden’t stand it no longer, so I wint down town to-night, down be Shekel an’ Whooper’s place, an’ bought these things. This is a fine doll f’r th’ money.”

“It is,” said Mr. Dooley, taking the doll and examining it with the eye of an art critic. “It closes its eyes, yis, an’, bedad, it cries if ye punch it. They’re makin’ these things more like human bein’s ivry year. An’ does it say pap-pah an’ mam-mah, I dinnaw?”

“No,” said Mr. Hennessy, “th’ pap-pah an’ mam-mah dolls costs too much.”

“Well,” continued Mr. Dooley, “we can’t have ivrything we want in this wurruld. If I had me way, I’d buy goold watches an’ chains f’r ivrybody in th’ r-road, an’ a few iv th’ good Germans. I feel that gin’rous. But ’tis no use. Ye can’t give what ye want. Ivry little boy ixpects a pony at Chris’mas, an’ ivry little girl a chain an’ locket; an’ ivry man thinks he’s sure goin’ to get th’ goold-headed cane he’s longed f’r since he come over. But they all fin’lly land on rockin’-horses an’ dolls, an’ suspindhers that r-run pink flowers into their shirts an’ tattoo thim in summer. An’ they conceal their grief Chris’mas mornin’ an’ thry to look pleasant with murdher in their hearts.

“Some wan has always give me a Chris’mas prisint, though no wan has anny r-right to. But no wan iver give me annything I cud wear or ate or dhrink or smoke or curl me hair with. I’ve had flasks iv whisky give me, me that have lashin’s iv whisky at me elbow day an’ night; an’, whin I opined thim, blue an’ yellow flames come out an’ some iv th’ stuff r-run over on th’ flure, an’ set fire to th’ buildin’. I smoke th’ best five-cint see-gar that money can buy; yet, whin a good frind iv mine wants to make me a prisint f’r Christmas, he goes to a harness shop an’ buys a box iv see-gars with excelsior fillin’s an’ burlap wrappers, an’, if I smoked wan an’ lived, I’d be arristed f’r arson. I got a pair iv suspinders wanst fr’m a lady, niver mind her name, an’ I wurruked hard that day; an’ th’ decorations moved back into me, an’ I had to take thim out with pumice stone. I didn’t lose th’ taste iv th’ paint f’r weeks an’ weeks.

“Wan year I wanted a watch more thin annything in th’ wurruld. I talked watches to ivry wan that I thought had designs on me. I made it a pint to ask me frinds what time iv night it was, an’ thin say, ’Dear me, I ought to get a watch if I cud affoord it.’ I used to tout people down to th’ jooler’s shop, an’ stand be th’ window with a hungry look in th’ eyes iv me, as much as to say, ‘If I don’t get a watch, I’ll perish.’ I talked watches an’ thought watches an’ dhreamed watches. Father Kelly rebuked me f’r bein’ late f’r mass. ‘How can I get there befure th’ gospil, whin I don’t know what time it is?’ says I. ’Why don’t ye luk at ye’er watch?’ he says. ‘I haven’t none,’ says I. Did he give me a watch? Faith, he did not. He sint me a box iv soap that made me smell like a coon goin’ to a ball in a State Sthreet ca-ar. I got a necktie fr’m wan man; an’, if I wore it to a meetin’ iv th’ Young Hebrews’ Char’table Society, they’d’ve thrun me out. That man wanted me to be kilt. Another la-ad sint me a silk handkerchief that broke on me poor nose. Th’ nearest I got to a watch was a hair chain that unravelled, an’ made me look as if I’d been curryin’ a Shetland pony. I niver got what I wanted, an I niver expect to. No wan does.”

“I’ll get ye what ye want,” said Mr. Hennessy, “if ye’ll tell me what it is, an’ it don’t cost too much.”

“Will ye?” said Mr. Dooley, eagerly.

“I will,” said Mr. Hennessy, “if ’tis within me means.”

“Ye’re jokin’,” said Mr. Dooley.

“I’m not. I mane it.”

“Do ye, honest?”

“I do so.”

“Thin,” said Mr. Dooley, “get me th’ Audjitooroom. I’ve wanted that to play with f’r manny years.”

And Mr. Hennessy went away with the rocking-chair under his arm, the doll in his pocket, and dumb anger in his heart.