The Greatest of These: Joseph Mills Hanson [Page 3]
“Now, there’s the Roneys,” he waved his pipe over his shoulder. “The old man told me to-night when I was up after the cows that he’s sold all the crops except what they need for feedin’–wheat, and corn, and everything, and some hogs besides–and ain’t got hardly enough now for feed and clothes for all that family. The rent and the lumber he had to buy to build the new barn after the old one burnt ate up the money like fury. He kind of laughed, and said he guessed the children wouldn’t get much Christmas this year. I didn’t think about it’s being so close when he told me.”
“No Christmas!” Nels’ round eyes widened with astonishment. “Ay tank dose been pooty bad!” He studied the subject for a few moments, his stolid face suddenly grown thoughtful. Charlie stared at the stove. Far away by the river a lonely coyote set up his quick, howling yelp.
“Dere’s been seven kids oop dere,” said Nels at last, glancing up as it for corroboration.
“Yes, seven,” agreed Charlie.
“Say, do ve need Seigert’s team very pad?”
“Well, now that depends,” said Charlie. “Why not?”
“Nothin’, only Ay vas tankin’ ve might tak’ some a das veat we vas goin’ to sell and–and–”
“And dumb it on Roney’s granary floor to-night after dere been asleeb.”
Charlie stared at his companion for a moment in silence. Then he rose, and, approaching Nels, examined his partner’s face with solemn scrutiny.
“By the great horn spoon,” he announced, finally, “you’ve got a head on you like a balloon, my boy! Keep on gettin’ ideas like that, and you’ll land in Congress or the poor-farm before many years!”
Then, abandoning his pretense of gravity, he slapped the other on the back.
“Why didn’t I think of that? It’s the best yet. Seigert’s team? Oh, hang Seigert’s team. We don’t need it. We’ll have a little merry Christmas out of this yet. Only they mustn’t know where it came from. I’ll write a note and stick it under the door, ‘You’ll find some merry wheat–‘No, that ain’t it. ‘You’ll find some wheat in the granary to give the kids a merry Christmas with,’ signed, ‘Santa Claus.'”
He wrote out the message in the air with a pointing forefinger. He had entered into the spirit of the thing eagerly.
“It’s half-past nine now,” he went on, looking at the clock. “It’ll be eleven time we get the stuff loaded and hauled up there. Let’s go out and get at it. Lucky the bobs are on the wagon; they don’t make such a racket as wheels.”
He took the lantern from its nail behind the door and lighted it, after which he put on his boots, cap, and mittens, and flung his overcoat across his shoulders. Nels, meanwhile, had put on his outer garments, also.