The Greatest of These [Page 6]
He passed over to the little building. What he saw when he looked within seemed for a moment to produce no impression upon him whatever. He stared at the hillock of grain in motionless silence. Finally Mr. Roney gave utterance to a single word, “Geewhilikins!” and started for the house on a run. Into the kitchen, where his wife was just starting the fire, the excited man burst like a whirlwind.
“Come out here, Mary!” he cried. “Come out here, quick!”
The worthy woman, unaccustomed to such demonstrations, looked at him in amazement.
“For goodness sake, what’s come over you, Peter Roney?” she exclaimed. “Are you daft? Don’t make such a noise! You’ll wake the young ones, and I don’t want them waked till need be, with no Christmas for ’em, poor little things!”
“Never mind the young ‘uns,” he replied. “Come on!”
As they passed out he noticed the slip of paper under the door and picked it up, but without comment.
He charged down upon the granary, his wife, with a shawl over her head, close behind.
She peered in, apprehensively at first, then with eyes of widening wonder.
“Why, Peter!” she said, turning to him. “Why, Peter! What does–I thought–”
“You thought!” he broke in. “Me, too. But it ain’t so. It means that we’ve got some of the best neighbours that ever was, a thinkin’ of our young ‘uns this way! Read that!” and he thrust the paper into her hand.
“Why, Peter!” she ejaculated again, weakly. Then suddenly she turned, and laying her head on his shoulder, began to sob softly.
“There, there,” he said, patting her arm awkwardly.
“Don’t you go and cry now. Let’s just be thankful to the good Lord for puttin’ such fellers into the world as them fellers down the road. And now you run in and hurry up breakfast while I do up the chores. Then we’ll hitch up and get into town ‘fore the stores close. Tell the young ‘uns Santy didn’t get round last night with their things, but we’ve got word to meet him in town. Hey? Yes, I saw just the kind of sled Pete wants when I was up yesterday, and that china doll for Mollie. Yes, tell ’em anything you want. Twon’t be too big. Santy Claus has come to Roney’s ranch this year, sure!”