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Piute squaw to have a marble fountain in her tepee as for us to rig up a Christmas tree.” Tom Barton looked at him, a determined light in his eyes. “And I tell you it's got to be done, because the boy expects it. Besides,” he added, “the boss left him in our care, and if he could be here himself, he 'd see to it that we made the day a real Christmas.” The men nodded as he said that, for they knew it was the truth. But William Dexter was sick in a Los Angeles hospital, and it would be many weeks before he could get back to the cattle country. If Jacques had a happy Yule-tide, they themselves would have to provide it, and loyalty to their employer and fondness for the Belgian lad decided them to attempt the impossible. All at once a light flashed in Bud Nelson's blue eyes. “There 's a young cottonwood over on the bluff above the slough,” he said, “and there's mistletoe, too —lots of it.” Jack Rankin whirled and looked at him. “Cottonwood!” he exclaimed. “Cottonwoods are bare as our bunk-house wall this time of year. Who ever heard of setting up a scarecrow and calling it a Christmas tree?” But as Nelson explained his idea, they thought the suggestion brilliant, and began planning how to carry it out. “Somebody'll have to go to Barstow to get presents,” Tom Barton remarked. “I guess that little stunt is up to me, because Pluto is the only cayuse on the place that can make the trip there and back in a day.” So it was decided. The foreman would ride to town to make the necessary purchases, and the others were to do everything else toward preparing for the holiday. Every one was up earlier than usual next morning, which is early indeed on a cattleranch. Shortly after daybreak, Rankin and Bud Nelson drove away in the wagon. The other men rode out to the range to look after the cattle, while Barton went to the corral and saddled Pluto, the fleetest, most fiery mustang in the region. “A regular terror in horse-flesh,” Sid Watkins called him, because, even in a land of fractious mustangs, his feats of bucking, kicking, and striking were considered extraordinary. The spirited animal whinnied as his owner approached him, sniffing the air impatiently while he tightened the surcingle and adjusted the saddle-bags. As the cow-boy leaped to his seat, he gave a sudden lunge into the air, then broke into a gallop toward the open
Jacques got up a little later and was surprised when Ah Yee, the Chinese cook, told him the men were already gone. “Heap muchee work to-day,” he said, as he set the boy's breakfast before him, “so they start long time ago. But you no care,” he added, when a look of disappointment came into the dark eyes. “We have velly good time.” They did have a good time. As the Oriental cleared away the dishes and began to cook and stir with a vim, he told Jacques of his home by the Yellow River, where poppy fields were red as blood throughout the summertime and where his brothers and sisters worked in the rice-fields. He meant to go back and see them some day; and when he came again, he would bring his little friend a pair of silk trousers and an embroidered coat and a luck god that would chase trouble out of his path as long as he lived. They talked about Christmas and the coming of Père Noël, too; and while they talked, Ah Yee worked with the easy, quiet dexterity of his race. Jacques had never seen him fill so many pans with batter or dress so many chickens; and when he asked about it, the moon-shaped face beamed. “You velly funny boy,” he chuckled, “not to know Ah Yee make heap big pie and cake when Clismus come.” Rankin and Bud Nelson came back at sundown, the wagon filled with some curiouslooking green stuff. Tied behind it was a young cottonwood, bare of leaves and the signs of life that give beauty to a tree, but straight and symmetrical as an Indian chief. Jacques knew the green stuff was mistletoe, for they had it in Belgium. But why were they bringing so much of it? In his overseas home, they had thought it enough just to have a sprig or two, or a wreath to hang in the window. He started to follow as they carried it into the house, but Bud Nelson said he must not try to find out what they were going to do, because it was a big secret. So he stayed outside, looking wistfully toward the ranch-house until Ah Yee called him in to The men seemed too busy to come,
supper. so he ate alone. But it was not at all unpleasant. While he ate, the cook told him a
Chinese story about a dragon. When the meal was over, he sat on a chair beside the kitchen table and begged for tale after tale; and they were such long stories and so interesting that he forgot all about what the men were doing; and when it was dark he went to bed.
Over in the ranch-house, the men talked and worked. Seventeen cow-boys make a lot of chatter even when discussing ordinary happenings on the range. But when the conversation is about anything as unusual as a Christmas tree, it sounds like the conference of a hundred. If there had been neighbors,
“She looks like a real, civilized Christmas tree,” he drawled; “and just think how we’ve patched her together!” And patched together that Christmas tree was, made with twine and green by the fingers of the cow-boys, as very likely a Christmas tree had never been made before. - Hoof-beats sounded T beyond the windows, and a moment afterward Barton came in with a bag of gifts. There was not much of an assortment, although he had bought the best the little frontier store afforded. But they knew that what he had would please Jacques. One package held several pounds of candy. There were some neckties and a lot of gay handkerchiefs of the kind cow-boys like and of which they never can have too many. There was a watch, too, a big silver one, that Bud Nelson tied at the top of the tree. “When I was a youngster, Mother always put a star there,” he said. “This looks more like a star than anything else we have.” Then Jack Rankin unwrapped what seemed to be miles of straps. “Shades of the Piute chiefs!” he exclaimed. “What have you got here?” “It 's a set of harness,” the foreman answered; “and I’m going
they would have wondered what it was all about. But the Rio Bravo Ranch buildings were miles from any human habitation, and the only visitors who came there by night were coyotes slinking down from the hills in search of fine fat chickens or a juicy young calf. So the noise in the house went on unheeded, and, about nine o'clock, Bud Nelson gave a happy shout.
to give him my sorrel pony. The cart won't be here for a week yet, because they had to send to Los Angeles for it. But he 'll sure be a happy youngster when it comes.”
“Pile it here on the floor beside the tree?” Rankin asked, as he moved to put it in place.
“No siree!” Barton objected. “This here strap arrangement is going on the tree, so he can have a lot of fun taking it off piece by piece.”
Piece by piece the harness was tied to the tree, each blinder, rein, and strap having a place of its own. Then seventeen tired cowboys went to bed, where Jacques had long been dreaming of the good Père Noël, and when they all awokeit was Christmas morning.
as a dispensing Santa Claus moved on his rollicking way. And if you had lived in a country that suddenly had become war torn, so war torn that the gladness of Yule-tide was not a part of life any more, and then had gone to a place where it all came back, would n’t your heart
Don't you remember them yet, you boys and girls who are now almost grown, the Christmas times when you were five or seven or nine, when it seemed as if all the good folk of the universe had united in an effort to make you happy? There was a glitter of tinsel and sparkle of gilded ornaments and the glow of many-colored candles among boughs of green. There was the laughter of merry voices and perhaps the sound of a carol
have been just as full of joy as it could hold? And so a Belgian lad from Louvain, in a ranch-house in the Sierra foot-hills, shrieked with delight when he beheld the wonder of it all. The tree was a leafless cottonwood, but it was green from tip to base with sprigs of mistletoe tied there by the rough hands of the cow-boys. And although it was decked with no tinsel ornaments or artificial snow to bring bits of fairyland into the room, it was as redolent of real Christmas cheer as if it glittered with manycolored baubles. When Jacques saw the watch shining where Bud Nelson said his mother always hung a star, and found bags of candy with his name upon each dangling from the boughs, he gave such a happy shout that the men felt repaid a hundred times for all their work. “Le bom Père Noël" he exclaimed; then breaking from French to English, “Good, good Père Noël, that the Prussians drove away! He has come back! I knew he would find me here in America!” And then the sight of those straps, straps, straps! He was still what cow-boys call a tenderfoot, but he knew a set of harness when he saw one, and realized that it meant many happy rides for him. “There 's a cart coming too,” Barton explained, as he watched the boy's happy
And Hal of the Helping Hand Young Bob, whose manners were bad, Set out on a hike one Christmas Eve And Selfish Sam, of the churlish way, When snow lay over the land. And Larry, the lazy lad, “Who knows what fun we may meet,” They, too, set out, on a tramp intent, said they, And off on the selfsame road they went.
“Or who may travel along the way?” When they came to the cross-roads, deep in snow,
A shabby old man stood there.
He shook with cold, he was bent and old,
And in trouble enough, poor soul, was he,
As any one, just at a glance, could see.
He had slipped on the ice and dropped