“A doll in pink tarleton.” Again in Laine’s face the color crept slowly. He hesitated. “In all my life I never bought a doll or a sled or anything except books for children. May I go with you? And would—would you mind if I got that doll?”
Five minutes later Laine and Claudia were caught in the crowd of Christmas shoppers and valiantly made their way to a counter on which were objects gay and glittering. With a seriousness and persistency that was comic to the girl watching him, Laine began with the blue scarf-pin and the bracelet, but not until he was giving an order did she touch him on the arm and draw him aside.
“We can’t get those, Mr. Laine, indeed we can’t.” She nodded in the direction of the counter. “There aren’t but six dollars and sixteen cents of the pig money, and a dozen things to buy yet.”
“Oh, blow the pig money! She won’t know the difference. That pin is only one dollar and ninety-eight cents and the bracelet two dollars and forty-eight cents. Nothing could be worse than that, could it?”
“It could. Johnnie is a lazy good-for-nothing, and twenty-five cents is all his pin is to cost. It will be big and blue, but not a penny over twenty-five can be spent on it. I think we’d better get the doll and the silk stockings and the sled first. I’ve already bought a doll for Rosy, but it’s in white, and we’ll have to get the pink one.”
“And is the pig money going to do all that?” Laine’s eyes were searching Claudia’s.
“It is.” She laughed and turned away as if to see some one who was passing. “It doesn’t matter whose pig.”
“Then I’ll play the pig to-night! I’ve played it the wrong way often enough. Why can’t we be sensible? I’ve got a spending jag on, and I’ve never been Christmas shopping before. Something is happening to my backbone, something that used to happen in the days when I hung up my stocking. Please be good and let me have a little Christmas!”
Claudia’s forehead wrinkled and for a moment she hesitated, then again her eyes sought his doubtfully. “I don’t know whether I ought to. You are very kind, but—”
“But nothing. I’m merely very selfish. Those things are all right. Come on and let’s go in the toy department. The doll is the most important of all, and don’t dolls have carriages or something? Here, this way to the elevator.”
To the joy of it, the surrender to inherent instinct, to the child that is dormant in all, Claudia and Laine yielded, went in and out among the sea of toys, and critically doll after doll was examined, compared, laid down and taken up, and finally decided upon; and as Laine gave the address he looked at Claudia for final confirmation and approval.
“You’re sure it’s pink? Her mother said pink, you know.”
“Pink! It’s the pinkest pink I ever saw. It is much too grand. But, oh, those patient little eyes! I didn’t think she’d be here this Christmas. You will make her so happy, Mr. Laine.”