But Marion knew that it wasn’t “bunk.” She was one of the few confidants that gained an intimate understanding of the wealthy mine owner’s character. She knew that he was the secret financial backer of an organization of settlement workers which kept close watch on the needs of the miners and their families, many of whom were so woefully ignorant that about the only way to handle them was by appealing to their appetites, their sympathies and their prejudices. She knew, too, that he had strong connections constantly at work fostering and promoting the best of activities for advancement of the civic welfare, that Christmas was one of his secret hobbies and that it was practically impossible for this city of 40,000 inhabitants to neglect this opportunity for a revival of good fellowship and good cheer so long as her father had his hand on the electric key of public generosity.
Christmas was a blaze of glory every year in Hollyhill. Public halls, churches, and theaters were the scenes of the liveliest activities for several days and nights before and after this biggest event of the winter season. Nor was the celebration confined to the more prosperous sections of the town, but extended into the heart of the mining settlement, where Christmas tinsel and lights were lavished without consideration of cost and nobody was allowed to pass the season without being impressively reminded as to just what turkey roast and cranberry sauce tasted like.
So skilfully were these programs put into effect that seldom was a hint dropped from any source that Richard Perry Stanlock was entitled to the slightest credit for these magnificent doings. He spent Christmas at home in a quiet unassuming way amid the family decorations of holly and mistletoe, and a vast litter of presents, oranges, apples, nuts, and candy.
Marion knew that her father’s greatest vanity was his secret pride in his ability to put over the biggest generosity of the year without its being traceable to him. One day a girl acquaintance of her asked her if she knew that her father spent $25,000 every year for Christmas. Marion laughed; later she laughingly reported the query to Mr. Stanlock. Next day this girl friend’s uncle, one of the philanthropist’s agents, was called in on the carpet and given a lecture on the wisdom of guarding his remarks such as he had never before dreamed of receiving.
“Papa,” the millionaire’s older daughter said to him one day; “don’t you think it is foolish to keep secret all these generous things that you are doing?”
“Why do you think it is foolish, my dear?” he replied with an expression of shrewd amusement. He was certain that she would have difficulty in answering his question.
“Well,” she began slowly, then admitted: “I don’t know.”
“I’m very glad you don’t know,” said her father with evident satisfaction. “If you had tried to give a reason, I should have been greatly disappointed. No explanation of that suggestion could be based on anything but family pride, which is one form of vanity.”