“Where are the hot coals?”
“The what?” asked Thaddeus.
“The coals of fire for the girls and John.”
“Oh!” Thaddeus replied, “I have ’em in the library. I don’t think they’ll go well with the tree.”
“What are they?” queried Bess, with a natural show of curiosity. “Checks?”
“Yes, partly,” said Thaddeus. “Mary is to have a check for $16, Bridget one for $18, and John one for $40.”
“Why, Thaddeus, that’s extravagant. Now, my dear, there’s no use of your doing anything of that—”
“Wait and see,” said Thaddeus.
“But, Teddy!” Bessie remonstrated. “Those are the amounts of their wages. You will spoil them, and if I—”
“As I said before, wait, Bess, wait!” said Thaddeus, calmly. “You’ll understand the whole scheme to-morrow, after breakfast.”
And she did, and when she did she almost wished for a moment that she didn’t, for after breakfast Thaddeus summoned the three offenders into his presence, and the effect was not altogether free from painful features to the forgiving Bess.
“Bridget,” Thaddeus said, “do you remember what Mrs. Perkins gave you last Christmas?”
“I do not!” replied Bridget, rather uncompromisingly; for it was a matter of history that she thought Mrs. Perkins on the last Christmas festival had shown signs of parsimony in giving her a calico gown instead of one of silk.
“Well, you won’t forget next year what you got this,” said Thaddeus, dryly. “Here is an envelope containing $18, the amount of your wages until January 1st. Mary, what did you get last Christmas?”
“A box of candy, sir.”
“I believe there was a dress of some kind. I gave it to my cousin.”
“Good. I am glad you were so generous. Here is an envelope for you. It has $16 in it, your wages up to January 1st.”
Bessie stood in the doorway, a mute witness to what seemed to her an incomprehensible scene.
“John, what did you get?”
“Five dollars an’ a day off.”
“And a two-dollar bill for Dennis, eh?”
“Dennis got that.”
“True. Well, John, here’s $40 for you—that pays you until January 1st. Now, it strikes me that, considering the behavior of you three people, I am very generous to pay you your wages a week in advance, but I am not going to stop there. I have studied you all very carefully, and I’ve tried to discover what it is you are fondest of. Cook and Mary do not seem to care much for dresses, though I believe there are dresses and gloves under the tree for them, which fact they will doubtless forget by next Christmas Day. The five dollars and a day off John seems to remember, though from his manner of recalling it I do not think his remembrance is a very pleasing one. Now I’ve found out what it is you all like the best, and I’m going to give it to you.”