The Night Before Christmas

By Alison November 22, 2017 5 Min Read

Well I don’t know about you but I am heartily sick of the Christmas SMUG already, and so tonight m’dears I am handing Brocantehome over to one Mrs.Pelham, who will remind you just why it doesn’t do to be too organised...

SCENE.—The Pelhams’ living room. It is decorated for Christmas, and on tables are displayed many beautiful gifts that have been sent to Mr. and Mrs. Pelham.

Mrs. Pelham (in pretty evening gown and a spray of holly in her hair, looks wistful and discontented. She stands by a table and fingers some of the gifts, and then sits at the piano and hums a snatch of a Christmas carol, and then throws herself into an easy chair. She speaks): Dick, do stop reading the paper, and be Christmassy! It might as well be the eighteenth of July as the twenty-fourth of December, for all the Christmas spirit you show! I do think this is the pokiest old Christmas Eve I ever spent, and I thought it was going to be the loveliest! I thought for once I’d have everything ready ahead of time—and now look at the result! Nothing to do, nothing to enjoy, no surprises. Everybody said, “Let’s buy our gifts early, and so save the poor shopgirls’ lives.” And goodness knows I’m only too glad to help the poor shopgirls in any way I can!

Why, I never wait for my change,—if it’s only a few pennies,—and you’d be surprised to see how pleased and surprised they are at that. It’s pathetic to see their gratitude for six cents. Why, the other day Mrs. Muchmore kept me waiting with her a long time to get her nine cents change, and when I suggested that she come away without it, and let the shopgirl have it, she looked at me as if I had robbed her. Well, then we were late for the matinée, and had to take a taxicab; so she didn’t make much, after all.

No; I’m a great friend of the shopgirl, and I’m glad to do all I can for them; but this buying Christmas presents in October is so tame and uninteresting! Then I bought all my tissue paper and holly ribbon and fancy seals in November; and early in December I had the whole lot tied up and labeled. I had three clothes-baskets full of the loveliest looking parcels! And then they sat around till I was sick of the sight of them!

Don’t you remember, Dick, how you used to tumble over them in the guest rooms? And you said I was a dear, forehanded little wife to have them all ready so soon? You’ll never have such a forehanded little wife again, I can tell you!

And then, to save the poor expressman, everybody is urged to send their presents early nowadays. So I sent mine all off a week ago. And everybody sent theirs to me a week ago. To be sure, this plan has the advantage that often I can see what someone else sends me, before I send a return gift. My! it was lucky I saw Bertha Hamilton’s Armenian centerpiece before I sent her that veil case! I changed, and sent her an Empire mirror, and she’ll think her centerpiece rather skinny now!

But, all the same, I hate this fashion. Why, I’ve had all this junk set out on tables four days now, and I’m tired of the sight of it. And even the p-p-paper and st-string are all cleared away. No—Dick—I’m not crying, and you needn’t try to coax me up! Well, of course, it isn’t your fault, though you did egg me on. But everybody does it now, and we’ve even written our notes of thanks to each other. I always used to dread doing those the day after Christmas; but now it makes me homesick to think they’re all d-done. And even this lovely necklace you gave me I’ve had it a w-week, and it doesn’t seem like a Christmas present at all! Yes, I know I gave you your gold cigarette case two weeks ago; but I wanted to be sure you liked it before I had it monogrammed. It seems now as if I had given it to you last year.

Oh, I think it used to be lovely when we didn’t get our things until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day—and then some belated presents would come straggling along for days afterward! And the night before Christmas we were madly rushing around tying up things, and I’d be up till all hours finishing a piece of embroidery, and you’d have to tear downtown for some forgotten presents, and the bundles were simply piling in, and the expressman would come at midnight, grumbling a little, but very merry and Christmassy! Then I’d have to set the alarm, and get up at five o’clock Christmas morning to press off my centerpiece, and pack off Clara’s box, and do a thousand things before breakfast. And we’d eat breakfast by snatches between undoing parcels and sending off boxes. And the rooms were knee-deep with a clutter of paper and strings and excelsior and shredded tissue, and—oh, it was lovely! And now—all that has been over for a week! And it really didn’t happen then; for it’s all been gradual since October. And here it is Christmas Eve, and not a thing to do! And to-morrow morning it’ll be Christmas, and not a thing to do! Oh, Dick, it’s perfectly horrid, and I’ll never, never get ready for Christmas early again! I’m so lonesome for the hurry and rush of an old-fashioned Christmas Eve!

What’s that? You’ll take me downtown—now? Down to the shops? ’Deed I will get my coat and hat! There isn’t a soul left to buy a present for; but we can buy some things for next year—Oh, no, no, not that! But we’ll buy some things and give them to the shopgirls. And, at any rate, we’ll get into the bustle and cheer of a real Christmas Eve! Come on, Dick, I’m all ready! Merry Christmas, Dick!

Carolyn Wells, 1913

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