This Santa Claus business is played out. It’s a sneaking, underhand method, and the sooner it’s exposed the better.
For a parent to get up under cover of the darkness of night and palm off a ten-cent necktie on a boy who had been expecting a ten-dollar watch, and then say that an angel sent it to him, is low, undeniably low.
I had a good opportunity of observing how the thing worked this Christmas, in the case of young Hoodoo McFiggin, the son and heir of the McFiggins, at whose house I board.
Hoodoo McFiggin is a good boy—a religious boy. He had been given to understand that Santa Claus would bring nothing to his father and mother because grown-up people don’t get presents from the angels. So he saved up all his pocket-money and bought a box of cigars for his father and a seventy-five-cent diamond brooch for his mother. His own fortunes he left in the hands of the angels. But he prayed. He prayed every night for weeks that Santa Claus would bring him a pair of skates and a puppy-dog and an air-gun and a bicycle and a Noah’s ark and a sleigh and a drum—altogether about a hundred and fifty dollars’ worth of stuff.
I went into Hoodoo’s room quite early Christmas morning. I had an idea that the scene would be interesting. I woke him up and he sat up in bed, his eyes glistening with radiant expectation, and began hauling things out of his stocking.
The first parcel was bulky; it was done up quite loosely and had an odd look generally.
“Ha! ha!” Hoodoo cried gleefully, as he began undoing it. “I’ll bet it’s the puppy-dog, all wrapped up in paper!”
And was it the puppy-dog? No, by no means. It was a pair of nice, strong, number-four boots, laces and all, labelled, “Hoodoo, from Santa Claus,” and underneath Santa Claus had written, “95 net.”
The boy’s jaw fell with delight. “It’s boots,” he said, and plunged in his hand again.
He began hauling away at another parcel with renewed hope on his face.
This time the thing seemed like a little round box. Hoodoo tore the paper off it with a feverish hand. He shook it; something rattled inside.
“It’s a watch and chain! It’s a watch and chain!” he shouted. Then he pulled the lid off.
And was it a watch and chain? No. It was a box of nice, brand-new celluloid collars, a dozen of them all alike and all his own size.
The boy was so pleased that you could see his face crack up with pleasure.
He waited a few minutes until his intense joy subsided. Then he tried again.
This time the packet was long and hard. It resisted the touch and had a sort of funnel shape.
“It’s a toy pistol!” said the boy, trembling with excitement. “Gee! I hope there are lots of caps with it! I’ll fire some off now and wake up father.”
No, my poor child, you will not wake your father with that. It is a useful thing, but it needs not caps and it fires no bullets, and you cannot wake a sleeping man with a tooth-brush. Yes, it was a tooth-brush—a regular beauty, pure bone all through, and ticketed with a little paper, “Hoodoo, from Santa Claus.”
Again the expression of intense joy passed over the boy’s face, and the tears of gratitude started from his eyes. He wiped them away with his tooth-brush and passed on.
The next packet was much larger and evidently contained something soft and bulky. It had been too long to go into the stocking and was tied outside.
“I wonder what this is,” Hoodoo mused, half afraid to open it. Then his heart gave a great leap, and he forgot all his other presents in the anticipation of this one. “It’s the drum!” he gasped. “It’s the drum, all wrapped up!”
Drum nothing! It was pants—a pair of the nicest little short pants—yellowish-brown short pants—with dear little stripes of colour running across both ways, and here again Santa Claus had written, “Hoodoo, from Santa Claus, one fort net.”
But there was something wrapped up in it. Oh, yes! There was a pair of braces wrapped up in it, braces with a little steel sliding thing so that you could slide your pants up to your neck, if you wanted to.
The boy gave a dry sob of satisfaction. Then he took out his last present. “It’s a book,” he said, as he unwrapped it. “I wonder if it is fairy stories or adventures. Oh, I hope it’s adventures! I’ll read it all morning.”
No, Hoodoo, it was not precisely adventures. It was a small family Bible. Hoodoo had now seen all his presents, and he arose and dressed. But he still had the fun of playing with his toys. That is always the chief delight of Christmas morning.
First he played with his tooth-brush. He got a whole lot of water and brushed all his teeth with it. This was huge.
Then he played with his collars. He had no end of fun with them, taking them all out one by one and swearing at them, and then putting them back and swearing at the whole lot together.
The next toy was his pants. He had immense fun there, putting them on and taking them off again, and then trying to guess which side was which by merely looking at them.
After that he took his book and read some adventures called “Genesis” till breakfast-time.
Then he went downstairs and kissed his father and mother. His father was smoking a cigar, and his mother had her new brooch on. Hoodoo’s face was thoughtful, and a light seemed to have broken in upon his mind. Indeed, I think it altogether likely that next Christmas he will hang on to his own money and take chances on what the angels bring.