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 On Christmas Eve there came to our home to spend the next two days, which chanced to be Saturday and Sunday, Alice Kane, a friend and fellow-clerk of one of my sisters in a department store. Because the store kept open until ten-thirty or eleven that Christmas Eve, and my at the office detained me until the same hour, we three arrived at the house at nearly the same time.  
I should say here that the previous year, my mother having died and the home being in dissolution, I had ventured into the world on my own. Several sisters, two brothers and my father were still together, but it was a divided and somewhat colorless home at best. Our mother was gone. I was already wondering, in great sadness, how long it could endure, for she had made of it something as sweet as dreams. That , that charity and understanding and sympathy! We who were left were like fledglings, trying our wings but fearful of the world. My practical experience was slight. I was a creature of slow and uncertain response to anything practical, having an eye single to color, romance, beauty. I was but a half-baked poet, romancer, dreamer.
As I was hurrying upstairs to take a bath and then see what pleasures were being arranged for the morrow, I was by my sister with a “Hurry now and come down. I have a friend here and I want you to meet her. She’s awful nice.”
At the thought of meeting a girl I brightened, for my thoughts were always on the other sex and I was forever complaining to myself of my lack of opportunity, and of lack of courage when I had the opportunity, to do the one thing I most to do: shine as a lover. Although at her suggestion of a girl I pretended to and be superior, still I to the task of myself. On coming into the general livingroom, where a fire was burning brightly, I a pretty dark-haired girl of medium height, smooth-cheeked and , who seemed and really was guileless, good-natured and sympathetic. For a while after meeting her I felt stiff and awkward, for the mere presence of so pretty a girl was sufficient to make me nervous and self-conscious. My brother, E——, had gone off early in the evening to join the family of some girl in whom he was interested; another brother, A——, was out on some Christmas Eve with a group of fellow-employees; so here I was alone with C—— and this stranger, doing my best to appear and clever.
I recall now the sense of sympathy and interest which I felt for this girl from the start. It must have been clear to my sister, for before the night was over she had explained, by way of me, that Miss Kane had a beau. Later I learned that Alice was an adopted by a fairly comfortable Irish couple, who loved her dearly and gave her as many pleasures and as much liberty as their circumstances would permit. They had made the mistake, however, of telling her that she was only an adopted child. This gave her a sense of forlornness and a for a closer and more enduring love.
Such a mild and sweet little thing she was! I never knew a more attractive or clinging temperament. She could play the banjo and guitar. I remember marveling at the of her fingers as they raced up and down the and across the . She was wearing a dark green blouse and brown corduroy skirt, with a pale brown ribbon about her neck; her hair was parted on one side, and this gave her a sort of masculinity. I found her looking at me slyly now and then, and smiling at one or another of my remarks as though she were pleased. I recounted the nature of the work I was doing, but attempted to confuse it in her mind and my sister’s with the idea that I was regularly employed by the Herald as a newspaper man and that this was merely a side task. Subsequently, out of sheer vanity and a desire to appear more than I was, I allowed her to believe that I was a reporter on this paper.
It was snowing. We could see great fluttering about the gas lamps outside. In the cottage of an Irish family across the street a party of merrymakers was at play. I proposed that we go out and buy and and roast them, and that we make snow punch out of milk, sugar and snow. How gay I felt, how hopeful! In a fit of great daring I took one hand of each of my companions and ran, trying to slide with them over the snow. Alice’s screams and laughter were disturbingly musical, and as she ran her little feet twinkled under her skirts. At one corner, where the stores were brightly lighted, she stopped and did a graceful little dance under the electric light.
“Oh, if I could have a girl like this—if I could just have her!” I thought, forgetting that I was nightly telling a girl that she was the sweetest thing I had ever known or wanted to know.
Bedtime came, with laughter and gayety up to the last moment. Alice was to sleep with my sister, and preceded me upstairs, saying she was going to eat salt on New Year’s Eve so that she would dream of her coming lover. That night I lay and thought of her, and next morning hurried downstairs hoping to find her, but she had not come down yet. There were Christmas stockings to be examined, of course, which brought her, but before eight-thirty I had to leave in order to be at work at nine o’clock. I waved them all a gay farewell and looked forward eagerly toward evening, for she was to remain this night and the next day.
Through with my work at five-thirty, I hurried home, and then it was that I learned—and to my great and gratification—that she liked me. For when I arrived, dressed, as I had been all day, in my very best, E—— and A—— were there endeavoring to entertain her, E——, my younger brother, attempting to make love to her. His method was to press her toe in an open foolish way, which because of the it waked in me seemed to me out of the depths of dullness. From the moment I entered I fancied that Alice had been waiting for me. Her winning smile as I entered me, and yet she was very quiet when I was near, gazing romantically into the fire.
During the evening I studied her, admiring every detail of her dress, which was a bit different from that of the day before and more attractive. She seemed sweet, and I flattered myself that I was preferred over my two brothers. During the evening, we two being left together for some reason, she arose and went into the large front room and before one of the three large windows looked out in silence on the homelike scene that our neighborhood presented. The snow had ceased and a full moon was brightening everything. The little cottages and flat-buildings nearby glowed romantically through their blinds, a red-ribboned Christmas wreath in every window. I pumped up my courage to an unusual point and, heart in mouth, followed and stood beside her. It was a great effort on my part.
She pressed her nose to the and then breathed on it, making a screen between herself and the outside upon which she wrote my initials, rubbed them out, then breathed on the window again and wrote her own. Her face was like a small wax flower in the moonlight. I had drawn so close, moved by her romantic call, that my body almost touched hers. Then I slipped an arm about her waist and was about to kiss her when I heard my sister’s voice:
“Now, Al and Theo, you come back!”
“We must go,” she said shamefacedly, and as she started I ventured to touch her hand. She looked at me and smiled, and we went back to the other room. I waited eagerly for other moments.
Because the festivities were too general and inclusive there was no other opportunity that evening, but the next morning, church claiming some and sleep others, there was a half-hour or more in which I was alone with her in the front room, looking over the family album. I realized that by now she was as much drawn to me as I to her, and that, as in the case of my Scotch maid, I was master if I chose so to be. I was so up in the face of this opportunity, however, that I scarcely had courage to do that which I earnestly believed I could do. As we stood over the album looking at the pictures I toyed first with the strings of her and then later, finding no , allowed my hand to rest gently at her waist. Still no sign of opposition or even consciousness. I thrilled from head to toe. Then I closed my arm gently about her waist, and when it became noticeably tight she looked up and smiled.
“You’d better watch out,” she said. “Some one may come.”
“Do you like me a little?” I pleaded, almost choking.
“I think so. I think you’re very nice, anyhow. But you mustn’t,” she said. “Some one may come in,” and as I drew her to me she pretended to resist, her cheek against my mouth as she pulled away.
She was just in time, for C—— came into the back and said: “Oh, there you are! I wondered where you were.”
“I was just looking over your album,” Alice said.
“Yes,” I added, “I was showing it to her.”
“Oh yes,” laughed my sister . “You and Al—I know what you two were trying to do. You!” she exclaimed, giving me a push. “And Al, the silly! She has a beau already!”
She laughed and went off, but I, hugely satisfied with myself, swaggered into the adjoining room. Beau or no beau, Alice belonged to me. Youthful vanity was my chest. I was more of a personage for having had it once more proved to me that I was not unattractive to girls.

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