On the Fifth Day of Christmas, Chalmette, New Orleans, 1909

O’Henry‘s most famous Christmas story is, of course, The Gift of the Magi, about young newlyweds who give each other sacrificial Christmas gifts. In Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking, a tramp named Whistling Dick rescues a family from a group of thieves on Christmas Eve. The story first appeared in the collection, Roads of Destiny, published in 1909.

A distant clatter in the rear quickly developed into the swift beat of horses’ hoofs, and Whistling Dick stepped aside into the dew-wet grass to clear the track. Turning his head, he saw approaching a fine team of stylish grays drawing a double surrey. A stout man with a white moustache occupied the front seat, giving all his attention to the rigid lines in his hands. Behind him sat a placid, middle-aged lady and a brilliant-looking girl hardly arrived at young ladyhood. The lap-robe had slipped partly from the knees of the gentleman driving, and Whistling Dick saw two stout canvas bags between his feet–bags such as, while loafing in cities, he had seen warily transferred between express waggons and bank doors. The remaining space in the vehicle was filled with parcels of various sizes and shapes.

As the surrey swept even with the sidetracked tramp, the bright-eyed girl, seized by some merry, madcap impulse, leaned out toward him with a sweet, dazzling smile, and cried, “Mer-ry Christ-mas!” in a shrill, plaintive treble.

Such a thing had not often happened to Whistling Dick, and he felt handicapped in devising the correct response. But lacking time for reflection, he let his instinct decide, and snatching off his battered derby, he rapidly extended it at arm’s length, and drew it back with a continuous motion, and shouted a loud, but ceremonious, “Ah, there!” after the flying surrey.

Today’s Gifts
A song: Moon River, music by Henry Mancini. Ok, it’s not a Christmas song, but it’s vintage Andy Williams. Enjoy.

A booklist: The many short stories of William Sydney Porter, O’Henry.
A birthday: Andy Williams, b.1930. We always used to watch Andy Williams’ Christmas special on TV, back in the day.
Nicholaus von Amsdorf, German reformation theologian, b.1483. I only recognize this name because Eldest Daughter has been studying Herr Nicholaus von Amsdorf this past semester. Merry Christmas to all theologians and medieval scholars.
Joseph Conrad, b.1857.
A poem: Moon River by Johnny Mercer.

Moon River, wider than a mile,
I’m crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you’re going I’m going your way.

Two drifters off to see the world.
There’s such a lot of world to see.
We’re after the same rainbow’s end–
waiting ’round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

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