A Defective Santa Claus
by James Whitcomb Riley
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A Defective Santa Claus

A Defective Santa Claus


With Pictures by





Copyright 1904 James Whitcomb Riley

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Little Boy! Halloo!—halloo! Can't you hear me calling you?— Little Boy that used to be, Come in here and play with me.

A Defective Santa Claus

A Defective Santa Claus

Allus when our Pa he's away Nen Uncle Sidney comes to stay At our house here—so Ma an' me An' Etty an' Lee-Bob won't be Afeard ef anything at night Might happen—like Ma says it might.

(Ef Trip wuz big, I bet you he 'Uz best watch-dog you ever see!) An' so last winter—ist before It's go' be Chris'mus-Day,—w'y, shore Enough, Pa had to haf to go To 'tend a lawsuit—"An' the snow Ist right fer Santy Claus!" Pa said, As he clumb in old Ayersuz' sled, An' said he's sorry he can't be With us that night—"'Cause," he-says-ee, "Old Santy might be comin' here— This very night of all the year

I' got to be away!—so all You kids must tell him—ef he call— He's mighty welcome, an' yer Pa He left his love with you an' Ma

An' Uncle Sid!" An' clucked, an' leant Back, laughin'—an' away they went! An' Uncle wave' his hands an' yells "Yer old horse ort to have on bells!" But Pa yell back an' laugh an' say "I 'spect when Santy come this way It's time enough fer sleighbells nen!" An' holler back "Good-by!" again, An' reach out with the driver's whip An' cut behind an' drive back Trip.

An' so all day it snowed an' snowed! An' Lee-Bob he ist watched the road,

In his high-chair; an' Etty she U'd play with Uncle Sid an' me— Like she wuz he'ppin' fetch in wood An' keepin' old fire goin' good,

Where Ma she wuz a-cookin' there An' kitchen, too, an' ever'where! An' Uncle say, "'At's ist the way Yer Ma's b'en workin', night an' day, Sence she hain't big as Etty is Er Lee-Bob in that chair o' his!" Nen Ma she'd laugh 't what Uncle said, An' smack an' smoove his old bald head An' say "Clear out the way till I Can keep that pot from b'ilin' dry!" Nen Uncle, when she's gone back to The kitchen, says, "We ust to do

Some cookin' in the ashes.—Say, S'posin' we try some, thataway!" An' nen he send us to tell Ma Send two big 'taters in he saw

Pa's b'en a-keepin' 'cause they got The premiun at the Fair. An' what You think?—He rake a grea'-big hole In the hot ashes, an' he roll Them old big 'taters in the place An' rake the coals back—an' his face Ist swettin' so's he purt'-nigh swear 'Cause it's so hot! An' when they're there 'Bout time 'at we fergit 'em, he Ist rake 'em out again—an' gee!— He bu'st 'em with his fist wite on A' old stove-led, while Etty's gone

To git the salt, an' butter, too— Ist like he said she haf to do, No matter what Ma say! An' so He salt an' butter 'em, an' blow

'Em cool enough fer us to eat— An' me-o-my! they're hard to beat! An' Trip 'ud ist lay there an' pant Like he'd laugh out loud, but he can't. Nen Uncle fill his pipe—an' we 'Ud he'p him light it—Sis an' me,— But mostly little Lee-Bob, 'cause "He's the best Lighter ever wuz!" Like Uncle telled him wunst when Lee- Bob cried an' jerked the light from me, He wuz so mad! So Uncle pat An' pet him. (Lee-Bob's ust to that—

'Cause he's the little-est, you know, An' allus has b'en humored so!) Nen Uncle gits the flat-arn out, An', while he's tellin' us all 'bout

Old Chris'mus-times when he's a kid, He ist cracked hickernuts, he did, Till they's a crockful, mighty nigh! An' when they're all done by an' by, He raked the red coals out again An' telled me, "Fetch that popcorn in, An' old three-leggud skillut—an' The led an' all now, little man,— An' yer old Uncle here 'ull show You how corn's popped, long years ago When me an' Santy Claus wuz boys On Pap's old place in Illinoise!—

An' your Pa, too, wuz chums, all through, With Santy!—Wisht Pa'd be here, too!" Nen Uncle sigh at Ma, an' she Pat him again, an' say to me

An' Etty,—"You take warning fair!— Don't talk too much, like Uncle there, Ner don't fergit, like him, my dears, That 'little pitchers has big ears!'" But Uncle say to her, "Clear out!— Yer brother knows what he's about.— You git your Chris'mus-cookin' done Er these pore childern won't have none!" Nen Trip wake up an' raise, an' nen Turn roun' an' nen lay down again. An' one time Uncle Sidney say,— "When dogs is sleepin' thataway,

Like Trip, an' whimpers, it's a sign He'll ketch eight rabbits—mayby nine— Afore his fleas'll wake him—nen He'll bite hisse'f to sleep again

An try to dream he's go' ketch ten." An' when Ma's gone again back in The kitchen, Uncle scratch his chin An' say, "When Santy Claus an' Pa An' me wuz little boys—an' Ma, When she's 'bout big as Etty there;— W'y,—'When we're growed—no matter where,' Santy he cross' his heart an' say,— 'I'll come to see you, all, some day When you' got childerns—all but me An' pore old Sid!'" Nen Uncle he Ist kindo' shade his eyes an' pour'

'Bout forty-'leven bushels more O' popcorn out the skillut there In Ma's new basket on the chair. An' nen he telled us—an' talk' low,

"So Ma can't hear," he say:—"You know Yer Pa know', when he drived away, Tomorry's go' be Chris'mus-Day;— Well, nen tonight," he whisper, "see?— It's go' be Chris'mus-Eve," says-ee, "An', like yer Pa hint, when he went, Old Santy Claus (now hush!) he's sent Yer Pa a postul-card, an' write He's shorely go' be here tonight.... That's why yer Pa's so bored to be Away tonight, when Santy he Is go' be here, sleighbells an' all,

To make you kids a Chris'mus-call!" An' we're so glad to know fer shore He's comin', I roll on the floor— An' here come Trip a-waller'n' roun'

An' purt'-nigh knock the clo'eshorse down!— An' Etty grab Lee-Bob an' prance All roun' the room like it's a dance— Till Ma she come an' march us nen To dinner, where we're still again, But tickled so we ist can't eat But pie, an' ist the hot mincemeat With raisins in.—But Uncle et, An' Ma. An' there they set an' set Till purt'-nigh supper-time; nen we Tell him he's got to fix the Tree 'Fore Santy gits here, like he said.

We go nen to the old woodshed— All bundled up, through the deep snow— "An' snowin' yet, jee-rooshy-O!" Uncle he said, an' he'p us wade

Back where's the Chris'mus-Tree he's made Out of a little jackoak-top He git down at the sawmill-shop— An' Trip 'ud run ahead, you know, An' 'tend-like he 'uz eatin' snow— When we all waddle back with it; An' Uncle set it up—an' git It wite in front the fireplace—'cause He says "'Tain't so 'at Santy Claus Comes down all chimblies,—least, tonight He's comin' in this house all right— By the front-door, as ort to be!—

We'll all be hid where we can see!" Nen he look up, an' he see Ma An' say, "It's ist too bad their Pa Can't be here, so's to see the fun

The childern will have, ever' one!" Well, we!—We hardly couldn't wait Till it wuz dusk, an' dark an' late Enough to light the lamp!—An' Lee- Bob light a candle on the Tree— "Ist one—'cause I'm 'The Lighter'!"—Nen He clumb on Uncle's knee again An' hug us bofe;—an' Etty git Her little chist an' set on it Wite clos't, while Uncle telled some more 'Bout Santy Claus, an' clo'es he wore "All maked o' furs, an' trimmed as white

As cotton is, er snow at night!" An' nen, all sudden-like, he say,— "Hush! Listen there! Hain't that a sleigh An' sleighbells jinglin'?" Trip go "whooh!"

Like he hear bells an' smell 'em, too. Nen we all listen.... An'-sir, shore Enough, we hear bells—more an' more A-jinglin' clos'ter—clos'ter still Down the old crook-road roun' the hill. An' Uncle he jumps up, an' all The chairs he jerks back by the wall An' th'ows a' overcoat an' pair O' winder-curtains over there An' says, "Hide quick, er you're too late!— Them bells is stoppin' at the gate!— Git back o' them-'air chairs an' hide,

'Cause I hear Santy's voice outside!" An' Bang! bang! bang! we heerd the door— Nen it flewed open, an' the floor Blowed full o' snow—that's first we saw,

Till little Lee-Bob shriek' at Ma "There's Santy Claus!—I know him by His big white mufftash!"—an' ist cry An' laugh an' squeal an' dance an' yell— Till, when he quiet down a spell, Old Santy bow an' th'ow a kiss To him—an' one to me an' Sis— An' nen go clos't to Ma an' stoop An' kiss her—An' nen give a whoop That fainted her!—'Cause when he bent An' kiss her, he ist backed an' went Wite 'ginst the Chris'mus-Tree ist where

The candle's at Lee-Bob lit there!— An' set his white-fur belt afire— An' blaze streaked roun' his waist an' higher Wite up his old white beard an' th'oat!—

Nen Uncle grabs th' old overcoat An' flops it over Santy's head, An' swing the door wide back an' said, "Come out, old man!—an' quick about It!—I've ist got to put you out!" An' out he sprawled him in the snow— "Now roll!" he says—"Hi-roll-ee-O!"— An' Santy, sputter'n' "Ouch! Gee-whiz!" Ist roll an' roll fer all they is! An' Trip he's out there, too,—I know, 'Cause I could hear him yappin' so— An' I heerd Santy, wunst er twic't,

Say, as he's rollin', "Drat the fice't!" Nen Uncle come back in, an' shake Ma up, an' say, "Fer mercy-sake!— He hain't hurt none!" An' nen he said,—

"You youngsters h'ist up-stairs to bed!— Here! kiss yer Ma 'Good-night,' an' me,— We'll he'p old Santy fix the Tree— An' all yer whistles, horns an' drums I'll he'p you toot when morning comes!"

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It's long while 'fore we go to sleep,— 'Cause down-stairs, all-time somepin' keep A-kindo' scufflin' roun' the floors— An' openin' doors, an' shettin' doors— An' could hear Trip a-whinin', too, Like he don't know ist what to do—

An' tongs a-clankin' down k'thump!— Nen some one squonkin' the old pump— An' Wooh! how cold it soun' out there! I could ist see the pump-spout where

It's got ice chin-whiskers all wet An' drippy—An' I see it yet! An' nen, seem-like, I hear some mens A-talkin' out there by the fence, An' one says, "Oh, 'bout twelve o'clock!" "Nen," 'nother'n says, "Here's to you, Doc!— God bless us ever' one!" An' nen I heerd the old pump squonk again. An' nen I say my prayer all through Like Uncle Sidney learn' me to,— "O Father mine, e'en as Thine own, This child looks up to Thee alone:

Asleep or waking, give him still His Elder Brother's wish and will." An' that's the last I know.... Till Ma She's callin' us—an' so is Pa,—

He holler "Chris'mus-gif'!" an' say,— "I'm got back home fer Chris'mus-Day!— An' Uncle Sid's here, too—an' he Is nibblin' 'roun' yer Chris'mus-Tree!" Nen Uncle holler, "I suppose Yer Pa's so proud he's froze his nose He wants to turn it up at us, 'Cause Santy kick' up such a fuss— Tetchin' hisse'f off same as ef He wuz his own fireworks hisse'f!"

An' when we're down-stairs,—shore enough, Pa's nose is froze an' salve an' stuff

All on it—an' one hand's froze, too, An' got a old yarn red-and-blue Mitt on it—"An' he's froze some more Acrost his chist, an' kindo' sore

All roun' his dy-fram," Uncle say.— "But Pa he'd ort a-seen the way Santy bear up last night when that- Air fire break out, an' quicker'n scat He's all a-blazin', an' them-'air Gun-cotton whiskers that he wear Ist flashin'!—till I burn a hole In the snow with him, and he roll The front-yard dry as Chris'mus jokes Old parents plays on little folks! But, long's a smell o' tow er wool, I kep' him rollin' beautiful!—

Till I wuz shore I shorely see He's squenched! W'y, hadn't b'en fer me, That old man might a-burnt clear down Clean—plum'—level with the groun'!"

Nen Ma say, "There, Sid; that'll do!— Breakfast is ready—Chris'mus, too.— Your voice 'ud soun' best, sayin' Grace— Say it." An' Uncle bow' his face An' say so long a Blessing nen, Trip bark' two times 'fore it's "A-men!"


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