“A Luckless Santa Claus” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Miss Harmon was responsible for the whole thing. If it had not been for her foolish whim, Talbot would not have made a fool of himself, and–but I am getting ahead of my story.
It was Christmas Eve. Salvation Army Santa Clauses with highly colored noses proclaimed it as they beat upon rickety paper chimneys with tin spoons. Package laden old bachelors forgot to worry about how many slippers and dressing gowns they would have to thank people for next day, and joined in the general air of excitement that pervaded busy Manhattan.
In the parlor of a house situated on a dimly lighted residence street somewhere east of Broadway, sat the lady who, as I have said before, started the whole business. She was holding a conversation half frivolous, half sentimental, with a faultlessly dressed young man who sat with her on the sofa. All of this was quite right and proper, however, for they were engaged to be married in June.
“Harry Talbot,” said Dorothy Harmon, as she rose and stood laughing at the merry young gentleman beside her, “if you aren’t the most ridiculous boy I ever met, I’ll eat that terrible box of candy you brought me last week!”
“Dorothy,” reproved the young man, “you should receive gifts in the spirit in which they are given. That box of candy cost me much of my hard earned money.”
“Your hard earned money, indeed!” scoffed Dorothy. “You know very well that you never earned a cent in your life. Golf and dancing–that is the sum total of your occupations. Why, you can’t even spend money, much less earn it!”
“My dear Dorothy, I succeeded in running up some very choice bills last month, as you will find if you consult my father.”
“That’s not spending your money. That’s wasting it. Why, I don’t think you could give away twenty-five dollars in the right way to save your life.”
“But why on earth,” remonstrated Harry, “should I want to give away twenty-five dollars?”
“Because,” explained Dorothy, “that would be real charity. It’s nothing to charge a desk to your father and have it sent to me, but to give money to people you don’t know is something.”
“Why, any old fellow can give away money,” protested Harry.
“Then,” exclaimed Dorothy, “we’ll see if you can. I don’t believe that you could give twenty-five dollars in the course of an evening if you tried.”
“Indeed, I could.”
“Then try it!” And Dorothy, dashing into the hall, took down his coat and hat and placed them in his reluctant hands. “It is now half-past eight. You be here by ten o’clock.”
“But, but,” gasped Harry.
Dorothy was edging him towards the door.
“How much money have you?” she demanded.
Harry gloomily put his hand in his pocket and counted out a handful of bills.
“Exactly twenty-five dollars and five cents.”
“Very well! Now listen! These are the conditions. You go out and give this money to anybody you care to whom you have never seen before. Don’t give more than two dollars to any one person. And be back here by ten o’clock with no more than five cents in your pocket.”
“But,” declared Harry, still backing towards the door, “I want my twenty-five dollars.”
“Harry,” said Dorothy sweetly, “I am surprised!” and with that, she slammed the door in his face.
“I insist,” muttered Harry, “that this is a most unusual pro- ceeding.”
He walked down the steps and hesitated.
“Now,” he thought, “Where shall I go?”
He considered a moment and finally started off towards Broad- way. He had gone about half a block when he saw a gentleman in a top hat approaching. Harry hesitated. Then he made up his mind, and, stepping towards the man, emitted what he intended for a pleasant laugh but what sounded more like a gurgle, and loudly vociferated, “Merry Christmas, friend!” Continue reading