are you?" thundered Uncle. The little creature winced. Uncle was
so enormous that he had to put his head right back to look up at him."Adolphus
Hitmouse," the creature muttered. "Brother of Hitmouse over
at Badfort. I'm staying with him for Christmas.""Indeed! And
what are you doing in my Christmas tree?""Finding out where
the best presents are for my brother. I was going to stay up in the tree
till he got here and then point them out so he could get a good haul!"Uncle
frowned down heavily. "I am sorry to see you set on evil ways so
young. Don't you know that we try to have one day of the year free from
fighting?""I wasn't fighting!" said Adolphus. "I was
just sitting quietly on a branch no trouble to anybody.""With
a beltful of skewers!" said Uncle."Well, that horrible monkey
and cat took those!" said Adolphus. "And they took a lot of
collecting!""I have a good mind to shut you up in my castle
so that you can't come to the party!" said Uncle sternly."But
you won't, will you?" said Adolphus. "You've just said you've
got to be nice to everybody today, so that means being nice to me too.""be
off with you," said Uncle, "and join your friends, and see you
aren't brought before me again."The little creature made a face at
Uncle and then ran as hard as he could for the drawbridge."He is
as detestable as his brother," said Uncle. "well, after that
regrettable little interruption let us press on. It's getting dark and
we must have the cauldron of Hot Joey ready. It will be a cold walk from
Badgertown."When darkness fell the scene was delightful. There was
no more snow. The moon was like a bright silver plate and the sky was
full of glittering stars. The fire made the snow for yards around rose
coloured, and the lights on the big tree made a great pyramid of colour
against the wall of Homeward.Soon many dark figures, some on skis, some
with toboggans, were to be seen moving down the white slopes from Badgertown.
Many of the guests were carrying lanterns, and these made moving points
the Badfort Crowd, for once, added a picturesque touch, for they had made
torches out of old rags wrapped around bits of wood and dipped them in
scob-oil before lighting them. They smelt rather awful, but made lovely
blazing lights across the snow.
for once Hateman had something quite nice to say. Uncle was standing by
the Moat Bridge with his great steaming cauldron of Hot Joey and he heard
Hateman say to Sigismund as he shuffled up in the queue:
old gaffer has got a good flare-up, anyhow. It's as warm as summer! I
wonder where he got all that coal and wood from!"
Hateman received his mug of Hot Joey he growled: "Ought to have been
Black Tom, but Joey is a fair-to-middling drink and I can lace it!"
was wearing a huge dirty coat made out of an old sheepskin hearthrug,
and he produced from an inner pocket a flask, the contents of which he
poured into the mug.
everybody had arrived Uncle made a short speech.
he said, standing on the steps before the great door of Homeward, 'I welcome
you all to the Big Tree and the Big Fire and wish you all a very Happy
Christmas. There are one or two new things this year. I want you all to
climb and get your presents from the branches of the Big Tree, and for
those of you who can't climb there is a Little Tree. I do ask you to remember
what day it is and only take one parcel each. They're all good ones, and
I am giving everyone who is at this party a sack of good coal."
cheers were almost deafening.
news, Sigismund," muttered Beaver Hateman in the crowd. "We
won't have to burn any more doors for a bit, and when we fetch our little
lot we'll see we get plenty!"
suggest," said Uncle, "that before we start climbing the tree,
or have supper, we have a singing march round the fire. Anybody willing
to give us a song will stand aside on the steps here, so that all can
see and hear."
and I will sing first!" shouted Hateman.
wasn't quite the beginning for the singing march Uncle wanted, but for
once Hateman was behaving well, and Sigismund has a good voice, so Uncle
beckoned them forward.
on, Sig, strum on the bucket guitar, will you!" shouted Hateman.
the song had quit a lively tune and the hundreds of guests began the
singing march round the fire. Lots of them didn't hear the words - which
was just as well, Uncle thought.
out your pockets and raise a little dough
Your good friend Hateman at The Tom Shop;
makes you feel so happy he puts you in a glow
you stand him a treat at The Tom Shop
will tell you of the battles he has fought for all of you
you pour down flagons at The Tom Shop
listen to the idiots who say this isn't true
join Beaver Hateman at The Tom Shop.
him all your troubles. Get them off your chest
sympathetic Hateman at The Tom Shop;
pay the bill and let him do the rest
you drink to the Revolution at The Tom Shop."
felt sure that each verse would be more obnoxious than the last, so
after the third verse he held up his trunk.
songs tonight!" he shouted.
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