Dedicated to the legacy of Edward Stratemeyer, author & founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate

Story—Davy’s Christmas (1891)

In addition to writing stories for books, story papers, and dime novel publishers, Edward Stratemeyer wrote a couple dozen short stories for newspapers, especially one of the papers local to his home, the Newark Sunday Call. As implied by the name, this was a weekly newspaper issued for Sunday reading.  Most of Edward’s stories for this paper were tied to an upcoming holiday and, of course, Christmas was a popular topic.  A dozen of these stories are published in our Holiday Stories for Boys, volume 1 book from our Lulu imprint, 24 Palmer Street Press.

Also present here are themes that one would associate with the books and stories by Horatio Alger, Jr., one of Stratemeyer’s favorite authors from his youth.  Many of Edward’s stories include Alger themes, often updating the circumstances to focus less on melodrama and domestic scenes and focus more on the latest areas of business that were likely to interest his readers, especially boys about the enter the workforce.

By the end of the Nineteenth Century, Edward had been asked personally by Horatio Alger, Jr.,  to fix up one of his stories for book publication.  Upon reviewing the partial manuscript, Edward put together a plan to split the story and issue it as two books.  Alger approved this because his health was unlikely to allow him to write again.  The project was set aside and Stratemeyer did not begin work on it until Alger had died and his sister was managing his literary properties.

Edward went on to write eleven books as Horatio Alger, Jr.  The collectors and researchers refer to these as the “Alger Completions” because the early ones feature the phrase “Completed by Arthur M. Winfield” under the Alger byline.  How much of the published text was by Alger and the rest filled in by Stratemeyer varies.  Details on this are covered in my three-part article for Newsboy, the Horatio Alger Society bimonthly magazine in the Sept.-Oct. 2015, Nov.-Dec. 2015, and Jan.-Feb. 2016 issues.

_____

Davy’s Christmas;

Or, How the Light Came at Last.

By Edward Stratemeyer.

Hew!  how it snowed and blew in Newark on that Christmas morning!  Davy, twelve years old, had never seen such a storm.  The snow kept coming down long after all the streets and alleyways were full, and there were no signs of it ceasing.  The piercing north wind drove the fine, hard particles into every crack and crevice and made the snow cling to the panes of the garret window in such a fashion that neither Davy nor Uncle Judd could see without.

“Not much of a Christmas for folks like us,” groaned Uncle Judd, as he sat down to drink the cup of hot coffee Davy had prepared for him and to munch on the roll that the lad had purchased at the bakery.  “Not much of a Christmas for us, I can tell you.”

“The store windows are full of fine things,” said Davy.  “I wish I was rich; I’d buy you a lot of them and buy some for myself, too.”

“There was a time I could have bought you all you would want,” replied Uncle Judd.  “But those days are gone,” he added bitterly.

“What made them go!” asked the lad eagerly.

“It is a long story, Davy, and most likely you wouldn’t quite understand it.”

“Never mind; tell it anyway.”

“Well, years ago, when your father was alive I was his head clerk under a good salary and had quite some money saved.  When your father died I took entire charge of the business and managed it until your mother married Ralph Lawson.  You do not remember that man, but I can tell you he was a very stern and hard person to deal with, and it was not long before we had a falling-out.  But this was patched up by your mother and all ran smoothly for a year.”

“But I don’t see—” began Davy, impatiently.

“Wait; I am not done yet.  At the end of that year your mother died, and when Ralph Lawson married again I brought you home with me.”

“I remember that, Uncle Judd.  But we lived in nicer rooms then, and I had warm clothes and showes that didn’t have any holes in them.”

“Yes, my boy, and I had the same.  But Ralph Lawson never forgave me for my actions, and in less than a month after, when there was a large amount of money missing from the safe, he called me into his private office and insinuated I knew something about the matter, and when I indignantly denied it he discharged me, saying that he wanted nothing more to do with a man that he couldn’t trust.  And so I left him, and I have never seen him since.”

“And was that when we took the long ride in the cars, all the way from Stoneburgh to Newark, you said?”

“Yes, that was the time.  Of course, I couldn’t get anything to do in Stoneburgh, because every one wanted to know why I had left my old place.  But I found it just as difficult in Newark, and so here I am, after three years of ups and downs, miserably poor, and so weak that I am not able to do much work of any kind.”

“Never mind, Uncle Judd, I can do the work,” put in Davy, bravely.  “Didn’t I earn forty-five cents shoveling snow up on High street yesterday?  And I guess I can earn just as much to-day, and maybe more—if I wish the people a merry Christmas.”

“You are a good boy, Davy; one of the best of ’em.  But the snow and Christmas won’t last forever.”

“Well, when the snow is gone I can sell papers.  Larry is going to show me how to get them.”

“Larry?  Who is he?”

“The boy that lives on the bottom floor.  He makes most of a dollar a day.  If I earn that much I’ll buy you lots of things, and get you a doctor too.”

And Davy’s features lit up at the prospect.

“I don’t want the doctor so much as I want good, healthy food, Davy.  And that is just what you ought to have, especially now, when you are growing nearly an inch a day.”

“I wish I was growed up.  Then I could get a regular job, and wouldn’t we live in grand style!  How long will it be before I am growed up, Uncle Judd?”

“About ten years, Davy.”

“I wish they would hurry along.  But I must be getting out.”  The boy sprang up from the table, put on his ragged overcoat and cap, and took up a shovel that stood in the corner.  “If I don’t Nick and Jim and Limpy Bob and the rest will have all the best places.  Good-by, Uncle Judd.  Never mind doing the dishes; I’ll do them when I come to dinner.”

And Davy left the garret room in which he and his uncle lived, and tramped down the stairs whistling softly but cheerily to himself.

Uncle Judd listened to the retreating footsteps, and his eyes glistened.

“Davy’s a good boy,” he murmured.  “A true-hearted little man, doing all he can without a word of protest.  He’ll make his mark in the world if he has half a chance.  How I wish I had the means to buy him some Christmas gifts!  A new suit of clothes and a pair of shoes wouldn’t go bad.  But every cent must be saved for eating and the rent, or we will be without a home and starving.”

And with a groan the sick man tottered from the table to where a meagre fire was burning in the tiny cook stove, and sank down in an old rocking-chair.

Meanwhile Davy hurried from the alleyway to the streets beyond.  It was not yet 8 o’clock, but a goodly number of people were out, some going to business, some to attend early church and others buying the last Christmas gifts for the year.

Davy’s first job for the day was to clear off the snow before a nice confectionary establishment on Broad street.  The space to be shoveled was quite a large one, and the proprietor of the store was at first afraid it would be too much for such a little fellow.

“Never mind, I can do it, and quickly,” said Davy.  “I did a much larger one than this yesterday, and it didn’t take me any time at all.”

So the man told him to go ahead, and promised him thirty cents when he had finished.

While Davy was working away as fast as he could a gentleman and a little girl came out of the store.  Both of them had a number of packages in their arms, and as they stepped on the slippery pavement the little girl lost her footing, and in trying to regain it threw two of her packages up in the air close to the show-window.  Davy saw the occurrence, and throwing down his shovel he caught the packages before they could strike the glass.

“Thank you, my boy,” said the gentleman, as Davy handed him the packages.  “You did that very deftly.”

“I’m awfully glad you caught them,” put in the little girl.  “One of them has got a dolly for Cousin Jessie in it, and the other a savings bank for Cousin Rob, and I know they would be dreadfully disappointed if they got broke.”

“Not to say anything of the window the steel bank might have shattered, Nettie,” laughed the gentleman.  “Here, my boy, is something for you,” he added to Davy, and held out a dime.

Ordinarily Davy would not have taken the money.  He did not like charity, as he thought it.  But then there was Uncle Judd sick at home and every cent was needed.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, and touching his cap he took the money and stowed it away in his pocket.

The gentleman and the girl turned to go, but suddenly the little miss stepped back.

“Merry Christmas to you!” she exclaimed, and placed a small white bag in his hand.  “There is all I have left of my own candy.”

And then in a moment both were lost in the crowd.  Davy looked into the bag, and his eyes opened widely when he beheld the sweets.

“Gracious, here’s Christmas and no mistake,” he thought and stuffed a piece of the candy into his mouth.  “Wouldn’t I just like to be Nettie’s cousin, though!”

And smacking his lips he went to work harder than ever.

His first job finished and paid for, Davy struck another directly next door, and when this was done two more not very far off.  When the last was finished it was after 11 o’clock and the lad decided to quit work until after dinner.

During the morning he had earned sixty cents, and this amount, added to what the gentleman had given him and what he had had before, made his total capital just one dollar.

A dollar!  How proud Davy felt of the sum!  It was the largest amount his pocket had ever held at one time.

“Won’t it please Uncle Judd!” he murmured to himself, as he hurried along.  “Now what shall I get for dinner to surprise him.”  He thought a moment.  “I’ll see Apple Mary; she’ll know.”

At the end of a couple blocks he came to a small fruit stand where a stout Irish woman sat under a big advertising umbrella.

“Merry Christmas, Apple Mary,” he said cheerily.

“The same to you, Davy,” was the hearty reply.  “And how is the shoveling this morning?”

“First-rate.  And how is the apple business?”

“Poor, dreadful poor; ev’ry cint goes for prisints, so it does.”

“Give me five cents’ worth of apples,” went on Davy.  “I will take them home to bake.  And, say, I want you to tell me what to get for a Christmas dinner for Uncle Judd and me.  I’ve got about twenty cents to spend on it, or maybe thirty, and I want to surprise him.”

“Well, well, just to hear the b’y!” laughed the woman.  “That I will.  Here comes Pat to moind the stand while I go to the market for me own victuals.  Come along and I’ll buy your’s, too.”

They were not long in getting to Centre Market, and later Davy was trudging home with quite a load of good things, all bought at bottom prices.  Uncle Judd looked quite amazed when the lad placed the different articles upon the table.

“Why, why, you must have struck rare luck,” he exclaimed.

Davy told of the morning’s experience.  Uncle Judd was greatly pleased.  “A regular business boy,” he thought.

At 12:30 Davy had the dinner ready and the two sat down.  It was not as elaborate a repast as many people have every day in the year, but it was far better than these two had had for a long time, and both ate heartily, topping off with two pieces of mince pie that Davy had purchased at a neighboring restaurant.

The meal finished Davy cleared away the dishes and prepared to go out again.

“Better give it up,” said Uncle Judd.  “For such a chap as you I think you have done enough work for one day.”

“I’m not very tired,” said Davy.  “Besides, I want to earn all the money I can.”

On the street he found it now quite difficult to get work to do.  Most of the places up town were cleared off, and the first work he struck was on a side street below Military park.  From here he continued down Broad street to where that thoroughfare crosses Market.  It was now 5 o’clock and growing dark.  He had earned forty-five cents more, and he determined to return home.

Hose-Drawn Fire Wagon

Although the newspaper version of this story did not include any illustrations, this one fits.

He had hardly decided on this point when there was a commotion on the street.  Clang! clang! clang!  It was the song of a fire engine, and vehicles of all kinds scattered to the right and the left as the machine, drawn by a pair of powerful horses, dashed by, closely followed by a hook and ladder truck.

“Look out there!”  “Get out of the way!” shouted half a dozen voices at once, and looking through the crowd Davy saw a little girl in the middle of the street, hemmed in by a prancing horses, and too bewildered to make a movement to save herself.

The sight was one of horror and surprise to the lad.  The little girl was none other than the one who had given him the candy in the morning.

“Nettie!” he burst out, for the name had been in his mind all the day; and in another instant he had rushed out toward her.

It was a perilous thing to do.  Another engine was coming along, and the noise and smoke made the horses prance and back worse than before.  One had reared up, and was just about to come down upon the little girl’s head when Davy snatched her away.

“Come with me,” he said, taking her by the hand.  “We must get right out of here.”

But she was too bewildered and frightened to obey.  She clung to his hand and gazed into his face piteously.  Seeing this he caught her up in his arms, and, not without great difficulty, made his way in and out among the carriages to the opposite sidewalk.

“There, now you are safe,” he said as he set her down.

“Am I?  Oh, I’m so glad!” she sobbed.  “Where is Cousin Rob and Cousin Jessie and Aunt Alice?”

“I don’t know,” replied Davy.  “Were you out with them?”

“Yes.  We just came from the play; such a funny thing it was with lots of music!  Did you go?”

“No, I didn’t go.  I wonder where your cousins are?”

“I must find them.  Papa said I mustn’t get lost.”  She looked at Davy earnestly for a moment.  “Why, goodness, I believe you’re the boy we saw this morning shoveling snow!”

“Yes, I’m the boy.”

“Where is your shovel?”

“I left it on the other side.  Just wait a minute and I’ll get it.”

In a trice Davy was over the street.  He searched up and down, but the shovel was gone.  It was quite a loss, and disturbed him considerably.

“Never mind,” said Nettie when he returned.  “Papa will buy you a new one, and I’ll tell him to get you the best there is, ’cause you saved me from getting hurt by the horses.”

“Thank you.”  The lad scratched his head.  What should he do with his unexpected charge?

“Where does your aunt live?” he asked.

Nettie shook her head.

“I don’t know the name of the street.  Papa and I are only here on a visit.  We come from Stoneburgh.”

“Is that so?” Davy was surprised.  “That’s where I came from when I was a little boy,” he added.

“What is your name?”

“Davy Bartlett.  What’s yours?”

“Nettie Lawson.  My papa is a flour merchant.”

“He is!” burst out the lad.  “Then he is my step-father!”

The little girl looked puzzled.  “I don’t unserstand you,” she said.  “Is that like a cousin?”

“We are like cousins, mostly,” replied Davy.

“I’m glad of that, for I like you.  Why don’t you come and see us some time like Cousin Rob does?”

“Because—because—” Davy broke off, not knowing what to say.  “I wish I could find your aunt.  What is her name?  What does your uncle do?”

“What a lot of questions you ask!  Her name is Aunt Alice Lawson, and Uncle Martin is a tea merchant.”

“Then come; I’ll soon find out where he lives.”

Hand in hand they marched into a nearby store.

“Will you please tell us where Mr. Martin Lawson, a tea merchant, lives?” asked Davy of a man behind the counter.

In a few minutes the man had hunted up the address in the Directory and given it to him.

“It isn’t very far,” said Davy, as they left the store.  “I’ll have you there in no time.”

He was true to his word, for ten minutes later they ascended the steps of the right place, a fine mansion in South Broad street.

There was no need to ring the bell, for hardly had they reached the vestibule than the door opened and Nettie was clasped in her father’s arms.

“My child!  my little girl!” he cried.  “Where have you been?  The others said you were lost, and I have just come in from hunting for you and notifying others to be on the lookout.”

“I wanted to look in the pretty windows on the other side of the street and I tried to run across,” explained Nettie, “but there were so many horses and carriages I didn’t know what to do when I was in the middle, and a big horse was just going to step on me when Davy pulled me away and carried me over.”

“This boy?  You are quite a hero.”

“Indeed he is,” went on Nettie.  “He’s the same boy that we met in front of the candy store this morning—don’t you remember?  And he says his name is Davy Bartlett, and that you are his stepfather, or something like that.  Are you, papa?”

“Davy Bartlett!”  Mr. Lawson grew a trifle pale.  “Is that your right name, my boy?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” responded Davy.

“And where do you live?”

“Uptown, sir, above the Morris & Essex depot.”

“Alone?”

“No, sir; I live with Uncle Judd.”

Mr. Lawson turned away his face.  “It must be the same,” he muttered to himself.  “How fortunate, and after three years of searching!”

“Davy is a splendid boy,” went on Nettie.  “You must ask him in and buy him a new snow shovel, for he lost the one he had when he saved me.”

“He shall have a dozen shovels if he wants them,” laughed her father.  “But you are sure you are not hurt, Nettie?”

“Quite sure, papa.”

“And this boy, Davy, saved you?”

“Yes, papa; wasn’t it good of him?”

“It was indeed, my child.”  Then turned to the lad, Mr. Lawson continued:

“Just step inside for awhile; I wish to have a talk with you.”

Davy did so.  The interview lasted fully a quarter of an hour.  At its conclusion Mr. Lawson made Davy enter a cab with him, and they were driven uptown, and to the dilapidated tenement that was Davy’s home.

Uncle Judd was dozing before the fire when they entered.  Davy lit the lamp, and as the light filled the wretched garret both men started back.

“Ralph Lawson!” cried Uncle Judd.

“Yes, Judd Bartlett, it is I,” was the reply.  “I never expected to meet you in such a place as this.”

“How did you find me, and what do you want?”

“I found you through this boy, your nephew, who saved my child from what might have proved her death, and I am here,” the speaker’s voice faltered.  “I am here to ask your forgiveness!”

“My forgiveness?” stammered Uncle Judd.

“Yes.  Within three months after you left Stoneburgh I discovered that I had grossly wronged you; that you were not guilty as I had firmly believed.  I tried to find you but could not discover a trace of your whereabouts.  I am glad that I have done so at last.  Will you forgive me?”

Mr. Lawson held out his hand.  Uncle Judd took it.  There were tears in his eyes.

“I do forgive you,” he said brokenly, “and thank God that light has come at last.”

I cannot tell of all the things that followed.  How Mr. Lawson sent out for a doctor and gave Uncle Judd quite a substantial sum of money and how, during the following Spring Davy removed to Stoneburgh to live with Nettie, and how in the Summer when Uncle Judd was strong once more Mr. Lawson gave him back his old position at an increased salary.  Yet it is all true, and Davy says that he will never forget it.

_____

Newark Sunday Call, 20 Dec 1891.

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