A Literary Delusion

As it’s the season, I thought I’d read a few excerpts from my favorite holiday novel – Clement J. Conrad’s “Heart of Christmas” …

“The sleigh toiled along slowly on the edge of a white and incomprehensible frenzy. The diminutive man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us – who could tell? ‘Will they attack?’ whispered an awed voice. ‘We will all be forced to settle down for a long Winter’s nap?,’ murmured another.

“All this time, the vista, the snow, the tiny shops, were very quiet – not a creature was stirring.  Arrows, by Nick!  Rubber-tipped! We were being shot at! The Grinch, his hands on the reigns, was putting his finger aside of his nose, stamping his feet, champing his mouth, like a rabid reindeer. Something big appeared in the air and the man stepped back and fell upon my feet. He looked at me anxiously, gripping the candy cane like something precious.  The tumult of high-pitched and angry yells was checked instantly, and then from the depths of the pole arose such a clatter as may be imagined to follow the flight of the last hope from the earth. The shower of arrows stopped.  Ma, in her kerchief, very hot and agitated, appeared in the doorway. ‘Good God!’ she said, glaring at the wounded man.

“We two helpers stood over him, and his lustrous and inquiring glance enveloped us both but he died without uttering a sound, as quiet as a mouse. ‘He is dead,’ murmured Ma, immensely impressed. ‘No doubt about it,’ said I, in my cap.  ‘And, by the way, I suppose Mr. Klaus is dead as well by this time.'”

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“You remember I told you I had been struck at a distance by certain attempts at seasonal decoration. Now I had suddenly a nearer view and its first result was to make me throw back my head as if beneath a mistletoe. These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic; food for thought and also for polar bears if there had been any in the vicinity. They would have been even more impressive, those heads on stakes, if their elfin faces had not been turned to the toy shop.

“I am not disclosing any holiday secrets. In fact, the manager himself said afterwards that Mr. Klaus’ methods had ruined the season. I have no opinion on that point; there was nothing profitable in those heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Klaus lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something lacking in him-some small matter which could not be found under his right jolly old elfness. It echoed loudly within him because he was hollow at the core – and he shook when he laughed.”

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“One evening coming in with a candle I was startled to hear him say a little tremulously, ‘I am lying here in the dark making a list and checking it twice.’ I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter and forced myself to murmur, ‘Oh nonsense!’ and stood over him as if transfixed.

“Anything approaching the change that came over his features I have never seen before, and hope never to see again. Oh, I wasn’t touched. I was fascinated. I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself. I saw on those rosy cheeks the expression of somber pride, of ruthless power. Did he live his life again in every detail of delivery, naughtiness and niceness? He cried in a whisper at some vision of sugar plums-he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath – and I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight, ‘The horror.  The horror.’

“I blew out the candle and left the cabin. Suddenly, the manager’s boy, who wanted to be a dentist so I’m told, put his insolent elfin face in the doorway and said in a tone of scathing contempt:

“‘Mistah Klaus – he dead.'”

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That concludes this week’s literary rendezvous.

Next week: a reading from Sir Arthur Conan Dickens’ classic holiday mystery ,”The Strange Case Of The Christmas Carol.”

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