The Christmas Dinner Play - First Scene
The Christmas Dinner Play - First Scene
Written by: Shepherd Knapp
Now the Curtain opens, and you see a farmhouse kitchen, just as Mother Goose promised. At the back, opposite to you, is a fire-place, with a mantel shelf over it. A bright fire is burning. On the mantel is a lamp, lighted, and an unlighted candle; also some other things that you'll hear about later. There is a cupboard against the back wall. At one side of the room is the door leading out of doors; beside it is a large wood box, where the fire-wood is kept; and nearby are a broom, leaning against the wall, and a dustpan. On the other side of the room is another door, which leads to the rest of the house; beside that is a big clothes basket, where the soiled clothes are kept. Close to the fire, one on each side, the Grandfather and the Grandmother are sitting in comfortable chairs. Near the front and a little at one side are a table and a chair. On the table is a dishpan and a number of dishes, which the Mother is washing when the curtain opens.
The first one to speak is the GRANDMOTHER, and this is what she says: Haven't you nearly finished, Mary?
Yes, almost, answers MOTHER: only a few more things to be washed, and then I can sit down and rest.
GRANDMOTHER asks, Is everything ready for the Christmas dinner tomorrow?
Every single thing, MOTHER answers. The goose is ready to go on the fire; the apple sauce is made; the bread and the pies are baked; and the plum pudding—well, you saw the pudding yourself, so that I don't need to tell you about that. It's a beauty, if I do say so.
At this moment the outside door opens, and the two children, Walter and Gertrude, run in. Their coats and mittens show that they have been playing in the snow.
Oh, Mother, says WALTER, it's getting dark outside. May we come in now? Is your work all done?
Not quite yet, dears, his MOTHER answers. Run out, both of you, for ten minutes more, and then I'll have everything cleared away. It makes me nervous to have you about while things are in a mess.
All right, mother, says GERTRUDE. Come on, Walter, I'll race you to the gate. And both the children go out-of-doors again, running. Gertrude was nearer the door, and gets out first.
Such energy as those children have! exclaims MOTHER, with a sigh, as she goes on with her work. Sometimes it makes me tired to watch them. There, every last thing is washed, and now, when I've dried them, I can sit down. She goes on talking while she dries. There's one thing I haven't had time to do—those paper caps. I suppose the children will be disappointed, but I simply couldn't find time to make them. The colored paper and paste and scissors are all on the mantel shelf and I suppose I ought to sit right down now and go to work on them, but I declare, I'm too tired. Getting ready for Christmas seems to take all the strength I have. I think I must be getting old.
You getting old! exclaims GRANDMOTHER. Nonsense! Wait till you get to be our age; then you might talk of getting old and feeling tired. Isn't that so, John? John is Grandfather's first name.
Yes, GRANDFATHER answers, when you get to be as old as we are, then you'll know what it is to be tired, Christmas or another day. I tried to help James shut the gate this morning, where the snow had drifted against it, and it tired me so, I haven't stirred out of this chair since.
Now the outside door opens a second time, and the children come in again, Gertrude first.
Isn't it time now, mother? asks GERTRUDE.
Yes, answers MOTHER, I've just finished. Take off your coats, and try to quiet down. She puts the clean dishes away in the cupboard and carries the dish pan away into the next room.
The children take of their coats and caps. Walter goes over by his Grandfather and leans against his chair. Gertrude sits down on a low stool beside her Grandmother.
What have you children been doing all the afternoon? asks GRANDFATHER.
Oh, we've had the greatest fun, cries GERTRUDE. First we went skating down on the mill pond.
And then we built a snow fort, WALTER chimes in, and the Indians attacked it, and we drove them off with snow-balls.
And then we played tag out by the barn, adds GERTRUDE.
No, WALTER corrects her, that was afterwards; don't you remember, Gertrude? Before that, we raced down to the crossroads to see if the postman had brought any mail.
Oh, yes, GERTRUDE agrees, and you tripped and fell down in the snow drift, and oh, grandfather, you ought to have seen him when he got up; he was a sight. But it all brushed off.
And don't you feel tired after doing all that? GRANDMOTHER asks.
No, says GERTRUDE, I'm not a bit tired; are you, Walter?
Not a bit, says WALTER.
Well, that's the beauty of being young, GRANDMOTHER says, in a tired sort of voice. I suppose that when I was your age, I was just the same as you children are now.
How long is it since you were our age? WALTER asks.
So many years, says GRANDMOTHER, that I haven't time to count them up. But I can remember it all clearly enough, even if it was so long ago. Everything about it was very different then from the way it is now.
How was it different, grandmother? asks GERTRUDE.
Why, in all sorts of ways, GRANDMOTHER answers. For one thing, the days seemed ever so much shorter when I was a little girl.
And the nights, adds GRANDFATHER. Nowadays the nights are sometimes quite long, but when I was a boy they were so short, that it almost seemed as though there weren't any nights at all.
And food used to taste quite different then, says GRANDMOTHER. I used to care a lot more for breakfast and dinner and supper then than I do now.
Grandfather, asks WALTER, do you wish that you could have stayed on being a little boy, always?
Well, I don't know, Walter, GRANDFATHER replies thoughtfully; there are two sides to that. I'll tell you what I would like, though. I'd like to be a little boy now and then, just for a short time, to see once more how it would feel to run and shout and play and eat and laugh, the way I used to. But then I think I'd pretty soon want to be myself again, old as I am, because there are some grand things about old age that I think I'd miss if I had to be a little boy for good and all. A good many wonderful things happen to you when you grow old, and even if my old body does get pretty tired sometimes, and you children think perhaps that grandfather looks very stupid, sitting so quiet by the fire-side here, I'm often thinking, inside, of splendid things that little boys and girls don't know anything about.
But, grandfather, says GERTRUDE, tell us some more things that were different when you were a boy.
Well, let me see, GRANDFATHER says, and stops for a moment to think. Then he goes on. There were the brownies. I haven't said anything about them, have I?
The brownies? exclaims WALTER, his eyes big with interest. What about the brownies?
Only that when I was a little boy, answers GRANDFATHER, I used to see the brownies sometimes. But now I never see them. It's many a long year since I caught sight of a single one.
Where did you used to see them? asks WALTER, still excited.
Right here in this room, answers GRANDFATHER. There used to be two of them, when I was a boy; and often I would see them, though none of the grown-up people could see them at all. During the daytime they used often to hide in the wood-box over there: and then at night, they used to come out and play. And sometimes they worked, too, for I can remember my father saying sometimes in the morning, "The floor looks so clean that I think the brownies must have swept it last night."
But, Grandfather, says WALTER, for there is one thing about this that puzzles him, I'm a little boy, and I've never seen the brownies.
No, not yet, GRANDFATHER admits, but I think you're likely to any time now. You see, they don't show themselves to very little boys, for fear of frightening them.
GERTRUDE, who has been listening carefully to all of this, has a question to ask. Grandmother, she says, did you see the brownies, too, when you were a little girl?
No, indeed, answers GRANDMOTHER. The brownies never wanted any girls to see them. But I used to see the house-fairies often, and they always hid away from the boys, so that only we girls ever saw them.
How many house-fairies were there, Grandmother, asks GERTRUDE eagerly, and where did you see them, and what did they do?
My, what a lot of questions! GRANDMOTHER says, smiling at Gertrude's excitement. There were two of them at our house, and they lived in the kitchen just as the brownies did here. They used to hide in a big clothes basket very much like that one over there. At night, like the brownies, they used to do some of the house-work to help mother; and how pleased she used to be, when she found in the morning that some of the work had been done for her while she was asleep.
Do you suppose, says WALTER, that if I woke up some night, and came and looked in here, I'd see the brownies working or playing?
Very likely, answers GRANDFATHER.
Oh, I'd like to try it, cries WALTER. Can I do it tonight?
But GRANDMOTHER says: No, indeed, Walter. What is your Grandfather thinking of to put such a notion into your head. And as for tonight—well, of all nights in the year!—the very night when we expect Santa Claus to come and fill the stockings. And you know how displeased he would be to find the children awake and watching him. Why, he very likely would go away without leaving a single present.
To be sure, says GRANDFATHER. No, it wouldn't do at all. And, besides, think how tired you'd be for tomorrow. And then you'd be sorry with all the goings-on. By dinner time, you'd probably be falling asleep, and we'd have to eat all the goose and the pudding without you.
We wouldn't want to miss that, says GERTRUDE, shaking her head decisively. I saw the pudding out in the store closet, and I tell you, it smelt good.
I bet you tasted it, exclaims WALTER.
Indeed I did not, answers GERTRUDE in a hurt tone; not even the eentiest teentiest bit of it.
What time will the dinner begin, grandfather? asks WALTER.
About twelve o'clock noon, I expect, GRANDFATHER answers.
And I suppose, says WALTER in a sorrowful voice, that the pudding will be the last thing of all.
Yes, I suppose so, GRANDFATHER admits.
It will be an awfully long time to wait, says WALTER. And then when mother begins to help it, Gertrude and I will have to wait and wait while all the rest of you are helped. It's pretty tiresome waiting sometimes.
But have you forgotten, Walter? GRANDMOTHER says, reminding him, You won't have to wait as long as that tomorrow. For tomorrow is Christmas, and don't you remember, that one of the ways in which Christmas is different from all the other days in the year, is the way in which the food is helped out at the Christmas dinner? On other days the oldest people are helped first, and the youngest ones have to wait: but at Christmas dinner, the first one to be helped to each thing is the very youngest one of all, and then comes the next youngest, and so on all the way round, and the oldest one has to wait till the very last.
Oh, I remember, exclaims GERTRUDE. That was the way we did last year. Don't you remember, Walter? Walter nods. And last year, GERTRUDE goes on, I was the youngest and I was helped first to every single thing. Grandmother, who is the youngest this year?
Why, you are the youngest, answers GRANDMOTHER, just as you were last Christmas.
But I'm a whole year older than I was then, says GERTRUDE, looking puzzled.
And so is everybody else, GRANDMOTHER explains.
Really? says GERTRUDE, not quite convinced. So I'm the youngest still? Will I be helped first to the goose and the apple sauce?
Yes, answers GRANDMOTHER.
And will she be helped first to the pudding, too? asks WALTER anxiously.
Yes, answers GRANDMOTHER.
Oh, I'm so glad, cries GERTRUDE. Isn't it nice to be the youngest?
Am I the next youngest? asks WALTER.
Yes, GRANDMOTHER answers, and the second helping of everything will go to you.
Oh, well, that's all right, says WALTER, a good deal relieved. There's sure to be plenty left. Gertrude couldn't eat it all.
Now there is the sound of someone outside the door, stamping to shake the snow from his boots.
There's Father, cries GERTRUDE. She and Walter go to the door and open it. Their father comes in, carrying several good-sized pieces fire-wood.
How late you are, James, says GRANDFATHER, and how tired you look.
I am tired, answers FATHER. He lifts the lid of the wood-box, and throws in the wood with a great clatter. Then, while he takes off his cap and gloves and muffler, he says: The snow is so deep that it's hard to walk in it, especially carrying a load as heavy as that wood was. He sits down.
Children, says GRANDMOTHER, go, tell your mother that father is here. She'll want to give us supper at once and hurry you both off to bed.
But when are we to hang up our stockings? asks WALTER.
We'll do that right after supper, answers FATHER. Run along now, and tell mother that I'm here. The children go, and FATHER continues speaking. Is everything all ready for tomorrow? he asks.
Yes, answers GRANDMOTHER, Mary finished everything quite a while ago. Or almost everything. She didn't get the paper caps made for the children, but she was just too tired to do it after all the other work.
I don't wonder, says FATHER. When there is so much to be done, some things simply have to be left. Perhaps there will be time tomorrow morning. I'm leaving some things for tomorrow myself. For instance, I promised Mary I'd sweep out the kitchen here, after I'd brought in the wood; and it needs it, sure enough, for I see I've tracked in a lot of dirt. But I'm going to beg off for tonight. I'll do it first thing in the morning. I only hope that Santa Claus won't notice it, and think we're an untidy household. But we leave such a dim light in the kitchen at night, that I don't believe he'll be able to tell whether the room is broom-clean or not. And any way, I guess he must get tired himself sometimes. So he'll know how it is, and won't lay it up against us.
And that is the end of the First Scene.