“There are three cousins, a half-uncle, a kind of brother-in-law – that is, the brother of my sister-in-law’s second husband – and a niece. That’s six. They’ve written to me for money, seeing my name in the paper ez hevin’ made a strike. But I’ve never met ‘em, and I want to give them a Christmas party, and I’d like you to run it for me,” explained Dick Spindler to the widow Huldy Price.
“Run it for you! Man alive! What are you thinking of?” responded the widow.
How this Christmas party comes together in the town of Rough and Ready, who ends up coming, and how they all behave, is all part of the fun in “Dick Spindler’s Family Christmas” by Bret Harte.
Meanwhile, another miner, Cherokee, wants to share his new-found fortune with old friends and all the children in Yellowhammer - a town whose youngest citizen uses a safety razor. How the townsfolk try to make Cherokee’s Christmas plans come true is at the core of O. Henry’s humorous and insightful story, “Christmas by Injunction.”
Francis Bret Harte (1839-1902) became editor of “The Overland Monthly” in California in 1868, where his stories "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” were first published. In 1871, he signed a contract with “The Atlantic Monthly” to write twelve stories in one year for $10,000, the most that had ever been offered an American writer up to that time.
O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910) was charged with embezzling while working at a bank in Texas. In prison, he adopted his pseudonym and wrote “A Retrieved Reformation” which was an immediate success. He was released in 1901 after having served only three years of his prison term, and moved to Manhattan where most of his stories are set. When he died at age 47, he had 23 cents in his pocket. To this day, he is honored by having the most renowned annual collection of American short stories named after him.
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