AmblesideOnline: The Making of a Christmas Story

(as carried out in the best end of Fleet Street)

The first half of chapter 4, "Two Short Stories," excerpted from The Holiday Round, a book of short stories (which are mostly not about Christmas) by A. A. Milne, 1912. This tale of an author trying to write a short story with interruptions from his editor has a kind of deadpan humor that's reminiscent of his Winnie the Pooh stories.

[Editor. Come, I like this. This is going to be good. A cold day, was it not?
Author. Very.]

[Editor. We really are getting to the story now, are we not?
Author. That was all local colour. I want to make it quite clear that it was Christmas.
Editor. Yes, yes, quite so. This is certainly a Christmas story. I think I shall like Robert, do you know?]

[Editor. It all seems to have happened rather rapidly, does it not? Twenty-four hours ago he had been --
Author. You forget that this is a SHORT story.]

[Editor. Yes, yes. Of course, I quite admit that a man might go to the bad in twenty-four hours, but would his beard grow as --
Author. Look here, you've heard of a man going grey with trouble in a single night, haven't you?
Editor. Certainly.
Author. Well, it's the same idea as that.
Editor. Ah, quite so, quite so.
Author. Where was I?
Editor. A scar over one eye was just testifying -- I suppose he had two eyes in the ordinary way?]

[Editor. Yes?
Author. To tell the truth I am rather stuck for the moment.
Editor. What is the trouble?
Author. I don't quite know what to do with Robert for ten hours or so.
Editor. Couldn't he go somewhere by a local line?
Author. This is not a humorous story. The point is that I want him to be outside a certain house some twenty miles from town at eight o'clock that evening.
Editor. If I were Robert I should certainly start at once.
Author. No, I have it.]

[Author. I put dots to denote the flight of years.
Editor. Besides, it will give the reader time for a sandwich.]

[Editor. One moment. This is a Christmas story. When are you coming to the robin?
Author. I really can't be bothered about robins just now. I assure you all the best Christmas stories begin like this nowadays. We may get to a robin later; I cannot say.
Editor. We must. My readers expect a robin, and they shall have it. And a wassail-bowl, and a turkey, and a Christmas-tree, and a --
Author. Yes, yes; but wait. We shall come to little Elsie soon, and then perhaps it will be all right.
Editor. Little Elsie. Good!]

[Editor. You forget. The river was frozen.
Author. Dash it, I was just going to say that.]

[Editor Quite so. The whole forming a magnificent estate for a retired gentleman. Never mind that.]

[Editor. Now for the robin.
Author. I am very sorry. I have just remembered something rather sad. The fact is that, two days before, Elsie had forgotten to feed the robin, and in consequence it had died before this story opens.
Editor. That is really very awkward. I have already arranged with an artist to do some pictures, and *I* remember *I* particularly ordered a robin and a wassail. What about the wassail?
Author. Elsie always had her porridge upstairs.]

[Editor. This is better. I ordered a turkey, I remember. What about the mistletoe and holly? I rather think I asked for some of them.
Author. We must let the readers take something for granted
Editor. I am not so sure. Couldn't you say something like this: "Holly and mistletoe hung in festoons upon the wall?"]

[Editor. Thank you.]

[Editor. How did he know? And why "Huskily"?
Author. He didn't know, he guessed. And his mouth was full.]

[Editor. This is splendid. This quite reconciles me to the absence of Robin, But what was Elsie doing downstairs?
Author. I am making Robert ask her that question directly.
Editor. Yes, but just tell me now -- between friends.
Author. She had left her golliwog in the room, and couldn't sleep without her.
Editor. I knew that was it.]

[Editor. Ha!
Author. I thought you'd like that.]

[Editor. Ha again!]

[Editor. How exactly do you work the lisping?
Author. What do you mean? Don't children of Elsie's tender years lisp sometimes?
Editor. Yes, but just now she said "Kwistmas" quite correctly --
Author. I am glad you noticed that. That was an effect which was intended to produce. Lisping is brought about by placing the tongue upon the hard surface of the palate and in cases where the subject in unduly excited or influenced by emotion the lisp becomes more pronounced. In this case --
Editor. Yeth, I thee.]

[Editor. It *was* only yesterday.
Author. Yes, yes. Don't interrupt now, please.]

[Editor. I think Alice's question was the more reasonable one.]