lesson21 First Principles
1.No family had ever ahd a nicer Christmas，Emily Wade thought happily as she drove the children to school for the first time after the holidays，and，of course，it had been largely Laura's doing.She glanced at Laura，a slim,dark-haired girl of fourteen,sitting beside her,and felt warm with that most comfortable of parental emotions,gratitude to one's own child.The air was soft with the vapors of melting snow，and almost fragrant，as if some delicate flowers were blooming near at hand.“It's like spring，isn't it？”she said to Laura.“And tomorrow we'll probably having a raging sleet storm.”
2.“King Claudius weather，”said Laura，looking prettily shy as she made the literary allusion.“It can smile and smile and still be a villian.”
3.“Exactly，”Emily agreed.She wasn't sure for a moment who King Claudius was ，and then she saw a copy of “Hamlet”among Laura's books.She thought her heart would burst with pride （imagine a chld saying that ！），and thought how wise she and Henry had been when they'd decided to make every possible sacrifice for the sake of Laura's education.
4.Laura，who was in first-year high，had gone to the same public school that her brothers now attended，but this year she was a pupil at Green Valley Academy，a small country day school on the outskirts of the city.It was a very good scholl and a very expensive one，and most of the Wades' friends thought they were being rather fancy in sending Laura there.They knew Luran was smart，of course，but some of the other Baltimore private schools for girls were excellent and had lower tuition，and even the public hight schools were all right.Lots of nice kids，whose fathers had twice as big an income as Henry Wade，went to them.Besides，you weren't doing a girl a favor when you encourage her to develop tastes she couldn't afford to gratify.You either spoiled her or made her bitter.These arguments were cogent，Emily Wade admitted，but they simply didn't apply in Laura's case.Noting was too good for that chld.Moreover，it was Emily's theory that children learned love as well as discipline by family example； if you did all you could for them，keeping their best interests in mind，they wouldn't let you down in a crises.And events had certainly proved her theory.
5.How true that had been，thought Emily，driving slowly because she had a quarter hour to spare and she might as well give Laura time to study.Her mind went back to that black moment,a month before,when she'd met Henry for lunch in a restaurant and he'd told her that he was out of a job.The branch sales office he'd been managing had been absorbed by a larger firm，and its whold staff was out in the cold without so much as a month's salary to tide them over.He was pretty sure he could get another and a better position； there was a firm that had been making overtures to him，and only a sense of loyalty to his old firm had made him ignore them up the this point.But the man he'd have to see was out of town and wouldn't be back until the first of the year.Then，too，he'd just had a letter from his brother in Ohio； it seemed that the whole family out there was shot to hell.His brother，who was a school teacher，was broke，his stomach ulcers were troubling him，one of his children had to have a serious operation，and his wife was about to have twins.He needed five hundred dollars.
6.“I should think he would！”Emily had said.“We'll have to send it to him.”
7.“I guess if we let him have it，we can still eat，”Henry had said，brooding gloomily.“But it knocks Christmas in to a cocked hat.I hate to borrow on my insurance.”
8.“Oh，no！”Emily had exclaimed.“We'll manage.We can cut our list to the bone and concentrate on the kids. You know they are——all they want is the illusion of abundance and cheerful confusion.”
9.“That goes for the young ones，”Henry had said，“but what does Laura want？”
10.“The only thing she's mentioned is a ballerina dress.It's priced at $125.She's been invited to some parties by her friends at school.”
11.“Well……Couldn't you charge that？”Henry had askedd.
12.“No，”she'd said.“I'm charged to the hilt already，and I don't want to risk being refused.As a matter of fact, I'd planned to pay my bill today.”She had sat silent for a moment，looking at Henry's discouraged face.“The only thing to do，dear，”she'd said at last，“is to return to first principles.”
13.“What do you mean by that？”
14.“Christmas has been commercialized out of its real meaning.The gifts people give have become a sort of advertising display.What we ought to do is give to people we love—give memorable things according to our ability.If you could give your child a horse，say，that would be fine.But if you can't，give her a little locket or a book of verse.
15.Henry had looked hopeful but skeptibcal.
16.“I'll tell you what we'll do，”she had continued.“We'll go to the farm for the holidays.We'll have a good time there.We won't have to do any entertaining—the liquor bills alone are always staggering at Christmas.We'll have our turkey and our tree and take long walks and sing carols and forget the world.”
17.“Did you ever have a Christmas like that？”Henry had asked.
19.“Well，you're the captain.But try to break it gently to Laura.”
20.“Laura'll be all right，”Emily had said with a smile.
21.“Poor Daddy！”the girl had cried when Emily explained the situation to her.And then，being reassured as to his futuree prospects,she had clasped her hands.“But how marvelous to go to the farrm，Mother！It'll be just like a picture on a Christmas card.I adore it there，and I don't care a thing about present or parties！”She had raised herself on the tips of her toes，as if she were about to dance.
22.Several days before Christmas，they'd gone down to their little farm.It was just a half-doen acres that Henry had brought and had hung on to.It made him feel good to own a piece of land.They'd all had a wonderful time,really.They had cut a tree in their own woods.They had eaten and slept，and read by the light of oil lamps.The children had been more than satisfied with their present； there had been balls，erector sets，a number of story books，and a lot of junk from the five-and-ten for the boys，and for Laura，a picture Emily had found cheap in a second-hand art shop and a small brooch that had belonged to Henry's mother.It was Laura's obvious pleasure that had brightened everything.Whether she was chopping wood,or romping with her brothers,or basting the turkey,or talkingj politics very sensibly with her father, she'd seemed to radiate happiness.On New Year's Eve，they had given her a weak highball，the first she'd ever had，and she had gone to sleep sitting on the floor with her rosy cheek against Henry's knee.“By God，I believe she's the best girl in the world，”he had said softly.
23.“She probably is，”Emily had said.
24.“If I don't had her the earth some day，on a silver platter，”Henry had declared，“may I be damned from here to eternity！”
25.Emily slowed the car to a full stop near the gates of the Academy.“Here we are，”she said.“I'm going to miss you today.”
26.“I'll miss you，too，”she said.“It's been a beautiful holiday.I love the picture and the pin！”
27.“Of course you do，Laura，”said Emily.“Now run！”
28.She watched Laura hurry up the path.She drove about aimlessly for a while.Then she went to a market and bought some groceries and a big bunch of flowers.The cool blossoms perfumed the car all the way home.They made her think of the ballerina dress，and of all the pure，proud，filmy beauty of the world that belonged，by right，to Laura.