Mr. Lytell's Christmas Carol Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3


Chapter 3: Dreamweaver

"No strawberry pop for me," Trixie Belden was mumbling, still half asleep. She opened her eyes to see her brother Mart standing over her, shaking her shoulders.

"What?!" he said. "Wake up, you goon, it's Christmas morning. And the beverages of choice at the Belden domain will be Mom's apple cider or Dad's eggnog, not rooty-tooty-fruity strawberry pop!"

Trixie rubbed her eyes and sat up in bed.

"Gleeps, Mart, I had the strangest dream last night!" she exclaimed. "I dreamed Mr. Lytell was visited by three ghosts and everyone was in it, even Aunt Alicia, and she had a Bob-white necklace and we were all drinking strawberry pop!"

"I refuse to be implicated in the menus of your insane nocturnal apparitions," Mart declared. "Rise and shine, oh Dreamweaver, Moms wants you down in the kitchen to help get Christmas dinner started before our youngest sibling lays siege to the Christmas tree!"

"Right," Trixie moaned slightly and pulled the covers up around her. "Is Bobby awake yet?"

"At last check, the youngest Belden's eyes were still closed and it is fair to presume that sugarplums are still dancing through his head -- as opposed to strawberry pop," Mart said. "But he'll be up any minute and then we won't have any peace until we've opened our Christmas presents. Speaking of which, did you think of what you're going to tell young Robert Belden about why Santa didn't show up with the caboose to his train?"

Trixie winced. "No-o-o," she moaned.

Mart laughed and jabbed at her through the bedspread. "Shake a leg, kiddo. I figure you've got thirty minutes, tops, to come up with a reasonable explanation of how Santa Claus's navigational system gave out just over Sleepyside," Still chortling, Mart disappeared out the door.

Trixie sighed and scratched her head. What a fix she'd gotten herself into! "I'd rather face twenty Lontards in twenty swimming pools than try to explain to Bobby why Santa didn't bring him a caboose," she thought.

Shivering, Trixie climbed out of bed and hurriedly straightened the covers. "What a dream!" she thought to herself as she began to dress in jeans and a bright red sweater. How bizarre to be dreaming of romance between Mr. Lytell and Aunt Alicia! The thought of Mr. Lytell and romance in the same sentence made Trixie shudder more deeply. "And I don't even like strawberry pop[4]," she thought.

All Wrapped Up

Yesterday had been some Christmas Eve, she reflected, running a brush through her curls. The highest and the lowest of days. It had started with Trixie and Honey giving Susie and Starlight a morning workout. Trixie had promised her parents that after exercising the horses she would go to Lytell's store and pick up Bobby's gift from Santa - which was the last car in the Lionel Little Chief train set that the Beldens had been helping Bobby collect since he was three years old.

At the ripe old age of seven and a half, Bobby was about to give up believing in Santa Claus. But he hadn't quite yet and this year he would get the caboose which, as possibly the last car he'd get from Santa, would end an era. Lionel only sold the trains to select retail stores in a geographic area and Lytell's was the only store outside of White Plains that carried them.

However, that morning as Trixie and Honey had come out of the stable, Jim had been laying in wait for Trixie. He needed help wrapping his presents for Honey, Miss Trask and his mom, Mrs. Wheeler, he'd said. He wanted to wrap the ladies' presents elegantly and he was all thumbs. Would Trixie help?

Trixie doubted that Jim was all thumbs and she was pretty sure she wouldn't be much better. But she was happy enough to spend some time by Jim's side so she quickly nodded, "Sure."

Jim had shooed everyone out of the library and came in with piles of wrapping paper and ribbon. A couple of hours went by quickly as the two compared color schemes and bow making techniques. When they'd completed wrapping Jim's gifts, Trixie had realized she'd be needed at home soon.

"Moms'll be looking for me, I'd better run," she'd said, standing up from the table.

"Just one more thing," Jim had said thoughtfully, grabbing her arm and heading over to one corner of the library.

Trixie had followed along, looking up at him questioningly.

"I need you to help me test out the mistletoe," Jim had said with a small grin.

Trixie had blinked and couldn't think of a thing to say, but that didn't matter. For Jim was leaning down and pressing his lips softly against hers. Trixie thought she had pressed back, but she'd been so flustered, she wasn't sure.

When they'd come out on the Manor House verandah it had been so foggy that Jim had insisted on walking Trixie to the Crabapple Farm property line. He'd gotten two flashlights and, at the fork in the path that led to the Belden's he'd given Trixie one. This time, it was Trixie who snagged Jim and reached up to give him a quick kiss.

"I'll see you tomorrow evening when the Bob-whites get together to exchange gifts," Jim had said, squeezing her arm.

"See you," Trixie had said. Then she floated off down the path to Crabapple Farm in a kind of confused euphoria. But as she neared home, she belatedly remembered Bobby's gift. Looking at her watch she realized it was past three o'clock and now she also remembered that Lytell was going to be closing early.


Trixie put on as much speed as she could, stumblin and scrambling down the road toward Lytell's store. If I can just catch him before he leaves, she thought desperately. She was gasping for breath and more than once fell as she lost her footing in the dense fog. To keep up her spirits she sang a carol Aunt Alicia had taught her:

In the gift we deliver,

in the gift we receive
is the living Spirit

Mary did conceive.
A royal gift of love's incandescent flame,
is given to all mankind

in His name.

Lytell's store was closed when she arrived, but Lytell was still there, loading some boxes into his trunk. Trixie couldn't believe her ears when he refused to re-open the store. She had begged and pleaded, nearly on her knees and nearly in tears. No dice.

That's when Trixie had lost it. "Scrooge!" she yelled at Lytell as he drove off. He'd just glared at her.

Trixie had trudged back to Crabapple Farm, her euphoria replaced by despair. At home she bit the bullet and immediately told her parents, shamefacedly, that she hadn't gotten to Lytell's in time.

"But Trixie you left here at 10:00 a.m.!" Mrs. Belden had protested.

"I know, Moms, but after Honey and I came back from riding Jim needed some help wrapping his gifts and well, that tissue paper is not that easy to handle and we kept trying to make an angel out of the gold and white ribbon for Honey's package and…" Trixie's voice had trailed off lamely.

Mrs. Belden had sighed and looked at Mr. Belden, who had shrugged his shoulders philosophically. "Maybe this is the year Bobby stops believing in Santa Claus whether he's ready or not," he'd said. "The stores in White Plains would probably be closed by now and even if they aren't, I don't think anyone should try to drive in that pea soup out there."

"It'll be all right, Trixie," Mr. Belden had continued reassuringly. "But, to atone for your forgetfulness, here's what you can do: think of what to tell Bobby about why Santa didn't bring him a car for his train set like he has every year for the past 4 years - in other words, ever since Bobby can remember," her father looked at her pointedly.

Trixie gulped. "Couldn't I just read him Peter Rabbit 10 times a day for the next 364 days?" she asked.

Mr. and Mrs. Belden laughed. "Actually, he's moving on to Batman comic books," Mrs. Belden said. "But Trixie, your father has a good idea. Put your mind to it and see if you can't dream up a good explanation!"

Some 'Splaining to Do

So Trixie had spent Christmas Eve thinking of what she could tell Bobby as she helped her mother with last minute chores. But none of the explanations she came up with seemed likely to satisfy a disappointed seven year old.

"Oh, criminy," she'd groaned tiredly to herself as she finally left the kitchen. "Maybe I should take Moms' advice literally - maybe I can dream my way out of this."

As Trixie had headed upstairs she'd passed the huge Christmas tree her father and Brian had brought in just one week ago. Bobby's handsome train set, lacking only a caboose, was running on its tracks around and underneath the brightly lit tree.

Mart and Bobby had been seated on the couch beside the Christmas tree where Mart had been reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to Bobby. Bobby was squealing at the deep and mysterious voice Mart used for the ghosts.

"Mart's a great older brother," Trixie had thought as she climbed the stairs. "And what kind of older sister am I?" Immediately she answered herself, "The kind who doesn't get her kid brother his gift from Santa -- because she's too busy making time with the half a millionaire on the hill!"

Now it was Christmas morning and, though Trixie had dreamed, her wild dreams had given her no clue as to what to say to Bobby.

"Shoot," Trixie mumbled, putting down the brush and heading toward the stairs. She met Brian coming out of his room, yawning, also headed down the stairs.

"So, Miss Belden, spend a little too much time under the mistletoe?" Brian asked with a wicked grin.

Trixie tossed her head. "If you must know, it was five seconds at most. It just took two and a half hours to work up to it!"

Brian laughed and nudged Trixie down the stairs. In the kitchen, Mart and Mr. and Mrs. Belden were already grabbing a quick breakfast of Moms' biscuits and maple butter. Trixie spread butter on a biscuit for herself and poured a glass of orange juice.

"So, what's it gonna be, Trix? Have you come up with the explanation to end all explanations or are you anticipating a year filled with the torments of a Bobby Belden-designed hell?" Mart asked, looking up over his mug of hot chocolate with a smug smile.

"I guess I'm going to have to say that Santa wanted to make the best possible caboose and is still having it worked on and it will be delivered after Christmas," Trixie said helplessly, shrugging her shoulders.

Mart hooted. "That explanation is about as lame as Lytell's old Belle is," he said.

"Mart, it's Christmas," Mrs. Belden said mildly.

Mart said no more but just then Bobby came in, dragging his teddy bear and rubbing his eyes.

"Speak of the littlest devil," Mart said, his mischievous smile spreading further across his face.

Bobby frowned. "You're a devil," he said crossly, "I'm Santa's helper. Hey! Did Santa Claus come?" he asked.

The other Beldens looked at each other blankly and for a long moment no one spoke. Trixie was clearing her throat when they heard bells jingling outside and someone rapping sharply on the back door. Trixie trailed behind Mart as he went to the door.

The Spirit of Giving

Mart opened the door to reveal Mr. Lytell. Behind him in the yard was his mare, Belle, who wore a collar of jingle bells wreathed with pine.

"Oh, this is just great," Trixie thought. "As if I haven't had enough of him for one Christmas, now he's come over bright and early just to tell Moms and Dad what a harum-scarum tomboy I am."

But Mr. Lytell had a bright smile on his face as Mart stood back and welcomed him inside.

"Merry Christmas, Beldens!" he said, stamping his boots on the door mat. "How's everyone doing this wonderful Christmas morning?"

"We're couldn't be better, Bart," Mrs. Belden said warmly. "And a Merry Christmas to you, too."

Brian got up to make room for Mr. Lytell at the table.

"No, no, keep your seat," Mr. Lytell put his hand on Brian's shoulder. "I just dropped by for a minute. It seems that Santa left something at my house by mistake last night," Lytell was beaming at Trixie who was staring at him dumbfounded.

"I think it's something for this little boy right here. Yes, sir, it says 'To Robert Belden from Santa Claus,'" Mr. Lytell said, handing a package to Bobby who squealed with excitement.

"Can I open it, Mommy, can I?" he cried bouncing from one leg to the other.

"Yes, dear, go ahead. Brian will you help him with the ribbon?" Mrs. Belden said, but Bobby was already shredding the paper and ribbon with abandon. When Bobby opened the package he held up the greatly desired Lionel Little Chief caboose.

"Look! Look!" Bobby shouted, hardly able to contain himself.

Everyone laughed at the boy's delight.

"And here's a gift for a young lady. Ah, yes, Miss Trixie Belden," Mr. Lytell said with a flourish, handing Trixie a small box carefully wrapped in shiny green and gold.

Now Trixie was completely flabbergasted. "You didn't need to do this," she got out.

"It's just a little something," Mr. Lytell said casually and busied himself showing Bobby how the caboose door opened.

Mart sidled over to Trixie as she began opening her package. "What'd you do to get promoted to Miss Belden?" he hissed.

"Heck if I know," Trixie murmured back. She parted the white tissue paper, then paused. "Oh, my," she breathed. Inside the box was a beautiful locket hung on a black velvet ribbon. The locket was a colorful, elegant scrimshaw engraving of a Bob-white. Trixie blinked, not believing her eyes: it was exactly the locket she had dreamed about the night before!

"I dreamed this," she said excitedly, then realized that everyone was looking at her strangely. "I mean, it's like a dream," she said quickly. "Moms, have you ever seen anything this lovely?" she showed the gift to her Mother.

Mrs. Belden looked at the necklace carefully, "It is really well-done and so unique," she said, then paused and looked puzzled. "I seem to recall that Alicia once had a necklace like this," she looked up at Mr. Lytell who made no response, but cleared his throat and reached into his bag again.

Trixie looked at her mother, but Mrs. Belden avoided her gaze and said no more. Trixie decided that this was a mystery she'd have to learn more about at a later time.

Lytell then produced a loaf of pumpkin spice bread which he set on the kitchen table. "For the Beldens," he said.

Bobby had been watching wide-eyed as Mr. Lytell produced packages from his bag. Now he turned to the storekeeper, held up his train's caboose and blurted out, "Did Santa really bring this?"

Mr. Lytell patted Bobby's head fondly. "It was brought by the Spirit of Giving, Bobby, and Santa is as good a name as any."

Bobby looked as if he wasn't quite sure what that meant, but he nodded his head.

"Let me pour you a cup of coffee," Mr. Belden said.

"No, thanks, I want to be sure and get to the Manor House this morning and wish them a Merry Christmas also," Lytell nodded genially all around.

"I don't know how to thank-you," Trixie began sincerely, but Lytell waved her off.

"You've been so thoughtful," Mrs. Belden said

The Beldens crowded into the doorway to watch Mr. Lytell leave. The fog of Christmas Eve had lifted and a few snow flakes were drifting in the air. Even Belle's normally sad eyes looked bright and she almost pranced as Lytell rode out of the yard.

"Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!" everyone called.

Then Bobby piped up, "And God bless us everyone!"



[1] As far as I know, Lionel never had a "Little Chief" series.

[2]The only recording of this carol-version of Simple Gifts that I know of is by the King's Singers on their CD/tape, A Little Christmas Music.

[3] I realize that the published Trixie Belden books don't support quite such a positive role for Aunt Alicia as she plays in this story. In the Gatehouse Mystery she seems ever so slightly distasteful as the aunt who tried to teach Trixie to tat. But who knows what she was like before Mr. Lytell broke her heart? :-) I have followed the example of Julie Campbell's The Mysterious Visitor, and made Alicia Helen Belden's sister, rather than Peter Belden's sister as stated by the KK of the Black Jacket Mystery.

[4] Yes, I'm tweaking KK on this!

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