The sun shone brightly but the air was crisp and cold, and snow and ice lay sparkling everywhere.
A light wind, the night before, had swept the blue, icebound river clean of scattering snow;
and, by two o'clock in the afternoon, the broad bend near Creighton's mill was fairly alive with skaters.
The girls in gay caps and scarfs, the boys in sweaters and mackinaws of every conceivable hue, with here and there a plump, matronly figure in a plush coat or a tiny fellow in scarlet, made a picture of life and brilliancy worthy of an artist's finest skill.
Tom Reynolds moved in and out among the happy throng, with swift, easy strokes, his cap on the back of his curly head, and his brown eyes shining with excitement.
Now and again, he glanced down with pardonable pride, at the brand new skates that twinkled beneath his feet.
“Jolly Ramblers,” sure enough “Jolly Ramblers” they were!
Ever since Ralph Evans had remarked, with a tantalizing toss of his handsome head, that
“no game fellow would try to skate on anything but 'Jolly Ramblers,'”
Tom had yearned, with an inexpressible longing, for a pair of these wonderful skates.
And now they were his and the ice was fine and the Christmas sun was shining!
Tom was rounding the big bend for the fiftieth time, when he saw, skimming gracefully toward him through the merry crowd, a tall boy in a fur-trimmed coat, his handsome head proudly erect.
“That's Ralph Evans now,”
said Tom to himself.
“Just wait till you see these skates, old boy, and maybe you won't feel so smart!”
And with slow, cautious strokes, he made his way through laughing boys and girls to a place just in front of the tall skater, coming toward him down the broad white way.
When Ralph was almost upon him, Tom paused and in conspicuous silence, looked down at his shining skates.
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