my dear miss boodle, - and a very good christmas to you all; and better fortune; and if worse, the more courage to support it - which i think is the kinder wish in all human affairs. somewhile - i fear a good while - after this, you should receive our christmas gift; we have no tact and no taste, only a welcome and (often) tonic brutality; and i dare say the present, even after my friend baxter has acted on and reviewed my hints, may prove a white elephant. that is why i dread presents. and therefore pray understand if any element of that hamper prove unwelcome, it is to be exchanged. i will not sit down under the name of a giver of white elephants. i never had any elephant but one, and his initials were r. l. s.; and he trod on my foot at a very early age. but this is a fable, and not in the least to the point: which is that if, for once in my life, i have wished to make things nicer for anybody but the elephant (see fable), do not suffer me to have made them ineffably more embarrassing, and exchange - ruthlessly exchange!
for my part, i am the most cockered up of any mortal being; and one of the healthiest, or thereabout, at some modest distance from the bull's eye. i am condemned to write twelve articles in scribner's magazine for the love of gain; i think i had better send you them; what is far more to the purpose, i am on the jump with a new story which has bewitched me - i doubt it may bewitch no one else. it is called the master of ballantrae - pronounce ballan-tray. if it is not good, well, mine will be the fault; for i believe it is a good tale.
the greetings of the season to you, and your mother, and your sisters. my wife heartily joins. - and i am, yours very sincerely,
robert louis stevenson.
p.s. - you will think me an illiterate dog: i am, for the first time, reading robertson's sermons. i do not know how to express how much i think of them. if by any chance you should be as illiterate as i, and not know them, it is worth while curing the defect.
r. l. s.