The story revolves around a woman and a man both alone at Christmas. When the story opens the woman was saying that she has never spent Christmas alone. The middle-aged woman says that she has an uncanny feeling; sitting alone in a furnished room, with her head full of ghosts, and the room full of voices of the past. She is thinking about the past Christmases when she was not alone. The woman reminisces about her very first grown up Christmas, with a lover, and a walk in the dark before midnight, with the ground so white, and stars diamond bright in a black sky.The author describes the woman as nearly fifty, a schoolmarm, with dark hair, and myopic eyes that once were beautiful. Then there is the sudden arrival of the young man who burst in without a knock. He is surprised and tells the women he thought it was his room.
The young man hesitates and says, “It’s queer being alone at Christmas, isn’t it? ” Then he asked if he might stay a while and talk because he is alone and she is alone. The woman, pleased to have company accepts his offer. The author describes the young man as around twenty, unconventionally dressed with a wine coloured tie and a black velvet jacket.He has long curly hair in need of a cut and looks somewhat effeminate but his narrow piercing blue eyes and a jutting nose and chin belie this. Not that he looks strong, the author adds. The man tells the woman about how he thought that this was his room.
The woman says, “I’m glad you made the mistake. You’re a very young person to be alone at Christmas”. He replies “I won’t go back to the country to my family. .It would hold me up, I’m a writer”. She replies back, “I see”.
They carry on talking. Then she enquirers as to what it is he is writing.He tells her poetry and a diary combined. He also tells her it is entitled ” My Poems and I ” and his name is Francis Randell. The woman empathises with him by saying, “families are never appreciative of the artistic nature”. Amused by his earnestness she starts to tease him by referring to life as, ” revolving faster and faster on the wheel of creativeness”. The young man, mistaking the woman’s teasing for interest, then starts to get a little desperate for the woman to read his writing, so she says to the young man, “I’m going to make you some coffee, and I have a plum cake”.
She is moving about, clattering the cups and spooning the coffee into the percolator. She then turns and looked around to discover he had gone, disappeared. She felt absurdly disappointed. She then turned to the bookshelf in the room, which is piled high in volumes, for which the landlady has apologised. The landlady then says, ” We will charge a bit less for the room for that reason”. Although the woman replies that books are good friends. These books aren’t friendly looking books.Never the less, she takes one at random, or does some strange fate guide her hand, the woman thinks to her self.
She begins to read the battered little book, which she had picked up randomly. She reads that it was published in spring of 1853. It’s mainly poetry- immature stuff, but vivid. Then there is a diary, more realistic, less affected. She turns to the entry for Christmas Day, 1851. She reads ” My first Christmas Day alone. I had a rather odd experience. When I went back to my lodgings after a walk, there was a middle-aged woman in my room.
I thought at first I’d walked in to the wrong room, but this was not so, and after a pleasant talk she disappeared. I suppose she was a ghost, but I wasn’t frightened, I liked her. I do not feel well to night. Not at all well. I have never felt ill at Christmas before. ” A publisher’s note followed the last entry: Francis Randal died from a sudden heart attack on the night of Christmas Day, 1851.
The woman mentioned in this final entry in his diary was the last person to see him alive. In spite of requests for her to come forward, she never did. Her identity remains a mystery.