Theroux's second Christmas story for children is a toasty, playfully old-fashioned fruitcake, thick with a Christmas-card atmosphere and the comical phrases (""merdle,"" ""flapdoodle,"" ""bastable and harrowing"") of old Mrs. Mutterance, whose mean landlord is evicting her after 40 years so he can turn her sweet shop into a laundry-ette. Then, after a rare heavy snowfall a few days before Christmas, the landlord disappears from his own room upstairs. Mrs. Mutterance's adopted children, black Wallace and little Amy, would bid him good riddance, but kindly Mrs. M. insists on a search. And thanks to Amy's brilliantly digging up the telling footprints and preserving them in the freezer, they do find and save a grateful, repentant old man. A well-made trifle, smacking of fond dalliance with Christmas-story conventions.