Графични страници
PDF файл
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Christmas candles, wreathed with greens, were placed on a highly-polished beaufet among the family plate. The table was abundantly spread with substantial fare; but the Squire made his supper of frumenty, a dish made of wheat-cakes boiled in milk, with rich spices, being a standing dish in old times for Christmas eve.

I was happy to find my old friend, minced-pie, in the retinue of the feast; and finding him to be perfectly orthodox, and that I need not be ashamed of my predilection, I greeted him with all the warmth wherewith we usually greet an old and very genteel acquaintance.

The mirth of the company was greatly promoted by the humors of an eccentric personage whom Mr. Bracebridge always addressed with the quaint appellation of Master Simon. He was a tight brisk little man, with the air of an arrant old bachelor. His nose was shaped like the bill of a parrot ; his face slightly pitted with the small-pox, with a dry perpetual bloom on it, like a frostbitten leaf in autumn. He had an eye of great quickness and vivacity, with a drollery and lurking waggery of expression that was irresistible. He was evidently the wit of the family, dealing very much in sly jokes and innuendoes with the ladies, and making infinite merriment by harping upon old themes; which, unfortunately, my ignorance of the family chronicles did not permit me to enjoy. It seemed to be his great delight during supper to keep a young girl next him in a continual agony of stifled laughter, in spite of her awe of the reproving looks of her

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

mother, who sat opposite. Indeed, he was the idol
of the younger part of the company, who laughed
at everything he said or did, and at every turn
of his countenance; I could not wonder at it; for
he must have been a miracle of accomplishments
in their

He could imitate Punch and Judy; make an old woman of his hand, with the assistance of a burnt cork and pocket-handkerchief; and cut an orange into such a ludicrous caricature, that the young folks were ready to die with laughing

I was let briefly into his history by Frank Bracebridge. He was an old bachelor, of a small independent income, which, by careful management, was sufficient for all his wants. He revolved through the family system like a vagrant comet in its orbit; sometimes visiting one branch, and sometimes another quite remote; as is often the case with gentlemen of extensive connections and small fortunes in England. He had a chirping buoyant disposition, always enjoying the present moment; and his frequent change of scene and company prevented his acquiring those rusty unaccommodating habits, with which old bachelors are so uncharitably charged. He was a complete family chronicle, being versed in the genealogy, history, and intermarriages of the whole house of Bracebridge, which made him a great favorite with the old folks ; he was a beau of all the elder ladies and superannuated spinsters, among whom he was habitually considered rather a young fellow, and he was master of the revels among the children ; so that there was not a more popular


We had pres

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

being in the sphere in which he moved than Mr.
Simon Bracebridge. Of late years, he had re-
sided almost entirely with the Squire, to whom
he had become a factotum, and whom he partic-
ularly delighted by jumping with his humor in
respect to old times, and by having a scrap of an
old song to suit every occasion.
ently a specimen of his last-mentioned talent; for
no sooner was supper removed, and spiced wines
and other beverages peculiar to the season in-
troduced, than Master Simon was called on for
a good old Christmas song. He bethought him-
self for a moment, and then, with a sparkle of

and a voice that was by no means bad, excepting that it ran occasionally into a falsetto, like the notes of a split reed, he quavered forth a quaint old ditty.

“Now Christmas is come,
Let us beat


the drum,
And call all our neighbors together;

And when they appear,

Let us make them such cheer, As will keep out the wind and the weather,” etc. The supper had disposed every one to gayety, and an old harper was summoned from the servants' hall, where he had been strumming all the evening, and to all appearance comforting himself with some of the Squire's home-brewed. He was a kind of hanger-on, I was told, of the establishment, and, though ostensibly a resident of the village, was oftener to be found in the Squire's kitchen than his own home, the old gentleman being fond of the sound of “harp in hall."

The dance, like most dances after supper, was

and the new,

a merry one; some of the older folks joined in it, and the Squire himself figured down several couple with a partner, with whom he affirmed he had danced at every Christmas for nearly half a century. Master Simon, who seemed to be a kind of connecting link between the old times

and to be withal a little antiquated in the taste of his accomplishments, evidently piqued himself on his dancing, and was endeavoring to gain credit by the heel and toe, rigadoon, and other graces of the ancient school; but he had unluckily assorted himself with a little romping girl from boarding-school, who, by her wild vivacity, kept him continually on the stretch, and defeated all his sober attempts at elegance : such are the ill-assorted matches to which antique gentlemen are unfortunately prone !

The young Oxonian, on the contrary, had led out one of his maiden aunts, on whom the rogue played a thousand little knaveries with impunity: he was full of practical jokes, and his delight was to tease his aunts and cousins; yet, like all madcap youngsters, he was a universal favorite among the women. The most interesting couple in the dance was the young officer and a ward of the Squire's, a beautiful blushing girl of seventeen. From several shy glances which I had noticed in the course of the evening, I suspected there was a little kindness growing up between them; and, indeed, the young soldier was just the hero to captivate a romantic girl. He was tall, slender, and handsome, and, like most young British officers of late years, had picked up various small

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

accomplishments on the continent; he could talk French and Italian--draw landscapes -- sing very tolerably — dance divinely; but, above all, he had been wounded at Waterloo :

- what girl of seventeen, well read in poetry and romance, could resist such a mirror of chivalry and perfection!

The moment the dance was over, he caught up a guitar, and, lolling against the old marble fireplace, in an attitude which I am half inclined to suspect was studied, began the little French air of the Troubadour. The Squire, however, exclaimed against having anything on Christmas eve but good old English ; upon which the young minstrel, casting up his eye for a moment, as if in an effort of memory, struck into another strain, and, with a charming air of gallantry, gave Herrick’s “ Night-Piece to Julia.”

her tretch i Pagrance cha

Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,
The shooting stars attend thee,

And the elves also,

Whose little eyes glow
Like the sparks of fire, befriend thee.
No Will-o'-the-Wisp mislight thee;
Nor snake ror slow-worm bite thee;

But on, on thy way,

Not making a stay,
Since ghost there is none to affright thee.
Then let not the dark thee cumber;
What though the moon does slumber,

The stars of the night

Will lend thee their light,
Like tapers clear without number.
Then, Julia, let me woo thee,
Thus, thus to come unto me,

And when I shall meet
Thy silvery feet,
My soul I 'll pour into thee.

the nos

impone eligher

all L

ite an.

od of



the he sleni

« ПредишнаНапред »