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leaves half her market, and must be sent again, if she forgets a pack of cards on Christmas-eve. Great is the contention of holly and ivy; dice and cards benefit the butler, and if the cook do not lack wit, he will sweetly lick his fingers."

I was roused from this fit of luxurious meditation, by a shout from my little travelling companions. They had been looking out of the coach windows for the last few miles, recognising every tree and cottage, as they approached home. And now there was a general burst of joy-" There's John! and there's old Carlo! and there's Bantam!” cried the happy little rogues, clapping their hands.

At the end of the lane, there was an old sober-looking servant in livery, waiting for them; he was accompanied by a superannuated pointer, and by the redoubtable Bantam, a little old rat of a pony, with a shaggy mane, and long rusty tail, who stood dozing quietly by the road-side, little dreaming of the bustling times that awaited him!

I was pleased to see the fondness with which the little fellows leaped about the steady old footman, and hugged the pointer, who wriggled his whole body for joy. But Bantam was the great object of interest; all wanted to mount at once, and it was with some difficulty that John arranged that they should ride by turns, and the eldest should ride first.

Off they set at last, one on the pony, with the dog bounding and barking before himn; and the others, holding John's hands, both talking at once, and overpowering him with questions about home, and with school anecdotes. I looked after them with a feeling in which I do not know whether pleasure or melancholy predominated, for I was reminded of those days when, like them, I had neither known care or sorrow, and a holiday was the summit of earthly felicity. We stopped a few moments afterwards to water the horses, and on resuming our route, a turn of the road brought us in sight of a neat country-seat. I could just distinguish the forms of a lady and two young girls in the portico, and I saw my little comrades, with Bantam, Carlo, and old John, trooping along the carriage-road. I leaned out of the coach window, in hopes of witnessing the happy meeting. But a grove of trees shut it from my sight.

In the evening we reached a village where I had determined to pass the night. As we drove into the great gateway of the inn, I saw on one side the light of a rousing kitchen fire beaming through a window. I entered, and admired for the hundredth time, that picture of convenience, neatness, and broad honest enjoyment, the kitchen of an English inn. It was of spacious dimensions; hung round by copper and tin vessels highly polished, and decorated here and there with a Christmas green. Hams, tongues, and flitches of bacon, were suspended from the ceiling; a smoke-jack made its ceaseless clanking beside the fire-place, and a clock ticked in one corner. A well scoured deal table extended along one side of the kitchen, with a cold round of beef, and other hearty viands upon it, over which two foaming tankards of ale seemed mounting guard. Travellers of inferior order were preparing to attack this stout repast, while others sat smoking and gossipping over their ale, on two high-backed oaken settles beside the fire.

Trim housemaids were hurrying backwards and forwards under the directions of a fresh, bustling landlady; but still seizing an occasional moment to exchange a flippant word, and have a rallying laugh with the group round the fire. The scene completely realised poor Robin's humble idea of the comforts of mid-winter:

"Now trees their leafy hats do bare,
To reverence Winter's silver hair;
A handsome hostess, merry host,
A pot of ale now and a toast,
Tobacco and a good coal fire,
Are things this season doth require."


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As we approached the house we heard the sound of the music, and now and then a burst of laughter, from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge said, must proceed from the servants' hall, where a great deal of revelry was permitted, and even encouraged, by the squire throughout the twelve days of Christmas, provided everything were done conformably to ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob-apple, and snap-dragon : the yule clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the misletoe, with its white berries, hung up to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.

So intent were the servants upon their sports, that we had to ring repeatedly before we could make ourselves heard. On our arrival being announced, the squire came out to receive us, accompanied by his two sons ; one a young officer in the army, the other an Oxonian just fresh from the University. The squire was a fine healthy-looking old gentleman, with silver hair curling lightly round an open florid countenance. The family meeting was warm and affectionate: as the evening was far advanced, the squire would not permit us to change our travelling-dresses, but ushered us at once to the company, which was assembled in an old-fashioned hall.

It was composed of different branches of a numerous family con. nection, where there were the usual proportion of old uncles and aunts, comfortable married dames, superannuated spinsters, blooming country cousins, half-fledged striplings, and bright-eyed boarding-school hoydens. They were variously occupied ; some at a round game of cards, others conversing round the fire-place; at one end of the hall was a group of the young folks, some nearly grown up, others of a more tender and budding age, fully engrossed by a merry game; and a profusion of wooden horses, penny trumpets, and tattered dolls about the floor, showed traces of a troop of little fairy beings, who, having frolicked through a happy day, had been carried off to slumber through a peaceful night.

Over the heavy projecting fire-place was suspended a picture of a warrior in armour, standing by a white horse, and on the opposite wall hung a helmet, buckler, and lance. At one end an enormous pair of antlers were inserted in the wall, the branches serving as hooks on which to suspend hats, whips, and spurs; and in the corners of the apartment were fowling-pieces, fishing-rods, and other sporting imple. ments. The furniture was of the cumbrous workmanship of former days, though some articles of modern convenience had been added, and the oaken floor had been carpeted ; so that the whole presented an odd mixture of parlour and hall.

The grate had been removed from the wide overwhelming fire-place to make way for a fire of wood, in the midst of which was

an enormous log glowing and blazing, and sending forth a vast volume of light and heat; this, I understood, was the yule clog, which the squire was particular in having brought in and illumined on a Christmas. eve according to ancient custom.

Supper was announced shortly after our arrival. It was



served up in a spacious oaken chamber, the panels of which shone with wax, and around which were several family portraits, decorated with holly and ivy. Besides the accustomed lights, two great wax tapers, called 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 Christmaseve. I was happy to find my old friend, mince-pie, in the retinue of the feast, and I greeted him with all the warmth wherewith we usually greet an old and very genteel acquaintance.

The supper had disposed every one to gaiety, and an old harper was summoned from the servants' ball, where he had been strumming all the evening, and, to all appearance, comforting himself with some of the squire's homebrewed. He was a kind of hanger-on, I was told, of the establishment.

The dance, like most dances after supper, was a merry one; some of the old folks joined in it, and the squire himself figured down several couples with a partner with whom he affirmed he had danced at every Christmas for nearly half a century.

The party now broke up for the night with the kindhearted old custom of shaking hands. As I passed through the ball on my way to my chamber, the dying embers of the yule clog still sent forth a dusky glow, and had it not been the season when “no spirit dares stir abroad,” I should have been half-tempted to steal from my room at midnight, and peep whether the fairies might not be at their revels about the hearth.

I had scarcely got into bed, when a strain of music seemed to break forth in the air just below the window, I listened, and found it proceeded from a band, which I concluded to be the waits from some neighbouring village. They went round the house playing under the windows. I drew aside the curtain to hear them more distinctly. The moonbeams fell through the upper part of the casement, partially lighting up the antiquated apartment. The sounds

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