the still, small voice of man's invisible but omnipresent Friend!

Innocence is fearless. I think that if God ever sends His angels visibly back to earth our children will greet them with unabashed and smiling eyes. So the child arose and looked about her through the gloaming, shook from her garments the gathered snow and answered, "Good man I am here." Once more, and only once more, she heard it, and then it seemed to rise and melt away. "Follow me!" Like one who walks in a state of somnambulism, straight on, safe on the giddy turret or the steep slate roof, as if the feet were set on level floors, clasping, as she thought, a strong hand, while a strange sense of sweetness and of hope made music in her breast, the gipsy foundling sought the Christian Priest and stood at last on the threshold of the Parsonage, with one fixed thought, to ring for entrance and ask to see its master in his Master's name. Old gift of somnambulism, of second sight, of second hearing too, be it what it may, upon its slender magic thread, through labyrinths of sorrow and danger, the orphan felt her path. We shall see her again.



Brother Nasal surpassed himself. The Dissenter's chapel in High street, Sloppery, was crowded that Christmas night to its utmost capacity. Brother Nasal was a young man whose father might have been a tallow chandler, so unctuous was he. His long lank hairs said, as plainly as if in words, "We are of the straightest sect." Starch glistened in his white cravat, rustled in his frills, puckered in wristbands and crumpled in pocket handkerchief. Yea, verily! his eyes, through starched optics approvingly beheld the starchiest of congregations. Starch and tallow every


Bolt upright at the head of a pew sat Lugubrius Glim, the undertaker, enjoying the refreshing season as became a pillar of the fold, rejoicing in the abundance of creature comforts. It had been remarked of him by one Wagge of that town that, "of all men, his profession fitted him best, for had he wept upon the banks of the Nile, the mourning crocodiles would have taken him for a surviving relative and bosom friend, and worthy to have filled the post of chief mourner in Pharaoh's household." His vis-a-vis is brother Brickdust, of the firm of Brickdust, Flint & Co., largely in the provision trade and purveyors of potted meats for the Colonies. The peculiar smallness and roundness of his eyes and a certain obstinacy in his manner might lead one to suppose that he dealt in sausages and killed his

own bacon for amusement. As especial admirers of Brother Nasal's eloquence and also as officials in Ebenezer Chapel they are deserving of a place. Here too may be observed brother Rectangle Brobose, philosopher and tobacconist, and an eminent favorite of the damsels of Zion.


The edifice is lit with mutton dips, because the gas are the last invention of the Enemy. There are no Christmas greens pendant from the square box which is called the pulpit, but a brace of green grocers in their places are a suggestive substitute, set off by the green baize of the pew doors. The windows are oblong and the ceiling flat for the simple reason that arches are a relic of popery.For the same cause Brother Nasal repudiates the gown.

The purpose for which Ebenezer is illuminated this Christmas night is highly laudable. It is the anniversary of the Sloppery Orphan and Foundling Association. A tea drinking is to be held, admittance half a crown, in aid of the funds of the institution, and, before it, a discourse in behalf of the charity from that Boanerges of the connection, the admired and youthful Nasal.

He is in his glory, full feathered for lofty flights. He soars; he thunders; he blazes. The discourse may properly be styled pyrotechnical, beginning with squibs, rockets and blue lights and ending with a general conflagration and simultaneous cannonade. He wails; he groans; all in aid of the funds of the Sloppery Orphan and Foundling Association; thanks them for their shillings, hints admiringly at guineas and waxes indignant at farthings and half pence. He lauds those female Dorcases whose praiseworthy zeal has draped itself in various wearables stitched with their own fair hands for the orphans and foundlings of Sloppery. He compares their hearts to muffins of benevolence, baked in the ovens of zeal and spread invitingly with the butter of affection. He likens the gushings of their sympathy to


spiced caudle and invokes blessings upon these sweet primroses of Zion. Prim indeed they are.

After this there is an adjournment to the Town Hall, where, amidst libations of the mild cup "that cheers but not inebriates," enthusiastic Sloppery offers homage, more fragrant than Souchong or Bohea, to the brilliant orator of the fund. Disconsolate relicts, in coal scuttle bonnets and gowns of black serge, sigh inwardly as they muse of that devoted young man and his lonely lot. Comely widows eye him with a roguish glance; and maidens wonder if the profound studies and sublime contemplations which consume his youth have ever been relieved by pleasant glimpses of white favors and wedding rings.

When the festivities of the evening are concluded it is announced with due gravity, from the chair, that nine pounds. eighteen shillings and four pence have been contributed by the munificent patrons of the Sloppery Orphan and Foundling Association in aid of the funds of that Society for the ensuing year; and also, as a special aid, three guineas from our generous vice chairman, Mr. Lugubrius Glim.

How fared it meanwhile with Charity Green? Timidly she rang the Rectory bell. A gruff man servant answered. Her soft voice plaintively whispers "May I see the Rector? the Lord sent me." Now that the light falls upon her eyes we discover that the pupils are fixed like those of persons who walk in their sleep. We see this but the livery servant observes not. Fool! to set his heel on a child's heart. As he bangs the door in her face his loud reply smites her, "Lord! Lord who? Lord Fox and Hounds of Breakdown Castle or Lord Highflyer of the Priory? stuff! stuff! We have vagrants enough in our parish without harboring trampers.

But with a loud double knock Griggs the Postman thunders away. He is in haste. Besides the Rector's post bag under his arm what bears he in that dainty package, which

he must deliver into Dr. Bushwig's own hands? Christmas gifts; a flowered silk dressing gown; a Turkish smoking cap; a pacquet of handkerchiefs; with the compliments of the Misses Flummery. He finds admittance, and Charity Green, still as the little shadow which the grave stone makes against the fresh heaped mold, glides in after him.

Now a dinner operates differently on men of different natures. Some grow moody, fretful and over anxious of the good opinion of mankind. It is eminently to many a conservative institution, making them thoroughly satisfied with the good world as it is. Some wax diffusive in charity, and, seizing hat and cane, go out on errands of benevolence. Others shrink into themselves. Some ripen mellow; the good cheer makes them cheerful as it should. After dinner is to the day what the Indian summer of the Americans is to the year. The mystic wreaths float before the smoker's eye like the haze of a fine October afternoon; the objects on which the mind gazes all reflect a sort of festive glow. Some dine in company with Hope, a jolly little elf, who sits astride of the tobacco pipe afterward and blows bubbles through its bowl, such as the sun never shines upon, at least in this world. Some wax irritable as the last lingering flavors leave the palate. Of this class was the Reverend Dr. Bushwig. He was moody in his cups and disposed to quarrel with his fate. The Rev. Dr. Prettyman, his junior by a year, wore a mitre.

The postman enters obsequiously with Charity Green invisible in his shadow. Are there only three present or are there four? That depends on many things; as to where a certain Book came from which shines conspicuously upon the reading stand, bound in tooled calf and gilded with fine gold; whether the spire of Richmanstown church, built by pious hearts in the old centuries, and pointing with its time worn finger ever upward, has a meaning or not; also whether the daisies and buttercups lie to us when the mead

« VorigeDoorgaan »