« VorigeDoorgaan »
more than one degree. First comes your positive hunger, which Master Alfred feels when he has been washed and dressed and now longs for his milky pasturage on the whitest of Elysian fields. All the house knows that he has an impatient appetite. The hunger that comes on with a keen zest is earned by a day's shooting on the moors. Ruffed grouse and pheasants, perhaps a stray capercailzie, such glory sometimes visits us, have crowned the day. The morning has been warm and hazy. The birds have flown low and Dash has not made a solitary false point. Your aim has been excellent; your Joe Manton has never missed. It is an old gun you have had since boyhood and was your father's friend. You took an early breakfast and the body feelingly reminds you of six o'clock. This is hunger in the comparative.
There is a superlative that comes every night to some one, shall I say to thousands? It is felt by solitary sportsmen who have lost their way in Scotch mists; by famished men on ships when they have drained the water butts and shared the last biscuit. A child feels it acutely after about eighteen hours fasting. This was the case with Charity Green. I would advise some of my philosophical readers to try the experiment, if they would understand the hunger-state when it grows to be superlative. There is a tension of the nerves and a dryness of the skin, a wild and woful feeling about the heart. A child of seven years is not the best adapted for such trials. Hunger gnaws, bites and finally tears. Yet there was a soft drowsiness in the dear one's eyes, a sense of comfort deep-hidden in the heart, as if a viewless voice was whispering upon its mystic strings, "Be patient a little while."
The tea-drinking in behalf of the funds of the Sloppery Orphan and Foundling Association was over. There occurred that night a private gathering of the elect of Ebenezer at the house of Lugubrius Glim. A select and social band
grouped themselves around the mahogany of the undertaker. Saints must eat; therefore supper. Lugubrius was a
Graft Edinboro' on Yorkshire and
native of Auld Reekie. you have him to a dot. He aimed at two things which to me it seems somewhat difficult to reconcile; namely, to enjoy such delights as are savory to sinners in this life, without losing his fee simple in a goodly mansion in the next. The undertaker thrived and made investments.
Aminadab Vampire, apothecary, at the sign of the Gilt Pestle and Galen's Head, though not properly speaking one of the connection, shares the hospitalities of the occasion. How apothecaries, especially in country towns, preserve that fair rotundity which appropriately befits the Squire, surpasses my invention. But Aminadab, like a shark in a school of porpoises, was an exception to the rule. Some men are hungry and fat, others hungry without being fat. Our apothecary grew lean upon that generous diet which gives an excuse for corpulence and almost makes it a comfortable necessity.
Undertaker Glim has a weakness; who is without one? He loves his neighbor's goods and relieves their necessi ties on liberal rates of usance. But he has another affection which is to him as the very breath in the nostrils, the fame of godliness. His father had said in his old age, "There are two maxims which are my best legacy. no man's effects against the law, when, by wit, thou canst get at them with the law; and give all your alms publicly, and so justify yourself in the world's sight. They will soon say of you, 'He is close in a bargain but generous at heart.' There is a third better yet, feed the doctors but never take their pills. Keep these sayings and your pot will always boil on other men's fires." A cannie Scot was Glim senior.
They supped. Roast duck and bottled ale; spiced negus and mulled port; a mighty pie where luscious bivalves repo
sed between alternate stratifications of juicy steak,- a sort of gastronomical geology made easy and upbearing the crisp and flaky soil of a paradise of paste; a huge ham ponderous as a youthful Juggernaut, and a Stilton cheese in the neighborhood suggesting a whole Benares of creeping Brahmins and Faquirs within it in mute wonder at their idol; all that Richmanstown market could supply, invited the onslaught. Just as they were in the middle of the crusade a specter from the cold night entered and threw its shadow upon the feast. Right in the heart of merry Old England, thus and thus, the same shadow may be seen by all who have the eyes to look upon it. Valiant trencher knights as they were, the guests of Lugubrius did not at first heed the apparition. Even the tea-kettle upon the hob, waiting to pour its boiling contents, with sugar and lemons and Jamaica spirits into the huge bowl,-even that simmered a welcome and half jerked up its black cap with a bob of recognition. The brass fire irons winked from their polished surfaces at the tongs and poker, as much as to say, "Stir up the coals old fellows, we want more heat." The Dutch clock on the mantle piece ticked "A cold night! cold night! come and warm! come and warm!" Draw nearer, little child. Here sit the disciples of Him who gave His life for the world, and ere He departed, said, "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them."Fear not. They commemmorate His advent, who, when some would have driven even infants from His arms, commanded, saying, "Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not: and who so receiveth one such child in my name receiveth me. These too claim that He is verily present in their sect and has predestined them from all eternity to sit near Him in the heavens. Welcome, little
Does she hear a general greeting from the spirit of the feast. Brave young heart-does it throb lightly, with the
hunger-fiend driven from it cowering into outer night.Does she read a welcome from him yonder with the starched cravat. The little toes peep out as you may see blue violets to a March sun. The crystal snow flakes melt and shimmer like diamonds from the disheveled hair. It is a lovely picture, one for Rembrandt to paint, bringing that child or transparent countenance and slender shape into intensest light, the light of the Great Invisible, with angels dimly hinted in the back ground, and with the eleven of the Last Supper looking out, from dim halls of visioned glory, to see the disciples of the Master rising to receive an infant at their feast, and so receiving Him.
Methinks we have reckoned without our host. Lugubrius arises from his elbow chair. He prides himself upon his eloquence. Here is an opportunity. Turning to the guests he blandly remarks. "I discourage vagrants on principle. If we set the example of indoor relief charity is defeated, want encouraged and destitution aggravated. If Ebenezer needs ten pounds it is here (slapping his breeches pocket with solemn emphasis.) If righteous men, who have a call, require hospitality or assistance I will sit at the very porch of the tabernacle and serve as an oil-filler for the lamps of Jerusalem. ("That he will indeed," from Brother Nasal.) But this mendicant is best in the Work House. I would send her there in the hearse, but the black mare is at her oats and the serving man waiting for prayers in the kitchen. She can easily find the way; so the best thing I can do is to show her the road from the door."
Well done, Lugubrius! And thou, Heaven's unwelcome Christmas gift, whom Churchman and Dissenter alike have spurned away, bravely plod thy weary path through snow and sleet: thy rest is coming soon. Thou wert not worthy, hard heart, that such an one should tarry beneath thy roof.
And now we are to make a new acquaintance. Allow
me the pleasure of introducing to the reader Miss Marian Deschamps. She is an English creole. Glance at that large mansion beyond the green. It is her home. We may see it plainly from the door of the undertaker's. In that house the old Barbadoes planter, her father, broke the spirit of his young bride. She was one of those FrenchSpanish women, still to be found in the ancient cities of the Spanish Main. They have not the tough endurance which belongs to our northern races. Married when a child to the planter and taken from her Mexican convent for that purpose, she meekly submitted to his caprices for a while. and then vanished from this busy stage. Marian, the only child, lived to grow up to the time when this story opens, much after her own willful fashion; the West Indian, her father, dropping off when least expected, and leaving her his fine estate.
Marian was a sensible girl with all her whims. Thanks to that old Book of which we talked before, she had learned that wealth brings duties which, in a quiet, unostentatious but independent manner, she was bent on fulfilling.
Mrs. Deborah Portman, installed since her father's death as care-taker, teacher, governess, all in one, aided her not a little in these good resolutions. So Marian had her own way.
She couldn't sleep that night. Old memories were ringing their chimes in her heart, making the quick blood tingle. She hears a voice, or thinks she hears one: these human senses of ours are preternaturally active sometimes. It startles her again and again. It is as if a little child were moaning in the snow. Ah, Charity! you have found a friend.
Molly sits by the kitchen fire, happy and comfortable. It is past eleven but her eyes twinkle as brightly as if they never meant to sleep. Molly has just had a proposition of marriage. Sheepish John, the coachman, he is a handsome fellow, has courted Molly these two years to some