- Sharing the Spirit of Christmas Year-Round
- What Christmas Is As We Grow Older by Dickens, Charles
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- What Christmas is as We Grow Older
To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth. Dickens explains how a child views Christmas, a magical season with loving family surrounding us. Dickens is telling us that the ideal Christmas where everything is perfect and everyone is happy hasn't, and won't, ever happen.
Sharing the Spirit of Christmas Year-Round
Rather, Dickens discusses the fact that life does end. Dickens considers those who have passed before us, close friends and dear family. He wonders if they should be let out of the celebrations, which is stated in the last sentence in the form of a question. Dickens concludes that they shouldn't be left out, because they are apart of our memories and they would've included us if we had passed before them. While I know that Dickens was indeed a Christian, I continue to believe he had recourse to study Hinduism and his writting was subtlly influenced by it.
Dickens covers many things throughout this piece, but overall, he had one message to convey. Charles Dickens is a believer in the true meaning of Christmas, and he has many deep questions about how to keep Christmas alive in our hearts all the days of the year. Jun 10, Joey Woolfardis rated it it was ok Shelves: , ahreet , ce19 , masculine , sterling , what-the-dickens , bookshelf. Written well, but quite droll in truth. Dickens reminds us that we should not always think of Christmas as a child does, but neither should we discard those feelings entirely. Instead, with our childlike ignorance of death banished, we use Christmas as a peaceful time to remember those who have died and cannot be with us on such a sacred, happy time.
It's not the best thing he's ever written, but the sentiment is a wonder to behold. This is a nice little read to remind us that we not only celebrate with each other but with the spirits of our departed; and it is our duty to make sure we welcome their memory to the glow of the Christmas fire. View all 3 comments. The flowery language while beautiful made it difficult to"get the author's point" at times. I am assuming that this was the way people wrote back then. Other than the need to reread several lines a few times to "get" what the author intended this was a beautifully written short piece.
To be honest I believe I will need to read it a few more times and possibly as more understanding comes my rating will rise. Charles Dickens--that bitch sure loved Christmas! Dickens' talent as a writer is not something I feel the need to go over at such great lengths, as I think most readers can know that with any one read of his works. He has a great intensity in this short essay, What Christmas Is as We Grow Older , a very commanding passion that compels you to feels his emotion. I always find that Dickens writes with so much verve, you can't help but feel it when reading one of his works!
This is no exception; it is Charles Dickens--that bitch sure loved Christmas! This is no exception; it is packed full of all that intensity and passion and emotion and verve. That being said, it's such a dull read. Most it feels as if he is just simply driveling on about Christmas, spewing his every thought haphazardly and then, never taking the time to polish it up when he finishes.
It's not very coherent and if I'm being honest, I drifted so much while reading this, I had no idea what in the God damn hell he was talking about most of the time. It feels like a preacher standing on a soapbox shouting really loudly about stuff but you passed by, like, halfway into his speech so you have no idea what his message is but he just keeps shouting it at you anyway. It's laborious to read and has no real meaning to it, despite how hard Dickens seemingly worked to put meaning into it.
It just falls very flat, unfortunately. No work, no matter how well-written, can make up for being completely and utterly dull. I don't really recommend this. Even though it's short, it's really not worth the time. Dec 10, Rod rated it liked it. I liked this reflection Dickens is always a little sentimental, but sometimes more lucid than others in these short pieces. You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!
Two short stories reflecting Charles Dickens's thoughts on different topics. Recommended to Jason by: Dickens Christmas Collection. Shelves: christmas , dickens , , classics. Read in A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Classics I never thought I'd give something from Dickens a one star rating, but this shows that even the greatest can lay an egg.
What Christmas Is As We Grow Older by Dickens, Charles
I read this only an hour ago, and it's already faded from my memory; it was that unremarkable. This wasn't a story so much as an op-ed piece that basically said "Christmas is here. Remember those who are gone. He gambled a year's pay away in an evening. He made thousand guinea bets, and lost them. So the old denouement of the old story came round as usual. The silver dressing-case, got on credit pawned for ready money ; the credit-horses sold ; more credit-horses bought ; importunate creditors in the barrack-yard ; a. Aminadab, Mr. Blowman, Burdon's Hotel, Insolvent Court, a year's remand ; and an after life embittered by the consciousness of wasted time and talents, and wantonly-neglected opportunities.
My informant pointed out many duplicates of the gentleman in the dressing-gown. Also, divers Government clerks, who had attempted to imitate the nobs in a small way, and had only succeeded to the extent of sharing the same prison ; a mild grey-headed old gentle- man who always managed to get committed for contempt of court ; and the one inevitable baronet of a debtor's prison, who is traditionally supposed to have eight thousand a year, and to stop in prison because he likes it though, to say the truth, this baronet looked, to me, as if he didn't like it at all.
I was sick of all these, and of everything else in Whitecross Street, before nine o'clock, when I was at liberty to retire to my cold ward. Next morning my welcome friend arrived and set me free. I paid the gate-fees, and I gave the turnkeys a crown, and I gave the prisoners unbounded beer. Our eldest boy was born, by a curious coinci- dence, next Christmas Day which I kept very jovially, with the doctor, after it was all over, and we didnt christen him Whitecross.
Oh, grief looks most distorted When his hideous shadow lies On the clear and sunny life-stream That doth fill a child's blue eyes! But her eye was dull and sunken, And the whiten'd cheek was gaunt, And the blue veins on the forehead Were the pencilling of Want. And she wept for years like jewels, Till the last year's bitter gall, Like the acid of the story, In itself had melted all ; 68 THE ORPHAN'S DREAM But the Christmas-time returned, As an old friend, for whose eye She would take down all the pictures Sketched by faithful Memory, Of those brilliant Christmas seasons, When the joyous laugh went round ; When sweet words of love and kindness Were no unfamiliar sound ; When, lit by the log's red lustre, She her mother's face could see, And she rock'd the cradle, sitting On her own twin-brother's knee : Of her father's pleasant stories ; Of the riddles and the rhymes, All the kisses and the presents That had mark'd those Christmas-times.
There were now no loving voices ; And, if few hands offered bread, There were none to rest in blessing On the little homeless head. Or, if any gave her shelter, It was less of joy than fear ; For they welcomed Crime more warmly To the self-same room with her. But, at length they all grew weary Of their sick and useless guest ; She must try a workhouse welcome For the helpless and distressed. But she prayed ; and the Unsleeping In His ear that whisper caught ; So He sent down Sleep, who gave her Such a respite as she sought ; Drew the fair head to her bosom, Pressed the wetted eyelids close, And, with softly-falling kisses, Lulled her gently to repose.
Then she dreamed the angels, sweeping With their wings the sky aside, Raised her swiftly to the country Where the blessed ones abide : 70 THE ORPHAN'S DREAM To a bower all flushed with beauty, By a shadowy arcade, Where a mellowness like moonlight By the Tree of Life was made : Where the rich fruit sparkled, star-like, And pure flowers of fadeless dye Poured their fragrance on the waters That in crystal beds went by : Where bright hills of pearl and amber Closed the fair green valleys round, And, with rainbow light, but lasting, Were their glistening summits crown'd Then, that distant-burning glory, 'Mid a gorgeousness of light!
The long vista of Archangels Could scarce chasten to her sight. There sat One : and her heart told her 'Twas the same, who, for our sin, Was once born a little baby " In the stable of an inn. Then they all come round her greeting ; But she might have well denied That her beautiful young sister Is the poor pale child that died ; And the careful look hath vanish'd From her father's tearless face, And she does not know her mother Till she feels the old embrace. Oh, from that ecstatic dreaming Must she ever wake again, To the cold and cheerless contrast, To a life of lonely pain?
But her Maker's sternest servant To her side on tiptoe stept ; Told his message in a whisper, And she stirr'd not as she slept! All the festive bells were chiming To the myriad hearts below ; But that deep sleep still hung heavy On the sleeper's thoughtful brow. To her quiet face the dream-light Had a lingering glory given j But the child herself was keeping Her Christmas Day in Heaven!
My first serious study of geo- graphy began when I twirled about a great globe to find South Australia, which was then the fashionable colony. My guardians I was an orphan were delighted to get rid of so troublesome a personage ; so, very soon I was the proud possessor of a town and country lot of land in the model colony of South Australia. My voyage in a capital ship, with the best fare every day, and no one to say " Charles, you have had enough wine," was pleasant enough : very different from the case of some of my emigrating companions fathers and mothers with families, who had left good homes, good incomes, snug estates, and re- spectable professions, excited by speeches at public meetings, or by glowing pamphlets, 74 CHRISTMAS, AFTER ABSENCE descriptive of the charms of a colonial life in a model colony.
I learned to smoke, drink grog, and hit a bottle swung from the yard- arm with pistol or rifle. We had several very agreeable scamps on board ; ex-cornets and lieutenants, ex-government clerks, spoiled barristers and surgeons, plucked Oxonians, empty, good-looking, well-dressed fellows, who had smoked meerschaums, drunk Champagne, Hock, and Burgundy, fought duels, ridden steeple-chases, and contracted debts in every capital in Europe. These distinguished gentle- men kindly took me under their patronage, smoked my cigars, allowed me to stand treat for Champagne, taught me, at some slight expense, the arts of short whist, ecarte y and unlimited loo ; and to treat with becoming hauteur any advances on the part of the inter- mediate passengers.
By the end of one hundred days of our voyage I was remarkably altered, but whether improved may be a question ; as the leading principles I had imbibed were to the effect that work of any kind was low, and that debts were gentlemanly. My preconceived notions of a model colony, with all the elements of civilisation, as promised in London, were rather upset, by observing, on landing, just within the wash of high-water, on the sandy beach, heaps of furniture, a grand piano or two, and chests of drawers in great numbers ; and I especially 75 WHAT CHRISTMAS IS remember a huge iron-banded oak plate-chest, half full of sand, and empty.
The cause of this wholesale abandonment was soon made plain to me, in the shape of a charge of ten pounds for conveying my trunks in a bullock waggon, of which they formed less than half the load, seven miles from the port to the city of Adelaide ; the said city, which looked so grand in water colours in the Emigration Rooms in London, being at that time a picturesque and uncomfortable collection of tents, mud huts, and wooden cottages, curiously warped, rather larger than a Newfoundland dog's kennel, but letting for the rent of a mansion in any agricultural county of England.
It is not my intention, now, to tell the tale of the fall of the Model Colony and colonists of South Australia, and the rise of the Copper Mines, which I did not stay to see. When a general smash was taking place on all sides, I accepted the offer of a rough diamond of an overlander, who had come across from the old colony with a lot of cattle and horses to sell to the Adelaideans. He had taken a fancy to me in consequence of the skill I had displayed in bleeding a valuable colt at a critical moment ; one of the few useful things I had learned in England ; and, when my dashing companions were drinking themselves into delirium tremens, enlisting in the police, accepting situations as shepherds, sponging for 76 AFTER A LONG ABSENCE dinners on the once-despised "snobs" and imploring the captains of ships to let them work their way home before the mast, he offered to take me with him to his station in the interior, and "make a man of me.
I began to perceive that work was the only means of getting on in a colony. Accordingly, into the far Bush I went, and on the plains of a new-settled district, all solitary , constantly in danger from savage blacks ; constantly occupied in looking after the wild shepherds and stockmen herdsmen of my overland friend ; passing days on horseback at one period ; at another, com- pelled to give my whole attention to the details of a great establishment, I rubbed off my old skin.
My fashionable affectations died away ; my life became a reality, dependent on my own exertions. It was then that my heart began to change ; it was then that I began to think tenderly of the brothers and sisters I had left behind, and with whom I had communicated so little in the days of my selfishness.
Rarely oftener than twice in a year could I find means to forward letters ; but the pen, once so hateful to me, became now, in hours of leisure, my great resource. The fire burning before my hut, where my men were sleeping, reminded me that I was not alone in the great pastoral desert, which sloping away from my station, rolled for hundreds of miles. Every sound was redolent of the romance of the strange land to which I had transplanted myself.
The howl of the dingo prowling round my sheep-folds ; the defying bark of my watchful dogs ; the cry of the strange night-birds ; and sometimes, echoing from the rocky ranges, the wild mountainous songs of the fierce aborigines, as they danced their corrobberies, and acted dramas representing the slaughter of the white man, and the plunder of his cattle.
When such noises met my ear, I looked up to the rack where my arms lay, ready loaded, and out to where a faithful sentinel, the rebel O'Donohue, or the poacher, Giles Brown, with musket on shoulder paced up and down, ready to die, but not to surrender. In this great desert, the petty cares, mean tricks of land jobbing, all the little contrivances for keeping up appearances no longer needed, were forgotten.
My few books were not merely read ; they were learned by heart. I followed St. John into the wilderness, not unlike that before my eyes, and listened far from cities to the Sermon on the Mount. At other times, as I paced along the open forests, I made the woods resound with the speeches of Homer's heroes, or the outbursts of Shak- speare's characters outbursts that came home to me : for, in those lone regions, I was chief, warrior, and almost priest ; for, when there was a death, I read the funeral service. And thus I educated myself. While thus recalling friends neglected, and opportunities misused, and pleasant scenes of Eastern county life, I most loved to dwell upon the Christmas-time of dear old England.
In our hot summer of Australian December, when the great river that divided and bounded my pastures drivelled to a string of pools, and my cattle were panting around at the quiet hour of the evening, when the stars, shining with a brilliancy unknown in northern climes, realised the idea of the blessed night when the star of Bethlehem startled and guided the kings of the Eastern world on their pious pilgrimage, my thoughts travelled across the sea to England.
I did not feel the sultry heat, or hear the cry of the night-bird or the howl of the dingo. I saw the gay flushed faces of my kindred and friends shining round the Christmas table ; the grace was said, the toast went round. I heard my own name mentioned, and the gay faces grew sad. Then I awoke from my dream and found myself alone, and wept. But in a life of action there is no time for useless grieving, though time enough for reflection and resolu- tion.
Therefore, after visions like these, I resolved that the time should come when, on a Christmas Day, the toast " to absent friends " should be answered by the Australian himself. The time did come this very year of the half-century. Earnest labour and sober economy had prospered with me. The rich district in which I was one of the earliest pioneers, had become settled and pacified, as far as the river ran ; the wild Myals had grown into the tame, blanket-clothed de- pendents of the settlers. Thousands of fine- woolled flocks upon the hills, and cattle upon the rich flats, were mine ; the bark hut had changed into a verandahed cottage, where books and pictures formed no insignificant part of the furniture ; neighbours were within a ride ; the voices of children often floated sweetly along the waters of the river.
Then said I to myself, I can return now. Not to remain ; for the land I have conquered from the wilderness shall be my home for 80 AFTER A LONG ABSENCE life : but I will return, to press the hands that have longed for many years to press mine ; to kiss away the tears that dear sisters shed when they think of me, once almost an outcast ; to take upon my knees those little ones who have been taught to pray for their " uncle in a far land across the broad, deep sea.
I did return, and trod again the shores of my mother country. My boyish expectations had not been realised, but better hopes had. I was not returning laden with treasures, to rival the objects of my foolish youthful vanity; but I was returning thankful, grateful, con- tented, independent, to look round once more on my native land, and then return to settle in the land of my adoption. It was mid-winter when I landed at a small fishing village in the extreme west of England ; for my impatience made me take advantage, during a calm in the Channel, of the first fisher's boat that boarded us.
The nearer we approached the shore, the more impatient I grew to land. I insisted on giving my help to one of the heavy oars ; and no sooner had we touched the ground, than, throwing myself into the water, I waded on shore. Garden is the only word to express the appearance of England, especially the west, where the bright green myrtle lingers through the winter, and the road-side near every town is bordered with charming cottages. At every mile I found some new object of admiration, above all, the healthful fresh cheeks of the people ; especially the sturdy, yet delicate-complexioned lasses tripping away, basket in hand, from the markets in numbers, startling to one who had lived long where the arrival of one fair white face was an event.
The approach to the first great town was signalised by tokens less pleasing nay, abso- lutely painful ; beggars, as I passed, stood in their rags and whined for alms ; and others, not less pitiful in appearance, did not beg, but looked so wan and miserable, that it made my heart bleed. I gave to all, so that the man who drove me stared. He stared still more when I told him that I came from a country where there were no poor, save the drunken and the idle. The signs of wealth, the conveniences provided for every imaginable want, were very strange to me, fresh from a country where able-bodied labour was always in demand, while a man thought himself equal to the longest journey, through an un- trodden country, with a blanket and a tin-pot for all his furniture, and all his cooking apparatus.
When I called in the landlord of the inn to consult about getting on to Yorkshire in two days, as I wished to be with my friends as soon as possible, he said, " If you stay and rest to-night, you can get there by the railroad to- morrow morning, in good time to eat your Christmas dinner. I reached the starting-place next morning, just in time to take my seat in a departing train.
I started when, with a fearful sound of labouring machinery, we moved : then whirled away. I was ashamed of my fears ; yet there were many in that train to whom a sea voyage would have only been less terrible than the solitary land journeys on horseback through the Bush of Australia, which were to me a mere matter of course. The little inn was able to supply a gig, driven by a decayed post-boy.
Plunging at once into questioning conversation, I found an old acquaintance in the driver, without revealing who I was. Not many years older than my- self, soured, disappointed, racked in health, he took a different view of life to anything I had yet heard. All along my road through England I had been struck by the prosperous condition of the well-to-do people I had met in first-class carriages. His occupation, his glory, was departed ; he was obliged to do anything, and wear anything, instead of his once smart costume, and once pleasant occu- pation instead of his gay jacket, and rapid ride, and handsome presents from travellers, and good dinners from landlords.
In doleful spirits, he had a score of tales to tell of others worse off than himself of landlords of posting-houses in the workhouse, and smart four-in-hand coachmen begging their bread of farmers sunk down to labourers j and other doleful stories of the fate of those who were not strong enough for the race of life in England. Then I began to see there are two sides to the life that looked so brilliant out of the plate-glass windows of a first-class carriage. Thus think- ing and talking, as I approached the place where, unexpected, I was to appear before a gathering of my relations, my flow of spirits died away.
The proud consciousness of having conquered fortune, the beauty of the winter scenery for winter, with its hoar frost shading the trees and foliage, has strange dazzling beauty to the eyes of those who have been accustomed to the one perpetual green-brown of semi-tropical Australia had filled me full to overflowing with bounding joyousness. Gaily I answered back to the "Good-night, master," of the passing peasantry, and vigor- ously puffed at my favourite pipe, in clouds that rivalled and rolled along with the clouds of mist that rose from the sweating horses.
But the decayed postilion's stories of misery, in which he seemed to revel, damped me. My pipe went out, and my chin sunk despond- ingly on my breast. At length I asked, " Did he know the Barnards? John had been very lucky with the railroad through one of his farms. He had ridden a pair at Miss Margaret's wedding, and driven a mourning-coach at Miss Mary's funeral.
The mare in the gig had belonged to Mr. Robert had doctored him for his rheumatics. Some people say he's dead, got killed, or hung, or something ; and some say he's made a power of money. He was a wild slip of a lad. Many a time he's been out in the roads with some one I know very well, snaring hares and smoking of pheasants. There's a mark on my forehead now, where I fell, when he put a furze bush under the tail of a colt I was breaking. He was a droll chap, surely.
The loss of his occupation, poverty, and drink, had sadly changed the fine country lad, barely ten years older than my- self, whom I had left behind in England. You are a great gentle- man j I always thought you would be. So you are going to dine with Mr. Well, sir, I hope you won't forget a Christmas-box, for old acquaintance sake?
It was bright moonlight when we drove into the village. I walked on quickly, until approaching the old house the mansion- house, once, but the estates had long been divided from it I paused. My courage failed as I passed through the gate ; their clang disturbed the dogs they began to bark fiercely. I was a stranger ; the dogs that knew me were all dead. Twice I paced round, with difficulty repressing my emotion, before I could find courage to approach the door.
The peals of laughter, the gay music that rang out from time to time, the lights flying from window to window of the upper rooms, filled me with pleasing-painful feelings, long unknown. There was folly in my mys- terious arrival ; but romance is part of a life of solitude. Unreasonably, I was for a moment vexed that they could be so merry ; but next moment better thoughts prevailed. I stepped to the well-remembered door, and rang a great peal ; the maid opened it to me without question, for many guests were expected. As I stooped to lay aside my cloak and cap, a lovely child in white ran down the stairs, threw her arms round my neck, and, with a hearty kiss, cried, " I have caught you under the mistletoe, cousin Alfred.
All my plans, all my pre- parations were forgotten ; I was in the midst of them ; and after fifteen years I saw again the Christmas fire, the Christmas table, the Christmas faces, that I had dreamed of so often! To describe that night is impossible.
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Long after midnight, we sat ; the children unwillingly left my knees for bed ; my brothers gazed and wondered ; my sisters crowded round me, kissed my brown-bearded cheeks, and pressed my sun-burned hands. Many new scenes of blessed Christmas may I have ; never one like that which welcomed the wanderer home! But although England has its blessed seasons and festivals, in which Christmas Day stands first ; and, although that Christmas meeting will often and again be before my eyes, I cannot stay in England. My life is moulded to my adopted country j and where I have earned fortune, there I will spend it.
The restraints, the conventionalities, the bonds created by endless divisions of society, are more than I can endure ; care seems to sit on every brow, and scornful pride in imaginary social superiority on too many. I have found the rosy English face, and the true English heart! I am now preparing for departure ; and neither society, nor books, nor music, will be wanting in what was, when I first knew it, a forest and grassy desert, peopled with wild birds and kangaroos.
Nearly twenty relations accompany me ; some of them poor enough. In a few years you may find the Barnard-town settlement on Australian maps ; and there, at Christmas- time, or any time, true men and good women shall meet with welcome and help from me, for I shall never forget that I once began the world, a shepherd in a solitude, and gazed on the bright stars of a Christmas night, shining in a hot and cloudless sky.
The trees round the meadows of St. Agnus Dei de Pompadour were the same. Dons went to chapel regularly, but the Dean of St. Agnus appeared in an extensive funeral-looking cloak, and the Sub- Dean coughed louder, and made more mis- takes in the responses, by reason of deafness, than heretofore. Coal and Blanket Societies were talked of. In few words, Christmas was fast approaching, and University men were looking forward to spending that season in town or country, according to their residence, inclinations, or invitations. Horace De Lisle, a freshman, who had come "up" in the preceding October, and was now hastening back to the paternal hearth at St.
Maurice, a charming little vicarage in Warwickshire, just large enough to be the best house in the village, just small enough to be sociable, allowing of half-a-dozen spare beds. Practically religious, without any morbid affectation of any " isms," the Rev. Augustus De Lisle was the best and most popular parson for miles round. His income might be some four hundred a year, besides a little property in the funds ; but judicious economy, and a little success in "gentleman farming," made it go very far, and St.
Maurice rectory boasted its occasional dinner-party, its billiard-room, and its plain carriage ; while few of the poor or sick ever went away unrelieved.
De Lisle was a good and clever woman, and educated her own daughters ; which saved money and morals at the same time. However, like the generality of clergymen who have not much preferment, and who really do good, the Rev. Augustus De Lisle had a large family. Girls, even when edu- cated at home, cost something ; boys cost a great deal more, and cannot be kept at home. Two or three had been got off his hands, but Horace had been a pet boy, kept at home a good deal through ill-health.
Several people were surprised when he took the St. Agnus Dei scholarship, and took the " bounce " out of the Tipton and Whortleberry boys at the same time. And so Horace had been sent to the Uni- versity, with the promise of eighty or a hundred pounds a year from his father, an odd present of fifty from an aunt, and a lot of tears, blessings, and hints at advice from his mother.
He had now passed his first term. He had made up his mind to take a " double first," the Iceland scholarship, and the English verse ; he found Arnold's Thucydides a very stupid book, and wondered how it was that nothing " took " in the publishing way, unless it was " translated from the German.
But he had still far too much love for home to find even a lingering inclination for a further stay. Moreover, ambition seemed to send him homeward. The Dean had said, in a gruff voice, " Very well, sir! John o' Gaunt, his tutor, had expanded his lank lips into a smile, and had commended his Latinity ; and here was news for his father! Jack was a tre- mendous, rough, manly fellow, with a very kind heart, and great powers of sociability. Even Bruiser, of St. Alb-Cornice, who had thrashed the " Bunstead Grinder," shrank into insignificance when compared with Jack ; and Smillington, of St.
Una de Lion, could not sing " Down among the dead men " half so well. Besides all this, Horace had some few private anxieties and doubts of which anon. Great as was the readiness and frequency with which slang phrases were bandied to and fro at the University, there was one little word which seemed more in use than any, and which half the University appeared to be living to illustrate. When Horace first appeared at St. Agnus Dei, one of his first proceedings was to pay for his furniture ; and to purchase the good- will of the cups and saucers of the last inmate of his rooms.
Several other ready- money transactions, on a small scale, evinced his desire and intention of avoiding debt ; and as his father had not only advised him to do so, but had furnished him with the means of eking out the small allowance of his scholarship, he himself felt ill-justified in overrunning his known income. That word was staring in his face ; whizzing before his eyes ; insinu- ating itself into his food ; adulterating the wine he drank. It stared at him in the form of one man's boots so much better fitting than old Last's, at St. Maurice ; in the broad stripe of another man's elegantly-cut trousers ; in the glossy hat of another ; in the faultless, close-to-the-waist-when-unbuttoned dress coat of another.
It took all sorts of forms.
What Christmas is as We Grow Older
It would transfer itself into a walking-cane, at one end of a street ; and at the end of another, it had suddenly become a plaid scarf, or a coral-headed breast-pin. Sometimes it would appear as a Yorkshire pie ; sometimes as a musical box. At one moment, just as he thought it was a pair of hair-brushes, it would suddenly turn itself into a steak and oyster-sauce at Cliften's. In the dreams of men, it would haunt them ; in their walks, it would cling to their very feet ; in their reading moments, it lay open before them ; in their smoking ones, it fumed with them.
And that word was tick, tick, TICK. But Horace was not in debt. Oh no! He had only commenced a few accounts for things which " one could not very well pay for till the end of term ; " and when the end of term came, he found he was obliged to write home for five pounds to come home with, and this, as it was his first term, his father thought 94 IF YOU OUTGROW IT nothing of.
Then, he had " been obliged " to order "one or two things" at Stilty and Cabbagenet, the great tailor's ; but there could be no harm in that, because their names were put down on the list of tradesmen his tutor had handed him. Then, there were one or two little presents for his sisters, and a ring and a new watch-chain, which " he could pay for next term," and one or two other matters but " nothing of consequence. He was certainly more manly in speech and manner, and more confident in expressing opinions ; but he had lost none of his social frankness and good-nature.
But Christmas was getting close at hand, and Horace, somehow or other, did not evince so lively an interest in the preparations for it as formerly. He said something in reference to " their always boring about mince-meat ; " and he thought the charity-school dinner might be managed cheaper and with less trouble at the school- house, than in their own kitchen.
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Moreover, his father could scarcely under- stand the necessity of his reading in a bright- coloured chintz gown, lined with bright red silk, although his sisters thought it very pretty. He called his pony a " mere hack," and showed discrimination in matters relating to horse-flesh. But all these were minor difficulties, and Horace had too much real goodness of heart to ask his father for more money, or to obtrude his artificial wants except in fits of occasional peevishness. Besides, the Bishop of St. Epps was so pleased with his debut at St. Agnus Dei, that he had obtained for him an " exhibition," which put another thirty pounds a year into his pocket.
This comforted him on the score of his present experiments with TICK. Christmas passed away, merrily. The house was a perfect bower of holly j good, whole- some dinners, and lively, hearty parties in the evening, "kept" the St. Maurice Christ- mas in genuine, downright style. And then came more junketing.
You may fancy what everybody said and did upon that occasion! And now came the time for Horace to go back. Despite the domesticity of home, despite the absence of cold ducks at break- fast, of claret after dinner, and of lobster salad for supper despite the rough want of eti- quette, which led Jack Harrington to dance with his own wife, to prefer the ale of the St. Maurice and the Goat to Bass or All- sopp, and to drink healths at his own dinner- parties, Horace had not found so sincere, or so soundly rational a companion at college.
He went back and with some regrets. It is a full three years, perhaps a trifle more, since Horace spent Christmas at his parental home. Many changes have taken place in that time. Laura is getting matronly on the strength of baby Number Two. Jack is get- ting additionally serious ; looks more sharply after business ; and gives fewer though not less sociable parties. The Reverend the Vicar of St. Maurice has got a small prebend, with the profits of which, he has insured his life in favour of three yet unmarried daughters. This Christmas at St. Maurice bids fair to rival all past Christmases in jollity, merriment, and social delight.
But where is Horace? Will he be as sociable as he used to be? Will he come up a prodigy of scholarship and good-nature, half a don, yet with a whole and a sound heart? The train is expected ; crowds are waiting on the platform, just as they waited this time three years since, and Horace is among them. But which is Horace?
It cannot be that young gentleman with haughty looks, a deli- cately-robust or robustly-delicate figure, a bundle of whips in his hand, and two Scotch terriers held in with a string! It cannot be that white-over-coated, crushed-hatted, striped- shirted individual! And yet it is he too. With whom is he talking? It cannot be yes! Where are they going? Surely Horace will go direct home?
- What Christmas Is, As We Grow Older.
- See a Problem?.
- What Christmas is as we Grow Older.
- Introduction to XQuery.
We doubt it. Arrived in London a little dinner at some West End house beat up Sprigs, now in the 1 2th. Two or three fellows that the Honour- able Charley Cracker knows Horace must know them. Agnus Dei," "Permit me to introduce you to my friend Sprigs, formerly of St.
Adjourn to the Lyceum farce getting slow so on to the Claret Cup, to hear Mr. Pope sing the Cross Bones " and O, Mrs. A day or two is soon gone. Horace thinks he may as well go and "look in at the governor ; " and so he leaves the Honourable Charley Cracker. Honourable Charley Cracker is not a rogue or a sharper. He is merely an ass. He is a pupil of Horace De Lisle besides, who has taken to " coaching," and is open to any eligible offer with which ten or seventeen pounds a term is connected.
He quits London with a sigh, takes out his purse with another, and a deeper sigh. Laura is as pretty a young mamma as you will meet in a long summer-day's walk, and Horace cannot help thinking so. But he don't like babies ; and baby Number One has taken alarm at his handsomest terrier, and is squalling energetically. At home it is much the same. There is not so much as a bottle of hock in the whole cellar ; they will let the cat sleep on the rug in the dining-room, and the carriage is the same old-fashioned " tub " as ever.
However, he gets over baby's birthday tolerably well, although he wishes Jack didn't know so many farmers. Besides, Jack will nurse baby Junior himself, and w ill hawk out baby Senior to shake his diminutive fists, at new-comers in general. He feels glad to get back again to the rectory, but it is very slow there. His father doesn't know the Montmorencies, nor the Honourable Charley Cracker, and wonders why he did not get the fellowship at St.
Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays—no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!
Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him. Not the shadow of the City of the Dead? Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us.
City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us! We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them—can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away.
Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her—being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more.
O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time! There was a dear girl—almost a woman—never to be one—who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now!