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eyes are bright, and all things tend to mirth and jollity. The “roast beef of old England” smokes on the spit, and plum-puddings of gigantic calibre steam in roaring, hissing boilers; and huge butts of ripe old ale are tapped, and bowls of sweet-smelling punch are brewed; and laughing, rollicking hospitality throws his door back upon its hinge, and welcomes the crowd with hearty grasps and glowing greetings. A right merry time is Christmas! Then quaint ballads, songs, and ditties are rummaged from the store of memory, and the old croon to themselves the rhymes they learned in lisping infancy. Ay, and they snap their fingers to the tune, and cut a step or two, and laugh as they are reminded of fun and frolic long since passed away. Egad! it warms their lazy blood, too, and makes it skip, for the nonce, nimbly through their veins to see plump, rosy-cheeked lasses, dragged beneath the Druidical branch, and kisses loud and long smacked upon their cherry lips, willing for the office, and yet reluctantly
consenting. A right merry time is Christmas! Books and satchels are consigned to dusty shelves, and the spider may spin his film, 'mid classic lore, without endangering the mesh withal, or risk of life or limb. “Hurrah for home! the good, dear old home!” Such is the cry from youthful tongues, echoed from young, glad hearts, and in it is the joyous music of the loving and beloved.
Home! Yes, “ while yet a nook is left where English minds and manners may be found, hearts shall be constrained to love it." Home ! let it be never so humble, still finds a whispered echo in the humblest heart. Like as the tear of the penitent gains the readiest road to Heaven, and is there treasured as the most grateful offering ; so the thought of home forms the priceless offering to the shrine of mortal adoration. The good and the happy-those on whom the hand of misfortune has so lightly rested that the gaunt and lank necessities and cares of others sound but as tales to fan their sympathy-ever turn to the remembrance of - the old house at home,” with smiles and thoughts of merry, gladsome tales of Christmas revels, and of harvest homes, and the wedding-days of village lad and lassie ; and, should the thought be mingled with regret that the scenes and actors in them may have passed, and passed away for ever, still it is blended with the recalling of those hours when joy floated above joy, and life was, indeed, but a laughing holyday.
In a wide and lofty room—it had once been a banquet hall for steel-clad knights and barons -with huge black rafters stretching across the roof, and its walls flanked with polished panels of oak, a motley company of merry folks were assembled. A pile of faggots blazed in the yawning chasm of the hearth, and threw a fitful gleam of light to the farthest corner of the room, while a lamp of antique handicraft flared brightly from the centre of the middle beam, and made the holly, ivy, and mistletoe, scat
tered in profusion around, look as fresh and green as the leaf of the hawthorn in early spring. Upon a broad and long table, placed against the wall opposite the chimney corner, and whose surface was glossy alone from the friction of time, flagons of foaming ale, and bowls filled with potent odoriferous mixtures, bearing various titles, and yet each claiming an equal degree of merit, and deep jorums of grog, and jugs of cider, were placed in longcontinued rows. It was a fine sight, a very fine sight, indeed, to look at that merry crew toasting, and pledging, and draining their cups, and exchanging sentiments, and doing anything and everything for “ an excuse for the glass.” Then with what spirit the reel and countrydance were joined in again ; and, if the capers were not from light fantastic toes, still they were from as light-hearted a set as ever shuffled upon toe or heel. And the village fiddler, too
sadly dissipated fellow is that village fiddler; he is to be found at every wedding, revel,
and merry-making, and the bright pink tip of his nose betrays the fondness he entertains for drinks stronger than are dipped from moss-covered buckets, or caught from rippling brooks -adds fresh rosin to his bow, and scrapes with such enlivened power to his elbow, that sparks of fire, as well as notes of inspiration, seem to fly from the strings, until the very chairs, settles, and tables, join in the jig.
Ay, Christmas was not forgotten or neglected at the Range-as the Manor-house was called nor had it been within the recollection of the oldest living, and, as they would say, their fathers said the like thing when they were little children, and, for any proof to the contrary, such had been the tale for generations now mingled and mingling with the dust.
“ Old friends, old books, old wine, old customs, and old wood to burn,” was the standing toast at the Range; and, as the Squire used to rise with his beaming, ruddy face, and clear glistening eyes, to give his favourite zest to the