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Christmas Eve At Mr Wardle's






From Pickwick Papers

CHARLES DICKENS

From the center of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just
suspended with his own hands a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same
branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and
most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which Mr.
Pickwick with a gallantry which would have done honour to a descendant
of Lady Trollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her
beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum.
The old lady submitted to this piece of practical politeness with all
the dignity which befitted so important and serious a solemnity, but the
younger ladies not being so thoroughly imbued with a superstitious
veneration of the custom, or imagining that the value of a salute is
very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtain it, screamed
and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated,
and did everything but leave the room, until some of the less
adventurous gentlemen were on the point of desisting, when they all at
once found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed
with a good grace. Mr. Winkle kissed the young lady with the black eyes,
and Mr. Snodgrass kissed Emily; and Mr. Weller, not being particular
about the form of being under the mistletoe, kissed Emma and the other
female servants, just as he caught them. As to the poor relations, they
kissed everybody, not even excepting the plainer portion of the
young-lady visitors, who, in their excessive confusion, ran right under
the mistletoe, directly it was hung up, without knowing it! Wardle stood
with his back to the fire, surveying the whole scene, with the utmost
satisfaction; and the fat boy took the opportunity of appropriating to
his own use, and summarily devouring, a particularly fine mince-pie,
that had been carefully put by for somebody else.

Now the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow and curls in a
tangle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old lady as before
mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, looking with a very pleased
countenance on all that was passing around him, when the young lady with
the black eyes, after a little whispering with the other young ladies,
made a sudden dart forward, and, putting her arm around Mr. Pickwick's
neck, saluted him affectionately on the left cheek; and before Mr.
Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surrounded by the
whole body, and kissed by every one of them.

It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group,
now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin and
then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and to hear the peals of
laughter which were raised on every side; but it was a still more
pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a
silk-handkerchief, falling up against the wall, and scrambling into
corners, and going through all the mysteries of blind-man's buff, with
the utmost relish of the game, until at last he caught one of the poor
relations; and then had to evade the blind-man himself, which he did
with a nimbleness and agility that elicited the admiration and applause
of all beholders. The poor relations caught just the people whom they
thought would like it; and when the game flagged, got caught themselves.
When they were all tired of blind-man's buff, there was a great game at
snapdragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the
raisons gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a
substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than
an ordinary washhouse copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and
bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly
irresistible.

This, said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, this is, indeed,
comfort.

Our invariable custom, replied Mr. Wardle. Everybody sits down with
us on Christmas eve, as you see them now--servants and all; and here we
wait till the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and wile away
the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the
fire.

Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred, and the
deep red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the furthest
corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on every face.

Come, said Wardle, a song--a Christmas song. I'll give you one, in
default of a better.

Bravo, said Mr. Pickwick.

Fill up, cried Wardle. It will be two hours good, before you see the
bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail; fill up
all round, and now for the song.

Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice,
commenced without more ado--

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing
Let the blossoms and buds be borne:
He woos them amain with his treacherous rain,
And he scatters them ere the morn.
An inconstant elf, he knows not himself,
Or his own changing mind an hour,
He'll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace,
He'll wither your youngest flower.

Let the summer sun to his bright home run,
He shall never be sought by me;
When he's dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud,
And care not how sulky he be;
For his darling child is the madness wild
That sports in fierce fever's train;
And when love is too strong, it don't last long,
As many have found to their pain.

A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light
Of the modest and gentle moon,
Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween,
Than the broad and unblushing noon,
But every leaf awakens my grief,
As it lieth beneath the tree;
So let Autumn air be never so fair,
It by no means agrees with me.

But my song I troll out, for Christmas stout,
The hearty, the true, and the bold;
A bumper I drain, and with might and main
Give three cheers for this Christmas old.
We'll usher him in with a merry din
That shall gladden his joyous heart,
And we'll keep him up while there's bite or sup,
And in fellowship good, we'll part.

In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide
One jot of his hard-weather scars;
They're no disgrace, for there's much the same trace
On the cheeks of our bravest tars.
Then again I sing 'till the roof doth ring,
And it echoes from wall to wall--
To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night,
As the King of the Seasons all!





Next: A Visit From St Nicholas

Previous: Hymn On The Nativity



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