Christmas Waits In Boston
I always give myself a Christmas present. And on this particular year
the present was a Carol party,--which is about as good fun, all things
consenting kindly, as a man can have.
Many things must consent, as will appear. First of all there must be
good sleighing,--and second, a fine night for Christmas eve. Ours are
not the carollings of your poor shivering little East Angles or South
Mercians, where they have to plod round afoot in countries where they do
not know what a sleigh-ride is.
I had asked Harry to have sixteen of the best voices in the chapel
school to be trained to eight or ten good Carols without knowing why. We
did not care to disappoint them if a February thaw setting in on the
24th of December should break up the spree before it began. Then I had
told Rowland that he must reserve for me a span of good horses, and a
sleigh that I could pack sixteen small children into, tight-stowed.
Howland is always good about such things, knew what the sleigh was for,
having done the same in other years, and doubled the span of horses of
his own accord, because the children would like it better, and "it would
be no difference to him." Sunday night as the weather nymphs ordered,
the wind hauled round to the northwest and everything froze hard. Monday
night, things moderated and the snow began to fall steadily,--so
steadily;--and so Tuesday night the Metropolitan people gave up their
unequal contest, all good men and angels rejoicing at their
discomfiture, and only a few of the people in the very lowest Bolgie,
being ill-natured enough to grieve. And thus it was, that by Thursday
evening was one hard compact roadway from Copp's Hill to the
Bone-burner's Gehenna, fit for good men and angels to ride over, without
jar, without noise and without fatigue to horse or man. So it was that
when I came down with Lycidas to the chapel at seven o'clock, I found
Harry had gathered there his eight pretty girls and his eight jolly
boys, and had them practising for the last time,
"Carol, carol, Christians,
Carol for the coming
Of Christ's nativity."
I think the children had got inkling of what was coming, or perhaps
Harry had hinted it to their mothers. Certainly they were warmly
dressed, and when, fifteen minutes afterwards, Howland came round
himself with the sleigh, he had put in as many rugs and bear-skins as if
he thought the children were to be taken new born from their respective
cradles. Great was the rejoicing as the bells of the horses rang beneath
the chapel windows, and Harry did not get his last da capo for his
last carol. Not much matter indeed, for they were perfect enough in it
Lycidas and I tumbled in on the back seat, each with a child in his lap
to keep us warm; I was flanked by Sam Perry, and he by John Rich, both
of the mercurial age, and therefore good to do errands. Harry was in
front somewhere flanked in likewise, and the twelve other children lay
in miscellaneously between, like sardines when you have first opened
the box. I had invited Lycidas, because, besides being my best friend,
he is the best fellow in the world, and so deserves the best Christmas
eve can give him. Under the full moon, on the snow still white, with
sixteen children at the happiest, and with the blessed memories of the
best the world has ever had, there can be nothing better than two or
three such hours.
"First, driver, out on Commonwealth Avenue. That will tone down the
horses. Stop on the left after you have passed Fairfield Street." So we
dashed up to the front of Haliburton's palace, where he was keeping his
first Christmas tide. And the children, whom Harry had hushed down for a
square or two, broke forth with good full voice under his strong lead in
"Shepherd of tender sheep,"
singing with all that unconscious pathos with which children do sing,
and starting the tears in your eyes in the midst of your gladness. The
instant the horses' bells stopped, their voices began. In an instant
more we saw Haliburton and Anna run to the window and pull up the
shades, and, in a minute more, faces at all the windows. And so the
children sung through Clement's old hymn. Little did Clement think of
bells and snow, as he taught it in his Sunday school there in
Alexandria. But perhaps to-day, as they pin up the laurels and the palm
in the chapel at Alexandria, they are humming the words, not thinking of
Clement more than he thought of us. As the children closed with
"Swell the triumphant song
To Christ, our King,"
Haliburton came running out, and begged me to bring them in. But I told
him, "No," as soon as I could hush their shouts of "Merry Christmas;"
that we had a long journey before us, and must not alight by the way.
And the children broke out with
"Hail to the night,
Hail to the day,"
rather a favorite,--quicker and more to the childish taste perhaps than
the other,--and with another "Merry Christmas" we were off again.
Off, the length of Commonwealth Avenue, to where it crosses the
Brookline branch of the Mill-Dam,--dashing along with the gayest of the
sleighing-parties as we came back into town, up Chestnut Street, through
Louisburg Square,--we ran the sleigh into a bank on the slope of
Pinckney Street in front of Walter's house,--and, before they suspected
there that any one had come, the children were singing
"Carol, carol, Christians,
Kisses flung from the window; kisses flung back from the street. "Merry
Christmas" again with a good-will, and then one of the girls began
"When Anna took the baby,
And pressed his lips to hers"--
and all of them fell in so cheerily. O dear me! it is a scrap of old
Ephrem the Syrian, if they did but know it! And when, after this, Harry
would fain have driven on, because two carols at one house was the rule,
how the little witches begged that they might sing just one song more
there, because Mrs. Alexander had been so kind to them, when she showed
them about the German stitches. And then up the hill and over to the
North End, and as far as we could get the horses up into Moon Court,
that they might sing to the Italian image-man who gave Lucy the boy and
dog in plaster, when she was sick in the spring. For the children had,
you know, the choice of where they would go; and they select their best
friends, and will be more apt to remember the Italian image-man than
Chrysostom himself, though Chrysostom should have "made a few remarks"
to them seventeen times in the chapel. Then the Italian image-man heard
for the first time in his life
"Now is the time of Christmas come,"
"Jesus in his babes abiding."
And then we came up Hanover Street and stopped under Mr. Gerry's chapel,
where they were dressing the walls with their evergreens, and gave them
"Hail to the night,
Hail to the day";
and so down State Street and stopped at the Advertiser office, because,
when the boys gave their "Literary Entertainment," Mr. Hale put in their
advertisement for nothing, and up in the old attic there the
compositors were relieved to hear
"Nor war nor battle sound,"
"The waiting world was still."
Even the leading editor relaxed from his gravity, and the "In General"
man from his more serious views, and the Daily the next morning wished
everybody a merry Christmas with even more unction, and resolved that in
coming years it would have a supplement, large enough to contain all the
good wishes. So away again to the houses of confectioners who had given
the children candy,--to Miss Simonds's house, because she had been so
good to them in school,--to the palaces of millionnaires who had prayed
for these children with tears if the children only knew it,--to Dr.
Frothingham's in Summer Street, I remember, where we stopped because the
Boston Association of Ministers met there,--and out on Dover Street
Bridge, that the poor chair-mender might hear our carols sung once more
before he heard them better sung in another world where nothing needs
"King of glory, king of peace!"
"Hear the song, and see the Star!"
"Welcome be thou, heavenly King!"
"Was not Christ our Saviour?"
and all the others, rung out with order or without order, breaking the
hush directly as the horses' bells were stilled, thrown into the air
with all the gladness of childhood, selected sometimes as Harry happened
to think best for the hearers, but more often as the jubilant and
uncontrolled enthusiasm of the children bade them break out in the most
joyous, least studied, and purely lyrical of all. O, we went to twenty
places that night, I suppose! We went to the grandest places in Boston,
and we went to the meanest. Everywhere they wished us a merry Christmas,
and we them. Everywhere a little crowd gathered round us, and then we
dashed away far enough to gather quite another crowd; and then back,
perhaps, not sorry to double on our steps if need were, and leaving
every crowd with a happy thought of
"The star, the manger, and the Child!"
At nine we brought up at my house, D Street, three doors from the
corner, and the children picked their very best for Polly and my six
little girls to hear, and then for the first time we let them jump out
and run in. Polly had some hot oysters for them, so that the frolic was
crowned with a treat. There was a Christmas cake cut into sixteen
pieces, which they took home to dream upon; and then hoods and muffs on
again, and by ten o'clock, or a little after, we had all the girls and
all the little ones at their homes. Four of the big boys, our two
flankers and Harry's right and left hand men, begged that they might
stay till the last moment. They could walk back from the stable, and
"rather walk than not, indeed." To which we assented, having gained
parental permission, as we left younger sisters in their respective
Lycidas and I both thought, as we went into these modest houses, to
leave the children, to say they had been good and to wish a "Merry
Christmas" ourselves to fathers, mothers, and to guardian aunts, that
the welcome of those homes was perhaps the best part of it all. Here
was the great stout sailor-boy whom we had not seen since he came back
from sea. He was a mere child when he left our school years on years
ago, for the East, on board Perry's vessel, and had been round the
world. Here was brave Mrs. Masury. I had not seen her since her mother
died. "Indeed, Mr. Ingham, I got so used to watching then, that I cannot
sleep well yet o' nights; I wish you knew some poor creature that wanted
me to-night, if it were only in memory of Bethlehem." "You take a deal
of trouble for the children," said Campbell, as he crushed my hand in
his; "but you know they love you, and you know I would do as much for
you and yours,"--which I knew was true. "What can I send to your
children?" said Dalton, who was finishing sword-blades. (Ill wind was
Fort Sumter, but it blew good to poor Dalton, whom it set up in the
world with his sword-factory.) "Here's an old-fashioned tape-measure for
the girl, and a Sheffield wimble for the boy. What, there is no boy? Let
one of the girls have it then; it will count one more present for her."
And so he pressed his brown-paper parcel into my hand. From every house,
though it were the humblest, a word of love, as sweet, in truth, as if
we could have heard the voice of angels singing in the sky.
I bade Harry good-night; took Lycidas to his lodgings, and gave his wife
my Christmas wishes and good-night; and, coming down to the sleigh
again, gave way to the feeling which I think you will all understand,
that this was not the time to stop, but just the time to begin. For the
streets were stiller now, and the moon brighter than ever, if possible,
and the blessings of these simple people and of the grand people, and of
the very angels in heaven, who are not bound to the misery of using
words when they have anything worth saying,--all these wishes and
blessings were round me, all the purity of the still winter night, and I
didn't want to lose it all by going to bed to sleep. So I put the boys
all together, where they could chatter, took one more brisk turn on the
two avenues, and then, passing through Charles Street, I believe I was
even thinking of Cambridge, I noticed the lights in Woodhull's house,
and, seeing they were up, thought I would make Fanny a midnight call.
She came to the door herself. I asked if she were waiting for Santa
Claus, but saw in a moment that I must not joke with her. She said she
had hoped I was her husband. In a minute was one of these contrasts
which make life, life. God puts us into the world that we may try them
and be tried by them. Poor Fanny's mother had been blocked up on the
Springfield train as she was coming on to Christmas. The old lady had
been chilled through, and was here in bed now with pneumonia. Both
Fanny's children had been ailing when she came, and this morning the
doctor had pronounced it scarlet fever. Fanny had not undressed herself
since Monday, nor slept, I thought, in the same time. So while we had
been singing carols and wishing merry Christmas, the poor child had been
waiting, and hoping that her husband or Edward, both of whom were on the
tramp, would find for her and bring to her the model nurse, who had not
yet appeared. But at midnight this unknown sister had not arrived, nor
had either of the men returned. When I rang, Fanny had hoped I was one
of them. Professional paragons, dear reader, are shy of scarlet fever. I
told the poor child that it was better as it was. I wrote a line for Sam
Perry to take to his aunt, Mrs. Masury, in which I simply said: "Dear
mamma, I have found the poor creature who wants you to-night. Come back
in this carriage." I bade him take a hack at Barnard's, where they were
all up waiting for the assembly to be done at Papanti's. I sent him over
to Albany Street; and really as I sat there trying to soothe Fanny, it
seemed to me less time than it has taken me to dictate this little story
about her, before Mrs. Masury rang gently, and I left them, having made
Fanny promise that she would consecrate the day, which at that moment
was born, by trusting God, by going to bed and going to sleep, knowing
that her children were in much better hands than hers. As I passed out
of the hall, the gas-light fell on a print of Correggio's Adoration,
where Woodhull had himself written years before,
"Ut appareat iis qui in tenebris et umbra mortis positi sunt."
"Darkness and the shadow of death" indeed, and what light like the light
and comfort such a woman as my Mary Masury brings!
And so, but for one of the accidents, as we call them, I should have
dropped the boys at the corner of Dover Street, and gone home with my
But it happened, as we irreverently say,--it happened as we crossed Park
Square, so called from its being an irregular pentagon of which one of
the sides has been taken away, that I recognized a tall man, plodding
across in the snow, head down, round-shouldered, stooping forward in
walking, with his right shoulder higher than his left; and by these
tokens I knew Tom Coram, prince among Boston princes. Not Thomas Coram
that built the Foundling Hospital, though he was of Boston too; but he
was longer ago. You must look for him in Addison's contribution to a
supplement to the Spectator,--the old Spectator, I mean, not the
Thursday Spectator, which is more recent. Not Thomas Coram, I say, but
Tom Coram, who would build a hospital to-morrow, if you showed him the
need, without waiting to die first, and always helps forward, as a
prince should, whatever is princely, be it a statue at home, a school at
Richmond, a newspaper in Florida, a church in Exeter, a steam-line to
Liverpool, or a widow who wants a hundred dollars. I wished him a merry
Christmas, and Mr. Howland, by a fine instinct, drew up the horses as I
spoke. Coram shook hands; and, as it seldom happens that I have an empty
carriage while he is on foot, I asked him if I might not see him home.
He was glad to get in. We wrapped him up with spoils of the bear, the
fox, and the bison, turned the horses' heads again,--five hours now
since they started on this entangled errand of theirs,--and gave him his
ride. "I was thinking of you at the moment," said Coram,--"thinking of
old college times, of the mystery of language as unfolded by the Abbe
Faria to Edmond Dantes in the depths of the Chateau d'If. I was
wondering if you could teach me Japanese, if I asked you to a Christmas
dinner." I laughed. Japan was really a novelty then, and I asked him
since when he had been in correspondence with the sealed country. It
seemed that their house at Shanghae had just sent across there their
agents for establishing the first house in Edomo, in Japan, under the
new treaty. Everything looked promising, and the beginnings were made
for the branch which has since become Dot and Trevilyan there. Of this
he had the first tidings in his letters by the mail of that afternoon.
John Coram, his brother, had written to him, and had said that he
enclosed for his amusement the Japanese bill of particulars, as it had
been drawn out, on which they had founded their orders for the first
assorted cargo ever to be sent from America to Edomo. Bill of
particulars there was, stretching down the long tissue-paper in
exquisite chirography. But by some freak of the "total depravity of
things," the translated order for the assorted cargo was not there. John
Coram, in his care to fold up the Japanese writing nicely, had left on
his own desk at Shanghae the more intelligible English. "And so I must
wait," said Tom philosophically, "till the next East India mail for my
orders, certain that seven English houses have had less enthusiastic and
philological correspondents than my brother."
I said I did not see that. That I could not teach him to speak the
Taghalian dialects so well, that he could read them with facility before
Saturday. But I could do a good deal better. Did he remember writing a
note to old Jack Percival for me five years ago? No, he remembered no
such thing; he knew Jack Percival, but never wrote a note to him in his
life. Did he remember giving me fifty dollars, because I had taken a
delicate boy, whom I was going to send to sea, and I was not quite
satisfied with the government outfit? No, he did not remember that,
which was not strange, for that was a thing he was doing every day.
"Well, I don't care how much you remember, but the boy about whom you
wrote to Jack Percival, for whose mother's ease of mind you provided the
half-hundred, is back again,--strong, straight, and well; what is more
to the point, he had the whole charge of Perry's commissariat on shore
at Yokohama, was honorably discharged out there, reads Japanese better
than you read English; and if it will help you at all, he shall be here
at your house at breakfast." For as I spoke we stopped at Coram's door.
"Ingham," said Coram, "if you were not a parson, I should say you were
romancing." "My child," said I, "I sometimes write a parable for the
Atlantic; but the words of my lips are verity, as all those of the
Sandemanians. Go to bed; do not even dream of the Taghalian dialects; be
sure that the Japanese interpreter will breakfast with you, and the next
time you are in a scrape send for the nearest minister. George, tell
your brother Ezra that Mr. Coram wishes him to breakfast here to-morrow
morning at eight o'clock; don't forget the number, Pemberton Square, you
know." "Yes, sir," said George; and Thomas Coram laughed, said "Merry
Christmas," and we parted.
It was time we were all in bed, especially these boys. But glad
enough am I as I write these words that the meeting of Coram set us
back that dropped-stitch in our night's journey. There was one more
delay. We were sweeping by the Old State House, the boys singing
again, "Carol, carol, Christians," as we dashed along the still
streets, when I caught sight of Adams Todd, and he recognized me. He
had heard us singing when we were at the Advertiser office. Todd is
an old fellow-apprentice of mine,--and he is now, or rather was that
night, chief pressman in the Argus office. I like the Argus
people,--it was there that I was South American Editor, now many
years ago,--and they befriend me to this hour. Todd hailed me, and
once more I stopped. "What sent you out from your warm steam-boiler?"
"Steam-boiler, indeed," said Todd. "Two rivets loose,--steam-room
full of steam,--police frightened,--neighborhood in a row,--and we
had to put out the fire. She would have run a week without hurting a
fly,--only a little puff in the street sometimes. But there we are,
Ingham. We shall lose the early mail as it stands. Seventy-eight
tokens to be worked now." They always talked largely of their edition
at the Argus. Saw it with many eyes, perhaps; but this time, I am
sure, Todd spoke true. I caught his idea at once. In younger and more
muscular times, Todd and I had worked the Adams press by that
fly-wheel for full five minutes at a time, as a test of strength; and
in my mind's eye, I saw that he was printing his paper at this moment
with relays of grinding stevedores. He said it was so. "But think of
it to-night," said he. "It is Christmas eve, and not an Irishman to
be hired, though one paid him ingots. Not a man can stand the grind
ten minutes." I knew that very well from old experience, and I
thanked him inwardly for not saying "the demnition grind," with
Mantilini. "We cannot run the press half the time," said he; "and the
men we have are giving out now. We shall lose all our carrier
delivery." "Todd," said I, "is this a night to be talking of ingots,
or hiring, or losing, or gaining? When will you learn that Love rules
the court, the camp, and the Argus office." And I wrote on the back
of a letter to Campbell: "Come to the Argus office, No. 2 Dassett's
Alley, with seven men not afraid to work"; and I gave it to John and
Sam, bade Howland take the boys to Campbell's house,--walked down
with Todd to his office,--challenged him to take five minutes at the
wheel, in memory of old times,--made the tired relays laugh as they
saw us take hold; and then,--when I had cooled off, and put on my
Cardigan,--met Campbell, with his seven sons of Anak, tumbling down
the stairs, wondering what round of mercy the parson had found for
them this time. I started home, knowing I should now have my Argus
with my coffee.
And so I walked home. Better so, perhaps, after all, than in the lively
sleigh, with the tinkling bells.
"It was a calm and silent night!--
Seven hundred years and fifty-three
Had Rome been growing up to might,
And now was queen of land and sea!
No sound was heard of clashing wars,--
Peace brooded o'er the hushed domain;
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
Held undisturbed their ancient reign
In the solemn midnight,
What an eternity it seemed since I started with those children singing
carols. Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, Rome, Roman senators, Tiberius,
Paul, Nero, Clement, Ephrem, Ambrose, and all the singers,--Vincent de
Paul, and all the loving wonder-workers, Milton and Herbert and all the
carol-writers, Luther and Knox and all the prophets,--what a world of
people had been keeping Christmas with Sam Perry and Lycidas and Harry
and me; and here were Yokohama and the Japanese, the Daily Argus and its
ten million tokens and their readers,--poor Fanny Woodhull and her sick
mother there, keeping Christmas too! For a finite world, these are a
good many "waits" to be singing in one poor fellow's ears on one
"'Twas in the calm and silent night!--
The senator of haughty Rome,
Impatient urged his chariot's flight,
From lordly revel, rolling home.
Triumphal arches gleaming swell
His breast, with thoughts of boundless sway.
What recked the Roman what befell
A paltry province far away,
In the solemn midnight,
"Within that province far away
Went plodding home a weary boor;
A streak of light before him lay,
Fallen through a half-shut stable door
Across his path. He passed,--for naught
Told what was going on within;
How keen the stars, his only thought,
The air how calm and cold and thin,
In the solemn midnight,
"Streak of light"--Is there a light in Lycidas's room? They not in bed!
That is making a night of it! Well, there are few hours of the day or
night when I have not been in Lycidas's room, so I let myself in by the
night-key he gave me, ran up the stairs,--it is a horrid seven-storied,
first-class lodging-house. For my part, I had as lief live in a steeple.
Two flights I ran up, two steps at a time,--I was younger then than I am
now,--pushed open the door which was ajar, and saw such a scene of
confusion as I never saw in Mary's over-nice parlor before. Queer! I
remember the first thing that I saw was wrong was a great ball of white
German worsted on the floor. Her basket was upset. A great
Christmas-tree lay across the rug, quite too high for the room; a large
sharp-pointed Spanish clasp-knife was by it, with which they had been
lopping it; there were two immense baskets of white papered presents,
both upset; but what frightened me most was the centre-table. Three or
four handkerchiefs on it,--towels, napkins, I know not what,--all brown
and red and almost black with blood! I turned, heart-sick, to look into
the bedroom,--and I really had a sense of relief when I saw somebody.
Bad enough it was, however. Lycidas, but just now so strong and well,
lay pale and exhausted on the bloody bed, with the clothing removed from
his right thigh and leg, while over him bent Mary and Morton. I learned
afterwards that poor Lycidas, while trimming the Christmas-tree, and
talking merrily with Mary and Morton,--who, by good luck, had brought
round his presents late, and was staying to tie on glass balls and
apples,--had given himself a deep and dangerous wound with the point of
the unlucky knife, and had lost a great deal of blood before the
hemorrhage could be controlled. Just before I entered, the stick
tourniquet which Morton had improvised had slipped in poor Mary's
unpractised hand, at the moment he was about to secure the bleeding
artery, and the blood followed in such a gush as compelled him to give
his whole attention to stopping its flow. He only knew my entrance by
the "Ah, Mr. Ingham," of the frightened Irish girl, who stood useless
behind the head of the bed.
"O Fred," said Morton, without looking up, "I am glad you are here."
"And what can I do for you?"
"Some whiskey,--first of all."
"There are two bottles," said Mary, who was holding the candle,--"in the
cupboard, behind his dressing-glass."
I took Bridget with me, struck a light in the dressing-room (how she
blundered about the match), and found the cupboard door locked! Key
doubtless in Mary's pocket,--probably in pocket of "another dress." I
did not ask. Took my own bunch, willed tremendously that my account-book
drawer key should govern the lock, and it did. If it had not, I should
have put my fist through the panels. Bottle of bedbug poison; bottle
marked "bay rum"; another bottle with no mark; two bottles of Saratoga
water. "Set them all on the floor, Bridget." A tall bottle of Cologne.
Bottle marked in MS. What in the world is it? "Bring that candle,
Bridget." "Eau destillee. Marron, Montreal." What in the world did
Lycidas bring distilled water from Montreal for? And then Morton's clear
voice in the other room, "As quick as you can, Fred." "Yes! in one
moment. Put all these on the floor, Bridget." Here they are at last.
"Bourbon whiskey." "Corkscrew, Bridget."
"Indade, sir, and where is it?" "Where? I don't know. Run down as quick
as you can, and bring it. His wife cannot leave him." So Bridget ran,
and the first I heard was the rattle as she pitched down the last six
stairs of the first flight headlong. Let us hope she has not broken her
leg. I meanwhile am driving a silver pronged fork into the Bourbon
corks, and the blade of my own penknife on the other side.
"Now, Fred," from George within. (We all call Morton "George.") "Yes, in
one moment," I replied. Penknife blade breaks off, fork pulls right out,
two crumbs of cork come with it. Will that girl never come?
I turned round; I found a goblet on the washstand; I took Lycidas's
heavy clothes-brush, and knocked off the neck of the bottle. Did you
ever do it, reader, with one of those pressed glass bottles they make
now? It smashed like a Prince Rupert's drop in my hand, crumbled into
seventy pieces,--a nasty smell of whiskey on the floor,--and I, holding
just the hard bottom of the thing with two large spikes running
worthless up into the air. But I seized the goblet, poured into it what
was left in the bottom, and carried it in to Morton as quietly as I
could. He bade me give Lycidas as much as he could swallow; then showed
me how to substitute my thumb for his, and compress the great artery.
When he was satisfied that he could trust me, he began his work again,
silently; just speaking what must be said to that brave Mary, who seemed
to have three hands because he needed them. When all was secure, he
glanced at the ghastly white face, with beads of perspiration on the
forehead and upper lip, laid his finger on the pulse, and said: "We will
have a little more whiskey. No, Mary, you are overdone already; let Fred
bring it." The truth was that poor Mary was almost as white as Lycidas.
She would not faint,--that was the only reason she did not,--and at the
moment I wondered that she did not fall. I believe George and I were
both expecting it, now the excitement was over. He called her Mary, and
me Fred, because we were all together every day of our lives. Bridget,
you see, was still nowhere.
So I retired for my whiskey again,--to attack that other bottle. George
whispered quickly as I went, "Bring enough,--bring the bottle." Did he
want the bottle corked? Would that Kelt ever come up stairs? I passed
the bell-rope as I went into the dressing-room, and rang as hard as I
could ring. I took the other bottle, and bit steadily with my teeth at
the cork, only, of course, to wrench the end of it off. George called
me, and I stepped back. "No," said he, "bring your whiskey."
Mary had just rolled gently back on the floor. I went again in despair.
But I heard Bridget's step this time. First flight, first passage;
second flight, second passage. She ran in in triumph at length, with a
"No!" I whispered,--"no. The crooked thing you draw corks with," and I
showed her the bottle again. "Find one somewhere and don't come back
without it." So she vanished for the second time.
"Frederic!" said Morton. I think he never called me so before. Should I
risk the clothes-brush again? I opened Lycidas's own drawers,--papers,
boxes, everything in order,--not a sign of a tool.
"Frederic!" "Yes," I said. But why did I say "Yes"? "Father of Mercy,
tell me what to do."
And my mazed eyes, dim with tears,--did you ever shed tears from
excitement?--fell on an old razor-strop of those days of shaving, made
by C. WHITTAKER, SHEFFIELD. The "Sheffield" stood in black letters out
from the rest like a vision. They make corkscrews in Sheffield too. If
this Whittaker had only made a corkscrew! And what is a "Sheffield
Hand in my pocket,--brown paper parcel.
"Where are you, Frederic?" "Yes," said I, for the last time. Twine off!
brown paper off. And I learned that the "Sheffield wimble" was one of
those things whose name you never heard before, which people sell you in
Thames Tunnel, where a hoof-cleaner, a gimlet, a screw-driver, and a
corkscrew fold into one handle.
"Yes," said I, again. "Pop," said the cork. "Bubble, bubble, bubble,"
said the whiskey. Bottle in one hand, full tumbler in the other, I
walked in. George poured half a tumblerful down Lycidas's throat that
time. Nor do I dare say how much he poured down afterwards. I found that
there was need of it, from what he said of the pulse, when it was all
over. I guess Mary had some, too.
This was the turning-point. He was exceedingly weak, and we sat by him
in turn through the night, giving, at short intervals, stimulants and
such food as he could swallow easily; for I remember Morton was very
particular not to raise his head more than we could help. But there was
no real danger after this.
As we turned away from the house on Christmas morning,--I to preach and
he to visit his patients,--he said to me, "Did you make that whiskey?"
"No," said I, "but poor Dod Dalton had to furnish the corkscrew."
And I went down to the chapel to preach. The sermon had been lying ready
at home on my desk,--and Polly had brought it round to me,--for there
had been no time for me to go from Lycidas's home to D Street and to
return. There was the text, all as it was the day before:--
"They helped every one his neighbor, and every one said to his
brother, Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the
goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote
And there were the pat illustrations, as I had finished them yesterday;
of the comfort Mary Magdalen gave Joanna, the court lady; and the
comfort the court lady gave Mary Magdalen, after the mediator of a new
covenant had mediated between them; how Simon the Cyrenian, and Joseph
of Arimathea, and the beggar Bartimeus comforted each other, gave each
other strength, common force, com-fort, when the One Life flowed in
all their veins; how on board the ship the Tent-Maker proved to be
Captain, and the Centurion learned his duty from his Prisoner, and how
they "All came safe to shore," because the New Life was there. But as
I preached, I caught Frye's eye. Frye is always critical; and I said to
myself, "Frye would not take his illustrations from eighteen hundred
years ago." And I saw dear old Dod Dalton trying to keep awake, and
Campbell hard asleep after trying, and Jane Masury looking round to see
if her mother did not come in; and Ezra Sheppard, looking, not so much
at me, as at the window beside me, as if his thoughts were the other
side of the world. And I said to them all, "O, if I could tell you, my
friends, what every twelve hours of my life tells me,--of the way in
which woman helps woman, and man helps man, when only the ice is
broken,--how we are all rich so soon as we find out that we are all
brothers, and how we are all in want, unless we can call at any moment
for a brother's hand,--then I could make you understand something, in
the lives you lead every day, of what the New Covenant, the New
Commonwealth, the New Kingdom is to be."
But I did not dare tell Dod Dalton what Campbell had been doing for
Todd, nor did I dare tell Campbell by what unconscious arts old Dod had
been helping Lycidas. Perhaps the sermon would have been better had I
But, when we had our tree in the evening at home, I did tell
all this story to Polly and the bairns, and I gave Alice her
measuring-tape,--precious with a spot of Lycidas's blood,--and
Bertha her Sheffield wimble. "Papa," said old Clara, who is the
next child, "all the people gave presents, did not they, as they
did in the picture in your study?"
"Yes," said I, "though they did not all know they were giving them."
"Why do they not give such presents every day?" said Clara.
"O child," I said, "it is only for thirty-six hours of the three hundred
and sixty-five days, that all people remember that they are all brothers
and sisters, and those are the hours that we call, therefore, Christmas
eve and Christmas day."
"And when they always remember it," said Bertha, "it will be Christmas
all the time! What fun!"
"What fun, to be sure; but, Clara, what is in the picture?"
"Why, an old woman has brought eggs to the baby in the manger, and an
old man has brought a sheep. I suppose they all brought what they had."
"I suppose those who came from Sharon brought roses," said Bertha. And
Alice, who is eleven, and goes to the Lincoln School, and therefore
knows every thing, said,--"Yes, and the Damascus people brought Damascus
"This is certain," said Polly, "that nobody tried to give a straw, but
the straw, if he really gave it, carried a blessing."
Next: Alice's Christmas-tree
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