Christmas Waits In Boston





I.



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 joyfully;

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

before midnight.



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,

Carol joyfully."



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,"



and



"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,"



and



"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

mending.



"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

homes.





II.



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

Christmas lesson.



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.





III.



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,

Centuries ago!"



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

Christmas tide.



"'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,

Centuries ago!



"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,

Centuries ago!"



"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

screw-driver!



"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

wimble"?



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

the anvil."



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

done so.



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

wimbles."



"This is certain," said Polly, "that nobody tried to give a straw, but

the straw, if he really gave it, carried a blessing."





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