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Title: Christmas Comes but Once A Year - Showing What Mr. Brown Did, Thought, and Intended to Do, - during that Festive Season.
Author: Leighton, John, 1822-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  [Transcriber's Note:
  Rows of closely spaced asterisks are in the original.
  Spelling and punctuation have been left unchanged, except as noted
  at the end of the file.]

  [Illustration: JOHN BROWN ESQ.


  Showing What

  Mr. Brown Did, Thought, And Intended To Do,
  During That Festive Season.

  Now First Edited From The Original MSS. (Mess).

  With Notes and Illustrations


  William Tegg and Co., 85, Queen Street, Cheapside.

Prime Movers.

JOHN BROWN, Esq.-- _Citizen of London and Suburban Snob._

JOHN BROWN, Jun., Esq.-- _"Fast Gent;" Son and Heir to the above
  "Brick!"-- I believe you, my boys, rather!_

Master THOMAS BROWN.-- _Apple of his Mother's eye-- "her Tommy-wommy"--
  "her dear boy"-- "her jewel of a pet."_

Captain BONAVENTURE DE CAMP.-- _Officer, late of the Hon. E. I. Co's.
  Service, but now at the service of any one._

LATIMER DE CAMP.-- _Master of (He) Arts; Elder Son of the above, of
  Nobodynose College, Oxford._

WELLESLEY DE CAMP.-- _Cadet of Sandboys Military College._

SOAVO SPOHF.-- _Composer; Organist at St. Stiff's the Martyr;
  Mr. Brown's ex-friend._

JOHN (BROWN).-- _Footman to John Brown, Esq.; late Private in the
  44th foot._

TOBIAS STRAP.-- _Grocer in Greens, Landlord to Mr. Spohf, and
  Supernumerary help to any body._

ICHABOD STRAP.-- _(Son of his sire) commonly called "Alphonso,"
  but sometimes "Buttons."_

Mrs. BENIGMA BROWN.-- _Rib of John Brown, Esq.-- Ruler of his roast
  and boiled._

Miss JEMIMA BROWN.   }  _Eligible Young Ladies-- very so--
                           to any one inclined to a
Miss ANGELINA BROWN. }     matter-o'-money-all alliance._

Lady LUCRETIA DE CAMP.-- _Spouse of "the Captain;" Lady in her own
  right (and wrong)._

DEBORAH STRAP.-- _(Consort of T. S. above) Pue-packer at St. Stiff's
  the Martyr._

_Guests, Cooks, Maids, Lanthorn-bearers, extra Flunkeys, Police,
  &c., &c., &c., &c._

SCENE.-- _Victoria and Albert Villas, Mizzlington, near London._

TIME.-- _Christmas._

List of Plates.

John Brown, Esq., as he appeared every Evening      _Frontispiece._

The Carol--"Tidings of Comfort and Joy!"                         1

The Waits serenading Victoria and Albert Villas                  5

Christmas Eve--The Market--Brown buying Holly                   13

Christmas Dinners--Good Living, at least, Once a Year           18

The Pudding, as it ought to have appeared                       23

Bringing in the Yule-log                                        25

Boxing-day--The Beadle offended                                 28

The Pantomime--"Here we are again!"                             34

The Compliments of the Season (a cold)                          40

The Quadrille--Cavalier seul                                    57

The Stair-case--Captain de Camp and the Wall-flower             63

Forfeits--The Double Toilet                                     80

The Christmas Tree--Presentation of Fruit                       83

Mummery--Trick of the Old Dame                                  84

Kitchen Conversation                                            92

  [Illustration: THE CAROL.

  [Illustration: CHRISTMAS

Very cold, very bleak; the thermometer and snow are falling fast; eggs
and suet are rising faster; everything at this season is "prized," and
everybody apprizes everybody else of the good they wish them,--"A MERRY
CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Even the shivering caroller, for "it is
a poor heart that never rejoices," is yelling forth the "tidings of
comfort and joy." The snow that descends, making park and common
alike--topping palace and pigsty, now crowns the semi-detached villas,
Victoria and Albert. They were erected from the designs of John Brown,
Esq. and his architect (or builder), and are considered a fine specimen
of compo-cockney-gothic, in which the constructor has made the most of
his materials; for, to save digging, he sank the foundation in an
evacuated pond, and, as an antidote to damp, used wood with the
dry-rot--the little remaining moisture being pumped out daily by the
domestics. The floors are delightfully springy, having cracks to
precipitate the dirt, and are sloped towards the doorways, so that the
furniture is perpetually trying to walk out of the rooms; but those
apertures are ingeniously planned to prevent the evil--the doors
obstinately refusing to open at all, without force. That the whole may
not appear too light, few windows are introduced. By casual observers
the Victoria and Albert would be taken for one--so united are they;
and had we not seen the parting division, we should have doubted also.
Of the entrance lodges, we have noticed one of the chimneys smoking
periodically; and, from the mollient white vapour issuing over the
window at such times, presume Victoria is washing, whilst Albert is
locked up and doing nothing.


Their lord and master is John Brown, Esq., Director of the Deptford
Direct, the Stag Assurance, and Churchwarden of this parish--St. Stiff
the Martyr,--a portly upright man; for had he not been so erect, to
balance a "fair round belly," he would have toppled on his nose.
Everybody said that he was clever, too--and, moreover, always thought
so; for luck had made our friend a rising man amongst the suburban
aristocracy of Mizzlington. Of Mrs. Brown, she is his match, and portly
too; though older and more crusty--a crummy dame, to whom her lord must
bow; for, upon his hinting at duty, and an obedient wife's _commanding_
her husband, she ordered him off, reading the adage as a woman _ought_.
Of the Misses Brown, Jemima and Angelina, they are decidedly getting
old--for young ladies, having been "out" for some time; and, like the
back numbers of an old periodical, are not the more interesting or
marketable for it. Of the sons, the elder, John Brown, jun., is spoiling
himself by patronising all that is "fast;" whilst the younger is being
educated for a faster age, being spoilt first by his mother.


Having characterised the Brown family, we will now introduce
you to the first scene of this domestic drama. Victoria Villa--a
dormitory--midnight; in the back ground may be seen and heard a lady
in a rich mellow snore, whilst distant music--the Christmas Waits,
is "softly o'er the senses stealing," and loud in the promise of "a good
time coming," provided you will "wait a little longer." Mr. Brown is
seated at the dressing-table, making up his Diary, or rather trying to
cram the events  of twenty-four hours into the leaf of a pocket-book,
five and a half inches by three and a quarter--his usual custom before

  [Illustration: THE WAITS.

"December 21st, _Friday_.--Advertised in this day's 'Times,' to let
Albert, furnished, from the 25th, with use of servants, if required
(double-house and household at half-price--grand effect united with
economy). Tommy came home from Dr. Tortem's, with holiday-letter, bill,
and wonderful crop of hair--considering it costs me five shillings per
quarter to cut; brimstone and treacle, under head--medicine, charged ten
and six; firing and broken windows, two pounds; &c.:--what most unlucky
things turn up on a Friday! I much wish I had not advertised Albert
to-day--no one will come." With these observations, and a consolatory
grumble about Christmas coming but once a year, Mr. Brown seeks repose
beside his consort; whilst the Waits make the lowing wind, the frigid
vegetation, and the rattling shutters, dance again to the "Bridal

Sweet sleep--and morning dawns.--The Browns depart, as is their daily
custom, by the omnibus--the elder to chat inside, the younger to smoke
out;--and both to business in the city. Whilst, at home, Master Tommy
displays the "advancement made in his studies"--as the holiday-letter
states,--by practising writing in the "Book of Beauty;" his knowledge of
natural history, by attempting to rear gold-fish (like eels) in sand;
searching for the tick in an eight-day clock; setting bits of raw beef
in the back garden, that the portion (like potatoes) might grow to young
bullocks; filling the bellows' snout with gunpowder, that they may blow
the fire up; putting the cat in walnut-shells upon the icy pond, and
himself in the middle of it; playing racket in the drawing-room; and
constructing a snow man against the back-door to fall in upon Sarah,
almost frightening her to death; and many other experimental,
philosophical tricks, too numerous to mention.


During this day the semi-detached is besieged by a lady and gentleman in
search of a home. The gentleman, dressed in a very tight frock-coat,
dusty and worn; a highly-glazed cap, the strap of which dangled above a
tuft of hair, that graced his chin, its peak resting upon the tip of his
nose, affording him little more than a view of his boots, with a portion
of the hose protruding therefrom; his tightly-strapped trowsers carrying
a broad stripe, of which he appeared proud, being engaged in the
manufacture of many more in other parts, by knocking the dust out of
them with a slight cane; of his gloves, they seemed determined to end
their days in their normal state, and to produce neither mits nor
finger-stalls. The couple looking very limp and tumbled;--a thing duly
apologised for, and not to be wondered at--having just arrived from
abroad. Mrs. Brown being much taken with the gentleman--for he curried
favour by stroking only the way of the grain. So, with Lady Lucretia,
Captain de Camp, of the Hon. East India Company's Service, from
Madras--awaiting his luggage,--is at home in the Albert, having given
himself a character that satisfied Mrs. Brown; for, he omitted the
objectionable parts (fearing they might distress that good lady), like
the woman with a large family, who, finding it impossible to get
lodgings, sent her children among the graves; that, when asked, she
might say, with a sigh, "Alas! they are all in the churchyard."


That evening Mrs. Brown's rich mellow snore commenced later than
usual--for she had been loud and long in the praise of their new
neighbours. Mr. Brown making entry against December 22nd,
_Saturday_.--That Albert was let:--whilst, the Waits were playing the
"Phantom Dancers," and Captain de Camp busy, there, screwing his empty
trunk to the floor, that it might appear heavy, and full of valuables;
and whilst, between the villas in the rear, there might be seen a
glimmering candle, and by that light be found--one not unknown to
Brown--a poor little musician, in a little second-floor room, containing
a little organ much too large for it, and a litter of dirty soft
papers,--who is not a little perplexed at a note, from Mrs. Brown,
dispensing with his services:--he, the poor little music-master, more
amiable than handsome, less symmetrical than serviceable;--who had,
in less favoured times, contracted friendship, and to teach the Misses
Brown music at thirty shillings per quarter--who had gotten so familiar
as to love--had dared to offer that person Nature had deformed, with
that mind Nature had adorned, to Miss Jemima Brown. There was a time
when his anecdotes had been prized, and his long, delicate, white
fingers kept playing to perpetual dancers; and that fine voice, Nature
had bestowed in lieu of symmetry, sang the merriest and most sentimental
songs for love:--the retrospect is too much for poor Spohf--so he seeks
refuge in his organ, much to the annoyance of a little tailor in the
attic, who has no soul in him--save the sole he had for supper.


Sunday.--The perpetual bell of St. Stiff the Martyr is calling to
service, as it is wont to do at all times and hours--for mysterious
purposes but little known:--it seems as if the bell disliked its little
wooden cottage, on the unfinished spire; or was inspired, or in a
towering passion to live in a tower, or saw no fun in waiting for funds;
and so, continually pealed an appeal to the public:--however, it was a
puny, little, curious bell, with a tongue of its own, now clacking for a
charity sermon; and, curiously, Mr. Brown thinks a charity sermon always
edifies him with the headache, and is doubtful about going, as they make
him a reluctant giver--for mere vain show; but he, curiously, wonders
where the De Camps go; and, curiously, Victoria and Albert meet at the
gate; and, curiously, the family pue, at St. Stiff's, seems capable of
accommodating them.

Mr. Spohf, the little organist, being perched up aloft, sees, through
the curtain, the Christmas holly and the Captain--taking care to mark
that individual with mental chalk. The musician's eyes are in the Brown
pue; but the eyes that used to meet them are turned another way--all
favour is centred upon their spurious exotic, who grows thicker, twines
tighter, and takes deeper root, the more he is encouraged:--of the
species, or genus, we cannot do better than quote Mr. B.'s own words,
written against December 23rd, _Sunday_--(whilst the Waits, as usual,
were serenading the semi-detached, in a full conviction of its being
Monday, and the possibility of "living and loving together," and "being
happy yet").--"To church with my new tenant, who is delightful company:
Lady Lucre. says he is a 'refined duck,' a 'gentlemanly angel,' and a
'manly poppet:' to which I made answer, that I thought so too; and that
she was a 'seraphine concert.' Sermon, by the Rev. Loyalla à Becket, 'in
aid of funds for supplying the poor, during this inclement but festive
season, with food for the mind.' Captain de Camp did borrow a sovereign
of me, to put in the plate; and I was told by my fellow-churchwarden,
Mr. Flyntflayer, that he did put in a bad shilling, wrapt in paper, and
did take out fifteen shillings in change:--this, I said was untrue--as,
of course, it was;--having lent him a sovereign myself, for the express
purpose. We are to have Captain de C.'s two noble sons here, during the
holidays; one, I believe, comes from Oxford, and the other from Sandboys
Military College:--now is the time--Jemy. and Angel. must be on the
alert, for

  'There is a tide in the affairs of _women_,
  Which, taken at the flood, leads on to _matrimony_;
  Omitted, all the voyage of their life
  Is bound in shallows, and in _spinsterhood_.
  On such a full sea are we now afloat;
  And we must take the current when it serves,
  Or lose our ventures.'"

Monday, the 24th December's sun rises in a fog:--everybody has lost the
day of the week, and come upon what appears an infinity of Saturdays
rolled into one--beginning the week with a grand end,--for it is the
advent of Christmas!

The Masters de Camp arrive as was expected.--Cadet Wellesley exhibiting
his military accomplishments by surveying the back field; all the holes
and corners; riddling the sty and pigs with Mr. Brown's blunderbuss;
bivouacking in the pantry at Victoria's expence; and, when remonstrated
with, for mere sport knocking the plaster Albert off the garden wall
into the lane. Mr. Latimer de Camp introduces himself more civilly,
as Miss Jemima is playing and singing (of course for practice), by
accompanying "How happy could I be with either," on the wooden partition
with his thumb, after the fashion of a tambarine.

This is the annual busy day.--Packets and parcels are being delivered
unceasingly by uncommonly civil butcher-boys, graceful grocers, and
urbanic green-grocers, who are near enough to boxing-day to know that
silver on the tongue is necessary to charm silver from the pocket. The
Captain has sent to learn if any consignments are for him, to ask the
loan of a pack of cards, and Victoria's company to spend the evening at
the Albert--which invitation is graciously accepted.

It is eve--Christmas-eve.--Mrs. Brown's candied mixture, the pudding, is
simmering in the copper; the turkey, chine, and hundred etceteras are on
their way from Plumpsworth; while Captain de Camp's baggage is at the
very wildest verge of that gentleman's imagination, and its appearance
would have surprised him more than any one else, so speculative was it.

  [Illustration: CHRISTMAS EVE.

Mr. Brown is in the City, homeward bound by the omnibus, intending to
realize "a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year." It is so foggy that
he finds he is going at an invisible pace, obliging him to abandon the
invisible vehicle in an invisible street, paying an invisible fare.


He ties a handkerchief round his foot to prevent slipping; and has
something "short" to keep out the cold; and a little brandy-punch to
keep out the fog; and a little egg-flip to keep him warm; and a link
that he may see the way, for his vision is not very distinct;--his head
is delightfully buoyant, his optics inclined to multiply, and his legs
very refractory, having a great desire to dance or go sideways, but
obstinately refusing, in their eccentricity, to proceed in a straight
line; for Mr. Brown is more merry than particular--taking Newgate Market
in his way home to Mizzlington from the 'Change. Having a great
veneration for old customs, he buys a boar's head there and boy to carry
it; next, being taken with a crockery-shop-sign, "The Little Bason"
(which, by-the-bye, was a very large one), he purchases that also,
thinking it will do for a wassail-bowl; likewise some holly; and an old
butcher's-block to serve as the yule-log; not forgetting the last new
Christmas book of sympathy and sentiment, "The Black Beetle on the Hob,"
a faery tale of a register-stove, by the author of the "Old Hearth Broom
and the Kettle-Holder:"--With these articles Mr. Brown and his retinue
reach home in safety--a miracle, considering the toast and ale they have
consumed,--the Holly being jolly, the Bason groggy, the Log stupid, and
the Boar pig-headed. They find Victoria deaf; for Mr. Brown has made her
little gothic door to shiver, and the bolts to chatter with the blows,
yet none respond; for the servants are very jovial over boiled ale in
the crypt--little thinking or caring about their master; who, after
having rung all the bells singly, walked backwards, surveyed the
windows, tumbled over the block, and endangered the wassail-bowl, tries
ringing all the bells at once without avail; so enters by the back
window, and performs a dexterous summerset down the stairs, in company
with some evergreens and a flower-stand, ending in a series of double
knocks performed upon the inside of the door with the back of his head,
and a cuffing from Mr. Brown junior, who happens to be coming in with
the key, taking his respected governor for a burglar.


The Browns are next door:--Victoria is fraternizing with Albert, and
both are exceedingly happy, although the latter has won greatly at the
game of _speculation_--having played his cards well; so, Mr. Brown,
after being packed in brown paper, steeped in vinegar, and well
soda-watered, joins the social party;--finding Captain de Camp busy
concocting an extraordinary oriental mixture (the name of which we quite
forget) out of old bottles, from Victoria's cellar; and telling a
tremendous Eastern _story_ of a tiger captured in a jungle, after a
chase of ten hours--he should have said minutes, in a penny magazine!

Mr. Brown and the Captain soon became familiar--in twenty minutes
you would have thought them friends of twenty years:--so,--before
the last speculator had invested his last weekly sixpence in a
goose-club, and drawn the last adamantine old gander; or the last
Christmas-pudding-sweep swept away the chimerical puddings, that ought
to have been very rich, and everybody thought everybody else had won;
before the last trader, who had sold out, dared to mount a notice,
intimating that he had joined an "Association to suppress
Christmas-boxes,"--the Browns and De Camps had attained that state
denominated "thick"--an appellation that might, with propriety, have
been applied to Mr. Brown's brains;--for he had obliged Captain de Camp
by discounting a bill, due twelve days after date (Christmas), and had
invited him to dine on the morrow, to partake of the poultry, that
always came up at Christmas, from Plumpsworth; and was taken out in a
visit made by the worthy donor, Great-uncle Clayclod, during the
"May-meetings," when he does a dozen shilling exhibitions in a day, and
knocks up a fly-horse. So, rather late to bed; Mr. Brown making up his
Diary, as usual, on the dressing-table--a rule he always observed,
though, in some cases, it would have been better left until the morning;
for, against December 24th, Tuesday, we find his feelings richly
expressed in cramped caligraphy, upside down, bearing evident marks of
excitement;--having been penned--in a dream--with hair-dye, mistaken
for ink; pounced with carmine, and blotted with the small-tooth-comb
in lieu of paper; it is, moreover, curious for its allegorical
allusions--likening Captain de Camp to a "brick," a "downey card,"
a "sharp file," and several other inanimate poetical images.

Of our mild friend, Spohf, he is sleeping soundly upon a light
supper--obtained from "St. Stiff's dairy"--some very thin milk, divested
of all unctuous quality--that having gone to an epicure Captain, at the
Albert Villa. Poor Spohf's talent has not put many _talents_ in his
purse--these real racing times run over genius!--they would tunnel
Helicon, turn Hippocrene to flush a city's drains,--make Pegasus serve
letters by carrying a post-boy, and, in the end, sell the noble beast
for feline food:--everything now must be tangible. The little organist,
who had spent so many a Merry Christmas with the Browns--he has no
pleasure to anticipate on the morrow, except the performance of his new
hymn, "The Star of Bethlehem," a composition of which the little tailor
in the attic thought small things, for it did not _compose_ him to

  [Illustration: "SAFE BIND--SAFE FIND."]

The 25th of December arrives.--The festival of the year has come.
Christmas-day commences with the rising of the cook, who finished the
evening, kneading and gaping over pies and puddings; and wakes with the
same operation, gaping and kneading her eyes, which do not fairly open
until she comes to look after her first care--the pudding:--the fire,
having been made up over night, is discovered a "beauty;" but,
behold,--within the copper, the pudding has dissolved!--there is nothing
to be found but a cloth, which must have been boiling all night in a
rich plum-soup,--the string having come untied; or rather, never been
tied at all, but popped in by Mrs. B. without attending to that
operation:--a piece of neglect, for which the cook gets "warning," and
all the servants rated--until the bells of St. Stiff's remind Mrs. B.
that it is time to depart, for the duties of a Christian, to eschew all
the vanities of this wicked world, in a rich purple Genoa velvet paletot
and duck of a plum bonnet. That day Mr. Churchwarden Brown's pue would
not hold all, so Mrs. Strap, the pue-opener, had to manoeuvre by
appropriating part of another to their use, losing her Christmas-box for
the offence against its owner, Mr. Din, the copper-smith.

Mr. Spohf's Christmas hymn is much liked, and is really so fine as to
make that essence of gentleness, himself, temporarily egotistical; he
wonders what impression it has made upon Miss Jemima, and the strange
gentleman who is so attentive to her--could he do as much? But Mr.
Latimer de Camp is heedless of other good things flying about him; for,
upon the walk home after service, among the savoury Christmas dinners
that are hurrying in every direction, he is so abstracted as to find a
sucking-pig in his stomach, and not a little gravy spilt upon his
trowsers, compelling him to change them, upon his arrival at home, for a
neat pair of young Brown's.

  [Illustration: Good living at least once a year]

Mr. Spohf, having played all out of St. Stiff the Martyr, walks home
moodily:--instead of finding his dinner as usual, the chop and potato,
he learns that his landlord, Mr. Strap, the greengrocer, has stopped the
supplies. It is quarter-day!--Strap thinks of the five weeks' arrears,
and Mr. Spohf's inability to pay for his lodgings; so, Mr. and Mrs.
Strap have surprised him, by preparing a huge leg of mutton and pudding;
for they know he does not, as of old, go to the "Willer." After this
humble repast, which was relished as much as any could be, and was far
less likely to leave unpleasant sensations than if it had been more
costly, they draw round the fire; and master Ichabod Strap, one of the
choristers of St. Stiff the Martyr, is playing with a shilling,
polishing the coin upon his sleeve--it is the identical one said to have
been put in the plate by Captain de Camp, and given by Mr. Flyntflayer
(the gentleman who held the gothic platter) to Mrs. Strap, the
pue-opener, advising her at the same time to nail it to the
counter--a counterfeit to deter "smashers." But, somehow, the coin
seemed doomed to remain unholy, for no orifice or artifice could have
rendered it a _lucky_ one; it was shown to Mr. Spohf, who thought it
bad, and that it might have gotten into the plate by mistake; Mrs. Strap
knew it bad--an intentional perpetration,--and, like the giver, not
worth a dump; Mr. Strap not only thought it bad, but proved it so; for,
after having spun, sounded, and eaten a portion of it, he cast the coin
into the glowing fire, where the silver quickly changed, dropping, like
quick-silver, among the ashes, to be picked out by Ichabod, very unlike
a sterling coin.


Old Strap, who had taken "the pledge," but since introduced an
exceptional clause in favour of feasts and festivals, gets out the black
bottle for fraternity's sake. They take a pipe a-piece, and so softened
is the little organist with their genuine unsophisticated kindness, that
he sees all his cares fly, and nothing but joys in the wreathed curls of
smoke betaking themselves up the chimney:--he sees Messrs. Blow and
Grumble, the eminent organ-builders, making a fortune by his "new
movement;" having purchased and patented it: he has found a publisher
for his church music, and sold his old opera. Captain de Camp has
vanished in smoke--he has exploded of spontaneous combustion,--they find
him all deceit, leaving a glass eye and a cork leg. Mr. Latimer gets the
Colonial Bishopric of Bushantee, in New Zealand, and cuts Miss Jemima.
Mr. Wellesley having gone to India for glory, returns with it,--a hook,
and a patch over his eye. Miss Angelina vows to die a virgin. Mr. Brown
says to Mr. Spohf, "my son!"--Mr. Spohf says to Mr. Brown, "my father!"
Mr. Strap is standing in triumph upon a pyramid of "carpets to beat,"
viewing a lesser one of "boots to brush;" having been entrusted with
more "messages" than mortal ever could "deliver;" whilst innumerable
vans, bearing the name of Strap, traverse innumerable roads in "Town and
Country." Mrs. Strap, dressed in a plain plum silk, turns a mahogany
mangle, and gets up nothing but "fine things." Ichabod has cut the
choir, and made his _début_ in an opera as Herr Strapii, a perfect

But here we will leave Mr. Spohf's reverie--for Victoria and reality;
where the company is arriving to the annual dinner, and sitting about
the drawing-room, looking as happy as patients at a dentist's; or
festive, as disappointed toadeaters at the funeral of an opulent
relative, who had left all his property to found an asylum for decayed
postboys--after leading everybody to expect the lion's share of it:--the
guests, for want of more exciting topics, admiring the gimcracks they
admired a year ago; thinking the portrait of Mr. Brown--"done," twenty
years since, at a portrait club,--a splendid likeness, and that the
original grows younger (query, richer?); stating truths and untruths
about the weather; inquiring energetically after each other's
health--not caring for the answers; with other homely pleasantries, too
numerous to mention; until some of the juveniles--the only ones who
really seem at home--espy from the window a loaded parcel-cart; this
they observe as funny on a Sunday (little thinking, at that moment, it
was Tuesday). Here Mr. Brown descends, to hold an altercation with the
guard of that cart, who makes light of a huge hamper of game; whilst the
guests at the windows above, speculate upon having to eat an uncooked
turkey, or fancy their ravenous appetites waiting while it is
cooked--the youngsters calculating upon a dinner all pudding. Mr. Brown
returns, and tenders his arm to Lady Lucretia de Camp--in the
excitement, leading her down the side where the stairs taper to
nothing,--causing that lady to lose both equilibrium and temper.

  [Illustration: THE PUDDING.

In the hall they are introduced to the viands, all thought to partake
of;--which have arrived too late, and are now displayed in their
primitive state--a picture of still life; whilst the guests--a picture
of disappointment--have to put up with odds and ends, concocted to meet
the emergency, ending with a series of plum-dumplings, in place of the
legitimate large pudding. However, the indigent relatives, who prefer
the cold corners, and take "any part," declare themselves well
satisfied:--all partaking of everything, and brandy afterwards, as if
the viands were rich. Master Brown does justice to everything, of
course--that sweet child is now pulling the _merry thought_ with his
maiden aunt; he is victor, and, as no one wishes to know his _thoughts_,
seems determined to tell them,--_wishing_ "Jemy. and Mr. Latimer would
look sharp, and knock up the match Mamma spoke of; as then he should be
breeched, have pockets, and money:" here the little dear turned to the
Captain, saying, "You'll give me a crown, won't you?"--a question at
which the maiden aunt blushed intensely, as did Mrs. Brown, who
attempted to hide her emotion by saying, "What strange things children
do think of!"--at the same time helping a gentleman who had had
enough--the bashful gentleman, who sat at the junction of the tables,
and appeared so incommoded by the table-land of one being higher than
the table-land of the other--causing his plate to oscillate in a very
remarkable manner, and discharge its contents in his lap,--the conjoined
legs compelling him either to sit at a fearful distance, and spill the
gravy, or to split his kerseymeres, by extending them too much for their
frail make:--however, he has at last succeeded in thrusting one knee
between them, and the shorter leg of the two off Bunyan's "Pilgrim's
Progress"--used to stilt it;--letting the unfortunate gentleman's
pudding down, and his plate travel, until at last it stops, performing a
gyration, all to itself, under the sideboard.

  [Illustration: The Merry Thought]

During this clatter, the ladies rise and depart, leaving the gentlemen
to drown all disappointments in the wine. Mr. Brown, "feeling called
upon," rises, apologizing for certain misfortunes, herein described--at
the same time trusting that such events might never happen again; and,
in the end, eulogizing Mrs. B., who is painted in glowing colours, by a
painter who said he should not have painted it; or, as any one else
might have observed, introduced two virtuously amiable daughters, so
prominently in the foreground. After a noble reply by Captain de Camp,
of the Hon. East India Company's service, from Madras, and much applause
from the diners, they ascend, to join the ladies; forming, round the
drawing-room-fire, a vast amphitheatre, in the centre of which,
gladiatorial children contend for nuts and oranges--Captain de Camp
filling the post of honour,--making himself at home in Mr. Brown's easy
chair and slippers. Mr. Wellesley drags in the yule-log, much to the
detriment of the Brussels, and the annoyance of the guests; for, upon
placing it in the grate, it causes everything to be covered with black
tadpoles, nearly extinguishing the fire--until it ignites, roasting the
company, and making the pot a white-heat.


The Captain has repeated last evening's brew, upon a larger scale,
in the "little bason," or wassail-bowl. Master Wellesley has kissed
Angelina under the misletoe, suspended from the chandelier, and placed
in the centre of the amphitheatre, for that purpose. Mr. Latimer has
"taken the opportunity," as Jemima turned up a refractory burner; and
everybody kissed everybody else they liked, or could catch there. The
entertaining Captain has narrated an effective anecdote of an enraged
elephant, and a precious big boar speared in a savage jungle--to which
he might have added, with no more personal risk than Mrs. Brown may
experience when hunting for a boa in her wardrobe. And, Mr. Mouldy, the
city merchant, who dealt in rags, sang about a little excitable pig, and
"Mac Mullin's Lament;" whilst Mr. Snobbins--who it was hoped would sit
and be silent,--has broken the spell, dared to remember old times,
sleeping under a counter, and the pugnacity of Brown, when they were in
a _mess_ at the _blues_--making Captain de Camp think more of a military
repast than Christ's Hospital;--until the "_blues_" were dispelled by
Mr. Snobbins singing "The gallant 'prentice boy:"--not that the company
would have lacked a military man, had the Captain been absent, for there
was Cowed, the meek Bermondsey tanner, by livery a hatter, and withal a
soldier--a member of the Hon. Artillery Company,--he who sang about God
blessing the old cow's hide, and a

  "Wish that his soul in heaven might dwell,
  Who first invented the leather bottel;"

--and, Mrs. Brown's brother, Mr. Barthe Brick, familiarly known as _the_
"Brick," who had just commenced a song, a parody upon Fra
Diavolo,--a something very, very low, supposed to be sung by a dealer in
hearth-stones; who, at the end of each verse, vociferates "who'll buy,"
heightening the illusion by trundling a chair, on its back, round the
family circle, to represent a barrow.

No one knows where the barbarous atrocities would have ended, and all
before the refined strangers, too, had not the olive-branches--disposed
for rest by their several mammas in the room above--all awoke at once,
tumbled out of bed, and joined in a combined cry; this breaks the family
circle--mothers fly to pack their turbulent innocents for travel; the
candles flare, and carriages clatter, grinding the flints in the lane.
John, the footman, finds he has a dozen half-crowns, and Mary seven. The
last fly has departed with the little Bricks; lights appear and
disappear in the bed-chambers; and the Christmas-day--that comes but
once a year--has vanished, like a dream!

Mr. Brown has jotted the events, in his Diary, in a hand scarcely
legible. It must have been penned in a somnambulistic fit--thinking he
was at a meeting of St. Stiff's vestry, in the union board-room,--for,
after a list of member's present (the names of his guests), Captain de
Camp in the chair, follow these minutes of proceedings:--Firstly, that
one Spohf be dismissed as organist of St. Stiff's, confined in the
idiot-ward, fed on water gruel, and handed over to his own parish
(Vienna); proposed by Latimer, and seconded by Wellesley de Camp. The
second proposition appears to be to the effect that a vagrant named
Brick, dealer in hearth-stones, be confined in the refractory-ward, and
fed upon bread and water.

The morning after the festivities London oversleeps itself:--and,
awaking, finds it boxing-day. Variegated dips are being disseminated
among delighted, dirty, juveniles; whilst the boys seem chagrined at
notices for "the extinction of abuses," or "suppression of
Christmas-boxes;" which seems only to make them the more pertinacious at
Victoria Villa: for an irregular dustman has chalked the post, and the
Postman vowed to mark Mr. Brown; the Turncock is turned off; the Waits
have to "wait a little longer;" and the Beadle, who declared Mr. Brown
no generous churchwarden, has, withal, found enough alcohol to make him
stupid before night--causing that dignitary to cry a lost boy instead of
a girl, and to see twice as many posts round St. Stiff's as usual;
taking half of them to be boys about to vault over the other half,
he rushes on to disperse them, soundly chastising the granite.


All the little boys secure their mites before mid-day; taking their
posts at the gallery-door of a popular theatre, five hours before
opening, to practise that rare virtue, patience, at the shrine of "Hot
Codlings," and "George Barnwell."

  [Illustration: BOXING DAY.

Master Ichabod Strap, in his richest yellow breeches, and burnished
badge of St. Stiff the Martyr, is perambulating the parish with his gay
phylactery, or Christmas-piece--"The History of Joseph," painted, like
the coat, in many colours:--he shows it to Mrs. Brown, who approves the
performance; "stroking the head of modest and ingenuous worth that
blushed at its own praise;" measuring the boy at a glance, and
proffering him promotion in the shape of an uniform, of buttons, just
vacated by a youth--called by his peers "Nobby Jones," but by his
mistress "Alphonso;"--who, having grown to the great risk of buttons and
stitches, was dispossessed of his regimentals, being sent home one dark
night in his bed-gown. "Ichabod" promises to resign that title and all
connection with the dirty boys, to reign as Alphonso the second page;
being missed by Mr. Spohf, for whom he used to blow the organ, in the
little second floor--a bereavement Mrs. B. enjoyed, saying, she wondered
how the unworthy little animal would raise the wind now.

There is an universal adage about risking sprats to capture
herrings--a sport not unknown to our cosmopolite Captain, for he had
fished in troubled waters, and hunted for a dinner many a time;--he knew
the traps and snares to secure game, the days and seasons; so, on
Boxing-day, he baits the servants with crowns; Tommy with a sovereign;
Angelina with "The Keepsake;" Jemima with a modern-ancient missal, or
portion of Scripture made dear and difficult to read; presenting Mrs. B.
with the last new art manufacture--"The Knowing Blade, a brazen-faced
sharper, to remove blunt;" and procuring for Mr. B. the skin of the
identical Bengal tiger he killed, as may be seen from a legend running
up the back bone--though an inscription on the tip of the tail states it
to be sold by Fitch of Regent Street. The bait secures its amount of
flat-fish; for that evening, Captain de Camp was more than usually
lucky--he caught enough at _ecarté_ to clear himself;--a freak of
fortune that caused no asperity in the noble breast of Brown; for here
are his own thoughts in his own words:--"December 26_th_, _Wednesday_
(Boxing-day).--My dear friend, De Camp, has this day given us all tokens
of the warmest attachment--sadly wanting to do something for
me--'Colonial,' 'War,' or 'Admiralty.' Not requiring anything just now,
this will form an admirable reserve; I must, in the meantime, profit by
his refined society, as I hope and trust the girls will by his sons'.
If there be any drawback to the delight I feel, it is the non-arrival of
his luggage; for I am personally inconvenienced by his wearing my best
coat. I may be over-scrupulous in wishing he would return the books he
devours with such avidity:--Mrs. B. says, she thinks, the paragon of
knowledge swallows them; for they are not to be found."

Next morning Ichabod enters the Brown suit and service, having spent
Boxing-night and the proceeds of the Christmas-piece at the play, where
he saw "Jane Shore" and "Harlequin House that Jack built;" the plot and
tricks of which he recounted to Master Tommy, as he took that young
gentleman for a walk, inoculating him with a great desire to go and
behold it. So, after having coaxed his mother, teased his father, and
cried his lovely blue eyes into a good imitation of red veined marble,
the youth triumphed; for on Thursday evening, they all went to the play
in the fusty fly from Drone's yard, driven by old Drone, in his
pepper-and-salt suit of pseudo livery, that looked as if he always
brushed it with the currycomb; and so tindery about the breast, from the
number of marriage-favours annually pinned there, that it is a wonder it
holds together. Alphonso rode upon the box, giving the vehicle a certain
amount of smartness. On their arrival under the dirt-embrowned portico
of the theatre, they are cordially recognised by the De Camps; who,
thinking it a pity the box should not be filled, have just dropped down
to see "London Assurance"--intending to quit before the pantomime, but
forgetting to do so after all.


During the play, Master Tommy disposes of a vast quantity of oranges and
sponge-cakes--vanishing between each act to obtain a fresh
supply;--making butterflies of the bill, and causing the
double-barrelled _lorgnette_ (which was hired for the occasion from an
adjacent oyster-shop) to slip off the cushion, falling upon a bald
gentleman in the pit:--the excited little pest remarking everything, and
fairly shouting at the discovery of Alphonso below, until chid by his
mother. Oh! that we could participate in thy youthful enthusiasm, or
feel pleased at that hotch-potch--the overture; or, a thrill when the
muffin-bell tinkles, causing the lovely drop-scene--that combined the
grandeur of the pretty Parthenon with the sublimity of Virginia
Water--to vanish into its own intensely blue sky; disclosing the
"Harlequin House that Jack built," and Mr. John Bull's huge paste-board
thick head, snoring like thunder, in a "property" summer-house--an
elephantine blue-bottle on his proboscis, and a sleeping bull-dog, the
size of an Alderney steer, at his feet;--here Master Brown, with a grin,
calls the house Victoria Villa, and the paste-board mask his papa. Now
enters the rat, to eat the good things that lay in the house that John
built, represented by a stealthy seedy gentleman, who, after reading a
board intimating that apartments were to let, crept slyly past the
sleepy Bull, to mount the house-steps; and there deliver himself of the
following doggerel, in a mellifluous voice:--

  "I search for lodgings--here's the very thing,--
  Though I've not got a _rap_, I think I'll _ring_;
  For all I want is to be _taken in_,--
  As I would others _take_--sure 'tis no sin
  To do to others--only tit for tat--
  So here goes--Rat--tat, tat--a tat!!!!!"

  [Illustration: HERE WE ARE AGAIN!]

The orchestra, loud in wishing to know "who's dat knocking at de door?"
and Master Tom, deep in the bill, with Mr. Rat, who is there described
as a "scamp"--an unknown term to Tom, for he asked its meaning;
observing that Uncle Brick said Captain de Camp was a scamp. This
question remained unanswered; for no one heard it except the Captain,
who felt a great itching to pull a young monkey's ears, but did not. The
cat (a sort of Puss in Boots, with a short stick and strip of paper)
entering, to catch the rat, is worried by the dog; who is tossed by a
cow with a very crumpled horn; who was milked by a maid said to be very
forlorn; who is kissed by a sweet-looking beggar, all tattered and
torn--the loving pair being likened to Jemima and Latimer, by Master
Tom, causing his sister's face to redden as a furnace, that heightened
the more it was fanned; and when the priest, all shaven and shorn (whom
Tom called the Rev. Loyalla à Becket), commenced marrying the couple,
then Miss Jemima entertained serious notions of fainting; and, probably,
would, had not the solemnization of matrimony been violated by the
priest, who shed his sack-cloth surplice, vaulting over the rails of the
altar, between the astonished couple, leaving that sanctuary to change
into a _match maker's_--appearing, himself, a perfect _clown_, stating
that sublime, veritable, truth--"_here we are again!_"--working his
geometric, chromatic, physiognomy into endless contortions, extending
his arms like the sails of contrary windmills, twiddling his legs like a
fly,--and when called upon, by unearthly voices, for "Tippytiwitchet,"
appears so scared that he tumbles through the big drum, to oblige them
with the song from the slips; instantly afterwards presenting himself
upon the stage, dilating his spotted inexpressibles, until they put him
in mind of a friend, _Pantaloon_, that, by a curious coincidence,
resides at a tailor's, in the back-ground, having just completed a
patch-work skin, for _Harlequin_; who, the instant he is fitted, flies
through the panel of a door, inscribed "_cutting-out_ room," into the
next house, a _florist's_, there to obtain his favourite flower, the
_Columbine_, with whom he has a long dance in the centre of a very
solitary street; whilst Clown and Pantaloon arrange a partnership
concern, which they carry on in the middle of the road, in front of the
shop, until Clown renders himself more plague than profit, by warming
his partner's lumbar region with a very red-hot goose, basting him with
the sleeve-board, and sticking him to the road with wax--Clown
dissolving partnership by walking off, in a new wrap-rascal, with the
cash-box, that no one may rob them. The best things must come to an
end!--and so does the Pantomime--with a gorgeous display of red fire,
tinsel and gold, real water and the electric light--all chopped off in
the middle by the descending curtain. The box-fronts have been enveloped
in their night-gowns; the Columbine is clattering, in pattens, to her
lodgings; the Harlequin has been bolted out, unable to vault through the
fan-light; and the Clown is running in his painted face, having
forgotten to wash it, for at home he left a dear wife seriously ill,
to come and be funny in sadness.


Drone's fly is homeward bound, heavily laden. The young men of the party
have dived into "The Welsh Rarebit Warren," there to spend the early
hours of the morning, listening to sentimental songs chanted amid fumes
of tobacco and spirits, to hear sorry wit, and make vapid remarks. The
great feature of the evening being a melodramatic dirge, supposed to be
sung by a condemned felon--a triumphant lamentation and delineation of
brutal character,--so eloquent and thrilling, in its monosyllabic groans
of anguish, that it is a wonder the kidneys, consumed in such numbers,
are ever digested. But, alas!--such is life--those most swayed by animal
propensities see the least warning therein:--as, the thief combines
business and pleasure at the gallow's foot; so, with the frequenters of
the "Warren"--they imbue their sentiment and supper,--only digesting the
latter. Wellesley has devoured several "rabbits," and Latimer disposed
of numberless kidneys, whilst young Brown has had to wait the usual
forty minutes for a steak; and, in the interim, had five "stouts," four
"goes," and several cigars, _i.e._, with assistance from the De Camps;
who have made free, ay, to order goblets of champagne, and, in the end,
not having change to repair the "damage" (a mean, but true, term, as
often applied), they get young Brown to pay the complicated sum added up
by the waiter, upon a mahogany ditto, in lieu of a slate, with stale
stout spilled in the corner, receipted with a wipe of the towel:--and
so, home in the "safety" cab, with large wheels and a spanking
grey,--lettered along the side "_Nil desperandum_," thinking "handsome
is as _Hansom_ does;" tumbling into bed just before the peep o' day, and
five hours after Mr. Brown had made up his Diary--writing against
December the 27th., Thursday, that he had taken Tom and the girls to a
pantomime; been agreeably surprised to find the De Camps there,
especially the sons, who did sit in front, with Jemy. and Angel.,
looking made as much for one another as he could desire:--Tom behaving
very sadly; and, were it not for his mother, the boy should spend the
vacations at a Yorkshire school;--twice every year--in the Dog-days and
December--is the house turned topsy-turvy,--it may be sport to you,
Master Tom, but 'tis death to us.


Thus older grew the year, and fuller got the Diary--Mr. Brown
graphically recounting the doings and disasters of "December 28_th_,
_Friday_.--Unpropitious, fatal, Friday! I never knew it lucky save once,
and then it _was_--I let the Albert. 'Christmas comes but once a year,'
with a train of nasty bills, not to be bilk'd; and sorry consolation is
it thinking you 'paid at the time,' when the receipt is not to be found.
Miss-Fortune, that never came single, now visits with a large family of
little pests--out of season and uninvited!--Here is Needy, the pianist,
who, one would think, had married her; for he has children enough to
fill a charity school. Needy, of No. 9, Brown Terrace, has absconded
without paying the rent--sending the key, and £12. 10_s._, instead of
£14., with a shabby excuse about hoping to be able to make up the
difference some day:--this is the return for showing compassion to a
poor devil!--I ought to have known, when I took the cottage-piano for
last quarter, though Spohf did say it was a six-and-three-quarters,
worth three times the money!--I am a good-natured fool, and ought,
in justice to my family, to be a little more selfish--these mean
professionals estimating their rubbish far beyond all reason!--My
spirits are damped--and so are we all, for the water-pipes that that
rascal Plummer fixed, at the low contract, have burst with this
evening's thaw, and were discovered just as the water was coming in;
having played, I know not how long, a fountain in the bathroom, tumbling
down the stairs like the falls of the Niagara, obliging us to insert
tobacco-pipes all over the drawing-room ceiling, to drain the
inundation:--it has spoilt the watered paper, stained the aquatint of
the Aqueduct, and 'Wellington at Waterloo,' done for the water-gilding,
and saturated the 'Momentous Question;' the 'Heart's Misgivings' is a
sop; and the water-colour of the 'Flood' is washed away. Alphonso is
sitting up in goloshes to empty the pots, and I doubt much if I shall
sleep over the dropping-well."


How Mr. Brown slept we do not know, but can imagine, for here is the
Diurnal Record, made up in bed:--"December 29_th_, _Saturday_.--Dreamed
Victoria Villa turned into a hydropathic establishment--that I was being
frozen, thawed, and suffocated; did wake, this day, with an enlarged
cheek--the influenza compelling me to keep my bed, bathe my chilblains,
and anoint my nose; I take slops internally, and wear a heart upon the
outside of my chest. The kind, considerate Captain called, smoking a
cigar, that made me cough, and think his visit a visitation."


The first Sunday after Christmas is here:--Brown is in bed; the little
bell of St. Stiff's has stopped, and many another vibratory sound is
dying in the distance; flakes of snow are moodily descending--causing
the fire to spit angrily, and the face of heaven to look black--all
light appearing to come from the earth; sound is deadened, the carpet is
darker than usual, and the ceiling lighter; Mr. Brown's eyes are up
there, for he is lying, tracing amid the cracks and stains, vast palaces
like pictures by Martin, or aërial phantasmagorias by Turner. Brown is
lying, nursing his influenza according to the approved adage; though
some read the maxim thus, "Stuff a cold, and (have to) starve a fever."
Let us hope Brown has the right version. Captain de Camp has come to
read to the invalid, and drink his brandy and water--he has begun
"Blair's Sermons," or rather the life of Blair, prefixed to the volume,
in a full conviction of its religious tendency; whilst in the room above
is John, the footman, standing upon his bed, breathing on the single
pane of glass, inserted in the sloped roof, that he may melt the snow,
and see to read a mysterious document--a tumbled note,--not on the Bank
of England, but an epistolatory one, found in the trowsers pockets of
Mr. Latimer de Camp--the same cast off by that gentleman on
Christmas-day, when he stumbled over the strange dinner, in coming from
church, and so much deteriorated their appearance as to give them to
John;--who now, thinking he has found evidence,--thinks he always
thought he thought the De Camps scamps. John is perplexed at the purport
of the letter; and feeling a cold thrill run through him, he turns into
bed, there to reflect for ten minutes upon the downy pillow, pondering
with intensely closed eyes, considering before he puts himself in the
power of an enemy--for John had been a soldier once, and would have been
one now, had not his poor old mother starved and mangled together enough
to buy him off; he bore the stamp of military drill, took in "Tales of
the Wars," in penny numbers, and had a cheap print of the "Battle of
Waterloo" pasted to the sloping roof, above the bed, in which we left
him pondering. Having considered enough, he takes once more to the
document, folding and unfolding it, examining the thimble impress on the
seal, tasting a corner of it in his excitement, and reading it with
intense energy for the last time: it is directed to "Latimer de Camp,
Esq., M.A., Albert Villa, Mizzlington;" and was posted in the New Cut:--

No. 2, Grubb's Rents.


"I am anxiously awaiting the '_Conspiracy_,'--do not keep me in
suspense!--_do_ DO it, for my _benefit_.--I sadly want _money_. Is the
_plot_ too _horrible_ for you!--you know how to do for a '_Victoria_'
company!--make a _domestic tragedy_ of it--_shoot_ the _father_ and
_son_!--you know the rest. Pray communicate, or I shall think you in

"Your forlorn--EMMA."

For this last perusal John appears none the wiser, being unable to
divine more than at first--murder and treachery seem the plot. John
thinks the Captain just like Gory, the murderer, in the Chamber of
Horrors, at the wax-works; and that Victoria Villa resembles "Greenacre
Hall," depicted in the pictorial newspaper. John is sadly perplexed as
to where he shall seek counsel--of course, thinking of every one foreign
to the case; until, happily, he remembers one that ought to have been
thought of first--to Mr. Spohf will he send the mysterious note, ask his
advice, and act upon it:--but, unfortunately, John sealed the envelope
with Mr. Brown's crest--a circumstance that made Mr. Spohf think the
letter from his old friend Brown; so he answers it as such--feeling much
pleasure that _his_ advice should be sought;--saying, the enclosed note
appeared to be about some drama some one had to write--a document of no
serious import. As to _strangers_, he should advise caution; for it is
the aim of a rogue to look as much like a trusty friend as possible;
quiet watchfulness is well, for that can harm no one. This answer from
Mr. Spohf was promptly delivered by the little tailor's daughter to the
expectant John; who naturally thought it for him. Curiously, John and
his master both owned the name of Brown--John Brown:--now John, the
servant, was conscientious; and would not, on any account, have opened
his master's letters--he drew the line of propriety much further
off,--it stopped at reading in at the ends. John felt sure _this_ letter
was for him--not that he liked being called an esquire; yet, for all
that, he felt safe, for there, extra-large and important, was the word
"_Private_"--a military distinction that made him doubly certain; so,
he bore away the letter, in great trepidation, to his quarters in the
tiles, there to be much relieved by its contents; vowing, as he lay on
his bed, to be watchful as the Duke on the look-out in his "Battle of
Waterloo," and dumb as a dead drummer in the foreground.

Happily Victoria and Albert were ignorant of these despatches, or John
might have lost his commission and uniform. Confidence is
unshaken;--for, on December 30_th_, _Sunday_, Captain de Camp is
reported a "glorious oriental brick,"--he having kindly prescribed all
sorts of good things for his invalid friend, without the slightest
regard to expense; and, moreover, broken Brown's quinsy by administering
an extraordinary anecdote, or "crammer," that scarcely any one could
_swallow_; but Brown did, and laughed so much afterwards, that the
quinsy was gone; for the Captain had anecdotes suited to all times and
seasons--he only wanted listeners, and off he went like an alarum.
Sunday put him in mind of that day twelvemonths; and that day put him in
mind of Richard Spark, of the Native Infantry; Rich. Spark put him in
mind of how they got that Hindoo millionaire, Makemuchjee Catch-muchjee,
into a Christian church, by walking him between them, in a state of
ether; how he (the Hindoo) was mollified by the sermon, and went
home--melted the Idol, Boobobum, that had golden hair, diamond eyes,
pearly teeth, coral lips, a silver tongue, and a copper bottom; how he
handed her over in lumps to the church; and yet, with all these poetical
attributes she was the ugliest and most precious god he ever set eyes
on. She was the subscription of the district--the poor put the copper
and the rich the gold;--the Captain telling of how he made a posthumous
portrait of her, which is quite correct; only he forgot five bosoms in
the bust, and left out a right arm:--it is engraved in No. 365 of the
"Missionary Record."

This paragraph opens with the last day of the old year.--The cold that
stiffened Mr. Brown's neck, and choked up his throat has thawed; his
nose has resumed its accustomed hue; his temper is unusually good
in the prospect of vacating his room, and beginning the year with
redoubled energy. Mrs. Brown is preparing for something important;
and, from the delicate scented note you observed inserted in our
chimney-glass-frame--the one with the Brown crest, a rampant locomotive
proper, and motto of "Go-a-head" (which, between ourselves, was _found_
by a very subtle seal-engraver in Change Alley);--from that, and the
remarks of Master Brown, when we called this morning, you may pretty
well judge:--he said Jemy. wrote such a lot o' letters the other day;
that they have a pillow-case filled with oranges--quite a sack-full;
and, moreover, his Ma'. just was clever--for she said she could kill two
parties with one chandelier, and make rout-seats hold double! The fact
is, Mrs. Brown intends to give a ball on the 4th of January, and a
juvenile party on the 5th--the former to be extra-superb, on account of
the De Camps; who, of course, are expected--having received an
invitation by post. We wonder the Browns did not write to invite
themselves; for John passed the Albert door in taking the Captain's
letter to the post, and the preparations were as much under the guidance
of those worthies as of the Browns themselves. The boudoir is in a
litter--all cuttings of satin and book muslin,--in the midst of which
may be seen pretty Miss Bib and little Madame Tucker, very busily
employed--Lady Lucretia de Camp proffering advice; and superintending
the construction of an amber satin, covered with black lace--a dress
that Mrs. Brown thought to wear, but felt obliged to resign, so much did
her kind patron, Lady de Camp, dote upon it.

Above this last-named apartment is Brown's bedchamber, where he and the
Captain are spending a quiet evening, reviewing their prospects and
relating their experiences:--the Captain stating his intention of living
retired upon his property, for all his friend Major Cant's trying to
persuade him to take an adjoining house in Belgravia. No! he was content
to stay where he was--Albert was snug; but if Mr. Brown thought of
removing to Mayfair or Tyburnia, why then, a house next such a capital
individual might be a desideratum:--_he_ said it--an Army Captain that
should not say it, but did not care,--stock-brokers and merchants were
men of bottom; though probably his friend Major Cant would say _that_
bottom meant the _baser_ stuff they were composed of--the joke was
better than the simile, and neither bad. After this opinion the
Captain paused to think, drink, and--with a blow that made
the table quiver,--demand, to know what a man without money was
_worth?_--answering the question, in the same breath, with an emphatic
_nothing!_--a man of wealth _was_ a man of worth! We know not if Mr.
Brown thought this logic or no;--but he, Captain de Camp, knew it, and
intended to let his friends know it also; for next season he would give
a grand entertainment, get Spread and Co. to throw a marquee over the
lawn, and see if Major Cant would come--the Captain rather thought _he_
would; or the Hon. Sam. Dummy--the coxcomb, who, when asked to dine with
Alderman Fig, in Bloomsbury Square, said _his_ horses never crossed
Tottenham Court Road--Stinkomalee and the Brutish Museum savouring too
much of the "people" for the exquisite;--but the Captain winked, and
said he knew how the Dummy would get out of the fix--he would come along
the New Road, as the Captain said he once knew him do, when in search of
an asthmatic poodle that had been stolen, and was at a dog-fancier's on
Pentonville Hill. Then should we have the lane filled with carriages,
like at a Chiswick fête; I would introduce my friend to the world, and
be at rest;--for we are a couple of old boys, willing to make sacrifices
for our dear children.

Having delivered himself of these lofty sentiments as the bells were
ringing out the old year--stopping to strike its knell;--the Captain
also stopped, to seize a glass and the hand of Brown--wishing him the
merriest, maniest, and happiest of New Years;--drinking eternal unity to
the B.'s and De C.'s--at the same time shedding a very visible tear,
that dropped into his brandy and water, like the pearl of Cleopatra,
to be sacrificed to self--to a very affectionate man--so _very_
affectionate, that he loved himself, we do believe.

The spirits and sentiment so overcame Brown, that he buried his emotion
in the bolster--a state of mind the Captain did not fail to observe, and
take advantage of; for--"he supposed Mr. Brown could _not_ spare £8,
until Saturday?"--An affirmation that gentleman repudiated; for he
granted the small favour with pleasure--presenting the leaf of an oblong
book, and his autograph, to the Captain; who retired with the same--by
an ingenious plan to render it of ten times the value--adding to the
_eight_ a letter _y_, making it eight_y_, and the figure to keep company
with a naught--£80.

The events of this day are chronicled in the Diary of Brown--all
_couleur de rose_,--the literal purport of which it would be tedious to
repeat; suffice it to say, the aphorisms on the demise of the year ran
foul of the "_occasional memoranda_," and were brought to a dead stop by
the "_general accounts_;" not that his ideas stopped on paper, for he
continued them in bed. Brown dreamed "his ship had come home;"--that he
dwelt in a Belgravian palace; that he was an M.P.;--that he was known as
_Brown_, the "King of 'Change"--that he ruled with an iron ruler--that
he was enthroned upon a cash-box--that he wore a crown of dollars--that
the four quarters of the globe adored him--that Great and Little Britain
worshipped him;--that the _world_ told his _wife_, Brown was a great
man:--but, alas!--trains of wild ideas, like locomotives that go too
fast, may run off the rail when least expected, or explode as a train of
gunpowder, without notice; so, in Mr. Brown's imagination, he feels as
if shot into the air, after being dreadfully scalded--Mrs. Brown, kind
soul, having applied a bottle of boiling water (forgetting the flannel)
to the feet of her spouse, before retiring, herself--that good lady
little thinking it was so warm. But there were other things Mrs. Brown
did not know of; for she little thought the servants were round the
kitchen-fire, quiet as mice, all deep in the "Mysteries of the Courts
and Sewers of London"--a work affording the greatest amount of horrible
excitement at the lowest rate,--a book in which Alphonso has discovered
a Captain de Camp; and cook, a Lady Thingamy, whom, she says, "ain't no
better than she should be"--a rather vague but significant truth, that
might as appropriately have been applied to a saint as to a sinner,
though cook intended it for the latter:--as to the Capting, the only
think she had agin him was a wish he wouldn't spile everythink with soy
and cayenne, for it got into the wash, and made the pigs sneeze. Mary,
too, must have her opinion--saying Wellesley wasn't no gentleman, for he
wiped his dirty boots on the towels, and would pull the plug out of the
wash-bason when there was nothing under to catch the soapy water. During
this scandal, John, whom all thought knew something, only said the
Captain was _an umbug_--as he noiselessly disappeared, bearing his shoes
in his hand; for it was considerably past midnight.

Young Brown and his two friends are at the "Planets" harmonic meeting,
stating their intention not to return till morning--an useless
proclamation, for it is impossible to do otherwise, now--they having
been at the Casino, "getting their feet in," for the hop on Friday,
as young Brown termed the practice of dancing.

Mr. Spohf is in bed, but cannot sleep--so great is his
pleasure,--Messrs. Blow and Grumble having patented "Spohf's new

"A Happy New Year--and may you live to see many of them!"--The New Year
is born with every characteristic of its defunct sire--seeming no better
behaved (as some people would have little boys after a birthday or a
breeching):--the old year died with a drizzle; and the young one, that
everybody hoped promising, is born with the same attributes.

Mr. Brown is at his post again--the parish lamp-post at the corner of
the lane--awaiting the "Favourite" omnibus, that is to bear him to the
City. He is trying to arrange the thousand and one little commissions
he has to execute for Mrs. Brown. How many he remembered or forgot we
know not; but that day he purchased a fair blank Diary--the stationer
who sold it not only wishing him "a Happy New Year," but that he
might "live to fill fifty such:"--a wish that made Mr. Brown very
contemplative--thinking 18,250 entries no joke;--of many bright, bright
days of pleasure; two score and ten of birthdays; half a century of
weddings, anniversaries, and deaths--let us hope of peaceful, happy
deaths,--for clouds will sometimes gather, darkening the brightest sky;
but, thank Heaven, there is plenty of sunshine for those who seek
it--ay, to find it, too, though it be midnight and beside a
kitchen-fire. Of this new Diary the first page is penned with more care
than usual--as all first pages are:--there the De Camp dynasty reign in
confidence; and it is evident that Mr. Brown anticipates a glorious

Young Time, we have often imagined, must be born fledged; for he can fly
quickly as his sire!--It is the 3rd of January--the day prior to Mrs.
Brown's ball.--Thus thought we, wending our way to Victoria Villa;
having promised the Miss Browns to step in and practise the
"_deux-temps_" with them; but, as we have since heard, it is another new
double-shuffle that is turning the brains of the dancing world just
now;--however, we went, and found Victoria in a pretty pickle--a perfect
mixed pickle, we may say,--our dear young friends being much too busy to
remember the appointment:--for there was the "Broadwood" standing upon
the landing; and Master Tom cutting out slides upon the bare boards in
the drawing-room, the carpet being taken to St. Stiff's Union, that it
might be beaten--a thing we exceedingly rejoiced in; for last year the
guests were obliged to beat it with their feet, and afterwards to carry
the dust home upon their shoulders--the first polka being performed as
if in the Great Desert, during a sand-storm. There was the chandelier
(that looked all the year like a giant pear enveloped in holland) being
removed to the parlour, and a much more splendid one suspended in its
stead. We peeped into the drawing-room, and had our dignity compromised
by a man on some steps; who directed us to "look alive and bring that
hammer." So, it being very evident we were in the way, we withdrew,
tumbling over a barricade of fenders and other furniture in the hall,
raised during our absence by the insurgent housemaids; who, we are sorry
to say, seemed rather diverted at the mishap, for we heard them giggle,
though of course we appeared not to notice, and tried to walk away with
a joyous air; at the same time vowing never to visit, even our best
friends, on the day prior to a party.

So we took care to keep away until the memorable evening arrived; but
being particularly requested to come early, and bring our amiable
sisters, we wished to do so. The Brougham was waiting, as were
we--thinking to do so for some time:--having made up our mind and the
study-fire--diving deep into the first book handy--an "Essay upon Light
and Shade in Painting." Well, we were in the dark--with Rembrandt;--when
the room appeared to fill with odoriferous vapour, and a blonde fairy
stealthily touched our shoulder, making a mock salutation, that startled
us very much:--it was our playful sister, whom we complimented upon
appearance and expedition; well knowing ladies to be unable to dress in
a given time for a ball, whatever they may do for an opera!


However, we had no cause for umbrage on this occasion; for the carriage
rumbled over the hard, dry, ground, just as St. Stiff's was striking
nine--the stars above, twinkling, as they only can, upon a clear, frosty
night. Having knocked mildly, for fear of frightening Mrs. Brown thus
early, and been kept waiting some time, we were admitted; after being
taken for Mr. Strap, the help, by John, whom we surprised in his fustian
jacket and the middle of a fugitive tea. The ladies soon disappeared
into an upper region, not soon to return, leaving us to find amusement
as we best could:--to examine the tiger-skin, ingeniously sewn upon a
form to resemble a living animal (which, by the bye, it did not); to
peep into the parlour, and discover the supper, looking mysteriously
vast, by the light of one burner, very much turned down; to pace the
hall; warm our kids at the Arnott; and, standing upon the mat, listen to
the unsophisticated talk without--speculating as to what a foreign
traveller could divine the conversation to mean, or the diurnal
occupation of the lanthorn-men to be:--

1st voice. "_Droves_, did yer say, in _Mad-ox_ Street?"

2nd do. "Yes, _herds_; I got eight _bulls_ and a _hog_ out of
_Bullstrode_ Street."

1st do. "See to that _bull's-eye_, _calf_; and, as there ain't no _kids_
a-coming, I'll _toss_ yer for a _tanner_."

Here "the noblest study of mankind" was broken off--Alphonso appearing.
We left our men, to pace the hall--abandoning character for a slow
march,--whilst the page constructed a scaffold of clothes-horses and
table-covers, forming a repository for hats, over the back
kitchen-stairs; the lobby beyond which, we discovered had been
metamorphosed into a still-room, and was now presided over by two
pretty, plump damsels, in the finest cobweb caps--mere blond buttons, of
no earthly use, but, withal, very becoming:--one of these maids being in
converse with a young "gent.," who, it appears, has been forgotten in
the excitement, and discovered here--his face very sticky with candy and
cream. Master Thomas Brown, fearing that such search might be instituted
for him, has taken a great affection to the leg of the still-room table;
from which he is coaxed by more attractive substances, seized, and borne
up to bed--his yells becoming "small by degrees and beautifully less,"
until lost altogether.


Now comes Mr. Strap, to help and wait at table--in his huge white
cravat, yellow vest, and new pair of second-hand plush smalls,
disappearing below to develope his calves, which are enveloped in
gaiters,--gingerly beckoning the man with the bad hat, who had been
tuning the piano, and Mr. Palaver, the Mizzlington Artist in hair,
to follow, that they may escape by the back door.

We had been promenading the hall for some time, having become pretty
well acquainted with the pattern of the encaustic tiles with which it
was paved; and were going towards the entrance for the last time,
pluming ourself that we might appear to the greatest advantage--for we
felt assured the ladies were descending, having heard a rustling and
tittering;--when, just turning by the door, we were electrified by three
distinct bangs, that subsided into a sharp rat, with an infinity of
tail, causing the lid of the letter-box to look as if it had the palsy,
and ourself to retreat like a shot--feeling alternately hot and cold;
whilst Strap, who, upon hearing Mrs. Brown's footsteps, began to be very
busy, performing a feat of strength with seven waiters, a copper scuttle
and an ice-pail, is put in such trepidation that he loses his grip--all
coming to the flags; causing the greatest amount of clamour at the
smallest amount of sacrifice--Mrs. Brown saying she is happy it is not
glass, and hoping Strap hasn't been drinking. The effect having
annihilated the cause, the door is not opened; so the dose gets
repeated, with similar gusto, by Fred. Lark--for it was he that gave the
"stunner," and witnessed the commotion through the attenuated windows at
either side the door,--a piece of pleasantry for which he got
stigmatised by Mrs. B. as a naughty, noisome, noisy man; and for which
he himself proposed the _still_-room, as an antidote. Now, Mr. Lark is
one of those funny little men, rather liked, because not over given to
sarcasm, and quite capable of laughing at his own jokes; or rather the
jokes he has picked up and disseminates--such whimsies in their place
being very well, but out of it intolerable nuisances. Mr. Lark commenced
his vagaries in the still-room, when we were taking coffee, placing the
toast on the table, and the buttered bread to the fire; proffering the
sugar to Miss Angelina; inquiring of that lady if she _liked_ her
tea--because, if not, she might _lump_ it; and upon our observing some
cracknels, as hard, the Lark said--it was _harder_ where there were
none; and that evening he completely confounded Mr. Brown, by informing
the worthy gentleman--he had not seen him this year!--nothing very
remarkable, considering it only three days' old; but enough, withal,
to make Mr. Brown think of three hundred and sixty-five--doubting the

Now arrive the musicians, with a gentle knock:--up goes the harp (like a
huge blade-bone in baize), followed by the cornet, violin, and pianist.
We ascend:--Mrs. Brown popping and firing her parting injunctions in
every direction--at Alphonso, in the (library) coffee-room; at Mr.
Strap, by the door; at John, by the foot of the stairs;--and, I was
going to say, at the listless supernumerary footman, lolling over the
banisters; who appeared in, or rather out of, character, by especial
desire, for this night only, being lent with the rout-seats at a sure
salary. As Mrs. Brown passed this latter gentleman in silence, we could
not help smiling--hoping she might have to think as well of his powers
as he did himself, and that all titles entrusted to his care might be
safely delivered; for we knew Mrs. Bramston would not be called
_Brimstone_, without turning fiery; or Mr. Reynard Sly put up with
anything but _Slée_, though he may write it Sly, himself.

Having gained the drawing-room, and got fairly through the
muslin-barrier in the doorway, which made the staircase look as if in a
fog, we found the appearance within very gratifying--everything well out
of the way, and no stinting of wax-lights:--altogether exhibiting a
clearer stage than is often to be met with--some antique people inviting
you to polk in an old curiosity shop;--as, the other evening, at the
Dowager Lady Oldbuck's, young Whisk, of the Heavies, brought down a
_buhl_ table, covered with porcelain gimcracks; a thing that Lark
observed--ought to cure itself, if people wished to save their _Sèvres_.
Evening parties are not the slow things they used to be:--here the back
balcony is all evergreens and tissue-paper blossoms, lit up with a
Chinese lanthorn--looking like a fairy bower, tenanted by four gaping
gold-fish and a dissipated canary; the little boudoir, beyond, so snug
in sage and silver, seeming but small accommodation for card-players. We
thought of Lady Oldbuck's--the valuable space occupied by _chaperones_
and corpulent cronies,--blessing the new mode;--dances now being
given to dancers, not to dowagers and matrimonial slave-dealers, as
heretofore. Mrs. Brown calculates her company; and thinking there
is    enough for a quadrille in either room, she commences to form
them--pouncing, from time to time, upon timid young men by the door, who
are led forward, like lambs from a flock, to sacrifice,--until the sets
are completed--all but one couple--Mrs. Brown stating herself
"distressed for ladies;"--a combination of suffering by no means acute,
for she stood up herself, having engaged the amiable young Slowcoach to
fill the gap.

  [Illustration: THE QUADRILLE.]

No sooner did the orchestra commence--barely having finished the
first eight bars of "the Martyrs",--than the guests came rushing up
from the coffee-room, like sheep through a hedge, one bolder than
the rest leading the way, causing Mrs. Brown to desert her partner in
_l'éte_--a figure the gentleman feels bound to execute twice, though he
would much rather have been excused either performance; and upon Mrs.
Brown's presenting a substitute he became so beside himself as to forget
the figure--a mishap rendered none the clearer by a wag's performing _la
pastorale_, when he ought to have done _trenise_, and moreover, not have
done it in such a facetious manner, as to render it a matter of doubt if
he himself could have recognized it; the audacity being accompanied by a
certain amount of shyness, that had to be hidden, altogether sadly
deranging our amiable youth's comprehension, he being led by his
partner, instead of leading _her_--to be left, alone, in a mental
pillory, a specimen of blushing mortification more diverting to behold
than to experience;--but, upon being kindly treated by his gentle
partner, he recovers, in the _galop finale_, feeling truly grateful to
the guardian spirit that has conducted him through the purgatory.
Ladies, be gentle with youthful bashfulness--it often arises from pure
feelings, modest diffidence, or unselfishness;--such, unlike many
proficient dancers, carry their brains in their hats, and not in their
boots:--weigh your "_fantastic-toes_" against them, and see which are
the most empty.

Somehow, the first quadrille is always unfortunate!--In the back room
they succeeded no better than in the front:--here, Miss Charmer was top
of the dance, as she always is, if it can be obtained; especially in the
_Lancers_ or _Caledonians_ (which, we dare say, are pleasant quadrilles
to those who know them, and the Charmer does). Well, she is top, with
young Hoy (heir to Sir Hobbedy), for a partner, a brave youth at quoits,
cricket, boxing, or boating--his hands, horny as a tortoise and large as
Polyphemus', over which he split three right-hand gloves:--a glance will
suffice to show how much he is _out_ of his, and she _in_ her,
element--Miss Charmer looking, Lark said, as if she would prefer
performing the "first _set_" (or sit) upon a vacant seat, beside Arthur
Beau, who has just arrived, and by whom, we know, she disliked to be
quizzed;--so, upon the completion of the first eight bars, the Charmer
flounced, bringing the flounces of her dress into contact with the bars
of the grate, causing the smoke to come out, and Arthur to come round,
that he might lean upon the shelf, engage himself for the next dance,
and stand behind the fair partner, a fire-guard of honour, unable to
keep from smiling at Mr. Hoy, who dances upon his heels, as though
enamoured of his large feet, and afraid of knocking his head against the
chandelier. Their _vis-à-vis_ is a lively lady, apparently taking stock
of a _bouquet_, but, in reality, joking an absent gentleman,
opposite:--it is Miss Gay, whom Lark (her partner) is making laugh, by
observing--the gentleman is not so _absent_ as he ought to be; causing
that lady to forget herself--making many mistakes and false starts;
which, being those of a person who knew better, were very diverting.
Miss Gay is voluble as volatile, no subject coming amiss--she is now
speculating as to how far the gentlemen will permit the buttons to
travel down their backs, or their skirts to be curtailed; and Mr. Lark,
unable to find a reason, must get up a contrary supposition--imagining
some middle-aged ladies to resemble a cork-screw, as they have at
different periods shifted the waist from the armpits downward;--_waists_
making us think of the short lady (in this set) with a very long
one--Miss Price, only child of Alderman Price, chandler and dry-salter,
of Candlewick ward--daughter and _hair_, as Mr. Lark jocosely observed,
in allusion to the luxuriant red tresses of that lady;--saying her papa
was the great crony of Sir Rich. Big, the free vintner, late of
Portsoken ward, who was found, or rather not found--having evaporated of
spontaneous combustion, before he could get to the civic chair,--leaving
all his money to Price; who has retired, with his fat and the gout, to
Bayswater. Miss Price is a lovely dancer, appearing hollow (a thing Miss
Gay did not doubt), like an India rubber ball in flounces; she is said
to have a beautiful hand, so small as to require only No. 6. gloves--as
if a pigmy hand could not be a deformity. She is invited, in a hope that
young Brown may make her a partner, for the dance of life; and is said
to be worth £150,000--not by the pound weight, as the envious Miss Gay
hinted.--No! No! naughty Miss Gay, be satisfied with Nature's gifts, and
do not covet lucre.

Here comes young Brown, who has not danced before, to make arrangements
with Miss Gay, who has--and proved herself the _belle_ of the
room;--but, as gentlemen are now in the minority, she does not hint at
being "engaged for the next," or propose "the one after."

There is a temporary lull, after the dance:--and in comes Captain de
Camp, looking like a macaw in a dress-coat, leading Lady Lucretia de
Camp, who resembles an apoplectic canary--so glittering is the amber
satin,--followed by the sons, who meander amongst the beaux and bare
shoulders, in search of the Miss Browns--dancing with no one else all
the evening,--causing the gentlemen to think very little of the De
Camps, and the ladies less of the Miss Browns. Now, then, for a
polka!--the rattling "Post knock Polka!"--Off! away they go, after a
great deal of reluctance and playful diffidence as to who should lead
off--Miss Charmer with Arthur Beau, twirling round and round, in and out
(like an eel among skittles); followed by Mr. Latimer and Miss Jemima,
who evidently intended to do great things, but only cause confusions and
contusions, until they get knocked into the open space, in the centre of
the human vortex--the Charmer spinning, as a top that could not stop,
while the music continued, like the automata in front of a street organ.
There, there they go!--that is Lord Towney--he who came with Mr.
Serjeant Wideawake, the Honourable Member for Bloomsbury--the fellow who
got acquainted with Brown, as brother-director of the "Dodo Assurance,"
that didn't do, and was done up. His Lordship is son of the Marquis of
Mary-le-bone--he that is flying with the pink flounces,--the buoyant,
hollow, Miss Price, whose pretty button of a nose we do believe was
impressed with the basket-work on her partner's fourth shirt-stud. Round
and round they twist--backwards, forwards, and sideways,--between
parties parted, and openings that close again,--faster and
faster,--smiling, frowning, and apologizing,--growing swifter and
swifter,--until the floor snapped, and rebounded with an awful crash.

   *   *   *   *


The visitors are in the room below--a scene of ruin and rueful
faces;--the supper that was displayed there, in all its state, is done
for. Alas!--the chandelier has been polked off the hook--a mishap in
which few sympathise, for the floor is said to be safe; Mr. Lark being
the first to propose their going above, as he jokingly observed--to
crack the _party_-wall. Now, for that vastly-relished valse, the
"Teetotum"--liked none the less for the late excitement!--_deux temps_
against _trois temps_--the latter getting worsted; and the Brown girls,
who danced every dance, with certain gentlemen, only, more and more


As the evening progresses, the Wall-flowers become bolder;--some finding
partners for quadrilles; others edging up to the vacant recesses,
rendering it now possible to get out at the door, and obtain air on the
landing--where several young fellows are congregated:--there young Lark
was laughing, we knew, at the Rev. Jewel St. Jones, the clerk in orders
at St. Stiffs, doing the _cavalier seul_--for we heard him say something
about early missal, or primitive Christian style,--joking the reverend
gentleman's partner, Miss what's-her-name, the "lamp-post," from No. 4,
Bury Court, St. Mary Axe--that washed-out, faint, fair creature,--she,
that looks as if you could see the back buttons of her dress through
from the front--that lady--well, do you see her?--It is said her mother
keeps her in a dark closet, that she may look like a consumptive
geranium:--however, Mr. Lark said _he_ did not believe it; and, as no
one said they did, the matter ended. The stairs soon become a popular
observatory--several Wall-flowers joining the knot; one of whom mildly
remarks something about three silver-grey silks, in the fore-ground, and
their being "much worn;" which Mr. Lark fully agreed in, as, he said,
they appeared to have been _turned_ several times--a joke, at which the
Wall-flower faintly smiles, for the three silver-greys are his
sisters:--however, nothing daunted, he is at it again, remarking upon
marriage, and people that look married; illustrating his theory by
pointing out the juvenility of an aunt, who he says is a virgin:--Lark
retorting--"_virging_ on fifty!"--a notification that begets much
laughter, making the Wall-flower feel at a discount, and more than ever
desire to say something smart; so, he pitches upon a gentleman with
parenthetical (bowed) legs, observing that Brown has invited his tailor;
moreover, wagering two to one, that if the gentleman, so libelled, were
asked to look at the splashes on the calf of his leg, he would take it
up in front, and examine it in his hand, like a nabob or tailor, used to
sit upon the floor; were he a Christian, he would look at it over his
shoulder:--here the Wall-flower turned for applause, looking over his
own shoulder to illustrate the anecdote--there to discover, Captain de
Camp, the gentleman who introduced "Parenthesis," a staff doctor, from
Woolwich (at least so the Captain said). But here we will leave them to
proceed below, and see how matters progress in the supper-room:--

The chandelier, the treacherous culprit, that would not swing or hang in
chains, is being borne away, clanking along the lower hall; the broken
glass has been picked out of the pastry, and the oily odour overcome
with _esprit de bouquet_--presenting, withal, a very effective
_coup-d'oeil_:--though, we could fancy the tipsy-cake, in the form
of a leaning-tower, if anything, a little more groggy; and that the
composite Corinthian temple looked as if it had suffered from an
earthquake--but there it was, for all the intense remorse of the cook,
who thought the exhibition of so mutilated a work of art would injure
his reputation for ever--but it did not!--Neither did any one notice the
loss of the frail effeminate brigand, that formerly tenanted the rotunda
of barley-sugar; nor was it known that a treadmill had given place to a
locomotive and tender--in sweets.

The first portion of this banquet disappears merrily; there
being no lack of the usual conserves, pasties, and geometrical
bread-envelopes--supposed to contain something, but consumed without the
slightest knowledge of their contents.

After the ladies have supped and withdrawn, the gentlemen lay to, with
immense energy, as if to make up for the time they have been kept in
suspense, creating great havoc amongst ruined fowls, or anything they
can lay hands upon--in the excitement, particularity having given place
to mirth. One gentleman has planted a spoon in his button-hole, after
the fashion of a flower; and, of course, for his pains, got called a
"Spooney," by an unknown voice behind Mr. Potts, the tame apothecary,
who is pouring, or rather measuring out, some champagne, _himself_,
catching the final drop on the edge of the glass, as if it were
castor-oil:--the "Spooney," thinking it Potts' voice, must make a joke
in return; so begins with the rather hackney'd, but, as he thought,
appropriate one, of _cham_pagne being better than _real_ pain or quinine
wine; and, upon Mr. P.'s essaying to answer, our "Spoon" diverted to
some tongue he was consuming, saying he liked it better than _Pott_ed
_tongue_--an observation that made the apothecary's face flush, and the
"Spoon" liken it to an article before them, a _claret-mug_. At this last
allusion the "Pott" got red-hot, and there is no knowing what would have
been the consequences, had not the "Spoon" terrified the "Pott" by
proclaiming "silence!"--in a stentorian voice;--and a gentleman risen,
Dr. Portbin, the author of that elaborate essay on "Dribbling Babies,"
in one thick volume, royal octavo--a work that nobody read, but
everybody thought a great deal of, for it gained its author a
vast infantine practice:--so, when the M.D. rose, the "Pott"
trembled--feeling greatly relieved to find the doctor only did so to
propose the "ladies"--"health and long life to Mrs. Brown and the
ladies!"--a toast that was drunk with great enthusiasm, Mr. Lark
vociferously applauding; at the same time stating, in an under
tone--"the doctor meant a long life of ills and bills." Dr. Portbin's
sentiment is echoed by Mr. Brown, who returns thanks in a
stereotype-speech, almost as original as a royal one; to which, in
some points, it bore slight resemblance, the ideas being very much
generalized--there was an "alliance with foreign powers," "acquisition
of territory," and "friendly relations:"--altogether a prosperous
allegory, which causes Captain de Camp to be "called upon;" and, in that
style of speech usually denominated "neat," give very visible vent to
his inexpressible feelings--sketching several scenes, commencing at
Victoria Villa and ending at St. Stephen's,--with a verse, intended to
look as if composed for the nonce; but, in reality, a work of much
study:--it was delivered with great emphasis--a composition for which we
had to blush, though, as faithful chroniclers, feel bound to insert--it
ran as follows:--

  "Victoria and Albert's big
    With city's wealth and soldier's glory:
  To Army, Queen, and Country swig:
    Improve, my friends, and prove the Tory!"

We do not think the Captain quite liked the word "swig," but he could
find no better in "Walker's Rhyming Dictionary;" or the last
expression--but _Conservative_ could not be lugged in any how:--however,
we must say, this ostensible improvisatorial effort produced a grand
effect, and a greater noise; which had scarcely subsided, when Mr.
Serjeant Wideawake, the Honourable Member for Bloomsbury, and author of
"Lays of a Liberal," rose to retort, saying,--

  "We beg to doubt your precious rig,
    And I'll tell you another story:
  To _improve_ is to be a _whig_;
    But not to _improve-is-a-tory_!"


The effect of this latter burst of poetic fire was truly electric; it
completely extinguished the Captain's impromptu glimmer, lighting up
that gallant bosom with a passion of another kind--he feels miserably
"put out;"--and, like a dying rush-light in its last moments, seemed
determined to end with a spark of unusual brightness. The Captain stood
erect, awaiting his opportunity; but, alas!--it was one that never came;
for the ventriloquist, that caused the rupture between Mr. Potts and the
"Spooney," made the "Lion" wince, by observing, "he hoped there would be
no cruelty to animals"--a remark that made our "Lion" roar
contemptuously, and call the company "bears and monkeys"--he growling,
with blood-thirsty pugnacity, about "satisfaction" and "Chalk
Farm,"--the declamatory mania causing the irascible monster to mount a
projection in the recess, covered with a curtain, bringing down an
avalanche of fenders, fire-irons, and other stowage, with a fearful
crash--crowning the "king of beasts" with a helmet-scuttle,--thus
permitting the meaner animals to escape; leaving, as Mr. Lark (who came
out last) said, between frightful gusts of laughter oozing from his
handkerchief, Jackall Brown, the lion's provider, pacifying the enraged
brute with claret or soda water; and John in such an extreme fit of awe,
that he has taken the state jug, with the hole in the bottom stopped
with sealing-wax--only intended to hold cold water, into use, for hot;
and, being unable to stop the orifice with his finger, drops the
article--to the scalding of the already enfuriated "Lion."

   *   *   *   *   *   *

Feet were pattering above as we left this scene of strife--no time
seeming to have been lost during the consumption of the supper; for the
hands of the clock, in the hall, pointed to an earlier hour than they
did when we descended:--the truth being, Lark, though rather fast
himself, thought Time too much so, and put him back a little. The
Wall-flower is comparing the clock with his repeater. Lark is
reprimanding him, saying--it is not _etiquette_ to do so; and that
really some one ought to tell the vulgar thing, in green satin, who wore
her button of a watch-face outward (fearing lest it should be taken for
a locket), to turn the bauble round, for it is time she was in bed.

Having been absent for a short period, we were informed by the Lark that
we had _not_ lost a treat--for Jemima had been singing, "Memory, be thou
ever true!"--whilst Lark (perpetrating a dreary pun) said, he every
moment wished the music-stool would prove a _fall setto_, and
precipitate the lady to the ground; for it was a sad pity to hear poor
Spohf's songs so murdered.

They are now at a waltz--"the Olga,"--which is carried on with spirit,
lasting a very long while--young Lark saying he does not waltz, for it
makes his head swim; and that he has an objection to stand holding by
the shelf, experiencing a sensation delightful as standing upon one's
head in a swing, before a lady that ought to have your best
attention;--however, for all Lark's protestations, we saw some one-sided
smiles, as much as to say, _his_ vulnerable part, like that of Achilles,
lay in the heels--an insinuation Lark could well afford to allow, for he
does not live to _dance_, alone, like some sage, perfect, performers.

After the "Caledonians" and another polk (which, for diversion, young
Brown has danced to the tune of the "College-hornpipe"--a pleasing
eccentricity), followed a quadrille, _à la Française_, danced without
sides, in two very long lines--a style reported to have been imported
from a Casino, and not held to be proper by sober people. So, Potts got
a disgust for the polka, and thought _it_ improper--a dance he never
patronised or wished to--it being too _fast_ for the dull
apothecary!--he hated it, because once an inveterate polkist nearly
knocked his _patella_, or knee-pan, off, with some hard substance in the
flying tails of the dancer's dress-coat--a huge street-door key, that
ought to have been left in the _paletôt_.

Our evening is drawing to a close:--the mouths in the boudoir are
assuming the shape of elongated O's--an epidemic that has extended to
the Wall-flowers; the "harp" has accompanied his instrument with fitful
snores; the "violin" scarcely knows the back from the front of his
fiddle, or the "cornet" which end to blow into;--yet, upon being asked
for "Roger de Coverley," they make a desperate effort to awake, for they
know it to be the last dance--which is supported by the whole strength
of the company,--Captain de Camp leading off with Mrs. Brown, and Mr.
Brown with Lady Lucretia. Thus ends the Christmas Ball!

The still-room is being besieged for coffee; and there is a great
difficulty in obtaining hats and coats--unfortunately few of the tickets
corresponding,--for Alphonso's ward was precipitated down the kitchen
stairs, it having been too heavily laden. Lady and Miss Highbury are
seen to their carriage by Mr. Lark, who departs in Lord Towney's cab,
with a "_Gibus_" hat, mechanically deranged--all wrinkles, like a
jockey's boot. Upon being asked, by a lanthorn-bearer, "if his Honor has
such a thing as a pint o' beer in his pocket?" Mr. Lark, with playful
irony, informs the supernumerary that malt liquor is not a solid,
neither is it to be obtained at evening parties.

To and fro, flit the Jack-o'-lanthorns, respectfully touching the
binding of their battered hats, covering the tiers of muddy wheels with
their coat-tails, that the _tulle_ and _tartelaine_ may not be
spoiled--hoping your Honour will "remember" them!--as they cast
uncertain shadows upon the icy pavement--ice that has been rendered none
the less slippery by their cutting out a slide upon it, with the
assistance of the police, during the evening:--such a banging of doors,
clashing of steps, and stopping up the way, under the little awning,
over the carriage-sweep--a pretty pass, so narrow that, we are sorry to
say, the hackney-drivers instituted a private road amongst the hardy
shrubs, choking up the gates, to the great distress of pedestrians, who
are looked upon by the "lanthorns" as "shabby gents,"--paying nothing
for the privilege of walking;--they (the "lanthorns") viewing the
immunity, in the light of parsimony. However, we think walking home,
after a party, under the influence of champagne, a dangerous
experiment:--the clear free streets seeming to court a "lark," and the
very bells to invite pulling--"Visitors'," and "Night," "Knock and
Ring," (and run) also.

We have since heard the fate of a rash expedition undertaken at this
season, the band of adventurers consisting mostly of those gentlemen who
had passed the last half-hour dying for a cigar; and yet, by some
unknown attractive power, felt bound to stay the entertainment
out--probably it was that such kindred souls might depart _en masse_;
however, be it what it might, their first care was to obtain a light--at
some sacrifice, for the lamp-post had been newly painted; and, secondly,
happening to pass Mr. Spohf's, they must serenade that gentleman with
pathetic negro-melodies--about the loss of one "Mary Blane," and an
injunction to "Susannah" not to sob,--until driven by the police into
another beat, there to lose one of their band, who fell a victim to an
inquiring spirit;--for, seeing an inscription on a door, to intimate
that its owner, a surgeon, gave "advice, gratis, between the hours of
four and five, every Saturday," he rang to demand the same (having the
head-ache), as it was just that time by St. Stiff's; but, unfortunately
falling into the clutches of No. 8, of the A division, he had to receive
the advice, from a magistrate, between eleven and twelve, at a fee of
five shillings.


We left Mr. Lark in Lord Towney's cab--again to take up with him, being
put down at the end of Bloomsbury Buildings, fearing the rattle of
wheels in that quiet _cul-de-sac_ would disturb the old Larks. Having
found the door, and spent five minutes by the hinges--searching for the
key-hole, he gets within; and spends five more--trying to ignite an
extinguisher;--cautiously stealing to bed, throwing his _paletôt_ over
the top banister, and the contents of its pockets down the
well-staircase, to the awakening of the whole house.

At Victoria Villa the last guest has gone:--the De Camps have
gone--departed with cordiality and love for all that is Brown, at the
same time sadly mortified with the impression made on that worthy
gentleman's friends. Mrs. Brown, worn out and exhausted, has given a
parting glance round, with her night-lamp, and panted up to-bed; the
Misses Brown have retired to their chambers; John feels very much
inclined to proclaim his opinion of the Captain, but is fearful of the
consequences; and Mr. Strap, who has fallen a victim to his weak
point--strong drink, is rendered thereby quite incapable of making
either a base to his person, or a fluent speech, as it seems he wished;
for, upon meeting Mr. Brown by the stairs, he made a rush at the
esteemed proprietor of that name, prophetically bidding him to
"B-B-Beware of Captings in w-w-w-wolf's clo-o-othing, fur all isn't
gug-gug-gold as gl-l-l-litters, as the Rev-rind Miss-s-s-ster B-B-Bucket
observes, in the Proverbs of Sol'mon's songs." Mr. Strap, after having
delivered these sentiments, in what might have been called a _sotto_
voice, to an imaginary Mr. Brown (for the reality had withdrawn to bed),
performs an unsuccessful backward movement upon his heels--as if to
survey his victim,--coming to the ground; where he lay until borne off
by John, who thinks him a valiant fool.

The persevering Brown, though much fatigued, does not postpone the
Diary:--"January 4_th_, _Friday_--_Execrable_ Friday!--We this day gave
our Annual Ball--_we_, indeed!--why I knew nothing about it until all
the cards had been despatched. Mrs. Brown asks--just as Tom does, if he
may have the sugar, when it is half consumed:--_It was Mrs. Brown's
ball_ in every sense. I did hope to have experienced more enjoyment for
the money. I have many a time been happier at half the price;--ay,
happier when I was clerk at Chizzle and Filch's, in Aldermanbury; but,
somehow, I suppose a man must make sacrifices for his friends, as
penurious old Chizzle did, when he paid the debt of nature, and left to
me _that_ he could not take away! Not that I ever made any sacrifices
for Spohf--no, _he_ never asked it;--cheap trusty friendship is
_something_!--I must own to feeling, all the evening, as if my collar
had too much starch therein; and more out of place in my own house than
the 'white neckerchiefs' that waited at supper. I am like a fish out of
water, and that fish, a flat-fish--caught with a bit of red rag;
however, there must be a great deal in use--another element may be
delightful, when used to it. There is no doubt my old friend Wideawake's
attack upon the Captain was mere envy; and as to his insinuating that I
should never eat a peck of salt with _that_ man--to say I shall never
know _that_ man, is preposterous!--as to eating the literal peck, no
man, probably, will do that; for the Captain has an aversion to saline
food, saying it makes the bones soft. I wonder if it has the same effect
upon brains!--We shall see, Wideawake--we _shall_ see:--let this page
bear testimony! I hope the briny ocean may not swallow up the Captain's

Victoria and Albert slumber late on the morning of the 5th:--Alphonso is
the first up--or rather down, having rolled off his uncomfortable bed,
constructed upon four chairs, in the drawing-room. Mrs. Brown, too, must
have risen on the wrong side of her teaster, so testy is she this
morning--thanking her stars that Twelfth-day has arrived, to put an end
to the Christmas miseries!--Soon, now, will that little pest, Tom,
be packed back to "Tortwhack House;" and the juvenile party, of to-day,
it is hoped may appease some rampant mammas uninvited to the grand
_réunion_--rendering any petty excuses that may be given the more

The day rolls rapidly away, though not with half the speed Master Brown
could desire--the hands of the hall-clock appearing to creep so, that
every time Tom passed it (and that was not seldom), he stopped to see if
it was going, the day seeming most unusually long, and night as if it
never would come; but it did!--firstly, bringing the little "Merrys,"
from Hope Cottage, the Tudor lodge, next-door-but-one--Master Walter
Merry being the first to answer Tommy's nubbly note of invitation, in
intoxicated text capitals, that appeared to be making a desperate effort
to run off the paper, at the right-hand corner, leaving no room to
"remain," and scarcely any to "please turn over;" so folded was it, to
give the desired angular form, that the paper looked as if it had been
used to make five hundred geometrical cocks and boats.

Tom met the Merrys with such fervent joy, that he never thought they had
healths, or anything else to ask after; his only object, seeming to be
the finding of his friend, who is rolled, like a mummy, in numberless
boas and shawls:--during the process of unswathing, which was no easy
job to one in a hurry, so artfully were the pins introduced, Master
Tommy treats his friend Walter to a railroad retrospective review of the
good things in store--recounting all the "lummy" things left
yesterday;--telling about the "nobby" Christmas tree Captain de Camp
gave them--though his ma' did say it was "a pretty give!"--it was stolen
out of _his_ father's garden.--My father's a jolly sight richer than
your's--he has more trees in his garden--ain't we got a "swag" of nuts,
and a "plummy" twelfth-cake--my father won it at an _art-union_, in the
city! I am to draw King--if I don't, just see how I'll cry!--Mercy Merry
shall be Queen. You shall have Punch off the cake; and ma'says I shall
have "Rule Britannia," as soon as the waves and ice have melted away.


Now a knock brings more visitors, the Masters Young, in all the
ungainliness of hobbledyhoyhood--that transmigratory period when
coat-tails are first developed:--they have come with their sister Flora,
a lovely bud, expected "out" next season. Here are the Bells, the
Petits, and the little Larks, with their big brother, the "jolly Lark,"
who made his _début_ over the top of the drawing-room-door, standing
upon the shoulders of your humble servant; who felt the "jolly Lark"
anything but light, and no joke--though the juveniles must have thought
it so, for we could hear their merry peals of laughter ringing joyously,
dispelling the silence that had hitherto prevailed, overturning the sage
injunctions of _proper_ mammas, who teach their children to behave
"pretty"--thinking _good_ and _quiet_ synonymous. Somehow, the little
fellows, unfortunately, take the Lark for Mr. Spohf, who has hitherto
done the funny in a refined style, scarcely to be imagined--an elegant,
amiable, fun,--a mixture of the buffoon and gentleman, the sublime and
the ridiculous, quite marvellous to behold,--making our little friend
(who you are aware was moulded in one of Nature's odd freaks) appear,
to tender imaginations, almost supernatural. The mistake and misplaced
approbation is very galling to Mrs. Brown; so much so that she becomes
angry with the tea-urn, and, in turn, burns her fingers--venting her ire
in the shape of a box on the ears of Master Bold, who ventured to hint
Mr. Spohf's absence a "jolly shame;" and, now vows to tell his
mamma--a thing it is very evident Mrs. Brown does not wish, for she has
shown a great deal of favour and contrition towards the young gentleman

The tea-tray having been removed, the burners of the chandelier
heightened, and the Snuffle family had their row of little noses
polished by the eldest sister, preparations begin:--Miss Jemima playing
the pretty little "Hop o'my Thumb Polka," and Tom, who has been sitting
very quietly beside Mercy Merry (vowing to marry her at fourteen, for
"his father is so rich that he would give him five pounds a year to live
upon"), leads off, much to the mortification of those boys who will not
be "young gentlemen"--the many who won't, can't, and shan't dance! but,
being bent upon mischief, dispose explosive spiders and chair-crackers
about the carpet;--one little mischievous fellow wishing he had brought
some pepper to strew on the floor, and make 'em sneeze; however, they
get up a little excitement another way with the sofa-pillows, a sham
fight, in which a parian Amazon falls beside Marian Bell, who "didn't go
to do it;" so dancing is relinquished for games to suit all
parties:--Hunt the Slipper, a sport carried on with great spirit, until
it is found there are slippers enough for three--a thing everybody holds
to be cheatery:--so that game is abandoned for Blind-man's-buff, the
mere mention of which, carries us back to childhood; and, as authors
often lug in their thoughts (bits of nature) very unceremoniously, and
at odd times, we may, possibly, be pardoned or praised for so doing.
Well, we never hear mention of this game but we think of a bump we once
received during the sport, our blind ardour causing us to flounder in a
fender, and bruise our head, the remains of which will be taken to the
"long home." Well do we remember the spotted turban worn on that
occasion--for we recollect, at the time, thinking "Belcher" a new term,
just coined;--having our crown rubbed with brandy and taking a little
internally, which appeared attracted by that externally, for it got in
our head and made us very merry, causing the hiccups to such an extent,
that we were called _Sir Toby Belch_ of "Twelfth Night; or, What you
Will" notoriety (having drawn that character). Thus, brandy, Belchers,
and Blind-man's-buff, hold an indissoluble partnership in our
memory--a remnant of those days when we imagined a Jew incapable of
dealing in other merchandise than old clothes; or of shaving like a
Christian, or, if he did, would do other than expose a pendant chin,
resembling the _vertebræ_ of a horse's tail. Oh! those days have
flown--days when we imagined peas split by hand, and thought humanity
fools for not making soup with whole ones--but we are sadly
digressing!--"It's not fair!" cry twenty voices--"the blind man can
see;" and so he could, for he always caught Miss Brown, who, afraid of
the piano or pier-glass, would stand in the way:--so that sport is
relinquished for cake and Characters; the former seeming to afford great
gratification, and the latter little, save to the King and Queen--all
other characters being, like the riddles, "given up,"--no one caring to
know when a sailor is not a sailor?--when he's a-_board_: or to be bored
with a door's being a-_jar_, and a man a-_shaving_.


The rich cake is soon a ruin; so much is every part of it relished, that
one young gentleman has consumed the head and shoulders of Madame
Alboni, under a delusion of her being sugar, and not "plaster of
parish," as Mrs. Brown afterwards said it was. The little fellows soon
get very mirthful on the ginger-wine; keeping up a continual buzz, like
a colony of bees, sadly itching to be at something--a wish that is not
to be realized at once, for little Miss Newsoince is going to do that
eternal tattoo, the "_Rataplan_:"--yes, there she is, in Tom's felt-hat
and polonaise, as "_La Vivandière_," thumping upon an empty band-box
with two knitting-pins, singing, as some of the mammas say, very
prettily; but as the boys, who have heard it many times before,
designate it "a jolly bother!"--"a great big shame!"--"a precious dummy
set out!"--and so on,--there being no _fun_ in it.

This hum-drum over, a great cry is raised for _Forfeits_!--and a desire
that _a lady_ should _go out in a very great hurry_, as it would appear,
almost in a state of destitution; for every young lady and gentleman
proffers to stand for some article of dress. Having settled what
they will give, all sit round upon chairs, ready to hear the
_lady's_ demands:--spin goes the trencher, and she wants her
_Stockings_!--forward fly the hose, personated by a little fellow, with
mottled legs, who had never stood in other than socks, but for all that
can catch the revolving waiter, look slyly at _Bonnet_, make him think
it his turn, and impudently call out "_Cap!_!"--so _Bonnet_ and _Cap_
knock head to head, tumble on the trencher, and get fined. _Bonnet_
shouts "_Boots!_"--_Boots_ begets "_Bustle!_"--and _Bustle_ begets a
grand stir, by calling "_Double Toilet!_"--causing the whole wardrobe
to leap from every chair, in every direction, a general confusion,--in
which the _Boa_ slips off his seat, and forfeits a twenty-bladed knife.
The _Boa_, spinning the tray again, calls "_Muff!_"--who, not being on
the alert, arrives when the waiter has wabbled its last, so the _Muff_
has to pay a forfeit; but having nothing eligible upon his person, is
found a substitute, in a very ugly China pug-dog, afterwards called
"_a very pretty thing_" by Miss Angelina to Miss Jemima, who awarded the
penalties, like a blind Justice saying her prayers, passing sentence,
in the lap of the judge, who demands--"_Here's a pretty thing, a very
pretty thing; and what is the owner of this very pretty thing to be done


Angelina sentencing the owner of the pretty pug to take a very pretty
young lady into the corner, and spell "_op-por-tu-ni-ty_"--a spell the
_Muff_ does not seem to know lies in taking the _opportunity_ to kiss
the fair one, though he has all the evening been admiring her vastly,
and would have given anything for such a chance; but next, having to
"_lie the length of a looby, the breadth of a booby_," _&c._, he is
eminently successful--yet, who shall say the ungainly cub may not one
day be an ornament to society! Poor _Muff_! he has no mother or
sisters--the only specimens of girlhood known to him are the maids at
home, and the school-master's daughter, that dines with the
parlour-boarders at Addle House:--brave boy, thou art clever, but
semi-civilized! More "_pretty things_" are being redeemed--fans, gloves,
lockets, handkerchiefs, and chatelaines,--all their owners being
appropriately "done to:"--the _Boa_ condemned to "bite a yard off the
poker;" and the _Visite_ to "salute the one he likes best"--which
_Garters_ fancies will be her; so, she embraces the table-pillar, and he
the _Berthe_, instead--kissing her, sadly to the mortification of
_Garters_, who did think the honour worth some trouble. Jemima and
Angelina, having disposed of the judicial pawn-brokering establishment,
stroke down their skirts, and send round the currant-wine; whilst Master
Tom and a few other daring youths consume lighted candle-ends, made of
turnip, with almond wicks; and the merry little man, Lark, who can no
more be quiet than a robin in a rat-trap, is now hopping with a paper
tail, composed of this evening's "_Sun_"--a sun that seems to be
incombustible, for the boys are trying to ignite it, but cannot,--only
waxing Mr. Lark's pantaloons very much in the rear, and putting the
candles out--a trick that caused no end of diversion, not only to the
performers, but to every one; who laughed immoderately, more
particularly when Mr. Lark led down Mrs. Brown to supper, the
antimacassar adhering to his trowsers--the wax, upon sitting down,
causing it to stick there.


  [Illustration: THE CHRISTMAS TREE.]

This brings us to the supper-table, and the Christmas tree, with its
blossoms of light--a very peculiar species of shrub:--we have heard of
box-trees, plane-trees, lady's slippers, and sun-flowers, but never
remember to have seen or heard of a toy and candle-tree, figured in any
work on botany; nor should we have thought our little friends had ever
beheld one before, for the brilliant supper seemed but small attraction
compared with the illuminated fir--all eyes appeared attracted to the
quarter in which it stood; and when the youthful company were introduced
to it, after the banquet, we felt glad the lower boughs were out of the
reach of the younger branches, or they might, in their eagerness, have
pulled it out of the disguised tub. As it was, some of the recipients
took the fruit intended for others:--for instance, Stephen Sharp ate all
Miss Standby's basket of sweets, and then demanded the story-book that
had his name attached to it. All the fruit was not edible, for we saw an
apple that tasted very much of the wood, being full of pips resembling
doll's tea-things; whilst, upon suction, the pears emitted musical
sounds; and a biffin, like a pincushion, had the flavour of
bran--probably it was bran-new.


The tree, now stript, is quite devoid of interest; for, upon Mr. Lark's
starting some fun in the corner, none lingered by, not even to listen to
the bird-organ, that appeared to play under the table. Yes! there was
Lark, at it again--doing anything to please!--Generous Lark!--his face
covered with a white handkerchief, a portion tucked in his mouth, over
all wearing a pair of spectacles, with pupils (currants abstracted from
a mince-pie) stuck thereon, causing the Lark to look very curious and
odd--the children wondering what he will be at next!--for now, you must
know, he has gone to prepare another excitement; being in the
drawing-room, whilst the visitors are in the parlour--curious beyond all
description, beseeching the junior Mr. Brown, who is standing with his
back against the door, to prevent egress, just to permit them to depart;
which, after a slight contest, he does--they rushing, pell-mell, to the
drawing-room, there to find an old birch-broom blazing in the grate, and
the recess covered with two sheets suspended by forks. In front of the
sheets is a table; whilst in front of that table, stand the wondering
little crowd, speculating as to what the burning broom can have to do
with it, when a dwarf old dame appears, through a slit in the
drapery--as perfect a dwarf as ever breathed,--but three feet high, and
so really true that no one for a moment doubts her identity or vitality.
"She is a Witch!" cry all, that has come down the chimney. The dame bows
acquiescence, with numberless courtseys, telling the little company of
her immense age and adventures--recounting her history:--about the large
family she kept in the shoe; about the refractory pig, that would not
get over the stile; and her wonderful travels, to sweep cobwebs from the
sky; so, after having danced a hornpipe; deplored the loss of her
carriage (_broom_); demanded the grunting pig, behind the curtain, to be
quiet; and scraped an infinity of courtseys, she vanishes:--the sharpest
boy in the room, Master Bold, rushing down stairs to catch a glimpse of
her, but only seeing us, in our shirt sleeves, wonders the more!--_par
parenthèse_--we were one of the performers, escaping, to make room for
the Galanti show. So, whilst we leave the company to be amused thereby,
we will, with the kind permission of Mr. Lark, instruct you how to
construct an old dame; and afterwards tell the effect it had upon our


Firstly, procure a pair of small shoes and stockings--these place upon
your hands (which are to represent feet); next, tie round your neck a
short coloured pinafore, reaching down to your hands (or rather the old
dame's feet)--this will represent a gown; now, place your shoed hands
upon a table, to see effect; gird the gown with a proportionate apron,
the strings of which will bind your arms and body together at the chest;
put on a false nose, a pair of spectacles, a lady's frilled night-cap,
and a comical conical hat; add a little red cloak, and draw the table up
to a window or recess, the curtains of which pin at the back of your
shoulders; and standing thus, with your hands (the old dame's feet) upon
the table, you will represent the most perfect little dwarf (without
arms) you can imagine; the hands are to be supplied by an accomplice,
behind the curtain, who is to suit the action of those hands to the
pleasantries you may invent. Thus, having given the necessary
instructions, we leave the rest to be supplied by the actor; who may,
if he pleases, render the old dame a medium of much merry conceit and
pleasant mirth. Well do we remember the impression made at this party;
for, as before stated, we performed the arms from behind the curtain,
through which we occasionally peeped, getting a good view over the
shoulders of Mr. Lark (the old dame), witnessing the astonished gaping
gaze of the servant, who happened to enter the apartment at the moment,
and stood transfixed to the spot, until the effigy had escaped. One
little boy was so impressed with the illusion, that he actually went
below, with some venturesome companions, in search of her; but soon
returned, rushing up stairs in a state of extreme terror, declaring to
us (as he kept his eyes towards the door, fearing every moment she would
appear), that he had seen the old dame, and heard her pig; the truth
being, one of the party had grunted in a dark corner of the lobby, and
frightened the youth, who eventually became a prey to intense mental
anxiety--a trembling fear we attempted to dispel, without success, until
we bore the little fellow below, he clinging tightly to us. In the lobby
Mr. Lark showed the scared youth our trick, piece-meal--in the end,
pacifying the young gentleman, though much do we think the old dame and
her pig will never be forgotten by him:--he may grow to manhood, have
children, loves and cares innumerable, traverse the seas, know war and
famine, yet do we think the old dame will stand boldly out, like a giant
image in the desert of the past--far more so than the Galanti show,
exhibited afterwards, because really alive, and capable of
reason!--Though, _we_ had more reason to remember the show; for, the men
who performed it hung their hats and coats beside Mr. Lark's, and our
own; which, upon leaving, they did not identify:--though, we think they
ought; as ours were considerably newer--one of their hats being a cap,
and the other of dirty white felt!

After the departure of the show, we got up some sport with the sheets
upon which it had been performed, exhibiting our eyes through a hole,
therein; those on the obverse trying to guess the proprietor of others
on the reverse--all the owners of bright eyes much enjoying the sport.
But to recount the many pranks played by youthful blood that evening,
would require a volume--everybody proposing everything; and everybody
else, disliking the thing proposed, suggests some other:--one wanting
Hunt the Whistle; a second, to act Charades; and a third, some practical
joke of the old school, such as the game we played with Mr. Lark, called
Porcelain Mesmerism, deceiving the little innocents into a belief that
men are simple--much more so than they will find them, upon arriving at
maturity!--There we sat (two full-grown fools) staring at each other,
with plates of water in our hands, the bottom of one sooty, the other
clean!--There we sat, face to face, alternately rubbing the bottoms of
the plates, and stroking our physiognomies, in mockery of each
other--Mr. Lark getting his face blacked like a sweep,--the youngsters
laughing at his silliness!--Oh, that a little smut should produce such
ecstatic mirth!


There is Walter Merry, looking like an eel in convulsions--imagining he
has been here about an hour:--you should have seen the expression of the
little fellow, when Mrs. Brown gently tapped him on the shoulder,
saying, "Master Merry, you're fetched!" Time was annihilated, and memory
dumbfounded!--The entertainment that had been looked forward to for
days, counted by the hours, and put so many mammas in a pother, is
gone!--The hands of the hall-clock are almost perpendicular--it wants
but half-an-hour of midnight!--Several anxious mammas have sent several
times for their several little ones; and the several servants have been
sent away with several evasive answers--for "the little dears are
enjoying themselves so much!"--"Mrs. Brown's compliments to Mrs.
Fidgets, and would she permit the little Fidgets to stay just ten
minutes longer?" No!--the Fidgety footman is only to depart _with_ them;
so he is sent to the servants' hall, there to wait, whilst snap-dragon
is being prepared in the library--that the evening may end with a grand
blue-fire _tableaux_. The room resembles the Black Hole of
Calcutta!--Hundreds of little itching fingers are longing to be amongst
that pound of raisins, in spirits--all eager, as imps, for the fiendish
sport; the darkness and suspense rendering it very exciting--causing
Master Jewel (a model boy), who is "wanted directly," to make no answer
from the sable mass; until, the summons being repeated, he says
something that sounds very like "shan't come!"--and, Master Jewel does
not come, until he has had his portion of the fiery food that is flying
about in every direction.



  [Illustration: END OF JUVENILE PARTY.

During the last hour Cook and John have held a _soirée_ below, to all
the neighbouring domestics, who are awaiting to escort home their little
masters and mistresses--they are regaling upon ale and sandwiches, in
the servants' hall; whilst that most interesting topic, "every body's
business," is being discussed:--Mrs. Pest's maid assuring all, upon her
sacred word and honour, that Mrs. Pest is not a angel, or the
"Pest-house" a paradise, though it may look pretty over the garden-wall;
and, moreover, Mrs. P.'s maid said she were of opinion the public knowed
it, too; for t'other night some one painted out the fust letters, ag'in
our door-post--making the direction, at the corner of the lane, "Placid
Vale," read "_acid ale_" instead,--no compliment, as the maid said, to
Mr. "Pest, Pewter, and Co.'s Entire;"--at the same time observing, that
it sarved 'em right! And, "as I hope, afore next Heaster, to lose my
blessed Virgin Mary name, I'd go--if it wer'n't for the pale-ale-tory
circumstances, I'd warn Missus! It was only yesterday, jist arter Mr.
Pest had gone to Brewhus, in Liquorish St., that we had a scrimmage
about flounces; and jist as I was a-going to fling my resignation at
her--'tending to go out every evenin', till the month was up, in a gound
zactly like Missus' own (lilock, with seven flounces)--well, jist when I
was on the pint o' naming the word, I think'd o' little Ned Pest; and,
as I loved the dear little fellow more than a paltry frock,
I con'scended to stay!" Here the gardening-groom at the "Snuggery,"
opposite, grinned and winked horribly, observing something about little
Ned's being a "surfeit of finery"--finery that had to be shown and
aired,--airing begetting the society of aubun viskers and hofficer X,
50!--_officers_, making Mr. "Snuggery" chuckle amazingly, and grin
more--observing hofficers to be all the "kick" now!--At the same time,
jerking his thumb in the direction of the party-wall and the Albert,
saying, he knew the Captain,--met _Boultoff_ at Bath, where he stayed
last season, until the waters were too hot, when he "dried up" (we
suppose by drying up, the "Snuggery" meant departed). No one appeared to
notice the different name applied to the Captain--or, if they did, said
nothing,--except Cook, who observed--her master and the Capting to be as
thick as soup!--That she thought the former green and soft, as over-done
spinach, for the Capting cut it very fat at master's 'spense;--the
guvenor ought to save his bacon afore he be done to rags;--if missus ud
come in for all the grizzle, she (cook) said she would not stew and fry
herself about it.


Poor John, now fully assured of the Captain's intention, is very
uncomfortable, indeed; experiencing the combined sensations
of goose-skin, fever, pins-and-needles, live-blood, and
intoxication--sensations that might have been relieved could they
have vanished at the extremities of his hair; but, unfortunately, that
would not stand erect, so plastered and powdered had it been since the
Captain's arrival. John ruminates upon what has been said, intending to
mention the "unmentionables," and break the awful mystery to Mr. Brown,
that very night. Now, you must know, Mr. Brown and his friend, the
Captain, condescended to grace the juvenile party:--they sat at
an occasional table, in the recess, drinking wine, as if for a
wager--trying to dispose of all the surplus decanted yesterday; so,
you may suppose, when John appeared with a melancholy face, to impart
melancholy news, Mr. Brown was too far gone to comprehend it--that night
he could not stand, much more understand; though, somehow, under the
inspiration of a draught of water and a damp towel, the Diary was made
up, as if by instinct:--

"January 5th, _Saturday_.--Christmas is dead!--Expired with the Juvenile
party--we have economically disposed of the scraps. 'A Merry
Christmas!'--All the _ill luck_ came upon Fridays--we can have no more
this season--altogether, a jolly Christmas, with a jolly friend, who is
to prove himself a _capital_ one to-morrow--owes me £350--bill due
Monday,--says he will _clear off all by then!_ If 'money' is said to be
a 'friend,' what must a _friend_ with _money_ be?--A golden treasure,
doubly dear--a companion that can never be a drag, because too well

Thus closes the Christmas portion of the Brown Diary:--its author, as
customary on Saturday, dyeing his hair, before retiring to rest. But,
somehow, that eventful evening, Brown could not repose in peace; he
abused his best friends in sleep--dreaming the De Camps capable of
decamping, after the bridal breakfast, with the dowry, across the
sea--leaving Jemima and Angelina married vestals,--to make more money
and fresh conquests in _Virginia_ or _Marryland_:--whither old Brown
feels bound to follow, in his night shirt, but is incapacitated, being
tied to the earth by a pigtail springing from the organs of amativeness,
philoprogenitiveness, inhabitiveness, and adhesiveness! So exciting is
Brown's dream, that he fancies the De Camps escaping--now, the banging
door of the Albert fairly awakening the sleeper; who, on attempting to
rise, finds the pillow really a fixture to the back of his head; which
he tears away, in a rage, causing all the pleasing sensations that might
be experienced on the removal of a tail by the roots. Brown rushes
wildly to the window, opening the casement; and, upon looking into the
pitch-dark night, he receives a blow from without, that causes him to
stagger and reel backwards, falling to the floor, with a noise that
makes Mrs. Brown rise in a fright, obtain a light, and severely
reprimand her lord as a drunken fool--capable of any wild fancy!

The naked truth stands thus:--Poor Brown has mistaken a bottle of gum
for hair-dye, and a closet for the casement--bruising his forehead
against the shelf; so, he creeps back to bed--there to lie, moralizing
upon cause and effect!--Thinking, how trifling things, in themselves,
may lead to disastrous consequences--reflecting upon the rival
bottles:--one black--all deceit, the other white and trusty! "Be not
precipitate, nor trust to appearances only, lest you be
deceived!"--a maxim, Brown fears, he cannot apply to the Captain; for,
never did he know less of a man, of whom he ought to have known more.

The 5th of January seemed to Brown as if it would never dawn!--The bump
that took away and restored his senses, or, rather, sobered that
gentleman, feels like an egg placed in the centre of his forehead--he
longs for daylight, to examine it:--daylight, that comes, and reduces
the egg to a walnut-shell!--Poor Brown's hat will not go on, for the
excrescence, so he cannot go to church. At breakfast he recounts his
dream--which is voted fudge by Mamma, stuff by Angelina, and rubbish by
Jemima; for they are in no very good humour after the excitement of last
week. Little Tom is in bed, having broken his fast upon jalap,
administered to counteract the baneful effects of the sweets consumed
yesterday--the youth being full as a sack of sand; and, we think, could
an anatomist have given a section of the different strata of food that
body contained, in the spirit of a geologist, he would have presented a
remarkable series of deposits. But, away with scientific speculations,
to the Browns, who are at breakfast--a meal that has been intruded upon
by John; who has recounted enough of a certain story to put Jemima in
hysterics, and Angelina in a fainting fit--bringing down a hurricane of
abuse upon him--John, the impertinent menial--John, the venomous viper,
that has recoiled upon its benefactor--John, the dark villain, that has
plotted with the unworthy man, Spohf, who, of course, out of mere envy,
mere spite, mere jealousy, would try to overturn that harmony that is
not to be broken so easily--that unity that is not to be severed, no,
not for a hundred Spohfs! "Go--go, sir, to your fiddling
garret-friend--go and blow his hurdigurdy!--Go, sir!--Tell him the
affections of innocent females are not to be played upon like a _base
vile_!--Tell him there are ears to pull, horsewhips to be had, ay, and
noble gentlemen ever ready to lay on in defence of those scandalously
reviled! You may tremble, sir, for menials can be discharged, and have
characters to lose! Sir, I give you warning!--Sir, you may go!--Go,

Now, this is the very thing John much wished to do:--he had been
imperceptibly backing, for the last five minutes, towards the door,
fearing to turn tail upon the enemy--the choleric Mr. and Mrs. Brown;
who appeared, in their very fierceness, to counteract each other's
fire--each pulling the other back, seeming to get more and more
ferocious the nearer their victim gained the door,--for, when the baited
John reached it, he turned the handle of the lock behind him, still
facing his antagonists, intending to escape by a side lurch; but, just
at that critical point, there came a knock of great importance at the
outer door, as if the chimney were on fire, or a baby half out of
window:--the enemy fell back--John opened the door, and, lo!--There
discovered an officer of the Police Force, who wanted a word with John
Brown!--John, feeling himself the Brown wanted, retreats into the
kitchen, where he faints away, in a plate-basket, and stops the Dutch


   *   *   *   *   *   *

The Police Officer has had his word, or rather, word of words, with Mr.
Brown:--news, said to be important, but of the wildest and most
improbable character--news, appearing to that gentleman beyond all
belief--news, that he will not, can not, put faith in!--Allegations, so
preposterous, that they may be disproved in a moment--"Captain de Camp,
_alias_ Boultoff, &c., &c., and three other persons, names unknown,
now incarcerated in Dover Jail, for the robbery of John Brown, of
Mizzlington"--a mistake--a foul plot--a base fiction!--At least, so
thought the worthy gentleman, who was as ignorant of any wrong done
him as the lunatic that resides in the moon. Had the sea-serpent been
discovered in the back pond, a gold-mine been found in the dust-bin, or
a Sphinx and Centaur been captured in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mr. Brown
could not have been more astounded!--He knows it to be an imputation
that can be disproved in a twinkling, if Mr. Police Inspector will just
step next door with him; but, alas!--There the fox's tail is left in the
trap--the skirt of the very coat, borrowed of Mr. Brown, a fortnight
since, hangs in the door,--the very door that slammed, when the
affrighted gentleman awoke in a dream, last night.

   *   *   *   *   *   *

The concluding facts of these eventful sixteen days are simply as
follows:--to Mr. Spohf is the issue due--he was bound to spend the
sabbath at Canterbury, with the cathedral and organ; upon the journey
thither, he happened to recognise some fellow-travellers, better known
to him than he was to them. From a slight conversation that transpired,
he learned their destination to be Boulogne, or rather, Dover; so he
stopped at Ashford, telegraphing their persons to Dover, where, upon
arrival, they were provided with lodging free of expense; from that
place news was instantly sent to Mizzlington. Little did Mr. Brown
think, that morning, as he combed out his matted, gummy, locks, that his
friend Captain de Camp had lost _his_, under the cruel shears, in Dover


   *   *   *   *   *   *
   *   *   *   *   *   *
   *   *   *   *   *   *

Captain de Camp, as you may suppose, after these lucky _stars_, again
entered upon foreign service; being ordered to New South Wales, for
fourteen years--he sailed in the same transport with his two sons. Lady
Lucretia stayed at home, leading a very retired life--she resided in a
vast mansion at the "West-end," a castle at Millbank.

Mr. Spohf, of course, taking advantage of his rival's absence, wins upon
Miss Jemima Brown--in the end, marrying her, to live happy ever
afterwards?--No, such was not the case! Mr. Spohf espoused Miss Cecilia
Lark, who blessed him with a large family and everything else that woman
can. Spohf's means have increased, annually, with his family:--all are
musical, and the eldest girl is to be an "English Lark," that will
surpass the "Swedish Nightingale," or any other foreign bird--the
continentalists attribute it to the southern origin of her papa; and,
accordingly, claim Cecilia Spohf as their own.

The Misses Brown still remain open to offers, and are reported to be
well _worth_ having. Mr. John Brown, Junr., is married to Miss Gay;
a better _match_ there could not be--they both pull one way; but,
unfortunately the wrong one--rumour says they are extravagant. Tom is at
Westminster School; he has not distinguished himself in any particular
study, unless it be boating:--they say he would have won in the last
race had he not broken his scull--a mishap that sadly terrified Mrs.
Brown; for the note, intimating the catastrophe, said nothing about the
_sculls_ being more wooden than her son's. Mr. and Mrs. Brown are really
very happy!--Victoria and Albert are now united--the party-wall is
removed. Mr. B. has retired from business, not even discounting
bills:--he does not go to the city now; or at least if he does, it is
behind Mr. Strap, who makes an important coachman, having filled out
amazingly--may be, thinking, "he who drives fat cattle should himself be
fat;" for the bays are too corpulent to kick, and take the journeys at
their own pace. John--John Brown, "_private_," now keeps a public
house--"the Brown Arms," "the Rampant Locomotive," "Noted Brown Stout
House," at the corner of Brown Terrace:--it was a beer-shop when John
first took it, but he has since obtained a _licence_, and married Mary,
the house-maid.

Mr. Brown is notorious for keeping up the festive Christmas season!--He
now makes it a rule to invite only those he loves or respects--not
because they are well-to-do in this world, but because he likes or
admires them;--seeming fully assured of Time's progress, and that--


    The End.

  The Cuts, inserted in the text, are
  engraved by the Brothers DALZIEL;
  the Plates (from zinc) printed
  and the Letter-press by
  Bangor House,
  Shoe Lane.


       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *

Notes and Errata:

De Camp : de Camp
  _variation as in original_
Pue-packer at St. Stiff's
  _spelling "pue" used consistently_
"December 21st, Friday"
  _the days of the week fit the year 1850_
cramped caligraphy
  _spelling unchanged_
under the misletoe
  _spelling unchanged_
a list of member's present
  _apostrophe in original_
[Picture caption]
  _spelling "THEY'L" unchanged_
thinks he always / thought he thought the De Camps scamps
  _text unchanged_
causing Mrs. Brown to desert her partner in / _l'éte_
  _text unchanged, but illustration reads "l'eté"_
assuming the shape of elongated O's
  _capital "O" elongated in print_
and ma'says I shall / have "Rule Britannia,"
  _spacing unchanged_
Hop o'my Thumb Polka
  _spacing unchanged_
[Picture caption]
  _text reads "DO'NT" ("don't" appears elsewhere in text)_
  _second-line open quotation mark missing_

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christmas Comes but Once A Year - Showing What Mr. Brown Did, Thought, and Intended to Do, - during that Festive Season." ***

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