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´╗┐Title: Christmas, A Happy Time - A Tale, Calculated for the Amusement and Instruction of Young Persons
Author: Mant, Alicia Catherine, -1869
Language: English
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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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Christmas, A Happy Time - A Tale, Calculated for the Amusement and Instruction of Young Persons" ***

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Libraries.)



  [Illustration: "They both turned pale when they saw the dog almost
   immediately disappear under the ice."]


                              CHRISTMAS,

                            A HAPPY TIME:

                               A Tale,

                            CALCULATED FOR

                    THE AMUSEMENT AND INSTRUCTION

                                  OF

                            YOUNG PERSONS.



                            BY MISS MANT.



                               LONDON:

                     T. ALLMAN, 42, HOLBORN HILL,

                                1832.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHRISTMAS,

A HAPPY TIME.


Harriet and Elizabeth Mortimer were two very pretty, and generally
speaking, very good little girls. Their kind papa and mamma had taken
a great deal of pains that they should be good, and it was very seldom
that they vexed them by being otherwise. A very happy time was now
expected in the family at Beech Grove, by the arrival of John and
Frederick Mortimer from school: it was within a few days of Christmas;
and as the sisters and brothers had never, till the last few months,
been separated, their meeting together again was looked forward to
with general and lively pleasure.

'Do you see anything of the stage, Elizabeth?' said Harriet to her
sister, who had been running down to the end of the plantation to peep
over the gate, and listen if she could hear the approach of wheels.

'No: there is nothing in sight,' replied Elizabeth, whose teeth
chattered from the cold, while her hands were so benumbed, she could
scarcely close the gate, which she had ventured to open about half an
inch.

'They will never come,' said Harriet; 'but you should not open the
gate, you know papa and mamma both told us we should not do that. And
how cold you are! you are all over in a shiver. Come let us have a run
round, and that will warm you. Remember mamma begged of us not to
stand still in this sharp cutting wind.'

'Yes, so she did,' replied Elizabeth; 'and indeed it is very, very
cold, down at that corner. And they will not come any the sooner for
our standing there.'

And according to Harriet's proposal, the two little girls began to run
round the grounds, which put them in a complete glow; and Elizabeth's
fingers very soon ceased to ache with cold.

As they passed the green house, they saw the gardener matting up some
myrtles on the outside; and Elizabeth stopped, to enquire at what
time the coach was likely to pass.

'I look for it every minute, Miss,' replied the man; 'and that's the
reason I keep about here, that I may be handy to help the young
gentlemen out, and bring in the boxes and that. I look for them to be
much grown, Miss, for 'tis a fine bit now since we have seen them. I
don't know what Master John will say about his myrtle that he used to
be so proud of, for I am afraid its dead. But hark ye, Miss--sure
that's wheels.--Yes, and there comes a coach too.'

And away posted the gardener, and both the little girls after him.

It was a coach; and it was a very noisy one, or at least the
passengers were very noisy. Such a blowing of horns, and hallooing and
huzzaing. But the coach went by without stopping at the gate; and
although the gardener ran after it, and endeavoured to speak with the
coachman, his voice was drowned in the multitude of little voices
within and without the coach; and he was obliged to return,
disappointed himself, to the disappointed young ladies, who stood
anxiously looking out, within the gate.

Before there was time to express any regret, another coach appeared in
sight, and this might be the coach so much longed for. This also
approached with shouting and blowing of horns; again the gardener put
himself forward and this time the coach seemed to draw down towards
the gate. Harriet even fancied she saw her dear brother John looking
out of one of the windows. But again she was disappointed. The
coachman, though he drew to the side of the road, scarcely allowed his
horses to stop; and flinging the servant a letter, which he took from
his waistcoat pocket, again he flourished his whip, and again the
coach passed on.

'A letter for your papa, Miss,' said the gardener, picking it up and
offering it to the young ladies: 'Shall I take it to James to carry
in?'

'No; I will--I will,' exclaimed both the little girls at once.
Elizabeth, though the youngest, generally contrived to be forwardest;
and seizing upon the letter, as the gardener held it between his
finger and thumb, she scampered away, followed by Harriet, and they
both arrived almost breathless in the drawing-room.

'The coaches are both past, papa,' said Harriet, 'without John and
Frederick'; and as soon as the information had been given, she burst
into tears.

'But here is a letter, which will tell about it, I dare say, papa,'
added Elizabeth. 'To John Mortimer, Esq. Beech Grove,' she continued,
reading the direction, as she presented the letter. 'It is John's
writing, papa.'

Mrs. Mortimer looked uneasy; and Mr. Mortimer broke the seal of the
letter with some little alarm.

'It is all well,' said the kind father, almost directly; 'nothing to
apprehend, my love,' added he, as he handed the letter across to his
wife.

The letter was as follows:--

    MY DEAR PAPA,

    No room for us in either of the coaches--inside or out. Mr.
    Brown is going to send us in a post chaise, with two other
    boys.

                        Your affectionate and dutiful Son,

                                                JOHN MORTIMER.

'Our pleasure is only delayed for a few hours,' said Mr. Mortimer, as
he put an arm round the neck of each of his little girls. 'They will
be here in the course of a short time, no doubt, and have you got
every thing ready to receive them?'

'Oh yes, papa, quite ready,' replied Elizabeth, who was slipping her
neck from under her father's arm, with the intention of again
returning to the bottom of the shrubbery. Harriet directly followed
her towards the door.

'And where now my little girls,' said Mrs. Mortimer; 'not to the
shrubbery again this evening?'

'We _were_ going, mamma,' replied Elizabeth: 'had you rather we should
not?'

'I had,' answered Mrs. Mortimer; you have been out nearly two hours,
and the air is now very sharp and cold; the sun is set, and in a short
time it will be quite dusk. You can watch the road from the play-room
window; and I think it very likely your brothers will not be here
before quite night.'

Both the little girls would have preferred another run in the
shrubbery, and another peep over the gate at the end of it: but they
were accustomed to know, that their mother's judgment was better than
their own; and without a murmur, therefore they repaired to the
school-room.

'Oh! there they are,--there they are,' said Elizabeth, before she had
scarcely reached the window: 'It must be my brothers,--I am sure it
was a post-chaise.'

'Where--where?' said Harriet, jumping up upon the window seat, and
straining her eyes to catch a sight of the desired object.

'I cannot see it now,' replied Elizabeth, 'it is gone behind the elm
trees by the side of the road: we shall see it again, presently. Do
go, dear Harriet, and ask mamma if we may go down and meet them.'

'But I do not know they are coming,' said Harriet: 'do dear Elizabeth
tell me where you saw them. I do not think you could have seen them:
and if you did, they must be a great way off.'

'Oh there--there, Harriet, cannot you see them now?' said Elizabeth,
putting her arm round her sister's neck; 'There,--just by the mill,
this side of the elms. Now they are gone again.'

'Yes, I see them,' replied Harriet; 'and now they are come out again
from behind old Jackson's cottage. Oh, now I see them very plain.--I
can almost make them both out.'

'Oh, I can make them _quite_ out,' said Elizabeth; 'and they have got
a horn, too, and are blowing away: and John is shaking his
handkerchief. Oh, I wish we might go down and meet them.'

And both the children began jumping about in an ecstasy of joy. At
this moment Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer entered the play-room. 'They are
coming, papa,--they are coming, mamma,' said Harriet and Elizabeth
both together. Mrs. Mortimer had thrown a large cloak and hood over
her, and Mr. Mortimer had his hat in his hand.

'We were coming to fetch you to meet them,' said Mr. Mortimer.--'Come,
make haste, or they will be here before we can be out of the house;
for the young gentlemen travel rapidly with their four horses.'

Harriet and Elizabeth hastened after their father and mother, who were
preparing to lead the way to the shrubbery, but before they were out
of the hall door, the post chaise and four was rattling down the
avenue and in a few minutes the two lads were pressed to the hearts
of their beloved parents and their affectionate sisters.

As the two other youths who accompanied the Mortimers were eager to
pursue their journey, the chaise was soon on its return down the
avenue: and John and Frederick, who with all their happiness, could
not help finding out that they were very cold and hungry, were glad to
be summoned to the dining-room, and to feel the warm carpet, and see
the blazing fire, and the smoking meat upon the table. Between eating
and talking there was a great deal to do; the former, however, it was
most necessary to attend to for a short time; and when their hunger
was satisfied, and they drew with their father and mother, and
Elizabeth and Harriet, round the cheerful and enlivening fire, and a
more happy party perhaps could hardly be imagined. Before the boys
went to school, each of the children had low stools of their own,
which it had always been their delight to sit upon, when summoned to
the dining-room after dinner; for at that time they had been
accustomed to have their own dinner in the nursery. Now, however, they
were to be indulged by dining with their parents, when the family
dinner hour was moderately early, and there was no large party at
table; and on the present occasion the same little stools which had
been such favourites formerly were now brought again into use. The
girls had almost feared proposing them, as they knew not what changes
the _boy's school_ might have occasioned in their brother's habits;
but no sooner was the cloth removed and the grace said, than the
active little Frederick flew to the sideboard, and took possession of
his old and favourite seat. John followed his example; those of the
two little girls were already standing by the two corners of the
chimney-piece, and Frederick between mamma and Elizabeth, and John
between papa and Harriet, very soon settled themselves and made the
family circle complete. Into the middle of this circle a favourite
little terrier now leaped, and began his gambols, while the old pet
Tibby the cat, which the children had all been accustomed to carry
about from infants, came rubbing her sides against the young
strangers, and began purring to be taken notice of.

As the day had closed long before the dinner had disappeared, the boys
could only hear all there was to be heard to-night, about any
alterations or improvements which had taken place since their
absence;--what success their sisters had met with, in keeping up their
stock of rabbits and poultry;--whether the ice-house had been yet
filled;--how went on old Neddy the donkey, if he was yet too old to be
ridden;--whether the myrtles were alive, and their own gardens had
been full of flowers; and a variety of other inquiries, extremely
interesting to them, and which would have doubtless been made by many
of my young readers on similar occasions as those on which we are
writing. Harriet and Elizabeth were equally glad to reply to all their
brothers' questions, and they had a great many to ask in return.
Whether they liked school as well as home,--whether they always had
meat and pudding, & as much as they liked of both;--what plays they
played at, and if they had good-natured companions. There was an
abundance to say upon all these subjects; and then Mr. and Mrs.
Mortimer had their inquiries to make about books and classes, and
sums, and school hours, and play hours and going to bed, and getting
up, so that the tongues all ran very nimbly; and doubtless there
remained plenty more to say, when at length little Frederick's words
began to lengthen themselves as he uttered them, and his eyes were
with difficulty strained open.

Mr. Mortimer gave him a pat, and asked him how early he had been up in
the morning? He had scarcely been in bed the whole night; he had since
performed a journey of near seventy miles, and as he was not yet seven
years of age, it was not to be wondered at that sleep should thus be
striving to get the better even of his feelings of joy and happiness,
John, who was only two years older than his brother did not shew much
less symptoms of fatigue; and Mrs. Mortimer proposed having the tea
immediately, that the boys might get to bed. This plan was instantly
agreed to, their heads were soon snug on their pillows; and in the
morning they both awoke in high health and joyous spirits.

It was now that Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer could see how much their dear
boys were grown, and how well they were looking. John triumphantly
stood beside his sister Harriet, who was a year older than himself,
and told her he should be very soon taller than she was; and Frederick
had actually out-stripped the little Elizabeth, who told one more year
than he did. The girls however were reconciled to this acquired
superiority of stature, by discovering that papa was a great deal
taller than mamma, though they were both exactly the same age; and
Frederick concluded the whole dissertation, by adding that to be sure,
_men_ ought be taller than women.

'It does not much signify what are your heights, my dear children,'
said Mr. Mortimer, affectionately gazing upon the whole group, 'if
you are but good and amiable. I should be very glad to see my young
Fred a brave grenadier,' added the fond father placing his hand upon
the head of his young son: 'but I shall be much better pleased to see
him a good man. But now who is for a walk?--the morning is bright and
fair, and those who do not mind the cold, away for your great coats
and hats, and I will take a walk with you to the ice-house, and see if
the men are beginning to fill it.'

It was not necessary to repeat this invitation, and towards the
ice-house the party immediately proceeded. As they passed through the
park they went by a sheet of water, on which during the summer, had
been a boat, but which now was caked over with ice, and had every
appearance of being hard enough to bear the weight of a man with his
skates on. John and Frederick were both running to the edge: and had
not their father been with them would have immediately ventured on an
amusement, hardy and bracing when followed with prudence, but which
requires the caution of experience, not to be carelessly indulged in.

'Wait till to-morrow, boys,' said Mr. Mortimer, 'the ice is not strong
enough to bear you to-day. In another four and twenty hours, I think
it will be safe, should the frost continue, and I have directed James
to prepare my skates.'

The boys both desisted, for they had been very early taught to submit
to the opinion of their father: but Frederick could not help saying,
'I think it _would_ bear, papa:' and feeling more disappointment than
his looks perhaps expressed.

'We can very well wait another day, Frederick,' said John, as he saw
his brother's disappointment on walking on.

'Perhaps the frost may be broken then,' replied Frederick; but he soon
found other amusement, and bounded over the stile into the lane,
before the rest of the party had scarcely lost sight of the sheet of
water in the park.

'Oh, here are the men with a load,' said Frederick, as his father
came in sight, 'fine thick ice, papa--oh, so thick, I am sure it must
be hard enough to slide where that thick ice comes from.'

'That ice is taken from a mere hole,' replied Mr. Mortimer: 'from that
dirty little patch of water by the side of yonder hedge--do you see?
It is very shallow, and is therefore soon encrusted: but even before
it was cut by the pickaxe, it would not have been smooth enough to
have slidden upon, and now you see it is all in pieces, and you might
as well try to slide on a heap of stones.'

By this time all the party had crossed the stile, and were proceeding
along the lane.

'I wonder you do not have the ice-house filled from the water in the
park papa' said Harriet. 'This is such dirty, nasty-looking stuff.'

'You have before seen in what manner the ice-house is filled,' replied
Mr. Mortimer; 'that the ice is all broken, almost pounded to pieces,
and then stored below ground; and I have also told you that it is
never eaten, and it signifies little whether it is entirely pure or
not. The house will be rendered as cold by this ice, as by that from
the park, and that is all which is necessary. And it would be a pity
to spoil the appearance of the other, unless it were necessary;
particularly as John and Frederick and myself hope to have same good
slides upon it during the holidays.'

Having stopped to ask a few questions of the men employed in conveying
the ice from the pond, Mr. Mortimer now proceeded with his children to
a farm-house not very far distant, where they all met a very hearty
welcome, and where the boys' attention was arrested by two little grey
ponies, which were in the meadow adjoining the farm yard.

'Well--what do you think of them,' said Mr. Mortimer. They were
pronounced beautiful by both the boys, and their father then told them
they had been purchased for their use, and that of their sisters; but
that they would not be fit to be ridden till the summer. He designed
to have them properly broken in by the next holidays, and the boys
were delighted with the prospect of riding them on their next return
from school.

'If the young gentlemen would like a ride this Christmas, Sir,' said
the kind farmer, 'my Thomas's poney is a nice quiet little fellow, and
Tom would be proud to lend him.' John and Frederick looked at each
other, and at their father, but at length John suggested, that as only
one could ride at a time they had better put off their rides till the
summer; and Harriet and Elizabeth were both pleased that such was the
decision.

The next visit was to the parsonage, where many a round happy
countenance greeted the return of the young Mortimers: and while Mr.
Mortimer was engaged in conversation with the excellent pastor of the
village, Mr. Wexford, the young people were introduced into the
play-room of the little Wexfords. Mr. Wexford made a petition that the
young people should spend the day together: but as it was the first of
the Mortimers being at home, their father declined it for them, at the
same time promising that they should have the indulgence in a short
time: and also expressing a hope that the Wexfords would return the
visit at Beech Grove.

At that time of the year there was little to be seen out of doors, but
one curiosity the Wexfords described, to which they were very anxious
to introduce their young friends: and this was a little group of robin
red-breasts which had been hatched in their summer-house, and which
now took shelter there every night, and were regularly fed by the
family.

'The gardener says they do not do us much good,' said Maria Wexford,
as they approached the summer house; 'but I do not like that they
should be destroyed.'

'Oh no, I could not have them destroyed,' replied Harriet Mortimer,
'even if they spoiled my flowers, they are such pretty creatures. But
where are John and Frederick?'

John and Frederick had scampered off with the young Wexfords, and
presently returned with a pan of bread crumbs, which they had begged
from the cook, and which they now hoped to see the red-breasts eat.

But the little creatures were alarmed at seeing so many visitors; or
the sun enticed them to extend their flight beyond the green house;
for on the entrance of the boys, they all took wing and flew away.

'I am sorry we frightened them,' said Harriet.

'Do you not think they will ever come back again?' asked Elizabeth.

'Oh yes, they will be back in the evening or before,' replied Maria
Wexford; 'they often fly out in the day-time when it is fine. But
perhaps you would like to run round the garden; you will be cold
standing still.'

The party was preparing for a race when Mr. Mortimer appeared to
summon that part of it which belonged to him; and, having arranged a
day with Mr. Wexford, for the families to meet at Beech Grove, Mr.
Mortimer and his children returned towards the park.

As they approached the sheet of water, which Frederick again surveyed
with a longing eye, they perceived that Mr. Wexford's large
Newfoundland dog had followed them from the parsonage, and the boys
directly began throwing stones and sticks before them for the animal
to run after and bring back to them.

This dog was particularly fond of the water, and John having thrown a
stick to the edge of it, it had slipped over the side and the fine
animal immediately sprang after it. The boys for an instant were both
inclined to smile at the animal's finding footing, when he had
expected to sink in the water, but they both turned pale, and looked
at their father, when they almost immediately saw him disappear under
the ice. It had been so partially frozen that the weight of the dog in
plunging, had broken it, and he had sunk to rise no more. Mr
Mortimer's heart sickened as he contemplated what might have been the
case had his own children ventured on the ice, and he blessed God that
their dispositions were such, as to make them obedient to his wishes.
Every means were taken for the recovery of the dog, and after some
hours he was extricated from the ice; but he was perfectly dead,
and apparently had been so some time.

[Illustration: "They are coming papa, they are coming mamma."]

As Mr. Mortimer and his children continued their walk towards the
house, they heard a shrill shouting from the direction of the
village;--it seemed like the shouting of young voices, and was
evidently that of joyfulness. The attention of the children was
immediately attracted towards it, and Mr. Mortimer indulged them by
moving in its direction. John and Frederick were very soon out of
sight, and in a few minutes they returned to relate the cause of the
acclamations they had heard. They proceeded from the children of the
parish school, who had just been dismissed by their master and
mistress, and were to be treated with a week's holiday.
Hurra--hurra--cried all the little noisy fellows, as Mr. Mortimer came
up; while the squeaking voices of the little girls joined in the cry,
at the same time as they jumped, and danced, and frisked about happy
and joyous as little birds. The young Mortimers hastened towards the
gate, and as they opened it, the young crowd gave them another hurra;
and two or three of the biggest of the boys approached, and making
their village nods to the squire, at the same time touching their
hats, they offered their Christmas pieces for exhibition. Mr. Mortimer
gave these little lads sixpence each, and calling to the gardener to
get him a few shillings' worth of halfpence from the village shop, he
bade the happy group of children stop a few minutes near the gate.
This they were most glad to do, and on the return of the gardener,
John and Frederick, commissioned by their father, gave each of the
little girls two-pence, and Harriet and Elizabeth had the same
pleasing commission to execute towards the boys. All was joy and
hilarity; and when Mr. Mortimer told them that on Christmas-day they
were to come to his house, to have some beef and plum-pudding, all the
little happy countenances shone with delight.

'And now run on, and get home,' said Mr. Mortimer: 'for your parents
will be waiting for you at their dinners. And take care you do not get
into any mischief in the course of the next week: and if you go out to
slide mind that the ice is well hardened before you venture on it.
And a merry Christmas to you all.'

'Merry Christmas to _you_, Sir,' replied the biggest boy, who was a
very well-spoken lad, and looked as happy, though he made less noise
than the rest. 'Merry Christmas--Merry Christmas,' was echoed from a
number of little voices around him; and with another joyous shout, the
motley group proceeded onwards through the village.

Mr. Mortimer now left his children, and proceeded also through the
village where he had himself business to transact. The children went
into the house to get their luncheon of bread and jam, and after the
girls had rested themselves, their mother promised to take a stroll
with them and their brothers round the garden and through the
green-houses. At this time of year there was little to see; but still
what little there was, was worth seeing, and a stroll with mamma was
always a treat.

'What piles of shirts and round frocks! mamma,' said John, while they
were eating their luncheon. 'And what numbers of frocks! why, you
might set up a shop almost.'

'Cannot you guess what these frocks and shirts are all for?' said
Harriet.

'I can,' said the quick little Frederick. 'They are for the children
we saw in the lane just now; and they are to have them against
Christmas.'

'You are right, Frederick,' replied his mother; 'and I have been
taking the opportunity of this holiday of your sisters, to look them
over and parcel them out.'

Just now the door opened, and a housemaid appeared with a large basket
of shoes and stockings, and another with women's gowns and men's
frocks.

'How pleased all the poor people will be, mamma!' said Elizabeth,
taking up a gown from the basket; 'it is rather coarse cloth though, I
think, mamma.'

'It would be very coarse for you to wear, Elizabeth,' replied Mrs.
Mortimer, 'because you are born in a state of affluence, and
therefore it is becoming that you should be drest according to the
fortune of your papa. But to give fine garments to the poor would be
no kindness to them, nor a fit manner of shewing our benevolence
towards them.'

'I think papa is very good and kind, do not you, mamma?' said Harriet,
looking very steadfastly at her mother.

'Your father has a great pleasure in benefiting any one it is in his
power to serve, and is as you observe, Harriet, one of the kindest of
men. But he does no more than his duty, and this he would himself tell
you, in being a vigilant guardian over the necessities of his poor
neighbours. Providence has placed a large fortune at his disposal;
and one end of its being given, was, that he might clothe the naked
and feed the hungry. Christmas would not be a time of much rejoicing
to the poor, were not the rich to assist them in making it so: and I
hope all my dear children, while they are enjoying themselves with
every comfort and indulgence around them, will be rendered happier by
reflecting that the inhabitants of every cottage in the village are
rejoicing at the same time.'

'We shall not have a party on Christmas-day, shall we, mamma?' asked
John.

'None, excepting our own family, John,' replied Mrs. Mortimer. 'I
hope both your uncles will be with us, and your grandpapa and
grandmamma have promised to come over from Cannon Hill. The Mortimers
from Haversly too I expect, and these I think will complete our circle
'round the Christmas fire.

'Oh, I hope grandpapa will come,' said Frederick, 'because he has
always such a number of battles and fighting stories to tell, and he
is so droll besides.'

'And I am sure I hope uncle Philip will come,' said Elizabeth; 'for he
is so fond of play, and jumping me up to the ceiling.'

'I think you are getting almost too big for this play,' said Mrs.
Mortimer; 'and so uncle Philip would feel in his arms, I believe, were
he to attempt to jump you now.'

'We shall all dine with you then, mamma, shall we not?' said
Elizabeth; 'if there is no other company. You know they are relations,
and are all fond of us children.'

'You shall all dine in the room, certainly,' said Mrs. Mortimer; 'but
if the four young Mortimers come, I think some of you will be obliged
to dine at the side table, but that none of you will mind.'

'Oh, we do not mind that at all, mamma,' said Harriet; 'but we had
rather not have any of the Mortimers with us, for they are so rude
and noisy, and papa always thinks that we make the noise; and I am
sure it is always their fault, though we cannot help laughing at
them.'

'You see, in the instance of your cousins, Harriet,' said Mrs.
Mortimer, 'the disadvantage of never having any restraint put on
little girl's educations. I myself have seen that they occasionally
are boisterous and overbearing in their manners; but the fault is not
their own. And, if you remember, one day when they were with us,
without their own father and mother, they were as orderly and
well-behaved as possible.--But will you never have finished your
luncheon, Frederick?'

'I was so hungry, mamma,' replied the little boy; 'but I have done
now: and now shall we go out again?'

'Did you call on nurse this morning?' said Mrs. Mortimer.

'No, mamma, I quite forgot her,' replied Frederick; 'but we will go
now shall we, John, while mamma finishes sorting the things?'

'You must never forget her, my dear boy,' replied the tender mother;
'for without her care of you, when your own mother was too weak to
attend to you, you would not have been the stout active boy you now
are.'

'I hope you have a nice gown and petticoat for nurse, mamma?' said
Frederick.

'She has not been forgotten,' replied Mrs. Mortimer; 'and you shall
have the pleasure of carrying the bundle prepared for her yourself.
There it is:--the cotton gown, and stuff petticoat, the shoes,
stockings, and apron, lying together at the corner of the table.'

Frederick, with a little of his mother's assistance, soon made these
separate articles into a bundle; and the two boys set off for Nurse
Winscomb's cottage.

The stroll round the garden did not take place on that day; for the
boys met their father returning from the cottage of the nurse, and he
took them with him to call on a gentleman residing about two miles
distant, and whose family were to be invited, with a few others, to
meet together in the Christmas week. The young people were to be
indulged with a little dance; and although neither John nor Frederick
knew much about dancing, they were pleased at the idea of joining with
those who did, and already began to talk over the little young ladies
of the neighbourhood, and to settle with whom they would, and with
whom they would not dance.

They came home quite tired, and only in time to have their dress
changed before dinner. Harriet and Elizabeth thought they had been
absent a long while, and on their return into the drawing-room, were
ready with their smiling countenances to receive these dear boys.

The next morning after breakfast, Mr. Mortimer employed a few hours in
examining his boys in the improvements they had made during the last
half-year; for he had wisely resolved, for the comfort of the whole
family, that the entire day was not to be given up to play. During
this time, Harriet and Elizabeth were occupied with their mamma; and
after this as the day continued bright, though cold, it was determined
to put into effect the proposed stroll of yesterday. And first to the
farm-yard, where the poultry-maid supplied them with corn: and with
this enticement, the fowls and ducks were called together and
numbered, and the various beauties of both enumerated. This speckled
hen had been such a good mother, and a good handful of grain was
tossed to her;--then the beautiful little bantam had been nursed in a
stocking, and was so tame that it would come and eat out of the
hand;--then there was the fine old cock that crowed so loud he might
be heard all over the parish, and a handful was thrown to him;--then
there was the young one which the old one drove about so, that it
could get nothing to eat;--Harriet made his necessities her care: but
it was useless to throw him any: for the old cock would not allow him
to come near the grain.

'Nasty greedy fellow,' said Elizabeth, 'I am sure there is enough for
all, but the young cock cannot get a morsel.'

'I believe we must get rid of him,' observed Mrs. Mortimer; 'for it
is miserable to see him driven about so.'

'He is to be killed next, Madam,' answered the poultry-maid, who now
approached with two fowls hanging from her hands, from which drops of
blood were falling.

Mrs. Mortimer moved away with the children: for she saw that Harriet
turned pale at the sight of the blood.

'I cannot think how Jane can kill the fowls, mamma,' said Elizabeth;
'I am sure I could not, if we never had any at all.'

'I should be very sorry if you could, my dear little girl, for there
is no necessity for your doing it; and without conquering your
feelings of tenderness, you never could acquire the resolution to do
it. In Jane's situation it was necessary for her to habituate herself
to an employment which devolves to her as the rearer of the poultry:
but I assure you it was a long time before she could first bring
herself to deprive those creatures of life which she had been
accustomed to look after and feed. And even now I believe when she can
meet with the gardener or groom, she most generally employs them.'

'Are there no ducks, mamma?' said Frederick: 'we used to have such a
number.'

'There is your old favourite drake just stopping under the gate,'
replied Mrs. Mortimer: 'and we will follow him into the field, for it
is rather cold standing still.'

They then went into the field, and after that came round to the
green-house, where the gardener was very busily employed in gathering
some beautiful grapes.

'How nice and warm it is here,' said several of the children, on
entering the house. The gardener then approached to ask the young
gentlemen how they did, and to tell them how much they were grown, and
to say that he hoped they would like the grapes. John and Frederick
answered all the old man's questions with kindness and civility; and
as the young party were leaving the green-house, he asked them
whether they should not want some flowers and evergreens against
their little dance?

'Oh yes, if you please, gardener,' was the ready and quick
answer:--'we may, mamma, may we not?' said Harriet, looking up at her
mother before she gave her reply.

'The gardener may give you what he can spare,' replied Mrs. Mortimer.
'And gardener,' added she, looking back towards the green-house,
'desire your grandson to go into the copses, and bring home a little
cart of holly, that we may have the kitchen well ornamented, when the
tenantry come to their dinner.'

'He shall be sure to do it, ma'am,' replied the gardener. 'I look we
shall have a merry Christmas, and I do like to see the room well
dressed up.'

As Tom, the gardener's grandson, was a steady, well-behaved lad, Mrs.
Mortimer allowed John and Frederick to accompany him to the copses, in
search of the holly. Harriet and Elizabeth would, no doubt, very much
have liked to belong to the party also, but they were easily convinced
of the propriety of their not doing so, and were therefore satisfied
to see their brothers drive off with Tom Harding, and return in two or
three hours afterwards, walking by the side of the little vehicle,
which then appeared a moving shrub of red-berried holly.

On Christmas-day the expected party met round the hospitable
dinner-table of Mr. Mortimer, having all of them arrived on the
preceding day at the grove, excepting the other branch of the Mortimer
family, who attended their own parish church in the morning, and did
not arrive till the hour of dinner.

The children of the village school, all in their new clothes, and with
a sprig of holly in their bosoms and button holes, walked from the
church to the Grove; and there partook, as they had been invited to
do, of beef and pudding, and good home-brewed beer. The young
Mortimers waited upon them at dinner, and before they left the Lodge,
presented them each with a plumb cake; and Mrs. Mortimer gave them
each an amusing little book to read to themselves and their parents,
who had not like themselves possessed the advantages of learning to
read.

The family dinner party went off as happily as that in the kitchen.
The young Mortimers all sat together at the side table, and their
papa, had not once occasion to call them out for being noisy, though
they were merry and cheerful enough. It was certainly true, as Harriet
had said, that her cousins would be noisy; on this day, however, being
dispersed amongst the party at the large table, they were very orderly
and well-behaved; and after dinner, when the young people had had
taken as much fruit as was good for them, they retired into their
play-room together: they sat round the blazing fire there provided for
them, very comfortably and happily, and without one word of dissension
till they were again called back for tea into the drawing room.

The next day was the day appointed for the dinner of the tenantry, and
busy indeed were the young Mortimers, in dressing up the Hall, and
making it look smart and lively. A very large party assembled here to
enjoy the squire's hospitable table, at which he himself presided; and
the day after this, the labouring cottagers and their wives met in the
same room at one o'clock, round a table well covered with meat pies,
legs of mutton, roast beef, potatoes, and plum pudding. They brought
with them those of their children, who were too young to be in the
school: and, on this occasion, all the new round frocks, and cotton
gowns were exhibited. Little Frederick led his nurse up to the head of
the table, and was very attentive to her; and whenever her plate was
empty, he took care that it should not remain long so.

This party went off as happily as the last; and two days after was to
take place the little dance, so anxiously looked forward to, not only
by the Mortimers, but by all the young people in the neighbourhood.
The Wexfords came very early in the morning, to assist their young
friends in preparing the ball-room: and the gardener had taken good
care to provide plenty of shrubs and flowers, for the necessary
decoration. Mrs. Mortimer lent her assistance where it was required,
and she was only fearful that the children would tire themselves
before the pleasure of the evening commenced; for Mr. Mortimer had now
pronounced the sheet of water in the park sufficiently frozen to bear
any weight that might be ventured on it; and he had given several
village lads permission to slide there, and prepare it for the use of
his own boys. He now called upon both his own lads, and the young
Wexfords, to join him, and for John he had provided a pair of skates.
John met with a great many tumbles, to the amusement, not only of
himself, but of his companions; but he had no serious bruises, and
soon jumped up and laughed at his own awkwardness. Frederick longed to
try the skates out. Mr. Mortimer thought him too little to venture
upon them, so that he was obliged to be satisfied with sliding. And
very prettily he did slide, and very much did Elizabeth wish to slide
with him; for she was indeed a merry little girl, besides being always
desirous of doing every thing which she saw her brother Frederick
engaged in. But mamma thought it not a very fit amusement for little
girls; so Elizabeth joined Harriet and the Miss Wexfords in a run
round the park, all of them occasionally returning to the ice, to see
how the skaters and sliders went on.

The hour of dinner was a very early one on this day, for the evening
party was to be an early one. The young people, with their papas and
mammas began to assemble at a very unfashionable hour, as early
indeed as seven o'clock, and by eight they were all dancing away very
merrily. Dancing was kept up with great spirit till towards eleven,
when there was a summons to supper. Another hour was spent in taking
refreshments, and during this time there was much merriment, and many
jokes passing round, as well amongst the elder part of the assembly,
as in that with which we are more particularly interested. Soon after
twelve the party began to separate;--all had appeared to be very well
satisfied with the pleasure they had been enjoying;--every one seemed
in high good-humour and glee; and all the young visitors, as well as
the four Mortimers, joined in acknowledging that the dance had gone
off very well indeed; and in pronouncing that certainly 'Christmas
was a very happy time.'


FINIS.



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