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vapor, stealing up from the low grounds and threatening gradually to shroud the landscape.
My companion looked around him with transport. "How often," said he, "have I scampered up this avenue, on returning home on school vacations! How often have I played under 70 these trees when a boy! I feel a degree of filial reverence for them, as we look up to those who have cherished us in childhood. My father was always scrupulous in exacting our holidays, and having us around him on family festivals. He used to direct and superintend our games with the strictness that 75 some parents do the studies of their children. He was very particular that we should play the old English games according to their original form, and consulted old books for precedent and authority for every merrie disport'; yet I assure you there never was pedantry so delightful. It was the policy of the good 80 old gentleman to make his children feel that home was the happiest place in the world; and I value this delicious home-feeling as one of the choicest gifts a parent could bestow."
We were interrupted by the clamor of a troop of dogs of all sorts and sizes, "mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound, and curs of 85 low degree," that, disturbed by the ring of the porter's bell and the rattling of the chaise, came bounding, open-mouthed, across the lawn.
"The little dogs and all,
Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me!"" cried Bracebridge, laughing. At the sound of his voice, the bark was changed into a yelp of delight, and in a moment he
78. Precedent (Fr. précéder, to go before; Lat. præ, before, and cedere, to give ground, go), a preceding case which serves as a rule or authority for the disposal of subsequent cases of a similar kind. As an adjective, the word is pronounced precedent, and means going before. How accented? 80. Pedantry (Gr. #aidaywyós, paedagōgus, a leader or teacher of children; Ital. pedante, a schoolmaster; Fr. pédanterie), a boastful display of learning, an ostentatious and unsuitable parade of knowledge.
85. Mongrel, puppy, etc. From Goldsmith's Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, in the Vicar of Wakefield, published in 1766.
89. The little dogs, etc. Shakespeare's King Lear, III. 6, 1. 66, 67.
was surrounded and almost overpowered by the caresses of the faithful animals.
We had now come in full view of the old family mansion, 95 partly thrown in deep shadow, and partly lit up by the cold moonshine. It was an irregular building, of some magnitude, and seemed to be of the architecture of different periods. One wing was evidently very ancient, with heavy stone-shafted bowwindows jutting out and overrun with ivy, from among the foli- 100 age of which the small diamond-shaped panes of glass glittered with the moonbeams. The rest of the house was in the French taste of Charles the Second's time, having been repaired and altered, as my friend told me, by one of his ancestors, who returned with that monarch at the Restoration. The grounds 105 about the house ware laid out in the old formal manner of artificial flower-beds, clipped shrubberies, raised terraces, and heavy stone balustrades, ornamented with urns, a leaden statue or two, and a jet of water. The old gentleman, I was told, was extremely careful to preserve this obsolete finery in all its original state. 110 He admired this fashion in gardening; it had an air of magnificence, was courtly and noble, and befitting good old family style. The boasted imitation of nature in modern gardening had sprung up with modern republican notions, but did not suit a monarchical government; it smacked of the levelling system. I could 115 not help smiling at this introduction of politics into gardening, though I expressed some apprehension that I should find the old gentleman rather intolerant in his creed. Frank assured me, however, that it was almost the only instance in which he had ever heard his father meddle with politics; and he believed that he 120
99. Wing, an adjoining side building, less than the main edifice.
103. Charles II. reigned from 1660 to 1685.
105. Restoration, the return of Charles II. in 1660, and the re-establishment of the monarchy in England.
107. Clipped shrubberies, garden-trees and plants trimmed to a uniform height, and to a fixed shape.
108. Balustrades (Fr. balustres, little round short pillars in rows on the outside of terraces, galleries, etc.), ranges of small columns, topped by a rail, on parapets, on the margin of stairs, before windows, or to enclose balconies,
had got this notion from a member of parliament who once passed a few weeks with him. The squire was glad of any argument to defend his clipped yew-trees and formal terraces, which had been occasionally attacked by modern landscape gardeners.
As we approached the house, we heard the sound of music, and now and then a burst of laughter, from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge said, must proceed from the servants' hall, where a great deal of revelry was permitted, and even encouraged, by the squire, throughout the twelve days of 130 Christmas, provided everything was done comformably to ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob-apple, and snap-dragon; the Yule clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe, with its white 135 berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.*
So intent were the servants upon their sports, that we had to ring repeatedly before we could make ourselves heard. On our arrival being announced, the squire came out to receive us, 140 accompanied by his two other sons: one a young officer in the
124. Landscape gardeners, men who lay out grounds so as to produce the effect of natural landscape.
130. Twelve days of Christmas, from December 25th to January 6th, which last is called Twelfth-day, or Epiphany.
132. Hoodman blind; same as blind-man's-buff.
133. Hot cockles, a game in which one covers his eyes and guesses who strikes him.
134. Snap-dragon, a Christmas sport in which raisins and sweetmeats are snatched from a bowl of blazing brandy. Yule (Icel. jól, feast; Welsh gwyll), the name of the Christmas festival among the Gothic races. See note, p. 111.
135. Mistletoe, a parasitic plant, found growing on many trees. The mistletoe of the oak was an object of superstitious veneration among the Druids, and was used in their religious rites.
* The mistletoe is still hung up in farmhouses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases.
army, home on leave of absence; the other an Oxonian, just from the university. The squire was a fine healthy-looking old gentleman, with silver hair curling lightly round an open florid countenance; in which the physiognomist, with the advantage, 145 like myself, of a previous hint or two, might discover a singular mixture of whim and benevolence.
The family meeting was warm and affectionate; as the evening was far advanced, the squire would not permit us to change. our travelling dresses, but ushered us at once to the company, 15 which was assembled in a large old-fashioned hall. It was composed of different branches of a numerous family connection, where there were the usual proportion of old uncles and aunts, comfortable married dames, superannuated spinsters, blooming country cousins, half-fledged striplings, and bright- 155 eyed boarding-school hoydens. They were variously occupied : some at a round game of cards; others conversing around the fireplace; at one end of the hall was a group of the young folks, some nearly grown up, others of a more tender and budding age, fully engrossed by a merry game; and a profusion of wooden horses, penny trumpets, and tattered dolls, about the floor, showed traces of a troop of little fairy beings, who, having frolicked through a happy day, had been carried off to slumber through a peaceful night.
While the mutual greetings were going on between young 165 Bracebridge and his relatives, I had time to scan the apartment. I have called it a hall, for so it had certainly been in old times, and the squire had evidently endeavored to restore it to some
142. Oxonian, a student or graduate of the University of Oxford, England. 145. Physiognomist (Gr. quocoyvíμwv, physiognōmon, judging of nature, from púss, physis, nature, and yvwμwv, gnōmon, one who knows), one who is able to judge of the temper and character by outward appearance, especially by the features of the face or physiognomy (i. e. features, outward look).
154. Superannuated (Lat. super, over; annus, year), impaired or disqualified by old age. Spinster, an unmarried woman of middle age or older. The termination -ster is feminine. The word spinster points to a time when almost every household had its spinning-wheel.
156. Hoydens (or hoidens; Kilian and Wedgwood make it another form of heathen, Dutch heyden, a rude boorish rustic), wild, romping girls.
thing of its primitive state. Over the heavy projecting fireplace was suspended a picture of a warrior in armor, standing 170 by a white horse, and on the opposite wall hung a helmet, buckler, and lance. At one end an enormous pair of antlers were inserted in the wall, the branches serving as hooks on which to suspend hats, whips, and spurs and in the rners of the apartment were fowling-pieces, fishing-rods, and other 175 sporting implements. The furniture was of the cumbrous workmanship of former days, though some articles of modern convenience had been added, and the oaken floor had been carpeted; so that the whole presented an odd mixture of parlor and hall.
The grate had been removed from the wide overwhelming fireplace, to make way for a fire of wood, in the midst of which was an enormous log glowing and blazing, and sending forth a vast volume of light and heat. This I understood was the Yule clog, which the squire was particular in having brought in 185 and illumined on a Christmas eve, according to ancient custom.*
172. Antlers (Fr. andouillers, the branches of a stag's horns, perhaps from Lat. ante, before, in front), a stag's projecting horns.
* The Yule clog is a great log of wood, sometimes the root of a tree, brought into the house with great ceremony on Christmas eve, laid in the fireplace, and lighted with the brand of last year's clog. While it lasted, there was great drinking, singing, and telling of tales. Sometimes it was accompanied by Christmas candles; but in the cottages the only light was from the ruddy blaze of the great wood-fire. The Yule clog was to burn all night; if it went out, it was considered a sign of ill luck.
Herrick mentions it in one of his songs:
"Come, bring with a noise,
My merrie, merrie boyes,
While my good dame, she
And drink to your hearts' desiring."
The Yule clog is still burnt in many farmhouses and kitchens in England, particularly in the North, and there are several superstitions connected with it among the peasantry. If a squinting person come to the house while it is burning, or a person barefooted, it is considered an ill omen. The brand remaining from the Yule clog is carefully put away to light the next year's Christmas fire.