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It was really delightful to see the old squire seated in his hereditary elbow-chair, by the hospitable fireplace of his ancestors, and looking around him like the sun of a system, beaming warmth and gladness to every heart. Even the very dog that 190
lay stretched at his feet, as he lazily shifted his position and yawned, would look fondly up in his master's face, wag his tail against the floor, and stretch himself again to sleep, confident of kindness and protection. There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality which cannot be described, but is 195 immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease. I had not been seated many minutes by the comfortable hearth of the worthy old cavalier, before I found myself as much at home as if I had been one of the family.
Supper was announced shortly after our arrival. It was 200 served up in a spacious oaken chamber, the panels of which shone with wax, and around which were several family portraits decorated with holly and ivy. Besides the accustomed lights, two great wax tapers, called Christmas candles, wreathed with greens, were placed on a highly polished buffet among the 205 family plate. The table was abundantly spread with substantial fare; but the squire made his supper of frumenty, a dish made of wheat cakes boiled in milk, with rich spices, being a standing dish in old times for Christmas eve. I was happy to find my old friend, minced pie, in the retinue of the feast; and 210
188. Hereditary (Lat. hæres, an heir), inherited, descended or transmitted from an ancestor or parent.
194. Emanation (Lat. ex or e, out, and manāre, to flow), that which proceeds or issues forth.
198. Cavalier. See note on Knight-errant, p. 43.
201. Panels, spaces in walls, ceilings, doors, etc., enclosed by mouldings or raised framework, and filled in with thinned parts.
203. Holly, an ornamental shrub, five to ten feet high, with rich, glossy, evergreen foliage, and beautiful coral-like berries.
205. Buffet (Fr. buffet), a cupboard or set of shelves for wine, glass, china, etc. It was formerly erected on one side of a room; but a sideboard is now substituted for it.
207. Frumenty (Fr. frumentée, a kind of wheat gruel; from Lat. frumentum, wheat), food made of wheat boiled in milk, and sweetened and spiced.
finding him to be perfectly orthodox, and that I need not be ashamed of my predilection, I greeted him with all the warmth wherewith we usually greet an old and very genteel acquaintance.
The mirth of the company was greatly promoted by the humors of an eccentric personage whom Mr. Bracebridge always 215 addressed with the quaint appellation of Master Simon. He was a tight, brisk little man, with the air of an arrant old bachelor. His nose was shaped like the bill of a parrot; his face slightly pitted with the small-pox, with a dry perpetual bloom on it, like a frost-bitten leaf in autumn. He had an eye of 220 great quickness and vivacity, with a drollery and lurking waggery of expression that was irresistible. He was evidently the wit of the family, dealing very much in sly jokes and innuendoes with the ladies, and making infinite merriment by harpings upon old themes; which, unfortunately, my ignorance of 225 the family chronicles did not permit me to enjoy. It seemed to be his great delight during supper to keep a young girl next him in a continual agony of stifled laughter, in spite of her awe of the reproving looks of her mother, who sat opposite. Indeed, he was the idol of the younger part of the company, who 230 laughed at everything he said or did, and at every turn of his countenance. I could not wonder at it, for he must have been a miracle of accomplishments in their eyes. He could imitate Punch and Judy; make an old woman of his hand, with the assistance of a burnt cork and pocket-handkerchief; and cut 235 an orange into such a ludicrous caricature, that the young folks were ready to die with laughing.
211. Orthodox (Gr. ¿plós, orthos, right, straight; and dóğa, doxa, opinion, doctrine), sound in opinion or doctrine; made in the right way according to the author's taste.
212. Predilection (Lat. præ, before, and dilectio, choice), a preference or liking beforehand; partiality.
217. Arrant (akin to arch, sly, roguish), pre-eminent in badness. 223. Innuendo (Lat. in, unto, and nuěre, to nod), an indirect allusion; a remote intimation, hint, or reference to a person or thing not named.
234. Punch and Judy, a famous puppet-show. In it the characters, the principal of which are Punch, his wife Judy, and his dog Toby, are made to act upon a platform, behind which the concealed performer moves the figures, and by the aid of ventriloquism makes them appear to talk.
I was let briefly into his history by Frank Bracebridge. He was an old bachelor, of a small independent income, which, by careful management, was sufficient for all his wants. He 240 revolved through the family system like a vagrant comet in its orbit; sometimes visiting one branch, and sometimes another quite remote, as is often the case with gentlemen of extensive connections and small fortunes in England. He had a chirping buoyant disposition, always enjoying the present mo- 245 ment; and his frequent change of scene and company prevented his acquiring those rusty unaccommodating habits with which old bachelors are so uncharitably charged. He was a complete family chronicle, being versed in the genealogy, history, and intermarriages of the whole house of Bracebridge, which made 250 him a great favorite with the old folks; he was the beau of all the elder ladies and superannuated spinsters, among whom he was habitually considered rather a young fellow, and he was master of the revels among the children; so that there was not a more popular being in the sphere in which he moved than 255 Mr. Simon Bracebridge. Of late years he had resided almost entirely with the squire, to whom he had become a factotum, and whom he particularly delighted by jumping with his humor in respect to old times, and by having a scrap of an old
song to suit every occasion. We had presently a specimen of 260
his last-mentioned talent, for no sooner was supper removed, and spiced wines and other beverages peculiar to the season introduced, than Master Simon was called on for a good old Christmas song. He bethought himself for a moment, and then, with a sparkle of the eye, and a voice that was by no 265 means bad, excepting that it ran occasionally into a falsetto, like the notes of a split reed, he quavered forth a quaint old ditty.
257. Factotum (Lat. facere, to do, and totus, all), a person employed to do all kinds of work, colloquially termed "a Jack at all trades."
266. Falsetto (Ital. falsetto, false treble; Lat. falsa, false), that part of one's voice which lies above its natural compass.
267. Quavered, uttered tremulously. Reed, a thin tongue of wood or metal whose vibration causes the sound of certain wind instruments.
"Now Christmas is come,
Let us beat up the drum,
And call all our neighbors together,
Let us make them such cheer
As will keep out the wind and the weather," etc.
The supper had disposed every one to gayety, and an old 25 harper was summoned from the servants' hall, where he had been strumming all the evening, and to all appearance comforting himself with some of the squire's home-brewed. He was a kind of hanger-on, I was told, of the establishment, and, though ostensibly a resident of the village, was oftener to be 280 found in the squire's kitchen than his own home, the old gentleman being fond of the sound of "harp in hall."
The dance, like most dances after supper, was a merry one; some of the older folks joined in it, and the squire himself figured down several couple with a partner, with whom he 285 affirmed he had danced at every Christmas for nearly half a century. Master Simon, who seemed to be a kind of connecting link between the old times and the new, and to be withal a little antiquated in the taste of his accomplishments, evidently piqued himself on his dancing, and was endeavoring to gain 290 credit by the heel and toe, rigadoon, and other graces of the ancient school; but he had unluckily assorted himself with a little romping girl from boarding-school, who, by her wild vivacity, kept him continually on the stretch, and defeated all his sober attempts at elegance: such are the ill-assorted 295 matches to which antique gentlemen are unfortunately prone ! The young Oxonian, on the contrary, had led out one of his maiden aunts, on whom the rogue played a thousand little knaveries with impunity; he was full of practical jokes, and his delight was to tease his aunts and cousins; yet, like all madcap 200 youngsters, he was a universal favorite among the women.
277. Strumming, playing carelessly, and so poorly, on a stringed instrument.
290. Piqued himself, prided himself.
291. Rigadoon (Fr. rigaudon, from ric-din-don, the refrain of a drinkingsong), a gay, brisk dance, like a jig or reel, performed by one couple.
most interesting couple in the dance was the young officer and a ward of the squire's, a beautiful blushing girl of seventeen. From several shy glances which I had noticed in the course of the evening, I suspected there was a little kindness growing up 305 between them; and, indeed, the young soldier was just the hero to captivate a romantic girl. He was tall, slender, and handsome, and, like most young British officers of late years, had picked up various small accomplishments on the continent: he could talk French and Italian, draw landscapes, sing very 310 tolerably, dance divinely, but above all, he had been wounded at Waterloo. What girl of seventeen, well read in poetry and romance, could resist such a mirror of chivalry and perfection?
The moment the dance was over he caught up a guitar, and, lolling against the old marble fireplace, in an attitude which I 315 am half inclined to suspect was studied, began the little French air of the Troubadour. The squire, however, exclaimed against having anything on Christmas eve but good old English; upon which the young minstrel, casting up his eye for a moment, as if in an effort of memory, struck into another strain, and, with a 320 charming air of gallantry, gave Herrick's "Night-Piece to Julia."
"Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee,
Whose little eyes glow
312. Waterloo, a village of Belgium, ten miles from Brussels. In the great battle fought here, June 18, 1815, the French under Napoleon Bonaparte were entirely defeated by the Allies under Wellington and Blucher.
321. Herrick (Robert Herrick, 1591-1674), an English poet and divine, whose songs.possess great sweetness.