« PreviousContinue »
weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for so large a family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing
At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass; two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.
These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestruts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed :
“A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us !” Which all the family re-echoed. "God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim, the last of all.
He sat very close to his father's side, upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.
Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest that he never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live." “I see a vacant seat,' replied the Ghost, “in the
climney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, the child will die.”
“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”
“If these shadows remain unaltered by the future, none other of my race," returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What, then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit
, and was overcome with penitence and grief. Man," said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered what the surplus is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that in the sight of heaven
you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God! to hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!"
Scrooge bent before the Ghost's rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.
“ Mr. Scrooge !” said Bob; “I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!”
“The Founder of the Feast, indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. “I wish I had him here. I'd give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he'd have a good appetite for it."
“ My dear,” said Bob, “ the children ; Christmas Day.”
“It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,” said she, which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert! Nobody knows it better than you do, poor
fellow !" “My dear," was Bob's mild answer, “ Christmas Day.”
“I'll drink his health for your sake, and the day's,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “not for his. Long life to him!
A merry Christmas and a happy New Year!—he'll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!"
The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had no heartiness in it. Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but he didn't care twopence for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party which was not dispelled for full five minutes.
After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than before, from the mere relief of Scrooge the Baleful being done with. Bob Cratchit told them how he had a situation in his eye for Master Peter, which would bring in, if obtained, full five and sixpence weekly. The two young Cratchits laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter's being a man of business; and Peter himself looked thoughtfully at the fire from between his collars, as if he were deliberating what particular investments he should favor when he came into the receipt of that bewildering income. Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a milliner's, then told them what kind of work she had to do, and how many hours she worked at a stretch, and how she meant to lie abed to-morrow morning for a good long rest; to-morrow being a holiday, she passed at home. Also how she had seen a
countess and a lord, some days before, and how the lord was much about as tall as Peter; at which Peter pulled up his col. lars so high that you couldn't have seen his head if you had been there. All this time the chestnuts and the jug went round and round; and bye and bye they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim; who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well, indeed.
There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker's. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sparklings of the Spirit's torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.
THE STAR AND THE WATER-LILY.-OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES.
The Sun stepped down from his golden throne,
And lay in the silent sea,
For a sleepy thing was she;
Why crisp the waters blue?
Her white leaves are glistening through!
In the lap of the breathless tide ;
That would lie by the Rose's side ;
And he would be fond and true;
And look'd at the sky so blue.
How fast will thy summer glide,
Or flourish a blooming bride?
And he lives on earth," said she ;
And he shall my bridegroom be.”
But what if the stormy cloud shall come,
And ruffle the silver sea ?
To smile on a thing like thee?
One ray from his far-off throne; The winds shall blow and the waves shall flow,
And thou wilt be left alone.
There is not a leaf on the mountain-top,
Nor a drop of evening dew,
Nor a pearl in the waters blue,
And warm'd with his faithless beamAnd will he be true to a pallid flower
That floats on the quiet stream ?
Alas, for the Lily! she would not heed,
But turned to the skies afar,
That shot from the rising star;
And over the waters wide;
And sank in the stormy tide.
It was a lovely sight to see
Of massy leafless boughs,
To make her gentle vows :
O Geraldine! since arms of thine
O Geraldine! one hour was thineThou hast thy will. By tarn and rillThe night-birds all that hour were still.
But now they are jubilant anew,
And see! the lady Christabel
Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,
A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy,
The maid devoid of guile and sin
THE INDIAN WOMAN'S LAMENT.-Mrs. HEMANS.
An Indian woman, driven to despair by her husband's desertion of her for another wife, entered a canoe with her children, and rowed it down the Mississippi toward a cataract. Her voice was heard from the shore singing a mournful death-song, until overpowered by the sound of the