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"Your master will never be able to carve such a mountain of meat as that," she had said, turning back to the cook. "'Deed, an' it's he that will, ma'am," said the Irish mistress of the spit; for Irish cooks are cheaper than those bred and born in England. But nevertheless the thing was done, and it was by her own fair hands that the envious knife was used. "I couldn't do it, ma'am," the cook had said; "I couldn't railly."
Mr. Mason's face became very black when he saw the raid that had been effected, and when he looked up across the table his wife's eye was on him. She knew what she had to expect, and she knew also that it would not come now. Her eye stealthily looked at his, quivering with fear; for Mr. Mason could be savage enough in his anger. And what had she gained? One may as well ask what does the miser gain who hides away his gold in an old pot, or what does that other madman gain who is locked up for long, long years because he fancies himself the grandmother of the Queen of England?
But there was still enough beef on the table for all of them to eat, and as Mrs. Mason was not intrusted with the carving of it, their plates were filled. As far as a sufficiency of beef can make a good dinuer Mr. and Mrs. Green did have a good dinuer on that Christmas-day. Beyond that their comfort was limited, for no one was in a humor for happy conversation.
And over and beyond the beef there was a plumpudding and three mince-pies. Four mincepies had originally graced the dish, but before diuner one had been conveyed away to some upstairs receptacle for such spoils. The pudding also was small, nor was it black and rich, and laden with good things as a Christmas pudding should be laden. Let us hope that what the guests so lost was made up to them on the following day, by an absence of those ill effects which sometimes attend upon the consumption of rich viands.
"'And now, my dear, we'll have a bit of bread and cheese and a glass of beer, "Mr. Green said when he arrived at his own cottage. And so it was that Christmas-day was passed at Groby Park.
CrfRISTMAS IN GREAT ST. UELENS.
We will now look in for a moment nt the Christmas doings of our fat friend Mr. Moulder. Mr. Moulder was a married man living in lodgings over a wine-merehant's vaults in Great St. Helens. He was blessed—or troubled—with no children, and prided himself greatly on the material comfort with which his humble home was surrounded. "His wife," ho often boasted, "never wanted for plenty of the best of eating;" and for linen and silks and such like, she could show her drawers and her wardrobes with many a great lady from Russell Square, and not bo ashamed neither! And then, as for drink—
"tipple," as Mr. Moulder sportively was accustomed to name it among his friends, he opined that he was not altogether behind the mark in that respect. '' He had got some brandy—he didn't care what any body might say about Cognac and eau de vie; but the brandy which he had got from Betts's private establishment seventeen years ago, for richness of flavor and fullness of strength, would beat any French article that any body in the city could show. That at least was his idea. If any body didn't like it, they needn't take it. There was whisky that would make your hair stand on end." So said Mr. Moulder, and I can believe him; for it has made my hair stand on end merely to see other people drinking it.
And if comforts of apparel, comforts of eating and drinking, and comforts of the feather-bed and easy-chair kind can make a woman happy, Mrs. Moulder was no doubt a happy woman. She had quite fallen in to the mode of life laid out for her. She had a little bit of hot kidney
^,for breakfast at about ten; she dined at three, having seen herself to the accurate cooking of her roast fowl, or her bit of sweet-bread, and always had her pint of Scotch ale. She turned over all her clothes almost every day. In the evening she read Reynolds's Miscellany, had her tea and buttered muffins, took a thimbleful of brandy-and-water at nine, and then went to bed. The work of her life consisted in sewing buttons on to Moulder's shirts, and seeing that his things were properly got up when he was at home. No' doubt she would have done better as to the duties of the world had the world's duties come to her. As it was, very few such had come in her direction. Her husband was away from home three-fourths of the year, and she had no children that required attention. As for society, some four or five times a year she would drink tea with Mrs. Hubbies at Clapham. Mrs. Hubbies was the wife of the senior partner in the firm, and on such occasions Mrs. Moulder dressed herself in her best, and having traveled to Clapham in an omnibus, spent the evening in dull propriety on one corner of Mrs. Hubbles's sofa. When I have added to this that Moulder every year took her to Broadstairs for a fortnight, I think that I have described with sufficient accuracy the course of Mrs. Moulder's life.
On the occasion of this present Christmasday Mr. Moulder entertained a small party. And he delighted in such occasional entertainments, taking extraordinary pains that the eatables should be of the very best; and he would maintain an hospitable good humor to the last —unless any thing went wrong in the cookery, in which case he could make himself extremely
j uupleasant to Mrs. M. Indeed, proper cooking
j for Mr. M. and the proper starehing of the band* of his shirts were almost the only trials that Mrs. Moulder was doomed to suffer. "What the d— are you for?" he would say, almost throwing the displeasing viands at her head across the table, or tearing the rough linen from off his throat
!"It ain't much I ask of you in return for youi keep;" and then he would scowl at her with bloodshot eyes till she shook in her shoes. But this did not happen often, as experiences had made her careful.
But on this present Christmas festival all went swimmingly to the end. "Now, bear a hand, old girl," was the harshest word he said to her; and he enjoyed himself like Duncan, shut up in measureless content. He had three guests with him on this auspicious day. There was his old friend Snengkeld, who had dined with him on every Christmas since his marriage; there was his wife's brother, of whom we will say a word or two just now; and there was our old friend Mr. Kantwise. Mr. Kantwisc was not exactly the man whom Moulder would have chosen as his guest, for they were opposed to each other in all their modes of thought and action; but he had come across the traveling agent of the Patent Metallic Steel Furniture Company on the previous day, and finding that he was to be alone in London on this general holiday, he had asked him out of sheer good-nature. Moulder could, be very good-natured, and full of pity when the sorrow to be pitied arose from some such souree as the want of a Christmas dinner. So Mr. Kantwise had been asked, and precisely at four o'clock he made his appearance at Great St. Heleus.
But now as to this brother-in-law. He was no other than that John Kenneby whom Miriam Usbech did not marry—whom Miriam Usbech might, perhaps, have done well to marry. John Kenneby, after one or two attempts in other spheres of life, had at last got into the house of Hubbies and Grease, and had risen to be their book-keeper. He had once been tried by them as a traveler, but in that line he had failed. He did not possess that rough, ready, self-confident tone of mind which is almost necessary for a man who is destined to move about quickly from one cirele of persous to another. After a six months' trial he had given that up, but during the time, Mr. Moulder, the senior traveler of the house, had married his sister. John Kenneby was a good, honest, paiustaking fellow, and was believed by his friends to have put a few pounds together in spite of the timidity of his character.
When Snengkeld and Kenneby were shown up into the room, they found nobody there but Kantwise. That Mrs. Moulder should be down stairs looking after the roast turkey was no more than natural; but why should not Moulder himself be there to receive his guests? He soon appeared, however, coming up without his coat.
"Well, Snengkeld, how are you, old fellow; many happy returus, and all that; the same to you, John. I'll tell you what, my lads; it's a prime 'un. I never saw such a bird in all my days."
"What, the turkey?" said Snengkeld.
'' You didn't think it'd be a ostrich, did you?"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Snengkeld. "No, I didn't expect nothing but a turkey here on Christmas-dav."
"And nothing but a turkey you'll have, my boys. Can you eat turkey, Kantwise?"
Mr. Kantwise declared that his only passion in the way of eating was for a turkey.
"As for John, I'm sure of him. I've seen him at the work before." Whereupon John grinned but said nothing.
"I never see such a bird in my life, certainly."
"From Norfolk, I suppose," said Snengkeld, with a great appearance of interest.
"Oh, yon may swear to that. It weighed twenty-four pounds, for I put it into the scales myself, and old Gibbetts let me have it for a guinea. The price marked on it was five-andtwenty, for I saw it. He's had it hanging for a fortnight, and I've been to see it wiped down with vinegar regular every morning. And now, my boys, it's done to a turn. I've been in the kitchen most of the time myself, and either I or Mrs. M. has never left it for a single moment."
"How did you manage about divine service?" said Kantwise; and then, when he had spoken, closed his eyes and sucked his lips.
Mr. Moulder looked at him for a minute, and then said, "Gammon."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Snengkeld. And then Mrs. Moulder appeared, bringing the turkey with her; for she would trust it to no hands less careful than her own.
"By George, it is a bird," said Snengkeld, standing over it and eying it minutely.
"Uncommon nice it looks," said Kantwise.
"All the same, I wouldn't eat none, if I were you," said Moulder, "seeing what sinners have been a basting it." And then they all sat down to dinner, Moulder having first resumed his coat.
For the next three or four minutes Moulder did not speak a word. The turkey was on his mind, with the stuffing, the gravy, the liver, the breast, the wings, and the legs. He stood up to carve it, and while he was at the work he looked at it as though his two eyes were hardly sufficient. He did not help first one person and then another, so ending by himself; but he cut up artistically as much as might probably be cousumed, and located the fragments in small heaps or shares in the hot gravy; and then, having made a partition of the spoils, he served it out with unerring impartiality. To have robbed any one of his or her fair slice of the breast would, in his mind, have been gross dishonesty. In his heart he did not love Kantwise, but he dealt by him with the utmost justice in the great affair of the turkey's breast. When he had done all this, and his own plate was laden, he gave a long sigh. "I shall never cut up such another bird as that the longest day that I have to live," he said; and then he took out his large red silk handkerehief and wiped the perspiration from his brow.
"Deary me, M.; don't think of that now," said the wife.
"What's the use?" said Snengkeld. "Care killed a cat."
"And perhaps yon may," said John Kenneby, trying to comfort him; "who knows?"
"It's all in the hands of Providence," said Kantwise, "and we should look to him."
"And how does it taste?" asked Moulder, shaking the gloomy thoughts from his mind.
'' Uncommon," said Snengkeld,with his mouth quite full. "I never ate such a turkey in all my life."
'' Like melted diamonds," said Mrs. Moulder, who was not without a touch of poetry.
"AU! there's nothing like hanging of 'em long enough, and watching of 'em well. It's that vinegar as done it;" and then they went seriously to work, and there was nothing more said of any importance until the eating was nearly over.
And now Mrs. M. had taken away tho cloth, and they were sitting cozily over their port-wine. The very apple of the eye of the evening had not arrived even yet. That would not come till the pipes were brought out, and the brandy was put on the table, and the whisky was there that made the people's hair stand on end. It was then that the flood-gates of convivial eloquence would be unloosed. In the mean time it was necessary to sacrifice something to gentility, and therefore they sat over their port-wine.
"Did you bring that letter with you, John?" said his sister. John replied that he had done so, and that he had also received another letter that morning from another party on the same subject.
"Do show it to Moulder, and ask him," said Mrs. M.
"I've got 'em both on purpose," said John; and then ho brought forth two letters, and handed one of them to his brother-in-law. It contained a request, very civilly worded, from Messrs. Round and Crook, begging him to call at their office in Bedford Row on the earliest possible day, in order that they might have some conversation with him regarding the will of the late Sir Joseph Mason, who died in 18—.
"Why this is law business," said Moulder, who liked no business of that description. "Don't yon go near them, John, if you ain't obliged."
And then Kenueby gavo his explanation on the matter, telling how in former years—many years ago—be had been a witness in a lawsuit. And then as ho told it he sighed, remembering Miriam Usbech, for whose sake he had remained unmarried even to this day. And he went on to narrate how he had been bullied in the court, though he had valiantly striven to tell the truth with exactness; and as he spoke an opinion of his became manifest that old Usbech had not signed the document in his presence. "The girl signed it, certainly," said he, "for I handed her the pen. I recollect it as though it were yesterday."
"They are the very people wo were talking of at Leeds," said Moulder, turning to Kantwise. "Mason and Martock; don't you remember how you went out to Groby Park to sell some of them iron gimeracks? That was old Mason's eon. They are tho same people." Vol. XXIII.—No. 137.—Ss
"Ah! I shouldn't wonder," said Kantwise, who was listening all the while. He never allowed intelligence of this kind to pass by him idly.
"And who's the other letter from?" asked Moulder. "But, dash my wigs, it's past six o'clock. Come, old girl, why don't you give us the tobacco and stuff?"
"It ain't far to fetch," said Mrs. Moulder. And then she put the tobacco and "stuff" upon the table.
'' The other letter is from an enemy of mine," said John Kouneby, speaking very solemnly; "an enemy of mine, named Dockwrath, who lives at Hamworth. He's an attorney too."
"Dockwrath!" said Moulder.
Mr. Kantwise said nothing, but he looked round over his shoulder at Keuneby, and then shut his eyes.
"That was the name of the man whom we left in the commereial room at the Bull," said Snengkeld.
"He went out to Mason's at Groby Park that same day," said Moulder.
"Then it's the same man," said Kenueby; and there was as much solemnity in the tone of his voice as though the uuravelment of all the mysteries of the iron mask was now about to take placo. Mr. Kantwise still said nothing, but he also pereeived that it was the same man.
"Let me tell you, John Kenueby," said Moulder, with the air of one who understood well the subject that he was discussing, "if they two bo the same man, then the man who wrote that letter to you is as big a blackguard as there is from this to hisself." And Mr. Moulder in the excitement of the moment puffed hard at his pipe, took a long pull at his drink, and dragged open his waistcoat. "I don't know whether Kantwise has any thing to say upon that subject," added Moulder.
"Not a word at present," said Kantwise. Mr. Kantwise was a very careful man, and usually caleulated with accuracy the value which he might extract from any cireumstance with reference to his own main chance. Mr. Dockwrath had not as yet paid him for tho set of tho metallic furniture, and therefore he also might well have joined in that sweeping accusation; but it might be that by a judicious use of what he now heard he might obtain the payment of that little bill—and perhaps other collateral advantages.
And then the letter from Dockwrath to Kenneby was brought forth and read. "My dear John," it began—for the two had known each other when they were lads together—and it went on to request Kcnueby's attendance at Hamworth for the short space of a few hours—'' I want to have a little conversation with you about a matter of considerable interest to both of us; and as I can not expect you to undertake expense I inclose a money order for thirty shillings."
"He's in earnest at any rate," said Mr. Moulder.
"No mistake about that," said Snengkeld. But Mr. Kantwise spoke never a word.
It was at Inst decided that John Keuneby should go both to Hamworth and to Bedford Row, but that he should go to Hamworth first. Moulder would have counseled him to have gone to neither, but Snengkeld remarked that there were too many at work to let the matter sleep, and John himself observed that "anyways he hadn't done any thing to be ashamed of."
"Then go," said Moulder, at last, "only don't say more than you are obliged to."
"I does not like these business talkings on Christmas night," said Mrs. Moulder, when the matter was arranged.
"What can one do?" asked Moulder.
"It's a tempting of Providence in my mind," said Kantwise, as he replenished his glass and turned his eyes up to the ceiling.
"Now that's gammon," said Moulder. And then there arose among them a long and animated discussion on matters theological.
"I'll tell you what my idea of death is," said Moulder, after a while. "I ain't a bit afeard of it. My father was an honest man as did his duty by his employers, and he died with a bottom of brandy before him and a pipe in his mouth. I sha'n't live long myself—"
"Gracious, Moulder, don't!" said Mrs. M.
"No more I sha'n't, 'cause I'm fat as he was; and I hope I may die as he did. I've been honest to Hubbies and Grease. They've made thousands of pounds along of me, and have never lost none. Who can say more than that? When I took to the old girl there, I insured my life, so that she shouldn't want her wittles and drink—"
"Oh, M., don't!"
'1 And I ain't afeard to die. Snengkeld, my old pal, hand us the brandy."
Such is the modern philosophy of the Moulders, pigs out cf the sty of Epicurus. And so it was they passed Christmas-day in Great St. Helens.
"MARRYING A BABY." "TTPON my word, Phil, I think you're the U most entertaining person I've met since I came to New York. I really think you have made as many as three remarks, all equally brilliant, since Phil Junior was sent off to bed. I believe it's only him after all you come to see!"
Little Mrs. Ellis pouted—a pout was becoming to her strawberry mouth—and tossed a geraninm from a vase near by, at the half-shut eyes of the tall brother who lay stretched at lazy length on the sofa opposite. He caught the perfumed leaf as it fell and smelled it languidly, looking at his sister with a smile, half amused, half listless.
"What a little exigeante you are, Lou!" he said, in a light, mocking tone. "Here I've been playing tho devoted brother to perfection ever since your arrival. Round here at the Brevoort every evening, making myself necessary to your small boy's nocturnal peace of mind; doing opera, concert, chureh, and all that sort
of thing with you, while your lazy liege lord over yonder smoked his Habana in inglorious ease at home; and now when it's an otf-night for all those things, and I report myself at the post of duty all the same, you expect me to talk and make myself otherwise agreeable! Come now, that's too much, you know. I shall consider myself an injured individual, persecuted by an ungrateful sister. I shall wish you the best of good-nights, and hope to find you more reasonable when I return to-morrow."
Mrs. Ellis laughed at his tone of mock injury, and put out her pretty hand to stay him as he pretended to rise.
"No, no; lie still a little longer—I want to talk to you, Phil," she said, in a voice that was anxious, spite of its lightness. "Len hasn't half got through his quota of cigars—I let him smoke as many as he likes, out on the balcony! Ho won't heed us."
"I wait to hear," said the brother, closing his eyes with a martyred air; and the lady went on, speaking hurriedly, half-timidly.
"You won't be angry with me, Phil—you know I love you better than any one in the. world except that dear, good old fellow out there, and little Phil, the boy that was named for you. But spite of that, I must tell you that I'm not half satisficd with you. You know I always aspired to such great things for you; the Presidency was never half enough—"
"You little goose—I should think not!" interrupted her brother, a smile breaking over the lips, that while they were closed had a bitter, almost hard, expression.
"And I'm just disappointed, grievously disappointed, Phil, to come back, after an absence of three years, and find you still jogging along in the old dull track, never caring to interest yourself in any thing outside of your dingy land office; so blase in every kind of pleasure, and so tired of all sorts of people, even of yourself, that life seems to you rather a burden to be borne than a grand gift to be grandly used. It's a shame, Phil—now there!"
Philip Warner looked and listened, half amazed, half amused, to this sudden and unexpected burst of feeling from the gay, simple little sister, who had always been a kind of pet child to him.
"You dear, good, funuy little creature," he began; but as she turned away with a gesture of vexation at his light tone he sprang up to an erect position and answered as seriously as she could wish.
"It is n shame, truly, Lon; no one knows that better than I. But I can not help it. The freshness and vigor have all died out of my life. I know no miraculous fountain in which I may dip and come forth a new man. The life I lead is enough to dry up the springs in any nature. Alone in a great city, where not one of tho thousands I meet daily cares whether I am in the world or out of it; with no home influences to keep the heart in my body from turning to a fossil; following, day after day, the same dull routine of labor with all the ambition which once gave it zest, strangled long ago by the mire through which it must wade to reach its goal nowadays; pursuing the same insipid round of stupidities, miscalled gayeties, or else spending the endless evenings in a bachelor's den—ah, Lou, what wonder you find me a bore? But I bore no one so much as myself."
Mrs. Ellis looked at her brother as he stood leaning against the mantle-shelf, his dark eyes growing sad and stern, and a smile more bitter than playful on his lip. Her own eyes filled with loving tears, and she could not answer for a moment: was this the end of all the young girl's fond proud dreams for the brother who had been father, mother, and every thing to her lonely orphanhood? Philip saw how he had grieved her, and he said, very kindly,
"Coax your husband to pitch his tent in this good city of ours, Lou. Make a home for me; let me be indeed a 'noder papa' to your boy, as he says, and you and he shall make of me what you like."
Mrs. Ellis looked pleased and touched.
"I only wish it were possible—but you know it is not," she said. "But, Phil, why do you not make a home for yourself? I really believe it is all you need. You have grown morbid in your solitude. Promise me now that you will marry—that you will begin to look out for a wife from this very night!"
She sprung up in her eagerness and put her hands on his shoulders—her favorito expression of affection; but the sudden bitterness that darkened his face, the cold cynicism of his tone made her start back grieved and astonished.
"Get married! Look out for a wife! That were indeed a remedy worse than the disease!"
Mrs. Ellis sat down again, and looked at her brother with a grave, steady gaze, that involuntarily compelled his hard-set features to relax.
"You must have changed very much from the high-souled and warm-hearted brother who used to be Bo kind to his silly little sister, if you can utter in earnest such a libel as that against women. You have no right to say such a thing, remembering our mother, or even thinking of me, Philip."
Philip Warner was touched by her spirited yet tender words, her tone of unwonted dignity. He came and sat down beside her.
"Ah, if there were only any more women to be found like my mother, like you, my good little Louie! But there are not!"
"Nonsense!" said Mrs. Ellis, energetically. '' Do you suppose your own family monopolized all the good among the sex? There are a thousand women in New York to-night, any one of whom you could probably win if you wooed her aright, for you have every thing, Phil, which makes a man attractive; and five hundred of them would make charming and loving and sensible wives, who would soon put to flight these megrims of yours. Only consent to try."
"I have tried, Lucy." The bitter look and tone came back.
"You tried and failed! The woman you could choose not have soul enough to see that your love was a priceless boon!"
Philip smiled at the quick flash of indignant pride. The smile was a dreary one enough.
"The fault was all mine in supposing that women nowadays had any hearts, or souls, or consciences, or any arrangements of that sort. I tell you they have not!" he went on, sternly, seeing the vexed look coming back to his sister's face. "Not the women I know; they are all slaves, and bow down to the goddess they call Society. Their whole life is given up to acquiring the art of seeming. If they can appear young, and artless, and good, and fresh-hearted, what matter whether they are any of these things or not? I was lonely after you left me. I wanted a wife. I believed in the exploded fable of wedded happiness. I knew a hundred fair-seeming women. I looked among them all to see if any where I might find simplicity, freshness, warmth, and depth. I found here artifice; here selfishness; here a cold, ambitious nature; here giddy, glittering froth. At last I thought —poor fool!—that I had realized my ideal; that I had found a woman who seemed all womanliness, and was what she seemed. I had almost come to love her, even in the meaning I give that word; I could see she liked me."
"Well!" exclaimed Mrs. Ellis, breathlessly, as he paused a moment. Philip smiled sardonically.
"Well, we went to church together one evening; there was to be a sermon in behalf of some charity or other for children; and all the way, as we walked in the cool, clear moonlight—how could she lie so in its truthful light?—she prated, so sweetly as I thought, of her love and pity for these little ones of Christ, so tender and so helpless; she coaxed up lying tears to her eyes as the minister portrayed the sad lot of the orphan with all the artifices of eloquence; she dropped a piece of shining gold on the plate as it passed, and whispered, in a tone meant to be touchingly artless, that 'she knew I wouldn't mind waiting for the smoking-cap she was crocheting, for really she could do nothing for the next month but sew for those poor little destitute darlings!'
"The next morning, sister mine, I chanced to see this tender-hearted creature, whose exquisite charity of soul had well-nigh riveted the chain her many other graces had wound around my heart, promenading Broadway. I was close behind her, but I would not join her just yet; it was such a pleasure to watch her unseen; to mark the graceful, springing step, the queenly carriage of the beautiful head that, proudly as it was set, drooped timidly enough toward me! Besides, there was some one with her, one of the snake-like order of girls, you know; I detested her, and it exasperated me to seo my dove companying with her. Well, they came to a crossing soon; the streets were very muddy, but a little sweeper had made this tidy enough even for her dainty feet. I noticed how deftly she lifted her robe, how pure was the snowy skirt,