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Christmas Waits in Boston by Edward Everett Hale

 

FROM THE INGHAM PAPERS.

     [When my friends of the Boston Daily Advertiser asked me last year
     to contribute to their Christmas number, I was very glad to recall
     this scrap of Mr. Ingham's memoirs.

     For in most modern Christmas stories I have observed that the rich
     wake up of a sudden to befriend the poor, and that the moral is
     educed from such compassion. The incidents in this story show, what
     all life shows, that the poor befriend the rich as truly as the
     rich the poor: that, in the Christian life, each needs all.

     I have been asked a dozen times how far the story is true. Of
     course no such series of incidents has ever taken place in this
     order in four or five hours. But there is nothing told here which
     has not parallels perfectly fair in my experience or in that of any
     working minister.]

I always give myself a Christmas present.

And on this particular year the present was a carol party, which is about as good fun, all things consenting kindly, as a man can have.

Many things must consent, as will appear. First of all, there must be good sleighing; and second, a fine night for Christmas eve. Ours are not the carollings of your poor shivering little East Angles or South Mercians, where they have to plod round afoot in countries which do not know what a sleigh-ride is.

I had asked Harry to have sixteen of the best voices in the chapel school to be trained to five or six good carols, without knowing why. We did not care to disappoint them if a February thaw setting in on the 24th of December should break up the spree before it began. Then I had told Howland that he must reserve for me a span of good horses, and a sleigh that I could pack sixteen small children into, tight-stowed. Howland is always good about such things, knew what the sleigh was for, having done the same in other years, and made the span four horses of his own accord, because the children would like it better, and “it would be no difference to him.” Sunday night, as the weather nymphs ordered, the wind hauled round to the northwest and everything froze hard. Monday night, things moderated and the snow began to fall steadily,—so steadily; and so Tuesday night the Metropolitan people gave up their unequal contest, all good men and angels rejoicing at their discomfiture, and only a few of the people in the very lowest Bolgie being ill-natured enough to grieve. And thus it was, that by Thursday evening was one hard compact roadway from Copp's Hill to the Bone-burner's Gehenna, fit for good men and angels to ride over, without jar, without noise, and without fatigue to horse or man. So it was that when I came down with Lycidas to the chapel at seven o'clock, I found Harry had gathered there his eight pretty girls and his eight jolly boys, and had them practising for the last time,

     “Carol, carol, Christians,
     Carol joyfully;
     Carol for the coming
     Of Christ's nativity.”

I think the children had got inkling of what was coming, or perhaps Harry had hinted it to their mothers. Certainly they were warmly dressed, and when, fifteen minutes afterwards, Howland came round himself with the sleigh, he had put in as many rugs and bear-skins as if he thought the children were to be taken new-born from their respective cradles. Great was the rejoicing as the bells of the horses rang beneath the chapel windows, and Harry did not get his last da capo for his last carol. Not much matter indeed, for they were perfect enough in it before midnight.

Lycidas and I tumbled in on the back seat, each with a child in his lap to keep us warm; I flanked by Sam Perry, and he by John Rich, both of the mercurial age, and therefore good to do errands. Harry was in front somewhere flanked in like wise, and the other children lay in miscellaneously between, like sardines when you have first opened the box. I had invited Lycidas, because, besides being my best friend, he is the best fellow in the world, and so deserves the best Christmas eve can give him. Under the full moon, on the still white snow, with sixteen children at the happiest, and with the blessed memories of the best the world has ever had, there can be nothing better than two or three such hours.

“First, driver, out on Commonwealth Avenue. That will tone down the horses. Stop on the left after you have passed Fairfield Street.” So we dashed up to the front of Haliburton's palace, where he was keeping his first Christmas tide. And the children, whom Harry had hushed down for a square or two, broke forth with good full voice under his strong lead in

     “Shepherd of tender sheep,”

singing with all that unconscious pathos with which children do sing, and starting the tears in your eyes in the midst of your gladness. The instant the horses' bells stopped their voices began. In an instant more we saw Haliburton and Anna run to the window and pull up the shades, and in a minute more faces at all the windows. And so the children sung through Clement's old hymn. Little did Clement think of bells and snow, as he taught it in his Sunday school there in Alexandria. But perhaps to-day, as they pin up the laurels and the palm in the chapel at Alexandria, they are humming the words, not thinking of Clement more than he thought of us. As the children closed with

     “Swell the triumphant song
     To Christ, our King,”

Haliburton came running out, and begged me to bring them in. But I told him, “No,” as soon as I could hush their shouts of “Merry Christmas”; that we had a long journey before us, and must not alight by the way. And the children broke out with

     “Hail to the night,
     Hail to the day,”

rather a favorite,—quicker and more to the childish taste perhaps than the other,—and with another “Merry Christmas” we were off again.

Off, the length of Commonwealth Avenue, to where it crosses the Brookline branch of the Mill-Dam, dashing along with the gayest of the sleighing-parties as we came back into town, up Chestnut Street, through Louisburg Square; ran the sleigh into a bank on the slope of Pinckney Street in front of Walter's house; and, before they suspected there that any one had come, the children were singing

     “Carol, carol, Christians,
     Carol joyfully.”

Kisses flung from the window; kisses flung back from the street. “Merry Christmas” again with a good-will, and then one of the girls began,

     “When Anna took the baby,
     And pressed his lips to hers,”

and all of them fell in so cheerily. O dear me! it is a scrap of old Ephrem the Syrian, if they did but know it! And when, after this, Harry would fain have driven on, because two carols at one house was the rule, how the little witches begged that they might sing just one song more there, because Mrs. Alexander had been so kind to them, when she showed them about the German stitches. And then up the hill and over to the North End, and as far as we could get the horses up into Moon Court, that they might sing to the Italian image-man who gave Lucy the boy and dog in plaster, when she was sick in the spring. For the children had, you know, the choice of where they would go, and they select their best friends, and will be more apt to remember the Italian image-man than Chrysostom himself, though Chrysostom should have “made a few remarks” to them seventeen times in the chapel. Then the Italian image-man heard for the first time in his life

     “Now is the time of Christmas come,”

and

     “Jesus in his babes abiding.”

And then we came up Hanover Street and stopped under Mr. Gerry's chapel, where they were dressing the walls with their evergreens, and gave them

     “Hail to the night,
     Hail to the day”;

and so down State Street and stopped at the Advertiser office, because, when the boys gave their “Literary Entertainment,” Mr. Hale put in their advertisement for nothing, and up in the old attic there the compositors were relieved to hear

     “Nor war nor battle sound,”

and

     “The waiting world was still”;

so that even the leading editor relaxed from his gravity, and the “In-General” man from his more serious views, and the Daily the next morning wished everybody a merry Christmas with even more unction, and resolved that in coming years it would have a supplement, large enough to contain all the good wishes. So away again to the houses of confectioners who had given the children candy,—to Miss Simonds's house, because she had been so good to them in school,—to the palaces of millionnaires who had prayed for these children with tears if the children only knew it,—to Dr. Frothingham's in Summer Street, I remember, where we stopped because the Boston Association of Ministers met here,—and out on Dover Street Bridge, that the poor chair-mender might hear our carols sung once more before he heard them better sung in another world where nothing needs mending.

     “King of glory, king of peace!”

     “Here the song, and see the Star!”

     “Welcome be thou, heavenly King!”

     “Was not Christ our Saviour?”

and all the others, rung out with order or without order, breaking the hush directly as the horses' bells were stilled, thrown into the air with all the gladness of childhood, selected sometimes as Harry happened to think best for the hearers, but more often as the jubilant and uncontrolled enthusiasm of the children bade them break out in the most joyous, least studied, and purely lyrical of all. O, we went to twenty places that night, I suppose! We went to the grandest places in Boston, and we went to the meanest. Everywhere they wished us a merry Christmas, and we them. Everywhere a little crowd gathered round us, and then we dashed away far enough to gather quite another crowd; and then back, perhaps, not sorry to double on our steps if need were, and leaving every crowd with a happy thought of

     “The star, the manger, and the Child!”

At nine we brought up at my house, D Street, three doors from the corner, and the children picked their very best for Polly and my six little girls to hear, and then for the first time we let them jump out and run in. Polly had some hot oysters for them, so that the frolic was crowned with a treat. There was a Christmas cake cut into sixteen pieces, which they took home to dream upon; and then hoods and muffs on again, and by ten o'clock, or a little after, we had all the girls and all the little ones at their homes. Four of the big boys, our two flankers and Harry's right and left hand men, begged that they might stay till the last moment. They could walk back from the stable, and “rather walk than not, indeed.” To which we assented, having gained parental permission, as we left younger sisters in their respective homes.

II.

Lycidas and I both thought, as we went into these modest houses, to leave the children, to say they had been good and to wish a “Merry Christmas” ourselves to fathers, mothers, and to guardian aunts, that the welcome of those homes was perhaps the best part of it all. Here was the great stout sailor-boy whom we had not seen since he came back from sea. He was a mere child when he left our school years on years ago, for the East, on board Perry's vessel, and had been round the world. Here was brave Mrs. Masury. I had not seen her since her mother died. “Indeed, Mr. Ingham, I got so used to watching then, that I cannot sleep well yet o' nights; I wish you knew some poor creature that wanted me to-night, if it were only in memory of Bethlehem.” “You take a deal of trouble for the children,” said Campbell, as he crushed my hand in his; “but you know they love you, and you know I would do as much for you and yours,”—which I knew was true. “What can I send to your children?” said Dalton, who was finishing sword-blades. (Ill wind was Fort Sumter, but it blew good to poor Dalton, whom it set up in the world with his sword-factory.) “Here's an old-fashioned tape-measure for the girl, and a Sheffield wimble for the boy. What, there is no boy? Let one of the girls have it then; it will count one more present for her.” And so he pressed his brown-paper parcel into my hand. From every house, though it were the humblest, a word of love, as sweet, in truth, as if we could have heard the voice of angels singing in the sky.

I bade Harry good night; took Lycidas to his lodgings, and gave his wife my Christmas wishes and good night; and, coming down to the sleigh again, gave way to the feeling which I think you will all understand, that this was not the time to stop, but just the time to begin. For the streets were stiller now, and the moon brighter than ever, if possible, and the blessings of these simple people and of the grand people, and of the very angels in heaven, who are not bound to the misery of using words when they have anything worth saying,—all these wishes and blessings were round me, all the purity of the still winter night, and I didn't want to lose it all by going to bed to sleep. So I put the boys all together, where they could chatter, took one more brisk turn on the two avenues, and then, passing through Charles Street, I believe I was even thinking of Cambridge, I noticed the lights in Woodhull's house, and, seeing they were up, thought I would make Fanny a midnight call. She came to the door herself. I asked if she were waiting for Santa Claus, but saw in a moment that I must not joke with her. She said she had hoped I was her husband. In a minute was one of those contrasts which make life, life. God puts us into the world that we may try them and be tried by them. Poor Fanny's mother had been blocked up on the Springfield train as she was coming on to Christmas. The old lady had been chilled through, and was here in bed now with pneumonia. Both Fanny's children had been ailing when she came, and this morning the doctor had pronounced it scarlet fever. Fanny had not undressed herself since Monday, nor slept, I thought, in the same time. So while we had been singing carols and wishing merry Christmas, the poor child had been waiting, and hoping that her husband or Edward, both of whom were on the tramp, would find for her and bring to her the model nurse, who had not yet appeared. But at midnight this unknown sister had not arrived, nor had either of the men returned. When I rang, Fanny had hoped I was one of them. Professional paragons, dear reader, are shy of scarlet fever. I told the poor child that it was better as it was. I wrote a line for Sam Perry to take to his aunt, Mrs. Masury, in which I simply said: “Dear mamma, I have found the poor creature who wants you to-night. Come back in this carriage.” I bade him take a hack at Gates's, where they were all up waiting for the assembly to be done at Papanti's. I sent him over to Albany Street; and really as I sat there trying to soothe Fanny, it seemed to me less time than it has taken to dictate this little story about her, before Mrs. Masury rang gently, and I left them, having made Fanny promise that she would consecrate the day, which at that moment was born, by trusting God, by going to bed and going to sleep, knowing that her children were in much better hands than hers. As I passed out of the hall, the gas-light fell on a print of Correggio's Adoration, where Woodhull had himself written years before,

     “Ut appareat iis qui in tenebris et umbra mortis positi sunt.”

“Darkness and the shadow of death” indeed, and what light like the light and comfort such a woman as my Mary Masury brings!

And so, but for one of the accidents, as we call them, I should have dropped the boys at the corner of Dover Street, and gone home with my Christmas lesson.

But it happened, as we irreverently say,—it happened as we crossed Park Square, so called from its being an irregular pentagon of which one of the sides has been taken away, that I recognized a tall man, plodding across in the snow, head down, round-shouldered, stooping forward in walking, with his right shoulder higher than his left; and by these tokens I knew Tom Coram, prince among Boston princes. Not Thomas Coram that built the Foundling Hospital, though he was of Boston too; but he was longer ago. You must look for him in Addison's contribution to a supplement to the Spectator,—the old Spectator, I mean, not the Thursday Spectator, which is more recent. Not Thomas Coram, I say, but Tom Coram, who would build a hospital to-morrow, if you showed him the need, without waiting to die first, and always helps forward, as a prince should, whatever is princely, be it a statue at home, a school in Richmond, a newspaper in Florida, a church in Exeter, a steam-line to Liverpool, or a widow who wants a hundred dollars. I wished him a merry Christmas, and Mr. Howland, by a fine instinct, drew up the horses as I spoke. Coram shook hands; and, as it seldom happens that I have an empty carriage while he is on foot, I asked him if I might not see him home. He was glad to get in. We wrapped him up with spoils of the bear, the fox, and the bison, turned the horses' heads again,—five hours now since they started on this entangled errand of theirs,—and gave him his ride. “I was thinking of you at the moment,” said Coram,—“thinking of old college times, of the mystery of language as unfolded by the Abbé Faria to Edmond Dantes in the depths of the Chateau d'If. I was wondering if you could teach me Japanese, if I asked you to a Christmas dinner.” I laughed. Japan was really a novelty then, and I asked him since when he had been in correspondence with the sealed country. It seemed that their house at Shanghae had just sent across there their agents for establishing the first house in Edomo, in Japan, under the new treaty. Everything looked promising, and the beginnings were made for the branch which has since become Dot and Trevilyan there. Of this he had the first tidings in his letters by the mail of that afternoon. John Coram, his brother, had written to him, and had said that he enclosed for his amusement the Japanese bill of particulars, as it had been drawn out, on which they had founded their orders for the first assorted cargo ever to be sent from America to Edomo. Bill of particulars there was, stretching down the long tissue-paper in exquisite chirography. But by some freak of the “total depravity of things,” the translated order for the assorted cargo was not there. John Coram, in his care to fold up the Japanese writing nicely, had left on his own desk at Shanghae the more intelligible English. “And so I must wait,” said Tom philosophically, “till the next East India mail for my orders, certain that seven English houses have had less enthusiastic and philological correspondents than my brother.”

I said I did not see that. That I could not teach him to speak the Taghalian dialects so well, that he could read them with facility before Saturday. But I could do a good deal better. Did he remember writing a note to old Jack Percival for me five years ago? No, he remembered no such thing; he knew Jack Percival, but never wrote a note to him in his life. Did he remember giving me fifty dollars, because I had taken a delicate boy, whom I was going to send to sea, and I was not quite satisfied with the government outfit? No, he did not remember that, which was not strange, for that was a thing he was doing every day. “Well, I don't care how much you remember, but the boy about whom you wrote to Jack Percival, for whose mother's ease of mind you provided the half-hundred, is back again,—strong, straight, and well; what is more to the point, he had the whole charge of Perry's commissariat on shore at Yokohama, was honorably discharged out there, reads Japanese better than you read English; and if it will help you at all, he shall be here at your house at breakfast.” For as I spoke we stopped at Coram's door. “Ingham,” said Coram, “if you were not a parson, I should say you were romancing.” “My child,” said I, “I sometimes write a parable for the Atlantic; but the words of my lips are verity, as all those of the Sandemanians. Go to bed; do not even dream of the Taghalian dialects; be sure that the Japanese interpreter will breakfast with you, and the next time you are in a scrape send for the nearest minister. George, tell your brother Ezra that Mr. Coram wishes him to breakfast here to-morrow morning at eight o'clock; don't forget the number, Pemberton Square, you know.” “Yes, sir,” said George; and Thomas Coram laughed, said “Merry Christmas,” and we parted.

It was time we were all in bed, especially these boys. But glad enough am I as I write these words that the meeting of Coram set us back that dropped-stitch in our night's journey. There was one more delay. We were sweeping by the Old State House, the boys singing again, “Carol, carol, Christians,” as we dashed along the still streets, when I caught sight of Adams Todd, and he recognized me. He had heard us singing when we were at the Advertiser office. Todd is an old fellow-apprentice of mine,—and he is now, or rather was that night, chief pressman in the Argus office. I like the Argus people,—it was there that I was South American Editor, now many years ago,—and they befriend me to this hour. Todd hailed me, and once more I stopped. “What sent you out from your warm steam-boiler?” “Steam-boiler, indeed,” said Todd. “Two rivets loose,—steam-room full of steam,—police frightened,—neighborhood in a row,—and we had to put out the fire. She would have run a week without hurting a fly,—only a little puff in the street sometimes. But there we are, Ingham. We shall lose the early mail as it stands. Seventy-eight tokens to be worked now.” They always talked largely of their edition at the Argus. Saw it with many eyes, perhaps; but this time, I am sure, Todd spoke true. I caught his idea at once. In younger and more muscular times, Todd and I had worked the Adams press by that fly-wheel for full five minutes at a time, as a test of strength; and in my mind's eye, I saw that he was printing his paper at this moment with relays of grinding stevedores. He said it was so. “But think of it to-night,” said he. “It is Christmas eve, and not an Irishman to be hired, though one paid him ingots. Not a man can stand the grind ten minutes.” I knew that very well from old experience, and I thanked him inwardly for not saying “the demnition grind,” with Mantilini. “We cannot run the press half the time,” said he; “and the men we have are giving out now. We shall lose all our carrier delivery.” “Todd,” said I, “is this a night to be talking of ingots, or hiring, or losing, or gaining? When will you learn that Love rules the court, the camp, and the Argus office.” And I wrote on the back of a letter to Campbell: “Come to the Argus office, No. 2 Dassett's Alley, with seven men not afraid to work”; and I gave it to John and Sam, bade Howland take the boys to Campbell's house,—walked down with Todd to his office,—challenged him to take five minutes at the wheel, in memory of old times,—made the tired relays laugh as they saw us take hold; and then,—when I had cooled off, and put on my Cardigan,—met Campbell, with his seven sons of Anak, tumbling down the stairs, wondering what round of mercy the parson had found for them this time. I started home, knowing I should now have my Argus with my coffee.

III.

And so I walked home. Better so, perhaps, after all, than in the lively sleigh, with the tinkling bells.

     “It was a calm and silent night!—
       Seven hundred years and fifty-three
     Had Rome been growing up to might,
       And now was queen of land and sea!
     No sound was heard of clashing wars,—
       Peace brooded o'er the hushed domain;
     Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
       Held undisturbed their ancient reign
         In the solemn midnight,
                    Centuries ago!”

What an eternity it seemed since I started with those children singing carols. Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, Rome, Roman senators, Tiberius, Paul, Nero, Clement, Ephrem, Ambrose, and all the singers,—Vincent de Paul, and all the loving wonder-workers, Milton and Herbert and all the carol-writers, Luther and Knox and all the prophets,—what a world of people had been keeping Christmas with Sam Perry and Lycidas and Harry and me; and here were Yokohama and the Japanese, the Daily Argus and its ten million tokens and their readers,—poor Fanny Woodhull and her sick mother there, keeping Christmas too! For a finite world, these are a good many “waits” to be singing in one poor fellow's ears on one Christmas-tide.

     “'T was in the calm and silent night!—
       The senator of haughty Rome,
     Impatient urged his chariot's flight,
       From lordly revel, rolling home.
     Triumphal arches gleaming swell
       His breast, with thoughts of boundless sway.
     What recked the Roman what befell
       A paltry province far away,
         In the solemn midnight,
                    Centuries ago!

     “Within that province far away
       Went plodding home a weary boor;
     A streak of light before him lay,
       Fallen through a half-shut stable door
     Across his path. He passed,—for naught
       Told what was going on within;
     How keen the stars, his only thought,
       The air how calm and cold and thin,
         In the solemn midnight,
                    Centuries ago!”

“Streak of light”—Is there a light in Lycidas's room? They not in bed! That is making a night of it! Well, there are few hours of the day or night when I have not been in Lycidas's room, so I let myself in by the night-key he gave me, ran up the stairs,—it is a horrid seven-storied, first-class lodging-house. For my part, I had as lief live in a steeple. Two flights I ran up, two steps at a time,—I was younger then than I am now,—pushed open the door which was ajar, and saw such a scene of confusion as I never saw in Mary's over-nice parlor before. Queer! I remember the first thing that I saw was wrong was a great ball of white German worsted on the floor. Her basket was upset. A great Christmas-tree lay across the rug, quite too high for the room; a large sharp-pointed Spanish clasp-knife was by it, with which they had been lopping it; there were two immense baskets of white papered presents, both upset; but what frightened me most was the centre-table. Three or four handkerchiefs on it,—towels, napkins, I know not what,—all brown and red and almost black with blood! I turned, heart-sick, to look into the bedroom,—and I really had a sense of relief when I saw somebody. Bad enough it was, however. Lycidas, but just now so strong and well, lay pale and exhausted on the bloody bed, with the clothing removed from his right thigh and leg, while over him bent Mary and Morton. I learned afterwards that poor Lycidas, while trimming the Christmas-tree, and talking merrily with Mary and Morton,—who, by good luck, had brought round his presents late, and was staying to tie on glass balls and apples,—had given himself a deep and dangerous wound with the point of the unlucky knife, and had lost a great deal of blood before the hemorrhage could be controlled. Just before I entered, the stick tourniquet which Morton had improvised had slipped in poor Mary's unpractised hand, at the moment he was about to secure the bleeding artery, and the blood followed in such a gush as compelled him to give his whole attention to stopping its flow. He only knew my entrance by the “Ah, Mr. Ingham,” of the frightened Irish girl, who stood useless behind the head of the bed.

“O Fred,” said Morton, without looking up, “I am glad you are here.”

“And what can I do for you?”

“Some whiskey,—first of all.”

“There are two bottles,” said Mary, who was holding the candle,—“in the cupboard behind his dressing-glass.”

I took Bridget with me, struck a light in the dressing-room (how she blundered about the match), and found the cupboard door locked! Key doubtless in Mary's pocket,—probably in pocket of “another dress.” I did not ask. Took my own bunch, willed tremendously that my account-book drawer key should govern the lock, and it did. If it had not, I should have put my fist through the panels. Bottle of bedbug poison; bottle marked “bay rum”; another bottle with no mark; two bottles of Saratoga water. “Set them all on the floor, Bridget.” A tall bottle of Cologne. Bottle marked in MS. What in the world is it? “Bring that candle, Bridget.” “Eau destillée. Marron, Montreal.” What in the world did Lycidas bring distilled water from Montreal for? And then Morton's clear voice in the other room, “As quick as you can, Fred.” “Yes! in one moment. Put all these on the floor, Bridget.” Here they are at last. “Bourbon whiskey.” “Corkscrew, Bridget.”

“Indade, sir, and where is it?” “Where? I don't know. Run down as quick as you can, and bring it. His wife cannot leave him.” So Bridget ran, and the first I heard was the rattle as she pitched down the last six stairs of the first flight headlong. Let us hope she has not broken her leg. I meanwhile am driving a silver pronged fork into the Bourbon corks, and the blade of my own penknife on the other side.

“Now, Fred,” from George within. (We all call Morton “George.”) “Yes, in one moment,” I replied. Penknife blade breaks off, fork pulls right out, two crumbs of cork come with it. Will that girl never come?

I turned round; I found a goblet on the washstand; I took Lycidas's heavy clothes-brush, and knocked off the neck of the bottle. Did you ever do it, reader, with one of those pressed glass bottles they make now? It smashed like a Prince Rupert's drop in my hand, crumbled into seventy pieces,—a nasty smell of whiskey on the floor,—and I, holding just the hard bottom of the thing with two large spikes running worthless up into the air. But I seized the goblet, poured into it what was left in the bottom, and carried it in to Morton as quietly as I could. He bade me give Lycidas as much as he could swallow; then showed me how to substitute my thumb for his, and compress the great artery. When he was satisfied that he could trust me, he began his work again, silently; just speaking what must be said to that brave Mary, who seemed to have three hands because he needed them. When all was secure, he glanced at the ghastly white face, with beads of perspiration on the forehead and upper lip, laid his finger on the pulse, and said: “We will have a little more whiskey. No, Mary, you are overdone already; let Fred bring it.” The truth was that poor Mary was almost as white as Lycidas. She would not faint,—that was the only reason she did not,—and at the moment I wondered that she did not fall. I believe George and I were both expecting it, now the excitement was over. He called her Mary and me Fred, because we were all together every day of our lives. Bridget, you see, was still nowhere.

So I retired for my whiskey again,—to attack that other bottle. George whispered quickly as I went, “Bring enough,—bring the bottle.” Did he want the bottle corked? Would that Kelt ever come up stairs? I passed the bell-rope as I went into the dressing-room, and rang as hard as I could ring. I took the other bottle, and bit steadily with my teeth at the cork, only, of course, to wrench the end of it off. George called me, and I stepped back. “No,” said he, “bring your whiskey.”

Mary had just rolled gently back on the floor. I went again in despair. But I heard Bridget's step this time. First flight, first passage; second flight, second passage. She ran in in triumph at length, with a screw-driver!

“No!” I whispered,—“no. The crooked thing you draw corks with,” and I showed her the bottle again. “Find one somewhere and don't come back without it.” So she vanished for the second time.

“Frederic!” said Morton. I think he never called me so before. Should I risk the clothes-brush again? I opened Lycidas's own drawers,—papers, boxes, everything in order,—not a sign of a tool.

“Frederic!” “Yes,” I said. But why did I say “Yes”? “Father of Mercy, tell me what to do.”

And my mazed eyes, dim with tears,—did you ever shed tears from excitement?—fell on an old razor-strop of those days of shaving, made by C. WHITTAKER, SHEFFIELD. The “Sheffield” stood in black letters out from the rest like a vision. They make corkscrews in Sheffield too. If this Whittaker had only made a corkscrew! And what is a “Sheffield wimble?”

Hand in my pocket,—brown paper parcel.

“Where are you, Frederic?” “Yes,” said I, for the last time. Twine off! brown paper off. And I learned that the “Sheffield wimble” was one of those things whose name you never heard before, which people sell you in Thames Tunnel, where a hoof-cleaner, a gimlet, a screw-driver, and a corkscrew fold into one handle.

“Yes,” said I, again. “Pop,” said the cork. “Bubble, bubble, bubble,” said the whiskey. Bottle in one hand, full tumbler in the other, I walked in. George poured half a tumblerful down Lycidas's throat that time. Nor do I dare say how much he poured down afterwards. I found that there was need of it, from what he said of the pulse, when it was all over. I guess Mary had some, too.

This was the turning-point. He was exceedingly weak, and we sat by him in turn through the night, giving, at short intervals, stimulants and such food as he could swallow easily; for I remember Morton was very particular not to raise his head more than we could help. But there was no real danger after this.

As we turned away from the house on Christmas morning,—I to preach and he to visit his patients,—he said to me, “Did you make that whiskey?”

“No,” said I, “but poor Dod Dalton had to furnish the corkscrew.”

And I went down to the chapel to preach. The sermon had been lying ready at home on my desk,—and Polly had brought it round to me,—for there had been no time for me to go from Lycidas's home to D Street and to return. There was the text, all as it was the day before:—

     “They helped every one his neighbor, and every one said to his
     brother, Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the
     goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the
     anvil.”

And there were the pat illustrations, as I had finished them yesterday; of the comfort Mary Magdalen gave Joanna, the court lady; and the comfort the court lady gave Mary Magdalen, after the mediator of a new covenant had mediated between them; how Simon the Cyrenian, and Joseph of Arimathea, and the beggar Bartimeus comforted each other, gave each other strength, common force, com-fort, when the One Life flowed in all their veins; how on board the ship the Tent-Maker proved to be Captain, and the Centurion learned his duty from his Prisoner, and how they “All came safe to shore,” because the New Life was there. But as I preached, I caught Frye's eye. Frye is always critical; and I said to myself, “Frye would not take his illustrations from eighteen hundred years ago.” And I saw dear old Dod Dalton trying to keep awake, and Campbell hard asleep after trying, and Jane Masury looking round to see if her mother did not come in; and Ezra Sheppard, looking, not so much at me, as at the window beside me, as if his thoughts were the other side of the world. And I said to them all, “O, if I could tell you, my friends, what every twelve hours of my life tells me,—of the way in which woman helps woman, and man helps man, when only the ice is broken,—how we are all rich so soon as we find out that we are all brothers, and how we are all in want, unless we can call at any moment for a brother's hand,—then I could make you understand something, in the lives you lead every day, of what the New Covenant, the New Commonwealth, the New Kingdom is to be.”

But I did not dare tell Dod Dalton what Campbell had been doing for Todd, nor did I dare tell Campbell by what unconscious arts old Dod had been helping Lycidas. Perhaps the sermon would have been better had I done so.

But, when we had our tree in the evening at home, I did tell all this story to Polly and the bairns, and I gave Alice her measuring-tape,—precious with a spot of Lycidas's blood,—and Bertha her Sheffield wimble. “Papa,” said old Clara, who is the next child, “all the people gave presents, did not they, as they did in the picture in your study?”

“Yes,” said I, “though they did not all know they were giving them.”

“Why do they not give such presents every day?” said Clara.

“O child,” I said, “it is only for thirty-six hours of the three hundred and sixty-five days, that all people remember that they are all brothers and sisters, and those are the hours that we call, therefore, Christmas eve and Christmas day.”

“And when they always remember it,” said Bertha, “it will be Christmas all the time! What fun!”

“What fun, to be sure; but Clara, what is in the picture?”

“Why, an old woman has brought eggs to the baby in the manger, and an old man has brought a sheep. I suppose they all brought what they had.”

“I suppose those who came from Sharon brought roses,” said Bertha. And Alice, who is eleven, and goes to the Lincoln School, and therefore knows everything, said, “Yes, and the Damascus people brought Damascus wimbles.”

“This is certain,” said Polly, “that nobody tried to give a straw, but the straw, if he really gave it, carried a blessing.”

 
 
 

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