Snap dragons; old father.., p.6
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       Snap-Dragons; Old Father Christmas, p.6

          
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rough weather and fair.Many's the time I've done it (in play you understand) with that whip andthose gloves. Dear! dear! The pains I took to teach my sister Patty tobe a highwayman, and jump out on me from the drying ground hedge in thedusk with a `Stand and deliver!' which she couldn't get out of herthroat for fright, and wouldn't jump hard enough for fear of hurting me.

  "The whip and the gloves gave me joy, I can tell you; but there was moreto come.

  "Kitty the servant gave me a shell that she had had by her for years.How I had coveted that shell! It had this remarkable property: when youput it to your ear you could hear the roaring of the sea. I had neverseen the sea, but Kitty was born in a fisherman's cottage, and many anhour have I sat by the kitchen fire whilst she told me strange storiesof the mighty ocean, and ever and anon she would snatch the shell fromthe mantelpiece and clap it to my ear, crying, `There child, youcouldn't hear it plainer than that. It's the very moral!'

  "When Kitty gave me that shell for my very own I felt that life hadlittle more to offer. I held it to every ear in the house, includingthe cat's; and, seeing Dick the sexton's son go by with an armful ofstraw to stuff Guy Fawkes, I ran out, and in my anxiety to make himshare the treat, and learn what the sea is like, I clapped the shell tohis ear so smartly and unexpectedly, that he, thinking me to have struckhim, knocked me down then and there with his bundle of straw. When heunderstood the rights of the case, he begged my pardon handsomely, andgave me two whole treacle sticks and part of a third out of hisbreeches' pocket, in return for which I forgave him freely, and promisedto let him hear the sea roar on every Saturday half-holiday till farthernotice.

  "And, speaking of Dick and the straw reminds me that my birthday fallson the fifth of November. From this it came about that I always had tobear a good many jokes about being burnt as a Guy Fawkes; but, on theother hand, I was allowed to make a small bonfire of my own, and to haveeight potatoes to roast therein, and eight-pennyworth of crackers to letoff in the evening. A potato and a pennyworth of crackers for everyyear of my life.

  "On this eighth birthday, having got all the above named gifts, I cried,in the fulness of my heart, `There never was such a day!' And yet therewas more to come, for the evening coach brought me a parcel, and theparcel was my godmother's picture-book.

  "My godmother was a gentlewoman of small means; but she wasaccomplished. She could make very spirited sketches, and knew how tocolour them after they were outlined and shaded in Indian ink. She hada pleasant talent for versifying. She was very industrious. I have itfrom her own lips that she copied the figures in my picture-book fromprints in several different houses at which she visited. They werefancy portraits of characters, most of which were familiar to my mind.There were Guy Fawkes, Punch, his then Majesty the King, Bogy, the Manin the Moon, the Clerk of the Weather Office, a Dunce, and Old FatherChristmas. Beneath each sketch was a stanza of my godmother's owncomposing.

  "My godmother was very ingenious. She had been mainly guided in herchoice of these characters by the prints she happened to meet with, asshe did not trust herself to design a figure. But if she could not getexactly what she wanted, she had a clever knack of tracing an outline ofthe attitude from some engraving, and altering the figure to suit herpurpose in the finished sketch. She was the soul of truthfulness, andthe notes she added to the index of contents in my picture-book spoke atonce for her honesty in avowing obligations, and her ingenuity inavailing herself of opportunities.

  "They ran thus:--

  "Number 1.--Guy Fawkes. Outlined from a figure of a warehousemanrolling a sherry cask into Mr Rudd's wine vaults. I added the hat,cloak, and boots in the finished drawing.

  "Number 2.--Punch. I sketched him from the life.

  "Number 3.--His Most Gracious Majesty the King. On a quart jug boughtin Cheapside.

  "Number 4.--Bogy, _with bad boys in the bag on his back_. Outlined fromChristian bending under his burden, in my mother's old copy of the`Pilgrim's Progress.' The face from Giant Despair.

  "Number 5 and Number 6.--The Man in the Moon, and The Clerk of theWeather Office. From a book of caricatures belonging to Dr James.

  "Number 7.--A Dunce. From a steel engraving framed in rosewood thathangs in my Uncle Wilkinson's parlour.

  "Number 8.--Old Father Christmas. From a German book at LadyLittleham's."

  CHAPTER THREE.

  "My sister Patty was six years old. We loved each other dearly. Thepicture-book was almost as much hers as mine. We sat so long togetheron one big footstool by the fire, with our arms round each other, andthe book resting on our knees, that Kitty called down blessings on mygodmother's head for having sent a volume that kept us both so long outof mischief.

  "`If books was allus as useful as that, they'd do for me,' said she; andthough this speech did not mean much, it was a great deal for Kitty tosay; since, not being herself an educated person, she naturally thoughtthat `little enough good comes of larning.'

  "Patty and I had our favourites amongst the pictures. Bogy, now, was acharacter one did not care to think about too near bed-time. I wastired of Guy Fawkes, and thought he looked more natural made of straw,as Dick did him. The Dunce was a little too personal; but Old FatherChristmas took our hearts by storm; we had never seen anything like him,though now-a-days you may get a plaster figure of him in any toy-shop atChristmas-time, with hair and beard like cotton-wool, and aChristmas-tree in his hand.

  "The custom of Christmas-trees came from Germany. I can remember whenthey were first introduced into England, and what wonderful things wethought them. Now, every village school has its tree, and the scholarsopenly discuss whether the presents have been `good,' or `mean,' ascompared with other trees of former years.

  "The first one that I ever saw I believed to have come from good FatherChristmas himself; but little boys have grown too wise now to be takenin for their own amusement. They are not excited by secret andmysterious preparations in the back drawing-room; they hardly confess tothe thrill--which. I feel to this day--when the folding-doors arethrown open, and amid the blaze of tapers, Mamma, like a Fate, advanceswith her scissors to give every one what falls to his lot.

  "Well, young people, when I was eight years old I had not seen aChristmas-tree, and the first picture of one I ever saw was the pictureof that held by Old Father Christmas in my godmother's picture-book.

  "`What are those things on the tree?' I asked.

  "`Candles,' said my father.

  "`No, father, not the candles; the other things?'

  "`Those are toys, my son.'

  "`Are they ever taken off?'

  "`Yes, they are taken off, and given to the children who stand round thetree.'

  "Patty and I grasped each other by the hand, and with one voicemurmured, `How kind of Old Father Christmas!'

  "By-and-by I asked, `How old is Father Christmas?'

  "My father laughed, and said, `One thousand eight hundred and thirtyyears, child,' which was then the year of our Lord, and thus onethousand eight hundred and thirty years since the first great ChristmasDay.

  "`He _looks_ very old,' whispered Patty.

  "And I, who was, for my age, what Kitty called `Bible-learned,' saidthoughtfully, and with some puzzledness of mind, `Then he's older thanMethuselah.'

  "But my father had left the room, and did not hear my difficulty.

  "November and December went by, and still the picture-book kept all itscharm for Patty and me; and we pondered on and loved Old FatherChristmas as children can love and realise a fancy friend. To those whoremember the fancies of their childhood I need say no more.

  "Christmas week came, Christmas Eve came. My father and mother weremysteriously and unaccountably busy in the parlour (we had only oneparlour), and Patty and I were not allowed to go in. We went into thekitchen, but even here was no place of rest for us. Kitty was `all overthe place,' as she phrased it, and cakes, mince-pies, and puddings werewith her. As she justly observed, `There was no place there forchildren and books to sit with their toes in the fire, when a bodywanted to be at the oven all along. The cat was enough for _her_temper,' she added.

  "As to puss, who obstinately refused to take a hint which drove her outinto the Christmas frost, she returned again and again with soft steps,and a stupidity that was, I think, affected, to the warm hearth, only tofly at intervals, like a football, before Kitty's hasty slipper.

  "We had more sense, or less courage. We bowed to Kitty's behests, andwent to the back door.

  "Patty and I were hardy children, and accustomed to `run out' in allweathers, without much extra wrapping up. We put Kitty's shawl over ourtwo heads, and went outside. I rather hoped to see something of Dick,for it was holiday time; but no Dick passed. He was
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