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pathetic, and tender to the rough how much the poor dear children eyes of the bushranger. He thought wished it; and knew in her fool's that imperative little creature op- heart that she had driven Nettie posite, with her brilliant glances, to the extremest bounds of paher small head drooping under those tience, and that a little more perheavy braids of hair, her tiny figuresistence and iteration would gain and rapid fingers, looked like a lit- the day. tle cruel sprite oppressing the me- In the mean time Nettie went out lancholy soul. When Nettie rose with Freddy—the other two being from the table, goaded into sudden at school—and took him across the intolerance by that appeal, the fields for his afternoon walk. The climax of the “continual drop- little fellow talked of Australia all ping," and threw her work indig- the way, with a childish treachery nantly on the table, and called and betrayal of her cause which Freddy to come directly, and get went to Nettie's heart. She walked dressed for his walk, the impres- by his side, hearing without listension made by her supposed arbi- ing, throbbing all over with secret trary and imperious behaviour was disgust, impatience, and despair. not diminished. She went out She too perceived well enough the disdainful, making no reply, and approaching crisis. She saw that left those two to a private confer- once more all her own resolution
Then Mrs Fred unbosomed —the purpose of her heart—would her bereaved heart to that sym- be overborne by the hopeless perpathetic stranger. She told him tinacity of the unconvinceable, unhow different everything was now reasoning fool. She did not call -how hard it was to be dependent her sister hard names—she recogeven on one's sister-how far other- nised the quality without giving it wise things might have been, if its appropriate title—and recognised poor dear Fred had been more also, with a bitterness of resistance, prudent: one way or other, all her yet a sense of the inevitable, not life through, Susan had been an in- to be described, the certain issue of jured woman. All her desire was the unequal contest. What chance to take the children back to the had the generous little heart, the colony before she died. “If Nettie hasty temper, the quick and vivawould but yield !" sighed Mrs Fred, cious spirit, against that unwearyclasping her hands.
ing, unreasoning pertinacity? Once “Nettie must yield !” cried the more she must arise, and go forth Bushranger, full of emotion ; and to the end of the world ; and the Susan cried a little, and told him sacrifice must be final now.
WASSAIL: A CHRISTMAS STORY.
PART 1.-CHAPTER I.
It was a cold night—a hard, clear row of brass candlesticks on the Christmas night. The cold was dresser, profusely adorned with everywhere. It was in the sky, holly and laurel, promised that byclear as it was ; it fell in the rays and-by the tapers would glimmer of the stars, bright as they were ; it fair. Christmas eve was only in lay on the crisp frost which covered expectation at the Garland Ox. the fields, and in the rags and tat- The fire was banked up with black ters of snow which hung from the coal, and the embers beneath glowed bushes, making them look like iced only fitfully across the sanded floor, scarecrows. It was a cold which scarcely counteracting the chill from you would set your teeth against the frosted windows, though now walk at, buffet with, perhaps swear and then shooting forth a light at; but it was a cold which would which revealed rows of pewters, not make you bear malice, like an clear and highly burnished, hanging east wind or damp sou’-wester. It from the shelves, and occasionally was a cold, too, which, when yield- darted into the depths of the bar, ing to the proper antidotes of warm where casks stood, already tapped ; fires and warm rooms, left rather and bottles of the vine-leaf design, a crisp, braced, pleasant feeling bearing the labels rum, brandy, behind.
&c., and dangling nets of lemons, It had it all its own way at the gave goodly promise of coming joviGarland Ox. That famed public, ality. Two individuals sat in the as it stood with its bare stone walls chimney - nook. One was mine and unlit windows in the open sky, host-just such as a host should be, sheltered only by an old battered according to the orthodox type, fat, yew-tree and a hedge of blackthorn, ruddy, short-necked, short-legged, seemed to offer as yet only a dogged and wheezy. He had gone through resistance. The cold lay in layers the grades of knife-boy and footof snow on the roof, meandered in man ere he attained the dignity of little fretwork and imperfect cob- landlord ; and a skilful anatomist webs along the window-panes, had might perhaps have discovered in fallen in little heaps on the top of his well-fleshed body the different the signboard, and even bedabbled strata belonging to each period. the figure of the noble animal re- The other was a large and apparpresented thereon, giving him the ently young man, who lay lolling appearance of having been snow- on a bench, and was so disguised balled, and taking away altogether by a loose dress, half-sailor, halfthe vernal and festive character navvy, and by a fur-cap drawn well which the garland of Lent lilies over his face, that it was hard to see around his neck was supposed to what he was. Between them the impress. The fowls and animals hostess—sharp, thin, weasel-likehad all cowered under the sheds, bustled up and down, engaged in and the path from the village was what she called righting the hearth. as yet silent and solitary, it being The opinion of the good Sarah too early for the rustics to meet Battle relative to a clear fire and a the cold for the sake of the cheer clean hearth is doubtless true and and revelry within. Inside, too, orthodox, though the process by the cold held a sort of neutral which these are attained is as cerground. A single dip flickered on tainly very disturbing to the dothe table, showing dimly the out- mestic economy. It seemed especiline of the large kitchen, though a ally so in the present instance, as VOL XC.-NO, DLIV.
the broom in its sweeps invariably ing forth, in a nasal twang, "Wascame in contact with mine host's sail, wassail, a jolly wassail !” fat legs, and the poker or tongs, “I thought, Kit,” said the Garor any other implement which re- land Ox, “that 'twas agin your quired removal, took the same direc- rules to begin wassail with a dry tion, so that he was obliged to be bowl.” constantly drawing them up or “ Or with a dry lip either," rehoisting them round, and sat in a plied the wassailer; so we'll comstate of harassing defensive war- mence proceedings with a drop of fare. He found little consolation Christmas ale.” in the stranger, who was silent and The hostess was just in her deunsocial. The Garland Ox had made signation of vagabonds.". The many overtures without effect, and seal of vagabondism was set on the he was not a man to force his con- whole party. It bore, perhaps, no versation on any guest. At length visible sign, and yet was as plain as the stranger began to smoke, and the horn on a rhinoceros. It was the fragrant fumes of his pipe over- common to all. There were patricame even the exclusiveness of the arch Dibbles, middle-aged Dibbles, host, and forced him to break into and young Dibbles—large Dibbles, colloquy.
middle-sized Dibbles, and small “That's fine baccy of yours, sir.” Dibbles; yet all bore the same im
The only reply was out press of vagabondism. They breathe stretched arm with a hairy pouched it; they walked it; it lurked in in it. The Garland Ox accepted every look and in every turn of the proffer, filled and lit his pipe, their loose, shambling gait; vagapuffed, gurgled, gyrated on his stool, bondism was evidently a nature choked and puffed again, but at hereditary to the Dibbles. There each puff he seemed to abandon the was another trait equally universal attitude of hostile defence, and to that of ugliness. It was not, howregard all exterior circumstances, ever, the scowling low-browed ugliincluding even the eccentric move- ness which looks out garotte, burments of the broom and the flight glary, and murder on the world ; of missiles, with a most benignant but a grotesque and comic ugliness, suavity. He was tasting cavendish such as is seen on water-spouts and for the first time.
on the lion - heads of fountains, After a while a loud shuffling of This ugliness maintained a general feet and hubbub of voices were likeness throughout, yet had its heard in the passage.
flights and fancies, and indulged Here's the wassailers at last," here and there in eccentric touches said mine host, with a loud chuckle; and variations. The leading fea“all the royal family, by Jove." ture of the Dibble physiognomy
"Royal family! a pretty royal was the nose. In some it had the family,” said his helpmate, with mangold-wurzel character-coarsely
a set of idle vagabonds all red, warty, and pitted ; in some it them Dibbles ; and a pretty mess was slightly fined down to the beetthey'll make on my sanded floor root standard ; in others it took with their nasty dirty feet.” more after the kidney-potato type;
Presently the door opened, and but however much toned down or in rushed twenty or more rough- modified, it was always sufficient looking men, some blowing the cold to identify a Dibble. The other from them, some stamping it out features were worthy of it. The on the floor, and some thrashing it eyes were small and piggy; the off by beating their arms across their mouth large, with loose blubbery chests. Meantime their leader, with lips ; the hair was of the lankest a dark wooden bowl under his arm, and the straightest, tallowy, and of had pranced up playfully to thé a whitey - brown colour when not landlord of the Ox, and was shout- grizzled by age.
The costume, too, was based on which had gained them the nickgeneral principles, though varied in name of the Royal Family. detail.
A greatcoat was the gar- This Royal Family was divided ment aimed at ; and there were into several branches-there was specimens exhibited, illustrative the Unicorn, the Mermaid, the not only of different wardrobes, Beelzebub, and the Giant; and but of different generations. One then the Mermaid had an offshoot, Dibble had an upper benjamin fast- the Pretty Tommy, which had ened alternately by bows of tape gained a distinctive appellation in and buttons; another had adapted consequence of having carried the the green plush shooting-jacket of Dibble physiognomy to the highest a corpulent squire, which still bore standard of development. These one of its original mother-of-pearl titles were a tradition — the unde buttons, hanging in unworthy as- derivatur was lost in obscurity. sociation with others of horn and The different houses acknowwood, assisted by an occasional pin; ledged kinship, and formed a sort a third was happy in the posses- of oligarchy or union of royal tribes, sion of a braided coat, short-waist- equal and indivisible, as our friends ed, long-skirted, after the fashion across the Channel would say. Someof the Regency; and as this was the times circumstances would give one most diminutive individual of the house a temporary predominance, party, the garment reached from but the old unity and equality was his neck to his heels, giving him generally very soon restored. Young the appearance of a gentleman in Kit, a scion of the Unicorns, seized his dressing-gown who had made a with the ambition of becoming a hasty toilet.
landed proprietor, squatted on a An article of apparel still more dreary moor, known only to the common to all was the comforter. snipe and the peeweet, built a cob It had its variations ; sometimes it cottage, surrounded it with a garwas white with pink ends, some- den, then enclosed a field about the times white with green ends, some- size of a tablecloth, then added antimes of an honest brown ; but a other and another tablecloth, until comforter enveloped every Dibble there had grown a tiny farm, which chin and touched every Dibble looked like an al fresco café with nose. It was evidently either the its boxes and compartments. A orthodox costume of a wassailer, or female member too, about the same a distinctive badge of the race. time, had set up in the fish, chow
They are vagabonds, all these der, and apple-stall line, which gave Dibbles. Yet with a vitality not a sort of commercial eclat to the unusual to vagabond races, they house. The Unicorn was now in had lived, thrived in their way, and the ascendant, but someway they spread like the horse-radish, gener- soon lapsed to the old Dibble stanation after generation, in the same dard. locality, outlasting and outliving Pretty Tommy had his turn. Unold Norman families and good old der the pressure of a warrant for Saxon houses, just as the badger poaching or affiliation, he had enand fox survived their mammoth tered on board a man-of-war, and contemporaries. The Dibbles had served as a deck-swapper in the appeared in the parish register cen- battle of Algiers. On his return tury after century, generally occu- he was paraded by his party as a pying the same place and position- hero; and 'twas considered doubtneither rising nor falling, hovering ful whether he or Lord Exmouth on pauperism, and coquetting with contributed most to the victory. petty larceny, and only just skirt- After having appeared, however, ing the work house and bridewell. several times in the stocks, and suf
It was this pertinacity in multi- fered other indignities from the plying, and this adherence to place, hands of officials, the hero-worship
waned, and he fell back on the usual always met with signal discomfitprivileges and dignities of a Dibble. The Dibbles were the high
The Beelzebubs had a distin- priests of wassail. guished era, when their representa- With the wassailers had entered tive man was sexton of the parish a thin wiry man, with a pinched, for several years.
snipy face and a keen twinkling The Giants enjoyed the notoriety eye. A stoop in the back and a of possessing the most terrible witch bend in the knees would have given in the neighbourhood.
the impression of decrepitude to The Royal Family had also its those who had not seen him working moral characteristics. It was a tra- a cover or going across a country. dition and law with them never to He was dressed in a grey frockwork except as the alternative of coat, corduroy breeches and gaiters, starvation; and then the work and wore a broad-brimmed hat chosen was always of a loose, vaga- jammed well down over his forebond kind, such as holding horses head. There was a hunting-whip on fair and market days, lounging under his arm, and a pair of couples after sportsmen, carrying bills, or peeped from his pocket. He bore making brooms. Honest digging about with him a sense of dogand delving was an abomination he was of dogs, doggy. This was to them. Cleanliness and sanitary Jim Seecombe, in turn kennelregulations were things also indig- keeper, whip, huntsman, dog-trainer, nantly repudiated. A Dibble was dog-breeder, dog-doctor-in fact, supposed to live and die in utter holding any office in the dog adinnocence of cold water. Their ministration, and sometimes, like homes were generally pitched amid the Great Duke, concentrating them gutters and dunghills ; and there all in his own person. the young Dibbles squattered and “Halloa, James," said the Gargambolled and grew strong in land Ox, “be you turned wassailer! defiance of typhus and boards of I thoft none but the Royal Family health. To get a sop from another had that privilege.' man's dish, and a sup from another “No, landlord,” replied James, man's cup, was also a royal maxim; “I han't that honour, but perhaps and there was a certain oiliness of when my old missus goes I may tongue and wheedling manner pe- prowpose to one of the princesses, culiar to the members of all the and shall then tail in somewhere in houses, which was supposed to gain the chowrusses." them access to larder and wardrobe, “No, James,” said Kit the Uniand be very effective in procuring corn, we doesn't give or be given broken victuals and cast-off rai- in marriage so easily. We must see ment. A certain dry quaint humour, the Peditree or the Jenny-Loggy, as too, was known to be rewarded the passon calls it, of a party before often by horns of ale and cider we takes un into our family." when hard-handed labour might go "A queer Peditree Jim would athirst. It was whispered, how- show, I thinks," said the Beelzebub, ever, that the swains who took the who was evidently the bitter spirit daughters of the royal race to their of the race ; " for them does say as hearths found that the oily voice how old Tom the huntsman found could be pitched to a different key, un wrapt up in a 'oss-cloth in the and the wheedling manner raised kennel, and the Squire said such a to the imperiousness of a Zenobia. com-by-chance was a real drowit of
Among other privileges, they the kennel, and so kept un there." claimed that of being the heredi- “Well, William,” retorted Jim, tary wassailers—the only true and a kennel is as good a place to be orthodox ministrants of the jolly born in as a garret, and good dowgs wassail. Filibusters had time after I hould to be better company than time attacked these rights, but had bad umans.”