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Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing.
Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.Where shall we adventure, to-day that we’re afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea—
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!Quick,
and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbor and the garden is the shore.
He seemed a funny old gentleman, the children thought, but still rather nice, especially when he brought those sweets out of his pocket and let them dip into the bag and take what they liked. They had seen him walking through the wood, and then when they left off playing, he had come to sit down beside them, and asked them their names.
“Mine’s Hugh, like father,” said the eldest; “and this is Lily, and this is Tom.”
The old gentleman looked a little quickly at Tom.
“Who is he named after?” he said.
The children’s faces grew grave.
A certain man had two sons”—so begins the best and most famous story in the world’s literature. Use of the absolute superlative is always dangerous, but none will gainsay that statement, I am sure. This story, which follows that familiar tale afar off, indeed, begins in the same way. And the parallelism between the two is exact up to a certain point. What difference a little point doth make; like the little fire, behold, how great a matter it kindleth! Indeed, lacking that one detail the older story would have had no value; it would not have been told; without its addition this would have been a repetition of the other.
When the modern young prodigal came to himself, when he found himself no longer able to endure the husks of the swine like his ancient exemplar, when he rose and returned to his father because of that distaste, he found no father watching and waiting for him at the end of the road! Upon that change the action of this story hangs. It was a pity, too, because the elder brother was there and in a mood not unlike that of his famous prototype
ETHERINGTON wasn’t half a bad sort of a fellow, but he had his peculiarities, most of which were the natural defects of a lack of imagination. He didn’t believe in ghosts, or Santa Claus, or any of the thousands of other things that he hadn’t seen with his own eyes, and as he walked home that rather chilly afternoon just before Christmas and found nearly every corner of the highway decorated with bogus Saints, wearing the shoddy regalia of Kris-Kringle, the sight made him a trifle irritable. He had had a fairly good luncheon that day, one indeed that ought to have mellowed his disposition materially, but which somehow or other had not so resulted. In fact, Hetherington was in a state of raspy petulance that boded ill for his digestion, and when he had reached the corner of Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue, the constant iteration and reiteration of these shivering figures of the god of the Yule had got on his nerves to such an extent as to make him aggressively quarrelsome. He had controlled the asperities of his soul tolerably well on the way uptown, but the remark of a small child on the highway, made to a hurrying mother, as they passed a stalwart-looking replica of the idol of his Christmas dreams, banging away on a tambourine to attract attention to the iron pot before him, placed there to catch the pennies of the charitably inclined wayfarer—”Oh, mar, there’s Sandy Claus now!”—was too much for him.
Mr. William B. Aikins, alias “Softy” Hubbard, alias Billy The Hopper, paused for breath behind a hedge that bordered a quiet lane and peered out into the highway at a roadster whose tail light advertised its presence to his felonious gaze. It was Christmas Eve, and after a day of unseasonable warmth a slow, drizzling rain was whimsically changing to snow.
The Hopper was blowing from two hours’ hard travel over rough country. He had stumbled through woodlands, flattened himself in fence corners to avoid the eyes of curious motorists speeding homeward or flying about distributing Christmas gifts, and he was now bent upon committing himself to an inter-urban trolley line that would afford comfortable transportation for the remainder of his journey. Twenty miles, he estimated, still lay between him and his domicile.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap—
“And is it true that our lord and lady sail next week for their estate in France?”
“Ay, it is true enough, and more is the pity; it was a sad day for us all when the king gave the hand of his ward, our lady, to this baron of
“They say she was willing enough, Peter.”
“Ay, ay, all say she loved him, and, being a favourite with the queen, she got her to ask the king to accede to the knight’s suit; and no
wonder, he is as proper a man as eyes can want to look on—tall and stately, and they say brave. His father and grandfather both were
Edward’s men, and held their castle for us; his father was a great friend of the Black Prince, and he, too, took a wife from England.
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or conversations?”
So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her.
There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!” (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat-pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
ALL round the year the changing suns and rains
Beat on men’s work—to wreck and to decay—
But nature builds more perfectly than they,
Her changing unchanged sea resists, remains.
All round the year new flowers spring up to shew
How gloriously life is more strong than death;
And in our hearts are seeds of love and faith,
Ah, sun and showers, be kind, and let them grow.