Round About The Christmas Tree...
The kindly Christmas tree, from which I trust every
gentle reader has pulled out a bonbon or two, is yet
all aflame whilst I am writing, and sparkles with
the sweet fruits of its season. You young ladies,
may you have plucked pretty giftlings from it; and
out of the cracker sugar-plum which you have split
with the captain or the sweet young curate may you
have read one of those delicious conundrums which
the confectioners introduce into the sweetmeats, and
which apply to the cunning passion of love. Those
riddles are to be read at your age, when I daresay
they are amusing.
As for Dolly, Merry, and Bell, who are standing at
the tree, they don't care about the love-riddle part,
but understand the sweet-almoned portion very well.
They are four, five, six years old. Patience, little
people! A dozen merry Christmases more, and you will
be reading those wonderful love-conundrums, too.
As for us elderly folks, we watch the babies at their
sport, and the young people pulling at the branches:
and instead of finding bonbons or sweeties in the
packets which we pluck off the boughs, we find enclosed
Mr Carnifex's review of the quarter's meat; Mr Sartor's
compliments, and little statement for self and the
young gentlemen; and Madame de Sainte-Crinoline's
respects to the young ladies, who encloses her account,
and will sent on Saturday, please; or we stretch our
hand out to the educational branch of the Christmas
tree, and there find a lively and amusing article
from the Rev. Henry Holyshade, containing our dear
Tommy's exceedingly moderate account for the last
term's school expenses.
We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read
The tree yet sparkles, I say. I am writing on the
day before Twelfth Day, if you must know; but already
ever so many of the fruits have been pulled, and the
Christmas lights have gone out.
Bobby Miseltow, who has been staying with us for a
week (and who has been sleeping mysteriously in the
bath-room), comes to say he is going away to spend
the rest of the holidays with his grandmother -- and
I brush away the manly tear of regret as I part with
the dear child. "Well, Bob, good-bye, since you
will go. Compliments to grandmamma. Thank her for
the turkey. Here's ----" (A slight pecuniary
transaction takes place at this juncture, and Bob
nods and winks, and puts his hand in his waistcoat
pocket.) "You have had a pleasant week?"
Bob. -- "Haven't I!" (And exit, anxious
to know the amount of the coin which has just changed
He is gone, and as the dear boy vanishes through the
door (behind which I see him perfectly), I too cast
up a little account of our past Christmas week.
When Bob's holidays are over, and the printer has
sent me back this manuscript, I know Christmas will
be an old story. All the fruit will be off the Christmas
tree then; the crackers will have cracked off; the
almonds will have been crunched; and the sweet-bitter
riddles will have been read; the lights will have
perished off the dark green boughs; the toys growing
on them will have been distributed, fought for, cherished,
neglected, broken. Ferdinand and Fidelia will each
keep out of it (be still, my gushing heart!) the remembrance
of a riddle read together, of a double almond munched
together, and of the moiety of an exploded cracker....
The maids, I say, will have taken down all that holly
stuff and nonsense about the clocks, lamps, and looking-glasses,
the dear boys will be back at school, fondly thinking
of the pantomime fairies whom they have seen; whose
gaudy gossamer wings are battered by this time; and
whose pink cotton (or silk is it?) lower extremities
are all dingy and dusty.
Yet but a few days, Bob, and flakes of paint will
have cracked off the fairy flower-bowers, and the
revolving temples of adamantine lustre will be as
shabby as the city of Pekin.
When you read this, will Clown still be going on lolling
his tongue out of his mouth, and saying, "How
are you to-morrow?"
He must be almost ashamed of himself (if that cheek
is still capable of the blush of shame) for asking
the absurd question.
To-morrow the diffugient snows will give place to
spring; the snowdrops will lift their heads; Ladyday
may be expected, and the pecuniary duties peculiar
to that feast; in place of bonbons, trees will have
an eruption of light green knobs; the whitebait season
will bloom ... as if one need go on describing these
vernal phenomena, when Christmas is still here, though
ending, and the subject of my discourse!
from Some Roundabout Papers
William Makepeace Thackeray