CHRIST MAS DREAM
J AMES T. BRA D \ .
r S T H A T K D P, V K D W A R P S II A f, I,
[• r b 1. 1 .-^ H K J> BY n. A P P L K 1' ( ) N A ( " ,.
433 AND 445 BROADWAY.
r.ONDOX: \>^ LITTLE BRITAIN.
Kiitrri'd. iic'conlinir to tlic Act of Coiiirivs.s. in the year ISOlt. hy
STEPIIEX C. MASSETT,
III till' riork's Otiicc of the District Court of the Uiiited States for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. step 11 KX r. MASS KIT:
My iJi^ar ^kpln'ii ■'
I dedicate to you this little volume.
The sketch it coutaius was written some fourteen years ago, wiien
you were a clerk in my office, and I did not suppose it would ever be
presented in a more durable form. But as you retained a copy, took
it with you on your various pilgrimag-es, and during the Christmas
season read it to strangers even at the Antipodes, it seems to be
yours more than mine, and I thus bestow it upon you. Mr. Edward
S. Hall has made the book valuable by the admirable illustrations
with which lie has adorned it. and there may be some who will pos-
sibly derive gratification from having this frail memorial of him who.
with affection and esteem, subscribes himself
JAMKS T. lUlADY.
New Yokk. Marrh -HI ISC.o.
^ (!LI]ri.stnrcLs greiniK
C H A P T E li I .
OT one cent/'
" But please, sir, we haven't any 1 )rearl at lionie/'
'' Not one cent, I say — hegone !''
Yet it was Christmas Eve, and this sullen
denial proceeded from one well provided with
A CIIKISTMAS DKEAM.
the AYoT^rs o'oods^ toward a rao'uvd and 1)arefoote(l
girl, wlio, as slie tramped over the cokl pavement,
held (Hit to the stony-hearted man a thin and tremu-
Yes ! It was Christmas Eve, the anniversary of that
holy hour Avhen we are taught that He was l)orn,
who, turning aside from the great and the wealthy,
sought the abodes of the humlde, and achieved his
most divine lal)ors for man in relieving the loathsome
It was Christmas Eve, and the heart of a girl which
could have been made happy T)}' the meanest coin
that ever oppresses the rags of a beggar, was l)y a
cold denial of the pitiful boon, sent cheerless out upon
the wide sea of selfishness, where if it should break
in agony, the event would no more attract the notice
of the multitude amidst which it happened, than the
burstino; of a buljlde would disturb the ocean.
It was Christmas Eve, and the streets were crowded
with happy people, who thronged about the various shops
to provide a jolly dinner for the morrow, or to purchase
presents for young folks who were destined to dream all
A CHKISTMA8 DKEAM.
night of treasures, more valuable and vast than those
which were disjDlayecl at the magic mention of " Oj^en
Sesame." Where the toys glittered in profusion, the boys
were gathered at the door, wondering at the prices of
what they were never to obtain, and gratifying their spirits
by ^vdshes that were never to be realized. In the windows
of confectioners' shops, were exhibited the luscious and
captivating preparations w^hich w^ere very likely soon
to occasion busy em2)loyment for the family physician.
Past all these the wretched girl wandered disconsolately,
wearying herself still with the inquiry why others
should be so blessed with all the means of pleasure,
w^hile she, in the prime of her life, knew little but
sorrow and want. She had not yet become acquainted
with Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, nor investigated
a report by the Secretary of the Treasury.
I had no time to pursue the person or fortunes of the
girl. She disa23j)eared suddenly in the tide of human
beings that swejDt on in sullen monotony, even like the
river which in its w^ay to the ocean pauses not, w^hether
the flower, the ripe fruit, the decayed tree, or the being
full of life, tall on its rapid waters. My attention w^as
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
arrested by tlie haggard features of a miserable cMffonmei\
wlio, witli a sack over his shoulder, and a hook in his
hand, was journeying homeward after a day's vile labor
in searching the kennels of the metropolis. A fur cap
drawn far down to his eyes, left exposed a sharp brow,
under which were hidden cavernous eyes, that seemed
to shrink from the foul work to which they were sub-
jected. One would have thought while gazing on his
sunken cheeks, stern mouth, and projecting chin, that no
smile had even, for one instant, lighted his sombre coun-
A CHEISTMAS DEEAM.
tenance. And yet who knows that he had not a hopeful
and a happy youth in the " pleasant land of France," or
the romantic home of the Switzer? It was hard to
believe that the morose and melancholy wretch had ever
been a chikl, and nestled in the arms of a devoted mother,
while her fond eye shone upon his sweet slumber, like the
evening star upon the dusky earth. But so it had been,
no doubt, and possil)ly there were many who came at his
birth to congratulate proud parents ; hopes for a family's
honor had perhaps grown strong as he progressed toward
boyhood ; he had haply been confided by a dying mother
to the care of a merciful heaven, and sent out upon the
world to seek his fortune, with the cheering encourage-
ment of interested friends. To think that the child,
which, fresh from Heaven, would have received the
blessing of the Redeemer, if it had lived in the period of
his benevolent mission, should thus be converted into a
begrimed and wrinkled wretch, obtaining the means of
existence from the very refuse of poverty !
"The world has more justice than we believe," re-
marked at this moment a gentleman passing me, to the
friend at his side ; and I knew from the speaker's look
A CHKISTMAS DREAM.
and manner that the way of liis life liad been one of ease
and success, and that he knew no more of the fierce pas-
sions and dreadful wrongs that often convulse men's
frames, than the little rivulet, making its way century
after century through the solemn stillness of a primeval
forest, knows of the tempests that sweep the ocean in the
A carriage passed me — the high-mettled horses at-
tached to which were controlled in their graceful and
spirited movements hy a pompous coachman, who held
the reins delicately on the fingers of his white gloves,
\vhile behind, a footman in lace and fripj^er}' looked over
A CHKI8TMA8 DREAM.
the top of the vehicle as if in constant expectation that
an acquaintance would come flying over the heads of the
horses. Inside was the same churl who had refused the
girl one co2:)j)er, and it was plain that he had forgotten
forever, except, perhaps, as the theme of an inflated dis-
course al)out " increasing pauperism,'^ what I could not
but remember as a striking illustration of those dispari-
ties which, while they must ever exist in life, can never
fail to excite the regrets of all who wish tliat there could
be less of suflfering on earth, and more of real pleasure.
A terrible shriek arose ft'om the pavement, and I saw
the wheel of the churl's carriage pass over the leg of an
unfortunate girl. The carriage stopped for a moment.
The driver coolly inquired if any l^ody were hurt ; the
crowd who had immediately assembled, told him to drive
on, and I pushed toward the injured girl, just in time to
see that it was she who had but a few minutes befoi'e
elicited my sym})athies, and that the coarse man who was
holding her in his arms, and exclaiming in French, ^' My
daughter," " My poor daughter," was the scavenger whose
dismal face I had just encountered.
Even at the moment when the pooi* gii'l was l)orne into
A CHKISTMAS DKEAM
a druggist's slio]^, and while the crowd stood gazing in, a
boy racing past exclaimed, as if the world depended on
his lungs :
" I wish }'ou a merry Christmas, and a hapi)y New
The crowd melted away from the apothecary's door,
the shuffle of the multitude went on in its old monotony,
the curses and shouts of omnil:)US drivers were heard
above the clatter of mvriad wheels rattlino- over the
cobble stones, and I wended my way homeward, resolved
that I would on the morrow search for the unfortunate
girl, and see what might be done to relieve her. But the
sounds of music issuing from a fashionable restaurant
attracted my attention, and I went in.
We all know what a restaurant is in New York now ;
with what elegance and costliness, if not ta^te, most
spacious ^''salon'S a manger'''' have l)e8n arranged, where
mirrors and polished white columns ornamented with
gold, and gay curtains with glittering loops, and cush-
ioned seats, invite to Apician suppers, with which the
most fastidious palate must be gratified.
I hid myself in one of the boxes, and modestly ordered
A CIIEISTMAS DREAM.
some ale and a cigar, resolved to let the music Avliicli had
lured me from my homeward path, harmonize with the
thoughts which arose out of the strange episode in my
life which had occurred from the accident to the girl, and
the circumstances which preceded it.
Well, it has ever been so, and it must be so until the
end of time. Poets and orators have complained that
suffering too often attends the lives of those who, de-
prived of the means to make woe endurable, linger through
a painful existence to a \vi'etched end. And this should
stimulate the faith and the hope of the skeptic in his
heaviest and most cheerless despondency. It cannot be
that the Almighty mil not, at some time, and in his
own inscrutable manner, equalize the disparities at which
in this life we revolt. His omniscience — which, seeing
through all the disguises of a corrupt nature, beholds the
lecher in the priest, and the virgin spirit in the unfortu-
nate harlot ; he who knows how favorably the conscience
that has yielded to strong temptations compares with that
which never felt the necessity of resisting one dishonest
impulse ; he who beholds the injustice by which trembling
innocence suffers at the bar where l^loated arrogance pre-
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
sides ; lie wlio lias his quick ear ready to catch the dying
murmur of the poor outcast, reluctant even in the last
agony to let the world that has rejected him know how
he feels its tyranny ; he, in short, who knows the truth
and the right, and can exhume them though centuries of
falsehood and wrong be jailed above, has some great
temple ready, where, under his own infallible guidance
that which was unjust on earth shall be remedied, and
those who suffered injustice shall be redressed.
All this while the four musicians jDerformed a sweet
German melody, full of home and its associations,
a touchino; strain which convinced me that music de-
rives its power from harmonizing with those unuttered
thoughts of our deepest nature for which mere language
is inadequate. Yes ! And it is but just there should be
a heaven in which those silent and unrevealed aspirations
of the spirit which can never be satisfied here, and at
which the world scoff, may find the pleasure for which
The ale was heavy withal, and my eyes drooped under
its unpoetical influence, so I left the lights, the Germans,
and the music, and would have made my way homeward,
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
had I not Ijeeii arrested at tlie door-step by a witliered
old man, very like the jjoor scavenger, but a little more
neatly attired, who had a sack over his shoulder, and
seemed hurried for time. As he expressed a wish to
have some conversation with me, we passed back to the
seat I had just left, and amidst the music, the clatter, and
the smoke, took seats, and commenced gazing at each
other with silent but al)sorbing interest.
vi-s a vis was decidedly a strange character. It
Avas difficult to detect the exact expression of
j^^ his countenance, foi' it varied continually. Lay-
ing upon the table the sack I have mentioned,
and opening it, he proceeded, with a very grave
air, to produce a nunil)er of volumes, and arrange tliem
with studious care.
"You Avill be surprised, sir," he remarked, "when I
tell you who I am."
" Nothing can astonish, me much in these days of mag-
" But this is 2^i"<^>l)ably," said he, " tlie first time that
you liave had actual conversation with one who does not
belong to this world, and is merely an agent of an absent
monarch, to collect for Mm tlie trophies which increase
with each succeeding moment."
I began to think my companion a madman, and the
conviction was strengthened when he proceeded to say —
A CHEISTMAS DEEAM.
" Yes ! That monarch is the Past ; an uiireleiitiiig
and unyielding tyrant, who never returns the lightest
trifle that ever comes within his grasp."
"And yon," I remarked, "appear to he his confidential,
clerk, or travelling agent."
"It is my duty," said the mysterious stranger, "to
collect, during the brief period assigned for my labor,
such mementos of his power as this earth may afford
and when I shall have laid them at his feet, I, too, will
become one of his victims and his monuments, and be
denied the privilege of ever visiting this earth again."
" And what is your name ?" I inquired.
" Alas !" exclaimed the stranger, " I am the ' Passing
Year,"* and althou2:h visible to you at this moment, have
usually neither a ^ local habitation' nor a name amongst
mankind. I perceive that you are on the border line of
life — that boundary between manhood and old age, at
which the affections and feelings linger, the mind still
looking backward to the scenes in which it knew the
sweetest delisrhts, Avhile the flesh, o^rowins^ weaker at
every step, journeys toward eternity. In these volumes
I have the record of what man has achieved during the
A CHEISTMAS DEE AM.
time of 111)^ pilgrimage — of the wrong.-^ and virtues tliat
have disfigured or adorned his career. It is a strange
history of hoj^es that are blighted, friendships estranged,
promises violated, faith disregarded, right trodden in the
dust, wrong elevated to the highest places, merit spurned
by the foot of presumption, and Virtue checked, and in-
sulted by Vice in her flagrant and infamous career. Ob-
serve the comj)arative size of these volumes. Here,"
holding up a book not larger than a child's primer, " is
the record of virtuous resolutions kej^t. What huge
quarto enrolls those that Avere violated ? The bad pre-
A CHEISTMAS DEEAM.
ponderates over tlie good through all these volumes iu
the same proportion. Ah, sir ! mine has been an un-
pleasant duty. I was ushered into office amidst the wild
shouts of the multitude hailing my approach, as if I were
to bless them all with a profusion of Heaven's choicest
gifts. Alas ! many who shouted deliriously at my advent,
are now low in the dust, and have been compelled to
look on powerless, while death laid his icy hand upon
some of the most generous hearts that ever thrilled Avithin
" I could tell you of one who seemed born to show how
much that was immortal and noble could dwell within
the precincts of a human frame. From childhood's ear-
liest prime, to the moment when, far from friends and
kindred, he breathed out his spirit to Heaven, there was
no time when he stood in the path of any fellow-creature,
or when there existed one wretch to whom his dej^arture
could afford a thrill of fiendish satisfaction. His heart
was open to generous influences, as his countenance to
the benign expressions which, beaming from every fea-
ture, cheered his troops of friends. There was no impulse
of his soul, no word on his lip, no pressure in his hand,
A CHEISTMAS DEEAM.
that liafl ever felt tlie influence of hypocrisy, and in the
prime of his manhood you might read his nature as easily
as that of a child. Havino; notliino^ to conceal, he won-
dered that men were surprised at the frankness whicli
was part of liis nature : and lie could not understand
wliy, in association witli his fellows, there could l>e a
feeling called reserve. There were many, very many
places where, without his ever knowing of his impor-
tance, the appearance of this benevolent and kindly being
was hailed as the sufferer hails the ruddy dawn ; and
when he was striving to cheer the heavy hours of those
who seemed to need his sympathy, how many hearts
were eager to yield him the same solace ! Full of boy-
ish innocence, he yet plumed himself upon the ripe
experience and practical wisdom of the man, assuming
for the while, to give himself the weight that age and
trial demand, an appearance of austerity which could
but for a moment al^ide upon him, and which only
served to amuse, like a grotesque mask concealing the
features of a smilino; face. In all that was o-enerous,
unselfish, and Avarm-hearted, he was, to most of his fel-
lows, the w^onder as well as idol ; and there lives not
A ClIEISTMAS DREAM.
one l)einir who ever souo:lit the iuiluence of his kindly
spirit, and went away dissatisfied. Men wondered that
he did not yearn for fame ; and yet, detecting himself in
such a desire, he woukl have banished the thought at
once, as involvino; a wish to elevate himself above those
Avhom he loved. He w^ould rather have the thanks" of a
beggar than the throne of Caesar. But he has gone down
into the grave, even when his friends strained the eyelids
of their hearts for his coming and delighted in the expec-
tation that they must soon behold one who never grasped
the hand of his fellow from any hut a brother's feeling.
A CHKISTMAS DREAM.
He lias gone, from uo more apj)arent necessity than dies
the 1)ir(l wliieli, during tlie sunny season, poured out its
melodious song from the leafy spray, and has since uttered
its last note in the wild-Avood. He has gone, and all who
knew him regret his departure, and feel that it is a greater
trial to remain here, now that he is no more, than eveu
to venture on the unknown Avorld in quest of him, and
the hearty greeting he knew how to give. If you ever
feel a doubt that the beautiful and good exist hereafter,
think of such a character as I have here described, and ask
yourself if there can be one reason why such a being, hav-
ing existed, should ever utterly perish. But I weary you
with these saddening thoughts. It is Christmas Eve.
Come forth with me into the air, and I will reveal to you
what no mortal e}'e hath seen before. I will show you,
in your o^vn history, how is connected ))y a mysterious
iniiuence the Christmas of the present an ith the Christmas
of the past."
HERE is ail elm-tree in the Park, near Cliatliam
street, which, in the " golden 2:)riine" of my boy-
hood, was the rendezvous at which, after school
hours and durino; holidays, we so often asseni-
bled, thence to set out on man}' a cheerful adven-
ture ill (juest of fun. The merry group Avhicli clustered
there so often, comes to my memory with the same dis-
tinctness as if l)y some magic influence I were carried
backward over the intervening period to those happy
school-boy days once more. I well remember that glori-
ous period, during which, unlike almost all my com-
panions, I did not lose the enjoyment of present happiness
in the strange ambition to be a man. All my wants
were then provided for by those ^vliom it has been my
lot to see laid in the dust. Oh ! lio^v at the hour when
school was " dismissed" we scampered off as Avild cajDiice
suggested, making the street resound with jocund shouts,
and engaging in the various sports which youtli so inge-
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
iiiously devises. Tliere Avas an ogre, too, in those da}^s —
the keeper of tlie park — a mild and worthy man in his
ordinary mood, no doubt, but with a nose that blushed
scarlet over the transgressions of his lips. AYe gave him
the title of "Rum-nose," which, perhaps, \7as more just
than elegant, and it was our great delight to annoy the
poor fellow, leading him into useless chases u]) and down
the steps of the City Hall, and through its entries, over
its vestibule, and even into the court-rooms, where jus-
tice is said to be administered. Christmas Eve was a
great time then, and was seen from afar. We commenced
discussino; its advent, and the delio^hts it would brino\
from the last holiday that preceded it ; and even now,
AS hen in the maturity of life we find Christmas at hand,
and feel no excitement of pi'eparation, we wonder why
Ave miss the feverish ex])ectation with which it was once
awaited, foro;ettin2: how few cares we had then to disturb
the darling anticipation of the heart. How delightful
then became the home from which we had so often stolen
out at nights in defiance of parental authority, and to the
imminent danger of our ])ersons ! There Avas such a
"busy note of pre})arati()n" a])out the house, such mys-
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
terious deposits of turkeys and (juarteis of inTittou in tlie
hall, such strange developments of l^askets, only equalled
l)y the l)anquets that come from the earth in pantomime ,
and such a profusion of fruit and confections actually left
within our reach without even a prohibition to touch
them. Who can even forget the smell of his ' Christmas
" There is the Christmas table of your youth/' said my
companion; and lo ! I had become a l>oy again. The
dinner table was surrounded 1)y the family once more.
There was not even one al)sent. He "])y whose kind,
paternal side" we grew to^vard manhood, occuj^ied the
head of the table, his hair slightly dashed with gray, his
face radiant with a cheerful smile, and his proud glance
directed around the abundant board to those on whom
his hopes and pride now centred. And there Avas, too,
my mother — she of whom the i*ecollection, now that she
has been some years " laid in her narrow place of rest,''
is like a mingled sense of pleasure and duty, each ever
present, and each in turn growing stronger than its kin-
dred feeling — she to whom, in my earliest sufferings, I
breathed my secret complaints ^vitli the sublime con-
A CHEISTMAS DREAj\r,
ficlence tliat tliey were as safe as they could be in
Heaven — slie wliose ready ear caught up every syllable
in wliicli I told of any wrong her son had suffered, or
honor he had attained, however evanescent — she, whose
large heart, peopled by her children, seemed yet capa-
dl the afflicted of the human
cious enough to nurture
A CIIEISTMAS DKExVM.
race — slie, wliose face now, in the greatest anguish of
manhood, comes like an angel from God to my spiritual
sense, and whispers, in language which the soul only can
hear, that there will be a season of relief and of happi-
ness — she, the dearly beloved idol of my ^vhole nature,
whose hand still seems to have smoothed my pillow
when I lie down for rest on earth, whose presence shall
be felt in each thrill of my latest breathings at the
solemn hour of death, and who I know will be the first
to meet me, if we be restored to each other by the
benign mercy of a benevolent God.
There, too, about that table, were all my ])rothers and
sisters. All were in perfect health, and all happy. Such
eating, drinking, laughing, singing, and after the dinner,
such dancing, tumbling, and playing at Blindman's Buff!
The scene went swimming l^efore me, and in an instant
the whole of a past life was disclosed.
" The Christmas of manhood," said my com23anion.
The same table, with no diminished store of what may
yield the body pleasure, but, oh ! how much narrowed
the happy circle which once gathered there at the happy
Christmas season ! He was gone, the pillar and the pro]3
A CHKISTMAS DREAM.
of all; gone in tlie maturity of life, Lut l)efore the frosts
of age had been laid too deep on the generous impidses
tliat l)urned in his magnanimous nature. She, too, had
departed, at whose decease it seemed so unwise that any
should T)e permitted to I'emain, and in the absence of
whom the rose seemed to have lost its fragrance, and the
very stars their glory. A sister, too, whose graceful form
moved like a thing of light and pleasure through the
household, gladdening wherever it came — her chair also
was vacant. And now that I observe more closely, I
miss the face of him whose features seemed to ilash from
them in combined light all of good and pleasant that
existed in all the family beside. Death, alas ! had
" stej)ped in and thinned that little band," and the mem-
])ers of the circle, once so extended, now drew closer and
closer too^ether, Ijecause of the breaches that had been
made in their ranks, to sustain each other, until, at the
command of him who gives and takes away, the last link
of the chain shall, I trust, be reunited with that from which
it ^vas wrested when the first of our dear ones perished-
" My time is drawing near to its close," said the Pass-
ing Year, '' and I have T)ut one more scene to show you."
A (MJJUSTMAS DEEAM.
There was the parlor of our lionie. The hre, that I
had expected to see burning cheerfully when I returned,
had a dim look, and, strange to say, four figures sat
around it liolding correspondence with each other, ^vith
looks that indicated conversation, but were unattended
with any sounds. How can 1 descril^e the ^^le^^sm'^ that
pervaded each pulse of my frame, when I recognized the
de.^r departed members of our family enjoying, as they
Avere \\ out to do in life, the comforts of that home an hich
their presence had so often made happy ! Hoav ecstatic
would my joy have been could I have eml)raced them
all ; but the hand of my attendant Avas laid upon me,
and I could l)ut gaze upon my lieaA^enly A^sitors, rapt
in Avonder and deliii^ht.
" They have been Avaiting for you to come home," said
he ; "and Avill not quit the house until you are secure in
sluml:)er. Look !"
I gazed Avith astonishment Avhile my dear lost ones
ascended to the rooms Avliere our family repose, and saAv
each of them stoop oA^er those Avho Avere sleeping, to kiss
the slumberer's clieek. Then all stood around the bed
and elevated their eyes Avith their })rayers to our Maker.
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
Then they returned to the fire, and seated themselves
once more, and there came back to my delighted sj^jirit
such a sensitive recollection of all they had done for
me, and of what I had omitted that might have made
their lives more happy, that I could have Mien on my
knees before them and besought the forgiveness of each.
But I was restrained by my companion ; and it was not
until I had laid myself down to rest for the night that
the beloved faces visited my couch also, and lingered
over my pillow with looks of undying love. Then I
heard the prayers for my prosperity, mingled Avith
sounds of sweetest melody, Avhich seemed to combine
expression of all the memories that followed my steps
from childhood to the present hour.
The benign faces of the dear ones disappeared, but my
old companion stood beside my bed and, laying his hand
upon mine, said, in a voice whose every tone still lingers
in my memory :
" You have seen to-night the appeal of suifering
spurned by the heartlessness of bloated avarice. You
liave seen what would be the rank injustice of a world
controlled by blind chance, Avhere, if the afflicted child
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
were crashed beneatli tlie wheel of the miser, there could
l)e no redress for the one, nor punishment for the other.
"You have been assured by visions that those whom
you loved above all others on earth, still follow, and are
with you, and watch over you when slumber is sweetest.
These have not been the visions of a waking sense, but
mysterious revelations from your heart, teaching the sub-
lime lesson that the influence which any beloved object
once gained over your nature will survive the decease of
the object itself; and if you do but cherish it a little,
will be as a fragrance shed upon your soul to make it
pure forever. Wake on the morrow, and conduct your
life as if it had l^een disclosed to you that they whose
good o2:>inion you so respected while they lived, are still
near to the dear ones Avhom they nurtured, and for
whose prosperity they were ready even to lay down life.
The ancients had their household gods — the work of
mortal hands, and only sanctioned by the sincerity of
superstition — while you, through the blessing of Heaven,
enjoy the omnipresent care of the great Creator, and have,
as gods of the household, the memories of departed
loved ones, to be reunited with whom shoidd be the
A CHKI8TMAS DREAM.
aim and end of your ^diole existence. Ponder this well,
and feel tlie solemn truth which it was my mission to
disclose, that in the midst of happiest life, and when the
thoughts of death are furthest from your heart, there
may be, close beside you, eager with care lest you should
by some false step be lost from the path that may lead
you to their arms, those for whose presence in another
world you should pray most fervently to your Maker."
I know not how my mysterious visitor departed, nor
where. But he made my Christmas more cheerful than
it would have been but for his teachings. I communi-
cate the lesson he imparted to me, with the hope that
even with as much pleasure as descends uj)on one ray of
sunshine into the prisoner's cell, it may fall on the heart
of those who have recently suffered a domestic affliction.
There must be many who at this festive season will be
compelled to steal away from the pleasures of general
hospitality, and who mil spend the hours, that were in
happier times devoted to heartfelt pleasure, in the society
of the dead and not of the living. To these even my
words may be like the rain-drops on the parched earth,
and I would say to them that it may, perhaps, occasion
A CHEISTMAS DREAM.
anguish to those they love and have lost, to see them in-
dulging sorrow that is useless, although grateful, and
that they should rather spend in mild pleasure the hours
of that holiest season when He came to bless the earth,
through whom we are taught that the dead and the living
may meet and be happy asrain.
Eighteen hundred and sixty ! And lo ! the Christmas
time again returns. Fifteen eventful years have passed
away since I cast thee — frail offering — upon the waters
of literature, little dreaming that thou would' st come back
to me, even " after many days." But it is the season
when many a wanderer revisits home, and why should'st
not thou cease to be a truant ? Welcome, slender " birth
of my thought " — memorial of the by-gone days with
which so many cheerful and saddening associations are
now connected. Industry and art have sent thee to me
in guise more attractive far than that in which thou first
went forth, and I behold the beauty of thy dress with
pleasure. Let me fold this new garment of affectionate
A CHKISTMAS DEEAM.
words about thee, and prepare thee once more for a jour-
ney into the wide, wide worhl.
It has been said that after thirty, we make no new
friends. Few have failed to verify, in their experience,
the general truth of the a2:)horism. And it may be an
illustration of this truth, that even in journeying toward
the fortieth year of existence, we advance often with
eyes cast backward, lingering with affectionate constancy
amidst the acquaintances and incidents of our prime. A
lock of hair, a ring, a word penned by some beloved hand
— the merest trifle, casually encountered, may recall the
hour when it first came to our touch. We fondle in mem-
ory over the memorial sometimes with tearful hearts.
And why may not this little book call up some tribute
from my sensibilities, when I behold in it the record of
that era when not one touch of frost had assailed my
brow, nor experience yet instructed me to distrust the
whispers of Hope or the promises of Ambition ?
Fifteen eventful years ! terminating at the period when
the onward march of life is inevitably and rapidly toward
indifference, infirmity, and death ! The hours now flit
away as instants, the seasons chase eacli other with rapid
A CHEISTMAS DREAM.
feet, and the years grow shorter and shorter. We who
feel these truths — let us look back over the interval I
have mentioned. The children, in whose sweet prattle we
once delighted, have long since forgotten that imperfect
speech which surpasses jDei-fect elocution, and have grown to
glib maturity. Ella no longer sits on our lap and hears our
stories of the nursery, or the Fairy realms. She was then
" Pure as the hues witliin the flower,
To summer and the sun unknown."
Even so pure is the darling now, but the world has
touched her nature, and the resistless cu:rrent of fashion
drawn her within its flow. She is the beloved of some
gallant gentleman, no doubt, who will monopolize all the
sweet favors which her young lips were wont to lavish on
many cherishing admirers. Ben, who was so formidable
on his cane, which he bestrode as if it were a Bucephalus,
to charge, like Coeur de Lion., castles made of chairs, in
which imaginary ogres imprisoned lovely virgins — Ben
swells the ranks of " Young America," knows the flavor
of every vintage — the reputation of every cuisine ; is elo-
quent upon Chateau Margaux and '' Figaros ;" discourses
politics, science, and art ; is didactic at times about " hu-
A CHKISTMAS DEEAM.
man nature ; " and wlien the dance goes on, performs in a
minute more revolutions than were ever thought of on the
continent. Our contemjDoraries — they who a few years
since showed glossy locks of all hues but silver — how
grizzly and dry they appear these cool mornings. We
beo;iu to doubt whether it is safe to associate with the old
fellows. But are they all here to-day ? Alas ! where is
he with whom so often in athletic exercise I sousrht the
rest and recreation most welcome after hours of toil, and
in whose company so many of the smaller hours were
passed, mingling revelry, I fear, with strange and versatile
discourse ? Where he with whom I first sought the shores
of the Old World, grateful that we might tread together
the " pleasant land of France," the vine-clad fields of Italy,
the green sward of the British Islands, in hours that seem
covered all over with the garlands of memory ? Where
he who, full of even audacious energy, was my associate
or my opponent in those struggles from which fame was
anticipated, if not won, and whose active brain and form
challenged alike the admiration of foe or friend? The
premature grave and the unrelenting sea must give the
sad responses to my call. Alas ! how I shudder when
A CHKISTMA8 DKEAM.
tlie past discloses to my mind's eye tliose, too, wlio, failing
to achieve any part of the triumphs for which they had
every endowment, went down so ignobly in the " battle
of life," leaving Charity to be the kindest and best
guardian of their memory. Alas ! too — how many have
dej^arted full of the honors which it might seem just that
they should enjoy forever, even in mortal existence ; they
whose old age was not less beautiful than their youth,
and " every wrinkle on whose brows was but a notch in
the calendar of a well-spent life."
Yet who shall repine at these, the common results of
our sublunary drama — these many parts and dooms ex-
hibited in the great theatre of humanity ? Why repeat
so tediously the lamentations which, in every tongue, and
far more eloquent phrase than mine, have been uttered
ever since man's voice was heard on earth ? Did I not
say that the Christmas time returns ? Here is the jocund
season ; the evergreens are gathered to deck the halls of
hospitable homes ; the members of families, separated for
months or years, are once more to assemble around the
familiar hearth-stones; the banquet and the music are
being prepared ; the flowers are already wreathed ; the
A CHRISTMAS DREAM.
memories awakened ; tlie ears and hearts attuned to
s}mj)]ionies ; and while the lights gleam, and the strains
of melody mingle in the brilliant atmosphere with de.
licious perfume, the laugh of age shall unite with that of
childhood, the feast shall be ample, the jest swift, the
dance nimbler than ever, and the hours go round with
only lustre on their wings. Go to ! Let us leave off this
useless sorrowing. What though the past exhibits a path
tracked with the tombs of l^eloved ones whose hearts,
that once throbl^ed in unison with ours, have long since
mouldered? What thouofh the circle of friends from
which so much of illumination radiated u2:)on our souls,
grows narrower, and we doubt whether, when the next
of its links is broken, we shall share or occasion the sor-
row of survivors ? Yet should we be of good cheer, and
snatch from passing Time whatever innocent grace or
pleasm^e he places Avithin our grasp. We are the recruits
of the vast army which has moved for ages onward to a
common fate — units of that
•• Innumerable caravan
AVhich moves to that mysterious realm.
Where each must take his chamber
Within the silent halls of Death."
A CHEISTMAS DREAM.
Our brotliers in tlie pilgrimage will fall at our side, but
however tliicldy tlie arrows of deatli may sliow^er, we can,
while our powers continue, do nauglit but move on until
we reach the awful instant when we are to exchange the
feeble pulses of transitory existence for the ceaseless
throbbings of eternal life. There, even there, at that
mysterious frontier, if we have been faithful and fearless
in the march, we may lie down obedient to destiny, with
the exalted hope that after all the objects of this world
shall have become lost forever to our mortal sight, there
may be unfolded to our new and spiritual vision another
realm of unimaginable glory, where we and all whom we
loved on earth may realize the promise which the Great
Ruler of the universe has made unto the just.