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Full text of "A Christmas dream"

BOSTON 
PUBLIC 
UBRARY 




/^ 






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, 



NEW YORK: 

[• 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. 



C\t\f 



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 
Yours ever. 

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- 
lous hand. 

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 
and degraded. 

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 

(2) 9 



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- 

10 



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 
wildest nio;hts. 

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 



V2 



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 

13 



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 
Year." 

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 

14 



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- 

15 



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 
they long. 

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, 

16 



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. 
(8) 17 




^ 



CHAPTER II. 

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- 
netic telegraphs." 

" 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 — 

\8 



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 

19 



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- 



20 



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 
mortal bosom. 

" 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, 

21 



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- 




^^\.vy 



tation that they must soon behold one who never grasped 
the hand of his fellow from any hut a brother's feeling. 

23 



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." 

24 




CHAPTER III. 

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- 
(4) 25 



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- 

26 



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 
home i 

" 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 
28 



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 

29 



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." 

30 



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. 

31 



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 

32 



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 

(5) 83 



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 

:J4 



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 

35 



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 
/ .38 



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 

39 



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." 
40 



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. 

Christmas, 1860. 

(G) 41 



gi^v?r.-.V;i>-<;^ 



Ti