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Journey. A Stage-Coach, however, carries animation always with it, and puts the world in motion as it whirls along. The horn, sounded at the entrance of a village, produces a general bustle. Some hasten forth to meet friends ; some with bundles and bandboxes to secure places, and in the hurry of the moment can hardly take leave of the
that panies them. In the mean time, the coachman has a world of small commissions to execute; sometimes he delivers a hare or pheasant; sometimes jerks a small parcel or newspaper to the door of a public house; and sometimes, with knowing leer and words of sly import, hands to some half-blushing, half-laughing housemaid, an odd-shaped billetdoux from some rustic admirer. As the coach rattles through the village, every one runs to the window, and you have glances on every side of fresh country faces, and blooming giggling girls. At the corners are assembled juntos of village idlers and wise men, who take their stations there for the important purpose of seeing company pass: but the sagest knot is generally at the blacksmith's, to whom the passing of the coach is an event fruitful of much speculation. The smith, with the horse's heel in his lap, pauses as the vehicle whirls by; the cyclops round the anvil suspend their ringing hammers, and suffer the iron to grow cool; and the sooty spectre in brown paper cap, labouring at the bellows, leans on the handle for a moment, and per. mits the asthmatic engine to heave a long-drawn sigh, while he glares through the murky smoke and sulphureous gleams of the smithy
Perhaps the impending holyday might have given a more than usual animation to the country, for it seemed to me as if every body was in good looks and good spirits. Game, poultry, and other luxuries of the table, were in brisk circulation in the villages the grocers, butchers, and fruiterers' shops, wer thronged with customers. The housewives were stirring briskly about, putting their dwellings in order ; and the glossy branches of holly, with their bright red berries, began to appear at the windows. The scene brought to mind an old writer's account of Christinas preparations. "Now capons and hens, besides tur
“ keys, geese, and ducks, with beef and mutton-must all die--for in twelve days a multitude of people will not be fed with a little. Now plums and spice, sugar
а and honey, square it among pies and broth. Now or never must music be in tune, for the youth must dance and sing to get them a heat, while the aged sit by the fire. The country maid leaves half her market,
. and must be sent again, if she forgets a pair of cards on Christmas eve. Great is the contention of Holly and Ivy, whether master or dame wears the breeches. Dice and cards benefit the butler; and if the cook do not lack wit, he will sweetly lick his fingers."
I was roused from this fit of luxurious meditation, by a shout from my little travelling companions. They had been looking out of the coach-windows for the last few miles, recognising every tree and cottage as they approached home, and now there was a general burst of joy—“There's John! and there's old Carlo!
and there 's Bantam !" cried the happy little rogues, clapping their hands.
At the end of a lane, there was an old soberlooking servant in livery, waiting for them; he was accompanied by a superannuated pointer, and by the redoubtable Bantam, a little old rat of a pony, with a shagay mane and long rusty tail, who stood dozing quietly by the road-side, little dreaming of the bustling times that awaited him.
I was pleased to see the fondness with which the little fellows leaped about the steady old footman, and hugged the pointer, who wriggled his whole body for joy. But Bantam was the great object of interest; all wanted to mount at once, and it was with some difficulty that John arranged that they should ride by turns, and the eldest should ride first.
Off they set at last; one on the pony, with the dog bounding and barking before him, and the others holding John's hands; both talking at once and overpowering him with questions about home, and with school anecdotes. I looked after them with a feeling in which I do not know whether pleasure or melancholy predominated; for I was reminded of those days when, like them, I had neither known care nor borrow, and a holyday was the summit of earthly felicity. We stopped a few moments afterwards, to water the horses ; and on resuming our route, a turn of the road brought us in sight of a neat country-seat I could just distinguish the forms of a lady and two young girls in the portico, and I saw my little com. rades, with Bantam, Carlo, and old John, trooping
but a grove
along the carriage road. I leaned out of the coachwindow, in hopes of witnessing the happy meeting,
of trees shut it from my sight. In the evening we reached a village where I had determined to pass the night. As we drove into the great gateway of the inn, I saw, on one side, the light of a rousing kitchen fire beaming through a window. I entered, and admired, for the hundredth time, that picture of convenience, neatness, and broad honest enjoyment, the kitchen of an English inn. It was of spacious dimensions, hung round with copper and tin vessels highly polished, and decorated here and there with a Christmas green. Hams, tongues; and fitches of bacon, were suspended from the ceiling; a smokejack made its ceaseless clanking beside the fire-place, and a clock ticked in one corner. A well-scoured deal table extended along one side of the kitchen, with a cold round of beef, and other hearty viands, upon it, over which two foaming tankards of ale seemed mounting guard. Travellers of inferior order were preparing to attack this stout repast, whilst others sat smoking and gossiping over their ale on two highbacked oaken settles beside the fire. Trim housemaids were hurrying backwards and forwards, under the directions of a fresh bustling landlady; but still seizing an occasional moment to exchange a flippant word, and have a rallying laugh, with the group round the fire. The scene coinpletely realized Poor Robin's humble idea of the comforts of mid-winter:
Now trees their leafy hats do bare
I had not been long at the inn, when a post-chaise drove up to the door. A young gentleman stepped out, and by the light of the lamps I caught a glimpse of a countenance which I thought I knew. I moved forward to get a nearer view, when his eye caught mine. I was not mistaken ; it was Frank Bracebridge, a sprightly good-humoured young fellow, wih whom I had once travelled on the continent. Our meeting was extremely cordial, for the countenance of an old fellow-traveller always brings up the recollection of a thousand pleasant scenes, odd adventures, and excellent jokes. To discuss all these in a transient interview at an inn, was impossible ; and finding that I was not pressed for time, and was merely making a tour of observation, he insisted that I should give him a day or two at his father's country. seat, to which he was going to pass the holydays, and which lay at a few miles' distance. “It is bet- . ter than eating a solitary Christmas dinner at an inn," said he," and I can assure you of a hearty welcome, in something of the old-fashioned style." His reasoning was cogent, and I must confess the preparation I had
* Poor Robin's Almanack, 1694.