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the humble-bee, tolled the sweets from all the rosy lips of the country round.
The bashfulness of the guests soon gave way before good cheer and affability. There is something genuine and affectionate in the gayety of the lower orders, when it is excited by the bounty and familiarity of those above them; the warm glow of gratitude enters into their mirth, and a kind word or a small pleasantry frankly uttered by a patron, gladdens the heart of the dependant inore than oil and wine. When the 'Squire had retired, the merriment increased, and there was much joking and laughter, particularly be. tween Master Simon and a hale, ruddy-faced, whiteheaded farmer, who appeared to be the wit of the village; for 1 observed all his companions to wait with open mouths for his retorts, and burst into a gratuitous laugh before they could well understand thein.
The whole house indeed seemed abandoned to merriment: as I passed to my room to dress for dinner, I heard the sound of music in a small court, and
looking through a window that commanded it, I per-ceived a band of wandering musicians, with pandean
pipes and tambourine; a pretty coquettish housemaid was dancing a jiy with a smart country lad, while several of the other servants were looking on. In the midst of her sport, the girl caught a glimpse of my face at the window, and colouring up, ran off with an air of roguish affected confusion.
Lo, now is come our joyful'st feast !
Let every man be jolly,
And overy post with holly.
And Christmas blocks are burning;
I had finished my toilet, and was loitering with Frank Bracebridge in the library, when we heard a distant thwacking sound, which he informed me was a signal for the serving up of the dinner. The 'Squire kept up old customs in kitchen as well as hall; and the rolling-pin struck upon the dresser by the cook, summoned the servants to carry in the meats.
Just in this nick the cook knock'd thrice,
His summons did obey ;
Presented, and away.*
The dinner was served up in the great hall, where the 'Squire always held his Christmas banquet. A blazing crackling fire of logs had been heaped on to warm the spacious apartment, and the flame went sparkling and wreathing up the wide-mouthed chimney. The great picture of the crusader and his white horse had been profusely decorated with greens for the occasion; and holly and ivy had likewise been wreathed round the helmet and weapons on the opposite wall, which I understood were the arms of the same warrior. I must own, by-the-hy, I had strong doubts about the authenticity of the painting and armour as having belonged to the crusader, they certainly having the stamp of more recent days; but I was told that the painting had been so considered time out of mind; and that, as to the armour, it had been found in a lumber-room, and elevated to its present situation by the 'Squire, who at once determined it to be the armour of the family hero; and as he was absolute authority on all such subjects in his own household, the matter had passed into current acceptation. A sideboard was set out just under this chivalric trophy, on which was a display of plate that might have vied (at least in variety) with Belshazzar' parade of the vessels of the temple; “flayons, cans, cups, beakers, goblets, basins, and ewers;" the gorgeous utensils of good companionship that had gradually accuniulated through many generations of jovial housekeepers. Before these stood the two yule candles, beaming like two stars of the first magnitude; other lights were distributed in branches, and the whole array glittered like a firmament of silver.
We were ushered into this banqucting scene with the sound of ininstrelsy; the old harper being seated on a stool beside the fire-place, and twanging his instrument with a vast dcal more power than melody. Never did Christmas board display a more goodly and gracious assemblage of countenances; those who were not handsome, were, at least, happy; and happiness is a rare improver of your hard-favoured visage. I always consider an old English family as well worth studying as a collection of Holbein's portraits, or Albert Durer's prints. There is much antiquarian lore to be acquired; much knowledge of the physiognomies of former times. Perhaps it may be from having continually before their eyes those rows of old farnily portraits, with which the mansions of this country are stocked; certain it is, that the quaint features of antiquity are often most faithfully perpetuated in these ancient lines ; and I have traced an old family nose through a whole picture-gallery, legitimately handed down from generation to generation, almost from the time of the Conquest. Something of the kind was to be observed in the worthy company around me. Many of their faces had evidently originated in a Gothic age, and been merely copied by succeeding generations; and there was one little girl, in particular, of staid demeanour, with a high Roman nose, and an antique vinegar aspect, who was a great favourite of the 'Squire's, being, as he said, a Brace