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The Pickwick Papers 191







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caught them. As to the poor relations, they kissed everybody, not even excepting the plainer portions of the young lady visitors, who, in their excessive confusion, ran right under the mistletoe, as soon as it was hung up, without knowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying the whole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy took the opportunity of appropriating to his own use, and summarily devouring, a particularly fine mince-pie, that had been carefully put by, for somebody else. Now, the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow, and curls in a tangle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old lady as before mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, looking with a very pleased countenance on all that was passing around him, when the young lady with the black eyes, after a little whispering with the other young ladies, made a sudden dart forward, and, putting her arm round Mr. Pickwicks neck, saluted him affectionately on the left cheek; and before Mr. Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surrounded by the whole body, and kissed by every one of them. It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group, now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin, and then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and to hear the peals of laughter which were raised on every side; but it was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a silk handkerchief, falling up against the wall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all the mysteries of blind-mans buff, with the utmost relish for the game, until at last he caught one of the poor relations, and then had to evade the blind-man himself, which he did with a nimbleness and agility that elicited the admiration and applause of all beholders. The poor relations caught the people who they thought would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caught themselves. When they all tired of blind-mans buff, there was a great game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the raisins were gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash- house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible. This, said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, this is, indeed, comfort. Our invariable custom, replied Mr. Wardle. Everybody sits down with us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now--servants and all; and here we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and beguile the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire. Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred. The deep red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the farthest corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on every face. Come, said Wardle, a song--a Christmas song! Ill give you one, in default of a better. Bravo! said Mr. Pickwick. Fill up, cried Wardle. It will be two hours, good, before you see the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail; fill up all round, and now for the song. Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice, commenced without more ado-- A CHRISTMAS CAROL I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing Let the blossoms and buds be borne; He woos them amain with his treacherous rain, And he scatters them ere the morn. An inconstant elf, he knows not himself, Nor his own changing mind an hour, Hell smile in your face, and, with wry grimace, Hell wither your youngest flower. Let the Summer sun to his bright home run, He shall never be sought by me; When hes dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud And care not how sulky he be! For his darling child is the madness wild That sports in fierce fevers train; And when love is too strong, it dont last long, As many have found to their pain. A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light Of the modest and gentle moon, Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween, Than the broad and unblushing noon. But every leaf awakens my grief, As it lieth beneath the tree; So let Autumn air be never so fair, It by no means agrees with me. But my song I troll

The Pickwick Papers page 190        The Pickwick Papers page 192