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looming out, with a dark background,
but with rows and rows of the old genial crimson
light that set my heart a-dancing. Most
welcome crunching of wheels upon the frozen
snow as we turn up to the porch. I see the
gate standing wide open, figures standing
close, welcoming faces, with one, gentlest in
the world and now radiant as an angel!
Then shaking of hands by everybody: by
many I know not. Then a sweet mist for
the rest of the night; long vistas down great
halls: softest suffusion of yellow light playing
on more faces crowding in on me. O night
never to be forgotten! Rather let it sink
and be lost in those red embers now once
more falling in so suddenly.

How I long for gentle sympathising faces,
something that can feel for, feel with me!
Here about me are the old walls; the old
rooms, the long halls just as they were then.
Here is the ivy and the holly, and red berries
thick overhead, garnishing every corner and
cranny, hiding close every projecting bit of
oak, of stone; all just as it was then. Here
were the garners full to overflowing, as the
old steward had told me; the stores laid in,
the feast set out. To-morrow would be the
famous Christmas morning, come round
again. To-morrow the friends and neighbours
would come in crowds and fill the
great hall, just as of old. There they would
sit, far down along the sides of the long
tables, bright happy faces in two rows, all
looking to that place at the head, where the
squire was sitting; songs of welcome, glad
words,—long life and prosperity to the
master, returned at last; the head of the old
family. There were good hearty families
living about, many who had known the old
squire (so the steward had told me) who
would be glad to take by the hand, to
know and love his last descendant. They
abounded, they waited but for a sign;
to-morrow would be the glad day. These things
were no dreams, no idle fancies: to-morrow
they would be realities. Why should I cut
myself off from such cheering hopes? There
might be some bright days in store for me
after all.

Down they had crumbled once more into a
white heap of ashes. They were dying out,
and with them the night. For, just at that
instant, I hear afar off, most faint tinkling as
of silver fold-bells, as though there were
shepherds then abroad in the fields, keeping
watch over their flocks by night. Rising up
and going over softly to the windows, I see
that the snow has been falling thick upon the
ground, and can observe out afar off, beyond
the white fields in the direction of Mytton
church, a little red speck; by which I know
that the ringers are in the belfry, ringing in
the Christmas morning. O, sweetest, most
musical Christmas carols! I take them up
with me still sounding in my ears as I go to ,
rest, and fall to sleep, to dream hopefully.

I woke on Christmas morning to the same
merry tunes to find my dream realised.
Mytton Grange never saw a jollier day. Old
Dipchurch had thoroughly preserved its
traditional Christmas; for not a tenant, nor a
tenant's wife, nor son, nor daughter, was
absent; and many a neighbour, whom the
busily spread news of the new squire's
arrival had readied, came also to give him
a right hearty English Welcome Home! If
Captain Sharon, and the grey shrivelled old
clerk could only have been with me!


MY father was a bakerat least so the
world believedthough a good many more
watches and jewels came into our bakehouse
than sacks of flour. The general public
could never understand why our bread was
so much dearer than any other baker's, nor
why we were so independent in our mode of
transacting business. If the general public
had seen the inside of some of the pies which
were brought into our shop on the pretence
of being baked, the general public would have
been a good deal wiser.

My father was, in fact, a receiver of stolen
goods; and a thriving, because a prudent and
accomplished man, at his business. He kept
good faith with his customers, and they, in
return, were faithful to him. What he said
he would pay, he paid; and what he received
in the middle of watch and jewel-pies, he
settled for, as the money was wanted, in the
middle of golden-penny-loaves, and
silver-half-quarterns. The only mistake he made
was that of sticking too close to his occupation!
The result was, that he died suddenly
one night.

My mother (she was only my stepmother)
took care of herself, and swept up the whole
of my father's property. When I returned
from the funeral, I found the place in the
possession of strangers, and that my mother
had quietly left her mourning coach for a
hackney cab, at an early part of the return
journey. I never saw her again; and when
I heard, some years afterwards, that she had
repented of the errors of her youth, and had
devoted all my father's wealth (for he died
very rich) to building a chapel, and endowing
a clergyman to serve in it, I took the
liberty of doubting the correctness of the

I was thus suddenly thrown upon the
world at the age of nineteen, with no capital
to speak of, and compelled to seek my living.
Regular employment, with its small, certain
gains and its irksome confinement, was
decidedly unsuited to my taste and habits,
and I had been brought up in too good a
school to rush headlong into any criminal
enterprise that involved much labour and
risk. I was too young to start in opposition
to the new occupants of my late father's
premises; although I might have commanded
the whole of that excellent criminal connection;