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I was possessed by the desire to treat the
Travellers to a supper and a temperate, glass
of hot Wassail; that the voice of Fame had
been heard in the land, declaring my ability
to make hot Wassail; that if I were permitted
to hold the feast, I should be found
conformable to reason, sobriety, and good
hours; in a word, that I could be merry and
wise myself, and had been even known at a
pinch to keep others so, although I was
decorated with no badge or medal, and was not
a Brother, Orator, Apostle, Saint, or Prophet
of any denomination whatever. In the end, I
prevailed, to my great joy. It was settled that
at nine o'clock that night, a Turkey and a
piece of Roast Beef should smoke upon the
board; and that I, faint and unworthy minister
for once of Master Richard Watts, should
preside as the Christmas-supper host of the
six Poor Travellers.

I went back to my inn, to give the necessary
directions for the Turkey and Roast Beef,
and, during the remainder of the day, could
settle to nothing for thinking of the Poor
Travellers. When the wind blew hard against
the windowsit was a cold day, with dark
gusts of sleet alternating with periods of
wild brightness, as if the year were dying
fitfullyI pictured them advancing towards
their resting-place along various cold roads,
and felt delighted to think how little they
foresaw the supper that awaited them. I
painted their portraits in my mind, and
indulged in little heightening touches. I
made them footsore; I made them weary;
I made them carry packs and bundles; I
made them stop by linger posts and milestones,
leaning on their bent sticks and looking
wistfully at what was written there; I
made them lose their way, and filled their
five wits with apprehensions of lying out all
night, and being frozen to death. I took up
my hat and went out, climbed to the top of
the Old Castle, and looked over the windy
hills that slope down to the Medway: almost
believing that I could descry some of my
Travellers in the distance. After it fell dark,
and the Cathedral bell was heard in the
invisible steeplequite a bower of frosty
rime when I had last seen itstriking five,
six, seven; I became so full of my Travellers
that I could eat no dinner, and felt constrained
to watch them still, in the red coals
of my fire. They were all arrived by this
time, I thought, had got their tickets, and
were gone in. —There, my pleasure was dashed
by the reflection that probably some Travellers
had come too late and were shut out.

After the Cathedral bell had struck eight,
I could smell a delicious savour of Turkey and
Roast Beef rising to the window of my adjoining
bed-room, which looked down into the
inn yard, just where the lights of the kitchen
reddened a massive fragment of the Castle
Wall. It was high time to make the Wassail
now; therefore, I had up the materials (which,
together with their proportions and combinations,
I must decline to impart, as the only
secret of my own I was ever known to keep),
and made a glorious jorum. Not in a bowl;
for, a bowl anywhere but on a shelf, is a low
superstition fraught with cooling and slopping;
but, in a brown earthenware pitcher,
tenderly suffocated when full, with a coarse
cloth. It being now upon the stroke of nine,
I set out for Watts's Charity, carrying my
brown beauty in my arms. I would trust
Ben the waiter with untold gold; but, there
are strings in the human heart which must
never be sounded by another, and drinks
that I make myself are those strings in mine.

The Travellers were all assembled, the cloth
was laid, and Ben had brought a great billet
of wood, and had laid it artfully on the top
of the fire, so that a touch or two of the
poker after supper should make a roaring
blaze. Having deposited my brown beauty
in a red nook of the hearth inside the fender,
where she soon began to sing like an ethereal
cricket, diffusing at the same time odours
as of ripe vineyards, spice forests, and orange
grovesI say, having stationed my beauty
in a place of security and improvement, I
introduced myself to my guests by shaking
hands all round, and giving them a hearty
welcome.

I found the party to be thus composed.
Firstly, myself. Secondly, a very decent man
indeed, with his right arm in a sling; who
had a certain clean, agreeable smell of wood
about him, from which I judged him to have
something to do with shipbuilding. Thirdly,
a little sailor-boy, a mere child, with a profusion
of rich dark brown hair, and deep
womanly-looking eyes. Fourthly, a shabby-
genteel personage in a threadbare black suit,
and apparently in very bad circumstances,
with a dry suspicious look; the absent
buttons on his waistcoat eked out with red
tape; and a bundle of extraordinarily tattered
papers sticking out of an inner breast-pocket.
Fifthly, a foreigner by birth, but an Englishman
in speech, who carried his pipe in the
band of his hat, and lost no time in telling
me, in an easy, simple, engaging way, that he
was a watchmaker from Geneva, and travelled
all about the continent, mostly on foot, working
as a journeyman, and seeing new countries
possibly (I thought) also smuggling a watch
or so, now and then. Sixthly, a little widow,
who had been very pretty and was still very
young, but whose beauty had been wrecked in
some great misfortune, and whose manner
was remarkably timid, scared, and solitary.
Seventhly and lastly, a Traveller of a kind
familiar to my boyhood, but now almost
obsolete: a Book-Pedlar: who had a quantity
of Pamphlets and Numbers with him, and
who presently boasted that he could repeat
more verses in an evening, than he could sell
in a twelvemonth.

All these I have mentioned, in the order in
which they sat at table. I presided, and the
matronly presence faced me. We were not

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