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gates of the City, at the corner of a wonderfully
quaint row of red-brick tenements,
which the clarionet obligingly informed me
were inhabited by the Minor-Canons. They
had odd little porches over the doors, like
sounding-boards over old pulpits; and I
thought I should like to see one of the Minor-
Canons come out upon his top step, and favour
us with a little Christmas discourse about the
poor scholars of Rochester: taking for his
text the words of his Master, relative to the
devouring of Widows' houses.

The clarionet was so communicative, and
my inclinations were (as they generally are),
of so vagabond a tendency, that I accompanied
the Waits across an open green called
the Vines, and assistedin the French sense
at the performance of two waltzes, two polkas,
and three Irish melodies, before I thought of
my inn any more. However, I returned to
it then, and found a fiddle in the kitchen, and
Ben, the wall-eyed young man, and two
chambermaids, circling round the great deal
table with the utmost animation.

I had a very bad night. It cannot have
been owing to the turkey, or the beefand
the Wassail is out of the questionbut, in
every endeavour that I made to get to sleep, I
failed most dismally. Now, I was at Badajos
with a fiddle; now, haunted by the widow's
murdered sister. Now, I was riding on a
little blind girl, to save my native town from
sack and ruin. Now, I was expostulating
with the dead mother of the unconscious little
sailor-boy; now, dealing in diamonds in Sky
Fair; now, for life or death, hiding mince-pies
under bed-room carpets. For all this, I was
never asleep; and, in whatsoever unreasonable
direction my mind rambled, the effigy of
Master Richard Watts perpetually embarrassed
it.

In a word, I only got out of the worshipful
Master Richard Watts's way, by getting
out of bed in the dark at six o'clock, and tumbling,
as my custom is, into all the cold water
that could be accumulated for the purpose.
The outer air was dull and cold enough in the
street, when I came down there; and the one
candle in our supper-room at Watts's Charity
looked as pale in the burning, as if it had had
a bad night too. But, my Travellers had all
slept soundly, and they took to the hot coffee,
and the piles of bread and butter which Ben
had arranged like deals in a timber-yard, as
kindly as I could desire.

While it was yet scarcely daylight, we
all came out into the street together, and
there shook hands. The widow took the
little sailor towards Chatham, where he was
to find a steamboat for Sheerness; the lawyer,
with an extremely knowing look, went his
own way, without committing himself by
announcing his intentions; two more struck
off by the cathedral and old castle for Maidstone;
and the book-pedlar accompanied me
over the bridge. As for me, I was going to
walk, by Cobham Woods, as far upon my
way to London as I fancied.

When I came to the stile and footpath by
which I was to diverge from the main-road,
I bade farewell to my last remaining Poor
Traveller, and pursued my way alone. And
now, the mists began to rise in the most beautiful
manner, and the sun to shine; and as I
went on through the bracing air seeing the
hoar-frost sparkle everywhere, I felt as if all
Nature shared in the joy of the great
Birthday.

Going through the woods, the softness of
my tread upon the mossy ground and among
the brown leaves, enhanced the Christmas
sacredness by which I felt surrounded. As
the whitened stems environed me, I thought
how the Founder of the time had never raised
his benignant hand, save to bless and heal,
except in the case of one unconscious tree.
By Cobham Hall, I came to the village, and
the churchyard where the dead had been
quietly buried, " in the sure and certain hope"
which Christmas time inspired. What children
could I see at play, and not be loving
of, recalling who had loved them! No garden
that I passed, was out of unison with the day,
for I remembered that the tomb was in a
garden, and that " she, supposing him to be
the gardener," had said, "Sir, if thou have
borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid
him, and I will take him away." In time, the
distant river with the ships, came full in view,
and with it pictures of the poor fishermen
mending their nets, who arose and followed
himof the teaching of the people from a ship
pushed off a little way from shore, by
reason of the multitudeof a majestic
figure walking on the water, in the loneliness
of night. My very shadow on the ground
was eloquent of Christmas; for, did not the
people lay their sick where the mere shadows
of the men who had heard and seen him,
might fall as they passed along?

Thus, Christmas begirt me, far and near,
until I had come to Blackheath, and had
walked down the long vista of gnarled old
trees in Greenwich Park, and was being
steam-rattled, through the mists now closing
in once more, towards the lights of London.
Brightly they shone, but not so brightly as
my own fire and the brighter faces around it,
when we came together to celebrate the day.
And there I told of worthy Master Richard
Watts, and of my supper with the Six
Poor Travellers who were neither Rogues
nor Proctors, and from that hour to this, I
have never seen one of them again.

THE END.

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