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CHRISTMAS.

OVER the dial-face of the year, on which the

hours are months, the apex resting in sunshine, the base in withered leaves and snows, the finger of time does not travel with the same rapidity. Slowly it creeps up from snow to sunshine ; when it has gained the summit it seems almost to rest for a little ; rapidly it rushes down from sunshine to the snow. Judging from my own feelings, the distance from January to June is greater than from June to January —the period from Cliristmas to Midsummer seems longer than the period from Midsummer to Christmas. This feeling arises, I should fancy, from the preponderance of light on that half of the dial on which the finger seems to be travelling upwards, compared with the half on which it seems to be travelling downwards. This light to the eye, the mind translates into time. Summer days are long, often wearisomely so. The long-lighted days are bracketed together by a little bar of twilight, in which but a star or two find time to twinkle. Usually one has less occupation in summer than in winter, and the surplus

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age of summer light, a stage too large for the play, wearies, oppresses, sometimes appals. From the sense of time we can only shelter ourselves by occupation; and when occupation ceases while yet some three or four hours of light remain, the burden falls down, and is often greater than we can bear. Personally, I have a certain morbid fear of those endless summer twilights. A space of light stretching from half-past 2 A.M. to 11 P.M. affects me with a sense of infinity, of horrid sameness, just as the sea or the desert would do. I feel that for too long a period I am under the eye of a taskmaster. Twilight is always in itself, or at least in its suggestions, melancholy; and these midsummer twilights are so long, they pass through such series of lovely change, they are throughout so mournfully beautiful, that in the brain they beget strange thoughts, and in the heart strange feelings. We see too much of the sky, and the long, lovely, pathetic, lingering evening light, with its suggestions of eternity and death, which one cannot for the soul of one put into words, is somewhat too much for the comfort of a sensitive human mortal. The day dies, and makes no apology for being such an unconscionable time in dying; and all the while it colours our thoughts with its own solemnity. There is no relief from this kind of thing at midsummer. You cannot close your shutters and light your candles ; that in the tone of mind which circumstances superinduce would be brutality. You cannot take Pickwick to the window and read it by the dying light; that is profanation. If you have a friend with you, you can't talk ; the hour makes you silent. You are driven in on your self-consciousness. The long light wearies the eye, a sense of time disturbs and saddens the spirit; and that is the reason, I think, that one half of the year seems so much longer than the other half; that on the dial-plate whose hours are months, the restless finger seems to move more slowly when travelling upward from autumn leaves and snow to light, than when it is travelling downward from light to snow and withered leaves.

Of all the seasons of the year, I like winter best. That peculiar burden of time I have been speaking of, does not affect me now. The day is short, and I can fill it with work; when evening comes, I have my lighted room and my books. Should black care haunt me, I throw it off the scent in Spenser's forests, or seek refuge from it among Shakspeare's men and women, who are by far the best company I have met with, or am like to meet with, on earth. I am sitting at this present moment with my curtains drawn; the cheerful fire is winking at all the furniture in the room, and from every leg and arm the furniture is winking to the fire in return. I put off the outer world with my greatcoat and boots, and put on contentment and idleness with my slippers. On the hearth-rug, Pepper, coiled in a shaggy ball, is asleep in the ruddy light

and heat. An imaginative sense of the cold outside increases my present comfort — just as one never hugs one's own good luck so affectionately as when listening to the relation of some horrible misfortune which has overtaken others. Winter has fallen on Dreamthorp, and it looks as pretty when covered with snow, as when covered with apple blossom. Outside, the ground is hard as iron; and over the low dark hill, lo! the tender radiance that precedes the morn. Every window in the little village has its light, and to the traveller coming on, enveloped in his breath, the whole place shines like a congregation of glow-worms. A pleasant enough sight to him if his home be there! At this present season, the canal is not such a pleasant promenade as it was in summer. The barges come and go as usual, but at this time I do not envy the bargemen quite so much. The horse comes smoking along ; the tarpaulin which covers the merchandise is sprinkled with hoar frost; and the helmsman, smoking his short pipe for the mere heat of it, cowers over a few red cinders contained in a framework of iron. The labour of the poor fellows will soon be over for a time ; for if this frost continues, the canal will be sheathed in a night, and next day stones will be thrown upon it, and a daring urchin venturing upon it will go souse head over heels, and run home with his teeth in a chatter ; and the day after, the lake beneath the old castle will be sheeted, and the next, the villagers will be sliding on its gleaming face from ruddy dawn at nine to ruddy eve at three; and hours later, skaters yet unsatisfied will be moving ghost-like in the gloom - now one, now another, shooting on sounding irons into a clear space of frosty light, chasing the moon, or the flying image of a star! Happy youths leaning against the frosty wind !

I am a Christian I hope, although far from a muscular one--consequently I cannot join the skaters on the lake. The floor of ice, with the people upon it, will be but a picture to me. And, in truth, it is in its pictorial aspect that I chiefly love the bleak season. As an artist, winter can match summer any day. The heavy, feathery flakes have been falling all the night through, we shall suppose, and when you get up in the morning the world is draped in white. What a sight it is! It is the world you knew, but yet a different one. The familiar look has gone, and another has taken its place; and a not unpleasant puzzlement arises in your mind, born of the patent and the remembered aspect. It reminds you of a friend who has been suddenly placed in new circumstances, in whom there is much that you recognise, and much that is entirely strange. How purely, divinely white when the last snow-flake has just fallen! How exquisite and virginal the repose! It touches you like some perfection of music. And winter does not work only on a broad scale; he is careful in trifles. Pluck a single ivy leaf from the old wall, and see what a

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