Edwin Hodder.

Our Christmas party online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryEdwin HodderOur Christmas party → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook






prrscntcb to



Author of " A Chat with the Boys on New Year's Eve ;" " Fireside Chats with the
Youngsters ;" Editor of "Merry and Wise," &c.

Eontion :







Preparations I

The Party 3

The Meandering Musician 9

Great Reform Debate and Demonstration 21

Round the Fire after Supper 32

Frozen up. W. H. G. KINGSTON 35

A Rescue in the Rocky Mountains. R. M. BALLANTYNE ... 60

Lost and Found. EDWIN HODDER 74

Castle Connor. MONA B. BICKERSTAFFE 87

The Black Dragoon. SIDNEY DARYL 97

A Christmas Dinner at Dr. LickemwelPs . R. HOPE MONCRIEFF. 112

A Wild Yule E'en. CYNTHA 129

Conclusion , 144



> EBECCA, I am going to give a party to some young
folks on Christmas Eve, and so you must hold your-
self in readiness for the occasion.''

Rebecca is my housekeeper, the best-hearted old
soul that ever lived ; she perfectly agrees with my ar-
rangements in the main, but feels bound, for some
reason which I have never attempted to fathom,
invariably to object to them at the first start, and then
to fall into them enthusiastically afterwards.
" Lor a mussy, Sir ! them parties "

I must here say that Rebecca despises the English Grammar ;
next to Baron Munchausen, who she somewhat irreverently calls
the " father of lies, 5 ' she objects to Lindley Murray.

It was not very often that she was really " put out 1 ' about any-
thing, but when she was her grammar was much worse than at
other times. Just as when a foreigner, who has lived in England
for years, and knows the language perfectly, gets into a rage, he
instinctively falls back upon his native tongue for expression.

" Lor a mussy, Sir ! them parties," said Rebecca, " is a getting
too much of a good thing, if I may make so bold as to say it. Its
always parties at this time of the year. You'll excuse me a men-

Old Merry's Christmas Party.

tioning of it, Mr. Merry," she continued, '' but if I might make so
bold again, I should say why don't you keep a school, or a sylum,
or a hinn, and so you could have the young people, as you call 'em,
always about you?''

Now you must not think that this was an expression of Rebecca's
real state of feeling, nor that I was in the least degree alarmed or
vexed at the light in which she viewed my proposition . Faithful
old servants, who have lived in one's family for a generation or so,
do get queer whims, and contract habits which could not be
tolerated in upstart new comers. Rebecca never gives way to an
explosion like this if anybody else is present, and I have two or
three alternatives always in reserve for pacifying her.

Not wishing to use any of the alternatives on the occasion in
question, I merely said

" Christmas only comes once a year, Rebecca, and I mean, as
long as I have health and strength, to keep up the good old custom
of giving Christmas parties, and I look to you to carry out the
arrangements this year in the same admirable way you have done
on so many previous occasions." If Rebecca could have blushed,
I believe she would have done so at this compliment, but her
blushing days have gone by, so she dropped a mild curtsey, and
said, "It shouldn't be her fault, please 'eving, that should prevent
this party being the best tve had ever given.''

So a council of war was held on the spot . Amelia and the cook
were summoned, paper and pencil were called into requisition, and
if a newspaper reporter, or a secretary of a society, had been
present, a summary of the proceedings would have been given in
something like the following style :

Moved by Mr. Merry, and seconded by Rebecca

" That the invitations be issued for six o'clock on Christmas
Eve, and that tea be served up in the breakfast room." Carried.

Moved by Rebecca, and seconded by Mr. Merry

" That, in the opinion of this meeting, it is desirable and ad-
visable that the fun of the evening should take place in the drawing
room ; that supper should be laid in the breakfast room ; that the


dining room be completely divested of furniture, to allow plenty of
room for dancing, and that the spare bedroom be appropriated
for the necessary costuming required by those who take part in the
charades. 3 ' Carried unanimously.

Moved by the cook, and seconded by Amelia

" That if false moustachios are required by those who take part
in the charades, young gentlemen be prohibited from using the
kitchen fire for burning the corks necessary for that purpose."

Moved by Amelia, and seconded by the cook

" That it is desirable to lock the cupboard in which the gas
metre is kept, and hide the key, as on a previous occasion much
inconvenience was sustained in consequence of one of the visitors
having turned off the gas."

Moved by Mr. Merry, and seconded by Rebecca

" That this meeting stands pledged to do its best to make the
party thoroughly pleasant and successful, and that all further ar-
rangements be left to a sub-committee, to consist of Mr. Merry."
Carried unanimously.

A vote of thanks having been passed to the Chairman for his
manly and impartial conduct in the chair, the meeting broke up
amid a general feeling of satisfaction .


HE clock was yet warm with its vigorous efforts to
strike the eventful hour of six on merry Christmas
Eve, when a carriage containing the first arrivals
came rattling down the street. There was no mis-
taking the energetic rat-tat-tat at the door; or, if
there had been, the buzz of voices was sufficient
to inform those inside that Charlie Stanley and his
party were there. As soon as the door was open there was a rush
and a scramble, for those mad young people had made many
rash stakes as to who should be the first to wish Old Merry the
compliments of the season. All stakes, however, were drawn,
for the object of their search was discovered simultaneously by
all the party ; discovered, too, in the act of coming down the
stairs, with his frill shirt, bald head, and pumps, glistening in
the light of the hall lamps, and a chorus of voices rang out the
welcome old salutation " A merry Christmas and a happy
New Year!"

Charlie and Walter Stanley, and Alec Boyce the lads who
went one summer with Old Merry to Switzerland had been
entrusted with the preparation of part of the evening's amuse-
ment. They were constituted masters of the ceremonies, and
had been charged to bottle up all their fun for at least two
days before the party, in order that it might explode and
scintillate for the benefit of the company. So, as a host of
packages were put down in the hall, Charlie said

The Party. 5

"Here are our properties, Mr. Merry wigs, crinolines,
whiskers, royal robes, banners from the camp of King John,
feathers from the chief of the Mohawks, diamonds lent privately
by the secretary of Sinbad the Sailor, the shield of Achilles,
kindly contributed by Mr. Barnum ; and here "

But here he stopped, for the rattle of horses' feet outside,
and a sharp rap at the door, announced fresh arrivals. Charlie
was in a dramatic humour, so, striking an attitude, he cried

" By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes ;
Open, locks, whoever knocks.

And, guards, what ho ! bear hence our treasures to some secret

" Such a getting up-stairs you never did see," as in a twink-
ling the impromptu guards obeyed the mandate of their chief.

Tom and Ada Martin, and the fiddle, were the next to
arrive. The fiddle was Tom's ; his special hobby. No party
was complete without it, for if it were not there neither was
Tom. His motto was, "Love me, love my fiddle." A merry
fellow was Tom ; he could sing and play, and the proudest
moments in Ada's life were when she accompanied him in a
solo on his violin. Moreover, he wrote poetry (?), rattling,
merry ditties, that broke out into exuberant choruses of

And it's heigh, ho, hum,
With a turn, turn, turn,

Fal lal de riddle ho, turn, turn, turn !

Ada Martin was Tom Martin in the feminine ; she had all
the boy's humour, with the girl's grace and refinement. Every-

Old Merry s Christmas Party.

body who knew her knew that she could tell them the last
new game, or ask the last new riddle ; and if at a party the fun
came to a standstill, and somebody asked "What shall we do
next?" the reply would be sure to come in the shape of a
question, " Where's Ada Martin ?" Ada rejoiced in long curls,
treacherous curls, that had made many a lad fall in love with
her ; in fact, Frank Edwards was once heard to say that he
should like to win her heart by gallantly rescuing her from the
power of some grim tyrant ; or, " Better still," said he, " if she
would fall into the sea off the pier at Margate, and I could
jump in and save her by catching hold of her beautiful curls,
it would be so jolly !"

Frank Edwards ! The next rat-tat announced him and his
sister, " Little Flo," as he called her at home, though in com-
pany she was Florence. Frank was very fond of his sister ;
he had a weakness for hair, as we have seen, and hers de-
scended like a cataract, or, as Frank said, like a Great Flow,
over her neck and shoulders. A bright, merry little fairy was
Florence Edwards, and a very popular young lady. Alec
Boyce was nearly on the point of fighting a duel with Walter
Stanley one snowy night, when it \vas proposed at a party that
she should be carried to the carriage, and it became a question
as to who should do it. Fortunately, however, no blood was
spilt, for the boys clasped hands, and carried her sedan-fashion ;
and as she had to put an arm over each shoulder, in order to
steady herself, what could be fairer ?

Elasticity runs in some families, as gout does in others, and
the Edwards' were elastic people. Frank could turn himseli
into a Catherine wheel, imitate Donato on one leg, dance a
hornpipe, or stand on his head and fire off sham pistols with

The Party. 7

both hands at once ; and as his talent was quite distinct from
that of the musical Tom Martin, or the dramatic Charlie
Stanley, he enjoyed a popularity as great in its way as theirs.

Rat-tat-tat !

The Misses Clara and Alice Stanley, with their music.

Mr. Stanley, with his microscopes.

Miss Marianne Layton, with her doll white tulle, looped
up with spangles.

Mr. Oswald Layton (his first appearance in stand-up collars.)

The Misses Emily and Nelly Cathcart (with their bran new
dolls blue tarleton, looped with snowdrops).

Master Willie Cathcart, with his dog Leo, who barks for
lumps of sugar.

Mr. Cathcart, with a prodigious white vest and a black
baton, " as leader of the choir."

Rat-tat-tat !

Misses and Masters, Misters and Mistresses, ad lib., ad infin.

Tea and coffee at six o'clock and why that should mean
from half-past six to seven, custom must reply is much better
than tea at six o'clock. A sit-down tea is a mistake ; it tries
the temperament, terrifies the timid, and taxes the talkers,
whereas tea and coffee implies wandering about with a cup in
your hand, and spilling it as occasion requires ; it makes work
for the lads and pleasure for the lassies, and it breaks the ice
between strangers. Little groups form and chat, and when a
joke has taken with effect, it is passed on to a neighbouring
group, and so all the company gets jocular. For instance,
Tom Martin was surrounded by his favourites, and was replying
to their questions as to how his violin had stood the cold

Old Merry s Christmas Party.

" Delightfully. But she is now reclining on the couch up-
stairs, in order to get up her strength for the evening."

" That's all fiddle de dee, said one." (Applause.)

" Why do you call the violin she ?" asked another.

" Because 1 have named her Pysche ; she has so much life
in her," answered Tom.

" You are her sycophant, then !" said another. (Renewed

" It seems to me your violin always has a very guttural
sound with it," remarked Alec Boyce. (Laughter.)

"Yes," replied Tom Martin ; "and no doubt the poet de-
tected the same thing in other instruments, when he composed
those time-honoured lines

" Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle."

Then the applause reached its climax, and of course the
little jokes were retailed to other groups.

By degrees the company in the tea-room began to decrease.
In the cold months, however temperate the atmosphere may
be kept, there is always a chilliness in passing from one room
to another, and especially at parties. When, therefore, the
drawing-room began to fill, Charlie started a proposition
<; Had we not better have a dance to warm us ?" and he added,
"It used to be the fashion to terminate a concert with God
save the Queen; and now the National Anthem comes first, and
it used to be the fashion to wind up a party with Sir Roger de
Coverley, but why should we not begin with it?" " Of course
nobody knew of any just cause or impediment, and so the
proposition was carried without a dissentient voice.

The Party. 9

Who can describe a party from beginning to end 1 It would
fill a large book to criticise all the songs and other perform-
ances, to chronicle all the jokes, and to tell again all the tales.
And how tame on paper are the little stories which are told
during a quadrille, when the introduction is given in La Pan-
telon, and the plot commences at LEte, and the incidents
increase in interest till Trenise, and the denouement is galloped
over in the Finale. Well, suffice it to say the fun kept up
unflagging!/, and as the evening advanced, and everybody was
in high spirits, Charlie Stanley collected his " troupe," and
began to make preparations for a charade. While the folding
doors were closed for the scenery to be placed in one room,
and while the seats were being adjusted in the other, the actors
in the charade were in the great excitement of dressing for
their parts. The boys had prepared the performances for the
evening beforehand, and supplied copies to all who were to
appear in the scenes ; and, as Charlie was good enough to
present Old Merry with complete copies, we will give them for
the benefit of our readers, with the condition on which they were
given to us, namely, that they should not be too severely
criticised from a literary point of view.

A brief overture on the piano, and then Charlie came to the
front of the folding doors, and said :

" Ladies and Gentlemen, I beg to announce that we are
about to act a burlesque charade, and you will be good enough
to try and find out our word. It is in three syllables ; the first
act will give two syllables used as one word, the second act
will give the remaining syllable, and the third act will bring in
the whole word. The charade is entitled

i o Old Merry s Christmas Party.



And will be supported by the following powerful cast :

EERLINDA] The "star" of the evening ... M

RODERIGO PIPKINS The meandering musician, in

love with Berlinda Master Tom Martin.

BANQUO BELVIDERE A RivaJ Master Frank Edwards.

THEOPHILUS BALDERDASH. Another Rival Master Alec Boyce.

Mrs. THOMPSON The Witch Miss Florence Ed-wards.

BERLINDA'S PA The Stern Parient MasterWalter Stanley.

ALONZO NAPOLEON SMITH. An American Showman Master CJiarlie Stanley.

Police, peasants, -wax figures, perambulators, &c. &>c.

A burst of applause followed the announcement, and was
renewed when the doors were thrown open and Berlinda was
discovered leaning out of a window overlooking the room, with
a candle burning by her side to assist her in viewing the stars?
on which she was supposed to be gazing.

BERLINDA (in a rhapsody addressing the stars}.

O ! beaming beauties of the broad and boundless abyss,
Whose whirling worlds seem wondrously whiter than is this.

! vision ! vast and various to my view,

Ye stars, which shine " because you've nothing else to do."

1 gaze upon your splendours, so superbly spacious

Good gracious !

A minstrel wanders forth. I'll quench the light
And hear his music on the airs of night.

(Puts out the candle^

I see her ! I see her ! I see her at the winder,
It is ! my beating heart ! it is Berlinda !

The Meandering M^cs^c^an. 1 1

Come forth, my lute ! ye muses, up above,
Smile while it thus amuses her I love !

(Cats are heard on the tiles in chorus^}
O, rapture ! 'tis Berlinda's voice I hear,
Those strains are hers alas ! I feel so queer
- Courage, faint heart ! thy mistress thou must please,
Pour forth thy lays upon the lazy breeze.

(Tunes his violin and sings to the air of " Beautiful Star")
Loverly girl, on yonder height,
Sweeter than the (h)owls of night,
Hear thy fond one's voice to you
Genteely asking, How do you do 1

How do you do-oo !

Chanticleer in the distance. Cock-a-doodle-do-oo !

C/wrus of Rivals. How do you do-oo 2

Lovely Berlinda, how do you do 1

RODER. Ha ! there are rivals such arrivals much I fear
Hist ! they are coming, my idea is to hide here.


Enter BANQUO BELVIDERE. (Anxiously gazes round and then

addresses the window^)

Berlinda ! art thou there, my own Berlinda ?
My heart is hot with love a very cinder
Alas ! she's gone to bed, she cannot hear,
And I shall go to Bedlam soon I fear.
I place these flowers on the sill within thy reach,
They're better, p'raps, than silly flowers of speech.


1 2 Old Merry s Christmas Party.

RODERIGO (comes forth a?id takes the flowers).

A sweet expression of my love, but not a dear one.
What, another rival 1 Yes, I think I hear one.

Enter THEOPHILUS BALDERDASH (with a cold in the head

sneezes violently during his speech}.
This is a scene indeed to foster love,
Brick walls around and chimney-pots above ;
Yon chanticleer the guardian bird is,
To join his voice with distant hurdy-gurdies.
All speaks of love, and shall my voice be still 1
Nay, perish ! Balderdash, an if you will,
But speak !

Addressing the window Berlinda, dearest ;

If walls have ears, surely thou hearest ;
Hearest thy lover, though his tones be hoarse,
Hearest by means of love's detective force,
Warm at the heart, though with a cold i' the head

(Aside.) (By Jove, I really ought to be in bed.)

Accept my love, resist it not, be not so cruel

(Sneezes again )

(Aside.) (I really must go in for something strong, and gruel.)
I leave this billet-^. Read, loved one, its contents ;
(Aside) (And I'll go home and seek my night habillew^z/^.)



A notability, as I'd ability to note. But see,
A witch ! a fortune-teller comes ! O, criminy !

The Meandering Musician. 1 3

I'll bribe the hag to gain Berlinda's bower,
And then I'll carry off my love within the hour.

Enter WITCH. What ho ! midnight marauder.

RODERIGO (in a whisper, taking her aside).

Order !

Let's have no rows that may arouse my bride ;
Go you and coax the fair one to my side ;
Bid her to fly with me, her lover and her lord,
And you shall have this note* as your reward.

WITCH (raps at window and BERLINDA appears).

Listen, Berlinda. The stars declare thy destiny is set,
Act now, 'tis well, forbear and you'll regret.
Thy lover waits to bear thee hence Away !
BERLINDA. Good woman, I have many lovers ; say,

Is it Roderigo Pipkins who is near 1
RODERIGO. I am here !

BERLINDA. Bless you, dear ! Now help me down and fly !
The sun will soon be mounting up the sky.
Farewell, my home ! farewell, my pa and ma !
Accept my last adieu. Ta, ta !

(RODERIGO carries her off the stage?)


SCENE a wood. BERLINDA and RODERIGO seated on the ground.
BER. Alas ! I'm hungry, love can't support itself on air.
ROD. I'm much more hungry ; think how much I've had to bear.
BER. Monster ! is it for this I left my frugal home in haste,
To fly with you and see this dreadful waste.

* T. Balderdash's.

14 Old Merry 's Christmas Party.

Where is our home ? where do you mean to go ?

ROD. Upon my word, Berlinda, I don't know ;

I think we'll pic-nic, drink the morning dew,
And eat the berries, see, I've got a few,
And then we'll take a quiet stroll to search
For parson, marriage lines, and church,
And then live happy ever after. What d'ye say ?

BER. Why, most emphatically, nay !

I call this treatment shameful, sinful, flagrant

ROD. Come, come Berlinda, let me have no vague rant ;
You wander in your speech. What is't you need 1

BER. My breakfast ! oh, I'm dying for a feed.

ROD. I would I were a bird, and then I might your favour win ;
Alas, I can but offer you some scrapings from my violin.

BERLINDA bursts into a passionate flood of tears, and RODERIGO
plays pathetically "Home, sweet home.' 1 '' By-and-by the sound
of voices and the tramp of feet are heard in the distance.

BER. O ! Roderigo, we're pursued ! they're armed ! what shall

we do ?
ROD. When they've mustered, we shall both get peppered, we

are in a stew.

Is't meet that we should wait, or shall we fly ?
BER. I would /were a bird !
ROD. And so do I.

But, see, your father comes his passion's at a pitch,
And he is followed by the rivals ; and the witch
BER. Which it is. O ! goodness, what will now become of

I'll climb but no, they'll think I'm " up a tree."

The Meandering Musician. 1 5

They come. Down, Roderigo ; down upon your knees.
ROD. It's not an easy place, but anything to please.
(Enter Infuriated Parient, Rivals, Witch, Policeman, and a

Per a mbulator. )
BERLINDA'S PA. Rogue ! villain ! rascal ! Lend me your ears

That I may pierce them with my taunts and jeers.

I come to claim my daughter you have borne away.
ROD. (aside.} Twere better she had not been born, I say.
BER. PA. And you shall answer for this day's affray.
ROD. I'm much afraid I shall ; but pray be calm.

My hand upon it I would never do her harm.
BER. PA. Silence, base rogue ! My friends, the time is fleeting,

I think we'd better now prorogue this meeting.
Riv. Not till we've fought, and thus expressed our hate.
ROD. Good Sirs, I deem that I am fortunate.

I'll fight you on the morrow not to-day.

Excuse me if I'm acting in a sordid way ;

BER. PA. Ho ! guards, bring forth the prison van, and bear

her hence.
(They carry BERLINDA to the perambulator en route she says:)

Dear Roderigo, dreadful is suspense ;

But write to me, prepaid, and when you see your way

All clear, be good enough to name the day.
ROD. (weeping?) Farewell, Berlinda, fairest of the fair!
BER. Good-bye, cheer up, old chap, and take that ere (hair).
Door closes while RODERIGO kisses the ringlet flung to him by
BERLINDA from the perambulator. )

1 6 Old Merry s Christmas Party.


Before the doors are open a servant in livery enters the
room, in which the company are seated, and puts up a placard
with the following notice :


Mr. Alonzo Napoleon Smith, of the Boundless Prairie,
America, begs to announce that he will exhibit his unrivalled


Admission free. Children half-price.


Prior to the opening of the doors Berlinda takes her seat
among the audience.

The door opens. A row of figures, covered over with sheets,
stand on rout seats round the room. One or two reclining
figures in the foreground. Overture on the violin, " How doth
the little busy bee," by Roderigo Pipkins, the meandering

A servant in livery then enters, and uncovers the wax- work
figures, revealing

JOAN OF ARC, represented by , ... Miss Florence Edwards.

QUEEN OF NIGHT Miss Emily Cathcart.


RICHARD III Master Walter Stanley.

Lay Figures, &>c., &>c.

Enter Alonzo Napoleon Smith, as Lecturer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, at the request of the Universe, seconded
by the United States of America, I have brought my caravan
from the Boundless Prairie, in order to raise the tone of the
fine arts in your country, and to devote the proceeds of

The Meandering Musician. 1 7

the entertainment to the liquidation of your national debt.
No, no ! not a word of thanks, I beg. Such an audience as
this before me fills me with awe, and I speak with authority
when I say that had I not a dash of Minerva's wisdom my
nervous system would hardly stand the ordeal.

I will not trouble you with an account of how I collected
the information which will be contained in my brief lecture.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryEdwin HodderOur Christmas party → online text (page 1 of 10)