The sparkling ice and snow covered hill and valley–tree and bush were glittering with diamonds–the broad, coarse rails of the fence shone like bars of solid silver, while little fringes of icicles glittered between each bar.
In the yard of yonder dwelling the scarlet berries of the mountain ash shine through a transparent casing of crystal, and the sable spruces and white pines, powdered and glittering with the frost, have assumed an icy brilliancy. The eaves of the house, the door knocker, the pickets of the fence, the honeysuckles and seringas, once the boast of summer, are all alike polished, varnished, and resplendent with their winter trappings, now gleaming in the last rays of the early sunset.
Within that large, old-fashioned dwelling might you see an ample parlor, all whose adjustments and arrangements speak of security, warmth, and home enjoyment; of money spent not for show, but for comfort. Thick crimson curtains descend in heavy folds over the embrasures of the windows, and the ample hearth and wide fireplace speak of the customs of the good old times, ere that gloomy, unpoetic, unsocial gnome–the air-tight–had monopolized the place of the blazing fireside.
No dark air-tight, however, filled our ancient chimney; but there was a genuine old-fashioned fire of the most approved architecture, with a gallant backlog and forestick, supporting and keeping in order a crackling pile of dry wood, that was whirring and blazing warm welcome for all whom it might concern, occasionally bursting forth into most portentous and earnest snaps, which rung through the room with a genuine, hospitable emphasis, as if the fire was enjoying himself, and having a good time, and wanted all hands to draw up and make themselves at home with him.
So looked that parlor to me, when, tired with a long day’s ride, I found my way into it, just at evening, and was greeted with a hearty welcome from my old friend, Colonel Winthrop.
In addition to all that I have already described, let the reader add, if he pleases, the vision of a wide and ample tea table, covered with a snowy cloth, on which the servants are depositing the evening meal.
I had not seen Winthrop for years; but we were old college friends, and I had gladly accepted an invitation to renew our ancient intimacy by passing the New Year’s season in his family. I found him still the same hale, kindly, cheery fellow as in days of old, though time had taken the same liberty with his handsome head that Jack Frost had with the cedars and spruces out of doors, in giving to it a graceful and becoming sprinkle of silver.
“Here you are, my dear fellow,” said he, shaking me by both hands–”just in season for the ham and chickens–coffee all smoking. My dear,” he added to a motherly-looking woman who now entered, “here’s John! I beg pardon, Mr. Stuart.” As he spoke, two bold, handsome boys broke into the room, accompanied by a huge Newfoundland dog–all as full of hilarity and abundant animation as an afternoon of glorious skating could have generated.
“Ha, Tom and Ned!–you rogues–you don’t want any supper to-night, I suppose,” said the father, gayly; “come up here and be introduced to my old friend. Here they come!” said he, as one by one the opening doors admitted the various children to the summons of the evening meal. “Here,” presenting a tall young girl, “is our eldest, beginning to think herself a young lady, on the strength of being fifteen years old, and wearing her hair tucked up. And here is Eliza,” said he, giving a pull to a blooming, roguish girl of ten, with large, saucy black eyes. “And here is Willie!” a bashful, blushing little fellow in a checked apron. “And now, where’s the little queen?–where’s her majesty?–where’s Ally?”
A golden head of curls was, at this instant, thrust timidly in at the door, and I caught a passing glimpse of a pair of great blue eyes; but the head, curls, eyes, and all, instantly vanished, though a little fat dimpled hand was seen holding on to the door, and swinging it back and forward. “Ally, dear, come in!” said the mother, in a tone of encouragement. “Come in, Ally! come in,” was repeated in various tones, by each child; but brother Tom pushed open the door, and taking the little recusant in his arms, brought her fairly in, and deposited her on her father’s knee. She took firm hold of his coat, and then turned and gazed shyly upon me–her large splendid blue eyes gleaming through her golden curls. It was evident that this was the pet lamb of the fold, and she was just at that age when babyhood is verging into childhood–an age often indefinitely prolonged in a large family, where the universal admiration that waits on every look, and motion, and word of the baby, and the multiplied monopolies and privileges of the baby estate, seem, by universal consent, to extend as long and as far as possible. And why not thus delay the little bark of the child among the flowery shores of its first Eden?–defer them as we may, the hard, the real, the cold commonplace of life comes on all too soon!