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I have been looking on, this evening, at a
merry company of children assembled round
that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree.
The tree was planted in the middle of a great
round table, and towered high above their
heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude
of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled
and glittered with bright objects. There
were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the
green leaves; there were real watches (with
movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity
of being wound up) dangling from innumerable
twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs,
bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and
various other articles of domestic furniture
(wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton),
perched among the boughs, as if in
preparation for some fairy housekeeping;
there were jolly, broad-faced little men, much
more agreeable in appearance than many real
menand no wonder, for their heads took off,
and showed them to be full of sugar-plums;
there were fiddles and drums; there were
tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes,
sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, all kinds
of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls,
far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels;
there were baskets and pincushions in all devices;
there were guns, swords, and banners; there
were witches standing in enchanted rings of
pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were
teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases,
pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation
cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made
artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation
apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with
surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before
me, delightedly whispered to another pretty
child, her bosom friend, "There was everything,
and more." This motley collection of odd
objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit,
and flashing back the bright looks directed
towards it from every sidesome of the
diamond-eyes admiring it were hardly on a
level with the table, and a few were languishing
in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty
mothers, aunts, and nursesmade a lively
realisation of the fancies of childhood; and
set me thinking how all the trees that grow
and all the things that come into existence
on the earth, have their wild adornments at
that well-remembered time.

Being now at home again, and alone, the
only person in the house awake, my thoughts
are drawn back, by a fascination which I do not
care to resist, to my own childhood. I begin
to consider, what do we all remember best
upon the branches of the Christmas Tree of
our own young Christmas days, by which we
climbed to real life.

Straight, in the middle of the room, cramped
in the freedom of its growth by no encircling
walls or soon-reached ceiling, a shadowy tree
arises; and, looking up into the dreamy
brightness of its topfor I observe, in this
tree, the singular property that it appears to
grow downward towards the earthI look
into my youngest Christmas recollections!

All toys at first, I find. Up yonder, among
the green holly and red berries, is the Tumbler
with his hands in his pockets, who wouldn't
lie down, but whenever he was put upon the
floor, persisted in rolling his fat body about,
until he rolled himself still, and brought those
lobster eyes of his to bear upon mewhen I
affected to laugh very much, but in my heart of
hearts was extremely doubtful of him. Close
beside him is that infernal snuff-box, out of
which there sprang a demoniacal Counsellor in
a black gown, with an obnoxious head of hair,
and a red cloth mouth, wide open, who was
not to be endured on any terms, but could
not be put away either; for he used suddenly,
in a highly magnified state, to fly out
of Mammoth Snuff-boxes in dreams, when
least expected. Nor is the frog with cobbler's
wax on his tail, far off; for there was no
knowing where he wouldn't jump; and when
he flew over the candle, and came upon one's
hand with that spotted backred on a green
groundhe was horrible. The cardboard lady
in a blue-silk skirt, who was stood up against
the candlestick to dance, and whom I see on
the same branch, was milder, and was beautiful;
but I can't say as much for the larger cardboard
man, who used to be hung against the
wall and pulled by a string; there was a sinister
expression in that nose of his; and when he
got his legs round his neck (which he very
often did), he was ghastly, and not a creature
to be alone with.

When did that dreadful Mask first look at
me? Who put it on, and why was I so