|Newspaper Title||Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 - 1900)|
|Trove Title||A Christmas Chime|
A CHRISTMAS CHIME.
E VERYONE said that old Tom Trudge was the most shocking old skin- flint that ever lived, but I go farther and say that he had no right to live at all. Nay, more; I assert that he had no right whatever to have been born at all; and, I believe, his birth was a sad mistake. He was as rich as the proverbial Jew, and though the old miser was as ugly as sin, his only child, Daisy, was as lovely as a young girl could be—ay, and a great deal more so—and old Tom Trudge said to himself, " When I take her home to the old country some great lord will fall in love with her and marry her, and I'll have lords and ladies for grandchildren, and I'll be a great fellow, no doubt !" He was disappointed, however, in his expectations, for Daisy fell in love with her handsome young music-teacher, ran away with him, and got married, Then old Tom gathered up all her dresses and everything that belonged to her, and destroyed them, so that there was not a vestage of Daisy left in the house. After that he locked up her room, and then he locked up his heart against everything in the world except money. So he lived by himself in his grand house, and no one had any intercourse with him there except his old house-keeper. CHAPTER II. IT was the night of Christmas Eve, and the full moon and stars were shining beautifully bright, when old Trudge opened hie garden gate and went out for a stroll. So on he walked, quite heedless of the passers-by, and only thinking of his utter loneliness, notwithstanding his richer. He felt depressed. How long he had walked, or where to, he could not say, when, on raising his head and looking around, he found himself opposite a wretched-looking little wooden shanty which stood a few paces in from the road. Here old Trudge paused, and placing his arms on the top of the dilapidated fence, gazed in at the abode. Well, now,'' said he, "I would bet a sovereign to a five-pound note," he was always on the safe side, "that that evident home of misery is also the home of vice. I am satisfied of that." Just at that moment a light appeared on the blind of one of the windows, and after a moment or two a child's voice was raised in song. In notes, sweet, clear, and beautiful, the following words rang out from the " evident home of misery and vice" :— '' Ring out the bells from east to west— From north to south ring out the bells ; Till gladness in each human breast, Unshadowed by one sorrow, swells. And as we listen to their tone, The vanished past shall reappear, And we shall clasp some idol flown, And, for a moment, deem it here.
Our better nature shall awake To those dear sounds upon the breeze ; And many an erring heart shall take Some holier thoughts and hope from these. Then ring the bells ! the hallowed bells ! Their clear vibrations shall destroy The heart's corruption, and its cells Shall all be filled with holy joy." " Bunkum," said old Trudge, as he moved away from the fence, and as he did so, he heard a man in the hovel cough violently, and then moan, as if in great pain and exhaustion. " Bad cough," said the old rascal, " very bad, indeed. Cooper you up yet, I suspect," and on he went. Then, as he looked up at the cloudless skieg, and the clear white moon, and the beautiful bright Btars, he repeated to himself a verse of the song : " And as we listen to their tone, The vanished past shall reappear, And we shall clasp some idol nown, And, for a moment, deem it here."
He placed his hand on his heart—or where his heart should have been—as he spoke, and the memory of Daisy—Daisy in her childhood—swept across his mind. " 1 never saw the skies so beautiful as they are to-night,'' said he, still gazing up. "Never saw them so perfectly beautiful," and then he heard these words, 'The heavens are filled with the majesty of God, and the earth with gladness and brotherly love; but the angels see the heart of old Trudge, and it is hard as steel, and as black as jet, therefore, he is miserable and unhappy, notwithstanding all his wealth." "Egad ! that's my own voice," said Trudge, and, turning round, there, to his utter astonishment, he beheld his second self. " Why," cried he, gasping, and grasping his stick, "who the mischief are you?" "Your better self," was the reply, "Your better self, called into partial existence a few moments ago by the song of a little
child. To-morrow, at the first chime of the.bell, I shall be fully developed, and you. Miser Trudge, shall be no more." "There !" said the old rascal, letting bis stick fall on the head of the speaker, " take that to develope you now." Then there was a yell, and a voice cried out:— "Oh, lor' ! Oh, lor' ! Oh, lor' ! you blooming old larrikin; whatever did you go and hit a chap on the nut for like that ?" and old Trudge opened his eyes, and looking about, saw that he had absolutely fallen asleep against a fence, and had, while slumbering, hit a boy who chanced to be passing. "Oh ! dear me," said Trudge. "Did I hurt your nut, my poor lad?" " You did so, sir, very much,'" replied the boy. "Ah, well, if I come near you again," said Trudge, "I shall hurt your nut very much more, that's all;" and he walked on, and having reached home, went to bed, where he dreamed all night about Daisy, and thought that she was singing the same song that he had heard from the lips of the unknown child. CHAPTER III. CHRISTMAS DAY, hurrah, hurrah ! . Christmas Day in the morning, oh I And old miser Trudge got out of bed, took his bath, dressed himself, and went away off in the same diiection that he had pursued the previous night. On and on he went, until he had reached the old shanty, and then he stopped and looked over the old fence, but there was no sign of any one about. < '•Now," said old Trudge, - may I be darned, and tilled, and tucked, and run. and back-stitched, and hemmed, if 1 can say what the dickens brought me here." Just as he said this, the door of the hovel opened, and a fair and beautiful little girl, about six or seven years of age, with long, glittering yellow hair, came out, quite noiselessly, and began to pluck some flowers. So intent was she upon her employment that she never noticed old Trudge till he gave a cough, then she started, and looked up at him. " Who are you pulling the flowers for ?" he asked, regardless of grammar. "For my papa, sir," she answered. " I wish to have them for him before he awakes. They are the only Christmas box I can give him, and he is so bad, so sick." " Did I hear you singing last night?" asked Trudge. " Yes, 6ir," she answered. " I sang the Christmas song that, my papa made, and taught me." " Where is your mamma? - ' he asked. She hesitated for a moment, but soon continued : " My mamma is bad too ; as sick as she can be, but she pretends to papa that she is not." And the little fingers trembled, the flowers dropped from their grasp, and, bending down her little head, she wept audibly, and then said : Oh, I wish someone would do something for us, for indeed we are badly off," and as she ceased to speak the first notes of the Christmas bells arose upon the morning breeze. Then as the child gazed up at Trudge, a marvellous change came over him, a light, a bright beautiful light approached him, and settled upon his head. And his face became radiant and shining, for his better nature had awakened.and the Miser Trudge had ceased to exist. Well, he looked about him in bewilderment, and then he exclaimed, "Oh, dear me ! what blessed change is this that has come over me. I never felt so happy in all my life. How beautiful all things about me have grown, and the bells, oh, the bells 1 Was there ever any music on the earth like the music they are making now ? You said just now, my dear, that you wished some one would aid you and your parents. Well, my child, I will do so. Come, lead me into them." Opening the gate he took her by the hand and Bhe brought him in. When he entered the room, which they did noiselessly, he saw the white, wasted face and form of a man in a miserably appointed bed, and beside him, fast asleep, in an old chair, the equally white face and wasted form of a young woman. Trudge gazed upon the sleepers, and while he did so, the tears swelled up into his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. His daughter and her husband 1 No ; they were nothing akin to him, but utter Btrangers whom he had never seen before. He held the child's hand all the time, and then he stooped down and said, " Call your mother gently, and do not awake your father." The child did as desired, and the sleeping woman awoke, raised her deep blue eyes to his, and then starting up, said: " May I ask—?" then Bhe stopped. . "Who I am ?" said Trudge, and then continued, " I am your neighbour and your friend. Take thip," and he placed his pocketbook in her hands, and then went on speaking, "I will send a doctor to you presently, and everything that your present condition requires, and this shall be a happier Christmas to you than you thought. And now, for a short time, old Trudge, the miser, bids you farewell. And he hurried away before she could express her thanks and gratitude, but she went after him and said : " Mr. Ti udge have you not a daughter named Daisy ?" j , „ " Yes," he replied, " I am going to seek her to-day.
"She was my dear school-mate," continued the young woman. " Perhaps you may have heard her speak of Bessy Blossom ? lam she. Her husband and mine were intimate friends—indeed, more like brothers than friends. You said you were going to seek her ; well, sir, you need not, for she and he have gone to the old country." "Gone to the old country," groaned Trudge, "and after all I shall Bpend a wretched Christmas Day. Oh, dear J do you hear that f The bells, I mean, I never heard them chiming so grandly before. Is not their music lovely ?' "Why. sir," she answered; "the bells are not ringing at all. They ceased a while ago." "Ceased," he exclaimed; "why you must be deaf, the who'e atmosphere seems filled with their harmony. I'll go ;'' and he walked away. Well, as he went along, he still heard the bells, and when he reached his own garden gate, the Bounds became glorious indeed. Just as he entered the garden his old housekeeper met him, and clapping her hands, exclaimed , " Ob, master ! Daisy's back again. Come home with her husband at last. Just then Daisy rau down the garden path, and when she had reached old Trudge, she threw herself into his arms, and while she kissed and bugged him she sobbed : "Oh ! dear, dear papa, we have met again at last, and on this Christmas Day you will forgive us." It was then that the bells rang out their grandest peals entirely, though no one but the reformed old miser could hear them. "Well now," said Daisy, as they all sat in the drawing-m>m, "my happiness would be perfect if I had my dear, dear friend, Bessy Blossom, sitting beside me." Trudge never said a word, but slipped out of the room, and in half-an-liour he was observed supporting a weakly and pale-faced man up the garden, and leading a little girl by the hand, while a pale woman walked alons u ith them, " Bob, old man," said Daisy's husband, " let me congratulate you. Your late uncle has left you his fortune. Then they went into the house, and if there were happier people in Australia I should like to know them, lut old Trudge was the happiest of them all, and the music of the bells sounded in his ears all that day, and what's more, it never went out of his heart ever after. So as the music of the bells fully developed his better nature, let them be rung, and if we enly listen to them aiight, they will surely develope our better nature too, if we possess one. Then ring the bells, the hallowed bells, Their clear vibrations shall destroy The heart's corruptions, and its cells Shall all be tilled with holy joy.