Page:Our American Holidays - Christmas.djvu/226

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setting sunlight we behold mountains of soft crimson snow! The sun hath set, and even more beautiful are the bright-starred nights of winter, than summer in all its glories beneath the broad moons of June. Through the woods of Windermere, from cottage to cottage, by coppice-pathways winding up to dwellings among the hill-rocks where the birch-trees cease to grow—

"Nodding their heads, before us go,
The merry minstrelsy."

They sing a salutation at every door, familiarly naming old and young by their Christian names; and the eyes that look upward from the vales to the hanging huts among the plats and cliffs, see the shadows of the dancers ever and anon crossing the light of the star-like window, and the merry music is heard like an echo dwelling in the sky. Across those humble thresholds often did we on Christmas-week nights of yore—wandering through our solitary silvan haunts, under the branches of trees within whose hollow trunks the squirrel slept—venture in, unasked perhaps, but not unwelcome, and, in the kindly spirit of the season, did our best, to merrify the Festival by tale or song. And now that we behold them not, are all those woods, and cliffs, and rivers, and tarns, and lakes, as beautiful as when they softened and brightened beneath our living