70 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
comes, under a state-canopy of cake, and wearing yet his ancient crown. The lady whom we see advancing in the distance, we take to be St. Distaff. She used to be a sad romp ; but her merriest days, we fear, are over—for she is looking very like an old maid. Not far behind her, we fancy we can hear the clear voice of Caroll singing, as he comes along, and, if our ears do not deceive us, the Waits are coming up in another direction. The children are dropping in, on all sides.
But what is he that looks down from yonder pedestal, in the back-ground, upon the merry muster, with a double face ?—and why, while the holly and the misletoe mingle with the white tresses that hang over the brow of the one, is the other hidden by a veil ? The face on which we gaze is the face of an old man, and a not uncheerful old man ;—a face marked by many a scar, —by the channels of tears that have been dried up, and the deep traces of sorrows passed away. Yet does it look placidly down, from beneath its crown of evergreens, on the joyous crew who are assembled, at the voice of Christmas. But what aspect hath that other face, which no man can see ?—Why doth our flesh creep, and the blood curdle in our veins, as we gaze ? What awful mystery doth that dark curtain hide ? What may be written on that covered brow,—that the old man dare not lift the veil, and show it to those laughing children ? Much—much—much that might spoil the revels. Much that man might not know, and yet bear to abide. That twin-face is Janus—he who shuts the gates upon the old year, and opens those of the new—he who looks into the past and into the future, and catches the reflections of both, and has the tales of each written on his respective brows. For the past, it is known and has been suffered ;— and even at a season like this, we can pause to retrace the story of its joys and of its sorrows, as they are graven on that open forehead ; and from that retrospect, glancing to the future for hope, can still turn to the present for enjoyment. But, oh ! that veil, and its solemn enigmas !—On that other brow may be written some secret, which, putting out the light of hope, should add the darkness of the future to the darkness of the past; until, amid '.he gloom behind, the festal lamps of the season, looked on by eyes dim with our