144 THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS.
" Pretty babes, with hand in hand,
Went wandering up and down ;
But never more could see the man,
Returning from the town,"— »
or how " there came a ghost to Margaret's door," and chilled the life-blood in her veins, by his awful announcement,
" My bones are buried in a kirk-yard, Afar beyond the sea; And it is but my sprite, Marg'ret, That's speaking now to thee ;
or may have been replaced, in high quarters, by the improved narrative literature of the present day, and the traditions or memories which haunt all homes. But the spirit of the entertainment, itself, is still the same, varied only by circumstances in its forms.
Whatever may be said for the ancient ghost stories, which are fast losing ground,—fitting it is that, amid the mirth of this pleasant time, such thoughts should be occasionally stirred, and those phantoms of the heart brought back !—not that the joy of the young and hopeful should be thereby darkened,—but that they may be duly warned that " youth's a stuff will not endure," and taught, in time, the tenure upon which hope is held. That was a beautiful custom of the Jews which led them, when they built houses, to leave ever some part unfinished, as a memento of the ruin and desolation of their city. Not that they, therefore, built the less,—or the less cheerfully ; but that, in the very midst of their amplest accommodations, they preserved a perpetual and salutary reference to the evil of their condition—a useful check upon their worldly thoughts. And thus should mirth be welcomed, and hopes built up, wherever the materials present themselves ; but a mark should, notwithstanding, be placed upon the brightest of them all—remembrancers ever let in,—which may recall to us the imperfect condition of our nature here, and speak of the certain decay which must attend all hopes erected for mere earthly dwellings.
But thou shouldst speak of this—thou for whom the following lines were written long ago, though they have not, yet, met thine