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HE Old Year being dead, and the New
Year coming of age, which he does,
breath is out of the old gentleman's body, nothing would serve the young spark but he must give a dinner upon the occasion, to which all the Days in the year were invited. The Festivals, whom he deputed as his stewards, were mightily taken with the notion. They had been engaged time out of mind, they said, in providing mirth and good cheer for mortals below ; and it was time they should have a taste of their own bounty. It was stiffly debated among them, whether the Fasts should be admitted. Some said, the appearance of such lean, starved guests, with their mortified faces, would pervert the ends of the meeting. But the objection was over-ruled by Christmas Day, who had a design upon Ash Wednesday (as you shall hear), and a mighty desire to see how the old Domine would behave himself
in his cups. Only the Vigils were requested to come with their lanterns, to light the gentlefolks home at night.
All the Days came to their day. Covers were provided for three hundred and sixty-five guests at the principal table; with an occasional knife and fork at the side-board for the Twenty-Ninth of February.
I should have told you, that cards of invitation had been issued. The carriers were the Hours ; twelve little, merry, whirligig foot-pages, as you should desire to see, that went all round, and found out the persons invited well enough, with the exception of Easter Day, Shrove Tuesday, and a few such Moveables, who had lately shifted their quarters.
Well, they all met at last, foul Days, fine Days, all sorts of Days, and a rare din they made of it. There was nothing but, Hail ! fellow Day,—well met-brother Day-sister Day,--only Lady Day kept a little on the aloof, and seemed somewhat scornful. Yet some said, Twelfth Day cut her out and out, for she came in a tiffany suit, white and gold, like a queen on a frost-cake, all royal, glittering, and Epiphanous. The rest came, some in green, some in white—but old Lent and his family were not yet out of mourning. Rainy Days came [in, dripping ; and sun-shiny Days helped them to change their stockings. Wedding Day was there in his marriage finery, a little the worse for wear. Pay Day came late, as he always does ; and Doomsday sent word-he might be expected.
April Fool (as my young lord's jester) took upon
himself to marshal the guests, and wild work he made with it. It would have posed old Erra Pater to have found out any given Day in the year, to erect a scheme upon-good Days, bad Days, were so shuffled together, to the confounding of all sober horoscopy.
He had stuck the Twenty First of June next to the Twenty Second of December, and the former looked like a Maypole siding a marrow-bone. Ash Wednesday got wedged in (as was concerted) betwixt Christmas and Lord Mayor's Days. Lord ! how he laid about him! Nothing but barons of beef and turkeys would go down with him—to the great greasing and detriment of his new sackcloth bib and tucker. And still Christmas Day was at his elbow, plying him with the wassail-bowl, till he roared, and hiccupp'd, and protested there was no faith in dried ling, but commended it to the devil for a sour, windy, acrimonious, censorious, hy-pocrit-crit-critical mess, and no dish for a gentleman. Then he dipt his fist into the middle of the great custard that stood before his left-hand neighbour, and daubed his hungry beard all over with it, till you would have taken him for the Last day in December, it so hung in icicles.
At another part of the table, Shrove Tuesday, was helping the Second of September to some cock broth,--which courtesy the latter returned with the delicate thigh of a hen pheasant-so there was no love lost for that matter. The Last of Lent was spunging upon Shrovetide's pancakes ; which April Fool perceiving, told him he did well, for pancakes were proper to a good fry-day.
In another part, a hubbub arose about the Th ieth of January, who, it seems, being a sour puritanic character, that thought nobody's meat good or sanctified enough for him, had smuggled into the room a calf's head, which he had had cooked at home for that purpose, thinking to feast thereon incontinently; but as it lay in the dish March manyweathers, who is a very fine lady, and subject to the meagrims, screamed out there was a “human head in the platter,” and raved about Herodias' daughter to that degree, that the obnoxious viand was obliged to be removed ; nor did she recover her stomach till she had gulped down a Restorative, confected of Oak Apple, which the merry Twenty Ninth of May always carries about with him for that purpose.
The King's health being called for after this, a notable dispute arose between the Twelfth of August (a zealous old Whig gentlewoman), and the Twenty Third of April (a new-fangled lady of the Tory stamp), as to which of them should have the honour to propose it. August grew hot upon the matter, affirming time out of mind the prescriptive right to have lain with her, till her rival had basely supplanted her ; whom she represented as little better than a kept mistress, who went about in fine clothes, while she (the legitimate BIRTHDAY) had scarcely a rag, &c.
April Fool, being made mediator, confirmed the right in the strongest form of words to the appellant, but decided for peace sake that the exercise of it
1 The late King.
should remain with the present possessor. At the same time, he slily rounded the first lady in the ear, that an action might lie against the Crown for bi-geny.
It beginning to grow a little duskish, Candlemas lustily bawled out for lights, which was opposed by all the Days, who protested against burning daylight. Then fair water was handed round in silver ewers, and the same lady was observed to take an unusual time in Washing herself.
May Day, with that sweetness which is peculiar to her, in a neat speech proposing the health of the founder, crowned her goblet (and by her example the rest of the company) with garlands. This being done, the lordly New Year from the upper end of the table, in a cordial but somewhat lofty tone, returned thanks. He felt proud on an occasion of meeting so many of his worthy father's late tenants, promised to improve their farms, and at the same time to abate (if any thing was found unreasonable) in their rents.
At the mention of this, the four Quarter Days involuntarily looked at each other, and smiled ; April Fool whistled to an old tune of “New Brooms ; ” and a surly old rebel at the further end of the table (who was discovered to be no other than the Fifth of November,) muttered out, distinctly enough to be heard by the whole company, words to this effect, that, “when the old one is gone, he is a fool that looks for a better.” Which rudeness of his, the guests resenting, unanimously voted his expulsion ; and the male-content was thrust out neck and heels into the cellar, as the