IT was bitterly cold, the sky glittered with stars, and
not a breeze stirred. 'Bump'- an old pot was thrown at a
neighbor's door; and 'bang, bang,' went the guns; for they
were greeting the New Year. It was New Year's Eve, and the
church clock was striking twelve. 'Tan-ta-ra-ra,
tan-ta-ra-ra,' sounded the horn, and the mail-coach came
lumbering up. The clumsy vehicle stopped at the gate of the
town; all the places had been taken, for there were twelve
passengers in the coach.
'Hurrah! hurrah!' cried the people in the town; for in
every house the New Year was being welcomed; and as the clock
struck, they stood up, the full glasses in their hands, to
drink success to the new comer. 'A happy New Year,' was the
cry; 'a pretty wife, plenty of money, and no sorrow or care.'
The wish passed round, and the glasses clashed together
till they rang again; while before the town-gate the mail
coach stopped with the twelve strange passengers. And who were
these strangers? Each of them had his passport and his luggage
with him; they even brought presents for me, and for you, and
for all the people in the town. 'Who were they? what did they
want? and what did they bring with them?'
'Good-morning,' they cried to the sentry at the town-gate.
'Good-morning,' replied the sentry; for the clock had
struck twelve. 'Your name and profession?' asked the sentry of
the one who alighted first from the carriage.
'See for yourself in the passport,' he replied. 'I am
myself;' and a famous fellow he looked, arrayed in bear-skin
and fur boots. 'I am the man on whom many persons fix their
hopes. Come to me to-morrow, and I'll give you a New Year's
present. I throw shillings and pence among the people; I give
balls, no less than thirty-one; indeed, that is the highest
number I can spare for balls. My ships are often frozen in,
but in my offices it is warm and comfortable. My name is
JANUARY. I'm a merchant, and I generally bring my accounts
Then the second alighted. He seemed a merry fellow. He was
a director of a theatre, a manager of masked balls, and a
leader of all the amusements we can imagine. His luggage
consisted of a great cask.
'We'll dance the bung out of the cask at carnival time,'
said he; 'I'll prepare a merry tune for you and for myself
too. Unfortunately I have not long to live- the shortest time,
in fact, of my whole family- only twenty-eight days. Sometimes
they pop me in a day extra; but I trouble myself very little
about that. Hurrah!'
'You must not shout so,' said the sentry.
'Certainly I may shout,' retorted the man; 'I'm Prince
Carnival, travelling under the name of FEBRUARY.'
The third now got out. He looked a personification of
fasting; but he carried his nose very high, for he was related
to the 'forty (k)nights,' and was a weather prophet. But that
is not a very lucrative office, and therefore he praised
fasting. In his button-hole he carried a little bunch of
violets, but they were very small.
'MARCH, March,' the fourth called after him, slapping him
on the shoulder, 'don't you smell something? Make haste into
the guard room; they're drinking punch there; that's your
favorite drink. I can smell it out here already. Forward,
Master March.' But it was not true; the speaker only wanted to
remind him of his name, and to make an APRIL fool of him; for
with that fun the fourth generally began his career. He looked
very jovial, did little work, and had the more holidays. 'If
the world were only a little more settled,' said he: 'but
sometimes I'm obliged to be in a good humor, and sometimes a
bad one, according to circumstances; now rain, now sunshine.
I'm kind of a house agent, also a manager of funerals. I can
laugh or cry, according to circumstances. I have my summer
wardrobe in this box here, but it would be very foolish to put
it on now. Here I am. On Sundays I go out walking in shoes and
white silk stockings, and a muff.'
After him, a lady stepped out of the coach. She called
herself Miss MAY. She wore a summer dress and overshoes; her
dress was a light green, and she wore anemones in her hair.
She was so scented with wild-thyme, that it made the sentry
'Your health, and God bless you,' was her salutation to
How pretty she was! and such a singer! not a theatre
singer, nor a ballad singer; no, but a singer of the woods;
for she wandered through the gay green forest, and had a
concert there for her own amusement.
'Now comes the young lady,' said those in the carriage;
and out stepped a young dame, delicate, proud, and pretty. It
was Mistress JUNE, in whose service people become lazy and
fond of sleeping for hours. She gives a feast on the longest
day of the year, that there may be time for her guests to
partake of the numerous dishes at her table. Indeed, she keeps
her own carriage; but still she travelled by the mail, with
the rest, because she wished to show that she was not
high-minded. But she was not without a protector; her younger
brother, JULY, was with her. He was a plump young fellow, clad
in summer garments and wearing a straw hat. He had but very
little luggage with him, because it was so cumbersome in the
great heat; he had, however, swimming-trousers with him, which
are nothing to carry. Then came the mother herself, in
crinoline, Madame AUGUST, a wholesale dealer in fruit,
proprietress of a large number of fish ponds and a land
cultivator. She was fat and heated, yet she could use her
hands well, and would herself carry out beer to the laborers
in the field. 'In the sweat of the face shalt thou eat bread,'
said she; 'it is written in the Bible.' After work, came the
recreations, dancing and playing in the greenwood, and the
'harvest homes.' She was a thorough housewife.
After her a man came out of the coach, who is a painter;
he is the great master of colors, and is named SEPTEMBER. The
forest, on his arrival, had to change its colors when he
wished it; and how beautiful are the colors he chooses! The
woods glow with hues of red and gold and brown. This great
master painter could whistle like a blackbird. He was quick in
his work, and soon entwined the tendrils of the hop plant
around his beer jug. This was an ornament to the jug, and he
has a great love for ornament. There he stood with his color
pot in his hand, and that was the whole of his luggage. A
land-owner followed, who in the month for sowing seed attended
to the ploughing and was fond of field sports. Squire OCTOBER
brought his dog and his gun with him, and had nuts in his game
bag. 'Crack, crack.' He had a great deal of luggage, even an
English plough. He spoke of farming, but what he said could
scarcely be heard for the coughing and gasping of his
neighbor. It was NOVEMBER, who coughed violently as he got
out. He had a cold, which caused him to use his
pocket-handkerchief continually; and yet he said he was
obliged to accompany servant girls to their new places, and
initiate them into their winter service. He said he thought
his cold would never leave him when he went out woodcutting,
for he was a master sawyer, and had to supply wood to the
whole parish. He spent his evenings preparing wooden soles for
skates, for he knew, he said, that in a few weeks these shoes
would be wanted for the amusement of skating. At length the
last passenger made her appearance,- old Mother DECEMBER, with
her fire-stool. The dame was very old, but her eyes glistened
like two stars. She carried on her arm a flower-pot, in which
a little fir-tree was growing. 'This tree I shall guard and
cherish,' she said, 'that it may grow large by Christmas Eve,
and reach from the ground to the ceiling, to be covered and
adorned with flaming candles, golden apples, and little
figures. The fire-stool will be as warm as a stove, and I
shall then bring a story book out of my pocket, and read aloud
till all the children in the room are quite quiet. Then the
little figures on the tree will become lively, and the little
waxen angel at the top spread out his wings of gold-leaf, and
fly down from his green perch. He will kiss every one in the
room, great and small; yes, even the poor children who stand
in the passage, or out in the street singing a carol about the
'Star of Bethlehem.''
'Well, now the coach may drive away,' said the sentry; 'we
have the whole twelve. Let the horses be put up.'
'First, let all the twelve come to me,' said the captain
on duty, 'one after another. The passports I will keep here.
Each of them is available for one month; when that has passed,
I shall write the behavior of each on his passport. Mr.
JANUARY, have the goodness to come here.' And Mr. January
When a year has passed, I think I shall be able to tell
you what the twelve passengers have brought to you, to me, and
to all of us. Now I do not know, and probably even they don't
know themselves, for we live in strange times.