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Mother Kate, the watchman’s wife, at nine o’clock on New Year’s Eve, opened her little window, and put out her head into the night air. The snow was reddened by the light from the window as it fell in silent, heavy flakes upon the street. She observed the crowds of happy people, hurrying to and fro from the brilliantly lighted shops with presents, or pouring out of the various inns and coffee-houses, and going to the dances and other entertainments with which the New Year is married to the Old in joy and pleasure. But when a few cold flakes had lighted on her nose, she drew back her head, closed the window, and said to her husband: “Gottlieb, stay at home, and let Philip watch for thee to-night; for the snow comes as fast as it can from Heaven, and thou knowest the cold does thy old bones no good.
The streets will be gay to-night. There seems dancing and feasting in every house, masqueraders are going about, and Philip will enjoy the sport.”
Old Gottlieb nodded his assent. “I am willing, Kate,” he said. “My barometer, the old wound above my knee, has given me warning the last two days of a change of weather. It is only right that my son should aid me in a service to which he will be my successor.”
We must give the reader to understand that old Gottlieb had been a sergeant of cavalry in one of the king’s regiments, until he was made a cripple for life by a musket-ball, as he was the first mounting the walls of a hostile fort in a battle for his fatherland. The officer who commanded the attack received the cross of honor on the battlefield for his heroism, and was advanced in the service; while Gottlieb was fain to creep homewards on a pair of crutches. From pity they made him a schoolmaster, for he was intelligent, liked to read, and wrote a good hand. But when the school increased they took it away from him to provide for a young man who could do none of these as well as he, merely because he was a godson of one of the trustees. However, they promoted Gottlieb to the post of watchman, with the reversion of it to his son Philip, who had in the meantime bound himself to a gardener. It was only the good housewifery of Mistress Katharine, and the extreme moderation of old Gottlieb, that enabled them to live happily on the little they possessed. Philip gave his services to the gardener for his board and lodging, but he occasionally received very fine presents when he carried home flowers to the rich people of the town. He was a fresh, handsome young fellow, of six-and-twenty. Noble ladies often gave him sundry extra dollars for his fine looks, a thing they would never have thought of doing for an ugly face. Mrs. Kate had already put on her cloak to go to the gardener’s house to fetch her son, when he entered the apartment.