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a web of many textures

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It is pleasant, on the winter evenings, when the wind
is whistling by our doors and rattling our windows, as
though striving to get in, and howling down chimney
at us as we sit by the fire, to draw pleasantly around
the table and read amusing tales from books, or indulge
in a pleasant conversation, or, if a neighbor comes in,
form a cheerful party at whist, and in the healthful interest
of the game make the wintry hours pass away on
rosy wings. Whist is a great invention — fashionable,
interesting, and harmless. It forms a salutary exercise
for the reflective powers and the memory, through the
study of how to play and the constant tax upon the
mind to recall what has been played, involving the nice
matters of “finesse” and judicious “third-in-hand.” But
it should be played in silence, in accordance with its
name — whist! It is very annoying to have one or more
of the select four buzzing and chattering along through
the intricacy of the game, where attention is wanted, and
memory, to secure a triumph — when the honors do
not count, and the odd trick is indispensable to going
out. How vexing it is, when the whole turning of the
contest hangs upon your partner's third-hand-high, to


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have some remark induce forgetfulness, and down goes
the deuce, maybe, and to the deuce goes the game!
Whist! it is beautiful, when four sit down to a feast of
the intellectual, cut and shuffle calmly, and coolly, and
contemplatively, without the intermingling of scandal
or souchong-tea remark. We light our cigar, we assort
the cards, we deliberate on a lead; we judge by the hand
we hold where the strength of the battle lies, and
whether to draw out trumps or not. We do nothing
rashly. It is science against science. Charge and repel
— mine and countermine — plot and counterplot, until
the strife is over, to subside into reminiscences of the
game, contestants proving on the ends of the fingers
that, if so and so had been done, thus and so would have
been the result. Ah, happy the hours, in the years gone
by, spent in this delightful way — and so sinless, so
peaceful, so grateful! The memory, busy with the past,
recalls scenes in which we participated, many years ago,
before this mould accrued upon our beard, and when the
hair bore no traces of accumulating silver — when the
band was large that met with us in gladness and joy,
now, alas! thinned by the changes of time and the vicissitudes
of circumstance, involving separation, and worse
alienation, through worldly selfishness and the hard-heartedness
that money brings with it. Some may say,
like the “detestable Jones,” that such memories are
vain; that the enjoyments they recall were frivolities
better forgotten; that sin found an entrance to the
soul through the portals of easy friendship, and the
better man was lulled to sleep by the insidious influences
of pleasure; but it is pleasant to recall them, nevertheless,
and in dreams of joy enact the scenes anew that
gave delight then. Whist thus has, like Moses' rod,
struck the rock, and memory has poured out like a flood;


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the table is vacant; the guests have flown; not a
pasteboard is to be seen; the wind howls by the window
and the chimney; and we sit alone by the fire
crooning o'er thoughts of lang syne.