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In the evening, the mildness of the weather, and the approach of Spring, were the introductory topics of conversation. All seemed pleased with the idea that a few weeks would open to them their rural walks, and shower upon them the rich stores of their flower-gardens. Maria Constance, indeed, who was an enthusiastic lover of botanical pursuits, absolutely luxuriated in the contemplation of her approaching delights, and the opportunities which would speedily be afforded to her, of following the bent of her inclination. She had just returned from a cheerful walk with one of her young friends, bringing in her hand the first presentation of flowers made to her by the gardener, which she in turn presented to her mamma; saying, she hoped it was only the first of many such offerings she should be enabled to make to her, in gratitude for her daily, nay hourly care and kindness. “ For Spring !” she exclaimed, in a tone of exultation, “ delicious Spring is with us! freeing the earth from the bondage of a late powerful frost, and displaying to our eyes one of the most beautiful changes that it is possible for the mind to conceive. But a few weeks, mamma, and all was dreariness—now all is life and vigour: the fields, the rivers, all proclaim that · Winter is over and gone;' the landscape is changed from a scene of unsullied whiteness to that of verdant freshness and fertility, and nothing is to be - heard but the voice of joy and gladness. Smiling Nature's universal robe,' as Thomson calls the gay green' of grass and leaves, now meets our eye at every turn
From the moist meadow to the wither'd hill,
Thus did Maria Constance anticipate the season of which April is the forerunner; and thus will all grateful minds rejoice, when they reflect on the innumerable blessings
bestowed upon mankind by the renovation of all vegetable matter. ,
This train of conversation was interrupted by Mr. Constance introducing the business of the evening; when several of the party requested to know, why the 1st of April was called “ All Fools' Day.”
“ Because, replied Arthur, hastily, “we are all fools ; I mean, those who send, as well as those who go, on fools' errands." .. · This petulant explanation was given by Arthur with the intention of censuring some of the company, who had, in the early part of the evening, despatched him to a distant place for something which was not in existence; and he having just entered the room, amidst the titterings and whispers of those present, thought it a good opportunity, when the inquiries were making, to give vent to his little anger for being hoaxed: which, of course, occasioned the whispers to be changed into a loud expression of merriment. William, however, obtained silence, by saying“ Without questioning the justness of our cousin Arthur's opinion, as to those being fools who send, as well as those who go, on such errands as I understand he has been on to-night, (at which there was another laugh,) I must beg to assure him and the company, that the word all is supposed to be a corruption of auld or old, thereby making it . Old Fools' Day,' a festival which was noted in the Roman calendar; but from what it received its origin I am quite ignorant. Neither do I know," he continued, “ from what the custom of making an April fool in this country took its rise.”
Mr. Constance. There have been several grave and learned opinions given upon this foolish subject. It has been boldly asserted that we have borrowed it from the French, who call all fools made on the first of April, Poissons d'Avril, (April fish) in allusion to the silly
mackarel, a fish which suffers itself to be easily caught by deception.
“ Then the French would call our Arthur a silly fish,” interrupted Angelina, casting a significant look at her brother. "
Mr. CONSTANCE. This explanation has, however, been disputed, and its origin in this country attributed to the example set at Court of having a fool or jester, who was licensed to say what he chose, even to majesty itself, without any offence being takon ; and that the people, considering themselves free to exercise their jocular faculties upon one another without exciting anger, established an “ All Fools' Day," or a day upon which every one had equal liberty to exert his powers of mockery, deception, and every species of waggish drollery. But, William, as this day is not now noticed in our calendar, nor has been for the last century, we had better turn our attention to those which are. Explain the first.
WILLIAM. The 3rd of April is dedicated in our calendar to Richard, Bishop of Chichester, surnamed De Wicke after the place of his nativity, a town in Worcestershire. He was born of needy parents, and was, therefore, compelled to work for his livelihood. He, however, displayed such uncommon abilities as to induce some friends to send him to the university of Oxford. He afterwards visited those of Paris and Bologna, at each of which he was remarkable for close attention to his studies. After an absence of several years, he returned to his native country, and was nominated to the see of Chịchester, by the chapter, in direct opposition to the wishes of the king, Henry III., but finally succeeded, and was confirmed by the Pope of Rome, who consecrated him in the year 1245. His. death happened on the 3d of April, 1253; and his name was canonized by Pope Urban IV. in the year 1262. He died a natural death.
Mr. CONSTANCE. The character of Richard de Wicke ought to be considered by youth as an example worthy of imitation. You hear that he was born of needy parents, and compelled to work for his daily subsistence; but by perseverance and close attention to study, he rose to be one of the ornaments of the Catholic church. During the period of a long life, he was universally admired and esteemed, and was as remarkable for integrity, as for learning, and diligence in preaching. For these qualities his name has been handed down to posterity.
CHARLES. But I wonder that it has been retained in the calendar, if nothing more important is connected with his history.
MR. CONSTANCE. Your surprise, Charles, arises, I presume, not so much from the apparently trifling incidents related of De Wicke, as from your ear having lately been familiar with more imposing sounds--such as persecutions, imprisonments, and deaths. It would be paying you an ill compliment, indeed, to suppose that you are insensible to the merits of such qualities as those possessed by St. Richard. Piety, strict integrity, and unceasing in, dustry, when centred in one man, and made subservient to his God and his fellow-creatures, ensure respect for the possessor while living, and ought, in my opinion, to command the veneration and esteem of posterity.
CHARLES. True, Sir; and I should be sorry to insinuate, for a moment, that the memory of such a man should sink into oblivion ; and readily attribute my surprise to the cause you have assigned. I meant to say, that he was no martyr, and forgot, at that instant, that any others were admitted to the honour of a place in the calendar.
Mr. CONSTANCE. And yet, Charles, there is something of the marvellous attached even to the character of St. Richard; but then it was added by the monkish writers, for purposes, of course, best known to themselves. Among
other things equally impious, it is related, that he once satisfied the hunger of 3000 persons, by blessing and augmenting a single loaf; thereby exceeding the divine miracle of our Saviour, who fed the multitude from five loaves and two small fishes. But, as I told you on a former evening, these accounts must be listened to with caution ; indeed, rejected as absurd. . . .'
ANGELINA. O! Charles is very fond of the marvellous, papa. · WILLIAM. If so, I then fear that the account of St. Ambrose, the next person mentioned in the calendar, will afford him but little satisfaction. He neither performed miracles, nor died a martyr; and yet, to me his biography is peculiarly interesting.
CHARLES. I beg, William, you will pay no attention to Angelina's sarcasm. Your accounts have hitherto been too pleasing not to be listened to with interest.
WILLIAM. Ambrose, who was descended from noble parentage, was born at Arles, à town of Provence in France, of which district his father was prefect. · He ruled over the see of Milan with great piety for more than twenty years, during which time he gave all his money to pious uses, and settled the reversion of his estate upon the church. By his example, and eloquent enforcement of the doctrines of Christianity, he converted the celebrated Augustine; at whose baptism he composed the Te Deum, a hymn, which is much admired even in the present day. He closed his well-spent life at the age of fifty-seven, on the 4th of April, 396; and was buried in the great church at Milan. His works, which are numerous, continue to be held in much respect. : .
MR. CONSTANCE. The eloquence and musical taste of St. Ambrose were the admiration of the age in which he lived. By some authorities he is considered the first who introduced the method of chanting, first on one side