WHO SPOKE NEXT
With Illustrations by Billings and others
THE OLD GARRET
Boys are not apt to forget a promise of a story. Frank and Harry did
not fail to call upon their mother for the history of the old musket.
"It appeared to me," said the mother, "that the old musket was not very
willing to tell his story. He had a sort of old republican pride, and
felt himself superior to the rest of the company in character and
importance. When he had made himself heard in the world hitherto, it
had always been by one short, but very decided and emphatic word; he
despised any thing like a palaver; so he began very abruptly, and as if
he had half a mind not to speak at all, because he could not speak in
his own way.
"None but fools," said he, "have much to say about themselves—'Deeds,
not words,' is a good motto for all. But as I would not be churlish,
and as I have agreed, as well as the rest of my companions, to tell my
story, I will mention what few things worth relating I can recollect.
I have no distinct consciousness, as my friend the pitcher or the
curling tongs has, of what I was before the ingenuity of man brought me
into my present form. I would only mention that all the different
materials of which I was formed must have been perfect of their kind,
or I could never have performed the duties required of me.
My first very distinct recollection is of being stood up in the way I
am standing now, with a long row of my brethren, of the same shape and
character as myself, as I supposed. This was in a large building
somewhere in England. I, like the curling tongs, was at last packed up
in a box, and brought to America, but it took a rather larger box to
take me and my friends, than it took to pack up him and his friends,
with all their thin straddle legs."
Creak went the curling tongs at this personal attack.
"We were brought to this country," continued the old musket, "by an
Englishman. Little did he think how soon we should take part against
our Fatherland, or he would have kept us at home.
One day, the elder brother of the gentleman who owned our little friend
curling tongs came into the shop where I then was, and, after looking
at all the muskets, selected me as one that he might trust. As he paid
for me, he said to the man, "This is an argument which we shall soon
have to use in defence of our liberties."
"I fear we shall," said the shopman, "and if many men are of your mind,
I hope, sir, you will recommend my shop to them. I shall be happy to
supply all true patriots with the very best English muskets."
My new master smiled, and took me home to his house in the country.
The family consisted of himself, his wife, and three children—two sons
and a daughter. The eldest son was eighteen, the second sixteen, and
the daughter fourteen. The mistress of the house turned pale when she
saw my master bring me in and quietly set me down in a corner of the
room behind the old clock.
Presently the two young men entered. The younger shuddered a little
when he saw me, but the elder clapped his hands and exclaimed, "That's
good! We have got a musket now, and the English will find out that we
know how to use it!"
"Pray to God, my son," said his mother, "that we may never have to use
The boy did not give much heed to what his mother said, but took me up,
examined me all over, and, after snapping my trigger two or three
times, pronounced me to be a real good musket, and placed me again in
the corner where his father had put me at first.
The next day, my master took me out to try me. I confess I was not
pleased at the first charge with which I was loaded. When I felt the
powder, ball, wadding and all, rammed down so hard, it was as
disagreeable to me as a boy's first hard lesson in grammar is to him,
and seemed to me as useless, for I did not then know what I was made
for, nor of what use all this stuffing could be. But when my master
pulled the trigger, and I heard the neighboring hills echo and reecho
with the sound, I began to feel that I was made for something, and grew
a little vain at the thought of the noise I should make in the world.
I did not then know all I was created for; it seemed to me that it was
only to make a great noise. I soon learned better, and understood the
purpose of my being more perfectly.
A few days after this, the family was all astir some time before
sunrise. There was a solemn earnestness in their faces, even in the
youngest of them, that was very impressive.
At last, my master took me up, put me in complete order, loaded me and
set me down in the same place, saying as he did so, "Now all is ready."
His wife sighed heavily. He looked at her and said, "My dear, would you
not have us defend our children and firesides against the oppressors?"
"Yes," she said, "go, but my heart must ache at the thought of what may
happen. If I could only go with you!"
They sat silent for a long time, holding each other's hands, and
looking at their children, till, just at sunrise, his brother John,
that sleeping child's grandfather, rushed into the house, crying, "They
are in sight from the hill. Come, Tom, quickly, come to the church." My
master seized me in a moment, kissed his wife and children, and without
speaking hastened to the place where the few men of the then very small
town were assembled to resist the invaders.
Presently about eight hundred men, all armed with muskets as good as I
was, and of the same fashion, were seen. These men had two cannon with
them which made a fearful show to the poor colonists, as the Americans
were then called.
Our men were about one hundred in number. The lordly English marched up
within a few rods of us, and one called out, "Disperse, you rebels. Lay
down your arms, and disperse."
Our men did not however lay down their arms. My master grasped me
tighter than before. We did not stir an inch. Immediately the British
officers fired their pistols, then a few of their men fired their
muskets, and, at last, the whole party fired upon our little band as we
were retreating. They killed eight men, and then went on to Concord, to
do more mischief there.
I felt a heavy weight fall upon me; it was my master's dead body; and
so I learned what muskets were made for. His fingers were on the
trigger; as he fell, he pulled it, and in that sound his spirit seemed
The British marched on to Concord, and the poor brave people of
Lexington, who had so gallantly made the first resistance, were left to
mourn over dead companions and friends.
Soon the eldest son of my master discovered his father among the slain.
The poor fellow! I never shall forget his sorrow. He groaned as if his
heart would break, and then he laid himself down on the ground by the
side of his father's body, and wept bitterly.
One must be made of harder stuff than I am, to forget such a thing as
this. I do not ever like to speak of it, or of the painful scene that
followed. The poor widow and her fatherless children! It seemed a
dreadful work that I and such as I were made to perform.
But there were other things to be thought of then. The British soon
returned from Concord, where they had destroyed some barrels of flour
and killed two or three men.
In the mean time, the men from all the neighboring towns collected
together, armed with all the muskets they could find, and annoyed them
severely on their return by firing on them from behind stone walls.
My master's brother took me from the corner where I had been again
placed, and joined the party. He placed himself behind a fence by which
they must pass, and took such good aim with me that down fell a man
every time I spoke.
Other muskets performed the same work. What they did you may judge of,
when I tell you that, while two hundred and seventy-three Englishmen
fell that day, only eighty-eight Americans were killed. I will not talk
of what I myself performed, for I despise a boaster, but I did my share
of duty, I believe.
About two months after this, uncle John, as the children called him,
came again to borrow me. He was going to join the few brave men who
opposed the British force at Bunker or Breed's Hill.
"Sister," he said, "you will lend me the musket, will you not? I cannot
afford to buy one, and we must teach these English what stuff we are
"Let me go, Mother," said the eldest boy. "I am old enough now; I am
almost nineteen; let me go."
His mother said nothing; she looked at the vacant chair which was
called his father's; she considered a while, and then took me and put
me into her son's hands.
"God bless you, William," she said, "and bring you back safe to us; but
do your duty and fear nothing."
She kissed him, and he left her. I felt William's heart beat bravely as
he shouldered me. He was a fine fellow. We were as one. I was proud of
him, and he of me. No man and musket did better than William and I, on
that never-to-be-forgotten day; but, in the midst of the battle, a shot
wounded William's right arm, and he let me fall.
His uncle led him off the field and sent him home to his mother. A
countryman, who had nothing but an oak stick to fight with, seized me
as I lay on the ground, and here I met with the first mortification of
my life—he actually used me to dig with. This was a contemptible
feeling in me, and I have since learned to be ashamed of it, and to
know that all labor is equally honorable, if it is for a good end. They
had not tools enough for making entrenchments, and they actually used
the bayonet, of which I had been proud, for this purpose. In the
confusion after the battle, I was forgotten. I was left at the bottom
of the works in the mud.
It was a hard thing for me to be parted from William, and to feel that
I should never be restored to my corner in his mother's room behind the
old clock; but I had a conviction that I had taken part in a great
work, and I enjoyed our triumphs greatly.
This, you will think, no doubt, was glory enough for one musket; but a
greater still was in reserve for me. It is with muskets as with men,
one opportunity improved opens the way for another, and every chance
missed is a loss past calculation; for every gain that might have grown
out of that chance is lost too.
Every one should remember that, as he fights his way through the battle
of life; and, when tempted to slacken his fire, think of what the old
revolutionary spirit, speaking through my muzzle, taught on that
day,—'hold on, and hold fast, and hold out. Never stop, stay, or
delay, but make ready!—present!—fire!—and, again and again, make
ready!—present!—fire!—till every round of ammunition is gone.'"
Here the dry, rusty, unmodulated tone, in which the old king's arm had,
up to this time, spoken, suddenly changed; and it seemed as if a
succession of shots had been let off. Then, bringing himself down to
the floor with a DUNT off of the little tea chest full of old shoes, on
which he had stood leaning against the brick chimney, exactly as he
used to do grounding arms seventy years ago, he quietly dropped back
into the drowsy tone of narrative, and proceeded:—
"Yes—never flag nor hang back. The greater the danger, the more do you
press up to the mark. So we did at Trenton in the Jerseys, on that most
glorious day of my life of which I am now about to tell you.
I must tell you that I had the honor of fighting under General
Washington; for I had been marched down to Trenton with a stout-hearted
teamster, named Judah Loring, from Braintree, Massachusetts, who, after
our battle at Bunker Hill, in that State, picked me up from the bottom
of the works, where, for want of pickaxes, I had been, as I told you,
serving as a trenching, tool, and made himself my better-half and
commander-in-chief. Excuse a stately phrase; but, after the battle of
Bunker Hill, I never could screw up my muzzle to call any man master or
We found only a few thousand men and muskets there, principally from
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Jerseys, with a few companies of New
Englanders; and a steadier, sturdier set of men than these last never
breathed. They had enlisted for six months only, and their time was
out; but they never spoke of quitting the field.
It was now December, in the midst of snow and ice; and not a foot among
them that did not come bleeding to the frozen path it trod. But, night
after night, the men relieved each other to mount guard, though the
provision chest was well nigh empty; and, day after day, they scoured
the country for the chance of supplies, appearing to the enemy on half
a dozen points in the course of the day; making him think the
provincials, as we were scornfully called, ten times as numerous as we
really were. But alas, I am old, I find, and lose the thread of my
story. It was of Washington I meant to speak.
Nobody could know General Washington that had not seen him as we did,
at that dark hour of the struggle. It seemed as if that man never
slept. All day he was planning, directing, contriving; and all night
long he would write—write—write; letters to Congress, begging them to
give him full powers, and all would go well, for he did not want power
for himself, but only power to serve them; letters to the generals in
the north, warning, comforting, and advising them; letters to his
family and friends, bidding them look at him and do as he did; letters
to influential men every where, entreating them to enlist men and money
for the holy cause.
He never rested; and, with the cold gray dawning, would order out his
horse and ride through and around the miserable tents, and where we
often slept under the bare heavens, and every heart was of bolder and
better cheer as he passed.
His look never changed. It was just the same steady face, whatever went
on before it; whether he saw us provincials beaten back, or watched a
thousand British regulars pile their arms after the victory at Trenton.
He looked as he does in the great picture in Faneuil Hall, on the
right, as you stand before the rostrum. He stands there, by his horse,
just as I saw him before the passage of the Delaware, with the steady,
serious, immovable look that puts difficulties out of countenance. It
is the look of a man of sense and judgment, who has come to the
determination to save the country, and means to transact that piece of
business without fail.
I never saw that quiet, iron look change but once. I will tell you
about it. It was one of those days after the battle of Trenton, when he
tried to concentrate the troops that he had scattered over the country,
to bring them to bear upon the British. His object was to show the
enemy that they could not keep their foothold.
Between Trenton and Princeton he ordered the assault. The Virginians
were broken at the enemy's first charge, and could not be rallied a
second time against the British bayonets. General Washington commanded
and threatened and entreated in vain.
We of New England saw the crisis, marched rapidly up, and poured in our
fire at the exact moment, Judah Loring and I in the very front.
The British could not stand the fire. We gave it to them plenty, I tell
you. Judah Loring loaded, and I fired over and over and over again,
till it seemed as if he and I were one creature.
A musket, I should explain to you, feels nothing of itself, but only
receives a double share of the nature of the man who carries it.
I felt ALIVE that day. Judah was hot, but I was hotter; and, before the
cartridge box was empty, he pulled down his homespun blue and white
frock sleeve over his wrist, and rested me upon it when he took aim. He
was a gentle-hearted fellow, though as brave as his musket.
"She's so hot," says he, doubling his sleeve into his palm, "that I
can't hold her; but I can't stop firing NOW!"
I met his wishes exactly, I knew by that word; for he always called
every thing he liked, SHE. The sun was SHE; so was his father's old
London-made watch; so was the Continental Congress.
General Washington saw the whole;—the enemy, driven back before our
fire, could never be brought to look us in the face again. We held the
ground;—the Virginia troops rallied;—General Washington took off his
cocked hat, and lifted it high, like a finished gentleman, as he was.
"Hurrah!" he shouted, "God bless the New England troops! God bless the
Massachusetts line!" [Footnote: This was all fact, related by one who
was present.] And his steady face flamed and gave way like melting
Ah, what a set of men were those! I felt the firm trip-hammer of all
their pulses beat through the whole fight, for we stood in platoon,
shoulder to shoulder. I felt my kindred with every one of them. They
had more steel in their nerves and more iron in their blood than other
men. Not a man cared a straw for his life, so he saved from wrong and
bondage the lives of them that should come after him.
That day's work raised hope in every man's heart through the land. Said
I not well that it was the most glorious of my life?
I have but little more to say. I have said more than I meant to, more
perhaps than was wise to say of my own glory. But the thought of those
brave days of old makes one too talkative.
I must tell you, however, how I at last came here. Judah Loring brought
me home safe; he was a very honest fellow, and seeing the initials
scratched on my butt-end, and 'Lexington' underneath, he went there on
purpose to find to whom I belonged.
My friend William claimed me, and I was again placed behind the old
clock in the little parlor. His mother looked very calm, and almost
happy, but not as she once did; she sighed heavily when William brought
me home. William's wound in his arm healed after a while, but his arm
was disabled. By great self-denial and exertion, his mother had got him
into college, and he was to be a schoolmaster.
The sight of me was painful to this good woman, and she gave me to
uncle John who kept me safely and, on the whole, honorably till his son
placed me here.
There is one disgrace I have met with which, in good faith, however
unwillingly, I ought to mention. Uncle John used me to kill skunks
occasionally. This there was no great harm in doing, only he should not
have talked about it. I disliked, it, however, exceedingly.
Once, I am told, when he was in the South, some southern gentleman, for
some trifling offense, challenged him.
Uncle John was told that he, as the party challenged, might choose his
"Well," he said to his enemy, "if you will wait till I can send for my
skunk gun, I am ready for you."
I have since, I do hate to say it, been called the skunk gun
repeatedly. To be sure, no one that has any reverence in his nature
speaks of me in this way. Uncle John had not much, but his son, the
father of that little girl, treats me with due respect, and forbids
them to call me the skunk gun.
I was once the defender of liberty, and am ready to be so again. I was
not made to kill skunks, those disgusting little animals. I hate to
think of them.
Pardon me for keeping you listening to me so long; I have done. I wish
to hear now what that respectable-looking broadsword has to say. We two
ought to be friends."
"I was born a gentleman," said the broadsword. "I was always considered
the sign, the symbol of one. Not many years since, a sword was so
essential to the character of a gentleman that a man without one by his
side, was, in fact, not considered a gentleman.
My master, who was also yours, Mr. Curlingtongs, was one the officers
in the company of Cadets at its first formation. He had the honorable
title of Major, and all his best friends called him Major. Little did I
think once that I should be condemned to the disgrace of spending my
old age in a garret with crooked curling tongs, broken pitchers, old
baize gowns, noseless tea-kettles, old crutches, a foot stove, and,
worse than all, a spinning wheel.
My only peers here are the venerable musket and the respectable wig.
Even they have seen too much hard service to be able fully to
appreciate the feelings of a gentleman who has been brought up as I
have. The degradation the musket especially endured, in being used as a
spade by such a very common sort of person as Judah Loring—a
degradation of which, far from being ashamed, he seems actually proud;
all this, I say, my friends, makes a wide separation between us never
to be forgotten or got over."
"I'm agreed, the further off the better," growled the musket. The old
wig also gave a sort of contemptuous hitch, that seemed to say, he
agreed with the musket.
"I consider myself," resumed the broad-sword, "to be a perfect
gentleman. I have never denied myself by any sort of labor. I have been
considered something to show, something to be used only as a terror to
It strikes me that I really made the Major; he never could appear in
his company or perform his duties without me; his queue was not more
essential. He was not a Major without me. Every one feared me when they
saw my shining blade out of its scabbard, and it was really amusing
occasionally to see the effect I produced. There have been swords that
have done bloody work, but I have never been so defiled.
The Boston Cadets, you know, are the Governor's body guard, and such is
the anxiety of people sometimes to see a real live governor when he has
on his governor's dress and character, that the women and children
crowd around him so that he can hardly find room to move and breathe.
At one of these times of great pressure, my master took me out and
flourished me round bravely. O, how they all scampered! just like a
flock of frightened geese, merely at the sight of me. Such is the
effect of my mere appearance. To be sure, the Major laughed whenever he
told this story. I know not why, for it is perfectly true.
Once, when all the men in the family were gone away,—it was since we
have lived in the country,—the children were in the upper chamber, and
the doors were open below, and they saw a frightful-looking beggar
coming up the avenue; he was lame and had a patch over his eye. He
looked terrible; but one of the girls ran for me, and took me out of
the scabbard, and shook me at him out of the window, and screamed out
to him to go off; whereupon he turned about and hobbled off as fast as
One of the little girls said she did not believe there was any harm in
the poor beggar, and that she would go down and let him in, and give
him something to eat, but the biggest boy shook me at her for only
saying so, so as to dazzle her eyes and frighten her, and she became
silent and remained where she was.
Many such feats I have performed, too many to relate. Children, to be
sure, especially big blustering rude boys, have occasionally played
tricks with me. When they play Bombastes Furioso they come for me."
"All right," said the musket.
"These little rogues have gapped my fine edge, and one good-for-nothing
scamp used me to cut down cabbages, but, as he came very near cutting
down his younger brother at the same time, he was sent to bed
supperless by his father. I have really never performed any drudgery.
Like Caesar, 'I came, I saw, I conquered.'"
At these words, there was a sort of scornful laugh from every venerable
person in the garret. Even the old baize gown shook with merriment;
this vexed the sword so completely that he stopped speaking; and,
notwithstanding their entreaties, would not resume the story or speak
There was a deep silence, for a few moments, which was broken, at last,
by the old wig, who called upon the warming pan to tell her story; the
warming pan obeyed, and spoke as follows:—
"I pass over my early life. Time was when I was thought much of in this
family. Early in the autumn, I was rubbed and polished till you could
see your face in me.
On the first cold night, some nice walnut wood embers were carefully
put into me; I had the pleasure and honor of being passed up and down
my mistress's bed till it was well warmed, and this service I performed
for her constantly till the warm weather returned.
When any one in the family was ill, I was employed on the same service
for him or her; or when guests came to pass the night, I performed this
office for them, and this was all apparently which my existence was
for. A very monotonous life I led, to be sure, but I am of a quiet
nature and care not for much variety.
I remember only one or two things which occurred beyond this dull
routine; these I will relate and then give place to some more
One day, I was suddenly seized upon by one of the maids, and carried
out into the orchard, when she began beating me with an iron spoon, and
making as much noise as she possibly could; presently others of the
family joined with tin pans and kettles, and such a babel of sound you
never heard; this, I found afterwards, was to stupefy a swarm of bees
and make them alight which, at last, they did. Then one of the men with
a handkerchief over his face, and with gloves on, swept the bees into a
new hive, and put it by the side of the old ones.
After this bruising, I was hung up upon my accustomed peg, but my
brazen face still shows the marks which Dolly's iron spoon left on me
One feat, however, I performed, which I should think might put our
friend the sword to the blush. I did do something in defence of our
native land in the hour of her danger; he it seems did nothing in his
whole life but play gentleman.
Our cook Dolly was a brave woman, and, during the Revolution, once or
twice she was left quite alone in the house, and every thing was put
under her care.
Upon one of these occasions, she was up stairs, and thought she heard
some one in the house; she came down very softly, and saw a man in the
pantry helping himself to the silver; he was so much occupied, and she
moved so softly, that he did not see or hear her. I was hanging in the
entry close by where she passed; she took me down very softly, came up
behind the soldier,—for such he was,—and gave him a good box on the
ear with me, instead of her hand. This scared him so effectually that
he threw down the silver, and scampered off after his companions who
were in the stable looking for horses which they meant to take for
themselves. Dolly, in the mean time, caught up the silver, ran out of
another door into a wood near the house, where she hid herself and the
silver till the enemy were gone.
These are all the events of my life that I remember. After my master's
and mistress's death, I was sent up garret to be put among the useless
old things, such as gentlemen's broadswords, broken pitchers, noseless
tea-kettles, &c. The reason for this is not that I am worn out, but
because the age is so much wiser that they have come to the conclusion
that cold beds are more healthy than warm ones; so here I am left to
rust out with the rest of my fellow-sufferers. Perhaps my cousin foot
stove may have something more interesting to relate. I have done."
The foot stove seemed half inclined not to speak; but, after a little
urging, she said, in a whining tone,
"Every one knows that I was made to be trodden under foot and to be
abused. There was, to be sure, a period of my life somewhat more
Many years ago, I was regularly, during the cold weather, brightened up
and put in nice order every Saturday, and on Sunday taken to church;
for then the churches were cold, and, without me well filled with
blazing coals, my mistress could not have borne to listen for more than
an hour to the good minister's sermon.
Sermons at that time were sermons indeed; and the people got their
money's worth of preaching.
I was indeed, at that time, a great favorite in the house. All the old
people cared for me especially, and I was kept often in the parlor,
and, when I was cold, the children were allowed to sit upon me, but
never to abuse me. But this is a capricious, changing, cheating, vain
world, and foot stoves are not thought much of nowadays. The churches
are warmed all over, so that foot stoves are not needed, and so I never
go to church; indeed, in my broken-down state of health, it would
hardly be safe for me to do so. I am not even used at home, if it is
possible to do without me: and then, if I ever am brought down stairs,
a long apology is made for my looks.
The truth is, my life has not been a happy or desirable one. I have had
much to suffer. One happy moment I had. The dear lady to whom I first
belonged had long wished to have a stove, but was prevented from buying
one because she would not spend money on herself for any thing if she
could possibly do without. Her husband, who was the owner of the
curling tongs, when he knew this, determined to get her a stove; and,
on the very day when she burned his hair in her efforts to learn to
dress it as well as the hair dresser, he purchased me for her.
I was the very best stove in the shop; and, when he presented me to
her, he said, "Now, my dear, in revenge for your burning my head, I
will heap coals of fire not on your head, but under your feet,
especially when you go to church; so beware lest I burn your feet as
you did my head."
This pretty attention of her husband's pleased her so much that she
kept me in sight for many days. When shall I forget how soft and light
her pretty, neatly dressed feet felt, the first time she used me?
For a long while I was her stove alone; but after a time, all sorts of
feet were put upon me, and life grew common and tiresome.
After my mistress's death, I was much neglected, for wise folks said
foot stoves should not be used. At last, the cook, who was no invalid,
and did not care for doctors, took me up, and soon began to consider me
as her property, and kept me in the kitchen.
One day, however, the farmer's boy brought in some heavy logs of wood,
and threw them down carelessly. One fell upon me, and smashed me up,
leaving me as you now see me. Here I remain shattered and
forsaken—nothing but an old broken foot stove that nobody cares for.
I hope that those stout, good-looking and-irons will now tell their
story. They look to me just as upright and stiff and strong as when I
first saw them in our dear master's chimney corner. To be sure, they
are not so bright and shining as they were then, but they look, in all
other respects, just as they did then, and life has fallen lighter on
them than on your poor humble servant, the foot stove."
The andirons were now called upon to entertain the company. "We have
always had the comfort and blessing of living together," said one of
them. Indeed we should not be good for any thing apart. A pair of
andirons belong together as much as the two parts of a pair of
scissors. So we have never been lonely. We have had much to be thankful
for. We are, to be sure, called 'the old dogs.' The name sounds
disagreeable, and is hard to bear; but we are made of good Russia iron,
and can endure a good deal.
Time was when the old dogs were essential to the warmth and comfort of
the family, but they went out of fashion. Modern improvements, as they
are called, sent us away from the cheerful domestic hearth to this old
dusty garret, and spiders weave their webs over our very faces; but,
like other DOGS, we had our day.
What article of furniture in the old-fashioned snug parlor was so
essential as we? How could the fragrant hickory and birch sticks have
sent their cheering light and warmth over the faces of the happy family
circles without our support?
The tea-kettle, genial and comely as it always was while it had a nose,
was still but an occasional visitor. We were always there. We listened
to the early morning prayer which the good man offered, on every new
day, to the Giver of all good. We were present when he lifted his
earnest voice of grateful joy, for the blessings of loving friends and
healthy children, who made their quiet life an Eden of peace and
We were present too when sorrow came, softened by religious faith—by
trust in a loving Father.
We heard when, again and again, the news that another child was born
was sounded through the house with a sweetly solemn joy, like the voice
of an angel proclaiming anew peace on earth and good will to men.
How many secrets we have listened to! How many love scenes we have
witnessed! How many ringing shouts of laughter have we heard! How many
unbidden tears have we seen flow! What stories we might tell! But it
would not be right for us to tell all we know. I suppose the good old
couple, as they sat of winter evenings over the embers, when the
children were gone to bed, never thought of our telling what we heard.
One trick that the boys planned in our hearing, and the punishment they
got for their roguery, I will tell you about, if you are not tired of
"Go ahead," shouted the musket, with a bounce.
"There were five boys in the family. One of them, a little fellow of
ten years of age, was foolish enough to be afraid of the dark. His
brothers resolved to cure him, and took the worst way possible, which
was, to give him something to be frightened at.
On the upper shelf of a closet in the room in which they slept was a
very large bundle. They determined to tie a string to the bundle, and,
before George went up to bed, to tie the other end of the string to the
latch of the door, so that, when he opened it, this bundle would come
thundering down, and, as they said, give him something to be scared at.
The man servant heard of the plan as he was lighting the lamps while
the boys were talking it over. He had a particular fancy for George and
George said nothing, but, just before the time when he thought Tom
would go up to the bedroom to set the trap, went up himself, tied the
string to the latch of the door, having previously put a tin pan and
wash basin on the top of the bundle, then put the old cat in the
closet, and came down stairs.
"When do you go to bed, George?" said Tom.
"At the usual time," said George, quietly. Up ran Tom to prepare the
entertainment for his brother, and opened the door fearing
nothing—bang slam came great bundle, tin kettle and wash basin, and
out jumped the great black cat, howling and spitting at the racket.
Tom forgot he was the big brave boy, and scampering, like lightning,
down stairs, he slipped, fell, and was brought in faint from fright,
and with a bleeding nose.
His father inquired what had frightened him so. George told what he had
His father blamed him severely.
"Blame us, father," said the other boys.
"It is only the biter bitten," said Tom. "I am justly punished. I was
the oldest, and I only am really to blame. It is all right that I
suffered instead of poor George."
Then their father gathered them around him, and told them stories of
the evil consequences he had known follow from being severely
The children all promised him never to commit such a fault again; and I
believe they kept their word.
"But I am too long, and am growing prosy."
"So you are," bounced the musket.
"An ugly, impertinent contrivance, called a grate, was introduced in
lieu of us—black, dirty coal was burned instead of beautiful oak and
walnut, to warm the dear family. We were no longer of any use. Poetry
went away with the andirons, sentiment and refinement are obsolete, and
here we stand, the head and foot-stones, as it seems to me, at the
grave of the dear old-fashioned buried past.
"I have done. Please, friend tea-kettle, favor us with your
"My story has nothing extraordinary in it," said the tea-kettle. "Like
most of my friends, I have had my ups and downs in the world.
I had the honor of being made in the mother country. I am of the very
best of tin; what there is left of me is still pretty good. When that
little girl's parents were married, I first took my place in the
family, and contributed my part to the adornment of the kitchen closet.
I was kept as bright as silver, and was carried, twice a day, into the
parlor, and set upon some red-hot coals, where I used to sing my
morning and evening song to the happy family I served.
Erelong, an ugly upstart of a grate took the place, as you know, of the
dear old andirons, and I was banished with them from my happy place.
After this, I was rarely used. When any one was ill, and hot water was
wanted to be kept upstairs, I was called for. My nature is a kindly
one, so I sang away just as merrily as if I had not been somewhat
For this sweetness of temper I had my reward; for once my kind mistress
took me up, and said as she looked at me, "I do love this tea-kettle.
It discourses to me eloquent music. It tells the story of the early
days of my happy married life. It reminds me of the precious hours we
passed talking over so many pleasant things that we enjoyed, or that we
hoped for, while there it sat on the coals singing away a sort of sweet
cheerful accompaniment to our talk, as if it understood all we said. We
understand each other, you dear old thing."
In my visits up stairs, I often heard amusing stories told by the nurse
to the poor invalid of whom she had the charge, when he was getting
better, and such an indulgence as to hear stories was allowed him.
Once, when one of the boys—it was little Jonathan—was recovering from
an attack of scarlatina, and was very fidgety and uncomfortable,
nothing but some kind of story would keep him quiet in his bed.
It so happened that the good nurse was a sort of family friend, and had
been a great deal in the house of Jonathan's cousin, a very roguish boy
who was always getting into some kind of scrape.
Jonathan was never satisfied with hearing of Ned's frolics. One I will
relate. "At one time," said the nurse, "his father had been ill for
some days, and the order of the house was to be very quiet, as sleep
was essential to the recovery of the invalid. Now poor Ned was rather
in the habit of making a good deal of noise everywhere, but he loved
his father, and was very anxious not to disturb him. In the house, he
could not avoid making some little noise; so he passed much of his time
out of doors, wandering about alone when he could find no playfellow.
At last, Ned remembered that he had some money left of his last
allowance for pocket money. This was a rare thing; usually Ned's money
burned in his pocket so that there was no comfort for him till it was
spent for something or other. Often—it must be told in Ned's
favor—his pocket money was given to some poor little boy or girl whom
he saw in the street, or who might happen to come to his father's house
to ask charity. Ned's father, though not rich, gave him pocket money,
that Ned might be able to give for himself if he had the inclination so
to do. Well, it so happened that neither charity, nor sugar-plums, nor
any other sweet thing had taken off Ned's money; he had as much as
seventy-five cents in his pocket, and, for the want of something better
to do, he went into a shop, called, in the country town in which they
lived, a 'Variety Shop.'
'Variety Shop' was a just and proper name for such an assemblage of
every thing ever devised for the convenience and inconvenience of human
beings. There were caps after Parisian fashions for ladies, and there,
not far off, were horse nets and blankets. There were collars after the
newest patterns for gentlemen, and yokes for oxen. There were corsets
and Noah's arks, salt fish and sugar almonds, Chinese Joshes and Little
Samuels, accordeons and fish horns, almanacs, Joe Millers, and Bibles,
toothpicks and churns, silver thimbles and wash tubs, penknives,
tweezers and pickaxes, Adams and Eves in sugar, and Napoleons in brass.
In short, what was there not in that shop?
Ned entered, and his eyes were dazzled with the show and the variety.
He had some money in his pocket, and spend it now he began to think he
must; the fire burned very hot in that little pocket of his, it must be
put out. Somewhere or other it must go, that troublesome seventy-five
Now what did Ned want of toothpicks, or churns, or horse blankets, or
collars, or caps, or yokes, or thimbles, or tubs? A little Samuel his
aunt had given him. A Chinese Josh had a charm for him. He would look
The shopman, who had once been a pedler, saw the state of things with
Ned, and resolved to relieve him of that burning trouble in his pocket,
if possible. The man was an honest fellow, and meant to give Ned his
money's worth. But an exchange was no robbery, and he was convinced
that it would be better for both sides if something in his Variety Shop
should go to Ned, and Ned's money should go into the money drawer.
After Ned had looked some time at the Josh, and had half made up his
mind to take it, and had motioned away all the sugar monsters and
Noah's arks and bronze Napoleons and even the penknives, the shopman
said, "You have not looked at my fancy fowls, young gentleman; I should
like you would see them before you decide what you will have of my
variety this morning. That is quite a new article which I have just
Ned was not used to being called young gentleman. He was nothing but a
boy. Of course, he went to look at the new article, after this. Every
one but him and the shopman had left the shop. It was very quiet, and,
just as the shopman had finished speaking, a cock, who was in a crate
in the corner, set up the loudest crowing that Ned had ever heard, and
with a decidedly foreign tone.
In a moment, Ned made up his mind that cock he would have. His father
had given him leave to keep fowls, and he already had a cock and three
hens of a fine breed.
"What's the price of that fellow?" said he; "he's a real buster; he'll
wake us all up early enough in the morning."
"A dollar, and cheap enough, too," said the shopman; "but, as it's you,
and I know your family, you shall have it for that."
"I have only seventy-five cents," said Ned, "and shall have no more
till next week, when I have my allowance. If you will trust me, and are
willing to wait, I will take the rooster."
"Suppose the critter was to die afore then," said the shopman, "would
you pay all the same?"
"To be sure," said Ned; and the bargain was settled.
The shopman advised him not to take the cock away before dark. Ned
agreed to wait till then. Just before his bed time, he went for
Chanticleer, and brought him as quietly as possible to the house. He
was afraid to put the new master of the poultry yard on the roost with
the old cock, lest they should fight in the morning; so he carried his
treasure softly up to his own bedroom in which was a large closet where
he had prepared a temporary roost. The cock, who was very tame, as he
had been always a pet, made no fuss, but went to sleep on his new
roost. So did Ned in his comfortable bed.
Now it so happened that this large closet was between Ned's bedroom and
that of his father who, as we have before mentioned, had been seriously
ill, and who particularly demanded quiet. All the first part of the
night the sick man had been tossing all out, very uneasy, till about
three o'clock in the morning, when he fell into a sweet sleep. His
wife, weary with anxiety and watching, was trying to get a nap in the
easy chair, when, suddenly, close by them, as if in the very room, came
an indescribable screech, an unearthly, long, shrill cock-a-doodle-do
yell, such as only a fancy feathered biped can perform.
The poor invalid screamed with horror, and his wife would have screamed
too, had she not thought first of her dear patient.
In a moment, all the household had left their beds to learn the cause
of the horrid noise. Every one ran to the sick man's door, to listen if
it was from there that the frightful noise came. When the door was
opened, there stood all the terrified family, and, among the rest, poor
Ned with the culprit in his arms.
"It's only my new fancy rooster in my closet," said he; "I never
thought of his crowing. Poor father and mother, I am so sorry! O, dear!
dear! what shall I do? I'll carry him right down, this minute; and I
never, dear father, will do such a thing again. Who'd a' thought of his
crowing so early? and then he's such an awful buster when he crows. Do
look at him."
Ned's father was the best tempered man that ever lived, and he was
really getting well; so, after a minute or two, he burst into a fit of
laughter at the droll group assembled in his room, with poor Ned in the
midst of them in his night shirt. As soon as Ned heard his father
laugh, he scampered off on his bare feet, with his fancy rooster in his
arms, covering its head with his shirt to keep down the crowing. He
shut the creature up in the cellar, where it shouted and screeched till
Some of my most amusing recollections are of the queer scenes and
conversations at which I was present, when my kind mistress lent me to
a farmer's wife. This woman was in the habit of depending, as far as
possible, upon her neighbors for any little conveniences she fancied,
and did not like to pay the cost of. Usually she managed to do without
such a nice tea-kettle as I really was; but, when she had company, she
regularly came in for me. This was her usual way of asking for me,
after saying good morning: "All your folks pretty well?"
"Yes, we are all very well," was the answer usually.
"Well, then, I spose you've nothin' agin my havin' your kittle this
arternoon. I expect Deacon Fish and his wife, and tew darters to an
arely tea; and I'm kind o' used to that ere kittle o' yourn, and can't
somehow git along without it; and I han't yet got none of my own, you
She, of course, always had me to entertain her company; she knew she
should get me; and, as she went away, she always said something about
how pleasant and right it was to be neighborly.
After a few years, some one of her relations gave her a nice
tea-kettle. She brought it in to show to my mistress. I was hissing
away at the time for breakfast, which was hardly over when she entered.
After she had shown her kettle to every one, and satisfied herself that
it would bear a comparison with me, she said,—
"Now, at last, I've got a kittle o' my own; and I'll never borry nor
lend agin as long as I live in this here vale o' tears."
Not long after this, a careless girl left my rival on the fire till the
bottom was burned through, and the kettle was ruined.
The next time the good woman came, her speech ran somewhat thus; "I
spose you was to meetin' last Sabbath."
"Well, if you was, I guess you heerd how the minister told us to be
good to one another—to be neighborly, and help folks along. Now I
guess as how I told you once that I shouldn't neither borry nor lend.
Now I ain't tew old to larn and mend my ways, and I mean to deu as the
parson says, and lend and borry all the days of my life; so maybe
you'll lend me that ere kittle."
But I must tell you about one of these visits I made to this peculiar
neighbor. When she came in for me that day, she looked full of business
and earnestness, and, before she was fairly seated, she began to tell
"I have come," she said, "to invite you all to a rag bee, every one on
ye—men folks and all, because they can cut and wind and be agreeable,
and hand round cups and sarcers and things to eat, if they can't deu
nothin' else; so now you must all come and bring your thimbles and
scissors and big needles, and, ef you've no objections, I'll jest take
the tea-kittle now, as I'm goin' straight home."
My mistress, who was the kindest person that ever lived, promised to go
to the rag party. She wished to please and aid this selfish woman, for
she was her nearest neighbor."
"Pray, dear mother, tell us what a rag bee is," said Harry.
"At the time when our tea-kettle was in its prime, we had no woollen or
cotton factories in this country. Our carpets all came from Europe,
from England most of them, and poor people could not afford to buy
them. Families were in the habit of carefully saving all their woollen
pieces, all their old woollen clothes; not a scrap was lost.
When a large quantity of these old woollen pieces was collected, it was
a custom in the country to invite all the neighbors to come in, and aid
the family in cutting these fragments up into narrow strips, about an
eighth of an inch wide, and then sewing the strips together, and
winding them up into large balls. This was used for what the weavers
call the warp or the filling of the carpet. The woof was made of yarn,
spun usually in the house from wool taken from the backs of their own
sheep, and colored with a dye made from the roots of the barberry
bushes, or the poke weed, with the aid of a little foreign indigo, or
perhaps logwood. A sufficient variety of colors could be manufactured
to produce a very decent-looking carpet.
The weaving of this homemade carpet was done also in the neighborhood.
There were always looms enough to weave, for a moderate price, all the
carpets required in the place. At that time, there was usually a carpet
only in what was called the sitting room, or, as the country people
called it, "the settin room." The rest of the house had bare floors;
perhaps, in the houses of the richest of the country people, a bit of
carpet by the bed side.
But I must tell you what else the tea-kettle said. "I went, or rather
was carried," said she, "to the rag party. The good lady who borrowed
me, I must say for her, did brighten me up famously. "There," said she,
as she gave me the last touch with her rubbing cloth, "ef it ain't as
bright as our Lijah's cheeks a Sabberday mornins!"
The country hour for dining was twelve o'clock, and the rag party was
invited to come at two. Accordingly, all the women of the place with
whom Mrs. Nutter had any acquaintance that did or did not authorize an
invitation, were assembled in her best parlor, to take part in the rag
A nice-looking, sensible set of folks they were, and, if I could
remember all they said, I am sure you would think it very amusing. One
of the subjects that I now think of was introduced by a pair of very
"Where," said Mrs. White, "did you get such a pair of horrid, old,
scrimpy, frightful things as them? Why, the knees are patched with
blue, and the seats with red, and they are so very small, and yet so
long—who did they belong to?"
Mrs. Nutter hesitated for a moment; at last, she seemed to muster
courage, and to be determined to speak the whole truth.
"Well," said she, "ef I must tell the treuth, them are breeches come
off of a scarecrow. It stands to reason that none of us could ever have
worn 'em. This here's the way I got 'em. My husband bought Mr. Crane's
piece that jined on to ourn, and I made him throw in the scarecrow,
cause I meant to have a rag party; and I reckon that you'll get a good
many strips out on 'em, though they be so patched like."
"I wonder," said one of the party, a fine, rosy, jolly-looking girl, "I
wonder if these are not the ones which they say old Scrimp the miser
changed with a scarecrow; and, after the exchange, old Scrimp looked so
smart that people thought he was going to be married."
"Did you ever see any one so lean favored as he is?" asked one of the
company. "Folks say he's so thin that he turns in his hat, but that ere
don't seem likely."
Another of the company now looked up from her work, showing, at the
same time, the nice strips she had been cutting. "I can't believe,"
said she, "all the stories they tell of old Scrimp's miserly ways. They
say that he almost lives upon samples."
"Lives upon samples? What does that mean? I never heard of such a
thing. What kind of victuals is samples?"
"Why, Lois Ward, don't you know what a sample is? Why, he goes to a
shop, and he asks for samples of all the different kinds of sugar, and
so of tea and coffee, and he makes these last a great while, and then
he goes to another, and does the same thing; and, when he thinks they
know his tricks, he walks clear over to another town after samples; and
so he lives upon almost nothing. They say that he keeps all his money
in an old boot hanging up in his cellar, because he thinks no robber
would think to look in an old boot after money."
"They tell me," said another, "that he kills cats for their skins, and
that he goes out o' nights with a long pole to kill skunks, and roasts
them to get their grease, because skunk's grease is mighty powerful for
men and beasts sometimes, and sells for a good deal, 'cause there ain't
many folks willing to undertake the nasty varmints."
"Do you know what Beckey Cross said about him? She said that he was
nothing but skin and grief, and that he never made any shadow. But poor
Scrimp, though he is such a miser, has a heart, and can do a very kind
"How did you find out that, Miss Dolly?" said the rosy-cheeked girl.
"Did he ever ask you to take care of his heart? if such a thing could
be found. Perhaps it is your fault that poor Scrimp is nothing but skin
Miss Dolly drew herself up, and looked in a very dignified manner at
the young village belle. "I never kept company with Mr. Scrimp, and
never should wish to with such a thread paper of a man as him; but I
stick to it, he has a heart, and I'll tell you how I diskivered it. You
know poor Mrs. Fowler, whose house is just out of the town, near two
miles from old Scrimp's. I was there to see the poor woman the other
day. You know her husband was killed last winter by the falling of a
tree before the woodcutters thought it was ready to fall. You know she
has one little boy, who she sets every thing by, and they are pretty
poor, though the parish does help them.
I sat with her some time, and heard all her troubles and misfortings.
At last, she spoke of all the kind things she'd had done for her by
different people; among others, she told me of a kind act of old
"One day," says she, "my little boy, only four years old, did not, as
usual, come in at supper time. I went out to look for him in the wood
where he goes to play; but he was not there. Night came on, and no
Willie. I was half crazy with fear. I was at my wits' ends. I had
forbidden him to go to the village, but I concluded he had disobeyed
me; and so, at last, I sot out in that direction, though I'm so lame I
can't walk fast.
Well, she said she hadn't gone far before she met Mr. Scrimp leading
her little boy home. He had found the child, after dark, crying in the
street. He knew who was his mother, and where she lived, and he took
hold of the little fellow's hand, carried him to the bakers, bought him
a roll for supper, and was leading him home to his mother. He insisted
upon the poor widow's taking his arm, and he went back with her to her
cottage, and left a quarter of a dollar on her table when he went away."
"Now," said Miss Dolly, as she finished, "hain't Mr. Scrimp got a
heart? and, as for his living on samples, I don't believe a word of
such a ridiculous story. You see he's got a kind of habit o' saving,
and he's so thin he don't want much, and he's nobody to spend for; but
I tell you he has got a heart, and a good one, when you come at it."
This was a specimen of the conversations at the rag parties. At five
o'clock in the afternoon, the tea table was spread, and such loads of
bread and butter, cake, cheese, and what they called sweet sarse and
apple trade you never saw. The farmers and their sons, as many as could
be spared from work, put on their best coats, and helped hand about the
tea and good things. At nine exactly, they all went home, leaving many
large balls, nicely sewed, of filling for the intended new carpet.
Early in the morning of the next day, I was brightened up again, and
sent home, when my dear mistress saw me put up on a high shelf among
valuable things not often used, but always well cared for. As I said
before, she seemed really to love me, and often said, as she looked at
me, "I hope no harm will come to, my precious old tea-kettle."
Now I come to the painful part of my story, of which, even now, I hate
to think. With all this love and consideration for me, my mistress made
one fatal mistake. She allowed those same boys, who used the curling
tongs to get a bone out of the pig's throat, to take me with them when
they went into the woods to pass a day and night, and have a frolic, as
they called it.
The boys made a huge fire, and put me on it, and I boiled some water
for them, and did my duty well. But, after they had satisfied their
thirst with the good tea I had enabled them to make, they forgot your
humble servant, and left me on the coals.
The water all evaporated, and I was left to the fury of the fire; my
pleasant song turned into a groan, a scream, in fact; my nose could not
stand the fire; it dropped into the ashes; and here I am, the wreck of
what I was, with this ghastly hole in me which you see.
To be sure, the boys were sorry enough for their carelessness; but that
did not mend my nose. I am kept here by my mistress for the same reason
that she keeps the old pitcher and other useless things, as memorials
of happy days past and gone."
The tea-kettle was silent. Without any preface, the spinning wheel
began to whirl and whiz, and whiz and whirl, and grumble and rumble,
and buzz and buzz, and made altogether such a sleepy sound, as she told
her story, which was, I guess, what the sailors call a long yarn, that
she put me into such a sound sleep, that I could no longer hear any
thing distinctly, and lost her story altogether."
"But, dear mother," said Frank, "I hope you woke up so as to hear the
history of the old cloak, and the comical coat, and the wig."
"I will see," she answered, "what more I can remember of those dreamy
times which I passed in my dear mother's attic, the palace of my early
One very rainy Sunday, the noise of the children was too much for the
older and graver part of the family, who wished to read and be quiet;
and my mother advised me to take my book, and go up to my parlor.
I always liked to be there, and to be by myself, with only the society
of my friend the cat who was perfectly docile and obedient to me. I
took Pilgrim's Progress, my favorite book, and was soon very
comfortably seated in my great old-fashioned arm chair. Puss was by my
side in the chair, for there was plenty of room for us both.
O, that Puss, a famous cat she was. She was of a beautiful Maltese
blue, with a very nice white handkerchief on her breast, a white ring
for a necklace, and four white feet. She once met with an adventure
A young harum scarum Italian was a friend of my mother's, and was often
at our house. A young lady, to whom he was much devoted, had a fancy
for cats. He resolved, at the Christmas season, to gratify this taste
of hers, as well as his own love of all sorts of vagaries.
Christmas fell on Monday. On that morning, the young lady received an
elegant package which contained, wrapped up in seven papers, carefully
sealed, a picture of a great black cat, with fiery eyes, long whiskers,
and a flaming red tongue, The young lady was a good deal astonished,
you may believe.
The next morning, she found in her breakfast cup the prettiest little
sugar cat you can imagine. She asked all the family who had played her
the trick, but no one knew.
On Wednesday morning, when the house-maid opened the window to sweep
the drawing room, as she always did at seven o'clock, a small, soft
bundle came flying in at the window, and fell in the middle of the
floor. The bundle was directed to Miss Mary, and contained a large rag
cat, with a painted face, and with little bunches gathered up for nose
Inquiries were in vain. No one had seen the daring hand that tossed the
rag pussy into the window. The lady's suspicions did not fall upon the
Italian, because he had made her think that he was out of town.
Early on Thursday morning, came a great double knock and ring at the
house door. So loud and long was the noise that the servant, a little,
scary old man, thought the house was coming down. With trembling hand,
he opened the door, when a black man, six feet high, delivered a huge
box. The two men together had to take it in, it was so clumsy, though
the weight was not much. In answer to the old man's inquiries as to who
sent it, &c., the black only pointed to his mouth and ears,
significantly, to intimate that he was deaf and dumb. On the top of the
box was marked in red chalk "Miss Mary—."
As soon as she came down, she was led to the box. It was opened with
some difficulty. Inside was a quantity of cotton wool, and scattered
about in the wool were little packages of soft paper, and inside of
each was a little china cat. When all were taken out, the young lady
found herself the possessor of a white china cat with gold ears and
gold collar, and five little china kittens of various colors.
It did no good asking questions, and the poor young lady resigned
herself to her fate.
The part of the house in which Miss Mary slept was a sort of wing. The
only room there with a chimney was hers. The roof communicated with a
shed, so that it was not difficult for a good climber to get at the
On Friday morning, Miss Mary was awakened by a rattling in the chimney
corner where, to her amazement, was a "Noah's ark" dangling by a
string. She took hold of it, and drew it out of the chimney.
"This must be meant for one of the little children," thought she. But
no; the ark bore her name. On opening it, she discovered that it was a
collection made from many arks, a cat having been culled from each. So
there were cats of many sizes, and all painted as red as they could be.
They made a long procession of red cats.
On Saturday morning, the young lady awoke very early, but found nothing
in her chimney corner. Although the weather was very cold, she went
out, as was her custom, to walk in the garden before breakfast. There
was a high wall on the side of the garden next the street. She walked
down by the side of this wall towards a little arbor at the bottom of
the garden. Just as she reached the arbor, she was startled by a squeak
from the top of the wall, and something fell just at her feet. Taking
the thing up, she perceived that it was a toy cat with a mewing
arrangement underneath. It had been carefully wrapped up, but the paper
was broken in the attempt to make it mew at the top of the wall. The
lady burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter; but, in answer to
her laugh, came a dismal mewing from the other side of the wall; and,
as she walked towards the house, at every few steps, a yowling toy cat
jumped over, and fell at her feet.
The next day was Sunday, and the lady said, "I shall be left in peace
to-day, I think all the different kinds of cats must be exhausted."
On going to her writing table, after breakfast, she found a little
package lying on some note paper. It was very heavy, and was directed
to her in a hand she did not recognize. It proved to be a most
beautiful Paris bronze cat paper weight. The cat had her paw on a bird,
and looked so life-like that it was almost painful to see her.
"I am now in a state," said Miss Mary, "to arrange a cat museum."
So she took all the cats, and placed them, in the order of their
appearance, in a recess on one side of the room. There were picture
cat, rag cat, China cats, ark cats, yowling cats, bronze cat.
The next morning was New Year's Day. The young lady passed it in quiet.
No cats invaded her repose. She began to think the eruption of cats was
beginning to subside. Vain hope! Her tormentor was busy enough.
On Sunday evening, he arrived at our house in the country. He came to
spend the night.
"My dear E.," said he to me, "you must lend me a cat. I have sent Miss
Mary—every kind of cat except a live one, and now I must send that
too. I am going to make you dress up your favorite blue kitten."
At first, I refused; but, on his promise that the kitten should be
treated with the greatest care and consideration, I agreed. I made her
a gown of yellow satin coming down over her legs. The tail went through
the gown and helped to keep it on. That tail was the gaudiest part of
all, being wound with gold lace, and bearing at the tip a gay,
flourishing bow. I made for pussy beautiful pettiloons of dark-red
glazed cambric, and shod her with black morocco boots. Her cap was made
of paste-board, tall and peaked, trimmed with gay ribbons, and
surmounted by a cock's feather. A coral necklace with a locket was put
about her neck; and then poor pussy was complete, and shone in her
whole brilliancy Her patience was a shining example. Not a mew nor a
growl at all the often-repeated fittings and tryings on. She purred
kindly all the time.
Her carriage was a bandbox, big enough to avoid crushing the cap and
tail, with a hole cut in the cover for ventilation; and Miss Pussy set
off for town.
"A whole day gone, and no cat!" exclaimed Miss Mary—, as the family
rose from tea. "The joke is over now, whatever it was."
No sooner were the words spoken than a rousing knock and ring startled
the silence, and a bandbox appeared covered with brilliant red letters
spelling, "This side up with care," and several other phrases with the
same meaning. "Open carefully" stood prominent among them. The
direction was, of course, to Miss Mary. With careful hand, she raised
the lid, when the cat, tired of long confinement, bewildered by the
sudden light, and scared by the roars of laughter that greeted her,
leapt from the box, and sped around the room like lightning. The dress
held on well, while she galloped about like a gayly caparisoned circus
pony. At last, she took a leap and fell into the midst of her
predecessors. Rag cats, China cats, Noah's cats, yowling cats were
upset and dashed to pieces.
At this moment, the author of all the nonsense poked his head into the
door. "My dear Miss Mary, I trust I have, at last, satisfied your taste
for cats. I hope you like your New Year's gifts."