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of coal; it would lean forward with a drunken air, and dribble, a very idiot of a kettle, on the hearth. It was quarrelsome, and hissed and spluttered morosely at the fire. To sum up all, the lid, resisting Mrs. Peerybingle's fingers, first of all turned topsy-turvy, and then with an ingenious pertinacity deserving of a better cause, dived sideways indown to the very bottom of the kettle. And the hull of the Royal George has never made half the monstrous resistance to coming out of the water, which the lid of that kettle employed against Mrs. Peerybingle, before she got it up again.
8. It looked sullen and pig-headed enough, even then; carrying its handle with an air of defiance, and cocking its spout pertly and mockingly at Mrs. Peerybingle, as if it said, “ I won't boil. Nothing shall induce me”!
9. But, Mrs. Peerybingle, with restored gooa humor, dusted her chubby little hands against each other, and sat down before the kettle, laughing. Meantime, the jolly blaze uprose and fell, flashing and gleaming on the little Haymaker at the top of the Dutch clock, until one might have thought he stood stock still before the Moorish Palace, and nothing was in motion but the flame.
10. He was on the move, however; and had his spasms, two to the second, all right and regular. But his sufferings, when the clock was going to strike, were frightful to behold; and when a Cuckoo looked out of a trap-door in the Palace, and gave note six times, it shook him, each time, like a spectral voice-or like a something wiry, plucking at his legs.
11. It was not until a violent commotion and a whirring noise among the weights and ropes below him had quite subsided, that this terrified Haymaker became himself again. Nor was he startled without reason ; for, these rattling, bony skeletons of clocks are very disconcerting in their operation, and I wonder very much how any set of men, but most of all how Dutchmen, can have had a liking to invent them. There is a popular belief that Dutchmen love broad cases and much clothing for their own lower selves; and they might know better than to leave their clocks so very lank and unprotected, surely.
12. Now it was, you observe, that the kettle began to spend the evening. Now it was, that the kettle, growing mellow and musical, began to have irrepressible gurglings in its throat, and to indulge in short vocal snorts, which it checked in the bud, as if it hadn't quite made up its mind yet to be good company. Now it was, that after two or three such vain attempts to stifle its convivial sentiments, it threw off all moroseness, all reserve, and burst into a stream of song so cosy and hilarious, as never maudlin nightingale yet formed the least idea of. chirped and the Cricket hummed, or the Cricket chirped and the kettle hummed, or they both chirped and both hummed, it would have taken a clearer head than yours or mine to decide with any thing like certainty.
13. So plain too! Bless you, you might have understood it like a book-better than some books you and I could name, perhaps. With its warm breath gushing forth in a light cloud which merrily and gracefully ascended a few feet, then hung about the chimney-corner as its own domestic heaven, it trolled its song with that strong energy of cheerfulness, that its iron body hummed and stirred upon the fire ; and the lid itself, the recently rebellious lid—such is the influence of a bright example-performed a sort of jig, and clattered like a deaf and dumb young cymbal that had never known the use of its twin brother.
14. That this song of the kettle's was a song of invitation and welcome to somebody out of doors,-to somebody at that moment coming on toward the snug small home and the crisp fire, there is no doubt whatever. Mrs. Peerybingle knew it perfectly, as she sat musing before the hearth. It's a dark night, sung the kettle, and the rotten leaves are lying by the way; and above, all is mist and darkness, and below, all is mire and clay ; and there's only one relief in all the sad and murky air ; and I don't know that it is one, for it's nothing but a glare of deep and angry crimson, where the sun and wind together set a brand upon the clouds for being guilty of such weather; and the widest open country is a long dull streak of black; and there's hoar-frost on the finger-post, and thaw upon the track; and the ice it isn't water, and the water isn't free; and you couldn't say that anything is what it ought to be ; but he's coming, coming, coming !
15. And here, if you like, the Cricket DID chime in with a Chirrup, Chirrup, Chirrup of such magnitude, by way of chorus,—with a voice so astoundingly disproportionate to its size as compared with the kettle, (size ! you couldn't see
it !) that if it had then and there burst itself like an overcharged gun, if it had fallen a victim on the spot, and chirruped its little body into fifty pieces, it would have seemed a natural and inevitable consequence, for which it had expressly labored.
16. The kettle had had the last of its solo performance. It persevered with undiminished ardor; but the Cricket took first fiddle and kept it. Good Heaven, how it chirped! Its shrill, sharp, piercing voice resounded through the house, and seemed to twinkle in the outer darkness like a star. There was an indescribable little trill and tremble in it at its loudest, which suggested its being carried off its legs, and made to leap again, by its own intense enthusiasm. Yet they went very well together, the Cricket and the kettle. The burden of the song was still the same ; and louder, louder, louder still, they sung it in their emulation.
17. The fair little listener-for fair she was and young, though something of what is called the dumpling shape ; but I don't myself object to that-lighted a candle, glanced at the Haymaker on the top of the clock (who was getting in a pretty average crop of minutes), and looked out of the window, where she saw nothing, owing to the darkness, but her own face imaged in the glass. And my opinion is (and so would yours have been), that she might have looked a long way and seen nothing half so agreeable. When she came back and sat down in her former seat, the Cricket and the kettle were still keeping it up, with a perfect fury of competition. The kettle's weak side clearly being, that he didn't know when he was beat.
18. There was all the excitement of a race about it. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket a mile ahead. Hum, hum, hum-m—m! Kettle making play in the distance, like a great top. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket round the corner. Hum, hum, hum-m-m! Kettle sticking to him in his own way ; no idea of giving in. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket fresher than ever. Hum, hum, hum-m-m! Kettle slow and steady. Chirp, chirp, chirp! Cricket going in to finish him. Hum, hum, hum-m-m! Kettle not to be finished. Until at last, they got so jumbled together, in the hurryskurry, helter-skelter of the match, that whether the kettle
know whenere was all Cricket
19. But of this there is no doubt, that the kettle and the Cricket, at one and the same moment, and by some power of amalgamation best known to themselves, sent, each, his fire-side song of comfort streaming into a ray of the candle that shone out through the window, and a long way down the lane. And this light, bursting on a certain person who, on the instant, approached towards it through the gloom, expressed the whole thing to him, literally in a twinkling, and cried, Welcome home, old fellow! Welcome home, my boy!
XXI.—I'M GROWING OLD.
JOHN G. SAXE.
My nights are blest with sweetest sleep,
I have no cause to mourn nor weep,
My friends are neither false nor cold;
I'm growing old !
2. My growing talk of olden times,
My growing thirst for early news,
My growing love of easy shoes,
My growing fear of taking cold,
I'm growing old !
3. I'm growing fonder of my staff,
I'm growing dimmer in the eyes,
I'm growing deeper in my sighs,
I'm growing careless of my dress,
I'm growing frugal of my gold,
I'm growing old !
4. I see it in my changing taste,
I see it in my changing hair,
I see it in my growing heir ;
As plain as truth was ever told,
I'm growing old !
5. Ah me! my very laurels breathe
The tale in my reluctant ears,
But makes me debtor to the Years !
The secret she would fain withhold,
I'm growing old !
6. Thanks for the years, whose rapid flight
My somber muse too sadly sings !
That tint the darkness of their wings !
Those heavenly mansions to unfold, Where all are blest, and none may sigh,
“ I'm growing old !"