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- Who Spoke Next - 3/7 -
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 evil doers.
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 he could.
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 another word.
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 interesting speaker.
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 that morning.
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 respectable.
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."
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