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- Who Spoke Next - 4/7 -
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 goodness.
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 our story."
"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 told him.
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 done.
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 frightened.
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 experiences."
"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 neglected.
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
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