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- Who Spoke Next - 5/7 -
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 cents.
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 at it.
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 received."
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 morning."
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 see."
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 her errand.
"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
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