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- Who Spoke Next - 6/7 -
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 bee.
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 old breeches.
"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 thing."
"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 and grief."
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 Scrimp's.
"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 days."
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 worth relating.
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
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