« AnteriorContinuar »
HUMAN LIFE-WHAT IS IT LIKE!
1. LIKE as a damask rose you see,
Or like a blossom on the tree;
2. Like to the grass that's newly sprung,
Or like a tale that's new begun;
3. Like to the bubble in the brook,
Or in a glass much like a look ;
The bubble's burst, the look's forgot,
UNCLE ABEL AND LITTLE EDWARD.
FROM THE “ GIFT" OF 1839.
1. WERE any of you born in New England, in the good old catechising, school-going, orderly times? If you were, you must remember my Uncle Abel; the most perpendicular, rectangular, upright, downright good man that ever labored six days and rested on the Sabbath.
2. You remember his hard, weather-beaten countenance, where every line seemed to be drawn with a pen of iron and the point of a diamond; his considerate grey eyes, that moved over objects as if it were not best to be in a hurry about seeing; the circumspect opening and shutting his mouth ;-his down-sitting and up-rising ; all of which appeared to be performed with a conviction afore-thought-in short, the whole ordering of his life and conversation, which was, according to the tenor of the military order—" to the right-about faceforward-march !"
3. “Now, if you supposed, from all this triangularism of exterior, that this good man had nothing kindly within, you were much mistaken. You often find the greenest grass under a snow-drift, and though my uncle's mind was not exactly of the flower-garden kind, still there was an abundance of whole. some and kindly vegetation there.
4. It is true, he seldom laughed, and never joked-himself; but no man had more weighty and serious conviction of what a good joke was in another, and when some exceeding witticism was dispensed in his presence, you might see Uncle Abel's face slowly relax into an expression of solemn satis
faction, and he would look at the author with a certain quiet wonder, as if it was astonishing how such a thing could ever come into a man's head.
5. Uncle Abel also had some relish for the fine arts; in proof whereof I might adduce the pleasure with which he gazed at the plates in his family Bible, the likeness whereof I presume you never any
of you saw-and he was also such an eminent musician, that he could go through the singing-book at a sitting, without the least fatigue, beating time like a windmill all
6. He had, too, a liberal hand—though his liberality was all by the rule-of-three and practice. He did to his neighbors exactly as he would be done by—he loved some things in this world sincerely-he loved his God much, but honored and feared him more; he was exact with others, he was more exact with himself—and expected his God to be more exact still.
7. Everything in Uncle Abel's house was in the same time, place, manner, and form, from year's end to year's end. There was old Master Bose, a dog after my
uncle's own heart, who always walked as if he were learning the multiplication table. There was the old clock, for ever ticking in the kitchen-corner, with a picture on its face of the sun, for ever setting behind a perpendicular row of poplars. There was the never-failing supply of red peppers and onions hanging over the chimney. There were the yearly hollyhocks and morningglories, blooming around the windows. There was the “best room” with its sanded floor, and ever-green asparagus bushes -its cupboard with a glass-door in one corner—and the stand with the great Bible and almanac on it, in the other.
8. There was Aunt Betsy, who never looked any older, because she always looked as old as she could—who always dried her catnip and wormwood the last of September, and began to clean house the first of May. In short, this was the land of continuance. Old time never seemed to take into his head to practice either addition, subtraction, or multiplication, on its sum total.
9. This Aunt Betsy aforenamed, was the neatest and most efficient piece of human machinery that ever operated in forty places at once. She was always everywhere, predominating over, and seeing to, everything, and though my uncle had been twice married, Aunt Betsey's rule and authority had never been broken. She reigned over his wives when living, and reigned after them when dead, and so seemed likely to reign to the end of the chapter.
10. But my uncle's latest wife left Aunt Betsy a much less tractable subject than had ever before fallen to her lot. Little Edward was the child of my uncle's old age, and a brighter, merrier little blossom never grew up on the verge of an avalanche. He had been committed to the nursing of his grandmama, until he had arrived at the years of indiscretion, and then my old uncle's heart yearned toward him, and he was sent for home.
11. His introduction into the family excited a terrible sensation. Never was there such a contemner of dignities—such a violater of all high places and sanctities, as this very Master Edward. It was all in vain to try to teach him decorum. He was the most outrageously merry little elf that ever shook a head of curls, and it was all the same to him whether it was “Sabba-day" or any other day.
12. He laughed and frolicked with everybody and everything that came in his way, not even excepting his solemn old father; and when you saw him with his arms around the old man's neck, and his bright blue eyes and blooming cheek pressing out by the bleak face of Uncle Abel, you almost fancied that you saw spring caressing winter. Uncle Abel's metaphysics were sorely puzzled to bring this sparkling, dancing compound of spirit and matter into any reasonable shape, for he did mischief with an energy and perseverance that was truly astonishing.
13. Once, he scoured the floor with Aunt Betsy's very Scotch snuff, and once he washed up the hearth with Uncle Abel's most immaculate clothes-brush, and once he spent half an
• hour in trying to make Bose wear his father's spectacles. In short there was no use, but the right one, to which he did not put everything that came in his way.
14. But Uncle Abel was most of all puzzled to know what to do with him on the Sabbath, for on that day Master Edward seemed to exert himself particularly to be entertaining.
“Edward, Edward, must not play on Sunday," his father would say, and then Edward would shake his curls over his eyes, and walk out of the room as grave as a catechism, but the next moment you might see pussy scampering in all dismay through the “best room,” with Edward at her heels, to the manifest discomposure of Aunt Betsy, and all others in authority.
15. At last my uncle came to the conclusion, that“ it wasn't in natur to teach him any better,” and that “he would no more keep Sunday than the brook down the lot.” My poor uncle; he did not know what was the matter with his heart, but certain it was, that he lost all faculty of scolding, when little Edward was in the case, though he would stand rubbing his speetacles a quarter of an hour longer than common, when Aunt Betsy was detailing his witticisms and clever doings. But, in process of time, our hero compassed his third year, and arrived at the dignity of going to school.
16. He went illustriously through the spelling-book, and then attacked the Catechism ; went from “ Man's Chief End" to “ the Commandments” in a fortnight, and at last came home inordinately merry, to tell his father he had got to “ Amen."
17. After this, he made a regular business of saying over the whole every Sunday evening, standing with his hands folded in front, and his checked apron smoothed down, occasionally giving a glance over his shoulder, to see whether pussy was attending. Being of a very benevolent turn of mind, he made several very commendable efforts to teach Bose the catechism, in which he succeeded as well as could be expected. In short, without farther detail, Master Edward bade fair to be a literary wonder.