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that tends to conservation. Visible symbols of the past, if permitted to continue, grapple unto themselves the hearts of men, and render them repugnant to change. Thus obviously such symbols must be assaulted and destroyed. So (out upon your anticipating incredulity, Sir! could cause and effect be more plain ?) Radicalism has deposed the knocker from its ancient dignity, while the pert minx Utility has stood by and approved the sacrifice. Nor can we clearly see the end; for if knockers have succumbed to the fierce assaults that have shaken the Houses of Hapsburg and Hohenzollern, who shall say but that, under the flood of effulgence vouchsafed to a benighted world by a snuffy old gentleman in a Parisian attic, property shall not cease to be exclusive, and doors go out with the dynasties?
And here we would episodically observe, that it is the good old stock of knockers, door-knockers, standing boldly out from painted panelling of oak or maple, as if challenging scrutiny and defying suspicion, that we alone recognize or regard. We are the more impelled to this declaration, as a spurious set of knockers has recently made a great deal of noise in the world, perplexing respectable anility with paroxysms of wonder. We therefore unequivocally assert of our own knowledge and belief, that no relationship exists between our knockers and the Rochester knockers ; and farther, that after diligent inquiry, we find no evidence to sustain a supposition that the latter is even a distant branch of the genuine knocker family; the testimony of certain astute editors, and other marvel-loving puzzle-pates, to the contrary notwithstanding.
We hold it to be a peculiar privilege in a world of man-traps and calculation, to be able to enjoy memories of our primal golden time, ere selfishness had benumbed the heart, leaving it sensitive only to suspicion. As our affections callous, our tastes vitiate, thank God for the compensating reserve in the early relish which never forsakes us !
We turn from the insipidity of newer draughts, to grope for the better vintage among the cellars of the past.
Burnished old friends, how flit your images before us as we write! how cheerfully sounds your rat-a-tat to the charmed ear! how
transport us to the teeming past, that first boy-life of longing, and imagining, and impression; of Crusoe, and Quarles, and the Pilgrim's Progress! What various emotions did ye summon! how ye harbingered joy, and dread, and sorrow; the radiant visage beloved; the sombre suit
, the portentous watch-seals, that never jingled in their inflexibility, but depended apart, stiffly uncompromising; the solemnly-creaking boots, the awful countenance of the family-doctor! How welcomely did ye invade our solitude ! how you threatened us in moments of depression !
Hark! some one at the door; a knock timid and unaccustomed, as should there be a mistake?'. -and knocking is a momentous matter, not to be lightly undertaken. The inquirers are satisfactorily answered, and ushered in. They are our country-cousins; bouncing and buxom girls, with a glow mantling each good-natured phiz,
‘Like noon upon the mellow apricot.' With what hearty, genial earnestness do they pass their salutations : no rigid conventionality or formal ceremony here! How relieved they
profess themselves by being right at last! Such a hunt before they found us ! such abrupt negatives and surly repulses they had encountered, that they had grown quite frightened, and even at the last were in great doubt whether it was not the wrong house,' and they should suffer another ignominious rejection. As we listen to their voices, untamedly musical, we are carried back to the long, hot, dreamy days of the last summer vacation; we hear the tink-a-link of the whet-stone upon the scythe; we recline beneath some wide-spreading forest tree, in delicious reverie, gazing languidly at its fluctuating shadow cast upon the mirror of the mill-pond; we are out along the fence-rows picking the ripened berries, or chastising the temerity of disturbed and irate humble-bees, valiantly beating them back with bushes to their nest-citadel, which at last we take by storm. Then what capital swimming in the pond! A little snaky, to be sure, but what of that? Our first voyaging, too, upon the rudely-extemporized raft, when, unlike the early navigators, we scorn to hug the shore
, but push boldly out, as bucanierish a set of runagate young dare-devils as you would wish to see : aye! boldly out, far beyond those
old stumps, where our piscatory ventures are crowned with store of plump and dozy cat-fish. With the morn we behold the bright, warm sunshine flung forth to envelope refreshed nature, robbing with its fervent, glowing kisses, its beloved earth of the dew-tribute of unimpassioned night: we frolic away the closing day below the darkening boughs of sycamore and locust, upon the lawn where the fire-fly lights its lamp, to the hum of insects, the lowing of the herd, and the distant bark of the swamp-fox.
Rat-ta-ta-tat! An irritable knock; it betokeneth choler, and suggesteth the very opposite of benediction. We hear accents high-pitched, struggling between the constrained sauve and the spiteful, a blunt no,' a wrathful slam of the door, and an impatient muttering through the hall. Who was it, Jane?' Only an inquirer
, Sir.' What infinity of slight, what lack of regard in that only! Beggars may be considered with compassionate contempt, inquirers should be sure of angry disdain. From the toss of the head, the snappish response, the look of indignant surprise at your assurance, learn, 0 perplexed wanderers, that ye are in little esteem; learn, and be humble ! *Pullet? where does Mr. Pullet
? live?' 'How can we tell ? We haven't the honor of Pullet's acquaint
We do n't know Pullet. This is n't an intelligence office, Sir, (subdued but emphatic) the deuce take Pullet, and all who seek him.' Ye are the evil genii of servants. Ah! it is a heavy blow to one's dignity to be bluffed and flouted on a door-step — the top step too — in the very face of a crowded thoroughfare. Your self-importance at one bound reaches its zero. But if you are politic, you will brazen it out. Adjust your hat, draw on a glove, assume an unconcerned look, as you would say, 'I live here, and am just out for the day;' and, friend, should you have a tooth-pick about you, by all means bring it into conspicuous requisition; for it is pleasantly suggestive of the matutinal chop, or juicy joints, and artistically prepared entremets, and instead of a sarcastic smile, you excite a gratifying envy.
The knock subdued and supplicant, an eleemosynary knock. We hear a petition monotonously drawled, 'No work, a baby, six small children,
and a sick husband.' Humanity impels us to the door. There is a pervading smell of strong water illative of inferior gin; but consider the afflictions; the poor creature has doubtless taken the merest drop to assuage her pangs. So much of squalid misery affects us: the baby cries; we are overcome. Our emotion has shaped itself into a trickling tear. With one hand we blow our nose violently, with the other we plunge into the recesses of our breeches-pocket, and seize upon a coin; when comes upon the ear a harsh and startling shriek from over the way. It issueth from a woman in tattered habiliments, and of truculent aspect. • You Moll, stop a pinchin' of that ere babby: don't you see the gentlim's a-going to give without your making of him black-an-blue. I wo n't lend him to you agin, drat you.' We discern all: the woman is an IMPOSTOR!
Our fingers release the coin, and fasten spasmodically upon a bunch of keys; the pathos in our nature has been played with; we have been deceived; as in Christian duty we fill with resentment to the very gorge, incline to hand the baggage into custody, but content ourselves with a withering look of indignation, and slam the door.
Another interesting class of alms-cravers is the shipwrecked foreigners. They proffer you, as authentication of calamity, thumbed and greasy papers, where, in uniformly fair chirography, are dolorously set forth the particulars of the mishap. It occurred on the Barbary Coast, or on a voyage from Lisbon to the Azores, off Bourbon or Bengal, or by the foundering of a xebec in the Mediterranean; all of which is duly subscribed and substantiated by some oil-merchant of Algiers, or fruiterer of Marseilles, or other equally unimpeachable and accessible party. All this you gather from the appended translation. Two facts in connection with these people are very curious. No matter in what part of the world their misfortune may have overtaken them, they are sure to be stranded upon the shores of America ; suggesting some peculiarity of currents not hitherto observed, to which we would respectfully direct the attention of Lieutenant Maury; and such a rooted repugnance of water has been occasioned by the marine disaster, that it is abhorrently avoided, ever after, in all its shapes. There, too, is the dumb man; — the man with a chronic affection of the eyes, compelled to goggles ; — and a long, limp fellow, with an 'internal weakness,' (also chronic,) which would seem to have been the subject of much medical speculation, and to have sorely perplexed the Faculty. These are shrewdly suspected by housekeepers to be 'impostors, and subjected to rigid examinations; this suspicion, by the bye, being too often cited as apology for a refusal of aid where there is real distress. To cloak the same lack of humanity, is the doctrine of the inexpedience of segregative relief, urged by certain political economists who glory in a complete divorce of head and heart. There are recipients enough, God knows, for all the beneficence, individual and associated, of the world!
A perfect shower of knocks - quickly consecutive ! Is the store a-fire ? some friend mortally sick? What upon earth can it mean? How it has started your pulses ! how your good aunt has in the flurry dropped a stitch in her knitting, and declared to quite a turn. It has even impelled the deliberate old servitor for whom wheels' have been recommended, in a family joke, time out of mind -- to accelerated movement. It is a
run-away knock; the practical pleasantry of some mischief-loving young dog; or, mayhap, the lark of a medical student. It may be, there is left a portal profanation in the shape of a defunct rat, or a kitten cut off untimely from the trials and temptations of cat-dom. The advent of Halloweve, season of spells and charms, the boys never failed to announce by energetic applications at the street-doors. They plied with earnest enjoyment of the sport.
The knock assured, as of one having authority ;- such as beseemeth the dignified irrevocability of taxes, the presence of the collector of which it proclaims. He is an austere man, of portly front and pimply countenance, calling all manner of persons by their direct names, for he holdeth all alike accountable for assessment. He is of few words; his questions are direct, his answers curt, for he staggers under a weight of property, and hath no time to fritter in explanation. Most abhorred of his class was that licensed Ishmaelite, the collector of militia fines. Well do we recollect his Bardolphian nose and impudent swagger. His periodic appearance never failed to occasion a wrathful outburst. So repulsively represented was he, that in our youthful horror we could never dissociate him from the giant that troubled Christian, or that amiable Titan who went about regaling himself upon the blood of unfortunate Englishmen.
The postman's was a cheery, hurried summons. Perhaps it was a letter from an uncle (yes ! we knew it by the mark) resident in northern Obio, to which section he had been a pioneer. Its transit had occupied a fortnight, and it was a great thing, then, to be connected by so brief an interval with an absent relative. The locomotive had not yet spluttered into the heart of the forest, or the iron nerves of the telegraph reticulated half of the continent. Once, came an epistle from an old family connection, not heard of for many years
. He had buried himself in a mountain county of Virginia, where, in isolation, he had accumulated much substance. His reäppearance upon the stage was a great event in our little domestic world, starting floods of reminiscent recital from the lips of “ narrative old age.'
Frankness went out with door-knockers. You may ring the bell, (that sneak of an innovation, that wags its tongue beneath some cobwebby angle of the kitchen ceiling,) and the neighborhood be none the wiser: the very act is covert and cowardly, How different from the spreading resonance that waked the drowsy echoes of the street; the fearless conspicuity, so congenial to rectitude, incident to the ancient manner of soliciting ingress ! The
world, in its vicious decrepitude, grows wary; forsakes the open highway, to skulk blind alleys and tortuous lanes; gliding in and out of its habitations stealthily. It eschews the rough clatter of intrepid integrity, and moves on its way felt-shod.
In all ages, important orders of men have passed away with the old faith, or succumbed to the altered custom. The Vehmic Tribunal lives only in bloody and barbarous annals. At Malta, the British soldier drinks his beer, supremely indifferent of the vestiges of knightly dominion that surround him, or turns out his toes at morning drill in an arena devoted to the joust of the tournament. The Jesuit, in one generation potential and dreaded, in another is prosecuted as a felon or pursued as a fugitive. So when the glory of Knocker-dom departed, the brotherhood
of brickdust venders expired with its glow. A cry was hushed; it was no longer
NICE and fine,
Fresh from Brandywine.' The capricious abandonment of 'andirons had stricken it a heavy blow; rotten-stone had pushed it from its familiar places ; its last prop was prostrated, and it fell! Thenceforth there was a lateritious ellipsis in the commerce of the world.
While in pensive humor we trace these regrets and recollections, seems to hover near us the blessed shade of our ancient neighbor, Mrs. Larkens, the standing terror of our street. She was an active, bony lady, of sixty or thereabout, with a vigilant and fiery eye, and a vinegar aspect. In the good old colony times of Massachusetts, she would indubitably have been strangled as a witch ; but her lot being cast in degenerate days, she was merely dreaded as a gossip. She was relict of Captain Larkens, mariner, who had died of a fever many years before; and the story ran, that in utter desperation he had refused a potion, when assured by the doctor it might save his life, preferring the embrace of the grim Azrael to connubial beatitude with his grizzly consort
. Be that as it might, all connection between Larkens and the living world had been long dissolved, and his widow in the enjoyment of a respectable income. She inhabited a squab and dingy house of Dutch brick, with two companions; a frowzy serving, wench, and a low-spirited grimalkin, the life of which was a perpetual illustration of upon what surprisingly spare diet can be supported the animal frame. Her post of espial was a favorite front-window, which she seldom deserted; and where, between the interstices of a faded Venitian blind, could be discerned, during all hours of daylight, a vision of stiff starched bobbinnet darting about with unremitting animation. Was there a moving? She could furnish you an inventory of the chattels, and always thought the Briggs's parlors showed too well, for them to have much in their chambers; and could n't for the life of her see how Jones, with the business he did, could afford his daughter a piano. Was there a funeral ? She could tell you the precise number of carriages, and “how Slivers did n't seem to take on very hard at the loss of his wife;' and predicted forth with that he (brute that he was, that Slivers !) would, before six moons had spent their light, be married to some 'pert young hussy. With what accuracy and expedition did she analyse the contents of a market-basket! She knew all the medical men in town, and was not chary in expressing her opinion of their merits. Ever could she tell whom the bleeder opposite was going to leech, and whom he was going to cup. She had acquainted herself with the private histories of the beaux, and published to a day when the event was coming off. Affecting the clergy, she was alert
, from surpassing zeal for the purity of Christian morals, to discover discrepancies between their preaching and practice. She was delighted alike by a lying-in and a laying-out; was equally edified by the details of a marriage and the particulars of an execution. Every knock smote upon her tympanum a summons for attention. Fulfilling literally the injunction, 'watch,' she prayed for no better god-send than a mysterious visitant. The sound of brass stirred her, as never did