[Illustration: PARR’S SPECIFIC.]
* * * * *
A REMONSTRANCE WITH THE NINTH OF NOVEMBER.
How melancholy an object is a “polished front,” that vain-glorious and inhospitable array of cold steel and willow shavings, in which the emancipated hearth is annually constrained by careful housewives to signalise the return of summer, and its own consequent degradation from being a part of the family to become a piece of mere formal furniture. And truly in cold weather, which (thanks to the climate, for we love our country) is all the weather we get in England, the fire is a most important individual in a house: one who exercises a bland authority over the tempers of all the other inmates—for who could quarrel with his feet on the fender? one with whom everybody is anxious to be well—for who would fall out with its genial glow? one who submits with a graceful resignation to the caprices of every casual elbow—and who has never poked a fire to death? one whose good offices have endeared him alike to the selfish and to the cultivated,—at once a host, a mediator, and an occupation.
We have often had our doubts (but then we are partial) whether it be not possible to carry on a conversation with a fire. With the aid of an evening newspaper by way of interpreter, and in strict confidence, no third party being present, we feel that it can be done. Was there an interesting debate last night? were the ministers successful, or did the opposition carry it? In either case, did not the fire require a vigorous poke just as you came to the division? and did not its immediate flame, or, on the contrary, its dull, sullen glow, give you the idea that it entertained its own private opinions on the subject? And if those opinions seemed contrary to yours, did you not endeavour to betray the sparks into an untenable position, by submitting them to the gentle sophistry of a poker nicely insinuated between the bars? or did you not quench with a sudden retort of small coal its impertinent congratulation at an unfortunate result? until, when its cordial glow, penetrating that unseemly shroud, has given evidence of self-conviction, you felt that you had dealt too harshly with an old friend, and hastened to make it up with him again by a playful titillation, more in jest than earnest.
But this is all to come. Not yet (with us) have the kindly old bars, reverend in their attenuation, been restored to their time-honoured throne; not yet have the dingy festoons of pink and white paper disappeared from the garish mantel. Still desolate and cheerless shows the noble edifice. The gaunt chimney yawns still in sick anticipation of deferred smoke. The “irons,” innocent of coal, and polished to the tip, skulk and cower sympathetically into the extreme corner of the fender. The very rug seems ghastly and grim, wanting the kindly play of the excited