Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/59

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"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"- Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 282.] SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

PAEISH BROILS. HELP ! help ! fire ! fire ! water ! water ! But there is no help, and little water ; not all the water of our little brook the pastoral, the winding, the beautiful Wallastou not all the showers that fall in a thousand years upon our undulating, romantic Peverton Hill no ; nothing that man can do will ever extinguish the dreadful conflagration. A metaphorical conflagration ; not vulgar flame and heat, but internal, mental, scorching-up thought and feeling a frightful incremation of Christian charity, which goes on blazing, crackling, smouldering, night and day, and gradually reducing us all to dust and ashes. If all the extinct voleauos of Auvergne were suddenly to break out at once, and send their conical flame-floods forth in all directions splitting the solid earth with wedges of inex- haustible fire, drying up the rivers with a hissing heat, and charring all the forest with a suffocating smell they would be but a faint image and presentiment of the devasta- tion at this moment raging in our parish. And what a parish it was ! Talk of Tempe ! we beat it all to nothing. Did houses ever let in Tempe at ten and twelve guineas a-week ? Were there hot baths at Tempe ? and a nice little subscription library ? and poney-chaises to be had at a shilling an hour? and an omnibus that took you into a Thes- salian Harrowgate, in less than forty minutes, where there were excellent shops, and some- times a concert at five shillings a-head, where you heard the best London performers ? No, I believe not. And Enna ; people talk of Enna, and the flowers that Proserpine was gathering when Pluto (under the alias of gloomy Dis) made off both with her and her bouquet. Hadn't we flower-shows every year, with geraniums, and cactuses, and fuchsias far finer than Proserpine ever saw ? And Pluto had they no police in those days ? Imagine a man carrying off any of our young ladies by main force, and G 34 not having him in the lock-up before he got over the bridge ! Such a place, indeed, as Silverton Spa was iv.ver heard of before. There were about twenty families all very genteel ; in fact, we set our faces so entirely against any- body that wasn't genteel, that nobody that wasn't genteel ever thought of settling among us, and we were as united as a " happy family." If there were falcons among us, we never found it out ; they sat on the same' perch with the doves, and behaved delight- fully. The proverb of a cat-and-dog life lost its application that is, if there were any cats and dogs among us for they lived together in perfect comfort ; and, in short, a great artist could have painted us all as a frontispiece to that exquisite hymn of Dr. Watts, which describes the bliss of those in unity who dwell. Yes, we dwelt in unity, and drank tea together all the summer, and made pic-nics, and had little evening dances, and all went gaily as a marriage-bell ; and plans were evidently in progress for the future. Mr. Baskins had only one son Mr. Welford Jells had only one daughter ; the mothers were always together so were the boy and girl. It seemed quite an arranged thing from the time the young people were twelve years old ; when they were respec- tively nineteen and seventeen, I believe the only reason they had not proposed and accepted also respectively was that they considered it a useless ceremony, and that it was quite as well as it was. Then there was Mr. Jollico who had written a book, and was looked up to accordingly. None of us knew what the book was about ; he was modest, and never mentioned its name ; but we had no doubt it was about natural history per- haps, a monograph of a worm for he was always talking of vertebroe and developments, and other points of anatomy, and gave admi- rable dinners, and looked so complacently down on the affairs of the parish never seem- ing to interfere, but, somehow, always knowing everything better than anybody else that we deferred to him on all occasions, and he acted as a sort of magistrate in the moral commission of the peace, and gave universal satisfaction by the wisdom and kindness of his decision. Our clergyman was one of the finest old gentlemen I ever saw. It seemed as if he had intended in his youth to be prime minister, and, perhaps, commandcr-in- chief, and never could get quit of the dignified manner befitting those exalted positions. He seemed to do the duties of the church out of a sort of a gracious condescension, aud visited, and taught, and gave charities to the poor like a nobleman in disguise; inculcating humility, VOL. XII. 282