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LXV.-AN IRRITABLE MOOD.
1. It was evening, and I had just laid up the fire in the most approved style of architecture, and, projecting my feet into my slippers, sat, spitefully cutting the leaves of a caustic review. Mrs. Crowfield took the tongs and altered the disposition of a stick.
2. “My dear,” I said, “I do wish you'd let the fire alone, — you always put it out.”
“I was merely admitting a little air between the sticks,” said my wife.
“ You always make matters worse, when you touch the fire.”
3. As if in contradiction, a bright tongue of flame darted up between the sticks, and the fire began chattering and snapping at me. I threw up my leg impatiently, and hit Rover, who yelped a yelp that finished the upset of my nerves. I gave him a hearty kick, that he might have something to yelp for, and, in the movement, upset Jennie's embroidery-basket.
4. “O, papa !”
“ Confound your baskets and balls ! — they are everywhere, so that a man can't move; useless, wasteful things, too."
“Wasteful ?” said Jennie, coloring indignantly; for if there's anything Jennie piques herself upon, it's her economy.
5. “Yes, wasteful — wasting time and money both. Here are hundreds of shivering poor to be clothed, and · Christian females sit and do nothing but crochet
worsted into useless knick-knacks. If they would be working for the poor, there would be some sense in it. But it's all just alike; no real Christianity in the world, — nothing but organized selfishness and selfindulgence.”
6. “Why, dear,” said Mrs. Crowfield, “ you are not well to-night. Things are not quite so desperate as they appear. You haven't got over Christmas-week.”
7. “ I am well. Never was better. But I can see, I hope, what's before my eyes ; and the fact is, Mrs. Crowfield, things must not go on as they are going. There must be more care, more attention to details. There's Maggie, — never does what she is told. She will light the fire with the last paper, and she won't put my slippers in the right place; and I can't have my study made the general catch-all and menagerie for Rover and Jennie, and her basket and balls, and for all the family litter.”
8. Just at this moment I overheard a sort of sigh from Jennie, who was swelling with repressed indignation at my attack on her worsted. She sat, with her back to me, knitting energetically, and said, in a low but very decisive tone, as she twitched her yarn:
“Now, if I should talk in that way, people would call me cross, and that's the whole of it.”
9. I pretended to be looking into the fire in an absent-minded state ; but Jennie's words had started a new idea. Was that it? Was that the whole matter? Was it, then, a fact, that the house, the servants, Jennie and her worsted, Rover and Mrs. Crowfield, were all going on pretty much as usual, and that the only difficulty was, that I was — cross? How many times had I encouraged Rover to lie just where he was lying when I kicked him! How many times, in better moods, had I complimented Jennie on her neat little fancy-works, and declared that I liked the social companionship of ladies' work-baskets among my papers ! Yes, it was clear. After all, things were much as they had been, only I was cross.
10. Cross! I put it to myself, in that simple, oldfashioned word, instead of saying that I was out of spirits, or nervous, or using any of the other smooth phrases with which we, good Christians, cover up our little sins of temper; and the consequence was, that, like a thoughtless young scape-grace, I had used up, in ten days, the capital of nervous energy that was meant to last me ten weeks.
11. “You can't eat your cake and have it too, Christopher. When the nervous fluid — source of cheerfulness, giver of pleasant sensations and pleasant views — is all spent, you can't feel cheerful; things cannot look as they did when you were full of life and vigor. When the tide is out, there is nothing but unsightly, ill-smelling tide-mud, and you can't help it; but you can keep your senses, — you can know what is the matter with you, — you can keep from visiting your over-dose of Christmas-pies, and candies, and jocularities on the heads of Mrs. Crowfield, Rover, and Jennie, whether in the form of virulent morality, pungent criticism, or a free kick, such as you just gave the poor brute.”
“Come here, Rover, poor dog !” said I, extending my hand to Rover, who cowered at the farther corner of the room, eyeing me wistfully, — " come here, you poor doggie, and make up with your master. There, there! Was his master cross? Well, he knows it. We must forgive and forget, old boy, mustn't we?” And Rover nearly broke his own back and tore me to pieces, with his tremulous tail-waggings.
13. “ As to you, puss,” I said to Jennie, “I am much obliged to you for your free suggestion. You must take my cynical moralities for what they are worth, and put your little traps into as many of my drawers as you please.”
14. In short, I made it up handsomely all around, - even apologizing to Mrs. Crowfield, who, by-the-by, has summered me and wintered me so many years, and knows all my airs and cuts and crinkles so well, that she took my irritable, unreasonable spirit as tranquilly as if I had been a baby cutting a new tooth.
“I knew what the matter was; don't disturb yourself,” she said, as I began my apology; "we understand each other."
MRS. H. B. STOWE.
LXVI. - POWERS OF THE HAND.
1. In many respects, the organ of touch, as embodied in the hand, is the most wonderful of the senses. The organs of the other senses are passive : the organ of touch alone is active. The eye, the ear, and the nostril,
stand simply open: light, sound, and fragrance enter, and we are compelled to see, to hear, and to smell; but the hand selects what it shall touch, and touches what it pleases. It puts away from it the things which it hates, and beckons toward it the things which it desires, — unlike the eye, which must often gaze transfixed at horrible sights from which it cannot turn, and the ear, which cannot escape from the torture of discordant sounds, and the nostril, which cannot protect itself from unpleasant odors.
2. Moreover, the hand cares not only for its own wants, but, when the other organs of the senses are rendered useless, takes their duties upon it. The hand of the blind man goes with him as an eye through the streets, and safely threads for him all the devious way. It looks for him at the faces of his friends, and tells him whose kindly features are gazing on him. It peruses books for him, and quickens the long and tedious hours by its silent readings. It ministers as willingly to the deaf; and when the tongue is dumb, and the ear stopped, its fingers speak eloquently to the eye, and enable it to discharge the unwonted office of a listener.
3. The organs of all the other senses, also, even in their greatest perfection, are beholden to the hand for the enhancement and the exaltation of their powers. It constructs for the eye a copy of itself, and thus gives it a telescope with which to range among the stars; and by another copy on a slightly different plan, furnishes it with a microscope, and introduces it into a new world of wonders. It constructs for the ear the instruments