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Queer Stories for Boys and Girls By Edward Eggleston Characters: 5699

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Willie was now all by himself. He put on more wood, and drew the rocking-chair up by the fire, and lay back in it. It was very still; he could hear every mouse that moved. The stillness seemed to settle clear down to his heart. Presently a wagon went clattering by. Then, as the sound died away in the distance, it seemed stiller than ever. Willie tried to sleep; but he couldn't. He kept listening; and after all he was listening to nothing; nothing but that awful clock, that would keep up such a tick-tick, tick-tick, tick-tick. The curtains were down, and Willie didn't dare to raise them, or to peep out. He could feel how dark it was out doors.

But presently he forgot the stillness. He fell to thinking of what his father had said at dinner. He thought of poor old rheumatic Parm'ly, and her single bucket of coal at a time. He thought of the blind broom-maker who needed a broom-machine, and of the poor widow whose children must be taken away because the mother had no sewing-machine. All of these thoughts made the night seem dark, and they made Willie's heart heavy. But the thoughts kept him company.

Then he wished he was rich, and he thought if he were as rich as Captain Purser, who owned the mill, he would give away sewing-machines to all poor widows who needed them. But pshaw! what was the use of wishing? His threadbare pantaloons told him how far off he was from being rich.

But he would go to the Polytechnic; he would become a civil engineer. He would make a fortune some day when he became celebrated. Then he would give Widow Martin a sewing-machine. This was the nice castle in the air that Willie built. But just as he put on the last stone a single thought knocked it down.

What would become of the widow and her children while he was learning to be an engineer and making a fortune afterward? And where would he get the money to go to the Polytechnic? This last question Willie had asked every day for a year or two past.

Unable to solve this problem, his head grew tired, and he lay down on the lounge, saying to himself, "Something must be done!"

"Something must be done!" Willie was sure somebody spoke. He looked around. There was nobody in the room.

"Something must be done!" This time he saw in the corner of the room, barely visible in the shadow, his father's cane. The voice seemed to come from that corner.

"Something MUST be done!" Yes, it was the cane. He could see its head, and the face on one side was toward him. How bright its eyes were! It did not occur to Willie just then that there was anything surprising in the fact that the walking-stick had all at once become a talking stick.

"Something MUST be done!" said the cane, lifting its one foot up and bringing it down with emphasis at the word must. Willie felt pleased that the little old man-I mean the walking-stick-shoul

d come to his help.

"I tell you what," said Old Ebony, hopping out of his shady corner; "I tell you what," it said, and then stopped as if to reflect; then finished by saying, "It's a shame!"

Willie was about to ask the cane to what he referred, but he thought best to wait till Old Ebony got ready to tell of his own accord. But the walking-stick did not think best to answer immediately, but took entirely a new and surprising track. It actually went to quoting Scripture!

"My eyes are dim," said the cane, "and I never had much learning; canes weren't sent to school when I was young. Won't you read the thirty-fifth verse of the twentieth chapter of Acts."

Willie turned to the stand and saw the Bible open at that verse. He did not feel surprised. It seemed natural enough to him. He read the verse, not aloud, but to himself, for Old Ebony seemed to hear his thoughts. He read:

"Ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."

"Now," said the walking-stick, stepping or hopping up toward the lounge and leaning thoughtfully over the head of it, "Now, I say that it is a shame that when the birthday of that Lord Jesus, who said it is more blessed to give than to receive, comes round, all of you Sunday-school scholars are thinking only of what you are going to get."

Willie was about to say that they gave as well as received on Christmas, and that his class had already raised the money to buy a Bible Dictionary for their teacher. But Old Ebony seemed to guess his thought, and he only said, "And that's another shame!"

Willie couldn't see how this could be, and he thought the walking-stick was using very strong language indeed. I think myself the cane spoke too sharply, for I don't think the harm lies in giving to and receiving from our friends, but in neglecting the poor. But you don't care what I think, you want to know what the cane said.

"I'm pretty well acquainted with Scripture," said Old Ebony, "having spent fourteen years in company with a minister. Now won't you please read the twelfth and thirteenth verses of the fourteenth chapter of--"

But before the cane could finish the sentence, Willie heard some one opening the door. It was his father. He looked round in bewilderment. The oil in the lamp had burned out, and it was dark. The fire was low, and the room chilly.

"Heigh-ho, Willie, my son," said Mr. Blake, "where's your light, and where's your fire. This is a cold reception. What have you been doing?"

"Listening to the cane talk," he replied; and thinking what a foolish answer that was, he put on some more coal, while his mother, who was lighting the lamp, said he must have been dreaming. The walking-stick stood in its corner, face to the wall, as if it had never been a talking stick.

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