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patently picking up something with great eagerness.
For a moment I was too much startled to Bpeak; then, gaining courage as I looked at the little creature, I sprang up, exclaiming at the same time,
"Why, who are you f and where did you come from! and pray what are you doing heret"
The little old woman straightened herself as I thus abruptly addressed her, and made a queer little ancient courtesy. Then with great gravity, in a shrill fine voice which almost seemed to prick one's ears with its peculiar sharpness, she answered,
"I am the Pin Ghost, and my mission has ever been to gather up in all parts of the world the pins that are dropped by so many hasty or careless hands. Especially do I follow in the wake of dress-makers, because then and there have I always found my richest harvest, and that is why I am here to-night."
"Dear me VI interrupted; "this vooation of yours explains a mystery which has long puzzled the curious. This is the answer to that oft-repeated question of'Where do the pins go t'"
"Yes," said the sprite, with a queer little smile on her withered face—" yes, and you may congratulate yourself on having fathomed a secret which has baffled wiser heads than yours."
"But tell me," I began, eagerly—"tell me what yon do with all the pins you gather, and to what use you can put them. Come, sit down and let us talk comfortably."
"Sit down, indeed!" said the old woman, with a look of disdain. "Why, I'm neither bent nor crooked, that you should ask me to sit down. No; I always stand, as you might perceive."
Seeing that she was really offended, though I did not know why, I hastened to apologize, and at last the smile returned to her face, and she began her story thus:
"As I have told yon, my mission is to pick up the pins that every one scatters, and this work keeps me very busy. By day and by night, in town or country, in the houses of the rich or the poor, I gather my pins, and having gathered, I proceed to use them. Whenever I see a rich man, with more money than brains, building an elegant house and furnishing it in the most costly manner, I begin my work on him. I put pins in his luxurious sofas, pins in his softest easy-chairs, pins in his bed of down; I even put pins in his favorite dishes, until they cease to gratify his palate—yes, and pins in the elegant dresses of his wife and daughters too, until the whole family become uneasy and discontented.
"Then, finding no pleasure in their possessions, they sell or rent their fine house on which they had so prided themselves, and
try change and travel. In nine cases out of ten they go abroad and make the tour of Europe, but they do not escape me. No, indeed! I follow them in their journeyings, keeping them continually on the move, putting a few pins in every new purchase or new place, just to keep them from too much tranquillity. Finally our rich man turns his face homeward again, under a vain impression that among the old familiar scenes the old rest and comfort may yet be found. Delusion! I put pins in his old pleasures, his old pursuits, until he can glean nothing restful from them, and is fain to become a dissatisfied grumbler for the rest of his life.
"Then sometimes I find a clergyman who is too happy, too comfortably settled; he loves his people, they love him, and he finds real delight in his duty. Well, I can soon change all that. I stick pins in his sermons, and they prick and vex some sensitive hearer. I stick pins in elder or deacon, warden or vestry-man, as the case may be, until their very hand-shakings only sting the more. I put a few pins in the sewing society, the missionary meeting, the social gatherings, until nearly every one gets a prick or a scratch, and is indignant accordingly. Byand-by the poor harassed minister and his perplexed people are mutually glad to sever their uncomfortable relations.
"Then, again, I amuse myself with lovers' quarrels: and let me tell you in confidence that they are the most foolishly sensitive people in the world. A well-placed pin is quite sufficient to make any man absurdly jealous or any girl unreasonably exacting, and I have often known a broken engagement to follow a few good hard pricks.
"Sometimes I stick a pin into an orator just as he is rising to address an audience; and then how the poor man will stammer and hesitate and fidget, and make all his hearers as nervous as himself.
"But my most effective work is done when I can put a few sharp pins into a married man, and then send him home yet smarting from the effect.
"Of course he thinks that his business perplexities have irritated him, and lays his ill humor to some rise or fall in stocks or merchandise; but I know better. Naturally he vents 6ome part of his vexation upon his wife, and this saves me a great deal of work, since no thrust of mine, however sharp, could equal the pain her husband's ill temper can give her.
"In fact, that is the easiest way to reach a married woman; for all the pins I can put in the domestic machinery, all the sharppointed frictions of social life, are as nothing compared with the smart a husband's looks and words can inflict.
"Very often, too, I make one at a dinner or evening party, and slyly put a few spare pins in here and there. Have you never been
thoroughly uncomfortable at a social gathering where you expected to And only enjoyment 1 Ah! that -was owing to some of my pins."
"Alas!" I exclaimed, as the old woman paused for a moment, " what a list of vexations and annoyances is this! How much real misery you are responsible for, and how complacently you speak of it all I Tell me, do you never do any good, never further any right purpose V
The sprite looked at me, as I asked this question, with a new expression—a look from which the malice had faded, and was replaced by a gentle gravity.
"I think I may say," she replied, "that my vocation gives me many opportunities of doing good, which I embrace very gladly. Whenever I catch people saying unkind things, repeating foolish gossip, showing selfish disregard for the happiness of others, I never fail to prick them severely. Want of honor or honesty, extravagance, wasted opportunities—all these and countless other causes provoke me to sharpest pricks and thrusts, given with unceasing vigilance."
"But how is it that all these pricks and stings you give don't make the world any better f Unkindness, selfishness, and falsehood abound in every direction, to say nothing of graver errors; and so of what use are your pins, after all f"
"Ah, that is only too true," said my companion, sadly. "I have wondered at that same fact very often, and it is dreadfully discouraging, I can tell you, though I know it is not my fault. Bat then I sometimes think," she added, brightening visibly as she spoke, " that people get used to my reminders after a while, and so disregard them. For instance, there are the politicians. Now I have tried faithfully to prick and sting some of those men into being honest; but though I have used up nearly all my reserve pins in the effort, I can't say I have ever met with the slightest success. Indeed, it has often seemed to me that the more I disturbed and tormented them, the moro they engrossed themselves in schemes of fraud and corruption. Why, I have sometimes been quite in want of pins because of the myriads I have wasted on these people."
"What do you do when you find your supply running low t" I inquired.
"Oh, I practice a little more economy for a time, and then, too, I make use of substitutes."
"I don't see what you can find that would answer the purpose."
"Well, the best of all I employ are the bore*, and they are really very effective. Why, bless you, with one first-class bore I can make a dozen people uncomfortable, not to say wretched, and, in consequence, I take the bores of all sorts under my special protection. Nothing less powerful than my
care could have saved them from the vengeance of their victims long ago."
"Well, notwithstanding all you have said about your efforts for improving people, I must still think that yours is a cruel and a useless occupation, for you cause much needless unhappiuess to many innocent people, while, by your own showing, you are unable to do any real good," I said, warmly; for I was, I could hardly tell why, somewhat cross.
The old woman smiled more maliciously than ever as I spoke, and thon making a sudden motion toward me with finger and thumb, as if about to prick me with a pin, Bhe exclaimed, sharply,
"There, take that, and see what it is to be rude to the Pin Ghost I" and the next instant she had vanished from my sight and from the room as completely as if she had never existed. At the samo moment my husband called me, and, with my mind still occupied with my strange visitant, I returned to the parlor and told him the whole story, which he heard with incredulous laughter, declaring that I must have dreamed it all.
But there is one fact which assures me that I really saw the old woman; for ever since she made that parting thrust at me with finger and thumb—ever since that moment, I say—I have been suffering from a vague uneasiness, which has culminated at last in a restless desire to put this narrative in print. Perhaps this was the consummation the malicious old woman intended, and my punishment may consist of sharp criticism, or total unbelief, or—sharpest pin of all—I may be coolly classed among the bores, and thus find myself at once the weapon and the victim of the Pin Ghost.
The sea is blue, the world Is fair.
Midsummer never seemed to wear
Fair Lillian's days are nearly sped;
She may not connt what hours remain; But every earthly hope Is dead.
And heaven's she would attain.
How few the years since, lithe and young,
The robins then no gayer sung,
Now, when her children bird-like poise
To her frail sense that is but noise
She has no voice to bid them cease,
She thinks,"I soon shall be at peace,
Lying alone upon her bed,
Her motherless years she lives again, And rises, half as from the dead,
To kiss her babe with pain.
She looks abroad—the fields are sweet,
"Alas!" she says, "can these eyes greet
Scanning the shop-man with deep wondrous eyes, Full of unspeakable great thoughts. "How much?
This leather fellow at your Midas-touch
Over the counter, spectacles on nose,
"What! sell a life-long friend so cheap f" he
"I'd sooner seek an air-hole in the ice And drown myself!" he vowed—and took the price.
Then, with a smile so quaint it well might move Another's tears: "Who knows but this may prove
The nucleus of a fortune? Thanks !" he said, Flung the black cape once more above his head, And went his way.
In dark and silent mood,
Why he had entered there I scarce can telL
For Allanburn, a pious widow's son,
"Dishonor I will never live to see:
A hidden vial sewed into his vest.
What hope is there f Suspected
Is menacingly nigh. And now the friend, With whose forged name he has been forced to borrow
Some thousands in his absence, comes to-morrow.
So Maurice stood and watched, aloof in shade,
And welcome toil, no matter where or what,
With the air
Of one who had a common errand there,
Turn back, turn back; it is not yet too late:
He started, read again, and still again,
With a strange fascination. But just then—
"An admirable book," the old man said;
And with a quick glance up and down, to learn
The crowd sweeps by: the shop-girl's flitting form;
The brisk mechanic coming from his work;
And hears in fancy, "Shocking suicide!"—
In groups, or friendly couples, or alone,
The season to the humblest fireside brings,
While with light hand some graceful task she
plies, Preparing still for him some sweet surprise. And Maurice Btitles in his throat the cry, "There's none so wretched and so base as I."
Her image haunts him, waiting there in vain, And conscience urges with its stinging pain; And Maurice, entering at a well-known door, As on like errands, many a time before, Snatches a pen and sets himself to write:
"Mother, do not expect me home to-night; Important business."
Flashing through the wire, The words will find the widow by her fire; And she will sigh, "His work is never done. Ah, Laura, what a husband you have won I
The wondrous eyes and the great soul within
thinks: "Was this his fearful need, his mad desire, To quench a fiery thirst with fiercer fire? No hope for him! but I may yet restore All I have periled, by one venture more."
Straight to a gaming palace he repairs;
So faithful, so industrious, so sedate!
He meets a friend; puts on an easy air
Of gayety, and sees through his despair
A sudden gleam. "Ah, Murdock, you're my man!
Lend me a trifle—any thing you can;
For Christmas gifts have ruined me, and I
Have still to purchase"—forging lie on lie.
The loan obtained, they chat and clink their
glasses; And Maurice notes a short slight man who passes, Advancing to the bar with eager pace, In short black mantle, with a strange bright face.
The last, he vows, if he may only win.
And all is over. Mother's eyes no more
So Allanburn upon that Christmas-eve,