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The Cricket on the Hearth. Charles Dickens

′Two months and three da- ays! Vaccinated just six weeks ago-o! Took very fine-ly! Considered, by the doctor, a remarkably beautiful chi-ild! Equal to the general run of children at five months o-old! Takes notice, in a way quite wonderful! May seem impossible to you, but feels his legs al-ready!′

Here the breathless little mother, who had been shrieking these short sentences into the old man′s ear, until her pretty face was crimsoned, held up the Baby before him as a stubborn and triumphant fact; while Tilly Slowboy, with a melodious cry of ′Ketcher, Ketcher′—which sounded like some unknown words, adapted to a popular Sneeze—performed some cow-like gambols round that all unconscious Innocent.

′Hark! He′s called for, sure enough,′ said John. ′There′s somebody at the door. Open it, Tilly.′

Before she could reach it, however, it was opened from without; being a primitive sort of door, with a latch, that any one could lift if he chose—and a good many people did choose, for all kinds of neighbours liked to have a cheerful word or two with the Carrier, though he was no great talker himself. Being opened, it gave admission to a little, meagre, thoughtful, dingy-faced man, who seemed to have made himself a great-coat from the sack-cloth covering of some old box; for, when he turned to shut the door, and keep the weather out, he disclosed upon the back of that garment, the inscription G & T in large black capitals. Also the word GLASS in bold characters.

′Good evening, John!′ said the little man. ′Good evening, Mum. Good evening, Tilly. Good evening, Unbeknown! How′s Baby, Mum? Boxer′s pretty well I hope?′

′All thriving, Caleb,′ replied Dot. ′I am sure you need only look at the dear child, for one, to know that.′

′And I′m sure I need only look at you for another,′ said Caleb.

He didn′t look at her though; he had a wandering and thoughtful eye which seemed to be always projecting itself into some other time and place, no matter what he said; a description which will equally apply to his voice.

′Or at John for another,′ said Caleb. ′Or at Tilly, as far as that goes. Or certainly at Boxer.′

′Busy just now, Caleb?′ asked the Carrier.

′Why, pretty well, John,′ he returned, with the distraught air of a man who was casting about for the Philosopher′s stone, at least. ′Pretty much so. There′s rather a run on Noah′s Arks at present. I could have wished to improve upon the Family, but I don′t see how it′s to be done at the price. It would be a satisfaction to one′s mind, to make it clearer which was Shems and Hams, and which was Wives. Flies an′t on that scale neither, as compared with elephants you know! Ah! well! Have you got anything in the parcel line for me, John?′

The Carrier put his hand into a pocket of the coat he had taken off; and brought out, carefully preserved in moss and paper, a tiny flower-pot.

′There it is!′ he said, adjusting it with great care. ′Not so much as a leaf damaged. Full of buds!′

Caleb′s dull eye brightened, as he took it, and thanked him.

′Dear, Caleb,′ said the Carrier. ′Very dear at this season.′

′Never mind that. It would be cheap to me, whatever it cost,′ returned the little man. ′Anything else, John?′

′A small box,′ replied the Carrier. ′Here you are!′

′"For Caleb Plummer,"′ said the little man, spelling out the direction. ′"With Cash." With Cash, John? I don′t think it′s for me.′

′With Care,′ returned the Carrier, looking over his shoulder. ′Where do you make out cash?′

′Oh! To be sure!′ said Caleb. ′It′s all right. With care! Yes, yes; that′s mine. It might have been with cash, indeed, if my dear Boy in the Golden South Americas had lived, John. You loved him like a son; didn′t you? You needn′t say you did. _I_ know, of course. "Caleb Plummer. With care." Yes, yes, it′s all right. It′s a box of dolls′ eyes for my daughter′s work. I wish it was her own sight in a box, John.′

′I wish it was, or could be!′ cried the Carrier.

′Thank′ee,′ said the little man.

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