HomeCharles DickensThe Cricket on the Hearth

The Cricket on the Hearth. Charles Dickens

In appalling masks; hideous, hairy, red-eyed Jacks in Boxes; Vampire Kites; demoniacal Tumblers who wouldn′t lie down, and were perpetually flying forward, to stare infants out of countenance; his soul perfectly revelled. They were his only relief, and safety-valve. He was great in such inventions. Anything suggestive of a Pony- nightmare was delicious to him. He had even lost money (and he took to that toy very kindly) by getting up Goblin slides for magic-lanterns, whereon the Powers of Darkness were depicted as a sort of supernatural shell-fish, with human faces. In intensifying the portraiture of Giants, he had sunk quite a little capital; and, though no painter himself, he could indicate, for the instruction of his artists, with a piece of chalk, a certain furtive leer for the countenances of those monsters, which was safe to destroy the peace of mind of any young gentleman between the ages of six and eleven, for the whole Christmas or Midsummer Vacation.

What he was in toys, he was (as most men are) in other things. You may easily suppose, therefore, that within the great green cape, which reached down to the calves of his legs, there was buttoned up to the chin an uncommonly pleasant fellow; and that he was about as choice a spirit, and as agreeable a companion, as ever stood in a pair of bull-headed-looking boots with mahogany-coloured tops.

Still, Tackleton, the toy-merchant, was going to be married. In spite of all this, he was going to be married. And to a young wife too, a beautiful young wife.

He didn′t look much like a bridegroom, as he stood in the Carrier′s kitchen, with a twist in his dry face, and a screw in his body, and his hat jerked over the bridge of his nose, and his hands tucked down into the bottoms of his pockets, and his whole sarcastic ill- conditioned self peering out of one little corner of one little eye, like the concentrated essence of any number of ravens. But, a Bridegroom he designed to be.

′In three days′ time. Next Thursday. The last day of the first month in the year. That′s my wedding-day,′ said Tackleton.

Did I mention that he had always one eye wide open, and one eye nearly shut; and that the one eye nearly shut, was always the expressive eye? I don′t think I did.

′That′s my wedding-day!′ said Tackleton, rattling his money.

′Why, it′s our wedding-day too,′ exclaimed the Carrier.

′Ha ha!′ laughed Tackleton. ′Odd! You′re just such another couple. Just!′

The indignation of Dot at this presumptuous assertion is not to be described. What next? His imagination would compass the possibility of just such another Baby, perhaps. The man was mad.

′I say! A word with you,′ murmured Tackleton, nudging the Carrier with his elbow, and taking him a little apart. ′You′ll come to the wedding? We′re in the same boat, you know.′

′How in the same boat?′ inquired the Carrier.

′A little disparity, you know,′ said Tackleton, with another nudge. ′Come and spend an evening with us, beforehand.′

′Why?′ demanded John, astonished at this pressing hospitality.

′Why?′ returned the other. ′That′s a new way of receiving an invitation. Why, for pleasure—sociability, you know, and all that!′

′I thought you were never sociable,′ said John, in his plain way.

′Tchah! It′s of no use to be anything but free with you, I see,′ said Tackleton.

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