And really he had reason. They were very comely.
′It spoke the truth, John, when it seemed to say so; for you have ever been, I am sure, the best, the most considerate, the most affectionate of husbands to me. This has been a happy home, John; and I love the Cricket for its sake!′
′Why so do I then,′ said the Carrier. ′So do I, Dot.′
′I love it for the many times I have heard it, and the many thoughts its harmless music has given me. Sometimes, in the twilight, when I have felt a little solitary and down-hearted, John—before baby was here to keep me company and make the house gay—when I have thought how lonely you would be if I should die; how lonely I should be if I could know that you had lost me, dear; its Chirp, Chirp, Chirp upon the hearth, has seemed to tell me of another little voice, so sweet, so very dear to me, before whose coming sound my trouble vanished like a dream. And when I used to fear—I did fear once, John, I was very young you know—that ours might prove to be an ill-assorted marriage, I being such a child, and you more like my guardian than my husband; and that you might not, however hard you tried, be able to learn to love me, as you hoped and prayed you might; its Chirp, Chirp, Chirp has cheered me up again, and filled me with new trust and confidence. I was thinking of these things to-night, dear, when I sat expecting you; and I love the Cricket for their sake!′
′And so do I,′ repeated John. ′But, Dot? _I_ hope and pray that I might learn to love you? How you talk! I had learnt that, long before I brought you here, to be the Cricket′s little mistress, Dot!′
She laid her hand, an instant, on his arm, and looked up at him with an agitated face, as if she would have told him something. Next moment she was down upon her knees before the basket, speaking in a sprightly voice, and busy with the parcels.
′There are not many of them to-night, John, but I saw some goods behind the cart, just now; and though they give more trouble, perhaps, still they pay as well; so we have no reason to grumble, have we? Besides, you have been delivering, I dare say, as you came along?′
′Oh yes,′ John said. ′A good many.′
′Why what′s this round box? Heart alive, John, it′s a wedding- cake!′
′Leave a woman alone to find out that,′ said John, admiringly. ′Now a man would never have thought of it. Whereas, it′s my belief that if you was to pack a wedding-cake up in a tea-chest, or a turn-up bedstead, or a pickled salmon keg, or any unlikely thing, a woman would be sure to find it out directly. Yes; I called for it at the pastry-cook′s.′
′And it weighs I don′t know what—whole hundredweights!′ cried Dot, making a great demonstration of trying to lift it.
′Whose is it, John? Where is it going?′
′Read the writing on the other side,′ said John.
′Why, John! My Goodness, John!′
′Ah! who′d have thought it!′ John returned.
′You never mean to say,′ pursued Dot, sitting on the floor and shaking her head at him, ′that it′s Gruff and Tackleton the toymaker!′
Mrs. Peerybingle nodded also, fifty times at least. Not in assent- -in dumb and pitying amazement; screwing up her lips the while with all their little force (they were never made for screwing up; I am clear of that), and looking the good Carrier through and through, in her abstraction.
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