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a web of many textures

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Page 261


Right before the window yonder is a wall, left bare
and naked by the removal of a building torn down to
make way for modern improvements. Upon the wall,
clambering up over its surface in tortuous winding, is
the mark of an old chimney-flue, black and sooty with
the accumulative smoke of years. It is not a very
beautiful object to contemplate, but it thrusts itself
upon the vision, and will not down at our bid, because,
probably, it can't get down. There 's a desolateness
about the wall, and we count the places where the
beams, that supported the floor, entered it, and extended
along in tiers like the port-holes in the side of a ship-of-war;
and we sit looking out upon it, while fancy reconstructs
the old edifice, and peoples it again, and makes
it all full of bustle and life. Piece by piece the old
structure goes up, and we move among its living occupants
— old fashioned, maybe, and quaint in dress, but
with the same heart underneath all — and sit with them
in the low-studded rooms by the side of the old fireplace,
of which yonder is the flue. They burnt wood-fires
then, that crackled and blazed upon the hearth,
and sent their cheerful warmth out into the rooms, and
flashed in ruddy light upon as pleasant faces as one
could desire to see — illuminating the wainscot, and the
ancient furniture, and the plate that shone upon the
side-board. We hear again the pleasant joke, followed
by the laugh that circles the band, and the repartee
that sparkles like the fire-light, or the bright eyes that
reflect its beams. That is punch — a jolly and generous
bowl of it — that stands upon the table, sending up
its steamy and savory breath; and the silver ladle above
its brim is a quaint old thing that has been in the family


Page 262
for many years, and stands up with a consciousness of
importance that is delightful to see. All partake — the
old and the young — and beautiful lips press the goblet's
brim, nor think shame of it, though modern usage
might condemn it; but those were rum days. That old
hearth was, doubtless, the scene of many tender episodes
— shut out, however, from gaze by the roseate
screen which delicacy wove in the days of their enactment.
But fancy enters the veil, and the sigh and the
tear, the kiss and the vow, are things of now, redolent
with the sweetness of yesterday's love. The voices
of children sound around the old dark hearth, and the
gentle tones of age in wise counsel give serenity and
sanctity to the whole. And grief obtrudes its pictures,
thrusting the bier and the pall amid the roses and the
myrtles, and a skeleton hand writes “Death” upon the
wall opposite where the wood-fire brightens and flashes.
What a queer train of fancies has the old wall conjured
up! But, as we gaze, the fabric falls piece by piece
away; the scene fades out; the murmur of voices becomes
again the familiar sounds of trade; the fire is
quenched by the snow that drips upon it; positive
bricks take the place of unsubstantial fancies, and the
flue, black and repulsive, stares us again in the face, a
cold and cheerless presentment of desolation.