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a web of many textures

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That first baby was a great institution. As soon as
he came into this “breathing world,” he took command
in our house. Everything was subservient to him.
The baby was the balance-wheel that regulated everything.
He regulated the temperature, he regulated the
food, he regulated the servants, he regulated me. For
the first six months of that precious existence, he had
me up, on an average, six times a night. “Mr. Blifkins,”
says my wife, “bring that light here, do; the baby
looks strangely; I 'm so afraid it will have a fit!” Of
course the lamp was brought, and of course the baby
lay sucking his fist like a little white bear, as he was.
“Mr. Blifkins,” said my wife, “I think I feel a draught
of air; I wish you would get up and see if the window
is not open a little, because baby might get sick.”
Nothing was the matter with the window, as I knew
very well. “Mr. Blifkins,” says my wife, just as I was
going to sleep again, “that lamp, as you have placed
it, shines directly in baby's eyes, — strange that you
have no more consideration!” I arranged the light and
went to bed again. Just as I was dropping to sleep


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again, “Mr. Blifkins,” said my wife, “did you think to
buy that broma to-day for the baby?” — “My dear,”
said I, “will you do me the injustice to believe that I
could overlook a matter so essential to the comfort of
that inestimable child?” She apologized very handsomely,
but made her anxiety the scape-goat. I forgave
her, and, without saying a word more to her, I addressed
myself to sleep. “Mr. Blifkins,” said my wife, shaking
me, “you must not snore so; you will wake the baby.”
— “Jest so — jest so,” said I, half asleep, thinking I
was Solon Shingle. — “Mr. Blifkins,” said my wife, “will
you get up and hand me the warm gruel from the nurselamp
for baby? — The dear child! if it was n't for his
mother, I don't know what he would do. How can you
sleep so, Mr. Blifkins?” — “I suspect, my dear,” said
I, “that it is because I am tired.” — “O, it 's very well
for you men to talk about being tired,” said my wife;
“I don't know what you 'd say if you had to toil and
drudge like a poor woman with a baby.” I tried to
soothe her by telling her she had no patience at all, and
got up for the posset. Having aided in answering the
baby's requirements, I stepped into bed again, with the
hope of sleeping. “Mr. Blifkins,” said my wife. — I
made no answer. — “Mr. Blifkins,” said she, in a louder
key. — I said nothing. — “O dear!” said that estimable
woman, in great apparent anguish, “how can a man
who has arrived at the honor of a live baby of his own
sleep, when he don't know that the dear creature will
live till morning?” I remained silent, and, after a
while, deeming that Mrs. Blifkins had gone to sleep, I
stretched my limbs for repose. How long I slept I
don't know, but I was awakened by a furious jab in the
forehead by some sharp instrument. I started up, and
Mrs. Blifkins was sitting up in the bed adjusting some


Page 377
portion of the baby's dress. She had, in a state of semi-somnolence,
mistaken my head for the pillow, which
she customarily used for a nocturnal pincushion. I
protested against such treatment in somewhat round
terms, pointing to several perforations in my forehead.
She told me I should willingly bear such trifling things
for the sake of the baby. I insisted upon it that I did n't
think my duty as a parent to that young immortal
required the surrender of my forehead for a pincushion.
This was one of many nights passed in this way. The
truth was, that baby was what every other man's first
baby is, an autocrat, absolute and unlimited. Such was
the story of Blifkins, as herelated it. It is but a little
exaggerated picture of almost every man's experience.