Short Stories » A Fable
A Fable - Page 2 of 2
"Assist me," it called to the humble partner of its late conversation. Whether the nail clung tenaciously to the dish-cloth, or whether the latter was too exhausted by labor and the sadness of a wounded spirit, was not made known to this narrator, but, although it seemed to sway gently to and fro as though trying to hitch off and down, the effort was useless. At last the dish-cloth replied: " My friend, it is impossible for me to help you in this calamity; your case requires aid from an abler source. Were I near you, I could only shield you from the sun but could not lift you. Wait, I beg of you, with resignation until the cook appears." A contemptuous silence followed. It seemed to the plate just then that the clock glared down upon it and said deliberately: "See there! see there! ha! ha! ha! ha!" and that the tea-kettle was whistling a most unsympathetic air, and the lid dancing a disrespectful jig, as much as to say, "I keep myself on my feet; I'm a water drinker."
It had been rumored in the kitchen after a dinner-party some time previously that this same fine plate had come from the dining-room smelling of brandy or something, and the plate's present prone condition apparently revived the unpleasant suggestion.
However, before this went any further, and an exoneration or proof of the insinuation was given, and thereby all unpleasant feelings between these parties done away with, the cook suddenly entered, accompanied by her mistress, with book in hand, to superintend the making of a fine pudding. Their remarks soon conveyed the information that a large number of guests were coming to dinner that afternoon.
A happy and triumphant thought occurred to the plate, which caused its breast to expand with exultant pride. " Now ! T shall soon be out of this kitchen and into the dining-room." But,. oh, how mistaken can be the most 'reasonable expectations ! The pudding, being properly prepared, was tied up in a clean linen bag, and the cook (abstractedly perhaps) lifted the prostrate plate and lowered it to the bottom of a large black pot. In its descent a harsh, grating shriek was heard, which changed to a violent contest between the plate and the boiling water, sounding like mumblings and poundings and thumpings and jumpings. The ironware fraternity averred that the shriek was made by the pot, but I affirm that it was the shriek of despair from the sinking plate. The revulsion of feeling consequent upon the dining-room disappointment and the dismay and helplessness while struggling in the boiling waves, confirm me in this conclusion. Pots, especially iron pots, are dull objects, devoid of that more refined organization of the plate family, and are used to the boiling process. However, the weight of the fine fruit-pudding soon settled the struggle, and, after a lapse of a few moments, the lid was lifted up and down evenly to the tune of the delicate steam. Three hours of this terrible ordeal passed, unrealized by the kitchen occupants except only as the proper period of time requisite for the cooking of the pudding. Then, with alacrity of movement and the liveliest expressions of solicitude (for the well-being of the pudding), the cook's assistant lifted the steaming, odorous mass into the platter held in obsequious waiting, and whereon it was conveyed with all due haste to the broad table, and there liberated from the strained and almost bursting linen which had bound it. After a critical investigation by the kitchen autocrat, consisting of several delicate piercings with golden broom straws, and professional sniffings of the delectable vapors which surrounded its corpulent proportions, a second and grander platter was ordered, and, being produced with promptitude, the pudding was relegated thereto, and carried with much dignity and suitable accessions to the dining-room. The little scullery-maid now proceeded with a skimmer to lift out the plate from the bottom of the pot, when, to her surprise, she found that it was cracked almost its diameter, and, despite the delicate sighs that rose from its o'erclouded face, she carried it out and dumped it into the ignoble ash receptacle, and then returned as though nothing extraordinary had occurred. The little maid then washed the dishes that encumbered the large table, and, having finished, soliloquized: " I always liked this little dish-cloth, and I'm going to wash it clear from suds and hang it among the roses to dry."
That evening when the portly cook was putting away the extra silver tablespoons used that day, she spied something through the open window and took it in, saying: "I'm going to lay this clean linen cloth on top of these ; it is so white and soft and nice, and I don't care about its being worn all to pieces ; it is nearly as fine as a napkin."
From amid the ashes which nearly smothered and blinded the forgotten plate, these words of the cook were heard, and the tender touches of her hands observed.
Too broken in strength to struggle for assistance, to make an appeal or whisper a farewell, the plate, after watching the little locked box of spoons carried from the kitchen to the dining-room safe, sank back among the ashes and was seen no more amid its former associates. But so long as this narrator remained where these incidents occurred, the unpretending dish-cloth retained its place of promotion among the family silver.