Nose to window,
Still as a mouse,
"Bank the house."
Out of the barrow he shovels the tan,
And he piles and packs it as hard as he can
"All about the house's feet,"
Nose to the window,
Eager and sweet.
Now she comes to the entry door:
"Grampa--what are you do that for?
Are you puttin' stockin's on to the house?"
(Found her tongue, has Still-as-a-Mouse.)
Grandpa twinkles out of his eyes,
Straightens his aching back, and tries
To look as solemn as Phunny-kind.
But the child says:
"Grampa, is it the wind
That keeps you a-shakin' an' shakin' so?"
Then the old man, shaking the more, says: "No!
But I'm bankin' the house, Miss Locks-o-gold,
To keep out the dreadful--
And away he chuckles, barrow and all:
"'Mazin' thing," he says, "to be small!
Folks says the best things 't ever they do
Afore they git old 'nough to know!"
Phunny-kind puzzles her queer, wee brain
As slowly she toddles in again:
--"Is she a nawful, ugly, old
She stands by the clock in the corner, now:
"I wonder," she says, "does the old clock know?"
But the great clock
And the grim clock
Away at the top of his ghostly box;
The round Full Moon (in his forehead) smiles;
But with all his wisdom, or all his wiles,
Though he knows very well,
He never will tell
Should he tick and tock till a century old
What they mean by
In the great, square room, by a cheerful flame
In the fire-place, bending above her frame,
Is grandma, snapping her chalky string
Across and across a broad, bright thing.
"Gramma, what you are a-doin' here?"
"I'm a-makin' a 'comfort,' my little dear;
For grandpa and I are a-gittin' old.
And we're afeared o' the Sa-archin' Cold."
When the daylight fades, and the shadows fall
Flickering down from the fire-dogs tall,
Comes Uncle Phil, from his school and his books.
"Uncle Phil, I know by your smile-y looks--
You'll let me--get on your knee--jus' so--
An' you'll tell me somefing I want to know:
'Cos, you see, Uncle Phil, I've got to be told
Who she is--they call her
Uncle Phil looks up;
Uncle Phil looks down;
And he wags his head;
And he tries to frown;
But at last he cries
In a great surprise:
"Why, yes! to be sure! to be sure, I'll tell
For I know the old dame, of old, right well:
"Now Jack is a fine old fellow, you see;
Spicy, and full of his pranks, is he:
Snipping off noses, just for fun,
And sticking 'em on again when he is done;
A-pinching at pretty, soft ears and cheeks;
A-wakin' folks up with his jolly freaks;
But a--h! for your life
Look sharp for his wife!
"For she comes after, and comes to stay--
Welcome or not--for a month and a day!
She plots, and she plans, she sneaks, and she crawls
Till she finds a way through the thickest of walls!"
Did you ever meet a
More dreadful creatur!
She's Jack Frost's wife!
And the plague of his life!
I'm all of a shiver,
Heart, lungs and liver!
When I think of that old
"Oh--oo!" cries Phunny-kind, "how does she look?"
"To be sure! I'll picture her just like a book.
--Her nose--is an icicle, sharp and strong,
To poke in at every hole and crack;
Her eyes gleam frostily all night long--
But who knows whether they're blue or black?
"She brings on her back
An astonishing pack.
Like a blacksmith's bellows, marvellous big;
And while she dances a horrible jig,
Out of this bellows a doleful tune
She skre--eels away, in the dark o' the Moon!
"But if ever she works with a wicked will,
'Tis when she is quiet, and sly, and still.
She pretends that old Jack leaves his work but half done,
She 'wishes for once he'd be quit of his fun!'
So she follows him up with her sour, ugly phiz,
And wherever she goes, you may know she means 'biz.
"Look sharp when she peeps through the crack o' the door!
Look sharp when she hides away under the floor!
She'll crack the bare ground with a terrible bang!
And out from the clap boards the nails will go, spang!
"She'll spoil the potatoes (if once she gets in),
And she'll shake all the people whose bed-clothes are thin!
She'll stop the old clock in the dead o' the night,
And make him hold up both his hands in a fright;
And--what she won't do,
Is more than I know!
I'm all of a shiver,
Heart, lungs, and liver!
Jist always, whiniver
I think of that o--o--ld
Then Phunny-kind shivers a little, too;
And heaves a deep sigh; and says, "Are you froo?"
Then slides down, quietly, to the floor,
Doubtfully watching the outer door.
She says, "Is my bed got a fing like you said--
A 'comfut'--vat I can put over my head?"
"(Oh, Phil! naughty boy!)" says grandma;--"yes, dear
Your bed's got a 'comfut,' so never you fear--
And you should be in it, for see, the old clock
Points just to your bed-time, and says 'tick-tock!'"
"Well, grampa, I'm goin' as quick as I can,
If you'll only give me a handful of 'tan.'
"What for?" "Oh, I'm jus' goin' to take it to bed,
'Cos, I recollec' every word that you said,
And gramma, and Phil; for all of you told
How 'comfuts,' and 'tan'll' keep out