Martin Rattler was a very bad boy. At least his aunt, Mrs. Dorothy Grumbit,
said so; and certainly she ought to have known, if anybody should, for Marti_ived with her, and was, as she herself expressed it, "the bane of he_xistence,—the very torment of her life." No doubt of it whatever, accordin_o Aunt Dorothy Grumbit's showing, Martin Rattler was "a remarkably bad boy."
It is a curious fact, however, that, although most of the people in th_illage of Ashford seemed to agree with Mrs. Grumbit in her opinion of Martin,
there were very few of them who did not smile cheerfully on the child whe_hey met him, and say, "Good day, lad!" as heartily as if they thought him th_est boy in the place. No one seemed to bear Martin Rattler ill-will,
notwithstanding his alleged badness. Men laughed when they said he was a ba_oy, as if they did not quite believe their own assertion. The vicar, an ol_hiteheaded man, with a kind, hearty countenance, said that the child was ful_f mischief, full of mischief; but he would improve as he grew older, he wa_uite certain of that. And the vicar was a good judge, for he had five boys o_is own, besides three other boys, the sons of a distant relative, who boarde_ith him; and he had lived forty years in a parish overflowing with boys, an_e was particularly fond of boys in general. Not so the doctor, a pursy littl_an with a terrific frown, who hated boys, especially little ones, with a ver_owerful hatred. The doctor said that Martin was a scamp.
And yet Martin had not the appearance of a scamp. He had fat rosy cheeks, _ound rosy mouth, a straight delicately-formed nose, a firm massive chin, an_ broad forehead. But the latter was seldom visible, owing to the thickly-
clustering fair curls that overhung it. When asleep Martin's face was th_erfection of gentle innocence. But the instant he opened his dark-brown eyes,
a thousand dimples and wrinkles played over his visage, chiefly at the corner_f his mouth and round his eyes; as if the spirit of fun and the spirit o_ischief had got entire possession of the boy, and were determined to make th_ost of him. When deeply interested in anything, Martin was as grave an_erious as a philosopher.
Aunt Dorothy Grumbit had a turned-up nose,—a very much turned-up nose; so muc_o, indeed, that it presented a front view of the nostrils! It was a_ggravating nose, too for the old lady's spectacles refused to rest on an_art of it except the extreme point. Mrs. Grumbit invariably placed them o_he right part of her nose, and they as invariably slid down the curved slop_ntil they were brought up by the little hillock at the end. There the_ondescended to repose in peace.
Mrs. Grumbit was mild, and gentle, and little, and thin, and old,—perhap_eventy-five; but no one knew her age for certain, not even herself. She wor_n old-fashioned, high-crowned cap, and a gown of bed-curtain chintz, wit_lowers on it the size of a saucer. It was a curious gown, and very cheap, fo_rs. Grumbit was poor. No one knew the extent of her poverty, any more tha_hey did her age; but she herself knew it, and felt it deeply,—never s_eeply, perhaps, as when her orphan nephew Martin grew old enough to be put t_chool, and she had not wherewithal to send him. But love is quick-witted an_esolute. A residence of six years in Germany had taught her to knit stocking_t a rate that cannot be described, neither conceived unless seen. She knitte_wo dozen pairs. The vicar took one dozen, the doctor took the other. The fac_oon became known. Shops were not numerous in the village in those days; an_he wares they supplied were only second rate. Orders came pouring in, Mrs.
Grumbit's knitting wires clicked, and her little old hands wagged wit_ncomprehensible rapidity and unflagging regularity,—and Martin Rattler wa_ent to school.
While occupied with her knitting, she sat in a high-backed chair in a ver_mall deep window, through which the sun streamed nearly the whole day; an_ut of which there was the most charming imaginable view of the gardens an_rchards of the villagers, with a little dancing brook in the midst, and th_reen fields of the farmers beyond, studded with sheep and cattle and knoll_f woodland, and bounded in the far distance by the bright blue sea. It was _ovely scene, such an one as causes the eye to brighten and the heart to mel_s we gaze upon it, and think, perchance, of its Creator.
Yes, it was a scene worth looking at; but Mrs. Grumbit never looked at it, fo_he simple reason that she could not have seen it if she had. Half way acros_er own little parlour was the extent of her natural vision. By the aid o_pectacles and a steady concentrated effort, she could see the fire-place a_he other end of the room; and the portrait of her deceased husband, who ha_een a sea-captain; and the white kitten that usually sat on the rug befor_he fire. To be sure she saw them very indistinctly. The picture was a haz_lue patch, which was the captain's coat; with a white patch down the middl_f it, which was his waistcoat; and a yellow ball on the top of it, which wa_is head. It was rather an indistinct and generalized view, no doubt; but sh_saw_ it, and that was a great comfort.