The Baldwin Library
WAX MATCHES AND
WAX MATCHES AND
HERE was once a tin box, occupying a
central position on the library table of a
dear old country parson up in the north
of England; and in the tin box lived a large
quantity of wax matches, all of one family, and,
as far as a casual observer could see, exactly alike
-though it is probable that they could tell the
difference between each other well enough. Now
the family of the wax matches is a very haughty
and unsociable family, and will not mix with any
of the sorts of matches in more common use, nor
in fact with any matches at all that are not made
of wax. They think more of outward and ex-
pensive show than of sterling usefulness; and,
4 Wax Matches and Wooden Ones.
from their narrow feeling of what philosophers
call caste, their ideas have necessarily run very
much in one groove from generation to generation,
so that the standard of intellect among that class of
matches is at the present day rather low in the scale.
On the extreme verge of the same table, half-
hidden by some dusty old papers, lay a broken box
of common wooden matches, some of which clung
instinctively to their shattered home, while others
remained outside on the bare table, waiting for
some opportunity of being turned to good ac-
count ; for the wooden match family are just as
particular about utility, and as careless of outside
show (beyond a certain comely neatness), as the
other class are the reverse.
One day, when the dear old north-country par-
son had gone out for a day's visiting among hi.
poor parishioners at a distance, the lid of the tin
box was left open and two of the young wax
matches, females (most wax matches are of the
softer sex), managed to slip out over the edge, and
take a survey of the table.
Wax Matches and Wooden Ones. 5
Shall we walk round this agreeable prome-
nade?" asked the younger, half timorously, for
she had never been outside her box before.
Rather!" replied the elder, who had more
than once got out about the table, and had picked
up somehow or other a limited knowledge of
So they sauntered about the table, passing their
remarks on all the various novel objects which
met their gaze and their allusions to these objects
were generally marked by a profound ignorance
and ample self-satisfaction.
Now it happened that, as they neared the
boundary of their table-world, they stumbled over
the wrong end of a wooden match, whose sul-
phur end lay under the dusty papers; and, had it
not been for the prompt and kind assistance given
by some of the other wooden matches, both of the
delicate-complexioned young wax matches must
inevitably have fallen over the edge of the table
into a neighboring waste-paper basket.
The younger wax match, who had never seen a
6 Wax Matches and Wooden Ones.
wooden one before, though she was deeply sensible
of the traditions of her family in regard to that tribe,
was not at first aware to whom she and her sister
owed their timely rescue, and was about to express
her thanks, as any well-bred person would have
done in those circumstances; but the elder and
more experienced match at once interrupted her,
and, with a stiff bow (for you know she had no
joints, and could not bow gracefully), would have
passed on. The wooden matches, several of whom
were now alive to what had happened, stared in
blank astonishment at this unladylike and un-
grateful conduct, and one of them remarked that
the young strangers might at least have said
We cannot associate with wooden matches,"
said the elder wax one, turning to her sister, and
studiously keeping her back towards the increas-
ing crowd of wooden matches.
"Why not?" said one of the latter; "we are
as good as you, any day: our materials are just as
respectable as yours, and our pedigree more so;
Wax Matches and Wooden Ones. 7
only you wax matches are so stuck up and impu-
dent You think your white complexions and
rounded forms make up for everything."
The elder wax match was now on her mettle,
and turned round with an angry retort, quite for-
getting the obligation under which she and her
"What do you know about respectability and
pedigrees?" she said. "You are a low, vulgar lot;
and your sallow complexions and long angular
bodies are an eye-sore to any decent person."
"Delicate and round exteriors do not go for
everything in this hard-working, practical world,"
replied one of the ablest of the wooden matches.
But we have more: our skeletons are made of
cotton," said the wax match; and you will find
our name in Lempriere's Classical Dictionary. It
is only by vulgar people that we are called 'wax
matches' at all : our real name is 'Vestas,' and
we are patent."
So are we," returned the wooden match, with
alacrity; andl think the name of' Congreve' is
8 Wax Matches and Wooden Ones.
quite as good as that of 'Vesta.' You will find
that name in Kelly's London Directory, which
represents quite as respectable a class of people as
the classical dictionary does. How do you Vestas
distinguish yourselves from one another, may I
"We are numbered, like the Metropolitan
Police," said the wax match; "I and my sister
belong to the A division: we are Nos. i and 2."
Well then, Miss Vesta A j," said the wooden
spokeswoman, "let me advise you to be rather
more courteous and less self-satisfied, and to con-
siderthat you are not much use after all. Why,the
most important service you ever perform, to my
knowledge, is to melt the sealing-wax with which
the parson seals up the packet containing his
banker's book, whereas we light fires and candles,
and are at the root of many a useful under-
taking.' As for your pedigree, why your skele-
tons, as you call them, are only made from cotton-
pods, and you would be ashamed to be seen
without your wax; whereas we are solid wood.
Wax Matches and Wooden Ones. 9
We were made from a time-honoured beam
which fell from the roof of a church, and which
was a tree in the time of Alfred the Great. I
should say the trunk of a tree stands rather
higher than a mere cotton-pod. Besides---"
But the wax matches had walked away dis-
gusted, and certainly with the worst of the
argument. As they reached their box the door
opened, and a sweet-looking girl of sixteen, with
rounded figure and a delicate creamy complexion
which set off her wide blue eyes and golden
hair to perfection, hurried into the room, looking
agitated and timorous, and peered round as if to
make sure that there was no one there. It was
the parson's only daughter, Nina, who had no
mother, and was the old man's chief anxiety, for
she was wild and wilful. Her present fear was
lest her father should have come in unawares;
but when she saw that she was alone, she took
from her bosom a letter, addressed in her own
handwriting to an Italian girl who had been
staying for a few months some miles off, and
10 Wax Matches and Wooden Ones.
who, though very fascinating, was just the sort
of frivolous companion that Nina's father most
dreaded for her. The purport of the letter was
to make an appointment to meet this girl in her
afternoon walk and though Nina's father had
expressly forbidden such appointments, I am sorry
to say this was not the first she had made and kept.
Nina laid her letter on the table, and, spying
the two wax matches, exclaimed, "Ah! just what
I want,-to seal my letter." So she took one of
them between her pretty little finger and thumb.
The poor match felt that its last hour was
come, and uttered a desperate groan after the
manner of wax matches, for they cannot bear to
be struck. Nina did not hear the groan, and
proceeded to strike the match.
"Ter-r-rsh-h-h-Fiz-z-z!" said the match as
it blazed up; but Nina's breathing was quick
with excitement, and she blew it out without
meaning to do so. Now came the other's turn.
The pretty little ruthless white hand seized the
Wax Matches and Wooden Ones. I I
"Ter-r-rsh-h-h-Fiz-z-z !" again was the cry;
and this time the match was kept alight while the
letter was sealed. It was piteous to see the two
matches lying motionless, with their little round
heads disfigured. To Nina's mind they were
only two used-up matches; but to the inhabitants
of the tin box they were the blackened corpses of
two of the family.
The young girl ran out to post her letter, and
in the afternoon the longed-for stolen walk took
place. The Italian did not mean to do her little
friend any harm; but she was one of those
frivolous people who have sufficiently plausible
exteriors to do more harm by imbuing others with
their notions, than many malevolent persons can
do: and this was the effect that her companion-
ship had upon Nina. Poor little Nina! she had
little to recommend her beyond her beauty. If
she had been born a match it would certainly
have been a wax one. She thought of nothing
beyond her own insignificant little personality,
and looked down with contempt on the two Miss
12 Wax Matches and Wooden Ones.
Blocks, who helped her father in his parishional
labours, and who were sallow in complexion as
well as angular and awkward in shape. Yes!
had she been a match it would indubitably have
been a patent vesta, and the Miss Graggs, the
fast young ladies of the neighbourhood, said that
she "considered herself quite Ar"-by which I
believe they meant that she was conceited.
Nina's letter to the Italian was written in the
early autumn; and at Christmas there were gay
doings at the Parsonage. There was a feast for
the school children; and the two Miss Blocks
came to help. Nina sat apart in her own room,
.busy with some finery, and resisted all her good
old father's entreaties to take part in the children's
entertainment. The Miss Blocks bustled about
among the children, and saw that they had every-
thing they wanted; and the children loved them
notwithstanding their uncomeliness.
It was at this time that the use of the wooden
matches came out. The cook got up early -to
light the fire, and, in the hurry of-Christmas
Wax Matches and Wooden Ones. 13
business, forgot her own match-box. She went
into the library, and seized some of those that
still lay scattered on the table, half covered by
dusty papers, as they were on the day of their
encounter with the Patent Vestas. These she
lighted the kitchen fire with, and it was at that
fire that the children's dinner was cooked.
While the children were at dinner a huge fire
was prepared for them in the large hall, where
they were to spend the evening; and this time
the housemaid pounced upon two of our old
friends the wooden matches, and lighted the fire
in two places. Up it blazed, and the good ashen
faggot soon began to hiss and crackle with mirth.
When the children were all assembled, there were
games, and supper, and speechifying, and merri-
ment of all sorts. The parson delivered a long
address to the children, telling them that if they
were good they would always be well taken care
of, and that if they were naughty he and the Miss
Blocks would do their best to make them good.
The Miss Blocks were specially thanked for their
14 Wax Matches and Wooden Ones.
kind services, and the tears came into the eyes of
those good ladies at the sight of the genuine and
affectionate gratitude of the poor country children,
as well as of their parents, many of whom were
there at supper. The cook was complimented
on her dinner, and the housemaid on her fire-
and poor little Nina was the only one who did
not come in for a share of the gratitude.
Then, when all the people had done thanking
and being thanked, there was a murmur among
the things, whose sense of propriety had hitherto
locked their lips; and this murmur gradually
grew to a sound like the many-throated voice of
a rookery, until at last the Sir Loin of Beef, in
virtue of the knighthood conferred on him by
King Charles II., rose on his flat end and waved
the tumult down with the little turn-over flap of
fat that remained on his small end. He drew
attention to the fact that his undercut was a
thing of the past; and he said he was proud to
find himself nearly gone. The shattered state of
his uppercut was to him a matter of unselfish con-
Wax Matches and Wooden Ones. 15
gratulation; and all he requested was that his
bone might find a suitable grave in the bone-
digester. The Pudding then rose, and said that
the feeling of honest satisfaction which had that
morning inspired her, as she contemplated her
ample spheric dignity reflected in the well
glazed dish, and thought of the riches which had
been entrusted to her doughy keeping, had given
place to a less selfish delight at the more solid
satisfaction she had conferred on so many inno-
cent young people. She concluded with the
remark that she had nothing to desire for her re-
mains beyond the honour already shown to her
complete self. The knives and forks clattered
and chattered, and some of the plates actually
threw themselves off the table with excitement
and got broken. Just as the company was about
to disperse, the fire gave a great hiss, and the fat-
test log in the ashen faggot leaped on to the front
bar, and in a flaming oration dwelt on the claim
of the two matches, to whom the fire owed its
commencement, to be considered among the other
16 IWax Matches and Wooden Ones.
benefactors. The clattering of knives and forks
was redoubled: even the spoons dashed their bowls
*on the plates;and in fact the applausewasuniversal.
The Miss Blocks, dear kindred souls, dis-
regarding the strict etiquette of their sex, rose
with a strong fellow-feeling for the two useful
matches, and seconded the vote of thanks to
those unobtrusive individuals, who had so largely
contributed to the warmth of the social gathering.
The two matches whose bodies lay under the
grate felt their ends glow again; and it was said
that each shot forth a spark of delight at this
ample recognition of their merits. Moved by
this wordless demonstration, no less a person than
the pepper-mill testified his desire to speak by
waving his handle rapidly round; and then in a
copious flow of pepper, which was his only lan-
guage, he said he believed himself to be express-
ing the sense of the matches in returning thanks
Sfor the compliment paid to them.
But I should like to know who returned thanks
for the two wax matches ?