The Incendiary Ash Barrel.
He is a sociable wretch, is the ash-barrel! He likes above all things to snuggle up in a corner of the wood-shed or under the back stairs, and smoke a little, and gossip with the cobwebs and dry wood and inflammable things generally, which are usually lying around his neighborhood in artistic confusion, He is round in belly and apparently jolly, but unfortunately, like many others of his build, much given to lazy habits, out of which grow mischief.
You could scarcely accuse so rotund and quiet an object as an ash-barrel of incendiary designs ; he would not be said to entertain either the desire or the intention to burn up himself and other property also ; but with or without intention, he is beyond all question much given to doing those very things, and hence, notwithstanding his easy temper and deceptive affability, he should be put out in the cold, and kept at a most chilling distance by all persons who value the safety of their property. It would be better still to put him out of existence, and substitute for him a prosaic iron vessel ; or better still, a solitary and immovable hole in the ground. A brick vault with an iron or stone cover is, after all, the best dwelling-place for your lively ash-barrel. His habits’of sociability should be discouraged, and he compelled to adopt the life of a hermit.
In one list of the causes of fire, “ashes and cinders ” are credited with having been the occasion of one hundred and thirty-four. Probably these fires occurred mainly among dwellinghouses. In another list we find “ashes and embers ” the cause of ten fires. What with the ashes that stayed at the bottom, and the sparks which went out at the top, we have in a single list the origin of eight hundred and forty fires ; so that not only do we find ashes bad in themselves, but, like poor Tray, they keep bad company also, and are therefore entitled to no countenance by prudent society.
In addition to these matters, ashes are eccentric. To outward appearance the ash-barrel may be round and comfortable, but inwardly it is full of tricks and deceit. Ashes play the possum ; they pretend to be dead and cold, and are so on the surface, when in fact they are secretly holding fire, in readiness for an opportunity that may present itself for mischief. The traditional trick of burning down so slowly that the wooden ash-box set on the floor at seven in the morning only developed a fire through the boards by eleven at night, is well known ; but there are recorded instances where ashes have retained their calorific tendencies for weeks and months, and upon the admission of air the lire has spread slowly but surely throughout the mass, burning over again, as it were, that which was supposed to have been completely burned before.
Taking him all in all, we are compelled to pronounce the ash-barrel deceptive in appearance, dangerous in tendency, incendiary in his ultimate ends, and not worthy the confidence of the community.—C. C. Hinc.