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A Curious Call
by [?]

I have often wondered what the various statues standing about the city think of all day, and what criticisms they would make upon us and our doings, if they could speak. I frequently stop and stare at them, wondering if they don’t feel lonely; if they wouldn’t be glad of a nod as we go by; and I always long to offer my umbrella to shield their uncovered heads on a rainy day, especially to good Ben Franklin, when the snow lies white on his benevolent forehead. I was always fond of this old gentleman; and one of my favourite stories when a little girl, was that of his early life, and the time when he was so poor he walked about Philadelphia with a roll of bread under each arm, eating a third as he went. I never pass without giving him a respectful look, and wishing he could know how grateful I am for all he had done in the printing line; for, without types and presses, where would the books be?

Well, I never imagined that he understood why the tall woman in the big bonnet stared at him; but he did, and he liked it, and managed to let me know it in a very curious manner, as you shall hear.

As I look out, the first thing I see is the great gilt eagle on the City-Hall dome. There he sits, with open wings, all day long, looking down on the people, who must appear like ants scampering busily to and fro about an ant-hill. The sun shines on him splendidly in the morning; the gay flag waves and rustles in the wind above him sometimes; and the moonlight turns him to silver when she comes glittering up the sky. When it rains he never shakes his feathers; snow beats on him without disturbing his stately repose; and he never puts his head under his wing at night, but keeps guard in darkness as in day, like a faithful sentinel. I like the big, lonely bird, call him my particular fowl, and often wish he’d turn his head and speak to me. One night he did actually do it, or seemed to; for I’ve never been able to decide whether I dreamed what I’m going to tell you, or whether it really happened.

It was a stormy night! and, as I drew down my curtain, I said to myself, after peering through the driving snow to catch a glimpse of my neighbour, ‘Poor Goldy! he’ll have a rough time of it. I hope this northeaster won’t blow him off his perch.’ Then I sat down by my fire, took my knitting, and began to meditate. I’m sure I didn’t fall asleep; but I can’t prove it, so we’ll say no more about it. All at once there came a tap at my door, as I thought; and I said ‘Come in,’ just as Mr. Poe did when that unpleasant raven paid him a call. No one came, so I went to see who it was. Not a sign of a human soul in the long hall, only little Jessie, the poodle, asleep on her mat. Down I sat; but in a minute the tap came again; this time so loud that I knew it was at the window, and went to open it, thinking that one of my doves wanted to come in perhaps. Up went the sash, and in bounced something so big and so bright that it dazzled and scared me.

‘Don’t be frightened, ma’am; it’s only me,’ said a hoarse voice. So I collected my wits, rubbed my eyes, and looked at my visitor. It was the gold eagle off the City Hall! I don’t expect to be believed; but I wish you’d been here to see, for I give you my word, it was a sight to behold. How he ever got in at such a small window I can’t tell; but there he was, strutting majestically up and down the room, his golden plumage rustling, and his keen eyes flashing as he walked. I really didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t imagine what he came for; I had my doubts about the propriety of offering him a chair; and he was so much bigger than I expected that I was afraid he might fly away with me, as the roc did with Sindbad: so I did nothing but sidle to the door, ready to whisk out, if my strange guest appeared to be peckishly inclined. My respectful silence seemed to suit him; for, after a turn or two, he paused, nodded gravely, and said affably, ‘Good-evening, ma’am. I stepped over to bring you old Ben’s respects, and to see how you were getting on.’