HAVE you ever seen a maiden? I mean what our pavers call a
maiden, a thing with which they ram down the paving-stones in
the roads. A maiden of this kind is made altogether of wood,
broad below, and girt round with iron rings. At the top she is
narrow, and has a stick passed across through her waist, and
this stick forms the arms of the maiden.
In the shed stood two Maidens of this kind. They had their
place among shovels, hand-carts, wheelbarrows, and
measuring-tapes; and to all this company the news had come
that the Maidens were no longer to be called 'maidens,' but
'hand-rammers,' which word was the newest and the only correct
designation among the pavers for the thing we all know from
the old times by the name of 'the maiden.'
Now, there are among us human creatures certain
individuals who are known as 'emancipated women,' as, for
instance, principals of institutions, dancers who stand
professionally on one leg, milliners, and sick-nurses; and
with this class of emancipated women the two Maidens in the
shed associated themselves. They were 'maidens' among the
paver folk, and determined not to give up this honorable
appellation, and let themselves be miscalled 'rammers.
'Maiden is a human name, but hand-rammer is a thing, and
we won't be called things- that's insulting us.'
'My lover would be ready to give up his engagement,' said
the youngest, who was betrothed to a paver's hammer; and the
hammer is the thing which drives great piles into the earth,
like a machine, and therefore does on a large scale what ten
maidens effect in a similar way. 'He wants to marry me as a
maiden, but whether he would have me were I a hand-rammer is a
question, so I won't have my name changed.'
'And I,' said the elder one, 'would rather have both my
arms broken off.'
But the Wheelbarrow was of a different opinion; and the
Wheelbarrow was looked upon as of some consequence, for he
considered himself a quarter of a coach, because he went about
upon one wheel.
'I must submit to your notice,' he said, 'that the name
'maiden' is common enough, and not nearly so refined as
'hand-rammer,' or 'stamper,' which latter has also been
proposed, and through which you would be introduced into the
category of seals; and only think of the great stamp of state,
which impresses the royal seal that gives effect to the laws!
No, in your case I would surrender my maiden name.'
'No, certainly not!' exclaimed the elder. 'I am too old
'I presume you have never heard of what is called
'European necessity?'' observed the honest Measuring Tape.
'One must be able to adapt one's self to time and
circumstances, and if there is a law that the 'maiden' is to
be called 'hand-rammer,' why, she must be called
'hand-rammer,' and no pouting will avail, for everything has
'No; if there must be a change,' said the younger, 'I
should prefer to be called 'Missy,' for that reminds one a
little of maidens.'
'But I would rather be chopped to chips,' said the elder.
At last they all went to work. The Maidens rode- that is,
they were put in a wheelbarrow, and that was a distinction;
but still they were called 'hand-rammers.'
'Mai-!' they said, as they were bumped upon the pavement.
'Mai-!' and they were very nearly pronouncing the whole word
'maiden;' but they broke off short, and swallowed the last
syllable; for after mature deliberation they considered it
beneath their dignity to protest. But they always called each
other 'maiden,' and praised the good old days in which
everything had been called by its right name, and those who
were maidens were called maidens. And they remained as they
were; for the hammer really broke off his engagement with the
younger one, for nothing would suit him but he must have a
maiden for his bride.