`Any place you love is the world to you,' exclaimed a pensive Catharine Wheel, who had been attached to an old deal box in early life, and prided herself on her broken heart; `but love is not fashionable any more, the poets have killed it.'
They wrote so much about it that nobody believed them, and I am not surprised. True love suffers, and is silent. I remember myself once - But it is no matter now. Romance is a thing of the past.
`Nonsense! said the Roman Candle, `Romance never dies. It is like the moon, and lives for ever. The bride and bridegroom, for instance, love each other very dearly. I heard all about them this morning from a brown-paper cartridge, who happened to be staying in the same drawer as myself and knew the latest Court news.'
But the Catharine Wheel shook her head. `Romance is dead, Romance is dead, Romance is dead,' she murmured. She was one of those people who think that, if you say the same thing over and over a great many times, it becomes true in the end.
Suddenly, a sharp, dry cough was heard, and they all looked round.
It came from a tall, supercilious-looking Rocket, who was tied to the end of a long stick. He always coughed before he made any observation, so as to attract attention.
`Ahem! ahem!' he said, and everybody listened except the poor Catharine Wheel, who was still shaking her head, and murmuring, `Romance is dead.'
`Order! order!' cried out a Cracker. He was something of a politician, and had always taken a prominent part in the local elections, so he knew the proper Parliamentary expressions to use.
`Quite dead,' whispered the Catharine Wheel, and she went off to sleep.
As soon as there was perfect silence, the Rocket coughed a third time and began. He spoke with a very slow, distinct voice, as if he was dictating his memoirs, and always looked over the shoulder of the person to whom he was talking. In fact, he had a most distinguished manner.
`How fortunate it is for the King's son,' he remarked, `that he is to be married on the very day on which I am to be let off. Really, if it had been arranged beforehand, it could not have turned out better for him; but Princes are always lucky.'
`Dear me! said the little Squib, `I thought it was quite the other way, and that we were to be let off in the Prince's honour.'
`It may be so with you,' he answered; `indeed, I have no doubt that it is, but with me it is different. I am a very remarkable Rocket, and come of remarkable parents. My mother was the most celebrated Catharine Wheel of her day, and was renowned for her graceful dancing. When she made her great public appearance she spun round nineteen times before she went out, and each time that she did so she threw into the air seven pink stars. She was three feet and a half in diameter, and made of the very best gunpowder. My father was a Rocket like myself, and of French extraction. He flew so high that the people were afraid that he would never come down again. He did, though, for he was of a kindly disposition, and he made a most brilliant descent in a shower of golden rain. The newspapers wrote about his performance in very flattering terms. Indeed, the Court Gazette called him a triumph of Pylotechnic art.'
`Pyrotechnic, Pyrotechnic, you mean,' said a Bengal Light; `I know it is Pyrotechnic, for I saw it written on my own canister.'
`Well, I said Pylotechnic,' answered the Rocket, in a severe tone of voice, and the Bengal Light felt so crushed that he began at once to bully the little squibs, in order to show that he was still a person of some importance.
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