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Title: Household Papers and Stories
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  THE WRITINGS
  OF
  HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

  Riverside Edition


  _WITH BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTIONS
  PORTRAITS, AND OTHER
  ILLUSTRATIONS_

  IN SIXTEEN VOLUMES
  VOLUME VIII



  HOUGHTON MIFFLIN & CO


  [Illustration: Portrait of Mrs. Stowe]



  HOUSEHOLD PAPERS
  AND STORIES

  BY
  HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

  [Illustration: Mrs. Stowe's Hartford Home]



  BOSTON AND NEW YORK
  HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
  The Riverside Press, Cambridge
  1896

  Copyright, 1868,
  By TICKNOR & FIELDS.

  Copyright, 1864, 1892, 1896,
  By HARRIET BEECHER STOWE.

  Copyright, 1896,
  By HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.

  _All rights reserved._


  The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
  Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.



CONTENTS

                                                                  PAGE

  INTRODUCTORY NOTE                                                vii

  HOUSE AND HOME PAPERS
     I. The Ravages of a Carpet                                      1
    II. Homekeeping vs. Housekeeping                                16
   III. What is a Home?                                             33
    IV. The Economy of the Beautiful                                54
     V. Raking Up the Fire                                          69
    VI. The Lady who does her own Work                              85
   VII. What can be got in America                                 101
  VIII. Economy                                                    112
    IX. Servants                                                   133
     X. Cookery                                                    153
    XI. Our House                                                  182
   XII. Home Religion                                              212

  THE CHIMNEY-CORNER
     I. What will You do with Her? or, The Woman Question          231
    II. Woman's Sphere                                             249
   III. A Family Talk on Reconstruction                            274
    IV. Is Woman a Worker?                                         300
     V. The Transition                                             316
    VI. Bodily Religion: A Sermon on Good Health                   330
   VII. How shall we entertain our Company?                        347
  VIII. How shall we be Amused?                                    362
    IX. Dress, or Who makes the Fashions                           374
     X. What are the Sources of Beauty in Dress?                   395
    XI. The Cathedral                                              412
   XII. The New Year                                               425
  XIII. The Noble Army of Martyrs                                  438

  OUR SECOND GIRL                                                  449

  A SCHOLAR'S ADVENTURES IN THE COUNTRY                            473

  TRIALS OF A HOUSEKEEPER                                          487

The frontispiece is from a photograph of Mrs. Stowe taken in 1884. The
vignette of Mrs. Stowe's later Hartford home is from a drawing by
Charles Copeland.



INTRODUCTORY NOTE


Mrs. Stowe had early and very practical acquaintance with the art of
housekeeping. It strikes one at first as a little incongruous that an
author who devoted her great powers to stirring the conscience of a
nation should from time to time, and at one period especially, give
her mind to the ordering of family life, but a moment's consideration
will show that the same woman was earnestly at the bottom of each
effort. In a letter to the late Lord Denman, written in 1853, Mrs.
Stowe, speaking of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, said: "I wrote what I did
because, as a woman, as a mother, I was oppressed and heartbroken with
the sorrows and injustice which I saw, and because, as a Christian, I
felt the dishonor to Christianity." Not under the stress of passionate
emotion, yet largely from a sense of real responsibility as a woman, a
mother, and a Christian, she occupied herself with those concerns of
every-day life which so distinctly appeal to a woman's mind. How to
order a household, how to administer that little kingdom over which a
woman rules, and, above all, how to make family life stable, pure, and
conservative of the highest happiness, these were the questions which
she asked herself constantly, and which she tried to solve, not only
incidentally in her fiction, but directly in her essays, and in that
field of one tenth fiction and nine tenths didacticism, which
constitutes most of the present volume.

_A Scholar's Adventures in the Country_ and _Trials of a Housekeeper_
appeared in the miscellany to which she gave the name of _The
Mayflower_, and reflect humorously the Cincinnati experiences which
again are playfully recounted in letters published in her son's
_Life_. The former, contributed in 1850 to _The National Era_, was
drawn pretty closely from the experiments of Professor Stowe. It is
noticeable that in this paper and in _Our Second Girl_, which was
contributed to _The Atlantic Monthly_ for January, 1868, the author
poses as the masculine member of the household, as if this assumption
gave her some advantage in the point of view. At any rate, she adopted
the same rôle when she came more deliberately to survey a wide field
in a series of articles.

_The House_ and _Home Papers_ were contributed first to _The Atlantic
Monthly_, and afterward published in book form as the production of
one Christopher Crowfield, though there was not the slightest attempt
otherwise at disguising the authorship. The immediate occasion of the
papers was no doubt the removal of the Stowes from Andover and their
establishment in Hartford, an event which took place shortly before
the papers began to appear in _The Atlantic_. The years which followed
during the first Hartford residence saw also a marriage in the family
and new problems of daily life constantly presenting themselves, so
that a similar series appeared in the same magazine, purporting to be
from the same householder, entitled _The Chimney Corner_. This series,
indeed, entered rather more seriously into questions of social
morality, and deepened in feeling as it proceeded. The eleventh
section is a warm appreciation of the woman who figured so largely in
Mrs. Stowe's early life, and the last two papers rose, as the reader
will see, to the height of national memories. Mrs. Fields has
preserved for us, in her _Days with Mrs. Stowe_, a striking record of
the mingling of the great and the near in this writer's mind. The
period of which she writes is that in which _The Chimney Corner_
series was drawing to a close:--

"In the autumn of 1864 she wrote: 'I feel I need to write in these
days, to keep me from thinking of things that make me dizzy and blind,
and fill my eyes with tears, so that I cannot see the paper. I mean
such things as are being done where our heroes are dying as Shaw died.
It is not wise that all our literature should run in a rut cut through
our hearts and red with our blood. I feel the need of a little gentle
household merriment and talk of common things, to indulge which I have
devised the following.'

"Notwithstanding her view of the need, and her skillfully devised
plans to meet it, she soon sent another epistle, showing how
impossible it was to stem the current of her thought:--

  "'_November 29, 1864._

  "'MY DEAR FRIEND,--

  "'I have sent my New Year's article, the result of one of those
  peculiar experiences which sometimes occur to us writers. I had
  planned an article, gay, sprightly, wholly domestic; but as I
  began and sketched the pleasant home and quiet fireside, an
  irresistible impulse _wrote for me_ what followed,--an offering of
  sympathy to the suffering and agonized, whose homes have forever
  been darkened. Many causes united at once to force on me this
  vision, from which generally I shrink, but which sometimes will
  not be denied,--will make itself felt.

  "'Just before I went to New York two of my earliest and
  most intimate friends lost their oldest sons, captains and
  majors,--splendid fellows physically and morally, beautiful,
  brave, religious, uniting the courage of soldiers to the
  faith of martyrs,--and when I went to Brooklyn it seemed as
  if I were hearing some such thing almost every day; and
  Henry, in his profession as minister, has so many letters
  full of imploring anguish, the cry of hearts breaking that ask
  help of him.'"...



HOUSEHOLD PAPERS AND STORIES

HOUSE AND HOME PAPERS

I

THE RAVAGES OF A CARPET


"My dear, it's so cheap!"

These words were spoken by my wife, as she sat gracefully on a roll of
Brussels carpet which was spread out in flowery lengths on the floor
of Messrs. Ketchem & Co.

"It's _so_ cheap!"

Milton says that the love of fame is the last infirmity of noble
minds. I think he had not rightly considered the subject. I believe
that last infirmity is the love of getting things cheap! Understand
me, now. I don't mean the love of getting cheap things, by which one
understands showy, trashy, ill-made, spurious articles, bearing
certain apparent resemblances to better things. All really sensible
people are quite superior to that sort of cheapness. But those
fortunate accidents, which put within the power of a man things really
good and valuable for half or a third of their value, what mortal
virtue and resolution can withstand? My friend Brown has a genuine
Murillo, the joy of his heart and the light of his eyes, but he never
fails to tell you, as its crowning merit, how he bought it in South
America for just nothing,--how it hung smoky and deserted in the back
of a counting-room, and was thrown in as a makeweight to bind a
bargain, and, upon being cleaned turned out a genuine Murillo; and
then he takes out his cigar, and calls your attention to the points in
it; he adjusts the curtain to let the sunlight fall just in the right
spot; he takes you to this and the other point of view; and all this
time you must confess that, in your mind as well as his, the
consideration that he got all this beauty for ten dollars adds lustre
to the painting. Brown has paintings there for which he paid his
thousands, and, being well advised, they are worth the thousands he
paid; but this ewe lamb that he got for nothing always gives him a
secret exaltation in his own eyes. He seems to have credited to
himself personally merit to the amount of what he should have paid for
the picture. Then there is Mrs. Croesus, at the party yesterday
evening, expatiating to my wife on the surprising cheapness of her
point-lace set. "Got for just nothing at all, my dear!" and a circle
of admiring listeners echoes the sound. "Did you ever hear anything
like it? I never heard of such a thing in my life;" and away sails
Mrs. Croesus as if she had a collar composed of all the cardinal
virtues. In fact, she is buoyed up with a secret sense of merit, so
that her satin slippers scarcely touch the carpet. Even I myself am
fond of showing a first edition of "Paradise Lost" for which I gave a
shilling in a London bookstall, and stating that I would not take a
hundred dollars for it. Even I must confess there are points on which
I am mortal.

But all this while my wife sits on her roll of carpet, looking into my
face for approbation, and Marianne and Jenny are pouring into my ear a
running fire of "How sweet! How lovely! Just like that one of Mrs.
Tweedleum's!"

"And she gave two dollars and seventy-five cents a yard for hers, and
this is"--

My wife here put her hand to her mouth and pronounced the incredible
sum in a whisper, with a species of sacred awe, common, as I have
observed, to females in such interesting crises. In fact Mr. Ketchem,
standing smiling and amiable by, remarked to me that really he hoped
Mrs. Crowfield would not name generally what she gave for the article,
for positively it was so far below the usual rate of prices that he
might give offense to other customers; but this was the very last of
the pattern, and they were anxious to close off the old stock, and we
had always traded with them, and he had a great respect for my wife's
father, who had always traded with their firm, and so, when there were
any little bargains to be thrown in any one's way, why, he naturally,
of course--And here Mr. Ketchem bowed gracefully over the yardstick to
my wife, and I consented.

Yes, I consented; but whenever I think of myself at that moment, I
always am reminded, in a small way, of Adam taking the apple; and my
wife, seated on that roll of carpet, has more than once suggested to
my mind the classic image of Pandora opening her unlucky box. In fact,
from the moment I had blandly assented to Mr. Ketchem's remarks, and
said to my wife, with a gentle air of dignity, "Well, my dear, since
it suits you, I think you had better take it," there came a load on my
prophetic soul which not all the fluttering and chattering of my
delighted girls and the more placid complacency of my wife could
entirely dissipate. I presaged I know not what of coming woe, and all
I presaged came to pass.

In order to know just what came to pass, I must give you a view of the
house and home into which this carpet was introduced.

My wife and I were somewhat advanced housekeepers, and our dwelling
was first furnished by her father, in the old-fashioned jog-trot days
when furniture was made with a view to its lasting from generation to
generation. Everything was strong and comfortable,--heavy mahogany,
guiltless of the modern device of veneering, and hewed out with a
square solidity which had not an idea of change. It was, so to speak,
a sort of granite foundation of the household structure. Then we
commenced housekeeping with the full idea that our house was a thing
to be lived in, and that furniture was made to be used. That most
sensible of women, Mrs. Crowfield, agreed fully with me that in our
house there was to be nothing too good for ourselves,--no room shut up
in holiday attire to be enjoyed by strangers for three or four days in
the year, while we lived in holes and corners; no best parlor from
which we were to be excluded; no silver plate to be kept in the safe
in the bank, and brought home only in case of a grand festival, while
our daily meals were served with dingy Britannia. "Strike a broad,
plain average," I said to my wife; "have everything abundant,
serviceable, and give all our friends exactly what we have ourselves,
no better and no worse;" and my wife smiled approval on my sentiment.

Smile? she did more than smile. My wife resembles one of those convex
mirrors I have sometimes seen. Every idea I threw out, plain and
simple, she reflected back upon me in a thousand little glitters and
twinkles of her own; she made my crude conceptions come back to me in
such perfectly dazzling performances that I hardly recognized them. My
mind warms up when I think what a home that woman made of our house
from the very first day she moved into it. The great, large, airy
parlor, with its ample bow-window, when she had arranged it, seemed a
perfect trap to catch sunbeams. There was none of that discouraging
trimness and newness that often repel a man's bachelor friends after
the first call, and make them feel, "Oh, well, one cannot go in at
Crowfield's now, unless one is dressed; one might put them out." The
first thing our parlor said to any one was, that we were not people to
be put out, that we were widespread, easy-going, and jolly folk. Even
if Tom Brown brought in Ponto and his shooting-bag, there was nothing
in that parlor to strike terror into man and dog; for it was written
on the face of things that everybody there was to do just as he or she
pleased. There were my books and my writing-table spread out with all
its miscellaneous confusion of papers on one side of the fireplace,
and there were my wife's great, ample sofa and work-table on the
other; there I wrote my articles for the "North American;" and there
she turned and ripped and altered her dresses; and there lay crochet
and knitting and embroidery side by side with a weekly basket of
family mending, and in neighborly contiguity with the last book of the
season, which my wife turned over as she took her after-dinner lounge
on the sofa. And in the bow-window were canaries always singing, and a
great stand of plants always fresh and blooming, and ivy which grew
and clambered and twined about the pictures. Best of all, there was in
our parlor that household altar, the blazing wood fire, whose
wholesome, hearty crackle is the truest household inspiration. I quite
agree with one celebrated American author who holds that an open
fireplace is an altar of patriotism. Would our Revolutionary fathers
have gone barefooted and bleeding over snows to defend air-tight
stoves and cooking-ranges? I trow not. It was the memory of the great
open kitchen-fire, with its back log and fore stick of cord-wood, its
roaring, hilarious voice of invitation, its dancing tongues of flame,
that called to them through the snows of that dreadful winter to keep
up their courage, that made their hearts warm and bright with a
thousand reflected memories. Our neighbors said that it was delightful
to sit by our fire,--but then, for their part, they could not afford
it, wood was so ruinously dear, and all that. Most of these people
could not, for the simple reason that they felt compelled, in order to
maintain the family dignity, to keep up a parlor with great pomp and
circumstance of upholstery, where they sat only on dress occasions,
and of course the wood fire was out of the question.

When children began to make their appearance in our establishment, my
wife, like a well-conducted housekeeper, had the best of nursery
arrangements,--a room all warmed, lighted, and ventilated, and
abounding in every proper resource of amusement to the rising race;
but it was astonishing to see how, notwithstanding this, the
centripetal attraction drew every pair of little pattering feet to our
parlor.

"My dear, why don't you take your blocks upstairs?"

"I want to be where oo are," said with a piteous under lip, was
generally a most convincing answer.

Then, the small people could not be disabused of the idea that certain
chief treasures of their own would be safer under papa's writing-table
or mamma's sofa than in the safest closet of their domains. My
writing-table was dockyard for Arthur's new ship, and stable for
little Tom's pepper-and-salt-colored pony, and carriage-house for
Charley's new wagon, while whole armies of paper dolls kept house in
the recess behind mamma's sofa.

And then, in due time, came the tribe of pets who followed the little
ones and rejoiced in the blaze of the firelight. The boys had a
splendid Newfoundland, which, knowing our weakness, we warned them
with awful gravity was never to be a parlor dog; but somehow, what
with little beggings and pleadings on the part of Arthur and Tom, and
the piteous melancholy with which Rover would look through the
window-panes when shut out from the blazing warmth into the dark, cold
veranda, it at last came to pass that Rover gained a regular corner at
the hearth, a regular status in every family convocation. And then
came a little black-and-tan English terrier for the girls; and then a
fleecy poodle, who established himself on the corner of my wife's
sofa; and for each of these some little voice pleaded, and some
little heart would be so near broken at any slight that my wife and I
resigned ourselves to live in a menagerie, the more so as we were
obliged to confess a lurking weakness towards these four-footed
children ourselves.

So we grew and flourished together,--children, dogs, birds, flowers,
and all; and although my wife often, in paroxysms of housewifeliness
to which the best of women are subject, would declare that we never
were fit to be seen, yet I comforted her with the reflection that
there were few people whose friends seemed to consider them better
worth seeing, judging by the stream of visitors and loungers which was
always setting towards our parlor. People seemed to find it good to be
there; they said it was somehow home-like and pleasant, and that there
was a kind of charm about it that made it easy to talk and easy to
live; and as my girls and boys grew up, there seemed always to be some
merry doing or other going on there. Arty and Tom brought home their
college friends, who straightway took root there and seemed to fancy
themselves a part of us. We had no reception-rooms apart, where the
girls were to receive young gentlemen; all the courting and flirting
that were to be done had for their arena the ample variety of surface
presented by our parlor, which, with sofas and screens and lounges and
recesses, and writing and work tables, disposed here and there, and
the genuine _laisser aller_ of the whole mènage, seemed, on the whole,
to have offered ample advantages enough; for at the time I write of,
two daughters were already established in marriage, while my youngest
was busy, as yet, in performing that little domestic ballet of the cat
with the mouse, in the case of a most submissive youth of the
neighborhood.

All this time our parlor furniture, though of that granitic formation
I have indicated, began to show marks of that decay to which things
sublunary are liable. I cannot say that I dislike this look in a room.
Take a fine, ample, hospitable apartment, where all things, freely
and generously used, softly and indefinably grow old together, there
is a sort of mellow tone and keeping which pleases my eye. What if the
seams of the great inviting armchair, where so many friends have sat
and lounged, do grow white? What, in fact, if some easy couch has an
undeniable hole worn in its friendly cover? I regard with tenderness
even these mortal weaknesses of these servants and witnesses of our
good times and social fellowship. No vulgar touch wore them; they may
be called, rather, the marks and indentations which the glittering in
and out of the tide of social happiness has worn in the rocks of our
strand. I would no more disturb the gradual toning-down and aging of a
well-used set of furniture by smart improvements than I would have a
modern dauber paint in emendations in a fine old picture.

So we men reason, but women do not always think as we do. There is
a virulent demon of housekeeping not wholly cast out in the best of
them, and which often breaks out in unguarded moments. In fact Miss
Marianne, being on the lookout for furniture wherewith to begin a
new establishment, and Jenny, who had accompanied her in her
peregrinations, had more than once thrown out little disparaging
remarks on the time-worn appearance of our establishment, suggesting
comparison with those of more modern furnished rooms.

"It is positively scandalous, the way our furniture looks," I one day
heard one of them declaring to her mother; "and this old rag of a
carpet!"

My feelings were hurt, not the less so that I knew that the large
cloth which covered the middle of the floor, and which the women call
a bocking, had been bought and nailed down there, after a solemn
family council, as the best means of concealing the too evident darns
which years of good cheer had made needful in our stanch old
household friend, the three-ply carpet, made in those days when to be
a three-ply was a pledge of continuance and service.

Well, it was a joyous and bustling day when, after one of those
domestic whirlwinds which the women are fond of denominating
house-cleaning, the new Brussels carpet was at length brought in and
nailed down, and its beauty praised from mouth to mouth. Our old
friends called in and admired, and all seemed to be well, except that
I had that light and delicate presage of changes to come which
indefinitely brooded over me.

The first premonitory symptom was the look of apprehensive suspicion
with which the female senate regarded the genial sunbeams that had
always glorified our bow-window.

"This house ought to have inside blinds," said Marianne, with all the
confident decision of youth; "this carpet will be ruined if that sun
is allowed to come in like that."

"And that dirty little canary must really be hung in the kitchen,"
said Jenny; "he always did make such a litter, scattering his seed
chippings about; and he never takes his bath without flirting out some
water. And, mamma, it appears to me it will never do to have the
plants here. Plants are always either leaking through the pots upon
the carpet, or scattering bits of blossoms and dead leaves, or some
accident upsets or breaks a pot. It was no matter, you know, when we
had the old carpet; but this we really want to have kept nice."

Mamma stood her ground for the plants,--darlings of her heart for many
a year,--but temporized, and showed that disposition towards
compromise which is most inviting to aggression.

I confess I trembled; for, of all radicals on earth, none are to be
compared to females that have once in hand a course of domestic
innovation and reform. The sacred fire, the divine furor, burns in
their bosoms; they become perfect Pythonesses, and every chair they
sit on assumes the magic properties of the tripod. Hence the dismay
that lodges in the bosoms of us males at the fateful spring and autumn
seasons denominated house-cleaning. Who can say whither the awful
gods, the prophetic fates, may drive our fair household divinities;
what sins of ours may be brought to light; what indulgences and
compliances, which uninspired woman has granted in her ordinary mortal
hours, may be torn from us? He who has been allowed to keep a pair of
pet slippers in a concealed corner, and by the fireside indulged with
a chair which he might _ad libitum_ fill with all sorts of pamphlets
and miscellaneous literature, suddenly finds himself reformed out of
knowledge, his pamphlets tucked away into pigeonholes and corners, and
his slippers put in their place in the hall, with, perhaps, a brisk
insinuation about the shocking dust and disorder that men will
tolerate.

The fact was, that the very first night after the advent of the new
carpet I had a prophetic dream. Among our treasures of art was a
little etching, by an English artist friend, the subject of which was
the gambols of the household fairies in a baronial library after the
household were in bed. The little people are represented in every
attitude of frolic enjoyment. Some escalade the great armchair, and
look down from its top as from a domestic Mont Blanc; some climb about
the bellows; some scale the shaft of the shovel; while some, forming
in magic ring, dance festively on the yet glowing hearth. Tiny troops
promenade the writing-table. One perches himself quaintly on the top
of the inkstand, and holds colloquy with another who sits cross-legged
on a paper weight, while a companion looks down on them from the top
of the sandbox. It was an ingenious little device, and gave me the
idea, which I often expressed to my wife, that much of the peculiar
feeling of security, composure, and enjoyment which seems to be the
atmosphere of some rooms and houses came from the unsuspected presence
of these little people, the household fairies, so that the belief in
their existence became a solemn article of faith with me.

Accordingly, that evening, after the installation of the carpet, when
my wife and daughters had gone to bed, as I sat with my slippered feet
before the last coals of the fire, I fell asleep in my chair, and, lo!
my own parlor presented to my eye a scene of busy life. The little
people in green were tripping to and fro, but in great confusion.
Evidently something was wrong among them; for they were fussing and
chattering with each other, as if preparatory to a general movement.
In the region of the bow-window I observed a tribe of them standing
with tiny valises and carpetbags in their hands, as though about to
depart on a journey. On my writing-table another set stood around my
inkstand and pen-rack, who, pointing to those on the floor, seemed to
debate some question among themselves; while others of them appeared
to be collecting and packing away in tiny trunks certain fairy
treasures, preparatory to a general departure. When I looked at the
social hearth, at my wife's sofa and work-basket, I saw similar
appearances of dissatisfaction and confusion. It was evident that the
household fairies were discussing the question of a general and
simultaneous removal. I groaned in spirit, and, stretching out my
hand, began a conciliatory address, when whisk went the whole scene
from before my eyes, and I awaked to behold the form of my wife asking
me if I were ill, or had had the nightmare, that I groaned so. I told
her my dream, and we laughed at it together.

"We must give way to the girls a little," she said. "It is natural,
you know, that they should wish us to appear a little as other people
do. The fact is, our parlor is somewhat dilapidated; think how many
years we have lived in it without an article of new furniture."

"I hate new furniture," I remarked, in the bitterness of my soul. "I
hate anything new."

My wife answered me discreetly, according to approved principles of
diplomacy. I was right. She sympathized with me. At the same time, it
was not necessary, she remarked, that we should keep a hole in our
sofa-cover and armchair,--there would certainly be no harm in sending
them to the upholsterer's to be new-covered; she didn't much mind, for
her part, moving her plants to the south back room; and the bird would
do well enough in the kitchen: I had often complained of him for
singing vociferously when I was reading aloud.

So our sofa went to the upholsterer's; but the upholsterer was struck
with such horror at its clumsy, antiquated, unfashionable appearance
that he felt bound to make representations to my wife and daughters:
positively, it would be better for them to get a new one, of a
tempting pattern which he showed them, than to try to do anything with
that. With a stitch or so here and there it might do for a basement
dining-room; but, for a parlor, he gave it as his disinterested
opinion,--he must say, if the case were his own, he should get, etc.,
etc. In short, we had a new sofa and new chairs, and the plants and
the birds were banished, and some dark-green blinds were put up to
exclude the sun from the parlor, and the blessed luminary was allowed
there only at rare intervals, when my wife and daughters were out
shopping, and I acted out my uncivilized male instincts by pulling up
every shade and vivifying the apartment as in days of old.

But this was not the worst of it. The new furniture and new carpet
formed an opposition party in the room. I believe in my heart that for
every little household fairy that went out with the dear old things
there came in a tribe of discontented brownies with the new ones.
These little wretches were always twitching at the gowns of my wife
and daughters, jogging their elbows, and suggesting odious comparisons
between the smart new articles and what remained of the old ones. They
disparaged my writing-table in the corner; they disparaged the
old-fashioned lounge in the other corner, which had been the maternal
throne for years; they disparaged the work-table, the work-basket,
with constant suggestions of how such things as these would look in
certain well-kept parlors where new-fashioned furniture of the same
sort as ours existed.

"We don't have any parlor," said Jenny one day. "Our parlor has always
been a sort of log cabin,--library, study, nursery, greenhouse, all
combined. We never have had things like other people."

"Yes, and this open fire makes such a dust; and this carpet is one
that shows every speck of dust; it keeps one always on the watch."

"I wonder why papa never had a study to himself; I'm sure I should
think he would like it better than sitting here among us all. Now
there's the great south room off the dining-room; if he would only
move his things there and have his open fire, we could then close up
the fireplace and put lounges in the recesses, and mamma could have
her things in the nursery,--and then we should have a parlor fit to be
seen."

I overheard all this, though I pretended not to,--the little busy
chits supposing me entirely buried in the recesses of a German book
over which I was poring.

There are certain crises in a man's life when the female element in
his household asserts itself in dominant forms that seem to threaten
to overwhelm him. The fair creatures, who in most matters have
depended on his judgment, evidently look upon him at these seasons as
only a forlorn, incapable male creature, to be cajoled and flattered
and persuaded out of his native blindness and absurdity into the
fairyland of their wishes.

"Of course, mamma," said the busy voices, "men can't understand such
things. What can men know of housekeeping, and how things ought to
look? Papa never goes into company; he don't know and don't care how
the world is doing, and don't see that nobody now is living as we
do."

"Aha, my little mistresses, are you there?" I thought; and I mentally
resolved on opposing a great force of what our politicians call
backbone to this pretty domestic conspiracy.

"When you get my writing-table out of this corner, my pretty dears,
I'd thank you to let me know it."

Thus spake I in my blindness, fool that I was. Jupiter might as soon
keep awake when Juno came in best bib and tucker, and with the cestus
of Venus, to get him to sleep. Poor Slender might as well hope to get
the better of pretty Mistress Anne Page as one of us clumsy-footed men
might endeavor to escape from the tangled labyrinth of female wiles.

In short, in less than a year it was all done, without any quarrel,
any noise, any violence,--done, I scarce knew when or how, but with
the utmost deference to my wishes, the most amiable hopes that I would
not put myself out, the most sincere protestations that, if I liked it
better as it was, my goddesses would give up and acquiesce. In fact I
seemed to do it of myself, constrained thereto by what the Emperor
Napoleon has so happily called the logic of events,--that old,
well-known logic by which the man who has once said A must say B, and
he who has said B must say the whole alphabet. In a year we had a
parlor with two lounges in decorous recesses, a fashionable sofa, and
six chairs and a looking-glass, and a grate always shut up, and a hole
in the floor which kept the parlor warm, and great, heavy curtains
that kept out all the light that was not already excluded by the green
shades.

It was as proper and orderly a parlor as those of our most fashionable
neighbors; and when our friends called, we took them stumbling into
its darkened solitude, and opened a faint crack in one of the
window-shades, and came down in our best clothes and talked with them
there. Our old friends rebelled at this, and asked what they had done
to be treated so, and complained so bitterly that gradually we let
them into the secret that there was a great south room, which I had
taken for my study, where we all sat; where the old carpet was down;
where the sun shone in at the great window; where my wife's plants
flourished, and the canary-bird sang, and my wife had her sofa in the
corner, and the old brass andirons glistened, and the wood fire
crackled,--in short, a room to which all the household fairies had
emigrated.

When they once had found that out, it was difficult to get any of them
to sit in our parlor. I had purposely christened the new room my
study, that I might stand on my rights as master of ceremonies there,
though I opened wide arms of welcome to any who chose to come. So,
then, it would often come to pass that, when we were sitting round the
fire in my study of an evening, the girls would say,--

"Come, what do we always stay here for? Why don't we ever sit in the
parlor?"

And then there would be manifested among guests and family friends a
general unwillingness to move.

"Oh, hang it, girls!" would Arthur say; "the parlor is well enough,
all right; let it stay as it is, and let a fellow stay where he can do
as he pleases and feels at home;" and to this view of the matter would
respond divers of the nice young bachelors who were Arthur's and Tom's
sworn friends.

In fact nobody wanted to stay in our parlor now. It was a cold,
correct, accomplished fact; the household fairies had left it,--and
when the fairies leave a room, nobody ever feels at home in it. No
pictures, curtains, no wealth of mirrors, no elegance of lounges, can
in the least make up for their absence. They are a capricious little
set; there are rooms where they will not stay, and rooms where they
will; but no one can ever have a good time without them.



II

HOMEKEEPING VERSUS HOUSEKEEPING


I am a frank-hearted man, as perhaps you have by this time perceived,
and you will not, therefore, be surprised to know that I read my last
article on the carpet to my wife and the girls before I sent it to the
"Atlantic," and we had a hearty laugh over it together. My wife and
the girls, in fact, felt that they could afford to laugh, for they had
carried their point, their reproach among women was taken away, they
had become like other folks. Like other folks they had a parlor, an
undeniable best parlor, shut up and darkened, with all proper carpets,
curtains, lounges, and marble-topped tables, too good for human
nature's daily food; and being sustained by this consciousness, they
cheerfully went on receiving their friends in the study, and having
good times in the old free-and-easy way; for did not everybody know
that this room was not their best? and if the furniture was
old-fashioned and a little the worse for antiquity, was it not certain
that they had better, which they could use if they would?

"And supposing we wanted to give a party," said Jenny, "how nicely our
parlor would light up! Not that we ever do give parties, but if we
should,--and for a wedding-reception, you know."

I felt the force of the necessity; it was evident that the four or
five hundred extra which we had expended was no more than such solemn
possibilities required.

"Now, papa thinks we have been foolish," said Marianne, "and he has
his own way of making a good story of it; but, after all, I desire to
know if people are never to get a new carpet. Must we keep the old one
till it actually wears to tatters?"

This is a specimen of the _reductio ad absurdum_ which our fair
antagonists of the other sex are fond of employing. They strip what we
say of all delicate shadings and illusory phrases, and reduce it to
some bare question of fact, with which they make a home-thrust at us.

"Yes, that's it; are people _never_ to get a new carpet?" echoed
Jenny.

"My dears," I replied, "it is a fact that to introduce anything new
into an apartment hallowed by many home associations, where all things
have grown old together, requires as much care and adroitness as for
an architect to restore an arch or niche in a fine old ruin. The fault
of our carpet was that it was in another style from everything in our
room, and made everything in it look dilapidated. Its colors,
material, and air belonged to another manner of life, and were a
constant plea for alterations; and you see it actually drove out and
expelled the whole furniture of the room, and I am not sure yet that
it may not entail on us the necessity of refurnishing the whole
house."

"My dear!" said my wife, in a tone of remonstrance; but Jane and
Marianne laughed and colored.

"Confess, now," said I, looking at them; "have you not had secret
designs on the hall and stair carpet?"

"Now, papa, how could you know it? I only said to Marianne that to
have Brussels in the parlor and that old mean-looking ingrain carpet
in the hall did not seem exactly the thing; and in fact you know,
mamma, Messrs. Ketchem & Co. showed us such a lovely pattern, designed
to harmonize with our parlor carpet."

"I know it, girls," said my wife; "but you know I said at once that
such an expense was not to be thought of."

"Now, girls," said I, "let me tell you a story I heard once of a very
sensible old New England minister, who lived, as our country ministers
generally do, rather near to the bone, but still quite contentedly. It
was in the days when knee-breeches and long stockings were worn, and
this good man was offered a present of a very nice pair of black silk
hose. He declined, saying he 'could not afford to wear them.'"

"'Not afford it?' said the friend; 'why, I _give_ them to you.'

"'Exactly; but it will cost me not less than two hundred dollars to
take them, and I cannot do it.'

"'How is that?'

"'Why, in the first place, I shall no sooner put them on than my wife
will say, "My dear, you must have a new pair of knee-breeches," and I
shall get them. Then my wife will say, "My dear, how shabby your coat
is! You must have a new one," and I shall get a new coat. Then she
will say, "Now, my dear, that hat will never do," and then I shall
have a new hat; and then I shall say, "My dear, it will never do for
me to be so fine and you to wear your old gown," and so my wife will
get a new gown; and then the new gown will require a new shawl and a
new bonnet; all of which we shall not feel the need of if I don't take
this pair of silk stockings, for, as long as we don't see them, our
old things seem very well suited to each other.'"

The girls laughed at this story, and I then added, in my most
determined manner,--

"But I must warn you, girls, that I have compromised to the utmost
extent of my power, and that I intend to plant myself on the old stair
carpet in determined resistance. I have no mind to be forbidden the
use of the front stairs, or condemned to get up into my bedroom by a
private ladder, as I should be immediately if there were a new carpet
down."

"Why, papa!"

"Would it not be so? Can the sun shine in the parlor now for fear of
fading the carpet? Can we keep a fire there for fear of making dust,
or use the lounges and sofas for fear of wearing them out? If you got
a new entry and stair carpet, as I said, I should have to be at the
expense of another staircase to get up to our bedroom."

"Oh no, papa," said Jane innocently; "there are very pretty druggets
now for covering stair carpets, so that they can be used without
hurting them."

"Put one over the old carpet, then," said I, "and our acquaintance
will never know but it is a new one."

All the female senate laughed at this proposal, and said it sounded
just like a man.

"Well," said I, standing up resolutely for my sex, "a man's ideas on
woman's matters may be worth some attention. I flatter myself that an
intelligent, educated man doesn't think upon and observe with interest
any particular subject for years of his life without gaining some
ideas respecting it that are good for something; at all events, I have
written another article for the 'Atlantic,' which I will read to
you."

"Well, wait one minute, papa, till we get our work," said the girls,
who, to say the truth, always exhibit a flattering interest in
anything their papa writes, and who have the good taste never to
interrupt his readings with any conversations in an undertone on
cross-stitch and floss-silks, as the manner of some is. Hence the
little feminine bustle of arranging all these matters beforehand.
Jane, or Jenny, as I call her in my good-natured moods, put on a fresh
clear stick of hickory, of that species denominated shagbark, which is
full of most charming slivers, burning with such a clear flame, and
emitting such a delicious perfume in burning, that I would not change
it with the millionaire who kept up his fire with cinnamon.

You must know, my dear Mr. Atlantic, and you, my confidential friends
of the reading public, that there is a certain magic or spiritualism
which I have the knack of in regard to these mine articles, in virtue
of which my wife and daughters never hear or see the little
personalities respecting them which form parts of my papers. By a
peculiar arrangement which I have made with the elves of the inkstand
and the familiar spirits of the quill, a sort of glamour falls on
their eyes and ears when I am reading, or when they read the parts
personal to themselves; otherwise their sense of feminine propriety
would be shocked at the free way in which they and their most internal
affairs are confidentially spoken of between me and you, O loving
readers.

Thus, in an undertone, I tell you that my little Jenny, as she is
zealously and systematically arranging the fire, and trimly whisking
every untidy particle of ashes from the hearth, shows in every
movement of her little hands, in the cock of her head, in the knowing,
observing glance of her eye, and in all her energetic movements, that
her small person is endued and made up of the very expressed essence
of housewifeliness,--she is the very attar, not of roses, but of
housekeeping. Care-taking and thrift and neatness are a nature to her;
she is as dainty and delicate in her person as a white cat, as
everlastingly busy as a bee; and all the most needful faculties of
time, weight, measure, and proportion ought to be fully developed in
her skull, if there is any truth in phrenology. Besides all this, she
has a sort of hard-grained little vein of common sense, against which
my fanciful conceptions and poetical notions are apt to hit with just
a little sharp grating, if they are not well put. In fact, this kind
of woman needs carefully to be idealized in the process of education,
or she will stiffen and dry, as she grows old, into a veritable
household Pharisee, a sort of domestic tyrant. She needs to be trained
in artistic values and artistic weights and measures, to study all the
arts and sciences of the beautiful, and then she is charming. Most
useful, most needful, these little women: they have the centripetal
force which keeps all the domestic planets from gyrating and frisking
in unseemly orbits, and, properly trained, they fill a house with the
beauty of order, the harmony and consistency of proportion, the melody
of things moving in time and tune, without violating the graceful
appearance of ease which Art requires.

So I had an eye to Jenny's education in my article which I unfolded
and read, and which was entitled


HOMEKEEPING VERSUS HOUSEKEEPING

There are many women who know how to keep a house, but there are but
few that know how to keep a home. To keep a house may seem a
complicated affair, but it is a thing that may be learned; it lies in
the region of the material; in the region of weight, measure, color,
and the positive forces of life. To keep a home lies not merely in the
sphere of all these, but it takes in the intellectual, the social, the
spiritual, the immortal.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here the hickory stick broke in two, and the two brands fell
controversially out and apart on the hearth, scattering the ashes
and coals, and calling for Jenny and the hearth-brush. Your wood fire
has this foible, that it needs something to be done to it every
five minutes; but, after all, these little interruptions of our
bright-faced genius are like the piquant sallies of a clever
friend,--they do not strike us as unreasonable.

When Jenny had laid down her brush she said,--

"Seems to me, papa, you are beginning to soar into metaphysics."

"Everything in creation is metaphysical in its abstract terms," said
I, with a look calculated to reduce her to a respectful condition.
"Everything has a subjective and an objective mode of presentation."

"There papa goes with subjective and objective!" said Marianne. "For
my part, I never can remember which is which."

"I remember," said Jenny; "it's what our old nurse used to call
internal and _out_-ternal,--I always remember by that."

"Come, my dears," said my wife, "let your father read;" so I went on
as follows:--

       *       *       *       *       *

I remember in my bachelor days going with my boon companion, Bill
Carberry, to look at the house to which he was in a few weeks to
introduce his bride. Bill was a gallant, free-hearted, open-handed
fellow, the life of our whole set, and we felt that natural aversion
to losing him that bachelor friends would. How could we tell under
what strange aspects he might look forth upon us, when once he had
passed into "that undiscovered country" of matrimony? But Bill laughed
to scorn our apprehensions.

"I'll tell you what, Chris," he said, as he sprang cheerily up the
steps and unlocked the door of his future dwelling, "do you know what
I chose this house for? Because it's a social-looking house. Look
there, now," he said, as he ushered me into a pair of parlors,--"look
at those long south windows, the sun lies there nearly all day long;
see what a capital corner there is for a lounging-chair; fancy us,
Chris, with our books or our paper, spread out loose and easy, and
Sophie gliding in and out like a sunbeam. I'm getting poetical, you
see. Then, did you ever see a better, wider, airier dining-room?
What capital suppers and things we'll have there! the nicest
times,--everything free and easy, you know,--just what I've always
wanted a house for. I tell you, Chris, you and Tom Innis shall have
latch-keys just like mine, and there is a capital chamber there at the
head of the stairs, so that you can be free to come and go. And
here now's the library,--fancy this full of books and engravings from
the ceiling to the floor; here you shall come just as you please and
ask no questions,--all the same as if it were your own, you know."

"And Sophie, what will she say to all this?"

"Why, you know Sophie is a prime friend to both of you, and a capital
girl to keep things going. Oh, Sophie'll make a house of this, you may
depend!"

A day or two after, Bill dragged me stumbling over boxes and through
straw and wrappings to show me the glories of the parlor furniture,
with which he seemed pleased as a child with a new toy.

"Look here," he said; "see these chairs, garnet-colored satin, with a
pattern on each; well, the sofa's just like them, and the curtains to
match, and the carpets made for the floor with centrepieces and
borders. I never saw anything more magnificent in my life. Sophie's
governor furnishes the house, and everything is to be A No. 1, and all
that, you see. Messrs. Curtain & Collamore are coming to make the
rooms up, and her mother is busy as a bee getting us in order."

"Why, Bill," said I, "you are going to be lodged like a prince. I hope
you'll be able to keep it up; but law business comes in rather slowly
at first, old fellow."

"Well, you know it isn't the way I should furnish, if my capital was
the one to cash the bills; but then, you see, Sophie's people do it,
and let them,--a girl doesn't want to come down out of the style she
has always lived in."

I said nothing, but had an oppressive presentiment that social freedom
would expire in that house, crushed under a weight of upholstery.

But there came in due time the wedding and the wedding-reception, and
we all went to see Bill in his new house, splendidly lighted up and
complete from top to toe, and everybody said what a lucky fellow he
was; but that was about the end of it, so far as our visiting was
concerned. The running in, and dropping in, and keeping latch-keys,
and making informal calls, that had been forespoken, seemed about as
likely as if Bill had lodged in the Tuileries.

Sophie, who had always been one of your snapping, sparkling, busy sort
of girls, began at once to develop her womanhood and show her
principles, and was as different from her former self as your
careworn, mousing old cat is from your rollicking, frisky kitten.
Not but that Sophie was a good girl. She had a capital heart, a
good, true womanly one, and was loving and obliging; but still she
was one of the desperately painstaking, conscientious sort of
women whose very blood, as they grow older, is devoured with
anxiety, and she came of a race of women in whom housekeeping was
more than an art or a science,--it was, so to speak, a religion.
Sophie's mother, aunts, and grandmothers, for nameless generations
back, were known and celebrated housekeepers. They might have been
genuine descendants of the inhabitants of that Hollandic town of
Broeck, celebrated by Washington Irving, where the cows' tails are
kept tied up with unsullied blue ribbons, and the ends of the
fire-wood are painted white. He relates how a celebrated preacher,
visiting this town, found it impossible to draw these housewives from
their earthly views and employments, until he took to preaching on the
neatness of the celestial city, the unsullied crystal of its walls
and the polish of its golden pavement, when the faces of all the
housewives were set Zionward at once.

Now this solemn and earnest view of housekeeping is onerous enough
when a poor girl first enters on the care of a moderately furnished
house, where the articles are not too expensive to be reasonably
renewed as time and use wear them; but it is infinitely worse when a
cataract of splendid furniture is heaped upon her care,--when splendid
crystals cut into her conscience, and mirrors reflect her duties, and
moth and rust stand ever ready to devour and sully in every room and
passageway.

Sophie was solemnly warned and instructed by all the mothers and
aunts,--she was warned of moths, warned of cockroaches, warned of
flies, warned of dust; all the articles of furniture had their covers,
made of cold Holland linen, in which they looked like bodies laid
out,--even the curtain tassels had each its little shroud,--and
bundles of receipts, and of rites and ceremonies necessary for the
preservation and purification and care of all these articles, were
stuffed into the poor girl's head, before guiltless of cares as the
feathers that floated above it.

Poor Bill found very soon that his house and furniture were to be kept
at such an ideal point of perfection that he needed another house to
live in,--for, poor fellow, he found the difference between having a
house and a home. It was only a year or two after that my wife and I
started our ménage on very different principles, and Bill would often
drop in upon us, wistfully lingering in the cosy armchair between my
writing-table and my wife's sofa, and saying with a sigh how
confoundedly pleasant things looked there,--so pleasant to have a
bright, open fire, and geraniums and roses and birds, and all that
sort of thing, and to dare to stretch out one's legs and move without
thinking what one was going to hit. "Sophie is a good girl!" he would
say, "and wants to have everything right, but you see they won't let
her. They've loaded her with so many things that have to be kept in
lavender that the poor girl is actually getting thin and losing her
health; and then, you see, there's Aunt Zeruah, she mounts guard at
our house, and keeps up such strict police regulations that a fellow
can't do a thing. The parlors are splendid, but so lonesome and
dismal!--not a ray of sunshine, in fact not a ray of light, except
when a visitor is calling, and then they open a crack. They're afraid
of flies, and yet, dear knows, they keep every looking-glass and
picture-frame muffled to its throat from March to December. I'd like,
for curiosity, to see what a fly would do in our parlors!"

"Well," said I, "can't you have some little family sitting-room where
you can make yourselves cosy?"

"Not a bit of it. Sophie and Aunt Zeruah have fixed their throne up in
our bedroom, and there they sit all day long, except at calling-hours,
and then Sophie dresses herself and comes down. Aunt Zeruah insists
upon it that the way is to put the whole house in order, and shut all
the blinds, and sit in your bedroom, and then, she says, nothing gets
out of place; and she tells poor Sophie the most hocus-pocus stories
about her grandmothers and aunts, who always kept everything in their
houses so that they could go and lay their hands on it in the darkest
night. I'll bet they could in our house. From end to end it is kept
looking as if we had shut it up and gone to Europe,--not a book, not a
paper, not a glove, or any trace of a human being in sight; the piano
shut tight, the bookcases shut and locked, the engravings locked up,
all the drawers and closets locked. Why, if I want to take a fellow
into the library, in the first place it smells like a vault, and I
have to unbarricade windows, and unlock and rummage for half an hour
before I can get at anything; and I know Aunt Zeruah is standing
tiptoe at the door, ready to whip everything back and lock up again. A
fellow can't be social, or take any comfort in showing his books and
pictures that way. Then there's our great, light dining-room, with its
sunny south windows,--Aunt Zeruah got us out of that early in April,
because she said the flies would speck the frescoes and get into the
china-closet, and we have been eating in a little dingy den, with a
window looking out on a back alley, ever since; and Aunt Zeruah says
that now the dining-room is always in perfect order, and that it is
such a care off Sophie's mind that I ought to be willing to eat down
cellar to the end of the chapter. Now, you see, Chris, my position is
a delicate one, because Sophie's folks all agree that, if there is
anything in creation that is ignorant and dreadful and mustn't be
allowed his way anywhere, it's 'a man.' Why, you'd think, to hear Aunt
Zeruah talk, that we were all like bulls in a china-shop, ready to
toss and tear and rend, if we are not kept down cellar and chained;
and she worries Sophie, and Sophie's mother comes in and worries, and
if I try to get anything done differently Sophie cries, and says she
don't know what to do, and so I give it up. Now, if I want to ask a
few of our set in sociably to dinner, I can't have them where we eat
down cellar,--oh, that would never do! Aunt Zeruah and Sophie's mother
and the whole family would think the family honor was forever ruined
and undone. We mustn't ask them unless we open the dining-room, and
have out all the best china, and get the silver home from the bank;
and if we do that, Aunt Zeruah doesn't sleep for a week beforehand,
getting ready for it, and for a week after, getting things put away;
and then she tells me that, in Sophie's delicate state, it really is
abominable for me to increase her cares, and so I invite fellows to
dine with me at Delmonico's, and then Sophie cries, and Sophie's
mother says it doesn't look respectable for a family man to be dining
at public places; but, hang it, a fellow wants a home somewhere!"

My wife soothed the chafed spirit, and spake comfortably unto him, and
told him that he knew there was the old lounging-chair always ready
for him at our fireside. "And you know," she said, "our things are all
so plain that we are never tempted to mount any guard over them; our
carpets are nothing, and therefore we let the sun fade them, and live
on the sunshine and the flowers."

"That's it," said Bill bitterly. "Carpets fading,--that's Aunt
Zeruah's monomania. These women think that the great object of houses
is to keep out sunshine. What a fool I was when I gloated over the
prospect of our sunny south windows! Why, man, there are three
distinct sets of fortifications against the sunshine in those windows:
first, outside blinds; then solid, folding, inside shutters; and,
lastly, heavy, thick, lined damask curtains, which loop quite down to
the floor. What's the use of my pictures, I desire to know? They are
hung in that room, and it's a regular campaign to get light enough to
see what they are."

"But, at all events, you can light them up with gas in the evening."

"In the evening! Why, do you know my wife never wants to sit there in
the evening? She says she has so much sewing to do that she and Aunt
Zeruah must sit up in the bedroom, because it wouldn't do to bring
work into the parlor. Didn't you know that? Don't you know there
mustn't be such a thing as a bit of real work ever seen in a parlor?
What if some threads should drop on the carpet? Aunt Zeruah would have
to open all the fortifications next day, and search Jerusalem with
candles to find them. No; in the evening the gas is lighted at
half-cock, you know; and if I turn it up, and bring in my newspapers
and spread about me, and pull down some books to read, I can feel the
nervousness through the chamber floor. Aunt Zeruah looks in at eight,
and at a quarter past, and at half past, and at nine, and at ten, to
see if I am done, so that she may fold up the papers and put a book on
them, and lock up the books in their cases. Nobody ever comes in to
spend an evening. They used to try it when we were first married, but
I believe the uninhabited appearance of our parlors discouraged them.
Everybody has stopped coming now, and Aunt Zeruah says 'it is such a
comfort, for now the rooms are always in order. How poor Mrs.
Crowfield lives, with her house such a thoroughfare, she is sure she
can't see. Sophie never would have strength for it; but then, to be
sure, some folks ain't as particular as others. Sophie was brought up
in a family of very particular housekeepers.'"

My wife smiled, with that calm, easy, amused smile that has brightened
up her sofa for so many years.

Bill added bitterly,--

"Of course, I couldn't say that I wished the whole set and system of
housekeeping women at the--what-'s-his-name?--because Sophie would
have cried for a week, and been utterly forlorn and disconsolate. I
know it's not the poor girl's fault; I try sometimes to reason with
her, but you can't reason with the whole of your wife's family, to the
third and fourth generation backwards; but I'm sure it's hurting her
health,--wearing her out. Why, you know Sophie used to be the life of
our set; and now she really seems eaten up with care from morning to
night, there are so many things in the house that something dreadful
is happening to all the while, and the servants we get are so clumsy.
Why, when I sit with Sophie and Aunt Zeruah, it's nothing but a
constant string of complaints about the girls in the kitchen. We keep
changing our servants all the time, and they break and destroy so that
now we are turned out of the use of all our things. We not only eat in
the basement, but all our pretty table-things are put away, and we
have all the cracked plates and cracked tumblers and cracked teacups
and old buck-handled knives that can be raised out of chaos. I could
use these things and be merry if I didn't know we had better ones; and
I can't help wondering whether there isn't some way that our table
could be set to look like a gentleman's table; but Aunt Zeruah says
that 'it would cost thousands, and what difference does it make as
long as nobody sees it but us?' You see, there is no medium in her
mind between china and crystal and cracked earthenware. Well, I'm
wondering how all these laws of the Medes and Persians are going to
work when the children come along. I'm in hopes the children will
soften off the old folks, and make the house more habitable."

Well, children did come, a good many of them, in time. There was Tom,
a broad-shouldered, chubby-cheeked, active, hilarious son of mischief,
born in the very image of his father; and there was Charlie, and Jim,
and Louisa, and Sophie the second, and Frank,--and a better, brighter,
more joy-giving household, as far as temperament and nature were
concerned, never existed.

But their whole childhood was a long battle,--children versus
furniture, and furniture always carried the day. The first step of the
housekeeping powers was to choose the least agreeable and least
available room in the house for the children's nursery, and to fit it
up with all the old, cracked, rickety furniture a neighboring
auction-shop could afford, and then to keep them in it. Now everybody
knows that to bring up children to be upright, true, generous, and
religious needs so much discipline, so much restraint and correction,
and so many rules and regulations, that it is all that the parents can
carry out, and all the children can bear. There is only a certain
amount of the vital force for parents or children to use in this
business of education, and one must choose what it shall be used for.
The Aunt Zeruah faction chose to use it for keeping the house and
furniture, and the children's education proceeded accordingly. The
rules of right and wrong of which they heard most frequently were all
of this sort: Naughty children were those who went up the front
stairs, or sat on the best sofa, or fingered any of the books in the
library, or got out one of the best teacups, or drank out of the
cut-glass goblets.

Why did they ever want to do it? If there ever is a forbidden fruit in
an Eden, will not our young Adams and Eves risk soul and body to find
out how it tastes? Little Tom, the oldest boy, had the courage and
enterprise and perseverance of a Captain Parry or Dr. Kane, and he
used them all in voyages of discovery to forbidden grounds. He stole
Aunt Zeruah's keys, unlocked her cupboards and closets, saw, handled,
and tasted everything for himself, and gloried in his sins.

"Don't you know, Tom," said the nurse to him once, "if you are so
noisy and rude, you'll disturb your dear mamma? She's sick, and she
may die, if you're not careful."

"Will she die?" says Tom gravely.

"Why, she may."

"Then," said Tom, turning on his heel,--"then I'll go up the front
stairs."

As soon as ever the little rebel was old enough, he was sent away to
boarding-school, and then there was never found a time when it was
convenient to have him come home again. He could not come in the
spring, for then they were house-cleaning, nor in the autumn, because
then they were house-cleaning; and so he spent his vacations at
school, unless, by good luck, a companion who was so fortunate as to
have a home invited him there. His associations, associates, habits,
principles, were as little known to his mother as if she had sent him
to China. Aunt Zeruah used to congratulate herself on the rest there
was at home, now he was gone, and say she was only living in hopes of
the time when Charlie and Jim would be big enough to send away, too;
and meanwhile Charlie and Jim, turned out of the charmed circle which
should hold growing boys to the father's and mother's side, detesting
the dingy, lonely playroom, used to run the city streets, and hang
round the railroad depots or docks. Parents may depend upon it that,
if they do not make an attractive resort for their boys, Satan will.
There are places enough, kept warm and light and bright and merry,
where boys can go whose mothers' parlors are too fine for them to sit
in. There are enough to be found to clap them on the back, and tell
them stories that their mothers must not hear, and laugh when they
compass with their little piping voices the dreadful litanies of sin
and shame. In middle life, our poor Sophie, who as a girl was so gay
and frolicsome, so full of spirits, had dried and sharpened into a
hard-visaged, angular woman,--careful and troubled about many things,
and forgetful that one thing is needful. One of the boys had run away
to sea; I believe he has never been heard of. As to Tom, the eldest,
he ran a career wild and hard enough for a time, first at school and
then in college, and there came a time when he came home, in the full
might of six feet two, and almost broke his mother's heart with his
assertions of his home rights and privileges. Mothers who throw away
the key of their children's hearts and childhood sometimes have a sad
retribution. As the children never were considered when they were
little and helpless, so they do not consider when they are strong and
powerful. Tom spread wide desolation among the household gods,
lounging on the sofas, spitting tobacco juice on the carpets,
scattering books and engravings hither and thither, and throwing all
the family traditions into wild disorder, as he would never have done
had not all his childish remembrances of them been embittered by the
association of restraint and privation. He actually seemed to hate any
appearance of luxury or taste or order,--he was a perfect Philistine.

As for my friend Bill, from being the pleasantest and most genial of
fellows, he became a morose, misanthropic man. Dr. Franklin has a
significant proverb,--"Silks and satins put out the kitchen fire."
Silks and satins--meaning by them the luxuries of housekeeping--often
put out not only the parlor fire, but that more sacred flame, the fire
of domestic love. It is the greatest possible misery to a man and to
his children to be homeless; and many a man has a splendid house, but
no home.

"Papa," said Jenny, "you ought to write and tell what are your ideas
of keeping a home."

"Girls, you have only to think how your mother has brought you up."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nevertheless, I think, being so fortunate a husband, I might reduce my
wife's system to an analysis, and my next paper shall be, What is a
Home, and How to Keep it.



III

WHAT IS A HOME


It is among the sibylline secrets which lie mysteriously between you
and me, O reader, that these papers, besides their public aspect, have
a private one proper to the bosom of mine own particular family. They
are not merely an _ex post facto_ protest in regard to that carpet and
parlor of celebrated memory, but they are forth-looking towards other
homes that may yet arise near us. For, among my other confidences, you
may recollect I stated to you that our Marianne was busy in those
interesting cares and details which relate to the preparing and
ordering of another dwelling.

Now, when any such matter is going on in a family, I have observed that
every feminine instinct is in a state of fluttering vitality,--every
woman, old or young, is alive with womanliness to the tips of her
fingers; and it becomes us of the other sex, however consciously
respected, to walk softly and put forth our sentiments discreetly, and
with due reverence for the mysterious powers that reign in the feminine
breast.

I had been too well advised to offer one word of direct counsel on a
subject where there were such charming voices, so able to convict me
of absurdity at every turn. I had merely so arranged my affairs as to
put into the hands of my bankers, subject to my wife's order, the very
modest marriage portion which I could place at my girl's disposal; and
Marianne and Jenny, unused to the handling of money, were incessant in
their discussions with ever patient mamma as to what was to be done
with it. I say Marianne and Jenny, for, though the case undoubtedly is
Marianne's, yet, like everything else in our domestic proceedings, it
seems to fall, somehow or other, into Jenny's hands, through the
intensity and liveliness of her domesticity of nature. Little Jenny is
so bright and wide awake, and with so many active plans and fancies
touching anything in the housekeeping world, that, though the youngest
sister and second party in this affair, a stranger, hearkening to the
daily discussions, might listen a half-hour at a time without finding
out that it was not Jenny's future establishment that was in question.
Marianne is a soft, thoughtful, quiet girl, not given to many words;
and though, when you come fairly at it, you will find that, like most
quiet girls, she has a will five times as inflexible as one who talks
more, yet in all family counsels it is Jenny and mamma that do the
discussion, and her own little well-considered "Yes" or "No" that
finally settles each case.

I must add to this family tableau the portrait of the excellent Bob
Stephens, who figured as future proprietor and householder in these
consultations. So far as the question of financial possibilities is
concerned, it is important to remark that Bob belongs to the class of
young Edmunds celebrated by the poet:--

  "Wisdom and worth were all he had."

He is, in fact, an excellent-hearted and clever fellow, with a world
of agreeable talents, a good tenor in a parlor duet, a good actor at a
charade, a lively, off-hand conversationist, well up in all the
current literature of the day, and what is more, in my eyes, a
well-read lawyer, just admitted to the bar, and with as fair business
prospects as usually fall to the lot of young aspirants in that
profession.

Of course, he and my girl are duly and truly in love, in all the
proper moods and tenses; but as to this work they have in hand of
being householders, managing fuel, rent, provision, taxes, gas and
water rates, they seem to my older eyes about as sagacious as a pair
of this year's robins. Nevertheless, as the robins of each year do
somehow learn to build nests as well as their ancestors, there is
reason to hope as much for each new pair of human creatures. But it is
one of the fatalities of our ill-jointed life that houses are usually
furnished for future homes by young people in just this state of
blissful ignorance of what they are really wanted for, or what is
likely to be done with the things in them.

Now, to people of large incomes, with ready wealth for the rectification
of mistakes, it doesn't much matter how the ménage is arranged at
first; they will, if they have good sense, soon rid themselves of the
little infelicities and absurdities of their first arrangements, and
bring their establishment to meet their more instructed tastes.

But to that greater class who have only a modest investment for this
first start in domestic life, mistakes are far more serious. I have
known people go on for years groaning under the weight of domestic
possessions they did not want, and pining in vain for others which
they did, simply from the fact that all their first purchases were
made in this time of blissful ignorance.

I had been a quiet auditor to many animated discussions among the
young people as to what they wanted and were to get, in which the
subject of prudence and economy was discussed, with quotations of
advice thereon given in serious good faith by various friends and
relations who lived easily on incomes four or five times larger than
our own. Who can show the ways of elegant economy more perfectly than
people thus at ease in their possessions? From what serene heights do
they instruct the inexperienced beginners! Ten thousand a year gives
one leisure for reflection, and elegant leisure enables one to view
household economies dispassionately; hence the unction with which
these gifted daughters of upper air delight to exhort young
neophytes.

"Depend upon it, my dear," Aunt Sophia Easygo had said, "it's always
the best economy to get the best things. They cost more in the
beginning, but see how they last! These velvet carpets on my floor
have been in constant wear for ten years, and look how they wear!
I never have an ingrain carpet in my house,--not even on the
chambers. Velvet and Brussels cost more to begin with, but then
they last. Then I cannot recommend the fashion that is creeping in of
having plate instead of solid silver. Plate wears off, and has to
be renewed, which comes to about the same thing in the end as if
you bought all solid at first. If I were beginning as Marianne is, I
should just set aside a thousand dollars for my silver, and be content
with a few plain articles. She should buy all her furniture at
Messrs. David & Saul's. People call them dear, but their work will
prove cheapest in the end, and there is an air and style about
their things that can be told anywhere. Of course, you won't go to
any extravagant lengths,--simplicity is a grace of itself."

The waters of the family council were troubled when Jenny, flaming
with enthusiasm, brought home the report of this conversation. When my
wife proceeded, with her well-trained business knowledge, to compare
the prices of the simplest elegancies recommended by Aunt Easygo with
the sum total to be drawn on, faces lengthened perceptibly.

"How _are_ people to go to housekeeping," said Jenny, "if everything
costs so much?"

My wife quietly remarked that we had had great comfort in our own
home,--had entertained unnumbered friends, and had only ingrain
carpets on our chambers and a three-ply on our parlor, and she doubted
if any guest had ever thought of it,--if the rooms had been a shade
less pleasant; and as to durability, Aunt Easygo had renewed her
carpets oftener than we. Such as ours were, they had worn longer than
hers.

"But, mamma, you know everything has gone on since your day. Everybody
must at least approach a certain style nowadays. One can't furnish so
far behind other people."

My wife answered in her quiet way, setting forth her doctrine of a
plain average to go through the whole establishment, placing
parlors, chambers, kitchen, pantries, and the unseen depths of
linen-closets in harmonious relations of just proportion, and
showed by calm estimates how far the sum given could go towards
this result. _There_ the limits were inexorable. There is nothing so
damping to the ardor of youthful economies as the hard, positive
logic of figures. It is so delightful to think in some airy way
that the things we like best are the cheapest, and that a sort of
rigorous duty compels us to get them at any sacrifice. There is no
remedy for this illusion but to show by the multiplication and
addition tables what things are and are not possible. My wife's
figures met Aunt Easygo's assertions, and there was a lull among
the high contracting parties for a season; nevertheless, I could see
Jenny was secretly uneasy. I began to hear of journeys made to far
places, here and there, where expensive articles of luxury were
selling at reduced prices. Now a gilded mirror was discussed, and
now a velvet carpet which chance had brought down temptingly near
the sphere of financial possibility. I thought of our parlor, and
prayed the good fairies to avert the advent of ill-assorted articles.

"Pray keep common sense uppermost in the girls' heads, if you can,"
said I to Mrs. Crowfield, "and don't let the poor little puss spend
her money for what she won't care a button about by and by."

"I shall try," she said; "but you know Marianne is inexperienced, and
Jenny is so ardent and active, and so confident, too. Then they both,
I think, have the impression that we are a little behind the age. To
say the truth, my dear, I think your papers afford a good opportunity
of dropping a thought now and then in their minds. Jenny was asking
last night when you were going to write your next paper. The girl has
a bright, active mind, and thinks of what she hears."

So flattered, by the best of flatterers, I sat down to write on my
theme; and that evening, at firelight time, I read to my little senate
as follows:--


WHAT IS A HOME, AND HOW TO KEEP IT

I have shown that a dwelling, rented or owned by a man, in which his
own wife keeps house, is not always, or of course, a home. What is it,
then, that makes a home? All men and women have the indefinite
knowledge of what they want and long for when that word is spoken.
"Home!" sighs the disconsolate bachelor, tired of boarding-house fare
and buttonless shirts. "Home!" says the wanderer in foreign lands, and
thinks of mother's love, of wife and sister and child. Nay, the word
has in it a higher meaning hallowed by religion; and when the
Christian would express the highest of his hopes for a better life, he
speaks of his _home_ beyond the grave. The word "home" has in it the
elements of love, rest, permanency, and liberty; but, besides these,
it has in it the idea of an education by which all that is purest
within us is developed into nobler forms, fit for a higher life. The
little child by the home-fireside was taken on the Master's knee when
he would explain to his disciples the mysteries of the kingdom.

Of so great dignity and worth is this holy and sacred thing, that the
power to create a HOME ought to be ranked above all creative
faculties. The sculptor who brings out the breathing statue from cold
marble, the painter who warms the canvas into a deathless glow of
beauty, the architect who built cathedrals and hung the world-like
dome of St. Peter's in midair, is not to be compared, in sanctity and
worthiness, to the humblest artist who, out of the poor materials
afforded by this shifting, changing, selfish world, creates the secure
Eden of a home.

A true home should be called the noblest work of art possible to human
creatures, inasmuch as it is the very image chosen to represent the
last and highest rest of the soul, the consummation of man's
blessedness.

Not without reason does the oldest Christian church require of those
entering on marriage the most solemn review of all the past life, the
confession and repentance of every sin of thought, word, and deed, and
the reception of the holy sacrament; for thus the man and woman who
approach the august duty of creating a home are reminded of the
sanctity and beauty of what they undertake.

In this art of homemaking I have set down in my mind certain first
principles, like the axioms of Euclid, and the first is,--

_No home is possible without love._

All business marriages and marriages of convenience, all mere culinary
marriages and marriages of mere animal passion, make the creation of a
true home impossible in the outset. Love is the jeweled foundation of
this New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven, and takes as
many bright forms as the amethyst, topaz, and sapphire of that
mysterious vision. In this range of creative art all things are
possible to him that loveth, but without love nothing is possible.

We hear of most convenient marriages in foreign lands, which may
better be described as commercial partnerships. The money on each side
is counted; there is enough between the parties to carry on the firm,
each having the appropriate sum allotted to each. No love is
pretended, but there is great politeness. All is so legally and
thoroughly arranged that there seems to be nothing left for future
quarrels to fasten on. Monsieur and Madame have each their apartments,
their carriages, their servants, their income, their friends, their
pursuits,--understand the solemn vows of marriage to mean simply that
they are to treat each other with urbanity in those few situations
where the path of life must necessarily bring them together.

We are sorry that such an idea of marriage should be gaining
foothold in America. It has its root in an ignoble view of life,--an
utter and pagan darkness as to all that man and woman are called
to do in that highest relation where they act as one. It is a mean
and low contrivance on both sides, by which all the grand work of
home-building, all the noble pains and heroic toils of home
education--that education where the parents learn more than they
teach--shall be (let us use the expressive Yankee idiom) _shirked_.

It is a curious fact that, in those countries where this system of
marriages is the general rule, there is no word corresponding to our
English word "home." In many polite languages of Europe it would be
impossible neatly to translate the sentiment with which we began this
essay, that a man's house is not always his home.

Let any one try to render the song, "Sweet Home," into French, and one
finds how Anglo-Saxon is the very genius of the word. The structure of
life, in all its relations, in countries where marriages are matter of
arrangement and not of love, excludes the idea of home.

How does life run in such countries? The girl is recalled from her
convent or boarding-school, and told that her father has found a
husband for her. No objection on her part is contemplated or provided
for; none generally occurs, for the child is only too happy to obtain
the fine clothes and the liberty which she has been taught come only
with marriage. Be the man handsome or homely, interesting or stupid,
still he brings these.

How intolerable such a marriage! we say, with the close intimacies of
Anglo-Saxon life in our minds. They are not intolerable, because they
are provided for by arrangements which make it possible for each to go
his or her several way, seeing very little of the other. The son or
daughter, which in due time makes its appearance in this ménage, is
sent out to nurse in infancy, sent to boarding-school in youth, and in
maturity portioned and married, to repeat the same process for another
generation. Meanwhile father and mother keep a quiet establishment and
pursue their several pleasures. Such is the system.

Houses built for this kind of life become mere sets of reception-rooms,
such as are the greater proportion of apartments to let in Paris,
where a hearty English or American family, with their children about
them, could scarcely find room to establish themselves. Individual
character, it is true, does something to modify this programme.
There are charming homes in France and Italy, where warm and noble
natures, thrown together perhaps by accident, or mated by wise
paternal choice, infuse warmth into the coldness of the system under
which they live. There are in all states of society some of such
domesticity of nature that they will create a home around themselves
under any circumstances, however barren. Besides, so kindly is human
nature, that Love, uninvited before marriage, often becomes a guest
after, and with Love always comes a home.

My next axiom is,--

_There can be no true home without liberty._

The very idea of home is of a retreat where we shall be free to act
out personal and individual tastes and peculiarities, as we cannot
do before the wide world. We are to have our meals at what hour we
will, served in what style suits us. Our hours of going and coming
are to be as we please. Our favorite haunts are to be here or there;
our pictures and books so disposed as seems to us good; and our
whole arrangements the expression, so far as our means can compass it,
of our own personal ideas of what is pleasant and desirable in
life. This element of liberty, if we think of it, is the chief
charm of home. "Here I can do as I please," is the thought with
which the tempest-tossed earth-pilgrim blesses himself or herself,
turning inward from the crowded ways of the world. This thought
blesses the man of business, as he turns from his day's care and
crosses the sacred threshold. It is as restful to him as the slippers
and gown and easy-chair by the fireside. Everybody understands him
here. Everybody is well content that he should take his ease in his
own way. Such is the case in the ideal home. That such is not always
the case in the real home comes often from the mistakes in the
house-furnishing. Much house-furnishing is too fine for liberty.

In America there is no such thing as rank and station which impose a
sort of prescriptive style on people of certain income. The
consequence is that all sorts of furniture and belongings, which in
the Old World have a recognized relation to certain possibilities of
income, and which require certain other accessories to make them in
good keeping, are thrown in the way of all sorts of people.

Young people who cannot expect by any reasonable possibility to keep
more than two or three servants, if they happen to have the means in
the outset furnish a house with just such articles as in England would
suit an establishment of sixteen. We have seen houses in England
having two or three housemaids, and tables served by a butler and two
waiters, where the furniture, carpets, china, crystal, and silver were
in one and the same style with some establishments in America where
the family was hard pressed to keep three Irish servants.

This want of servants is the one thing that must modify everything in
American life; it is, and will long continue to be, a leading feature
in the life of a country so rich in openings for man and woman that
domestic service can be only the stepping-stone to something higher.
Nevertheless we Americans are great travelers; we are sensitive,
appreciative, fond of novelty, apt to receive and incorporate into our
own life what seems fair and graceful in that of other people. Our
women's wardrobes are made elaborate with the thousand elegancies of
French toilet,--our houses filled with a thousand knick-knacks of
which our plain ancestors never dreamed. Cleopatra did not set sail on
the Nile in more state and beauty than that in which our young
American bride is often ushered into her new home,--her wardrobe all
gossamer lace and quaint frill and crimp and embroidery, her house a
museum of elegant and costly gewgaws, and, amid the whole collection
of elegancies and fragilities, she, perhaps, the frailest.

Then comes the tug of war. The young wife becomes a mother, and while
she is retired to her chamber, blundering Biddy rusts the elegant
knives, or takes off the ivory handles by soaking in hot water; the
silver is washed in greasy soapsuds, and refreshed now and then with a
thump, which cocks the nose of the teapot awry, or makes the handle
assume an air of drunken defiance. The fragile china is chipped here
and there around its edges with those minute gaps so vexatious to a
woman's soul; the handles fly hither and thither in the wild confusion
of Biddy's washing-day hurry, when cook wants her to help hang out the
clothes. Meanwhile Bridget sweeps the parlor with a hard broom, and
shakes out showers of ashes from the grate, forgetting to cover the
damask lounges, and they directly look as rusty and time-worn as if
they had come from an auction-store; and all together unite in making
such havoc of the delicate ruffles and laces of the bridal outfit and
baby _layette_ that, when the poor young wife comes out of her
chamber after her nurse has left her, and, weakened and embarrassed
with the demands of the newcomer, begins to look once more into the
affairs of her little world, she is ready to sink with vexation and
discouragement. Poor little princess! Her clothes are made as
princesses wear them, her baby's clothes like a young duke's, her
house furnished like a lord's, and only Bridget and Biddy and Polly to
do the work of cook, scullery-maid, butler, footman, laundress,
nursery-maid, housemaid, and lady's maid. Such is the array that in
the Old Country would be deemed necessary to take care of an
establishment got up like hers. Everything in it is too fine,--not too
fine to be pretty, not in bad taste in itself, but too fine for the
situation, too fine for comfort or liberty.

What ensues in a house so furnished? Too often, ceaseless fretting of
the nerves, in the wife's despairing, conscientious efforts to keep
things as they should be. There is no freedom in a house where things
are too expensive and choice to be freely handled and easily replaced.
Life becomes a series of petty embarrassments and restrictions,
something is always going wrong, and the man finds his fireside
oppressive,--the various articles of his parlor and table seem like so
many temper-traps and spring-guns, menacing explosion and disaster.

There may be, indeed, the most perfect home-feeling, the utmost
cosiness and restfulness, in apartments crusted with gilding, carpeted
with velvet, and upholstered with satin. I have seen such, where the
home-like look and air of free use was as genuine as in a Western log
cabin; but this was in a range of princely income that made all these
things as easy to be obtained or replaced as the most ordinary of our
domestic furniture. But so long as articles must be shrouded from use,
or used with fear and trembling, because their cost is above the
general level of our means, we had better be without them, even
though the most lucky of accidents may put their possession in our
power.

But it is not merely by the effort to maintain too much elegance
that the sense of home liberty is banished from a house. It is
sometimes expelled in another way, with all painstaking and
conscientious strictness, by the worthiest and best of human beings,
the blessed followers of Saint Martha. Have we not known them, the
deaf, worthy creatures, up before daylight, causing most scrupulous
lustrations of every pane of glass and inch of paint in our
parlors, in consequence whereof every shutter and blind must be
kept closed for days to come, lest the flies should speck the freshly
washed windows and wainscoting? Dear shade of Aunt Mehitabel,
forgive our boldness! Have we not been driven for days, in our
youth, to read our newspaper in the front veranda, in the kitchen,
out in the barn,--anywhere, in fact, where sunshine could be
found,--because there was not a room in the house that was not
cleaned, shut up, and darkened? Have we not shivered with cold, all
the glowering, gloomy month of May, because, the august front parlor
having undergone the spring cleaning, the andirons were snugly tied
up in the tissue-paper, and an elegant frill of the same material
was trembling before the mouth of the once glowing fireplace? Even so,
dear soul, full of loving-kindness and hospitality as thou wast, yet
ever making our house seem like a tomb! And with what patience
wouldst thou sit sewing by a crack in the shutters an inch wide,
rejoicing in thy immaculate paint and clear glass! But was there
ever a thing of thy spotless and unsullied belongings which a boy
might use? How I trembled to touch thy scoured tins, that hung in
appalling brightness! with what awe I asked for a basket to pick
strawberries! and where in the house could I find a place to eat a
piece of gingerbread? How like a ruffian, a Tartar, a pirate, I
always felt when I entered thy domains! and how, from day to day,
I wondered at the immeasurable depths of depravity which were always
leading me to upset something, or break or tear or derange something,
in thy exquisitely kept premises! Somehow the impression was burned
with overpowering force into my mind that houses and furniture,
scrubbed floors, white curtains, bright tins and brasses, were the
great, awful, permanent facts of existence; and that men and women,
and particularly children, were the meddlesome intruders upon this
divine order, every trace of whose intermeddling must be scrubbed
out and obliterated in the quickest way possible. It seemed evident
to me that houses would be far more perfect if nobody lived in them at
all, but that, as men had really and absurdly taken to living in
them, they must live as little as possible. My only idea of a house
was a place full of traps and pitfalls for boys, a deadly temptation
to sins which beset one every moment; and when I read about a
sailor's free life on the ocean, I felt an untold longing to go forth
and be free in like manner.

But a truce to these fancies, and back again to our essay.

If liberty in a house is a comfort to a husband, it is a necessity to
children. When we say liberty, we do not mean license. We do not mean
that Master Johnny be allowed to handle elegant volumes with
bread-and-butter fingers, or that little Miss be suffered to drum on
the piano, or practice line-drawing with a pin on varnished furniture.
Still it is essential that the family parlors be not too fine for the
family to sit in,--too fine for the ordinary accidents, haps and
mishaps of reasonably well-trained children. The elegance of the
parlor where papa and mamma sit and receive their friends should wear
an inviting, not a hostile and bristling, aspect to little people. Its
beauty and its order gradually form in the little mind a love of
beauty and order, and the insensible carefulness of regard.

Nothing is worse for a child than to shut him up in a room which he
understands is his, _because_ he is disorderly,--where he is expected,
of course, to maintain and keep disorder. We have sometimes pitied the
poor little victims who show their faces longingly at the doors of
elegant parlors, and are forthwith collared by the domestic police and
consigned to some attic apartment, called a playroom, where chaos
continually reigns. It is a mistake to suppose, because children
derange a well-furnished apartment, that they like confusion. Order
and beauty are always pleasant to them as to grown people, and
disorder and defacement are painful; but they know neither how to
create the one nor to prevent the other,--their little lives are a
series of experiments, often making disorder by aiming at some new
form of order. Yet, for all this, I am not one of those who feel that
in a family everything should bend to the sway of these little people.
They are the worst of tyrants in such houses: still, where children
are, though the fact must not appear to them, _nothing must be done
without a wise thought of them_.

Here, as in all high art, the old motto is in force, "_Ars est celare
artem_." Children who are taught too plainly, by every anxious look
and word of their parents, by every family arrangement, by the
impressment of every chance guest into the service, that their parents
consider their education as the one important matter in creation, are
apt to grow up fantastical, artificial, and hopelessly self-conscious.
The stars cannot stop in their courses, even for our personal
improvement, and the sooner children learn this the better. The great
art is to organize a home which shall move on with a strong, wide,
generous movement, where the little people shall act themselves out as
freely and impulsively as can consist with the comfort of the whole,
and where the anxious watching and planning for them shall be kept as
secret from them as possible.

It is well that one of the sunniest and airiest rooms in the house be
the children's nursery. It is good philosophy, too, to furnish it
attractively, even if the sum expended lower the standard of parlor
luxuries. It is well that the children's chamber, which is to act
constantly on their impressible natures for years, should command a
better prospect, a sunnier aspect, than one which serves for a day's
occupancy of the transient guest. It is well that journeys should be
made or put off in view of the interests of the children; that guests
should be invited with a view to their improvement; that some
intimacies should be chosen and some rejected on their account. But it
is not well that all this should, from infancy, be daily talked out
before the child, and he grow up in egotism from moving in a sphere
where everything from first to last is calculated and arranged with
reference to himself. A little appearance of wholesome neglect
combined with real care and never ceasing watchfulness has often
seemed to do wonders in this work of setting human beings on their own
feet for the life journey.

Education is the highest object of home, but education in the widest
sense,--education of the parents no less than of the children. In a
true home the man and the woman receive, through their cares, their
watchings, their hospitality, their charity, the last and highest
finish that earth can put upon them. From that they must pass upward,
for earth can teach them no more.

The home education is incomplete unless it include the idea of
hospitality and charity. Hospitality is a Biblical and apostolic
virtue, and not so often recommended in Holy Writ without reason.
Hospitality is much neglected in America for the very reasons touched
upon above. We have received our ideas of propriety and elegance of
living from old countries, where labor is cheap, where domestic
service is a well-understood, permanent occupation, adopted cheerfully
for life, and where of course there is such a subdivision of labor as
insures great thoroughness in all its branches. We are ashamed or
afraid to conform honestly and hardily to a state of things purely
American. We have not yet accomplished what our friend the Doctor
calls "our weaning," and learned that dinners with circuitous courses
and divers other Continental and English refinements, well enough in
their way, cannot be accomplished in families with two or three
untrained servants, without an expense of care and anxiety which makes
them heart-withering to the delicate wife, and too severe a trial to
occur often. America is the land of subdivided fortunes, of a general
average of wealth and comfort, and there ought to be, therefore, an
understanding in the social basis far more simple than in the Old
World.

Many families of small fortunes know this,--they are quietly living
so,--but they have not the steadiness to share their daily average
living with a friend, a traveler, or guest, just as the Arab shares
his tent and the Indian his bowl of succotash. They cannot have
company, they say. Why? Because it is such a fuss to get out the best
things, and then to put them back again. But why get out the best
things! Why not give your friend what he would like a thousand times
better,--a bit of your average home life, a seat at any time at your
board, a seat at your fire? If he sees that there is a handle off your
teacup, and that there is a crack across one of your plates, he only
thinks, with a sigh of relief, "Well, mine aren't the only things that
meet with accidents," and he feels nearer to you ever after; he will
let you come to his table and see the cracks in his teacups, and you
will condole with each other on the transient nature of earthly
possessions. If it become apparent in these entirely undressed
rehearsals that your children are sometimes disorderly, and that your
cook sometimes overdoes the meat, and that your second girl sometimes
is awkward in waiting, or has forgotten a table propriety, your friend
only feels, "Ah, well, other people have trials as well as I," and he
thinks, if you come to see him, he shall feel easy with you.

"Having company" is an expense that may always be felt; but easy daily
hospitality, the plate always on your table for a friend, is an
expense that appears on no accounts book, and a pleasure that is daily
and constant.

Under this head of hospitality, let us suppose a case. A traveler
comes from England; he comes in good faith and good feeling to see how
Americans live. He merely wants to penetrate into the interior of
domestic life, to see what there is genuinely and peculiarly American
about it. Now here is Smilax, who is living, in a small, neat way, on
his salary from the daily press. He remembers hospitalities received
from our traveler in England, and wants to return them. He remembers,
too, with dismay, a well-kept establishment, the well-served table,
the punctilious, orderly servants. Smilax keeps two, a cook and
chambermaid, who divide the functions of his establishment between
them. What shall he do? Let him say, in a fair, manly way, "My dear
fellow, I'm delighted to see you. I live in a small way, but I'll do
my best for you, and Mrs. Smilax will be delighted. Come and dine with
us, so and so, and we'll bring in one or two friends." So the man
comes, and Mrs. Smilax serves up such a dinner as lies within the
limits of her knowledge and the capacities of her servants. All plain,
good of its kind, unpretending, without an attempt to do anything
English or French,--to do anything more than if she were furnishing a
gala dinner for her father or returned brother. Show him your house
freely, just as it is, talk to him freely of it, just as he in England
showed you his larger house and talked to you of his finer things. If
the man is a true man, he will thank you for such unpretending,
sincere welcome; if he is a man of straw, then he is not worth wasting
Mrs. Smilax's health and spirits for, in unavailing efforts to get up
a foreign dinner-party.

A man who has any heart in him values a genuine, little bit of home
more than anything else you can give him. He can get French cooking
at a restaurant; he can buy expensive wines at first-class hotels, if
he wants them; but the traveler, though ever so rich and ever so
well-served at home, is, after all, nothing but a man as you are, and
he is craving something that doesn't seem like an hotel,--some bit
of real, genuine heart life. Perhaps he would like better than
anything to show you the last photograph of his wife, or to read to
you the great, round-hand letter of his ten-year-old which he has got
to-day. He is ready to cry when he thinks of it. In this mood he goes
to see you, hoping for something like, home, and you first receive
him in a parlor opened only on state occasions, and that has been
circumstantially and exactly furnished, as the upholsterer assures
you, as every other parlor of the kind in the city is furnished.
You treat him to a dinner got up for the occasion, with hired
waiters,--a dinner which it has taken Mrs. Smilax a week to prepare
for, and will take her a week to recover from,--for which the baby has
been snubbed and turned off, to his loud indignation, and your young
four-year-old sent to his aunts. Your traveler eats your dinner, and
finds it inferior, as a work of art, to other dinners,--a poor
imitation. He goes away and criticises; you hear of it, and resolve
never to invite a foreigner again. But if you had given him a little
of your heart, a little home warmth and feeling,--if you had shown
him your baby, and let him romp with your four-year-old, and eat a
genuine dinner with you,--would he have been false to that? Not so
likely. He wanted something real and human,--you gave him a bad
dress rehearsal, and dress rehearsals always provoke criticism.

Besides hospitality, there is, in a true home, a mission of charity.
It is a just law which regulates the possession of great or beautiful
works of art in the Old World, that they shall in some sense be
considered the property of all who can appreciate. Fine grounds have
hours when the public may be admitted; pictures and statues may be
shown to visitors: and this is a noble charity. In the same manner the
fortunate individuals who have achieved the greatest of all human
works of art should employ it as a sacred charity. How many, morally
wearied, wandering, disabled, are healed and comforted by the warmth
of a true home! When a mother has sent her son to the temptations of a
distant city, what news is so glad to her heart as that he has found
some quiet family where he visits often and is made to feel at HOME?
How many young men have good women saved from temptation and shipwreck
by drawing them often to the sheltered corner by the fireside! The
poor artist; the wandering genius who has lost his way in this world,
and stumbles like a child among hard realities; the many men and women
who, while they have houses, have no homes, see from afar, in their
distant, bleak life journey, the light of a true home fire, and, if
made welcome there, warm their stiffened limbs, and go forth stronger
to their pilgrimage. Let those who have accomplished this beautiful
and perfect work of divine art be liberal of its influence. Let them
not seek to bolt the doors and draw the curtains; for they know not,
and will never know till the future life, of the good they may do by
the ministration of this great charity of home.

We have heard much lately of the restricted sphere of woman. We have
been told how many spirits among women are of a wider, stronger, more
heroic mould than befits the mere routine of housekeeping. It may be
true that there are many women far too great, too wise, too high, for
mere housekeeping. But where is the woman in any way too great, or too
high, or too wise, to spend herself in creating a home? What can any
woman make diviner, higher, better? From such homes go forth all
heroisms, all inspirations, all great deeds. Such mothers and such
homes have made the heroes and martyrs, faithful unto death, who have
given their precious lives to us during these three years of our
agony!

Homes are the work of art peculiar to the genius of woman. Man helps
in this work, but woman leads; the hive is always in confusion without
the queen bee. But what a woman must she be who does this work
perfectly! She comprehends all, she balances and arranges all; all
different tastes and temperaments find in her their rest, and she can
unite at one hearthstone the most discordant elements. In her is
order, yet an order ever veiled and concealed by indulgence. None are
checked, reproved, abridged of privileges by her love of system; for
she knows that order was made for the family, and not the family for
order. Quietly she takes on herself what all others refuse or
overlook. What the unwary disarrange she silently rectifies. Everybody
in her sphere breathes easy, feels free; and the driest twig begins in
her sunshine to put out buds and blossoms. So quiet are her operations
and movements that none sees that it is she who holds all things in
harmony; only, alas, when she is gone, how many things suddenly appear
disordered, inharmonious, neglected! All these threads have been
smilingly held in her weak hand. Alas, if that is no longer there!

Can any woman be such a housekeeper without inspiration? No. In the
words of the old church service, "her soul must ever have affiance in
God." The New Jerusalem of a perfect home cometh down from God out of
heaven. But to make such a home is ambition high and worthy enough for
any woman, be she what she may.

One thing more. Right on the threshold of all perfection lies the
cross to be taken up. No one can go over or around that cross in
science or in art. Without labor and self-denial neither Raphael nor
Michel Angelo nor Newton was made perfect. Nor can man or woman
create a true home who is not willing in the outset to embrace life
heroically to encounter labor and sacrifice. Only to such shall this
divinest power be given to create on earth that which is the nearest
image of heaven.



IV

THE ECONOMY OF THE BEAUTIFUL


Talking to you in this way once a month, O my confidential reader,
there seems to be danger, as in all intervals of friendship, that we
shall not readily be able to take up our strain of conversation just
where we left off. Suffer me, therefore, to remind you that the month
past left us seated at the fireside, just as we had finished reading
of what a home was, and how to make one.

The fire had burned low, and great, solid hickory coals were winking
dreamily at us from out their fluffy coats of white ashes,--just as if
some household sprite there were opening now one eye and then the
other, and looking in a sleepy, comfortable way at us.

The close of my piece about the good house mother had seemed to tell
on my little audience. Marianne had nestled close to her mother, and
laid her head on her knee; and though Jenny sat up straight as a pin,
yet her ever busy knitting was dropped in her lap, and I saw the glint
of a tear in her quick, sparkling eye,--yes, actually a little bright
bead fell upon her work; whereupon she started up actively, and
declared that the fire wanted just one more stick to make a blaze
before bedtime; and then there was such a raking among the coals, such
an adjusting of the andirons, such vigorous arrangement of the wood,
and such a brisk whisking of the hearth-brush, that it was evident
Jenny had something on her mind. When all was done, she sat down
again and looked straight into the blaze, which went dancing and
crackling up, casting glances and flecks of light on our pictures and
books, and making all the old, familiar furniture seem full of life
and motion.

"I think that's a good piece," she said decisively. "I think those are
things that should be thought about."

Now Jenny was the youngest of our flock, and therefore, in a certain
way, regarded by my wife and me as perennially "the baby;" and these
little, old-fashioned, decisive ways of announcing her opinions seemed
so much a part of her nature, so peculiarly "Jennyish," as I used to
say, that my wife and I only exchanged amused glances over her head
when they occurred.

In a general way, Jenny, standing in the full orb of her feminine
instincts like Diana in the moon, rather looked down on all masculine
views of women's matters as _tolerabiles ineptioe_; but towards her
papa she had gracious turns of being patronizing to the last degree;
and one of these turns was evidently at its flood-tide, as she
proceeded to say,--

"_I_ think papa is right,--that keeping house and having a home, and
all that, is a very serious thing, and that people go into it with
very little thought about it. I really think those things papa has
been saying there ought to be thought about."

"Papa," said Marianne, "I wish you would tell me exactly how you would
spend that money you gave me for house-furnishing. I should like just
your views."

"Precisely," said Jenny with eagerness; "because it is just as papa
says,--a sensible man, who has thought and had experience, can't help
having some ideas, even about women's affairs, that are worth
attending to. I think so, decidedly."

I acknowledged the compliment for my sex and myself with my best bow.

"But then, papa," said Marianne, "I can't help feeling sorry that one
can't live in such a way as to have beautiful things around one. I'm
sorry they must cost so much, and take so much care, for I am made so
that I really want them. I do so like to see pretty things! I do like
rich carpets and elegant carved furniture, and fine china and
cut-glass and silver. I can't bear mean, common-looking rooms. I
should so like to have my house look beautiful!"

"Your house ought not to look mean and common,--your house ought to
look beautiful," I replied. "It would be a sin and a shame to have it
otherwise. No house ought to be fitted up for a future home without a
strong and a leading reference to beauty in all its arrangements. If I
were a Greek, I should say that the first household libation should be
made to beauty; but, being an old-fashioned Christian, I would say
that he who prepares a home with no eye to beauty neglects the example
of the great Father who has filled our earth home with such elaborate
ornament."

"But then, papa, there's the money!" said Jenny, shaking her little
head wisely. "You men don't think of that. You want us girls, for
instance, to be patterns of economy, but we must always be wearing
fresh, nice things; you abhor soiled gloves and worn shoes; and yet
how is all this to be done without money? And it's just so in
housekeeping. You sit in your armchairs, and conjure up visions of all
sorts of impossible things to be done; but when mamma there takes out
that little account-book, and figures away on the cost of things,
where do the visions go?"

"You are mistaken, my little dear, and you talk just like a
woman,"--this was my only way of revenging myself; "that is to say,
you jump to conclusions, without sufficient knowledge. I maintain that
in house-furnishing, as well as woman-furnishing, there's nothing so
economical as beauty."

"There's one of papa's paradoxes!" said Jenny.

"Yes," said I, "that is my thesis, which I shall nail up over the
mantelpiece there, as Luther nailed his to the church door. It is time
to rake up the fire now; but to-morrow night I will give you a paper
on the Economy of the Beautiful."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Come, now we are to have papa's paradox," said Jenny, as soon as the
tea-things had been carried out.

_Entre nous_, I must tell you that insensibly we had fallen into the
habit of taking our tea by my study fire. Tea, you know, is a mere
nothing in itself, its only merit being its social and poetic
associations, its warmth and fragrance; and the more socially and
informally it can be dispensed, the more in keeping with its airy and
cheerful nature.

Our circle was enlightened this evening by the cheery visage of Bob
Stephens, seated, as of right, close to Marianne's work-basket.

"You see, Bob," said Jenny, "papa has undertaken to prove that the
most beautiful things are always the cheapest."

"I'm glad to hear that," said Bob; "for there's a carved antique
bookcase and study-table that I have my eye on, and if this can in any
way be made to appear"--

"Oh, it won't be made to appear," said Jenny, settling herself at her
knitting, "only in some transcendental, poetic sense, such as papa can
always make out. Papa is more than half a poet, and his truths turn
out to be figures of rhetoric when one comes to apply them to matters
of fact."

"Now, Miss Jenny, please remember my subject and thesis," I
replied,--"that in house-furnishing there is nothing so economical as
beauty; and I will make it good against all comers, not by figures of
rhetoric, but by figures of arithmetic. I am going to be very
matter-of-fact and commonplace in my details, and keep ever in view
the addition table. I will instance a case which has occurred under
my own observation."


THE ECONOMY OF THE BEAUTIFUL

Two of the houses lately built on the new land in Boston were bought
by two friends, Philip and John. Philip had plenty of money, and paid
the cash down for his house, without feeling the slightest vacancy in
his pocket. John, who was an active, rising young man, just entering
on a flourishing business, had expended all his moderate savings for
years in the purchase of his dwelling, and still had a mortgage
remaining, which he hoped to clear off by his future successes. Philip
begins the work of furnishing as people do with whom money is
abundant, and who have simply to go from shop to shop and order all
that suits their fancy and is considered "the thing" in good society.
John begins to furnish with very little money. He has a wife and two
little ones, and he wisely deems that to insure to them a well-built
house, in an open, airy situation, with conveniences for warming,
bathing, and healthy living, is a wise beginning in life; but it
leaves him little or nothing beyond.

Behold, then, Philip and his wife, well pleased, going the rounds of
shops and stores in fitting up their new dwelling, and let us follow
step by step. To begin with the wall-paper. Imagine a front and back
parlor, with folding-doors, with two south windows on the front, and
two looking on a back court, after the general manner of city houses.
We will suppose they require about thirty rolls of wall-paper. Philip
buys the heaviest French velvet, with gildings and traceries, at four
dollars a roll. This, by the time it has been put on, with gold
mouldings, according to the most established taste of the best
paper-hangers, will bring the wall-paper of the two rooms to a figure
something like two hundred dollars. Now they proceed to the carpet
stores, and there are thrown at their feet by obsequious clerks
velvets and Axminsters, with flowery convolutions and medallion
centres, as if the flower gardens of the tropics were whirling in
waltzes, with graceful lines of arabesque,--roses, callas, lilies,
knotted, wreathed, twined, with blue and crimson and golden ribbons,
dazzling marvels of color and tracery. There is no restraint in
price,--four or six dollars a yard, it is all the same to them,--and
soon a magic flower garden blooms on the floors, at a cost of five
hundred dollars. A pair of elegant rugs, at fifty dollars apiece,
complete the inventory, and bring our rooms to the mark of eight
hundred dollars for papering and carpeting alone. Now come the great
mantel-mirrors for four hundred more, and our rooms progress. Then
comes the upholsterer, and measures our four windows, that he may
skillfully barricade them from air and sunshine. The fortifications
against heaven, thus prepared, cost, in the shape of damask, cord,
tassels, shades, laces, and cornices, about two hundred dollars per
window. To be sure, they make the rooms close and sombre as the grave,
but they are of the most splendid stuffs; and if the sun would only
reflect, he would see, himself, how foolish it was for him to try to
force himself into a window guarded by his betters. If there is
anything cheap and plebeian, it is sunshine and fresh air! Behold us,
then, with our two rooms papered, carpeted, and curtained for two
thousand dollars; and now are to be put in them sofas, lounges,
étagères, centre-tables, screens, chairs of every pattern and device,
for which it is but moderate to allow a thousand more. We have now two
parlors furnished at an outlay of three thousand dollars, without a
single picture, a single article of statuary, a single object of art
of any kind, and without any light to see them by if they were there.
We must say for our Boston upholsterers and furniture-makers that such
good taste generally reigns in their establishments that rooms
furnished at haphazard from them cannot fail of a certain air of good
taste, so far as the individual things are concerned. But the
different articles we have supposed, having been ordered without
reference to one another or the rooms, have, when brought together, no
unity of effect, and the general result is scattering and confused. If
asked how Philip's parlors look, your reply is, "Oh, the usual way of
such parlors,--everything that such people usually get,--medallion
carpets, carved furniture, great mirrors, bronze mantel ornaments, and
so on." The only impression a stranger receives, while waiting in the
dim twilight of these rooms, is that their owner is rich, and able to
get good, handsome things, such as all other rich people get.

Now our friend John, as often happens in America, is moving in the
same social circle with Philip, visiting the same people,--his house
is the twin of the one Philip has been furnishing,--and how shall he,
with a few hundred dollars, make his rooms even presentable beside
those which Philip has fitted up elegantly at three thousand?

Now for the economy of beauty. Our friend must make his prayer to the
Graces,--for, if they cannot save him, nobody can. One thing John has
to begin with, that rare gift to man, a wife with the magic cestus of
Venus,--not around her waist, but, if such a thing could be, in her
finger-ends. All that she touches falls at once into harmony and
proportion. Her eye for color and form is intuitive: let her arrange a
garret, with nothing but boxes, barrels, and cast-off furniture in it,
and ten to one she makes it seem the most attractive place in the
house. It is a veritable "gift of good faërie," this tact of
beautifying and arranging, that some women have; and, on the present
occasion, it has a real, material value, that can be estimated in
dollars and cents. Come with us and you can see the pair taking their
survey of the yet unfurnished parlors, as busy and happy as a couple
of bluebirds picking up the first sticks and straws for their nest.

"There are two sunny windows to begin with," says the good fairy, with
an appreciative glance. "That insures flowers all winter."

"Yes," says John; "I never would look at a house without a good sunny
exposure. Sunshine is the best ornament of a house, and worth an extra
thousand a year."

"Now for our wall-paper," says she. "Have you looked at wall-papers,
John?"

"Yes; we shall get very pretty ones for thirty-seven cents a roll; all
you want of a paper, you know, is to make a ground-tint to throw out
your pictures and other matters, and to reflect a pleasant tone of
light."

"Well, John, you know Uncle James says that a stone color is the best,
but I can't bear those cold blue grays."

"Nor I," says John. "If we must have gray, let it at least be a gray
suffused with gold or rose color, such as you see at evening in the
clouds."

"So I think," responds she; "but, better, I should like a paper with a
tone of buff,--something that produces warm yellowish reflections, and
will almost make you think the sun is shining in cold gray weather;
and then there is nothing that lights up so cheerfully in the evening.
In short, John, I think the color of a _zafferano_ rose will be just
about the shade we want."

"Well, I can find that, in good American paper, as I said before, at
from thirty-seven to forty cents a roll. Then our bordering: there's
an important question, for that must determine the carpet, the chairs,
and everything else. Now what shall be the ground-tint of our rooms?"

"There are only two to choose between," says the lady,--"green and
maroon: which is the best for the picture?"

"I think," says John, looking above the mantelpiece, as if he saw a
picture there,--"I think a border of maroon velvet, with maroon
furniture, is the best for the picture."

"I think so, too," said she; "and then we will have that lovely maroon
and crimson carpet that I saw at Lowe's; it is an ingrain, to be sure,
but has a Brussels pattern, a mossy, mixed figure, of different shades
of crimson; it has a good warm, strong color, and when I come to cover
the lounges and our two old armchairs with maroon rep, it will make
such a pretty effect."

"Yes," said John; "and then, you know, our picture is so bright, it
will light up the whole. Everything depends on the picture."

Now as to "the picture," it has a story which must be told. John,
having been all his life a worshiper and adorer of beauty and
beautiful things, had never passed to or from his business without
stopping at the print-shop windows, and seeing a little of what was
there.

On one of these occasions he was smitten to the heart with the beauty
of an autumn landscape, where the red maples and sumachs, the purple
and crimson oaks, all stood swathed and harmonized together in the
hazy Indian summer atmosphere. There was a great yellow chestnut
tree, on a distant hill, which stood out so naturally that John
instinctively felt his fingers tingling for a basket, and his
heels alive with a desire to bound over on to the rustling hillside
and pick up the glossy brown nuts. Everything was there of autumn,
even to the goldenrod and purple asters and scarlet creepers in the
foreground.

John went in and inquired. It was by an unknown French artist, without
name or patrons, who had just come to our shores to study our scenery,
and this was the first picture he had exposed for sale. John had just
been paid a quarter's salary; he bethought him of board-bill and
washerwoman, sighed, and faintly offered fifty dollars.

To his surprise he was taken up at once, and the picture became his.
John thought himself dreaming. He examined his treasure over and over,
and felt sure that it was the work of no amateur beginner, but of a
trained hand and a true artist soul. So he found his way to the studio
of the stranger, and apologized for having got such a gem for so much
less than its worth. "It was all I could give, though," he said; "and
one who paid four times as much could not value it more." And so John
took one and another of his friends, with longer purses than his own,
to the studio of the modest stranger; and now his pieces command their
full worth in the market, and he works with orders far ahead of his
ability to execute, giving to the canvas the trails of American
scenery as appreciated and felt by the subtile delicacy of the French
mind,--our rural summer views, our autumn glories, and the dreamy,
misty delicacy of our snowy winter landscapes. Whoso would know the
truth of the same, let him inquire for the modest studio of
Morvillier, at Maiden, scarce a bowshot from our Boston.

This picture had always been the ruling star of John's house, his main
dependence for brightening up his bachelor apartments; and when he
came to the task of furbishing those same rooms for a fair occupant,
the picture was still his mine of gold. For a picture painted by a
real artist, who studies Nature minutely and conscientiously, has
something of the charm of the good Mother herself,--something of her
faculty of putting on different aspects under different lights. John
and his wife had studied their picture at all hours of the day: they
had seen how it looked when the morning sun came aslant the scarlet
maples and made a golden shimmer over the blue mountains, how it
looked toned down in the cool shadows of afternoon, and how it warmed
up in the sunset and died off mysteriously into the twilight; and now,
when larger parlors were to be furnished, the picture was still the
tower of strength, the rallying-point of their hopes.

"Do you know, John," said the wife, hesitating, "I am really in doubt
whether we shall not have to get at least a few new chairs and a sofa
for our parlors? They are putting in such splendid things at the other
door that I am positively ashamed of ours; the fact is, they look
almost disreputable,--like a heap of rubbish."

"Well," said John, laughing, "I don't suppose all together sent to an
auction-room would bring us fifty dollars, and yet, such as they are,
they answer the place of better things for us; and the fact is, Mary,
the hard impassable barrier in the case is that there really is no
money to get any more."

"Ah, well, then, if there isn't, we must see what we can do with
these, and summon all the good fairies to our aid," said Mary.
"There's your little cabinet-maker, John, will look over the things
and furbish them up; there's that broken arm of the chair must be
mended, and everything re-varnished; then I have found such a lovely
rep, of just the richest shade of maroon, inclining to crimson, and
when we come to cover the lounges and armchairs and sofas and ottomans
all alike, you know they will be quite another thing."

"Trust you for that, Mary! By the bye, I've found a nice little woman,
who has worked on upholstery, who will come in by the day, and be the
hands that shall execute the decrees of your taste."

"Yes, I am sure we shall get on capitally. Do you know that I'm almost
glad we can't get new things? It's a sort of enterprise to see what we
can do with old ones."

"Now, you see, Mary," said John, seating himself on a lime-cask which
the plasterers had left, and taking out his memorandum-book,--"you
see, I've calculated this thing all over; I've found a way by which I
can make our rooms beautiful and attractive without a cent expended on
new furniture."

"Well, let's hear."

"Well, my way is short and simple. We must put things into our rooms
that people will look at, so that they will forget to look at the
furniture, and never once trouble their heads about it. People never
look at furniture so long as there is anything else to look at; just
as Napoleon, when away on one of his expeditions, being told that the
French populace were getting disaffected, wrote back, 'Gild the _dome
des Invalides_,' and so they gilded it, and the people, looking at
that, forgot everything else."

"But I'm not clear yet," said Mary, "what is coming of this
rhetoric."

"Well, then, Mary, I'll tell you. A suit of new carved black-walnut
furniture, severe in taste and perfect in style, such as I should
choose at David & Saul's, could not be got under three hundred
dollars, and I haven't the three hundred to give. What, then, shall we
do? We must fall back on our resources; we must look over our
treasures. We have our proof cast of the great glorious head of the
Venus di Milo; we have those six beautiful photographs of Rome, that
Brown brought to us; we have the great German lithograph of the
San Sisto Mother and Child, and we have the two angel heads, from the
same; we have that lovely golden twilight sketch of Heade's; we have
some sea photographs of Bradford's; we have an original pen-and-ink
sketch by Billings; and then, as before, we have 'our picture.'
What has been the use of our watching at the gates and waiting at the
doors of Beauty all our lives, if she hasn't thrown us out a crust
now and then, so that we might have it for time of need? Now, you
see, Mary, we must make the toilet of our rooms just as a pretty
woman makes hers when money runs low, and she sorts and freshens her
ribbons, and matches them to her hair and eyes, and, with a bow here
and a bit of fringe there, and a button somewhere else, dazzles us
into thinking that she has an infinity of beautiful attire. Our rooms
are new and pretty of themselves, to begin with; the tint of the
paper, and the rich coloring of the border, corresponding with the
furniture and carpets, will make them seem prettier. And now for
arrangement. Take this front room. I propose to fill those two
recesses each side of the fireplace with my books, in their plain
pine cases, just breast-high from the floor: they are stained a
good dark color, and nobody need stick a pin in them to find out
that they are not rosewood. The top of these shelves on either side to
be covered with the same stuff as the furniture, finished with a
crimson fringe. On top of the shelves on one side of the fireplace
I shall set our noble Venus di Milo, and I shall buy at Cicci's the
lovely Clytie, and put it the other side. Then I shall get of
Williams & Everett two of their chromo lithographs, which give you
all the style and charm of the best English watercolor school. I will
have the lovely Bay of Amalfi over my Venus, because she came from
those suns and skies of southern Italy, and I will hang Lake Como
over my Clytie. Then, in the middle, over the fireplace, shall be
'our picture.' Over each door shall hang one of the lithographed
angel heads of the San Sisto, to watch our going out and coming in;
and the glorious Mother and Child shall hang opposite the Venus di
Milo, to show how Greek and Christian unite in giving the noblest
type to womanhood. And then, when we have all our sketches and
lithographs framed and hung here and there, and your flowers
blooming as they always do, and your ivies wandering and rambling as
they used to, and hanging in the most graceful ways and places, and
all those little shells and ferns and vases, which you are always
conjuring with, tastefully arranged, I'll venture to say that our
rooms will be not only pleasant, but beautiful, and that people
will oftener say, 'How beautiful!' when they enter, than if we
spent three times the money on new furniture."

In the course of a year after this conversation, one and another of
my acquaintances were often heard speaking of John Morton's house.
"Such beautiful rooms,--so charmingly furnished,--you must go and see
them. What does make them so much pleasanter than those rooms in the
other house, which have everything in them that money can buy?" So
said the folk; for nine people out of ten only feel the effect of a
room, and never analyze the causes from which it flows: they know that
certain rooms seem dull and heavy and confused, but they don't know
why; that certain others seem cheerful, airy, and beautiful, but they
know not why. The first exclamation, on entering John's parlors, was
so often "How beautiful!" that it became rather a byword in the
family. Estimated by their mere money value, the articles in the rooms
were of very trifling worth; but, as they stood arranged and combined,
they had all the effect of a lovely picture. Although the statuary was
only plaster, and the photographs and lithographs such as were all
within the compass of limited means, yet every one of them was a good
thing of its own kind, or a good reminder of some of the greatest
works of art. A good plaster cast is a daguerreotype, so to speak, of
a great statue, though it may be bought for five or six dollars, while
its original is not to be had for any namable sum. A chromo lithograph
of the best sort gives all the style and manner and effect of Turner
or Stanfield, or any of the best of modern artists, though you buy it
for five or ten dollars, and though the original would command a
thousand guineas. The lithographs from Raphael's immortal picture give
you the results of a whole age of artistic culture, in a form within
the compass of very humble means. There is now selling for five
dollars at Williams & Everett's a photograph of Cheney's crayon
drawing of the San Sisto Madonna and Child, which has the very spirit
of the glorious original. Such a picture, hung against the wall of a
child's room, would train its eye from infancy; and yet how many will
freely spend five dollars in embroidery on its dress, that say they
cannot afford works of art!

There was one advantage which John and his wife found, in the way in
which they furnished their house, that I have hinted at before: it
gave freedom to their children. Though their rooms were beautiful,
it was not with the tantalizing beauty of expensive and frail
knick-knacks. Pictures hung against the wall, and statuary safely
lodged on brackets, speak constantly to the childish eye, but are
out of the reach of childish fingers, and are not upset by childish
romps. They are not, like china and crystal, liable to be used and
abused by servants; they do not wear out; they are not spoiled by
dust, nor consumed by moths. The beauty once there is always there;
though the mother be ill and in her chamber, she has no fears that she
shall find it all wrecked and shattered. And this style of beauty,
inexpensive as it is, compared with luxurious furniture, is a means
of cultivation. No child is ever stimulated to draw or to read by an
Axminster carpet or a carved centre-table; but a room surrounded with
photographs and pictures and fine casts suggests a thousand
inquiries, stimulates the little eye and hand. The child is found
with its pencil, drawing, or he asks for a book on Venice, or wants
to hear the history of the Roman Forum.

But I have made my article too long. I will write another on the moral
and intellectual effects of house-furnishing.

"I have proved my point, Miss Jenny, have I not? _In house-furnishing
nothing is more economical than beauty._"

"Yes, papa," said Jenny; "I give it up."



V

RAKING UP THE FIRE


We have a custom at our house which we call _raking up the fire_. That
is to say, the last half hour before bedtime, we draw in, shoulder to
shoulder, around the last brands and embers of our hearth, which we
prick up and brighten, and dispose for a few farewell flickers and
glimmers. This is a grand time for discussion. Then we talk over
parties, if the young people have been out of an evening,--a book, if
we have been reading one; we discuss and analyze characters,--give our
views on all subjects, æsthetic, theological, and scientific, in a way
most wonderful to hear; and, in fact, we sometimes get so engaged in
our discussions that every spark of the fire burns out, and we begin
to feel ourselves shivering around the shoulders, before we can
remember that it is bedtime.

So, after the reading of my last article, we had a "raking-up
talk,"--to wit, Jenny, Marianne, and I, with Bob Stephens: my wife,
still busy at her work-basket, sat at the table a little behind us.
Jenny, of course, opened the ball in her usual incisive manner.

"But now, papa, after all you say in your piece there, I cannot help
feeling that, if I had the taste and the money too, it would be better
than the taste alone with no money. I like the nice arrangements and
the books and the drawings, but I think all these would appear better
still with really elegant furniture."

"Who doubts that?" said I. "Give me a large tub of gold coin to dip
into, and the furnishing and beautifying of a house is a simple
affair. The same taste that could make beauty out of cents and dimes
could make it more abundantly out of dollars and eagles. But I
have been speaking for those who have not and cannot get riches,
and who wish to have agreeable houses; and I begin in the outset by
saying that beauty is a thing to be respected, reverenced, and
devoutly cared for, and then I say that BEAUTY IS CHEAP,--nay, to
put it so that the shrewdest Yankee will understand it,--BEAUTY IS
THE CHEAPEST THING YOU CAN HAVE, because in many ways it is a
substitute for expense. A few vases of flowers in a room, a few
blooming, well-kept plants, a few prints framed in fanciful frames
of cheap domestic fabric, a statuette, a bracket, an engraving, a
pencil-sketch,--above all, a few choice books,--all these arranged by
a woman who has the gift in her finger-ends, often produce such an
illusion on the mind's eye that one goes away without once having
noticed that the cushion of the armchair was worn out, and that some
veneering had fallen off the centre-table.

"I have a friend, a schoolmistress, who lives in a poor little cottage
enough, which, let alone of the Graces, might seem mean and sordid,
but a few flower-seeds and a little weeding in the spring make it, all
summer, an object which everybody stops to look at. Her æsthetic soul
was at first greatly tried with the water-barrel which stood under the
eaves spout,--a most necessary evil, since only thus could her scanty
supply of soft water for domestic purposes be secured. One of the
Graces, however, suggested to her a happy thought. She planted a row
of morning-glories round the bottom of her barrel, and drove a row of
tacks around the top, and strung her water-butt with twine, like a
great harpsichord. A few weeks covered the twine with blossoming
plants, which every morning were a mass of many-colored airy blooms,
waving in graceful sprays, and looking at themselves in the water. The
water-barrel, in fact, became a celebrated stroke of ornamental
gardening, which the neighbors came to look at."

"Well, but," said Jenny, "everybody hasn't mamma's faculty with
flowers. Flowers will grow for some people, and for some they won't.
Nobody can see what mamma does so very much, but her plants always
look fresh and thriving and healthy,--her things blossom just when she
wants them, and do anything else she wishes them to; and there are
other people that fume and fuss and try, and their things won't do
anything at all. There's Aunt Easygo has plant after plant brought
from the greenhouse, and hanging-baskets, and all sorts of things; but
her plants grow yellow and drop their leaves, and her hanging-baskets
get dusty and poverty-stricken, while mamma's go on flourishing as
heart could desire."

"I can tell you what your mother puts into her plants," said
I,--"just what she has put into her children, and all her other
home-things,--her _heart_. She loves them; she lives in them; she has
in herself a plant-life and a plant-sympathy. She feels for them as
if she herself were a plant; she anticipates their wants,--always
remembers them without an effort, and so the care flows to them
daily and hourly. She hardly knows when she does the things that
make them grow, but she gives them a minute a hundred times a day.
She moves this nearer the glass,--draws that back,--detects some thief
of a worm on one,--digs at the root of another, to see why it
droops,--washes these leaves and sprinkles those,--waters, and
refrains from watering, all with the habitual care of love. Your
mother herself doesn't know why her plants grow; it takes a
philosopher and a writer for the 'Atlantic' to tell her what the cause
is."

Here I saw my wife laughing over her work-basket as she answered,--

"Girls, one of these days _I_ will write an article for the
'Atlantic,' that your papa need not have _all_ the say to himself;
however, I believe he has hit the nail on the head this time."

"Of course he has," said Marianne. "But, mamma, I am afraid to begin
to depend much on plants for the beauty of my rooms, for fear I should
not have your gift,--and, of all forlorn and hopeless things in a
room, ill-kept plants are the most so."

"I would not recommend," said I, "a young housekeeper, just beginning,
to rest much for her home ornament on plant-keeping, unless she has an
experience of her own love and talent in this line which makes her
sure of success; for plants will not thrive if they are forgotten or
overlooked, and only tended in occasional intervals; and, as Marianne
says, neglected plants are the most forlorn of all things."

"But, papa," said Marianne anxiously, "there, in those patent parlors
of John's that you wrote of, flowers acted a great part."

"The charm of those parlors of John's may be chemically analyzed," I
said. "In the first place, there is sunshine, a thing that always
affects the human nerves of happiness. Why else is it that people are
always so glad to see the sun after a long storm? why are bright days
matters of such congratulation? Sunshine fills a house with a thousand
beautiful and fanciful effects of light and shade,--with soft,
luminous, reflected radiances, that give picturesque effects to the
pictures, books, statuettes of an interior. John, happily, had no
money to buy brocatelle curtains, and, besides this, he loved sunshine
too much to buy them, if he could. He had been enough with artists to
know that heavy damask curtains darken precisely that part of the
window where the light proper for pictures and statuary should come
in, namely, the upper part. The fashionable system of curtains lights
only the legs of the chairs and the carpets, and leaves all the upper
portion of the room in shadow. John's windows have shades which can at
pleasure be drawn down from the top or up from the bottom, so that
the best light to be had may always be arranged for his little
interior."

"Well, papa," said Marianne, "in your chemical analysis of John's
rooms, what is the next thing to the sunshine?"

"The next," said I, "is harmony of color. The wall-paper, the
furniture, the carpets, are of tints that harmonize with one another.
This is a grace in rooms always, and one often neglected. The French
have an expressive phrase with reference to articles which are out of
accord,--they say that they swear at each other, I have been in rooms
where I seemed to hear the wall-paper swearing at the carpet, and the
carpet swearing back at the wall-paper, and each article of furniture
swearing at the rest. These appointments may all of them be of the
most expensive kind, but with such dis-harmony no arrangement can ever
produce anything but a vulgar and disagreeable effect. On the other
hand, I have been in rooms where all the material was cheap and the
furniture poor, but where, from some instinctive knowledge of the
reciprocal effect of colors, everything was harmonious, and produced a
sense of elegance.

"I recollect once traveling on a Western canal through a long stretch
of wilderness, and stopping to spend the night at an obscure
settlement of a dozen houses. We were directed to lodgings in a common
frame house at a little distance, where, it seemed, the only hotel was
kept. When we entered the parlor, we were struck with utter amazement
at its prettiness, which affected us before we began to ask ourselves
how it came to be pretty. It was, in fact, only one of the miracles of
harmonious color working with very simple materials. Some woman had
been busy there, who had both eyes and fingers. The sofa, the common
wooden rocking-chairs, and some ottomans, probably made of old
soap-boxes, were all covered with American nankeen of a soft
yellowish-brown, with a bordering of blue print. The window-shades,
the table-cover, and the piano-cloth all repeated the same colors, in
the same cheap material. A simple straw matting was laid over the
floor, and, with a few books, a vase of flowers, and one or two
prints, the room had a home-like and even elegant air, that struck us
all the more forcibly from its contrast with the usual tawdry,
slovenly style of such parlors.

"The means used for getting up this effect were the most inexpensive
possible,--simply the following out, in cheap material, a law of
uniformity and harmony, which always will produce beauty. In the same
manner, I have seen a room furnished, whose effect was really gorgeous
in color, where the only materials used were Turkey-red cotton and a
simple ingrain carpet of corresponding color.

"Now, you girls have been busy lately in schemes for buying a velvet
carpet for the new parlor that is to be, and the only points that have
seemed to weigh in the council were that it was velvet, that it was
cheaper than velvets usually are, and that it was a genteel pattern."

"Now, papa," said Jenny, "what ears you have! We thought you were
reading all the time!"

"I see what you are going to say," said Marianne. "You think that we
have not once mentioned the consideration which should determine the
carpet, whether it will harmonize with our other things. But you see,
papa, we don't really know what our other things are to be."

"Yes," said Jenny, "and Aunt Easygo said it was an unusually good
chance to get a velvet carpet."

"Yet, good as the chance is, it costs just twice as much as an
ingrain."

"Yes, papa, it does."

"And you are not sure that the effect of it, after you get it down,
will be as good as a well-chosen ingrain one."

"That's true," said Marianne reflectively.

"But then, papa," said Jenny, "Aunt Easygo said she never heard of
such a bargain; only think, two dollars a yard for a _velvet_!"

"And why is it two dollars a yard? Is the man a personal friend, that
he wishes to make you a present of a dollar on the yard, or is there
some reason why it is undesirable?" said I.

"Well, you know, papa, he said those large patterns were not so
salable."

"To tell the truth," said Marianne, "I never did like the pattern
exactly; as to uniformity of tint, it might match with anything, for
there's every color of the rainbow in it."

"You see, papa, it's a gorgeous flower-pattern," said Jenny.

"Well, Marianne, how many yards of this wonderfully cheap carpet do
you want?"

"We want sixty yards for both rooms," said Jenny, always primed with
statistics.

"That will be a hundred and twenty dollars," I said.

"Yes," said Jenny; "and we went over the figures together, and thought
we could make it out by economizing in other things. Aunt Easygo said
that the carpet was half the battle,--that it gave the air to
everything else."

"Well, Marianne, if you want a man's advice in the case, mine is at
your service."

"That is just what I want, papa."

"Well, then, my dear, choose your wall-papers and borderings, and,
when they are up, choose an ingrain carpet to harmonize with them, and
adapt your furniture to the same idea. The sixty dollars that you save
on your carpet spend on engravings, chromo lithographs, or photographs
of some good works of art, to adorn your walls."

"Papa, I'll do it," said Marianne.

"My little dear," said I, "your papa may seem to be a sleepy old
book-worm, yet he has his eyes open. Do you think I don't know why my
girls have the credit of being the best-dressed girls on the street?"

"Oh papa!" cried out both girls in a breath.

"Fact, that!" said Bob, with energy, pulling at his mustache.
"Everybody talks about your dress, and wonders how you make it out."

"Well," said I, "I presume you do not go into a shop and buy a yard of
ribbon because it is selling at half price, and put it on without
considering complexion, eyes, hair, and shade of the dress, do you?"

"Of course we don't!" chimed in the duo with energy.

"Of course you don't. Haven't I seen you mincing downstairs, with all
your colors harmonized, even to your gloves and gaiters? Now, a room
must be dressed as carefully as a lady."

"Well, I'm convinced," said Jenny, "that papa knows how to make rooms
prettier than Aunt Easygo; but then she said this was cheap, because
it would outlast two common carpets."

"But, as you pay double price," said I, "I don't see that. Besides, I
would rather, in the course of twenty years, have two nice, fresh
ingrain carpets, of just the color and pattern that suited my rooms,
than labor along with one ill-chosen velvet that harmonized with
nothing."

"I give it up," said Jenny; "I give it up."

"Now, understand me," said I; "I am not traducing velvet or Brussels
or Axminster. I admit that more beautiful effects can be found in
those goods than in the humbler fabrics of the carpet rooms. Nothing
would delight me more than to put an unlimited credit to Marianne's
account, and let her work out the problems of harmonious color in
velvet and damask. All I have to say is, that certain unities of
color, certain general arrangements, will secure very nearly as good
general effects in either material. A library with a neat, mossy green
carpet on the floor, harmonizing with wall-paper and furniture, looks
generally as well, whether the mossy green is made in Brussels or in
ingrain. In the carpet stores, these two materials stand side by side
in the very same pattern, and one is often as good for the purpose as
the other. A lady of my acquaintance, some years since, employed an
artist to decorate her parlors. The walls being frescoed and tinted to
suit his ideal, he immediately issued his decree that her splendid
velvet carpets must be sent to auction, and others bought of certain
colors harmonizing with the walls. Unable to find exactly the color
and pattern he wanted, he at last had the carpets woven in a
neighboring factory, where, as yet, they had only the art of weaving
ingrains. Thus was the material sacrificed at once to the harmony."

I remarked, in passing, that this was before Bigelow's mechanical
genius had unlocked for America the higher secrets of carpet-weaving,
and made it possible to have one's desires accomplished in Brussels or
velvet. In those days, English carpet-weavers did not send to America
for their looms, as they now do.

"But now to return to my analysis of John's rooms.

"Another thing which goes a great way towards giving them their
agreeable air is the books in them. Some people are fond of treating
books as others do children. One room in the house is selected, and
every book driven into it and kept there. Yet nothing makes a room so
home-like, so companionable, and gives it such an air of refinement,
as the presence of books. They change the aspect of a parlor from that
of a mere reception-room, where visitors perch for a transient call,
and give it the air of a room where one feels like taking off one's
things to stay. It gives the appearance of permanence and repose and
quiet fellowship; and, next to pictures on the walls, the many-colored
bindings and gildings of books are the most agreeable adornment of a
room."

"Then, Marianne," said Bob, "we have something to start with, at all
events. There are my English Classics and English Poets, and my
uniform editions of Scott and Thackeray and Macaulay and Prescott and
Irving and Longfellow and Lowell and Hawthorne and Holmes and a host
more. We really have something pretty there."

"You are a lucky girl," I said, "to have so much secured. A girl
brought up in a house full of books, always able to turn to this or
that author and look for any passage or poem when she thinks of it,
doesn't know what a blank a house without books might be."

"Well," said Marianne, "mamma and I were counting over my treasures
the other day. Do you know, I have one really fine old engraving,
that Bob says is quite a genuine thing; and then there is that
pencil-sketch that poor Schöne made for me the month before he
died,--it is truly artistic."

"And I have a couple of capital things of Landseer's," said Bob.

"There's no danger that your rooms will not be pretty," said I, "now
you are fairly on the right track."

"But, papa," said Marianne, "I am troubled about one thing. My love of
beauty runs into everything. I want pretty things for my table; and
yet, as you say, servants are so careless, one cannot use such things
freely without great waste."

"For my part," said my wife, "I believe in best china, to be kept
carefully on an upper shelf, and taken down for high-days and
holidays; it may be a superstition, but I believe in it. It must never
be taken out except when the mistress herself can see that it is
safely cared for. My mother always washed her china herself; and it
was a very pretty social ceremony, after tea was over, while she sat
among us washing her pretty cups, and wiping them on a fine damask
towel."

"With all my heart," said I; "have your best china and venerate
it,--it is one of the loveliest of domestic superstitions; only do
not make it a bar to hospitality, and shrink from having a friend to
tea with you, unless you feel equal to getting up to the high shelf
where you keep it, getting it down, washing, and putting it up again.

"But in serving a table, I say, as I said of a house, beauty is a
necessity, and beauty is cheap. Because you cannot afford beauty in
one form, it does not follow that you cannot have it in another.
Because one cannot afford to keep up a perennial supply of delicate
china and crystal, subject to the accidents of raw, untrained
servants, it does not follow that the every-day table need present a
sordid assortment of articles chosen simply for cheapness, while the
whole capacity of the purse is given to the set forever locked away
for state occasions.

"A table-service all of simple white, of graceful forms, even
though not of china, if arranged with care, with snowy, well-kept
table-linen, clear glasses, and bright American plate in place of
solid silver, may be made to look inviting; add a glass of flowers
every day, and your table may look pretty: and it is far more
important that it should look pretty for the family every day than
for company once in two weeks."

"I tell my girls," said my wife, "as the result of my experience, you
may have your pretty china and your lovely fanciful articles for the
table only so long as you can take all the care of them yourselves. As
soon as you get tired of doing this, and put them into the hands of
the trustiest servants, some good, well-meaning creature is sure to
break her heart and your own and your very pet darling china pitcher
all in one and the same minute, and then her frantic despair leaves
you not even the relief of scolding."

"I have become perfectly sure," said I "that there are spiteful little
brownies, intent on seducing good women to sin, who mount guard over
the special idols of the china closet. If you hear a crash, and a loud
Irish wail from the inner depths, you never think of its being a
yellow pie-plate, or that dreadful one-handled tureen that you have
been wishing were broken these five years; no, indeed,--it is sure to
be the lovely painted china bowl, wreathed with morning-glories and
sweet-peas, or the engraved glass goblet, with quaint Old English
initials. China sacrificed must be a great means of saintship to
women. Pope, I think, puts it as the crowning grace of his perfect
woman that she is

  "'Mistress of herself though china fall.'"

"I ought to be a saint by this time, then," said mamma; "for in the
course of my days I have lost so many idols by breakage, and peculiar
accidents that seemed by a special fatality to befall my prettiest and
most irreplaceable things, that in fact it has come to be a
superstitious feeling now with which I regard anything particularly
pretty of a breakable nature."

"Well," said Marianne, "unless one has a great deal of money, it seems
to me that the investment in these pretty fragilities is rather a poor
one."

"Yet," said I, "the principle of beauty is never so captivating as
when it presides over the hour of daily meals. I would have the room
where they are served one of the pleasantest and sunniest in the
house. I would have its coloring cheerful, and there should be
companionable pictures and engravings on the walls. Of all things, I
dislike a room that seems to be kept, like a restaurant, merely to eat
in. I like to see in a dining-room something that betokens a pleasant
sitting-room at other hours. I like there some books, a comfortable
sofa or lounge, and all that should make it cosy and inviting. The
custom in some families, of adopting for the daily meals one of the
two parlors which a city house furnishes, has often seemed to me a
particularly happy one. You take your meals, then, in an agreeable
place, surrounded by the little pleasant arrangements of your daily
sitting-room; and after the meal, if the lady of the house does the
honors of her own pretty china herself, the office may be a pleasant
and social one.

"But in regard to your table-service I have my advice at hand. Invest
in pretty table-linen, in delicate napkins, have your vase of flowers,
and be guided by the eye of taste in the choice and arrangement of
even the every-day table articles, and have no ugly things when you
can have pretty ones by taking a little thought. If you are sore
tempted with lovely china and crystal, too fragile to last, too
expensive to be renewed, turn away to a print-shop and comfort
yourself by hanging around the walls of your dining-room beauty that
will not break or fade, that will meet your eye from year to year,
though plates, tumblers, and teasets successively vanish. There is my
advice for you, Marianne."

At the same time let me say, in parenthesis, that my wife, whose
weakness is china, informed me that night, when we were by ourselves,
that she was ordering secretly a teaset as a bridal gift for Marianne
every cup of which was to be exquisitely painted with the wild flowers
of America, from designs of her own,--a thing, by the by, that can now
be very nicely executed in our country, as one may find by looking in
at our friend Briggs's on School Street. "It will last her all her
life," she said, "and always be such a pleasure to look at; and a
pretty tea-table is such a pretty sight!" So spoke Mrs. Crowfield,
"unweaned from china by a thousand falls." She spoke even with tears
in her eyes. Verily these women are harps of a thousand strings!

But to return to my subject.

"Finally and lastly," I said, "in my analysis and explication of the
agreeableness of those same parlors, comes the growing grace,--their
_homeliness_. By 'homeliness' I mean not ugliness, as the word is apt
to be used, but the air that is given to a room by being really at
home in it. Not the most skillful arrangement can impart this charm.

"It is said that a king of France once remarked, 'My son, you must
seem to love your people.'

"'Father, how shall I _seem_ to love them?'

"'My son, you _must_ love them.'

"So, to make rooms seem home-like, you must be at home in them. Human
light and warmth are so wanting in some rooms, it is so evident that
they are never used, that you can never be at ease there. In vain the
housemaid is taught to wheel the sofa and turn chair toward chair; in
vain it is attempted to imitate a negligent arrangement of the
centre-table.

"Books that have really been read and laid down, chairs that have
really been moved here and there in the animation of social contact,
have a sort of human vitality in them; and a room in which people
really live and enjoy is as different from a shut-up apartment as a
live woman from a wax image.

"Even rooms furnished without taste often become charming from this
one grace, that they seem to let you into the home life and home
current. You seem to understand in a moment that you are taken into
the family, and are moving in its inner circles, and not revolving at
a distance in some outer court of the gentiles.

"How many people do we call on from year to year and know no more of
their feelings, habits, tastes, family ideas and ways, than if they
lived in Kamtschatka! And why? Because the room which they call a
front parlor is made expressly so that you never shall know. They sit
in a back room,--work, talk, read, perhaps. After the servant has let
you in and opened a crack of the shutters, and while you sit waiting
for them to change their dress and come in, you speculate as to what
they may be doing. From some distant region, the laugh of a child,
the song of a canary-bird reaches you, and then a door claps hastily
to. Do they love plants? Do they write letters, sew, embroider,
crochet? Do they ever romp and frolic? What books do they read? Do
they sketch or paint? Of all these possibilities the mute and muffled
room says nothing. A sofa and six chairs, two ottomans fresh from the
upholsterer's, a Brussels carpet, a centre-table with four gilt Books
of Beauty on it, a mantel-clock from Paris, and two bronze vases,--all
those tell you only in frigid tones, 'This is the best room,'--only
that, and nothing more,--and soon _she_ trips in in her best clothes,
and apologizes for keeping you waiting, asks how your mother is, and
you remark that it is a pleasant day, and thus the acquaintance
progresses from year to year. One hour in the back room, where the
plants and canary-bird and children are, might have made you fast
friends for life; but, little as it is, you care no more for them than
for the gilt clock on the mantel.

"And now, girls," said I, pulling a paper out of my pocket, "you must
know that your father is getting to be famous by means of these 'House
and Home Papers.' Here is a letter I have just received:--

  "MOST EXCELLENT MR. CROWFIELD,--Your thoughts have lighted into
  our family circle and echoed from our fireside. We all feel the
  force of them, and are delighted with the felicity of your
  treatment of the topic you have chosen. You have taken hold of a
  subject that lies deep in our hearts, in a genial, temperate, and
  convincing spirit. All must acknowledge the power of your
  sentiments upon their imaginations; if they could only trust to
  them in actual life! There is the rub.

  "Omitting further upon these points, there is a special feature of
  your articles upon which we wish to address you. You seem as yet
  (we do not know, of course, what you may hereafter do) to speak
  only of homes whose conduct depends upon the help of servants. Now
  your principles apply, as some of us well conceive, to nearly all
  classes of society; yet most people, to take an impressive hint,
  must have their portraits drawn out more exactly. We therefore
  hope that you will give a reasonable share of your attention to us
  who do not employ servants, so that you may ease us of some of our
  burdens, which, in spite of common sense, we dare not throw off.
  For instance, we have company,--a friend from afar (perhaps
  wealthy), or a minister, or some other man of note. What do we do?
  Sit down and receive our visitor with all good will and the
  freedom of a home? No; we (the lady of the house) flutter about to
  clear up things, apologizing about this, that, and the other
  condition of unpreparedness, and, having settled the visitor in
  the parlor, set about marshaling the elements of a grand dinner or
  supper, such as no person but a gourmand wants to sit down to,
  when at home and comfortable; and in getting up this meal,
  clearing away and washing the dishes, we use up a good half of the
  time which our guest spends with us. We have spread ourselves, and
  shown him what we could do; but what a paltry, heart-sickening
  achievement! Now, good Mr. Crowfield, thou friend of the robbed
  and despairing, wilt thou not descend into our purgatorial circle,
  and tell the world what thou hast seen there of doleful
  remembrance? Tell us how we, who must do and desire to do our own
  work, can show forth in our homes a homely yet genial hospitality,
  and entertain our guests without making a fuss and hurlyburly, and
  seeming to be anxious for their sake about many things, and
  spending too much time getting meals, as if eating were the chief
  social pleasure. Won't you do this, Mr. Crowfield?

  "Yours beseechingly,

  "R. H. A."

"That's a good letter," said Jenny.

"To be sure it is," said I.

"And shall you answer it, papa?"

"In the very next 'Atlantic,' you may be sure I shall. The class that
do their own work are the strongest, the most numerous, and, taking
one thing with another, quite as well cultivated a class as any other.
They are the anomaly of our country,--the distinctive feature of the
new society that we are building up here; and, if we are to accomplish
our national destiny, that class must increase rather than diminish. I
shall certainly do my best to answer the very sensible and pregnant
questions of that letter."

Here Marianne shivered and drew up a shawl, and Jenny gaped; my wife
folded up the garment in which she had set the last stitch, and the
clock struck twelve.

Bob gave a low whistle. "Who knew it was so late?"

"We have talked the fire fairly out," said Jenny.



VI

THE LADY WHO DOES HER OWN WORK


"My dear Chris," said my wife, "isn't it time to be writing the next
'House and Home Paper'?"

I was lying back in my study-chair, with my heels luxuriously propped
on an ottoman, reading for the two-hundredth time Hawthorne's "Mosses
from an Old Manse," or his "Twice-Told Tales," I forget which,--I only
know that these books constitute my cloud-land, where I love to sail
away in dreamy quietude, forgetting the war, the price of coal and
flour, the rates of exchange, and the rise and fall of gold. What do
all these things matter, as seen from those enchanted gardens in Padua
where the weird Rappaccini tends his enchanted plants, and his
gorgeous daughter fills us with the light and magic of her presence,
and saddens us with the shadowy allegoric mystery of her preternatural
destiny? But my wife represents the positive forces of time, place,
and number in our family, and, having also a chronological head, she
knows the day of the month, and therefore gently reminded me that by
inevitable dates the time drew near for preparing my--which is it,
now, May or June number?

"Well, my dear, you are right," I said, as by an exertion I came
head-uppermost, and laid down the fascinating volume. "Let me see,
what was I to write about?"

"Why, you remember you were to answer that letter from the lady who
does her own work."

"Enough!" said I, seizing the pen with alacrity; "you have hit the
exact phrase:--

"'The _lady_ who _does her own work_.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

America is the only country where such a title is possible,--the only
country where there is a class of women who may be described as
_ladies_ who do their own work. By a lady we mean a woman of
education, cultivation, and refinement, of liberal tastes and ideas,
who, without any very material additions or changes, would be
recognized as a lady in any circle of the Old World or the New.

What I have said is, that the existence of such a class is a fact
peculiar to American society, a clear, plain result of the new
principles involved in the doctrine of universal equality.

When the colonists first came to this country, of however mixed
ingredients their ranks might have been composed, and however imbued
with the spirit of feudal and aristocratic ideas, the discipline of
the wilderness soon brought them to a democratic level; the
gentleman felled the wood for his log-cabin side by side with the
ploughman, and thews and sinews rose in the market. "A man was
deemed honorable in proportion as he lifted his hand upon the high
trees of the forest." So in the interior domestic circle. Mistress
and maid, living in a log-cabin together, became companions, and
sometimes the maid, as the more accomplished and stronger, took
precedence of the mistress. It became natural and unavoidable that
children should begin to work as early as they were capable of it. The
result was a generation of intelligent people brought up to labor
from necessity, but turning on the problem of labor the acuteness of
a disciplined brain. The mistress, outdone in sinews and muscles by
her maid, kept her superiority by skill and contrivance. If she
could not lift a pail of water she could invent methods which made
lifting the pail unnecessary; if she could not take a hundred steps
without weariness, she could make twenty answer the purpose of a
hundred.

Slavery, it is true, was to some extent introduced into New England,
but it never suited the genius of the people, never struck deep root,
or spread so as to choke the good seed of self-helpfulness. Many were
opposed to it from conscientious principle,--many from far-sighted
thrift, and from a love of thoroughness and well-doing which despised
the rude, unskilled work of barbarians. People, having once felt the
thorough neatness and beauty of execution which came of free,
educated, and thoughtful labor, could not tolerate the clumsiness of
slavery. Thus it came to pass that for many years the rural population
of New England, as a general rule, did their own work, both out doors
and in. If there were a black man or black woman or bound girl, they
were emphatically only the _helps_, following humbly the steps of
master and mistress, and used by them as instruments of lightening
certain portions of their toil. The master and mistress with their
children were the head workers.

Great merriment has been excited in the Old Country because years ago
the first English travelers found that the class of persons by them
denominated servants were in America denominated help or helpers. But
the term was the very best exponent of the state of society. There
were few servants in the European sense of the word; there was a
society of educated workers, where all were practically equal, and
where, if there was a deficiency in one family and an excess in
another, a _helper_, not a servant, was hired. Mrs. Brown, who has six
sons and no daughters, enters into agreement with Mrs. Jones, who has
six daughters and no sons. She borrows a daughter, and pays her good
wages to help in her domestic toil, and sends a son to help the labors
of Mr. Jones. These two young people go into the families in which
they are to be employed in all respects as equals and companions, and
so the work of the community is equalized. Hence arose, and for many
years continued, a state of society more nearly solving than any other
ever did the problem of combining the highest culture of the mind with
the highest culture of the muscles and the physical faculties.

Then were to be seen families of daughters, handsome, strong females,
rising each day to their indoor work with cheerful alertness,--one to
sweep the room, another to make the fire, while a third prepared the
breakfast for the father and brothers who were going out to manly
labor; and they chatted meanwhile of books, studies, embroidery,
discussed the last new poem, or some historical topic started by
graver reading, or perhaps a rural ball that was to come off the next
week. They spun with the book tied to the distaff; they wove; they did
all manner of fine needlework; they made lace, painted flowers, and,
in short, in the boundless consciousness of activity, invention, and
perfect health, set themselves to any work they had ever read or
thought of. A bride in those days was married with sheets and
tablecloths of her own weaving, with counterpanes and toilet-covers
wrought in divers embroidery by her own and her sisters' hands. The
amount of fancy work done in our days by girls who have nothing else
to do will not equal what was done by these, who performed besides,
among them, the whole work of the family.

For many years these habits of life characterized the majority of our
rural towns. They still exist among a class respectable in numbers and
position, though perhaps not as happy in perfect self-satisfaction and
a conviction of the dignity and desirableness of its lot as in former
days. Human nature is above all things--lazy. Every one confesses in
the abstract that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and
mind is the best thing for us all; but practically most people do all
they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more
than circumstances drive him to do. Even I would not write this
article were not the publication-day hard on my heels. I should read
Hawthorne and Emerson and Holmes, and dream in my armchair, and
project in the clouds those lovely unwritten stories that curl and
veer and change like mist-wreaths in the sun. So also, however
dignified, however invigorating, however really desirable, are habits
of life involving daily physical toil, there is a constant evil demon
at every one's elbow, seducing him to evade it, or to bear its weight
with sullen, discontented murmurs.

I will venture to say that there are at least, to speak very
moderately, a hundred houses where these humble lines will be read and
discussed, where there are no servants except the ladies of the
household. I will venture to say, also, that these households, many of
them, are not inferior in the air of cultivation and refined elegance
to many which are conducted by the ministration of domestics. I will
venture to assert furthermore that these same ladies who live thus
find quite as much time for reading, letter-writing, drawing,
embroidery, and fancy work as the women of families otherwise
arranged. I am quite certain that they would be found on an average to
be in the enjoyment of better health, and more of that sense of
capability and vitality which gives one confidence in one's ability to
look into life and meet it with cheerful courage, than three quarters
of the women who keep servants; and that, on the whole, their domestic
establishment is regulated more exactly to their mind, their food
prepared and served more to their taste. And yet, with all this, I
will _not_ venture to assert that they are satisfied with this way of
living, and that they would not change it forthwith if they could.
They have a secret feeling all the while that they are being abused,
that they are working harder than they ought to, and that women who
live in their houses like boarders, who have only to speak and it is
done, are the truly enviable ones. One after another of their
associates, as opportunity offers and means increase, deserts the
ranks, and commits her domestic affairs to the hands of hired
servants. Self-respect takes the alarm. Is it altogether genteel to
live as we do? To be sure, we are accustomed to it; we have it all
systematized and arranged; the work of our own hands suits us better
than any we can hire; in fact, when we do hire, we are discontented
and uncomfortable, for who will do for us what we will do for
ourselves? But when we have company! there's the rub, to get out all
our best things and put them back,--to cook the meals and wash the
dishes ingloriously,--and to make all appear as if we didn't do it,
and had servants like other people.

There, after all, is the rub. A want of hardy self-respect, an
unwillingness to face with dignity the actual facts and necessities
of our situation in life,--this, after all, is the worst and most
dangerous feature of the case. It is the same sort of pride which
makes Smilax think he must hire a waiter in white gloves, and get
up a circuitous dinner party on English principles, to entertain a
friend from England. Because the friend in England lives in such
and such a style, he must make believe for a day that he lives so,
too, when in fact it is a whirlwind in his domestic establishment
equal to a removal or a fire, and threatens the total extinction of
Mrs. Smilax. Now there are two principles of hospitality that people
are very apt to overlook. One is, that their guests like to be made
at home, and treated with confidence; and another is, that people
are always interested in the details of a way of life that is new to
them. The Englishman comes to America as weary of his old, easy,
family-coach life as you can be of yours: he wants to see something
new under the sun,--something American; and forthwith we all bestir
ourselves to give him something as near as we can fancy exactly like
what he is already tired of. So city people come to the country, not
to sit in the best parlor and to see the nearest imitation of city
life, but to lie on the haymow, to swing in the barn, to form intimacy
with the pigs, chickens, and ducks, and to eat baked potatoes,
exactly on the critical moment when they are done, from the oven of
the cooking-stove,--and we remark, _en passant_, that nobody has ever
truly eaten a baked potato unless he has seized it at that precise
and fortunate moment.

I fancy you now, my friends, whom I have in my eye. You are three
happy women together. You are all so well that you know not how it
feels to be sick. You are used to early rising, and would not lie in
bed if you could. Long years of practice have made you familiar with
the shortest, neatest, most expeditious method of doing every
household office, so that really, for the greater part of the time in
your house, there seems to a looker-on to be nothing to do. You rise
in the morning and dispatch your husband, father, and brothers to the
farm or wood-lot; you go sociably about chatting with each other,
while you skim the milk, make the butter, turn the cheeses. The
forenoon is long; it's ten to one that all the so-called morning work
is over, and you have leisure for an hour's sewing or reading before
it is time to start the dinner preparations. By two o'clock your
housework is done, and you have the long afternoon for books,
needlework, or drawing,--for perhaps there is among you one with a
gift at her pencil. Perhaps one of you reads aloud while the others
sew, and you manage in that way to keep up with a great deal of
reading. I see on your bookshelves Prescott, Macaulay, Irving, besides
the lighter fry of poems and novels, and, if I mistake not, the
friendly covers of the "Atlantic." When you have company, you invite
Mrs. Smith or Brown or Jones to tea: you have no trouble--they come
early, with their knitting or sewing; your particular crony sits with
you by your polished stove while you watch the baking of those light
biscuits and tea rusks for which you are so famous, and Mrs.
Somebodyelse chats with your sister, who is spreading the table with
your best china in the best room. When tea is over, there is plenty of
volunteering to help you wash your pretty India teacups, and get them
back into the cupboard. There is no special fatigue or exertion in all
this, though you have taken down the best things and put them back,
because you have done all without anxiety or effort, among those who
would do precisely the same if you were their visitors.

But now comes down pretty Mrs. Simmons and her pretty daughter to
spend a week with you, and forthwith you are troubled. Your youngest,
Fanny, visited them in New York last fall, and tells you of their cook
and chambermaid, and the servant in white gloves that waits on the
table. You say in your soul, "What shall we do? they never can be
contented to live as we do; how shall we manage?" And now you long for
servants.

This is the very time that you should know that Mrs. Simmons is tired
to death of her fine establishment, and weighed down with the task of
keeping the peace among her servants. She is a quiet soul, dearly
loving her ease and hating strife; and yet last week she had five
quarrels to settle between her invaluable cook and the other members
of her staff, because invaluable cook, on the strength of knowing how
to get up state dinners and to manage all sorts of mysteries which her
mistress knows nothing about, asserts the usual right of spoiled
favorites to insult all her neighbors with impunity, and rule with a
rod of iron over the whole house. Anything that is not in the least
like her own home and ways of living will be a blessed relief and
change to Mrs. Simmons. Your clean, quiet house, your delicate
cookery, your cheerful morning tasks, if you will let her follow you
about, and sit and talk with you while you are at your work, will all
seem a pleasant contrast to her own life. Of course, if it came to the
case of offering to change lots in life, she would not do it; but very
likely she _thinks_ she would, and sighs over and pities herself, and
thinks sentimentally how fortunate you are, how snugly and securely
you live, and wishes she were as untrammeled and independent as you.
And she is more than half right; for, with her helpless habits, her
utter ignorance of the simplest facts concerning the reciprocal
relations of milk, eggs, butter, saleratus, soda, and yeast, she is
completely the victim and slave of the person she pretends to rule.

Only imagine some of the frequent scenes and rehearsals in her family.
After many trials, she at last engages a seamstress who promises to
prove a perfect treasure,--neat, dapper, nimble, skillful, and
spirited. The very soul of Mrs. Simmons rejoices in heaven. Illusive
bliss! The newcomer proves to be no favorite with Madam Cook, and the
domestic fates evolve the catastrophe, as follows. First, low murmur
of distant thunder in the kitchen; then a day or two of sulky silence,
in which the atmosphere seems heavy with an approaching storm. At last
comes the climax. The parlor door flies open during breakfast. Enter
seamstress in tears, followed by Mrs. Cook, with a face swollen and
red with wrath, who tersely introduces the subject-matter of the drama
in a voice trembling with rage.

"Would you be plased, ma'am, to suit yerself with another cook? Me
week will be up next Tuesday, and I want to be going."

"Why, Bridget, what's the matter?"

"Matter enough, ma'am! I niver could live with them Cork girls in a
house, nor I won't; them as likes the Cork girls is welcome for all
me; but it's not for the likes of me to live with them, and she been
in the kitchen a-upsettin' of me gravies with her flatirons and
things."

Here bursts in the seamstress with a whirlwind of denial, and the
altercation wages fast and furious, and poor, little, delicate Mrs.
Simmons stands like a kitten in a thunderstorm in the midst of a
regular Irish row.

Cook, of course, is sure of her victory. She knows that a great dinner
is to come off Wednesday, and that her mistress has not the smallest
idea how to manage it, and that therefore, whatever happens, she must
be conciliated.

Swelling with secret indignation at the tyrant, poor Mrs. Simmons
dismisses her seamstress with longing looks. She suited her mistress
exactly, but she didn't suit cook!

Now, if Mrs. Simmons had been brought up in early life with the
experience that you have, she would be mistress in her own house. She
would quietly say to Madam Cook, "If my family arrangements do not
suit you, you can leave. I can see to the dinner myself." And she
could do it. Her well-trained muscles would not break down under a
little extra work; her skill, adroitness, and perfect familiarity with
everything that is to be done would enable her at once to make cooks
of any bright girls of good capacity who might still be in her
establishment; and, above all, she would feel herself mistress in her
own house. This is what would come of an experience in doing her own
work as you do. She who can at once put her own trained hand to the
machine in any spot where a hand is needed never comes to be the slave
of a coarse, vulgar Irishwoman.

So, also, in forming a judgment of what is to be expected of servants
in a given time, and what ought to be expected of a given amount
of provisions, poor Mrs. Simmons is absolutely at sea. If even for
one six months in her life she had been a practical cook, and had
really had the charge of the larder, she would not now be haunted,
as she constantly is, by an indefinite apprehension of an immense
wastefulness, perhaps of the disappearance of provisions through
secret channels of relationship and favoritism. She certainly could
not be made to believe in the absolute necessity of so many pounds of
sugar, quarts of milk, and dozens of eggs, not to mention spices
and wine, as are daily required for the accomplishment of Madam
Cook's purposes. But though now she does suspect and apprehend,
she cannot speak with certainty. She cannot say, "_I_ have made
these things. I know exactly what they require. I have done this and
that myself, and know it can be done, and done well, in a certain
time." It is said that women who have been accustomed to doing their
own work become hard mistresses. They are certainly more sure of the
ground they stand on,--they are less open to imposition,--they can
speak and act in their own houses more as those "having authority,"
and therefore are less afraid to exact what is justly their due, and
less willing to endure impertinence and unfaithfulness. Their general
error lies in expecting that any servant ever will do as well for
them as they will do for themselves, and that an untrained,
undisciplined human being ever _can_ do housework, or any other
work, with the neatness and perfection that a person of trained
intelligence can. It has been remarked in our armies that the men of
cultivation, though bred in delicate and refined spheres, can bear
up under the hardships of camp-life better and longer than rough
laborers. The reason is, that an educated mind knows how to use
and save its body, to work it and spare it, as an uneducated mind
cannot; and so the college-bred youth brings himself safely
through fatigues which kill the unreflective laborer. Cultivated,
intelligent women, who are brought up to do the work of their own
families, are labor-saving institutions. They make the head save
the wear of the muscles. By forethought, contrivance, system, and
arrangement, they lessen the amount to be done, and do it with less
expense of time and strength than others. The old New England motto,
_Get your work done up in the forenoon_, applied to an amount of
work which would keep a common Irish servant toiling from daylight to
sunset.

A lady living in one of our obscure New England towns, where there
were no servants to be hired, at last by sending to a distant city
succeeded in procuring a raw Irish maid of all work, a creature of
immense bone and muscle, but of heavy, unawakened brain. In one
fortnight she established such a reign of Chaos and old Night in the
kitchen and through the house that her mistress, a delicate woman,
incumbered with the care of young children, began seriously to think
that she made more work each day than she performed, and dismissed
her. What was now to be done? Fortunately, the daughter of a
neighboring farmer was going to be married in six months, and wanted a
little ready money for her trousseau. The lady was informed that Miss
So-and-so would come to her, not as a servant, but as hired "help."
She was fain to accept any help with gladness. Forthwith came into the
family circle a tall, well-dressed young person, grave, unobtrusive,
self-respecting, yet not in the least presuming, who sat at the family
table and observed all its decorums with the modest self-possession of
a lady. The newcomer took a survey of the labors of a family of ten
members, including four or five young children, and, looking, seemed
at once to throw them into system, matured her plans, arranged her
hours of washing, ironing, baking, cleaning, rose early, moved
deftly, and in a single day the slatternly and littered kitchen
assumed that neat, orderly appearance that so often strikes one in New
England farmhouses. The work seemed to be all gone. Everything was
nicely washed, brightened, put in place, and stayed in place: the
floors, when cleaned, remained clean; the work was always done, and
not doing; and every afternoon the young lady sat neatly dressed in
her own apartment, either writing letters to her betrothed, or sewing
on her bridal outfit. Such is the result of employing those who have
been brought up to do their own work. That tall, fine-looking girl,
for aught we know, may yet be mistress of a fine house on Fifth
Avenue; and, if she is, she will, we fear, prove rather an exacting
mistress to Irish Biddy and Bridget; but she will never be threatened
by her cook and chambermaid, after the first one or two have tried the
experiment.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having written thus far on my article I laid it aside till evening,
when, as usual, I was saluted by the inquiry, "Has papa been writing
anything to-day?" and then followed loud petitions to hear it; and so
I read as far, reader, as you have.

"Well, papa," said Jenny, "what are you meaning to make out there? Do
you really think it would be best for us all to try to go back to that
old style of living you describe? After all, you have shown only the
dark side of an establishment with servants, and the bright side of
the other way of living. Mamma does not have such trouble with her
servants; matters have always gone smoothly in our family; and, if we
are not such wonderful girls as those you describe, yet we may make
pretty good housekeepers on the modern system, after all."

"You don't know all the troubles your mamma has had in your day," said
my wife. "I have often, in the course of my family history, seen the
day when I have heartily wished for the strength and ability to manage
my household matters as my grandmother of notable memory managed hers.
But I fear that those remarkable women of the olden times are like the
ancient painted glass,--the art of making them is lost; my mother was
less than her mother, and I am less than my mother."

"And Marianne and I come out entirely at the little end of the horn,"
said Jenny, laughing; "yet I wash the breakfast cups and dust the
parlors, and have always fancied myself a notable housekeeper."

"It is just as I told you," I said. "Human nature is always the same.
Nobody ever is or does more than circumstances force him to be and do.
Those remarkable women of old were made by circumstances. There were,
comparatively speaking, no servants to be had, and so children were
trained to habits of industry and mechanical adroitness from the
cradle, and every household process was reduced to the very minimum of
labor. Every step required in a process was counted, every movement
calculated; and she who took ten steps, when one would do, lost her
reputation for 'faculty.' Certainly such an early drill was of use in
developing the health and the bodily powers, as well as in giving
precision to the practical mental faculties. All household economies
were arranged with equal niceness in those thoughtful minds. A trained
housekeeper knew just how many sticks of hickory of a certain size
were required to heat her oven, and how many of each different kind of
wood. She knew by a sort of intuition just what kind of food would
yield the most palatable nutriment with the least outlay of
accessories in cooking. She knew to a minute the time when each
article must go into and be withdrawn from her oven; and, if she could
only lie in her chamber and direct, she could guide an intelligent
child through the processes with mathematical certainty. It is
impossible, however, that anything but early training and long
experience can produce these results, and it is earnestly to be wished
that the grandmothers of New England had only written down their
experiences for our children; they would have been a mine of maxims
and traditions, better than any other traditions of the elders which
we know of."

"One thing I know," said Marianne, "and that is, I wish I had been
brought up so, and knew all that I should, and had all the strength
and adroitness that those women had. I should not dread to begin
housekeeping, as I now do. I should feel myself independent. I should
feel that I knew how to direct my servants, and what it was reasonable
and proper to expect of them; and then, as you say, I shouldn't be
dependent on all their whims and caprices of temper. I dread those
household storms, of all things."

Silently pondering these anxieties of the young expectant housekeeper,
I resumed my pen, and concluded my paper as follows:--

       *       *       *       *       *

In this country, our democratic institutions have removed the
superincumbent pressure which in the Old World confines the servants
to a regular orbit. They come here feeling that this is somehow a land
of liberty, and with very dim and confused notions of what liberty is.
They are for the most part the raw, untrained Irish peasantry, and the
wonder is, that, with all the unreasoning heats and prejudices of the
Celtic blood, all the necessary ignorance and rawness, there should be
the measure of comfort and success there is in our domestic
arrangements. But, so long as things are so, there will be constant
changes and interruptions in every domestic establishment, and
constantly recurring interregnums when the mistress must put her own
hand to the work, whether the hand be a trained or an untrained one.
As matters now are, the young housekeeper takes life at the hardest.
She has very little strength,--no experience to teach her how to save
her strength. She knows nothing experimentally of the simplest
processes necessary to keep her family comfortably fed and clothed;
and she has a way of looking at all these things which makes them
particularly hard and distasteful to her. She does not escape being
obliged to do housework at intervals, but she does it in a weak,
blundering, confused way, that makes it twice as hard and disagreeable
as it need be.

Now what I have to say is, that, if every young woman learned to do
housework and cultivated her practical faculties in early life, she
would, in the first place, be much more likely to keep her servants,
and, in the second place, if she lost them temporarily, would avoid
all that wear and tear of the nervous system which comes from constant
ill-success in those departments on which family health and temper
mainly depend. This is one of the peculiarities of our American life
which require a peculiar training. Why not face it sensibly?

The second thing I have to say is, that our land is now full of
motorpathic institutions to which women are sent at great expense to
have hired operators stretch and exercise their inactive muscles. They
lie for hours to have their feet twigged, their arms flexed, and all
the different muscles of the body worked for them, because they are so
flaccid and torpid that the powers of life do not go on. Would it not
be quite as cheerful and less expensive a process if young girls from
early life developed the muscles in sweeping, dusting, ironing,
rubbing furniture, and all the multiplied domestic processes which our
grandmothers knew of? A woman who did all these, and diversified the
intervals with spinning on the great and little wheel, never came to
need the gymnastics of Dio Lewis or of the Swedish motorpathist, which
really are a necessity now. Does it not seem poor economy to pay
servants for letting our muscles grow feeble, and then to pay
operators to exercise them for us? I will venture to say that our
grandmothers in a week went over every movement that any gymnast has
invented, and went over them to some productive purpose, too.

Lastly, my paper will not have been in vain if those ladies who have
learned and practice the invaluable accomplishment of doing their own
work will know their own happiness and dignity, and properly value
their great acquisition, even though it may have been forced upon them
by circumstances.



VII

WHAT CAN BE GOT IN AMERICA


While I was preparing my article for the "Atlantic," our friend Bob
Stephens burst in upon us, in some considerable heat, with a newspaper
in his hand.

"Well, girls, your time is come now! You women have been preaching
heroism and sacrifice to us,--'so splendid to go forth and suffer
and die for our country,'--and now comes the test of feminine
patriotism."

"Why, what's the matter now?" said Jenny, running eagerly to look over
his shoulder at the paper.

"No more foreign goods," said he, waving it aloft,--"no more gold
shipped to Europe for silks, laces, jewels, kid gloves, and what not.
Here it is,--great movement, headed by senators' and generals' wives,
Mrs. General Butler, Mrs. John P. Hale, Mrs. Henry Wilson, and so on,
a long string of them, to buy no more imported articles during the
war."

"But I don't see how it _can_ be done," said Jenny.

"Why," said I, "do you suppose that 'nothing to wear' is made in
America?"

"But, dear Mr. Crowfield," said Miss Featherstone, a nice girl, who
was just then one of our family circle, "there is not, positively,
much that is really fit to use or wear made in America,--is there now?
Just think: how is Marianne to furnish her house here without French
papers and English carpets?--those American papers are so very
ordinary, and, as to American carpets, everybody knows their colors
don't hold; and then, as to dress, a lady must have gloves, you
know,--and everybody knows no such things are made in America as
gloves."

"I think," I said, "that I have heard of certain fair ladies wishing
that they were men, that they might show with what alacrity they would
sacrifice everything on the altar of their country: life and limb
would be nothing; they would glory in wounds and bruises, they would
enjoy losing a right arm, they wouldn't mind limping about on a lame
leg the rest of their lives, if they were John or Peter, if only they
might serve their dear country."

"Yes," said Bob, "that's female patriotism! Girls are always ready to
jump off from precipices, or throw themselves into abysses, but as to
wearing an unfashionable hat or thread gloves, that they can't
do,--not even for their dear country. No matter whether there's any
money left to pay for the war or not, the dear souls must have twenty
yards of silk in a dress,--it's the fashion, you know."

"Now, isn't he too bad?" said Marianne. "As if we'd ever been asked to
make these sacrifices and refused! I think I have seen women ready to
give up dress and fashion and everything else for a good cause."

"For that matter," said I, "the history of all wars has shown women
ready to sacrifice what is most intimately feminine in times of peril
to their country. The women of Carthage not only gave up their jewels
in the siege of their city, but, in the last extremity, cut off their
hair for bowstrings. The women of Hungary and Poland, in their
country's need, sold their jewels and plate and wore ornaments of iron
and lead. In the time of our own Revolution, our women dressed in
plain homespun and drank herb-tea,--and certainly nothing is more
feminine than a cup of tea. And in this very struggle, the women of
the Southern States have cut up their carpets for blankets, have borne
the most humiliating retrenchments and privations of all kinds without
a murmur. So let us exonerate the female sex of want of patriotism, at
any rate."

"Certainly," said my wife; "and if our Northern women have not
retrenched and made sacrifices, it has been because it has not been
impressed on them that there is any particular call for it. Everything
has seemed to be so prosperous and plentiful in the Northern States,
money has been so abundant and easy to come by, that it has really
been difficult to realize that a dreadful and destructive war was
raging. Only occasionally, after a great battle, when the lists of the
killed and wounded have been sent through the country, have we felt
that we were making a sacrifice. The women who have spent such sums
for laces and jewels and silks have not had it set clearly before them
why they should not do so. The money has been placed freely in their
hands, and the temptation before their eyes."

"Yes," said Jenny, "I am quite sure that there are hundreds who have
been buying foreign goods who would not do it if they could see any
connection between their not doing it and the salvation of the
country; but when I go to buy a pair of gloves, I naturally want the
best pair I can find, the pair that will last the longest and look the
best, and these always happen to be French gloves."

"Then," said Miss Featherstone, "I never could clearly see why people
should confine their patronage and encouragement to works of their own
country. I'm sure the poor manufacturers of England have shown the
very noblest spirit with relation to our cause, and so have the silk
weavers and artisans of France,--at least, so I have heard; why should
we not give them a fair share of encouragement, particularly when
they make things that we are not in circumstances to make, have not
the means to make?"

"Those are certainly sensible questions," I replied, "and ought to
meet a fair answer, and I should say that, were our country in a
fair ordinary state of prosperity, there would be no reason why our
wealth should not flow out for the encouragement of well-directed
industry in any part of the world; from this point of view we might
look on the whole world as our country, and cheerfully assist in
developing its wealth and resources. But our country is now in the
situation of a private family whose means are absorbed by an
expensive sickness, involving the life of its head: just now it is
all we can do to keep the family together; all our means are
swallowed up by our own domestic wants; we have nothing to give
for the encouragement of other families, we must exist ourselves; we
must get through this crisis and hold our own, and, that we may do
it, all the family expenses must be kept within ourselves as far as
possible. If we drain off all the gold of the country to send to
Europe to encourage her worthy artisans, we produce high prices
and distress among equally worthy ones at home, and we lessen the
amount of our resources for maintaining the great struggle for
national existence. The same amount of money which we pay for foreign
luxuries, if passed into the hands of our own manufacturers and
producers, becomes available for the increasing expenses of the war."

"But, papa," said Jenny, "I understood that a great part of our
governmental income was derived from the duties on foreign goods, and
so I inferred that the more foreign goods were imported the better it
would be."

"Well, suppose," said I, "that for every hundred thousand dollars we
send out of the country we pay the government ten thousand; that is
about what our gain as a nation would be: we send our gold abroad in a
great stream, and give our government a little driblet."

"Well, but," said Miss Featherstone, "what can be got in America?
Hardly anything, I believe, except common calicoes."

"Begging your pardon, my dear lady," said I, "there is where you and
multitudes of others are greatly mistaken. Your partiality for foreign
things has kept you ignorant of what you have at home. Now I am not
blaming the love of foreign things: it is not peculiar to us
Americans; all nations have it. It is a part of the poetry of our
nature to love what comes from afar, and reminds us of lands distant
and different from our own. The English belles seek after French
laces; the French beauty enumerates English laces among her rarities;
and the French dandy piques himself upon an English tailor. We
Americans are great travelers, and few people travel, I fancy, with
more real enjoyment than we; our domestic establishments, as compared
with those of the Old World, are less cumbrous and stately, and so our
money is commonly in hand as pocket-money, to be spent freely and
gayly in our tours abroad.

"We have such bright and pleasant times in every country that we
conceive a kindliness for its belongings. To send to Paris for our
dresses and our shoes and our gloves may not be a mere bit of foppery,
but a reminder of the bright, pleasant hours we have spent in that
city of boulevards and fountains. Hence it comes, in a way not very
blamable, that many people have been so engrossed with what can be got
from abroad that they have neglected to inquire what can be found at
home: they have supposed, of course, that to get a decent watch they
must send to Geneva or to London; that to get thoroughly good carpets
they must have the English manufacture; that a really tasteful
wall-paper could be found only in Paris; and that flannels and
broadcloths could come only from France, Great Britain, or Germany."

"Well, isn't it so?" said Miss Featherstone. "I certainly have always
thought so; I never heard of American watches, I'm sure."

"Then," said I, "I'm sure you can't have read an article that you
should have read on the Waltham watches, written by our friend George
W. Curtis, in the 'Atlantic' for January of last year. I must refer
you to that to learn that we make in America watches superior to those
of Switzerland or England, bringing into the service machinery and
modes of workmanship unequaled for delicacy and precision; as I said
before, you must get the article and read it, and, if some sunny day
you could make a trip to Waltham and see the establishment, it would
greatly assist your comprehension."

"Then, as to men's clothing," said Bob, "I know to my entire
satisfaction that many of the most popular cloths for men's wear are
actually American fabrics baptized with French and English names to
make them sell."

"Which shows," said I, "the use of a general community movement to
employ American goods. It will change the fashion. The demand will
create the supply. When the leaders of fashion are inquiring for
American instead of French and English fabrics, they will be surprised
to find what nice American articles there are. The work of our own
hands will no more be forced to skulk into the market under French and
English names, and we shall see, what is really true, that an American
gentleman need not look beyond his own country for a wardrobe
befitting him. I am positive that we need not seek broadcloth or other
woolen goods from foreign lands,--that _better_ hats are made in
America than in Europe, and better boots and shoes; and I should be
glad to send an American gentleman to the World's Fair dressed from
top to toe in American manufactures, with an American watch in his
pocket, and see if he would suffer in comparison with the gentlemen of
any other country."

"Then, as to house-furnishing," began my wife, "American carpets are
getting to be every way equal to the English."

"Yes," said I, "and, what is more, the Brussels carpets of England are
woven on looms invented by an American, and bought of him. Our
countryman, Bigelow, went to England to study carpet-weaving in the
English looms, supposing that all arts were generously open for the
instruction of learners. He was denied the opportunity of studying the
machinery and watching the processes by a shortsighted jealousy. He
immediately sat down with a yard of carpeting, and, patiently
unraveling it thread by thread, combined and calculated till he
invented the machinery on which the best carpets of the Old and the
New World are woven. No pains which such ingenuity and energy can
render effective are spared to make our fabrics equal those of the
British market, and we need only to be disabused of the old prejudice,
and to keep up with the movement of our own country, and find out our
own resources. The fact is, every year improves our fabrics. Our
mechanics, our manufacturers, are working with an energy, a zeal, and
a skill that carry things forward faster than anybody dreams of; and
nobody can predicate the character of American articles in any
department now by their character even five years ago."

"Well, as to wall-papers," said Miss Featherstone, "there you must
confess the French are and must be unequaled."

"I do not confess any such thing," said I hardily. "I grant you that,
in that department of paper-hangings which exhibits floral decoration,
the French designs and execution are, and must be for some time to
come, far ahead of all the world: their drawing of flowers, vines, and
foliage has the accuracy of botanical studies and the grace of
finished works of art, and we cannot as yet pretend in America to do
anything equal to it. But for satin finish, and for a variety of
exquisite tints of plain colors, American papers equal any in the
world: our gilt papers even surpass in the heaviness and polish of the
gilding those of foreign countries; and we have also gorgeous velvets.
All I have to say is, let people who are furnishing houses inquire for
articles of American manufacture, and they will be surprised at what
they will see. We need go no farther than our Cambridge glassworks to
see that the most dainty devices of cut-glass, crystal, ground and
engraved glass of every color and pattern, may be had of American
workmanship, every way equal to the best European make, and for half
the price. And American painting on china is so well executed, both in
Boston and New York, that deficiencies in the finest French or English
sets can be made up in a style not distinguishable from the original,
as one may easily see by calling on our worthy next neighbor, Briggs,
who holds the opposite corner to our 'Atlantic Monthly.' No porcelain,
it is true, is yet made in America, these decorative arts being
exercised on articles imported from Europe. Our tables must,
therefore, perforce, be largely indebted to foreign lands for years to
come. Exclusive of this item, however, I believe it would require very
little self-denial to paper, carpet, and furnish a house entirely from
the manufactures of America. I cannot help saying one word here in
favor of the cabinet-makers of Boston. There is so much severity of
taste, such a style and manner about the best-made Boston furniture,
as raises it really quite into the region of the fine arts. Our
artisans have studied foreign models with judicious eyes, and so
transferred to our country the spirit of what is best worth imitating
that one has no need to import furniture from Europe."

"Well," said Miss Featherstone, "there is one point you cannot make
out,--gloves; certainly the French have the monopoly of that
article."

"I am not going to ruin my cause by asserting too much," said I. "I
haven't been with nicely dressed women so many years not to speak
with proper respect of Alexander's gloves; and I confess honestly that
to forego them must be a fair, square sacrifice to patriotism. But
then, on the other hand, it is nevertheless true that gloves have long
been made in America and surreptitiously brought into market as
French. I have lately heard that very nice kid gloves are made at
Watertown and in Philadelphia. I have only heard of them and not seen.
A loud demand might bring forth an unexpected supply from these and
other sources. If the women of America were bent on having gloves made
in their own country, how long would it be before apparatus and
factories would spring into being? Look at the hoop-skirt factories;
women wanted hoop-skirts,--would have them or die,--and forthwith
factories arose, and hoop-skirts became as the dust of the earth for
abundance."

"Yes," said Miss Featherstone, "and, to say the truth, the American
hoop-skirts are the only ones fit to wear. When we were living on the
Champs Élysées, I remember we searched high and low for something like
them, and finally had to send home to America for some."

"Well," said I, "that shows what I said. Let there be only a hearty
call for an article and it will come. These spirits of the vasty deep
are not so very far off, after all, as we may imagine, and women's
unions and leagues will lead to inquiries and demands which will as
infallibly bring supplies as a vacuum will create a draught of air."

"But, at least, there are no ribbons made in America," said Miss
Featherstone.

"Pardon, my lady, there is a ribbon factory now in operation in
Boston, and ribbons of every color are made in New York; there is also
in the vicinity of Boston a factory which makes Roman scarfs. This
shows that the faculty of weaving ribbons is not wanting to us
Americans, and a zealous patronage would increase the supply.

"Then, as for a thousand and one little feminine needs, I believe our
manufacturers can supply them. The Portsmouth Steam Company makes
white spool-cotton equal to any in England, and colored spool-cotton,
of every shade and variety, such as is not made either in England or
France. Pins are well made in America; so are hooks and eyes, and a
variety of buttons. Straw bonnets of American manufacture are also
extensively in market, and quite as pretty ones as the double-priced
ones which are imported.

"As to silks and satins, I am not going to pretend that they are to be
found here. It is true, there are silk manufactories, like that of the
Cheneys in Connecticut, where very pretty foulard dress-silks are
made, together with sewing-silk enough to supply a large demand.
Enough has been done to show that silks might be made in America; but
at present, as compared with Europe, we claim neither silks nor thread
laces among our manufactures.

"But what then? These are not necessaries of life. Ladies can be very
tastefully dressed in other fabrics besides silks. There are many
pretty American dress-goods which the leaders of fashion might make
fashionable, and certainly no leader of fashion could wish to dress
for a nobler object than to aid her country in deadly peril.

"It is not a life-pledge, not a total abstinence, that is asked,--only
a temporary expedient to meet a stringent crisis. We only ask a
preference for American goods where they can be found. Surely, women
whose exertions in Sanitary Fairs have created an era in the history
of the world will not shrink from so small a sacrifice for so obvious
a good.

"Here is something in which every individual woman can help. Every
woman who goes into a shop and asks for American goods renders an
appreciable aid to our cause. She expresses her opinion and her
patriotism, and her voice forms a part of that demand which shall
arouse and develop the resources of her country. We shall learn to
know our own country. We shall learn to respect our own powers, and
every branch of useful labor will spring and flourish under our
well-directed efforts. We shall come out of our great contest, not
bedraggled, ragged, and poverty-stricken, but developed, instructed,
and rich. Then will we gladly join with other nations in the free
interchange of manufactures, and gratify our eye and taste with what
is foreign, while we can in turn send abroad our own productions in
equal ratio."

"Upon my word," said Miss Featherstone, "I should think it was the
Fourth of July; but I yield the point. I am convinced; and henceforth
you will see me among the most stringent of the leaguers."

"Right!" said I.

And, fair lady reader, let me hope you will say the same. You can do
something for your country,--it lies right in your hand. Go to the
shops, determined on supplying your family and yourself with American
goods. Insist on having them; raise the question of origin over every
article shown to you. In the Revolutionary times, some of the leading
matrons of New England gave parties where the ladies were dressed in
homespun and drank sage tea. Fashion makes all things beautiful, and
you, my charming and accomplished friend, can create beauty by
creating fashion. What makes the beauty of half the Cashmere shawls?
Not anything in the shawls themselves, for they often look coarse and
dingy and barbarous. It is the association with style and fashion.
Fair lady, give style and fashion to the products of your own
country,--resolve that the money in your hand shall go to your brave
brothers, to your co-Americans, now straining every nerve to uphold
the nation and cause it to stand high in the earth. What are you
without your country? As Americans you can hope for no rank but the
rank of your native land, no badge of nobility but her beautiful
stars. It rests with this conflict to decide whether those stars shall
be badges of nobility to you and your children in all lands. Women of
America, your country expects every woman to do her duty!



VIII

ECONOMY


"The fact is," said Jenny, as she twirled a little hat on her hand,
which she had been making over, with nobody knows what of bows and
pompons, and other matters for which the women have curious
names,--"the fact is, American women and girls must learn to
economize; it isn't merely restricting one's self to American goods,
it is general economy, that is required. Now here's this hat,--costs
me only three dollars, all told; and Sophie Page bought an English one
this morning at Madam Meyer's for which she gave fifteen. And I really
don't think hers has more of an air than mine. I made this over, you
see, with things I had in the house, bought nothing but the ribbon,
and paid for altering and pressing, and there you see what a stylish
hat I have!"

"Lovely! admirable!" said Miss Featherstone. "Upon my word, Jenny, you
ought to marry a poor parson; you would be quite thrown away upon a
rich man."

"Let me see," said I. "I want to admire intelligently. That isn't the
hat you were wearing yesterday?"

"Oh no, papa! This is just done. The one I wore yesterday was my
waterfall-hat, with the green feather; this, you see, is an oriole."

"A what?"

"An oriole. Papa, how can you expect to learn about these things?"

"And that plain little black one, with the stiff crop of scarlet
feathers sticking straight up?"

"That's my jockey, papa, with a plume _en militaire_."

"And did the waterfall and the jockey cost anything?"

"They were very, very cheap, papa, all things considered. Miss
Featherstone will remember that the waterfall was a great bargain, and
I had the feather from last year; and as to the jockey, that was made
out of my last year's white one, dyed over. You know, papa, I always
take care of my things, and they last from year to year."

"I do assure you, Mr. Crowfield," said Miss Featherstone, "I never saw
such little economists as your daughters; it is perfectly wonderful
what they contrive to dress on. How they manage to do it I'm sure I
can't see. I never could, I'm convinced."

"Yes," said Jenny, "I've bought but just one new hat. I only wish you
could sit in church where we do, and see those Miss Fielders. Marianne
and I have counted six new hats apiece of those girls',--_new_, you
know, just out of the milliner's shop; and last Sunday they came out
in such lovely puffed tulle bonnets! Weren't they lovely, Marianne?
And next Sunday, I don't doubt, there'll be something else."

"Yes," said Miss Featherstone,--"their father, they say, has made a
million dollars lately on government contracts."

"For my part," said Jenny, "I think such extravagance, at such a time
as this, is shameful."

"Do you know," said I, "that I'm quite sure the Misses Fielder think
they are practicing rigorous economy?"

"Papa! Now there you are with your paradoxes! How can you say so?"

"I shouldn't be afraid to bet a pair of gloves, now," said I, "that
Miss Fielder thinks herself half ready for translation, because she
has bought only six new hats and a tulle bonnet so far in the season.
If it were not for her dear bleeding country, she would have had
thirty-six, like the Misses Sibthorpe. If we were admitted to the
secret councils of the Fielders, doubtless we should perceive what
temptations they daily resist; how perfectly rubbishy and dreadful
they suffer themselves to be, because they feel it important now, in
this crisis, to practice economy; how they abuse the Sibthorpes, who
have a new hat every time they drive out, and never think of wearing
one more than two or three times; how virtuous and self-denying they
feel when they think of the puffed tulle, for which they only gave
eighteen dollars, when Madame Caradori showed them those lovely ones,
like the Misses Sibthorpe's, for forty-five; and how they go home
descanting on virgin simplicity, and resolving that they will not
allow themselves to be swept into the vortex of extravagance, whatever
other people may do."

"Do you know," said Miss Featherstone, "I believe your papa is right?
I was calling on the oldest Miss Fielder the other day, and she told
me that she positively felt ashamed to go looking as she did, but that
she really did feel the necessity of economy. 'Perhaps we might afford
to spend more than some others,' she said; 'but it's so much better to
give the money to the Sanitary Commission!'"

"Furthermore," said I, "I am going to put forth another paradox, and
say that very likely there are some people looking on my girls, and
commenting on them for extravagance in having three hats, even though
made over, and contrived from last year's stock."

"They can't know anything about it, then," said Jenny decisively;
"for, certainly, nobody can be decent and invest less in millinery
than Marianne and I do."

"When I was a young lady," said my wife, "a well-dressed girl got her
a new bonnet in the spring, and another in the fall; that was the
extent of her purchases in this line. A second-best bonnet, left of
last year, did duty to relieve and preserve the best one. My father
was accounted well-to-do, but I had no more, and wanted no more. I
also bought myself, every spring, two pair of gloves, a dark and a
light pair, and wore them through the summer, and another two through
the winter; one or two pair of white kids, carefully cleaned, carried
me through all my parties. Hats had not been heard of, and the great
necessity which requires two or three new ones every spring and fall
had not arisen. Yet I was reckoned a well-appearing girl, who dressed
liberally. Now, a young lady who has a waterfall-hat, an oriole-hat,
and a jockey must still be troubled with anxious cares for her spring
and fall and summer and winter bonnets,--all the variety will not take
the place of them. Gloves are bought by the dozen; and as to dresses,
there seems to be no limit to the quantity of material and trimming
that may be expended upon them. When I was a young lady, seventy-five
dollars a year was considered by careful parents a liberal allowance
for a daughter's wardrobe. I had a hundred, and was reckoned rich; and
I sometimes used a part to make up the deficiencies in the allowance
of Sarah Evans, my particular friend, whose father gave her only
fifty. We all thought that a very scant allowance; yet she generally
made a very pretty and genteel appearance, with the help of occasional
presents from friends."

"How could a girl dress for fifty dollars?" said Marianne.

"She could get a white muslin and a white cambric, which, with
different sortings of ribbons, served her for all dress occasions. A
silk, in those days, took only ten yards in the making, and one dark
silk was considered a reasonable allowance to a lady's wardrobe. Once
made, it stood for something,--always worn carefully, it lasted for
years. One or two calico morning-dresses, and a merino for winter
wear, completed the list. Then, as to collars, capes, cuffs, etc., we
all did our own embroidering, and very pretty things we wore, too.
Girls looked as prettily then as they do now, when four or five
hundred dollars a year is insufficient to clothe them."

"But, mamma, you know our allowance isn't anything like that,--it is
quite a slender one, though not so small as yours was," said Marianne.
"Don't you think the customs of society make a difference? Do you
think, as things are, we could go back and dress for the sum you
did?"

"You cannot," said my wife, "without a greater sacrifice of feeling
than I wish to impose on you. Still, though I don't see how to help
it, I cannot but think that the requirements of fashion are becoming
needlessly extravagant, particularly in regard to the dress of women.
It seems to me, it is making the support of families so burdensome
that young men are discouraged from marriage. A young man, in a
moderately good business, might cheerfully undertake the world with a
wife who could make herself pretty and attractive for seventy-five
dollars a year, when he might sigh in vain for one who positively
could not get through, and be decent, on four hundred. Women, too, are
getting to be so attached to the trappings and accessories of life
that they cannot think of marriage without an amount of fortune which
few young men possess."

"You are talking in very low numbers about the dress of women," said
Miss Featherstone. "I do assure you that it is the easiest thing in
the world for a girl to make away with a thousand dollars a year, and
not have so much to show for it, either, as Marianne and Jenny."

"To be sure," said I. "Only establish certain formulas of expectation,
and it is the easiest thing in the world. For instance, in your
mother's day girls talked of a pair of gloves,--now they talk of a
pack; then it was a bonnet summer and winter,--now it is a bonnet
spring, summer, autumn, and winter, and hats like monthly roses,--a
new blossom every few weeks."

"And then," said my wife, "every device of the toilet is immediately
taken up and varied and improved on, so as to impose an almost monthly
necessity for novelty. The jackets of May are outshone by the
jackets of June; the buttons of June are antiquated in July; the
trimmings of July are _passées_ by September; side-combs, back-combs,
puffs, rats, and all sorts of such matters, are in a distracted race
of improvement; every article of feminine toilet is on the move
towards perfection. It seems to me that an infinity of money must be
spent in these trifles by those who make the least pretension to keep
in the fashion."

"Well, papa," said Jenny, "after all, it's just the way things always
have been since the world began. You know the Bible says, 'Can a maid
forget her ornaments?' It's clear she can't. You see, it's a law of
nature; and you remember all that long chapter in the Bible that we
had read in church last Sunday about the curls and veils and tinkling
ornaments and crimping-pins, and all that, of those wicked daughters
of Zion in old times. Women always have been too much given to dress,
and they always will be."

"The thing is," said Marianne, "how can any woman, I, for example,
know what is too much or too little? In mamma's day, it seems, a girl
could keep her place in society, by hard economy, and spend only fifty
dollars a year on her dress. Mamma found a hundred dollars ample. I
have more than that, and find myself quite straitened to keep myself
looking well. I don't want to live for dress, to give all my time and
thoughts to it; I don't wish to be extravagant: and yet I wish to be
lady-like--it annoys and makes me unhappy not to be fresh and neat and
nice, shabbiness and seediness are my aversion. I don't see where the
fault is. Can one individual resist the whole current of society? It
certainly is not strictly necessary for us girls to have half the
things we do. We might, I suppose, live without many of them, and, as
mamma says, look just as well, because girls did so before these
things were invented. Now I confess I flatter myself, generally, that
I am a pattern of good management and economy, because I get so much
less than other girls I associate with. I wish you could see Miss
Thorne's fall dresses that she showed me last year when she was
visiting here. She had six gowns, and no one of them could have cost
less than seventy or eighty dollars, and some of them must have been
even more expensive, and yet I don't doubt that this fall she will
feel that she must have just as many more. She runs through and wears
out these expensive things, with all their velvet and thread lace,
just as I wear my commonest ones; and at the end of the season they
are really gone,--spotted, stained, frayed, the lace all pulled to
pieces,--nothing left to save or make over. I feel as if Jenny and I
were patterns of economy when I see such things. I really don't know
what economy is. What is it?"

"There is the same difficulty in my housekeeping," said my wife. "I
think I am an economist. I mean to be one. All our expenses are on a
modest scale, and yet I can see much that really is not strictly
necessary; but if I compare myself with some of my neighbors, I feel
as if I were hardly respectable. There is no subject on which all the
world are censuring one another so much as this. Hardly any one but
thinks her neighbors extravagant in some one or more particulars, and
takes for granted that she herself is an economist."

"I'll venture to say," said I, "that there isn't a woman of my
acquaintance that does not think she is an economist."

"Papa is turned against us women, like all the rest of them," said
Jenny. "I wonder if it isn't just so with the men?"

"Yes," said Marianne, "it's the fashion to talk as if all the
extravagance of the country was perpetrated by women. For my part, I
think young men are just as extravagant. Look at the sums they spend
for cigars and meerschaums,--an expense which hasn't even the pretense
of usefulness in any way; it's a purely selfish, nonsensical
indulgence. When a girl spends money in making herself look pretty,
she contributes something to the agreeableness of society; but a man's
cigars and pipes are neither ornamental nor useful."

"Then look at their dress," said Jenny: "they are to the full as fussy
and particular about it as girls; they have as many fine, invisible
points of fashion, and their fashions change quite as often; and they
have just as many knick-knacks, with their studs and their sleeve
buttons and waistcoat buttons, their scarfs and scarf pins, their
watch chains and seals and seal rings, and nobody knows what. Then
they often waste and throw away more than women, because they are not
good judges of material, nor saving in what they buy, and have no
knowledge of how things should be cared for, altered, or mended. If
their cap is a little too tight, they cut the lining with a penknife,
or slit holes in a new shirt-collar because it does not exactly fit to
their mind. For my part, I think men are naturally twice as wasteful
as women. A pretty thing, to be sure, to have all the waste of the
country laid to us!"

"You are right, child," said I; "women are by nature, as compared with
men, the care-taking and saving part of creation,--the authors and
conservators of economy. As a general rule, man earns and woman saves
and applies. The wastefulness of woman is commonly the fault of man."

"I don't see into that," said Bob Stevens.

"In this way. Economy is the science of proportion. Whether a
particular purchase is extravagant depends mainly on the income it is
taken from. Suppose a woman has a hundred and fifty a year for her
dress, and gives fifty dollars for a bonnet, she gives a third of her
income,--it is a horrible extravagance; while for the woman whose
income is ten thousand it may be no extravagance at all. The poor
clergyman's wife, when she gives five dollars for a bonnet, may be
giving as much in proportion to her income as the woman who gives
fifty. Now the difficulty with the greater part of women is, that the
men, who make the money and hold it, give them no kind of standard by
which to measure their expenses. Most women and girls are in this
matter entirely at sea, without chart or compass. They don't know in
the least what they have to spend. Husbands and fathers often pride
themselves about not saying a word on business matters to their wives
and daughters. They don't wish them to understand them, or to inquire
into them, or to make remarks or suggestions concerning them. 'I want
you to have everything that is suitable and proper,' says Jones to his
wife, 'but don't be extravagant.'

"'But, my dear,' says Mrs. Jones, 'what is suitable and proper depends
very much on our means; if you could allow me any specific sum for
dress and housekeeping, I could tell better.'

"'Nonsense, Susan! I can't do that,--it's too much trouble. Get what
you need, and avoid foolish extravagances; that's all I ask.'

"By and by Mrs. Jones's bills are sent in, in an evil hour, when Jones
has heavy notes to meet, and then comes a domestic storm.

"'I shall just be ruined, madam, if that's the way you are going on. I
can't afford to dress you and the girls in the style you have set up:
look at this milliner's bill!'

"'I assure you,' says Mrs. Jones, 'we haven't got any more than the
Stebbinses, nor so much.'

"'Don't you know that the Stebbinses are worth five times as much as
ever I was?'

"No, Mrs. Jones did not know it: how should she, when her husband
makes it a rule never to speak of his business to her, and she has not
the remotest idea of his income?

"Thus multitudes of good, conscientious women and girls are
extravagant from pure ignorance. The male provider allows bills to be
run up in his name, and they have no earthly means of judging whether
they are spending too much or too little, except the semi-annual
hurricane which attends the coming in of these bills.

"The first essential in the practice of economy is a knowledge of
one's income, and the man who refuses to accord to his wife and
children this information has never any right to accuse them of
extravagance, because he himself deprives them of that standard of
comparison which is an indispensable requisite in economy. As early as
possible in the education of children, they should pass from that
state of irresponsible waiting to be provided for by parents, and be
trusted with the spending of some fixed allowance, that they may learn
prices and values, and have some notion of what money is actually
worth and what it will bring. The simple fact of the possession of a
fixed and definite income often suddenly transforms a giddy,
extravagant girl into a care-taking, prudent little woman. Her
allowance is her own; she begins to plan upon it,--to add, subtract,
multiply, divide, and do numberless sums in her little head. She no
longer buys everything she fancies; she deliberates, weighs, compares.
And now there is room for self-denial and generosity to come in. She
can do without this article; she can furbish up some older possession
to do duty a little longer, and give this money to some friend poorer
than she; and ten to one the girl whose bills last year were four or
five hundred finds herself bringing through this year creditably on a
hundred and fifty. To be sure, she goes without numerous things which
she used to have. From the standpoint of a fixed income she sees that
these are impossible, and no more wants them than the green cheese of
the moon. She learns to make her own taste and skill take the place of
expensive purchases. She refits her hats and bonnets, retrims her
dresses, and in a thousand busy, earnest, happy little ways sets
herself to make the most of her small income.

"So the woman who has her definite allowance for housekeeping finds at
once a hundred questions set at rest. Before it was not clear to her
why she should not 'go and do likewise' in relation to every purchase
made by her next neighbor. Now, there is a clear logic of proportion.
Certain things are evidently not to be thought of, though next
neighbors do have them; and we must resign ourselves to find some
other way of living."

"My dear," said my wife, "I think there is a peculiar temptation in a
life organized as ours is in America. There are here no settled
classes, with similar ratios of income. Mixed together in the same
society, going to the same parties, and blended in daily neighborly
intercourse, are families of the most opposite extremes in point of
fortune. In England there is a very well understood expression, that
people should not dress or live above their station; in America none
will admit that they have any particular station, or that they can
live above it. The principle of democratic equality unites in society
people of the most diverse positions and means.

"Here, for instance, is a family like Dr. Selden's: an old and highly
respected one, with an income of only two or three thousand; yet they
are people universally sought for in society, and mingle in all the
intercourse of life with merchant millionaires whose incomes are from
ten to thirty thousand. Their sons and daughters go to the same
schools, the same parties, and are thus constantly meeting upon terms
of social equality.

"Now it seems to me that our danger does not lie in the great and
evident expenses of our richer friends. We do not expect to have
pineries, graperies, equipages, horses, diamonds,--we say openly and
of course that we do not. Still, our expenses are constantly increased
by the proximity of these things, unless we understand ourselves
better than most people do. We don't, of course, expect to get a
fifteen-hundred-dollar Cashmere, like Mrs. So-and-so, but we begin to
look at hundred-dollar shawls and nibble about the hook. We don't
expect sets of diamonds, but a diamond ring, a pair of solitaire
diamond ear-rings, begin to be speculated about among the young people
as among possibilities. We don't expect to carpet our house with
Axminster and hang our windows with damask, but at least we must have
Brussels and brocatelle,--it _would not do_ not to. And so we go on
getting hundreds of things that we don't need, that have no real value
except that they soothe our self-love; and for these inferior articles
we pay a higher proportion of our income than our rich neighbor does
for his better ones. Nothing is uglier than low-priced Cashmere
shawls; and yet a young man just entering business will spend an
eighth of a year's income to put one on his wife, and when he has put
it there it only serves as a constant source of disquiet, for, now
that the door is opened and Cashmere shawls are possible, she is
consumed with envy at the superior ones constantly sported around her.
So, also, with point-lace, velvet dresses, and hundreds of things of
that sort, which belong to a certain rate of income, and are absurd
below it."

"And yet, mamma, I heard Aunt Easygo say that velvet, point-lace, and
Cashmere were the cheapest finery that could be bought, because they
lasted a lifetime."

"Aunt Easygo speaks from an income of ten thousand a year: they may be
cheap for her rate of living; but for us, for example, by no magic of
numbers can it be made to appear that it is cheaper to have the
greatest bargain in the world in Cashmere, lace, and diamonds than not
to have them at all. I never had a diamond, never wore a piece of
point-lace, never had a velvet dress, and have been perfectly happy,
and just as much respected as if I had. Who ever thought of objecting
to me for not having them? Nobody, that I ever heard."

"Certainly not, mamma," said Marianne.

"The thing I have always said to you girls is, that you were not to
expect to live like richer people, not to begin to try, not to think
or inquire about certain rates of expenditure, or take the first
step in certain directions. We have moved on all our life after a
very antiquated and old-fashioned mode. We have had our little,
old-fashioned house, our little old-fashioned ways."

"Except the parlor carpet, and what came of it, my dear," said I
mischievously.

"Yes, except the parlor carpet," said my wife, with a conscious
twinkle, "and the things that came of it; there was a concession
there, but one can't be wise always."

"_We_ talked mamma into that," said Jenny.

"But one thing is certain," said my wife,--"that, though I have had an
antiquated, plain house, and plain furniture, and plain dress, and not
the beginning of a thing such as many of my neighbors have possessed,
I have spent more money than many of them for real comforts. While I
had young children, I kept more and better servants than many women
who wore Cashmere and diamonds. I thought it better to pay extra wages
to a really good, trusty woman who lived with me from year to year,
and relieved me of some of my heaviest family cares, than to have ever
so much lace locked away in my drawers. We always were able to go into
the country to spend our summers, and to keep a good family horse and
carriage for daily driving,--by which means we afforded, as a family,
very poor patronage to the medical profession. Then we built our
house, and, while we left out a great many expensive commonplaces
that other people think they must have, we put in a profusion of
bathing accommodations such as very few people think of having. There
never was a time when we did not feel able to afford to do what was
necessary to preserve or to restore health; and for this I always drew
on the surplus fund laid up by my very unfashionable housekeeping and
dressing."

"Your mother has had," said I, "what is the great want in America,
perfect independence of mind to go her own way without regard to the
way others go. I think there is, for some reason, more false shame
among Americans about economy than among Europeans. 'I cannot afford
it' is more seldom heard among us. A young man beginning life, whose
income may be from five to eight hundred a year, thinks it elegant and
gallant to affect a careless air about money, especially among
ladies,--to hand it out freely, and put back his change without
counting it,--to wear a watch chain and studs and shirt-fronts like
those of some young millionaire. None but the most expensive tailors,
shoemakers, and hatters will do for him; and then he grumbles at the
dearness of living, and declares that he cannot get along on his
salary. The same is true of young girls, and of married men and women,
too,--the whole of them are ashamed of economy. The cares that wear
out life and health in many households are of a nature that cannot be
cast on God, or met by any promise from the Bible: it is not care for
'food convenient,' or for comfortable raiment, but care to keep up
false appearances, and to stretch a narrow income over the space that
can be covered only by a wider one.

"The poor widow in her narrow lodgings, with her monthly rent staring
her hourly in the face, and her bread and meat and candles and meal
all to be paid for on delivery or not obtained at all, may find
comfort in the good old Book, reading of that other widow whose
wasting measure of oil and last failing handful of meal were of such
account before her Father in heaven that a prophet was sent to recruit
them; and when customers do not pay, or wages are cut down, she can
enter into her chamber, and, when she hath shut her door, present to
her Father in heaven His sure promise that with the fowls of the air
she shall be fed and with the lilies of the field she shall be
clothed: but what promises are there for her who is racking her brains
on the ways and means to provide as sumptuous an entertainment of
oysters and champagne at her next party as her richer neighbor, or to
compass that great bargain which shall give her a point-lace set
almost as handsome as that of Mrs. Croesus, who has ten times her
income?"

"But, papa," said Marianne, with a twinge of that exacting sensitiveness
by which the child is characterized, "I think I am an economist,
thanks to you and mamma, so far as knowing just what my income is,
and keeping within it; but that does not satisfy me, and it seems that
isn't all of economy; the question that haunts me is, Might I not make
my little all do more and better than I do?"

"There," said I, "you have hit the broader and deeper signification of
economy, which is, in fact, the science of _comparative values_. In
its highest sense, economy is a just judgment of the comparative value
of things,--money only the means of enabling one to express that
value. This is the reason why the whole matter is so full of
difficulty,--why every one criticises his neighbor in this regard.
Human beings are so various, the necessities of each are so different,
they are made comfortable or uncomfortable by such opposite means,
that the spending of other people's incomes must of necessity often
look unwise from our standpoint. For this reason multitudes of people
who cannot be accused of exceeding their incomes often seem to others
to be spending them foolishly and extravagantly."

"But is there no standard of value?" said Marianne.

"There are certain things upon which there is a pretty general
agreement, verbally, at least, among mankind. For instance, it is
generally agreed that _health_ is an indispensable good,--that money
is well spent that secures it, and worse than ill spent that ruins
it.

"With this standard in mind, how much money is wasted even by people
who do not exceed their income! Here a man builds a house, and pays,
in the first place, ten thousand more than he need, for a location in
a fashionable part of the city, though the air will be closer and the
chances of health less; he spends three or four thousand more on a
stone front, on marble mantels imported from Italy, on plate-glass
windows, plated hinges, and a thousand nice points of finish, and has
perhaps but one bath-room for a whole household, and that so connected
with his own apartment that nobody but himself and his wife can use
it.

"Another man buys a lot in an open, airy situation, which fashion has
not made expensive, and builds without a stone front, marble mantels,
or plate-glass windows, but has a perfect system of ventilation
through his house, and bathing-rooms in every story, so that the
children and guests may all, without inconvenience, enjoy the luxury
of abundant water.

"The first spends for fashion and show, the second for health and
comfort.

"Here is a man that will buy his wife a diamond bracelet and a lace
shawl, and take her yearly to Washington to show off her beauty in
ball dresses, who yet will not let her pay wages which will command
any but the poorest and most inefficient domestic service. The woman
is worn out, her life made a desert by exhaustion consequent on a
futile attempt to keep up a showy establishment with only half the
hands needed for the purpose. Another family will give brilliant
parties, have a gay season every year at the first hotels at Newport,
and not be able to afford the wife a fire in her chamber in
midwinter, or the servants enough food to keep them from constantly
deserting. The damp, mouldy, dingy cellar-kitchen, the cold, windy,
desolate attic, devoid of any comfort, where the domestics are doomed
to pass their whole time, are witnesses to what such families consider
economy. Economy in the view of some is undisguised slipshod
slovenliness in the home circle for the sake of fine clothes to be
shown abroad; it is undisguised hard selfishness to servants and
dependants, counting their every approach to comfort a needless
waste,--grudging the Roman Catholic cook her cup of tea at dinner on
Friday, when she must not eat meat,--and murmuring that a cracked,
second-hand looking-glass must be got for the servants' room: what
business have they to want to know how they look?

"Some families will employ the cheapest physician, without regard to
his ability to kill or cure; some will treat diseases in their
incipiency with quack medicines, bought cheap, hoping thereby to fend
off the doctor's bill. Some women seem to be pursued by an evil demon
of economy, which, like an _ignis fatuus_ in a bog, delights
constantly to tumble them over into the mire of expense. They are
dismayed at the quantity of sugar in the recipe for preserves, leave
out a quarter, and the whole ferments and is spoiled. They cannot by
any means be induced at any one time to buy enough silk to make a
dress, and the dress finally, after many convulsions and alterations,
must be thrown by altogether as too scanty. They get poor needles,
poor thread, poor sugar, poor raisins, poor tea, poor coal. One
wonders, in looking at their blackened, smouldering grates in a
freezing day, what the fire is there at all for,--it certainly warms
nobody. The only thing they seem likely to be lavish in is funeral
expenses, which come in the wake of leaky shoes and imperfect
clothing. These funeral expenses at last swallow all, since nobody can
dispute an undertaker's bill. One pities these joyless beings.
Economy, instead of a rational act of the judgment, is a morbid
monomania, eating the pleasure out of life, and haunting them to the
grave.

"Some people's ideas of economy seem to run simply in the line of
eating. Their flour is of an extra brand, their meat the first cut;
the delicacies of every season, in their dearest stages, come home to
their table with an apologetic smile,--'It was scandalously dear, my
love, but I thought we must just treat ourselves.' And yet these
people cannot afford to buy books, and pictures they regard as an
unthought-of extravagance. Trudging home with fifty dollars' worth of
delicacies on his arm, Smith meets Jones, who is exulting with a bag
of crackers under one arm and a choice little bit of an oil painting
under the other, which he thinks a bargain at fifty dollars. '_I_
can't afford to buy pictures,' Smith says to his spouse, 'and I don't
know how Jones and his wife manage.' Jones and his wife will live on
bread and milk for a month, and she will turn her best gown the third
time, but they will have their picture, and they are happy. Jones's
picture remains, and Smith's fifty dollars' worth of oysters and
canned fruit to-morrow will be gone forever. Of all modes of spending
money, the swallowing of expensive dainties brings the least return.
There is one step lower than this,--the consuming of luxuries that are
injurious to the health. If all the money spent on tobacco and liquors
could be spent in books and pictures, I predict that nobody's health
would be a whit less sound, and houses would be vastly more
attractive. There is enough money spent in smoking, drinking, and
over-eating to give every family in the community a good library, to
hang everybody's parlor walls with lovely pictures, to set up in every
house a conservatory which should bloom all winter with choice
flowers, to furnish every dwelling with ample bathing and warming
accommodations, even down to the dwellings of the poor; and in the
millennium I believe this is the way things are to be.

"In these times of peril and suffering, if the inquiry arises, How
shall there be retrenchment? I answer, First and foremost, retrench
things needless, doubtful, and positively hurtful, as rum, tobacco,
and all the meerschaums of divers colors that do accompany the same.
Second, retrench all eating not necessary to health and comfort. A
French family would live in luxury on the leavings that are constantly
coming from the tables of those who call themselves in middling
circumstances. There are superstitions of the table that ought to be
broken through. Why must you always have cake in your closet? why need
you feel undone to entertain a guest with no cake on your tea-table?
Do without it a year, and ask yourselves if you or your children, or
any one else, have suffered materially in consequence.

"Why is it imperative that you should have two or three courses at
every meal? Try the experiment of having but one, and that a very good
one, and see if any great amount of suffering ensues. Why must social
intercourse so largely consist in eating? In Paris there is a very
pretty custom. Each family has one evening in the week when it stays
at home and receives friends. Tea, with a little bread and butter and
cake, served in the most informal way, is the only refreshment. The
rooms are full, busy, bright,--everything as easy and joyous as if a
monstrous supper, with piles of jelly and mountains of cake, were
waiting to give the company a nightmare at the close.

"Said a lady, pointing to a gentleman and his wife in a social circle
of this kind, 'I ought to know them well,--I have seen them every week
for twenty years.' It is certainly pleasant and confirmative of social
enjoyment for friends to eat together; but a little enjoyed in this
way answers the purpose as well as a great deal, and better, too."

"Well, papa," said Marianne, "in the matter of dress, now,--how much
ought one to spend just to look as others do?"

"I will tell you what I saw the other night, girls, in the parlor of
one of our hotels. Two middle-aged Quaker ladies came gliding in, with
calm, cheerful faces, and lustrous dove-colored silks. By their
conversation I found that they belonged to that class of women among
the Friends who devote themselves to traveling on missions of
benevolence. They had just completed a tour of all the hospitals for
wounded soldiers in the country, where they had been carrying
comforts, arranging, advising, and soothing by their cheerful, gentle
presence. They were now engaged on another mission, to the lost and
erring of their own sex; night after night, guarded by a policeman,
they had ventured after midnight into the dance-houses where girls are
being led to ruin, and with gentle words of tender, motherly counsel
sought to win them from their fatal ways,--telling them where they
might go the next day to find friends who would open to them an asylum
and aid them to seek a better life.

"As I looked upon these women, dressed with such modest purity, I
began secretly to think that the Apostle was not wrong when he spoke
of women adorning themselves with the _ornament_ of a meek and quiet
spirit; for the habitual gentleness of their expression, the calmness
and purity of the lines in their faces, the delicacy and simplicity of
their apparel, seemed of themselves a rare and peculiar beauty. I
could not help thinking that fashionable bonnets, flowing lace
sleeves, and dresses elaborately trimmed could not have improved even
their outward appearance. Doubtless their simple wardrobe needed but a
small trunk in traveling from place to place, and hindered but little
their prayers and ministrations.

"Now, it is true, all women are not called to such a life as this;
but might not all women take a leaf at least from their book? I submit
the inquiry humbly. It seems to me that there are many who go monthly
to the sacrament, and receive it with sincere devotion, and who give
thanks each time sincerely that they are thus made 'members
incorporate in the mystical body of Christ,' who have never thought of
this membership as meaning that they should share Christ's sacrifices
for lost souls, or abridge themselves of one ornament or encounter one
inconvenience for the sake of those wandering sheep for whom he died.
Certainly there is a higher economy which we need to learn,--that
which makes all things subservient to the spiritual and immortal, and
that not merely to the good of our own souls and those of our family,
but of all who are knit with us in the great bonds of human
brotherhood.

"There have been from time to time, among well-meaning Christian
people, retrenchment societies on high moral grounds, which have
failed for want of knowledge how to manage the complicated question of
necessaries and luxuries. These words have a signification in the case
of different people as varied as the varieties of human habit and
constitution. It is a department impossible to be bound by external
rules, but none the less should every high-minded Christian soul in
this matter have a law unto itself. It may safely be laid down as a
general rule, that no income, however large or however small, should
be unblessed by the divine touch of self-sacrifice. Something for the
poor, the sorrowing, the hungry, the tempted, and the weak should be
taken from _what is our own_ at the expense of some personal
sacrifice, or we suffer more morally than the brother from whom we
withdraw it. Even the Lord of all, when dwelling among men, out of
that slender private purse which he accepted for his little family of
chosen ones, had ever something reserved to give to the poor. It is
easy to say, 'It is but a drop in the bucket. I cannot remove the
great mass of misery in the world. What little I could save or give
does nothing.' It does this, if no more,--it prevents one soul, and
that soul your own, from drying and hardening into utter selfishness
and insensibility; it enables you to say, I have done something; taken
one atom from the great heap of sins and miseries and placed it on the
side of good.

"The Sisters of Charity and the Friends, each with their different
costume of plainness and self-denial, and other noble-hearted women of
no particular outward order, but kindred in spirit, have shown to
womanhood, on the battlefield and in the hospital, a more excellent
way,--a beauty and nobility before which all the common graces and
ornaments of the sex fade, appear like dim candles by the pure,
eternal stars."



IX

SERVANTS


In the course of my papers various domestic revolutions have occurred.
Our Marianne has gone from us with a new name to a new life, and a
modest little establishment not many squares off claims about as much
of my wife's and Jenny's busy thoughts as those of the proper
mistress.

Marianne, as I always foresaw, is a careful and somewhat anxious
housekeeper. Her tastes are fastidious; she is made for exactitude:
the smallest departures from the straight line appear to her shocking
deviations. She had always lived in a house where everything had been
formed to quiet and order under the ever-present care and touch of her
mother; nor had she ever participated in those cares more than to do a
little dusting of the parlor ornaments, or wash the best china, or
make sponge-cake or chocolate-caramels. Certain conditions of life had
always appeared so to be matters of course that she had never
conceived of a house without them. It never occurred to her that such
bread and biscuit as she saw at the home table would not always and of
course appear at every table,--that the silver would not always be as
bright, the glass as clear, the salt as fine and smooth, the plates
and dishes as nicely arranged, as she had always seen them, apparently
without the thought or care of any one; for my wife is one of those
housekeepers whose touch is so fine that no one feels it. She is never
heard scolding or reproving,--never entertains her company with her
recipes for cookery or the faults of her servants. She is so
unconcerned about receiving her own personal share of credit for the
good appearance of her establishment that even the children of the
house have not supposed that there is any particular will of hers in
the matter: it all seems the natural consequence of having very good
servants.

One phenomenon they had never seriously reflected on,--that, under all
the changes of the domestic cabinet which are so apt to occur in
American households, the same coffee, the same bread and biscuit, the
same nicely prepared dishes and neatly laid table, always gladdened
their eyes; and from this they inferred only that good servants were
more abundant than most people had supposed. They were somewhat
surprised when these marvels were wrought by professedly green hands,
but were given to suppose that these green hands must have had some
remarkable quickness or aptitude for acquiring. That sparkling jelly,
well-flavored ice-creams, clear soups, and delicate biscuits could be
made by a raw Irish girl, fresh from her native Erin, seemed to them a
proof of the genius of the race; and my wife, who never felt it
important to attain to the reputation of a cook, quietly let it pass.

For some time, therefore, after the inauguration of the new household,
there was trouble in the camp. Sour bread had appeared on the table;
bitter, acrid coffee had shocked and astonished the palate; lint had
been observed on tumblers, and the spoons had sometimes dingy streaks
on the brightness of their first bridal polish; beds were detected
made shockingly awry: and Marianne came burning with indignation to
her mother.

"Such a little family as we have, and two strong girls," said
she,--"everything ought to be perfect; there is really nothing to do.
Think of a whole batch of bread absolutely sour! and when I gave that
away, then this morning another exactly like it! and when I talked to
cook about it, she said she had lived in this and that family, and her
bread had always been praised as equal to the baker's!"

"I don't doubt she is right," said I. "Many families never have
anything but sour bread from one end of the year to the other, eating
it unperceiving, and with good cheer; and they buy also sour bread of
the baker, with like approbation,--lightness being in their estimation
the only virtue necessary in the article."

"Could you not correct her fault?" suggested my wife.

"I have done all I can. I told her we could not have such bread, that
it was dreadful; Bob says it would give him the dyspepsia in a week;
and then she went and made exactly the same! It seems to me mere
willfulness."

"But," said I, "suppose, instead of such general directions, you
should analyze her proceedings and find out just where she makes her
mistake: is the root of the trouble in the yeast, or in the time she
begins it, letting it rise too long?--the time, you know, should vary
so much with the temperature of the weather."

"As to that," said Marianne, "I know nothing. I never noticed; it
never was my business to make bread; it always seemed quite a simple
process, mixing yeast and flour and kneading it; and our bread at home
was always good."

"It seems, then, my dear, that you have come to your profession
without even having studied it."

My wife smiled and said,--

"You know, Marianne, I proposed to you to be our family bread-maker
for one month of the year before you married."

"Yes, mamma, I remember; but I was like other girls: I thought there
was no need of it. I never liked to do such things; perhaps I had
better have done it."

"You certainly had," said I, "for the first business of a housekeeper
in America is that of a teacher. She can have a good table only by
having practical knowledge, and tact in imparting it. If she
understands her business practically and experimentally, her eye
detects at once the weak spot; it requires only a little tact, some
patience, some clearness in giving directions, and all comes right. I
venture to say that your mother would have exactly such bread as
always appears on our table, and have it by the hands of your cook,
because she could detect and explain to her exactly her error."

"Do you know," said my wife, "what yeast she uses?"

"I believe," said Marianne, "it's a kind she makes herself. I think I
heard her say so. I know she makes a great fuss about it, and rather
values herself upon it. She is evidently accustomed to being praised
for her bread, and feels mortified and angry, and I don't know how to
manage her."

"Well," said I, "if you carry your watch to a watchmaker, and
undertake to show him how to regulate the machinery, he laughs and
goes on his own way; but if a brother-machinist makes suggestions, he
listens respectfully. So, when a woman who knows nothing of woman's
work undertakes to instruct one who knows more than she does, she
makes no impression; but a woman who has been trained experimentally,
and shows she understands the matter thoroughly, is listened to with
respect."

"I think," said my wife, "that your Bridget is worth teaching. She is
honest, well-principled, and tidy. She has good recommendations from
excellent families, whose ideas of good bread, it appears, differ from
ours; and with a little good-nature, tact, and patience, she will come
into your ways."

"But the coffee, mamma,--you would not imagine it to be from the same
bag with your own, so dark and so bitter; what do you suppose she has
done to it?"

"Simply this," said my wife. "She has let the berries stay a few
moments too long over the fire,--they are burnt, instead of being
roasted; and there are people who think it essential to good coffee
that it should look black, and have a strong, bitter flavor. A very
little change in the preparing will alter this."

"Now," said I, "Marianne, if you want my advice, I'll give it to you
gratis: make your own bread for one month. Simple as the process
seems, I think it will take as long as that to give you a thorough
knowledge of all the possibilities in the case; but after that you
will never need to make any more,--you will be able to command good
bread by the aid of all sorts of servants; you will, in other words,
be a thoroughly prepared teacher."

"I did not think," said Marianne, "that so simple a thing required so
much attention."

"It is simple," said my wife, "and yet requires a delicate care and
watchfulness. There are fifty ways to spoil good bread; there are a
hundred little things to be considered and allowed for that require
accurate observation and experience. The same process that will raise
good bread in cold weather will make sour bread in the heat of summer;
different qualities of flour require variations in treatment, as also
different sorts and conditions of yeast; and when all is done, the
baking presents another series of possibilities which require exact
attention."

"So it appears," said Marianne gayly, "that I must begin to study my
profession at the eleventh hour."

"Better late than never," said I. "But there is this advantage on your
side: a well-trained mind, accustomed to reflect, analyze, and
generalize, has an advantage over uncultured minds even of double
experience. Poor as your cook is, she now knows more of her business
than you do. After a very brief period of attention and experiment you
will not only know more than she does, but you will convince her that
you do, which is quite as much to the purpose."

"In the same manner," said my wife, "you will have to give lessons to
your other girl on the washing of silver and the making of beds. Good
servants do not often come to us: they must be _made_ by patience and
training; and if a girl has a good disposition and a reasonable degree
of handiness, and the housekeeper understands her profession, she may
make a good servant out of an indifferent one. Some of my best girls
have been those who came to me directly from the ship, with no
preparation but docility and some natural quickness. The hardest cases
to be managed are not of those who have been taught nothing, but of
those who have been taught wrongly,--who come to you self-opinionated,
with ways which are distasteful to you, and contrary to the genius of
your housekeeping. Such require that their mistress shall understand
at least so much of the actual conduct of affairs as to prove to the
servant that there are better ways than those in which she has
hitherto been trained."

"Don't you think, mamma," said Marianne, "that there has been a sort
of reaction against woman's work in our day? So much has been said of
the higher sphere of woman, and so much has been done to find some
better work for her, that insensibly, I think, almost everybody begins
to feel that it is rather degrading for a woman in good society to be
much tied down to family affairs."

"Especially," said my wife, "since in these Woman's Rights Conventions
there is so much indignation expressed at those who would confine her
ideas to the kitchen and nursery."

"There is reason in all things," said I. "Woman's Rights Conventions
are a protest against many former absurd, unreasonable ideas,--the
mere physical and culinary idea of womanhood as connected only with
puddings and shirt-buttons, the unjust and unequal burdens which the
laws of harsher ages had cast upon the sex. Many of the women
connected with these movements are as superior in everything properly
womanly as they are in exceptional talent and culture. There is no
manner of doubt that the sphere of woman is properly to be enlarged,
and that republican governments in particular are to be saved from
corruption and failure only by allowing to woman this enlarged sphere.
Every woman has rights as a human being first, which belong to no sex,
and ought to be as freely conceded to her as if she were a man,--and,
first and foremost, the great right of doing anything which God and
Nature evidently have fitted her to excel in. If she be made a natural
orator, like Miss Dickinson, or an astronomer, like Mrs. Somerville,
or a singer, like Grisi, let not the technical rules of womanhood be
thrown in the way of her free use of her powers. Nor can there be any
reason shown why a woman's vote in the state should not be received
with as much respect as in the family. A state is but an association
of families, and laws relate to the rights and immunities which touch
woman's most private and immediate wants and dearest hopes; and there
is no reason why sister, wife, and mother should be more powerless in
the state than in the home. Nor does it make a woman unwomanly to
express an opinion by dropping a slip of paper into a box, more than
to express that same opinion by conversation. In fact, there is no
doubt that, in all matters relating to the interests of education,
temperance, and religion, the state would be a material gainer by
receiving the votes of women.

"But, having said all this, I must admit, _per contra_, not only a
great deal of crude, disagreeable talk in these conventions, but a
too great tendency of the age to make the education of women
anti-domestic. It seems as if the world never could advance except
like ships under a head wind, tacking and going too far, now in
this direction and now in the opposite. Our common-school system
now rejects sewing from the education of girls, which very properly
used to occupy many hours daily in school a generation ago. The
daughters of laborers and artisans are put through algebra,
geometry, trigonometry, and the higher mathematics, to the entire
neglect of that learning which belongs distinctively to woman. A
girl cannot keep pace with her class if she gives any time to
domestic matters, and accordingly she is excused from them all
during the whole term of her education. The boy of a family, at an
early age, is put to a trade, or the labors of a farm; the father
becomes impatient of his support, and requires of him to care for
himself. Hence an interrupted education,--learning coming by
snatches in the winter months, or in the intervals of work. As the
result, the females in our country towns are commonly, in mental
culture, vastly in advance of the males of the same household; but
with this comes a physical delicacy, the result of an exclusive use
of the brain and a neglect of the muscular system, with great
inefficiency in practical domestic duties. The race of strong,
hardy, cheerful girls, that used to grow up in country places, and
made the bright, neat, New England kitchens of old times,--the
girls that could wash, iron, brew, bake, harness a horse and drive
him, no less than braid straw, embroider, draw, paint, and read
innumerable books,--this race of women, pride of olden time, is daily
lessening; and in their stead come the fragile, easily fatigued,
languid girls of a modern age, drilled in book-learning, ignorant
of common things. The great danger of all this, and of the evils
that come from it, is that society by and by will turn as blindly
against female intellectual culture as it now advocates it, and,
having worked disproportionately one way, will work disproportionately
in the opposite direction."

"The fact is," said my wife, "that domestic service is the great
problem of life here in America; the happiness of families, their
thrift, well-being, and comfort, are more affected by this than by any
one thing else. Our girls, as they have been brought up, cannot
perform the labor of their own families, as in those simpler,
old-fashioned days you tell of; and, what is worse, they have no
practical skill with which to instruct servants, and servants come to
us, as a class, raw and untrained; so what is to be done? In the
present state of prices, the board of a domestic costs double her
wages, and the waste she makes is a more serious matter still. Suppose
you give us an article upon this subject in your 'House and Home
Papers.' You could not have a better one."

       *       *       *       *       *

So I sat down, and wrote thus on


SERVANTS AND SERVICE

Many of the domestic evils in America originate in the fact that,
while society here is professedly based on new principles which ought
to make social life in every respect different from the life of the
Old World, yet these principles have never been so thought out and
applied as to give consistency and harmony to our daily relations.
America starts with a political organization based on a declaration of
the primitive freedom and equality of all men. Every human being,
according to this principle, stands on the same natural level with
every other, and has the same chance to rise, according to the degree
of power or capacity given by the Creator. All our civil institutions
are designed to preserve this equality, as far as possible, from
generation to generation: there is no entailed property, there are no
hereditary titles, no monopolies, no privileged classes,--all are to
be as free to rise and fall as the waves of the sea.

The condition of domestic service, however, still retains about it
something of the influences from feudal times, and from the near
presence of slavery in neighboring States. All English literature, all
the literature of the world, describes domestic service in the old
feudal spirit and with the old feudal language, which regarded the
master as belonging to a privileged class and the servant to an
inferior one. There is not a play, not a poem, not a novel, not a
history, that does not present this view. The master's rights, like
the rights of kings, were supposed to rest in his being born in a
superior rank. The good servant was one who, from childhood, had
learned "to order himself lowly and reverently to all his betters."
When New England brought to these shores the theory of democracy, she
brought, in the persons of the first pilgrims, the habits of thought
and of action formed in aristocratic communities. Winthrop's Journal,
and all the old records of the earlier colonists, show households
where masters and mistresses stood on the "right divine" of the
privileged classes, howsoever they might have risen up against
authorities themselves.

The first consequence of this state of things was a universal
rejection of domestic service in all classes of American-born society.
For a generation or two, there was, indeed, a sort of interchange of
family strength,--sons and daughters engaging in the service of
neighboring families, in default of a sufficient working force of
their own, but always on conditions of strict equality. The assistant
was to share the table, the family sitting-room, and every honor and
attention that might be claimed by son or daughter. When families
increased in refinement and education so as to make these conditions
of close intimacy with more uncultured neighbors disagreeable, they
had to choose between such intimacies and the performance of their
own domestic toil. No wages could induce a son or daughter of New
England to take the condition of a servant on terms which they thought
applicable to that of a slave. The slightest hint of a separate table
was resented as an insult; not to enter the front door, and not to sit
in the front parlor on state occasions, was bitterly commented on as a
personal indignity.

The well-taught, self-respecting daughters of farmers, the class most
valuable in domestic service, gradually retired from it. They
preferred any other employment, however laborious. Beyond all doubt,
the labors of a well-regulated family are more healthy, more cheerful,
more interesting, because less monotonous, than the mechanical toils
of a factory; yet the girls of New England, with one consent,
preferred the factory, and left the whole business of domestic service
to a foreign population; and they did it mainly because they would not
take positions in families as an inferior laboring class by the side
of others of their own age who assumed as their prerogative to live
without labor.

"I can't let you have one of my daughters," said an energetic matron
to her neighbor from the city, who was seeking for a servant in her
summer vacation; "if you hadn't daughters of your own, maybe I would;
but my girls ain't going to work so that your girls may live in
idleness."

It was vain to offer money. "We don't need your money, ma'am, we can
support ourselves in other ways; my girls can braid straw and bind
shoes, but they ain't going to be slaves to anybody."

In the Irish and German servants who took the place of Americans in
families, there was, to begin with, the tradition of education in
favor of a higher class; but even the foreign population became more
or less infected with the spirit of democracy. They came to this
country with vague notions of freedom and equality, and in ignorant
and uncultivated people such ideas are often more unreasonable for
being vague. They did not, indeed, claim a seat at the table and in
the parlor, but they repudiated many of those habits of respect and
courtesy which belonged to their former condition, and asserted their
own will and way in the round, unvarnished phrase which they supposed
to be their right as republican citizens. Life became a sort of
domestic wrangle and struggle between the employers, who secretly
confessed their weakness, but endeavored openly to assume the air and
bearing of authority, and the employed, who knew their power and
insisted on their privileges. From this cause domestic service in
America has had less of mutual kindliness than in old countries. Its
terms have been so ill understood and defined that both parties have
assumed the defensive; and a common topic of conversation in American
female society has often been the general servile war which in one
form or another was going on in their different families,--a war as
interminable as would be a struggle between aristocracy and common
people, undefined by any bill of rights or constitution, and therefore
opening fields for endless disputes. In England, the class who go to
service _are_ a class, and service is a profession; the distance
between them and their employers is so marked and defined, and all the
customs and requirements of the position are so perfectly understood,
that the master or mistress has no fear of being compromised by
condescension, and no need of the external voice or air of authority.
The higher up in the social scale one goes, the more courteous seems
to become the intercourse of master and servant; the more perfect and
real the power, the more is it veiled in outward expression,--commands
are phrased as requests, and gentleness of voice and manner covers an
authority which no one would think of offending without trembling.

But in America all is undefined. In the first place, there is no class
who mean to make domestic service a profession to live and die in. It
is universally an expedient, a stepping-stone to something higher;
your best servants always have something else in view as soon as they
have laid by a little money; some form of independence which shall
give them a home of their own is constantly in mind. Families look
forward to the buying of landed homesteads, and the scattered brothers
and sisters work awhile in domestic service to gain the common fund
for the purpose; your seamstress intends to become a dressmaker, and
take in work at her own house; your cook is pondering a marriage with
the baker, which shall transfer her toils from your cooking-stove to
her own. Young women are eagerly rushing into every other employment,
till female trades and callings are all overstocked. We are
continually harrowed with tales of the sufferings of distressed
needlewomen, of the exactions and extortions practiced on the frail
sex in the many branches of labor and trade at which they try their
hands; and yet women will encounter all these chances of ruin and
starvation rather than make up their minds to permanent domestic
service. Now what is the matter with domestic service? One would
think, on the face of it, that a calling which gives a settled home, a
comfortable room, rent-free, with fire and lights, good board and
lodging, and steady, well-paid wages, would certainly offer more
attractions than the making of shirts for tenpence, with all the risks
of providing one's own sustenance and shelter.

I think it is mainly from the want of a definite idea of the true
position of a servant under our democratic institutions that domestic
service is so shunned and avoided in America, that it is the very last
thing which an intelligent young woman will look to for a living. It
is more the want of personal respect toward those in that position
than the labors incident to it which repels our people from it. Many
would be willing to perform these labors, but they are not willing to
place themselves in a situation where their self-respect is hourly
wounded by _the implication of a degree of inferiority which does not
follow any kind of labor or service in this country but that of the
family_.

There exists in the minds of employers an unsuspected spirit of
superiority, which is stimulated into an active form by the resistance
which democracy inspires in the working class. Many families think of
servants only as a necessary evil, their wages as exactions, and all
that is allowed them as so much taken from the family; and they seek
in every way to get from them as much and to give them as little as
possible. Their rooms are the neglected, ill-furnished, incommodious
ones,--and the kitchen is the most cheerless and comfortless place in
the house. Other families, more good-natured and liberal, provide
their domestics with more suitable accommodations, and are more
indulgent; but there is still a latent spirit of something like
contempt for the position. That they treat their servants with so much
consideration seems to them a merit entitling them to the most
prostrate gratitude; and they are constantly disappointed and shocked
at that want of sense of inferiority on the part of these people which
leads them to appropriate pleasant rooms, good furniture, and good
living as mere matters of common justice.

It seems to be a constant surprise to some employers that servants
should insist on having the same human wants as themselves. Ladies who
yawn in their elegantly furnished parlors, among books and pictures,
if they have not company, parties, or opera to diversify the evening,
seem astonished and half indignant that cook and chambermaid are more
disposed to go out for an evening gossip than to sit on hard chairs in
the kitchen where they have been toiling all day. The pretty
chambermaid's anxieties about her dress, the time she spends at her
small and not very clear mirror, are sneeringly noticed by those whose
toilet-cares take up serious hours; and the question has never
apparently occurred to them why a serving-maid should not want to look
pretty as well as her mistress. She is a woman as well as they, with
all a woman's wants and weaknesses; and her dress is as much to her as
theirs to them.

A vast deal of trouble among servants arises from impertinent
interferences and petty tyrannical exactions on the part of employers.
Now the authority of the master and mistress of a house in regard to
their domestics extends simply to the things they have contracted to
do and the hours during which they have contracted to serve; otherwise
than this, they have no more right to interfere with them in the
disposal of their time than with any mechanic whom they employ. They
have, indeed, a right to regulate the hours of their own household,
and servants can choose between conformity to these hours and the loss
of their situation; but, within reasonable limits, their right to come
and go at their own discretion, in their own time, should be
unquestioned.

If employers are troubled by the fondness of their servants for
dancing, evening company, and late hours, the proper mode of
proceeding is to make these matters a subject of distinct contract in
hiring. The more strictly and perfectly the business matters of the
first engagement of domestics are conducted, the more likelihood there
is of mutual quiet and satisfaction in the relation. It is quite
competent to every housekeeper to say what practices are or are not
consistent with the rules of her family, and what will be inconsistent
with the service for which she agrees to pay. It is much better to
regulate such affairs by cool contract in the outset than by warm
altercations and protracted domestic battles.

As to the terms of social intercourse, it seems somehow to be settled
in the minds of many employers that their servants owe them and their
family more respect than they and the family owe to the servants. But
do they? What is the relation of servant to employer in a democratic
country? Precisely that of a person who for money performs any kind
of service for you. The carpenter comes into your house to put up a
set of shelves,--the cook comes into your kitchen to cook your dinner.
You never think that the carpenter owes you any more respect than you
owe to him because he is in your house doing your behests; he is your
fellow-citizen, you treat him with respect, you expect to be treated
with respect by him. You have a claim on him that he shall do your
work according to your directions,--no more. Now I apprehend that
there is a very common notion as to the position and rights of
servants which is quite different from this. Is it not a common
feeling that a servant is one who may be treated with a degree of
freedom by every member of the family which he or she may not return?
Do not people feel at liberty to question servants about their private
affairs, to comment on their dress and appearance, in a manner which
they would feel to be an impertinence if reciprocated? Do they not
feel at liberty to express dissatisfaction with their performances in
rude and unceremonious terms, to reprove them in the presence of
company, while yet they require that the dissatisfaction of servants
shall be expressed only in terms of respect? A woman would not feel
herself at liberty to talk to her milliner or her dressmaker in
language as devoid of consideration as she will employ towards her
cook or chambermaid. Yet both are rendering her a service which she
pays for in money, and one is no more made her inferior thereby than
the other. Both have an equal right to be treated with courtesy. The
master and mistress of a house have a right to require respectful
treatment from all whom their roof shelters, but they have no more
right to exact it of servants than of every guest and every child, and
they themselves owe it as much to servants as to guests.

In order that servants may be treated with respect and courtesy, it is
not necessary, as in simpler patriarchal days, that they sit at the
family table. Your carpenter or plumber does not feel hurt that you do
not ask him to dine with you, nor your milliner and mantua-maker that
you do not exchange ceremonious calls and invite them to your parties.
It is well understood that your relations with them are of a mere
business character. They never take it as an assumption of superiority
on your part that you do not admit them to relations of private
intimacy. There may be the most perfect respect and esteem and even
friendship between them and you, notwithstanding. So it may be in the
case of servants. It is easy to make any person understand that there
are quite other reasons than the assumption of personal superiority
for not wishing to admit servants to the family privacy. It was not,
in fact, to sit in the parlor or at the table, in themselves
considered, that was the thing aimed at by New England girls,--these
were valued only as signs that they were deemed worthy of respect and
consideration, and, where freely conceded, were often in point of fact
declined.

Let servants feel, in their treatment by their employers, and in the
atmosphere of the family, that their position is held to be a
respectable one, let them feel in the mistress of the family the charm
of unvarying consideration and good manners, let their work rooms be
made convenient and comfortable, and their private apartments bear
some reasonable comparison in point of agreeableness to those of other
members of the family, and domestic service will be more frequently
sought by a superior and self-respecting class. There are families in
which such a state of things prevails; and such families, amid the
many causes which unite to make the tenure of service uncertain, have
generally been able to keep good permanent servants.

There is an extreme into which kindly disposed people often run with
regard to servants, which may be mentioned here. They make pets of
them. They give extravagant wages and indiscreet indulgences, and,
through indolence and easiness of temper, tolerate neglect of duty.
Many of the complaints of the ingratitude of servants come from those
who have spoiled them in this way; while many of the longest and most
harmonious domestic unions have sprung from a simple, quiet course of
Christian justice and benevolence, a recognition of servants as
fellow-beings and fellow-Christians, and a doing to them as we would
in like circumstances that they should do to us.

The mistresses of American families, whether they like it or not, have
the duties of missionaries imposed upon them by that class from which
our supply of domestic servants is drawn. They may as well accept the
position cheerfully, and, as one raw, untrained hand after another
passes through their family, and is instructed by them in the
mysteries of good housekeeping, comfort themselves with the reflection
that they are doing something to form good wives and mothers for the
Republic.

The complaints made of Irish girls are numerous and loud; the failings
of green Erin, alas! are but too open and manifest; yet, in arrest of
judgment, let us move this consideration: let us imagine our own
daughters between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, untaught and
inexperienced in domestic affairs as they commonly are, shipped to a
foreign shore to seek service in families. It may be questioned
whether as a whole they would do much better. The girls that fill our
families and do our housework are often of the age of our own
daughters, standing for themselves, without mothers to guide them, in
a foreign country, not only bravely supporting themselves, but sending
home in every ship remittances to impoverished friends left behind. If
our daughters did as much for us, should we not be proud of their
energy and heroism?

When we go into the houses of our country, we find a majority of
well-kept, well-ordered, and even elegant establishments where the
only hands employed are those of the daughters of Erin. True, American
women have been their instructors, and many a weary hour of care have
they had in the discharge of this office; but the result on the whole
is beautiful and good, and the end of it, doubtless, will be peace.

In speaking of the office of the American mistress as being a
missionary one, we are far from recommending any controversial
interference with the religious faith of our servants. It is far
better to incite them to be good Christians in their own way than to
run the risk of shaking their faith in all religion by pointing out to
them the errors of that in which they have been educated. The general
purity of life and propriety of demeanor of so many thousands of
undefended young girls cast yearly upon our shores, with no home but
their church, and no shield but their religion, are a sufficient proof
that this religion exerts an influence over them not to be lightly
trifled with. But there is a real unity even in opposite Christian
forms; and the Roman Catholic servant and the Protestant mistress, if
alike possessed by the spirit of Christ, and striving to conform to
the Golden Rule, cannot help being one in heart, though one go to mass
and the other to meeting.

Finally, the bitter baptism through which we are passing, the life
blood dearer than our own which is drenching distant fields, should
remind us of the preciousness of distinctive American ideas. They who
would seek in their foolish pride to establish the pomp of liveried
servants in America are doing that which is simply absurd. A servant
can never in our country be the mere appendage to another man, to be
marked like a sheep with the color of his owner; he must be a
fellow-citizen, with an established position of his own, free to make
contracts, free to come and go, and having in his sphere titles to
consideration and respect just as definite as those of any trade or
profession whatever.

Moreover, we cannot in this country maintain to any great extent large
retinues of servants. Even with ample fortunes they are forbidden by
the general character of society here, which makes them cumbrous and
difficult to manage. Every mistress of a family knows that her cares
increase with every additional servant. Two keep the peace with each
other and their employer; three begin a possible discord, which
possibility increases with four, and becomes certain with five or six.
Trained housekeepers, such as regulate the complicated establishments
of the Old World, form a class that are not, and from the nature of
the case never will be, found in any great numbers in this country.
All such women, as a general thing, are keeping, and prefer to keep,
houses of their own.

A moderate style of housekeeping, small, compact, and simple domestic
establishments, must necessarily be the general order of life in
America. So many openings of profit are to be found in this country
that domestic service necessarily wants the permanence which forms so
agreeable a feature of it in the Old World. This being the case, it
should be an object in America to exclude from the labors of the
family all that can, with greater advantage, be executed out of it by
combined labor.

Formerly, in New England, soap and candles were to be made in each
separate family; now, comparatively few take this toil upon them. We
buy soap of the soap-maker, and candles of the candle-factor. This
principle might be extended much further. In France no family makes
its own bread, and better bread cannot be eaten than what can be
bought at the appropriate shops. No family does its own washing; the
family's linen is all sent to women who, making this their sole
profession, get it up with a care and nicety which can seldom be
equaled in any family.

How would it simplify the burdens of the American housekeeper to have
washing and ironing day expunged from her calendar! How much more
neatly and compactly could the whole domestic system be arranged! If
all the money that each separate family spends on the outfit and
accommodations for washing and ironing, on fuel, soap, starch, and the
other et ceteras, were united in a fund to create a laundry for every
dozen families, one or two good women could do in firstrate style what
now is very indifferently done by the disturbance and disarrangement
of all other domestic processes in these families. Whoever sets
neighborhood laundries on foot will do much to solve the American
housekeeper's hardest problem.

Finally, American women must not try with three servants to carry on
life in the style which in the Old World requires sixteen: they must
thoroughly understand, and be prepared _to teach_, every branch of
housekeeping; they must study to make domestic service desirable by
treating their servants in a way to lead them to respect themselves
and to feel themselves respected; and there will gradually be evolved
from the present confusion a solution of the domestic problem which
shall be adapted to the life of a new and growing world.



X

COOKERY


My wife and I were sitting at the open bow-window of my study,
watching the tuft of bright-red leaves on our favorite maple, which
warned us that summer was over. I was solacing myself, like all the
world in our days, with reading the "Schönberg Cotta Family," when my
wife made her voice heard through the enchanted distance, and
dispersed the pretty vision of German cottage life.

"Chris!"

"Well, my dear."

"Do you know the day of the month?"

Now my wife knows this is a thing that I never do know, that I can't
know, and in fact that there is no need I should trouble myself about,
since she always knows, and, what is more, always tells me. In fact,
the question, when asked by her, meant more than met the ear. It was a
delicate way of admonishing me that another paper for the "Atlantic"
ought to be in train; and so I answered, not to the external form, but
to the internal intention,--

"Well, you see, my dear, I haven't made up my mind what my next paper
shall be about."

"Suppose, then, you let me give you a subject."

"Sovereign lady, speak on! Your slave hears!"

"Well, then, take _Cookery_. It may seem a vulgar subject, but I think
more of health and happiness depends on that than on any other one
thing. You may make houses enchantingly beautiful, hang them with
pictures, have them clean and airy and convenient; but if the stomach
is fed with sour bread and burnt coffee, it will raise such rebellions
that the eyes will see no beauty anywhere. Now, in the little tour
that you and I have been taking this summer, I have been thinking of
the great abundance of splendid material we have in America, compared
with the poor cooking. How often, in our stoppings, we have sat down
to tables loaded with material, originally of the very best kind,
which had been so spoiled in the treatment that there was really
nothing to eat! Green biscuits with acrid spots of alkali; sour
yeast-bread; meat slowly simmered in fat till it seemed like grease
itself, and slowly congealing in cold grease; and, above all, that
unpardonable enormity, strong butter! How often I have longed to show
people what might have been done with the raw material out of which
all these monstrosities were concocted!"

"My dear," said I, "you are driving me upon delicate ground. Would you
have your husband appear in public with that most opprobrious badge
of the domestic furies, a dishcloth, pinned to his coat-tail? It is
coming to exactly the point I have always predicted, Mrs. Crowfield:
you must write yourself. I always told you that you could write far
better than I, if you would only try. Only sit down and write as you
sometimes talk to me, and I might hang up my pen by the side of 'Uncle
Ned's' fiddle and bow."

"Oh, nonsense!" said my wife. "I never could write. I know what ought
to be said, and I could _say_ it to any one; but my ideas freeze in
the pen, cramp in my fingers, and make my brain seem like heavy bread.
I was born for extemporary speaking. Besides, I think the best things
on all subjects in this world of ours are said, not by the practical
workers, but by the careful observers."

"Mrs. Crowfield, that remark is as good as if I had made it myself,"
said I. "It is true that I have been all my life a speculator and
observer in all domestic matters, having them so confidentially
under my eye in our own household; and so, if I write on a pure
woman's matter, it must be understood that I am only your pen and
mouthpiece,--only giving tangible form to wisdom which I have
derived from you."

So down I sat and scribbled, while my sovereign lady quietly stitched
by my side. And here I tell my reader that I write on such a subject
under protest,--declaring again my conviction that, if my wife only
believed in herself as firmly as I do, she would write so that nobody
would ever want to listen to me again.


COOKERY

We in America have the raw material of provision in greater
abundance than any other nation. There is no country where an ample,
well-furnished table is more easily spread, and for that reason,
perhaps, none where the bounties of Providence are more generally
neglected. I do not mean to say that the traveler through the length
and breadth of our land could not, on the whole, find an average of
comfortable subsistence; yet, considering that our resources are
greater than those of any other civilized people, our results are
comparatively poorer.

It is said that, a list of the summer vegetables which are exhibited
on New York hotel tables being shown to a French _artiste_, he
declared that to serve such a dinner properly would take till
midnight. I recollect how I was once struck with our national
plenteousness on returning from a Continental tour, and going directly
from the ship to a New York hotel, in the bounteous season of autumn.
For months I had been habituated to my neat little bits of chop or
poultry garnished with the inevitable cauliflower or potato, which
seemed to be the sole possibility after the reign of green peas was
over. Now I sat down all at once to a carnival of vegetables,--ripe,
juicy tomatoes, raw or cooked; cucumbers in brittle slices; rich,
yellow sweet potatoes; broad Lima-beans, and beans of other and
various names; tempting ears of Indian corn steaming in enormous
piles, and great smoking tureens of the savory succotash, an Indian
gift to the table for which civilization need not blush; sliced
egg-plant in delicate fritters; and marrow squashes, of creamy pulp
and sweetness: a rich variety, embarrassing to the appetite, and
perplexing to the choice. Verily, the thought has often impressed
itself on my mind that the vegetarian doctrine preached in America
left a man quite as much as he had capacity to eat or enjoy, and that
in the midst of such tantalizing abundance he really lost the apology
which elsewhere bears him out in preying upon his less gifted and
accomplished animal neighbors.

But with all this, the American table, taken as a whole, is inferior
to that of England or France. It presents a fine abundance of
material, carelessly and poorly treated. The management of food is
nowhere in the world, perhaps, more slovenly and wasteful. Everything
betokens that want of care that waits on abundance; there are great
capabilities and poor execution. A tourist through England can seldom
fail, at the quietest country inn, of finding himself served with the
essentials of English table comfort,--his mutton-chop done to a turn,
his steaming little private apparatus for concocting his own tea, his
choice pot of marmalade or slice of cold ham, and his delicate rolls
and creamy butter, all served with care and neatness. In France, one
never asks in vain for delicious _café-au-lait_, good bread and
butter, a nice omelet, or some savory little portion of meat with a
French name. But to a tourist taking like chance in American country
fare, what is the prospect? What is the coffee? what the tea? and the
meat? and, above all, the butter?

In lecturing on cookery, as on housebuilding, I divide the subject
into, not four, but five grand elements: first, Bread; second, Butter;
third, Meat; fourth, Vegetables; and fifth, Tea,--by which I mean,
generically, all sorts of warm, comfortable drinks served out in
teacups, whether they be called tea, coffee, chocolate, broma, or what
not.

I affirm that, if these five departments are all perfect, the great
ends of domestic cookery are answered, so far as the comfort and
well-being of life are concerned. I am aware that there exists another
department, which is often regarded by culinary amateurs and young
aspirants as the higher branch and very collegiate course of practical
cookery; to wit, confectionery, by which I mean to designate all
pleasing and complicated compounds of sweets and spices, devised not
for health and nourishment, and strongly suspected of interfering with
both,--mere tolerated gratifications of the palate, which we eat, not
with the expectation of being benefited, but only with the hope of not
being injured by them. In this large department rank all sorts of
cakes, pies, preserves, ices, etc. I shall have a word or two to say
under this head before I have done. I only remark now that, in my
tours about the country, I have often had a virulent ill-will excited
towards these works of culinary supererogation, because I thought
their excellence was attained by treading under foot and disregarding
the five grand essentials. I have sat at many a table garnished with
three or four kinds of well-made cake, compounded with citron and
spices and all imaginable good things, where the meat was tough and
greasy, the bread some hot preparation of flour, lard, saleratus, and
acid, and the butter unutterably detestable. At such tables I have
thought that, if the mistress of the feast had given the care, time,
and labor to preparing the simple items of bread, butter, and meat
that she evidently had given to the preparation of these extras, the
lot of a traveler might be much more comfortable. Evidently she never
had thought of these common articles as constituting a good table. So
long as she had puff pastry, rich black cake, clear jelly, and
preserves, she seemed to consider that such unimportant matters as
bread, butter, and meat could take care of themselves. It is the same
inattention to common things as that which leads people to build
houses with stone fronts and window-caps and expensive front-door
trimmings, without bathing-rooms or fireplaces or ventilators.

Those who go into the country looking for summer board in farmhouses
know perfectly well that a table where the butter is always fresh, the
tea and coffee of the best kinds and well made, and the meats properly
kept, dressed, and served, is the one table of a hundred, the fabulous
enchanted island. It seems impossible to get the idea into the minds
of people that what is called common food, carefully prepared,
becomes, in virtue of that very care and attention, a delicacy,
superseding the necessity of artificially compounded dainties.

To begin, then, with the very foundation of a good table,--_Bread_:
What ought it to be? It should be light, sweet, and tender.

This matter of lightness is the distinctive line between savage and
civilized bread. The savage mixes simple flour and water into balls of
paste, which he throws into boiling water, and which come out solid,
glutinous masses, of which his common saying is, "Man eat dis, he no
die,"--which a facetious traveler who was obliged to subsist on it
interpreted to mean, "Dis no kill you, nothing will." In short, it
requires the stomach of a wild animal or of a savage to digest this
primitive form of bread, and of course more or less attention in all
civilized modes of bread making is given to producing lightness. By
lightness is meant simply that the particles are to be separated from
each other by little holes or air-cells; and all the different methods
of making light bread are neither more nor less than the formation in
bread of these air-cells.

So far as we know, there are four practicable methods of aerating
bread, namely, by fermentation; by effervescence of an acid and an
alkali; by aerated egg, or egg which has been filled with air by the
process of beating; and, lastly, by pressure of some gaseous substance
into the paste, by a process much resembling the impregnation of water
in a soda fountain. All these have one and the same object,--to give
us the cooked particles of our flour separated by such permanent
air-cells as will enable the stomach more readily to digest them.

A very common mode of aerating bread in America is by the effervescence
of an acid and an alkali in the flour. The carbonic acid gas thus formed
produces minute air-cells in the bread, or, as the cook says, makes it
light. When this process is performed with exact attention to
chemical laws, so that the acid and alkali completely neutralize each
other, leaving no overplus of either, the result is often very
palatable. The difficulty is, that this is a happy conjunction of
circumstances which seldom occurs. The acid most commonly employed is
that of sour milk, and, as milk has many degrees of sourness, the rule
of a certain quantity of alkali to the pint must necessarily produce
very different results at different times. As an actual fact, where
this mode of making bread prevails, as we lament to say it does to a
great extent in this country, one finds five cases of failure to one
of success. It is a woful thing that the daughters of New England have
abandoned the old respectable mode of yeast brewing and bread raising
for this specious substitute, so easily made, and so seldom well
made. The green, clammy, acrid substance called biscuit, which many
of our worthy republicans are obliged to eat in these days, is
wholly unworthy of the men and women of the Republic. Good patriots
ought not to be put off in that way,--they deserve better fare.

As an occasional variety, as a household convenience for obtaining
bread or biscuit at a moment's notice, the process of effervescence
may be retained; but we earnestly entreat American housekeepers, in
Scriptural language, to stand in the way and ask for the old paths,
and return to the good yeast-bread of their sainted grandmothers.

If acid and alkali must be used, by all means let them be mixed in due
proportions. No cook should be left to guess and judge for herself
about this matter. There is an article, called "Preston's Infallible
Yeast Powder," which is made by chemical rule, and produces very
perfect results. The use of this obviates the worst dangers in making
bread by effervescence.

Of all processes of aeration in bread-making, the oldest and most
time-honored is by fermentation. That this was known in the days of
our Saviour is evident from the forcible simile in which he compares
the silent permeating force of truth in human society to the very
familiar household process of raising bread by a little yeast.

There is, however, one species of yeast, much used in some parts of
the country, against which I have to enter my protest. It is called
salt-risings, or milk-risings, and is made by mixing flour, milk, and
a little salt together and leaving them to ferment. The bread thus
produced is often very attractive, when new and made with great care.
It is white and delicate, with fine, even air-cells. It has, however,
when kept, some characteristics which remind us of the terms in which
our old English Bible describes the effect of keeping the manna of the
ancient Israelites, which we are informed, in words more explicit than
agreeable, "stank, and bred worms." If salt-rising bread does not
fulfill the whole of this unpleasant description, it certainly does
emphatically a part of it. The smell which it has in baking, and when
more than a day old, suggests the inquiry whether it is the saccharine
or the putrid fermentation with which it is raised. Whoever breaks a
piece of it after a day or two will often see minute filaments or
clammy strings drawing out from the fragments, which, with the
unmistakable smell, will cause him to pause before consummating a
nearer acquaintance.

The fermentation of flour by means of brewer's or distiller's yeast
produces, if rightly managed, results far more palatable and
wholesome. The only requisites for success in it are, first, good
materials, and, second, great care in a few small things. There are
certain low-priced or damaged kinds of flour which can never by any
kind of domestic chemistry be made into good bread; and to those
persons whose stomachs forbid them to eat gummy, glutinous paste,
under the name of bread, there is no economy in buying these poor
brands, even at half the price of good flour.

But good flour and good yeast being supposed, with a temperature
favorable to the development of fermentation, the whole success of the
process depends on the thorough diffusion of the proper proportion
of yeast through the whole mass, and on stopping the subsequent
fermentation at the precise and fortunate point. The true housewife
makes her bread the sovereign of her kitchen,--its behests must be
attended to in all critical points and moments, no matter what else
be postponed. She who attends to her bread when she has done this,
and arranged that, and performed the other, very often finds that the
forces of nature will not wait for her. The snowy mass, perfectly
mixed, kneaded with care and strength, rises in its beautiful
perfection till the moment comes for fixing the air-cells by
baking. A few minutes now, and the acetous fermentation will begin,
and the whole result be spoiled. Many bread-makers pass in utter
carelessness over this sacred and mysterious boundary. Their oven has
cake in it, or they are skimming jelly, or attending to some other
of the so-called higher branches of cookery, while the bread is
quickly passing into the acetous stage. At last, when they are ready
to attend to it, they find that it has been going its own way,--it is
so sour that the pungent smell is plainly perceptible. Now the
saleratus-bottle is handed down, and a quantity of the dissolved
alkali mixed with the paste,--an expedient sometimes making itself
too manifest by greenish streaks or small acrid spots in the bread. As
the result, we have a beautiful article spoiled,--bread without
sweetness, if not absolutely sour.

In the view of many, lightness is the only property required in this
article. The delicate, refined sweetness which exists in carefully
kneaded bread, baked just before it passes to the extreme point of
fermentation, is something of which they have no conception; and thus
they will even regard this process of spoiling the paste by the
acetous fermentation, and then rectifying that acid by effervescence
with an alkali, as something positively meritorious. How else can they
value and relish baker's loaves, such as some are, drugged with
ammonia and other disagreeable things, light indeed, so light that
they seem to have neither weight nor substance, but with no more
sweetness or taste than so much white cotton?

Some persons prepare bread for the oven by simply mixing it in the
mass, without kneading, pouring it into pans, and suffering it to rise
there. The air-cells in bread thus prepared are coarse and uneven; the
bread is as inferior in delicacy and nicety to that which is well
kneaded as a raw Irish servant to a perfectly educated and refined
lady. The process of kneading seems to impart an evenness to the
minute air-cells, a fineness of texture, and a tenderness and
pliability to the whole substance, that can be gained in no other
way.

The divine principle of beauty has its reign over bread as well as
over all other things; it has its laws of æsthetics; and that bread
which is so prepared that it can be formed into separate and
well-proportioned loaves, each one carefully worked and moulded,
will develop the most beautiful results. After being moulded, the
loaves should stand a little while, just long enough to allow the
fermentation going on in them to expand each little air-cell to
the point at which it stood before it was worked down, and then
they should be immediately put into the oven.

Many a good thing, however, is spoiled in the oven. We cannot but
regret, for the sake of bread, that our old steady brick ovens
have been almost universally superseded by those of ranges and
cooking-stoves, which are infinite in their caprices, and forbid all
general rules. One thing, however, may be borne in mind as a
principle,--that the excellence of bread in all its varieties,
plain or sweetened, depends on the perfection of its air-cells,
whether produced by yeast, egg, or effervescence; that one of the
objects of baking is to fix these air-cells, and that the quicker this
can be done through the whole mass, the better will the result be.
When cake or bread is made heavy by baking too quickly, it is
because the immediate formation of the top crust hinders the
exhaling of the moisture in the centre, and prevents the air-cells
from cooking. The weight also of the crust pressing down on the
doughy air-cells below destroys them, producing that horror of good
cooks, a heavy streak. The problem in baking, then, is the quick
application of heat rather below than above the loaf, and its steady
continuance till all the air-cells are thoroughly dried into
permanent consistency. Every housewife must watch her own oven to
know how this can be best accomplished.

Bread-making can be cultivated to any extent as a fine art; and the
various kinds of biscuit, tea-rusks, twists, rolls, into which bread
may be made, are much better worth a housekeeper's ambition than the
getting up of rich and expensive cake or confections. There are also
varieties of material which are rich in good effects. Unbolted flour,
altogether more wholesome than the fine wheat, and when properly
prepared more palatable, rye-flour and corn-meal, each affording a
thousand attractive possibilities,--each and all of these come under
the general laws of breadstuffs, and are worth a careful attention.

A peculiarity of our American table, particularly in the Southern and
Western States, is the constant exhibition of various preparations of
hot bread. In many families of the South and West, bread in loaves to
be eaten cold is an article quite unknown. The effect of this kind of
diet upon the health has formed a frequent subject of remark among
travelers; but only those know the full mischiefs of it who have been
compelled to sojourn for a length of time in families where it is
maintained. The unknown horrors of dyspepsia from bad bread are a
topic over which we willingly draw a veil.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next to bread comes _butter_,--on which we have to say that, when we
remember what butter is in civilized Europe, and compare it with what
it is in America, we wonder at the forbearance and lenity of travelers
in their strictures on our national commissariat.

Butter in England, France, and Italy is simply solidified cream, with
all the sweetness of the cream in its taste, freshly churned each day,
and unadulterated by salt. At the present moment, when salt is five
cents a pound and butter fifty, we Americans are paying, I should
judge from the taste, for about one pound of salt to every ten of
butter, and those of us who have eaten the butter of France and
England do this with rueful recollections.

There is, it is true, an article of butter made in the American style
with salt, which, in its own kind and way, has a merit not inferior to
that of England and France. Many prefer it, and it certainly takes a
rank equally respectable with the other. It is yellow, hard, and
worked so perfectly free from every particle of buttermilk that it
might make the voyage of the world without spoiling. It is salted, but
salted with care and delicacy, so that it may be a question whether
even a fastidious Englishman might not prefer its golden solidity to
the white, creamy freshness of his own. Now I am not for universal
imitation of foreign customs, and where I find this butter made
perfectly I call it our American style, and am not ashamed of it. I
only regret that this article is the exception, and not the rule, on
our tables. When I reflect on the possibilities which beset the
delicate stomach in this line, I do not wonder that my venerated
friend Dr. Mussey used to close his counsels to invalids with the
direction, "And don't eat grease on your bread."

America must, I think, have the credit of manufacturing and putting
into market more bad butter than all that is made in all the rest of
the world together. The varieties of bad tastes and smells which
prevail in it are quite a study. This has a cheesy taste, that a
mouldy,--this is flavored with cabbage, and that again with turnip;
and another has the strong, sharp savor of rancid animal fat. These
varieties, I presume, come from the practice of churning only at long
intervals, and keeping the cream meanwhile in unventilated cellars or
dairies, the air of which is loaded with the effluvia of vegetable
substances. No domestic articles are so sympathetic as those of the
milk tribe: they readily take on the smell and taste of any
neighboring substance, and hence the infinite variety of flavors on
which one mournfully muses who has late in autumn to taste twenty
firkins of butter in hopes of finding one which will simply not be
intolerable on his winter table.

A matter for despair as regards bad butter is that, at the tables
where it is used, it stands sentinel at the door to bar your way to
every other kind of food. You turn from your dreadful half-slice of
bread, which fills your mouth with bitterness, to your beefsteak,
which proves virulent with the same poison; you think to take refuge
in vegetable diet, and find the butter in the string-beans, and
polluting the innocence of early peas; it is in the corn, in the
succotash, in the squash; the beets swim in it, the onions have it
poured over them. Hungry and miserable, you think to solace yourself
at the dessert; but the pastry is cursed, the cake is acrid with the
same plague. You are ready to howl with despair, and your misery is
great upon you, especially if this is a table where you have taken
board for three months with your delicate wife and four small
children. Your case is dreadful,--and it is hopeless, because long
usage and habit have rendered your host perfectly incapable of
discovering what is the matter. "Don't like the butter, sir? I assure
you I paid an extra price for it, and it's the very best in the
market. I looked over as many as a hundred tubs, and picked out this
one." You are dumb, but not less despairing.

Yet the process of making good butter is a very simple one. To keep
the cream in a perfectly pure, cool atmosphere, to churn while it is
yet sweet, to work out the buttermilk thoroughly, and to add salt with
such discretion as not to ruin the fine, delicate flavor of the fresh
cream,--all this is quite simple, so simple that one wonders at
thousands and millions of pounds of butter yearly manufactured which
are merely a hobgoblin-bewitchment of cream into foul and loathsome
poisons.

       *       *       *       *       *

The third head of my discourse is that of _Meat_, of which America
furnishes, in the gross material, enough to spread our tables royally,
were it well cared for and served.

The faults in the meat generally furnished to us are, first, that it
is too new. A beefsteak, which three or four days of keeping might
render practicable, is served up to us palpitating with freshness,
with all the toughness of animal muscle yet warm. In the Western
country, the traveler, on approaching an hotel, is often saluted by
the last shrieks of the chickens which half an hour afterward are
presented to him à la spread-eagle for his dinner. The example of the
Father of the Faithful, most wholesome to be followed in so many
respects, is imitated only in the celerity with which the young calf,
tender and good, was transformed into an edible dish for hospitable
purposes. But what might be good housekeeping in a nomadic Emir, in
days when refrigerators were yet in the future, ought not to be so
closely imitated as it often is in our own land.

In the next place, there is a woful lack of nicety in the butcher's
work of cutting and preparing meat. Who that remembers the neatly
trimmed mutton-chop of an English inn, or the artistic little circle
of lamb-chop fried in bread-crumbs coiled around a tempting centre of
spinach which can always be found in France, can recognize any family
resemblance to these dapper civilized preparations in those coarse,
roughly hacked strips of bone, gristle, and meat which are commonly
called mutton-chop in America? There seems to be a large dish of
something resembling meat, in which each fragment has about two or
three edible morsels, the rest being composed of dry and burnt skin,
fat, and ragged bone.

Is it not time that civilization should learn to demand somewhat
more care and nicety in the modes of preparing what is to be cooked
and eaten? Might not some of the refinement and trimness which
characterize the preparations of the European market be with
advantage introduced into our own? The housekeeper who wishes to
garnish her table with some of those nice things is stopped in the
outset by the butcher. Except in our large cities, where some
foreign travel may have created the demand, it seems impossible to
get much in this line that is properly prepared.

I am aware that, if this is urged on the score of æsthetics, the ready
reply will be, "Oh, we can't give time here in America to go into
niceties and French whim-whams!" But the French mode of doing almost
all practical things is based on that true philosophy and utilitarian
good sense which characterize that seemingly thoughtless people.
Nowhere is economy a more careful study, and their market is
artistically arranged to this end. The rule is so to cut their meats
that no portion designed to be cooked in a certain manner shall have
wasteful appendages which that mode of cooking will spoil. The French
soup kettle stands ever ready to receive the bones, the thin fibrous
flaps, the sinewy and gristly portions, which are so often included in
our roasts or broilings, which fill our plates with unsightly débris,
and finally make an amount of blank waste for which we pay our butcher
the same price that we pay for what we have eaten.

The dead waste of our clumsy, coarse way of cutting meats is immense.
For example, at the beginning of the present season, the part of a
lamb denominated leg and loin, or hind-quarter, sold for thirty cents
a pound. Now this includes, besides the thick, fleshy portions, a
quantity of bone, sinew, and thin fibrous substance, constituting
full one third of the whole weight. If we put it into the oven entire,
in the usual manner, we have the thin parts overdone, and the skinny
and fibrous parts utterly dried up, by the application of the amount
of heat necessary to cook the thick portion. Supposing the joint to
weigh six pounds, at thirty cents, and that one third of the weight is
so treated as to become perfectly useless, we throw away sixty cents.
Of a piece of beef at twenty-five cents a pound, fifty cents' worth is
often lost in bone, fat, and burnt skin.

The fact is, this way of selling and cooking meat in large, gross
portions is of English origin, and belongs to a country where all the
customs of society spring from a class who have no particular occasion
for economy. The practice of minute and delicate division comes from a
nation which acknowledges the need of economy, and has made it a
study. A quarter of lamb in this mode of division would be sold in
three nicely prepared portions. The thick part would be sold by
itself, for a neat, compact little roast; the rib-bones would be
artistically separated, and all the edible matters scraped away would
form those delicate dishes of lamb-chop which, fried in bread-crumbs
to a golden brown, are so ornamental and so palatable a side-dish; the
trimmings which remain after this division would be destined to the
soup kettle or stew pan. In a French market is a little portion for
every purse, and the far-famed and delicately flavored soups and stews
which have arisen out of French economy are a study worth a
housekeeper's attention. Not one atom of food is wasted in the French
modes of preparation; even tough animal cartilages and sinews, instead
of appearing burnt and blackened in company with the roast meat to
which they happen to be related, are treated according to their own
laws, and come out either in savory soups, or those fine, clear
meat-jellies which form a garnish no less agreeable to the eye than
palatable to the taste.

Whether this careful, economical, practical style of meat cooking
can ever to any great extent be introduced into our kitchens now is a
question. Our butchers are against it; our servants are wedded to
the old wholesale wasteful ways, which seem to them easier because
they are accustomed to them. A cook who will keep and properly tend
a soup kettle which shall receive and utilize all that the coarse
preparations of the butcher would require her to trim away, who
understands the art of making the most of all these remains, is a
treasure scarcely to be hoped for. If such things are to be done,
it must be primarily through the educated brain of cultivated women
who do not scorn to turn their culture and refinement upon domestic
problems.

When meats have been properly divided--so that each portion can
receive its own appropriate style of treatment--next comes the
consideration of the modes of cooking. These may be divided into two
great general classes: those where it is desired to keep the juices
within the meat, as in baking, broiling, and frying; and those whose
object is to extract the juice and dissolve the fibre, as in the
making of soups and stews. In the first class of operations, the
process must be as rapid as may consist with the thorough cooking
of all the particles. In this branch of cookery, doing quickly is
doing well. The fire must be brisk, the attention alert. The
introduction of cooking-stoves offers to careless domestics
facilities for gradually drying up meats, and despoiling them of
all flavor and nutriment,--facilities which appear to be very
generally laid hold of. They have almost banished the genuine,
old-fashioned roast meat from our tables, and left in its stead dried
meats with their most precious and nutritive juices evaporated. How
few cooks, unassisted, are competent to the simple process of broiling
a beefsteak or mutton-chop! how very generally one has to choose
between these meats gradually dried away, or burned on the outside
and raw within! Yet in England these articles _never_ come on
table done amiss; their perfect cooking is as absolute a certainty
as the rising of the sun.

No one of these rapid processes of cooking, however, is so generally
abused as frying. The frying-pan has awful sins to answer for. What
untold horrors of dyspepsia have arisen from its smoky depths, like
the ghosts from witches' caldrons! The fizzle of frying meat is as a
warning knell on many an ear, saying, "Touch not, taste not, if you
would not burn and writhe!"

Yet those who have traveled abroad remember that some of the lightest,
most palatable, and most digestible preparations of meat have come
from this dangerous source. But we fancy quite other rites and
ceremonies inaugurated the process, and quite other hands performed
its offices, than those known to our kitchens. Probably the delicate
_côte-lettes_ of France are not flopped down into half-melted grease,
there gradually to warm and soak and fizzle, while Biddy goes in and
out on her other ministrations, till finally, when thoroughly
saturated and dinner-hour impends, she bethinks herself, and crowds
the fire below to a roaring heat, and finishes the process by a smart
burn, involving the kitchen and surrounding precincts in volumes of
Stygian gloom.

From such preparations has arisen the very current medical opinion
that fried meats are indigestible. They are indigestible if they are
greasy; but French cooks have taught us that a thing has no more need
to be greasy because emerging from grease than Venus had to be salt
because she rose from the sea.

There are two ways of frying employed by the French cook. One is, to
immerse the article to be cooked in _boiling_ fat, with an emphasis on
the present participle,--and the philosophical principle is, so
immediately to crisp every pore at the first moment or two of
immersion as effectually to seal the interior against the intrusion of
greasy particles; it can then remain as long as may be necessary
thoroughly to cook it, without imbibing any more of the boiling fluid
than if it were enclosed in an eggshell. The other method is, to rub a
perfectly smooth iron surface with just enough of some oily substance
to prevent the meat from adhering, and cook it with a quick heat, as
cakes are baked on a griddle. In both these cases there must be the
most rapid application of heat that can be made without burning, and
by the adroitness shown in working out this problem the skill of the
cook is tested. Any one whose cook attains this important secret will
find fried things quite as digestible and often more palatable than
any other.

In the second department of meat cookery, to wit, the slow and gradual
application of heat for the softening and dissolution of its fibre and
the extraction of its juices, common cooks are equally untrained.
Where is the so-called cook who understands how to prepare soups and
stews? These are precisely the articles in which a French kitchen
excels. The soup kettle, made with a double bottom to prevent burning,
is a permanent, ever-present institution, and the coarsest and most
impracticable meats distilled through that alembic come out again in
soups, jellies, or savory stews. The toughest cartilage, even the
bones, being first cracked, are here made to give forth their hidden
virtues, and to rise in delicate and appetizing forms. One great law
governs all these preparations: the application of heat must be
gradual, steady, long protracted, never reaching the point of active
boiling. Hours of quiet simmering dissolve all dissoluble parts,
soften the sternest fibre, and unlock every minute cell in which
Nature has stored away her treasures of nourishment. This careful and
protracted application of heat and the skillful use of flavors
constitute the two main points in all those nice preparations of meat
for which the French have so many names,--processes by which a
delicacy can be imparted to the coarsest and cheapest food superior to
that of the finest articles under less philosophic treatment.

French soups and stews are a study, and they would not be an
unprofitable one to any person who wishes to live with comfort and
even elegance on small means.

John Bull looks down from the sublime of ten thousand a year on French
kickshaws, as he calls them: "Give me my meat cooked so I may know
what it is!" An ox roasted whole is dear to John's soul, and his
kitchen arrangements are Titanic. What magnificent rounds and sirloins
of beef, revolving on self-regulating spits, with a rich click of
satisfaction, before grates piled with roaring fires! Let us do
justice to the royal cheer. Nowhere are the charms of pure,
unadulterated animal food set forth in more imposing style. For John
is rich, and what does he care for odds and ends and parings? Has he
not all the beasts of the forest, and the cattle on a thousand hills?
What does he want of economy? But his brother Jean has not ten
thousand pounds a year,--nothing like it; but he makes up for the
slenderness of his purse by boundless fertility of invention and
delicacy of practice. John began sneering at Jean's soups and ragouts,
but all John's modern sons and daughters send to Jean for their cooks,
and the sirloins of England rise up and do obeisance to this Joseph
with a white apron who comes to rule in their kitchens.

There is no animal fibre that will not yield itself up to long-continued,
steady heat. But the difficulty with almost any of the common servants
who call themselves cooks is, that they have not the smallest notion of
the philosophy of the application of heat. Such a one will complacently
tell you, concerning certain meats, that the harder you boil them the
harder they grow,--an obvious fact, which, under her mode of treatment
by an indiscriminate galloping boil, has frequently come under her
personal observation. If you tell her that such meat must stand for six
hours in a heat just below the boiling-point, she will probably answer,
"Yes, ma'am," and go on her own way. Or she will let it stand till it
burns to the bottom of the kettle,--a most common termination of the
experiment. The only way to make sure of the matter is either to import a
French kettle, or to fit into an ordinary kettle a false bottom, such
as any tinman may make, that shall leave a space of an inch or two
between the meat and the fire. This kettle may be maintained as a
constant _habitué_ of the range, and into it the cook may be instructed
to throw all the fibrous trimmings of meat, all the gristle, tendons,
and bones, having previously broken up these last with a mallet.

Such a kettle will furnish the basis for clear, rich soups or other
palatable dishes. Clear soup consists of the dissolved juices of the
meat and gelatine of the bones, cleared from the fat and fibrous
portions by straining when cold. The grease, which rises to the top of
the fluid, may thus be easily removed. In a stew, on the contrary,
you boil down this soup till it permeates the fibre which long
exposure to heat has softened. All that remains, after the proper
preparation of the fibre and juices, is the flavoring, and it is in
this, particularly, that French soups excel those of America and
England and all the world.

English and American soups are often heavy and hot with spices. There
are appreciable tastes in them. They burn your mouth with cayenne or
clove or allspice. You can tell at once what is in them, oftentimes to
your sorrow. But a French soup has a flavor which one recognises at
once as delicious, yet not to be characterized as due to any single
condiment; it is the just blending of many things. The same remark
applies to all their stews, ragouts, and other delicate preparations.
No cook will ever study these flavors; but perhaps many cooks'
mistresses may, and thus be able to impart delicacy and comfort to
economy.

As to those things called hashes, commonly manufactured by unwatched,
untaught cooks, out of the remains of yesterday's repast, let us not
dwell too closely on their memory,--compounds of meat, gristle, skin,
fat, and burnt fibre, with a handful of pepper and salt flung at them,
dredged with lumpy flour, watered from the spout of the tea-kettle,
and left to simmer at the cook's convenience while she is otherwise
occupied. Such are the best performances a housekeeper can hope for
from an untrained cook.

But the cunningly devised minces, the artful preparations choicely
flavored, which may be made of yesterday's repast,--by these is the
true domestic artist known. No cook untaught by an educated brain ever
makes these, and yet economy is a great gainer by them.

       *       *       *       *       *

As regards the department of _Vegetables_, their number and variety in
America are so great that a table might almost be furnished by these
alone. Generally speaking, their cooking is a more simple art, and
therefore more likely to be found satisfactorily performed, than that
of meats. If only they are not drenched with rancid butter, their own
native excellence makes itself known in most of the ordinary modes of
preparation.

There is, however, one exception.

Our stanch old friend the potato is to other vegetables what bread is
on the table. Like bread, it is held as a sort of _sine qua non_; like
that, it may be made invariably palatable by a little care in a few
plain particulars, through neglect of which it often becomes
intolerable. The soggy, waxy, indigestible viand that often appears in
the potato-dish is a downright sacrifice of the better nature of this
vegetable.

The potato, nutritive and harmless as it appears, belongs to a family
suspected of very dangerous traits. It is a family connection of the
deadly nightshade and other ill-reputed gentry, and sometimes shows
strange proclivities to evil,--now breaking out uproariously, as in
the noted potato rot, and now more covertly in various evil
affections. For this reason, scientific directors bid us beware of
the water in which potatoes are boiled,--into which, it appears, the
evil principle is drawn off; and they caution us not to shred them
into stews without previously suffering the slices to lie for an hour
or so in salt and water. These cautions are worth attention.

The most usual modes of preparing the potato for the table are by
roasting or boiling. These processes are so simple that it is commonly
supposed every cook understands them without special directions, and
yet there is scarcely an uninstructed cook who can boil or roast a
potato.

A good roasted potato is a delicacy worth a dozen compositions of the
cook-book; yet when we ask for it, what burnt, shriveled abortions are
presented to us! Biddy rushes to her potato-basket and pours out two
dozen of different sizes, some having in them three times the amount
of matter of others. These being washed, she tumbles them into her
oven at a leisure interval, and there lets them lie till it is time to
serve breakfast, whenever that may be. As a result, if the largest are
cooked, the smallest are presented in cinders, and the intermediate
sizes are withered and watery. Nothing is so utterly ruined by a few
moments of overdoing. That which at the right moment was plump with
mealy richness, a quarter of an hour later shrivels and becomes
watery,--and it is in this state that roast potatoes are most
frequently served.

In the same manner we have seen boiled potatoes from an untaught cook
coming upon the table like lumps of yellow wax,--and the same article,
the day after, under the directions of a skillful mistress, appearing
in snowy balls of powdery lightness. In the one case, they were thrown
in their skins into water and suffered to soak or boil, as the case
might be, at the cook's leisure, and, after they were boiled, to stand
in the water till she was ready to peel them. In the other case, the
potatoes being first peeled were boiled as quickly as possible in
salted water, which, the moment they were done, was drained off, and
then they were gently shaken for a minute or two over the fire to dry
them still more thoroughly. We have never yet seen the potato so
depraved and given over to evil that could not be reclaimed by this
mode of treatment.

As to fried potatoes, who that remembers the crisp, golden slices of
the French restaurant, thin as wafers and light as snowflakes, does
not speak respectfully of them? What cousinship with these have those
coarse, greasy masses of sliced potato, wholly soggy and partly burnt,
to which we are treated under the name of fried potatoes à la America?
In our cities the restaurants are introducing the French article to
great acceptance, and to the vindication of the fair fame of this
queen of vegetables.

       *       *       *       *       *

Finally, I arrive at the last great head of my subject, to wit,
_Tea_,--meaning thereby, as before observed, what our Hibernian friend
did in the inquiry, "Will y'r Honor take 'tay tay' or 'coffee tay'?"

I am not about to enter into the merits of the great tea and coffee
controversy, or say whether these substances are or are not wholesome.
I treat of them as actual existences, and speak only of the modes of
making the most of them.

The French coffee is reputed the best in the world; and a thousand
voices have asked, What is it about the French coffee? In the first
place, then, the French coffee is coffee, and not chicory, or rye, or
beans, or peas. In the second place, it is freshly roasted, whenever
made,--roasted with great care and evenness in a little revolving
cylinder which makes part of the furniture of every kitchen, and which
keeps in the aroma of the berry. It is never overdone, so as to
destroy the coffee flavor, which is in nine cases out of ten the fault
of the coffee we meet with. Then it is ground, and placed in a
coffee-pot with a filter, through which it percolates in clear
drops--the coffee-pot standing on a heated stove to maintain the
temperature. The nose of the coffee-pot is stopped up to prevent the
escape of the aroma during this process. The extract thus obtained is
a perfectly clear, dark fluid, know as _café noir_, or black coffee.
It is black only because of its strength, being in fact almost the
very essential oil of coffee. A tablespoonful of this in boiled milk
would make what is ordinarily called a strong cup of coffee. The
boiled milk is prepared with no less care. It must be fresh and new,
not merely warmed or even brought to the boiling point, but slowly
simmered till it attains a thick, creamy richness. The coffee mixed
with this, and sweetened with that sparkling beet-root sugar which
ornaments a French table, is the celebrated _café-au-lait_, the name
of which has gone round the world.

As we look to France for the best coffee, so we must look to England
for the perfection of tea. The tea-kettle is as much an English
institution as aristocracy or the Prayer Book; and when one wants to
know exactly how tea should be made, one has only to ask how a fine
old English housekeeper makes it.

The first article of her faith is, that the water must not merely be
hot, not merely _have boiled_ a few moments since, but be actually
_boiling_ at the moment it touches the tea. Hence, though servants
in England are vastly better trained than with us, this delicate
mystery is seldom left to their hands. Tea making belongs to the
drawing-room, and high-born ladies preside at "the bubbling and
loud-hissing urn," and see that all due rites and solemnities are
properly performed,--that the cups are hot, and that the infused tea
waits the exact time before the libations commence. Oh, ye dear
old English tea-tables, resorts of the kindest-hearted hospitality
in the world! we still cherish your memory, even though you do not say
pleasant things of us there. One of these days you will think better
of us. Of late, the introduction of English breakfast tea has raised
a new sect among the tea drinkers, reversing some of the old canons.
Breakfast tea must be boiled! Unlike the delicate article of olden
time, which required only a momentary infusion to develop its
richness, this requires a longer and severer treatment to bring
out its strength,--thus confusing all the established usages, and
throwing the work into the hands of the cook in the kitchen.

The faults of tea, as too commonly found at our hotels and
boarding-houses, are that it is made in every way the reverse of what
it should be. The water is hot, perhaps, but not boiling; the tea has
a general flat, stale, smoky taste, devoid of life or spirit; and it
is served, usually, with thin milk instead of cream. Cream is as
essential to the richness of tea as of coffee. We could wish that the
English fashion might generally prevail, of giving the traveler his
own kettle of boiling water and his own tea-chest, and letting him
make tea for himself. At all events he would then be sure of one merit
in his tea,--it would be hot, a very simple and obvious virtue, but
one very seldom obtained.

Chocolate is a French and Spanish article, and one seldom served on
American tables. We in America, however, make an article every way
equal to any which can be imported from Paris, and he who buys Baker's
best vanilla-chocolate may rest assured that no foreign land can
furnish anything better. A very rich and delicious beverage may be
made by dissolving this in milk slowly boiled down after the French
fashion.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have now gone over all the ground I laid out, as comprising the
great first principles of cookery; and I would here modestly offer the
opinion that a table where all these principles are carefully observed
would need few dainties. The struggle after so-called delicacies
comes from the poorness of common things. Perfect bread and butter
would soon drive cake out of the field; it has done so in many
families. Nevertheless, I have a word to say under the head of
_Confectionery_, meaning by this the whole range of ornamental
cookery,--or pastry, ices, jellies, preserves, etc. The art of making
all these very perfectly is far better understood in America than the
art of common cooking.

There are more women who know how to make good cake than good
bread,--more who can furnish you with a good ice-cream than a
well-cooked mutton-chop; a fair charlotte-russe is easier to come by
than a perfect cup of coffee; and you shall find a sparkling jelly to
your dessert where you sighed in vain for so simple a luxury as a
well-cooked potato.

Our fair countrywomen might rest upon their laurels in these higher
fields, and turn their great energy and ingenuity to the study of
essentials. To do common things perfectly is far better worth our
endeavor than to do uncommon things respectably. We Americans in many
things as yet have been a little inclined to begin making our shirt at
the ruffle; but nevertheless, when we set about it, we can make the
shirt as nicely as anybody,--it needs only that we turn our attention
to it, resolved that, ruffle or no ruffle, the shirt we will have.

I have also a few words to say as to the prevalent ideas in
respect to French cookery. Having heard much of it, with no very
distinct idea what it is, our people have somehow fallen into the
notion that its forte lies in high spicing,--and so, when our cooks
put a great abundance of clove, mace, nutmeg, and cinnamon into
their preparations, they fancy that they are growing up to be French
cooks. But the fact is, that the Americans and English are far
more given to spicing than the French. Spices in our made dishes
are abundant, and their taste is strongly pronounced. In living a
year in France I forgot the taste of nutmeg, clove, and allspice,
which had met me in so many dishes in America.

The thing may be briefly defined. The English and Americans deal in
_spices_, the French in _flavors_,--flavors many and subtile,
imitating often in their delicacy those subtile blendings which Nature
produces in high-flavored fruits. The recipes of our cookery-books are
most of them of English origin, coming down from the times of our
phlegmatic ancestors, when the solid, burly, beefy growth of the foggy
island required the heat of fiery condiments, and could digest heavy
sweets. Witness the national recipe for plum-pudding, which may be
rendered: Take a pound of every indigestible substance you can think
of, boil into a cannon-ball, and serve in flaming brandy. So of the
Christmas mince-pie and many other national dishes. But in America,
owing to our brighter skies and more fervid climate, we have developed
an acute, nervous delicacy of temperament far more akin to that of
France than of England.

Half of the recipes in our cook-books are mere murder to such
constitutions and stomachs as we grow here. We require to ponder these
things, and think how we in our climate and under our circumstances
ought to live, and, in doing so, we may, without accusation of foreign
foppery, take some leaves from many foreign books.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Christopher has prosed long enough. I must now read this to my
wife, and see what she says.



XI

OUR HOUSE


Our gallant Bob Stephens, into whose lifeboat our Marianne has been
received, has lately taken the mania of housebuilding into his head.
Bob is somewhat fastidious, difficult to please, fond of domesticities
and individualities; and such a man never can fit himself into a house
built by another, and accordingly housebuilding has always been his
favorite mental recreation. During all his courtship, as much time was
taken up in planning a future house as if he had money to build one;
and all Marianne's patterns, and the backs of half their letters, were
scrawled with ground-plans and elevations. But latterly this chronic
disposition has been quickened into an acute form by the falling-in of
some few thousands to their domestic treasury,--left as the sole
residuum of a painstaking old aunt, who took it into her head to make
a will in Bob's favor, leaving, among other good things, a nice little
bit of land in a rural district half an hour's railroad ride from
Boston.

So now ground-plans thicken, and my wife is being consulted morning,
noon, and night; and I never come into the room without finding their
heads close together over a paper, and hearing Bob expatiate on his
favorite idea of a library. He appears to have got so far as this,
that the ceiling is to be of carved oak, with ribs running to a boss
overhead, and finished mediævally with ultramarine blue and
gilding,--and then away he goes sketching Gothic patterns of
bookshelves which require only experienced carvers, and the
wherewithal to pay them, to be the divinest things in the world.

Marianne is exercised about china-closets and pantries, and about a
bedroom on the ground-floor,--for, like all other women of our days,
she expects not to have strength enough to run upstairs oftener than
once or twice a week; and my wife, who is a native genius in this
line, and has planned in her time dozens of houses for acquaintances,
wherein they are at this moment living happily, goes over every day
with her pencil and ruler the work of rearranging the plans, according
as the ideas of the young couple veer and vary.

One day Bob is importuned to give two feet off from his library
for a closet in the bedroom, but resists like a Trojan. The next
morning, being mollified by private domestic supplications, Bob
yields, and my wife rubs out the lines of yesterday, two feet come
off the library, and a closet is constructed. But now the parlor
proves too narrow,--the parlor wall must be moved two feet into
the hall. Bob declares this will spoil the symmetry of the latter;
and, if there is anything he wants, it is a wide, generous, ample
hall to step into when you open the front door.

"Well, then," says Marianne, "let's put two feet more into the width
of the house."

"Can't on account of the expense, you see," says Bob. "You see every
additional foot of outside wall necessitates so many more bricks, so
much more flooring, so much more roofing, etc."

And my wife, with thoughtful brow, looks over the plans, and considers
how two feet more are to be got into the parlor without moving any of
the walls.

"I say," says Bob, bending over her shoulder, "here, take your two
feet in the parlor, and put two more feet on to the other side of the
hall stairs;" and he dashes heavily with his pencil.

"Oh, Bob!" exclaims Marianne, "there are the kitchen pantries! you
ruin them,--and no place for the cellar stairs!"

"Hang the pantries and cellar stairs!" says Bob. "Mother must find a
place for them somewhere else. I say the house must be roomy and
cheerful, and pantries and those things may take care of themselves;
they can be put _somewhere_ well enough. No fear but you will find a
place for them somewhere. What do you women always want such a great
enormous kitchen for?"

"It is not any larger than is necessary," said my wife, thoughtfully;
"nothing is gained by taking off from it."

"What if you should put it all down into a basement," suggests Bob,
"and so get it all out of sight together?"

"Never, if it can be helped," said my wife. "Basement kitchens are
necessary evils, only to be tolerated in cities where land is too dear
to afford any other."

So goes the discussion till the trio agree to sleep over it. The next
morning an inspiration visits my wife's pillow. She is up and seizes
plans and paper, and, before six o'clock, has enlarged the parlor very
cleverly by throwing out a bow-window. So waxes and wanes the
prospective house, innocently battered down and rebuilt with
India-rubber and black-lead. Doors are cut out to-night and walled up
to-morrow; windows knocked out here and put in there, as some observer
suggests possibilities of too much or too little draught. Now all
seems finished, when, lo! a discovery! There is no fireplace nor
stove-flue in my lady's bedroom, and can be none without moving the
bathing-room. Pencil and India-rubber are busy again, and for a while
the whole house seems to threaten to fall to pieces with the confusion
of the moving; the bath-room wanders like a ghost, now invading a
closet, now threatening the tranquillity of the parlor, till at last
it is laid, by some unheard-of calculations of my wife's, and sinks to
rest in a place so much better that everybody wonders it never was
thought of before.

"Papa," said Jenny, "it appears to me people don't exactly know
what they want when they build; why don't you write a paper on
housebuilding?"

"I have thought of it," said I, with the air of a man called to settle
some great reform. "It must be entirely because Christopher has not
written that our young people and mamma are tangling themselves daily
in webs which are untangled the next day."

"You see," said Jenny, "they have only just so much money, and they
want everything they can think of under the sun. There's Bob been
studying architectural antiquities, and nobody knows what, and
sketching all sorts of curly-whorlies; and Marianne has her notions
about a parlor and boudoir and china closets and bedroom closets; and
Bob wants a baronial hall; and mamma stands out for linen closets and
bathing-rooms and all that; and so, among them all it will just end in
getting them head over ears in debt."

The thing struck me as not improbable.

"I don't know, Jenny, whether my writing an article is going to
prevent all this; but as my time in the 'Atlantic' is coming round, I
may as well write on what I am obliged to think of, and so I will give
a paper on the subject to enliven our next evening's session."

So that evening, when Bob and Marianne had dropped in as usual, and
while the customary work of drawing and rubbing out was going on at
Mrs. Crowfield's sofa, I produced my paper and read as follows:--


OUR HOUSE

There is a place, called "our house," which everybody knows of. The
sailor talks of it in his dreams at sea. The wounded soldier, turning
in his uneasy hospital-bed, brightens at the word; it is like the
dropping of cool water in the desert, like the touch of cool fingers
on a burning brow. "Our house," he says feebly, and the light comes
back into his dim eyes; for all homely charities, all fond thoughts,
all purities, all that man loves on earth or hopes for in heaven, rise
with the word.

"Our house" may be in any style of architecture, low or high. It may
be the brown old farmhouse, with its tall wellsweep, or the one-story
gambrel-roofed cottage, or the large, square, white house, with green
blinds, under the wind-swung elms of a century; or it may be the
log-cabin of the wilderness, with its one room,--still there is a
spell in the memory of it beyond all conjurations. Its stone and brick
and mortar are like no other; its very clapboards and shingles are
dear to us, powerful to bring back the memories of early days and all
that is sacred in home love.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Papa is getting quite sentimental," whispered Jenny, loud enough for
me to hear. I shook my head at her impressively, and went on
undaunted.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no one fact of our human existence that has a stronger
influence upon us than the house we dwell in, especially that in which
our earlier and more impressible years are spent. The building and
arrangement of a house influence the health, the comfort, the morals,
the religion. There have been houses built so devoid of all
consideration for the occupants, so rambling and haphazard in the
disposal of rooms, so sunless and cheerless and wholly without
snugness or privacy, as to make it seem impossible to live a joyous,
generous, rational, religious family life in them.

There are, we shame to say, in our cities _things_ called houses,
built and rented by people who walk erect and have the general air and
manner of civilized and Christianized men, which are so inhuman in
their building that they can only be called snares and traps for
souls,--places where children cannot well escape growing up filthy and
impure; places where to form a home is impossible, and to live a
decent, Christian life would require miraculous strength.

A celebrated British philanthropist, who had devoted much study to the
dwellings of the poor, gave it as his opinion that the temperance
societies were a hopeless undertaking in London unless these dwellings
underwent a transformation. They were so squalid, so dark, so
comfortless, so constantly pressing upon the senses foulness, pain,
and inconvenience, that it was only by being drugged with gin and
opium that their miserable inhabitants could find heart to drag on
life from day to day. He had himself tried the experiment of reforming
a drunkard by taking him from one of these loathsome dens, and
enabling him to rent a tenement in a block of model lodging-houses
which had been built under his supervision. The young man had been a
designer of figures for prints; he was of a delicate frame, and a
nervous, susceptible temperament. Shut in one miserable room with his
wife and little children, without the possibility of pure air, with
only filthy, fetid water to drink, with the noise of other miserable
families resounding through the thin partitions, what possibility was
there of doing anything except by the help of stimulants, which for a
brief hour lifted him above the perception of these miseries? Changed
at once to a neat flat, where, for the same rent as his former den, he
had three good rooms, with water for drinking, house-service, and
bathing freely supplied, and the blessed sunshine and air coming in
through windows well arranged for ventilation, he became in a few
weeks a new man. In the charms of the little spot which he could call
home, its quiet, its order, his former talent came back to him, and he
found strength, in pure air and pure water and those purer thoughts of
which they are the emblems, to abandon burning and stupefying
stimulants.

The influence of dwelling-houses for good or for evil--their influence
on the brain, the nerves, and, through these, on the heart and
life--is one of those things that cannot be enough pondered by those
who build houses to sell or rent.

Something more generous ought to inspire a man than merely the
percentage which he can get for his money. He who would build houses
should think a little on the subject. He should reflect what houses
are for, what they may be made to do for human beings. The great
majority of houses in cities are not built by the indwellers
themselves; they are built for them by those who invest their money in
this way, with little other thought than the percentage which the
investment will return.

For persons of ample fortune there are, indeed, palatial residences,
with all that wealth can do to render life delightful. But in that
class of houses which must be the lot of the large majority, those
which must be chosen by young men in the beginning of life, when means
are comparatively restricted, there is yet wide room for thought and
the judicious application of money.

In looking over houses to be rented by persons of moderate means, one
cannot help longing to build,--one sees so many ways in which the same
sum which built an inconvenient and unpleasant house might have been
made to build a delightful one.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That's so!" said Bob with emphasis. "Don't you remember, Marianne,
how many dismal, commonplace, shabby houses we trailed through?"

"Yes," said Marianne. "You remember those houses with such little
squeezed rooms and that flourishing staircase, with the colored-glass
china-closet window, and no butler's sink?"

"Yes," said Bob; "and those astonishing, abominable stone abortions
that adorned the doorsteps. People do lay out a deal of money to make
houses look ugly, it must be confessed."

"One would willingly," said Marianne, "dispense with frightful stone
ornaments in front, and with heavy mouldings inside, which are of no
possible use or beauty, and with showy plaster cornices and
centrepieces in the parlor ceilings, and even with marble mantels, for
the luxury of hot and cold water in each chamber, and a couple of
comfortable bath-rooms. Then, the disposition of windows and doors is
so wholly without regard to convenience! How often we find rooms,
meant for bedrooms, where really there is no good place for either bed
or dressing-table!"

Here my wife looked up, having just finished redrawing the plans to
the latest alteration.

"One of the greatest reforms that could be, in these reforming days,"
she observed, "would be to have women architects. The mischief with
houses built to rent is that they are all mere male contrivances. No
woman would ever plan chambers where there is no earthly place to set
a bed except against a window or door, or waste the room in entries
that might be made into closets. I don't see, for my part, apropos to
the modern movement for opening new professions to the female sex, why
there should not be well-educated female architects. The planning and
arrangement of houses, and the laying-out of grounds, are a fair
subject of womanly knowledge and taste. It is the teaching of Nature.
What would anybody think of a bluebird's nest that had been built
entirely by Mr. Blue, without the help of his wife?"

"My dear," said I, "you must positively send a paper on this subject
to the next Woman's Rights Convention."

"I am of Sojourner Truth's opinion," said my wife,--"that the best way
to prove the propriety of one's doing anything is to go and _do it_.
A woman who should have energy to grow through the preparatory
studies and set to work in this field would, I am sure, soon find
employment."

"If she did as well as you would do, my dear," said I. "There are
plenty of young women in our Boston high schools who are going through
higher fields of mathematics than are required by the architect, and
the schools for design show the flexibility and fertility of the
female pencil. The thing appears to me altogether more feasible than
many other openings which have been suggested to woman."

"Well," said Jenny, "isn't papa ever to go on with his paper?"

       *       *       *       *       *

I continued:--

       *       *       *       *       *

What ought "our house" to be? Could any other question be asked
admitting in its details of such varied answers,--answers various as
the means, the character, and situation of different individuals? But
there are great wants, pertaining to every human being, into which all
lesser ones run. There are things in a house that every one, high or
low, rich or poor, ought, according to his means, to seek. I think I
shall class them according to the elemental division of the old
philosophers: Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. These form the groundwork
of this _need-be_,--the _sine-qua-nons_ of a house.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Fire, air, earth, and water! I don't understand," said Jenny.

"Wait a little till you do, then," said I. "I will try to make my
meaning plain."

       *       *       *       *       *

The first object of a house is shelter from the elements. This object
is effected by a tent or wigwam which keeps off rain and wind. The
first disadvantage of this shelter is, that the vital air which you
take into your lungs, and on the purity of which depends the purity of
blood and brain and nerves, is vitiated. In the wigwam or tent you
are constantly taking in poison, more or less active, with every
inspiration. Napoleon had his army sleep without tents. He stated that
from experience he found it more healthy, and wonderful have been the
instances of delicate persons gaining constantly in rigor from being
obliged, in the midst of hardships, to sleep constantly in the open
air. Now the first problem in housebuilding is to combine the
advantage of shelter with the fresh elasticity of outdoor air. I am
not going to give here a treatise on ventilation, but merely to say,
in general terms, that the first object of a house builder or
contriver should be to make a healthy house; and the first requisite
of a healthy house is a pure, sweet, elastic air.

I am in favor, therefore, of those plans of housebuilding which have
wide central spaces, whether halls or courts, into which all the rooms
open, and which necessarily preserve a body of fresh air for the use
of them all. In hot climates this is the object of the central court
which cuts into the body of the house, with its fountain and flowers,
and its galleries, into which the various apartments open. When people
are restricted for space, and cannot afford to give up wide central
portions of the house for the mere purposes of passage, this central
hall can be made a pleasant sitting-room. With tables, chairs,
bookcases, and sofas comfortably disposed, this ample central room
above and below is, in many respects, the most agreeable lounging room
of the house; while the parlors below and the chambers above, opening
upon it, form agreeable withdrawing rooms for purposes of greater
privacy.

It is customary with many persons to sleep with bedroom windows
open,--a very imperfect and often dangerous mode of procuring that
supply of fresh air which a sleeping-room requires. In a house
constructed in the manner indicated, windows might be freely left
open in these central halls, producing there a constant movement
of air, and the doors of the bedrooms placed ajar, when a very slight
opening in the windows would create a free circulation through the
apartments.

In the planning of a house, thought should be had as to the general
disposition of the windows, and the quarters from which favoring
breezes may be expected should be carefully considered. Windows should
be so arranged that draughts of air can be thrown quite through and
across the house. How often have we seen pale mothers and drooping
babes fanning and panting during some of our hot days on the sunny
side of a house, while the breeze that should have cooled them beat in
vain against a dead wall! One longs sometimes to knock holes through
partitions, and let in the air of heaven.

No other gift of God so precious, so inspiring, is treated with such
utter irreverence and contempt in the calculations of us mortals as
this same air of heaven. A sermon on oxygen, if one had a preacher who
understood the subject, might do more to repress sin than the most
orthodox discourse to show when and how and why sin came. A minister
gets up in a crowded lecture-room, where the mephitic air almost makes
the candles burn blue, and bewails the deadness of the church,--the
church the while, drugged by the poisoned air, growing sleepier and
sleepier, though they feel dreadfully wicked for being so.

Little Jim, who, fresh from his afternoon's ramble in the fields, last
evening said his prayers dutifully, and lay down to sleep in a most
Christian frame, this morning sits up in bed with his hair bristling
with crossness, strikes at his nurse, and declares he won't say his
prayers,--that he don't want to be good. The simple difference is,
that the child, having slept in a close box of a room, his brain all
night fed by poison, is in a mild state of moral insanity. Delicate
women remark that it takes them till eleven or twelve o'clock to get
up their strength in the morning. Query: Do they sleep with closed
windows and doors, and with heavy bed-curtains?

The houses built by our ancestors were better ventilated in certain
respects than modern ones, with all their improvements. The great
central chimney, with its open fireplaces in the different rooms,
created a constant current which carried off foul and vitiated air. In
these days, how common is it to provide rooms with only a flue for a
stove! This flue is kept shut in summer, and in winter opened only to
admit a close stove, which burns away the vital portion of the air
quite as fast as the occupants breathe it away. The sealing up of
fireplaces and introduction of air-tight stoves may, doubtless, be a
saving of fuel; it saves, too, more than that,--in thousands and
thousands of cases it has saved people from all further human wants,
and put an end forever to any needs short of the six feet of narrow
earth which are man's only inalienable property. In other words, since
the invention of air-tight stoves, thousands have died of slow poison.
It is a terrible thing to reflect upon, that our Northern winters last
from November to May, six long months, in which many families confine
themselves to one room, of which every window-crack has been carefully
calked to make it air-tight, where an air-tight stove keeps the
atmosphere at a temperature between eighty and ninety, and the inmates
sitting there, with all their winter clothes on, become enervated both
by the heat and by the poisoned air, for which there is no escape but
the occasional opening of a door.

It is no wonder that the first result of all this is such a delicacy
of skin and lungs that about half the inmates are obliged to give up
going into the open air during the six cold months, because they
invariably catch cold if they do so. It is no wonder that the cold
caught about the first of December has by the first of March become a
fixed consumption, and that the opening of the spring, which ought to
bring life and health, in so many cases brings death.

We hear of the lean condition in which the poor bears emerge from
their six months' wintering, during which they subsist on the fat
which they have acquired the previous summer. Even so, in our long
winters, multitudes of delicate people subsist on the daily waning
strength which they acquired in the season when windows and doors were
open, and fresh air was a constant luxury. No wonder we hear of spring
fever and spring biliousness, and have thousands of nostrums for
clearing the blood in the spring. All these things are the pantings
and palpitations of a system run down under slow poison, unable to get
a step farther. Better, far better, the old houses of the olden time,
with their great roaring fires, and their bedrooms where the snow came
in and the wintry winds whistled. Then, to be sure, you froze your
back while you burned your face; your water froze nightly in your
pitcher; your breath congealed in ice-wreaths on the blankets; and you
could write your name on the pretty snow-wreath that had sifted in
through the window-cracks. But you woke full of life and vigor,--you
looked out into the whirling snowstorms without a shiver, and thought
nothing of plunging through drifts as high as your head on your daily
way to school. You jingled in sleighs, you snowballed, you lived in
snow like a snowbird, and your blood coursed and tingled, in full tide
of good, merry, real life, through your veins,--none of the
slow-creeping, black blood which clogs the brain and lies like a
weight on the vital wheels!

"Mercy upon us, papa!" said Jenny, "I hope we need not go back to such
houses?"

"No, my dear," I replied. "I only said that such houses were better
than those which are all winter closed by double windows and burnt-out
air-tight stoves."

       *       *       *       *       *

The perfect house is one in which there is a constant escape of every
foul and vitiated particle of air through one opening, while a
constant supply of fresh outdoor air is admitted by another. In
winter, this outdoor air must pass through some process by which it is
brought up to a temperate warmth.

Take a single room, and suppose on one side a current of outdoor air
which has been warmed by passing through the air chamber of a modern
furnace. Its temperature need not be above sixty-five,--it answers
breathing purposes better at that. On the other side of the room let
there be an open wood or coal fire. One cannot conceive the purposes
of warmth and ventilation more perfectly combined.

Suppose a house with a great central hall, into which a current of
fresh, temperately warmed air is continually pouring. Each chamber
opening upon this hall has a chimney up whose flue the rarefied air is
constantly passing, drawing up with it all the foul and poisonous
gases. That house is well ventilated, and in a way that need bring no
dangerous draughts upon the most delicate invalid. For the better
securing of privacy in sleeping-rooms, we have seen two doors
employed, one of which is made with slats, like a window-blind, so
that air is freely transmitted without exposing the interior.

When we speak of fresh air, we insist on the full rigor of the term.
It must not be the air of a cellar, heavily laden with the poisonous
nitrogen of turnips and cabbages, but good, fresh, outdoor air from a
cold-air pipe, so placed as not to get the lower stratum near the
ground, where heavy damps and exhalations collect, but high up, in
just the clearest and most elastic region.

The conclusion of the whole matter is, that as all of man's and
woman's peace and comfort, all their love, all their amiability, all
their religion, have got to come to them, while they live in this
world, through the medium of the brain,--and as black, uncleansed
blood acts on the brain as a poison, and as no other than black,
uncleansed blood can be got by the lungs out of impure air,--the
first object of the man who builds a house is to secure a pure and
healthy atmosphere therein.

Therefore, in allotting expenses, set this down as a _must-be_: "Our
house must have fresh air,--everywhere, at all times, winter and
summer." Whether we have stone facings or no; whether our parlor has
cornices or marble mantles or no; whether our doors are machine-made
or hand-made. All our fixtures shall be of the plainest and simplest,
but we will have fresh air. We will open our door with a latch and
string, if we cannot afford lock and knob and fresh air too; but in
our house we will live cleanly and Christianly. We will no more
breathe the foul air rejected from a neighbor's lungs than we will use
a neighbor's tooth-brush and hair-brush. Such is the first essential
of "our house,"--the first great element of human health and
happiness,--AIR.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I say, Marianne," said Bob, "have we got fireplaces in our
chambers?"

"Mamma took care of that," said Marianne.

"You may be quite sure," said I, "if your mother has had a hand in
planning your house, that the ventilation is cared for."

It must be confessed that Bob's principal idea in a house had been a
Gothic library, and his mind had labored more on the possibility of
adapting some favorite bits from the baronial antiquities to modern
needs than on anything so terrestrial as air. Therefore he awoke as
from a dream, and taking two or three monstrous inhalations, he seized
the plans and began looking over them with new energy. Meanwhile I
went on with my prelection.

The second great vital element for which provision must be made in
"our house" is FIRE. By which I do not mean merely artificial fire,
but fire in all its extent and branches,--the heavenly fire which God
sends us daily on the bright wings of sunbeams, as well as the mimic
fires by which we warm our dwellings, cook our food, and light our
nightly darkness.

To begin, then, with heavenly fire or sunshine. If God's gift of vital
air is neglected and undervalued, His gift of sunshine appears to be
hated. There are many houses where not a cent has been expended on
ventilation, but where hundreds of dollars have been freely lavished
to keep out the sunshine. The chamber, truly, is tight as a box; it
has no fireplace, not even a ventilator opening into the stove-flue;
but, oh, joy and gladness! it has outside blinds and inside
folding-shutters, so that in the brightest of days we may create there
a darkness that may be felt. To observe the generality of New England
houses, a spectator might imagine they were planned for the torrid
zone, where the great object is to keep out a furnace draught of
burning air.

But let us look over the months of our calendar. In which of them do
we not need fires on our hearths? We will venture to say that from
October to June all families, whether they actually have it or not,
would be the more comfortable for a morning and evening fire. For
eight months in the year the weather varies on the scale of cool,
cold, colder, and freezing; and for all the four other months what is
the number of days that really require the torrid-zone system of
shutting up houses? We all know that extreme heat is the exception,
and not the rule.

Yet let anybody travel, as I did last year, through the valley of the
Connecticut, and observe the houses. All clean and white and neat and
well-to-do, with their turfy yards and their breezy great elms, but
all shut up from basement to attic, as if the inmates had all sold out
and gone to China. Not a window-blind open above or below. Is the
house inhabited? No,--yes,--there is a faint stream of blue smoke from
the kitchen chimney, and half a window-blind open in some distant
back part of the house. They are living there in the dim shadows,
bleaching like potato-sprouts in the cellar.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I can tell you why they do it, papa," said Jenny. "It's the flies,
and flies are certainly worthy to be one of the plagues of Egypt. I
can't myself blame people that shut up their rooms and darken their
houses in fly-time,--do you, mamma?"

"Not in extreme cases; though I think there is but a short season when
this is necessary; yet the habit of shutting up lasts the year round,
and gives to New England villages that dead, silent, cold, uninhabited
look which is so peculiar."

"The one fact that a traveler would gather in passing through our
villages would be this," said I, "that the people live in their houses
and in the dark. Barely do you see doors and windows open, people
sitting at them, chairs in the yard, and signs that the inhabitants
are living out-of-doors."

"Well," said Jenny, "I have told you why, for I have been at Uncle
Peter's in summer, and aunt does her spring-cleaning in May, and then
she shuts all the blinds and drops all the curtains, and the house
stays clean till October. That's the whole of it. If she had all her
windows open, there would be paint and windows to be cleaned every
week; and who is to do it? For my part, I can't much blame her."

"Well," said I, "I have my doubts about the sovereign efficacy of
living in the dark, even if the great object of existence were to be
rid of flies. I remember, during this same journey, stopping for a
day or two at a country boarding-house, which was dark as Egypt
from cellar to garret. The long, dim, gloomy dining-room was first
closed by outside blinds, and then by impenetrable paper curtains,
notwithstanding which it swarmed and buzzed like a beehive. You
found where the cake plate was by the buzz which your hand made, if
you chanced to reach in that direction. It was disagreeable,
because in the darkness flies could not always be distinguished
from huckleberries; and I couldn't help wishing, that, since we must
have the flies, we might at last have the light and air to console us
under them. People darken their rooms and shut up every avenue of
outdoor enjoyment, and sit and think of nothing but flies; in fact,
flies are all they have left. No wonder they become morbid on the
subject."

"Well now, papa talks just like a man, doesn't he?" said Jenny. "He
hasn't the responsibility of keeping things clean. I wonder what he
would do, if he were a housekeeper."

"Do? I will tell you. I would do the best I could. I would shut my
eyes on fly-specks, and open them on the beauties of Nature. I would
let the cheerful sun in all day long, in all but the few summer days
when coolness is the one thing needful: those days may be soon
numbered every year. I would make a calculation in the spring how much
it would cost to hire a woman to keep my windows and paint clean, and
I would do with one less gown and have her; and when I had spent all I
could afford on cleaning windows and paint, I would harden my heart
and turn off my eyes, and enjoy my sunshine and my fresh air, my
breezes, and all that can be seen through the picture windows of an
open, airy house, and snap my fingers at the flies. There you have
it."

"Papa's hobby is sunshine," said Marianne.

"Why shouldn't it be? Was God mistaken, when He made the sun? Did He
make him for us to hold a life's battle with? Is that vital power
which reddens the cheek of the peach and pours sweetness through the
fruits and flowers of no use to us? Look at plants that grow without
sun,--wan, pale, long-visaged, holding feeble, imploring hands of
supplication towards the light. Can human beings afford to throw away
a vitalizing force so pungent, so exhilarating? You remember the
experiment of a prison where one row of cells had daily sunshine and
the others none. With the same regimen, the same cleanliness, the same
care, the inmates of the sunless cells were visited with sickness and
death in double measure. Our whole population in New England are
groaning and suffering under afflictions, the result of a depressed
vitality,--neuralgia, with a new ache for every day of the year,
rheumatism, consumption, general debility; for all these a thousand
nostrums are daily advertised, and money enough is spent on them to
equip an army, while we are fighting against, wasting, and throwing
away with both hands, that blessed influence which comes nearest to
pure vitality of anything God has given.

"Who is it that the Bible describes as a sun, arising with healing in
his wings? Surely, that sunshine which is the chosen type and image of
His love must be healing through all the recesses of our daily life,
drying damp and mould, defending from moth and rust, sweetening ill
smells, clearing from the nerves the vapors of melancholy, making life
cheery. If I did not know Him, I should certainly adore and worship
the sun, the most blessed and beautiful image of Him among things
visible! In the land of Egypt, in the day of God's wrath, there was
darkness, but in the land of Goshen there was light. I am a Goshenite,
and mean to walk in the light, and forswear the works of darkness. But
to proceed with our reading."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Our house" shall be set on a southeast line, so that there shall not
be a sunless room in it, and windows shall be so arranged that it can
be traversed and transpierced through and through with those bright
shafts of light which come straight from God.

"Our house" shall not be blockaded with a dank, dripping mass of
shrubbery set plumb against the windows, keeping out light and air.
There shall be room all round it for breezes to sweep, and sunshine to
sweeten and dry and vivify; and I would warn all good souls who begin
life by setting out two little evergreen-trees within a foot of each
of their front-windows, that these trees will grow and increase till
their front-rooms will be brooded over by a sombre, stifling shadow
fit only for ravens to croak in.

One would think, by the way some people hasten to convert a very
narrow front-yard into a dismal jungle, that the only danger of our
New England climate was sunstroke. Ah, in those drizzling months which
form at least one half of our life here, what sullen, censorious,
uncomfortable, unhealthy thoughts are bred of living in dark, chilly
rooms, behind such dripping thickets? Our neighbors' faults assume a
deeper hue, life seems a dismal thing, our very religion grows
mouldy.

My idea of a house is, that, as far as is consistent with shelter and
reasonable privacy, it should give you on first entering an open,
breezy, outdoor freshness of sensation. Every window should be a
picture--sun and trees and clouds and green grass should seem never to
be far from us. "Our house" may shade but not darken us. "Our house"
shall have bow-windows, many, sunny, and airy,--not for the purpose of
being cleaned and shut up, but to be open and enjoyed. There shall be
long verandas above and below, where invalids may walk dry-shod, and
enjoy open-air recreation in wettest weather. In short, I will try to
have "our house" combine as far as possible the sunny, joyous, fresh
life of a gypsy in the fields and woods with the quiet and neatness
and comfort and shelter of a roof, rooms, floors, and carpets.

After heavenly fire, I have a word to say of earthly, artificial
fires. Furnaces, whether of hot water, steam, or hot air, are all
healthy and admirable provisions for warming our houses during the
eight or nine months of our year that we must have artificial heat, if
only, as I have said, fireplaces keep up a current of ventilation.

The kitchen-range with its water-back I humbly salute. It is a great
throbbing heart, and sends its warm tides of cleansing, comforting
fluid all through the house. One could wish that this friendly dragon
could be in some way moderated in his appetite for coal,--he does
consume without mercy, it must be confessed,--but then great is the
work he has to do. At any hour of day or night, in the most distant
part of your house, you have but to turn a stop-cock and your red
dragon sends you hot water for your need; your washing-day becomes a
mere play-day; your pantry has its ever-ready supply; and then, by a
little judicious care in arranging apartments and economizing heat, a
range may make two or three chambers comfortable in winter weather. A
range with a water-back is among the _must-be's_ in "our house."

Then, as to the evening light,--I know nothing as yet better than gas,
where it can be had. I would certainly not have a house without it.
The great objection to it is the danger of its escape through
imperfect fixtures. But it must not do this: a fluid that kills a tree
or a plant with one breath must certainly be a dangerous ingredient in
the atmosphere, and if admitted into houses, must be introduced with
every safeguard.

There are families living in the country who make their own gas by a
very simple process. This is worth an inquiry from those who build.
There are also contrivances now advertised, with good testimonials, of
domestic machines for generating gas, said to be perfectly safe,
simple to be managed, and producing a light superior to that of the
city gas works. This also is worth an inquiry when "our house" is to
be in the country.

And now I come to the next great vital element for which "our house"
must provide,--WATER. "Water, water, everywhere,"--it must be
plentiful, it must be easy to get at, it must be pure. Our ancestors
had some excellent ideas in home living and housebuilding. Their
houses were, generally speaking, very sensibly contrived,--roomy,
airy, and comfortable; but in their water arrangements they had little
mercy on womankind. The well was out in the yard; and in winter one
must flounder through snow and bring up the ice-bound bucket, before
one could fill the tea-kettle for breakfast. For a sovereign princess
of the republic, this was hardly respectful or respectable. Wells have
come somewhat nearer in modern times; but the idea of a constant
supply of fresh water by the simple turning of a stop-cock has not yet
visited the great body of our houses. Were we free to build "our
house" just as we wish it, there should be a bath-room to every two or
three inmates, and the hot and cold water should circulate to every
chamber.

Among our _must-be's_, we would lay by a generous sum for plumbing.
Let us have our bath-rooms, and our arrangements for cleanliness and
health in kitchen and pantry; and afterwards let the quality of our
lumber and the style of our finishing be according to the sum we have
left. The power to command a warm bath in a house at any hour of day
or night is better in bringing up a family of children than any amount
of ready medicine. In three quarters of childish ailments the warm
bath is an almost immediate remedy. Bad colds, incipient fevers,
rheumatisms, convulsions, neuralgias innumerable, are washed off in
their first beginnings, and run down the lead pipes into oblivion.
Have, then, O friend, all the water in your house that you can afford,
and enlarge your ideas of the worth of it, that you _may_ afford a
great deal. A bathing-room is nothing to you that requires an hour of
lifting and fire-making to prepare it for use. The apparatus is too
cumbrous,--you do not turn to it. But when your chamber opens upon a
neat, quiet little nook, and you have only to turn your stop-cocks and
all is ready, your remedy is at hand, you use it constantly. You are
waked in the night by a scream, and find little Tom sitting up, wild
with burning fever. In three minutes he is in the bath, quieted and
comfortable; you get him back, cooled and tranquil, to his little
crib, and in the morning he wakes as if nothing had happened.

Why should not so invaluable and simple a remedy for disease, such a
preservative of health, such a comfort, such a stimulus, be considered
as much a matter-of-course in a house as a kitchen-chimney? At least
there should be one bath-room always in order, so arranged that all
the family can have access to it, if one cannot afford the luxury of
many.

A house in which water is universally and skillfully distributed is so
much easier to take care of as almost to verify the saying of a
friend, that his house was so contrived that it did its own work: one
had better do without carpets on the floors, without stuffed sofas and
rocking-chairs, and secure this.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, papa," said Marianne, "you have made out all your four elements
in your house, except one. I can't imagine what you want of _earth_."

"I thought," said Jenny, "that the less of our common mother we had in
our houses, the better housekeepers we were."

"My dears," said I, "we philosophers must give an occasional dip into
the mystical, and say something apparently absurd for the purpose of
explaining that we mean nothing in particular by it. It gives common
people an idea of our sagacity, to find how clear we come out of our
apparent contradictions and absurdities. Listen."

       *       *       *       *       *

For the fourth requisite of "our house," EARTH, let me point you to
your mother's plant-window, and beg you to remember the fact that
through our long, dreary winters we are never a month without flowers,
and the vivid interest which always attaches to growing things. The
perfect house, as I conceive it, is to combine as many of the
advantages of living out of doors as may be consistent with warmth and
shelter, and one of these is the sympathy with green and growing
things. Plants are nearer in their relations to human health and vigor
than is often imagined. The cheerfulness that well-kept plants impart
to a room comes not merely from gratification of the eye,--there is a
healthful exhalation from them, they are a corrective of the
impurities of the atmosphere. Plants, too, are valuable as tests of
the vitality of the atmosphere; their drooping and failure convey to
us information that something is amiss with it. A lady once told me
that she could never raise plants in her parlors on account of the gas
and anthracite coal. I answered, "Are you not afraid to live and bring
up your children in an atmosphere which blights your plants?" If the
gas escape from the pipes, and the red-hot anthracite coal or the
red-hot air-tight stove burns out all the vital part of the air, so
that healthy plants in a few days wither and begin to drop their
leaves, it is sign that the air must be looked to and reformed. It is
a fatal augury for a room that plants cannot be made to thrive in it.
Plants should not turn pale, be long-jointed, long-leaved, and
spindling; and where they grow in this way, we may be certain that
there is a want of vitality for human beings. But where plants appear
as they do in the open air, with vigorous, stocky growth, and
short-stemmed, deep-green leaves, we may believe the conditions of
that atmosphere are healthy for human lungs.

It is pleasant to see how the custom of plant growing has spread
through our country. In how many farmhouse windows do we see petunias
and nasturtiums vivid with bloom, while snows are whirling without,
and how much brightness have those cheap enjoyments shed on the lives
of those who cared for them! We do not believe there is a human being
who would not become a passionate lover of plants, if circumstances
once made it imperative to tend upon and watch the growth of one. The
history of Picciola for substance has been lived over and over by many
a man and woman who once did not know that there was a particle of
plant-love in their souls. But to the proper care of plants in pots
there are many hindrances and drawbacks. The dust chokes the little
pores of their green lungs, and they require constant showering; and
to carry all one's plants to a sink or porch for this purpose is a
labor which many will not endure. Consequently plants often do not get
a showering once a month! We should try to imitate more closely the
action of Mother Nature, who washes every green child of hers nightly
with dews, which lie glittering on its leaves till morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, there it is!" said Jenny. "I think I could manage with plants,
if it were not for this eternal showering and washing they seem to
require to keep them fresh. They are always tempting one to spatter
the carpet and surrounding furniture, which are not equally benefited
by the libation."

"It is partly for that very reason," I replied, "that the plan of 'our
house' provides for the introduction of Mother Earth, as you will
see."

       *       *       *       *       *

A perfect house, according to my idea, should always include in it a
little compartment where plants can be kept, can be watered, can be
defended from the dust, and have the sunshine and all the conditions
of growth.

People have generally supposed a conservatory to be one of the last
trappings of wealth,--something not to be thought of for those in
modest circumstances. But is this so? You have a bow-window in your
parlor. Leave out the flooring, fill the space with rich earth, close
it from the parlor by glass doors, and you have room for enough plants
and flowers to keep you gay and happy all winter. If on the south
side, where the sunbeams have power, it requires no heat but that
which warms the parlor; and the comfort of it is incalculable, and the
expense a mere trifle greater than that of the bow-window alone.

In larger houses a larger space might be appropriated in this way. We
will not call it a conservatory, because that name suggests ideas of
gardeners, and mysteries of culture and rare plants, which bring all
sorts of care and expense in their train. We would rather call it a
greenery, a room floored with earth, with glass sides to admit the
sun,--and let it open on as many other rooms of the house as
possible.

Why should not the dining-room and parlor be all winter connected
by a spot of green and flowers, with plants, mosses, and ferns for
the shadowy portions, and such simple blooms as petunias and
nasturtiums garlanding the sunny portion near the windows? If near
the water-works, this greenery might be enlivened by the play of a
fountain, whose constant spray would give that softness to the air
which is so often burned away by the dry heat of the furnace.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And do you really think, papa, that houses built in this way are a
practical result to be aimed at?" said Jenny. "To me it seems like a
dream of the Alhambra."

"Yet I happen to have seen real people in our day living in just such
a house," said I. "I could point you, this very hour, to a cottage,
which in style of building is the plainest possible, which unites many
of the best ideas of a true house. My dear, can you sketch the ground
plan of that house we saw in Brighton?"

"Here it is," said my wife, after a few dashes with her pencil, "an
inexpensive house, yet one of the pleasantest I ever saw."

[Illustration: House Blueprint]

"This cottage, which might, at the rate of prices before the war, have
been built for five thousand dollars, has many of the requirements
which I seek for a house. It has two stories, and a tier of very
pleasant attic-rooms, two bathing-rooms, and the water carried into
each story. The parlor and dining-room both look into a little bower,
where a fountain is ever playing into a little marble basin, and which
all the year through has its green and bloom. It is heated simply from
the furnace by a register, like any other room of the house, and
requires no more care than a delicate woman could easily give. The
brightness and cheerfulness it brings during our long, dreary winters
is incredible."

       *       *       *       *       *

But one caution is necessary in all such appendages. The earth must be
thoroughly underdrained to prevent the vapors of stagnant water, and
have a large admixture of broken charcoal to obviate the consequences
of vegetable decomposition. Great care must be taken that there be no
leaves left to fall and decay on the ground, since vegetable
exhalations poison the air. With these precautions such a plot will
soften and purify the air of a house.

Where the means do not allow even so small a conservatory, a recessed
window might be fitted with a deep box, which should have a drain-pipe
at the bottom, and a thick layer of broken charcoal and gravel, with a
mixture of fine wood-soil and sand, for the top stratum. Here ivies
may be planted, which will run and twine and strike their little
tendrils here and there, and give the room in time the aspect of a
bower; the various greenhouse nasturtiums will make winter gorgeous
with blossoms. In windows unblessed by sunshine--and, alas! such are
many--one can cultivate ferns and mosses; the winter-growing ferns, of
which there are many varieties, can be mixed with mosses and woodland
flowers.

Early in February, when the cheerless frosts of winter seem most
wearisome, the common blue violet, wood anemone, hepatica, or
rock-columbine, if planted in this way, will begin to bloom. The
common partridge-berry, with its brilliant scarlet fruit and
dark-green leaves, will also grow finely in such situations, and have
a beautiful effect. These things require daily showering to keep them
fresh, and the moisture arising from them will soften and freshen the
too dry air of heated winter rooms.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus I have been through my four essential elements in
housebuilding,--air, fire, water, and earth. I would provide for these
before anything else. After they are secured, I would gratify my taste
and fancy as far as possible in other ways. I quite agree with Bob in
hating commonplace houses, and longing for some little bit of
architectural effect! and I grieve profoundly that every step in that
direction must cost so much. I have also a taste for niceness of
finish. I have no objection to silver-plated door-locks and hinges,
none to windows which are an entire plate of clear glass. I
congratulate neighbors who are so fortunate as to be able to get them;
and after I have put all the essentials into a house, I would have
these too, if I had the means.

But if all my wood work were to be without groove or moulding, if my
mantels were to be of simple wood, if my doors were all to be
machine-made, and my lumber of the second quality, I would have my
bath-rooms, my conservatory, my sunny bow-windows, and my perfect
ventilation; and my house would then be so pleasant, and every one in
it in such a cheerful mood, that it would verily seem to be ceiled
with cedar.

Speaking of ceiling with cedar, I have one thing more to say. We
Americans have a country abounding in beautiful timber, of whose
beauties we know nothing, on account of the pernicious and stupid
habit of covering it with white paint.

The celebrated zebra wood with its golden stripes cannot exceed in
quaint beauty the grain of unpainted chestnut, prepared simply with a
coat or two of oil. The butternut has a rich golden brown, the very
darling color of painters, a shade so rich, and grain so beautiful,
that it is of itself as charming to look at as a rich picture. The
black-walnut, with its heavy depth of tone, works in well as an
adjunct; and as to oak, what can we say enough of its quaint and many
shadings? Even common pine, which has been considered not decent to
look upon till hastily shrouded in a friendly blanket of white paint,
has, when oiled and varnished, the beauty of satin-wood. The second
quality of pine, which has what are called _shakes_ in it, under this
mode of treatment often shows clouds and veins equal in beauty to the
choicest woods. The cost of such a finish is greatly less than that of
the old method; and it saves those days and weeks of cleaning which
are demanded by white paint, while its general tone is softer and more
harmonious. Experiments in color may be tried in the combinations of
these woods, which at small expense produce the most charming
effects.

As to paper hangings, we are proud to say that our American
manufacturers now furnish all that can be desired. There are some
branches of design where artistic, ingenious France must still excel
us; but whoso has a house to fit up, let him first look at what his
own country has to show, and he will be astonished.

There is one topic in housebuilding on which I would add a few words.
The difficulty of procuring and keeping good servants, which must long
be one of our chief domestic troubles, warns us so to arrange our
houses that we shall need as few as possible. There is the greatest
conceivable difference in the planning and building of houses as to
the amount of work which will be necessary to keep them in respectable
condition. Some houses require a perfect staff of housemaids: there
are plated hinges to be rubbed, paint to be cleaned, with intricacies
of moulding and carving which daily consume hours of dusting to
preserve them from a slovenly look. Simple finish, unpainted wood, a
general distribution of water through the dwelling, will enable a very
large house to be cared for by one pair of hands, and yet maintain a
creditable appearance.

In kitchens one servant may perform the work of two by a close packing
of all the conveniences for cooking and such arrangements as shall
save time and steps. Washing-day may be divested of its terrors by
suitable provisions for water, hot and cold; by wringers, which save
at once the strength of the linen and of the laundress; and by
drying-closets connected with ranges, where articles can in a few
moments be perfectly dried. These, with the use of a small mangle,
such as is now common in America, reduce the labors of the laundry one
half.

There are many more things which might be said of "our house," and
Christopher may, perhaps, find some other opportunity to say them. For
the present his pen is tired and ceaseth.



XII

HOME RELIGION


It was Sunday evening, and our little circle were convened by my study
fireside, where a crackling hickory fire proclaimed the fall of the
year to be coming on, and cold weather impending. Sunday evenings, my
married boys and girls are fond of coming home and gathering round the
old hearthstone, and "making believe" that they are children again. We
get out the old-fashioned music-books, and sing old hymns to very old
tunes, and my wife and her matron daughters talk about the babies in
the intervals; and we discourse of the sermon, and of the choir, and
all the general outworks of good pious things which Sunday suggests.

"Papa," said Marianne, "you are closing up your 'House and Home
Papers,' are you not?"

"Yes,--I am come to the last one, for this year at least."

"My dear," said my wife, "there is one subject you haven't touched on
yet; you ought not to close the year without it; no house and home can
be complete without Religion: you should write a paper on Home
Religion."

My wife, as you may have seen in these papers, is an old-fashioned
woman, something of a conservative. I am, I confess, rather given
to progress and speculation; but I feel always as if I were going on
in these ways with a string round my waist, and my wife's hand
steadily pulling me back into the old paths. My wife is a steady,
Bible-reading, Sabbath-keeping woman, cherishing the memory of her
fathers, and loving to do as they did,--believing, for the most part,
that the paths well beaten by righteous feet are safest, even
though much walking therein has worn away the grass and flowers.
Nevertheless, she has an indulgent ear for all that gives promise
of bettering anybody or anything, and therefore is not severe on any
new methods that may arise in our progressive days of accomplishing
old good objects.

"There must be a home religion," said my wife.

"I believe in home religion," said Bob Stephens,--"but not in the
outward show of it. The best sort of religion is that which one keeps
at the bottom of his heart, and which goes up thence quietly through
all his actions, and not the kind that comes through a certain routine
of forms and ceremonies. Do you suppose family prayers, now, and a
blessing at meals, make people any better?"

"Depend upon it, Robert," said my wife,--she always calls him Robert
on Sunday evenings,--"depend upon it, we are not so very much wiser
than our fathers were, that we need depart from their good old ways.
Of course I would have religion in the heart, and spreading quietly
through the life; but does this interfere with those outward, daily
acts of respect and duty which we owe to our Creator? It is too much
the slang of our day to decry forms, and to exalt the excellency of
the spirit in opposition to them; but tell me, are you satisfied with
friendship that has none of the outward forms of friendship, or love
that has none of the outward forms of love? Are you satisfied of the
existence of a sentiment that has no outward mode of expression? Even
the old heathen had their pieties; they would not begin a feast
without a libation to their divinities, and there was a shrine in
every well-regulated house for household gods."

"The trouble with all these things," said Bob, "is that they get to be
mere forms. I never could see that family worship amounted to much
more in most families."

"The outward expression of all good things is apt to degenerate into
mere form," said I. "The outward expression of social good feeling
becomes a mere form; but for that reason must we meet each other like
oxen? not say, 'Good morning,' or 'Good evening,' or 'I am happy to
see you'? Must we never use any of the forms of mutual good will,
except in those moments when we are excited by a real, present
emotion? What would become of society? Forms are, so to speak, a
daguerreotype of a past good feeling, meant to take and keep the
impression of it when it is gone. Our best and most inspired moments
are crystallized in them; and even when the spirit that created them
is gone, they help to bring it back. Every one must be conscious that
the use of the forms of social benevolence, even towards those who are
personally unpleasant to us, tends to ameliorate prejudices. We see a
man entering our door who is a weary bore, but we use with him those
forms of civility which society prescribes, and feel far kinder to him
than if we had shut the door in his face and said, 'Go along, you
tiresome fellow!' Now why does not this very obvious philosophy apply
to better and higher feelings? The forms of religion are as much more
necessary than the forms of politeness and social good will as
religion is more important than all other things."

"Besides," said my wife, "a form of worship kept up from year to year
in a family--the assembling of parents and children for a few sacred
moments each day, though it may be a form many times, especially in
the gay and thoughtless hours of life--often becomes invested with
deep sacredness in times of trouble, or in those crises that rouse our
deeper feelings. In sickness, in bereavement, in separation, the daily
prayer at home has a sacred and healing power. Then we remember the
scattered and wandering ones; and the scattered and wandering think
tenderly of that hour when they know they are remembered. I know, when
I was a young girl, I was often thoughtless and careless about family
prayers; but now that my father and mother are gone forever, there is
nothing I recall more often. I remember the great old Family Bible,
the hymn-book, the chair where father used to sit. I see him as he
looked bending over that Bible more than in any other way; and
expressions and sentences in his prayers which fell unheeded on my
ears in those days have often come back to me like comforting angels.
We are not aware of the influence things are having on us till we have
left them far behind in years. When we have summered and wintered
them, and look back on them from changed times and other days, we find
that they were making their mark upon us, though we knew it not."

"I have often admired," said I, "the stateliness and regularity of
family worship in good old families in England,--the servants, guests,
and children all assembled,--the reading of the Scriptures and the
daily prayers by the master or mistress of the family, ending with the
united repetition of the Lord's Prayer by all."

"No such assemblage is possible in our country," said Bob. "Our
servants are for the most part Roman Catholics, and forbidden by their
religion to join with us in acts of worship."

"The greater the pity," said I. "It is a pity that all Christians who
can conscientiously repeat the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer
together should for any reason be forbidden to do so. It would do more
to harmonize our families, and promote good feeling between masters
and servants, to meet once a day on the religious ground common to
both, than many sermons on reciprocal duties."

"But, while the case is so," said Marianne, "we can't help it. Our
servants cannot unite with us; our daily prayers are something
forbidden to them."

"We cannot in this country," said I, "give to family prayer that
solemn stateliness which it has in a country where religion is a civil
institution, and masters and servants, as a matter of course, belong
to one church. Our prayers must resemble more a private interview with
a father than a solemn act of homage to a king. They must be more
intimate and domestic. The hour of family devotion should be the
children's hour,--held dear as the interval when the busy father drops
his business and cares, and, like Jesus of old, takes the little ones
in his arms and blesses them. The child should remember it as the time
when the father always seemed most accessible and loving. The old
family worship of New England lacked this character of domesticity and
intimacy,--it was stately and formal, distant and cold; but, whatever
were its defects, I cannot think it an improvement to leave it out
altogether, as too many good sort of people in our day are doing.
There may be practical religion where its outward daily forms are
omitted, but there is assuredly no more of it for the omission. No man
loves God and his neighbor _less_, is a _less_ honest and good man,
for daily prayers in his household,--the chances are quite the other
way; and if the spirit of love rules the family hour, it may prove the
source and spring of all that is good through the day. It seems to be
a solemn duty in the parents thus to make the Invisible Fatherhood
real to their children, who can receive this idea at first only
through outward forms and observances. The little one thus learns that
his father has a Father in heaven, and that the earthly life he is
living is only a sacrament and emblem,--a type of the eternal life
which infolds it, and of more lasting relations there. Whether,
therefore, it be the silent grace and silent prayer of the Friends, or
the form of prayer of ritual churches, or the extemporaneous
outpouring of those whose habits and taste lead them to extempore
prayer, in one of these ways there should be daily outward and visible
acts of worship in every family."

"Well, now," said Bob, "about this old question of Sunday-keeping,
Marianne and I are much divided. I am always for doing something that
she thinks isn't the thing."

"Well, you see," said Marianne, "Bob is always talking against our old
Puritan fathers, and saying all manner of hard things about them. He
seems to think that all their ways and doings must of course have been
absurd. For my part, I don't think we are in any danger of being too
strict about anything. It appears to me that in this country there is
a general tendency to let all sorts of old forms and observances float
down-stream, and yet nobody seems quite to have made up his mind what
shall come next."

"The fact is," said I, "that we realize very fully all the objections
and difficulties of the experiments in living that we have tried; but
the difficulties in others that we are intending to try have not yet
come to light. The Puritan Sabbath had great and very obvious evils.
Its wearisome restraints and over-strictness cast a gloom on religion,
and arrayed against the day itself the active prejudices that now are
undermining it and threatening its extinction. But it had great merits
and virtues, and produced effects on society that we cannot well
afford to dispense with. The clearing of a whole day from all
possibilities of labor and amusement necessarily produced a grave and
thoughtful people, and a democratic republic can be carried on by no
other. In lands which have Sabbaths of mere amusement, mere gala days,
republics rise and fall as quick as children's card-houses; and the
reason is, they are built by those whose political and religious
education has been childish. The common people of Europe have been
sedulously nursed on amusements by the reigning powers, to keep them
from meddling with serious matters; their religion has been sensuous
and sentimental, and their Sabbaths thoughtless holidays. The common
people of New England are educated to think, to reason, to examine all
questions of politics and religion for themselves; and one deeply
thoughtful day every week baptizes and strengthens their reflective
and reasoning faculties. The Sunday-schools of Paris are whirligigs
where Young France rides round and round on little hobby-horses till
his brain spins even faster than Nature made it to spin; and when he
grows up, his political experiments are as whirligig as his Sunday
education. If I were to choose between the Sabbath of France and the
old Puritan Sabbath, I should hold up both hands for the latter, with
all its objectionable features."

"Well," said my wife, "cannot we contrive to retain all that is really
valuable of the Sabbath, and to ameliorate and smooth away what is
forbidding?"

"That is the problem of our day," said I. "We do not want the Sabbath
of Continental Europe: it does not suit democratic institutions; it
cannot be made even a quiet or a safe day, except by means of that
ever-present armed police that exists there. If the Sabbath of America
is simply to be a universal loafing, picnicking, dining-out day, as it
is now with all our foreign population, we shall need what they have
in Europe, the gendarmes at every turn, to protect the fruit on our
trees and the melons in our fields. People who live a little out from
great cities see enough, and more than enough, of this sort of
Sabbath-keeping, with our loose American police.

"The fact is, our system of government was organized to go by moral
influences as much as mills by water, and Sunday was the great day for
concentrating these influences and bringing them to bear; and we might
just as well break down all the dams and let out all the water of the
Lowell mills, and expect still to work the looms, as to expect to work
our laws and constitution with European notions of religion.

"It is true the Puritan Sabbath had its disagreeable points. So have
the laws of Nature. They are of a most uncomfortable sternness and
rigidity; yet for all that, we would hardly join in a petition to have
them repealed, or made wavering and uncertain for human convenience.
We can bend to them in a thousand ways, and live very comfortably
under them."

"But," said Bob, "Sabbath-keeping is the iron rod of bigots; they
don't allow a man any liberty of his own. One says it's wicked to
write a letter Sunday; another holds that you must read no book but
the Bible; and a third is scandalized if you take a walk, ever so
quietly, in the fields. There are all sorts of quips and turns. We may
fasten things with pins of a Sunday, but it's wicked to fasten with
needle and thread, and so on, and so on; and each one, planting
himself on his own individual mode of keeping Sunday, points his guns
and frowns severely over the battlements on his neighbors whose
opinions and practice are different from his."

"Yet," said I, "Sabbath days are expressly mentioned by Saint Paul as
among those things concerning which no man should judge another. It
seems to me that the error as regards the Puritan Sabbath was in
representing it, not as a gift from God to man, but as a tribute of
man to God. Hence all these hagglings and nice questions and exactions
to the uttermost farthing. The holy time must be weighed and measured.
It must begin at twelve o'clock of one night, and end at twelve
o'clock of another; and from beginning to end, the mind must be kept
in a state of tension by the effort not to think any of its usual
thoughts or do any of its usual works. The fact is, that the
metaphysical, defining, hair-splitting mind of New England, turning
its whole powers on this one bit of ritual, this one only day of
divine service, which was left of all the feasts and fasts of the old
churches, made of it a thing straiter and stricter than ever the old
Jews dreamed of.

"The old Jewish Sabbath entered only into the physical region, merely
enjoining cessation from physical toil. 'Thou shalt not _labor_ nor do
any _work_,' covered the whole ground. In other respects than this it
was a joyful festival, resembling, in the mode of keeping it, the
Christmas of the modern church. It was a day of social hilarity,--the
Jewish law strictly forbidding mourning and gloom during festivals.
The people were commanded on feast days to rejoice before the Lord
their God with all their might. We fancy there were no houses where
children were afraid to laugh, where the voice of social cheerfulness
quavered away in terror lest it should awake a wrathful God. The
Jewish Sabbath was instituted, in the absence of printing, of books,
and of all the advantages of literature, to be the great means of
preserving sacred history,--a day cleared from all possibility of
other employment than social and family communion, when the heads of
families and the elders of tribes might instruct the young in those
religious traditions which have thus come down to us.

"The Christian Sabbath is meant to supply the same moral need in that
improved and higher state of society which Christianity introduced.
Thus it was changed from the day representing the creation of the
world to the resurrection day of Him who came to make all things new.
The Jewish Sabbath was buried with Christ in the sepulchre, and arose
with Him, not a Jewish, but a Christian festival, still holding in
itself that provision for man's needs which the old institution
possessed, but with a wider and more generous freedom of application.
It was given to the Christian world as a day of rest, of refreshment,
of hope and joy, and of worship. The manner of making it such a day
was left open and free to the needs and convenience of the varying
circumstances and characters of those for whose benefit it was
instituted."

"Well," said Bob, "don't you think there is a deal of nonsense about
Sabbath-keeping?"

"There is a deal of nonsense about everything human beings have to
deal with," I said.

"And," said Marianne, "how to find out what is nonsense?"--

"By clear conceptions," said I, "of what the day is for. I should
define the Sabbath as a divine and fatherly gift to man,--a day
expressly set apart for the cultivation of his moral nature. Its
object is not merely physical rest and recreation, but moral
improvement. The former are proper to the day only so far as they
are subservient to the latter. The whole human race have the
conscious need of being made better, purer, and more spiritual; the
whole human race have one common danger of sinking to a mere animal
life under the pressure of labor or in the dissipations of pleasure;
and of the whole human race the proverb holds good, that what may be
done any time is done at no time. Hence the Heavenly Father
appoints one day as a special season for the culture of man's
highest faculties. Accordingly, whatever ways and practices
interfere with the purpose of the Sabbath as a day of worship and
moral culture should be avoided, and all family arrangements for the
day should be made with reference thereto."

"Cold dinners on Sunday, for example," said Bob. "Marianne holds these
as prime articles of faith."

"Yes,--they doubtless are most worthy and merciful, in giving to the
poor cook one day she may call her own, and rest from the heat of
range and cooking-stove. For the same reason, I would suspend as far
as possible all traveling, and all public labor, on Sunday. The
hundreds of hands that these things require to carry them on are the
hands of human beings, whose right to this merciful pause of rest is
as clear as their humanity. Let them have their day to look upward."

"But the little ones," said my oldest matron daughter, who had not as
yet spoken,--"they are the problem. Oh, this weary labor of making
children keep Sunday! If I try it, I have no rest at all myself. If I
must talk to them or read to them to keep them from play, my Sabbath
becomes my hardest working day."

"And, pray, what commandment of the Bible ever said children should
not play on Sunday?" said I. "We are forbidden to work, and we see the
reason why; but lambs frisk and robins sing on Sunday; and little
children, who are as yet more than half animals, must not be made to
keep the day in the manner proper to our more developed faculties. As
much cheerful, attractive religious instruction as they can bear
without weariness may be given, and then they may simply be restrained
from disturbing others. Say to the little one, 'This day we have noble
and beautiful things to think of that interest us deeply: you are a
child; you cannot read and think and enjoy such things as much as we
can; you may play softly and quietly, and remember not to make a
disturbance.' I would take a child to public worship at least once of
a Sunday; it forms a good habit in him. If the sermon be long and
unintelligible, there are the little Sabbath-school books in every
child's hands; and while the grown people are getting what they
understand, who shall forbid a child's getting what is suited to him
in a way that interests him and disturbs nobody? The Sabbath-school is
the child's church and happily it is yearly becoming a more and more
attractive institution. I approve the custom of those who beautify the
Sabbath school-room with plants, flowers, and pictures, thus making it
an attractive place to the childish eye. The more this custom
prevails, the more charming in after years will be the memories of
Sunday.

"It is most especially to be desired that the whole air and aspect of
the day should be one of cheerfulness. Even the new dresses, new
bonnets, and new shoes, in which children delight of a Sunday, should
not be despised. They have their value in marking the day as a
festival; and it is better for the child to long for Sunday, for the
sake of his little new shoes, than that he should hate and dread it
as a period of wearisome restraint. All the latitude should be given
to children that can be, consistently with fixing in their minds the
idea of a sacred season. I would rather that the atmosphere of the day
should resemble that of a weekly Thanksgiving than that it should make
its mark on the tender mind only by the memory of deprivations and
restrictions."

"Well," said Bob, "here's Marianne always breaking her heart about my
reading on Sunday. Now I hold that what is bad on Sunday is bad on
Monday,--and what is good on Monday is good on Sunday."

"We cannot abridge other people's liberty," said I. "The generous,
confiding spirit of Christianity has imposed not a single restriction
upon us in reference to Sunday. The day is put at our disposal as a
good Father hands a piece of money to his child,--'There it is; take
it and spend it well.' The child knows from his father's character
what he means by spending it well, but he is left free to use his own
judgment as to the mode.

"If a man conscientiously feels that reading of this or that
description is the best for him as regards his moral training and
improvement, let him pursue it, and let no man judge him. It is
difficult, with the varying temperaments of men, to decide what are or
are not religious books. One man is more religiously impressed by the
reading of history or astronomy than he would be by reading a sermon.
There may be overwrought and wearied states of the brain and nerves
which require and make proper the diversions of light literature; and
if so, let it be used. The mind must have its recreations as well as
the body."

"But for children and young people," said my daughter,--"would you let
them read novels on Sunday?"

"That is exactly like asking, Would you let them talk with people
on Sunday? Now people are different; it depends, therefore, on who
they are. Some are trifling and flighty, some are positively
bad-principled, some are altogether good in their influence. So of the
class of books called novels. Some are merely frivolous, some are
absolutely noxious and dangerous, others again are written with a
strong moral and religious purpose, and, being vivid and interesting,
produce far more religious effect on the mind than dull treatises
and sermons. The parables of Christ sufficiently establish the point
that there is no inherent objection to the use of fiction in
teaching religious truth. Good religious fiction, thoughtfully
read, may be quite as profitable as any other reading."

"But don't you think," said Marianne, "that there is danger in too
much fiction?"

"Yes," said I. "But the chief danger of all that class of reading is
its _easiness_, and the indolent, careless mental habits it induces. A
great deal of the reading of young people on all days is really
reading to no purpose, its object being merely present amusement. It
is a listless yielding of the mind to be washed over by a stream which
leaves no fertilizing properties, and carries away by constant wear
the good soil of thought. I should try to establish a barrier against
this kind of reading, not only on Sunday, but on Monday, on Tuesday,
and on all days. Instead, therefore, of objecting to any particular
class of books for Sunday reading, I should say in general that
reading merely for pastime, without any moral aim, is the thing to be
guarded against. That which inspires no thought, no purpose, which
steals away all our strength and energy, and makes the Sabbath a day
of dreams, is the reading I would object to.

"So of music. I do not see the propriety of confining one's self to
technical sacred music. Any grave, solemn, thoughtful, or pathetic
music has a proper relation to our higher spiritual nature, whether it
be printed in a church service-book or on secular sheets. On me, for
example, Beethoven's Sonatas have a far more deeply religious
influence than much that has religious names and words. Music is to be
judged of by its effects."

"Well," said Bob, "if Sunday is given for our own individual
improvement, I for one should not go to church. I think I get a great
deal more good in staying at home and reading."

"There are two considerations to be taken into account in reference to
this matter of church-going," I replied. "One relates to our duty as
members of society in keeping up the influence of the Sabbath, and
causing it to be respected in the community; the other, to the proper
disposition of our time for our own moral improvement. As members of
the community, we should go to church, and do all in our power to
support the outward ordinances of religion. If a conscientious man
makes up his mind that Sunday is a day for outward acts of worship and
reverence, he should do his own part as an individual towards
sustaining these observances. Even though he may have such mental and
moral resources that as an individual he could gain much more in
solitude than in a congregation, still he owes to the congregation the
influence of his presence and sympathy. But I have never yet seen the
man, however finely gifted morally and intellectually, whom I thought
in the long run a gainer in either of these respects by the neglect of
public worship. I have seen many who in their pride kept aloof from
the sympathies and communion of their brethren, who lost strength
morally, and deteriorated in ways that made themselves painfully felt.
Sunday is apt in such cases to degenerate into a day of mere mental
idleness and reverie, or to become a sort of waste-paper box for
scraps, odds and ends of secular affairs.

"As to those very good people--and many such there are--who go
straight on with the work of life on Sunday, on the plea that 'to
labor is to pray,' I simply think they are mistaken. In the first
place, to labor is _not_ the same thing as to pray. It may sometimes
be as good a thing to do, and in some cases even a better thing; but
it is not the same thing. A man might as well never write a letter to
his wife, on the plea that making money for her is writing to her.
It may possibly be quite as great a proof of love to work for a wife
as to write to her, but few wives would not say that both were not
better than either alone. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the
intervention of one day of spiritual rest and aspiration so refreshes
a man's whole nature, and oils the many wheels of existence, that
he who allows himself a weekly Sabbath does more work in the course
of his life for the omission of work on that day.

"A young student in a French college, where the examinations are
rigidly severe, found by experience that he succeeded best in his
examination by allowing one day of entire rest just before it. His
brain and nervous system refreshed in this way carried him through the
work better than if taxed to the last moment. There are men
transacting a large and complicated business who can testify to the
same influence from the repose of the Sabbath.

"I believe those Christian people who from conscience and principle
turn their thoughts most entirely out of the current of worldly cares
on Sunday fulfill unconsciously a great law of health; and that,
whether their moral nature be thereby advanced or not, their brain
will work more healthfully and actively for it, even in physical and
worldly matters. It is because the Sabbath thus harmonizes the
physical and moral laws of our being that the injunction concerning it
is placed among the ten great commandments, each of which represents
some one of the immutable needs of humanity."

"There is yet another point of family religion that ought to be
thought of," said my wife: "I mean the customs of mourning. If there
is anything that ought to distinguish Christian families from Pagans,
it should be their way of looking at and meeting those inevitable
events that must from time to time break the family chain. It seems to
be the peculiarity of Christianity to shed hope on such events. And
yet it seems to me as if it were the very intention of many of the
customs of society to add tenfold to their gloom and horror,--such
swathings of black crape, such funereal mufflings of every pleasant
object, such darkening of rooms, and such seclusion from society and
giving up to bitter thoughts and lamentation. How can little children
that look on such things believe that there is a particle of truth in
all they hear about the joyous and comforting doctrines which the
Bible holds forth for such times?"

"That subject is a difficult one," I rejoined. "Nature seems to
indicate a propriety in some outward expressions of grief when we lose
our friends. All nations agree in these demonstrations. In a certain
degree they are soothing to sorrow; they are the language of external
life made to correspond to the internal. Wearing mourning has its
advantages. It is a protection to the feelings of the wearer, for whom
it procures sympathetic and tender consideration; it saves grief from
many a hard jostle in the ways of life; it prevents the necessity of
many a trying explanation, and is the ready apology for many an
omission of those tasks to which sorrow is unequal. For all these
reasons I never could join the crusade which some seem disposed to
wage against it. Mourning, however, ought not to be continued for
years. Its uses are more for the first few months of sorrow, when it
serves the mourner as a safeguard from intrusion, insuring quiet and
leisure in which to reunite the broken threads of life, and to gather
strength for a return to its duties. But to wear mourning garments and
forego society for two or three years after the loss of any friend,
however dear, I cannot but regard as a morbid, unhealthy nursing of
sorrow, unworthy of a Christian."

"And yet," said my wife, "to such an unhealthy degree does this custom
prevail, that I have actually known young girls who have never worn
any other dress than mourning, and consequently never been into
society, during the entire period of their girlhood. First, the death
of a father necessitated three years of funereal garments and
abandonment of social relations; then the death of a brother added two
years more; and before that mourning was well ended, another of a wide
circle of relatives being taken, the habitual seclusion was still
protracted. What must a child think of the Christian doctrine of life
and death who has never seen life except through black crape? We
profess to believe in a better life to which the departed good are
called,--to believe in the shortness of our separation, the certainty
of reunion, and that all these events are arranged in all their
relations by an infinite tenderness which cannot err. Surely,
Christian funerals too often seem to say that affliction 'cometh of
the dust,' and not from above."

"But," said Bob, "after all, death is a horror; you can make nothing
less of it. You can't smooth it over, nor dress it with flowers; it is
what Nature shudders at."

"It is precisely for this reason," said I, "that Christians should
avoid those customs which aggravate and intensify this natural dread.
Why overpower the senses with doleful and funereal images in the hour
of weakness and bereavement, when the soul needs all her force to rise
above the gloom of earth, and to realize the mysteries of faith? Why
shut the friendly sunshine from the mourner's room? Why muffle in a
white shroud every picture that speaks a cheerful household word to
the eye? Why make a house look stiff and ghastly and cold as a corpse?
In some of our cities, on the occurrence of a death in the family, all
the shutters on the street are closed and tied with black crape, and
so remain for months. What an oppressive gloom must this bring on a
house! how like the very shadow of death! It is enlisting the nerves
and the senses against our religion, and making more difficult the
great duty of returning to life and its interests. I would have
flowers and sunshine in the deserted rooms, and make them symbolical
of the cheerful mansions above, to which our beloved ones are gone.
Home ought to be so religiously cheerful, so penetrated by the life of
love and hope and Christian faith, that the other world may be made
real by it. Our home life should be a type of the higher life. Our
home should be so sanctified, its joys and its sorrows so baptized and
hallowed, that it shall not be sacrilegious to think of heaven as a
higher form of the same thing,--a Father's house in the better
country, whose mansions are many, whose love is perfect, whose joy is
eternal."



THE CHIMNEY-CORNER

I

WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH HER? OR, THE WOMAN QUESTION


"Well, what will you do with her?" said I to my wife.

My wife had just come down from an interview with a pale, faded-looking
young woman in rusty black attire, who had called upon me on the very
common supposition that I was an editor of the "Atlantic Monthly."

By the by, this is a mistake that brings me, Christopher Crowfield,
many letters that do not belong to me, and which might with equal
pertinency be addressed, "To the Man in the Moon." Yet these letters
often make my heart ache,--they speak so of people who strive and
sorrow and want help; and it is hard to be called on in plaintive
tones for help which you know it is perfectly impossible for you to
give.

For instance, you get a letter in a delicate hand, setting forth the
old distress,--she is poor, and she has looking to her for support
those that are poorer and more helpless than herself: she has tried
sewing, but can make little at it; tried teaching, but cannot now get
a school,--all places being filled, and more than filled; at last has
tried literature, and written some little things, of which she sends
you a modest specimen, and wants your opinion whether she can gain her
living by writing. You run over the articles, and perceive at a glance
that there is no kind of hope or use in her trying to do anything at
literature; and then you ask yourself mentally, "What is to be done
with her? What can she do?"

Such was the application that had come to me this morning,--only,
instead of by note, it came, as I have said, in the person of the
applicant, a thin, delicate, consumptive-looking being, wearing that
rusty mourning which speaks sadly at once of heart bereavement and
material poverty.

My usual course is to turn such cases over to Mrs. Crowfield; and it
is to be confessed that this worthy woman spends a large portion of
her time, and wears out an extraordinary amount of shoe-leather, in
performing the duties of a self-constituted intelligence office. Talk
of giving money to the poor! what is that, compared to giving
sympathy, thought, time, taking their burdens upon you, sharing their
perplexities? They who are able to buy off every application at the
door of their heart with a five or ten dollar bill are those who free
themselves at least expense.

My wife had communicated to our friend, in the gentlest tones and in
the blandest manner, that her poor little pieces, however interesting
to her own household circle, had nothing in them wherewith to enable
her to make her way in the thronged and crowded thoroughfare of
letters,--that they had no more strength or adaptation to win bread
for her than a broken-winged butterfly to draw a plough; and it took
some resolution in the background of her tenderness to make the poor
applicant entirely certain of this. In cases like this, absolute
certainty is the very greatest, the only true kindness.

It was grievous, my wife said, to see the discouraged shade which
passed over her thin, tremulous features when this certainty forced
itself upon her. It is hard, when sinking in the waves, to see the
frail bush at which the hand clutches uprooted; hard, when alone in
the crowded thoroughfare of travel, to have one's last bank-note
declared a counterfeit. I knew I should not be able to see her face,
under the shade of this disappointment; and so, coward that I was, I
turned this trouble, where I have turned so many others, upon my
wife.

"Well, what shall we do with her?" said I.

"I really don't know," said my wife musingly.

"Do you think we could get that school in Taunton for her?"

"Impossible; Mr. Herbert told me he had already twelve applicants for
it."

"Couldn't you get her plain sewing? Is she handy with her needle?"

"She has tried that, but it brings on a pain in her side, and cough;
and the doctor has told her it will not do for her to confine
herself."

"How is her handwriting? Does she write a good hand?"

"Only passable."

"Because," said I, "I was thinking if I could get Steele and Simpson
to give her law papers to copy."

"They have more copyists than they need now; and, in fact, this woman
does not write the sort of hand at all that would enable her to get on
as a copyist."

"Well," said I, turning uneasily in my chair, and at last hitting on a
bright masculine expedient, "I'll tell you what must be done. She must
get married."

"My dear," said my wife, "marrying for a living is the very hardest
way a woman can take to get it. Even marrying for love often turns out
badly enough. Witness poor Jane."

Jane was one of the large number of people whom it seemed my wife's
fortune to carry through life on her back. She was a pretty, smiling,
pleasing daughter of Erin, who had been in our family originally as
nursery-maid. I had been greatly pleased in watching a little idyllic
affair growing up between her and a joyous, good-natured young
Irishman, to whom at last we married her. Mike soon after, however,
took to drinking and unsteady courses; and the result has been to Jane
only a yearly baby, with poor health and no money.

"In fact," said my wife, "if Jane had only kept single, she could have
made her own way well enough, and might have now been in good health
and had a pretty sum in the savings bank. As it is, I must carry not
only her, but her three children, on my back."

"You ought to drop her, my dear. You really ought not to burden
yourself with other people's affairs as you do," said I inconsistently.

"How can I drop her? Can I help knowing that she is poor and
suffering? And if I drop her, who will take her up?"

Now there is a way of getting rid of cases of this kind, spoken of in
a quaint old book, which occurred strongly to me at this moment:--

"If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one
of you say unto them, 'Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled,'
notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the
body, what doth it profit?"

I must confess, notwithstanding the strong point of the closing
question, I looked with an evil eye of longing on this very easy way
of disposing of such cases. A few sympathizing words, a few
expressions of hope that I did not feel, a line written to turn the
case into somebody else's hands,--any expedient, in fact, to hide the
longing eyes and imploring hands from my sight,--was what my carnal
nature at this moment greatly craved.

"Besides," said my wife, resuming the thread of her thoughts in regard
to the subject just now before us, "as to marriage, it's out of the
question at present for this poor child; for the man she loved and
would have married lies low in one of the graves before Richmond. It's
a sad story,--one of a thousand like it. She brightened for a few
moments, and looked almost handsome, when she spoke of his bravery and
goodness. Her father and lover have both died in this war. Her only
brother has returned from it a broken-down cripple, and she has him
and her poor old mother to care for, and so she seeks work. I told her
to come again to-morrow, and I would look about for her a little
to-day."

"Let me see, how many are now down on your list to be looked about
for, Mrs. Crowfield?--some twelve or thirteen, are there not? You've
got Tom's sister disposed of finally, I hope,--that's a comfort!"

"Well, I'm sorry to say she came back on my hands yesterday," said my
wife patiently. "She is a foolish young thing, and said she didn't
like living out in the country. I'm sorry, because the Morrises are an
excellent family, and she might have had a life home there, if she had
only been steady, and chosen to behave herself properly. But yesterday
I found her back on her mother's hands again; and the poor woman told
me that the dear child never could bear to be separated from her, and
that she hadn't the heart to send her back."

"And in short," said I, "she gave you notice that you must provide for
Miss O'Connor in some more agreeable way. Cross that name off your
list, at any rate. That woman and girl need a few hard raps in the
school of experience before you can do anything for them."

"I think I shall," said my long-suffering wife; "but it's a pity to
see a young thing put in the direct road to ruin."

"It is one of the inevitables," said I, "and we must save our strength
for those that are willing to help themselves."

"What's all this talk about?" said Bob, coming in upon us rather
brusquely.

"Oh, as usual, the old question," said I,--"'What's to be done with
her?'"

"Well," said Bob, "it's exactly what I've come to talk with mother
about. Since she keeps a distressed women's agency office, I've come
to consult her about Marianne. That woman will die before six months
are out, a victim to high civilization and the Paddies. There we are,
twelve miles out from Boston, in a country villa so convenient that
every part of it might almost do its own work,--everything arranged in
the most convenient, contiguous, self-adjusting, self-acting,
patent-right, perfective manner,--and yet I tell you Marianne will die
of that house. It will yet be recorded on her tombstone, 'Died of
conveniences.' For myself, what I languish for is a log-cabin, with a
bed in one corner, a trundle-bed underneath for the children, a
fireplace only six feet off, a table, four chairs, one kettle, a
coffee-pot, and a tin baker,--that's all. I lived deliciously in an
establishment of this kind last summer, when I was up at Lake
Superior; and I am convinced, if I could move Marianne into it at
once, that she would become a healthy and a happy woman. Her life is
smothered out of her with comforts; we have too many rooms, too many
carpets, too many vases and knick-knacks, too much china and silver;
she has too many laces and dresses and bonnets; the children all have
too many clothes: in fact, to put it scripturally, our riches are
corrupted, our garments are moth-eaten, our gold and our silver is
cankered, and, in short, Marianne is sick in bed, and I have come to
the agency office for distressed women to take you out to attend to
her.

"The fact is," continued Bob, "that since our cook married, and Alice
went to California, there seems to be no possibility of putting our
domestic cabinet upon any permanent basis. The number of female
persons that have been through our house, and the ravages they have
wrought on it for the last six months, pass belief. I had yesterday a
bill of sixty dollars' plumbing to pay for damages of various kinds
which had had to be repaired in our very convenient water-works; and
the blame of each particular one had been bandied like a shuttlecock
among our three household divinities. Biddy privately assured my wife
that Kate was in the habit of emptying dustpans of rubbish into the
main drain from the chambers, and washing any little extra bits down
through the bowls; and, in fact, when one of the bathing-room bowls
had overflowed so as to damage the frescoes below, my wife, with great
delicacy and precaution, interrogated Kate as to whether she had
followed her instructions in the care of the water-pipes. Of course
she protested the most immaculate care and circumspection. 'Sure, and
she knew how careful one ought to be, and wasn't of the likes of thim
as wouldn't mind what throuble they made,--like Biddy, who would throw
trash and hair in the pipes, and niver listen to her tellin'; sure,
and hadn't she broken the pipes in the kitchen, and lost the stoppers,
as it was a shame to see in a Christian house?' Ann, the third girl,
being privately questioned, blamed Biddy on Monday, and Kate on
Tuesday; on Wednesday, however, she exonerated both; but on Thursday,
being in a high quarrel with both, she departed, accusing them
severally, not only of all the evil practices aforesaid, but of lying
and stealing, and all other miscellaneous wickednesses that came to
hand. Whereat the two thus accused rushed in, bewailing themselves and
cursing Ann in alternate strophes, averring that she had given the
baby laudanum, and, taking it out riding, had stopped for hours with
it in a filthy lane where the scarlet fever was said to be rife,--in
short, made so fearful a picture that Marianne gave up the child's
life at once, and has taken to her bed. I have endeavored all I could
to quiet her, by telling her that the scarlet fever story was probably
an extemporaneous work of fiction, got up to gratify the Hibernian
anger at Ann; and that it wasn't in the least worth while to believe
one thing more than another from the fact that any of the tribe said
it. But she refuses to be comforted, and is so Utopian as to lie there
crying, 'Oh, if I only could get one that I could trust,--one that
would really speak the truth to me,--one that I might know really went
where she said she went, and really did as she said she did!' To have
to live so, she says, and bring up little children with those she
can't trust out of her sight, whose word is good for nothing,--to feel
that her beautiful house and her lovely things are all going to rack
and ruin, and she can't take care of them, and can't see where or when
or how the mischief is done,--in short, the poor child talks as women
do who are violently attacked with housekeeping fever tending to
congestion of the brain. She actually yesterday told me that she
wished, on the whole, she never had got married, which I take to be
the most positive indication of mental alienation."

"Here," said I, "we behold at this moment two women dying for the want
of what they can mutually give one another,--each having a supply of
what the other needs, but held back by certain invisible cobwebs,
slight but strong, from coming to each other's assistance. Marianne
has money enough, but she wants a helper in her family, such as all
her money has been hitherto unable to buy; and here, close at hand, is
a woman who wants home shelter, healthy, varied, active, cheerful
labor, with nourishing food, kind care, and good wages. What hinders
these women from rushing to the help of one another, just as two drops
of water on a leaf rush together and make one? Nothing but a miserable
prejudice,--but a prejudice so strong that women will starve in any
other mode of life rather than accept competency and comfort in
this."

"You don't mean," said my wife, "to propose that our protégée should
go to Marianne as a servant?"

"I do say it would be the best thing for her to do,--the only opening
that I see, and a very good one, too, it is. Just look at it. Her bare
living at this moment cannot cost her less than five or six dollars a
week,--everything at the present time is so very dear in the city. Now
by what possible calling open to her capacity can she pay her board
and washing, fuel and lights, and clear a hundred and some odd dollars
a year? She could not do it as a district school teacher; she
certainly cannot, with her feeble health, do it by plain sewing; she
could not do it as a copyist. A robust woman might go into a factory
and earn more; but factory work is unintermitted, twelve hours daily,
week in and out, in the same movement, in close air, amid the clatter
of machinery; and a person delicately organized soon sinks under it.
It takes a stolid, enduring temperament to bear factory labor. Now
look at Marianne's house and family, and see what is insured to your
protégée there.

"In the first place, a home,--a neat, quiet chamber, quite as good as
she has probably been accustomed to,--the very best of food, served in
a pleasant, light, airy kitchen, which is one of the most agreeable
rooms in the house, and the table and table service quite equal to
those of most farmers and mechanics. Then her daily tasks would be
light and varied,--some sweeping, some dusting, the washing and
dressing of children, the care of their rooms and the nursery,--all of
it the most healthful, the most natural work of a woman,--work
alternating with rest, and diverting thought from painful subjects by
its variety, and, what is more, a kind of work in which a good
Christian woman might have satisfaction, as feeling herself useful in
the highest and best way; for the child's nurse, if she be a pious,
well-educated woman, may make the whole course of nursery life an
education in goodness. Then, what is far different from any other
modes of gaining a livelihood, a woman in this capacity can make and
feel herself really and truly beloved. The hearts of little children
are easily gained, and their love is real and warm, and no true woman
can become the object of it without feeling her own life made
brighter. Again, she would have in Marianne a sincere, warm-hearted
friend, who would care for her tenderly, respect her sorrows, shelter
her feelings, be considerate of her wants, and in every way aid her in
the cause she has most at heart,--the succor of her family. There are
many ways besides her wages in which she would infallibly be assisted
by Marianne, so that the probability would be that she could send her
little salary almost untouched to those for whose support she was
toiling,--all this on her part."

"But," added my wife, "on the other hand, she would be obliged to
associate and be ranked with common Irish servants."

"Well," I answered, "is there any occupation, by which any of us gain
our living, which has not its disagreeable side? Does not the lawyer
spend all his days either in a dusty office or in the foul air of a
court-room? Is he not brought into much disagreeable contact with the
lowest class of society? Are not his labors dry and hard and
exhausting? Does not the blacksmith spend half his life in soot and
grime, that he may gain a competence for the other half? If this woman
were to work in a factory, would she not often be brought into
associations distasteful to her? Might it not be the same in any of
the arts and trades in which a living is to be got? There must be
unpleasant circumstances about earning a living in any way, only I
maintain that those which a woman would be likely to meet with as a
servant in a refined, well-bred Christian family would be less than in
almost any other calling. Are there no trials to a woman, I beg to
know, in teaching a district school, where all the boys, big and
little, of a neighborhood congregate? For my part, were it my daughter
or sister who was in necessitous circumstances, I would choose for
her a position such as I name, in a kind, intelligent, Christian
family, before many of those to which women do devote themselves."

"Well," said Bob, "all this has a good sound enough, but it's quite
impossible. It's true, I verily believe, that such a kind of servant
in our family would really prolong Marianne's life years,--that it
would improve her health, and be an unspeakable blessing to her, to
me, and the children,--and I would almost go down on my knees to a
really well-educated, good American woman who would come into our
family and take that place; but I know it's perfectly vain and useless
to expect it. You know we have tried the experiment two or three times
of having a person in our family who should be on the footing of a
friend, yet do the duties of a servant, and that we never could make
it work well. These half-and-half people are so sensitive, so exacting
in their demands, so hard to please, that we have come to the firm
determination that we will have no sliding-scale in our family, and
that whoever we are to depend on must come with bona fide willingness
to take the position of a servant, such as that position is in our
house; and that, I suppose, your protégée would never do, even if she
could thereby live easier, have less hard work, better health, and
quite as much money as she could earn in any other way."

"She would consider it a personal degradation, I suppose," said my
wife.

"And yet, if she only knew it," said Bob, "I should respect her far
more profoundly for her willingness to take that position, when
adverse fortune has shut other doors."

"Well, now," said I, "this woman is, as I understand, the daughter of
a respectable stone-mason, and the domestic habits of her early life
have probably been economical and simple. Like most of our mechanics'
daughters, she has received in one of our high schools an education
which has cultivated and developed her mind far beyond those of her
parents and the associates of her childhood. This is a common fact in
our American life. By our high schools the daughters of plain
workingmen are raised to a state of intellectual culture which seems
to make the disposition of them in any kind of industrial calling a
difficult one. They all want to teach school,--and schoolteaching,
consequently, is an overcrowded profession,--and, failing that, there
is only millinery and dressmaking. Of late, it is true, efforts have
been made in various directions to widen their sphere. Typesetting and
bookkeeping are in some instances beginning to be open to them.

"All this time there is lying, neglected and despised, a calling to
which womanly talents and instincts are peculiarly fitted,--a calling
full of opportunities of the most lasting usefulness; a calling which
insures a settled home, respectable protection, healthful exercise,
good air, good food, and good wages; a calling in which a woman may
make real friends, and secure to herself warm affection: and yet this
calling is the one always refused, shunned, contemned, left to the
alien and the stranger, and that simply and solely because it bears
the name of _servant_. A Christian woman, who holds the name of Christ
in her heart in true devotion, would think it the greatest possible
misfortune and degradation to become like him in taking upon her 'the
form of a servant.' The founder of Christianity says: 'Whether is
greater, he that sitteth at meat or he that serveth? But _I_ am among
you as he that serveth.' But notwithstanding these so plain
declarations of Jesus, we find that scarce any one in a Christian land
will accept real advantages of position and employment that come with
that name and condition."

"I suppose," said my wife, "I could prevail upon this woman to do all
the duties of the situation, if she could be, as they phrase it,
'treated as one of the family.'"

"That is to say," said Bob, "if she could sit with us at the same
table, be introduced to our friends, and be in all respects as one
of us. Now, as to this, I am free to say that I have no false
aristocratic scruples. I consider every well-educated woman as fully
my equal, not to say my superior; but it does not follow from this
that she would be one whom I should wish to make a third party with me
and my wife at meal-times. Our meals are often our seasons of
privacy,--the times when we wish in perfect unreserve to speak of
matters that concern ourselves and our family alone. Even invited
guests and family friends would not be always welcome, however
agreeable at times. Now a woman may be perfectly worthy of respect,
and we may be perfectly respectful to her, whom nevertheless we do
not wish to take into the circle of intimate friendship. I regard
the position of a woman who comes to perform domestic service as I
do any other business relation. We have a very respectable young lady
in our employ who does legal copying for us, and all is perfectly
pleasant and agreeable in our mutual relations; but the case would be
far otherwise were she to take it into her head that we treated her
with contempt, because my wife did not call on her, and because she
was not occasionally invited to tea. Besides, I apprehend that a
woman of quick sensibilities, employed in domestic service, and who
was so far treated as a member of the family as to share our table,
would find her position even more painful and embarrassing than if
she took once for all the position of a servant. We could not
control the feelings of our friends; we could not always insure
that they would be free from aristocratic prejudice, even were we so
ourselves. We could not force her upon their acquaintance, and she
might feel far more slighted than she would in a position where no
attentions of any kind were to be expected. Besides which, I have
always noticed that persons standing in this uncertain position are
objects of peculiar antipathy to the servants in full; that they
are the cause of constant and secret cabals and discontents; and that
a family where the two orders exist has always raked up in it the
smouldering embers of a quarrel ready at any time to burst out
into open feud."

"Well," said I, "here lies the problem of American life. Half our
women, like Marianne, are being faded and made old before their time
by exhausting endeavors to lead a life of high civilization and
refinement with only such untrained help as is washed up on our shores
by the tide of emigration. Our houses are built upon a plan that
precludes the necessity of much hard labor, but requires rather
careful and nice handling. A well-trained, intelligent woman, who had
vitalized her finger-ends by means of a well-developed brain, could do
all the work of such a house with comparatively little physical
fatigue. So stands the case as regards our houses. Now, over against
the women that are perishing in them from too much care, there is
another class of American women that are wandering up and down,
perishing for lack of some remunerating employment. That class of
women, whose developed brains and less developed muscles mark them as
peculiarly fitted for the performance of the labors of a high
civilization, stand utterly aloof from paid domestic service. Sooner
beg, sooner starve, sooner marry for money, sooner hang on as
dependents in families where they know they are not wanted, than
accept of a quiet home, easy, healthful work, and certain wages, in
these refined and pleasant modern dwellings of ours."

"What is the reason of this?" said Bob.

"The reason is, that we have not yet come to the full development of
Christian democracy. The taint of old aristocracies is yet pervading
all parts of our society. We have not yet realized fully the true
dignity of labor, and the surpassing dignity of domestic labor. And I
must say that the valuable and courageous women who have agitated the
doctrines of Woman's Rights among us have not in all things seen their
way clear in this matter."

"Don't talk to me of those creatures," said Bob, "those men-women,
those anomalies, neither flesh nor fish, with their conventions, and
their cracked woman-voices strained in what they call public speaking,
but which I call public squeaking! No man reverences true women more
than I do. I hold a real, true, thoroughly good _woman_, whether in my
parlor or my kitchen, as my superior. She can always teach me
something that I need to know. She has always in her somewhat of the
divine gift of prophecy; but in order to keep it, she must remain a
woman. When she crops her hair, puts on pantaloons, and strides about
in conventions, she is an abortion, and not a woman."

"Come! come!" said I, "after all, speak with deference. We that choose
to wear soft clothing and dwell in kings' houses must respect the
Baptists, who wear leathern girdles, and eat locusts and wild honey.
They are the voices crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for a
coming good. They go down on their knees in the mire of life to lift
up and brighten and restore a neglected truth; and we that have not
the energy to share their struggle should at least refrain from
criticising their soiled garments and ungraceful action. There have
been excrescences, eccentricities, peculiarities, about the camp of
these reformers; but the body of them have been true and noble women,
and worthy of all the reverence due to such. They have already in many
of our States reformed the laws relating to woman's position, and
placed her on a more just and Christian basis. It is through their
movements that in many of our States a woman can hold the fruits of
her own earnings, if it be her ill luck to have a worthless, drunken
spendthrift for a husband. It is owing to their exertions that new
trades and professions are opening to woman; and all that I have to
say to them is, that in the suddenness of their zeal for opening new
paths for her feet, they have not sufficiently considered the
propriety of straightening, widening, and mending the one broad, good
old path of domestic labor, established by God himself. It does appear
to me, that, if at least a portion of their zeal could be spent in
removing the stones out of this highway of domestic life, and making
it pleasant and honorable, they would effect even more. I would not
have them leave undone what they are doing; but I would, were I worthy
to be considered, humbly suggest to their prophetic wisdom and
enthusiasm, whether, in this new future of women which they wish to
introduce, women's natural, God-given employment of _domestic service_
is not to receive a new character, and rise in a new form.

"'To love and serve' is a motto worn with pride on some aristocratic
family shields in England. It ought to be graven on the Christian
shield. _Servant_ is the name which Christ gives to the _Christian_;
and in speaking of his kingdom as distinguished from earthly kingdoms,
he distinctly said, that rank there should be conditioned, not upon
desire to command, but on willingness to serve.

"'Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over
them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it
shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let
him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him
be your _servant_.'

"Why is it, that this name of servant, which Christ says is the
highest in the kingdom of heaven, is so dishonored among us professing
Christians, that good women will beg or starve, will suffer almost any
extreme of poverty and privation, rather than accept home, competence,
security, with this honored name?"

"The fault with many of our friends of the Woman's Rights order," said
my wife, "is the depreciatory tone in which they have spoken of the
domestic labors of a family as being altogether below the scope of
the faculties of woman. '_Domestic drudgery_' they call it,--an
expression that has done more harm than any two words that ever were
put together.

"Think of a woman's calling clear-starching and ironing domestic
drudgery, and to better the matter turning to typesetting in a grimy
printing office! Call the care of china and silver, the sweeping of
carpets, the arrangement of parlors and sitting-rooms, drudgery; and
go into a factory and spend the day amid the whir and clatter and
thunder of machinery, inhaling an atmosphere loaded with wool and
machine grease, and keeping on the feet for twelve hours, nearly
continuously! Think of its being called drudgery to take care of a
clean, light, airy nursery, to wash and dress and care for two or
three children, to mend their clothes, tell them stories, make them
playthings, take them out walking or driving; and rather than this, to
wear out the whole livelong day, extending often deep into the night,
in endless sewing, in a close room of a dressmaking establishment! Is
it any less drudgery to stand all day behind a counter, serving
customers, than to tend a doorbell and wait on a table? For my part,"
said my wife, "I have often thought the matter over, and concluded,
that, if I were left in straitened circumstances, as many are in a
great city, I would seek a position as a servant in one of our good
families."

"I envy the family that you even think of in that connection," said I.
"I fancy the amazement which would take possession of them as you
began to develop among them."

"I have always held," said my wife, "that family work, in many of its
branches, can be better performed by an educated woman than an
uneducated one. Just as an army where even the bayonets think is
superior to one of mere brute force and mechanical training, so, I
have heard it said, some of our distinguished modern female reformers
show an equal superiority in the domestic sphere,--and I do not doubt
it. Family work was never meant to be the special province of untaught
brains. I have sometimes thought I should like to show what I could do
as a servant."

"Well," said Bob, "to return from all this to the question, What's to
be done with her? Are you going to _my_ distressed woman? If you are,
suppose you take _your_ distressed woman along, and ask her to try it.
I can promise her a pleasant house, a quiet room by herself, healthful
and not too hard work, a kind friend, and some leisure for reading,
writing, or whatever other pursuit of her own she may choose for her
recreation. We are always quite willing to lend books to any who
appreciate them. Our house is surrounded by pleasant grounds, which
are open to our servants as to ourselves. So let her come and try us.
I am quite sure that country air, quiet security, and moderate
exercise in a good home, will bring up her health; and if she is
willing to take the one or two disagreeables which may come with all
this, let her try us."

"Well," said I, "so be it; and would that all the women seeking homes
and employment could thus fall in with women who have homes and are
perishing in them for want of educated helpers!"

On this question of woman's work I have yet more to say, but must
defer it till another time.



II

WOMAN'S SPHERE


"What do you think of this Woman's Rights question?" said Bob
Stephens. "From some of your remarks, I apprehend that you think there
is something in it. I may be wrong, but I must confess that I have
looked with disgust on the whole movement. No man reverences women as
I do; but I reverence them _as_ women. I reverence them for those very
things in which their sex differs from ours; but when they come upon
our ground, and begin to work and fight after our manner and with our
weapons, I regard them as fearful anomalies, neither men nor women.
These Woman's Rights Conventions appear to me to have ventilated
crudities, absurdities, and blasphemies. To hear them talk about men,
one would suppose that the two sexes were natural-born enemies, and
wonder whether they ever had fathers and brothers. One would think,
upon their showing, that all men were a set of ruffians, in league
against women,--they seeming, at the same time, to forget how on their
very platforms the most constant and gallant defenders of their rights
are men. Wendell Phillips and Wentworth Higginson have put at the
service of the cause masculine training and manly vehemence, and
complacently accepted the wholesale abuse of their own sex at the
hands of their warrior sisters. One would think, were all they say of
female powers true, that our Joan-of-Arcs ought to have disdained to
fight under male captains."

"I think," said my wife, "that, in all this talk about the rights of
men, and the rights of women, and the rights of children, the world
seems to be forgetting what is quite as important, the _duties_ of men
and women and children. We all hear of our _rights_ till we forget our
_duties_; and even theology is beginning to concern itself more with
what man has a right to expect of his Creator than what the Creator
has a right to expect of man."

"You say the truth," said I; "there is danger of just this overaction;
and yet rights must be discussed; because, in order to understand the
duties we owe to any class, we must understand their rights. To know
our duties to men, women, and children, we must know what the rights
of men, women, and children justly are. As to the 'Woman's Rights
movement,' it is not peculiar to America, it is part of a great wave
in the incoming tide of modern civilization; the swell is felt no less
in Europe, but it combs over and breaks on our American shore, because
our great wide beach affords the best play for its waters; and as the
ocean waves bring with them kelp, seaweed, mud, sand, gravel, and even
putrefying débris, which lie unsightly on the shore, and yet, on the
whole, are healthful and refreshing,--so the Woman's Rights movement,
with its conventions, its speech-makings, its crudities, and
eccentricities, is nevertheless a part of a healthful and necessary
movement of the human race towards progress. This question of Woman
and her Sphere is now, perhaps, the greatest of the age. We have put
Slavery under foot, and with the downfall of Slavery the only obstacle
to the success of our great democratic experiment is overthrown, and
there seems no limit to the splendid possibilities which it may open
before the human race.

"In the reconstruction that is now coming there lies more than the
reconstruction of States and the arrangement of the machinery of
government. We need to know and feel, all of us, that, from the moment
of the death of Slavery, we parted finally from the régime and control
of all the old ideas formed under old oppressive systems of society,
and came upon a new plane of life.

"In this new life we must never forget that we are a peculiar people,
that we have to walk in paths unknown to the Old World,--paths where
its wisdom cannot guide us, where its precedents can be of little use
to us, and its criticisms, in most cases, must be wholly irrelevant.
The history of our war has shown us of how little service to us in any
important crisis the opinions and advice of the Old World can be. We
have been hurt at what seemed to us the want of sympathy, the direct
antagonism, of England. We might have been less hurt if we had
properly understood that Providence had placed us in a position so far
ahead of her ideas or power of comprehension that just judgment or
sympathy was not to be expected from her.

"As we went through our great war with no help but that of God,
obliged to disregard the misconceptions and impertinences which the
foreign press rained down upon us, so, if we are wise, we shall
continue to do. Our object must now be to make the principles on which
our government is founded permeate consistently the mass of society,
and to purge out the leaven of aristocratic and Old World ideas. So
long as there is an illogical working in our actual life, so long as
there is any class denied equal rights with other classes, so long
will there be agitation and trouble."

"Then," said my wife, "you believe that women ought to vote?"

"If the principle on which we founded our government is true, that
taxation must not exist without representation, and if women hold
property and are taxed, it follows that women should be represented in
the State by their votes, or there is an illogical working of our
government."

"But, my dear, don't you think that this will have a bad effect on the
female character?"

"Yes," said Bob, "it will make women caucus holders, political
candidates."

"It may make this of some women, just as of some men," said I. "But
all men do not take any great interest in politics; it is very
difficult to get some of the best of them to do their duty in voting,
and the same will be found true among women."

"But, after all," said Bob, "what do you gain? What will a woman's
vote be but a duplicate of that of her husband or father, or whatever
man happens to be her adviser?"

"That may be true on a variety of questions; but there are subjects
on which the vote of women would, I think, be essentially different
from that of men. On the subjects of temperance, public morals, and
education, I have no doubt that the introduction of the female vote
into legislation, in States, counties, and cities, would produce
results very different from that of men alone. There are thousands of
women who would close grog-shops, and stop the traffic in spirits,
if they had the legislative power; and it would be well for society
if they had. In fact, I think that a State can no more afford to
dispense with the vote of women in its affairs than a family.
Imagine a family where the female has no voice in the housekeeping! A
State is but a larger family, and there are many of its concerns
which, equally with those of a private household, would be bettered
by female supervision."

"But fancy women going to those horrible voting-places! It is more
than I can do myself," said Bob.

"But you forget," said I, "that they are horrible and disgusting
principally because women never go to them. All places where women are
excluded tend downward to barbarism; but the moment she is introduced,
there come in with her courtesy, cleanliness, sobriety, and order.
When a man can walk up to the ballot-box with his wife or his sister
on his arm, voting-places will be far more agreeable than now, and
the polls will not be such bear-gardens that refined men will be
constantly tempted to omit their political duties there.

"If for nothing else, I would have women vote, that the business of
voting may not be so disagreeable and intolerable to men of refinement
as it now is; and I sincerely believe that the cause of good morals,
good order, cleanliness, and public health would be a gainer not
merely by the added feminine vote, but by the added vote of a great
many excellent but too fastidious men, who are now kept from the polls
by the disagreeables they meet there.

"Do you suppose that, if women had equal representation with men in
the municipal laws of New York, its reputation for filth during the
last year would have gone so far beyond that of Cologne, or any other
city renowned for bad smells? I trow not. I believe a lady mayoress
would have brought in a dispensation of brooms and whitewash, and made
a terrible searching into dark holes and vile corners, before now.
Female New York, I have faith to believe, has yet left in her enough
of the primary instincts of womanhood to give us a clean, healthy
city, if female votes had any power to do it."

"But," said Bob, "you forget that voting would bring together all the
women of the lower classes."

"Yes; but, thanks to the instincts of their sex, they would come in
their Sunday clothes; for where is the woman that hasn't her finery,
and will not embrace every chance to show it? Biddy's parasol, and hat
with pink ribbons, would necessitate a clean shirt in Pat as much as
on Sunday. Voting would become a fête, and we should have a population
at the polls as well-dressed as at church. Such is my belief."

"I do not see," said Bob, "but you go to the full extent with our
modern female reformers."

"There are certain neglected truths, which have been held up by these
reformers, that are gradually being accepted and infused into the life
of modern society; and their recognition will help to solidify and
purify democratic institutions. They are:--

"1. The right of every woman to hold independent property.

"2. The right of every woman to receive equal pay with man for work
which she does equally well.

"3. The right of any woman to do any work for which, by her natural
organization and talent, she is peculiarly adapted.

"Under the first head, our energetic sisters have already, by the help
of their gallant male adjutants, reformed the laws of several of our
States, so that a married woman is no longer left the unprotected
legal slave of any unprincipled, drunken spendthrift who may be her
husband,--but, in case of the imbecility or improvidence of the
natural head of the family, the wife, if she have the ability, can
conduct business, make contracts, earn and retain money for the good
of the household; and I am sure no one can say that immense injustice
and cruelty are not thereby prevented.

"It is quite easy for women who have the good fortune to have just and
magnanimous husbands to say that they feel no interest in such
reforms, and that they would willingly trust their property to the man
to whom they give themselves; but they should remember that laws are
not made for the restraint of the generous and just, but of the
dishonest and base. The law which enables a married woman to hold her
own property does not forbid her to give it to the man of her heart,
if she so pleases; and it does protect many women who otherwise would
be reduced to the extremest misery. I once knew an energetic milliner
who had her shop attached four times, and a flourishing business
broken up in four different cities, because she was tracked from city
to city by a worthless spendthrift, who only waited till she had
amassed a little property in a new place to swoop down upon and carry
it off. It is to be hoped that the time is not distant when every
State will give to woman a fair chance to the ownership and use of her
own earnings and her own property.

"Under the head of the right of every woman to do any work for which
by natural organization and talent she is especially adapted, there is
a word or two to be said.

"The talents and tastes of the majority of women are naturally
domestic. The family is evidently their sphere, because in all ways
their organization fits them for that more than for anything else.

"But there are occasionally women who are exceptions to the common
law, gifted with peculiar genius and adaptations. With regard to such
women, there has never seemed to be any doubt in the verdict of
mankind that they ought to follow their nature, and that their
particular sphere was the one to which they are called. Did anybody
ever think that Mrs. Siddons and Mrs. Kemble and Ristori had better
have applied themselves sedulously to keeping house, because they were
women, and 'woman's noblest station is retreat'?

"The world has always shown a fair average of good sense in this
matter, from the days of the fair Hypatia in Alexandria, who, we are
told, gave lectures on philosophy behind a curtain, lest her charms
should distract the attention of too impressible young men, down to
those of Anna Dickinson. Mankind are not, after all, quite fools, and
seem in these cases to have a reasonable idea that exceptional talents
have exceptional laws, and make their own code of proprieties.

"Now there is no doubt that Miss Dickinson, though as relating to her
femininity she is quite as pretty and modest a young woman as any to
be found in the most sheltered circle, has yet a most exceptional
talent for public speaking, which draws crowds to hear her, and makes
lecturing for her a lucrative profession, as well as a means of
advocating just and generous sentiments, and of stimulating her own
sex to nobler purposes; and the same law which relates to Siddons and
Kemble and Ristori relates also to her.

"The doctrine of _vocations_ is a good one and a safe one. If a woman
mistakes her vocation, so much the worse for her; the world does not
suffer, but she does, and the suffering speedily puts her where she
belongs. There is not near so much danger from attempts to imitate
Anna Dickinson as there is from the more common feminine attempts to
rival the _demi-monde_ of Paris in fantastic extravagance and luxury.

"As to how a woman may determine whether she has any such vocation,
there is a story quite in point. A good Methodist elder was listening
to an ardent young mechanic who thought he had a call to throw up his
shop and go to preaching.

"'I feel,' said the young ardent, 'that I have a call to preach.'

"'Hast thou noticed whether people seem to have a call to hear thee?'
said the shrewd old man. 'I have always noticed that a true call of
the Lord may be known by this, that people have a _call_ to hear.'"

"Well," said Bob, "the most interesting question still remains: What
are to be the employments of woman? What ways are there for her to use
her talents, to earn her livelihood and support those who are dear to
her, when Providence throws that necessity upon her? This is becoming
more than ever one of the pressing questions of our age. The war has
deprived so many thousands of women of their natural protectors, that
everything must be thought of that may possibly open a way for their
self-support."

"Well, let us look over the field," said my wife. "What is there for
woman?"

"In the first place," said I, "come the professions requiring natural
genius,--authorship, painting, sculpture, with the subordinate arts of
photographing, coloring, and finishing; but when all is told, these
furnish employment to a very limited number,--almost as nothing to the
whole. Then there is teaching, which is profitable in its higher
branches, and perhaps the very pleasantest of all the callings open to
woman; but teaching is at present an overcrowded profession, the
applicants everywhere outnumbering the places. Architecture and
landscape gardening are arts every way suited to the genius of woman,
and there are enough who have the requisite mechanical skill and
mathematical education; and, though never yet thought of for the sex,
that I know of, I do not despair of seeing those who shall find in
this field a profession at once useful and elegant. When women plan
dwelling-houses, the vast body of tenements to be let in our cities
will wear a more domestic and comfortable air, and will be built more
with reference to the real wants of their inmates."

"I have thought," said Bob, "that agencies of various sorts, as
canvassing the country for the sale of books, maps, and engravings,
might properly employ a great many women. There is a large class whose
health suffers from confinement and sedentary occupations, who might,
I think, be both usefully and agreeably employed in business of this
sort, and be recruiting their health at the same time."

"Then," said my wife, "there is the medical profession."

"Yes," said I. "The world is greatly obliged to Miss Blackwell and
other noble pioneers who faced and overcame the obstacles to the
attainment of a thorough medical education by females. Thanks to them,
a new and lucrative profession is now open to educated women in
relieving the distresses of their own sex; and we may hope that in
time, through their intervention, the care of the sick may also become
the vocation of cultivated, refined, intelligent women, instead of
being left, as heretofore, to the ignorant and vulgar. The experience
of our late war has shown us what women of a high class morally and
intellectually can do in this capacity. Why should not this experience
inaugurate a new and sacred calling for refined and educated women?
Why should not NURSING become a vocation equal in dignity and in
general esteem to the medical profession, of which it is the right
hand? Why should our dearest hopes, in the hour of their greatest
peril, be committed into the hands of Sairey Gamps, when the world has
seen Florence Nightingales?"

"Yes, indeed," said my wife; "I can testify, from my own experience,
that the sufferings and dangers of the sickbed, for the want of
intelligent, educated nursing, have been dreadful. A prejudiced,
pig-headed, snuff-taking old woman, narrow-minded and vulgar, and more
confident in her own way than seven men that can render a reason,
enters your house at just the hour and moment when all your dearest
earthly hopes are brought to a crisis. She becomes absolute dictator
over your delicate, helpless wife and your frail babe,--the absolute
dictator of all in the house. If it be her sovereign will and pleasure
to enact all sorts of physiological absurdities in the premises, who
shall say her nay? 'She knows her business, she hopes!' And if it be
her edict, as it was of one of her class whom I knew, that each of her
babies shall eat four baked beans the day it is four days old, eat
them it must; and if the baby die in convulsions four days after, it
is set down as the mysterious will of an overruling Providence.

"I know and have seen women lying upon laced pillows, under silken
curtains, who have been bullied and dominated over in the hour of
their greatest helplessness by ignorant and vulgar tyrants, in a way
that would scarce be thought possible in civilized society, and
children that have been injured or done to death by the same means. A
celebrated physician told me of a babe whose eyesight was nearly
ruined by its nurse taking a fancy to wash its eyes with camphor,--'to
keep it from catching cold,' she said. I knew another infant that was
poisoned by the nurse giving it laudanum in some of those patent
nostrums which these ignorant creatures carry secretly in their
pockets, to secure quiet in their little charges. I knew one delicate
woman who never recovered from the effects of being left at her first
confinement in the hands of an ill-tempered, drinking nurse, and whose
feeble infant was neglected and abused by this woman in a way to cause
lasting injury. In the first four weeks of infancy the constitution is
peculiarly impressible; and infants of a delicate organization may, if
frightened and ill-treated, be the subjects of just such a shock to
the nervous system as in mature age comes from the sudden stroke of a
great affliction or terror. A bad nurse may affect nerves predisposed
to weakness in a manner they never will recover from. I solemnly
believe that the constitutions of more women are broken up by bad
nursing in their first confinement than by any other cause whatever.
And yet there are at the same time hundreds and thousands of women,
wanting the means of support, whose presence in a sick-room would be a
benediction. I do trust that Miss Blackwell's band of educated nurses
will not be long in coming, and that the number of such may increase
till they effect a complete revolution in this vocation. A class of
cultivated, well-trained, intelligent nurses would soon elevate the
employment of attending on the sick into the noble calling it ought to
be, and secure for it its appropriate rewards."

"There is another opening for woman," said I,--"in the world of
business. The system of commercial colleges now spreading over our
land is a new and most important development of our times. There that
large class of young men who have either no time or no inclination for
an extended classical education can learn what will fit them for that
active material life which in our broad country needs so many workers.
But the most pleasing feature of these institutions is, that the
complete course is open to women no less than to men, and women there
may acquire that knowledge of bookkeeping and accounts, and of the
forms and principles of business transactions, which will qualify them
for some of the lucrative situations hitherto monopolized by the other
sex. And the expenses of the course of instruction are so arranged as
to come within the scope of very moderate means. A fee of fifty
dollars entitles a woman to the benefit of the whole course, and she
has the privilege of attending at any hours that may suit her own
engagements and convenience."

"Then, again," said my wife, "there are the departments of millinery
and dressmaking, and the various branches of needlework, which afford
employment to thousands of women; there is typesetting, by which many
are beginning to get a living; there are the manufactures of cotton,
woolen, silk, and the numberless useful articles which employ female
hands in their fabrication,--all of them opening avenues by which,
with more or less success, a subsistence can be gained."

"Well, really," said Bob, "it would appear, after all, that there are
abundance of openings for women. What is the cause of the outcry and
distress? How is it that we hear of women starving, driven to vice and
crime by want, when so many doors of useful and profitable employment
stand open to them?"

"The question would easily be solved," said my wife, "if you could
once see the kind and class of women who thus suffer and starve.
There may be exceptions, but too large a portion of them are girls
and women who can or will do no earthly thing well,--and, what is
worse, are not willing to take the pains to be taught to do anything
well. I will describe to you one girl, and you will find in every
intelligence-office a hundred of her kind to five thoroughly trained
ones.

"Imprimis: she is rather delicate and genteel-looking, and you may
know from the arrangement of her hair just what the last mode is
of disposing of rats or waterfalls. She has a lace bonnet with
roses, a silk mantilla, a silk dress trimmed with velvet, a white
skirt with sixteen tucks and an embroidered edge, a pair of cloth
gaiters, underneath which are a pair of stockings without feet, the
only pair in her possession. She has no under-linen, and sleeps at
night in the working-clothes she wears in the day. She never seems
to have in her outfit either comb, brush, or tooth-brush of her
own,--neither needles, thread, scissors, nor pins; her money, when she
has any, being spent on more important articles, such as the lace
bonnet or silk mantilla, or the rats and waterfalls that glorify
her head. When she wishes to sew, she borrows what is needful of a
convenient next neighbor; and if she gets a place in a family as
second girl, she expects to subsist in these respects by borrowing of
the better-appointed servants, or helping herself from the family
stores.

"She expects, of course, the very highest wages, if she condescends to
live out; and by help of a trim outside appearance, and the many
vacancies that are continually occurring in households, she gets
places, where her object is to do just as little of any duty assigned
to her as possible, to hurry through her performances, put on her
fine clothes, and go a-gadding. She is on free-and-easy terms with all
the men she meets, and ready at jests and repartee, sometimes far from
seemly. Her time of service in any one place lasts indifferently from
a fortnight to two or three months, when she takes her wages, buys
her a new parasol in the latest style, and goes back to the
intelligence-office. In the different families where she has lived
she has been told a hundred times the proprieties of household
life, how to make beds, arrange rooms, wash china, glass, and
silver, and set tables; but her habitual rule is to try in each place
how small and how poor services will be accepted. When she finds
less will not do, she gives more. When the mistress follows her
constantly, and shows an energetic determination to be well served,
she shows that she can serve well; but the moment such attention
relaxes, she slides back again. She is as destructive to a house as
a fire; the very spirit of wastefulness is in her; she cracks the
china, dents the silver, stops the water-pipes with rubbish, and,
after she is gone, there is generally a sum equal to half her wages
to be expended in repairing the effects of her carelessness. And
yet there is one thing to be said for her: she is quite as careful of
her employer's things as of her own. The full amount of her mischiefs
often does not appear at once, as she is glib of tongue, adroit in
apologies, and lies with as much alertness and as little thought of
conscience as a blackbird chatters. It is difficult for people who
have been trained from childhood in the school of verities,--who
have been lectured for even the shadow of a prevarication, and shut
up in disgrace for a lie, till truth becomes a habit of their
souls,--it is very difficult for people so educated to understand how
to get on with those who never speak the truth except by mere
accident, who assert any and every thing that comes into their heads
with all the assurance and all the energy of perfect verity.

"What becomes of this girl? She finds means, by begging, borrowing,
living out, to keep herself extremely trim and airy for a certain
length of time, till the rats and waterfalls, the lace hat and
parasol, and the glib tongue, have done their work in making a fool of
some honest young mechanic who earns three dollars a day. She marries
him with no higher object than to have somebody to earn money for her
to spend. And what comes of such marriages?

"That is one ending of her career; the other is on the street, in
haunts of vice, in prison, in drunkenness, and death.

"Whence come these girls? They are as numerous as yellow butterflies
in autumn; they flutter up to cities from the country; they grow up
from mothers who ran the same sort of career before them; and the
reason why in the end they fall out of all reputable employment and
starve on poor wages is, that they become physically, mentally, and
morally incapable of rendering any service which society will think
worth paying for."

"I remember," said I, "that the head of the most celebrated
dressmaking establishment in New York, in reply to the appeals of the
needlewomen of the city for sympathy and wages, came out with
published statements to this effect: that the difficulty lay, not in
unwillingness of employers to pay what work was worth, but in finding
any work worth paying for; that she had many applicants, but among
them few who could be of real use to her; that she, in common with
everybody in this country who has any kind of serious responsibilities
to carry, was continually embarrassed for want of skilled work-people
who could take and go on with the labor of her various departments
without her constant supervision; that, out of a hundred girls, there
would not be more than five to whom she could give a dress to be made
and dismiss it from her mind as something certain to be properly
done.

"Let people individually look around their own little sphere, and ask
themselves if they know any woman really excelling in any valuable
calling or accomplishment who is suffering for want of work. All of us
know seamstresses, dressmakers, nurses, and laundresses who have made
themselves such a reputation, and are so beset and overcrowded with
work, that the whole neighborhood is constantly on its knees to them
with uplifted hands. The fine seamstress, who can cut and make
trousseaus and layettes in elegant perfection, is always engaged six
months in advance; the pet dressmaker of a neighborhood must be
engaged in May for September, and in September for May; a laundress
who sends your clothes home in nice order always has all the work that
she can do. Good work in any department is the rarest possible thing
in our American life; and it is a fact that the great majority of
workers, both in the family and out, do only tolerably well,--not so
badly that it actually cannot be borne, yet not so well as to be a
source of real, thorough satisfaction. The exceptional worker in every
neighborhood, who does things really _well_, can always set her own
price, and is always having more offering than she can possibly do.

"The trouble, then, in finding employment for women lies deeper than
the purses or consciences of the employers: it lies in the want of
education in women; the want of _education_, I say,--meaning by
education that which fits a woman for practical and profitable
employment in life, and not mere common-school learning."

"Yes," said my wife; "for it is a fact that the most troublesome and
helpless persons to provide for are often those who have a good medium
education, but no feminine habits, no industry, no practical
calculation, no muscular strength, and no knowledge of any one of
woman's peculiar duties. In the earlier days of New England, women, as
a class, had far fewer opportunities for acquiring learning, yet were
far better educated, physically and morally, than now. The high school
did not exist; at the common school they learned reading, writing, and
arithmetic, and practiced spelling; while at home they did the work of
the household. They were cheerful, bright, and active, ever on the
alert, able to do anything, from the harnessing and driving of a horse
to the finest embroidery. The daughters of New England in those days
looked the world in the face without a fear. They shunned no labor;
they were afraid of none; and they could always find their way to a
living."

"But although less instructed in school learning," said I, "they
showed no deficiency in intellectual acumen. I see no such women,
nowadays, as some I remember of that olden time,--women whose strong
minds and ever-active industry carried on reading and study side by
side with household toils.

"I remember a young lady friend of mine, attending a celebrated
boarding-school, boarded in the family of a woman who had never been
to school longer than was necessary to learn to read and write, yet
who was a perfect cyclopedia of general information. The young scholar
used to take her Chemistry and Natural Philosophy into the kitchen,
where her friend was busy with her household work, and read her
lessons to her, that she might have the benefit of her explanations;
and so, while the good lady scoured her andirons or kneaded her bread,
she lectured to her protégée on mysteries of science far beyond the
limits of the textbook. Many of the graduates of our modern high
schools would find it hard to shine in conversation on the subjects
they had studied, in the searching presence of some of these vigorous
matrons of the olden time, whose only school had been the leisure
hours gained by energy and method from their family cares."

"And in those days," said my wife, "there lived in our families a
class of American domestics, women of good sense and good powers of
reflection, who applied this sense and power of reflection to
household matters. In the early part of my married life, I myself had
American 'help'; and they were not only excellent servants, but trusty
and invaluable friends. But now, all this class of applicants for
domestic service have disappeared, I scarce know why or how. All I
know is, there is no more a Betsey or a Lois, such as used to take
domestic cares off my shoulders so completely."

"Good heavens! where are they?" cried Bob. "Where do they hide? I
would search through the world after such a prodigy!"

"The fact is," said I, "there has been a slow and gradual reaction
against household labor in America. Mothers began to feel that it was
a sort of _curse_, to be spared, if possible, to their daughters;
women began to feel that they were fortunate in proportion as they
were able to be entirely clear of family responsibilities. Then Irish
labor began to come in, simultaneously with a great advance in female
education.

"For a long while nothing was talked of, written of, thought of, in
teachers' meetings, conventions, and assemblies, but the neglected
state of female education; and the whole circle of the arts and
sciences was suddenly introduced into our free-school system, from
which needlework as gradually and quietly was suffered to drop out.
The girl who attended the primary and high school had so much study
imposed on her that she had no time for sewing or housework; and the
delighted mother was only too happy to darn her stockings and do the
housework alone, that her daughter might rise to a higher plane than
she herself had attained to. The daughter, thus educated, had, on
coming to womanhood, no solidity of muscle, no manual dexterity, no
practice or experience in domestic life; and if she were to seek a
livelihood, there remained only teaching, or some feminine trade, or
the factory."

"These factories," said my wife, "have been the ruin of hundreds and
hundreds of our once healthy farmers' daughters and others from the
country. They go there young and unprotected; they live there in great
boarding-houses, and associate with a promiscuous crowd, without even
such restraints of maternal supervision as they would have in great
boarding-schools; their bodies are enfeebled by labor often
necessarily carried on in a foul and heated atmosphere; and at the
hours when off duty, they are exposed to all the dangers of unwatched
intimacy with the other sex.

"Moreover, the factory girl learns and practices but one thing,--some
one mechanical movement, which gives no scope for invention,
ingenuity, or any other of the powers called into play by domestic
labor; so that she is in reality unfitted in every way for family
duties.

"Many times it has been my lot to try, in my family service, girls who
have left factories; and I have found them wholly useless for any of
the things which a woman ought to be good for. They knew nothing of a
house, or what ought to be done in it; they had imbibed a thorough
contempt of household labor, and looked upon it but as a _dernier
ressort_; and it was only the very lightest of its tasks that they
could even begin to think of. I remember I tried to persuade one of
these girls, the pretty daughter of a fisherman, to take some lessons
in washing and ironing. She was at that time engaged to be married to
a young mechanic, who earned something like two or three dollars a
day.

"'My child,' said I, 'you will need to understand all kinds of
housework if you are going to be married.'

"She tossed her little head,--

"'Indeed, she wasn't going to trouble herself about that.'

"'But who will get up your husband's shirts?'

"'Oh, he must put them out. I'm not going to be married to make a
slave of myself!'

"Another young factory girl, who came for table and parlor work, was
so full of airs and fine notions that it seemed as difficult to treat
with her as with a princess. She could not sweep, because it blistered
her hands, which, in fact, were long and delicate; she could not think
of putting them into hot dish-water, and for that reason preferred
washing the dishes in cold water; she required a full hour in the
morning to make her toilet; she was laced so tightly that she could
not stoop without vertigo; and her hoops were of dimensions which
seemed to render it impossible for her to wait upon table; she was
quite exhausted with the effort of ironing the table-napkins and
chamber-towels: yet she could not think of 'living out' under two
dollars a week.

"Both these girls had had a good free-school education, and could read
any amount of novels, write a tolerable letter, but had not learned
anything with sufficient accuracy to fit them for teachers. They were
pretty, and their destiny was to marry and lie a deadweight on the
hands of some honest man, and to increase, in their children, the
number of incapables."

"Well," said Bob, "what would you have? What is to be done?"

"In the first place," said I, "I would have it felt, by those who are
seeking to elevate woman, that the work is to be done, not so much by
creating for her new spheres of action as by elevating her conceptions
of that domestic vocation to which God and Nature have assigned her.
It is all very well to open to her avenues of profit and advancement
in the great outer world; but, after all, _to make and keep a home_
is, and ever must be, a woman's first glory, her highest aim. No work
of art can compare with a perfect home; the training and guiding of a
family must be recognized as the highest work a woman can perform; and
female education ought to be conducted with special reference to
this.

"Men are trained to be lawyers, to be physicians, to be mechanics, by
long and self-denying study and practice. A man cannot even make shoes
merely by going to the high school and learning reading, writing, and
mathematics; he cannot be a bookkeeper or a printer simply from
general education.

"Now women have a sphere and profession of their own,--a profession
for which they are fitted by physical organization, by their own
instincts, and to which they are directed by the pointing and manifest
finger of God,--and that sphere is _family life_. Duties to the state
and to public life they may have; but the public duties of women must
bear to their family ones the same relation that the family duties of
men bear to their public ones. The defect in the late efforts to push
on female education is, that it has been for her merely general, and
that it has left out and excluded all that is professional; and she
undertakes the essential duties of womanhood, when they do devolve on
her, without any adequate preparation."

"But is it possible for a girl to learn at school the things which fit
for her family life?" said Bob.

"Why not?" I replied. "Once it was thought impossible in school to
teach girls geometry or algebra, or the higher mathematics; it was
thought impossible to put them through collegiate courses; but it has
been done, and we see it. Women study treatises on political economy
in schools, and why should not the study of domestic economy form a
part of every school course? A young girl will stand up at the
blackboard, and draw and explain the compound blowpipe, and describe
all the processes of making oxygen and hydrogen. Why should she not
draw and explain a refrigerator as well as an air-pump? Both are to be
explained on philosophical principles. When a schoolgirl, in her
chemistry, studies the reciprocal action of acids and alkalies, what
is there to hinder the teaching her its application to the various
processes of cooking where acids and alkalies are employed? Why should
she not be led to see how effervescence and fermentation can be made
to perform their office in the preparation of light and digestible
bread? Why should she not be taught the chemical substances by which
food is often adulterated, and the test by which such adulterations
are detected? Why should she not understand the processes of
confectionery, and know how to guard against the deleterious or
poisonous elements that are introduced into children's sugar-plums and
candies? Why, when she learns the doctrine of mordants, the substances
by which different colors are set, should she not learn it with some
practical view to future life, so that she may know how to set the
color of a fading calico or restore the color of a spotted one? Why,
in short, when a girl has labored through a profound chemical work,
and listened to courses of chemical lectures, should she come to
domestic life, which presents a constant series of chemical
experiments and changes, and go blindly along as without chart or
compass, unable to tell what will take out a stain, or what will
brighten a metal, what are common poisons and what their antidotes,
and not knowing enough of the laws of caloric to understand how to
warm a house, or of the laws of atmosphere to know how to ventilate
one? Why should the preparation of food, that subtile art on which
life, health, cheerfulness, good temper, and good looks so largely
depend, forever be left in the hands of the illiterate and vulgar?

"A benevolent gentleman has lately left a large fortune for the
founding of a university for women; and the object is stated to be to
give to women who have already acquired a general education the means
of acquiring a professional one, to fit themselves for some employment
by which they may gain a livelihood.

"In this institution the women are to be instructed in bookkeeping,
stenography, telegraphing, photographing, drawing, modeling, and
various other arts; but, so far as I remember, there is no proposal to
teach domestic economy as at least _one_ of woman's professions.

"Why should there not be a professor of domestic economy in every
large female school? Why should not this professor give lectures,
first on house planning and building, illustrated by appropriate
apparatus? Why should not the pupils have presented to their
inspection models of houses planned with reference to economy, to ease
of domestic service, to warmth, to ventilation, and to architectural
appearance? Why should not the professor go on to lecture further on
house-fixtures, with models of the best mangles, washing-machines,
clothes-wringers, ranges, furnaces, and cooking-stoves, together with
drawings and apparatus illustrative of domestic hydraulics, showing
the best contrivances for bathing-rooms and the obvious principles of
plumbing, so that the pupils may have some idea how to work the
machinery of a convenient house when they have it, and to have such
conveniences introduced when wanting? If it is thought worth while to
provide at great expense apparatus for teaching the revolutions of
Saturn's moons and the precession of the equinoxes, why should there
not be some also to teach what it may greatly concern a woman's
earthly happiness to know?

"Why should not the professor lecture on home chemistry, devoting his
first lecture to bread-making? and why might not a batch of bread be
made and baked and exhibited to the class, together with specimens of
morbid anatomy in the bread line,--the sour cotton bread of the baker;
the rough, big-holed bread; the heavy, fossil bread; the bitter bread
of too much yeast,--and the causes of their defects pointed out? And
so with regard to the various articles of food,--why might not
chemical lectures be given on all of them, one after another? In
short, it would be easy to trace out a course of lectures on common
things to occupy a whole year, and for which the pupils, whenever they
come to have homes of their own, will thank the lecturer to the last
day of their life.

"Then there is no impossibility in teaching needlework, the cutting
and fitting of dresses, in female schools. The thing is done very
perfectly in English schools for the working classes. A girl trained
at one of these schools came into a family I once knew. She brought
with her a sewing-book, in which the process of making various
articles was exhibited in miniature. The several parts of a shirt
were first shown, each perfectly made, and fastened to a leaf of
the book by itself, and then the successive steps of uniting the
parts, till finally appeared a miniature model of the whole. The
sewing was done with red thread, so that every stitch might show, and
any imperfections be at once remedied. The same process was pursued
with regard to other garments, and a good general idea of cutting
and fitting them was thus given to an entire class of girls.

"In the same manner the care and nursing of young children and the
tending of the sick might be made the subject of lectures. Every woman
ought to have some general principles to guide her with regard to what
is to be done in case of the various accidents that may befall either
children or grown people, and of their lesser illnesses, and ought to
know how to prepare comforts and nourishment for the sick. Hawthorne's
satirical remarks upon the contrast between the elegant Zenobia's
conversation, and the smoky porridge she made for him when he was an
invalid, might apply to the volunteer cookery of many charming
women."

"I think," said Bob, "that your Professor of Domestic Economy would
find enough to occupy his pupils."

"In fact," said I, "were domestic economy properly honored and
properly taught, in the manner described, it would open a sphere of
employment to so many women in the home life, that we should not be
obliged to send our women out to California or the Pacific to put an
end to an anxious and aimless life.

"When domestic work is sufficiently honored to be taught as an art and
science in our boarding-schools and high-schools, then possibly it may
acquire also dignity in the eyes of our working classes, and young
girls who have to earn their own living may no longer feel degraded
in engaging in domestic service. The place of a domestic in a family
may become as respectable in their eyes as a place in a factory, in a
printing-office, in a dressmaking or millinery establishment, or
behind the counter of a shop.

"In America there is no class which will confess itself the lower
class, and a thing recommended solely for the benefit of any such
class finds no one to receive it.

"If the intelligent and cultivated look down on household work with
disdain; if they consider it as degrading, a thing to be shunned by
every possible device,--they may depend upon it that the influence of
such contempt of woman's noble duties will flow downward, producing a
like contempt in every class in life.

"Our sovereign princesses learn the doctrine of equality very quickly,
and are not going to sacrifice themselves to what is not considered
_de bon ton_ by the upper classes; and the girl with the laced hat and
parasol, without underclothes, who does her best to 'shirk' her duties
as housemaid, and is looking for marriage as an escape from work, is a
fair copy of her mistress, who married for much the same reason, who
hates housekeeping, and would rather board or do anything else than
have the care of a family. The one is about as respectable as the
other.

"When housekeeping becomes an enthusiasm, and its study and practice a
fashion, then we shall have in America that class of persons to rely
on for help in household labors who are now going to factories, to
printing-offices, to every kind of toil, forgetful of the best life
and sphere of woman."



III

A FAMILY TALK ON RECONSTRUCTION


Our Chimney-Corner, of which we have spoken somewhat, has, besides the
wonted domestic circle, its habitués who have a frequent seat there.
Among these, none is more welcome than Theophilus Thoro.

Friend Theophilus was born on the shady side of Nature, and endowed by
his patron saint with every grace and gift which can make a human
creature worthy and available, except the gift of seeing the bright
side of things. His bead-roll of Christian virtues includes all the
graces of the spirit except hope; and so, if one wants to know exactly
the flaw, the defect, the doubtful side, and to take into account all
the untoward possibilities of any person, place, or thing, he had best
apply to friend Theophilus. He can tell you just where and how the
best-laid scheme is likely to fail, just the screw that will fall
loose in the smoothest-working machinery, just the flaw in the most
perfect character, just the defect in the best-written book, just the
variety of thorn that must accompany each particular species of rose.

Yet Theophilus is without guile or malice. His want of faith in human
nature is not bitter and censorious, but melting and pitiful. "We are
all poor trash, miserable dogs together," he seems to say, as he looks
out on the world and its ways. There is not much to be expected of or
for any of us; but let us love one another and be patient.

Accordingly, Theophilus is one of the most incessant workers for human
good, and perseveringly busy in every scheme of benevolent
enterprise, in all which he labors with melancholy steadiness without
hope. In religion he has the soul of a martyr,--nothing would suit him
better than to be burned alive for his faith; but his belief in the
success of Christianity is about on a par with that of the melancholy
disciple of old, who, when Christ would go to Judæa, could only say,
"Let us also go, that we may die with him." Theophilus is always ready
to die for the truth and the right, for which he never sees anything
but defeat and destruction ahead.

During the late war, Theophilus has been a despairing patriot, dying
daily, and giving all up for lost in every reverse from Bull Run to
Fredericksburg. The surrender of Richmond and the capitulation of Lee
shortened his visage somewhat; but the murder of the President soon
brought it back to its old length. It is true that, while Lincoln
lived, he was in a perpetual state of dissent from all his measures.
He had broken his heart for years over the miseries of the slaves, but
he shuddered at the Emancipation Proclamation; a whirlwind of anarchy
was about to sweep over the country, in which the black and the white
would dash against each other, and be shivered like potters' vessels.
He was in despair at the accession of Johnson, believing the worst of
the unfavorable reports that clouded his reputation. Nevertheless he
was among the first of loyal citizens to rally to the support of the
new administration, because, though he had no hope in that, he could
see nothing better.

You must not infer from all this that friend Theophilus is a social
wet blanket, a goblin shadow at the domestic hearth. By no means.
Nature has gifted him with that vein of humor and that impulse to
friendly joviality which are frequent developments in sad-natured men,
and often deceive superficial observers as to their real character. He
who laughs well and makes you laugh is often called a man of cheerful
disposition, yet in many cases nothing can be further from it than
precisely this kind of person.

Theophilus frequents our chimney-corner, perhaps because Mrs.
Crowfield and myself are, so to speak, children of the light and the
day. My wife has precisely the opposite talent to that of our friend.
She can discover the good point, the sound spot, where others see only
defect and corruption. I myself am somewhat sanguine, and prone rather
to expect good than evil, and with a vast stock of faith in the
excellent things that may turn up in the future. The millennium is one
of the prime articles of my creed; and all the ups and downs of
society I regard only as so many jolts on a very rough road that is
taking the world on, through many upsets and disasters, to that final
consummation.

Theophilus holds the same belief theoretically; but it is apt to sink
so far out of sight in the mire of present disaster as to be of very
little comfort to him.

"Yes," he said, "we are going to ruin, in my view, about as fast as we
can go. Miss Jenny, I will trouble you for another small lump of sugar
in my tea."

"You have been saying that, about our going to ruin, every time you
have taken tea here for four years past," said Jenny; "but I always
noticed that your fears never spoiled your relish either for tea or
muffins. People talk about being on the brink of a volcano, and the
country going to destruction, and all that, just as they put pepper on
their potatoes; it is an agreeable stimulant in conversation,--that's
all."

"For my part," said my wife, "I can speak in another vein. When had we
ever in all our history so bright prospects, so much to be thankful
for? Slavery is abolished; the last stain of disgrace is wiped from
our national honor. We stand now before the world self-consistent with
our principles. We have come out of one of the severest struggles
that ever tried a nation, purer and stronger in morals and religion,
as well as more prosperous in material things."

"My dear madam, excuse me," said Theophilus; "but I cannot help being
reminded of what an English reviewer once said,--that a lady's facts
have as much poetry in them as Tom Moore's lyrics. Of course poetry is
always agreeable, even though of no statistical value."

"I see no poetry in my facts," said Mrs. Crowfield. "Is not slavery
forever abolished, by the confession of its best friends,--even of
those who declare its abolition a misfortune, and themselves ruined in
consequence?"

"I confess, my dear madam, that we have succeeded, as we human
creatures commonly do, in supposing that we have destroyed an evil,
when we have only changed its name. We have contrived to withdraw
from the slave just that fiction of property relation which made it
for the interest of some one to care for him a little, however
imperfectly; and, having destroyed that, we turn him out defenseless
to shift for himself in a community every member of which is
embittered against him. The whole South resounds with the outcries of
slaves suffering the vindictive wrath of former masters; laws are
being passed hunting them out of this State and out of that; the
animosity of race--at all times the most bitter and unreasonable of
animosities--is being aroused all over the land. And the free States
take the lead in injustice to them. Witness a late vote of Connecticut
on the suffrage question. The efforts of government to protect the
rights of these poor defenseless creatures are about as energetic as
such efforts always have been and always will be while human nature
remains what it is. For a while the obvious rights of the weaker
party will be confessed, with some show of consideration, in public
speeches; they will be paraded by philanthropic sentimentalists, to
give point to their eloquence; they will be here and there sustained
in governmental measures, when there is no strong temptation to the
contrary, and nothing better to be done; but the moment that
political combinations begin to be formed, all the rights and
interests of this helpless people will be bandied about as so many
make-weights in the political scale. Any troublesome lion will have
a negro thrown to him to keep him quiet. All their hopes will be
dashed to the ground by the imperious Southern white, no longer
feeling for them even the interest of a master, and regarding them
with a mixture of hatred and loathing as the cause of all his
reverses. Then if, driven to despair, they seek to defend themselves
by force, they will be crushed by the power of the government and
ground to powder, as the weak have always been under the heel of the
strong.

"So much for our abolition of slavery. As to our material prosperity,
it consists of an inflated paper currency, an immense debt, a giddy,
foolhardy spirit of speculation and stock-gambling, and a perfect
furor of extravagance, which is driving everybody to live beyond his
means, and casting contempt on the republican virtues of simplicity
and economy.

"As to advancement in morals, there never was so much intemperance in
our people before, and the papers are full of accounts of frauds,
defalcations, forgeries, robberies, assassinations, and arsons.
Against this tide of corruption the various organized denominations of
religion do nothing effectual. They are an army shut up within their
own intrenchments, holding their own with difficulty, and in no
situation to turn back the furious assaults of the enemy."

"In short," said Jenny, "according to your showing, the whole country
is going to destruction. Now, if things really are so bad, if you
really believe all you have been saying, you ought not to be sitting
drinking your tea as you are now, or to have spent the afternoon
playing croquet with us girls; you ought to gird yourself with
sackcloth, and go up and down the land, raising the alarm, and
saying, 'Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.'"

"Well," said Theophilus, while a covert smile played about his
lips, "you know the saying, 'Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow,'
etc. Things are not yet gone to destruction, only going,--and why
not have a good time on deck before the ship goes to pieces? Your
chimney-corner is a tranquil island in the ocean of trouble, and
your muffins are absolutely perfect. I'll take another, if you'll
please to pass them."

"I've a great mind not to pass them," said Jenny. "Are you in earnest
in what you are saying, or are you only saying it for sensation? How
can people believe such things and be comfortable? I could not. If I
believed all you have been saying I could not sleep nights,--I should
be perfectly miserable; and _you_ cannot really believe all this, or
you would be."

"My dear child," said Mrs. Crowfield, "our friend's picture is
the truth painted with all its shadows and none of its lights. All
the dangers he speaks of are real and great, but he omits the
counterbalancing good. Let _me_ speak now. There never has been a
time in our history when so many honest and just men held power in
our land as now,--never a government before in which the public
councils recognized with more respect the just and the right.
There never was an instance of a powerful government showing more
tenderness in the protection of a weak and defenseless race than
ours has shown in the care of the freedmen hitherto. There never
was a case in which the people of a country were more willing to
give money and time and disinterested labor to raise and educate
those who have thus been thrown on their care. Considering that we
have had a great, harassing, and expensive war on our hands, I
think the amount done by government and individuals for the
freedmen unequaled in the history of nations; and I do not know why
it should be predicted from this past fact that, in the future,
both government and people are about to throw them to the lions,
as Mr. Theophilus supposes. Let us wait, at least, and see. So
long as government maintains a freedmen's bureau, administered by
men of such high moral character, we must think, at all events,
that there are strong indications in the right direction. Just
think of the immense advance of public opinion within four years,
and of the grand successive steps of this advance,--Emancipation in
the District of Columbia, the Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, the
General Emancipation Act, the Amendment of the Constitution. All
these do not look as if the black were about to be ground to
powder beneath the heel of the white. If the negroes are oppressed
in the South, they can emigrate; no laws hold them; active,
industrious laborers will soon find openings in any part of the
Union."

"No," said Theophilus, "there will be black laws like those of
Illinois and Tennessee; there will be turbulent uprisings of the
Irish, excited by political demagogues, that will bar them out of
Northern States. Besides, as a class, they _will_ be idle and
worthless. It will not be their fault, but it will be the result of
their slave education. All their past observation of their masters has
taught them that liberty means licensed laziness, that work means
degradation; and therefore they will loathe work, and cherish laziness
as the sign of liberty. 'Am not I free? Have I not as good a right to
do nothing as you?' will be the cry.

"Already the lazy whites, who never lifted a hand in any useful
employment, begin to raise the cry that 'niggers won't work;' and I
suspect the cry may not be without reason. Industrious citizens can
never be made in a community where the higher class think useful labor
a disgrace. The whites will oppose the negro in every effort to rise;
they will debar him of every civil and social right; they will set
him the worst possible example, as they have been doing for hundreds
of years; and then they will hound and hiss at him for being what they
made him. This is the old track of the world,--the good, broad,
reputable road on which all aristocracies and privileged classes have
been always traveling; and it's not likely that we shall have much of
a secession from it. The millennium isn't so near us as that, by a
great deal."

"It's all very well arguing from human selfishness and human sin in
that way," said I; "but you can't take up a newspaper that doesn't
contain abundant facts to the contrary. Here, now,"--and I turned to
the "Tribune,"--"is one item that fell under my eye accidentally, as
you were speaking:--

"'The Superintendent of Freedmen's Affairs in Louisiana, in making up
his last Annual Report, says he has 1,952 blacks settled temporarily
on 9,650 acres of land, who last year raised crops to the value of
$175,000, and that he had but few worthless blacks under his care; and
that, as a class, the blacks have fewer vagrants than can be found
among any other class of persons.'

"Such testimonies gem the newspapers like stars."

"Newspapers of your way of thinking, very likely," said Theophilus;
"but if it comes to statistics, I can bring counter-statements,
numerous and dire, from scores of Southern papers, of vagrancy,
laziness, improvidence, and wretchedness."

"Probably both are true," said I, "according to the greater or less
care which has been taken of the blacks in different regions. Left to
themselves, they tend downward, pressed down by the whole weight of
semi-barbarous white society; but when the free North protects and
guides, the results are as you see."

"And do you think the free North has salt enough in it to save this
whole Southern mass from corruption? I wish I could think so; but all
I can see in the free North at present is a raging, tearing, headlong
chase after _money_. Now money is of significance only as it gives
people the power of expressing their ideal of life. And what does this
ideal prove to be among us? Is it not to ape all the splendors and
vices of old aristocratic society? Is it not to be able to live in
idleness, without useful employment, a life of glitter and flutter and
show? What do our New York dames of fashion seek after? To avoid
family care, to find servants at any price who will relieve them of
home responsibilities, and take charge of their houses and children
while they shine at ball and opera, and drive in the park. And the
servants who learn of these mistresses,--what do they seek after?
_They_ seek also to get rid of care, to live as nearly as possible
without work, to dress and shine in their secondary sphere, as the
mistresses do in the primary one. High wages with little work and
plenty of company express Biddy's ideal of life, which is a little
more respectable than that of her mistress, who wants high wages with
no work. The house and the children are not Biddy's; and why should
she care more for their well-being than the mistress and the mother?

"Hence come wranglings and moanings. Biddy uses a chest of tea in
three months, and the amount of the butcher's bill is fabulous;
Jane gives the baby laudanum to quiet it, while she slips out to
_her_ parties; and the upper classes are shocked at the demoralized
state of the Irish, their utter want of faithfulness and moral
principle! How dreadful that there are no people who enjoy the
self-denials and the cares which they dislike, that there are no
people who rejoice in carrying that burden of duties which they do
not wish to touch with one of their fingers! The outcry about the
badness of servants means just this: that everybody is tired of
self-helpfulness,--the servants as thoroughly as the masters and
mistresses. All want the cream of life, without even the trouble of
skimming; and the great fight now is, who shall drink the skim-milk,
which nobody wants. _Work_,--honorable toil,--manly, womanly
endeavor,--is just what nobody likes; and this is as much a fact in
the free North as in the slave South.

"What are all the young girls looking for in marriage? Some man with
money enough to save them from taking any care or having any trouble
in domestic life, enabling them, like the lilies of the field, to
rival Solomon in all his glory, while they toil not, neither do they
spin; and when they find that even money cannot purchase freedom from
care in family life, because their servants are exactly of the same
mind with themselves, and hate to do their duties as cordially as they
themselves do, then are they in anguish of spirit, and wish for
slavery, or aristocracy, or anything that would give them power over
the lower classes."

"But surely, Mr. Theophilus," said Jenny, "there is no sin in
disliking trouble, and wanting to live easily and have a good time in
one's life,--it's so very natural."

"No sin, my dear, I admit; but there is a certain amount of work and
trouble that somebody must take to carry on the family and the world;
and the mischief is, that all are agreed in wanting to get rid of it.
Human nature is above all things lazy. I am lazy myself. Everybody is.
The whole struggle of society is as to who shall eat the hard
bread-and-cheese of labor, which must be eaten by somebody. Nobody
wants it,--neither you in the parlor, nor Biddy in the kitchen.

"'The mass ought to labor, and we lie on sofas,' is a sentence that
would unite more subscribers than any confession of faith that ever
was presented, whether religious or political; and its subscribers
would be as numerous and sincere in the free States as in the slave
States, or I am much mistaken in my judgment. The negroes are men and
women, like any of the rest of us, and particularly apt in the
imitation of the ways and ideas current in good society; and
consequently to learn to play on the piano and to have nothing in
particular to do will be the goal of aspiration among colored girls
and woman, and to do housework will seem to them intolerable drudgery,
simply because it is so among the fair models to whom they look up in
humble admiration. You see, my dear, what it is to live in a
democracy. It deprives us of the vantage-ground on which we cultivated
people can stand and say to our neighbor,--'The cream is for me, and
the skim-milk for you; the white bread for me, and the brown for you.
I am born to amuse myself and have a good time, and you are born to do
everything that is tiresome and disagreeable to me.' The 'My Lady
Ludlows' of the Old World can stand on their platform and lecture the
lower classes from the Church Catechism, to 'order themselves lowly
and reverently to all their betters;' and they can base their
exhortations on the old established law of society by which some are
born to inherit the earth, and live a life of ease and pleasure, and
others to toil without pleasure or amusement, for their support and
aggrandizement. An aristocracy, as I take it, is a combination of
human beings to divide life into two parts, one of which shall
comprise all social and moral advantages, refinement, elegance,
leisure, ease, pleasure, and amusement,--and the other, incessant
toil, with the absence of every privilege and blessing of human
existence. Life thus divided, we aristocrats keep the good for
ourselves and our children, and distribute the evil as the lot of the
general mass of mankind. The desire to monopolize and to dominate is
the most rooted form of human selfishness; it is the hydra with many
heads, and, cut off in one place, it puts out in another.

"Nominally, the great aristocratic arrangement of American society has
just been destroyed; but really, I take it, the essential _animus_ of
the slave system still exists, and pervades the community, North as
well as South. Everybody is wanting to get the work done by somebody
else, and to take the money himself; the grinding between employers
and employed is going on all the time, and the field of controversy
has only been made wider by bringing in a whole new class of laborers.
The Irish have now the opportunity to sustain their aristocracy over
the negro. Shall they not have somebody to look down upon?

"All through free society, employers and employed are at incessant
feud; and the more free and enlightened the society, the more bitter
the feud. The standing complaint of life in America is the badness of
servants; and England, which always follows at a certain rate behind
us in our social movements, is beginning to raise very loudly the same
complaint. The condition of service has been thought worthy of public
attention in some of the leading British prints; and Ruskin, in a
summing-up article, speaks of it as a deep ulcer in society,--a thing
hopeless of remedy."

"My dear Mr. Theophilus," said my wife, "I cannot imagine whither you
are rambling, or to what purpose you are getting up these horrible
shadows. You talk of the world as if there were no God in it,
overruling the selfishness of men, and educating it up to order and
justice. I do not deny that there is a vast deal of truth in what you
say. Nobody doubts that, in general, human nature _is_ selfish,
callous, unfeeling, willing to engross all good to itself, and to
trample on the rights of others. Nevertheless, thanks to God's
teaching and fatherly care, the world has worked along to the point of
a great nation founded on the principles of strict equality,
forbidding all monopolies, aristocracies, privileged classes, by its
very constitution; and now, by God's wonderful providence, this nation
has been brought, and forced, as it were, to overturn and abolish the
only aristocratic institution that interfered with its free
development. Does not this look as if a Mightier Power than ours were
working in and for us, supplementing our weakness and infirmity? and
if we believe that man is always ready to drop everything and let it
run back to evil, shall we not have faith that God will _not_ drop the
noble work he has so evidently taken in hand in this nation?"

"And I want to know," said Jenny, "why your illustrations of
selfishness are all drawn from the female sex. Why do you speak of
girls that marry for money, any more than men? of mistresses of families
that want to be free from household duties and responsibilities, rather
than of masters?"

"My charming young lady," said Theophilus, "it is a fact that in
America, except the slaveholders, women have hitherto been the only
aristocracy. Women have been the privileged class,--the only one to
which our rough democracy has always and everywhere given the
precedence,--and consequently the vices of aristocrats are more
developed in them as a class than among men. The leading principle of
aristocracy, which is to take pay without work, to live on the toils
and earnings of others, is one which obtains more generally among
women than among men in this country. The men of our country, as a
general thing, even in our uppermost classes, always propose to
themselves some work or business by which they may acquire a fortune,
or enlarge that already made for them by their fathers. The women of
the same class propose to themselves nothing but to live at their ease
on the money made for them by the labors of fathers and husbands. As a
consequence, they become enervated and indolent,--averse to any
bracing, wholesome effort, either mental or physical. The unavoidable
responsibilities and cares of a family, instead of being viewed by
them in the light of a noble life work, in which they do their part in
the general labors of the world, seem to them so many injuries and
wrongs; they seek to turn them upon servants, and find servants
unwilling to take them; and so selfish are they, that I have heard
more than one lady declare that she didn't care if it was unjust, she
should like to have slaves, rather than be plagued with servants who
had so much liberty. All the novels, poetry, and light literature of
the world, which form the general staple of female reading, are based
upon aristocratic institutions, and impregnated with aristocratic
ideas; and women among us are constantly aspiring to foreign and
aristocratic modes of life rather than to those of native republican
simplicity. How many women are there, think you, that would not go in
for aristocracy and aristocratic prerogatives, if they were only sure
that they themselves should be of the privileged class? To be 'My Lady
Duchess,' and to have a right by that simple title to the prostrate
deference of all the lower orders! How many would have firmness to
vote against such an establishment merely because it was bad for
society? Tell the fair Mrs. Feathercap, 'In order that you may be a
duchess, and have everything a paradise of elegance and luxury around
you and your children, a hundred poor families must have no chance for
anything better than black bread and muddy water all their lives, a
hundred poor men must work all their lives on such wages that a
fortnight's sickness will send their families to the almshouse, and
that no amount of honesty and forethought can lay up any provision for
old age.'"

"Come now, sir," said Jenny, "don't tell me that there are any girls
or women so mean and selfish as to want aristocracy or rank so
purchased! You are too bad, Mr. Theophilus!"

"Perhaps they might not, were it stated in just these terms; yet I
think, if the question of the establishment of an order of aristocracy
among us were put to vote, we should find more women than men who
would go for it; and they would flout at the consequences to society
with the lively wit and the musical laugh which make feminine
selfishness so genteel and agreeable.

"No! It is a fact that in America, the women, in the wealthy
classes, are like the noblemen of aristocracies, and the men are
the workers. And in all this outcry that has been raised about
women's wages being inferior to those of men there is one thing
overlooked,--and that is, that women's work is generally inferior to
that of men, because in every rank they are the pets of society and
are excused from the laborious drill and training by which men are
fitted for their callings. Our fair friends come in generally by some
royal road to knowledge, which saves them the dire necessity of real
work,--a sort of feminine hop-skip-and-jump into science or mechanical
skill,--nothing like the uncompromising hard labor to which the boy
is put who would be a mechanic or farmer, a lawyer or physician.

"I admit freely that we men are to blame for most of the faults of our
fair nobility. There is plenty of heroism, abundance of energy, and
love of noble endeavor lying dormant in these sheltered and petted
daughters of the better classes; but we keep it down and smother it.
Fathers and brothers think it discreditable to themselves not to give
their daughters and sisters the means of living in idleness; and any
adventurous fair one, who seeks to end the ennui of utter aimlessness
by applying herself to some occupation whereby she may earn her own
living, infallibly draws down on her the comments of her whole circle:
'Keeping school, is she? Isn't her father rich enough to support her?
What could possess her?'"

"I am glad, my dear Sir Oracle, that you are beginning to recollect
yourself and temper your severities on our sex," said my wife. "As
usual, there is much truth lying about loosely in the vicinity of your
assertions; but they are as far from being in themselves the truth as
would be their exact opposites.

"The class of American women who travel, live abroad, and represent
our country to the foreign eye, have acquired the reputation of being
Sybarites in luxury and extravagance, and there is much in the modes
of life that are creeping into our richer circles to justify this.

"Miss Murray, ex-maid-of-honor to the Queen of England, among other
impressions which she received from an extended tour through our
country, states it as her conviction that young American girls of the
better classes are less helpful in nursing the sick and in the general
duties of family life than the daughters of the aristocracy of
England; and I am inclined to believe it, because even the Queen has
taken special pains to cultivate habits of energy and self-helpfulness
in her children. One of the toys of the Princess Royal was said to be
a cottage of her own, furnished with every accommodation for cooking
and housekeeping, where she from time to time enacted the part of
housekeeper, making bread and biscuit, boiling potatoes which she
herself had gathered from her own garden-patch, and inviting her royal
parents to meals of her own preparing; and report says, that the
dignitaries of the German court have been horrified at the energetic
determination of the young royal housekeeper to overlook her own linen
closets and attend to her own affairs. But as an offset to what I have
been saying, it must be admitted that America is a country where a
young woman can be self-supporting without forfeiting her place in
society. All our New England and Western towns show us female teachers
who are as well received and as much caressed in society, and as often
contract advantageous marriages, as any women whatever; and the
productive labor of American women, in various arts, trades, and
callings, would be found, I think, not inferior to that of any women
in the world.

"Furthermore, the history of the late war has shown them capable of
every form of heroic endeavor. We have had hundreds of Florence
Nightingales, and an amount of real hard work has been done by female
hands not inferior to that performed by men in the camp and field, and
enough to make sure that American womanhood is not yet so enervated as
seriously to interfere with the prospects of free republican
society."

"I wonder," said Jenny, "what it is in our country that spoils the
working classes that come into it. They say that the emigrants, as
they land here, are often simple-hearted people, willing to work,
accustomed to early hours and plain living, decorous and respectful in
their manners. It would seem as if aristocratic drilling had done them
good. In a few months they become brawling, impertinent, grasping,
want high wages, and are very unwilling to work. I went to several
intelligence-offices the other day to look for a girl for Marianne,
and I thought, by the way the candidates catechized the ladies, and
the airs they took upon them, that they considered themselves the
future mistresses interrogating their subordinates.

"'Does ye expect me to do the washin' with the cookin'?'

"'Yes.'

"'Thin I'll niver go to that place!'

"'And does ye expect me to get the early breakfast for yer husband to
be off in the train every mornin'?'

"'Yes.'

"'I niver does that,--that ought to be a second girl's work.'

"'How many servants does ye keep, ma'am?'

"'Two.'

"'I niver lives with people that keeps but two servants.'

"'How many has ye in yer family?'

"'Seven.'

"'That's too large a family. Has ye much company?'

"'Yes, we have company occasionally.'

"'Thin I can't come to ye; it'll be too harrd a place.'

"In fact, the thing they were all in quest of seemed to be a very
small family, with very high wages, and many perquisites and
privileges.

"This is the kind of work-people our manners and institutions make of
people that come over here. I remember one day seeing a coachman touch
his cap to his mistress when she spoke to him, as is the way in
Europe, and hearing one or two others saying among themselves,--

"'That chap's a greenie; he'll get over that soon.'"

"All these things show," said I, "that the staff of power has
passed from the hands of gentility into those of labor. We may think
the working classes somewhat unseemly in their assertion of
self-importance; but, after all, are they, considering their inferior
advantages of breeding, any more overbearing and impertinent than the
upper classes have always been to them in all ages and countries?

"When Biddy looks long, hedges in her work with many conditions, and
is careful to get the most she can for the least labor, is she, after
all, doing any more than you or I or all the rest of the world? I
myself will not write articles for five dollars a page, when there are
those who will give me fifteen. I would not do double duty as an
editor on a salary of seven thousand, when I could get ten thousand
for less work.

"Biddy and her mistress are two human beings, with the same human
wants. Both want to escape trouble, to make their life comfortable and
easy, with the least outlay of expense. Biddy's capital is her muscles
and sinews; and she wants to get as many greenbacks in exchange for
them as her wit and shrewdness will enable her to do. You feel, when
you bargain with her, that she is nothing to you, except so far as her
strength and knowledge may save you care and trouble; and she feels
that you are nothing to her, except so far as she can get your money
for her work. The free-and-easy airs of those seeking employment show
one thing,--that the country in general is prosperous, and that
openings for profitable employment are so numerous that it is not
thought necessary to try to conciliate favor. If the community were at
starvation-point, and the loss of a situation brought fear of the
almshouse, the laboring-class would be more subservient. As it is,
there is a little spice of the bitterness of a past age of servitude
in their present attitude,--a bristling, self-defensive impertinence,
which will gradually smooth away as society learns to accommodate
itself to the new order of things."

"Well, but, papa," said Jenny, "don't you think all this a very severe
test, if applied to us women particularly, more than to the men? Mr.
Theophilus seems to think women are aristocrats, and go for enslaving
the lower classes out of mere selfishness; but I say that we are a
great deal more strongly tempted than men, because all these
annoyances and trials of domestic life come upon us. It is very
insidious, the aristocratic argument, as it appeals to us; there seems
much to be said in its favor. It does appear to me that it is better
to have servants and work-people tidy, industrious, respectful, and
decorous, as they are in Europe, than domineering, impertinent, and
negligent, as they are here,--and it seems that there is something in
our institutions that produces these disagreeable traits; and I
presume that the negroes will eventually be traveling the same road as
the Irish, and from the same influences.

"When people see all these things, and feel all the inconveniences of
them, I don't wonder that they are tempted not to like democracy, and
to feel as if aristocratic institutions made a more agreeable state of
society. It is not such a blank, bald, downright piece of brutal
selfishness as Mr. Theophilus there seems to suppose, for us to wish
there were some quiet, submissive, laborious lower class, who would be
content to work for kind treatment and moderate wages."

"But, my little dear," said I, "the matter is not left to our choice.
Wish it or not wish it, it's what we evidently can't have. The day for
that thing is past. The power is passing out of the hands of the
cultivated few into those of the strong, laborious many. _Numbers_ is
the king of our era; and he will reign over us, whether we will hear
or whether we will forbear. The sighers for an obedient lower class
and the mourners for slavery may get ready their crape and have their
pocket-handkerchiefs bordered with black; for they have much weeping
to do, and for many years to come. The good old feudal times, when two
thirds of the population thought themselves born only for the honor,
glory, and profit of the other third, are gone, with all their
beautiful devotions, all their trappings of song and story. In the
land where such institutions were most deeply rooted and most firmly
established, they are assailed every day by hard hands and stout
hearts; and their position resembles that of some of the picturesque
ruins of Italy, which are constantly being torn away to build prosaic
modern shops and houses.

"This great democratic movement is coming down into modern society
with a march as irresistible as the glacier moves down from the
mountains. Its front is in America,--and behind are England, France,
Italy, Prussia, and the Mohammedan countries. In all, the rights of
the laboring masses are a living force, bearing slowly and inevitably
all before it. Our war has been a marshaling of its armies, commanded
by a hard-handed, inspired man of the working-class. An intelligent
American, recently resident in Egypt, says it was affecting to notice
the interest with which the working classes there were looking upon
our late struggle in America, and the earnestness of their wishes for
the triumph of the Union. 'It is our cause, it is for us,' they said,
as said the cotton spinners of England and the silk weavers of Lyons.
The forces of this mighty movement are still directed by a man from
the lower orders, the sworn foe of exclusive privileges and landed
aristocracies. If Andy Johnson is consistent with himself, with the
principles which raised him from a tailor's bench to the head of a
mighty nation, he will see to it that the work that Lincoln began is
so thoroughly done, that every man and every woman in America, of
whatever race or complexion, shall have exactly equal rights before
the law, and be free to rise or fall according to their individual
intelligence, industry, and moral worth. So long as everything is not
strictly in accordance with our principles of democracy, so long as
there is in any part of the country an aristocratic upper class who
despise labor, and a laboring lower class that is denied equal
political rights, so long this grinding and discord between the two
will never cease in America. It will make trouble not only in the
South, but in the North,--trouble between all employers and
employed,--trouble in every branch and department of labor,--trouble
in every parlor and every kitchen.

"What is it that has driven every American woman out of domestic
service, when domestic service is full as well paid, is easier,
healthier, and in many cases far more agreeable, than shop and factory
work? It is, more than anything else, the influence of slavery in the
South,--its insensible influence on the minds of mistresses, giving
them false ideas of what ought to be the position and treatment of a
female citizen in domestic service, and its very marked influence on
the minds of freedom-loving Americans, causing them to choose _any_
position rather than one which is regarded as assimilating them to
slaves. It is difficult to say what are the very worst results of a
system so altogether bad as that of slavery; but one of the worst is
certainly the utter contempt it brings on useful labor, and the
consequent utter physical and moral degradation of a large body of the
whites; and this contempt of useful labor has been constantly
spreading like an infection from the Southern to the Northern States,
particularly among women, who, as our friend here has truly said, are
by our worship and exaltation of them made peculiarly liable to take
the malaria of aristocratic society. Let anybody observe the
conversation in good society for an hour or two, and hear the tone in
which servant-girls, seamstresses, mechanics, and all who work for
their living, are sometimes mentioned, and he will see that, while
every one of the speakers professes to regard useful labor as
respectable, she is yet deeply imbued with the leaven of aristocratic
ideas.

"In the South the contempt for labor bred of slavery has so permeated
society, that we see great, coarse, vulgar _lazzaroni_ lying about in
rags and vermin, and dependent on government rations, maintaining, as
their only source of self-respect, that they never have done and never
will do a stroke of useful work in all their lives. In the North there
are, I believe, no _men_ who would make such a boast; but I think
there are many women--beautiful, fascinating _lazzaroni_ of the parlor
and boudoir--who make their boast of elegant helplessness and utter
incompetence for any of woman's duties with equal naïveté. The
Spartans made their slaves drunk, to teach their children the evils of
intoxication; and it seems to be the policy of a large class in the
South now to keep down and degrade the only working class they have,
for the sake of teaching their children to despise work.

"We of the North, who know the dignity of labor, who know the value of
free and equal institutions, who have enjoyed advantages for seeing
their operation, ought, in true brotherliness, to exercise the power
given us by the present position of the people of the Southern States,
and put things thoroughly right for them, well knowing, that, though
they may not like it at the moment, they will like it in the end, and
that it will bring them peace, plenty, and settled prosperity, such
as they have long envied here in the North. It is no kindness to an
invalid brother, half recovered from delirium, to leave him a knife to
cut his throat with, should he be so disposed. We should rather appeal
from Philip drunk to Philip sober, and do real kindness, trusting to
the future for our meed of gratitude.

"Giving equal political rights to all the inhabitants of the Southern
States will be their shortest way to quiet and to wealth. It will
avert what is else almost certain,--a war of races; since all
experience shows that the ballot introduces the very politest
relations between the higher and lower classes. If the right be
restricted, let it be by requirements of property and education,
applying to all the population equally.

"Meanwhile, we citizens and citizenesses of the North should remember
that Reconstruction means something more than setting things right in
the Southern States. We have saved our government and institutions,
but we have paid a fearful price for their salvation; and we ought to
prove now that they are worth the price.

"The empty chair, never to be filled; the light gone out on its
candlestick, never on earth to be rekindled; gallant souls that have
exhaled to heaven in slow torture and starvation; the precious blood
that has drenched a hundred battlefields,--all call to us with warning
voices, and tell us not to let such sacrifices be in vain. They call
on us by our clear understanding of the great principles of democratic
equality, for which our martyred brethren suffered and died, to show
to all the world that their death was no mean and useless waste, but a
glorious investment for the future of mankind.

"This war, these sufferings, these sacrifices, ought to make every
American man and woman look on himself and herself as belonging to a
royal priesthood, a peculiar people. The blood of our slain ought to
be a gulf, wide and deep as the Atlantic, dividing us from the
opinions and the practices of countries whose government and society
are founded on other and antagonistic ideas. Democratic republicanism
has never yet been perfectly worked out either in this or any other
country. It is a splendid edifice, half built, deformed by rude
scaffolding, noisy with the clink of trowels, blinding the eyes with
the dust of lime, and endangering our heads with falling brick. We
make our way over heaps of shavings and lumber to view the stately
apartments,--we endanger our necks in climbing ladders standing in the
place of future staircases; but let us not for all this cry out that
the old rat-holed mansions of former ages, with their mould, and moss,
and cockroaches, are better than this new palace. There is no
lime-dust, no clink of trowels, no rough scaffolding there, to be
sure, and life goes on very quietly; but there is the foul air of slow
and sure decay.

"Republican institutions in America are in a transition state; they
have not yet separated themselves from foreign and antagonistic ideas
and traditions, derived from old countries; and the labors necessary
for the upbuilding of society are not yet so adjusted that there is
mutual pleasure and comfort in the relations of employer and employed.
We still incline to class distinctions and aristocracies. We incline
to the scheme of dividing the world's work into two orders: first,
physical labor, which is held to be rude and vulgar, and the province
of a lower class; and second, brain labor, held to be refined and
aristocratic, and the province of a higher class. Meanwhile, the
Creator, who is the greatest of levelers, has given to every human
being both a physical system, needing to be kept in order by physical
labor, and an intellectual or brain power, needing to be kept in order
by brain labor. Work, use, employment, is the condition of health in
both; and he who works either to the neglect of the other lives but a
half-life, and is an imperfect human being.

"The aristocracies of the Old World claim that their only labor should
be that of the brain; and they keep their physical system in order by
violent exercise, which is made genteel from the fact only that it is
not useful or productive. It would be losing caste to refresh the
muscles by handling the plough or the axe; and so foxes and hares must
be kept to be hunted, and whole counties turned into preserves, in
order that the nobility and gentry may have physical exercise in a way
befitting their station,--that is to say, in a way that produces
nothing, and does good only to themselves.

"The model republican uses his brain for the highest purposes of brain
work, and his muscles in productive physical labor; and useful labor
he respects above that which is merely agreeable. When this equal
respect for physical and mental labor shall have taken possession of
every American citizen, there will be no so-called laboring class;
there will no more be a class all muscle without brain power to guide
it, and a class all brain without muscular power to execute. The
labors of society will be lighter, because each individual will take
his part in them; they will be performed better, because no one will
be overburdened. In those days, Miss Jenny, it will be an easier
matter to keep house, because, housework being no longer regarded as
degrading drudgery, you will find a superior class of women ready to
engage in it.

"Every young girl and woman, who in her sphere and by her example
shows that she is not ashamed of domestic labor, and that she
considers the necessary work and duties of family life as dignified
and important, is helping to bring on this good day. Louis Philippe
once jestingly remarked, 'I have this qualification for being a king
in these days, that I have blacked my own boots, and could black them
again.'

"Every American ought to cultivate, as his pride and birthright, the
habit of self-helpfulness. Our command of the labors of good
employees in any department is liable to such interruptions, that he
who has blacked his own boots, and can do it again, is, on the whole,
likely to secure the most comfort in life.

"As to that which Mr. Ruskin pronounces to be a deep, irremediable
ulcer in society, namely, domestic service, we hold that the last
workings of pure democracy will cleanse and heal it. When right ideas
are sufficiently spread; when everybody is self-helpful and capable of
being self-supporting; when there is a fair start for every human
being in the race of life, and all its prizes are, without respect of
persons, to be obtained by the best runner; when every kind of useful
labor is thoroughly respected,--then there will be a clear, just,
wholesome basis of intercourse on which employers and employed can
move without wrangling or discord.

"Renouncing all claims to superiority on the one hand, and all thought
of servility on the other, service can be rendered by fair contracts
and agreements, with that mutual respect and benevolence which every
human being owes to every other. But for this transition period, which
is wearing out the life of so many women, and making so many
households uncomfortable, I have some alleviating suggestions, which I
shall give in my next chapter."



IV

IS WOMAN A WORKER


"Papa, do you see what the 'Evening Post' says of your New Year's
article on Reconstruction?" said Jenny, as we were all sitting in the
library after tea.

"I have not seen it."

"Well, then, the charming writer, whoever he is, takes up for us girls
and women, and maintains that no work of any sort ought to be expected
of us; that our only mission in life is to be beautiful, and to
refresh and elevate the spirits of men by being so. If I get a
husband, my mission is to be always becomingly dressed, to display
most captivating toilettes, and to be always in good spirits,--as,
under the circumstances, I always should be,--and thus 'renew his
spirits' when he comes in weary with the toils of life. Household
cares are to be far from me: they destroy my cheerfulness and injure
my beauty.

"He says that the New England standard of excellence as applied to
woman has been a mistaken one; and, in consequence, though the
girls are beautiful, the matrons are faded, overworked, and
uninteresting; and that such a state of society tends to immorality,
because, when wives are no longer charming, men are open to the
temptation to desert their firesides, and get into mischief generally.
He seems particularly to complain of your calling ladies who do
nothing the 'fascinating _lazzaroni_ of the parlor and boudoir.'"

"There was too much truth back of that arrow not to wound," said
Theophilus Thoro, who was ensconced, as usual, in his dark corner,
whence he supervises our discussions.

"Come, Mr. Thoro, we won't have any of your bitter moralities," said
Jenny; "they are only to be taken as the invariable bay-leaf which
Professor Blot introduces into all his recipes for soups and stews,--a
little elegant bitterness, to be kept tastefully in the background.
You see now, papa, I should like the vocation of being beautiful. It
would just suit me to wear point-lace and jewelry, and to have life
revolve round me, as some beautiful star, and feel that I had nothing
to do but shine and refresh the spirits of all gazers, and that in
this way I was truly useful, and fulfilling the great end of my being;
but alas for this doctrine! all women have not beauty. The most of us
can only hope not to be called ill-looking, and, when we get ourselves
up with care, to look fresh and trim and agreeable; which fact
interferes with the theory."

"Well, for my part," said young Rudolph, "I go for the theory of the
beautiful. If ever I marry, it is to find an asylum for ideality. I
don't want to make a culinary marriage or a business partnership. I
want a being whom I can keep in a sphere of poetry and beauty, out of
the dust and grime of every-lay life."

"Then," said Mr. Theophilus, "you must either be a rich man in your
own right, or your fair ideal must have a handsome fortune of her
own."

"I never will marry a rich wife," quoth Rudolph. "My wife must be
supported by me, not I by her."

Rudolph is another of the habitués of our chimney-corner, representing
the order of young knighthood in America, and his dreams and fancies,
if impracticable, are always of a kind to make every one think him a
good fellow. He who has no romantic dreams at twenty-one will be a
horribly dry peascod at fifty; therefore it is that I gaze reverently
at all Rudolph's chateaus in Spain, which want nothing to complete
them except solid earth to stand on.

"And pray," said Theophilus, "how long will it take a young lawyer or
physician, starting with no heritage but his own brain, to create a
sphere of poetry and beauty in which to keep his goddess? How much a
year will be necessary, as the English say, to _do_ this garden of
Eden, whereinto shall enter only the poetry of life?"

"I don't know. I haven't seen it near enough to consider. It is
because I know the difficulty of its attainment that I have no present
thoughts of marriage. Marriage is to me in the bluest of all blue
distances,--far off, mysterious, and dreamy as the Mountains of the
Moon or sources of the Nile. It shall come only when I have secured a
fortune that shall place my wife above all necessity of work or
care."

"I desire to hear from you," said Theophilus, "when you have found the
sum that will keep a woman from care. I know of women now inhabiting
palaces, waited on at every turn by servants, with carriages, horses,
jewels, laces, Cashmeres, enough for princesses, who are eaten up by
care. One lies awake all night on account of a wrinkle in the waist of
her dress; another is dying because no silk of a certain inexpressible
shade is to be found in New York; a third has had a dress sent home,
which has proved such a failure that life seems no longer worth
having. If it were not for the consolations of religion, one doesn't
know what would become of her. The fact is, that care and labor are as
much correlated to human existence as shadow is to light; there is no
such thing as excluding them from any mortal lot. You may make a
canary-bird or a gold-fish live in absolute contentment without a care
or labor, but a human being you cannot. Human beings are restless and
active in their very nature, and will do something, and that something
will prove a care, a labor, and a fatigue, arrange it how you will. As
long as there is anything to be desired and not yet attained, so long
its attainment will be attempted; so long as that attainment is
doubtful or difficult, so long will there be care and anxiety. When
boundless wealth releases woman from every family care, she
immediately makes herself a new set of cares in another direction, and
has just as many anxieties as the most toilful housekeeper, only they
are of a different kind. Talk of labor, and look at the upper classes
in London or in New York in the fashionable season. Do any women work
harder? To rush from crowd to crowd all night, night after night,
seeing what they are tired of, making the agreeable over an abyss of
inward yawning, crowded, jostled, breathing hot air, and crushed in
halls and stairways, without a moment of leisure for months and
months, till brain and nerve and sense reel, and the country is longed
for as a period of resuscitation and relief! Such is the release from
labor and fatigue brought by wealth. The only thing that makes all
this labor at all endurable is, that it is utterly and entirely
useless, and does no good to any one in creation; this alone makes it
genteel, and distinguishes it from the vulgar toils of a housekeeper.
These delicate creatures, who can go to three or four parties a night
for three months, would be utterly desolate if they had to watch one
night in a sick-room; and though they can exhibit any amount of
physical endurance and vigor in crowding into assembly rooms, and
breathe tainted air in an opera-house with the most martyr-like
constancy, they could not sit one half-hour in the close room where
the sister of charity spends hours in consoling the sick or aged
poor."

"Mr. Theophilus is quite at home now," said Jenny; "only start him on
the track of fashionable life, and he takes the course like a hound.
But hear, now, our champion of the 'Evening Post':--

"'The instinct of women to seek a life of repose, their eagerness to
attain the life of elegance, does not mean contempt for labor, but it
is a confession of unfitness for labor. Women were not intended to
work,--not because work is ignoble, but because it is as disastrous
to the beauty of a woman as is friction to the bloom and softness of a
flower. Woman is to be kept in the garden of life; she is to rest, to
receive, to praise; she is to be kept from the workshop world, where
innocence is snatched with rude hands, and softness is blistered into
unsightliness or hardened into adamant. No social truth is more in
need of exposition and illustration than this one; and, above all, the
people of New England need to know it, and, better, they need to
believe it.

"'It is therefore with regret that we discover Christopher Crowfield
applying so harshly, and, as we think so indiscriminatingly, the theory
of work to women, and teaching a society made up of women sacrificed
in the workshops of the State, or to the dustpans and kitchens of the
house, that women must work, ought to work, and are dishonored if
they do not work; and that a woman committed to the drudgery of a
household is more creditably employed than when she is charming,
fascinating, irresistible, in the parlor or boudoir. The consequence
of this fatal mistake is manifest throughout New England,--in New
England where the girls are all beautiful and the wives and mothers
faded, disfigured, and without charm or attractiveness. The moment a
girl marries, in New England, she is apt to become a drudge or a lay
figure on which to exhibit the latest fashions. She never has
beautiful hands, and she would not have a beautiful face if a
utilitarian society could "apply" her face to anything but the
pleasure of the eye. Her hands lose their shape and softness after
childhood, and domestic drudgery destroys her beauty of form and
softness and bloom of complexion after marriage. To correct, or rather
to break up, this despotism of household cares, or of work, over woman,
American society must be taught that women will inevitably fade and
deteriorate, unless it insures repose and comfort to them. It must
be taught that reverence for beauty is the normal condition, while
the theory of work, applied to women, is disastrous alike to beauty and
morals. Work, when it is destructive to men or women, is forced and
unjust.

"'All the great masculine or creative epochs have been distinguished
by spontaneous work on the part of men, and universal reverence and
care for beauty. The praise of work, and sacrifice of women to this
great heartless devil of work, belong only to, and are the social
doctrine of, a mechanical age and a utilitarian epoch. And if the New
England idea of social life continues to bear so cruelly on woman, we
shall have a reaction somewhat unexpected and shocking.'"

"Well now, say what you will," said Rudolph, "you have expressed my
idea of the conditions of the sex. Woman was not made to work; she was
made to be taken care of by man. All that is severe and trying,
whether in study or in practical life, is and ought to be in its very
nature essentially the work of the male sex. The value of woman is
precisely the value of those priceless works of art for which we build
museums,--which we shelter and guard as the world's choicest heritage;
and a lovely, cultivated, refined woman, thus sheltered, and guarded,
and developed, has a worth that cannot be estimated by any gross,
material standard. So I subscribe to the sentiments of Miss Jenny's
friend without scruple."

"The great trouble in settling all these society questions," said I,
"lies in the gold-washing--the cradling I think the miners call it. If
all the quartz were in one stratum and all the gold in another, it
would save us a vast deal of trouble. In the ideas of Jenny's friend
of the 'Evening Post' there is a line of truth and a line of falsehood
so interwoven and threaded together that it is impossible wholly to
assent or dissent. So with your ideas, Rudolph, there is a degree of
truth in them, but there is also a fallacy.

"It is a truth, that woman as a sex ought not to do the hard work of
the world, either social, intellectual, or moral. These are evidences
in her physiology that this was not intended for her, and our friend
of the 'Evening Post' is right in saying that any country will advance
more rapidly in civilization and refinement where woman is thus
sheltered and protected. And I think, furthermore, that there is no
country in the world where women _are_ so much considered and cared
for and sheltered, in every walk of life, as in America. In England
and France,--all over the continent of Europe, in fact,--the other sex
are deferential to women only from some presumption of their social
standing, or from the fact of acquaintanceship; but among strangers,
and under circumstances where no particular rank or position can be
inferred, a woman traveling in England or France is jostled and pushed
to the wall, and left to take her own chance, precisely as if she were
not a woman. Deference to delicacy and weakness, the instinct of
protection, does not appear to characterize the masculine population
of any other quarter of the world so much as that of America. In
France, _les Messieurs_ will form a circle round the fire in the
receiving-room of a railroad station, and sit, tranquilly smoking
their cigars, while ladies who do not happen to be of their
acquaintance are standing shivering at the other side of the room. In
England, if a lady is incautiously booked for an outside place on a
coach, in hope of seeing the scenery, and the day turns out hopelessly
rainy, no gentleman in the coach below ever thinks of offering to
change seats with her, though it pour torrents. In America, the
roughest backwoods steamboat or canal-boat captain always, as a matter
of course, considers himself charged with the protection of the
ladies. '_Place aux dames_' is written in the heart of many a shaggy
fellow who could not utter a French word any more than could a
buffalo. It is just as I have before said,--women are the recognized
aristocracy, the only aristocracy, of America; and, so far from
regarding this fact as objectionable, it is an unceasing source of
pride in my country.

"That kind of knightly feeling towards woman which reverences her
delicacy, her frailty, which protects and cares for her, is, I think,
the crown of manhood; and without it a man is only a rough animal. But
our fair aristocrats and their knightly defenders need to be cautioned
lest they lose their position, as many privileged orders have before
done, by an arrogant and selfish use of power.

"I have said that the vices of aristocracy are more developed among
women in America than among men, and that, while there are no men in
the Northern States who are not ashamed of living a merely idle life
of pleasure, there are many women who make a boast of helplessness and
ignorance in woman's family duties which any man would be ashamed to
make with regard to man's duties, as if such helplessness and
ignorance were a grace and a charm.

"There are women who contentedly live on, year after year, a life of
idleness, while the husband and father is straining every nerve,
growing prematurely old and gray, abridged of almost every form of
recreation or pleasure,--all that he may keep them in a state of
careless ease and festivity. It may be very fine, very generous, very
knightly, in the man who thus toils at the oar that his princesses may
enjoy their painted voyages; but what is it for the women?

"A woman is a moral being--an immortal soul--before she is a woman;
and as such she is charged by her Maker with some share of the great
burden of work which lies on the world.

"Self-denial, the bearing of the cross, are stated by Christ as
indispensable conditions to the entrance into his kingdom, and no
exception is made for man or woman. Some task, some burden, some
cross, each one must carry; and there must be something done in every
true and worthy life, not as amusement, but as duty,--not as play, but
as earnest work,--and no human being can attain to the Christian
standard without this.

"When Jesus Christ took a towel and girded himself, poured water into
a basin, and washed his disciples' feet, he performed a significant
and sacramental act, which no man or woman should ever forget. If
wealth and rank and power absolve from the services of life, then
certainly were Jesus Christ absolved, as he says: 'Ye call me Master,
and Lord. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye
also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an
example, that ye should do as I have done to you.'

"Let a man who seeks to make a terrestrial paradise for the woman of
his heart,--to absolve her from all care, from all labor, to teach her
to accept and to receive the labor of others without any attempt to
offer labor in return,--consider whether he is not thus going directly
against the fundamental idea of Christianity; taking the direct way to
make his idol selfish and exacting, to rob her of the highest and
noblest beauty of womanhood.

"In that chapter of the Bible where the relation between man and woman
is stated, it is thus said, with quaint simplicity: 'It is not good
that the man should be alone; I will make him an _help meet_ for him.'
Woman the _helper_ of man, not his toy,--not a picture, not a statue,
not a work of art, but a HELPER, a doer,--such is the view of the
Bible and the Christian religion.

"It is not necessary that women should work physically or morally to
an extent which impairs beauty. In France, where woman is harnessed
with an ass to the plough which her husband drives,--where she digs,
and wields the pick-axe,--she becomes prematurely hideous; but in
America, where woman reigns as queen in every household, she may
surely be a good and thoughtful housekeeper, she may have physical
strength exercised in lighter domestic toils, not only without
injuring her beauty, but with manifest advantage to it. Almost every
growing young girl would be the better in health, and therefore
handsomer, for two hours of active housework daily; and the habit of
usefulness thereby gained would be an equal advantage to her moral
development. The labors of modern, well-arranged houses are not in any
sense severe; they are as gentle as any kind of exercise that can be
devised, and they bring into play muscles that ought to be exercised
to be healthily developed.

"The great danger to the beauty of American women does not lie, as the
writer of the 'Post' contends, in an overworking of the physical
system which shall stunt and deform; on the contrary, American women
of the comfortable classes are in danger of a loss of physical beauty
from the entire deterioration of the muscular system for want of
exercise. Take the life of any American girl in one of our large
towns, and see what it is. We have an educational system of public
schools which for intellectual culture is a just matter of pride to
any country. From the time that the girl is seven years old, her first
thought, when she rises in the morning, is to eat her breakfast and be
off to her school. There really is no more time than enough to allow
her to make that complete toilet which every well-bred female ought to
make, and to take her morning meal before her school begins. She
returns at noon with just time to eat her dinner, and the afternoon
session begins. She comes home at night with books, slate, and lessons
enough to occupy her evening. What time is there for teaching her any
household work, for teaching her to cut or fit or sew, or to inspire
her with any taste for domestic duties? Her arms have no exercise; her
chest and lungs, and all the complex system of muscles which are to be
perfected by quick and active movement, are compressed while she bends
over book and slate and drawing-board; while the ever active brain is
kept all the while going at the top of its speed. She grows up spare,
thin, and delicate; and while the Irish girl, who sweeps the parlors,
rubs the silver, and irons the muslins, is developing a finely rounded
arm and bust, the American girl has a pair of bones at her sides, and
a bust composed of cotton padding, the work of a skillful dressmaker.
Nature, who is no respecter of persons, gives to Colleen Bawn, who
uses her arms and chest, a beauty which perishes in the gentle,
languid Edith, who does nothing but study and read."

"But is it not a fact," said Rudolph, "as stated by our friend of the
'Post,' that American matrons are perishing, and their beauty and
grace all withered, from overwork?"

"It is," said my wife; "but why? It is because they are brought up
without vigor or muscular strength, without the least practical
experience of household labor, or those means of saving it which come
by daily practice; and then, after marriage, when physically weakened
by maternity, embarrassed by the care of young children, they are
often suddenly deserted by every efficient servant, and the whole
machinery of a complicated household left in their weak, inexperienced
hands. In the country, you see a household perhaps made void some fine
morning by Biddy's sudden departure, and nobody to make the bread, or
cook the steak, or sweep the parlors, or do one of the complicated
offices of a family, and no bakery, cook-shop, or laundry to turn to
for alleviation. A lovely, refined home becomes in a few hours a
howling desolation; and then ensues a long season of breakage, waste,
distraction, as one wild Irish immigrant after another introduces the
style of Irish cottage life into an elegant dwelling.

"Now suppose I grant to the 'Evening Post' that woman ought to rest,
to be kept in the garden of life, and all that, how is this to be done
in a country where a state of things like this is the commonest of
occurrences? And is it any kindness or reverence to woman, to educate
her for such an inevitable destiny by a life of complete physical
delicacy and incapacity? Many a woman who has been brought into these
cruel circumstances would willingly exchange all her knowledge of
German and Italian, and all her graceful accomplishments, for a good
physical development, and some respectable _savoir faire_ in ordinary
life.

"Moreover, American matrons are overworked because some unaccountable
glamour leads them to continue to bring up their girls in the same
inefficient physical habits which resulted in so much misery to
themselves. Housework as they are obliged to do it, untrained,
untaught, exhausted, and in company with rude, dirty, unkempt
foreigners, seems to them a degradation which they will spare to their
daughters. The daughter goes on with her schools and accomplishments,
and leads in the family the life of an elegant little visitor during
all those years when a young girl might be gradually developing and
strengthening her muscles in healthy household work. It never occurs
to her that she can or ought to fill any of the domestic gaps into
which her mother always steps; and she comforts herself with the
thought, 'I don't know how; I can't; I haven't the strength. I can't
sweep; it blisters my hands. If I should stand at the ironing-table an
hour, I should be ill for a week. As to cooking, I don't know anything
about it.' And so, when the cook, or the chambermaid, or nurse, or all
together, vacate the premises, it is the mamma who is successively
cook, and chambermaid, and nurse; and this is the reason why matrons
fade and are overworked.

"Now, Mr. Rudolph, do you think a woman any less beautiful or
interesting because she is a fully developed physical being,--because
her muscles have been rounded and matured into strength, so that she
can meet the inevitable emergencies of life without feeling them to be
distressing hardships? If there be a competent, well-trained servant
to sweep and dust the parlor, and keep all the machinery of the house
in motion, she may very properly select her work out of the family, in
some form of benevolent helpfulness; but when the inevitable evil hour
comes, which is likely to come first or last in every American
household, is a woman any less an elegant woman because her love of
neatness, order, and beauty leads her to make vigorous personal
exertions to keep her own home undefiled? For my part, I think a
disorderly, ill-kept home, a sordid, uninviting table, has driven more
husbands from domestic life than the unattractiveness of any
overworked woman. So long as a woman makes her home harmonious and
orderly, so long as the hour of assembling around the family table is
something to be looked forward to as a comfort and a refreshment, a
man cannot see that the good house fairy, who by some magic keeps
everything so delightfully, has either a wrinkle or a gray hair."

"Besides," said I, "I must tell you, Rudolph, what you fellows of
twenty-one are slow to believe; and that is, that the kind of ideal
paradise you propose in marriage is, in the very nature of things, an
impossibility,--that the familiarities of every-day life between two
people who keep house together must and will destroy it. Suppose you
are married to Cytherea herself, and the next week attacked with a
rheumatic fever. If the tie between you is that of true and honest
love, Cytherea will put on a gingham wrapper, and with her own
sculptured hands wring out the flannels which shall relieve your
pains; and she will be no true woman if she do not prefer to do this
to employing any nurse that could be hired. True love ennobles and
dignifies the material labors of life; and homely services rendered
for love's sake have in them a poetry that is immortal.

"No true-hearted woman can find herself, in real, actual life,
unskilled and unfit to minister to the wants and sorrows of those
dearest to her, without a secret sense of degradation. The feeling of
uselessness is an extremely unpleasant one. Tom Hood, in a very
humorous paper, describes a most accomplished schoolmistress, a
teacher of all the arts and crafts which are supposed to make up fine
gentlewomen, who is stranded in a rude German inn, with her father
writhing in the anguish of a severe attack of gastric inflammation.
The helpless lady gazes on her suffering parent, longing to help him,
and thinking over all her various little store of accomplishments, not
one of which bears the remotest relation to the case. She could knit
him a bead purse, or make him a guard-chain, or work him a footstool,
or festoon him with cut tissue-paper, or sketch his likeness, or crust
him over with alum crystals, or stick him over with little rosettes of
red and white wafers; but none of these being applicable to his
present case, she sits gazing in resigned imbecility, till finally she
desperately resolves to improvise him some gruel, and, after a
laborious turn in the kitchen,--after burning her dress and blacking
her fingers,--succeeds only in bringing him a bowl of paste!

"Not unlike this might be the feeling of many an elegant and
accomplished woman, whose education has taught and practiced her in
everything that woman ought to know, except those identical ones which
fit her for the care of a home, for the comfort of a sick-room; and so
I say again that, whatever a woman may be in the way of beauty and
elegance, she must have the strength and skill of a practical worker,
or she is nothing. She is not simply to be the beautiful,--she is to
make the beautiful, and preserve it; and she who makes and she who
keeps the beautiful must be able to work, and know how to work.
Whatever offices of life are performed by women of culture and
refinement are thenceforth elevated; they cease to be mere servile
toils, and become expressions of the ideas of superior beings. If a
true lady makes even a plate of toast, in arranging a _petit souper_
for her invalid friend, she does it as a lady should. She does not
cut blundering and uneven slices; she does not burn the edges; she
does not deluge it with bad butter, and serve it cold; but she
arranges and serves all with an artistic care, with a nicety and
delicacy, which make it worth one's while to have a lady friend in
sickness.

"And I am glad to hear that Monsieur Blot is teaching classes of New
York ladies that cooking is not a vulgar kitchen toil, to be left to
blundering servants, but an elegant feminine accomplishment, better
worth a woman's learning than crochet or embroidery; and that a
well-kept culinary apartment may be so inviting and orderly that no
lady need feel her ladyhood compromised by participating in its
pleasant toils. I am glad to know that his cooking-academy is thronged
with more scholars than he can accommodate, and from ladies in the
best classes of society.

"Moreover, I am glad to see that in New Bedford, recently, a public
course of instruction in the art of bread-making has been commenced by
a lady, and that classes of the most respectable young and married
ladies in the place are attending them. These are steps in the right
direction, and show that our fair countrywomen, with the grand good
sense which is their leading characteristic, are resolved to supply
whatever in our national life is wanting.

"I do not fear that women of such sense and energy will listen to the
sophistries which would persuade them that elegant imbecility and
inefficiency are charms of cultivated womanhood or ingredients in the
poetry of life. She alone can keep the poetry and beauty of married
life who has this poetry in her soul; who with energy and discretion
can throw back and out of sight the sordid and disagreeable details
which beset all human living, and can keep in the foreground that
which is agreeable; who has enough knowledge of practical household
matters to make unskilled and rude hands minister to her cultivated
and refined tastes, and constitute her skilled brain the guide of
unskilled hands. From such a home, with such a mistress, no sirens
will seduce a man, even though the hair grow gray, and the merely
physical charms of early days gradually pass away. The enchantment
that was about her person alone in the days of courtship seems in the
course of years to have interfused and penetrated the home which she
has created, and which in every detail is only an expression of her
personality. Her thoughts, her plans, her provident care, are
everywhere; and the home attracts and holds by a thousand ties the
heart which before marriage was held by the woman alone."



V

THE TRANSITION


"The fact is, my dear," said my wife, "that you have thrown a stone
into a congregation of blackbirds, in writing as you have of our
family wars and wants. The response comes from all parts of the
country, and the task of looking over and answering your letters
becomes increasingly formidable. Everybody has something to
say,--something to propose."

"Give me a résumé," said I.

"Well," said my wife, "here are three pages from an elderly gentleman,
to the effect that women are not what they used to be,--that daughters
are a great care and no help, that girls have no health and no energy
in practical life, that the expense of maintaining a household is so
great that young men are afraid to marry, and that it costs more now
per annum to dress one young woman than it used to cost to carry a
whole family of sons through college. In short, the poor old gentleman
is in a desperate state of mind, and is firmly of opinion that society
is going to ruin by an express train."

"Poor old fellow!" said I, "the only comfort I can offer him is what I
take myself,--that this sad world will last out our time at least. Now
for the next."

"The next is more concise and spicy," said my wife. "I will read it.

  "CHRISTOPHER CROWFIELD, ESQ.:

  "_Sir_,--If you want to know how American women are to be brought
  back to family work, I can tell you a short method. Pay them as
  good wages for it as they can make in any other way. I get from
  seven to nine dollars a week in a shop where I work; if I could
  make the same in any good family, I should have no objection to
  doing it.

  "Your obedient servant,

  "LETITIA."

"My correspondent Letitia does not tell me," said I, "how much of this
seven or nine dollars she pays out for board and washing, fire and
lights. If she worked in a good family at two or three dollars a week,
it is easily demonstrable that, at the present cost of these items,
she would make as much clear profit as she now does at nine dollars
for her shop-work.

"And there are two other things, moreover, which she does not
consider: First, that, besides board, washing, fuel, and lights, which
she would have in a family, she would have also less unintermitted
toil. Shop-work exacts its ten hours per diem; and it makes no
allowance for sickness or accident.

"A good domestic in a good family finds many hours when she can feel
free to attend to her own affairs. Her work consists of certain
definite matters, which being done her time is her own; and if she
have skill and address in the management of her duties, she may secure
many leisure hours. As houses are now built, and with the many
labor-saving conveniences that are being introduced, the physical
labor of housework is no more than a healthy woman really needs to
keep her in health. In case, however, of those slight illnesses to
which all are more or less liable, and which, if neglected, often lead
to graver ones, the advantage is still on the side of domestic
service. In the shop and factory, every hour of unemployed time is
deducted; an illness of a day or two is an appreciable loss of just so
much money, while the expense of board is still going on. But in the
family a good servant is always considered. When ill, she is carefully
nursed as one of the family, has the family physician, and is subject
to no deduction from her wages for loss of time. I have known more
than one instance in which a valued domestic has been sent, at her
employer's expense, to the seaside or some other pleasant locality,
for change of air, when her health has been run down.

"In the second place, family work is more remunerative, even at a
lower rate of wages, than shop or factory work, because it is better
for the health. All sorts of sedentary employment, pursued by numbers
of persons together in one apartment, are more or less debilitating
and unhealthy, through foul air and confinement.

"A woman's health is her capital. In certain ways of work she obtains
more income, but she spends on her capital to do it. In another way
she may get less income, and yet increase her capital. A woman cannot
work at dressmaking, tailoring, or any other sedentary employment, ten
hours a day, year in and out, without enfeebling her constitution,
impairing her eyesight, and bringing on a complication of complaints,
but she can sweep, wash, cook, and do the varied duties of a
well-ordered house with modern arrangements, and grow healthier every
year. The times, in New England, when all women did housework a part
of every day, were the times when all women were healthy. At present,
the heritage of vigorous muscles, firm nerves, strong backs, and
cheerful physical life has gone from American women, and is taken up
by Irish women. A thrifty young man I have lately heard of married a
rosy young Irish girl, quite to the horror of his mother and sisters,
but defended himself by the following very conclusive logic: 'If I
marry an American girl, I must have an Irish girl to take care of her;
and I cannot afford to support both.'

"Besides all this, there is a third consideration, which I humbly
commend to my friend Letitia. The turn of her note speaks her a girl
of good common sense, with a faculty of hitting the nail square on the
head; and such a girl must see that nothing is more likely to fall out
than that she will some day be married. Evidently, our fair friend is
born to rule; and at this hour, doubtless, her foreordained throne and
humble servant are somewhere awaiting her.

"Now domestic service is all the while fitting a girl physically,
mentally, and morally for her ultimate vocation and sphere,--to be a
happy wife and to make a happy home. But factory work, shop work, and
all employments of that sort, are in their nature essentially
undomestic,--entailing the constant necessity of a boarding-house
life, and of habits as different as possible from the quiet routine of
home. The girl who is ten hours on the strain of continued,
unintermitted toil feels no inclination, when evening comes, to sit
down and darn her stockings, or make over her dresses, or study any of
those multifarious economies which turn a wardrobe to the best
account. Her nervous system is flagging; she craves company and
excitement; and her dull, narrow room is deserted for some place of
amusement or gay street promenade. And who can blame her? Let any
sensible woman, who has had experience of shop and factory life,
recall to her mind the ways and manners in which young girls grow up
who leave a father's roof for a crowded boarding-house, without any
supervision of matron or mother, and ask whether this is the best
school for training young American wives and mothers.

"Doubtless there are discreet and thoughtful women who, amid all these
difficulties, do keep up thrifty, womanly habits, but they do it by an
effort greater than the majority of girls are willing to make, and
greater than they ought to make. To sew or read or study after ten
hours of factory or shop work is a further drain on the nervous powers
which no woman can long endure without exhaustion.

"When the time arrives that such a girl comes to a house of her own,
she comes to it as unskilled in all household lore, with muscles as
incapable of domestic labor and nerves as sensitive, as if she had
been leading the most luxurious, do-nothing, fashionable life. How
different would be her preparation, had the forming years of her life
been spent in the labors of a family! I know at this moment a lady at
the head of a rich country establishment, filling her station in
society with dignity and honor, who gained her domestic education in a
kitchen in our vicinity. She was the daughter of a small farmer, and
when the time came for her to be earning her living, her parents
wisely thought it far better that she should gain it in a way which
would at the same time establish her health and fit her for her own
future home. In a cheerful, light, airy kitchen, which was kept so
tidy always as to be an attractive sitting-room, she and another young
country girl were trained up in the best of domestic economies by a
mistress who looked well to the ways of her household, till at length
they married from the house with honor, and went to practice in homes
of their own the lessons they had learned in the home of another.
Formerly, in New England, such instances were not uncommon; would that
they might become so again!"

"The fact is," said my wife, "the places which the daughters of
American farmers used to occupy in our families are now taken by young
girls from the families of small farmers in Ireland. They are
respectable, tidy, healthy, and capable of being taught. A good
mistress, who is reasonable and liberal in her treatment, is able to
make them fixtures. They get good wages, and have few expenses. They
dress handsomely, have abundant leisure to take care of their clothes
and turn their wardrobes to the best account, and they very soon
acquire skill in doing it equal to that displayed by any women of any
country. They remit money continually to relatives in Ireland, and
from time to time pay the passage of one and another to this
country,--and whole families have thus been established in American
life by the efforts of one young girl. Now, for my part, I do not
grudge my Irish fellow citizens these advantages obtained by honest
labor and good conduct; they deserve all the good fortune thus
accruing to them. But when I see sickly, nervous American women
jostling and struggling in the few crowded avenues which are open to
mere brain, I cannot help thinking how much better their lot would
have been, with good strong bodies, steady nerves, healthy digestion,
and the habit of looking any kind of work in the face, which used to
be characteristic of American women generally, and of Yankee women in
particular."

"The matter becomes still graver," said I, "by the laws of descent.
The woman who enfeebles her muscular system by sedentary occupation,
and over-stimulates her brain and nervous system, when she becomes a
mother perpetuates these evils to her offspring. Her children will be
born feeble and delicate, incapable of sustaining any severe strain of
body or mind. The universal cry now about the ill health of young
American girls is the fruit of some three generations of neglect of
physical exercise and undue stimulus of brain and nerves. Young girls
now are universally _born_ delicate. The most careful hygienic
treatment during childhood, the strictest attention to diet, dress,
and exercise, succeeds merely so far as to produce a girl who is
healthy so long only as she does nothing. With the least strain, her
delicate organism gives out, now here, now there. She cannot study
without her eyes fail or she has headache,--she cannot get up her own
muslins, or sweep a room, or pack a trunk, without bringing on a
backache,--she goes to a concert or a lecture, and must lie by all the
next day from the exertion. If she skates, she is sure to strain some
muscle; or if she falls and strikes her knee or hits her ankle, a
blow that a healthy girl would forget in five minutes terminates in
some mysterious lameness which confines our poor sibyl for months.

"The young American girl of our times is a creature who has not a
particle of vitality to spare,--no reserved stock of force to draw
upon in cases of family exigency. She is exquisitely strung, she
is cultivated, she is refined; but she is too nervous, too wiry,
too sensitive,--she burns away too fast; only the easiest of
circumstances, the most watchful of care and nursing, can keep her
within the limits of comfortable health; and yet this is the
creature who must undertake family life in a country where it is
next to an absolute impossibility to have permanent domestics.
Frequent change, occasional entire breakdowns, must be the lot of
the majority of housekeepers,--particularly those who do not live
in cities."

"In fact," said my wife, "we in America have so far got out of the way
of a womanhood that has any vigor of outline or opulence of physical
proportions that, when we see a woman made as a woman ought to be, she
strikes us as a monster. Our willowy girls are afraid of nothing so
much as growing stout; and if a young lady begins to round into
proportions like the women in Titian's and Giorgione's pictures, she
is distressed above measure, and begins to make secret inquiries into
reducing diet, and to cling desperately to the strongest corset-lacing
as her only hope. It would require one to be better educated than most
of our girls are, to be willing to look like the Sistine Madonna or
the Venus of Milo.

"Once in a while our Italian opera-singers bring to our shores those
glorious physiques which formed the inspiration of Italian painters;
and then American editors make coarse jokes about Barnum's fat woman,
and avalanches, and pretend to be struck with terror at such
dimensions.

"We should be better instructed, and consider that Italy does us a
favor, in sending us specimens, not only of higher styles of musical
art, but of a warmer, richer, and more abundant womanly life. The
magnificent voice is only in keeping with the magnificent proportions
of the singer. A voice which has no grate, no strain, which flows
without effort,--which does not labor eagerly up to a high note, but
alights on it like a bird from above, there carelessly warbling and
trilling,--a voice which then without effort sinks into broad, rich,
sombre depths of soft, heavy chest-tone,--can come only with a
physical nature at once strong, wide, and fine,--from a nature such as
the sun of Italy ripens, as he does her golden grapes, filling it with
the new wine of song."

"Well," said I, "so much for our strictures on Miss Letitia's letter.
What comes next?"

"Here is a correspondent who answers the question, 'What shall we do
with her?'--apropos of the case of the distressed young woman which we
considered in our first chapter."

"And what does he recommend?"

"He tells us that he should advise us to make our distressed
woman Marianne's housekeeper, and to send South for three or
four contrabands for her to train, and, with great apparent
complacency, seems to think that course will solve all similar
cases of difficulty."

"That's quite a man's view of the subject," said Jenny. "They think
any woman who isn't particularly fitted to do anything else can keep
house."

"As if housekeeping were not the very highest craft and mystery of
social life," said I. "I admit that our sex speak too unadvisedly on
such topics, and, being well instructed by my household priestesses,
will humbly suggest the following ideas to my correspondent.

"1st. A woman is not of course fit to be a housekeeper because she is
a woman of good education and refinement.

"2d. If she were, a family with young children in it is not the proper
place to establish a school for untaught contrabands, however
desirable their training may be.

"A woman of good education and good common sense may learn to be a
good housekeeper, as she learns any trade, by going into a good family
and practicing first one and then another branch of the business, till
finally she shall acquire the comprehensive knowledge to direct all.

"The next letter I will read:--

  "DEAR MR. CROWFIELD,--Your papers relating to the domestic problem
  have touched upon a difficulty which threatens to become a matter
  of life and death with me.

  "I am a young man, with good health, good courage, and good
  prospects. I have, for a young man, a fair income, and a prospect
  of its increase. But my business requires me to reside in a
  country town, near a great manufacturing city. The demand for
  labor there has made such a drain on the female population of the
  vicinity, that it seems, for a great part of the time, impossible
  to keep any servants at all; and what we can hire are of the
  poorest quality, and want exorbitant wages. My wife was a
  well-trained housekeeper, and knows perfectly all that pertains to
  the care of a family; but she has three little children, and a
  delicate babe only a few weeks old; and can any one woman do all
  that is needed for such a household? Something must be trusted to
  servants; and what is thus trusted brings such confusion and waste
  and dirt into our house, that the poor woman is constantly
  distraught between the disgust of having them and the utter
  impossibility of doing without them.

  "Now, it has been suggested that we remedy the trouble by paying
  higher wages; but I find that for the very highest wages I secure
  only the most miserable service; and yet, poor as it is, we are
  obliged to put up with it, because there is an amount of work to
  be done in our family that is absolutely beyond my wife's
  strength.

  "I see her health wearing away under these trials, her life made a
  burden; I feel no power to help her, and I ask you, Mr. Crowfield,
  What are we to do? What is to become of family life in this
  country?

  "Yours truly,

  "A YOUNG FAMILY MAN."

"My friend's letter," said I, "touches upon the very hinge of the
difficulty of domestic life with the present generation.

"The real, vital difficulty, after all, in our American life is, that
our country is so wide, so various, so abounding in the richest fields
of enterprise, that in every direction the cry is of the plenteousness
of the harvest and the fewness of the laborers. In short, there really
are not laborers enough to do the work of the country.

"Since the war has thrown the whole South open to the competition
of free labor, the demand for workers is doubled and trebled.
Manufactories of all sorts are enlarging their borders, increasing
their machinery, and calling for more hands. Every article of
living is demanded with an imperativeness and over an extent of
territory which set at once additional thousands to the task of
production. Instead of being easier to find hands to execute in all
branches of useful labor, it is likely to grow every year more
difficult, as new departments of manufacture and trade divide the
workers. The price of labor, even now higher in this country than
in any other, will rise still higher, and thus complicate still more
the problem of domestic life. Even if a reasonable quota of
intelligent women choose domestic service, the demand will be
increasingly beyond the supply."

"And what have you to say to this," said my wife, "seeing you cannot
stop the prosperity of the country?"

"Simply this,--that communities will be driven to organize, as they
now do in Europe, to lessen the labors of individual families by
having some of the present domestic tasks done out of the house.

"In France, for example, no housekeeper counts either washing,
ironing, or bread-making as part of her domestic cares. All the family
washing goes out to a laundry, and being attended to by those who make
that department of labor a specialty, it comes home in refreshingly
beautiful order.

"We in America, though we pride ourselves on our Yankee thrift, are
far behind the French in domestic economy. If all the families of a
neighborhood should put together the sums they separately spend in
buying or fitting up and keeping in repair tubs, boilers, and other
accommodations for washing, all that is consumed or wasted in soap,
starch, bluing, fuel, together with the wages and board of an extra
servant, the aggregate would suffice to fit up a neighborhood laundry,
where one or two capable women could do easily and well what ten or
fifteen women now do painfully and ill, and to the confusion and
derangement of all other family processes.

"The model laundries for the poor in London had facilities which would
enable a woman to do both the washing and ironing of a small family in
from two to three hours, and were so arranged that a very few women
could, with ease, do the work of a neighborhood.

"But in the absence of an establishment of this sort, the housekeepers
of a country village might help themselves very much by owning a
mangle in common, to which all the heavier parts of the ironing could
be sent. American ingenuity has greatly improved the machinery of the
mangle. It is no longer the heavy, cumbersome, structure that it used
to be in the Old World, but a compact, neat piece of apparatus, made
in three or four different sizes to suit different-sized apartments.

"Mr. H. F. Bond, of Waltham, Massachusetts, now manufactures these
articles, and sends them to all parts of the country. The smallest of
them does not take up much more room than a sewing-machine, can be
turned by a boy of ten or twelve, and thus in the course of an hour or
two the heaviest and most fatiguing part of a family ironing may be
accomplished.

"I should certainly advise the 'Young Family Man' with a delicate wife
and uncertain domestic help to fortify his kitchen with one of these
fixtures.

"But after all, I still say that the quarter to which I look for the
solution of the American problem of domestic life is a wise use of the
principle of association.

"The future model village of New England, as I see it, shall have for
the use of its inhabitants not merely a town lyceum hall and a town
library, but a town laundry, fitted up with conveniences such as no
private house can afford, and paying a price to the operators which
will enable them to command an excellence of work such as private
families seldom realize. It will also have a town bakery, where the
best of family bread, white, brown, and of all grains, shall be
compounded; and lastly a town cook-shop, where soup and meats may be
bought, ready for the table. Those of us who have kept house abroad
remember the ease with which our foreign establishments were carried
on. A suite of elegant apartments, a courier, and one female servant
were the foundation of domestic life. Our courier boarded us at a
moderate expense, and the servant took care of our rooms. Punctually
at the dinner hour every day, our dinner came in on the head of a
porter from a neighboring cook-shop. A large chest lined with tin, and
kept warm by a tiny charcoal stove in the centre, being deposited in
an anteroom, from it came forth first soup, then fish, then roasts of
various names, and lastly pastry and confections,--far more courses
than any reasonable Christian needs to keep him in healthy condition;
and dinner being over, our box with its débris went out of the house,
leaving a clear field.

"Now I put it to the distressed 'Young Family Man' whether these three
institutions of a bakery, a cook-shop, and a laundry, in the village
where he lives, would not virtually annihilate his household cares,
and restore peace and comfort to his now distracted family.

"There really is no more reason why every family should make its own
bread than its own butter,--why every family should do its own washing
and ironing than its own tailoring or mantua-making. In France, where
certainly the arts of economy are well studied, there is some
specialty for many domestic needs for which we keep servants. The
beautiful inlaid floors are kept waxed and glossy by a professional
gentleman who wears a brush on his foot-sole, skates gracefully over
the surface, and, leaving all right, departeth. Many families, each
paying a small sum, keep this servant in common.

"Now, if ever there was a community which needed to study the art of
living, it is our American one; for, at present, domestic life is so
wearing and so oppressive as seriously to affect health and happiness.
Whatever has been done abroad in the way of comfort and convenience
can be done here; and the first neighborhood that shall set the
example of dividing the tasks and burdens of life by the judicious use
of the principle of association will initiate a most important step in
the way of national happiness and prosperity.

"My solution, then, of the domestic problem may be formulized as
follows:--

"1st. That women make self helpfulness and family helpfulness
fashionable, and every woman use her muscles daily in enough household
work to give her a good digestion.

"2d. That the situation of a domestic be made so respectable and
respected that well-educated American women shall be induced to take
it as a training-school for their future family life.

"3d. That families by association lighten the multifarious labors of
the domestic sphere.

"All of which I humbly submit to the good sense and enterprise of
American readers and workers."



VI

BODILY RELIGION: A SERMON ON GOOD HEALTH


One of our recent writers has said, that "good health is physical
religion;" and it is a saying worthy to be printed in golden letters.
But good health being physical religion, it fully shares that
indifference with which the human race regards things confessedly the
most important. The neglect of the soul is the trite theme of all
religious teachers; and, next to their souls, there is nothing that
people neglect so much as their bodies. Every person ought to be
perfectly healthy, just as everybody ought to be perfectly religious;
but, in point of fact, the greater part of mankind are so far from
perfect moral or physical religion that they cannot even form a
conception of the blessing beyond them.

The mass of good, well-meaning Christians are not yet advanced enough
to guess at the change which a perfect fidelity to Christ's spirit and
precepts would produce in them. And the majority of people who call
themselves well, because they are not, at present, upon any particular
doctor's list, are not within sight of what perfect health would be.
That fullness of life, that vigorous tone, and that elastic
cheerfulness, which make the mere fact of existence a luxury, that
suppleness which carries one like a well-built boat over every wave of
unfavorable chance,--these are attributes of the perfect health seldom
enjoyed. We see them in young children, in animals, and now and then,
but rarely, in some adult human being, who has preserved intact the
religion of the body through all opposing influences. Perfect health
supposes not a state of mere quiescence, but of positive enjoyment in
living. See that little fellow, as his nurse turns him out in the
morning, fresh from his bath, his hair newly curled, and his cheeks
polished like apples. Every step is a spring or a dance; he runs, he
laughs, he shouts, his face breaks into a thousand dimpling smiles at
a word. His breakfast of plain bread and milk is swallowed with an
eager and incredible delight,--it is so good that he stops to laugh or
thump the table now and then in expression of his ecstasy. All day
long he runs and frisks and plays; and when at night the little head
seeks the pillow, down go the eye-curtains, and sleep comes without a
dream. In the morning his first note is a laugh and a crow, as he sits
up in his crib and tries to pull papa's eyes open with his fat
fingers. He is an embodied joy,--he is sunshine and music and laughter
for all the house. With what a magnificent generosity does the Author
of life endow a little mortal pilgrim in giving him at the outset of
his career such a body as this! How miserable it is to look forward
twenty years, when the same child, now grown a man, wakes in the
morning with a dull, heavy head, the consequence of smoking and
studying till twelve or one the night before; when he rises languidly
to a late breakfast, and turns from this and tries that,--wants a
deviled bone, or a cutlet with Worcestershire sauce, to make eating
possible; and then, with slow and plodding step, finds his way to his
office and his books. Verily the shades of the prison-house gather
round the growing boy; for, surely, no one will deny that life often
begins with health little less perfect than that of the angels.

But the man who habitually wakes sodden, headachy, and a little
stupid, and who needs a cup of strong coffee and various stimulating
condiments to coax his bodily system into something like fair working
order, does not suppose he is out of health. He says, "Very well, I
thank you," to your inquiries,--merely because he has entirely
forgotten what good health is. He is well, not because of any
particular pleasure in physical existence, but well simply because he
is not a subject for prescriptions. Yet there is no store of vitality,
no buoyancy, no superabundant vigor, to resist the strain and pressure
to which life puts him. A checked perspiration, a draught of air
ill-timed, a crisis of perplexing business or care, and he is down
with a bilious attack or an influenza, and subject to doctors' orders
for an indefinite period. And if the case be so with men, how is it
with women? How many women have at maturity the keen appetite, the
joyous love of life and motion, the elasticity and sense of physical
delight in existence, that little children have? How many have any
superabundance of vitality with which to meet the wear and strain of
life? And yet they call themselves well.

But is it possible, in maturity, to have the joyful fullness of the
life of childhood? Experience has shown that the delicious freshness
of this dawning hour may be preserved even to midday, and may be
brought back and restored after it has been for years a stranger.
Nature, though a severe disciplinarian, is still, in many respects,
most patient and easy to be entreated, and meets any repentant
movement of her prodigal children with wonderful condescension. Take
Bulwer's account of the first few weeks of his sojourn at Malvern,
and you will read, in very elegant English, the story of an
experience of pleasure which has surprised and delighted many a
patient at a water-cure. The return to the great primitive elements
of health--water, air, and simple food, with a regular system of
exercise--has brought to many a jaded, weary, worn-down human being
the elastic spirits, the simple, eager appetite, the sound sleep, of
a little child. Hence the rude huts and châlets of the peasant
Priessnitz were crowded with battered dukes and princesses and
notables of every degree, who came from the hot, enervating luxury
which had drained them of existence, to find a keener pleasure in
peasants' bread under peasants' roofs than in soft raiment and
palaces. No arts of French cookery can possibly make anything taste
so well to a feeble and palled appetite as plain brown bread and milk
taste to a hungry water-cure patient, fresh from bath and exercise.

If the water-cure had done nothing more than establish the fact that
the glow and joyousness of early life are things which may be restored
after having been once wasted, it would have done a good work. For if
Nature is so forgiving to those who have once lost or have squandered
her treasures, what may not be hoped for us if we can learn the art of
never losing the first health of childhood? And though with us, who
have passed to maturity, it may be too late for the blessing, cannot
something be done for the children who are yet to come after us?

Why is the first health of childhood lost? Is it not the answer, that
childhood is the only period of life in which bodily health is made a
prominent object? Take our pretty boy, with cheeks like apples, who
started in life with a hop, skip, and dance,--to whom laughter was
like breathing, and who was enraptured with plain bread and milk,--how
did he grow into the man who wakes so languid and dull, who wants
strong coffee and Worcestershire sauce to make his breakfast go down?
When and where did he drop the invaluable talisman that once made
everything look brighter and taste better to him, however rude and
simple, than now do the most elaborate combinations? What is the boy's
history? Why, for the first seven years of his life his body is made
of some account. It is watched, cared for, dieted, disciplined, fed
with fresh air, and left to grow and develop like a thrifty plant. But
from the time school education begins, the body is steadily ignored,
and left to take care of itself.

The boy is made to sit six hours a day in a close, hot room, breathing
impure air, putting the brain and the nervous system upon a constant
strain, while the muscular system is repressed to an unnatural quiet.
During the six hours, perhaps twenty minutes are allowed for all that
play of the muscles which, up to this time, has been the constant
habit of his life. After this he is sent home with books, slate, and
lessons to occupy an hour or two more in preparing for the next day.
In the whole of this time there is no kind of effort to train the
physical system by appropriate exercise. Something of the sort was
attempted years ago in the infant schools, but soon given up; and now,
from the time study first begins, the muscles are ignored in all
primary schools. One of the first results is the loss of that animal
vigor which formerly made the boy love motion for its own sake. Even
in his leisure hours he no longer leaps and runs as he used to; he
learns to sit still, and by and by sitting and lounging come to be the
habit, and vigorous motion the exception, for most of the hours of the
day. The education thus begun goes on from primary to high school,
from high school to college, from college through professional studies
of law, medicine, or theology, with this steady contempt for the body,
with no provision for its culture, training, or development, but
rather a direct and evident provision for its deterioration and
decay.

The want of suitable ventilation in school-rooms, recitation-rooms,
lecture-rooms, offices, court-rooms, conference-rooms, and vestries,
where young students of law, medicine, and theology acquire their
earlier practice, is something simply appalling. Of itself it would
answer for men the question, why so many thousand glad, active
children come to a middle life without joy,--a life whose best estate
is a sort of slow, plodding endurance. The despite and hatred which
most men seem to feel for God's gift of fresh air, and their
resolution to breathe as little of it as possible, could only come
from a long course of education, in which they have been accustomed to
live without it. Let any one notice the conduct of our American
people traveling in railroad cars. We will suppose that about half of
them are what might be called well-educated people, who have learned
in books, or otherwise, that the air breathed from the lungs is laden
with impurities,--that it is noxious and poisonous; and yet, travel
with these people half a day, and you would suppose from their actions
that they considered the external air as a poison created expressly to
injure them, and that the only course of safety lay in keeping the
cars hermetically sealed, and breathing over and over the vapor from
each others' lungs. If a person in despair at the intolerable foulness
raises a window, what frowns from all the neighboring seats,
especially from great rough-coated men, who always seem the first to
be apprehensive! The request to "put down that window" is almost sure
to follow a moment or two of fresh air. In vain have rows of
ventilators been put in the tops of some of the cars, for conductors
and passengers are both of one mind, that these ventilators are inlets
of danger, and must be kept carefully closed.

Railroad traveling in America is systematically, and one would think
carefully, arranged so as to violate every possible law of health. The
old rule to keep the head cool and the feet warm is precisely
reversed. A red-hot stove heats the upper stratum of air to
oppression, while a stream of cold air is constantly circulating about
the lower extremities. The most indigestible and unhealthy substances
conceivable are generally sold in the cars or at way-stations for the
confusion and distress of the stomach. Rarely can a traveler obtain so
innocent a thing as a plain good sandwich of bread and meat, while
pie, cake, doughnuts, and all other culinary atrocities are almost
forced upon him at every stopping-place. In France, England, and
Germany, the railroad cars are perfectly ventilated; the feet are kept
warm by flat cases filled with hot water and covered with carpet, and
answering the double purpose of warming the feet and diffusing an
agreeable temperature through the car, without burning away the
vitality of the air; while the arrangements at the refreshment-rooms
provide for the passenger as wholesome and well-served a meal of
healthy, nutritious food as could be obtained in any home circle.

What are we to infer concerning the home habits of a nation of men who
so resignedly allow their bodies to be poisoned and maltreated in
traveling over such an extent of territory as is covered by our
railroad lines? Does it not show that foul air and improper food are
too much matters of course to excite attention? As a writer in "The
Nation" has lately remarked, it is simply and only because the
American nation like to have unventilated cars, and to be fed on pie
and coffee at stopping-places, that nothing better is known to our
travelers; if there were any marked dislike of such a state of things
on the part of the people, it would not exist. We have wealth enough,
and enterprise enough, and ingenuity enough, in our American nation,
to compass with wonderful rapidity any end that really seems to us
desirable. An army was improvised when an army was wanted,--and an
army more perfectly equipped, more bountifully fed, than so great a
body of men ever was before. Hospitals, Sanitary Commissions, and
Christian Commissions all arose out of the simple conviction of the
American people that they must arise. If the American people were
equally convinced that foul air was a poison,--that to have cold feet
and hot heads was to invite an attack of illness,--that maple-sugar,
popcorn, peppermint candy, pie, doughnuts, and peanuts are not diet
for reasonable beings,--they would have railroad accommodations very
different from those now in existence.

We have spoken of the foul air of court-rooms. What better illustration
could be given of the utter contempt with which the laws of bodily
health are treated, than the condition of these places? Our lawyers
are our highly educated men. They have been through high-school and
college training, they have learned the properties of oxygen,
nitrogen, and carbonic-acid gas, and have seen a mouse die under an
exhausted receiver, and of course they know that foul, unventilated
rooms are bad for the health; and yet generation after generation of
men so taught and trained will spend the greater part of their lives
in rooms notorious for their close and impure air, without so much as
an attempt to remedy the evil. A well-ventilated court-room is a
four-leaved clover among court-rooms. Young men are constantly losing
their health at the bar; lung diseases, dyspepsia, follow them up,
gradually sapping their vitality. Some of the brightest ornaments of the
profession have actually fallen dead as they stood pleading,--victims
of the fearful pressure of poisonous and heated air upon the excited
brain. The deaths of Salmon P. Chase of Portland, uncle of our present
Chief Justice, and of Ezekiel Webster, the brother of our great
statesman, are memorable examples of the calamitous effects of the
errors dwelt upon; and yet, strange to say, nothing efficient is done
to mend these errors, and give the body an equal chance with the mind in
the pressure of the world's affairs.

But churches, lecture-rooms, and vestries, and all buildings
devoted especially to the good of the soul, are equally witness of
the mind's disdain of the body's needs, and the body's consequent
revenge upon the soul. In how many of these places has the question
of a thorough provision of fresh air been even considered? People
would never think of bringing a thousand persons into a desert place
and keeping them there without making preparations to feed them.
Bread and butter, potatoes and meat, must plainly be found for them;
but a thousand human beings are put into a building to remain a given
number of hours, and no one asks the question whether means exist
for giving each one the quantum of fresh air needed for his
circulation, and these thousand victims will consent to be slowly
poisoned, gasping, sweating, getting red in the face, with confused
and sleepy brains, while a minister with a yet redder face and a
more oppressed brain struggles and wrestles, through the hot, seething
vapors, to make clear to them the mysteries of faith. How many
churches are there that for six or eight months in the year are never
ventilated at all, except by the accidental opening of doors? The
foul air generated by one congregation is locked up by the sexton
for the use of the next assembly; and so gathers and gathers from
week to week, and month to month, while devout persons upbraid
themselves, and are ready to tear their hair, because they always
feel stupid and sleepy in church. The proper ventilation of their
churches and vestries would remove that spiritual deadness of which
their prayers and hymns complain. A man hoeing his corn out on a
breezy hillside is bright and alert, his mind works clearly, and he
feels interested in religion, and thinks of many a thing that might
be said at the prayer-meeting at night. But at night, when he sits
down in a little room where the air reeks with the vapor of his
neighbor's breath and the smoke of kerosene lamps, he finds
himself suddenly dull and drowsy,--without emotion, without thought,
without feeling,--and he rises and reproaches himself for this
state of things. He calls upon his soul and all that is within him
to bless the Lord; but the indignant body, abused, insulted,
ignored, takes the soul by the throat, and says, "If you won't let
_me_ have a good time, neither shall you." Revivals of religion,
with ministers and with those people whose moral organization leads
them to take most interest in them, often end in periods of bodily
ill health and depression. But is there any need of this? Suppose
that a revival of religion required, as a formula, that all the
members of a given congregation should daily take a minute dose of
arsenic in concert,--we should not be surprised after a while to
hear of various ill effects therefrom; and, as vestries and
lecture-rooms are now arranged, a daily prayer-meeting is often
nothing more nor less than a number of persons spending half an
hour a day breathing poison from each other's lungs. There is not
only no need of this, but, on the contrary, a good supply of pure
air would make the daily prayer-meeting far more enjoyable. The body,
if allowed the slightest degree of fair play, so far from being a
contumacious infidel and opposer, becomes a very fair Christian
helper, and, instead of throttling the soul, gives it wings to rise
to celestial regions.

This branch of our subject we will quit with one significant anecdote.
A certain rural church was somewhat famous for its picturesque Gothic
architecture, and equally famous for its sleepy atmosphere, the rules
of Gothic symmetry requiring very small windows, which could be only
partially opened. Everybody was affected alike in this church;
minister and people complained that it was like the enchanted ground
in the Pilgrim's Progress. Do what they would, sleep was ever at their
elbows; the blue, red, and green of the painted windows melted into a
rainbow dimness of hazy confusion; and ere they were aware, they were
off on a cloud to the land of dreams.

An energetic sister in the church suggested the inquiry, whether it
was ever ventilated, and discovered that it was regularly locked up at
the close of service, and remained so till opened for the next week.
She suggested the inquiry, whether giving the church a thorough airing
on Saturday would not improve the Sunday services; but nobody acted on
her suggestion. Finally, she borrowed the sexton's key one Saturday
night, and went into the church and opened all the windows herself,
and let them remain so for the night. The next day everybody remarked
the improved comfort of the church, and wondered what had produced the
change. Nevertheless, when it was discovered, it was not deemed a
matter of enough importance to call for an order on the sexton to
perpetuate the improvement.

The ventilation of private dwellings in this country is such as might
be expected from that entire indifference to the laws of health
manifested in public establishments. Let a person travel in private
conveyance up through the valley of the Connecticut, and stop for a
night at the taverns which he will usually find at the end of each
day's stage. The bedchamber into which he will be ushered will be the
concentration of all forms of bad air. The house is redolent of the
vegetables in the cellar,--cabbages, turnips, and potatoes; and this
fragrance is confined and retained by the custom of closing the window
blinds and dropping the inside curtains, so that neither air nor
sunshine enters in to purify. Add to this the strong odor of a new
feather bed and pillows, and you have a combination of perfumes most
appalling to a delicate sense. Yet travelers take possession of these
rooms, sleep in them all night without raising the window or opening
the blinds, and leave them to be shut up for other travelers.

The spare chamber of many dwellings seems to be an hermetically closed
box, opened only twice a year, for spring and fall cleaning; but for
the rest of the time closed to the sun and the air of heaven. Thrifty
country housekeepers often adopt the custom of making their beds on
the instant after they are left, without airing the sheets and
mattresses; and a bed so made gradually becomes permeated with the
insensible emanations of the human body, so as to be a steady
corrupter of the atmosphere.

In the winter, the windows are calked and listed, the throat of the
chimney built up with a tight brick wall, and a close stove is
introduced to help burn out the vitality of the air. In a sitting-room
like this, from five to ten persons will spend about eight months of
the year, with no other ventilation than that gained by the casual
opening and shutting of doors. Is it any wonder that consumption
every year sweeps away its thousands?--that people are suffering
constant chronic ailments,--neuralgia, nervous dyspepsia, and all the
host of indefinite bad feelings that rob life of sweetness and flower
and bloom?

A recent writer raises the inquiry, whether the community would not
gain in health by the demolition of all dwelling-houses. That is, he
suggests the question, whether the evils from foul air are not so
great and so constant that they countervail the advantages of shelter.
Consumptive patients far gone have been known to be cured by long
journeys, which have required them to be day and night in the open
air. Sleep under the open heaven, even though the person be exposed to
the various accidents of weather, has often proved a miraculous
restorer after everything else had failed. But surely, if simple fresh
air is so healing and preserving a thing, some means might be found to
keep the air in a house just as pure and vigorous as it is outside.

An article in the May number of "Harpers' Magazine" presents drawings
of a very simple arrangement by which any house can be made thoroughly
self-ventilating. Ventilation, as this article shows, consists in two
things,--a perfect and certain expulsion from the dwelling of all foul
air breathed from the lungs or arising from any other cause, and the
constant supply of pure air.

One source of foul air cannot be too much guarded against,--we mean
imperfect gas-pipes. A want of thoroughness in execution is the sin of
our American artisans, and very few gas-fixtures are so thoroughly
made that more or less gas does not escape and mingle with the air of
the dwelling. There are parlors where plants cannot be made to live,
because the gas kills them; and yet their occupants do not seem to
reflect that an air in which a plant cannot live must be dangerous for
a human being. The very clemency and long-suffering of Nature to those
who persistently violate her laws is one great cause why men are,
physically speaking, such sinners as they are. If foul air poisoned at
once and completely, we should have well-ventilated houses, whatever
else we failed to have. But because people can go on for weeks,
months, and years breathing poisons, and slowly and imperceptibly
lowering the tone of their vital powers, and yet be what they call
"pretty well, I thank you," sermons on ventilation and fresh air go by
them as an idle song. "I don't see but we are well enough, and we
never took much pains about these things. There's air enough gets into
houses, of course. What with doors opening and windows occasionally
lifted, the air of houses is generally good enough;"--and so the
matter is dismissed.

One of Heaven's great hygienic teachers is now abroad in the world,
giving lessons on health to the children of men. The cholera is like
the angel whom God threatened to send as leader to the rebellious
Israelites. "Beware of him, obey his voice, and provoke him not; for
he will not pardon your transgressions." The advent of this fearful
messenger seems really to be made necessary by the contempt with which
men treat the physical laws of their being. What else could have
purified the dark places of New York? What a wiping-up and reforming
and cleansing is going before him through the country! At last we find
that Nature is in earnest, and that her laws cannot be always ignored
with impunity. Poisoned air is recognized at last as an evil,--even
although the poison cannot be weighed, measured, or tasted; and if all
the precautions that men are now willing to take could be made
perpetual, the alarm would be a blessing to the world.

Like the principles of spiritual religion, the principles of physical
religion are few and easy to be understood. An old medical apothegm
personifies the hygienic forces as the Doctors Air, Diet, Exercise,
and Quiet: and these four will be found, on reflection, to cover the
whole ground of what is required to preserve human health. A human
being whose lungs have always been nourished by pure air, whose
stomach has been fed only by appropriate food, whose muscles have been
systematically trained by appropriate exercises, and whose mind is
kept tranquil by faith in God and a good conscience, has perfect
physical religion. There is a line where physical religion must
necessarily overlap spiritual religion and rest upon it. No human
being can be assured of perfect health, through all the strain and
wear and tear of such cares and such perplexities as life brings,
without the rest of faith in God. An unsubmissive, unconfiding,
unresigned soul will make vain the best hygienic treatment; and, on
the contrary, the most saintly religious resolution and purpose may be
defeated and vitiated by an habitual ignorance and disregard of the
laws of the physical system.

Perfect spiritual religion cannot exist without perfect physical
religion. Every flaw and defect in the bodily system is just so much
taken from the spiritual vitality: we are commanded to glorify
God, not simply in our spirits, but in our bodies and spirits. The
only example of perfect manhood the world ever saw impresses us
more than anything else by an atmosphere of perfect healthiness.
There is a calmness, a steadiness, in the character of Jesus, a
naturalness in his evolution of the sublimest truths under the strain
of the most absorbing and intense excitement, that could come only
from the one perfectly trained and developed body, bearing as a
pure and sacred shrine the One Perfect Spirit. Jesus of Nazareth,
journeying on foot from city to city, always calm yet always
fervent, always steady yet glowing with a white heat of sacred
enthusiasm, able to walk and teach all day and afterwards to
continue in prayer all night, with unshaken nerves, sedately
patient, serenely reticent, perfectly self-controlled, walked the
earth, the only man that perfectly glorified God in His body no less
than in His spirit. It is worthy of remark, that in choosing His
disciples He chose plain men from the laboring classes, who had
lived the most obediently to the simple, unperverted laws of nature.
He chose men of good and pure bodies,--simple, natural, childlike,
healthy men,--and baptized their souls with the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit.

The hygienic bearings of the New Testament have never been sufficiently
understood. The basis of them lies in the solemn declaration, that
our bodies are to be temples of the Holy Spirit, and that all abuse
of them is of the nature of sacrilege. Reverence for the physical
system, as the outward shrine and temple of the spiritual, is the
peculiarity of the Christian religion. The doctrine of the resurrection
of the body, and its physical immortality, sets the last crown of honor
upon it. That bodily system which God declared worthy to be gathered
back from the dust of the grave, and re-created, as the soul's immortal
companion, must necessarily be dear and precious in the eyes of its
Creator. The one passage in the New Testament in which it is spoken of
disparagingly is where Paul contrasts it with the brighter glory of
what is to come: "He shall change our vile bodies, that they may be
fashioned like his glorious body." From this passage has come abundance
of reviling of the physical system. Memoirs of good men are full of
abuse of it, as the clog, the load, the burden, the chain. It is
spoken of as pollution, as corruption,--in short, one would think that
the Creator had imitated the cruelty of some Oriental despots who
have been known to chain a festering corpse to a living body.
Accordingly, the memoirs of these pious men are also mournful
records of slow suicide, wrought by the persistent neglect of the most
necessary and important laws of the bodily system; and the body,
outraged and downtrodden, has turned traitor to the soul, and played
the adversary with fearful power. Who can tell the countless temptations
to evil which flow in from a neglected, disordered, deranged
nervous system,--temptations to anger, to irritability, to selfishness,
to every kind of sin of appetite and passion? No wonder that the poor
soul longs for the hour of release from such a companion.

But that human body which God declares expressly was made to be the
temple of the Holy Spirit, which he considers worthy to be perpetuated
by a resurrection and an immortal existence, cannot be intended to be
a clog and a hindrance to spiritual advancement. A perfect body,
working in perfect tune and time, would open glimpses of happiness to
the soul approaching the joys we hope for in heaven. It is only
through the images of things which our bodily senses have taught us,
that we can form any conception of that future bliss; and the more
perfect these senses, the more perfect our conceptions must be.

The conclusion of the whole matter, and the practical application of
this sermon, is,--First, that all men set themselves to form the idea
of what perfect health is, and resolve to realize it for themselves
and their children. Second, that with a view to this they study the
religion of the body, in such simple and popular treatises as those of
George Combe, Dr. Dio Lewis, and others, and with simple and honest
hearts practice what they there learn. Third, that the training of the
bodily system should form a regular part of our common-school
education,--every common school being provided with a well-instructed
teacher of gymnastics; and the growth and development of each pupil's
body being as much noticed and marked as is now the growth of his
mind. The same course should be continued and enlarged in colleges and
female seminaries, which should have professors of hygiene appointed
to give thorough instruction concerning the laws of health.

And when this is all done, we may hope that crooked spines, pimpled
faces, sallow complexions, stooping shoulders, and all other signs
indicating an undeveloped physical vitality, will, in the course of a
few generations, disappear from the earth, and men will have bodies
which will glorify God, their great Architect.

The soul of man has got as far as it can without the body. Religion
herself stops and looks back, waiting for the body to overtake her.
The soul's great enemy and hindrance can be made her best friend and
most powerful help; and it is high time that this era were begun. We
old sinners, who have lived carelessly, and almost spent our day of
grace, may not gain much of its good; but the children,--shall there
not be a more perfect day for them? Shall there not come a day when
the little child, whom Christ set forth to his disciples as the type
of the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, shall be the type no less of
our physical than our spiritual advancement,--when men and women shall
arise, keeping through long and happy lives the simple, unperverted
appetites, the joyous freshness of spirit, the keen delight in mere
existence, the dreamless sleep and happy waking of early childhood?



VII

HOW SHALL WE ENTERTAIN OUR COMPANY


"The fact is," said Marianne, "we must have a party. Bob don't like to
hear of it, but it must come. We are in debt to everybody: we have
been invited everywhere, and never had anything like a party since we
were married, and it won't do."

"For my part, I hate parties," said Bob. "They put your house all out
of order, give all the women a sick-headache, and all the men an
indigestion; you never see anybody to any purpose; the girls look
bewitched, and the women answer you at cross-purposes, and call you by
the name of your next-door neighbor, in their agitation of mind. We
stay out beyond our usual bedtime, come home and find some baby
crying, or child who has been sitting up till nobody knows when; and
the next morning, when I must be at my office by eight, and wife must
attend to her children, we are sleepy and headachy. I protest against
making overtures to entrap some hundred of my respectable married
friends into this snare which has so often entangled me. If I had my
way, I would never go to another party; and as to giving one--I
suppose, since my empress has declared her intentions, that I shall be
brought into doing it; but it shall be under protest."

"But, you see, we must keep up society," said Marianne.

"But I insist on it," said Bob, "it isn't keeping up society. What
earthly thing do you learn about people by meeting them in a general
crush, where all are coming, going, laughing, talking, and looking at
each other? No person of common sense ever puts forth any idea he
cares twopence about, under such circumstances; all that is exchanged
is a certain set of commonplaces and platitudes which people keep for
parties, just as they do their kid gloves and finery. Now there are
our neighbors, the Browns. When they drop in of an evening, she
knitting, and he with the last article in the paper, she really comes
out with a great deal of fresh, lively, earnest, original talk. We
have a good time, and I like her so much that it quite verges on
loving; but see her in a party, when she manifests herself over five
or six flounces of pink silk and a perfect egg-froth of tulle, her
head adorned with a thicket of crêped hair and roses, and it is plain
at first view that talking with her is quite out of the question. What
has been done to her head on the outside has evidently had some effect
within, for she is no longer the Mrs. Brown you knew in her every-day
dress, but Mrs. Brown in a party state of mind, and too distracted to
think of anything in particular. She has a few words that she answers
to everything you say, as for example, 'Oh, very!' 'Certainly!' 'How
extraordinary!' 'So happy to,' etc. The fact is, that she has come
into a state in which any real communication with her mind and
character must be suspended till the party is over and she is rested.
Now I like society, which is the reason why I hate parties."

"But you see," said Marianne, "what are we to do? Everybody can't drop
in to spend an evening with you. If it were not for these parties,
there are quantities of your acquaintances whom you would never
meet."

"And of what use is it to meet them? Do you really know them any
better for meeting them got up in unusual dresses, and sitting down
together when the only thing exchanged is the remark that it is hot or
cold, or it rains, or it is dry, or any other patent surface-fact that
answers the purpose of making believe you are talking when neither of
you is saying a word?"

"Well, now, for my part," said Marianne, "I confess I like parties:
they amuse me. I come home feeling kinder and better to people, just
for the little I see of them when they are all dressed up and in good
humor with themselves. To be sure we don't say anything very
profound,--I don't think the most of us have anything profound to say;
but I ask Mrs. Brown where she buys her lace, and she tells me how she
washes it, and somebody else tells me about her baby, and promises me
a new sack-pattern. Then I like to see the pretty, nice young girls
flirting with the nice young men; and I like to be dressed up a little
myself, even if my finery is all old and many times made over. It does
me good to be rubbed up and brightened."

"Like old silver," said Bob.

"Yes, like old silver, precisely; and even if I do come home tired, it
does my mind good to have that change of scene and faces. You men do
not know what it is to be tied to house and nursery all day, and what
a perfect weariness and lassitude it often brings on us women. For my
part I think parties are a beneficial institution of society, and that
it is worth a good deal of fatigue and trouble to get one up."

"Then there's the expense," said Bob. "What earthly need is there of a
grand regale of oysters, chicken salad, ice-creams, coffee, and
champagne, between eleven and twelve o'clock at night, when no one of
us would ever think of wanting or taking any such articles upon our
stomachs in our own homes? If we were all of us in the habit of having
a regular repast at that hour, it might be well enough to enjoy one
with our neighbor; but the party fare is generally just so much in
addition to the honest three meals which we have eaten during the day.
Now, to spend from fifty to one, two, or three hundred dollars in
giving all our friends an indigestion from a midnight meal seems to me
a very poor investment. Yet if we once begin to give the party, we
must have everything that is given at the other parties, or wherefore
do we live? And caterers and waiters rack their brains to devise new
forms of expense and extravagance; and when the bill comes in, one is
sure to feel that one is paying a great deal of money for a great deal
of nonsense. It is in fact worse than nonsense, because our dear
friends are, in half the cases, not only no better, but a great deal
worse, for what they have eaten."

"But there is this advantage to society," said Rudolph,--"it helps us
young physicians. What would the physicians do if parties were
abolished? Take all the colds that are caught by our fair friends with
low necks and short sleeves, all the troubles from dancing in tight
dresses and inhaling bad air, and all the headaches and indigestion
from the _mélange_ of lobster salad, two or three kinds of ice-cream,
cake, and coffee on delicate stomachs, and our profession gets a
degree of encouragement that is worthy to be thought of."

"But the question arises," said my wife, "whether there are not ways
of promoting social feeling less expensive, more simple and natural
and rational. I am inclined to think that there are."

"Yes," said Theophilus Thoro; "for large parties are not, as a general
thing, given with any wish or intention of really improving our
acquaintance with our neighbors. In many cases they are openly and
avowedly a general tribute paid at intervals to society, for and in
consideration of which you are to sit with closed blinds and doors and
be let alone for the rest of the year. Mrs. Bogus, for instance, lives
to keep her house in order, her closets locked, her silver counted and
in the safe, and her china-closet in undisturbed order. Her 'best
things' are put away with such admirable precision, in so many
wrappings and foldings, and secured with so many a twist and twine,
that to get them out is one of the seven labors of Hercules, not to
be lightly or unadvisedly taken in hand, but reverently, discreetly,
and once for all, in an annual or biennial party. Then says Mrs.
Bogus, 'For Heaven's sake, let's have every creature we can think of,
and have 'em all over with at once. For pity's sake, let's have no
driblets left that we shall have to be inviting to dinner or to tea.
No matter whether they can come or not,--only send them the
invitation, and our part is done; and, thank Heaven! we shall be free
for a year.'"

"Yes," said my wife; "a great stand-up party bears just the same
relation towards the offer of real hospitality and good will as Miss
Sally Brass's offer of meat to the little hungry Marchioness, when,
with a bit uplifted on the end of a fork, she addressed her, 'Will you
have this piece of meat? No? Well, then, remember and don't say you
haven't had meat _offered_ to you!' You are invited to a general jam,
at the risk of your life and health; and if you refuse, don't say you
haven't had hospitality offered to you. All our debts are wiped out
and our slate clean; now we will have our own closed doors, no company
and no trouble, and our best china shall repose undisturbed on its
shelves. Mrs. Bogus says she never could exist in the way that Mrs.
Easygo does, with a constant drip of company,--two or three to
breakfast one day, half a dozen to dinner the next, and little evening
gatherings once or twice a week. It must keep her house in confusion
all the time; yet, for real social feeling, real exchange of thought
and opinion, there is more of it in one half-hour at Mrs. Easygo's
than in a dozen of Mrs. Bogus's great parties.

"The fact is, that Mrs. Easygo really does like the society of
human beings. She is genuinely and heartily social; and, in
consequence, though she has very limited means, and no money to
spend in giving great entertainments, her domestic establishment is
a sort of social exchange, where more friendships are formed, more
real acquaintance made, and more agreeable hours spent, than in any
other place that can be named. She never has large parties,--great
general pay-days of social debts,--but small, well-chosen circles of
people, selected so thoughtfully, with a view to the pleasure which
congenial persons give each other, as to make the invitation an act
of real personal kindness. She always manages to have something for
the entertainment of her friends, so that they are not reduced to
the simple alternative of gaping at each other's dresses and
eating lobster salad and ice-cream. There is either some choice
music, or a reading of fine poetry, or a well-acted charade, or a
portfolio of photographs and pictures, to enliven the hour and
start conversation; and as the people are skillfully chosen with
reference to each other, as there is no hurry or heat or confusion,
conversation, in its best sense, can bubble up, fresh, genuine, clear,
and sparkling as a woodland spring, and one goes away really rested
and refreshed. The slight entertainment provided is just enough to
enable you to eat salt together in Arab fashion,--not enough to form
the leading feature of the evening. A cup of tea and a basket of
cake, or a salver of ices, silently passed at quiet intervals, do
not interrupt conversation or overload the stomach."

"The fact is," said I, "that the art of society among us Anglo-Saxons
is yet in its rudest stages. We are not, as a race, social and
confiding, like the French and Italians and Germans. We have a word
for home, and our home is often a moated grange, an island, a castle
with its drawbridge up, cutting us off from all but our own
home-circle. In France and Germany and Italy there are the boulevards
and public gardens, where people do their family living in common. Mr.
A. is breakfasting under one tree, with wife and children around, and
Mr. B. is breakfasting under another tree, hard by; and messages,
nods, and smiles pass backward and forward. Families see each other
daily in these public resorts, and exchange mutual offices of good
will. Perhaps from these customs of society come that naïve
simplicity and abandon which one remarks in the Continental, in
opposition to the Anglo-Saxon, habits of conversation. A Frenchman or
an Italian will talk to you of his feeling and plans and prospects
with an unreserve that is perfectly unaccountable to you, who have
always felt that such things must be kept for the very innermost
circle of home privacy. But the Frenchman or Italian has from a child
been brought up to pass his family life in places of public resort, in
constant contact and intercommunion with other families; and the
social and conversational instinct has thus been daily strengthened.
Hence the reunions of these people have been characterized by a
sprightliness and vigor and spirit that the Anglo-Saxon has in vain
attempted to seize and reproduce. English and American _conversazioni_
have very generally proved a failure, from the rooted, frozen habit of
reticence and reserve which grows with our growth and strengthens with
our strength. The fact is, that the Anglo-Saxon race as a race does
not enjoy talking, and, except in rare instances, does not talk well.
A daily convocation of people, without refreshments or any extraneous
object but the simple pleasure of seeing and talking with each other,
is a thing that can scarcely be understood in English or American
society. Social entertainment presupposes in the Anglo-Saxon mind
something to eat, and not only something, but a great deal. Enormous
dinners or great suppers constitute the entertainment. Nobody seems to
have formed the idea that the talking--the simple exchange of social
feelings--is, of itself, the entertainment, and that being together is
the pleasure.

"Madame Rocamier for years had a circle of friends who met every
afternoon in her salon from four to six o'clock, for the simple and
sole pleasure of talking with each other. The very first wits and men
of letters and statesmen and savans were enrolled in it, and each
brought to the entertainment some choice morceau which he had laid
aside from his own particular field to add to the feast. The daily
intimacy gave each one such perfect insight into all the others'
habits of thought, tastes, and preferences, that the conversation was
like the celebrated music of the Conservatoire in Paris, a concert of
perfectly chorded instruments taught by long habit of harmonious
intercourse to keep exact time and tune together.

"Real conversation presupposes intimate acquaintance. People must see
each other often enough to wear off the rough bark and outside rind of
commonplaces and conventionalities in which their real ideas are
enwrapped, and give forth without reserve their innermost and best
feelings. Now what is called a large party is the first and rudest
form of social intercourse. The most we can say of it is, that it is
better than nothing. Men and women are crowded together like cattle in
a pen. They look at each other, they jostle each other, exchange a few
common bleatings, and eat together; and so the performance terminates.
One may be crushed evening after evening against men or women, and
learn very little about them. You may decide that a lady is
good-tempered, when any amount of trampling on the skirt of her new
silk dress brings no cloud to her brow. But _is_ it good temper, or
only wanton carelessness, which cares nothing for waste? You can see
that a man is not a gentleman who squares his back to ladies at the
supper-table, and devours boned turkey and _paté de foie gras_, while
they vainly reach over and around him for something, and that another
is a gentleman so far as to prefer the care of his weaker neighbors to
the immediate indulgence of his own appetites; but further than this
you learn little. Sometimes, it is true, in some secluded corner, two
people of fine nervous system, undisturbed by the general confusion,
may have a sociable half-hour, and really part feeling that they like
each other better, and know more of each other than before. Yet these
general gatherings have, after all, their value. They are not so good
as something better would be, but they cannot be wholly dispensed
with. It is far better that Mrs. Bogus should give an annual party,
when she takes down all her bedsteads and throws open her whole house,
than that she should never see her friends and neighbors inside her
doors at all. She may feel that she has neither the taste nor the
talent for constant small reunions. Such things, she may feel, require
a social tact which she has not. She would be utterly at a loss how to
conduct them. Each one would cost her as much anxiety and thought as
her annual gathering, and prove a failure after all; whereas the
annual demonstration can be put wholly into the hands of the caterer,
who comes in force, with flowers, silver, china, servants, and, taking
the house into his own hands, gives her entertainment for her, leaving
to her no responsibility but the payment of the bills; and if Mr.
Bogus does not quarrel with them, we know no reason why any one else
should; and I think Mrs. Bogus merits well of the republic, for doing
what she can do towards the hospitalities of the season. I'm sure I
never cursed her in my heart, even when her strong coffee has held
mine eyes open till morning, and her superlative lobster salads have
given me the very darkest views of human life that ever dyspepsia and
east wind could engender. Mrs. Bogus is the Eve who offers the apple;
but after all, I am the foolish Adam who take and eat what I know is
going to hurt me, and I am too gallant to visit my sins on the head of
my too obliging tempter. In country places in particular, where little
is going on and life is apt to stagnate, a good, large, generous
party, which brings the whole neighborhood into one house to have a
jolly time, to eat, drink, and be merry, is really quite a work of
love and mercy. People see one another in their best clothes, and that
is something; the elders exchange all manner of simple pleasantries
and civilities, and talk over their domestic affairs, while the young
people flirt, in that wholesome manner which is one of the safest of
youthful follies. A country party, in fact, may be set down as a work
of benevolence, and the money expended thereon fairly charged to the
account of the great cause of peace and good will on earth."

"But don't you think," said my wife, "that, if the charge of providing
the entertainment were less laborious, these gatherings could be more
frequent? You see, if a woman feels that she must have five kinds of
cake, and six kinds of preserves, and even ice-cream and jellies in a
region where no confectioner comes in to abbreviate her labors, she
will sit with closed doors, and do nothing towards the general
exchange of life, because she cannot do as much as Mrs. Smith or Mrs.
Parsons. If the idea of meeting together had some other focal point
than eating, I think there would be more social feeling. It might be a
musical reunion, where the various young people of a circle agreed to
furnish each a song or an instrumental performance. It might be an
impromptu charade party, bringing out something of that taste in
arrangement of costume, and capacity for dramatic effect, of which
there is more latent in society than we think. It might be the reading
of articles in prose and poetry furnished to a common paper or
portfolio, which would awaken an abundance of interest and speculation
on the authorship, or it might be dramatic readings and recitations.
Any or all of these pastimes might make an evening so entertaining
that a simple cup of tea and a plate of cake or biscuit would be all
the refreshment needed."

"We may with advantage steal a leaf now and then from some foreign
book," said I. "In France and Italy, families have their peculiar days
set apart for the reception of friends at their own houses. The whole
house is put upon a footing of hospitality and invitation, and the
whole mind is given to receiving the various friends. In the evening
the salon is filled. The guests, coming from week to week, for years,
become in time friends; the resort has the charm of a home circle;
there are certain faces that you are always sure to meet there. A lady
once said to me of a certain gentleman and lady whom she missed from
her circle, 'They have been at our house every Wednesday evening for
twenty years.' It seems to me that this frequency of meeting is the
great secret of agreeable society. One sees, in our American life,
abundance of people who are everything that is charming and
cultivated, but one never sees enough of them. One meets them at some
quiet reunion, passes a delightful hour, thinks how charming they are,
and wishes one could see more of them. But the pleasant meeting is
like the encounter of two ships in mid-ocean: away we sail, each on
his respective course, to see each other no more till the pleasant
remembrance has died away. Yet were there some quiet, home-like resort
where we might turn in to renew from time to time the pleasant
intercourse, to continue the last conversation, and to compare anew
our readings and our experiences, the pleasant hour of liking would
ripen into a warm friendship.

"But in order that this may be made possible and practicable, the
utmost simplicity of entertainment must prevail. In a French salon
all is to the last degree informal. The _bouilloire_, the French
tea-kettle, is often tended by one of the gentlemen, who aids his
fair neighbors in the mysteries of tea-making. One nymph is always to
be found at the table dispensing tea and talk; and a basket of simple
biscuit and cakes, offered by another, is all the further repast. The
teacups and cake-basket are a real addition to the scene, because
they cause a little lively social bustle, a little chatter and
motion,--always of advantage in breaking up stiffness, and giving
occasion for those graceful, airy nothings that answer so good a
purpose in facilitating acquaintance.

"Nothing can be more charming than the description which Edmond About
gives, in his novel of 'Tolla,' of the reception evenings of an old
noble Roman family,--the spirit of repose and quietude through all the
apartments; the ease of coming and going; the perfect home-like spirit
in which the guests settle themselves to any employment of the hour
that best suits them: some to lively chat, some to dreamy, silent
lounging, some to a game, others in a distant apartment to music, and
others still to a promenade along the terraces.

"One is often in a state of mind and nerves which indisposes for the
effort of active conversation; one wishes to rest, to observe, to be
amused without an effort; and a mansion which opens wide its
hospitable arms, and offers itself to you as a sort of home, where you
may rest, and do just as the humor suits you, is a perfect godsend at
such times. You are at home there, your ways are understood, you can
do as you please,--come early or late, be brilliant or dull,--you are
always welcome. If you can do nothing for the social whole to-night,
it matters not. There are many more nights to come in the future, and
you are entertained on trust, without a challenge.

"I have one friend,--a man of genius, subject to the ebbs and flows of
animal spirits which attend that organization. Of general society he
has a nervous horror. A regular dinner or evening party is to him a
terror, an impossibility; but there is a quiet parlor where stands a
much-worn old sofa, and it is his delight to enter without knocking,
and be found lying with half-shut eyes on this friendly couch, while
the family life goes on around him without a question. Nobody is to
mind him, to tease him with inquiries or salutations. If he will, he
breaks into the stream of conversation, and sometimes, rousing up from
one of these dreamy trances, finds himself, ere he or they know how,
in the mood for free and friendly talk. People often wonder, 'How do
you catch So-and-so? He is so shy! I have invited and invited, and he
never comes.' We never invite, and he comes. We take no note of his
coming or his going; we do not startle his entrance with acclamation,
nor clog his departure with expostulation; it is fully understood that
with us he shall do just as he chooses; and so he chooses to do much
that we like.

"The sum of this whole doctrine of society is, that we are to try the
value of all modes and forms of social entertainment by their effect
in producing real acquaintance and real friendship and good will. The
first and rudest form of seeking this is by a great promiscuous party,
which simply effects this,--that people at least see each other on the
outside, and eat together. Next come all those various forms of
reunion in which the entertainment consists of something higher than
staring and eating,--some exercise of the faculties of the guests in
music, acting, recitation, reading, etc.; and these are a great
advance, because they show people what is in them, and thus lay a
foundation for a more intelligent appreciation and acquaintance. These
are the best substitute for the expense, show, and trouble of large
parties. They are in their nature more refining and intellectual. It
is astonishing, when people really put together, in some one club or
association, all the different talents for pleasing possessed by
different persons, how clever a circle may be gathered,--in the least
promising neighborhood. A club of ladies in one of our cities has had
quite a brilliant success. It is held every fortnight at the houses of
the members, according to alphabetical sequence. The lady who receives
has charge of arranging what the entertainment shall be,--whether
charade, tableau, reading, recitation, or music; and the interest is
much increased by the individual taste shown in the choice of the
diversion and the variety which thence follows.

"In the summertime, in the country, open-air reunions are charming
forms of social entertainment. Croquet parties, which bring young
people together by daylight for a healthy exercise, and end with a
moderate share of the evening, are a very desirable amusement. What
are called 'lawn teas' are finding great favor in England and some
parts of our country. They are simply an early tea enjoyed in a sort
of picnic style in the grounds about the house. Such an entertainment
enables one to receive a great many at a time, without crowding, and,
being in its very idea rustic and informal, can be arranged with very
little expense or trouble. With the addition of lanterns in the trees
and a little music, this entertainment may be carried on far into the
evening with a very pretty effect.

"As to dancing, I have this much to say of it. Either our houses must
be all built over and made larger, or female crinolines must be made
smaller, or dancing must continue as it now is, the most absurd and
ungraceful of all attempts at amusement. The effort to execute round
dances in the limits of modern houses, in the prevailing style of
dress, can only lead to developments more startling than agreeable.
Dancing in the open air, on the shaven green of lawns, is a pretty and
graceful exercise, and there only can full sweep be allowed for the
present feminine toilet.

"The English breakfast is an institution growing in favor here, and
rightfully, too; for a party of fresh, good-natured, well-dressed
people, assembled at breakfast on a summer morning, is as nearly
perfect a form of reunion as can be devised. All are in full strength
from their night's rest; the hour is fresh and lovely, and they are in
condition to give each other the very cream of their thoughts, the
first keen sparkle of the uncorked nervous system. The only drawback
is that, in our busy American life, the most desirable gentlemen often
cannot spare their morning hours. Breakfast parties presuppose a
condition of leisure; but when they can be compassed, they are
perhaps the most perfectly enjoyable of entertainments."

"Well," said Marianne, "I begin to waver about my party. I don't know,
after all, but the desire of paying off social debts prompted the
idea; perhaps we might try some of the agreeable things suggested.
But, dear me! there's the baby. We'll finish the talk some other
time."



VIII

HOW SHALL WE BE AMUSED


"One, two, three, four,--this makes the fifth accident on the Fourth
of July, in the two papers I have just read," said Jenny.

"A very moderate allowance," said Theophilus Thoro, "if you consider
the Fourth as a great national saturnalia, in which every boy in the
land has the privilege of doing whatever is right in his own eyes."

"The poor boys!" said Mrs. Crowfield. "All the troubles of the world
are laid at their door."

"Well," said Jenny, "they did burn the city of Portland, it appears.
The fire arose from firecrackers, thrown by boys among the shavings of
a carpenter's shop,--so says the paper."

"And," said Rudolph, "we surgeons expect a harvest of business from
the Fourth, as surely as from a battle. Certain to be woundings,
fractures, possibly amputations, following the proceedings of our
glorious festival."

"Why cannot we Americans learn to amuse ourselves peaceably like other
nations?" said Bob Stephens. "In France and Italy, the greatest
national festivals pass off without fatal accident, or danger to any
one. The fact is, in our country we have not learned _how to be
amused_. Amusement has been made of so small account in our philosophy
of life, that we are raw and unpracticed in being amused. Our
diversions, compared with those of the politer nations of Europe, are
coarse and savage,--and consist mainly in making disagreeable noises
and disturbing the peace of the community by rude uproar. The only
idea an American boy associates with the Fourth of July is that of
gunpowder in some form, and a wild liberty to fire off pistols in all
miscellaneous directions, and to throw firecrackers under the heels of
horses, and into crowds of women and children, for the fun of seeing
the stir and commotion thus produced. Now take a young Parisian boy
and give him a fête, and he conducts himself with greater gentleness
and good breeding, because he is part of a community in which the art
of amusement has been refined and perfected, so that he has a thousand
resources beyond the very obvious one of making a great banging and
disturbance.

"Yes," continued Bob Stephens, "the fact is, that our grim old Puritan
fathers set their feet down resolutely on all forms of amusement; they
would have stopped the lambs from wagging their tails, and shot the
birds for singing, if they could have had their way; and in
consequence of it, what a barren, cold, flowerless life is our New
England existence! Life is all, as Mantalini said, one 'demd horrid
grind.' 'Nothing here but working and going to church,' said the
German emigrants,--and they were about right. A French traveler, in
the year 1837, says that attending the Thursday-evening lectures and
church prayer-meetings was the only recreation of the young people of
Boston; and we can remember the time when this really was no
exaggeration. Think of that, with all the seriousness of our Boston
east winds to give it force, and fancy the provision for amusement in
our society! The consequence is, that boys who have the longing for
amusement strongest within them, and plenty of combativeness to back
it, are the standing terror of good society, and our Fourth of July is
a day of fear to all invalids and persons of delicate nervous
organization, and of real, appreciable danger of life and limb to
every one."

"Well, Robert," said my wife, "though I agree with you as to the
actual state of society in this respect, I must enter my protest
against your slur on the memory of our Pilgrim fathers."

"Yes," said Theophilus Thoro, "the New Englanders are the only people,
I believe, who take delight in vilifying their ancestry. Every young
hopeful in our day makes a target of his grandfather's gravestone, and
fires away, with great self-applause. People in general seem to like
to show that they are well-born, and come of good stock; but the young
New Englanders, many of them, appear to take pleasure in insisting
that they came of a race of narrow-minded, persecuting bigots.

"It is true, that our Puritan fathers saw not everything. They made a
state where there were no amusements, but where people could go to bed
and leave their house doors wide open all night, without a shadow of
fear or danger, as was for years the custom in all our country
villages. The fact is, that the simple early New England life, before
we began to import foreigners, realized a state of society in whose
possibility Europe would scarcely believe. If our fathers had few
amusements, they needed few. Life was too really and solidly
comfortable and happy to need much amusement.

"Look over the countries where people are most sedulously amused by
their rulers and governors. Are they not the countries where the
people are most oppressed, most unhappy in their circumstances, and
therefore in greatest need of amusement? It is the slave who dances
and sings, and why? Because he owns nothing, and can own nothing, and
may as well dance and forget the fact. But give the slave a farm of
his own, a wife of his own, and children of his own, with a
schoolhouse and a vote, and ten to one he dances no more. He needs no
amusement, because he is happy.

"The legislators of Europe wished nothing more than to bring up a
people who would be content with amusements, and not ask after their
rights or think too closely how they were governed. 'Gild the dome of
the Invalides,' was Napoleon's scornful prescription, when he heard
the Parisian population were discontented. They gilded it, and the
people forgot to talk about anything else. They were a childish race,
educated from the cradle on spectacle and show, and by the sight of
their eyes could they be governed. The people of Boston, in 1776,
could not have been managed in this way, chiefly because they were
brought up in the strict schools of the fathers."

"But don't you think," said Jenny, "that something might be added and
amended in the state of society our fathers established here in New
England? Without becoming frivolous, there might be more attention
paid to rational amusement."

"Certainly," said my wife, "the State and the Church both might take a
lesson from the providence of foreign governments, and make liberty,
to say the least, as attractive as despotism. It is a very unwise
mother that does not provide her children with playthings."

"And yet," said Bob, "the only thing that the Church has yet done is
to forbid and to frown. We have abundance of tracts against dancing,
whist-playing, ninepins, billiards, operas, theatres,--in short,
anything that young people would be apt to like. The General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church refused to testify against slavery, because
of political diffidence, but made up for it by ordering a more
stringent crusade against dancing. The theatre and opera grow up and
exist among us like plants on the windy side of a hill, blown all awry
by a constant blast of conscientious rebuke. There is really no
amusement young people are fond of, which they do not pursue, in a
sort of defiance of the frown of the peculiarly religious world. With
all the telling of what the young shall _not_ do, there has been very
little telling what they shall do.

"The whole department of amusements--certainly one of the most
important in education--has been by the Church made a sort of outlaws'
ground, to be taken possession of and held by all sorts of spiritual
ragamuffins; and then the faults and shortcomings resulting from this
arrangement have been held up and insisted on as reasons why no
Christian should ever venture into it.

"If the Church would set herself to amuse her young folks, instead of
discussing doctrines and metaphysical hair-splitting, she would prove
herself a true mother, and not a hard-visaged stepdame. Let her keep
this department, so powerful and so difficult to manage, in what are
morally the strongest hands, instead of giving it up to the weakest.

"I think, if the different churches of a city, for example, would rent
a building where there should be a billiard-table, one or two
ninepin-alleys, a reading-room, a garden and grounds for ball playing
or innocent lounging, that they would do more to keep their young
people from the ways of sin than a Sunday-school could. Nay, more: I
would go further. I would have a portion of the building fitted up
with scenery and a stage, for the getting up of tableaux or dramatic
performances, and thus give scope for the exercise of that histrionic
talent of which there is so much lying unemployed in society.

"Young people do not like amusements any better for the wickedness
connected with them. The spectacle of a sweet little child singing
hymns, and repeating prayers, of a pious old Uncle Tom dying for his
religion, has filled theatres night after night, and proved that there
really is no need of indecent or improper plays to draw full houses.

"The things that draw young people to places of amusement are not at
first gross things. Take the most notorious public place in
Paris,--the Jardin Mabille, for instance,--and the things which give
it its first charm are all innocent and artistic. Exquisite beds of
lilies, roses, gillyflowers, lighted with jets of gas so artfully as
to make every flower translucent as a gem; fountains where the
gaslight streams out from behind misty wreaths of falling water and
calla-blossoms; sofas of velvet turf, canopied with fragrant
honeysuckle; dim bowers overarched with lilacs and roses; a
dancing-ground under trees whose branches bend with a fruitage of
many-colored lamps; enchanting music and graceful motion; in all these
there is not only no sin, but they are really beautiful and desirable;
and if they were only used on the side and in the service of virtue
and religion, if they were contrived and kept up by the guardians and
instructors of youth, instead of by those whose interest it is to
demoralize and destroy, young people would have no temptation to stray
into the haunts of vice.

"In Prussia, under the reign of Frederick William II., when one
good, hard-handed man governed the whole country like a strict
schoolmaster, the public amusements for the people were made such
as to present a model for all states. The theatres were strictly
supervised, and actors obliged to conform to the rules of decorum
and morality. The plays and performances were under the immediate
supervision of men of grave morals, who allowed nothing corrupting
to appear; and the effect of this administration and restraint is to
be seen in Berlin even to this day. The public gardens are full of
charming little resorts, where, every afternoon, for a very moderate
sum, one can have either a concert of good music, or a very fair
dramatic or operatic performance. Here whole families may be seen
enjoying together a wholesome and refreshing entertainment,--the
mother and aunts with their knitting, the baby, the children of all
ages, and the father,--their faces radiant with that mild German light
of contentment and good will which one feels to be characteristic of
the nation. When I saw these things, and thought of our own outcast,
unprovided boys and young men, haunting the streets and alleys of
cities, in places far from the companionship of mothers and
sisters, I felt as if it would be better for a nation to be brought
up by a good strict schoolmaster king than to try to be a republic."

"Yes," said I, "but the difficulty is to get the good schoolmaster
king. For one good shepherd, there are twenty who use the sheep only
for their flesh and their wool. Republics can do all that kings
can,--witness our late army and sanitary commission. Once fix the idea
thoroughly in the public mind that there ought to be as regular and
careful provision for public amusement as there is for going to church
and Sunday-school, and it will be done. Central Park in New York is a
beginning in the right direction, and Brooklyn is following the
example of her sister city. There is, moreover, an indication of the
proper spirit in the increased efforts that are made to beautify
Sunday-school rooms, and make them interesting, and to have
Sunday-school fêtes and picnics,--the most harmless and commendable
way of celebrating the Fourth of July. Why should saloons and
bar-rooms be made attractive by fine paintings, choice music, flowers,
and fountains, and Sunday-school rooms be four bare walls? There are
churches whose broad aisles represent ten and twenty millions of
dollars, and whose sons and daughters are daily drawn to circuses,
operas, theatres, because they have tastes and feelings, in themselves
perfectly laudable and innocent, for the gratification of which no
provision is made in any other place."

"I know one church," said Rudolph, "whose Sunday-school room is as
beautifully adorned as any haunt of sin. There is a fountain in the
centre, which plays into a basin surrounded with shells and flowers;
it has a small organ to lead the children's voices, and the walls are
hung with oil paintings and engravings from the best masters. The
festivals of the Sabbath school, which are from time to time held in
this place, educate the taste of the children, as well as amuse them;
and, above all, they have through life the advantage of associating
with their early religious education all those ideas of taste,
elegance, and artistic culture which too often come through polluted
channels.

"When the amusement of the young shall become the care of the
experienced and the wise, and the floods of wealth that are now
rolling over and over, in silent investments, shall be put into the
form of innocent and refined pleasures for the children and youth of
the state, our national festivals may become days to be desired, and
not dreaded.

"On the Fourth of July, our city fathers do in a certain dim wise
perceive that the public owes some attempt at amusement to its
children, and they vote large sums, principally expended in
bell-ringing, cannon, and fireworks. The sidewalks are witness to the
number who fall victims to the temptations held out by grog-shops and
saloons; and the papers, for weeks after, are crowded with accounts of
accidents. Now, a yearly sum expended to keep up, and keep pure,
places of amusement which hold out no temptation to vice, but which
excel all vicious places in real beauty and attractiveness, would
greatly lessen the sum needed to be expended on any one particular
day, and would refine and prepare our people to keep holidays and
festivals appropriately."

"For my part," said Mrs. Crowfield, "I am grieved at the opprobrium
which falls on the race of _boys_. Why should the most critical era in
the life of those who are to be men, and to govern society, be passed
in a sort of outlawry,--a rude warfare with all existing institutions?
The years between ten and twenty are full of the nervous excitability
which marks the growth and maturing of the manly nature. The boy feels
wild impulses, which ought to be vented in legitimate and healthful
exercise. He wants to run, shout, wrestle, ride, row, skate; and all
these together are often not sufficient to relieve the need he feels
of throwing off the excitability that burns within.

"For the wants of this period what safe provision is made by the
church, or by the state, or any of the boy's lawful educators? In all
the Prussian schools amusements are as much a part of the regular
school system as grammar or geography. The teacher is with the boys on
the playground, and plays as heartily as any of them. The boy has his
physical wants anticipated. He is not left to fight his way, blindly
stumbling against society, but goes forward in a safe path, which his
elders and betters have marked out for him.

"In our country, the boy's career is often a series of skirmishes with
society. He wants to skate, and contrives ingeniously to dam the
course of a brook and flood a meadow which makes a splendid
skating-ground. Great is the joy for a season, and great the skating.
But the water floods the neighboring cellars. The boys are cursed
through all the moods and tenses,--boys are such a plague! The dam is
torn down with emphasis and execration. The boys, however, lie in wait
some cold night, between twelve and one, and build it up again; and
thus goes on the battle. The boys care not whose cellar they flood,
because nobody cares for their amusement. They understand themselves
to be outlaws, and take an outlaw's advantage.

"Again, the boys have their sleds; and sliding down hill is splendid
fun. But they trip up some grave citizen, who sprains his shoulder.
What is the result? Not the provision of a safe, good place, where
boys _may_ slide down hill without danger to any one, but an edict
forbidding all sliding, under penalty of fine.

"Boys want to swim: it is best they should swim; and if city fathers,
foreseeing and caring for this want, should think it worth while to
mark off some good place, and have it under such police surveillance
as to enforce decency of language and demeanor, they would prevent a
great deal that now is disagreeable in the unguided efforts of boys to
enjoy this luxury.

"It would be cheaper in the end, even if one had to build sliding-piles,
as they do in Russia, or to build skating-rinks, as they do in
Montreal,--it would be cheaper for every city, town, and village to
provide legitimate amusement for boys, under proper superintendence,
than to leave them, as they are now left, to fight their way against
society.

"In the boys' academies of our country, what provision is made for
amusement? There are stringent rules, and any number of them, to
prevent boys making any noise that may disturb the neighbors; and
generally the teacher thinks that, if he keeps the boys _still_, and
sees that they get their lessons, his duty is done. But a hundred boys
ought not to be kept still. There ought to be noise and motion among
them, in order that they may healthily survive the great changes which
nature is working within them. If they become silent, averse to
movement, fond of indoor lounging and warm rooms, they are going in
far worse ways than any amount of outward lawlessness could bring them
to.

"Smoking and yellow-covered novels are worse than any amount of
hullabaloo; and the quietest boy is often a poor, ignorant victim,
whose life is being drained out of him before it is well begun. If
mothers could only see the series of books that are sold behind
counters to boarding-school boys, whom nobody warns and nobody cares
for,--if they could see the poison, going from pillow to pillow, in
books pretending to make clear the great, sacred mysteries of our
nature, but trailing them over with the filth of utter corruption!
These horrible works are the inward and secret channel of hell, into
which a boy is thrust by the pressure of strict outward rules,
forbidding that physical and out-of-door exercise and motion to which
he ought rather to be encouraged, and even driven.

"It is melancholy to see that, while parents, teachers, and churches
make no provision for boys in the way of amusement, the world, the
flesh, and the devil are incessantly busy and active in giving it to
them. There are ninepin-alleys, with cigars and a bar. There are
billiard-saloons, with a bar, and, alas! with the occasional company
of girls who are still beautiful, but who have lost the innocence of
womanhood, while yet retaining many of its charms. There are theatres,
with a bar, and with the society of lost women. The boy comes to one
and all of these places, seeking only what is natural and proper he
should have,--what should be given him under the eye and by the care
of the Church, the school. He comes for exercise and amusement,--he
gets these, and a ticket to destruction besides,--and whose fault is
it?"

"These are the aspects of public life," said I, "which make me feel
that we never shall have a perfect state till women vote and bear rule
equally with men. State housekeeping has been, hitherto, like what any
housekeeping would be, conducted by the voice and knowledge of man
alone.

"If women had an equal voice in the management of our public money, I
have faith to believe that thousands which are now wasted in mere
political charlatanism would go to provide for the rearing of the
children of the state, male and female. My wife has spoken for the
boys; I speak for the girls also. What is provided for their physical
development and amusement? Hot, gas-lighted theatric and operatic
performances, beginning at eight, and ending at midnight; hot, crowded
parties and balls; dancing with dresses tightly laced over the
laboring lungs,--these are almost the whole story. I bless the advent
of croquet and skating. And yet the latter exercise, pursued as it
generally is, is a most terrible exposure. There is no kindly parental
provision for the poor, thoughtless, delicate young creature,--not
even the shelter of a dressing-room with a fire, at which she may warm
her numb fingers and put on her skates when she arrives on the ground,
and to which she may retreat in intervals of fatigue; so she catches
cold, and perhaps sows the seed which with air-tight stoves and other
appliances of hot-house culture may ripen into consumption.

"What provision is there for the amusement of all the shop girls,
seamstresses, factory girls, that crowd our cities? What for the
thousands of young clerks and operatives? Not long since, in a
respectable old town in New England, the body of a beautiful girl
was drawn from the river in which she had drowned herself,--a
young girl only fifteen, who came to the city, far from home and
parents, and fell a victim to the temptation which brought her to
shame and desperation. Many thus fall every year who are never
counted. They fall into the ranks of those whom the world abandons
as irreclaimable.

"Let those who have homes and every appliance to make life pass
agreeably, and who yet yawn over an unoccupied evening, fancy a lively
young girl all day cooped up at sewing in a close, ill-ventilated
room. Evening comes, and she has three times the desire for amusement
and three times the need of it that her fashionable sister has. And
where can she go? To the theatre, perhaps, with some young man as
thoughtless as herself, and more depraved; then to the bar for a glass
of wine, and another; and then, with a head swimming and turning, who
shall say where else she may be led? Past midnight and no one to look
after her,--and one night ruins her utterly and for life, and she as
yet only a child!

"John Newton had a very wise saying: 'Here is a man trying to fill a
bushel with chaff. Now if I fill it with wheat first, it is better
than to fight him.' This apothegm contains in it the whole of what I
would say on the subject of amusements."



IX

DRESS, OR WHO MAKES THE FASHIONS


The door of my study being open, I heard in the distant parlor a sort
of flutter of silken wings, and chatter of bird-like voices, which
told me that a covey of Jenny's pretty young street birds had just
alighted there. I could not forbear a peep at the rosy faces that
glanced out under pheasants' tails, doves' wings, and nodding
humming-birds, and made one or two errands in that direction only that
I might gratify my eyes with a look at them.

Your nice young girl, of good family and good breeding, is always a
pretty object, and, for my part, I regularly lose my heart (in a sort
of figurative way) to every fresh, charming creature that trips across
my path. All their mysterious rattletraps and whirligigs,--their curls
and networks and crimples and rimples and crisping-pins,--their little
absurdities, if you will,--have to me a sort of charm, like the tricks
and stammerings of a curly-headed child. I should have made a very
poor censor if I had been put in Cato's place: the witches would have
thrown all my wisdom into some private chip-basket of their own, and
walked off with it in triumph. Never a girl bows to me that I do not
see in her eye a twinkle of confidence that she could, if she chose,
make an old fool of me. I surrender at discretion on first sight.

Jenny's friends are nice girls,--the flowers of good, staid,
sensible families,--not heathen blossoms nursed in the hot-bed heat of
wild, high-flying, fashionable society. They have been duly and truly
taught and brought up, by good mothers and painstaking aunties, to
understand in their infancy that handsome is that handsome does; that
little girls must not be vain of their pretty red shoes and nice
curls, and must remember that it is better to be good than to be
handsome; with all other wholesome truisms of the kind. They have been
to school, and had their minds improved in all modern ways,--have
calculated eclipses, and read Virgil, Schiller, and La Fontaine,
and understand all about the geological strata, and the different
systems of metaphysics,--so that a person reading the list of
their acquirements might be a little appalled at the prospect of
entering into conversation with them. For all these reasons I
listened quite indulgently to the animated conversation that was
going on about--Well!

What _do_ girls generally talk about, when a knot of them get
together? Not, I believe, about the sources of the Nile, or the
precession of the equinoxes, or the nature of the human understanding,
or Dante, or Shakespeare, or Milton, although they have learned all
about them in school; but upon a theme much nearer and dearer,--the
one all-pervading feminine topic ever since Eve started the first
toilet of fig-leaves; and as I caught now and then a phrase of their
chatter, I jotted it down in pure amusement, giving to each charming
speaker the name of the bird under whose colors she was sailing.

"For my part," said little Humming-Bird, "I'm quite worn out with
sewing; the fashions are all _so_ different from what they were last
year, that everything has to be made over."

"Isn't it dreadful!" said Pheasant. "There's my new mauve silk dress!
it was a very expensive silk, and I haven't worn it more than three or
four times, and it really looks quite dowdy; and I can't get Patterson
to do it over for me for this party. Well, really, I shall have to
give up company because I have nothing to wear."

"Who _does_ set the fashions, I wonder," said Humming-Bird; "they seem
nowadays to whirl faster and faster, till really they don't leave one
time for anything."

"Yes," said Dove, "I haven't a moment for reading, or drawing, or
keeping up my music. The fact is, nowadays, to keep one's self
properly dressed is all one can do. If I were _grande dame_ now, and
had only to send an order to my milliner and dressmaker, I might be
beautifully dressed all the time without giving much thought to it
myself; and that is what I should like. But this constant planning
about one's toilet, changing your buttons and your fringes and your
bonnet-trimmings and your hats every other day, and then being
behindhand! It is really too fatiguing."

"Well," said Jenny, "I never pretend to keep up. I never expect to be
in the front rank of fashion, but no girl wants to be behind every
one; nobody wants to have people say, 'Do see what an old-times,
rubbishy looking creature _that_ is.' And now, with my small means and
my conscience (for I have a conscience in this matter, and don't wish
to spend any more time and money than is needed to keep one's self
fresh and tasteful), I find my dress quite a fatiguing care."

"Well, now, girls," said Humming-Bird, "do you really know, I have
sometimes thought I should like to be a nun, just to get rid of all
this labor. If I once gave up dress altogether, and knew I was to have
nothing but one plain robe tied round my waist with a cord, it does
seem to me as if it would be a perfect repose,--only one is a
Protestant, you know."

Now, as Humming-Bird was the most notoriously dressy individual in the
little circle, this suggestion was received with quite a laugh. But
Dove took it up.

"Well, really," she said, "when dear Mr. S---- preaches those saintly
sermons to us about our baptismal vows, and the nobleness of an
unworldly life, and calls on us to live for something purer and
higher than we are living for, I confess that sometimes all my life
seems to me a mere sham,--that I am going to church, and saying solemn
words, and being wrought up by solemn music, and uttering most solemn
vows and prayers, all to no purpose; and then I come away and look at
my life, all resolving itself into a fritter about dress, and
sewing-silk, cord, braid, and buttons,--the next fashion of
bonnets,--how to make my old dresses answer instead of new,--how to
keep the air of the world, while in my heart I am cherishing something
higher and better. If there's anything I detest it is hypocrisy; and
sometimes the life I lead looks like it. But how to get out of
it?--what to do?--"

"I'm sure," said Humming-Bird, "that taking care of my clothes and
going into company is, frankly, all I do. If I go to parties, as other
girls do, and make calls, and keep dressed,--you know papa is not
rich, and one must do these things economically,--it really does take
all the time I have. When I was confirmed the Bishop talked to us so
sweetly, and I really meant sincerely to be a good girl,--to be as
good as I knew how; but now, when they talk about fighting the good
fight and running the Christian race, I feel very mean and little, for
I am quite sure this isn't doing it. But what is,--and who is?"

"Aunt Betsey Titcomb is doing it, I suppose," said Pheasant.

"Aunt Betsey!" said Humming-Bird, "well, she is. She spends all her
money in doing good. She goes round visiting the poor all the time.
She is a perfect saint;--but oh girls, how she looks! Well, now, I
confess, when I think I must look like Aunt Betsey, my courage gives
out. Is it necessary to go without hoops, and look like a dipped
candle, in order to be unworldly? Must one wear such a fright of a
bonnet?"

"No," said Jenny, "I think not. I think Miss Betsey Titcomb, good as
she is, injures the cause of goodness by making it outwardly
repulsive. I really think, if she would take some pains with her
dress, and spend upon her own wardrobe a little of the money she gives
away, that she might have influence in leading others to higher aims;
now all her influence is against it. Her _outré_ and repulsive
exterior arrays our natural and innocent feelings against goodness;
for surely it is natural and innocent to wish to look well, and I am
really afraid a great many of us are more afraid of being thought
ridiculous than of being wicked."

"And after all," said Pheasant, "you know Mr. St. Clair says, 'Dress
is one of the fine arts,' and if it is, why of course we ought to
cultivate it. Certainly, well-dressed men and women are more agreeable
objects than rude and unkempt ones. There must be somebody whose
mission it is to preside over the agreeable arts of life; and I
suppose it falls to 'us girls.' That's the way I comfort myself, at
all events. Then I must confess that I do like dress; I'm not
cultivated enough to be a painter or a poet, and I have all my
artistic nature, such as it is, in dress. I love harmonies of color,
exact shades and matches; I love to see a uniform idea carried all
through a woman's toilet,--her dress, her bonnet, her gloves, her
shoes, her pocket-handkerchief and cuffs, her very parasol, all in
correspondence."

"But, my dear," said Jenny, "anything of this kind must take a
fortune!"

"And if I had a fortune, I'm pretty sure I should spend a good deal of
it in this way," said Pheasant. "I can imagine such completeness of
toilet as I have never seen. How I would like the means to show what I
could do! My life, now, is perpetual disquiet. I always feel shabby.
My things must all be bought at haphazard, as they can be got out of
my poor little allowance,--and things are getting so horridly dear!
Only think of it, girls! gloves at two and a quarter! and boots at
seven, eight, and ten dollars! and then, as you say, the fashions
changing so! Why, I bought a sack last fall and gave forty dollars for
it, and this winter I'm wearing it, to be sure, but it has no style at
all,--looks quite antiquated!"

"Now I say," said Jenny, "that you are really morbid on the subject of
dress; you are fastidious and particular and exacting in your ideas in
a way that really ought to be put down. There is not a girl of our set
that dresses as nicely as you do, except Emma Seyton, and her father,
you know, has no end of income."

"Nonsense, Jenny," said Pheasant. "I think I really look like a
beggar; but then, I bear it as well as I can, because, you see, I know
papa does all for us he can, and I won't be extravagant. But I do
think, as Humming-Bird says, that it would be a great relief to give
it up altogether and retire from the world; or, as Cousin John says,
climb a tree and pull it up after you, and so be in peace."

"Well," said Jenny, "all this seems to have come on since the war. It
seems to me that not only has everything doubled in price, but all the
habits of the world seem to require that you shall have double the
quantity of everything. Two or three years ago a good balmoral skirt
was a fixed fact; it was a convenient thing for sloppy, unpleasant
weather. But now, dear me! there is no end to them. They cost fifteen
and twenty dollars; and girls that I know have one or two every
season, besides all sorts of quilled and embroidered and ruffled and
tucked and flounced ones. Then, in dressing one's hair, what a perfect
overflow there is of all manner of waterfalls, and braids, and rats,
and mice, and curls, and combs; when three or four years ago we combed
our own hair innocently behind our ears, and put flowers in it, and
thought we looked nicely at our evening parties! I don't believe we
look any better now, when we are dressed, than we did then,--so what's
the use?"

"Well, did you ever see such a tyranny as this of fashion?" said
Humming-Bird. "We know it's silly, but we all bow down before it; we
are afraid of our lives before it; and who makes all this and sets it
going? The Paris milliners, the Empress, or who?"

"The question where fashions come from is like the question where pins
go to," said Pheasant. "Think of the thousands and millions of pins
that are being used every year, and not one of them worn out. Where do
they all go to? One would expect to find a pin mine somewhere."

"Victor Hugo says they go into the sewers in Paris," said Jenny.

"And the fashions come from a source about as pure," said I, from the
next room.

"Bless me, Jenny, do tell us if your father has been listening to us
all this time!" was the next exclamation; and forthwith there was a
whir and rustle of the silken wings, as the whole troop fluttered into
my study.

"Now, Mr. Crowfield, you are too bad!" said Humming-Bird, as she
perched upon a corner of my study-table, and put her little feet upon
an old "Froissart" which filled the armchair.

"To be listening to our nonsense!" said Pheasant.

"Lying in wait for us!" said Dove.

"Well, now, you have brought us all down on you," said Humming-Bird,
"and you won't find it so easy to be rid of us. You will have to
answer all our questions."

"My dears, I am at your service, as far as mortal man may be," said
I.

"Well, then," said Humming-Bird, "tell us all about everything,--how
things come to be as they are. Who makes the fashions?"

"I believe it is universally admitted that, in the matter of feminine
toilet, France rules the world," said I.

"But who rules France?" said Pheasant. "Who decides what the fashions
shall be there?"

"It is the great misfortune of the civilized world, at the present
hour," said I, "that the state of morals in France is apparently at
the very lowest ebb, and consequently the leadership of fashion is
entirely in the hands of a class of women who could not be admitted
into good society, in any country. Women who can never have the name
of wife,--who know none of the ties of family,--these are the
dictators whose dress and equipage and appointments give the law,
first to France, and through France to the civilized world. Such was
the confession of Monsieur Dupin, made in a late speech before the
French Senate, and acknowledged, with murmurs of assent on all sides,
to be the truth. This is the reason why the fashions have such an
utter disregard of all those laws of prudence and economy which
regulate the expenditures of families. They are made by women whose
sole and only hold on life is personal attractiveness, and with whom
to keep this up, at any cost, is a desperate necessity. No moral
quality, no association of purity, truth, modesty, self-denial, or
family love, comes in to hallow the atmosphere about them, and create
a sphere of loveliness which brightens as mere physical beauty fades.
The ravages of time and dissipation must be made up by an unceasing
study of the arts of the toilet. Artists of all sorts, moving in their
train, rack all the stores of ancient and modern art for the
picturesque, the dazzling, the grotesque; and so, lest these Circes of
society should carry all before them, and enchant every husband,
brother, and lover, the staid and lawful Penelopes leave the hearth
and home to follow in their triumphal march and imitate their arts.
Thus it goes in France; and in England, virtuous and domestic
princesses and peeresses must take obediently what has been decreed by
their rulers in the _demi-monde_ of France; and we in America have
leaders of fashion, who make it their pride and glory to turn New York
into Paris, and to keep even step with everything that is going on
there. So the whole world of womankind is marching under the command
of those leaders. The love of dress and glitter and fashion is getting
to be a morbid, unhealthy epidemic, which really eats away the
nobleness and purity of women.

"In France, as Monsieur Dupin, Edmond About, and Michelet tell us, the
extravagant demands of love for dress lead women to contract debts
unknown to their husbands, and sign obligations which are paid by the
sacrifice of honor, and thus the purity of the family is continually
undermined. In England there is a voice of complaint, sounding from
the leading periodicals, that the extravagant demands of female
fashion are bringing distress into families, and making marriages
impossible; and something of the same sort seems to have begun here.
We are across the Atlantic, to be sure; but we feel the swirl and
drift of the great whirlpool; only, fortunately, we are far enough off
to be able to see whither things are tending, and to stop ourselves if
we will.

"We have just come through a great struggle, in which our women have
borne an heroic part,--have shown themselves capable of any kind of
endurance and self-sacrifice; and now we are in that reconstructive
state which makes it of the greatest consequence to ourselves and the
world that we understand our own institutions and position, and learn
that, instead of following the corrupt and worn-out ways of the Old
World, we are called on to set the example of a new state of
society,--noble, simple, pure, and religious; and women can do more
towards this even than men, for women are the real architects of
society.

"Viewed in this light, even the small, frittering cares of women's
life--the attention to buttons, trimmings, thread, and sewing-silk--may
be an expression of their patriotism and their religion. A noble-hearted
woman puts a noble meaning into even the commonplace details of life.
The women of America can, if they choose, hold back their country from
following in the wake of old, corrupt, worn-out, effeminate European
society, and make America the leader of the world in all that is good."

"I'm sure," said Humming-Bird, "we all would like to be noble and
heroic. During the war, I did so long to be a man! I felt so poor and
insignificant because I was nothing but a girl!"

"Ah, well," said Pheasant, "but then one wants to do something worth
doing, if one is going to do anything. One would like to be grand and
heroic, if one could; but if not, why try at all? One wants to be
_very_ something, _very_ great, _very_ heroic; or if not that, then at
least very stylish and very fashionable. It is this everlasting
mediocrity that bores me."

"Then, I suppose, you agree with the man we read of, who buried his
one talent in the earth, as hardly worth caring for."

"To say the truth, I always had something of a sympathy for that man,"
said Pheasant. "I can't enjoy goodness and heroism in homoeopathic
doses. I want something appreciable. What I can do, being a woman, is
a very different thing from what I should try to do if I were a man,
and had a man's chances: it is so much less--so poor--that it is
scarcely worth trying for."

"You remember," said I, "the apothegm of one of the old divines, that
if two angels were sent down from heaven, the one to govern a kingdom,
and the other to sweep a street, they would not feel any disposition
to change works."

"Well, that just shows that they are angels, and not mortals," said
Pheasant; "but we poor human beings see things differently."

"Yet, my child, what could Grant or Sherman have done, if it had not
been for the thousands of brave privates who were content to do each
their imperceptible little,--if it had not been for the poor,
unnoticed, faithful, never-failing common soldiers, who did the work
and bore the suffering? No _one_ man saved our country, or could save
it; nor could the men have saved it without the women. Every mother
that said to her son, Go; every wife that strengthened the hands of
her husband; every girl who sent courageous letters to her betrothed;
every woman who worked for a fair; every grandam whose trembling hands
knit stockings and scraped lint; every little maiden who hemmed shirts
and made comfort-bags for soldiers,--each and all have been the joint
doers of a great heroic work, the doing of which has been the
regeneration of our era. A whole generation has learned the luxury of
thinking heroic thoughts and being conversant with heroic deeds, and I
have faith to believe that all this is not to go out in a mere crush
of fashionable luxury and folly and frivolous emptiness,--but that our
girls are going to merit the high praise given us by De Tocqueville,
when he placed first among the causes of our prosperity the _noble
character of American women_. Because foolish female persons in New
York are striving to outdo the _demi-monde_ of Paris in extravagance,
it must not follow that every sensible and patriotic matron, and every
nice, modest young girl, must forthwith and without inquiry rush as
far after them as they possibly can. Because Mrs. Shoddy opens a ball
in a two-thousand-dollar lace dress, every girl in the land need not
look with shame on her modest white muslin. Somewhere between the fast
women of Paris and the daughters of Christian American families there
should be established a _cordon sanitaire_, to keep out the contagion
of manners, customs, and habits with which a noble-minded, religious
democratic people ought to have nothing to do."

"Well now, Mr. Crowfield," said the Dove, "since you speak us so fair,
and expect so much of us, we must of course try not to fall below
your compliments; but, after all, tell us what is the right standard
about dress. Now we have daily lectures about this at home. Aunt Maria
says that she never saw such times as these, when mothers and
daughters, church-members and worldly people, all seem to be going one
way, and sit down together and talk, as they will, on dress and
fashion,--how to have this made and that altered. We used to be
taught, she said, that church-members had higher things to think
of,--that their thoughts ought to be fixed on something better, and
that they ought to restrain the vanity and worldliness of children and
young people; but now, she says, even before a girl is born, dress is
the one thing needful,--the great thing to be thought of; and so, in
every step of the way upward, her little shoes, and her little
bonnets, and her little dresses, and her corals and her ribbons, are
constantly being discussed in her presence, as the one all-important
object of life. Aunt Maria thinks mamma is dreadful, because she has
maternal yearnings over our toilet successes and fortunes; and we
secretly think Aunt Maria is rather soured by old age, and has
forgotten how a girl feels."

"The fact is," said I, "that the love of dress and outside show has
been always such an exacting and absorbing tendency, that it seems to
have furnished work for religionists and economists, in all ages, to
keep it within bounds. Various religious bodies, at the outset,
adopted severe rules in protest against it. The Quakers and the
Methodists prescribed certain fixed modes of costume as a barrier
against its frivolities and follies. In the Romish Church an entrance
on any religious order prescribed entire and total renunciation of all
thought and care for the beautiful in person or apparel, as the first
step towards saintship. The costume of the _religieuse_ seemed to be
purposely intended to imitate the shroudings and swathings of a corpse
and the lugubrious color of a pall, so as forever to remind the
wearer that she was dead to the world of ornament and physical beauty.
All great Christian preachers and reformers have leveled their
artillery against the toilet, from the time of St. Jerome downward;
and Tom Moore has put into beautiful and graceful verse St. Jerome's
admonitions to the fair churchgoers of his time.


WHO IS THE MAID?

                ST. JEROME'S LOVE.

  Who is the maid my spirit seeks,
    Through cold reproof and slander's blight?
  Has _she_ Love's roses on her cheeks?
    Is _hers_ an eye of this world's light?
  No: wan and sunk with midnight prayer
    Are the pale looks of her I love;
  Or if, at times, a light be there,
    Its beam is kindled from above.

  I chose not her, my heart's elect,
    From those who seek their Maker's shrine
  In gems and garlands proudly decked,
    As if themselves were things divine.
  No: Heaven but faintly warms the breast
    That beats beneath a broidered veil;
  And she who comes in glittering vest
    To mourn her frailty, still is frail.

  Not so the faded form I prize
    And love, because its bloom is gone;
  The glory in those sainted eyes
    Is all the grace _her_ brow puts on.
  And ne'er was Beauty's dawn so bright,
    So touching, as that form's decay,
  Which, like the altar's trembling light,
    In holy lustre wastes away.

"But the defect of all these modes of warfare on the elegances and
refinements of the toilet was that they were too indiscriminate. They
were in reality founded on a false principle. They took for granted
that there was something radically corrupt and wicked in the body and
in the physical system. According to this mode of viewing things, the
body was a loathsome and pestilent prison, in which the soul was
locked up and enslaved, and the eyes, the ears, the taste, the smell,
were all so many corrupt traitors in conspiracy to poison her.
Physical beauty of every sort was a snare, a Circean enchantment, to
be valiantly contended with and straitly eschewed. Hence they
preached, not moderation, but total abstinence from all pursuit of
physical grace and beauty.

"Now, a resistance founded on an over-statement is constantly tending
to reaction. People always have a tendency to begin thinking for
themselves; and when they so think, they perceive that a good and wise
God would not have framed our bodies with such exquisite care only to
corrupt our souls,--that physical beauty, being created in such
profuse abundance around us, and we being possessed with such a
longing for it, must have its uses, its legitimate sphere of exercise.
Even the poor, shrouded nun, as she walks the convent garden, cannot
help asking herself why, if the crimson velvet of the rose was made by
God, all colors except black and white are sinful for her; and the
modest Quaker, after hanging all her house and dressing all her
children in drab, cannot but marvel at the sudden outstreaking of blue
and yellow and crimson in the tulip-beds under her window, and reflect
how very differently the great All-Father arrays the world's
housekeeping. The consequence of all this has been, that the reforms
based upon these severe and exclusive views have gradually gone
backward. The Quaker dress is imperceptibly and gracefully melting
away into a refined simplicity of modern costume, which in many cases
seems to be the perfection of taste. The obvious reflection, that one
color of the rainbow is quite as much of God as another, has led the
children of gentle dove-colored mothers to appear in shades of
rose-color, blue, and lilac; and wise elders have said, it is not so
much the color or the shape that we object to, as giving too much
time and too much money,--if the heart be right with God and man, the
bonnet ribbon may be of any shade you please."

"But don't you think," said Pheasant, "that a certain fixed dress,
marking the unworldly character of a religious order, is desirable?
Now, I have said before that I am very fond of dress. I have a passion
for beauty and completeness in it; and as long as I am in the world
and obliged to dress as the world does, it constantly haunts me, and
tempts me to give more time, more thought, more money, to these things
than I really think they are worth. But I can conceive of giving up
this thing altogether as being much easier than regulating it to the
precise point. I never read of a nun's taking the veil without a
certain thrill of sympathy. To cut off one's hair, to take off and
cast from her, one by one, all one's trinkets and jewels, to lie down
and have the pall thrown over one, and feel one's self once for all
dead to the world,--I cannot help feeling as if this were real,
thorough, noble renunciation, and as if one might rise up from it with
a grand, calm consciousness of having risen to a higher and purer
atmosphere, and got above all the littlenesses and distractions that
beset us here. So I have heard charming young Quaker girls, who in
more thoughtless days indulged in what for them was a slight shading
of worldly conformity, say that it was to them a blessed rest when
they put on the strict, plain dress, and felt that they really had
taken up the cross and turned their backs on the world. I can conceive
of doing this, much more easily than I can of striking the exact line
between worldly conformity and noble aspiration, in the life I live
now."

"My dear child," said I, "we all overlook one great leading principle
of our nature, and that is, that we are made to find a higher pleasure
in self-sacrifice than in any form of self-indulgence. There is
something grand and pathetic in the idea of an entire self-surrender,
to which every human soul leaps up, as we do to the sound of martial
music.

"How many boys of Boston and New York, who had lived effeminate and
idle lives, felt this new power uprising in them in our war! How they
embraced the dirt and discomfort and fatigue and watchings and toils
of camp-life with an eagerness of zest which they had never felt in
the pursuit of mere pleasure, and wrote home burning letters that they
never were so happy in their lives! It was not that dirt and fatigue
and discomfort and watchings and weariness were in themselves
agreeable, but it was a joy to feel themselves able to bear all and
surrender all for something higher than self. Many a poor Battery
bully of New York, many a street rowdy, felt uplifted by the discovery
that he too had hid away under the dirt and dust of his former life
this divine and precious jewel. He leaped for joy to find that he too
could be a hero. Think of the hundreds of thousands of plain ordinary
workingmen, and of seemingly ordinary boys, who, but for such a
crisis, might have passed through life never knowing this to be in
them, and who courageously endured hunger and thirst and cold, and
separation from dearest friends, for days and weeks and months, when
they might, at any day, have bought a respite by deserting their
country's flag! Starving boys, sick at heart, dizzy in head, pining
for home and mother, still found warmth and comfort in the one thought
that they could suffer, die, for their country; and the graves at
Salisbury and Andersonville show in how many souls this noble power of
self-sacrifice to the higher good was lodged,--how many there were,
even in the humblest walks of life, who preferred death by torture to
life in dishonor.

"It is this heroic element in man and woman that makes self-sacrifice
an ennobling and purifying ordeal in any religious profession. The man
really is taken into a higher region of his own nature, and finds a
pleasure in the exercise of higher faculties which he did not suppose
himself to possess. Whatever sacrifice is supposed to be duty, whether
the supposition be really correct or not, has in it an ennobling and
purifying power; and thus the eras of conversion from one form of the
Christian religion to another are often marked with a real and
permanent exaltation of the whole character. But it does not follow
that certain religious beliefs and ordinances are in themselves just,
because they thus touch the great heroic master-chord of the human
soul. To wear sackcloth and sleep on a plank may have been of use to
many souls, as symbolizing the awakening of this higher nature; but,
still, the religion of the New Testament is plainly one which calls to
no such outward and evident sacrifices.

"It was John the Baptist, and not the Messiah, who dwelt in the
wilderness and wore garments of camel's hair; and Jesus was commented
on, not for his asceticism, but for his cheerful, social acceptance of
the average innocent wants and enjoyments of humanity. 'The Son of man
came eating and drinking.' The great, and never ceasing, and utter
self-sacrifice of his life was not signified by any peculiarity of
costume, or language, or manner; it showed itself only as it
unconsciously welled up in all his words and actions, in his estimates
of life, in all that marked him out as a being of a higher and holier
sphere."

"Then you do not believe in influencing this subject of dress by
religious persons' adopting any particular laws of costume?" said
Pheasant.

"I do not see it to be possible," said I, "considering how society is
made up. There are such differences of taste and character,--people
move in such different spheres, are influenced by such different
circumstances,--that all we can do is to lay down certain great
principles, and leave it to every one to apply them according to
individual needs."

"But what are these principles? There is the grand inquiry."

"Well," said I, "let us feel our way. In the first place, then, we are
all agreed in one starting-point,--that beauty is not to be considered
as a bad thing,--that the love of ornament in our outward and physical
life is not a sinful or a dangerous feeling, and only leads to evil,
as all other innocent things do, by being used in wrong ways. So far
we are all agreed, are we not?"

"Certainly," said all the voices.

"It is, therefore, neither wicked nor silly nor weak-minded to like
beautiful dress, and all that goes to make it up. Jewelry, diamonds,
pearls, emeralds, rubies, and all sorts of pretty things that are made
of them, are as lawful and innocent objects of admiration and desire,
as flowers or birds or butterflies, or the tints of evening skies.
Gems, in fact, are a species of mineral flower; they are the blossoms
of the dark, hard mine; and what they want in perfume they make up in
durability. The best Christian in the world may, without the least
inconsistency, admire them, and say, as a charming, benevolent old
Quaker lady once said to me, 'I do so love to look at beautiful
jewelry!' The love of beautiful dress, in itself, therefore, so far
from being in a bad sense worldly, may be the same indication of a
refined and poetical nature that is given by the love of flowers and
of natural objects.

"In the third place, there is nothing in itself wrong, or unworthy a
rational being, in a certain degree of attention to the fashion of
society in our costume. It is not wrong to be annoyed at unnecessary
departures from the commonly received practices of good society in the
matter of the arrangement of our toilet; and it would indicate rather
an unamiable want of sympathy with our fellow beings, if we were not
willing, for the most part, to follow what they indicate to be
agreeable in the disposition of our outward affairs."

"Well, I must say, Mr. Crowfield, you are allowing us all a very
generous margin," said Humming-Bird.

"But now," said I, "I am coming to the restrictions. When is love of
dress excessive and wrong? To this I answer by stating my faith in one
of old Plato's ideas, in which he speaks of beauty and its uses. He
says there were two impersonations of beauty worshiped under the name
of Venus in the ancient times,--the one celestial, born of the highest
gods, the other earthly. To the earthly Venus the sacrifices were such
as were more trivial; to the celestial, such as were more holy. 'The
worship of the earthly Venus,' he says, 'sends us oftentimes on
unworthy and trivial errands, but the worship of the celestial to high
and honorable friendships, to noble aspirations and heroic actions.'

"Now it seems to me that, if we bear in mind this truth in regard to
beauty, we shall have a test with which to try ourselves in the matter
of physical adornment. We are always excessive when we sacrifice the
higher beauty to attain the lower one. A woman who will sacrifice
domestic affection, conscience, self-respect, honor, to love of dress,
we all agree, loves dress too much. She loses the true and higher
beauty of womanhood for the lower beauty of gems and flowers and
colors. A girl who sacrifices to dress all her time, all her strength,
all her money, to the neglect of the cultivation of her mind and
heart, and to the neglect of the claims of others on her helpfulness,
is sacrificing the higher to the lower beauty; her fault is not the
love of beauty, but loving the wrong and inferior kind.

"It is remarkable that the directions of Holy Writ, in regard to the
female dress, should distinctly take note of this difference between
the higher and the lower beauty which we find in the works of Plato.
The Apostle gives no rule, no specific costume, which should mark the
Christian woman from the Pagan; but says, 'whose adorning, let it not
be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold,
or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the
heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek
and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.' The
gold and gems and apparel are not forbidden; but we are told not to
depend on them for beauty, to the neglect of those imperishable,
immortal graces that belong to the soul. The makers of fashion among
whom Christian women lived when the Apostle wrote were the same class
of brilliant and worthless Aspasias who make the fashions of modern
Paris; and all womankind was sunk into slavish adoration of more
physical adornment when the gospel sent forth among them this call to
the culture of a higher and immortal beauty.

"In fine, girls," said I, "you may try yourselves by this standard.
You love dress too much when you care more for your outward adornings
than for your inward dispositions, when it afflicts you more to have
torn your dress than to have lost your temper, when you are more
troubled by an ill-fitting gown than by a neglected duty,--when you
are less concerned at having made an unjust comment, or spread a
scandalous report, than at having worn a passé bonnet, when you are
less troubled at the thought of being found at the last great feast
without the wedding garment, than at being found at the party to-night
in the fashion of last year. No Christian woman, as I view it, ought
to give such attention to her dress as to allow it to take up _all_ of
three very important things, viz:--

      _All_ her time.
      _All_ her strength.
      _All_ her money.

Whoever does this lives not the Christian, but the Pagan life,--worships
not at the Christian's altar of our Lord Jesus, but at the shrine of the
lower Venus of Corinth and Rome."

"Oh now, Mr. Crowfield, you frighten me," said Humming-Bird. "I'm so
afraid, do you know, that I am doing exactly that."

"And so am I," said Pheasant; "and yet, certainly, it is not what I
mean or intend to do."

"But how to help it," said Dove.

"My dears," said I, "where there is a will there is a way. Only
resolve that you will put the true beauty first,--that, even if you do
have to seem unfashionable, you will follow the highest beauty of
womanhood,--and the battle is half gained. Only resolve that your
time, your strength, your money, such as you have, shall not all--nor
more than half--be given to mere outward adornment, and you will go
right. It requires only an army of girls animated with this noble
purpose to declare independence in America, and emancipate us from the
decrees and tyrannies of French actresses and ballet-dancers. _En
avant_, girls! You yet can, if you will, save the republic."



X

WHAT ARE THE SOURCES OF BEAUTY IN DRESS


The conversation on dress which I had held with Jenny and her little
covey of Birds of Paradise appeared to have worked in the minds of the
fair council, for it was not long before they invaded my study again
in a body. They were going out to a party, but called for Jenny, and
of course gave me and Mrs. Crowfield the privilege of seeing them
equipped for conquest.

Latterly, I must confess, the mysteries of the toilet rites have
impressed me with a kind of superstitious awe. Only a year ago my
daughter Jenny had smooth dark hair, which she wreathed in various
soft, flowing lines about her face, and confined in a classical knot
on the back of her head. Jenny had rather a talent for coiffure, and
the arrangement of her hair was one of my little artistic delights.
She always had something there,--a leaf, a spray, a bud or blossom,
that looked fresh, and had a sort of poetical grace of its own.

But in a gradual way all this has been changing. Jenny's hair first
became slightly wavy, then curly, finally frizzly, presenting a
tumbled and twisted appearance, which gave me great inward concern;
but when I spoke upon the subject I was always laughingly silenced
with the definitive settling remark: "Oh, it's the fashion, papa!
Everybody wears it so."

I particularly objected to the change on my own small account, because
the smooth, breakfast-table coiffure, which I had always so much
enjoyed, was now often exchanged for a peculiarly bristling
appearance; the hair being variously twisted, tortured, woven, and
wound, without the least view to immediate beauty or grace. But all
this, I was informed, was the necessary means towards crimping for
some evening display of a more elaborate nature than usual.

Mrs. Crowfield and myself are not party-goers by profession, but Jenny
insists on our going out at least once or twice in a season, just, as
she says, to keep up with the progress of society; and at these times
I have been struck with frequent surprise by the general untidiness
which appeared to have come over the heads of all my female friends. I
know, of course, that I am only a poor, ignorant, bewildered man
creature; but to my uninitiated eyes they looked as if they had all,
after a very restless and perturbed sleep, come out of bed without
smoothing their tumbled and disordered locks. Then, every young lady,
without exception, seemed to have one kind of hair, and that the kind
which was rather suggestive of the term "woolly." Every sort of wild
abandon of frowzy locks seemed to be in vogue; in some cases the hair
appearing to my vision nothing but a confused snarl, in which
glittered tinklers, spangles, and bits of tinsel, and from which waved
long pennants and streamers of different colored ribbons.

I was in fact very greatly embarrassed by my first meeting with some
very charming girls, whom I thought I knew as familiarly as my own
daughter Jenny, and whose soft, pretty hair had often formed the
object of my admiration. Now, however, they revealed themselves to me
in coiffures which forcibly reminded me of the electrical experiments
which used to entertain us in college, when the subject stood on the
insulated stool, and each particular hair of his head bristled and
rose, and set up, as it were, on its own account. This high-flying
condition of the tresses, and the singularity of the ornaments which
appeared to be thrown at haphazard into them, suggested so oddly the
idea of a bewitched person, that I could scarcely converse with any
presence of mind, or realize that these really were the nice,
well-informed, sensible little girls of my own neighborhood,--the good
daughters, good sisters, Sunday-school teachers, and other familiar
members of our best educated circles; and I came away from the party
in a sort of blue maze, and hardly in a state to conduct myself with
credit in the examination through which I knew Jenny would put me as
to the appearance of her different friends.

I know not how it is, but the glamour of fashion in the eyes of
girlhood is so complete that the oddest, wildest, most uncouth devices
find grace and favor in the eyes of even well-bred girls, when once
that invisible, ineffable aura has breathed over them which declares
them to be fashionable. They may defy them for a time,--they may
pronounce them horrid; but it is with a secretly melting heart, and
with a mental reservation to look as nearly like the abhorred
spectacle as they possibly can on the first favorable opportunity.

On the occasion of the visit referred to, Jenny ushered her three
friends in triumph into my study; and, in truth, the little room
seemed to be perfectly transformed by their brightness. My honest,
nice, lovable little Yankee fireside girls were, to be sure, got up in
a style that would have done credit to Madame Pompadour, or any of the
most questionable characters of the time of Louis XIV. or XV. They
were frizzled and powdered, and built up in elaborate devices; they
wore on their hair flowers, gems, streamers, tinklers, humming-birds,
butterflies, South American beetles, beads, bugles, and all imaginable
rattletraps, which jingled and clinked with every motion; and yet, as
they were three or four fresh, handsome, intelligent, bright-eyed
girls, there was no denying the fact that they did look extremely
pretty; and as they sailed hither and thither before me, and gazed
down upon me in the saucy might of their rosy girlhood, there was a
gay defiance in Jenny's demand, "Now, papa, how do you like us?"

"Very charming," answered I, surrendering at discretion.

"I told you, girls, that you could convert him to the fashions, if he
should once see you in party trim."

"I beg pardon, my dear; I am not converted to the fashion, but to you,
and that is a point on which I didn't need conversion; but the present
fashions, even so fairly represented as I see them, I humbly confess I
dislike."

"Oh, Mr. Crowfield!"

"Yes, my dears, I do. But then, I protest, I'm not fairly treated. I
think, for a young American girl, who looks as most of my fair friends
do look, to come down with her bright eyes and all her little panoply
of graces upon an old fellow like me, and expect him to like a fashion
merely because _she_ looks well in it, is all sheer nonsense. Why,
girls, if you wore rings in your noses, and bangles on your arms up to
your elbows, if you tied your hair in a war-knot on the top of your
heads like the Sioux Indians, you would still look pretty. The
question isn't, as I view it, whether you look pretty,--for that you
do, and that you will, do what you please and dress how you will. The
question is whether you might not look prettier, whether another style
of dress, and another mode of getting up, would not be far more
becoming. I am one who thinks that it would."

"Now, Mr. Crowfield, you positively are too bad," said Humming-Bird,
whose delicate head was encircled by a sort of crêpy cloud of bright
hair, sparkling with gold-dust and spangles, in the midst of which,
just over her forehead, a gorgeous blue butterfly was perched, while a
confused mixture of hairs, gold-powder, spangles, stars, and tinkling
ornaments fell in a sort of cataract down her pretty neck. "You see,
we girls think everything of you; and now we don't like it that you
don't like our fashions."

"Why, my little princess, so long as I like _you_ better than your
fashions, and merely think they are not worthy of you, what's the
harm?"

"Oh yes, to be sure. You sweeten the dose to us babies with that
sugarplum. But really, Mr. Crowfield, why don't you like the
fashions?"

"Because, to my view, they are in great part in false taste, and
injure the beauty of the girls," said I. "They are inappropriate to
their characters, and make them look like a kind and class of women
whom they do not, and I trust never will, resemble internally, and
whose mark therefore they ought not to bear externally. But there you
are, beguiling me into a sermon which you will only hate me in your
hearts for preaching. Go along, children! You certainly look as well
as anybody can in that style of getting up; so go to your party, and
to-morrow night, when you are tired and sleepy, if you'll come with
your crochet, and sit in my study, I will read you Christopher
Crowfield's dissertation on dress."

"That will be amusing, to say the least," said Humming-Bird; "and, be
sure, we will all be here. And mind, you have to show good reasons for
disliking the present fashion."

So the next evening there was a worsted party in my study, sitting in
the midst of which I read as follows:--


WHAT ARE THE SOURCES OF BEAUTY IN DRESS

"The first one is _appropriateness_. Colors and forms and modes, in
themselves graceful or beautiful, can become ungraceful and
ridiculous simply through inappropriateness. The most lovely bonnet
that the most approved modiste can invent, if worn on the head of a
coarse-faced Irishwoman bearing a market-basket on her arm, excites
no emotion but that of the ludicrous. The most elegant and brilliant
evening dress, if worn in the daytime in a railroad car, strikes every
one with a sense of absurdity; whereas both these objects in
appropriate associations would excite only the idea of beauty. So a
mode of dress obviously intended for driving strikes us as _outré_
in a parlor; and a parlor dress would no less shock our eyes on
horseback. In short, the course of this principle through all
varieties of form can easily be perceived. Besides appropriateness
to time, place, and circumstances, there is appropriateness to age,
position, and character. This is the foundation of all our ideas of
professional propriety in costume. One would not like to see a
clergyman in his external air and appointments resembling a
gentleman of the turf; one would not wish a refined and modest scholar
to wear the outward air of a fast fellow, or an aged and venerable
statesman to appear with all the peculiarities of a young dandy.
The flowers, feathers, and furbelows which a light-hearted young
girl of seventeen embellishes by the airy grace with which she
wears them, are simply ridiculous when transferred to the toilet of
her serious, well-meaning mamma, who bears them about with an
anxious face, merely because a loquacious milliner has assured her,
with many protestations, that it is the fashion, and the only thing
remaining for her to do.

"There are, again, modes of dress in themselves very beautiful
and very striking, which are peculiarly adapted to theatrical
representation and to pictures, but the adoption of which as a
part of unprofessional toilet produces a sense of incongruity. A
mode of dress maybe in perfect taste on the stage, that would be
absurd in an evening party, absurd in the street, absurd, in
short, everywhere else.

"Now you come to my first objection to our present American
toilet,--its being to a very great extent _inappropriate_ to our
climate, to our habits of life and thought, and to the whole structure
of ideas on which our life is built. What we want, apparently, is some
court of inquiry and adaptation that shall pass judgment on the
fashions of other countries, and modify them to make them a graceful
expression of our own national character, and modes of thinking and
living. A certain class of women in Paris at this present hour makes
the fashions that rule the feminine world. They are women who live
only for the senses, with as utter and obvious disregard of any moral
or intellectual purpose to be answered in living as a paroquet or a
macaw. They have no family ties; love, in its pure domestic sense, is
an impossibility in their lot; religion in any sense is another
impossibility; and their whole intensity of existence, therefore, is
concentrated on the question of sensuous enjoyment, and that personal
adornment which is necessary to secure it. When the great ruling
country in the world of taste and fashion has fallen into such a state
that the virtual leaders of fashion are women of this character, it is
not to be supposed that the fashions emanating from them will be of a
kind well adapted to express the ideas, the thoughts, the state of
society, of a great Christian democracy such as ours ought to be.

"What is called, for example, the Pompadour style of dress, so much in
vogue of late, we can see to be perfectly adapted to the kind of
existence led by dissipated women whose life is one revel of
excitement; and who, never proposing to themselves any intellectual
employment or any domestic duty, can afford to spend three or four
hours every day under the hands of a waiting-maid, in alternately
tangling and untangling their hair. Powder, paint, gold-dust and
silver-dust, pomatums, cosmetics, are all perfectly appropriate where
the ideal of life is to keep up a false show of beauty after the true
bloom is wasted by dissipation. The woman who never goes to bed till
morning, who never even dresses herself, who never takes a needle in
her hand, who never goes to church, and never entertains one serious
idea of duty of any kind, when got up in Pompadour style, has, to say
the truth, the good taste and merit of appropriateness. Her dress
expresses just what she is,--all false, all artificial, all
meretricious and unnatural; no part or portion of her from which it
might be inferred what her Creator originally designed her to be.

"But when a nice little American girl, who has been brought up to
cultivate her mind, to refine her taste, to care for her health, to be
a helpful daughter and a good sister, to visit the poor and teach in
Sunday schools; when a good, sweet, modest little puss of this kind
combs all her pretty hair backward till it is one mass of frowsy
confusion; when she powders, and paints under her eyes; when she
adopts, with eager enthusiasm, every _outré_, unnatural fashion that
comes from the most dissipated foreign circles,--she is in bad taste,
because she does not represent either her character, her education, or
her good points. She looks like a second-rate actress, when she is, in
fact, a most thoroughly respectable, estimable, lovable little girl,
and on the way, as we poor fellows fondly hope, to bless some one of
us with her tenderness and care in some nice home in the future.

"It is not the fashion in America for young girls to have
waiting-maids,--in foreign countries it is the fashion. All this
meretricious toilet--so elaborate, so complicated, and so contrary to
nature--must be accomplished, and it is accomplished, by the busy
little fingers of each girl for herself; and so it seems to be very
evident that a style of hair-dressing which it will require hours to
disentangle, which must injure and in time ruin the natural beauty of
the hair, ought to be one thing which a well-regulated court of
inquiry would reject in our American fashions.

"Again, the genius of American life is for simplicity and absence of
ostentation. We have no parade of office: our public men wear no
robes, no stars, garters, collars, etc.; and it would, therefore, be
in good taste in our women to cultivate simple styles of dress. Now I
object to the present fashions, as adopted from France, that they are
flashy and theatrical. Having their origin with a community whose
senses are blunted, drugged, and deadened with dissipation and
ostentation, they reject the simpler forms of beauty, and seek for
startling effects, for odd and unexpected results. The contemplation
of one of our fashionable churches, at the hour when its fair
occupants pour forth, gives one a great deal of surprise. The toilets
there displayed might have been in good keeping among showy Parisian
women in an opera house, but even their original inventors would have
been shocked at the idea of carrying them into a church. The rawness
of our American mind as to the subject of propriety in dress is
nowhere more shown than in the fact that no apparent distinction is
made between church and opera house in the adaptation of attire. Very
estimable and we trust very religious young women sometimes enter the
house of God in a costume which makes their utterance of the words of
the litany and the acts of prostrate devotion in the service seem
almost burlesque. When a brisk little creature comes into a pew with
hair frizzed till it stands on end in a most startling manner,
rattling strings of beads and bits of tinsel, mounting over all some
pert little hat with a red or green feather standing saucily upright
in front, she may look exceedingly pretty and piquant; and, if she
came there for a game of croquet or a tableau party, would be all in
very good taste; but as she comes to confess that she is a miserable
sinner, that she has done the things she ought not to have done, and
left undone the things she ought to have done,--as she takes upon her
lips most solemn and tremendous words, whose meaning runs far beyond
life into a sublime eternity,--there is a discrepancy which would be
ludicrous if it were not melancholy.

"One is apt to think, at first view, that St. Jerome was right in
saying,

  "'She who comes in glittering vest
  To mourn her frailty, still is frail.'

But St. Jerome was in the wrong, after all; for a flashy, unsuitable
attire in church is not always a mark of an undevout or entirely
worldly mind; it is simply a mark of a raw, uncultivated taste. In
Italy, the ecclesiastical law prescribing a uniform black dress for
the churches gives a sort of education to European ideas of propriety
in toilet, which prevents churches from being made theatres for the
same kind of display which is held to be in good taste at places of
public amusement. It is but justice to the inventors of Parisian
fashions to say that, had they ever had the smallest idea of going to
church and Sunday school, as our good girls do, they would immediately
have devised toilets appropriate to such exigencies. If it were any
part of their plan of life to appear statedly in public to confess
themselves 'miserable sinners,' we should doubtless have sent over
here the design of some graceful penitential habit, which would give
our places of worship a much more appropriate air than they now have.
As it is, it would form a subject for such a court of inquiry and
adaptation as we have supposed, to draw a line between the costume of
the theatre and the church.

"In the same manner, there is a want of appropriateness in the
costume of our American women, who display in the street promenade
a style of dress and adornment originally intended for showy
carriage drives in such great exhibition grounds as the Bois de
Boulogne. The makers of Parisian fashions are not generally walkers.
They do not, with all their extravagance, have the bad taste to
trail yards of silk and velvet over the mud and dirt of a pavement,
or promenade the street in a costume so pronounced and striking as
to draw the involuntary glance of every eye; and the showy toilets
displayed on the _pavé_ by American young women have more than once
exposed them to misconstruction in the eyes of foreign observers.

"Next to appropriateness, the second requisite to beauty in dress I
take to be unity of effect. In speaking of the arrangement of rooms in
the 'House and Home Papers,' I criticised some apartments wherein
were many showy articles of furniture, and much expense had been
incurred, because, with all this, there was no _unity of result_. The
carpet was costly, and in itself handsome; the paper was also in
itself handsome and costly; the tables and chairs also in themselves
very elegant; and yet, owing to a want of any unity of idea, any grand
harmonizing tint of color, or method of arrangement, the rooms had a
jumbled, confused air, and nothing about them seemed particularly
pretty or effective. I instanced rooms where thousands of dollars had
been spent, which, because of this defect, never excited admiration;
and others in which the furniture was of the cheapest description, but
which always gave immediate and universal pleasure. The same rule
holds good in dress. As in every apartment, so in every toilet, there
should be one ground-tone or dominant color, which should rule all the
others, and there should be a general style of idea to which
everything should be subjected.

"We may illustrate the effect of this principle in a very familiar
case. It is generally conceded that the majority of women look better
in mourning than they do in their ordinary apparel; a comparatively
plain person looks almost handsome in simple black. Now why is this?
Simply because mourning requires a severe uniformity of color and
idea, and forbids the display of that variety of colors and objects
which go to make up the ordinary female costume, and which very few
women have such skill in using as to produce really beautiful
effects.

"Very similar results have been attained by the Quaker costume, which,
in spite of the quaint severity of the forms to which it adhered, has
always had a remarkable degree of becomingness, because of its
restriction to a few simple colors and to the absence of distracting
ornament.

"But the same effect which is produced in mourning or the Quaker
costume may be preserved in a style of dress admitting color and
ornamentation. A dress may have the richest fullness of color,
and still the tints may be so chastened and subdued as to produce
the impression of a severe simplicity. Suppose, for example, a
golden-haired blonde chooses for the ground-tone of her toilet a
deep shade of purple, such as affords a good background for the
hair and complexion. The larger draperies of the costume being
of this color, the bonnet may be of a lighter shade of the same,
ornamented with lilac hyacinths, shading insensibly towards
rose-color. The effect of such a costume is simple, even though
there be much ornament, because it is ornament artistically
disposed towards a general result.

"A dark shade of green being chosen as the ground-tone of a dress, the
whole costume may, in like manner, be worked up through lighter and
brighter shades of green, in which rose-colored flowers may appear
with the same impression of simple appropriateness that is made by the
pink blossom over the green leaves of a rose. There have been times in
France when the study of color produced artistic effects in costume
worthy of attention, and resulted in styles of dress of real beauty.
But the present corrupted state of morals there has introduced a
corrupt taste in dress; and it is worthy of thought that the decline
of moral purity in society is often marked by the deterioration of the
sense of artistic beauty. Corrupt and dissipated social epochs produce
corrupt styles of architecture and corrupt styles of drawing and
painting, as might easily be illustrated by the history of art. When
the leaders of society have blunted their finer perceptions by
dissipation and immorality, they are incapable of feeling the beauties
which come from delicate concords and truly artistic combinations.
They verge towards barbarism, and require things that are strange,
odd, dazzling, and peculiar to captivate their jaded senses. Such we
take to be the condition of Parisian society now. The tone of it is
given by women who are essentially impudent and vulgar, who override
and overrule, by the mere brute force of opulence and luxury, women of
finer natures and moral tone. The court of France is a court of
adventurers, of parvenus; and the palaces, the toilets, the equipage,
the entertainments, of the mistresses outshine those of the lawful
wives. Hence comes a style of dress which is in itself vulgar,
ostentatious, pretentious, without simplicity, without unity, seeking
to dazzle by strange combinations and daring contrasts.

"Now, when the fashions emanating from such a state of society come to
our country, where it has been too much the habit to put on and wear,
without dispute and without inquiry, any or every thing that France
sends, the results produced are often things to make one wonder. A
respectable man, sitting quietly in church or other public assembly,
may be pardoned sometimes for indulging a silent sense of the
ridiculous in the contemplation of the forest of bonnets which
surround him, as he humbly asks himself the question, Were these meant
to cover the head, to defend it, or to ornament it? and, if they are
intended for any of these purposes, how?

"I confess, to me nothing is so surprising as the sort of things which
well-bred women serenely wear on their heads with the idea that they
are ornaments. On my right hand sits a good-looking girl with a thing
on her head which seems to consist mostly of bunches of grass, straws,
with a confusion of lace, in which sits a draggled bird, looking as if
the cat had had him before the lady. In front of her sits another, who
has a glittering confusion of beads swinging hither and thither from a
jaunty little structure of black and red velvet. An anxious-looking
matron appears under the high eaves of a bonnet with a gigantic
crimson rose crushed down into a mass of tangled hair. She is
_ornamented_! she has no doubt about it.

"The fact is, that a style of dress which allows the use of
everything in heaven above or earth beneath requires more taste and
skill in disposition than falls to the lot of most of the female sex
to make it even tolerable. In consequence, the flowers, fruits, grass,
hay, straw, oats, butterflies, beads, birds, tinsel, streamers,
jinglers, lace, bugles, crape, which seem to be appointed to form a
covering for the female head, very often appear in combinations so
singular, and the results, taken in connection with all the rest of
the costume, are such, that we really think the people who usually
assemble in a Quaker meeting-house are, with their entire absence of
ornament, more becomingly attired than the majority of our public
audiences. For if one considers his own impression after having seen
an assemblage of women dressed in Quaker costume, he will find it to
be, not of a confusion of twinkling finery, but of many fair, sweet
faces, of charming, nice-looking women, and not of articles of dress.
Now this shows that the severe dress, after all, has better answered
the true purpose of dress, in setting forth the _woman_, than our
modern costume, where the woman is but one item in a flying mass of
colors and forms, all of which distract attention from the faces they
are supposed to adorn. The dress of the Philadelphian ladies has
always been celebrated for its elegance of effect, from the fact,
probably, that the early Quaker parentage of the city formed the eye
and the taste of its women for uniform and simple styles of color, and
for purity and chastity of lines. The most perfect toilets that have
ever been achieved in America have probably been those of the class
familiarly called the gay Quakers,--children of Quaker families, who,
while abandoning the strict rules of the sect, yet retain their modest
and severe reticence, relying on richness of material, and soft,
harmonious coloring, rather than striking and dazzling ornament.

"The next source of beauty in dress is the impression of truthfulness
and reality. It is a well-known principle of the fine arts, in all
their branches, that all shams and mere pretenses are to be
rejected,--a truth which Ruskin has shown with the full lustre of his
many-colored prose-poetry. As stucco pretending to be marble, and
graining pretending to be wood, are in false taste in building, so
false jewelry and cheap fineries of every kind are in bad taste; so
also is powder instead of natural complexion, false hair instead of
real, and flesh-painting of every description. I have even the
hardihood to think and assert, in the presence of a generation whereof
not one woman in twenty wears her own hair, that the simple,
short-cropped locks of Rosa Bonheur are in a more beautiful style of
hair-dressing than the most elaborate edifice of curls, rats, and
waterfalls that is erected on any fair head nowadays."

"Oh, Mr. Crowfield! you hit us all now," cried several voices.

"I know it, girls,--I know it. I admit that you are all looking very
pretty; but I do maintain that you are none of you doing yourselves
justice, and that Nature, if you would only follow her, would do
better for you than all these elaborations. A short crop of your own
hair, that you could brush out in ten minutes every morning, would
have a more real, healthy beauty than the elaborate structures which
cost you hours of time, and give you the headache besides. I speak of
the short crop,--to put the case at the very lowest figure,--for many
of you have lovely hair of different lengths, and susceptible of a
variety of arrangements, if you did not suppose yourself obliged to
build after a foreign pattern, instead of following out the intentions
of the great Artist who made you.

"Is it necessary absolutely that every woman and girl should look
exactly like every other one? There are women whom Nature makes with
wavy or curly hair: let them follow her. There are those whom she
makes with soft and smooth locks, and with whom crinkling and crêping
is only a sham. They look very pretty with it, to be sure; but, after
all, is there but one style of beauty? and might they not look
prettier in cultivating the style which Nature seemed to have intended
for them?

"As to the floods of false jewelry, glass beads, and tinsel finery
which seem to be sweeping over the toilet of our women, I must protest
that they are vulgarizing the taste, and having a seriously bad effect
on the delicacy of artistic perception. It is almost impossible to
manage such material and give any kind of idea of neatness or purity;
for the least wear takes away their newness. And, of all disreputable
things, tumbled, rumpled, and tousled finery is the most disreputable.
A simple white muslin, that can come fresh from the laundry every
week, is, in point of real taste, worth any amount of spangled
tissues. A plain straw bonnet, with only a ribbon across it, is in
reality in better taste than rubbishy birds or butterflies, or tinsel
ornaments.

"Finally, girls, don't dress at haphazard; for dress, so far from
being a matter of small consequence, is in reality one of the fine
arts,--so far from trivial, that each country ought to have a style of
its own, and each individual such a liberty of modification of the
general fashion as suits and befits her person, her age, her position
in life, and the kind of character she wishes to maintain.

"The only motive in toilet which seems to have obtained much as yet
among young girls is the very vague impulse to look 'stylish,'--a
desire which must answer for more vulgar dressing than one would wish
to see. If girls would rise above this, and desire to express by their
dress the attributes of true ladyhood, nicety of eye, fastidious
neatness, purity of taste, truthfulness, and sincerity of nature, they
might form, each one for herself, a style having its own individual
beauty, incapable of ever becoming common and vulgar.

"A truly trained taste and eye would enable a lady to select from the
permitted forms of fashion such as might be modified to her purposes,
always remembering that simplicity is safe, that to attempt little and
succeed is better than to attempt a great deal and fail.

"And now, girls, I will finish by reciting to you the lines old Ben
Jonson addressed to the pretty girls of his time, which form an
appropriate ending to my remarks:--

            "'Still to be dressed
  As you were going to a feast;
  Still to be powdered, still perfumed;
  Lady, it is to be presumed,
  Though art's hid causes are not found,
  All is not sweet, all is not sound.

  "'Give me a look, give me a face,
  That makes simplicity a grace,--
  Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:
  Such sweet neglect more taketh me
  Than all the adulteries of art,
  That strike my eyes, but not my heart.'"



XI

THE CATHEDRAL


"I am going to build a cathedral one of these days," said I to my
wife, as I sat looking at the slant line of light made by the
afternoon sun on our picture of the Cathedral of Milan.

"That picture is one of the most poetic things you have among your
house ornaments," said Rudolph. "Its original is the world's chief
beauty,--a tribute to religion such as Art never gave before and never
can again,--as much before the Pantheon as the Alps, with their virgin
snows and glittering pinnacles, are above all temples made with hands.
Say what you will, those Middle Ages that you call Dark had a glory of
faith that never will be seen in our days of cotton-mills and
Manchester prints. Where will you marshal such an army of saints as
stands in yonder white-marble forest, visibly transfigured and
glorified in that celestial Italian air? Saintship belonged to the
medieval Church; the heroism of religion has died with it."

"That's just like one of your assertions, Rudolph," said I. "You might
as well say that Nature has never made any flowers since Linnæus shut
up his herbarium. We have no statues and pictures of modern saints;
but saints themselves, thank God, have never been wanting. 'As it was
in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be'"--

"But what about your cathedral?" said my wife.

"Oh yes!--my cathedral,--yes. When my stocks in cloud-land rise, I'll
build a cathedral larger than Milan's; and the men, but more
particularly the women, thereon, shall be those who have done even
more than Saint Paul tells of in the saints of old, who 'subdued
kingdoms, wrought righteousness, quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed
valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.' I am not
now thinking of Florence Nightingale, nor of the host of women who
have been walking worthily in her footsteps, but of nameless saints of
more retired and private state,--domestic saints, who have tended
children not their own through whooping-cough and measles, and borne
the unruly whims of fretful invalids,--stocking-darning, shirt-making
saints,--saints who wore no visible garment of haircloth, bound
themselves with no belts of spikes and nails, yet in their inmost
souls were marked and seared with the red cross of a lifelong
self-sacrifice,--saints for whom the mystical terms self-annihilation
and self-crucifixion had a real and tangible meaning, all the stronger
because their daily death was marked by no outward sign. No mystical
rites consecrated them; no organ-music burst forth in solemn rapture
to welcome them; no habit of their order proclaimed to themselves and
the world that they were the elect of Christ, the brides of another
life: but small, eating cares, daily prosaic duties, the petty
friction of all the littleness and all the inglorious annoyances of
every day, were as dust that hid the beauty and grandeur of their
calling even from themselves; they walked unknown even to their
households, unknown even to their own souls; but when the Lord comes
to build his New Jerusalem, we shall find many a white stone with a
new name thereon, and the record of deeds and words which only He that
seeth in secret knows. Many a humble soul will be amazed to find that
the seed it sowed in such weakness, in the dust of daily life, has
blossomed into immortal flowers under the eye of the Lord.

"When I build my cathedral, that woman," I said, pointing to a small
painting by the fire, "shall be among the first of my saints. You
see her there, in an every-day dress-cap with a mortal thread-lace
border, and with a very ordinary worked collar, fastened by a
visible and terrestrial breastpin. There is no nimbus around her
head, no sign of the cross upon her breast; her hands are clasped
on no crucifix or rosary. Her clear, keen, hazel eye looks as if it
could sparkle with mirthfulness, as in fact it could; there are in
it both the subtile flash of wit and the subdued light of humor;
and though the whole face smiles, it has yet a certain decisive
firmness that speaks the soul immutable in good. That woman shall be
the first saint in my cathedral, and her name shall be recorded as
Saint Esther. What makes saintliness in my view, as distinguished
from ordinary goodness, is a certain quality of magnanimity and
greatness of soul that brings life within the circle of the heroic. To
be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in
the insipid details of every-day life, is a virtue so rare as to be
worthy of canonization,--and this virtue was hers. New England
Puritanism must be credited with the making of many such women.
Severe as was her discipline, and harsh as seems now her rule, we
have yet to see whether women will be born of modern systems of
tolerance and indulgence equal to those grand ones of the olden
times whose places now know them no more. The inconceivable
austerity and solemnity with which Puritanism invested this mortal
life, the awful grandeur of the themes which it made household
words, the sublimity of the issues which it hung upon the commonest
acts of our earthly existence, created characters of more than Roman
strength and greatness; and the good men and women of Puritan
training excelled the saints of the Middle Ages, as a soul fully
developed intellectually, educated to closest thought, and exercised
in reasoning, is superior to a soul great merely through impulse
and sentiment.

"My earliest recollections of Aunt Esther, for so our saint was known,
were of a bright-faced, cheerful, witty, quick-moving little
middle-aged person, who came into our house like a good fairy whenever
there was a call of sickness or trouble. If an accident happened in
the great roystering family of eight or ten children (and when was not
something happening to some of us?), and we were shut up in a
sick-room, then duly as daylight came the quick step and cheerful face
of Aunt Esther,--not solemn and lugubrious like so many sick-room
nurses, but with a never failing flow of wit and story that could
beguile even the most doleful into laughing at their own afflictions.
I remember how a fit of the quinsy--most tedious of all sicknesses to
an active child--was gilded and glorified into quite a fête by my
having Aunt Esther all to myself for two whole days, with nothing to
do but amuse me. She charmed me into smiling at the very pangs which
had made me weep before, and of which she described her own
experiences in a manner to make me think that, after all, the quinsy
was something with an amusing side to it. Her knowledge of all sorts
of medicines, gargles, and alleviatives, her perfect familiarity with
every canon and law of good nursing and tending, was something that
could only have come from long experience in those good old New
England days when there were no nurses recognized as a class in the
land, but when watching and the care of the sick were among those
offices of Christian life which the families of a neighborhood
reciprocally rendered each other. Even from early youth she had obeyed
a special vocation as sister of charity in many a sick-room, and, with
the usual keen intelligence of New England, had widened her powers of
doing good by the reading of medical and physiological works. Her
legends of nursing in those days of long typhus fever and other
formidable and protracted forms of disease were to our ears quite
wonderful, and we regarded her as a sort of patron saint of the
sick-room. She seemed always so cheerful, so bright, and so devoted,
that it never occurred to us youngsters to doubt that she enjoyed,
above all things, being with us, waiting on us all day, watching over
us by night, telling us stories, and answering, in her lively and
always amusing and instructive way, that incessant fire of questions
with which a child persecutes a grown person.

"Sometimes, as a reward of goodness, we were allowed to visit her in
her own room, a neat little parlor in the neighborhood, whose
windows looked down a hillside on one hand, under the boughs of an
apple-orchard, where daisies and clover and bobolinks always
abounded in summer time; and on the other faced the street, with a
green yard flanked by one or two shady elms between them and the
street. No nun's cell was ever neater, no bee's cell ever more
compactly and carefully arranged; and to us, familiar with the
confusion of a great family of little ones, there was always something
inviting about its stillness, its perfect order, and the air of
thoughtful repose that breathed over it. She lived there in
perfect independence, doing, as it was her delight to do, every office
of life for herself. She was her own cook, her own parlor and
chamber maid, her own laundress; and very faultless the cooking,
washing, ironing, and care of her premises were. A slice of Aunt
Esther's gingerbread, one of Aunt Esther's cookies, had, we all
believed, certain magical properties such as belonged to no other
mortal mixture. Even a handful of walnuts that were brought from the
depths of her mysterious closet had virtues in our eyes such as no
other walnuts could approach. The little shelf of books that hung
suspended by cords against her wall was sacred in our regard; the
volumes were like no other books; and we supposed that she derived
from them those stores of knowledge on all subjects which she
unconsciously dispensed among us,--for she was always telling us
something of metals, or minerals, or gems, or plants, or animals,
which awakened our curiosity, stimulated our inquiries, and, above
all, led us to wonder where she had learned it all. Even the
slight restrictions which her neat habits imposed on our breezy and
turbulent natures seemed all quite graceful and becoming. It was
right, in our eyes, to cleanse our shoes on scraper and mat with
extra diligence, and then to place a couple of chips under the heels
of our boots when we essayed to dry our feet at her spotless
hearth. We marveled to see our own faces reflected in a thousand
smiles and winks from her bright brass andirons,--such andirons we
thought were seen on earth in no other place,--and a pair of radiant
brass candlesticks, that illustrated the mantelpiece, were viewed
with no less respect.

"Aunt Esther's cat was a model for all cats,--so sleek, so intelligent,
so decorous and well-trained, always occupying exactly her own cushion
by the fire, and never transgressing in one iota the proprieties
belonging to a cat of good breeding. She shared our affections with
her mistress, and we were allowed as a great favor and privilege,
now and then, to hold the favorite on our knees, and stroke her
satin coat to a smoother gloss.

"But it was not for cats alone that she had attractions. She was in
sympathy and fellowship with everything that moved and lived; knew
every bird and beast with a friendly acquaintanceship. The squirrels
that inhabited the trees in the front yard were won in time by her
blandishments to come and perch on her window-sills, and thence, by
trains of nuts adroitly laid, to disport themselves on the shining
cherry tea-table that stood between the windows; and we youngsters
used to sit entranced with delight as they gamboled and waved their
feathery tails in frolicsome security, eating rations of gingerbread
and bits of seedcake with as good a relish as any child among us.

"The habits, the rights, the wrongs, the wants, and the sufferings of
the animal creation formed the subject of many an interesting
conversation with her; and we boys, with the natural male instinct of
hunting, trapping, and pursuing, were often made to pause in our
career, remembering her pleas for the dumb things which could not
speak for themselves.

"Her little hermitage was the favorite resort of numerous friends.
Many of the young girls who attended the village academy made her
acquaintance, and nothing delighted her more than that they should
come there and read to her the books they were studying, when her
superior and wide information enabled her to light up and explain much
that was not clear to the immature students.

"In her shady retirement, too, she was a sort of Egeria to certain men
of genius, who came to read to her their writings, to consult her in
their arguments, and to discuss with her the literature and politics
of the day,--through all which her mind moved with an equal step, yet
with a sprightliness and vivacity peculiarly feminine.

"Her memory was remarkably retentive, not only of the contents of
books, but of all that great outlying fund of anecdote and story which
the quaint and earnest New England life always supplied. There were
pictures of peculiar characters, legends of true events stranger than
romance, all stored in the cabinets of her mind; and these came from
her lips with the greater force because the precision of her memory
enabled her to authenticate them with name, date, and circumstances of
vivid reality. From that shadowy line of incidents which marks the
twilight boundary between the spiritual world and the present life she
drew legends of peculiar clearness, but invested with the mysterious
charm which always dwells in that uncertain region; and the shrewd
flash of her eye, and the keen, bright smile with which she answered
the wondering question, 'What _do_ you suppose it was?' or, 'What
could it have been?' showed how evenly rationalism in her mind kept
pace with romance.

"The retired room in which she thus read, studied, thought, and
surveyed from afar the whole world of science and literature, and in
which she received friends and entertained children, was perhaps the
dearest and freshest spot to her in the world. There came a time,
however, when the neat little independent establishment was given up,
and she went to associate herself with two of her nieces in keeping
house for a boarding-school of young girls. Here her lively manners
and her gracious interest in the young made her a universal favorite,
though the cares she assumed broke in upon those habits of solitude
and study which formed her delight. From the day that she surrendered
this independency of hers, she had never, for more than a score of
years, a home of her own, but filled the trying position of an
accessory in the home of others. Leaving the boarding-school, she
became the helper of an invalid wife and mother in the early nursing
and rearing of a family of young children,--an office which leaves no
privacy and no leisure. Her bed was always shared with some little
one; her territories were exposed to the constant inroads of little
pattering feet; and all the various sicknesses and ailments of
delicate childhood made absorbing drafts upon her time.

"After a while she left New England with the brother to whose
family she devoted herself. The failing health of the wife and mother
left more and more the charge of all things in her hands; servants
were poor, and all the appliances of living had the rawness and
inconvenience which in those days attended Western life. It became her
fate to supply all other people's defects and deficiencies.
Wherever a hand failed, there must her hand be. Whenever a foot
faltered, she must step into the ranks. She was the one who thought
for and cared for and toiled for all, yet made never a claim that any
one should care for her.

"It was not till late in my life that I became acquainted with the
deep interior sacrifice, the constant self-abnegation, which all
her life involved. She was born with a strong, vehement, impulsive
nature,--a nature both proud and sensitive,--a nature whose tastes
were passions, whose likings and whose aversions were of the most
intense and positive character. Devoted as she always seemed to
the mere practical and material, she had naturally a deep romance
and enthusiasm of temperament which exceeded all that can be
written in novels. It was chiefly owing to this that a home and a
central affection of her own were never hers. In her early days of
attractiveness, none who would have sought her could meet the high
requirements of her ideality; she never saw her hero, and so never
married. Family cares, the tending of young children, she often
confessed, were peculiarly irksome to her. She had the head of a
student, a passionate love for the world of books. A Protestant
convent, where she might devote herself without interruption to
study, was her ideal of happiness. She had, too, the keenest
appreciation of poetry, of music, of painting, and of natural
scenery. Her enjoyment in any of these things was intensely vivid
whenever, by chance, a stray sunbeam of the kind darted across the
dusty path of her life; yet in all these her life was a constant
repression. The eagerness with which she would listen to any account
from those more fortunate ones who had known these things, showed
how ardent a passion was constantly held in check. A short time before
her death, talking with a friend who had visited Switzerland, she
said, with great feeling: 'All my life my desire to visit the
beautiful places of this earth has been so intense, that I cannot
but hope that after my death I shall be permitted to go and look at
them.'

"The completeness of her self-discipline may be gathered from the fact
that no child could ever be brought to believe she had not a natural
fondness for children, or that she found the care of them burdensome.
It was easy to see that she had naturally all those particular habits,
those minute pertinacities in respect to her daily movements and the
arrangement of all her belongings, which would make the meddling,
intrusive demands of infancy and childhood peculiarly hard for her to
meet. Yet never was there a pair of toddling feet that did not make
free with Aunt Esther's room, never a curly head that did not look up,
in confiding assurance of a welcome smile, to her bright eyes. The
inconsiderate and never ceasing requirements of children and invalids
never drew from her other than a cheerful response; and to my mind
there is more saintship in this than in the private wearing of any
number of haircloth shirts or belts lined with spikes.

"In a large family of careless, noisy children there will be constant
losing of thimbles and needles and scissors; but Aunt Esther was
always ready, without reproach, to help the careless and the luckless.
Her things, so well kept and so treasured, she was willing to lend,
with many a caution and injunction, it is true, but also with a relish
of right good will. And, to do us justice, we generally felt the
sacredness of the trust, and were more careful of her things than of
our own. If a shade of sewing-silk were wanting, or a choice button,
or a bit of braid or tape, Aunt Esther cheerfully volunteered
something from her well-kept stores, not regarding the trouble she
made herself in seeking the key, unlocking the drawer, and searching
out in bag or parcel just the treasure demanded. Never was more
perfect precision, or more perfect readiness to accommodate others.

"Her little income, scarcely reaching a hundred dollars yearly, was
disposed of with a generosity worthy a fortune. One tenth was
sacredly devoted to charity, and a still further sum laid by every
year for presents to friends. No Christmas or New Year ever came
round that Aunt Esther, out of this very tiny fund, did not find
something for children and servants. Her gifts were trifling in
value, but well timed,--a ball of thread-wax, a paper of pins, a
pin-cushion,--something generally so well chosen as to show that
she had been running over our needs, and noting what to give. She
was no less gracious as receiver than as giver. The little articles
that we made for her, or the small presents that we could buy out
of our childish resources, she always declared were exactly what she
needed; and she delighted us by the care she took of them and the
value she set upon them.

"Her income was a source of the greatest pleasure to her, as
maintaining an independence without which she could not have been
happy. Though she constantly gave to every family in which she lived
services which no money could repay, it would have been the greatest
trial to her not to be able to provide for herself. Her dress, always
that of a true gentlewoman,--refined, quiet, and neat,--was bought
from this restricted sum, and her small traveling expenses were paid
out of it. She abhorred anything false or flashy: her caps were
trimmed with real thread lace, and her silk dresses were of the best
quality, perfectly well made and kept; and, after all, a little sum
always remained over in her hands for unforeseen exigencies.

"This love of independence was one of the strongest features of her
life, and we often playfully told her that her only form of
selfishness was the monopoly of saintship,--that she who gave so much
was not willing to allow others to give to her; that she who made
herself servant of all was not willing to allow others to serve her.

"Among the trials of her life must be reckoned much ill health, borne,
however, with such heroic patience that it was not easy to say when
the hand of pain was laid upon her. She inherited, too, a tendency to
depression of spirits, which at times increased to a morbid and
distressing gloom. Few knew or suspected these sufferings, so
completely had she learned to suppress every outward manifestation
that might interfere with the happiness of others. In her hours of
depression she resolutely forbore to sadden the lives of those around
her with her own melancholy, and often her darkest moods were so
lighted up and adorned with an outside show of wit and humor, that
those who had known her intimately were astonished to hear that she
had ever been subject to depression.

"Her truthfulness of nature amounted almost to superstition. From her
promise once given she felt no change of purpose could absolve her;
and therefore rarely would she give it absolutely, for she _could not_
alter the thing that had gone forth from her lips. Our belief in the
certainty of her fulfilling her word was like our belief in the
immutability of the laws of nature. Whoever asked her got of her the
absolute truth on every subject, and, when she had no good thing to
say, her silence was often truly awful. When anything mean or
ungenerous was brought to her knowledge, she would close her lips
resolutely; but the flash in her eyes showed what she would speak were
speech permitted. In her last days she spoke to a friend of what she
had suffered from the strength of her personal antipathies. 'I thank
God,' she said, 'that I believe at last I have overcome all that too,
and that there has not been, for some years, any human being toward
whom I have felt a movement of dislike.'

"The last year of her life was a constant discipline of unceasing
pain, borne with that fortitude which could make her an entertaining
and interesting companion even while the sweat of mortal agony was
starting from her brow. Her own room she kept as a last asylum, to
which she would silently retreat when the torture became too intense
for the repression of society, and there alone, with closed doors, she
wrestled with her agony. The stubborn independence of her nature took
refuge in this final fastness, and she prayed only that she might go
down to death with the full ability to steady herself all the way,
needing the help of no other hand.

"The ultimate struggle of earthly feeling came when this proud
self-reliance was forced to give way, and she was obliged to leave
herself helpless in the hands of others. 'God requires that I should
give up my last form of self-will,' she said; 'now I have resigned
this, perhaps He will let me go home.'

"In a good old age, Death, the friend, came and opened the door of
this mortal state, and a great soul, that had served a long
appenticeship to little things, went forth into the joy of its Lord; a
life of self-sacrifice and self-abnegation passed into a life of
endless rest."

"But," said Rudolph, "I rebel at this life of self-abnegation and
self-sacrifice. I do not think it the duty of noble women, who have
beautiful natures and enlarged and cultivated tastes, to make
themselves the slaves of the sick-room and nursery."

"Such was not the teaching of our New England faith," said I.
"Absolute unselfishness,--the death of self,--such were its teachings,
and such as Esther's the characters it made. 'Do the duty nearest
thee' was the only message it gave to 'women with a mission;' and from
duty to duty, from one self-denial to another, they rose to a majesty
of moral strength impossible to any form of mere self-indulgence. It
is of souls thus sculptured and chiseled by self-denial and
self-discipline that the living temple of the perfect hereafter is to
be built. The pain of the discipline is short, but the glory of the
fruition is eternal."



XII

THE NEW YEAR
[1865.]


Here comes the First of January, Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-Five,
and we are all settled comfortably into our winter places, with our
winter surroundings and belongings; all cracks and openings are
calked and listed, the double windows are in, the furnace dragon
in the cellar is ruddy and in good liking, sending up his warming
respirations through every pipe and register in the house; and
yet, though an artificial summer reigns everywhere, like bees we have
our swarming place,--in my library. There is my chimney-corner, and
my table permanently established on one side of the hearth; and
each of the female genus has, so to speak, pitched her own winter
tent within sight of the blaze of my camp-fire. I discerned to-day
that Jenny had surreptitiously appropriated one of the drawers of my
study-table to knitting-needles and worsted; and wicker work-baskets
and stands of various heights and sizes seem to be planted here and
there for permanence among the bookcases. The canary-bird has a
sunny window, and the plants spread out their leaves and unfold
their blossoms as if there were no ice and snow in the street, and
Rover makes a hearth-rug of himself in winking satisfaction in front
of my fire, except when Jenny is taken with a fit of discipline, when
he beats a retreat, and secretes himself under my table.

Peaceable, ah, how peaceable, home and quiet and warmth in winter! And
how, when we hear the wind whistle, we think of you, O our brave
brothers, our saviors and defenders, who for our sake have no home but
the muddy camp, the hard pillow of the barrack, the weary march, the
uncertain fare,--you, the rank and file, the thousand unnoticed ones,
who have left warm fires, dear wives, loving little children, without
even the hope of glory or fame,--without even the hope of doing
anything remarkable or perceptible for the cause you love,--resigned
only to fill the ditch or bridge the chasm over which your country
shall walk to peace and joy! Good men and true, brave unknown hearts,
we salute you, and feel that we, in our soft peace and security, are
not worthy of you! When we think of you, our simple comforts seem
luxuries all too good for us, who give so little when you give all!

But there are others to whom from our bright homes, our cheerful
firesides, we would fain say a word, if we dared.

Think of a mother receiving a letter with such a passage as this
in it! It is extracted from one we have just seen, written by a
private in the army of Sheridan, describing the death of a private.
"He fell instantly, gave a peculiar smile and look, and then
closed his eyes. We laid him down gently at the foot of a large
tree. I crossed his hands over his breast, closed his eyelids down,
but the smile was still on his face. I wrapt him in his tent, spread
my pocket-handkerchief over his face, wrote his name on a piece of
paper, and pinned it on his breast, and there we left him: we could
not find pick or shovel to dig a grave." There it is!--a history
that is multiplying itself by hundreds daily, the substance of what
has come to so many homes, and must come to so many more before the
great price of our ransom is paid!

What can we say to you, in those many, many homes where the light has
gone out forever?--you, O fathers, mothers, wives, sisters, haunted
by a name that has ceased to be spoken on earth,--you, for whom there
is no more news from the camp, no more reading of lists, no more
tracing of maps, no more letters, but only a blank, dead silence! The
battlecry goes on, but for you it is passed by! the victory comes,
but, oh, never more to bring him back to you! your offering to this
great cause has been made, and been taken; you have thrown into it
_all_ your living, even all that you had, and from henceforth your
house is left unto you desolate! O ye watchers of the cross, ye
waiters by the sepulchre, what can be said to you? We could almost
extinguish our own home-fires, that seem too bright when we think of
your darkness; the laugh dies on our lip, the lamp burns dim through
our tears, and we seem scarcely worthy to speak words of comfort, lest
we seem as those who mock a grief they cannot know.

But is there no consolation? Is it nothing to have had such a treasure
to give, and to have given it freely for the noblest cause for which
ever battle was set,--for the salvation of your country, for the
freedom of all mankind? Had he died a fruitless death, in the track of
common life, blasted by fever, smitten or rent by crushing accident,
then might his most precious life seem to be as water spilled upon the
ground; but now it has been given for a cause and a purpose worthy
even the anguish of your loss and sacrifice. He has been counted
worthy to be numbered with those who stood with precious incense
between the living and the dead, that the plague which was consuming
us might be stayed. The blood of these young martyrs shall be the seed
of the future church of liberty, and from every drop shall spring up
flowers of healing. O widow! O mother! blessed among bereaved women!
there remains to you a treasure that belongs not to those who have
lost in any other wise,--the power to say, "He died for his country."
In all the good that comes of this anguish you shall have a right and
share by virtue of this sacrifice. The joy of freedmen bursting from
chains, the glory of a nation new-born, the assurance of a triumphant
future for your country and the world,--all these become yours by the
purchase-money of that precious blood.

Besides this, there are other treasures that come through sorrow, and
sorrow alone. There are celestial plants of root so long and so deep
that the land must be torn and furrowed, ploughed up from the very
foundation, before they can strike and nourish; and when we see how
God's plough is driving backward and forward and across this nation,
rending, tearing up tender shoots, and burying soft wild-flowers, we
ask ourselves, What is He going to plant?

Not the first year, nor the second, after the ground has been broken
up, does the purpose of the husbandman appear. At first we see only
what is uprooted and ploughed in,--the daisy drabbled, and the violet
crushed,--and the first trees planted amid the unsightly furrows stand
dumb and disconsolate, irresolute in leaf, and without flower or
fruit. Their work is under the ground. In darkness and silence they
are putting forth long fibres, searching hither and thither under the
black soil for the strength that years hence shall burst into bloom
and bearing.

What is true of nations is true of individuals. It may seem now winter
and desolation with you. Your hearts have been ploughed and harrowed
and are now frozen up. There is not a flower left, not a blade of
grass, not a bird to sing,--and it is hard to believe that any
brighter flowers, any greener herbage, shall spring up than those
which have been torn away; and yet there will. Nature herself teaches
you to-day. Outdoors nothing but bare branches and shrouding snow; and
yet you know that there is not a tree that is not patiently holding
out at the end of its boughs next year's buds, frozen indeed, but
unkilled. The rhododendron and the lilac have their blossoms all
ready, wrapped in cere-cloth, waiting in patient faith. Under the
frozen ground the crocus and the hyacinth and the tulip hide in their
hearts the perfect forms of future flowers. And it is even so with
you: your leaf buds of the future are frozen, but not killed; the soil
of your heart has many flowers under it cold and still now, but they
will yet come up and bloom.

The dear old book of comfort tells of no present healing for sorrow.
No chastening for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous, but
afterwards it yieldeth peaceable fruits of righteousness. We, as
individuals, as a nation, need to have faith in that AFTERWARDS. It is
sure to come,--sure as spring and summer to follow winter.

There is a certain amount of suffering which must follow the rending
of the great cords of life, suffering which is natural and inevitable;
it cannot be argued down; it cannot be stilled; it can no more be
soothed by any effort of faith and reason than the pain of a fractured
limb, or the agony of fire on the living flesh. All that we can do is
to brace ourselves to bear it, calling on God, as the martyrs did in
the fire, and resigning ourselves to let it burn on. We must be
willing to suffer, since God so wills. There are just so many waves to
go over us, just so many arrows of stinging thought to be shot into
our soul, just so many faintings and sinkings and revivings only to
suffer again, belonging to and inherent in our portion of sorrow; and
there is a work of healing that God has placed in the hands of Time
alone.

Time heals all things at last; yet it depends much on us in our
suffering, whether time shall send us forth healed, indeed, but maimed
and crippled and callous, or whether, looking to the great Physician
of sorrows, and co-working with him, we come forth stronger and fairer
even for our wounds.

We call ourselves a Christian people, and the peculiarity of
Christianity is that it is a worship and doctrine of sorrow. The five
wounds of Jesus, the instruments of the passion, the cross, the
sepulchre,--these are its emblems and watchwords. In thousands of
churches, amid gold and gems and altars fragrant with perfume, are
seen the crown of thorns, the nails, the spear, the cup of vinegar
mingled with gall, the sponge that could not slake that burning
death-thirst; and in a voice choked with anguish the Church in many
lands and divers tongues prays from age to age, "By thine agony and
bloody sweat, by thy cross and passion, by thy precious death and
burial!"--mighty words of comfort, whose meaning reveals itself only
to souls fainting in the cold death-sweat of mortal anguish! They tell
all Christians that by uttermost distress alone was the Captain of
their salvation made perfect as a Saviour.

Sorrow brings us into the true unity of the Church,--that unity which
underlies all external creeds, and unites all hearts that have
suffered deeply enough to know that when sorrow is at its utmost there
is but one kind of sorrow, and but one remedy. What matter, _in
extremis_, whether we be called Romanist, or Protestant, or Greek, or
Calvinist?

We suffer, and Christ suffered; we die, and Christ died; he conquered
suffering and death, he rose and lives and reigns,--and we shall
conquer, rise, live, and reign. The hours on the cross were long, the
thirst was bitter, the darkness and horror real,--_but they ended_.
After the wail, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" came the calm,
"It is finished;" pledge to us all that our "It is finished" shall
come also.

Christ arose, fresh, joyous, no more to die; and it is written that,
when the disciples were gathered together in fear and sorrow, he stood
in the midst of them, and showed unto them his hands and his side; and
then were they glad. Already had the healed wounds of Jesus become
pledges of consolation to innumerable thousands; and those who, like
Christ, have suffered the weary struggles, the dim horrors of the
cross,--who have lain, like him, cold and chilled in the hopeless
sepulchre,--if his spirit wakes them to life, shall come forth with
healing power for others who have suffered and are suffering.

Count the good and beautiful ministrations that have been wrought in
this world of need and labor, and how many of them have been wrought
by hands wounded and scarred, by hearts that had scarcely ceased to
bleed!

How many priests of consolation is God now ordaining by the fiery
imposition of sorrow! how many Sisters of the Bleeding Heart,
Daughters of Mercy, Sisters of Charity, are receiving their first
vocation in tears and blood!

The report of every battle strikes into some home; and heads fall low,
and hearts are shattered, and only God sees the joy that is set before
them, and that shall come out of their sorrow. He sees our morning at
the same moment that He sees our night,--sees us comforted, healed,
risen to a higher life, at the same moment that He sees us crushed and
broken in the dust; and so, though tenderer than we, He bears our
great sorrows for the joy that is set before us.

After the Napoleonic wars had desolated Europe, the country was, like
all countries after war, full of shattered households, of widows and
orphans and homeless wanderers. A nobleman of Silesia, the Baron von
Kottwitz, who had lost his wife and all his family in the reverses and
sorrows of the times, found himself alone in the world, which looked
more dreary and miserable through the multiplying lenses of his own
tears. But he was one of those whose heart had been quickened in its
death anguish by the resurrection voice of Christ; and he came forth
to life and comfort. He bravely resolved to do all that one man could
to lessen the great sum of misery. He sold his estates in Silesia,
bought in Berlin a large building that had been used as barracks for
the soldiers, and, fitting it up in plain, commodious apartments,
formed there a great family-establishment, into which he received the
wrecks and fragments of families that had been broken up by the
war,--orphan children, widowed and helpless women, decrepit old
people, disabled soldiers. These he made his family, and constituted
himself their father and chief. He abode with them, and cared for them
as a parent. He had schools for the children; the more advanced he put
to trades and employments; he set up a hospital for the sick; and for
all he had the priestly ministrations of his own Christ-like heart.
The celebrated Professor Tholuck, one of the most learned men of
modern Germany, was an early protégé of the old Baron's, who,
discerning his talents, put him in the way of a liberal education. In
his earlier years, like many others of the young who play with life,
ignorant of its needs, Tholuck piqued himself on a lordly skepticism
with regard to the commonly received Christianity, and even wrote an
essay to prove the superiority of the Mohammedan to the Christian
religion. In speaking of his conversion, he says,--"What moved me was
no argument, nor any spoken reproof, but simply that divine image of
the old Baron walking before my soul. That life was an argument always
present to me, and which I never could answer; and so I became a
Christian." In the life of this man we see the victory over sorrow.
How many with means like his, when desolated by like bereavements,
have lain coldly and idly gazing on the miseries of life, and weaving
around themselves icy tissues of doubt and despair,--doubting the
being of a God, doubting the reality of a Providence, doubting the
divine love, embittered and rebellious against the power which they
could not resist, yet to which they would not submit! In such a chill
heart-freeze lies the danger of sorrow. And it is a mortal danger. It
is a torpor that must be resisted, as the man in the whirling snows
must bestir himself, or he will perish. The apathy of melancholy must
be broken by an effort of religion and duty. The stagnant blood must
be made to flow by active work, and the cold hand warmed by clasping
the hands outstretched towards it in sympathy or supplication. One
orphan child taken in, to be fed, clothed, and nurtured, may save a
heart from freezing to death: and God knows this war is making but too
many orphans!

It is easy to subscribe to an orphan asylum, and go on in one's
despair and loneliness. Such ministries may do good to the children
who are thereby saved from the street, but they impart little warmth
and comfort to the giver. One destitute child housed, taught, cared
for, and tended personally, will bring more solace to a suffering
heart than a dozen maintained in an asylum. Not that the child will
probably prove an angel, or even an uncommonly interesting mortal. It
is a prosaic work, this bringing-up of children, and there can be
little rose-water in it. The child may not appreciate what is done for
him, may not be particularly grateful, may have disagreeable faults,
and continue to have them after much pains on your part to eradicate
them,--and yet it is a fact, that to redeem one human being from
destitution and ruin, even in some homely every-day course of
ministrations, is one of the best possible tonics and alteratives to a
sick and wounded spirit.

But this is not the only avenue to beneficence which the war opens. We
need but name the service of hospitals, the care and education of the
freedmen,--for these are charities that have long been before the eyes
of the community, and have employed thousands of busy hands: thousands
of sick and dying beds to tend, a race to be educated, civilized, and
Christianized, surely were work enough for one age; and yet this is
not all. War shatters everything, and it is hard to say what in
society will not need rebuilding and binding up and strengthening
anew. Not the least of the evils of war are the vices which a great
army engenders wherever it moves,--vices peculiar to military life, as
others are peculiar to peace. The poor soldier perils for us not
merely his body, but his soul. He leads a life of harassing and
exhausting toil and privation, of violent strain on the nervous
energies, alternating with sudden collapse, creating a craving for
stimulants, and endangering the formation of fatal habits. What furies
and harpies are those that follow the army, and that seek out the
soldier in his tent, far from home, mother, wife and sister, tired,
disheartened, and tempt him to forget his troubles in a momentary
exhilaration, that burns only to chill and to destroy! Evil angels are
always active and indefatigable, and there must be good angels
enlisted to face them; and here is employment for the slack hand of
grief. Ah, we have known mothers bereft of sons in this war, who have
seemed at once to open wide their hearts, and to become mothers to
every brave soldier in the field. They have lived only to work,--and
in place of one lost, their sons have been counted by thousands.

And not least of all the fields for exertion and Christian charity
opened by this war is that presented by womanhood. The war is
abstracting from the community its protecting and sheltering elements,
and leaving the helpless and dependent in vast disproportion. For
years to come, the average of lone women will be largely increased;
and the demand, always great, for some means by which they may provide
for themselves, in the rude jostle of the world, will become more
urgent and imperative.

Will any one sit pining away in inert grief, when two streets off are
the midnight dance-houses, where girls of twelve, thirteen, and
fourteen are being lured into the way of swift destruction? How many
of these are daughters of soldiers who have given their hearts' blood
for us and our liberties!

Two noble women of the Society of Friends have lately been taking the
gauge of suffering and misery in our land, visiting the hospitals at
every accessible point, pausing in our great cities, and going in
their purity to those midnight orgies where mere children are being
trained for a life of vice and infamy. They have talked with these
poor bewildered souls, entangled in toils as terrible and inexorable
as those of the slave-market, and many of whom are frightened and
distressed at the life they are beginning to lead, and earnestly
looking for the means of escape. In the judgment of these holy women,
at least one third of those with whom they have talked are children so
recently entrapped, and so capable of reformation, that there would be
the greatest hope in efforts for their salvation. While such things
are to be done in our land, is there any reason why any one should die
of grief? One soul redeemed will do more to lift the burden of sorrow
than all the blandishments and diversions of art, all the alleviations
of luxury, all the sympathy of friends.

In the Roman Catholic Church there is an order of women called the
Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who have renounced the world to devote
themselves, their talents and property, entirely to the work of
seeking out and saving the fallen of their own sex; and the wonders
worked by their self-denying love on the hearts and lives of even the
most depraved are credible only to those who know that the Good
Shepherd himself ever lives and works with such spirits engaged in
such a work. A similar order of women exists in New York, under the
direction of the Episcopal Church, in connection with St. Luke's
Hospital; and another in England, who tend the "House of Mercy" of
Clewer.

Such benevolent associations offer objects of interest to that class
which most needs something to fill the void made by bereavement. The
wounds of grief are less apt to find a cure in that rank of life where
the sufferer has wealth and leisure. The _poor_ widow, whoso husband
was her all, _must_ break the paralysis of grief. The hard necessities
of life are her physicians; they send her out to unwelcome, yet
friendly toil, which, hard as it seems, has yet its healing power. But
the sufferer surrounded by the appliances of wealth and luxury may
long indulge the baleful apathy, and remain in the damp shadows of the
valley of death till strength and health are irrecoverably lost. How
Christ-like is the thought of a woman, graceful, elegant, cultivated,
refined, whose voice has been trained to melody, whose fingers can
make sweet harmony with every touch, whose pencil and whose needle can
awake the beautiful creations of art, devoting all these powers to the
work of charming back to the sheepfold those wandering and bewildered
lambs whom the Good Shepherd still calls his own! Jenny Lind once,
when she sang at a concert for destitute children, exclaimed in her
enthusiasm, "Is it not beautiful that I can sing so?" And so may not
every woman feel, when her graces and accomplishments draw the
wanderer, and charm away evil demons, and soothe the sore and sickened
spirit, and make the Christian fold more attractive than the dizzy
gardens of false pleasure?

In such associations, and others of kindred nature, how many of the
stricken and bereaved women of our country might find at once a home
and an object in life! Motherless hearts might be made glad in a
better and higher motherhood; and the stock of earthly life that
seemed cut off at the root, and dead past recovery, may be grafted
upon with a shoot from the tree of life which is in the Paradise of
God.

So the beginning of this eventful 1865, which finds us still treading
the wine-press of our great conflict, should bring with it a serene
and solemn hope, a joy such as those had with whom in the midst of the
fiery furnace there walked one like unto the Son of God.

The great affliction that has come upon our country is so evidently
the purifying chastening of a Father, rather than the avenging anger
of a Destroyer, that all hearts may submit themselves in a solemn and
holy calm still to bear the burning that shall make us clean from
dross and bring us forth to a higher national life. Never, in the
whole course of our history, have such teachings of the pure abstract
Right been so commended and forced upon us by Providence. Never have
public men been so constrained to humble themselves before God, and to
acknowledge that there is a Judge that ruleth in the earth. Verily his
inquisition for blood has been strict and awful; and for every
stricken household of the poor and lowly hundreds of households of the
oppressor have been scattered. The land where the family of the slave
was first annihilated, and the negro, with all the loves and hopes of
a man, was proclaimed to be a beast to be bred and sold in market with
the horse and the swine,--that land, with its fair name, Virginia, has
been made a desolation so signal, so wonderful, that the blindest
passer-by cannot but ask for what sin so awful a doom has been meted
out. The prophetic visions of Nat Turner, who saw the leaves drop
blood and the land darkened, have been fulfilled. The work of justice
which he predicted is being executed to the uttermost.

But when this strange work of judgment and justice is consummated,
when our country, through a thousand battles and ten thousands of
precious deaths, shall have come forth from this long agony, redeemed
and regenerated, then God himself shall return and dwell with us, and
the Lord God shall wipe away all tears from all faces, and the rebuke
of his people shall he utterly take away.



XIII

THE NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS


When the first number of the Chimney-Corner appeared, the snow lay
white on the ground, the buds on the trees were closed and frozen, and
beneath the hard frost-bound soil lay buried the last year's
flower-roots, waiting for a resurrection.

So in our hearts it was winter,--a winter of patient suffering and
expectancy,--a winter of suppressed sobs, of inward bleedings,--a
cold, choked, compressed anguish of endurance, for how long and how
much God only could tell us.

The first paper of the Chimney-Corner, as was most meet and fitting,
was given to those homes made sacred and venerable by the cross of
martyrdom,--by the chrism of a great sorrow. That Chimney-Corner made
bright by home firelight seemed a fitting place for a solemn act of
reverent sympathy for the homes by whose darkness our homes had been
preserved bright, by whose emptiness our homes had been kept full, by
whose losses our homes had been enriched; and so we ventured with
trembling to utter these words of sympathy and cheer to those whom God
had chosen to this great sacrifice of sorrow.

The winter months passed with silent footsteps, spring returned, and
the sun, with ever waxing power, unsealed the snowy sepulchre of buds
and leaves,--birds reappeared, brooks were unchained, flowers filled
every desolate dell with blossoms and perfume. And with returning
spring, in like manner, the chill frost of our fears and of our
dangers melted before the breath of the Lord. The great war, which
lay like a mountain of ice upon our hearts, suddenly dissolved and was
gone. The fears of the past were as a dream when one awaketh, and now
we scarce realize our deliverance. A thousand hopes are springing up
everywhere, like spring flowers in the forest. All is hopefulness, all
is bewildering joy.

But this our joy has been ordained to be changed into a wail of
sorrow. The kind hard hand, that held the helm so steadily in the
desperate tossings of the storm, has been stricken down just as we
entered port,--the fatherly heart that bore all our sorrows can take
no earthly part in our joys. His were the cares, the watchings, the
toils, the agonies, of a nation in mortal struggle; and God, looking
down, was so well pleased with his humble faithfulness, his patient
continuance in well-doing, that earthly rewards and honors seemed all
too poor for him, so he reached down and took him to immortal glories.
"Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy
Lord!"

Henceforth the place of Abraham Lincoln is first among that noble army
of martyrs who have given their blood to the cause of human freedom.
The eyes are yet too dim with tears that would seek calmly to trace
out his place in history. He has been a marvel and a phenomenon among
statesmen, a new kind of ruler in the earth. There has been something
even unearthly about his extreme unselfishness, his utter want of
personal ambition, personal self-valuation, personal feeling.

The most unsparing criticism, denunciation, and ridicule never moved
him to a single bitter expression, never seemed to awaken in him a
single bitter thought. The most exultant hour of party victory brought
no exultation to him; he accepted power not as an honor, but as a
responsibility; and when, after a severe struggle, that power came a
second time into his hands, there was something preternatural in the
calmness of his acceptance of it. The first impulse seemed to be a
disclaimer of all triumph over the party that had strained their
utmost to push him from his seat, and then a sober girding up of his
loins to go on with the work to which he was appointed. His last
inaugural was characterized by a tone so peculiarly solemn and free
from earthly passion, that it seems to us now, who look back on it in
the light of what has followed, as if his soul had already parted from
earthly things, and felt the powers of the world to come. It was not
the formal state paper of the chief of a party in an hour of victory,
so much as the solemn soliloquy of a great soul reviewing its course
under a vast responsibility, and appealing from all earthly judgments
to the tribunal of Infinite Justice. It was the solemn clearing of his
soul for the great sacrament of Death, and the words that he quoted in
it with such thrilling power were those of the adoring spirits that
veil their faces before the throne,--"Just and true are thy ways, thou
King of saints!"

Among the rich treasures which this bitter struggle has brought to
our country, not the least is the moral wealth which has come to us
in the memory of our martyrs. Thousands of men, women, and children
too, in this great conflict, have "endured tortures, not accepting
deliverance," counting not their lives dear unto them in the holy
cause; and they have done this as understandingly and thoughtfully as
the first Christians who sealed their witness with their blood.

Let us in our hour of deliverance and victory record the solemn vow,
that our right hand shall forget her cunning before we forget them and
their sufferings,--that our tongue shall cleave to the roof of our
mouth if we remember them not above our chief joy.

Least suffering among that noble band were those who laid down their
lives on the battlefield, to whom was given a brief and speedy passage
to the victor's meed. The mourners who mourn for such as these must
give place to another and more august band, who have sounded lower
deeps of anguish, and drained bitterer drops out of our great cup of
trembling.

The narrative of the lingering tortures, indignities, and sufferings
of our soldiers in Rebel prisons has been something so harrowing that
we have not dared to dwell upon it. We have been helplessly dumb
before it, and have turned away our eyes from what we could not
relieve, and therefore could not endure to look upon. But now, when
the nation is called to strike the great and solemn balance of
justice, and to decide measures of final retribution, it behooves us
all that we should at least watch with our brethren for one hour, and
take into our account what they have been made to suffer for us.

Sterne said he could realize the miseries of captivity only by setting
before him the image of a miserable captive with hollow cheek and
wasted eye, notching upon a stick, day after day, the weary record of
the flight of time. So we can form a more vivid picture of the
sufferings of our martyrs from one simple story than from any general
description; and therefore we will speak right on, and tell one story
which might stand as a specimen of what has been done and suffered by
thousands.

In the town of Andover, Massachusetts, a boy of sixteen, named Walter
Raymond, enlisted among our volunteers. He was under the prescribed
age, but his eager zeal led him to follow the footsteps of an elder
brother who had already enlisted; and the father of the boy, though
these two were all the sons he had, instead of availing himself of his
legal right to withdraw him, indorsed the act in the following letter
addressed to his captain:--

  ANDOVER, MASS., _August 15, 1862_.

  CAPTAIN HUNT,--My eldest son has enlisted in your company. I send
  you his younger brother. He is, and always has been, in perfect
  health, of more than the ordinary power of endurance, honest,
  truthful, and courageous. I doubt not you will find him on trial
  all you can ask, except his age, and that I am sorry to say is
  only sixteen; yet if our country needs his service, take him.

  Your obedient servant,

  SAMUEL RAYMOND.

The boy went forth to real service, and to successive battles at
Kingston, at Whitehall, and at Goldsborough; and in all this did his
duty bravely and faithfully. He met the temptations and dangers of a
soldier's life with the pure-hearted firmness of a Christian child,
neither afraid nor ashamed to remember his baptismal vows, his
Sunday-school teachings, and his mother's wishes.

He had passed his promise to his mother against drinking and smoking,
and held it with a simple, childlike steadiness. When in the midst of
malarious swamps, physicians and officers advised the use of tobacco.
The boy writes to his mother: "A great many have begun to smoke, but I
shall not do it without your permission, though I think it does a
great deal of good."

In his leisure hours, he was found in his tent reading; and before
battle he prepared his soul with the beautiful psalms and collects for
the day, as appointed by his church, and writes with simplicity to his
friends:--

"I prayed God that he would watch over me, and if I fell, receive my
soul in heaven; and I also prayed that I might not forget the cause I
was fighting for, and turn my back in fear."

After nine months' service, he returned with a soldier's experience,
though with a frame weakened by sickness in a malarious region. But
no sooner did health and strength return than he again enlisted, in
the Massachusetts cavalry service, and passed many months of constant
activity and adventure, being in some severe skirmishes and battles
with that portion of Sheridan's troops who approached nearest to
Richmond, getting within a mile and a half of the city. At the close
of this raid, so hard had been the service, that only thirty horses
were left out of seventy-four in his company, and Walter and two
others were the sole survivors among eight who occupied the same
tent.

On the sixteenth of August, Walter was taken prisoner in a skirmish;
and from the time that this news reached his parents, until the 18th
of the following March, they could ascertain nothing of his fate. A
general exchange of prisoners having been then effected, they learned
that he had died on Christmas Day in Salisbury Prison, of hardship and
privation.

What these hardships were is, alas! easy to be known from those too
well-authenticated accounts published by our government of the
treatment experienced by our soldiers in the Rebel prisons.

Robbed of clothing, of money, of the soldier's best friend, his
sheltering blanket,--herded in shivering nakedness on the bare
ground,--deprived of every implement by which men of energy and spirit
had soon bettered their lot,--forbidden to cut in adjacent forests
branches for shelter, or fuel to cook their coarse food,--fed on a
pint of corn-and-cob-meal per day, with some slight addition of
molasses or rancid meat,--denied all mental resources, all letters
from home, all writing to friends,--these men were cut off from the
land of the living while yet they lived,--they were made to dwell in
darkness as those that have been long dead.

By such slow, lingering tortures,--such weary, wasting anguish and
sickness of body and soul,--it was the infernal policy of the Rebel
government either to wring from them an abjuration of their country,
or by slow and steady draining away of the vital forces to render them
forever unfit to serve in her armies.

Walter's constitution bore four months of this usage, when death came
to his release. A fellow sufferer, who was with him in his last hours,
brought the account to his parents.

Through all his terrible privations, even the lingering pains of slow
starvation, Walter preserved his steady simplicity, his faith in God,
and unswerving fidelity to the cause for which he was suffering.

When the Rebels had kept the prisoners fasting for days, and then
brought in delicacies to tempt their appetite, hoping thereby to
induce them to desert their flag, he only answered, "I would rather be
carried out in that dead-cart!"

When told by some that he must steal from his fellow sufferers, as
many did, in order to relieve the pangs of hunger, he answered, "No, I
was not brought up to that!" And so when his weakened system would no
longer receive the cobmeal which was his principal allowance, he set
his face calmly towards death. He grew gradually weaker and weaker and
fainter and fainter, and at last disease of the lungs set in, and it
became apparent that the end was at hand.

On Christmas Day, while thousands among us were bowing in our
garlanded churches or surrounding festive tables, this young martyr
lay on the cold, damp ground, watched over by his destitute friends,
who sought to soothe his last hours with such scanty comforts as their
utter poverty afforded,--raising his head on the block of wood which
was his only pillow, and moistening his brow and lips with water,
while his life ebbed slowly away, until about two o'clock, when he
suddenly roused himself, stretched out his hand, and, drawing to him
his dearest friend among those around him, said, in a strong, clear
voice:--

"I am going to die. Go tell my father I am ready to die, for I die for
God and my country,"--and, looking up with a triumphant smile, he
passed to the reward of the faithful.

And now, men and brethren, if this story were a single one, it were
worthy to be had in remembrance; but Walter Raymond is not the only
noble-hearted boy or man that has been slowly tortured and starved and
done to death, by the fiendish policy of Jefferson Davis and Robert
Edmund Lee. No,--wherever this simple history shall be read, there
will arise hundreds of men and women who will testify, "Just so died
my son!" "So died my brother!" "So died my husband!" "So died my
father!" The numbers who have died in these lingering tortures are to
be counted, not by hundreds, or even by thousands, but by tens of
thousands.

And is there to be no retribution for a cruelty so vast, so
aggravated, so cowardly and base? And if there is retribution, on
whose head should it fall? Shall we seize and hang the poor, ignorant,
stupid, imbruted semi-barbarians who were set as jailers to keep these
hells of torment and inflict these insults and cruelties? or shall we
punish the educated, intelligent chiefs who were the head and brain of
the iniquity?

If General Lee had been determined not to have prisoners starved or
abused, does any one doubt that he could have prevented these things?
Nobody doubts it. His raiment is red with the blood of his helpless
captives. Does any one doubt that Jefferson Davis, living in ease and
luxury in Richmond, knew that men were dying by inches in filth and
squalor and privation in the Libby Prison, within bowshot of his own
door? Nobody doubts it. It was his will, his deliberate policy, thus
to destroy those who fell into his hands. The chief of a so-called
Confederacy, who could calmly consider among his official documents
incendiary plots for the secret destruction of ships, hotels, and
cities full of peaceable people, is a chief well worthy to preside
over such cruelties; but his only just title is President of
Assassins, and the whole civilized world should make common cause
against such a miscreant.

There has been, on both sides of the water, much weak, ill-advised
talk of mercy and magnanimity to be extended to these men, whose
crimes have produced a misery so vast and incalculable. The wretches
who have tortured the weak and the helpless, who have secretly plotted
to supplement, by dastardly schemes of murder and arson, that strength
which failed them in fair fight, have been commiserated as brave
generals and unfortunate patriots, and efforts are made to place them
within the comities of war.

It is no feeling of personal vengeance, but a sense of the eternal
fitness of things, that makes us rejoice, when criminals who have so
outraged every sentiment of humanity are arrested and arraigned and
awarded due retribution at the bar of their country's justice. There
are crimes against God and human nature which it is treason alike to
God and man not to punish; and such have been the crimes of the
traitors who were banded together in Richmond.

If there be those whose hearts lean to pity, we can show them where
all the pity of their hearts may be better bestowed than in deploring
the woes of assassins. Let them think of the thousands of fathers,
mothers, wives, sisters, whose lives will be forever haunted with
memories of the slow tortures in which their best and bravest were
done to death.

The sufferings of those brave men are ended. Nearly a hundred thousand
are sleeping in those sad nameless graves,--and may their rest be
sweet! "There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be
at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice
of the oppressor." But, O ye who have pity to spare, spare it for the
broken-hearted friends, who, to life's end, will suffer over and over
all that their dear ones endured. Pity the mothers who hear their
sons' faint calls in dreams, who in many a weary night-watch see them
pining and wasting, and yearn with a lifelong, unappeasable yearning
to have been able to soothe those forsaken, lonely death-beds. O man
or woman, if you have pity to spare, spend it not on Lee or
Davis,--spend it on their victims, on the thousands of living hearts
which these men of sin have doomed to an anguish that will end only
with life!

Blessed are the mothers whose sons passed in battle,--a quick, a
painless, a glorious death! Blessed in comparison,--yet we weep for
them. We rise up and give place at sight of their mourning-garments.
We reverence the sanctity of their sorrow. But before this other
sorrow we are dumb in awful silence. We find no words with which to
console such grief. We feel that our peace, our liberties, have been
bought at a fearful price, when we think of the sufferings of our
martyred soldiers. Let us think of them. It was for _us_ they bore
hunger and cold and nakedness. They might have had food and raiment
and comforts, if they would have deserted our cause,--and they did
not. Cut off from all communication with home or friends or brethren,
dragging on the weary months, apparently forgotten,--still they would
not yield, they would not fight against us; and so for us at last they
died.

What return can we make them? Peace has come, and we take up all our
blessings restored and brightened; but if we look, we shall see on
every blessing a bloody cross.

When three brave men broke through the ranks of the enemy, to bring to
King David a draught from the home well, for which he longed, the
generous-hearted prince would not drink it, but poured it out as an
offering before the Lord; for he said, "Is not this the blood of the
men that went in jeopardy of their lives?"

Thousands of noble hearts have been slowly consumed to secure to us
the blessings we are rejoicing in. We owe a duty to these our
martyrs,--the only one we can pay.

In every place, honored by such a history and example, let a monument
be raised at the public expense, on which shall be inscribed the names
of those who died for their country, and the manner of their death.
Such monuments will educate our young men in heroic virtue, and keep
alive to future ages the flame of patriotism. And thus, too, to the
aching heart of bereaved love shall be given the only consolation of
which its sorrows admit, in the reverence which is paid to its lost
loved ones.



OUR SECOND GIRL


Our establishment on Beacon Street had been for some days in a
revolutionary state, owing to the fact that our second girl had gone
from us into the holy estate of matrimony. Alice was a pretty, tidy,
neat-handed creature, and, like many other blessings of life, so good
as to be little appreciated while with us. It was not till she had
left us that we began to learn that clean glass, bright silver,
spotless and untumbled table-linen, and, in short, all the appetizing
arrangements and appointments of our daily meals, were not always and
in all hands matters of course.

In a day or two, our silver began to have the appearance of old
pewter, and our glass looked as if nothing but muddy water could be
found. On coming down to our meals, we found the dishes in all sorts
of conversational attitudes on the table,--the meat placed diagonally,
the potatoes crosswise, and the other vegetables scattered here and
there,--while the table itself stood rakishly aslant, and wore the air
of a table slightly intoxicated.

Our beautiful china, moreover, began to have little chipped places in
the edges, most unusual and distressing to our eyes; the handles
vanished from our teacups, and here and there a small mouthful
appeared to be bitten out of the nose of some pretty fancy pitchers,
which had been the delight of my eyes.

Now, if there is anything which I specially affect, it is a refined
and pretty table arrangement, and at our house for years and years
such had prevailed. All of us had rather a weakness for china, and the
attractions of the fragile world, as presented in the great
crockery-stores, had been many times too much for our prudence and
purse. Consequently we had all sorts of little domestic idols of the
breakfast and dinner table,--Bohemian-glass drinking-mugs of antique
shape, lovely bits of biscuit choicely moulded in classic patterns,
beauties, oddities, and quaintnesses in the way of especial teacups
and saucers, devoted to different members of the family, wherein each
took a particular and individual delight. Our especial china or glass
pets of the table often started interesting conversations on the state
of the plastic arts as applied to every-day life, and the charm of
being encircled, even in the material act of feeding our mortal
bodies, with a sort of halo of art and beauty.

All this time none of us ever thought in how great degree our feeling
for elegance and refinement owed its gratification at the hour of
meals to the care, the tidiness, and neat handling of our now lost and
wedded Alice.

Nothing presents so forlorn an appearance as battered and neglected
finery of any kind; and elegant pitchers with their noses knocked off,
cut glass with cracked edges, and fragments of artistic teacups and
saucers on a tumbled tablecloth, have a peculiarly dismal appearance.
In fact, we had really occasion to wonder at the perfectly weird and
bewitched effect which one of our two Hibernian successors to the
pretty Alice succeeded in establishing in our table department. Every
caprice in the use and employment of dishes, short of serving cream in
the gravy-boats and using the sugar-bowl for pickled oysters and the
cream-pitcher for vinegar, seemed possible and permissible. My horror
was completed one morning on finding a china hen, artistically
represented as brooding on a nest, made to cover, not boiled eggs, but
a lot of greasy hash, over which she sat so that her head and tail
bewilderingly projected beyond the sides of the nest, instead of
keeping lengthwise within it, as a respectable hen in her senses might
be expected to do. There certainly is a great amount of native vigor
shown by these untrained Hibernians in always finding an unexpected
wrong way of doing the simplest thing. It quite enlarges one's ideas
of human possibilities.

In a paroxysm of vexation, I reviled matrimony and Murphy O'Connor,
who had stolen our household treasure, and further expressed my
griefs, as elder sons are apt to do, by earnest expostulations
with the maternal officer on the discouraging state of things;
declaring most earnestly, morning, noon, and night, that all was
going to ruin, that everything was being spoiled, that nothing was
even decent, and that, if things went on so much longer, I should
be obliged to go out and board,--by which style of remark I nearly
drove that long-suffering woman frantic.

"Do be reasonable, Tom," said she. "Can I make girls to order? Can I
do anything more than try such as apply, when they seem to give
promise of success? Delicacy of hand, neatness, nicety of eye, are not
things likely to be cultivated in the Irish boarding-houses from which
our candidates emerge. What chance have the most of them had to learn
anything except the most ordinary rough housework? A trained girl is
rare as a nugget of gold amid the sands of the washings; but let us
persevere in trying, and one will come at last."

"Well, I hope, at any rate, you have sent off that Bridget," I said,
in high disdain. "I verily believe, if that girl stays a week longer,
I shall have to leave the house."

"Compose yourself," said my mother; "Bridget's bundle is made up, and
she is going. I'm sorry for her too, poor thing; for she seemed
anxious to keep the place."

At this moment the doorbell rang. "I presume that's the new girl whom
they have sent round for me to see," said my mother.

I opened the door, and there in fact stood a girl dressed in a
neat-fitting dark calico, with a straw bonnet, simply tied with some
dark ribbon, and a veil which concealed her face.

"Is Mrs. Seymour at home?"

"She is."

"I was told that she wanted a girl."

"She does; will you walk in?"

I pique myself somewhat on the power of judging character, and there
was something about this applicant which inspired hope; so that,
before I introduced her into the room, I felt it necessary to
enlighten my mother with a little of my wisdom. I therefore whispered
in her ear, with the decisive tone of an eldest son, "I think, mother,
this one will do; you had better engage her at once."

"Have you lived out much?" said my mother, commencing the usual
inquiries.

"I have not, ma'am. I am but lately come to the city."

"Are you Irish?"

"No, ma'am; I am American."

"Have you been accustomed to the care of the table,--silver, glass,
and china?"

"I think, ma'am, I understand what is necessary for that."

All this while the speaker remained standing with her veil down; her
answers seemed to be the briefest possible; and yet, notwithstanding
the homely plainness of her dress, there was something about her that
impressed both my mother and me with an idea of cultivation and
refinement above her apparent station,--there was a composure and
quiet decision in her manner of speaking which produced the same
impression on us both.

"What wages do you expect?" said my mother.

"Whatever you have been accustomed to give to a girl in that place
will satisfy me," she said.

"There is only one thing I would like to ask," she added, with a
slight hesitation and embarrassment of manner; "would it be convenient
for me to have a room by myself?"

I nodded to my mother to answer in the affirmative.

The three girls who composed our establishment had usually roomed in
one large apartment, but there was a small closet of a room which I
had taken for books, fishing-rods, guns, and any miscellaneous
property of my own. I mentally turned these out, and devoted the room
to the newcomer, whose appearance interested me.

And, as my mother hesitated, I remarked, with the assured tone of
master of the house, that "certainly she could have a small room to
herself."

"It is all I ask," she briefly answered. "In that case, I will come
for the same wages you paid the last girl in my situation."

"When will you come?" said my mother.

"I am ready to come immediately. I only want time to go and order my
things to be sent here."

She rose and left us, saying that we might expect her that afternoon.

"Well, sir," said my mother, "you seem to have taken it upon you to
settle this matter on your own authority."

"My dear little mother," said I, in a patronizing tone, "I have an
instinctive certainty that she will do. I wanted to make sure of a
prize for you."

"But the single room."

"Never mind; I'll move all my traps out of the little third-story
room. It's my belief that this girl or woman has seen better days; and
if she has, a room to herself will be a necessity of her case,--poor
thing!"

"I don't know," said my mother hesitatingly. "I never wish to
employ in my service those above their station,--they always make
trouble; and there is something in this woman's air and manner and
pronunciation that makes me feel as if she had been born and bred
in cultivated society."

"Supposing she has," said I; "it's quite evident that she, for some
reason, means to conform to this position. You seldom have a girl
apply for work who comes dressed with such severe simplicity; her
manner is retiring, and she seemed perfectly willing and desirous to
undertake any of the things which you mentioned as among her daily
tasks."

On the afternoon of that day our new assistant came, and my
mother was delighted with the way she set herself at work. The
china-closet, desecrated and disordered in the preceding reigns
of terror and confusion, immediately underwent a most quiet but
thorough transformation. Everything was cleaned, brightened, and
arranged with a system and thoroughness which showed, as my mother
remarked, a good head; and all this was done so silently and
quietly that it seemed like magic. By the time we came down to
breakfast the next morning, we perceived that the reforms of our
new prime minister had extended everywhere. The dining-room was
clean, cool, thoroughly dusted, and freshly aired; the tablecloth
and napkins were smooth and clean; the glass glittered like
crystal, and the silver wore a cheerful brightness. Added to
this were some extra touches of refinement, which I should call
table coquetry. The cold meat was laid out with green fringes of
parsley; and a bunch of heliotrope, lemon verbena, and mignonette,
with a fresh rosebud, all culled from our little back yard, stood in
a wineglass on my mother's waiter.

"Well, Mary, you have done wonders," said my mother, as she took her
place; "your arrangements restore appetite to all of us."

Mary received our praises with a gracious smile, yet with a composed
gravity which somewhat puzzled me. She seemed perfectly obliging and
amiable, yet there was a serious reticence about her that quite
piqued my curiosity. I could not help recurring to the idea of a lady
in disguise; though I scarcely knew to what circumstance about her I
could attach the idea. So far from the least effort to play the lady,
her dress was, in homely plainness, a perfect contrast to that of the
girls who had preceded her. It consisted of strong dark-blue stuff,
made perfectly plain to her figure, with a narrow band of white linen
around her throat. Her dark brown hair was brushed smoothly away from
her face, and confined simply behind in a net; there was not the
slightest pretension to coquetry in its arrangement; in fact, the
object seemed to be to get it snugly out of the way, rather than to
make it a matter of ornament. Nevertheless, I could not help remarking
that there was a good deal of it, and that it waved very prettily,
notwithstanding the care that had been taken to brush the curl out of
it.

She was apparently about twenty years of age. Her face was not
handsome, but it was a refined and intelligent one. The skin had a
sallow hue, which told of ill health or of misfortune; there were
lines of trouble about the eye; but the mouth and chin had that
unmistakable look of firmness which speaks a person able and resolved
to do a quiet battle with adverse fate, and to go through to the end
with whatever is needed to be done, without fretfulness and without
complaint. She had large, cool, gray eyes, attentive and thoughtful,
and she met the look of any one who addressed her with an honest
firmness; she seemed to be, in fact, simply and only interested to
know and to do the work she had undertaken,--but what there might be
behind and beyond that I could not conjecture.

One thing about her dress most in contrast with that of the other
servants was that she evidently wore no crinoline. The exuberance of
this article in the toilet of our domestics had become threatening of
late, apparently requiring that the kitchens and pantries should be
torn down and rebuilt. As matters were, our three girls never could
be in our kitchen at one time without reefings and manoeuvrings of
their apparel which much impeded any other labor, and caused some loss
of temper; and our china-closet was altogether too small for the
officials who had to wash the china there, and they were constantly at
odds with my mother for her firmness in resisting their tendency to
carry our china and silver to the general mélée of the kitchen sink.
Moreover, our dining-room not having been constructed with an eye to
modern expansions of the female toilet, it happened that, if our table
was to be enlarged for guests, there arose serious questions of the
waiter's crinoline to complicate the calculations; and for all these
reasons, I was inclined to look with increasing wonder on a being in
female form who could so far defy the tyranny of custom as to dress in
a convenient and comfortable manner, adapted to the work which she
undertook to perform. A good-looking girl without crinoline had a sort
of unworldly freshness of air that really constituted a charm. If it
had been a piece of refined coquetry,--as certainly it was not,--it
could not have been better planned.

Nothing could be more perfectly proper than the demeanor of this girl
in relation to all the proprieties of her position. She seemed to give
her whole mind to it with an anxious exactness; but she appeared to
desire no relations with the family other than those of a mere
business character. It was impossible to draw her into conversation.
If a good-natured remark was addressed to her on any subject such as
in kindly disposed families is often extended as an invitation to a
servant to talk a little with an employer, Mary met it with the
briefest and gravest response that was compatible with propriety, and
with a definite and marked respectfulness of demeanor which had
precisely the effect of throwing us all at a distance, like
ceremonious politeness in the intercourse of good society.

"I cannot make out our Mary," said I to my mother; "she is a perfect
treasure, but who or what do you suppose she is?"

"I cannot tell you," said my mother. "All I know is, she understands
her business perfectly, and does it exactly; but she no more belongs
to the class of common servants than I do."

"Does she associate with the other girls?"

"Not at all--except at meal-times, and when about her work."

"I should think that would provoke the pride of sweet Erin," said I.

"One would think so," said my mother; "but she certainly has managed
her relations with them with a curious kind of tact. She always treats
them with perfect consideration and politeness, talks with them during
the times that they necessarily are thrown together in the most
affable and cheerful manner, and never assumes any airs of supremacy
with them. Her wanting a room to herself gave them at first an idea
that she would hold herself aloof from them, and in fact, for the
first few days, there was a subterranean fire in the kitchen ready to
burst forth; but now all that is past, and in some way or other,
without being in the least like any of them, she has contrived to make
them her fast friends. I found her last night in the kitchen writing a
letter for the cook, and the other day she was sitting in her room
trimming a bonnet for Katy; and her opinion seems to be law in the
kitchen. She seldom sits there, and spends most of her leisure in her
own room, which is as tidy as a bee's cell."

"What is she doing there?"

"Reading, sewing, and writing, as far as I can see. There are a few
books, and a portfolio, and a small inkstand there,--and a neat little
work-basket. She is very nice with her needle, and obliging in putting
her talents to the service of the other girls; but towards me she is
the most perfectly silent and reserved being that one can conceive. I
can't make conversation with her; she keeps me off by a most rigid
respectfulness of demeanor which seems to say that she wants nothing
from me but my orders. I feel that I could no more ask her a question
about her private affairs, than I could ask one of Mrs. McGregor in
the next street. But then it is a comfort to have some one so entirely
trustworthy as she is in charge of all the nice little articles which
require attention and delicate handling. She is the only girl I ever
had whom I could trust to arrange a parlor and a table without any
looking after. Her eye and hand, and her ideas, are certainly those of
a lady, whatever her position may have been."

In time our Mary became quite a family institution for us, seeming to
fill a thousand little places in the domestic arrangement where a hand
or an eye was needed. She was deft at mending glass and china, and
equally so at mending all sorts of household things. She darned the
napkins and tablecloths in a way that excited my mother's admiration,
and was always so obliging and ready to offer her services that, in
time, a resort to Mary's work-basket and ever ready needle became the
most natural thing in the world to all of us. She seemed to have no
acquaintance in the city, never went out visiting, received no
letters,--in short, seemed to live a completely isolated life, and to
dwell in her own thoughts in her own solitary little room.

By that talent for systematic arrangement which she possessed, she
secured for herself a good many hours to spend there. My mother,
seeing her taste for reading, offered her the use of our books; and
one volume after another spent its quiet week or fortnight in her
room, and returned to our shelves in due time. They were mostly works
of solid information,--history, travels,--and a geography and atlas
which had formed part of the school outfit of one of the younger
children she seemed interested to retain for some time. "It is my
opinion," said my mother, "that she is studying,--perhaps with a view
to getting some better situation."

"Pray keep her with us," said I, "if you can. Why don't you raise her
wages? You know that she does more than any other girl ever did before
in her place, and is so trustworthy that she is invaluable to us.
Persons of her class are worth higher wages than common uneducated
servants."

My mother accordingly did make a handsome addition to Mary's wages,
and by the time she had been with us a year the confidence which her
quiet manner had inspired was such that, if my mother wished to be
gone for a day or two, the house, with all that was in it, was left
trustingly in Mary's hands, as with a sort of housekeeper. She was
charged with all the last directions, as well as the keys to the
jellies, cakes, and preserves, with discretionary power as to their
use; and yet, for some reason, such was the ascendency she contrived
to keep over her Hibernian friends in the kitchen, all this confidence
evidently seemed to them quite as proper as to us.

"She ain't quite like us," said Biddy one day, mysteriously, as she
looked after her. "She's seen better days, or I'm mistaken; but she
don't take airs on her. She knows how to take the bad luck quiet like,
and do the best she can."

"Has she ever told you anything of herself, Biddy?" said my mother.

"Me? No. It's a quiet tongue she keeps in her head. She is ready
enough to do good turns for us, and to smooth out our ways, and hear
our stories, but it's close in her own affairs she is. Maybe she don't
like to be talkin', when talkin' does no good,--poor soul!"

Matters thus went on, and I amused myself now and then with
speculating about Mary. I would sometimes go to her to ask some of
those little charities of the needle which our sex are always needing
from feminine hands; but never, in the course of any of these little
transactions, could I establish the slightest degree of confidential
communication. If she sewed on a shirt-button, she did it with as
abstracted an air as if my arm were a post which she was required to
handle, and not the arm of a good-looking youth of twenty-five,--as I
fondly hoped I was. And certain remarks which I once addressed to her
in regard to her studies and reading in her own apartment were met
with that cool, wide-open gaze of her calm gray eyes, that seemed to
say, "Pray, what is that to your purpose, sir?" and she merely
answered, "Is there anything else that you would like me to do, sir?"
with a marked deference that was really defiant.

But one day I fancied I had got hold of a clue. I was standing in our
lower front hall, when I saw young McPherson, whom I used to know in
New York, coming up the doorsteps.

At the moment that he rung the doorbell, our Mary, who had seen him
from the chamber window, suddenly grew pale, and said to my mother,
"Please, ma'am, will you be so good as to excuse my going to the door?
I feel faint."

My mother spoke over the banisters, and I opened the door, and let in
McPherson.

He and I were jolly together, as old classmates are wont to be, and
orders were given to lay a plate for him at dinner.

Mary prepared the service with her usual skill and care, but pleaded
that her illness increased so that it would be impossible for her to
wait on table. Now, nobody in the house thought there was anything
peculiar about this but myself. My mother, indeed, had noticed that
Mary's faintness had come on very suddenly, as she looked out on the
street; but it was I who suggested to her that McPherson might have
some connection with it.

"Depend upon it, mother, he is somebody whom she has known in her
former life, and doesn't wish to meet," said I.

"Nonsense, Tom; you are always getting up mysteries, and fancying
romances."

Nevertheless, I took a vicious pleasure in experimenting on the
subject; and therefore, a day or two after, when I had got Mary fairly
within eye-range, as she waited on table, I remarked to my mother
carelessly, "By the bye, the McPhersons are coming to Boston to
live."

There was a momentary jerk of Mary's hand, as she was filling a
tumbler, and then I could see the restraint of self-command passing
all over her. I had hit something, I knew; so I pursued my game.

"Yes," I continued, "Jim is here to look at houses; he is thinking
strongly of one in the next block."

There was a look of repressed fear and distress on Mary's face as she
hastily turned away, and made an errand into the china-closet.

"I have found a clue," I said to my mother triumphantly, going to
her room after dinner. "Did you notice Mary's agitation when I spoke
of the McPhersons coming to Boston? By Jove! but the girl is
plucky, though; it was the least little start, and in a minute she
had her visor down and her armor buckled. This certainly becomes
interesting."

"Tom, I certainly must ask you what business it is of yours," said my
mother, settling back into the hortatory attitude familiar to mothers.
"Supposing the thing is as you think,--suppose that Mary is a girl of
refinement and education, who, from some unfortunate reason, has no
resource but her present position,--why should you hunt her out of it?
If she is, as you think, a lady, there is the strongest reason why a
gentleman should respect her feelings. I fear the result of all this
restless prying and intermeddling of yours will be to drive her away;
and really, now I have had her, I don't know how I ever could do
without her. People talk of female curiosity," said my mother, with a
slightly belligerent air; "I never found but men had fully as much
curiosity as women. Now, what will become of us all if your
restlessness about this should be the means of Mary's leaving us? You
know the perfectly dreadful times we had before she came, and I don't
know anybody who has less patience to bear such things than you."

In short, my mother was in that positive state of mind which is
expressed by the colloquial phrase of being on her high horse. I--as
the male part of creation always must in such cases--became very meek
and retiring, and promised to close my eyes and ears, and not dream,
or think, or want to know, anything which it was not agreeable to Mary
and my mother that I should. I would not look towards the doorbell,
nor utter a word about the McPhersons, who, by the bye, decided to
take the house in our neighborhood.

But though I was as exemplary as one of the saints, it did no good.
Mary, for some reasons known to herself, became fidgety, nervous,
restless, and had frequent headaches and long crying spells in her own
private apartment, after the manner of women when something is the
matter with them.

My mother was, as she always is with every creature in her employ,
maternal and sympathetic, and tried her very best to get into her
confidence.

Mary only confessed to feeling a little unwell, and hinted obscurely
that perhaps she should be obliged to leave the place. But it was
quite evident that her leaving was connected with the near advent of
the McPhersons in the next block; for I observed that she always
showed some little irrepressible signs of nervousness whenever that
subject was incidentally alluded to. Finally, on the day that their
furniture began to arrive, and to provide abundant material for gossip
and comment to the other members of the kitchen cabinet, Mary's mind
appeared suddenly made up. She came into my mother's room looking as a
certain sort of women do when they have made a resolution which they
mean to stand by,--very pale, very quiet, and very decided. She asked
to see my mother alone, and in that interview she simply expressed
gratitude for all her kindness to her, but said that circumstances
would oblige her to go to New York.

My mother now tried her best to draw from her her history, whatever
that might be. She spoke with tact and tenderness, and with the
respect due from one human being to another; for my mother always held
that every soul has its own inviolable private door which it has a
right to keep closed, and at which even queens and duchesses, if they
wish to enter, must knock humbly and reverently.

Mary was almost overcome by her kindness. She thanked her over and
over; at times my mother said she looked at her wistfully, as if on
the very point of speaking, and then, quietly gathering herself within
herself, she remained silent. All that could be got from her was, that
it was necessary for her hereafter to live in New York.

The servants in the kitchen, with the warm-heartedness of their race,
broke out into a perfect Irish howl of sorrow; and at the last moment,
Biddy, our fat cook, fell on her neck and lifted up her voice and
wept, almost smothering her with her tumultuous embraces; and the
whole party of them would go with her to the New York station, one
carrying her shawl, another her hand-bag and parasol, with emulous
affection; and so our very pleasant and desirable second girl
disappeared, and we saw her no more.

Six months after this, when our Mary had become only a memory of the
past, I went to spend a week or two in Newport, and took, among other
matters and things, a letter of introduction to Mrs. McIntyre, a
Scotch lady, who had just bought a pretty cottage there, and, as my
friend who gave it told me, would prove an interesting acquaintance.

"She has a pretty niece," said he, "who I'm told is heiress to her
property, and is called a very nice girl."

So, at the proper time, I lounged in one morning, and found a very
charming, cosy, home-like parlor, arranged with all those little
refined touches and artistic effects by which people of certain tastes
and habits at once recognize each other in all parts of the world, as
by the tokens of freemasonry. I felt perfectly acquainted with Mrs.
McIntyre from the first glance at her parlor,--where the books, the
music, the birds, the flowers, and that everlasting variety of female
small-work prepared me for a bright, chatty, easy-going, home-loving
kind of body, such as I found Mrs. McIntyre to be. She was, as English
and Scotch ladies are apt to be, very oddly dressed in very nice and
choice articles. It takes the eye of the connoisseur to appreciate
these oddly dressed Englishwomen. They are like antique china; but a
discriminating eye soon sees the real quality that underlies their
quaint adornment. Mrs. McIntyre was scrupulously, exquisitely neat.
All her articles of dress were of the choicest quality. The yellow and
tumbled lace that was fussed about her neck and wrists might have been
the heirloom of a countess; her satin gown, though very short and very
scanty, was of a fabulous richness; and the rings that glittered on
her withered hands were of the fashion of two centuries ago, but of
wonderful brilliancy.

She was very gracious in her reception, as my letter was from an old
friend, and said many obliging things of me; so I was taken at once to
her friendship, with the frankness characteristic of people of her
class when they make up their minds to know you at all.

"I must introduce you to my Mary," she said; "she has just gone into
the garden to cut flowers for the vases."

In a moment more "Mary" entered the room, with a little white apron
full of flowers, and a fresh bloom on her cheeks; and I was--as the
reader has already anticipated--to my undisguised amazement, formally
introduced to Miss Mary McIntyre, our second girl.

Of all things for which I consider women admirable, there is no trait
which fills me with such positive awe as their social tact and
self-command. Evidently this meeting was quite as unexpected to Mary
as to me; but except for a sudden flash of amused astonishment in the
eyes, and a becoming flush of complexion, she met me as any
thoroughbred young lady meets a young man properly presented by her
maternal guardian.

For my part, I had one of those dreamy periods of existence in which
people doubt whether they are awake or asleep. The world seemed all
turning topsy-turvy. I was filled with curiosity, which I could with
difficulty keep within the limits of conventional propriety.

"I see, Mr. Seymour, that you are very much astonished," said Mary to
me, when Mrs. McIntyre had left the room to give some directions to
the servants.

"Upon my word," said I, "I never was more so; I feel as if I were in
the midst of a fairy tale."

"Nothing so remarkable as that," she said. "But since I saw you, a
happy change, as I need not tell you now, has come over my life
through the coming of my mother's sister to America. When my mother
died, my aunt was in India. The letters that I addressed to her in
Scotland were a long time in reaching her, and then it took a long
time for her to wind up her affairs there, and find her way to this
country."

"But," said I, "what could"--

"What could induce me to do as I did? Well, I knew your mother's
character,--no matter how. I needed a support and protection, and I
resolved for a time to put myself under her wing. I knew that in case
of any real trouble I should find in her a true friend and a safe
adviser, and I hoped to earn her esteem and confidence by steadily
doing my duty. Some other time, perhaps, I will tell you more," she
added.

The return of Mrs. McIntyre put an end to our private communication,
but she insisted, with true old-world hospitality, on my remaining to
dinner.

Here I was precipitated into a romance at once. Mary had just enough
of that perverse feminine pleasure in teasing to keep my interest
alive. The fact was, she saw me becoming entangled from day to day
without any more misgivings of conscience than the celebrated spider
of the poem felt when she invited the fly to walk into her parlor.

Mrs. McIntyre took me in a very marked way into her good graces, and I
had every opportunity to ride, walk, sketch, and otherwise to attend
upon Mary; and Mary was gracious also, but so quietly and discreetly
mistress of herself that I could not for the life of me tell what to
make of her. There were all sorts of wonders and surmises boiling up
within me. What was it about McPherson? Was there anything there? Was
Mary engaged? Or was there any old affair? etc., etc. Not that it was
any business of mine; but then a fellow likes to know his ground
before--Before _what_? I thought to myself, and that unknown WHAT
every day assumed new importance in my eyes. Mary had many admirers.
Her quiet, easy, self-possessed manners, her perfect tact and grace,
always made her a favorite; but I could not help hoping that between
her and me there was that confidential sense of a mutually kept secret
which it is delightful to share with the woman you wish to please.

Why won't women sometimes enlighten a fellow a little in this dark
valley that lies between intimate acquaintance and the awful final
proposal? To be sure, there are kind souls who will come more than
halfway to meet you, but they are always sure to be those you don't
want to meet. The woman you want is always as reticent as a nut, and
leaves you the whole work of this last dread scene without a bit of
help on her part. To be sure, she smiles on you; but what of that? You
see she smiles also on Tom, Dick, and Harry.

  "Bright as the sun her eyes the gazers strike;
  And, like the sun, they shine on all alike."

I fought out a battle of two or three weeks with my fair foe, trying
to get in advance some hint from her as to what she would do with me
if I put myself at her mercy. No use. Our sex may as well give up
first as last before one of these quiet, resolved, little pieces of
femininity, who are perfect mistresses of all the peculiar weapons,
defensive and offensive, of womanhood. There was nothing for it but to
surrender at discretion; but when I had done this, I was granted all
the honors of war. Mrs. McIntyre received me with an old-fashioned
maternal blessing, and all was as happy as possible.

"And now," said Mary, "I suppose, sir, you will claim a right to know
all about me."

"Something of the sort," I said complacently.

"I know you have been dying of curiosity ever since I was waiting
behind your lordship's chair at your mother's. I knew you suspected
something then,--confess now."

"But what could have led you there?"

"Just hear. My mother, who was Mrs. McIntyre's sister, had by a first
marriage only myself. Shortly after my father's death, she married a
widower with several children. As long as she lived, I never knew what
want or care or trouble was; but just as I was entering upon my
seventeenth year she died. A year after her death, my stepfather, who
was one of those men devoted to matrimony at all hazards, married
another woman, by whom he had children.

"In a few years more, he died; and his affairs, on examination, proved
to be in a very bad state; there was, in fact, scarcely anything for
us to live on. Our stepmother had a settlement from her brother. The
two other daughters of my father were married, and went to houses of
their own; and I was left, related really to nobody, without property
and without home.

"I suppose hundreds of young girls are from one reason or other left
just in this way, and have, without any previous preparation in their
education and habits, to face the question, How can I get a living?

"I assure you it is a serious question for a young girl who has grown
up in the easy manner in which I had. My stepfather had always been a
cheery, kindly, generous man, one of those who love to see people
enjoy themselves, and to have things done handsomely, and had kept
house in a free, abundant, hospitable manner; so that when I came to
look myself over in relation to the great uses of life, I could make
out very little besides expensive tastes and careless habits.

"I had been to the very best schools, but then I had studied, as most
girls in easy circumstances do, without a thought of using my
knowledge for any practical purpose. I could speak very fair English;
but how I did it, or why, I didn't know,--all the technical rules of
grammar had passed from my head like a dream. I could play a little on
the piano, and sing a few songs; but I did not know enough of music to
venture to propose myself as a teacher; and so with every other study.
All the situations of profit in the profession of teaching are now
crowded and blocked by girls who have been studying for that express
object,--and what could I hope among them?

"My mother-in-law was a smart, enterprising, driving woman of the
world, who told all her acquaintance that, of course, she should give
me a home, although I was no kind of relation to her, and who gave me
to understand that I was under infinite obligations to her on this
account, and must pay for the privilege by making myself generally
useful. I soon found that this meant doing a servant's work without
wages. During six months I filled, I may say, the place of a
seamstress and nursery governess to some very ungoverned children,
varying with occasional weeks of servant's work, when either the table
girl or the cook left a place vacant. For all this I received my
board, and some cast-off dresses and underclothes to make over for
myself. I was tired of this, and begged my stepmother to find me some
place where I could earn my own living. She was astonished and
indignant at the demand. When Providence had provided me a good home,
under respectable protection, she said, why should I ask to leave it?
For her part, she thought the situation of a young lady making herself
generally useful in domestic life, in the family of her near
connections, was a delightful one. She had no words to say how much
more respectable and proper it was thus to live in the circle of
family usefulness and protection, than to go out in the world looking
for employment.

"I did not suggest to her that the chief difference in the cases would
be, that in a hired situation I should have regular wages and regular
work; whereas in my present position it was irregular work, and no
wages.

"Her views on the subject were perhaps somewhat beclouded by the
extreme convenience she found in being able to go into company, and to
range about the city at all hours, unembarrassed by those family cares
which generally fall to the mistress, but which her views of what
constituted general usefulness devolved upon me.

"I had no retirement, no leisure, no fixed place anywhere. My bed was
in the nursery, where the children felt always free to come and go;
and even this I was occasionally requested to resign, to share the
couch of the housemaid, when sickness in the family or a surplus of
guests caused us to be crowded for room.

"I grew very unhappy, my health failed, and the demands upon me were
entirely beyond my strength, and without any consideration. The doer
of all the odds and ends in a family has altogether the most work and
least praise of any, as I discovered to my cost. I found one thing
after another falling into my long list of appointed duties, by a
regular progress. Thus first it would be, 'Mary, won't you see to the
dusting of the parlors? for Bridget is'--etc., etc.; this would be the
form for a week or two, and then, 'Mary, have you dusted the parlors?'
and at last, 'Mary, why have you not dusted the parlors?'

"As I said, I never studied anything to practical advantage; and
though I had been through arithmetic and algebra, I had never made any
particular use of my knowledge. But now, under the influence of
misfortune, my thoughts took an arithmetical turn. By inquiring among
the servants, I found that, in different families in the neighborhood,
girls were receiving three dollars a week for rendering just such
services as mine. Here was a sum of a hundred and fifty-six dollars
yearly, in ready money, put into their hands, besides their board, the
privilege of knowing their work exactly, and having a control of their
own time when certain definite duties were performed. Compared with
what I was doing and receiving, this was riches and ease and rest.

"After all, I thought to myself, why should not I find some
respectable, superior, motherly woman, and put myself under her as a
servant, make her my friend by good conduct, and have some regular
hours and some definite income, instead of wearing out my life in
service without pay? Nothing stood in my way but the traditionary
shadow of gentility, and I resolved it should not stop me.

"Years before, when I was only eight or ten years old, I had met your
mother with your family at the seaside, where my mother took me. I had
seen a great deal of her, and knew all about her. I remembered well
her habitual consideration for the nurses and servants in her employ.
I knew her address in Boston, and I resolved to try to find a refuge
in her family. And so there is my story. I left a note with my
stepmother, saying that I was going to seek independent employment,
and then went to Boston to your house. There I hoped to find a quiet
asylum,--at least, till I could hear from my aunt in Scotland. The
delay of hearing from her during those two years at your house often
made me low-spirited."

"But what made you so afraid of McPherson?" said I nervously. "I
remember your faintness, and all that, the day he called."

"Oh, that? Why, it was merely this,--they were on intimate visiting
terms with my mother-in-law, and I knew that it would be all up with
my plans if they were to be often at the house."

"Why didn't you tell my mother?" said I.

"I did think of it, but then"--She gave me a curious glance.

"But what, Mary?"

"Well, I could see plainly enough that there were no secrets between
you and her, and I did not wish to take so fine a young gentleman into
my confidence," said Mary. "You will observe I was not out seeking
flirtations, but an honest independence."

       *       *       *       *       *

My mother was apprised of our engagement in due form, and came to
Newport, all innocence, to call on Miss McIntyre, her intended
daughter-in-law. Her astonishment at the moment of introduction was
quite satisfactory to me.

For the rest, Mary's talents in making a home agreeable have had since
then many years of proof; and where any of the little domestic chasms
appear which are formed by the shifting nature of the American
working-class, she always slides into the place with a quiet grace,
and reminds me, with a humorous twinkle of the eye, that she is used
to being second girl.



A SCHOLAR'S ADVENTURES IN THE COUNTRY


"If we could only live in the country," said my wife, "how much easier
it would be to live!"

"And how much cheaper!" said I.

"To have a little place of our own, and raise our own things!" said my
wife. "Dear me! I am heartsick when I think of the old place at home,
and father's great garden. What peaches and melons we used to have!
what green peas and corn! Now one has to buy every cent's worth of
these things--and how they taste! Such wilted, miserable corn! Such
peas! Then, if we lived in the country, we should have our own cow,
and milk and cream in abundance; our own hens and chickens. We could
have custard and ice-cream every day."

"To say nothing of the trees and flowers, and all that," said I.

The result of this little domestic duet was that my wife and I began
to ride about the city of ---- to look up some pretty, interesting
cottage, where our visions of rural bliss might be realized. Country
residences, near the city, we found to bear rather a high price; so
that it was no easy matter to find a situation suitable to the length
of our purse; till, at last, a judicious friend suggested a happy
expedient.

"Borrow a few hundred," he said, "and give your note; you can save
enough, very soon, to make the difference. When you raise everything
you eat, you know it will make your salary go a wonderful deal
further."

"Certainly it will," said I. "And what can be more beautiful than to
buy places by the simple process of giving one's note?--'tis so neat,
and handy, and convenient!"

"Why," pursued my friend, "there is Mr. B., my next-door neighbor--'tis
enough to make one sick of life in the city to spend a week out on his
farm. Such princely living as one gets! And he assures me that it
costs him very little--scarce anything perceptible, in fact."

"Indeed!" said I; "few people can say that."

"Why," said my friend, "he has a couple of peach-trees for every
month, from June till frost, that furnish as many peaches as he, and
his wife, and ten children can dispose of. And then he has grapes,
apricots, etc.; and last year his wife sold fifty dollars' worth from
her strawberry patch, and had an abundance for the table besides. Out
of the milk of only one cow they had butter enough to sell three or
four pounds a week, besides abundance of milk and cream; and madam has
the butter for her pocket money. This is the way country people
manage."

"Glorious!" thought I. And my wife and I could scarcely sleep, all
night, for the brilliancy of our anticipations!

To be sure our delight was somewhat damped the next day by the
coldness with which my good old uncle, Jeremiah Standfast, who
happened along at precisely this crisis, listened to our visions.

"You'll find it pleasant, children, in the summer time," said the
hard-fisted old man, twirling his blue-checked pocket-handkerchief;
"but I'm sorry you've gone in debt for the land."

"Oh, but we shall soon save that--it's so much cheaper living in the
country!" said both of us together.

"Well, as to that, I don't think it is, to city-bred folks."

Here I broke in with a flood of accounts of Mr. B.'s peach-trees, and
Mrs. B.'s strawberries, butter, apricots, etc., etc.; to which the old
gentleman listened with such a long, leathery, unmoved quietude of
visage as quite provoked me, and gave me the worst possible opinion of
his judgment. I was disappointed, too; for as he was reckoned one of
the best practical farmers in the county, I had counted on an
enthusiastic sympathy with all my agricultural designs.

"I tell you what, children," he said, "a body can live in the country,
as you say, amazin' cheap; but then a body must _know how_,"--and my
uncle spread his pocket-handkerchief thoughtfully out upon his knees,
and shook his head gravely.

I thought him a terribly slow, stupid old body, and wondered how I had
always entertained so high an opinion of his sense.

"He is evidently getting old," said I to my wife; "his judgment is not
what it used to be."

At all events, our place was bought, and we moved out, well pleased,
the first morning in April, not at all remembering the ill savor of
that day for matters of wisdom. Our place was a pretty cottage, about
two miles from the city, with grounds that had been tastefully laid
out. There was no lack of winding paths, arbors, flower borders, and
rosebushes, with which my wife was especially pleased. There was a
little green lot, strolling off down to a brook, with a thick grove of
trees at the end, where our cow was to be pastured.

The first week or two went on happily enough in getting our little new
pet of a house into trimness and good order; for as it had been long
for sale, of course there was any amount of little repairs that had
been left to amuse the leisure hours of the purchaser. Here a doorstep
had given way, and needed replacing; there a shutter hung loose, and
wanted a hinge; abundance of glass needed setting; and as to painting
and papering, there was no end to that. Then my wife wanted a door cut
here, to make our bedroom more convenient, and a china closet knocked
up there, where no china closet before had been. We even ventured on
throwing out a bay-window from our sitting-room, because we had
luckily lighted on a workman who was so cheap that it was an actual
saving of money to employ him. And to be sure our darling little
cottage did lift up its head wonderfully for all this garnishing and
furbishing. I got up early every morning, and nailed up the
rosebushes, and my wife got up and watered geraniums, and both
flattered ourselves and each other on our early hours and thrifty
habits. But soon, like Adam and Eve in Paradise, we found our little
domain to ask more hands than ours to get it into shape. So says I to
my wife, "I will bring out a gardener when I come next time, and he
shall lay the garden out, and get it into order; and after that I can
easily keep it by the work of my leisure hours."

Our gardener was a very sublime sort of man,--an Englishman, and of
course used to laying out noblemen's places,--and we became as
grasshoppers in our own eyes when he talked of Lord This and That's
estate, and began to question us about our carriage drive and
conservatory; and we could with difficulty bring the gentleman down to
any understanding of the humble limits of our expectations; merely to
dress out the walks, and lay out a kitchen garden, and plant potatoes,
turnips, beets and carrots, was quite a descent for him. In fact, so
strong were his æsthetic preferences, that he persuaded my wife to let
him dig all the turf off from a green square opposite the bay window,
and to lay it out into divers little triangles, resembling small
pieces of pie, together with circles, mounds, and various other
geometrical ornaments, the planning and planting of which soon
engrossed my wife's whole soul. The planting of the potatoes, beets,
carrots, etc., was intrusted to a raw Irishman; for as to me, to
confess the truth, I began to fear that digging did not agree with me.
It is true that I was exceedingly vigorous at first, and actually
planted with my own hands two or three long rows of potatoes; after
which I got a turn of rheumatism in my shoulder, which lasted me a
week. Stooping down to plant beets and radishes gave me a vertigo, so
that I was obliged to content myself with a general superintendence
of the garden; that is to say, I charged my Englishman to see that my
Irishman did his duty properly, and then got on to my horse and rode
to the city. But about one part of the matter, I must say, I was not
remiss; and that is, in the purchase of seed and garden utensils. Not
a day passed that I did not come home with my pockets stuffed with
choice seeds, roots, etc.; and the variety of my garden utensils was
unequaled. There was not a priming hook of any pattern, not a hoe,
rake, or spade great or small, that I did not have specimens of; and
flower seeds and bulbs were also forthcoming in liberal proportions.
In fact, I had opened an account at a thriving seed store; for when a
man is driving business on a large scale, it is not always convenient
to hand out the change for every little matter, and buying things on
account is as neat and agreeable a mode of acquisition as paying bills
with one's notes.

"You know we must have a cow," said my wife, the morning of our second
week. Our friend the gardener, who had now worked with us at the rate
of two dollars a day for two weeks, was at hand in a moment in our
emergency. We wanted to buy a cow, and he had one to sell--a wonderful
cow, of a real English breed. He would not sell her for any money,
except to oblige particular friends; but as we had patronized him, we
should have her for forty dollars. How much we were obliged to him!
The forty dollars were speedily forthcoming, and so also was the cow.

"What makes her shake her head in that way?" said my wife, apprehensively,
as she observed the interesting beast making sundry demonstrations with
her horns. "I hope she's gentle."

The gardener fluently demonstrated that the animal was a pattern of
all the softer graces, and that this head-shaking was merely a little
nervous affection consequent on the embarrassment of a new position.
We had faith to believe almost anything at this time, and therefore
came from the barn yard to the house as much satisfied with our
purchase as Job with his three thousand camels and five hundred yoke
of oxen. Her quondam master milked her for us the first evening, out
of a delicate regard to her feelings as a stranger, and we fancied
that we discerned forty dollars' worth of excellence in the very
quality of the milk.

But alas! the next morning our Irish girl came in with a most rueful
face. "And is it milking that baste you'd have me be after?" she said;
"sure, and she won't let me come near her."

"Nonsense, Biddy!" said I; "you frightened her, perhaps; the cow is
perfectly gentle;" and with the pail on my arm I sallied forth. The
moment madam saw me entering the cow yard, she greeted me with a very
expressive flourish of her horns.

"This won't do," said I, and I stopped. The lady evidently was serious
in her intentions of resisting any personal approaches. I cut a
cudgel, and, putting on a bold face, marched towards her, while Biddy
followed with her milking stool. Apparently the beast saw the
necessity of temporizing, for she assumed a demure expression, and
Biddy sat down to milk. I stood sentry, and if the lady shook her head
I shook my stick; and thus the milking operation proceeded with
tolerable serenity and success.

"There!" said I, with dignity, when the frothing pail was full to the
brim. "That will do, Biddy," and I dropped my stick. Dump! came
madam's heel on the side of the pail, and it flew like a rocket into
the air, while the milky flood showered plentifully over me, and a new
broadcloth riding-coat that I had assumed for the first time that
morning. "Whew!" said I, as soon as I could get my breath from this
extraordinary shower bath; "what's all this?" My wife came running
towards the cow yard, as I stood with the milk streaming from my hair,
filling my eyes, and dropping from the tip of my nose; and she and
Biddy performed a recitative lamentation over me in alternate
strophes, like the chorus in a Greek tragedy. Such was our first
morning's experience; but as we had announced our bargain with some
considerable flourish of trumpets among our neighbors and friends, we
concluded to hush the matter up as much as possible.

"These very superior cows are apt to be cross," said I; "we must bear
with it as we do with the eccentricities of genius; besides, when she
gets accustomed to us, it will be better."

Madam was therefore installed into her pretty pasture lot, and my wife
contemplated with pleasure the picturesque effect of her appearance,
reclining on the green slope of the pasture lot, or standing ankle
deep in the gurgling brook, or reclining under the deep shadows of the
trees. She was, in fact, a handsome cow, which may account, in part,
for some of her sins; and this consideration inspired me with some
degree of indulgence towards her foibles.

But when I found that Biddy could never succeed in getting near her in
the pasture, and that any kind of success in the milking operations
required my vigorous personal exertions morning and evening, the
matter wore a more serious aspect, and I began to feel quite pensive
and apprehensive. It is very well to talk of the pleasures of the
milkmaid going out in the balmy freshness of the purple dawn; but
imagine a poor fellow pulled out of bed on a drizzly, rainy morning,
and equipping himself for a scamper through a wet pasture lot, rope in
hand, at the heels of such a termagant as mine! In fact, madam
established a regular series of exercises, which had all to be gone
through before she would suffer herself to be captured; as, first, she
would station herself plump in the middle of a marsh, which lay at the
lower part of the lot, and look very innocent and absent-minded, as if
reflecting on some sentimental subject. "Suke! Suke! Suke!" I
ejaculate, cautiously tottering along the edge of the marsh, and
holding out an ear of corn. The lady looks gracious, and comes
forward, almost within reach of my hand. I make a plunge to throw the
rope over her horns, and away she goes, kicking up mud and water into
my face in her flight, while I, losing my balance, tumble forward into
the marsh. I pick myself up, and, full of wrath, behold her placidly
chewing her cud on the other side, with the meekest air imaginable, as
who should say, "I hope you are not hurt, sir." I dash through swamp
and bog furiously, resolving to carry all by a _coup de main_. Then
follows a miscellaneous season of dodging, scampering, and bopeeping,
among the trees of the grove, interspersed with sundry occasional
races across the bog aforesaid. I always wondered how I caught her
every day; and when I had tied her head to one post and her heels to
another, I wiped the sweat from my brow, and thought I was paying dear
for the eccentricities of genius. A genius she certainly was, for
besides her surprising agility, she had other talents equally
extraordinary. There was no fence that she could not take down;
nowhere that she could not go. She took the pickets off the garden
fence at her pleasure, using her horns as handily as I could use a
claw hammer. Whatever she had a mind to, whether it were a bite in the
cabbage garden, or a run in the corn patch, or a foraging expedition
into the flower borders, she made herself equally welcome and at home.
Such a scampering and driving, such cries of "Suke here" and "Suke
there," as constantly greeted our ears, kept our little establishment
in a constant commotion. At last, when she one morning made a plunge
at the skirts of my new broadcloth frock coat, and carried off one
flap on her horns, my patience gave out, and I determined to sell
her.

As, however, I had made a good story of my misfortunes among my
friends and neighbors, and amused them with sundry whimsical accounts
of my various adventures in the cow-catching line, I found, when I
came to speak of selling, that there was a general coolness on the
subject, and nobody seemed disposed to be the recipient of my
responsibilities. In short, I was glad, at last, to get fifteen
dollars for her, and comforted myself with thinking that I had at
least gained twenty-five dollars worth of experience in the
transaction, to say nothing of the fine exercise.

I comforted my soul, however, the day after, by purchasing and
bringing home to my wife a fine swarm of bees.

"Your bee, now," says I, "is a really classical insect, and breathes
of Virgil and the Augustan age,--and then she is a domestic, tranquil,
placid creature. How beautiful the murmuring of a hive near our
honeysuckle of a calm, summer evening! Then they are tranquilly and
peacefully amassing for us their stores of sweetness, while they lull
us with their murmurs. What a beautiful image of disinterested
benevolence!"

My wife declared that I was quite a poet, and the beehive was duly
installed near the flower plots, that the delicate creatures might
have the full benefit of the honeysuckle and mignonette. My spirits
began to rise. I bought three different treatises on the rearing of
bees, and also one or two new patterns of hives, and proposed to rear
my bees on the most approved model. I charged all the establishment to
let me know when there was any indication of an emigrating spirit,
that I might be ready to receive the new swarm into my patent
mansion.

Accordingly, one afternoon, when I was deep in an article that I was
preparing for the "North American Review," intelligence was brought me
that a swarm had risen. I was on the alert at once, and discovered, on
going out, that the provoking creatures had chosen the top of a tree
about thirty feet high to settle on. Now my books had carefully
instructed me just how to approach the swarm and cover them with a
new hive; but I had never contemplated the possibility of the swarm
being, like Haman's gallows, forty cubits high. I looked despairingly
upon the smooth-bark tree, which rose, like a column, full twenty
feet, without branch or twig. "What is to be done?" said I, appealing
to two or three neighbors. At last, at the recommendation of one of
them, a ladder was raised against the tree, and, equipped with a shirt
outside of my clothes, a green veil over my head, and a pair of
leather gloves on my hands, I went up with a saw at my girdle to saw
off the branch on which they had settled, and lower it by a rope to a
neighbor, similarly equipped, who stood below with the hive.

As a result of this manoeuvre the fastidious little insects were at
length fairly installed at housekeeping in my new patent hive, and,
rejoicing in my success, I again sat down to my article.

That evening my wife and I took tea in our honeysuckle arbor, with our
little ones and a friend or two, to whom I showed my treasures, and
expatiated at large on the comforts and conveniences of the new patent
hive.

But alas for the hopes of man! The little ungrateful wretches--what
must they do but take advantage of my oversleeping myself, the next
morning, to clear out for new quarters without so much as leaving me a
P. P. C.! Such was the fact; at eight o'clock I found the new patent
hive as good as ever; but the bees I have never seen from that day to
this!

"The rascally little conservatives!" said I; "I believe they have
never had a new idea from the days of Virgil down, and are entirely
unprepared to appreciate improvements."

Meanwhile the seeds began to germinate in our garden, when we found,
to our chagrin, that, between John Bull and Paddy, there had occurred
sundry confusions in the several departments. Radishes had been
planted broadcast, carrots and beets arranged in hills, and here and
there a whole paper of seed appeared to have been planted bodily. My
good old uncle, who, somewhat to my confusion, made me a call at this
time, was greatly distressed and scandalized by the appearance of our
garden. But by a deal of fussing, transplanting, and replanting, it
was got into some shape and order. My uncle was rather troublesome, as
careful old people are apt to be--annoying us by perpetual inquiries
of what we gave for this and that, and running up provoking
calculations on the final cost of matters; and we began to wish that
his visits might be as short as would be convenient.

But when, on taking leave, he promised to send us a fine young cow of
his own raising, our hearts rather smote us for our impatience.

"'Tain't any of your new breeds, nephew," said the old man, "yet I can
say that she's a gentle, likely young crittur, and better worth forty
dollars than many a one that's cried up for Ayrshire or Durham; and
you shall be quite welcome to her."

We thanked him, as in duty bound, and thought that if he was full of
old-fashioned notions, he was no less full of kindness and good will.

And now, with a new cow, with our garden beginning to thrive under the
gentle showers of May, with our flower borders blooming, my wife and I
began to think ourselves in Paradise. But alas! the same sun and rain
that warmed our fruit and flowers brought up from the earth, like
sulky gnomes, a vast array of purple-leaved weeds, that almost in a
night seemed to cover the whole surface of the garden beds. Our
gardeners both being gone, the weeding was expected to be done by
me--one of the anticipated relaxations of my leisure hours.

"Well," said I, in reply to a gentle intimation from my wife, "when my
article is finished, I'll take a day and weed all up clean."

Thus days slipped by, till at length the article was dispatched, and I
proceeded to my garden. Amazement! Who could have possibly foreseen
that anything earthly could grow so fast in a few days! There were no
bounds, no alleys, no beds, no distinction of beet and carrot, nothing
but a flourishing congregation of weeds nodding and bobbing in the
morning breeze, as if to say, "We hope you are well, sir--we've got
the ground, you see!" I began to explore, and to hoe, and to weed. Ah!
did anybody ever try to clean a neglected carrot or beet bed, or bend
his back in a hot sun over rows of weedy onions! He is the man to feel
for my despair! How I weeded, and sweat, and sighed! till, when high
noon came on, as the result of all my toils, only three beds were
cleaned! And how disconsolate looked the good seed, thus unexpectedly
delivered from its sheltering tares, and laid open to a broiling July
sun! Every juvenile beet and carrot lay flat down wilted, and
drooping, as if, like me, they had been weeding, instead of being
weeded.

"This weeding is quite a serious matter," said I to my wife; "the fact
is, I must have help about it!"

"Just what I was myself thinking," said my wife. "My flower borders
are all in confusion, and my petunia mounds so completely overgrown,
that nobody would dream what they were meant for!"

In short, it was agreed between us that we could not afford the
expense of a full-grown man to keep our place; yet we must reinforce
ourselves by the addition of a boy, and a brisk youngster from the
vicinity was pitched upon as the happy addition. This youth was a
fellow of decidedly quick parts, and in one forenoon made such a
clearing in our garden that I was delighted. Bed after bed appeared to
view, all cleared and dressed out with such celerity that I was quite
ashamed of my own slowness, until, on examination, I discovered that
he had, with great impartiality, pulled up both weeds and vegetables.

This hopeful beginning was followed up by a succession of proceedings
which should be recorded for the instruction of all who seek for help
from the race of boys. Such a loser of all tools, great and small;
such an invariable leaver-open of all gates, and letter-down of bars;
such a personification of all manner of anarchy and ill luck, had
never before been seen on the estate. His time, while I was gone to
the city, was agreeably diversified with roosting on the fence,
swinging on the gates, making poplar whistles for the children,
hunting eggs, and eating whatever fruit happened to be in season, in
which latter accomplishment he was certainly quite distinguished.
After about three weeks of this kind of joint gardening, we concluded
to dismiss Master Tom from the firm, and employ a man.

"Things must be taken care of," said I, "and I cannot do it. 'Tis out
of the question." And so the man was secured.

But I am making a long story, and may chance to outrun the sympathies
of my readers. Time would fail me to tell of the distresses manifold
that fell upon me--of cows dried up by poor milkers; of hens that
wouldn't set at all, and hens that, despite all law and reason, would
set on one egg; of hens that, having hatched families, straightway led
them into all manner of high grass and weeds, by which means numerous
young chicks caught premature colds and perished; and how, when I,
with manifold toil, had driven one of these inconsiderate gadders into
a coop, to teach her domestic habits, the rats came down upon her and
slew every chick in one night; how my pigs were always practicing
gymnastic exercises over the fence of the sty, and marauding in the
garden. I wonder that Fourier never conceived the idea of having his
garden land ploughed by pigs; for certainly they manifest quite a
decided elective attraction for turning up the earth.

When autumn came, I went soberly to market, in the neighboring city,
and bought my potatoes and turnips like any other man; for, between
all the various systems of gardening pursued, I was obliged to confess
that my first horticultural effort was a decided failure. But though
all my rural visions had proved illusive, there were some very
substantial realities. My bill at the seed store, for seeds, roots,
and tools, for example, had run up to an amount that was perfectly
unaccountable; then there were various smaller items, such as
horseshoeing, carriage mending--for he who lives in the country and
does business in the city must keep his vehicle and appurtenances. I
had always prided myself on being an exact man, and settling every
account, great and small, with the going out of the old year; but this
season I found myself sorely put to it. In fact, had not I received a
timely lift from my good old uncle, I should have made a complete
break down. The old gentleman's troublesome habit of ciphering and
calculating, it seems, had led him beforehand to foresee that I was
not exactly in the money-making line, nor likely to possess much
surplus revenue to meet the note which I had given for my place; and,
therefore, he quietly paid it himself, as I discovered, when, after
much anxiety and some sleepless nights, I went to the holder to ask
for an extension of credit.

"He was right, after all," said I to my wife; "'to live cheap in the
country, a body must know how.'"



TRIALS OF A HOUSEKEEPER


I have a detail of very homely grievances to present; but such as they
are, many a heart will feel them to be heavy--the trials of a
housekeeper.

"Poh!" says one of the lords of creation, taking his cigar out of his
mouth, and twirling it between his two first fingers, "what a fuss
these women do make of this simple matter of managing a family! I
can't see for my life as there is anything so extraordinary to be done
in this matter of housekeeping: only three meals a day to be got and
cleared off--and it really seems to take up the whole of their mind
from morning till night. _I_ could keep house without so much of a
flurry, I know."

Now, prithee, good brother, listen to my story, and see how much you
know about it. I came to this enlightened West about a year since, and
was duly established in a comfortable country residence within a mile
and a half of the city, and there commenced the enjoyment of domestic
felicity. I had been married about three months, and had been,
previously _in love_ in the most approved romantic way, with all the
proprieties of moonlight walks, serenades, sentimental billets doux,
and everlasting attachment.

After having been allowed, as I said, about three months to get over
this sort of thing, and to prepare for realities, I was located for
life as aforesaid. My family consisted of myself and husband, a female
friend as a visitor, and two brothers of my good man, who were engaged
with him in business.

I pass over the first two or three days, spent in that process of
hammering boxes, breaking crockery, knocking things down and picking
them up again, which is commonly called getting to housekeeping. As
usual, carpets were sewed and stretched, laid down, and taken up to be
sewed over; things were formed, and _re_formed, _trans_formed, and
_con_formed, till at last a settled order began to appear. But now
came up the great point of all. During our confusion we had cooked and
eaten our meals in a very miscellaneous and pastoral manner, eating
now from the top of a barrel, and now from a fireboard laid on two
chairs, and drinking, some from teacups, and some from saucers, and
some from tumblers, and some from a pitcher big enough to be drowned
in, and sleeping, some on sofas, and some on straggling beds and
mattresses thrown down here and there wherever there was room. All
these pleasant barbarities were now at an end. The house was in order,
the dishes put up in their places; three regular meals were to be
administered in one day, all in an orderly, civilized form; beds were
to be made, rooms swept and dusted, dishes washed, knives scoured, and
all the et cetera to be attended to. Now for getting "help," as Mrs.
Trollope says; and where and how were we to get it? We knew very few
persons in the city; and how were we to accomplish the matter? At
length the "house of employment" was mentioned; and my husband was
dispatched thither regularly every day for a week, while I, in the
mean time, was very nearly _dispatched_ by the abundance of work at
home. At length, one evening, as I was sitting completely exhausted,
thinking of resorting to the last feminine expedient for supporting
life, viz., a good fit of crying, my husband made his appearance, with
a most triumphant air, at the door. "There, Margaret, I have got you a
couple at last--cook and chambermaid." So saying, he flourished open
the door, and gave to my view the picture of a little, dry,
snuffy-looking old woman, and a great, staring Dutch girl, in a green
bonnet with red ribbons, with mouth wide open, and hands and feet
that would have made a Greek sculptor open _his_ mouth too. I
addressed forthwith a few words of encouragement to each of this
cultivated-looking couple, and proceeded to ask their names; and
forthwith the old woman began to snuffle and to wipe her face with
what was left of an old silk pocket-handkerchief preparatory to
speaking, while the young lady opened her mouth wider, and looked
around with a frightened air, as if meditating an escape. After some
preliminaries, however, I found out that my old woman was Mrs.
Tibbins, and my Hebe's name was _Kotterin_; also, that she knew much
more Dutch than English, and not any too much of either. The old lady
was the cook. I ventured a few inquiries. "Had she ever cooked?"

"Yes, ma'am, sartain; she had lived at two or three places in the
city."

"I suspect, my dear," said my husband confidently, "that she is an
experienced cook, and so your troubles are over;" and he went to
reading his newspaper. I said no more, but determined to wait till
morning. The breakfast, to be sure, did not do much honor to the
talents of my official; but it was the first time, and the place was
new to her. After breakfast was cleared away I proceeded to give
directions for dinner; it was merely a plain joint of meat, I said, to
be roasted in the tin oven. The experienced cook looked at me with a
stare of entire vacuity. "The tin oven," I repeated, "stands there,"
pointing to it.

She walked up to it, and touched it with such an appearance of
suspicion as if it had been an electrical battery, and then looked
round at me with a look of such helpless ignorance that my soul was
moved. "I never see one of them things before," said she.

"Never saw a tin oven!" I exclaimed. "I thought you said you had
cooked in two or three families."

"They does not have such things as them, though," rejoined my old
lady. Nothing was to be done, of course, but to instruct her into the
philosophy of the case; and having spitted the joint, and given
numberless directions, I walked off to my room to superintend the
operations of Kotterin, to whom I had committed the making of my bed
and the sweeping of my room, it never having come into my head that
there could be a wrong way of making a bed; and to this day it is a
marvel to me how any one could arrange pillows and quilts to make such
a nondescript appearance as mine now presented. One glance showed me
that Kotterin also was "_just caught_," and that I had as much to do
in her department as in that of my old lady.

Just then the doorbell rang. "Oh, there is the doorbell," I exclaimed.
"Run, Kotterin, and show them into the parlor."

Kotterin started to run, as directed, and then stopped, and stood
looking round on all the doors and on me with a wofully puzzled air.
"The street door," said I, pointing towards the entry. Kotterin
blundered into the entry, and stood gazing with a look of stupid
wonder at the bell ringing without hands, while I went to the door and
let in the company before she could be fairly made to understand the
connection between the ringing and the phenomenon of admission.

As dinner time approached, I sent word into my kitchen to have it set
on; but recollecting the state of the heads of department there, I
soon followed my own orders. I found the tin oven standing out in the
middle of the kitchen, and my cook seated _à la Turc_ in front of it,
contemplating the roast meat with full as puzzled an air as in the
morning. I once more explained the mystery of taking it off, and
assisted her to get it on to the platter, though somewhat cooled by
having been so long set out for inspection. I was standing holding the
spit in my hands, when Kotterin, who had heard the doorbell ring, and
was determined this time to be in season, ran into the hall, and,
soon returning, opened the kitchen door, and politely ushered in three
or four fashionable looking ladies, exclaiming, "Here she is." As
these were strangers from the city, who had come to make their first
call, this introduction was far from proving an eligible one--the look
of thunderstruck astonishment with which I greeted their first
appearance, as I stood brandishing the spit, and the terrified
snuffling and staring of poor Mrs. Tibbins, who again had recourse to
her old pocket-handkerchief, almost entirely vanquished their gravity,
and it was evident that they were on the point of a broad laugh; so,
recovering my self-possession, I apologized, and led the way to the
parlor.

Let these few incidents be a specimen of the four mortal weeks
that I spent with these "helps," during which time I did almost as
much work, with twice as much anxiety, as when there was nobody
there; and yet everything went wrong besides. The young gentlemen
complained of the patches of starch grimed to their collars, and the
streaks of black coal ironed into their dickies, while one week every
pocket-handkerchief in the house was starched so stiff that you
might as well have carried an earthen plate in your pocket; the
tumblers looked muddy; the plates were never washed clean or wiped dry
unless I attended to each one; and as to eating and drinking, we
experienced a variety that we had not before considered possible.

At length the old woman vanished from the stage, and was succeeded by
a knowing, active, capable damsel, with a temper like a steel-trap,
who remained with me just one week, and then went off in a fit of
spite. To her succeeded a rosy, good-natured, merry lass, who broke
the crockery, burned the dinner, tore the clothes in ironing, and
knocked down everything that stood in her way about the house, without
at all discomposing herself about the matter. One night she took the
stopper from a barrel of molasses, and came singing off upstairs,
while the molasses ran soberly out into the cellar bottom all night,
till by morning it was in a state of universal emancipation. Having
done this, and also dispatched an entire set of tea things by letting
the waiter fall, she one day made her disappearance.

Then, for a wonder, there fell to my lot a tidy, efficient, trained
English girl; pretty, and genteel, and neat, and knowing how to do
everything, and with the sweetest temper in the world. "Now," said I
to myself, "I shall rest from my labors." Everything about the house
began to go right, and looked as clean and genteel as Mary's own
pretty self. But, alas! this period of repose was interrupted by the
vision of a clever, trim-looking young man, who for some weeks could
be heard scraping his boots at the kitchen door every Sunday night;
and at last Miss Mary, with some smiling and blushing, gave me to
understand that she must leave in two weeks.

"Why, Mary," said I, feeling a little mischievous, "don't you like the
place?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am."

"Then why do you look for another?"

"I am not going to another place."

"What, Mary, are you going to learn a trade?"

"No, ma'am."

"Why, then, what do you mean to do?"

"I expect to keep house myself, ma'am," said she, laughing and
blushing.

"Oh ho!" said I, "that is it;" and so in two weeks I lost the best
little girl in the world: peace to her memory.

After this came an interregnum, which put me in mind of the chapter in
Chronicles that I used to read with great delight when a child, where
Basha, and Elah, and Tibni, and Zimri, and Omri, one after the other,
came on to the throne of Israel, all in the compass of half a dozen
verses. We had one old woman, who stayed a week, and went away with
the misery in her tooth; one young woman, who ran away and got
married; one cook, who came at night and went off before light in the
morning; one very clever girl, who stayed a month, and then went away
because her mother was sick; another, who stayed six weeks, and was
taken with the fever herself; and during all this time, who can speak
the damage and destruction wrought in the domestic paraphernalia by
passing through these multiplied hands?

What shall we do? Shall we give up houses, have no furniture to take
care of, keep merely a bag of meal, a porridge pot, and a pudding
stick, and sit in our tent door in real patriarchal independence? What
shall we do?





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