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Title: Nooks and Corners - being the companion volume to From Kitchen to Garret
Author: Panton, J. (Jane) E. (Ellen)
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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                           NOOKS AND CORNERS

                              PRINTED BY
                SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
                                LONDON

                    [Illustration: A French Window]



                           NOOKS AND CORNERS

                     BEING THE COMPANION VOLUME TO

                       ‘FROM KITCHEN TO GARRET’

                                  BY

                             J. E. PANTON

                               AUTHOR OF
   ‘BY-PATHS AND CROSS-ROADS’ ‘THE CURATE’S WIFE’ ‘A TANGLED CHAIN’
                 ‘COUNTRY SKETCHES IN BLACK AND WHITE’
                                 ETC.

                             _ILLUSTRATED_

                                London

                             WARD & DOWNEY

                     12 YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN

                                 1889

                        [_All rights reserved_]



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

I. MOVING HOUSE                                                        1

II. HALLS AND PASSAGES                                                23

III. NOOKS AND CORNERS                                                48

IV. THE BILLIARD-ROOM AND LIBRARY                                     84

V. SHALL WE DO AWAY WITH THE NURSERY?                                 99

VI. THE GIRLS’ ROOM                                                  113

VII. COMING-OUT AND DRESS                                            133

VIII. CHRISTENINGS AND WEDDINGS                                      153

IX. ABOUT THE BOYS                                                   172

X. SOME DOMESTIC DETAILS                                             190

XI. THE SICK ROOM                                                    209

XII. WHERE SHALL WE GO FOR A CHANGE?                                 227



ILLUSTRATIONS


A FRENCH WINDOW                                            _Frontispiece_

FIGS.                                                               PAGE

1. HALL ARRANGEMENT                                                   25

2. OAK BUFFET                                                         28

3. STAIRCASE WINDOW                                                   40

4. A LONDON LANDING                                                   41

5, 6. HALL WARDROBES                                              44, 45

7. A SUMMER CORNER                                                    53

8. A WINTER CORNER                                                    60

9. ARCHES FOR A DOUBLE ROOM                                           63

10. SIMPLE MANTEL DRAPING                                             66

11. A RECESS                                                          69

12. A DRAPED PIANO                                                    72

13. CONSERVATORY DOOR                                                 74

14. FRILLED CHAIRS AND SOFA                                           81

15. AN EMPTY NURSERY                                                 103

16. BOUDOIR-BEDROOM                                                  121

17. AN IDEAL KITCHEN                                                 205



NOOKS AND CORNERS.



CHAPTER I.

MOVING HOUSE.


I have been asked by a great many readers of ‘From Kitchen to Garret’ to
produce another book on the ever fascinating subject of household
management and house decoration; and I have been furthermore requested
to consider Edwin and Angelina from another standpoint, and to regard
them as having increased their borders in more ways than one, and,
having become richer and at the same time more numerous, as now
beginning to move from their small house, furnished so joyfully and
hopefully in the early flush of their married happiness, to one larger
in every way, and more suited to their present income and growing
family.

I confess that I begin my task with just a little diffidence, and a
little misgiving, too, and feel just a wee bit as sad over the beginning
of this little volume as I know my young couples must feel when, no
longer quite as young as they were, they turn their backs on that dear
little first home, and take up their abode in the newer, far more
convenient habitation, welcomed so joyfully by the children, who declare
that now, and now only, they will have room in which to breathe!

For, successful as ‘From Kitchen to Garret’ is, and many as are the
friends I have made through its pages, I am rather doubtful about
another book on the same lines; still, I can but do my best, and so,
without any more forewords on the matter, I will at once plunge into my
subject, and will trust that all those who have made their little houses
pretty by either following or improving on the hints given in my first
book will not disdain to follow me once more into those Nooks and
Corners of house-furnishing and house-keeping, which were deemed too
ambitious for my young couple, or were forgotten in the first essay on
the subject.

Besides which, as life goes on, I am thankful to say that decoration
becomes more and more a fine art.

Formerly people rather scorned the idea of being ‘house-proud’ in the
same manner in which all are nowadays. Their house-pride was merely
expressed in the amount of gilding compressed into a single room; in the
thickness of their carpets, the heaviness of their draperies, and the
general costliness of the plenishing, and the amount of money these
things had cost was far more often spoken of than anything else; while
the name of the upholsterer was mentioned, not as a guarantee that taste
and skill had been called into action, but as a proof that money in this
case had not been an object. Formerly, did I say? Alas! cases still
exist of this heavy and depressing style of thing! Money is poured out
like water on carpets that are nightmares, and on papers that are as
absolutely meaningless as they are ugly, and the despair of anyone who
is called in, as I am constantly, to mitigate the horrors of some
gigantic monument of bad taste and lavish expenditure.

And then, too, people are still, as a rule, far too timid, and act far
too much in a hurry; they believe far too much in the upholsterer, and
far too little in themselves; and above all they cannot get out of the
terrible English habit, carried through every single department in life,
of buying a thing because they admire it, and not because it suits what
they already possess, thus marring at every step their chances of having
a home which is always a pleasure to inhabit, and a restful refuge from
the cares and toils of life.

But it is to assist the timid and those who lack confidence in their own
tastes, and furthermore who may live in distant country places, where
nothing new penetrates even in these days of parcel-posts and
illustrated newspapers, that I am writing this book, and wrote ‘From
Kitchen to Garret,’ and therefore I must not scold but rather encourage
those who would add to the beauty of their surroundings, but do not
quite know how to set about it: and I am most anxious that there may
soon be no house anywhere in England that may not have some claim to be
considered beautiful or interesting or pretty; for indeed there is no
reason why the humblest among us may not have a charming home, as
certainly, if he or she have taste, money nowadays is not a barrier
between beauty and the public at large. Therefore when any among my
readers makes up her mind that it is absolutely necessary that a move
should be made, the first piece of advice I would give her is that she
should determine on her future locality, if not on the abode itself,
before she is driven from her first house by the lapsing of a lease or
the necessity of deciding immediately because a tenant is forthcoming
for house number one; for if not, she may find herself forced into an
uncongenial neighbourhood or into a house that has every unpleasant
quality under the sun. Above all she must be prepared for a certain
amount of acute misery, mental, at any rate, if not physical, for there
is something about one’s first married home that one can never really
replace, and that renders our fitting into our new locality only a
little less torturing than inhabiting a new skin would be, were we
suddenly forced into one.

Personally I am not one bit sentimental; I never cried over a faded
flower, or lay awake weeping bitter tears over an unhappy love-affair: I
never had one, I am thankful to say. Neither have I hoarded first shoes,
snippings of baby curls, nor indeed anything save my wedding-dress,
which is a most valuable ‘property’ for characters and private
theatricals of all kinds; and therefore I am considered absolutely
lacking in ‘fine feelings,’ and unhampered by ‘nonsense’; but I have
never yet become reconciled to the moves we have had to make after our
first twelve years of married life, and I much doubt now if I ever
shall; I certainly shall not until I make move number three, and what is
perhaps the most curious point in the whole business is that I did not
like the house, nor the town, nor indeed anything much about it, and
yet I can never see certain looks in the sky, scent certain odours,
without being transported to dear dull Dorsetshire, and without longing
in a curious home-sick way for the marvellously lovely range of the
Purbeck hills, which haunts me like a dream, and for which I am
convinced I should positively pine, had I the smallest touch of
sentiment in my composition.

The house itself was most wretchedly inconvenient, the furniture of over
twenty years ago--aye, and some of it over fifty years ago--does not
bear thinking about in these æsthetic days. I endured dullness such as
only a London girl, plunged suddenly into an atmosphere she could not
comprehend, much less assimilate, could experience: we had three years
of unspeakable worries; and yet, with it all--with its hideous rooms and
its cold and ugly passages, its out-of-the-worldness, and its unpleasant
associations--there is something about it that no other house can ever
hold, and that causes me often and often to dream I am there again, or
that makes me hear sometimes on a quiet night the old sound of the
sudden clash of the china closet door, the opening of the door at the
top of the kitchen stairs--which, I believe, has been taken away now by
desecrating hands, and which had a sound all its own--or that causes me
to wake suddenly from sleep to wonder at the late return of phantom
waggons and ghostly horses over stones that are hundreds of miles away
from our present uncongenial abode, and which caused sounds inseparable
from thoughts of those dear dead days--days I would have back this
moment if I could, if only to live them over once more in a manner a
thousand times better than an inexperienced girl could ever do, and use
then the experience one buys at such an enormous cost because one will
not listen to words of wisdom from those who have lived so very much
longer in the world than we had then, and which is useless now, because
one sees all too late what one might have done for others.

These experiences and reminiscences of mine may seem out of place here,
but they really are not. I shall in this book, as in my last, speak only
of what I have experienced; and I am so convinced that when house-moving
is done heartbreak must ensue that I dwell upon this aspect of the case
in order that the first house may not be left capriciously, but only
because it is absolutely necessary to go elsewhere.

I have always felt myself, unsentimental creature though I am, that a
house absorbs some of one’s own personality: that the very walls we warm
with our breathing, living selves, and among which we spend our lives,
and allow ourselves to be ourselves without any company veneer, must in
some measure become impregnated by our vitality. You may, for example,
re-paper and re-furnish your room, but in a very short time that room
looks exactly like you once more, and becomes again in a week or two--a
month, at most--part and parcel of your own individuality. But leave
your house, and, if you can muster sufficient courage to do so, go and
call on the next inhabitant, and you will see in one moment what I mean.
The very room is altered. Your successors may have kept your
decorations, taken off your ‘fixtures,’ and gone on the very same lines
as regards furnishing and arrangement as you did, but it will not look
in the very least like you, and you will not believe you are in the same
room in which you have spent so many happy and unhappy hours. At first,
therefore, in any new house you have not only to adapt yourself and your
furniture to it, but you have by your individuality to imprint yourself
on the very fabric itself.

The last owner’s individuality fades at once; I have seen few empty
houses that do not look precisely like something dead: the body is
there, but the spirit is absent. And there is a blank awful chill about
such a house that penetrates one’s very soul and depresses one in an
extraordinary way; but it takes some time to reanimate the body, and,
indeed, in an unloved atmosphere I question if it is ever done. Some
folk the house won’t have at any price, and there are one or two places
I wot of that are blank still, because uncongenial people have them and
are incapable of living up to them properly; they put just the wrong
draperies in the windows, wrench the doors round into the wrong places,
and finally have hung the very worst colours on the walls, and, indeed,
have treated it in such an inconsiderate way that it never responds, and
remains silent, angular, unsatisfied, dead, as long as those people
remain within its shelter.

Angelina, when she really must move therefore, must remember to think
over all these details.

I envy everyone myself who has a really inherited house--a house which
has absorbed the family atmosphere for centuries, that has never been
passed from hand to hand and from family to family until it has no
recollection of who built it or what it was built for; a house for which
it is an intense and real pleasure to plan improvements, to deck as one
would deck a child of one’s own, knowing that what we spent on it or did
for it would benefit and please not only ourselves but those who are to
come after us. Yes; hopeless Radical as I am in everything else, I am
Conservative indeed in the house I would have if I could; but in these
days of progress, when most people grow rich, and many only use their
dwelling-place as a shelter, and don’t think of it as a home, I am
constantly being pained to see retired city men and lawyers--the two
classes which become really wealthy, taking over the delightful places
which once owned ‘county families,’ and ruining the society round with
their ostentation and the ridiculous airs only found in suburban places
where ‘society’ so-called consists of ‘twopence three-farthings looking
down on twopence,’ while the poor houses themselves are ruined too by
utterly inappropriate furnishing and by decorations suitable only for an
ordinary ‘mansion,’ furnished by giving _carte blanche_ to some
enterprising and advertising tradesman.

Should Angelina have made her first home in the family dwelling-place,
she will never have to learn what moving house really means. She can
allow her roots to sink as deeply as she likes into the kindly soil, and
she can make it all as charming as she will, because she will know that
all she does will only benefit her own; but as there are indeed few
nowadays who can contemplate this (for even the absorbers of the old
places round London never think of the generation behind them, and often
and often cut up the land for eligible building sites, with as little
compunction as one cuts up a cake at a school-feast: only taking care it
shall go as far as it can), we need not dwell on this aspect of the
case, but on the one that should be the motive of this chapter, namely,
moving house.

If you are tolerably happy in the neighbourhood you know, pray take my
advice and remain there; there are sure to be discomforts of some kind
or other in any locality. I have never yet come across anyone who was
perfectly satisfied with his or her belongings; certainly I have never
met anyone who had not bitter complaint to make about the special
locality he or she inhabited, and yet who did not ruffle up their
feathers the moment any stranger found fault with it. But a
neighbourhood is like a house, and requires locally knowing; and if we
are for ever changing our neighbourhood, we can never feel at home
anywhere.

No doubt it is an unfashionable idea nowadays, this clinging to one
place; but I think, if more consideration were given to the subject,
life would be much better than it is at present, for far more good can
be done by those who are able to help their poorer neighbours, should
they remain year after year in the same place; for they are thus enabled
to know them thoroughly, to sift the deserving from the hopeless, and
finally to interest themselves in such a way in the real life around
them that the place in which fate has placed them is in some measure
better for their having made their home there. And this cannot be done
satisfactorily by mere birds of passage, who have no ‘vested interests’
in the place, and are ready to be off at a minute’s notice, just because
they think a change would be nice.

And once having made up your minds that a change of house is imperative,
I advise you to ponder seriously and at great length over the pros and
cons of a residence in the same neighbourhood, before finally
determining to plant your roots elsewhere. I think what makes a
residence in the suburbs almost unendurable is this mania for change,
for we no sooner begin to know people there and like them than we find
they are becoming uneasy; they fancy the place is unhealthy, someone has
been rude, the nicest people have not called--as if the nicest people
ever did rush to call without introductions of some sort or other--and
they are off impatiently before they have entered into the life of a
place they condemn ruthlessly because they do not really know what it is
like.

How long does it take to know a place? Well, if you are lucky enough to
go there with really good introductions, I should think six months; if
you know no one, and are dependent on chance, or the vicar of the
parish, you may never know it at all; but, in ordinary cases, and where
people have had their edges clipped by really good society, you ought to
know quite as many people as you wish to in about three years.

Therefore, if you have begun your residence in the suburbs, and have a
nice church, a nice doctor, and nice friends, stay there; you don’t know
how deeply your roots are planted until you begin to drag them up. If
you are a Londoner, on no account be persuaded by artistic accounts of
country delights to leave your beloved pavements and the exquisite
freedom of a town life and surroundings: and if you are born and have
lived among cabbages and roses--if you love the country, and can
interest yourself mildly in the continual changes that are going on
around you in your neighbours’ houses and the cottages round
about--remain there; and be thankful for tastes which are innocent if
they are circumscribed, and often result in a far nobler life than that
made up mostly from excitement and dissipation; because anyone who can
and will live cheerfully in the country, making work for the labourer,
and employing folk in pure air, and in decent habitations, does much
more for the human race than he wots of, and should be encouraged to do
so in any manner that one possibly can.

I am often being told that the country is a far cheaper place to live in
than London; but I have tried both, and I know better. In the first
place, in London you can do precisely what you like, and, provided your
likes are not openly eccentric, no one will interfere with you. You can
have ten friends or ten thousand acquaintances. You may wear one dress
as long as it will hold together, and no one will doubt your
capabilities of being respectable because of your shabby attire. You may
get up when you like, go to bed when you like, need not give to any
charity if you are not charitably disposed, need not keep a carriage,
because you can at any moment hail any vehicle, and go anywhere you
like; and, above all, can be so easily amused, and at so cheap a rate,
that one need hardly put down ‘amusements’ in our schedule at all.

Now in the country we must have some sort of a carriage if we wish to
get outside our own immediate neighbourhood and mix with our
fellow-creatures; from the humble ‘four-wheel’ of the farmer’s wife,
and the curate’s donkey-cart, to the landau, waggonette, or smart little
victoria of the other richer folk: all must have some other means of
progression than would be afforded by one’s own legs. Our incomes are
common property, and, should we have two new dresses in the course of
the year, are a prey for all those dear creatures who spend their time
in being charitable on other folk’s money. We must have a garden, and we
obtain a scant supply of worm-eaten fruit, inferior flowers, and
out-of-season vegetables, at a price for which we could have obtained
the very best stores of Covent Garden--for by out-of-season I don’t mean
that our pears and asparagus come before their time, but considerably
after the period when they have become cheap in the market in London;
and, finally, we cannot be amused without half ruining ourselves by
constant rushes to town, by subscribing largely to Mudie, and by taking
in every newspaper we can lay our hands on if we are readers, and if we
are fond of finery, by sending for constant new garments, not because we
want them, but because we really want to see what is being worn. Of
course rates, rents, and taxes are much less in the country; but rent in
London is less than it used to be, and in unfashionable neighbourhoods
is not too exorbitant; but even with the rent considered, I still
maintain one can live more cheaply in London than elsewhere, and can
most certainly live longer there and far more pleasantly.

So I do most strongly advise country mice to remain country mice, unless
they make the change very young; and I implore town mice to cling to
their pavements, for nothing short of a residence for generations in the
country can teach one how to live under the microscope which is put over
one the moment a stranger goes into the country to live, and nothing
save being born to it could ever reconcile one to having one’s most
intimate personal concerns discussed at the bar of every public house,
over every shop counter, in every parlour, as they are discussed in an
ordinary rural place, or to having one’s most innocent speeches repeated
until one would certainly not recognise them, did they return to us
after their last repetition.

I declare that twenty years of residence in and about the country have
never reconciled me to all this, or caused me to take the profound
interest in my turn in my neighbours, in the way that aborigines do to
reconcile and repay themselves for their own sojourn under the
microscope, and which a country born and bred individual takes as
naturally as he does his absence from the theatres, and his utter lack
of interest on any other topic than the ever-absorbing one of ‘who is
going to marry whom,’ or who is not, and what the curate’s last baby was
called, and why that special name was selected; and, therefore, I never
lose an opportunity of warning the ducks to remain in the pond, and the
hens in the farmyard where they were hatched, for I am quite sure my
experience is not a solitary one by any means, and has often been the
fate of those who went into the country because no one warned them that
the delights thereof were mere snares and delusions, and who would give
anything to return, only they cannot afford another move.

And I have no doubt that the country mice are as miserable in the town
in their turn: they miss the intimate conversations, the familiarity of
their friendships; they pine for fresh air, and weep over ‘smuts;’ the
noise and bustle we love so dearly bewilders and distresses them; they
object to putting on gloves and a bonnet whenever they go out, resent
being unable to ‘run in’ at any moment to their acquaintances, dread the
streets, see disease lurking at every corner, in every glass of milk, in
each vestment fresh from the laundress, and, pining away, become pale,
ill, and wretched, and put it down to London, when really the misery
lies entirely in themselves.

Have I said enough to show my readers that when they are contemplating a
move they should do their utmost to remain in the same neighbourhood, or
at all events in one with the main workings of which they are in a
measure familiar? I think so; and if at the same time I tell them to
remember the church where their children were christened, the doctor who
helped them over so many hours of pain and trouble, and finally the
friends they made--and old friends should never be given up on any
account whatever--I believe they will see that a change even for the
better has always its trials, and that a great many things should be
considered before up-rooting takes place, and a family is landed in an
entirely new locality, that, be it as nice as it may be, has its own
interests, in which the new-comer has neither part nor parcel, and its
unwritten laws and small rules of etiquette, which are as rigid as they
are incomprehensible to an outsider.

I think in every neighbourhood there should be also some agent to send
out lists of all the pros and cons, the ins and outs of a neighbourhood,
which should show you at once the number and styles of the different
churches, the state of society (it could be ‘young,’ ‘army,’ ‘lawyers,’
or anything almost), the schools, the advantages and disadvantages, and,
in fact, all the particulars one wants to know. They should truthfully
and in confidence give one all the required information, and then one
would not run the risk of making mistakes. But as this seems impossible,
a residence for a short time in a furnished house (one’s own house could
in turn be let to some one who wants to investigate our neighbourhood)
should be indulged in. A very few weeks would inform us of all we want
to know; for even if we did not become acquainted with one soul
personally, we should have looked at the people and taken stock of their
windows, from which I think one can always learn so much, and can
quietly make our own inquiries about schools, churches, and the rest of
the vital points of interest about a new residence, and come as quietly
to the conclusion as to whether the neighbourhood will suit us or not,
before going to the expense of moving and decorating to suit ourselves
and our belongings--an expense which once incurred often binds us hard
and fast to a place from which we would give our ears to remove.

Then comes the question of the house. This should be large enough to
take all the family and allow for any possible additions; but at the
same time Angelina will have to remember that when the boys are at
school there will always be a room for a friend, and therefore the
question of spare rooms is not such a vital one as it was. She will also
have to legislate for the girls’ own room--probably a room for a
governess, though a resident governess should be avoided unless the
house is a good size, and unless she is an absolute necessity. There is
the schoolroom to think of, and she must contemplate--perhaps
ruefully--the nurseries, with an eye to adapting them to another
purpose, when that saddest of all days comes when we cannot deceive
ourselves into believing a nursery is any longer necessary, and we have
to turn our backs on our youth and the dear small child-inhabitants at
the same time. A house without a nursery is never as joyous or lively as
one that possesses such a room, and it’s no use trying to believe this
to be the case. Still it is equally of no use to set apart the best room
in the house for that most pleasant of all chambers, if there is no
chance of nursery children, and if all are merged into the young
gentlemen and ladies, who are fast growing up and eagerly longing to
launch their boats on the sea of life for a cruise of their own.

When the house is positively and actually selected and the move
imminent, when the lease is signed and the decorations are in train, the
first step to take is to get several estimates from firms who are
accustomed to do nothing else save move furniture. In nothing does price
fluctuate so much as it does in these estimates, and when we moved from
Dorsetshire to Shortlands there was actually and positively a difference
of 100_l._ in the highest and lowest of the many estimates we had, the
person selected being just 100_l._ lower in his price than the man who
made us our first offer.

To move luxuriously we should have taken house number two for a quarter
before we are obliged to leave our own. Of course if we could persuade
the landlord to let us have it for six weeks it would be better; but not
many landlords are as accommodating as this, and unfortunately many of
us cannot afford a double rent even for such a short space of time.
Still an effort should be made, as undoubtedly much is wasted in a
hurried move--in an enforced turning out on quarter day into another
house on the same date.

It is only people in very straitened circumstances who accept in these
artistic days of ours the landlord’s scheme of decoration. Formerly
there were no ideas in the head of an ordinary paterfamilias on the
subject of paint and paper, and as long as all was clean and in good
condition he did not agitate himself in the least about his surroundings
as far as mere colour and ‘decoration’ were concerned, and he cheerfully
spread his Turkey carpet and placed his heavy sideboard and mahogany
table and chairs in position, regardless of the fact that the ‘good’
flock paper and vulgar graining made up a _tout ensemble_ as utterly
depressing as it was tasteless and absolutely without character.

But now, I am glad to think, what is already in one’s possession governs
in some measure what alterations are to be made, and as fate never yet
was so propitious as to put one down straight from one house into
another which was exactly decorated to our taste, we may be quite sure
that there are many things to do to any place to which we may
contemplate moving; therefore I say if possible let the two leases,
_i.e._ of your present and your future house, run side by side for six
weeks at least: so shall you move comfortably, and be able to make those
alterations that are perfectly sure to be necessary.

A new house should never by any chance be entered in the September
quarter; it is astonishing what an amount of coal and reckless
expenditure of gas is required to obtain even moderate warmth in a new
house; and furthermore most appalling discoveries are apt to be made, as
soon as the fires are lighted, of the manner in which floors, doors, and
window-frames are capable of shrinking the moment warmth penetrates the
place; these we can circumvent in summer, but the winter is not a time
to run any risks of discovering that the more we try to warm the house
the wider open gape the cracks in all the woodwork, and that nothing we
can do will really warm a place, more and more exposed as days go by to
the four winds of heaven. Therefore, if the future house has never been
lived in, enter it in June, or even in March; there will then be ample
time to find out all faults in the structure before the winter arrives
with all its concomitant miseries.

Delightful Mr. Aspinall, for whose existence I can never be sufficiently
thankful, has made house decoration mere child’s play compared to what
it used to be; and, armed with his paints and a written description of
what each room is to be like when done, the foreman can be left to his
own devices, and the old house can be returned to with a safe
conscience; for if careful selection has been made of each paper and its
own particular paint, no risks are run of finding, as I found when I
made my last move, that owing to the peculiar freaks of the painter
there were seven shades of blue in my hall, and another separate shade
of the same colour in a bed-room that was designed for a gem, and was
becoming under the wretch’s brush the exact shade of a butcher’s apron,
which was his own idea of a complete match to the ‘Berry’ paper--really
a good hedge-sparrow egg blue-green! If only he had had Aspinall’s neat
little tins, I should not have had to stand over him all the time he
mixed his paint, and most of the time he was applying it, and could not
see at the last that he was wrong and I was absolutely right. So if
those about to move will leave their decorators instructions to use
Aspinall and nothing else, they can be absolutely sure that their paint
will be right, and not a perpetual eyesore, as it almost invariably is
when left to the tender mercies of the ordinary decorator, who considers
he has an eye for colour, and is as obstinate as half-educated people
invariably are.

Briefly, then, the first thing we have to do when we contemplate moving
is to really make up our minds that such a step is absolutely necessary,
because no one who has never moved can understand the mental misery
caused by tearing up one’s roots even from an uncongenial soil;
secondly, to carefully select a house likely to be our home for the rest
of our lives; thirdly, to still more carefully choose and put in train a
scheme of decoration that will harmonise in some measure with our
cherished possessions; and fourthly, to endeavour not to be forced at
the last to move hurriedly or into a new house in the winter. Once these
details are remembered and enforced, the real process of moving may
begin, and be got over as soon as the new house is ready for the
inmates.

The mere move itself should be left entirely in the hands of the people
employed. Personally, I recommend for any one in the suburbs Bachelar,
of Croydon, who moved our furniture most successfully in the south of
England. Peace, of Bridgewater and Bournemouth, is equally to be
commended. Unfortunately, I know no one in the north, but I have no
doubt there are many firms there; but in any case all should be written
to, and estimates should be carefully considered before definitely
selecting any one from among their number; but all one’s belongings
should be in covered furniture vans: open vans or railway trucks are
ruination, and should never for one moment be used; and no estimate
which includes moving any of the ‘goods and chattels’ in open trucks
should be considered seriously, as even the roughest furniture suffers
considerably by being carted about in this primitive manner, and is
spoiled to a far greater extent than the mere difference between the two
kinds of conveyances would pay for.

The books and pictures should be packed first, and unpacked last; the
carpets should be rolled up, after a good shaking, with camphor-bags
inside, even for the shortest transit; the straw, &c., used in packing
them in the most carefully supervised vans having been proved a most
comfortable home for small and teasing animals, which, discovering that
carpets, pillows, and beds are warmer and more comfortable on the whole
than straw, forsake their habitations for eligible residences among our
properties if we have not made them unbearable with camphor and a good
sprinkling of Keating’s insect powder before they leave our hands. Each
room-full of furniture should be placed ready to be again put down in
the special room for which it is intended. The carpets should remain
rolled until the last of the movers is departed; then after the floors
have been most thoroughly scrubbed with carbolic soap, the carpets
should be well beaten, and should be relaid if possible by the hands of
some ‘professional,’ for on the proper laying of a carpet depends far
more of the wear than we quite realise. The best furniture mover cannot
resist--please remember this!--the exquisite temptation to which he is
exposed to stuff up odd corners, and to prevent shaking by making
‘buffers’ out of our pillows, cushions, and odds and ends generally; and
as he furthermore has most excellent wrapping material in blankets,
small rugs, and other similar trifles, the amateur must come to the
rescue of her goods, or the professional packer will be much too strong
for her.

In really well-organised and well-managed households each bed pillow and
mattress should have its loose and washable cover sewn tightly over it
of whitey-brown crash; these covers should be washed every year--if
possible, every six months, and if these are arranged for they will in a
great measure protect our property from the dirt and certain amount of
almost indispensable damage, which would accrue to them were they left
to the tender mercies of the remover, who would at once use them as
mentioned above, and would not disdain to walk upon them cheerfully,
did they seem to require more pressing down than a mere arrangement with
the hands would effect; but if they are not so defended before the move
is actually in progress, these covers should be made, or else great
sheets of coarse crash, such as is used for packing purposes, should be
strongly sewn round them, or inevitably we shall have to send all the
bedding to the upholsterers to be ‘re-done’--_i.e._ picked over and
readjusted, and the ticks washed also. The blankets must be even more
carefully protected. I have seen them wrapped round iron bedsteads, and
large mirrors, and with boots and even knives inside their folds, and in
any case they are ruthlessly annexed for packing purposes. Now to
circumvent this I strongly advise that space should be left at the top
of the box of each person inhabiting each separate room, and into this
space the folded blankets should go, to be ready for use at once, and to
be out of the way of the ‘ravagers.’ The clothes that should have
occupied the space in the box can be most safely left in the chests of
drawers and wardrobes, for ‘personal property’ of all kinds is
invariably respected, and not the most ruthless of packers would dream
of enfolding grimy objects in body linen or even among the folds of
heavy winter dresses. These are invariably left exactly as one last
placed them, and are emphatically respected, while even new blankets
appear to have an irresistible attraction for them, and are annexed at
once, while venerable ones suffer in the most appalling way conceivable.

It is absolutely impossible to move in anything like comfort or peace
unless the juvenile members of the family and their nurses are ‘boarded
out.’

It is astonishing how very kind people are to each other when this
trying work is proceeding, and there are few among us, if indeed there
are any, who are not possessed of relatives, or at least dear friends,
who will stretch their houses to the extent of taking in some of the
children for the inside of a week; but if there are none on whom we can
rely, the children should be sent to an hotel, or lodgings should be
taken for them for a week; for if this is not done we should be quite
sure to be driven mad by them, by the utter helplessness of their
nurses, and by the certainty that we should have them all ill from the
draughts, the scrappy meals, the uncertain hours, and the thousand and
one absolutely unpreventable events that are familiar to every mother,
and therefore need not be detailed here.

Let us suppose, therefore, that our move is to commence on a Tuesday, an
excellent day, which leaves Monday for our private packings, for the men
to pack the books, china, and ornaments (the number of my possessions in
these several ways always eliciting most amusing comments), and for us
to clear out the children and nurses; these latter, by the way, should
have carefully packed all the children’s things the week before in boxes
marked ‘Nursery’ in large chalk letters, and should take with them to
their lodgings only what is absolutely necessary. We will then proceed
up-stairs, put all the blankets away as suggested just now, see our
garments are so bestowed that they are safe, the silver and jewellery in
the charge of the man-servant if there be one, in the charge of the
parlour-maid if there be none, and then we should see placards are up in
each room, inscribed with the name of the room into which the things are
to go; and our task at the other end will be much simplified if we also
attach labels to each very heavy piece of furniture, taking care similar
labels are already placed in a prominent position in the rooms they are
intended for.

The packing of a big house takes about two days, and on the evening of
the first day two of the servants and one of the household, the eldest
daughter if possible, should go on to the new house; if, however, there
is a long journey before them they should start almost as soon as the
vans come, as the first will arrive Wednesday morning at the new abode,
and someone should be there to receive it. The mistress and master
should remain until Wednesday night, when they too should go on to the
new abode, travelling by night if necessary, and the oldest and
trustworthiest servant should be left to see the house is cleaned down
by a couple of charwomen, and to hand the keys to a representative of
the landlord, who should go over the house with an agent on the side of
the remover to see all was left properly and undamaged by the out-going
tenant; then the maid or man could rest at a friend’s house or at the
local inn, and join the rest of the party on Thursday morning.

It is absolutely necessary that a separate hamper of food ready cooked
and sufficient to supply the household for three days should be sent on
with the first batch of domestics, and the hamper should contain kettle,
cups and saucers, plates, and knives and forks, besides the actual food.
The cook will not be able to be spared from putting her belongings in
order to cook eatables, but an ample supply is necessary; for, as all
will be working hard, all will require sustenance. This hamper should be
at once put into the larder in the new house, the door locked, and the
key kept by the servant herself.

The contents of the servants’ bedrooms, the kitchen, and one
sitting-room, and, if possible, one bedroom besides, should be
despatched first, and as each article is brought in someone should seat
herself on a camp-stool in the hall and should call out ‘Dining-room,’
‘Servants’ bedroom,’ ‘Blue room,’ or otherwise name its destination; so
will the movers avoid the pleasing sight, that met my eyes when I moved
last, of the complete contents of three rooms placed higgledy-piggledy
in the centre of one chamber, heaped up like ‘leaves in Vallombrosa,’
where the wretched painters were dawdling over their work still; the
painters who had caused this chaos by insisting that none of the other
rooms were ready, though none were as absolutely unfinished as that in
which they had arranged this pleasing reception for me.

Thank goodness, my rage was so extreme that I turned them out neck and
crop, else, verily, I believe they would be here at this very moment;
but I always determined to use my own sufferings as a warning to others,
and I relate this experience in the hope that no one will attempt a move
until the painters are out, and unless they will manage it on the lines
here laid down for them.

The men who move are always supposed to lay carpets, hang pictures and
curtains, and replace the books in cases. Whenever money is a very great
object--and, in that case, no move should be contemplated unless it were
a matter of health or the bread-winner’s change of employment--I
strongly advise that they should do nothing of the kind.

In the first place, the carpets should not be placed until the last man
has departed; and in the second, it is infinitely better to have not
only a regular carpet-layer, but a man accustomed to hang pictures and
arrange brackets, mirrors, &c. I personally have a great many pictures
and odds and ends, and I have twice had a most excellent man from
Shoolbred’s on these occasions, who came properly provided with nails,
copper-wire, and all necessary tools, and who, for a little under 3_l._,
quietly, swiftly, and skilfully placed the pictures, &c., in their
places, with just a very little supervision from me; for, like all those
who have no regular art education, he had the usual mania for hanging
everything ever so much higher than it ought to be--a mania I most
successfully and promptly combated! But beyond this, and giving him a
few directions as to the placing of the pictures in due order, I left
matters to him; and in three days--for, like an angel, he remained his
Saturday half-holiday at my urgent request--all the walls were decorated
and finished properly, which they could not have been in double the time
had I been forced to rely on the help of those in the house.

The china and books should be the last things arranged, and this cannot
be completed, I fear, in the week; but, thanks to my plan of short
curtains and no blinds, any window can be arranged in exactly ten
minutes. For, of course, the slight brass rods should be in place before
the move begins; and the carpets being square are laid in about half an
hour each, the carpet-layer going swiftly from room to room, and the
maids replacing the furniture, with the help of a man, as he leaves the
room; and as once curtains are up and carpets down the worst of the
battle is over, we may, perhaps, even arrange the china and books before
Sunday, and so spend in truth a real day of rest.

I have all the decorative china arranged on a tiny folding-table we call
a choir-table, because it is brought into use for choir teas and other
similar festivities, and from this are picked out quickly and easily the
distinctive pieces devoted to each room: the book-shelves are up, and
then the books, being packed in something like order, are arranged, and,
in consequence, carefully done. A move need never take more than ten
days; and it would be simply indefensible were not the house absolutely
and completely straight in a fortnight; and, above all, let the
servants’ apartments and the nurseries be put in order first. Servants,
as a rule, are far less able, both by temperament and education, than
we are, to bear being ‘put out of their ways,’ and being over-worked and
over-tired resent, as no really trained and well-disciplined nature
resents, the small discomforts that we know will soon be entirely
forgotten, but that are apt at the time to cause friction, and, if not
properly legislated for, may even lose us a good and valuable servant.

And, inasmuch as we have had an education and advantages, and inherit in
some cases the disciplined nature of forefathers and mothers equally
disciplined and educated, we must show that we have profited by these
said advantages at such times as these; and whereas we know that our
maids have had none, we should consider them, and look after them much
as we should after children, being quite sure we shall be rewarded after
our struggles by cheerful faces and willing arms, that are twice as
cheerful and willing as they would be did we not remember to tell them
how tired they must be, and to see they have extra food, and a small
amount of coddling even, to carry them over the present stress of work.

The children should not return until one sees their rooms are dry and
warm and straight. This, like all the rest of the move, must be done by
organisation, and the rooms could be properly ready by Saturday night;
but each maid must be told off to the different rooms, and the mistress
and her daughter (and I do hope, for her sake, she may have that most
invaluable of all possessions--a grown-up daughter) must never relax
their supervision, else sundry gigglings and rompings about will hinder
work, and denote that, like most young feminine creatures, the maids are
disorganised by the presence of the opposite sex, and are endeavouring
to combine amusement and work in a most unsatisfactory and impossible
manner.

The master of the house, poor creature! will confine his energies in
most cases to paying for the move, or, if he be very exemplary, after
arranging the wine-cellar he will see to the books and help with the
pictures. I have even heard rumours of men who are most useful and
helpful at similar crises; but as I have never yet found any male rise
above the discomfort sufficiently to be of real use in the matter, I
must put down this as a mere rumour, only hoping that it may be true. He
is, however, invaluable when it comes to managing the men who come to
move, and should be considered angelic if he does not grumble over his
scrappy dinner, or resent the fact that, unless he can go to an hotel,
he is not likely to have any decent meals for at least three days--a
fact a woman rather enjoys than deplores, as she recognises that for
those three days at least there are no orders to give and no regular
planning of food to be done.

The first few days in a new house are replete with misery. On the
commencement of our tenancy we are literally besieged by the tradesmen
coming to endeavour to secure our custom; but we should be wise if from
some friend we were to obtain a list of those who are really reliable,
until we are able to send round to the butchers, and obtain lists of
prices from all for comparison, and have time to discover which of the
local grocers will serve us at co-operative prices for ready money. But
under no circumstances do I advise allowing a grocer’s man to call for
orders: a grocer’s bill being the one of all others that is liable to
swell to gigantic proportions. The moment a daily visit is permitted,
the maids appear to rack their brains to see what they can order, and I
have saved myself at least five shillings a week since I put a veto on
the daily call, which seemed a signal for them to discover that
hearthstones, vinegar, treacle, and similar ‘intangible’ objects were
required; and by ‘intangible’ I mean articles that might be wanted, as
it is impossible to regulate the supplies of these as one can other
goods; and as I have had far less of all since I send a written order to
either Shoolbred or Whiteley--whose men are not naturally in the least
likely to press for orders, and whose sole duties consist in bringing
the things, and receiving payment for the same--I strongly recommend all
housewives either to deal with them, or to go to the local grocers
themselves, and at once impress on them that no orders given in the
kitchen are to be attended to under any pretext whatever.

The tradesman difficulty is the first misery, and then come the miseries
of making acquaintance really with our house and surroundings. We are
sure to discover a thousand small vexatious omissions in the house
itself, and above all--‘_miserere mei!_’--will we see with dismay that
the furniture which looked quite beautiful in our old home has
suddenly, and in the most unprovoked manner, become absolutely shabby
and miserable.

This is an unanswerable problem, but it is a fact, and I can only
account for it by suggesting that the new paper and paint are to blame,
and that the sooner we get our furniture done up and rejuvenated the
sooner shall we become reconciled to our new house; but, of course, this
costs money--at a time, too, when money has been flowing away a little
too freely to be pleasant--and, no doubt, we may have to wait: another
reason why a move is trying, and why, like marriage, it should never be
undertaken lightly or unadvisedly; and at first we must make the best of
our surroundings, being duly thankful for the square carpets and the
light short curtains that save us so much piecing and planning, and
looking forward to new cretonne and tapestry as soon as we can afford
it.

Then comes the misery of making new friends; and here I would say a word
of warning to those who go to an entirely unknown place, and have
absolutely no introductions. The best and nicest folk do not rush to
call on new people unless they have some knowledge of them; therefore
wait a little and ‘gang warily’ before accepting as your _fidus Achates_
the first lady who enters your doors, for doubtless her call is caused
by curiosity, and because she has but few acquaintances and wishes
ardently to have more.

Of course, if you have an immense house and heaps of money, everyone
calls on the house and on your income, and you can soon discriminate for
yourselves who is likely to be desirable and who is not; but the
ordinary householder should be very cautious about the acquaintances she
makes until she feels her feet, and can find out somehow--it is from the
clergyman and his wife generally--who is who, taking care in her turn to
tell enough of herself and her forbears to show that she is respectable
at any rate, and obtaining in due course the same sort of information
about those with whom she is surrounded.

In London--dear, lovely, unsnobbish London--one can do absolutely as one
likes about everything, and nowhere is society as good as it is there.
In the country the very best society is dull. In London one can meet
with the only society worth having, in my opinion: the society of those
who either in art, literature, science, or politics have ‘done
something,’ and are making the history of the world. From this country
folk are absolutely debarred: another reason, dear readers, why I say
live in London, if you can in any way contrive to do so, and do not
leave it on any pretext whatever. But as man must associate with his
kind or perish, no doubt there are compensating elements in country
society that are evident to those who have lived among it all their
lives. At any rate, we can live more unselfishly in the country, and do
more good to those of our poorer brethren than we can in these crowded
streets, where they are nothing to us save a probable source of
infection, and a certain source of annoyance and dread.

To sum up this chapter briefly, then: let no move be made, unless such a
course is absolutely imperative; let it be done in order and with
regularity; and make no rushes into friendship in your new neighbourhood
until you have discovered who is who, and made due inquiries on this
subject; and, above all, under all circumstances, if fate has absolutely
obliged you to make that particular move, make the best of it, and don’t
always either mentally or openly contrast your present abode
unfavourably and bad-temperedly with your last location. You have to
live where you have pitched your tent: therefore, bad as the place may
appear to you, try and smother your feelings until use has made you
reconciled to your new surroundings, even if ‘home’ has not asserted its
charm and caused you to become fond of the place, because your best and
dearest are there with you. It will be an effort, I can assure you, to
do so, but if you are strong-minded enough to suffer in silence, you
will be repaid for so doing a thousand-fold.



CHAPTER II.

HALLS AND PASSAGES.


The first part of the new house that should be attacked by the
decorator’s art is undoubtedly the hall: and as undoubtedly it is here
that the ordinary speculative builder surpasses himself; for, as a rule,
the moment one opens the front door one falls up the staircase, or else
one is confronted by a long, hopeless passage, which strikes a chill
into the stoutest heart, especially if the owner of that heart has not
had much experience in the art of ‘how to make the best’ of a very bad
state of affairs.

But in these days of ours nothing in the way of amelioration is
impossible; and, indeed, were I given _carte blanche_ I would undertake
to make the most hideous, square, ‘impossible’ house a bower of beauty.
That sounds very egotistical, but I really do not mean it to be so; I
only should like to impress upon my readers that never before has so
much attention been given to decoration of houses as is given now, and
that by the aid of carefully planned woodwork and by using arches on the
plan of the Moorish fretwork first introduced by Liberty, a square room
can be made picturesque, and a long narrow passage pleasant to
contemplate, by simply putting up a series of slight arches, or else by
curtaining off portions of it by aid of simple wooden partitions, such
as are illustrated on page 25. I am very proud indeed of this sketch, as
it was made from a brilliant inspiration of mine for a house where the
instant one opened the door leading into the street, one was confronted
by the stairs on one hand, and a long uninteresting straight passage on
the other; and I was indeed pleased when I suddenly saw that a couple of
arches could be cut out from what might have been a partition placed
along the foot of the stairs from one side of the hall to the other, and
that the arch at the stair foot could be curtained by a double curtain
or pair of curtains, which would fall together when anyone raised it to
go upstairs; while the other arch could be draped either to the left or
right with a heavy piece of material according to the position of the
wall, or whether there is anything in the way of a cupboard or door to
be concealed.

Treated in this way, the ordinary tiresome little hall of a London house
is metamorphosed, at once, and, as the wooden framework can be so
arranged that it can be screwed into the wall and so be made removable
at will, I am quite sure this notion of mine will ‘catch on,’ as the
Yankees say, more especially as Messrs. Wallace & Co., of Curtain Road,
E.C., are willing to erect it ready painted and varnished at about 1_l._
a foot; that is to say, if the

[Illustration: FIG. 1.--Hall Arrangement.]

passage were six feet wide the arches would cost about 6_l._, if twelve
12_l._, and so on. The arches could be enamelled to match the hall
decorations, and the curtains could be of some heavy material like the
‘Elvira’ tapestry, or the beautiful jute velvet or Bokhara plush, which
is undoubtedly _the_ material for draping, while even the humbler serge
is not to be despised; but in this case the curtain in the stair arch
should be made double and very full, a great deal of the appearance of
this ‘notion’ depending on full graceful curtains and proper draperies.

It would even be possible in a hall arranged like this to have one of
the hideous hat and coat rails which die so hard; but even here I again
repeat my warning against these monstrosities; they can never look like
anything save Bluebeard’s wives hanging up against the wall, and are
always a temptation to the gentle burglar or the common area sneak who
delights to make off with coats and hats even if he can find nothing
else; but if the master of the house declines to allow himself to be
educated up to keeping his garments out of sight, he may be humoured by
allowing him a place behind the hall curtain, which should be then
properly draped in such a manner that the coats and hats would be
completely hidden; a china or brass receptacle for umbrellas could be
put on the other side of the convenient curtain also, and so all these
most undecorative items will be put out of sight, thus causing the
arches to be as useful as they are undoubtedly ornamental.

In many houses the staircase goes up at the side and does not face the
front door, and here, too, the arches come in with great effect. I mean
in those houses where there is a straight passage from the front door to
a room opposite which faces the door and so ends the house; in the
passage there are usually two doors, one on either side, belonging to
the dining and morning rooms, the end room being often enough a small
back room, or, as was the case in our house at Shortlands, even the
drawing-room itself; there the passage opens out on the right hand and
discloses the staircase close by the door and a passage leading to the
lavatory; here the arches conceal the staircase at once and also the
latter arrangement, and make a decoration out of what is always to me a
great eyesore. In one case where the arches have been erected the
passage led to the servants’ pantry, the door of which always stood
invitingly open, disclosing sink and washings-up generally to the eyes
of the critical caller; the curtain conceals all that now splendidly,
and the whole arrangement gives an idea of space and ‘veiled
possibilities’ which is really marvellous.

When we came to our present abode the hall here struck me with dismay,
and it was some time before I could understand in the least what could
be done with it; it was exactly like a telescope, with a hideous window
at one end, opening out on to several dead trees, and what looked like
the family washing, with doors appearing just where such doors should be
concealed, and, of course, it had beautiful marble papers and graining
and a brand-new dado of a dark and hideous design in varnished paper
too; the ‘decorations,’ however, I did not consider; but I racked my
brains about the long, narrow, awful passage called by courtesy ‘the
hall,’ and at last I had an inspiration. I ran a wooden partition
across, about ten feet from the end of the place, and behind that put in
a hot and cold water arrangement, and made it into a regular cloak-room;
opening out another door into that, which previously opened out into a
tiny passage leading into the fourth sitting-room, which would have been
absolutely unusable had not this been done; and then, by the aid of bent
laths and a little plaster, two arches were made in the passage, draped,
one to the right, the other to the left, with a ‘khelim,’ looped with
cords and tassels; and so I obtained what old Astley used to call a
‘wister’--_i.e._ a vista--and made a really decorated spot out of a most
commonplace passage. Of course all the coats and hats are in the
cloak-room, and there is nothing in the hall itself save the buffet
illustrated on next page, which is in old oak, and which always looks
nice, and forms a place where the cards of visitors can be placed, or
the letters from the post, or other trifles; a couple of chairs for
emergencies, the gong, and one of Mr. Pither’s beautiful red pots on a
bamboo stand holding one of the long-suffering Aspidistras, which will
live in draughts, and successfully bear uncomplainingly what would
certainly kill at once any other plant, completing the furniture of this
so-called hall.

My readers will be amused to hear that since I wrote ‘From Kitchen to
Garret’ I have learned a very great

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Oak Buffet.]

many things; indeed, if I had not, I should most certainly not be
writing a second instalment of ‘furniture literature.’ However, as one
of these items is undoubtedly about the hall, I am now going to mention
it here at once. Reluctantly, but emphatically, have I come to the
conclusion that where hard wear is expected it is absolutely necessary
to have linoleum of some kind or the other on the floor. Of course a
great many well-regulated households are provided with nice tiles, which
I can never look at without envy; but as the majority of folks are not
so highly favoured, and as most households possess boys, and many have
dogs too, I have regretfully discovered that, if a house is to be kept
clean and tidy, the hall must have some material to cover it that can be
washed daily, and so can be perpetually and properly kept in order.
There is a particularly pretty linoleum made by the Staines Linoleum
Company in Queen Victoria Street, E.C., which resembles tiny squares of
black and white marble, which looks very well down. Of course it is a
sham, and as such is to be deprecated, but I cannot help recommending
it, as it looks so clean and nice and bright, and would do admirably in
some halls; while for those who will not allow any shams anywhere in
their houses, nothing looks so nice as the darkest brown self-coloured
linoleum put down all over the passages and halls, with some six-foot
and even larger rugs about. The rugs must be as large as possible, as
little rugs are apt to slip and move under the servants’ feet. They also
have a most aggravating manner of turning up at the edges, and becoming
shabby; while the large rugs will wear for years, and stand really very
hard wear too. These are about 28_s._ at either Maple’s or Treloar’s,
and measure about three yards long by about one and a half yards wide. I
say about, as none of these rugs seem to me to be exactly the same size;
but this is near enough to give my readers some idea of how many they
would require if they elect to put them down in their halls. The smaller
rugs are about six feet long, and about four wide. These should have a
wide binding sown on at the back, top and bottom, with a few shots, or
else those round leaden weights used in ladies’ jackets, underneath the
binding to keep the ends down, and prevent the curling which is so
unsightly and tiresome in these small rugs, and on damp hall-floors
should be lined at the back with American leather.

Linoleum should never be scrubbed with soap and water, for this removes
the pattern; but should be rubbed with a wet house-flannel to remove the
dirt, and then polished with sour milk and water; plain brown linoleum
should be kept in order with linseed oil (boiled) and turpentine mixed.
This is specially required at first; for, like all materials which have
no pattern on, it shows every footmark, and at first appears as if it
were going to wear villainously; but the oil and turpentine soon restore
it, and the rugs prevent the usual miserable effect of a plain
material, which--I cannot think why--always wears badly if left to
itself, and invariably looks untidy and shabby almost before it is down;
therefore we may consider it an axiom that, if we are not provided with
a good tiled floor, we cannot do better than have either the Staines
linoleum to simulate marble, or the plain linoleum and rugs--this for
preference. The linoleum should be washed daily with a damp duster, and
the rugs shaken, and once a week all should be cleaned with the linseed
oil and turpentine; this will double the wear, and insure all marks
being quite removed.

Another thing which I have most certainly learned is, that, delightful
as felt looks and feels, and that beautiful as are the colours in which
it is made, it is absolutely worthless for real wear. I had it laid down
in the Watford house, when we went there, all over the halls and
passages, and on the stairs too, and was quite delighted with the soft,
warm feel thereof, and the appearance was equally pleasing; but we had
not been there six months before that wretched stuff became the curse of
the household; every single drop of water, every thread, or morsel of
dust, every footmark showed; and from morning until night something had
to be done in the shape of brushing and dusting, and, even then, we were
never clean and never tidy. And then, in addition to its other sins, if
the abominable material did not begin to go into holes; all along the
edges of the stairs tiny white spots showed where the under felt was
working through, and before a year was out all the wretched stuff had to
be removed, and replaced in the hall with dark brown linoleum and rugs;
and on the stairs by Pither’s beautiful dark-blue blossom-patterned
Brussels carpet, which after a year’s hard wear looks really better than
it did the first day it was put down; and I can never understand how
anyone can ever recommend felt, as I am convinced it is absolutely
worthless as a floor-covering, and that nothing can make it at all
satisfactory; and as I still see it in shops, and notice it pressed on
the attention of those about to furnish, I consider it my duty to warn
my readers against it, for if they succumb to its fascinating
appearance, they will inevitably suffer from its possession in the same
way that I did.

Another thing I most strongly advise my readers to possess themselves
of, if in any way they can, is a really good stair-carpet. There should
be no fidgety border or differently coloured pattern on them to attract
the eye and tease the brain, but there should be merely a simple pattern
in the lighter shade on a darker ground; this always looks well, and at
the same time does not tire one as an accentuated pattern invariably
does. I therefore recommend Pither’s excellent Brussels and Wilton pile
carpets, 27 inches wide, the one at 4_s._ 6_d._, the other at 7_s._
_3d._ the yard, for they are absolutely faultless, both in design and
colour, and can be as absolutely relied on both for wear and appearance.
Wallace & Co.’s ‘Stella’ Brussels at 3_s._ 11_d._ would be nice, if
expense is a very great object, and their Burmese carpet with a design
on is also to be recommended, and no one can go wrong about their
stair-carpets if they make a judicious selection from these four
qualities and designs. I am perpetually asked for a really good artistic
and satisfactory carpet at a very low price, but I as often reply, You
might as well ask me to supply you with a really good diamond necklace
for a few shillings, for such a thing does not exist. You can get very
artistic-looking carpets for a little money; the Burmese carpet is
ridiculously cheap and very satisfactory, but for real hard wear
Brussels or pile must be chosen, and for a really good thing one must
always pay; and it is far cheaper in the long run to buy what is really
good than to be perpetually vexed at the wear and tear which invariably
surprises and annoys us, come when it may. I therefore very strongly
advise all who can to invest in really good stair-carpets, even if they
content themselves with something far less expensive for the other
rooms.

Then, too, I should much like to impress on my readers that the hideous
glass one usually finds ready for one, either each side of the front
door, or else as elaborate fanlights over the doors in the passage,
should be removed and replaced by cathedral glass in leaded squares, or
by bottle-ends. If, however, this is impossible, though the expense is
not great, and the effect thereof is admirable, let the grained and
patterned glass be covered by a really excellent imitation of the
cathedral glass. This is to be obtained from Graham & Biddle, Graham
House, Oxford Street, W., and is floated on glass in the same manner in
which the ancient and much despised ‘decalcomanie’ used to be managed,
and really has quite a surprising effect; a third way would be to remove
the glass and replace it with quite plain, clear glass, covered inside
by a fluted curtain of good Madras muslin, in really artistic colours.
No one who has not risen in rebellion against the builder’s arrangement
of starred or patterned glass can imagine how immensely any place is
improved by removing it altogether and replacing it with something else;
and though this may appear a trifle to write about, I can assure you
that it is only by strict attention to such trifles that one can produce
an artistic whole, which shall be entirely and absolutely satisfactory
in every way. And, after all, these small matters cost far less than the
elaborately draped curtains, the fitted carpets, the giant sideboards,
and the other expensive monstrosities against which I am always waging
war.

To be really perfect, the hall should be a square space in the centre of
the house, where a big fire could blaze in winter, and masses of flowers
could greet the incoming guest when dear, delightful summer makes fires
unnecessary; and naturally such a hall would require very different
treatment to the ordinary long and narrow passage; but if the staircase
sweeps out of the hall I should still suggest my arches here. They would
hide the stairs--never very lovely objects at the best of times--and
obscure the glimpses of ascending and descending legs, which, especially
in the long-dead days of crinolines, made going up or down stairs a
penance indeed to any one who had to perform the ascent and descent in
the face of a numerous company gathered in the hall, besides which a
sense of snugness would be given to the whole place, which it could
never have were that open space left unprotected, stretching up into the
air!

As a rule, the square hall should be treated, as far as mere
wall-decoration goes, in the same manner as the passages which lead out
of it are treated, but here it would be quite in character, were fresh
colours introduced, or the style of decoration reversed: that is to say,
if the dado, which is imperative in a narrow passage, were replaced by
the same decoration used as a frieze, taking care only that the colours
should harmonise: for example, supposing the passages themselves were
decorated in brown and gold, the brown being the ‘Kenesaw’ design
printed on real brown paper by Essex & Co., Albert Mansions, Victoria
Street, S.W., at five shillings and sixpence the piece, the dados being
of a really good and strong gold Japanese leather paper, the inner or
square hall could be papered in the same manner, using, however, the
Japanese gold paper as a frieze; the frieze-rail could be Giles’ picture
and china rail, holding big jugs and blue and white china of all kinds,
and thus a charming effect would be obtained suitable for the squareness
of the hall, and yet harmonising absolutely with the passages which lead
out of it.

In such a hall as this the ceiling should be divided into squares; this
can be done quite easily nowadays by a series of laths or mouldings made
on purpose; this is nailed into the laths above the ceiling with long
thin nails. A very good moulding made on purpose is sold by Messrs.
Haines & Co., 83 Queen Victoria Street, E.C., at about one penny a foot,
and the squares thus made are filled either with a good ceiling paper or
else by an admirably decorative material, exactly like moulded plaster,
also sold by Haines, and called anaglypta; this costs about 2_l._ for a
good-sized ceiling, and when up all should have a coat of ivory silicate
paint, or else of the invaluable and admirable Aspinall enamel, also in
ivory, for though builders may argue, and decorators implore, for a
heavier and more ornate system of treating the ceiling and cornice, I
cannot too emphatically condemn any colouring being introduced into the
ceiling and surrounding plaster work in lines, and distracting contrasts
of colour, thus bringing the ceiling down on our heads, depressing one
dreadfully, and all too often bringing into notice much which would be
better left to obscurity.

But my readers must not imagine from the above that I am recommending
for one moment the ordinary ugly white-wash, the mere appearance of
which ruins any room, or that I am ceasing to love the much-recommended
papered ceiling--indeed I am not. Colour of some kind is necessary there
as well as anywhere else, but the colour must be ivory, or faint
terra-cotta, green, blue, or yellow, and must not be daubed on by the
heavy hand of the decorator revelling in golds, and reds, and blues in
bewildering confusion, and even introducing dreadful real or imitation
oak beams, all well enough in houses where they are part of the fabric,
and have the sentiment and beauty of age to defend their existence, but
absolutely indefensible in an ordinary London house or small suburban
villa, as indefensible as is old oak furbished up in Tottenham Court
Road and made ghastly with sticky, varnished paint or stain, when placed
in a house that has the nineteenth century and speculative builder
written large all over it, in the bulging walls, its vilely drawn lines,
and its rawness and newness and vulgarity of style.

For it is no use attempting to have a pretty house unless we are
absolutely strong-minded, and begin by forbidding the decorator to do
anything but what he is told to do; and it is much wiser to write down
exactly at the commencement of our decorations ‘precept on precept,’
‘line upon line,’ ‘word by word,’ for each room, exactly what we wish
the room to be arranged like, putting on paper the name and number of
the wall paper, the colour of the paint, and in fact every single thing,
so that at the end there can be no mistake; and above all we must not be
persuaded out of our own ideas by the builder or by the upholsterer, or
by anyone at all, once we have made up our minds what we intend to have,
for we may be quite sure that if we are we shall repent it for ever
after. I am often much disappointed to find, after I have taken real and
elaborate pains to tell people exactly how their houses should be
decorated, that they have allowed themselves to be talked over by the
builder or the decorator, and that in consequence I am again sent for
(at double the expense of course), to tell them how to get over, or in
some measure mitigate the horrors that have been perpetrated. ‘It is
such a nuisance to run from shop to shop getting all the different
papers,’ says one, ‘and the builder had almost the same sort of design
in his book, and said his hung much better than those you recommend.’
‘Oh! we hadn’t time,’ says another, ‘and so we left it to the builder,
and now, please, dear Mrs. Panton, do help us again, for the house does
look horrid, and we cannot think why,’ and of course I go, and could
weep, really weep, over the waste of money, time, and material which
would all have been saved had they handed the builder my written plan of
decorations and told him that that, and that only, was to be the order
for the work.

And decoration is really so easy nowadays, that, like moving, it need
only be done slowly and in order to be an absolute success. All that is
required from the builder is the plan of each room, you then write to
the paper manufacturer for as many pieces of paper at so much, so many
yards for the dados or frieze; this is ascertained by simply measuring
round the room with a tape; to Aspinall for so much paint (a gallon at
25_s._ does quite a large room), and then having collected your
materials set to work. The painter has not to exercise his genius (?) or
discretion (?) at all, he has simply to do as he is told; and, this
being understood, one is spared the endless discussions with the
builder, who wants to sell you some of the reams of hideous paper he has
bought wholesale, and for a mere song, at a clearing-out sale of the
‘Chamber of Horrors’ of some paper-manufacturer, and who makes a great
parade of the printed prices at the back of the sheets, trusting that
you are innocent of the knowledge that on all papers the regular
discount is 33 per cent., and that his own particular stock has been
purchased at almost waste-paper prices, because the manufacturer was
only too pleased to get rid of what ordinary upholsterers and decorators
had absolutely refused to take up; and who is persuasive and pleading,
and finally impertinent, when he discovers he has an adept to deal with,
and not one of the numerous victims erstwhile so easily bullied or
fatigued into putting up almost anything he shows them in order to get
rid of and see the last of him.

I think the hall and passage are good spots in which to once more
enforce the above details, for all should be done at the beginning, at
the entrance as it were, or else the worry and disappointments will be
endless; therefore I cannot consider the disquisition in which I have
indulged out of place, and I feel I cannot too much or too often impress
on my readers the absolute necessity of being sure what they want
themselves before sending for the decorator; he must only be the hands
to execute the work; and he must be absolutely silent about colours and
patterns of paper if the house is to be a success at all. There are
several other schemes of decoration that are absolutely successful in a
hall, which were not spoken of in ‘From Kitchen to Garret,’ and which
can be mentioned here before passing away from the hall altogether,
although there are several things still to be said about it; and,
indeed, as in all that regards decoration, it is an absolutely
inexhaustible subject, as new and pretty things appear daily, and good
combinations of colour are constantly suggesting themselves to the
decorative mind. For the ordinary long dark passage, I would suggest
that yellow and white should be used, nut-brown taking the place of
white should there be very much traffic in the place, or should there be
necessity for a certain amount of economy; very small halls look nice
with Pither’s ‘special’ yellow and white berry paper, at 2_s._ a piece;
a matting dado in plain white with all ivory paint, and Maple’s yellow
and white ceiling paper, at 4_d._ a piece; the matting dado being
replaced by Liberty’s nut-brown arras cloth, at 9¾_d._ a yard, and all
‘nut-brown’ paint, where it is considered desirable to have a darker
arrangement than would be obtained by the ivory and white. The arras is
very wide, 54 inches, and would in consequence cover a much larger
wall-space than the matting does, neither is it so difficult to manage
as is matting, but both should be secured at the bottom by upholsterer’s
tacks, and at the top by a light wooden rail, sold by Haines, of 83
Queen Victoria Street, E.C., at something under 1_d._ a foot. This
should be screwed to the wall, and could be removed, arras, or matting
and all at any time, which it could not be were ordinary nails employed,
and a simple (and hideous) paper dado could replace the more expensive
‘properties,’ were the owner to remove and wish to take the dado with
him, a plain paper-dado and a tidy wall being all that could be demanded
of him by his landlord; beauty and æstheticism are not in the bond that
exists between him and his tenant.

Another arrangement would be Pither’s beautiful ‘Buttercup, C,’ at 3_s._
a piece, and yellow matting dado, and all ‘Mandarin’ paint, and a
ceiling paper in red and cream; the ‘berry,’ at 1_s._, would do quite
well with either of these schemes. Pither’s dull red pile carpet would
be best for the stairs; and a good many Oriental rugs should be about
the hall. Any draperies over the doors should be the dull red ‘Elvira’
tapestry, sold by Wallace, or of Mandarin yellow serge, this, of course,
being much cheaper than the ‘Elvira’ brocade, which is 9_s._ 6_d._, as
against the 1_s._ 11½_d._ of the ever useful serge.

If yellow should be objected to--and nothing is so useful or so
successful in a dark passage--blue should be the next colour to be
thought about, and Liberty’s blue tulip damasque is a most valuable
paper for a blue hall. This is only 2_s._ a piece, and ‘hangs’
splendidly, and a very original effect would be produced by this paper,
a high dado of red and gold leather paper, and all dull red paint; the
red of the paint to match the curious dull-lacquered appearance of the
red in the Japanese leather paper; the stair carpet should be red, and
the ceiling paper yellow and white; as a rule Maple’s ceiling paper, at
4_d._ a piece, is quite good enough for anything; but if people do not
mind spending a little more money, Haines has a charming ceiling paper
at 3_s._, in yellow and white, which, being of a more geometrical and
better design in every way, would be perfect for ceilings, although, as
I said before, where money is an object, the yellow and white ceiling
paper is all that is absolutely necessary, and really answers remarkably
well.

Should a red hall be desired, Pither’s ‘Buttercup, B,’ at 2_s._ 6_d._,
cannot be improved upon. Cream or else ‘Scindered’ paint should be used;
a red and white matting for the dado, not a check matting, but one which
has a red line in it, and dark blue art carpet on the floor, blue and
white ceiling paper--Maple, 4_d._ a piece. Any draperies should be
either blue or red, and the ever-useful Khelims would show off admirably
in a house arranged and decorated in this way, for their Eastern
colourings would appear to advantage against the red and cream walls.
This is a bold decoration, but one that looks extremely well, as does
even a bolder arrangement, consisting of the ‘Buttercup, B,’ all
malachite-green stained woodwork, a dull green matting dado, Burr &
Elliott’s (Oxford Street, W.) dull green cocoa-nut matting on the hall
and stairs, dull green and white ceiling paper, and draperies of
malachite-green serge. All the furniture should be Armitage’s stained
green wooden furniture, his high-backed little settle being particularly
adapted for use in a hall, where no more furniture should be allowed
than is absolutely necessary, unless the hall can, by reason of its size
and design, be used as a room, and treated and furnished like one.

I cannot and never do recommend either a terra-cotta or real green wall;
the latter is such a nondescript and uncertain colour that the use of it
in the entrance appears to me to strike the keynote to the character of
the inhabitants, who are thus pronounced uncertain in their ideas, and
not particularly satisfactory, and there are so many ‘builder’s horrors’
in the shape of dull, gloomy terra-cotta papers that inexperienced folks
are apt to buy simply because the pure word ‘terra-cotta’ implies to a
certain class of mind that the paper is artistic and high art, that I am
impelled to taboo terra-cotta altogether at once; but if Liberty’s
‘tulip’ and ‘marigold’ damasque papers are bought a terra-cotta wall may
be indulged in, though I can never pronounce this as totally
satisfactory as are the red, blue, and yellow and brown walls. If the
terra-cotta is selected, I advise ivory paint; if that cannot be
indulged in, a shade of dull green should be chosen to harmonise with
the terra-cotta, and the dado should be either green matting or else of
green and gold (_dull_ green and gold, please!) Japanese leather paper;
the stair carpet should be green, and so should the draperies and
ceiling paper.

A green wall could be arranged by using Liberty’s green and silver
‘tulip’ damasque, at 2_s._, and dull green paint, and a pale green
matting dado, Pither’s dark red carpet, and dark red draperies, the red
and cream ‘berry’ for ceiling, or else terra-cotta draperies, and the
‘Stella’ stair carpet from Wallace. This hall would be artistic; but a
cooler effect, and one that would be specially adapted for a hot hall,
one into which much sun pours, would be obtained by using the green and
silver paper, sea-green paint, and all pale green draperies, and a green
carpet, using white and green muslin on the windows, and any white and
green china to hold flowers and plants that one can find.

Once the papering and painting are done and the stair-carpets are down
and the draperies are up, serious attention must be given to the trifles
which appear scarcely worth seeing to, but on which depend so much, and
which I have spoken about in the beginning of this chapter; for it is of
no use to put charming papers on our walls if we leave hideous glass in
the doors, or allow our staircase windows to glare at us with strips of
yellow, blue, and red glass for edges round a starred centre, in a
manner found even in these artistic days in houses where people should
presumably know better; and I therefore repeat my advice to my readers
to look out for the trifles, and never to rest until all they possess
has some beauty to excuse its existence.

Perhaps the most tiresome thing in the orthodox hall is the ordinary
long staircase window; but this can be improved at very small cost if a
little artistic talent is brought to bear upon it. If it can be afforded
in any way the window can be made beautiful by filling it in with
cathedral glass in leaded squares, and about three or four really good
medallions in stained glass could be hung about. These can be procured
from Mr. Pither, 38 Mortimer Street, Regent Street, W. A wide shelf
should be placed at the bottom of the window, and china could be
arranged there. On the landing could be placed a tall grandfather clock,
in such a way that the face faces the hall, and, if there is room, a big
palm in a stand adds much to the effect. This would obviate any
necessity for draperies, always rather difficult to keep clean in this
exalted situation. If this arrangement is too expensive, a wooden arch
should be placed round the top of the window, and the woodwork should
taper down each side to the bottom of the window (illustrated in Fig.
3), and a soft silk drapery should be caught up on one side. This is
confined by a cord, passed over a nail, which can be loosened by
releasing the cord; the curtain then falls over the windows, and either
obscures the sunshine or the darkness, according to whether it is
lowered at night or day, although I should personally prefer to leave it
draped and to hang a lamp up in the arch, which could be lighted at
night. Plants or china could be arranged along the ledge, and make a
charming picture out of what is usually an intensely ugly spot.

Another great difficulty is the usual London landing half-way up-stairs,
where sometimes a couple of chairs are put, on which no one ever sits,
flanked by a table no one ever dusts or by a couple of palms everyone
forgets to water. Here a really clear brain is required to cope with the
difficulties; and I have had a sketch done by a friend of mine, who has
made a perfectly charming corner out of this generally hideous spot,
which I hope will speak for itself, and shows what can be made out of a
similar landing with trouble and a good deal of really artistic feeling.
In this same house the second door to the drawing-room, which is never
used and only looks frightful to those who come up the stairs and see
this door first of all, is turned into a cabinet, where various
old-fashioned fans and curiosities

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--Staircase Window.]

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--A London Landing.]

generally are kept, the sunken space between the wall and the door
itself being amply deep enough for this purpose; and as all doors can be
made to open into a room, the deep space can always be on the passage
side, the flat side being in the room itself and hidden by a straight
curtain, or, by a still simpler process, by taking off all the
mouldings, handles, &c., and papering straight over the door, just as if
it were a portion of the wall itself.

The simple over-doors, sold by so many furniture houses nowadays, should
be placed over the doors, in most houses, in the hall, or else pictures
should be hung there; and, indeed, one cannot have too many good
pictures anywhere. If real paintings and excellent proof engravings are
not to be afforded, do let me beg of my readers to indulge themselves in
autotypes or photographs from really good pictures. These look specially
well in a hall, and naturally do not serve as dust traps, as do far too
many of the Japanese ornaments, fans, skins, and trophies of the chase,
which are usually considered appropriate to this remarkably dusty and
trying situation. Pictures can be dusted daily; other ornaments require
more time and attention, though naturally one would rather have these
than nothing, if one cannot afford pictures, in this spot, while the
over-doors finish off the hall, and can have the five or six china
ornaments, which look well and can be regularly dusted with a long
feather brush and duly washed once a week when the hall is entirely
turned out.

I most strongly advise the hall to be warmed in some way if it can
possibly be managed, and I must own that I never can understand why
houses are built year after year without this simple but most important
convenience. One need not use a stove because one has it, but it should
never be out of one’s power to thoroughly warm the house should one wish
to do so, and I look forward to a day I have often spoken of, when women
shall qualify as architects, and shall turn their hands entirely to
domestic architecture. Until then I suppose we must go on grumbling and
putting up with grateless halls, cupboardless houses, and rooms where no
provision at all has been made for placing a bed or arranging furniture
with common sense, to say nothing of artistic grouping, that of course
is absolutely impossible in the ordinary square recessless house with
which we are now so very liberally provided by the male architect!

But if in any way possible have a grate put into the hall, or else some
kind of stove; of course a grate means a chimney, and this is not always
forthcoming when wanted, but a grate is much to be preferred; in the
first place it can mean a pretty mantel and over-mantel, and cheerful
blazes in winter, and pretty flowers in summer; and in the second, the
warmth it gives is separable from the fumes and stuffy feeling that one
always finds with a stove, no matter how good it is. Then, too, a stove
is hideous, it can’t help being so, and it is frankly frightful; still,
if warmth cannot be got into a hall in any other way, a stove must be
used, and I think the one sold by Mr. Pither in Mortimer Street, the
‘Eclipse,’ is as good as any; it burns a long time without any
attention, and costs very little indeed--I think something like twopence
for the twelve hours.

The reason why I impress upon my readers the necessity of a stove is
that I cannot believe but that we should be saved an immense amount of
illness were we yet more particular about an equal temperature than we
are. As a rule our rooms are fairly warm, but in the winter our passages
are like ice, they cannot help being so; windows must be opened and the
outer doors cannot be kept hermetically sealed, and the moment we leave
our fireside or the rooms where we have fires, we get a sudden chill
which cannot fail to try us terribly, even if it results in nothing
worse; besides which a fearful cold draught comes into our sitting-room
the moment the doors are open, and we shiver and throw on more
coal--coal that we should not require were the hall warmed as it ought
to have been, and which would allow us to even leave our sitting-room
door open should we desire to do so. Now our first exclamation to an
incoming friend is: ‘Oh, please shut the door!’ and we dismiss him or
her with the same pleasing but necessary injunction.

I was delighted to see in one of the papers the other day that there had
been a most remarkable diminution in that fatal scourge of our
ancestresses--consumption; for I am certain this is entirely due to the
fact that we are far more sensible about our clothing, and much more
lavish about firing, than our fathers used to be; and I feel convinced,
were we to have still more fires, and were we to taboo low

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--Hall Wardrobe (No. 1).]

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--Hall Wardrobe (No. 2).]

dresses entirely, consumption would soon be a thing of the past.
Therefore I cannot, I feel, say too much about the necessity for a stove
or fire in the hall, which is certainly neither complete nor sensible
without this most necessary piece of furniture; but I suppose we must
await our lady architect before these are universal, or before we get a
really perfect house, from a woman’s point of view at least. The
furniture of the hall must depend entirely on its length and breadth,
but once more I beg my readers not to allow of anything approaching the
appearance of the ordinary ugly hat stand there; if Edwin will not
remove his hideous hats and very ugly coats upstairs, Angelina must
conciliate him by having one of the hall wardrobes illustrated here. The
first one could go into a corner behind the door, and could be painted
to match the decorations, or else could be of either American walnut or
oak; the curtains could be of serge worked over in a decorative design
in coarse crewels, or else of some pretty tapestry. Complete in art
colours with serge curtains it costs 3_l._ 3_s._, in walnut 4_l._ 18_s._
6_d._; the straight one costs 5_l._ 15_s._ in art colours, and 6_l._
6_s._ in walnut; but for the impecunious, and, alas! there are many
among us, a V-shaped piece of wood could be put into the corner and
screwed there with a straight piece to make a front, from which the
curtain should hang down straight; behind this a V-shaped shelf could be
placed for hats, and some hooks could be screwed on the wall for coats;
but if in any way possible the real thing should be bought--it could be
moved to any other house and would last a life-time. These designs are
made by Wallace of the Curtain Road, where these capital hall wardrobes
are to be had, and which will, I trust, strike a death-blow to the
old-fashioned stands, which were as ugly as they were temptations to the
ordinary area-sneak to come in and help himself to any coat or hat he
takes a fancy to. Instead of the ordinary hall table I again suggest the
buffet, illustrated on page 28; nothing looks better, and if a carriage
is kept the oak chest, which can be opened like a cupboard, could hold
the rugs, while the top could be ornamented with china and hold a big
Imari bowl for cards, and a smaller one for the cards left during the
afternoon or letters sent by post; a couple of chairs and the
high-backed settle spoken of before would be ample for any ordinary
hall, where there should be, furthermore, a good mat at the front door,
but no small mats in each doorway or dreadful woolly mats about, things
which are quite unnecessary and are as ugly as they are tiresome.

It is absolutely necessary that, whether artistic or not, the hall
should be scrupulously tidy and as scrupulously clean; and I do not know
a more difficult thing than to insist on the former of these two axioms,
and to see one’s orders are carried out, especially when there are boys
and dogs--those two fatal elements to tidiness and cleanliness, but
which are absolutely necessary to the making of a complete house. One
may go out leaving a spotless place, with no _débris_ to offend the eye,
but one returns to find it scattered over with hats and caps, tennis
rackets, bats and stumps, paw and footmarks, and a general air of
distracting dirt all over, that is absolutely trying to the eye, that
fondly hopes to see what it left; and the only way to cope with the
human element is to make a species of pound, into which all is put, and
from whence nothing can be extracted without the payment of some small
fine. I have known a week’s pocket money go in one morning, but, as a
rule, very few lessons are required; the unfailing exactment of a fine
teaching even a boy that there is a place for everything and that
everything must be put in that place. The dogs and footmarks have to be
put up with, and I have known an unhappy kitchenmaid wash the front
doorsteps five single times in one day, when the boys have been at home,
and rain has, as is usual in Watford, been falling dismally. A back
staircase is another thing no house should be built without. This spares
the hall immensely, and saves the best stair-carpet, and prevents one
meeting the servants as one goes up and down--a thing I personally very
much object to. I don’t know why, but I resent hearing them go up to bed
past the drawing-room door, and owe our present house yet another
grudge, because, for the first time in our lives, we have here no second
staircase. If there should be one, I again advise the oilcloth dado
spoken of in my former book; nothing is so absolutely indestructible, or
so clean, and with this dado a wall would remain tidy and spotless for
an entire lifetime. A strong cocoanut matting should be put down on the
stairs themselves, but the edges of the stairs should be carefully
inspected, as back stairs, especially, are apt to be very roughly
finished off; if this is the case, a carpenter should be called in,
either to plane them smoothly, or mend them, or a wide, broad piece of
brass should bind the edges; these, again, should have a pad of flock in
a thin lining laid along them, finally covered with the cocoanut
matting. These small precautions will not cost very much, but will
certainly add immensely to the chances of the longevity of the carpets.
It would be a good thing to have the ‘treads’ of the back stairs grained
and varnished; but those in the principal staircase should always be
painted white with Aspinall’s water-paint. This gives an indescribably
clean and fresh look to the stairs, and the paint is so easily applied
that the housemaid could do it herself yearly, or whenever an
opportunity offers to re-paint the treads. Housekeepers should, in my
opinion, raise a statue to Aspinall, for he certainly has removed the
difficulties that lay in wait for the would-be artistic mistress of the
household; for now she is rendered quite independent of the British
workman, and can either paint her house herself, or give it to a man who
can be trusted to apply the paint, albeit no amount of instruction will
teach him to match a colour or produce anything save a hideous
caricature of the paper we give him, and whose ‘heye’ is absolutely
incapable of seeing what a ridiculous muddle he is making; and I,
therefore, cannot too often impress upon my readers, especially on those
who live far from really artistic workpeople, that if they want their
houses to be really nice, they must indulge in Aspinall, and must insist
on the unbroken, unpicked-out surface of paint that use of this most
invaluable enamel produces most satisfactorily.



CHAPTER III.

NOOKS AND CORNERS.


I think so very much of the appearance of our rooms depends on how we
arrange our corners that I have had two large drawings made from corners
in my present house, which, at the risk of appearing egotistical, I am
going to write about; not because I consider them perfect--no house can
really be perfect unless far more money is spent upon it than I am able
to spend--but because I consider they will in some measure assist those
who, like myself, are very fond of pretty and comfortable things, but
are not prepared to ruin themselves in order to obtain this most
desirable combination. I wrote so fully in my former book on the
arrangement of sitting-rooms that I am only going to touch lightly on
the orthodox papering and painting of dining-, drawing-, and
morning-rooms, reserving all my new ideas for the billiard-room and
library, neither of which rooms were considered likely to be required
for the modest young couple starting in life, for whom I more
particularly designed that special volume.

As I said before, this book is intended for older folks, or for those
who have more of this world’s goods than Edwin and Angelina were
supposed to possess; and, therefore, it really supplements--it does not
in any measure do away with--‘From Kitchen to Garret;’ and as I am most
anxious to impress this upon my readers by not repeating any of the
information I gave there, I intend especially in the present chapter to
denote how, with a little care, the modest house can be expanded into a
more artistic abode, or how a bigger house can be furnished, the while
we do not set on one side the furniture with which we began life, and
which we possessed ourselves of with so much gladness and with such a
sense of importance--at least, I hope all my readers did, for the
culture of home and of all that makes a home cannot, in my opinion, be
too much developed. Therefore, from their earliest days children should
be encouraged to think about their own special rooms, and should be
taught to notice and have a voice in the arrangement of all the house.
If the house is thoroughly appreciated and cultivated, if, above all, it
is the prettiest and happiest place our children know of, we shall not
have much difficulty with them when they cease to be children and begin
to feel they have a separate existence to ours. They have this separate
existence, and we should endeavour that, without in any measure relaxing
the ties of duty and politeness, they should be able to feel they are
themselves and not our bond-slaves; and this can only be done by
consulting and talking with them freely about all we have and do,
letting them, if they will, develop their own tastes gradually, but not
in a manner that will oust us from our proper place or jar with any of
our own pet ideas on the subject of home and its decoration and
embellishment; for it is better to endure the ugliest place in the world
cheerfully than to live in artistic completeness, if this same artistic
completeness means sweeping away all the landmarks of our elders and
betters, and leaving them stranded in an unfamiliar world of new tables
and chairs, which are nothing to them, and but ill replace the furniture
which reminds them of so much that we never knew about or have entirely
forgotten. I have known a girl in her zeal for beauty make her mother so
abjectly miserable by removing a round table, once the centre of the
scattered houseful of boys and girls, and by ruthlessly disposing of
clumsy and hideous furniture, made precious by memories of those who
have gone into the land of shadows, that I am compelled at times to
allow sentiment to sway me and to say, Consider first whether a thing
has associations before, in one’s anxiety for beauty, one does away with
it. If it have, let it remain, for nothing can ever replace it; but if
it have not (and I sternly myself refuse to become sentimental over a
chair or footstool), by all means get rid of it, and replace it with
something lighter and more modern. As a rule, this will not last long
enough for us to cling round it mentally or to deck it with any of the
finer sentiment that is inseparable from much of the heavy mahogany and
walnut under which so many of my disciples still groan, and which has
been handed down from one generation to another, each generation
becoming more and more discontented with it, until the present are in
open revolt against that which gave our grandmothers and
great-grandmothers the greatest possible gratification to possess.

The pretty corners in which we all delight, and the lightness and
brightness that now characterise our houses, would have been the source
of endless woe and trouble to the dear ladies of old. The corners would
have meant dust and ‘gimcracks,’ and as the light colours in which we
revel would and do soon become soiled, they, too, would have been
deprecated because they showed the dirt, which was present equally in
the darker rooms, but not being visible was not taken any notice of
until the annual clean, when all was made aggressively shining and
absolutely spotless, remaining so for about a week, when dust began to
gather again, but it was unnoticed because the dark materials did not
show the dirt, which, however, could be felt, did our finger come in
contact with the rough moreen or dismal repps in which their souls
delighted, and of which specimens still haunt us in the houses of those
who are possessors of similar heirlooms with which they dare not part.

Then, too, the dear ladies were so fond of stuffing up their windows and
darkening their rooms still more by the drawing down of blinds and the
eliminating of every morsel of sunshine, for fear their precious carpets
would become faded; and I am sorry to say that this affection for
half-dark rooms yet lingers among many who ought to know better. But
when I stumble into one of these rooms, where one cannonades against the
furniture and falls over footstools in the half-light, I always feel
convinced that the blinds are drawn to prevent the sun beating too
warmly on the faded complexion of the owner of that house, or to hide
the ravages of time, that the liberally applied pearl-powder and rouge
and the sticky harsh dye are powerless to remove entirely, but that
almost disappear in the rose-tinted chambers I so abhor and despise; and
I therefore know what to expect when I am ushered into one of these
stuffy, dismal rooms, and am thankful when I get out of it; for the mind
that can delight in defying age with paint and dye is not likely to find
me of the smallest use. I should say at once, Do away with the blinds
and shorten the curtains, and let in some air; and as the owner of that
house would sooner dye--I mean die--than accede to my request, I have
nothing to say to her, and get away as soon as I can. Any amount of
decoration for the house I like and appreciate, but I cannot appreciate
or understand the ambition that makes one Aspinall one’s face and
pretend to be five-and-twenty when one knows one will never see forty
again.

Corners are especially appreciated, unfortunately, by the ladies who
draw their blinds down and never face the eye of day save in a carriage,
with a spotted veil over their features and a shading parasol, and no
doubt some of these individuals will look at the pictures in this book
and may see these words of wisdom; if they do, I hope they will consider
them, wash their faces, and pull up their blinds. I can assure them
they will be far happier and healthier, more especially if they realise
that the time they spend in tiring their heads and painting their faces
is absolutely wasted--it neither makes them younger nor more
ornamental--and that it would be far better employed in working for
others, or in making their homes as cheerful as unfailing sunshine and
fresh air invariably do. Therefore, down with the curtains and up with
the blinds, and let us have as much cheerful sunshine as this rather
disappointing climate will allow us to possess, and the first corner I
would make is the summer corner, for, that once made, dismal darkness
and stuffiness would be an impossibility.

The special corner illustrated here is one of the windows in my present
morning-room, which is at the end of the room, in a curious species of
square nook to itself; there is an enormous species of bow-window
beside, where I have my desk and other belongings, and beyond that again
is a third window, below which I have a long book-case full of books;
but though this window is to some extent unique, the seat illustrated
here, which is an adaptation or rather an enlargement of Giles’ ‘Cosy
Corner,’ could be put under any window and of course enlarged immensely;
if desired, it could go across one side of the room, and the arm with a
curtain could come out straight from the wall of the room, thus making a
sheltered place in which to sit and read; and breaking up admirably the
long straight look of the wall, which all too often makes an ordinary
room the most uninteresting place in the world, and the most difficult
to render artistic and pleasant. The right-hand side of the seat should
be at least two feet longer than the left-hand side, or else the seat
will look too much like a family pew, which cognomen one of my friends
is rude enough to give to my present seat, but arranged with the ends of
an uneven length, the seat looks like nothing save what it is--a
remarkably comfortable lounge, where one can either sit and read or
talk, and it forms an extremely pretty addition to any room.

The special seat illustrated here is enamelled Aspinall’s electric
turquoise, and is upholstered in Colbourne’s yellow and white Louis XVI.
damask, at 2_s._ 11½_d._ a yard, but I intend soon to replace this
covering by dark yellow stamped

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--A Summer Corner.]

corduroy velveteen, for, pretty as the Louis XVI. damask is, and
admirable as it is for curtains and table-cloths, it does not answer for
hard wear, and soon becomes soiled and rubbed, a fact Giles warned me
about; but I was anxious to experiment myself on the subject; and having
done so, and found it does not answer, here solemnly warn my readers
from using this charming material for tight coverings or where real hard
wear is expected of it. Tightly upholstered furniture should be always
covered in something that will really wear, not only because of the
expense, but because of the worry of having workmen always in the house
replacing the furniture which has become soiled and worn.

But whatever the seat is upholstered in, the fringe round the seat
should not be forgotten, and it should almost touch the ground; mine
does not, and in consequence the seat always has the appearance of
having grown out of its frocks; and the material should be in some
measure a contrast to the colour used for enamelling the ends and
woodwork; indeed, I much prefer the ends, &c., to be of some polished
wood, while the straight piece above the seat and below the shelf could
be either plainly painted or polished wood, or else it could be made of
brocade or Japanese leather paper. Mr. Giles puts Lincrusta in those he
sells to fit into recesses, but I cannot endure this stiff and very ugly
material, and always ask him to replace it for me with something
preferable, the excellent Japanese leather looking better, in my
opinion, than anything else. The straight piece above the seat, if
covered in brocade and furnished with tiny hooks, would make an
admirable place to display the miniatures and odds and ends of silver
that are so fashionable; really old and valuable fans could also be
displayed here to advantage, and a thin sheet of talc could be stretched
over all. Glass would be too heavy, and the talc would protect the fans,
&c., from dust, and yet be sufficiently transparent.

The shelf for china is part of the seat: this is of wood, either
enamelled or polished, and should be carefully arranged; the tall jar
containing grasses at the end of the shelf in the sketch is really in
the corner in my room, and fills up the space between the curtain and
the wall, and in the opposite corner from the frieze-rail hangs one of
Benson’s admirable copper lamps with a copper shade; this throws the
light down on the seat, and enables one to read there, should one wish
to do so, the cushioned corner below the lamp being perhaps the most
comfortable spot in the whole seat. Just on the other side of the arms,
and below the top of them, I had small tea-cup shelves put; they shut
down completely, and when not in use are scarcely visible, but they make
a great deal of difference to one’s comfort; for one can rest one’s cup
there easily, and in consequence this corner makes a favourite spot
during the ceremony of afternoon tea, which we always hold in the
morning-room, our present drawing-room being only used when lighted up,
as it is dark and depressing, because of the numerous trees by which we
are surrounded, and that make it unbearable until the lamps are lighted
and the yellow and white decoration stands out in the admirable manner
in which these two colours always do when once artificial light falls
upon them.

The big pillows are in yellow, deep-red, and electric turquoise, and
were bought at Maple’s for 16_s._ 11_d._ each; but those who really
possess numerous pillows, soft and comfortable enough to lean against,
but hideous to contemplate, will be glad to hear that Maple sells these
frilled silk covers ready to slip on, which would transform in a moment
the most frightful pillow ever presented to an unfortunate bride, who
yet dare not do away with the kind gift of a relative who may be has not
gone with the times or holds the stern opinion that a gift one makes
oneself is worth any amount of presents bought in a shop: so it is, if
the work be present day work, and really artistic; but the beaded
cushion or (the worst development of all) that covered with crazy
patchwork, still exists unfortunately, and may exist, blamelessly and
usefully, if slipped into one of these covers, which can be whipped off
in a moment, should the donor appear unexpectedly, or be even pointed
out as our pious endeavour to preserve the ‘beautiful’ work by a cover
one does not mind if one spoils: an excellently plausible excuse that
spares the feelings of the maker and our own sensitive optics at the
same time.

The curtain on my seat is hanging on a brass rod, and is made from a
remarkably beautiful pattern of yellow and brown stamped velveteen known
as the Graham velveteen, and sold by Graham & Biddle; both sides of the
curtain are alike, as I have doubled the material, and I am very fond
of this special bit of colour and design; but if the velveteen is
objected to, the curtain can be made from the soft artistic silk
Shoolbred sells at 2_s._ a yard; this must be double too, and put on
very full, or else it will soon become skimpy and flabby. The table at
the end of the seat has a loose cover of dark-red Bokhara plush, a
capital species of ribbed plush edged with ball fringe; this costs 6_s._
11½_d._ a yard from Colbourne, and it takes a yard and a quarter to make
the square, which is necessary for one of these cloths; a big yellow pot
holding a palm stands on the table, the palm giving place whenever
possible to a flowering plant, a great white azalea, and a big white
rose tree, and also an orange tree with flowers and fruit, and a
flowering daphne having all appeared there to the greatest possible
advantage. Beyond the curtain, at the extreme end of the seat, I hang a
long Japanese bamboo, and have flowers here whenever possible. These
bamboos are most decorative, and look nice with comparatively few
flowers in them.

On the other side of the seat, at the end, a palm stands on the low,
square, velvet-covered stools I prefer to anything else for pot stands;
and at the extreme end I always have one of Mrs. M’Clelland’s admirable
newspaper and magazine stands; these are the right height for use and
stand on two crossed legs; one side takes papers and the other
magazines; a paper-knife is slipped into a bracket at the side, and
altogether the stand is a wonderful comfort, and above all makes an
excellent present for a man--that most difficult of all creatures to
give a present to, unless one half ruin oneself in order to make him an
offering.

The walls of this special room are covered with Mr. Smee’s admirable
blue paper at 4_s._ the piece, all the paint is Aspinall’s
electric-turquoise enamel, the frieze is plain gold Japanese leather
paper, and the ceiling is in squares; the moulding that forms each
square is coloured cream, and the squares themselves are filled in with
a well-designed yellow and white ceiling paper from Mr. Smee’s at 3_s._
a piece; the floor is covered with yellow and white matting, and has
several rugs lying about, and the curtains are Louis XVI. tapestry, in
yellow and white, edged with the usual ball fringe--the smaller windows
having this only, the larger one having ‘guipure vitrage’ on it as well.
The frieze has been embellished most successfully in three or four
places with great branches of Japanese-looking japonica in the natural
colours; and this is an immense improvement, as one requires touches of
red undoubtedly about the room. The branches do not go all round the
room in the orthodox manner, but are scattered in three or four places,
and are the work of an artist. A good effect can be obtained by merely
outlining with a careful brush the patterns that are on all Japanese
leather papers with a little ‘Scinde red.’ Of course this must not be
done all over the frieze, but simply here and there, and should be
executed with taste, and a great amount of common sense as well.

Before I say any more about this room, or about the other corner which
has been arranged for winter use, I want to draw the attention of my
readers especially to the windows. My plan of doing away with blinds was
illustrated as regards a bow window, and the tiny squares of the manor
house windows before, but no one has ever seemed able to grasp the
manner in which an ordinary flat window or a French window can be
managed. This window is the ordinary flat window; and can anything be
simpler than the white curtains of ‘guipure vitrage’ stretched on two
slight rods fastened on the window _frame, not on the sash_? These
curtains remain in place, whether the window is open or shut, and, in
consequence, were they used in a bedroom, one could dress comfortably
with the window open, the curtains remaining in place and serving as a
blind. With the ordinary short blind, which vulgarises any house, and to
which English house-mothers cling with a devotion worthy of a better
cause, one must keep the windows closed during the process of dressing,
as the blind goes up with the window, and leaves the room exposed to the
glances of anyone who may be passing by. The thicker curtains hang from
a separate brass rod, which is rather larger than those used for the
muslin. These curtains are attached to rings which allow them to be
drawn easily along the rods at night, and when the sun shines too warmly
and brightly, and, therefore, no hideously ugly blinds are required; for
even ladies whose dubious complexions forbid the free entrance of the
blessed sun can make their rooms as dark as they like by drawing these
curtains, which can be lined with a thick sateen, and should be edged
with a ball fringe, to break the hard line which always spoils the look
of any curtain when left untrimmed. ‘Guipure vitrage,’ which is to be
had from Wallace, from 10¾_d._ a yard, makes admirable under curtains.
Of course it is much dearer than Kay’s butter muslin, or his
easily-draped Indian muslin at 2¾_d._ a yard. But then these muslins
require making up, and must be edged with softly falling frills, which
should be from 3 to 5 inches in width, according to the size of the
window. These frills are put on without any heading, and fall in a sort
of cascade. The frilled muslins sold now by the yard at any big shop are
not nearly so satisfactory, as the frills are goffered, and are very
stiff. Making the frilled curtains is a serious consideration: they must
be done by hand, as the muslin will not stand the machine, and the
hemming required is rather hard work, and therefore ‘guipure vitrage,’
despite its price, should recommend itself to those who are not given to
sewing. It merely requires hemming top and bottom, and the rods pass
through these hems, which should be loose enough to allow of the curtain
being moved to cover the window entirely, should this be necessary, or
to part in the centre, so that any view there may be need not be
obscured.

In the ordinary London house, where all sorts of endeavours are made to
completely hide the doings of the inhabitants of the rooms from the
passers-by, these curtains, especially in the Indian muslin from Kay’s,
are invaluable. No one can see in, and all can see out, while further
protection could be obtained by flower boxes along the window-ledges in
the summer, and put inside the rooms in the winter, if desired. A couple
of iron brackets could be put out, one each side of the window,
Aspinalled to match the rest of the paint, and on this the box could
rest, full of flowering plants, when the weather outside would be too
cold for them to live and flourish. The whole of the house should be
done alike with the curtains, of which a double set should be made. The
‘guipure vitrage’ must not be very much starched, and it must be
carefully pulled out and stretched before it is quite dry, or else it
will seem to have shrunk; but with care and proper washing these
curtains would last three or four years, and, as there is no real
trouble in making, should soon be the favourite material for these
short curtains. The cost would be about 4_s._ a window, so that it would
be easy for anyone to see what their house would cost them. Naturally
the other muslin would come only to about 1_s._ a window; in this case
the sewing must be done by the owner of the house or her maids.

I think from this sketch anyone can see how the ordinary blindless
window is managed; while the way to arrange a French window is shown in
the frontispiece so plainly that no further description can possibly be
needed.

And now we come to the winter corner, the sketch of which requires very
little comment from me, as I think it speaks for itself; but my readers
may be interested to know that the sofa illustrated here began life as a
wretched stiff sofa with a scroll end, and no side whatever, and was
bought very cheaply of a country tradesman. When I wanted to make a
comfortable seat by the fire, I got another local genius to put the
scroll end upright, and to put on the side. This transformed the seat at
once, and made a most comfortable lounge, more especially as I had the
legs cut down, until it is only fourteen inches high, the seat being
about twenty-four inches wide. This is a seat _pur et simple_; but by
putting a couple of pillows on the end of the sofa nearest the wall and
stuffing them comfortably down there, one makes an excellent rest for
one’s head, and can lie there in warmth and peace. This corner, by the
way, is a special favourite of Max, the tabby cat, who much resents
being moved therefrom, and retreats in great dudgeon to a chair from
Liberty, which stands the other side of the fireplace, which is only
just indicated in the sketch, and which is a charming but simple design,
from Shuffery in Welbeck Street.

Behind the sofa stands the corner cabinet made for me by Mr. Smee, and
which is just what such a cabinet ought to be. I have seen a corner
cabinet which looked as if its middle had suddenly collapsed, the two
sides going into a miserable point, which was as ugly as it was
unsatisfactory, and I could not think what was the matter with it, until
I discovered that the point ought to have been behind, and that the
front should be comparatively straight, as in our illustration. This
cabinet is enamelled electric

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--A Winter Corner.]

turquoise, and has brass handles to the drawers and cupboard, which are
made for use, and hold an immense variety of things. The drawers are
divided in half inside, which is a great convenience, as it enables one
to keep papers and properties of all sorts and conditions separate and
distinct; while the cupboard also has a shelf in it, and is the whole
length and width of the bottom part, thus holding a good deal. The two
little velveteen curtains are to break the monotony which would have
been caused had the shelves been left open; and the top and shelves
generally hold any quantity of china--the dull yellow and blue jars one
buys at Gorringe’s being especially suitable for this room; as is the
deep red Kaga and Imari ware imported in such quantities by Shoolbred,
Liberty, and Whiteley, and indeed by almost every second shop nowadays.

The table shown in this illustration is one that is remarkably useful by
reason of its second tray. My own table is covered in dull yellow
corduroy velveteen, edged with a ball fringe; but if room were a great
object, and there were much to store away, a loose table-cloth, in serge
or Bokhara plush, could be thrown over it to conceal anything that was
hidden thereunder. I am not fond of these makeshifts myself; but in a
small room, where every single inch is of consequence, work that would
be perhaps unsightly to leave about can be neatly folded and put on this
tray; and another place to put away could be afforded, if we replaced my
fireside sofa (which Wallace will supply at 5_l._ 15_s._ 6_d._ complete)
by a sofa I saw at Hampton’s just lately. This is an improvement on the
very useful box-ottomans I advocate in many bedrooms, and is much like a
sofa with a tolerably high side and two ends; the top of the sofa lifts
up, and discloses a good deep box, which would hold an immense quantity
of things; while the whole affair does not look like a box-ottoman, but
resembles a very comfortable and pretty sofa; this costs about 7_l._
17_s._ 6_d._, and would be of immense use in a room where one had a
great deal to put away, and very few convenient places to store one’s
property in. This would stand where my sofa is in the sketch, or could
be put in a recess one side of the fire; it would look well in either
situation. I think this corner, too, gives some idea of how pictures can
be hung about in an informal manner; although in every case these are
represented in the sketch as being much higher than they really are;
there is no formal arrangement, yet all seems to fall into place without
trouble, and the whole effect is very good; flowers and plants are again
to be found here, and indeed I cannot say too much about the
desirability of filling our rooms with both plants and flowers. No house
can be pretty without a great many of both; and no one who has not seen
the immense difference plenty of plants make can have any idea of the
satisfactory effect of these great adjuncts to the real decoration of a
house. They cost money, but not one quarter of what they used to; and
even in the depth of winter in London one can buy heaps of narcissus and
jonquils absurdly cheaply, a shillingsworth making an appreciable
difference in any house!

Beyond the chair just indicated in the sketch is a species of square
arch, and beyond that a square end to the room itself; I did not at
first see what I could do with this most ugly part of an ugly room, but
at last the brilliant idea struck me, of which I give a tiny sketch
here. I had a series of brackets put up the arch to hold china; the back
of these brackets and the panelling above the arch itself was filled in
with red and gold Japanese leather paper, and on each bracket I placed
one of Elliott’s pots; the sides of the brackets were painted by Mr.
M’Clelland’s clever brush with red, yellow, and pink roses, and I at
once found myself in possession of a charming object for contemplation,
instead of a yawning gap, preposterous in structure and hideous to look
at. By the left-hand side of the arch I place a beautifully embroidered
Japanese silk screen in the most delicate shade of pink; I can dwell
lovingly on this, as it was not my own selection, but was a Christmas
present from someone who knew and studied my tastes, and it gives just
the right finish to that corner; behind the last bracket stands a palm
in an art-pot, and another little table with a blue cloth is in front of
the screen, and completes that side of the room.

Below the last window is the long low book-case mentioned before; it is
only about three feet high, and is enamelled electric turquoise like the
rest of the room, and each shelf is edged with a frill of yellow printed
linen; the top of these shelves makes an excellent rest for
photographs, china, and plants, and is thus finished; had the book-case
not been placed there I cannot think what I should have done, as no one
can sit in that part of the room, which really is a tiny ante-room, or
entrance merely, to what is not at the best a large room, but which
would have been all the better had the eccentric designer done away with
his arch and put all the space at his command into the room itself; but
he did not, and so I have made the best use I can of the room as it is,
though I really believe in so doing I have shortened my life
perceptibly!

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--Arches for a Double Room.]

At the end of the room, opposite the window under which the book-case
is, is a door--and such a door! when we came it was grained maple, and
was the centre of a wooden partition, above which was a neat fanlight of
starred glass. I shall never forget it--never! I have now put on each
side of the door a curtain of Wallace’s ‘daisy brocade,’ and another on
the door itself on one of Maple’s rods, which open and shut with the
door. Above this there is a shelf to hold china, and the glass is
replaced by leaded squares of cathedral glass. I mention all these
details to show what a difference a small amount of common sense, a
little woodwork, and a little money will make; indeed, in these days of
artistic merit, when upholsterers are educated gentlemen, and the shop
is no longer a badge of infamy, I think no one who is not utterly
obstinate and tasteless need have an ugly house; though I must confess I
still have to grieve over the many absolutely hideous houses in the land
arranged by those who are not tasteless--I wish they were: then one
could do something with them--but are so permeated by vile and vulgar
tastes of their own that they will not be taught, and continue to offend
our eyes with their belongings, regardless of the fact that in these
days it is really easier to have pretty things than to have ugly ones.
Before I pass on to other nooks and corners which can be made, I should
like once more to impress upon my readers that for a morning-room
nothing is so absolutely successful as regards decoration as this
arrangement of greeny-blue, yellow and red. I have sat in it and
contemplated it for just seven years, and I am more and more convinced
that nothing else is so entirely satisfactory in every way; naturally we
need not adhere to Mr. Smee’s 4_s._ paper, or there would be too much
monotony about it. Marigold 81 at 5_s._ 6_d._ from Morris is just as
beautiful, while Pither’s less expensive ‘blossom,’ ‘berry,’ and
bay-tree papers, which average 1_s._ 6_d._ a piece, can all be used
according to the size and shape of the room. And once more I should say
most emphatically, Study your room; a dark dull room could not take this
scheme of blue, and were such a chamber taken for the morning-room,
which I hope and trust would not be the case, I should advocate another
scheme of colouring altogether, and would suggest either a really
beautiful pink and green floral paper called ‘Amaryllis’ at 10_s._ 6_d._
the piece from Wallace, or else Haines’s ‘rose’ paper at 3_s._ 9_d._
With either, I should suggest warm ivory paint, a pink and cream ceiling
paper, and either cretonne curtains, in a cretonne to harmonise with the
paper, or else of soft green Liberty silk, the greens procurable there
being the greens to harmonise with pink, Liberty pink and green
commingled making a most charming room, but one that should not be
attempted cheaply. Green and pink must be in expensive materials to
procure the proper shades, a common green and an inferior pink being
about the most terrible colours one can have, although a common blue
runs it very hard, as sporting individuals would say. A green
carpet--either the green ‘lily,’ that always satisfactory, inexpensive
carpet from Wallace, sold in blues, greens, and reds, at 3_s._ 11_d._ a
yard, wide width, or else a dull green pile carpet from Pither’s--should
be used in a room decorated in this manner, but the green must be an
artistic green, and have no fidgety pattern to distract the eye or
attract attention to what we should never see, unless our attention were
really called to it.

If the morning-room were in the country, were a very hot room, and only
used in summer, it would look very charming in sea-green and white.
Morris has a beautiful sea-green paper at 3_s._ 6_d._; and Chappell &
Payne have a very pretty sea-green and white-chrysanthemum paper at a
little under 2_s._, the same colour, which could be used were Morris too
expensive. Either sea-green or ivory paint could be used. There could be
a hand-painted frieze on sea-green ‘tectorium,’ of white lilac and the
graceful white broom and their own foliage, and a pale sea-green
cretonne should be chosen, with bunches of white lilac on. The floor
should be covered with sea-green matting and rugs, which would bring a
little colour into the room, and the furniture should be sea-green
enamel upholstered in the cretonne. In the pink and green room, by the
way, the furniture should be malachite green-stained, to be had from
Wallace, and the muslin next the window should be Helbronner’s pink and
green lily muslin. This is expensive, but it is by far the prettiest
muslin for such a room that could be found. I think low basket-chairs
are still the best chairs for a morning-room, but, if they can be
afforded, one or two higher chairs should be provided. I find
Shoolbred’s corduroy velveteen the best thing possible to cover
basket-chairs with, unless one has a maid who is clever enough to unpick
the cretonne covers and wash and replace them; then nothing is as nice
as cretonne, and this same material, in some appropriate shade, would do
for the

[Illustration: FIG. 10.--Simple Mantel Draping.]

larger chairs. The cost of these must depend on the money we have to
spend, but a good chair with comfortable springs costs from 5_l._ to
8_l._, and, if the money can be managed, I should advise as much as this
being given; it will be cheaper in the long run. I think the most
difficult matter of all to explain by mere words is the arrangement of a
fireplace which is already supplied with one of the ‘handsome statuary’
marble mantel-pieces, which are so much admired by builders and folks
who cannot help being impressed with the idea that marble mantel-pieces
and a claim to gentility go hand in hand, and I am always imploring
people not to drape these imitations with elaborate flutings and
flounces of muslin and general awfulnesses. If the morning-room--or,
indeed, any other room--is burdened with one of these mantel-pieces,
paint it boldly with Aspinall (the paint can always be removed either
with Carson’s ‘detergent’ or else by the ‘Eclipse Paint Remover’). See
that it matches the rest of the paint in the room; then place along it
the simple drapery I have illustrated here. This is quite sufficient. It
hides a good piece of the underpart of the structure, and as it can be
shaken daily does not collect dust and dirt, as must all more elaborate
arrangements inevitably. This drapery is made by taking a straight piece
of material about twenty-four inches wider and twenty-four inches longer
than the mantel-piece itself; the sides and front are edged with a cord
and a tassel, or else a few pompons are hung at the front corners; the
drapery is placed straight along the mantel-piece, the uncorded edge
against the wall, and drapes itself, being kept stationary by the
ornaments and photographs, &c., we usually put on the shelf. Bokhara
plush makes the best drapery, but if this is used three or four should
be made at the same time, or else the plush cuts to waste. Of course the
rest can be used in other ways; it makes admirable flat bell-pulls for
bedrooms, with a brass ring at the end, and could be used as toilet
covers; but corduroy velveteen is nearly as pretty, and, being the exact
width required, would be the best material to use; it is only 2_s._
9_d._ a yard. Whatever is used, the corners of the drapery should be
lined with satin, or sateen, either in a paler colour than the drapery
itself or in some contrast, as the corners show, and would not look nice
at all unless they were lined. This completes the drapery, which is the
only one that should be allowed, as it is simple and cleanly, which is
more than can be said for any other arrangement. The pattern was given
me by a friend, who bought it of a first-rate upholsterer in Paris, and
is so simple, I cannot think why no one ever thought of it before in
England.

Before we pass away from speaking of the fireplace, I should like to
describe one or two ways of filling up the recesses generally found in
present-day houses. In a dining-room I should always place the buffets
there which I recommend in place of sideboards; then, in the
drawing-room or morning-room, Giles’s cosy corner, illustrated in every
advertising paper, is to be recommended for one side; this seat goes
straight along the recess, and has an end that returns along the end of
the recess, giving a corner in which to sit. As a rule these seats will
take two people comfortably. Above the padded back is the same straight
piece illustrated in the ‘summer corner,’ surmounted by the
bracket-rail; but if people do not wish to go to the expense of an
elaborately upholstered and spring seat, they can easily make a seat for
themselves by having a wooden frame on four legs made to fit the recess;
the top should be covered with sacking or webbing, along the front of
the seat should be nailed a full flounce of corduroy velveteen lined
with holland; a square cushion, made from wool and hair mixed, should be
placed along the top of the sacking, and the back should be formed by
hanging two square cushions on the wall so arranged that one dovetails
with the other in the corner; these should be high enough to allow of
using a finish of Giles’s bracket-rail for china, which should be put
along the top of the cushions and keep them in their places, and a lamp
can be hung over the seat, either from a hook placed in the ceiling
itself or hanging out from the frieze-rail from one of the brass arms
sold by Benson, on purpose for holding lamps, for about 10_s._ 6_d._
each, that would give light to anyone who sat to read by the fire in a
room in which gas was banished, as I trust it may soon be banished from
every sitting-room in the land, either in favour of the beautiful
electric light, for the universal use of which I pine, or in favour of
lamps, which may give trouble, but save that trouble over and over again
in the manner in which things remain clean and good that would have
become both spoiled and soiled had gas been used where they were.
Another recess can be filled by using Mrs. Talbot Coke’s design,
published in the ‘Queen,’ and which I have her permission for giving
here, and which is not only very pretty but decidedly useful. It could
be made by any carpenter first, as three simple shelves; the top and
bottom shelves should be of equal depth, the centre one should be rather
narrower, and the whole arrangement should not be above the line of the
mantelshelf; along the edge of the shelves should be glued strips of
Japanese leather paper, and the top shelf should be divided as in the
sketch, the arches being either simple wooden arches cut out of thin
wood, or else of the Moorish fretwork sold by Hindley & Barker; the
bottom shelf should have three separate small curtains along it, the
division between being strips of wood decorated with Japanese leather.
Of course this arrangement should be enamelled to match the rest of the
paint, and the silk which is used for the curtains should be a contrast;
and great care must be taken to employ someone who does not make his
woodwork with a heavy hand (as some cooks make pastry), for I once saw
one of these recess arrangements carried out in such a way that the
whole effect was dreadful, being entirely marred by the thick wood and
heavy arches of which it was composed. Any china can be arranged
therein, for the top makes an admirable resting-place for odds and ends
and one’s favourite photographs or books. An armchair should be put by
the side, and this will suggest at once a comfortable reading-nook for
a winter’s afternoon without any more elaborate arrangement.

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--A Recess.]

I am so often asked to advise people, on paper, how to arrange their
furniture, and despite my strenuous refusals to contemplate such a
waste of time, am so constantly importuned to do so, that I venture to
pause here, and give one or two hints on the subject of the general
arrangement of sitting-rooms; as although it is naturally quite
impossible to tell positively where to place a chair I have never seen
in a house I have never entered, it is possible, I trust, to give
general hints which shall enable my readers to make their sitting-rooms
rather more comfortable than most of them seem able to do at present.

For example, no matter how small a room is, an enormous amount of
comfort and a certain idea of unlimited space is always given by placing
a screen judiciously by the door; this prevents the whole of the room
being on view at once, and gives an opportunity of placing a chair or
two behind it, which we could not do were the door to open into the
passage and leave a yawning gulf behind one’s back, or were it to open
into the room and so leave an exposed place at once where no one could
sit, because they would feel they were sitting in the passage; and,
again, no chairs should be isolated or put out of humanity’s reach; if
they are, they will surely be sought out at once by some shy caller or
visitor, and we shall have to spend our time endeavouring to draw him or
her into the circle. By this I do not mean that our chairs should be
arranged as if we were expecting the assembling together of a
prayer-meeting, but that they should be within reach both of ourselves,
the fire in winter, the window in summer, and of the light always; then
shall we be quite sure our guests are happy, or, if they are not, that
it is their own fault and not ours.

There should be a place for each member of the household in any room,
and attention to these details even causes the furniture to in some
measure arrange itself and be so placed that it shows to the greatest
advantage, and can at the same time be used by the owners in the best
manner possible as well. If more lamps are required in a room than the
two or three which are usually quite sufficient for the purposes of
general lighting, those who require special lamps should be encouraged
to look after them themselves, especially in the case of the daughters
of the house, on whom, in most middle-class families, should devolve all
the flower-tending and finer parts of housekeeping, of which, by that
time, the house-mother will no doubt be weary, and will only be too
glad to hand over to those who are full of energy as well as of the very
newest ideas on the subject of how to arrange the flowers, on which so
much of the appearance of the house depends.

I like the sofa placed out straight from the side of the fire, as in
Fig. 7, or straight along in front of it, about seven or eight feet from
the front of the fire; and in some rooms the piano, that most
undecorative piece of furniture, can be put with one end straight
against the wall in the recess, the other straight out into the room
with the sofa against the back, or else a comfortable chair, as
represented in Fig. 11, which will, I hope, give my readers a good idea
how to manage a piano, which can be placed either out from the wall in
the recess, across one corner of a room, or out in the room itself, and,
indeed, in any way that will not necessitate its back against the wall,
a position that is fatal to anything like music, for it is terrible to
play with one’s back to one’s audience, or to sing straight into the
wall, which throws one’s voice straight back at one all the time one is
singing. As will be seen from the sketch, the baize at the back of the
piano is first covered with a good Japanese leather paper, and then soft
silk is carelessly draped over it, finishing with a long piece at one
side; the top of the piano is first covered with the soft silk, which is
fastened by tiny tacks inside the lid to keep it in its place, and then
by a piece of Japanese embroidery; at one end is a tall palm-stand from
Liberty with a big brass pot holding a palm; at the back, where there is
no distinct drapery, stands a small screen, and at the other end is a
Cairene inlaid stool holding a jar of grasses; but I should prefer
myself a much taller arrangement, as the end of the piano is not at all
a pretty object. The silk which is found in the front of most pianos
should be replaced by Japanese leather paper. If draping is objected
to--and it should never be attempted by anyone who cannot pay some
artist in drapery to manage it for them, unless, of course, their own
fingers are clever at it--a very good substitute is formed by using one
of Shoolbred’s piano-rods, from which can be hung a simple full curtain
of some good and beautiful brocade, such as is their Nismes brocade. The
top should always be arranged as shown in the sketch, for though these
things may deaden the sound,

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--A Draped Piano.]

and a good musician would, no doubt, rage about them, they can be
removed in three seconds to a side table should music be the order of
the day, and could be replaced at once without giving anyone any undue
amount of trouble. I have seen a writing-table in a very small room
placed against the piano, the back of which, having been, first covered
with brocade, served as a species of ‘hold-all’ for all that is usually
found on a writing-table; but I cannot seriously recommend this, as it
is certainly incongruous to find cards of invitation, balls of string,
date-cases and paper-knives, and general _débris_, fastened about a
piano, which must, I am sure, resent tremendously this extraordinary
manner of embellishing it. I have never seen a piano arranged in a
better manner than the one illustrated here by the kind permission of my
successor at my dear Shortlands house, in whose hands the traditions of
the house are well kept up, and who has filled my shoes there much
better than I filled them myself; one of her improvements being the
drapery over the conservatory door, which I have illustrated here, so
many people having doors like that one and being quite unable to manage
them properly.

The door is composed, as are all similar doors, of glass at the top and
two small panels in the wooden frame below; these are filled in with
Japanese leather paper, a brass handle and one finger-plate are added
(only one finger-plate should ever be put on a door, and that should be
put above the door-handle); and on the top of the glass is placed one of
the pretty bead blinds; this is a graduated one, and is just indicated
in the sketch. On the left-hand side, nearest the fire, hangs a straight
full piece of drapery, edged all round with ball fringe, while on the
other side is draped a curtain with a drawing string, which lets down in
a moment to hide the door entirely at night. A further idea of how this
room is now arranged is given by the tall palm-stand, and the end of a
deep, low, beautiful sofa from Liberty, which I never see without
breaking the tenth commandment. The sides and back are quite straight,
the seat is very broad and is heaped with the frilled pillows, which are
as popular as they are useful and pretty; the sofa is enamelled white,
and is covered with a beautiful yellow brocade, the curtains beyond, by
the window, being of a Morris cretonne, which resembles both in colour
and design the brown and yellow velveteen from Graham & Biddle mentioned
before. This design makes admirable portières,

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--Conservatory Door.]

and is always a pleasure to look at. The tambourine is hung on the dado,
which is of a very good yellow and white matting and is headed with
bamboo, and despite the favour into which friezes have grown of late
years, a favour they quite deserve I must say, I still cling to the dado
in the dining-and drawing-rooms; in the former they give solidity to the
wall, which they always keep tidy; in the latter they serve admirably as
places on which to hang our favourite nicknacks and those small sketches
and pictures which we prize, and which would almost be lost to sight
were we to hang them above the height of the dado-rail, where we could
not have them near us; so I strongly advise a dado whenever we can have
one in the drawing-room, and I have been lately confirmed in my opinion
by seeing two newly decorated rooms where the dado was useless as far as
regarded the hanging of pet possessions, but it was so decorative that I
am forced to pause here for a moment and give a description of them
both.

In room No. 1 the wall-paper was my favourite yellow and white from Mr.
Smee; all the paint was a deep ivory, and the dado-rail was ivory too;
for about a yard below the rail the wall was coloured primrose, and over
this was hung a full soft curtain of yellow silk closely plaited on tiny
rings, which again were hung on nails below the rail, which curved out
over them and hid them completely; this curtain could be taken down and
shaken and replaced every week if desired, while, of course, during
absence from town the silk would be folded up and put away. The loose
curtain looks charming round the room, which is a very tiny one, and has
been admirably arranged by Mr. Smee with a fitted seat at one side of
the wall, with side curtains to give an idea of privacy, and above that
is a long bookcase; the curtains are of the beautiful larkspur cretonne
which has yellow and blue in it; the carpet is a deep red, to give more
colour, as the room is to be used for day, and therefore requires to be
made to look warmer than could be done were only blue and yellow used;
and the furniture is all ivory, and upholstered in different brocades;
albeit these are also covered with loose cretonne covers in the larkspur
cretonne, which is 2_s._ 10_d._ a yard, but really deserves to cost as
much, it is so pretty, although I do own it is rather expensive for a
mere cretonne.

The other room in which I saw the curtain dado was much more sombre in
design and colouring; and I do not for one moment recommend such a
distressingly dark arrangement, although I do most heartily commend the
clever designer of this original room. The dado was not the straight
curtain which goes all round the room, which I have been writing about,
but it started from the window at one end five feet above the floor;
this continued for halfway along the wall, where it suddenly lowered to
within three feet of the floor, leaving a piece of wall about three feet
across and two deep; after running along for three feet at this lowered
angle, it rose again and continued along the wall to the door. Just on
the other side of the door the curtain began at three feet from the
wainscoting, and continued for about five feet, when it rose once more,
and continued at the first altitude for the rest of the wall, which
ended in a corner; the curtain lowered from that to the fireplace,
which, with its overmantel, filled one square, the dado beginning once
more at the five-foot altitude after the fireplace was passed. The
curtain was moss-green serge, and was hung from a pole painted
moss-green, with brass rings, which were _en évidence_; and above the
curtain the wall was covered with a very good Japanese leather paper;
the squares made by the dropping of the curtain being filled in one
place by a choice picture, in another by an admirably designed bracket
for books and china, and in another by a square beaten brass shield
holding an elaborate and beautiful clustered candelabra; and had the
drapery been of some bright colour, or some really decorative brocade,
the house would have been as charming as it was original, but, arranged
with the dark Japanese paper and the much darker drapery, the whole
effect was so depressing, that I felt, were I obliged to remain in that
house, I should have committed suicide, for my spirits would never have
borne up under it. But it was a dark day, as the owner pointed out, when
I told him, at his request, what I thought of it all. But I maintain
that as most of our English days, and more especially our London days,
are extremely dark, we are bound to try and make our rooms so beautiful
that they, at least, shall not in any way add to the depression that is
inseparable from sage-green walls and darkness generally. We cannot have
too much cheerfulness I maintain; it is absolutely impossible to be too
happy and too lively; and as our climate does not help us to be either
the one or the other, we must endeavour to simulate as much sunshine as
we can, by making our rooms cheerful and as sunny-looking as we have the
power to do. I never go into my own rooms, or the many rooms I have
helped to decorate, without feeling that, whatever else may be their
faults, they certainly cannot be called gloomy. They are all bright and
cheerful; and I defy anyone to be miserable long, unless, of course,
some real misfortune has occurred, in one of my rooms in the green serge
abode. A misfitting dress would be as dreadful a sorrow as a broken arm,
a disappointment about an entertainment as serious as an illness or loss
of money! Flowers again should never be forgotten, or allowed to become
dead and shabby; and, above all, each room we occupy should be
scrupulously clean, and without being aggressively neat should be
absolutely tidy. Directly a thing becomes dirty or untidy it should be
cleaned or replaced by something else. We should never overlook the
soiling of the paint, a crushed antimacassar, a dirty ceiling, and,
above all, we should remember that no amount of artistic knowledge and
careful decoration can make up for grimy tablecloths and crooked vases,
heaped-up papers and crushed chairbacks and damaged cretonnes. A room
must not only be made nice, it must be kept so; and if we cannot afford
good servants, who will respect our belongings, we must do the finer
parts of the housework ourselves. It is no disgrace to wash fine china,
and turn and fold our tablecloths and draperies; it is disgraceful to
have dirty ornaments, and to be untidy and careless about our rooms.

Indeed, if any of us really want our rooms to look nice we should, no
matter how good are our servants, go carefully over them ourselves the
moment the housemaid’s work is done, and see that all is as we like it.
Servants do not place furniture, they _ram_ it into its place. The
tablecloths are usually put on wrong side out, and, somehow or other,
all seems to require the lady’s touch, which cannot be explained, but is
certainly observable in any house where the mistress is untidy, and so
naturally excuses untidiness in those around her.

I maintain that tidiness is quite a gift, and that she who is possessed
of that admirable quality makes things go twice as far as does she who
never attempts to put a thing straight, who overlooks dust and dirt,
and without knowing precisely how it is managed, gets her house into
endless muddle and never allows it to look nice, albeit she spends three
times as much over it as does she who is gifted with tidiness and a
‘straight eye.’ Therefore, if a house is to be properly kept, the moment
a handle comes off a door, replace it; the instant a thing looks in the
least degree dirty, have it washed or cleaned; let any carpet be mended
before it goes into a hole; have black cleaned off any ceiling the
moment it comes on it; and, above all, have the china clean and
straight, and never overlook a rent or a dirty mark. If a house is kept
nice the expenses are gradual; if all is neglected, the day of
reckoning, which must come inevitably, will be such a heavy one that it
will cost more than can be afforded by anyone who is not a millionaire;
and it must come, for even if the house is our own, we must leave it
some time, and our successor will not revere our memory, or remember us
even with kindness, when he comes after us and repairs our ravages,
which need have been unimportant had we punctually spent the yearly sum
for repairs, &c., which should always be set aside by every careful
householder.

Every room in every house should be re-painted and papered at least
every seventh year. Outside painting should be done every third year.
The ceilings should be cleansed the moment they begin to look dirty; and
we should never possess curtains or carpets which we cannot afford to
replace somehow, or that will not readily wash and darn, and shake when
they begin to show signs of having been used.

A pretty house in good order will always let, should we desire to move;
while a house in bad repair, and dirty, will never find a tenant, even
if the landlord is a model one, and is willing to do all he can in the
matter of new decorations, for somehow the squalor and grime that greet
the eye first on entering never seem forgotten, and the house is passed
over again and again, because it is impossible to believe a house in
such a state can ever be made either healthy or beautiful.

Before passing away from the three ordinary sitting-rooms in a house I
should like just to speak of some of the new styles of decoration which
have come to the fore lately, and which, I am glad to say, are all as
cheerful as can be; not that the arrangements I have advocated have been
relegated to that mysterious limbo dedicated to the fashions of last
week. I have at last, I am delighted to be able to tell my readers,
persuaded one or two of the more enterprising tradesmen to recognise the
fact that a thing which was good and satisfactory last week is just as
good and satisfactory this, and all the schemes of decoration I gave
before are still to be had. But tastes change, and it is always well to
be prepared with some new ideas, for rooms are all different, and what
suits one room will not suit another.

I still like the Japanese plain paper, red and gold leather dado, and
red paint better than anything else for a dining-room, just as I cling
to my blue morning-room; but as it would not do for us all to have this
same decoration, I often advise an admirable tapestry paper, sold by
Pither at 4_s._ 6_d._ a piece. This can either have ‘holly-green’ or
‘imperial red’ paint, and a dado of Japanese leather paper, carefully
chosen to harmonise with the paper, and which should have dull red and
green and gold in its design, in very dark and unobtrusive shades. The
ceiling paper should be pale yellow and white, the cornice cream. The
doors should be panelled with the Japanese paper, and the curtains
should either be of Colbourne’s Gobelin tapestry, at 6_s._ 11_d._ a
yard, wide width, or else of self-coloured velveteen or serge, the
colour of the paint (whichever is chosen), and the carpet should be an
Oriental one if possible, with a dark red matting surround, or else of
Wallace’s dark red ‘anemone,’ either in pile, Brussels, or
Kidderminster, according to the price one wishes to give. This style of
decoration would suit almost any furniture, though I should prefer the
chairs to be covered with the Gobelin tapestry, which wears admirably,
and which should always be used to re-cover old or shabby chairs,
instead of a cheap leather. This covering could be done at home by an
upholsteress if necessary; but I should advise the chairs being taken in
hand by someone who can re-make the stuffing, if the expense can be
afforded; if it cannot, the leather should be left as it is, all
unevennesses and excrescences should be made even by judicious use of
cotton-wool on the leather, then a tight cover of holland should be
first put on, finally the cover of Gobelin tapestry, which should not
be buttoned down, but should be stretched over and secured in its place
with a gimp. Each chair would cost about 4_s._ or 5_s._, certainly not
more.

Where the old-furniture mania exists, an artistic dining-room can be
made by using all nut-brown paint, Essex & Co.’s ‘Kenesaw’ design,
stamped on real brown paper, a gold and brown leather dado, all yellow
serge or velveteen curtains, and a golden-brown square carpet; and great
care should be taken in both rooms to have the proper tablecloths, which
Burnett makes from a design I gave him, and which have been largely used
(and recommended by the several imitators of mine which have sprung up
in divers papers since I first began my own notion of giving advice on
the matter of house decoration and arrangement through the columns of a
newspaper, now some six long years ago), and which are far better and
more artistic than any others I have ever seen. The cloth is plain serge
or felt, with a contrasting border united to the cloth itself by a gimp
in which both colours are mingled, and finished off with a ball fringe.
These cloths cost about 25_s._ for an ordinary table, and, as they will
clean and dye, would last some years if properly looked after.

I have already spoken about the morning-room decoration, and therefore I
will only add a few words on the subject of the drawing-room, where the
yellow-and-white scheme I so often recommend cannot be improved upon by
those who can afford a reasonably expensive scheme of decoration. Of
course the very greatest care must be taken to avoid anything like the
gold-and-white paper of our ancestors, but this usually was accompanied
by grained maple paint, which gave the last touch of horror to the
scene, and therefore could never resemble the delicate ivory paint which
Aspinall has made so easy for us; and I still admire Mr. Smee’s
beautiful yellow-and-white paper at 11_s._ a piece better than anything
else, and with this I advise a dado of Collinson & Lock’s ‘47’ cretonne.
This should be secured with a screwed-on dado-rail, as then the cretonne
could be removed to be washed; all the chairs should be put into frilled
cretonne covers of the same cretonne, made like those in Fig. 13; the
curtains should be of Pither’s printed linen at 1_s._ a yard, edged with
ball

[Illustration: FIG. 14.--Frilled Chairs and Sofa.]

fringe at 6_d._ a yard, and the carpet should be dark blue pile, with a
pattern that resembles tiny daisies powdered all over the surface in a
paler shade of blue.

Great exception has been taken to Pither’s printed linen because it
fades. So it does; but then it is very cheap, it lasts two years in a
sunny window, four in one that is not sunny, and, finally, dyes
beautifully, fringe and all, coming back from the immortal Pullar as
good as on the day it was first bought. I don’t think one can complain
very much about a material which behaves like that, can one? But, of
course, the printed linen as curtains can be replaced by silk, damask,
or by ‘47’ cretonne itself, should the first-named material be objected
to.

No colour lights up so well as yellow--I am quite sure of that; and
another decoration could be made from the yellow ‘Othmar’ paper sold by
Essex, all cream paint, and a frieze of chrysanthemums, either painted
by hand, or else of the excellent printed design sold by Haines at 3_s._
6_d._ the yard. With this the carpet should be red, and the curtains
should either be of a brocade which introduces the shades in the
flowers, or else of a cretonne: all would depend on how much money there
was to spend; but whether cretonne or brocade is used, it must match the
frieze in some measure. Though great cornices and vast pier-glasses over
mantel-pieces are entirely out of date, and will never, I trust, return
into fashion, there are still some unfortunates who labour under these
possessions, and who dare not rid themselves of them, much as they would
like to do so, and who may be glad to learn how these horrors may in
some measure be mitigated. All cornices become less repulsive directly
they are Aspinalled ivory. I cannot tell why, but this seems to
metamorphose them at once, and makes them quite ornamental, while the
frame of the glass can be treated in the same manner, unless the frames
are quite flat, in which case they should be covered with brocade, in
the same manner in which the fashionable frames for photographs are now
managed. In any case, all the heavy flourishes and ‘ornaments’ should be
removed, and the glass made in every way as plain and unobtrusive as
possible. Draping with muslin, or even with Liberty silk, is never
successful, and only makes the object draped like one of the
lodging-house possessions, carefully guarded in a similar manner by the
careful landlady from the encroachments of the flies, and is therefore
much to be avoided.

Never, no matter what the time of year, put it out of your power to have
a fire, should you so desire it. I still cling to the Japanese umbrella,
and have never found a substitute for it which is so absolutely
satisfactory. If its stick is properly cut it hides the wood and coal
and grate entirely, and gives a bright spot of colour, and can be
removed at once. A curtain hung straight down from a slight rod just
under the top of the grate itself looks very neat, as does a series of
rings to hold flower-pots, just brought out by Hamilton, of the Quentin
Matsys Forge, York Street, Westminster. This holds twelve pots of
flowers, and can be lifted out in a moment altogether should a fire be
required, and would always look well put down in a corner of the room.
One of the Guild brocade screens with miniatures answers well too, and
Giles has invented from my description a fireplace cabinet, which, put
under the wooden mantel-piece--which is _de rigueur_ in an artistic
house--continues the mantel and overmantel decorations, and makes the
whole appear like a good cabinet for books, china, and flowers. This can
also be removed in a few minutes, and either hung on the wall or placed
in a corner of the room.

The perfect câche-feu has yet to be invented, but until some clever
genius has done this, either of the above ideas answers quite well; but
I do solemnly warn my readers against fashionable trellis-work with
paper ivy and grapes wandering over it, fans outstretched in plush with
senseless photographs let in--as if photographs could be in place on the
hearth!--and all the thousand and one freaks of fashion that are brought
out by those who ought to know better, and who have filled many houses
to overflowing with terrible plush frames, soiled satin bags, useless
odds and ends, and ghastly painted tables, brackets, and stands, which
are costly to begin with, and so we do not like to dispose of them too
hastily, and which should never be seen in the houses of those who
really want to have an artistic and pretty home; with which solemn
warning we will pass on to sterner subjects, and will consider in
another chapter how to treat the more ‘manly’ portion of the house,
where work or pleasure may be gone in for.



CHAPTER IV.

THE BILLIARD-ROOM AND LIBRARY.


‘There must be nothing frivolous, light, or airy in the aspect of either
of these rooms; all must be sombre and steady, if not dark;’ and though
I do not go so far as this--the ordinary dictum of the upholsterer--I am
quite willing to allow that in the billiard-room at least lightness and
frivolity are out of place, albeit I cannot allow that even this room
need be sombre and dreary, while certainly it ought to light up well, as
it is a room which is generally used merely at night.

Wherever it can be afforded, and wherever there are young men or lads in
the house, there should always be a billiard-table, and the girls should
be encouraged to play with their brothers and their brothers’ friends as
long as their mother or father can remain in the room as some sort of
guard and guide; the pleasanter home is made the less inclination will
young men have to go elsewhere for their amusements, and if they are
accustomed to be made happy and feel that their friends are welcome too,
they will not keep outside home for the pleasure that is to be found
without crossing the threshold. A billiard-room in winter, a couple of
good tennis-courts in summer, and the hours of leisure will pass
comfortably along, and leave neither time nor opportunities for less
desirable pleasures.

Example is everything in a house: a thousand sermons will not speak as
loudly against betting, and gambling, and drink--the horrors of my
existence--as will the example of a house where such things are never
allowed, and yet where amusements of all kinds are not frowned upon and
refused, where games are encouraged for their own sakes, and where a
healthy outdoor life replaces the bar-frequenting, loafing hours, which
are all too often the portion of those who have been accustomed to
‘nipping’ and loafing, because they have seen these two habits allowed
as a matter of course from their earliest days.

And before I speak of the mere walls and furniture of a billiard-room
let me impress upon my readers not to allow this room to be turned into
a base imitation of a tap-room. I am not a teetotaler, and have small
patience with those intolerant individuals whose language and statements
are all too often as bad and violent as they are absolutely unreliable
and untrue, and I do not believe in the possibility of living our
present eager and artificial existence without the aid of alcohol in
some shape or the other, certainly not after we have borne the heat and
stress of the day, and we require something stronger than water to
sustain us, but I do absolutely condemn the insane and insensate habit
in which so many indulge nowadays of continually drinking between meals.
Were stimulants taken at meals only, were spirits, with the exception of
brandy (which should be kept entirely as a most valuable medicine),
abolished, we should have no drunkards, and the teetotalers would lose
all excuse for their most unpleasant and untruthful existences; and as
we now seldom see a drunkard in our streets, and never contemplate the
pleasing scenes which after dinner, in our great-grandmothers’ times,
were visible in many dining-rooms, from which no gentleman ever issued
to join the ladies, because he was generally under the table or else
fast asleep with both arms on it, I am in great hopes that we are
learning to be a sober nation, though I hope sincerely never to see it
an absolutely teetotal one, for beer and wine are necessary, I am
convinced, in our climate, and we should be miserable indeed were we
debarred, as the fanatics would debar us, from the use of all fermented
or alcoholic drinks.

But we must be moderate and we must not drink between meals, and we must
avoid the constant sodas-and-brandies which appear inseparable from some
billiard-rooms, and to which is due, no doubt, the pious horror many
good folks have of this chamber in a house; and I should like it to be
firmly understood that the room was for the game merely, and that
anything like ‘nipping’ would be at once and sternly discouraged. This
being satisfactorily settled, we may proceed to plan and decorate our
billiard-room with a clear conscience, secure in the fact that we are
simply providing a place for innocent amusement, that will be of
invaluable service at night and on wet Saturday afternoons, and that
will not prove a snare and stumbling-block to any, more especially if we
as sternly refuse to allow gambling as we refuse to allow imbibing at
odd moments of the day or night.

I am always astonished that no crusade has been raised against the
national sin of gambling. Drink ruins the homes of poor men, but not
more certainly or rapidly than gambling ruins the homes of rich men, and
of men far from rich. Drink may kill a man, but it takes a great many
drunkards to imbibe an estate, while one night’s gambling may scatter
the savings of a lifetime and turn all the wretched children of a
selfish gambler into the streets to starve. I have been horrified
sometimes to see ladies and gentlemen hot, eager, excited, gambling in
private houses, the host actually bent on winning from those who are
enjoying his hospitality, the hostess almost insulting her guests in her
awful anxiety to gain the contents of their purses; and I am convinced
that the only way to escape this demon is to refuse to pander to it at
all, to never allow one single penny to be staked at cards in one’s own
house, and to make this such a rule that it would be impossible to break
it on any consideration whatever. I have seen pennies played for which
begat the taste for gambling for much larger sums; and I have never seen
a house where gambling was allowed truly prosper, or be anything save
the residence of those whose ideas and hopes were centred in this world
only, and never rose above the mere ‘society’ existence, than which
nothing can be more despicable and awful.

This book is not a tract, and therefore I do not say one half I should
like to on this subject; but as I remember the ruined homes--one family
especially, where all are scattered and most are dead, where gambling
went on in the schoolroom and drawing-room alike, at every moment which
could be snatched for the purpose; the broken hearts, the miserably
wrecked careers, entirely due to this vice; when one can hardly take up
a paper without seeing the dreary fate of some wretched youth, whose
tendencies to betting and gaming have caused him to rob his master’s
till and landed him in penal servitude, I must say I cannot help feeling
astonished that the eager teetotalers do not try their hands at putting
down gaming, especially as they have the law on their side--the kind,
good, well-devised law which snaps up little boys who play
pitch-and-toss at the corners of the streets, that winks at
Tattersall’s and the big races, and finally is utterly powerless to
punish the high-class gamester, who spends his nights at gaming-hells
and ruins his home and his wretched constitution at the same time.

However, lest I weary my readers in dwelling on this subject, about
which one cannot say too much, I think I will now simply speak of the
decoration of the billiard-room, having, I hope, so judiciously
sandwiched the powder between the jam in this chapter, that those who
seek for information about the room itself may unawares come upon it,
and so be forced to meditate, whether they like it or not, on some of
the reasons why so many people dread the idea of a billiard-room where
there are boys. If gambling were non-existent, the veriest Chadband
might learn to handle the cue; while a pastor at a dissenting chapel
need not dread the eyes of his deacons were he found disporting himself
in the halls of the ungodly, which would cease to be ungodly, or be no
more so than the harmless tennis-courts, were betting eliminated from
among their charms, and nothing but the game itself really and truly
encouraged and allowed.

A big room is a necessity for a billiard-room, which should never, by
any chance, be shorter than twenty-six feet long by twenty broad; a
full-sized table measures twelve feet by six, and the size I have spoken
of only allows sufficient comfortable room for walking round the table,
and for the usual raised seats which are always put at the ends and on
one side of the room. Personally, I should prefer a much larger room
still, as I like to see one end of the room furnished as a species of
sitting-room; but, of course, in London the twenty-six by twenty room
would be ample. In the country, the billiard-table comes in for days
when shooting is impossible, and the sitting-room end there is a great
advantage in more ways than one.

Quite a charming billiard-room can be made by using all brown paint and
a high dado, to the top of the door, of brown and gold Japanese leather
paper; above the dado the wall should be painted _café-au-lait_; the
cornice should be replaced by a coving, which should terminate in a
top-light, from whence the ordinary cross-lights could be hung for use
at night, and these surely could be in beaten iron with some prettier
shades than the hideous green things which match the equally hideous
cloth, which I hope to see replaced soon by something a little more
artistic, say in such a room as the one I have just described, by a dull
brown cloth, which surely would be every bit as satisfactory as the
green, which is certainly the most aggressive shade of green which has
ever been made. In this case the shades could be blue, with some lace
over them, or the yellow with no lace at all.

Where the ceiling is coved, the coving should always be decorated either
with gold leather paper or by an artist’s brush; and I have seen most
elaborately drawn pictures of the old wooden ships of Henry VIII.’s time
in a similar coving, in sepia on a cream ground, which looked perfectly
beautiful, and which I should recommend in a similar room, where stags’
heads and other trophies of the chase should be arranged on the painted
wall, which should be too high for pictures, which could not be hung on
the dado either, for fear of their being damaged by the ends of the
cues. I should advise the use of printed yellow linen for curtains,
edged, of course, with ball fringe, were there any windows in the room
beside the top-light, which should have a gathered soft yellow blind
arranged to draw over it in very hot weather; while the table itself,
when not in use, should be covered with a large square of yellow serge
lined with American cloth, with a big monogram embroidered on one
corner; this would preserve the table, and look much better than the
ordinary cloth.

The floor should be parqueterie with strips of velvet pile carpet in
golden brown on the four sides; these should be mitred at the corners,
and no other carpet would be required, save, of course, a square if we
had the drawing-room end to the room I advocated before; if not, the
room should be kept for billiards only, when the strips round the table
would be quite sufficient; the leather seats should be covered in brown
leather, and the fire should be protected by one of the admirable guards
sold by Benham & Co., and which have padded tops, on which people can
sit and watch the game, and get comfortably warm at the same time.

I have seen a most ingenious arrangement of small cupboards in the
overmantel of a billiard-room, which was pronounced invaluable for the
safe storing away of cigars and tobacco, which should be mentioned, as
of course smoking will be principally carried on in this room. The
mantel-piece was walnut, and the fireplace the orthodox open grate and
tiled hearth and back; the overmantel was carved to match the mantel,
and was quite flat to the wall, which had been scooped out in some
manner behind it, to allow of the formation of sundry square cupboards
in the wall itself; these each held a cedar-wood box of cigars, with the
front end off; and the cigars were so arranged that they could be taken
out one by one, when the square wooden block in the overmantel, which
formed the entrance to the cupboard, was unlocked, and fell forward on a
hinge. No one could have suspected the overmantel of being a cupboard,
and yet it was one; while at the same time this particular spot was
especially pleasing, I believe, to the constitution of a cigar, which
appears to require a certain amount of warmth, until it disappears
finally into smoke, leaving its terrible odour behind it. On the
mantel-piece itself were dull blue vases holding spills; several
ingenious and expensive match-boxes, on which all matches appeared to me
to refuse to ignite, and the usual _débris_ one always finds in similar
localities, filthy-looking pipes, old date stands, and stands for
holding the hunt appointments, and similar expensive and broken toys,
being there in vast abundance. Another excellent manner of decorating a
billiard-room, where the owner had pictures to dispose of, and did not
want a very elaborate or costly decoration, would be formed by papering
the room entirely with real brown paper, and painting the room the same
soft brown; a frieze should be added, if possible, of one of the
Japanese hand-painted friezes one can buy occasionally at any
decorator’s, representing a flight of wild ducks, or else of storks,
among reeds and flowers; but if this cannot be either found or afforded,
a plain gold and brown Japanese leather frieze would look well. This
should not be less than fourteen inches wide; anything less is
distinctly ugly; while it might come almost to the top of the door,
which should be surmounted by one of Wallace’s simple over-doors to hold
china, which should be blue and white. The curtains in this room should
be Liberty’s very dark blue and white reversible cretonnes; the chairs
could be either dark blue leather or saddle-bags with dark blue velvet
surrounds; and the carpet should be dark blue pile. This would look
well, and be an entirely pleasant scheme of decoration; a hand-painted
frieze on brown paper would also be capital if expense were no object.

Yet another and a bolder decoration could be made by using Essex golden
‘Othmar’ paper, with Mandarin paint, and a wide frieze of the dull green
‘Othmar,’ dull green carpets, and Graham & Biddle’s beautiful yellow
poppy cretonne, edged with dull green ball fringe, and lined dull green;
the carpet should be the dull green ‘Stella’ pile carpet from Wallace’s,
and all the chairs should be dull green leather.

If by chance there can be afforded or managed a drawing-room end to the
billiard-room, a couple of screens will be found most invaluable; and if
these screens have a long spike in each fold, to receive which a
corresponding hole is bored in the floor, a great objection to screens
will be done away with. Furnished with these spikes, which should be
able to be unscrewed and removed quite easily, they could not possibly
be knocked over; and, in my opinion, the tall standard lamps, which are
so much in request just at present, should be furnished with similar
spikes, as they always appear to me dreadfully dangerous, especially
where there are children, or even dogs, or careless servants; for
though, of course, the danger of fire is entirely done away with if we
use Defries’s excellent patent for putting out the light as the lamp
falls, the oil must be spilt and damage the carpet, while an unpleasant
smash and fright are absolutely certain. We should be saved anything of
the kind were my simple spike arrangement adopted by all those who use
these lamps.

The drawing-room end of the billiard-room should have a bow window with
a seat round, several cosy arm-chairs, a table capable of holding the
week’s supply of newspapers and the month’s supply of magazines, each in
its own proper corner, and a couple of serviceable paper-knives should
be always forthcoming. There should be a nice little writing-table for
the use of any who wish to scribble notes; and, above all, there should
be either a long bookcase on the wall full of frivolous literature, or
else one of Trübner’s excellent bookcases, which revolve and so allow
one to reach any book in the case without rising from one’s comfortable
seat.

A venerable piano which has seen better days is no mean addition to the
comfort and pleasure of the billiard-room, and many an hilarious and
impromptu entertainment has chased away the melancholy caused by a wet
afternoon in the dismal winter country, due entirely to the happy
presence among the company of a piano which was quite good enough to be
used to accompany comic songs on, and amply good enough to form the
basis for a recitation after--a long way after--Corney Grain or the
immortal John Parry.

But though a big room is much better than a small one for billiards,
people should not be deterred from having a table in their houses
because their space does not allow of a full-sized one. The very nicest
billiard-room I was ever in, and which, alas! is now no more, was that
formed by using the square hall of a country vicarage; that table
existed before the present age of artistic decorations, but whenever I
remember it and the dear old house in which it stood I forget all art,
and only remember the extreme fascination that place had for me, and can
scent again the mingled odours of the vicar’s pipes and Maréchal Niel
roses, which are inseparable from my remembrance of the place. The table
stood squarely in the front hall, which was covered with brown linoleum,
and was seldom unmarked by dogs’ feet for more than five minutes after
it had been freshly washed, and we used to perch about on the tops of
oak chests, the fender, anywhere, while the game progressed, as there
was no room for seats. In addition to the hall table, the hat-stand,
decorated with all sorts and conditions of hats, male and female, and
the oak chests, one of which held the rugs and whips, the other the
parish registers from some very bygone date, the walls themselves were
decorated with stuffed birds and animals in glass cases, sundry collars
and chains belonging to the dear dogs, driving-whips suspended in some
cunning manner to keep them in shape, a barometer which survived the
most fearful amount of banging and shaking that ever barometer was
subjected to, and finally by the post-bag, which hung from a nail until
it was fetched by a small village girl who rejoiced in the remarkable
name of ‘Rhody Jemimy,’ who had to take and fetch the bag morning and
evening from the ‘World’s End,’ the mail-cart bringing it and taking it
from and to that mysterious location, for we were far too primitive in
those parts to have a postman, and had our one post a day contentedly
enough, though I believe the present denizen of the vicarage has
clamoured until he has not only a postman but a second post; albeit,
neither were ever required by us, who were perfectly happy in those
blessed days without them. I dwell upon this room rather at length in
order to encourage anyone who may hanker after a billiard-room, and not
dare to think of it seriously because the necessary twenty feet by
twenty space is not forthcoming, and, moreover, because they dread the
expense as much as the want of room. Of course a new full-sized table is
a very expensive thing, and fittings and all could not cost less than
150_l._; but as soon as we have made up our minds that we can really
have a billiard-table we must begin to look out for the sales, for very
often there are compulsory sales about, where a very good billiard-table
can be purchased for a quarter the price of a new one. I have known one
sold for 25_l._, as the owner had forgotten to renew his lease and was
given summary notice of dismissal, while a friend of mine bought a
beauty for 40_l._ which simply required a little polish about the legs
to be quite as good as new; but should money be of no real object, it
would be better to go to some really first-class maker and have the
table properly set up and made, for I believe there is great art in the
proper placing of the table, and this should only be undertaken by
someone who thoroughly understands the business; still, in a small room,
and with a small and second-hand table, there may be found vast
enjoyment if the bigger and more elaborate arrangement cannot possibly
be managed.

I am always amused at some people’s determination not to be either
happy, or _complete_ in their household arrangements, because they
cannot have the best of everything that is to be had, though I must
confess such conduct makes me just a little cross as well. I have known
folks utterly refuse to contemplate the joys of a jolly little pony and
chaise because they didn’t care to set up a carriage unless they could
do so properly; ‘properly’ in their case meaning the orthodox coachman,
footman, horses, and a couple of carriages; whereas they condemned
themselves to their own immediate neighbourhood and to tramping about
the lanes, or to staying at home, because they could not understand that
as much pleasure could be got out of the ‘shay’ as out of anything still
more gorgeous. I have known folks decline with scorn to cover their
ugly, depressing, bare walls with pictures, because they could not buy
Millais and Herkomers; whereas their lives and their houses would have
been brightened at once had they spent 20_l._ on autotypes. And I have
as constantly been acquainted with dozens of folks who would not do
this, that, or the other, because they must take a back seat so to
speak, and who in consequence waste half their opportunities. I except
society, by the way; if the best society is not forthcoming (and by the
best society I mean the society of people who are clever and who have
done, or long to do something to make the world brighter and happier
than they found it), don’t have any. The contact with mean, small, and
ignorant minds does one harm, not good; the constant rubbing against
time-serving shoulders and the shoulders of those who would do any
amount of grovelling to be received by what they consider the society of
the neighbourhood, only smirches us, and we had better sit at home all
our lives with our books alone than expose ourselves to the
deterioration we receive from association with such folk. But, apart
from society, I would rather have the second or third best of everything
if I can’t have the first, for the more one gets out of life the better,
and the more one sees of the world and of the nice people in it the
wider do our minds become, and the more appreciation and enjoyment do we
have from our lives.

With the plea for a secondhand billiard-table rather than none, I will
turn away from the room with one last suggestion--viz. to have good
thick curtains hung over any doors that there may be in the room,
outside; this will keep the smell of the smoke within proper bounds, and
will also keep out the sound of the click-click of the balls, than which
nothing is more annoying--to me at any rate. These curtains could be
made of Adams serge lined with Bolton sheeting; both these materials
will wash and are to be had from Burnett’s, and should be very wide and
full, and should hang well over the hinges and cracks of the door; these
should further be surrounded by ‘Slater’s patent’ for excluding
draughts, as naturally the room will be properly ventilated, and there
would be no need to think of that, all our care being centred on keeping
in the room all scent of the smoke and all sound of the balls. If the
room is separate from the house, and only connected with it by a long
passage, we may consider, I think, that nothing more is to be expected,
and that here is indeed the perfect billiard-room. This room should be
in the care of the head housemaid, whose first duty should be to open
all the available windows every morning, no matter what the weather is
like, to see all the cigar-ash is swept up, and finally to slip the
curtains off the poles (a matter of three minutes exactly), to have them
well shaken out of doors and left there for half an hour, having them
replaced the moment the room is cleaned and set straight. Treated like
this the billiard-room would always be fresh and nice, and would have no
more smell of smoke about it than would be pleasantly suggestive to
anyone who is not such a bitter enemy to smoke as I am.

And now about the library, the arrangement of which must depend entirely
on the individual tastes and pursuits of the master of the house, whose
room this is more especially; for in all big houses the mistress has her
morning-room, and the guests generally are provided with writing-tables
in their rooms, and would only venture into the library when the door
was open, or by the rule of the house was made free to them during
certain hours. Naturally, if the master were in no measure a literary
man, if he had no Parliamentary work, or work that required him to
isolate himself from the rest of the household at certain hours, the
room would always be free; but it should be kept for writing and reading
only, it should never be turned into a play-room of any kind; therefore
there should be a certain sobriety about it, and it should not be
furnished too frivolously or in such a manner as to suggest flirtation
instead of study, sweet sleep instead of proper, severe application to
one’s books.

Perhaps the very prettiest library I have ever seen is one in London,
which may sound frivolous, but is nothing of the kind, and has some of
the most serious work of the nation done between its four walls; it is
enamelled white--doors, cupboards, bookshelves, overmantel, indeed
everything, and has a most beautiful effect, especially against the
dun-coloured, gold-tinted calf volumes, with which the shelves are most
amply supplied; the shelves are supported on cupboards with brass locks
and hinges, and are wide and deep enough to hold quantities of law
papers; all these shelves and cupboards are ‘fitments’ passing
completely round the room, and continuing under the windows. The only
scraps of wall which show are papered with a very good Japanese leather
paper, and the space above the mantel-piece is filled in with an old
portrait; sundry pieces of blue china are on the mantel-piece, which are
never without their fresh flowers; the carpet is a very fine Oriental
one, with a great deal of white in it; the furniture is blue, as are the
curtains, which are arranged across the top of each window and down one
side only, while the enormous desk which occupies the centre of the room
is a most exquisitely inlaid piece of marqueterie, and is the only
coloured thing in the room, the frames of the chairs, &c., being
enamelled like the room itself. Now this white idea for a library in
London--dirty, smoky London--does seem absurd and a trifle frivolous,
but the effect thereof is perfect, and as the application of a damp
clean duster and a polish from a leather makes the room absolutely
spotless, I see no reason why the white library should be scoffed at as
an impossibility. A big beaten iron and copper lamp from Strode hangs in
the centre of the room, and gives the finishing touch to a very perfect
apartment.

Here the room is used for important work which requires absolute peace
and absolute solitude, where the books refer to the special subject of
study, and would be of no interest whatever to the ordinary man. Still,
a modified edition of the white room could easily be carried out, and
would be far more cheerful to live with, than the orthodox dark green
and carved oak, or a base imitation thereof that we find in far too many
houses; oak, in my opinion, being utterly unsuited to a modern house,
and should only be used in a big old house where one looks for it as a
matter of course. Of the modern imitation called Flemish oak I have no
words of condemnation sufficiently strong; it is abominable, ugly,
heavy, and badly executed, and should never be tolerated in any house
where artistic decoration is encouraged and sought after.

If, as I said before, the master of the house does not require so much
space for papers or books as to authorise him to cover in the entire
wall-space at his command with fitments, I advise him to run his
bookcases simply round the room to a height of an ordinary dado. Above
this could be hung the ever-useful Japanese paper, or a real
red-and-white paper, such as is Pither’s ‘buttercup.’ On the wall could
be hung pictures, or a large cupboard well designed (and I should
suggest Mr. Arthur Smee as the proper person to send to for this) should
break the space of wall in the centre. The doors could be of cathedral
glass in leaded squares, with broad brass hinges and locks; while the
same design, of course on a much smaller scale, could be introduced over
the mantel-piece. The desk could be enamelled white, and the top covered
with Japanese leather paper. Of course the handles on the drawers must
be brass; the blotting-book could be of red leather, with a plain
monogram stamped on, or else the name of the room and of the house; and
the head housemaid should be very particular about the state of the
inkstand and of the blotting-book, though she should be forbidden, of
course, to touch any of the papers on the desk, for fear she might lose
important manuscripts. The mistress of the house should dust these
herself if the master is touchy, or objects to other hands meddling with
his belongings.

The curtains in a library should be thick and warm, and should, in the
red-and-cream room, be in cream Roman satin, embroidered with red
flowers if possible, or else of deep red Roman satin or Bokhara plush.
The furniture sold by Hampton, covered in what they call ‘Khelims,’ but
which is quite unlike the ordinary striped material I have always
purchased as such, and is much more Oriental-looking, would do admirably
in this room, where there should certainly be a couple of good sofas and
four or five armchairs, and a small writing-table and chair beside the
bigger one; while great care should be taken with the lighting, it being
most important that a good light should fall on the book or
writing-table, which should throw no fidgety shadows. When the electric
light becomes general this advice will not be necessary, but until it is
great care must be taken, before the lights are absolutely fixtures, to
ascertain that they are in the right place, or else the unfortunate
would-be readers and writers will be continually annoyed. The large
standard lamps are useful in a library, as they can be moved at any
moment, and further care should be taken in the choice of a carpet,
which should be thick and soft, and should cover almost all the floor,
thus saving the student any chance of being fidgeted by the sudden
scroop of a chair pushed hastily back or by the noise of a falling book
or of a sudden footstep.

In a small house a library would be impossible, and therefore I give no
directions for a cheaper style of decoration, which, however, could be
managed in judiciously chosen shades of green and white, and I will only
now speak about the books and the manner of treating such a room.

No child or very young person, and no servant, no matter whom, should
ever be allowed to read the library books, which should never under any
pretext whatever be removed from the library, and should consist of
histories, travels, poetry, and all standard works that have survived
the fiery trial of a twenty years’ existence; the lighter works of
to-day, which one reads when one is tired or wants simply to be amused,
should be found in the billiard and morning rooms, and in every spare
room in the house (Mudie’s books being also in these rooms), and on no
account whatever should a really good book which forms part of a set, or
is valuable, be lent; listen to no entreaties, place the book _in the
room_ at the disposal of anyone who cares to read it, but lend it and
you may and will run the risk of losing your book, or of having to
torment for it, until your friend hates you, although in strict justice
he ought to hate himself for the trouble he has given you. In every
library and, indeed, in every house, there should be a list of the books
in each room, and whenever a book is added the name thereof should be
written down. I speak feelingly, if a little bitterly, on the subject,
for no one has lent more books than I have, and no one has been more
ruthlessly robbed; for people who would be absolutely incapable of
depriving one of a pin, lose and forget to return my books, and at last
I have come to the conclusion that I will never lend another; books are
cheap enough, goodness knows, and libraries swarm; let people borrow
there, and close your heart to the would-be borrower if you want to keep
your books, and not scatter them generously about the world at large.

Again, I should never forbid anyone to read any book whatever--a
prohibition makes people anxious at once; but the fact that the library
books must be kept in the library would deter the children from reading
what they ought not, and we would forbid certain literature because of
its binding, not because of the contents; this I have found act much
better than the wholesale orders we were given on the subject, in
consequence of which I had read all Defoe’s, Richardson’s, Fielding’s,
and other works I should never have seen before I was sixteen, and
wondered why on earth they were forbidden me. I should never have read
one of them had I not wanted to see why I must not; they did me no harm,
because I could not understand them; they might have done infinite harm
to any other girl who was less babyish for her age than I happened in
some mysterious manner to be, and therefore it is a good thing to keep
such books where children do not come and where they are forbidden to
touch books which are too well bound to be risked in their
all-too-generally grimy little paws.

As in all the other rooms in the house, cheerfulness should be first
thought of: a gloomy library, a library where the windows are obscured,
is a mistake; cheerfulness is the first thing to be seriously cultivated
by us all, in all relations of life, for it is indeed true, as the poet
says--

    A merry heart goes all the way,
    A sad one tires in a mile-a;

therefore, in choosing and furnishing the library, remember this axiom,
and let sunshine and brightness and cheerfulness be found there, as in
every other room and place in the house; for we are insensibly and
immensely influenced by our surroundings, and we should always make the
best of our lives and belongings in every way we possibly can.



CHAPTER V.

SHALL WE DO AWAY WITH THE NURSERY?


It is a hard moment in the life of any woman when she has to make up her
mind that she cannot any longer consistently retain one of the best
rooms in the house for the nursery, more especially if she has been able
to realise her ambition, and to give to her children an ideal chamber,
where beauty and suitable arrangements for their comfort have been duly
studied.

I know nothing sadder than an empty nursery. The children, who were as
much our own as anything on this earth can ever be, have ceased to be
children. They are still ours, but they are independent creatures; our
care is no longer absolutely necessary to them. Some may even have
married, and others may be trying their wings by some short flights from
the home that will always be theirs, even if they do not care to return
to it. But, in any case, they are no longer the dear little mites whose
tiny ailments kept us awake at night, whose clothes and education were
our unceasing care, and who found their heaven in our presence,
believing honestly and thankfully that all they had came from us, and
that we were without a flaw, as omnipotent as we were faultless.

The most melancholy part of middle age is this being left behind by our
children, the eagerness on their parts to live their own lives and begin
their own career. But it should not be sad, as it is only what happened
to our parents, after all, and will happen again in the future
generation. But all the same, it must be a hardened heart indeed that
can contemplate an empty nursery and have no other thoughts than how
best to decorate or use the room for a totally different purpose. There
is a peculiar _serrement de cœur_, which, once experienced, can never
be forgotten, when we enter a room made sacred to us by a thousand
dreams and romances--a thousand dreads and fears we have never spoken of
to any soul on earth, and have to consider how best we can alter it to
another purpose.

I remember, years ago, going to see a house in which we had had many,
many happy hours, and which had just passed from those we knew and loved
to persons in an inferior station of life, with whom we should never
have any dealings, and I have never forgotten the feeling of desolation
that seized me when I looked up at the erstwhile nursery window, from
which the bars were hanging broken, and remembered the faces that used
never to be absent from that place--a feeling that was intensified a
thousand times when I climbed up to the room itself, and looked for the
last time on the walls, papered by ourselves with pictures from the
‘Illustrated News’ (I can remember them all vividly, from the marriage
of the Princess Royal in one corner to pictures of the American War in
the other), and recollected the boys who were all out in the world, each
busy with his own life, with whom I had played, ridden, eaten far too
much fruit in the sunny garden below the nursery windows (where I verily
believe it was always fine and hot), and with whom I had risen at dawn
in many a misty September morning, bent on collecting a great dish of
mushrooms for breakfast, to surprise the house-mother with--a surprise
that she must have been well accustomed to, but which she never failed
to express; she knew we should have been so disappointed had she seemed
in the least degree to expect the never-failing dish, though she had a
hard struggle to be duly elated and not say one word about the draggled
skirts and wringing wet stockings and boots, which she knew were
reposing upstairs and would be shown to her in due course and with much
wrath by Susan, to whose lot it always fell to remedy our dilapidations,
which she used to say were always worse when I was there to rush about
with the boys and lead them into mischief and dirt of all kinds.

There can be nothing more extinct on this earth than that dear old
nursery, closed nearly twenty years ago and utterly swept away, but I
can never think of it without becoming young again--without being the
eldest of that small flock and worshipped as only five small boys can
worship a London cousin much older than themselves, who yet could enter
into all their games and excursions with the zest of a girl who has
never tried living in the country, and sees only the poetical side of
it; and without remembering the happiest of happy homes, where I cannot
recollect a cross word, a disagreeable day, or anything but the noise
of the boys rushing about, the scent of a thousand flowers, the planning
of a hundred picnics, and a delightful sense of summer and sunshine that
can never be forgotten, and that has influenced more lives than
mine--more even than the generous, hospitable master and mistress will
ever know--though perhaps he does in the rest he won so worthily and in
the Heaven that must hold anyone who was as generous and good as he was
to the many, many relations with whom he filled his house, and to whom
he always gave a hearty welcome.

But no doubt there are a great many other nurseries just like this
one--and, indeed, I know of several--so I would beg my readers to bear
with me while I speak of these rooms, and beg them not to make a clean
sweep of the nursery altogether until they are positively obliged to do
so, not because there may be other babies to come, but because the
nursery is useful for a thousand things, and it makes such a dreadful
difference in a house when the room is completely altered and turned
into a room for the maid who takes the place of the nurse, perhaps, or
into a sitting-room for the girls or boys. Don’t let this be done, dear
readers, until you are absolutely crowded out, because you will be
miserable, and because you can never tell that the room may not be
wanted as a sanitorium; an upstairs sitting-room, a refuge for our
grandchildren, should we have married children, and should they be
coming to stay with us, and bring their babies in due course of time;
while the room having been decorated and furnished as a nursery is that
and nothing else, and would have to be completely altered, should we
settle to do away with it altogether.

Now, I want you to look just for a moment at the picture I have had
drawn here of an empty nursery and see how admirably it is adapted for
the purpose, and how cruel it would be to sweep away all these corners
and shelves. You will notice how the cupboard fills in the recess
between the fire and the wall, and you will see how a doll’s-house
should be arranged, and then, I am sure, you will think twice about
weeding out all this, and doing away with things that may give pleasure
to future generations, particularly when we must all number among our
acquaintances people with children, who come to tea, and will enjoy
their tea twice as much if the children can be relegated to old nurse
and the room where all is prepared for the small guests, who will for
the moment take the place of those who are still children to us, albeit
they are as old as we were when we began housekeeping ourselves, and set
up a nursery with the pride and consequence inseparable from that most
important step; while we can look hopefully forward to other small
visitors who will be delighted to play with ‘mother’s old toys,’ and to
hear things about that mother’s childhood, which can only be told them
by an authority on the subject.

The nursery I have had sketched here is, of course, a much more
expensive and elaborate room than could be suggested to folks with small
incomes, but will serve as an example, I hope even in little houses,
although, as those were amply catered for in my first book, I do not
feel so bound to consider them as I did then. I should always have a
real dado in any nursery. The one used here is of Indian matting, which
is as neat and clean after ten years’ use as it was the day it was put
up. By the way, a dado should be secured at the top with rather a
heavier rail than the one illustrated, and this should be screwed on,
not nailed. The screws can be removed at any moment, and the dado taken
down. In the case of a cretonne dado this could be washed at any moment,
while stuff or matting could be brushed or shaken; but I have taken down
matting after ten years on a wall, which was sized before the matting
was put up, and have never found the smallest dirt behind it, while the
wall remained absolutely intact for that space of time, and, indeed, is
as good as new now, after fifteen years’ wear, at least, I hear it is;
unfortunately we have moved twice since then, and I cannot possibly
inspect the matting to verify this statement for myself as I should like
to do; but ten years is a long time, and, in these roving days of ours,
when all too rarely do houses descend from father to son, is quite space
enough for most of us.

Above the matting--which should be the kind sold by Treloar, in Ludgate
Circus, for 35_s._ the roll of 40 yards--can be put any pretty blue
paper. Pither’s new blue bay-tree paper, at 1_s._ 6_d._, is charming,
and is of a colour that

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--An Empty Nursery.]

we never tire of. The paint could be the same shade of blue; the tiny
cornice should be coloured cream, and the ceiling paper should be
Maple’s cheap yellow and white one, at 4½_d._ a piece. This could be
cleaned twice a year with stale bread, and, as it is so cheap, could be
replaced the moment it showed signs of becoming in the least degree
shabby. The best toys could be arranged round the room on the shelf,
which could be painted blue, and further appropriate decorations could
be made by tennis rackets and skipping ropes if desired, albeit I should
prefer a picture there of some kind or other, or else a lamp hanging out
over the fireplace, beyond the reach of little fingers which might
hanker after the fascinating occupation of lowering the light or putting
it up to such an extent that the glass might be smashed in less than no
time.

The short curtains and absence of blinds which I always advocate, and
which idea has been largely copied and adopted, are just indicated in
the picture, as is the long straight seat under the windows, which would
take the place of the sofa if there were not room for one; but the
useful serge or arras cloth should be used instead of cretonne here, as
cretonne so soon gets out of order in a place which is so much used as
such a window-seat might be. Corduroy velveteen would also make an
admirable covering, and would always be, in a measure, tidy. It is
possible to make these window-seats do double duty as a seat and also as
a box, for instead of the front being a ‘hollow mockery,’ as it is when
it is a simple frill and nothing else, it could be a wooden box, and the
seat could be a padded lid, which could lift up and down. A small frill
nailed on the top of the seat would conceal the opening, and the front
of the box could be covered with frilled material like small organ
pipes. This would hold any quantity of work, old books, magazines, and
rubbish generally: rubbish which is of no use at all, but is absolutely
priceless to the little owners.

I think anyone who has ever owned a dolls’-house will admire my idea for
a fixed one, because all who have ever possessed a similar abode must
have occasionally pulled it down about the ears when engaged in an
orthodox game with this most fascinating toy, at least it used to be
fascinating in my day; judging from my two girls no one can care now for
them, for the beauty we had has long since gone to a hospital, owing to
the absolute indifference with which its many charms were treated by our
children. But if there still exist any small maidens who treat their
houses as we used to, I am sure this arrangement of cupboard shelves
with a real house front and a flap to let down, properly painted of
course like a hall door, with windows above, must commend itself to
them. The flap makes a table for dolls’ meals and parties, and is very
useful for house cleaning, which delightful occupation invariably
occurred in my day every Saturday regularly; but then we used to cover
up our furniture with dust-sheets when we went to the seaside, and,
furthermore, always deposited our wills in the drawing-room bureau under
the same adventurous and dangerous circumstances, sealing the house at
one side with the device of a dove bearing an olive-branch in its mouth,
so that we might be quite sure profane hands had not meddled with our
house or our possessions during our absence. I do not know if in these
grown-up days of ours, and of competitive examinations and women’s
rights, there is time or inclination either for elaborate games, such as
we used to play over the dolls’-house, but I hope there is, as nothing
is more truly engaging than such a possession, for which netting new
curtains, and making new furniture, even occupied the boys, while, of
course, we were never tired of altering and arranging and making too.
Little as I work or care for working, I am sure I should enjoy making a
Berlin-wool carpet now for someone‘s dolls’-house, only, unfortunately,
I don’t know anyone who has one. I should not require a pattern; I
remember the black diamonds accurately, each diamond being filled with a
different coloured wool, making a _tout ensemble_ to be feared, indeed,
in these æsthetic days of ours.

Many a wet afternoon has been happily passed in washing and ‘getting up’
our net curtains for the windows, in rearranging them and tying them up
with ribands bought at Whiteley’s, when it was one wee shop served by
the Universal Provider himself and two girls, for which we saved our
money; and I sincerely believe my first love of decoration and adornment
of the house was fostered, if it were not born, of the intense
attachment I had for my dolls’-house, at the desk of which I wrote my
first attempt at poetry--and very awful it was--and to whose sheltering
care I confided many a packet of MSS., which I was always going to
submit to a publisher, but which paucity of stamps kept safely in the
dolls’-house until I was old enough to know what utter rubbish I had
written, and how worthily it would have been rapidly entombed in the
waste-paper basket.

Below the dolls’-house illustrated there is a drawer, which can hold any
amount of odds and ends, and of course the whole side of the room could
be dolls’-house if cupboard space were not required, but, as it may be,
the cupboard is shown above the house, decorated with a spray of
flowers, painted by someone who knows how to paint; not by any amateur
dauber, for you must never allow bad art in your nursery, even if you
know it will have to be done away with in a comparatively short time.
The other side of the fireplace can be another cupboard; this should be
treated exactly like the one shown, of course without the dolls’-house.
This will give ample space for all the nursery belongings, for no one
should be allowed to hoard, though a certain amount of rubbish should
always be winked at, but broken toys and torn books should be mended and
patched--capital work that for wet days--and should always be sent off
to the omnivorous Sisters at Kilburn, who can use anything, it doesn’t
matter what, and who will welcome as treasures what the children will no
longer use; therefore nothing should be thrown away. Nurses and children
alike all enjoy mending and making for the Kilburn orphans, if only they
are told about them and asked to take an interest in the good work done
there. I have looked about all over London, I think, since writing my
first book to find a suitable floor-covering for the nursery, and have
not satisfied myself quite that I have done it. I cannot like or in any
way advise linoleum there. It is cold, ugly, and there is an undeniable
odour about it that never leaves it, and therefore I do not like to see
it in a room which should always be as pretty as we can make it. I
think, therefore, it is best to buy a square carpet, with either a
border or else a good woollen fringe round, and put this down over
carpet felt. Wallace’s ‘blue anemone’ Brussels carpet, at 3_s._ 11_d._ a
yard, would wear some years, or a cheaper carpet still might be had in
the ‘blue lily,’ at 3_s._ 9_d._, wide width; but I should prefer the
Brussels for really hard wear. The staining round the room should not be
more than 12 inches wide, and should be done with Jackson’s varnish
stains. When the stained boards begin to get shabby the nursemaid can
paint them over herself with some stain, and they can be kept in order
by a weekly polish from the stuff sold by Jackson for the purpose. Half
a gallon of the stain is sufficient for a margin round a good-sized
room. This would cost 6_s._, and proper directions for applying the
stains are sent out with them. Personally, I prefer the dark oak or
walnut stain to any of the others. There should never be a hearth-rug in
any room; but I must again state this in connection with the nursery, it
would only cause accidents, and would serve at least to conceal the
depredations of a careless nursemaid, who cannot refrain from making
that portion of the carpet filthy with carelessness when she is doing
the grate if she should be provided with a rug with which to cover up
her sins. The carpet can be turned round to ensure equal wear if the
square is made as suggested, and should last quite ten years, which is
as long as any carpet should be allowed to last, in my opinion; an older
carpet being a repository of dirt and dust, and therefore cannot be
healthy, a reason why I should never advocate very expensive carpets, as
I much prefer to be able to have a new one without too much exertion on
my part, especially in bedrooms, and in such rooms as nurseries and
schoolrooms.

I am, however, again describing a nursery, and this instead of calmly
discussing how best to do away with it; but I will make a confession
here, and then I fear I shall show how bad an advocate I should prove
were I called in to advise how best to do away with this room, which in
all real homes is the very heart of the household. For be it known to my
readers, that, as my youngest child was eight years old, I determined,
Spartan-like, to do away with the nursery, and converted the room into a
sitting and sleeping room for my nurse, who was henceforth to act as
maid; the young person, who was as her own baby, being taken from her
and sent to share her sister’s rooms, one of which was to be part
school, part sitting room; but we were all so uncomfortable I had no
heart to continue the arrangement. When small friends came to tea there
was nowhere for them to go; wet days were things to be dreaded because
the child had no real place of her own for her things, and, after
struggling on for nearly a year, we have returned to the nursery,
although we try our hardest to call it school-room, and are now so much
happier in consequence.

Another problem--should we do away with the nursery--is, What is to
become of the nurse? You may call her a maid and give her your garments
to look after, and tell her she must now take on her the work of a maid,
but she will never do this properly; she will miss her room and her
occupation, and she will move about miserably, missing the children and
yet not knowing what she misses, and will neither be useful nor
pleasant. But leave her her nursery, and one child if possible, and she
will be quite happy; and, much as we may hanker after a maid, the ideal
creature who shall never have to be told that buttons are off or skirts
torn, who shall make our every-day dresses and retrim our bonnets, we
owe something to the nurse who has looked after the children at the
worst and most critical time of their lives, and are bound, if we cannot
afford the two luxuries, to sacrifice the maid and cling to the nurse.
And be quite sure if we do we shall be rewarded; the children may be
grown up, but even grown-up folks have colds and headaches, and
sometimes worse ailments than these, and who so fit to keep watch over
these ailments as the nurse, who has gallantly steered us through
measles, whooping-cough, and the thousand ailments other people’s
selfishness is always handing on from generation to generation?--no one,
surely; and if she and the nursery are retained together, there is
always someone who knows what to do in an emergency, and a place to go
to to be petted and quieted and made much of, as only a nurse can do who
has had her nurslings from the first and loves them as only their mother
and nurse know how to love. We have two such nurses in our family: I
one, my sister the other, and I can never advise doing away with any
nursery when I remember all that this may probably mean to others beside
the householders themselves.

In a large house, therefore--a house where, let us hope, people mean to
stay some years--this is an extra reason for making the nursery as
pretty as possible. One cannot be very sentimental over a schoolroom;
there is always a suspicion of ogre’s castle about that room, and it can
invariably be turned into the girls’ sitting-room or into a
billiard-room at the earliest opportunity, but all the sentiment of the
home is to be found in the nursery, where the children are without a
care or a trouble, and where they are gaining strength and health for
the battle of life; therefore, let us never grudge any money we can
afford being spent upon the nursery. As I said before, I always consider
blue by far the pleasantest colour to live with, which is one reason why
I advocate blue in the nursery; but of course endless combinations of
colour could be had which would be equally pleasing and successful, but
not as nice to live with always. However, I will give one or two which
might perhaps be liked better by people who are not as fully convinced
as I am on the merits of blue.

A pink and cream nursery would be pretty and bright, and could be
managed by using Pither’s cream and pink bay-tree paper, all cream
paint, and a dado; the dado of Haines’ anaglypta, painted cream, the
ceiling paper should be J. & H. Land’s green and white ‘Watteau’
ceiling, at 3_s._, the carpet should be either the green ‘lily,’ or
‘Stella,’ or ‘anemone,’ from Wallace, and the cretonne should be
Oetzmann’s sage-green ‘algæ’ cretonne, at 1_s._ 3½_d._, the muslin
curtains being, if possible, of Helbronner’s pink and green ‘lily’
muslin, an expensive muslin but a very lovely one, which would complete
the room nicely. The furniture should be ash and as simple as possible,
and the flowers on the cupboard should be the pink flowering rush with
slender reeds, and a few pale Marguerites. Yet another decoration could
be made by using a high dado of Liberty’s nut-brown arras cloth, at
9¾_d._ a yard; this would be sufficiently high to allow of the toy-shelf
being used instead of a dado-rail; above this the paper should be
Pither’s ‘Buttercup, C,’ at 2_s._ 6_d._, a dull yellow-brown paper; all
the paint should be ‘golden-brown,’ the ceiling paper should be yellow
and white, the curtains yellow ‘Venetian’ cretonne, reversible, at 1_s._
1_d._, clear Indian muslin underneath, and the carpet should be Pither’s
golden-brown cottage carpet. This scheme sounds dull, but were anyone so
unfortunate as to be condemned to use a sunless room as a nursery, she
would find this arrangement would bring the sunshine into the room in a
remarkable manner; while dark-blue curtains, carpet, and coverings would
make the room less severe and be equally satisfactory, more especially
if Colbourne’s Hawthorne muslin in yellow and white were placed next
the window. Still, in a sunless room, one cannot have too much yellow;
yellow serge would be found useful here for curtains should the windows
be large, or a draught come in which would be too much for the cretonne
to keep out, though cretonne should always be lined with Burnett’s
sateen at _7d._ a yard, and for a nursery should be edged with frills;
the ball-fringe is really too tempting for small children, who cannot
resist the delights of pulling off the little tufts wherever they are
within reach of their fingers.

A most successful decoration, if rather a dainty one, was carried out
under my directions the other day, and may be mentioned here, as variety
is always pleasing to some minds, and it may be liked by those who
approve of bright colours; it consisted in staining all the woodwork
with Jackson’s malachite green stain and papering the walls with
Pither’s admirable red and cream ‘buttercup’ paper, the ceiling being
papered with a pale green and white paper; the floor was covered with a
green drugget from Barr & Elliott’s, at 2_s._ a yard, wide width, which
is wearing admirably, and all the furniture was in quaint stained wood
from Mr. Armitage, examples of which are illustrated in the chapter on
kitchens; the settle, table, and chairs, being all made by him, as were
the mantel and over-mantel; in the centre of this latter piece of
furniture was placed a square of looking-glass, though I personally
should have preferred a good autotype in the red tints. The tiles in the
grate were red, and there was the orthodox high fender with brass rails,
which should never be wanting in any room where there are children; the
table-cloth and curtains were of green serge, the exact shade of the
staining, and the room altogether was far prettier than I had expected
it to be, although I must confess my expectations were very high.

Out of one of these schemes of decoration--and I am glad to say that all
are possible, for Pither, among others, will always keep in stock any
paper that has really found favour with the public; therefore I am not
recommending what will be out of anyone’s power to possess almost before
these words are in type, as was the case a very few years ago--it will
be quite easy to evolve a nursery in the new house which will be so
pretty and appealing to the inhabitants, that when the last baby is a
tall young person, either rejoicing in knickerbockers or a frock, or in
being in the schoolroom as a matter of course, and who goes for walks
and has meals in company with the elders--and we are forced to consider
the problem with which I headed this chapter--we may reply unanimously,
No; not as long as nurse lives, nor as long as there is the very
smallest chance of illness or of our having to entertain small visitors.
For these even the cots and high chairs should be retained; they do not
eat anything, as one of our old nurses used to say when I wanted to give
away some of the treasures, and they may even come in for the
grandchildren, who will appreciate, as no one else can, the fact that
they are having just what their parents had, and sitting and sleeping in
the very beds and chairs they used to patronise. It is from the mistakes
of others we learn most, and I have never forgotten the lamentations
among old servants at home, when the nurseries being done away with and
every cot scattered to the four winds of heaven, my mother had to borrow
cots and turn the house almost upside down to take in her grandchildren,
who were suddenly sent to her to be looked after during a sudden stress
of illness, an inconvenience that caused endless worry and bustle, but
would have been nothing at all had the old nurseries still been as they
were, and which, as a rule, can be easily managed in a big house where
the nurseries have been properly arranged for.

Then, too, the position of the two rooms close together, and generally a
little way removed from the rest of the house, though not at the top, I
beg, makes them a most admirable place for an invalid to retire to;
there is always a chance of illness--aye, even serious illness--as one
gets on in life, and all sorts of disagreeable things remind one that
one is not immortal; and though, as a rule, houses are built
emphatically to live in, and neither to be ill nor die in--though,
despite the architects, both these unpleasant matters are possible--one
can generally in a large house manage that the nurseries shall be close
together and quiet; therefore, they should be kept apart for our own
use. We could be ill most comfortably in the night nursery, and
convalescent in the day nursery, which could, however, be used for our
nurse did we require one, and the cheerful pretty papers and the
thoughts that would be inseparable from these rooms would alike help us
to bear our woes, while we could have nurse to talk to and to ‘do for
us’ as no one else could--no one who did not know us thoroughly, and,
having seen us in sickness and in health, in adversity and prosperity,
knows exactly what we can bear and how to manage us best.

Thinking over everything, then, considering carefully what the nurseries
have been and what they may be, I do most seriously beg all my
contemporaries to pause a very long time before they lay a ruthless hand
on what was once as sacred as a shrine. No amount of decoration can
embellish walls decorated with the hopes and joys of our youth, and
one’s first playing at Motherhood; no other paper and paint give us the
idea, or remind us as do the old papers and paint, of a thousand and one
things no one can possibly want to forget; not even the miseries endured
during serious illness, the anxieties turned into joy, or may be
deepened into dreadful gloom by death itself, should be forgotten; aye,
a thousand times should they be remembered if this be the case, and,
though this is an impatient age when no one wants to think, and when
death is treated so lightly that people are in society and deepest black
at the same time, and when all are so impatient of the sorrow death
brings with it, that ‘no one stays at home except the corpse,’ I trust I
shall not number many of them among my readers, or indeed anyone who
cannot and will not thankfully remember their past, and as they grow
old, Darby and Joan together, will not spare time to look back gladly
and happily to days which were better, perhaps, than the present days of
feeble steps and darkened lights, but which are no less happy if Edwin
and Angelina are still hand int hand and heart to heart, and have proved
for themselves the absolute truth that where marriage is begun in love,
continued in love, and ended in love, it can never be anything save
success, and that anyone who calls it a failure must know absolutely
nothing whatever about it. To such a couple as this, the nurseries must
always be sacred places, and they will be as reluctant as I am to do
away with them. I think, therefore, I may take it for granted that
unless absolutely pressed for room we shall retain our nurseries,
keeping them fresh and bright and nice in case we are ill, or in case
we have our grandchildren to see us, or in case we have small visitors,
who, being provided with suitable rooms, are nothing but a pleasure to
us, when otherwise they might be nothing except a trouble and a
nuisance.



CHAPTER VI.

THE GIRLS’ ROOM.


In writing about the girls’ room, I mean to consider a great deal more
than decoration, though naturally that will not be neglected, for I am
more and more convinced as years go by that something definite must be
done in the way of providing for the women who flood the market and
struggle--alas! that it should be so--in the open streets with men for
their living, instead of contenting themselves with being the helpmeets
of those with whom they wage this unseemly warfare. I have a very strong
opinion that people should not bring into the world any more children
than they can reasonably hope to equip in some measure for the fight.
Boys can always make their way, women cannot; and though I do not agree
with Mr. Besant, who declares that women hate work and do not wish ever
to do anything, I do think that no woman should be obliged to work for
mere food and clothes--at all events in the ranks above the lower middle
classes; and that no woman’s constitution can stand the anxiety of
providing her own sustenance, and at the same time doing work to procure
this sustenance; for anxiety paralyses a woman, and the more she is
obliged to take thought for the morrow the less able is she to ensure
the morrow’s being provided for by her work. She should, therefore,
never be placed in a position in which she is literally forced out into
public strife, unless from her very earliest days she has been brought
up among workers and taught that her future can be nothing but severe
toil.

Can one speak too strongly of the wicked selfishness of people who bring
ten or eleven children into the world, knowing that, were they to die
to-morrow, the unhappy creatures would either starve, or do worse than
starve in the workhouse or in one of those excellent and stony-hearted
institutions where the child becomes a unit among hundreds of uniformed
units, with never a pretty frock or sash among them, and never a chance
of anything save work outside the walls and of an ultimate grave?--of
the insensate and odious conduct of those parents who bring up their
children to have every single thing they require, and then, when the
girls do not marry and grow old at home, leave them penniless when
totally unable to work, because they have never known they must--never
have learned a single thing worth knowing, and that they must either
starve genteelly or live on their overburdened relations, or add to the
already fearful number of people who paint dreadful little tables and
tambourines, sew infamously, or try the thousand and one ways of making
a little money, which cheapen the market and bring institutions for the
sale of work done by ladies into the profoundest contempt? I say that
the State should interfere, and force a man to lay by for his daughters,
at least so much that will keep them from such an end, or to give them
such an education that at any moment they could work--could do the work
that from their earliest days they should learn is waiting for them in
the near future; and that if a man’s own sense will not teach him that
he has no right to make helpless women suffer (as women must suffer who
find themselves destitute in middle age), he should be treated like a
criminal and punished by a jury, which should be composed of women who
have suffered in their turn through their parents’ selfishness.
Naturally this would be impossible, but I do wish men’s consciences
could be awakened, and every successful man who is working hard,
spending all he makes, and adding yearly to the frocked darlings in the
nursery with scarcely an _arrière pensée_, would remember in the dead of
the night, when one’s sins generally find one out, that the day of
reckoning will come--that some day the children brought up in luxury and
accustomed to think the world their own will be faded spinsters (for out
of a large family some are sure to remain unmarried in these days), and
that all the sweetness and light of the early life will be forgotten,
and the father will be cursed when these faded, sorrowful women have to
look forward to nothing but patient starvation or a corner grudged to
them by their more successful relations, to whom they can never be
anything save incumbrances; for these disappointed ones of the earth
always resent prosperity in anyone else, and are apt to snarl and snap
at those who dole them out the bread they so unwillingly take.

Why should not the State compel every working man with two or more
daughters (after two the case should be legislated for) to pay in a part
of his income to some fund for providing for the women? And by working
men I mean those who have no capital except their brains--the artists,
lawyers, clergymen, professional men of all kinds, who have nothing but
themselves to depend upon. The man making and spending his 1,500_l._ a
year should be forced to put by at least 200_l._ a year for the poor
girls who come into the world without their own consent, and who are
left absolutely destitute, save of a certain amount of distaste for
anything save enjoyment, and an absolute dislike of doing anything save
just what it pleases them to do at the moment; while at the same time a
properly mapped-out education should be provided that will enable them
to earn something in addition to the pittance the State would be keeping
for them against a rainy day, but which would be something on which they
could rely with certainty, and which would allow them to contemplate
possible illness without the deadly sinking that fills the breast of any
woman who has absolutely nothing but her own self to rely upon, and who
knows she must starve or seek the cold comfort of the corner mentioned
before if she cannot continue her labour.

I cannot put the case too strongly before the fathers and mothers who
may read this book; for, after all, they must be their own State, and do
their own legislating. They must not have enormous families that they
cannot feed, clothe, or educate respectably; and they must so manage
their affairs that the girls can rely on the 100_l._ a year, which is
all I ask for--all that is absolutely necessary to keep a single woman
in comfort, but not luxury; the luxuries must be earned or gone without.
They must do this, I say, unless they wish to look down from whence they
may go after death, and have their hearts lacerated and torn by the
sight of the women they have left to starve and to curse those who have
entailed so much misery on them. There surely would be some insurance
company who would undertake to do for all what the Edinburgh Life
Assurance Company, 11 King William Street, E.C., does for
schoolmistresses who like to pay in a certain amount yearly--viz. pay
them a pension at a certain age, or else a sum of money, whichever they
prefer; and the parents could, as soon as they added another daughter to
the household, begin providing for her. If they cannot do this, I
maintain they are absolutely wicked in adding that little life to the
overwhelming population already here.

There is no misery to be compared to the misery of a woman who, never
having imagined her future can be aught but a sheltered one, finds
herself at middle age absolutely destitute and at the mercy of her
relations. She has no claim on anyone but her parents, and she knows
this, and suffers infinitely. Therefore those parents must contemplate
this: must understand that marriage does not come to the lot of
everyone, and that, even if it does, the woman should not go penniless
to her husband, but should have some small allowance to enable her to
feel independent, and to add to her house, or her children’s pleasures,
out of her own resources. Here, again, I mention the 100_l._ a year.
Each girl in an upper middle-class family--the professional man’s
family--cannot possibly cost any amount less than that; in the case, of
course, of some, 50_l._ would be amply sufficient, and this sum should
be allowed yearly as long as the father lived; after which, insurance
money should be forthcoming that would insure something at all events,
if not quite as much as they have been having.

If, however, it is absolutely impossible for a man to give his daughters
anything--in which case they ought most distinctly never to have been
born--he is bound to tell them so honestly from their earliest days, and
he is equally bound to give them such an education that at any moment
they can earn something, either as domestic servants--and, for my part,
I would, and far rather, be a parlourmaid than a nursery governess--or
as Board school teachers, designers, or as members of such of the home
branches of toil as are open to women who cannot aspire to the higher
education and the advantages of Girton and similar establishments.

Of course the subject of woman’s work is one on which volumes have been
written, and volumes might still be compiled from the same source, and I
could not naturally go into all the _pros_ and _cons_ of each occupation
in this chapter, even if I knew them all, which I do not; but I do
strongly beg my readers to dissuade their girls from competing with the
men; they only lower prices, and, finally, prevent the men from marrying
them by giving themselves one less chance of fulfilling the proper end
of their sex--viz. to make a home in the fullest sense of the word.
There is plenty for women to do without scratching and fighting with the
men. If only they can realise that fact I shall not have written in
vain.

I have had lately a great deal to do with women who have to earn their
own living, and I have never found one who really could and would work
at anything that turned up who could not add in an appreciable manner to
her income; but I have also found hundreds who would not even try to do
what I could offer them, but who preferred to dabble with paint, to
embroider hideous cushions no one wants, and which cost pounds to make,
to undertaking the ‘smocking,’ the upholstery, and, above all, the
dressmaking and cooking with which any sensible woman, who is honest and
hard-working, can keep herself and manage to get along comfortably. No;
if they can’t get just the work they want, they will not take any; or,
if they take it, they grumble; don’t return it at the time they promise;
and, finally, are so unbusinesslike that their employers are in despair,
and vow that, come what may, they will never employ a so-called lady
again.

And it is also astonishing to me how the mere fact of being gently born
seems to these poor things to excuse all their failings. Rickety
screens, impossible pictures, frightful woollies--all must be sold at a
higher rate for them than for anyone else, because they are made by
ladies. And so it should be if ladies understood that, because they are
ladies, they should be more punctual and better workers than the poorer
classes, if their ladyhood were a hall-mark instead of a screen for
their misdemeanours. But they will not see this, and in consequence they
bring discredit on their order, and make the very words ‘Poor lady!’
synonymous with everything that is bad and absolutely unsaleable.

To be a successful worker one must take the work which comes before one,
and one must be trained to work, to punctuality, and to business habits;
therefore, if there be one of the families of daughters no other nation
produces in the reckless way our own does, it is imperative that the
training to work begins in the nursery, and that the defenceless girls
are given this equipment at least, even if the parents can do no more
for them.

The boys are born to work; they are carefully trained and brought up for
this end, but there are hundreds of cases where the fathers have either
been suddenly ruined or become poor through illness or their own
selfishness, and who turn the girls out in their turn, and are much
astonished when the poor things flounder hopelessly about and cannot
keep themselves, because they have had absolutely no training which
shall fit them for work.

I feel, in writing this chapter, which concerns the girls of the
household, that I cannot say too much about the subject of some
provision being made for them, and that they should be relieved not only
from the necessity of having to find a market for unskilled labour, but
also from the trial of marrying if they do not want to do so, or if they
do not see anyone they really love, because their parents are
continually telling them it is their duty to marry in order to make room
for their younger sisters.

Now, incredible as it may sound to male ears, there are very many women
to whom marriage and the obligations and responsibilities entailed
thereby are absolutely distasteful and disagreeable. As a rule, these
women make the best wives and house-mothers, but they are not the
happiest people in the world, and would probably have been both happier
and better had they followed out their own inclinations and lived their
own lives in their own way, without the constant presence of a man and
the unceasing cares of a household on their shoulders. They do not
understand Love with a big L, and passion and they are strangers for
ever, and always would be, but they marry at their parents’ request, to
clear out the nest, and they certainly miss the higher happiness which,
perchance, might have come had they waited, either from their work or
from meeting the one individual who might have roused their sleeping
souls and shown them a glimpse of the paradise that exists, I believe,
for those lucky natures who understand what we may call the ‘Ouidaesque’
aspect of the case; albeit I also think they use up rapidly in that
short sojourn in Paradise, which serves more sober-minded folk for the
whole of life’s journey. For myself I cannot speak. I am a prosaic,
unsentimental individual, and so far have got on without sentiment very
well indeed; but other people may not be as I am, and may endure misery
by marrying the first man who asks them because they see plainly how
desperately they are grudged the room in the house which should have
been theirs for ever, and from which they should have been allowed to go
reluctantly to the husband, who appreciates his wife a thousandfold if
he understands he is only allowed possession on sufferance, and that she
was wanted by her own people quite as badly as ever he could want her
himself.

And this brings me round to the question of giving the girls their own
room in the house, where they can do just what they please, and where
they can ask their own friends to tea should they desire to do so; not,
however, in the American way, which empowers the young people to have
festivals whenever they like, and to ask whom they like to them, but in
a mitigated form, which compels them to ask permission to entertain, and
furthermore to produce a list of names, so that full knowledge may be
the mother’s portion, and that she may know exactly who is coming, and,
moreover, what is going on. If the girls have their own sitting-room,
they feel their residence under the paternal roof is meant to last as
long as the roof itself, and they have not that hurried, disagreeable
feeling some unfortunate girls must be given by the parents who make no
provision for their permanent comfort, and who openly speak of what they
shall do when So-and-so gets married; poor So-and-so, who has never had
an offer in her life, and shrinks away from every man she sees, as she
cannot help regarding him as the monster who carries off a damsel
whether she wishes it or not, because the fetish of home has to be
appeased, and the fabric kept together by the quick sacrifice of those
who are old enough to be chained to the rock to await his advances.

The home--of the making and the decorating, the management, and the
keeping together of which I feel I can never say too much--cannot
possibly be made too happy, too pleasant for the younger members of it;
but they in their turn must understand that they, too, have their part
in the whole to perform. The grown-up daughter in such a home is a most
precious possession; she can save her mother endless trouble, she can
and does take the burden of most of the detail on her shoulders, and for
her, therefore, should be arranged some place, no matter how small, that
she can call her own, and where she can in some measure do much as she
likes, for she is sure to have some pet occupation--friends to write to,
work to do, all sorts of things to see about, and which she can only
attend to in a room set apart for her and her belongings.

In many cases the schoolroom makes an admirable girls’ room, but should
this room be occupied by the younger children when the elder daughter is
‘out’ and requires a room to herself, a capital arrangement could be
made for her by copying the French fashion of a boudoir-bedroom, an
arrangement for which is illustrated here, and which my artist has
adapted from a room I used to have in my Dorsetshire house, where space
was a great object, and where the downstairs rooms were so badly managed
that it was impossible to have a morning-room in which I could sit,
although there were two tiny rooms beside the dining-and drawing-rooms,
which we turned into bachelors’ bedrooms, and which constituted our only
spare rooms for some time. These rooms were larger than need be bestowed
on the eldest girl of a house, and were made by removing the partition
between a bed-and dressing-room; the bed and dressing-table, which also
served as a washhand-stand, were completely screened off by a long and
very tall Japanese screen; the cabinet, which stands by the side of the
bed, held a quantity of linen, &c., and always looked very decorative,
and not in the least like the humble chest of drawers that it
undoubtedly was; while the couch in the first window served as a sofa,
and, furthermore, held any quantity of dresses, supplemented as it was
by the cupboard, the doors of which are panelled with Japanese leather,
put in nearly twenty years ago, and verily, I do believe, the very first
doors in England that were ever treated in this manner. I never saw any
elsewhere, though, of course, now to find a door with undecorated panels
is rather an impossibility,

[Illustration: FIG. 16.--Boudoir-Bedroom.]

at all events in any house the owner of which aspires to be in the least
degree artistic.

The room illustrated here was papered with a very soft brown-and-gold
paper, and had a dado of red-and-white matting, and a hideous shade of
terra-cotta paint. In those days one could not find a ceiling paper
anywhere, and I was obliged to content myself with a species of
_café-au-lait_ wash on the ceiling, which much exercised the mind of the
local decorator, to say nothing of my own, for though I knew I hated the
ordinary whitewash, I did not quite know how to set about a change; but
notwithstanding that, my _café-au-lait_ ceiling was rather smeary, and
was profoundly jeered at by the good local housekeepers, to whom a
spotless ceiling and a clear conscience were synonymous, and to whom
anything new or strange meant undoubtedly an unsafe spiritual condition.
The relief from the white glare of the ordinary ceiling was so great
that I stuck to it manfully, and even added a blue ceiling to one of the
other rooms until I came across a pretty paper, and had that put up, to
the intense disgust of the builder and the open horror of the
inhabitants, who since my day have papered their ceilings too, and done
all sorts of other things which I used to preach in my bridal-days, but
of which they took no heed until they saw me in print; then they were
quite sure I was right, and began to alter their houses and make them
prettier than they had ever been before.

I should not now put terra-cotta and brown together, but that room
somehow always looked very harmonious; the short frilled curtains were
of a charming soft terra-cotta and white cretonne, which unfortunately
has been out of stock for something like fourteen years. The muslin was
a very soft Madras with frills also, and the couch was covered in the
same patterned cretonne, only in blue and white; when the paper became
shabby and a little dull I added a frieze of Japanese fans all round,
and they gave just the colour I required to the room. One cannot somehow
buy such good fans nowadays as those were, unfortunately; and this is
not imagination, for I possess a good many of these identical ones now,
and I can never find in any of the numerous Japanese shops which have
succeeded Liberty & Hewitt, or I should say followed them, any paper
fans that are half such good colours or such pretty designs as those
which formed the frieze in that particular room. I had the floor covered
entirely with matting, and rugs were placed about. The whole of the
furniture, with the exception of the writing-table shown in window No.
2, was wickerwork, and as in those days there was no Aspinall, I had to
beg my varnished paint from the man who mended our carriages, and who
could never produce anything except a very good black and a particularly
awful blue, which I only tried once, and eschewed in favour of black,
which remained on for years, and finally succumbed to the superior
charms of Aspinall’s hedge-sparrow-egg blue and other delicate and
pleasant colours.

The shelves, both in the recesses by the fireplace and between the
windows, will give an excellent idea how to manage these dwarf
bookcases, which hold a quantity of books, while the tops serve as
cabinets or stands for china. The corners of the room had a series of
long wooden brackets in each, edged with frills of dark-blue velveteen,
and the mantel-piece had on a painted board for the shelf edged with a
deep frill or flounce, also of the same dark-blue velveteen; a narrow
strip of looking-glass was placed along at the back, as overmantels were
not invented, and I had always a horror of the great glass sheets then
in vogue; while above that hung pictures, fans, &c., which made a
species of overmantel arrangement for myself, with which I was quite
satisfied. The room altogether always looked pretty and nice, and was
much admired; it was always full of ferns and palms and flowers too,
without which no room can ever look well, spend what one may on the
furniture and decorations thereof. This species of boudoir-bedroom is
always a capital possession, and were space no object in a house I
should always arrange the bed-chambers in a similar manner: there should
be a dressing-room and bath-room to each, where all the dressing
operations could be carried on; and the bath should be shut off by
double doors from the passage. Such an arrangement is quite delightful
both for visitors and when one has to remain in one’s room from
ill-health, for once up and on the sofa the whole appearance of a
bedroom vanishes when the screen is in place, which is put straight
along between the bed and the cabinet. All the housework is done behind
the screen, the housemaids entering by the curtained door, and the
invalid is not worried by the sight of bed-making operations, while her
room always looks nice, and she can receive there anyone she may care to
see, which she could not do were the room frankly a bed-chamber and
nothing else.

Of course on ordinary days the windows must be opened as soon as
dressing is over, and left open for a good two hours’ spell of airing,
and the room should not be sat in after tea or after luncheon if
possible. This gives ample time for a due course of airing, the only
objection anyone could make to this arrangement being that probably the
room might be stuffy, or the air in it exhausted by being used during
the day as well as slept in during the night. This objection vanishes
into thin air when the windows are opened widely and kept open from
about two till bedtime; indeed, I say after bedtime, for whatever the
weather may be I have one window open all night, and whenever possible
every window which will open remains so; indeed, one window in our
present house has not been closed for a moment during three years.

Now, in decorating a room on a smaller scale for a girl, her own
individual taste should be in some measure consulted, but nothing can
possibly be or look better than the delightful ‘Watteau’ paper, sold by
Haines, at 2_s._ 6_d._ the piece. It is a paper of which one never
tires, and has also the capital quality of being no distinct colour, and
of allowing any colour being used in the room with it; while at the same
time, should a distinct hue be desired, a room decorated with the
‘Watteau’ paper can be made distinctly blue, moss-green or coral-pink,
according to the manner in which the room is painted, or according to
the frieze or dado selected. For example, the paper could be hung above
a dado of cretonne sold by Shoolbred at 1_s._ 4½_d._ a yard, which
almost matches the paper, the paint in this case being ivory, and the
ceiling paper Land & Co.’s ‘Watteau’ in yellow and white, at 3_s._ the
piece. The curtains could be either of the same cretonne or of a Louis
XVI. brocade, sold by Colbourne at 2_s._ 11½_d._ a yard, double width.
The floor could be covered with matting, and there should be some rugs
about on the floor, thus making one decoration without any distinct
colour. Another could be the ‘Watteau’ with a plain green frieze or a
frieze of Haines ‘rose’ paper, at 10_s._ a piece. This is run round the
room, not put on in strips like wall-paper, and therefore would not be
as expensive as it sounds. The frieze-rail and all the woodwork could be
stained green with Jackson’s malachite green stain; the ceiling paper
could be pink and white; the carpet, Wallace’s green ‘lily;’ and the
chairs could be stained green, and upholstered either in the pinky
terra-cotta Louis XVI. brocade, of which the curtains could be made, or
else of the ‘Watteau’ cretonne mentioned above. The bed should be
covered with a worked quilt--a good occupation for any girl would it be
to make such quilts; while the towels and pillow-cases should all bear
embroidered monograms, marking-ink being a positive badge of disgrace in
a household where there should be useful fingers.

There are a great many floral papers, such as the ‘rose,’ at 3_s._
9_d._, sold by Giles; the ‘carnation,’ sold by Maple; and the ‘wild
rose,’ sold by Haines, which are all charming for such rooms, or,
indeed, for any room; but should a severer form of decoration be
required, my readers cannot go wrong with any of Pither’s papers, or of
Liberty’s new damasque papers, which are all as good and artistic as
they can be, and which can be used fearlessly by anyone who is not sure
enough of his own taste to allow himself to select a paper on his own
account, or has not time and patience to encounter the invariable battle
with the decorator, who will not produce, until he is absolutely
obliged, any paper on which he cannot see his way to making an
exorbitant profit, and who sets forth paper after paper, trusting to his
own ingenuity and his powers of wearying his victim to enable him to
sell some venerable ‘shopkeeper’ which has long vexed his soul by its
unremunerative existence on some back shelf.

I am delighted myself with Liberty’s damasque papers, which have only
been brought out since I wrote my first book, and which, therefore, have
not had the honourable mention there that they so very richly deserve to
have had, the blue and silver ‘tulip damasque,’ at 2_s._, being a
perfect paper, and one that would be quite satisfactory in a
boudoir-bedroom, unless it happened to be a very small one; in that case
the blue and silver marigold, at 1_s._ 6_d._, would do equally well.
With these papers a dado is imperative, as I do not consider they have
sufficient substance in them to withstand the wear and tear inseparable
from their position at the base of the wall. A dado of Treloar’s thin
matting or of a good red-and-gold Japanese paper would look well. With
the matting the paint should be ivory, with the leather paper a good red
paint should be selected which will harmonise with the blue. In any case
a red carpet, such as Pither’s dull red ‘cottage’ carpet, or Wallace’s
dull red ‘anemone,’ should be selected, and the curtains should be the
same red in serge, or else in a dull blue cretonne, the ‘algæ’ made on
purpose to harmonise with this paper by Oetzmann.

The planning and talking over the arrangement of this room will be a
great amusement both to mother and daughter, and I strongly recommend
the mother to attempt nothing in the way of a surprise, but to frankly
take her daughter into her confidence and consult her tastes on the
subject if she wishes the room to be a real success. I am compelled to
recommend this course from an experience of my own, because I have never
forgotten my unconcealable dismay at returning home after a long visit
to find my own mother had planned such a surprise for me, but had in all
innocence, and with such kindness, done such dreadful things to my pet
belongings that I often recall the remembrance of my start of horror and
exclamation of dismay with the profoundest contrition, for I did not
know then what I have only realised in after years, that I must have
pained her dreadfully, for, dear soul, she had done all the renovations
out of her own savings, and had taken much trouble and pains about it,
and I could not help saying, ‘Oh, why did you let them do this?’ before
I realised that this was a surprise, and I ought to have been enchanted
instead of dismayed at her renovations--renovations that were in
absolute good taste, for her taste was perfect, and her house charming
long before anyone else cared for their house, but which somehow were
not my ideas, and which annoyed me dreadfully because the arrangements
were not mine at all, and which I never dared alter afterwards, because
I had already received the changes so ungraciously, instead of realising
that I should have been enchanted with the forethought and goodness
which had prepared all this for me.

Remembering my own reception of a similar surprise, therefore advise
that the daughter should be consulted in every way about the room she is
to inhabit, unless, of course, she has no tastes of her own, and does
not care what the room looks like so long as she has it to herself; then
the room can be made as pretty as the mother likes. But there are few
girls nowadays who do not care for their rooms, and are not as eager as
anyone else to make themselves a pretty nest that they may regard as
their own, and not as a perch on which they rest on sufferance until
they are pushed out by the on-coming juniors into the arms of the first
man who appears in the least degree anxious to have her for a wife.

I do hope that, whatever else happens, the daughters of the household
may never be sent away to schools, or urged at a high school to overwork
their brains and go in for those wretched competitive examinations. I am
no advocate for the higher education of women, for votes for women, for
anything which shall take them out of the sheltered home atmosphere,
where women alone can breathe comfortably and live properly, and force
them into the arena of life; and I do hope mothers who may read this
book will consider what they are doing when they force their girls
forward, and delight in the hard work and successful examinations which
ruin their constitutions, and make them irritable and nervous and old
before their time. I know only too well that there are women who are
compelled to work, but I shall always maintain this should not be; and,
to return once more to the subject with which I began my chapter, I
state boldly that neither would they be were the families of English
people smaller, and were we less extravagant, less determined to snatch
all we can from life, doing absolutely nothing for ourselves that we can
get someone else to do for us. Why, I know myself one family of five or
six daughters who, if their father died to-morrow, would not have 50_l._
a year, yet who go out night after night to balls, who take cabs at
every moment, never saving a shilling, who are waited upon by half a
dozen servants, and yet who ought to do the housework themselves, who
ought to be content with a quarter of the gaiety they insist upon. The
poor silly things even went to Court, though, Heaven knows, the Queen
would have sent them back again had she known what their dresses
cost--a price, moreover, that would never be paid--and who finally
would have far more chance of happy marriage than they have now, when
every man they know looks askance at their garments, and then at their
father’s worried face, and avoids them, justly declining to put
themselves in the noose which is round his neck, and which will surely
kill him, even if he can keep his head above water for much longer. This
case is the case of hundreds of families at present, and therefore I
feel I cannot say too much about it, and I do hope mothers will
therefore think a little more about their daughters, and endeavour to
restore a little of the quiet and simplicity which are almost extinct in
this rushing era of ours, and which can never be found among those who
are cast out from the shelter of home and forced into competition--a
competition that is as odious as it is unnecessary in most girls’ lives,
and that would be altogether unnecessary were there fewer girls in the
world, and were we content to spend one quarter of the money we do on
all sorts of nonsense and on extra servants, who only make our daughters
lazy and luxurious when they ought undoubtedly to be up and doing.

The moment a girl leaves the control of the schoolroom and the watchful
eye of the governess she should be told that, though now she is to some
extent her own mistress, she must not consider her education finished,
but rather that the real part of education is just beginning, and that
it is absolutely necessary that every day should begin with some steady
work; and it is also well that some definite rule should be made on this
subject: certain small household duties should be given to her, and
certain studies should be continued, leaving it to her to select in some
measure what those studies shall be.

Now in the richest households there are many things which should never
be left to servants if one wishes the house to look like the abode of a
lady, and not of a _nouveau riche_ one, the principal one in my eyes
being the arrangement of the flowers. The best gardener in the world has
only a gardener’s ideas, and cannot know what to bring in and how to
place what he brings in in an absolutely satisfactory way, and, as dead
flowers and fading plants are disgraceful and worse than an utter
absence of floral decoration, the first duty a girl should undertake is
that of going round the rooms the moment breakfast is over, to decide
which plants are to be removed and which vases should be refilled. In
the country the gardener should wait her orders, and have the flowers
gathered dry and before the heat of the sun is on them, and should
himself exchange the plants, the position of them being determined by
his mistress, as the arrangement of the flowers should be left to her
alone. If done systematically in the manner here indicated, all the
house will look fresh and nice, and there would be no chance of
overwork.

To arrange the flowers an old dress should be worn, also a large apron
and sleeves should be donned. Despite the fact that the gardener should
bring in the flowers, there is always something extra to gather at the
last moment, and one rushes out, gets one’s skirts covered with damp
mould and dew from the grass, or shakes down a quart or so of water from
the trees all over one, and a dress is spoiled in a moment--a serious
matter at all times, but something more than serious when one has
forestalled one’s allowance, and can’t afford another garment anyhow.

The arrangement of the flowers in most houses nowadays would occupy at
least an hour, after which the girl should sit down for a steady read at
some standard work carefully chosen for her, or else to any sewing work
she may care for; then she should take up her hobby--and I trust she may
have one for her own sake--and she should either practise, paint or
write, or do anything she likes (save read novels) until the hour before
luncheon, when she _must_ go out. If she be wise she will continue her
regular walk with the schoolroom party; if not, she must be sent out to
see her friends, do ‘errands’ about the village or town, or else arrange
for a game at tennis--anything to ensure some exercise. The girls of the
present day don’t care for walks for walking’s sake, but they must have
open-air exercise somehow, whether they care for it or not.

In London, I maintain, any girl who knows how to behave, and who is told
plainly how to conduct herself, can safely go about the streets alone
from the day she is eighteen. I have done so ever since I can remember,
and though I do not consider myself lovely, I certainly was nice-looking
(please, I am not conceited), and I never met with any adventure of the
very smallest kind; and given a straightforward walk, an air of having
something to do and doing it, no peeping into shop-windows, for example,
and not a suspicion of loitering anywhere, I maintain any ordinary girl
can go about alone perfectly, should it be inconvenient to send someone
with her, or should she have no girl friend or sister with whom to walk;
anyhow, London is much safer than the country, with its crawling tramps
and its suspicious cows at every corner, to say nothing of mad bulls and
dogs and all kinds of perilous adventures.

The morning walk disposed of, after luncheon then could come any
pleasures. There are sure to be calls to be made, tennis to go to,
afternoon parties, concerts, and all kinds of small dissipations; then
would come dinner, after which, if there were no going out, amusing
books could be allowed, and, in fact, any amusement that she
particularly cares for should now be indulged in. The evenings should be
entirely her own; and if she has any hobbies, and wishes to continue the
morning’s work, let her do so. You will very likely be as glad to be
left alone for a little with your husband as she is anxious to return to
her own quarters and resume the special employments on which she was
engaged.

I am now writing about those lucky girls who have an assured future of
some kind, who, though they may not be rich should their father die,
will not have to join in the fearful battle for bread, and who should
represent the sex universally had I my way; and, therefore, I do not
dwell on the necessity for toil that would be inevitable were the girls’
parents aware of the sword hanging over their heads. In this case the
girls should know the truth, and should themselves elect whether they
should prepare armour against the fray, or hang about, hoping against
hope that they may be married before the evil days that must come fall
upon the household. But girls who are pretty well off, and who, as I
said before, cannot starve if their parents die, should still endeavour
to find some real occupation for themselves; they may never want to make
much money by it, but they should always be able to save money by it;
and if they cannot do anything definite, or that will be likely to be
heard of in the world, they should cultivate their fingers, and should
learn to embroider and sew, in order that their room at first, and their
houses afterwards, should be made beautiful by them, and should show
evidences of their industry, and the excellent uses they have made of
their time.

Make the girls’ room pretty, and the girls will like to sit there and
spend their time carefully within the charming walls; but do not for one
moment tolerate laziness, lounging, or novel-reading; and as long as the
girls are at home, see that the mornings, at all events, are properly
employed. The results of the day should be seen, should be inspected,
and the masters or mistresses, who should still attend to continue some
lessons (German, music, and painting being the best, I think), should be
interviewed now and again about the progress of the pupil; and a
watchful but not inquisitorial eye should be kept on all that goes on in
the room, else we shall find it turned into a rubbish-place, or a spot
where all is play and nothing useful is ever done.

Lessons in dressmaking and in cooking should be given, if possible, to
every girl; and she should also at the earliest age possible be taught
to knit socks and stockings, and, above all, she should, in the very
fullest sense of the word, learn her duty to her neighbours, and be
taught that her superior advantages both of time and money should be
tithed for those whose lives lack so much, and could be made so very
much brighter were we all to do our duty by them. I am not an advocate
for slumming; I do not consider any girl should have a district, and,
unless in the country, Sunday-school teaching is not always to be
attempted; but some part of the day should be set aside, either for
working for the poor--amply represented to me by the Sisters at the
Kilburn Orphanage--or in making some life brighter. In the country it is
easy to collect flowers for hospitals, or to ask dwellers in courts to
tea in the garden in London, to make things which will be useful, and to
take girls and boys occasionally to some museum or picture gallery, just
for an hour’s change from the crowded streets.

I think girls should always do one thing during the day, as a matter of
custom, for the poor; but whatever is done should be done under some
direction. Young folks are enthusiastic and hurried, and often do more
harm than good by indiscriminate charity. But then the clergyman of the
parish can sometimes be consulted, and when he cannot, I say, Send to
Kilburn, to the Orphanage in Randolph Gardens. There, without
consideration of creed, with large and vigorous minds and hearts, all
are helped; and all work can be used, all help received, with the
perfect assurance that what we send there will emphatically reach those
for whom it is meant, and that there are no highly paid secretaries to
come before the poor and suffering.

These are all large matters to be discussed in this book, but I cannot
think they are out of place. I am thankful to say that far more people
trouble themselves now about their poorer neighbours than in bygone
days; that rich men realise that they are only stewards of their
property, and that they should administer their goods for the poor as
well as for themselves; that while the owner of a large park and
magnificent pictures is not bound to cut up the former for
allotment-grounds, or distribute the latter among the denizens of
Whitechapel, he is bound to allow them to see both, under proper
control, whenever he is called upon to do so; that garden-parties for
the poor are far more necessary than garden-parties for the rich; and
that all who regard life rightfully and have had a large share of life’s
best things are bound, by their duty to God and their neighbour, to
administer them in some measure for the poor, who will gradually become
more fit to share them as we show them our possessions and teach them
how to regard them properly. Under these circumstances there is great
hope that our girls may advance farther than we have done, and, being
most carefully trained from their earliest days to remember God’s poor,
may do so as a matter of course, and may consider that day wasted indeed
which cannot show at least one thing done to alleviate some of the
misery and poverty there is in this overcrowded world of ours.

The weaker sex indeed! We may be weak physically--we are, we allow that;
we allow that our impulsiveness, our weakness, our very structure,
forbids us battling with the men, shoulder to shoulder, in that dreadful
scrimmage for life in which some women would cast us all; and all we beg
is to be allowed to confess that, and have some shelter provided for us,
where we can do our part of the world’s work--our part, that a weak mind
cannot undertake, but that is essentially the woman’s part--the part of
beautifier of the home and administrator of the finances, and, through
the home, of the outside world, too, where we see all men as our
brothers and sisters, and where we recognise our place as helpers (not
rivals), of consolers (not competitors) of the men, who should do the
sheltering and home-providing that no woman, except under most
exceptional circumstances, can possibly manage by herself alone.

Therefore, if all who have girls remember this, and instil in their
hearts the fact that we want them at home, that even if they should not
marry or become senior wranglers, or anything else equally prominent and
unpleasant, their lives can be busy and useful and fully occupied, and
of infinite use in their generation, we shall do something for the world
at large even if we let all this grow only out of the innocent
preparation of the girls’ room when they have reached the end of the
first stage of their life, and become in some measure mistresses of
themselves. But, for fear I may be considered too solemn and serious,
and for fear that my readers may think I am adverse to gaiety, and would
not let girls enjoy themselves under any circumstances whatever, I will
finish this chapter, and pass on to consider far more frivolous
things--namely, how to manage one’s dress allowance, and, furthermore,
how best to arrange for any festivities we may be able to afford when we
have maidens in the household who are anxious to ‘come out.’



CHAPTER VII.

COMING-OUT AND DRESS.


I always regard the expression ‘coming-out’ as rather a ridiculous one,
when used by the ordinary upper middle-class household; yet, as it has
become a recognised part of our vocabulary, I suppose we must all adopt
it when we talk of that enchanting period of a girl’s life which occurs
when she is about eighteen, and is in some measure emancipated from the
control and ever-watchful care which have been her portion from the day
she was born until the joyful moment arrives when the books may be
closed and the schoolroom-door shut, and she takes her place among her
elders as a right, and not on sufferance any more.

Here I should like to pause for a moment to impress upon all mothers
who may read my book that a girl should remain absolutely in the
schoolroom until she reaches her eighteenth birthday; the longer she can
be kept from the turmoil of life, from the shams and wearinesses of
ordinary society, and from any temptations to shirk her education, the
better. She will not be pleased with her mother at the time; she will
think regretfully and, may be, angrily of those of her less guarded,
more ‘fortunate’ (?) friends, who are ‘all over the place’ at seventeen,
who never read an instructive book or think of anything save dress,
admirers, and what dissipation is in store for them next; but when she
looks back at her girlhood from the altitude of that calm, sheltered
middle-age I wish for all girls for whom I care, she will see what she
has to thank her mother for, and all the disagreeable feelings she had
then towards her will be atoned for a thousandfold in the flood of
grateful affection which will fill her heart, and in the love which she
will entertain for one who trained her so carefully, and who cared for
no present lack of affection, because she knew quite well she would
infallibly and at no very late date reap her reward.

The years from sixteen to eighteen are undoubtedly the years during
which a girl learns most, and in a properly guarded household she would
then comprehend more fully than at any other time how necessary it is to
use every moment for the best. She would form habits of study,
regularity, and appreciation of what is best in art and literature which
she would never lose, and which would only develop as years went on; and
she would, furthermore, lay in a stock of health, on which she could
draw at will when the real stress of living begins, and she finds
herself in her turn with a heavy burden of real work on her shoulders,
and has a house to manage, a husband to please, and children to bring
forth and care for unceasingly.

And this latter is the strongest argument I can use against girls being
‘brought out’ too young; if they are they may marry. I knew one parent
criminal enough to allow a child of sixteen to take upon herself this
burden; and should they marry and have children they entail on
themselves and on unborn generations misery compared with which a life
spent always in the schoolroom would be a life of Elysian and purest
delight.

The first thing to consider with our girls is their health: let that
stand before every single thing; dress them as little mites carefully
and warmly; as young girls insist on warm clothing and perpetually dry
feet and skirts; never allow a game of tennis on a damp lawn to pass by
without seeing that no damage is done thereby; and then, furthermore,
insist on early bed until the lesson-time is over; allow no dances of
any kind, forbid entirely the children’s parties, which are at the root
of half the epidemics, the affectations and the bad manners of the
present day; while you take care that pleasant companionship, treats in
the shape of afternoon concerts or plays, or tennis-parties with
children their own age, these give the necessary relaxation, and you can
face the ‘coming-out’ gaieties with a light heart, knowing quite well
that your daughter has the necessary physique to stand the strain, and
that she has arrived at a common-sense age, and will be able to know
when she has had enough pleasure, the while she will care herself for
something beside balls and parties, albeit she will in no measure
despise a proper allowance of both.

I am no Puritan; I do not object to dancing or theatres, or any other
amusement, but I do plead for moderation in all things, and that a girl
may have time for something beside mere play. I ask it not only because
their mental health must suffer, but because their physique cannot
possibly stand that present strain and yet remain intact ready to bear
the yet greater strain to which most women are exposed during their
married life. I know only too well what an uncontrolled girlhood and
unending gaieties did for me, and I am only again writing out of my own
experience in the hope that I may save some few girls from the misery in
store for them if they begin their fashionable life before they are
eighteen and if, when they begin it, they have no moderation about it,
and go from ball to ball, party to party, until their faces become thin
and wretched, their bloom goes, their tempers and noses sharpen
together, and they are unstrung and miserable just at the time when life
demands most from them, and they ought to be as well and happy as they
are miserable, nervous, and broken in spirits and in health.

I actually have known one mother introduce her daughter at seventeen
because the next daughter was far prettier, and she wished to give No.
1 ‘a chance’ before No. 2 appeared on the scene. Can anything be more
ignoble than that? And it is to save both mothers and daughters from a
similar fate to that which will overtake this couple that I am pleading
for the girls; that, in fact, they may be saved from themselves by the
prompt action of those who ought to be the first to shield their
children from a too early contact with the world.

I should myself keep a girl to regular hours until she was eighteen, but
even after that, as I have shown in my last chapter, she should have
employment and occupation. Until she was eighteen she should never be in
bed later than 9.30, and she should always be down at 8.30, while she
ought never to be allowed to go to any large dance before then. Small
ones, ending at 11, should be very sparsely attended, and those not at
all until she was past seventeen. When the auspicious date of her
eighteenth birthday draws near, a great effort should be made to
celebrate it properly. On that date a girl comes into her kingdom,
accepts at your hands the sceptre of self-rule and the crown of an
educated and well-guarded girlhood, and certainly some special notice
should be taken of such an occasion.

Not, please, by her being presented at Court; the present-day rush of
the wives of wine merchants, successful upholsterers, and tradesmen of
all kinds has made what was once a stately and beautiful ceremony a
mockery indeed. Of course girls whose parents are about the Court, who
have long pedigrees and ancient titles, are bound to be introduced to
the Head of Society and to take their places round the throne; but just
think for a moment what it means to the ordinary middle-class family,
the frightful expense, the worry and strain of the presentation, the
fatigue and showing off at the ‘Drawing Room teas’ afterwards, and,
finally, the dead and unpleasant certainty that they will never be asked
to one Court function, that they are no nearer being the bosom friend of
the princesses than they were before, and that their social status has
not been improved in the least; indeed, it has gone down, for old
friends sneer at the foolishness and scoff when they see the name in the
paper, remembering with redoubled force the counters of the wine
merchant and shopkeeper, which would have been entirely forgotten had
not the ‘fierce light which beats upon the throne’ been reflected on
those who approach it and shown up the flaws in the pedigree which were
on the way to oblivion, but which give ample scope for scoffing from the
very lips which are drinking the tea at the ‘reception’ after the
Drawing Room, where all are wondering what the dresses cost, and whether
Jones or Smith, as the case may be, will last over the season, or
whether he will marry off his daughters before the crash comes and all
go under together!

Remember, I am not scoffing at trade; it would ill become me to do so;
but I am simply asking my readers to be sensible and to be frankly and
absolutely themselves. Personally I would far rather pin my rights to
being a lady on the fact that art and literature have been my sponsors
than on being the great-great-granddaughter of a king’s mistress or a
ruffianly robber of other men’s goods; but that has nothing to do with
the subject. A waiter on courts should have business at those courts;
therefore I say that those who cannot consider themselves owing the
Queen a call, and the courtesy of showing her their girls as they grow
up to take their places, either as friends or servants, have any right
to go there, and that they had much better stay at home and not make
themselves ridiculous by an attempt to be and seem what they can never
really be.

Let us suppose that our eloquence has prevailed, and that the girl has
reached her eighteenth birthday, and there is no talk of her being
presented, or any such nonsense; but still something must be done to
celebrate the auspicious event. If the birthday is in autumn or winter,
or very early spring, there is no reason why a dance should not be
indulged in, more especially if it can be afforded, or if there is room
for such dissipation. These two things are, of course, to be considered
before anything else.

A ball can cost any sum anyone likes to spend on it; all depends on the
purse and the ideas. If we engage a good hall and band, go in for a
regular and first-rate supper, any amount of flowers, and so on, I
tremble to think what the bills may come to; but all can be ascertained
by writing to the different places where such things are to be found.
Gunter will give an estimate per head for the supper; the Prince’s Hall
secretary will tell you the charges per night; Mrs. Green, of Crawford
Street, W., will tell you what her fee for decorating the room would be;
and Mitchell, of Bond Street, would provide the band. But people who can
afford to arrange matters _en grand seigneur_ are not likely to come to
me for advice; if they did, I should only hand them over to the
above-named authorities. Still, if these lucky folk should come across
my book, this will tell them what to do. But ordinary folk can give a
very enjoyable dance for a little over 50_l._ to about 125 people,
making the hours from eight to twelve, and having a stand-up supper at
about 5_s._ a head, ending up with soup just before the guests start for
home; and I fancy that, if one had a sufficiently large house, and could
manage the supper oneself, it could be done for very much less,
particularly if one has a stand-up supper, which is really all that can
be required when people have dined late, and only want something to
carry them over the later hours and the extra amount of fatigue.

To make such a dance a success, the floor must be perfect, a band of
from three to five performers engaged, and people must be thoroughly
well introduced to each other, and, if possible, no girl must be seen
sitting out without a valiant struggle on the part of the hostess to
prevent such a sad occurrence by finding her a partner. I cannot
countenance or believe in dances, or, in fact, any social gathering,
where there are no introductions; it is simply an excuse for laziness on
the part of the hostess, which all too often condemns her guests to a
great deal of misery and dulness. Of course the theory is a perfectly
correct one; the practice, however, cannot, in my opinion, be too
heartily condemned. There will always be _débutantes_ and shy girls who
know very few people, and these cannot possibly dance unless we see they
know men to dance with.

Is there any misery like the misery of a girl who is dying to dance, who
loves the exercise for its own sake, and who has to sit out on a bench,
her feet impatiently tapping the floor, and her little heart ready to
break with disappointment, while she sees married women, who ought to
know better, and who ought never to dance at all as long as a girl is
sitting out, prancing all about the place and caring nothing for the
poor young things whose day it is? As long as they enjoy themselves,
that is quite enough for them.

The watchful hostess will have none of these engaging little ways at her
dances: the girls are provided for first, the matrons after; and as this
would be impossible were introductions done away with, I would impress
upon my readers to cling to this old fashion, and to see that the girls
enjoy themselves, no matter who else do not. Except as chaperons married
women are out of place in the ballroom, and should not be encouraged to
come there; if they do their duty by their homes, their husbands, and
their children, they could have neither time nor inclination for such a
pursuit.

When my own daughter ‘came out’ the other day, we had about 125 people
to a dance in Watford, and it cost us just under 50_l._ Because our
house was too small to have any festivity in, we had to engage rooms,
which cost about 5_l._; the supper cost about 25_l._, at 5_s._ a head,
including soup, aërated waters, and waiters, and a certain amount of
decoration for the approach, anterooms, &c. We had plenty of moss,
plants, &c., which our own gardener arranged. The local band of three
performers cost 3_l._ 3_s._, and the rest went for wine, programmes, and
odds and ends generally. The dance was certainly most successful, and
went off very well, and was quite as much as we could afford. Naturally
I should have preferred much grander doings--a first-rate supper, the
‘Blue Hungarian’ band, or any other excellent one; but it would have
been foolish to refuse to entertain at all because we could not manage
these gorgeous details--details that were as much above our means as
they would have been quite unnecessary in Watford.

But the dance was successful, because the girls were pretty and the men
pleasant, because old friends came down and rallied round us, and
because we all saw the girls did not sit down once, that there was no
flagging, and that all who could be introduced were made to know each
other. I dare say there were plenty of people who wondered they did not
have a gorgeous supper, but I do not care if they did, and I certainly
am never going to precipitate myself head first into the Bankruptcy
Court because someone else gives what, no doubt, they can well afford
to do, but which I could not, and which, were I to do, I should soon
come utterly to an end.

I mention all these personal details to show that what we did can be
done by other people, certainly by people who have a big house and
plenty of servants, at a moderate cost, and I hope I shall not have
become a ‘mock of many’ because of all I have said; but as I always
think personal experience frankly given is worth any amount of polite
theory, I give my experience here as elsewhere, hoping that it may be of
use to many beside myself.

If the damsel is born in the summer, I strongly advise a tennis-or
garden-party, though, alas! in this climate we are so dependent upon the
weather that I mention this with a certain amount of diffidence; but
given one of the lovely June days Nature sometimes kindly dowers us
with, and can anything on earth be pleasanter than one of these
al-fresco gatherings may be if properly managed?

The garden is looking its best, and, if the seats are judiciously
arranged and a proper amount of amusement legislated for, the hostess
can greet her friends with a light heart; she can be quite sure of a
successful party without too much trouble or expense on her part.

The refreshments should be either in a tent on the lawn or else in any
room that may open out into the garden. Should there be no such room, I
strongly advise the tent to be procured (one can always be borrowed at a
most reasonable expense), as, if the refreshments are not easily
accessible, the party becomes scattered: the timid do not like to
separate themselves and go in search of sustenance, while the greedy can
seclude themselves and snatch an undue share of the good things prepared
for the entire company.

Given the tent, or the room, and we can proceed to place very long and
narrow tables there, which we should decorate with as many flowers as we
possibly can get together, and should we have very many Londoners coming
to our gathering we should put a host of the little baskets Whiteley
sells for about 4½_d._ a set under the tables, and fill them at parting
with what we garnished the tables with. Roses and lilies and greenery
are not to be despised in London, and our friends will come down to us
cheerfully another year if they carry away a sweetly-scented souvenir
of our last gathering. People don’t mind carrying flowers, and we can
always spare those we have used for garnishing the table.

Among the flowers we should put large imari bowls of strawberries and
cream ready for ladling out on small dishes; the strawberries should be
denuded of their hulls, and the whipped cream, which can be thickened
with white of egg and made palatable with sugar, should be piled high on
the fruit, which, of course, should be unbroken. If a refrigerator is
handy, the prepared fruit should be kept there until the last moment,
and only produced when the guests have begun to assemble, the places for
the bowls being kept by plates to prevent the symmetry of the table
being spoiled by a careless or hurried maid-servant.

I strongly advise all the cakes being bought from Buszard, who will,
moreover, tell you honestly the amount of the different kinds you should
have for the number you expect; and, as a rule, you should prepare for a
few more folks than you have down on your list. If a very fine day
people often bring friends with them. I personally like them to do this,
and if you yourself happen to know anyone who possesses little girls,
and who is coming herself, I advise you to ask her to bring the
children. Well-brought-up children are delightful additions to a
garden-party; they look like bright butterflies flitting about, and
should therefore be encouraged to come, not by a written invitation,
which would make them unduly prominent and of consequence in their own
eyes, but by a casual mention, which cannot inflate them, and yet will
show they have been thought about by us. Beside the fruit and cakes, a
little finely cut and rolled brown bread and butter should be prepared,
but only a little; few people eat it; as a rule it spoils their gloves,
and they do not want it, and it is wasted if left, and if the weather is
really summerlike and hot, ices should be provided, and also iced
lemonade, gingerbeer, and claret-cup. No other wine is requisite. And as
wine is frightfully dear, and should never be given unless really good,
I advise it being omitted altogether, unless expense is no object. When
the garden-party can be from 6 to 9.30 the garden could be illuminated
with coloured lamps, and a cold supper succeed the tea. This, of
course, is the ideal garden-party, but one which is out of the reach of
most people who have a great many friends, and want to see them without
an undue and enormous expense.

The tennis-courts, of course, should be swept and garnished and newly
marked out for the occasion, and several enthusiasts over this (to me,
idiotic) game should be told off to see that all who want to play can do
so. If this is not done, we shall be vexed by seeing this game, which is
so dear to so many, quite left alone; and I defy any hostess to attend
to her guests and keep the tennis-balls rolling at the same time. She
must engage the help of her younger guests, and to them must be left the
everlasting trouble of making up the sets, which seem to me to have only
just begun as they are finished. Now, in the dear departed days of
croquet, a hostess had nothing to do but make up the sets of eight and
set them going. She saw nothing more of her guests, a well-played set of
eight lasting quite as long as the garden-party itself could be expected
to do.

Anyhow, there must be something beside tennis to amuse our guests, and I
think a band is almost a necessity, particularly if one is blessed with
a decent local band; then the expense will not be ruinous. One can get
an excellent string band from town for about 20_l._ I particularly like
Mrs. Hunt’s ladies’ orchestra (_Les Merveilleuses_), all particulars of
which can be had from the secretary, or from Chappell & Co., New Bond
Street; but sometimes it is as well to encourage local talent if one can
do so without fatal effects, when for 5_l._ you can have a good deal of
music, always a cheerful matter, and can sometimes have very good music
too. But a local band should always be put a good way off, distance, as
a rule, lending an immense amount of enchantment to their productions.

I think also that some of the charming open-air scenes from Shakespeare
can be given with great effect. I also am very fond of Mendelssohn’s
open-air glees; and some recitations are often amusing. But should these
latter be indulged in, let me beg that the hostess knows beforehand
something about them, else will her fate be what mine was once, when an
enthusiast began a long, long, long poem. I don’t know to this day what
it was, whether it was meant to be pathetic or comic or not, but I do
know my agonies were awful, and that I was rapidly going mad, when an
opportune shower put a stop to the eloquence, which had gone on
unceasingly through the passing of several express trains, all of which
made a hideous noise, and any one of which would have been sufficient to
daunt any other individual. Short, amusing--really amusing--recitations
are always a success, and I should taboo anything tragic or sentimental,
or anything which lasted over ten minutes at the outside.

Never, however, be persuaded to give a garden-party trusting to tennis
alone. There can be nothing more dreary than such an entertainment; it
is like an at-home, where nothing but talk is provided. I would never
heap on amusements out of doors or have music without stopping in doors,
but I should always provide it in such a way that it serves as a
pleasant reason for the gathering. An in-door at-home with music can
never be a success if the seats are put in rows, and people are forced
to sit stiffly close together; an outdoor one can never pass off well
unless we prepare amusements, and see that our guests are really
entertained and yet not overburdened with our attentions.

I think a whole chapter might be written on the art of being a hostess;
and yet, perhaps, a few words may suffice. I believe a hostess, like a
poet, is born, not made. Still, a few hints may not be out of place, for
I think sometimes parties are unsuccessful because, though possessed of
the best intentions, the hostess may lack the knowledge that alone can
ensure a successful entertainment.

In the first place, without emulating two friends of mine, one of whom
took the youngest unmarried girl in the room down to dinner, while the
other, out of pure kindness, let his wife walk in first and then
followed himself, and in consequence was hugely laughed at. I do think
that in ordinary society a great deal of ridiculous fuss is made about
precedence. What can it matter to the wife of some man knighted but the
other day whether she or the wife of the parson goes into or out of the
room first? If it does, she must be so stupid that I should not care to
see her in my house; while to me it does matter immensely whether I have
someone to take me in who knows what is going on in the world and reads
his newspaper and sees every play that comes out. Give me a man like
that, and I don’t in the least care what his father was, neither should
I care one bit whether Jones and Mrs. Smith, and Mr. Smith and Mrs.
Brown, walked in or out of the room before me; they may all go, if they
like, in a string. So long as I have a pleasant companion and a pretty
table to look at, and a well-cooked dinner, I don’t care in the least
how I reach the dining-room.

See that the people who are likely to get on have an opportunity of
knowing each other; watch that no one is sitting glum and disconsolate
in a corner; remember, if you can, who is anxious to be introduced to or
shown any celebrities in the world of art and letters who may happen to
be present; and, above all, consider everyone’s pleasure before you
think of your own; and in a large gathering never sit down until you are
actually driven to do so through fatigue, and you may be quite sure that
the party will be a success. And send out your invitations, remembering
that the pleasantest people are not always those who can afford to ask
you again, and that your object in entertaining is above all to give
pleasure, to see clever and entertaining, people in your house, and not
to ensure a return as soon as may be for what you are doing. I do not
care if people are the highest in the land if they are dull; I would far
rather meet and know people who are clever and interesting than the most
exalted member of the peerage I could number among my acquaintances if
she were stupid and uninteresting, and had nothing to recommend her but
her coronet and her connection with what Jeames de la Pluche calls the
‘hupper suckles.’

I think that I have now given some idea how to ensure success at the two
kinds of parties which might be used as means of introducing a daughter
to the world at large; but, of course, there are a great many other
gatherings which may be indulged in, and, above all, let us learn always
to be ready to give a welcome to any of the children’s friends. Should
we discover that they are not nice we can easily speak about it, and
tell our reasons for not receiving them; but well-brought-up young
people will only make nice friends, and we must invariably be ready to
give them a cheerful welcome. We can always be glad to see them after
dinner, or to afternoon tea. This cannot ruin us, and when possible we
should let them stay in the house and encourage them all we can. At the
same time the rules of the house must be kept; the hours for meals and
the general habits of the elders respected; and we must not be expected
to help in the entertaining--that must be left entirely to the younger
members of the household, whose friends they are.

Perhaps one of the greatest problems, after we have settled on our
manner of entertainment, is to determine how the girls shall dress and
in what manner they shall manage their dress allowance. This should be
made to them and paid punctually from their eighteenth birthday, but it
should never be made without starting a girl with a good and sufficient
wardrobe, with a miniature trousseau in fact; if this is not done,
unless, of course, the allowance is a very handsome one, the girl will
get hopelessly into debt, and will never be free from that millstone all
her life.

Dress is, unfortunately, so frightfully expensive nowadays that the
problem of how to dress at all, always a serious one, has assumed
gigantic proportions of late years. We went out immensely in our youth,
and had 50_l._ a year allowed us, which we just scraped through on,
although I remember how anxiously I watched the sleeves of one special
grenadine dress, which I could not have afforded to replace anyhow, and
which would wear out in the most agonising way, and which was one mass
of darns before I could get another, and I have never forgotten the
anxiety it gave me, to say nothing of under-garments, which really
seemed to vanish perceptibly, bit by bit, after each visit to the
laundress; but nowadays girls cannot go out very much and appear well
dressed on double that sum. Even with 100_l._ a year there would have to
be cutting and contriving, and a good sewing-maid would be an imperative
necessity should there be really very many balls every year and
afternoon and evening dresses to be seen after besides.

Of course, if not more than 50_l._ can be spared to each girl, the
attendance at balls must be limited, and a great deal of sewing must be
done by the damsel herself. But I never recommend anyone to go to a
cheap or common dressmaker; if she does, her garments will never look
nice, and she will spend three times as much as she need on renovations
and alterations, while she will run every imaginable risk of having her
stuff spoiled and the dress made so badly that she cannot wear it.

Supposing the girl is to begin with her allowance of 50_l._, her
trousseau should consist of a dozen of each under-garments necessary;
she should have six pairs of silk, six of fine cashmere, and six of
warmer cashmere hose; she should have four white skirts, a silk
underskirt, and a quilted poplin skirt; she should have two morning
dresses, one a good tailor-made one with a jacket to match, the other
cashmere; she should have two best dresses, one for every evening, one
for dances, and two for balls; and she should have a sealskin coat, a
waterproof, and a jacket, and about three hats; she should have four
pairs of boots and four pairs of shoes; and she should remember that the
longer these are kept in stock before they are worn the better, and one
pair of shoes should never be taken into regular wear without another
being purchased to take its place. Cheap shoes and boots should never be
bought under any pretext whatever; they wear out at once, are a hideous
shape always, and are dangerously thin, things which should prevent
their being in any girl’s wardrobe.

I am often struck, particularly in crowds or in large gatherings, at the
perfectly frightful clothes most English women wear, and I have come to
the conclusion that this fact is caused by the extraordinary fondness
they seem to have for any kind of black mantle or jacket on which they
can lay their hands, and by a habit they have of crowning their heads
with any sort of hat or bonnet that may be in the fashion at the moment,
no matter whether it suits them or not, or whether they have anything
else in their possession with which it can be worn.

The tan jackets which have been so fashionable lately have in some
measure emancipated the girls from the tyranny of the black cape; but I
do wish all who dress at all would do so much more sensibly than they do
now, and would never buy a single thing without carefully reviewing
their wardrobe first, and then purchasing the addition equally
carefully, not because it is ‘lovely’ or the ‘height of the fashion,’
but because it suits the wearer, and above all suits what she already
possesses. She must never enter a shop without knowing first of all what
she really does require, and she must never allow herself to be talked
out of her own preconceived ideas; if she does she is sure to find
herself saddled with some utterly unwearable garment, and which,
moreover, matches nothing she already has in her possession. A girl
should be carefully taught what is likely to suit her, and she should,
moreover, be carefully instructed how to manage her wardrobe so that her
things may be in some measure _en suite_. For example, should she
possess a sealskin jacket, which she should if in any way possible--a
capital little coat costs about 12_l._ to 15_l._, and wears ten winters
comfortably, and can be used afterwards as linings--her winter morning
dress might be some soft brown cashmere; she could vary this by having
two or three soft silk handkerchiefs as waistcoats in the pretty
prevailing fashion of the day, and could have a dark brown, a deep
yellow, or a pale pink one. This dress would look well with the
sealskin, or with a tan jacket should the weather be too warm for the
former, and the hat should be brown or else dark blue with brown
feathers in; this would allow of the second dress being powder or
gendarme blue; this could be trimmed with bands of sealskin or soft
brown silk, and here would be every-day garments to don in October and
wear off and on until the first few warm days in May turn our thoughts
to new and lighter clothes. A best hat should always be in stock; but
this must harmonise with what she already has in the way of dresses.
These must be good; the two will then, with the help of a judicious
maid, come out again in the following autumn as very good every-day
dresses and dresses for wet Sundays, and all that will be required is an
afternoon party dress, which can also be worn on fine Sundays to church
and for afternoon wear, should Sunday callers be allowed and encouraged
in the manner I trust they are.

Summer dresses are where the strain comes on our resources, and where
the clever maid comes in so well. One can buy a print costume unmade for
about 18_s._ 6_d._, but made up in London it costs about 3_l._ 10_s._ to
4_l._; I have never seen a decently made one under this price. The maid
should suffice for these costumes, the simple banded Norfolk bodice
being easily managed, as can some of the looser bodices; and great care
should be taken to purchase about three yards more of the print than is
absolutely needed. Print dresses in our wretched climate generally last
two seasons, and, as they generally shrink in the wash, it is wise to
provide ourselves with material for new sleeves or new fronts; it can be
washed before being used to ensure that no appearance of patching is
given by the new unfaded material being placed against that which must
have faded a little during the last wear. We have discovered in Stafford
(rather ‘a far cry,’ as the Scots would say) a capital dressmaker who,
for absolutely reasonable prices, makes charming print dresses for
45_s._ and excellent material dresses for girls for about 75_s._ I know
these wear because we have tried them often and often, and, indeed, my
daughter gets all her morning dresses there. I shall not publish her
name, because I do not want her to be inundated with work or raise her
prices, but if she can manage to do this--and naturally it must pay her
to do so--why can’t London dressmakers do the same? I pause for a reply,
and in the meantime meditate ruefully on the different prices I have to
pay for my garments to those charged by the Stafford dressmaker.

I have always believed that ladies properly instructed in this art of
dressmaking, and banded together, could make a comfortable living out of
providing the garments of their fortunate sisters who had not to work.
They would not make their fortunes, but they should do well if they do
not pitchfork themselves into the place because every other work they
have tried has failed, but take it because they have had an excellent
training and are really tasteful and capable of advising about, as well
as making, the clothes, which are such a burden and trouble to most of
us. Of course they would be invaluable to the girls with a limited
allowance; they would know what was worn, what would suit them and their
purses at the same time; and they would keep a staff of humbler sewers
who would renovate the garments it should be their pride and delight to
make the very utmost of; while to those like myself, for example, who
must have suitable and pretty dresses, and have not sufficient time to
obtain this desirable end without immense expense, they would be simply
invaluable, and we should be spared making the mistakes we are
constantly making, the while we should be sure that our advancing years
should receive due notice at their skilful hands, and that we should be
suitably as well as becomingly dressed, and that at a not undue expense.

I should be very grateful to anyone who would start such an
establishment; she could charge for her advice plus the dress, as I
charge for my advice about furniture and household management, and I am
quite sure her establishment would soon be the centre of an admiring
throng of girl disciples, to say nothing of the elder women, who would
be thankful to be taken in hand, to be prevented from buying unbecoming
garments, or things which have nothing in common with the rest of their
possessions, and who could shop there in peace, knowing they would have
kindly counsel, instead of being assured lyingly by the saleswoman that
a perfectly unsuitable bonnet is the most becoming thing she has ever
seen, and that an ugly black mantle is so handsome that, given this, it
will act as charity and cover a multitude of sins in the shape of a
shabby dress; the real truth being that the gorgeous mantle only
accentuates the shabbiness, and, by adding another to the rank of the
black mantle wearers, gives another evidence of the fact that, as a
rule, Englishwomen in the street are the worst-dressed women in the
world.

To really dress well costs an immense amount of money, for to ensure
correct and pleasing dress it is absolutely necessary that all things
shall match in some measure--mantle, dress, bonnet, and hose must be _en
suite_; but if we cannot afford to go in for this we should restrict
ourselves to one or two colours at the outside, we should never buy
anything which is at the height of fashion, and, above all, we should
wear our clothes carefully, and we should not disdain to see they are
put away in an absolutely spotless condition, with each atom of dust and
dirt removed, every small necessary mending done, and with soft paper
between the folds. Unless we have this religiously seen to the
handsomest dress soon becomes draggle-tailed and shabby, while a cheap
or inferior material wears three times as long as it otherwise would do
if we see it is treated properly.

But cheap or flimsy materials should never, under any circumstances, be
bought, unless the girls can make them up themselves, to wear at home
evenings or during the summer, or unless the sewing-maid can do them;
the making and trimming cost three times as much as the stuff, which
hardly looks nice for three days, while good material pays for good
making and wears until one is really tired of being in the same garment.
When that feeling comes to us we should lay the dress aside for some
months and then take it out again; the rest actually seems to have done
the garment good, and we wear it again with pleasure, instead of
putting it on each morning with renewed dislike and distaste, as we did
before we put it into the wardrobe for the short retirement we advise.

If matrons over forty-five cannot afford to spend very much on their
garments, I do most strongly advise them to keep to black and very dark
shades of greens and reds; these, however, should be left absolutely
alone should there be any tendency to _embonpoint_, then black must be
_de rigueur_. This seems a little hard, and of course black is to a
certain extent uninteresting wear; but we can console ourselves for the
fate to which all must come by knowing that we are suitably attired, and
that, at all events, we are not making ourselves ridiculous by vying
with our daughters about our clothes.

Women are the age they look. I know some of the above-named age who do
not look a day more than thirty-five, and they therefore should dress as
they please. But the moment age begins to show let us calmly acknowledge
that our pretty days are over, and garb ourselves accordingly. We need
not be dowdy in these days. Black and dark raiment generally can be made
as nice as possible and quite festive-looking; but we should be suitably
dressed, and, after all, we don’t want either admiration or attention
then from the outside world; we are sure of both at home if we rule
rightly and are queen of the only kingdom that is worth having--the
beautiful kingdom of Home.

What does anything else matter, if we are still looked upon by our
husbands with as much pleasure and admiration as they gave us in those
never-to-be-forgotten days of courtship, and if our children consider us
nicer, kinder, and wiser than anyone else? To obtain such applause is
worth the whole struggle of living to preserve it--any amount of trouble
which we can possibly take. Therefore, let all costume themselves
suitably--the girl in the prettiest frocks she can possibly afford; the
matron quietly, becomingly, and richly; and, above all, let all consider
carefully the matching that I so strongly advocate, and let the girl who
begins her allowance always keep most correct accounts, showing these
and her paid bills when the next quarter is paid, and let her never be
too proud to ask her mother’s assistance, especially if she cannot see
her way to make both ends meet; but never pass over a debt, and let her
see you notice all she spends. It may seem a little inquisitorial, it
will really save her endless care and worry if you prevent her in any
way you can from getting into a habit of forestalling her income--a
habit that, once formed, is one that hardly anyone ever shakes off in
after life, try how one will.

The ball-dresses are the garments which try a girl more than anything,
the tulle skirts and pretty flounces, which cost so much, getting so
soon spoiled and messed; and I think the stock of the first season’s
dresses must be helped considerably by the parents, else will the poor
girl feel herself worse dressed than anyone else; and that is a small
misery that should never be allowed if in any measure it can be avoided.
The years from eighteen to twenty-one are undoubtedly the most joyous of
any a woman ever has. They are not always the happiest, taking our
standard of happiness very high, but they are the brightest, sunniest,
and most amusing that the average girl will ever have, more especially
if she have been carefully brought up in a good atmosphere and be not
tormented with those uncomfortable religious doubts and miserable
hankerings after a career and after reforming the world we some of us
had such a severe attack of at that age. I personally would not be
eighteen again for all the wealth of the Indies. Then, I thought it
extremely grand to believe in nothing, to have a gloomy satisfaction in
my superior mind, which soared above the old beliefs, and formed a misty
religion of my own, which meant nothing and led nowhere, and to indulge
in dreadful sarcasms--mentally only (I am thankful to say I did not
often utter them)--on the worldly wisdom of those folks who naturally
wished their daughters to marry well and turned cold shoulders on the
poorest and generally most undeserving of suitors, and I used to stay up
until the small hours of the morning (although I was dreadfully sleepy)
inditing the most awful verses against the rich and titled folks, whom I
naturally thought were fattening on the poor and miserable, and to whom
I intended to go on a species of socialistic crusade; and finally in
writing a big novel, which used to make me feel very much more
intellectual than most of the people I mixed with, and which, after an
evening spent among the brightest and first intellects in the world, I
used to contemplate savagely, having been made to feel very small,
though I would have died rather than confess such a thing--a feeling I
did not mean ever to experience again, once that _magnum opus_ was given
to the world and people really knew me for the genius I was. Alas! that
recognition has never come yet; still, I am very happy without it, and
am always doubly thankful my days of craving for worldwide fame have
vanished, and that I neither want that nor to believe in anything any
more.

I hope, however, there are not many girls as silly as I was then, and as
I dare say I should have continued to be had I not married--I, who
scorned the idea of the ordinary British matron, and regarded children
and household cares with bitter disgust. And during the twenty years I
have been a wife, I am always struck with wonder when I remember the
imaginative, impulsive thing that was myself so long ago, and try to
trace in my present self the miserable, ambitious cynic I fondly hoped
was some day going to set the world on fire and blossom out as a new
Thackeray or Dickens. Nothing feminine was good enough for me; I meant
to beat the men or do nothing at all.

Such a girlhood as that may be of infinite service, and was, but it
cannot be called a happy one; still, I think I was the exception, not
the rule, therefore I ask that all who can possibly manage it will see
their girls are happy as long as they are young; to give them their
allowance because they should learn how to spend money, but to add a
dress here and there, an ornament, a new trimming judiciously if in any
way you can afford it, and go without yourself rather than allow a girl
to be shabby or worry herself to death over a wearing-out garment; at
the same time let her learn to do her own repairs and have lessons in
dressmaking; make her happy, but at the same time let her help herself
to the desired end. I hope there may never be too many daughters in the
family for this allowance of 50_l._ to be an impossibility; no girl can
dress really on less. If there are, she _must_ be taught early to make
her own garments, and she must learn, furthermore, that she must spend
far more time and thought over her clothes than is good for her, should
the allowance be much less, and should she be obliged to go out into
society a good deal. As I stated at first, I am not now writing for the
young beginners, but for those whose children are growing up, and who
have made and are making a good income; I therefore trust that what I
have said about dress will be taken only by those for whom it is
intended, the Angelina of ‘From Kitchen to Garret,’ poor dear, having
often enough to do without much that she would have thought
indispensable in the old days.



CHAPTER VIII.

CHRISTENINGS AND WEDDINGS.


There is a great deal to consider, apart from the mere arrangement of
the ceremonies, about the events of which I mean to speak in this
chapter, therefore no book devoted to the interests of the home could be
complete without at least some words on both subjects.

To begin with: the old story of the bad fairy told us in our childhood,
who invariably was forgotten, and as invariably turned up without an
invitation at the christening of the prince or princess, is not as
improbable as it appeared to be on the first reading. The bad fairy may
be an infuriated relative to whom we have forgotten to write; it may be
family pride outraged by the name chosen for the infant; or it may take
the form of having asked the wrong instead of the right individual to
stand for the child; but all too often it is there, and the heedless
conduct that raised the evil fairy from her sleep may bring about
consequences that are as unpleasant as they are certainly unexpected and
generally undeserved, for I have often observed that the deepest insults
are those we are most unconscious of giving, and that the evil habit of
‘taking offence’ is often increased by conduct that was as innocent in
design as it was certainly disastrous in the effect.

And now let us pause for a moment and speak on the subject of taking
offence, a matter that has given rise to endless family divisions and
caused more broken friendships and quarrels than anything else in the
world. To begin with: it is a sign of a common, jealous, vain nature to
take offence; it shows that the offended person is so endued with a
sense of her own importance that she is always on the look-out for an
affront, that she has such a low idea of human nature that she is
suspicious of everything that happens, and is always expecting some slur
is being cast on her, some dreadful plot against her dignity is being
hatched; and she is so vain that she thinks everything that happens is
especially levied at her, though generally she was as far from the
thoughts of the offending person as she well could be.

A family possessing such a touchy member is indeed much to be pitied;
one can see nothing or very little of any acquaintance possessed of such
a disposition, and indeed no one would wish to see such a one more than
one can help; but a member of the family must be considered in some way;
therefore such an individual is all too often the bad fairy, who, having
once received or fancied she received an insult, never forgets it, harps
on it always, and ends by doing immeasurable harm in more ways than one
by her disagreeable and untutored tongue. And notice I say _she_ and
her. I don’t consider we can learn much from men, but we can certainly
learn larger-mindedness from them; for very seldom do we find a man
taking offence in the childish and touchy fashion far too many women are
so fond of doing.

As a rule we are all too busy to soften the aspirations of such an
individual, and so we drift apart without any distinct quarrel,
gradually seeing less and less of each other, until we do not meet at
all; but it is generally well, if we possibly can, to go straight to
anyone like this and find out the cause of offence, at the same time
refraining from doing so unless we care very much about it, because, ten
chances to one, the person who takes offence once will always be doing
so, and it is not worth one’s while, as a rule, to conciliate those who
will find a subject for offence in everything one says and does, unless
one is always flattering them, an easily offended person having the most
ravenous appetite for flattery possible to conceive. Therefore, when a
christening has to be thought about, we should first consider if there
be any Scylla to avoid, any Charybdis past which we must navigate the
boat, and, above all, must we endeavour to be quite independent about
the most important subject of all--viz. how to name the child.

I do not go quite as far as does a friend of mine, who considers the
names he gives his children act on their nature, and that they
insensibly form their characters to in some measure sympathise with
their baptismal names. Thus, for example, it would be as impossible for
John to be naughty as for Jack to be anything save a pickle, for Edith
to be anything save calm and religious, while Trixy must be a flirt and
set all her lovers by the ears. But still I do think a great deal
depends upon the name, especially if the surname happens to be rather
uncommon or pretty, and that the judicious selection of well-sounding
names does wonders. But here we must steer between plain John Brown, who
could never be anyone, try as hard as he might, and the Reginald de
Montmorency Brown, which is the laughing-stock of the neighbours, and
which is a grief to the unfortunate holder thereof through life, unless
the possession of such a name forces him to become as ridiculous as it
is itself; then, of course, he is quite happy, and we need not pity him
at all.

Another thing I do most earnestly deprecate is the perpetuating of
family names, unless the name happens to be a pretty one and is chosen
for itself. In the first place, family names are generally hideous, and
in the second we cannot name the child after all the members of both
families; to give precedence to the father’s family names will offend
the mother’s family, and generally the unfortunate infant is not only
saddled with a hideous name, but finds itself a bone of contention
almost before it has any bones at all; while, if we boldly select the
names which seem to us euphonious and to harmonise with the surname, we
shall offend no one, and shall show we have an individuality that must
be respected by the members of both families alike.

Then, too, if families are large and have endless branches, great
confusion is caused by each separate Paterfamilias having one of these
names among his flock. Cousins very often stay in the same house, and
come to visit each other, and if there are ten Miss Elizabeth Smiths and
these happen to be staying together, how are their letters to be
distinguished? The possession of similar initials in families has made
mischief enough; the possession of similar names can make twice as much
again.

In naming a boy we must think whether he can be made miserable at school
by having either a grand or girlish name, which the young fiends, his
schoolfellows, can turn into something to his disadvantage, and, if
possible, the younger sons should always have some good surname before
the family name; this will enable them to keep distinct. For example, if
the eldest son is called Charles Robinson (not that I should call any
boy such a frightful name), his next brother can be called John Smith
Robinson (supposing his mother’s name to have been Smith), while the
third could be William Brown Robinson, thus marking the distinct
families at once, and allowing the sons of the holders of these names to
have the double name, and perhaps the aristocratic hyphen, satirised by
Corney Grain, which is so dear to the heart of the ordinary suburban
resident, while it is not a bad plan to give the girls their surname as
well as a pretty Christian-name at baptism. This would allow people to
trace pedigrees easily were it a universal custom, and would be of great
assistance in writing the family history we ought one and all of us to
possess, for it is astonishing how much we are helped in our attempt to
bring up our children if we have any knowledge of our forbears, and can
trace in any way the habits and occupations of those from whom we have
sprung.

Having settled on the child’s name and registered it before we tell our
relations and friends, the impossibility of making a change saving
endless painful and unprofitable discussions, the next thing is to
decide on the god-parents. As a rule this is a mere form, but of course
it should not be so. A god-parent necessarily sends a more or less
handsome present at the time of the christening, comes to the ceremony
if he or she can, and then forgets all about the child. But this, I
repeat, should never be. The god-parents should keep up a friendly
intercourse with their god-children; they should know where they are,
what they are doing; they should most undoubtedly be present at the
confirmation ceremony, and they should always at Christmas either write
to their god-children, send one of those useful and pretty cards, which
I trust will never go out of fashion, or else give some little gift that
does not cost much, while it makes the link between them very real, and
gives some meaning to a position that at present would often be more
honoured in the breach than in the observance.

Of course it is easy enough to manage this in one’s own rank of life,
and we ought to have as many god-children as we can honestly interest
ourselves in; but we should never undertake the office unless we mean to
perform the duties; and we ought occasionally to ‘stand for’ some of our
poorer neighbours’ children. As a rule they are delighted to have us,
and it gives us a hold over them we could not otherwise acquire; while a
boy or a girl has always a sense of obligation to behave better and do
better in life if he or she has a god-parent in a higher station than
his or her own, to whom they can come for advice and help by right, and
from whom they receive at Christmas, at confirmation, or at any
important step in life, some trifling token. Therefore I do not think
god-parents can think too much of their duties, or neglect to stand for
all they can manage to look after; it is something to do--something that
can also do endless good, if we undertake the duties properly.

When the god-parents are chosen the christening-day should be fixed, and
this should be the very first day that the mother and child can go out
of doors. The clergyman who performs all the family services should be
asked of course, and the time selected should be about the middle of the
day, and, if possible, the font should be nicely decorated with white
flowers. Of course the correct thing would be to have a public service
with the congregation; the church always looks dismal and horrid when
empty, and, according to the rubric, the service should be public; but I
should never advise this. In the first place, the mother is never quite
strong enough to stand the long service; and, in the second, babies do
howl so that the congregation is made miserable, and, therefore, what is
really an excellent theory is a practice to be avoided. Unless the
christening is postponed, a thing I cannot contemplate for one moment, a
child’s first outing should be to church; there is no doubt whatever in
my own mind about that.

Take this for granted, and half the misery of a christening disappears;
never allow it to be postponed, and it is done as a matter of course. If
the god-parents selected cannot be present, they must be represented by
proxy; and they should never be waited for, any more than they should be
chosen for any reason save that we are fond of them, that they are
related to us, or such friends that we know they would do the best they
could for us were we to die and leave the children to the mercy of the
world at large--as regards their mental welfare, I don’t mean their
bodily. I repeat here, that no one has the smallest right to bring a
child into the world for whose existence he cannot in some measure duly
provide.

Without emulating the Roman Catholic habit of confession, I much like to
feel that each family possesses some clergyman among its friends, who
stands to it in some measure in the position that a Romish priest does
to many households. The finer ceremonies of life and death should be
conducted by one man; and it is always a great pleasure to me to feel
that he who married us christened all our children, while it is as great
a regret that he cannot any more perform any more ceremonies for us, for
he has gone where ceremonies are of no avail, and where he has, no
doubt, already received his reward. However, though none can take his
place, we have still a ‘family priest;’ and I think all the simple
ceremonies of our Church are made a thousand times holier by the fact
that one man performs them, and that he takes that individual interest
in us no strange clergyman ever can. Let anyone see a christening in a
town church, hastily performed by a man to whom the infant is nothing
but an unpleasant lump of lace and fussy clothes, or at best one more
little soldier for the great army, and the same ceremony performed by a
man who knows and loves the parents, and I shall need no more words if
this does not express all I mean. Let my readers note the conduct of any
cemetery chaplain reading the burial service, with which custom has made
him hideously familiar, and then hear someone who has known and loved
the dead read it; I am sure, after that, I need not plead for the
election in each family of some good man as family priest. He is a
comfort, indeed, with whom no one can afford to dispense, even in this
hurrying, fashionable life of ours.

When the church and all is settled, the baby’s dress is undoubtedly a
matter for great consideration. In some families grandmamma produces the
robe the child’s father was christened in, and of course that, and
nothing else, should be worn. Of course, equally, high neck and sleeves
should be added, and a little flannel bodice can be placed with
advantage under the fine open-neck bodice of the robe; white ribbons
should tie up the sleeves and be placed under the waist, and the cloak
should not be either heavy or unduly gorgeous. The hood and cloak must
be removed in the church, and the nurse should do this quickly and
silently the moment the ceremony begins, placing a big, soft shawl round
the child; this allows it to become quiet, and does not ensure the roar
which invariably follows if the child is handed to the clergyman the
moment its clothes are taken off. It should be rolled in the shawl until
the christening service is over, then it can be dressed and shriek if it
likes; no one but the nurse will be disturbed by its howling then.

Baptism is a sacrament, and therefore there are no fees to be given to
the clergyman, but the father goes into the vestry to give particulars
about the name, &c., for registration in the church books, and he should
then make the clerk some small present--5_s._ would be ample for most
middle-class families, while 1_l._ would be princely. If the clergyman
has come some distance one should take care he was no loser by it,
delicately and nicely, and if one is rich some present should be given
to the church itself to mark the ceremony; there is always something a
church lacks that we can give without ruining ourselves; in fact, all
these simple ceremonies should teach us to love the Church with the
singular attachment even Dissenters have for it, and should make us more
to each other as a congregation than we otherwise would be had we no
religion to bind us together. The christening over, the baby should be
taken, according to a dear old Yorkshire superstition, to be shown to
some friend who will give it bread, salt, sixpence, and a new-laid egg;
and if this superstition be respected, and, moreover, if the infant be
taken up in the world before it is taken down (_i.e._ carried upstairs
before it goes down), my old nurse used to declare that it must be lucky
and could defy any amount of bad fortune. She invariably climbed by a
stool up to a high settee with our children because our house had not a
third story, and much she used to amuse us with these small vagaries;
they were a matter of real moment to her, and we indulged her. Why not?
If they did no good they most certainly could do no earthly harm.

Now, before we pass on from the christening ceremony to speak of
weddings--a much more enthralling subject--I want to say one word on the
matter of family gatherings. I know quite well I am venturing almost on
forbidden ground, and that such an idea as a family party is beneath
contempt in these days, when we want nothing but amusement, and dislike
running the chance of being bored more than anything else. Still, I am
going to speak about them, and I trust that I may show that they are not
only unobjectionable if properly managed, but that they are absolutely
necessary if we are to keep up anything like a good feeling amongst the
members of one family.

The reasons why, as a rule, families separate and fall apart are, first
of all, because some go up while others remain stationary, and others
creep slowly down the hill; and, secondly, because there are none of the
small civilities and amenities of life practised among relations that
render society possible and pleasing. If a sister thinks another
sister’s conduct is not just what it ought to be she tells her so,
without considering that she has no more business to take her to task
than she has to call on and scold her next-door neighbour; they frankly
discuss the manner in which the respective children are brought up, and,
indeed, often make themselves so interfering and disagreeable that the
family party ends in tears and in mutual vows against any attempt at the
same thing again.

Now, as regards the first offence, it is one we ought to be able to bear
with equanimity, especially if we are remaining stationary while others
are flourishing on a plain above our heads. In the first place, the
honour and success of the one member is the property of all, and we can
glory in it too, while, if we are at the top of the tree, no one will
envy us that position if they share it in some measure, and if we take
care that they are not hurt by our assuming airs that are as ridiculous
as they are unkind. A man who forgets and ignores his poor relations is
a snob, and is invariably laughed at by those who know of their
existence; while if he never forgets them, and is good to them always,
he reaps a reward no one can deprive him of in the tender affection,
pride in his attainments, and unselfish delight in his success, which
would be turned to gall and wormwood were he to turn his back on and
ignore those whose flesh and blood he shares, and who must always be his
relations, try how he may to shift them off his shoulders entirely.

Give this feeling, and I maintain that we can have family parties which
are quite successful, more especially if we remember the second pitfall
and refrain from these hideously spiteful remarks some families seem to
regard in the light of indispensable tonics; and we should always try
that our simple ceremonies of christenings, birthdays, Christmas, and
weddings should include all those of our immediate kin who are near
enough to share them. Let all be asked, let them see you are glad to see
them, and give them your best (not your second best, please), and I am
quite sure the family party will be as successful as any other you may
be induced to give. Of course the party need not be all family; a
judicious admixture of outsiders is always to be recommended, more
especially if we are at the top of the tree and can take this
opportunity of introducing some of our ‘best’ people to those who are
pleased to meet them, although their present means may not allow of
their entertaining them in their own houses in the same manner that we
can.

These differences cannot be helped, and indeed they should be a source
of pleasure to all, as I said before, and undoubtedly would be were
family feeling cultivated among us in a manner that it certainly is not
in most English homes. Therefore all these ceremonies should be made an
occasion for family parties, and at Christmas time, too, all should meet
who can, at the house of the eldest of the family, should the father and
mother be unable to have their gathering or be dead, as is so often the
case; and there should be regular preparations for enjoyment, a
‘surprise’ (my annual surprise considerably shortens my life), a
Christmas tree, games, and a good supper, all mapped out just as if we
expected the greatest strangers and wished to impress them with our
forms of hospitality. Take rather more pains about the arrangements and
details of a family party than any other; I am quite sure that if you do
you will be amply rewarded.

And now to think about weddings and marriages, generally a most
enthralling subject to fathers and mothers when the children have grown
up and they begin to contemplate the idea of their leaving the fireside
for homes of their own, when begins, I think, the most difficult period
of our life, and when we cannot be too careful whom we admit to our
houses, the while we must not be unduly fussy, else we spoil our
children’s chance of happiness, and make them miserably anxious for
themselves and their possible fate--a fate I would postpone for ever if
I had my way, for who can calmly contemplate passing on one’s daughter
to another’s care, I wonder? while one’s possible daughters-in-law can
never be anything, I fear, save successful rivals to the throne one
occupies in one’s boys’ hearts.

But these things will happen, and equally of course all girls should
marry, a happy marriage being the best fate for any woman, no matter how
cultivated, how talented she may be. I have no doubts whatever on that
subject. Suppose she writes; who so fit to battle with the publisher as
the husband? or she paints; well, he can smile on the critics and
undermine them with a good cigar and all the rest of it. Or does she
sing? Surely, surely the husband’s protection comes in there more than
ever; while for those lucky women who only want to fulfil their destiny
and make a home, the husband of course takes his right position at once,
and is guardian, bread-winner, and head in a way that Nature intended
him to be, and that all real women want him to be. The few who clamour
for another arrangement don’t understand the subject at all, and are as
ridiculous as they are abnormal and few in number, and therefore need
not be considered in the least. There is, therefore, no doubt that women
should marry if they can; and if not, well, there is plenty for them to
do, although they will never be as happy--I am sure of that--as the
happily married woman; neither will they ever suffer as an unhappily
married woman must, albeit very many unhappy marriages would have been
far otherwise had people had common sense at first and married each
other as what they were, and not what they supposed each other to be;
resenting their own mistakes on the unfortunate object they had deified,
and not on their own stupid selves, while of course they should be
resolved to make the best of what was inevitable, and to really make the
wife or husband become all they had imagined him or her to be.

When the discussion on the subject of ‘marriage being a failure’ was
going forward I was only deterred from joining in the fray by the
knowledge that my indignant feelings on this subject were so strong they
rendered me incoherent; but I was glad I did not, for no one could have
driven sense into the heads of a good many of the silly women who wrote
rubbish about their woes. Of course there are unhappy marriages, plenty
of them, made worse, to my mind, a thousand times by our present
disgracefully easy divorce laws; but, trace them to the beginning, and I
venture to state that one and all of these marriages would have been
happy had the parties to them been properly brought up, and, above all,
properly told what marriage really means, not only to themselves, but to
those who may very probably come after them. Not one girl who marries
but knows that the man by whose side she stands at the altar is not only
her lover, but the possible father of her children; and yet what mother
would not consider herself simply dreadful were she to say this to her
daughter when the proposal is made, and her fate is yet in abeyance? and
yet what more important matter could be spoken of? I think none. A girl
who marries a man--an old man--for his money, even from the very highest
possible motives--from the idea, may be, that she is not only ensuring
the safety of her own future but that of many who may be near and dear
to her--is committing not only a crime against herself and her own
future, but is ensuring that the faults, sins, and selfishnesses of the
man she marries are passed on to endless generations; and where such a
marriage is contemplated I maintain that a mother has an imperative duty
before her, and that she must tell her daughter straight out, that the
sufferings she must endure in her own person in daily contact with her
future husband will not be a tithe of what will come upon her when she
begins to recognise his sins and his evil ways reappearing in those
children who may come to her, and who will bring their own retribution
with them; be sure of that.

It is a priceless boon to know that one inherits a right and a duty to
be good in the broadest sense of the word. I personally do not care one
fig what a man’s trade or worldly position is so long as he is
absolutely honest and trustworthy, and would not act or speak an
untruth; and this is the sort of inheritance we should strive to hand
on to our children. The higher the station the more should be the
endeavour to live in such a way that our example may be valued; but,
whatever the station, let us remember that there is always some one
influenced by us, and that we have obligations to them which we must
consider if we want to live a really good life.

And one of the first things to think of is this question of marriage,
not only because of ourselves, but because of the children who may come
to us, and who must be thought of before we give our girls to men who
may make them ‘fairish’ husbands; perhaps may not ill-treat them or beat
them, but who are not possessed of sufficient individuality to be the
heads of their own houses, and who have not honest souls and some
ambitions above the mere ruck of living and making as much money as they
possibly can, not only because such men can never be the makers and
possessors of a home, but because they may leave children whose
weaknesses and wickednesses may not only break their mother’s heart, but
may make the world worse than they find it, one’s truest ambition being
to make the world, or one’s own special corner thereof, better than one
found it in some way or other.

Young people naturally resent advice, and rarely, if ever, act upon it,
and we have all taken this to heart so much that some of us have ceased
to give advice at all. But this should not be so; the advice may not be
taken--that we cannot help--but it is our duty to give it, and I hope
all mothers will do so, whether their children act upon it or not. We
should not shirk a duty because we cannot see any effects; they may
appear even when we have long ceased to look for them.

The sins of the fathers must be visited on the children; there is no
doubt about that. We need not argue about it; it is a fact that we all
have to acknowledge, and therefore there is no need to go into the
rights and wrongs of the matter, for no amount of argument will do away
with this inevitable truth; and equally, therefore, a woman should
choose not only a man she loves, but a man she respects, and one it
shall be her very greatest pride to know her children will resemble. She
will be spared endless suffering if she do, for there is no suffering on
earth like that caused by wicked children, or even by the anxieties
about weakly and suffering children; and she had better remain an old
maid all her life than bring upon herself the unspeakable wretchedness
of having children who are a constant source of anxiety to her because
of what they may, nay, of what they _must_ inherit.

Given a clean record, a stainless youth, a good constitution, and an
honest worker, and we need ask no more for our girls. It will not hurt
them to begin their new life on a much lower scale than that which they
have been accustomed to, more especially if we have taught them their
duty to themselves and their future. Then, if we know that the young
couple honestly love each other, we can feel content.

And by love I do not mean blind, unreasoning passion, the mad,
extraordinary feeling that one reads about in novels, and which
generally lands one or the other in the Divorce Court, and of which I
have nothing to say, but I do mean that wonderful self-devotion to
another, the mutual respect and regard, and the absolute unselfishness,
that make up the true love that never fades, and that increases year by
year in those whose married life was based on such love as this, and
whose home reflects around the happiness which is centred there, and
which can only be procured by those who begin their life together on a
proper basis, and who do not expect to find in each other the god or
goddess of perfection, who would probably be as unpleasant to live with
as he or she is undoubtedly non-existent in this world of ours.

Of course all this sounds fearfully prosaic, and is, no doubt,
middle-aged philosophy; but it would not be worth writing down if it
were not middle-aged, because it would be imagination only and not the
fruits of experience. I have lived a certain number of years, and I have
had large opportunities of observation, and I am certain of what I am
saying, that the truest marriages are those which are framed on respect
as well as love, and that those women are the happiest who can
implicitly trust and believe in the men to whom they have given
themselves in some measure body and soul; and that, furthermore, they
get the most out of life who take care every moment they live has
something to occupy it, and that that occupation benefits someone beside
their immediate selves.

I have often heard people say that the first year of their married life,
and indeed that the honeymoon itself, was the very dullest and most
difficult period of their whole lives; but I have always listened to
these statements with astonishment, for I have come to the conclusion
that if what they say is true it must be that, like the despised family
parties, it is because they did not manage their affairs properly. Why,
the honeymoon should be the most amusing journey one ever makes--I know
mine was--for one sets out together with an entertaining feeling that
the absence of the chaperon for the first time gives just a _soupçon_ of
delightful impropriety to the journey; that for absolutely the first
time in one’s life one can go where one likes and do as one likes; that
if one liked to put on one’s Sunday frock on a week-day one would only
be admired and not scolded, and that one’s shopping becomes actually
important and not frivolous, because it is for the house and not for
oneself merely. Besides, there is the amusement of seeing new places
with a congenial spirit, and with one who does not consider it his duty
to insist on learning all he can about a place; in fact, the
honeymooners are no longer children to be educated, but people bent on
amusing themselves together, with no _arrière-pensées_; these come
afterwards. Then business has become dreadfully imperative in its
demands on the husband, while the wife leaves home for a holiday, her
mind distracted between pleasure and a melancholy foreboding of what may
happen during her absence to children and household, neither of which
can naturally trouble her during that first delightful jaunt, which
should always be to some amusing, bright place where theatres can be
fallen back on should it be wet, or where picture galleries could be
visited under similar adverse circumstances. One can visit the dullest
of places safely together after one has been married years; there are
then mutual interests which will always occupy husband and wife: but at
first this is actual suicide; there are then not very many things to
discuss, and the unfortunate young people fall back on endearments and
use up in a month that which should last them comfortably for all their
lives.

But we are arriving at the honeymoon before we have allowed the
engagement, and must therefore retrace our steps, or else we shall omit
the most important item of all--viz. how to act when we see an
engagement is imminent and we are not sure if we like it or not. We
should soon make up our minds on the subject though, for if we do not
approve we can easily manage that the young people shall not meet any
more. It only requires tact and common sense, two qualities which seem
to me often strangely lacking in the ordinary British household.

And, indeed, all that appertains to matrimony is made very difficult by
the extraordinary manner in which English society looks upon the
relations between young men and girls; in some measure allowing great
familiarity, and in another way turning on anyone and calling her
‘match-maker,’ should the unfortunate individual attempt to bring
together those she thinks would like to see a little more of each other.
Match-maker, indeed! Why, I consider it the duty of every happily
married woman to try and make others happy in a similar way; and I have
known more than one happy woman rendered a miserably disappointed
spinster, just because the right person was not at hand to manage a last
meeting, or give the one opportunity that was all that was required to
make liking into love, or to ensure the speaking of the question that
had trembled on the lips for some time.

Of course marriages are made in heaven, but I also know that Heaven
helps those who help themselves; and as no girl can do that, it is the
duty of her married friends to help her, especially if they have any
common sense, and can act _Deus ex machinâ_, without letting anyone know
what they have done.

If our young people are ‘desperately in love’ with the wrong man, or the
wrong girl, all the better that the love is desperate; it will burn
itself out all the quicker; but not if we oppose the match tooth and
nail, though at the same time we need not countenance it. We should,
under these adverse circumstances, state calmly but boldly the reasons
we have for our dislikes; we should simply put all the ‘cons’ we know in
plain words, and we should listen to the ‘pros’ equally calmly, and we
should never allow a _personal_ dislike to make any difference in the
matter; but our reasons should be valid and not of the ‘Doctor Fell’
kind. Then, if the daughter or son is not convinced, say no more, do not
oppose it; let the young people see as much as they can of each other;
if there are disagreeable relations, make them very welcome to your
house; be civil but not affectionate to the man or girl; and finally be,
or rather appear to be, absolutely indifferent. Make a fuss, rage and
stamp and oppose, and you may at the same time order the trousseau. Act
as I advise, and ten chances to one the match will be broken off; but if
it is not, and should it turn out well, be the first to thankfully
acknowledge it. Should it turn out badly, refrain from the delightful
habit of saying, ‘I told you so,’ but instead recall to the offended
party all the reasons he or she had for marrying; do not condole, but
rather remind him or her of the early days and of the love that once
existed, and remind them that marriage, once entered into, must be made
the best of. You will do far more good and have far more satisfaction in
healing the breach than in proving yourself a true prophet; for if
people were more sure than they are now, that being bound they cannot
get loose, they would cease to strain against the cords, use would
accustom them to them, and finally what was once irksome would be
pleasurable. People who have once loved each other can always remember
the happy days of their youth; and, remembering them, naturally will
long to return to them, or to secure at least in some measure a reflex
of them in their middle age.

But, having contemplated this side of the picture, let us look at the
far pleasanter one where all goes merry as a marriage bell, and the
engagement is all that it should be. Yet before we do this I must just
add one other word, and that is that, come what may, no marriage should
ever be entered on, on any pretext whatever, unless the consent, if not
the approbation, of the parents has been obtained. I have seen several
marriages begin like this; I have never seen one that turned out well,
or that was absolutely a success, and I do wish my readers to remember
that this is a fact, and to therefore refrain from conduct that can have
but one result; besides which, how can the children of such marriages
turn out, if one has no control over them, should they desire to do
likewise? for they have the one unanswerable argument in their
possession: ‘You did it; why should not I?’ Then also a man never really
respects a woman who throws over every one of her relations for him: he
knows he is not worth the sacrifice, and though he may be flattered at
first, ultimately he despises the girl who gave up all for him, and
never really regards her with the reverence he must give to her who
comes to him from her home, from her mother’s hand, knowing that that
home is the emptier for her absence, and that a place should always be
kept there for her, should she require to return there for any reason
whatever. Home should be always home to the married children of the
household, just as much as it is to those who remain spinsters and
bachelors; and on no account should the doors be closed on them, or
should they be allowed to feel that they have become in a measure
strangers there, and that their place being filled knows and requires
them no more. The trousseau of a girl should be as ample as can be
afforded, and should have more under-garments than anything else;
dresses alter in fashion so rapidly that it is folly to burden her with
too many garments; neither are unmade costumes any use in these days,
when no good dressmaker will make up one’s own materials. I should,
therefore, give a girl not less than two dozen of every feminine
garment, and as many more of each as I could afford. A good trousseau
would cost about 200_l._, and of course as much more as the parents are
prepared to spend; it should include a sealskin coat and a long fur
cloak; the other outside garments should of course depend upon fashion
and time of year, but it is a good plan to have some extra yards of
material to all the dresses, particularly if the bride is going away
from London to a distant part of the world.

When the engagement is really formed, and the wedding is beginning to be
the subject of conversation, one cannot say all the difficulties are
over; there are the bridegroom’s family to welcome and be introduced to,
and though, of course, if the bridegroom is well known to us this
initial difficulty will not have to be encountered in all its worst
forms, still very often the engagement alters one’s relationships
suddenly, and it requires careful steering then to avoid friction; as a
rule the parents on both sides think their children might have done
better, and it is generally difficult to prevent this feeling being
unduly apparent. Then I do beg for all my girl friends that they may
have a pretty wedding; I do not want enormous sums spent on the wedding
dress, but I do want the church to be nicely decked, all her friends to
be asked who care to come, not because they may possibly give wedding
presents--a species of blackmail which has become seriously unpleasant
lately to anyone who is not sufficiently strong-minded to refuse to give
because they are afraid of being out of the fashion--but because they
are really friends, and will bring good luck by their loving prayers and
real affection. And I do deprecate for all the hurried ‘quiet weddings’
in a tailor-made frock; a woman should be in white on her festal day,
and it should be indeed a festal day if her marriage is entered on in
the spirit I have been writing about.

I love a pretty wedding: the bride in her lovely white dress, and her
group of bridesmaids; the flower-decked church, the hymns, and the
bright faces of the choir boys (I must own I have a great weakness for
choir boys, and generally make friends with them all) are all such a
bright beginning to a new life; and if the solemn words are spoken by
the ‘family priest,’ the man who, may be, married the parents and
christened and prepared the bride for confirmation, there remains
nothing to be desired, and we can wish the new home God-speed, knowing
our wishes will have every chance of being fulfilled.

Afternoon weddings, with the flower-decked tables and the inexpensive
refreshments, bring pretty weddings within the reach of everyone nearly;
even the erstwhile elaborately decorated cake now bears a wreath of
simple and real flowers, instead of the pinchbeck temple that used to be
reared on the centre; and all that is required besides is a certain
amount of cake, ices, tea and coffee, and a little wine. Here again the
expenditure can be regulated by the income; but it need not be an
expensive affair unless one specially desires that it may be.

Now, most people are married by banns, and licences are rarely required;
this simplifies matters very much. But before the wedding is definitely
decided on I should advise the clergyman of the church one is always in
the habit of attending being consulted about all the legal forms; he is
sure to know all that is necessary, will tell you exactly what you ought
to do, what the choir and organist will expect (of course, if the
organist be a gentleman, as he often is, and a personal friend, you must
give him a present, not money), and what steps you must take about the
decorations. But do not hand these over to a shop; be sentimental for
once, and let personal friends undertake this duty. I would rather have
hideous decorations put up by hands that loved one, on such an occasion,
than the most exquisite trophies ever designed by Mrs. Green and put up
by those who do not even know the bride and bridegroom by sight.

I do hope every bride may soon have her _dot_, just like all French and
German maidens have; but in any case she must not go penniless upon her
wedding tour. Coventry Patmore’s idea in the ‘Angel of the House,’ that
his three-days’ bride asked him to pay for the sand-shoes--‘Felix, will
you pay?’--as a matter of course, is a mere man’s notion. I am certain
she must have hated to do it, and would have given anything for some
money of her own: so do not let Paterfamilias forget this, even if he
have the conscience to allow his daughter to go penniless into her
husband’s house; and let him give his daughter a nice little sum of
money, in order that she may not have to ask her husband for a farthing
until their return home, when the allowance question should be gone into
and settled, thus doing away with the constant jar about money, which is
at the bottom of more matrimonial unhappiness than is anything else.

I think I have said all that is to be said on the subject of weddings,
and have stated boldly how best to secure the happiness of our children;
it is a subject on which I feel very deeply, and when I see girls marry
men who cannot by any possibility make good husbands or good fathers, I
long to tell them this, but of course no one but their mothers can; and
I shall hope that I may influence one or two to do so, and moreover to
insist that their children do not marry to perpetuate the disease or the
evil tendencies that must wreck innocent lives that have no business
ever to exist; for while, if marriage is entered into properly, there
can be no failure about it, marriage being the perfection of life, the
uniting and joining of the two lives, which, separate, are indeed
incomplete, but which, brought together, form an absolute and wonderful
whole, a marriage which perpetuates the vices of a drunkard, of an evil
temper, of an habitual liar, or the constitution of a consumptive or of
a lunatic, is absolutely wicked, and can never be anything but a curse
to the wife and mother, whatever it may be to the man himself. A _roué_
has discounted his chances of a happy married life. No woman can reform
a _roué_, and even if she could she should not try, because in her
children she will perpetuate the father’s vices, and will make the world
worse a thousandfold by those she brings into it, while at the best she
may save a soul, though I personally do not believe she could even do
this; at all events, it is not right to sacrifice her future and her
children’s future in the endeavour, and therefore I hope she may never
try.

As I said before, we cannot explain away the mysterious influence of
heredity; but as it exists and is inexorable in its consequences, we
must acknowledge it, and we must all do our best so to live that we can
give our children the noblest inheritance on earth--an unimpaired
constitution, and a name unstained by any mean or low vice, a name that
may be our proudest possession: aye, even if we saw it first above the
window of some suburban shop! Then shall the world become better because
we have lived in it and given it hostages also: and so shall we prove
what I should like to be always preaching--that marriage is the most
blessed state on earth, if it is begun and carried on mutually with
esteem, affection, and real consideration, for each other’s welfare.



CHAPTER IX.

ABOUT THE BOYS.


The poor boys! When I begin to write about their home I could almost
weep when I think how small a space of their young lives they are
permitted to spend under the home roof.

I have said so much in my former book about home education that I
suppose I must not say very much more now, but I long to repeat my
protest against the present manner in which boys are sent away from
home, almost before they are able to stand alone, quite before they are
able to withstand all the thousand and one temptations that assail them
the moment they are turned into the herd of boys which represents a
school, and where the poor things have to spend most of what ought to
be the very happiest part of anyone’s life. However, as public opinion
is against me, I am going to set down here the best way of mitigating
the evils, and I also intend to give the relative expenses at some of
the best of our public schools and colleges, so that those who read this
book may see at a glance whether they can afford to send their boys to
Harrow, Eton, Rugby, or Clifton--Harrow being put first by me, as I am
devoted to the bright, healthy, happy place, as I suppose all are
devoted to the public school of which they know most; for, much as I
deprecate the life at school which is so far away from home influence,
and much as I should prefer to live at Harrow and have my boys home at
night, there is something about a public school education which nothing
else gives, and which can be entered fearlessly at fourteen if the boy
have been well trained and if he have a certain amount of moral courage
and good principles of his own. It is madness to send a weak-minded lad
who inherits evil propensities to a public school; he is sure sooner or
later to disgrace himself and his wretched parents at the same time.

But before going into the question of schools and expenses there, let us
dwell for a few minutes on the arrangement of the boys’ rooms in the
house, which should ever be the happiest place in the world to them, and
from which should flow that never-failing stream of sympathy in their
progress, their pursuits, and their general welfare which has borne many
a lad on to success and to a brilliant place in the world in after life.
An authority told me once that the boys who did best were undoubtedly
those who had most letters from home; who knew everything that was
happening at home just as well as if they were there; to whom the
movements of the family and of the animals were as familiar as if they
still were among them, and who were not afraid to tell their parents
anything. Sympathy is a priceless gift; sympathy between home and the
boys at school is an anchor indeed, and will keep them safely in the
harbour when every other means might otherwise have failed. And this
sympathy can but be expressed in constant communication between home and
school, and by a loving care, while the boys are absent, of their rooms,
their belongings, and the especial niche which should be kept sacredly
for them, and not cleared out hastily for them to inhabit, as it were,
on sufferance during the all too brief holiday time they spend at home.

I do not mean to say that during their absence the rooms should never be
used, that would be simply too ridiculous; but they should not be taken
into household wear; if they are they cease to be the boys’ rooms, and
in consequence the boys feel they are a nuisance and putting some one
else out; they do not naturally take their places in the circle, feeling
they are filling a gap which has never been filled since the day they
returned to school.

I should certainly try to have a place set apart for the boys for wet
days and for their own special occupations; if this cannot be managed,
their bedrooms should be so arranged that at one end they can carry on
their several hobbies without doing any damage to the finer portions of
the house; but, if in any way possible, secure a sitting-room for them
where they can do as they like; and if you want really perfect holidays
find some enthusiastic skater, cricketer, or walker as holiday tutor,
and make him responsible for the welfare of the boys. As they do not
live at home, naturally there is no one told off to keep special care of
them or to go about with them; if this is done, the holidays pass
without a hitch, and without unduly threatening the mother’s life, who,
try as she will, cannot be sure that, if the boys are out alone for half
an hour longer than usual, they are not drowned, or lost, or lying in
ditches with broken legs, and who can never school herself to be their
companion, even should she be strong enough to be so, because she is
always expecting something dreadful to happen to them. At least I know
what I feel on the subject, and I suppose I only feel what everyone else
does in the matter. In the boys’ rooms, whether bed or sitting rooms, I
advise always the invaluable dado; this ensures the lower parts of the
wall being kept tidy, and minimises the expense of doing the rooms up
when they become shabby. A rail along the floor, or rather a piece of
wood about three inches wide laid along the floor close to the
wainscoting, will keep the chairs, &c., off the paint, and then, if we
have a pretty paper above the serviceable matting, or cretonne, or arras
cloth which forms the dado, we shall be quite safe to preserve the room
for some time, looking fresh and nice and bright.

If baths have to be taken in the boys’ rooms, or if they clean their
rifles, skates, or other matters there, or if they have pet animals
which share their abode, I strongly advise that the floor should be
covered with a plain good linoleum without any pattern on, and then on
the top of that a strong square of carpet should be laid. Wallace’s
‘Victor’ is a capital carpet, and so is Pearke’s Anglo-Indian square
carpet. This should not be fastened down in any way, and should be most
rigorously folded back by the housemaid during those hours when bathing
or dirty work is being carried on. The linoleum can always be cleaned
with soft warm water, and kept in order with boiled oil and turpentine,
and the carpet can be put back in a moment, thus making the room tidy at
once.

Rubbishy cheap furniture should never be bought for a boy’s room.
Naturally by this I do not mean we should be unduly reckless over what
we buy for the boys, but that we should go to some good man like
Wallace, and tell him that we want good seasoned wood and handles which
will not pull off, and drawers and doors which will not stick, and which
will not tempt the lads by such conduct to undue violence in the matter.
Boys are always in a hurry, always impatient. They can’t help it; it is
a failing of the sex, and half the damage boys do is caused by the fact
that we do not realise this and often give them rickety or common
furniture, because ‘anything is good enough for the boys to knock
about.’ There cannot be a greater mistake. Give strong ash furniture,
made properly, a good plain brass and iron bedstead, and a good chain
mattress, and we shall find it pay; yes, even if the boys play ship on
the mattress, the necessary waves being well represented by the manner
in which the mattress goes up and down when jumped upon by the intrepid
sailors. Our mattresses have served as ships and as oceans too, but they
are as good now as the day they were bought, simply because they were
very expensive; but if they had not been dear I don’t think there would,
have been anything left of them by now; therefore cheapness is no
economy, as regards mattresses at any rate; of that I am quite
convinced. A good suite of ash furniture containing wardrobe, washing
stand, and toilet table can be had for about 10_l._, and I do not advise
less being given. This should be supplemented by a chest of drawers to
hold shirts, socks, &c., and the boots should be kept either downstairs
in the cloak-room or else in a proper boot cupboard; and I strongly
advise the toilet covers to be in art serge, simply trimmed by a species
of edging in crewels composed of about nine stitches, one long, one
shorter each side of the long stitch, and one each side shorter still,
like this:

  |               |             |
  | |           | | |           |
  | | |       | | | | |       | |
  | | | |   | | | | | | |   | | |
  | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

This should be carried round the edges of the cover in a lighter shade
than the serge itself, and would cost about 2_s._ a cover, or indeed
less, as serge is double width. There would be no ball fringe to pull
off by shutting it heedlessly in a drawer, and there would be nothing we
could not easily replace, should blacking, paint, oil, or any of the
thousand and one messes in which boys seem to revel be spilled upon it.
White toilet covers are absolutely useless, and of course it would be
really ridiculous to give them more elaborate covers, which could only
be spoiled.

It would not be of much use here to give any special schemes of
decoration for boys’ rooms, but I may say that the cheaper the wall
paper is above the dado the better. Boys are continually adding to their
stores of pictures and ornaments, and are as continually shooting at a
mark on the wall with anything that comes handy, and are not above
giving the flowers on the paper a nose, or a mouth from which a pipe
proceeds, or ears which resemble those of a donkey; and though these
decorations may be left a certain time it is best to have such a paper
which, while being pretty, is one that we can replace without an undue
struggle on our part; and I may mention Haines’s capital 7½_d._ blue and
terra-cotta papers. The blue could have blue paint, and a blue matting
dado, and a yellow and white ceiling paper; the terra-cotta might have
ivory paint, a terra-cotta and green cretonne dado, and curtains of the
same cretonne. Helbronner has a beauty, 604, at 1_s._ 8_d._ a yard, and
the ceiling paper could be Land’s pale green and white ‘Watteau’ at
3_s._ the piece. Wallace’s dull green ‘lily carpet’ would make a capital
square there, as would his red lily in the blue room, where the cretonne
could be Oetzmann’s red and blue Westminster cretonne, which should be
lined, as should all cretonnes which do duty for blinds as well as
curtains; this all curtains should do, had I my way entirely in the
matter. The walls and books and pictures should be the boys’ own choice,
and so should be the ornaments on the mantel-piece, though a clock
should be invariably provided, and this should be one the veracity of
which should be unimpeachable--punctuality must be enforced and hours
kept, and no excuses should be allowed on this score. If the youth
declares he wishes to make up for his perforce straitened hours of
repose at school, let him go to bed as early as he likes--never
interfere with that, but do not weakly allow him to be late in the
morning; it puts out the whole household, and for no reason at all, and
should never be countenanced for a moment. Late hours in the morning
mean more than I have space to dilate on here; but you may be quite sure
that a household which is late in the morning is never a well-managed or
prosperous one. Late hours then denote lazy, self-indulgent habits, and
therefore should never be allowed.

If the boys begin them in the holidays be sure they will be continued
after school is left, and therefore be firm on this point, although I
know all too well how difficult it is to be stern and inflexible towards
the boys who are only at home for the holidays, and naturally are in
consequence just a wee bit spoiled by their indulgent parents. Now if a
sitting-room can be given to the boys and the tutor, I advise it being
furnished as prettily as may be as regards the walls, but the floor must
not have a carpet, and room must be found there for the lathe,
carpenter’s tools, and odds and ends so dear to the heart of the boy;
and here let me beg and implore parents to aid and abet their children
in any hobby they have, if they can do so reasonably and comfortably,
and without undue expense; and let me also beg of them to keep and treat
with scrupulous reverence any drawings, efforts of literary genius, or
of mechanical genius, which their children produce and present to them;
at the same time I do not advise their being exhibited to the world at
large, while I should carefully explain to children, that the thing was
kept, not because of its present intrinsic merits, nor because it was a
distinct effort of genius, but because it was their doing, and because
we should like to compare it with future efforts, in order that we may
see how they have improved.

Without going the lengths that ‘Misunderstood’ does (a book, by the way,
which has made more prigs than any other under the sun, in my belief), I
think parents often make their children miserable without in the least
meaning to do so, by reason of the manner in which they refuse to
interest themselves in their pursuits. It is not pleasant to partake of
sticky black cakes baked in the dolls’-house pans, to sit on the cold
stairs in the dark looking on at a spirited representation of a
magic-lantern, the slides of which we know by heart, and we may endure
agonies over the hundredth representation of the usual charade, neither
may we feel profound interest in the School Magazine; but at the same
time we are bound to think we do, and we ought to be more than thankful
that our children care for these things and go in for them, rather than
for the usual hanging about, reading those dreadful Rider Haggard books,
which have done more harm than anything else, I verily believe, to the
youth of the present day, and have vitiated their tastes, until nothing
pleases them which is not written in gore and bound up in a mixture of
pistols and swords, which is as odious as it is unnecessary.

The boys’ books ought to form a very distinct feature in their
sitting-room, and, if possible, we should endeavour to keep out all
Haggardish stories. But this is almost impossible in these days of
independence and fourpence-halfpenny literature. I know I can’t, and
glorious detective stories and other works of art are to be found all
over the house; but we must do our best to improve the standard, by
placing other better books in the authorised bookcases, and by
ridiculing and, if necessary, confiscating whenever we can all we so
highly disapprove of. At the same time I honestly confess this is mere
advice: I cannot stem the torrent myself, but hope there are other more
strong-minded parents than I am, who may be able to do so, though I have
done my best in the matter, and have tried everything I can think of to
eliminate these books, for which I have the most hearty contempt and
dislike.

It would be no use, I think, to say more about the arrangement of the
room which should be set apart for the boys; but I cannot say too much
about the necessity of the dear things having a place where they can do
absolutely what they like, for half the friction which seems to me
inevitable in other people’s households, when the boys are at home, is
undoubtedly caused by the fact that the boys are in the way, and have no
place that they can call their own. Under these circumstances they worry
their sisters, spoil the furniture, and upset the servants; and more
especially does this happen in London, where there is nowhere for them
to disport themselves, and nothing that they can do except promenade the
streets and go to theatres and such-like places of amusement.

Of course, little boys can be managed well. They have their nurseries
first, and then their governess and schoolrooms. It is when they begin
to go to school that the trouble begins. The governess does not care
about them preparing their lessons in her room; and if they are day
boarders, which they certainly ought to be until they are twelve or
thirteen, and, indeed, until they go into the big school, where they
should be when they are fourteen and not a day before, the lessons must
be prepared at home, and this work should doubtless go on under the
superintendence of someone in authority. Parents often can and do help
immensely, but there are very few men who do not find their classics
decidedly rusty by the time they are required to superintend their
children’s preparation; besides which they are, as a rule, tired with
their own day’s work, and are not in the least inclined for extra
labour, and often do not possess the necessary stock of patience
required for this kind of employment.

My ideal education would consist of sending the boys to a good school in
the daytime, and in taking care that they prepare their work in the
evening, under a good tutor, who would be trusted to simply superintend
them, and to give the necessary help, but who would not do the work for
them; he would not live in the house, but would simply come for the
couple of hours during which the boys would work. This would do away
with the great objection to home education, which is undoubtedly the
work which has to be done at home, and which cannot be properly
superintended unless someone is told off for the purpose, unless the
parents are well up in the work of the day, and are furthermore prepared
to give up almost all society for the sake of looking after the boys--a
thing which should never be done, for it is most important that we
should make and keep friends; if we don’t care for them for ourselves,
we must care for them for the sake of the children, who would find
themselves shut out of everything when they grew up did their parents
withdraw themselves entirely from society when they were yet small.

Of course a great many people cannot manage to live where there are
really good schools, but equally of course a great many can, and when
this can be managed it undoubtedly ought to be; and places like Bedford,
where the schools are excellent, and Wimborne, where the Grammar School
has improved mightily of late years, and where house rent is moderately
cheap and living very inexpensive, offer especial advantages to a widow
left with two or three sons to educate, and to military men and others
who can live where they like, and have only their boys’ education to
think about, Bedford being especially good for this purpose.

I believe there is a book published which gives all necessary
particulars about all these schools, and indeed about all the schools
all over England, but I shall only mention those of which I have
personal knowledge, as I am no believer in second-hand information: this
can always be procured for special cases, and would be out of place in a
book like mine, but I do strongly advise all who can--all who have no
settled occupation that binds them down to a special locality--to live
where they can have their children educated from the home roof. I am
quite certain that this is the ideal and proper education, and results
in a better class of man all round. They may not be as polished, their
manners may not be as perfect, and they may be shy and gruff, but their
morals will be ever so much better, and they will be better men in the
highest sense of the word. For though they may ‘marry the lady’s maid,’
like the youth in ‘Punch,’ at all events they will marry her; they will
not degrade and then desert her, as alas! so many men do nowadays. But I
myself don’t believe they would do anything of the kind; by far and away
the best men I know are those who have been least away from home, and
they are not among the unsuccessful ones of this life either.

However, it is sometimes impossible for parents to manage home
education, though in London there are so many opportunities, that it
must be more a case of must than can’t, for there are Westminster, St.
Paul’s, and the University College Schools, all of which can be managed
after the boys are old enough to be trusted in the streets alone, and at
the latter of which for the absurdly low fee of 8_l._ 8_s._ a quarter
can be had the best education in the world, but where the boys need
learn very little if they can scrape through the day’s routine without
finding themselves in either the ‘black’ or the ‘appearing’ books; but
even then they do not learn as little as they can if they try at either
Eton or Harrow, where it seems to me the education given is especially
useless for practical service, and can never by any chance fit the
recipient for any real work that he may have to undertake.

The perfect education should be that which most fits a man for his work,
and no one can watch the manner in which we are being ousted by Germans
from every place without allowing that their education has something
which ours lacks, and that unless our boys can be taught to emulate
their patience, perseverance, and eager quest after knowledge, to say
nothing of their capabilities of existing on a pittance, we shall wake
up some day to find our lads quite out of the running, because they do
not understand life properly, and because they are unable to fight for
themselves against the present overwhelming German invasion. There is a
limpness, a passiveness about the boys of the present day that is
something dreadful, and that I think springs in some measure from these
fatal examinations, and the fearsome higher education. They see the
prizes can only fall to the exceptionally gifted and hard-working
members of the fraternity, and therefore they are dispirited before they
start, knowing that, try as they may, they can never succeed. Far from
stimulating most youths to work, the sense that unless they are geniuses
they cannot pass the exams cripples them, and they cease to care to try
for what they know they cannot possibly obtain, read how they may; and
therefore I cannot but think the excessively high standard that must be
reached nowadays in everything is a mistake, and that serious
consideration should be given both to this and to the fact that our boys
are not able to compete with the Germans because something in our
scheme of education and learning does not permit them to do so
successfully.

Let us then give home education a chance and see what can come of that,
and let our nurses be French and German, so that the children may learn
these languages with their earliest breath; and, moreover, let us in
some measure educate our children for what they are going to be. It is
no manner of use to give those who are to be in trade the same teaching
as that required for the learned professions; and I venture to state
that if a man has to take to trade the sooner he does it the better.
Eighteen ought to see him in harness of a light kind, but harness all
the same; and I furthermore state boldly that it is absolutely waste of
time and money and everything else to send boys abroad to school. They
never do any good there, and they may get into most frightful mischief.
If boys must be sent to France or Germany, take them yourselves,
otherwise you may be quite sure that both time and money are wasted. I
am not speaking without book, and I have never heard of one school,
either in France or Germany, where the education was of the least use,
neither will it be until more schools follow the example of Clifton, and
form settlements abroad on the lines of our public schools; though even
then I am inclined to adhere to my own opinion and urge on parents,
whose sons require to know French and German thoroughly, to go to both
places themselves, and stay a couple of years in each in some good town.
If they do they will achieve their object, and their boys will command
far higher prices in the labour market than those can who do not know
any languages except their own, and a certain amount of Latin and Greek,
which, it seems to me, they learn only to forget as soon as ever they
can manage to do so.

But if parents will not hear of home education they must most carefully
select the preparatory school, and they must manage to afford in
addition a first-rate public school, for nothing can possibly be worse
than a cheap or inferior place of education; and it is an astonishing
fact to me that in such an important matter as is education one requires
as a rule so little guarantee that we actually receive what we are
paying for.

No one can be a lawyer or doctor without credentials; anyone who likes
can open a school, and command scholars too. Why should not the State
interfere here?--it is very fond of interfering dreadfully on far less
important matters--and say boldly that no one shall have a school at all
until he has qualified himself in the eye of the State, and is diplomaed
or hall-marked in such a manner that one can tell at once whether he is
fitted for the work or not? Until this is done I much fear that
preparatory schools will not improve to any great extent, and that the
middle classes will continue to send their children to people who are
utterly unfit for the work they have undertaken. A personal reference
from some parent, often enough from one who knows little indeed about
his children, and possibly a few letters after the name, are considered
quite sufficient guarantee by most people that they are obtaining all
that they are paying for.

A good preparatory school costs from 85_l._ to about 125_l._ a year; of
course less can be paid, and I dare say more can be paid also, but I
consider an excellent school can be had for 100_l._ a year. Of course
there are always extras beside, and these depend entirely on the means
of the parents, and in some measure on the schoolmaster himself, who
should undoubtedly be a man in whom we can trust, and to whom we can
give our confidence, telling him exactly what we can afford to spend,
and also what manner of child our special boy is, and also, most
important of all, what he is to be, and what particular talents,
weaknesses, or goodnesses he may be likely to inherit. We should also
give our child our confidence. We should tell him emphatically what we
can afford for him, what we wish him to do, and finally encourage him in
every way to get on by writing to or seeing him constantly, and by never
letting him imagine for one moment that ‘out of sight means out of
mind;’ he is more in our minds, just because he is absent from us, than
he would be were he constantly in our presence.

As regards public schools, Harrow costs roughly about 200_l._ a year,
and the first term’s bills are as follows:

                                      £   _s._ _d._
  Board and washing                  30    0    0
  Public tuition and school charges  11   11    0
  Entrance to school and house       16    0    0
  Private tuition                     5    0    0
                                     ------------
                                     62   11    0

Of course the 16_l._ entrance fees do not come in again, but this is
more than spent on extras. There are subscriptions to endless things and
payments for extra tuition, for which a long list of printed names on
the first account in some measure prepares the unhappy parent, who
somehow never is prepared, for the extraordinary amount of new clothes,
mending, hair-cutting, and other trifles, which go to sum up the
accounts in the ensuing terms.

Eton seems to me to cost about 20_l._ a year more, and the bills of one
term are as follows:

                                        £   _s._ _d._
  Board and tuition                    44    0    0
  Washing                               2    0    7
  Head master, school instruction, &c.  8    8    0
                                       ------------
                                       54    8    7

This is without entrance fee, and the extras seem to me to be rather
more frequent, while Rugby is considerably less than either, the bills
there being as under:

                                        £   _s._ _d._
  Tuition                              13    6    8
  Boarding                             24    0    0
  School stationery (this varies)       1   10    0
  Medical officer                       0   10    6
                                       ------------
                                       39    7    2

Both at Eton and Rugby the allowance given by the house master is 1_s._
a week, at Harrow 2_s._, but besides this of course the boys take money
to school. The smaller boys at Harrow should not have more than 3_l._
during the term, and out of this they must pay sundry subscriptions. At
Eton I think the pocket-money can be almost anything, while at Rugby
3_l._ does until the boy gets into the Sixth, when he should have more
money, and when the books, a heavy item in most school bills, are far
more expensive than they were in the lower forms.

Individually I know most of Harrow, as I said before; but, as these
bills have been copied from actual accounts rendered to friends of my
own, I think I am justified in printing them, and they will also serve
as a guide to those parents who are hesitating where to put down their
boys’ names, a ceremony which should take place when the boys are about
six or seven; and if the parents have no ‘traditions,’ and are not
wedded to any special school by reason of the father having been there
before, or relations on either side having been in the special school,
the school should be chosen in some measure to suit the boy’s health,
and also in some measure his future occupation. I should not send a lad
who was going to work in any shape or form to Eton. That school should
be reserved for those useless individuals, who toil not neither do they
spin, nor should I send a boy to Harrow who intended to go in for trade
or anything save one of the learned professions. Those who have a big
business to go into might be sent to Rugby or Clifton, but I should
prefer to let them attend St. Paul’s or the London University School, or
else send them to Bedford or a similar establishment.

When the boys are at school, the holidays should be in some measure
legislated for and all arrangements made for the boys’ welfare; and of
course no parent who cared for his or her children would possibly be
away from home or out of reach of the boys during that time: the
parents’ holidays, which are as important in some measure as the
children’s, should come off when school has begun again, but on no
account should they occur when the boys are at home; and if possible the
summer holidays should be spent by the sea, the beloved sea, which, as
fashion changes, is, I am sorry to say, becoming unpopular, and is left
alone by those who are fashion led, and in consequence impelled towards
the country or ‘foreign parts.’

But of the holidays more anon; I have not yet quite done with the boys,
and the holidays can have a chapter to themselves later on.

I think the most important hint of all which I have to give is that on
no account should a boy leave school or college until we have something
to put him into, and which shall occupy his time. There is nothing more
fatal than idleness, and it should never be countenanced in any shape or
form, and I do hope some day to find that all boys who have to earn
their living may be given some sort of a trade--something they can do
with their fingers, outside and above any profession they may be going
in for. Given a trade they can never starve, and would be far more fit
for the colonies, where so many lads flit, looking forward to more
freedom and more outdoor life than they can possibly have here in
England, though I cannot imagine a more foolish thing than to allow a
youth to go out ‘on spec;’ unless he has something to go out to, he had
far better remain where he is; if not he will soon degenerate into
something far less like a gentleman than he would have been had he
remained at home and taken to some good and honest trade. I cannot help
thinking that these ‘decorative’ days of ours will open up the furniture
business to gentlemen, and that soon our houses will be provided for
entirely by men who are artists, and that those who cannot originate,
yet have artistic tastes and an eye for colour, will not despise work
which is far more interesting than desk-work for example, and far more
remunerative than the position of clerk, with which so many lads of the
present day have to satisfy themselves. The gentlemen of England can
bring back trade to England if they choose, they can replace the
slovenly workman and the shoddy work, and it remains to be proved if
they will do so; at present people’s eyes are open, and trade is no
longer a badge of disgrace, so I hope some day to see industrial
villages turning out good work, where at present are empty labourers’
cottages and impecunious landlords with untilled farms; and in the
meantime I beg our boys not to remain idle but to work somehow, it does
not matter much at what, but at some work that will be good and must and
will find a market.

If a lad is going into one of the learned professions it is necessary
that he go to college, where the expenses all told cannot be less than
300_l._ a year, but before he does so his father should seriously tell
him that whatever allowance he has is the extent of what he can give
him, and that under no circumstances whatever will he be responsible for
any debts of any sort or kind, and that doing what he is for him he is
doing his utmost, and that he would rather see him go through the
Bankruptcy Court than impoverish his sisters or his other brothers to
pay his extravagant liabilities. Let this be well talked over at home in
private, and I do not think the lad will place himself in the miserable
and anxious position of many a young man who ladens himself with debt
during his college life, which cripples all the best of his existence
and embitters his days in more ways than one; but the boy must have
parents on whom he can rely, and he must know that they mean absolutely
what they say. There can be nothing more unfair than for the girls to be
starved mentally and morally, and the younger lads badly educated,
because a parent has to pay debts which ought never to have been
contracted.

Gambling debts should be utterly ignored by the parents, and gambling in
every shape and form should be absolutely forbidden, the reasons thereof
being plainly stated; and I think all parents should be more open about
their circumstances than they are to their children, who often get a
most erroneous impression about their people’s income, because of the
manner in which they live. Why! because they have a carriage and a big
house is the very reason why they can do no more, and why should the
parents give up all they have justly earned because their children are
extravagant? I see no reason myself, and I myself would certainly never
do so to pay extravagant liabilities, or liabilities incurred on the
gaming-table or on the racecourse.

Give the boys a good education and a start in life, and provide the
girls with 150_l._ a year, either when they marry or at your own death,
and you have done your duty by your children. The girls cannot starve on
that income, and neither would they be the prey of any fortune-hunter;
but no one has a right to bring children into the world in the ranks of
the upper middle-class and do less; misery will come of it if he does,
be quite sure of that.

Of course misfortunes may happen, and the parents’ early death may
prevent an actually safe future being secured for the children; but, as
a rule, an early death should be provided for by insurance, and
misfortunes, if undeserved, generally bring sympathy in their train, and
there are many mitigations, even for these, if parents are judicious and
have not flooded the world with an enormous family that they can have no
prospect whatever of providing for. As soon as the boys have finished
their education let them begin to work; a lawyer can begin; a doctor can
commence at once to wait for patients even if he cannot buy a practice,
which would be the best thing to do; a curacy can be procured for a
cleric, and if trades are chosen the sooner those trades are entered
into the better; but whatever is selected never allow idleness of any
shape or form. Idleness is the parent of all mischief. A man well and
healthily employed has neither time nor inclination to go very far
wrong.

Let the boys be encouraged to have tastes, and above all let every lad
in England join some Volunteer Corps. I consider it a duty for every man
to be able, and to show himself willing, to protect his home, and if he
is encouraged at home he will volunteer, and will take an interest in
his work, which will be invaluable to him. The expeditions are pleasant;
all lads love a gun, and adore being able to shoot, and if the taste is
acquired in the school cadet corps it will continue afterwards; and
remember that all out-door sports and occupations are so many
safeguards--tennis, bicycling, volunteering, shooting, hunting, riding,
are all so many protections against temptations, to which all lads are
exposed, and on which of course it is impossible for me to speak here.

To sum up the advice I would give about our boys, I would say that love
of home, love of sport (not racing, not battue, nor pigeon-shooting, nor
similar inanities, but _bonâ fide_ sport), and love of an out-door life,
are the great protection for the lads. Do not encourage theatre-going
and endless balls and society affectations, but do encourage in every
way you can those things of which I have been writing. I am sure then we
shall have a healthier and a better race than the ‘masher’ Gaiety
bar-lounger, for whom I have such a profound contempt, or than the
race-frequenting, betting, ‘lemon-squash’ consuming, nerveless,
brainless idiot that is so extremely prevalent in the present day.

As soon as a lad is eighteen he ought to have some definite allowance
for all his small expenses and to enable him to clothe himself, and this
must depend entirely on his parents’ circumstances, and where he is and
what he is doing. Of course, if he should be placed in his father’s
business he must be paid for his services, and this pay must cover all
he spends; but as a rule 50_l._ is ample. A man can dress well and
decently on 30_l._, the other 20_l._ he can do what he likes with; and
he should be encouraged to save for a holiday in ‘foreign parts.’ He had
far better travel about than smoke his senses away, or waste his money
in going to theatres and in-door amusements of any kind.

Boys are an endless anxiety, there is no doubt about that, and it is
greatly, no doubt, owing to that fact that the system of sending the
boys away to school has arisen; but although they are at school we
cannot get rid of our responsibilities, neither should we try to do so.
We are responsible for their existence, and we are bound to do the best
we can for them. We shall, I am sure, be rewarded for all they have cost
us, if we never relax our care until they are really grown up and are
capable of managing their own lives; then, if we have trained them to
love their home and to habits of work and occupation, we can do no more
but trust in Providence; we shall have our reward sooner or later, of
that I have not the smallest doubt.

As soon as a man can keep a wife he should marry and begin to make a
home for himself. I am a great believer in early marriage, and I should
like all my boys to marry as soon as ever they can. There is nothing
teaches a man as the responsibility of marriage does, and nothing on
earth is happier than a happy marriage. It is the complement of life,
the perfect whole that all should strive to attain; about that subject I
am quite sure, and none of the stock arguments against marriage, nor the
stock jeers, will ever alter my opinion. Of course there are troubles,
if so they are borne better together; pleasures come, they are
brightened by having someone to share them; and above all, marriage
makes the home; the home gives an object in life and steadies at once,
therefore marriage should be encouraged in every way it can, and those
who are married should help on the marriage of others, and should show
by their own conduct and bearing that it is the best state on earth, if
undertaken out of pure love, not silly passion, and maintained in the
mutual respect, affection, and toleration for each other’s faults, which
are the very bonds of the home, and which last when every slighter bond
has given and fallen away. Once our boys are married we can breathe
again, at all events our active work for them is over; and the less we
interfere with them after that happy event the better chance will they
have of making a success of their lives. All we have to do is to win the
love and confidence of their wives, and that is not difficult if we
never offer advice on any subject, and give them as much affection as we
can. Above all must we resist the dear delight of talking over their
_ménage_ with other people. ‘A still tongue means a wise head,’ says
the proverb, and a tongue cannot possibly be too still, when once there
are sons and daughters-in-law in the family.



CHAPTER X.

SOME DOMESTIC DETAILS.


I think that I am more often consulted about how to manage servants, and
how to apportion an income, than on any other detail of domestic
management, and therefore I am of opinion that a few more words on these
subjects may not be out of place here, although, as I have repeatedly
stated elsewhere, no real help can be given by a stranger on either
matter, and that only a species of general rule can be laid down, either
about the management of the maids or how to set apart and divide the
income we may have to spend. To begin with the income: I have had two
scales drawn up by an accountant, and now present them here for what
they are worth. The first is the very smallest income that any two
people should marry upon, in my opinion; although I know many folks,
especially among the ranks of the clerics, who ought to know much
better, who continually do so, and as continually have numerous
families, for which they cannot provide in the least, and for which they
beg in the most shameless manner, and for whom I have neither sympathy
nor patience. As a rule these unfortunates live in the country and have
big gardens and houses found them rent free, but I have nothing to say
to them here, and, as I cannot conceive how ladies and gentlemen can
bring up, clothe, and feed their children, and manage their household
respectably on less than 800_l._ a year, I have no ideas on the subject,
and therefore cannot write on what I know nothing about.

Let us therefore take the ordinary young lawyer or young man who is
‘something in the City,’ that unknown City, the occupations of which are
so mysterious in my eyes, and let us suppose he has 500_l._ to spend
every year, increasing, let us hope, should he indulge in the luxury of
a family; a luxury he has no more right to go in for on a tiny income
than he would have to set up a carriage and pair, without being able to
pay all the concomitant expenses; and this is how he should parcel out
his expenditure:

                                             £  _s.__d._
  House-rent in London                      80   0   0
  Rates and taxes                           20   0   0
  Repairs to house and furniture            30   0   0
  Two servants’ wages and keep              90   0   0
  Keep of self and wife, _at least_         75   0   0
  Clothes for wife and pocket-money         50   0   0
  Clothes for husband, including his daily
      luncheon and City journey             70   0   0
  Coals                                      6   0   0
  Life insurance                            27   0   0
  Summer outing                             12  10   0
  Washing                                   16   0   0
                                           -----------
                                           476  10   0

Leaving: the magnificent sum of 24_l._ 10_s._ to cover doctors’ bills
and the thousand and one incidental expenses which are always cropping
up, to say nothing of amusement. One could hardly rise to the upper
boxes on 500_l._ a year if one must live in town and have appearances to
keep up as well.

It is better at first, if the income is very small, to live in the
suburbs. There are not so many temptations to spend money, and there
would not be much going out. In London of course, the going out is
endless; there must be cabs, new gloves, flowers, and the hundred and
one extras that carry off one’s money, and two servants are a _sine quâ
non_. If the suburbs are selected, cabs and evening gloves, &c., need
not be legislated for; one servant could do the work; and the house-rent
and taxes would come to 50_l._ instead of 100_l._; but there would be
the husband’s season-ticket to consider, and furthermore the intense
dulness that is the wife’s portion, for suburban residents are not
hospitable; they are, most of them, not very well off, for of course all
rich people fly to London; they are mutually suspicious of each other’s
_bona fides_, and are, moreover, engrossed as a rule in their domestic
duties, and when the husband returns from town he is not only tired with
his work, but with the added railway journey; he usually hankers after
his garden in the summer and his arm-chair by the fire in the winter,
and does not care to go out, more especially as he judges from his own
feelings in the matter, and is quite sure his host wishes him at home in
bed quite as much as he wishes himself there.

But, again, here I must show how impossible it is for another person to
really advise a friend on this subject of division of income
satisfactorily. There are plenty of suburban residents who are
absolutely satisfied with their fate, and are equal to the misfortune of
a small income. In that case I have told them precisely how they can
manage best on the sum of 500_l._ a year. I can assure them they will
have to be most economical and excellent managers to do that; and they
can furthermore understand that it costs about 50_l._ a year to add a
child to the establishment, and that 45_l._ a year is supposed to keep
and pay a servant. These two details will be of assistance, maybe, when
the income increases and the owners thereof contemplate a little
launching out.

An income of 1,000_l._ a year should be apportioned as follows:

                                                £    _s._ _d._
  House                                        100    0    0
  Rates and taxes                               33    0    0
  Repairs, renewals, &c.                        50    0    0
  Two servants (rather better wages allowed)   100    0    0
  Keep of self and wife                        100    0    0
  Wine, &c.                                     12   10    0
  Clothes and pocket-money for wife             75    0    0
  Clothes for husband                          100    0    0
  Coals                                         10    0    0
  Insurance                                     50    0    0
  Summer outing                                 30    0    0
  Washing                                       26    0    0
  Balance for incidentals                      313   10    0
                                             ---------------
                                             1,000    0    0

And this larger balance would be drawn, upon for the extra expenses,
such as entertaining and amusements, charities, and the thousand and one
pleasant ways of spending money that are open to the possessor of the
larger income, and are rigorously out of the reach of the owner of
500_l._ a year.

Then, too, there are all sorts and conditions of things to consider
before laying down a law on the subject of apportioning the income; such
for example as the consideration if the income dies with the husband,
or if it may come from capital safely invested. In the former case the
insurance ought to be very largely increased, as that is the only
absolutely safe manner of saving one’s money. As a rule it costs about
27_l._ a year to insure the receipt of 1,000_l._ at death if the insurer
is a young man, and I ask all intending bridegrooms to consider what
this would mean if this be all the provision they can make for their
brides, supposing they were to die and leave them with two or three
little children and no other means. They could not live on 40_l._ a
year, which is about all they would receive, and I therefore do trust
all young men will seriously consider the matter before rushing into
matrimony. At present a great many folk are like the ostrich, they bury
their heads in the sands of present content and never consider the evil
days that are before them. If they remain two, no one can blame them,
but I do blame unendingly the selfish creatures who burden this
overcrowded world with more genteel paupers. If people on small incomes
insist on doing this, let them have the courage to bring up their
daughters as upper servants and their boys to good honest trades; it is
the genteel pauper, the girl who can paint a little, teach a little, and
embroider a little, and the boy who, come what may, must wear a black
coat or its equivalent in light tweeds, who have no right to be made to
exist, and for whom the world has absolutely nothing to offer save a
certain amount of snubs and a very large quantity of the unappetising
dish known as the cold shoulder.

Therefore, if the income dies with the husband and there are children, a
certain amount of money must be put aside annually for insurance; it
ought to be enough to bring in 100_l._ a year to insure the wife from
starvation when she is too old, too worn with all she has had to do to
attempt to keep herself; and there should also be no false pride about
the manner in which the children are educated; they should go to Board
schools, where the teaching is excellent and far better than one can
procure at ordinary small schools, which may be much more ‘genteel’ but
will not be half as useful; for the Board schools are far and away
better than anything that could be obtained from the wretchedly
underpaid teachers who would be the girls’ portion. The necessary
companionship with wretchedly poor and dirty children, which is the
great drawback to a Board school education, could be mitigated if all
those who are really worthy of the Board school education were to share
it; and surely a good mother could tell her boys exactly what to avoid,
and the lads could come straight home and simply be taught in the
school. The girls would not need so much looking after, for they are far
more conservative naturally than boys: boys will play with and talk to
anyone; a girl very soon discriminates for herself, and will not play
with another if she suspects her to be in the very smallest degree below
her in the social scale.

It will be observed that I do not in the least take a sentimental view
of life, for I feel that when one contemplates the terrible army of
martyrs, the girls who have been ‘genteelly’ brought up and are
‘genteelly’ starving or living on their most unwilling and hard-working
relations, one cannot say too much or write too much on this subject,
and I cannot also but think that when there is the cry in the land that
there undoubtedly is for more servants, more good and trustworthy
lassies to help us with our domestic duties, and that when ladies in
Australia are so pressed by their troubles and by the fact that they
cannot get ‘help’ for love or money that they are actually driven to
write to their papers to suggest that men may marry more wives than one,
because no one but a wife is found to do house work, and that one wife
is not sufficient for the purpose, it is quite time that the surplus
maidens should consider whether it is quite as impossible to become a
servant as it appears to be now. As decorators, governesses, and
spoilers of canvas, they are undoubtedly not wanted, but they are
required badly for simple domestic work, which is, none of it, half as
hard as unlimited tennis, dancing all night, or rowing: not any of it
half as unpleasant as is living on the begrudged charity of some
relation, who wants all his hard-earned savings for his own children, or
as degrading as is marrying the first man who asks them, and who can
give them some sort of a home, for whom they have not the smallest
respect--the very smallest amount of affection.

Now, of course there are disagreeable details about house work, and
scrubbing cannot be pleasant, but surely the ‘scrubber’ could come in
daily and do up the worst of the ‘chores,’ as the Yankees say; and what
is the rest? Waiting at table, not half as unpleasant as selling at
fancy fairs; opening and answering the door, not half as hateful as
bringing one’s wretched little painted match-boxes and tambourines to an
overstocked guild, or a most unsympathising and equally overstocked
shopman, who is often far more impertinent than any caller ever could be
to the lowest maid in the establishment; and I personally should prefer
to make beds, wash china, dust rooms, and clean silver to hanging about
listlessly in a shabby frock, knowing quite well that I could never have
another unless some reluctant relation gave me one she would much rather
have given to her own children; and I cannot recollect any duties which
would be expected from the girls which I have not enumerated above, or
that they could not honestly undertake in a sheltered home and under
proper matronly care.

And if all servants were ladies--and I see no reason why every servant
should not be a lady if she tries--think how much more our houses would
be our own than they are at present! Even with the best of maids there
are always places in it and corners where we feel we cannot go exactly
when and where we like, and where, try as we will, we cannot be
absolutely sure that thorough cleanliness prevails and where, moreover,
we cannot be ‘decorative’ because all our efforts are frustrated by
those who cannot shake off their early training and can no more refrain
from smashing china and scraping paper off the walls than they can learn
to trust us implicitly and in their turn allow us to trust them.

Remember, I personally never can nor will join in the fearful outcry
against the maids which I hear on all sides of me. I have related my own
experiences in Vol. I. of this book, ‘From Kitchen to Garret’ and I have
not one word to add or take from what I have said there. I still
maintain, if you take your servants young and train them yourself, and
if you don’t expect perfection and show that you mean to be obeyed, you
will have no trouble; but you will never have perfect service until you
can have ladies in your house, whose ladyhood will ensure the perfect
trustworthiness, the honesty, the cleanliness that no cottage-bred girl
can ever give, because she can never be taught to really comprehend the
necessity of all these particulars.

Mrs. Crawshay’s scheme of lady helps has, I believe, quite collapsed; at
all events, one hears nothing about it now; but I see no reason why an
earnest effort should not be made to try sending our superfluous girls
to Australia as lady helps, and then, if that succeeds, trying them in
England, where there seems to me to be a real and crying want of good
domestic servants. I am only judging from other people’s woes; for,
although I dare say I have mine before me, I have not experienced them
yet, and have always been able to find what I wanted without any undue
exertion on my part. Of course the house would have to be reorganised to
some extent. The bedrooms would have to be as fresh and pretty as one
could make them; and, above all, we must reform our kitchens, which are
at present the most unhealthy, disagreeable, and odious rooms in the
whole house, as they are undoubtedly the ugliest, and where, in ordinary
households, the unfortunate maids have winter and summer to sit while
the cooking is done, and in heat that I wonder allows them to live at
all, and that must exasperate their tempers as much as it must try their
constitutions.

Now let us consider the ideal house and the ideal kitchen, and I cannot
see myself why both should not exist; let us build our washing-stands so
that hot and cold water are able to be turned into the basin which can
overtip and empty itself; smaller conveniences could be managed in the
same manner, and all the housemaid would have to do would be to wipe out
the basins daily, to sweep up the pieces with the ‘Ewbank’
carpet-sweeper, which makes no dust and picks up every morsel off the
floor, to make the beds and dust, the very making of the beds being
simplified by the chain and hair mattresses now general. All that has to
be done is to turn the mattress daily, to spread the under blanket and
sheet absolutely smoothly over it and tuck them in, to replace the
bolster and pillows, and the over supply of blankets, &c., carefully
straightened and tucked in. Is that harder than tennis, more menial,
forsooth, than living on one’s relations, or husband-hunting genteelly
under the greatest of all difficulties, the difficulty of looking nice
and merry, and being good-tempered, on absolutely no means at all?

Now let us take the ideal kitchen, the kitchen as made and designed by
Mr. G. Faulkner Armitage, of Stamford House, Altrincham, Cheshire, who
has most kindly drawn for me the different pieces of furniture with
which he decorates this charming room of his, and which, in the
Manchester Exhibition, were stained green and decorated with brass
hinges and locks, and see how we could adapt this to our present style
of house, the house with the tiny kitchen, the smaller laundry, pantry,
and scullery, and where there is not an atom of sitting-room apart from
where all the work is going forward. In that case is it worth while to
make a pretty room, and if we do can it be possibly kept so? I think it
can, even with our present maids, whose taste for the beautiful is not
largely developed; it most certainly could if we are given the maid of
the future, the real lady-maid, who may come forward to the rescue of
those unhappy beings who at present haunt the precincts of registry
offices and spend small fortunes on advertisements which can have only
the most barren results.

But before I go on to speak of the ideal kitchen and the cook of the
future; who will hardly concern my readers, as she is not born at
present, or if she be is certainly not ready for engagement, I should
like to say a few words about the best manner to obtain servants,
repeating continually that if we require good ones we must take them
ourselves and train them ourselves. I am always met, when I state this
fact, by the unanswerable argument, ‘I have neither time nor patience to
teach my servants; I can pay good wages. I want to engage skilled
labour.’ Skilled labour may be had for money, there is no doubt, but the
person who engages her maids on these lines will never have good or
affectionate servants. She will be waited on, dressed, cooked for
admirably, no doubt, but she will obtain nothing beyond her mere
bargain. For better wages, a more aristocratic place, her cook will
leave her in the lurch, despite the fact that she may expect to be laid
up or to have most particular and important visitors at the very period
when the old maid departs and the new one comes in. Her nurse will
extract her pound of flesh in the shape of holidays and outings, whether
the baby is teething or not, or whether the children are all miserable
with colds, or she herself long to lie down with a bad headache. The
housemaid will go to her ‘church or chapel,’ to her promenade with her
ever-changing young man, whether she has unexpected guests or not; and
she will never know the extreme bliss and comfort of possessing friends
in the kitchen, who give up their own holidays because they are sure
their mistress is not fit to be left, who regard the children as if they
were as much theirs as they are the mistress’s, and who finally think of
her and hers, and her comfort, as she does herself. No mere hired help
will do all this. You must have maidens whom you have carefully trained;
you must take trouble--aye, and never-ending trouble--about them, unless
you wish to join the ranks of those who are always abusing their maids
and yet would not lift their fingers to assist themselves. And then,
again, you must undoubtedly train yourself at the same time not to
expect perfection.

Think of our own girls. Are they always to be trusted at tennis and at
balls to maintain that serene and demure deportment which of course we
always did, and which we naturally expect from our daughters, especially
where young men are concerned?

Do they never flirt? Are they never found missing at critical moments,
for example, when the carriage is at the door, and Paterfamilias is
divided between anxiety for his horses and wrath at being kept waiting?
Do foolish little notes never pass? Are flowers never given to the most
detrimental youths of one’s acquaintance? And finally, do our own
daughters always keep men at arm’s length? Are they always truthful,
always obliging, always careful about their own rooms and the things
which are committed to their charge?

I leave each mother to answer for her own daughters. I should not like
to answer for all the girls I know, and I seem to remember episodes in
my own past (was it mine, or did it belong to some one I once knew very
well indeed, I wonder?) which I should rather not confide to my
daughter, and indeed which I should not care to hold up to her as an
example of what all girls should do, and which often make me very kind
to the maids when I meet them promenading with the youth who calls for
orders or the man whom I scarcely recognise out of his livery; and it is
far better to know such things will happen, and to keep a kindly eye
over these affairs, than to scold vigorously and declare that whatever
happens no followers of any sort or kind shall enter your chaste abode.
Neither should they until the engagement is a _bonâ-fide_ one, and one
that you know is allowed and smiled upon by the girl’s parents. This you
should ascertain for yourself--another reason for taking your maids
young and from a family of whose antecedents you know something from
your own observation. And I never think much harm can happen from these
promenades if great stress is laid upon the fact that all must be at
home after dark, and that in winter no one must stay out after 8.30.
Then the house door should be locked and the key brought upstairs,
either in town or country; there is always the front door to come to,
and there is no reason why everyone should not come to that.

I am no advocate either of very hard and fast rules, and I maintain that
it is very difficult to make, and still more difficult to keep, set
regulations which circumstances may alter at any given moment. The only
thing that must be insisted on is punctuality; without punctuality no
household can go on, no establishment can be in the very least degree
managed or carried on. The servants become slovenly; and it is
impossible to get through the work, because no one knows when the meals
are to be, or when the beds can be made. Therefore, the first rule, and
indeed the only really important rule, is that which makes the meals
regular, and the attendance thereat compulsory on all members of the
family, children and temporary members, such as visitors, alike. After
that, and when we have demonstrated how the work is to be done, we
should stand aside and not interfere unless it is absolutely necessary;
then a few quiet words are enough. Whatever you do, do not ‘nag;’ a
servant that requires acrimonious scolding and continual ‘telling’ had
better go, and another should be had at once.

The best way to find a servant (if your ‘place’ has a good name) is to
inquire among the tradesmen. If a good servant is leaving her place, she
always tells the butcher and baker; she never goes to a registry office.
If she is leaving to better herself, her mistress can soon find her a
place among her own friends; there would be no need for her to go
elsewhere, and I do not think a really first-rate maid ever goes
anywhere except to her mistress or to the tradespeople, who are all
delighted to help her to find what she wants. An advertisement in the
‘Guardian’ or ‘Morning Post’ is another excellent means of obtaining a
recommended servant, and I hope some day to find that the clergyman’s
wife in each country parish will turn herself into an amateur registry
office for all the young girls under her husband’s charge. She should
teach them in the kitchen and nursery and train them in nice ways, and
be always possessed of some maiden she can send out into a better place.
Of course the Girls’ Friendly Society does something of the kind, but
the good that it does is largely discounted by the evil ways of many of
the ‘associates,’ who cannot help interfering egregiously and stupidly,
and so bringing what ought to be an absolutely perfect organisation into
contempt.

In London there is only one way of finding good servants, and that is by
advertising in either of the papers I have suggested, saying ‘Apply by
letter only,’ or else the advertiser will be inundated with a class of
persons who apply on the chance of picking up something in the hall, or
of getting their ‘expenses’ paid. No unknown person should ever be left
alone for a moment in the hall, and on no consideration should anyone
pay the ‘expenses,’ which often exist in the imagination only, and would
be amply recouped were twopence handed over to the applicant to cover
her omnibus fare; that even should be given with caution, for, absurd as
it may sound, there are people who exist on applying for situations,
which they accept and give excellent references to empty houses, and
promise to come in at once, to commence the duties required immediately.
The mistress, overjoyed at the idea of securing such a treasure, gladly
pays the fare to some country station, to be refunded, of course, out of
the first quarter’s salary, and goes off for the treasure’s character,
when she promptly discovers she has been done, and that if such a house
does exist at all it is either closed entirely or lived in by someone
who has never heard of the treasure, who naturally is also not to be
found at the home address, that was given so glibly and written down so
very carefully.

A written character should also never be taken. The most exquisite
handwriting, the best of all note-paper, duly embellished with a crest,
address, and monogram complete, are no safeguard, for servants have been
known to steal note-paper, and in these days of universal education a
good hand is not to be trusted in the least. Even if the family with
whom the servant lived has gone abroad--and this is the favourite reason
always given when a written character is produced--there must be some
relation or friend of the last employer still left in England who would
not object to speak for a maid, who if worth anything at all must be
known to someone outside the mere inner circle of the house itself; and
this should be insisted on, especially in London, where an unknown
servant is often the friend of the gentle burglar, and can do an immense
amount of mischief. Indeed, when I thoroughly sift the numerous
complaints which reach me about servants, I invariably find them caused
by the fact that the maid has either been procured by a registry office
or taken with only a written character in the most careless way, and
with not half the precautions we should take before we engaged ourselves
to call on a new comer to our especial district. We demand very strict
credentials from anyone we admit to our house as a mere acquaintance; we
let anyone into the house to live as a servant who can produce any scrap
of writing, or procure any registry-office keeper to speak for her
capabilities and character.

I am not speaking without due thought on the matter. Of course there are
absolutely trustworthy registry offices, and some written characters may
be genuine; but as a rule neither is to be trusted, and it is far better
to do one’s household work oneself than to engage someone of whom we
know no more than can be told us by an individual eager for the hiring
fee, or from a bit of paper probably written on by the applicant
herself.

I actually know a case where the mistress had to go into the
neighbouring town to search for a cook who had been missing for
twenty-four hours, and who found her locked up in the police court for
drunkenness and riotous behaviour, and who discharging her on the spot
was surprised to find the woman a few weeks after in a friend’s house.
The registry-office people had answered for her character; although the
first mistress had taken the trouble to place the report of the case in
the local papers in the registrar’s hands, and the cook was in
possession, needless to remark that she broke out again and is no doubt
carrying on her practices in another confiding mistress’s house at this
very moment.

A written character introduced a butler into a friend’s house, which he
promptly burned to the ground in a fit of blind drunkenness, while
another servant in another house was found in the act of carefully
concealing a burglarious parent in a convenient cupboard; and indeed I
do not think I am exaggerating when I say that every case of ‘bad
servant’ that is brought under my notice originates in either of these
two particulars, and that if due care, aye, and even what may appear as
_undue_ care, is taken about the manner in which a servant is engaged we
shall soon hear far fewer complaints than we do at present; while by
raising the tone of our maids and ensuring that only really
good-charactered servants will be employed, we shall get a better class
of girl to take to service, and we shall thin the ranks of unemployed
dressmakers, telegraph clerks, and shop-girls, and shall bring them back
to the sheltered, safe, untempted lives that are the portions of all
those who are in good places, under the care of conscientious and
thoughtful mistresses.

I think many writers--Mr. Besant, for example--have done great harm by
the manner in which domestic service has been run down; and when I am
called on to pity and weep over the case of the ‘sweated’ sempstress,
the underpaid, unsettled governess, the miserable shop-girl, who cannot
sit down and to whom all sorts of unpleasant internal miseries happen
because of her hard work, I absolutely refuse to do so. There are plenty
of good sheltered homes waiting for these girls, either here or in
Australia, where they can be fed and well looked after, where they have
every comfort, and where they are as absolutely safe as if they were in
a palace, indeed, much safer, as maids in palaces are left much to their
own devices and can get into as much mischief as they please, and there
is therefore no reason for their unhappiness save and except the absurd
one of wishing to be their own mistresses.

‘Freedom! I want my freedom. I would rather starve than be obliged to
brush my hair neatly, to give up my drowned ostrich feather, my screams
of unbridled laughter in the streets, the delicious joy of trailing up
and down a gas-lighted road, and, in fact, of being my own mistress.’
That is the argument put into the mouth of the factory girl, only, of
course, in not quite such plain language, and much applauded. Now, if
so, don’t ask me to weep over the girl who talks like this, because I
shall not do it. Freedom is about the worst thing in the world for a
young girl. She requires a guiding hand, as, indeed, in my opinion, all
women require one, all through their lives; and, after all, who is freer
and less trammelled than a good servant in a good place? She has no
anxieties, no troubles. Whatever happens, her wages are paid to the day,
and her food is unfailing. Indeed, when troubles are disporting
themselves in the drawing-room the maids seem to think ‘more food and
oftener’ an excellent panacea. And she can have her holidays and her
walks too whenever they can be managed; while for the large class of
girl who becomes, or rather wants to become, a nursery governess, are
there not endless other situations crying out for them, where as upper
nurses, ladies’ maids, or good cooks they could be sure of occupation
and of ending their days in comfort, having been able to save, which
they could never have done on the 15_l._ a year of the ordinary nursery
governess, who does all the mending and bathing, and, indeed, in some
cases, much more of it than falls to the share of an upper nurse, who
yet ranks below the governess, because she is a servant.

Now, I think that, if the young people who marry on about 300_l._ a
year, and can only afford one maid, would try this plan of engaging some
girl who cannot get a situation as nursery governess, and work together
with her, they would be far more comfortable than they otherwise would
be. All their things are new and pretty, the bedroom nice, the kitchen
fresh and comfortable. A young bride on a small income must help with
the cooking and bed-making. Surely this would be much more pleasantly
carried out if the maid were in some measure a friend. I can assure you
that old-fashioned servants I know have far better claims to be
considered of a good family than dozens of girls who pitchfork
themselves into the governess ranks, and consider themselves members of
the aristocracy from that date.

To sum up, then, our case: if we require a comfortable house we must
take our servants young and train them ourselves, or we must be very
sure that the servant is what she claims to be, and that the character
she is provided with is a good one; and, finally, we must endeavour to
refill the ranks of upper and better-class servants from the
overstocked ones of nursery governesses and unoccupied girls, whose
parents have not provided for them, and who are unable to do a single
thing by which they can in any measure help themselves.

There are stupid, careless, and even unkind mistresses in the world, but
as a rule servants are considered and very kindly dealt with, and there
can be no reason why a girl should refuse a sheltered home and work that
is not as hard as many other kinds of labour, and that should be amusing
and pleasant, in a small household, or even in a large one, where the
housekeeper is a lady and the upper servants are distinct and separate;
a nurse of course having her own rooms and being waited on far more than
is the governess, who after all in the eyes of the domestics is neither
one thing nor another, and has often enough to go without or see after
her own comforts.

But until that halcyon day arrives we must, as I remarked just now, be
very particular about the maid’s references, and we ought then, if
possible, to make the acquaintance of her mother, and also, if we can
manage it, of the clergyman who prepared her for confirmation. Of course
this means trouble. Yes, it does, but not half as much trouble as is
caused in the endless procession of new servants which passes through so
many houses, leaving behind it traces of its progress in the shape of
ruined brooms and brushes, burned-out saucepans, smashed crockery, and
bladeless knives, all of which must be replaced as one goes out and
another comes in, in a manner which almost ruins the unfortunate master
and enrages the mistress proportionally.

And now to turn to the question of how to make the kitchen a little
pleasanter than it is at present, especially in those houses where there
is no servants’ hall. The best of cooks only succeeds in making her room
look spotlessly clean and absolutely uninteresting; there is nothing
pretty about it, and there is, as a rule, nothing save the ordinary hard
Windsor chair on which to sit. This is quite right and what it should
be; but besides that there could be an easier chair for the tired
servant, who presumably can get quite as fatigued as we can, and for
whom we could provide a low-backed chair with cushions (easily taken out
and washed) once we have come to the conclusion that she is

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--An Ideal Kitchen.]

likely to stay with us and that she is to be trusted not to make hay
with it.

Our artist has made a sketch of ‘an ideal kitchen’ from Mr. Faulkner
Armitage’s designs, which I hope will some day be the kitchen of the
future. Here the dresser and mantel-piece arrangement provide for all
the necessary pots and pans, while the furniture is as simple as it is
pretty, and in consequence has an artistic effect which is really
charming.

This furniture is stained malachite green or russet brown, whichever is
preferred; with the green furniture, the tiled paper on the wall, which
is much nicer to live with than mere colour-wash and is quite as clean,
as it can be wiped over with a damp duster quite easily, should be red
and white, and the paint a dark shade of red; with the brown, the paper
should be blue and white, and the paint a good blue, and all along the
wall on the floor should be a two-inch band of wood; this keeps the
chairs away from the wall; but if the base of the wall becomes shabby a
dado of oilcloth can always be added with a real dado rail; this keeps a
wall tidy for years, and can always be washed, and finally painted over
should the pattern crack or become in any measure worn and untidy. The
ordinary boarded kitchen should be covered entirely with a good,
well-seasoned linoleum, and a square of carpet lined with a thin
American cloth should be given to the cook to place down on Sundays, or
after the worst of the work is over; this gives a finished and furnished
look to the room, and adds a great deal to the comfort of the maids. A
stone floor should be painted with Hoskyn’s Ben Trovato red, and some
rugs laid down at all times, as this is very bad to stand upon. I had
linoleum laid all over the only stone floor I ever possessed, and that
answered excellently; it was put down so that it adhered to the stone in
some manner, and lasted a very great many years in excellent condition;
but should anyone object to this I can also recommend a square of
Treloar’s cocoa-nut matting, bound all round with a wide binding; but
this should be rolled back for cooking, as grease adheres to it
dreadfully and soon makes it shabby.

The kitchen windows are always rather a trouble to arrange, as generally
they are basement windows, and muslin so soon gets out of order with the
steam and general mess; but if the cook takes pride in her windows and
likes to wash her curtains herself there is no reason why she should not
have the same kind of white curtains that there are in the bedrooms; but
let all come from the top of the window, half-blinds being dreadful, and
looking worse, in my opinion, than no blinds at all. In windows on a
level with the garden or street one must have obscured glass, either
cathedral or ribbed glass. This, of course, is rather hard on the maids,
who are not thus able to look out, but it cannot be helped: it is
impossible for the kitchen to be so much in evidence as it otherwise
would be, and no muslin is as effective a screen as the obscured glass
is.

There should always be inside bars and shutters to any basement or
ground-floor windows, and nothing should be kept downstairs which can
possibly or in any way tempt the prowling burglar. All silver should be
taken upstairs to the master’s room, and there should be a small dog
loose downstairs; a dog frightens a thief dreadfully, as he is quite as
much afraid of his bark as ever he is of his bite.

The basement in a London house is often a dreadful possession, as there
are so many places where a thief could conceal himself in the daytime.
No doors, then, should ever be left unbolted; and the master should,
furthermore, make a practice of going round the very last thing at night
to see that all is safe, or else there can be no security at all.
Sometimes the servants may descend again and hold unholy revels;
sometimes an open or unguarded door leaves access to the place; and an
unexpected visit from a tramp may alarm us as much as would a
professional visit from a burglar. We cannot impress this on our
servants too often, and we impress it on them a thousand times more
forcibly than we otherwise should when they see our nightly patrol, and
know we have supplemented their bolts with a visit of inspection. Then
the door at the top of the stairs should be bolted, barred, and locked,
and the key removed. This should be given into the care of the butler if
there be one, or into the safe keeping of the cook; and we may retire to
rest feeling safe that even if the tramp comes, or the thief is in
hiding below, he will remain in the lower regions, and can do nothing
worse than have a feast in the larder or break a few panes of glass in
his efforts to escape.

It will seem to my readers that one has to take endless trouble, to see
perpetually about endless trifles, as long as we are householders, and
have the management of a family on our hands. Yet once started on good
lines, and matters are not so difficult as they appear; still, of
course, no life of great responsibility--indeed, no life at all--can
ever be entirely happy and entirely easy. Those who have least to do
become bored and tired by mere inactivity; those who have most, wearing
out instead of rusting out.

All comes to an end some day; there is no doubt about that. Strive as we
may, death waits for us all, and our carefully trained household falls
apart and drifts away; our furniture wears out, our carefully amassed
hoards are turned over and parted among our successors; some one else
takes our house, and obliterates with his personality the last traces of
ours; and if we have refused to do our work, or let things slide, we
shall speedily be forgotten; but if we have honestly done our work, what
of it? Our maids carry on our good lessons elsewhere; our hoards make
someone else happy, and the example we have set bears fruit a
hundredfold, and someone is always happier, some household better for
the work we have done. No matter, then, if we have fallen out of the
ranks, tired out; we have done our work, and so can retire gracefully,
being quite sure that none of our trouble is wasted, and that not one of
us has toiled in vain.

And I maintain that we cannot ever take too much trouble about our
homes, that we cannot have them too pretty or too well managed, and
that, moreover, once they are started, they are easy to keep going,
always supposing that we have regular ways and rules, that we do not
muddle, and that we pass over nothing that requires attention, let it be
a braid off a chair, or the misdemeanour or disobedience of a servant or
child; the one should be mended, the other spoken to at once, then
things will go on like clockwork, and we shall be fairly astonished to
find how well things progress and how admirably they manage themselves.

Start well, start carefully, and then all one has to do is to steer
straight; after all, steering is not very hard work, and that is all one
has to do once the ship is fairly loaded and under way.



CHAPTER XI.

THE SICK ROOM.


In all large houses there ought undoubtedly to be some provision for
infectious illness. Of course I know that there are excellent fever
hospitals, where one can be despatched at almost a moment’s notice,
where an ambulance will deposit you, and where the best nursing and
doctoring can be had at a most moderate outlay; and I, for one, highly
applaud those courageous souls who telegraph for the proper conveyance,
and depart, cutting themselves off from their homes, and at the same
time from any chance of handing on their complaints elsewhere, with one
fell swoop. But, much as I admire and applaud, nothing would, I fear,
induce me to follow their laudable example. To know how to be ill is a
fine art, and this accomplishment is quite thrown away on those who
regard one merely as a ‘case,’ and talk about one as if one were a mere
chattel left with them to repair, and return with the utmost speed.
Moreover, I maintain always that one’s bodily health depends immensely
on one’s surroundings, and that it would take double the time to get
better in a hospital than one would in one’s own home, where one could
see one’s friends out of the window and catch even a far-off whisper of
what was happening, and see even from the greatest distance some of
one’s old, accustomed sights. In an ordinary house, as at present
arranged, it would be absolutely impossible to have even the smallest
amount of infectious disease without running the greatest risk of
handing it on to all the rest of the family; but there could be in most
houses such arrangements made, were the builder a man of sense, that we
could have a hospital room, a room sufficiently isolated to ensure
immunity from infection, and yet near enough to do away with the
hopeless feeling which seizes the ordinary mortal the moment he hears he
has ‘something catching,’ and which enables him to understand what were
the feelings of the lepers of old, who had to flee from the sight of
their fellow-creatures, calling out aloud as they ran, ‘Unclean!
unclean!’ Of course we ought not to feel angry with those who refuse to
come near us; indeed, had I my way no one should ever enter a house
where there was small-pox, scarlatina, or diphtheria; but we do resent
it somehow, despite our own common sense and the knowledge that we
should forbid the call our friends are so anxious not to make if they
attempted to come near us; and there is no more miserable feeling than
that which seizes us when we are told that we have a complaint in our
midst which may prevent us from being on the same footing as the rest of
mankind for several weary weeks, or may be months. But, before going
into the matter of what we should do when infection is in our house, let
me for a moment speak about the room we should all of us possess ready
for an emergency and into which we could retire were we ill at all, not
only ‘infectious’ but ill in such a way that we may require careful
nursing, many fires, and absolute quiet and rest.

We should select a room at the top of the house unless we are building
our house; in that case we should have a couple of rooms added on at one
end, with a bathroom, lavatory, and tiny kitchen range in a third room.
This should make a sort of annexe to the house; it should be reached
from outside, and a passage, closed at one end with a plate-glass door,
should communicate with the rest of the house. I once knew such an
arrangement as this, and have always hankered after it, more especially
as it allowed one member of a family of eight children to have scarlet
fever at home without in the least endangering the lives of any others
of the family, while the mother could see the child daily through the
plate-glass door, although she could not nurse her herself. She ran
absolutely no risk; the plate-glass door was as safe as the solid wall,
and over it always hung a sheet steeped in carbolic acid. The child was
nursed among familiar surroundings; the doctor could visit it without
passing through the house; all the food could be placed so that the
nurse received it without the smallest risk, and, in fact, the
arrangement was so absolutely perfect that I cannot understand why
possessors of large houses and good means do not always keep some rooms
of the kind ready. No family can go through life without illness; it is
much easier to bear when all is prepared for it, and there is no
dreadful domestic upset to add to our natural anxiety and trouble when
illness comes upon us all.

Now, given such houses as these, or even the single room quite at the
top of the house, which would be next best (and although these have
their disadvantages, they are generally quieter than any other), I
should proceed to decorate them prettily. I should paint the walls
first, and then I should paper them with the very cheapest blue paper I
could find. I think Maple’s 4½_d._ blue and white paper would be best,
and I should have ivory paint, the 4½_d._ a piece white and yellow
ceiling paper, and curtains of 1_s._ 6_d._ a yard serge in art blue
double. There is nothing here which cannot be replaced at a very small
cost; yet everything would look pretty and bright and fresh; and I
should have the floor parqueterie or else covered with matting and rugs.
The rugs could be removed in a moment if anything infectious were the
matter, while the matting could be disinfected or destroyed; but this
should remain. It smells fresh, it never accumulates the dust, and
always looks nice, in my opinion. In illness looks are everything, and
it is absolutely necessary for things to be neat and pretty; else the
patient will be worried to death without really understanding why he is
being worried.

The bed should be a good wide one--a double one. This gives room for the
patient to move about in. It should have a wire mattress and a good hair
mattress at the top, four pillows, and a bolster, and it should have an
ample supply of venerable blankets for under use. Those for over use
should depend on what is the matter. New blankets and an eider-down are
lighter and warmer than anything, and if these are required they must be
had, even if afterwards they have to be destroyed. There should be no
washing or dressing apparatus visible (these can be kept in the
lavatory), but there should be two or three of the stained wooden chairs
sold by Pither, 38 Mortimer Street, W., which are comfortable enough for
the doctor and an occasional visitor or for the nurse on duty (too much
comfort often induces sleep), and which can be wiped over daily. There
should also be a wide, deep wicker armchair, nicely cushioned, and there
should be a long chair for the invalid, where he or she could rest while
the bed is made or remain when convalescence has begun, and the bed may
be left for some hours at least. The long deck chairs are not suitable
for this purpose, as, being made of wicker, they creak in the most awful
manner, and are not comfortable in the least; but there are some long
narrow beds used as camp beds, which can be put up at any angle, and
have an iron frame filled in with sacking, on which a cushion is placed.
This makes the most comfortable lounge of which I know, and should be in
every sick room or room set apart for the purpose of nursing. They can
be bought at almost any ironmonger’s, or at any place which caters for
Volunteers or those who do any luxurious camping out. There should be
pictures on the walls, and a bookcase, and above all there should be a
screen of some kind or other. The pictures should be of the cheapest;
some of those lately issued by the ‘Illustrated News’ people, which
resemble old Bartolozzi prints, would do admirably, as the frames could
be disinfected, the glass washed, and the pictures themselves destroyed.
The bookcase could be varnished or re-Aspinalled, and the books burned.
Books are fearful methods of conveying infection, and carelessness about
this cannot be too harshly condemned. It is far better to destroy
everything, no matter how precious it may be, than run the very smallest
risk of passing on even what may be considered a mild complaint, for
that which is mild in one patient often causes death or great suffering
in another whose constitution is unfitted to cope with that special
disease.

Once the room is ready and looking pretty, the next care must be to see
that it is kept properly aired and that nothing gets out of order, and
that all the things for use are in their places; then we need not think
any more about the room, which should be under the charge of the
head-nurse of the establishment; but, especially where there are
children, it is absolutely necessary that we should be prepared for
emergencies, and know exactly what to do should there be any necessity
for prompt action. There are a series of rules printed by the National
Health Society, which should be hung up in every nursery, and there
should be, moreover, a box containing simple remedies for sprains
(arnica), cuts (calendula), and burns (oiled silk, oil, and cotton
wool), and the nurse should keep the key. But, whatever happens, her
remedies can only be temporary ones; all her instructions should end
like those to the ambulance experts, ‘Send for the doctor.’

Now, although I am certainly no advocate for constantly sending for the
doctor, and though I maintain that for small children a good nurse is
worth all the doctors under the sun, I do maintain that immense comfort
and safety are procured by an early visit from the doctor if we are
fearful that anything is wrong above the common. But I maintain equally
strongly that to be able to do this we must be very sure of our man; we
must be able to trust him, and we must be quite certain that he is an
honest man, who will not trespass on our credulity or fatten on our
fears, and who will have the necessary courage to tell us straight out
that we have nothing to fear and that we need not send for him again, or
at least that he will not come again until we do send for him. Above
all, let us, if possible, keep to the same doctor. Nothing is more
stupid than to change him, unless we are absolutely obliged to do so,
for he understands his patients’ constitutions if he has always had to
see after them. A new man cannot possibly do so at first, and much more
depends on a doctor understanding what he has to deal with, as far as
heredity is concerned, than one quite comprehends. People would not be
quite so ready to change their medical attendant as they very often seem
to me to be if they thoroughly believed in this.

And now comes the great subject of nursing. I was much amused the other
day to see an indignant article from someone who abused the present
generation of mothers because they did not nurse their children
themselves in cases of infection, and because their first idea in an
emergency was to send for a nurse. Now I maintain that that is the very
wisest thing anyone can do. A mother, as a rule, is the worst person in
the world to nurse her own child; her fearful anxiety makes her nervous
and communicates itself to the patient, who ought never to know that
anyone is the least anxious about him. Her face betrays her, and her
shaking hands play her false, and on a thousand grounds it is far better
to have a trained nurse than to trust to unskilled though loving
nursing. A mother may never have had the smallest experience of nursing
until she is called upon to exercise any little talent she may have for
it on behalf of her nearest and dearest. She becomes frantically
miserable at symptoms a nurse understands, and are often enough symptoms
for good; she cannot raise a patient and give him food comfortably, as
does a woman trained to the work, and she cannot be the ‘half-doctor’
all nurses ought undoubtedly to be, and indeed are nowadays, unless she
has had training; a course of training, by the way, which would be most
distasteful to many and absolutely impossible to the few.

A nurse is born, not made; of that I am absolutely convinced from my own
experience. I do not think anything would make me personally fit to
nurse anyone, much as I should like to do it. Were I called upon to turn
nurse I could undoubtedly keep a room neat, smooth a pillow, and fold a
sheet over properly; but I stand by in amaze and watch a friend of mine
who has never been trained, but is a born nurse, who knows exactly how
to lift her patient, when and how to give beef-tea and medicine, and who
does easily and without effort what I cannot do at all, try as hard as I
may to follow her excellent example. She may be anxious, she never shows
it in the least; she may be tired to death, she does not look it; her
voice is always at the right pitch, and though she naturally is not
merry when there is danger, she maintains an even cheerfulness which is
delightful, and as restful to the patient as it is most undoubtedly
restful and reassuring to the patient’s friends. Now, sentiment
apart--and sentiment should never be considered in the very least degree
where real work has to be done--surely my friend is better able to
nurse, and a much safer nurse, than I should be; I, who have honestly
and seriously tried to overcome my stupidity and dread of sick people,
and who visited at a hospital regularly until I was utterly and
completely routed by seeing a man in a fit, since when I have avoided
hospitals and have quite come to the conclusion I should never be a
nurse. Therefore, is it not wiser for people in real cases of dangerous
illness to engage women who understand their work? I am convinced it is,
and strongly recommend anyone who is advised by the doctor to send for a
nurse to do so. He will always be able to tell them where to send; if
not, they can find any amount of addresses in that most useful and
excellent little book ‘Dickens’s Dictionary of London.’ But the doctor
should find the nurse in infectious cases, for, as a rule, he knows
someone with whom he has worked already, and of course these nurses have
to be sent for in a hurry; one does not make preparations for and look
out for fevers as one does when a small baby is expected; about that I
have said all I have to say in my other book, and shall not therefore
say anything here on that absorbing subject.

Everybody should remember that illness, instead of deadening our
faculties, undoubtedly and at once heightens every one we possess. We
see more acutely most certainly; our smell and taste are exaggerated in
the most painful degree, and little annoyances and inferior cooking,
which we scarcely notice, or indeed notice not at all, when we are well,
try us most dreadfully. If we are to eat at all, all must be absolutely
clean and free from grease, and sent up spotlessly; there must not be a
suspicion of carelessness, or inevitably we shall turn against the food
and send it down untouched. Likewise, creaking shoes, rustling paper,
banging doors, crooked pictures, dusty tables and chairs must not exist
where there are invalids; and, above all, I am convinced that until a
person is actually and positively dead no one should talk about them
over their bodies, thinking they are insensible. I am certain that
insensible people, so called, are often far more sensitive than either
doctor or nurse will allow, and I know I myself have often heard things
which were never meant for me to hear when people have thought me
asleep, but when I have really simply been too tired to open my eyes;
and I shall never forget the expression that flitted across the face of
a dear old lady who was absolutely dying, who had not swallowed for two
days, or spoken for a great many more, when her daughter and maid spoke
of the mourning and funeral by her bedside heartlessly. She heard and
understood, although she undoubtedly had no power of letting us know
that she did so. And I, moreover, have been told by a cousin whose
recovery from a frightful attack of blood-poisoning was miraculous, and
who most certainly was merely saved from death by her doctor’s
unremitting care and the excellent nursing she received from him--he
never left her once for over forty-eight hours--that she knew absolutely
everything that went on, that she heard every single word and whisper,
and that she most certainly would never say a word in the presence of
any ‘insensible’ person that could pain or agitate him in the least,
for when she appeared most insensible to on-lookers she was really far
more sensitive than she had ever been in all her life: her hearing was
absolutely acute, and every sense seemed on end, a feeling I can
corroborate from my own experience, though I have had no really very
serious illness, but have been ill enough to comprehend this
supersensitiveness and to understand how absolutely quiet and restful
should be the conditions of any invalid. It sounds absurd to say that
noise can kill anyone, but noise can; a sudden shock can undoubtedly
snap the thread of life, while noise constantly wearing on the brain can
do endless harm, especially to those who are predisposed to notice and
resent continually unpleasant sounds. And now I want to give a hint to
many among us who are abjectly miserable because they fancy they have
some incurable complaint, and yet have not the sense or courage to
really go to a good doctor and learn what is the matter, or indeed
whether there is anything the matter at all. The tiny lump which appears
on the neck may be nothing but a little swelling of a gland, or it may
be cancer; the dreadful pain that seizes the chest may be heart or it
may be indigestion; anyhow, whatever it is, it is far better to know
what is the matter than to wear oneself to death in wondering if we have
or have not a fatal disease.

If we have not, well and good; if we have, what, after all, does it
matter? We have all fatal diseases, if it comes to that, and we are all
absolutely sure, unpleasant as is the fact, that we must die, and it is
something to know a little about the means and time by which we shall
have to shuffle off this mortal coil; and, moreover, we can undoubtedly
save ourselves endless trouble, and stave off the last day of our lives,
if we learn early in the day what we have to avoid, and how best we can
manage our lives, many having lost them entirely because they literally
had not the courage to go to the doctor, or went to him so late that he
had sorrowfully to confess he could do nothing, albeit he could have
done much had the patient come to him when she or he first began to
suspect there was anything amiss. I could, I am sorry to say, quote
examples from my own dear and intimate friends of the evil done by this
cowardly dislike to face the worst, and I therefore feel very strongly
on the subject, and implore any of my readers who may suspect a lurking
disease to face it. It may be nothing but fancy; even so, the fancy
should be exorcised. It may be fatal; then the doctor will lay down
rules at once for guidance, and even if death is imminent it is just as
well to know this. There are things to do quietly, and one’s house to
set in order, albeit there is no need to make the lives of all one’s
relations burdens to them; neither need we make ourselves miserable
beforehand by everlasting contemplation of the inevitable parting. Be
quite sure, whether it comes at 100, at 20, at 40, we none of us realise
or relish the idea, but when a thing must be it is best to accept it
gracefully; people will remember us much more kindly if we go
cheerfully, and do not make them all wretched by kicking against the
pricks.

And, above all, remember if you have a disease to keep the fact to
yourself and to your doctor; no one else wants to hear about it, and it
is interesting to no one else. If you become an invalid you can be both
cheerful and useful, although I know how hateful--how truly hateful--it
is to put up the once active feet, and cross the once busy hands, and
simply listen to what we once used to do. I know too that a good
listener is highly appreciated, and that many a happy home finds the
heart of the house round the invalid sofa, where can always be found
someone who is always at home, always disengaged, always willing to help
and anxious to hear, and who has a most profound interest in all that is
going on, despite the fact that she is out of the action, and can only
take a passive part in the life that seemed once as if it could never go
on without her.

Moreover, an invalid should never become absorbed in herself, in her
treatment, her medicine, and the progress of her malady; having found
her doctor to be trustworthy, she should do as he tells her, and after
his visit she should utterly decline to speak of herself; she should
read, if possible work (how I do wish I could sew, or knit, or do
anything on earth save read and write!), and, above all she should be
absolutely nice and particular about her clothes, which should never
degenerate (unless it is absolutely necessary) into the dressing-gown
stage. Loose garments are untidy, and anything untidy or
‘dressing-gowny’ assists the invalid idea, which should be kept in the
background as much as possible.

Then there is another thing I should like to mention, and that is that
invalids should always have their affairs settled, and their wishes as
regards the future of their children or their property entirely and
properly understood--that is to say, understood and settled as far as
anything can be settled that is so unknown as the future--and while a
man is an absolute criminal who neglects to make his will, a woman is
equally foolish who, having strong feelings on subjects which will
concern her children, or may be the place of her burial, does not write
such a letter on the subject to her husband, to be opened after her
death, as shall lay all her wishes before him, but only as wishes: the
dead hand should never fetter anyone; at best it should only indicate
the course which the owner would have followed.

In but one case should a man or a woman who has property put an emphatic
embargo on the future proceedings of the husband or wife, and then only
if there are children, and that is in the case of the husband or wife
remarrying. Under these circumstances the property should go absolutely
into the hands of trustees, to be administered entirely for the use of
the children, who are often enough defrauded of their father’s or
mother’s money, which goes to keep some lazy man or extravagant woman
who in their time may produce children to share that which was only
meant for the owner’s own offspring.

This rule should never be departed from under any circumstances: it
should be absolutely out of anyone’s power to defraud children of what
was intended for them alone by the one parent who had money. This does
not prevent a man or a woman marrying again; they had the same chances,
if they wanted them, as they had before; but it does prevent the
children being robbed, as I have known them robbed, in more than one
case, by their silly mothers, who, yearning for the love and protection
they have lost, cast themselves into the arms of number two, doubly
flattered at being wooed when their first bloom has vanished, and find
themselves saddled with men who neglect the business they were supposed
to keep together, or squander the money saved so hardly and set aside so
carefully for those who cannot help themselves or stay the marriage
that will inevitably spoil their home life if it do not wreck their
futures.

Let the wife have all control until she marries again; then someone else
should step in, as undoubtedly if a woman does not care to remember her
husband she will not care to assure herself and protect his children
from an extravagant, improvident man; and of course a man should be
treated in the same way; all control as long as he remembers his wife,
none when he ceases to do so and would maintain a successor out of the
money she meant for her children’s welfare.

Now all this can be managed, and, indeed, should be managed, on the
wife’s part by a letter written to her husband, and on a man’s by a calm
conversation with his wife, who of course will vow that nothing on this
earth would induce her to marry again; but, unfortunately for her
argument, example can be brought against her of people who have said
just the same, who have wept in the marketplace and wrung their hands in
high places, ‘so to speak,’ and yet have married generally ‘for the sake
of the dear children’ before they had worn out their mourning, and
therefore her protestations can be gently set on one side with the quiet
statement that in that case the money will be in her own power. This can
show no lack of confidence in the wife; it simply shows a lack of
confidence in any possible future husband, and a consummate knowledge of
human nature, which forgets disagreeables speedily, alas! and accepts
hurriedly any chance that may present itself of obliterating a mournful
memory and changing one’s trappings of woe for newer and far more
beaming garments.

I never could understand the sensitiveness that prevents some wives and
husbands from ever speaking of the future that must come when they will
be separated. There need be no continual discussion of the mournful
subject, but it should be discussed thoroughly when the will is made; it
need never be spoken of again until circumstances arise that may cause
some alterations to be made, or codicils added; anything that may be too
painful to discuss can be written in the final letter of farewell. Then,
if one has no accumulations of other folks’ letters, if one’s drawers
are tidy, one’s bills paid, and one’s conscience clear, there will be
nothing to make anyone extra-miserable after we have departed; we shall
have done our work, left everything in order, and shall leave nothing
but a pleasant memory behind us.

Death as a rule is either made unduly awful, or is a time of the most
extravagant expenditure. The immense quantities of florists’ wreaths
sent nowadays have brought into disrepute one of the most charming ideas
possible, and the money once devoted to black plumes and undertaker’s
millinery of all kinds, to extravagant mourning and absurd woe, is now
squandered equally extravagantly and absurdly on wreaths, which cost
from 15_s._ to 30_s._ each, and which are simply thrown into the earth
to perish there untimely. Not for one moment would I deprecate the use
of flowers entirely, but let them be arranged by people who loved me,
and really bound them together because they knew I loved them. I would
rather spend money, or have money spent, on some useful memorial than on
a perishable wreath; and were I to die to-morrow I should say, Give me
as simple, as cheap a funeral as you can, and give the money to my pet
charity. It could be done in my name, and would be a practical
remembrance of me, and a far more useful one than hundreds of wreaths.
Why, I once saw a funeral in mid-winter where there were over 300
wreaths. This would have almost built a ward in the Hospital for Sick
Children; it would certainly have helped the good Sisters at Kilburn,
and have done great good to the children there, who had always been
loved by her whose funeral it was. And in the same way would I deprecate
a ‘handsome’ coffin and elaborate headstone; neither can do any good to
the dead, and the memory of those we have loved can be perpetuated a
thousand times longer should we content ourselves with the simplest oak
coffin we can get and the plain cross, which will last as long as anyone
could wish it to, while the money saved can be given elsewhere. Everyone
has some pet scheme that could be benefited by his or her death; no one
but the undertaker and florist is benefited now.

Another reason why we should not encourage the sending of an immense
quantity of flowers from our friends is, that there is something almost
ghastly about the false air of festivity given by the constant receipt
and opening of the parcels and boxes in which they are sent; in the
list of names which, must be written out, in order that all who sent
may be thanked or their names mentioned in the local paper; and in the
smothered remarks of the servants and children as they look at the
beauties, and compare the present one with the last one laid on the
coffin in the room which is so familiar and yet has become so fearfully
and wonderfully strange.

But if flowers need not be sent (and I wish I could think all would send
the money instead to some special fund), letters should always be
written. They may not be read at first--nay may never be really read at
all--but the name of the writer will always be remembered warmly, and as
that of one who knew that sympathy is the most precious gift we can any
of us receive when we are in the depths, and that dark curtain descends
which seems as if it would lie for ever between us and the outside
world. Ah me! no matter who has died, it will rise again, and life will
flow on just the same as if we had never lost those who were so near and
so dear to us.

Undoubtedly, too, though we should none of us ever call at the house to
inquire after a scarlet fever, small-pox, or diphtheria case, we should
let our friends know through the post that we are thinking of them. If
their child is ill we can make up tiny parcels to send. A few flowers; a
paper doll; a few old books, which can be burned as soon as read;
‘scraps’ to paste into books; odds and ends which cost nothing and can
be destroyed without a pang, often making a small child’s day of tedious
weariness and slow convalescence, an entirely different thing to what it
might have otherwise been; and the idea of what to-morrow’s post may
bring has, to my knowledge, more than once soothed a tired little girl
to rest; for she would go to sleep easier when she remembered that the
sooner the night was over the sooner the familiar ring would be heard,
and the lovely parcel would arrive, which might contain nothing more
costly than glass beads for stringing, or some roses and a cheap little
vase to put them in, but which was a never-ending source of wonder and
delight, until the child was well and able to take her place again among
her brothers and sisters.

In the sick room, which may be the death chamber, sympathy, always
precious, becomes an absolute necessity, and a tedious day of pain is
often borne more courageously than it otherwise would have been, and
passes quicker than it otherwise might have done, if we know that people
are thinking of us and wondering if there is anything they can do to
lighten our time of trouble and to help us bear the inevitable misery of
it all. A sick person, or an invalid, should never be forgotten. I
verily believe half our dread of death comes from the fact that we know
that soon we shall be as if we had never been, and that our place shall
be taken by another and shall know us no more.

When we are quite sure that there is an infectious disease in our house,
we ought to be compelled by Act of Parliament to register the fact at
some convenient place, where a list of houses similarly infected should
undoubtedly be exposed in a prominent place. None should be exempt from
this law, and the doctor should be the person responsible for the
registration, a severe penalty, moreover, being inflicted in any case of
wilful misrepresentation or of the withholding of proper information of
the outbreak.

That the penalty is necessary is proved by the fact that I once knew a
country doctor speak of a bad attack of scarlet fever as a mild case of
rose rash, because he was abjectly afraid of losing the patronage of the
dame whose child it was, and who objected to the isolation which would
have been her portion had the truth been known. Still the disease
spread, owing to her selfishness and the doctor’s supineness, and the
truth came out, but not before she had done endless mischief and caused
the death of a child of one of her relations, who was sent into the
house with his nurse to inquire after the ‘rose rash,’ and who would
never have been allowed to pass even the same side of the street had his
mother known the truth; and both the doctor and the patient’s mother
were in consequence ostracised and isolated from their fellow-creatures
far more completely and for a much longer period than they would have
been had they boldly and at once told the truth.

Nowadays, with the slight exception of the law that we must not wilfully
expose anyone suffering from an infectious disease in a public
conveyance, we may do pretty much as we like.[A] We can send other
members of the family to church or the theatre; we can send our washing
to the public laundry, we may let our friends come and see us without
mentioning what is the matter, and, in fact, there is no law except the
moral law (which governs so few of us) to prevent us handing on the
complaint to as many people as we can comfortably manage to infect. The
registration would prevent this, as it would prevent us from stopping in
a fever-bed or (as happened to me not a month ago) from sending a cat to
be doctored in a house where there was a fatal case of scarlet fever;
and how that cat didn’t bring it back to us is more than I can
understand, but it did not. Albeit, any mother can understand what I
felt until I knew all chance of infection was over from that source at
all events.

 [A] Since the above was written a law has been passed to make the
 notification of disease compulsory in London; so there is one step
 already made in advance.

It is the selfishness of other people that spreads so much disease, and
therefore the law should force people to be more considerate; then
disease will be stamped out undoubtedly, and we can exist without the
many qualms and dreads which harass us now, and certainly go far to make
life anything but worth living.

Now, I think if I had an infectious complaint in the house my first idea
would be to keep people out of it. I should place a placard on the door,
and then leave folks to do as they chose in the matter. I should keep
the rest of the household to the grounds and garden, and I should---
much as I should hate it--stay as much at home as I possibly could. Of
course the usual means of disinfection would be largely used; still no
one should run the risk of giving the complaint to any other soul.

The doctor would be the person to say what is infectious and what is
not, but, despite the ‘Lancet,’ I am quite certain measles and mumps
cannot be carried and cannot be given to another, unless by the person
who actually has the complaint on him. About scarlet fever, small-pox,
and diphtheria there can be no doubt, but typhoid cannot be carried from
one to the other, although typhus most undoubtedly may be. But in any
case the doctor is the person to apply to, and if we have his consent we
can go about the world as usual; only we should always tell our friends
what is the matter, and if they object to us we must not be offended
with them. They are quite right to object, and we should not resent
their care for their own. We should not feel happy if we handed on the
complaint, and what should we experience if it had a fatal termination?
I, for one, cannot imagine.

There is absolutely no place on earth which requires so much good
breeding to inhabit or arrange for properly as does the sick room;
therefore I trust I may be forgiven if I write rather fully on the
matter, more especially as this book is coming now to an end, and I
shall never write any more on the ever-fascinating subject of the home,
and I want to say a word to the patient.

Remember, however bad it is for you to be ill, it is fifty times worse
for those who have to see you suffer, and that you must even at your
worst think about that and remember other people. Do not make their
anxiety greater by refusing food or medicine, or by disobeying your
doctor or nurse; for the time give yourself entirely into their hands,
and do not refuse or kick against their remedies, their rules and
regulations. Be absolutely calm, absolutely quiet, and, above all, if
you want to get well do not lose your hold on life if you can, and don’t
fret or become terrified. Fear and fretting are a doctor’s worst
foes--almost worse than disobedience. If you can recollect that whatever
is is best, and that you will recover if it is better that you should,
you will have a thousand chances that the irritable invalid can never
have, and, at all events, if you do die you will die courageously and
resignedly, and not screaming and kicking like a naughty child does
whose nurse fetches it away to bed before it thinks it is ready to
retire to rest. Its nurse knows best; and so does God, and if you are
fetched ten chances to one your work is done, and you can retire from
the scene gracefully even if you cannot feel you are quite glad to go.

I am certain that the mind has a great deal to do with one’s body from a
small experience of my own when once I was saved from being very ill by
a mere exercise of will, rendered necessary by a sudden shock received
when one of my children was only two days old. My dear old nurse was in
my room at 12, and at 7 she was dead in the room next to mine, and I
knew all about it. There were the two eldest children--who were five and
three--running about calling for ‘Nan,’ from whom they had never been
separated five minutes since the hour they were born. I had a new
housemaid. I had seen in the looking-glass the monthly nurse drinking
brandy out of the bottle, and told Nan of this, and I was absolutely
alone as far as friends were concerned. Could any situation be worse?
And yet before I slept I had arranged for the children to go to London,
for the funeral to take place soon, and for the friends to be told. And
then began the struggle. My doctor was confined to the house with
bronchitis; circumstances made his partner impossible; the nearest
medical man on whom one could depend was fourteen miles away, and I knew
I must not be ill; and all that wretched night I kept saying this to
myself, repeating who I was, where I was, and what had happened, until I
felt I was master of the situation. Surely had I given in then I should
have had a fever; as it was, I occasionally felt my head was loose and
swimming round the room by itself, and it was only by repeating to
myself that this was impossible that I kept off the delusion, and after
a day or two I was nearly well, or at all events was not ill in the
accepted sense of the word, though my dear old doctor nearly wept when I
told him what I had endured, and never could understand to his dying day
why I had not had a serious illness, which I undoubtedly must have had
had I not staved it off in the manner I have just described. Therefore,
I am convinced those patients have the best chance of recovering who are
quiet, obedient, and who, furthermore, try their best to live, and
believe that there is something worth living for.

And now a few words on that saddest of all subjects, a death, and I must
devote my last chapter to more cheerful subjects--namely, how best to
get strong and well again once we have emerged from the sick room, and
are pronounced fit and able to go for a change.

When death has actually occurred I would strongly advocate that those
who have loved and nursed the dead may prepare the body for the last
resting-place. It can be gently washed and attired in the clean
night-dress, and the hands can be crossed on the breast. Someone who can
be trusted--not a mere hireling--should be present when the last
measurements are taken; then the room should be at once turned into a
mortuary chamber, the bed hung with white, candles lighted head and
foot, which should not go out until the funeral day, and fresh flowers
should be kept there; these should be changed every single day; and,
furthermore, the windows should be left a little open, and on no account
should the dead person be left unwatched for a moment until the coffin
is screwed down; this should never be done until there is no doubt that
death has ensued, and then the sooner the funeral is the better; though
I trust some day cremation may be universal, then there can be no dread
of the awful fate of one who is buried alive. That ought to be made
impossible in all cases by the doctor performing some simple surgical
operation--I think it is the dividing of some artery in the arm.

If the dead person has been attached to any particular church in his or
her life-time the coffin should be placed in that church the night
before the funeral, so that the last night above ground the body may
rest in that hallowed spot. Of course it should be watched there, and
the candles and flowers should be arranged as in the mortuary chamber,
and the first part of the service should be read there; not by a
stranger, but by the family priest of whom I have spoken before; and
then when the ceremony is over no one but the clergyman should return to
the house with the mourners, who should separate and go to their own
rooms. There should be no general family meal that day at least;
certainly there should be no gathering even of relations and friends
round the dinner-table. I have experienced more than one of these awful
meals, and I can truthfully say that there is nothing more terrible on
earth; people must talk, they cannot remain silent, they must eat and
drink, and the _pseudo_-festivity and the endeavour to keep off and
avoid _the_ subject are so truly ghastly, that under no circumstances
can I understand such a thing can be in any way necessary in the least.
Surely as unnecessary is also the reading of the will. What concerns the
public can be told the public, the lawyers should manage the rest. Under
no circumstances should the display of evil passions and disappointments
be allowed that almost inevitably follows this institution.

Let the burial-day be a day of meditation and quiet. In the evening the
bereaved family can gather alone and talk over what has to be done. Then
the next day let all the clothes be sent to the Kilburn Orphanage; and
the personal property distributed according to the wish of the dead.
Let the death room be entirely repapered and painted, and, if possible,
refurnished; and, above all, do not be afraid to speak of those who have
gone. I know how I should resent being forgotten; and perhaps those with
whom we have just parted may hunger to hear all about us still; at all
events, we cannot know they do not. _De mortuis_ may mean a great deal
more than we think; it is doubly evil, surely, to speak aught but good
of the dead if we remember not only the defencelessness which caused
that proverb, but the idea that all we may say about them we say in
their dumb presence, and before those who are silent, and cannot speak
in their own defence.

Death is a dreadful thing because of its silence, its separation. Yet if
we meet it patiently--if we believe our dead are still within reach--we
can bear it, more especially if we do our best to carry out their
wishes, and do not, the moment they are gone, begin to reverse all their
ideas and plans, and to forget them as speedily as may be; while, when
our own time comes, we can face it bravely, feeling we are setting a
good example, and leaving behind us nothing to pain or embarrass anyone,
nothing but a bright remembrance, a good record, that may sooner or
later be of use to others after us.

The sick room has more than once been the heart of the house; the death
chamber in its turn can become, if properly thought of, the very gate of
heaven itself.



CHAPTER XII.

WHERE SHALL WE GO FOR A CHANGE?


I think there is nothing that tries an ordinary householder more than
answering the question with which I have headed this, my last chapter.

In the first place, as a rule, few men consider that a change can
possibly be required. It seems only the other day that they returned
from the last uncomfortable sojourn at some unhappy seaside town, and
they are quite convinced that a second martyrdom cannot be necessary
just at present. In the second, when change is really wanted, no one
knows where to go; and in the third, if the place be selected, and the
rooms taken, the unfortunate creature is sure to meet someone who knows
all about it, and proceeds to make his friend profoundly miserable by
telling him that that especial town is only decent at the very time of
year when he cannot possibly go there; that he knows for certain an
epidemic is raging there; and that the rooms taken for ‘six weeks
certain’ are in the very worst part both for health and comfort, and
that he can but wish him well home again. And the unfortunate traveller
starts depressed and nervous; and having made up his mind to be
miserable, is so, and derives no benefit whatever from that which was to
do him and his soul an immense amount of good.

Now I cannot help thinking that English people, as a rule, do not show
the smallest common sense in the manner they manage their holidays, more
especially, of course, among the middle classes; the upper portion of
which often enough have a tiny cottage somewhere, of which they speak
grandly as ‘my country house,’ and the address of which is inscribed on
their cards, and mentioned in the ‘blue book.’ And they fly to this the
moment the weather becomes in the least warm, remaining there until they
are driven back by the falling leaves and chilling fogs of an October in
the country; and then wonder they are so little benefited. Why, they
have not had any change; no more, at least, than those a shade lower in
the social scale, who go to the same watering-place year after year,
spend their mornings on the beach, their afternoons in slumber, or a
‘country walk,’ and their evenings on the pier or parade, and who see
the same people, say the same things, and do the same actions
mechanically as they do in town, only perhaps in a smaller space, and
under far more uncomfortable circumstances.

The very stupidest thing on earth, to my mind, is the annual sojourn of
a large family of small children, accompanied by their parents, to the
orthodox seaside rooms or lodgings. In the first place, the parents,
children, and nurses are very much too much together; the annoyances of
the predatory habits of the landladies spoil Materfamilias’ temper; the
servants are disorganised, and imagine that because the family makes
holiday they are to be in some measure allowed to do just as they like,
and much resent being unable to make excursions and ramble at large,
whether it is convenient or not for their mistress to spare them. And,
indeed, I do not know a more hard-worked, driven creature than the
ordinary Materfamilias at the seaside, more especially if she has left
her own large airy house, with its nurseries and schoolrooms, and taken
lodgings at a fashionable spot, where every inch of space costs pounds,
and where she can never rid herself of her family for one moment.

It is in her defence that I suggest that change of air should be
obtained in a far easier and more satisfactory manner than it can be
under the circumstances of which I have been speaking. As long as the
children are quite small, I most strongly advise any mother to send them
to the seaside in the end of May, and let them remain there until the
first or second week in July. She should send them to some
plainly-furnished cottage under the care of a lady who would be thankful
to superintend them for the mere fare, change, keep, &c., that would be
such a boon to her; and she should send their nurses with them. In this
early portion of the year lodgings are cheap and clean, and so are
provisions; the days are longer, the heat not so great as later on; and
the children would come back when London was thinning and the parks and
streets safe for them to be in; and at the end of July, having settled
the children in, the father and mother could go for the complete change
and rest they both need so greatly, and which it is impossible for them
to have, encumbered by their household duties and cares, which must be
taken with them if they move their servants and children _en masse_ to
some seaside place for August and September.

Very young children, if proper nurses and superintendents are found for
them, do not require the companionship we shall not be able to give them
later on if we wear ourselves out in their service when they are very
small. By this I do not naturally mean that children should be neglected
or left entirely to the mercy of hirelings. Far be it from me to suggest
anything so dreadful; but I do maintain that for six weeks of the year
they would be quite as well at the seaside without their parents as
they would be with them, more especially if the cottage they are sent to
is well known and the people who keep it are acquaintances, while of
course both the lady superintendent and the nurses should not be new,
but should be thoroughly tested by some amount of service before they
are trusted.

It is better, should we determine to send the children away as I have
suggested, to pay so much per head for all the board and lodging
expenses combined. No servant, and indeed very few governesses, can be
trusted to ‘housekeep.’ I cannot tell why, but the moment they are
allowed to order the food and make purchases for the household, they all
become most wildly extravagant, and have no more notion of managing than
they have of flying. They may, of course, have the truly British notion
that holiday-making and over-eating must go hand-in-hand, and proceed to
demonstrate this by the exorbitant demands made upon one’s purse.
Anyhow, whatever the reason, it is an axiom that housekeeping cannot be
trusted to either, and that we should make arrangements for board as
well as lodging unless we wish to be fairly appalled by the weekly
bills. As an illustration, I may mention that the only time I sent my
children to the sea with the governess, allowing her to cater for them
all, the bills she sent me home for herself, the German maid and three
children, were exactly treble what I paid for ourselves and the same
number of children and six servants, and that she did not consider it
improper to give 6_s._ for a chicken and 8_s._ for a pound of grapes.
From this my readers will perceive that I am warning them out of my own
experience. And this governess, moreover, was an elderly woman who had
lived with us a great many years, and really had in some measure our
interest at heart. Therefore I am convinced neither governess nor
servants can make good managers; they are always provided for as far as
food is concerned; they never have to provide, and therefore know
nothing about it.

I think, once we have discovered a spot that really suits the children,
it is best to keep to that, as children simply require good sands and
good air, and do not trouble themselves about scenery. Deal is
absolutely delightful as regards air, but the beach is unsafe and
pebbly, and has no sand; Margate is quite perfect; so is Westgate;
while Swanage in spring leaves nothing to be desired except for
children who require bracing air; then Swanage is not for one moment to
be compared to either of the places I have named, which are also near
enough to town for the parents to run down and see the children should
they wish to do so, and, indeed, as they ought to do, to learn how they
are getting on.

Personally I know nothing of the east coast, but I believe there are
plenty of little places about there where the children would be happy,
well, and safe; and I should recommend anyone before finally choosing
the summer home of the children to make an exhaustive survey of the
English coast, and, having found one place which will suit, then to
stick to that until the children are twelve years old. Then one would
have to begin to alter one’s plans a little, more especially if the boys
go to school and are only at home in the holidays; then the children and
parents must go out together, else they will never meet, and will grow
up like strangers to each other.

During the minority, so to speak, of the children, the parents would be
wise to spend their holidays in learning which would be the nicest
places to take the children to when they are beginning to grow up; they
should make and keep notes of excursions, advantages, prices, and
houses, and should be able to refer to them in a moment, when they have
to decide on the place where they are to spend their holiday in; they
must not trust to their memory, the best of memories will not retain the
names of the house agents, the position of the different streets, and
the aspect of the different houses, while the notes would be always
there to refer to, and would be of immense service to them in more ways
than one.

Now, having made up their minds to the change, it is absolutely
necessary that a house, not rooms, should be taken, if anyone is to
enjoy the holiday at all.

There can be no freedom and very little enjoyment, and there is great
risk of infection at the seaside unless the house is shared by someone
we may happen to know, if we take only a part of a house. We may have a
fidgety mortal who sends up twenty times a day to ask our children to be
quiet, or we may have a screaming, badly managed baby near us, a piano
which plays just when we don’t want it to play, or we may meet on the
stairs a convalescent from some childish complaint, who may hand it on
to our children, and bring our holiday to an abrupt conclusion with
measles or whooping-cough. Then there are always the landlady, the
larder difficulties, and the horrors of being waited on by strange
servants, generally most inferior ones, and always those who cannot and
do not understand our ways. Therefore I maintain that a house is a _sine
quâ non_, and that if we cannot afford to take one and go away
comfortably we had better remain at home; if we leave we may get fresher
air, we shall have the necessary change, but the change will be for the
worse, and the good the fresher air may do will be more than outbalanced
by the continual rasping worry of arranging, and very likely battling
with the servants, who resent the landlady’s interference, and won’t do
any more work than they can help, under the mistaken idea that the
house-servants are to wait on them, and in the endless worries caused by
the disappearance of one’s food, and the disagreeable feeling that
everything one touches has probably been well ‘pawed over’ by the
lodging-house maid, if not by the mistress herself.

If, therefore, as I remarked before, we cannot afford to go away
comfortably we had better remain at home, going away in detachments if
the doctor thinks that the weaker members must have sea air; in that
case visits can always be managed, for everyone almost has relations or
friends in the country, or knows of some nice family who will take in a
stray child or two and ‘do for them’ with their own; while if the boys
are away at school, they are quite satisfied to return to their own
haunts, while no end of excursions can be made from London and in and
round London, which is, it must be confessed, just a little hot in
August, and smells just a little of over-ripe fruit and dead cabbage
leaves, but is positively delightful in September with its soft skies
and its wonderful effects of cloud and sunshine, and which has always
something amusing to show those who really appreciate the most
delightful and picturesque city in the whole world. I love my London,
even in August, when the parks are empty of fashionable people, but full
of the most beautiful flowers and palms, which only those who remain in
town in that unfashionable month ever see at their prime; and despite
the heat and the odours in the streets, I would rather be in London
than in a cramped lodging at the sea, where I was inundated with
children, worried by bad service, and had none of my own belongings
about me; and, in fact, had not time to read or sit alone to enjoy
myself in the peace and quiet that are absolutely necessary to make a
holiday even endurable.

I hope my readers will not think I am writing of what I do not know when
I say that London in August and September is quite as beautiful and
entrancing as it is in the heart of the season. I have been for the last
seven years constantly in the beloved city in those unfashionable
months, and I unreservedly advise anyone in want of a real change to go
up to town then. They will learn and see more then than at any other
time; they will not be hurried; they will be able to see everything
quietly, and will really see what they never can when the roads are
crammed with carriages and the streets with people--_i.e._ how beautiful
London is, and how many things she possesses we never dream of when we
are simply rushing from occupation to amusement, and are only thinking
of our work or pleasure. However, as I cannot expect all to believe me,
or to share my enthusiasm for the streets and chimney-pots that I adore,
I will simply now advise my readers how to proceed once they have made
up their minds to go away. If possible they should let their own house;
if not, they should endeavour always to keep to the same caretaker who
should, if possible, be married to a policeman and have a dog, but no
children; the furniture should be covered over, and ‘put to bed’ by the
upholsterer, who understands how to prepare for possible moth and damp,
and who will not make an exorbitant charge for what will, as a rule,
prevent most of the things from being spoiled. Fires should be ordered,
no matter what the weather may be, in rotation all through the house,
for one that is uninhabited, and in which very little gas, if any, will
be burned, always becomes damp in our climate; while it would be wise to
have the gas cut off at the meter entirely. We should save a great deal
of waste; and as caretakers are used to lamps in their own abodes, we
should run no risk of fire, not as much as we do when we leave the gas
for the use of those who often enough have never had any control over
it on their own account, and so have not learned how to save it or even
use it.

No valuables should be left in the house; all should be sent to the
bank; and we should naturally take our plate with us for use. But,
having taken our house by the sea, we should in some measure know what
it wants, and we should invariably have ornaments, photographs, &c., to
take with us to brighten up the house and to make it home-like; while
the children must take their story-books, work, and playthings. We must,
in fact, prepare in every way we can for a rainy day; rain must fall,
and if the children have their books and toys, and their own rooms, they
will be as happy, and be no more of a nuisance by the sea than they are
at home; at least, if they are, it will be the fault of the parents and
not of the unfortunate children themselves.

I have always had three very large wicker baskets set apart for using at
similar crises of our existence. One holds the household linen, another
the nursery and schoolroom toys and books, and the third is set apart
for loose cretonne covers, serge table-cloths, and any amount of
photographs and ornaments to render the temporary house home-like; for
even if I find my new domicile replete with ornaments, I always put them
all away at once. Ornaments are always priceless when the reckoning
comes to be taken; they can’t possibly be harmed if they retired into a
cupboard the moment we arrived, and only emerged from their seclusion
the day we leave.

If the china and glass in a house are really expensive and good, I also
put them all away, and I purchase for our own use the very cheapest ware
I can find. China and glass are so very cheap nowadays, that it is far
better to do this than be made to pay fabulous sums for the owner’s
china, which seems to one so hideous, and is only costly because in
these artistic days of ours it is impossible to match it.

The contents of my basket soon make even a hideous room much better;
while one feels that one need not always be on the look-out, as one must
be to protect another person’s property if one does not take these
precautions; but, as a rule, furnished houses are so absolutely
unfurnished and ugly, I am thankful to cover up what I find, and so in
some measure mitigate the horrors of my surroundings, by putting about
as many of my own belongings as I can take with me. We also, when we go
away, always put at the top of each separate person’s box that
individual’s own sheets, pillow-cases, and eider-down quilt; and I never
go away without some spare pillows, and any amount of cushions. This
sounds luxurious; but why should we be uncomfortable because we are not
at home? On the contrary, because we are not we ought to take more care
than ever that all shall be as nice as we can make it; while, the sheets
and pillow-cases being ready, the servants have no trouble in settling
in the first evening. They open the boxes and make the beds at once,
with sheets we know are aired; and therefore, even in the confusion that
is generally apparent at these times, we have no risk of spending our
first night between damp sheets.

Another thing we should provide ourselves with is a hamper of groceries,
and, if we are to arrive late, with sufficient cooked food to supply the
establishment for the night and next morning. Each servant should be
told off to certain duties, and no hurry or confusion should be allowed.
All, except one box in which to put the last things, should be locked
and strapped the night before, and the luggage should be at the station
in good time; the tickets should all be procured; or at least ordered,
the day before; and if these simple precautions are taken the journey
need be hardly any trouble at all. It must be some, but nothing to speak
of, when the servants know their work, are ready in advance, and are not
allowed to forget anything, not even the harmless necessary cat.

Now a few words about the animals: and let me beg anyone who has cats
and dogs to take these poor things with them. We always do; the dogs go
with the horses, the cats with the servants, and they never attempt to
stray. They are absolutely and abjectly miserable if we leave them at
home, even with a caretaker; while they cost nothing to take, and are
happy with us, just as, in fact, they are at home. I have nothing to say
about or to those people who are wicked enough to ‘stray’ their cats, or
leave them shut out in the garden, to forage for themselves. They must
be such cruel wretches, that I hope they may not even read this book;
but many people, possessed of the kindest hearts have no compunction in
leaving their cats to caretakers, little understanding how these poor
things pine for the human companionship to which they are accustomed,
and after which they long pitifully. Now a cat costs nothing, a dog very
little, to take; so I do hope all who can will consider if their holiday
cannot be shared by their dumb friends. I am sure they will never regret
it if they make up their minds to take them with them.

When once settled in the temporary house, all should be found out that
there is to be found out about the points of interest in the
neighbourhood, and all these should be visited; as a rule, a local
guide-book is very little real use; but one should always be obtained
and studied in connection with the county history. One’s holiday is a
thousand times more profitable and pleasant if we see all there is to be
seen, and do not waste our time listening to an inferior band, or
hanging about on the pier, wearing smart clothes, which are entirely out
of place by the sea.

Indeed, blue serge should be the only wear, as far as young people are
concerned, with flannels for boys. I remember how wretched we used to be
over our light print and muslin frocks; in consequence of which I have
always taken care our children should never have anything that they had
to think about on the shore. Half our pleasure used to be spoiled by the
idea that we should have to pay for it by being scolded by our governess
for the sandy, wet garments, inseparable from any real play by the
fascinating sea. Now, with the high india-rubber boots we buy at
Scarborough, and serge skirts, and under-drawers of serge, no girl can
possibly harm, paddle how she may; while the same high boots and serge
or flannel suits make the boys quite happy. The boots protect the feet
from possible cuts, and do away with any hygienic difficulties; many
people refusing to allow their children to paddle because feet should
not be wet if the heads cannot be wet too; the feet do not get wet in
these high boots, and therefore, provided with them, the last objection
to paddling is quite done away with; and without paddling, what is the
seashore? Very little to the children, who cannot have too much of this
most delightful amusement. The sea is the best holiday companion one can
have. I therefore most strongly advise all who are bent on a holiday
for the children to take them to the sea and not to the inland country;
where, if it be wet, mud keeps them prisoners, whereas by the sea rain
dries up at once, and there is always something to look at; for, of
course, the ideal holiday house faces the sea, and has a good view of
whatever is going on.

And now, having said all I can about the children’s holiday, let me add
just a few words about sharing the holiday, if in any way possible, with
some child or someone who cannot afford to go away at all, unless a
friendly invitation manages this for them.

I have written very little about charities in this book, but I could
have set down much on the subject, and I may say that the truest of all
charities is that which quietly and unostentatiously helps that most
unfortunate, most deserving of all classes--the poor lady or gentleman,
who is too well-born to be assisted with money, but who requires help a
thousand times more than the very, very poor to whom one can give a few
shillings. No one ever thinks of the over-worked, underpaid curate or
the orphan child. We could, when we take our house for the holidays,
surely reserve a corner for them. They are pleasant visitors, and we
shall have the delightful feeling that while our children have been
gaining strength we have helped others to do the same. Most people
contrive to have visitors while they are away; let them be those who
would not have gone away at all had we not asked them to come to us
while we are at the sea. They can generally manage the railway fare,
while of course we can judiciously contrive that they are not forced
into any expense for excursions if we take them; we can easily manage
this if we have the smallest tact, while of course we must not affront
them by boldly offering to pay their fare, but if we are accustomed to
go first-class, and yet know third-class would suit our friend’s pocket
better, we can all go third boldly; it will not hurt us one bit, and it
will save them from the unpleasantness of spending more than they can
afford, or of being paid for by us, which would be terrible for them.

There is still another holiday of which I wish to speak, and then I
shall lay down my pen and close my book, and that is the yearly
honeymoon-holiday all husbands and wives should try and manage to take
together.

Nothing so keeps up the bond of affection between them as this,
particularly when both are busy people and see nothing at all of each
other during the day, and are often too tired in the evening to speak at
all except on the most necessary subjects; and even if they are not
tired there are always the boys and girls about, once they have begun to
grow up, and there is no time they can call their own--none in which
they can talk as they used to do--none in which they can discuss the
children’s future or talk about their own plans and hopes and wishes. Of
course I am told many husbands and wives are only too thankful to be
spared the chance of a _tête-à-tête_ that must be nothing save a bore. I
maintain that this is not in the least degree true; that those who have
been married many years have far more in common, far more to say to each
other, than the young folks just starting on life’s journey can possibly
have to say, and that the yearly holiday taken together does more to
make the domestic car move along gracefully and lightly than anything
else I know. The wife is relieved from the unceasing ordering of the
dinner and planning of everything, while the husband once more finds
himself responsible for all the little details, and delights once again
to have his wife to himself and to look after and wait upon as in the
days of old; while the children are safe at their lessons or looking
after the house in their absence; and once more there is a real holiday
feeling in the air, and they can fancy themselves young and starting on
life’s journey hand-in-hand over again. There is nothing so amusing to
me as the discovery that grown-up daughters and sons have no idea that
their father and mother can really want to be alone together, or that
they can possibly prefer each other’s society to that of their friends
or their own children. But, my dear young people, it is the case; and
though of course your parents are always delighted to have you with
them, they do occasionally wish to be alone together. The yearly holiday
allows for that, as does an occasional holiday together during the year;
and these holidays should never be forgotten or omitted. They should be
kept up vigorously, and no blandishments from our children should be
allowed to break in upon the _solitude à deux_--the honeymoon-holiday
should be taken together or not at all.

And now, reluctantly and regretfully, I must say farewell to those with
whom I have conversed so long in these pages. I feel this book has not
the light-hearted gaiety with which Angelina and Edwin plan out their
newly-married life, and with which they start out to furnish their
little home, in ‘From Kitchen to Garret;’ but if I am more serious here
it is because life grows more serious as one grows older, as one
realises how much there is to do and how difficult it is to steer the
bark freighted with one’s growing-up children, and with more money to be
spent judiciously, a larger house to be managed, so that we may do as
much good as we possibly can, so that it may give as much happiness to
as many as can be managed, and in some measure so exist as to leave the
world immediately within its influence just a little bit better than we
found it.

We must realise, wherever we are, that we influence someone, perhaps
very many people, either for good or for evil. It is no use to bury our
heads in the sand, and pretend that no one need be influenced by us
unless they like, and that it is not our fault if they are. It is our
fault, and we cannot get rid of our responsibility in this way; while if
we boldly accept our fate, and do our duty manfully, we shall have our
reward, more especially if we endeavour not to know the ‘best’ people
because we crave for social exaltation, and to mix with those who resent
our intrusion and laugh at our pretensions, but to associate with those
whose noble minds and good thoughts and bright intellects will help our
own, and assist us on our mental progress through the world; and to have
as friends, not those who can give us dinner for dinner, ball for ball,
but those to whom we can give pleasure they would never have did we
refuse to open our doors to them, and to those whose large hearts and
brilliant minds influence ours for good, and lead us insensibly along a
path of peace and safety.

The truest socialism should begin in the perfect home; the socialism
which shares or administers but does not disperse or destroy; the
socialism which opens the park gates to the poor, or the
picture-galleries to those who could never see anything were it not for
the action of the owner, that never receives a benefit without in some
measure sharing it with a poorer brother, and that finally has a noble
end in life; nay, the noblest of all, that of leaving the world a little
better for one’s having lived and loved and worked and suffered in it.

By these rules should the home be formed; in these paths should the
children be led, who should never be allowed for one moment to despise
those they may consider below them in the social scale; who should
always be taught to share their flowers, their shells, their holidays
and pleasures with others; and who should one and all be brought up to
do something in life, something to assist the toiling millions around
us, something to do good to someone besides themselves. Of course this
is hard and anxious work; work, could we have realised it was before us
when we so lightly accepted our fate, and laid together the foundations
of a new home, we might never have found courage to take up; but it is
the work set before every married man and woman in the world. They can
either accept it or reject it; but if they do leave it alone, the undone
work will bring its own punishment in the unhappy wicked children, and
the wrecked and miserable home that will take the place of that which
might have been the home which is the rule, not the exception, in
England, and that we can all have if we have powers of endless work in
us, and realise from others’ experience what is before us all. Then,
when the curtain falls, when the hands part which have held each other
so fondly, so faithfully, all through the journey, the worst parts of
which have been gilded by the unfailing love which is God’s best gift,
the one who goes can go boldly into the darkness, content to leave all
to that Higher Power who has helped them so gallantly all through the
struggle, while the one who stays knows that the link still binds them
together, and will draw them some day back to each other again. When
love can do this, when love can build, maintain, and keep our homes
together, as love does, and as only love can, who shall dare to sneer
and laugh at it, and looking at such homes dare ask sarcastically if
marriage be a failure?

Marriage never is, never can be, a failure, if the home is a true home,
not an abode of vanity, an entertaining house, for gaiety and waste; and
it is to help others just a little more from my own experience of the
happiest of all homes--my own--that I have written this other book
about the household and all that appertains to it, which I now leave to
my good friends and readers, content to feel that they will read me
kindly, knowing of old how kind they can be to one who has said as much
to them on this all-fascinating subject as I have.

                              PRINTED BY
                SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
                                LONDON.



ADDRESSES

     Messrs. SMEE & COBAY, Finsbury Pavement, E.C.

     Messrs. WALLACE & CO., 151 Curtain Road, E.C.

     Messrs. E. E. PITHER & CO., 38 Mortimer Street, E.C.

     Messrs. KAY & SONS, Burnley Mills, Burnley, Lancashire.

     Messrs. JACKSON & SONS, 199 High Street, Borough, S.E.

     Messrs. HAINES & CO., 83 Queen Victoria Street, E.C.

     Messrs. LAND & CO., 92 Cannon Street, E.C.

     Messrs. ESSEX & CO., Albert Mansions, Victoria Street, S.W.

     Messrs. OETZMANN & CO., Hampstead Road, N.W.

     MAISON HELBRONNER, 300 Oxford Street, W.

     Messrs. GRAHAM & BIDDLE, Graham House, Oxford Street, W.

     Messrs. COLBOURNE & CO., 82 Regent Street, W.

     Messrs. B. BURNET & CO., King Street, Covent Garden, W.C.

     Messrs. BURR & ELLIOTT, Oxford Street, W.

     G. FAULKNER ARMITAGE, Esq., Stamford House, Altrincham, Cheshire.

     THE EDINBURGH LIFE ASSURANCE COMPANY, 11 King William Street, E.C.

     Messrs. GILES & CO., 19 Old Cavendish Street, W.

     Messrs. HOSKYNS & CO., Ben Trovato Red Works, Darlington, Durham.

     Mrs. M’CLELLAND, 33 Warwick Road, Maida Hill, W.

     Mr. THOMAS, Decorator, Bowdon, Cheshire.


Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

hundreds of unformed units=> hundreds of uniformed units {pg 114}

and, as they as generally shrink in the was=> and, as they generally
shrink in the was {pg 147}

allowing great familarity=> allowing great familiarity {pg 167}

they are fourteen and and not a day before=> they are fourteen and not a
day before {pg 179}





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