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I LIKE a clean house.. So does Mr. Smith, and so do all men, if they would acknowledge it. At any rate, when their dwellings seem a little dingy or dusty—a very thin coat of dinginess or dust over the whole, producing a decidedly bad effect-I say when their dwellings appear to them out of order—though ever so little—we are sure to find it out. The dull look of the house appears to be communicated to the countenance of the master thereof. I confess that I have often been half inclined to wax and cork my husband's visage, or at least to whisk over it with the duster, and see if that experiment would not restore its
But though men like clean houses, they do not like house-cleaning. They have certain absurd notions which they would wish to carry out; such, for instance, as that constant-quiet, preventive care, or frequent topical applications, carefully applied, would gradually renovate the whole interior. But who wishes to be cleaning all the time? Who wishes to be always dusting? Indeed, at the best, we are constantly with broom, brush, or besom in hand; but the men will not perceive it, and we receive no credit for our tidiWhat is to be done, then? Evidently
there is nothing better than a “demonstration,” as the politicians say—a demonstration that may be felt; a mass-meeting of brooms, buckets, brushes, paint-pots, white-wash pails, chairs overturned, tubs, coal-skuttles, dust-pans, char-women, and all other possible disagreeables, all at once summoned, and each as much as possible in
In this there is some satisfaction. It looks like business. It seems as if you were doing something. It raises the value of the operation, and demonstrates its usefulness and necessity; for if there is little difference apparent between the house before cleaning and after, there is a world of odds beetween a house-cleaning and a house cleaned. There is a perfect delight in seeing what order can be brought out of chaos, even though you are obliged to make the chaos first, to produce the effect.
I had inflicted several of these impressive lessons upon Mr. Smith. He had become so much horrified at their confusion, that I do believe he had fully reconciled himself to dust and dirt, as the better alternative. They were, to be sure, at some little cost of comfort to myself, and reflectively produced discomfort for him; for he traced, with a correctness which I could easier frown a' than deny, many a week's indisposition to my house-cleaning phrenzy.
And when a man's wife is sick, if he is a man of feeling, he is unhappy. And if he is a man of selfishness, he is wretched, too; for what becomes of husband's little comforts, when wife is not able to procure or direct them? So Mr. Smith,—for the better reason, I believe-pure compassion—declared, long ago, against wholesale house-cleaning. And he has so often interfered in my proceedings with his provoking prophecy, “Now, you know, my dear, it will make you sick," that I have striven many a time to hide pain under a forced smile, when it seemed as if “my head was like to rend.”
Now, a woman can carry her point in the house by stubborn daring, but “ the better part of valor is discretion,” and I have learned quietly to take my way, and steal a march upon him;-open the flood-gate—set the chimneys smoking—up with the carpets—throw the beds out of the windows
--pack the best china in the middle of the floor, distributing pokers and fire-shovels among itunhang the pictures set all the doors ajar-roll the children in dust-cover my head with a soiled night-cap-put on slip-shod shoes—and streak my ancles with dust and dirty water. Then, if he pops in opportunely, I can say, with Shakspeare-amended :
I am in slops,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er. And, then, husband has no choice but to retreat to a chop-house, and leave me to finish.
But the chance for a grand saturnalia is best when Mr. Smith goes from home for a day or two. Then I can deny myself to visitors—take full license-set the hydrant running, and puzzle the water commissioners with an extra consumption of Schuylkill. My last exploit in this way was rather disastrous; and I am patiently waiting for its memory to pass away, before I venture even to think of repeating it. Mr. Smith had business in New York—imperative business, he said,—but I do believe it might have waited, had not Jenny Lind's first appearance taken place just then. This by the way. He went, and I was rejoiced to improve the opportunity, for it occurred precisely as I was devising some method to get myself so fairly committed to soap and brushes, that objection or interdict would be too late.
Never did I pack his carpet-bag with more secret satisfaction than on that morning. He was entirely unsuspicious of my intention—though he might have divined it but for having a secret of his own, for Kitty's water-heating operations spoiled the breakfast. There was more than a taste of “overdone” to the steak, and the whole affair, even to me, was intolerable—me, who had the pleasures of house-cleaning in perspective to console me. The door was scarce shut behind him, when I entered into the business con amore. It was resolved to begin at the very attic and sweep, scrub, and wash down. · Old boxes and trunks were dragged out of their places, and piles of forgotten dust swept out. gers in the street had a narrow chance for their beavers and fall bonnets, for every front window had an extra plashing. Mr. Smith had several times urged me to permit him to introduce some Yankee fashion which he highly recommends for having “professional window-cleaners,” with their whiting and brushes, who could go through the house with half the trouble, and none of the litter. There's nothing like water.
The first day's work sufficed to put the house into thorough confusion, and I retired to bedbut not to rest, for my fatigue was too great to sleep in comfort. My neglected child rested as ill as myself, and when I rose the next morning: it was with the oppressive weight of a weary day before me.
I had the consciousness that the work must be completed before my husband's return; and he had engaged to be with me at din
I felt it an imperative duty to welcome him with a cheerful house, and a pleasant repast after his journey; but as the time of his arrival drew near, I was more and more convinced of the impossibility. Like a drove of wild beasts forced into a corner by a hunting party, we forced our unmanageable matters to a crisis. The area for old brooms and brushes, tubs, litter, and slops, was at last narrowed down to the kitchen, and all that remained of our house-cleaning was to put that place into something like the semblance of an apartment devoted to culinary purposes. Dinner, as yet, was unthought of—but the house was clean!
Wearied rather than refreshed by my night of unrest, my arms sore, and my limbs heavy, I labored with double zeal to get up an excitement, which should carry me through the remainder of the day. My head began to feel sensations of giddiness—for I had hardly eaten since my husband left. Of the pleasures of house-cleaning, I had at length a surfeit; when a ring, which I knew among all others, surprised me. I looked at the clock. It was past four, and the kitchen still in confusion, and the hearth cold.