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Trials and Confessions of a Housekeeper By T. S. Arthur Characters: 14211

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

THERE are few of us who do not feel, at some time in life, the desire for change. Indeed, change of place corresponding, as it does, in outward nature, to change of state in the mind, it is not at all surprising that we should, now and then, feel a strong desire to remove from the old, and get into new locations, and amid different external associations. Thus, we find, in many families, an ever recurring tendency to removal. Indeed, I have some housekeeping friends who are rarely to be found in the same house, or in the same part of the city, in any two consecutive years. Three moves, Franklin used to say, were equal to a fire. There are some to whom I could point, who have been, if this holds true, as good as burned out, three or four times in the last ten years.

But, I must not write too long a preface to my present story. Mr. Smith and myself cannot boast of larger organs of Inhabitativeness-I believe, that is the word used by phrenologists-than many of our neighbors. Occasionally we have felt dissatisfied with the state of things around us, and become possessed of the demon of change. We have moved quite frequently, sometimes attaining superior comfort, and some times, getting rather the worst of, it for "the change."

A few years ago, in the early spring-time, Mr. Smith said to me, one day:

"I noticed, in riding out yesterday, a very pleasant country house on the Frankford Road, to let, and it struck me that it would be a fine thing for us, both as to health and comfort, to rent it for the summer season. What do you think of it?"

"I always, loved the country, you know," was my response.

My heart had leaped at the proposition.

"It is such a convenient distance from the city," said Mr. Smith.

"How far?"

"About four miles."

"Do the stages pass frequently?"

"Every half hour; and the fare is only twelve and a half cents."

"So low! That is certainly an inducement."

"Yes, it is. Suppose we go out and look at the house?"

"Very well," said I. And then we talked over the pleasures and advantage that would result from a residence in the country, at such a convenient distance from the city.

On the next day we went to look at the place, and found much, both in the house and grounds, to attract us. There was a fine shaded lawn, and garden with a stock of small and large fruit.

"What a delightful place for the children," I exclaimed.

"And at such a convenient distance from the city," said my husband. "I can go in and out to business, and scarcely miss the time. But do you think you would like the country?"

"O, yes. I've always loved the country."

"We can move back into the city when the summer closes," said Mr. Smith.

"Why not remain here permanently? It will be too expensive to keep both a city and country house," I returned.

"It will be too dreary through the winter."

"I don't think so. I always feel cheerful in the country. And, then, you know, the house is at such a convenient distance, and the stages pass the door at every half hour. You can get to business as easily as if we resided in the city."

I was in the mood for a change, and so it happened was Mr. Smith. The more we thought and talked about the matters, the more inclined were we to break up in the city, and go permanently to the country. And, finally, we resolved to try the experiment.

So the pleasant country house was taken, and the town house given up, and, in due time, we took our flight to where nature had just carpeted the earth in freshest green, and caused the buds to expand, and the trees of the forest to clothe themselves in verdure.

How pleasant was every thing. A gardener had been employed to put the garden and lawn in order, and soon we were delighted to see the first shoots from seeds that had been planted, making their way through the ground. To me, all was delightful. I felt almost as light-hearted as a child, and never tired of expressing my pleasure at the change.

"Come and see us," said I, to one city friend and another, on meeting them. "We're in a most delightful place, and at such a convenient distance from the city. Just get into the Frankford omnibus, which starts from Hall's, in Second street above Market, every half hour, and you will come to our very door. And I shall be so delighted to have a visit from you."

In moving from the city, I took with me two good domestics, who had lived in my family for over a year. Each had expressed herself as delighted at the prospect of getting into the country, and I was delighted to think they were so well satisfied, for I had feared lest they would be disinclined to accompany us.

About a month after our removal, one of them, who had looked dissatisfied about something, came to me and said:

"I want to go back to the city, Mrs. Smith; I don't like living in the country."

"Very well," I replied. "You must do as you please. But I thought you preferred this to the city?"

"I thought I would like it, but I don't. It's too lonesome."

I did not persuade her to stay. That error I had once or twice, ere this, fallen into, and learned to avoid it in future. So she went back to the city, and I was left with but a single girl. Three days only elapsed before this one announced her intended departure.

"But you will stay," said I, "until I can get some one in your place."

"My week will be up on Saturday," was replied. "Can you get a girl by that time?"

"That leaves me only two days, Mary; I'm afraid not."

Mary looked unamiable enough at this answer. We said no more to each other. In the afternoon I went to the city to find a new domestic, if possible, but returned unsuccessful.

Saturday came, and to my surprise and trouble, Mary persisted in going away. So I was left, with my family of six persons, without any domestic at all.

Sunday proved to me any thing but a day of rest. After washing and dressing the children, preparing breakfast, clearing away the table, making the beds, and putting the house to order, I set about getting dinner. This meal furnished and eaten, and the dishes washed and put away, I found myself not only completely tired out, but suffering from a most dreadful headache. I was lying down, about four o'clock, in a half-waking and sleeping state, with my head a little easier, when my husband, who was sitting by the window, exclaimed:

"If there isn't Mr. and Mrs. Peters and their three children, getting out of the stage!"

"Not coming here!" said I, starting up in bed, while, at the same moment, my headache returned with a throbbing intensity that almost blinded me.

"Yes, coming here," replied Mr. Smith.

"How unfortunate!" came from my lips, as I clasped my hands to my temples.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Peters were people for whom we had no particular friendship. We visited each other scarcely once a year, and had never reciprocated an evening to tea. True, I had, on the occasion of meeting Mrs. Peters, about a week before, while stopping in the city, said to her, while praising my new country home:

"You must come and see me sometime during

the summer."

The invitation was intended as a compliment more than anything else. I didn't particularly care about a visit from her; and certainly had no idea that she would take me at my word. So much for insincerity.

"Go down and ask them into the parlor," said I to Mr. Smith. "I will dress myself and join you in a little while."

In about half an hour I left my room, feeling really quite unwell. I found my visitors walking in the garden, and their children ranging about like wild colts, to the particular detriment of choice shrubbery and garden beds.

"Oh, what a delightful place!" exclaimed Mrs. Peters, on my meeting her. "I really envy you! You see that I have accepted your very kind invitation. I said to my husband to-day, says I, wouldn't it be nice to make the Smiths a visit this afternoon. They live at such a convenient distance; and it will be such a treat to the children. Well, just as you like, said Mr. Peters. And so, as soon as dinner was over, we got ready and came out. Oh, I'm delighted! What a sweet spot you have chosen. I shall come and see you often."

And thus she ran on, while I smiled, and responded with all due politeness, and to a certain extent, hypocritical pretence of pleasure at the visit.

They had come to spend the afternoon, and take tea with us, of course, and, as the last stage went by at seven o'clock, I was soon under the necessity of leaving my guests, in order to engage in certain preliminary acts that looked towards an early supper. Oh, how my head did throb; and with what an effort did I drag my weary feet about!

But, the longest trial-the most painful ordeal has an end; and the end of this came at length. Our visitors, after spending a few hours, and being served with tea, took their departure, assuring us, as they did so, that they had spent a delightful afternoon, and would be certain to come again soon.

In ten minutes after they had left the house, I was in bed.

Two whole weeks elapsed before I succeeded in getting a girl; and six times during that period, we had friends out from the city to take tea with us; and one young lady spent three whole days!

When the season of fruits came, as we had a few apple and pear trees, besides a strawberry bed, and a fine row of raspberry bushes, our city friends, especially those who had children, were even more particular in their attentions. Our own children, we could make understand the propriety of leaving the small fruit to be picked for table use, so that all could share in its enjoyment. But, visitors' children comprehended nothing of this, and rifled our beds and bushes so constantly, that, although they would have given our table a fair supply of berries, in the season, we never once could get enough to be worth using, and so were forced to purchase our fruit in the city.

After a destructive visitation of this nature, during strawberry time, I said to Mr. Smith, as he was leaving for the city one morning-

"I wish you would take a small basket with you, and bring out two or three quarts of strawberries for tea. I've only tasted them once or twice, and it's hopeless to think of getting any from our garden."

Well, when Mr. Smith came home with his two or three quarts of strawberries, we had six women and children, visitors from the city, to partake of them. Of course, our own children, who had been promised strawberries at tea time, and who had been looking for them, did'nt get a taste.

And thus it happened over and over again.

As the weather grew warmer and warmer, particular friends whom we were glad to see, and friends, so called, into whose houses we had rarely, if ever ventured, came out to get a "mouthful of fresh air," and to "see something green." We lived at "such a convenient distance," that it was no trouble at all to run out and look at us.

Twice again during the summer, I was left without a single domestic. Girls didn't like to leave the city, where they had been used to meeting their acquaintances every few days; and, therefore, it was hard to retain them. So it went on.

I had poor help, and was overrun with company, at such a rate, that I was completely worn out. I rarely heard the rumble of the approaching stage that I did not get nervous.

Early in August, Mr. Smith said to me, one evening after returning from the city-on that very morning, a family of four had left me, after staying three days-

"I met Mr. Gray this afternoon, and he told me that they were coming out to see you to-morrow. That he was going away for a while, and his wife thought that it would be such a pleasant time to redeem her promise of making you a visit."

"Oh dear! What next!" I exclaimed in a distressed voice. "Is there to be no end to this?"

"Not before frost, I presume," returned Mr. Smith, meaningly.

"I wish frost would come along quickly, then," was my response. "But how long is Mr. Gray going to be absent from home?"

"He didn't say."

"And we're to have his whole family, I suppose, during his absence."


"Well, I call that taxing hospitality and good feeling a little too far. I don't want them here! I've no room for them without inconvenience to ourselves. Besides, my help is poor."

But, all my feelings of repugnance were of no avail. As I was sitting, on the next day, by a window, that overlooked the road, I saw the stage draw up, and issue therefrom Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, servant and five children-two of the latter twin-babies. They had boxes, carpet bags, bundles, &c., indicating a prolonged sojourn, and one little boy dragged after him a pet dog, that came also to honor us with a visit.

Down to meet them at the door, with as good a grace as possible, I hurried. Words of welcome and pleasure were on my tongue, though I am not sure that my face did not belie my utterance. But, they were all too pleased to get into our snug country quarters, to perceive any drawback in their reception.

I will not describe my experience during the next three weeks-for, Mr. Gray took the tour of the Lakes before returning, and was gone full three weeks, leaving his family to our care for the whole time.

"Heaven be praised, that is over!" was my exclamation, when I saw the stage move off that bore them from our door.

Frost at length came, and with it expired the visiting season. We were still at a convenient distance from the city; but, our friends, all at once, seemed to have forgotten us.

"You are not going to move back, now," said a friend in surprise, to whom I mentioned in the following March our intention to return to the city.

"Yes," I replied.

"Just as spring is about opening? Why, surely, after passing the dreary winter in the country, you will not come to the hot and dusty town to spend the summer? You are at such a convenient distance too; and your friends can visit you so easily."

Yes, the distance was convenient; and we had learned to appreciate that advantage. But back to the city we removed; and, when next we venture to the country, will take good care to get beyond a convenient distance.

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