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   Chapter 11 PAVEMENT WASHING IN WINTER.

Trials and Confessions of a Housekeeper By T. S. Arthur Characters: 6165

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


TWO weeks of spring-like weather in mid-winter, and then the thermometer went hurrying down towards zero with alarming rapidity. Evening closed in with a temperature so mild that fires were permitted to expire in the ashes; and morning broke with a cold nor-wester, whistling through every crack and cranny, in a tone that made you shrink and shiver.

"Winter at last," said I, creeping forth from my warm bed, with a very natural feeling of reluctance.

"Time," was the half asleep and half awake response of Mr. Smith, as he drew the clothes about his shoulders, and turned himself over for the enjoyment of his usual half hour morning nap.

It was Saturday-that busiest day in the seven; at least for housekeepers-and as late as half past seven o'clock, yet the house felt as cold as a barn. I stepped to the register to ascertain if the fire had been made in the heater. Against my hand came a pressure of air-cold air.

"Too bad!" I murmured fretfully, "that girl has never touched the fire."

So I gave the bell a pretty vigorous jerk. In a few minutes up came Nancy, the cook, in answer to my summons.

"Why hasn't Biddy made the fire in the heater?" I asked.

"She has made it, mum."

"There isn't a particle of heat coming up."

"I heard her at work down there. I guess she's made it up, but it hasn't began to burn good yet."

"Tell her that I want her."

"She's washing the pavement, mum."

"Washing the pavement!"

"Yes, mum."

"What possessed her to wash the pavement on a day like this?"

"It's the right day, mum. It's Saturday."

"Saturday! Don't she know that the water will freeze almost as soon as it touches the ground? Go and tell her to come in this minute, and not throw another drop on the pavement."

Nancy withdrew, and I kept on speaking to myself-

"I never saw such creatures. No consideration in them! Washing the pavement on a morning like this! Little do they care who falls on the ice; or who has a broken arm, or a broken leg."

Just as I had said this, I heard a crash, and an exclamation without, and hurrying to the window looked forth. Biddy's work was done, and well done, for the pavement was one sheet of ice, as hard and smooth as glass, and as slippery as oil. Prostrate thereon was a grocer's boy, and just beyond the curb stone, in the gutter, lay the fragments of a jug of molasses.

Stepping back quickly to where the bell rope hung against the wall, I gave it a most determined jerk. Scarcely had I done this, ere the door of the adjoining room, which was used as a nursery, opened, and Biddy appeared therein.

"Why, Biddy!" I exclaimed, "what possessed you to throw water on the pavement this morning?"

"Faix! And how was I to get it clane, mim, widout wather?" coolly returned Biddy.

"Clean!"

"Yes, mim, clane."

"There was no crying necessity to have it clean to-day. Didn't you see-"

"It's Sathurday, mim," interrupted Biddy, in a voice that showed the argument in her mind to be unanswerable. "We always wash the pavement on Sathurday."

"But it doesn't do to wash the p

avement," I returned, now trying to put a little reason into her head, "when it is so cold that water will freeze as soon as it touches the ground. The bricks become as slippery as glass, and people can't walk on them without falling."

"Och! And what hev we till do wid the paple. Lot 'em look 'till their steps."

"But, Biddy, that won't do. People don't expect to find pavements like glass; and they slip, often, while unaware of danger. Just at this moment a poor lad fell, and broke his jug all to pieces."

"Did he! And less the pity for him. Why did'nt he walk along like an orderly, dacent body? Why didn't he look 'till his steps?"

"Biddy," said I, seeing that it was useless to hold an argument with her,-"Do you go this minute and throw ashes all over the pavement."

"Ashes on the clane pavement! Mrs. Smith!"

"Yes, Biddy; and do it at once. There! Somebody else has fallen."

I sprung to the window in time to see a woman on the pavement, and the contents of her basket of marketing scattered all around her.

"Go this minute and throw ashes over the pavement!" I called to Biddy in a voice of command.

The girl left the room with evident reluctance. The idea of scattering ashes over her clean pavement, was, to her, no very pleasant one.

It seemed to me, as I sat looking down from my windows upon the slippery flags, and noted the difficulty which pedestrians had to cross them safely, that Biddy would never appear with her pan of ashes.

"Why don't the girl do as I directed?" had just passed, in an impatient tone, from my lips, when two well dressed men came in view, one at each extremity of the sheet of ice. They were approaching, and stepped with evident unconsciousness of danger, upon the treacherous surface. I had a kind of presentiment that one or both would fall, and my instinct was not at fault. Suddenly the heels of one flew up, and he struck the pavement with a concussion that sprung his hat from his head, and sent it some feet in the air. In his efforts to recover himself, his legs became entangled in those of the other, and over he went, backwards, his head striking the ground with a terrible shock.

I started from the window, feeling, for an instant, faint and sick. In a few moments I returned, and looked out again. Both the fallen ones had regained their feet, and passed out of sight, and Biddy, who had witnessed the last scene in this half comic, half tragic performance, was giving the pavement a plentiful coating of ashes and cinders.

I may be permitted to remark, that I trust other housekeepers, whose pavements are washed on cold mornings-and their name, I had almost said, is legion-are as innocent as I was in the above case, and that the wrong to pedestrians lies at the door of thoughtless servants. But is it not our duty to see the wrong has no further repetition?

It has been remarked that the residence of a truly humane man may be known by the ashes before his door on a slippery morning. If this be so, what are we to think of those who coolly supply a sheet of ice to the side walk?

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