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   Chapter 14 NOT A RAG ON THEIR BACKS.

Trials and Confessions of a Housekeeper By T. S. Arthur Characters: 7127

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


THERE are, among the many things which Mr. Smith, like other men, will not understand, frequent difficulties about the children's clothing. He seems to think that frocks and trowsers grow spontaneously; or that the dry goods, once bought and brought into the house, will resolve into the shapes desired, and fit themselves to the children's backs, like Cindarella's suit in the nursery tale. Now, I never did claim to be a sprite; and I am not sure that the experience of all housekeepers will bear me out in the opinion that the longer a woman is married, the less she becomes like a fairy.

Stitch! stitch! stitch! Hood's Song of the Shirt, which every body has heard and admired, is certainly most eloquent and pathetic upon the sufferings and difficulties of sewing girls. "Much yet remains unsung," particularly in regard to the ceaseless labors of women who are as rich as Cornelia in muslin-rending, habit-cloth-destroying, children's-plaid-rubbing-jewels! I am sure that the Roman matron never went shopping. I am sure that she did not undertake to keep her own children's clothing in repair; for if she had, she could not have been ready, at a moment's warning, to put forward her troublesome charge as specimen jewels. Do all I can, my little comforts never are "fit to be seen!"

Many is the weary evening that I have been occupied, past the noon of night, in repairing the wear and tear of habiliments-abridging the volume of the elder children's clothes into narrow dimensions for the next, or compiling a suit for one, out of the fringed raiment of two or three. Honest was the pride with which I have surveyed these industrious efforts, and sincere the thought that I had really accomplished something. Depositing the various articles where the wearers elect would find them, I have retired to rest; almost angry with Mr. Smith, who was asleep hours before me-asleep as unconcernedly as if an indestructible substance fabric had been invented for children's clothing.

Well, after such a night's work, imagine me waking, with a complacent and happy sensation that, my work having been done on the day before, the morning is open for new employment. Down stairs I come, full of the thoughts of the confusion I shall heap on Mr. Smith's head. He, observe, told me, as he left me to retire, that I had much better go to bed, for all my work would amount to nothing but loss of necessary rest. I am ready to show him triumphant evidence to the contrary, in the clothes, as good as new, in which his children are habited. Before I can speak, I discern a lurking smile in his face. My boy Will stands in a sheepish posture, with his back as close to the jam, as if he were a polypus growing there, and his life depended upon the adhesion.

My eldest girl-another of the laboriously fitted out of the night before, has a marvellous affection for the little stool, and the skirt of her frock seems drawn about her feet in a most unbecoming manner.

But the third, an inveterate little romp, unconscious of shame, is curveting about in the most abandoned manner, utterly indifferent to the fact she has-not, indeed, "a rag to her back"-for she is all rags! One hour's play before my descent has utterly abolished all traces of my industry, so far as she is concerned.

I expostulate-at first more in sorrow than in anger-but as Mr. Smith's face expands into a broad laugh, it becomes more anger than sorrow. The child on the stool looks as if she would laugh, if she dared. Lifting her up suddenly, I discover that the whole front breadth of her

frock is burned-past redemption.

I say nothing-what can I say? I have not words equal to the emergency. And the boy-boys are such copies of their fathers! He actually forgets all embarrassment, and breaks out into a hearty laugh. I jerk him forward.

Horror on horrors! The unveiling of the Bavarian statue, of which I read an account in the newspapers the other day, is nothing to it. The jamb, it appears, has supported something besides the mantle shelf; for when I draw the young Smith forward, deprived of the friendly aid of the wall, his teguments drop to the floor, and he stands unveiled! One fell swoop at rude play has destroyed all my little innumerable stitches; and I am just where I was before I threaded a needle the night before!

Now I appeal to any body-any woman with the least experience, if this is not all too bad! And yet my husband insists that I have no need to be continually worrying myself with the needle. It is true that each of the children has four or five changes of clothes, which they might wear-but what is the use of their having things to "put right on-and tear right out!" I like to be prudent and saving. It was only the other day that Mr. Smith came in early, and found me busy; and commenced a regular oration. He said that every child in the house has a better wardrobe than he; and so he went on, and counted all off to me. He says-and men think they know so much-that if children have clothes they should wear them; and when they are worn out, provide more, and not try to keep as many half-worn suits in repair, as there are new suits in a queen's wardrobe. But he likes, as well as any man, to see his children look neat, whatever he may say. And yet he pretends that children should have clothes so made that they can convert themselves into horses, and treat each other to rides without rending to pieces! And he protests that it is all nonsense to undertake to keep children dressed in the fashion! Truly I am tempted to say to the men as Job did to his friends: "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you!"

Such plagues as they are sometimes! But I could not help laughing after all, when, as I said before, he was lecturing me. The table was covered with work, done and in progress. He went on till out of breath. I answered:

"Now you know the children have not a rag to their backs!"

"I should think not," he said, drily, as he looked about him. "The other morning finished up the rags on hand-but you are doing your best, with flimsy finery, to get up a new assortment."

"Now, that is unkind in you, Mr. Smith," said I, feeling hurt, and looking and speaking as I felt. "Really unkind in you. I'm sure it's no pleasure for me to work, work, work, from morning till night, until I'm worn down and good for nothing. I wish my children to look decent at least; and to do this at as small cost to you as possible. You can't change me with wasting your property, at least."

"There, there, dear! That will do. Say no more about it," returned Mr. Smith, in a soothing voice. "I didn't mean to be unkind. Still, I do think that you are a little over-particular about the children's clothes, as I have said before-over-particular in the matter of having things just so. Better, a great deal, I think, spare a few hours from extra work given to the clothing designed for their bodies, to that which is to array and beautify their minds."

"Now, Mr. Smith!" I exclaimed, and then bending my face into my hands, gave way to involuntary tears.

That he should have said this!

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