Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

into the ash-heap, and, in attempting to rise, pulled over a barrel of soft soap.

It is difficult to describe her appearance as she arose from this alkaline immersion. The soap trickled from the deep frill of her widow's cap in streams over her cheeks, and commingling with the ashes, left scarcely a trace of the “human face divine;" and what added to the grotesqueness of the scene was her holding up the mutton dish unharmed. How this was accomplished in her necessary gyrations down a deep flight of stairs, we never could comprehend. Her complaints were eloquent enough, mingled with some irritability at our ill-restrained laughter. ..

In arranging the bed-rooms the following morning she broke a toilet-glass, and was in still deeper consternation.

“Oh, Miss Packard,” she cried, " there will sartainly be a death in the family. It was only two months ago, poor Mr. Sliter that's dead and gone broke his shaving-glass, and you see what's come on't. I'm left, as it were, a poor lone

vider, without a partner; and it was but a year ago that my neighbour, Miss Stone, that keeps the wittle (victual) house, broke her parlourglass, and that same day, as she was chawing some fish, a bone choked her, and she was as good as dead for an hour.”

To verify Mrs. Sliter's prediction, Polly, a month from the date of the broken toilet-glass, heard of the death of a great-uncle whom she had never seen, and Mrs. Sliter went about the house with a self-congratulatory cackle at the birth of the disaster. To me, however, the prediction of trouble, if not of death, seemed realized. Piece after piece of my dinner set (a rare and beautiful style at the time, white ground with a rose-coloured vine on the edge), came tinkling on my ears with a sound that a housewife can detect from afar.

I early obliged myself not to stir on such occasions. If one can sit still a few moments, quietly lay down a book, or fold up one's work, or knit to the middle of one's needle, there is a favourable prospect of keeping the temper smooth; but as surely as you start up with “there, now," your feminine dignity is gone. I had a friend who once conquered an irritable temper by obliging herself to count twenty when under sudden excitement.

Mrs. Sliter’s next feat was to lose the balance of the breakfast tray, and deposite the whole apparatus on the floor. Every housekeeper will give me their sympathy when I describe to them my sugar-bowl without a cover, my cream-pot without a handle, my coffee-pot indented at the side, and an unmatching slop-bowl called in from the kitchen to complete the muster-roll.

An honest, open breakage, one can bear with a tolerable grace, but it is hard to be the subjes.' of duplicity as well as carelessness. Mrs. Sliter's favourite practice was to conceal the results of her organ of destructiveness, until they were discovered in some nook or corner, in the form of irregular triangles of glass or china. Frederick, who was as great a collector of old china, in his way, as Monkbarns, discovered, in Mrs. Sliter's short but emphatic reign, treasure upon

M

[ocr errors]

treasure; and his broken dishes, as he called
the pieces of crockery, were gathered up from
the cellar, the ash-heap, the wood-house, and
every other spot where his busy little feet resort-
ed for what is miscalled mischief. At length,
one day, he brought in a sample to his grandmo-
ther, who was visiting us. The moment she
saw it she detected the cup, the very teacup
from which Dr. Franklin had once drunk. It
had been a family boast, and she had given it,
to me at my earnest solicitation. My mother
was really affected; she took Frederick in her
arms, and told him the story of the cup; how
Benjamin Franklin sat and talked with her pa-
rents as he sipped his tea; how her mother
whispered to her that he was a great man ;
how she took the cup from his hand, and said,
“No one shall use this again." .

We were all silent as she sat polishing the fragment with her pocket-handkerchief, and even the boy laid it aside carefully.

To heighten my troubles at this period, I found the contents of my decanters sensiblv

lowered, and perceived that Mrs. Sliter was fre quently intoxicated. When accused of purloining the liquor she denied, until the proof became too glaring, and when no longer able to evade, said to me, “Miss Packard, you're the unfeel ingest person I ever see, to speak so onkind to a lone vider that ain't got no consolation, and vishes to raise her sperits. I ain't a going to stay with a person that begrudges every mouthful that's ate and drank, and you need’nt expect me to give you a character, for I shan't recommend your house to nobody."

She decamped in violent wrath, and we were thrown for several weeks on our own resources.

There could scarcely be a more striking illustration of the lamentable dependance of housekeepers on servants, than in the obligation I felt myself under when deserted by Hannah, to take under my roof this woman, with whose character and disposition I was so little acquainted. Mrs. Sliter was the wife of a wood-sawyer, and sent for me in haste, as a neighbour, to see

« AnteriorContinuar »