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I MAKE no apology for the homely nature of my subject, since I can venture to assert, that during the proper season, it takes precedence of all others in the feminine mind; and even forces itself to a degree upon the notice of the lords of creation.

It was the beginning of April; the weather was clear, sunshiny, and cool; just the sort to make the carpets look dusty, the paint soiled, and to fill every housewifely heart with longings to get at 'cleaning.'

One Saturday, I remarked to my good man, that paint and paper for our sitting-room were absolutely necessary, and that he had better engage some one, as soon as convenient, to put them on. John is prompt and energetic; he announced at the tea-table that he had two men promised for Monday morning, who would paint not only the sitting-room, but the whole of the house, inside and out.

Sister Ann - she is John's sister, and lives with us - looked at me a little in dismay at this large method of proceeding, but we were soon convinced that it was an excellent arrangement. Just a single 'coat' on the outside of the house, said my husband, to preserve the paint which was getting a trifle chalky- and within-doors we should be so fresh and nice for summer. would be only a short job; a week or ten days at farthest.


Thoughts of the expected improvement intruded a little even upon the day of rest.

'I think, Maria,' said Ann on Sunday morning, 'that we had better repaper the parlors too, while we are about it. The fresh paint will make that which is on now look soiled and dingy.'

'Very well,' I replied, 'we will see about it in the course of the week.' Monday morning dawned bright and clear, and with it the expected workTheir first step toward beautifying us was to strip the house of all its blinds, thereby letting in floods of sun-lights. Curtains proved but slight protection against the pervading brilliancy.


'This will never do!' I exclaimed; 'these carpets must come up before long, at any rate; suppose we do it now; we can clean with so much more freedom.'

Ann agreed with me, all hands 'turned in,' and before noon the house was bare of Brussels, ingrain, or rag. When the floors were mopped, the chairs turned into each other, and covered with sheets, and the larger pieces of furniture draped in the same tasteful manner, every house-keeper will appreciate the glorious field of operations that we had before us.

It is time, perhaps, to put you in possession of a few facts concerning us. We live about a mile from the village— no need to designate it more particu

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larly where John, who is a lawyer, has his office. He goes down at nine in the morning, and returns at five in the afternoon, taking his dinner at the hotel. Delightfully propitious, you see, for cleaning; no man around to 'bother,' or get dinner for. Brooms, and soap, and scrubbing-brushes have undisputed sway.

Our family consists of John, myself, and sister Ann, before mentioned; item, of our two children, John's and mine, I mean: though they might be sister Ann's as well, seeing the interest that she takes in them. Item, of Mrs. Wells, an elderly lady, second or third cousin to my husband, who lives with us, and 'sees to things' a good deal. She it is who is deep in the mysteries of soap-making; who knows just how many fowls there are in the barn-yard, and how many eggs in the cellar; who makes head-cheese and sausages, and can 'weigh out' the materials for pound-cake by her 'eye,' without recourse to the vulgar medium of scales. Last on the list comes Bridget Quin, our stout, willing, rosy-faced Irish girl; who has a hard hand for the crockery, and a soft heart for the 'childer;' and serves in the various capacities of cook, housemaid, laundress, nurse, chambermaid, and waiter, as occasion offers.

The first two or three days went off beautifully. It was necessary to improve the fine weather, very unreliable in early April, by painting the outside of the house, and to that the men confined their labors. By a happy foresight of genius, Mrs. Wells had decided that they should board themselves. When the subject was first discussed in family council, Ann and I, with inexperienced but economic views, were for giving them their meals in the house, seeing that we should thereby 'save' four dollars per week. But Mrs. Wells had put her veto on it.

'Save!' said she with contempt. 'I wonder how much you girls know about it. Working-men have good appetites, let me tell you; if you kept one dollar out of your four you'd do well. And then there's the trouble of giving them their dinner as regular as the day comes round; it'll take half Bridget's time to cook and wash the dishes. However,' with sudden indifference, 'have it just as you like; it's nothing to me.' Of course we allowed ourselves to be guided by superior wisdom, and found our account therein when the painters retired each noon to the carriage-house, troubling us for nothing but a pitcher of water.

Mrs. Wells considered the fine weather as a special grace vouchsafed for the purpose of enabling her to make soap; and on Tuesday she had a fire built outof-doors, and an immense kettle hung over it. About this witch-like arrange

ment she flitted constantly, now feeding the vanishing blaze with bits of shingle, or old pickets, and anon giving a vigorous stir to certain weird elements within the caldron. Ann and I occasionally visited the scene of her labors, and at such times Mr. Forrest could have asked no better incarnation of the sisters three to play Macbeth to. One always begins house-keeping with a conviction that there is no need of looking so;' finery, one argues, is indeed out of place, but neatness is entirely within reach. A day or two, however, proves the fallacy of such reasoning, and one is reduced to the costume for such cases made and provided. Ann and I, then, were attired in old, dark cal

ico gowns, very short and scant, and rejoiced in entire freedom from hoops; our heads were crowned with ancient sun-bonnets, dimly reminiscent (in spots) of some neutral tint, but long oblivious of starch; our feet were at ease in roomy leather shoes, such as are recommended for the wear of marching regiments. As for Mrs. Wells, her garments were much the color of her soap; and she had beside a fly-away and fluttering appearance, which caused Ann to remark to me, aside, that she looked as if she had been rolled in the rag-bag, and a portion of its contents had adhered.

For three days I worked vigorously, but on the fourth gave out. There are women who feel a dithyrambic joy in house-cleaning, who revel in true Bacchante fashion among suds and scrubbing-brushes; but I am not one of them. Whether it be the mental or physical stamina that are lacking, I can't say, possibly both; but after a day or two I experienced great lameness, stiffness of joints, bodily fatigue, and 'moral inability' to do another thing. This fourth morning, I made my appearance on the field of action, looking so weary and wo-begone, that Ann and Mrs. Wells immediately advised me to retire to the kitchen, and pursue any amusement that was most congenial, a permission of which I was only too glad to avail myself.

I did not find it very cheerful even there, however; a cold rain had set in, and the men were driven from their ladders outside to our dining-room. The children, who had previously run riot among our up-town household gods, were now banished to their Aunt Katy's, it being a foregone conclusion that if they remained at home, while the inside of the house was done, there would be more finger and foot-marks than paint left upon our wood-work. Nothing is so forlorn as an uncarpeted, disordered dwelling, with the fumes of paint stealing on the chilly dampness of the air, and every one too busy to talk or listen to you.

Fortunately, I had a resource. I write occasionally, at largely remunerative rates, for the 'Weekly Calomel;' and even, at long intervals, for the ‘Badger.' To creative literature, then, I gave my thoughts. With a pail turned upside down for my divan, or ottoman, or what you will, I established myself in the corner by the flour-bags, an old account-book was my writing desk; the pages of my manuscript, as fast as finished, I deposited in the clothes-basket near at hand. I began my heroine in moderation; she was simply tall, dark-haired, and finely formed; but warming as I proceeded with the subject, she became endowed with every beauty of person and charm of mind. Her eye flashed; her bearing grew regal, nay, imperial; Juno-like grace and distinction rounded all her contours; ineffable sweetness beamed in her smile. She was profound as Verulam, brilliant as Sheridan. I discovered a congenial spirit of the other sex; I made them acquainted; I had a party. That was a party, let me tell you; lights, music, flowers, and diamonds, were showered upon it, 'regardless of expense.' I provided a conservatory; they retired to it; its shady coolness contrasted strongly with the glare of the crowded rooms; their speech became embarrassed, infrequent; delicious yet fearful silence and expectation stole over them — when Bridget entered, and informed me that there was a man in the other room who wanted to sell us something. I laid my desk in the

clothes-basket, and passed comfortably through the painted doorways, without fear of carrying off any portion of them on my garments, thanks to the absence of hoops.

I found the man to be one of those benefactors of the human race, connected with a branch of the 'gift' enterprise. He carried a number of large brown envelopes, price twenty-five cents, which contained, according to an inventory printed on the outside, so many sheets of letter-paper, so many of 'ladies' note,' so many envelopes, etc., etc.; a large assortment of the choicest stationery, besides an 'index' pen, with pen-holder; and a gift worth more than the price of the envelope. He was extremely urgent that I should purchase, and related numerous instances of sales in our own and adjoining towns, which had been productive of the highest satisfaction to the buyers. I did not require a great deal of persuasion; the outlay was not enormous, and it was the easiest way of getting rid of him. I own to my share of the curiosity natural to the daughters of Eve; and have besides that peculative proclivity peculiar, I presume, to them: a desire to get for my money considerably more than the money's worth. I therefore produced the quarter, and received an envelope in exchange. My visitor remained to witness the result of an examination of its contents.

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With trembling fingers, I tore it open — undid the shrouding folds of tissuepaper - and lo! an ornament some half-a-finger long, in shape a hybrid between a jug and a sweet-meat jar. It was so much yellower than any specimen of the precious metal that ever met my eyes before, that I could only suppose the hitherto mythical experiment of 'gilding refined gold,' to have been tried upon it. Entire absence of meretricious adornment marked this triumph of the jeweller's art; only, about the middle, the chaste plainness of its surface was relieved by three or four stars tastefully disposed in a belt. A ring in the top seemed to hint that it was to be hung to something.

'What is it meant for, do you think?' I inquired, surveying it dubiously. 'Well,' said my benefactor, 'I should think it was designed to be worn on the boozum- I don't know but it's a boozum-pin-no, it can't be that, for there an't no pin; but it could be hung onto one. Yes; I should say, certainly,' he continued, holding it in the neighborhood of my collar to try the effect, 'that it was to be worn upon the boozum.'

Having thus settled the matter, he took his departure, and I returned to my manuscript in a singularly chastened frame of mind. All of you have read that story in the 'Badger,' and you can now account for the latent melancholy of the latter portion. And if the editor wondered at the perfume of zincenamel which was diffused so strongly through its sheets, he will understand it now that he learns it was written in an atmosphere redolent of the same.

The day went by rather wearily, and when John returned at night I questioned him as to the probable duration of our artists' stay. 'They have about finished the outside of the house, have n't they?' I inquired.

'Yes. That is, they've got the first coat on three sides.'

'I thought they were only to put on one coat.'

'Oh! that was what I did intend at first, but I saw at once it would not It needs a second to cover all the spots, and finish up neatly.'


'But,' said I, rather disheartened, 'it will take them nearly twice as long as you expected, won't it?'

'Very likely it will.’

'Will they be done by the end of next week?

'I cannot tell.'

'Well, how long do you suppose they'll stay?'

'Just as long as is necessary to accomplish their work.'

I saw from John's manner that this was not a favorable moment to discuss the subject, and so dropped it.

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Our next care was the whitewashing. All country house-keepers know the difficulties of that business. In the first place, you must have lime, and very often that is not to be obtained without a journey of four or five miles. In the second, you must have a clear day, or your walls will be cloudy and streaked. Then the sable functionary on whom you depend-by what queer law of contraries, I wonder, are white-washers always black is exceedingly difficult to come at. He is as much in request as a belle at a ball, and is generally engaged two or three weeks 'deep,' no matter how early you apply. Or if every other obstacle is removed, he wants to take the first clear day to 'make his garden.' However, Fate was kind to us this time, and Mr. Housman came on Friday, accompanied by that 'new brush,' with which, according to the testimony of various of my matronly acquaintances, he worked such wonders. I regarded his advent with a little nervousness, since I had given him offence the year before by a skepticism — mildly expressed, 't is true concerning the perfection of his skill. He was a gigantic negro, and I was as a grasshopper before him. Yet I ventured timidly to inquire - he whitewashed that spring before we were torn up'-'if it would be necessary to cover things at all?'

'Mrs. Hastings,' he had replied with severe dignity, 'it is my intention to put this lime on the ceiling; not on your furniture.'

And so he did; nothing was covered, and not a drop was spilled; but I fancied that Mr. Housman's dark rolling eye turned on me austerely from time to time, for having dared to doubt him.

If it were so, he had now forgotten and forgiven. I waited on him assiduously, praised his skill and dexterity, and wondered 'how he could do it; ' while he informed me in return, that it was 'just as easy to him as to eat a meal of victuals.' I brought with my own hands the hot water, which he needed now and then for his lime, and finally saw that he had a bountiful dinner, and a very large piece of pie. He behaved with extreme 'affability,' and I flatter myself that peace is completely restored between us.

Our corps of workmen had by this time increased to eight. The chimney leaked, and Mr. Watkins, the mason, having by great good luck been caught, as it were, upon the wing, was now posted on the roof, whence the sound of his labors came softened by distance to our ears. In the back-yard, Mr. Ogbin was mixing mortar. The front-steps needed repair, and John, who has rather a sweeping way of doing things, decided that the completest way to repair them was to have new ones. So the carpenter was at work there, 'full

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