Story type: Essay
I am a frank-hearted man, as perhaps you have by this time perceived, and you will not, therefore, be surprised to know that I read my last article on the carpet to my wife and the girls before I sent it to the “Atlantic,” and we had a hearty laugh over it together. My wife and the girls, in fact, felt that they could afford to laugh, for they had carried their point, their reproach among women was taken away, they had become like other folks. Like other folks they had a parlor, an undeniable best parlor, shut up and darkened, with all proper carpets, curtains, lounges, and marble-topped tables, too good for human nature’s daily food; and being sustained by this consciousness, they cheerfully went on receiving their friends in the study, and having good times in the old free-and-easy way; for did not everybody know that this room was not their best? and if the furniture was old-fashioned and a little the worse for antiquity, was it not certain that they had better, which they could use if they would?
“And supposing we wanted to give a party,” said Jenny, “how nicely our parlor would light up! Not that we ever do give parties, but if we should,–and for a wedding-reception, you know.”
I felt the force of the necessity; it was evident that the four or five hundred extra which we had expended was no more than such solemn possibilities required.
“Now, papa thinks we have been foolish,” said Marianne, “and he has his own way of making a good story of it; but, after all, I desire to know if people are never to get a new carpet. Must we keep the old one till it actually wears to tatters?”
This is a specimen of the reductio ad absurdum which our fair antagonists of the other sex are fond of employing. They strip what we say of all delicate shadings and illusory phrases, and reduce it to some bare question of fact, with which they make a home-thrust at us.
“Yes, that’s it; are people never to get a new carpet?” echoed Jenny.
“My dears,” I replied, “it is a fact that to introduce anything new into an apartment hallowed by many home associations, where all things have grown old together, requires as much care and adroitness as for an architect to restore an arch or niche in a fine old ruin. The fault of our carpet was that it was in another style from everything in our room, and made everything in it look dilapidated. Its colors, material, and air belonged to another manner of life, and were a constant plea for alterations; and you see it actually drove out and expelled the whole furniture of the room, and I am not sure yet that it may not entail on us the necessity of refurnishing the whole house.”
“My dear!” said my wife, in a tone of remonstrance; but Jane and Marianne laughed and colored.
“Confess, now,” said I, looking at them; “have you not had secret designs on the hall and stair carpet?”
“Now, papa, how could you know it? I only said to Marianne that to have Brussels in the parlor and that old mean-looking ingrain carpet in the hall did not seem exactly the thing; and in fact you know, mamma, Messrs. Ketchem & Co. showed us such a lovely pattern, designed to harmonize with our parlor carpet.”
“I know it, girls,” said my wife; “but you know I said at once that such an expense was not to be thought of.”
“Now, girls,” said I, “let me tell you a story I heard once of a very sensible old New England minister, who lived, as our country ministers generally do, rather near to the bone, but still quite contentedly. It was in the days when knee-breeches and long stockings were worn, and this good man was offered a present of a very nice pair of black silk hose. He declined, saying he ‘could not afford to wear them.’”
“‘Not afford it?’ said the friend; ‘why, I give them to you.’
“‘Exactly; but it will cost me not less than two hundred dollars to take them, and I cannot do it.’
“‘How is that?’
“‘Why, in the first place, I shall no sooner put them on than my wife will say, “My dear, you must have a new pair of knee-breeches,” and I shall get them. Then my wife will say, “My dear, how shabby your coat is! You must have a new one,” and I shall get a new coat. Then she will say, “Now, my dear, that hat will never do,” and then I shall have a new hat; and then I shall say, “My dear, it will never do for me to be so fine and you to wear your old gown,” and so my wife will get a new gown; and then the new gown will require a new shawl and a new bonnet; all of which we shall not feel the need of if I don’t take this pair of silk stockings, for, as long as we don’t see them, our old things seem very well suited to each other.’”
The girls laughed at this story, and I then added, in my most determined manner,–
“But I must warn you, girls, that I have compromised to the utmost extent of my power, and that I intend to plant myself on the old stair carpet in determined resistance. I have no mind to be forbidden the use of the front stairs, or condemned to get up into my bedroom by a private ladder, as I should be immediately if there were a new carpet down.”
“Would it not be so? Can the sun shine in the parlor now for fear of fading the carpet? Can we keep a fire there for fear of making dust, or use the lounges and sofas for fear of wearing them out? If you got a new entry and stair carpet, as I said, I should have to be at the expense of another staircase to get up to our bedroom.”
“Oh no, papa,” said Jane innocently; “there are very pretty druggets now for covering stair carpets, so that they can be used without hurting them.”
“Put one over the old carpet, then,” said I, “and our acquaintance will never know but it is a new one.”
All the female senate laughed at this proposal, and said it sounded just like a man.
“Well,” said I, standing up resolutely for my sex, “a man’s ideas on woman’s matters may be worth some attention. I flatter myself that an intelligent, educated man doesn’t think upon and observe with interest any particular subject for years of his life without gaining some ideas respecting it that are good for something; at all events, I have written another article for the ‘Atlantic,’ which I will read to you.”
“Well, wait one minute, papa, till we get our work,” said the girls, who, to say the truth, always exhibit a flattering interest in anything their papa writes, and who have the good taste never to interrupt his readings with any conversations in an undertone on cross-stitch and floss-silks, as the manner of some is. Hence the little feminine bustle of arranging all these matters beforehand. Jane, or Jenny, as I call her in my good-natured moods, put on a fresh clear stick of hickory, of that species denominated shagbark, which is full of most charming slivers, burning with such a clear flame, and emitting such a delicious perfume in burning, that I would not change it with the millionaire who kept up his fire with cinnamon.
You must know, my dear Mr. Atlantic, and you, my confidential friends of the reading public, that there is a certain magic or spiritualism which I have the knack of in regard to these mine articles, in virtue of which my wife and daughters never hear or see the little personalities respecting them which form parts of my papers. By a peculiar arrangement which I have made with the elves of the inkstand and the familiar spirits of the quill, a sort of glamour falls on their eyes and ears when I am reading, or when they read the parts personal to themselves; otherwise their sense of feminine propriety would be shocked at the free way in which they and their most internal affairs are confidentially spoken of between me and you, O loving readers.
Thus, in an undertone, I tell you that my little Jenny, as she is zealously and systematically arranging the fire, and trimly whisking every untidy particle of ashes from the hearth, shows in every movement of her little hands, in the cock of her head, in the knowing, observing glance of her eye, and in all her energetic movements, that her small person is endued and made up of the very expressed essence of housewifeliness,–she is the very attar, not of roses, but of housekeeping. Care-taking and thrift and neatness are a nature to her; she is as dainty and delicate in her person as a white cat, as everlastingly busy as a bee; and all the most needful faculties of time, weight, measure, and proportion ought to be fully developed in her skull, if there is any truth in phrenology. Besides all this, she has a sort of hard-grained little vein of common sense, against which my fanciful conceptions and poetical notions are apt to hit with just a little sharp grating, if they are not well put. In fact, this kind of woman needs carefully to be idealized in the process of education, or she will stiffen and dry, as she grows old, into a veritable household Pharisee, a sort of domestic tyrant. She needs to be trained in artistic values and artistic weights and measures, to study all the arts and sciences of the beautiful, and then she is charming. Most useful, most needful, these little women: they have the centripetal force which keeps all the domestic planets from gyrating and frisking in unseemly orbits, and, properly trained, they fill a house with the beauty of order, the harmony and consistency of proportion, the melody of things moving in time and tune, without violating the graceful appearance of ease which Art requires.
So I had an eye to Jenny’s education in my article which I unfolded and read, and which was entitled
HOMEKEEPING VERSUS HOUSEKEEPING
There are many women who know how to keep a house, but there are but few that know how to keep a home. To keep a house may seem a complicated affair, but it is a thing that may be learned; it lies in the region of the material; in the region of weight, measure, color, and the positive forces of life. To keep a home lies not merely in the sphere of all these, but it takes in the intellectual, the social, the spiritual, the immortal.
* * * * *
Here the hickory stick broke in two, and the two brands fell controversially out and apart on the hearth, scattering the ashes and coals, and calling for Jenny and the hearth-brush. Your wood fire has this foible, that it needs something to be done to it every five minutes; but, after all, these little interruptions of our bright-faced genius are like the piquant sallies of a clever friend,–they do not strike us as unreasonable.
When Jenny had laid down her brush she said,–
“Seems to me, papa, you are beginning to soar into metaphysics.”
“Everything in creation is metaphysical in its abstract terms,” said I, with a look calculated to reduce her to a respectful condition. “Everything has a subjective and an objective mode of presentation.”
“There papa goes with subjective and objective!” said Marianne. “For my part, I never can remember which is which.”
“I remember,” said Jenny; “it’s what our old nurse used to call internal and out-ternal,–I always remember by that.”
“Come, my dears,” said my wife, “let your father read;” so I went on as follows:–
* * * * *
I remember in my bachelor days going with my boon companion, Bill Carberry, to look at the house to which he was in a few weeks to introduce his bride. Bill was a gallant, free-hearted, open-handed fellow, the life of our whole set, and we felt that natural aversion to losing him that bachelor friends would. How could we tell under what strange aspects he might look forth upon us, when once he had passed into “that undiscovered country” of matrimony? But Bill laughed to scorn our apprehensions.
“I’ll tell you what, Chris,” he said, as he sprang cheerily up the steps and unlocked the door of his future dwelling, “do you know what I chose this house for? Because it’s a social-looking house. Look there, now,” he said, as he ushered me into a pair of parlors,–“look at those long south windows, the sun lies there nearly all day long; see what a capital corner there is for a lounging-chair; fancy us, Chris, with our books or our paper, spread out loose and easy, and Sophie gliding in and out like a sunbeam. I’m getting poetical, you see. Then, did you ever see a better, wider, airier dining-room? What capital suppers and things we’ll have there! the nicest times,–everything free and easy, you know,–just what I’ve always wanted a house for. I tell you, Chris, you and Tom Innis shall have latch-keys just like mine, and there is a capital chamber there at the head of the stairs, so that you can be free to come and go. And here now’s the library,–fancy this full of books and engravings from the ceiling to the floor; here you shall come just as you please and ask no questions,–all the same as if it were your own, you know.”
“And Sophie, what will she say to all this?”
“Why, you know Sophie is a prime friend to both of you, and a capital girl to keep things going. Oh, Sophie’ll make a house of this, you may depend!”
A day or two after, Bill dragged me stumbling over boxes and through straw and wrappings to show me the glories of the parlor furniture, with which he seemed pleased as a child with a new toy.
“Look here,” he said; “see these chairs, garnet-colored satin, with a pattern on each; well, the sofa’s just like them, and the curtains to match, and the carpets made for the floor with centrepieces and borders. I never saw anything more magnificent in my life. Sophie’s governor furnishes the house, and everything is to be A No. 1, and all that, you see. Messrs. Curtain & Collamore are coming to make the rooms up, and her mother is busy as a bee getting us in order.”
“Why, Bill,” said I, “you are going to be lodged like a prince. I hope you’ll be able to keep it up; but law business comes in rather slowly at first, old fellow.”
“Well, you know it isn’t the way I should furnish, if my capital was the one to cash the bills; but then, you see, Sophie’s people do it, and let them,–a girl doesn’t want to come down out of the style she has always lived in.”
I said nothing, but had an oppressive presentiment that social freedom would expire in that house, crushed under a weight of upholstery.
But there came in due time the wedding and the wedding-reception, and we all went to see Bill in his new house, splendidly lighted up and complete from top to toe, and everybody said what a lucky fellow he was; but that was about the end of it, so far as our visiting was concerned. The running in, and dropping in, and keeping latch-keys, and making informal calls, that had been forespoken, seemed about as likely as if Bill had lodged in the Tuileries.
Sophie, who had always been one of your snapping, sparkling, busy sort of girls, began at once to develop her womanhood and show her principles, and was as different from her former self as your careworn, mousing old cat is from your rollicking, frisky kitten. Not but that Sophie was a good girl. She had a capital heart, a good, true womanly one, and was loving and obliging; but still she was one of the desperately painstaking, conscientious sort of women whose very blood, as they grow older, is devoured with anxiety, and she came of a race of women in whom housekeeping was more than an art or a science,–it was, so to speak, a religion. Sophie’s mother, aunts, and grandmothers, for nameless generations back, were known and celebrated housekeepers. They might have been genuine descendants of the inhabitants of that Hollandic town of Broeck, celebrated by Washington Irving, where the cows’ tails are kept tied up with unsullied blue ribbons, and the ends of the fire-wood are painted white. He relates how a celebrated preacher, visiting this town, found it impossible to draw these housewives from their earthly views and employments, until he took to preaching on the neatness of the celestial city, the unsullied crystal of its walls and the polish of its golden pavement, when the faces of all the housewives were set Zionward at once.
Now this solemn and earnest view of housekeeping is onerous enough when a poor girl first enters on the care of a moderately furnished house, where the articles are not too expensive to be reasonably renewed as time and use wear them; but it is infinitely worse when a cataract of splendid furniture is heaped upon her care,–when splendid crystals cut into her conscience, and mirrors reflect her duties, and moth and rust stand ever ready to devour and sully in every room and passageway.
Sophie was solemnly warned and instructed by all the mothers and aunts,–she was warned of moths, warned of cockroaches, warned of flies, warned of dust; all the articles of furniture had their covers, made of cold Holland linen, in which they looked like bodies laid out,–even the curtain tassels had each its little shroud,–and bundles of receipts, and of rites and ceremonies necessary for the preservation and purification and care of all these articles, were stuffed into the poor girl’s head, before guiltless of cares as the feathers that floated above it.
Poor Bill found very soon that his house and furniture were to be kept at such an ideal point of perfection that he needed another house to live in,–for, poor fellow, he found the difference between having a house and a home. It was only a year or two after that my wife and I started our menage on very different principles, and Bill would often drop in upon us, wistfully lingering in the cosy armchair between my writing-table and my wife’s sofa, and saying with a sigh how confoundedly pleasant things looked there,–so pleasant to have a bright, open fire, and geraniums and roses and birds, and all that sort of thing, and to dare to stretch out one’s legs and move without thinking what one was going to hit. “Sophie is a good girl!” he would say, “and wants to have everything right, but you see they won’t let her. They’ve loaded her with so many things that have to be kept in lavender that the poor girl is actually getting thin and losing her health; and then, you see, there’s Aunt Zeruah, she mounts guard at our house, and keeps up such strict police regulations that a fellow can’t do a thing. The parlors are splendid, but so lonesome and dismal!–not a ray of sunshine, in fact not a ray of light, except when a visitor is calling, and then they open a crack. They’re afraid of flies, and yet, dear knows, they keep every looking-glass and picture-frame muffled to its throat from March to December. I’d like, for curiosity, to see what a fly would do in our parlors!”
“Well,” said I, “can’t you have some little family sitting-room where you can make yourselves cosy?”
“Not a bit of it. Sophie and Aunt Zeruah have fixed their throne up in our bedroom, and there they sit all day long, except at calling-hours, and then Sophie dresses herself and comes down. Aunt Zeruah insists upon it that the way is to put the whole house in order, and shut all the blinds, and sit in your bedroom, and then, she says, nothing gets out of place; and she tells poor Sophie the most hocus-pocus stories about her grandmothers and aunts, who always kept everything in their houses so that they could go and lay their hands on it in the darkest night. I’ll bet they could in our house. From end to end it is kept looking as if we had shut it up and gone to Europe,–not a book, not a paper, not a glove, or any trace of a human being in sight; the piano shut tight, the bookcases shut and locked, the engravings locked up, all the drawers and closets locked. Why, if I want to take a fellow into the library, in the first place it smells like a vault, and I have to unbarricade windows, and unlock and rummage for half an hour before I can get at anything; and I know Aunt Zeruah is standing tiptoe at the door, ready to whip everything back and lock up again. A fellow can’t be social, or take any comfort in showing his books and pictures that way. Then there’s our great, light dining-room, with its sunny south windows,–Aunt Zeruah got us out of that early in April, because she said the flies would speck the frescoes and get into the china-closet, and we have been eating in a little dingy den, with a window looking out on a back alley, ever since; and Aunt Zeruah says that now the dining-room is always in perfect order, and that it is such a care off Sophie’s mind that I ought to be willing to eat down cellar to the end of the chapter. Now, you see, Chris, my position is a delicate one, because Sophie’s folks all agree that, if there is anything in creation that is ignorant and dreadful and mustn’t be allowed his way anywhere, it’s ‘a man.’ Why, you’d think, to hear Aunt Zeruah talk, that we were all like bulls in a china-shop, ready to toss and tear and rend, if we are not kept down cellar and chained; and she worries Sophie, and Sophie’s mother comes in and worries, and if I try to get anything done differently Sophie cries, and says she don’t know what to do, and so I give it up. Now, if I want to ask a few of our set in sociably to dinner, I can’t have them where we eat down cellar,–oh, that would never do! Aunt Zeruah and Sophie’s mother and the whole family would think the family honor was forever ruined and undone. We mustn’t ask them unless we open the dining-room, and have out all the best china, and get the silver home from the bank; and if we do that, Aunt Zeruah doesn’t sleep for a week beforehand, getting ready for it, and for a week after, getting things put away; and then she tells me that, in Sophie’s delicate state, it really is abominable for me to increase her cares, and so I invite fellows to dine with me at Delmonico’s, and then Sophie cries, and Sophie’s mother says it doesn’t look respectable for a family man to be dining at public places; but, hang it, a fellow wants a home somewhere!”
My wife soothed the chafed spirit, and spake comfortably unto him, and told him that he knew there was the old lounging-chair always ready for him at our fireside. “And you know,” she said, “our things are all so plain that we are never tempted to mount any guard over them; our carpets are nothing, and therefore we let the sun fade them, and live on the sunshine and the flowers.”
“That’s it,” said Bill bitterly. “Carpets fading,–that’s Aunt Zeruah’s monomania. These women think that the great object of houses is to keep out sunshine. What a fool I was when I gloated over the prospect of our sunny south windows! Why, man, there are three distinct sets of fortifications against the sunshine in those windows: first, outside blinds; then solid, folding, inside shutters; and, lastly, heavy, thick, lined damask curtains, which loop quite down to the floor. What’s the use of my pictures, I desire to know? They are hung in that room, and it’s a regular campaign to get light enough to see what they are.”
“But, at all events, you can light them up with gas in the evening.”
“In the evening! Why, do you know my wife never wants to sit there in the evening? She says she has so much sewing to do that she and Aunt Zeruah must sit up in the bedroom, because it wouldn’t do to bring work into the parlor. Didn’t you know that? Don’t you know there mustn’t be such a thing as a bit of real work ever seen in a parlor? What if some threads should drop on the carpet? Aunt Zeruah would have to open all the fortifications next day, and search Jerusalem with candles to find them. No; in the evening the gas is lighted at half-cock, you know; and if I turn it up, and bring in my newspapers and spread about me, and pull down some books to read, I can feel the nervousness through the chamber floor. Aunt Zeruah looks in at eight, and at a quarter past, and at half past, and at nine, and at ten, to see if I am done, so that she may fold up the papers and put a book on them, and lock up the books in their cases. Nobody ever comes in to spend an evening. They used to try it when we were first married, but I believe the uninhabited appearance of our parlors discouraged them. Everybody has stopped coming now, and Aunt Zeruah says ‘it is such a comfort, for now the rooms are always in order. How poor Mrs. Crowfield lives, with her house such a thoroughfare, she is sure she can’t see. Sophie never would have strength for it; but then, to be sure, some folks ain’t as particular as others. Sophie was brought up in a family of very particular housekeepers.’”
My wife smiled, with that calm, easy, amused smile that has brightened up her sofa for so many years.
Bill added bitterly,–
“Of course, I couldn’t say that I wished the whole set and system of housekeeping women at the–what-‘s-his-name?–because Sophie would have cried for a week, and been utterly forlorn and disconsolate. I know it’s not the poor girl’s fault; I try sometimes to reason with her, but you can’t reason with the whole of your wife’s family, to the third and fourth generation backwards; but I’m sure it’s hurting her health,–wearing her out. Why, you know Sophie used to be the life of our set; and now she really seems eaten up with care from morning to night, there are so many things in the house that something dreadful is happening to all the while, and the servants we get are so clumsy. Why, when I sit with Sophie and Aunt Zeruah, it’s nothing but a constant string of complaints about the girls in the kitchen. We keep changing our servants all the time, and they break and destroy so that now we are turned out of the use of all our things. We not only eat in the basement, but all our pretty table-things are put away, and we have all the cracked plates and cracked tumblers and cracked teacups and old buck-handled knives that can be raised out of chaos. I could use these things and be merry if I didn’t know we had better ones; and I can’t help wondering whether there isn’t some way that our table could be set to look like a gentleman’s table; but Aunt Zeruah says that ‘it would cost thousands, and what difference does it make as long as nobody sees it but us?’ You see, there is no medium in her mind between china and crystal and cracked earthenware. Well, I’m wondering how all these laws of the Medes and Persians are going to work when the children come along. I’m in hopes the children will soften off the old folks, and make the house more habitable.”
Well, children did come, a good many of them, in time. There was Tom, a broad-shouldered, chubby-cheeked, active, hilarious son of mischief, born in the very image of his father; and there was Charlie, and Jim, and Louisa, and Sophie the second, and Frank,–and a better, brighter, more joy-giving household, as far as temperament and nature were concerned, never existed.
But their whole childhood was a long battle,–children versus furniture, and furniture always carried the day. The first step of the housekeeping powers was to choose the least agreeable and least available room in the house for the children’s nursery, and to fit it up with all the old, cracked, rickety furniture a neighboring auction-shop could afford, and then to keep them in it. Now everybody knows that to bring up children to be upright, true, generous, and religious needs so much discipline, so much restraint and correction, and so many rules and regulations, that it is all that the parents can carry out, and all the children can bear. There is only a certain amount of the vital force for parents or children to use in this business of education, and one must choose what it shall be used for. The Aunt Zeruah faction chose to use it for keeping the house and furniture, and the children’s education proceeded accordingly. The rules of right and wrong of which they heard most frequently were all of this sort: Naughty children were those who went up the front stairs, or sat on the best sofa, or fingered any of the books in the library, or got out one of the best teacups, or drank out of the cut-glass goblets.
Why did they ever want to do it? If there ever is a forbidden fruit in an Eden, will not our young Adams and Eves risk soul and body to find out how it tastes? Little Tom, the oldest boy, had the courage and enterprise and perseverance of a Captain Parry or Dr. Kane, and he used them all in voyages of discovery to forbidden grounds. He stole Aunt Zeruah’s keys, unlocked her cupboards and closets, saw, handled, and tasted everything for himself, and gloried in his sins.
“Don’t you know, Tom,” said the nurse to him once, “if you are so noisy and rude, you’ll disturb your dear mamma? She’s sick, and she may die, if you’re not careful.”
“Will she die?” says Tom gravely.
“Why, she may.”
“Then,” said Tom, turning on his heel,–“then I’ll go up the front stairs.”
As soon as ever the little rebel was old enough, he was sent away to boarding-school, and then there was never found a time when it was convenient to have him come home again. He could not come in the spring, for then they were house-cleaning, nor in the autumn, because then they were house-cleaning; and so he spent his vacations at school, unless, by good luck, a companion who was so fortunate as to have a home invited him there. His associations, associates, habits, principles, were as little known to his mother as if she had sent him to China. Aunt Zeruah used to congratulate herself on the rest there was at home, now he was gone, and say she was only living in hopes of the time when Charlie and Jim would be big enough to send away, too; and meanwhile Charlie and Jim, turned out of the charmed circle which should hold growing boys to the father’s and mother’s side, detesting the dingy, lonely playroom, used to run the city streets, and hang round the railroad depots or docks. Parents may depend upon it that, if they do not make an attractive resort for their boys, Satan will. There are places enough, kept warm and light and bright and merry, where boys can go whose mothers’ parlors are too fine for them to sit in. There are enough to be found to clap them on the back, and tell them stories that their mothers must not hear, and laugh when they compass with their little piping voices the dreadful litanies of sin and shame. In middle life, our poor Sophie, who as a girl was so gay and frolicsome, so full of spirits, had dried and sharpened into a hard-visaged, angular woman,–careful and troubled about many things, and forgetful that one thing is needful. One of the boys had run away to sea; I believe he has never been heard of. As to Tom, the eldest, he ran a career wild and hard enough for a time, first at school and then in college, and there came a time when he came home, in the full might of six feet two, and almost broke his mother’s heart with his assertions of his home rights and privileges. Mothers who throw away the key of their children’s hearts and childhood sometimes have a sad retribution. As the children never were considered when they were little and helpless, so they do not consider when they are strong and powerful. Tom spread wide desolation among the household gods, lounging on the sofas, spitting tobacco juice on the carpets, scattering books and engravings hither and thither, and throwing all the family traditions into wild disorder, as he would never have done had not all his childish remembrances of them been embittered by the association of restraint and privation. He actually seemed to hate any appearance of luxury or taste or order,–he was a perfect Philistine.
As for my friend Bill, from being the pleasantest and most genial of fellows, he became a morose, misanthropic man. Dr. Franklin has a significant proverb,–“Silks and satins put out the kitchen fire.” Silks and satins–meaning by them the luxuries of housekeeping–often put out not only the parlor fire, but that more sacred flame, the fire of domestic love. It is the greatest possible misery to a man and to his children to be homeless; and many a man has a splendid house, but no home.
“Papa,” said Jenny, “you ought to write and tell what are your ideas of keeping a home.”
“Girls, you have only to think how your mother has brought you up.”
* * * * *
Nevertheless, I think, being so fortunate a husband, I might reduce my wife’s system to an analysis, and my next paper shall be, What is a Home, and How to Keep it.