Page images
PDF
EPUB

table need present a sordid assortment of articles chosen simply for cheapness, while the whole capacity of the purse is given to the set for ever locked away for state occasions.

“A table-service, all of simple white, of graceful forms, even though not of china, if arranged with care, with snowy, well-kept table linen, clear glasses, and bright electro-plate in place of solid silver, may be made to look inviting ; add a glass of flowers every day, and your table may look pretty ;-and it is far more important that it should look pretty for the family every day than for company once in two weeks.”

“ I tell my girls,” said my wife, “as the result of my experience, you may have your pretty china and your lovely fanciful articles for the table only so long as you can take all the care of them yourselves. As soon as you get tired of doing this, and put them into the hands of the trustiest servants, some good, wellmeaning creature, is sure to break her heart and your own and your very pet darling china pitcher all in one and the same minute; and then her frantic despair leaves you not even the relief of scolding."

“I have become perfectly sure,” said I, “ that there are spiteful little brownies, intent on seducing good women to sin, who mount guard over the special idols of the china closet. If you hear a crash, and a loud Irish wail from the inner depths, you never think of its being a yellow pie-plate, or that dreadful one-handled tureen that you have been wishing were broken these five years; no, indeed,—it is sure to be the lovely painted china bowl, or the engraved glass goblet, with quaint old English initials. China sacrificed must be a great means of saintship to womren. Pope, I think, puts it as the crowning grace of his perfect woman, that she is

“Mistress of herself, though china fall.'” “I ought to be a saint by this time, then," said

mamma; “for in the course of my days I have lost so many idols by breakage, and peculiar accidents that seemed by a special fatality to befall my prettiest and most irreplaceable things, that in fact it has come to be a superstitious feeling now with which I regard anything particularly pretty of a breakable nature."

"Well," said Marianne, “unless one has a great deal of money, it seems to me that the investment in these pretty fragilities is rather a poor one."

6 Yet,” said I, “the principle of beauty is never so captivating as when it presides over the hour of daily meals. I would have the room where they are served one of the pleasantest and sunniest in the house. I would have its colouring cheerful, and there should be companionable pictures and engravings on the walls. Of all things I dislike a room that seems to be kept like a restaurant, merely to eat in. I like to see in a dining-room something that betokens a pleasant sittingroom at other hours. I like there some books, a comfortable sofa or lounge, and all that should make it cosy and inviting. The custom in some families, of adopting for the daily meals one of the two parlours which a city-house furnishes, has often seemed to me a particularly happy one. You take your meals, then, in an agreeable place, surrounded by the little pleasant arrangements of your daily sitting-room; and after the meal, if the lady of the house does the honours of her own pretty china herself, the office may be a pleasant and social one.

"Finally and lastly,” I said, " in my analysis and explication of the agreeableness of those same parlours, comes the crowning grace_their homeliness. By homeliness I mean not ugliness, as the word is apt to be used, but the air that is given to a room by being really at home in it. Not the most skilful arrangement can impart this charm.

"It is said that a king of France once remarked, My son, you must seem to love your people.' 6.Father, how shall I seem to love them ?'

- "My son, you must love them.'

“So, to make rooms seem home-like you must be at home in them. Human light and warmth are so wanting in some rooms, it is so evident that they are never used, that you can never be at ease there. In vain the housemaid is taught to wheel the sofa and turn chair towards chair; in vain it is attempted to imitate a negligent arrangement of the centre-table.

" Books that have really been read and laid down, chairs that have really been moved here and there in the animation of social contact, have a sort of human vitality in them; and a room in which people really live and enjoy is as different from a shut-up apartment as a live woman from a wax image.

“Even rooms furnished without taste often become charming from this one grace, that they seem to let you into the home life and home current. You seem to understand in a moment that you are taken into the family, and are moving in its inner circles, and not revolving at a distance in some outer court of the gentiles.

“How many people do we call on from year to year and know no more of their feelings, habits, tastes, family ideas and ways, than if they lived in Kamtschatka! And why? Because the room which they call front parlour is made expressly so that you never shall know. They sit in a back room,—work, talk, read, perhaps. After the servant has let you in and opened a crack of the shutters, and while you sit waiting for them to change their dress and come in, you speculate as to what they may be doing. From some distant region, the laugh of a child, the song of a canary-bird, reaches you, and then a door claps hastily to. Do they love plants ? Do they write letters, sew, embroider, crochet ? Do they ever romp and frolic ? What books do they read? Do they sketch or paint ? Of all these possibilities the mute and muffled room says nothing. A sofa and six chairs, two ottomans fresh from the upholsterer's, a Brussels carpet, a centre

table with four gilt Books of Beauty on it, a mantelclock from Paris, and two bronze vases,—all these tell you only in frigid tones, . This is the best room,' -only that, and nothing more, -and soon she trips in in her best clothes, and apologizes for keeping you waiting, asks how your mother is, and you remark that it is a pleasant day,—and thus the acquaintance progresses from year to year. One hour in the little back room, where the plants and canary-bird and children are, might have made you fast friends for life; but as it is, you care no more for them than for the gilt clock on the mantel.”

Here Marianne shivered and drew up a shawl, and Jenny gaped; my wife folded up the garment in which she had set the last stitch, and the clock struck twelve.

Bob gave a low whistle. “Who knew it was so late ?

“We have talked the fire fairly out,” said Jenny.

WE ARE SEVEN.

William WORDSWORTH.

I met a little cottage girl,

She was eight years old, she said ;
Her hair was thick with many a curl

That cluster'd round her head.

“Sisters and brothers, little maid,

How many may you be ?”.
“How many ? seven in all," she said,

And, wondering, look'd at me.

“And where are they, I pray you tell ?"

She answer'd, “Seven are we; And two of us at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea.

Two of us in the churchyard lie,

My sister and my brother;
And, in the churchyard cottage, I

Dwell near them with my mother.'

“You say that two at Conway dwell,

And two are gone to sea,
Yet you are seven !-I pray you tell,

Sweet maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little maid reply,

“ Seven boys and girls are we; Two of us in the churchyard lie,

Beneath the churchyard tree.”

“ You run about, my little maid,

Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the churchyard laid,

Then you are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”

The little maid replied, • Twelve steps or more, from my mother's door,

And they are side by side.

My stockings there I often knit;

My kerchief there I hem ;
And there upon the ground I sit,

And sing a song to them.

And often after sunset, sir,

When it is light and fair, I take my little porringer, And eat my supper there,

« PreviousContinue »