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lean," and there she turned and ripped and altered her dresses, and there lay crochet and knitting and embroidery side by side with a weekly basket of family-mending, and in neighborly contiguity with the last book of the season, which my wife turned over as she took her after-dinner lounge on the sofa. And in the bow-window were canaries always singing, and a great stand of plants always fresh and blooming, and ivy which grew and clambered and twined about the pictures. Best of all, there was in our parlor that household altar, the blazing wood-fire, whose wholesome, hearty crackle is the truest household inspiration. I quite agree with one celebrated American author who holds that an open fireplace is an altar of patriotism. Would our Revolutionary fathers have gone barefooted and bleeding over snows to defend air-tight stoves and cooking-ranges? I trow not. It was the memory of the great open kitchen-fire, with its back-log and fore-stick of cordwood, its roaring, hilarious voice of invitation, its dancing tongues of flame, that called to them through the snows of that dreadful winter to keep up their courage, that made their hearts warm and bright with a thousand reflected memories. Our neighbors said that it was delightful to sit by our fire, — but then, for their part, they could not affbrd it, wood was so ruinously dear, and all that. Most of these people could not, for the simple reason that they felt compelled, in order to maintain the family-dignity, to keep up a parlor with great pomp and circumstance of upholstery, where they sat only on dress - occasions, and of course the wood-fire was out of the question.
When children began to make their appearance in our establishment, my wife, like a well-conducted housekeeper, had the best of nursery - arrangements, — a room all warmed, lighted, and ventilated, and abounding in every proper resource of amusement to the rising race; but it was astonishing to see how, notwithstanding this, the centripetal attraction drew every pair of little pattering feet to our parlor.
"My dear, why don't you take your blocks up-stairs?"
"I want to be where oo are," said with a piteous under-lip, was generally a most convincing answer.
Then the small people could not be disabused of the idea that certain chief treasures of their own would be safer under papa's writing-table or mamma's sofa than in the safest closet of their own domains. My writing-table was dockyard for Arthur's new ship, and stable for little Tom's pepper-and-salt-colored pony, and carriage - house for Charley's new wagon, while whole armies of paper dolls kept house in the recess behind mamma's sofa.
And then, in due time, came the tribe of pets who followed the little ones and rejoiced in the blaze of the firelight. The boys had a splendid Newfoundland, which, knowing our weakness, we warned them with awful gravity was never to be a parlor-dog; but, somehow, what with little beggings and pleadings on the part of Arthur and Tom, and the piteous melancholy with which Rover would look through the window-panes, when shut out from the blazing warmth into the dark, cold veranda, it at last came to pass that Rover gained a regular corner at the hearth, a regular status in every family-convocation. And then came a little black-and-tan English terrier for the girls; and then a fleecy poodle, who established himself on the corner of my wife's sofa; and for each of these some little voices pleaded, and some little heart would be so near broken at any slight, that my wife and I resigned ourselves to live in menagerie, the more 10 as we were obliged to confess a lurking weakness towards these four-footed children ourselves.
So we grew and flourished together, — children, dogs, birds, flowers, and all; and although my wife often, in paroxysms of housewifeliness to which the best of women are subject, would declare that we never were fit to be seen, yet I comforted her wi'h the reflection that there were few people whose friends seemed to consider them better worth seeing, judging by the stream of visitors and loungers -which was always setting towards our parlor. People seemed to find it good to be there; they said it was somehow home-like and pleasant, and that there was a kind of charm about it that made it easy to talk and easy to live; and as my girls and boys grew up, there seemod always to be some merry doing or othur going on there. Arty and Tom brought home their college friends, who straightway took root there and seemed to fancy themselves a part of us. AVe had no reception-rooms apart, whferc the girls were to receive young gentlemen; all the courting and flirting that were to be done had for their arena the ample variety of surface presented by our parlor, which, with sofas and screens and lounges and recesses and writing- and work-tables disposed here and there, and the genuine /.//-...ser oiler of the whole menage, seemed, on the whole, to have offered ample advantages enough; for, at the time I write of, two daughters were already established in marriage, and a third engaged, while my youngest was busy, as yet, in performing that little domestic ballet of the cat with the mouse, in the case of . most submissive youth of the neighborhood.
All this time our parlor-furniture, though of that granitic formation I have indicated, began to show marks of that decay to which things sublunary are liable. I cannot say that I dislike this look in a room. Take a fine, ample, hospitable apartment, where all things,- freely and generously used, softly and indefinably grow old together, there is a sort of mellow tone and keeping which pleases my eye. What if the seams of the great inviting armchair, where so many friends have sat and lounged, do grow white? What, in fact, if some easy couch has an undeniable hole worn in its friendly cover? I regard with tenderness even these mortal weaknesses of these servants and witnesses of our good times and social fellowship. No vulgar touch wore them; tbey may be called, rather, the marks
and indentations which the glittering in and out of the tide of social happiness has worn in the rocks of our strand. I would no more disturb the gradual toningdown and aging of a well-used set of furniture by smart improvements than I would have a modern dauber paint in emendations in a fine old picture.
So we men reason; but women do not always think as we do. There is a virulent demon of housekeeping, not wholly cast out in the best of them, and which often breaks out in unguarded moments^ In fact, Miss Marianne, being on theildokt-,',' on-, for furniture wherewith|ttt begin a new establishment, and Jant, ,yho had'/. . accompanied her in her pereg^iBAtions, had more than once thrown out littte-djs1 paraging remarks on the time-worn ap-" "pearance of our establishment, suggesting comparison with those of more modernfurnished rooms.
"It is positively scandalous, the way our furniture looks," I one day heard her declaring to her mother; "and this old rag of a carpet!"
My feelings were hurt, not the less so that I knew that the large cloth which covered the middle of the floor, and which the women call a bocking, had been bought and nailed down there, after a solemn family-counsel, as the best means of concealing the too evident darns which years of good cheer had made needful in our stanch old household friend, tho three-ply carpet, made in those days when to be a three-ply was a pledge of continuance and service.
Well, it was a joyous Mm1 bustling day, when, after one of those domestic whirlwinds which the women are fond of denominating house-cleaning, the new Brussels carpet was at length brought in and nailed down, and its beauty praised from mouth to mouth. Our old friends called in and admired, and all seemed to be well, except that I had that light and delicate presage of changes to come which indefinitely brooded over me.
The first premonitory symptom was the
> look of apprehensive suspicion with which
the female senate regarded the genial sunbeams that had always glorified our bow-window.
"This house ought to have inside blinds," said Marianne, with all the confident decision of youth; "this carpet will be ruined, if the sun is allowed to come in like that."
"And that dirty little canary must really be hung in the kitchen," said Jane; "he always did make such a litter, scattering his seed-chippings about; and he never takes his bath without flirting out some water. And, mamma, it appears to me it will never do to have the plants here. Plants are always either leaking through the pots upon the carpet, or scattering bits of blossoms and dead leaves, or some accident upsets or breaks a pot . It was no matter, you know, when we had the old carpet; but this we really want to have kept nice." Mamma stood her ground for the plants,— darlings of her heart for many a year, — but temporized, and showed that disposition towards compromise which is most inviting to aggression.
I confess I trembled; for, of all radicals on earth, none are to be compared to females that have once in hand a course of domestic innovation and reform. The sacred fire, the divine furor, burns in their bosoms, they become perfect Pythonesses, and every chair they sit on assumes the magic properties of the tripod. Hence the dismay that lodges in the bosoms of ns males at the fateful spring and autumn seasons, denominated house-cleaning. Who can say whither the awful gods, the prophetic fates, may drive our fair household divinities; what sins of ours may be brought to light; what indulgences and compliances, which uninspired woman has granted in her ordinary mortal hours, may be torn from us? He who has been allowed to keep a pair of pet slippers in a concealed corner, and by the fireside indulged with a chair which he might, ad libitum, fill with all sorts of pamphlets and miscellaneous literature, suddenly finds himself reformed out of knowledge, his pamphlets tucked away into pigeon-holes and corners, and
his slippers put in their place in the hall, with, perhaps, a brisk insinuation about the shocking dust and disorder that men will tolerate.
The fact was, that the very first night after the advent of the new carpet I had a prophetic dream. Among our treasures of art was a little etching, by an English artist-friend, the subject of which was the gambols of the household fairies in a baronial library after the household were in bed. The little people are represented in every attitude of frolic enjoyment. Some escalade the great arm-chair, and look down from its top as from a domestic Mont Blauc; some climb about the bellows; some scale the shaft of the shovel; while some, forming in magic ring, dance festively on the yet glowing hearth. Tiny troops promenade the writing-table. One perches himself quaintly on the top of the inkstand, and holds colloquy with another who sits cross-legged on a paper-weight, while a companion looks down on them from the top of the sand-box. It was an ingenious little device, and gave mo the idea which I often expressed to my wife, that much of the peculiar feeling of security.composure, and enjoyment which seems to be the atmosphere of some rooms and houses came from the unsuspected presence of these little people, the household fairies, so that the belief in their existence became a solemn article of faith with me.
Accordingly, that evening, after the installation of the carpet, when my wife and daughters had gone to bed, as I sat with my slippered feet before the last coals of the fire, I fell asleep in my chair, and, lo! my own parlor presented to my eye a scene of busy life. The little people in green were tripping to and fro, but in great confusion. Evidently something was wrong among them; for they were fussing and chattering with each other, as if preparatory to a general movement. In the region of the bow-window I observed a tribe of them standing with tiny valises and carpet-bags in their hands, as though about to depart on a journey. On my writing-table another set stood around my inkstand and penrack, who, pointing to those on the floor, teemed to debate some question among themselves; while others of them appeared to be collecting and packing- away in tiny trunks certain fairy treasures, preparatory to a general departure. When I looked at the social hearth, at my wife's M>!-.i and work-basket, I saw similar appearances of dissatisfaction and confusion. It was evident that the household fairies were discussing the question of a general and simultaneous removal. I groaned in spirit, and, stretching out my hand, began a conciliatory address, when whisk went the whole scene from before my eyes, and I awaked to behold the form of my wife asking me if I were ill or had had the nightmare that I groaned so. I told her my dream, and we laughed at it together.
"We must give way to the girls a little," she said. "It is natural, you know, that they should wish us to appear a little as other people do. The fact is, our parlor is somewhat dilapidated; think how many years we have lived in it without an article of new furniture."
"I hate new furniture," I remarked, in the bitterness of my soul. "I hate anything new."
My wife answered me discreetly, according to approved principles of diplomacy. I was right. She sympathized with me. At the same time, it was not necessary, she remarked, that we should keep a hole in our sofa-cover and armchair; there would certainly be no harm in sending them to the upholsterer's to be new-covered; she did n't much mind, for her part, moving her plants to the south back-room, and the bird would do well enough in the kitchen: I had often complained of him for singing vociferously when I was reading aloud.
So our sofa went to the upholsterer's; but the upholsterer was struck with such horror at its clumsy, antiquated, unfashionable appearance, that he felt bound to make representations to my wife and daughters: positively, it would be better for them to get a new one, of a tempting pattern, which he showed them, than
to try to do anything with that . With a stitch or so here and there it might do for a basement dining-room; but, for a parlor, ho gave it as his disinterested opinion, — he must say, if the case wore his own, he should get, etc., etc. In short, we had a new sofa and new chairs, and the plants and the birds were banished, and some dark green blinds were put up to exclude the sun from the parlor, and the blessed luminary was allowed there only at rare intervals when my wife and daughters were out shopping, and I acted out my uncivilized male instincts by pulling up every shade and vivifying the apartment as in days of old.
But this was not the worst of it. The new furniture and new carpet formed an opposition party in the room. I believe in my heart that for every little household fairy that went out with the dear old things there came in a tribe of discontented brownies with the new ones. These little wretches were always twitching at the gowns of my wife aud daughters, jogging their elbows, and suggesting odious comparisons between the smart new articles and what remained of the old ones. They disparaged my writing-table in the corner; they disparaged the oldfashioned lounge in the other corner, which had been the maternal throne for years; they disparaged the work-table, the work-basket, with constant suggestions of how such things as these would look in certain well-kept parlors where new-fashioned furniture of the same sort as ours existed.
"We don't have any parlor,"said Jane, one day. "Our parlor has always been a sort of log-cabin,—library, study, nursery, greenhouse, all combined. We never have had things like other people."
"Yes, and this open fire makes such a dust; and this carpet is one that shows every speck of dust; it keeps one always ou the watch."
"I wonder why papa never had a study to himself; I 'm sure I should think he would like it better than sitting here among us all. Now there 's the great south-room off the dining-room; if he would only move his things there, and have his open fire, we could then close up the fireplace, and put lounges in the recesses, and mamma could have her things in the nursery, — and then we should have a parlor fit to be seen."
I overheard all this, though I pretended not to, — the little busy chits supposing me entirely buried in the recesses of a German book over which I was poring.
There are certain crises in a man's life when the female element in his household asserts itself in dominant forms that seem to threaten to overwhelm him. The fair creatures, who in most matters have depended on his judgment, evidently look upon him at these seasons as only a forlorn, incapable male creature, to be cajoled and flattered and persuaded out his native blindness and absurdity into the fairy-land of their wishes.
"Of course, mamma," said the busy voices, "men can't understand such things. What can men know of housekeeping, and how things ought to look? Papa never goes into company ; he don't know and don't care how the world is doing, and don't see that nobody now is living as we do."
"Aha, my little mistresses, are you there?" I thought; and I mentally resolved on opposing a great force of what our politicians call backbone to this pretty domestic conspiracy.
"When you get my writing-table out of this corner, my pretty dears, I 'd thank you to let me know it."
Thus spake I in my blindness, fool that I was. Jupiter might as soon keep awake, when Juno came in best bib and tucker, and with the cestus of Venus, to get him to sleep. Poor Slender might as well hope to get the better of pretty Mistress Anne Page, as one of us clumsy-footed men might endeavor to escape from the tangled labyrinth of female wiles.
In short, in less than a year it was all done, without any quarrel, any noise, any violence, — done, I scarce knew when or how, but with the utmost deference to my wishes, the most amiable hopes that I would not put myself out, the most sin
cere protestations, that, if I liked it better as it was, my goddesses would give up and acquiesce. In fact, I seemed to do it of myself, constrained thereto by what the Emperor Napoleon has so happily called the logic of events, — that old, well-known logic by which the man who has once said A must say B, and be who has said B must say the whole alphabet . In a year, we had a parlor with two lounges in decorous recesses, a fashionable sofa, and six chairs and a lookingglass, and a grate always shut up, and a hole in the floor which kept the parlor warm, and great, heavy curtains that kept out all the light that was not already excluded by the green shades.
It was as proper and orderly a parlor as those of our most fashionable neighbors; and when our friends called, we took them stumbling into its darkened solitude, and opened a faint crack in one of the windowshades, and came down in our best clothes, and talked with them there. Our old friends rebelled at this, and asked what they had done to be treated so, and complained so bitterly that gradually wo let them into the secret that there was a great south-room which I had taken for my study, where we all sat, where the old carpet was down, where the sun shone in at the great window, where my wife's plants flourished and the canary-bird sang, and my wife had her sofa in the corner, and the old brass andirons glistened and the wood-fire crackled, — in short, ;> iDiiiii to which all the household fairies had emigrated.
When they once had found that out, it was difficult to get any of them to sit in our parlor. I had purposely christened the new room my study, that I might stand on my rights as master of ceremonies there, though I opened wide arms of welcome to.any who chose to come. So, then, it would often come to pass, that, when we were sitting round the fire in my study of an evening, the girls would say,—
"Come, what do we always stay here for? Why don't we ever sit in the parlor?"
And then there would be manifested