onsdag 1 januari 2014

On the eighth day of Christmas

I recommend "The Angel Over the Right Shoulder" by Elizabeth Wooster Stuart Phelps

The Angel over the Right Shoulder

"There! a woman's work is never done," said Mrs. James; "I thought, for once, I was through; but just look at that lamp, now! it will not burn, and I must go and spend half an hour over it."
"Don't you wish you had never been married?" said Mr. James, with a good-natured laugh.
"Yes"—rose to her lips, but was checked by a glance at the group upon the floor, where her husband was stretched out, and two little urchins with sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks, were climbing and tumbling over him, as if they found in this play the very essence of fun.
She did say, "I should like the good, without the evil, if I could have it."
"You have no evils to endure," replied her husband.
"That is just all you gentlemen know about it. What would you think, if you could not get an uninterrupted half hour to yourself, from morning till night? I believe you would give up trying to do anything."
"There is no need of that; all you want, is system. If you arranged your work systematically, you would find that you could command your time."
"Well," was the reply, "all I wish is, that you could just follow me around for one day, and see what I have to do. If you could reduce it all to system, I think you would show yourself a genius."
When the lamp was trimmed, the conversation was resumed. Mr. James had employed the "half hour," in meditating on this subject.
"Wife," said he, as she came in, "I have a plan to propose to you, and I wish you to promise me beforehand, that you will accede to it. It is to be an experiment, I acknowledge, but I wish it to have a fair trial. Now to please me, will you promise?"
Mrs. James hesitated. She felt almost sure that his plan would be quite impracticable, for what does a man know of a woman's work? yet she promised.
"Now I wish you," said he, "to set apart two hours of every day for your own private use. Make a point of going to your room and locking yourself in; and also make up your mind to let the work which is not done, go undone, if it must. Spend this time on just those things which will be most profitable to yourself. I shall bind you to your promise for one month—then, if it has proved a total failure, we will devise something else."
"When shall I begin?"
The morrow came. Mrs. James had chosen the two hours before dinner as being, on the whole, the most convenient and the least liable to interruption. They dined at one o'clock. She wished to finish her morning work, get dressed for the day, and enter her room at eleven.
Hearty as were her efforts to accomplish this, the hour of eleven found her with her work but half done; yet, true to her promise, she left all, retired to her room and locked the door.
With some interest and hope, she immediately marked out a course of reading and study, for these two precious hours; then, arranging her table, her books, pen and paper, she commenced a schedule of her work with much enthusiasm. Scarcely had she dipped her pen in ink, when she heard the tramping of little feet along the hall, and then a pounding at her door.
"Mamma! mamma! I cannot find my mittens, and Hannah is going to slide without me."
"Go to Amy, my dear; mamma is busy."
"So Amy busy too; she say she can't leave baby."
The child began to cry, still standing close to the fastened door. Mrs. James knew the easiest, and indeed the only way of settling the trouble, was to go herself and hunt up the missing mittens. Then a parley must be held with Frank, to induce him to wait for his sister, and the child's tears must be dried, and little hearts must be all set right before the children went out to play; and so favorable an opportunity must not be suffered to slip, without impressing on young minds the importance of having a "place for everything and everything in its place;" this took time; and when Mrs. James returned to her study, her watch told her that half her portion had gone. Quietly resuming her work, she was endeavoring to mend her broken train of thought, when heavier steps were heard in the hall, and the fastened door was once more besieged. Now, Mr. James must be admitted.
"Mary," said he, "cannot you come and sew a string on for me? I do believe there is not a bosom in my drawer in order, and I am in a great hurry. I ought to have been down town an hour ago."
The schedule was thrown aside, the workbasket taken, and Mrs. James followed him. She soon sewed on the tape, but then a button needed fastening—and at last a rip in his glove, was to be mended. As Mrs. James stitched away on the glove, a smile lurked in the corners of her mouth, which her husband observed.
"What are you laughing at?" asked he.
"To think how famously your plan works."
"I declare!" said he, "is this your study hour? I am sorry, but what can a man do? He cannot go down town without a shirt bosom!"
"Certainly not," said his wife, quietly.
When her liege lord was fairly equipped and off, Mrs. James returned to her room. A half an hour yet remained to her, and of this she determined to make the most. But scarcely had she resumed her pen, when there was another disturbance in the entry. Amy had returned from walking out with the baby, and she entered the nursery with him, that she might get him to sleep. Now it happened that the only room in the house which Mrs. James could have to herself with a fire, was the one adjoining the nursery. She had become so accustomed to the ordinary noise of the children, that it did not disturb her; but the very extraordinary noise which master Charley sometimes felt called upon to make, when he was fairly on his back in the cradle, did disturb the unity of her thoughts. The words which she was reading rose and fell with the screams and lulls of the child, and she felt obliged to close her book, until the storm was over. When quiet was restored in the cradle, the children came in from sliding, crying with cold fingers—and just as she was going to them, the dinner-bell rang.

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