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Nellie Hartwell's Housekeeping

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" My dearest Nellie !" "Dear Horace!" ' ' And you will be content to take me is I ain - a poor clerk, with only seven ïundred a year ? Will you be happy to ass life with me in a small house, nd attend to the domestio aftairs yourelf ?" "Yes, Horace." "But, have you considered, my best )eloved, how great a burden this may ome times be f" "A burden ! O, Horace, as if anyïing that I could do for you would be a ntrden! A sweet little vine-wreathed ottage will be delightful. A cozy ïouse all to ourselves, and no prying ïousemaids to spy into everything we o, and prate of my faults and faiËngs o the whole neighborhood." "And no burnt steak and black cofee ! Doubly delicious the ambrosial ectar that your lily hands shall preare, my day-star, my wife - ihat is to e." Immediately upon this followed a conussion which made the windows clatter is in the breath of a tempest ; and, from nat littlo osrperienoo we havo had iu uch promises, we must venture to affirm ïat he kissed her - which of course ealed the compact. Horace Hartwell was a fme-looking oung fellow of twenty-three - a clerk in he jobbing-house of Martin & Turner ; nd Nellie Armsteadwas the daughterof man who, though by no means ealthy, had a wonderful talent for ap)earing so. In this laudable endeavor ie was aided by his wife - a handsome, 10 wy woman, who brought his daughr up to ornament the parlor, to the tter exclusión of the kitchen. Therebre, Nellie was well qualifled by eduon to become the mistress of a house, nd the regulator of its domestic afairs. Horace Hartwell had fallen' in love ith hor pretty face at a picnic ; and, on btaining an introduction, the infatua;ion had increased, until he carne to the onclusion that he could not live withut her ; and Nellie was firmly coninced that she should pine away and die if separated from Horace. And havïng succeeded in convincing Mrs. Arm;ead of this fact, that lady informed her ïusband, and the good man had notliing ;o do but consent to the marriage which was to be the means of saving two valuble lives. One fine, sunshiny morning in May, Horace and Nellie stood before the clergyman, and after that people called Nellie Mrs. Hartwell, and congratulated her on the happiness which was within her reach. The young couple took up their residence in a neat, one-story house, a little removed from the bustle of the city, and easy of access from the store where Horace was employed. And here they flrst came to reafize that Longfellow was not far from the truth when he said, " Life is real, life is earnest." Their house was comfortably, if not luxuriously, furnished, and an ampie stock of the good things of life was laid in for Nellio to exercise her skill upon as a cuisinier. When everything was put to rights, and Horace had gone to his place of business, leaving many a lover-like kiss on the white forehead of his wife, together with the intimation that he would expect dinner at three o'clock, Nellie consulted her watch and found that she had f nll four hours in which to prepare tliíit important meal. She would dress before she commenced doing anythiug about the kitchen, she thought ; she had read so much of untidy housekeepers, it never should be said she went round the house in slip-shod shoes or dingy wrappers. O, no ; housework should never make a sloven of her. So Nellie went up to her chamber, arrangod her hair in becoming ringlets, donned a pretty white cashmere peignoir over an embroidered skirt, and with black velvet bracelets on her arms and a blush rose in its own sweet buds and foliage on her bosom, it must be fesse.l tliat little Nellie looked pretty enough to challenge anybody's admira(ion. " Let ine see," quoth she, meditating, ' ' What shall I have f or dinner ? Horaqe ia fond of broiled steak; I've heard him say so. And pudding; yes, there must be pudding; a rice one, I guess will be best. And then there raust be potatoes and bread. That will sufflce for tho eatables; now for the drinkables, as Aunt Keziah says. Shall I have tea, coffee, chocolate, or water ? My head doesn't fc;l vary we.Il, and it shall be tea; tea helps settlc anybody's head, I have heard mother say. That r) all, I believe - no, there's the sauce; there must be some kind of sauce. Shall it be apple or cranberry ? For this once, oranberry; it's an abominable job to pare apples, and it Rtains one's hands so sïiockingly; and Horace can't enduro stained hands. I'll go and make a fir(, now." And suiting the actiou to the word, Afellie, after aome search, fottnd the ooal shovel, and put into the stove a peck of coal and an ignite d bunch of friction matches, then stood quietly awaiting the conflagration whieh was to ensue. Nothing alarming occurred; there was considerable smoke, and a powerful, strong smell of brimstone, but no great fire. She concluded that the matches didn't get fairly burning, so she tried another bunch; and believing this could not fail of accomplishing her design, she retired to the pantry as the next field of operation. After considerable thought on the subject, she decided to uiake the pudding flrft; it would be the most diflicult job, she argued. Well, how was it to be made? "The Bevised American Cook Book and Delicate Housewife's Especial and Valuable Friend in Need" was called in play. There was a paragraph on the cover to the effect that you would find everything worth knowing within the lids of that invaluable casket of diamonds; and Nellie fondly believed that people in general prefer speakiug truth to a lie ! So she opened the book in fuli faith touching its veracity. " Rice pudding, "ut the rice to soak in luke-warm water, having picked it clean of all irnpurities ; and milk, sugar, and salt to your taste. A little nutmeg and a couple of eggs improve it." " Goodness me!" ejaeulated Nellie, "how am I to know anything about it, 1 wondef ? How much is a little nutmeg ? And how much rice, and milk, and sugar, will be enough? And, as I live, if there ain't the awf ulest smut spot upon my skirt ! I must wash that out the ñrst thing !" And, forgetful of pudding and dinner, she flew to the wash bowl, and scrubbed the soiled cambric till its gaping threads cried eloquently for quarter. By the time this was cleansed she espied a second spot, located on the sleeve of her gown, and this must undergo the same elabórate process as the former blemfsh. When this much was gone through with, she saw that the rose on her bosom was in a disabled condition - the rose itself being among the missing, and the two delicate buds broken and wilted. So Nellie had to go up stairn and get a fresli blossom. Horace admired flowers, and thought Nellie became them amazingly. "Now the pudding must be mixed, for certain," said she, assuming an air of pretty importance, which, one wss there to see. "Let me read that recipe over again. ' Piek it clean of all impurities.' I wonder if that means the water, or the rice. It can't mean the rice, assuredly, for that is as clean as it possibly can be ; it is the doublé reflned - no, doublé distilled- mercy ! strange that I should forget the label on the box ! Well, it is pure rice, that don't need any picking, any way. How much rice will it take ? Goodness I I wish the cook book was a little more definite. Some time, 111 write one myself , that will give all the particulars to a teaspoonful. Well, we shall want the large white dish full ; I'll measure it, and see how much it holds. " And away flew Nellie to gauge the pudding dish, in order to calcúlate the quantity needed for the pudding. She Lonnd the plate capable of ontainiug two quarts, and from this she ccracluaea that two quarts of rice would be quite enough. The extravagant item was measured out, and committed to a tin pan full of water to undergo the soaking process, and Nellie suryeyed with dismay what remained in the box. "Dearme! it must be a terrible expense to keep house - here's every bit of that rice gone for a pudding; and Horace only having $700 a year. I must try to be very saving. I won t use as much sugar as I intended to; and the recipe says a little nutmeg- and I won't put in so much as that. Economy is a realvirtue." Soliloquizing thus to herself, Nellie mixed the rice, water and all, with a cupful of milk, a teacupful of sugar, two unbeaten eggs, a half a cup of salt, and a few grains of nutmeg. This precious compound she put into the oven of the stove and then proceeded to examine the fire. This was not so easily done, as there was no fire to be examined. Nellie thought she never did see such a contrary stove in her life; and by way of improving its contumacious disposition, she poured two or three spoonfuls of burning fluid on the coal, and then touched a lucifer to it. The effect was astonishing ; the covers of the stove were blown off like a beaver hat in a nor'wester, and the fire proved to be a mere " flash in the pan." " Never mind,'' said Nellie, in a consolatory tone; " I guess it will kindie; there s'eems to be a small blaze underneath." The potatoes were brought next, and having carefully peeled them, bhe placed them in a kettlé with some water and put them over the stove. Then she cut the steak- and her finger at the same time ; and the extraordinary gyration which she made under the influence of the pain upset the flour bucket into the slop-pail and entangled her crinoline in the hooks of the steelyards which depended from the wall. It was a long time before she could break clear from these tenacious intruders ; the steel frame-work of her skeleton held on like true metal, and the hooks of the steelyards were bound not to let go ; so a compromiso was made, and Nellie divested herself of the warlike garment and disengaged the combatants at her leisure. Nellie had heard lier mother's cook say that pounding nieat made it tender ; and, in pursuance of this knowledge, she put the pieces of steak into a mortar and pounded them until the perspiration streamed down her face and her arms ached with the exertion, As for the nieat, it is best not to say much regarding the appearance ; but it more strongly resembled a poultice than anything I e'lse. While she was thus engaged the cat- a family pet-had taken possession of the remainder of the steak, and was joying it to her feline heaxt 8 content, m the shadow of the pickle jar. "Seat, scat, you beast! Shoo, soat, there ! Shoo, I say ! " cried Nell, dropping the mortar, and making at pusay with the pestte elevated over her head. The cat, to avoid the impending blow, made a sidolong spring, knocking down a shelf which held several vessels of milk, and this shelf faiUng vipon the egg basket, sniashed a ehoseu dozen of as good esres as ever a hen cackled over. Nellieliad quite a mind to sit down in the inidst of the ruin and indulge in ii goodcry ; but she oontrolled herself.anc after mopping up the milk, to the great detriment of her white garments, sht went out into the kitohen to see what progresa the ñre was making. Therc was not the least vestige of a íire abou the premises, and poor Nellie wa in despair. Just then she spied a boy go iiiR by, and called out : " Here, boy, here ! 111 give you nine pence to do a little job for me." The boy'fi eye glistened at the peet, and he obeyed her cali with alacrity; but, when sho told him to make a fire, he laughed in her face. However, he was a capable lad - as Nellie thought - and ere long, by liis skillful application of kindlings, a brisk fire was in progresa. The stipulated prico was paid, and Nellie considered it a good bargain. The pudding was in the oven, the potatoes in the pot, the steak on the gridiron upon the top of the stove - everything was en traine. By-and-by the dripping from tho fat began to smell rather unpleasantly ; it filled the room with smoke so dense and stifling that poor Neilie's eyes grew red and tearful ; i and the tortured meat sizzled and : hissed, and turned black as a bear's skin. Nellie threw open the doors and stuck to. her task of turning the gridiron, resolved in vulgar, though expressive, parlance "to grin and bearit." The pudding boiled over a continued stream ; the potatoes bounced up and down in the kettle like cockle shells in a stormy sea ; the steak groaned and i spit, and in the midst of it all the clock i struck three. Punctual to the hour, Horace's step sounded in the entry, the kitchen door was flung open with a lover's impetuosity, and that individual, invaded the smoky room. " Good gracious, Nellie ! is the house on fire ? Oome here this moment, darling. What under the canopy ails your face ? It's blacker than the ace of spades - begging your pardon for the comparison. Do look inte the glass, Nell I " He wlieeled her round toward the mirror, and surely the picture there presented was not the most attractive one that a young husband might wish to look upon. The ashes which had been evolyed from the stove through her unremitting attempts to make a fire had settled on her hair, until her head was as white as that of an ancient militia captain, powdered for training day. One long curl had dipped itself in the hot water, over which she had been standing in vain effort to scrub the stains from her clothes, and it was straightened out as perpendicular as a candle, and hung, dripping with water, down her back. To finish the tout ensemble, a streak of sniut extended from her left temple across her nose to her right cheek, and at sight of the ridiculous figure sho made poor Nellie burst into tears. Tiiis only made inatters worse; but Horace, like a true hero, kissed away the tears, seot and all, transferring by far the larger portion of the látter substance to his own face. Then he off coat, turned up sleeves, and aDnounced himself ready to assist about the dihner. In this respect Horace was a jewel, and his wife blessed him for the generous heart whicb prompted his ready sympatky. But his abilities as a cook were in no wise equal to his will. He turned the steak, and lost half of it in the fire through the bars of the gridiron, "set" the table with the cloth wrong side out, the knives in the spoon-holder, the butter in the preserve bowl, and miatook the pudding dish for the meat plate. '. The potatoes were fished out of the ; pot, boiled to a complete mash ; not or,e partiële was left upoii another; and : Huiuw] vu ïiia .tr ei; , upon straining potatoes and water through the dish-cloth, in the hope of saving the remains. At last they sat down to dmner- baker's bread, suspicious-looking butter, meat, and a pie from the confectioner's. The pudding was to answer for the dessert. "Is there tea or coffee, dea rest? asked Horace, looking dubiously over the tabJ. " Goodness, if I didn't forget it ! cried Nellie, springing up with such force as to upset the castor, and send the vinegar 'dancing to the floor. "How much tea wiü it take for us ? " "I don't know, I'm sure," said Horace, slowly. "What does your cookbook say ? " Nellie eonsulted the work. "It says 'a quantity proportionate to the size" of the family.' How mucb woiúd that be for us? " 'Well, I don't know; about a cup f uil, I should think." So a cup full was put into the urn ; hot water was added, and the two housekeepers sat down and waited patiently for the steeping to be finished. At last the tea was drawn ; Hoïace sugared and creamed it, and put the cup to his lipa. " Good heavens ! " cried he, in dismay, it is strong enough to bear up a long-boat; and black, too. No more black ink needed in this house yet awhile. We must drink water to-day. There, there, nover mind ; it was all my work." Neilie's tears had begun to flow again, and Horaoe leaned over the table to kiss her forehead, upsetting the tea at the same time into the bosom of his white vest. The amount of calorie contained in the fluid was decidedly unpleasant, and poor Horace, under the influence of the pain. kicked over his chairandbroke the looking-glass with the flourish of his elbows. Theu ho begged Neilie's pardon, picked up the chair, removed the fragmenfcs of the mirror, kissed his Niobe of a wife, and sat down to finish his dinner. Alas for his appetite! The steak was nothing but a burnt einder - outrageously detrimental to molars and incisors ; the potatoes wero non est ; and Horace saved all hls powers for the pudding. And he had need of them. The dessert was brought on and poured into its appropriate receptacle, and Horace helped himself and his wife to bountiful portions. "Turk's island ! and crystaliized limestone ! " cried he, dropping hisfirst mouthful back into his plate. " Lot's wife must have been imported in the last steamer." "Why, Horace!" exclaimed Nellie, in alarm, " what is the matter with the pudding ? " "Salter than salitudus ! Do taste, Nell ! " One mouthful was suffloient. Neilie's pretty face was screwed up mto a iiundred puokers. " Why, Horaoe, who would have thoughtit? I only put in half a cupful." Dinner passed off rather soberly. Nellie was mortified at the ül success of her hard work. Horace was obliged to quit the table hungry, and we all know that a man with an empty storaach, and the prospect of that organ's remaining thus, is a a formidable animal. However, his good humor returned directly. He kissed Ncllie goud-by, and loft her to the task of washing the dishes - no easy duty, by the way. The dinner and its acoompaniments were but the prototype of nimiy ano tier dinner. It would be inñnitely amusing to the reader to follow Neilie Harwell through the four weeks following her removal to a house of her own. She invariably forgot to make the bed until she went up stairs to retire ; the lamps were never filled till the moment they were wantod ; the carpets were swept after she had dusted the f urniture ; she boiled the calicó clothes and the whito ones together ; made starch of cold water ; ironed Horace's dickies wrong side out ; sewed up the fingers of his gloves ; mistook salt for saleratiw and tartar emetic for salt ; tramt the meat, forgot to sweeten the sponge cake, and made a hundred other blunders that every inexperienced housekeepor can imagine for herself. A month of this kind of existence passcd away, and Nellie broached a plan to her husband. Horace was only too delighted to consent. Their house was shut up; the young man went to a boarding house and Nellie went to Aunt Martha Chase, a widowed sister of her father, who resided in a country town some twenty miles away. Aunt Martha was a lady more celebrated for the excellence of her pies and preserves than for the number of her flounces, and under her tutelage Xollie became, in time, what every woman should be, without regard to her station, a good housokeoper. And when at the end of three months she went back to her own house, there were no more salt puddings or burned steaks. Little lady, think well beforehand, if the adoration of your accepted lover will live after marriage if fod upon bad bread and black coffee.


Old News
Michigan Argus