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The Three-toothed Rake

The Three-toothed Rake image
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I suppose the girls of Millburn would all resent the imputation, if I should say that any of them envied little Pliebe Bird when she set up housekeeping with Ridgway Dayton, on the finest farm the country aft'orded, in a house that was in thorough repair and fully furnished. It was an establishment to be provd of, and people said if that yonng couple did not prosper it would be their own fault. 'There, llidge.' said Uncle Aleck, 'is your farm, and stock, and house all aid for, and novv I shall do no more 'or you. If you don't hoe out your row, you'll hare to starve. I am gong abroad, so I shan't be coming around to advise you and scold you, and I expect it will come pretty tough with you for awhile. 13 ut Phebe is a sensible girl, I am happy to say, and 1 ,hink I leave you in pretty good hands.' Eidge secretly feit rather pleaed at ;he prospect of being 'left,' but he did not say so. Uncle Aleck was an excellent man to provide, but he was a ■'ttle sharp in nis way, as the young man had occasion to kuow at times in ïis juvenile years. The old gentleman ïimself had been reared under a system which might be formulated in the old couplet - 'A boy, a dog aid a walnut tree, The more you tbrash tbeui, the bettertbey bp." The system had been greatly toned lown in the case of the orphaned nephew, but Ridge thought itstrictenough. Ilis choice of a wife had pleased his uncle as well as himself, for Phebe was a very domestic girl as well as a cultivated one, and it was the general verliet that 'both had done well.' Still Vunt Cynthia did teil liidgeway she wished he 'had got i wife who would make him stand around a little more.' 'Oh, she'll make me stand around enough,' laughed lüdge. 'You need not be concerned about that.' 'She'll have need to,' said Auht Cynhia, nodding her head sagaciously. She had known his manner of lif e f rom lis youth up, and said he was always a very good boy if he only had asteady ïand with him to keep him in order. Jut líidge believed 'aunts and úneles never did appreciate a fellow.' Now t was worth while to have the worhipful direction of such a sweet, ip)reciative little soul as Phebe Bird's, md he did think liiniself a lueky fellow, and he was. A stout, capable hired man was enjaged at the outset, who understood his business, and, appropriately, received good wages. So the cares oí' life sat very lightly on theyoungiariner's shoulders, though he feit the responsibility of Atlas when he shouldered the world, liavingnot only his own, but his wife's domain to look after. Jiïst when the serpent entered into this little Eden could not distinctly be told. I have no doubt he 'vired in and wired out,' araong the vines andshrubbery of that 'first garden,' for sometime before he presented himself toour flrst mother,. If Ridgway was a liLtle exacting and very particular, Phebe was very selfsacriflcing and painstaking; so there was little jar in the machinery. He though t strict order and system about work a very excellent thing - for other people- especially for a man's wii'e. Breakfast at seven, dinner at twelve, and supper at six, always on the table at the minute, was his standard, but of course if he could not be on hand just at that time, it was only necessary to keep things hot and at their best for halt' or three-quarters of an hour, and it would be nice for her to lili up the time witti sewing, or some little thing fo that kind. It need not be lost time to her by any means. Of course a man's work is the important work of the world always. Eidge, from his inexperience in household affairs, had imbibed a theory that if a woman is but economical, it costs 'next to nothing' to support such a small family 'on a farm.' He was astonished at the cost of sugar and coffee and tea and tbe dozens of little outgoes every week. It must be there was something wrong somewhere. All his pet theorius were getting knoced in the liead. In vain Phebe mildly reasoned with hiin; showed him how long supplies could reasonably be made to last; proposed retrenching on cake for ten, but of course he would not hear of that. He liked cake. Slie never spoke of retrenching on cigars, though some women would. But all her 'argufying' was without avail. 'A man convinced agaiiiBt bis will Is of the same opinión still.' ïSomehow, the more llidge thought about it, the more convinced he was that his wife could hardly be a wise manager. He was disappointed because the money did not pilo up quite as he expected. That wasanother demolished theory which considerably set him back. But then he remembered an old saw which says 'a man must ask his wife's leave to thrive.' and he w;is somewhat comforted. Phebe was young, She might yet be induced to chango her marnier of iloing business. Perhape he had been too indulgent hiniself, and luid provided too lavishly for the supposed wants of the househoUl. He miglit, and indeed lie must turn over a new leaf. In other words, he would tighten the thumbscrews a little and see if the effect on his victiin would not be salutary. Phebe liad grown very reluctant to ask for what was really needed in the house, so surc was she of that adverse criticism so intensely humilla ting to a woman of ñne nature. If water will wear a stone, so will perpetual petty fault-finding eat away afl home happtness. If Phebe had been more self-asserüng in the start it would have been far better. She could have educated the young man into a reasonable householder. But instead, she took a very wrong course, and by dressmaking in over hours, contrived to earn a little money. ïhis went to eke out the scanty allowance her husband thought so munificent for the expenses of 'so small a faniily.' When supper was over Ridge harnessed up and drove to the vil lage in his fresh cool suit, to get the evening mail. It would have been a rest and refresliment to Phebe to go too, but there was the supper to clear away.the milk to set, little Aleck to care for, and Ridge would have thought all things going to wreck and ruin if she should so desert the sliip. 'Únele Aleck is at home, Phebe!' said Ridge one evening in great excitement, as he returned with a letter. 'lie is coming on liere next week. Now I need not teil you how important it is for all of ns that we make a good impression upon hiña. My únele is a good man, but he has his peculiar notions. He was always lecturing meon economy. If he gets the impression that we are living extravagantly, he may cut me off with a shilling. Try to liave little Aleck at his best, and, i f possible, keep him from crying. We must study to provide his favurite dishes, for he always í'eels crusty if his meáis do not please him. I have laid jy a little money, though not half what [ expected - our living expenses have been so high; bnt I know tíñele Aleck will be gratitied to know I have saved even a little.' 'There are a number of things we íeed,' sugerested l'hebe, wearily. 'I supposo your miele will always prefer white sugar in his cofïee, and it is much he best for everything. We have ïone. And the cofïee pot is so leaky ■ can hardly make cofïee in it; and the ;ea kettle is a great trouble fer tlie same reason. They really ought to be meaded.' 'And the same of half the tinware in the house, 1 suppose,' he said with a lofty smile, as he lighted his cigar. 'it is very true,' said Phebe. with no smile either. 'ÍTow, don'c it seem to jou, l'hebe,' he said argumentatively, 'that three years is a very short time for tinware to last? I think my Aunt Lucinda has pieces she bouglit forty years ago.' 'Tinware is not what it used to be.' '1 know women say so, but af ter all it depends a great deal upon the way it is used.' Whereiipon followed a discourse on the use of pans and basins, that was supposed to efïectually settle the question abont the necessity of her particular stock being mended. ïliis modern Pharaoh still persisted in demanding bricks without straw;so, with tlie very scantiestresources,Phebe set about preparing for the dreaded visit. Slie would have liked a little girl to lielp take care of baby, but her huáband objected on principie. It might look extravagant to T 'ncle Aleck, and the board of such a girl would be more than her wages. It was a beautiful day in June, and the country at its best, when l'ncle Aleck came. He gave his nephew a hearty hand-shake, and looked over liis added pounds of avoirdiipois with laughing eyes. 'Farm life hasn't w.orn you down,' I perceive,' be said, as he stepped into the buggy. ïlie supper was excellent, the house likea new pin, baby sweetand fresh in his clean white tucker, and there was only one shadow that tliose ke n grey eyes detected, and that was the worn and faded look of the young mother. It lilled him with solicitude, and gave him real pain, as he feared liis young niece might be in failing health.andhis poor boy might be left early with only a memory and a pictured face, as he had been these many long years. One thing which had so drawn him to Phebe, was her resemblance to that little ivory painted picture he bore with liim over land and sea. He wondered if there was not a cause for her pallid cheek, that might yet be discovered and remedied. Fullofthis intent, he kept a shaip lookout trom ttnder his shaggy eye-biows, t he walked about the premises. The farm was kept up to a state of high thrift and neatness by the hired man, and Kidgway gottlie credit of it. But indoors there was a scrimped, unhandy look about most of the working implemonts, which tt iel not escape observalion. He saw Pliebe tinkering her tins with bits of twine drawn into the holes, and he heard Kidge expostulating with lier in the kitelion about somesupplics sheneeded. He sut through a Monday in the cosy sitting-room, wliere he could hear her toiling at the washtub, and hurrying to gei up the meals, while slie attended to the neglected baby when she could cateh a moment's time. liis indignation was at white heat by night, and he feit that he could have caned "that graceless scamp," his nephew, with pleasure, for pennitting such a state of affairs. They walked out af ter tea and looked at the crops, Kidgeway feeling unusually well satisfled with himself and all his doings. Uncle Aleck's flrst remark hardly chimed in with this sentiment. 'Didn't it ever seem to you, Kidge, as i rather one-sided arrangement that you should have a stout man to help you out of doors, and yourwife nohelp at all indoors V 'ïum about is fair play.' Huppose now that you try the business for three years alone, and let her have the help." Oh, uncle,' expostulated Kidge, 'there is steady work for two men on this farm the year around.' 'And steady work in the house for two women; and yet you have let a young delicate wife carry it on singlehanded, and, as far as 1 know, have liever remonstrated with her on the slow suicide she was committing. Such havoc as three short years have made It ouglit to make a man ashamed, il his f eelings are not ironclad, to so ovei work a woraan he lias vowed to love and cherish.' llidgway reddened at his uncle's plain-dealing, but lie was not disposed to admit tliat he was the one so muh to blame. 'I teil you, uncle, Phebe luis not the faeulty of getting along witli lier work that some womeu have. ]t tak es her longer than it needs to to get overy meal. I am soraetimes ahnost surprised.' 'It certainly does take her longer than it need to. I have plainly seen that, and now, young man, I'll teacli you a lesson. You are to rake hay tomorrow, I believe. I'll fix you a rake, and I'll see you use it.' And the irate old man smasked all but three teeth out of a good rake and handed it over to his nephew. 'There's your implement, and I'll come out and see how you get on with it. ïhere'll be no shirking, either. Everything I have seen of your in-door home conveniences have been just of that order. Your wife works with a three-toothed rake trom morning til) night. It is good to be saving and lay up money, but not if you must grind it out of the life-blood of those who should be nearest and dearest to you. No more new rakes tor yon until I see a different order of things in the house! Let Phebe make oat a list of all shc needs as we are together this cvening, and then do you draw a check and foot the bill.' 'Why, uncle, you never kept house. You know nothing of a woman's clemands. It would sweep every cent I have.' ■Let it sweep then. Money gotten dishonestly as that was had better go to the place it was stolen from. You have been robbing your wife of her life-power, her health and her happiness these three years. It is time you begin to make reparation. I have preached economy to you, it is true, but I never preached dishonesty. If you can't keep your wife in a decent way, break up and let Phebe go back to the good home she came from. You can go into a store in the city and make your own living.' What a desolate picture it was! Leave his pleasant home, his wife, and joy, and take up with the old solitary lodgings in a boarding-house! He feit lonesome at the bare suggestion. Uncle Aleck went on: 'I should like to give your wife this piece of advice: The next time you even hint about what is needed in the liousekeeping, and what is not, and suggest retrenchment here and a cutting off there, I want lier to walk out md give orders toyour hired man; teil ïim howmuch grain to give the liorses, how much salt to the sheep; how he must scrimp the wheat when he sows it, and the corn when he planta it. She may teil him to tie up the broken harrow with a string, and not go to the expense of getting it mended, and shall insist on bis going ahead if the plow handle is broken - it is too trilling a thing to stop the work for that, All the fault I find with I'hebe is that she did not do this long ago. If she had given you a good settiug down on the start, and tiughtyou to mind your business, it would have been a great Messing all around.' It was pretty plain dealing, but it was a great eye-opener to the young man. Ile sat upon the piazza for an hour in the moonlight and thought, and thought. Whatever his meditations. were, one thought was uppermost - he must gain ground with Uncle Aleck, or his chances were slim. That little talk had, as Mark Twain would say, 'knocked more conceit out of him than a tit of sea-sickness.' 'Humble-pie may not be very palatable, but it is sometimes just the diet to bring one around right. Slowly and soberly theyoungman came to himself, and then the foremost thought was - 'what a wretch I have been ; can Phoebe have a spark of love or respect leCt for rne?' There must have been soii.cUung good in the youth, or that loyal heart could not have held fast in her affection for him through thick and thin, as she had done. Uncle Aleck's visit was a godsend to her. lie siw a n?w order of things established in the house, and hung up the three-toothed rake in a conspicuous place in the barn as a standing object-lesson. Phebe searcely knew how toget mealsin herrenovated kitchen, but her face was as bright as her new saucepans. Miebe soon won back her roses, and went about her duties blithe as a singing bird. Sne would always laughi-igly head her husband off whenever he began to allude to the oíd times, and 'set down naught in malice,' but charged the whole to 'our youth and inexperience.' When Uncle Aleck came back the next year to the christeningof the 'little Caroline,' he made out to her the deeds of some valuable property, and added n codicil to his will in which the ivovy picture was bequeathed to this hame&ake of the fair lady, who, to him, was always young and beautiful. Tuk nkav roLii'K or regulating bill (senateüle 231), which has passed both branches of the legislatura, gathers and systematizes all Mie anti-liquor enactinents scattered through the session laws since 1875. It inakesthe prooi' of selling liquor to minors sufflclent evidence of evil intent. It prohibits the playing of all games in saloons or any adjoining rooms, it forbids the sale of liquor in theaters, concert halls, variety shows or other places of amusement, or in any room opening into these. It shortens the time for closing at night oi:e hout (trom 10 to 9), and defines inore clearly what "closing" means, and does away with the necessity, when the 9 o'clock rule is violated, of proving that any liquor was sold. While it follows the okl law in compelling persons found intoxicated to testify, it relieves it of all unconstilutionality by waiving the penalty againat such persons for the act for whicli lie testifica. Jt increases the penalty in the liquor bond, strengthens its provisions, and avoids the bond in case of conviction. It :üso limits the place of business for liquor-selling under one bond. It provides for the visitation of saloons by oüicers, says t.hat secmïty for cost shall not be required from cotnplainants, and in an action on bonds it awards cost to plaintiff, irrespective of amount recovered. It strengthens the law with regard to druggists by Riilding additional restrictions and increasing the penalty for violation.


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat