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The inexorable dinner hour, which is passed sub silentio in imaginary forests, always recurs, in real woods, with distressing iteration, once in twenty-four hours, as I found to my cost. And the provoking people for whom I had undertaken to provide, seemed to me to get hungry oftener than ever before. There was no end to the bread that the children ate from morning till night—at least it seemed so ; while a tin reflector was my only oven, and the fire required for baking drove us all out of doors.
Washing days, proverbial elsewhere for indescribable horrors, were our times of jubilee. Mrs. Jennings, who long acted as my factotum on these occasions, always performed the entire operation, al fresco, by the side of the creek, with
“ A kettle slung
I feel much indebted to Cowper for having given a poetical grace to the arrangement. “The shady sha. dow of an umbrageous tree" (I quote from an anonymous author) served for a canopy, and there the bony dame generally made a pic-nic meal, which I took care to render as agreeable as possible, by sending as many different articles as the basket could be persuaded to receive, each contained in that characteristic of the country, a pint bowl.
But, oh! the ironing days ! Memory shrinks from the review. Some of the ordinary household affairs could be managed by the aid of a fire made on some large stones at a little distance from the house ; and this did very well when the wind sat in the right quar.
ter; which it did not always, as witness the remains of the pretty pink gingham which fell a sacrifice to my desire for an afternoon cup of coffee. But the ironing and the baking were imperious ; and my forest Hecate, who seemed at times to belong to the salamander tribe, always made as much fire as the stick-chimney, with its crumbling clay-lining, would possibly bear. She often succeeded in bringing to a white heat the immense stone which served as a chimney-back, while the deep gaps in the stone hearth, which Alice called the Rocky Mountains, were filled with burning coals out to the very floor. I have sometimes suspected that the woman loved to torment me, but perhaps I wrong her. She was used to it, I dare say, for she looked like one exsiccated in consequence of ceaseless perspiration.
When the day declined, and its business was laid aside, it was our practice to walk to and fro before the door, till the house had been thoroughly cooled by the nightair; and these promenades, usually made pleasant by long talks about home, and laughing conjectures as to what and
would say if they could see our new way of life, were frequently prolonged to a late hour. And to this most imprudent indulgence we could not but trace the agues which soon prostrated most of us.
We had, to be sure, been warned by our eastern friends that we should certainly have the ague, do what we might, but we had seen so many persons who had been settled for years in the open country, and who were yet in perfect health, that we had learned to imagine ourselves secure. I am still of the opinion that care and rational diet will enable most persons to
avoid this terrible disease ; and I record this grave medical view of things for the encouragement and instruction of such of my city friends as may hereafter find themselves borne westward by the irresistible current of affairs ; trusting that the sad fate of their predecessors will deter them from walking in the open air till ten o'clock at night without hat or shawl.
Down with the topmast; yare ; lower, lower ; bring her to try with main-course.
WHEN Angeline left me, which she did after a few days, I was obliged to employ Mrs. Jennings to “ chore round,” to borrow her own expression; and as Mr. Clavers was absent much of the time, I had the full enjoyment of her delectable society with that of her husband and two children, who often came to meals very sociably, and made themselves at home with small urgency on my part. The good lady's habits required strong green tea at least three times a day; and be. tween these three times she drank the remains of the tea from the spout of the tea-pot, saying “it tasted better
“ If she had n't it,” she said " she had the 'sterics so that she was n't able to do a chore." And her habits were equally imperious in the matter of dipping with her own spoon or knife into every dish on the table. She would have made out nobly on kibaubs, for even that unwieldly morsel a boiled ham, she grasped by the hock and cut off in mouthfuls with her knife, declining all aid from the carver, and saying cooly that she made out very well. It was in vain one offered her any thing, she replied invariably with a dignified nod ; “ I'll help myself, I thank ye. I never want no waitin' on."
And this reply is the universal one on such occasions, as I have since had vexatious occasion to observe.
Let no one read with an incredulous shake of the head, but rather let my sketch of these peculiar habits of my neighbours be considered as a mere beginning, a shadow of what might be told. I might
66 Amaze indeed
but I forbear.
If " grandeur hear with a disdainful smile”-think. ing it would be far better to starve than to eat under such circumstances, I can only say such was not my hungry view of the case ; and that I often found rather amusing exercise for my ingenuity in contriving excuses and plans to get the old lady to enjoy her meals alone. To have offered her outright a separate table, though the board should groan with all the delicacies of the city, would have been to secure myself the un. enviable privilege of doing my own “ chores,” at least till I could procure a “ help” from some distance beyond the reach of my friend Mrs. Jennings' tongue.
It did not require a very long residence in Michigan, to convince me that it is unwise to attempt to stem di. rectly the current of society, even in the wilderness, but I have since learned many ways of wearing round which give me the opportunity of living very much after my own fashion, without offending, very seriously, any body's prejudices.
No settlers are so uncomfortable as those who, coming with abundant means as they suppose, to be comfortable, set out with a determination to live as they