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least of superfluous hangings. After all, very likely, a nicely-painted scene at the theatre is really a prettier thing to sit looking at than a dingy space of green baize; and though the needlework of our first Norman queen might form a more picturesque background for our beaux and belles, than some of the paper patterns and gaudy works of art, so-called, that we have come across in our time, it is nevertheless very doubtful if we are not, by the absence of tapestry, slightly the gainers on the score of cleanliness and fresh air.
The festooned velvet curtain, which we occasionally lean against at evening parties when the folding doors have been removed, is suggested, probably, by a recollection of the arras of the ancients, but we know it is never let down, it is quite useless, and chiefly serves to hide the marks of the hinges on the door-post. A feeble idea may possess the mind of Materfamilias, when she has " a small and early" in her still smaller drawing-rooms in Banbury Square, that the effect is graceful, and that it gives a palatial, or baronial hall-like look to her essentially modern apartments; but beyond the fact that it sometimes tumbles on to your head, and disarranges the graceful flow of your manly locks, destroying for the time your personal appearance, it does no harm, and the really magnificent curtains which our great upholsterers display, are merely wanted for a proper finish to the windows of lofty and well-ventilated saloons.
With these few exceptions then, we may safely admit that the tangible actual curtain is a thing of the past. Damask or moreen, rep or velvet, chintz, muslin, or dimity, they are very little used now, in comparison to what they were fifty years ago; nevertheless, there are other sorts of curtains which, so long as the world lasts, and human nature remains what it is, cannot, nor ever will, go out of fashion.
The curtains which we draw across our hearts, the curtains by which we endeavour to hide, even from ourselves, the innermost workings of our souls, will always remain in use. Frequently very flimsy, tattered, worn-out rags these, not serving at all the purpose for which they are intended, having great gaps and rents in them, through which we can see quite plainly, or patched and darned so clumsily, as, even by their ill-mending, to pique our curiosity to learn what there can be, upon the hiding of which so much ineffectual labour and pains have been bestowed. Worn threadbare by constant use, they are as transparent as glass itself. Now and then, indeed, we meet with quite new ones, freshly put up at the same windows, but failing equally in their object; the muslin and lace curtain which can scarcely be meant
to conceal, but is supposed to lend a gay and attractive aspect to the
The rough, unpleasant curtain of moreen, is in continual use; it does not deceive you, you know it to be a curtain, but it is just thick enough to prevent your catching more than the faintest glimmer of light behind it, and the less you meddle with it the better. The jocose, crackling, or crisp chintz material often falls before us, but its colours, quality, and substance, are generally so agreeable, cool, and bright, that we never even so much as think of wanting to take a peep behind it, any more than we do behind the soft pleasant dimity.
Lastly, there is the thick, dark, impenetrable stuff, the velvet, rep, or damask, in perfect repair, through which it is quite hopeless ever to get the slightest idea of what is taking place on the other side; a stout substance, only to be counteracted by a like opaque screen, and where we may broadly conclude that the more the pure light of heaven is excluded from the room, the less its contents will bear to be revealed.
Thus, from the quality of the curtains always hanging at the windows of men's minds, we may sometimes obtain a clue to the character of the thoughts dwelling behind them, in much the same manner as we may judge by the outer aspect of a house, of the character of its inmates.
Walk down the street, and mark those windows which are much curtained and be-draped, leaving but small gaps by which any glimpse into the room might be gained, and you will usually find that an additional obscurity is given by the dirt on the glass, which seems seldom or never to be cleaned.
The blinds, which after all are nothing but curtains on rollers, are low drawn down, and usually of a dingy hue. Fresh air, twin brother to pure light, is equally excluded, and in the hottest weather the merest chink of ventilation obtained by the raising of the bottom sash, two inches, and this often against the wire gauze screen, which forms a low and more rigid obstruction to the penetration of outer things.
Other points in the domicile noticeably coincide with these-it always wants painting, its door-steps are always dirty, and its areagate always open. The bells are out of order, and when you have knocked three or four times, you are answered at last by a slatternly head thrust out from the kitchen or second-floor window; and it is seldom that the person you want to see is at home, or will allow as much to be stated.
There is an hypocrisy, a dingy sort of subterfuge, a hiding away, a keeping in the dark, peeping-from-behind-curtains sort of tone about the whole affair, which it is quite reasonable to accept as an index ta the character of the occupant; and you may be pretty sure that his thoughts, were the curtains drawn back from them, would show out quite as unsatisfactorily as would his rooms, did you but open the windows, take down the curtains, and let a ray of bright sunshine fall upon his untidy hearth.
The disorder, want of cleanliness, the rickety, worn-out condition of the furniture, alike of brain and sitting-room, would be, I am afraid, pretty much upon a par. Yet, this would be a severe test for even the best of us to be put to-aye, even for that well-looking house over the way, so bright and cheerful of aspect, with its long wide French windows opening to the floor, its flowers in the balcony, and its fresh clean muslin curtains, only lending so much grateful shadow to its inner penetralia as is consistent with coolness and comfort.
Despite the new paint, and the trim servant that answers the door with all promptitude, despite the well-organized household, the regular hours, and the free, unaffected heartiness of the welcome you always receive, despite the perfect harmony which exists between the mind of the host and the appearance of his domicile; yes, despite all this, if a ruthless hand were to tear down what little drapery is used, say merely for the sake of decoration, possibly the sight of something unpleasant, if not ugly, that we never expected, would meet our gaze. At least there would be unfinished angles, rough edges, sharp nails, and little disused, long-forgotten, dusty recesses, brought to light. Well, then, what hand would wish to do this? So long as a sufficient quantity of light and air circulates through our brains, and our houses, to keep them pure and healthy, let us willingly submit to the employment of just so many hangings and curtains as shall make matters look cheerful and pleasant; and provided they never fall between true hearts, or interfere with the free circulations of sincere sympathies, nothing can be urged against them. It is only when, like arras and tapestry, they form a refuge for unclean things, or, like the surroundings to our four-post bedsteads, they preclude the possibility of ventilation, that we may congratulate ourselves on their disappearance, and that we live in an age which, whatever its short-comings may be, can scarcely be said to be one darkened by the superabundant use of curtains.
For whether I wake, or whether I sleep,
I am far away to the time that was,
Sometimes I walk in the paradise,
And when my sweet sad fancies run
They go and search about to find
Ay! this love is a tyrant always,
And Edgar's a worthy man I know,
But I never shall live in it, mother,
And never shall make it mine!