Sunday, 31 July 2016

13 November 1880 - 'How to Wash and Iron' by Ruth Lamb - Part Two

There is a very general impression that the more rapidly a family washing is got out of the way, the more excellent must be the domestic management. Certainly, the having clothes about in an unfinished state, day after day, is a sign of anything but good management in a home. Still, I am to in favour of too great hurry. Laundry work, like everything else, requires a reasonable amount of time and pains, if the result is to be satisfactory.

In a sanitary point of view it is good to give underclothing, table and bed linen as much light and fresh air as we can, colour and purity being both improved thereby. When it is noticed that articles are getting a bad colour, let them go through all the processes with the rest, and then, weather permitting, put them out on the grass to bleach, wetting and turning each from time to time, and finishing when washing day comes round again.

In my former chapter I described the mode in which boiled starch is used. For all delicate fabrics, such as muslins, and for shirts, collars, cuffs, fronts, &c., cold starch is preferable. It is very economical, both as regards time and material, cold-starched articles being almost immediately ready  for the iron, whilst those done with boiled starch require to lie some time after being sprinkled and folded. The use of extremely thin, water starch for all white underclothing, makes it easier to wash and to keep a good colour, besides improving the appearance.

For starching collars, cuffs and things which require to be very stiff, the starch is smoothly mixed in the proportion of four ounces to a quart of water. There is an article sold called "starch gloss," and a small quantity of this, well combined with the starch, adds a beautiful sheen to the surface of the linen, and makes it look like new.

The water should be put in slowly and very well stirred, and, if needed, the surface should be skimmed after the mixture has stood for a few moments. When well mixed it should stand for three or four minutes to allow part of the solid starch to settle, and then half the mixture, which will be of the consistency and colour of new milk, should be poured into a clean basin. In this, starch shirt-fronts, collars, &c., but as each article will take a little of the stiffening quality out of the mixture, more must be added from the other vessel to make up  for the loss, the solid starch left being again treated as at first directed.

Four ounces of starch will suffice for nine shirts, or smaller articles in proportion; and, when too thin for these, the poured-off mixture can be used for other things which require less stiffening. I say the poured-off mixture because there is always the greater part of the solid starch left behind, and when the cold starching process is over this must by no means be thrown away. On the contrary, though no longer available  for the same kind of stiffening, it must be allowed to settle and the water drained off. Kept in a clean, cool place, the sediment again dries and hardens, and on the next washing day can be used up only in the form of boiled starch, for which it is almost if not quite as good as when fresh I prefer the white starch to the blue, and use the ordinary-looking article.

The sprinkling, folding, and ironing of linen is such cleanly and pleasant work that I cannot fancy the most fastidious young lady finding anything to object to in it. The deal ironing-table should be white and clean, and, as each article is taken from the clothes-basket, it should be lightly and evenly sprinkled.

Careless hands sometimes deluge one part and leave the others dry. Fine, even sprinkling is the right thing, and in winter, if the chill is taken off the water, so much the better  for the fingers of the workers. When you have sprinkled a goodly pile, put your hands under and over, and turn the clothes topsy-turvy, so that the bottom article may come to the top. Well stretch and straighten each piece, bring corners and seams nicely together, and fold everything  for the mangle, as neatly as possible in the same way as when finished ready for wear. Shirts and similarly starched articles are not sent to the mangle; they are sprinkled, cold starched, folded, and singly wrapped for ironing. Collars and such little matters should be nicely straightened after being squeezed through the starch, rolled up, and wrapped in a clean towel. Table-cloths and sheets should be stretched by two pairs of hands, and lengthways. Suppose two girls doing this. Each must take two corners; go back to the full length of the article, and pull it gently but firmly out, gradually gathering up the hemmed ends in your hands until both meet in the middle, but with each fold stretching again. Then let the cloth go gradually, until your hands are back at the corners again, when you must give it a good shake or two and fold it in half, right side inwards. Turn the selvages back to the middle of the wrong side, just as a pocket-handkerchief is folded, meet your companion by bringing your corners neatly to hers, and finish the straightening on the table.

Table linen requires very little starch, only enough to give it consistency. Nothing is more disagreeable than to have stiff, crackling, table napkins, and board-like table-cloths; but they should be very well mangled and ironed on both sides, so that when laid on the table they look almost like brocaded satin. The folding should also be most carefully done, that there may be no folds sticking up, or unsightly creases when the cloth is spread.

There are a few starched articles that require no ironing. Dimity curtains should be most particularly stretched, straightened, and shaken after starching, and pegged out by the loops, or pinned to something else when put on the line to dry. Many laundresses, otherwise experienced, do not know this; and consequently iron all the pattern out of the dimity, and send home, smoothed and glazed, what ought to be in ridges and have a rough surface, as when new.

The cleaner's art is now brought to such perfection that most people, whose means allow them to do so, send their long curtains to be cleaned instead of washing them at home, and they come back made up like new. It is, however, very easy to do them at home, for whether lace, leno, or muslin, they should not be touched with an iron. The cleansing process should be effected by abundant soaking, with a little soda as well as soap, and frequent changes of water. These things would be worn out rapidly if subjected to rough rubbing, so they must be handled tenderly, stewed in a bag, as before directed, or bleached, squeezed through strong cold starch, and very nicely straightened while wet.

The quickest and best way of drying them is to have a frame. It is a mere oblong rim of wood, long enough and wide enough,  for the purpose, and with small hooks fixed near the edge, at a distance of two inches from each other. The curtains are simply stretched and hooked on these, and when dry are ready for neatly folding up or hanging at the windows again. The frame is a very inexpensive article, and saves much trouble, as the curtains dry very quickly on it.

As a substitute, a sheet may be spread on a carpet, and the curtains pinned to it, should there be a spare room available. I know a very good house in which they are always dried in this way. If hung on a line, the edges would be nicely straightened, and the curtains gently pulled when about half dry.

Pretty, short curtains  for the lower portion of windows are those made of plain book muslin, or leno, and horizontally fluted. Of these the selvages should be at the top and bottom, and through the side-hems brass rods are run, which fasten to hooks on the window frame. These curtains are slipped on the rods, wet from the starch, hooked at once to the window frame, and regulated and fluted with the fingers, when they dry stiff, and keep their appearance. If ironed and put on afterwards they are never fit to be seen.

Starched articles should never lie very long before being ironed, or they will lose the stiffness. In warm weather, if thus left, they mildew in addition. I should also mention that rough Turkish towels should not be mangled. They are better wrung by hand; but if passed through the machine, they require a great deal of shaking to raise the knots to the proper state of roughness.

Starch made of common wheaten flour is sometimes used for stiffening dark prints. This is done with a view to economy, but cannot be recommended, as prints subjected to this process are much less clear-looking than when proper starch is used.

We will now run over a list of articles, required for ironing. There must be our ironing board, or clean deal table, covered first with a suitable blanket and then with a moderately fine sheet; a stand or two  for the irons; padded holders to lift them with and preserve our hands from being burnt; a board, sprinkled with bath-brick, on which to rub them; dusters to polish with after the said rub; a basin of clean cold water close by to sprinkle or damp an article that may have become too dry; the clothes-horse to hang the linen on as fast as it is ready; and, if you like, a tray on which collars and cuffs can be placed near the fire for a time before they are put away.

I am supposing the irons are at the fire; but I ought to say a word or two about them, as you require various kinds  for the work. If there is no proper stove for heating flat-irons, they will be hung on a bar in front of the fire, which should always be made up beforehand, and allowed to burn clear before they are put down. Never let a fire go low when you are ironing. Bring the hot coals forward from time to time, and keep adding a little fresh at the back, so as not to smoke your irons. There should be at least three flat-irons, or a box-iron with three heaters, for each person at work. Box-irons are less used than they once were, but they are very cleanly articles, and, for delicate ironing, preferable to the others, as being less likely to scorch dainty collars or muslins.

There should be two box-irons, varying in size, and an Italian iron for frills, each with three heaters. Goffering irons and a little crimping machine are also very useful for flounces and frills. In using the latter care should be taken that the little rollers are not too tightly set - otherwise the muslin will be cut in the operation, as I know to my sorrow. A laundress once sent me a whole set of new underclothing home with the frills looking beautifully crimped. But, alas! When next washed my dainty cambric was all in tiny shreds, having been cut to pieces in the crimping, and all the trimming had to be picked off and replaced. Hand crimping, though rather tedious, may be nicely done with a blunt knife. A silver pocket fruit knife answers admirably, and injures nothing.

Wherever there is much delicate ironing to be done, it may be greatly facilitated by the use of three, differently shaped boards, smoothly covered with double flannel. One should be about eighteen inches long and nine broad. This is for slipping below the fronts of shirts, night dresses, and ornamental chemises, &c., the second for putting under white petticoats and the skirts of dresses. It should be narrower at one end than the other, in fact, the shape of a gore; the third, narrow and long enough for shirt and dress sleeves.

And now we will begin by ironing first some collars and cuffs, then a shirt. If you use a box-iron, mind that it is beautifully bright and clean; then put in a red-hot heater with the tongs. Perhaps it will not go in! Never mind. Drop it on the hearth for a minute or two to cool, and then try a second time. Your bit of red iron has given you a lesson on the expansive power of heat, and it will contract again directly by contrast with the cooler air and slip in easily. Place it on the stand to let the iron itself heat through; take out your collar, but roll up the rest as before, that they may not dry; stretch and straighten it nicely wrong side up on the ironing cloth. Try your iron on something of little consequence, then run it quickly over the collar once or twice, and turn it the right side up. Now press the collar firmly, again and again, till it is thoroughly dry and stiff, lifting it occasionally to let the steam escape below. Your irons should be as hot as it is possible to use them, without risk of scorching the linen. If you only half dry the article, it will turn limp and the surface will be blistered and unfit to wear.

I daresay you may have noticed that when you buy new collars there is a little ridge which looks like a cord between the band and the upper part, and you probably wonder why this pretty ridge disappears the first time of washing and is seen no more. There is really no cord, but the appearance is produced by the deft hands of the London laundress, and requires considerable practice to manage it. The collar must not be run over with the iron all at once, but in two parts, as it were, and very few country laundresses produce the effect or perhaps care to try. You may leave your collars and cuffs flat, if the shape be suitable, or give them a turn round in the finishing, if desired. Take care always to place your irons on the stand whilst you adjust the linen, or your sheet and blanket will soon be scorched and spoiled. A flat-iron should be vigorously rubbed on the board with bath-brick, polished with a cloth, and its cleanliness tested before you begin the shirt. And be sure you treat the buttons respectfully. If you stamp the iron on them they will break; if you rush at them violently with the point they will fly off; go tenderly round them and they will seldom want replacing.

The parts of a shirt should be ironed in the following order: - Back lap, saddle, neck-band, or collar, sleeves, cuffs, front - for which use the flannel-covered board number one - front lap, then finished and folded. The final folding of most articles may be very neat or equally clumsy. Look at specimens done by a first-class laundress, study and copy, which will be better than pages of printed instructions.

In ironing skirts and dresses do them in the following order: - Bottom hems, tucks and flounces, sleeves, body or band, lastly, rest of skirt, using shaped board.

After rinsing delicate prints or muslins, let them lie for a few minutes before starching in clean water in which an ounce of Epsom salts has been dissolved. This is a little secret imported from France and has been successfully used by a very superior laundress of any acquaintance, who finds that it fixes and brightens colours, and improves the general appearance of prints.

The many beautiful, printed cotton fabrics now in use should, if possible, be made up in such a manner that they can be ironed on the wrong side. They should not be rubbed with soap, but washed in a lather made with boiled curd soap. Woollen stuffs of very good quality, such as French merinos, will bear washing; but dresses should be taken to pieces and hung out dripping from the rinsing water. It is, however, no economy to wash really good stuffs, and poor an mixed fabrics will not bear it. It is far better to send them to one of the large dyeing and cleaning establishments; the appearance will amply repay the cost, if the articles be worth doing at all. Sateens and prints which are tumbled and creased, can be thoroughly renovated by ironing them through a damp cloth, in the same way as black silk after sponging, or merinos after washing.

In THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER several different recipes for washing lace have already appeared. To any possessor of really valuable lace, who has had no experience in cleaning such a delicate fabric, but who desires to experiment upon it, I would give the same advice as the celebrated Mr. Punch did to persons about to marry - "Don't." By valuable lace, I mean Brussels, the various kinds of points, Honiton, &c., &c., which require very delicate manipulation. Maltese, Cluny, Torchon and others of a comparatively strong kind of thread, are easy enough to do, and I will give you my method of getting them up; but by all means send costly lace to a professional cleaner. It costs very little, comes back exactly like new, and may be done time after time without injury. I have a beautiful piece, only thirty inches long, of rare old point, which cannot be reproduced in these days. It went to Brussels a short time ago, with two little rents in it; it came back so well repaired that the places where they had been were not to be discovered by the naked eye. The mending, cleaning, and postage both ways cost about two shillings; the lace itself is valued at twelve guineas.

A Honiton lace-maker to whom I entrust lace of that description sends hundreds of pieces weekly to be cleaned in Devonshire. I cannot tell the process, but the result is perfection. He says the hand never touches it in the cleaning, and no person could tell it from new unless it has been once washed by an amateur beforehand.

The pretty, frail and so-called "cheap" laces used at present are really very expensive; many will not bear washing, and are not worth the cost of cleaning.

Friday, 29 July 2016

13 November 1880 - 'The Weddings of the World - a Wedding in Egypt'

I'm not sure of the relevance of this (very lovely) illustration, as the wedding described below is obviously not Christian, Coptic or otherwise. 

The beauty and charms of the women of ancient Egypt are gravely recorded in history and sung in poetry, and modern travellers have been as earnest and elegant in admiring their descendants. Their accomplishments were music, dancing and singing. They had an extravagant love of jewellery. They had their picnic parties, they paid house-to-house visits, they frequented the fashionable drives and promenades in their handsome chariots, and they carried the arts of dress and the toilette to an extreme never since exceeded. They were fond of gardening, practised gymnastic exercises, played games with balls, embroidered and did various kinds of work with their bronze needles. There is no reason for believing that they did not make excellent wives and mothers.

The social and legal rights of women were first recognised in ancient Egypt. Hermes, the great founder of its government and laws, decreed that a man should have but one wife. Diodorus, who wrote his history of Egypt about forty-four years before the birth of Christ, says that anciently the marriage contract was regarded amongst the Egyptians as one of grave importance, in which the husband pledged himself to yield implicit obedience to the wife, and she, as solemnly, promised to place his claims upon her love and fidelity before all other claims, including those of her children, should their union be productive of a family. It is most probable that the occasion of ratifying such a contract was, even in the earliest times, accompanied by some festive, religious, or legal ceremonies, but if so, we have nothing to show what they were. The barbarous conquerors who destroyed the written records of old Egypt have left us nothing belonging to those early times but monumental hieroglyphics. I can only tell you that the bride wore a wedding ring, that in their matrimonial unions ties of consanguinity were disregarded, and that marriages between relatives were frequent and common.

How superstition and polygamy dishonoured and degraded the female sex in Egypt is another and a later, and yet a very ancient, story. What the result was is a lesson too sad to be dwelt upon - the pages of Diodorus which chronicle it seem to be written in blood and tears - and that influence, alas! Is still in existence.

Passing along the downward course of Egyptian history, we come to the Egypt of a hundred years ago, and enter, by virtue of our invisibility, a great place of public assembly for women - the bath - into which, while they are present, it is death by the law for a man to introduce.

We are in the midst of a noisy crowd of women, old and young, laughing and chattering and talking of their domestic or private affairs, all proudly displaying their fine clothes and jewellery. A great number of active little children are romping and playing with the salve girls in their midst. The mistress of the ceremonies is settling a dispute between some rival beauties; the attendants, accustomed to the noise and confusion, run here and there to take this or fetch that, render assistance in one place or supply refreshments in another. The humid air is heavy with perfume, and here and there the smoke of burning incense ascends.

Some are richly attired in muslins and silks interwoven with threads of gold, rich European brocade, and the flowered stuffs of Aleppo, with trimmings of choice furs, &c, and with head-dresses heavy with pearls, jewels, flowers and small golden coins. Others are stripped  for the water and putting on their bathing wrappers, or having their long jet-black hair carefully braided into numerous small, or a few large, plaits, or the edges of their eye-lids blackened, or their finger nails newly stained with henne. A few are preparing to depart, enveloping themselves from head to foot in capacious mantles of white linen or black taffety, leaving nothing visible but their eyes.

Yonder on the divan, partaking of the chibouk or cup of coffee, are a pair of portly matrons engaged in very earnest conversation, which they interlard with the most extravagant flattery. They have been sighing to see each other ever since they last parted. They have been pining to death  for the honour of receiving each other's visit. The greatest possible happiness to them is that of their frequent meeting.

When each matron kisses and bids the other adieu before gathering together her own and going home, each riding astride, a shapeless mass of drapery upon a magnificently caparisoned donkey, and each with the chief officer of the harem riding before her on horseback, there has been done a deed of mighty note - the first step for a marriage between Fatima, aged seventeen, to a young man she has never seen and one who has never seen her, Seid Abdalkadan, the youngest son of Seid Mustafa, has been arranged.

Soon after the male relatives of both families have a formal meeting, at which each side appoints a representative to discuss preliminaries and draw up the contract of betrothal, which binds the bridegroom to pay a given sum as a dowry and settle upon the bride a regular payment as bath money, a kind of wedding by proxy. The iman, or priest, being present, asks one proxy if he is willing to take the fair Fatima for a wife and pay down the sum agreed upon by way of portion. If the reply is an affirmative, a similar question is put to the other proxy, whose consent being received, a purse containing, or supposed to contain, the bride's dowry is given to her father by the bridegroom's father. Then, the contract being duly signed, sealed and witnessed, the ceremony is concluded by the iman's reading some verses from the Koran.

The next step is that of taking this legally confirmed contract to the cadi, who grants his licence  for the wedding in the form following:-

"Our Lord and Legal Judge, Seid Husseyn, grants permission to Fatima, the daughter of Hadge Abdalkadan, dwelling in, &c., she having been legally betrothed, to marry Seid Abdalkadan, youngest son of Seid Mustafa, granting always that there is no lawful impediment to their union."

To this is appended the date with, at the top, the seal of the cadi.

The father of the bride usually adds to the bridegroom's dowry a second sum of money, which, with the first, is expended in purchasing the young lady's bridal apparel and jewels.

Then, indeed, the entire harem breaks into a state of wild confusion. The preparations employ every hour and every thought amongst its inmates. Every relative, friend, and acquaintance receives the good news, and from each a wedding gift is expected. Curiosity is on tiptoe to know in what forms and numbers these presents will arrive. During the several days preceding the nuptials the betrothed maiden is carried with great pomp to the bath, attended by all her female relatives, her sisters, and her cousins, and her aunts. Everybody is anxious to see, and all who know her are anxious to present their congratulations.  It is the delight of everybody to please and amuse her. They describe the handsome looks of the husband to be, tell her of his goodness and his wealth, for she, poor thing! Knows nothing about him. They dress her up in male attire, by way of fun, making her first a janissary, then a mameluke, and then some other male character, until the harem rings with their mirth, and laughter. They sing songs to her, songs special to the occasion; and so the time flits rapidly away.

The day before the wedding is devoted exclusively to the mysteries of the toilet, and in the evening a rich supper is sent from the house of the bridegroom, where he is being entertained at a special feast.

At sunset on the wedding day there comes a grand procession from the bridegroom's harem led by his female relatives, by whom the bride is torn, as it were, from the arms of her weeping mother, and conducted in triumph to her new home. The return procession is led by dancers on stilts, who carry ornamental balancing poles; then come the bearers of great feather fans, which bend and wave gracefully in the air; some sprinkle scented waters on the path; conjurers and mountebanks perform feats of skill, strength, and agility as they pass; troops of alme, or dancing girls, follow, their lithe bodies languidly swaying in slow movements, which keep time to their music and singing. Then the matrons of the united families appear in their richest attire gravely walking, and after the, concealed under a magnificent canopy upheld by four slaves, comes the bride, sustained by her mothers and sisters, and entirely covered with a veil embroidered with gold, pearls and diamonds.

After them march a long file of torch bearers, followed by slaves carrying the dowry and bridal gifts, clothes, furniture, jewels, &c., &c., all separated and spread out to make as fine and as long a display as possible. This being the grandest and most interesting feature of the bridal procession, and that concerning which the most curiosity is displayed, much care is taken in exhibiting the various articles to the greatest advantage, and by the greatest possible number of bearers. The procession advances slowly and by the most circuitous and longest route, pausing here and there to give every opportunity to the crowds of sightseers, while the alme sing songs in praise of the bride and bridegroom. Guns are fired at intervals, and every now and then is heard that peculiarly sharp, shrill warbling cry of female exultation peculiar to the East, and called ziraleet.

At last the pompous bridal procession reaches the bridegroom's house, and the exulting women take possession of the harem to presently witness the festivities in which they have otherwise no part, those of the bridegroom and his friends.

At these the dancing girls again appear, and, throwing off their veils, dance to the sounds of tabours, cymbals, and castinets. Nuptial songs are sung, and choruses are chanted which extol the allurements of the bride. She is more beautiful than the moon of a summer night, more lovely than the rose, sweeter than the jasmine. How fortune and happy must be the bridegroom who is united to so charming a creature! Between the verses "shrill ecstasies of joy," the ziraleet rings out, and is heard to a great distance.

During the evening the bride assumes her male masquerading disguises, and passes before the bridegroom, the matrons display their wealth and finery by frequent changes of dress, and the younger part of the assembly amuse themselves with sprightly gambols and games.

When, at a late hour, the guests are about to depart, the bridegroom appears in a fresh and costly dress, and is taken in procession, with music and loud shouts of exultation, to the outer door of the harem, where the women receive him and conduct him in procession to meet the bride, who is in her rich wedding dress and veiled in red gauze. When she appears at the top of the stairs he pauses at the bottom, and her attendants begin a dispute with those of her husband as to which party shall first advance to meet the other. A compromise is arranged; she descends, he ascends, and they meet in the middle of the stairs. There he receives her hand and they ascend together, and soon after the bridal veil is removed, and  for the first time Seid Abdalkadan looks upon the face of Fatima his bride, in the midst of a wild outburst of music and joyous voices.

The feasting usually continues during the remainder of the night, and is resumed on the following day, lasting sometimes the entire week.

Such is a wedding as performed in Egypt. How different from the pious and beautiful ceremony in use in our own beloved country!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

30 October 1880 - 'Seasonable Clothing and How to Make It'

It is a matter of no little comfort to all of us this season that the changeable laws which govern dress are so lenient as to permit an unlimited diversity in style and shape, and also in material, as many as four different stuffs being used in the same dress. The most popular colour is brown, which lends itself happily to all kinds of economical contrivances, and is, besides, a delightful colour, in its capacity for being enlivened by brighter hues, as well as by cream-colour, and brownish yellows. It is also a little gayer than black, although quite as serviceable, and equally neat and pretty.

Dresses are made with polonaises, quite as much as with jacket-bodices or basques. The new polonaises are long, and fasten either behind or in front; there is usually a gathering, about a quarter of a yard in length, immediately in front, which draws up the front of the polonaise into graceful folds, and the opening is finished by a looped bow with many ends. There are frequently gatherings at the middle of the waist behind and in front, extending down for some distance on the skirt; but unless the material be soft ad limp, it is never used for gathering, as thick material would never fold into the extremely close gathers now in vogue.

The coat bodice is similar to that which has been worn all the summer, which was illustrated in September at page 617, Vol.I, with a cutaway front. In our illustrations of this month (fig.1) the newest shape is given which has a double breasted front, and is more of a winter costume than the other.

In the picture at fig.2, an indoor costume is shown which is one of the novelties of the season.

And now I have described the prettiest style of dress  for the autumn and winter, we will have a little practical chat concerning our own wardrobes. It is more than probable that we have, some of us, a black cashmere, silk, or velveteen half worn-out, and not good enough for our winter dress; we should be so thankful if we could see in it the foundations of our new costume, but we do not quite know how to set about it.

If we like to take advantage of the fancy of the day, we may fearlessly mix them together, when, however bad, we shall be sure to have a presentable dress out of all three. With the present trimmed skirts such as figs.1 and 2, the foundations may be of any other material, - such as a stout alpaca - as they do not show when trimmed, and it makes a great saving in a dress; or any old skirt which is good, and not too limp, may be utilised for the purpose.

Velveteen is immensely popular this winter; the new makes are so vastly superior to the old, that they are hardly distinguishable from real velvet. A very pretty costume could be made of seal, brown velveteen, and light brownish yellow Indian cashmere, or vigogne, of the shade known as tete de faisan, which is very like the colour called cuir some years ago. The velveteen skirt would have a silk or alpaca foundation, and two kilted flounces, each about a quarter of a yard in depth. The upper dress may be of the vigogne, or cashmere, or else of estamene, or diagonal serge, and may be either a polonaise or else a jacket bodice in which case the upper skirt must be put on the top of the flounces as a trimming. A princesse dress, made short, of grenat velveteen, would also be a pretty winter dress. It might have a pinafore polonaise of some light material for wear in the evening, which would make it additionally useful. The cream-coloured, figured, Madras muslin - for instance, is very cheap, and being wide, a pinafore could be made at very little cost. If this dress be intended for a best costume, it might be well to go to the expense of procuring a little plush  for the trimming; but in using it, it should always be borne in mind that it wears badly.

In cutting out velveteen at home, it is needful to remember that there is a right and a wrong way of the material, and all the parts must be cut the same way. You must also take the fact into consideration that velveteen, if good, is always worth redipping, and that if there be too little of the good portion of a dress to make up again, it is still worth re-dying; as the well-preserved parts may be utilised with new material. I consider velveteen is entitled to a very high rank amongst the economical materials, and from its cheapness and good appearance should find a place in the wardrobe of all young people. Another nice textile is "vigogne," which is rather more expensive, but it is worth all it costs. It is very soft, and delightful to the touch, and the best material for trimming it is satin; and I know I need not press the advantages of the linen-backed satins on my readers; I must only caution them not to purchase any cheap ones, as they do not answer this purpose. To give from 3s to 4s a yard will ensure an excellent wearing quality. They are quite invaluable for doing-up old dresses, and they can be purchased in nearly every hue of the rainbow, and even the cheaper kinds, when cleverly used, look as good as satin at night.

Serge dresses are now trimmed with narrow braids; for blue serge, both black and gold braids are used, the rows being placed close together, to the number of four or five. Satin stitch embroidery with gold-coloured silk is a novelty on some of the new serge dresses, and also Roman striped scarves used as bordering bands and kiltings. Woollen plaid handkerchief dresses have succeeded the linen and cotton ones of the summer, the handkerchiefs being sold separately, in any number desired. They are of every colour, in fancy plaids, not Scotch tartans, and they are used to make whole dresses or only as trimmings. There are also numbers of fancy plaids of quiet colours, which would be very useful in re-making last winter's linsey, serge, or tweed dresses, and would make them look new and pretty again, used as scarf tunics, kiltings, gathered plastrons on the bodices, or puffs on the sleeves.

I think that I have quite exhausted the subject of dresses and dress materials, and may now proceed to mantles and jackets. The former are exceedingly large, and of the dolman shape, some with and others without sleeves, the most expensive ones being lined with plush and coloured satin, and even with velvet.

The well-known tight jackets of last season are worn this year again; the lining of the hoods is of some quiet plaid silk, the small "toque hat" being made to match of the same material. Those amongst my readers who have last year's mantles and jackets, therefore, may take heart over them, as they will be quite in the prevailing fashion this year. With regard to new ones, the newly introduced "sealskin cloth" appears to be a valuable material, moderate in price, and, so far as I can judge, everlasting in wear. I should not advise, however, that anyone should attempt to make them at home, as it is extremely difficult to make the seams join well, even professional hands finding a difficulty in making them as invisible as they should be.

The coachman's capes in fur will be worn again this year, but a more favourite method of wearing furs will be a wide-standing collar, or a large round collar attached to the mantle itself. The large fur-lined cashmere round cloaks will also be used this year, as they seem to be found too useful to relinquish, and for wearing in the winter evenings they are certainly a delightful protection from the cold.

The bonnets are very small, and the hats are very large indeed. There will be no difficulty in making our own bonnets at home,  for the shapes are all to be found in straw, and of nearly every colour. The only trimming in many cases consists of a very large long bow of silk, plush, satin, or black velvet, at the top of the bonnet, no cap or flowers inside, and no other trimming besides the strings, which are generally of the same material as the bow. An example of one of these small bonnets made of black straw, with a violet velvet bow, Parma violet wreath, and silk strings, is given at fig.3.

Stockings are still worn of a plain colour to match the dress, or else black, which is as fashionable and as serviceable as ever for morning and evening wear. Gloves are also worn to match the dress in colour; and as the generality of sleeves are short, the gloves with four buttons are the most generally adopted. Black lace scarves, wound round and round the neck, are used instead of collars, and black lace frills instead of white,  for the wrists of dresses. All these are most economical styles, and are invaluable to girls having but small allowances.

The last three illustrations are intended to help the industrious worker at home.

Fig.4 shows an easy method of trimming with two materials, which will be found available for doing-up old dresses. 

Fig.5 represents another bonnet, which will not be found difficult to copy.  

Fig.6 suggests a method of making-up an evening fichu on a wide ribbon, with lace and a suitable bouquet. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

23 October 1880 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

 TRIXY - Yes, a girl of thirteen who measures five feet in height is certainly tall. But is Trixy in earnest when she says she can walk six miles an hour? Can she keep it up? Why, it is athlete's work, and certain to do her harm if she persists in the practice.

NURSEY - You tell us your friend is so much affected at the chest and throat by a long and loud fit of laughter as to feel a considerable amount of exhaustion, and to wheeze in his breathing, so that it resembles low whistling. And you ask first whether it is probably the mischief is in the throat or chest, and second, "Would it appear to be a serious weakness?" Did we know his age and the condition of his body, whether fat or lean, we would be better able to answer you. We would say that the mischief was in the bronchial tubes of the lungs; they are just weak enough to be easily irritated, spasmodically so. We do not say it is serious, and if he is young or middle-aged, here is the treatment, good living, exercise, dumb bells preferably - cod-liver oil, the shower bath and avoidance of exciting cause. Why does he laugh so? It makes us smile to think of it.

AMY SIMS - Your first letter was never received. You want advice about loss of voice, and say "my singing voice has lately, without any apparent cause, entirely disappeared, and I can scarcely sing a note." This is what we in the medical profession term "Aphonia," but not complete. It may be caused by cold, or by a kind of partial paralysis of the vocal cords, or from hysteria, or from derangement of the general health. We believe that if you once a week take a seidlitz powder before breakfast, and get an iron and quinine mixture from your chemist's, and take it regularly thrice a day, you will soon regain your voice. Parrish's chemical food does good in such cases, as does cod-liver oil. Write again.

MURIEL M. - The redness in the nose that you complain of as occurring in cold weather can only be remedied by attention to the general health. Your circulation does not seem to be strong. By taking plenty of exercise in the open air you strengthen the heart, and the bath in the morning will prevent you from catching cold, and brace the nerves as well. Take also from ten to fifteen drops of tincture of iron in a little water three times a day. (You give no age but we presume from your handwriting you are between fifteen and twenty.) Attend particularly to the state of your stomach.

VIOLET SILVER asks for "a receipt for red hands." We have none to  acknowledge. If she requires a recipe for them we advise her to wear no gloves, and expose them successively to sun and frost.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

16 October 1880 - Answers to Correspondents - Miscellaneous

LONG SHANKS  - Give your canary a little saffron in the water, as a tonic; and let him have some groundsel and plantain, not much hemp-seed, as it is apt to make the legs gouty; a little crumb of bread and canary, millet, and rape seed from the proper food. Your writing needs much improvement.

POOR FIFTEEN -  For the growing out of the shoulder-blades it will be necessary to use a back-board; and if necessary a face board too. You have been stooping too much, which is very injurious to the chest. You have made no mistake in spelling; but you do not write well, though legibly.

EMILE J. - 1. We are sorry to hear of your mother's deafness. Try the audiphone, consisting of a small piece of card held between the teeth, which throat-deafness enables persons to hear, who obtain no benefit from an ear trumpet. Borrow albums and illustrated papers for her, give her some kind of manual work to do, such as a pretty patchwork quilt, and ask her to help you. This also would probably do, and end by doing most of it herself. Or commence a picture screen, and ask her to help in cutting out and arranging the scraps. Her mind might be diverted thus, and her depression relieved. But be sure to let her think that she is helping you, and her advice and aid required. 2. It is too long to fast from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. You should consult a doctor about your digestion. Your hand, though not good, is very legible.

GYPSY - 1. If her mother do not object, a girl of 18 may wear one or two things. 2. Watches are considered to require cleaning and oiling every 18 months, or so; and should never be permitted to run down.

A CONSTANT AND ADMIRING READER - We cannot offer an opinion on the few facts you give us, and should advise you to take legal advice.

AN EQUESTRIAN - We advise you to ride on the gentleman's right side, because, as he is your protector, his right hand is free to assist you in case of need, while the left controls his own horse.

YOLANDE - We do not quite understand your question. If you are offered any refreshment, and like to take it, do so. There is no other acknowledgment needed but "thank you," or "I am obliged to you."

PEPITA - If the mourning be for one of the heads of a house, the servants should have two dresses each, a print, and a Coburg. Your writing is fairly good.

FAD - 1. As you do not like to use the powders sold to kill cockroaches you must get a tame hedgehog. 2. Dress lightly and take a dose of cream of tartar now and then of a morning, and the heat spots will go. Use a bath and take cooling drinks, but no stimulants. 3. Half an ounce of the flowers infused for half an hour in half a pint of boiling water, with a teaspoonful of bruised ginger and a few cloves. Dose, one ounce three times a day.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

16 October 1880 - Answers to Correspondents - Cookery

AN ANXIOUS LITTLE COOK - The preserved ginger made in China or the East Indies is much superior to anything we can make at home, as the roots are fresh. The method of making here is, to boil the dried roots till tender, and then boil again in a thin syrup of white sugar.

IDA - To make ginger wine - Put 19 lbs of sugar to 7 gallons of water, and boil for half an hour; skimming it carefully. Then add to it 9 oz of the best ginger, bruised. When nearly cold, chop 9 lbs of raisins very small, and put them into a 9 gallon cask with 1 oz of isinglass and 4 lemons sliced, and a 1/2 pint of fresh yeast. Pour the liquor in which the ginger and sugar were boiled upon them, and leave unstopped for three weeks, and in about three months it will be ready for bottling. There will be one gallon more than the cask will hold at first, which must be placed in a bottle, and kept to fill up the cask every few days; for as the liquor works off, the cask must be kept full. Spring and autumn are the seasons for making this wine.

K.B. - To make inexpensive ginger beer - Put into a sufficiently large earthenware jar 1 gallon of boiling water, 1 lb of loaf sugar, 1 oz of the best ginger bruised, 1 oz of cream-of-tartar, or a sliced lemon. Stir these ingredients up till the sugar be dissolved, and let it remain till as warm as new milk. Then add a tablespoonful of good yeast, poured on a piece of bread, and floated on the top. Cover the whole with a cloth, let it remain 24 hours, and then strain and put into bottles, filling them only three quarters up, cork them well, and tie the corks, and in two days the beer will fit to drink. This quantity will make 18 bottles, and will cost less than a shilling.

A YOUNG HOUSEKEEPER (Janin H.) - We have heard of a family of three persons living on 15s per week, for eatables alone, but we cannot tell if you could manage to live on that sum. The sweetbread is the pancreas of an animal, used for food - that of the calf is the most recherché.

YLIME - What are called "Slim Cakes" are usually made just as pastry is made, not too much butter being used to make them short. They are baked on a flat tin in the oven, or in America on the top of the flat-iron stand sold with the kitcheners.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

9 October 1880 - 'How to Wash and Iron' by Ruth Lamb - Part One

"For it's thump, thump; scold, scold; wash, wash away;
There's not a bit of pleasure upon a washing day."

Many a time, in my childish days, have I heard the "Washing Day" verses of which the above two lines form the chorus. The verses themselves have escaped my memory, but I know they were a vivid description of the domestic misery and discomfort which accompanied washing day. There were the scolding wife, the truant husband, crying and neglected children, meals ill prepared, or not prepared at all; the sloppy kitchen, deserted by the cat; and the favourite dog kicked out of doors, and not daring to show his honest muzzle until his instinct told him that the chief business of the day was over.

A certain amount of discomfort is almost inseparable from washing day in a cottage home, and where there are few conveniences; but the mother who directs, and the girls who help, may very materially lessen this if they go about the work in a neat and orderly fashion.

Order is like a fairy helper, and has been represented as such in many a juvenile story. It not only reduces discomfort to the minimum, but actually lightens labour.

In arranging my chapters on washing, I will first take cottage work, where space is small and mechanical appliances are few. I will then tell something about the modern improvements, and the more expensive machinery of various kinds which are used in laundry work on a large scale, and which equally save time and diminish labour. 

The materials required for simple laundry work are wooden tubs or earthen pancheons - or both if possible - wicker clothes baskets, pegs, lines, props; a wooden clothes-horse, or "maiden," as some call it; a thin calico bag, to boil clothes in; a long, smooth stick, to turn them in the copper; blue-bag; soap of two kinds, pale yellow and white curd; some soda, starch and blue. Soda softens water, and is valuable for dissolving the grease and cleansing very dirty articles; but it should not be used in water intended for flannels, or it will turn them yellow, and it would also spoil most prints. Many washing powders are advertised, but I cannot recommend or condemn any from actual experience. I have heard ladies complain of the use of strong powders by laundresses, and say that clothes were made tender and rotted by them. A pint of boiling water poured over a quarter of a pound of quick lime, and drained off clear into the copper before clothes are put in to boil, helps to whiten and bleach such as need it. It must be well stirred in. In most old-fashioned cottage homes, and, indeed, in many new ones, the Peggy tub is an important article, and a much-borrowed one amongst neighbourly people. Properly used it is a great help, especially for coarse things and the much-soiled clothing of working people. Old-fashioned as it is, numbers of cottage laundresses prefer it to some of the newer washing-machines. I say some, because there are excellent articles which lighten labour, and there are others so heavy and clumsy that they rather increase than diminish it.

The number of washing utensils, the length of lines, &c., must be regulated by the amount of work to be done, and the space available for drying purposes. The copper in which water is heated and clothes are boiled should be kept scrupulously clean, as, indeed, should every other utensil. Baskets, pegs, and lines ought to be regularly washed and brushed; the lines, when stretched, rubbed with a clean coarse cloth, and the wooden rails carefully dusted before the ironed garments are hung on them to be aired.

Soap goes further when dry. It is more economical to buy it a week, at least, before it is wanted. It should be cut up into squares and hung in a twine net in a dry place. When boiled starch is used, it is advisable to strain it through a muslin bag, which ensures perfect smoothness and no lumps. Solid blue, which I prefer to the powdered article, should be tied up tightly in double flannel, and the bag kept in a clean place when out of use.

These details may seem very trifling, but it is just want of attention to these little things which makes all the difference in the appearance of the linen.

Who has not been annoyed at seeing a dingy patch on the hem of an otherwise clean garment, and manifestly caused by dirty peg or line? Who has not chafed over a shiny patch of starch on the surface of a dainty shirt-front, or cuffs flecked here and there with dark blue, instead of being evenly tinted, as the linen was when new?

Yet all these oft-recurring disfigurements might have been easily prevented by attention to mere trifles such as I have enumerated.

In my early home it was an article of faith that girls ought to learn how to do everything connected with the house, not merely in theory, but practically; from cleaning a saucepan, blacking a grate, and scrubbing a floor, to the concocting of a dainty dish, or the "getting up" or lace as fine almost as cobwebs. I will not say that I attained perfection in all these branches; but I had to try my hand at them, and I have a very vivid recollection of the indignation I once felt when set to do something which I considered infra dig.

My dear, sensible father put his hand lovingly on my shoulder, and said, "My dear child, if, during your future life, you are so favoured by fortune as to have servants to do all these things for you, the knowledge you are gaining will enable you the better to estimate the work of others. You will know both the time and labour that should be bestowed on each, and this will teach you to be reasonable and patient with other workers. If your servants are ignorant you can teach them, and your knowledge will command their respect. If, on the other hand, you have no servants to teach, experience will render the work you have to do far easier to yourself."

The lesson went home. I believe that was my last grumble, and I have known what it is to feel very proud of many a bit of household work which my mother commended, and of the nice appearance of my white muslin frock, "got up" by my own youthful hands.

These lessons in domestic economy were not, however, allowed to interfere with my school duties, which were regularly attended to. Time was found for both, and I remained a daily pupil until I was nearly eighteen My French lessons at school were not less attractive because I could boxpleat a French cambric frill, or my Italian translation less carefully prepared because of my intimate acquaintance with an Italian iron. And now, as I look back, after being many years wife, mother, and mistress of a home, I assure you I value more than ever the lessons which my own mother taught me.

Let us now suppose ourselves preparing for a cottage wash. All articles, except prints and flannels, should be soaped and put in to steep the night before; and this points to Tuesday s the best for washing, because in hot weather especially the water is apt to smell badly if dirty clothes lie in it from Saturday for Monday.

The articles should be carefully sorted, according to texture, &c. Those which are comparatively little soiled should not be mixed with the coarser and dirtier. Fruit and wine stains on table linen should be taken out before they are touched with soap, as follows: Stretch the stained part over a bowl, cover it with salt, and pour quite boiling water over it. Some stains may be removed by dipping in sour buttermilk and drying in a hot sun, afterwards washing in cold water. This process may require repetition. By putting salt on a port-wine stain while it is wet, the mark will not become fixed; or the immediate application of a little sherry will have the same effect.  For the removal of iron-moulds, fill a basin with boiling water, cover it with a pewter plate, on which place your linen. Cover the spot with essential salts of lemon, and then slowly pour boiling water from a kettle upon the powder to dissolve it. Then lay a dry portion of the linen lightly over, so as to keep in the steam, but not to touch the stained part. If your salts be good the marks will quickly disappear. The article should then be washed out separately, or the salts will curdle the soap, and make all the water in the wash-tub hard and useless.

Perhaps it may seem out of place to introduce these instructions preparatory to a cottage wash. But it is in cottages that a very large proportion of the laundry work for much larger houses is carried out. This is almost wholly the case in our watering-places and other summer haunts, and very sweet does the linen smell when it has been dried in an old-fashioned cottage garden; very different from the smock colour which country people complain of in town-washed linen.

When the clothes are put in soak, all the most soiled parts should have a special rub after an extra soaping - such as collars and wristbands, grease spots, &c.

Early rising is essential on washing morning. The first thing to be done is to light the boiler fire to get the hot water ready. While this is heating let the kitchen, house, place, or by whatever name you call the apartment in which the fail take their meals, be put into its proper state of cleanliness. In towns washing is mostly done below stairs in the cellars; in country cottages it may be in a little lean-to washhouse, or perhaps, in the one room that serves for parlour, kitchen and every purpose, except sleeping. But even if this last is the case, there is all the more need for order. What makes the old jingle, "There's not a bit of pleasure upon a washing day," a truth?

Is it not the unswept hearth, the unmade beds, the unwashed breakfast crockery, the absence of everything in the shape of a decently-prepared meal?

So let your hearth be bright, if the wash-tub has to stand under the window; and do those little things *which you know must be done at the proper time.

When ready to commence, work the clothes that are in soak about with the hands; pour off the soiled sud, and add fresh hot water to each lot. Begin with the cleanest, lightest articles, and as each is washed through, soap it again and pass it into another vessel with fresh warm water. The articles should follow each other according to fineness and colour, a portion of the dirty water being poured off from time to time and fresh hot added. After a second washing through, all white articles should be scalded. Lay them in the pancheon - the coarsest at the bottom, and so on, till you finish with collars, cuffs, and muslins at the top; cover with a clean towel, to prevent grit or sediment from being mixed with your clothes, and then pour on boiling water till the vessel is full. When cool enough wring out, and rinse through plenty of perfectly clean water, into which enough blue has been squeezed from your flannel blue-bag to give it the necessary tint. Too much blue is a great mistake. It looks ugly by daylight, and, by gaslight, gives, what should be white articles, a grey appearance.

Most articles are dried before being starched, but I remember my mother had such as required only slight stiffening passed through what she used to call "water starch," after being blued. It was a little of the thick, boiled starch strained and immediately diluted, until it seemed scarcely thicker than water. The bodies of shirts were passed through this, and the wristbands, fronts, collars, &c., squeezed through some as thick as jelly afterwards. A little while was scraped into the pan when the starch was boiling, to prevent the sticking of the iron later on.

Fine white articles which require boiling should always be tied up very loosely, in a thin calico bag. Coarse towels and aprons do not need this precaution. Flannels and prints of the common kinds will follow each other very well. They should not be soaped in places but washed in a strong lather, made of white curd soap, boiled and prepared beforehand. These ought also to be *quickly done, and never allowed to lie in a lather, as it would shrink flannels and fade prints. They require twice washing through, but no scalding. Flannels are sometimes wrung out from a clean, light lather; others rinse them in clear water. The following is said to make the flannels keep their colour, and not shrink; "Put them into a pail, and pour boiling water on them, letting them lie till cold the first time of washing." I presume they would be first clean washed, as scalding dirty articles helps to fix the dirt.

Before making up flannels I always soak the lengths for twenty-four hours in cold water, and hang them out dripping in order to do the shrinking in advance.

Prints should be put into plenty of clean, cold water after washing, and a handful of salt dissolved in this will sometimes help to fix the colours. Delicate prints are best washed in a thin solution of bran.

A word about using plenty of rinsing water. I once heard a lady remark, as she cast a discontented glance at the linen which the laundress had sent in, "I do not know how it is that our clothes always have a muddled look. The creases are out, and there are no absolute marks. It seems as though the clothes were well rubbed, but they are grey instead of being white."

No doubt the greyness arose from using too little water. Where it is scarce, or has to be fetched from a distance, there is a strong temptation to stint the clothes; but where water is near and plentiful, there is no excuse for not giving them an abundant supply of it. In any case the improvement in the colour consequent on its use well repays a little extra trouble.

Coarse woollen stockings and other odds and ends in the shape of dusters and household cloths come in last, and require nothing but washing. For all these the Peggy is a valuable help.

A word about wringing clothes. The little inexpensive wringing machines, k press out the moisture, and serve also as mangles, may be found in the possession of most cottage laundresses, especially those who "take in washing." In large cities, a person in a poor neighbourhood will make a living by such a machine, a trifle being paid per dozen for wringing large things, and again for mangling. Articles with many buttons are best wrung by hand. Care should be taken that no part of the garment is tightly strained over the rest. A nightdress, for instance, should be gathered up at the collar and the garment lifted up and down and allowed to drop in loose folds. For want of care in this apparently trifling matter, new material has been cracked into slits, and unsightly patches rendered needful.

Every article should be thoroughly shaken before being pegged to the line. Black and delicate coloured stockings require great care, boiled curd soap or bran water used, and thoroughly rinsing. They should be hung up by the tops and dripping wet.

Apropos of clearing. A laundress, whose linen and prints were noted for whiteness and brilliancy of colour, told me that she used to place her tubs of clothes before using blue water, under a running spring in her garden.

After the actual washing is done, the last business is to scrub and clean all the utensils, clear out the copper, and tidy the cellar or washhouse. Let us hope some thoughtful little girl has the tea ready, so that there may be a refreshing cup for mother.

When writing about utensils, I forgot to mention the shaped tub which seems to me the best and the one always used in my native county, Lincolnshire. It is oblong, and narrower at the bottom than the top, so that the suds do not flow over so readily, but run back down the sloping sides. There is a little triangular shelf at one corner, to hold the soap.

Young laundresses, when learning, are very apt to rub the skin off the wrists. This is owing to the rubbing on the wrist instead of making the portion of the article come in contact with another. Some too wet their own clothes very much in the front. This is both uncomfortable and dangerous, as damp garments must be when near the chest or stomach. To obviate this a washing ad, as it is called, composed of several thicknesses of flannel or a stout material, may be tied on under the large apron.

In very poor homes there are a good many makeshifts on washing days. Clothes have to be boiled and water heated in the pot and kettle, which ton other occasions serve for potato billing and tea water. Or they are stewed in brown earthenware, covered up with a dinner plate, and on the oven shelf.

I was once in a very tidy cottage home at dinner time, when a little lassie brought in a baked rice pudding, cooked in small back kitchen. The mother noticed a peculiar odour, as the steam arose from the dish, and said, "Polly, the pudding has a queer smell." "Yes, mother," replied the child, "the stockings have boiled over on the oven shelf. But nothing went in the pudding for it was on the top, and the stocking pot was at the bottom."

This was reassuring, but the soapy liquid having boiled over on the hot shelf had burned there,  and raised sufficient steam and smoke to give the pudding an undoubted flavouring of essence of stewed stockings.

The drying of clothes in close city neighbourhoods is a great difficulty, and, in small streets with little traffic, is often done on lines stretched across the street itself. Sometimes the neat garments, dried under such difficulties, excite one's admiration. At others, the wretched, dingy rags call forth a mixture of disgust and pity.

Not long ago, I was going to pay a visit to a member of my mother's class, when the coachman brought his horse to a dead stand, instead of turning down the street. I soon discerned the reason. There were rows of linens across it, laden with garments, and the appearance of a coach excited a grand flutter. The women rushed out, slackened the lines, and lifted the props to such a height as to allow the coach to proceed. And so we passed through a series of arches, the flapping garments reminding one, in a ludicrous way, of trailing flags on so-called triumphant erections at gala times.

 The very queerest mode of drying I ever saw, though, and the strangest collections of duds, were in Edinburgh. It was on a Saturday afternoon, the washing day of the locality - the closest of closes in the auld toun. The pieces of garments - for there was not a whole one amongst them - were fastened to sticks and hung from the windows, story above story.

Our driver said that, in all probability, the adult male owners were in bed whilst the fragments were being washed, and the children ditto, unless the younger mortals were too restless, in which case they were probably careering up and down, let us say, the primeval costume of the Garden of Eden.

With this last sample of laundry work under difficulties I will close this chapter. In my next I hope to describe the cold starching, folding, ironing, and mangling of garments, table and bed linen, and to show my girl friends how very easily they may get up their laces I will also describe some laundry machinery, and, if space permits, tell something about the way in which washing is done in other countries.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

2 October 1880 - 'How to Form a Small Library' by James Mason - Part One

"Books, we know,
Are a substantial world, both pure and good."
- Wordsworth

It would be easy to fill a whole number of this magazine with the good things that have been said from time to time about books and reading. Some of these have been far-fetched, no doubt, just as we find man's expressions inclined to extravagance when he speaks of her he cares for most, but in the main they are no more enthusiastic than the subject deserves.

In books, be it remembered, we have the best products of the best minds, and in such a form, too, that we can conveniently appropriate them for our own use. Through books we enjoy the companionship of the most noble spirits, not only of the present but of the past. Think of this, and you will be inclined to re-echo the words of Sir John Herschel, "If I were to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me through life and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading."

We must be fully alive to all the advantages of reading or we are not likely to be much interested in anything that can be said on the formation of a small library. Unfortunately, ignorance with its narrow views gives bad counsel in many a home, and the reading of books is often regarded as a refined species of trifling, instead of being, as it is, the most economical pleasure, and the most profitable of employments.

Those in the habit of observing what goes on in the circle of their friends will readily  acknowledge that reading good books, if it does no more, at any rate does this, it raises the tone of the mind and purifies the morals in much the same way as the frequenting of good society. No one, it has been said, can write in a vulgar style who is in the frequent habit of reading the Bible, and the remark may be applied, though in a less degree, to all books. A girl becomes a reflection of the graces of her favourite authors, and though she may have no wealthy or aristocratic friends, if she moves at home in the society of Shakespeare and Milton she can never be commonplace, and will always make herself respected.

By reading, too, we learn how best to make our way in the world. Almost everything worth our knowing is to be found in books, and if a girl has to earn her own living, let her read till she makes herself mistress of all connected with the business in which she is engaged. This is a way to succeed that will seldom be found to fail.

The study of books, to mention another advantage, enables us to take our place with credit in society. When people meet together it should be to exchange ideas, and the trifling conversation one hears nowadays in the company of otherwise very charming women, arises in a great measure from the fact that they have never acquired a taste for reading.

But one of the greatest charms connected with books is that by their aid we can support loneliness with tranquillity. Take the case of a girl away from home, and working every day for her living amongst strangers. How invaluable books are to her, supplying her with the most friendly counsel, the most wholesome instruction, the most rational amusement, and the best of companionship. There are thousands of young women in London and other large towns, who, if they could only be induced to form a small library, would find in it the surest safeguard against the perils which surround their solitary condition.

We might show, also, how reading puts us in the best possible position for doing good in the world, and how the formation of a taste for it is one of the best preparations  for the old age that will insist on coming all too soon. But the subject is one which you girls can work out for yourselves; so think it over, and you are all so sensible, that I anticipate your coming to the conclusion that every one who can afford anything beyond the necessaries of life should set apart a definite sum at regular intervals for books, and form the habit of always looking out for new ones.

You may have it cast in your teeth that you are nothing but a book-worm. Never mind; have the answer ready, that a book-worm is one of the most respectable of worms, and that you are in company to be proud of. There is certainly one class of book-worm which I hope you will never be like; to it belong all those who love nothing but books, and are so absorbed in them that they forget their duties in real life. But this sort of bookworm in our busy age is fast becoming an extinct animal.

A well-chosen library, growing larger year by year, is an honourable part of a girl's history. No one whose opinion is worth having, but will love and esteem her the more for it.

To all girls I say, never marry a husband who has not a collection of books of more general interest than his cashbook and ledger. The reading young man makes a stay-at-home fireside-loving husband. Like to like. Unhappily, it is not always so. The book-lover marries, and is linked for life to one who thinks books an encumbrance, and the money spent on them a waste. When he comes home with a newly-bought treasure he has perhaps - it is no overdrawn picture - to slink through the shrubbery, and drop his book in at the library window, before he goes round to his own front door to ring the bell.

Alas!  It is a difficult thing to convince some people that there is any necessity for buying and owning books. They point out how many circulating libraries are there in the country, and how there are public libraries and free libraries everywhere  for the express benefit of earnest students and those of voracious literary appetite.

Now the value of these institutions no one can deny. But the fact remains that to get real benefit from the best books we must buy them and keep them always beside us. Think of sending to a circulating library for a copy of Spenser, or Milton, or Dante, to be read and returned in fourteen days. No; books like these are not to be run through as you would a volume of travels or a popular story. Books of reference, also - dictionaries, commentaries, and such like - we should own. Asking at the library for the loan of a dictionary would show about as ill-furnished a house as begging your next-door neighbour to lend you a teapot or a frying pan.

However, though it cannot be stated too emphatically that no one who really loves books should abandon the pleasure of possessing them, and that, however small, everyone should have a collection of her own, we do not advise the neglect of circulating libraries. In them we find the literature of the day, and with that it is the duty of everyone to be more or less acquainted. We live in the present, not in the past, and if we are to be of any use in our time we must understand what is going on.

How many books should our small library contain?

This is a question of considerable difficulty, but as we are bound to name some number, suppose we say fifty. Fifty volumes of good books form a respectable library, and they may be so selected as to contain a vast fund of beauty, wisdom and information.

Of course, compared with the number of books that have been published, fifty is but a millionth part of a drop in a bucket. You might, if your tastes lay that way, gather together over a thousand volumes on the subject of chess alone, and a fully-appointed library in theology must contain far over 30,000 volumes. But it is impossible to buy all literary works, and it is perhaps not desirable even to buy a great many, unless you wish your room to be like that of one of my friends, in which you cannot sit down  for the books piled up on the chairs. Fifty will do very well to start with.

Fifty, then, be it. It will be a matter of great surprise if you stop at fifty. In book buying the appetite increases with every purchase. I began - if by way of illustration one may be permitted a scrap of autobiography - not so many years ago with modest notions and a handful of half a dozen books. Now I have considerably over four thousand volumes, and the modest notions have given place to extravagant visions of additional spoil. But none of you girls are ever likely to be in such a bad way. The famous founders of libraries have  for the most part been old bachelors.

Now what will be the cost of our small library of fifty? The purse of the fairy tales that was always full of gold and silver has either been lost, or the present possessor keeps it all to herself; otherwise, we might speak of cost with perfect indifference. But as it is, we must look the question in the face, and in times when people are reluctant to spend because money is hard to obtain, we shall do our best to be economical.

At one time books could only be obtained at great expense, but things have changed since then, and the best literature is to be had at a figure which it is no exaggeration to say is no cost at all. The fifty books will cost, on average, two shillings apiece; thus five pounds will cover the whole library. It might even be done for less, but in giving a quotation it is better to err on the safe side. Should it cost quite five pounds, it will, I hope and believe, prove the best investment of that sum you ever made or can make.

The five pounds need not be paid out all at once; indeed, ought not. The accumulation of your library should be spread over a long time, or it is not likely to do you much good. Besides, what is the pleasure of going into a bookseller's shop and ordering fifty books to be sent home in a box, compared with the delight of paying the bookseller visit after visit, looking over his shelves, picking out treasure after treasure, and carrying them home in your hand?

You might begin by laying aside  for the purposes of your library, say a shilling a week. What would be the result? A shilling a week makes fifty-two shillings in a year, and amounts up to a hundred and four shillings - more than the five pounds you require by four shillings - in two years. If a shilling a week is too much, say, sixpence, and if a girl cannot spare sixpence, there is no reason in the world why she should not set aside threepence. True, she will not have completed her fifty books for eight years, but she will know them in the end quite as thoroughly as if she had bought them in two, and that is the great matter.

It is impossible to gather together a library, however small, without making some sacrifice for it. And the books are all the dearer if to purchase them we have denied ourselves something. Reduce the amount you spend in dress, if that can be done without ceasing to be tidy and respectable, and your library is already gained and an incalculable addition made to your chances of happiness and usefulness.

There is no reason why we should not buy almost all our books second-hand; it makes a great difference in the expense, and the books are often none the worse for having previously formed part of another's library. Avoid, however, forming a ragged regiment. There is a joy in thumbing one's own books out of existence for oneself, but none in using books half-thumbed out of existence by other people.

The best plan in buying second-hand books is to make the acquaintance of some large dealer who has a general stock which he is frequently turning over, not one who deals in any particular class of books. Tell him the books you wish to buy, and if you have any skill in the art of management, you will not be long in making his experience of material service to your inexperience.

You cannot buy expensive editions, that is understood. But, after all, we want books to read, not to look at, and they will serve our turn if they are so clearly printed as not to try the eyes. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that there is a real enjoyment in reading a fine edition, and it would be affectation to say that we would not invariably buy the best copies if money were always at command.

Neither can you indulge in extravagant bindings. Dictionaries and books that are frequently handled should have strong leather binding; for all others the ordinary cloth is good enough. Some people who have only a half-hearted interest in paper and print, recommend that we should never bind up our magazines. On the other hand, bind up everything, say I, magazines, pamphlets, prospectuses, and programmes. You have no idea of what interest a few such odd volumes will become in the course of a few years.

While on the subject of magazine literature, we might mention that every girl should by this time have had the numbers or parts of the first volume of the GIRL'S OWN PAPER bound up, so that they may not become dirty and untidy-looking. Every girl who is not extravagant, and who wishes to make the best use of her paper, should have the "Annual" already on her bookshelf, so that, with the aid of the index, she might be able to refer to any information that has already been printed relating to matters requiring immediate attention. This is the more important to a wise girl, as it is the editor's intention to decline to repeat any assistance or instruction that has already been imparted in the first volume.

Now we can speak about the bookcase - the house in which our family of books is to be lodged. About it there is no great difficulty, for fifty books do not require much space. Between sixty and seventy inches of shelf-room will be quite enough for that number. We must, however, provide extra accommodation for library books, and for books borrowed from friends, as well as for magazines and other periodicals, so I think we would not make quite a satisfactory start unless we had at least nine feet of shelving. This would not be a tight fit.

But beware of having too much space. Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does every well-regulated mind detest a bookshelf with nothing on it. Many a one has been seized by all the symptoms of bibliomania just from possessing a bookcase a few feet larger than he actually required.

The material of which the bookcase is made should, according to the laws of artistic furnishing, be the same as the principal furniture of the room in which it is to stand. Circumstances, however, must be our guide, and as I am always in favour on economy, especially in starting a new pursuit, my advice is in favour of a bookcase at first of the cheapest wood that looks respectable.

There is not much choice in the matter of form. The hanging book-shelves and the dwarf bookcase shown in the illustrations on the previous page are very neat, and will be found to answer admirably, whilst they are so simple in construction that a girl's brother,  if accustomed to the use of tools, might put them together in a few spare hours.

We have now discussed the accommodation for our books. Next, about the books themselves. What are the fifty to be?

Friday, 15 July 2016

2 October 1880 - 'The Difficulties of a Young Housekeeper and How She Overcame Them' by Dora Hope - Chapter 1

Chapter One of a series on housekeeping for the middle-class (only one servant!) homemaker, cunningly (not really) disguised as a family drama told in the epistolary fashion. In this first chapter we meet the Colvilles and our protagonist Margaret. Subjects include accounting, breakfast - apparently there was such a thing as too much bacon in The Olden Days - and how to handle visitors when you're up to your elbows in something.

"No, Joanna, I'm quite sure I never shall manage the housekeeping as well as you have done, if I live to be ninety and practice it all the time; I feel it is not in me," said a young girl to her sister, as they sat together, having a confidential chat.

"I can understand that it seems a great undertaking to you now, Madge dear. I felt quite as helpless at first, when I had to take the reins into my own hands after dear mother's death, but it is wonderful how soon one gets accustomed to having the responsibility."

"I hope I have been a tolerably apt pupil during the last few weeks. Have I?"

"That you have; in fact, I am inclined to think you have a great deal of housewifely skill 'in you,' as you call it. The one thing for you to bear in mind is to be methodical over everything, and never get into a slovenly way of letting things go till a more convenient season. With but one servant, my experience is that the only way to keep domestic affairs from utter confusion is to have a regular time for doing everything, and to do it then in spite of all obstacles. I mention this particularly, because I think your weak point is a habit of procrastination, and perhaps a little tendency to unpunctuality too."

"Yes, I know," said Margaret dolefully. "But, oh dear! What a bad thing it is when elder sisters get married."

"There is one thing I have to suggest, Madge, that might be a help to us both, which is that you should write me a regular housekeeping-letter, say once a month, and tell me how you get on, and about any difficulties you meet with, and how you get over them, and I think by comparing notes of our experiences we may very likely help one another"

"Agreed; it is a splendid idea - it will be the greatest comfort to me. I shall not feel left so entirely to my own resources; whenever I feel despairing I shall write to you for advice; but in the meantime it is getting late, and I have several things to prepare for my personal adornment tomorrow. The toilet of a first bridesmaid is not a matter to be left to the last moment, and you have to finish arranging your presents, you know."

Joanna's wedding had only been deferred till Margaret was old enough to take her place as housekeeper. No very easy post for a girl coming straight home from school; but she had plenty of spirit and determination, and was resolved not to be easily beaten. The household consisted, besides herself and sister, of the father, and two boys, aged respectively 13 and 15. Though not by any means a poor man, Mr. Colville was neither able nor willing to indulge in extravagant expenditure, and the children had been brought up to understand that though they might have all the necessaries and many of the luxuries of life, anything like waste, or needless extravagance, could never be allowed.

Margaret left school six weeks previous to the wedding, in order to have the benefit of a little instruction from her sister, whom some years' experience had formed into a first-rate manager and skilful housekeeper. In fact, it was whispered in strict confidence that the bridegroom elect had first been attracted by the admirable way in which she managed her father's house.

Margaret threw herself heart and soul into the work of learning. She felt that her only chance of filling her sister's post, even fairly well, lay in the good employment of these few weeks.

The time flew by all too quickly for Margaret's peace of mind; as the day approached she redoubled her efforts to imbibe the greatest possible amount of information, till on the eve of the marriage she declared that she felt her brain was as "crammed with observation" as that of the clown in As You Like It.

It was some days before the excitement and upset of the wedding had subsided, and the Colville family had resumed its ordinary quiet; but at the beginning of the week following Mr. Colville gave Margaret the customary sum  for the week's expenses.

"My dear," he said, "if you make me as comfortable as your sister did, I shall be more than contented; but, of course, I do not expect that just at first. My only advice is - do not get into debt."

So Margaret began her work; Monday had always been a particularly busy day with Joanna, and Margaret made up her mind to keep to all her sister's arrangements until she had had a little experience.

At half-past eight Mr. Colville and the boys always started, the former to business, not to return till tea-time, at six o'clock; the latter went to a day-school in the neighbourhood, and came home for dinner in the middle of the day. Immediately after their departure, Margaret betook herself to the kitchen to make her arrangements  for the day. It had been a strict rule of Joanna's that the weekly supply of groceries should all be bought at once, and no more allowed unless under exceptional circumstances; this plan she had found a great saving of time and trouble. Accordingly, Monday being the day fixed for it, Margaret proceeded to inspect the jars of sugar, rice, and all the other contents of her store cupboard, and having made out the list of things required, she set out on her marketing. Weekly books had been long ago abolished, as being an unsatisfactory arrangement when there is a small and limited income. It is difficult to remember how much one has in hand, and how much must be reserved for those dreadful books, which come in stern and unrelenting, and generally amount to considerably more than one has reckoned upon, and is prepared to pay.

The abolition of books, of course, also does away with the convenience of tradesmen calling for orders, and necessitates the housekeeper herself going to the shops. In some cases this might be an obstacle to the ready-money system, but Joanna being strong and energetic, felt it anything but a grievance to be compelled to go out every day, wet or fine, because, as she said, "If I were not compelled to go out, some days I should think I was really too busy to do so just for pleasure, and so should lose a walk altogether, whilst as it is, I am sure of having at least one every day."

Besides the advantage of getting a regular walk (a very important advantage, by the way), Joanna strongly advised her sister to keep to the arrangement on the ground that it was so much easier to buy economically. Suppose she wanted fish, for instance, it very frequently happened that the particular kind she had ordered happened to be very dear that day, while by going to the shop to see for herself, she would find that some other sort was very plentiful, and consequently cheap; in the same way she would often find the greengrocer's shop crowded with some fruit or vegetable of which there had been a glut in the market, but which she would never have thought of ordering if she had not seen it.

The milkman and baker alone were permitted to call, and keep a weekly account, but as Joanna found that they trusted entirely to memory  for the quantities they had left at each house, and she suspected that they were frequently remembered wrong, she had always kept a slate hanging up in the kitchen, on which Betsy put down the amount taken each morning. As they always saw her write it down immediately, the men were willing to accept the authority of her slate in a case of a discrepancy in the accounts.

Directly the family had begun breakfast Betsy went upstairs to the bedrooms, stripped the beds, opened the windows, and so on, after which she had her own breakfast, and was ready to receive Margaret's orders when she came into the kitchen.

While Margaret was out, Betsy was expected to have washed up and put away the breakfast things, and finished the bedrooms, her mistress having helped her to make the beds before starting. This was one of her duties which Margaret strongly objected to, but Joanna had painted in such glaring colours the disastrous effects upon the beds if they were not properly turned and shaken, and the great difficulty of the servant doing it alone, that she could not make any more objections. She soon found that after a little practice had taught her the knack of shaking the beds effectually, without at the same time shaking her whole frame immoderately, it really was not at all unpleasant work, and she began to take a pride in making them look smooth all over, and square at the corners, beauties which she had never before properly appreciated.

It happened rather unfortunately that Betsy was a new and inexperienced servant, her predecessor having had to leave suddenly. Under these circumstances Joanna had thought it prudent to write out a sort of plan of each branch of the household management for her sister's guidance. The order of cleaning rooms  for the week, for instance, was arranged as follows:

Monday, the drawing room to be cleaned.
Tuesday, one bed-room to be swept, and the dusters and kitchen towels washed.
Wednesday, two small bed-rooms, and the stairs to be swept.
Thursday, the two remaining bed-rooms.
Friday, the dining-room and hall.
Saturday, the kitchen to be cleaned, silver polished, and general putting straight for Sunday.

In these arrangements, it was understood that the servant was only expected to do the actual cleaning; the dusting and re-arranging of ornaments was left for Margaret, who took this opportunity to look over the antimacassars, toilet mats, and other things in the rooms, to see which required washing and mending.

Monday was a busy day for both mistress and maid, for while Betsy was sweeping the drawing-room, Margaret had to put away, and very often mend, the boys' Sunday clothes.

Then there was the linen to e collected for the wash, and the list made out, so that frequently Betsy came to say she had finished her part of the drawing-room and was going into the kitchen to "peel the petaters" before Margaret was ready. The finishing touches in the drawing-room took a long time, as Mr. Colville had a taste for china, and the room was full of fragile ornaments, which Margaret never allowed anyone but herself to touch, so that she had hardly time to begin the mending of the clean clothes which had come home from the wash on the previous Saturday, and which was considered part of Monday's regular work, before the boys came in from school, and dinner was ready.

The afternoon Margaret intended to spend in paying visits, reading, or sewing, but she often found that so many unexpected things occurred to occupy her attention that by the time she had done and could settle down to read and enjoy herself she was sure to hear her father's well-known and unmistakable knock.

On this particular Monday, she flew to open the door. "Oh, father!" she cried, as she kissed him and relieved him of his hat and coat, "I shall be able to repeat with the greatest sincerity to-night that little poem of our youth -

'How pleasant it is at the close of the day
No follies to have to repent;
But to lie down to sleep, and be able to say,
My time has been properly spent.'"

"That's right, my little daughter, and I assure you I shall be able to take up the strain and say to myself:

'Down I lie content and say
I have been useful all the day.'

For I have been very busy too. Are the boys home?"

"Yes, father; they have gone upstairs to make themselves presentable, and tea will be ready in a moment."

In this household, tea, that most pleasant and sociable of meals, was lingered over and prolonged to a great extent. Mr. Colville wisely considered that in the absence of a mother to guide and counsel them, it was necessary for him to do all in his powers to win his children's confidence, and as breakfast was usually too hurried a meal for much conversation, he always took this opportunity of chatting with them over the day's occupations, and encouraged the boys to tell him of any school escapades or successes.

This day's doings may be taken as a fair sample of Margaret's occupations. As time went on, she found some parts of her duties grow easier with practice, while at the same time little things arose to puzzle and perplex which were not thought of at first. For example, though it sounds but a trifling matter, it was a considerable difficulty to Margaret to procure a variety in the way of breakfast. It had never occurred to her that it was possible to get tired of fried bacon, with the occasional addition of boiled eggs, until one morning, on lifting the cover at breakfast and observing,  for the fifth consecutive morning, a row of crisp little rashers, Mr. Colville gently hinted that a change might be agreeable, whilst Dick was heard murmuring,

"Bacon hot and bacon cold, bacon young and bacon old,
Bacon tender and bacon tough, we thank you Madge, we've had enough."

After this a change was quite necessary, but Margaret racked her brains in vain to think of something new.

It happened that Joanna, whilst at home, had kept a small manuscript book, in which she was in the habit of jotting down any favourite new recipe, or any hints or ideas which occurred to her on domestic matters in general. This miscellany book she bequeathed to her sister, with some reluctance, as she had found it a very useful institution; but it stood Margaret in good stead now, as on many subsequent occasions, for here she found the very thing she wanted, an entry in Joanna's neat handwriting, headed, "Varieties for breakfast. Sheep's kidneys, fried. Fish left from previous day's dinner warmed with milk. Ditto, potted. Sausages (do not forget to prick them all over before cooking). Poached eggs on toast. Buttered eggs (break four in a basin and beat well; put 1 oz of butter in another basin and melt; pour both into an enamelled saucepan, hold over a slow fire, keep stirring until hot, but do not let them boil; serve on hot buttered toast). Small pieces of cold meat, potted; different sorts can be used together, and, unless very fat, will be improved by the addition of a little bacon or ham. Omelettes (you must make these yourself; ordinary servants always spoil them). Stewed fruit, when not expensive; watercresses, or radishes, when in season."

With these to select from, Margaret was no longer at a loss for ideas, but unfortunately Betsy was not only an "ordinary" servant, but had even less than ordinary ideas of cookery, so if Margaret departed from the regular routine of bacon and eggs she would have to get up and prepare the dish herself, or at least superintend its preparation; and of all things her greatest difficulty was rising in the morning. She was rarely quite punctual for breakfast, and the idea of coming down in time to cook these little dishes was, she thought at first, impracticable. However, she decided to try it for a week, and she made a firm resolution to get up the moment Betsy knocked at her door (fortunately, Betsy was an early riser). She succeeded better even than she had expected, and her father's commendation more than repaid her for the exertion. He suggested that since she was in the kitchen so early, she might at the same time try if it were possible to improve the quality of the toast, which, as he pointed out to her, was usually tough, and nearly cold when put on the table. Accordingly, the next morning Margaret inquired into the matter, and found that, to save herself trouble, Betsy put the slices of bread into the oven first, by which process they became dried up and hot through, so that the actual toasting took a very short time, but the result was highly unsatisfactory. She showed her how to make it better  for the future, to cut the bread about a quarter of an inch thick, hold the slice a minute before a clear fire, to make it thoroughly hot through, then turn it, and when that side is hot, begin to move it gradually backwards and forwards till the whole side is equally browned all over. When the other side is done, instead of laying it down on a plate as Betsy had been accustomed to do, she stood each piece in the toast-rack on the fender before the fire, to keep it light. Betsy appeared to think all this very unnecessary trouble, but Mr. Colville's exclamation at the wonderful improvement in the toast convinced her that it was worth taking a little trouble over.

It was not until some three weeks after Joanna's wedding that Margaret took advantage of a leisure afternoon to begin the promised correspondence with her sister. Though a brisk interchange of letters had been kept up in the meantime, Joanna's were filled with accounts of the beautiful places they were visiting, while Margaret's consisted principally of apologies for their own brevity, the invariable excuse being that she was too busy to write. Let us look over her shoulder this afternoon, as her pen flies rapidly over the paper.

"Dearest Joanna, - Be prepared for a good long letter at last. I am going to take you at your word, and tell you about our domestic affairs. I have come to the conclusion, like you, that housekeeping in all its branches is nothing but a delusion and a snare. I do not know that you ever said so in those very words, but at any rate you tried to show me a little of the dark side of the matter, while I persisted in seeing only the bright side. My eyes are wide open by this time, I can assure you, and the difficulties are extremely visible to me now so I hope you are satisfied.

"First of all, let me thank you again and again  for the many kind hints you gave me about different things. It is very true that 'forewarned is forearmed,' and I should have been in despair long ago if I had not laid your wise saws to heart and acted upon them.

"I am getting quite to enjoy the shopping every morning, and it certainly is a very good thing to be able to choose just what one wants instead of being obliged to take whatever they like to send. Thanks to your teaching I can judge tolerably well of the quality of meat and fish by the look of it. I think your formula was that, if the meat be fresh and good, the flesh adheres firmly to the bone; and in beef is of a deep red colour, and the fat is firm and waxy, and not friable. Is that right? And that the best beef will have the lean intermixed with fat, so that it looks mottled. And I really think you would be gratified to see the 'cute' way in which your pupil selects fish that looks very bright and silvery, and the scorn with which she rejects as stale all that are limp and have a dull leaden appearance. In my heart of hearts, Joanna, I really believe the only true way with both fish and meat to find out if they are perfectly fresh or not is to smell them, but it does so offend my delicate nostrils that as often as possible I trust to the look of them.

"I have not forgotten your exhortation to keep accounts, and I do so, though it is rather irksome. Still, I begin to see that it is very necessary if one intends to be at all methodical. Father made me a present of a regular housekeeper's account book, on condition that he might be allowed to 'audit and find correct' whenever he liked. There are columns ruled for each of the ordinary expenses, such as butcher and baker, and a line drawn for each day, so that at the end of the week the total expenditure and also each item can be clearly seen. I was not very successful in my accounts at first, as by the time I reached home I had forgotten how much the various items cost, but I have adopted the brilliant expedient of always carrying a scrap of paper in my purse, on which I put down the price of each article before I leave the shop. When I can afford it I shall buy one of those purses with a washing tablet in it, but at present I have the utmost difficulty to make both ends meet without indulging in any superfluities such as new purses. It really is the greatest comfort to know exactly what I have spent and how much I have still in hand, instead of the dreadful feeling that last week's books will be coming in soon, and I shall have to pay for what was all eaten long ago. The 'sundry' column in my account book is rather a snare - it is so pleasant to put down all unaccounted-for money under that head, but I suppose you would insist on the nature of the sundry being mentioned, would you not?

"I think I can hear you say at this point, 'Well, Madge need not have harrowed up my feelings by beginning in such a doleful tone, for she seems to have a tolerably good opinion of her achievements thus far.' Quite true; and I only wish I could carry on this jubilant strain a little longer, but I am now going to plunge headlong into the valley of humiliation, and tell you about a very painful thing that that happened last week.

"You told me I must not trust to Betsy to make the pastry, as she is so careless in measuring quantities. On Wednesday morning accordingly I put on an old dress (very old indeed), and retired to the kitchen to spend the morning in the exemplary occupation of making puddings. No sooner had I, so to speak, warmed to my work and got myself thoroughly sprinkled with flour and other materials (you know what a mess I always do make of myself) then the bell rang, and Betsy announced Mrs. Symonds. I should like just to say in passing that I think morning calls ought to be made criminal offences and punished with the utmost rigour of the law, don't you? Especially when they know there is only one person in the house. Well, I could not go to see her in that state, for, as Betsy remarked with a cheerful smile, 'Even my 'air was a mask of flour.' So I rushed upstairs, huddled on another dress, pulled out about half of my raven locks in the attempt to make my hair tidy quickly, and walked into the drawing-room, flushed and breathless, having kept the poor lady waiting ten minutes. Was it not shameful? And she seemed rather angry about it, not unnaturally I must confess. When I told father about it in the evening, he was quite severe, and said it was a most unladylike thing to keep a visitor waiting, just because I had an old dress on, and it would have been much better to go in as I was. (I wish he could have seen me.)

"Accordingly, on Saturday morning when Betsy announced old Mrs. Trent, as I was in just the same predicament, I only stayed to wash my hands and shake my dress. When I went into the room, imagine my dismay at seeing that she had brought her nephew with her! That young Mr. Trent whom father thinks so highly of, you remember, and is always talking about. I saw in the pier glass that I had a patch of flour arranged coquettishly over my left eyebrow, so as all hope of disguising the fact that I had been cooking was gone, I thought I might as well tell the candid truth about it, which I did, and Mrs. Trent only laughed, and was very kind. But her nephew looked quite scandalised. I am sure he thought a young person in that state was not fit company for his aunt and himself.

"After that I thought I should have to leave the puddings to fate and Betsy after all. However, this morning I met Mrs. Trent, and she was so very kind that in a burst of confidence I told her my difficulty. She advised me to wear a large apron which would completely cover my dress, and promised to send me one for a pattern. It has just come, and is really splendid. It is made of rather coarse linen; the skirt is large enough to meet behind all the way down, and the bib reaches the neck, where it pins on to the dress. There are sleeves as well, made to slip on over the dress sleeves, and reaching the elbow, but Mrs. Trent says if one's sleeves are wide enough it is better to roll them up, and dispense with the linen ones.

"I am going to set about making myself some aprons at once; then I shall be able to put on a respectable dress without fear of spoiling it - and if a caller should come, I have only to nip off my apron, and hey, presto! I am as neat as if I had never seen a pudding in my life. But, then, there is my hair! Should you advise a nightcap? Or shall I let the people think that it is an idiosyncrasy of female members of the Colville family to wear powder in the morning?

"You will perhaps wonder how I get on in the matter of making both ends meet. Alas! The very first week I had to ask father for another sovereign. My money was all gone by Saturday, and no meat in the house but the carcasse of a sirloin of beef to offer my hungry relatives for their Sunday's dinner, so there was nothing for it but to ask for more money.

"The next week I resolved that nothing should induce me to run short, and accordingly I carefully measured the appetites of the household, and ordered only just as much of everything as was absolutely necessary. In consequence, one evening when a gentleman called, and father told me to order up some supper for him, there was literally nothing in the house, and Betsy had to race round to the nearest shop to buy something. That rather annoyed father and considerably damped my ardour for economy, especially as an attempt in another direction was not more successful. I thought the washing-bills were too large, so made up my mind that one clean table-cloth should last a week, and the very first day that troublesome Dick spilt gravy on it at dinner-time. Thus the second piece of economy was knocked on the head. I felt that a remonstrance to Dick was not only allowable but quite a matter of duty, and perhaps I was rather too angry, but at any rate he did not at all like it and went off sulkily to school, muttering that keeping house did not seem to agree with my temper.

"Now, Joanna, how am I to act to the boys? Am I to never scold them? You know what harum-scarum they are; there is no chance of keeping the house in any sort of order if they are left entirely to their own sweet wills, and yet, as there is so little difference in our ages, they resent my lecturing very strongly.

"And also, how am I to be strictly economical and yet be prepared at any moment for an unexpected run upon the bank, or rather larder?

"Please send me your opinion upon these points as soon as you can, and any other hints you think would be useful. The smallest morsel of advice thankfully received. "

Margaret's letter was here interrupted by a boyish voice calling,

"Madge, Madge, where have you hidden yourself? Do come, it's just upon tea-time!"

This Margaret knew to be a slight exaggeration; but, bringing her letter to a hasty conclusion, she gathered up her writing materials and ran down stairs to join her brothers.