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"If Lance had a prospect of an increase-of rising to five or six hundred in the course of a few years-I would let you promise to marry him then, with all my heart, Annis."
"But the very fact of his not having it, of his income being a fixed one, has induced us to wish to risk it, mamma. If we wait, it will be no better; and-oh, mamma! pray don't say that we must separate!"
"Annis, child," interrupted Aunt Clem, "if you spend three hundred the first year, you'll want four the second, and five the third."
"But we do not intend to spend three the first year," said Annis, quickly. "Our old nurse had a favourite saying, which she always impressed upon us when we saw the sugar cup full and asked for more sugar. I repeated it one day to Geoffry, and made him laugh. Spare at the sack's mouth.' It is what we mean to do with our income."
"No unmarried girl can form an idea how expenses increase after the first few months," continued Aunt Clem.
"I suppose they do," assented Annis. "The wear and tear of furniture, which must be replaced, and the breakages, and the buying new clothes, when those laid in at the wedding are worn out. All that
"Ah," said Aunt Clem, "there's something worse comes. Babies." "Oh-babies," said Annis, in a dubious tone, "I have heard they bring love with them."
"It is to be hoped they do, poor things," sharply rejoined Aunt Clem, or I don't know what would become of them. But they don't bring money."
"Well," said Annis, with a glowing cheek, "we have determined to try it, with all its hazards, if only papa and mamma will approve."
"And suppose your papa and mamma do not approve ?"
"Then we must wait patiently for better days," sighed Annis. "And live upon hope," said Aunt Clem, "which is about as satisfactory as living upon air. Well, Annis, I side with you. You shall have my helping word for it."
"You are not serious, Clementina!" exclaimed Mrs. Marsh.
"Indeed I am. I should not counsel every girl to marry upon three hundred a year, but Annis and Mr. Lance seem to have well considered what they are about, and are prepared to make the best of its difficulties."
In a neighbourhood where house-rent was cheaper than at Brompton, but within a walk of it, did Mr. and Mrs. Lance settle down. For the full consent of Mrs. Marsh was won over, the wedding took place, and they were fairly launched in life, for better or for worse, upon their three hundred a year. Their rent was thirty-five pounds, and for its size the house was really a handsome-looking house, which a gentleman need not be ashamed to acknowledge as his residence. Income and other taxes amounted to about fifteen, and the fifty pounds was a large item out of their income: there was also the fire and life insurance. Annis seemed fully determined to carry out her scheme of economy: though, in doing this, she gave great umbrage, in one or two points, to some of her family.
Upon the return of Mrs. Marsh and her daughters from their two months' annual sojourn at the sea-side, the young ladies hastened to call upon Annis, who had then been married about five months. It should be observed that Annis, being of a quiet, patient, useful disposition, had always been considerably dictated to and snubbed by her sisters; and now that she was married they forgot to discontinue the habit.
"Such bad management, Annis!" began Sophy at once. "Three o'clock in the day, and your cook answered the door to us. Where was Rebecca?"
"I have only Mary."
"Rebecca is gone," replied Mrs. Lance. "Only Mary!" uttered Miss Sophy, aghast. that? Whatever can you mean, Annis?"
Emily, did you hear
"Well-it happened in this way," said Annis. "Rebecca did not suit: she was careless, insolent to Mary, and caused much trouble. So I gave her warning. It then occurred to me that as my wedding visits had been all paid to me, and we were not likely to see much ceremonious company, I might as well, for a time, keep only Mary. So I spoke to Geoffry, and he told me to try it if I liked, and Mary said she would rather be alone than have the annoyance of a servant like Rebecca. You cannot think how well it answers. Mary is a most superior servant, knows her work, and does it thoroughly; and she is always tidy. You know her to be the cook, but you could not have told it from her appearance. She is not fine, it is true, but more respectable-looking than many of the house and parlour maids."
"But such a degrading thing to keep only one servant!" remonstrated Miss Marsh. "Like the common people!" "I told papa
"Ours is only a common income," answered Annis. what I had done, one day that he drove here to see me, and he praised me for it."
"Oh, papa has such old-fashioned notions; something like your own, Annis. Wait till you hear what mamma says to it. One servant! it must tell against you with all your friends."
"No," replied Mrs. Lance, warmly; "or, if it could, they would be friends not worth retaining. If they came here and found my house full of confusion, of discomfort, my servant dirty, myself unrepresentable, they might have cause; but, excepting that they do not see servants, everything is as orderly and nice as when Rebecca was here. I and my husband are not the less gentle people, and I am sure that they rather respect us the more for sacrificing custom to right. If we happen to have any one to dine with us, or two or three friends for the evening, Mary sends round for her sister, who waits nicely."
"But how on earth do you manage with one servant? Augusta, with her three, complains bitterly that the work is not half done."
"There is an impression with many experienced people that the larger your number of servants, the less is your work done," smiled Mrs. Lance. "There is really not so much to do in this house, and plenty of time to do it in. We breakfast at eight, which gives Geoffry
"My gracious! Eight! Do you contrive to get up
"Yes," said Annis, "and like it much better than our lazy hours at home. By nine, or soon after, Geoffry leaves: which gives him time to walk in comfortably to the office by a quarter to ten."
"You don't mean to say he walks ?"
"Yes, and walks home, except in bad weather. He says were it very not for this walk, night and morning, he should not have sufficient exercise to keep him in health: and of course it is so much omnibus money saved. He laughs at those gentlemen who ride into town, and sit stewing in their chambers, or in an office or counting-house all day, especially those who have need to be frugal, as we have, and then ride home again: no exercise, no saving, and in time it will be no health. Well-Geoffry goes at nine, then Mary takes away the breakfast-things, washes them up, puts her kitchen straight, and goes to her up-stairs work, which in our house is not much. By eleven o'clock she has frequently changed her gown and cap, and has no more to do till time to prepare for dinner at five. One day she asked me if I could not give her some socks of master's to darn, as she did not like sitting with her hands before her."
"Your house is quite a prodigy-house," cried Sophy, in a tone bordering on sarcasm. "It seems there's never any cleaning going on."
"I did not say so," retorted Annis. "In a small house-small compared to ours at home-with only three people in it, and the paint, and carpets, and furniture all new, there is not a great deal of cleaning required, but what there is, is punctually done. Mary has her days for it, and on those days I help."
"With the scrubbing ?" asked Miss Marsh, with an impervious face. "No," laughed Annis. "While she does that, I go into the kitchen, wash up the breakfast-things, and, should it be required, set forward with the dinner."
"Set forward for a five o'clock dinner at nine in the morning?"
"Yes, all that can be done of it. I make the pudding or the pie, should we be going to have one that day; or, if there is any meat to be hashed, I cut it up: those sort of things. Then I dust the drawingroom-and indeed I generally do that, for its ornaments take so long, and on these busy days I dust my own bedroom; and, in short, do many little odds and ends of work, so that Mary gets over her cleaning and is dressed almost as soon as on other days."
"It is a fortunate thing Mr. Lance's choice fell upon you, Annis. We should not like to be degraded to do the business of a servant-of-allwork."
"There is no degradation in it," cried Annis, with spirit; "what degradation can there be? Were I a nobleman's daughter or a millionnaire's, my condescending to know practically anything about it would be beneath me, quite out of place: but in our class of life-yes, Emily, I speak of ours, mine and yours-it is anything but derogatory to help in these domestic trifles. If it takes me an hour a day-and it does not take me more on an average, I don't know what it may do in timewhat then? It is an hour well spent; an hour that I might fritter away, if I did not have it to do. It does not make my hands coarse, less fit for my drawing afterwards or my embroidery, and it does not soil my nice. morning-dress, for I have made a large brown holland apron to go nearly all round me, and I turn up my sleeves; in short, it does not render me one whit less the lady, when I sit in my drawing-room and receive any friend who may call Do I look less like one to you "Psha, Annis! You picked up these notions of kitchen management
at poor Aunt Ruttley's, but you ought not to be forming your ideas upon them."
"And very glad I am that I did pick them up. But if I had not, if I had had as little experience in domestic usefulness as you, I believe they would have come to me with the necessity."
"Oh, no doubt," said Sophy, scornfully; "you were inclined by nature to these low-lived notions, Annis."
"There are notions abroad," gravely responded Mrs. Lance, "that for people in our pretentious class of society (I cannot help calling it so, for we ape the ideas and manners only suited to those far above us), all participation in, all acquaintance even, with domestic duties is a thing to be ashamed of, never to be owned to, but contemptuously denied. They are wrong notions, wicked notions; false and hollow: for they lead to embarrassment, to unpaid debts, to the wronging of our neighbours; and the sooner the fashion goes out, the more sensible society will prove itself. I don't know which is the worst: a woman who entirely neglects to look after her household, where her station and circumstances demand it, or one who makes herself a domestic drudge. Both extremes are bad, and both should be avoided."
"Do you mean that as a cut at Augusta ?" asked Miss Marsh-" the neglecting of her household ?"
No, Emily, I was speaking generally," replied Mrs. Lance; "though I wish Augusta did look a little more to hers. It would have been well for us, I think, had mamma brought us up in a more domestic manner. There is another fallacy of the present day: the bringing up young ladies to play and dance, but utterly incapable as to the ruling of a household."
Speak for yourself, if you please, Annis. We would rather be excused kitchen rule."
"Why, look at Augusta," returned Mrs. Lance; "would it be well for her, or not, to check and direct her household? Their expenditure must be very large too large, I fear, for the captain's income."
"At any rate, you seem determined not to err on the same side. Take care you do not degenerate into the other, the domestic drudge, Annis."
"I shall never do that-at least, if I know myself," quickly replied Mrs. Lance. "I have too much regard for my husband, am too solicitous to retain his respect and affection: a domestic drudge cannot remain a refined, well-informed woman, an enlightened companion. We keep up our literary tastes, our reading; and our evenings are delightful. No, I shall escape that, I hope, Emily; though I am learning to iron."
"I wonder you don't learn to wash," indignantly retorted Miss Marsh.
"I did wash a pair of lace sleeves the other morning," laughed Mrs. Lance, "but they turned out so yellow that Mary ad to submit them to some whitening process of her own, and I do not think I shall try again. She washes all my lace things and Geoffry's collars, and she is teaching me to iron them. Ironing was an accomplishment I did not see much of, at the parsonage, for I believe everything in the whole weekly wash
was mangled, except my uncle's shirts and bands. His surplice always was aunt used to say he would know no better. I am trying to be very useful, I assure you. I go to market."
"Go to where ?"
"To market. To the butcher's and the greengrocer's, and to the other tradespeople. Not every day, but on a Saturday always, and perhaps once in the week besides."
"To save the legs of the boys who come round for orders?" asked Miss Jemima Marsh, who was a very silent girl, and rarely spoke.
"No. To save Geoffry's pocket," replied Mrs. Lance. "For the first two or three months we ordered everything that way, but I found it would not do. With meat, especially. We had unprofitable pieces, without knowing the weight, without knowing the price: for in delivering the orders to the boy, the butcher of course sends what he likes, and charges what he likes. Now that I go myself to the butcher's I choose my meat, and see it weighed, and know the price of everything before I buy it. It is a very great saving."
"I don't think Annis is wrong there," decided Sophy, "for many very good families go to market themselves."
"And I wish more did," added Mrs. Lance. "I wish you could persuade Augusta into doing so. I spoke to her about it, and she asked me whether I was out of my mind."
"There is less occasion for Mrs. Courtenay to trouble herself," said Miss Marsh, loftily; "she did not marry upon three hundred a year." "Well, I am very happy," said Annis, brightly, "although we have but three hundred a year.'
"And one servant," interposed Miss Marsh.
"And one servant," laughed Annis. "But I do assure you, we manage better without Rebecca than with her and as we shall be obliged in a few months' time to take a second servant, I thought we ought to do with one until then."
"There!" uttered Sophy. "That's just what Aunt Clem said. I know it is, and you need not prepare to deny it, Annie. You mean that the babies will be beginning!"
THE babies did begin. "Tiresome little crying creatures," was Aunt Clem's comment; "they are sure to come whether they are wanted or not, and the worst of it is, there's no end to them, no knowing where they'll stop."
And the time went on, and they still came; went on till Mrs. Courtenay had three and Mrs. Lance two, the former to her unspeakable dismay.
For she could not afford it. No; Captain and Mrs. Courtenay had afforded themselves too many luxuries, to leave room for that of babies. They had committed a terrible mistake in marrying upon their five hundred a year, and that not an increasing income. It was not only that they had set up their household and begun housekeeping upon a scale that would absorb every shilling of it, but the ex-captain, accustomed to his clubs and their expensive society, was not a man who could