Page images

had three-were with them now, but they were not trained to give way to wayward humours. Mr. Lance was a barrister, but briefless, and he had preferred accepting the secretaryship of a public institution, at 300l. a year, to starving on expectation, in a wig and gown. Whilst they were talking, Mrs. Courtenay was shown in, and down she immediately sat upon a chair and burst into tears. Mr. and Mrs. Lance approached her with surprise and commiseration ; and little Annie, the eldest child, was so aghast at the sight, that she backed against the wall, in doubt whether she should not set up a cry too.

“I am tired and worried out of my life, Annis," began Mrs. Courtenay to her sister. “ All my efforts to be a good manager turn out wrong. Í thought I would try and do the dinner to-day, for that servant of mine is so insolent and extravagant: I said there was enough mutton in the house for dinner, made into a haricot"

“Do you mean an Irish stew ?" interrupted Mrs. Lance.

“That's what vulgar people call it, Annis. Susan drew down the corners of her mouth, and said not if she made it; so the remark nettled me, and I said I would do it myself. And I thought I did do it beautifully,” added the unhappy lady, with a choking sob between every other word," and when it came to be turned out it was all burnt black to the saucepan, and smelt like a dozen blankets on fire.”

" What a pity !” exclaimed Mrs. Lance.

" So there was no dinner for any of us, and the captain went out, swearing, with a bang that shook the ceilings, to get some where he could. Do give me a few lessons, Annis, and tell me how you manage though I had used to laugh at your ways. I'm afraid he'll swear at me: next, and I should never survive that.”

Mr. Lance rose from his chair and smiled. “ It will all come right, Mrs. Courtenay, if you only have a little perseverance. Annis was a good. manager from the first, but she is better now. And while you

take your first lesson, I will go in to my friend Desborough : I was telling Annis, when you came, that I owed him a visit.”

“I could not swallow a scrap of anything if you paid me, I'm too miserable,” sobbed Mrs. Courtenay, interrupting her sister's hospitable intentions. “I will drink a cup of tea when you

take yours.” “ You shall have it directly, Augusta. "The servants must have finished dinner by now, and the children shall go back to the nursery. “ Tell me exactly how you manage throughout the day, Annis,"

said Mrs. Courtenay, when they were alone. “I will try, in my own house, to imitate it."

“I manage much as I used to do in my early married days, only there is more to do,” said Mrs. Lance.

Mary gets up at six“And my beauty crawls down stairs at eight,” interrupted Mrs. Courtenay, in a tone of wrath,“ and the more I talk to her, the longer she lies; and the nurse is worse.” “ Those sort of servants would be useless in my house,” said: Annis

. We breakfast at eight, and I am out of bed before seven.”

“What in the world do you get up so soon for? You, I mean. It is unnecessary to rise before seven for an eight o'clock breakfast."

“I find it none too early. I like to be neatly dressed; not to come down stairs a figure, as it is called, in badly-arranged hair, or an

untidy, ugly dressing-gown. Then I spare a few minutes for my private reading, and a minute for the nursery, for I do not choose Annie to slur over her little prayers to a careless nurse. I hope you always hear

your children theirs, Augusta."

“I hear them now and then at night, if I have time'; never in a morning : I don't think they say any. What do prayers matter for such little children ?”

“ The impressions made on young children last for over, and they tend to good or to evil,” remarked Annis, in a low voice. “But let me go on.

Annie breakfasts with us, the other two with nurse in the kitchen : they are too young for that to hurt them,” she added, in a meaning tone. “Afterwards, when Geoffry is gone, I read ito Annie for five minutes, or so

" Read what?" asked Mrs. Courtenay, in surprise. “Fairy tales ?” “ Bible stories," answered Mrs. Lance, gravely.

66 What would become of me, of them, if I did not strive to train my children to God? How should I answer for it hereafter? Then begins the business of the day. I occupy myself in the nursery and mind the children, while nurse helps with the beds; and then

“Making yourself a nurse the first thing in the morning!" groaned Mrs. Courtenay ; " I'm sure I can never bring myself to do that.

“ Everybody to their taste," laughed Annis. *“ I would rather be a inurse in the morning than in the evening. When the beds are made, nurse relieves me, and I go down and help Mary in the kitchen. Sometimes I wash the breakfast-things, and make a pudding, sometimes I iron the fine things: in short, I do what there is to do, of the work I have apportioned to myself. By eleven or twelve o'clock, as it may happen, it is all done, and I am at liberty for the day, to sit down in the drawing-room, to my sewing, and chat with any friends who may call to see me. Useful sewing now, Augusta,” she laughed; “no longer .embroidery, or drawing, or painting, or wax flowers.”

“Have you given up all those pleasant recreations ?”

“I really fear I have. I find no time for them. I make all my children's things , and part of my own and my husband's.

y husband's. On washingdays I am in the nursery till dinner-time, and we always, that day, have a cold dinner, that both servants may help. You see I manage as I used to, and it is only repeating what I have told you before.".

-“ You do seem to have such super-excellent servants !".exclaimed Mrs. Courtenay, in a sarcastic tone.

“ Yes, I have very good ones. Servants are much cried out against, and no doubt -some are good and some are bad, but they should be carefully chosen before admitted to the house, and I think that a good mistress generally meets with good servants. I do not mean that mine are faultless : it would indeed be a miracle: but they know they are well off with me, for though I am resolute in having their duties thoroughly performed, I am a considerate mistress, anxious for their own comfort and welfare."

." And you never have but one dinner. Aunt Clem went on so to me once, in the other house, about my having two dinners, one for ourselves and another for the servants. She called it waste."

“It is so," answered Mrs. Lance ;“ both of time and provisions. The

children have theirs in the middle of the day, they are too young to wait, but that is not much trouble. A rice pudding, perhaps, and a bit of steak, or two mutton chops : the baby does not eat meat yet.”

“ But my servants grumble my life out when I order only one dinner : it was my saying they must wait to-day, and dine after us, that put Susan out about the meat."

“ I do not wonder at it: with such irregularity, which to them must appear like caprice, how can you expect cheerful obedience ? Let them understand, once for all, that they dine after you, and if they persist in being discontented, the best plan will be to change."

“Change! I am always changing: you know I am, Annis. And then the taking out the children-oh, the worry it is! Of course I am not going streaming out with them, and Susan can't go and leave the work, so I hire a girl, the greengrocer's daughter, and give her sixpence a time, but the nurse does not choose to approve of it, and says she is more plague than help.”

“Ah, we are well off in that respect,” said Mrs. Lance, with animation. “We have no right to the square, not absolutely living in it, but somehow we are popular in the neighbourhood, and have had a key given to us. It is so useful: the nurse goes there with all three children, and can sit down with the baby whilst Annie and the boy run about.”

“ All things seem to turn up well for you," rejoined Mrs. Courtenay, querulously, “ I'm sure they don't for most people. I wish I could get a key of the square.".

"I think that when people set their faces resolutely to their duty and strive to make the best of it, humbly trusting to be helped in it, that many things do turn up for them quite wonderfully," answered Mrs. Lance, gently

“ Annis! the idea of your mixing up religious notions with the petty concerns of life! It is quite methodistical.”

“Rather high church, of the two, I fancy,” responded Annis, good humouredly. “But rely upon it, Augusta, that until people have learnt to remember that God's eye is upon them in all the trifles of daily life, they have not learnt how to live."

“You harp, too, upon system and regularity.' I know I shall never learn to practise either.”

“But you must; for the comfort of a family mainly depends upon that. At five, while we dine, the children take their tea in the nursery, and when we have finished, they come to us while the servants dine. By seven, the children are in bed.”

“And then you sit stitching away here all the evening !" said Mrs. Courtenay.

“ Very often I do, and Geoffry reads to me: the newspaper, or our periodicals. And nurse does her part to the stitching in the nursery."

“Such a humdrum, Darby-and-Joan sort of life !"

“We would not change it for yours, Augusta,” laughed Annis. “ But I do not work always: sometimes I read, or we play at chess, or cribbage, and now and then a friend drops in, or we drop in to a friend's. Believe me, we are thoroughly happy and contented. "I told mamma I knew we could manage well on three hundred a year, and we have done so, and are fully satisfied. All of you, except papa, have spoken scorn.

fully of my lowering myself to two servants, and one of those a nurse, but I have more regularity and comfort in my house than you had with your four. No one who comes here sees them otherwise than perfectly neat and tidy; for both the servants understand that were they to appear otherwise they must look out for fresh situations."

“ Do your servants have meat at luncheon ?”

"Never. They have it at one meal only-dinner. They eat as much as they please, then. Believe me, Augusta, we have no stinting in necessaries, though we cannot afford luxuries.”

“You are not too luxurious in dress, that's certain,” said Mrs. Courtenay, looking at her sister's, a ruby merino : " and yet, it really looks well,” she added, “ with its pretty trimmings of fringe.".

“Quite as well, for a home dress, as your rich silk, Augusta. Especially with that great splash of grease down the front.”

“ Splash of grease !" echoed Mrs. Courtenay, hastily casting her eyes on her dress, and beholding a broad, running stain.

“ There! I must have done that to-day, meddling with that abominable cooking."

“ You surely did not do your cooking in that expensive dress !” exclaimed the younger sister.

“What else could I do it in ?” fretfully retorted Mrs. Courtenay. "I could not be in a shabby wrapper and a loose dirty jacket over it at two or three o'clock in the day, when people might be calling.”

“I would not be seen in either, at any time, Augusta. But there's the advantage of getting over these domestic jobs early in the day. You should have a large apron to put on in the kitchen, as I do."

" To save that dress ?" sarcastically asked Augusta Courtenay, who was in a thorough ill-temper.

• No, this is not my morning dress,” quietly returned her sister. “ That is only alpaca. But it is nicely made, not a 'wrapper' or a loose jacket,' and is neither dirty nor shabby.”

“ How do you make soup,” pursued Mrs. Courtenay, ignoring the implied reproof. “Susan sends up ours all water, and the captain can't eat it; although she has four pounds of meat to make it with, which looks boiled to rags, fit only to throw away."

“Oh, Augusta! four pounds of meat wasted in soup! You will never economise at that rate. "Poor people—as, perhaps, I may venture to call you now, with ourselves—should never attempt expensive soups. For them it is waste of money."

“ I'm sure I have heard you talk of having soup often enough," angrily returned Mrs. Courtenay.

“ Yes : soups that cost nothing; or next to nothing."

“ Like that parsonage soup!” cried Mrs. Courtenay, bursting into a laugh. “Do you remember, Annis? You came home from one of your visits at Aunt Ruttley's, boasting of some delicious, cheap soup; and when mamma inquired how this delicious cheap soup was made, you said of young pea-shells. It remained a standing joke against you. Is that how your soups are made ?” “No. Winter is not the season for pea-shells. But I suppose

what I am going to say to you will appear quite as much of a joke." We rarely make our pea-soup of anything but bones.”

“Bones!" repeated Mrs. Courtenay, as much astonished as if her sister had said feathers.

excellent soup.


6 We never waste a bone. Beef-bones, mutton-bones, all, in short, are boiled, and boiled long, for about twelve hours ; they stand by the side of the kitchen fire, not monopolising it; with an onion or two, a turnip, a carrot, and celery. It is all strained off, and the next morning is in a jelly. The peas are then boiled in it with some mint, and it is an

Then sometimes we have the French soup, as we call it. That poor French governess, whom I invited to stay with me when she lost her situation, taught Mary how to make it. She used to make it for herself on Fridays, and say she preferred it to fish. I thought at first she said it out of delicacy, to prevent my going to the expense of fish for her, but I believed afterwards that she really did prefer it. It was a treat to her, for she never got it in England."

“What soup is it?"

“ The French call it soupe maigre. On fast days they put a piece of butter into a saucepan, on other days a piece of dripping, let it melt, and put into it a quantity of vegetables ready cut in small pieces, carrots, turnips, leeks, and potatoes. They stir all these about over the fire, till they are well saturated with the dripping or butter, but not to brown them, then fill the saucepan with water and let it boil for two or three hours, adding pepper and salt to taste. You cannot think what a nice soup it makes."

“I am willing to take your word for it,” returned Mrs. Courtenay, with an ungracious accent. “ Soup made of dripping, and pea-soup made of bones! I wonder what the captain would say if I placed such before him."

“If placed before him, well made, he would say they were excellent,” was the rejoinder of Annis. “My husband thinks them so, and it is not necessary to proclaim your mysteries of economy over the dinner-table. Both these soups are very grateful on a cold winter's day. Besides,” she laughed, “they save the meat: my servants like these soups so much now that they often make their dinner of them, and will put away the meat untouched. Augusta,” broke off Mrs. Lance, in a changed tone, "if you are to despise every word I say, as I see you do, why come to me for information ?”

No, I do not despise your words, Annis; I am obliged to you for being at the trouble to explain to me; but I cannot help despising the cookery: the odd, parsimonious way of concocting soups out of nothing. It is so ridiculous.'

“ Had I begun life upon the income you did, Augusta, I dare say I should never have learnt these frugal odds and ends of cookery. But I can testify that they are very helpful both to comfort and to the purse: and if those who enjoy but my confined income do not understand them, or have them practised in their household, they ought to do so."

“What ought pies to be made of ?" interrupted Mrs. Courtenay, remembering another domestic stumbling-block.

“Many things. Apples, and rhubarb, and” “Nonsense, Annis ! You know I meant the crust.” “No, I did not. I make mine of lard. Sometimes of beef dripping.”

"Beef dripWell, what next? You must have learnt that at the parsonage."

“No, indeed, the parsonage was not rich enough to possess dripping.

« PreviousContinue »