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THEIR PLACE AND POWER.
AT HOM E.
AN English girl's place at home is in no indefinite corner, no out-of-the-way niche. She has an allotted position, which she alone can fill. The mother's "right-hand," she bears her share of the household burden of needlework. With ready tact she appropriates the 'stocking-basket" or "mending-bag" almost before the week's laundry has been fairly sorted out. Her nimble fingers soon reduce the pile which brings a sigh to the overworked mother's heart. Her youthful energy and zest keep her far above the difficulties of the task, and her cheerful acceptance of whatever labour falls to her lot gives to the most prosaic and common - place things a
poetry and beauty all their own.
Nor is her
helpfulness confined to needlework. With bright good-humour and a pleasing willingness which clothes her every movement with gentle dignity, she is ready for every duty which means lightening her mother's care or assisting household matters to run smoothly. She would not, for self - gratification, choose to spend an hour or two in a hot kitchen, but if by so doing she can spare her mother's strength, Alice is willing to superintend the making of "preserves" or to knead with her own hands the weekly batch of bread, or to take her stand at the ironing-board. Nor does she feel that these homely duties clash with the culture of her mental powers.
A well-ordered household is, in a certain sense, the foundation of a comfortable home; and if she, by personal attention to any special need of the day, can help to secure the home's true comfort, she feels no work beneath her highest aims, no task unsuitable to the true dignity of her position as a "daughter of the house." She will not enjoy her Italian lesson the less because she has had the satisfaction of making her bread "as light as love;" her fingers will not be less gifted in their power to
draw sweet sounds from harp or piano because her hand has stirred the preserves successfully without an upset or a burn. Nor will she take less interest in the deeper studies of our English literature, because while at the ironing-board the best energies of her mind were concentrated upon her father's or brother's collars and cuffs, her highest thought at the time being to make them stiff and glossy, steering clear of scorch or wrinkle.
And if the English girl at home is the mother's "right hand," she is no less the darling of her father's heart. To him she is at once brightness and rest after a busy day "in the office," or arduous work occasioned by professional duties. In the quiet evening hours which follow the late dinner, May devotes herself to her father. She is ready to read aloud the Times leaders, to play a game at chess, or to take her seat at the piano and beguile "papa" into those short but delicious dozes which paterfamilias know better than anyone else how to appreciate. Lying back in the easiest of easy-chairs, with feet just near enough to the fire to undergo a gentle process of toasting, "papa" drops softly to sleep behind his news
paper; ready to arouse the moment the piano stops, to utter his emphatic "Thank you, my dear!" rustle his paper, as if to find a new subject of interest, and fall asleep again with the delicious sound of music in his ears.
And what the daughter is to her father and mother, the sister is to her brother. Gloves to be mended? Anna will do them. Disorderly buttons to be disciplined into their places? Letty is ready with needle and thread. A new song to be tried over, a tune to be played? Meta is always at hand, and quite ready for an unlimited number of da capos. Proud to be in such requisition-all eagerness to pleasevoice, ears, and fingers are the willing servants of Frank or Harry. Never "too tired" for a walk, quite equal to "taking an oar" in helping to speed the family boat along river or lake, the sister in the home occupies at once the place of companion and friend to the brothers; a post of honour and of trust, when we remember how much young men owe in after years to the companions of their boyhood's days.
Then the younger children have great claims upon "sister." She must "build a house" for solemn little Johnny; or dress and undress
Nora's doll; or tell with patient energy and unflagging interest a story (for the fiftieth time repeated) to a thoughtful little group fresh from the nursery-"The lion with a thorn in his foot," or "The little woodman.” Or she must give baby a " yide" on knee or back, whipped into motion by the oft-uttered appeal, “adain! adain!"
Sometimes, too, an aged grandmother is near enough at hand to get her share of Linda's time, and thought, and care. There are the morning Psalms to be read, a new story in a magazine to be finished, needles to be threaded, little bits of news gathered together and repeated in measured tones within the old lady's better ear; an arm to be lent in a gentle walk round the garden; a pet canary-the joy of granny's heart-to be tended with assiduous care; spectacles to be hunted for; knitting cotton to be wound; and the endless little acts of service which a loyal grand-daughter feels it her privilege to render to old age.
Then there are callers to be received, visitors to be entertained, pleaders for special objects of charity to be met and dealt with; "Mamma left undisturbed, as she has a headache, or is otherwise engaged.