The Two Brides: 1853

Victorian housewife in kitchen

The Thrifty Housewife

“Oh! Henry! is this the cottage you thought so beautiful?—dear, dear me, what a very shabby place,” said Marion Lenox, as with her husband they alighted at the door of a neat little cottage.

“Why, my love, you know it’s just Spring; the leaves are hardly out, and the rose-bushes only budding. Yet you may form some idea of how it will look in summer; see the vines trained over the windows! Look at the garden spots here and there—rather neglected to be sure—but—”

“Rather neglected,” added his wife, breaking in upon him; “I should think so. Why, there’s a nettle bush—and such miserable little stunted trees; and straw—litter, and old hoops— rather neglected. And the door—how old-fashioned and ugly! take care—I am sure you can hardly stand up straight in this narrow, low-studded little hall. I detest low ceilings, country or no country. And this bit of a parlor hardly large enough to turn about in—I can’t and I won’t like that! Now let me see the kitchen; oh, horror!” she exclaimed, holding up her hands, either noticing not, or deigning not to notice the expression of uneasiness that sat on her husband’s face “look at the hearth—of brick, as I’m alive, and takes up half the floor. High windows, too!—how I hate high windows—and such a pattern for paper! it makes me nervous to look at it—criss-cross, like spiders crawling over a web; now Henry, you can’t expect me to live here!”

Her husband, a fine, manly looking fellow, half sighed as he answered—“I should be very unwilling to submit you to inconveniences such as you seem to dread, but there are only this and the new cottage above, on the hill. That you know is three hundred dollars a year, two hundred more than we should pay for this—and then the expenses!”

“Oh! Henry dear! don’t go talking about expenses; your business is so good, it will warrant a little outlay you told me so yourself. Come, I will economise in other things—just look now at these dingy, black closets”—he half agreed with her as she opened the really dismal places—“I shouldn’t wonder if they were filled with rats and vermin. Now let’s go up stairs; see how the paper is torn off and patched—and worse, and more of it, there is but one upright chamber in the house. Mother’s last words to me were, do get upright chambers, for they look so pretty when they are well furnished. And here in front of the house is a wretched great hole—”

“But in summer,” put in Henry.

“Oh! I know what you would say.— I suppose there is water there sometimes, but half of the year it will be a most detestable sight. Then the trees so close to the house—I’ve always heard that trees make a house very damp and uncomfortable —no; I’m sure you won’t try to make me live in such a place, after all the comfort I’ve been used to. Come let us go—for really, I am quite melancholy already.”

Henry resigned the key, only half convinced by his wife’s reasoning. He loved her, wanted to make her happy; but just starting in life, how was he to maintain style and extravagance? He liked the little cottage, but was persuaded against his better judgment to refuse it.

About an hour after, a plain carriage drove up, and a sprightly young man lifted a sweet, blue-eyed girl to the ground, saying as he did so, “Now prepare to be disappointed.”

“I am not in the least with the exterior,” she exclaimed, pausing,—“oh! how cunning—how neat! what a fine place for a garden! and those dear little —and this wilderness of rose-bushes! I declare, I never was so pleased with anything in my life. The door looks like what I have seen in pictures of old country houses—and oh! do look and see the vines clambering over every window! When they are loaded with blossoms, and the roses are out, it will seem like Paradise.”

“The entry is rather small and low,” remarked her husband.

“Oh! not a bit too small; and as to low ceilings, in a cottage like this, they are quite apropo. Now did you ever see a quainter, pleasanter little parlor—just the place for your mother’s nice old-fashioned furniture. The sofa shall be there, right between those pretty little windows, and the chairs here, and the table there: won’t it look so cosy and comfortable?” she asked, her blue eyes sparkling with unalloyed pleasure.

How could the young man help kissing that pure, innocent brow, upturned to him so lovingly?

“Now the kitchen,” she cried, clapping her hands—“there! just what I hoped! It’s just a bit of old times as I thought it would be. Maybe you don’t like brick hearths—but I do. Many a frolic have I had in grandmother’s kitchen; this is like it only a smaller edition. There she used to sit, in a corner like that, and her smile always looked so heavenly! This does make me think of her.”

“Do you like the closets?” asked her husband, throwing open the doors.

“Oh! I like everything. Yes, it’s rather fortunate they are dark; the flies will keep out nicely. Indeed I like everything,” she added, running up stairs; “we can get a little new house-paper, some brighter than this, and paper the stairway; and here we are, chambers small, and cottage fashion. Most people like upright chambers, but don’t you think it’s pleasanter to hear the rain rattling down the roof? Oh, such dear snug little places—not at all ungainly, and looking out upon such a delicious prospect. Besides! here’s a joyful surprise —a pond! That is, it will be; oh! I am so glad—just in front of the house, too! the prettiest spot! And when the trees are all leafed out, and the birds sing on the branches, right close to our windows—and the garden and meadow are in the full bloom of summer—oh! won’t we be happy?”

“We are happy now;” said her husband, thanking God in his heart for his cheerful little wife. “We are happy enough now, dear Louise.”

At they were riding home they passed the new house on the hill.

“There!” exclaimed Louise, pointing towards it—”how much better our little home will be than that stiff, ornamented place. I pity whoever will live there— no shade trees, no nice old-fashioned corners —besides,” added she roguishly, adding to her husband, “two hundred dollars to spend in comfort, is something of a gain! Ah! we have made much the better bargain.”

How true is the old proverb that “where the spider sucks poison, the bee sucks honey.”

M. A. D.

The Lily 15 March 1853

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil thinks the proverb writer is a bit muddled about the habits of spiders, but never mind… The moral is plain: One bride’s meat is another bride’s poison.

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