Facing a Stubborn Fact

This is the second article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 10, 1909, and is the first article in a series on economy.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Facing a Stubborn Fact

This is the first of a series of articles by Marion Harland, the object of which is to aid housewives toward economy in the household during the present reign of high prices for necessities.

The second article of the series, to be published next Sunday, will be entitled, “Economy in Buying.” The third and fourth, to be printed on following Sundays, will be entitled “Economy in Cooking” and “Economy in Hired Labor.” Correspondence on the general topic and suggestions along the lines of these articles will be welcomed by the editor of the page.

An able editorial in one of the leading papers announced some weeks ago:

“The stubborn fact that confronts every American is tat the era of waste has ended, and economy is henceforth not to be a voluntary method of accumulating wealth, but a daily necessity to escape pauperism.”

A hard saying, this, but the statistic by which our prophet sustains it are harder still.

“The mom ca’ed me a leear!” spluttered an Irate Scotchman to a friend.

“And ye didn’t knock him doon!” reported the other.

“Nae, nae, mon! The warst of it was that he proved it!”

The anecdote recurred to me as I finished reading the summary of stubborn facts. We have been shutting our eyes and ears to them for six years and more, saying to legislators, political orators and fearless press, ‘Prophesy until us smooth things.” When the price of flour climbed steadily from $5 a barrel up to $8, we cried but upon the authors of trusts and the manipulators of corners. As surely as it is recorded in Holy Writ that the wages of iniquity shall not prosper, so certainly, we argued, prices must come down with a run, bringing the violent dealings of trust factor and corner dealer upon his own pate. And pending a consummation so devoutly to be desired that we had full faith in its coming before we should ourselves feel the pinch of poverty, we went on buying the finest of the wheot and using it with as free a hand as when it was the cheapest.

I was waiting for my turn in the shop of a highly respectable meat merchant on day, when a woman who stood net the counter asked the price of spring lamb.

“Twenty-eight cents a pound,” was the answer.

“And three years ago you sold it to me for twenty!” ejaculated the customer. “I wonder where you butchers expect to go when you die after robbing us at this rate?

“We give ourselves little concern on that score, madam,” returned the man, respectfully. “We shall find friends in both places.”

I laughed, as did others who heard the repartee. But, as Bunyan hat it, “I fell amusing,” and when the shop was cleared of other customers, I fell into quiet, serious talk with the vendor of flesh-foods. Without calling his attention to the possibility that some of his fellow-creatures might precede him to some of the “places” of which he spoke with such philosophical composure, if prices kept on rising, I asked him plainly why it costs me 35 per cent more to feed my family than it did three years agone.

Waiting for the Drop.

“We were assured that prices must fall with renewed public confidence. Capitalists were afraid of Roosevelt’s strenuous measures. Nobody could tell what he would be about next. Wait until Taft or Bryan is safe in the White House and the seething caldron will settle into a great calm,” and so on through the thousand-and-one etceteras with which we have been quieted until the soothing syrups have lost their efficacy.

The man is intelligent, and he had begun to take the state of the market seriously before I awoke to the “stubborn facts” in the case.

He talked to me of the increased cost of breadstuffs and feed; of the consequent rise in butter and milk, and in cattle of all kinds; of the absolute necessity that farmlands and lay laborers in other departments should receive higher wages to keep the life in themselves and families.

“It’s like arrow of bricks—don’t you see, ma’am?” he wound up by saying. “If one goes down, the rest must tumble. Where is it all to end?” with a despairing shrug. “I’ve long ago given up guessing as to that!”

I thanked him, and (perhaps ungratefully) ordered a piece of beef for a pot roast instead of the spring lamb I had promised myself for Sunday’s dinner. Then I went home deep in thought, and sat down that evening for a second reading of the editorial I had scarcely glanced at a breakfast time.

Here is a lurid sidelight gained by the second perusal:

“A few weeks ago a New York newspaper reported that hundred of small butcher shops in the city have been closed simply because the increase from 2 to 5 cents a pound in the price of meat has put it altogether out of the reach of thousands of people.”

A significant and gruesome item of information succeeds the announcement:

“A Washington estimate was that the advance amounted to an increase of $1,600,000 in the daily receipts of the Beef Trust.”

A Question of Pride.

This very plain and familiar talk with my fellow-housemothers does not soar (or sink?) to the contemplation of the stupendous figure I quote at close connection with the paltry []e of 5 cents per pound in the poor man’s meat.

One phrase in the extract with which my Talk begins must rivet the attention of the least thoughtful reader who has natural pride in his native end:

“The Era of Waste has ended.”

We fell into the habit of regarding ourselves as a thrifty people so long [] that the imputation stings our self-love. Out of a wilderness we have created a paradise that challenges the admiration of the world. We are proud of our natural resources and vain of the genius and industry that have developed them. No need to put out the question to those who have studied the special and domestic economies of other countries. American prodigality abroad is a byword and a hissing among the nations. American extravagance at home is not confined to the rich by inheritance and by speculation. Nor, let me remark, to the shiftless poor.

In my Talk of last week I defined the term, “Our Great Middle Class.” The Era of Waste has prevailed with them as truly as with the rich who have more money than they know how to spend the the poverty-ridden who live from hand to mouth. Our national proverbs reflect this unflattering truth. We sneer at “Candle-end savers.” We aver that such and such a one would skin a flee for his hide and tallow.” The returned tourist relates, with scornful glee, how he saw an English “tripper” in Switzerland put the remnants of the candles, for which he had been charged in the bill, into his valise, with intent to save that item of cost at the next stopping place. It is certain that if the portable Holland housemother discerned possible profit in a flea’s yield of hide and tallow she could not conscientiously neglect the duty of flaying it.

I asked a farmer’s wife who had the sole care of the poultry yard, if she knew that potato parings, corn cobs—in fact, the refuse of all vegetables—if put into a great pot and cooked soft at the back of the stove, are excellent and fattening food for chickens. I was led to the suggestion be seeing her garbage pail, piled with parings, husks and “scraps,” emptied upon the manure heap.

She laughed in my face. I knew from accent and look that she despised me in her heart.

“More trouble than it’s worth!” she said, briefly. “I ain’t one to look after trash.”

Let us look at the situation squarely in the face. Business optimists ply us with yet another patent of soothing syrup in the prediction that “things will right themselves as soon as this tariff question is settled.”

Perhaps they are right. I am not a political seer. I do know, as a common-sense woman who is in touch with tens of thousands of other women from Nova Scotia to California, that there is a big deficit to be made up before the return wave of prosperity can refresh our households. I speak that which I do know in asserting that the rainy-day fund in hundreds (maybe thousands) of homes was never so low before as now. The shrunken savings-bank account must be drought up to something like the proportions that rejoiced the deposer’s heart prior to the “hard times.” The wind that has blown straight and hot from the desert all these weary months may shift to a quarter promising beneficent showers. But we have the ravages of the drought to repair. And some of us do not forget that the winds that inflate business interests generally are slow in reaching salaries. To change the figure and adapt my meaning to housewifely compression—the brand of yeast that raises trusts and “big” concerns is not available for domestic use.

Briefly, then, it will be a long time before we can hope to rise from the universal depression succeeding the stringent “times” under which we have staggered until we have almost forgotten how to walk upright. She is a wise and prudent woman who accepts “the stubborn fact” and sets about the work of reconstruction without delay.

It is the little leaks in the household that tell upon the stability of the whole. And nobody but a woman can detect and stop them. If your grocer’s bills are too heavy, examine the items closely and see what swells them out of proportion to your allowance. It will be a disheartening task. For you are using no more butter than you thought necessary for the family two years back. You curtailed the quantity of cake made weekly some months ago. But the bills for the ingredients are half as large again as when the children had all the sweets they wanted. And so on and so forth, to the sum total that sickens you, heard and body.

Remedy Lies Ahead.

“We have all been there,” my toiling discouraged sisters! “In point of fact,” as Cousin Feenix says, we are there now, and wading more heavily in the slough of despond than ever before in our housewifely experience. Whether or not the firm land of promise be within hail, our present duty is plain. Each of us owes it to herself, to her family and to her country to learn and practice economies that make for thrift and prosperity in older lands than ours.

One and all, you will bear me witness that I am not an alarmist. But I have watched with growing uneasiness the development of agencies which have brought us up against the reef our sensible editor has lettered “A Stubborn Fact.” And I would not prove myself the true friend I am in heart to every member of our mighty guild if I did not speak out at this crisis.

Let us gird up the loins of our minds and spirits and reason together as to the course to be taken in the grave emergency that is not without terrors to any one of us.

In our next Talk we will discuss practical, everyday ways and means by which we may relegate the era of waste to a past we have out grown.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
Fashion and Fads
The Housemothers’ Exchange

The Sunday Night Tea

This is the first article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 3, 1909, and is an article on Sunday night dinner and families having to do without their maid-of-all-work.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Sunday Night Tea

THE Sunday night tea is a memorial feast.

I have said that in effect before, and I repeat it now with emphasis. It is a standing and visible token of the respect paid by the great middle class of America to the wishes and privileges of the hired girl. That is what we called her in the day when the Sunday night supper was instituted for her express benefit. She is a “maid” now, and there are three where there was then one. But the institution stand sure and fast.

Let me guard that phrase—“the great middle class.” It has not the invidious meaning on this side of the water attached to it as in England. It signifies the backbone, the thews and red blood of the nation. The men who are hewing out their own fortunes; the women who are building and keeping homes; the architects of the best future of our land—make up the ranks. To come to practical details, I include in the term families of moderate means, in which regard for education of children is a duty; in which the expediency of laying aside a “Rainy day fund” for those who have no inherited wealth is a judicious economy. These are the households where the maid-of-all-work (a species that is growing rarer and dearer with every passing year) represents hired labor, the rest of the work falling upon the mother and her daughters; or, where the family is larger and the income justifies, there may be two maids.

Her Own Way.

Be her nationality what it may, the maid must have her Sunday afternoon or evening “out” or “off.” I append that last monosyllable advisedly. I know of more than one household in which the “hired help” sometimes elects to remain within-doors on Sunday evening or afternoon, when the weather is bad—or she is not feeling “quite fit.” She takes her half day off, all the same. Sometimes she retires to her bedroom and sleeps or lazes away the rest hours. I have seen one, at least, who dressed in her Sunday best and sat with a book in the orderly kitchen while her reputed mistress got up the evening meal, the maid never lifting her eyes from the book or paper on the table before her. When the china and glass were out of the way—washed and wiped by the employer—the real sovereign of the small realm was ready to receive “company.” If the fragrance of tea and toast ascended to the drawing rom later, blended with the cackle of Milesian mirth, the (alleged) mistress was conveniently deaf. “Norah is a treasure—neat, industrious, a good cook, honest and willing. And it is not easy to get a really general housemaid nowadays.”

So much for the reasons that have bound the Sunday night tea upon us as irrevocably as custom and tradition have decreed the Fourth-of-July fireworks.

Some blessedly optimistic housemothers assure us that they “rather like it. It is a relief from the hot dinner or supper to which we must sit down six evenings in the week.” Now and then one adds that “John and the boys enjoy it. It is fun to have me cook for them. And they like the unceremoniousness of it all.”

Personally (and I suspect if others were as frank I should hear many an “Amen!”) I look forward to the cold or semi-cold supper of the first day of the week with decided disfavor. It is right and humane and Christian that it should hold a place among our national institutions, and I make the best of it. That “best” is contriving that some especial delicacy shall invariably grace the board, and that there shall as invariably be one hot dish. The English call it a “cover,” signifying that there is heat to be kept in.

For a term of years, thanks to my self-freezing process, ice cream was the children’s Sunday night treat. We still have it in hot weather when the grandchildren visit us. Salads are the regulation dish, and of these there is endless variety. If the piece de resistance be cold meat, it is made as unlike as possible to the pallid chips and chunks and slabs that usually pass under that name. Pressed or moulded or jellied into comeliness, and garnished tastefully, it graces the foot of the board appetizingly to eye as to palate. Baked cream toast is a frequent and welcome visitor; likewise baked Welsh rabbit. “The boys” like both.

The chafing dish in the hands of an expert does wonders to alleviate the chill and cheerlessness of our First-day night supper. Among the almost countless delicacies the elder daughter or the mother may prepare before the gloating eyes of those who are as hungry on Sunday evening as one weekdays, I name as popular and “comforting” to the inner man Spanish eggs, olla podrida omelet, creamed oysters, shrimps and eggs, panned oysters, broiled mushrooms, cream cheese, golden buck, corm omelet and creamed fish.

I could fill the page with the titles of other dishes suitable for the memorial feast. Recipes for a few of these I have named will be found below. Tea and coffee *hot) are made on the table; likewise cocoa, iced tea and coffee are kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.

A Sunday Night Frolic.

If there be but one maid in the household, and she be “off,” the waiting is done by members of the family. One wise mother has trained her boys, lads of 10 and 12, to wait quickly and dexterously on Sunday night.

They make a genuine frolic of it, and vie with one another in the display of their skill. The plates are changed noiselessly by the little mock footmen, each girded with a white napkin while on duty. They are as grave as the primmest of English butlers, and play the part to perfection. The smallest children may be taught.

Another mother has three young daughters, who take turns in serving and waiting, while even the smaller children help. The office may be made graceful. Perfect breeding preserves the most lowly service from any touch of vulgarity. No household duty is in itself menial.

Spanish Eggs.

Heat a great spoonful of butter in the blazer of the chafing dish or in the frying pan. Have at hand a cupful of tomatoes, peeled and cut up small, or a can of tomatoes, drained from the liquor; four green sweet peppers that have been seeded, parboiled, cooled and minced fine, and eight eggs. When the butter hisses put in the tomatoes and stir briskly together with the minced peppers. When they have cooked three or four minutes break in the eggs, stirring all the time. Season to taste, adding a teaspoonful of onion juice, and as soon as the eggs are done serve.

Olla Podrida Omelet, Another Spanish Dish.

Make a roux of a great spoonful of butter and the same of browned flour by stirring them together in a frying pan. When the mixture bubbles add a cupful of tomatoes, peeled and cut small; a half cupful of mushrooms cut fine, three tablespoonfuls of minced tongue or chicken or veal (cooked and cold) and a teaspoonful of finely chopped red onion. Sit to a smoking mass—about six minutes will do—and break in six eggs. Stir constantly, tossing up the “podrida” to incorporate the ingredients well, seasoning with kitchen bouquet, white pepper and salt to taste. When the eggs thicken serve upon rounds of toast.

Shrimps and Eggs.

Prepare a roux as in the last recipe. When it hisses and heaves all over the surface stir in three sweet green peppers, seeded, parboiled and minced fine, together with a teaspoonful of onion juice. Cook three minutes before stirring in a can of shrimps from which you have drained all the liquor. Wash the shrimps and cut each in half before cooking. Simmer four or five minutes and break into the pan six eggs. Sit until the eggs thicken to your liking and serve.

Cheese Golden Buck.

Rub a cream cheese to a soft paste with warmed butter; season with salt, a little French mustard and a dash of cayenne. Set over the fire in a double boiler and stir until hot all through. Beat three eggs without separating yolks and whites, and stir and toss into the cheese. Have at hand rounds of buttered toast and spread the “buck” upon them.

Green Corn Omelet.

Grate or shave the grains from six ears of cold boiled corn. Have in a saucepan a tablespoonful of butter, heated. Put the corn into this and set in boiling water, tossing it until very hot. Leave the saucepan in the water while you make an omelet of six eggs and three tablespoonfuls of cream. Dish; season the corn with salt and pepper, and when the omelet is dished lay the corn upon it and fold the omelet over the inclosed vegetable.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Whose Duty Is It? Mother’s or Daughter’s

This is the forth article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 26, 1909, and is an article on the importance of teaching daughters how to be housewives before they are married.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Whose Duty Is It? Mother’s or Daughters

FIVE years ago the question was asked in my hearing concerning a girl graduate: “What will she do with herself now?”

She was the only single daughter in the family. Three older sisters had married and gone to homes of their own. The mother is not strong, and the father, although not rich, makes a comfortable living for house household. They keep but one servant—a maid-of-all-work—and much of the dining room and the upstairs works falls upon the mistress of the modest establishment on washing and ironing days.

With these facts in mind, I asked: “Why need she do anything except stay at home, take her share of the labors of the household and be a comfort and joy to her parents in their declining years?”

My companion looked at me with a sort of patronizing pity. “You can’t expect a lively, independent young girl, who is college-bred and full of ambitions of her own, to settle down in that humdrum fashion. The day for that kind of thing has gone by.”

“I held my peace even from good,” says the Psalmist of a season when silence seemed to him to be “golden.”

Ignorance—Not Bliss.

In humble imitation, I refrained from speaking out what was in my mind that instant, assured as I was that what I would have said were the words of truth and soberness. But, like Paddy’s dumb parrot, I “kept up a moighty dale of thinking.” And when my mind and heart are very full, I have a habit of talking both out to my family.

To finish the story begun above: The young girl in question took an expensive course of tuition as a trained nurse in another city than in which her parents lived, and within three months after graduating married a resident of that place and set up housekeeping. I met her mother the other day in a shop. She is a great sufferer from rheumatism, and walks with pain and difficulty. But she had just returned from a visit to Clara,

“Who, poor child! is having a fearful time with housekeeping. She had no time to learn anything of it before her marriage, of course. No girl has, nowadays.”

One Among Many.

When I got home, oddly enough, I found awaiting me a letter from a friend whose niece married, last spring, a young doctor with whom she had become acquainted while taking her course in a training school for nurses. They were married the week after she received her diploma.

“I cannot help thinking it would have been wiser to postpone the wedding until Emma had an apprenticeship in her mother’s kitchen,” wrote my correspondent. “She is as ignorant as a baby of the rudiments of what a woman must know, unless she has abundant means and can employ trained servants. I foresee a grievous novitiate for the young bride. We—you and I—know what trials await her who sets up in business for herself before she has mastered the a b c of her trade.”

I read the letter to a youthful matron whose mother insisted upon putting her into training in active housewifery on Saturdays and in vacations while she was still a schoolgirl. In the year that elapsed between her graduation and her marriage the apprenticeship was steady and systematic.

“I used to gird at her rules sometimes,” commented the matron in harking back to her experience. “I bless her hourly for it now. My knowledge of practical housewifery saves hundreds of dollars yearly, to say nothing of sparing me time, nervous tissue and temper.”

“Among other duties that developed upon me during the last year of my novitiate was marketing. I set forth gayly the first day, with my memorandum in my pocket and a careless smile on my lips. It was the easiest matter in the world to walk into a shop and ask for what I had written down before leaving home. So I entered my butcher’s salesroom and ordered ‘a nice roast of corned beef.’ My mother was an old customer, and the butcher had seen me with her from the time I was a child. So he took the liberty of saying, with a kindly, amused smile: ‘Excuse me, Miss Blank, but corned beef is never roasted. Are you sure you don’t want fresh?’”

Multiplied Responsibility.

That was a minor mortification by comparison with the great fight of worries that are genuine afflictions which beset the woman who, to quote one of our speakers, sets up a business of which she is profoundly ignorant. It is not true, as some persons who should know better affirm, that “any girl with a fair outfit of common sense may learn practical housewifery, including cookery, as well after marriage as before.”

Setting aside other duties incumbent upon wifehood, the responsibility of providing what is to be cooked; of judicious selection of materials, consulting times and seasons; of preparing food that is wholesome, palatable and economical; of directing servants who ingeniously and invariably take advantage of an incompetent and inexperienced employer—I appeal to the great army of housewives with whom our familiar chats are held the year round whether or not I am right in declaring that our profession involves all this and so much more of intelligent effort as to demand long previous training before one stepped into the ranks of workers.

It is not a “trick” to be learned in a week or a month of a year. I, for one, have been laboring diligently at it for over half a century, and account myself still a learner.

Answering the question that heads our page, I say, then, without hesitation, that the mother who allows her daughter to grow up without a fair knowledge of practical housewifery is guilty of absolute cruelty to one whose need of the knowledge may be sore in days to come. I add that the girl who fails to appreciate the value of training in the profession that falls to the lot of seventy-five out of every hundred women in America is short-sighted and improvident. She is sowing for herself a crop of tare and bitter herbs.

Where there are several daughters, and the means of the family do not justify the employment of more than one or, at the most, two servants, the xxx to cook girl of a xxx xxx-tion of daily tasks makes the wheels of the machinery run smoothly.

Carry into your profession the systematic arrangement of work that prevails in your father’s factory or your brother’s office. As I say it, the memory recurs to me of one well-regulated home in the great and influential middle class of American social life in which this plan worked to a charm. The mother held the reins of government. No woman who is set at the head of her own household by her husband should ever resign the office unless hopelessly invalided. She is “called” to the place as truly as a queen to her sovereignty.

Rotation in Office.

As time made her subordinates expert, she did less manual labor, but her superintendence never relaxed in vigilance. One girl took charge of the kitchen for one month; the upstairs work devolved upon a second for the same time; a third, the dining-room, china, silver, etc. Rotation in office brought in orderly sequence each department into the hands of each girl during the quarter year. The only outside help brought into the house was a laundress and now and then a housecleaner.

It goes without saying that the house was beautifully kept from top to bottom. Intelligence and personal interest in the matter in hand insured that end. It may seem less credible to some readers that the machinery of daily toil was so cleverly concealed that, as one writer reported to me, “The house appeared to run itself. Mother and daughters were never slovenly in dress or fagged in appearance. Except that one of the girls arose quietly from table at meals to make needful changes in the courses, I should not have missed the services of a waitress. And how swiftly and noiselessly these changes were accomplished no one can imagine who has not seen a trained gentlewoman do housework. It was a fine art, through and through.”

It passes my comprehension—the cool indifference with which some daughters see their mothers toil in the treadmill where they have wrought for fifteen or thirty years while their families were growing into man’s and woman’s estate, carrying upon their shoulders accustomed burdens which their children, with pharisaic superciliousness, “will not lift with so much as one of their fingers.” “Only mother!” The life of many and many a girl is pitched to that key.

It was a refreshing contrast when, last week, I saw a pretty girl put her soft white arms around the withered neck of her mother, and press ripe red lips to the faded cheek, with—

“You know, mother is advanced to the dignity of consulting physicians now? Oh, I might say, lord high admiral. We make her sit still in state, and the tribes come up to her for judgment.”

I forgive the confusion of figures in consideration of the beautiful reverence to one who had earned the chief office. She is too feeble now for active duties, but her children arise and call her blessed for the work she has done.

Home-Making a Profession.

A serious editorial appeared in one of our leading dailies not long ago, headed, “Learning a Profession.” In it the course pursued by sensible parents with respect to preparing their sons for their lifework and their neglect of a similar duty to their daughters were strongly contrasted.

Even the “advanced” advocates of public careers for our sex cannot deny that, for the average woman, Providence has clearly indicated home as her sphere and home-making as her profession. And the school in which this is to be learned is, as unequivocally, her girlhood’s home under the loving tuition of her mother.

By the time the child can handle mop and duster her apprenticeship should begin. When she is of marriageable age she should have her profession so well in hand that the heart of her husband may safely trust in her as a true helpmeet. The calamities of the earlier years of the novice in housewifery would fill a library.

Were I to solicit a comparison of experience on this head from the members of our Exchange I should have no room for any other matter for a year to come.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
Doings in the World of Fashion
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Olive Oil

This is the third article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 19, 1909, and is an article on the benefits of olive oil and to use only the purest.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Olive Oil

IMPRIMIS; it must be Olive Oil!

Once upon a time, and not a hundred years ago, a certain “promoter,” who is now a millionaire, took me into confidence concerning the “tricks of the trade.” Said trade, at that time, was the education of the great American public into the manifold merits and innumerable uses of the product, the name of which stand at the head of this page. He was the originator and backer of a firm which advertised “Genuine Oil of Lucca.” The phrase, borrowed from Sydney Smith’s celebrated recipe for salad dressing, was flaunted conspicuously in their circulars.

“The spoon with Oil of Lucca crown” made a taking trade-mark.

A Scheme Unmasked.

The speculation was booming fast and loudly when I had my talk with the parent thereof. If his advertisements were to be believed, he had fenced in every olive orchard in the pretty Italian town famed for its oil. Every drop offered for sale was shipped direct to his warehouses on this side of the Atlantic, and thence distributed to every city in the Union.

I have wondered since if the promoter had not a glass too much of heady champagne that evening, but his brain seemed steady and his speech coherent. Something, perhaps cleverness, had loosened his tongue. He confessed, with never a flicker of a blush, that “Lucca” was, to borrow from the Irishman’s excuse for the frozen pies he hawked as hot, “just the name of ‘em.” All the olive oil that filled bottles with the foreign trade-mark came from California.

“And every whit as good as the Italian,” he averred. “But the public must be gulled with the foreign name. We really use a fair percentage of genuine salad oil. The rest, say one-half, is the best quality of cottonseed oil. And why not? It is a pure vegetable product, and harmless, and, I dare say, nourishing. Bless your heart, my dear madame, the grocers know it, if the consumers do not. We put a well-flavored oil, with all the earmarks of the bona-fide ‘Lucca,’ within reach of the people of limited means. And,” rising into complacent animation, “we are public benefactors when you come down to the solid bottom fact. Time was when none but the rich could afford to eat salads every day.”

Find an Honest Grocer.

To prove the excellence of the counterfeit, he sent me a bottle of “Italian oil,” bearing the illuminated admonition to “crown the spoon with oil of Lucca.” To do him justice, it was not unpleasant to taste or smell. It lacked the slight greenish tinge, scarcely perceptible except in a strong light, and the faint but unmistakably nutty fragrance by which the connoisseur identifies pure olive oil. I dare say that lie was right in asserting that it was harmless. Cotton is a vegetable product.

Let that pass, with our ingenious promoter and his works. Return we to our starting point. Take the pains to get real olive oil. The pure-food laws make this easier now than in the day when our speculator with the elastic conscience took compassion upon my ignorance of business methods. Don’t be beguiled into buying cheap brands. Go to a responsible man and tell him what you want. Honest grocers are not so hard to find as some would have you think. Real, unadulterated olive oil may be had and at reasonable process. My grocer keeps it in half-gallon cans, sealed, and warrants it pure. It comes cheaper than the bottles bearing the same brand.

In Southern Europe, where olive trees are more plentiful than cotton plants, oil is used for frying to an extent that would seem incredible to the American housemother, who calls upon the butter tub or the lard can for the same purpose. There is absolutely no greasy smell about the omelets and croquettes fried in French and Italian kitchens; the oil, being lighter in weight than butter, does not interfere with the airy puffiness of beaten eggs and batter. If one be disposed to doubt of the oil sold in foreign markets and that for which we pay twice as much on this side of the water, let this fact be the test.

Fifty years ago it was not uncommon to hear objections to oil in salad dressing. Women with ultra-delicate stomachs “could not endure the taste and smell.” In my own early housewifey life I had the pleasure and the fun of converting three such prejudices by feeding them for days at a time with salads served in separate dishes from that passed to the rest of the household, hence presumably dressed with butter instead of oil. They were sensible folk and when, after hearing their praises of the salad, I made full confession, I was thanked instead of chided. If the oil be good and the blending of the various ingredients skillfully done, perhaps with a dropper, there is literally no distinctive flavor of the chief element in the compound. It adds velvety richness to the completed whole, attainable by no other process.

This is so well understood now, even by the old-fashioned cook, that I need not argue the point.

The value of olive oil as a medicinal agent has now taken firm hold upon the comprehension of the average housemother. We once were wont to think of it as a mild medicament for babies, working it into a syrup with fine sugar to delude the infant into the idea that it was confectionery. It takes a more dignified place in the family material medica now. A tablespoonful of the best olive oil, taken three times a day, is prescribed for stubborn constipation. It acts as a gentle laxative, and painlessly, at the same time nourishing the whole body and building up wasted tissues.

Anemic children have been restored to health by perseverance on the part of parents in feeding them with pure olive oil, in doses of a teaspoonful every three hours per day for a month, gradually increasing the quantity. The oil must be of the best quality, not half cottonseed grease, and perfectly sweet. In time the child becomes fond of it. I have in mind one little fellow who looked forward zestfully to the threat of a full tablespoonful before each meal. He gained flesh under the regimen, and flesh of the kind that rejoices the parental eye—firm and rosy. His skin was clear and soft, and even his hair improved in texture and luster.

One disciple of the olive-oil school assumes me that at least four cases of threatening appendicitis have come under his observation that were warded off by a steady course of pure olive oil—a tablespoonful every three hours for a week. Symptoms of tuberculosis have been arrested in another family by the same practice, continued for a whole winter and bringing out the patient in the spring not only well but plump.

As a flesh food it takes high rank with masseurs. Puny babies should be rubbed with it daily, at least twice, after the morning and night bath. It must be worked gently and evenly into the whole surface of the body with the palm of the operator’s hand. If the child shows signs of having taken cold, especial attention is paid to the throat and chest. An incipient cold and sore throat may be averted by administering a teaspoonful of oil, beaten to a cream with half as much powdered sugar, and fed to the child three times a day.

A crowning advantage of what may be called the “olive-oil treatment” is that the patient, young or old, cannot be injured by it. It is food as well as medicine, and no matter how it is used it is never a “drug.” Life might be sustained for days by a diet of pure oil, if the stomach could retain it.

Travelers in Southern Europe and in the Orient are struck with wonder and admiration at the important part played by the olive tree in the lives of the inhabitants. In Palestine the otherwise bare hills are clothed with the silver-gray foliage. The fruit is gathered whole for export; ground into pulp from which the precious oil is expressed; the pomace left from the oil press is dried for fuel, and the roots of old trees, removed to make room for younger or to be wrought into articles of use and ornament, are the chief firewood of the country. I saw no other in Jerusalem and Jericho. But for the olive groves the native population would starve.

Then and there, as never before, we entered into the full significance and beauty of the words which the disinherited son of the dead judge of Israel attributes to the olive in the stinging satire hurled from the hilltop at the rebel host in the valley beneath:

“But the olive tree said, ‘Shall I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees.’”

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Only a Boarder

This is the second article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 12, 1909, and is an article bringing to light the experiences of women in boarding houses.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Only a Boarder

I DROVE her to the station this morning, thus ending a visit beginning with “a week-end.” That is the twentieth century form of invitation to those we delight to honor in our country houses. We used to say, “Come out and spend a Sunday with us.”

I asked Miss Matilda Faden for a week end, then, and when Saturday’s mail brought me a message to the effect that the friends I had expected on the following Wednesday were detained by a case of scarlet fever in the family, I asked Miss Matilda to protract her visit.

She is a spinster of 48 or thereabouts, and I have known her 28 out of the two score and eight years. She was a prettyish girl when I first met her, the darling and only child of well-to-do parents, and engaged to be married to a naval officer. He died in South America the next year of ship fever and Matilda (we had not fallen into the way of saying “Miss” then) lived at home with her father and mother for five years longer.

Then Mr. Faden died after a lingering illness, and it was found that his property was much less than had been generally supposed. The widow and daughter sold the homestead and went into a boarding house. The old lady left the daughter alone 10 years later.

Dubious Comfort.

“And I have been boarding, first in one house, then in another,” said the patient soul to me yesterday, as we sat out the Sunday sunset and twilight on the lakeward veranda. “I shall be only a boarder to the end of the chapter. I cannot afford to keep house, you know. If I could, there is nobody to help me to make a Home.”

She dwelt with a sort of pensive fondness upon the monosyllable.

“You’ll maybe think me foolishly sentimental, when I tell you that I have been homesick for over 20 years.”

“You had your mother after the old home was broken up,” I ventured to remind her.

“Yes; but we were strangers and sojourners, less lonely of heart because we were together, but homeless all the same. The best hotel can never be a home. And we were not able to live in hotels, or even in an expensive boarding house. They may be a trifle more comfortable than those in which I have stayed (I can’t say ‘lived!’). I fancy that the trail of the boarding house is over them all.”

“Do you mean”—in genuine bewilderment I pushed the question further—“that you have not material comforts? Would you mind telling me in what the hardships of the boarder consist?”

Miss Matilda is a good talker and no grumbler. I have never heard her complain of her lot until now, and compassion was mingled with curiosity.

“Haven’t you a comfortable room? Don’t you get enough to eat? Are the people who keep the house unkind to you?” I continued.

She pulled up her light shawl closer about her neck. I had not felt that the evening was growing chill, but she appeared conscious of it. Hers is a comely presence. Her abundant hair is silver gray, her black silk gown and old laces become her well. And she is a gentlewoman ingrain. If there be aught degrading in the monotony of boarding house life, it has never touched her.

“My room is as comfortable in winter as one small register that is ‘well-regulated’ by the landlady can make it. The furnace is ‘banked up’ at 10 o’clock every night, and there is no heat to speak of next morning until half-past 8. When the wind is on that side of the house I am chilled to the bone by the time I am dressed. I heat water over a spirit lamp. I proposed an oil stove once to Mrs. Sharpe. She said it would affect her insurance and could not be allowed. I make a surreptitious cup of tea over my lamp now and then. I used to boil an egg for breakfast. When she found the shell in the waste basket she reminded me that no first-class landlady allows cooking in the rooms. ‘It increases the risks of fire and makes no end of dirt for the chambermaid to clean up.’ She raised the same objection to my reading lamp. I take all the care of it myself, but I offered to give it up if she would let me have an argand burner or a good drop light. You see, the gas is very poor in our part of the town at the best—or so she says when we complain of the low light in the dining room and parlors. I needed no explanation of the dimness in my room after I unscrewed the burner one day and pulled out a wad of raw cotton from the pipe. I had a clean, strong light for two nights. Then she must have found the wad in the waste basket, or maybe the maid reported the increased radiance. For when I came in one evening from a walk and lighted the gas it was as low as ever and the burner was fastened on so tight that I could not move it.

“My eyes are not as strong as they would be if I had not had to write and sew and read by boarding-house gas for so many years, and I did make a stand upon my reading lamp. I use it under protest, and the warning that I would be responsible for any fire that might occur from spill or explosion is drummed periodically into my years.

“Do I get enough to eat? Yes, and no! On Sunday morning we have fruit for breakfast. For the rest of the week there is oatmeal or cornmeal porridge, usually lukewarm. Boarding-house cream is, always and everywhere, skim milk. That goes without saying. If I fancy that ours is thinner and bluer than the average article, it may be that I have not seen that served in cheaper houses. On three days of the week we have salt fish for breakfast. One of these is Sunday, when codfish is worked into balls that are hard, fibrous and briny. On the other three days we have thick slices of bacon, or tough steak and chops. All the tough cuts of the market are sold to boarding houses. You surely know this? The coffee is weak and muddy; the tea is stewed! I could breakfast cheerily upon a saucer of cracked wheat and real cream, a fresh boiled egg, a slice of crisp toast, and a cup of clear, hot coffee. I would not ask for variety in this menu, except perhaps to have fresh berries or a pear or melon—when these are cheapest—substituted for the cereal, and a thin slice of bacon for the egg.

“Now that I mentioned eggs, let me remind you how often you have wondered who buys the second quality. I heard you laughing yesterday over the classification of eggs you overheard a grocer repeat to a customer.”

I laughed now. “Yes, they were ‘Guaranteed eggs, 35 cents a dozen; strictly fresh eggs, 32 cents; fresh eggs, 28 cents; eggs, 25 cents.’ I would not have believed it if I had not heard it.”

“He might have added, ‘Cracked eggs, 15 for a quarter.’ I have seen that advertisement in grocers’ windows. Well, the boarding-house keeper never rises about ‘eggs’! They take no qualifying adverb or adjective before or after them. She buys them by the half-bushel basket. That is why we never have them boiled plain. You must have heard the reply of the colored waiter to an inquiry as to the freshness of the eggs served in his restaurant: ‘Well, suh, I won’t deceive you; but while they is fine for ormerlet and scramble, I can’t consciously recommend them neither for plain boiled nor yet for poached’! Our boarding-house mistress may not say it, but she acts upon his system of grading.

“All these drawbacks to comfortable living the woman (or man) who is a Chronic Boarder knows from experience that she or he must expect and bear with what philosophy may be mustered for the occasion. You may ask why I do not change my quarters? The experience of nearly 30 years has told me that the chances are dead against the possibility that I would improve my condition by the attempt. The stamp of the second and third rate boarding-house is unmistakable. All buy inferior cuts of meat, superannuated fowls, plain EGGS, tub butter, wilted lettuce and cabbage, stale fruits and vegetables and chicory coffee.

“Don’t be hypercritical or overnice! These things must be got off the hands of butcher, greengrocer and huckster. You wouldn’t have them starve? If I were altruistic, I would not grumble because to me is assigned an humble part in the system of domestic and business economics.

The Star Boarder.

“All the same”—dropping the bantering tone suddenly, the pale face flushing under the rush of emotion—“it cuts one to the heart to think how many thousands of women and hundreds of men in the big cities and suburban towns are as homesick as I am!

“Maybe you imagine that landladies (it isn’t often a landlord! They fly at bigger game!)—maybe you believe that they feed their families upon the same fare that we pay for? Not a bit of it! There are choice tidbits for them and for their invited guests—and often for the ‘star board.’ He—it is oftener a ‘he’ than a ‘she’—is pampered privily upon food the hostess reckons inconvenient for those who pay fair prices regularly and get half their money’s worth.

“Did you read that anecdote in the papers the other day of a man who inquired of the aster of a house from the door of which a hearse and a couple of carriages had just rolled away—‘Who is dead?’

“‘Only a boarder!’ was the careless rejoiner.

“That’s what will be said when my turn comes!”

I repeat that my old friend is no pessimist or grumbler. I believe that her experience is that of many, many more than can be imagined by us who dwell in our own sheltered homes, with the privilege of selecting our own food and shaping our environment.

When I was a mere girl I was shocked and saddened by hearing an old spinster say that she had been “homesick for 40 years!” The plaint recurred to me with force in hearkening to the tale of the Chronic Boarder.

There must be another side to this matter. Admitting that what I listened to last evening is true in every particular, the Landlady should have her say.

In conclusion, I throw the subject open for free debate. I shall publish the Landlady’s story as cheerfully as I have written down that of the Boarder. Who will send it in?

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

The Grandmother in the Home

This is the first article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 5, 1909, and is an article on the grandmother and how families should not take advantage of her.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Grandmother in the Home

ONE of the numerous and divers ways by which the Chinese and the Mongolian races in general keep us in mind of the fact that they are our antipodes is the eminence accorded to the grandmother of the household. As a child the Oriental woman is the fag of her brothers; she is sold by her parents in marriage without consulting her inclination. The wife is the overwrought drudge of husband and sons of less value in their eyes than the beasts that perish. But as a mother-in-law she may be said to get her innings. The grandmother rakes in medals and orders by the score. Hers is the most luxurious seat; hers are the choicest tidbits at meals, and her will is law for the whole family. Without ever hearing of the Christian scriptures, the Oriental obeys literally the injunction to “rise up before the hoary head and to honor the face of the old.”

It would be laughable if it were not pitiful to make careful note of the absolute unlikeness of these pagan practices to modern American point of view and behavior with regard to the granddame of the family. One hears and reads constantly the lament from sentimental admirers of the former generation that “we have no more old women.” The dear old grandmother of blessed memory who sat in the corner, enthroned in the armchair, her feet upon a cushioned stool, is, as a species, as extinct as the dodo. Who ever sees a real old lady’s cap atop of the hoary head?

Twenty-odd years ago, when I knew far less than now and thought I knew far more, the editor of a popular magazine asked me to take charge of a department in his monthly and to suggest the trend and title of the same. I brought forward as a novelty which was sure to take, “Armchair and Footstool.” He laughed in my face:

“My dear lady! who would read it? The armchair was banished to the garret long ago, and to footstool split up for kindling wood.”

He was wiser in his generation than I in mine. And, like the resolute optimist I am, I take pleasure in recognizing in the banishment and demolition aforesaid a sign that the period of human usefulness is lengthening in our century. We, upon whose head the years have let fall white feathers in passing (they called them “ashes” 30 years ago!) decline to regard them as tokens of decaying mental and physical powers. We do well to fight away from the infirmities of old age. We do better in denying stoutly that the words are synonyms.

My plea today is for the dignity, the beauty, the usefulness of grandmotherhood. The disposition to set her counsels at naught and to relegate her to the ranks of the supernumeraries has forced her to assert her right to respectful notice. If she tried to deceive acquaintances and society as to her age, what wonder! Respecting her as I do, it hurts me to see her accentuate her lack of middle-age comeliness by dressing in the style of her granddaughter. But I do not despise the motive that makes her do it. I may long to tell her that to fill her wrinkles with powder produces the effect of a flurry of snow upon a fallow field. It outlines the worn furrows that might else not have been noticed. All the same, if her juniors did not make “old” an epithet of contempt, she would not resort to the powder nor make occasions to remark that her family “all grew gray at an absurdly early age.” If you, dear children, did not despise her accumulated years she would not be ashamed of them.

It was Elihu, the youngest of Jobs friendly visitors, who reminded his companions that “Days should speak and a multitude of years should teach wisdom.” But the land of Uz was in the benighted and ancient Orient.

I wish I did not know families in which contempt for wrinkles and gray hairs did not hinder the younger members from imposing burdens upon grandmother that try her impaired powers cruelly. I have in mind more than one, or six, where she is child’s nurse, seamstress and general hack.

All the odds and ends of tasks her juniors shirk as tedious and distasteful are shunted off upon her willing shoulders. She is past the age of party-going and music-loving and dinner-giving and enjoying. She has been told kindly that she “prefers home to junketing, and that no other place is so dear as her own fireside,” until she really believes that she said it at the beginning. Her daughter told me last week that “Mother has the sole charge of baby (aged 10 months) at night. She knows so much better how to manage her than I do that it is the greatest imaginable comfort to me when I am out in the evenings to think she is safe and comfortable.” It leaked out presently that baby is a nervous and a poor sleeper. “But for dear mother,” she added, “I should be a wreck. Mother doesn’t mind losing her sleep.”

I had known the daughter all her life, and I asked her in the temporary absence of the grandmotherly drudge from the room (she had gone to the kitchen to warm baby’s milk)—I ventured, I say, to intimate that physicians forbid old people to sleep with children, believing it to be prejudicial to the health of the latter.

My hostess smiled pity of my narrow views.

“All four of my babies have slept with mother from the time they were weaned. She will not hear of their doing anything else. It would break her heart were the privilege denied her. Isn’t that true, mother?” as the nurse re-entered the room.

Shall I ever forget the sad appeal of the withered face turned to me when the question was explained?

“There is so little an old woman can do for those about her!” she pleaded, in a frightened tone, her thin, veinous hands shaking until the milk in the bottle had little waves on the surface. “I beg my daughters not to make me feel as if I were quite laid on the shelf!”

I was favored not long ago with a glimpse of a letter written by a woman to whom I had unwittingly given offense by something I had printed, or failed to print, in the Exchange. One count of the indictment against me was that I “Actually grovel to grandmothers.” If I did not “grovel” to this martyr, I bowed to her in spirit.

Grandmother may be “wonderful for her age.” Nevertheless, the “age” is upon her, and her vigor must be considered as processes of which you are, as yet, ignorant, so far as your health and staying power are concerned. You have recuperative powers that are not vouchsafed to one who has passed the meridian of life. Grandmother has no invested stocks upon which dividends are declared as a part of her income of vitality. If she gets very tired she draws directly upon her capital. If she could appreciate the truth of this it would be well for her. If you would bear it in mind you might spare her pain and discomfort. When you overexert yourself, temporary inconvenience, maybe a brief illness, may be the penalty of transgressing nature’s law of self-preservation. What is a “break-down” in your case is a “break-up” in hers. She cannot struggle back quite to the point from which she slipped. And every time she slips the return is more difficult.

This physical law may help to explain why old persons are frequently crabbed and irritable. How far the younger people with whom her lot is thrown for the rest of her life are responsible for “cranginess” and for morbidness that sometimes degenerates into confirmed melancholia is a question you, her grandchildren, would act wisely and humanely in considering.

“After all, boys,” struck in a collegian, after listening uneasily to an “experience meeting” that had the short-comings of fathers in the matter of allowances for a topic, “don’t let us lose sight of the fact that they are vertebrate animals and fellow-beings!”

Grandmother has had a hard journey and a long one. If by dint of Christian fortitude and unselfish desire to brighten the lives of those about her, she maintains a tolerable show of cheerfulness and sympathetic interest in the happenings of your lives, give her due credit for it. Don’t “leave her out of the game.” Regard her as a vertebrate animal, not a freak; as your fellow-being, and not a fossil.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Delicacies of the Tea Table
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange
Markets’ and Marketing

The Frivolous Type of Bachelor Girl

This is the final article in August of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on August 29, 1909, and is an article on how young women will regret their summer fancies when they realize how shameful they are acting.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Frivolous Type of Bachelor Girl

IN yielding to the request that I should write down the title of this week’s Familiar Talk just as it stand above, I yet enter a protest against the term “Bachelor Girl.” The phrase has leaped into general use since a college course has become almost an essential part of the scholastic career of the young girl of the period who assumes to be really “educated.”

Lexicons define “bachelor” thus:

In modern use, a person who has taken the first degree (baccalaureate) in the liberal arts and sciences, or in divinity, law or medicine.

Slipping the finger further down the page we come to:

Bachelor—4th def. A woman wo has not been married.

In illustration of this fourth definition we have a quotation from Ben Jonson:

He would keep you (a woman)

A Bachelor still, by keeping of your portion.

No. 4 then, justifies us in widening the scope of our title. In treating of the bachelor girl we will not confine ourselves to the college graduate, albeit I believe the (to me) objectionable phrase was originally framed to apple to her alone.

Why do I dislike the term? Because it smacks of a certain “smartness”—a swing and dash—that accords but ill with my ideal American girl of high (that is, refined) degree—a Daisy miller with a flat cap atop of her sunny curls and an academic gown draped coquettishly about her lithe figure.

This, I contend, is not our normal girl of the better class. We meet scores of the type I have in mind at watering places, seaside hotels and on ocean steamers.

“Personally Conducted.”

I crossed with one of them last summer on the homeward voyage from Cherbourg. I knew her by name and what were her antecedents. She comes of excellent lineage; she was well educated in private schools, although she is not a college graduate, and has the name at home of being a decorous gentlewoman.

Without making myself known to her, or that I was cognizant of her social station and environment, I watched her and give other girls as well born and reared as herself. They were “personally conducted” by a staid sinister who earns her living by taking parties of girls abroad. She was an indifferent sailor. The sextet of “buds,” as I heard them call themselves repeatedly, were without exception “jolly tars.” That was another of their sayings.

Chance Acquaintances.

While the nominal chaperon lay back in her deck-chair and dozed or lazed with closed eyes the bachelor girls promenaded the deck with youths, not one of whom they had ever seen prior to the voyage; ran potato and egg races in the “events” that diversified the monotony of steamer life; played shuffleboard and bet upon games, and contrived in these and countless other ways to keep the eyes of the whole ship’s company fixed upon them and the wits of several hundreds of men and women on the qui vive, wondering what “those girls would do next.”

I am no prude, and I dearly love to see young people merry and vivacious. A bright young girl, with her life before her, in full flush of springtime, rejoicing in health, hope and happiness, is one of the loveliest things in God’s creation. It is not a hundred years since I, too, was in love with the wonderful new life bestowed upon me, and eager to extract all the sweetness “from every opening flower.” I have brought up girls of my own, and joyed in their pleasures, sympathized in their perplexities, and delighted to life their burdens when the privilege was vouchsafed to me. When I cease to feel with and for them may my right hand forget its cunning!

But—it jarred had upon what the “buds” would have derided as antiquated notions of propriety to hear from the men of the party that the sextet, having gone to their staterooms and presumably to their berths under the convoy of the duenna at 10 o’clock, shortly thereafter reappeared upon deck, radiant with the triumph of outwitting their guardian, and forthwith proceeded to light cigarettes and, with then between their cheery lips, to resume the interrupted promenade of the deck in company with their newly-made acquaintances.

It was more than a jar—it was a hard shock to see the bachelor girl lie back in her deck chair next day, yawning between her laughs, that she “was sleepy after last night’s carouse” (they had supped with their escorts at midnight) and that she was “bent upon catching forty winks.”

Kids and Lambs.

Motioning to a lively college boy whose name she had never head three days ago to take the chair adjoining hers, she raised her parasol to screen them from the sun, and the two remained in the semi-seclusion without moving or speaking for half an hour.

“Fast” and “immodest,” do you say? I have been assured since, by those who know her well that she is neither, by a girl of clean heart and life, and, when the summer pranks are over, as well-mannered as your daughter or mine, my dear Madame Critic.

I have been the pained witness of like prankishness in summer hotels.

Our B.G. would tell you, in summer, that she is “out in a bat.” She varies the expression, but not the deed, by saying that she is “in for a lark,” or maybe “a bender.” All winter long she was a bondslave to Conventionality. Young blood must bubble, and if it riot sometimes under the influence of holiday freedom and fresh air, who can blame her? It is as natural for the summer girl to defy rules and to flirt with any convenient man as for colts and lambs to gambol when given the run of the pasture.

Again I say, I grudge her no recreation and frolic that come well within the bounds of propriety. I am willing to acknowledge her kinship with the kids and lambs so far as animal gayety goes. Scamper and gambol are innocent within certain limits.

A gentle, white-haired matron who had been a belle in her day, and who has brought up a family of young people of whom any parent might be proud, voiced my sentiments when she murmured in my ear, as the strings of deck-walkers frowned or grinned in passing the tableau of what I overheard a foreigner sneer at as “a new edition of Paul and Virginia,” to wit, the couple secluded by the parasol.

“Poor child! If she could only know how grievously ashamed she will be to recollect it some day!”

I would have her from the “grievous” reminiscence if I could. The most interesting blend of “bat” and “lark” and “bender” is too dear a price to pay for the loss of self-respect that is bound to follow the frolic which transcends the limits of maidenly modesty.

If that reads like the alliterative cant of a hypercritical dowager, sketch the deck scenes, including the stolen strolls and cigarettes and the midnight supper, to your own mother when the summer madness for fun at any price has passed from your brain and let her pronounce judgment upon it. Ask her what she would have thought and said had she stumbled upon the daughter of her next-door neighbor, as I happened upon you last month, when you believed yourself and your partner in the last waltz to be quiet out of sight of all except yourselves, in the corner of the hotel veranda, and you lighted his cigar, giving it a pull or two with you own lips before putting it to his. He kissed the tip of the weed, as in duty bound, and proceeded to suck complacently upon it.

You “had forgotten the silly scene?” You will recollect it, and not with a laugh, when you would lift unpolluted lips to the true man who reverences you too sincerely to let you forget what is due to your womanhood.

Don’t I know that it was “in the merest fun” that you let that Harvard boy clip a stray lock from your head the day you were climbing the rocks in the Maine woods, and your hair got caught in the underbrush?

He promised to wear it next his heart for the rest of his life, and that it should be buried with him in the same place. He probably had robbed eight or ten other heads with the like promise. You never saw him until this summer, and you do not expect ever to meet him again. “Summer flirtations don’t count.”

Nor does it “count” with you that you have lowered the lad’s ideals of womanhood, and coarsened his thoughts of what “nice” girls will do and permit. Familiarity of speech and license of touch are sure breeders of contempt, be the season what it may.

The eldest of the Bulwer writers said something that cut itself into my memory when I was a merry rattle of 18. It has served me many a gracious turn since then:

There is no anguish like that of an error of which we are ashamed.
Truer words were never penned.

Would that I could bind them like an amulet upon the mind and conscience of our Summer Girl!

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Brevities for the Housekeeper
Concerning Peppers
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange
Possibilities of the Breadbox