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sometimes come on and go off again, without producing any farther effect. But if, when the husband rises in the morning, he should observe in the yard a wheel-barrow with a quantity of lime in it, or should see certain buckets with lime dissolved in water, there is then no time to be lost; he immediately locks up the apartment or closet where his papers or his private property is kept, and putting the key in his pocket, betakes himself to flight: for a husband, however beloved, becomes a perfect nuisance during this season of female rage: his autority is super. seded, his commission is suspended, and the very scullion, who cleans the brasses in the kitchen, becomes of more consideration and importance than him. He has nothing for it, but to abdicare, and run from an evil which he can neither prevent nor mollify.
The husband gone, the cereniony begins. The walls are in a few minutes stripped of their furniture; paintings, prints, and looking.glasses, lie in a huddled heap about the floors; the curtains are torn from the testers, the beds crammed into the windows; chairs and tables, bedsteads and cradles, crowd the yard; and the garden fence bends beneath the weight of carpets, blankets, cloth cloaks, old coats, and ragged breeches. Here may be seen the lumber of the kitchen, forming a dark and confuse ! mass: for the fore-ground of the picture, gridirons and frying pans, rusty shovels and broken tongs, spits and pots, joint-stools, and the fractured remains of rush-bot. tomed chairs. There, a closet has disorged its bowels, cracked tumblers, broken wine glasses, phials of forgotten physic, papers of unknown powders, seeds, and dried herbs, handfuls of old corks, tops of teapots, an' stoppers of departed decanters; from the rag hole in the garret to the rat-hole in the cellar, no place escapes unrummaged. It would seem as if the day of general doom was come, and the utensils of the house were dragged forth to judgment. In this tempest, the words of Lear naturally present themselves, and might, with some alteration, be made strictly applicable:
« Let the great gods,
a Close pent-up guilt,
These dreadful summoners grace! » This ceremony completed, and the house thoroughly evacuated, the next operation is to smear the walls and ceilings of every room and closet with brushes dipped in a solution of lime, called white-wash; to pour buckets of water over every floor, and scratch all the partitions and wainscots with rough brushes wet with soap-suds, and dipped in stone-cutter's sand. The windows by no mean's
escape the general deluge. A servant scrambles ont upon the pent-house, at the risk of her neck, and with a nug in her hand, and a bucket within reach, she dashes away innumerable gallons of water against the glass panes; to the great annoyance of the passengers in the street.
I have been told that an action at law was once brought against one of these water nymphs, by a person who had a new suit of clothes spoiled by this operation; but, after long argument, it was determined by the whole court, that the action would not lie, in as much as the defendant was in the exercise of a legal right, and not answerable for the consequences; and so the poor gentleman was doubly non-suited; for he lost not only his suit of clothes, but his suit at law.
These smearings and scratchings, washings and dashinge, being duly performed, the next ceremonial is to cleanse and replace the distracted furniture. You may have seen a house raising, or a ship-launch, when all the hands within reach are collected together: recollect, if you can, the hurry bustle, confusion, and noise of such à scene, and you will have some idea of this cleaning match. The misfortune, is that the sole object is to make things clean; it matters not how many useful, ornamental, or valuable articles are mutilated, or suffer death under the operation: а mahogany chair and carved frame un. dergo the same discipline; "they are to be made clean at all events; but their preservation is not worthy of at. tention. For instance, a fine large engraving is laid flat on the floor; smaller prints are piled upon it, and the superincumbent weight cracks the glasses of the lower tier; but this is of no consequence. A valuable picture is placed leaning against the sharp corner of a table; others are made to lean against that, until the pressure of the whole forces the corner of the table through the canvass of the first. The frame and glass of a fine print are to be cleaned; the spirit and oil used on this occasion are suf. fered to leak through and spoil the engraving; no matter, if the glass is clean, and the frame shine, it is sufficient; the rest in not worthy of consideration. An able arithme. tician has made an accurate calculation, founded on long experience, and has discovered, that the losses and destruction incident to two white-washings are equal to one removal, and three removals equal to one fire.
The cleaning frolic over, matters begin to remuse their pristine appearance. The storm abates, and all would be well again, but it is impossible that so great a convulsion, in so small a community, should not produce some farther effects. For two or three weeks after the operation, the family are usually afflicted with sore throats or sore eyes; occasioned by the caustic quality of the lime, or with severe colds from the exhalations of wet floors; or damp walls.
I know a gentleman, who was fond of accounting for every thing in a philosophical way. He considers this,
which I have called a custom, as a real periodical disease, peculiar to the climate. His train of reasoning is inge. nious and whimsical; but I am not at leisure to give you a detail. The result was, that the found the distempter to be incurable; but after much study he conceived he had discovered a method to divert the evil be could not subdue. For this purpose he caused a small building, about twelve feet square, to be erected in his garden, and fur. nished with some ordinary chairs and tables; and a few prints of the cheapest sort were hung against the walls. His hope was, that when the white-washing frenzy seized the females of his family, they might repair to this apartment, and scrub, and smear, and scour, to their heart's content; and so spent the violence of the disease in this out.post, while he enjoyed himself in quiet at head-quarters. But the experiment did not answer his expectation; it was impossible it should, since a principal part of the gratification consists in the lady's having an uncontroled right to torment her husband at least once a year, and to turn him out of doors, and take the reins of government into her own hands.
There is a much better contrivance than this of the philosopher; which is, to cover the walls of the house with paper; this is generally done, and though it cannot abolish, it at least shortens, the period of female dominion. The paper is decorated with flowers of various fancies, and made so ornamental that the women have admitted the fashion without perceiving the design.
There is also another alleviation of the husband's distress; he generally has the privilege of a small room or closet for his books and papers, the key of which he is allowed to keep. This is considered as a privileged place, and stands like the land of Goshen amid the plagues of Egypt. But then he must be extremely cautious, and ever on his guard. For should he inadvertently go abroad and leave the key in his door, the housemaid, who is always on the watch for such an opportunity, immediately enters in triumph with buckets, brooms, and prushes; takes possession of the premises, and forthwith puts all his books and papers to rights: to his utter confusion, and sometimes serious detriment. For instance:
A gentleman was sued by the executors of a tradesman, on a charge found against him in the deceased's book's, to the amount of 301. The defendant was strongly imbressed with an idea that, he had discharged the debt and taken a receipt; but, as the transaction was of long standing, he knew not where to find the receipt. The suit went on in course, and the tine approached when judgment would be obtained against him. He then sat seriously down to examine a large bundle of old papers, which he had untied and displayed on a table for that purpose. In the midst of his search, he was suddenly called away on business of importance; he forgot to lock the door of his room. The housemaid, who had been
long looking out for such an opportunity, immediately entered with the usual implements, and with great alacrity fell to cleaning the room, and putting things to rights. The first object that struck her eye was the confused situation of the papers on the table; these were without delay bundled together like so many dirty knives and forks; but in the action a small piece of paper fell unnoticed on the floor, which happened to be the very receipt in question: as it had no very respectable appearance, it was soon atter swept out with the common dirt of the room, and carried in a rubbish pan into the yard. The tradesman had neglected to enter the credit in his book; the defendant could find nothing to obviate the charge, and so judgment went against him for the debt and costs. A fortnight after the whole was settled, and the money paid, one of the children found the receipt among the rubbish in the yard.
There is also another custom pecnliar to the city of Philadelphia and nearly allied to the former. I mean that of washing the pavement before the doors every Saturday evening. I at first took this to be a regulation of the police: but on a further inquiry find it is a religious rite, preparatory to the sabbath; and is, I believe, the only religious rite in which the numerous sectaries of this city perfectly agree. The ceremony begins about sun-set, and continues till about ten or eleven at night. It is very difficult for a stranger to walk the streets on those evenings; he runs a continual risk of having a bucket of dirty water thrown against his legs: but a Philadelphian born is so much accustomed to the danger, that he avoids it with surprising dexterity. It is from this circumstance that a Philadelphian may be known any where by his gait. The streets of New York are paved with rough stones; these indeed are not washed, but the dirt is so thorouglý swept from before the door, that the stones stand up sharp and prominent, to the great inconvenience of those who are not accustomed to so rough a path. But habit reconciles every thing. It is diverting enough to see a Phila. delphian at New York; he walks the streets with as much painful cantion, as if his toes were covered with corns, or his feet lamed with the gout: while a New Yorker, as little approving the plain masonry of Philadelphia, shuffles along the pavement like a parrot on a mahogany table.
It must be acknowledged, that the ablutions I have mentioned are attended with no small inconvenience; bus the women would not be induced, from any consideration, to resign their privilege. Notwithstanding this, I can give you the strongest assurances, that the women of America make the most faithful wives and the most attentive mothers in the world; and I am sure you will join me in opinion, that if a married man is made miserable only one week in a whole year, he will have no great cause to complain of the matrimonial bond.
I am, etc.
ANSWER TO THE ABOVE.
SIR, I have lately seen a letter upon the subject of whitewashing, in which that necessary duty of a good house. wife is treated with unmerited ridicule. I should probably have forgot the foolish thing by this time; but the season coming on which most women think suitable for cleansing their apartments from the smoke and dirt of the winter, I find this saucy author dished up in every family, and his flippant performance quoted wherever a wife attempts to exercise her reasonable prerogative, or execute the duties of her station. Women generally employ their time to better purpose than scribbling. The cares and comforts of a family rest principally upon their shoulders; hence it is that there are but few female authors; and the men, knowing how necessary our attentions are to their happiness, take every opportunity of discouraging Jiterary accomplishments in the fair sex. You hear it echoed from every quarter. - «My wife cannot make verses, it is true; but she makes an excellent pudding; she cannot correct the press, but she can correct her children, and scold her servants with admirable discretion: she cannot unravel the intricacies of political econ and federal government, but she can knit charming stockings.. And this they call praising a wife, and doing justice to her character, with much nonsense of the like kind.
I say, women generally employ their time to much better purpose than scribbling; otherwise this facetious writer had not gone so long unanswered. We have ladies who sometimes lay down the needle, and take up the pen;
I wooder none of them have attempted some reply. For my part, I do not pretend to be an author. I never ap. peared in print in my life, but I can no longer forbear saying something in answer to such impertinence, circu. late how it may. Only, sir, consider our situation. Men are naturally inattentive to the decencies of life; but why should I be so complaisant? I say, they are naturally filthy creatures. If it were not that their connection with the refined sex polished their manners, and had a happy influence on the general economy of life, these lords of the creation would wallow in filth, and populous cities would infect the atmosphere with their noxious vapours. It is the attention and assiduity of the women that prevent men from degenerating into mere swine. How important then are the services we render; and yet for these very services we are made the subject of ridicule and fun. Base ingratitude! Nauseous creatures! Perhaps you may think I am in a passion. No, sir, I do assure you I never was more composed in my life; and yet it is enough to provoke a saint to see how unreasonably we are treated