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nineteen called young ladies. This seems to me ridiculous, and I have held that opinion, without once wavering from it, for more than ten years past. It is, after all, a question of feeling; and shall I confess it?
I feel so young!
I live in the suburbs, and I have bought my house. The major lives in the suburbs, next door to me, and he has bought his house. I don't object to this, of course. I merely
mention it to make things straight. Major Namby has been twice married. His first wife -dear, dear! how can I express it? Shall I say, with vulgar abruptness, that his first wife had a family? And must I descend into particulars, and add that they are four in number, and that two of them are twins? Well, the words are written; and if they will do over again for the same purpose, I beg to repeat them in reference to the second Mrs. Namby (still alive), who has also had a family, and is—10, I really cannot say, is likely to go on having one. There are certain limits in a case of this kind, and I think I have reached them. Permit me simply to state that the second Mrs. Namby has three children, at present. These, with the first Mrs. Namby's four, make a total of seven. The seven are composed of five girls and two boys. And the first Mrs. Namby's family all have one particular kind of constitution, and the second Mrs. Namby's family all have another particular kind of constitution. Let me explain once more that I merely mention these little matters, and that I don't object to them.
My complaint against Major Namby is, in plain terms, that he transacts the whole of his domestic business in his front garden. Whether it arises from natural weakness of memory, from total want of a sense of propriety, or from a condition of mind which is closely allied to madness of the eccentric sort, I cannot say ; but the major certainly does sometimes partially, and sometimes entirely, forget his private family matters, and the necessary directions connected with them, while he is inside the house, and does habitually remember them, and repair all omissions, by bawling through his windows, at the top of
his voice, as soon as he gets outside the house. It never seems to occur to him that he might advantageously return indoors, and there mention what he has forgotten in a private and proper way. The instant the lost idea strikes him--which it invariably does, either in his front garden or in the roadway outside his house—he roars for his wife, either from the gravel walk, or over the low wall—and (if I may use so strong an expression) empties his mind to her in public, without appearing to care whose ears he wearies, whose delicacy he shocks, or whose ridicule he invites. If the man is not mad, his own small family fusses have taken such complete possession of all his senses, that he is quite incapable of noticing anything else, and perfectly impenetrable to the opinions of his neighbours. Let me show that the grievance of which I complain is no slight one, by giving a few examples of the general persecution that I suffer, and the occasional shocks that are administered to my delicacy, at the coarse hands of Major Namby.
We will say it is a fine warm morning. I am sitting in my front room, with the window open, absorbed over a deeply interesting book. I hear the door of the next house bang : I look up, and see the Major descending the steps into his front garden.
He walks—no, he marches-half way down the front garden path, with his head high in the air and his chest stuck out, and his military cane fiercely flourished in his right hand. Suddenly he stops, stamps with one foot, knocks
up the hinder part of the brim of his extremely curly hat with his left hand, and begins to scratch at that singularly disagreeable-looking roll of fat red flesh in the back of his neck (which scratching, I may observe in parenthesis, is always a sure sign, in the case of this borrid man, that a lost domestic idea has suddenly come back to him). He waits a moment in the ridiculous position just described, then wheels round on his heel, looks up at the first floor window, and, instead of going back into the house to mention what he has forgotten, bawls out fiercely from the middle of the walk :
“ Matilda !”
I hear his wife's voice-a shockingly shrill one; but what can you expect of a woman who has been seen, over and over again, in a slatternly striped wrapper as late as two o'clock in the afternoon ?-I hear his wife's voice answer from inside the house :
“ It's sou’-east. I won't have Georgina taken out today. (Georgina is one of the first Mrs. Namby's family, they are all weak in the chest). Where's nurse ?”
“Nurse, I won't have Jack allowed to run. Whenever that boy perspires he catches cold. Hang up his hoop. If he cries, take him into my dressing-room, and show him the birch rod. Matilda !
“ Yes, dear.”
“ What the devil do they mean by daubing all that grease over Mary's hair? Beastly! Where's Pamby?” (Pamby is the unfortunate work-woman who makes and mends the family linen).
“ Here, sir.' “ Pamby, what are you about now?" No answer. Pamby, or somebody else, giggles faintly. The Major flourishes his cane in a fury.
Why the devil don't you answer me? I give you three seconds to answer me, or leave the house. Onetwo-three. Pamby! what are you about now?”
“ If you please, sir, I'm doing something-
Drop it directly, whatever it is. Nurse!” “ Yes, sir.”
“ Mind the crossings. Don't let the children sit down if they're hot. Don't let them speak to other children. Don't let them get playing with strange dogs. Don't let them mess their things. And, above all, don't bring
Master Jack back in a perspiration. Is there anything more before I
out?” “ No, sir." “ Matilda! Is there anything more?” “No, dear." “Pamby! Is there anything more?” “No, sir!" Here the domestic colloquy ends, for the time being. Will any sensitive person—especially a person of my own
sex-please to imagine what I must suffer, as a delicate single lady, at having all these family details obtruded on my attention, whether I like it or not, in the Major's rasping martial voice, and in the shrill answering screams of the women inside? It is bad enough to be submitted to this sort of persecution when one is alone; but it is far worse to be also exposed to it—as I am constantly-in the presence of visitors, whose conversation is necessarily interrupted, whose ears are necessarily shocked, whose very stay in my house is necessarily shortened, by Major Namby's unendurably public way of managing his private concerns.
Only the other day my old, dear, and most valued friend, Lady Malkinshaw, was sitting with me and was entering at great length into the interesting story of her second daughter’s unhappy marriage engagement, and of the dignified manner in which the family ultimately broke it off.
For a quarter of an hour or so our interview continued to be delightfully uninterrupted. At the end of that time, however, just as Lady Malkinshaw, with the tears in her eyes, was beginning to describe the effect of her daughter's dreadful disappointment on the poor dear girl's mind and looks, I heard the door of the Major's house bang as usual; and, looking out of the window in despair, saw the Major himself strut half way down the walk, stop, scratch violently at his roll of red flesh, wheel round so as to face the house, consider a little, pull his tablets out of his waistcoat-pocket, shake his head over them, and then look up at the front windows, preparatory to bawling as usual at the degraded female members of his household. Lady Malkinshaw, quite iguorant of what
was coming, happened, at the same moment to be proceeding with her pathetic story, in these terms :
“ I do assure you, my poor dear girl behaved throughout with the heroism of a martyr. When I had told her of the vile wretch's behaviour, breaking it to her as gently as I possibly could; and when she had a little recovered I said to her
The Major's rasping voice sounded louder than ever, as he bawled out that dreadful name, just at the wrong moment. Lady Malkinshaw started as if she had been shot. I put down the window in despair ; but the glass was no protection to our ears—Major Namby can roar through a brick wall. I apologised—I declared solemnly, that my next door neighbour was mad-I entreated Lady Malkinshaw to take no notice, and to go on. That sweet woman immediately complied. I burn with indignation when I think of what followed. Every word from the Namby's garden came, very slightly muffled by the window, straight into my room, and mixed itself up with her ladyship’s story in this inexpressibly ridiculous and impertinent manner :
“Well," my kind and valued friend proceeded, “ as I was telling you, when the first natural burst of sorrow was over, I said to her
“ Yes, dear Lady Malkinshaw," I murmured, en
66 I said to her(" By Jingo, I've forgotten something! Matilda ! When I made my memorandum of errands, how many had I to do?")
“My dearest darling child,' I said
(“Pamby! How many errands did your mistress give me to do ?")
“I said, 'my dearest, darling child—”
(“Nurse! How many errands did your mistress give me to do?”)
“My own love,' I said" (“Pooh! pooh! I tell you, I had four errands to do,