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On Bills
by [?]

BILLS! BILLS! BILLS! Detestable sound! Obnoxious word! Why were such things ever invented? Why are they sent to destroy our peace of mind?

They always come, too, when you are expecting some interesting letter. You hurry to meet the postman, you get impatient at the length of time he takes to separate his packets (I sometimes think these men find pleasure in tantalizing you, and keep you waiting on purpose), and when he at last presents you with your long-expected missive, behold, it turns to dust and ashes in your hand–metaphorically speaking, of course.

It is a pity such a metamorphosis does not occur in reality; for the wretched oblong envelope, with the sprawly, flourishy writing, so unmistakably suggests a bill, that you–well, I do not know what you do on such an occasion; my letter, which I have been so anxious to obtain, is flung to the other side of the room.

How is it that bills mount up so quickly? You buy a little ribbon, a few pairs of gloves, some handkerchiefs–mere items in fact, and yet when quarter day comes round you are presented with a bill a yard long, which as your next instalment of money is fully mortgaged, is calculated to fill you with anything but extreme joy.

Why are the paths leading to destruction always so much easier of access than any other? It takes so much less time to run up a bill, it is so much simpler to say, “Will you please enter it to my account?” than to pay your money down. First the bill has to be added up, and, strange as it may seem, these shop people appear to take hours over a simple addition sum. “Eight and elevenpence halfpenny if you please, ma’am.” Of course you have not enough silver, and so are obliged to wait for change. Then someone has to be found to sign. Altogether it takes quite five minutes longer paying ready money; and think, how five minutes after each purchase would mount up in a day’s shopping! I should say that, on an average you might call it two important hours regularly thrown away. “And a good job, too,” perhaps our fathers, husbands, and brothers would say. But, then, you see, they are Philistines and do not understand.

But though we suffer somewhat at the hands of these shop people, I think in their turn they have to endure a great deal more from their customers. I have seen old ladies order nearly the whole shop out, turn over the articles, and having entirely exhausted the patience of their victims, say, “Yes–all very pretty–but I don’t think I will buy any to-day, thank you,” and they move off to other counters to enact the same scene over again. Selfish old things!

I was dreadfully hard up a short time ago, and of course my bills were ten times as big as usual. I had no money coming in, and could not conceive how I was to meet my debts.

It is astonishing, when you come to try it, how few paths there are open for poverty-stricken ladies to make a little money, especially when your object is to keep your difficulties a secret from your mankind. I tried every imaginable way without success. What is the good of having an expensive education, of being taught French and German–neither of which languages, by the way, when brought to the test, a girl can ever talk, or at any rate so as to be understood. What is the good of it all, I say, when you want to turn your hand to making a little money? I felt quite angry the other day when, our cook being ill, we had a woman in to take her place. Fifteen shillings a week she made! She, who had had little or nothing spent on her education, could yet make more shillings in a week than I could pence! I began to wish I had been brought up as a scullery maid.