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Our Second Girl
by [?]

Our establishment on Beacon Street had been for some days in a revolutionary state, owing to the fact that our second girl had gone from us into the holy estate of matrimony. Alice was a pretty, tidy, neat-handed creature, and, like many other blessings of life, so good as to be little appreciated while with us. It was not till she had left us that we began to learn that clean glass, bright silver, spotless and untumbled table-linen, and, in short, all the appetizing arrangements and appointments of our daily meals, were not always and in all hands matters of course.

In a day or two, our silver began to have the appearance of old pewter, and our glass looked as if nothing but muddy water could be found. On coming down to our meals, we found the dishes in all sorts of conversational attitudes on the table,–the meat placed diagonally, the potatoes crosswise, and the other vegetables scattered here and there,–while the table itself stood rakishly aslant, and wore the air of a table slightly intoxicated.

Our beautiful china, moreover, began to have little chipped places in the edges, most unusual and distressing to our eyes; the handles vanished from our teacups, and here and there a small mouthful appeared to be bitten out of the nose of some pretty fancy pitchers, which had been the delight of my eyes.

Now, if there is anything which I specially affect, it is a refined and pretty table arrangement, and at our house for years and years such had prevailed. All of us had rather a weakness for china, and the attractions of the fragile world, as presented in the great crockery-stores, had been many times too much for our prudence and purse. Consequently we had all sorts of little domestic idols of the breakfast and dinner table,–Bohemian-glass drinking-mugs of antique shape, lovely bits of biscuit choicely moulded in classic patterns, beauties, oddities, and quaintnesses in the way of especial teacups and saucers, devoted to different members of the family, wherein each took a particular and individual delight. Our especial china or glass pets of the table often started interesting conversations on the state of the plastic arts as applied to every-day life, and the charm of being encircled, even in the material act of feeding our mortal bodies, with a sort of halo of art and beauty.

All this time none of us ever thought in how great degree our feeling for elegance and refinement owed its gratification at the hour of meals to the care, the tidiness, and neat handling of our now lost and wedded Alice.

Nothing presents so forlorn an appearance as battered and neglected finery of any kind; and elegant pitchers with their noses knocked off, cut glass with cracked edges, and fragments of artistic teacups and saucers on a tumbled tablecloth, have a peculiarly dismal appearance. In fact, we had really occasion to wonder at the perfectly weird and bewitched effect which one of our two Hibernian successors to the pretty Alice succeeded in establishing in our table department. Every caprice in the use and employment of dishes, short of serving cream in the gravy-boats and using the sugar-bowl for pickled oysters and the cream-pitcher for vinegar, seemed possible and permissible. My horror was completed one morning on finding a china hen, artistically represented as brooding on a nest, made to cover, not boiled eggs, but a lot of greasy hash, over which she sat so that her head and tail bewilderingly projected beyond the sides of the nest, instead of keeping lengthwise within it, as a respectable hen in her senses might be expected to do. There certainly is a great amount of native vigor shown by these untrained Hibernians in always finding an unexpected wrong way of doing the simplest thing. It quite enlarges one’s ideas of human possibilities.