I have before given an account of
the difficulties we encountered when we started out
house-hunting, and it was this doleful experience which
made Euphemia declare that before we set out on a second
search for a residence, we should know exactly what
To do this, we must know how other
people live, we must examine into the advantages and
disadvantages of the various methods of housekeeping,
and make up our minds on the subject.
When we came to this conclusion we
were in a city boarding-house, and were entirely satisfied
that this style of living did not suit us at all.
At this juncture I received a letter
from the gentleman who had boarded with us on the
canal-boat. Shortly after leaving us the previous
fall, he had married a widow lady with two children,
and was now keeping house in a French flat in the
upper part of the city. We had called upon the
happy couple soon after their marriage, and the letter,
now received, contained an invitation for us to come
and dine, and spend the night.
“We’ll go,” said
Euphemia. “There’s nothing I want
so much as to see how people keep house in a French
flat. Perhaps we’ll like it. And I
must see those children.” So we went.
The house, as Euphemia remarked, was
anything but flat. It was very tall indeed the
tallest house in the neighborhood. We entered
the vestibule, the outer door being open, and beheld,
on one side of us, a row of bell-handles. Above
each of these handles was the mouth of a speaking-tube,
and above each of these, a little glazed frame containing
“Isn’t this cute?”
said Euphemia, reading over the cards. “Here’s
his name and this is his bell and tube! Which
would you do first, ring or blow?”
“My dear,” said I, “you
don’t blow up those tubes. We must ring
the bell, just as if it were an ordinary front-door
bell, and instead of coming to the door, some one
will call down the tube to us.”
I rang the bell under the boarder’s
name, and very soon a voice at the tube said:
Then I told our names, and in an instant the front
“Why, their flat must be right
here,” whispered Euphemia. “How quickly
the girl came!”
And she looked for the girl as we entered. But
there was no one there.
“Their flat is on the fifth
story,” said I. “He mentioned that
in his letter. We had better shut the door and
Up and up the softly carpeted stairs
we climbed, and not a soul we saw or heard.
“It is like an enchanted cavern,”
said Euphemia. “You say the magic word,
the door in the rock opens and you go on, and on, through
the vaulted passages ”
“Until you come to the ogre,”
said the boarder, who was standing at the top of the
stairs. He did not behave at all like an ogre,
for he was very glad to see us, and so was his wife.
After we had settled down in the parlor and the boarder’s
wife had gone to see about something concerning the
dinner, Euphemia asked after the children.
“I hope they haven’t gone
to bed,” she said, “for I do so want to
see the dear little things.”
The ex-boarder, as Euphemia called him, smiled grimly.
“They’re not so very little,”
he said. “My wife’s son is nearly
grown. He is at an academy in Connecticut, and
he expects to go into a civil engineer’s office
in the spring. His sister is older than he is.
My wife married in the first instance when
she was very young very young in deed.”
“Oh!” said Euphemia; and
then, after a pause, “And neither of them is
at home now?”
“No,” said the ex-boarder.
“By the way, what do you think of this dado?
It is a portable one; I devised it myself. You
can take it away with you to another house when you
move. But there is the dinner-bell. I’ll
show you over the establishment after we have had
something to eat.”
After our meal we made a tour of inspection.
The flat, which included the whole floor, contained
nine or ten rooms, of all shapes and sizes. The
corners in some of the rooms were cut off and shaped
up into closets and recesses, so that Euphemia said
the corners of every room were in some other room.
Near the back of the flat was a dumb-waiter,
with bells and speaking-tubes. When the butcher,
the baker, or the kerosene-lamp maker, came each morning,
he rang the bell, and called up the tube to know what
was wanted. The order was called down, and he
brought the things in the afternoon.
All this greatly charmed Euphemia.
It was so cute, so complete. There were no interviews
with disagreeable trades-people, none of the ordinary
annoyances of housekeeping. Everything seemed
to be done with a bell, a speaking-tube or a crank.
“Indeed,” said the ex-boarder,
“if it were not for people tripping over the
wires, I could rig up attachments by which I could
sit in the parlor, and by using pedals and a key-board,
I could do all the work of this house without getting
out of my easy-chair.”
One of the most peculiar features
of the establishment was the servant’s room.
This was at the rear end of the floor, and as there
was not much space left after the other rooms had
been made, it was very small; so small, indeed, that
it would accommodate only a very short bedstead.
This made it necessary for our friends to consider
the size of the servant when they engaged her.
“There were several excellent
girls at the intelligence office where I called,”
said the ex-boarder, “but I measured them, and
they were all too tall. So we had to take a short
one, who is only so so. There was one big Scotch
girl who was the very person for us, and I would have
taken her if my wife had not objected to my plan for
“What was that?” I asked.
“Well,” said he, “I
first thought of cutting a hole in the partition wall
at the foot of the bed, for her to put her feet through.”
“Never!” said his wife,
emphatically. “I would never have allowed
“And then,” continued
he, “I thought of turning the bed around, and
cutting a larger hole, through which she might have
put her head into the little room on this side.
A low table could have stood under the hole, and her
head might have rested on a cushion on the table very
“My dear,” said his wife,
“it would have frightened me to death to go
into that room and see that head on a cushion on a
“Like John the Baptist,” interrupted Euphemia.
“Well,” said our ex-boarder, “the
plan would have had its advantages.”
“Oh!” cried Euphemia,
looking out of a back window. “What a lovely
little iron balcony! Do you sit out there on warm
“That’s a fire-escape,”
said the ex-boarder. “We don’t go
out there unless it is very hot indeed, on account
of the house being on fire. You see there is
a little door in the floor of the balcony and an iron
ladder leading to the balcony beneath, and so on, down
to the first story.”
“And you have to creep through
that hole and go down that dreadful steep ladder every
time there is a fire?” said Euphemia.
“Well, I guess we would never
go down but once,” he answered.
“No, indeed,” said Euphemia;
“you’d fall down and break your neck the
first time,” and she turned away from the window
with a very grave expression on her face.
Soon after this our hostess conducted
Euphemia to the guest-chamber, while her husband and
I finished a bed-time cigar.
When I joined Euphemia in her room,
she met me with a mysterious expression on her face.
She shut the door, and then said in a very earnest
“Do you see that little bedstead
in the corner? I did not notice it until I came
in just now, and then, being quite astonished, I said,
‘Why here’s a child’s bed; who sleeps
here?’ ‘Oh,’ says she, ’that’s
our little Adele’s bedstead. We have it
in our room when she’s here.’ ‘Little
Adele!’ said I, ’I didn’t know she
was little not small enough for that bed,
at any rate.’ ‘Why, yes,’ said
she, ’Adele is only four years old. The
bedstead is quite large enough for her.’
’And she is not here now?’ I said, utterly
amazed at all this. ‘No,’ she answered,
’she is not here now, but we try to have her
with us as much as we can, and always keep her little
bed ready for her.’ ’I suppose she’s
with her father’s people,’ I said, and
she answered, ‘Oh yes,’ and bade me good-night.
What does all this mean? Our boarder told us that
the daughter is grown up, and here his wife declares
that she is only four years old! I don’t
know what in the world to make of this mystery!”
I could give Euphemia no clue.
I supposed there was some mistake, and that was all
I could say, except that I was sleepy, and that we
could find out all about it in the morning. But
Euphemia could not dismiss the subject from her mind.
She said no more, but I could see until
I fell asleep that she was thinking about
It must have been about the middle
of the night, perhaps later, when I was suddenly awakened
by Euphemia starting up in the bed, with the exclamation:
“I have it!”
“What?” I cried, sitting
up in a great hurry. “What is it? What
have you got? What’s the matter?”
“I know it!” she said,
“I know it. Our boarder is a grandfather!
Little Adele is the grown-up daughter’s child.
He was quite particular to say that his wife married
very young. Just to think of it! So
short a time ago, he was living with us a
bachelor and now, in four short months,
he is a grandfather!”
Carefully propounded inquiries, in
the morning, proved Euphemia’s conclusions to
The next evening, when we were quietly
sitting in our own room, Euphemia remarked that she
did not wish to have anything to do with French flats.
“They seem to be very convenient,” I said.
“Oh yes, convenient enough,
but I don’t like them. I would hate to live
where everything let down like a table-lid, or else
turned with a crank. And when I think of those
fire-escapes, and the boarder’s grandchild, it
makes me feel very unpleasantly.”
“But the grandchild don’t
follow as a matter of course,” said I.
“No,” she answered, “but
I shall never like French flats.”
And we discussed them no more.
For some weeks we examined into every
style of economic and respectable housekeeping, and
many methods of living in what Euphemia called “imitation
comfort” were set aside as unworthy of consideration.
“My dear,” said Euphemia,
one evening, “what we really ought to do is to
build. Then we would have exactly the house we
“Very true,” I replied;
“but to build a house, a man must have money.”
“Oh no!” said she, “or
at least not much. For one thing, you might join
a building association. In some of those societies
I know that you only have to pay a dollar a week.”
“But do you suppose the association
builds houses for all its members?” I asked.
“Of course I suppose so.
Else why is it called a building association?”
I had read a good deal about these
organizations, and I explained to Euphemia that a
dollar a week was never received by any of them in
payment for a new house.
“Then build yourself,”
she said; “I know how that can be done.”
“Oh, it’s easy enough,”
I remarked, “if you have the money.”
“No, you needn’t have
any money,” said Euphemia, rather hastily.
“Just let me show you. Supposing, for instance,
that you want to build a house worth well,
say twenty thousand dollars, in some pretty town near
“I would rather figure on a
cheaper house than that for a country place,”
“Well then, say two thousand
dollars. You get masons, and carpenters, and
people to dig the cellar, and you engage them to build
your house. You needn’t pay them until
it’s done, of course. Then when it’s
all finished, borrow two thousand dollars and give
the house as security. After that you see, you
have only to pay the interest on the borrowed money.
When you save enough money to pay back the loan, the
house is your own. Now, isn’t that a good
“Yes,” said I, “if
there could be found people who would build your house
and wait for their money until some one would lend
you its full value on a mortgage.”
“Well,” said Euphemia,
“I guess they could be found if you would only
look for them.”
“I’ll look for them, when I go to heaven,”
We gave up for the present, the idea
of building or buying a house, and determined to rent
a small place in the country, and then, as Euphemia
wisely said, if we liked it, we might buy it.
After she had dropped her building projects she thought
that one ought to know just how a house would suit
before having it on one’s hands.
We could afford something better than
a canal-boat now, and therefore we were not so restricted
as in our first search for a house. But, the
one thing which troubled my wife and, indeed,
caused me much anxious thought, was that scourge of
almost all rural localities tramps.
It would be necessary for me to be away all day, and
we could not afford to keep a man, so we
must be careful to get a house somewhere off the line
of ordinary travel, or else in a well-settled neighborhood,
where there would be some one near at hand in case
of unruly visitors.
“A village I don’t like,”
said Euphemia: “there is always so much
gossip, and people know all about what you have, and
what you do. And yet it would be very lonely,
and perhaps dangerous, for us to live off somewhere,
all by ourselves. And there is another objection
to a village. We don’t want a house with
a small yard and a garden at the back. We ought
to have a dear little farm, with some fields for corn,
and a cow, and a barn and things of that sort.
All that would be lovely. I’ll tell you
what we want,” she cried, seized with a sudden
inspiration; “we ought to try to get the end-house
of a village. Then our house could be near the
neighbors, and our farm could stretch out a little
way into the country beyond us. Let us fix our
minds upon such a house and I believe we can get it.”
So we fixed our minds, but in the
course of a week or two we unfixed them several times
to allow the consideration of places, which otherwise
would have been out of range; and during one of these
intervals of mental disfixment we took a house.
It was not the end-house of a village,
but it was in the outskirts of a very small rural
settlement. Our nearest neighbor was within vigorous
shouting distance, and the house suited us so well
in other respects, that we concluded that this would
do. The house was small, but large enough.
There were some trees around it, and a little lawn
in front. There was a garden, a small barn and
stable, a pasture field, and land enough besides for
small patches of corn and potatoes. The rent was
low, the water good, and no one can imagine how delighted
We did not furnish the whole house
at first, but what mattered it? We had no horse
or cow, but the pasture and barn were ready for them.
We did not propose to begin with everything at once.
Our first evening in that house was
made up of hours of unalloyed bliss. We walked
from room to room; we looked out on the garden and
the lawn; we sat on the little porch while I smoked.
“We were happy at Rudder Grange,”
said Euphemia; “but that was only a canal-boat,
and could not, in the nature of things, have been a
“No,” said I, “it
could not have been permanent. But, in many respects,
it was a delightful home. The very name of it
brings pleasant thoughts.”
“It was a nice name,”
said Euphemia, “and I’ll tell you what
we might do: Let us call this place Rudder Grange the
New Rudder Grange! The name will do just as well
for a house as for a boat.”
I agreed on the spot, and the house was christened.
Our household was small; we had a
servant a German woman; and we had ourselves,
that was all.
I did not do much in the garden; it
was too late in the season. The former occupant
had planted some corn and potatoes, with a few other
vegetables, and these I weeded and hoed, working early
in the morning and when I came home in the afternoon.
Euphemia tied up the rose-vines, trimmed the bushes,
and with a little rake and hoe she prepared a flower-bed
in front of the parlor-window. This exercise gave
us splendid appetites, and we loved our new home more
Our German girl did not suit us exactly
at first, and day by day she grew to suit us less.
She was a quiet, kindly, pleasant creature, and delighted
in an out-of-door life. She was as willing to
weed in the garden as she was to cook or wash.
At first I was very much pleased with this, because,
as I remarked to Euphemia, you can find very few girls
who would be willing to work in the garden, and she
might be made very useful.
But, after a time, Euphemia began
to get a little out of patience with her. She
worked out-of-doors entirely too much. And what
she did there, as well as some of her work in the
house, was very much like certain German literature you
did not know how it was done, or what it was for.
One afternoon I found Euphemia quite annoyed.
“Look here,” she said,
“and see what that girl has been at work at,
nearly all this afternoon. I was upstairs sewing
and thought she was ironing. Isn’t it too
It was provoking. The contemplative
German had collected a lot of short ham-bones where
she found them I cannot imagine and had
made of them a border around my wife’s flower-bed.
The bones stuck up straight a few inches above the
ground, all along the edge of the bed, and the marrow
cavity of each one was filled with earth in which she
had planted seeds.
“‘These,’ she says,
‘will spring up and look beautiful,’”
said Euphemia; “they have that style of thing
in her country.”
“Then let her take them off
with her to her country,” I exclaimed.
“No, no,” said Euphemia,
hurriedly, “don’t kick them out. It
would only wound her feelings. She did it all
for the best, and thought it would please me to have
such a border around my bed. But she is too independent,
and neglects her proper work. I will give her
a week’s notice and get another servant.
When she goes we can take these horrid bones away.
But I hope nobody will call on us in the meantime.”
“Must we keep these things here a whole week?”
“Oh, I can’t turn her
away without giving her a fair notice. That would
I saw the truth of the remark, and
determined to bear with the bones and her rather than
That night Euphemia informed the girl
of her decision, and the next morning, soon after
I had left, the good German appeared with her bonnet
on and her carpet-bag in her hand, to take leave of
“What!” cried Euphemia. “You
are not going to-day?”
“If it is goot to go at all it is goot to go
now,” said the girl.
“And you will go off and leave
me without any one in the house, after my putting
myself out to give you a fair notice? It’s
“I think it is very goot for
me to go now,” quietly replied the girl.
“This house is very loneful. I will go to-morrow
in the city to see your husband for my money.
Goot morning.” And off she trudged to the
Before I reached the house that afternoon,
Euphemia rushed out to tell this story. I would
not like to say how far I kicked those ham-bones.
This German girl had several successors,
and some of them suited as badly and left as abruptly
as herself; but Euphemia never forgot the ungrateful
stab given her by this “ham-bone girl,”
as she always called her. It was her first wound
of the kind, and it came in the very beginning of
the campaign when she was all unused to this domestic