Read CHAPTER XII - THE DAY’S WORK of A Little Housekeeping Book for a Little Girl Margaret's Saturday Mornings , free online book, by Caroline French Benton, on

It happened that just as Margaret was finishing her Saturday morning lessons Bridget had to go away for a few days, and the last lesson of all, which was given by her mother, was really a sort of review of what she had learned, such as she had in her school lessons.

It was hardly more than six o’clock in the morning when the little girl woke and jumped out of bed. She dressed softly so that she should not wake any one, and took her bed to pieces and set her closet door open, as she had learned in her Bedroom lesson. She threw up the windows and hung up her night-dress, and then left the room, closing the door behind her.

Her mother met her in the hall, and they went down-stairs together, tying on their clean gingham aprons as they went. The house was all shut up of course, so they opened the front doors, raised the shades in the parlors, and opened the windows a little to change the air. In the kitchen the fire was burning, shut up as they had left it the night before, and they first closed it to shake it down, and then opened the drafts and put on fresh coal, as Margaret had learned when she studied about the range. While the fire was burning up she pinned a little shawl about her head and swept off the front steps and sidewalk, and came in all glowing from the cold air.

By this time the fire was hot and bright, and the cereal was put on to cook in the double boiler, the kettle filled with fresh water and put on to boil for coffee. Her mother said she would stay out in the kitchen and make muffins for breakfast while the other rooms were put in order, so Margaret went into the parlors and sitting-room and straightened the chairs, put away books and papers, and dusting a little here and there, leaving the regular dusting until later in the day. The windows were now shut, and the rooms looked very tidy, so she went to the dining-room to prepare that for breakfast.

She brushed up the crumbs, aired the room, and put it in order. She arranged the doilies on the table, one under each plate, with a round of felt under that, laid the silver, put on her mother’s tray with the cups and saucers, set the tumblers and napkins around, and the plates with the finger-bowls and fruit-knives, and the bread and butter plates with the spreaders. She filled the salts freshly, and last of all put on a vase of flowers. Then she took the cereal dishes, platter, and plates out to heat in the oven.

She found her mother was getting ready the eggs and other things for breakfast, and she need not help, so she carried into the dining-room the butter balls and put them around; filled the finger-bowls and tumblers with cold water and the coffee-cups with hot; arranged the fruit on the sideboard, and put cream into the pitcher on the tray as well as in another pitcher for the cereal. By the time breakfast was ready she had on her white apron and had washed her hands, and when the family came down she was ready to show them all what a well-trained waitress she was.

“Do sit down with us,” her father begged. “You have done so much already!” But Margaret felt a little proud that she knew her waiting lesson so well, and said she would rather not. She really enjoyed moving very quietly around the table, bringing in and taking out things, passing everything to the left, and laying down plates at the right, and generally remembering just what she had been taught.

After all had finished she ate her own breakfast, and found she had been up so long and worked so much that it tasted twice as good as usual. When she had finished she put on her gingham apron again and cleared the table. She took up the crumbs carefully and used the carpet-sweeper all over the rug. She scraped and piled the dishes in nice, neat piles, and, drawing the hot water, she washed and wiped them all nicely, and put them away. She swept the kitchen, wiped off the tables, shut up the range and washed out the dish-towels exactly as her grandmother had taught in the lesson she gave on the kitchen. Then she went up-stairs.

Her grandmother, mother, and aunts had been afraid she would get too tired with such a long day’s work as she had planned to do, and they had made their own beds, but they left Margaret’s room for her for fear she would be disappointed. She closed the windows first, and while the room warmed she made the bathroom neat, washed and wiped out the tub and scrubbed off the wash-stand.

Her room was put in beautiful order, to her closet and shoe-bag, and she even stopped to put a clean cover on the bureau and dust nicely, to show she had not forgotten a single thing. The halls and parlors had to be thoroughly dusted now, but as none of them needed sweeping it did not take very long, and there was still time to go to market. She got out her jacket and hat, took her pencil, account-book, and kitchen pad, and went out to see what was in the refrigerator. Here she had to stop, for Bridget had gone away in such a hurry she had quite forgotten to wash this out and arrange it properly, so on went the gingham apron again, and out came all the things from the box. She gave it a good scrubbing with warm water and borax, and put in a fresh dish of charcoal before she put back the ice and dishes of food. Then she got her pad again, and with her mother’s help, planned the meals and wrote down what she must buy.

The walk to the grocery and meat market was pleasant, and Margaret quite enjoyed ordering the vegetables, chops, fruit, and fish, which were needed, and watched to see if she was getting fresh things and good measure, and wrote down the prices as though she had been an old housekeeper instead of a new one.

When she got back again she found there was an hour until lunch, and she at once wiped off the shelves in the pantry and put fresh papers on them and arranged the tins in a more orderly way than she found them. By the time she had finished her Pretty Aunt came out to help get luncheon, and together they laid the table and got the meal. She put on her waiting-apron again, when it was ready, but this time she sat down with the family because her mother said she must surely be tired.

Her grandmother insisted on helping with the dishes, and watched with pride when afterwards Margaret poured boiling water down the sink after laying a bit of washing-soda over the drain, and scrubbed off all her tables until they shone, and blacked her range until it was like a mirror. “You surely are going to make a wonderful housekeeper!” she said.

Margaret laughed as she took off her apron. “But I just love to do things, grandmother,” she replied, as she went up-stairs.

Bridget always found that she had an hour or two to rest in the afternoon after her work was done, and so did the little girl, but after she had taken a walk and read in a new book for a time, she suddenly remembered that the silver needed cleaning, and she might surprise the family at dinner with it all polished. She got it out and rubbed it well, delighted to see how quickly it grew bright. As she finished her mother came into the kitchen with her Other Aunt, and said they meant to help get the dinner.

The mother looked around her. “Everything is very nice,” she said. “The sink is clean, and so is the pantry, and so are all the dishes. The range is bright; the dish-towels are washed; the dining-room is in order. I noticed as I came through the other rooms that the bedrooms, bathroom, and parlors have all been looked after to-day, too. Margaret, I do believe you are as good a housekeeper as I am already.”

“Well,” said the little girl, thoughtfully, “I didn’t sweep any to-day, nor wash any windows; I didn’t shine the faucets in the bathroom, either, because I forgot them till this minute. I didn’t have time to oil the floors in the hall this morning I only brushed it up; and I haven’t looked at the cellar or the attic at all.”

Her mother laughed. “But nobody does the whole house from top to bottom every single day,” she said. “We sweep twice a week, only, and we wash windows when they need washing, not all the time. The attic and cellar are to be kept in order, but not put in order daily, you know. The really good housekeeper does a little putting to rights all the time, and every day she takes a certain part of the house and makes it clean, but she never tries to do more in one day than belongs to that one. To know how to keep a house nice is quite as necessary as to know how to make it so. The most important thing of all is knowing what you have learned to-day to quietly go through the work, taking one thing after another, each in its turn, and to do all well, without hurry or worry. To be able to do this is to make housework pleasant.”

“Well,” said Margaret, earnestly, “I like to keep house. When I am a woman I mean to have the nicest, cleanest house in all the world!”

“Suppose you help me keep this one nice till then!” said her mother.