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"I WILL SEE ABOUT IT."
The same words have a very different meaning in the mouths of different persons. In my early childhood, on account of my poor dear mother's ill health, much of the domestic management of the family, and particularly the care of myself and two little sisters, was confided to a sort of upper servant, one Mrs. Harris. Having been in better circumstances, though now reduced to seek a situation in service, and having had a family of her own, she was strongly recommended to my parents, as a person who must needs possess a competent knowledge of household affairs, and especially must be skilful and experienced in the management of children.
Mrs. Harris was kind-hearted, and we were all fond of her; and yet, though much more indulged, we were not, altogether, half so comfortable as we had formerly been under the care of our own dear mother. This would, in some degree, arise from the nature of things. There is no absolute equivalent for the attention and kindness of a good mother : the very best substitute that can obtained appears at a very great disadvantage in comparison with her. But I do not think Mrs. Harris was as good a substitute as she might have been. And yet, when looking back to the days of her superintendence, I can hardly define her fault. It
certainly was not want of integrity ; for I am sure she would not intentionally have wronged her employers of a farthing; indeed, she rather erred on the opposite extreme, that of disregard to her own interests. It was not unkindness; not one of us ever felt the weight of her hand in chastisement, nor so much as received a harsh word from her lips, nor did she ever refuse to grant us any
innocent gratification that we desired. It was not indolence; for she was always busy from morning till night. It was not want of cleanliness; for well do I remember our daily scrubbings and sousings in cold water, and our frequent change of apparel. And I remember, too, her own cleanly, comfortable appearance, especially in an afternoon and on Sundays. To be sure, she was sometimes rather untidy in the morning, having, as she observed, been so driven with us children that she could not find time to set herself to rights; but by tea-time she generally contrived to be in what she called apple-pie order. Well
, as I said before, I cannot exactly define her fault, and yet we seemed to be always preparing to be comfortable, without ever attaining to it. I do think it must have arisen from her constant habit of satisfying herself, and endeavouring to satisfy others, with saying, “I will see about it;" which, in point of fact, though not of intention, amounted to much the same thing as dismissing the matter altogether.
“Mrs. Harris,” said my little sister, who could but just speak, “I dot a sore thumb.” dear child !” replied Mrs. H., “there is a hangnail wants cutting off: I have not got my scissors in my pocket, but I am going up stairs almost
directly, and I will see about it.” Having satisfied the child with this promise, and a kiss on the sore place, she thought no more about it, until a few days after, a large angry gathering had formed on the neglected part, which inflicted on the poor child severe pain, and the loss of her thumb-nail ; and caused to the good-natured but thoughtless nurse, the bitterness of self-reproach. By way of atonement, she immediately purchased a gailydressed doll, and a sweet cake. These served to divert the child, but not to prevent or end her sufferings, any more than they tended to break the nurse of her foolish habit.
“If you please, Mrs. Harris,” said the housemaid, “the rain has come in through the ceiling of your room, just over Miss Mary's bed.” Oh, indeed !” was the reply ; “I suppose something is amiss in the roof ; I must see about speaking to master, and getting it mended ;” and thus the matter was dismissed from her mind. Not long afterwards the family was alarmed in the dead of the night, by little Mary being suddenly seized with the croup, occasioned, as was clearly proved, by her bed having become damp, in consequence of the above-mentioned neglect.
Poor Harris was so heart-broken at the unhappy circumstance, that my parents forbore to add their reproaches to those of her own conscience, kindly hoping that such a lesson would not be forgotten. Contrary to all expectation, the child recovered, but the nurse soon relapsed.
The next palpable instance of mischief resulting from Mrs. Harris's old quietus, though in itself very vexatious, was trivial, compared with those I have already mentioned. A large quantity of
pickles and preserves had been made, for the winter use of the family, which, after remaining a day or two, required to be tied down. This was Mrs. Harris's business to perform, or at least to attend to its performance; nor was any other person likely to remind her of its omission, as she alone had access to the store-room. For several days, as often as she had occasion to go into the store-room, or even as she passed by the door, she would exclaim, “Oh dear! there are those preserves ! I must see about tying them down.” But the repetition of this häcknied phrase seemed gradually to wear away the impression that something was to be done ; new stores came in to ocсиру the front of the shelves, the jars were pushed more backward ; and in a little time, glided into the condition of “out of sight and out of mind.” They were not again thought of for several months -not, indeed, until some of them were required for use; and then they were hunted out, and found mouldy, sour, and good for nothing.
On looking back to this habit of our nurse, I think it was injurious, not merely in its immediate effects, but also in its influence on the tempers and habits of the children. If, as was often the case, I asked for a bit of string to spin my top, or a little paste when making a kite, I was put off with an empty promise to “ see about it,” until the time was past in which I should have enjoyed my amusement, or performed my little undertaking; by these disappointments I am sure that my temper was irritated; and that such conduct tended to make me dilatory in my habits, and also to weaken my sense of the sacredness of a promise. And when, as my master directed me, on my first going
to school, I took my book to Harris, and requested her to hear my spelling lesson, she gave me her usual
answer, I will see about it,” or “I will see about it presently ;" I drew hence an excuse for my own idleness, laid aside the book, omitted to get the lesson, and next morning was disgraced in school; and, what was worse still, failed to acquire habits of application and perseverance, and a just sense of the value of improvement. I could easily enumerate twenty more instances; but it is not necessary or desirable, especially as I do not intend to confine myself to the portraiture of the character of Mrs. Harris, or its influence on my
Holiday time came, and I went to visit
Uncle Barnaby. I believe it was the first time I ever went from home alone ; and though I had been taught to think very highly of my uncle, I did not know much of him from personal observation. Cousin Frank was there. He was telling me what a grand display of fire-works they had at his school a few weeks before, and offered to instruct me in the art and mystery of preparing squibs and crackers, sky-rockets, and catherine-wheels. I was delighted with the proposal ; and, by his desire, hastened to the housekeeper to obtain some brimstone, saltpetre, charcoal, and paper. “I am afraid, sir," replied the housekeeper, " that you wan't these things for some dangerous scheme; however, I will see about it, and if master thinks proper, you shall have them.”
“ There's an end of that, then,” thought I to myself, taking it for granted that the words had no more meaning from the lips of Mrs. Rogers than from those of Mrs. Harris. I went away disappointed, and perhaps