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THE PINE-APPLE, the most delicious and rarest of fruits that grace the dessert, the fragrant melon, and the cool cucumber, are alike the delicate produce of a dunghill!
The stiff-starched, smart, and spotless frill, the snowy ducks, and trim shirt-collar, derive their dazzling and cleanly beauty from the dexterous and spongy hands of the tea-quaffing and Geneva-bibbing washerwoman!
Let no man, then, and especially the refined exquisite, who delights to adorn his sweet person in all the luxury of clean linen, despise the presiding priestess of the washing-tub. Draggle-tailed drab as she may appear to his refined vision, it is to the exercise of her saponaceous ablutions that he owes the major part of his attractions. For his sake she patiently dooms herself, with the resignation of a martyr, to be continually in the suds," and in "hot water." The vocation is of so ancient a date, that the commencement of her toilsome art is lost in the vanishing point of time, extending far, far beyond the memory of man! The earliest mention extant we believe to
be in that exquisite classic poem, commencing with the euphonous line,
"Sing a song for sixpence,"
in the third verse of which we find it particularly mentioned, that
"The maid was in the garden
and we have no hesitation in asserting, in the teeth of all commentators, past, present, and to come, that the "maid" therein mentioned was none other than the King's washerwoman; for, although now-a-days the majority of washerwomen is composed of wives and widows, yet there is no tenable objection why a maid should not be of the fraternity,-or rather the sorority, or sisterhood!
In this age, however, the class usually consists of women of from five-and-twenty to fifty.
Frequently dining with "Duke Humphrey" from necessity, they are unacquainted with his namesake, Sir Humphrey Davy; yet are they undeniably practical chemists, well knowing that soda and potash are not to be indiscriminately used, and are thoroughly initiated in the knowledge of the various aqueous solutions and compounds suited to the garments to be submitted to their cleansing operations.
The sorting" of the clothes into white and coloured portions is their primary care; for even the colours that are "warranted" will "run," if not washed with the greatest circumspection. While they know
from experience that linen and stockings may be "b'iled," they are aware that flannels, if put in th "s'rink up to nothink," and be " spiled."
So delicate, too, is their vision, that they pretend to discover "colour ". even in white garments; for nothing is more common than to hear them exclaim, that the white "things is a werry bad colour." Although they know this may arise from their own negligent handling, they generally attribute it to the age of the article.
In London and its vicinity, the "washing" forms a considerable item in the domestic expenses, especially when "given out" to those laundresses who profess "to do" for gentlemen and families. The economical housewife, therefore, is compelled to hire a woman. by the day to "get up the things" at home, to the woful annoyance of all the males in the establishment, who nauseate, with a sort of hydrophobic feeling, the steamy odours sent forth by coppers, washing-tubs, and drying linen. A six-weeks' wash is in truth an awful visitation !
Happy, thrice happy are those who are able to escape the chilling horrors of a horse full of wet clothes steaming before a roasting kitchen-range !—or, when they open their eyes and their bed-room windows on a summer's morning, behold their "trim garden eclipsed by transverse lines, extending "from pole to pole," with a formidable array of bleaching linens "pegged" thereon, and fluttering in the breeze!
Such a sight is enough to make a man cut himself in shaving, although priding himself in the possession
of the best-tempered razor, and the steadiest hand in the world!
A "dab-wash" is bad enough of all conscience; but a regular six-weeks' one is enough to send a man clean out of his seven senses, and make him exclaim in an ecstasy,
"Oh! the good old days of Adam and Eve!"
-turn his milk of human kindness to-curds and whey, -and make his whole composition as "mothery" as -a jar of uncovered preserves!
Washerwomen and chimney-sweepers are the earliest disturbers of domestic repose. It almost infallibly happens, however, that the serving-lassie is never stirring when the poor little sweep applies his sooty fingers to the noisy knocker; and the bass accompaniment of the dull single knock, to his shrill and prolonged cry of "Swee-ee-ep!" generally arouses the inmates of the house and the neighbours before the sleepy and slip-shod girl shuffles down the creaking stairs to let in the shivering child, who is only too punctual in his appointment.
The washerwoman, however, is usually more fortunate, for she is a much more welcome visitor to the kitchen; and, notwithstanding the place is "cluttered up " with heaps of clothes and wash-tubs, a blazing fire gives a cheerful glow to the busy region, while a bright copper tea-kettle singing on the hob greets her with its refreshing harmony, and a pleasing anticipation of a "dish of tea" preparatory to commencing operations.
The washerwoman, par excellence, is generally a sort