A Modern Cinderella and other stories
"Let me have plenty of clean collars in my bag, for I must go at once; and some of you
bring me a glass of cider in about an hour;--I shall be in the lower garden."
The old man went away into his imaginary paradise, and Nan into that domestic
purgatory on a summer day, -- the kitchen. There were vines about the windows,
sunshine on the floor, and order everywhere; but it was haunted by a cooking-stove, that
family altar whence such varied incense rises to appease the appetite of household gods,
before which such dire incantations are pronounced to ease the wrath and woe of the
priestess of the fire, and about which often linger saddest memories of wasted temper,
time, and toil.
Nan was tired, having risen with the birds,-- hurried, having many cares those happy little
housewives never know,--and disappointed in a hope that hourly " dwindled, peaked, and
pined." She was too young to make the anxious lines upon her forehead seem at home
there, too patient to be burdened with the labor others should have shared, too light of
heart to be pent up when earth and sky were keeping a blithe holiday. But she was one of
that meek sisterhood who, thinking humbly of themselves, believe they are honored by
being spent in the service of less conscientious souls, whose careless thanks seem quite
To and fro she went, silent and diligent, giving the grace of willingness to every humble
or distasteful task the day had brought her; but some malignant sprite seemed to have
taken possession of her kingdom, for rebellion broke out everywhere. The kettles would
boil over most obstreperously,-- the mutton refused to cook with the meek alacrity to be
expected from the nature of a sheep,--the stove, with unnecessary warmth of temper,
would glow like a fiery furnace,--the irons would scorch,--the linens would dry,--and
spirits would fail, though patience never.
Nan tugged on, growing hotter and wearier, more hurried and more hopeless, till at last
the crisis came; for in one fell moment she tore her gown, burnt her hand, and smutched
the collar she was preparing to finish in the most unexceptionable style. Then, if she had
been a nervous woman, she would have scolded; being a gentle girl, she only "lifted up
her voice and wept."
"Behold, she watereth her linen with salt tears, and bewaileth herself because of much
tribulation. But, lo! Help cometh from afar: a strong man bringeth lettuce wherewith to
stay her, plucketh berries to comfort her withal, and clasheth cymbals that she may dance
The voice came from the porch, and, with her hope fulfilled, Nan looked up to greet John
Lord, the house-friend, who stood there with a basket on his arm; and as she saw his
honest eyes, kind lips, and helpful hands, the girl thought this plain young man the
comeliest, most welcome sight she had beheld that day.
"How good of you, to come through all this heat, and not to laugh at my despair!" she
said, looking up like a grateful child, as she led him in.