treasures dates far back of the poetical precision who makes her ability to be "mistress of herself though china fall," the test of breeding. I suspect, if the truth were known, we should learn that the potsherd, picked up from the ash-heap by hapless, skin-smitten Job, marked an evil day in the calendar of his shrewish wife and the unlucky servant through whose carelessness pot, or cup, or platter came to grief. Furthermore, that the broken utensil belonged to a set that could not be matched in any china-shop in the length and breadth of Uz.
I read, yesterday, in one of the "Be-thrifty-and-you-will-be-prosperous" essays, that are as rusty needles in the thick of the thumb of the woman of experience, an anecdote of a notable manager who still uses the same "snow-drop figure" napery affected by her mother and her grandmother before her, and the same pattern of china and cut-glass that set forth their tables. Hence - the hateful "Hence" that breaks off the needle-point in the flesh! - "she has no difficulty in matching worn-out and fractured articles of household use." Queen Victoria had a similar fad. When the chair and sofas of Windsor got shabby they were spirited away, one by one, without her knowledge (presumably), and recovered with stuff of the same design and color, artistically dimmed and frayed so as to resemble the old exactly. Queens can afford to have expensive and almost impossible whims. The drawback to imitation of Mrs. Guelph's and Mrs. Notable's sentimental economics is that crockery, glass and linen merchants do not carry dead stock. When a pattern becomes unfashionable it disappears from the market. The moral and exasperating "Hence" should have a corollary in the shape of a card, telling us where Mrs. Notable finds benevolent tradesmen who replenish her stores with snow-drop damask and fifty-year-old designs in "fragiles."
A friend writes to me of the death of her colored butler, after twenty-three years' service in her family.
"He was not particularly bright or brisk," she says, "and had some grave faults. But he did not break or chip one piece of glass or china while he was with us. Do you wonder that we mourn him?"
Considered as a means of grace and of daily discipline in the fine order of breeding indicated by our poet, our waitress - whatever her race, age, or previous condition of sovereignty - leaves little to the liveliest imagination. She "blazes" her trail through our households by nicks, cracks, breaks and "crazed" glazing.
There is a hill near Rome composed entirely of broken pottery The modern housekeeper does not enter into the social speculations of archaeologists as to its origin and history. Women loved china in those older days as fondly as we love it. Perhaps - for it was an age of idols, many and curious - they set it among their household goods. At any rate, when it was shattered, they gave it decent burial. If the dust-heaps and ash-barrels of Christian America were made to give up the like relics deposited in guilty haste and secrecy within their unhallowed depths the woeful pile would dwarf the Tower of Babel by comparison, and represent as many tears as any national cemetery.
In view of the frail constitution of our well-beloved china, we ought not to set our hearts upon it any more than we ought to love our babies, whose tenure upon life is more slight than spider's silk. One and all, we do set our affections, and feast our eyes, and pamper our souls desires upon the adornments of buffet and china-closet. Tea, coffee and chocolate are more delicious when sipped from Sevres and Limoges; our sensitive finger-tips recoil from the blunt edges of pressed glass. To set stone china and thick tumblers before tired and hungry John would insult one who deserves the best of everything.
Since, then, we must, in justice to him and to ourselves, have fine china and glass, and our waitress's tumultuous voyagings among them will strew back yards and vacant lots with the worthless flotsam and jetsam of what was dear and precious, what shall be done? To the housekeeper whose time has not a prohibitive monetary value, my advice is simple and direct: Have choice china - the choicest you can afford - and take care of it yourself.
Side-Board And China-Closet