At Other People's Convenience
"A Whole Week Put Out of Joint For A Twenty Minutes' Call"
"By the way, Judith," said Julius, one Monday evening at the tea-table, "I met Mr. Dominie in the post-office this afternoon, and he said that he and Mrs. Dominie had intended to come out to see us this forenoon, but they found, at the last minute, that the Deacon was intending to use his horse himself."
"Bless that dear old deacon," said I, fervently. "I owe him one."
"Yes, it was luck!" said Julius.
"I should think so! How any couple, in their senses, could ever think of making a surprise visit on Monday morning, I don't see! What did you tell him?"
"Well, you see, I didn't like to remind him it was washing day - they have kept house, and know all about it, and they know we are doing our own work, for he asked how it agreed with you in this weather, and when we expected 'Mandy back - so I just told him that they must not be discouraged, but must try again."
"And what did he say to that?"
"Why, he said they meant to try it again to-morrow."
"To-morrow! and all the ironing to do, and nothing fresh baked!"
"Yes, I knew it wouldn't suit, but what could I do?"
"Nothing, of course. We will have to make the best of it. I will put off the ironing, and do some baking instead - bright and early before they get here."
So the next morning I got up betimes, set the whole house in spotless order, baked rolls and cake, got a chicken pie under way and made a salad. Then I dressed myself in a white muslin, with ruffled apron, and gathered fresh flowers for all of the vases. Then I sat down and hulled a bowlful of ripe, dewy strawberries, which Julius had gathered for me. Mr. and Mrs. Dominie boarded in the village, and would, I knew, appreciate our delicious country fare. He was preaching for us for six months "on trial." They were an elderly couple, whose children were all scattered, and were fond of visiting. We did not feel very well acquainted with them, and wished to do them honor. At 11 o'clock Julius came in from the garden, to make himself presentable. He found me putting the last touches to the dinner-table, so that only the hot food would have to be added at "dishing up" time.
"Haven't come yet!" he exclaimed.
"No," I said; "they seem inclined to be very fashionable. One would think the cool of the morning much pleasanter for driving this time of year.
"Yes indeed; but they may be along any minute now."
A quarter past - half past - three-quarters - 12. Still no minister, nor minister's wife. Julius paced between the front veranda and the gate, while I busied myself trying to keep the dinner hot, without drying it to chips. One o'clock struck; then Julius came in, saying: "We might as well give them up and have dinner. Something must have happened to detain them, and perhaps they will come this afternoon."
So we ate hurriedly, and Julius helped me to set all to rights; then, tired out, I sat down, with a new magazine and a basket of mending. At four o'clock, there still being no sign of our visitors, Julius came in and said: "It's time to go to the post-office; the mail must surely be in. Perhaps I'll meet Mr. Dominie, or some one from the Deacon's, and find out what the trouble is."
When he returned, he said, in answer to my eager inquiries: "Yes; I met Mr. Dominie himself, the first one, and he said they did think of coming this morning, but Mrs. Dominie thought it looked like rain."
"Like rain! Why, I never heard of such nonsense. It has been a lovely day!"
"So I thought; but of course I couldn't contradict him. Then he said, if it was pleasant, they would come to-morrow."
I groaned: "Then I must put off the ironing again."
So the next morning I again busied myself preparing good things for dinner and making the house as attractive as possible. When Julius and I a second time sat down to our belated dinner alone, I was fairly boiling with indignation.
"Do you know what I think of Mr. Dominie?" I exclaimed. "I think he is a first-class fraud!"
"I wouldn't say that," said Julius. "He may have had some good reason this time. Perhaps someone was taken sick and sent for him."
"Then she ought to have sent us word. It is shameful for them to be so rude!"
"So it is; and it has made you so much extra work, too."
"Yes, I have worked twice as hard as usual; and here, the week is half gone, and not a piece ironed."
When Julius came home that evening he said: "I saw Mr. Dominie, and he said he was sorry they didn't get out this morning, but Mrs. Dominue thought she felt one of her attacks of headache coming on, so he thought they'd better postpone it; but they will surely be out to-morrow."
"Indeed!" said I, then added, viciously, "I hope it will rain pitchforks!"
"Oh well, they'll come this time, and then it will be over, and we won't ask them again."
"They don't wait to be asked," I said, "but seem to think their visits are such treats to us that they may put us to any amount of trouble, and it's all right."
Well, the whole programme was again repeated, and still our visitors did not appear. It was fair all day until late afternoon, then a thunder-shower came up, preventing Julius from going after the mail, so we did not learn what trifle prevented their coming this time. At the tea-table I said, "Well, to-morrow is Friday, and, minister or no minister, I am going to iron."
So, the next morning, I went to work on my belated ironing, in fear and trembling, starting at every sound, until I became so nervous I felt like flying - for fear they would come and catch me unawares in the short-sleeved Mother Hubbard I always wore when ironing. The day waned, but they did not come. When Julius started to the village, I took a book and threw myself into the hammock, completely tired out. He had been gone some time, when I heard voices. Looking out, there were Mr. and Mrs. Dominie coming up the front path. I met them at the door and tried to be cordial, but felt that it was a hollow mockery. It was impossible to keep the reproach out of my voice when I spoke of having expected them to dinner each day since Monday.
"Yes, we were so disappointed," said Mrs. Dominie; "but every time we planned to come, something would happen to prevent."
I think they expected an invitation to tea, but I forgot (?) it, and said, moreover, nothing about future visits. I suppose it was not very polite, but "the worm will turn."
Julius laughed rather grimly, when he came home and heard about the visit. "A whole week put out of joint for a 20-minutes' call," he said.
"Yes," said I; "and if Mr. Dominie remains here after his six months are up, it won't be my fault. A man who has so little regard for his own word, and other people's convenience, is a public nuisance!"
"Amen," said Julius.
Here's a wonderful work of short fiction from 1890 which will appear in the "Paying Calls" section of my upcoming book, True Ladies and Proper Gentlemen— available now on pre-order from Barnes & Noble and Amazon!