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a web of many textures

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Page 405


Spring is the season of cleanliness, — the sanatory
sabbath, where people whitewash up into respectability
of appearance, and try to look decent for a year.
Whitewashing is a great institution, and it comes to a
brush with other domestic institutions about the season
when the flowers open, and housewives and tulips
blow at the same time. It is well to own a brush yourself,
and mix your own whitewash; then, with the pale
fluid by you, you can get up mornings and apply it at
your leisure, or spend the evening in beautifying and
purifying your premises. This is the way you will be
likely to do, if you are an economist. Buy your brush,
procure your lime, slack the mysterious mass to a
creamy fluid, and then attempt the purification of your
wall overhead. “Don't spatter!” will be the injunction
of the prudent house-wife, of course; but heed it
not, — women are proverbial for their caution, — lather
away, with might and main, and she will leave the field.
The wall is dark with smoky accumulations, but, thanks
to the science of the brush, it will soon be made spotless.
You dip boldly into the wash, and the first dash
at the wall brings a drop into your eye. It may be that
some petulant expression escapes you — may-be not. A
second attempt is better. You mind your eye, and go
along, this way and that way. There is a struggle
going on overhead between light and darkness, as
there was when Lucifer, the Dark Angel, struggled
with Michael on the plains of heaven, and the light is
bound to succeed. You feel encouraged, as you see
the wall wet with the application, knowing that the
warm air will render it very pure and white. You feel
dizzy with looking up, and your neck aches, and your


Page 406
sinews are sore with your efforts; but persevere, and
the crown is yours. And now leave the wall to dry,
with the reflection that you have saved at least a
quarter of a dollar by the operation, and a fancy of the
satisfaction yourself and wife will feel at the pleasant
change in the appearance of the premises wrought
by your exertions. A few hours afterwards, you
return to your room. There is a cloud on your wife's
brow as dark as the wall before it was whitewashed.
You are minded of the cause by a significant pointing
to the wall overhead, and the carpet below, and the
furniture around. The former looks like an enlarged
map of the United States, including Kansas and California,
with very dark prospects for Kansas; the carpet
is flecked with white stars, like a chart demonstrative
of mundane astronomy; the furniture is dotted with
endless blotches of white, as if it had been struck with
a sudden snow-squall. You begin to get it through
your hair what it is that has caused your head to itch
so confoundedly all day. You have been limed. But
you are in for whitewashing, and, as in the case of the
late amiable Gen. Macbeth, it is about as well to go
ahead as to go back; so you vigorously seize the brush
again, with less heart, however, than at first. But with
less confidence come more pains, and fewer drops
spangle the floor, and the map disappears from the wall.
When it is dry, it takes a new guise. It is white, with
here and there a shallow pool, with a dark bottom.
The brush is again applied. Better and better. At
last, after a week's application, a good deal of fretting,
and labor enough to raise a two-story barn, the wall is
completed, and the brush is laid aside, for some other
time; but whether that time will ever come or not, depends
upon the scarcity of whitewashers. But it is a


Page 407
triumph, after all, to look at the milky firmament that
spans your home, and feel that your “neat and cunning
hand” laid on the purity, even though discolored
dresses and soiled carpets mark your course, as the
traces of violence follow the sanguinary brush of war.