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MRS. EYRE WANTS A GIRL.
"GOOD-EVENING, Mrs. Hardy," said a pleasant voice, as the speaker tapped with her hand upon the half-open door of Mrs. Hardy's cottage.
Mrs. Hardy was a washerwoman, and her visitor knew that sometimes there was but scant room in her kitchen for strangers; indeed, she often wondered how the children managed on a wet day, and how the little ones escaped scalds and burns. However, this being Friday evening, the actual work was over, and the big deal table was piled with heaps of snowy linen, which Mrs. Hardy and her daughter Martha were sorting out and packing in nice large baskets, ready to be carried home the next day.
"Oh, come in, Mrs. Eyre; you needn't be afraid of the wash-tubs or the hot irons to-day. We've finished everything, ma'am."
"And such lots of things," said Mrs. Eyre, as she took the seat offered her by Martha. "I am sure I don't know how you get through it all, Mrs. Hardy."
"Well, ma'am, it takes a power of method. When I first took up this business, often I had all the ironing to do on Saturday, or the most of it; and then 'twas hurry-scurry in the evening to get the things home. I used to get so worried that I fairly thought I'd die. And one Saturday morning, who should come in but your good mother, ma'am, that's in heaven now; and the pleasant way she had. There was I on that chair in the corner, crying, and all the children crying round me. So says she, 'My poor Hannah, are you fretting so badly yet?' I dried my eyes and felt ashamed--for she thought I was crying for my poor man that had died about a year before; and I had to confess that I was crying because I didn't see how to get the ironing done. But indeed I have too much talk--all this don't matter to you."
"Ah, but it does--anything about my dear mother matters to me. Go on with your work, Mrs. Hardy, and tell me the rest of your story. I'm very sure she helped you."
"That she did, ma'am. The place was in a mess, with half-done collars and cuffs on the chairs, and the rector's shirts piled on the table; some of the linen in the baskets, and more on the stool over there. Well, not a word did she say about that, though I knew she saw the untidy way the place was in well enough. Says she, 'The first thing, Hannah, is to get the ironing finished, and then you and I will have a talk. Suppose you send the children out, all but Annie and Matty, who can bring us the hot irons. I am a good ironer, and I'll help you all I can,' says she; and tucked up her sleeves and went to work as if she'd done nothing else all her life. So pleasant with the two girls too, with a word when they brought the irons, that they worked as willing as possible. And of course I wasn't idle; so, before I thought it could be done, the clothes were in the basket. Annie and Matty carried them off; and your dear mother sat down and talked to me."
"'It's all method, Hannah,' she says. 'People sometimes ask me how I get through so much work, and am never in a hurry; now it is just method,' says she. And before she left me she wrote out that paper that you see on the wall there. See, ma'am. 'Monday, collect the wash, put the things in soak, and boil such articles as must be boiled. Tuesday--' You see, ma'am? it's all laid out. 'And make your girls help you when they come home from school; it will be much better for them than running about idle; be pleasant with them, and they will like it well.' Ah, she was a great help to me that day, the dear lady."
"I think she had a willing hearer, Mrs. Hardy."
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