The Week of Idleness by Eliza Leslie
"Their only labour was to kill the time,
And labour dire it was, and weary wo."
Adelaide and Rosalind, the daughters of Mr. Edington, looked forward
with much pleasure to the arrival of their cousin, Josephine
Sherborough, from Maryland. She was to spend the summer with them, at
their father's country residence on the beautiful bay of New York, a few
miles below the city; and, though they had never seen her, they were
disposed to regard Josephine as a very agreeable addition to their
family society. Having had the misfortune to lose their mother, Adelaide
and Rosalind had been for several years under the entire care of their
governess, Mrs. Mortlake; a highly accomplished and most amiable woman,
whom they loved and respected as if she had been their parent, and by
whose instructions they had greatly profited.
It was on a beautiful evening in June, that Josephine Sherborough was
certainly expected, after several disappointments within the last two
or three weeks. The Miss Edingtons and their governess were seated on
one of the settees in the portico that extended along the front of Mr.
Edington's house. Mrs. Mortlake was sewing, Rosalind reading aloud, and
Adelaide, with her drawing materials before her, was earnestly engaged
in colouring a sketch of a fishing-boat at anchor, beautifully reflected
in the calm water, and tinted with the glowing rays of the declining
sun. As she put in the last touches, she hoped, before the summer was
over, that she should improve so much in her drawing as to be enabled to
attempt a view of the bay with its green shores; its island fortresses;
and its numerous ships, some going out on a voyage to distant regions,
others coming home with the merchandise and the news of Europe.
"Now," exclaimed Adelaide, "I see the smoke of the steamboat, just
behind Castle Williams. My father and Josephine will soon be here. I am
glad my drawing is so nearly completed. In a few minutes it will be
"And in a few minutes," said Rosalind, "I shall conclude the story that
I am reading."
"Do you not now think," asked Mrs. Mortlake, "I was right in proposing
that we should protract our usual afternoon occupations an hour beyond
the usual time, as we are expecting the arrival of your father and your
cousin? This last hour would have seemed twice its real length, if we
had done nothing, all the while, but strain our eyes in gazing up the
bay for the steamboat, saying every few minutes, 'Oh, I wish they were
In a short time, Adelaide exclaimed, "Here is the steamboat. I see they
are depositing several trunks in the little boat at the side. And now it
is let down to the water. And now a gentleman and a young lady descend
the steps, and take their seats in it. How fast it cuts its way through
the foam that is raised by the tow-line. In a moment it will touch the
wharf. Here they come. There is my father; and it must be Josephine
that is with him!"
The sisters then ran down the steps of the portico, and in a moment were
at the landing-place, where Mr. Edington, as soon as he had assisted
her to step on shore, introduced them to Josephine Sherborough, a fat,
fair, pale young lady, about fourteen, with a remarkably placid
countenance which immediately won the regard of Rosalind: who determined
in her own mind that Josephine was a very sweet girl, and that they
should, ever hereafter, be intimate and most particular friends.
Adelaide, who was two years older than Rosalind, and who had more
penetration, was not so violently prepossessed in favour of her cousin,
whose face she thought deficient in animation, and whose movements were
more slow and heavy than those of any young girl she had ever seen.
When tea was over, the sisters proposed to Josephine a walk round the
garden, which was large and very beautiful; but she complained of being
excessively tired, and said that she would much rather go to bed. This
somewhat surprised her cousins, as they knew that Josephine had been
three days in the city with the friends under whose care she had come
from Maryland; and they thought that she must have had ample time to
recover from the fatigue of her journey: to which her last little trip
in the steamboat could not have added much. Rosalind, who was a year
younger than Josephine, accompanied her to the chamber prepared for her
accommodation, where Josephine, looking round disconsolately, inquired
if there was no servant to undress her. Rosalind volunteered to perform
this office; and Josephine said she would ring the bell for one of the
maids, when she wished to get up in the morning.
She kept the family waiting breakfast for her till nine o'clock, and
then came down in a white slip or loose gown; her hair still pinned up;
her eyes half shut; and her face evidently not washed. Mr. Edington,
whose business in the city made it necessary for him to be there at an
early hour, had long since breakfasted, and gone up to town in the boat;
and after a few days, the rest of the family ceased to wait for her; and
the housekeeper was directed to have a fresh breakfast prepared for Miss
Sherborough whenever she came down.
The first days of Josephine's visit ought, in Rosalind's opinion, to
have been devoted entirely to the amusement of their guest, and she was
urgent with Mrs. Mortlake, to allow Adelaide and herself a week of
holiday. Their governess told them that she would have been willing to
grant this indulgence if Josephine was to remain with them a week only:
but as she was to stay all summer, it would, of course, be impossible
for them, every day, to give up their usual occupations; and therefore
it was better to begin as they were to go on. She reminded Rosalind that
if they were attentive and industrious, they would get through their
lessons the sooner, and have the more time for recreation with their
After Josephine had breakfasted, Mrs. Mortlake offered to show her the
children's library, that she might amuse herself with any of the books
she chose, while her cousins were engaged in their morning employments.
Josephine thanked her; but said she could entertain herself very well
without books, and that she believed she would take a walk in the
garden. She accordingly put on her bonnet, and strolled up and down the
walks, gazing listlessly at the flowers. She attempted to gather some
strawberries, but found it too fatiguing to stoop down to the beds; and
satisfied herself with plucking currants and gooseberries from the
bushes. She then sat in the arbour for awhile, and looked all the time
straight down the middle walk. When she was tired of the arbour, she
established herself on a circular bench which ran round a large walnut
tree; and then she counted all the
sat the back
part of the house. When this was accomplished, she counted them all
over again. And then, finding the sun had become very powerful, she went
into the front-parlour, the shutters of which were bowed to exclude the
heat, and throwing herself at full length on the sofa, she in a few
minutes fell into a profound sleep, from which she did not awaken till
her cousins entered the room in search of her, after their lessons were
over. They took her up stairs into the apartment they called their
play-room, and showed her a variety of things which would have been very
amusing to a girl that knew how to be amused. There was a lacquered
Chinese cabinet, containing a great number of curiosities brought by
their uncle from Canton: and a large box with shelves, on which were
various specimens of Indian ingenuity, presented to the children by a
gentleman who had travelled all over the country beyond the Mississippi.
Their library consisted of a beautiful and entertaining selection of
juvenile books; and they had a port-folio filled with fine prints of
such subjects as are particularly interesting to young people. They
showed her a representation of the grand procession at the coronation of
the sovereign of England, printed on a long narrow roll of paper pasted
on silk; which paper was unwound like a ribbon-yard from a
Tunbridge-ware box, and it could be screwed up again after being
sufficiently seen. It was many yards in length, and the figures (which
were almost innumerable) were elegantly designed, and beautifully
coloured. They had also a little theatre, with a great number of scenes;
and a variety of very small dolls, dressed in appropriate habits to
personate the actors. Beside all these things, they had a closet full of
amusing toys; and in short the play-room was amply stored with a
profusion of whatever was necessary to the enjoyment of their leisure
But all was lost on Josephine. While Adelaide and Rosalind were
assiduous in showing and explaining to her every thing, she heard them
with listlessness and apathy, and made not the slightest remark. At
last, she said "We will reserve some of these sights for to-morrow. I
must go and dress myself for dinner. Oh! how I hate to dress. It is an
odious task. I must have Mary to assist me again; for I never can get
through the fatigue of dressing myself, and fixing my hair."
In the afternoon, Adelaide and Rosalind took their sewing, and seated
themselves with Mrs. Mortlake in the porch. As Josephine appeared to
have no work, Mrs. Mortlake gave her a volume of Miss Edgeworth's Moral
Tales, and requested her to read one of them aloud. Josephine took the
book and began to read "The Prussian Vase," but with so monotonous and
inarticulate a tone, or rather drawl, that it was painful to hear her:
and her cousins were not sorry when, at the end of three or four pages,
she stopped, and complained that she was too much fatigued to read any
Mrs. Mortlake then desired Adelaide, who read extremely well, to take
the book and continue the story, but in a short time Josephine was
discovered to be asleep. When Adelaide ceased reading, Josephine awoke,
and saying that she could not live without her afternoon nap, went up
stairs to lie down on her bed.
She slept till near tea-time, and when tea was over, her cousins and
Mrs. Mortlake prepared for a walk, and invited Josephine to join them.
This she did; but in less than ten minutes she complained so much of
fatigue, that Rosalind turned back and accompanied her home, and she
reclined on the settee in the porch till the lamps were lighted in the
front-parlour. The girls then showed Josephine a portable diorama,
containing twelve beautiful coloured views of castles, abbeys, temples,
and mountain scenery. Each of these exquisite little landscapes was
fixed, in turn, as the back scene of a sort of miniature stage. The
skies and lights of these views were all transparent, and there were
other skies which turned on rollers, and represented sunrise, moonlight,
sunshine, and thunder-clouds. These second skies being placed behind
those of the picture, were slowly unrolled by turning a small handle,
and produced the most varied and beautiful effects on the scenery, which
could thus at pleasure be illuminated gradually with sunshine or
moonbeams, or darkened with the clouds of a gathering storm. But
Josephine saw this charming exhibition without a single comment; being
evidently much inclined to yawn as she looked at it. And getting again
very sleepy, she soon retired to her bed.
Next morning, Mrs. Mortlake invited her to bring her sewing into the
school-room, and sit there while her cousins were at their lessons. But
Josephine replied that she hated sewing, and never did any. However, she
took her seat in the school-room, and a kitten soon after came purring
round her; so she put it on her lap, and stroked and patted it till the
lessons were over, and the girls went up stairs to amuse themselves
Adelaide tried to induce Josephine to look at some of the beautiful
prints in the port-folio; but she found it necessary to explain them
all, as if she was showing them to a child of three years old.
Rosalind proposed that they should all go on the roof of the house (it
being flat on the top and guarded with a railing) to look at the beauty
and wide extent of the prospect; and taking their parasols to screen
their heads from the sun, they went up through a very convenient
trap-door at the head of an easy little staircase. The view from the
roof of Mr. Edington's house was certainly very fine, comprising the bay
with its islands and fortresses; its boats and vessels of every
description; the distant lighthouse at Sandy Hook, and the blue ocean
rolling beyond it: and at the other end of the scene, behind a forest of
masts, rose the city of New York with its numerous spires glittering in
Fine as the prospect was, Josephine showed no symptom of admiration; but
as they came down through the garret-passage, she spied an old
rocking-chair standing in a corner among some lumber. (Parlour
rocking-chairs were not yet in general use.) She turned her head, and
looked at it with longing eyes. "Ah!" said she, "that is the very thing
I have been suffering for ever since I left home. Do let me beg to have
it in my room." The chair, accordingly, was carried into the apartment
of Josephine, who immediately seated herself, and began to rock with
great satisfaction; at which most interesting amusement she continued
till near dinner-time. The rocking-chair was next day taken into the
school-room, and with that and the kitten, Josephine appeared to get
through the morning rather contentedly.
The afternoon was again devoted to a long nap: and in the evening
Josephine reclined on the front-parlour sofa, and entertained herself by
running her finger a hundred times over the brass nails.
Several days passed on in a similar manner. One morning when they were
all in the play-room, Josephine said to her cousins, "What a very hard
life you are obliged to endure. Neither of you have a moment of rest,
from the time you leave your beds in the morning, till you return to
them at night. First, there is your rising with the sun, and going to
work in your little gardens. I am sure you might make your father's
gardener do all that business."
Adelaide. But we take great pleasure in it; and when we see our
flowers growing and blooming, the interest they excite in us is much
increased by knowing that we have raised them from the seed, or planted
the roots ourselves; and that we have assisted their growth by watering,
weeding, tying them, and clearing them from insects. And is it not
pleasant to find that the fruit-stones, we planted a few years since in
our little orchard, have produced trees that are now loaded with fruit?
The red cherries, we had last evening after tea, were from one of my
trees; and the large black cherries were from Rosalind's. And in August,
we shall have our own plums and peaches.
Josephine. I am sure it is much less trouble to buy these things, than
to cultivate them; and as to the amusement, I can see none. Then there
are those awful lessons that are always to come on after breakfast. The
writing, and cyphering, and grammar, and geography, and history, one
day: and the French, and music, and drawing, the next: and-the reading
and sewing every afternoon; and the walk every evening. Even your
play-time (as you call it) is a time of perpetual fatigue: your plays
all seem to require so much skill and ingenuity. And then on Saturday
morning, to think that you are obliged to go into the housekeeper's room
and learn to make cakes, and pastry, and sweetmeats, and all such
things. I am sure if I was never to eat cakes till I assisted in making
them, I should go without all my life. It seems to me that your whole
existence is a course of uninterrupted toil.
Rosalind. There is much truth in what you say, my dear Josephine. But
I own it never struck me before.
Adelaide. We have always been perfectly happy in our occupations and
amusements: and the longest day in summer seems too short for us.
Josephine. Too short, perhaps, to get through such a quantity of work;
for I consider all this as real hard work. I am glad that I have not
been brought up in such a laborious manner. My parents love me too much
to make me uncomfortable, even for a moment; or to cause me in any way
the slightest fatigue. I have spent my whole life in ease and peace;
doing nothing but what I pleased, and never learning but when I chose.
I have not been troubled with either a school or a governess; my mother
(who was herself educated at a boarding-school) having determined, as I
was her only child, to instruct me at home.
Adelaide saw that it was in vain to argue the point any farther. But the
foolish reasoning of Josephine made a great impression on Rosalind; so
true it is, that "evil communication corrupts good manners," and she was
seized with an earnest desire to participate in the happiness of doing
Next morning, Rosalind went to her lessons with great reluctance, and
consequently did not perform them well. On the following day she was
equally deficient; and in the afternoon when Josephine went up stairs to
take her nap, Rosalind, looking after her, exclaimed, "Happy girl! How I
"Envy her!" said Adelaide, "of all the people I am acquainted with, I
think Josephine Sherborough is the least to be envied."
Rosalind. She is not troubled with lessons, and sewing, as we are. She
can do whatever she pleases the whole day long. No wonder she is fat,
when she is so perfectly comfortable. For my part, I expect, in the
course of another year, to be worn to a skeleton with such incessant
Adelaide. But without application how is it possible to learn?
Rosalind. I would rather put off my learning till I am older, and have
strength to bear such dreadful fatigue.
Adelaide. I do not find it fatiguing. I am sure our lessons are not
very long, and Mrs. Mortlake is so kind and gentle, that it is a
pleasure to be instructed by her; and she explains every thing so
sensibly and intelligibly.
Rosalind. But where is the use of learning every thing before we grow
Adelaide. Because, as Mrs. Mortlake says, children (if they are not
too young) learn faster than grown persons; their memories are better,
as they have not yet been overloaded, and they have nothing of
importance to divert their attention from their lessons.
Rosalind. I would rather grow up as ignorant as our tenant's wife,
Dutch Katy, than be made such a slave as I am now. I am sure Katy's life
is an easy one compared to mine.
Adelaide, smiling. Consider it not so deeply.
Rosalind. Yes, I will, for I am out of patience. I wish it was the
fashion to be ignorant.
Adelaide. Fortunately it is not. To say nothing of the disgrace of
being ignorant when it is known we have had opportunities of acquiring
knowledge, persons whose minds are vacant, have but few enjoyments. For
instance, as Josephine knows nothing of music, it gives her no pleasure
to hear the finest singing and playing, even such as Mrs. Mortlake's. As
she has no idea of drawing, she takes not the least delight in looking
at beautiful pictures. Having never been in the habit of reading, she
wonders how it is possible to be amused with a book; and as she has no
knowledge of history or geography, she often, when she does read, is
puzzled with allusions to those subjects; and a French word is as
unintelligible to her, as if it were Greek. Plants and animals do not
interest her, because she has scarcely an idea of the properties or
attributes of any of the productions of Nature. And what is worse than
all, she takes no pleasure in listening to the conversation of sensible
people, because she is incapable of understanding it: her comprehension
being only equal to the most frivolous topics.
Rosalind. Notwithstanding all this, her life passes calmly and
pleasantly; and I am sure she is much happier than we are.
Adelaide. Speak for yourself, dear Rosalind. For my part, I do not
wish to be more happy than I am.
Rosalind. Well, I thought so too, till I knew Josephine. And she is by
no means so dull as you suppose.
Adelaide. Perhaps she is not naturally stupid; but indulgence and
indolence have so benumbed her understanding, that it seems now
incapable of the smallest effort.
At this moment Mrs. Mortlake came down with a book in her hand, for the
"Rosalind," said she, "as my room is over the porch, and the windows are
open, I could not avoid hearing all you have just been saying,
particularly as you spoke very loudly. As I do not wish to see either of
my pupils unhappy, I will gratify your desire, and both you and
Adelaide (if it is also her wish) may pass a week entirely without
occupation; in short, a week of idleness."
Adelaide. O no, dear Mrs. Mortlake: I have no desire to avail myself
of your offer. I would much rather continue my usual employments.
Rosalind. A week of entire leisure! O, how delightful!
Mrs. Mortlake. But, during that time, neither you nor Josephine must
come into the school-room.
Rosalind. O, indeed! we shall not desire it.
Mrs. Mortlake. Neither must you read.
Rosalind. Well!—I am sure I have read enough to last my lifetime.
Where is the use of reading story-books that are all invention,
describing people that never lived; or of poring over voyages and
travels to countries I shall never visit; or of studying the histories
of dead kings.
Mrs. Mortlake. You must not sew.
Rosalind. I never did find it very entertaining to stick a needle
and thread into a piece of muslin, and pull it through again.
Mrs. Mortlake. You must not draw.
Rosalind. I do not see the pleasure of rubbing red, and blue, and
green paint on little plates; and dabbling in tumblers of water with
camel's-hair pencils, and daubing colours on white paper.
Mrs. Mortlake. You must not play on the piano, nor on the harp.
Rosalind. Well! What sense is there in pressing down your fingers
first on bits of ivory, and then on bits of ebony; and staring at
crotchets and quavers all the time? or where is the use of twanging and
jerking the strings of a harp?
Mrs. Mortlake. You must not work in your garden.
Rosalind. So much the better. Then I shall neither dirty my hands with
pulling up the weeds, nor splash my feet with the water-pot.
Mrs. Mortlake. You may sleep as much as you please; but you must not
rise before nine o'clock.
Rosalind. O, how delightful, not to be obliged to jump out of bed at
daylight! Dearest Mrs. Mortlake, if I could have a month of ease and
comfort, instead of only a week—-
Mrs. Mortlake. Well,—if at the end of the week you still desire it,
perhaps I may protract the indulgence to a longer period.
Rosalind. Dear Mrs. Mortlake, how kind you are. When shall my
happiness begin? As to-morrow is Saturday, when we always have a half
holiday, and next day Sunday, when we go to the city to attend church, I
think, notwithstanding my impatience, I would rather commence my week of
felicity regularly on Monday morning.
Mrs. Mortlake. Very well, then. On Monday morning let it be.
Adelaide. I am sorry to hear you call your anticipated week of
idleness a week of felicity.
Rosalind. Oh! I am sure I shall find it so; and you will regret not
having also accepted Mrs. Mortlake's kind offer.
Adelaide. I fear no regret on that subject.
Mrs. Mortlake. Say no more, Adelaide. Wait till we see the event of
Rosalind. I hope Josephine's afternoon nap will not be as long as
usual: I am so impatient to tell her. O, how we shall enjoy ourselves
When Josephine awoke and heard of the new arrangement, she was as much
delighted as she could be at any thing; and she begged that Rosalind
might be allowed to share her chamber during this happy week.
Monday morning came; and Rosalind (such is the power of habit) awoke, as
usual, with the dawn; but soon recollected that she was not to get up
till nine o'clock. She saw the light gleaming through the Venetian
shutters, and she heard the morning song of the scarlet oriole, whose
nest was in a locust tree close to the window; and the twittering of the
martins as they flew about their box, which was affixed to the wall just
below the roof of the house. She heard Adelaide, who was in the next
room, get up to dress herself, and exclaim as she threw open the
shutters, "O, what a beautiful sunrise!" Rosalind felt some desire to
enjoy the loveliness of the early morning; but determined to remain in
bed, and indulge herself with another nap. She turned and shook her
pillow, and tumbled about for a long time before she could get to sleep;
and at last she awoke again just as the clock was striking seven. She
had still two hours to remain in bed, and she found the time extremely
tedious. "Are you asleep, Josephine?" said she. "No," replied Josephine,
"I am never asleep after this hour."
Rosalind. Why, then, do you remain in bed?
Josephine. O, because I hate to get up.
Rosalind. Well then let us talk.
Josephine. O, no! I never talk in bed. For, even when I do not sleep,
I am not quite awake.
At length it was nine; and at the first stroke of the clock, Rosalind
started from her bed, and began to wash and dress herself. When the
girls went down stairs, they found the family breakfast had long been
over, and they had theirs on a little table in a corner of the room.
Rosalind thought her breakfast did not taste very well; probably,
because remaining so long in bed, had taken away her appetite.
After breakfast, they went out and walked a little while in the most
shady part of the garden. Then they sat down; first in the arbour of
honeysuckles, then on the green bank behind the ice-house; then on a
garden chair; and then on the bench at the foot of the great walnut
tree. They picked a few currants and ate them; and they gathered some
roses and smelled them. For some time they held their parasols over
their heads; and then they shut them, and made marks on the gravel with
the ends of the ivory sticks. They looked awhile at a nursery of young
peach-trees at one side of the garden; and then they turned and looked
towards a clover-field on the other side. Josephine pulled the strings
of her reticule backwards and forwards; and Rosalind counted the
palisades in the fence of the kitchen-garden. At last a bright idea
struck her; and she gathered some dandelions that were going to seed,
and blew off the down; recommending the same amusement to Josephine,
who, after two or three trials, gave it up.
"Suppose we go to the play-room," said Rosalind. Josephine assented, and
they slowly walked back to the house, and ascended the stairs. "Now,"
said Rosalind, "we can play domino in the morning. Generally, we never
amuse ourselves with any of those little games in the day-time; though
we have domino, draughts, and loto, sometimes in the evening." They
played domino awhile in a very spiritless manner, and then they tried
draughts and loto, which they also soon gave up; Josephine saying that
all these games required too much attention. She then had recourse to
the rocking-chair, and Rosalind took some white paper and cut fly-traps;
in which amusements they tried to get rid of the time till near the
dinner-hour, when they combed their hair, and changed their dresses.
Adelaide did not join them in the play-room, being much engaged with a
very amusing book.
After dinner, Rosalind, accompanied Josephine to her room to take a nap
likewise. But she found it so warm, and turned and tossed about so much,
and had such difficulty in fixing herself in a comfortable position,
that she thought, if it was not for the name of taking a nap, she had
better have stayed up as usual. Josephine had less difficulty, being
accustomed to afternoon-sleeping; and at length Rosalind shut her eyes,
and fell into a sort of uneasy doze.
When they awoke, Rosalind proposed that they should put on their frocks,
and go down into the porch, where Mrs. Mortlake and Adelaide were
reading and sewing. But Josephine thought it would be much less trouble
to sit in their loose gowns until near tea-time. To this Rosalind
agreed, and they sat and gazed at the river. But it happened this
afternoon that no ships came in, and only one went out; and all the
steamboats kept far over towards the opposite shore. They were glad when
the bell rung for tea; for when people do nothing, their meals are a
sort of amusement, and are therefore expected with anxious interest. In
the evening, they declined joining Mrs. Mortlake and Adelaide in their
usual long walk, and took a short stroll under the willows on the bank
of the river; after which they returned to the parlour, where Mr.
Edington sat reading the newspaper, and Josephine threw herself on the
sofa; while Rosalind sat beside her on a chair, and played with the
Next morning, their amusements in the garden were a little diversified
by playing jack-stones and platting ribbon-grass; and when they went up
to the play-room, Rosalind, looking among her old toys, found a doll
long since laid aside, and a basket with its clothes. She offered the
doll to Josephine proposing that she should dress it: but Josephine said
"I would rather look at you, while you do it." Rosalind accordingly
dressed the doll in two different suits, one after another; but soon
grew tired, and had recourse to an ivory cup and ball, which she failed
to catch with as much dexterity as usual. She gave Josephine a wooden
lemon, which on being opened in the middle, contained a number of other
lemons one within another, and diminishing in size till the last and
smallest was no bigger than a pea. When Josephine had got through the
lemon, Rosalind took it, and resigned the cup and ball to her cousin,
who soon gave it up, as she could never make the cup catch the ball; and
she again finished the morning with her never-failing resource the
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday having been passed in this manner, on
Thursday Rosalind began to acknowledge to herself, what she had indeed
suspected on the first day, that a life of entire idleness was not quite
so agreeable as she had supposed. Having no useful or interesting
occupation to diversify her time, she found that play had lost its
relish; and now that she could play all day, she found all plays
tiresome. These three days had appeared to her of never-ending length;
and she began to think that when her week of idleness had expired she
would not solicit Mrs. Mortlake to prolong the term.
On Thursday afternoon Rosalind gave up her nap, and went and seated
herself at the open window, that she might hear Mrs. Mortlake and
Adelaide read aloud in the porch. And next morning, she actually stopped
and listened at the school-room door while Adelaide was repeating her
French lesson; and she returned again, and stood behind the door, to
hear Mrs. Mortlake instructing her sister in a new song accompanied on
the harp. All that day and the next, she felt as if she was actually
sick of doing nothing; and she absolutely languished to be allowed once
more to take a book and read, or to draw, or play on the piano. Even
sewing, she thought, would now seem delightful to her.
On Saturday morning Rosalind met Adelaide in her brown linen apron with
long sleeves, going into the housekeeper's room to assist in making
cakes and pastry. She longed to go in with her, and to do her part as
formerly; and her longing increased when she heard the sound of beating
eggs, and grinding spice. She had hitherto looked forward with great
pleasure to her holiday on Saturday afternoon. Now, after doing nothing
all the week, Saturday afternoon had no charms for her; and she was glad
to find it was to be devoted to a ride in the carriage, through a
pleasant part of the adjacent country.
"Well, Rosalind," said Josephine, as they were taking off their bonnets,
after their return from the ride, "you have now spent a week in my
way. Do you not wish you could pass your whole life in the same manner?"
Rosalind. No, indeed—nor even another week. This week of idleness has
seemed to me like a month; and I have no desire to renew the
experiment. I have never in my life gone to bed so tired as after those
days of doing nothing. I find that want of occupation is to me absolute
misery; though it may be very delightful to you, as you have been
brought up in a different manner, and have never been accustomed to any
sort of employment. Yet, still I think you would be much happier, if you
had something to do.
In the evening Mr. Edington said to his youngest daughter, "Well,
Rosalind, how do you like your week of idleness? Are you going to
request Mrs. Mortlake to lengthen the term of your enjoyment?"
Rosalind. O no, dear father; it has been no enjoyment to me. On the
contrary, I am glad to think that it is now over. I have found it
absolutely a punishment.
Mr. Edington. So I suspected.
Rosalind. And I deserved it, for allowing myself to become
dissatisfied with the manner in which Mrs. Mortlake chose that I should
occupy myself. I am tired of lying in bed, tired of idleness, and tired
of play. So, dear Mrs. Mortlake, be so kind as to let me rise at
daylight on Monday morning, to work in my garden, and resume my lessons
as usual. You may depend on it I shall never again wish for a single
day of idleness.
Mrs. Mortlake. I am very glad to hear you say so, my dear Rosalind.
And I do not despair of at length convincing Josephine that she would be
more happy if she had some regular employment.
That night Rosalind returned to her own chamber, and next morning she
was up at daylight. It being Sunday, they went as usual to church in the
city, and Rosalind was now delighted to pass the remainder of the day in
reading a volume of Mrs. Sherwood's excellent work, the Lady of the
Manor. A book now seemed like a novelty to her.
Next day Rosalind went through her lessons with a pleasure she had never
felt before; and when they were over, she highly enjoyed her two hours'
recreation after dinner. She took no more afternoon naps; and after a
short time even Josephine was persuaded to give them up, and found it
possible, with some practice, to keep awake while her cousins or Mrs.
Mortlake were reading aloud in the porch.
Finally, Josephine became ashamed of being the only idle person in Mr.
Edington's house, and was prevailed on by her uncle and Mrs. Mortlake to
join her cousins in their lessons. By degrees, and by giving her only a
very little to learn at a time, and by having constantly before her such
good examples as Adelaide and Rosalind, she entirely conquered her love
of idleness. She was really not deficient in natural capacity, and she
soon began to take pleasure in trying to improve herself; so that when
she returned to Maryland, she carried with her a newly acquired taste
for rational pursuits, which she never afterwards lost.