Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Angel over the Right Shoulder

John Kendrick Bangs

  Produced by Internet Archive; University of Florida, Children, and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team.


  The Angel over the Right Shoulder


  The Angel over the Right Shoulder

  or the





  The Angel over the Right Shoulder

  * * * * *

  "There! a woman's work is never done," said Mrs. James; "I thought, foronce, I was through; but just look at that lamp, now! it will not burn,and I must go and spend half an hour over it."

  "Don't you wish you had never been married?" said Mr. James, with agood-natured laugh.

  "Yes"--rose to her lips, but was checked by a glance at the group uponthe floor, where her husband was stretched out, and two little urchinswith sparkling eyes and glowing cheeks, were climbing and tumbling overhim, as if they found in this play the very essence of fun.

  She did say, "I should like the good, without the evil, if I could haveit."

  "You have no evils to endure," replied her husband.

  "That is just all you gentlemen know about it. What would you think, ifyou could not get an uninterrupted half hour to yourself, from morningtill night? I believe you would give up trying to do anything."

  "There is no need of that; all you want, is _system_. If you arrangedyour work systematically, you would find that you could command yourtime."

  "Well," was the reply, "all I wish is, that you could just follow mearound for one day, and see what I have to do. If you could reduce itall to system, I think you would show yourself a genius."

  When the lamp was trimmed, the conversation was resumed. Mr. James hademployed the "half hour," in meditating on this subject.

  "Wife," said he, as she came in, "I have a plan to propose to you, and Iwish you to promise me beforehand, that you will accede to it. It is tobe an experiment, I acknowledge, but I wish it to have a fair trial. Nowto please me, will you promise?"

  Mrs. James hesitated. She felt almost sure that his plan would be quiteimpracticable, for what does a man know of a woman's work? yet shepromised.

  "Now I wish you," said he, "to set apart two hours of every day for yourown private use. Make a point of going to your room and locking yourselfin; and also make up your mind to let the work which is not done, goundone, if it must. Spend this time on just those things which will bemost profitable to yourself. I shall bind you to your promise for onemonth--then, if it has proved a total failure, we will devise somethingelse."

  "When shall I begin?"


  The morrow came. Mrs. James had chosen the two hours before dinner asbeing, on the whole, the most convenient and the least liable tointerruption. They dined at one o'clock. She wished to finish hermorning work, get dressed for the day, and enter her room at eleven.

  Hearty as were her efforts to accomplish this, the hour of eleven foundher with her work but half done; yet, true to her promise, she left all,retired to her room and locked the door.

  With some interest and hope, she immediately marked out a course ofreading and study, for these two precious hours; then, arranging hertable, her books, pen and paper, she commenced a schedule of her workwith much enthusiasm. Scarcely had she dipped her pen in ink, when sheheard the tramping of little feet along the hall, and then a pounding ather door.

  "Mamma! mamma! I cannot find my mittens, and Hannah is going to slidewithout me."

  "Go to Amy, my dear; mamma is busy."

  "So Amy busy too; she say she can't leave baby."

  The child began to cry, still standing close to the fastened door. Mrs.James knew the easiest, and indeed the only way of settling the trouble,was to go herself and hunt up the missing mittens. Then a parley mustbe held with Frank, to induce him to wait for his sister, and thechild's tears must be dried, and little hearts must be all set rightbefore the children went out to play; and so favorable an opportunitymust not be suffered to slip, without impressing on young minds theimportance of having a "place for everything and everything in itsplace;" this took time; and when Mrs. James returned to her study, herwatch told her that _half_ her portion had gone. Quietly resuming herwork, she was endeavoring to mend her broken train of thought, whenheavier steps were heard in the hall, and the fastened door was oncemore besieged. Now, Mr. James must be admitted.

  "Mary," said he, "cannot you come and sew a string on for me? I dobelieve there is not a bosom in my drawer in order, and I am in a greathurry. I ought to have been down town an hour ago."

  The schedule was thrown aside, the workbasket taken, and Mrs. Jamesfollowed him. She soon sewed on the tape, but then a button neededfastening--and at last a rip in his glove, was to be mended. As Mrs.James stitched away on the glove, a smile lurked in the corners of hermouth, which her husband observed.

  "What are you laughing at?" asked he.

  "To think how famously your plan works."

  "I declare!" said he, "is this your study hour? I am sorry, but what cana man do? He cannot go down town without a shirt bosom!"

  "Certainly not," said his wife, quietly.

  When her liege lord was fairly equipped and off, Mrs. James returned toher room. A half an hour yet remained to her, and of this shedetermined to make the most. But scarcely had she resumed her pen, whenthere was another disturbance in the entry. Amy had returned fromwalking out with the baby, and she entered the nursery with him, thatshe might get him to sleep. Now it happened that the only room in thehouse which Mrs. James could have to herself with a fire, was the oneadjoining the nursery. She had become so accustomed to the ordinarynoise of the children, that it did not disturb her; but the veryextraordinary noise which master Charley sometimes felt called upon tomake, when he was fairly on his back in the cradle, did disturb theunity of her thoughts. The words which she was reading rose and fellwith the screams and lulls of the child, and she felt obliged to closeher book, until the storm was over. When quiet was restored in thecradle, the children came in from sliding, crying with cold fingers--andjust as she was going to them, the dinner-bell rang.

  "How did your new plan work this morning?" inquired Mr. James.

  "Famously," was the reply, "I read about seventy pages of German, and asmany more in French."

  "I am sure _I_ did not hinder you long."

  "No--yours was only one of a dozen interruptions."

  "O, well! you must not get discouraged. Nothing succeeds well the firsttime. Persist in your arrangement, and by and by the family will learnthat if they want anything of you, they must wait until after dinner."

  "But what can a man do?" replied his wife; "he cannot go down townwithout a shirt-bosom."

  "I was in a bad case," replied Mr. James, "it may not happen again. I amanxious to have you try the month out faithfully, and then we will seewhat has come of it."

  The second day of trial was a stormy one. As the morning was dark,Bridget over-slept, and consequently breakfast was too late by an hour.This lost hour Mrs. James could not recover. When the clock struckeleven, she seemed but to have commenced her morning's work, so muchremained to be done. With mind disturbed and spirits depressed, she lefther household matters "in the suds," as they were, and punctuallyretired to her study. She soon found, however, that she could not fixher attention upon any intellectual pursuit. Neglected duties hauntedher, like ghosts around the guilty conscience. Perceiving that she wasdoing nothing with her books, and not wishing to lose the morningwholly, she commenced writing a letter. Bridget interrupted her beforeshe had proceeded far on the first page.

  "What, ma'am, shall we have for dinner? No marketing ha'
n't come."

  "Have some steaks, then."

  "We ha'n't got none, ma'am."

  "I will send out for some, directly."

  Now there was no one to send but Amy, and Mrs. James knew it. With asigh, she put down her letter and went into the nursery.

  "Amy, Mr. James has forgotten our marketing. I should like to have yourun over to the provision store, and order some beef-steaks. I will staywith the baby."

  Amy was not much pleased to be sent out on this errand. She remarked,that "she must change her dress first."

  "Be as quick as possible," said Mrs. James, "for I am particularlyengaged at this hour."

  Amy neither obeyed, nor disobeyed, but managed to take her own time,without any very