“Who was that you bowed to, Henry?”
“I’ll tell you another time,” he said; for he had a good deal to tell her about Angel Flower.
THE MOTHER OF AN ANGEL
The Man in Possession was becoming more and more a favourite at Mr. Flower’s. One day Mr. Flower, taking pity on his loneliness, suggested that he might possibly prefer to have his lunch in company with them all down at the house. Henry gladly embraced the proposal, and thus became the daily honoured guest of a family, each member of which had some simple human attraction for him. He had already won the heart of simple Mrs. Flower, few and brief as had been his encounters with her, and that heart she had several times coined in unexpected cakes and other dainties of her own making; but when he thus became partially domiciled with the family, she was his slave outright. There was a reason for this, which will need, and may perhaps excuse, a few lines entirely devoted to Mrs. Flower, who, on her own peculiar merits, deserves them.
Perhaps to introduce Eliza Flower in this way is to take her more seriously than any of her affectionate acquaintance were able to do. For, somehow, people had a bad habit of laughing at Mrs. Flower, though they admitted she was the hardest-working, best-hearted little housewife in the world. Housewife in fact she was in excelsis, not to say ad absurdum. No little woman who worked herself to skin-and-bone to keep things straight, and the home comfortable, was ever a more typical “squaw.” Whatever her religious opinions, which, one may be sure, were inflexibly orthodox, there can be no question that Mr. Flower was her god, and, as the hymn says, heaven was her home. To serve God and Mr. Flower were to her the same thing; and there can be little doubt that a god who had no socks to darn, or linen to keep spotless, was a god whom Mrs. Flower would have found it impossible to conceive.
A more complete and delighted absorption in the physical comforts and nourishments of the human creature than Mrs. Flower’s, it would be impossible for dreamer to imagine. Such an absolute adjustment between a being of presumably infinite aspirations and immortal discontents and its environment, is a happiness seldom encountered by philosophers. To think of death for poor Mrs. Flower was to conceive a homelessness peculiarly pathetic; unless, indeed, there are kitcheners to superintend, beds to make, rooms to “turn out,” and four spring-cleanings a year in heaven. Of what use else was the bewildering gift of immortality to one who was touchingly mortal in all her tastes? Indeed, Henry used to say that Mrs. Flower was the most convincing argument against the immortality of the soul that he had ever met.
Yet, though it was quite evident that there was nothing in the world else she cared so much to do, and though indeed it was equally evident that she was one of the best-natured little creatures in the world, she did not deny herself a certain more or less constant asperity of reference to occupations which kept her on her feet from morning till night, and made her the slave of the whole house, in spite of four big idle daughters. And she with rheumatism too, so bad that she could hardly get up and down stairs!