Trouble in the Ellis Family.
Since the receipt of Mr. Garie’s letter, Mrs. Ellis and Caddy had been busily engaged in putting the house in a state of preparation for their reception. Caddy, whilst superintending its decoration, felt herself in Elysium. For the first time in her life she had the supreme satisfaction of having two unfortunate house-cleaners entirely at her disposal; consequently, she drove them about and worried them to an extent unparalleled in any of their former experience. She sought for and discovered on the windows (which they had fondly regarded as miracles of cleanliness) sundry streaks and smears, and detected infinite small spots of paint and whitewash on the newly-scrubbed floors. She followed them upstairs and downstairs, and tormented them to that extent, that Charlie gave it as his private opinion that he should not be in the least surprised, on going up there, to find that the two old women had made away with Caddy, and hidden her remains in the coal-bin. Whilst she was thus engaged, to Charlie was assigned the duty of transporting to Winter-street her diurnal portion of food, without a hearty share of which she found it impossible to maintain herself in a state of efficiency; her labours in chasing the women about the house being of a rather exhausting nature.
When he made the visits in question, Charlie was generally reconnoitred by his sister from a window over the door, and was compelled to put his shoes through a system of purification, devised by her for his especial benefit. It consisted of three courses of scraper, and two of mat; this being considered by her as strictly necessary to bring his shoes to such a state of cleanliness as would entitle him to admission into the premises of which she was the temporary mistress.
Charlie, on two or three occasions finding a window open, made stealthy descents upon the premises without first having duly observed these quarantine regulations; whereupon he was attacked by Caddy, who, with the assistance of the minions under her command, so shook and pummelled him as to cause his precipitate retreat through the same opening by which he had entered, and that, too, in so short a space of time as to make the whole manoeuvre appear to him in the light of a well-executed but involuntary feat of ground and lofty tumbling. One afternoon he started with his sister’s dinner, consisting of a dish of which she was particularly fond, and its arrival was therefore looked for with unusual anxiety. Charlie, having gorged himself to an almost alarming extent, did not make the haste that the case evidently demanded; and as he several times stopped to act as umpire in disputed games of marbles (in the rules of which he was regarded as an authority), he necessarily consumed a great deal of time on the way.
Caddy’s patience was severely tried by the long delay, and her temper, at no time the most amiable, gathered bitterness from the unprecedented length of her fast. Therefore, when he at length appeared, walking leisurely up Winter-street, swinging the kettle about in the most reckless manner, and setting it down on the pavement to play leap-frog over the fire-plugs, her wrath reached a point that boded no good to the young trifler.