One woman, to whom the name of Charlotte had been given, signified a desire to learn the domestic ways of the whites, and asked of me as a favor through Madame Paquette that she might be permitted to come on “washing-day,” and learn of my servants our way of managing the business. A tub was given her, and my woman instructed her, by signs and example, how she was to manage. As I was not a little curious to observe how things went on, I proceeded after a time to the kitchen where they all were. Charlotte was at her tub, scouring and rubbing with all her might at her little crucifix. Two other squaws sat upon the floor near her, watching the operation.
“That is the work she has been at for the last half-hour,” said Josette, in a tone of great impatience. “She’ll never learn to wash.”
Charlotte, however, soon fell diligently to work, and really seemed as if she would tear her arms off, with her violent exertions.
After a time, supposing that she must feel a good deal fatigued and exhausted with the unaccustomed labor, I did what it was at that day very much the fashion to do,—what, at home, I had always seen done on washing-day,—what, in short, I imagine was then a general custom among housekeepers. I went to the dining-room closet, intending to give Charlotte a glass of wine or brandy and water. My “cupboard” proved to be in the state of the luckless “Mother Hubbard’s”—nothing of the kind could I find but a bottle of orange shrub.
Of this I poured out a wineglassful, and, carrying it out, offered it to the woman. She took it with an expression of great pleasure; but, in carrying it to her lips, she stopped short, and exclaiming, “Whiskey!” immediately returned it to me. I would still have pressed it upon her; for, in my inexperience, I really believed it was a cordial she needed; but, pointing to her crucifix, she shook her head and returned to her work.
I received this as a lesson more powerful than twenty sermons. It was the first time in my life that I had ever seen spirituous liquors rejected upon a religious principle, and it made an impression upon me that I never forgot.