Janice Day the Young Homemaker

Author: Helen Beecher Long

Chapter I. When Mother Was a Girl

"Why, that is Arlo Junior. What can he be doing out of doors so early? And look at those cats following him. Did you ever!" Janice Day stared wonderingly from her front bedroom window at the boy crossing the street in the dim pre-dawn light, with a cat and three half-grown kittens gamboling about him. Occasionally Arlo Junior would shake something out of a paper to the ground and the cats would immediately roll and frolic and slap playfully at one another, acting as the girl had never seen cats act before.

The pleasantly situated cottage belonging to Mr. Broxton Day stood almost directly across the way from the Arlo Weeks’ place on Knight Street. Therefore Janice often said that, "the days and nights and weeks are very close together!"

Knight Street, as level as the palm of one’s hand, led straight into Greensboro, where it crossed Market and Hammond Streets, making the Six Corners—actually the heart of the business district of this thriving mid-western town.

The Day cottage was a mile and a half from the Six Corners and the Farmers & Merchants Bank in which Mr. Broxton Day held an important salaried position. Besides his house and his situation in the bank, Mr. Day considered another of his possessions very important indeed, although he did not list it when he made out his tax return.

This that he so highly valued possessed the very brightest hazel eyes in the world, wore a wealth of free brown hair in two plaits over her shoulders, and was of a slender figure without bordering upon that unfortunate "skinniness" which nature abhors as she does a vacuum.

Janice possessed, also, even teeth that flashed when she smiled (and she smiled often), a pink and white complexion that the sun was bound to freckle if she was not careful, and a cheerful, demure expression of countenance that went a long way toward making her good to look upon, if not actually good looking.

In a spick and span blue-checked bungalow apron, she stood at her window just as Dawn swept a brush of partially-hued color across the eastern horizon. Having had it in her mind when she went to bed the night before to arise early, she had of course awakened long before it was really time to get up to make sure that daddy, for once, got a proper breakfast.

For the Days, father and daughter, were dependent on hired service, and such service in the form of Olga Cedarstrom was about as incapable and stupid as fate had yet produced.

Having caught the first glimpse of that mischievous youngster, Arlo Weeks, Junior, with the cats, Janice raised her window softly as far as the lower sash would go, to peer out at the strange procession. The boy and the cats entered the Day’s side gate and disappeared around the comer of the kitchen ell.

"Now! what can that rascal be about? If he does anything to bother Olga there will be trouble. And everything here goes crossways enough now, without Arlo Junior adding to it, I declare!"

Janice could very clearly remember when the cottage had been a real home instead of "just a place to stay"; for her mother had been dead only a year. The experiences of that year had been trying, both for the sorrowing widower and the girl who had been her mother’s close companion and confidant.

Janice was old enough and well trained enough in domestic affairs to have kept house very nicely for her father. But she had to go to school, of course; an education was the most important thing in the world for her. And the kind of help that came into the Days’ kitchen often balked at being "bossed by a slip of a gur-r-rl," as one recent incumbent of the position had said.

Olga Cedarstrom was stupid and often cross in the morning; and she was careless and slatternly in her ways. But she did not object when Janice came down early to get her father’s breakfast, and serve it daintily, as her mother had taught her.

Only, Olga could not be taught to do these things. She did not want to learn. She said she had a "fella" and would be married soon; and under the circumstances she did not consider that she needed to learn anything more about domestic work!

Janice did not wish to go down into the kitchen so early, for that would awaken Olga who would come from her room, bleary-eyed with sleep and with her temper at a saw-tooth edge, to ask, "why she bane get oop in de middle of de night?"

Janice had washed and dressed and read her morning Bible chapter, which she always managed to find time for, even when she did not get up as early as on this occasion. For her age, and perhaps because of her mother’s death, which still seemed recent to Janice, she was rather serious-minded. Yet she was no prig, and she loved fun and was as alert for good times as any girl of her age in Greensboro.

The talk she had had overnight with daddy had perhaps put her in a rather more serious mood than usual. The talk had been all about her mother and the hopes the mother and father had had and the plans they had made for their little girl’s future.

To carry through those plans necessitated the proper schooling of Janice Day. She was already in the upper grade of the grammar school. Even if the household affairs were all "at sixes and at sevens," she must stick to her books, for she had ambitions. She was quite sure she wanted to teach when she grew up.

There was another reason that spurred Janice Day to the point of early rising, although daddy had not even hinted that he missed the comfortable, daintily served breakfasts which he used to enjoy when Mrs. Day was alive. It was something he had said about an entirely different matter that started this serious train of thought in the girl’s mind.

She had expressed herself as so many of us do when we are in difficulties, or when we see conditions we would like to have changed: "Oh, if things were only different!"

Broxton Day had looked at her with his head held sideways and a quizzical smile in his eyes as well as on his lips.

"Different? Do you want to know how to bring about a change? Do something. Don’t just talk, or think, or wonder, or wish, or hope; but do! It is all right to say that good things become a reality because somebody has a good thought. Actually, thinking does not bring things about. It is doing. Do something in the world, my dear. Don’t wait for somebody else to set the example, or to lead. Do what you can yourself while you are waiting for a leader. Do something.

"Of course thought must precede action, and, furthermore, must accompany action if action is not to run wild. But in the end thought must become action and we must all of us—little girls, as well as adults—do something if the conditions we do not like are to be changed."

That was really what had got Janice Day out of bed so early on this morning. Poor daddy! He sometimes had most awful meals served to him. And the house was usually in a state of confusion if it was not actually dirty.

Olga had come straight from a peasant cottage in her

country, and her idea of scrubbing the kitchen floor was to dash pails of water over it and then sweep the water out of the back door with a broom.

There was a Swedish colony established around the pickle factories on the northern edge of the town, and Olga went over there with her "fella" to a dance or downtown or to a picture show almost every evening. No wonder she was not fit for work in the morning.

When Janice had come up to bed the previous evening she had brought with her the "treasure-box" which daddy usually kept in the wall safe in the living room. It contained certain heirlooms and trinkets that had been her mother’s, and were now Janice’s most sacred possessions.

She had had to beg daddy for the treasure-box, for he, too, prized its contents beyond words. But Janice was a careful girl, and daddy trusted her, and he knew, too, that the mementoes of her dead mother seemed to bring the woman closer to the little daughter; and so, in the end, he had allowed Janice to carry the treasure-box to her room to be kept for the night, but to be returned to its usual place after the girl had had it by her and looked at its contents for a while.

There were a few pieces of jewelry—more valuable for their associations than for their intrinsic worth, the gold framed photographs of Grandfather and Grandmother Avion, which clasped like a little book, and the miniature of Janice’s mother painted on ivory when she was a girl by a painter who had since become very famous.

This last was the girl’s dearest possession—the memento of her mother which she cared for above everything else. Daddy had put it into her keeping with a reverence that could not fail to impress Janice Day, young as she was. Broxton Day had worshipped his wife for her higher qualities as well as having loved her for her human attributes.

Something of this attitude toward his dead wife Janice, young as she was, understood. She knew, for instance, that there was no other woman in the world as a mate for Broxton Day now that her mother was gone. All the more must she try, therefore, to fill her mother’s place in his life.

She had taken the miniature out of the treasure-box and was looking with dimming eyes at it by the window when, shifting her glance, she had seen Arlo Weeks, Junior, crossing the street. This was her mother when she was a girl! What a sweet, demure face it was. Janice did not realize that much of the expression of the countenance in this miniature was visualized in the flesh in her own face.

No wonder daddy had fallen in love with such a pretty, pretty girl! So thought Janice Day. And—

What was Arlo Junior, the mischievous torment of the neighborhood, doing with those cats? This sudden query shattered her dream completely. She returned the miniature to the treasure-box, and closed and latched the cover.

"Goodness knows," murmured Janice Day, "there are cats enough around this house without Arlo Junior bringing any more upon the premises. Sometimes I hear them squalling and fighting when I wake up in the night."

With the treasure-box in her hand, she opened her bedroom door and crossed the hall to the storeroom. The window of this room was over the back porch. She heard a step on the porch flooring. The door of the summer kitchen was seldom locked. Was Arlo Junior down there?

That boy was constantly getting into trouble with the neighbors. There was a regular feud between Olga Cedarstrom and Arlo Junior. Olga had chased him half a block only the other day, threatening him with a broom.

And the cats! Here they came from all directions—over the back yard fences and from the barn. Fat cats, lean cats, shabby "ash-barrel" cats, and pet cats with ribbons and collars. Amazedly, Janice Day owned to herself that she had never seen so many cats gathered in a more or less harmonious group before.

Instead of fighting or "mauling," they approached the back porch of the Day house as though on pleasure bent. Was that Arlo Junior giggling down there?

She put down the treasure-box and tried to open the window. But the sash stuck. She distinctly heard the door below close and footsteps receding from the porch.

Wishing to make sure that it was Arlo Junior who had been below, the girl ran back to her bedroom. Yes! there he was scuttling across the street in evident haste to get under cover.

"Now, isn’t that odd?" murmured Janice. Suddenly a sound floated up from below—an echoing wail that seemed wrenched from the very soul of a tortured cat. The cry reverberated through the house in a most eerie fashion.

Fortunately her father slept in the front of the house and there was a closed door between the front and the back halls on both floors. But Janice heard Olga’s big, flat feet land upon the floor almost instantly. That feline wail had evidently brought the Swedish girl out of her dreams, all standing.

That sound sent Janice out of the room on a run. She must reach the seat of trouble before Olga got to the place! Otherwise, the trouble was bound to increase and become—what? Even Janice’s imagination, trained, as it was, by the succession of incompetent and unwilling kitchen helpers, could not picture that.

Before Janice Day could reach the hall, Olga was padding down the stairs to the kitchen. From the rear arose increasing howls. The cats may have mysteriously gathered in apparent amity; but so many of them shut up in that outer kitchen with no escape could not possibly dwell for long in harmony.

There certainly was no harmony in these mounting wails. The principle motif seemed to be furnished by the cat that had first voiced his complaint. But now, as Janice plunged down the stairs after Olga, the thin, high scream of the initial feline chorister was crossed, in warp and woof, by basset strains.

The sounds rose and fell, as though proceeding from cats in torment—an agonizing oratorio like nothing Janice had ever heard before. She screamed to the Swedish girl, but her voice was drowned by the caterwauling in the back kitchen. Olga wrenched open the door. Janice, arriving to look over her shoulder at the very moment she did so, saw the back kitchen practically filled with cats.

When one cat loses its temper it seems as though every other cat within hearing gets excited. In the corners, out of the way of the battlefield, kittens and tabbies were rolling and playing upon the dried twigs and leaves that Janice knew must be catnip that Arlo Junior had flung upon the floor to bait the cats into the kitchen. But the cats in the middle of the room were preparing for the representation of a busy day at Donnebrook Fair.

"Them cats! In de clean kitchen what I scrubbed last night only I bane kill them cats!" And there was not a cat in the lot as mad as Olga Cedarstrom.

There was a hod of coal beside her. Olga seized the good-sized lumps of stove coal, one after another, and began volleying with a strong overhand throw at the excited animals.

Olga proved to be an excellent shot. She hit a cat with almost every lump of coal she threw. But she could not, after all, have easily failed to do this, there were so many cats in the kitchen.

"Oh, don’t! Don’t, Olga! Stop!" shrieked Janice. "You will hurt them"

"Hurt them?" repeated the girl. "I bane mean to hurt dem" and, slam! went another lump of coal.

"But they can’t get out!" gasped Janice.

"Den how dey get in, huh?" demanded Olga, and threw another lump with terrific force.

There was a howl, higher and more blood-curdling than any that had heretofore assailed their ears. One big cat scrambled up the wall, and up the window panes, seeking an exit. One of the creature’s legs dragged limply.

"Olga Cedarstrom!" shrieked Janice, "you have broken that poor cat’s leg."

"I bane break all his legs!" rejoined this quite ferocious girl. "How dese cats coom here? I bane sure you know!"

She turned to glare at Janice Day so savagely, a lump of coal poised in her smutted hand, that the girl was really frightened. She backed away from the angry woman.

Then she thought of something she might do to save the cats and the back kitchen from complete wreck. Janice darted out of the room to the porch. In a moment she had unlatched the summer-kitchen door and flung it wide open.

Instantly there boiled out of the room cats big and cats little, cats of all colors and every degree of fright. One of the last to escape was the poor cat with the broken leg. There was nothing Janice Day could do for it. She did not dare to try to touch it.

She ventured back into the house to find Olga Cedarstrom still breathing out threatenings and slaughter. Olga was in her nightgown and a wrapper. She had not even stopped for slippers when she came from her bed. Now she padded to the back stairs, turning to shake her clenched fist at Janice and cry:

"I leave! I leave! I bane going to pack my troonk. The man pay me oop to last night, and I leave!"

"I am glad of it!" gasped Janice, finding her voice again. "It wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t the poor cats’ fault. I am glad you are going, so there!"

But she became more serious as she prepared the nice breakfast she had promised herself the night before her father should have. She heard Olga go to the telephone in the hall. She called a number and then talked in Swedish for several minutes to whoever answered.

Janice’s father came into the dining room just as his little daughter brought in the breakfast. When he saw the steaming coffee pot and the covered dishes and toast-rack his face brightened. But he had to be told of the domestic catastrophe impending.

"Well," he said cheerfully, "we couldn’t get anybody any worse than Olga, that is sure. I will see what they have at the intelligence office, and I may send a woman up after you get home from school this afternoon. I’ll ’phone you first, daughter. I don’t have to see Olga, do I? She was paid last night."

No, Janice told him, he need not bother about a servant who was on the point of going. Before it was time for Janice to leave for school, a taxicab appeared, driven by a man of Olga’s own nationality. He went upstairs for the girl’s trunk.

This he shouldered and carried out to the cab. Olga followed him, wearing the red hat with the green plume which had so amused Janice when the Swedish girl had arrived. She drove away in the cab without even looking back at Janice Day.

The latter had tidied up the kitchen and dining room. The back kitchen would have to remain as it was until later. And Janice felt that she would like to get hold of Arlo Weeks, Junior, and make him clean up that kitchen!

She changed to her school dress, strapped together the books she had studied the night before, put on her hat, and stood a moment in the hall, wondering if all would be right until she should return at three o’clock.

And then for the first time, and suddenly, Janice remembered the treasure-box.

She darted upstairs to her bedroom. How careless of her to have left it there! She knew the simple combination of the wall safe in the living room, and She determined to open the safe and put the box away.

But when she entered her bedroom she found that the treasure-box was not there. Instantly she remembered having taken it with her when she ran into the storeroom to see what Arlo Junior was doing with the cats.

In trying to open the window in the storeroom she had set the box down on a trunk—on Olga’s trunk.

Startled, indeed alarmed and shaking, Janice Day went as fast as she could to, the storeroom. Olga’s trunk was gone. She did not see the treasure-box anywhere in the room.

She searched the room diligently. She ran from room to room—Olga’s, her own, even the other bedrooms. She halted at last in her own room, sobbing and alarmed.

The treasure-box was gone. Olga’s trunk had gone. Olga herself had gone.

And the photographs of Grandfather and Grandmother Avion, the old-fashioned jewelry, the diary her mother had kept as a little girl, the miniature Janice thought so much of—all, all the keepsakes her father had entrusted her with the night before, seemed to have gone With Olga and the trunk.


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Chicago: Helen Beecher Long, "Chapter I. When Mother Was a Girl," Janice Day the Young Homemaker, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 in Janice Day the Young Homemaker (New York: Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1906), Original Sources, accessed May 25, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5GJT2LDJF3LZ549.

MLA: Long, Helen Beecher. "Chapter I. When Mother Was a Girl." Janice Day the Young Homemaker, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, in Janice Day the Young Homemaker, Vol. 22, New York, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, 1906, Original Sources. 25 May. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5GJT2LDJF3LZ549.

Harvard: Long, HB, 'Chapter I. When Mother Was a Girl' in Janice Day the Young Homemaker, ed. . cited in 1906, Janice Day the Young Homemaker, Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 25 May 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5GJT2LDJF3LZ549.