Quick Navigation

Sunday, May 28, 2017
Founders' Building Hours: Founders' Reference Desk: Founders' Circulation Desk:
All Locations Hours

Mrs. Cordner's Reformation by Rev. Horatio Alger, Jr.

Author: Alger, Horatio, 1832-1899.
Title: Mrs. Cordner's Reformation.
In: Gleason's Literary Companion. Boston : F. Gleason. Vol. 6, no. 33 (August 19, 1865)
Format: 4 columns ; 28 cm.
Horatio Alger Collection.
Other Title: Gleason's Literary Companion
Location: AP 2 .L546a (Special Collections)
Optically scanned and encoded by Mark A. Williams
Horatio Alger Digital Serials Project, Northern llinois University Libraries
DeKalb, IL

James Cordner finished his day's work at five o'clock. Washing his hands and putting on his coat he left his shop, and bent his steps in the direction of home. The distance between the two places was about a quarter of a mile.

Opening the back door, he came near stepping into a tub of dirty water which had been left there. With a little sigh he moved it carefully aside, and entered the kitchen, which presented a scene of rare confusion. The table was covered with a miscellaneous assortment of articles, some of which seemed hardly in place. Among them was a brush and comb, and some apple-parings which had been carelessly laid there by one of the children. A pan of milk was in one chair, a pair of muddy shoes in another, a dust-pan in a third, and in a fourth, some molasses appeared to have been spilt. His wife's shawl was thrown over the back of the same chair, one corner besmeared with molasses. In the middle of the floor, which was exceedingly dirty, the youngest child lay stretched out asleep.

James Cordner looked around him, and his heart sank within him. He was neat and orderly by instinct. In his shop there was exhibited perfect neatness. All his tools—he was a cabinet maker—were carefully put away in their places. But at his home his wife managed matters, and she unfortunately lacked the valuable qualities which her husband possessed. A room of confusion did not offend her eye, or, if it did originally, she had come to think that it was impossible to have things otherwise where there were children.

Mr. Cordner passed into the next room— the sitting room. Here his wife sat in a dirty calico dress. Her comb had fallen out and let her hair fall over her shoulders. Not an article of furniture seemed in its right place. The lounge had been drawn into the middle of the room, and was covered with a miscellaneous assortment of articles. But I need not go into details ; the room was at "sixes and sevens," —a phrase which will be understood by all housekeepers.

James Cordner's brow involuntarily contracted with a frown as he surveyed the disorderly scene.

"It seems to me, Ellen," said he, "that things are looking worse than usual."


'It seems to me, Ellen, that things are looking worse than usual.'

"It seems to me, Ellen, that things are looking worse than usual."

"What do you mean?"

"Look around and you will see what I mean."

"Oh, well," said Mrs. Cordner, carelessly, "with three children you can't expect things kept straight. Children are always disorderly."

"Not if they are taught to be orderly."

"Oh, I am to blame," returned the wife, in an aggrieved tone. "Little you men know of a woman's work."

"I don't doubt you have considerable to do; but so do others who manage to keep their houses neat. There's Mrs. Furbush—"

"Oh, yes, I knew you'd bring up Mrs. Furbush," said his wife, with the air of a martyr.

"Why shouldn't I? She has one more child than you, and as much to do, yet her house always looks neat."

"It's a pity you hadn't married Mrs. Furbush," exclaimed Mrs Cordner, bitterly.

"I shall have no disposition to exchange you for her or any one else, if you will only make my home a little more orderly. It don't seem to me that it would take long to improve the looks of things."

"Oh, no, of course not—a woman's work is nothing."

Meanwhile Mr. Cordner had been moving about quietly, putting the furniture into place, putting the scattered newspapers into a pile by themselves, the books together, picking up the articles of apparel, and carrying them out into the entry, collecting the children's playthings and storing them where they belonged. It took not more than five minutes, and affected a decided improvement.

"There, Ellen," said he, "it seems to me that the room looks much better than before."

Mrs. Cordner looked around her, and while she could not help secretly admitting that it did, she maintained a dignified silence. She got up and went out to prepare supper, which in due time was on the table.

Unfortunately her husband's remonstrances produced no lasting change. The condition of things was slightly improved the next day, but not much. After a time Mr. Cordner, despairing of remedying matters, got into the habit of straying away after supper,—sometimes into a neighbor's, but more frequently into the tavern, to which all were welcome at all times.

Mrs. Cordner soon noticed the change. She loved her husband, though she took little pains to gratify what she knew to be his tastes, and the evenings seemed long and lonely without him.

"Won't you stop at home this evening, James?" she said on one occasion.

He looked around him. Things were in pretty much the same condition as described at the commencement of our story.

"I have an engagement this evening," said he evasively. "I shall be obliged to go out."

"You seem to have engagments every evening?"

"A good many."

"I really believe the neighbors see more of you than I do. I wonder how often you are in at the Furbush's?"

"Well, its a pleasant place to call,—everything looks neat and comfortable."

"Very well,—good evening," said Mrs Cordner, somewhat sharply.

Another lonely evening awaited her. By eight o'clock all her children were in bed, and she was left to her own reflections.

"So James finds everything neat and comfortable at the Furbush's," she muscd, rather bitterly.

Involuntarily she raised her eyes and glanced around the room in which she was now seated. She could not help confessing that these words would by no means apply to it. Then—for a better spirit was awakened within her—she thought, "I wonder whether it would be very much extra trouble to keep things properly arranged."

She determined to make the trial the next day, in the unacknowledged hope that she might thus be able to keep her husband at home.

She found at first constant vigilance was required, and a sharp lookout after the children who had been brought up to be indifferent to orderly habits.

When Willie and Clara came in from school, cap and bonnet were thrown down, one on a chair, the other on the floor, and both exclaimed in a breath: "Mother, I'm hungry; I want some gingerbread."

"First put away your cap and bonnet," said the mother.

"Where shall we put them?" inquired the children in some surprise.

"You will find some nails in the entry."

"Are you going to have company, mother ?" asked Clara, unable to account for this new direction.

"No; why do you ask?"

"Because you've got your hair combed, and a clean dress on. Besides, you don't usually care where we put our things."

Mrs. Cordner blushed involuntarily at this remark, which she felt to be unintentionally severe.

"Well, I do care now," said she. "I want you always to remember to put your things away when you come in. They don't look well littering up the chairs and tables."

"Have you got any gingerbread, mother?" asked Wille. "I'm awful hungry."

"Yes, I will get you a piece."

Willie was about to carry his gingerbread into the sitting-room, and his mother stopped him.

"You mustn't go in there with your gingerbread. The carpet has been swept, and you would get the crumbs about."

The children sat down very contentedly in the kitchen, and ate their lunch. The few crumbs that fell Clara was required to sweep up.

"Now, children, I want you to go and wash your face and hands, and brush your hair. Your father likes to have you looking neat. And, Willie, your jacket needs dusting. Get the brush, and I will brush you."

Willie did as requested, and with a very little pains both children looked neat and clean.

During the day, Mrs. Cordner had engaged Bridget Rafferty, an bumble neighbor, to come and scrub the floor and some of the paint. She took particular pains to arrarge the books and papers in their places, and while she could see the great improvement which had been made, the time expended in effecting it seemed really so inconsiderable as not to be taken into the account.

"After all," thought Mrs. Cordner, " it does seem pleasant to have a neat house. If I had thought it took so little time I would have made the attempt before."

About the usual time James Cordner returned home.

His wife met him at the door, neatly attired in an afternoon dress, with her hair simply arranged. Her husband was agreeably surprised, and smiled cheerfully.

Entering the house he at once saw the improved state of things. Not even Mrs. Furbush's rooms were neater.

"Are you expecting company, Ellen?" he asked in a little surprise.

"Only my husband," she answered with a smile.

"This looks pleasant," he exclaimed, heartily. "It seems to me you are looking unusually well this afternoon, Ellen,"

Again Mrs. Cordner smiled with secret gratification.

The table was spread, and the family sat down to supper. When it was over, Mrs. Cordner said, "I suppose you are going out as usual this evening, James."

"No, I think I shall enjoy myself better at home."

Mrs. Cordner said nothing, but was determined that if a neat and well-ordered house would keep her husband at home, he should in future have no good reason for spending his evenings out. I am happy to state that she adhered to her determination, and at this day no one has a pleasanter home than James Cordner, and certainly no one prizes it more.