The Dolls' Wash.

A poem by Juliana Horatia Ewing

Sally is the laundress, and every Saturday
She sends our clean clothes up from the wash, and Nurse puts them away.
Sometimes Sally is very kind, but sometimes she's as cross as a Turk;
When she's good-humoured we like to go and watch her at work.
She has tubs and a copper in the wash-house, and a great big fire and plenty of soap;
And outside is the drying-ground with tall posts, and pegs bought from the gipsies, and long lines of rope.
The laundry is indoors with another big fire, and long tables, and a lot of irons, and a crimping-machine;
And horses (not live ones with tails, but clothes-horses) and the same starch that is used by the Queen.
Sally wears pattens in the wash-house, and turns up her sleeves, and splashes, and rubs,
And makes beautiful white lather which foams over the tops of the tubs,
Like waves at the seaside dashing against the rocks, only not so strong.
If I were Sally I should sit and blow soap-bubbles all the day long.
Sally is angry sometimes because of the way we dirty our frocks,
Making mud pies, and rolling down the lawn, and climbing trees, and scrambling over the rocks.
She says we do it on purpose, and never try to take care;
But if things have got to go to the wash, what can it matter how dirty they are?
Last week Mary and I got a lot of kingcups from the bog, and I carried them home in my skirt;
It was the end of the week, and our frocks were done, so we didn't mind about the dirt.
But Sally was as cross as two sticks, and won't wash our dolls' clothes any more--so she said,--
But never mind, for we'll ask Mamma if we may have a real Dolls' Wash of our own instead.

* * * * *

Mamma says we may on one condition, to which we agree;
We're to really wash the dolls' clothes, and make them just what clean clothes should be.
She says we must wash them thoroughly, which of course we intend to do,
We mean to rub, wring, dry, mangle, starch, iron, and air them too.
A regular wash must be splendid fun, and everybody knows
That any one in the world can wash out a few dirty clothes.

* * * * *

Well, we've had the Dolls' Wash, but it's only pretty good fun.
We're glad we've had it, you know, but we're gladder still that it's done.
As we wanted to have as big a wash as we could, we collected everything we could muster,
From the dolls' bed dimity hangings to Victoria's dress, which I'd used as a duster.
It was going to the wash, and Mary and I were house-maids--fancy house-maids, I mean--
And I took it to dust the bookshelf, for I knew it would come back clean.
Well, we washed in the wash-hand-basin, which holds a good deal, as the things are small;
We made a glorious lather, and splashed half over the floor; but the clothes weren't white after all.
However, we hung them out in our drying-ground in the garden, which we made with dahlia-sticks and long strings,
And then Dash went and knocked over one of the posts, and down in the dirt went our things!
So we washed them again and hung them on the towel-horse, and most of them came all right,
But Victoria's muslin dress--though I rinsed it again and again--will never dry white!
And the grease-spots on Mary's doll's dress don't seem to come out, and we can't think how they got there;
Unless it was when we made that Macassar-oil, because she has real hair.
I knew mine was going to the wash, but I'm sorry I used it as a duster before it went;
We think dirty clothes perhaps shouldn't be too dirty before they are sent.
We had sad work in trying to make the starch--I wonder what the Queen does with hers?
I stirred mine up with a candle, like Sally, but it only made it worse;
So we had to ask Mamma's leave to have ours made by Nurse.
Nurse makes beautiful starch--like water-arrowroot when you're ill--in a minute or two.
It's a very odd thing that what looks so easy should be so difficult to do!
Then Mary put the iron down to heat, but as soon as she'd turned her back,
A jet of gas came sputtering out of the coals and smoked it black.
We dared not ask Sally for another, for we knew she'd refuse it,
So we had to clean this one with sand and brown-paper before we could use it.
It was very hard work, but I rubbed till I made it shine;
Yet as soon as it got on a damped "fine thing" it left a brown line.
I rubbed it for a long, long time before it would iron without a mark,
But it did at last, and we finished our Dolls' Wash just before dark.

* * * * *

Sally's very kind, for she praised our wash, and she has taken away
Victoria's dress to do it again; and I really must say
She was right when she said, "You see, young ladies, a week's wash isn't all play."
Our backs ache, our faces are red, our hands are all wrinkled, and we've rubbed our fingers quite sore;
We feel very sorry for Sally every week, and we don't mean to dirty our dresses so much any more.

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