How well I remember my last vacation! I knew it was my last, and I did not lose one instant of it. Six weeks of unalloyed!
True, after school days are over, people have what are called vacations. Your father takes his at the store, and Uncle William has the "long vacation," when the Court does not sit. But a man's vacation, or a woman's, is as nothing when it is compared with a child's or a young man's or a young woman's home from school. For papa and Uncle William are carrying about a set of cares with them all the time. They cannot help it, and they carry them bravely, but they carry them all the same. So you see a vacation for men and women is generally a vacation with its weight of responsibility. But your vacations, while you are at school, though they have their responsibilities, indeed, have none under which you ought not to walk off as cheerfully as Gretchen, there, walks down the road with that pail of milk upon her head. I hope you will learn to do that some day, my dear Fanchon.
Hear, then, the essential laws of vacation:--
First of all,
Do Not Get Into Other People's Way.
Horace and Enoch would not have made such a mess of it last summer, and got so utterly into disgrace, if they could only have kept this rule in mind. But, from mere thoughtlessness, they were making people wish they were at the North Pole all the time, and it ended in their wishing that they were there themselves.
Thus, the very first morning after they had come home from Leicester Academy,--and, indeed, they had been welcomed with all the honors only the night before,--when Margaret, the servant, came down into the kitchen, she found her fire lighted, indeed, but there were no thanks to Master Enoch for that. The boys were going out gunning that morning, and they had taken it into their heads that the two old fowling-pieces needed to be thoroughly washed out, and with hot water. So they had got up, really at half past four; had made the kitchen fire themselves; had put on ten times as much water as they wanted, so it took an age to boil; had got tired waiting, and raked out some coals and put on some more water in a skillet; had upset this over the hearth, and tried to wipe it up with the cloth that lay over Margaret's bread-cakes as they were rising; had meanwhile taken the guns to pieces, and laid the pieces on the kitchen table; had piled up their oily cloths on the settle and on the chairs; had spilled oil from the lamp-filler, in trying to drop some into one of the ramrod sockets, and thus, by the time Margaret did come down, her kitchen and her breakfast both were in a very bad way.
Horace said, when he was arraigned, that he had thought they should be all through before half past five; that then they would have "cleared up," and have been well across the pasture, out of Margaret's way. Horace did not know that watched pots are "mighty unsartin" in their times of boiling.
Now all this row, leading to great unpopularity of the boys in regions where they wanted to be conciliatory, would have been avoided if Horace and Enoch had merely kept out of the way. There were the Kendal-house in the back-yard, or the wood-shed, where they could have cleaned the guns, and then nobody would have minded if they had spilled ten quarts of water.
This seems like a minor rule. But I have put it first, because a good deal of comfort or discomfort hangs on it.
Scientifically, the first rule would be,
This can only be done by system. A vacation is gold, you see, if properly used; it is distilled gold,--if there could be such,--to be correct, it is burnished, double-refined gold, or gold purified. It cannot be lengthened. There is sure to be too little of it. So you must make sure of all there is; and this requires system.
It requires, therefore, that, first of all,--even before the term time is over,--you all determine very solemnly what the great central business of the vacation shall be. Shall it be an archery club? Or will we build the Falcon's Nest in the buttonwood over on the Strail? Or shall it be some other sport or entertainment?
Let this be decided with great care; and, once decided, hang to this determination, doing something determined about it every living day. In truth, I recommend application to that business with a good deal of firmness, on every day, rain or shine, even at certain fixed hours; unless, of course, there is some general engagement of the family, or of the neighborhood, which interferes. If you are all going on a lily party, why, that will take precedence.
Then I recommend, that, quite distinct from this, you make up your own personal and separate mind as to what is the thing which you yourself have most hungered and thirsted for in the last term, but have not been able to do to your mind, because the school work interfered so badly. Some such thing, I have no doubt, there is. You wanted to make some electrotype medals, as good as that first-rate one that Muldair copied when he lived in Paxton. Or you want to make some plaster casts. Or you want to read some particular book or books. Or you want to use John's tool-box for some very definite and attractive purpose. Very well; take this up also, for your individual or special business. The other is the business of the crowd; this is your avocation when you are away from the crowd. I say away; I mean it is something you can do without having to hunt them up, and coax them to go on with you.
Besides these, of course there is all the home life. You have the garden to work in. You can help your mother wash the tea things. You can make cake, if you keep on the blind side of old Rosamond; and so on.
Thus are you triply armed. Indeed, I know no life which gets on well, unless it has these three sides, whether life with the others, life by yourself, or such life as may come without any plan or effort of your own.
No; I do not know which of these things you will choose,--perhaps you will choose none of them. But it is easy enough to see how fast a day of vacation will go by if you, Stephen, or you, Clara, have these several resources or determinations.
Here is the ground-plan of it, as I might steal it from Fanchon's journals:--
"TUESDAY.--Second day of vacation. Fair. Wind west. Thermometer sixty-three degrees, before breakfast.
"Down stairs in time." [Mem. 1. Be careful about this. It makes much more disturbance in the household than you think for, if you are late to breakfast, and it sets back the day terribly.]
"Wiped while Sarah washed. Herbert read us the new number of 'Tig and Tag,' while we did this, and made us scream, by acting it with Silas, behind the sofa and on the chairs. At nine, all was done, and we went up the pasture to Mont Blanc. Worked all the morning on the drawbridge. We have got the two large logs into place, and have dug out part of the trench. Home at one, quite tired."
[Mem. 2. Mont Blanc is a great boulder,--part of a park of boulders, in the edge of the wood-lot. Other similar rocks are named the "Jung-frau," because unclimbable, the "Aiguilles" &c. This about the drawbridge and logs, readers will understand as well as I do.]
"Had just time to dress for dinner. Mr. Links, or Lynch, was here; a very interesting man, who has descended an extinct volcano. He is going to give me some Pele's hair. I think I shall make a museum. After dinner we all sat on the piazza some time, till he went away. Then I came up here, and fixed my drawers. I have moved my bed to the other side of the chamber. This gives me a great deal more room. Then I got out my palette, and washed it, and my colors. I am going to paint a cluster of grape-leaves for mamma's birthday. It is a great secret. I had only got the things well out, when the Fosdicks came, and proposed we should all ride over with them to Worcester, where Houdin, the juggler, was. Such a splendid time as we have had! How he does some of the things I do not know. I brought home a flag and three great peppermints for Pet. We did not get home till nearly eleven."
[Mem. 3. This is pretty late for young people of your age; but, as Madame Roland said, a good deal has to be pardoned to the spirit of liberty; and, so far as I have observed, in this time, generally is.]
Now if you will analyze that bit of journal, you will see, first, that the day is full of what Mr. Clough calls
"The joy of eventful living."
That girl never will give anybody cause to say she is tired of her vacations, if she can spend them in that fashion. You will see, next, that it is all in system, and, as it happens, just on the system I proposed. For you will observe that there is the great plan, with others, of the fortress, the drawbridge, and all that; there is the separate plan for Fanchon's self, of the water-color picture; and, lastly, there is the unplanned surrender to the accident of the Fosdicks coming round to propose Houdin.
Will you observe, lastly, that Fanchon is not selfish in these matters, but lends a hand where she finds an opportunity?