Fiction: The Innsmouth Ladies’ Guide to Household Management

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Fiction: Issue 10

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By L.T. Patridge

[Circa 1855. Courtesy Archives of Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

The identity of the author is unknown.

This is the most complete copy available. Three other copies of frontispiece are attested, one at Wellesley’s Margaret Clapp Library, one privately held, and one in the archives of Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. The frontispiece is not decorated.

This pamphlet appears to have possessed about ten pages, originally; the first and final pages are blank. It is saddle-bound and duodecimo-sized, with no cover. The paper has been treated with exposure to heat to make the ink visible, most likely by a candle flame. Many of the pages are smoke-damaged.]

NOTES TO LADIES

No. 6 of 20

FOREWORD

The following is designed as a supplement to any existing manual such as the excellent Miss Beecher’s Treatise on Domestic Economy, which will supply the needs of a woman of any station in most situations pertaining to laundry, cookery, &c. However, certain concerns peculiar to local households will not be addressed in any book now available. With the kind permission of Mrs. M—-, and the assistance of Mrs. W—- and others, I have endeavoured to compile the following for the daughters and sisters of my friends and neighbours, and I need not impress upon the recipients of this volume the importance of keeping it at hand in a private place, so that it is in friendly hands at all times. It may be called for at any time to assure its safety and she who misplaces a copy may answer to Mrs. M—-, or to others.

Miss Beecher’s advice regarding the ordering of the household and the upbringing of children is not entirely suited to our institution; however, it is not without its use. The household remains to be tended by you, the reader, and by me, be matters what they may with our husbands, and their many and varied friends in trade and custom, and children must be fed and all matters attended in good order.

For this effort, we will not be rewarded in spirit: Do not mistake me. On this point, we are not deceived, as formerly, that drudgery is Divine and that the business of the home is the sphere of Woman. Our reward is in the future, in the flesh and breath of our sons and daughters; our daughters will not bear with what we bore, nor will our sons scrape and bow to the men who have mastered the anthills piled up at Boston, New York or Washington, for our Lord

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The Kitchen

It is some blessing to a woman whose husband is from offshore that, of her several pressing and unique concerns, cookery is directly unaffected and her responsibilities are rather reduced than increased, thereby.

Those born and raised offshore are accustomed to eat a purely animal diet, entirely uncooked and without preparation, either taken to hand at the moment of hunger or stalked in concert with others over some hours, then eaten following the kill. For this reason, it is advisable to keep all domestic livestock and animals in pens outside of the house, as there are no domestic animals at sea, and they are little inclined to remember that domestic animals are not free to be killed and eaten at any time, and that any debris, such as feathers, will remain stuck to their scales, skin, mouth, and so forth, detracting from their natural dignity and contributing to a general uncleanliness in the home.

In their diet, they resemble the Indian and possess the rude health that an Indian in his natural state might have enjoyed. The Indian, however, has changed his diet to that of vegetable or starch food, but those from offshore cannot and will not do this, and have no use for made dishes, sweets, or bread, no more so than you and I might have for grass and leaves. Such gifts or offerings will have no effect and may, in fact, insult.

Nonetheless, those from offshore are thoroughly fond of spiritous liquors, somewhat less so of beer and wine. The effects of their intemperance need not be feared, as for them the effect of an entire bottle of brandy upon the mind and body appears to be somewhat the same as a glass of beer might be to a man’s. It is likely to produce an agreeable warming effect upon the temperament of the drinker. A gift of spiritous liquor is sure to be very well-taken by anyone from offshore, a lady no less than a gentleman. If the bottle is immediately opened and drunk, it is strongly advised that one drop one’s eyes therefrom, in order not to betray any impolitic expression or be overcome with illness.

Be well advised that those from offshore are, unlike ourselves, equipped to smell and taste the presence of any number of chemicals, whether they be in food or in the air. You should permit no misunderstanding whatsoever to arise in the household as to the presence of any substance of a poisonous nature near anything offered to those from offshore. Domestic amity will not recover.

Laundry

To Miss Beecher I have nothing to add on this subject except as regards bloodstains. The coldest water available is to be used for soaking as soon as may be. If ice chips are to be had, the action of ice melting through the fabric of a fresh bloodstain is superior; be sure that the ice completely covers the surface of the stain. Whether or not there is ice, abrasive scrubbing should be applied in the cold water until the stain is gone, which is most often possible if the fabric is yet damp and fresh with the blood. Bleaching powder may be employed for pure white fabrics only and, of those, not the delicate, felted or loosely knit, such as silk, velvet, fine woolens, &c.

Unfortunately, the action of saltwater against stained fabric is often fixative if the saltwater dries upon the fabric. The wearers of ritual robes should be advised of this fact, which will be of little effect on the relevant practices, but may perhaps temper expectations.

Etiquette

Courtesy and deference are the watchwords. I am informed that those from offshore practice an etiquette of great and ancient complexity, which we have not the age or physiology to comprehend; failing this, it is best to behave as to magistrate or master. Be advised that most of those from offshore may hear a living heartbeat that is close to them and such a sense is keen enough to detect that the bearer of that heart feels fear or loathing, as the heart speeds and starts on such occasions. It is imperative, therefore, that no lie be told to them, especially in regards to such feeling.

Ladies and gentlemen should bow their heads and fold their hands in the presence of an acquaintance from offshore; men’s hats should be removed; children should make a bow or curtsy. Sir and madam are the first and most acceptable methods of address. The face should be kept lowered until one is spoken to directly, or until one’s chin is taken in hand and raised.

Do not expect jokes or jesting remarks to be understood. They will not laugh and they will not understand kindly if you seem to tell them an “untruth” for a light reason. Nonetheless, they do in fact possess humour and make joking remarks after their fashion, although these generally involve violence or death and may not be amusing, at all. It is best not to pretend to be amused; they abhor the lie.

If a request is made of you, whatever it be, fill that request, or let them know why it cannot be done. They ask nothing idly or lightly. However severe it may be, consider that the consequence ….

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Childbed

Other volumes address this subject at length in view of a general female audience, to which I may venture to add some remarks, following my own experience and consultation with Mrs. C—– and Dr. H——–.

Local mothers will no doubt be much relieved to find that, when the father’s bloodline is entirely or one-half from offshore, the peculiar inherited qualities can allow for a birth with a great deal of ease, even if the mother should be of small stature, or the child should be turned; for there is a gelatinous quality to the young bones, that admits of ease in parturition. It may be that a mother is overcome with her water and then has her child in her arms within fifteen minutes. Then, however, it is essential to the health of the infant that no swaddling should be done, or any other tight constriction; otherwise, the limbs and torso of the child may remain in that constricted shape and will not come right for many days.

It is most likely that your child will appear very much like any other infant, red and wrinkled. It may, however, be, upon the birth of the child, that you find that it does not appear, to your eyes, to be sound in all its parts; be assured that this is not the case, and that you merely are not yet advised of which parts it is that the infant has and how it is that they are sound.

If the child is born with teeth, do not nurse it nor put it to nurse with any other woman, even if it should only seem that the child was born with simple milk-teeth, as has happened among many families beforehand. I am acquainted with the case of a woman who did not know why she should not do so, and thereafter died of her injuries.

Instead, send for your husband straightaway, or, if it is quicker, the nearest lady from offshore that you may send word to. This lady will know what to do and, indeed, it is likely that she herself will insist on taking the child to remain with its relatives offshore. The child born with teeth will not be suited to nurse or take any milk whatsoever, but must be fed solid flesh, either fresh or regurgitated; and the ladies from offshore do not nurse, but have a capacity to regurgitate their own food as still useful for the young, which we do not possess.

A child whose blood is half from offshore or greater may develop, during its first two years, several rows of teeth, and grow and cast these teeth at a prodigious rate. If this is the case, it should cause no alarm for the health of the child, but the father must be advised and the child will no doubt be best suited to live offshore with his family there within a matter of months.

Further Regarding the Management of Young Children

Miss Beecher’s policy of a steady, kind hand in the upbringing of children is not to be contradicted and I write further to enjoin the reader to recall that, in the raising of our children, Love is the law, Love under Will.

It is the object of those from offshore that they should raise living and whole children, who will be lords upon earth and sea, and it is impressed upon us all that no harm should come to the young. Let the reader be reminded of this, no matter how she herself was raised, no matter how gently she supposes she bears with her children. To strike a child is against all custom.

A young lady of my acquaintance had a child of five years who would hit and strike at his sister in play, and would not give over, no matter how his mother scolded and pled. At last, she struck him with a belt across the back, as her own mother had done when a child did not obey her. This did the boy no great harm, but left bright marks. As it happened, his father came home a day after this and observed the marks, and asked the boy whence they came; and the boy told him. So much we know, for the boy told this to his mother’s sister, who keeps the two children in her home, now that their mother is gone.

Modesty, Youth and Courtship

Again, there is little to be added to Miss Beecher’s advice here in regards to the raising of continent and modest young men and women, save that the customs of our relatives from offshore do not require that young ladies ….

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… company of other gentlemen, anymore than a husband would be expected to take a jealous interest in his wife’s favorite colours, and the same is the case with ladies from offshore.

This indulgence, however, is best not taken too frequently or carelessly. If a woman were to find herself embarrassed as the result of such a friendship, her husband would not be insulted or angered, but would expect her to continue to follow the custom of those offshore in the matter, and it is still their custom that unwanted infants are killed by the mother’s own hands and eaten ….

[Editor’s note: Here the page is smoked through and no longer legible. The final page is blank.]

Bio: L.T. Patridge, who is originally from Greenville, Mississippi, now lives and works in the Metro-Boston area. To the best of her knowledge, she is the only former Delta debutante who writes Lovecraftian fiction. She blogs at:ltpatridge.tumblr.com.

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