Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/505

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381
DOMESTIC LIFE

however, were content with bare wood floors or floors of earth. Something more elegant was needed. This material was found in the rushes that were plentifully strewn upon the floors. Every private garden possessed a portion laid aside for the growing of rushes. They were also sold in large quantities. These were strewn upon the floors, not only of sleeping rooms, but also of the dining room, in the great hall, and even upon the stage of the public theatre. They contributed slightly to the warmth of the feet; they were, in a small way, decorative; and, above all, according to the Elizabethan's light, they were elegant.

One of to-day may suppose that, when there was need of re-rushing a room, the old rushes were taken out and new ones brought in. Not at all. This was entirely too much trouble to people who had not heard of germs and who believed that magic was as good a remedy as was to be found against the plague. The Elizabethans merely carted in the new rushes and deposited them upon the old ones. And a room was not always thoroughly purged of its rushes more than once a year. The result was filth more or less absent to the eye but present to the nose. The latter condition gave rise to a whole profession, as necessary and as distinctive as that of the chimney sweep; namely, the perfumer. It was his business