So putting up the light in the front hall didn't seem like such a big deal. It was a pain that I couldn't get to it until about 7:30 at night, which meant I had to clutch a flashlight under my chin while I wired it, but I persevered. For two hours... after which, it still didn't work.
The complication was because the light in question is controlled by three light switches and I wasn't the one who took the previous fixture down so it wasn't a matter of wiring it the same way. So, despite my best guess at which of the 26 wires went where (OK, perhaps it was only six wires, but still...), the switch at the top of the stairs was, at one point, controlling the lights outside the house. And the dimmer in the hall? Was dimming the lights outside the front door. Yeah, I'm not sure how that happened either.
After a lot of frustration, we decided to abandon the project and try again the next night. At which time we began trying different combinations of wires, hoping to stumble on the right one. It wasn't completely random-- I tried finding a diagram on the Internet to follow, but couldn't find our exact situation (look at us! putting our lives in the hands of the Internet-- what trust!) While I tried to reason out the situation (well, those wires were twisted together and they look like they might be these wires in this diagram...), the PH just started twisting different wires together. And, on his second try, the light worked (and, even more importantly, the switches controlling it did not affect our outside lights).
So, for the rest of the night, I had to listen to the PH talk about what a genius he is and how he found the solution in two tries after I had spent hours trying to make the light work. Would it be terrible if I hope he gets a little shock the next time he tries to show off his electrical skills?