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clusion of every other topic, giving verbal photographs of their kitchens and dissolving-views of their nurseries, which painfully lacked variety, inasmuch as the same gloomy tints were displayed in each.
“ Many a year is in its grave” since I heard the wrongs of mistresses and the wickedness of the maids so volubly argued and depicted to the music of the tea-spoon and the hissing urn; but from those days to these, in which I write, the same tale has been poured into my ears; the same complaints of the selfishness, idleness, and general good-for-nothingness of female servants; the same dread anticipations of an evil day when we shall have to do without servants;
the same protestations from the mistresses, the same monotonous harping upon a string that gets more out of tune year after year. Of old, the servants had all the blame of this unsatisfactory state of things; more recently it has become the fashion to cast the reproach upon the mistresses. I have been looking, for the second or third time, through two books, written by two ladies as recently as 1869 and 1870, on the servant question. Mrs. Linton, indeed, gives only one chapter to the subject, and she is altogether the maids' advocate. Lady Lytton writes a whole volume, called “ The Household Fairy," which depicts mistresses as something above the common species of erring mortals, and servants as creatures who have scarcely one virtue to balance their countless vices, who, in the present generation, “not only don't take a pride in their work, but only bestow upon it the thought of how not to do it.” According to the immaculate Mrs. Winifred Weldon-her ladyship's mouthpiece-the race of good servants became extinct about thirty or forty years ago. The maid-of-all-work is now a maid-of-no-work; the cook is a dirty, idle, impudent cheat; the housemaid is an untidy drab; and the ladies’-maid a pert, ridicnlous, time-serving minx.
Now, it seems to me that there must be something like a juste milieu in these conflicting situations of mistresses and maids. The mistresses cannot be quite angelic, nor the maids, as a rule, quite the other thing. There are good servants still-excellent, skilful,
— trustworthy women—for several of my friends are so fortunate as to retain such ; but, I must say, I never knew a bad mistress who ould boast of anything approaching to a good servant.
The question may be asked—what a bad mistress ? One who gives scanty wages, few privileges, expects impossibilities, and has the temper of a fury ? Or, one who lets the maids have their own way; who permits waste; who “never sees things;” who is herself a lazy, foolish, ignorant, incapable woman ? Both these types of mistresses are undoubtedly bad, and the latter is the worse of the two. The hard, grinding, imperious mistress will never keep a good servant, because no good servant having common-sense-and
no servant can be good without plenty of common-sense—will stay with her. The incompetent, inert, not-too-particular mistress will spoil the best servant, who, for the sake of liberty, indulgence, and kitchen-comforts, stays on in her place, knowing, in her heart, that she is deteriorating week by week.
Is it not possible to make some domestic reforms? Is not the home the woman's kingdom ? And is not every woman a queen in her own household ? We talk glibly of “Woman's Rights,” but we seem to forget that the first rights of women, like charity, begin at home; and I am afraid too many of us forget that the kitchen has its rights as well as the drawing-room; and that cook, and Mary, and Jane may have their lawful grievances quite as truly as “missis" and the young ladies.. Let us see if we cannot pick a few holes in our own coats, instead of incessantly pecking at those who from lack of education and want of culture generally can scarcely be expected to see things precisely in the light we see them. Let us try to educate these girls and women, who are such "plagues of life;" let us, at least, send them away a little wiser, a little better in all respects, than when they came to us.
When I say educate them, I do not mean that we shall teach them French and music, and even history and geography, or that we shall lecture them by the hour, or the half-hour, on their folly, and ignorance, and shortcomings. Preaching to people, unless you love them, does more harm than good; it is mere waste of breath on your own part, while the chances are that your involuntary auditor is stupider when you have finished than when you began-if, indeed, she is not so cross and angry that she is something worse than stupid. I knew a lady once-nay! I have known several—who would say, quite virtuously," I gave her a thorough talking.to, but it did no good !” Of course it did not! The people who give you "good talkings-to” are sure to be bigoted, narrow-minded, exasperating, and wearying to flesh and blood. When you have to speak of neglect, disobedience to orders, want of punctuality, &c., &c., five minutes will certainly exhaust all that can be said with any effect. A few firm, mild words—let them be as decided as you please—will go further than torrents of angry, aimless speech in producing the desired impression.
We women have a sad character for being addicted to “nagging" each other, and I am sorry to own there is some truth in the allegation. It is a fact-we are too fond of words. We like to repeat ourselves, careless of the danger of such repetition. If the mistress who calls in her delinquent maid to be lectured could be limited to ten minutes--if an accusing conscience would only whisper "Time's up”-it might be better for both speaker and listener. A few kind, strong words wculd have weight; an endless patter,
which is sure to be inconsequent, is altogether useless. But the woman who can talk for half-an-hour at a stretch, half grumble and half wail, must be a horrible nuisance to her whole family, her husband included—who, if he secretly wishes for a divorce, is scarcely to be blamed. Is "scolding" a feminine weakness, I wonder? I am afraid it is. Who ever heard a man, unless he were an unexceptional and most intolerable martinet, "go on," as they say down stairs, the whole morning, perhaps the whole day through? The persistency of ill-temper which some women display is simply amazing. They get up in a most unsaintly frame of mind, and they "go on” hour after hour, pouncing upon every little mistake, horror-stricken at every venial slip of duty, and treating accident as actual moral crime. The children and servants of the family whose mistress has a temper could tell strange stories, only a kind Providence makes them hold their tongues. For myself, I would rather bow my head to a sharp, short volley of abuse once a week, than be “nagged" at in ever so Christian a fashion the whole day. And I have heard Scripture quoted wholesale, and God's most holy word adduced as authority, when, I am sure, I should have shrunk less from a passionate oath.
What is it we demand of our servants? A meekness far surpassing our own; a patience under unjust accusation which we ourselves could never even assume; a self-control which represses all retort, all indignation however righteous, all remonstrance. Is it fair that we should expect unrefined, uneducated, lowly-born girls and women to behave so very much better than ourselves ? “I never allow an answer,” says the lady of the house, with an air of complacency. Under what circumstances would she refrain from self-defence of word or look? Could she practise the quiet dignity, the saint-like meekness, which she demands from the poor, unin. structed Cinderella, who can barely read and write? Is it reasonable to expect of persons, whose early advantages have been almost nil, a virtue and a heroism in which we are ourselves deficient? I am afraid if we honestly calculated relative advantages and responsibilities—and that is how God makes up accounts—we should not always be found superior to our servants. An inferior in rank is not necessarily an inferior in actual goodness.
The question remains, How shall we, as Christian women, deal more justly with our servants ? The next best blessing to a faithful friend is a faithful servant; one who has known all the family joys, and sorrows, and changes; one whom we know we can trust, and upon whose help we may rely in season and out of seacon. But this blessed, conscientious, attached fidelity of service is not to be bought with mere money, nor repaid with it; it is by no means a question of wages. .
The servants who come into our houses, and for hire agree to serve us, are in some sense as our children. We are to recognise in them our fellow-creatures, though not our social equals. For “ equality,” about which demagogues make so much noise, is nothing but a myth, which never did, and never can, exist in this world.
Without affecting that familiarity which breeds contempt, without putting people out of their places to their own discomfort as well as ours, we may yet do a great deal to establish and rivet those sacred and beautiful bonds which ought to exist between the mistress of a household and her female staff. In the first place, do we consider the physical comforts of our servants as fully as we might do? They are not starved, of course ; for few people now, I suppose, “allowance" their servants in absolute necessaries. No. body locks up the bread, or the potatoes, or even the meat; though, as regards the latter, there may be, especially in this day of high prices, one or two necessary regulations; but, is their health and is their comfort studied ?
This is an age of sanitary reform, and we are quite convinced of the need of proper ventilation, especially during the hours of sleep. The servants' bedrooms, however, strangely enough, seem to be exempted from the general rule of progress; anything is considered good enough for them, and they are expected to make the best of what is their allotted portion.
Now, without rendering our servants finikin ladies, we might, I think, make them rather more comfortable, lodge them more wholesomely, and teach them habits of cleanliness and niceness, as important to them as to the daughters of the house. There is no real hardship in sleeping at the top of the house ; for though one gets a higher degree of heat in summer, and a lower degree of cold in winter, under the slates, the air is purer and fresher than it is a story lower down. If you want the best air, go and sleep in the attic. But if too many persons are crowded into the attic, its stock of oxygen will be exhausted very early in the night, and its inmates will breathe foul and poisonous atmosphere till the morning. I know that it is a difficult matter in many houses, especially those in large towns, to afford liberal sleeping accommodation to the servants; but where there is a will, there is pretty sure to be a way. If you have several maids, and only one room which can be spared to them, at least you can give them separate beds. Small iron bedsteads are cheap enough, and three or four take up no more space than two old-fashioned four-posters or tent bedsteads. You can see for yourself that the room is properly aired during the day, that the chimney is not stopped up, and that all things necessary for cleanliness are provided. I have heard of people who never thought of allowing their servants the means of
washing themselves in their own rooms; people who grudged a washing-stand, or any kind of dressing-table, to their domestics, relegating them to the back kitchen, and the sink, whenever soap and water was to be personally applied. I cannot fancy that a housemaid, who performed her daily ablutions at the sink, would be very likely to render satisfactory service in my lady's chamber. If we want our servants to be neat-handed, quick-sighted, and what we call “ nice " in their ways, we must certainly do our best to cultivate in them a due personal sense of the neatness, and exactness, and niceness they are expected to practise in their discharge of duties. The mistress, too, may make arrangements which shall permit to every servant the use of the bath-room; and she may encourage all habits which tend to personal cleanliness and to general order and neatness of appearance.
And this, of course, suggests the subject of dress. Well, servants do dress most ridiculously nowadays! and so do their mistresses, in their respective stations; it is six of one and half a dozen of the other; and it is in vain to lecture the maids on their extravagance and folly, while the ladies follow every outrageous fashion, and make of themselves mere hideous caricatures. Neither will it answer in these days to enforce sumptuary laws upon our female servants; they will dress as they choose, and, unless they overstep the bounds of decency, I do not see how we can with any grace interfere. Yet we may say a word in season-a kind, delicate word, mind—not a rude, coarse remark, but a gentle remonstrance, such as we should address to any young person of our own class whom we wished to influence aright. And we may set them the example of a consistent toilet. A lady who dresses well herself generally has well-dressed servants; a very fine lady, who dresses showily rather than well, is quite as sure to have tricked-out, bedizened maids, who are alternate slatterns and gay, dressed-up dolls. That se ints should be condemned to mortified apparel is a positive injustice; there is no reason why they should not be allowed their share of the pleasures of the toilet; it were pure selfishness to keep
;; all prettinesses to ourselves. Let us encourage in them principles of taste—it will be for our advantage as well as theirs; let us try to give them a due appreciation of the beauty and grace of consistency, and teach them, as far as we can, to despise those cheap, flashy imitations with which, as a class, they are, to the detriment of their purse, of their looks, and of their characters, so often tempted to bedeck themselves. Paltry silks, with right little silk in them; cotton lace, that looks as grand as real-till it is washed; gilt brooches, and ear-rings, that after the first week proclaim to the most careless observer that all is not gold that glitters; gaudy parasols ; “Cheap John's” velvets, flowers, and feathers, and a