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that every thing should be well and pleasantly arranged; and I had, as I imagined, given due orders to all the domestics whose services were required. The greater part of the day I was out paying morning visits, and returned only in time to dress for dinner. I was rather discouraged, as I passed the dining-room, to see no preparation, but proceeded to my room without making any remarks. Soon after six our company arrived; and, for half an hour, I waited in patient expectation of hearing dinner announced: during this time both my husband and I exerted ourselves to keep conversation alive, and to make the time pass quickly, but still, in spite of ourselves and the politeness of our guests, a dead pause would now and then intervene, and these awful pauses I thought would annihilate me. After many an anxious look at the door, and frequent ringing of the bell, dinner was at length announced ; and my spirits revived only, alas, to enable me to support more vexations. All the preparations had, evidently, been hastily made, there were not enough of chairs for the guests; the dishes were irregularly placed, and even some omitted; the fish and soup were chilled, and had apparently been served some time; the plates were cold, and the appearance of the whole dinner was entirely spoiled by the careless manner in which it had been prepared and arranged. I cast a look of despair at my husband, and was answered by one from him of disappointment; however, I resolved not to suffer myself to be subdued by it, and I succeeded in throwing off my anxiety, and in scarcely appearing to notice the many unlucky circumstances of the day,
The next morning I repaired to the kitchen to make my reflections on the negligence of the preceding day; when, to my utter astonishment, I was told by the cook that the dinner was excellently cooked, was quite hot, and was altogether such as no one could object to, who knew any thing about the matter. The men-servants were equally surprised at my censuring them, although they had shown themselves very careless, and, for want of method, had hurried about the room, jostling each other, and struggling for the possession of some one thing which had been just asked for. Many other complaints I could make, but it would tire you to hear them, as they are similar to those which have, I suppose, been often made by all young housekeepers.
MRS. B. I have not the slighest doubt that all these difficulties will vanish in time. In the first place, I hope you have not too many servants, a greater evil, by far, than having too few. A numerous retinue may be gratifying to pride, but waste and disorder generally accompany it, proving injurious to comfort as well as to fortune. Hence the common saying that such a family is eaten up by its servants. It is better for servants to have too much employment than too little; because, for want of resources, and the inclination to employ themselves usefully and innocently, much leisure assists in corrupting them. If idleness only allowed time for the indulgence of weak and frivolous propensities, the evil would be great; but it does more; it opens a wide passage for the ingress of vicious habits. When neither the powers of
the mind nor those of the body are usefully employed, moral irregularities must be the consequence.
MRS. L. But should not the contrary extreme be also avoided? We should all be spiritless and discontented, if we had not some portion of time allotted for relaxation. A seasonable suspension of our regular employments tends to make us return to them with pleasure, and with renewed vigour.
MRS. B. That is most true; and every benevolent mind will seek to render service as far remote as possible from slavery, by promoting, in a reasonable degree, the comfort of their dependants; and this being done, the right is increased by which you may exact from them the strictest discharge of their duties. Let us examine to what degree this attention to their comforts should extend.
Their meals should be at regular and early hours; their food plain, substantial, and good. Butcher's meat once a day is the general allowance for servants in the establishments of those of moderate fortunes, with cheese for supper. The cook, however, should be desired to reserve such pieces of cold meat as would not be sent into the diningroom, for the supper of the men-servants, which, now and then, will prevent the cutting up of a large piece of cheese, and be also a more wholesome and nutritious meal. Some good housekeepers are agreed, that it is more economical to allow meat than cheese for supper; perhaps the chief difference in expence arises from the circumstance that more meat can be eaten at a meal than cheese.
A pint of good beer for the men, and half that quantity for the women servants, at each meal, is a very sufficient allowance. A restriction in quantity is perhaps necessary where there are menservants, lest they should be inclined to indulge too freely in drinking: but the allowance should be sufficient, or the temptation to obtain more may be too great for them to resist. Enough of every thing essential should be allowed to our servants, that their strength may be supported. They cannot work well, unless they have food enough, and this with me is a sufficient argument against board wages, which seldom supply them with more than a very moderate portion of food, besides increasing the inducements to obtain by dishonest means an additional allowance of the essentials of life. I cannot help fancying that servants on board wages betray the fact, by the want of contented countenances and cheerful spirits.
Formerly in the houses of the great, and even now in some families of distinction, the upper domestics the steward, butler, valet, housekeeper, and lady's maid, — had their own table, called the second table; but of late years this has been generally abolished, and, in the present day, all the domestics dine at one table in the servants' hall. The other meals of the higher servants are taken in the housekeeper's room. The under men-servants retain the use of the servants' hall when their employments are ended, and the maid-servants, when their active duties are over, resort with their sewing to the upper housemaid's 's room. In well ordered
families the men and maid servants never sit in the same apartment except during dinner.
In such families the men have a pint of ale each at dinner, and the women half a pint each. There are no families, except perhaps the very highest, in which wine is allowed to the upper servants.
The nurse-maids, again, have all their meals quite distinct from the other servants, and are in all respects completely separated from them.
MRS. L. In case of illness among our servants what ought we to do?
MRS. B. In illness, immediate attention and medical advice should be afforded to them, and the healthy servants, generally, should be encouraged to pay as much attention, as their time will permit, to their invalid fellow-servants. Unless the state of the family and the nature of the disease peculiarly demand it, I think that it is cruel to send a sick servant either to poor, confined, and dirty lodgings, where poverty and misery stare him in the face, at the very moment he needs those comforts which his master's house might have afforded him, or to have him carried into an hospital, where, finding himself surrounded by fellow-sufferers, in various stages of disease and mortal decay, his heart sinks within him at the sight, and his recovery is, perhaps, retarded by the gloomy impression made on his mind. A little expence, a little inconvenience in the family, and a little feeling shown by a master or mistress to a sick servant, would generally be well bestowed, and might be equally well repaid by his future faithful services.