Imatges de pÓgina
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confined to any class. It is a simple act of friendliness which implies nothing but goodwill. But if any one wants to reap a constant, easy, abundant harvest of satisfaction and cheering, let him or her-perhaps it will come most easily to her-keep a spare room for the poor, and a spare 'couvert' at the kitchen table for poor neighbours; and let the servants take their part in making the house such a centre, as every well-appointed house should be, of hospitality and friendly entertainment (in both senses of the word) for rich and poor, old and young, invalids and bright active helpers.

Here is the key of the whole question: let the servants take their part. This is what makes the difficulty in imagination, and the great gain in practice. I know well how impossible it would seem. in many a rich house for the mistress and the maids to join together in inviting and entertaining poor friends and acquaintance; what bugbears the mere suggestion conjures up before the mistresses' imagination, of possible consequences and certain shyness. Many mistresses would say, if they spoke out quite honestly-How can we let our servants exercise hospitality, when we don't speak to them ourselves once in a month, except to give necessary orders, and when we don't half trust them, and want all their time for ourselves, and have much ado as it is to keep their friends and followers out of our kitchens?' But is not this state of things in itself a great evil? and would not the very fact of joining in a common effort of hospitality be the best cure for it? Of course, while mistresses are wholly engrossed in the toils of society, and are content to live with their servants as if they were machines, it is useless to draw their attention to the richness of the possibilities they are neglecting. But this is not the case with all mistresses. Many a kind-hearted woman has time to spare, a little space in her house, and a little margin of money and comforts which she would gladly know how to turn to account for the benefit of the poor who live at such an inconvenient distance, and the thought of whose wretched homes weighs upon her spirits, and haunts and upbraids her in her own comfortable abode; to which she yet is bound by the most sacred ties. Such women sigh over the accounts they read of the homes of the London poor,' and half envy those who are free enough from home claims to go and work among them, and send contributions from time to time to charitable undertakings, and wish they could do more. If they did but know it, they might do what no one else can do.

But they cannot do it alone. They cannot do it without the willing, hearty cooperation of their servants. Would this be difficult to obtain? I believe that if the mistresses wished it, nothing would be easier. I believe that we can form but a faint idea of the amount of power and willingness to help which is latent in the vast army of women servants who fill the houses of the comfortable classes. I believe few mistresses know half the little acts of kindness which are done down

stairs-sometimes more or less clandestinely, perhaps not always even quite honestly-but which are the irrepressible signs of an amount of kindly feeling which, if recognised and encouraged and directed by the mistress of the house, might blossom into quite incalculable usefulness. And what hinders this recognition and sharing in each other's efforts? Whence comes the strange distance and deadness which has crept in between the two branches of our households? No doubt it is owing to many causes, but the chief of them seem to me to be want of thought and want of a common object. If mistresses would give as much thought to perfecting their relations with their own servants as many of them now do to benefiting the poor, they might bring about more improvement, and a more spreading selfmultiplying blessing, than any one who has not tried it would dream of.

It is true that in such an undertaking a woman must be prepared to encounter a searching test of her own character. No lady can be a trusted leader in her own house whose own conduct is not thoroughly consistent with her charitable aims. No giving of one's substance to feed the poor will pass muster with the keen observers downstairs as a substitute for the charity which 'seeketh not her own.' To be a saint to one's lady's-maid, one must be so all day long, and to the backbone. And to employ one's servants and one's house in entertaining the poor, one must of course be content not to be stretching both to the utmost limits of time and space in intercourse with the rich. Would not these conditions be as wholesome for the mistress as for the servants?

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We may be sure that mistresses are not satisfied with the present state of things. Most ladies are weary of lamentations over the degeneracy of servants in these days-over their indifference, their independence, their dress, their demands for days out' and other amusements which mistresses are loth to recognise, and dare not interfere with. It is probable that some corresponding expressions of dissatisfaction may be to be heard in the servants' hall. Without pretending to say what are all the causes of this state of things, or all the remedies required by it, it is at least easy to see that much of it arises from the want of an outlet for very natural feelings; and from the absence of human interest in the routine of household work, when it is as elaborately subdivided as must be the case in large establish

ments.

When one thinks of the immense amount of real fervent benevolence which is being expended by ladies in London upon all sorts of charitable undertakings-of the district visiting, and hospital and school visiting, the rent collecting, and the excursions, and the readings and concerts, the attendance at committees-the canvassing for votes, and the collecting of subscriptions, one cannot believe that there is any want among them either of kindness of heart or of energy;

but there is surely something grievously amiss in our social state, when so much benevolent activity out of doors is compatible with so strangely paralysed a domestic condition. It is impossible, of course, to say how far the two things are combined in the same households. If only those ladies who took no part in out-of-door charity were in trouble with their servants, or living entirely aloof from them, there would be no obvious hollowness, and the scandal would be less. I fear this is far from being the case. I fear that with too many ladies charity begins next door, or in the next district; or if it begins in their own homes, it stays entirely upstairs, and counts the workhouse and the hospital as nearer than the kitchen and the servants' hall.

But, not to dwell upon this, which I should be heartily glad to believe an imaginary reproach, there can be no doubt that the kindest and best mistresses feel their relations with their servants to be difficult and often unsatisfactory, and that the attempt to enter into friendly relations where there is no partnership in work, and where manners and habits of thought are very unlike, has almost necessarily something artificial and embarrassing about it. Tact and cordiality of manner will go far to diminish this difficulty, but nothing will so effectually overcome it as a common undertaking. It may or may not be thought a gain that ladies in these days have lost the power as completely as the will to do household work with their own hands; but since it is so, the opportunity of sharing any work (which is the one main root of natural and friendly relations) has almost disappeared. Some slight amount of superintendence, which in fact amounts to nothing more than taking note of results, and does not imply the slightest knowledge of processes, is as much as most ladies have occasion to bestow upon their households; and the weekly consultation over the housekeeping books, though it certainly brings the mistress into very real relations with at least one member of her household, does not always tend to sweeten those relations.

Now, suppose a kind-hearted mistress of a house, having some time, money, and space to spare, and willing to take thought and trouble to make her house all that it might be. Suppose such a mistress to have as her head servant a sensible motherly woman, who is ready to do her part for the same object. This is not a very extravagant supposition; and yet it is difficult to set a limit to the blessings which, with a cordial understanding between these two, they have it in their power to bestow within the four walls of their own home. Suppose one of the rooms in the house simply furnished with two or three iron bedsteads, a comfortable armchair, some growing flowers in the windows, and a bookcase well stored with both good and light reading. Mention the existence of such a room to any hard-working clergyman or almoner of a relief society in poor C

VOL. V.-No. 23.

districts; and let it be known that any poor men or women, children, or married couples, as you feel inclined, to whom fresh air and good food are an object, will be welcome guests for a week or two. You can make any conditions about cleanliness and freedom from infection; and if the housekeeper knows what she is about, you need fear no trouble on this account. It will not be long before your hospitality will be abundantly accepted. We scarcely know till we try it, what the boon is, to dwellers in the crowded parts of London, of the mere fresh air and space of a good-sized room in a gentleman's house, even in London. And then the good food supplied without their own care, and not cooked before their eyes in the living-room. It seems little to us, but to them it is new life, and after a week or two they look like different creatures. But this mere physical benefit is but a small part of the gain. A succession of such visitors keeps up a stream of life and interest which wonderfully freshens up the atmosphere of the house they come to. Sometimes one is asked to receive a mother and child; and the quiet house is perhaps lightened up by the welcome pattering of little feet, and skipping-ropes and dolls begin to lie about in corners; the little one is in a sort of fairyland, and everything is touched with the freshness and gladness of childhood. Poor children are so easily amused, so independent, and used to minding' themselves and each other, that they are not half the trouble that rich children are to entertain. So it is, indeed, with all poor visitors. They are much the happier for having something to do in the house, and it is generally part of the treatment required for convalescents. So they may be set to work-one to scrub, another to peel potatoes, another to wash up; and so far from making trouble in the house, they almost do the work of another servant. Then they have such interesting histories, which they like to tell, and which often give opportunities of suggesting some better plan of life, or of helping in one way or another. How gladly they will help each other in many little ways! how much the arrival of a

1 The following extract from a paper written by a lady who is in the habit of receiving poor visitors (chiefly convalescents from the East End of London) 'may be given as an instance of the sort of regulations which can easily be made: 'I generally invite patients for a fortnight, but I am glad to keep them for a week or two longer if it appears desirable. I can only receive such as are well enough to make their own beds and keep their room tidy, as we have not hands enough to wait upon them. . . . I require a medical certificate in the subjoined form :-

"I certify that the case of - is one especially requiring rest, good air, and food; and that is not suffering from any infectious complaint."

'(Signed)

(Qualified Practitioner.)

·

[If any stimulants are required, please state particularly the kind and quantity to be given.]

'I expect patients to come sufficiently provided with clean clothes, and to wash their own linen, or pay for its being put out.'

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second visitor brightens up the first! Then the little expeditions to the parks or museums, perhaps to the play or Christy Minstrels, cost next to nothing, but give infinite pleasure. In these little parties the servants will take part; sometimes they give the treat. Perhaps the housemaid's young brother is called in to escort her and her friends, and arrives in imposing array, wanting only a 'button-hole,' which the housekeeper comes up to beg from the drawing-room vases. Let the servants once feel that the mistress delights in such innocent hospitalities, and loves to share in planning them, in hearing all about them, and even in taking a part in such as take place under her own roof, and there will be an endless upspringing of cheerful little devices, plenty of willing hands to do any little extra work they may involve, plenty of goodwill and energy in serving such a motherly mistress. It is not the things themselves—the treats, or the invitations-it is the mistress's share in them which strengthens and sweetens the relation between her and her servants. If she is wise, she will leave almost all the planning and contriving to them, and will, if not actually wait for an invitation to her own kitchen, yet feel her way as cautiously there as she would in the grandest drawing-room she visits. But there is no fear that she will not be made heartily welcome if her heart is felt to be in the hospitalities of her own house-if she is what the servants call 'a real lady:' that is, as incapable of using a disrespectful word or tone of voice to any one of them as to the friend she most looks up to. I feel sure that in all relations, but above all in our relations with those of a lower social position, one great key to all hearts is respectfulness. All who know much of the poor will agree in this: that they are most keenly sensitive to respectful treatment. Good manners will go infinitely further than money, further even than kind deeds, in winning access to them and influence over them. Neither condescension nor indulgence will make a mistress popular. Servants dislike anything like a lady's leaving her own proper place, even more than she dislikes it herself. But what is her proper place? Surely to be as nearly as may be like a mother to every inmate of her house; as careful of their feelings, as deeply interested in their fullest and best development, in their highest improvement and freest enjoyment of life, as if they were her own flesh and blood. Would any mother who had herself tasted the delight of ministering to the poor be satisfied that her daughters should grow up wholly absorbed in a routine of daily drudgery, without the opportunity of doing anything to cherish and comfort the sick and suffering around them? And is it right for each of us to absorb entirely in the work of keeping our houses clean, and preparing our food and clothing, three or four or a dozen women with hearts as warm as our own, and hands much more capable? Would it not be a new era for the poor, if mistresses had hearts

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