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SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-I.
DOMESTIC SERVANTS AND THEIR DUTIES.
THE servant grievance is being constantly discussed to very little
purpose, simply because more people are capable of deploring an evil than
suggesting a remedy. Admitting that the class of domestic servants has generally
become more deficient in ability than any other body of labourers in the social
scale, some allowances should be made for their shortcomings owing to the
exceptional circumstances to which of late years they have been exposed. To cite
only one cause, the increased facilities of locomotion. Formerly country girls
were content to live from one year's end to another in the same situations from
sheer inability to defray the expenses of travelling any distance. Now-a-days,
railway trains have thrown the servant-market open. and, consequently, even
remote provinces are drained of household help. The rush is to large towns, and
especially to London, where wages are high, and dress and pleasures plentiful
and cheap. Arrived at their destination servant girls very likely find their
mistresses unable or unwilling to help them.
It used not to be so. Middle-class employers did not always consider it beneath them to engage practically in the work of housekeeping. But since the frenzy for display and excitement has seized upon all classes alike, mistresses are apt to impose upon their servants responsibilities which the latter are unfitted by previous training to discharge. Nothing is more natural than that vexations and disappointments should be the result.
It is not be expected that any sensible change for the better will take place yet awhile. Not until education proper has corrected the existing false notions of employer and employed, may we hope for a happier state. In the meanwhile, every mistress has it in her power to help the good time in coming, by fulfilling her own part of the contract with her servants scrupulously and diligently.
The first step in this direction is, as far as possible, to make no engagements which do not promise to be of a lasting nature. By this is meant, not to engage a servant with a known unfitness for the place. Many ladies are prone to take young women into their service, just to stop a gap, or to tide over a difficulty. All that they want is, to find some one to fill the place for a time, whilst they are suiting themselves at leisure.
Of course it will be remarked, that it is impossible to do the work oneself, and that the risk must be run. To this it may be replied, that it should be every mistress's endeavour to acquaint herself with "servants' work" generally, in order to meet such emergencies. If ladies were supposed to possess this knowledge more generally than is commonly believed, servants would be less independent. And for this reason like other workers, they have to live by the demand for their services. As it is at present, cooks that know nothing of cookery, and nurses that are ignorant of the nurture of childhood, get as good places, and oftentimes higher wages, than women who really know their business, and are high principled enough to do what they undertake.
Apropos of wages. It is a very prevalent notion that high wages secure efficient service. The assumption, however, is far from being well-founded. As a general rule, the best servants are satisfied with the average rate of wages, and care more for a comfortable situation, where the payments are fair and certain, than for higher remuneration than is customary. Exceptionally high wages are apt to he regarded as a bribe rather than as a well-earned reward. It is better to pay for length of service than for the qualities naturally supposed to be possessed by servants in their respective places. Thus, if a servant enters a situation, say at twelve pounds a year, it is a better plan to increase her wages yearly one pound, than to pay a higher rate at the outset with no prospect of a rise. Many servants leave good places for the sole reason that they have no such encouragement to remain. The policy of refusing a similar increase is short-sighted, for "changing" is generally a costly experiment. It is not to be supposed that wages are to go on continually increasing; a limit has to be arrived at at last; but the limit should be the full extent of the employer's means, and somewhat over and above the possible worth of the servant's labours to a stranger. By this means, there is some very great possibility of securing personal interest, if not attachment, to those who serve.
Intimately connected with wages is the finding of extras. For some reason or other, which it is difficult to account for, many housekeepers do not undertake to find grocery and beer, but allow money for those articles of consumption. Either such things are necessary to the diet of servants, or they are not. If they are necessary, it is better by far to provide tea, sugar, and beer, than to give money which may not be applied to its proper use. In point of economy, the money payment is a losing one, because a housekeeper having to feed a certain number of persons daily, the better all the meals are supplied, the more regular is the consumption likely to be. A girl that goes without a good tea is more likely to prove an inordinate supper-eater than one who has previously enjoyed a good meal.
With regard to beer money. If beer be a necessary, the money ought to be spent in buying the required nourishment ; if not, there is no sense in giving wages in lieu of it.
Perquisites are happily going out of fashion; but a certain class of servants still stipulate for them. The principle is bad, and tends more to promote dishonesty than any other flaw in our social habits. When a mistress once allows her servants of their own accord to dispose of any articles, it is almost impossible to draw a line between what is a rightful perquisite or what is a misappropriation, not to say a theft. The articles may be of small worth, and, perhaps, useless to the owner; but the power of disposing of such things is a temptation to swell the profits by unfair means.
In a well-managed household every remnant of food and clothing should be disposed of by the mistress' hand. If she pleases to give away things that are useless to herself, the gift is acknowledged as such. On the other hand, if a servant has the power of taking certain articles as a right, no thanks are due. Dripping, bones, rags, and worn-out apparel all have their uses, as we shall endeavour to prove in the course of subsequent articles on this subject.
With regard to a plan of household work. Whether an establishment be large or small, positive rules should be laid down for observance in all that relates to the comfort of the family and the despatch of work. The best plan is to have the order of work and rules for the in- coming and out-going of the servants legibly and tersely written, and pasted on the walls of the kitchen. A little ornamental bordering and varnish makes the placard appear both pleasing and permanent. Any express duty required of the servant should be particularised thereon.
In order to carry out the above plan successfully, the mistress should have a corresponding table at hand for her own reference, so as not to give contrary orders inadvertently, and thereby nullify the rules.
Whether "followers" are allowed is a question often put by a servant on applying for a situation. Except under very rare circumstances, it is better to disallow the privilege. While speaking on this subject, we may add that the word "followers" has a very elastic meaning, and as it is difficult to draw a line between those that are unobjectionable and otherwise, no hardship can be felt in refusing to admit visitors to the kitchen save upon express [-103-] permission. The arrangement to the effect that periodically a servant shall be permitted to go out and see her friends, does away with the necessity for having them to call on her. At the same time, a mistress should be careful not to bind herself to spare her servant on a certain day in every month, as is sometimes demanded. "Once in a month when convenient" is a better understanding.
Most servants, in addition to the monthly holiday, ask to be allowed to go to church of a Sunday once in the day. This request is reasonable ; and if a servant really goes to a place of worship, some inconvenience should be borne by her employers to secure her this liberty, but if she goes instead to see her friends, it should be a matter for consideration whether she shall go out or not. At any rate, the absence ought not to extend very much beyond the time occupied in the church service.
Dress in these days is a very disputed point between mistress and maid. Any attempt to restrict young women in the choice of their garments will be found fruitless. Certain fashions, however, which are likely to be destructive to the employer's property, or unfitted for the performance of a servant's duties, a lady has a right to prohibit.
Caps and white aprons, for answering the door and waiting at table, are befitting to young women in service. Little crochet caps, at once so cheap and so becoming, are the best head-gear to stipulate for. Large holland aprons, to be worn whilst bed-making and dusting furniture, are necessary garments; also, cotton gowns for morning wear.
If ladies would be at a little pains to mention their wishes on this subject, young women in service would supply themselves with suitable wardrobes. Whatever clothing a servant chooses to wear when out for a holiday is beyond a mistress's rule.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-II
THE GENERAL SERVANT.
THE servant of all work, as the old-fashioned term used to be, is fast
becoming extinct. The designation. is now generally applied to female servants
possessing no particular aptitude for any special branch.
"General servants" have mostly had experience of more branches of service than one. They know something of a cooking-many are very fair cooks - they understand housemaids' work, and have almost always begun by being nursemaids. Their wages vary, according to attainments and locality, number of family, size of house, &c., from seven or eight, to sixteen pounds a year. Sometimes the wages are modified by arrangements which require them to find their own tea and sugar, beer, &c., as well as a by a variety of special circumstances which cannot well be enumerated. The higher wages are usually asked by good plain cooks, and managers willing to assist in housework if help be given in rough cleaning such as boots, knives, washing, &c.
For all purposes of comfort, a good servant, even though her wages should be high, is the cheapest and most likely to settle in her place. It should be borne in mind that a good servant consumes no more than a bad one. She destroys less, and is less liable to throw herself out of place, arguing rightly that twenty situations can be had at twelve pounds a year, against one of fifteen and upwards. Besides, a shrewd servant is sensible enough to know, that in a single-handed place a number of comforts are enjoyed which would be denied where there? are several servants. Many families are prevented from engaging one good a general servant, because they consider their position requires that two domestics should be kept. We think, however, that in this, as in everything else concerning life, the rule holds good, that true happiness does not consist in our regulating our household according to the supposed fancies of our neighbours ; but according to what we know to be our own tastes and requirements.
The duties of a general servant being numerous, it is desirable that a well-considered plan embodying the principal work of the house, should be provided. The rules of the house and order of work should be legibly and tersely written on cardboard, suspended on the kitchen wall.
Early rising is an essential quality in a servant who has to do any amount of housework before breakfast. Six o'clock is the latest hour at which she should rise.
By getting her work ready in the evening before going to bed, she is enabled to set about it at once on coming down in the morning. In order to do so, she should put everything in its place overnight, wash up plates and dishes, hang up jugs, and tidy her kitchen. If, after having raked out the fire, she lays it with fresh coals and dry firewood, a great point will be gained. All except the front bars of the range can be polished whilst the fire is drawing up. Twice a week a thorough cleaning of the range, boiler, and oven will do more to keep it bright than the hasty brushing generally given when time is short. If a stove is in use, the flues require brushing out with the proper utensils. If not, the soot from the mouth of the chimney should be cleared away with the sweep's brush, as far as an arm can reach. Many a good roast joint is sent to table covered with smuts, from neglect of this precaution.
Whilst the fire is drawing up, the servant should remain near to give it a timely stir before setting the kettle on, employing her time in the meanwhile in cleaning boots, knives, or any other occupation of the kind.
Her next proceeding should be to wash her hands and open the window curtains of the breakfast-room, if she has not already opened all the shutters and drawn up the blinds of the house, on her way down-stairs. She should then take a large sweeping cloth, and cover up any ornaments or furniture likely to be spoilt by dust. The hearth- rug should be folded up and laid aside to be shaken. A coarse cloth should then be laid in its place, on which the black-lead box, the cinder sifter, and fire-irons should rest whilst in use. To clean a parlour grate, fire-irons, and bright fender thoroughly, will take about twenty minutes.
Sweeping the carpet, or brushing up the scraps of litter in a dustpan, is the next proceeding. A good manager will never commence this work without having a plentiful supply of tea-leaves at hand to strew on the floor. These collect the dust which would otherwise settle on the hangings. To sweep without tea leaves, is simply time wasted and destruction.
Having proceeded so far in the breakfast-room, the hall and entrance claim attention. Even if there be not time to whiten the doorsteps before breakfast, sweeping should be done, and the mats and rugs thoroughly shaken outside.
The above portion of the work being accomplished, all the cinders left from the day before should be collected and sifted. These are useful for burning in copper flues, or they may be used to bank up a kitchen fire when a steady heat is wanted.
The dirty work of the morning now being at an end, the servant should change her gown for a cleaner cotton one, put on a tidy apron and clean cap, and dust the breakfast. room. She is now ready to lay the cloth, bring in breakfast, and do her up-stairs work generally. if there be sufficient time, this is the best opportunity she will base for her own breakfast. If not, she should manage to have her meal as soon as possible afterwards. Nothing tends to good humour so much as sound digestion, and servants cannot be healthy if they snatch their food whilst running about.
Directly breakfast is finished and cleared away, the first thing to do is, to open the windows of the bedrooms, if they have been left closed, and to strip the clothes oft the beds, piece by piece. The feather beds should be well shaken and turned, and the mattresses raised for a current of air to pass through. The chamber crockery must be emptied, and such articles as require particular cleansing rinsed out with hot water and soda. Two old cloths should be kept for this purpose - old chamber towels are the best - one for the actual cleansing, and the other for wiping dry. The water bottles and tumblers should be emptied, and wiped with a clean glass cloth. At evening, [-148-] when the beds are turned down, the bottles should be refilled with fresh water.
In most families where there are daughters, the general servant gets help in making the beds. Sometimes the mistress of the house assists. The rooms that are to be specially cleaned should afterwards be made ready for the work, and the toilet appendages laid on the bed, together with any books or movables that may require protecting from the dust. A sweeping-sheet should then be thrown over the whole. The valances of the bed should be tucked up, and the bed curtains folded neatly across the bolster.
If no special cleaning is to be done, the bedroom should be quickly dusted and put in order, the servant collecting lamps, candlesticks, and other articles that have to be cleaned in the kitchen. When the up-stairs work is so far done, a general washing up in the kitchen should begin. The mistress or daughters will probably in the meanwhile dust the ornaments in the drawing-room, and aid in giving an air of order and refinement to the room.
Throughout the morning the tradesmen's bell causes serious interruption to a servant. It is a good plan to let certain tradesmen call on specified days only. The orders should be given early by the mistress on those days, and so diminish the number of times the servant has to answer the bell. A ticket may be placed in the front window to indicate the days on which different tradesmen should call.
The hour at which the family dines determines whether the servant shall do the principal house-cleaning in the morning or afternoon. If the hour is late, the morning is best; if early, the contrary. In any case a servant should not be allowed to leave the kitchen while a joint is roasting, as many are apt to do, thinking that the meat need only swing round and round till dinner-time to be properly cooked. Afternoon dinners will generally be found more suitable to the thorough dispatch of house-work, than a mid-day meal, though of course, when there are children in the family, this is impossible. Some forethought is required to set a servant free to do special cleaning without neglecting the dinner.
If a general servant is required to wait at table, it is unreasonable to expect that she can be very tidy at midday. But if the dinner hour is late, she may be able to dress herself before dishing up, having previously cleared her kitchen. No washing up beyond china and glass should be expected afterwards. The plates and dishes should be cleared of scraps, and stacked away in an orderly manner in the washhouse till the following morning, when time for washing them, together with the saucepans, &c., should be allowed. Under these circumstances the servant can wait upon the family in the evening, and employ the rest of her time in repairing or making her clothes.
Before laying the dinner cloth, the servant should tidy the room. The hearth may require sweeping up, and, with the mistress's permission, the cinders may be carried out and burnt in the kitchen in the evening.
At dusk, it is the servant's business to draw down the blinds of the house, close the shutters, and prepare the bedrooms for the night.
If any washing is done at home, the work of the house should be so arranged that Saturday afternoon may be reserved for looking up the articles to be washed, and putting them into soak. We shall have occasion to speak more particularly about washing hereafter; meanwhile, observe that there is great saving of time in washing on Mondays. In order to begin early on that day, the clothes should be all sorted and in soak (flannels and coloured things excepted) on Saturday evening.
The closing of the basement and turning off the gas is generally left to the general servant, but the master or mistress of the house goes round to see that all is safe.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-III.
IN small households, where only one kitchen servant is kept, the duties of
the cook comprise those which devolve on the kitchen and scullery-maids of
larger establishments. Whether the domestics be few or many, however, the cook's
position is second in importance to none save that of the housekeeper.
The only portion of housework which a cook in a moderate-sized family is generally expected to undertake is the cleaning of the hall, the entrance, and the dining room-work which can be done before breakfast and consequently without hindrance to her special vocation of cooking. In very few instances will a good plain cook consent to clean boots and knives. If she does a knife machine is generally stipulated for, and is not an unreasonable request when the interruption knife cleaning occasions is taken into consideration. Cinder-sifting, likewise, belongs to cook's work in small families and is much faclitated by the use of a patent sifter, of which more anon.
The principal qualities to seek in a cook are early rising, cleanliness, punctuality, and sobriety. Honesty is, of course, essential in every department of domestic service, but the want of this virtue is apt to display itself in cooks less in acts of commission than of omission. By failing to make the most of the stores entrusted to her care, or by disposing of articles of food for her own profit, what is indulgently termed "want of economy" becomes actual dishonesty, and tends considerably to impoverish the means of employers. Therefore, in taking the character of a cook, it is important to ascertain whether she has the practice of turning every article of consumption - remnants, &c.- to the best account for her employer's sake. A servant that possesses such knowledge, and is willing to apply it to its right use, deserves better wages than one who recklessly squanders her master's substance. If the pounds annually saved by an intelligent and faithful servant were remunerated by a reward of so many shillings, there is no doubt that a spirit of economy would be more often displayed than is the case where no note is taken of similar virtues.
A great point would be gained towards securing more efficient cooks than now usually fill situations of the kind, if every mistress of an establishment would prosecute her inquiries as to the applicant's fitness for the place beyond the regular stereotyped questions relative to the reasons for leaving the last situation, wages, &c. Suppose, for instance - a satisfactory account of moral character having been given - the employer were to test the servant's knowledge of cooking by a few practical questions, such as: How long do you make up your fire before roasting? What time do you allow for boiling a leg of mutton of a certain weight? What use do you put cold vegetables to? What do you do with bones and dripping? How much fresh meat do you require per week to supply soup in a given number of days? How much meat do you consider should be consumed weekly in the kitchen? How many loaves do you think are sufficient for a family of so many persons? &c.
By similar inquiries, the good opinion of a well-informed servant, far from being diminished, would increase in favour of the employer; and the bane of ignorance would cease to characterise the present body of cooks as a class. As much for the benefit of the inexperienced employer as the employed, the following directions are given.
First, with regard to the kitchen fire. A good manager will keep the winder of the range close handy, in order to enlarge or narrow the opening according to the culinary operations required. This cannot be easily done if the grooves are suffered to become choked with cinders and dust. The only way to obviate this difficulty is never to light the kitchen fire before first sweeping out every portion of fuel.
A fire for roasting requires a somewhat wider opening than the length of the joint about to be suspended in front. Meat should always be put down before a "mending fire" - that is, one which has been made up of coals still unconsumed. It is bad economy to throw up the cinders for a roasting fire until the joint is done. A well-made fire should burn steadily with very little stirring until the joint is half cooked, when the meat-screen or dripping-pan should be moved from the front of the fire; the lower bars of the range should be thoroughly raked out from dust, the burning coals should be brought gently to the front, and the back filled in with fresh, surmounting the top with a few pieces of coke and small lumps of coal mixed. By this means the progress of the joint in getting too rapidly cooked on the outside is arrested. and gives the heat a chance of penetrating to the centre. A fire thus made will burn briskly by the time when the appetising browning of the joint is needed. Half the failures in roasting are attributable to putting a joint down before a fierce fire, and finishing with a slack one.
Slow roasting at the commencement is indispensable to the preservation of the flavour of the meat. This may be effected by regulating the distance from the fire. About [-171-] fourteen inches will be found a good distance, admitting of the joint being "neared," towards the end of the cooking process.
Fresh killed meat requires longer to roast than when "hung." Meat a little frozen should be put into cold water till thawed, and will be improved by being hung in the kitchen over-night. This rule applies especially to Christmas joints, such as sirloin of beef, and turkeys of all sizes. Fat meat takes rather longer to roast than lean; about twenty minutes to half an hour extra on a large joint will be sufficient. The usual time allowed for roasting is from fifteen to twenty minutes to every pound according to the strength of the fire and size of joint.
Some cooks are partial to frothing their roasts, by using flour. A well-cooked joint needs no such addition to its natural appearance, the streaks of gravy which flow from the centre, when the joint is well done, being ornament sufficient. If any flour be used, it should be very lightly dusted on from the dredger, about half an hour before the joint is taken up.
Made gravies are generally considered objectionable with roast meat. Every joint should be made to supply its gravy in its own trimmings. Pieces of flap, shanks of mutton, &c., which are not usually sent to table, should be put into a small saucepan, with some water or plain stock, when the joint is set down. These should be after wards strained, and either poured over the burnt ends or added to the gravy which has flowed from the joint into the dripping-pan. A pinch of burnt sugar will supply the browning. The best gravy of all for roasts is that which is cleared from the dripping saved from a former roast joint, to which may be added some boiling water and a little salt. Gravy should never be poured over a roast joint. It is a good plan to send the gravy to table in a sauce-boat, or tureen.
Poultry requires to be put down before a brisk fire and should be previously lightly dredged with flour and covered with clarified beef dripping. Hares will eat more tender if, for the first half hour of roasting, they are basted with salt and water in the proportion of a dessert-spoonful of salt to half a pint of water. When basted the above time, the salt and water should be removed, and fresh dripping laid in the pan. Some people recommend water and salt as a first basting for all joints. The mixture certainly improves the colour of the roast, but we fancy at the cost of its flavour, the salt exciting a too hasty flow of the gravy.
Now that the use of close stoves and kitcheners has become so general, the art of roasting in front of a fire is in danger of being lost. "Roasting in the oven," as the new method is termed, to be successful, requires a jar of boiling water to be put into the oven with the joint The steam keeps the meat from becoming dry on the outside and prevents the objectionable flavour of burnt fat. The water should not be removed till the joint is ready to brown. This practice holds good for all baking in the side ovens of the ordinary kitchen-range.
Boiling is a more simple process of cooking than roasting, and fails generally from being too hastily performed. A steady simmering is all that is necessary to maintain during this mode of cooking, for which purpose cinders mixed with a little coal, and the refuse from the trimmings of vegetables will be found to answer best. Boiling is not an economical method of dressing meat, if the liquor in which the joint is boiled is afterwards thrown away; therefore, not more water should be used for the purpose than will just cover the meat. When the water is near boiling, scum will rise to the surface, and should be carefully removed as fast as it is formed. When the scum no longer rises, the pot may be set aside to simmer until the end. Wrapping meat in a cloth and boiling in milk or lemon-juice is often recommended to secure a whiteness of appearance. but no mode is so effectual as the patient removal of the scum itself which causes the unsightly aspect. From twenty minutes to half an hour per pound of meat, wil1 not be found too long to boil a joint slowly and well.
Cold water should be used for boiling, whenever the liquor is to be afterwards converted into soup.
All kinds of fish with the skin on should be put into cold water, with about a dessert-spoonful of salt to a quart of water. Crimped cod, slices of salmon, and other cut fish, must be put into boiling water containing the above proportion of salt. The water should barely cover cut fish. A whole fish, weighing about four pounds, will take about half an hour to cook, after the water has come to a boil. Skimming is as necessary for fish when boiling, as for meat. As soon as the water has boiled, the cover of the fish-kettle should be tilted on one side, to prevent the skin of the fish from cracking. Some kinds of fresh-water fish are considered to be improved by boiling a few herbs in the water, such as sprigs of thyme, bay-leaf, &c., according to taste.
Frying, being an expeditious mode of cooking, is in general favour with inferior cooks, but, if carefully performed, is both economical and wholesome. Of all modes of cooking, however, none are so liable to prove unsatisfactory as that of frying, unless the nicest discernment is exercised as to what articles will fry well, or not. The chief drawback to success in this branch of cookery, in England, is the shape of the ordinary frying-pan. Although one is constantly told in cookery books that "frying is simply boiling in fat," the vessel in which the process is usually performed precludes the possibility of complete immersion. In France, where frying is most successfully practised, the frying-pan is generally from seven to eight inches deep, rendering the first principle of the art easy to be carried out. Too little fat, insufficient heat, and want of careful preparation, are apt to make fried dishes in English households wasteful and indigestible.
Before putting whatever is to be fried into the pan, sufficient fat should, if possible, be put into the vessel to cover the article. The pan should be scrupulously clean. If there is any doubt upon this score, it is best to melt a little fat in it over the fire, and wipe the pan out with the fat, which should afterwards be put aside. The great art of good frying is to know when the fat is hot enough. This may be ascertained by sprinkling a few drops of cold water into the fat when supposed to be nearly boiling. If the water hisses, the fat is hot enough. A piece of bread dipped in hot fat will be the best test as to whether it is over-heated or not. If the bread just browns, the fat will do ; if it blackens, the fat should be thrown away, as it will destroy whatever is put in it.
It is essential to a good colour of fried food that the articles should be perfectly dry. The only exception to having things perfectly dry before frying is parsley, which, to look green and crisp, should be shaken through cold water immediately before it is plunged into the pan.
Lard is excellent for frying fish, and, if not burnt, may serve for several times. Beef and mutton dripping are better for meat. Oil is much used by foreigners, but if not of the finest quality gives a disagreeable flavour to viands. Butter is the least desirable of all fats for the purpose, on account of the salt and water in it; and it has besides a disposition to blacken, unless great skill be used.
Broiling is a favourite mode of English cookery, and is especially adapted to our taste for plain meat. In order to broil successfully the gridiron must be perfectly clean. It should previously to being used be heated over the fire, and wiped between the bars with mutton or beef suet, or fat. A clear fire is needful, but not necessarily a large one. The gridiron should be raised slightly at the back. A good cook will never leave the fire when broiling is in progress, the chief art being to keep the meat constantly turned in order to prevent the pieces from settling. Forks [-172-] should never be used for turning meat. A small pair of steak tongs soon defray their cost in the amount of nourishment they save. If a fork must be used, the cook should avoid sticking it in the prime part of the meat.
Broiled meats should not be sent to table in gravy, still less should the meat be slashed to supply a gravy. A little pepper and salt, just before removing the meat from the fire, is all the relish usually necessary. The plates and dishes cannot well be too hot on which a broil is served.
The above are the simple rudiments of plain cooking, and should be familiar to every servant who undertakes a cook's situation in an English household. It is not possible here to give full details of the duties of a cook, who should, however, understand the making of pies, puddings, pastry, and bread in general; she must also know how to prepare sauces, gravies, and soups; she must be competent to dress vegetables, and prepare all ordinary herbs; she is to know the value and importance of her stock-pot, and to see that it is never forgotten; she is expected to be acquainted with the most effectual methods of keeping provisions, uncooked or cooked; she must look well to all the arrangements of her larder, kitchen, and kitchen utensils, and must know how to serve up all ordinary dishes. In many families some of the duties of the housekeeper fall to the cook's share of work, and will form the subject of another chapter.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-IV.
IN many English households two servants only are kept - cook and housemaid -
a small domestic staff, but one capable, under able supervision, of getting
through a considerable amount of work. In order to effect this, it is necessary
that each servant should be efficient in her duties, and that a regular plan of
household labour be laid down, by which, instead of impeding each other's
progress, mutual help may be rendered to facilitate a thorough dispatch of work.
As a general rule, however, the less a cook has to do out of her kitchen the
better will she be enabled to cook, and the more time a housemaid bestows on
house cleaning, the greater will be the comfort of the family. Dusty furniture
and a close atmosphere are evils which are apt to generate ailments in
establishments where sufficient domestic labour cannot be afforded. Ailments of
the kind should have no existence where sufficient servants are employed to keep
every part of a house clean and wholesome.
One of the chief obstacles to the better discharge of housemaids' work than generally obtains is, not only the notion on the part of the servant herself, that her duties are of a semi-laborious nature, but the too ready acquiescence in this view by employers. Many ladies, when engaging a housemaid, hold out the "lightness of the work" as an inducement to get the place filled. Consequently, no sphere of domestic service is so crowded with young women in delicate health as that of the housemaid. Good health is, nevertheless, indispensable to the fit discharge of all kinds of labour.
A housemaid's place is no sinecure if properly filled. Early rising is indispensable; much physical strength is required for scrubbing, carrying trays, and answering bells, and if, as it often happens, there are children and invalids in the family, her powers of patience are considerably tried.
A good constitution and a willing disposition are amongst the principal qualities to seek in a housemaid, to which may be added a quiet, pleasing manner and cleanly appearance.
A housemaid's dress is of some importance. When engaged in her morning work, washable materials are the best; a wide holland apron should always be worn over one of white material whenever house-cleaning is going on. If the servant be required to appear at the front door, or wait upon the family whilst at dirty work, by casting aside the outer apron she is able to appear at a moment's notice in a presentable manner. For afternoon wear in the winter, very dark or black French twill dresses are suitable, inexpensive, and easily washed. In the summer light cotton materials look best. At all seasons a neat white crochet cap is the best head-gear. Thick boots, especially with nails, are destructive to stair carpets, and should on no account be worn in the house. Housemaid's gloves should be found by the mistress of the house.
As the duties of a housemaid are very numerous, and liable to vary in different households, it is advisable in this place to explain only those which are of general application.
A good housemaid will rise at six, and have her grates cleaned and rooms swept by seven. She will then go upstairs, wash her hands, and make herself tidy for taking to the bedroom hot water if required to do so. In the meanwhile the dust will have settled, and the rooms will be ready on her return to be finished by eight. By nine o'clock breakfast ought to be cleared away and the housemaid ready to strip the beds, empty slops, and set the bedrooms in order. By eleven o'clock the up-stairs work ought to be done, unless extra cleaning is in question. Washing up china and glass, dusting the drawing-room, [-182-] and other light labour of the kind may take till twelve or one o'clock, by which time a housemaid ought to be dressed for the day, fit to answer the door, wait on the family, and do needlework. Any work required of the servant after mid-day should be of a nature not to soil her garments. At dusk, it is a housemaid's place to close all the windows at the upper part of the house. Before going to bed she has to turn down all the beds of the family, replenish ewers and water bottles, empty slops, and put everything in its place. If she has the charge of the plate-basket she carries it to the master's room, together with hot water. Considerate employers will dispense with a housemaid's attendance by ten o'clock, bearing in mind her morning duties.
The usual plan of housemaid's, work, when no washing is done at home, is to clean the drawing-room thoroughly on Mondays, and one or two other rooms, according to their size, on each successive day during the week. Saturday should be a tolerably clear day from housecleaning, beyond general dusting and setting in order for Sunday, cleaning plate, airing clean linen from the wash, &c. Any spare time left beyond these duties is generally allowed the housemaid for repairing or making her own clothes. If washing is done at home, the household work must necessarily be delayed in its course.
The following directions are written for the guidance of housemaids.
Sweeping and Dusting.- Before sweeping a room remove all light articles of furniture out of the way, and cover up those which would be spoiled by dust. Draw back the window-curtains and pin them up as high as you can reach. Open the windows a few inches top and bottom, and shut the door. Turn the front of picture-frames to the wall, hang a sweeping-sheet over looking-glass frames, mirrors, &c. Then sprinkle tea-leaves, drained, but not dry, all over the carpet, especially in the corners. Sweep all carpets the way of the pile, whether it be in one direction or in another. If the fireplace is in use, all the ashes should be removed from the grate before sweeping the carpet. Whilst the dust settles, clean the grate. Having done so, tie a soft clean cloth over a hair broom and sweep the cornice and ceiling, also the walls. A turk's-head broom answers better for this purpose, if you have one. In like manner sweep the curtain-poles, hangings, &c. In the absence of tea-leaves, some pieces of coarse brown paper, moistened with clean water, will answer the purpose. Without something of the kind you simply drive the dust from one part of the room to another.
Dusting.- Remove all articles from the place to be dusted, and do not wipe round them. Put everything back in its place. Use a painter's brush for dusting skirtings, and wipe glass and china ornaments with a fine soft cloth. White dusters are best for chintz furniture. A small feather broom should be used for raised china and gilt work. Never wipe picture frames with a duster. Carved woodwork should be dusted with a short-haired furniture brush, which likewise polishes. Pianoforte keys should be dusted with an old silk pocket-handkerchief; kept for the purpose.
Scrubbing. - Neglected boards will not come clean without extra pains. If of a very bad colour a mixture of three parts of powdered pipeclay with one of chloride of lime, about the thickness of cream, will be useful. This should be laid on to dry in some time before scrubbing. Or some white sand laid on the brush when scrubbing will remove the dirt. Grease will only yield to fuller's earth spread on the spots for several hours. Well kept boards, especially in country houses, require nothing but cold water. Soap and soda in hot water make boards black. In scrubbing, only arm's length should be wetted at the time, taking care that the flannel is wrung each time dry of the soiled water. Good bass scrubbing-brushes are more cleansing than those of hair. Vulcanised india-rubber scrubbing-brushes are the best of all, but are rather expensive at the first outlay.
To clean Grates.- It is a good plan to cover new grates with a coating of copal varnish lightly; polishing afterwards with a black-lead brush will keep them in good condition with very little trouble. Once a year the varnish may be renewed, and the saving will be found considerable, both in black-lead and labour. Neglected grates are troublesome to restore. The only effectual way is to scrub off all the accumulation of dust and grease with a hard brush and soft soap. Afterwards go over them with some Brunswick black, to be had at most oil-shops. They will only require dusting afterwards for some time. Bright polished steel, if neglected, may be improved by mixing sweet oil to the thickness of cream with fine emery knife-powder. Cover the steel with this mixture, and, when dry, rub it off with a leather dipped in the same powder. For coarse bright metal a mixture of a little fine brick-dust with the knife powder and oil will answer. Burnished fire-irons and mouldings should never be touched with emery or sand-paper. If spotted with rust, the best plan is to get a "buff" - i.e., a thick piece of soft leather fastened on a stick-as sold at tool warehouses. Dip the buff into a little oil, and afterwards into fine crocus powder, and rub the rusty places till they become bright.
To clean Brass and Copper.- A mixture of oil and rotten-stone, applied with a piece of leather and afterwards rubbed bright, will give a good polish.
Ormolu articles should be washed with plain soap and water, and polished with a wash leather.
Lacquered Work the same. All acids and soda are liable to destroy lacquer.
To clean Marble.-Ordinary cleansing of marble may be done by simply washing the surface with warm soap and water, polishing afterwards with a fine dry cloth or leather. Stained and much soiled marble may be much improved by boiling equal parts of soft soap and powdered whitening, say four ounces of each with one ounce of soda. When thoroughly blended, lay the mixture on whilst hot, and let it remain for a day or so. Afterwards wash off with clean water, and dry with a leather. Grease stains may sometimes be removed by applying fuller's earth in the usual manner.
To wash Glass.-Cold water, in which a small quantity of soda has been dissolved, is the best mode of washing tumblers, wine glasses, &c. They should afterwards be turned down to drain, and then be polished with a soft dry cloth. The same plan applies to chandelier glasses. If the dust is much worked into ground glass, a soft nail brush should be used, polishing afterwards with a wash leather. Decanters are best cleaned with tea-leaves or pieces of brown paper saturated with water. Potato parings, sometimes recommended, may scratch the glass. A wash-leather is the best thing for washing and drying looking-glasses. Powdered blue and whitening if used are apt to get into the mouldings, and prove troublesome to remove.
To clean Oil-cloth.- Sitting-rooms are now frequently bordered with oil-cloth, and consequently the cleaning falls to the housemaid. Scrubbing oil-cloth with soda and soap is a destructive process, and there is no necessity for doing so, if ordinary care be used to keep the oil-cloth clean by daily sweeping and dusting. If any spots appear they are easily removed by rubbing with a little oil laid on with flannel. When it is necessary to wash oil-cloth it should be gone over with a flannel moistened with milk. If the latter is not easily to be had, a small quantity of olive oil added to weak table-beer will answer. This should be rubbed in with a flannel, a small space at a time, and dried with a wash leather.
To clean Paint.-There is one description of paint which a housemaid should be careful not to clean. This [-183-] is what is termed flaked paint. None but glaziers should be expected to do this work, as it requires special treatment. Soda ought never to be used for paint cleaning, and very little soap. Paint is best dried with a leather, as the latter polishes as well as dries. Grease spots on paint may be easily removed by dipping the flannel into a little finely powdered gilders' whitening worked into a paste with water. The parts only which are soiled should be touched with the whitening, but if the white surface of the paint is very dirty the mixture may be applied all over, wetting only as much as can be dried off at a time.
By this means the finest paint may be preserved in beauty for a very long time. Varnished paint should only be washed occasionally with plain cold water, applied and dried with a wash leather.
To Clean Paper-hangings.- A split stale loaf rubbed over the walls with a circular movement is the cheapest and best plan.
The above are some of the chief daily duties of a housemaid. Directions for other portions of her work, sometimes performed by the parlour-maid, page, and laundry-maid, will be considered in subsequent chapters.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE-V.
IN most establishments where a parlour-maid is kept, many of
the lighter duties of the housemaid and footman fall to her share of work; to
which is not unfrequently added some of the attendance on the mistress of the
house, usually performed by the lady's maid. These combined duties include
dusting and polishing furniture, answering bells, cleaning plate, waiting at
table, and filling up spare time with needlework.
None of the above are, strictly speaking, laborious duties; but in order to discharge them effectually, methodical working is indispensable. Early rising is a cardinal virtue in every branch of domestic work, and is especially desirable where a cleanly personal appearance is a first requisite. Any employment likely to soil the hands and dress of a parlour-maid should be done before breakfast, the attendance of the servant at that meal being generally required.
The carpets having been swept and the grates cleaned by the housemaid, the dusting of the furniture and arranging of the rooms should be done by the parlour-maid. A good memory is needful on her part, to remember where every article is kept, and she should be careful to consult her employers' convenience in regard to the placing of books, writing-materials, needlework, &c. As a general rule, each piece of furniture has its appointed place, but whenever the arrangement is disturbed, it is the parlourmaid's duty to reinstate order, unless desired not to do so. A vigilant servant will take the opportunity of the family's absence from an apartment to make up the fire, sweep the hearth, and clear away any litter. All sitting-rooms occupied throughout the day require dusting twice, i.e., before breakfast, and also before the family return to the apartment from the dining-room. If the weather is favourable, opening the windows a few inches from the top and bottom sashes, freshens the room, and proves a grateful change to its occupants.
The hour at which a parlour-maid should be what is termed "dressed for the day," must depend upon the ever-varying nature of the work required in different families. Perhaps the best way to decide the question is, to be guided by the hour at which visitors are likely to call. In most professional men's houses for instance, the business of the day begins at ten o'clock, by which time if the parlour-maid answers the door, she should be neatly attired, and ready at a moment's notice to present herself creditably before strangers. A servant of good address at a professional man's door, is as much a matter of personal recommendation of the employer as the situation of his residence. Some amount of forethought on the part of the mistress is necessary to ensure cleanly appearance in a door-servant; but the attempt is worth making, if only for the sake of favourable first impressions on the part of strangers. The description of dress already given for housemaid's wear, applies to the parlour-maid. The following are some of the parlour-maid's chief duties.
Answering the Door.-When answering a door, the servant should open it wide enough to afford free entrance, herself standing back. Having replied to the question whether the person inquired for is at home or not, the door should be gently closed, and the question, "Your name, if you please?" or, "What name shall I say?" should be asked. To prevent mistakes, the caller if a stranger, usually presents his or her card. Upon giving the card, the visitor should be shown into the drawing-room, or some unoccupied apartment. The servant should then place a chair for the visitor, raise the blinds, stir the fire or make any alteration needed to secure the comfort of the caller, in the interval of waiting. All cards and letters should be handed to the person for whom they are intended, on a salver or small tray kept in the hall for the purpose. If the interview is likely to be short, a parlour-maid should be prepared to go to the door to let out the visitor, on the signal of the drawing-room bell ringing. She should stand with her hand upon the lock until the caller comes in sight, when the door should be opened wide, and gently closed when the visitor has left the doorstep. If a carriage is in question, the door should not be closed until the vehicle has driven off.
Waiting at Table is a very important branch of domestic knowledge, and although the principles are much the same in all good society, most servants require a little initiation into the particular ways of each family. We subjoin the most general rules.
Breakfast.- At the end of the table, where the lady presides, the cups and saucers should be arranged on either side, having her plate in the centre. The teapot should stand just behind, and the milk-ewer, slop-basin, and sugar-basin at the back of the teapot. If an urn or bright kettle is used, it should be placed within easy reach of the mistress's hand. In most families the loaf and butter are placed on the breakfast table, also a rack of toast, a stand of eggs, and some plates of cut bread and butter. Hot meat is likewise set on the table opposite the master of the house, and cold meat on the sideboard. Some people like to have the loaf and butter also on the sideboard. The parlour-maid generally waits in the breakfast-room until all the family is served with tea and eatables. Having done so, her attendance is usually dispensed with, the members of the family waiting on themselves during the rest of the repast.
At Luncheon, much the same order of things is to be observed, with the exception that both hot and cold meats are then placed on the table, the servant retiring when the family has been served, as at breakfast. This rule is generally observed, as it is customary for the servants to dine whilst the family take lunch. Any unavoidable disturbance at that time should be guarded against. It is e usual to put a supply of clean plates, glasses, &c., on the sideboard, in order that persons may change their own plates after the servant has left the room. Dirty plates are then carried by the users to the side-board.
Dinner.- Some time before dinner, the parlour-maid should get everything in readiness preparatory to laying the cloth. Knives should be dusted and laid in their appointed box, silver and plated articles should be rubbed lightly with the plate-leather, and laid in the plate-basket, and wine-glasses, tumblers, water-bottles, and salt-cellars should be arranged upon a separate tray. The table-napkins and cloth, if untidily put aside, may require [-269-] passing through the linen-press, Fig. 1, or mangle. Bradford's Mangle, No. 1, shown in the illustration, Fig. 2, is suitable for this purpose, and takes up little room. Before laying the cloth, the parlour-maid should sweep up the hearth, if fires are used, and put on fresh coals, so that there may be a cheerful blaze by the time dinner is served. Any papers, books, or other articles that may be dispersed about the room, should be tidily put away, leaving the sideboard clear for table requisites. The sideboard cloth should be laid flush with the edge of the sideboard, not hanging over the front as is sometimes seen. The same rule should be observed in covering all tables used as sideboards. At the back of the sideboards should be placed salvers, bronzes, lamps, or any ornaments belonging to the sideboard. On the right side should be put clean glasses, arranged according to size and kind; and on the left, spoons and forks tastefully set out. The middle of the sideboard should be left unencumbered for sauces, vegetables, or anything not wanted on the table. The dinner-cloth should be laid with the middle fold down the centre of the table. Whether the damask has been mangled on the right side or not, the parlour-maid must observe that the raised creases should be on the top. Some prominent design in the fabric generally indicates the centre of the cloth, which should of course be laid in the middle of the table. A lamp, cruet-stand, or vase of flowers, is generally put to mark the centre, and the distances of the respective dishes are regulated from that object.
The fashion of dining ? la Russe, very common at large dinners, requires a separate notice. For the present we will confine our observations to the usual arrangement of a table in well-conducted households. By the latter system, the master sits at one end of the table, and the mistress of the house at the other. Carving knives and forks, together with dinner knives placed nearest the plate, mark their places. According to the number of persons to dine, knives and forks are placed for each. A tumbler and one or more wine-glasses should be put at the right of each guest, just above the dinner knife. When clean dinner-napkins are laid, it is customary to place a piece of bread in the folds of the napkin.
Whether cut bread or rolls should be placed at the right hand or left, is sometimes a disputed point. We decide in favour of the right, for this reason When a guest wishes to have his plate removed, he is supposed to rest his fork on the plate. A well-trained servant observes no other rule in making the change, sadly to the grievance occasionally of an inexperienced diner, who inadvertently drops his fork. As in breaking bread it is not considered well-mannered to use both hands, there is no occasion to relinquish the fork until a change of plate is desired. Between the courses, the crust of bread may be divided with both hands, if desired. Now that knives are beginning to be used for eating fish, the last claim of the bread to be laid on the left of the diner, appears to have been disposed of.
Directly a person lays down his fork, or puts both knife and fork together on the right-hand side of the plate, the servant in attendance should bring another plate on which are laid knife, fork, or spoon, appropriate to the dish which is to follow. All meats, vegetables, and sauces should be handed on the left side of the diner.
Serving wine, & c., should always be done at the right-hand side of the guest without removing the glasses from the table, except in the case of beer, which is served at the left hand. The reason is obvious. Beer requires to be frothed into the glass ; consequently, it prevents accidents if the servant presents a tray to the guest on his left to receive the glass, into which the beer should be poured, at the distance of a step behind the guest. The full tumbler should then be handed on the left, as it would be inconvenient for the guest to receive it over the right shoulder. Servants should avoid handling wine glasses. If they must do so, they should only touch the stem. Water-bottles are placed on the table within reach of the guests.
Before setting dessert on the table, the parlour-maid should brush off the crumbs into a small tray with a curved cloth-brush or similar contrivance made for the purpose.
Carving knives and forks after being used should be removed before taking the dish containing meat from the table. A long narrow knife-tray with a clean coarse cloth laid at the bottom, is the proper receptacle for these articles.
During the intervals which occur in waiting on the guests, the parlour-maid should remove all things which have been used outside the dining-room, where one of the under servants usually conveys them to the kitchen. The servant waiting should contrive to have all soiled vessels out of the room by the time dessert is put on the table, her attendance not being wanted after that time.
Tea.- After a late dinner, tea is generally a very simple repast, requiring only a tray on which teacups and saucers, with other tea appendages, are set. If tea is made in the drawing-room, the parlour-maid waits on her mistress until the tea is handed round. A set tea, i.e., a meal, with tea as a beverage, is served in the same manner as breakfast. It is now the fashion to cover the tea table with a white cloth, as for breakfast.
Supper is usually served in the same manner as luncheon.
Washing up china and glass, cleaning plate, and trimming lamps, being equally the work of the parlour-maid or page, will be described in another place.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-VI.
THE PAGE, OR OCCASIONAL BOY.
THE duties of the page vary in their nature according to the class of
establishment in which such servants are kept. In households consisting of many
domestics the page, as a juvenile servant, executes most of the light
miscellaneous tasks which the upper men-servants are unable to discharge without
hindrance to more important work. Going on errands constitutes a very important
portion of a young page's work in large families; and in order to fulfil this
requirement efficiently, promptness and an intelligent mind are first
essentials. Aptness in reading and writing is a great recommendation, added to
which, if a lad has a good address, a well-formed figure, and a correct manner
of speaking, he cannot fail to rise in his calling, and may ultimately hold the
highest position of confidence a servant can attain in domestic service.
Many of the duties of a page have already been treated of in preceding articles. We shall therefore only speak in this place of those branches of work which constitute the basis of general knowledge indispensable to indoor men-servants generally.
Beginning with early morning work, whatever labour is dirt in its nature should be done early, i.e, before breakfast. A suit of old clothes should then be worn, and changed for better by the time the family comes down. Cinder-sifting may be cited as an instance of the work which should be done early and in old clothes. Therefore, the master of the house should impress on the various servants the necessity of their letting the page have all the cinders from the respective rooms throughout the house as soon as possible. Whatever cinders may be left unsifted by a given time on one day should be collected for the following morning's sifting. Knife and boot-cleaning, being also dirty work, should, as far as possible, be prepared for quick despatch by the articles being looked up over-night, and brought to one place in readiness for the morning. Wherever these orderly arrangements are despised, the page's life is one of incessant worry, and his untidy appearance is an indication of the disorder which prevails in the household.
The inevitable dust and dirt attending cinder-sifting is much obviated by the use of improved sifters. These are of various kinds and excellence.
A larger patent cinder-sifter, or revolving machine, is well adapted to the wants of large establishments, especially if a garden be attached to the house ; used also in connection with Moule's earth closets, the well-sifted cinders become an article of high economy and value.
Even in town residences preference should be given to some improved sifter over the untidy and wasteful habit of riddling the cinders over a dust-hole. The only means by which the latter mode can be made effectual is by placing bars across the top of the dust-bin, on which the sifter may be rested, and shaken to and fro.
Most "housemaids' boxes" are filled with a small grating for parlour cinders. A cinder-pail, also fitted with a movable wire sieve over the top, is a very useful contrivance for sifting small quantities of cinders, especially if the cinders be thrown on a newly-laid fire for immediate use.
Boot-cleaning almost invariably falls to a page's share of work. At present the numberless inventions which have successfully assisted the despatch of household work seem to have fallen short of perfection in this branch of labour. The latest and best improvement is a patent boot-holder, the advantages of which consist in preserving the inside of the boots from being soiled by dirty hands, which are almost inseparable from the employment, and in setting both hands free for polishing.
In the absence of a patent boot-holder, the first care of the page should be to pass a soft clean duster over the left hand before he puts the boot on it. If the boots are not very dirty, rubbing them over with a hard brush will be sufficient, but if they are very muddy, a piece of ordinary fire-wood, shaped at the end in the form of a [-306-] chisel, should be passed round the welt and between the upper leather. Knives are often employed for this process, but the practice cannot be too strictly forbidden, the liability of cutting the leather being very great. if boots be exceedingly wet and soiled, a coarse piece of wetted sponge (stable sponge) should be passed over them to remove the first dirt. Boots should never be put near a fire to dry. A moderately warm room, at a distance from the fire, generally suffices, if the soles be turned upwards for a night.
In laying on the blacking, very little should be used, and whilst damp the first polishing-brush should be briskly passed over, finishing with the finest brush. The stroke to secure a polish should be light and springy, not hard and with force. Three brushes are required for successful boot-cleaning.
Patent leather boots simply require washing in the soiled places, and afterwards polishing with a piece of old cloth.
The black kid tops may be preserved for a long time in a good state by occasionally using a mixture composed of the sediment of ink and a few drops of olive oil. This should be laid on sparingly, and whilst still damp the kid should be lightly rubbed with an old silk handkerchief or a piece of worn-out table-linen.
Blacking sold in cakes is now generally used for ordinary heather boots. Instead of mixing the cake with water, a little sour beer, or a few drops of vinegar, will be found a great improvement.
Knife-cleaning is a simple process, but apt to be destructive if care be not taken to prevent undue wear. In the first place, knives should not be laid in hot water when washing them. They should be whisked round in a jug of soda and lukewarm water, barely deep enough to cover the blade. If the handles are suffered to touch the hot water, they are liable to become loose. Having washed and wiped the knives, the usual process is to polish them on a board over which a Bath brick has been passed a few times, and afterwards to rub the knife to and fro till a polish is obtained. The knife-handle is then dusted. Unless very carefully done, this plan is seldom so successful as using a "buff-board" is. The latter, if somewhat less lasting than the plain deal board, preserves the knives for a very much longer time in good condition. The emery-powder, also, used on the buff-board, is not equally destructive with brickdust, and the former gives a higher polish.
Some people are under the impression that knife-machines are destructive; but the experience of many years convinces us that such is not the case. Knives cleaned with really good machines wear evenly and keep a fine edge-qualities which the old-fashioned knife-boards, unless in very experienced hands, seldom secure. The saving of time by the use of these machines is very considerable indeed, and becomes an important argument in their favour.
Plate-cleaning requires time and patience to perform nicely. The plate should be first washed in warm soap and water. If very greasy, or used in eating fish, a little soda will be necessary. When wiped dry, a mixture composed of fine whitening-water (gilders' whitening, sold in balls, is best) and a few drops of spirits of wine or gin should be laid on the plate with a piece of flannel or rag. The mixture should be of the consistency of good batter, and when dry on the plate should be rubbed off with a plate-brush. Instead of the ordinary plate-brush sold at oil-shops, use those which are termed jewellers' brushes for the finer kinds of plate; they do not cost any more. A brush should only be used for the embossed work of plate. Simply rubbing with wash-leather is sufficient to ensure the brightness of plain plate.
Plated articles are liable to injury if left for any length of time damp. After forks, spoons, &c., have been used for eating vinegar salads and the like, they should be immediately cleansed.
Although cleaning with whitening, or plate-powder composed of rouge, is, as a general rule, only necessary once a week, plate looks better for being daily rubbed over after washing with a leather that may be kept in the plate-basket for the purpose. Towels boiled in a mixture of a hartshorn powder and water are an excellent rubber for plate in daily use. Rags-old chamber-towels of hucka-;~ back are best-boiled in a solution of a quart of water to six ounces of hartshorn powder, are excellent for the purpose.
Window-cleaning is essentially the work of a page or footboy. Having taken due precaution against the chance of accident by falling, the first part of the process consists in dusting the window-sashes with a round brush, called a painter's brush. One pane at a time should then be wetted with a wash-leather dipped in soda and cold water. When the leather has been wrung out and passed over again, the polishing should be done with a piece of dry wash-leather. Many other plans are recommended for window-cleaning, but the above answers every purpose, and is infinitely preferable to the use of any description of "window-rags," all linen and cotton fabrics being more or less fleecy in their nature.
Powdering a window with whitening tied in a piece of cotton cloth is sometimes necessary, if the windows are unusually greasy or soiled; but for ordinary occasions cold water and soda will be found sufficient, if a wash-leather be used for drying.
Trimming lamps is part of the morning work of a page. Once a week every lamp in use should be taken to pieces and thoroughly cleansed. The works of oil lamps of every description should be soaked in hot water and soda, and rubbed perfectly dry whilst hot with a soft rag, and afterwards polished with a plate-leather. In trimming the cotton wicks of moderator lamps the greatest evenness is requisite. The wicks of paraffin lamps should only be dusted until the charred portions are removed. By this means a wick one-third of a yard in length lasts several months. All rags in use for lamp-cleaning should be washed at least once a week in strong soda and soapsuds.
Washing glass, and sending it to table in the highest state of brilliancy, is an act worth striving to accomplish from the great pleasure the sight of bright glass affords. Two wooden bowls are required to secure this end - one containing warm water and a little soda, and the other plain cold water for rinsing. Bowls used for washing glass should be used for no other purpose. After the glass has been washed, it should be laid on a coarse cloth to drain, and afterwards polished with a glass-cloth, i e, a soft linen cloth.
Soiled decanters may be easily cleaned either by rinsing them out with tea-leaves, or, if very dirty, finely-shred brown paper, soaked in soap and water. They will require good rinsing afterwards.
Stoppers may be removed in various ways, if unfortunately they have become fixed. The most successful plan is generally to steam them over boiling water. A better endeavour is to prevent their becoming fixed. This may be done by twisting the stopper slightly between the forefinger and thumb as it is put into the decanter.
Brushing the master's clothes is the page's business where no other man-servant is kept. In doing so, the greatest care should be taken not to soil the garments by brushing on a place of doubtful cleanliness. All cloth should be brushed the way of the pile, i.e., from the neck to the skirts downwards. Having brushed the clothes, they should be neatly folded according to the size of the drawer or wardrobe in which they are to be laid. The fewer folds the better. A small bottle of water, containing a few drops of ammonia spirit, is useful to remove any grease spots that may be seen in brushing.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-VII.
THE duties of a lady's-maid towards her mistress being of a purely personal
nature, propriety of demeanour and a well-informed mind are requisite qualities.
The strictly technical knowledge required in the situation maybe learnt in
various ways; but no teaching will convey the delicate tact which proceeds from
a pure mind, and the high sense of integrity which should characterise the
slightest action where the interests and feelings of an employer are concerned.
Gentlewomen of refined education appreciate the latter qualities in a personal attendant far beyond consummate knowledge of certain arts and adornments. They are sensible that a first-rate milliner or hairdresser can supply some deficiencies on the part of their maids, but they feel that no amount of lessons can teach a confidential servant when to speak and when to be silent, when to expose the faults of fellow-servants or to make excuses. Unfortunately, some ladies'-maids consider that they display zeal for their mistresses' welfare by detecting and commenting on the shortcomings of other domestics. By so doing they create a great deal of preventable unhappiness. If faults exist - and provided it is not the lady's-maid's duty to report them to her mistress - the discreet plan is to wait till an opinion is asked for. If a lady has confidence in the sense and honesty of her maid, she will not fail to appeal to her judgment whenever household difficulties occur. On such occasions plain speaking is an imperative duty, at whatever cost of the opinion of fellow-servants.
Another temptation to steer clear of is the offer of gratuities and presents on the part of tradesmen who deal in articles of doubtful excellence.
It is very important that a lady's-maid should know something of the nature of the cosmetiques and contrivances which fashion is ceaselessly thrusting upon public notice. Many articles in vogue may be perfectly harmless, whilst others, although effective in their operation for awhile, may ultimately destroy the organ they may have been applied to. Here our Toilette articles will prove serviceable.
In large establishments the position of a lady's-maid is considered to be sometimes exposed to annoyances from the unwelcome attentions of men-servants. In well- regulated households these intrusions do not take place, unless with the lady's-maid's consent. Except at meals, she seldom has occasion to leave the apartments assigned to her own and her mistress's use. In modesty of behaviour, and in cordiality of manner towards every one in the servants' hall, she will find her chief safeguards against any approach to undue familiarity.
Visiting with her mistress at other people's houses is liable to cause inconvenience, unless a lady's-maid makes up her mind to regard herself somewhat in the light of a guest. Most persons find something they do not like [-364-] when staying in even the most hospitable mansions. But well-bred people cheerfully conform to the rules of the household where they are visiting, and it is very annoying to employers when their servants cannot do the same. Whenever real grounds for complaint exist, it is better for the lady's-maid to speak to her mistress on the subject, who, on her part, will refer the matter to the lady of the house.
Honesty is of course an indispensable quality in one who has the charge of articles of value. A lady's-maid's fidelity in this respect should be beyond suspicion. She had better be scrupulously saving of things not likely to be asked for, than to make away with them because they are worthless. When old dresses and odds and ends of all kinds have inconveniently accumulated - as they sometimes do from oversight-the lady's-maid should ask her mistress what her wishes are with regard to the disposal of them. Even when ladies agree to give their maids cast-off dresses as perquisites, this understanding is expected to be in force.
With regard to the disposal of such articles, the best plan is for the lady's-maid to sell them to friends of her own acquaintance, or to part with them by some other private means. By this mode she is likely to get a better price, and to be less exposed to temptation from offers for things of, perchance, a more costly nature than would fairly come into her possession. As a general rule, ladies do not like to see their maids dressed in the clothes they themselves have worn - except in wearing a black or a dark-coloured silk - the difference in the social scale of mistress and maid renders this unpleasing.
The dress of a lady's-maid should be studiously neat, although tasteful. She should wear nothing likely to spoil or impede her in her various duties-above all things she should cultivate personal cleanliness as her chief charm and adornment.
The duties of a lady's-maid are so numerous that it is difficult, in a limited space, to particularise them. Some knowledge of dress-making is generally considered indispensable, also of millinery and hair-dressing. Novelties in these arts may be learnt by taking lessons from time to time of persons who make the giving instruction of the kind their means of livelihood. When taking such lessons the lady's-maid should learn from her teacher the best style to suit her mistress, in the view of being successful in her work-the same head-dress, for instance, will not become all persons equally well ; and it makes a great difference if a lady be short and stout, or tall and thin, whether one style of costume or another is suitable. As far as her means extend, a lady's-maid should discover what style of dress ladies of high birth, reputed to have good taste in dress, are wearing at a season when her mistress is choosing her attire. The several ladies of the royal family of England are an instance of the excellent tact sensible people display in avoiding all unbecoming exaggerations of fashion, whilst they adhere sufficiently to the prevailing mode to avoid the opposite error of being eccentric.
The arrangement of her mistress's room devolves on the lady's-maid, but in very few cases is she required to do more than dust the room. She is, however, responsible for the manner in which the housemaid does the work of cleaning, &c.
Order in putting things aside is indispensable. Whatever articles are likely to be wanted for dressing, or any other purpose, should be at hand at a moment's notice.
Although the lady's-maid's duties do not usually require her to be a very early riser, it is desirable that she should be up some time before her mistress is likely to want her, in order to get any work done likely to soil her hands or dress. The washing of fine things, laces, &c. generally falls to the lady's-maid share of work, and the earlier this is done in the day the better. The numberless works of cleaning, scouring, and dyeing, that an experienced maid has to perform, should all be undertaken before her mistress has risen. By this means interruptions are obviated, and good temper preserved. Any time that is thus spared could be devoted, in leisure hours, to reading and improvement of the mind.
The economy of her mistress's wardrobe is a great test of a lady's-maid's skill. Whether she has the perquisite of cast-off dresses or not, it is her duty to suggest any saving that may be made by "turning" or "altering" gowns, &c. A servant that is apt at these suggestions deserves better wages than one who is not so skilled, and may reasonably expect the fullest remuneration for her services.
The preservation of clothes is a matter that a lady's-maid should understand, as well as their restoration - for instance, the elaborate dresses of the present day cannot be folded up and laid in drawers without detriment to their beauty. Dresses in wear should be hung up separately in a clothes-closet, or wardrobe, each dress in a separate bag made of brown holland. The bag should be, at the very least, half a yard longer than the dress, to prevent dust from penetrating through the opening. Any loose trimmings that may be laid aside flat should be removed.
White satin shoes and boots should be put aside in separate bags, having been previously folded in blue paper.
Furs should be well dried before a fire, and thoroughly shaken before they are put away. The box containing them should also be previously dried and brushed out. A celebrated furrier says that, "Furs, when put away after winter use, should be closely packed in linen or brown paper to preserve them from moth, having been previously well beaten with a small cane and carefully combed through ; this process should be repeated at least once a month, and may be relied on as effectual." Strong aromatic odours are useful for preventing the attack of moths ; but without the above precautions their use may prove ineffectual.
Laces not in wear should be thoroughly cleansed in several waters from all traces of starch. They should then be dried in the sun if possible, and afterwards put away in bags made of blue paper.
Unpicked dresses should not be folded, but each width of the material should be separately wound on a roller. Skirts that are not likely to be worn for a time should be taken Out of the band and laid flat. In folding all plain skirts begin at the bottom, and divide the skirt into four equal folds commencing at the middle of the back width; then divide the skirt in cross folds, according to the size desired, taking care to pass the hand between each division to avoid "corner creases." Some hours before dresses that have been laid aside are worn, they should be shaken well out, and hung before a fire.
Woollen materials require much the same treatment as furs to prevent the ravages of moth and mould.
Linen and calico garments should be rough dried before they are laid aside. It is also essential that they be thoroughly free from damp.
All materials of clothing not in constant use require to be periodically aired. A dry sunshiny day is best for this purpose.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-.VIII.
THE LADY S MAID (concluded from Vol. I., p. 364).
To Clean Trinkets .-All jewels not "set clear," i.e. with
a backing of gold or other metal, may be washed in the following way:- Brush
them with soap and water, and a very soft tooth-brush. If mounted in silver, a
little gilders' whitening will be necessary, as for plate. Rinse them in clean
water, and then shake them about in box-wood sawdust till they are quite dry,
which may be seen by the sawdust no longer adhering to them. Do not handle them
with the bare fingers, but use some silver paper. Box-wood sawdust is used by
jewellers for the above purpose, and may be had at any rule-maker's ; it is
cheap, and sold by the pint. Filigree ornaments may be cleaned in the same way
as described; likewise gold chains and bracelets. Ornaments not set clear should
only be cleaned on the surface with but little moisture.
To Wash Hair.- The head should be held over a large basin of lukewarm water, in which a third of a packet of Manby's washing powder has been dissolved. Then rub the hair with a piece of pale yellow soap, moistening it with the water in the basin till a good lather is produced. Have at hand a can of lukewarm water. Pour the latter over the hair, collected in a bunch at the top of the head. When all traces of the lather are removed, envelop the head, for a few minutes, in a coarse, dry towel. Having squeezed out as much moisture as possible, rub the hair plentifully with pomatum, or plain hair-oil. Wring the hair in a dry cloth, comb it out, and leave it to hang over the shoulders to dry.
To Wash Hair-Brushes.- Use no soap, but a little washing-powder in lukewarm water. Very little moisture is necessary, if brushes be rubbed one against another; only the bristles should be wetted. If possible, set them in the sun, bristles downward, to dry.
Combs should never be washed in water. Small brushes are sold for the purpose.
Hair washes, as a general rule, are not necessary if the hair be periodically washed and daily dressed with care. A mixture of one pennyworth of borax, half a pint of olive oil, and a pint of boiling water, is a popular wash with many who do not approve of washing the head.
Pomatum for the Hair composed of animal fat is to be preferred to that made of vegetable oil. Beef marrow or lard, reduced to the desired consistency with olive oil, and scented with any perfume, is the basis for all good home-made pomatums. As a general rule, the pomatum sold at hair-dressers is strongly scented enough to bear the addition of as much again of the above compounds without additional scent. We give a Swiss receipt, which has the credit of really stimulating the growth of the hair when advanced age does not offer a serious impediment. It is cheap, simple, and above all innoxious, which cannot be said of many similar preparations:- Into an earthen vessel put sixpennyworth of sweet unsalted pork lard, recently melted, or as the cooks say, "tried" down. Set this over the fire in a shallow saucepan of boiling water. As soon as the lard is liquid, shake into it a pennyworth of powdered camphor; mix well with a spatula or small wooden spoon; then add four dessert-spoonfuls of good old Jamaica rum; stir again. After the water in the saucepan has boiled a minute or two, take out the vessel containing the pomade, and keep stirring till nearly set. The quantities we have stated could be increased, but it is better to use it fresh and fresh.
This pomade should be well rubbed into the skin at the roots of the hair, every day for the first fortnight, and every other day the second. It is better to use it in the morning than in the evening, because perspiration at night and the contact of the pillow might tend to weaken its efficacy. There is no need to be afraid of the smell of the camphor, as it very speedily evaporates.
A very much more cleanly class of pomades have however been lately introduced, prepared from petroleum, and sold under the name of "Vaseline," and sometimes "Cosmoline." Some time ago accounts were published of the effects of crude petroleum upon the growth of hair, said to have been discovered by vendors who had dried their smeared hands upon their own locks. Petroleum has also been extensively applied to the coats of various [-14-] animals with satisfactory results. The smell was, however, an insuperable objection to ordinary toilet use; but the vaselines and cosmolines as now prepared are perfectly inodorous, resembling in appearance a nearly transparent, semi-fluid jelly. They have an undoubted influence upon the growth of hair, and it is another recommendation that most of them are of proved efficacy in the case both of wounds, sores, and many skin diseases. They have, moreover, the valuable property of never becoming rancid, however long they are kept, and are hence a decided acquisition to the nursery and toilet alike.
To remove Grease Spots from Silk.- Take a few folds of blotting-paper, and pass a moderately heated iron over the spot, removing the blotting-paper, and replacing it with fresh as soon as soiled. If any colouring has been in the grease with which the silk is stained, a little benzole, as used by artists, may be applied to the spot after the grease is removed. Before making any experiments on valuable silks it is well to try the means proposed on a piece of the same material, having just caused a stain of the kind requiring to be removed.
To Revive Black Silk.- This may be done by many means; but the following is the most simple plan, and answers well:- First remove all the grease spots in the way described above. Then spread the silk on a clean ironing-board, and sponge it with nearly a dry sponge dipped in a mixture of beer and water and ammonia, in the proportion of a pint of cold water to a teacupfull of stout or porter, in which has been dissolved a lump of salts of ammonia as big as a hazel nut. Avoid streaking the silk when applying the mixture, and each fold, as finished, should be rolled on a roller. When nearly dry, take the silk off the roller, shake it out, and roll it again, repeating the rolling and shaking, till the silk is quite dry. Do not on any account, use an iron, and the silk will thus look nearly as good as new.
To Keep Silk. - In using white paper for wrapping silks, remember that if the paper has been bleached with chloride of lime, it will have a tendency to impair the colour. Silk should not be kept folded up long before it is "made up," as this would tend to decrease its durability, by causing it to cut or split, especially if the silk has been stiffened with gum.
To Clean Kid Gloves.- Put the gloves on a wooden hand, sold for the purpose, of the size required, and rub the spots with a little stale bread, If the gloves are greasy they will require benzole applied with flannel. A very useful substitute is Price's Sherwoodole, sold at most dyers and scourers. White satin shoes may be cleaned in the same way.
To Clean Tweed Cloth Cloaks and other Woollens.- Spread the garment on a clean dresser, and rub the soiled places with a square of prepared pipe-clay, used dry. Then pass the clay all over the garment, till quite covered with a white dust. Fold the garment into a compact form, and beat it with some plaited canes till the dust makes its way through from the centre folds. Afterwards shake the material, and brush off the remaining dust with a soft clothes-brush. The above plan is specia1ly excellent for all grey-coloured cloths, children's knickerbockers, and the like.
To Clean White Satin Shoes- Rub them lengthways of the satin with a piece of new white flannel dipped in spirits of wine. If but slightly soiled, they are readily and easily cleaned by simply rubbing them with stale bread. To keep thin light slippers in shape, fold them over lengthways or sideways, tie together, and put them away in a covered box or bag, as already recommended.
The Teeth require to be kept particularly clean rather than the application of mouth-washes and elaborate dentifrices. The more simple the ingredients used the better. Unless recommended by a good dentist, all tooth powders reputed to have beautifying effects should be used with caution. Washing the teeth night and morning is the best preservative of their beauty and soundness.
Artificial Teeth have already received attention in another section of this work. Speaking of these, we ventured, on page 173, to warn our readers against unqualified dentists. In this warning, we had in view a large section of that class depending more upon their advertisements than upon the quality of the articles they supply; but, in common justice, we ought to have added that advertising has now become so common with most trades and professions that many of the most respectable practitioners do not hesitate to adopt it.
Nails.- The finger-nails should be trimmed to the shape of the finger. ends, leaving them moderately long, but not projecting beyond the tips of the fingers. Nails should not be cleaned with sharp-pointed scissors and pins - a soft nail-brush is the right means. If the hands and nails have become unusually soiled, they should be rubbed with a little sweet oil or pomatum before washing with soap, and afterwards cleaned in tepid water. In wiping the hands, the "crescent" of the nails should be preserved by gently pressing it back with the towel.
We may here state that the washing of fine laces, blonds, &c., belongs to a lady's-maid's place.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE - IX.
LAUNDRY-MAID - WASHING AT HOME.
THE practice of washing at home, although greatly fallen into disuse amongst
the middle class of housekeepers generally, is much to be commended, not only on
the score of pocket economy, but also on sanitary grounds. The obstacles which
are supposed to exist at the present time against the practice have but to be
fairly confronted to be found of a very unreal character. The chief point to
ascertain is whether the money spent in putting washing out cannot be better
spent in other ways. Of course, if expense be no object, people have a right to
indulge their inclination; but if the laundress's weekly bill can only be met by
stinting food, and limiting the changes of linen to the most absolute
requirements of cleanliness, then it becomes a serious question whether some
personal sacrifice of comfort ought not to be endured for the sake of a
The invention of washing-machines has done much to obviate the main objection raised against washing at home, inasmuch as the time and labour saved by their use is reduced very considerably; hut there still remains the prejudice to overcome in favour of its being more "genteel" to put all washing out. This false notion, in fact, is at the root of the general disinclination to resume a custom which certain obstacles may have caused to be relinquished, but which have no longer justly tenable grounds.
Like many other persons, the writer was induced, in a moment of weakness, to discontinue the labour of washing in her household, at a time when there was some difficulty in replacing a servant who had been accustomed to the work. From that hour, to resume the task appeared impossible, until the well-established reputation of certain washing-machines induced her to remodel her household, in the express view of having all the family linen washed at home; and after nearly six years' experience of the working of the washing-machine the writer has no reason to revoke the good opinion originally entertained of this substitute for manual labour. This is not the place to describe the process of washing by machinery particularly, and the instance is merely cited to point the direction in which an important matter of household reform may be accomplished.
Whether household washing be performed by machinery or not, a thorough knowledge of the process is necessary on the part of the mistress of a household, in order that the work may be dispatched without waste of time and material.
The day before a wash is intended, all the dirty linen should be looked up, sorted, and entered in a book with the same precision as is observed when things are sent out. Any articles that are in excess - owing to the state of the weather or what not - should be thoroughly dried, folded, and put away, under lock and key, till a convenient season. Saturday afternoon is the best time for the above preparation; the clothes can then remain in soak till Monday, which greatly facilitates the removal of stains, &c.
All the best white linen should be put in a separate pan, or tub, and coarse things in another. Sufficient lukewarm, or cold soda and water should then be poured over the clothes.
Coloured things, flannels, and woollen materials should not be laid in soak. These require washing separately, piece by piece, when the work is in progress. Pocket-handkerchiefs should be first rinsed out, and the water thrown away before they are put in with the rest of the things.
The next arrangement to make should consist in shredding fine yellow soap into a jar capable of containing sufficient liquid, according to the amount of washing to be done. About a pound of soap to a gallon of water is a good proportion; no soda should be added. Having poured boiling water on the soap, cover the jar and set it aside on the kitchen stove, or range, till Monday morning, when the soap will be found to be melted to a jelly. When lukewarm, take some of this soap-jelly, and mix it in the water in which the clothes are to be washed. By this means a fine lather is easily produced without waste. About a pint of soap jelly to an ordinary tub of water will be sufficient. The clothes will require but trifling rubbing with hard soap in the very soiled places.
It is a good plan to begin a wash with the flannels. No soap is required for them beyond the jelly described, except for the cotton bands and tapes. Each article should be washed separately in moderately warm (not hot) water. Having washed them in one water, rinse them in clean warm suds, shake them Out, and hang them on the lines at once. Never rinse flannels or woollens in plain water. By doing so they become harsh and shrink.
The water in which the flannels have been rinsed is excellent for the first washing of the white things. If too dirty for that purpose, it should be poured on the coarse things, having first taken them out of the cold soak.
The white things will require two washings, rubbing soap on the stained places, if required. The second water should be used for the first process of rubbing less im-[51-]portant articles. By the time the white things are washed, the copper should be ready for the boiling process. The water should only be lukewarm when the clothes are put in, as boiling water fixes the stains instead of loosening them. The water in the copper should contain a fair proportion of soap jelly and about two ounces of soda. From ten minutes to a quarter of an hour after the clothes have been at boiling heat, they should be taken out and plunged into plenty of cold water for rinsing. Having been wrung out of the rinsing water, they should next be put into clean blue water, one by one, passing each piece swiftly through the water to prevent the blue from settling into those unsightly streaks which are afterwards so difficult to remove.
There is no waste of time in this precaution, because each article has to be wrung out separately, even if a basketful of linen be tossed into the blue water at the outset. Directly ?the clothes are blued and wrung, they should be shaken out and put upon the lines.
A propos of "hanging-out." Before putting up the lines, they should be passed through a coarse cloth, to remove any dust or soils from the gravel-paths, &c. All articles set in a band should be slightly festooned from the bottom hem-never from the band. Sheets and table-cloths should be hung with the short side towards the wind, to enable the air to blow the folds apart. Shirts should be suspended from the bottom hem. A good many pegs are necessary to hang things out well, and the laundry-maid should be careful not to place the pegs at the corners, without first doubling the corners. Stockings should each have a peg, and should be turned inside out before being put on the lines. Wooden pegs are best.
Flannels and woollen materials, set in bands or pleats, require a different mode of hanging from linen things. The latter should be hung with the fulness downwards, as described, but flannels should always be suspended with the fulness at the top.
Gentlemen's waistcoats and trousers require care in being washed at home. Each article, if woollen, should be washed singly, as described for flannels. After having been rinsed in suds, the garment should be simply squeezed tolerably dry, not wrung. The legs of trousers should be pulled straight before hanging on the lines, and waistcoats thoroughly shaken. Trousers and waistcoats should be hung out in a breezy shady place, the former being suspended by the pegs at the band at the back, and the latter by a couple of pegs at the back lining. Piqu? waistcoats, &c., require the same management as other materials of the same kind.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-X.
THE LAUNDRY-MAID (continued from p. 51).
WHITE cotton stockings should be washed on the right side, and turned inside
out before putting into the copper If very much soiled, they may be safely
cleansed by using a stocking-brush, made of fine fibre for the purpose. Woollen
stockings should not be boiled, but must be turned before putting out to dry,
otherwise the colours will run. Neither stockings nor socks should be wrung
lengthwise, but across, by the laundress placing her thumbs at the tops and
gathering up the whole length in creases, when one twist of the hands will be
sufficient to wring out the water.
[-144-] All the white things being washed, the coloured articles should undergo the process of two rubbings and one rinsing in clean cold water; but not boiling, unless the clothes be servants', and very greasy. Coloured muslins should be left in the rinsing water till the moment of hanging them out, to prevent running. A handful of salt in the rinsing water will often prevent running. When half dry, it is a good plan to take both coloured woollens and cotton things off the lines and shake them well out, before re-hanging them to finish.
Babies' diapers should never be washed in water containing any soda. The effect of doing so is to produce irritation of the skin, which is rarely attributed to the right cause, and often occasions unnecessary physicking. On this account, infants' under-linen should be washed in the rinsing-suds of flannels, and should be boiled before soda is added to the copper water.
Kitchen cloths and coarse things require much the same treatment as other articles. If very greasy, a little lime may be added to the copper when they are put in to boil. Some people consider powdered pipe-clay an excellent mode of cleansing coarse cloths. Several new washing preparations have been lately recommended for the purpose, but with careful use, ordinary soap and soda ought to be found sufficient to preserve the whiteness of kitchen cloths. No kitchen cloths should be put aside dirty after use.
When a wash is finished, all the utensils should be scrubbed and put aside in their appointed places. The lines should be wiped dry, and twisted across the hand and elbow of the laundry-maid into a neat coil before being placed in a bag. The pegs also should be collected into a separate bag, and all things left in readiness for the "getting-up," which must form the subject of a subsequent chapter.
When the things are brought in from the wash, the laundry-maid should sort each kind into separate heaps - flannels, muslins, table and body linen, and coloured things requiring a different treatment to get up. Folding and starching follows. Begin with starching.
To make Starch.- About two ounces of maize starch should be allowed to every quart of water. The starch should be mixed in a clean earthenware bowl, by gradually pouring on a sufficient quantity of cold water to reduce it to a thick paste. Then add the hot water from a kettle, whilst boiling on the fire, stirring all the time, to mix the starch evenly. Generally, no boiling afterwards is necessary. If, however, the starch should appear at all "lumpy," it will have to be boiled and strained through a fine sieve.
It is a good plan to melt about two inches of composite, wax, or tallow candle, to a bowl of starch, in order to prevent sticking to the irons. Also, if the starch be intended for coloured things likely to "run," a little salt should be added. This applies particularly to black and white mixtures and braid.
"Glenfield Patent Starch" is best for fine muslins and lace, to which may be added, if preferred, a small quantity of white wax. "Australian Satin Glaze Starch" is well adapted for articles that require extra stiffness, such as gentlemen's collars and cuffs. Ordinary rice starch is good for wearing apparel generally, and plain flour starch will be found efficient for servants' kitchen gowns.
Begin with starching the muslin and net materials. These should be dipped into hot starch of moderate thickness, and should be afterwards slightly squeezed in cold water. They should then be tightly rolled in a clean coarse wrapper, for several hours before ironing. Hanging lace and muslin in the open air after starching is liable to make them limp, unless the weather be very sunny. If dried in the open air, they require damping afterwards, like all other dried starched things.
The usual plan is to sprinkle all starched materials after they have been dried, and to leave them for some time in the wrappers, as described; but in families where washing at home is practised, and saving of time and trouble is a consideration, the following plan will be found more expeditious and quite as effectual:- Having starched all the articles in the usual manner, take a clean coarse wrapper, made of old sheetings, towels, or the like, and lay the starched things as smoothly as possible on the surface, covering them with a cloth of corresponding size. Then fold the wrappers over to the size of the rollers of the mangle or wringing-machine, and pass the rollers over them once. This will have the effect of squeezing out all superfluous water, and reducing any lumps of starch to evenness. In fact, the articles are half-ironed by the process, and are ready for immediate finishing. Shirt collars and linen cuffs are better done by the above plan.
The starching process being completed, folding for the mangle is the next work. In doing this, the object should be - to fold the things in as few folds as possible, and to a keep the materials as straight as the shape admits of. Garments, such as night-dresses and under-linen, should be commenced folding at the bottom, shaking them well, to prevent unnecessary creases. Gentlemen's shirts should not be mangled. After the wristbands and collar have been starched, the shirt should be laid flat on the dresser, and the fulness of the back smoothed open ; then lay in the starched places on the bosom, fold the sides of the shirt over and over, and roll the shirt up as tightly as possible into a small bundle for several hours.
Some care is required, in folding sheets and table-cloths for the mangle, to keep the folds even. The best plan is to begin by folding the article in half (two persons are required for large things), then take up the corners at each end, and bring them to the middle fold, pull the article straight, and flap it up and down a few times, fold across, a and lay it on the dresser, where any rucks should be smoothed out by hand. By the above plan, it is easy to pass an iron along the seams, without unfolding the whole article. Table linen and sheets require to be passed through the mangle twice or three times, body linen (afterwards to be ironed) only once. Cotton stockings should be mangled on the right side, and ironed on the wrong.
Ironing - Cover the table or dresser with a coarse~ ironing flannel, doubled, or a piece of old blanket. Stretch over it some clean old sheeting, fastened to the table at,. the corners with flat-headed brass nails. Have at hand a basin of clean cold water, to damp out any folds that may have been badly ironed. Rubbers and iron-holders should be scrupulously clean. A knife-board, sprinkled with Bath brick, is the cleanliest mode of polishing flat-irons.
The heat and size of the irons should be regulated according to the articles to be ironed. Flannels require a heavy, cool iron, and calico scorches with less heat than linen.
The plain linen articles should be ironed first, and hung to air, whilst the lighter materials are in hand. Muslins and net require ironing twice, being gently pulled every way of the thread between each ironing. Embroidered muslins should be ironed over several thicknesses of flannel. As a general rule, all fine muslin work is better first ironed through a piece of old thin cambric this prevents scorching, and also clears the muslin from the starch. Gentlemen's linen fronts and cuffs should always have the iron first passed over them in this manner.
In ironing pocket-handkerchiefs, the iron should be passed along each side before the middle is touched the ironer slightly pulling the corner in the left hand whilst she irons with the right. To form pleats neatly, the frill should be laid straight in front of the ironer whilst she makes the creases of the desired width with the nail of the right hand, the left holding the point of the hem in place till the iron is passed over it. All pleats must be laid even to the thread.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.- XI.
THE LAUNDRY-MAID (concluded from p.144).
Goffering is very much in use at present, and
machines are made expressly for the purpose. For laces and other light frills
the ordinary goffering-irons answer very well. These are used by the ironer
putting her thumb and second finger through the handle, as in using scissors,
then she turns the thumb under, taking up the frill between the irons from
underneath. In the action of bringing the thumb uppermost again, the goffer is
formed. All goffered frills require ?to be ironed first. Goffering is done from
the left hand to the right. Care is necessary not to scorch with goffering-irons.
Very little heat is necessary to form the goffers.
All piqu? materials should be ironed on the wrong side, over several thicknesses of flannel, if ironed at all. Piqu? looks better if well shaken only whilst drying, only ironing the hems and bands. Piqu? waistcoats should be ironed through muslin or soft cambric, as described.
Bed furniture, made of dimity, should not be ironed. After it has been starched, and pressed through the rollers of the wringing-machine, it should be shaken out and laid upon clean grass to dry. When nearly dry, the laundry-maid should pull the dimity the way of the ribs in the material. Two persons will be wanted to pull the curtains, back, and tester pieces.
Lace and muslin window-curtains should not be ironed. After washing, they require to be put into rather thick starch, and afterwards cleared in a small quantity of cold water. To prevent the necessity of wringing, they should previously be lightly tacked together in folds of a convenient length, and the laundry-maid should only squeeze the muslin, and turn it over and over in the tub till all the dirt is removed. Having rinsed and starched them in the usual manner, they should be carried to some spare room, where they may be pinned out on the floor to dry. A clean sheet should be laid over the carpet or boards, and the curtains pinned to it at full width, and very straight.
White cashmere and merino articles are better mangled and not ironed, as the heat of the iron is apt to make woollen materials fade in colour. White alpaca should be ironed between muslin, and finished on the wrong side.
Black silk stockings look better if washed without soap. They require washing in two waters (hot), using some of the best washing powder instead of soap. In rinsing them, a good deal of blue should be put into the water. White silk stockings are washed, in the usual way, in soap lather, and the rinsing-water should contain a little cud-bear or pink saucer, to give the flesh-coloured tint. If ironed, they should be turned inside out for the process, but it is better to dry them between two mattresses.
Getting up lace requires a separate notice. Few ladies trust their fine laces to a laundress. They either do it themselves or send it to a lace-cleaner. The latter is an expensive plan, and by taking a little trouble the work can be done very well at home. Large pieces of lace, such as shawls, scarfs, &c., should be folded into a convenient length, and washed in lather made of the soap-jelly described in a previous article. The lace should not be twisted or wrung, but simply patted and squeezed with the flat palm of the hands, till no more soiled water oozes out. Before blueing, the lace should be put into a pan, and set under a tap of flowing water (when the water is coming in from the main is a good opportunity), and after several gallons have run through the lace, it may be passed through blue water, if desired. For our own part, we consider the blue contained in the starch sufficient, without any further addition. The lace should then be unsewn, and stretched out to dry over a clean mattress. The edges should be previously worked out between the finger and ball of the thumb. The nails should never be used to open the edges of lace. Each scallop round the lace should, if possible, have a pin placed through it to the mattress, beginning at the corners.
Border lace is best washed on a wine bottle, previously covered with fine flannel, stitched flat and smooth on the bottle. A bottle thus covered should always be kept for the purpose in a clean linen-closet. Take one end of the lace, and begin by lightly tacking each scallop to the flannel all round the bottle, then tack the other edge, drawing the lace to its full width, and so on, until all the lace is sewn in layers on the bottle. Then plunge the bottle in some warm suds made of soap jelly, and squeeze the lace with the hands till the suds have well penetrated. Repeat the process in second suds, and afterwards rinse, as described, under flowing water. Set the bottle in the sun, for the lace to dry, turning it round as often as necessary. When tolerably dry, put the bottle into some Glenfield starch, working the starch through with the fingers. Afterwards, wash off the superfluous starch on the outside, by plunging the bottle for an instant in cold water. Set the bottle in the sun to dry again. Unless the weather be very favourable, this may require two days to accomplish. In the meantime, cover the lace with some thin material, to keep off the dust. When dry, the lace will only require unsewing from [-182-] the bottle. If it has been well tacked on, it will come off looking even and raised in the meshes, like new lace. The above is the best way of cleaning old point lace, Honiton, and every kind of guipure. The pearl edges may require a little working out with the ball of the thumbs.
If lace be very much soiled, a little sweet oil may be laid on each fold as it is being put on the bottle. New lace also is rendered less liable to crack in the meshes, if moistened with oil before washing.
Clear-starching is an art, of which the process is kept a secret in the trade, but ladies may get up their fine muslin embroidery, almost as well by the following means:- Wash and rinse, as described for fine materials, then pin out the article over several folds of flannel, and iron as usual. This is necessary to emboss the raised work. If the design be in lace, "raise" the pattern, by passing an ivory stipple into the scrolls, rubbing gently until each thread looks clear and glazed. The end of an ivory handle of a crochet needle answers very well for this purpose. When finished, the article should be left till perfectly dry. Only the plain parts of the muslin or net should be touched with the iron. Isinglass is sometimes used for stiffening fine lace.
Blonde is seldom successfully washed at home. If attempted, the above plan will be found to answer as well as any.
NURSE AND NURSERY-MAID.
Where the care of young children is concerned, the duties
of the above domestics are precisely the same, the chief distinction being, that
in families where more than one domestic is kept in the nursery, the upper
servant is usually styled "nurse," and the under servant "nurserymaid."
Also, in households where much responsibility is vested in one nursery domestic,
she is often called "nurse". If the female head of the household
superintends the management of the children, a "nursery-maid" only is
generally kept to do the rougher portions of the work, such as scrubbing floors,
emptying slops, &c. It is advisable that employers should understand the
nature of these distinctions, because, in making engagements, disappointment is
unavoidable if the precise position of the servant is not clearly defined.
Next to the engagement of a governess, that of a nurse requires the greatest consideration. If the mother of the children spends a great deal of time in the nursery, she is naturally the individual to whom the little ones look for advice and assistance. But if from pressure of business, ill health, or any other cause, she is compelled to confide the care of her offspring to a stranger, too much care cannot be taken to secure the services of a well- informed, kind-hearted deputy. The most essential qualities to seek in a nursery attendant are truthfulness, intelligence, cheerfulness, and cleanliness. As a general rule, these qualities are not very commonly to be found in the class of domestic servants from whence inferior situations in a household are filled. Nurses, as representatives of mothers, should be drawn from the more highly educated circles of society than usually constitute the domestic servant class. Daughters of small tradesmen, ill-paid civil service employ?s, and clerks, that have enjoyed the training which a well-regulated home above the reach of actual want affords, are excellent, generally speaking, as upper nurses; and the assistance of such, when once secured, should be rewarded in a generous spirit. Having enjoyed the blessings of a settled home, they usually impart an air of comfort to the nursery apartment, and take pains to instil into the minds of their infant charges high principles and a love of home. These qualities are seldom acquired by the domestic who has filled every kind of situation in ever-varying households. Experienced the latter may be, but the experience is apt to be of a kind which is mingled with bitterness and dissatisfaction at the numberless changes to which their path in life has been subjected.
In choosing a nursery-maid, early rising, good temper, and strength of constitution are necessary qualifications. Truthfulness is obviously of so much importance, that any shortcoming in this particular should not be overlooked. If a nursery-maid has time to spare from more active duties, it is advisable that she should be a fair needle-woman; not only that she may assist in mending the children's clothes, but because a young person who has a taste for sewing is generally more companionable to the little folks in the nursery than one who has no inducement to sit down when her more active duties are finished.
In addition to the ordinary duties of the nursery, an under-nurse is generally required to assist in washing infants' linen, flannels, socks, frills, tuckers, &c. Time should be allowed for this work on a certain day of the week, the children, in the meanwhile, being placed entirely under the care of the nurse or mother.
In preceding articles on the rearing of young children, in the HOUSEHOLD GUIDE, the question of food and clothing has been minutely entered into. It therefore only remains to indicate some points of nursery management not included under those heads.
Whenever the plan of the day's work rests with the nurse, the primary consideration should be to secure plenty of time for out-door exercise and recreation. With this view, nursery cleansing, and other arrangements should be made subservient to the state of the weather, in order that exercise in the open air may be taken in the finest part of the day. As young children generally wake early, the morning walk should, in summer time, take place before the sun's heat is oppressive. The most healthy time for walking out in the summer months is between eight and ten o'clock in the morning, and from half-past five till seven o'clock in the evening. In the spring and fall of the year, from ten to twelve o'clock in the morning, and from three till five o'clock in the afternoon, will be found equally suitable. Young children should never be exposed to the burning heat of the sun, neither should they be allowed to sit down in the parks and squares of towns. As far as it is possible, little children residing in the country should spend the greater part of their time out of doors ; the nurse, if necessary, doing any light needlework in the meantime. Any kind of game which exercises the limbs of children whilst in the open air, is conducive to health; only when passing through the streets should they be required to walk hand in hand.
In the absence of the children from the nursery, the windows should be open from the top and bottom sashes, and the bedding exposed to air. If the nursery boards are scrubbed, a fire should be lighted in the room, to quicken the drying and take off the damp chill.
All children under four years of age (and as much later as the habit can be enforced) should be persuaded to rest on returning home from a walk-the little ones to sleep, and the older ones to read books or look at pictures, whilst in a recumbent position.
In the meanwhile, the nurse should wash and dress herself thoroughly in another room, if she has been prevented from doing so in the earlier part of the morning. Whilst the children are taking their morning nap is the best time for the nurse to do any little work not suitable to the nursery. Before leaving the room, however, she should take every precaution to prevent accidents, by the children falling out of bed, playing with fire, or what not.
In order to leave no inducement to the children to lie awake in their beds, the nursery blinds should be drawn down during the morning hour of slumber. All toys should be put out of sight, and the apartment made to appear as little suggestive of play as possible. In the [-185-] waking hours of children the reverse should be the case. The more the floor is bestrewn with toys, and the more nursery litter is about, the more happy the place is to its infant denizens. A skilful nurse will know when to enforce habits of order, and when to give way to a natural inclination on the part of children to create confusion.
The seeming love of disturbance and destruction shown by all healthy children should not be too seriously regarded. The impulse springs from a desire to test bodily strength and to acquire knowledge. It needs guiding, not checking. If improper things for these purposes are placed within the reach of children, the fault is not theirs. The sole good of an article to a child's comprehension is the use it can be put to. They know nothing of the value of the presents well-intentioned friends make. All that children think of is the amount of pleasure a toy can be made to yield; and, for all practical purposes, a fine horse, stripped of saddle, mane, and tail, reduced, in fact, to a mere block of wood-or a beautiful doll, denuded of fashionable attire, and converted into a bundle of rags, answers the purpose, in their degraded state, more effectually than in the original condition. At the same time, little children should not be permitted to commit ruthless destruction on works of art, for of such a nature toys, now-a-days, are. On the contrary, gifts of the kind should be treated with respect by those in charge of the children, and should not be sent into the nursery to share the fate of common toys. There should be toys too good for every-day use, just as there are Sunday clothes. Some restraint should be imposed in the use of such pleasures; and when the gratification of handling them is at an end, the precious treasures should be put carefully aside. Expensive toys may thus be made to serve a double purpose-pleasure in their use, and admiration of their structure.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-XII.
NURSE AND NURSERY-MAID (continued from p. 183).
INDISPENSABLE as watchfulness is at all times in the management of children,
the need of vigilance is most a urgent, to detect the first signs of disease.
Any change in the natural habits of children should be reported by the nurse to
the parent. Any accident, however slight, that a child may have sustained,
should be spoken of to those most interested in its welfare. Matters that may
appear of no moment at the time, frequently prove the fore runners of serious
ailments. No one can prevent mishaps but concealment is a grave error. The cause
of many a spinal complaint has been traced to an unlucky fall and numberless
hidden diseases have arisen from children swallowing improper substances.
Nothing is more fatal in these cases than the delusion that no harm can come of
such accidents. Sooner or later the truth is liable to become known, and the
nurse to suffer blame for an evil which candour would have dispelled.
Some nurses are tempted from over-anxiety to suggest, that upon any little derangement of health "a powder" should be given. They look upon certain medicines as the cure-all of every complaint, instead of a last resource, to be administered only under medical advice. Dieting is, however, generally, the only dose a young child, living in pure air, needs when a little out of health. By dieting is meant substituting one kind of food for another - as beef-tea instead of meat; bread and milk instead of bread and butter or cheese; light egg-puddings in place of those composed of fruit, jam, and suet; avoidance of tea, coffee, wine, and beer, if such articles of food, unsuitable to most a young children, have been partaken of. If having tried change of food, combined with plentiful use of water for bathing, and ample exercise in the open air, a child still shows symptoms of failing health, medical aid should be sought.
The occasions which require instant remedy are those a which, from their sudden appearance, the nurse is most likely to be the first to perceive. Amongst these are croup, one of the most alarming diseases of childhood. This terrible complaint is often unpreceded by any symptoms of a common cold. The first intimation of its approach is usually given in a loud, brazen-sounding couch unlike any ordinary cough. Only one sound may be uttered at considerable intervals at the outset, but the first cough should call forth active measures. In the absence of immediate medical aid, an emetic may be safely given. When vomiting has set in, a warm bath, at a temperature of 98? Fahrenheit, should be prepared, and the child should remain in it from a quarter-of-an-hour to twenty minutes. An eminent physician, in an excellent work on maternal management of infants recommends as an emetic for croup, one grain of tartarised antimony dissolved in an ounce of boiling water, to be taken in doses of from five to, but never exceeding, twenty drops, according to age. The remedy being a powerful one, larger doses should only be taken under medical advice. Attacks of croup are prevalent even with robust children between two and twelve years of age, and are most general in the spring and fall of the year, during the prevalence of north-east wind after rain.
The manner in which a child sleeps is a great indication of its healthful state. Perfect composure in sleep denotes perfect health. The flitting smile that plays across an infant's features when asleep - poetically called an "angel's whisper "- arises from flatulency, and is of frequent occurrence. The child's position should be slightly changed to dispel the wind. Rolling of the head upon the pillow is a more serious sign, especially if the eyes be fixed, and the child starts fitfully in its sleep. If the child be unusually costive, an aperient dose may remove the symptoms ; if otherwise, a medical man should be consulted.
Another sign which should excite attention is the appearance of a child's limb drawn in an unusual manner. The thumb drawn tightly into the palm of the hand, for instance, may precede an attack of convulsions. The passing of a child's hands over the top of its head and forehead also, may denote some disturbance of the brain.
The cry, which to many nurses always means hunger, varies very much in infancy, according to the nature of its wants. The shedding of tears, which is the most pathetic appeal to our feelings, is in reality the least alarming of all kinds of crying. It is supposed that the flow of tears arises only from mental emotions, whilst the tearless cry denotes bodily pain. The cry of hunger is generally heard when an infant wakes from slumber, and may be known by alternate fretfulness and a catching sound of the breath, accompanied by an eager movement of the tongue and lips, and carrying of the hands to the mouth.
A continuous moaning cry proceeds from wearying pain, of which the seat may be generally ascertained by observing the movement of the hands and legs. If the legs be updrawn the pain will probably be in the stomach; if the hands be frequently put to the mouth, cutting a tooth may be suspected.
Any of the above indications of pain should be reported to the mother, and if medical aid be sought, the nurse has no responsibility in the treatment of the case. All her thoughts should be centred in carrying out the doctor's instructions, whether they coincide with her notions of propriety or not. In describing a child's symptoms she should avoid speaking from her own impressions or past experiences, confining herself strictly to present facts. The medicine should be administered with faithful exactness, the nurse carefully noting its effect. If anything strikingly unusual should follow on giving a dose, she should confer with the child's parents on the subject, and be advised by them whether to follow the doctor's directions or not.
The dress of a nurse needs some words of comment. Long skirts should not be worn, tripping little children up, as they are liable to do. Gowns made of washable materials are most suitable. These are easily cleansed if soiled by nursery duties, and cost but little to renew. A waterproof apron worn under the ordinary white apron will be found a great comfort to a nurse, and might be supplied with advantage at the cost of the employer. Every nurse should also be furnished with a long, loose, warm wrapper, made like a dressing-gown, for night wear, when her duties require her to rise from her bed to take a baby to and from the mother's room. This garment should be purchased by the mistress, and kept for the use of any nurse who may succeed to the situation.
SERVANTS OF THE HOUSE.-XIII.
OCCASIONAL HELP:- CHARWOMEN, NEEDLE WOMEN, SWEEPS, DUSTMEN, ETC.
THE greater the amount of work that can be done at home without occasional
assistance from "extra hands" the better for household peace and
economy. Upon this subject people are generally agreed, and nine out of ten
persons deplore the unpleasant fact of being obliged to have occasional help,
without, at the same time, making any particular effort to dispense with the
The general impression of housekeepers who have not gone into figures on the matter, is, that it is cheaper to engage people to do extra work than to keep sufficient domestics to meet any pressure that may arise. If, at the year's end, however, they cast up the indirect expenses entailed by this system of management, they will find that the cost has been greater than they imagined. As a general rule, the mere wages paid for occasional help is the smallest part of the outlay. Few charwomen and other domestic day-labourers are satisfied with sheer money payment. They look to be better fed, in quantity if not in quality, than resident servants, and, moreover, they expect to have the privilege of taking home with them odds and ends and remnants which, with good management, should be consumed in the household where they attend.
Exceptions are to be met with, of course, but the above is the general opinion entertained by people of the class that go out for a day's charing, &c.
Connected with the actual cost of the day's hire, should be taken into consideration the discomforts and disorder which the presence of strangers in a household entails. For the time being they are the guests of the servants. rather than the servant of the employer. It is a rare pleasure if the extra hand, thus called in, goes to her work in a thoroughly earnest and indefatigable spirit. To begin with, charwomen do not usually bring with them adequate knowledge, except of work of the roughest kind, and the additional food and beer generally allowed only serve to dull whatever energy and intelligence they may happen to possess.
Households that are subject to be frequently supplemented by charwomen and other like assistants, are also liable to be exposed to still greater disturbances than those described. The love of gossip is inherent in the class, and the affairs of every one of the families the charwoman serves become in most cases a common fund of conversation. Domestic matters of the most delicate nature are discussed, and in an unsparing manner. Whatever facts are not accurately known are unhesitatingly surmised, until all privacy of living is out of the question with whatever neighbours may happen to be at the mercy of the same ignorant tongue.
There are families that are never free from the presence of the charwoman. She is no sooner out of the house than some unexpected domestic crisis requires her services afresh. These households, with very few exceptions, are never settled with servants; good, bad, and indifferent characters from the last place, appear to be attended with the same consequences. The servants do not stay; neither can they always be induced to state the reason of their objection. If the reasons could be obtained, they would be discovered, in a large number of cases, to be founded on the fact that the Servants have "heard something about the place they did not like." The simple circumstance of many predecessors having filled the situation within a short space of time, is often sufficient to give a good servant a dislike to a place. Even when every attempt has been made to conciliate supposed objections, and a total change made in all persons hitherto employed, in the house, the same mischance is apt to occur. One person is generally left behind, and that person is usually the charwoman, who comes to clear up and put things in order for new comers. Thankful as one may be at times for any domestic help, on any terms, it should be borne in mind that the accommodation may be had at too high a price ; and that there are occasions when it is better to help oneself, or do without help at all, rather than re tam the services of a suspected medium.
Uncharitable as the foregoing observations may appear to people who have not had very long experience of housekeeping, the main facts will be found verified by the circumstance, that those who have had servants in their employ a good number of years, seldom seek outside aid. The members of the household seem to be actuated by a common interest, and are willing to bear temporary inconvenience arising from unusual causes.
A just employer, sensible of the comfort a good servant effects by doing extra work, will not suffer her labour to go unrewarded - a little present. or a pleasure trio when the labour is done, is a fair and suitable acknowledgment of the service rendered.
[-27-] The only instance when hiring a charwoman is generally a judicious measure is when a single-handed servant is kept. The extra hand, then, should have special work to do, and nothing beyond. She should be required to come and leave at a certain time, and her food and wages should be a matter of distinct understanding. A washerwoman, or a charwoman who goes out for a day's washing, for instance, should be kept to her washing just as a gardener, working by the day, is expected to keep to his gardening. Everything should be ready to her hand on her arrival. The clothes sorted, the copper-fire lighted, and the other necessaries of the work supplied. When her task is done, she should be required to leave the kitchen or scullery in good order, and the copper clean and dry. The average pay of a washerwoman in and near London is two Shillings per day, provided food and beer be found; and half-a-crown if required to "find herself." A certain quantity of beer or gin is generally stipulated for in the latter case. Some charwomen are willing to go out for less pay, on condition that their food and beer are found; but in the end it will be discovered that the cheaper and more satisfactory plan is to pay an equivalent for all extras in money.
Superior to the charwoman in social position, but liable to the same objections in some respects, is that large class of women who go out for a day's work at the needle. The blessed invention of the sewing-machine has reduced this class of workers considerably, and it is now by no means easy to get a really good seamstress to take a day's work at the employer's house. The best have sewing-machines of their own, and have plenty of employment at full pay at home. The least skilled are still to be had, but they are inefficient hands generally, and require constant supervision.
It is a great question whether, as matters stand, it is not far cheaper to give out extra needlework that cannot be done at home, by the family and servants, in preference to engaging needlewomen of the kind now-a-days to be had. In the first place, a great deal of time is usually wasted in giving the necessary and minute instructions required, and a considerable portion of the day is spent in the number of meals consumed.
The real economy of having needlewomen in the house consists in several members of the family lending assistance in doing the unskilled portions of the work-running seams, making piping, &c. The seamstress is then able to devote her time to the more important branches of the work-fitting and finishing. At the same time, if a needle-woman is kept exclusively to this employment, she naturally expects a higher rate of remuneration than one who is only capable of doing inferior work. Needle-women of the latter class are generally content to receive about two shillings a day; whilst one working in a family whose daughters, for instance, do the easy parts of the labour, looks with reason to receive higher wages. From three shillings and upwards is often asked for assistance in the latter case.
The chief economy in having dresses made up at home lies in making use of old materials. If everything has to be bought new, there is little advantage in making up materials at home, that is to say, unless the seamstress gets very considerable aid.
Everything should be ready when the seamstress arrives; patterns should be decided on beforehand, and the materials for the work selected.
Amongst the rougher kinds of household labour, which are a hindrance to personal comfort, may be classed having the chimneys swept. Unless the structure of a chimney, however, be very defective, there is no occasion to have the sweeps oftener. than once in about six weeks for kitchen flues, and less often for sitting-room chimneys. Any apparent necessity for their attendance at shorter intervals, is generally owing to the cook or housemaid neglecting to keep the mouth of the chimney clear by sweeping round the opening daily as far as her arm will reach. If this precaution is neglected, the best constructed chimneys will be liable to smoke, and sending for the sweeps will be the consequence.
The Ramoneur Company is an excellent institution for subscribers who are troubled with smoky chimneys and careless servants. For half-a-guinea a year, one can have all the chimneys of a house swept as often as liked - a privilege, we presume, that is rarely abused.
Whenever it is considered necessary that a chimney should be swept, some one should be appointed to go outside the house to see that the sweep's broom appears above the top of the chimney. This, in fact, is the only proof of the work having been effectually done ; otherwise the ordinary hearth-broom would answer the purpose as well. Scraping the top of a chimney-pot is sometimes a successful mode of curing a chimney of smoking.
Preparatory to the sweep's visit, all movable articles should be either removed from the apartment or covered up. The looking-glasses should be lightly covered with a sheet or sweeping cloth, and all mats taken away, leaving a piece of drugget for the sweeps to walk upon. After a chimney has been swept, the carpet of the room should be thoroughly brushed, and the walls lightly swept with a hair broom covered with a clean glass-cloth.
Dustmen are periodically necessary visitants, although not so frequently necessary as some people imagine. In the suburbs of London, where the collection of dust is not enforced, there is no occasion for a dust-bin at all, except to receive sifted cinders, until it is convenient to dig them into the earth or otherwise dispose of them. Dust-bins as ordinarily used are nothing better than foul receptacles for litter and rubbish that ought to be consumed by the kitchen fire. It is an untidy and unhealthy practice to throw vegetable trimmings, pieces of paper, bones, and dirty rags into the dust-hole. The practice is also reprehensible on account of the wasteful facilities the dust bin affords of getting rid of remnants of food. If decently set aside, such remnants would afford a meal to some of the starving poor, to be found everywhere. A strict watch on the emptying of dust-bins in various neighbourhoods will best illustrate the necessity of looking after such things at home.
The practice of giving "pig wash" to people who apply at some houses for the gift is also liable to be abused. People really do not care to take the trouble of collecting the wash if it contains not remains of loaves, joints, vegetables, &c. Extravagant servants find the latter means a most convenient mode of effecting a clearance of food that has been repeatedly at table. The benefit such a gift confers on the collector is very questionable.
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