AND HOW TO PERFORM THEM
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.
ECCLESIASTES, ix. 10.
W. FOULSHAM & Co.
4, Pilgrim St., London
HOULSTON AND SONS
7, PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS, E.C.
INTRODUCTORY.—TOWN AND COUNTRY.
From what the housemaid's office has risen—Dwellers in caves —Dwellers in tents—Want of cleanliness in tent lives—Log houses—How they are made—Their discomforts—No housemaids in log houses—Dwellings of brick and mortar—Many of these without housemaids—Where the housemaid's office begins—Character and business of housemaid.—The housemaid's work—What the housemaid has to learn—Duties of housemaid in town and country different.
FIRST of all, what is to be a Housemaid?—
The housemaid's office has risen up out of
the comfort in which people get to live when
they cease to be savages, and grow civilised
and refined. When people lived in caves of the rock,
it was nobody's particular business to keep the place
in a clean and elegant condition. The bones of the
meat eaten by the family, and the remains of their
worn-out clothing, were thrown into a corner, or carried
outside ; this was all that was done for comfort, and
there was no person whose particular business it was
to do it. The same might be said when people began
to have houses that they could carry about with then
— tents, such as we read of in the Old Testament
or the sort of tents called lodges, which I have seen
the wild Indians use in America. The wild Indians
[-6-] set up three poles in the wood, or on the sea-shore. These three poles were tied
together at the top, and a piece of matting was wound round the poles, to keep
the wind out ; and this was all the house they had. It was left open at the top
to let in the air; and yet such a place is sure to smell horribly when it has
been lived in for a few hours. The cleanings of the fish, if it be on the
sea-shore, and the fat and skin of the venison, if it be in the wood, are left
lying about ; the tobacco smoke from the man's pipe hangs upon everything ; and
where people live in this sort of way, they are not careful to keep their
persons clean. Then snakes and ants and crawling reptiles find their way in, and
harbour in the warm corners; and when the place gets too bad to be borne, the
only thing to be done is to wrap up the matting, pull up the poles, and be oft
to some fresh spot. In this way of living, such a person as a housemaid is never
heard of. The time for her is not come. Society is not civilised enough to want
The next step is when men build houses of logs for themselves and their families. I have seen hundreds of this sort of dwellings in the forests of America : but I never saw a housemaid in one. A farmer who goes to live on a piece of land far away from any town, fells a great many trees, of about the same size ; chops off the branches, cuts the logs of the same length, and fastens than one upon another, to make the walls of his house ; and then he cuts out spaces for the doors and windows, and puts on a wooden roof, leaving a hole for a chimney. The commonest of these log-houses have two rooms, with a passage between ; and almost every man who builds has the sense to make a floor, raised a little above the damp and dirty ground. But if his family should escape catching fevers from damp, there is often quite discomfort enough to make [-7-] them ill without. The smoke will not go up the chimney, and it hangs in soot from the rafters of the ceiling, and the rough wood of the walls. Insects were harboured in the wood when it was cut down, and they swarm in the warmth. Everybody that comes in brings dirt from without, and soils the floor at each step; and the woman of the house is so busy with her children, or one thing or another, that she cannot be always sweeping. People who live in this way have no housemaids. If they had money enough to hire servants, they would rather spend it on a better house, that might more easily be kept clean, than in crowding another person into a dwelling whose two rooms are full already.
It is a great step from log-houses like these to dwellings built of brick and mortar, with rooms of one sort to sit in, and of another sort to sleep in ; with doors and windows that shut close, and chimneys that do not smoke ; with tables and chairs of polished wood ; with walls papered or painted, and floors covered with carpets. Yet we see, in our own country, houses like these where there are no housemaids. There are thousands of such dwellings in England where there is no other servant than a maid of all work, who has a great deal to do, in cooking and serving the family, besides keeping the house clean and in order. It is one step higher in society even than this that the office of the housemaid begins. Her office begins among people who have at the same time money enough, and a sufficient taste for comfort, to engage one servant to prepare their food and take care of the kitchen and offices, and another to keep the rest of the house clean and in order, and to serve the meals of the family.
Now, it is plain from this what the character and business of the housemaid ought to be. As it, is from [-8-] refinement and a taste for comfort that her occupation arises, she ought to be refined and have a taste for comfort accordingly ;—she should have the same dislike of dirt, untidiness and discomfort that those have who employ her. This should be the particular character of every housemaid.
As for her work, it is also clear enough what that is. It is her business to keep the dwelling as well aired throughout as if the family lived in the open field, while she guards against the damp, soil and insects which are the plague of rude abodes. The queen's palace and the log-hut in the woods are alike in the one great circumstance, that they are pieces of ground covered in for people to live in, under shelter. The great difference between them lies in the superiority of the one over the other, in those things which the housemaid has to look to. The superiority of the queen's palace over the log-hut, is not half so much in its having beautiful pictures and musical instruments, handsome tables and carpets and curtains and mirrors, as in its being drier and more airy, cleaner and more wholesome. The housemaid's business therefore is, from the queen's palace to the tradesman's house of six rooms, to keep every corner of the abode free from dust and soot, from damp and rust, from insects, bad smells, and disorder of every kind. How to do this is what every girl who means to be a housemaid has to learn.
How to keep the house clean and in order, is a somewhat different question in town and country. If Anne takes a service in the heart of London, in Cheapside, for instance, and her sister Mary remains in the village where she was born, as housemaid at the Squire's, these girls will require a rather different set of instructions. In every season of the year, from the first hour of the day to the last, there will be differences in their situation which will have a great effect upon their work.
IN THE EARLY MORNING: WORK BEFORE BREAKFAST IN THE COUNTRY.
Hours in London later than in the country—Early morning in the country—The housemaid rises early—Bedclothes removed from bed—Dressing—Prayer—Bedroom doors to be kept shut —Opening windows, etc., of lower rooms—Preparation of dining-room, etc., for breakfast—Tidying the grate—Shavings, grass, and decorative work in grate—Treatment of hearthrug—Sweeping the carpet—Thorough sweeping necessary—Protection of furniture, books, etc.—Dark corners—Use of damp tea-leaves—Dusting the furniture—Wiping chairs—Ledges of bookcase—Last look round room--Work ill done noticed by mistress—Heater of urn, etc.— laying cloth for breakfast—Collection of breakfast things—Milk and cream ; bread, eggs, and butter—Care needful in laying breakfast-table—Breakfast bell—Bringing in urn, toast, etc.—Opening beds upstairs—Emptying slops—Pails not to be left on landing, stain, etc.—Accidents sometimes occur through this —Treatment of pails—Filling ewers and water-bottles—Management of the on sweeping days—Making beds—Treatment of mattress, feather-bed, bolster, and pillows—Bed curtains—Bed carpets—Towels—Dressing-table—Blinds—Light blinds and open windows—Door to be shut on quitting room—Removal of breakfast things—Crumbs to be swept up.
HOURS are, generally speaking, later in London
than in the country. In the still country
village, where nobody is abroad much after
dark, the inhabitants go to rest earlier than
in the clattering town, where coaches are rolling, and
a crowd of people passing through the streets till mid-[-10-]night ; and early sleeping brings early rising, and the country housemaid is
therefore sooner up than the town one.
In the bright midsummer morning, Mary needs no mistress's bell to wake her at half-past five, or six o'clock. There is such a song of birds all about, and the sun shines into her attic so brightly, that there is no temptation to sleep any longer. She springs up, and throws open the window, to let the sweet breath of the morning blow in. The sun has been so long risen, that the pink clouds of the dawn are all gone out of the sky; but the dew is on every plant in the garden, and every thing looks fresh and bright. The cow, already milked, is in the field, and the sheep are grazing in the sunshine. While Mary is dressing, she hears the bleat of the sheep, and the whetting of the mower's scythe. The mower's business must be done early, before the dew is off; and she feels that there is a good deal of her work too, which ought to be finished before the sun is much higher in the sky. She draws off the bedclothes, and hangs them over a couple of chairs, at the foot of the bed, while she is dressing, not allowing the blankets and sheets to drag on the floor. She takes sufficient time to refresh herself thoroughly with washing, to fasten up her hair securely under her morning cap, and to put on her dark cotton gown, with short sleeves, and her tidy neck handkerchief, as neatly as her mistress will dress for breakfast.
She will then refresh her mind with expressing her thankfulness to God for having placed her in a bright and beautiful world, for having appointed her honourable and useful employment in life, and giving her health and capacity to discharge her duty. If she is aware of any indolence in herself, any faults of temper which hurt her own comfort, or that of the people about her, she will humbly and earnestly desire to be on her [-11-] guard against the temptations she has most to dread. She will pray that she may pass the day blameless, gaining strength to do better still to-morrow ; and she will contrive to find time to read a portion of Scripture well if it be but a few verses, dwelling awhile on one verse in particular and committing it to memory as something on which her thoughts may dwell during the day, while her hands are busy in the execution of one or other of her numerous duties.
Having thus refreshed herself in mind and body, Mary comes forth from her chamber to her work, of which she has a great deal to do before breakfast. First, she is careful to shut the door of her attic. As long as there is a window to open, to air bed-rooms, the doors should never be left wide, to let any one who passes by see the beds unmade, and the wash-stand in disorder. Next, Mary goes round the lower rooms, to unclose the shutters, and open the windows, that the parlours and hall may be thoroughly aired. She then proceeds to prepare the sitting-room which will be first wanted,—the dining-room, probably, in which the family will breakfast. The hall, door-steps, kitchen and offices, and the attic where she sleeps, are usually under the care of the cook.
It is a general rule that the dirtiest part of the cleaning of a room should be done first. The grate, therefore, is the first part of the dining-room which is to be looked to. During the summer, when no fire is wanted, all that is necessary in the morning is to dust out the grate, and sweep from the hearth any dirt that may have collected there the day before ; to rub the bars, if they are of bright steel, briskly with a dry cloth, to remove any damp which might cause them to rust, and either to give the shavings or manila grass a shake, if there be either in the fireplace, or to put in order any kind of decoration that may be used to hide the bars [-12-]of the grate and the empty space behind. The hearth-rug should have been rolled up, not folded up, before all this, and carried out into the open air for a shake. Servants for the most part have a bad habit of folding the hearth-rug across the middle and kneeling on it to clean the grate. By such a mode of procedure, the hearth-rug is gradually weakened in this particular part, and ultimately broken asunder when being shaken. It is better to roll the hearth-rug up carefully, unroll it again on the grass or gravel, if the weather be dry, pick off any threads or pieces that may have adhered to it, and after sweeping it lightly with a carpet broom roll it up again and carry it within doors, ready to be put in its place once more when the carpet has been swept and the room dusted.
When the hearth-rug has been brought within doors the carpet has to be swept. In a quiet country house, with a garden lying round it, free from the dirt of a city, and at a season when there is no dust from the fires, carpets do not want sweeping so often as in a town, or in winter. Once, or at most twice a week is sufficient. When the sweeping is to be done, however, it ought to be thoroughly done. There are some houses where, if a visitor chances to cast an eye under the sofa or piano, the carpet looks a different colour from what it does every where else, from the quantity of dust lying upon it. The proper way is to cover the sofa with an old sheet, kept for the purpose ; to hang up another sheet before the book-cases (if they have not glass in front, to protect the books from dust), and then to sweep out every corner of the floor, shifting the sofa and tables so as to get at all the dust that has gathered under them ; and, if there be a recess or dark corner in the room, to take more care about sweeping that than any other part, instead of trusting that the mistress will not look into the corners to see how the maid does [-13-] her work. The tea-leaves of the family-table are all to be kept by the housemaid for her sweeping. Strewed damp upon the floor, they collect the dust, and prevent its flying about, just to alight somewhere else.
The carpet being swept, and the dirty tea-leaves carried away in the dust-pan, and thrown into the ash-hole, the furniture is to be dusted. The tables and chairs are to be rubbed with a duster, and the wainscot ledges, if there be any, the window frames, the mantel piece, and the picture frames, are to be brushed with the light dusting-brush, kept for the purpose. It is not enough just to pass over the surface of the tables, and to give a careless wipe to each chair, leaving, perhaps, a round patch of dust in the middle of each seat, very visible if the seats be of horse-hair. This is not enough. The rims and legs of the tables, and the backs and legs of the chairs and sofa, should be rubbed daily, as the dust lies as thick upon those parts as upon any others. Lastly, the sheet should be taken down from before the book-cases, and every ledge should be wiped.
If Mary is a handy girl, she will not be long in doing all this, and she will have time to give a careful look round the room, to see that no patch of dust, so big as the end of her finger, remains. It requires a very good eye to be sure of this ; and if Mary's sight is not of the very best, she will bear to be told by any one of the family that her work is not perfectly well done. It will be kind in her mistress to be observant, and to let no fault of the sort pass without notice.
Before laying the breakfast cloth, Mary will put the heater of the urn or parlour kettle into the hottest part of the kitchen fire, that the family may not be kept waiting for boiling water. Then having washed her hands, she takes the breakfast cloth out of the napkin-press, collects the breakfast things on a large tray,—the tea-pot, slop-basin, cups and saucers, plates, knives, [-14-] forks, and spoons.—and carries them to the parlour. Having arranged them on the table, she carries the tray back to the pantry; fetches the milk and cream from the i airy, and the bread and eggs from the larder, and fills the butter dish with fresh spring water before putting the butter into it. She must give a little thought even to so simple a matter as spreading the breakfast-table, or she will suffer for her carelessness. If she does not take heed that every one of the family has a knife and fork, that there is a large knife to each loaf of bread, and a spoon to each egg-cup; if she does not remember the butter-knife, the salt-cellar, and see that the salt in it is plentiful and dry, she will be called down from the chambers in the middle of breakfast, to be found fault with before the family. All being ready, and the breakfast hour about to strike, she rings the breakfast bell, and holds herself in readiness to fill the urn or kettle with boiling water, and put in the heater, red hot, when the parlour bell rings for breakfast. The cook must be equally ready with the hot rolls, or toast, or whatever else may be ordered in her department.
Breakfast having been served, Mary goes to the chambers, throws up all the sashes, opens all the beds to air, and proceeds to empty the slops. The pails and cloths which are used in this service are never, on any account whatever to be taken for any other purpose. It is not enough to empty out the dirty water which is left in the basins, and then to wipe the basins dry : the clean water that is left in the ewers and bottles must all be emptied out too, with a good rinsing, and fresh water put in every day. When everything is emptied into the pails, these pails must not be left standing so much as five minutes. They are a disagreeable sight; and besides, a great number of accidents have happened from persons falling over pails [-15-] which the housemaid has left standing where they have no business to be. Heedless children, and old people, who do not see well, have caught many a fall in this way, for which the housemaid has had to blame herself. The pails should be carried down at once, emptied, and set standing bottom up to dry, and prevent any bad smell hanging about them. The housemaid will then carry up with her two pitchers or cans, the one with fresh soft water for the ewers, and the other with spring water for the bottles. From these all the ewers and bottles are to be filled, unless it be sweeping day. In such a case, instead of filling the vessels, Mary will put the bottle into the empty ewer, and the ewer into the basin : she will double up the towels, and lay them on the top of the ewer, and cover all with a cloth, that no dust may reach them from the sweeping of the floor.
Next follows the making of the beds, in which the cook will help her. The mattress should be turned every day ; and if there be a feather-bed, it should he well beaten, shaken and turned before it is smoothed. Every bolster and pillow should be well shaken too, that the feathers may not get into lumps, and that the whole may be kept thoroughly aired. The bed curtains are then to be neatly folded, and turned in upon the head and the foot : the bed carpets laid straight, the towels hung evenly upon the rail, the dressing-table dusted, the glass rubbed bright from fly spots, damp or dust, and finally, the green blinds (which are common in country houses) let down, if the sun shines in so as to over-heat the room, and fade the carpets. If Mary is careful, she will never leave a light blind so loose before an open window as to blow about, at the risk of breaking the dressing-glass or the window-panes : she will either draw the blind only a part of the way down, or leave the window only a little open. All this done, [-16-] and the room looking completely neat, she will shut the door as she leaves it to go to another room.
Before she has half done the chambers, however, she will be rung for to take away breakfast. She removes the urn or kettle first, every one being glad to get rid of it in hot weather : she then carries in the large tray, puts the plates one upon another, packs the cups, and collects the knives and forks with the least possible noise, and makes the tray hold as much as it safely can, to avoid going backwards and forwards between the parlour and the kitchen oftener than is necessary. In removing the cloth, she will be careful to spill no crumbs. If there have been children among the breakfast party, or any persons who have dropped crumbs, she must have her dustpan and brush ready to sweep them up, that no signs of the meal may be left.
AT BREAKFAST AND AFTER BREAKFAST.
Breakfast in the kitchen—The parlour teapot—Strong tea and weak tea—Purchase of tea by servants—Washing up after breakfast—Order in which utensils should be washed—Reason for this—Wiping—A place for everything, and everything in its place—Wiping down the dresser—A hint about supper things—Finishing of upstairs work— Cleaning candlesticks and trimming lamps—Disposal of candle-grease—Snuffers — Right and wrong way of cleaning candlesticks—Use of gas —Petroleum— Benzoinc —Sweating of petroleum lamps—Burners of gaseliers—Cleanliness essential to proper burning of lamp—Preparation of drawing-room.
THE time for her own breakfast has now arrived. It is well if she and her
fellow-servant have agreed to make the tea in the parlour tea-pot suffice for
them ; for, if the cook be only careful to have water boiling, and to be ready
to sit down as soon as the family have done breakfast, it is probable that the
tea left from the parlour will be quite good enough for drinking, and the maids
may save a great deal of money in the course of the year. Moreover strong tea is
not good for any one, as it tends to impair digestion and exercises an injurious
influence on the nerves. It is only wholesome when drank weak with plenty of
milk. If, however, the family add water so frequently to the teapot as to leave
none that is good, it still remains a question whether it is right, however
pleasant a beverage tea may be, for girls to spend so large a sum in this daily
luxury as servants often do. [-18-]
While there is such an abundance of good milk as there commonly is in a country
house, it seems wrong that even a pound a-year should be spent in any thing
whatever to eat or drink, by a girl whose wages are eight or nine pounds. There
are many families where the master and mistress deny themselves wine, dessert,
and common table luxuries which cost far less, in proportion to the money they
have to spend, than their servants' tea does to their wages; and in the kitchens
of such masters and mistresses, the maids are all the time indulging in a far
worse extravagance than wine and dessert would be in the parlour. There are
families where father, mother and children have left off sugar, and even tea,
that they might have money for better things ; and in these very families there
have been servants who spent really large sums in the course of the year on tea,
while their younger brothers and sisters were growing up in ignorance because
their parents had no money to send them to school. If servants must and will buy
tea, they had better at least try to buy it to the best advantage. They should
get it of a good quality and not less than half a pound or a pound of it at a
time. There is much waste in buying it in small quantities. Much more paper and
string than are used in large parcels have to be paid for ; and a small dust of
tea, left at the bottom of the paper, is not thought worth taking care of, and
is wasted, perhaps, as often as a new parcel is bought. It cannot be denied that
there is great extravagance in the practice, in every way, especially when an
expensive kind of tea is purchased. Good tea may be purchased in the present day
for two shillings a pound, and even in small retail shops no one need go higher
than two shillings and eightpence per pound for a sound useful tea that will
satisfy all ordinary requirements.
Breakfast being over, the next thing Mary has to do [-19-] is to wash up the plates, cups and saucers, and whatever glasses, plates, etc., may have been left from supper the night before. She throws away the eggshells, puts aside the tea-leaves, bread, butter and milk, into their proper places before she begins to wash, and then she is careful to wash the utensils in the right order :—the glasses first ; then the spoons and silver forks ; then the cups, saucers and milk ewer, and lastly the plates. The reason of this is clear enough ; that the utensils which are not greasy may not be greased from the water of those that are. In the wiping too, she will take care to use the cloths intended for each kind of utensil She will not wipe spoons or glasses with a cloth which has just been rubbing the butter-plate, but will keep the glass-cloths strictly for wiping glasses and silver. Every individual thing must be put into its place in the pantry before she goes upstairs, that all may be out of the way of dirt and breakage. The tray must be well rubbed with a wet cloth first, and then with a dry one, and put by in the pantry with its face to the wall; and the dirty knives and forks should be placed in the box or tray in which they will be looked for by the person whose business it is to clean them. It is due to the cook to give the dresser a wipe down, that it may be left, without slop or crumb, for her purposes. The cook should never have to complain of having to wipe down after the housemaid.
It has been pointed out that the glasses, plates, etc., that have been used at supper the night before, should be washed next morning after breakfast, with the breakfast things. It is better, however, to leave nothing that really belongs to one day's work to be done in another. Ordinarily, cold meats, bread and cheese, etc., are eaten at supper, and the plates, knives and forks, glasses, etc., are not soiled to the extent [-20-] that they are at breakfast, when bacon is eaten, or at dinner, when roast and boiled meats, soups, fish, stews, hashes, puddings and pastry are placed on the table. The work of washing plates and glasses, and wiping knives and forks, used even by a family of seven or eight, takes but a few minutes, and may be done with ease within the time that elapses between the removal of the supper tray, and the summons to family prayers, if the day be commenced and ended with prayer, as it should be in every household, realising what St. Paul speaks of more than once in his epistles, the church in the house.
The up-stairs work has now to be finished ; and, if it is not sweeping-day, it is soon done. The chamber candlesticks are all brought down ; and the parlour lamp or candlesticks should be attended to at the same time. This part of Mary's business requires the utmost nicety, for it may be made a very dirty affair by bad management. Nothing can be more disgusting than to see oil spilled, or flakes of tallow dropped about on the dresser ; or the housemaid's apron soiled with patches of grease. Her candle-drawer should be well-lined with thick brown paper, which should be frequently changed; and she should have a large sheet of brown paper or oil baize which is easily wiped and lasts a long time, to spread on the dresser, for her lamps and candlesticks to stand upon. Her drawer should have little wooden boxes without lids, one to hold the scrapings of the tallow candles, and another to contain the snuff she has to empty from the snuffers. Girls who carry the snuffers to the fire, to shake the snuff out there, are apt to let some drop on the floor as they go, or on the hearth. It is needless to say that the knife used to scrape off the runnings of the candles, and to clear the save-alls of the last remains of tallow, and the snuffers of snuff, should never be used for any [-21-] other purpose whatever, and should never indeed leave the candle-drawer. It should be wiped with a bit of paper, after each time of using ; as should the oil-can. There is no reason that these utensils should be left in a dirty state, with a sticky surface, which gathers soil from everything that comes near them.
That there is a right and a wrong way of doing things applies even to so simple and prosaic an act as that of cleaning a bedroom candlestick. Of course no one but an utterly careless girl, totally regardless of the necessity that is imperative on her of taking care of her mistress's property, would put a silver or plated candlestick before the fire, or on the hot plate of the stove to melt the grease that may be sticking to it; but many will do this in the case of a tin candlestick, and even pour the melted grease in the fire, filling the house with the nauseating odour that arises from burning tallow. Grease is easily removed with boiling water, and this mode of cleaning away spots and lumps of tallow that adhere to any candlestick, be it of what material it may, is infinitely preferable to any other, especially scraping with wood or metal, or melting before a fire in the manner already alluded to.
The use of gas in towns has in a great measure tended to lessen the use of candlesticks, and the recent introduction of lamps and hand lamps, in which mineral oil or petroleum is burnt, has tended even more to bring them into disfavour. Petroleum is preferable to animal oil, and even better than vegetable oil, as, being a spirituous oil, or one in which oil and spirit are in combination, it does not soil or grease to the extent to which purely fatty oils will. Benzoline requires careful usage from its aptness to explode if it come into contact with a lighted match, etc. The great objection to petroleum lies in its apparent oozing through the receptacle in the lamp in which it is placed, and [-22-] imparting a coating of oil to it, which in due time trickles down the shaft of the lamp, rendering it most unpleasant to handle. The housemaid should never place a lamp in which petroleum is burned on the table without first wiping the shaft and oil well of the lamp with a soft cotton cloth, and the outside of the lamp should always be thoroughly wiped when the lamp is trimmed in the morning.
The burners of gaseliers, etc., often get encrusted with dirt, owing to the settlement of dust on the exterior, which after being used a short time, gets covered with an oily residuum from the gas consumed. These should be carefully wiped, at least once a week, with a soft cotton cloth.
Every part of a trimmed lamp should be as clean as a glass tumbler. If all the passages are not quite clear the air will not pass through, and the lamp will burn badly. If the glass chimney and shade are not as bright as a mirror, the flame will seem dim. If a drop of oil is left to soil the ladies' fingers, or to spot the table, the family have a right to be vexed with the housemaid. Many families have so great a dread and dislike of this kind of dirt, that they trim their lamps themselves—thus showing a want of confidence in the housemaid, which must grieve her very much, if she feels that she has deserved it.
This part of her business being done, all the lights ready for night, and the shorter ends of candle being fixed on save-alls for kitchen use, Mary once more washes her hands, and goes to prepare the drawing-room, as she prepared the dining-room before break. fast. If the family breakfast hour is not so early as has been supposed, if it is nine instead of eight, there will have been ample time to do both before breakfast, and Mary will now be ready to dress herself and sit down to her needle.
CLEANLINESS AND NEATNESS: SEWING AND MENDING.
Neatness of country housemaids—The fashions—Maidservants in villages—London servants often have dirty faces—No excuse for din or untidiness—Sitting down to sew—Housemaids in the country expected to do much sewing—Mending household linen—Darning—Making shirts, etc.—Sheets: turning sides to middle—Buttons and strings of pillow-cases—Holes in towels and table-cloths.
THERE is a neat air about some country
housemaids which is seldom seen in London,
without any fault on the part of London
housemaids. In the country the caps and
handkerchiefs look whiter, gowns and aprons of a
lighter print can be worn without getting soiled in a
day's time. There was another reason in days gone
by, which cannot be cited now, because it does not
exist. This was—that country people kept their own fashions longer, instead of trying to imitate fashions
which are unsuitable, and therefore unbecoming.
But in the present time, when every part of the
United Kingdom is distant only a few hours from the
metropolis—for distance may now be measured by
time instead of long measure, owing to the railroads
that spread like a spider's web over the country—a
change in the fashion of a robe or a headdress is known at John o'Groats or the
Land's End almost as soon as the metropolis, through the medium of the fashion
magazines, and what is worn by the mistress is copied by the maid, who too often
wastes in dress, money which would have been a stepping stone to better things
on marriage, or a stay in advancing years. London people who travel, are much
struck with the neat and spruce air of tidy maid-servants in villages, when
dressed for the day; and I, for one, have often thought that they themselves
must feel the comfort of sitting down to sew, well-dressed and at case, and fit
to be seen by any one who may call. In London I have often observed servants
with very dirty faces, a disgusting sight that I never could understand the
reason of; for dirty hands need never touch the face; and a family must live in
filth indeed if it is abundant enough to fly in their faces. In the country,
there can never be any excuse for the slightest untidiness of person in the
housemaid, when her work is done, and she is at liberty to sit down to her
needle. Her appearance ought to be quite as neat as that of her mistress.
Mary comes down from her room, her morning gown exchanged for one with long sleeves ; a white apron instead of her coloured one ; her afternoon cap, and her work-basket well stocked with cotton, needles, pins, scissors and thimble. She must, of course, sit down somewhere within hearing of the parlour bell, and of the knocker of the house-door. Perhaps it is at the bright, wide, sunny, kitchen window which is seen in country houses, looking possibly into :he kitchen garden, but more probably into the yard, where the poultry are pecking about, and the house dog lies asleep in the sun. If the cooking that is going on makes the kitchen hot, Mary may perhaps take her [-25-] seat by an open landing window up-stairs; or even under a shady tree beside the house. She must only take care to be within her mistress's call. She and the nursemaid may probably sit together under the tree, while the children are playing about on the grass ; and these will be the pleasantest hours of the day to her. There is no pleasure that money can buy greater than that of sitting abroad in fine summer weather, usefully employed, with birds singing, and bees humming, and flowers blooming all about, while the prattle and fun of the children are sweeter and merrier to listen to than the blackbird itself. if it is pleasant to ladies who have been sitting still all the morning, it must be delightful indeed to servants who are resting from the heat and stir of their morning's work.
Mary is a good needle-woman, or she would not have got her place. The housework of a country housemaid is so regular, so much less severe than in London, and so insufficient to fill up her time, that she is reasonably expected to do a good deal of sewing. Unless she happens to have a very particular mistress, who prefers taking charge of things herself, it is Mary's business to watch continually the state of the table and bed linen, the chamber carpets and table covers, the towels and clothes bags, all through the house. The darning of the stockings falls to her too, unless there be a lady's maid ; and when there is nothing more pressing, the making of some of the family linen. Mary must be a good darner of table-cloths and stockings : she must understand the making of shirts ; and she must have a quick eye, and a ready thought, as well as nimble fingers, or she will not do for a regular country place, where there are several hours of the long summer day to spare for the needle. The housemaid of the present day, however, has to pay more attention to mending than making, unless it be dress-[-26-]making, for gentlemen now prefer to buy their shirts, whether of flannel, linen, or cotton, ready made.
She must examine the sheets of each bed (except those which are just new), when they are taken off to go to the wash; and, instead of leaving them to run in holes in the middle, while the sides remain quite good, she should unrip them, and turn the breadths as soon as the middle of the sheet begins to get thin. She must see that the buttons or strings of the pillow-cases are complete, before they are laid by after the wash : and it is a disgrace to her if a hole is ever seen in a towel or a table-cloth. If she thus takes care to make one stitch save nine by being taken in time, she will find her sewing no more than she can well get through, particularly in the long days.
PREPARATION FOR DINNER: WAITING AT TABLE.
Laying the cloth for dinner—Time to begin to lay the cloth— Difference in duties of housemaid and maid-of-all-work—Position in waiting—Order in which persons should be served —Removal of plates—Great we necessary in waiting—Hot plates before carver—Handing round vegetable dishes, etc.—Attention to wants of those at table—No impatience to be shown—Attention to fire, candles, etc., in winter—Servants not particularly noticed by those on whom they are waiting—Refuse on plate after fresh helping to be cleared away—Fresh set of hot plates—Pudding—Cheese—brushing down crumbs —Removal of cloth—Setting on dessert, wine-glasses, etc.—Removal of dinner apparatus—Aid from cook—Dinner in the kitchen—Clearing away dessert in dining-room—Washing up —Setting the tea-tray—At work again.
H OWEVER pleasant it may be sitting to sew
Mary must be careful not to let time slip
away so as to make her too late in laying the
cloth for dinner. Supposing every thing to
be in proper readiness, the clean knives in the tray,
the salt freshly stamped in the salt-cellars, and the
castors fit for use, the mustard fresh, the vinegar plentiful, and the mouths of all the cruets clean; supposing
every thing to be in right order, Mary should enter the
dining-room to lay the cloth, exactly a quarter of an
hour before the dinner hour strikes. if it is her business to ring a bell half an hour earlier, as a signal for
the family to dress, which is the custom in many houses,
she should be as punctual as the clock itself; for every
one in the family depends on the exactness of such a signal ; and it is a credit
to the establishment that the neighbours within hearing should observe and rely
upon the punctuality with which its proceedings go forward.
In the Maid of All-work directions are given about laying the cloth for dinner. The only difference which Mary has to make is, that she places the bread, beer and water, on the sideboard, instead of setting them within reach of the party at the table. She also remains to wait, instead of going away when the covers are removed.
In waiting, she must be careful to stand on the left hand of the person she is serving, as people use their right hand much more than the left. The persons to be first served are the lady visitors who may be present, the most elderly first ; then the lady of the house, unless she be engaged in carving ; then the younger ladies, according to their ages ; and then the gentlemen. As each one finishes his or her soup or fish, Mary must be quick in removing the empty plate, and in placing another, ready for the meat. With all her quickness, she must move quietly, making no clatter of plates or knives, and being careful to avoid pushing against anybody's chair, or touching any head as she passes ; or, above all, spilling fish-sauce or melted butter or beer on any one's dress. Many arc the beautiful gowns that have been entirely spoiled by the carelessness of a waiter in carrying a tumbler, or presenting a sauce boat. It must be mortifying for ever after to think of a black satin dress being spotted with scarlet from droppings of fish-sauce, or a glossy new coat greased all down the arm from the overturn of a butter boat through any carelessness of one's own.
When the family have no visitors, the hot plates will probably be set in a pile before the carver, that they [-29-] may not become cool before they are wanted. When all are served with meat, the vegetable dishes are to be handed round to each ; and then the sauce, butter, or pickles, that may be required. These dishes and boats should be held low, as near as may be to the left side of the plate, that nothing may be spilled by the way. By the time the last person is thus helped, the first will be ready for another helping, or to have his plate changed; or some one will be wanting beer or water. It rarely happens that a good waiter stands still for a minute together, or need feel that she has nothing to do at one moment, and everything at another. She must be ready and quick-sighted, perceiving without fail when one wants bread, and another potatoes : but, if the dish should be one which takes time to eat of, fish with many bones for instance, or giblet pie, she will feel that good manners require that she shew no impatience. She must not rest one hand on her side, or shift from one foot to the other, or lean against the side-board, or yawn, or glance out at the window. In winter time she may use this interval to see whether the fire wants stirring, or to snuff the candles (if candles are burning), taking each candle off the table to snuff it, lest any snuff should fall on the cloth, or into any dish. When nothing is wanted, she has only to stand in readiness, with her arms by her sides, remembering that the first quality in a person who waits is that quiet readiness which makes the dinner party forget that any one is present ; and feel almost as if they were served by machinery. Some young servants naturally feel shy when they begin this kind of service ; but they soon become aware that when they are as dexterous as practice makes them, they are not particularly noticed by any one at table, while the comfort they create is fully appreciated, and is sure to have the credit it deserves.
[-30-] When a plate is carried for a second helping, any refuse from the first, bones, skin, or fat, should be slipped off upon a plate in the plate-basket. To leave anything whatever that can be eaten on one's plate is a most reprehensible practice and is only permissible to invalids and very delicate persons. Children should be taught to avoid doing this. Waste in any form is wrong. A moderate quantity of fat is necessary, as butter etc., is, for sustaining the natural warmth of the body ; and the skin, especially of roasted meat is generally the most savoury part of the joint.
It is usual, in families which regard comfort, to have a fresh set of hot plates for the second helping of mutton, whether roasted or boiled, as no meat suffers so much as mutton from being chilled in the serving.
The pudding and cheese being done with and carried away, the crumbs are to be brushed down from the table-cloth into a plate or bread-basket, and the cloth removed. The master and mistress fold it over at each end, and then the waiter turns it over and over into a small compass, and carries it away. She then wipes the table lightly over with a neat cloth, before she sets on the dessert plates, wine glasses, decanters, and fruit-dishes. She has then only to remove the dinner apparatus into the hall, and shut the door. The cook usually comes as far as the parlour door to receive the dishes as they are done with, as it is her business to keep them hot by her fire for the kitchen dinner. The sooner the trays with the unused glass, etc., are put back into the pantry, the table-cloth shaken, folded, and laid in the press, and the dirty plates carried into the scullery, so that the servants can sit down in comfort to their meal, the better.
The kitchen dinner being finished, in cheerfulness and leisure, the dessert has to be cleared away, and the wine and fruit put into the store-room, unless the [-31-] mistress has already removed them. The washing up follows,—the cook usually undertaking the dinner service, and the housemaid the spoons and silver forks, the glass and the dessert plates. A very few minutes suffice for this; and the maid finds that it will save her time to set the tea-tray while she is in the pantry to put away her glasses. She then has time to sit down to her work again till within a quarter of an hour of tea, when it will be time to get in the cream and milk from the dairy, and to cut the bread and butter, or toast the cake for tea.
EVENING DUTIES: ATTENTION TO A MISTRESS'S WISHES.
Duties upstairs when family are at tea—Shutting windows—Laying out brushes and night-clothes—Leisure hours in the evening—Service as housemaid yields comfort and pleasure—Sources of trouble—Whether work is to be done as mistress or as maid likes—Experienced mistress most likely to know best about work —Servants often obstinate about trifles—Middle-aged experienced servant under young mistress—Directions from mistress in writing a help to servants—Inventories of plate, etc.
WHILE the (amity are at tea, she will go the
round of the chambers, emptying the slops,
filling up the water-ewers and bottles, and
turning down the beds. In fine summer evenings, it is usual to leave the windows
open till the servants retire to rest, when the housemaid shuts them all, being
careful to carry no light which would attract gnats, flies, and cock-chafers
from without. Mary will soon learn whether her mistress likes to have her
toilette-brushes and night-clothes laid out by the servant, or to do it herself
; and she will be careful to study her mistress's wishes.
During the sweet summer evening, the family are likely to be abroad, and Mary has two or three hours which a considerate mistress will desire to leave in her [-33-] own power. These are the hours for a walk round the garden, listening to the nightingale, or seeing the convolvulus fold itself up for the night, or watching the bees coming home to the hive, or searching for the glow-worm on the bank, or for the brightest stars in the sky as the darkness conies on. Or, after a more bustling day, these are the hours when friendly fellow-servants can read and work together, keeping their clothes in good repair, and talking over the book they are reading, till they are surprised to find that the evening is gone so soon, and that the family are ringing already for the supper tray, or for their night candles.
This is one of the easiest days of as easy a service as any girl can have. Supposing Mary to have a reasonable and kind mistress, and that her own temper is good, so that she lives on pleasant terms with her fellow-servants, there is no service in England which can yield greater comfort, and more rational pleasures, than that which she has been fortunate enough to obtain. Such trouble as she has, probably arises from some disagreement with one or another of the persons she is living among : and of such kinds of trouble the commonest arises out of the question, so difficult to settle between mistress and maid, whether the maid shall do her work in her own way or in her mistress's.
Now, it seems that this must depend very much upon circumstances. It is pretty clear that a young girl going into the service of an experienced mistress, must be very vain if she thinks she is likely to know best how her work ought to be done. She is far less likely to improve than if she had the disposition to compare and practise different methods, and so prove to her own satisfaction which is best. If she has a mind to sweep all the chambers in one day, while her mistress desires that she should sweep three on Monday and two [-34-] on Thursday, it can do her no possible harm to agree cheerfully in her mistress's wishes, and she can observe whether she gets the most work done by this method, or by that which she followed in her last place. If her mistress desires that the dinner knives and forks should be laid by the sides of the plate, while the maid thinks they look prettier laid across at the top, the mistress's taste ought clearly to prevail ; and if an easy-tempered mistress yields the point to an obstinate maid, the maid gets no credit by it. Her mistress pities her obstinacy, and excuses it on account of such good qualities as the girl has. It is almost inconceivable how wilful some servants are about trifles such as these. I knew a housemaid who persisted, for many months together, in setting the breakfast things at the side of the table, knowing that her mistress wished to have them placed at the end. Every morning the things had to be moved, to the disgrace of the girl. Yet she could not have been a fool, and she must have had some good qualities, or her mistress would not have kept her through such a fit of wilfulness. In my opinion, she should have been sent away : for such a temper as she showed in this circumstance is a grievance which no reasonable mistress ought to be required to hear. If she had been dismissed, she could not have truly complained that it was for a trifle. The position of the breakfast cups is, or may appear to her, a small circumstance ; but no one can call an obstinate and unaccommodating temper a trifle.
The opposite case is when a middle-aged experienced servant is under the orders of a young mistress who has not had time to learn what it is reasonable to expect of a domestic, and who requires things that are impossible, or gives directions which had better be let alone. In the case of a young mistress, however, she [-35-] may have gathered experience at home, during the time that has elapsed between leaving school and marriage, under her parents' roof, and it is but natural on the one hand that she should desire things to be done as they were "at home;" while on the other her home training has rendered her capable of directing her servants, whether young or old, experienced or inexperienced. When a mistress absolutely knows nothing about housekeeping and household work, it is trying to the temper to be obliged to spoil what one takes in hand by being compelled to do it in the wrong manner; but, even in this extreme case, it is wisest to keep one's temper, and to do one's best under the circumstances, It is true between mistress and servants, as in almost every other relation of life, that those who yield their own will in small matters, and care more about pleasing others than themselves, have the right of it. Those are, at the same time, quite clearly in the wrong who lose their tempers, and their peace of mind. Further than this, it seems to me that it is wise in mistresses to allow experienced servants to do their work in the way they like best, and to which they have been trained, requiring only that the work be well done, and in accordance with the hours and habits of the family. It is, at the same time, prudent in a young housemaid to ask for directions when she is not sure how to set about her business, and to be ready to adopt her mistress's methods, whether or not they may exactly suit her notions.
In cases where the servant has reason to believe that her mistress will be found to be particular, and attached to her own methods, it is well to ask for directions in writing, in which shall be set down exactly what is the work of the place, and at what times it is to be performed. This will prevent many words about which is the proper sweeping day, and which is not: [-36-] how often the rooms are to be cleaned, and so on. The maid will also be kept up to her duty by the existence of this piece of writing. Once having agreed to it, she is bound by it ; and it may defend not only her mistress but herself from indolence or negligence on her part. With the inventories or lists of plate, glass, china, hardware, and linen, which she will request from her mistress on entering upon her place, the young housemaid will be wise to ask for written directions about her work. If her mistress should feel confidence enough in her to desire her to take her own way, as long as the work is done well, this confidence is a claim upon her honour, stronger than any writing in the world.
Mary not having a very particular mistress, often wonders whether Anne has. She often thinks about Anne, and especially in this bright summer weather, when she thinks it must be terrible to be shut up in London, away from the green fields.
WORK BEFORE BREAKFAST IN THE TOWN.
Housemaid's place in London—Time of rising—Early morning in London—The
old-clothes man—The dustman—View from attic window—View from sitting-room
window—Housework in London harder than in the country—Why—Knocking and
ringing—Blacks—Flies—How the cook can help the housemaid—
How the housemaid can avoid disturbing her mistress —Sweeping and dusting—Sitting-rooms to be got ready before breakfast—Attending family favourites.
ANNE has a particular mistress ; and is so constantly busy in her place in a small street
near Cheapside, that she has scarcely seen a
tree, or a bit of light upon the water, since the last winter's snow melted. Yet
Anne is pretty well satisfied with her place, and finds some pleasures fall in
her way. Good servants like a particular mistress rather than an indifferent
one. They feel the good of being kept up to their work ; and if their mistress
be kind and reasonable, she will understand and value their service far more,
and so give them better encouragement, than one who does not trouble her head at
all about the matter.
Anne does not rise so early as her country sister, not having got to bed the night before till Mary had been an hour asleep. Anne sleeps through many noises which would not let her sister close her eyes. She sleeps on while the market carts roll by,—carts laden [-38-] with vegetables and flowers, making their way from the gardens in the neighbourhood of London to the great markets where the citizens go to buy. While she is yet asleep, numbers of women trip past with large baskets on their heads, in which ripe strawberries are packed so as not to be bruised and crushed as they would be by the jolting of a cart. The Jew cries "clo', clo',"—his abbreviation of "clothes, clothes," to catch the ear of people who are up earlier than herself : but having no old clothes to sell, she is not on the watch, and does not hear him. At last, the great clock of St. Paul's strikes six, and she becomes aware that she must rouse herself. The dustman reiterates the hoarse well-sustained howl peculiar to his species, till she wonders how he can bear to hear it himself, when it makes her impatient to listen to it just while he is passing through the street.
She opens the window of her attic, and strips the clothes from her bed, as people should always do in fair weather in town or country : but when she looks out, there is no sweet dewy lawn to be seen ; but the red brick chimneys and chimney pots in hideous variety stand up against the sky, hot and glaring. The smoke is beginning to rise from the kitchen fires* [* In most houses in the city, where the ground-floors are so valuable as shops or warehouses, the kitchens are in the upper part of the house, frequently on the second floors, or even higher, the sitting-rooms being on the first floor.] of the great city ; and above its dim curtain, she may see, by looking out, the great dome of the enormous church of St. Paul's, with the light and shadow strong upon it, and the gilt ball and cross glittering in the sunshine.
When she unbars the shutters of the sitting-room on the first-floor, she sees how busy the streets are. Old men are prying about for odds and ends, and old women are looking between the stones of the pavement [-39-] for nails which may have dropped from the horses' shoes the day before. They are just departing now for the day, as the throng increases so as to hinder their search. The shops are beginning to open ; the apprentices are cleaning the shop windows all along the street; for in London, tidy shopkeepers have their windows cleaned every day. Vans and waggons from the railway termini are hastening by to deliver goods parcels arrived from the country, and the light carts of the London Parcels Delivery Company, and other similar associations pass, on their way to the distant suburbs, with parcels from the heart of the metropolis. Handcarts, with cats'-meat and dogs'-meat run past, and the water-cart is driven slowly by, its showers laying the dust beneath it as it goes. The flower-girls, with their baskets of posies, are on the watch for the sound of every opening window, and they smile in every face that looks abroad, from attic, first floor, or shop. Here a lady sends out her little boy with a sixpence to buy a bunch of moss rosebuds; and there the shopman gives his penny for a carnation for his button-hole. Such are the sights that meet Anne's eye as she throws open the first-floor windows, in preparation for her work.
Anne's housework is much harder than Mary's, for more reasons than one. Not only does every species of dirt gather much faster in crowded places like London than in the still and green country, but households are much more interrupted. Mary has not to go to the door three times in a day: Anne has to answer the knocker or bell three times in half an hour. When Mary's sweeping is done, she expects every thing to look creditable for a week: Anne has to sweep twice, and perhaps three times between Sunday and Sunday. Blacks blow in at the upper windows, and dust at the lower: the stair-carpets show fresh footmarks every [-40-] day : the locks and plates of the doors grow dim very fast, and the faces of the minors are streaky. She wonders where the flies can all come from. They not only sail about, and cross one another in the air, alighting now and then to be driven off again, but they swarm in every window, and cluster upon every picture-frame. The picture-frames can be covered with gauze, and so preserved during the hot months ; but the flies spot the paint, and make fresh work continually till they disappear.
Anne sets to work to make everything look as well as she can under these circumstances. If a spirit of accommodation reigns in the house, it will be well for all parties. The cook will then have an eye to the house-door, and will attend to the area-bell. It is her business to open to the milkman, the fishmonger, the butcher, the baker, and those who offer water-cress or radishes for the breakfast table : and while she is busy rubbing the door-plate, or washing the floor-cloth in the passage, or sweeping out the area, she will not call the housemaid down from her dusting to take in her master's newspaper, or to say no, to a seller of tapes and laces. Anne, on her part, will consider her mistress's rest, and not add any noise within the house to the many without. She will avoid slamming the doors, driving the furniture up against the walls (to the great injury of both paint and mahogany), and she will be careful to keep the hinges of the doors and the pulleys of the sash windows sufficiently greased with soap or oil to prevent their screeching and creaking in her sleeping mistress's ear. She will also exert herself to get the preparation of one sitting-room completed so as to be ready to carry the warm water to her mistress's room when her hands are washed for laying the breakfast-cloth. But it will take longer to sweep and dust a small room in Cheapside than a large one in. the [-41-] country. There is much more dirt to dislodge in every hole and corner; and then there are the windows in addition. Mary has only to dust the sill with her dusting brush as the window stands open. Anne goes out upon the balcony (if there be one) when the inside of the room is done, shuts the windows, sweeps the balcony, dusts the sill and the frames of the sashes, and lets down and brushes the outside blinds, if the house be furnished with that convenience to shade the rooms.
It is highly desirable to get both the sitting-rooms ready for use before breakfast, in houses where there are two or three sweeping days in the week. Anne therefore endeavours to do this, not neglecting to refresh the canary-bird or bullfinch, so common in London houses. She has a pleasure in daily cleaning out its cage, seeing that it is well supplied with seed, and giving it fresh water, so that it may be in spirits when its mistress appears, and greet her with a song. No politeness is so welcome in a servant, or makes its way so soon to the heart of her mistress, as attention to any family favourite,—whether it be a canary, or a stand of plants, or a pair of gold fish ; and, as for the pleasure, it is hard to see why these things should not be as great a luxury to the maid as to the mistress, since they both have eyes to see the beauty of flowers, and ears to listen to the song of a bird, and hearts to understand and feel the worth and grace of the creatures which God has made.
Preparation for sweeping—Protection of beds and bedding—Brushing the bed—Rubbing bedposts—Vermin—Bugs—Got rid of by incessant care—Fleas most troublesome in country, bugs in London—Bugs difficult to dislodge—How commonly brought into a house—Servants boxes—Bed to be taken to pieces when presence of bugs is suspected—Possible utility of the bug—Insect-destroying powder—Salt and water—Preparation of mercury and white or egg—Treatment of projecting quills of feathers in making bed—Curtains and valances —Treatment of dressing-table, washstand, and the articles that are upon them—Carpets to be removed and shaken in open air—Treatment of chairs—Sweeping under bed—Slut's wool—Sweeping with use of tea-leaves—Sweeping the walls—Cobwebs—Dusting window-frames, chimney-pieces, doors, ledges, etc—Rubbing mahogany furniture—Work in another room—Finishing touches to room first cleaned—Laying down carpets—Filling ewers and bottles—Cleaning the stairs—Removal and shaking of carpets—Dusting walls—Brushing between banisters— Handrail —Putting down stair carpets—Shifting their position—Its utility.
WHEN breakfast is over and cleared away, the duty of sweeping day begins. The
to be entirely uncovered, an old sheet thrown
over the bedding as it hangs over two chairs.
The bed is to be thoroughly well brushed, the tester,
the curtains, the valance, and all the edges and corners of the sacking-bottom
where dust can lodge. The bed-posts and stock must be well rubbed, till not a
particle of soil remains on the duster in the hand. It is so disagreeable to
speak of vermin, that no one mentions even the name of a bug when it can be
[-43-] avoided : but bugs must be spoken of here. They are the curse of London houses
where there is not a most careful mistress and very clean servants. They may be
avoided and got rid of; but only by incessant care. Mary, in her master's house
in the country, may have to contend with fleas, especially if fowls are kept,
and dogs are allowed to run about the house : but her work with them is easy in
comparison with Anne's trouble with bugs. A whole houseful of fleas may be soon
got rid of by good scrubbing with lime and sand, mixing one-fourth part of lime
with three parts of the sand used in cleaning. The floors, and any woodwork
about the walls, being well scoured with this lime, and the beds being kept
thoroughly dusted, aired, and rubbed, there wilt soon be not a flea left. But
bugs are very difficult to dislodge, and they will continue to make their
appearance in hot weather, if the housemaid neglects her precautions in the
least. There is constant danger too of their being brought in with tradesmen's
parcels, by visitors coming out of an omnibus or hackney-coach, and even in the
clean linen from the wash. In the most orderly families, the clean linen is
carefully overlooked in the hall, or in some ground-floor room, every plait of
the shins, every gather of the petticoats, and all the folds of the flannels
being examined, before a single article is allowed to go up to the bed-rooms. No
trouble in the way of precaution against bugs can be so great as the misery of
being subject to them, and the anxiety of getting rid of them. The servants
ought not to be offended if the mistress refuses to allow their chests and boxes
to go up stairs, as long as she provides drawers or cupboards for their clothes.
No rubbing or scouring can make a wooden box a safe piece of furniture in a
bed-room, after it has once become infested with bugs on a carrier's premises.
But every servant girl is apt to think that her parti-
[-44-]cular box has nothing the matter with it, and to be offended at its being
ordered into an outhouse. I remember this being the case with a cook, very clean
in her person and habits, in whose bed more than one bug had been found. Her
mistress sent for the bug-doctor, who at once condemned cook's chest. She was
angry; but she was soon silenced when the doctor borrowed a large pin of her and
brought out a bug with every poke he made into the joinings of the wood.
The housemaid should not complain of the trouble of taking down the whole bed, each time it is found that there is a bug in it. By a careful search into every joint of the wood, and every crease of the hangings, the insect may certainly be found ; and the trouble of making this search, and of rubbing and brushing every part of the bed, is far less than would be caused by leaving the creature to breed. The most thorough pains-taking makes the shortest work. After cleanliness, the best method is to put sweet oil with a feather into the joints and crevices : but thorough cleanliness will generally suffice.
It would be difficult to point out a more loathsome insect than the bug, for its appearance is objectionable and its smell when touched or crushed most sickening and disgusting. Everything has its use throughout the whole range of creation, but it is not an easy matter to determine the precise utility of this filthy insect. It may be, however, that its presence, especially in the crowded houses of large towns and cities, may be with the view to provoke acts and habits of cleanliness which otherwise would not be insisted on, and thus tend to check accumulations of dirt which might lead to outbreaks of disease more frequent and disastrous in their consequences than those which swell the bills of mortality in the present day.
[-45-] Sweet oil is useful in dealing with these creatures, inasmuch as it acts as an immediate poison on them, as may be proved by experiment by touching a wasp buzzing against a window pane with the tip of a feather dipped in oil. An effectual remedy for fleas and bugs too, is Keating's Insect Destroying Powder, sold by all chemists. This powder is invaluable in exterminating another plague of London houses, and for the matter of that, many country houses too. When scattered about their haunts at night, they may be swept up in a dazed stupid state in great numbers in the morning, when they must be destroyed in order to prevent revival. It is equally efficacious in the case of the other insects of which we have been speaking when strewn over the feather bed or mattress, or over the wood work or iron work of which the bedstead is composed. Another useful proceeding is to use carbolic soap in washing the floors, scrubbing, etc. Salt is about as detestable to a bug as the bug itself is to men, women, and children, and washing the floors with a strong solution of salt and water, allowing it to go pretty freely between the cracks of the boards and under the skirting will be found a great assistance in ridding the house of these pests. The following method of destroying bugs is given in Houlston's " One Thousand Practical Receipts, in the Arts and Sciences, Trade, Manufactures, Chemistry, Domestic Economy etc., etc." "Mix some quicksilver in a mortar with the white of an egg, till the quicksilver is all well mixed and there are no bubbles ; then beat up the white of an egg very fine, and mix with the quicksilver till it is like a fine ointment ; anoint the bedstead all over in every crack with a feather, and about the lacing and binding where you think there are any. Do this two or three times ; it is a certain cure, and will not spoil anything." We have lingered long over this [-46-] unattractive subject, feeling that nothing ought to be left unsaid that may lead to the eradication and destruction of these filthy insects.
In making the bed, if any of the sharp quills of the feathers should be felt as the hand is passed over the pillows or feather bed, the right thing to do is to pull the feather in from below. It is wrong to leave it, to prick the person who lies down, and it is wrong to pull it out. It will fly about the room ; and it will be so much taken away from the stuffing of the bed.
When the bed is made, the curtains are to be folded and laid upon it, the valances turned up all round, the dressing•glass well rubbed and polished, turned face downwards upon the coverlid, the dressing box and toilette-pincushion laid beside it, and the whole covered over with the large dusting-sheet. The wash-stand is then to be wiped down, the soap-strainer, basin, brush-stand and glasses washed and wiped dry, and put all together, as before described, the ewer into the basin the water bottle into the ewer, the towels folded and laid on the top, and a cloth thrown over all. Then the carpets are to be taken up and carried into the little court behind, or any other place about the premises where they may be shaken in the open air. It will be a saving of time to shake all the carpets at once when the rooms are ready to receive them again. If there is any convenience for removing the chairs from the room, they should be rubbed down first, and then removed, before sweeping. If not they should be collected in the middle of the room, with the rest of the moveable furniture, and rubbed down after the sweeping.
The first place to be swept is under the bed, as it is there that the dust and flue (or as it is sometimes called, slut's wool) collect in the largest quantity. Either a damp mop, or a long brush, covered with a [-47-] wet cloth, should be gently put in, and moved about under the bed, to collect what lies there, instead of stirring it up, to rise and settle on the bed. This mop or brush should be then carried away. The sweeping should go on round the sides of the room, damp tea-leaves being strewed, and most thickly under any heavy piece of furniture, as a large wardrobe, which cannot be moved every time the room is swept. If the chairs, etc., remain in the room, they must, of course, be shifted to allow the middle of the floor to be swept. When all is done, the dust-pan with the tea-leaves and dirt should be immediately carried away, that the draught from the open windows may not blow any of it about again.
The long brush, called in France the wolf's head, and in England the Turk's head, should now be passed round the upper part of the walls and the ceiling, wherever dust can collect, or spiders are likely to hang their webs. If the room be papered, and have a raised border, this border must he gently swept with the long brush. A cobweb, dangling from any ceiling in the house, is a shameful sight.
Next, the small dusting-brush comes into use for the window frames, the chimney-piece, the panels of the door, and all the ledges in the room. If the furniture be of mahogany, it must be rubbed hard and well. Some mistresses, who allow nothing for their parlour mahogany but cold-drawn linseed oil and hard rubbing, have bees-wax for their chamber mahogany : but bedroom furniture is now so much more commonly made of painted wood than of mahogany, that it requires only good dusting, except on some great occasions of cleaning.
The furniture being all rubbed, and put back into its right place, the housemaid goes to another room, to do the same work there. She leaves the bed and [-48-] washstand of the room she has swept, covered for it little while, till she wants the dusting-sheet for another bed; by which time whatever dust remains floating in the air will have settled. She then carefully folds the dusting cloths inwards, intending to shake them from a back window before she uses them again; draws down the valance ; arranges the curtains ; gives a last polish to the looking-glass with an old silk handkerchief kept for the purpose, puts the pincushion, dressing-box and chamber ware in their places, hangs the towels on the rail, and leaves the room finished, except the laying down the carpets, and filling the ewers and bottles ,;things to be done in all the rooms in succession when all are swept. Of course, the housemaid is careful to shut the door of each room as it is finished, that no dust may fly in from any other.
Then the stairs have to be done,—at the very least once a week in a busy house in London. The stair-carpets should be taken up, and carried into the court, before the roosts are begun, and shaken with the chamber-carpets; but the sweeping of the stairs should be left till the last. All the doors being carefully shut, the stairs are to be swept, beginning, of course, from the top. Then the walls are to be dusted, the long brush being applied, as in the chambers, to sweep away all cobwebs and dust from the ceiling and corners. The banisters must be brushed between all the rails with a banister-brush, and the hand-rail well rubbed,—not merely wiped; for almost every person who goes upstairs lays a hand upon the rail of the banisters, and no part of the house is more subject to stickiness and dirt. In putting down the stair-carpets, a careful housemaid will see that the rods are so driven through the rings as that they will not get loose : she will see that the carpets lie so close as that there are no creases to be worn into boles by passing feet ; and that she [-49-] does not always bring the same part of the carpet to the edge of the stair, so as to cause that part to be worn out while all the rest looks fresh and new. A very little shifting of the carpet, an inch or so, sometimes higher and sometimes lower, will make the difference down the whole flight, and cause the carpet to wear evenly.
THE QUIET HOUR AT THE DAY'S END.
Housemaid busier in London than in the country—Has little time for sewing—Resting from housework—Subjects of conversation with fellow-servant—Knowledge must be sought—Contrast in town and country life and habits—Little to talk about in the country: much in London—How news is disseminated in London—The country servant sees little and hears little—The town servant speaks with many, and can we and learn much from shops of all kinds—What is seen and heard affords matter for pleasant conversation—Afternoon the time for London housemaid's quiet hour, if dinner be early, evening if late—Work in London incessant—Constant service, like daily food, is for present time only—Rest enjoyed most by those who work hardest—Duties before going to bed—Preparing for bed—Last thoughts.
ANNE has not nearly so much leisure for sewing as her sister. Not only has she more
sweeping and cleaning upon her hands; her
mistress has many visitors, whom it is her business to show in. Parcels, notes, and messages are
left at the door, and tradesmen send in a variety of
articles which in the country are purchased in another
way. For one interruption or another, Anne can never
sit long together at her needle. But then, neither is it
so pleasant to sit sewing in London as in the country. In the summer-time, Anne may take her seat at some
chamber window, out of the heat of the kitchen fire,
and within hearing of the front door; but in winter she
must sit in the kitchen, with no sounds but street noises,
and no sights but of brick-walls or the backs of some
neighbouring houses. Yet even here the maids may be very comfortable, sitting, two together, at a clean
[-51-] deal table, at work. When neatly dressed, after their house-business is
finished, and resting their limbs while their fingers are active, two
fellow-servants who are friends may much enjoy a quiet hour of chat over their
To spend such an hour to the best purpose, it is necessary that the chat should be of an innocent and profitable kind. If Anne be a sensible girl, she may find that a London life has some advantages over a country life, and that one of these advantages is the greater opportunities of obtaining knowledge that those enjoy who dwell in cities. It is not that there is not knowledge to be had everywhere. Wherever any thing exists, wherever the sun, moon and stars are shining down, wherever human beings wake and sleep as the day and night come round, there is knowledge to be had for the seeking. But knowledge does not come without being sought. People's minds must be awake and active to obtain it. Now, it is certain that, generally speaking, the minds of country people are not so lively and active as those of townspeople. The days are so quiet and still, and so much alike, a whole season through,—a country person sees so few people, and hears so little news of what is going on beyond the next village, that, unless he be a reader, he is liable to fall into an indolent habit of mind. if this is the case with master and mistress, it is yet more likely to happen to the servants, who never move from home, and have no great advantage of books. If Mary, therefore, have not been early trained to observe and reflect, she and her fellow-servant will have little to say to one another, as they sit at the window or under the tree. They may talk over their lady's last new gown, and what such and such of their country neighbours have been saying and doing : but there is nothing very entertaining, or very profitable in this. if they are [-52-] bright in their minds, and friendly in their tempers, they may, to be sure, find plenty of entertainment in studying the birds and the plants, and the insects which live all around them ; and when there are children, there is everlasting instruction and amusement within reach : but it is too common a fact that people do not use the advantages they have unless they are stirred up by a life of activity and change. None but the most stupid people can lead an active life in London without learning something perpetually. Tidings of great events all over the world come to London, and, by being repeated from mouth to mouth, published in a hundred newspapers, and proclaimed along the streets, become known throughout the households of the great city. Great discoveries of truth, great inventions for convenience, are disclosed in London first ; and some notion of them travels down from the queen's palace to the darkest kitchen. Every sort of rank is seen in the streets ; the nobleman's fine carriage rolls along, and the little orphan beggar sits on the doorstep. Every sort of occupation goes on before the eyes of people who live in London ; everything that is used by everybody lies in the shop-windows. Mary may spend a whole summer without seeing a face out of the family, while Anne speaks with twenty people a day. Mary, if sent out on an errand (which is a rare circumstance), hears a bit of country gossip at the village shop, and comes home with no more news than that. If Anne is sent abroad, she perceives a number of new things by the merest glance at the shops as she walks along. She sees the newest wear at the drapers' and milliners' windows, and the books most in request in the booksellers' ; and the public characters who are of most consequence hang up at the print-sellers'. She gets ideas of many a beautiful landscape, of many a lovely group of children, by a peep into a picture shop ; [-53-] and this without standing idly to lose her time, and to have her basket or bag snatched out of her hand while she is standing. A glance is enough for a quick eye and a ready mind. It she has a ready mind and ear, she may pick up many a valuable thing that is said in an omnibus, or over the counter of a shop where she is waiting to be served. It is no business of hers, and it would be very improper, to speak or meddle in any way: but nothing can prevent her learning what she can from everybody and everything that comes across her. It is pleasant to have to tell her fellow-servant, when they sit down to work together, something about what is doing to make coals cheaper, that they may be brought more within reach of the poor; or to relate that some people are striving to get schools provided for all the children in the country; or to describe a print she has seen, of a man trying on a tight shoe, and making a face, as if it hurt him, while the shoemaker stands smiling, evidently assuring him that the shoe cannot possibly pinch him ; and an old soldier, with two wooden legs, who will never more have toes to pinch, is merrily looking over the buyer's shoulder, to see how he will manage. All these subjects are good and entertaining to talk over, and contain knowledge : and active people who live in London may be amused with such every day.
If the dinner be early, Anne will have no time for sewing before it, and her quiet hour will be in the afternoon. She will, in that case have to serve supper, and will be busy to the last. If the dinner be late, she will perhaps be able to sit down between lunch and dinner, and will have a quiet hour in the evening. At the best, servants in the heart of London must feel, amidst the smoke and dust, the bustle and noise, that their business is "still beginning, and never ending." They must beware, however, of neglecting it from any [-54-]discouragement they may feel on this account. They are engaged, not to clean the house so that it will not be dirty again, but to keep it clean ; and their duty is to be always doing this, patiently and cheerfully, knowing all the while that they are thus promoting the health and comfort of every member of the family, and of all the friends who come to visit them. A witty clergyman relates, that his man John left his master's shoes uncleaned, and being asked why, said there was no use in cleaning them, as they would be as dirty as ever before the day was out. On hearing this, his master called out into the kitchen that John was to have no dinner that day; and when the cook inquired why, replied, that there would be no use in feeding him today, as he would be sure to be hungry again tomorrow. So the housemaid's constant service is, like our daily food, for the present time ; and a useful and honourable service it is.
Those who lead the busiest lives, most enjoy the quiet sleep they have earned. When Anne hears the clock strike which tells her that she may shut up the house and prepare for bed, she knows that she may take her rest and enjoy it. She goes the round of the house below, to see that every shutter is closed, every bolt and bar fastened, and all as safe from fire and thieves as care can make it. Then comes the refreshment of washing off the heat and soil of the day, of composing her thoughts from any trouble that may have arisen since the morning, and of lying down to sleep in a room kept clean and wholesome by her own care. If she is not too tired for one more look abroad, she may see the stars in the soft summer sky, and the moonlight resting on the great church dome, and her thoughts may be carried back to the time when she and Mary used to peep at the moon from their little bed in their mother's cottage.
FIRES AND GRATES: HOW TO MANAGE THEM.
Housemaid's work heavier in winter than in summer—Preparation of parlour grate—Black-leading and polishing—Removal of ashes—Use of half-burnt cinders—Laying-in fire—Great aim in lighting fire—Two things to be careful of—Improper way of laying-in fire—What results from this—Consequence of not opening window before lighting fire—Fuel and time saved by lighting fire in proper way—Bad lighting causes soot to fall about room—Slow combustion grates—Their principle —How ordinary grates may be converted into slow combustion grates—Advantages of the system—Mode of lighting and managing fires on this method—Slovenly and dangerous to carry fire from room to room—Why it is so—Leaving poker in fire a bad practice—Coal-box to he filled as soon as fire is laid—Daily fires in bed-chambers—Practice with regard to sitting-room in winter season.
THE housemaid's work is heavier in winter than in summer, and particularly in
the town. She has all the additional work of the fires: not only the care of
the grates, the lighting and keeping in of the fires, and the carrying of fuel,
but, in a town, the dirt from a thousand fires in other people's houses.
The cook's kitchen fire is the first lighted in the morning. The room in which the family breakfast is the next. As soon as she has opened the shutters, and before she begins to dust, Anne must prepare the grate. She carries away the hearth-rug, brings kindling-wood and coals, and the hamper or deal box which holds her stove utensils. This hamper or box contains her black lead, and the soft brush for putting it on; [-56-] her blacking and polishing brushes ; her cloth for rubbing off the dust ; her emery cloth, now used instead of emery paper, for cleaning the bars ; and her piece of leather for finally polishing them. This stove-box should be kept well stocked with these articles. She brings her dust-pan and brush, and carries away the ashes, leaving the half-burnt cinders which arc to serve to make the fire. She brushes away as much of the dust as she can, and wipes the rest from the ornamental' part of the grate, puts on the blacking when it is wanted, polishes every part with her polishing brush, and all being clean and bright, proceeds to lay the fire.
The great aim in lighting a fire is to carry up a stream of flame among some cinders and coals, till they are so warmed and kindled as to burn of themselves. This is what the wood is used for : and to make it answer its purpose, it is necessary to put the wood under the cinder and coal, and to pile the cinder and coal loosely upon the wood, so as to leave spaces for the flame to shoot up. Thus the air which comes in at the bottom of the grate feeds the flame, and drives it up through the spaces in the cinders. The cinders lie light, and soon take a red heat ; and a sprinkling of small coal is useful because it flames easily, and helps the purpose of the wood. A piece of paper must be tucked in under the wood, as catching fire more easily still, and needing only the touch of a lighted candle or match.
The housemaid must be careful of two things :—to lay her fire far enough back in the grate to prevent the first smoke from puffing out into the room ; and to open the window, to make a draught, before lighting her fire. Some maids lay the wood so as to stick out between the bars and spread a mass of coal on the top, quite forward on the upper bar. The consequence is that when the sticks are half-burnt, their unburnt ends [-57-] drop into the hearth useless, and make a smoke ; and the cake of coal on the top not admitting the smoke through it, it puffs out in front of the bars, instead of going up the chimney. The consequence of not opening the window before setting light to the fire is also a great smoke. When the chimney is the only pan of the room open to the air, the draught comes down the chimney ; and of course it brings out with it into the room the smoke of the new fire: but, when the window is opened, it makes a draught up the chimney, and carries the smoke where it ought to go. The housemaid should therefore open the window first, to make the right draught, and then set light to her fire. These things are of great consequence to observe, for by lighting a fire in the proper way, there is not only a great saving of fuel and of time, but of injury to the furniture, and of work to the housemaid. A difference may be seen at the end of the week in the furniture of a room where the fire is badly lighted. The soot hangs on the curtains, the books, and the little cracks of the ceiling ; and the ladies wonder how it is that they cannot keep their finger ends clean. On the contrary, where the fire is well laid and lighted, not a particle of soot finds its way beyond the bars of the grate : the fire never fails to kindle with a touch, and the mistress is never disappointed of a bright fire when she comes in to breakfast. In such a case, there is no occasion to light the fire till within a quarter of an hour of the family assembling. Of late years another mode of lighting fires has been introduced, which appears to be growing in favour. Considerable modification, however, is required in the form of the grate, and a new kind of stove has recently been introduced to which the name of "Slow combustion grate" has been applied, for the reason that the kindling of the fire is a process that is slow though sure, and that the consumption of coal is [-58-] far less rapid than in the ordinary grate, and less in quantity, although the heat given out is far more intense. The main point of difference between the ordinary grate and the slow combustion grate is that the bottom of the former is open, being an iron grating with open spaces between the bars, while the bottom of the latter consists of a solid piece of fire clay or sheet of metal. A common grate may be converted into a slow combustion grate by covering the grating at the bottom with a piece of sheet iron cut to the proper shape. The effect of this is to prevent any ingress of air from below the grate and to cause the draught on the fire to come entirely from the front. When the air is admitted through the bottom of the grate as well as in front the consequence is that the coal bums quickly, and that a great part is lost in the particles that are disengaged and carried up the chimney in the form of smoke; but when combustion is effected more slowly, the quantity of smoke that escapes from the burning coal is much less; and the heat evolved much greater, being increased by the consumption of the fuel that would otherwise have been lost. In addition to this it naturally follows that the less smoke there is the less foul the chimney will be towards the end of the time that elapses between one periodical sweeping and another, and even in this there is advantage, were no fuel saved or heat gained. The method has the merit of being a help to cleanliness, for as the contents of the grate are prevented from falling through by the plate or solid piece at the bottom, every particle is consumed as far as they may be ; there are but few cinders that fall through the bars on to the hearth below, and the residuum of ashes is very small; so that labour in attending to and making up the fire on the one hand, and of sweeping up the hearth at certain times of the day, on the other, is reduced to a minimum.
[-59-] When about to make a fire let the grate be first half filled with common Newcastle coals, above these place some shavings or waste paper and then a few dry sticks or splinters, or bits of charcoal, or broken peat. Lay on the top a few of yesterday's cinders, and, lastly, some lumps of coal. These must not he shovelled in at random, but laid on carefully by hand. Apply a match to the shavings or paper, and in fifteen minutes you will have a cheerful fire. At first a housemaid may object to this plan, and even ridicule it. She has always been accustomed to light a fire at the bottom of the grate, and it is difficult to persuade her to try the experiment of lighting it from above. She cannot believe that the fire will work its way down into the mass of dead coals. One fair trial, however, will satisfy her on this point, and she will soon find that it not only saves her master an incredible quantity of coals, but that it also saves her, what she may, perhaps, consider of more importance, a vast deal of trouble. The bell will be rung less frequently for the coal scuttle ; the fire, if properly made and reasonably attended to, will never require to be relighted during the day ; there will be no sootflakes on the furniture, and so little even in the chimney, that, as it has been hinted, the services of the sweep will be seldom required.
The practice of carrying fire from room to room in an open pan is very slovenly and very dangerous. It is slovenly because it spoils one fire to make another, spoils a good one to make a bad one, and because it makes a cloud of ashes by the hearth, and a sprinkling of them all the way they are carried. It is dangerous because sparks are liable to be blown about by the current of air through which the bearer passes. A great number of deaths has been caused by this practice; and hundreds, or I might say, thousands of houses have been burnt down by it. Many a child has been [-60-] hurt by running against a maid who was carrying live coals. The fires in the city of New York, in America, some years ago, were beyond any thing ever heard of at this time of day, in any other city ; and I was told when there, that the principal reason of there being so many fires, is the very common practice of carrying hot wood-ashes about the house in an open pan. It seems to me that nothing can excuse the practice of carrying fire, but the necessity of making a fire in a hurry for a sick person ; and then the live coals should be carried in a warming-pan.
Another bad practice common among servants is, leaving the poker in the fire. Pokers are made to stir the fire with, and not to burn in it. There is no way of avoiding the risk of its falling out, but not putting it in ; for, as the coals above it, which press it down and kept it firm at first, burn and crumble away, the poker must shift and get loose, and out it falls, perhaps upon the feet of some one standing near, perhaps against the pinafore of a child, and at best upon the middle of the rug, burning it through to the floor. There is not a word to be said in favour of this practice.
The coal-boxes in each room should be filled as soon as the fire is laid, so that the housemaid may have done with blacking her hands, and may not be called down from her chamber work to supply coals in the middle of the forenoon. If a daily fire is kept in any chamber, she will finish the grate before she makes the bed, or does any other part of the work of the room.
During the winter season, when there is least time before breakfast, families who are considerate leave the common sitting room vacant one morning in the week, for a thorough rubbing and dusting, instead of expecting it all to be done before breakfast, as at Midsummer, when there is far less dust, and the work is therefore lighter.
CLEANING A SITTING ROOM.
Scouring—Cleaning sitting-rooms—Example in description of cleaning drawing-room—Chairs and light furniture—Hearthrug and carpet — Curtains — Books — Sofa — Mirror—Small pictures, china, etc.—Room to be got ready for sweep overnight—Sweeping chimneys of sitting-rooms—Winter sweeping—Curtain bags, etc.—Cleaning grate—Fender, fire-irons, etc—Sweeping floor and dusting ledges—Scouring paint—Closets, cupboards, and shelves—Scrubbing floor—How done —Kneeling mat—Dirt in carpet—Cleaning should be done on dry day—Why—Cleaning furniture—Polishing brass— Careless servants make work, and do much damage to paint, etc. — Finger-marks on doors--Mode of cleaning brass—Mahogany furniture—Articles that are French polished—Windows, Mirrors, and Lustres—Mode adopted in cleaning windows—Care to clean edges and corners—How often windows should be cleaned—Frames of mirrors and pictures—Glass—Bookshelves with glass fronts—Polishing fire-irons and bars of grate—Small steel articles, as keys, etc.— Coal-box—Chairs—Hearth brush—Rug—Beating Carpet—Laying down carpet—Pride and pleasure in good work—Cleaning study or office—Touching papers, etc.—Dusting round and dusting under—Slovenliness in dusting.
IN the midst of London, the chambers should be scoured once a week ; and the
thoroughly cleaned at least four times a year. It will be enough to describe the
cleaning of the drawing-room.
If there is space on the landing, or any where else, for the chairs and lighter furniture to stand, while the apartment is cleaning, it is well. In that case, the chairs [-62-] will be placed one turned down upon another, in the most convenient corner that can be found for them. The next thing is to remove the rug, to take up the carpet, fold it, and carry it away to be well beaten in the open air. The curtains must be taken down, to be washed if light summer muslin curtains ; and if winter curtains, to be thoroughly brushed before they are laid by. If there are books in the room, they should have a dusting sheet thrown over them; and so should the sofa and the mirror. Small pictures should be taken down, or turned with their faces to the wall. China, busts, and chimney-piece ornaments, should be removed to some closet, or other safe place out of the room. These things should, if convenient, be done over-night, that the room may be left for the sweep in the morning. If not done at night, the housemaid must be up betimes to prepare for the sweeping of the chimney.
The chimneys of sitting rooms where a fire is pretty constantly kept should be swept at least twice a year. Careful people often sweep a third time in the middle of the winter. In this case, there should be curtain bags (like long pillow-cases) to enclose the curtains ; and the carpet and furniture should be completely covered with sheets: for no chimney cloth, and no care on the part of the sweeps, can prevent a good deal of soot from finding its way into the room.
The chimney being swept, and the sweeps gone with the soot, the maid must clean the grate. The fender, fire-irons, and coal-box, have been previously carried down to the kitchen. The floor must be swept and every ledge and book-shelf dusted, before the scouring begins. There is, of course, a pair of steps or a short ladder in the house. Mounted upon this, the housemaid will sweep away the cobwebs and dust with her long brush, from the ceiling, the cornices [-63-] and the walls. She will scour the paint about the windows, the shutters, and the frames ; and then the chimney-piece, the doors, and wainscoting all round the room. If there be a closet or cupboard, the shelves will all be scoured. Then comes the scrubbing of the floor, scrubbing with a hard brush, quicklime, sand and warm water, and then the washing over with a woollen cloth. This cleaning is done in square patches, just within reach of the maid's arm, as she kneels upon a mat. A considerate mistress will make a point of her servants being furnished with a mat to kneel upon in their cleaning, that they may be secure against the maladies—the rheumatism, and the diseases of the hips, knees and legs—which are the frequent consequence of the lower part of the dress being wet through for many hours together. In scouring, the housemaid must take care to join these square patches well, or there will be a dark line of dirt between each. She will be astonished to find what a quantity of dirt has found its way through the carpet to the boards; and if she reflects, this will teach her that a great quantity must therefore remain in the carpet, to be got rid of by beating and shaking.
A dry day will, of course, have been chosen for this cleaning, that the windows may all stand open, and that the paint and floor may dry quickly. While they are drying, the furniture must be cleaned.
All the brass in the room must be polished: the plates and handles of the doors, the bell-rope handles, hinges, curtain pins, castors, and any key-holes or rods that there may be on the book-cases. It may be observed here that careless servants make much of their own work with regard to the plates and handles of the doors, and the paint which surrounds them. Nobody in the house touches the knobs and plates of the door so often as the housemaid; and not the [-64-] roughest school-boy makes them so untidy as some maids are apt to do. If the housemaid opens the drawing-room door with a hand wet from cleaning, the brass knob turns green. If she presses her knuckle against the paint, as she turns the handle, she makes, in the course of a week, a dark circle round the knob, which catches the eye of every visitor. If she scrubs this dark circle, that part of the paint comes off with frequent scouring, and leaves the bare wood. If she grasps hold of the brass plate, or (yet worse) of the edge of the door, while standing to take orders, she leaves behind the mark of every one of her lingers. All this is very ridiculous and troublesome. If she has wiped her hand in a hurry, so that it is still damp, it is easy to wrap it in her apron before turning the handle ; and it is difficult to see why she should hold the door at all while listening to her mistress. If she has to stand for more than a moment she had better shut the door : if not, the outside handle is the proper thing to hold by.
Brass is to be cleaned with leather and rotten-stone, rubbed till it is as bright as gold. Not a speck of the dust from the rotten-stone is to be left in any rim or chink, but the whole gone over with a clean dry cloth, and not to be touched with a damp or dirty hand or cloth during the rest of the cleaning.
The mahogany furniture is to be rubbed free from dirt, and then with cold-drawn linseed oil. The rubbing is the chief part. The good-will and strength of the rubber do more to polish a table or book-case than any thing that can be laid upon the wood. Where the wood is French polished, rubbing with a clean dry cloth is all that is necessary. The parts that should be most carefully looked to, because the most likely to be neglected, are the legs and rims of tables and chairs, and the sides of book-shelves. It is the pride [-65-] of a good housemaid to have every part of her furniture equally clean, the corners no less than the surface which at once strikes the eye.
After the brass and wood comes the glass ;—the windows and mirror, and the lustres on the mantelpiece. The lustres are made to be taken to pieces, so that each pan may be washed, and the brass sockets cleaned. This will be done below, when the plate is cleaned. The windows will probably be done on the outside by a man from the glazier's, as few mistresses choose to let their housemaids expose themselves to the risk of falling into the street ; and no servant can be required to clean the outside of a window from which she may fall. The glazier's man being on the outside, and the housemaid mounted on the steps within, each will clean the same pane at the same time, that it may be sure of being freed from every speck. The man must first dust every pane with his light dusting brush; this having been done before on the inside. Then some Spanish white is smeared on the pane, and washed off with a wet woollen rag. A woollen rag is better than a sponge, because a sponge is liable to have particles of grit in it, which scratch the glass, and spoil its appearance. Each pane is finished with a clean, dry cloth ; and should be left so trans. parent as that every brick of the opposite houses, and every fleece of cloud in the sky, may be seen as distinctly as if there were no glass in the frames. Here, as in every sort of cleaning, the greatest care should be taken about the edges and corners. Four dim corners to each pane will spoil the look of the most newly cleaned window. The windows are sometimes left till the day after the rest of the drawing-room is done that the glazier's man may do all the upper windows while he is on the premises. The frequency with which the windows are thus thoroughly cleaned [-66-] on both sides, depends much on the situation of the house and nature of the family. London tradesmen who wish to show off their goods to advantage, have their shop windows cleaned every morning, as already mentioned. In a country house, in a garden, twice a year is often enough. Twice in a year only, Mary may have to clean her windows with help ; while Anne must do it once a month ; both of course giving the inside many a rub between times.
The frames of mirrors and of pictures should be dusted with a feather brush. Then the glass of the mirror should be washed with pure water and a soft woollen, dried with a clean cloth, and finally polished with a silk handkerchief. Every speck and streak having been removed, rubbing with a silk handkerchief clears away the last dimness, and makes the mirror as bright as the light. It is the most beautiful ornament of a drawing-room, and should be taken the greatest possible care of It reflects the care or negligence of the housemaid as distinctly as the faces that look into it.
If the book-shelves have glass fronts, they must be cleaned too. If not, the housemaid may leave the room to dry, keeping the windows open, shutting the door behind her, and carrying with her the keys of the bookcases or cupboards, to be cleaned with the steel fire-irons below.
After being rubbed clean, the fire-irons should be polished, as the bright bars of the grate are, with emery cloth. It is well to ask the mistress for any keys, or other things made of steel that may want polishing, to be done at the same time. A mistress is sure to be gratified by a servant's attention to these small things ; and such recollection and willingness to do work thoroughly, save a great deal of trouble in the end. The trouble of a rusty key that will not turn in the lock at [-67-] the moment it is wanted, is an inconvenience that ought never to occur in a well-ordered house.
Then there is the coal-box to be cleaned, and the chairs to be rubbed; and the hearth-brush to be washed, and put hair upwards to dry ; and the rug to be shaken, and the carpet to be shaken in the court, or, better still, hung on a line and beaten by two persons, one on each side the line, with each a stout but smooth stick in hand. The carpet should be beaten on the wrong side first, and then on the right ; and the beating should go on till no more dust flies out. Before the carpet is laid down, the housemaid should once more lightly sweep the floor, that no sand or lime may remain under the carpet. If it is so made as that it can be turned each time that it is laid down, in order that the same part shall not always lie before the door (and so to be worn out before the rest), it is well, and worth a little contrivance and study ; for a worn shabby patch by the door is a great blemish : but if the carpet is made to fit into recesses in the room, this cannot be done.
When, next morning, the carpet is put down, tight and straight, upon the clean floor, and all the furniture is restored to its place, bright, without break or bruise, the housemaid may look round with pride and pleasure upon her work. A drawing-room in perfect order is a beautiful sight to all eyes.
In cleaning a gentleman's study or office, or any place where papers are lying about, a servant should never touch a paper without leave. Great mischief may be done by even shifting their places. She should ask her mistress to direct what shall be done with them. If her mistress be not within call, she should lay a book, or some other heavy thing upon each parcel of papers, to prevent their blowing away in the draught, and dust round them as well as she can. This is the only case, she must remember, in which dusting round a moveable [-68-] thing is better than dusting under it. A slovenly servant will dust a table every morning for a week without once taking the trouble to lift a basket or book, or pile of newspapers, till at last, when somebody takes up the basket or book, her negligence shews itself in a square line of dust lying round the clear space left. These are the mean and lazy tricks which bring disgrace upon the characters and business of servants ; mean and lazy tricks which every good servant has a right to resent on the part of the deserving members of the body.
OCCASIONAL WORK: TRIALS OF TEMPER.
Fixed times for occasional work—Brushes and combs—Table and chamber linen—Pantry—Time to be fixed for occasional duties—Rules and fixed times to be observed—Country servants often over-particular—Not objectionable to mistress, but not good for servants—Not well to be over particular—As bad to be too ready to help others, as to refuse help till own work is done—Either kind of servant trying to mistress—The girl that can be made a friend of—Temper of every one is tried—Nothing in world worth being angry or worried about —Faults and wrong conduct in servants—Preservation of good humour when vexed commendable—Faults and wrong conduct in mistresses—Allowances to be made on both sides.
WHETHER in town or country, it is desirable to
have fixed times for doing kinds of work
which have not to be done constantly, such as
cleaning plate, washing hearth-brushes,
washing the ladies' brushes and combs (if there is no
lady's maid), looking over the stocks of table and
chamber linen, and cleaning the pantry. The danger
to a town housemaid is (unless she have the advantage
of a particular mistress), that the bustle of her life may
tempt her to drive off too long any work which is not
immediately necessary ; that the plate may get tarnished, the sheets worn, and the pantry dusty, before
she is aware, and while she is busy with other things.
The only way of guarding against this is, by keeping
strictly to set times for doing what may be called the
[-70-] floating work of the place. The housemaid should, for instance, clean her plate
and brushes on Saturday morning, if she gets out the wash on Monday, and sweeps
on Tuesday. She should clean her pantry the first Wednesday of every month, and
change and examine the sheets of the beds the first Thursday of every month ; if
not oftener, and so on. If her mistress has not appointed such times and seasons
for her, in her written instructions, she should write them down for herself;
and be careful to abide by them.
A country housemaid, whose life is a quiet and regular one, has somewhat less need of so strict a rule, and is at the same time much more eager to observe it. Some country servants run into the extreme of particularity, and are fidgety and cross if any circumstance puts them out of their way. This being the least common fault of the two, is regarded with indulgence, and is indeed rather liked by mistresses. They are ready to excuse an unaccommodating temper and manner for the sake of having the work regularly and exactly done. But, for the servant's own sake it is worth remembering, that the state of mind is always of more consequence than the state of work. Ina general way, there is no reason why both should not go on well ; but if, in times of sickness or trouble in the house, of unexpected visitors arriving, or of difficulty with the other servants, the housemaid should insist on cleaning her plate because it is Saturday, or scouring her mistress's room because the day has come round, she is neglecting a greater duty for a less. Her duty is to lend a hand cheerfully wherever it is wanted, and without grumbling to let her work wait till there is time to do it. A mistress has great trials with a maid who is always flying about, good-naturedly helping everybody, and carelessly leaving her own work undone : and also with a girl of the opposite character, [-71-] who will not move an inch out of her way to assist any one, till her own affairs are finished. A mistress has great trials with either one or other of these kinds of servants. But if she finds one who is as regular in her business as the clock when there is no reason to the contrary, but who can relax from her rules when something out of rule has happened, and do the good that comes first to hand, site can make a friend of that girl, for such conduct shews a sensible mind and a kind heart.
There are trials of temper for everybody in this life; and it is equally true, all over the world, that there is nothing worth losing one's temper about. If we could but remember this, our life would be much happier than it is. Mistresses and maids would find themselves wonderfully happier for remembering that there is nothing in the world worth being worried or angry about, even if anxiety and anger did not (as they always do) make the case worse instead of better. If Mary's mistress sees a shade upon her face, and a frown upon her brow, when a carriage full of people from a distance drives up to spend the day while Mary is on her knees scrubbing the stairs, Mary's ill-humour is decidedly the greater trouble of the two. If, instead of quickly removing her pail and brush, making herself neat, and putting the most cheerful face upon the matter, Mary slams the door, and carries in luncheon with a gloomy countenance, and forgets everything else in wondering what is to become of the stairs, she is behaving with unkindness to her mistress, and with gross incivility to her mistress's guests. If, on the other hand, Mary has reason to be somewhat vexed with her mistress for allowing the children or her fellow-servants to take liberties with her, to interfere with her work, to help themselves with things out of her pantry, and to spoil the appearance of what she has just been cleaning,—if [-72-] Mary has reason to he vexed, and yet preserves her good-humour, making her complaints with civility and frankness, she commands her mistress's respect, and deserves the credit of keeping the peace of the house, —a far higher service than any cleaning of floors, or observing of rules, good as they are. Again, if Anne's mistress finds that she cannot make things come round in her own house as regularly as she used to see them in her father's house in the country before she married; if she grows angry with her servants, and worries her family, she is causing much more unhappiness than could be occasioned by any disorder. She should pause to consider, before she finds fault, what interruptions there had been,—what visitors, what knocks at the door, what sickness in the family, and so on : and if after all, she finds anybody blameable, she should be quite sure that she is in a good humour herself when she makes her complaints, that, in complaining, she may only be discharging a duty, and not indulging her temper. On the other hand, if Anne finds herself oppressed with noise and hurry, or called to account for work which she has really not been able to get through, she will be wise to remember that her mistress is right in keeping her up to her business, and in requiring an account of all deficiencies. If she has a good reason to give for any seeming neglect, there is no harm done ; and under no circumstances is she justified in complaining of that particularity which a faithful servant will always value in a mistress (when united with good temper), and has no reason to fear. In short, in a world where things, both little and great, are apt to go cross, the great wisdom is to be patient and good humoured ; and it is no more right to fret under small troubles than to murmur against Providence under great misfortunes.
PLATE, GLASS AND CHINA : LOSSES AND BREAKAGE.
Care of property—Comparing silver with list—Breakage of china and glass—Mean to hide anything broken—A careful eye, steady hand, and sensible mind, obviate breakages—Accidents: their general nature—How lamp shades and chimneys are broken—How tumblers, wine-glasses, etc., are broken—Position of loaf on plate sometimes causes breakage—Servants with confirmed habits of breakage should be parted with—Inexperience should be met with patience—Deduction of cost of broken articles—Allowance for breakages—Its disadvantages—Best course for maids and mistresses—Cleaning plate—The pantry—Requires occasional cleansing —Glass, china, etc., should be compared with lists at such times—References to other volumes of the Industrial Library.
ANNE should never find herself too busy to
take due care of her mistress's property.
Whenever she has time to clean the plate,
she can spare a few minutes more to compare
the silver with her list, so that if a spoon or fork be
mislaid, it may be searched for without delay. This
method will prevent her overlooking any article that
wants cleaning,—the taper on the drawing-room mantelpiece, the common sugar-tongs, or any other piece
of plate that she might otherwise happen to forget. If
there is any article missing, the mistress should be informed without an hour's delay. If she should have
taken a spoon into her parlour cupboard or her chamber the deficiency is
accounted for, and the housemaid's mind is at ease. If there has been dishonesty
or carelessness, the mistress has a right to be put on her guard on the instant.
The same may be said of any breakage of china or glass. It is a great meanness
to hide a broken thing ; and it is extremely foolish, for the loss must become
known, sooner or later ; and then the mistress will have two faults to blame
instead of one,— the carelessness of the breakage, and the far greater fault of
attempting to deceive her.
It is surprising how much more china and glass one housemaid contrives to break than another. There are some who go on from year to year without even chipping a plate or cup ; and this shews that it is not merely the having to handle china and glass a great deal every day that causes so much to be broken. While there are such cases to shew the benefit of a careful eye, a steady hand, and a sensible mind, I do not see that ladies are bound to put up with having their sets of china and glass broken into, their lampshades cracked, and their wash-basins smashed. These things go by the name of accidents, but it is very rarely that they ought to be called so. Lamp-shades (which are very expensive) are usually destroyed by being put over too large a flame, or by being laid on one side on a table, so as to roll off. The lamp is lighted, the shade is put on, the maid forgets to observe whether the flame is moderate or too strong, and presently. snap goes the glass with the heat. Or, seeing that the bottom rim is oily, she lays the shade on its side, instead of setting it down on its upper rim, which is both clean and safe : and it rolls off as a wine-glass would do if laid in the same way. Tumblers and wine-glasses are commonly broken by having hot water poured in while they are cold, or by being put cold into hot water. [-75-] This may be prevented by warming the glass for a minute in the steam. If larger plates or saucers are piled upon smaller ones, the under ones will break. If a large loaf is so laid upon a plate as to rest upon the edges without touching the middle, the first attempt to cut a slice from it will split the plate in two. The maid who so cuts bread ought not to say that she breaks the plate by accident. Such accidents do not happen to those who set the loaf on end to cut from it ; or who pile small things upon large ones, instead of the reverse ; or who steam glasses before touching them with boiling water ; or who avoid knocking chamber basins and ewers against the corners of wash-stands and the edges of pails.
In my opinion, ladies had better part with servants who have a confirmed habit of breakage, and who do not try to get the better of it. But they should also have patience with a few accidents, and with the inexperience of young girls who have never till lately been in the habit of seeing and handling china and glass. Every girl should be allowed the trial whether she can and will learn to be careful of her lady's property. Ladies have been known to threaten to deduct the cost of broken articles from the maid's wages. It is fit that both parties should know that mistresses have no right to do this. The lady may part with her servant ; but she cannot deprive her of any portion of the wages she has agreed to give. Other ladies allow the maids a pound a year to cover breakage ; and everything broken must be replaced by the servants. This does not seem a wise and pleasant plan. A careless girl will be sure to break things to the value of the pound, and will probably go beyond it : and such an one had much better be dismissed. A careful and faithful servant who breaks nothing will not feel easy to pocket money for not committing a fault she would be ashamed of, [-76-] I know of no plan for maids but learning betimes to he careful and clever in handling things; and I know of nothing for mistresses but changing till they find a maid who is thus careful and clever.
The care that plate requires, in a family where there is no footman, is, to be kept free from grease and other dirt, by such as is in daily use being washed in hot water, rinsed through cold water, and rubbed dry ; and, on plate cleaning days, to be rubbed and polished with a leather, and such plate-powder as the mistress may choose to have used. Every part of the handles of spoons and forks should be as bright as the bowl of the spoon, and the back of the fork. A visitor can tell, by the first touch of the spoon he takes up to eat his soup with, whether the housemaid does her duty by the plate or not.
However careful the housemaid may be to put everything by clean into her pantry, the pantry will grow dusty from time to time. She will be in the habit of turning her trays with their faces to the wall, of keeping the drawers shut, and setting tumblers, jelly-glasses, etc., upside down on the shelves: yet the dust will find its way in, and render it necessary now and then to wash and wipe the place itself, and everything that comes out of it. These are the occasions for comparing her china, glass, and japanned ware with her lists, as she does with her plate once a week. This is a part of the housemaid's business in town or country, or wherever she may live.
There are differences in the employments of housemaids in town and country, which can be only noticed here, while my readers are referred to other books for more particular instructions. The country housemaid, who is expected to do more with her needle than can be done by a London housemaid, may find some useful directions in the Lady's Maid and the Mantua-Maker [-77-] of this series. If she has to assist in the washing and ironing, she may study the Washerwoman and Laundry Maid. There is no harm in the town-servant understanding these subjects too : but they are not likely to be so immediately necessary to her as information about waiting on the family, and dealing with trades. people, concerning which she may consult the number of this series called the Footman.
THE HOUSEMAID'S SUNDAY.
Sunday In London and the country—What Sunday may be made by good management—Why the country housemaid should rise early—Clearing away work, and dressing for church—The walk to church—Objects by the way—Meeting with friends and relatives—The service—The walk home—Employment in after part of the day—What the London housemaid says on her way to church--The church bells—The multitude on the way—The Sunday dinner party—Falls hard on servants—Servants nicely dressed on Sundays—If there be time to dress, there must be time to read and think—Best wisdom to make the best of everything—Hard to say whether the country or London servant is happier—A pleasant mood the best way to get peace of mind—Savings in the bank—The end of life—Work.
NO day in the week is so different to the town and country housemaid as Sunday. In the
country, people of dull minds, who do not
feel a strong interest in religion, are apt to find Sunday very dull, whether
they say so or not. In London, servants of an anxious mind think Sunday a very
bustling day, and complain that it is to them anything but a season of rest. It
seems to me, however, that to both the Sunday may be made, by good management,
much what it was intended to be—a refreshment to the heart and mind.
Mary has to make the parlour neat on Sunday, as on every other day; and there is no reason, therefore, why she should he an hour later, as many servants do [-79-] who seem to think that a day of rest means a day of idleness. She is far better employed in putting a room in proper order for the family to breakfast in, than in sleeping longer than is good for her. She has not the excuse of the overworked shop-woman or mantua-maker, who, after toiling till midnight on Saturday, finds it difficult to rouse herself when no daily business compels her to rise. Mary should be up betimes, that the leisure of her day may begin the sooner—that her bands may be completely clear of work before it is time to dress for church. If she has some distance to go to church, how she enjoys the walk on a fine winter day over the common, and along the high road! Everything having been left in order at home, the chambers all arranged, and the fires made up, so that nothing remains on her mind from carelessness, she is at liberty for the pleasures of the day. She enjoys treading on the hard frozen path, and seeing the icy hedges glitter in the sun. She feels her mind grow fresher as she walks, and nothing escapes her. The flocks of fieldfares wheeling about under the pale blue sky, and the robin flitting from twig to twig of the hedge, catch her eye. The church-bell comes like music to her ear. It gladdens her heart, when she comes near the church, to see the numbers of friends and neighbours that are collecting to worship. This is the only occasion, in our country, when all persons may meet together to think the same thoughts, to utter the same desire, to enjoy the same hopes and promises : and to those who have love in their hearts towards God and man, the opportunity is very precious. To none should it be more delightful than to the country servant, who there meets parents, brothers and sisters, and old neighbours. They have been labouring during the week,—she in service, and they in the field, the farm-yard, and the cottage ; and now they come together to thank God [-80-] that they still live, fit for duty and for happiness, and to learn of Christ how to live better and better, and to make each other more and more happy. The voice of the clergyman is moving in prayer: the hymn is sweet or joyful, and the sermon is valuable to listen to, and to think over in a solitary hour. Then comes the walk back, perhaps with a father or brother. The duties at home are light; and when they are done, Mary has some hours to spend as she will. She can read, either in her Bible, or in some other book: she can learn by heart some hymn that she likes: she can write down what she remembers of the sermon. All these are useful and pleasant ways of refreshing her mind, and furnishing it with thoughts for the coating week; but if she can do anything to serve others, that will be better still. If she can find an opportunity of nursing a sick neighbour, so as to give a rest to the family of the sufferer : if she can teach anything to children, or to any ignorant person, such employment is holy and sweet; and it will not only occupy the Sunday evening peacefully, but will spread its blessing into the next day. Sunday can never be a dull day to one whose heart is busy in loving, and whose mind is diligent in learning or teaching. To such an one the first day of the week is something like what the shore of the lake and the mountain-side were to Jesus when He went away from the bustle of life to pray and think alone.
Sunday is a very different day in London ; but it need not be less happy to a really religious person. Of course, Anne and her mistress agreed, when she was hired, that she should go to church every Sunday, unless any material circumstance, such as sickness in the family, should give her a stronger duty at home. On her way to church, Anne sees a very different set of sights from those which meet her sister's eyes at the same hour. She sees idle footmen and shop-men [-81-] laughing over the bad sort of newspapers that are sometimes stuck up against walls and windows. She sees poor children sent to the shop for a few potatoes, or for a bit of bacon, to make a scanty dinner ; or, the worst sight of all, men and women come reeling out of a gin-shop. These are strange Sunday sights, and they are enough to spoil the day to one who longs to behold all delighting in going to church. But there are pleasanter things than these. There is a jingle of church-bells from far and near. There seems to be no end to the number of these invitations to worship. And what a multitude is on the way! In the neighbourhood of every church and every chapel, what a train there is! There are families, the spruce little children walking hand in hand, and their parents just behind them : there are young men, by twos and threes, friends who are not the less friends for spending the Sunday seriously : there are young women, from behind the counter or from service, who look as if a happy day was before them. There arc well-dressed ladies, stepping from their carriages into a place where they will be told that it is the wealth of the heart and mind only that is worth any thing in the sight of God : and there is the charity-child, who likes to hear that it was to the poor that Jesus loved best to tell the good news He brought. Altogether, there is such a stir, such a crowding to worship, as must warm the heart of any one who is hastening there too ; and it is pleasant to a religious person, in London as every where else, to go to church.
There is not much more quiet till the evening ; and to too many servants, not even then. Housekeepers in London—many, if not most of them—think it right to invite to their tables young men of their acquaintance who have no home—who have cc me up from the country, and live in lodgings, and who would either [-82-] find Sunday dull, or might spend it improperly if not made welcome to some family dinner-table. This is kind to such young men ; but it falls rather hard upon the servants of busy families,—servants who have been at work all day during the week, and who would gladly be excused from a dinner party on Sunday. But it is the custom, and they must submit. They certainly find time to be particularly nicely dressed on a Sunday evening; and I hope therefore, that they may manage to sit down for a shorter or longer time, to read, or converse, or think. At the very worst, it will be strange if they do not hear something in the course of their waiting in the parlour which is worth remembering—which awakens some good thought or feeling. It will be strange if Anne can lie down to rest, after the very busiest Sunday of the year, without being aware that the Lord's day has passed over her, and shed some sweet influence into her heart.
After all, the best wisdom, under all circumstances, is to take the lot that God appoints, and make the best of it. The person who possesses a thoughtful and peaceful mind has the greatest of all blessings, be he rich or poor, hard-worked or at leisure, subject to a master, or free to live as he pleases. Looking at the outside, Mary's situation appears a pleasanter one than Anne's; but whether it really is so depends on the minds of the two girls. The way to enjoy sitting in the shade to chat and sew, is to be in a pleasant mood: and a girl need not be discouraged in a hard place if her pleasure is in her work, and she knows she does the best she can. If she smiles upon her little troubles, and clears away her business with clever and active hands ; if she is careful of her mistress's property as if it were her own ; and if she is duly careful also of her own, spending thoughtfully what she must spend, and laying by in the Saving's Bank whatever [-83-] she can spare, Anne has a right to peace of mind, to be as happy as Mary can possibly be. Both may look forward to the time when they may quit service, and live together. They may look forward to being in their later years the friends they were in their childhood, when they told each other all they thought. If Anne still loves (as country born people usually do, the very thought of the fields and meadows, the ponds and the trees, the mowing and the harvest, she will make an effort to earn a home of her own in the place where she was reared ; and if she and her sister should ever succeed in their plans for their old age (and there seems no reason why they should not), it may be expected that the one who has worked the hardest, and had the fewest pleasures, wilt enjoy her leisure and freedom the most. One thing is certain about both--that, if their work deserves it, their time of rest and recompense will come.
Under direction of housekeeper—Beginning as under housemaid—Valuable articles under her care—List of such articles —Painted floor-cloth—Floor-cloth must be roiled, not folded —Young housemaid should ask how she is to clean valuable things—How to treat pictures—Mirrors—Brooms not to be rested against walls—Lustres and chandeliers—Musical instruments — Pianofortes — Ornamental China—Status and busts—Articles often damaged or spoiled in appearance by improper treatment—Cabinets and collections of curiosities.
SUCH places as these in which the two sisters are supposed to have been
hitherto in service, are by far the most numerous, but it may happen to one of
then to be engaged as housemaid in some more wealthy family, and in this case
her work will be in some respects different. She will not be required to wait at
table, nor do other pantry work, but instead of it, she will have larger and
better furnished rooms to attend to. She will probably be under the direction of
a housekeeper, and if there are two housemaids kept, she will begin by being the
tinder one. She must now remember that many very valuable articles will be under
her care, some of them such as she never saw before, and perhaps much more
valuable than she has any idea of. I will mention some things commonly to be
seen in houses of this description. Besides the furniture for use,—such as
tables, chairs, carpets, curtains, which will be handsomer, and consequently
more easily injured by blows [-85-]
and scratches, and other accidents, than what is met with in families of
inferior station,—there may be pictures, mirrors (large looking-glasses), lustres, musical instruments, ornamental china, statues or busts, and cabinets
of curiosities. There is also an article very commonly met with in most houses,
at least those in which a housemaid is kept, which is very frequently spoiled by
ignorant carelessness : I mean painted floor-cloth. When taken up from the
floor, it should never be folded or doubled, but always rolled round and round,
for wherever it is creased it is sure to break. A friend of mine suffered a very
provoking loss in this way. He was a clergyman, and on entering upon a new
living, he had bought some of the furniture already in the house, among other
things a large piece of floor cloth, which fitted the entrance ball. Before
going to live in the house some repairs were required, and the floor-cloth being
taken up, some stupid person folded it together and left it laid where the
workmen were passing and repassing. When it was examined, it was found to be cut
through in a dozen places and quite spoiled.
But to return to the other things above enumerated. I would recommend the young housemaid before touching any of them to apply to some person above her, as to whether she is to clean them, and how; but in the absence of such instructions, I will offer a few observations. The face of a picture, I mean the painting itself, should properly not be touched by the housemaid at all, but if allowed to be so, should be wiped with a very soft, clean, dry duster—the frame ought not to be wiped with a cloth, but dusted with a soft, longhaired hand brush; some people keep a brush for such like delicate purposes made of long loose feathers. Mirrors (large looking-glasses) should be wiped with a dean dry duster ; if they are dirty with smoke or fly [-86-] dirt, wash them with a sponge and warm water, and finish with a quite dry cloth. Some people rub them occasionally with powder blue. I may as well in this place say a word or two on a practice which some servants have of resting a long handled broom, nay, even a Turk's head brush, against the wall ; the frequent result is, it slips with its own weight, or some one touches it with the foot or pushes against it, and down it goes, to the probable destruction of looking glass, china vase, or window ; the best and safest place is upon the floor. The next article I mentioned was a lustre or chandelier, it is called by both names, but perhaps my reader never heard of either of them nor saw the thing. It is a number of little bits of polished glass fastened together, and hung round a lamp or candle, and which give out very beautiful colours when the light falls on them. Sometimes very large ones are hung to the ceilings in handsome rooms, or smaller ones stand on the mantel-piece. They are usually covered with muslin bags to keep off the dust and flies, and the utmost that I can permit the housemaid to do, without special directions, is to blow through them gently with the bellows, taking care to avoid making the drops of glass jingle against each other. The smaller glass candlesticks on the mantel-piece she must remove with the hand to dust the shelf, but let it be done with care. Musical instruments of all kinds are valuable things also, and may be seriously damaged by inattention of the housemaid. In the first place, she must never allow any children, either those of the family, without leave, or visitors, to play on them for amusement. They are all injured by heat, wind and damp, and should therefore not be set near the fire, nor by an open window ; and as for being thrown down and bruised, of course nothing that the housemaid touthes should ever be thrown and knocked about. [-87-] Pianofortes are injured by having anything at all heavy set upon them, and when it is necessary to rub the top to make it bright, it must be done without bearing heavily on it. Anybody in their senses may know that ornamental china is easily broken, and cannot be as easily replaced as the common blue sort that may be bought at the door any day. Statues and busts are often very valuable indeed, and should be dusted with a feather or long-haired hand brush, or a clean soft and small duster. I have heard of a fine collection of ancient statues in the house of some nobleman, and during the absence of the family, some ignorant and over busy person took it into his or her head to whitewash them all I little aware of the serious and perhaps irreparable damage of such a proceeding. Over officiousness with things that you have no business with, may often do much harm ;—a lady of my acquaintance kept some flower pots in a window, which the servant thought proper to cover with some sort of red colour, to make them look smart I suppose; when her mistress wished to move them she found to her surprise that her hands and clothes were daubed with red in a strange manner, and on discovering the cause, the girl had to wash it all off again. The last thing I shall mention, as requiring particular attention, is a cabinet or other collection of curiosities of whatever kind. You must neither dust nor move them without especial permission, and in the case of your being allowed to dust them, blowing moderately with the bellows is the best way. Perhaps many of the things you see may be such as you think of very little value, or if they were yours, you would even throw them away altogether ; but you have not read as many books, and cannot know as much of the rest of the world and the wisdom of it, as those do who have had a different education, and if things are valued by those who own them, that is enough. [-88-] In the present day, when so many people find a pleasure in collecting old china, and what they are pleased to style bric-a-brac, but which Mary or Anne would probably call knick-knacks, a little thought and care, combined with slow and deliberate movements on the part of the housemaid, will often save damage of some article that it may not be possible to repair—much less replace, and ensure her work being done thoroughly. There is much truth in the old saying, that things done in a hurry are never done well; to which it may fairly be added, that by doing things in a hurry much is often done that the doer heartily wishes had not been done.
UNOCCUPIED ROOMS: AIRING.
Care of rooms not occupied a necessity—Should be looked into at regular fixed times—Injury from soot, etc.—Fire-irons—Flies—Seek shelter in house in autumn—Beds in uninhabited rooms should be kept aired—Beds aired by housemaid sleeping in them—Considered objectionable—Rooms should be aired by fires—Disposal of bedding before fire—Proper meaning of term "airing"— Difference in admiring air to close room and airing damp room—Reason explained—Quantity of air passed through person's lungs in twenty-four hours—Necessity for renewal of air in room—Utility of open fire—Opening windows—Should not be left open too long—Especially in cold weather—Room rendered damp in winter by admission of too much air—Treatment of rooms in winter—In summer—Experiments to show how dampness from the air will gather on anything colder than Itself—Application of principles deduced to question of airing—Stone flooring damp and pavement wet without apparent cause—How this happens —Why floors. etc., do not show the damp—House should he shut upon breaking up of frost—Damp comes from the air in most cases—Insects that damage wood—Worm that eats into wood—Moth that destroys wool, feathers, hair, etc.—Every thing that they will affect should be examined-Spirits of turpentine destructive to moth—Treatment of cushions, chairs, blankets, stuffed birds, etc.—Mattresses and feather beds—Substances, etc., to keep moths away—The cool oven—Kind of moths that infest clothes, etc.
BESIDES the case of the various things in the sitting rooms, etc., that have
been mentioned in the last chapter, the housemaid in a large establishment will
have to look after numerous bed and other rooms, many of which may perhaps be
unoccupied for a length of dine, but she must not [-90-]
suppose that because they are not used at the present moment, no attention is to
be paid to them. They should be looked into occasionally, to see that all is
going on right in them, and it is best to fix upon a regular day for going the
round of the house. Soot may fall down the chimney, or mortar and bricks be
thrown down by storms ; sometimes birds will come down and die on the floor, or
in the fire-grate ; the rain may beat in at the windows, or find its way through
the roof, which latter accident very often happens after snow. Besides these mischances which may happen any day or night, the fire-irons will become rusty
for want of rubbing, and flies are sure to gather about the windows ; it is
really surprising what quantities of them will find their way into the house in
autumn, for shelter during the cold weather ; they get behind the shutters, at
the back of pictures, and into every crevice they can find, and especially into
the folds of the window curtains, which will often be quite full of them. I have
more than once, on taking hold of the curtain at an inn, or even in gentlemen's
houses, had a shower of them on my feet, to the disgrace of the housemaid.
A very important part of the duty of a housemaid, as regards the uninhabited rooms, is keeping the beds aired ; too much attention cannot be given to this thing, as most serious injury to health and even death has resulted from sleeping in damp beds. For this purpose some ladies require the housemaid to sleep frequently in the spare beds, which is a practice that I think very objectionable for many reasons. The purpose is much more effectually obtained by lighting a fire, which not only airs the bed, but the room altogether ; I object to it partly on the young woman's account, as I think it hard to make a warming pan of her in that manner, just at the time of year when the beds most want her services ; and in the next place, it [-91-] gives opportunities for great impropriety of conduct, and I think it more conducive to the respectability of the establishment, for all to keep to their own apartments, so that the housekeeper can at any time ascertain their being there if she thinks proper. When a fire is lighted only for the purpose of airing an uninhabited room, the window shutters should always be kept closed, as the room will warm very much sooner by not losing heat through the glass, as any one will find by trying the experiment. The mattress and feather bed should be laid on the floor within the influence of the fire, but at a safe distance from it, having the farther side raised up against the bed or chairs, on which the bolster and pillows should be placed, with the blankets over the backs, and remain so for some hours, the mattress and feather bed being occasionally turned over. These precautions should always betaken before the arrival of a visitor, if the room has not been lately occupied; and if the weather is very cold and damp, at occasional intervals of time, even when no one is expected.
The airing of a house is a subject on which many erroneous notions are held, in a great measure caused by this same word airing being used to mean two quite different things. Most people are aware that the air of an inhabited room becomes foul in the course of time by breathing, and then they say and very truly, that it wants airing. And also when a room has been shut up for a long time, and is damp and cold, they say again, it wants airing, which is also quite true, but yet it is a very different sort of airing that is wanted. The reason of this I will explain. The air we breathe and live in, should be pure, warn, and dry; and though it is true that thousands of our fellow creatures do live in an air which is none of these, yet they are not stron4 and healthy. It is a fact, though [-92-] not guessed by many people, that there passes by breathing, through the lungs of one grown person in twenty-four hours, as much air as would fill a box one foot in size every way, 513 times, or it may be differently expressed thus, as would fill a room 10 feet long, 8 high, and rather more than 6½ wide. Air, which has once passed into the lungs is unfit for healthy breathing, and after the third time, it will no longer support life, and the person must die of suffocation. This shows how absolutely necessary it is for the air of an inhabited room to be frequently renewed with that out of doors, which God in His mercy is continually purifying and making fit for the use of His creatures. An open fire under a chimney is a very useful thing in this respect, as there is a constant draught of air up it, so that the air of the room must be renewed by fresh air coming in through a thousand small openings—if it were not so, the fire could not burn. For this reason, a room with a fire burning in an open grate requires less purifying, by opening the window, than a room with a stove, which, though it warms and dries a room, does not much change the air. After making these remarks, I must also add that those who are careful to open windows, arc very apt to leave them open much longer than necessary ; it does not take a long time to purify the air of a room, especially in cold weather, say less than half an hour, and letting the window remain open longer than is required for that purpose is often very hurtful in other respects. You know I said a little way back, that the air we live in must be pure, warm, and dry, and there are many days in the year when the air out of doors is neither warm nor dry, and the effect of it when let in for too long a time is to make the floor, walls, ceiling, and furniture of a room as cold and damp as itself, and it will be long before they are again of a comfort-[-93-]able warmth. In winter, a room that has not been used for a length of time, should have a fire in it the day before it will be wanted ; because that as long as the air of a room is parting with its heat to the walls, etc., it cannot be comfortable to ourselves. From all that I have said above, it will be seen that it is not change of air that is wanted for uninhabited rooms, as it has not been fouled by breathing ; but the airing that they want is warming and drying, which in winter must be obtained by fire, and in fine summer weather when the outward air is both warm and dry, by letting it in.
There is one branch of this subject upon which I will enlarge a little, as I do not think it sufficiently attended to in general, or rather, it is not understood by many people. I will begin my explanation by asking my reader to try one or two very easy experiments. In hot summer weather take two drinking glasses and half fill one of them with cold water fresh from a spring or well. in a very short time you will see the outside of that part in which the water is, covered with a dew or damp which has settled on it. Half fill the other glass with warm water, the upper part of the inside of the glass will be covered with a dew, but there will be none on the outside. The next experiment is equally easy, and can be tried at any time of the year. Take two plates and heat one of them by the fire, hold them both in the steam of hot water, which you will see settle on the cold plate, while the hot one will have little or none on it. The reason of this difference is as follows:— there is always some damp in the air, more or less, and it is the nature of air, for reasons which cannot be here explained, to pan with that dampness upon any thing colder than itself. Therefore the cold plate was covered with wet from the hot steam, while the hot plate was dry. And [-94-] likewise in the other case, the fresh spring water made that part of the glass colder than the air it was surrounded by, which accordingly deposited its moisture upon it ; while the other glass being colder than the steam which rose from the hot water, received the moisture from that. I will now apply these principles to the question on which I am treating. I dare say some, at least, of my readers have frequently seen stone flooring look quite dark-coloured and damp, without any apparent cause, and the pavement out of doors will at times be quite wet, when there has been no rain, and at the same time painted walls will be covered with a damp dew. This takes place on a change of weather from cold to warm, and is caused by the house, the walls, floors, ceiling and everything else being colder than the outward air, which being also very full of wet at such times, deposits it in large quantities upon them, as I have shown above. It must be remembered that boarded floors and unpainted walls do not show the damp, because they let it soak in, which is in reality worse than if it remained on the outside. All this ought to be prevented from taking place by keeping the house up shut as much as possible for two or three days on such occasions, especially on the breaking up of a frost. After the house has become warm again, the outward air may be admitted as usual without any hurtful results taking place. Many people fancy that the wet rises out of the floor or wall, but that is quite a mistake, it comes from the air only. It is however true that a wall or stone floor may be damp in itself from other causes,— such as an imperfect place on the outside, or from not being properly drained, but that is not the sort of thing I am speaking of.
Bugs and fleas have been already spoken of in the former part of the work, but there are two other kinds [-95-] of insects which often do great damage to furniture of various kinds, and when the housemaid sees them, she ought to mention it to her mistress or the housekeeper. One of them is a small worm which eats into wood, and may be discovered by the dust it throws out of its little holes ; it afterwards becomes a little brown beetle ; the way to destroy it is by pouring spirit of turpentine into the holes. The other insect, which is even more general and destructive than the last, is the moth, or rather it is, like the other, a small worm, that afterwards turns into a moth, and while it is in that state it does no harm, but it lays eggs which hatch into the little worm that eats into and causes sad destruction in everything of wool, feathers, or hair. Particular attention must be given to watch for them during two or three months in the height of summer, when they are most rife, and when they may be seen flying about the room in the dusk of the evening. The housemaid ought to examine every thing liable to be infected with them, ouch as feather beds, mattresses, all stuff curtains, blankets, and carpets that are not in common use, cushions, easy chairs and sofas, and stuffed birds and beasts, if placed under her charge, (an old fox under a staircase will infect the whole house). Spirit of turpentine will destroy this troublesome insect as well as the other, but there are not many things to which it can be conveniently applied. The cushions, easy chairs, etc., must be well beaten with a smooth stick (a cane is the best) ; the blankets, etc., must be beaten or washed. The cushions, stuffed birds, and other small things may be put into a cool oven after the bread has been taken out, and remain in till the oven is cold. Mattresses and feather beds should be very well beaten, but if they are very full of moths, they must be taken to pieces and the contents put into the oven, and otherwise sorted and [-96-] attended to. Keating's Insect Destroying Powder is fatal to moths as well as to bugs, fleas, cockroaches and other insects, and when dusted in any article, will preserve it from harm from these pests. Many other things have been tried for the purpose of keeping moths away, such as tobacco, pepper, spirit of turpentine, and camphor, of which the two last are the most certainly effective, but they require to be renewed from time to time, as they gradually dry away till nothing is left of them. The spirit of turpentine must be put into an open bottle or small cup, and so placed as not to overturn. Where they already exist, the cool oven as above mentioned is the only really effectual method of destroying them, and the use of the stick and brush are the means most in the power of the housemaid to employ, as whatever is moved about and exposed to the air will seldom be attacked by them. There are two or three sorts of house-moths, but there is not much difference in their appearance, being all small,—the largest less than half an inch long, and of a grey or ash-colour. Those moths of a larger size, which live out of doors, and come into the house only by accident, are quite harmless.
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