« ElőzőTovább »
dainty girl need wish for. Not but what they were only then worn by the gentry, there's many young persons now that but my good mother gave me, soon after I, enter Master Harry's' service so discon- went to the Hall, a pair of black mittens tented that they would look upon such she had knitted herself, so that I might money as poor pay and such food as poor look as nice as the rest on Sundays." living; but tea was then 12s. per pound, "Did you like your late mistress?" I and seemed to me a delicacy only to be asked, taking up from the table a miniadrunk on great occasions or by great peo-ture of that lady done by Hargreaves some ple." sixty years ago.
Although my cousin, Sir Henry Dalton, was considerably past fifty when this little conversation between Mrs. Whitaker and myself took place, he remained always in her eyes the boyish young squire of thirty years ago; whilst his sisters, who had grown-up daughters at their sides, never grew older in her thoughts, and were to her the "young ladies" of old days. During the many years of my acquaintance with Mrs. Whitaker her toilets consisted of but two in number a little old-fashed print gown, worn over balloon petticoats of a past mode, for everyday or common wear, and a stately black silk, the gift of my cousin's mother, in which she duly appeared on Sundays and on all festivities.
"What did you bring to the Hall by way of your trousseau?" I once asked.
"A small enough stock compared to what there's many that bring here now," was the reply. "But then," continued my old friend with bitterness, "there's no distinguishing now between a servingwench and a lady of quality, excepting that the real ladies nowadays dress in black and suchlike dark color, whereas the idle hussies put their wages on their backs and gallivant about in velvets and satins of red and blue. In my time it was a very different thing. No under-servant ever thought of wearing a plume in her bonnet or a flower in her hat. The most that girls ever wore in our station was a knot of ribbon; and as to jewellery, oh my!" and here Mrs. Whitaker held up her hands in pious horror, " why, such a thing as that would have been thought an insult to their masters and mistresses. Now," she added sadly, "everything's sold in the shops cheap and bad," and it seemed to her as if the dignity and splendor had departed from velvet and satin. When I entered Master Harry's papa's service, I thought three print sprigged dresses enough for any decent girl, and then I had four pair of good stockings; and I know they were good, for I knitted them myself," enunciated the old lady with pride; "and though my linen was only of unbleached calico, still there was not a hole in it anywhere to be found. As to gloves,
"Like?" was the answer. "A servant didn't like her mistress in my time, but I reverence her as the best lady I ever knew. Not but what she was a sweet, pretty creature when I first saw her. She wore then her hair in lovely curls, had a skin like alabaster and the most beautiful soft gray eyes that I have ever seen. can see her now as I saw her the first time she ever spoke to me, and it must have been about a fortnight after I came to the Hall. She wore a dove-colored grey gown and a large hat trimmed with ostrich's feathers. 'So you are Mrs. Wilmot's new little maid?" she said; to which I curtsied low, and replied that 'I hoped I gave satisfaction.' Whereupon she said, Be a good girl, my child, and I will be your friend.""
Over seventy years must have elapsed since this little interview between Mrs. Whitaker and her former mistress had taken place, but my good old friend's eyes always filled with tears when she recalled this little incident of the past.
The observation recorded of some one who, whilst visiting Paris, was asked what had most struck her during her tour in France, replied, "To hear little chil dren, not the height of my parasol, talk French," is not more naïve than the ordinary incredulity entertained by the youth of every generation as to the possibility of their grandfathers and grandmothers ever having been young like themselves. In the same way let it be said, to my shame, I had always considered Mrs. Dalton as an old lady entirely given up to the performance of good works and acts of charity, but not as a blooming young creature in dove-colored silk with liquid gray eyes.
"How did you busy yourself, Mrs. Whitaker?" I asked. My inquiry elicited the following reply:
"I got up at four o'clock and helped to light the fires in winter. People weren't so lazy then as they are nowadays, and the finest lady would not then have thought it a hardship to be up to her breakfast at eight o'clock. After I had seen to the fires I baked the rolls for the squire, as he always liked them crisp and hot. After breakfast I peeled the potatoes, cleaned
unions' and 'strikes' and suchlike. Now it's very different. The poor are educated and are impudent to their betters, and disdain their fathers and mothers because they can't read the hard books that they can or write the fine letters that they can pen; whilst the rich complain of seasonspend their good money away from home, and nobody takes a pride in England. The gentry buy everything now from France and America, to the ruin of the farmers and to the abolition of the good ale that stood once in silver tankards on every gentleman's table."
the pans or the pewter with elder-leaves, and washed up the dishes. As Mrs. Wilmot was pleased to say, I 'was of good understanding;' I soon learned from her how to bake the cakes for the parlor and how to make the strange foreign dishes, though for my part I always consider kickshaws and such like but poor, un-able weather, and go to foreign parts and wholesome food, and bad for remaining long whiles on the stomach. In the afternoon I plied my needle, for Mistress Wil. mot gave to each of us a task to do, and if I could get mine done in time I was allowed to help Molly, the dairymaid, to drive in the cows and aid her in milking them."
"Did you never have any play?" I asked.
Mrs. Whitaker still continued in my cousin's employment, in the confidential capacity of housekeeper, several years after she was eighty. She never seemed to feel old and never would allow that she was so. "When I get old," she would say, as a contingency which was not to be contemplated. She retained all her habits of activity until the week before her death. She never could be persuaded to take a seat in Lady Dalton's presence, as she alleged that it was discordant from her notions of propriety and etiquette, and that she never had addressed the gentry so and never would.
She was a complete mistress of all household arts. Her preserves were excellent, and her hams and bacon had quite a little local celebrity amongst my cousin's acquaintance.
Every year she sent to a peer (an old friend of hers) a ham, two jars of pickles, and a cake, always made with her own hands and according to a special recipe. Enclosed in the hamper containing the provisions was a letter addressed to Lord S., beginning thus: "My Lord, dear Friend."
"If you mean gallivanting about, my dear young lady," was the reply, we certainly had none of that. It was not then considered necessary, in order to be hap py, to gad about here, there, and everywhere. The servants at the Priory always had their proper feasts and festivals, according to the seasons of the year. They had a goose twice a year, at Michaelmas and on New Year's Day, a turkey and plum-pudding at Christmas, not to speak of a large cake on Twelfth Night, pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, hot cross buns and salted fish on Good Friday, and Easter eggs on Easter Sunday. Then as to divertisements, they always played at snapdragon and burnt the Yule log at Christmas, and duly danced out the old year, whilst we all drank from one bowl some fermity as the stable clock struck twelve. Then there was the harvest home, when the squire gave a dinner to all the farm laborers and a tea to all their wives, and everything was of the best; after which we all danced on the green, whilst my old uncle, James Tedloft, played us tunes, and we danced such merry dances" as Haste to the wedding,' 'Four hands across and down the middle,' and we always wound up with 'Sir Roger de Coverley' and three cheers for the squire and his good lady. And, my word, they did dance then," continued the old lady with animation. "In those days every lad and lass minded their steps, pointed their toes, and kept time to the music. Now dancing is nothing but twirling round, and not decent either to my mind. Everything is changed, and not for the better, I can assure you," Mrs. Whitaker said with a sigh. "It was a good time when I was young, when the rich gave freely and the poor were thankful. We didn't hear then so much of 'trades
To Lady Dalton she invariably wrote Madam, dear Friend." This has always appeared to me the most beautiful commencement of a letter from an old and attached servant, combining respect with affection. She always concluded her letter by sending "her duty " and piously hoping that the blessing of God would rest upon her master's family.
Mrs. Whitaker was very tenacious of her authority and would not be gainsaid in any household matters. An officious but well-meaning and zealous young curate, who was much impressed by the wickedness of the inhabitants of his new parish, begged leave from Mrs. Whitaker to come up to the Hall once a week and admonish and rebuke the servants there for their various sins. This proposition
she utterly declined. "It's your place, sir, to tell us of our sins on Sundays in church, and it's my place here on weekdays in my own household."
She also resented keenly any interference on my cousin's part in matters that she deemed her own special department. If her master or mistress ventured to sug. gest a change, however small, it never met with her approval, and she would always say, "I couldn't do with that. No, dear sir," or "madam," as the case might be, "I think I know better what's befitting a gentleman's household."
She seldom would summon a doctor if the servants were ill, and only if seriously so. Many were her preparations and decoctions for internal and external use. Her care of the house was excessive, which, be it said, she regarded far more as her own than the property of her master or mistress. During their absence from Malden Priory all the furniture was carefully encased in brown holland wrap pers, and the china ornaments were all wrapped in silver paper, to prevent them suffering from the injurious effects of dust or dirt. On their return it was her delight to fill my cousin's Lowestoft cups with the gay blossoms of the everlasting, and to replenish her delft jars with the most fragrant pot pourri. Her literature consisted of but two classes of books, the perusal of the Bible on Sundays and the investigation of the tradesmen's weekly bills on week days.
Many were the times, when I have stayed on a visit with my cousins, that I have peeped in through Mrs. Whitaker's little sitting-room window, overlooking the old bowling-green in the Priory garden, and discovered my old friend immersed in the contemplation of the weekly bills. She conscientiously added up herself every one of their columns, and always detected the slightest error, whilst her method of bookkeeping and managing accounts was excellent. She disliked all foreigners, but her hatred of the French had all the intensity and freshness of 1815. Whenever my cousins returned from a tour on the Continent, she always expressed thankfulness for their preservation, but hoped that, as they had been spared this once, they would never tempt Providence by going there again. The old caricature in Punch of the two foreigners looking at a washhandstand, and inquiring of each other "Vat is dat?" would have been in her eyes but sober reality. On Lady Dalton's first visit abroad her husband's dismay may be bet
ter imagined than described when, on reaching Calais, an enormous packingcase was discovered amongst her luggage containing towels and soap, her lady's maid having been led to believe by Mrs. Whitaker that such articles were not to be procured in France.
Happily her last illness was not attended with much suffering and was of short duration. On a Monday she got up, but for the first time for over seventy years did not make her own bed. She came down-stairs, but was soon afterwards seized with a shivering fit, and had to be carried up to her own room again, where the old family doctor, an old personal friend of hers, attended her. She fretted much at first at her enforced idleness and at the notion that her keys would be handled and used by others. After a few days she steadily grew weaker, but happily at the same time became reconciled to her condition. She talked much of former days, of her father and mother, and of that period which was specially dear to her, the early days of her service at Malden Priory. Towards the close of the third day she seemed to suffer greatly, but her end was mercifully painless. At last she slept away into the other life, the change between life and death being almost imperceptible.
Thus ended, after a long career of usefulness, of great fidelity, of daily fortitude and goodness, my dear old friend, about whom may be said, as of others in her position:
Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
It may perhaps be said that old servants are difficult to deal with, over-sensitive, and often obstinate in refusing to carry out any alteration or to allow any necessary change; but the old saying must be remembered, "To no man a second mother," and so likewise none of us will find in the world the same devotion that is so often evinced by an old servant to his master. Deep love and tender affection, even if accompanied by what may seem ridiculous and tiresome, form sweet and lasting ties, and are debts that can never be paid.
Even the delicate satire of Du Maurier, and the broader humor of Leech, have failed to exaggerate the follies of modern servants and the foolish and fanciful causes given by them for quitting the service of their employers.
"To leave in order to get a change" is become between masters and servants a regular, recognized reason.
"I have no fault to find against you and Lord G-," a housemaid said to a friend of mine a short time ago, but I want a change, and I don't like H-shire scenery or air."
Another friend of mine had a footman who left her "because," he said, "he could no longer stay, as he regretted to find that his employer did not keep the company that he had been accustomed to."
A scullery-maid that had been engaged for me begged to leave, as she declined to take any orders from me, declaring that she could only take orders from the person who had engaged her.
A foreman in the employment of one of my friends allowed a great quantity of his master's greenhouse glass to be broken during a storm, "because," he said, "it was not his place to close the windows, and that he wasn't engaged to tell the second man his business."
A maid to whom I once offered a situ ation declined it on the ground that she had once lived in a duke's family, and could not possibly sink lower than a viscount's, or else, to use her own words, "she would lose all self-respect," whilst a housemaid left me because she declared that she considered the menservants of the establishment too deficient in good looks to keep company with. That the feelings as regarded her had been reciprocal on the part of the male attendants I have always had my shrewd suspicions; for nobody, save perhaps herself, would have described her as a beauty.
It is easy to multiply such incidents, and the above anecdotes will doubtless recall others of a similar character.
Of late there has been a strong attempt on the part of the world to treat service as a mere contract between employer and employed. Certain things are to be done for certain payments, as specified in an agreement, and beyond this no more is to be expected on either side. But men and women are not machines, but breathe, and love, and often act impetuously, and a mere contract must always appear to any man who has a spark of the divine fire in his nature as unchristian and immoral. There are more contingencies in life than can ever be foreseen. It is service with out love or zeal that is really degrading and menial.
Common as light is love,
And its familiar voice wearies not ever.
Surely the great Dutch painter dreamt of something nobler than scanty service or mere remuneration when he painted his immortal canvases of Charles and his old retainer or Strafford and his secretary. No true service can be performed without affection. What can be more pathetic or beautiful than the story recorded of the old Welsh woman who, after the fire at Wynnstay in 1858, brought to Lady Wynn her little hoard of savings, begging her to accept them towards the rebuilding of the house?
Whilst modern servants are often much to blame for giving but grudging service, and for taking but scanty care of the goods entrusted to their charge, it would not be fair to conclude without looking at the other side of the medallion.
Masters no longer look upon their servants as part of their family. Masters and mistresses are often impatient and foolishly exacting, and expect impossibilities in the shape of "old heads on young shoulders." They must not only be just, but kind and indulgent, and not forget that youth is youth in every class.
The severe old spinster who declares that she will allow no followers is unjust and unreasonable, for girls will be in love and have lovers all the world over. The wise mistress of a household inquires into the character of the prétendant, and if that is satisfactory allows the young people to meet each other.
Ingratitude, it is to be feared, has become much more common amongst masters than it used to be. It was only the other day that I heard a story of a country soi-disant gentleman who allowed his old nurse, when she was crippled with rheumatism, to spend her old age in the workhouse; whilst a magnate who received a peerage from a grateful queen and country for party services, on being told one day that he had shot one of the beaters, replied, "Oh, he must take all that in the day's work," and, although the man was seriously injured, refused to make him any monetary reparation.
A woman well known in "society" once had in her service a kitchenmaid who was suffering from general debility of health. On a doctor seeing her he ordered her a tumbler of new milk every morning. To the surprise of the girl, who knew the stingy habits of her employer, his order was complied with; but in a few months' time, when she was given notice to quit, what was the poor girl's dismay to find that the cost of the milk had been deducted from her slender earnings!
Noblesse oblige used to be the old saying; Noblesse permet is too often the mod
Charities and acts of benevolence in these latter days of ours are done too much by deputy, too little by personal supervision. It is not enough for a rich man to open his pockets or draw a cheque. The delicacy of personal care in cases of sickness and illness is what best knits class to class and draws best the sting from class distinctions.
In the Middle Ages there was a certain grandeur in the extreme humility which induced ladies of the highest rank, in imitation of their Lord, to wash the feet of beggars. It would be folly so far now to copy them in deed, but it is well to remember that the great wave of Socialism, which bids fair to swamp society as now constituted, can only be arrested by constant association of the upper and lower classes and by acts of kindness and generosity from those who possess the good things of this world.
In illness or sickness, therefore, no care is too great, or wasted if lavished upon any member of a household. No expense should be spared to show the servant that, while a master has the right to expect him to regard his interests in health, he feels it his duty to take every opportunity of ministering to his servant's wants in sick ness, old age, or trouble.
Every one must feel that mere money is not sufficient payment for devoted attention and care in illness; for what can remunerate amply for long sleepless nights or the wearisome irritability of a suffering patient? One of the weaknesses of the present day, to use a homely simile, is the desire of most people "to eat their cake and have it," and servants are not exceptions from this rule. Thus they aspire to all the laisser-aller of a democracy in good times and health, and to all the comforts and care of the feudal system in sickness or old age.
"No man is a hero to his valet" runs the bitter old proverb, but a nobler position than the reverse can hardly be imagined.
A man who can remain unspoilt by the applause of the world, by the enthusiasm and hero-worship of literary or political followers, who can still keep pure and remain gentle and unselfish in the little things of daily life, who can pass through the hard ordeal unscathed of worrying circumstances and petty annoyances, is, perhaps, the most beautiful character to be found on earth. To few are given the
eloquence, the power, or the necessary talents that would enable them to add their names to the list of fame; but to all it is possible, from the highest to the lowest, to make their home circle bright or dark, and to inspire those that immediately surround them with respect and affection or contempt and dislike.
CATHERINE MILNES GASKELL.
From Merry England.
NAPOLEON THE THIRD.
DOUBTFUL Colonels of liberating Greek armies and the men whose gold they get become rather significant as the earliest associates of a prince who had always a certain ignoble companionship at his side, and under whose empire politics talked the cheaper kinds of rhetoric, and society the smarter kinds of slang. Louis was just of age. "Nor would any one," says Lord Malmesbury, "at that time have predicted his great and romantic career. He was a wild, harum-scarum youth, or what the French call un crâne, riding at full gallop down the streets to the peril of the public, fencing and pistol-shooting, and apparently without serious thoughts of any kind, although even then he was possessed with the conviction that he would some day rule France. We became friends, but at that time he evinced no remarkable talent or any fixed idea but the one I have mentioned. It grew upon him with his growth, and increased daily until it ripened into a certainty. He was a very good horseman, and proficient at athletic games, being short but very active and muscular. His face was grave and dark, but redeemed by a singularly bright smile. Such was his personal appearance in 1829, at twenty-one years of age. He used to have several old offi. cers of his uncle, the emperor, about him, men who seemed to me to be ready for any adventure." And when the future emperor came to London it is at a doubt. ful house like Lady Blessington's that we find him oftenest, and it was from companions in exile discontents not highly exalted above the politicians of Leicester Square, that we had the most abundant remembrances of this period in his life. We find him indeed taking part in the brilliant Eglinton Tournament, held at the castle in Ayrshire in 1839, where, under the smiles of the lovely Lady Sey mour, the young French prince with his future minister, Persigny, rode at the side