Manners and social usages,

CHAPTER XLVI.THE HOUSE WITH ONE SERVANT.


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Many large families in this country employ but one servant. Although when life was simpler it was somewhat easier than it is now to conduct a house with such assistance as may be offered by a maid-of-all-work, it was necessary even then for the ladies of the house to do some portion of the lighter domestic work.

It is a very good plan, when there are several daughters in the family, to take turns each to test her talent as a house-keeper and organizer. If, however, the mistress keep the reins in her own hands, she can detail one of these young ladies to sweep and dust the parlors, another to attend to the breakfast dishes, another to make sure that the maid has not neglected any necessary cleansing of the bedrooms.

A mother with young children must have a thoroughly defined and understood system for the daily work to render it possible for one servant to perform it all.

The maid must rise very early on Monday morning, and do some part of the laundry work before breakfast. Many old American servants (when there were such) put the clothes in water to soak, and sometimes

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to boil, on Sunday night, that night not having the religious significance in New England that Saturday night had.

Nowadays, however, Irish girls expect to have a holiday every other Sunday afternoon and evening, and it would probably be vain to expect this service of them. But at least they should rise by five o’clock, and do two hours’ good work before it is time to prepare the breakfast and lay the table.

A neat-handed Phyllis will have a clean gown, cap, and apron hanging in the kitchen closet, and slip them on before she carries in the breakfast, which she has cooked and must serve. Some girls show great tact in this matter of appearing neat at the right time, but many of them have to be taught by the mistress to have a clean cap and apron in readiness. The mistress usually furnishes these items of her maid’s attire, and they should be the property of the mistress, and remain in the family through all changes of servants. They can be bought at almost any repository conducted in the interest of charity for less than they can be made at home, and a dozen of them in a house greatly improves the appearance of the servants.

The cook, having prepared the breakfast and waited at table, places in front of her mistress a neat, wooden tub, with a little cotton-yarn mop and two clean towels, and then retreats to the kitchen with the heavy dishes and knives and forks. The lady proceeds to wash the glass, silver, and china, draining the things on a waiter, and wiping them on her dainty linen towels. It is not a disagreeable operation, and all

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gentlemen say they like to eat and drink from utensils which have been washed by a lady.

Having put away the glass and china, the lady shakes the table-cloth, folds it, and puts it away. She then takes a light brush broom and sweeps the dining-room, and dusts it carefully, opening a window to air the apartment. When this is done she sets the parlor in order. The maid-of-all-work should, in the mean time, make a visit to the bedrooms, and do the heavy work of turning mattresses and making beds. When this is accomplished she must return to the kitchen, and after carefully cleaning the pots and kettles that have been in use for the morning meal, devote an undivided attention to her arduous duties as laundress. A plain dinner for washing-day–a beefsteak and some boiled potatoes, a salad, and a pie or pudding made on the preceding Saturday–is all that should be required of a maid-of-all-work on Monday.

The afternoon must he spent in finishing the washing, hanging out the clothes, and preparing the tea–an easy and informal meal, which should consist of something easy to cook; for, after all that she has done during the day, this hard-worked girl must “tidy up” her kitchen before she can enjoy a well-earned repose. It is so annoying to a maid-of-all-work to be obliged to open the door for visitors that ladies often have a little girl or boy for this purpose. In the country it can be more easily managed.

Tuesday is ironing-day all over the world, and the maid must be assisted in this time of emergency by her mistress. Most ladies understand the process of

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clear starching and the best method of ironing fine clothing; if they do not, they should. In fact, a good house-keeper should know everything; and when a lady gives her attention to this class of household duties she is invariably more successful in performing them than a person of less education and intelligence.

On Wednesday the maid must bake a part of the bread, cake, and pies that will be required during the week. In this the mistress helps, making the light pastry, stoning the raisins, washing the currants, and beating the eggs. Very often a lady fond of cookery makes all her dainty dishes, her desserts, and her cakes and pies. She should help herself with all sorts of mechanical appliances. She should have the best of egg-beaters, sugar-sifters, bowls in plenty, and towels and aprons ad libitum. She has, if she be a systematic house-keeper, a store closet, which is her pride, with its neat, labelled spice-boxes, and its pots of pickles and preserves which she has made herself, and which, therefore, must be nice.

The cooking of meat is a thing which so affects the health of people that every lady should study it thoroughly. No roasts should be baked. The formulary sounds like a contradiction; but it is the custom in houses where the necessity of saving labor is an important consideration, to put the meat that should be roasted in the oven and bake it. This is very improper, as it dries up all the juice, which is the life-giving, life-sustaining property of the meat.

Let every young house-keeper buy a Dutch oven, and either roast the meat before the coals of a good

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wood fire, or before the grating of a range, in which coals take the piece of wood. By this method she saves those properties of a piece of roast beef which are the most valuable. Otherwise her roast meat will be a chip, a tasteless and a dry morsel, unpalatable and indigestible.

The cooking of vegetables is also to be studied; potatoes should not be over-boiled or underdone, as they are exceedingly unhealthy if not properly cooked. Bread must be well kneaded and delicately baked; a woman who understands the uses of fire–and every householder should–has stolen the secret of Prometheus.

On Thursday the maid must sweep the house thoroughly, if there are heavy carpets, as this is work for the strong-armed and the strong-handed. The mistress can follow with the dusting-brush and the cloth, and, again, the maid may come in her footstep with step-ladder, and wipe off mirrors and windows.

Many ladies have a different calendar from this, and prefer to have their work done on different days; but whatever may be the system for the management of a house, it should be strictly carried out, and all the help that may accrue from punctuality and order rendered to a maid in the discharge of her arduous and multifarious duties.

Most families have a sort of general house-cleaning on Friday: floors are scrubbed and brasses cleaned, the silver given a better cleansing, and the closets examined, the knives are scoured more thoroughly, and the lady puts her linen-closet in order, throwing sweet lavender between the sheets. On Saturday

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more bread and cake are baked, the Sunday’s dinner prepared, that the maid may have her Sunday afternoon out, and the busy week is ended with a clean kitchen, a well-swept and garnished house, and all the cooking done except the Sunday meat and vegetables.

To conduct the business of a house through the week, with three meals each day, and all the work well done; by one maid, is a very creditable thing to the mistress. The “order which is Heaven’s first law” must be her chief help in this difficult matter; she must be willing to do much of the light work herself, and she must have a young, strong, willing maid.

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