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"A mistake; a mistake; a mistake!" he muttered over and over again, with a dull persistence; "a mistake!"
“Eh? What's a mistake?"
Heron started. Unconsciously he had arrired outside the Forsters' house. The voice was that of Mr. Forster; and that gentleman himself was leaning over the white-painted gate, smoking -placidly.
"Oh, it's you, David! Couldn't stand the heat of that room any longer, eh? Came home an hour ago myself, for that very reason. Sent the boy down with the dogcart to bring the girls home; expect they'll be here presently, raging for their supper; ha, ha!" And the old gentleman chuckled. “But you were saying something was a mistake -By the way-curious thing-we met young Geoffrey Thorne just as we got to the hall this evening. He's staying with some people the other side of the town. Ah, never be the man his father was! But what about the mistake?"
The old gentleman spoke in leisurely snatches between whiffs at his pipe. He had opened the gate to admit Heron, and now he shifted his elbows sociably to allow his friend also having comfortable leaning space. But Heron merely said:
“Come into the house, Forster, I want to talk to you;" and walked slowly up the avenue.
"Eh? Oh, certainly."
And Mr. Forster, marvelling somewhat, followed his friend indoors. They went into Mr. Forster's study, and Mr. Forster turned up the lamp.
“Well?" he said. Heron stood with his back to the mantel-piece, his head thrust somewhat forward, and his lean face looking leaner and grimmer than usual.
“We-1-we have all made a mistake. I should never have asked you for Bess; I should never have asked Bess for herself. Geoffrey Thorne is more to her than a hundred such as I, and I
am not going to make the girl miserable for life by holding her to a promise I am convinced she now regrets."
The words came with a rush, and then Heron was silent.
“Oh, ho!" Mr. Forster stood meditatirely looking at Heron for a few moments. Then he went on:
“But this is rank lunacy, David. I suppose some girls do say 'Yes' without over-much thought; but if Bess did not care for you sufficiently to marry you, you may stake your life on it she would have said so; and unless she cared very much indeed for you, you would hare had to wait for your answer."
"But you don't know all," said Heron miserably. “Geoffrey told me, the very night before I left Edinburgh, that he had cared for nobody but Bess for years back, and that as soon as he got settled down in his practice he meant to ask her to be his wife. And then I told him that I also loved Bess; and then we quarrelled, and Geoffrey said some hard things; and then-I took advantage of your friendship to forestall him.” He went on excitedly: "Man, this thing has been hanging orer me like a cloud for days and days, and to-night when I saw them together I realized that I was no man for your Bess." His voice fell. “I'll slip away quietly in the early morning, nobody knows of our engagement yet, and I'll write to-to your daughter; it's the best that I can do."
Mr. Forster looked troubled. “This is all very strange, David," he said, quietly, "and I am almost certain that you are mistaken. We are none of us responsible for young Thorne's romantic imaginings-nor for yours. But there! it's for Bess to decide. Only, there's to be no running away in the morning."
"But I must go!" said Heron desperately.
“Very well, go," said Mr. Forster pa
head. She stood in the doorway, with the soft candle-light falling upon her, and the dark passage by way of background, like a portrait in its frame. Still dressed as at the concert, she stood silently smiling, her left hand set against her side, and the short black velvet mantle flung back over her shoulders, exposing a rosy flush of silken lining. In her right hand she still held her black feather fan, with its long black ribands showing against the front of her gown. She made a picture, a picture which was to live in Heron's memory for the rest of his life; he could say nothing. Thackeray's “Cane-Bottom'd Chair" came into his mind:
She comes from the past and revisits
my room; She looks as she then did, all beauty
and bloom; So smiling and tender, so fresh and so
tiently. “Go away in the morning, invent a message calling you away on business--but don't write to her about breaking off the match, for a week or two yet. David,” he went on kindly, "you have been moping among books until they have got on your nerves. You are terribly anxious, I know, about the girl's happiness; but don't you think you may be going the very way to defeat your own intention ?"
There was a sound of wheels on the gravel outside. “Hullo," said Mr. Forster, where they are;" and he went out to the porch. Heron marched upstairs, a little shaken in his resolution, but none the less alive, so he told him. self, to what he considered to be his plain duty. Lighting a candle, he went into the little sitting-room which had been made over to him as a temporary study. He began to arrange his vari.
belongings, but presently he paused in his work to look round the room. It
very homelike, and peaceful, and countrified. He glanced down at the papers before him; he remembered, in a confused sort of way, that they must be packed up. Then he wondered listlessly whether they were worth preserving, nothing seemed to matter much now. But this was weakness, and he bundled the sheets together, and stuffed them into a small portfolio. Some time before he had heard Elizabeth's voice downstairs (it gave him a melancholy satisfaction to think of her as Elizabeth, it seemed formal and distant); but now there was silence. Doubtless he would be called down to supper in a little, and the prospect terrified him. Presently there was a tap at his door. “Come in!" he said, with rather a tremor. Forster, possibly, come to remonstrate anew with him. But it was not Mr. Forster whom the open door revealed, but Elizabeth-Elizabeth, still in her white dress, with the white flower showing at the side of her shapely
At last the lovely apparition spoke. "Well," she said, "why did you not come beside us at the concert? And Daddy says that you are going away in the morning?"
Heron put out his hand deprecatingly. “Elizabeth, it-it is very hard to explain--" he began.
“I should think so!" she said dryly. “Fortunately, it is not necessary. And Elizabeth, oh dear!" She tapped on the floor with the toe of her slipper, in real or simulated annoyance. There was silence.
“Daddy has been telling me-something," she said suddenly.
"Are you very, very fond of Geoffrey Thorne?”
He sighed. “Yes."
“Ah, that's better!” This audacious young woman spoke in a distinctly approving tone.
"Bess," he went on slowly, “I am afraid I have been very unreasonable, I
asked for what I had no right to expect. I make no question of your faith; I question only my own worthiness and fitness. But I do want you to be happy, and--and that is why I am going away,” he concluded simply.
There was laughter in her eyes, although it was with something of a break in her voice that she said, “Dear life! And would that make me happy!"
Heron regarded her intently, wistfully. “And Geoffrey ?" he said.
She shrugged her shoulders and
laughed lightly. "I never could see anything in your wonderful Geoffrey: and I don't suppose he sees much 10 me-now," she concluded demurely, a smile hovering at the corners of her mouth.
“Come," she said suddenly, dropping her fan, holding out both her hands, and smiling with a delightful mixture of fun and tenderness. "Suppose, like the play-books, we say, "exit Doctor Thorne.'”
And Professor Heron, at last, and beyond any possibility of further mistake, understood.
William H. Daly.
THE DOMESTIC PROBLEM.
It is clear to all heads of households in this country that we are on the brink of a revolution in our daily lives owing to the impossibility of finding female servants. And it seems probable that the determination on the part of women not to adopt this particular occupation will have far greater influence on our social customs than is at present quite realized by the majority.
In any case, as we have no power to arrest this revolution, the only thing for us to do is to consider in what way we can make the new order of things least disagreeable to ourselves. It is reported that at one of the largest and best known Registry Offices a lady who applied for a cook was told that there were none on the books, though there
There is nothing in this to cause surprise to any thinking person. Employ. ers have refused to see in time that the rules and regulations they once thought fit to impose on women who selected the occupation of domestic service, were not only at variance with what they and their daughters would like to have imposed upon themselves, but were in many ways a sort of insult to the
It has been in many houses a fixed rule that no servant was to go out at all without special permission, regardless of whether her particular work was finished or not. Such a rule could only mean that she was not considered fit to be trusted out by herself. There were also many restrictions in the matter of dress, even when the ser. vants were going to church or to visit their friends. This last must have been especially galling, as they would very possibly find their contemporaries in other occupations more attractively attired than themselves; and doubtless the young men of their circle were not slow in making it clear which they admired most. Employers appeared not
innumerable applications for them; and that, if things went on as they were going now, in a few years there would be no female servants. It moreover seems clear from all recent experience that women do not like the occupation of domestic service, and would prefer working harder for less remuneration in other employments.
to realize that if the holy estate of matrimony was desirable and right for their own daughters, it was just as much so for girls in another rank of life, and who had therefore a perfect right to such adornments of dress as enabled them also to have the widest possible choice in the selection of husbands. They were also, up to a very recent date, not ashamed to make restrictions as to how the servants were to wear their hair, no fringe being a common ending to the advertisement for a servant. The petty jealousy displayed in these methods seems now, as then, almost incomprehensible to some people; but these last have been the voice crying in the wilderness, when they have pointed out to the average British matron
the contemptible tyranny of which she was guilty.
So slowly and gradually it has come to pass that only the girls who are too badly educated for other employments will go out as servants, which in its way helps not a little to make the occupation looked down upon in the class from which they are drawn, and this of course still further adds to the unwillingness to select this particular form of livelihood. One cannot help marvelling at the exceeding folly of employers in general in not being more awake to the effect such rules as theirs were having, as nothing could be more disastrous to their own interests than having always to engage the very people who were the least considered among their equals.
However, my object at present is to consider the future rather than to regret the past, to discover some way either of doing without servants, or else of devising a scheme whereby women who wish to earn a living may be induced to earn it by doing some of the things for us which we cannot or are not disposed to do for ourselves.
The result of universal education, now in its second or third generation,
is clearly to produce a feeling of equality. In England we have not nominal equality as there is in France; but, strange to say, the feeling of the right of everyone to be called “a lady" (or "a gentleman") is apparently stronger here than there. Now it so happens that of all classes of women the only ones who are addressed without the prefix of Miss are servants. The young women in shops even of the smallest sort, are invariably Miss, and referred to as young ladies; yet they are for the most part drawn from the same social class as servants, as may be easily proved by enquiring casually as to the employments of the sisters of the servants in their house. It results therefore that of the whole community the only people who are not ladies are servants. This is probably far more mortifying to them than we can fully realize. It is exactly because the class from which servants are drawn has only of late years attained to the name of ladies, that it is annoying to servants to find themselves excluded from this privilege by a hard and fast line of demarcation; and it is interesting and instructive to note that this is actually the only clear dividing line of social class that is left among us in the present day. This feeling on the part of servants will appear no doubt ridiculous to some, but after all some of
own fancies and etiquettes are every whit as fanciful and as apparently meaningless. Nor is it at all incomprehensible why the prefix should be thought desirable, for the use of the name without any prefix has the effect of implying a social inferiority too pronounced for present-day feeling. And the mere fact of the prefix being habitually used will of itself induce an entirely different tone into the relations between employers and employed, and indirectly tend to greater consideration on the part of the former.
The other factors that weigh most
largely in causing a dislike to domestic service are the monotony of the work, and the want of stated hours and days which each individual can employ as she likes, and can be sure beforehand of being able to do so. That this last item constitutes a genuine grievance is now generally admitted, though so far no general action has been taken in any way to mitigate it.
In view, therefore, of all these cir. cumstances it seems clear that if people wish to continue employing servants, the first step is to discontinue employing them. This sounds paradoxical, but is nevertheless true. The word servant must be completely abol. ished with regard to women's work in any private capacity, and in place of servants we must have house employées, whom we must invariably address as Miss Brown, Miss Jones, or whatever the person's name may be. This in itself would probably be suff. cient to cause an alteration in most of the minor matters that at present help to add to the other things found objectionable by working women. For instance, no one would expect Miss Brown to wear a cap, as young ladies do not generally wear caps; and the obligatory wearing of caps is more deeply resented than most employers perhaps realize. As among the servants' own class it is often dubbed the badge of the slavey, that it should be so resented is not surprising. Moreover, if grown up women dislike wearing the piece of muslin stuck on the top of their heads that goes by the name of a cap, they have a perfect right to de. cide the point for themselves. This arrangement on the head in no way assists in laying a table, or cooking a dinner, or even in sweeping a room; indeed in the form which is insisted on by some employers for parlor-maids, with long weepers at the back hanging down far below the waist, it must be the very acme of discomfort. The only
rule employers should lay down with regard to clothes, might be that when actually on duty black or dark-colored dresses should be worn; this is in accordance with the rule made in shops, where it appears to be considered unobjectionable.
It is when we come to the hours of work that one sees the alteration will be more far-reaching in its effect on our daily life. At present the most difficult servants to find are cooks and kitchen-maids, and the least difficult are housemaids. It is therefore pretty clear that work which goes on all day and far into the evening is less attractive than that which is over tolerably early in the day, even though the former may be more highly paid. It seems from this likely that it will not be found possible to continue the system of having two dinners a day cooked in every house, (for, though one is called luncheon, this is what it practically amounts to,) and that one of them will have to be given up, and something simpler substituted requiring less preparation; or that in towns one of these meals will have to be taken at a restaurant. The abolition of the elaborate meal known as late dinner, however terrible in anticipation, might in the end prove a blessing in disguise, for eating a variety of dishes is in no way beneficial to health, far more sickness being traceable to eating too much than too little among those rich enough to keep servants at all. Moreorer in the average middle-class household the daily struggle to provide sufficient dishes at once differing as far as may be from those eaten the day before, and at the same time costing as little as possible, is a never-ending trouble to the mistress of the house. Thus, though the servant-difficulty is at present adding to the trouble of the house wife, it is possible that before long it may in some respects prove her libera. tor. There can be no doubt that some