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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 Temple Bar.
laughed lightly. "I never could see anything in your wonderful Geoffrey: and I don't suppose he sees much in 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 were 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.
There is nothing in this to cause surprise to any thinking person. Employers 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 women. 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 servants 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
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 our 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 circumstances 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 abolished 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 suffi 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 decide 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. Moreover 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 housewife, it is possible that before long it may in some respects prove her liberator. There can be no doubt that some
alteration in this direction will be inevitable, as no people who call themselves educated will ever consent to choose an occupation which entails spending their lives day after day in washing up dishes at a scullery-sink. And they are right; which of us would do this if we could possibly find any other employment?
It is difficult to enter into each point of how every detail in a new system would work. But the most feasible idea seems that each employée should be engaged for certain definite hours and work; and as it would doubtless not infrequently occur that extra things were required to be done, they would have to be paid for as extra, (or over) time. However upsetting this may be to our present ideas, there seems really no sound reason why those who wish certain things done for them in their houses by other people should have a power to demand work without payment which is neither thought of nor demanded in any other profession. The feudal system is now completely dead, and this question of servants is its last lingering legacy. In by-gone times, in addition to the actual payment, the employer afforded also a much needed protection, the value of whch it would have been difficult to calculate; and in return the employed also gave time without any exact reckoning of money-value. Now all are equally protected by the law, and housework must fall into the category of other trades, with a strict account of its value in money. For the same reason it would be desirable that the system of board-wages should be adopted wherever practicable. All payments in kind are objectionable, and lead to a clashing of interests that tend to cause friction and ill-feeling on both sides.
There may be other alterations also. A large proportion of the work that goes on in houses at present is quite un
necessary, and only kept up from a sort of tradition. For example, most drawing-rooms are full of nick-nacks that are not merely useless but absolutely senseless. They are too confused and crowded to be even ornamental; but for all that their dusting occupies somebody for a considerable time daily. Then there is the cleaning and polishing of unnecessary silver, for, except spoons and forks, nearly everything would be better and cleaner made of glass or earthenware, and these last can be effectually cleaned in less than a quarter of the time it takes to polish silver. It is well to keep distinctly in our minds, with reference to this subject, that the whole difficulty is incalculably increased by the same feeling of equality, though in a different quarter, that has been referred to before, and which permeates all classes. Thus it happens that people with small incomes who keep perhaps two, or perhaps only one, servant, think it due to themselves to live in precisely the same manner as those who keep six or more. That is supposed to be the essential mark of gentility. The style of living which is suited to the last mentioned, however, where the work is much sub-divided and therefore not incessant, is obviously unsuited to the smaller establishments. In them it admits of neither peace nor rest for the servants, as to live up to the standard required is a constant strain for them, until there is neither leisure, nor time to go out at all except on rare occasions. And no matter what changes are the ultimate outcome of the present difficulty, where only a small establishment can be afforded, a much simpler style of living will have to be adopted. A display of metal under the name of plate, and elaborate meals with many dishes (which last cannot in the nature of things be really well cooked by those whose wages are not comparatively high) are in no way
really conducive either to happiness or comfort, and their abandonment therefore need hardly be a matter for lamentation; though of course they could be retained if people thought it worth their while to pay for the extra work. In these and other kindred ways much time could be saved, so that, while employers would not require a larger staff, it would be possible for the house employées (or assistants) to have nearly as much time to themselves as shop-assistants now have. It would not be exactly the same hours, as they could not go off from mid-day on Saturdays till the Sunday evening. But in households where more than one employée was engaged there would be little difficulty in arranging that they should have at least two afternoons a week to themselves, and alternate Sundays from mid-day, so that it would come to nearly the same thing. This (except in imagination, as being something different to present custom,) would cause employers little real inconvenience; as not only does it constantly occur that all the members of the family are out in the afternoon, but owing to the growing custom of one day a week being set apart for the lady of the house to receive visitors, it is becoming more and more recognized that only very intimate friends are expected to call at other times. Providing afternoon-tea for the members of the family would hardly be beyond the power of the one employée whose turn it was to be in; indeed to judge by the present mania for providing this repast for themselves, as shown by ladies travelling in railways, even at the risk of setting themselves and their fellowpassengers on fire, there seems no particular reason why they should not go a step further and undertake it in their own homes, if it so happened that they had only one regular employée.
In towns the alteration presents little difficulty, and it is desirable to encour
age non-resident employées at once. There are some already in the shape of waitresses and charwomen; but so soon as the thing became at all general a superior class of women would be certain to take to the occupation, as the work itself is not unpleasant, though many dread the chance of uncongenial companionship if resident. Many of the young women who now try to get work as teachers, for which they are often unfit, would prefer housework. It would be infinitely less exhausting to the nerves, a frequent cause of break-down among those who teach, and most especially among those who are not quite up to the work. On the whole too, house-work would be the better paid, as teachers are everywhere in excess of the demand.
Whatever happens, there must in the near future be a considerable change in our social habits. It is not a question of whether we are satisfied with things as they now are, or whether we wish for an alteration; the hard fact stares us in the face that the means of continuing as we now are are wanting, and the only thing left to us is the consideration of what is possible to be done in the circumstances.
Such changes as these would not affect entertaining on a large scale, as this is already, at all events in towns, much done by contract; but small hospitalities will be affected, though not more so than they will be when we are left without servants and with no hone of supplying their place. The question of expense will also very soon become a serious matter. There is no cohe sion among the present servants, but it cannot now be long before they dis cover, and especially before cooks discover, that they can command almost any wages they like to ask. And indeed all round, as things are tending now, the diminution in the number of women willing to do house-work will cause wages to advance to such an ex