Another mode of cheering the aged is to engage them in the domestic games and sports which unite the old and the young in amusement. Many a weary hour may thus be enlivened for the benefit of all concerned. And here will often occur opportunities of self-denying benevolence in relinquishing personal pursuits and gratification thus to promote the enjoyment of the infirm and dependent. Reading aloud is often a great source of enjoyment to those who by age are deprived of reading for themselves. So the effort to gather news of the neighborhood and impart it, is another mode of relieving those deprived of social gatherings.
There is no period in life when those courtesies of good breeding which recognize the relations of superior and inferior should be more carefully cherished than when there is need of showing them toward those of advancing age. To those who have controlled a household, and still more to those who in public life have been honored and admired, the decay of mental powers is peculiarly trying, and every effort should be made to lessen the trial by courteous attention to their opinions, and by avoiding all attempts to controvert them, or to make evident any weakness or fallacy in their conversation.
In regard to the decay of bodily or mental faculties, much more can be done to prevent or retard them than is generally supposed, and some methods for this end which have been gained by observation or experience will be presented.
As the exercise of all our faculties tends to increase their power, unless it be carried to excess, it is very important that the aged should be provided with useful employment, suited to their strength and capacity. Nothing hastens decay so fast as to remove the stimulus of useful activity. It should become a study with those who have the care of the aged to interest them in some useful pursuit, and to convince them that they are in some measure actively contributing to the general welfare. In the country and in families where the larger part of the domestic labor is done without servants, it is very easy to keep up an interest in domestic industrial employments. The tending of a small garden in summer—the preparation of fuel and food, the mending of household utensils—these and many other occupations of the hands will keep alive activity and interest, in a man; while for women there are still more varied resources. There is nothing that so soon hastens decay and lends acerbity to age as giving up all business and responsibility, and every mode possible should be devised to prevent this result.
As age advances, all the bodily functions move more slowly, and consequently the generation of animal heat, by the union of oxygen and carbon in the capillaries, is in smaller proportion than in the midday of life. For this reason some practices, safe for the vigorous, must be relinquished by the aged; and one of these is the use of the cold bath. It has often been the case that rheumatism has been caused by neglect of this caution. More than ordinary care should be taken to preserve animal heat in the aged, especially in the hands and the feet.
In many families will be found an aged brother, or sister, or other relative who has no home, and no claim to a refuge in the family circle but that of kindred. Sometimes they are poor and homeless, for want of a faculty for self-supporting business; and sometimes they have peculiarities of person or disposition which render their society undesirable. These are cases where the pitying tenderness of the Saviour should be remembered, and for his sake patient kindness and tender care be given, and he will graciously accept it as an offering of love and duty to himself. "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me."
It is sometimes the case that even parents in old age have had occasion to say with the forsaken King Lear, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" It is right training in early life alone that will save from this.
In the opening of China and the probable influx of its people, there is one cause for congratulation to a nation that is failing in the virtue of reverence. The Chinese are distinguished above all other nations for their respect for the aged, and especially for their reverence for aged parents and conformity to their authority, even to the last. This virtue is cultivated to a degree that is remarkable, and has produced singular and favorable results on the national character, which it is hoped may be imparted to the land to which they are flocking in such multitudes. For with all their peculiarities of pagan philosophy and their oriental eccentricities of custom and practical life, they are everywhere renowned for their uniform and elegant courtesy—a most commendable virtue, and one arising from habitual deference to the aged more than from any other source.
THE CASE OF SERVANTS.
Although in earlier ages the highest born, wealthiest, and proudest ladies were skilled in the simple labors of the household, the advance of society toward luxury has changed all that in lands of aristocracy and classes, and at the present time America is the only country where there is a class of women who may be described as ladies who do their own work. By a lady we mean a woman of education, cultivation, and refinement, of liberal tastes and ideas, who, without any very material additions or changes, would be recognized as a lady in any circle of the Old World or the New.
The existence of such a class is a fact peculiar to American society, a plain result of the new principles involved in the doctrine of universal equality.
When the colonists first came to this country, of however mixed ingredients their ranks might have been composed, and however imbued with the spirit of feudal and aristocratic ideas, the discipline of the wilderness soon brought them to a democratic level; the gentleman felled the wood for his log-cabin side by side with the plowman, and thews and sinews rose in the market. "A man was deemed honorable in proportion as he lifted his hand upon the high trees of the forest." So in the interior domestic circle. Mistress and maid, living in a log-cabin together, became companions, and sometimes the maid, as the one well-trained in domestic labor, took precedence of the mistress. It also became natural and unavoidable that children should begin to work as early as they were capable of it.
The result was a generation of intelligent people brought up to labor from necessity, but devoting to the problem of labor the acuteness of a disciplined brain. The mistress, outdone in sinews and muscles by her maid, kept her superiority by skill and contrivance. If she could not lift a pail of water, she could invent methods which made lifting the pail unnecessary,—if she could not take a hundred steps without weariness, she could make twenty answer the purpose of a hundred.
Slavery, it is true, was to some extent introduced into New England, but it never suited the genius of the people, never struck deep root or spread so as to choke the good seed of self-helpfulness. Many were opposed to it from conscientious principle—many from far-sighted thrift, and from a love of thoroughness and well-doing which despised the rude, unskilled work of barbarians. People, having once felt the thorough neatness and beauty of execution which came of free, educated, and thoughtful labor, could not tolerate the clumsiness of slavery.
Thus it came to pass that for many years the rural population of New-England, as a general rule, did their own work, both out-doors and in. If there were a black man or black woman or bound girl, they were emphatically only the helps, following humbly the steps of master and mistress, and used by them as instruments of lightening certain portions of their toil. The master and mistress, with their children, were the head workers.
Great merriment has been excited in the old country because, years ago, the first English travelers found that the class of persons by them denominated servants, were in America denominated help, or helpers. But the term was the very best exponent of the state of society. There were few servants, in the European sense of the word; there was a society of educated workers, where all were practically equal, and where, if there was a deficiency in one family and an excess in another, a helper, not a servant in the European sense, was hired. Mrs. Brown, who has several sons and no daughters, enters into agreement with Mrs. Jones, who has several daughters and no sons. She borrows a daughter, and pays her good wages to help in her domestic toil, and sends a son to help the labors of Mr. Jones. These two young people go into the families in which they are to be employed in all respects as equals and companions, and so the work of the community is equalized. Hence arose, and for many years continued, a state of society more nearly solving than any other ever did the problem of combining the highest culture of the mind with the highest culture ofthe muscles and the physical faculties.
Then were to be seen families of daughters, handsome, strong women, rising each day to their in-door work with cheerful alertness—one to sweep the room, another to make the fire, while a third prepared the breakfast for the father and brothers who were going out to manly labor: and they chatted meanwhile of books, studies, embroidery; discussed the last new poem, or some historical topic started by graver reading, or perhaps a rural ball that was to come off next week. They spun with the book tied to the distaff; they wove; they did all manner of fine needle-work; they made lace, painted flowers, and, in short, in the boundless consciousness of activity, invention, and perfect health, set themselves to any work they had ever read or thought of. A bride in those days was married with sheets and tablecloths of her own weaving, with counterpanes and toilet-covers wrought in divers embroidery by her own and her sisters' hands. The amount of fancy-work done in our days by girls who have nothing else to do, will not equal what was done by these who performed, besides, among them, the whole work of the family.
In those former days most women were in good health, debility and disease being the exception. Then, too, was seen the economy of daylight and its pleasures. They were used to early rising, and would not lie in bed, if they could. Long years of practice made them familiar with the shortest, neatest, most expeditious method of doing every household office, so that really for the greater part of the time in the house there seemed, to a looker-on, to be nothing to do. They rose in the morning and dispatched husband, father, and brothers to the farm or woodlot; went sociably about, chatting with each other, skimmed the milk, made the butter, and turned the cheeses. The forenoon was long; ten to one, all the so-called morning work over, they had leisure for an hour's sewing or reading before it was time to start the dinner preparations. By two o'clock the house-work was done, and they had the long afternoon for books, needle-work, or drawing—for perhaps there was one with a gift at her pencil. Perhaps one read aloud while others sewed, and managed in that way to keep up a great deal of reading.
It is said that women who have been accustomed to doing their own work become hard mistresses. They are certainly more sure of the ground they stand on—they are less open to imposition—they can speak and act in their own houses more as those "having authority," and therefore are less afraid to exact what is justly their due, and less willing to endure impertinence and unfaithfulness. Their general error lies in expecting that any servant ever will do as well for them as they will do for themselves, and that an untrained, undisciplined human being ever can do house-work, or any other work, with the neatness and perfection, that a person of trained intelligence can.
It has been remarked in our armies that the men of cultivation, though bred in delicate and refined spheres, can bear up under the hardships of camp-life better and longer than rough laborers. The reason is, that an educated mind knows how to use and save its body, to work it and spare it, as an uneducated mind can not; and so the college-bred youth brings himself safely through fatigues which kill the unreflective laborer.
Cultivated, intelligent women, who are brought up to do the work of their own families, are labor-saving institutions. They make the head save the wear of the muscles. By forethought, contrivance, system, and arrangement they lessen the amount to be done, and do it with less expense of time and strength than others. The old New-England motto, Get your work done up in the forenoon, applied to an amount of work which would keep a common Irish servant toiling from daylight to sunset.
A lady living in one of our obscure New-England towns, where there were no servants to be hired, at last, by sending to a distant city, succeeded in procuring a raw Irish maid-of-all-work, a creature of immense bone and muscle, but of heavy, unawakened brain. In one fortnight she established such a reign of Chaos and old Night in the kitchen and through the house that her mistress, a delicate woman, encumbered with the care of young children, began seriously to think that she made more work each day than she performed, and dismissed her. What was now to be done? Fortunately, the daughter of a neighboring farmer was going to be married in six months, and wanted a little ready money for her trousseau. The lady was informed that Miss So-and-so would come to her, not as a servant, but as hired "help." She was fain to accept any help with gladness.
Forthwith came into the family-circle a tall, well-dressed young person, grave, unobtrusive, self-respecting, yet not in the least presuming, who sat at the family table and observed all its decorums with the modest self-possession of a lady. The new-comer took a survey of the labors of a family of ten members, including four or five young children, and, looking, seemed at once to throw them into system; matured her plans, arranged her hours of washing, ironing, baking, and cleaning; rose early, moved deftly; and in a single day the slatternly and littered kitchen assumed that neat, orderly appearance that so often strikes one in New England farm-houses. The work seemed to be all gone. Every thing was nicely washed, brightened, put in place, and staid in place; the floors, when cleaned; remained clean; the work was always done, and not doing; and every afternoon the young lady sat neatly dressed in her own apartment, either quietly writing letters to her betrothed, or sewing on her bridal outfit. Such is the result of employing those who have been brought up to do their own work. That tall, fine-looking girl, for aught we know, may yet be mistress of a fine house on Fifth Avenue; and if she is, she will, we fear, prove rather an exacting mistress to Irish Bridget; but she will never be threatened by her cook and chambermaid, after the first one or two have tried the experiment.
Those remarkable women of old were made by circumstances. There were, comparatively speaking, no servants to be had, and so children were trained to habits of industry and mechanical adroitness from the cradle, and every household process was reduced to the very minimum of labor. Every step required in a process was counted, every movement calculated; and she who took ten steps, when one would do, lost her reputation for "faculty." Certainly such an early drill was of use in developing the health and the bodily powers, as well as in giving precision to the practical mental faculties. All household economies were arranged with equal niceness in those thoughtful minds. A trained housekeeper knew just how many sticks of hickory of a certain size were required to heat her oven, and how many of each different kind of wood. She knew by a sort of intuition just what kinds of food would yield the most palatable nutriment with the least outlay of accessories in cooking. She knew to a minute the time when each article must go into and be withdrawn from her oven; and if she could only lie in her chamber and direct, she could guide an intelligent child through the processes with mathematical certainty.
It is impossible, however, that any thing but early training and long experience can produce these results, and it is earnestly to be wished that the grandmothers of New-England had written down their experiences for our children; they would have been a mine of maxims and traditions better than any other "traditions of the elders" which we know of.
In this country, our democratic institutions have removed the superincumbent pressure which in the Old World confines the servants to a regular orbit. They come here feeling that this is somehow a land of liberty, and with very dim and confused notions of what liberty is. They are very extensively the raw, untrained Irish peasantry, and the wonder is, that, with all the unreasoning heats and prejudices of the Celtic blood, all the necessary ignorance and rawness, there should be the measure of comfort and success there is in our domestic arrangements.
But, as long as things are so, there will be constant changes and interruptions in every domestic establishment, and constantly recurring interregnums when the mistress must put her own hand to the work, whether the hand be a trained or an untrained one. As matters now are, the young housekeeper takes life at the hardest. She has very little strength,—no experience to teach her how to save her strength. She knows nothing experimentally of the simplest processes necessary to keep her family comfortably fed and clothed; and she has a way of looking at all these things which makes them particularly hard and distasteful to her. She does not escape being obliged to do house-work at intervals, but she does it in a weak, blundering, confused way, that makes it twice as hard and disagreeable as it need be.
Now, if every young woman learned to do house-work, and cultivated her practical faculties in early life, she would, in the first place, be much more likely to keep her servants, and, in the second place, if she lost them temporarily, would avoid all that wear and tear of the nervous system which comes from constant ill-success in those departments on which family health and temper mainly depend. This is one of the peculiarities of our American life, which require a peculiar training. Why not face it sensibly?
Our land is now full of motorpathic institutions to which women are sent at a great expense to have hired operators stretch and exercise their inactive muscles. They lie for hours to have their feet twigged, their arms flexed, and all the different muscles of the body worked for them, because they are so flaccid and torpid that the powers of life do not go on. Would it not be quite as cheerful, and a less expensive process, if young girls from early life developed the muscles in sweeping, dusting, starching, ironing, and all the multiplied domestic processes which our grandmothers knew of? A woman who did all these, and diversified the intervals with spinning on the great and little wheel, did not need the gymnastics of Dio Lewis or of the Swedish Movement Cure, which really are a necessity now. Does it not seem poor economy to pay servants for letting our muscles grow feeble, and then to pay operators to exercise them for us? I will venture to say that our grandmothers in a week went over every movement that any gymnast has invented, and went over them to some productive purpose too.
The first business of a housekeeper in America is that of a teacher. She can have a good table only by having practical knowledge, and tact in imparting it. If she understands her business practically and experimentally, her eye detects at once the weak spot; it requires only a little tact, some patience, some clearness in giving directions, and all comes right.
If we carry a watch to a watchmaker, and undertake to show him how to regulate the machinery, he laughs and goes on his own way; but if a brother-machinist makes suggestions, he listens respectfully. So, when a woman who knows nothing of woman's work undertakes to instruct one who knows more than she does, she makes no impression; but a woman who has been trained experimentally, and shows she understands the matter thoroughly, is listened to with respect.
Let a woman make her own bread for one month, and, simple as the process seems, it will take as long as that to get a thorough knowledge of all the possibilities in the case; but after that, she will be able to command good bread by the aid of all sorts of servants; in other words, will be a thoroughly prepared teacher.
Although bread-making seems a simple process, it yet requires delicate care and watchfulness. There are fifty ways to spoil good bread; There are a hundred little things to be considered and allowed for, that require accurate observation and experience. The same process that will raise good bread in cold weather will make sour bread in the heat of summer; different qualities of flour require variations in treatment as also different sorts and conditions of yeast; and when all is done, the baking presents another series of possibilities which require exact attention.
A well-trained mind, accustomed to reflect, analyze, and generalize, has an advantage over uncultured minds even of double experience. Poor as your cook is, she now knows more of her business than you do. After a very brief period of attention and experiment, you will not only know more than she does, but you will convince her that you do, which is quite as much to the purpose.
In the same manner, lessons must be given on the washing of silver and the making of beds. Good servants do not often come to us; they must be made by patience and training; and if a girl has a good disposition and a reasonable degree of handiness, and the housekeeper understands her profession, a good servant may be made out of an indifferent one. Some of the best girls have been those who came directly from the ship, with no preparation but docility and some natural quickness. The hardest cases to be managed are not of those who have been taught nothing, but of those who have been taught wrongly—who come self-opinionated, with ways which are distasteful, and contrary to the genius of one's housekeeping. Such require that their mistress shall understand at least so much of the actual conduct of affairs as to prove to the servant that there are better ways than those in which she has been trained.
So much has been said of the higher sphere of woman, and so much has been done to find some better work for her that, insensibly, almost every body begins to feel that it is rather degrading for a woman in good society to be much tied down to family affairs; especially since in these Woman's Rights Conventions there is so much dissatisfaction expressed at those who would confine her ideas to the kitchen and nursery.
Yet these Woman's Rights Conventions are a protest against many former absurd, unreasonable ideas—the mere physical and culinary idea of womanhood as connected only with puddings and shirt-buttons, the unjust and unequal burdens which the laws of harsher ages had cast upon the sex. Many of the women connected with these movements are as superior in every thing properly womanly as they are in exceptional talent and culture. There is no manner of doubt that the sphere of woman is properly to be enlarged. Every woman has rights as a human being which belong to no sex, and ought to be as freely conceded to her as if she were a man,—and first and foremost, the great right of doing any thing which God and nature evidently have fitted her to excel in. If she be made a natural orator, like Miss Dickinson, or an astronomer, like Mrs. Somerville, or a singer, like Grisi, let not the technical rules of womanhood be thrown in the way of her free use of her powers.
Still, per contra, there has been a great deal of crude, disagreeable talk in these conventions, and too great tendency of the age to make the education of woman anti-domestic. It seems as if the world never could advance, except like ships under a head-wind, tacking and going too far, now in this direction, and now in the opposite. Our common-school system now rejects sewing from the education of girls, which very properly used to occupy many hours daily in school a generation ago. The daughters of laborers and artisans are put through algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and the higher mathematics, to the entire neglect of that learning which belongs distinctively to woman. A girl of ten can not keep pace with her class, if she gives any time to domestic matters; and accordingly she is excused from them all during the whole term of her education. The boy of a family, at an early age, is put to a trade, or the labors of a farm; the father becomes impatient of his support, and requires of him to take care for himself. Hence an interrupted education—learning coming by snatches in the winter months or in the intervals of work.
As the result, the young women in some of our country towns are, in mental culture, much in advance of the males of the same household; but with this comes a physical delicacy, the result of an exclusive use of the brain and a neglect of the muscular system, with great inefficiency in practical domestic duties. The race of strong, hardy, cheerful girls, that used to grow up in country places, and made the bright, neat, New-England kitchens of old times—the girls that could wash, iron, brew, bake, harness a horse and drive him, no less than braid straw, embroider, draw, paint, and read innumerable books—this race of women, pride of olden time, is daily lessening; and in their stead come the fragile, easily-fatigued, languid girls of a modern age, drilled in book-learning, ignorant of common things. The great danger of all this, and of the evils that come from it, is, that society, by and by, will turn as blindly against female intellectual culture as it now advocates it, and having worked disproportionately one way, will work disproportionately in the opposite direction.
Domestic service is the great problem of life herein America; the happiness of families, their thrift, well-being, and comfort, are more affected by this than by any one thing else. The modern girls, as they have been brought up, can not perform the labor of their own families as in those simpler, old-fashioned days; and what is worse, they have no practical skill with which to instruct servants, who come to us, as a class, raw and untrained. In the present state of prices, the board of a domestic costs double her wages, and the waste she makes is a more serious matter still.
Many of the domestic evils in America originate, in the fact that, while society here is professedly based on new principles which ought to make social life in every respect different from the life of the Old World, yet these principles have never been so thought out and applied as to give consistency and harmony to our daily relations. America starts with a political organization based oh a declaration of the primitive freedom and equality of all men. Every human being, according to this principle, stands on the same natural level with every other, and has the same chance to rise according to the degree of power or capacity given by the Creator. All our civil institutions are designed to preserve this equality, as far as possible, from generation to generation: there is no entailed property, there are no hereditary titles, no monopolies, no privileged classes—all are to be as free to rise and fall as the waves of the sea.
The condition of domestic service, however, still retains about it something of the influences from feudal times, and from the near presence of slavery in neighboring States. All English literature of the world describes domestic service in the old feudal spirit and with the old feudal language, which regarded the master as belonging to a privileged class and the servant to an inferior one. There is not a play, not a poem, not a novel, not a history, that does not present this view. The master's rights, like the rights of kings, were supposed to rest in his being born in a superior rank. The good servant was one who, from childhood, had learned "to order himself lowly and reverently to all his betters." When New-England brought to these shores the theory of democracy, she brought, in the persons of the first pilgrims, the habits of thought and of action formed in aristocratic communities. Winthrop's Journal, and all the old records of the earlier colonists, show households where masters and mistresses stood on the "right divine" of the privileged classes, howsoever they might have risen up against authorities themselves.
The first consequence of this state of things was a universal rejection of domestic service in all classes of American-born society. For a generation or two there was, indeed, a sort of interchange of family strength,—sons and daughters engaging in the service of neighboring families, in default of a sufficient working-force of their own, but always on conditions of strict equality. The assistant was to share the table, the family sitting-room, and every honor and attention that might be claimed by son or daughter. When families increased in refinement and education so as to make these conditions of close intimacy with more uncultured neighbors disagreeable, they had to choose between such intimacies and the performance of their own domestic toil. No wages could induce a son or daughter of New-England to take the condition of a servant on terms which they thought applicable to that of a slave. The slightest hint of a separate table was resented as an insult; not to enter the front door, and not to sit in the front parlor on state occasions, was bitterly commented on as a personal indignity.
The well-taught, self-respecting daughters of farmers, the class most valuable in domestic service, gradually retired from it. They preferred any other employment, however laborious. Beyond all doubt, the labors of a well-regulated family are more healthy, more cheerful, more, interesting, because less monotonous, than the mechanical toils of a factory; yet the girls of New-England, with one consent, preferred the factory, and left the whole business of domestic service to a foreign population; and they did it mainly because they would not take positions in families as an inferior laboring-class by the side of others of their own age who assumed as their prerogative to live without labor.
"I can't let you have one of my daughters," said an energetic matron to her neighbor from the city, who was seeking for a servant in her summer vacation; "if you hadn't daughters of your own, may be I would; but my girls are not going to work so that your girls may live in idleness."
It was vain to offer money. "We don't need your money, ma'am; we can support ourselves in other ways; my girls can braid straw, and bind shoes, but they are not going to be slaves to any body."
In the Irish and German servants who took the place of Americans in families, there was, to begin with, the tradition of education in favor of a higher class; but even the foreign population became more or less infected with the spirit of democracy. They came to this country with vague notions of freedom and equality, and in ignorant and uncultivated people such ideas are often more unreasonable for being vague. They did not, indeed, claim a seat at the table and in the parlor, but they repudiated many of those habits of respect and courtesy which belonged to their former condition, and asserted their own will and way in the round, unvarnished phrase which they supposed to be their right as republican citizens. Life became a sort of domestic wrangle and struggle between the employers, who secretly confessed their weakness, but endeavored openly to assume the air and bearing of authority, and the employed, who knew their power and insisted on their privileges.
From this cause domestic service in America has had less of mutual kindliness titan in old countries. Its terms have been so ill- understood and defined that both parties have assumed the defensive; and a common topic of conversation in American female society has often been the general servile war which in one form or another was going on in their different families—a war as interminable as would be a struggle between aristocracy and common people, undefined by any bill of rights or constitution, and therefore opening fields for endless disputes.
In England, the class who go to service are a class, and service is a profession; the distance between them and their employers is so marked and defined, and all the customs and requirements of the position are so perfectly understood, that the master or mistress has no fear of being compromised by condescension, and no need of the external voice or air of authority. The higher up in the social scale one goes, the more courteous seems to become the intercourse of master and servant; the more perfect and real the power, the more is it veiled in outward expression—commands are phrased as requests, and gentleness of voice and manner covers an authority which no one would think of offending without trembling.
But in America all is undefined. In the first place, there is no class who mean to make domestic service a profession to live and die in. It is universally an expedient, a stepping-stone to something higher; your best servants always have some thing else in view as soon as they have laid by a little money; some form of independence which shall give them a home of their own is constantly in mind. Families look forward to the buying of landed homesteads, and the scattered brothers and sisters work awhile in domestic service to gain, the common fund for the purpose; your seamstress intends to become a dressmaker, and take in work at her own house; your cook is pondering a marriage with the baker, which shall transfer her toils from your cooking-stove to her own.
Young women are eagerly rushing into every other employment, till feminine trades and callings are all over-stocked. We are continually harrowed with tales of the sufferings of distressed needle-women, of the exactions, and extortions practiced on the frail sex in the many branches of labor and trade at which they try their hands; and yet women will encounter all these chances of ruin and starvation rather than make up their minds to permanent domestic service.
Now, what is the matter with domestic service? One would think, on the face of it, that a calling which gives a settled home, a comfortable room, rent-free, with fire and lights, good board and lodging, and steady, well-paid wages, would certainly offer more attractions than the making of shirts for tenpence, with all the risks of providing one's own sustenance and shelter.
Is it not mainly from the want of a definite idea of the true position of a servant under our democratic institutions that domestic service is so shunned and avoided in America, and that it is the very last thing which an intelligent young woman will look to for a living? It is more the want of personal respect toward, those in that position than the labor incident to it which repels our people from it. Many would be willing to perform these labors, but they are not willing to place themselves in a situation where their self-respect is hourly wounded by the implication of a degree of inferiority, which does not follow any kind of labor or service in this country but that of the family.
There exists in the minds of employers an unsuspected spirit of superiority, which is stimulated into an active form by the resistance which democracy inspires in the working-class. Many families think of servants only as a necessary evil, their wages as exactions, and all that is allowed them as so much taken from the family; and they seek in every way to get from them as much and to give them as little as possible. Their rooms are the neglected, ill-furnished, incommodious ones—and the kitchen is the most cheerless and comfortless place in the house.
Other families, more good-natured and liberal, provide their domestics with more suitable accommodations, and are more indulgent; but there is still a latent spirit of something like contempt for the position. That they treat their servants with so much consideration seems to them a merit entitling them to the most prostrate gratitude; and they are constantly disappointed and shocked at that want of sense of inferiority on the part of these people which leads them to appropriate pleasant rooms, good furniture, and good living as mere matters of common justice.
It seems to be a constant surprise to some employers that servants should insist on having the same human wants as themselves. Ladles who yawn in their elegantly furnished parlors, among books and pictures, if they have not company, parties, or opera to diversify the evening, seem astonished and half indignant that cook and chambermaid are more disposed to go out for an evening gossip than to sit on hard chairs in the kitchen where they have been toiling all day. The pretty chambermaid's anxieties about her dress, the minutes she spends at her small and not very clear mirror, are sneeringly noticed by those whose toilet-cares take up serious hours; and the question has never apparently occurred to them why a serving-maid should not want to look pretty as well as her mistress. She is a woman as well as they, with, all a woman's wants and weaknesses; and her dress is as much to her as theirs to them.
A vast deal of trouble among servants arises; from impertinent interferences and petty tyrannical enactions on the part of employers. Now, the authority of the master and mistress of a house in regard to their domestics extends simply to the things they have contracted to do and the hours during which they have contracted to serve; otherwise than this, they have no more right to interfere with them in the disposal of their time than with any mechanic whom they employ. They have, indeed, a right to regulate the hours of their own household, and servants can choose between conformity to these hours and the loss of their situation; but, within reasonable limits, their right to come and go at their own discretion, in their own time, should be unquestioned.
If employers are troubled by the fondness of their servants for dancing, evening company, and late hours, the proper mode of proceeding is to make these matters a subject of distinct contract in hiring. The more strictly and perfectly the business matters of the first engagement of domestics are conducted, the more likelihood there is of mutual quiet and satisfaction in the relation. It is quite competent to every housekeeper to say what practices are or are not consistent with the rules of her family, and what will be inconsistent with the service for which she agrees to pay. It is much better to regulate such affairs by cool contract in the outset than by warm altercations and protracted domestic battles.
As to the terms of social intercourse, it seems somehow to be settled in the minds of many employers that their servants owe them and their family more respect than they and the family owe to the servants. But do they? What is the relation of servant to employer in a democratic country? Precisely that of a person who for money performs any kind of service for you. The carpenter comes into your house to put up a set of shelves—the cook comes into your kitchen to cook your dinner. You never think that the carpenter owes you any more respect than you owe to him because he is in your house doing your behests; he is your fellow-citizen, you treat him with respect, you expect to be treated with respect by him. You have a claim on him that he shall do your work according to your directions—no more.
Now, I apprehend that there is a very common notion as to the position and rights of servants which is quite different from this. Is it not a common feeling that a servant is one who may he treated with a degree of freedom by every member of the family which he or she may not return? Do not people feel at liberty to question servants about their private affairs, to comment on their dress and appearance, in a manner which they would feel to be an impertinence, if reciprocated? Do they not feel at liberty to express dissatisfaction with their performances in rude and unceremonious terms, to reprove them in the presence of company, while yet they require that the dissatisfaction of servants shall be expressed only in terms of respect? A woman would not feel herself at liberty to talk to her milliner or her dress-maker in language as devoid of consideration as she will employ toward her cook or chambermaid. And yet both are rendering her a service which she pays for in money, and one is no more made her inferior thereby than the other. Both have an equal right to be treated with courtesy. The master and mistress of a house have a right to require courteous treatment from all whom their roof shelters; but they have no more right to exact it of servants than of every guest and every child, and they themselves owe it as much to servants as to guests.
In order that servants may be treated with respect and courtesy, it is not necessary, as in simpler patriarchal days, that they sit at the family-table. Your carpenter or plumber does not feel hurt that you do not ask him to dine with you, nor your milliner and mantua-maker that you do not exchange ceremonious calls and invite them to your parties. It is well understood that your relations with them are of a mere business character. They never take it as an assumption of superiority on your part that you do not admit them to relations of private intimacy. There may be the most perfect respect and esteem and even friendship between then and you, notwithstanding. So it may be in the case of servants. It is easy to make any person understand that there are quite other reasons than the assumption of personal superiority for not wishing to admit servants to the family privacy. It was not, in fact, to sit in the parlor or at the table in themselves considered, that was the thing aimed at by New—England girls; these were valued only as signs that they were deemed worthy of respect and consideration, and, where freely conceded, were often in point of fact declined.
Let servants feel, in their treatment by their employers and in the atmosphere of the family, that their position is held to be a respectable one; let them feel, in the mistress of the family, the charm of unvarying consideration and good manners; let their work- rooms be made convenient and comfortable, and their private apartments bear some reasonable comparison in point of agreeableness to those of other members of the family, and domestic service will be more frequently sought by a superior and self-respecting class. There are families in which such a state of things prevails; and such families, amid the many causes which unite to make the tenure of service uncertain, have generally been able to keep good permanent servants. There is an extreme into which kindly disposed people often run with regard to servants which may be mentioned here. They make pets of them. They give extravagant wages and indiscreet indulgences, and, through indolence and easiness of temper, tolerate neglect of duty. Many of the complaints of the ingratitude of servants come from those who have spoiled them in this way; while many of the longest and most harmonious domestic unions have sprung from a simple, quiet course of Christian justice and benevolence, a recognition of servants as fellow-beings and fellow-Christians, and a doing to them as we would in like circumstances that they should do to us.
The mistresses of American families, whether they like it or not, have the duties of missionaries imposed upon them by that class from which our supply of domestic servants is drawn. They may as well accept the position cheerfully, and, as one raw, untrained hand after another passes through their family, and is instructed by them in the mysteries of good house-keeping, comfort themselves with the reflection that they are doing something to form good wives and mothers for the republic.
The complaints made of Irish girls are numerous and loud; the failings of green Erin, alas! are but too open and manifest; yet, in arrest of judgment, let us move this consideration: let us imagine our own daughters between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, untaught and inexperienced in domestic affairs as they commonly are, shipped to a foreign shore to seek service in families. It may be questioned whether, as a whole, they would do much better. The girls that fill our families and do our house-work are often of the age of our own daughters, standing for themselves, without mothers to guide them, in a foreign country, not only bravely supporting themselves, but sending home in every ship remittances to impoverished friends left behind. If our daughters did as much for us, should we not be proud of their energy and heroism?
When we go into the houses of our country, we find a majority of well-kept, well-ordered, and even elegant establishments, where the only hands employed are those of the daughters of Erin. True, American women have been their instructors, and many a weary hour of care have they had in the discharge of this office; but the result on the whole is beautiful and good, and the end of it, doubtless, will be peace.
Instead, then, of complaining that we can not have our own peculiar advantages and those of other nations too, or imagining how much better off we should be if things were different from what they are, it is much wiser and more Christian-like to strive cheerfully to conform to actual circumstances; and, after remedying all that we can control, patiently to submit to what is beyond our power. If domestics are found to be incompetent, unstable, and unconfirmed to their station, it is Perfect Wisdom which appoints these trials to teach us patience, fortitude, and self-control; and if the discipline is met in a proper spirit, it will prove a blessing rather than an evil.
But to judge correctly in regard to some of the evils involved in the state of domestic service in this country, we should endeavor to conceive ourselves placed in the situation of those of whom complaint is made, that we may not expect from them any more than it would seem right should be exacted from us in similar circumstances.
It is sometimes urged against domestics that they exact exorbitant wages. But what is the rule of rectitude on this subject? Is it not the universal law of labor and of trade that an article is to be valued according to its scarcity and the demand? When wheat is scarce, the farmer raises his price; and when a mechanic offers services difficult to be obtained, he makes a corresponding increase of price. And why is it not right for domestics to act according to a rule allowed to be correct in reference to all other trades and professions? It is a fact, that really good domestic service must continue to increase in value just in proportion as this country waxes rich and prosperous; thus making the proportion of those who wish to hire labor relatively greater, and the number of those willing to go to service less.
Money enables the rich to gain many advantages which those of more limited circumstances can not secure. One of these is, securing good servants by offering high wages; and this, as the scarcity of this class increases, will serve constantly to raise the price of service. It is right for domestics to charge the market value, and this value is always decided by the scarcity of the article and the amount of demand. Right views of this subject will sometimes serve to diminish hard feelings toward those who would otherwise be wrongfully regarded as unreasonable and exacting.
Another complaint against servants is that of instability and discontent, leading to perpetual change. But in reference to this, let a mother or daughter conceive of their own circumstances as so changed that the daughter must go out to service. Suppose a place is engaged, and it is then found that she must sleep in a comfortless garret; and that, when a new domestic comes, perhaps a coarse and dirty foreigner, she must share her bed with her. Another place is offered, where she can have a comfortable room and an agreeable room-mate; in such a case, would not both mother and daughter think it right to change?
Or suppose, on trial, it was found that the lady of the house was fretful or exacting and hard to please, or that her children were so ungoverned as to be perpetual vexations; or that the work was so heavy that no time was allowed for relaxation and the care of a wardrobe; and another place offers where those evils can be escaped; would not mother and daughter here think it right to change? And is it not right for domestics, as well as their employers, to seek places where they can be most comfortable?
In some cases, this instability and love of change would be remedied, if employers would take more pains to make a residence with them agreeable, and to attach servants to the family by feelings of gratitude and affection. There are ladies, even where well-qualified domestics are most rare, who seldom find any trouble in keeping good and steady ones. And the reason is, that their servants know they can not better their condition by any change within reach. It is not merely by giving them comfortable rooms, and good food, and presents, and privileges, that the attachment of domestic servants is secured; it is by the manifestation of a friendly and benevolent interest in their comfort and improvement. This is exhibited in bearing patiently with their faults; in kindly teaching them how to improve; in showing them how to make and take proper care of their clothes; in guarding their health; in teaching them to read if necessary, and supplying them with proper books; and in short, by endeavoring, so far as may be, to supply the place of parents. It is seldom that such a course would fail to secure steady service, and such affection and gratitude that even higher wages would be ineffectual to tempt them away. There would probably be some leases of ungrateful returns; but there is no doubt that the course indicated, if generally pursued, would very much lessen the evil in question.
When servants are forward and bold in manners and disrespectful in address, they may be considerately taught that those who are among the best-bred and genteel have courteous and respectful manners and language to all they meet: while many who have wealth, are regarded as vulgar, because they exhibit rude and disrespectful manners. The very term gentle man indicates the refinement and delicacy of address which distinguishes the high-bred from the coarse and vulgar.
In regard to appropriate dress, in most cases it is difficult for an employer to interfere, directly, with comments or advice. The most successful mode is to offer some, service in mending or making a wardrobe, and when a confidence in the kindness of feeling is thus gained, remarks and suggestions will generally be properly received, and new views of propriety and economy can be imparted. In some cases it may be well for an employer who, from appearances, anticipates difficulty of this kind, in making the preliminary contract or agreement to state that she wishes to have the room, person, and dress of her servants kept neat and in order, and that she expects to remind them of their duty, in this particular, if it is neglected. Domestic servants are very apt to neglect the care of their own chambers and clothing; and such habits have a most pernicious influence on their well-being and on that of their children in future domestic life. An employer, then, is bound to exercise a parental care over them, in these respects.
There is one great mistake, not unfrequently made, in the management both of domestics and of children, and that is, in supposing that the way to cure defects is by finding fault as each failing occurs. But instead of this being true, in many cases the directly opposite course is the best; while, in all instances, much good judgment is required in order to decide when to notice faults and when to let them pass unnoticed. There are some minds very sensitive, easily discouraged, and infirm of purpose. Such persons, when they have formed habits of negligence, haste, and awkwardness, often need expressions of sympathy and encouragement rather than reproof. They have usually been found fault with so much that they have become either hardened or desponding; and it is often the case, that a few words of commendation will awaken fresh efforts and renewed hope. In almost every case, words of kindness, confidence, and encouragement should be mingled with the needful admonitions or reproof.
It is a good rule, in reference to this point, to forewarn instead of finding fault. Thus, when a thing has been done wrong, let it pass unnoticed, till it is to be done again; and then, a simple request to have it done in the right way will secure quite as much, and probably more, willing effort, than a reproof administered for neglect. Some persons seem to take it for granted that young and inexperienced minds are bound to have all the forethought and discretion of mature persons; and freely express wonder and disgust when mishaps occur for want of these traits. But it would be far better to save from mistake or forgetfulness by previous caution and care on the part of those who have gained experience and forethought; and thus many occasions of complaint and ill-humor will be avoided.
Those who fill the places of heads of families are not very apt to think how painful it is to be chided for neglect of duty or for faults of character. If they would sometimes imagine themselves in the place of those whom they control, with some person daily administering reproof to them, in the same tone and style as they employ to those who are under them, it might serve as a useful cheek to their chidings. It is often the ease, that persons who are most strict and exacting and least able to make allowances and receive palliations, are themselves peculiarly sensitive to any tiling which implies that they are in fault. By such, the spirit implied in the Divine petition, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," needs especially to be cherished.
One other consideration is very important. There is no duty more binding on Christians than that of patience and meekness under provocations and disappointment. Now, the tendency of every sensitive mind, when thwarted in its wishes, is to complain and find fault, and that often in tones of fretfulness or anger. But there are few servants who have not heard enough of the Bible to know that angry or fretful fault-finding from the mistress of a family, when her work is not done to suit her, is not in agreement with the precepts of Christ. They notice and feel the inconsistency; and every woman, when she gives way to feelings of anger and impatience at the faults of those around her, lowers herself in their respect, while her own conscience, unless very much blinded, can not but suffer a wound.
In speaking of the office of the American mistress as being a missionary one, we are far from, recommending any controversial interference with the religious faith of our servants. It is far better to incite them to be good Christians in their own way than to run the risk of shaking their faith in all religion by pointing out to them what seem to us the errors of that in which they have been educated. The general purity of life and propriety of demeanor of so many thousands of undefended young girls cast yearly upon our shores, with no home but their church, and no shield but their religion, are a sufficient proof that this religion exerts an influence over them not to be lightly trifled with. But there is a real unity even in opposite Christian forms; and the Roman Catholic servant and the Protestant mistress, if alike possessed by the spirit of Christ, and striving to conform to the Golden Rule, can not help being one in heart, though one go to mass and the other to meeting.
Finally, the bitter baptism through which we have passed, the life-blood dearer than our own which has drenched distant fields, should remind us of the preciousness of distinctive American ideas. They who would seek in their foolish pride to establish the pomp of liveried servants in America are doing that which is simply absurd. A servant can never in our country be the mere appendage to another man, to be marked like a sheep with the color of his owner; he must be a fellow-citizen, with an established position of his own, free to make contracts, free to come and go, and having in his sphere titles to consideration and respect just as definite as those of any trade or profession whatever.
Moreover, we can not in this country maintain to any great extent large retinues of servants. Even with ample fortunes, they are forbidden by the general character of society here, which makes them cumbrous and difficult to manage. Every mistress of a family knows that her cares increase with every additional servant. Two keep the peace with each other and their employer; three begin a possible discord, which possibility increases with four, and becomes certain with five or six. Trained housekeepers, such as regulate the complicated establishments of the old world, form a class that are not, and from the nature of the case never will be, found in any great numbers in this country. All such women, as a general thing, are keeping, and prefer to keep, houses of their own.
A moderate style of housekeeping, small, compact, and simple domestic establishments, must necessarily be the general order of life in America. So many openings of profit are to be found in this country, that domestic service necessarily wants the permanence which forms so agreeable a feature of it in the old world.
This being the case, it should be an object in American to exclude from the labors of the family all that can, with greater advantage, be executed out of it by combined labor.
Formerly, in New England, soap and candles were to be made in each separate family; now, comparatively few take this toil upon them. We buy soap of the soap-maker, and candles of the candle-factor. This principle might be extended much further. In France, no family makes its own bread, and better bread can not be eaten than can be bought at the appropriate shops. No family does its own washing; the family's linen is all sent to women who, making this their sole profession, get it up with a care and nicety which can seldom be equaled in any family.
How would it simplify the burdens of the American housekeeper to have washing and ironing day expunged from her calendar! How much more neatly and compactly could the whole domestic system be arranged! If all the money that each separate family spends on the outfit and accommodations for washing and ironing, on fuel, soap, starch, and the other requirements, were united in a fund to create a laundry for every dozen families, one or two good women could do in first rate style what now is very indifferently done by the disturbance and disarrangement of all other domestic processes in these families. Whoever sets neighborhood laundries on foot will do much to solve the American housekeeper's hardest problem.
Again, American women must not try with three servants to carry on life in the style which in the old world requires sixteen; they must thoroughly understand, and be prepared to teach, every branch of housekeeping; they must study to make domestic service desirable, by treating their servants in a way to lead them to respect themselves and to feel themselves respected; and there will gradually be evolved from the present confusion, a solution of the domestic problem which shall be adapted to the life of a new and growing world.
CARE OF THE SICK.
It is interesting to notice in the histories of our Lord the prominent place given to the care of the sick. When he first sent out the apostles, it was to heal the sick as well as to preach. Again, when, he sent out the seventy, their first command was to "heal the sick," and next to say, "the kingdom of God has come nigh unto you." The body was to be healed first, in order to attend to the kingdom of God, even when it was "brought nigh."
Jesus Christ spent more time and labor in the cure of men's bodies than in preaching, even, if we subtract those labors with his earthly father by which family homes were provided. When he ascended to the heavens, his last recorded, words to his followers, as given by Mark, were, that his disciples should "lay hands on the sick," that they might recover. Still more directly is the duty of care for the sick exhibited in the solemn allegorical description of the last day. It was those who visited the sick that were the blessed; it was those who did not visit the sick who were told to "depart." Thus are we abundantly taught that one of the most sacred duties of the Christian family is the training of its inmates to care and land attention to the sick.
Every woman who has the care of young children, or of a large family, is frequently called upon to advise what shall be done for some one who is indisposed; and often, in circumstances where she must trust solely to her own judgment. In such cases, some err by neglecting to do any thing at all, till the patient is quite sick; but a still greater number err from excessive and injurious dosing.
The two great causes of the ordinary slight attacks of illness in a family, are, sudden chills, which close the pores of the skin, and thus affect the throat, lungs, or bowels; and the excessive or improper use of food. In most cases of illness from the first cause, bathing the feet, and some aperient drink to induce perspiration, are suitable remedies.
In case of illness from improper food, or excess in eating, fasting for one or two meals, to give the system time and chance to relieve itself, is the safest remedy. Some-times, a gentle cathartic of castor-oil may be needful; but it is best first to try fasting. A safe relief from injurious articles in the stomach is an emetic of warm water; but to be effective, several tumblerfuls must be given in quick succession, and till the stomach can receive no more.
The following extract from a discourse of Dr. Burne, before the London Medical Society, contains important, information: "In civilized life, the causes which are most generally and continually operating in the production of diseases are, affections of the mind, improper diet, and retention of the intestinal excretions. The undue retention of excrementitious matter allows of the absorption of its more liquid parts, which is a cause of great impurity to the blood, and the excretions, thus rendered hard and knotty, act more or less as extraneous substances, and, by their irritation, produce a determination of blood to the intestines and to the neighboring viscera, which ultimately ends in inflammation. It also has a great effect on the whole system; causes a determination of blood to the head, which oppresses the brain, and dejects the mind; deranges the functions of the stomach; causes flatulency; and produces a general state of discomfort."
Dr. Combe remarks on this subject: "In the natural and healthy state, under a proper system of diet, and with sufficient exercise, the bowels are relieved regularly, once every day." Habit "is powerful in modifying the result, and in sustaining healthy action when once fairly established. Hence the obvious advantage of observing as much regularity in relieving the system, as in taking our meals." It is often the ease that soliciting nature at a regular period, once a day, will remedy constipation without medicine, and induce a regular and healthy state of the bowels. "When, however, as most frequently happens, the constipation arises from the absence of all assistance from the abdominal and respiratory muscles, the first step to be taken is, again to solicit their aid; first, by removing all impediments to free respiration, such as stays, waistbands, and belts; secondly, by resorting to such active exercise as shall call the muscles into full and regular action; [Footnote: The most effective mode of exercising the abdominal and respiratory muscles, in order to remedy constipation, is by a continuous alternate contraction of the muscles of the abdomen, and diaphragm. By contracting the muscles of the abdomen, the intestines axe pressed inward and upward, and then the muscles of the diaphragm above contract and press them downward and outward. Thus the blood is drawn to the torpid parts to stimulate to the healthful action, while the agitation moves their contents downward. An invalid can thus exercise the abdominal muscles in bed. The proper time is just after a meal. This exercise, continued ten minutes a day, including short intervals of rest, and persevered in for a week or two, will cure most ordinary cases of constipation, provided proper food is taken. Coarse bread and fruit are needed for this purpose in most cases.] and lastly, by proportioning the quantity of food to the wants of the system, and the condition of the digestive organs.
"If we employ these means, systematically and perseveringly, we shall rarely fail in at last restoring the healthy action of the bowels, with little aid from medicine. But if we neglect these modes, we may go on for years, adding pill to pill, and dose to dose, without ever attaining the end at which we aim."
"There is no point in which a woman needs more knowledge and discretion than in administering remedies for what seem slight attacks, which are not supposed to require the attention of a physician. It is little realized that purgative drugs are unnatural modes of stimulating the internal organs, tending to exhaust them of their secretions, and to debilitate and disturb the animal economy. For this reason, they should be used as little as possible; and fasting, and perspiration, and the other methods pointed out, should always be first resorted to."
When medicine must be given, it should be borne in mind that there are various classes of purgatives, which produce very diverse effects. Some, like salts, operate to thin the blood, and reduce the system; others are stimulating; and others have a peculiar operation on certain organs. Of course, great discrimination and knowledge are needed, in order to select the kind which is suitable to the particular disease, or to the particular constitution of the invalid. This shows the folly of using the many kinds of pills, and other quack medicines, where no knowledge can be had of their composition. Pills which are good for one kind of disease, might operate as poison in another state of the system.
It is very common in cases of colds, which affect the lungs or throat, to continue to try one dose after another for relief. It will be well to hear in mind at such times, that all which goes into the stomach must be first absorbed into the blood before it can reach the diseased part; and that there is some danger of injuring the stomach, or other parts of the system, by such a variety of doses, many of which, it is probable, will be directly contradictory in their nature, and thus neutralize any supposed benefit they might separately impart.
When a cold affects the head and eyes, and also impedes breathing through the nose, great relief is gained by a wet napkin spread over the upper part of the face, covering the nose except an opening for breath. This is to be covered by folds of flannel fastened over the napkin with a handkerchief. So also a wet towel over the throat and whole chest, covered with folds of flannel, often relieves oppressed lungs.
Ordinarily, a cold can be arrested on its first symptoms by coverings in bed and a bottle of hot water, securing free perspiration. Often, at its first appearance, it can be stopped by a spoonful or two of whisky, or any alcoholic liquor, in hot water, taken on going to bed. Warm covering to induce perspiration will assist the process. These simple remedies are safest. Perspiration should always be followed by a towel-bath.
It is very unwise to tempt the appetite of a person who is indisposed. The cessation of appetite is the warning of nature that the system is in such a state that food can not be digested. When food is to be given to one who has no desire for it, beef-tea is the best in most cases.
The following suggestions may be found useful in regard to nursing the sick. As nothing contributes more to the restoration of health than pure air, it should be a primary object to keep a sick-room well ventilated. At least twice in the twenty-four hours, the patient should be well covered, and fresh air freely admitted from out of doors. After this, if need be, the room should be restored to a proper temperature, by the aid of an open fire. Bedding and clothing should also be well aired, and frequently changed; as the exhalations from the body, in sickness, are peculiarly deleterious. Frequent ablutions of the whole body, if possible, are very useful; and for these, warm water may be employed, when cold water is disagreeable.
A sick-room should always be kept very neat and in perfect order; and all haste, noise, and bustle should be avoided. In order to secure neatness, order, and quiet, in case of long illness, the following arrangement should be made. Keep a large box for fuel, which will need to be filled only twice in twenty-four hours. Provide also and keep in the room or an adjacent closet, a small, tea-kettle, a saucepan, a pail of water for drinks and ablutions, a pitcher, a covered porringer, two pint bowls, two tumblers, two cups and saucers, two wine-glasses, two large and two small spoons; also a dish in which to wash these articles; a good supply of towels and a broom. Keep a slop-bucket near by to receive the wash of the room. Procuring all these articles at once, will save much noise and confusion.
Whenever medicine or food is given, spread a clean towel over the person or bed-clothing, and get a clean handkerchief, as nothing is more annoying to a weak stomach than the stickiness and soiling produced by medicine and food.
Keep the fire-place neat, and always wash all articles and put them in order as soon as they are out of use. A sick person has nothing to do but look about the room; and when every thing is neat and in order, a feeling of comfort is induced, while disorder, filth, and neglect are constant objects of annoyance which, if not complained of, are yet felt.
One very important particular in the case of those who are delicate in constitution, as well as in the case of the sick, is the preservation of warmth, especially in the hands and the feet. The equal circulation of the blood is an important element for good health, and this is impossible when the extremities are habitually or frequently cold. It is owing to this fact that the coldness caused by wetting the feet is so injurious. In cases where disease or a weak constitution causes a feeble or imperfect circulation, great pains should be taken to dress the feet and hands warmly, especially around the wrists and ankles, where the blood-vessels are nearest to the surface and thus most exposed to cold. Warm elastic wristlets and anklets would save many a feeble person from increasing decay or disease.
When the circulation is feeble from debility or disease, the union of carbon and oxygen in the capillaries is slower than in health, and therefore care should be taken to preserve the heat thus generated by warm clothing and protection from cold draughts. In nervous debility, it is peculiarly important to preserve the animal heat, for its excessive loss especially affects weak nerves. Many an invalid is carelessly and habitually suffering cold feet, who would recover health by proper care to preserve animal heat, especially in the extremities.
The following are useful directions for dressing a blister. Spread thinly, on a linen cloth, an ointment composed of one third of beeswax to two thirds of tallow; lay this upon a linen cloth folded many times. With a sharp pair of scissors make an aperture in the lower part of the blister-bag, with a little hole above to give it vent. Break the raised skin as little as possible. Lay on the cloth spread as directed. The blister at first should be dressed as often as three times in a day, and the dressing renewed each time. Hot fomentations in most cases will be as good as a blister, less painful, and safer.
Always prepare food for the sick in the neatest and most careful manner. It is in sickness that the senses of smell and taste are most susceptible of annoyance; and often, little mistakes or negligences in preparing food will take away all appetite.
Food for the sick should be cooked on coals, that no smoke may have access to it; and great care must be taken to prevent, by stirring, any adherence to the bottom of the cooking vessel, as this always gives a disagreeable taste.
Keeping clean handkerchiefs and towels at hand, cooling the pillows, sponging the hands with water, (with care to dry them thoroughly,) swabbing the mouth with a clean linen rag on the end of a stick, are modes of increasing the comfort of the sick. Always throw a shawl over a sick person when raised up.
Be careful to understand a physician's directions, and to obey them implicitly. If it be supposed that any other person knows better about the case than the physician, dismiss the physician, and employ that person in his stead.
It is always best to consult the physician as to where medicines shall be purchased, and to show the articles to him before using them, as great impositions are practiced in selling old, useless, and adulterated drugs. Always put labels on vials of medicine, and keep them out of the reach of children.
Be careful to label all powders, and particularly all white powders, as many poisonous medicines in this form are easily mistaken for others which are harmless.
In nursing the sick, always speak gently and cheeringly; and, while you express sympathy for their pain and trials, stimulate them to bear sill with fortitude, and with resignation to the Heavenly Father who "doth not willingly afflict," and "who causeth all things to work together for good to them that love him." Offer to read the Bible or other devotional books, whenever it is suitable, and will not be deemed obtrusive.
Miss Ann Preston, one of the most refined as well as talented and learned female physicians, in a published article, gives valuable instruction as to the training, of nurses. She claims that every woman should be trained for this office, and that some who have special traits that fit them for it should make it their daily professional business. She remarks that the indispensable qualities in a good nurse are common sense, conscientiousness, and sympathetic benevolence: and thus continues:
"God himself made and commissioned one set of nurses; and in doing this and adapting them to utter helplessness and weakness, what did he do? He made them to love the dependence and to see something to admire in the very perversities of their charge. He made them to humor the caprices and regard both reasonable and unreasonable complainings. He made them to bend tenderly over the disturbed and irritated, and fold them to quiet assurance in arms made soft with love; in a word, he made mothers! And, other things being equal, whoever has most maternal tenderness and warm sympathy with the sufferer is the best nurse." And it is those most nearly endowed by nature with these traits who should be selected to be trained for the sacred office of nurse to the sick, while, in all the moral training of womanhood, this ideal should be the aim.
Again, Miss Preston wisely suggests that "persons may be conscientious and benevolent and possess good judgment in many respects, and yet be miserable nurses of the sick for want of training and right knowledge.
"Knowledge, the assurance that one knows what to do, always gives presence of mind—and presence of mind is important not only in a sick-room but in every home. Who has not known consternation in a family when some one has fainted, or been burned, or cut, while none were present who knew how to stop the flowing blood, or revive the fainting, or apply the saving application to the burn? And yet knowledge and efficiency in such cases would save many a life, and be a most fitting and desirable accomplishment in every woman."
"We are slow to learn the mighty influence of common agencies, and the greatness of little things, in their bearing upon life and health. The woman who believes it takes no strength to bear a little noise or some disagreeable announcements, and loses patience with the weak, nervous invalid who is agonized with creaking doors or shoes, or loud, shrill voices, or rustling papers, or sharp, fidgety motions, or the whispering so common in sick-rooms and often so acutely distressing to the sufferer, will soon correct such misapprehensions by herself experiencing a nervous fever."
Here the writer would put in a plea for the increasing multitudes of nervous sufferers not confined to a sick-room, and yet exposed to all the varied sources of pain incident to an exhausted nervous system, which often cause more intolerable and also more wearing pain than other kinds of suffering.
"An exceeding acuteness of the senses is the result of many forms of nervous disease. A heavy breath, an unwashed hand, a noise that would not have been noticed in health, a crooked table-cover or bed-spread may disturb or oppress; and more than one invalid has spoken in my hearing of the sickening effect produced by the nurse tasting her food, or blowing in her drinks to make them cool. One woman, and a sensible woman too, told me her nurse had turned a large cushion upon her bureau with the back part in front. She determined not to be disturbed nor to speak of such a trifle, but after struggling three hours in vain to banish the annoyance, she was forced to ask to have the cushion placed right."
In this place should be mentioned the suffering caused to persons of reduced nervous power not only by the smoke of tobacco, but by the fetid effluvium of it from the breath and clothing of persons who smoke. Many such are sickened in society and in car-traveling, and to a degree little imagined by those who gain a dangerous pleasure at the frequent expense of the feeble and suffering.
Miss Preston again remarks, "It is often exceedingly important to the very weak, who can take but very little nutriment, to have that little whenever they want it. I have known invalids sustain great injury and suffering; when exhausted for want of food, they have had to wait and wait, feeling as if every minute was an hour, while some well-fed nurse delayed its coming. Said a lady, 'It makes me hungry now to think of the meals she brought me upon that little waiter when I was sick, such brown thin toast, such good broiled beef, such fragrant tea, and every thing looking so exquisitely nice! If at any time I did not think of any thing I wanted, nor ask for food, she did not annoy me with questions, but brought some little delicacy at the proper time, and when it came, I could take it.'
"If there is one purpose of a personal kind for which it is especially desirable to lay up means, it is for being well nursed in sickness; yet in the present state of society, this is absolutely impossible, even to the wealthy, because of the scarcity of competent nurses. Families worn down with the long and extreme illness of a member require relief from one whose feelings will be less taxed, and who can better endure the labor.
"But alas! how often is it impossible, for love or money, to obtain one capable of taking the burden from the exhausted sister or mother or daughter, and how often in consequence they have died prematurely or struggled through weary years with a broken constitution. Appeal to those who have made the trial, and you will find that very seldom have they been able to have those who by nature or by training were competent for their duties. Ignorant, unscrupulous, inattentive—how often they disturb and injure the patient! A physician told me that one of his patients had died because the nurse, contrary to orders, had at a critical period washed her with cold water. I have known one who, by stealth, quieted a fretful child with laudanum, and of others who exhausted the sick by incessant talking. One lady said that when, to escape this distressing garrulity, she closed her eyes, the nurse exclaimed aloud, 'Why, she is going to sleep while I am talking to her.'
"A few only of the sensible, quiet, and loving women, whose presence everywhere is a blessing, have qualified themselves and followed nursing as a business. Heaven bless that few! What a sense of relief have I seen pervade a family when such a one has been procured; and what a treasure seemed found!
"There is very commonly an extreme susceptibility in the sick to the moral atmosphere about them. They feel the healthful influence of the presence of a true-hearted attendant and repose in it, though they may not be able to define the cause; while dissimulation, falsehood, recklessness, coarseness, jar terribly and injuriously on their heightened sensibilities. 'Are the Sisters of Charity really better nurses than most other women?' I asked an intelligent lady who had seen much of our military hospitals. 'Yes, they are,' was her reply. 'Why should it be so?' 'I think it is because with them it is a work of self-abnegation, and of duty to God, and they are so quiet and self-forgetful in its exercise that they do it better, while many other women show such self-consciousness and are so fussy!"
Is there any reason why every Protestant woman should not be trained for this self-denying office as a duty owed to God? We can not better close this chapter than by one more quotation from the same intelligent and attractive writer: "The good nurse is an artist. O the pillowy, soothing softness of her touch, the neatness of her simple, unrustling dress, the music of her assured yet gentle voice and tread, the sense of security and rest inspired by her kind and hopeful face, the promptness and attention to every want, the repose that like an atmosphere encircles her, the evidence of heavenly goodness, and love that she diffuses!" Is not such an art as this worth much to attain?
In training children to the Christian life, one very important opportunity occurs whenever sickness appears, in the family or neighborhood. The repression of disturbing noises, the speaking in tones of gentleness and sympathy, the small offices of service or nursing in which children can aid, should be inculcated as ministering to the Lord and Elder Brother of man, who has said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me."
One of the blessed opportunities for such ministries is given to children in the cultivation of flowers. The entrance into a sick-room of a smiling, healthful child, bringing an offering of flowers raised by its own labor, is like an angel of comfort and love, "and alike it blesseth him who gives and him who takes."
A time is coming when the visitation of the sick, as a part of the Christian life, will hold a higher consideration than is now generally accorded, especially in the cases of uninteresting sufferers who have nothing to attract kind attentions, except that they are suffering children of our Father in heaven, and "one of the least" of the brethren of Jesus Christ.
ACCIDENTS AND ANTIDOTES.
Children should be taught the following modes of saving life, health and limbs in cases of sudden emergency, before a medical adviser can be summoned.
In case of a common cut, bind the lips of the wound together with a rag, and put on nothing else. If it is large, lay narrow strips of sticking-plaster obliquely across the wound. In some cases it is needful to draw a needle and thread through the lips of the wound, and tie the two sides together.
If an artery be cut, it must be tied as quickly as possible, or the person will soon bleed to death. The blood from an artery is a brighter red than that from the veins, and spirts out in jets at each beat of the heart. Take hold of the end of the artery and tie it or hold it tight till a surgeon comes. In this case, and in all cases of bad wounds that bleed much, tie a tight bandage near and above the wound, inserting a stick into the bandage and twisting as tight as can be borne, to stop the immediate effusion of blood.
Bathe bad bruises in hot water. Arnica water hastens a cure, but is injurious and weakening to the parts when used too long and too freely.
A sprain is relieved from the first pains by hot fomentations, or the application of very hot bandages, but entire rest is the chief permanent remedy. The more the limb is used, especially at first, the longer the time required for the small broken fibres to knit together. The sprained leg should be kept in a horizontal position. When a leg is broken, tie it to the other leg, to keep it still till a surgeon comes. Tie a broken arm to a piece of thin wood, to keep it still till set.
In the case of bad burns that take off the skin, creosote water is the best remedy. If this is not at hand, wood-soot (not coal) pounded, sifted, and mixed with lard is nearly as good, as such soot contains creosote. When a dressing is put on, do not remove it till a skin is formed under it. If nothing else is at hand for a bad burn, sprinkle flour over the place where the skin is off and then let it remain, protected by a bandage. The chief aim is to keep the part without skin from the air.
In case of drowning, the aim should be to clear the throat, mouth and nostrils, and then produce the natural action of the lungs in breathing as soon as possible, at the same time removing wet clothes and applying warmth and friction to the skin, especially the hands and feet, to start the circulation. The best mode of cleansing the throat and month of choking water is to lay the person on the face, and raise the head a little, clearing the mouth and nostrils with the finger, and then apply hartshorn or camphor to the nose. This is safer and surer than a common mode of lifting the body by the feet, or rolling on a barrel to empty out the water.
To start the action of the lungs, first lay the person on the face and press the back along the spine to expel all air from the lungs. Then turn the body nearly, but not quite over on to the back, thus opening the chest so that the air will rush in if the mouth is kept open. Then turn the body to the face again and expel the air, and then again nearly over on to the back; and so continue for a long time. Friction, dry and warm clothing, and warm applications should be used in connection with this process. This is a much better mode than using bellows, which sometimes will close the opening to the windpipe. The above is the mode recommended by Dr. Marshall Hall, and is approved by the best medical authorities.
Certain articles are often kept in the house for cooking or medical purposes, and sometimes by mistake are taken in quantities that are poisonous.
Soda, saleratus, potash, or any other alkali can be rendered harmless in the stomach by vinegar, tomato-juice, or any other acid. If sulphuric or oxalic acid are taken, pounded chalk in water is the best antidote. If those are not at hand, strong soapsuds have been found effective. Large quantities of tepid water should be drank after these antidotes are taken, so as to produce vomiting.
Lime or baryta and its compounds demand a solution of glauber salts or of sulphuric acid.
Iodine or Iodide of Potassium demands large draughts of wheat flour or starch in water, and then vinegar and water. The stomach should then be emptied by vomiting with as much tepid water as the stomach can hold.