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by looking at the corks; but the food! How many of their fancifully
named dishes might be included under the common title, Fiasco!

It was once suggested to a decayed man of fashion that an excellent
profession for him to take up would be the proprietorship of an hotel
of this class. 'You know what is really worth eating,' said an
influential friend of his, 'and these caterers for your own class
evidently don't; if you will undertake the management of the _Mammoth_
(naming an inn of very high repute), I will furnish the funds.' But the
man of fashion, who had spent his all with very little to show for it,
had at least acquired some knowledge of his fellow-creatures. 'I am
deeply obliged to you,' he said, 'but were I to accept your offer I
should only lose your money. There are but a very few people in the
world who know a good dinner when it is set before them; and a very
large class (including all the ladies, who are only solicitous about
its _looking_ good) do not care whether it is good or bad. In private
life if a dinner consists of many courses, is given at a fine house,
and is presumably expensive, nineteen-twentieths of those who sit down
to it are satisfied. The twentieth alone says to himself, 'How much
better I should have dined at home!' I have been at scores and scores
of great dinner-parties where the very plates were cold and nobody but
myself has observed it.'

I have no doubt the gentleman of fashion was right; delicate cooking
would be entirely thrown away upon the general palate. The fair sex,
the young, the hungry, the easy-going, the ignorant - how large a
majority of the 'frequenters' of hotels do these classes embrace! And
it must also be remarked that to cook food (except whitebait)
delicately in large quantities is a very difficult operation indeed.

Upon the whole, I think, our large hotels, 'arranged on the Continental
system,' are well adapted for those who frequent them, and they show a
readiness to adopt improvements. An immense number of well-to-do people
go to Brighton, to Scarborough, and scores of other places to get a
change and fresh air, but also to find the same amusements to which
they have been accustomed in London; and, on the whole, they get what
they want without paying very much too much for it. But what drives
many quiet folks abroad is their disinclination to meet with all this
gaiety and public life; they do not mind it so much when it is mixed
with the foreign element, and they are also under the impression that
picturesque scenery is a peculiarity of the Continent. I believe that
more English people have visited Switzerland than have seen the Lake
District and the Channel Islands, and very many more than have
travelled in North Devon and Cornwall. The chief reason of their
abstinence in this respect is, however, their dread of the want of
'accommodation.' To the last two counties, with the exception of some
towns, such as Ilfracombe, approachable by sea, or a direct railway
route, folks never go in crowds, and never will go. It is true there
are no mammoth hotels to be found there; but for picturesque situation
and a certain homely comfort, that takes one not only into another
world, but another generation, there is nothing equal to certain little
inns in these out-of-the-way places. In Wales also, and even in the
Isle of Wight, there are perfect bowers of bliss of this description,
still undesecrated by the excursionist. Not ten years ago, in a part of
North Devon which shall be nameless, I came, with my wife and daughter,
upon an inn of this description. We were all enraptured with the
exquisite beauty of its situation, and were so imprudent as to express,
in the presence of the landlady, our wish to live and die there. 'Well,
indeed, sir,' she said, 'I am delighted to see you, but I hope you are
not going to stay very long.' 'My dear madam,' I remonstrated, aghast
at this remark, 'are we, then, such very objectionable-looking
persons?' 'Bless your heart, no, sir, it isn't that; but the fact is,
we have only room for three, and if parties come and come, and always
find us full (through your being here, you know), they will think it is
no use coming, and we shall lose our custom.' We did stay on, however,
a pretty long time - it was a place of ineffable beauty, such as one
parts from almost with tears - and when on our departure I asked for my
bill, the landlady said, 'Dear me, sir, would you kindly tell me what
day you come upon, for I ha' lost my account of it?' The life we led at
that inn was purely pastoral; the clotted cream was of that consistency
that it was meat and drink in one; but although the fare was homely, it
was good of its kind, and admirably cooked. There was fresh fish every
day - for we were too far from railways for that Gargantuan ogre, 'the
London market,' to deprive us of it - and tender fowls, and jams of all
kinds such as no money could buy.

The landlady had a genius for making what she called 'conserves,' and
every cupboard in the queer little house was filled with them. In the
sitting-room was a quantity of old china and knick-knacks, brought by
the sailors of the place from foreign lands; the linen was white as
snow, and smelt of lavender. Outside the inn was a sea that stretched
to Newfoundland, and cliffs that caught the sunset - such scenery as is
not surpassed by that of the Tyrol (though, of course, in a very
different line), and be sure I was afraid of no comparison between our
'Travellers' Rest' and any Tyrolean inn. It is noteworthy that this
hostelry of ours was so peculiarly and picturesquely placed that it
could only be approached on foot, which reminds me of another place of
entertainment for man, but not for beast.

In appearance, 'The Strangers' Welcome' (as I will take leave to term
it) is more ambitious than 'The Rest,' but it is of the same simple
type. In some respects it is even more primitive; no sign hangs over
its door, nor is any other symbol of its vocation visible, 'Liberty,'
not 'License,' as one may say without much metaphor, being its motto.
It is on an island, so insignificant in extent that horse exercise is
impossible on it. What it lacks in superficial area is more than made
up, however, in its stupendous height. From the 'Welcome,' though it
lies in a dell, one looks down perhaps a hundred sheer feet upon the
ocean. Its solemn murmur, even in calm, always reaches the place, and
when in storm, its spray. As one watches it from the lawn among the
fuchsias, one scarcely knows which mood becomes it best. The fuchsias
grow against our walls and tap at our window-panes in the morning as
though they were roses; they even make their homes in the rocks, like
the conies. The island is a very garden of fuchsias, tall as trees; and
there are no other trees. The 'Welcome' itself is a sort of farmhouse
without the farm; there is a goat or two and a donkey to be seen about
it, which would account for the milk having an alien flavour, if it had
one. But the 'Welcome' has excellent milk, so that there must be some
cows somewhere. From the cliff-top you may see Alderney, for our inn is
among the Channel Islands. When a storm comes you must stop where you
are; for until the last waves of it have ceased there is no approach to
us from the world without. To the stranger it seems probable at such
seasons that the little place will burst up from below, for beneath it
are caverns innumerable, filled with furious waves like sea monsters
roaring for our lives. The sea, in short, has honeycombed it, and
renews her vows to be its ruin with every gale. Yet the 'Welcome' lasts
our time, and will last that of many generations, who will continue,
however, doubtless to believe that the sublimities of Nature are
unattainable short of Switzerland.

My memory now transports me to a mountain district in the north, but on
this side of the border; and here, again, the inn is signless, and has
no appearance of an inn at all. It is situated on the last of a great
chain of hills, with lakes among them. It has lawns and shrubberies,
but few flowers; Nature frowns on every hand, even in sunshine, when
the waterfalls flow like silver, and the crags are decked with diamonds.
There are no 'trencher-scraping, napkin-carrying,' waiters in the house,
but country damsels attend upon you, and a motherly dame, their mistress,
expresses her hope every morning that you have slept well. If you have
not, it is the fault of your conscience: you have had a poet's recipe
for it, for you have been 'within the hearing of a hundred streams'
all night. Will you go up the Fells, or will you row on the Lake?
These are your simple alternatives; there is no brass band, no
promenade, no pier, no anything that the vulgar like. Yet once a week
at least a great spectacle can be promised you without crossing the
inn threshold (indeed, when the promise is kept it is better to be on
the right side of it) - a thunder-storm among the hills. The arrangements
for lighting the place, of which you may have complained, not without
reason, are then in perfection, and the silence is broken with a
vengeance. It is difficult to imagine the grandeurs of a sham-fight - a
battle without corpses - but here you have them. First the musketry, then
the guns, with the explosion of the powder-magazine - repeated about
forty times by the mountain echoes - at the end of it. When all is over
you sit down to such a supper as Lucullus would have given a year of
life for, and which, in all probability - for he had no prudence - would
have shortened it for him. At the 'Retreat,' as it is called, among
other native delicacies, they give you fresh char cooked to a turn. I
like to think that this was the fish that Monte Christo had sent him in
a tank to Paris on the occasion of a certain banquet; but all the wealth
of the Indies could not have accomplished that; the char (in spite of
its name) does not travel.

One more reminiscence of country inns; and, though I have more of them
in the picture-gallery of my memory, I have done. I conjure up an
ivy-covered dwelling, long roofed but low, and sheltered by a lofty
hill. Its situation is quite solitary, and, save for the cry of the
seagull, there reigns about it an unbroken silence. It is on the very
highway of the world, but the road is noiseless, for it is the sea.
From the windows, all day long, we can watch the ships pass by that
carry the pilgrims of the earth, for their freight is chiefly human. It
is here 'the first ray glitters on the sail that brings our friends up
from the under world, and the last falls on that which sinks with all
we love below the verge.' Even at night there is no cessation to this
coming and going; only, a red light or a white, and the distant strokes
of a paddle-wheel in the hush of the moonless void are then the sole
signs of all this motion. What hopes and fears contend in unseen hearts
under those moving stars! Is it nothing to have the opportunity to
watch them from the ivied porch of the 'Outlook,' and to welcome the
thoughts they arouse within us? On land, too, there are stars, not made
in heaven, but their shining is intermittent. As I lie in my bed I can
see the great revolving light on the farthest point of rock that juts
to sea. That is the 'Outlook's' watchman, not of much use to it,
indeed, in a practical way, but imparting a marvellous sense of
guardianship and security.

The chief means of amusement at inns of this kind is supplied by
science in the telescope. You note through it all that comes and goes,
and after a day or two can tell-for yourself whither each stately ship
is bound, or whence it comes. At the 'Outlook' the food is plain, but
good; the prawns in particular (which the young people, by-the-bye, can
catch for themselves) are of an exquisite flavour, and in size approach
the lobster. Twice a week for four hours this earthly Paradise is as a
town taken by assault and given over to pillage. An excursion steamer
stops at the little pier and discharges a cargo of excursionists. But
those to whom the happiness of their fellow-creatures is intolerable
can withdraw themselves at these seasons to the neighbouring Downs and
Bays, and on their return they will find peace with folded wing sitting
as before on the 'Outlook's' flagstaff.

Such are the inns which I have known, and there are hundreds in beautiful
England like them. On its rivers in particular there are many charming
little inns, but, to say truth, although the gentlemen-fishermen are as
quiet as mice (from their habits of caution in their calling), the
disciples of the oar are noisy; they get up too early and go to bed too
late, and are too much addicted to melody. Moreover, these houses of
entertainment often carry the principle of home production to excess:
their native fare is excellent; but, spring mattresses not growing in
the neighbourhood, the stuffing of the beds is supplied, to judge by
results, from the turnip-field. For the purpose for which they are
intended, however, these little hostels are well fitted and have a river
charm that is indescribable.

I could speak, too, of excellent hotels set in the grounds of ruined
castles or abbeys; but the attractions of the latter interfere with the
repose of the visitor. Moreover, it has been my chief object, while
admitting the merits of the _Crown_ (and) _Imperial_, to paint the
lily - to point out the violet half hid from the eye. It seems to me a
pity that so many persons should leave their native land and spend
their money among foreigners through ignorance of the quiet
resting-places that await them at home. I have in no way exaggerated
their merits, but it must be confessed that they have one serious
drawback, which, however, only affects bachelors; if Paterfamilias is
troubled by it he ought to be ashamed of himself. I allude to the happy
couples on their honeymoon whom one is wont to meet with in these
retired bowers. It is aggravating, no doubt, to see how Angelina and
Edwin devote themselves to one another without the slightest regard for
the feelings of the solitary stranger. The poor creature has no wish,
of course, to thrust his company upon them, still he would like to have
his existence acknowledged; and they ignore it. They have not a word to
throw to him, nor even a glance. Then there are certain endearments,
delightful, no doubt, to those who exchange them, but which to the
spectator are distraction. What I would recommend to the bachelor as a
remedy is a wife of his own. The good Mussulman's idea of future
happiness is a perpetual honeymoon; and these little Paradises are the
very places to spend it in. The customs of our own country forbid the
agreeable variety which has such charms for the Faithful; but, even as
it is, I have seen in these pleasant inns a great deal of human
happiness, such as to the sober lover of his species only adds to their
attraction.




_MAID-SERVANTS._


It is a common thing to hear the remark expressed by much-tried
mistresses that servants are not 'reasonable beings.' The observation
may either have been provoked by the misbehaviour of some particular
domestic, or by the injudicious defence of the class by one of the male
sex. For the gentlemen have more to urge in favour of our domestics
than the ladies have, and, as the latter maintain, for a very obvious
reason - 'they have much less to do with them.' The statement is
cynical, but correct. So long as a man finds his clothes brushed and
his meals well and punctually cooked, he 'does not see much to complain
of,' nor does he give much thought to the pains and trouble which even
that moderate amount of service entails upon his wife. Unless in great
households, where everything is delegated to a paid housekeeper, it is,
indeed, certain that ladies who are resolved to keep a house as it
should be have, now, from various causes, a very hard time of it. The
old feeling of feudal service, though a few examples - both mistresses
and servants - may still exist of it, is dead; and in its place we have
the employer and the hireling. There are faults, of course, on both
sides; mistresses are accustomed to look upon their servants too much
as machines, and in the working thereof do not, perhaps, estimate
sufficiently the advantages of the use of sweet oil; while servants are
more prone to 'eye-service' than were ever the housemaids of Ephesus.
Which of the two began it I cannot tell, but a certain antagonism has
grown up between these two classes which shakes the pillars of domestic
peace. At the root of it all, as at the root of most evils, lies
ignorance, and in the servants' case ignorance of a stupendous nature.

I have had in my household an under-nurse, who, upon the family's
leaving town for a short holiday, was enjoined to see that the birds in
the nursery (canaries) were well supplied with sand. When we came back
we found them all starved to death. She had given them sand, but, alas!
no seed. This was a girl from the country, who, one would think, would
have known what birds fed upon; otherwise one does not expect much
intelligence from Arcadia. When our last importation (an
under-housemaid) 'turned on the gas' in the upper apartments as she was
directed to do, but omitted to light it, I thought it very excusable;
she had not been accustomed to gas. On the other hand, when her
mistress told her to 'look to the fire' of a certain room, I contend we
had a right to expect that that fire should be kept in. It was not so,
however, and when the lady inquired, 'Why did you not look to it, as I
told you?' the girl replied, 'Well, I did, mum; the door was open and I
looked at the fire every time I passed.' She appeared to attach some
sort of igneous power to the human eye.

Each of these young ladies came to us very highly recommended by the
wife of the clergyman of her native place. Surely, in the curriculum of
the village school, something else beside the catechism ought to have
been included; yet, of the things they were certain to be set to
do - the merest first principles of domestic service - they had been
taught nothing; and in learning them at our expense they cost us ten
times their wages.

It may be said, indeed, that when you employ a young girl who has never
been out to service before, you secure honesty, chastity, and sobriety,
and must not look for the artificial virtues; but, unhappily, things
are not very much better when you engage an experienced hand. The lady
of the house should not, of course, expect too much (in these days she
must be of a very sanguine temperament if she falls into _that_ error);
she will think it necessary to warn the new arrival - although she
'knows her place' and is 'a thorough housemaid' - that a velvet pile
carpet, for example, should not be brushed backwards. But on more
obvious matters she will probably leave the 'thorough housemaid' to her
own devices, the result of which is that the boards beside the
stair-carpets are washed with soda the first morning, which takes the
dirt off effectually - and the paint also. An hour or two before she was
caught at this, she has, perhaps, utterly spoilt a polished grate or
two by rubbing them with scouring paper instead of emery powder.

Paterfamilias feels these things when he has to pay the bill, but his
wife feels them in the meantime, and it is more than is to be expected
of human nature that she can welcome cordially such an addition to her
household. A prejudice against the girl springs up in her mind, which
is very promptly responded to, and the mutual respect that ought to
grow up between them is nipped in the bud. I am sorry to say that good
housewives are almost always opposed to having servants well educated;
they think that 'knowledge puffs up,' blows them above their places,
and encourages a taste for light literature which is opposed to the
arts of brushing and cleaning. What the 'higher education' of domestic
servants is to be under the School Boards I know not; but I hope they
will not imagine, as the Universities do, that their duty is only to
teach their pupils how to educate themselves. I confess I agree with
the housewives, that, for young persons intended for service, reading,
writing, and arithmetic, with the use of the scrubbing and hearth
brushes, are far preferable acquirements to those of the same three
great principles with the use of the globes. Whether there are any
handbooks in existence, other than cookery books, to teach the duties
of servants I know not; but, even if there are, servants will never
read them of their own free will. Not one in a hundred has a
sufficiently strong desire to improve herself for that. They must be
taught like children, and when they _are_ children, if any good is to
come of it.

It is to me astounding, and certainly makes me very suspicious of the
advocates of women's rights, that they have done little or nothing in
this direction. Why should not some of that immense energy which is now
expended on platforms be directed into this less ambitious but more
natural channel? There are tens of thousands of persons of their own
sex, not indeed out of employment, but who are obtaining employment on
false pretences, who would do so honestly enough if they had had but a
little early training. Unfortunately, the ladies of the platform do not
in general stoop to such small things as domestic matters; they do not
care about mere comfort, they even perhaps resent it because it is so
dear to tyrannous man. If they would only turn their attention to the
education of their humbler sisters, they would win over all their
enemies and put to shame the cynic who has associated Man's Lefts with
Women's Rights.

The only School for Servants I am acquainted with sent us the worst we
ever had, and if it had not been for the very handsome fee it charged
both us and her for our mutual introduction, I should not have
recognised it as an educational establishment at all.

It will naturally be said by men (not by their wives, for they know
better), 'But surely self-interest will cause a servant to qualify
herself for a place, since, having done so, she will command better
wages.' This is the mistake of the political economists, who, right
enough in the importance they attach to self-interest, gravely err in
supposing it to be always of a material kind. They start with the idea
that everybody wants to make as much money as possible. So they do; but
with a large majority this desire is subordinate to the wish for
leisure and enjoyment. Trades unionism, with all its faults, is founded
on this important fact in human nature - that many of us prefer narrow
means, with comparative leisure, to affluence with toil. That this
notion, if universal, would destroy good work of all kinds and make
perfection impossible, is beside the question, or certainly never
enters into the minds of those chiefly concerned in the matter. 'A good
day's work for a good day's wage' is a fine sentiment; but 'half a
day's work for half a day's wage' suits some people even better; while
'half a day's work for a good day's wage' suits them better still. In
old times the sense of 'service being no inheritance' begat habits of
good conduct as well as thrift, for in most well-conducted households,
servants' wages were made proportionate to their length of service. But
nowadays a lady's promise of raising a servant's wages every year is
quite superfluous, since it is ten to one against her keeping her for
the first twelve months. It is no wonder, then, that while the
conviction of service being of a temporary character is, at least, as
strong as ever, the course of conduct it now suggests is to make as
much as possible out of it while it lasts, in the way of perquisites,
etc. With our cooks, especially, it is not too much to say that wages
are often a secondary object as compared with the opportunity of making
a purse for themselves; and the recognised privilege of selling the
dripping affords cover for a multitude of petty delinquencies which if
not positive thefts have a strong family resemblance to them.

Before leaving the subject of short terms of service, it should be
noted that the modern servant openly avows her love of change. An
excellent mistress, and a very kind one, has told me that housemaids
and kitchenmaids have given her warning again and again for no other
cause than this. They have avowed themselves quite happy and contented
in their place, but they want 'fresh woods and pastures new.' When Jack
Mytton was reminded by his lawyer that a certain estate he was about to
sell had been in his family for 500 years, he replied, 'Then it's high
time it should go out of it;' and the same reflection occurs to our


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Online LibraryJames PaynSome Private Views → online text (page 10 of 15)