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 foreign-' er - 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 these 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 cases 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 terms gentleman and gentlewoman indicate the refinement and delicacy of address which distinguishes the highbred 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 sugges-tions will generally be properly received, and new views of propriety and economy can be imparted. The knowledge which is so important to every woman, contained in the chapter on Clothing, is as much needed in the kitchen as in the parlor. 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 a waken fresh efforts and renewed hope. In almost every case, words of kindness, confidence, and encouragement should be mingled with the needful admonitions or reproof.