The servant question seems to be one of the most discussed, many people holding that domestics are in every way deteriorating, and that it is almost impossible to secure a thoroughly good one. Surely this is a very sweeping assertion, though no doubt many lazy, careless girls do offer themselves; but, on the other hand, there are many who do their work conscientiously. Doubtless there is some truth in the saying that "a good mistress makes a good maid," and certainly many respond to kindly judicious training.
There are various ways of securing maids. Some people inquire amongst their friends or amongst the tradesmen with whom they deal; this, although wise, is not always practicable, as it requires so much time. Other persons affect Registry Offices. This is satisfactory when the head of the office is conscientious, and has a good reputation to keep up; but in many towns these offices are most disappointing, as, after paying a fee, names and addresses are given to the mistress, who finds the women already engaged. Perhaps the best plan is to advertise briefly in a good newspaper, stating the requirements and the wages. The applicants should be granted a personal interview, in which the duties, wages, times of going out, and general arrangements of the house should be clearly stated. This also gives the maid an opportunity of seeing the house, the kitchen, and her own room, and affords her a better idea of the amount of work she will be called upon to do. During this interview it is well to ascertain, (1) the reason for leaving the last situation; (2) the wages previously received and what is now asked; (3) whether the maid really possesses knowledge of the work she undertakes to do; (4) details of her home and people.
Should this interview prove satisfactory, the former mistress, if possible, should be seen, as a conversation always proves more of a safeguard than a written communication. The main questions to be put are, (1) the reason for her leaving last situation; (2) as to her moral character, cleanliness, neatness, capacity for work, temper, health, and early rising.
These should be paid monthly, dating from the day she enters the situation, payment being made on the corresponding date each month. It is well to have a wage-book, entering each payment and seeing that it be duly signed. A mistress cannot claim compensation for breakages unless such an arrangement is made beforehand. A doctor is not one of the liabilities when a servant is ill, nor is personal nursing, although most people would, out of humanity, do all in their power to hasten recovery. Should the mistress send for a doctor she is responsible for the fee. The Insurance Act now deals effectually with this question. An inducement to do well, and to remain in the situation, is to promise an increase of wage at the end of each year, with a larger increase at the end of five years.