Pieces People Ask For/Hiring Help
Scene.—Mrs. Mervin's Sitting-room.
Emma. Well, mother, as our advertisement appeared in the paper last evening, I suppose we may expect any amount of answers in the shape of Irish girls.
Mrs. Mervin. Quite likely; and I must confess I dread the ordeal. It is better, however, to advertise, and have the girls call at the house, than to seek them at the intelligence office.
Emma. Oh, yes, indeed ! I made a vow the last time you sent me there for a girl, that if I could possibly help it I would never enter such a place again.
Mrs. Mervin. Well, I hope our present plan will be successful, and we shall be fortunate enough to secure a good girl. If we had less company, and our family were not so large, we would try to do the work together, and get along without help.
Emma. I wish we might, mother. I have often felt, after the disorderly reign of some tyrannical Bridget, that I would like to banish them all from whence they came, and wield the kitchen sceptre alone. (Bell rings.) There comes number one, I'll warrant.
Enter Bridget Rooney.
Bridget. The top of the mornin' to ye, ma'am; and sure is yer name Mervin?
Mrs. Mervin. It is; and I suppose you have come to answer my advertisement for a girl.
Bridget. Indade I have, ma'am. Is it a cook ye would be afther wantin' ?
Mrs. Mervin. I wish a girl to do general housework, and of course that includes a knowledge of plain cooking. Would you like such a place?
Bridget. And sure I can't tell, ma'am, till I ax ye a few questions, and finds out the characther of the place intirely. What wages do ye give?
Mrs. Mervin. Three dollars.
Bridget. And how many have ye in the family, ma'am?
Mrs. Mervin. Seven persons.
Bridget. Well, indade, and if ever I heard the like ! Sivin persons, and only three dollars wages! Shure me cousin, Kate Murphy, gits four dollars, and there's only three in the house. I'll come for no three dollars, unless yer house has all the modern convainyences. Do ye have gas in the kitchen and girl's room?
Mrs. Mervin. We have gas in the kitchen, but we do not think it necessary in the girl's sleeping-room.
Bridget. And, faith, it's as much wanted there as anywhere. A poor girl doesn't want to be groping about with a nasty kerosene-lamp. How much time in a week do you give a girl to herself, ma'am?
Mrs. Mervin. One afternoon and evening a week. I believe that is a general rule. Bridget. It's not a rule I goes by, ma'am. I wants two afternoons a week, and every evenin' besides, and I'm used to have my friends come whenever I like.
Mrs. Mervin. I see you wouldn't suit me at all, so you had better not remain here any longer. I don't intend to pay a girl wages, and give her half her time besides.Bridget. And shure yer no lady, ma'am; and I wouldn't set fut in yer house if ye'd give me five dollars a week, bad luck to ye. [Exit Bridget.
Mrs. Mervin. Not a very promising specimen to begin with, surely.
Emma. I should think not, indeed. The idea of her asking four dollars a week, and wanting, as you said, nearly half her time! (Bell rings.) There's another. I shall find full employment in tending the door-bell, at this rate.
Enter Norah McCarty.
Norah. Are you the lady, ma'am, the paper said wanted a girl?
Mrs. Mervin. Yes, I advertised for one yesterday. Can you do general housework ?
Norah. Faith I can, ma'am; it's a gineral's housework I've been doing, and I might have staid in the place foriver, only that herself was that fussy that niver a soul could plaze her.
Mrs. Mervin. Can you make good bread?
Norah. Good bread is it ye say? And indade I can make that same. I makes it with imtens, ma'am; and if it sours a bit, I puts a handful of salerathus into it, and it comes out of the oven as swate as a nut, and a fine color on it besides.
Emma. Dear me! I should think it might have a fine color with a handful of saleratus in it!
Mrs. Mervin. At what other place have you lived besides the one you mentioned ?
Norah. Nowheres at all, ma'am; that's the first place I wint when I came from the ould counthry.
Mrs. Mervin. How long did you live there, and what part of the work did you do ?
Norah. Well, ma'am, I lived there three weeks, 'liven days, and a fortnight—barrin' the two days that I staid out to take care of me cousin Mike; and I did the fine work, mostly, ma'am,—scrubbing, sifting ashes, and "the likes of that. Do ye think ye would like to hire me, ma'am?
Mrs. Mervin. I guess not. I am afraid you haven't had experience enough to do my work properly.
Norah. Well, ma'am, if that's any thing I could buy at the store, I would be willing to spend a thrifle to get some, for the sake of livin' wid ye.Mrs. Mervin. Experience in housework cannot be bought at the stores ; so you had better look somewhere else for a place. [Exit Norah.
Emma. Well, mother, did you ever hear of such stupidity before?
Mrs. Mervin. She's the greenest specimen I've seen yet. I wonder who will come next? (Bell rings.)
Emma. We shall soon see.
Enter Ellen Flynn.
Ellen. A fine day, ma'am. Is it yerself that wants a girl?
Mrs. Mervin. Yes, if I can find a good one; but I am sorry to say they seem to be growing very scarce. Ellen. You are mistaken there, ma'am; it's good places that's gittin' scarce. How big a family do ye have?
Mrs. Mervin. There are seven of us, and we of course have company occasionally.
Ellen. That's too many intirely; but I s'pose with all thim ye keep two girls and a man besides.
Mrs. Mervin. No, we keep but one servant.
Ellen. Servint is it! Well, ma'am, that's what I niver allows meself to be called. What sort of convainyences is there in the house ? Is there a rocking-chair in the kitchen, where I can rest meself while the pot's a-bilin'?
Mrs. Mervin. No, I don't consider that a necessary article of kitchen furniture.
Ellen. We differs there, ma'am; I can't do without a rocking-chair. I see you have a pianny. I s'pose ye wouldn't mind if I learned to play on it afther me work is done—would ye?
Mrs. Mervin. I should object very strongly to giving a girl such a privilege.
Ellen. Well, ma'am, it's gittin' quite the fashion for the ladies that live out to play. Me cousin Kate Donnelly plays "St. Pathrick's Day in the Mornin'," and "Rory O'More," illigant; and I've made up me mind I'll live in no place agin where I can't have the chance to play the pianny.
Mrs. Mcrvin. Then the quicker you look for such a place, the better. It isn't worth while for me to spend any more time talking with you.Ellen. Indade, it's a very uncivil tongue ye have, ma'am; and it's meself that ought to grumble for spendin' me precious time talkin' to the likes of you. [Exit Ellen.
Emma. It grows worse and worse, mother! What are we coming to?
Mrs. Mervin. Dear me! I don't know! I am fairly discouraged! (Bell rings.)
Joanna. Are ye afther wantin' a girl, ma'am?
Mrs. Mervin. Yes; I want a good one.
Joanna. Faith, thin, it's glad I am that my brother Pathrick read me the scrap in the paper last night, for I'm wantin' a place.
Mrs. Mervin. What can you do?
Joanna. Well, thin, I can do any thing at all that ye likes, I washes beautiful; and me clothes has such a fine blue color on thim, when I takes thim in, it would do yer sowl good to see thim.
Mrs. Mervin. Oh, dear! I don't like so much bluing in my clothes.
Joanna. Faith, thin, I'll jist lave out the blue a few times, and they'll be as fine a yaller as ye wish; any thing to suit ye, ma'am.
Emma. Can you do common cooking?
Joanna. I niver does any thing common, miss; all I cooks is in the fust style. I can make Meringo pies that would melt in your mouth, Charlotte Russians, and Blue Munge, too.
Emma. Indeed! you seem quite like an adept in cooking.
Joanna. I don't know what an adipt is ; but if you mean I'm a good cook, I am that. Ye ought to see the fine roast pig I cooked the other day; sich a handsome baste was niver set before on a gintleman's table, I'll warrant.
Mrs. Mervin. You seem to despise common cooking. I have very little else done in my family. We live quite plainly, and I hardly think you would suit me.
Joanna. Well, now, ma'am, we won't let the cooking come betwixt us. I can cook plain, if I like; so, if ye plaze, I'd like to come and try.
Mrs. Mervin. Can you bring me a certificate of good character from the lady who last employed you?
Joanna. A stifkit ! What's that, shure?
Mrs. Mervin. A paper, stating what character you bear.
Joanna. Indade, ma'am, I niver carries my charactercher round in a dirty piece of paper, that's liable to be torn up any day. I thinks more of meself than that.
Mrs. Mervin. Very well; I cannot take you, unless you can bring me such a paper.Joanna. Faith, ye won't have the chance ; and I'm thinkin' it'll be a long time before ye gets suited. Ye'll find no dacent girl will carry her charactercher loose in her hand. [Exit Joanna.
Emma. Another verdant specimen. These interviews grow interesting. I'm beginning to enjoy them. I wonder who will come next? (Bell rings.)
Mrs. Mervin. We shall soon see who has given the bell such a gentle pull.
Enter Angelina Simper.
Angelina. Are you the lady who manifested her desire to secure an assistant in her family, by inserting an advertisement in "The Gazette" of last evening?
Mrs. Mervin. Yes; I advertised for a servant-girl. Do you wish such a situation?
Angelina. I might be induced, madam, to accept a position in your family for a sufficient consideration.
Mrs. Mervin. Are you familiar with housework?
Angelina. Yes, in a certain way. I am in the habit of idealizing and etherealizing every thing which I undertake. I think I have discovered the method of extracting the poetry from housework; and instead of regarding it as a wearisome drudgery, I make it a grand poem.
Emma. I think you must be an inventive genius if you can find any poetry in washing greasy dishes, or scrubbing kitchen floors.
Angelina. Ah, miss, there is poetry in every thing. I revel in it, morning, noon, and night. Its glorious beams brighten my pathway at every step of my earthly progress. I have written a volume of sweet verses ; and if they can only be properly brought before the public, my name will be immortalized, and the poet's laurels forever crown my brow. It is to gain a sufficient sum to publish this gem among poetical works, that I have decided, for a short time, to put in practice my ideal method of housekeeping.
Mrs. Mervin. Can you make bread, and do up shirts?
Angelina. Yes: I can insert the rising element in a liquid form into the snowy flour; or I can use those subtile powders that permeate the mass of doughy particles, and make them rise in comely proportions.
Emma. Indeed! but how about the shirts? Angelina. Well, after bringing them in from their bath in the sunlight, I immerse them in starch of pearly whiteness, and after sufficient time has elapsed I press to their bosoms a hot iron. I am reminded by this that only through fiery trials we can be made to shine with becoming lustre ourselves.
Mrs. Mervin. I think you will have to find some other place in which to practise your fine ideas of housework. You soar quite too high for us.
Angelina. Adieu; this weary birdling seeks another nest.[Exit Angelina.
Emma. O, mother! I thought I should burst out laughing in her face. She is an escaped lunatic, I do believe.
Mrs. Mervin. I should think she was. (Bell rings.) There's another ; this time an artist, perhaps. I'll go straight to the office, and have that advertisement taken out.
Mary. Is this Mrs. Mervin who advertised for a girl?
Mrs. Mervin. Yes, I am the lady. Do you know of any good girl?
Mary. I would like to get a place myself. I have worked in a shop since I left my home in the country, three years ago; but I find the confinement doesn't agree with me, and I had rather do housework.
Mrs. Mervin. You understand it, then, I suppose.
Mary. Oh, yes! I am next to the oldest in a family of nine children, and my mother commenced teaching me to do housework almost as soon as I could go alone. As soon as the sister next me could take my place, I left home to see if I could earn something to help along. A man like my father, with a small farm and a large family of children, finds it rather hard to get along sometimes.
Mrs. Mervin. Yes, he must find it hard to feed and clothe so many, with so little ready money as farmers generally have. You are a dutiful daughter to endeavor to assist him what you can; but would your parents approve of your living out in the city?
Mary. Yes: ever since my side has ached with such constant sewing, mother has been urging me to live out; and I should have tried to get a place long before this, only I dreaded so much to go to an intelligence-office. When I saw your advertisement, I decided to apply here immediately.
Mrs. Mervin. I am very glad you did, for I should like to engage you without further delay. How soon can you come?
Mary. To-night, if you wish; my week is out at my boarding-place, and I shouldn't care to commence another.
Mrs. Mervin. Very well, you can come, then, and I will give you three dollars a week. Will that be satisfactory?Mary. Quite so: that is more than I clear some weeks now; and it will be such a relief to have done with so much sewing. Good-morning, ma'am. I'll be here about five o'clock. [Exit Mary.
Emma. There, mother, see what has come by advertising in a respectable paper. I think you have secured a jewel,—so tidy and civil,—and I know by her looks she knows how to do every thing.
Mrs. Mervin. Yes, I am greatly pleased with her appearance; and how much more sensible in her to do housework than kill herself sewing in a shop! I hope the time will soon come when a great many more in her circumstances will go and do likewise. Mrs. S. E. Dawes.