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Tea is not a bad thing to talk about at tea-time. We recall the absurd legends of the clever men who have sat up at night working, with towels about their heads and drinking copiously of hyson. Depend upon it
, that sort of man never gets on.
It is either a myth or a mistake ; either he did not do it, or if he did he never did anything else worth speaking of. The best intellectual work is work done in the daylight. When tea first came into vogue, lots of doctors protested against it. They declared that it might bring on paralysis. The country doctors say that the chronic use of tea among old women of both sexes is the cause of the indigestion that ruins the public health ! John Wesley used to declaim against tea, and called upon his followers to join in a total abstinence league against the use of it. His teetotalism meant that people might drink anything else except tea. He had not the good fortune of our modern Templar; but his oratory, usually so persuasive, could not prevail against the use of tea, even among his most devoted adherents, and apparently great John found it best to give up the idea.
It is when you are admitted into the rie intime of a house that the tea is the pleasantest. You go, not to meet a crowd, but to have the frank, free, restful change that really does one good. A few friends drop in one by one, fresh from driving, shopping, and visiting ; and the young ladies of the house, even
though not 'out, break the thin ice that separates their nun-like existence from the world. They will show you their last drawings, their last photographs, and sing you their last new song. They will talk to you of themselves and their family—of the boy who has got his commission or his scholarship, or the girl who has got her first offer; and if you break through your insular reserve and speak of yourself, you will meet with sympathy and encouragement.
The western lights have all paled, but you have sat in the cheerful firelight glow till you hardly know how late it is. Presently there is the well-known rap at the front door, and your old friend, the master of the house, strides in, bright and eager to his heart, and shakes your hand. * You mustn't think of going, old man; we dine in an hour, and are all by ourselves.' This is sometimes the cheerful finale of the afternoon tea. There is a murmur of lively voices, a battery of inviting eyes, and the thing is settled. Very pleasant is the dinner, but perhaps you were better pleased with the five-o'clock tea.
THE subject of servants is vexatious enough, and
affects the whole community. The subject of governesses is equally perplexed and vexatious, and according to the statement of governesses and heads of households, each class has much reason for complaint. The fact is, that the governess market, like many other intellectual markets,—the bar, literature, medicine, is both overstocked and understocked, glutted with those who rush into a laborious and crowded profession without any adequate training, and understocked with those who are duly trained and qualified. Some time ago a young gentleman, wishing to study young lady natures for a book, inserted a fastidious advertisement for a governess at a hundred guineas a year, and obtained several hundred cartes-de-visite and a quantity of postage stamps. The cartes-de-visite system, by the way, is not always worked in the most satisfactory way, or from the best motives. The young gentleman risked meditating on the subject in the seclusion of a prison. The case is not unlike the recent one of an eminent professor at St. Petersburg, who, to broaden the range of his theological studies, stole several thousand volumes from a public library, and was sent to Siberia for life. The fact that an immense number of answers was obtained to a suspicious advertisement shows the inordinate glut of the market.
Yet no one who has had opportunities of observation can say that the art of governessing is in a satisfactory condition.
It would be easy to put a strong case, according as we wrote from the point of view of the governess or her employers. Governesses are as irritable as poetesses. They have a slight tendency towards hysterics and floods of tears. They have sensitive natures, which are liable to be lacerated by the slightest moral punctures. They get into a morbid condition, and brood on slight and unkindness where the very reverse are, in truth, fully meant. We know a man whose foible it is to treat his governesses at least as kindly as his own children, whom he treats most kindly. He has a governess with him for years, who is as happy and beloved as any child of his own. She is succeeded by another who makes up her mind to be a victim and a martyr. She is unhappy herself, and makes everybody about her uncomfortable. Of course she goes away, and she goes away under the impression that there is an organised system of oppression by the upper classes towards all their dependants. It will be supposed that these young ladies are everything
lovable, accomplished, and intellectual. But this is by no means necessarily the case. Some of them are pretty, perky, raw, ill-trained girls. Perhaps they have got their situations by gross exaggeration of their attainments, or by the unduly coloured testimonials of their friends. Their own education is often of the most second-rate kind, and they do not understand what they profess to teach. An Inspector of Returns told me the other day that he had once asked the mistress of one of our schools her age. The lady pleaded guilty to forty-five, and on being requested to write it down on the black board, she revealed the astounding fact that her real age was 405. Without going so far as to say that this ignorance is exactly paralleled by some young governesses, there is no doubt that an immense number of them do not know the irregular verbs which they profess to teach, are obliged to resort to 'Keys' for their exercises, and would pass a very poor examination in arithmetic and orthography. Such governesses are quite unable to do justice to the point of view in which the wife and mother of a family regards them. It has been decided, perhaps after much deliberation, that it will be best to have a governess at home than to send the girls to a finishing school. Perhaps the expense of another inmate, and her regular salary, have been matters of anxious calculation. The governess who enjoys the full comforts of a house without any of the responsibilities of trades