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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Engaging a Maid-Servant
By Daniel Defoe (1661?–1731)
 
From ‘Everybody’s Business is Nobody’s Business’

BESIDES, the fear of spoiling their clothes makes them afraid of household work, so that in a little time we shall have none but chambermaids and nurserymaids; and of this let me give you one instance. My family is composed of myself and sister, a man and maid; and being without the last, a young wench came to hire herself. The man was gone out, and my sister above-stairs, so I opened the door myself, and this person presented herself to my view, dressed completely, more like a visitor than a servant-maid; she, not knowing me, asked for my sister. “Pray, madam,” said I, “be pleased to walk into the parlor; she shall wait on you presently.” Accordingly I handed madam in, who took it very cordially. After some apology I left her alone for a minute or two, while I, stupid wretch! ran up to my sister and told her there was a gentlewoman below come to visit her. “Dear brother,” said she, “don’t leave her alone; go down and entertain her while I dress myself.” Accordingly down I went, and talked of indifferent affairs; meanwhile my sister dressed herself all over again, not being willing to be seen in an undress. At last she came down dressed as clean as her visitor; but how great was my surprise when I found my fine lady a common servant-wench.  1
  My sister, understanding what she was, began to inquire what wages she expected. She modestly asked but eight pounds a year. The next question was, “What work she could do to deserve such wages?” to which she answered she could clean a house, or dress a common family dinner. “But cannot you wash,” replied my sister, “or get up linen?” She answered in the negative, and said she would undertake neither, nor would she go into a family that did not put out their linen to wash and hire a charwoman to scour. She desired to see the house, and having carefully surveyed it, said the work was too hard for her, nor could she undertake it. This put my sister beyond all patience, and me into the greatest admiration. “Young woman,” she said, “you have made a mistake; I want a housemaid, and you are a chambermaid.” “No, madam,” replied she, “I am not needlewoman enough for that.” “And yet you ask eight pounds a year,” replied my sister. “Yes, madam,” said she, “nor shall I bate a farthing.” “Then get you gone for a lazy impudent baggage,” said I; “you want to be a boarder, not a servant; have you a fortune or estate, that you dress at that rate?” “No, sir,” said she, “but I hope I may wear what I work for without offense.” “What! you work?” interrupted my sister; “why, you do not seem willing to undertake any work; you will not wash nor scour; you cannot dress a dinner for company; you are no needlewoman; and our little house of two rooms on a floor is too much for you. For God’s sake, what can you do?” “Madam,” replied she pertly, “I know my business, and do not fear service; there are more places than parish churches: if you wash at home, you should have a laundrymaid; if you give entertainments, you must have a cookmaid; if you have any needlework, you should have a chambermaid; and such a house as this is enough for a housemaid, in all conscience.”  2
  I was so pleased at the wit, and astonished at the impudence of the girl, so dismissed her with thanks for her instructions, assuring her that when I kept four maids she should be housemaid if she pleased.  3
 
 
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