Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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286                Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
hard-working,uncomplaining—what shall we call her—slave? No, she was too active and willing for that—but certainly a domestic serf, a drudge—a hewer of wood and a drawer of water—who used, in the times of our grandmothers, to last a mistress a whole life-time, and whose whole being seemed to be summed up in one word—housework. Patient, hardy, cheerful, loving too—with a very high feeling of respect for their "masters" and "missises," and with a strong feeling of affection for their children—was this race of " servants-of-all-work." Of course, their cooking abilities were limited— confined chiefly to roast and boiled—suet puddings and apple turnovers. But it was careful and cleanly cooking, and they " cleared as they went." They were up early—always on their feet—got their dinner when they could, but managed to " tidy up" by tea-time, and then did a bit of work for themselves or their mistresses, and could even sometimes find time for a romp with the children before they put them to bed. Cannot you, reader, remember such a household creature as this—a very part of the house and family— scarcely ever quitting it from year's end to year's end—only to go to church on Sunday evenings or do a "little shopping" once or twice in the year—and not leaving " for good " except to marry, and then in a shower of tears ? Cannot you remember some such faithful, simple, active-handed creature as this, who knew nothing and did everything? They are gone—" clean gone." They did their work, or rather the work of their mistresses, in their generation, and went and left no successors. It was quite right, perhaps, that they should pass away, for they marked a very low point in the fortunes of the working classes, and many of them came from starving homes, and some even from the workhouses in which their parents had died. They could, as a rule, neither read nor write, and do nothing but the simplest household work. But they did it with a will, and carried into the homely families which they entered a strength of affection as well as of body which may in vain be looked for now-a-days in a better-instructed class. Cooks we have now, and
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