Christmas and a Maid – Monday December 1900

The characteristic of this day is wholly determined by the circumstance that tomorrow is Christmas which is kept with us like a Sunday. Nobody does unnecessary work. You are expected to go to church and you are sure to be sat down to an indigestible dinner.

It may be all very well for those who are the centre of a merry party or where there are children to amuse or where it is a large family gathering; but none of these pleasures are ours at this season and Christmas is the most wearisome day of all the year. You do not escape from it for a week after for everybody you meet asks, “What such of a Christmas have you had?”

We have a maid with a most melancholy countenance. She complained at intervals of pains in her stomach and retired to bed at about half past six. One night after we had all retired, the mistress had to go downstairs to a compound dose of whisky and laudanum to give her relief. I gave her doses of medicine, enquired daily after her condition, advised her about her diet and she seemed to improve.

This morning I had occasion to suspect that she had been sick in her bedroom. Upon enquiry she said she had been very bad through the night and the pain was dreadful “just here” — across her waist band. This looked alarming and the patient suffering on her face moved my sympathy. I consulted the mistress. “What are we to do with Nellie? I can’t imagine what is wrong.”

“Never take the least notice. If you bother about her, she’ll never be better. She can eat a good meal and there is nothing wrong with her.”

I thought this rather callous and made a strict examination of the girl. “What have you been doing, or eating? Where is your pain? Did you ever have it before?”

Of course she was a picture of suffering innocence. I went in to air her room and see that it was clean, for it smelt badly. Then some paper bags on her table caught my eye, a bag of sugar coated biscuits, an empty bag which evidently contained some vile sticky stuff, another of sweets and a huge wedge of half-raw fruit pastry.

I came down with my indignant tale. “Wait till I get my tongue on the hussy!” To which the mistress remarked coolly, not taking the slightest notice: “Didn’t I tell you to leave her alone? You will only vex yourself and she’ll eat her dirty stuff whatever you say. Reluctantly I obeyed and now I am musing on the finest manifestation of cheek for this maid nows looks a perfect model of modest meekness.

A brave heart and a cheerful mind to all my readers through the trials of the year that is coming.

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