The Ideal Servant
It is a good thing my aunt Harriet died years ago. If she were alive today she would not be
able to air her views on her favourite topic of conversation: domestic servants. Aunt Harriet lived
in that leisurely age when servants were employed to do housework. She had a huge, rambling
country house called ‘The Gables’. She was sentimentally attached to this house, for even though
it was far too big for her needs, she persisted in living there long after her husband’s death.
Before she grew old, aunt Harriet used to entertain lavishly. I often visited The Gables when I was
a boy. No matter how many guests were present, the great house was always immaculate. The
parquet floors shone like mirrors; highly polished silver was displayed in gleaming glass cabinets;
even my uncle’s huge collection of books was kept miraculously free from dust. Aunt Harriet presided over an invisible army of servants that continuously scrubbed, cleaned, and polished.
She always referred to them as’ the shifting population’, for they came and went with such frequency that I never even got a chance to learn their names, Though my aunt pursued what was, in those days, an enlightened policy in that she never allowed her domestic staff to work more than eight hours a day, she was extremely difficult to please. While she always decried the fickleness of human nature, she carried on an unrelenting search for the ideal servant to the end of her days, even after she had been sadly disillusioned by Bessie. Bessie worked for aunt Harriet
for three years. During that time she so gained my aunt’s confidence, that she was put in charge
of the domestic staff.
Aunt Hariet could not find words to praise Bessie’s industry and efficiency. In addition to all
her other qualifications, Bessie was an expert cook. She acted the role of the perfect servant for
three years before aunt Harriet discovered her ‘little weakness’. After being absent from The Gables for a week, my aunt unexpectedly returned one afternoon with a party of guests and instructed Bessie to prepare dinner. Not only was the meal well below the usual standard, but Bessie seemed unable to walk steadily. She bumped into the furniture and kept mumbling about the guests. When she came in with the last course — a huge pudding-she tripped on the carpet
and the pudding went flying through the air, narrowly missed my aunt, and crashed on the dining
table with considerable force. Though this occasioned great mirth among the guests, aunt Harriet
was horrified. She reluctantly came to the conclusion that Bessie was drunk. The guests had, of
course, realized this from the moment Bessie opened the door for them and, long before the final
catastrophe, had had a difficult time trying to conceal their amusement. The poor girl was dismissed instantly. After her departure, aunt Harriet discovered that there were piles of empty
wine bottles of all shapes and sizes neatly stacked in what had once been Bessie’s wardrobe. They
had mysteriously found their way there from the wine-cellar!
的房子，叫作“山墙庄园”。她对这幢房子在感情上难舍难分。房子实在太大了，但在丈夫去世多年后， 她仍然执意长年住在那儿。哈丽特姑妈年轻时，喜欢大摆宴席，招待宾客。我小时候常去“山墙庄园”作 客。不管去多少宾客，大房子里总是收拾得干干净净。镶木地板洁如明镜，擦得发亮的银器陈列在明亮的 玻璃柜里，连姑夫的大量藏书也保存得很好，奇迹般地一尘不染。哈丽特姑妈统率着一支看不见的佣人大 军，他们不停地擦拭、清扫、刷洗。她称这些佣人叫“流动人口”，因为他们来匆匆，所以我甚至都没有
机会知道他们的姓名。姑妈待佣人在当时算是开明的，从来不让佣人每天工作超过 8 小时，但他们很难使 她称心如意。她一方面总是批评人的本性朝三暮四，另一方面她又持之以恒地寻找一个理想的佣人。即使 在贝西大大地伤她的心之后，她还在找，一直到她死去。
贝西在哈丽特家干了 3 年。在此期间，她赢得了姑母的赏识，甚至当上了大管家。哈丽特不知该用什 么言辞来赞扬贝西的勤奋与高效。贝西除了有各种本领以外，还是一个烹饪大师。她担任“理想仆人”角
色 3 年之后，哈丽特终于发现她有“小小的弱点”。一次，姑妈有一个星期没在“山墙庄园”住。一天下 午，她出其不意地回来了，带来一大批客人，吩咐贝西准备晚饭。结果，不仅饭菜远不如平时做得好，而 且贝西走起路来似乎东倒西歪。 她撞到了家具上， 嘴里还不断咕咕哝哝议论客人。 当她端着最后一道菜—— 一大盘布丁——走进屋来时，在地毯上绊了一跤。布丁飞到半空，从姑母身边擦过，然后狠狠地砸在餐桌 上。这件事引起了客人们的欢笑，但哈丽特却着实吓了一跳。她不得不认定贝西是喝醉了。客人们自然从 贝西为他们开门那一刻起就看出来了，在好长一段时间里，即最后这个乱子发生前，他们努力克制才没笑 出声来。贝西当即被解雇了。贝西走后，哈丽特姑妈发现在贝西以前用过的衣柜里整整齐齐地放着一堆堆 形状各导、大小不一的酒瓶子。这些酒瓶神不知鬼不觉地从酒窖来到了这里。