The doctor orders the best sulky. (With a Digression on “Hired Help.”)
“Abel! Slip Cassia into the new sulky, and fetch her round.”
Abel was Dr. Kittredge’s hired man. He was born in New Hampshire, a queer sort of State, with fat streaks of soil and population where they breed giants in mind and body, and lean streaks which export imperfectly nourished young men with promising but neglected appetites, who may be found in great numbers in all the large towns, or could be until of late years, when they have been half driven out of their favorite basement-stories by foreigners, and half coaxed away from them by California. New Hampshire is in more than one sense the Switzerland of New England. The “Granite State” being naturally enough deficient in pudding-stone, its children are apt to wander southward in search of that deposit,—in the unpetrified condition.
Abel Stebbins was a good specimen of that extraordinary hybrid or mule between democracy and chrysocracy, a native-born New-England serving-man. The Old World has nothing at all like him. He is at once an emperor and a subordinate. In one hand he holds one five-millionth part (be the same more or less) of the power that sways the destinies of the Great Republic. His other hand is in your boot, which he is about to polish. It is impossible to turn a fellow citizen whose vote may make his master—say, rather, employer—Governor or President, or who may be one or both himself, into a flunky. That article must be imported ready-made from other centres of civilization. When a New Englander has lost his self-respect as a citizen and as a man, he is demoralized, and cannot be trusted with the money to pay for a dinner.
It may be supposed, therefore, that this fractional emperor, this continent-shaper, finds his position awkward when he goes into service, and that his employer is apt to find it still more embarrassing. It is always under protest that the hired man does his duty. Every act of service is subject to the drawback, “I am as good as you are.” This is so common, at least, as almost to be the rule, and partly accounts for the rapid disappearance of the indigenous “domestic” from the basements above mentioned. Paleontologists will by and by be examining the floors of our kitchens for tracks of the extinct native species of serving-man. The female of the same race is fast dying out; indeed, the time is not far distant when all the varieties of young woman will have vanished from New England, as the dodo has perished in the Mauritius. The young lady is all that we shall have left, and the mop and duster of the last Ahnira or Loizy will be stared at by generations of Bridgets and Noras as that famous head and foot of the lost bird are stared at in the Ashmolean Museum.