Transcribed by David Price, email email@example.com, from the 1897 Harper and Brothers edition.
It may interest the readers of this collection of tales, if there should be any such, to know that the incidents upon which the stories are based are unfortunately wholly truthful. They have one and all come under the author's observation during the past ten years, and with the exception of "Mr. Bradley's Jewel," concerning whom it is expressly stated that she was employed through lack of other available material, not one of the servants herein made famous or infamous, as the case may be, was employed except upon presentation of references written by responsible persons that could properly have been given only to domestics of the most sterling character. It is this last fact that points the moral of the tales here presented, if it does not adorn them.
J. K. B.
THE EMANCIPATION OF THADDEUS
They were very young, and possibly too amiable. Thaddeus was but twenty-four and Bessie twenty-two when they twain, made one, walked down the middle aisle of St. Peter's together.
Everybody remarked how amiable she looked even then; not that a bride on her way out of church should look unamiable, of course, but we all know how brides do look, as a rule, on such occasions—looks difficult of analysis, but strangely suggestive of determined timidity, if there can be such a quality expressed in the human face. It is the natural expression of one who knows that she has taken the most important step of her life, and, on turning to face those who have been bidden to witness the ceremony, observes that the sacredness of the occasion is somewhat marred by the presence in church of the unbidden curiosity-seekers, who have come for much the same reason as that which prompts them to go to the theatre—to enjoy the spectacle. But Bessie's face showed nothing but that intense amiability for which she had all her life long been noted; and as for Thaddeus, he never ceased to smile from the moment he turned and faced the congregation until the carriage door closed upon him and his bride, and then, of course, he had to, his lips being otherwise engaged. Indeed, Thaddeus's amiability was his greatest vice. He had never been known to be ill-natured in his life but once, and that was during the week that Bessie had kept him in suspense while she was making up her mind not to say "No" to an important proposition he had made—a proposition, by-the-way, which resulted in this very ceremony, and was largely responsible for the trials and tribulations which followed.
Thaddeus was rich—that is, he had an income and a vocation; a charming little home was awaiting their coming, off in a convenient suburb; and, best of all, Bessie was an accomplished house-keeper, having studied under the best mistresses of that art to be found in the country. And even if she had not completely mastered the art of keeping house, Thaddeus was confident that all would go well with them, for their waitress was a jewel, inherited from Bessie's mother, and the cook, though somewhat advanced in years, was beyond cavil, having been known to the family of Thaddeus for a longer period than Thaddeus himself had been. The only uncertain quantity in the household was Norah, the up-stairs girl, who was not only new, but auburn-haired and of Celtic extraction.
Under such circumstances did the young couple start in life, and many there were who looked upon them with envy. At first, of course, the household did not run as smoothly as it might have done—meals were late, and served with less ceremony than either liked; but, as Bessie said, as she and Thaddeus were finishing their breakfast one morning, "What could you expect?"
To which Thaddeus, with his customary smile, replied "What, indeed! We get along much better than I really thought we should with old Ellen."
Old Ellen was the cook, and she had been known to Thaddeus as "Old Ellen" even before his lips were able to utter the words.
"Ellen has her ways, and Jane has hers," said Bessie. "After Jane has got accustomed to Ellen's way of getting breakfast ready, she will know better how to go about her own work. I think, perhaps, cook's manner is a little harsh. She made Jane cry about the omelet this morning; but Jane is teary, anyhow."
"It wouldn't do to have Ellen oily and Jane watery," Thaddeus answered. "They'd mix worse than ever then. We're in pretty good luck as it is."
"I think so, too, Teddy," Bessie replied; "but Jane is so foolish. She might have known better than to send the square platter down to Ellen for an omelet, when the omelet was five times as long as it was broad."
"You always had square omelets, though, at your house—that is, whenever I was there you had," said Thaddeus. "And I suppose Jane's notion is that as things happened under your mother's regime, so they ought to happen here."
"Possibly that was her notion," replied Bessie; "but, then, in your family the omelets were oblong, and Ellen is too old to depart from her traditions. Old people get set in their ways, and as long as results are satisfactory, we ought not to be captious about methods."
"No, indeed, we shouldn't," smiled Thaddeus; "but I don't want you to give in to Ellen to too great an extent, my dear. This is your home, and not my mother's, and your ways must be the ways of the house."
"Ellen is all right," returned Bessie, "and I am so delighted to have her, because, you know, Teddy dear, she knows what you like even better, perhaps, than I do—naturally so, having grown up in your family."
"Reverse that, my dear. Our family grew up on Ellen. She set the culinary pace at home. Mother always let her have her own way, and it may be she is a little spoiled."
"Do you know, Teddy, I wonder that, having had Ellen for so many years, your mother was willing to give her up."
"Oh, I can explain that," Thaddeus answered. "I'm the youngest, you know; the rest of the family were old enough to be weaned. Besides, father was getting old, and he had a notion that the comforts of a hotel were preferable to the discomforts of house-keeping. Father likes to eat meals at all hours, and the annunciator system of hotel life, by which you can summon anything in an instant, from a shower- bath to a feast of terrapin, was rather pleasing to him. He was always an admirer of the tales of the genii, and he regards the electric button in a well-appointed hotel as the nearest approach to the famous Aladdin lamp known to science. You press the button, and your genii do the rest."
"But a hotel isn't home," said Bessie.
"A hotel isn't this home," answered Thaddeus. "Love in a cottage for me; but, Bessie, perhaps you—perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea for you to speak to Jane and Ellen this morning about their differences. I am an hour late now."
Then Thaddeus kissed Bessie, and went down to business.
On Thaddeus's departure Bessie's cheerfulness also deserted her, and for the first time in her life she felt that it would do her good if she could fly out at somebody—somebody, however, who was not endeared to the heart of Thaddeus, or too intimately related to her own family, which left no one but Norah upon whom to vent the displeasure that she felt. Norah was, therefore, sought out, and requested rather peremptorily to say how long it had been since she had dusted the parlor; to which Norah was able truthfully to answer, "This mornin', mim." Whereupon Bessie's desire to be disagreeable departed, and saying that Norah could now clean the second-story front-room windows, she withdrew to her own snug sewing-room until luncheon should be served. She was just a trifle put out with Norah for being so efficient. There is nothing so affronting to a young house-keeper as the discovery that the inherited family jewels, upon whom much reliance has been placed, are as paste alongside of the newly acquired bauble from whom little was expected. It was almost unkind in Norah, Bessie thought, to be so impeccably conscientious when Jane and Ellen were developing eccentricities; but there was the consoling thought that when they had all been together a month or two longer, their eccentricities would so shape themselves that they would fit into one another, and ultimately bind the little domestic structure more firmly together.
"Perhaps if I let them alone," Bessie said to herself, "they'll forget their differences more quickly. I guess, on the whole, I will say nothing about it."
That night, when Thaddeus came home, the first thing he said to his wife was: "Well, I suppose you were awfully firm this morning, eh? Went down into the kitchen and roared like a little tyrant, eh? I really was afraid to read the paper on the way home. Didn't know but what I'd read of a 'Horrid Accident in High Life. Mrs. Thaddeus Perkins's Endeavor to Maintain Discipline in the Household Results Fatally. Two Old Family Servants Instantly Killed, and Three of the Kitchen Table Legs Broken by a Domestic Explosion!'"
"Be serious, Thaddeus," said Bessie.
And Thaddeus became instantly serious. "They—they haven't left us, have they?" he whispered, in an awe-struck tone.
"No. I—I thought I'd let them fight it out between themselves," replied Bessie. "You see, Thaddeus, servants are queer, and do not like to have their differences settled by others than themselves. It'll work out all right, if we let them alone."
"I don't know but that you are right," said Thaddeus, after a few moments of thought. "They're both sensible girls, and capable of fighting their own battles. Let's have dinner. I'm hungry as a bear."
It was half-past six o'clock, and the usual hour for dinner. At 8.10 dinner was served. The intervening time was consumed by Jane and Ellen endeavoring to settle their differences by the silent, sniffy method—that is, Jane would sniff, and Ellen would be silent; and then Ellen would sniff, and Jane would be silent. As for Thaddeus and Bessie, they were amused rather than angry to have the dear little broiled chicken Bessie had provided served on the large beef-platter; and when the pease came up in a cut-glass salad-dish, Thaddeus laughed outright, but Bessie's eyes grew moist. It was too evident that Jane and Ellen were not on speaking terms, and there was strong need for some one to break the ice. Fortunately, Bessie's mother called that evening, and some of her time was spent below-stairs. What she said there only Ellen and Jane knew, but it had its effect, and for two or three weeks the jewels worked almost as satisfactorily as did Norah, the new girl, and quite harmoniously.
"Bessie," said Thaddeus, one night as they ate their supper, "does it occur to you that the roast is a little overdone to-night?"
"Yes, Teddy, it is very much overdone. I must speak to Ellen about it. She is a little careless about some things. I've told her several times that you like your beef rare."
"Well, I'd tell her again. Constant dropping of water on its surface will wear away a stone, and I think, perhaps, the constant dropping of an idea on a cook's head may wear away some of the thickest parts of that—at least, until it is worn thin enough for the idea to get through to where her brain ought to be. You might say to her, too, that for several nights past dinner has been cold."
"I'll speak to her in the morning," was Bessie's reply; and the dear little woman was true to her purpose.
"She explained about the beef and the cold dinner, Ted," she said, when Thaddeus came home that afternoon.
"Satisfactorily to all hands, I hope?" said Thaddeus, with his usual smile.
"Yes, perfectly. In fact, I wonder we hadn't thought of it ourselves. In the old home, you know, the dinner-hour was six o'clock, while here it is half-past six."
"What has that got to do with it?" asked Thaddeus.
"How obtuse of you, Teddy!" exclaimed Bessie. "Don't you see, the poor old thing has been so used to six-o'clock dinners that she has everything ready for us at six? And if we are half an hour late, of course things get cold; or if they are kept in the oven, as was the case with the beef last night, they are apt to be overdone?"
"Why, of course. Ha! Ha! Wonder I didn't think of that," laughed Thaddeus, though his mirth did seem a little forced. "But—she's— she's going to change, I suppose?"
"She said she'd try," Bessie replied. "She was really so very nice about it, I hadn't the heart to scold her."
"I'm glad," was all Thaddeus said, and during the rest of the meal he was silent. Once or twice he seemed on the verge of saying something, but apparently changed his mind.
"Are you tired to-night, dear?" said Bessie, as the dessert was served.
"No. Why?" said Thaddeus, shortly.
"Oh, nothing. I thought you seemed a little so," Bessie answered. "You mustn't work too hard down-town."
"No, my dear girl," he said. "I won't, and I don't. I was thinking all through dinner about those girls down-stairs. Perhaps—perhaps I had better talk to them, eh? You are so awfully kind-hearted, and it does seem to me as though they imposed a little on you, that's all. The salad to-night was atrocious. It should have been kept on the ice, instead of which it comes to the table looking like a last year's bouquet."
Bessie's eyes grew watery. "I'm afraid it was my fault," she said. "I ought to have looked after the salad myself. I always did at home. I suppose Jane got it out expecting me to prepare it."
"Oh, well, never mind," said Thaddeus, desirous of soothing the troubled soul of his wife. "I wouldn't have mentioned it, only Jane does too much thinking, in a thoughtless way, anyhow. Servants aren't paid to think."
"I'll tell you what, Thaddeus," said Bessie, her spirits returning, "we are just as much to blame as they are; we've taken too much for granted, and so have they. Suppose we spend the evening putting together a set of rules for the management of the house? It will be lots of fun, and perhaps it will do the girls good. They ought to understand that while our parents have had their ways—and reasonable ways—there is no reason why we should not have our ways."
"In other words," said Thaddeus, "what we want to draw up is a sort of Declaration of Independence."
"That's it, exactly," Bessie replied.
"Better get a slate and write them on that," suggested Thaddeus, with a broad grin. "Then we can rub out whatever Jane and Ellen don't like."
"I hate you when you are sarcastic," said Bessie, with a pout, and then she ran for her pad and pencil.
The evening was passed as she had suggested, and when they retired that night the house of Perkins was provided with a constitution and by-laws.
"I don't suppose I shall recognize my surroundings when I get back home to-night," said Thaddeus, when he waked up in the morning.
"Why not?" asked Bessie. "What strange transformation is there to be?"
"The discipline will be so strict," answered Thaddeus. "I presume you will put those rules of ours into operation right away?"
"I have been thinking about that," said Bessie, after a moment. "You see, Thad, there are a great many things about running a house that neither you nor I are familiar with yet, and it seems to me that maybe we'd better wait a little while before we impose these rules on the girls; it would be awkward to have to make changes afterwards, you know."
"There is something in that," said Thaddeus; "but, after all, not so much as you seem to think. All rules have exceptions. I've no doubt that the cook will take exception to most of them."
"That's what I'm afraid of, and as she's so old I kind of feel as if I ought to respect her feelings a little more than we would Norah's, for instance. I can just tell you I shall make Norah stand around."
"I think it would be a good plan if you did," said Thaddeus. "I'm afraid Norah will die if you don't. She works too hard to be a real servant—real servants stand around so much, you know."
"Don't be flippant, Thaddeus. This is a very serious matter. Norah is a good girl, as you say. She works so much and so quickly that she really makes me tired, and I'm constantly oppressed with the thought that she may get through with whatever she is doing before I can think of something else to occupy her time. But with her we need have none of the feeling that we have with Jane and Ellen. She is young, and susceptible to new impressions. She can fall in with new rules, while the other two might chafe under them. Now, I say we wait until we find out if we cannot let well enough alone, and not raise discord in our home."
"There never was an Eden without its serpent," sighed Thaddeus. "I don't exactly like the idea of fitting our rules to their idiosyncrasies."
"It isn't that, dear. I don't want that, either; but neither do we wish to unnecessarily hamper them in their work by demanding that they shall do it our way."
"Oh, well, you are the President of the Republic," said Thaddeus. "You run matters to suit yourself, and I believe we'll have the most prosperous institution in the world before we know it. If it were a business matter, I'd have those rules or die; but I suppose you can't run a house as you would a business concern. I guess you are right. Keep the rules a week. Why not submit 'em to your mother first?"
"I thought of that," said Bessie. "But then it occurred to me that as Ellen had served always under your mother, it would be better if we consulted her."
"I don't," said Thaddeus. "She'd be sure to tell you not to have any rules, or, if she didn't, she would advise you to consult with the cook in the matter, which would result in Ellen's becoming President, and you and I taxpayers. She used to run our old house, and now see the consequences!"
"What are the consequences?" asked Bessie.
"Mother and father have been driven into a hotel, and the children have all been married."
"That's awful," laughed Bessie.
And so the rules were filed away for future reference. That they would have remained on file for an indefinite period if Thaddeus had not asked a friend to spend a few weeks with him, I do not doubt. Bessie grew daily more mistrustful of their value, and Thaddeus himself preferred the comfort of a quiet though somewhat irregular mode of living to the turmoil likely to follow the imposition of obnoxious regulations upon the aristocrats below-stairs. But the coming of Thaddeus's friend made a difference.
The friend was an elderly man, with a business and a system. He was a man, for instance, who all his life had breakfasted at seven, lunched at one, and dined at six-thirty, of which Thaddeus was aware when he invited him to make his suburban home his headquarters while his own house was being renovated and his family abroad. Thaddeus was also aware that the breakfast and dinner hours under Bessie's regime were nominally those of his friend, and so he was able to assure Mr. Liscomb that his coming would in no way disturb the usual serenity of the domestic pond. The trusting friend came. Breakfast number one was served fifteen minutes after the hour, and for the first time in ten years Mr. Liscomb was late in arriving at his office. He had not quite recovered from the chagrin consequent upon his tardiness when that evening he sat down to dinner at Thaddeus's house, served an hour and ten minutes late, Ellen having been summoned by wire to town to buy a pair of shoes for one of her sister's children, the sister herself suffering from poverty and toothache.
"I hope you were not delayed seriously this morning, Mr. Liscomb," said Bessie, after dinner.
"Oh no, not at all!" returned Liscomb, polite enough to tell an untruth, although its opposite was also a part of his system.
"Ellen must be more prompt with breakfast," said Thaddeus. "Seven, sharp, is the hour. Did you speak to her about it?"
"No, but I intend to," answered Bessie. "I'll tell her the first thing after breakfast to-morrow. I meant to have spoken about it to-day, but when I got down-stairs she had gone out."
"Was it her day out?"
"No; but her sister is sick, and she was sent for. It was all right. She left word where she was going with Jane."
"That was very considerate of her," said Liscomb, politely.
"Yes," said Bessie. "Ellen's a splendid woman."
Later on in the evening, about half-past nine, when Mr. Liscomb, wearied with the excitement of the first irregular day he had known from boyhood, retired, Thaddeus took occasion to say:
"Bessie, I think you'd better tell Ellen about having breakfast promptly in the morning to-night, before we go to bed."
"Very well," returned Bessie, "I'll go down now and do it;" and down she went. In a moment she was back. "The poor thing was so tired," she said, "that she went to bed as soon as dinner was cooked, so I couldn't tell her."
"Why didn't you send up word to her by Jane?"
"Oh, she MUST be asleep by this time!"
"Oh!" said Thaddeus.
It was nine o'clock the next morning when Ellen opened her eyes. Breakfast had been served a half-hour earlier, Jane and Bessie having cooked some eggs, which Bessie ate alone, since Thaddeus and Liscomb were compelled to take the eight-o'clock train to town, hungry and forlorn. Liscomb was very good-natured about it to Thaddeus, but his book-keeper had a woful tale to tell of his employer's irritability when he returned home that night. As for Thaddeus, he spoke his mind very plainly—to Liscomb. Bessie never knew what he said, nor did any of the servants; but he said it to Liscomb, and, as Liscomb remarked later, he seemed like somebody else altogether while speaking, he was so fierce and determined about it all. That night a telegram came from Liscomb, saying that he had been unexpectedly delayed, and that, as there were several matters requiring his attention at his own home, he thought he would not be up again until Sunday.
Bessie was relieved, and Thaddeus was mad.
"We MUST have those rules," he said.
And so they were brought out. Ellen received them with stolid indifference; Jane with indignation, if the slamming of doors in various parts of the house that day betokened anything. Norah accepted them without a murmur. It made no difference to Norah on what day she swept the parlor, nor did she seem to care very much because her "days at home" were shifted, so that her day out was Friday instead of Thursday.
"Has Ellen said anything about the rules, my dear?" asked Thaddeus, a week or two later.
"Not a word," returned Bessie.
"Has she 'looked' anything?"
"Volumes," Bessie answered.
"Does she take exception to any of them?"
"No," said Bessie, "and I've discovered why, too. She hasn't read them."
Thaddeus was silent for a minute. Then he said, quite firmly for him, "She must read them."
"MUST is a strong word, Teddy," Bessie replied, "particularly since Ellen can't read."
"Then you ought to read them to her."
"That's what I think," Bessie answered, amiably. "I'm going to do it very soon—day after to-morrow, I guess."
"What has Jane said?" asked Thaddeus, biting his lip.
Bessie colored. Jane had expressed herself with considerable force, and Bessie had been a little afraid to tell Thaddeus what she had said and done.
"Oh, nothing much," she answered. "She—she said she'd never worn caps like a common servant, and wasn't going to begin now; and then she didn't like having to clean the silver on Saturday afternoons, because the silver-powder got into her finger-nails; and that really is too bad, Teddy, because Saturday night is the night her friends come to call, and silver-powder is awfully hard to get out of your nails, you know; and, of course, a girl wants to appear neat and clean when she has callers."
"Of course," said Thaddeus. "And I judge by the appearance of the brass fenders that she doesn't like to polish them up on Wednesday because it gives her a backache on Thursday, which is her day out."
Bessie's eyes took on their watery aspect again.
"Do the fenders look so very badly, Ted?" she asked.
"They're atrocious," said Thaddeus.
"I'm sorry, dear; but I did my best. I polished them myself this afternoon; Jane had to go to a funeral."
"Oh, my!" cried Thaddeus. "This subject's too much for me. Let's go out—somewhere, anywhere—to a concert. Music hath its charms to soothe a savage breast, and my breast is simply the very essence of wildness to-night. Put on your things, Bess, and hurry, or I'll suffocate."
Bessie did as she was told, and before ten o'clock the happy pair had forgotten their woes, nor do I think they would have remembered them again that night had they not found on their return home that they were locked out.
At this even the too amiable Bessie was angry—very angry—unjustly, as it turned out afterwards.
"They weren't to blame, after all," she explained to Thaddeus, when he came home the next night. "I spoke to them about it, and they all thought we'd spend the night with your mother and father at the Oxford."
"They're a thoughtful lot," said Thaddeus.
And so time passed. The "treasures" did as they pleased; the dubious auburn-haired Norah continued her aggravating efficiency. Bessie's days were spent in anticipation of an interview of an unpleasant nature with Jane or Ellen "to-morrow." Thaddeus's former smile grew less perpetual—that is, it was always visible when Bessie was before him, but when Bessie was elsewhere, so also was the token of Thaddeus's amiability. He chafed under the tyranny, but it never occurred to him but once that it would be well for him to interview Ellen and Jane; and then, summoning them fiercely, he addressed them mildly, ended the audience with a smile, and felt himself beneath their sway more than ever.
Then something happened. A day came and went, and the morrow thereof found Thaddeus dethroned from even his nominal position of head of the house. There was a young Thaddeus, an eight-pound Thaddeus, a round, red-cheeked, bald-headed Thaddeus that looked more like the Thaddeus of old than Thaddeus did himself; and then, at a period in which man feels himself the least among the insignificant, did our hero find happiness unalloyed once more, for to the pride of being a father was added the satisfaction of seeing Jane and Ellen acknowledge a superior. Make no mistake, you who read. It was not to Thaddeus junior that these gems bowed down. It was to the good woman who came in to care for the little one and his mother that they humbled themselves.
"She's great," said Thaddeus to himself, as he watched Jane bustling about to obey the command of the temporary mistress of the situation as she had never bustled before.
"She's a second Elizabeth," chuckled Thaddeus, as he listened to an order passed down the dumb-waiter shaft from the stout empress of the moment to the trembling queen of the kitchen.
"She's a little dictatorial," whispered Thaddeus to his newspaper, when the monarch of all she surveyed gave him HIS orders. "But there are times, even in a Republic like this, when a dictator is an advantage. I hate to see a woman cry, but the way Jane wept at the routing Mrs. Brown gave her this morning was a finer sight than Niagara."
But, alas! this happy state of affairs could not last forever. Thaddeus was just beginning to get on easy terms with Mrs. Brown when she was summoned elsewhere.
"Change of heir is necessary for one in her profession," sighed Thaddeus; and then, when he thought of resuming the reins himself, he sighed again, and wished that Mrs. Brown might have remained a fixture in the household forever. "Still," he added, more to comfort himself than because he had any decided convictions to express—"still, a baby in the house will make a difference, and Ellen and Jane will behave better now that Bessie's added responsibilities put them more upon their honor."
For a time Thaddeus's prophecy was correct. Ellen and Jane did do better for nearly two months, and then—but why repeat the old story? Then they lapsed, that is all, and became more tyrannical than ever. Bessie was so busy with little Ted that the household affairs outside of the nursery came under their exclusive control. Thaddeus stood it—I was going to say nobly, but I think it were better put ignobly—but he had a good excuse for so doing.
"A baby is an awful care to its mother," he said; "a responsibility that takes up her whole time and attention. I don't think I'd better complicate matters by getting into a row with the servants."
And so it went. A year and another year passed. The pretty home was beginning to look old. The bloom of its youth had most improperly faded—for surely a home should never fade—but there was the boy, a growing delight to his father, so why complain? Better this easy-going life than one of domestic contention.
Then on a sudden the boy fell ill. The doctor came—shook his head gravely.
"You must take him to the sea-shore," he said. "It is his only chance."
And to the sea-shore they went, leaving the house in charge of the treasures.
"I have confidence in you," said Thaddeus to Jane and Ellen on the morning of the departure, "so I have decided to leave the house open in your care. Mrs. Perkins wants you to keep it as you would if she were here. Whatever you need to make yourselves comfortable, you may get. Good-bye."
"What a comfort it is," said Bessie, when they had reached the sea- shore, and were indulging in their first bit of that woful luxury, homesickness—"what a comfort it is to feel that the girls are there to look after things! An empty house is such a temptation to thieves."
"Yes," said Thaddeus. "I hope they won't entertain too much, though."
"Ellen and Jane are too old for that sort of thing," Bessie answered.
"How about Norah?"
"Oh, I forgot to tell you. There was nothing really for Norah to do, so I told her she could go off and stay with her mother on board-wages."
"Good!" said Thaddeus, with a pleased smile. "It isn't a bad idea to save, particularly when you are staying at the sea-shore."
In this contented frame of mind they lived for several weeks. The boy grew stronger every day, and finally Thaddeus felt that the child was well enough to warrant his running back home for a night, "just to see how things were going." That the girls were faithful, of course, he did not doubt; the regularity with which letters addressed to him at home—and they were numerous—reached him convinced him of that; but the hamper containing the week's wash, which Ellen and Jane were to send, and which had been expected on Thursday of the preceding week, had failed for once to arrive; the boy had worn one dress four days, Thaddeus's collars were getting low, and altogether he was just a little uneasy about things. So he availed himself of his opportunity and went home, taking with him a friend, in consideration of whom he telegraphed ahead to Ellen to prepare a good breakfast, not caring for dinner, since he and his companion expected to dine at the club and go to the theatre before going out to his home.
The result would have been fatal to Bessie's peace of mind had she heard of it during her absence from home. But Thaddeus never told her, until it was a matter of ancient history, that when he arrived at home, a little after midnight, he found the place deserted, and was compelled to usher his friend in through the parlor window; that from top to bottom the mansion gave evidence of not having seen a broom or a dust-brush since the departure of the family; that Jane had not been seen in the neighborhood for one full week—this came from those living on adjoining property; that Ellen had been absent since early that morning, and was not expected to return for three days; and, crowning act of infamy, that he, Thaddeus, and his friend were compelled to breakfast next morning upon a half of a custard pie, a bit mouldy, found by the lord of the manor on the fast- melting remains of a cake of ice in the refrigerator. Whether it would have happened if Thaddeus had not been accompanied by a friend, whose laughter incited him to great deeds, or not I am not prepared to say, but something important did happen. Thaddeus rose to the occasion, and committed an act, and committed it thoroughly. The Thaddeus of old, the meek, long-suffering, too amiable Thaddeus, disappeared. The famous smile was given no chance to play. His wife was absent, and the smile was far away with her. Thaddeus, with one fell blow, burst his fetters and became free.
That afternoon, when he had returned to the seaboard, Bessie asked him, "How was the house?"
"Beautiful," said Thaddeus, quite truthfully; for it was.
"Did Ellen say anything about the hamper?"
"Not a word."
"Did you speak to her about it?"
"Oh, Teddy! How could you forget it?"
To the lasting honor of Thaddeus be it said that he bore up under this unflinchingly.
"Did you have a good breakfast, Ted?" Bessie asked, returning to the subject later.
"Very," said Thaddeus, thinking of the hearty meal he and his fellow-sufferer had eaten at the club after getting back to town. "We had a tomato omelet, coffee, toast, rice cakes, tenderloin steak, and grits."
"Dear me!" smiled Bessie; she was so glad her Teddy had been so well treated. "All that? Ellen must have laid herself out."
"Yes," said Thaddeus; "I think she did."
All the following week Thaddeus seemed to have a load on his mind—a load which he resolutely refused to share with his wife—and on Friday he found it necessary to go up to town.
"I thought this was your vacation," remonstrated Bessie.
"Well, so it is," said Thaddeus. "But—but I've got one or two matters to attend to—matters of very great importance—so that I think I'll have to go."
"If you must, you must," said Bessie. "But I think it's horrid of your partner to make you go back to town this hot weather."
"Don't be cross with my partner," said Thaddeus; "especially my partner in this matter."
"Have you different partners for different matters?" queried Bessie.
"Never mind about that, my dear; you'll know all about it in time, so don't worry."
"All right, Teddy. But I don't like to have you running away from me when I'm at a hotel. I'd rather be home, anyhow. Can't I go with you? Little Ted is well enough now to go home."
"Not this time; but you can go up next Wednesday if you wish," returned Thaddeus, with a slight show of embarrassment.
And so it was settled, and Thaddeus went to town. On Wednesday they all left the sea-shore to return to Phillipseburg.
"Oh, how lovely it looks!" ejaculated Bessie, as she entered the house, Norah having opened the door. "But—er—where's Jane, Norah?"
"Cookin' the dinner, mim."
"Why, Jane can't cook."
"If you please, mim, this is a new Jane."
Bessie's parasol fell to the floor. "A wha-a-at?" she cried.
"A new Jane. Misther Perkins has dispinsed with old Jane and Ellen, mim."
Bessie rushed up-stairs to her room and cried. The shock was too sudden. She longed for Thaddeus, who had remained at the station collecting the bath-tubs and other luxuries of the baby from the luggage-van, to come. What did it all mean? Jane and Ellen gone! New girls in their places!
And then Thaddeus came, and made all plain to the little woman, and when he was all through she was satisfied. He had discharged the tyrants, and had supplied their places. The latter was the important business which had taken him to town.
"But, Teddy," Bessie said, with a smile, when she had heard all, "how did poor mild little you ever have the courage to face those two women and give them their discharge?"
Teddy blushed. "I didn't," he answered, meekly; "I wrote it."
Five years have passed since then, and all has gone well. Thaddeus has remained free, and, as he proudly observes, domestics now tremble at his approach—that is, all except Norah, who remembers him as of old. Ellen and Jane are living together in affluence, having saved their wages for nearly the whole of their term of "service." Bessie is happy in the possession of two fine boys, to whom all her attention—all save a little reserved for Thaddeus—is given; and, as for the dubious, auburn-haired, and distinctly Celtic Norah, Thaddeus is afraid that she is developing into a "treasure."
"Why do you think so?" Bessie asked him, when he first expressed that fear.
"Oh, she has the symptoms," returned Thaddeus. "She has taken three nights off this week."
MR. BRADLEY'S JEWEL
Thaddeus was tired, and, therefore, Thaddeus was grumpy. One premise only was necessary for the conclusion—in fact, it was the only premise upon which a conclusion involving Thaddeus's grumpiness could find a foothold. If Thaddeus felt rested, everything in the world could go wrong and he would smile as sweetly as ever; but with the slightest trace of weariness in his system the smile would fade, wrinkles would gather on his forehead, and grumpiness set in whether things were right or wrong. On this special occasion to which I refer, things were just wrong enough to give him a decent excuse— outside of his weariness—for his irritation. Norah, the housemaid, had officiously undertaken to cover up the shortcomings of John, who should have blacked Thaddeus's boots, and who had taken his day off without preparing the extra pair which the lord of the manor had expected to wear that evening. It was nice of the housemaid, of course, to try to black the extra pair to keep John out of trouble, but she might have been more discriminating. It was not necessary for her to polish, until they shone like Claude Lorraine glasses, two right boots, one of which, paradoxical as it may seem, was consequently the wrong boot; so that when Thaddeus came to dress for the evening's diversion there was nowhere to be found in his shoe- box a bit of leathern gear in which his left foot might appear in polite society to advantage. Possibly Thaddeus might have endured the pain of a right boot on a left foot, had not Norah unfortunately chosen for that member a box-toed boot, while for the right she had selected one with a very decided acute angle at its toe-end.
"Just like a woman!" ejaculated Thaddeus, angrily.
"Yes," returned Bessie, missing Thaddeus's point slightly. "It was very thoughtful of Norah to look after John's work, knowing how important it was to you."
Fortunately Thaddeus was out of breath trying to shine up the other pointed-toe shoe, so that his only reply to this was a look, which Bessie, absorbed as she was in putting the studs in Thaddeus's shirt, did not see. If she had seen it, I doubt if she would have been so entirely happy as the tender little song she was humming softly to herself seemed to indicate that she was.
"Some people are born lucky!" growled Thaddeus, as he finished rubbing up the left boot, giving it a satin finish which hardly matched the luminous brilliance of its mate, though he said it would do. "There's Bradley, now; he never has any domestic woes of this sort, and he pays just half what we do for his servants."
"Oh, Mr. Bradley. I don't like him!" ejaculated Bessie. "You are always talking about Mr. Bradley, as if he had an automaton for a servant."
"No, I don't say he has an automaton," returned Thaddeus. "Automatons don't often work, and Bradley's jewel does. Her name is Mary, but Bradley always calls her his jewel."
"I've heard of jewels," said Bessie, thinking of the two Thaddeus and she had begun their married life with, "but they've always seemed to me to be paste emeralds—awfully green, and not worth much."
"There's no paste emerald about Bradley's girl," said Thaddeus. "Why, he says that woman has been in Mrs. Bradley's employ for seven weeks now, and she hasn't broken a bit of china; never sweeps dust under the beds or bureaus; keeps the silver polished so that it looks as if it were solid; gets up at six every morning; cooks well; is civil, sober, industrious; has no hangers-on—"
"Is Mr. Bradley a realist or a romancer?" asked Bessie.
"Why do you ask that?" replied Thaddeus.
"That jewel story sounds like an Arabian Nights tale," said Bessie. "I don't believe that it is more than half true, and that half is exaggerated."
"Well, it IS true," said Thaddeus. "And, what is more, the girl helps in the washing, plays with the children, and on her days out she stays at home and does sewing."
Bessie laughed. "She must be a regular Koh-i-noor," she said. "I suppose Mr. Bradley pays her a thousand dollars a month."
"No, he doesn't; he pays her twelve," said Thaddeus.
"Then he is just what I said he was," snapped Bessie—"a mean thing. The idea—twelve dollars a month for all that! Why, if she could prove she was all that you say she is, she could make ten times that amount by exhibiting herself. She is a curiosity. But if I were Mrs. Bradley I wouldn't have her in the house. So many virtues piled one on the other are sure to make an unsafe structure, and I believe some poor, miserable little vice will crop out somewhere and upset the whole thing."
"You are jealous," said Thaddeus; and then he went out.
The next day, meeting his friend Bradley on the street, Thaddeus greeted him with a smile, and said, "Mrs. Perkins thinks you ought to take up literature."
"Why so?" asked Bradley.
"She thinks De Foe and Scott and Dumas and Stevenson would be thrown into the depths of oblivion if you were to write up that jewel of yours," said Thaddeus. "She thinks your Mary is one of the finest, most imaginative creations of modern days."
"She doubts her existence, eh?" smiled Bradley.
"Well, she thinks she's more likely to be a myth than a Smith," said Thaddeus. "She told me to ask you if Mary has a twin-sister, and to say that if you hear of her having any relatives at all—and no domestic ever lived who hadn't—to send her their addresses. She'd like to employ a few."
"I am sorry Mrs. Perkins is so blinded by jealousy," said Bradley, with a smile. "And I regret to say that Mary hasn't a cousin on the whole police force, or, in fact, any kind of a relative whatsoever, unless she prevaricates."
"Too bad," said Thaddeus. "I had a vague hope we could stock up on jewels of her kind. Where did you get her, anyhow—Tiffany's?"
"No. At an unintelligence office," said Bradley. "She was a last resort. We had to have some one, and she was the only girl there. We took her for a week on trial without references, and, by Jove! she turned out a wonder."
Thaddeus grinned, and said: "Give her time, Bradley. By-the-way, at what hours is she on exhibition? I'd like to see her."
"Come up to-night and test the truth of what I say," said Bradley. "I won't let anybody know you are coming, and you'll see her just as we see her. What do you say?"
The temptation was too strong for Thaddeus to resist, and so it was that Bessie received a telegram that afternoon from her beloved, stating that he would dine with Bradley, and return home on a late train. The telegram concluded with the line, "I'M GOING TO APPRAISE THE ESCAPED CROWN-JEWEL."
Bessie chuckled at this, and stayed up until long after the arrival of the last train, so interested was she to hear from Thaddeus all about the Bradley jewel, who, as she said, "seemed too good to be true"; but she was finally forced to retire disappointed and somewhat anxious, for Thaddeus did not return home that night.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of eight o'clock the next morning Bessie received a second telegram, which read as follows:
"DO NOT WORRY. I AM ALL RIGHT. WILL BE HOME ABOUT NINE, HAVE BREAKFAST."
"Now I wonder what on earth can have kept him?" Bessie said. "Something has happened, I am sure. Perhaps an accident on the elevated, or maybe—"
She did not finish the sentence, but rushed into the library and snatched up the morning paper, scanning its every column in the expectation, if not hope, of finding that some horrible disaster had occurred, in which her Thaddeus might have been involved. The paper disclosed nothing of the sort. Only a few commonplace murders, the usual assortment of defalcations, baseball prophecies, and political prognostications could Bessie discover therein. Never, in fact, had the newspaper seemed so uninteresting—not even a bargain-counter announcement was there—and with an impatient, petulant stamp of her little foot she threw the journal from her and returned to the dining-room. It was then half-past eight, and, hardly able to contain herself with excitement, Bessie sat down by the window, and almost, if not quite, counted every swing of the pendulum that pushed the hands of the clock on to the desired hour. She could not eat, and not until curiosity was gratified as to what it was that had detained Thaddeus, and what, more singular still, was bringing him home instead of sending him to business at nine o'clock in the morning, could she, in fact, do anything.
Finally, the grinding sounds of carriage wheels on the gravel road without were heard, and in an instant Bessie was at the door to welcome the prodigal. And what a Thaddeus it was that came home that morning! His eyes showed conclusively that he had had no sleep, save the more or less unsatisfactory napping which suburban residents get on the trains. His beautiful pearl-gray scarf, that so became him when he left home the previous morning, was not anywhere in sight. His cheek was scratched, and every button that his vest had ever known had taken wings unto itself and flown, Bessie knew not whither. And yet, tired out as he was, dishevelled as he was, Thaddeus was not grumpy, but inclined rather to explosive laughter as he entered the house.
"Why, Thaddeus!" cried Bessie, in alarm. "What on earth is the matter with you? You look as if you had been in a riot."
"That's a pretty good guess, my dear," returned Thaddeus, with a laugh, "but not quite the right one."
"But tell me, what have you been doing? Where have you been?"
"At Bradley's, my love."
"You haven't been—been quarrelling with Mr. Bradley?"
"No. Bradley's jewel has proved your husband's Waterloo, as well as the Sedan of Bradley himself," returned Thaddeus, throwing his head back and bursting out into a loud guffaw.
"I am not good at riddles, Thaddeus," said Bessie, "and I haven't laughed much myself since that last train came in last night and didn't bring you. I think you might tell me—"
"Why, my dear little girl," said Thaddeus, walking to her side and kissing her, "I didn't mean to keep you in suspense, and of course I'll tell you."
Then, as they ate their breakfast, Thaddeus explained. "I told Bradley that you were a sceptic on the subject of his jewel," he said, "and he offered to prove that she was eighteen carats fine by taking me home with him, an unexpected guest, by which act he would test her value to my satisfaction. Of course, having cast doubts upon her excellence, I had to accept, and at half-past five he and I boarded an elevated train for Harlem. At six we stood before Bradley's front door, and as he had left his keys at the office, he rang the bell and waited. It was a long wait, considering the presence of a jewel within doors. It must have lasted fifteen minutes, and even that would have been but the beginning, in spite of repeated and continuous pulling of the bell-handle, had we not determined to enter through the reception-room window."
"Did you try the basement door?" queried Bessie, with a smile, for it pleased her to hear that the jewel was not quite flawless.
"Yes," said Thaddeus. "We rang four times at the basement, and I should say seven times at the front door, and then we took to the window. Bradley's is one of those narrow English-basement houses with a small yard in front, so that the reception-room window is easy to reach by climbing over the vault leading to the basement door, which is more or less of a cellar entrance. Fortunately the window was unlocked. I say fortunately, because it enabled us to get into the house, though if I were sitting on a jury I think I should base an indictment—one of criminal negligence—of the Jewel on the fact that it was unlocked. It was just the hour, you know, when policemen yawn and sneak-thieves prowl."
"How careless!" vouchsafed Bessie.
"Very," said Thaddeus. "But this time it worked for the good of all concerned, although my personal appearance doesn't give any indication that I gained anything by it. In fact, it would have been better for me if the house had been hermetically sealed."
"Don't dally so much, Thaddeus," put in Bessie. "I'm anxious to hear what happened."
"Well, of course Bradley was very much concerned," continued Thaddeus. "It was bad enough not to be able to attract the maid's attention by ringing, but when he noticed that the house was as dark as pitch, and that despite the clanging of the bell, which could be heard all over the neighborhood, even his wife didn't come to the door, he was worried; and he was more worried than ever when he got inside. We lit the gas in the hall, and walked back into the dining-room, where we also lighted up, and such confusion as was there you never saw! The table-cloth was in a heap on the floor; Bradley's candelabra, of which he was always so proud, were bent and twisted out of shape under the table; glasses broken beyond redemption were strewn round about; and a mixture of pepper, salt, and sugar was over everything."
"'I believe there have been thieves here,' said Bradley, his face turning white. And then he went to the foot of the stairs and called up to his wife, but there no answer.
"Then he started on a dead run up the stair. Above all was in confusion, as in the dining-room. Vases were broken, pictures hung awry on the walls; but nowhere was Mrs. Bradley or one of the Bradley children to be seen.
"Then we began a systematic search of the house. Everywhere everything was upside-down, and finally we came to a door on the third story back, leading into the children's play-room, and as we turned the knob and tried to open it we heard Mrs. Bradley's voice from within.
"'Who's there?' she said, her voice all of a tremble.
"'It is I!' returned Bradley. 'Open the door. What is the meaning of all this?'
"'Oh, I'm so glad you have come!' returned Mrs. Bradley, with a sob, and then we heard sounds as of the moving of heavy furniture. Mrs. Bradley, for some as yet unexplained reason, seemed to have barricaded herself in.
"Finally the door was opened, and Mrs. Bradley buried her face on her husband's shoulder and sobbed hysterically.
"'What on earth is the matter?' asked Bradley, as his children followed their mother's lead, except that they buried their faces in his coat-tail pockets. 'What has happened?'
"'Mary!' gasped Mrs. Bradley."
"The jewel?" asked Bessie.
"The same," returned Thaddeus, with a smile. "She was the jewel, alas! now deprived of her former glorious setting.
"'What's the matter with Mary?' asked Bradley.
"'She's been behaving outrageously. I found her this morning,' said Mrs. Bradley, 'rummaging through my escritoire, throwing things all over the floor; and when I remonstrated she said she was looking for a sheet of paper on which to write a letter. I told her she should have asked me for it, and she replied impertinently that she never asked favors of anybody. I told her to leave the room, and she declined to do it, picking up a sofa-pillow and throwing it at me. I was so overcome I nearly fainted.'"
"I should think she would have been overcome! Such impudence!" said Bessie.
"Humph!" said Thaddeus. "That isn't a marker to what followed. Why, according to Mrs. Bradley's story, that escaped Koh-i-noor called her all sorts of horrible names, threw an empty ink-pot at a photograph of Bradley himself, that stood on the mantel, and then, grabbing up a whisk-broom, literally swept everything else there was on the mantel off to the floor with it. This done, she began to overturn chairs with an ardor born of temper, apparently; and, finally, Mrs. Bradley got so frightened that she ran from the room, and the jewel started in pursuit. Straight to the nursery ran the lady of the house—for there was where the children were, playing house, no doubt, with little idea that jewels sometimes deteriorated. Once in the nursery, Mrs. Bradley slammed the door to, locked it, and then, still fearful, rolled before it the bureau and the children's cribs. After that the actions of the jewel could only be surmised. The door was pounded and the atmosphere of the hall was rent with violent harangues; then a hurried step was heard as the jewel presumably sailed below-stairs; then crashings were heard—crashings which might have indicated the smashing of windows, of picture-glass, of mirrors, chairs, and other household appurtenances, after which, Mrs. Bradley observed, all became still."
"Mercy! what a trial!" said Bessie. "And was she locked up in the nursery all day?"
"From twelve until we rescued her at a little after six," said Thaddeus. "Then Bradley and I started out to find the jewel, if possible, and I regret to say that it was possible. We found her asleep on the kitchen table, and Bradley hadn't any more sense than to try and wake her up. He succeeded too well. For the next ten minutes she was the most wide-awake woman you ever saw, and she kept us wide awake too. The minute she opened her eyes and saw us standing before her, she sprang to her feet and made a rush at Bradley, for which he was totally unprepared, the consequence of which was that in an instant he found himself sitting in a very undignified manner, for the head of the house, on the kitchen floor, trying to collect his somewhat scattered faculties.
"When she had persuaded Bradley to take a seat, she turned to shower her attentions on me. I jumped to one side, but she managed to grab hold of my vest, and hence its buttonless condition. By this time Bradley was on his feet again, and, having had the temerity to face his jewel the second time, he again came off second best, losing one of the button-holes of his collar in the melee. I rushed in from behind, and flirtatiously, perhaps, tried to grab hold of her hands, coming off the field minus a necktie, but plus that picturesque scratch you see on my nose. Stopping a moment to count up my profit and loss, I let Bradley make the next assault, which resulted in a drawn battle, Bradley losing his watch and his temper, the jewel losing her breath and her balance. So it went on for probably three or four minutes longer, though we certainly acquired several years of experience in those short minutes, until finally we managed to conquer her. This done, we locked her up in a closet."
"Had she been at the cooking-sherry?" asked Bessie.
"We thought so at first, and Bradley sent for a policeman," said Thaddeus "but when he came we found the poor creature too exhausted to be moved, and in a very short while Mrs. Bradley decided that it was a case for a doctor and not for a police-justice. So the doctor was summoned, and we waited, dinnerless, in the dining-room for his verdict, and finally it came. BRADLEY'S JEWEL WAS INSANE!"
"Insane!" echoed Bessie.
"Mad as a hatter," replied Thaddeus.
"Well, I declare!" said Bessie, thoughtfully. "But, Thaddeus, do you know I am not surprised."
"Why, my dear?" he asked.
"Because, Teddy, she was too perfect to be in her right mind."
And Thaddeus, after thinking it all over, was inclined to believe that Bessie was in the right.
"Yes, Bess, she was perfect—perfect in the way she did her work, perfect in the way she smashed things, and nowhere did she more successfully show the thoroughness with which she did everything than when it came to removing the buttons from my vest. Isn't it too bad that the only perfect servant that ever lived should turn out to be a hopeless maniac? But I must hurry off, or I'll miss my train."
"You are not going down to town to-day?" asked Bessie.
"To-day, above all other days, am I going down," returned Thaddeus. "I am enough of a barbarian to be unwilling to lose the chance of seeing Bradley, and asking him how he and his jewel get along."
"Why not, my dear?"
"It would be too mean for anything."
"Well, perhaps you are right. I guess I won't. But he has rubbed it into me so much about our domestics that I hate to lose the chance to hit back."
"Has he?" said Bessie, her face flushing indignantly, and, it may be added, becomingly. "In that case, perhaps, you might—ha! ha!— perhaps you might telegraph and ask him."
And Thaddeus did so. As yet he has received no reply.
UNEXPECTED POMP AT THE PERKINS'S
"My dear," said Thaddeus, one night, as he and Mrs. Perkins entered the library after dinner, "that was a very good dinner to-night. Don't you think so?"
"All except the salmon," said Bessie, with a smile.
"Salmon?" echoed Thaddeus. "Salmon? I did not see any salmon."
"No," said Bessie, "that was just the trouble. It didn't come up, although it was in the house before dinner, I'm certain. I saw it arrive."
"Ellen couldn't have known you intended it for dinner," said Thaddeus.
"Yes, she knew it was for dinner," returned Bessie, "but she made a mistake as to whose dinner it was for. She supposed it was bought for the kitchen-table, and when I went down-stairs to inquire about it a few minutes ago it was fulfilling its assumed mission nobly. There wasn't much left but the tail and one fin."
"Well!" ejaculated Thaddeus, "I call that a pretty cool proceeding. Did you give her a talking to?"
"No," Bessie replied, shortly; "I despise a domestic fuss, so I pretended I'd gone down to talk about breakfast. We'll have breakfast an hour or two earlier to-morrow, dear."
"What's that for?" queried Thaddeus, his eyes open wide with astonishment. "You are not going shopping, are you?"
"No, Teddy, I'm not; but when I got downstairs and realized that Ellen had made the natural mistake of supposing the fish was for the down-stairs dinner, this being Friday, I had to think of something to say, and nothing would come except that we wanted breakfast at seven instead of at eight. It doesn't do to have servants suspect you of spying upon them, nor is it wise ever to appear flustered—so mamma says—in their presence. I avoided both by making Ellen believe I'd come down to order an early breakfast."
"You are a great Bessie," said Thaddeus, with a laugh. "I admire you more than ever, my dear, and to prove it I'd get up to breakfast if you'd ordered it at 1 A.M."
"You'd be more likely to stay up to it," said Bessie, "and then go to bed after it."
"There's your Napoleonic mind again," said Thaddeus. "I should never have thought of that way out of it. But, Bess," he continued, "when I was praising to-night's dinner I had a special object in view. I think Ellen cooks well enough now to warrant us in giving a dinner, don't you?"
"Well, it all depends on what we have for dinner," said Bessie. "Ellen's biscuits are atrocious, I think, and you know how lumpy the oatmeal always is."
"Suppose we try giving a dinner with the oatmeal and biscuit courses left out?" suggested Thaddeus, with a grin.
Bessie's eyes twinkled. "You make very bright after-dinner speeches, Teddy," she said. "I don't see why we can't have a dinner with nothing but pretty china, your sparkling conversation, and a few flowers strewn about. It would be particularly satisfactory to me."
"They're not all angels like you, my dear," Thaddeus returned. "There's Bradley, for instance. He'd die of starvation before we got to the second course in a dinner of that kind, and if there is any one thing that can cast a gloom over a dinner, it is to have one of the guests die of starvation right in the middle of it."
"Mr. Bradley would never do so ungentlemanly a thing," said Bessie, laughing heartily. "He is too considerate a man for that; he'd starve in silence and without ostentation."
"Why this sudden access of confidence in Bradley?" queried Thaddeus. "I thought you didn't like him?"
"Neither I did, until that Sunday he spent with us," Bessie answered. "I've admired him intensely ever since. Don't you remember, we had lemon pie for dinner—one I made myself?"
"Yes, I remember," said Thaddeus; "but I fail to see the connection between lemon pie and Bradley. Bradley is not sour or crusty."
"You wouldn't have failed to see if you'd watched Mr. Bradley at dinner," retorted Bessie. "He ate two pieces of it."
"And just because a man eats two pieces of lemon pie prepared by your own fair hands you whirl about, and, from utterly disliking him, call him, upon the whole, one of the most admirable products of the human race?" said Thaddeus.
"Not at all," Bessie replied, with a broad smile; "but I did admire the spirit and politeness of the man. On our way home from church in the morning we were talking about the good times children have on their little picnics, and Mr. Bradley said he never enjoyed a picnic in his life, because every one he had ever gone to was ruined by the baleful influence of lemon pie."
Thaddeus laughed. "Then he didn't like lemon pie?" he asked.
"No, he hated it," said Bessie, joining in the laugh. "He added that the original receipt for it came out of Pandora's box."
"Poor Bradley!" cried Thaddeus, throwing his head back in a paroxysm of mirth. "Hated pie—declared his feelings—and then to be confronted by it at dinner."
"He behaved nobly," said Bessie. "Ate his first piece like a man, and then called for a second, like a hero, when you remarked that it was of my make."
"You ought to have told him it wasn't necessary, Bess," said Thaddeus.
"I felt that way myself at first," Bessie explained; "but then I thought I wouldn't let him know I remembered what he had said."
"I fancy that was better," said Thaddeus. "But about that dinner. What do you say to our inviting the Bradleys, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, the Robinsons, and the Twinings?"
"How many does that make? Eight besides ourselves?" asked Bessie, counting upon her fingers.
"Yes—ten altogether," said Thaddeus.
"It can't be done, dear," said Bessie. "We have only eight fruit plates."
"Can't you and I go without fruit?" Thaddeus asked.
"Not very well," laughed Bessie. "It would never do."
"They might think the fruit was poisoned if we did, eh?" suggested Thaddeus.
"Besides, Mary never could serve dinner for ten; eight is her number. Last time we had ten people, don't you remember, she dropped a tray full of dishes, and poured the claret into the champagne glasses?"
"Oh, yes, so she did," said Thaddeus. "That's how we came to have only eight fruit plates. I remember. I don't think it was the number of people at the table, though. It was Twining caused the trouble, he had just made the pleasant remark that he wouldn't have an Irish servant in his house, when Mary fired the salute."
"Then that settles it," said Bessie. "We'll cut the Twinings out, and ask the others. I don't care much for Mrs. Twining, anyhow; she's nothing but clothes and fidgets."
"And Twining doesn't do much but ask you what you think of certain things, and then tell you you are all wrong when he finds out," said Thaddeus. "Yes, it's just as well to cut them off this time. We'll make it for eight, and have it a week from Thursday night."
"That's Mary's night off," said Bessie.
"Then how about having it Friday?"
"That's Maggie's night off, and there won't be anybody to mind the baby."
"Humph!" said Thaddeus. "I wish there were a baby safe-deposit company somewhere. Can't your mother come over and look after him?"
"No," said Bessie, "she can't. The child always develops something every time mother comes. Not, of course, that I believe she gives it to him, but she looks for things, don't you know."
"Yes," said Thaddeus, "I know. Then make it Wednesday. That's my busy day down-town, and I shan't be able to get home much before half-past six, but if dinner is at seven, there will be time enough for me to dress."
"Very well," said Bessie. "I will write the invitations to-morrow, and, meanwhile, you and I can get up the menu."
"Oysters to begin with, of course," said Thaddeus.
"I suppose so," said Bessie, "though, you remember, the last time we had oysters you had to open them, because the man from the market didn't get here until half-past seven."
"And Ellen had never opened any except with a tack-hammer," said Thaddeus. "Yes, I remember. But lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Put down the oysters. Then we'll have some kind of a puree—celery puree, eh?"
"That will be very good if Ellen can be induced to keep it thick."
"Perhaps we'd better tell her we want a celery consomme," suggested Thaddeus. "Then it will be sure to be as thick as a dictionary."
"I guess it will be all right," said Bessie. "What kind of fish?"
"Bradley likes salmon; Robinson likes sole; Phillips likes whitebait, and so do I."
"We'll have whitebait," said Bessie, simply. "Then a saddle of mutton?"
"Yes, and an entree of some kind, and next individual ruddy ducks."
"No Roman punch?"
"We can get along without that, I think," said Thaddeus. "We want to keep this dinner down to Mary's comprehension, and I'm afraid she wouldn't know what to make of an ice in the middle of the dinner. The chances are she'd want to serve it hot."
"All right, Teddy. What next?"
"I would suggest a lemon pie for Bradley," smiled Thaddeus.
"What do you say to Ellen's making one of her tipsy-cakes?" suggested Bessie.
"Just the thing," said Thaddeus, smacking his lips with enthusiasm. "I could eat a million of 'em. Then we can finish up with coffee and fruit."
So it was settled. The invitations were sent out, and Bessie devoted her energies for the next ten days to making ready.
Ellen's culinary powers were tested at every meal. For dinner one night she was requested to prepare the puree, which turned out to be eminently satisfactory. Thaddeus gave her a few practical lessons in the art of opening oysters, an art of which he had become a master in his college days—in fact, if his own words were to be believed, it was the sole accomplishment he had there acquired which gave any significance whatever to his degree of B. A.—so that in case the "fish gentleman" failed to appear in time nothing disastrous might result. Other things on the menu were also ordered at various times, and all went so well that when Thaddeus left home on the chosen Wednesday morning, it was with a serene sense of good times ahead. The invited guests had accepted, and everything was promising.
As Thaddeus had said, Wednesday was his busy day, and never had it been busier than upon this occasion. Everything moved smoothly, but there was a great deal to move, and finally, when all was done, and Thaddeus rose to leave his desk, it was nearly six o'clock, and quite impossible for him to reach home before seven. "I shall be late," he said, as he hurried off; and he was right. He arrived at home coincidently with his guests, rushed to his room, and dressed. But one glimpse had he of Bessie, and that was as they passed on the stairs, she hurrying down to receive her guests, he hurrying up to change his clothes.
"Oh, Thad!" was all she said, but to Thaddeus it was disconcerting.
"What is the matter, dear?" he asked.
"Nothing; I'll tell you later. Hurry," she gasped, "or the dinner will be spoiled."
Thaddeus hurried as he never hurried before, and in fifteen minutes walked, immaculate as to attire, into the drawing-room, where Bessie, her color heightened to an unusual degree, and her usually bright eyes fairly flaming with an unwonted brilliance, was entertaining the Bradleys, the Phillipses, and the Robinsons.
"Didn't expect me, did you?" said Thaddeus, as he entered the room.
"No," said Bradley, dryly. "This is an unexpected pleasure. I didn't even know you were a friend of the family."
"Well, I am," said Thaddeus. "One of the oldest friends I've got, in fact, which is my sole excuse for keeping you waiting. Old friends are privileged—eh, Mrs. Robinson?"
"Dinner is served," came a deep bass voice from the middle of the doorway.
Thaddeus jumped as if he had seen a ghost, and, turning to see what could have caused the strange metamorphosis in the soprano tremolo of Mary's voice, was astonished to observe in the parting of the portieres not the more or less portly Mary, but a huge, burly, English-looking man, bowing in a most effective and graceful fashion to Mrs. Bradley, and then straightening himself up into a pose as rigid and uncompromising as that of a marble statue.
"What on earth—" began Thaddeus, with a startled look of inquiry at Bessie. But she only shook her head, and put her finger to her lips, enjoining silence, which Thaddeus, fortunately, had the good sense to understand, even if his mind was not equal to the fathoming of that other mystery, the pompous and totally unexpected butler.
But if Thaddeus was surprised to see the butler, he was amazed at the dinner which the butler served. Surely, he thought, if Ellen can prepare a dinner like this, she ought to be above taking sixteen dollars and a home a month. It was simply a regal repast. The oysters were delicious, and the puree was superior to anything Thaddeus had ever eaten in the line of soups in his life—only it was lobster puree, and ten times better than Ellen's general run of celery puree. He winked his eye to denote his extreme satisfaction to Bessie when he thought no one was looking, but was overwhelmed with mortification when he observed that the wink had been seen by the overpowering butler, who looked sternly at him, as much as to say, "'Ow wery wulgar!"
"I must congratulate your cook upon her lobster puree, Mrs. Perkins," said Mr. Phillips. "It is delicious."
"Yes," put in Thaddeus. "But you ought to taste her celery puree. She is undoubtedly great on purees."
Bessie coughed slightly and shook her head at Thaddeus, and Thaddeus thought he detected the germ of a smile upon the cold face of the butler. He was not sure about it, but it curdled his blood just a little, because that ghost of a smile seemed to have just a tinge of a sneer in it.
"This isn't the same cook you had last time, is it?" asked Bradley.
"Yes," said Thaddeus. "Same one, though it was my wife who made that lem—"
"Thaddeus," interrupted Bessie, "Mrs. Robinson tells me that she and Mr. Robinson are going down to New York to the theatre on Friday night. Can't we all go?"
"Certainly," said Thaddeus. "I'm in on any little diversion of that sort. Why, what's this?—er—why, yes, of course. Phillips, you'll go; and you, too, eh, Bradley?"
Thaddeus was evidently much upset again; for, instead of the whitebait he and Bessie had decided upon for their fish course, the butler had entered, bearing in a toplofty fashion a huge silver platter, upon which lay a superb salmon, beautifully cooked and garnished. This he was now holding before Thaddeus, and stood awaiting his nod of approval before serving it. Inasmuch as Thaddeus not only expected whitebait, but had also never before seen the silver platter, it is hardly surprising that he should sit staring at the fish in a puzzled sort of way. He recovered shortly, however, gave the nod the butler was waiting for, and the dinner proceeded. And what a dinner it was! Each new course in turn amazed Thaddeus far more than the course that had preceded it; and now, when the butler, whom Thaddeus had got more or less used to, came in bearing a bottle of wine, followed by another stolid, well- dressed person, who might have been his twin-brother and who was in reality no more than assistant to the other, Thaddeus began to fear that the wine he had partaken of had brought about that duplication of sight which is said to be one of the symptoms of over-indulgence. Either that or he was dreaming, he thought; and the alternative was not a pleasant one, for Thaddeus did not over-indulge, and as a person of intellect he did not deem it the proper thing to dream at the dinner-table, since the first requisite of dreaming is falling asleep. This Thaddeus never did in polite society.
To say that he could scarcely contain himself for curiosity to know what had occurred to bring about this singular condition of affairs is to put it with a mildness which justice to Thaddeus compels me to term criminal. Yet, to his credit be it said, that through the whole of the repast, which lasted for two hours, he kept silent, and but for a slight nervousness of manner no one would have suspected that he was not as he had always been. Indeed, to none of the party, not even excepting his wife, did Thaddeus appear to be anything but what he should be. But when, finally, the ladies had withdrawn and the men remained over the coffee and cigars, he was compelled to undergo a still severer test upon his loyalty to Bessie, whose signal to him to accept all and say nothing he was so nobly obeying.
Bradley began it. "I didn't know you'd changed from women to men servants, Perkins?"
"Yes," said Thaddeus "we've changed."
"Rather good change, don't you think?"
"Splendid," said Phillips. "That fellow served the dinner like a prince."
"I don't believe he's any more than a duke, though," said Bradley. "His manner was quite ducal—in fact, too ducal, if Perkins will let me criticise. He made me feel like a poor, miserable, red-blooded son of the people. I wanted an olive, and, by Jove, I didn't dare ask for it."
"That wasn't his fault," said Robinson, with a laugh. "You forget that you live in a country where red blood is as good as blue. Where did you get him, Thaddeus?"
Thaddeus looked like a rat in a corner with a row of cats to the fore.
"Oh!—we—er—we got him from—dear me! I never can remember. Mrs. Perkins can tell you, though," he stammered. "She looks after the menagerie."
"What's his name?" asked Phillips.
Thaddeus's mind was a blank. He could not for the life of him think what name a butler would be likely to have, but in a moment he summoned up nerve enough to speak.
"Grimmins," he said, desperately.
"Sounds like a Dickens' character," said Robinson. "Does he cost you very much?"
"Oh no—not so very much," said Thaddeus, whose case was now so desperate that he resolved to put a stop to it all. Unfortunately, his method of doing so was not by telling the truth, but by a flight of fancy in which he felt he owed it to Bessie to indulge.
"No—he doesn't cost much," he repeated, boldly. "Fact is, he is a man we've known for a great many years. He—er—he used to be butler in my grandfather's house in Philadelphia, and—er—and I was there a great deal of the time as a boy, and Grimmins and I were great friends. When my grandfather died Grimmins disappeared, and until last month I never heard a word of him, and then he wrote to me stating that he was out of work and poor as a fifty-cent table- d'hote dinner, and would like employment at nominal wages if he could get a home with it. We were just getting rid of our waitress, and so I offered Grimmins thirty a month, board, lodging, and clothes. He came on; I gave him one of my old dress-suits, set him to work, and there you are."
"I thought you said a minute ago Mrs. Perkins got him?" said Bradley, who is one of those disagreeable men with a memory.
"I thought you were talking about the cook," said Thaddeus, uneasily. "Weren't you talking about the cook?"
"No; but we ought to have been," said Phillips, with enthusiasm. "She's the queen of cooks. What do you pay her?"
"Sixteen," said Thaddeus, glad to get back on the solid ground of truth once more.
"What?" cried Phillips. "Sixteen, and can cook like that? Take me down and introduce me, will you, Perkins? I'd like to offer her seventeen to come and cook for me."
"Let's join the ladies," said Thaddeus, abruptly. "There's no use of our wasting our sweetness upon each other."
If the head of the house had expected to be relieved from his unfortunate embarrassments by joining the ladies, he was doomed to bitter disappointment, for the conversation abandoned at the table was resumed in the drawing-room. The dinner had been too much of a success to be forgotten readily.
Thaddeus's troubles were set going again when he overheard Phillips saying to Bessie, "Thaddeus has been telling us the remarkable story of Grimmins."
Nor were his woes lightened any when he caught Bessie's reply: "Indeed? What story is that?"
"Why, the story of the butler—Grimmins, you know. How you came to get him, and all that," said Phillips. "Really, you are to be congratulated."
"I am glad to know you feel that way," said Bessie, simply, with a glance at Thaddeus which was full of wonderment.
"He is a treasure," said Bradley; "but your cook is a whole chestful of treasures. And how fortunate you and Thaddeus are! The idea of there being anywhere in the world a person of such ability in her vocation, and so poor a notion of her worth!"
Thaddeus breathed again, now that the cook was under discussion. He knew all about her.
"Yes, indeed," said Bessie. "He did well."
"I mean the cook," returned Bradley. "You mean she did well, don't you?"
What Bessie would have answered, or what Thaddeus would have done next if the conversation had been continued, can be a matter of unprofitable speculation only, for at this point a wail from above- stairs showed that Master Perkins had awakened, and the ladies, considerate of Bessie's maternal feelings, promptly rose to take their leave, and in ten minutes she and Thaddeus were alone.
"What on earth is the story of Grimmins, Thaddeus?" she asked, as the door closed upon the departing guests.
Thaddeus threw himself wearily down upon the sofa and explained. He told her all he had said about the butler and the cook.
"That's the story of Grimmins," he said, when he had finished.
"Oh, dear me, dear me!" cried Bessie, "you told the men that, and I—I, Thaddeus, told the women the truth. Why, it's—it's awful. You'll never hear the end of it."
"Well, now that they know the truth, Bess," Thaddeus said, "suppose you let me into the secret. What on earth is the meaning of all this—two butlers, silver platters, dinner fit for the gods, and all?"
"It's all because of the tipsy-cake," said Bessie.
"The what?" asked Thaddeus, sitting up and gazing at his wife as if he questioned her sanity.
"The tipsy-cake," she repeated. "I gave Ellen the bottle of brandy you gave me for the tipsy-cake, and—and she drank half of it."
"And the other half?"
"Mary drank that. They got word this morning that their brother was very ill, and it upset them so I don't believe they knew what they were doing; but at one o'clock, when I went down to lunch, there was no lunch ready, and when I descended into the kitchen to find out why, I found that the fire had gone out, and both girls were—both girls were asleep on the cellar floor. They're there yet—locked in; and all through dinner I was afraid they might come to, and— make a rumpus."
"And the dinner?" said Thaddeus, a light breaking through into his troubled mind.
"I telegraphed to New York to Partinelli at once, telling him to serve a dinner for eight here to-night, supplying service, cook, dinner, and everything, and at four o'clock these men arrived and took possession. It was the only thing I could do, Thad, wasn't it?"
"It was, Bess," said Thaddeus, gravely. "It was great; but—by Jove, I wish I'd known, because—Did you really tell the ladies the truth about it?"
"Yes, I did," said Bessie. "They were so full of praises for everything that I didn't think it was fair for me to take all the credit of it, so I told them the whole thing."
"That was right, too," said Thaddeus; "but those fellows will never let me hear the end of that infernal Grimmins story. I almost wish we—"
"You wish what, Teddy dear?"
"I almost wish we had not attempted the tipsy-cake, and had stuck to my original suggestion," said Thaddeus.
"What was that?" Bessie asked.
"To have lemon pie for dessert, for Bradley's sake," answered Thaddeus, as he locked the front door and turned off the gas.
It was early in the autumn. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, with their two hopefuls, had returned from a month of rest at the mountains, and the question of school for Thaddeus junior came up.
"He is nearly six years old," said Bessie, "and I think he is quite intelligent enough to go to school, don't you?"
"Well, if you want my honest opinion," Thaddeus answered, "I think he's intelligent enough to go without school for another year at least. I don't want a hot-house boy, and I have always been opposed to forcing these little minds that we are called upon by circumstances to direct. It seems to me that the thing for us to do is to hold them back, if anything. If Teddy goes to school now, he'll be ready for college when he is twelve. He'll be graduated at sixteen, and at twenty he'll be practising law. At twenty-five he'll be leader of the bar; and then—what will there be left for him to achieve at fifty? Absolutely nothing."
Mrs. Perkins laughed. "You have great hopes for Teddy, haven't you?"
"Certainly I have," Thaddeus replied; "and why shouldn't I? Doesn't he combine all my good qualities plus yours? How can he be anything else than great?"
"I am afraid there's a touch of vanity in you," said Mrs. Perkins, with a smile. "That remark certainly indicates it."
"No—it's not vanity in me," said Thaddeus. "It's confidence in you. You've assured me so often of my perfection that I am beginning to believe in it; and as for your perfection, I've always believed in it. Hence, when I see Teddy combining your perfect qualities with my own, I regard him as a supernaturally promising person—that is, I do until he begins to show the influence of contact with the hired man, and uses language which he never got from you or from me."
"Granting that he is great at twenty-five," said Mrs. Perkins, after a few moments' reflection, "is that such a horrible thing?"
"It isn't for the parents of the successful youth, but for the successful youth himself it's something awful," returned Thaddeus, with a convincing shake of the head. "If no one ever lived beyond the age of thirty-five it wouldn't be so bad, but think of living to be even so young as sixty, with a big reputation to sustain through more than half of that period! I wouldn't want to have to sustain a big name for twenty-five years. Success entails conspicuousness, and conspicuousness makes error almost a crime. Put your mind on it for a moment. Think of Teddy here. How nervous it would make him in everything he undertook to feel that the eyes of the world were upon him. And take into consideration that other peculiarity of human nature which leads us all, you and me as well as every one else, to believe that the man who does not progress is going backward, that there is no such thing as standing still; then think of a man illustrious enough for seventy at twenty-five—at the limit of success, with all those years before him, and no progress possible! No, my dear. Don't let's talk of school for Teddy yet."
"I am sure I don't want to force him," said Mrs. Perkins, "but it sometimes seems to me that he needs lessons in discipline. I can't be following around after him all the time, and it seems to me some days that I do nothing but find fault with him. I don't want him to think I'm a stern mother; and when he tells me, as he did yesterday, that he wishes I'd take a vacation for a month, I can't blame him."
"Did he tell you that?" asked Thaddeus, with a chuckle.
"Yes, he did," replied Mrs. Perkins. "I'd kept him in a chair for an hour because he would tease Tommy, and when finally I let him go I told him that he was wearing me out with his naughtiness. About an hour later he came back and said, 'You have an awful hard time bringin' me up, don't you?' I said yes, and added that he might spare me the necessity of scolding him so often, to which he replied that he'd try, but thought it would be better if I'd take a vacation for a month. He hadn't much hope for his own improvement."
Thaddeus shook internally.
"He's perfectly wild, too, at times," Mrs. Perkins continued. "He wants to do such fearful things. I caught him sliding down the banisters yesterday head-foremost, and you know how he was at the Mountain House all summer long. Perfectly irrepressible."
"That's very true," said Thaddeus. "I was speaking of it to the doctor up there, and asked him what he thought I'd better do."