List Of Contents | Contents of The Treasure, by Kathleen Norris
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Lizzie, who happened to be the Salisbury's one servant at the time,
was wasteful. It was almost her only fault, in Mrs. Salisbury's
eyes, for such trifles as her habit of becoming excited and "saucy,"
in moments of domestic stress, or to ask boldly for other holidays
than her alternate Sunday and Thursday afternoons, or to resent at
all times the intrusion of any person, even her mistress, into her
immaculate kitchen, might have been overlooked. Mrs. Salisbury had
been keeping house in a suburban town for twenty years; she was not
considered an exacting mistress. She was perfectly willing to
forgive Lizzie what was said in the hurried hours before the company
dinner or impromptu lunch, and to let Lizzie slip out for a walk
with her sister in the evening, and to keep out of the kitchen
herself as much as was possible. So much might be conceded to a girl
who was honest and clean, industrious, respectable, and a fair cook.

But the wastefulness was a serious matter. Mrs. Salisbury was a
careful and an experienced manager; she resented waste; indeed, she
could not afford to tolerate it. She liked to go into the kitchen
herself every morning, to eye the contents of icebox and pantry, and
decide upon needed stores. Enough butter, enough cold meat for
dinner, enough milk for a nourishing soup, eggs and salad for
luncheon--what about potatoes?

Lizzie deliberately frustrated this house-wifely ambition. She
flounced and muttered when other hands than her own were laid upon
her icebox. She turned on rushing faucets, rattled dishes in her
pan. Yet Mrs. Salisbury felt that she must personally superintend
these matters, because Lizzie was so wasteful. The girl had not been
three months in the Salisbury family before all bills for supplies
soared alarmingly.

This was all wrong. Mrs. Salisbury fretted over it a few weeks, then
confided her concern to her husband. But Kane Salisbury would not
listen to the details. He scowled at the introduction of the topic,
glanced restlessly at his paper, murmured that Lizzie might be
"fired"; and, when Mrs. Salisbury had resolutely bottled up her
seething discontent inside of herself, she sometimes heard him
murmuring, "Bad--bad--management" as he sat chewing his pipe-stem on
the dark porch or beside the fire.

Alexandra, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the house, was equally
incurious and unreasonable about domestic details.

"But, honestly, Mother, you know you're afraid of Lizzie, and she
knows it," Alexandra would declare gaily; "I can't tell you how I'd
manage her, because she's not my servant, but I know I would do

Beauty and intelligence gave Alexandra, even at eighteen, a certain
serene poise and self-reliance that lifted her above the old-
fashioned topics of "trouble with girls," and housekeeping, and
marketing. Alexandra touched these subjects under the titles of
"budgets," "domestic science," and "efficiency." Neither she nor her
mother recognized the old, homely subjects under their new names,
and so the daughter felt a lack of interest, and the mother a lack
of sympathy, that kept them from understanding each other.
Alexandra, ready to meet and conquer all the troubles of a badly
managed world, felt that one small home did not present a very
terrible problem. Poor Mrs. Salisbury only knew that it was becoming
increasingly difficult to keep a general servant at all in a family
of five, and that her husband's salary, of something a little less
than four thousand dollars a year, did not at all seem the princely
sum that they would have thought it when they were married on twenty
dollars a week.

From the younger members of the family, Fred, who was fifteen, and
Stanford, three years younger, she expected, and got, no sympathy.
The three young Salisburys found money interesting only when they
needed it for new gowns, or matinee tickets, or tennis rackets, or
some kindred purchase. They needed it desperately, asked for it, got
it, spent it, and gave it no further thought. It meant nothing to
them that Lizzie was wasteful. It was only to their mother that the
girl's slipshod ways were becoming an absolute trial.

Lizzie, very neat and respectful, would interfere with Mrs.
Salisbury's plan of a visit to the kitchen by appearing to ask for
instructions before breakfast was fairly over. When the man of the
house had gone, and before the children appeared, Lizzie would

"Just yourselves for dinner, Mrs. Salisbury?"

"Just ourselves. Let--me--see--" Mrs. Salisbury would lay down her
newspaper, stir her cooling coffee. The memory of last night's
vegetables would rise before her; there must be baked onions left,
and some of the corn.

"There was some lamb left, wasn't there?" she might ask.

Amazement on Lizzie's part.

"That wasn't such an awful big leg, Mrs. Salisbury. And the boys had
Perry White in, you know. There's just a little plateful left. I
gave Sam the bones."

Mrs. Salisbury could imagine the plateful: small, neat, cold.

"Sometimes I think that if you left the joint on the platter,
Lizzie, there are scrapings, you know--" she might suggest.

"I scraped it," Lizzie would answer briefly, conclusively.

"Well, that for lunch, then, for Miss Sandy and me," Mrs. Salisbury
would decide hastily. "I'll order something fresh for dinner. Were
there any vegetables left?"

"There were a few potatoes, enough for lunch," Lizzie would admit

"I'll order vegetables, too, then!" And Mrs. Salisbury would sigh.
Every housekeeper knows that there is no economy in ordering afresh
for every meal.

"And we need butter--"

"Butter again! Those two pounds gone?"

"There's a little piece left, not enough, though. And I'm on my last
cake of soap, and we need crackers, and vanilla, and sugar, unless
you're not going to have a dessert, and salad oil--"

"Just get me a pencil, will you?" This was as usual. Mrs. Salisbury
would pencil a long list, would bite her lips thoughtfully, and sigh
as she read it over.

"Asparagus to-night, then. And, Lizzie, don't serve so much melted
butter with it as you did last time; there must have been a cupful
of melted butter. And, another time, save what little scraps of
vegetables there are left; they help out so at lunch--"

"There wasn't a saucerful of onions left last night," Lizzie would
assert, "and two cobs of corn, after I'd had my dinner. You couldn't
do much with those. And, as for butter on the asparagus"--Lizzie was
very respectful, but her tone would rise aggrievedly--"it was every
bit eaten, Mrs. Salisbury!"

"Yes, I know. But we mustn't let these young vandals eat us out of
house and home, you know," the mistress would say, feeling as if she
were doing something contemptibly small. And, worsted, she would
return to her paper. "But I don't care, we cannot afford it!" Mrs.
Salisbury would say to herself, when Lizzie had gone, and very
thoughtfully she would write out a check payable to "cash." "I used
to use up little odds and ends so deliciously, years ago!" she
sometimes reflected disconsolately. "And Kane always says we never
live as well now as we did then! He always praised my dinners."

Nowadays Mr. Salisbury was not so well satisfied. Lizzie rang the
changes upon roasted and fried meats, boiled and creamed vegetables,
baked puddings and canned fruits contentedly enough. She made cup
cake and sponge cake, sponge cake and cup cake all the year round.
Nothing was ever changed, no unexpected flavor ever surprised the
palates of the Salisbury family. May brought strawberry shortcake,
December cottage puddings, cold beef always made a stew; creamed
codfish was never served without baked potatoes. The Salisbury table
was a duplicate of some millions of other tables, scattered the
length and breadth of the land.

"And still the bills go up!" fretted Mrs. Salisbury.

"Well, why don't you fire her, Sally?" her husband asked, as he had
asked of almost every maid they had ever had--of lazy Annies, and
untidy Selmas, and ignorant Katies. And, as always, Mrs. Salisbury
answered patiently:

"Oh, Kane, what's the use? It simply means my going to Miss Crosby's
again, and facing that awful row of them, and beginning that I have
three grown children, and no other help--"

"Mother, have you ever had a perfect maid?" Sandy had asked
earnestly years before. Her mother spent a moment in reflection,
arresting the hand with which she was polishing silver. Alexandra
was only sixteen then, and mother and daughter were bridging a gap
when there was no maid at all in the Salisbury kitchen.

"Well, there was Libby," the mother answered at length, "the colored
girl I had when you were born. She really was perfect, in a way. She
was a clean darky, and such a cook! Daddy talks still of her fried
chicken and blueberry pies! And she loved company, too. But, you
see, Grandma Salisbury was with us then, and she paid a little girl
to look after you, so Libby had really nothing but the kitchen and
dining-room to care for. Afterward, just before Fred came, she got
lazy and ugly, and I had to let her go. Canadian Annie was a
wonderful girl, too," pursued Mrs. Salisbury, "but we only had her
two months. Then she got a place where there were no children, and
left on two days' notice. And when I think of the others!--the
Hungarian girl who boiled two pairs of Fred's little brown socks and
darkened the entire wash, sheets and napkins and all! And the
colored girl who drank, and the girl who gave us boiled rice for
dessert whenever I forgot to tell her anything else! And then Dad
and I never will forget the woman who put pudding sauce on his
mutton--dear me, dear me!" And Mrs. Salisbury laughed out at the
memory. "Between her not knowing one thing, and not understanding a
word we said, she was pretty trying all around!" she presently
added. "And, of course, the instant you have them really trained
they leave; and that's the end of that! One left me the day Stan was
born, and another--and she was a nice girl, too--simply departed
when you three were all down with scarlet fever, and left her bed
unmade, and the tea cup and saucer from her breakfast on the end of
the kitchen table! Luckily we had a wonderful nurse, and she simply
took hold and saved the day."

"Isn't it a wonder that there isn't a training school for house
servants?" Sandy had inquired, youthful interest in her eye.

"There's no such thing," her mother assured her positively, "as
getting one who knows her business! And why? Why, because all the
smart girls prefer to go into factories, and slave away for three or
four dollars a week, instead of coming into good homes! Do Pearsall
and Thompson ever have any difficulty in getting girls for the glove
factory? Never! There's a line of them waiting, a block long, every
time they advertise. But you may make up your mind to it, dear, if
you get a good cook, she's wasteful or she's lazy, or she's
irritable, or dirty, or she won't wait on table, or she slips out at
night, and laughs under street lamps with some man or other! She's
always on your mind, and she's always an irritation."

"It just shows what a hopelessly stupid class you have to deal with,
Mother," the younger Sandy had said. But at eighteen, she was not so

Alexandra frankly hated housework, and she did not know how to cook.
She did not think it strange that it was hard to find a clever and
well-trained young woman who would gladly spend all her time in
housework and cooking for something less than three hundred dollars
a year. Her eyes were beginning to be opened to the immense moral
and social questions that lie behind the simple preference of
American girls to work for men rather than for women. Household work
was women's sphere, Sandy reasoned, and they had made it a sphere
insufferable to other women. Something was wrong.

Sandy was too young, and too mentally independent, to enter very
sympathetically into her mother's side of the matter. The younger
woman's attitude was tinged with affectionate contempt, and when the
stupidity of the maid, or the inconvenience of having no maid at
all, interfered with the smooth current of her life, or her busy
comings and goings, she became impatient and intolerant.

"Other people manage!" said Alexandra.

"Who, for instance?" demanded her mother, in calm exasperation.

"Oh, everyone--the Bernards, the Watermans! Doilies and finger
bowls, and Elsie in a cap and apron!"

"But Doctor and Mrs. Bernard are old people, dear, and the Watermans
are three business women--no lunch, no children, very little

"Well, Grace Elliot, then!"

"With two maids, Sandy. That's a very different matter!"

"And is there any reason why we shouldn't have two?" asked Sandy,
with youthful logic.

"Ah, well, there you come to the question of expense, dear!" And
Mrs. Salisbury dismissed the subject with a quiet air of triumph.

But of course the topic came up again. It is the one household ghost
that is never laid in such a family. Sometimes Kane Salisbury
himself took a part in it.

"Do you mean to tell me," he once demanded, in the days of the
dreadfully incompetent maids who preceded Lizzie, "that it is
becoming practically impossible to get a good general servant?"

"Well, I wish you'd try it yourself," his wife answered, grimly
quiet. "It's just about wearing me out! I don't know what has become
of the good old maid-of-all-work," she presently pursued, with a
sigh, "but she has simply vanished from the face of the earth. Even
the greenest girls fresh from the other side begin to talk about
having the washing put out, and to have extra help come in to wash
windows and beat rugs! I don't know what we're coming to--you teach
them to tell a blanket from a sheet, and how to boil coffee, and set
a table, and then away they go to get more money somewhere. Dear me!
Your father's mother used to have girls who had the wash on the line
before eight o'clock--"

"Yes, but then Grandma's house was simpler," Sandy contributed, a
little doubtfully. "You know, Grandma never put on any style,

"Her house was always one of the most comfortable, most hospitable--

"Yes, I know, Mother!" Alexandra persisted eagerly. "But Fanny never
had to answer the door, and Grandma used to let her leave the
tablecloth on between meals--Grandma told me so herself!--and no
fussing with doilies, or service plates under the soup plates, or
glass saucers for dessert. And Grandma herself used to help wipe
dishes, or sometimes set the table, and make the beds, if there was

"That may be," Mrs. Salisbury had the satisfaction of answering
coldly. "Perhaps she did, although _I_ never remember hearing her
say so. But my mother always had colored servants, and I never saw
her so much as dust the piano!"

"I suppose we couldn't simplify things, Sally? Cut out some of the
extra touches?" suggested the head of the house.

Mrs. Salisbury merely shook her head, compressing her lips firmly.
It was quite difficult enough to keep things "nice," with two

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