for the cream." Mrs. Salisbury knew that it was useless to ask if everything was in readiness for the evening's event. From where she stood she could see piles of plates already neatly ranged in the warming oven, peeled potatoes were soaking in ice water in a yellow bowl, and the parsley that would garnish the big platter was ready, crisp and fresh in a glass of water. "Well, you look nice and peaceful," smiled the mistress. "I am just going to dress for a little tea, and I may have to look in at the opening of the Athenaeum Club," she went on, fussing with a frill at her wrist, "so I may be as late as five. But I'll bring some flowers when I come. Miss Alexandra will probably be at home by that time, but if she isn't--if she isn't, perhaps you would just go in and straighten the living room, Justine? I put things somewhat in order yesterday, and dusted a little, but, of course, things get scattered about, and it needs a little attention. She may of course be back in time to do it--" Her voice drifted away into casual silence. She looked at Justine expectantly, confidently. The maid flushed uncomfortably. "I'm sorry," she said frankly. "But that's against one of our rules, you know. I am not supposed to--" "Not ordinarily, I understand that," Mrs. Salisbury agreed quickly. "But in an emergency--" Again she hesitated. And Justine, with the maddening gentleness of the person prepared to carry a point at all costs, answered again: "It's the rule. I'm sorry; but I am not supposed to." "I should suppose that you were in my house to make yourself useful to me," Mrs. Salisbury said coldly. She used a tone of quiet dignity; but she knew that she had had the worst of the encounter. She was really a little dazed by the firmness of the rebuff. "They make a point of our keeping to the letter of the law," Justine explained. "Not knowing what my particular needs are, nor how I like my house to be run, is that it?" the other woman asked shrewdly. "Well--" Justine hung upon an embarrassed assent. "But perhaps they won't be so firm about it as soon as the school is really established," she added eagerly. "No; I think they will not!" Mrs. Salisbury agreed with a short laugh, "inasmuch as they CANNOT, if they ever hope to get any foothold at all!" And she left the kitchen, feeling that in the last remark at least she had scored, yet very angry at Justine, who made this sort of warfare necessary. "If this sort of thing keeps up, I shall simply have to let her GO!" she said. But she was trembling, and she came to a full stop in the front hall. It was maddening; it was unbelievable; but that neglected half hour of work threatened to wreck her entire day. With every fiber of her being in revolt, she went into the sitting-room. This was Alexandra's responsibility, after all, she said to herself. And, after a moment's indecision, she decided to telephone her daughter at the Burning Woods Club. "Hello, Mother," said Alexandra, when a page had duly informed her that she was wanted at the telephone. Her voice sounded a little tired, faintly impatient. "What is it, Mother?" "Why, I ought to go to Mary Bell's tea, dearie, and I wanted just to look in at the Athenaeum--" Mrs. Salisbury began, a little inconsequently. "How soon do you expect to be home?" she broke off to ask. "I don't know," said Sandy lifelessly. "Are you coming back with Owen?" "No," Sandy said, in the same tone. "I'll come back with the Prichards, I guess, or with one of the girls. Owen and the Brice boy are taking Miss Satterlee for a little spin up around Feather Rock." "Miss WHO?" But Mrs. Salisbury knew very well who Miss Satterlee was. A pretty and pert and rowdyish little dancer, she had managed to captivate one or two of the prominent matrons of the club, and was much in evidence there, to the great discomfort of the more conservative Sandy and her intimates. Now Sandy's mother ended the conversation with a few very casual remarks, in not too sympathetic or indignant a vein. Then, with heart and mind in anything but a hospitable or joyous state, she set about the task of putting the sitting room in order. She abandoned once and for all any hope of getting to her club or her tea that afternoon, and was therefore possessed of three distinct causes of grievance. With her mother heart aching for the quiet misery betrayed by Sandy's voice, she could not blame the girl. Nor could she blame herself. So Justine got the full measure of her disapproval, and, while she worked, Mrs. Salisbury refreshed her soul with imaginary conversations in which she kindly but firmly informed Justine that her services were no longer needed-- However, the dinner was perfect. Course smoothly followed course; there was no hesitating, no hitch; the service was swift, noiseless, unobtrusive. The head of the house was obviously delighted, and the guests enthusiastic. Best of all, Owen arrived early, irreproachably dressed, if a little uncomfortable in his evening clothes, and confided to Sandy that he had had a "rotten time" with Miss Satterlee. "But she's just the sort of little cat that catches a dear, great big idiot like Owen," said Sandy to her mother, when the older woman had come in to watch the younger slip into her gown for the evening's affair. "Look out, dear, or I will begin to suspect you of a tendresse in that direction!" the mother said archly. "For Owen?" Sandy raised surprised brows. "I'm mad about him, I'd marry him to-night!" she went on calmly. "If you really cared, dear, you couldn't use that tone," her mother said uncomfortably. "Love comes only once, REAL love, that is--" "Oh, Mother! There's no such thing as real love," Sandy said impatiently. "I know ten good, nice men I would marry, and I'll bet you did, too, years ago, only you weren't brought up to admit it! But I like Owen best, and it makes me sick to see a person like Rose Satterlee annexing him. She'll make him utterly wretched; she's that sort. Whereas I am really decent, don't you know; I'd be the sort of wife he'd go crazier and crazier about. He's one of those unfortunate men who really don't know what they want until they get something they don't want. They--" "Don't, dear. It distresses me to hear you talk this way," Mrs. Salisbury said, with dignity. "I don't know whether modern girls realize how dreadful they are," she went on, "but at least I needn't have my own daughter show such a lack of--of delicacy and of refinement." And in the dead silence that followed she cast about for some effective way of changing the subject, and finally decided to tell Sandy what she thought of Justine. But here, too, Sandy was unsympathetic. Scowling as she hooked the filmy pink and silver of her evening gown, Sandy took up Justine's defense. "All up to me, Mother, every bit of it! And, honestly now, you had no right to ask her to do--" "No right!" Exasperated beyond all words, Mrs. Salisbury picked up her fan, gathered her dragging skirts together, and made a dignified departure from the room. "No right!" she echoed, more in pity than anger. "Well, really, I wonder sometimes what we are coming to! No right to ask my servant, whom I pay thirty-seven and a half dollars a month, to stop writing letters long enough to clean my sitting room! Well, right or wrong, we'll see!" But the cryptic threat contained in the last words was never carried out. The dinner was perfect, and Owen was back in his old position as something between a brother and a lover, full of admiring great laughs for Sandy and boyish confidences. There was not a cloud on the evening for Mrs. Salisbury. And the question of Justine's conduct was laid on the shelf. CHAPTER IV After the dinner party domestic matters seemed to run even more smoothly than before, but there was a difference, far below the surface, in Mrs. Salisbury's attitude toward the new maid. The mistress found herself incessantly looking for flaws in Justine's perfectness; for things that Justine might easily have done, but would not do. In this Mrs. Salisbury was unconsciously aided and abetted by her sister, Mrs. Otis, a large, magnificent woman of forty-five, who had a masterful and assured manner, as became a very rich and influential widow. Mrs. Otis had domineered Mrs. Salisbury throughout their childhood; she had brought up a number of sons and daughters in a highly successful manner, and finally she kept a houseful of servants, whom she managed with a firm hand, and managed, it must be admitted, very well. She had seen the Treasure many times before, but it was while spending a day in November with her sister that she first expressed her disapproval of Justine. "You spoil her, Sarah," said Mrs. Otis. "She's a splendid cook, of course, and a nice-mannered girl. But you spoil her." "I? I have nothing to do with it," Mrs. Salisbury asserted promptly. "She does exactly what the college permits; no more and no less." "Nonsense!" Mrs. Otis said largely, genially. And she exchanged an amused look with Sandy. The three ladies were in the little library, after luncheon, enjoying a coal fire. The sisters, both with sewing, were in big armchairs. Sandy, idly turning the pages of a new magazine, sat at her mother's feet. The first heavy rain of the season battered at the windows. "Now, that darning, Sally," Mrs. Otis said, glancing at her sister's sewing. "Why don't you simply call the girl and ask her to do it? There's no earthly reason why she shouldn't be useful. She's got absolutely nothing to do. The girl would probably be happier with some work in her hands. Don't encourage her to think that she can whisk through her lunch dishes and then rush off somewhere. They have no conscience about it, my dear. You're the mistress, and you are supposed to arrange things exactly to suit yourself, no matter if nobody else has ever done things your way from the beginning of time!" "That's a lovely theory, Auntie," said Alexandra, "but this is an entirely different situation." For answer Mrs. Otis merely compressed her lips, and flung the pink yarn that she was knitting into a baby's sacque steadily over her flashing needles. "Where's Justine now?" she asked, after a moment. "In her room," Mrs. Salisbury answered. "No; she's gone for a walk, Mother," Sandy said. "She loves to walk in the rain, and she wanted to change her library book, and send a telegram or something--" "Just like a guest in the house!" Mrs. Otis observed, with fine scorn. "Surely she asked you if she might go, Sally?" "No. Her--her work is done. She--comes and goes that way." "Without saying a word? And who answers the door?" Mrs. Otis was unaffectedly astonished now. "She does if she's in the house, Mattie, just as she answers the telephone. But she's only actually on duty one afternoon a week." "You see, the theory is, Auntie," Sandy supplied, "that persons on our income--I won't say of our position, for Mother hates that--but on our income, aren't supposed to require formal door-answering very often." Mrs. Otis, her knitting suspended, moved her round eyes from mother to daughter and back again. She did not say a word, but words were not needed. "I know it seems outrageous, in some ways, Mattie," Mrs. Salisbury presently said, with a little nervous laugh. "But what is one to do?" "Do?" echoed her sister roundly. "DO? Well, I know I keep six house servants, and have always kept at least three, and I never heard the equal of THIS in all my days! Do?--I'd show you what I'd do fast enough! Do you suppose I'd pay a maid thirty-seven dollars a month to go tramping off to the library in the rain, and to tell me what my social status was? Why, Evelyn keeps two, and pays one eighteen and one fifteen, and do you suppose she'd allow either such liberties? Not at all. The downstairs girl wears a nice little cap and apron--'Madam, dinner is served,' she says--" "Yes, but Evelyn's had seven cooks since she was married," Sandy, who was not a great admirer of her young married cousin, put in here, "and Arthur said that she actually cried because she could not give a decent dinner!" "Evelyn's only a beginner, dear," said Evelyn's mother sharply, "but she has the right spirit. No nonsense, regular holidays, and hard work when they are working is the only way to impress maids. Mary Underwood," she went on, turning to her sister, "says that, when she and Fred are to be away for a meal, she deliberately lays out extra work for the maid; she says it keeps her from getting ideas. No, Sally," Mrs. Otis concluded, with the older-sister manner she had worn years ago, "no, dear; you are all wrong about this, and sooner or later this girl will simply walk over you, and you'll see it as I do. Changing her book at the library, indeed! How did she know that you mightn't want tea served this afternoon?" "She wouldn't serve it, if we did, Aunt Martha," Sandy said, dimpling. "She never serves tea! That's one of the regulations." "Well, we simply won't discuss it," Mrs. Otis said, firm lines forming themselves at the corners of her capable mouth. "If you like that sort of thing, you like it, that's all! I don't. We'll talk of something else." But she could not talk of anything else. Presently she burst out afresh. "Dear me, when I think of the way Ma used to manage 'em! No nonsense there; it was walk a chalk line in Ma's house! Your grandmother," she said to Alexandra, with stern relish, "had had a pack of slaves about her in HER young days. But, of course, Sally," she added charitably, "you've been ill, and things do have to run themselves when one's ill--" "You don't get the idea, Auntie," Sandy said blithely. "Mother pays for efficiency. Justine isn't a mere extra pair of hands; she's a trained professional worker. She's just like a stenographer, except that what she does is ten times harder to learn than stenography. We can no more ask her to get tea than Dad could ask his head bookkeeper to--well, to drop in here some Sunday and O.K. Mother's household accounts. It's an age of specialization, Aunt Martha." "It's an age of utter nonsense," Mrs. Otis said forcibly. "But if your mother and father like to waste their money that way--" "There isn't much waste of money to it," Mrs. Salisbury put in neatly, "for Justine manages on less than I ever did. I think there's been only one week this fall when she hasn't had a balance." "A balance of what?" "A surplus, I mean. A margin left from her allowance." The pink wool fell heavily into Mrs. Otis's broad lap. "She handles your money for you, does she, Sally?" "Why, yes. She seems eminently fitted for it. And she does it for a third less, Mattie, truly. She more than saves the difference in her wages." "You let her buy things and pay tradesmen, do you ?" "Oh, Auntie, why not?" Alexandra asked, amused but impatient. "Why shouldn't Mother let her do that?" "Well, it's not my idea of good housekeeping, that's all," Mrs. Otis said staidly. "Managing is the most important part of housekeeping.
db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com