Chapter I
 

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 something!"

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 inquire:

"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 guardedly.

"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 sure.

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 company!"

"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, Mother--"

"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 company--"

"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 growing boys in the family, without encountering such opposition as this. A day or two later she went into New Troy, the nearest big city, and came back triumphantly with Lizzie.

And at first Lizzie really did seem perfection. It was some weeks before Mrs. Salisbury realized that Lizzie was not truthful; absolutely reliable in money matters, yet Lizzie could not be believed in the simplest statement. Tasteless oatmeal, Lizzie glibly asseverated, had been well salted; weak coffee, or coffee as strong as brown paint, were the fault of the pot. Lizzie, rushing through dinner so that she might get out; Lizzie throwing out cold vegetables that "weren't worth saving"; Lizzie growing snappy and noisy at the first hint of criticism, somehow seemed worse sometimes than no servant at all.

"I wonder--if we moved into New Troy, Kane," Mrs. Salisbury mused, "and got one of those wonderful modern apartments, with a gas stove, and a dumbwaiter, and hardwood floors, if Sandy and I couldn't manage everything? With a woman to clean and dinners downtown now and then, and a waitress in for occasions."

"And me jumping up to change the salad plates, Mother!" Alexandra put in briskly. "And a pile of dishes to do every night!"

"Gosh, let's not move into the city--" protested Stanford. "No tennis, no canoe, no baseball!"

"And we know everyone in River Falls, we'd have to keep coming out here for parties!" Sandy added.

"Well," Mrs. Salisbury sighed, "I admit that it is too much of a problem for me!" she said. "I know that I married your father on twenty dollars a week," she told the children severely, "and we lived in a dear little cottage, only eighteen dollars a month, and I did all my own work! And never in our lives have we lived so well. But the minute you get inexperienced help, your bills simply double, and inexperienced help means simply one annoyance after another. I give it up!"

"Well, I'll tell you, Mother," Alexandra offered innocently; "perhaps we don't systematize enough ourselves. It ought to be all so well arranged and regulated that a girl would know what she was expected to do, and know that you had a perfect right to call her down for wasting or slighting things. Why couldn't women--a bunch of women, say--"

"Why couldn't they form a set of household rules and regulations?" her mother intercepted smoothly. "Because--it's just one of the things that you young, inexperienced people can talk very easily about," she interrupted herself to say with feeling, "but it never seems to occur to any one of you that every household has its different demands and regulations. The market fluctuates, the size of a family changes--fixed laws are impossible! No. Lizzie is no worse than lots of others, better than the average. I shall hold on to her!"

"Mrs. Sargent says that all these unnecessary demands have been instituted and insisted upon by women," said Alexandra. "She says that the secret of the whole trouble is that women try to live above their class, and make one servant appear to do the work of three--"

The introduction of Mrs. Sargent's name was not a happy one.

"Ellen Sargent," said Mrs. Salisbury icily, "is not a lady herself, in the true sense of the word, and she does very well to talk about class distinctions! She was his stenographer when Cyrus Sargent married her, and the daughter of a tannery hand. Now, just because she has millions, I am not going to be impressed by anything Ellen Sargent does or says!"

"Mother, I don't think she meant quality by 'class,'" Sandy protested. "Everyone knows that Grandfather was General Stanford, and all that! But I think she meant, in a way, the money side of it, the financial division of people into classes!"

"We won't discuss her," decided Mrs. Salisbury majestically. "The money standard is one I am not anxious to judge my friends by!"

Still, with the rest of the family, Mrs. Salisbury was relieved when Lizzie, shortly after this, decided of her own accord to accept a better-paid position. "Unless, Mama says, you'd care to raise me to seven a week," said Lizzie, in parting.

"No, no, I cannot pay that," Mrs. Salisbury said firmly and Lizzie accordingly left.

Her place was taken by a middle-aged French woman, and whipped cream and the subtle flavor of sherry began to appear in the Salisbury bills of fare. Germaine had no idea whatever of time, and Sandy perforce must set the table whenever there was a company dinner afoot, and lend a hand with the last preparations as well. The kitchen was never really in order in these days, but Germaine cooked deliciously, and Mrs. Salisbury gave eight dinners and a club luncheon during the month of her reign. Then the French woman grew more and more irregular as to hours, and more utterly unreliable as to meals; sometimes the family fared delightfully, sometimes there was almost nothing for dinner. Germaine seemed to fade from sight, not entirely of her own volition, not really discharged; simply she was gone. A Norwegian girl came next, a good-natured, blundering creature whose English was just enough to utterly confuse herself and everyone else. Freda's mistakes were not half so funny in the making as Alexandra made them in anecdotes afterward; and Freda was given to weird chanting, accompanying herself with a banjo, throughout the evenings. Finally a blonde giant known as "Freda's cousin" came to see her, and Kane Salisbury, followed by his elated and excited boys, had to eject Freda's cousin early in the evening, while Freda wept and chattered to the ladies of the house. After that the cousin called often to ask for her, but Freda had vanished the day after this event, and the Salisburys never heard of her again.

They tried another Norwegian, then a Polack, then a Scandinavian. Then they had a German man and wife for a week, a couple who asserted that they would work, without pay, for a good home. This was a most uncomfortable experience, unsuccessful from the first instant. Then came a low-voiced, good-natured South American negress, Marthe, not much of a cook, but willing and strong.

July was mercilessly hot that year, thirty-one burning days of sunshine. Mrs. Salisbury was not a very strong woman, and she had a great many visitors to entertain. She kept Marthe, because the colored woman did not resent constant supervision, and an almost hourly change of plans. Mrs. Salisbury did almost all of the cooking herself, fussing for hours in the hot kitchen over the cold meats and salads and ices that formed the little informal cold suppers to which the Salisburys loved to ask their friends on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Alexandra helped fitfully. She would put her pretty head into the kitchen doorway, perhaps to find her mother icing cake.

"Listen, Mother; I'm going over to Con's. She's got that new serve down to a fine point! And I've done the boys' room and the guest room; it's all ready for the Cutters. And I put towels and soap in the bathroom, only you'll have to have Marthe wipe up the floor and the tub."

"You're a darling child," the mother would say gratefully.

"Darling nothing!" And Sandy, with her protest, would lay a cool cheek against her mother's hot one. "Do you have to stay out here, Mother?" she would ask resentfully. "Can't the Culled Lady do this?"

"Well, I left her to watch it, and it burned," Mrs. Salisbury would say, "so now it has to be pared and frosted. Such a bother! But this is the very last thing, dear. You run along; I'll be out of here in two minutes!"

But it was always something more than two minutes. Sometimes even Kane Salisbury was led to protest.

"Can't we eat less, dear? Or differently? Isn't there some simple way of managing this week-end supper business? Now, Brewer--Brewer manages it awfully well. He has his man set out a big cold roast or two, cheese, and coffee, and a bowlful of salad, and beer. He'll get a fruit pie from the club sometimes, or pastries, or a pot of marmalade--"

"Yes, indeed, we must try to simplify," Mrs. Salisbury would agree brightly. But after such a conversation as this she would go over her accounts very soberly indeed. "Roasts--cheeses--fruit pies!" she would say bitterly to herself. "Why is it that a man will spend as much on a single lunch for his friends as a woman is supposed to spend on her table for a whole week, and then ask her what on earth she has done with her money!"

"Kane, I wish you would go over my accounts," she said one evening, in desperation. "Just suggest where you would cut down!"

Mr. Salisbury ran his eye carelessly over the pages of the little ledger.

"Roast beef, two-forty?" he presently read aloud, questioningly.

"Twenty-two cents a pound," his wife answered simply. But the man's slight frown deepened.

"Too much--too much!" he said, shaking his head.

Mrs. Salisbury let him read on a moment, turn a page or two. Then she said, in a dead calm:

"Do you think my roasts are too big, Kane?"

"Too big? On the contrary," her husband answered briskly, "I like a big roast. Sometimes ours are skimpy-looking before they're even cut!"

"Well!" Mrs. Salisbury said triumphantly.

Her smile apprised her husband that he was trapped, and he put down the account book in natural irritation.

"Well, my dear, it's your problem!" he said unsympathetically, returning to his newspaper. "I run my business, I expect you to run yours! If we can't live on our income, we'll have to move to a cheaper house, that's all, or take Stanford out of school and put him to work. Dickens says somewhere--and he never said a truer thing!" pursued the man of the house comfortably, "that, if you spend a sixpence less than your income every week, you are rich. If you spend a sixpence more, you never may expect to be anything but poor!"

Mrs. Salisbury did not answer. She took up her embroidery, whose bright colors blurred and swam together through the tears that came to her eyes.

"Never expect to feel anything but poor!" she echoed sadly to herself. "I am sure I never do! Things just seem to run away with me; I can't seem to get hold of them. I don't see where it's going to end!"

"Mother," said Alexandra, coming in from the kitchen, "Marthe says that all that delicious chicken soup is spoiled. The idiot, she says that you left it in the pantry to cool, and she forgot to put it on the ice! Now, what shall we do, just skip soup, or get some beef extract and season it up?"

"Skip soup," said Mr. Salisbury cheerfully.

"We can't very well, dear," said his wife patiently, "because the dinner is just soup and a fish salad, and one needs the hot start in a perfectly cold supper. No. I'll go out."

"Can't you just tell me what to do?" asked Alexandra impatiently.

But her mother had gone. The girl sat on the arm of the deserted chair, swinging an idle foot.

"I wish I could cook!" she fretted.

"Can't you, Sandy?" her father asked.

"Oh, some things! Rabbits and fudge and walnut wafers! But I mean that I wish I understood sauces and vegetables and seasoning, and getting things cooked all at the same moment! I don't mean that I'd like to do it, but I would like to know how. Now, Mother'll scare up some perfectly delicious soup for dinner, cream of something or other, and I could do it perfectly well, if only I knew how!"

"Suppose I paid you a regular salary, Sandy--" her father was beginning, with the untiring hopefulness of the American father. But the girl interrupted vivaciously:

"Dad, darling, that isn't practical! I'd love it for about two days. Then we'd settle right down to washing dishes, and setting tables, and dusting and sweeping, and wiping up floors--horrors, horrors, horrors!"

She left her perch to take in turn an arm of her father's chair.

"Well, what's the solution, pussy?" asked Kane Salisbury, keenly appreciative of the nearness of her youth and beauty.

"It isn't that," said Sandy decidedly. "Of course," she pursued, "the Gregorys get along without a maid, and use a fireless cooker, and drink cereal coffee, but admit, darling, that you'd rather have me useless and frivolous as I am!--than Gertrude or Florence or Winifred Gregory! Why, when Floss was married, Dad, Gertrude played the piano, for music, and for refreshments they had raspberry ice- cream and chocolate layer cake!"

"Well, I like chocolate layer cake," observed her father mildly. "I thought that was a very pretty wedding; the sisters in their light dresses--"

"Dimity dresses at a wedding!" Alexandra reproached him, round-eyed. "And they are so boisterously proud of the fact that they live on their father's salary," she went on, arranging her own father's hair fastidiously; "it's positively offensive the way they bounce up to change plates and tell you how to make the neck of mutton appetizing, or the heart of a cow, or whatever it is! And their father pushes the chairs back, Dad, and helps roll up the napkins-- I'd die if you ever tried it!"

"But they all work, too, don't they?"

"Work? Of course they work! And every cent of it goes into the bank. Winnie and Florence are buying gas shares, and Gertrude means to have a year's study in Europe, if you please!"

"That doesn't sound very terrible," said Kane Salisbury, smiling. But some related thought darkened his eyes a moment later. "You wouldn't have much gas stock if I was taken, Pussy," said he.

"No, darling, and let that be a lesson to you not to die!" his daughter said blithely. "But I could work, Dad," she added more seriously, "if Mother didn't mind so awfully. Not in the kitchen, but somewhere. I'd love to work in a settlement house."

"Now, there you modern girls are," her father said. "Can't bear to clear away the dinner plates in your own houses, yet you'll cheerfully suggest going to live in the filthiest parts of the city, working, as no servant is ever expected to work, for people you don't know!"

"I know it's absurd," Sandy agreed, smiling. Her answer was ready somewhere in her mind, but she could not quite find it. "But, you see, that's a new problem," she presently offered, "that's ours to- day, just as managing your house was Mother's when she married you. Circumstances have changed. I couldn't ever take up the kitchen question just as it presents itself to Mother. I--people my age don't believe in a servant class. They just believe in a division of labor, all dignified. If some girl I knew, Grace or Betty, say, came into our kitchen--and that reminds me!" she broke off suddenly.

"Of what?"

"Why, of something Owen--Owen Sargent was saying a few days ago. His mother's quite daffy about establishing social centers and clubs for servant girls, you know, and she's gotten into this new thing, a sort of college for servants. Now I'll ask Owen about it. I'll do that to-morrow. That's just what I'll do!"

"Tell me about it," her father said. But Alexandra shook her head.

"I don't honestly know anything about it, Dad. But Owen had a lot of papers and a sort of prospectus. His mother was wishing that she could try one of the graduates, but she keeps six or seven house servants, and it wouldn't be practicable. But I'll see. I never thought of us! And I'll bring Owen home to dinner to-morrow. Is that all right, Mother?" she asked, as her mother came back into the room.

"Owen? Certainly, dear; we're always glad to see him," Mrs. Salisbury said, a shade too casually, in a tone well calculated neither to alarm nor encourage, balanced to keep events uninterruptedly in their natural course. But Alexandra was too deep in thought to notice a tone.

"You'll see--this is something entirely new, and just what we need!" she said gaily.