The Treasure by Kathleen Thompson Norris
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. In giving such a girl financial responsibilities, you not only let go of the control of your household, but you put temptation in her way. No; let the girl try making some beds, and serving tea, now and then; and do your own marketing and paying, Sally. It's the only way."
"Justine tempted--why, she's not that sort of girl at all!" Alexandra laughed gaily.
"Very well, my dear, perhaps she's not, and perhaps you young girls know everything that is to be known about life," her aunt answered witheringly. "But when grown business men were cheated as easily as those men in the First National were," she finished impressively, alluding to recent occurrences in River Falls, "it seems a little astonishing to find a girl your age so sure of her own judgment, that's all."
Sandy's answer, if indirect, was effective.
"How about some tea?" she asked. "Will you have some, either of you? It only takes me a minute to get it."
"And I wish you could have seen Mattie's expression, Kane," Mrs. Salisbury said to her husband when telling him of the conversation that evening, "really, she glared! I suppose she really can't understand how, with an expensive servant in the house--" Mrs. Salisbury's voice dropped a little on a note of mild amusement. She sat idly at her dressing table, her hair loosened, her eyes thoughtful. When she spoke again, it was with a shade of resentment. "And, really, it is most inconvenient," she said. "I don't want to impose upon a girl; I never did impose upon a girl; but I like to feel that I'm mistress in my own house. If the work is too hard one day, I will make it easier the next, and so on. But, as Mat says, it looks so disobliging in a maid to have her race off; she doesn't care whether you get any tea or not; she's enjoying herself! And after all one's kindness--And then another thing," she presently roused herself to add, "Mat thinks that it is very bad management on my part to let Justine handle money. She says--"
"I devoutly wish that Mattie Otis would mind--" Mr. Salisbury did not finish his sentence. He wound his watch, laid it on his bureau, and went on, more mildly: "If you can do better than Justine, it may or may not be worth your while to take that out of her hands; but, if you can't, it seems to me sheer folly. My Lord, Sally--"
"Yes, I know! I know," Mrs. Salisbury said hastily. "But, really, Kane," she went on slowly, the color coming into her face, "let us suppose that every family had a graduate cook, who marketed and managed. And let us suppose the children, like ours, out of the nursery. Then just what share of her own household responsibility is a woman supposed to take?
"You are eternally saying, not about me, but about other men's wives, that women to-day have too much leisure as it is. But, with a Justine, why, I could go off to clubs and card parties every day! I'd know that the house was clean, the meals as good and as nourishing as could be; I'd know that guests would be well cared for and that bills would be paid. Isn't a woman, the mistress of a house, supposed to do more than that? I don't want to be a mere figurehead."
Frowning at her own reflection in the glass, deeply in earnest, she tried to puzzle it out.
"In the old times, when women had big estates to look after," she presently pursued, "servants, horses, cows, vegetables and fruit gardens, soap-making and weaving and chickens and babies, they had real responsibilities, they had real interests. Housekeeping to-day isn't interesting. It's confining, and it's monotonous. But take it away, and what is a woman going to do?"
"That," her husband answered seriously, "is the real problem of the day, I truly believe. That is what you women have to discover. Delegating your housekeeping, how are you going to use your energies, and find the work you want to do in the world? How are you going to manage the questions of being obliged to work at home, and to suit your hours to yourself, and to really express yourselves, and at the same time get done some of the work of the world that is waiting for women to do."
His wife continued to eye him expectantly.
"Well, how?" said she.
"I don't know. I'm asking you!" he answered pointedly. Mrs. Salisbury sighed.
"Dear me, I do get so tired of this talk of efficiency, and women's work in the world!" she said. "I wish one might feel it was enough to live along quietly, busy with dressmaking, or perhaps now and then making a fancy dessert for guests, giving little teas and card parties, and making calls. It--" a yearning admiration rang in her voice, "it seems such a dignified, pleasant ideal to live up to!" she said.
"Well, it looks as if we had seen the last of that particular type of woman," her husband said cheerfully. "Or at least it looks as if that woman would find her own level, deliberately separate herself from her more ambitious sisters, who want to develop higher arts than that of mere housekeeping."
"And how do you happen to know so much about it, Kane ?"
"I? Oh, it's in the air, I guess," the man admitted. "The whole idea is changing. A man used to be ashamed of the idea of his wife working. Now men tell you with pride that their wives paint or write or bind books--Bates' wife makes loads of money designing toys, and Mrs. Brewster is consulting physician on a hospital staff. Mary Shotwell--she was a trained nurse--what was it she did?"
"She gave a series of talks on hygiene for rich people's children," his wife supplied. "And of course Florence Yeats makes candy, and the Gerrish girls have opened a tea room in the old garage. But it seems funny, just the same! It seems funny to me that so many women find it worth while to hire servants, so that they can rush off to make the money to pay the servants! It would seem so much more normal to stay at home and do the housework themselves, and it would look better."
"Well, certain women always will, I suppose. And others will find their outlets in other ways, and begin to look about for Justines, who will lift the household load. I believe we'll see the time, Sally," said Kane Salisbury thoughtfully, "when a young couple, launching into matrimony, will discuss expenses with a mutual interest; you pay this and I'll pay that, as it were. A trained woman will step into their kitchen, and Madame will walk off to business with her husband, as a matter of course."
"Heaven forbid!" Mrs. Salisbury said piously. "If there is anything romantic or tender or beautiful about married life under those circumstances, I fail to see it, that's all!"
It happened, a week or two later, on a sharp, sunshiny morning in early winter, that Mrs. Salisbury and Alexandra found themselves sauntering through the nicest shopping district of River Falls. There were various small things to be bought for the wardrobes of mother and daughter, prizes for a card party, birthday presents for one of the boys, and a number of other little things.
They happened to pass the windows of Lewis & Sons' big grocery, one of the finest shops in town, on their way from one store to another, and, attracted by a window full of English preserves, Mrs. Salisbury decided to go in and leave an order.
"I hope that you are going to bring your account back to us, Mrs. Salisbury," said the alert salesman who waited upon them. "We are always sorry to let an old customer go."
"But I have an account here," said Mrs. Salisbury, startled.
The salesman, smiling, shook his head, and one of the members of the firm, coming up, confirmed the denial.
"We were very sorry to take your name off our books, Mrs. Salisbury," said he, with pleasant dignity; "I can remember your coming into the old store on River Street when this young lady here was only a small girl."
His hand indicated a spot about three feet from the floor, as the height of the child Alexandra, and the grown Alexandra dimpled an appreciation of his memory.
"But I don't understand," Mrs. Salisbury said, wrinkling her forehead; "I had no idea that the account was closed, Mr. Lewis. How long ago was this?"
"It was while you were ill," said Mr. Lewis soothingly. "You might look up the exact date, Mr. Laird."
"But why?" Mrs. Salisbury asked, prettily puzzled.
"That I don't know," answered Mr. Lewis. "And at the time, of course, we did not press it. There was no complaint, of that I'm very sure."
"But I don't understand," Mrs. Salisbury persisted. "I don't see who could have done it except Mr. Salisbury, and, if he had had any reason, he would have told me of it. However," she rose to go, "if you'll send the jams, and the curry, and the chocolate, Mr. Laird, I'll look into the matter at once."
"And you're quite yourself again?" Mr. Lewis asked solicitously, accompanying them to the door. "That's the main thing, isn't it? There's been so much sickness everywhere lately. And your young lady looks as if she didn't know the meaning of the word. Wonderful morning, isn't it? Good morning, Mrs. Salisbury!"
"Good morning!" Mrs. Salisbury responded graciously. But, as soon as she and Alexandra were out of hearing, her face darkened. "That makes me wild!" said she.
"What does, darling?"
"That! Justine having the audacity to change my trade!"
"But why should she want to, Mother?"
"I really don't know. Given it to friends of hers perhaps."
"Oh, Mother, she wouldn't!"
"Well, we'll see." Mrs. Salisbury dropped the subject, and brought her mind back with a visible effort to the morning's work.
Immediately after lunch she interrogated Justine. The girl was drying glasses, each one emerging like a bubble of hot and shining crystal from her checked glass towel.
"Justine," began the mistress, "have we been getting our groceries from Lewis & Sons lately?"
Justine placidly referred to an account book which she took from a drawer under the pantry shelves.
"Our last order was August eleventh," she announced.
Something in her unembarrassed serenity annoyed Mrs. Salisbury.
"May I ask why?" she suggested sharply.
"Well, they are a long way from here," Justine said, after a second's thought, "and they are very expensive grocers, Mrs. Salisbury. Of course, what they have is of the best, but they cater to the very richest families, you know--firms like Lewis & Sons aren't very much interested in the orders they receive from--well, from upper middle-class homes, people of moderate means. They handle hotels and the summer colony at Burning Woods."
Justine paused, a little uncertain of her terms, and Mrs. Salisbury interposed an icy question.
"May I ask where you have transferred my trade?"
"Not to any one place," the girl answered readily and mildly. But a little resentful color had crept into her cheeks. "I pay as I go, and follow the bargains," she explained. "I go to market twice a week, and send enough home to make it worth while for the tradesman. You couldn't market as I do, Mrs. Salisbury, but the tradespeople rather expect it of a maid. Sometimes I gather an assortment of vegetables into my basket, and get them to make a price on the whole. Or, if there is a sale at any store, I go there, and order a dozen cans, or twenty pounds of whatever they are selling."
Mrs. Salisbury was not enjoying this revelation. The obnoxious term "upper middle class" was biting like an acid upon her pride. And it was further humiliating to contemplate her maid as a driver of bargains, as dickering for baskets of vegetables.
"The best is always the cheapest in the long run, whatever it may cost, Justine," she said, with dignity. "We may not be among the richest families in town," she was unable to refrain from adding, "but it is rather amusing to hear you speak of the family as upper middle class!"
"I only meant the--the sort of ordering we did," Justine hastily interposed. "I meant from the grocer's point of view."
"Well, Mr. Lewis sold groceries to my grandmother before I was married," Mrs. Salisbury said loftily, "and I prefer him to any other grocer. If he is too far away, the order may be telephoned. Or give me your list, and I will stop in, as I used to do. Then I can order any little extra delicacy that I see, something I might not otherwise think of. Let me know what you need to-morrow morning, and I'll see to it."
To her surprise, Justine did not bow an instant assent. Instead the girl looked a little troubled.
"Shall I give you my accounts and my ledger?" she asked rather uncertainly.
"No-o, I don't see any necessity for that," the older woman said, after a second's pause.
"But Lewis & Sons is a very expensive place," Justine pursued; "they never have sales, never special prices. Their cheapest tomatoes are fifteen cents a can, and their peaches twenty-five--"
"Never mind," Mrs. Salisbury interrupted her briskly. "We'll manage somehow. I always did trade there, and never had any trouble. Begin with him to-morrow. And, while, of course, I understand that I was ill and couldn't be bothered in this case, I want to ask you not to make any more changes without consulting me, if you please."
Justine, still standing, her troubled eyes on her employer, the last glass, polished to diamond brightness, in her hand, frowned mutinously.
"You understand that if you do any ordering whatever, Mrs. Salisbury, I will have to give up my budget. You see, in that case, I wouldn't know where I stood at all."
"You would get the bill at the end of the month," Mrs. Salisbury said, displeased.
"Yes, but I don't run bills," the girl persisted.
"I don't care to discuss it, Justine," the mistress said pleasantly; "just do as I ask you, if you please, and we'll settle everything at the end of the month. You shall not be held responsible, I assure you."
She went out of the kitchen, and the next morning had a pleasant half hour in the big grocery, and left a large order.
"Just a little kitchen misunderstanding," she told the affable Mr. Lewis, "but when one is ill--However, I am rapidly getting the reins back into my own hands now."
After that, Mrs. Salisbury ordered in person, or by telephone, every day, and Justine's responsibilities were confined to the meat market and greengrocer. Everything went along very smoothly until the end of the month, when Justine submitted her usual weekly account and a bill from Lewis & Sons which was some three times larger in amount than was the margin of money supposed to pay it.
This was annoying. Mrs. Salisbury could not very well rebuke her, nor could she pay the bill out of her own purse. She determined to put it aside until her husband seemed in a mood for financial advances, and, wrapping it firmly about the inadequate notes and silver given her by Justine, she shut it in a desk drawer. There the bill remained, although the money was taken out for one thing or another; change that must be made, a small bill that must be paid at the door.
Another fortnight went by, and Lewis & Sons submitted another bimonthly bill. Justine also gave her mistress another inadequate sum, what was left from her week's expenditures.
The two grocery bills were for rather a formidable sum. The thought of them, in their desk drawer, rather worried Mrs. Salisbury. One evening she bravely told her husband about them, and laid them before him.
Mr. Salisbury was annoyed. He had been free from these petty worries for some months, and he disliked their introduction again.
"I thought this was Justine's business, Sally?" said he, frowning over his eyeglasses.
"Well, it is" said his wife, "but she hasn't enough money, apparently, and she simply handed me these, without saying anything."
"Well, but that doesn't sound like her. Why?"
"Oh, because I do the ordering, she says. They're queer, you know, Kane; all servants are. And she seems very touchy about it."
"Nonsense!" said the head of the house roundly. "Oh, Justine!" he shouted, and the maid, after putting an inquiring head in from the dining-room, duly came in, and stood before him.
"What's struck your budget that you were so proud of, Justine?" asked Kane Salisbury. "It looks pretty sick."
"I am not keeping on a budget now," answered Justine, with a rather surprised glance at her mistress.
"Not; but why not?" asked the man good-naturedly. And his wife added briskly, "Why did you stop, Justine?"
"Because Mrs. Salisbury has been ordering all this month," Justine said. "And that, of course, makes it impossible for me to keep track of what is spent. These last four weeks I have only been keeping an account; I haven't attempted to keep within any limit."
"Ah, you see that's it," Kane Salisbury said triumphantly. "Of course that's it! Well, Mrs. Salisbury will have to let you go back to the ordering then. D'ye see, Sally? Naturally, Justine can't do a thing while you're buying at random--"
"My dear, we have dealt with Lewis & Sons ever since we were married," Mrs. Salisbury said, smiling with great tolerance, and in a soothing voice, "Justine, for some reason, doesn't like Lewis & Sons--"
"It isn't that," said the maid quickly. "It's just that it's against the rules of the college for anyone else to do any ordering, unless, of course, you and I discussed it beforehand and decided just what to spend."
"You mean, unless I simply went to market for you?" asked the mistress, in a level tone.
"Well, it amounts to that--yes."
Mrs. Salisbury threw her husband one glance.
"Well, I'll tell you what we have decided in the morning, Justine," she said, with dignity. "That's all. You needn't wait."
Justine went back to her kitchen, and Mr. Salisbury, smiling, said:
"Sally, how unreasonable you are! And how you do dislike that girl!"
The outrageous injustice of this scattered to the winds Mrs. Salisbury's last vestige of calm, and, after one scathing summary of the case, she refused to discuss it at all, and opened the evening paper with marked deliberation.
For the next two or three weeks she did all the marketing herself, but this plan did not work well. Bills doubled in size, and so many things were forgotten, or were ordered at the last instant by telephone, and arrived too late, that the whole domestic system was demoralized.
Presently, of her own accord, Mrs. Salisbury reestablished Justine with her allowance, and with full authority to shop when and how she pleased, and peace fell again. But, smoldering in Mrs. Salisbury's bosom was a deep resentment at this peculiar and annoying state of affairs. She began to resent everything Justine did and said, as one human being shut up in the same house with another is very apt to do.
No schooling ever made it easy to accept the sight of Justine's leisure when she herself was busy. It was always exasperating, when perhaps making beds upstairs, to glance from the window and see Justine starting for market, her handsome figure well displayed in her long dark coat, her shining braids half hidden by her simple yet dashing hat.
"I walked home past Perry's," Justine would perhaps say on her return, "to see their prize chrysanthemums. They really are wonderful! The old man took me over the greenhouses himself, and showed me everything!"
Or perhaps, unpacking her market basket by the spotless kitchen table, she would confide innocently:
"Samuels is really having an extraordinary sale of serges this morning. I went in, and got two dress lengths for my sister's children. If I can find a good dressmaker, I really believe I'll have one myself. I think"--Justine would eye her vegetables thoughtfully--"I think I'll go up now and have my bath, and cook these later."
Mrs. Salisbury could reasonably find no fault with this. But an indescribable irritation possessed her whenever such a conversation took place. The coolness!--she would say to herself, as she went upstairs--wandering about to shops and greenhouses, and quietly deciding to take a bath before luncheon! Why, Mrs. Salisbury had had maids who never once asked for the use of the bathroom, although they had been for months in her employ.
No, she could not attack Justine on this score. But she began to entertain the girl with enthusiastic accounts of the domestics of earlier and better days.
"My mother had a girl," she said, "a girl named Norah O'Connor. I remember her very well. She swept, she cleaned, she did the entire washing for a family of eight, and she did all the cooking. And such cookies, and pies, and gingerbread as she made! All for sixteen dollars a month. We regarded Norah as a member of the family, and, even on her holidays she would take three or four of us, and walk with us to my father's grave; that was all she wanted to do. You don't see her like in these days, dear old Norah!"
Justine listened respectfully, silently. Once, when her mistress was enlarging upon the advantages of slavery, the girl commented mildly:
"Doesn't it seem a pity that the women of the United States didn't attempt at least to train all those Southern colored people for house servants? It seems to be their natural element. They love to live in white families, and they have no caste pride. It would seem to be such a waste of good material, letting them worry along without much guidance all these years. It almost seems as if the Union owed it to them."
"Dear me, I wish somebody would! I, for one, would love to have dear old mammies around me again," Mrs. Salisbury said, with fervor. "They know their place," she added neatly.
"The men could be butlers and gardeners and coachmen," pursued Justine.
"Yes, and with a lot of finely trained colored women in the market, where would you girls from the college be?" the other woman asked, not without a spice of mischievous enjoyment.
"We would be a finer type of servant, for more fastidious people," Justine scored by answering soberly. "You could hardly expect a colored girl to take the responsibility of much actual managing, I should suppose. There would always be a certain proportion of people who would prefer white servants."
"Perhaps there are," Mrs. Salisbury admitted dubiously. She felt, with a sense of triumph, that she had given Justine a pretty strong hint against "uppishness." But Justine was innocently impervious to hints. As a matter of fact, she was not an exceptionally bright girl; literal, simple, and from very plain stock, she was merely well trained in her chosen profession. Sometimes she told her mistress of her fellow-graduates, taking it for granted that Mrs. Salisbury entirely approved of all the ways of the American School of Domestic Science.
"There's Mabel Frost," said Justine one day. "She would have graduated when I did, but she took the fourth year's work. She really is of a very fine family; her father is a doctor. And she has a position with a doctor's family now, right near here, in New Troy. There are just two in family, and both are doctors, and away all day. So Mabel has a splendid chance to keep up her music."
"Music?" Mrs. Salisbury asked sharply.
"Piano. She's had lessons all her life. She plays very well, too."
"Yes; and some day the doctor or his wife will come in and find her at the piano, and your friend will lose her fine position," Mrs. Salisbury suggested.
"Oh, Mabel never would have touched the piano without their permission," Justine said quickly, with a little resentful flush.
"You mean that they are perfectly willing to have her use it?" Mrs. Salisbury asked.
"Have they adopted her?"
"Oh, no! No; Mabel is twenty-four or five."
"What's the doctor's name?"
"Mitchell. Dr. Quentin Mitchell. He's a member of the Burning Woods Club."
"A member of the club! And he allows--" Mrs. Salisbury did not finish her thought. "I don't want to say anything against your friend," she began again presently, "but for a girl in her position to waste her time studying music seems rather absurd to me. I thought the very idea of the college was to content girls with household positions."
"Well, she is going to be married next spring," Justine said, "and her husband is quite musical. He plays a church organ. I am going to dinner with them on Thursday, and then to the Gadski concert. They're both quite music mad."
"Well, I hope he can afford to buy tickets for Gadski, but marriage is a pretty expensive business," Mrs. Salisbury said pleasantly, "What is he, a chauffeur--a salesman?" To do her justice, she knew the question would not offend, for Justine, like any girl from a small town, was not fastidious as to the position of her friends; was very fond of the policeman on the corner and his pretty wife, and liked a chat with Mrs. Sargent's chauffeur when occasion arose.
But the girl's answer, in this case, was a masterly thrust.
"No; he's something in a bank, Mrs. Salisbury. He's paying teller in that little bank at Burton Corners, beyond Burning Woods. But, of course, he hopes for promotion; they all do. I believe he is trying to get into the River Falls Mutual Savings, but I'm not sure."
Mrs. Salisbury felt the blood in her face. Kane Salisbury had been in a bank when she married him; was cashier of the River Falls Mutual Savings Bank now.
She carried away the asters she had been arranging, without further remark. But Justine's attitude rankled. Mrs. Salisbury, absurd as she felt her own position to be, could not ignore the impertinence of her maid's point of view. Theoretically, what Justine thought mattered less than nothing. Actually it really made a great difference to the mistress of the house.
"I would like to put that girl in her place once!" thought Mrs. Salisbury. She began to wish that Justine would marry, and to envy those of her friends who were still struggling with untrained Maggies and Almas and Chloes. Whatever their faults, these girls were still servants, old-fashioned "help"--they drudged away at cooking and beds and sweeping all day, and rattled dishes far into the night.
The possibility of getting a second little maid occurred to her. She suggested it, tentatively, to Sandy.
"You couldn't, unless I'm mistaken, Mother," Sandy said briskly, eyeing a sandwich before she bit into it. The ladies were at luncheon. "For a graduate servant can't work with any but a graduate servant; that's the rule. At least I think it is!" And Sandy, turning toward the pantry, called: "Oh, Justine!"
"Justine," she asked, when the maid appeared, "isn't it true that you graduates can't work with untrained girls in the house?"
"That's the rule," Justine assented.
"And what does the school expect you to pay a second girl?" pursued the daughter of the house.
"Well, where there are no children, twenty dollars a month," said Justine, "with one dollar each for every person more than two in the family. Then, in that case, the head servant, as we call the cook, would get five dollars less a month. That is, I would get thirty-two dollars, and the assistant twenty-three."
"Gracious!" said Mrs. Salisbury. "Thank you, Justine. We were just asking. Fifty-five dollars for the two!" she ejaculated under her breath when the girl was gone. "Why, I could get a fine cook and waitress for less than that!"
And instantly the idea of two good maids instead of one graduated one possessed her. A fine cook in the kitchen, paid, say twenty- five, and a "second girl," paid sixteen. And none of these ridiculous and inflexible regulations! Ah, the satisfaction of healthily imposing upon a maid again, of rewarding that maid with the gift of a half-worn gown, as a peace offering--Mrs. Salisbury drew a long breath. The time had come for a change.
Mr. Salisbury, however, routed the idea with scorn. His wife had no argument hardy enough to survive the blighting breath of his astonishment. And Alexandra, casually approached, proved likewise unfavorable.
"I am certainly not furthering my own comfort alone in this, as you and Daddy seem inclined to think," Mrs. Salisbury said severely to her daughter. "I feel that Justine's system is an imposition upon you, dear. It isn't right for a pretty girl of your age to be caught dusting the sitting-room, as Owen caught you yesterday. Daddy and I can keep a nice home, we keep a motor car, we put the boys in good schools, and it doesn't seem fair--"
"Oh, fair your grandmother!" Sandy broke in, with a breezy laugh. "If Owen Sargent doesn't like it, he can just come to! Look at his mother, eating dinner the other day with four representatives of the Waitresses' Union! Marching in a parade with dear knows who! Besides--"
"It is very different in Mrs. Sargent's case, dear," said Mrs. Salisbury simply. "She could afford to do anything, and consequently it doesn't matter what she does! It doesn't matter what you do, if you can afford not to. The point is that we can't really afford a second maid."
"I don't see what that has to do with it!" said the girl of the coming generation cheerfully.
"It has everything to do with it," the woman of the passing generation answered seriously.
"As far as Owen goes," Sandy went on thoughtfully, "I'm only too much afraid he's the other way. What do you suppose he's going to do now? He's going to establish a little Neighborhood House for boys down on River Street, 'The Cyrus Sargent Memorial.' And, if you please, he's going to live there! It's a ducky house; he showed me the blue-prints, with the darlingest apartment for himself you ever saw, and a plunge, and a roof gymnasium. It's going to cost, endowment and all, three hundred thousand dollars--"
"Good heavens!" Mrs. Salisbury said, as one stricken.
"And the worst of it is," Alexandra pursued, with a sympathetic laugh for her mother's concern, "that he'll meet some Madonna-eyed little factory girl or laundry worker down there and feel that he owes it to her to--"
"To break your heart, Sandy," the mother supplied, all tender solicitude.
"It's not so much a question of my heart," Sandy answered composedly, "as it is a question of his entire life. It's so unnecessary and senseless!"
"And you can sit there calmly discussing it!" Mrs. Salisbury said, thoroughly out of temper with the entire scheme of things mundane. "Upon my word, I never saw or heard anything like it!" she observed. "I wonder that you don't quietly tell Owen that you care for him-- but it's too dreadful to joke about! I give you up!"
And she rose from her chair, and went quickly out of the room, every line in her erect little figure expressing exasperation and inflexibility. Sandy, smiling sleepily, reopened an interrupted novel. But she stared over the open page into space for a few moments, and finally spoke:
"Upon my word, I don't know that that's at all a bad idea!" an interrupted novel. But she stared over the open page into space for a few moments, and finally spoke:
"Upon my word, I don't know that that's at all a bad idea!"