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Trials and Confessions of a Housekeeper By T. S. Arthur Characters: 5076

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

FOR sometime I had a treasure of a cook; a fine Bucks county girl, whose strongest recommendation in my eyes, when I engaged her, was that she had never been out of sight of land. But she left my house for a "better place," as she said. I might have bribed her to remain, by an offer of higher wages; but, experience had demonstrated to my satisfaction, that this kind of bribery never turns out well. Your servant, in most instances, soon becomes your mistress-or, at least, makes bold efforts to assume that position.

So, I let my Bucks county girl go to her "better place." As to how or why it was to be a better place, I did not make enquiry. That was her business. She was a free agent, and I did not attempt to influence her. In fact, being of rather an independent turn of mind myself, I sympathize with others in their independence, and rarely seek to interfere with a declared course of action.

My new cook, unfortunately, had been out of sight of land, and that for weeks together. She was fresh from the Emerald Island. When she presented herself I saw in her but small promise. Having learned on enquiry that her name was Alice Mahoney, I said:

"How long have you been in this country, Alice?"

There was a moment or two of hesitation. Then she answered:

"Sax months, mum."

I learned afterwards that she had arrived only three days before.

"Can you cook?" I enquired.

"Och, yis! Ony thing, from a rib of bafe down till a parate."

"You're sure of that, Alice?"

"Och! sure, mum."

"Can you give me a reference?"

"I've got a character from Mrs. Jordan, where I lived in New York. I've only been here a few days. Biddy Jones knows me."

And she produced a written testification of ability, signed "Mary Jones, No.-William street, New York." There was a suspicious look about this "character;" but of course I had no means of deciding whether it were a true or false document.

After some debate with myself, I finally decided to give Alice a trial.

It so happened that on the very day she came, an old lady friend of my mother's, accompanied by her two daughters, both married and housekeepers, called to spend the afternoon and take tea. As they lived at some distance, I had tea quite early, not waiting for Mr. Smith, whose business kept him away pretty late.

During the afternoon, my "butter man" came. Occasionally he brings some very nice country sausages, and I always make it a point to secure a few pounds when he does so. He had some on this occasion.

"Alice," said I, as I

entered the kitchen about four o'clock, "I want you to hurry and get tea ready as quickly as you can."

"Yes, mum," was the ready reply.

"And Alice," I added, "we'll have some of these sausages with the tea. They are very fine ones-better than we usually get. Be sure to cook them very nice."

"Yes, mum," promptly answered the girl, looking quite intelligent.

A few more directions as to what we were to have were given, and then I went up to sit with my company.

It was not my intention to leave all to the doubtful skill of my new cook, but, either the time passed very rapidly, or she was more prompt and active than is usual among cooks, for the tea bell rung before I was in expectation of hearing it.

"Ah," said I, "there is our tea bell," and I arose, adding, "will you walk into the dining-room, ladies?"

The words were no sooner uttered than a doubt as to all being as I could wish crossed my mind; and I regretted that I had not first repaired to the dining-room alone. But, as it was too late now, or, rather, I did not happen to have sufficient presence of mind to recall my invitation to the ladies to walk in to tea, until I had preceded them a few minutes.

Well, we were presently seated at the tea table. My practised eye instantly saw that the cloth was laid crookedly, and that the dishes were placed in a slovenly manner.

I couldn't help a passing apology, on the ground of a new domestic, and then proceeded to the business of pouring out the tea. The cups were handed around, and I soon noticed that my guests were sipping from their spoons in a very unsatisfactory manner. I was in the act of filling my own cup from the tea urn, when I missed the plate of sausages, about which I had boasted to my lady friends as something a little better than were usually to be obtained. So I rung the table bell. Alice presently made her appearance.

"Alice," said I, "where are the sausages I told you to cook? You surely hav'nt forgotten them?"

"Och, no indade, mum. They're there."

"Where? I don't see them."

And my eyes ran around the table.

"They're wid the ta mum, sure!"

"With the tea?"

"Sure, mum, they're wid the ta. Ye towld me yees wanted the sausages wid the ta; and sure they're there. I biled 'em well."

A light now flashed over my mind. Throwing up the lid of the tea urn, I thrust in a fork, which immediately came in contact with a hard substance. I drew it forth, and exhibited a single link of a well "biled" sausage.

Let me draw a veil over what followed.

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