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   Chapter 4 THE COT AND THE RILL

John Gayther's Garden and the Stories Told Therein By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 68273

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


A week or so later the Daughter of the House came skipping down one of the broad paths. John Gayther stood still and looked at her, glad to see her coming, as he always was, no matter on what errand she came.

"John," she cried, before she reached him, "you are to stop work!" Then, as she came up to him, she continued: "Yes; there is to be story-telling this morning. We have told papa about it, and he is coming to what he calls the story-telling place with us, and mamma feels inspired to tell the story. So you may take that troubled look out of your face. Please put the big easy garden-chair in the shade of the summer-house. Papa does so like to be comfortable. And the view from there is so fine, you know-a beautiful land view. Papa must be tired of sea views and shore views, and here he will enjoy the mountains!"

Having delivered all this very volubly, the Daughter of the House skipped away. And as John Gayther busied himself in making the "story-telling place" attractive he felt glad that there were others besides himself who liked to tell stories. There was such a thing as overworking a mine. He was that rare thing, a story-teller who is also a good listener. Moreover, John felt very diffident about telling one of his stories before the Master of the House, who was a man prone to speak his mind. Not that John disliked the Master of the House. Far from it. He, with the family, was pleased when the Master of the House returned from a long cruise and proceeded immediately to make himself very much at home. For the Master of the House was a captain in the navy, and as hearty, bluff, and good-natured as a captain should be.

The captain had been at home some days, and had been in the garden several times, and now John Gayther was filled with admiration as he saw this fine, sturdy figure, clad all in white, approach the summer-house. With an air of supreme content this figure partly stretched itself in the big garden-chair, while the two ladies seated themselves on the bench. John Gayther stood respectfully until the Master of the House motioned to him to sit on his stool.

"Good morning, John," he cried heartily. "We've piped all hands to yarns. I have heard what you can do in this line, and we shall call upon you before long. This time you are privileged to listen. You can let somebody else cut your asparagus and dig your potatoes this morning."

"Papa," said his daughter, "it is too late for asparagus and too early for potatoes. I am afraid you forget about these things when you are at sea."

"Not at all," said her father. "On shipboard we cut our asparagus at any time of the year. The steward does it with a big knife, which he jabs through the covers of the tin cans. As for potatoes, they are always with us."

The Mistress of the House was now prepared to tell her story.

"I am going to tell my story in the first person," she began.

"There is no better person," interrupted the Master of the House.

"I do not intend to describe my hero who is to tell the story," continued his wife. "I will only say that he is moderately young and moderately handsome. Various other things about him you will find out as the story goes on. Now, then, he begins thus: I was driving my wife in a buggy in a mountainous region, and when we reached the top of a little rise in the road, Anita put her hand on my arm. 'Stop,' she said; 'look down there! That is what I like! It is a cot and a rill. You see that cot-not much of a house, to be sure, but it would do. And there, just near enough for the water to tumble over rocks and gurgle over stones to soothe one to sleep on summer nights, is the rill-not much of a rill, perhaps, but I think it could be arranged with a shovel. And then, all the rest is enchanting. I had been looking at it for some time before I spoke. There is a smooth meadow stretching away to a forest, and behind that there are hills, and in the distance you can just see the mountains. Now this is the place where I should like to live. Isn't there any way of making those horses stand still for a minute?'

"I tried my persuasive powers on the animals, and succeeded moderately. 'To live?' I asked. 'And for how long?'

"'Until about the 3d of August,' she replied. 'That will be about three weeks.'

"'You mean,' I said in surprise, 'something like this.'

"'I do not,' answered Anita. 'I mean this very spot. To find something like it would require months. What I want, as I have told you over and over again, is a real cot with a real rill, to which we can go now and live for a little while that unsophisticated life for which my soul is longing.'

"Anita and I were taking a summer outing together, and were trying to get into free nature, away from people we knew, and had been several days at a mountain hotel, and were driving about the country. My black cobs now declined to stand any longer.

"'Drive them down into the valley. There must be a road to that house,' said Anita.

"I drove on for a short distance, and soon came to a wagon-track which descended to the little house. 'Anita,' said I, 'I cannot go down that road; it is too rough and rocky, and we should break something. But why do you want to go down there, anyhow? You are not in earnest about living in such a place as that?'

"'But I am in earnest,' she answered sweetly but decisively. 'I want to stay in this region and explore it. We both of us hate hotels, and I could be very happy in a cot like that (a little arranged, perhaps) until the 3d of August, when we have to go North. But I won't ask you to go down that road, of course. Suppose we come again to-morrow with some quieter horses.'

"'I am sorry,' said I, 'but I cannot do that. Mr. Baxter comes to-morrow. You know it was planned that he should always come Tuesdays.'

"She sighed. 'I suppose everything must give way to business,' she said, 'and I shall have to wait until Wednesday. But one thing must certainly be agreed upon: when we get to that cot there must be no more Mr. Baxter; you can certainly plan for that, can't you?'

"I made no immediate reply, because I was busy turning the horses in rather an awkward place; but when we were on the smooth highway and were trotting gayly back to the hotel, I discussed the matter more fully with Anita, and I found that what she had been talking about was not a mere fancy. Before coming to this picturesque mountain region she had set her heart upon some sort of camping out in the midst of real nature, and this cot-and-rill business seemed to suit her exactly.

"'I want to go there and live,' she said; 'but I do not mean any Marie Antoinette business, with milk-pails decked with ribbons, and dainty little straw hats. I want to live in a cot like a cotter-that is, for us to live like two cotters. As for myself, I need it; my moral and physical natures demand it. I must have a change, an absolute change, and this is just what I want. I would shut out entirely the world I live in, and it is only in a real and true cot that this can be done as I want to do it.'

"She talked a great deal more on the same subject, and then I told her that if it suited her it suited me, and that on the day after to-morrow we would drive out again and examine the cot. For the rest of the day and the greater part of the evening Anita talked of nothing but her projected life in the valley; and before I went to sleep I was quite as much in love with it as she was. The next day it rained, but Mr. Baxter came all the same; weather never interfered with him."

"Who in the name of common sense is Mr. Baxter?" asked the Master of the House. "I like to know who people are when I am being told what they do."

"I had hoped," said the Mistress of the House, "that I should be able to tell my story so you would find out for yourselves all about the characters, just as in real life if you see a man working in a garden you know he is a gardener."

"But he may not be," said her husband; "he may be a coachman pulling carrots for his horses."

"But, as you wish it," continued the Mistress of the House, "I do not mind telling you that Mr. Baxter was my hero's right-hand man and business manager. And now he will go on:

"After Baxter and I had finished our business I told him about the cot, for if we carried out Anita's plan it would be necessary for him to know where we were. Then, putting on waterproof coats, we rode over to the place which had excited my wife's desire to become a cotter. We found the house small but in good order, with four rooms and an adjunct at one end. There were vines growing over it, and at the side of it a garden-a garden with an irregular hedge around two sides; it was a poor sort of a garden, mostly weeds, I thought, as I glanced at it. The stream of water was a pretty little brook, and Baxter, who rode to the head of it, said he thought it could be made much better.

"The house was the home of a widow with a grown-up daughter and a son about fifteen. We talked to them, asking a great many questions about the surrounding country, and then retired to consult. We did not consider long; in less than ten minutes I had ordered Baxter to buy the house and everything in it, if the people were willing to sell; and then to purchase as much land around it as would be necessary to carry out my plans, which I then and there imparted to him in a general way, leaving him to attend to the details."

"Your nameless hero," said the Master of the House, "must have been in very comfortable circumstances."

"I am glad to see that my story is explaining itself," remarked his wife, and she continued:

"Baxter looked serious for a moment, and said it was a big piece of work; but he did not decline it. Baxter never declined anything.

"'How much time can you give me?' he asked.

"'My wife will want to look at the place to-morrow,' I replied; 'that is, if it does not rain: for she says she does not want to see it first in bad weather.'

"'That's a help,' said Baxter. 'The Weather Bureau promises east winds and rains for to-morrow and perhaps the next day. And, anyway, I know now what you want. I will go back to town by the one-o'clock train and start things going.'

"'There is one thing I object to,' said I, when we were on the country road from which Anita had first seen the cot and the rill: 'the house is in full view from this road. Before we know it we will be making ourselves spectacles to parties from the hotel who happen to discover us and drive out to see how we are getting on.'

"Baxter reflected. 'Oh, I can arrange that,' said he. 'I know this road; it turns again into the highway not far below here. It is really a private road for the benefit of this house and two others nearly a mile farther on. I will include those places in the purchase, and close up the road. Then I will make it a private entrance to this place, with a locked gate. Will that do?'

"'Very well,' said I, laughing. 'But I suppose people could cut across the country and come in at the other end of the road if they really wanted to look into the valley?'

"'Not after I have finished the job,' said Baxter; and I asked no further questions."

"May I inquire," said the captain, "if that Mr. Baxter is in want of a position?"

"I am afraid, papa," said the Daughter of the House, "that you would have to own a navy before you could employ him."

The gardener smiled. A story built upon these lines interested him. The Mistress of the House went on without regard to the interruptions:

"I found Anita in earnest consultation with her maid Maria and the mistress of the hotel, and it was at least an hour before she could see me. When I told her I had secured the cot, or at least arranged to do so, she was pleased and grateful, especially as I had had to go out into the rain to do it. 'I knew, of course,' she said, 'that Baxter would settle that all right, and so I have been making my arrangements. But there is one favor I want you to grant me: I don't want you to ask me anything about how I am going to manage matters. I don't want to deceive you in any possible way, and so if you do not ask me any questions it will make it easier for me.'

"'Very good,' I replied; 'and I shall ask a similar favor of you.'

"'All right,' said Anita. 'And now that matter is settled.'

"The prophecies of the weather were correct. The next day, Wednesday, it rained, and it also rained on Thursday and Friday; but on Saturday it looked as if it might clear in the afternoon.

"'I am not going to-day,' said Anita. 'I have been working very hard lately, and to-morrow I will take a good rest, and we will start in on Monday.'

"Baxter was very glad of the four days of delay occasioned by the stormy weather, and said that without working on Sunday he could finish everything to his satisfaction. I went down to the cot the next day to see how he was getting on; but Anita asked me no questions, and I asked none of her. I had never known her to be so continuously occupied. As I stood with Baxter in front of the cottage, where there was a fine view of the surrounding country, I asked him how much land he had thought it desirable to purchase.

"'Over there,' he said, 'I bought just beyond that range of trees, about half a mile, I should say. But to the west a little more, just skirting the highroad. To the north I bought to the river, which is three quarters of a mile. But over there to the south I included that stretch of forest-land which extends to the foot-hills of the mountains; the line must be about a mile from here.'

"'That is a very large tract,' said I. 'How did you manage to buy it so quickly?'

"'I had nine real-estate agents here on Thursday morning,' he replied, 'and the sales were all consummated this morning. They all went to work at once, each on a separate owner. We bought for cash, and no one knew his neighbor was selling.'

"I laughed, and asked him how he was going to keep this big estate private for our use. 'We want to wander free, you know, anywhere and everywhere.'

"'That is what I thought,' said he, 'and that is why I took in such a variety of scenery. Nobody will interfere with you. There will be no inhabited house on the place except your own, and I am putting up a fence of chicken-yard wire around the whole estate. There is nothing like chicken-yard wire. It is six feet high and very difficult to climb over, and it is also troublesome to cut.'

"I exclaimed in amazement: 'That will take a long time!'

"'I have contracted to have it done by Saturday morning,' replied Baxter. 'The train with the wire fence and posts is scheduled to arrive here at eleven o'clock to-night, and work will begin immediately. Paulo Montani, the Italian boss who has worked for me before, has taken this contract, and will put twelve hundred men on.'

"'The train will arrive here?' said I. 'What do you mean?'

"'The M. B. & T. line runs within a mile and a half of this place, and my trains will all be switched off at a convenient place near here.'

"'I would not have supposed there was a side-track there,' I remarked.

"'Oh, no,' he replied, 'there was none; but I am now having two built. All the different gangs of men will sleep on the freight-cars, which have been fitted up with bunks. The wood-cutters and the landscape-men, hedgers, sodders, and all that arrived about an hour ago, and I am expecting the mechanics' train late this afternoon. The gardeners will not arrive until to-morrow; but if it keeps on raining, that will give them time enough. They want wet weather for their work.'"

"Excuse me," said the Master of the House, who had now finished his cigar and was sitting upright in his chair, "but didn't you omit to state that your hero was the King of Siam?"

"I have nothing of the kind to state," answered his wife. "He is merely an American gentleman.

"When I heard of the great works that were going on, I exclaimed: 'Look here, Baxter, you must be careful about what you are doing. If you make this place look like a vast cemetery, all laid out in smooth grass and gravelled driveways, my wife won't like it. She wants to live in a cot, and she wants everything to be cottish and naturally rural.'

"'That is just what I am going to make it,' said he. 'The highest grade of true naturalism is what I am aiming at in house and grounds. To-morrow afternoon you can look at the house. Everything will be done then, and the furniture will all be in place, and if you want any change there will be time enough.'

"The next day I went to the cot; but before I reached it I stopped. 'Baxter,' I said, 'you have done very well with this rill; it is quite a roaring little torrent.'

"'Yes,' said he; 'and down below they are working on some waterfalls, but they are not quite finished.'

"When I reached the house I did not exactly comprehend what I saw; it was the same house, and yet it was entirely different. It seemed to have grown fifty years older than it was when I first saw it. Its color was that of wood beautifully stained by age. There was a low piazza I had not noticed, which was covered with vines. Bright-colored old-fashioned flowers were growing in beds close to the house, and there was a pathway, bordered by box bushes, which led from the front door to a gateway in a stone wall which partly surrounded the green little yard. I had not noticed before the gateway or the stone wall, on which grew bitter-sweet vines and Virginia creeper.

"'Now, you see,' said Baxter, 'this grass here is not smooth green turf, fresh from the lawn-mower. It is natural grass, with wild flowers in it here and there. Nearly all of it was brought from a meadow about a mile away from here. But now step inside a minute. Everything there is of the period of 1849: horsehair, you see, lots of black walnut, color all toned down, and all the ornaments covered with netting to keep the flies off.'

"I was interested and amused; but I told Baxter I did not want to see everything now; I wished to enjoy the place with my wife when we should come to it. He was doing admirably, and I would leave everything to him. As I stood on the little portico and looked over the valley, I saw what seemed to be a regiment of men coming out of the woods and crossing a field.

"'That is the first division of the wire-fence men,' said Baxter, 'going to supper. They are divided into three sections, and one gang relieves another, so that the work is kept going all night by torchlight.'

"As I went away Baxter called my attention to the gate at the entrance of our road. It was of light iron, and it could be opened into a clump of bushes where it was not likely to be noticed. 'If this gate is locked,' said I, 'it might make trouble; it may be necessary for some one to go in or out.'

"'Oh,' said Baxter, 'I have provided for all that. You know Baldwin, who used to superintend your Lake George gardens? I have put him in charge of this gate, and have lodged him in a tent over there in the woods. He will know who to let in.'

"On Monday morning Anita rose very early, and was dressed and ready for breakfast before I woke. The day was a fine one, and her spirits were high. 'You have not the slightest idea,' she said, 'how I am going to surprise you when we get to the cot.' I told her I had no doubt her surprise would be very pleasant, and there I let the matter drop. Soon after breakfast we drove over to the cot, this time with a coachman on the box. When we arrived at the gate, which was open and out of sight, I proposed to Anita that she should send the carriage back and walk to the cot.

"'Good,' said she; 'I do not want to see a carriage for two weeks.'

"I have not time to speak of Anita's delight at everything she saw. She was amazed that plain people such as I had told her owned the house should have lived in such a simple, natural way. 'Everything exactly suits everything else,' she said. 'And it is all so cheap and plain. There is absolutely nothing that does not suit a cot.' She was wild with excitement, and ran about like a girl; and when I followed her into the garden, which I had not seen, I found her in one of the box-bordered paths, clapping her hands. The place was indeed very pretty, filled with old-fashioned flowers and herbs and hop-poles, and all sorts of country plants and blossoms.

"At last we returned to the house. 'Now, Anita,' said I, 'we are here in our little cot-'

"'Where we are going to be as happy as two kittens,' she interrupted.

"'And as I want everything to suit you,' I continued, 'I am going to leave the whole matter of the domestic arrangements in your hands. You have seen the house, and you will know what will be necessary to do. Mention what servants you want, and I will send for them.'

"'First tell me,' said Anita, 'what you did with the people who were here? You said there were three of them.'

"I could not very well answer this question, for I did not know exactly what Baxter had done with them. I was inclined to think, however, that he had sent them to the hotel until arrangements could be made for them to go somewhere else. But I was able to assure Anita that they had gone away.

"'Good,' said she. 'I have been thinking about them, and I was afraid they might find some reason or other to stay about the place, and that would interfere with my plans. And now I will tell you what servants I want. I don't want any. I am going to do the work of this house myself. Now don't open your mouth so wide. There is nothing to frighten you in what I have said. I am thirty-two years old, and although I am not very large, I am perfectly strong and healthy, and I cannot imagine anything in this world that would give me more pleasure than to live in this cot with you for two weeks, and to cook our meals and do everything that is necessary to be done. There are thousands and hundreds of thousands of women who do all that and are just as happy as they can be. That is the kind of happiness I have never had, and I want it now.'

"I sat upright in my slippery horsehair chair and spoke no word. Surely Anita had astonished me more than I could possibly astonish her! Before me sat my beautiful wife: the mistress of my great house in town, with its butlers and footmen, its maids and its men, its horses, its carriages, its grand company, and its stately hospitality; the lady of my famous country estate, with more butlers and footmen and gardeners and stewards and maids and men and stables and carriages and herds and flocks, its house-parties of distinguished guests-here was this wife of mine, so well known in so many fashionable centres; a social star at home and abroad; a delicately reared being, always surrounded by servitors of every grade, who had never found it necessary to stoop to pick up so much as a handkerchief or a rosebud; and here was this superfine lady of high degree, who had just announced to me that she intended to cook our meals, to pare our potatoes, to wash our dishes, and, probably, to sweep our floors. No wonder I opened my mouth.

"'I hope, now,' said Anita, putting her feet out in front of her to keep herself from slipping off the horsehair sofa, 'that you thoroughly understand. I do not want any assistance while we are in this cot. I have sent away Maria, who has gone to visit her parents, and no woman in service is to come on this place while I am here. I have been studying hard with Mrs. Parker at the hotel, who seems to be an excellent housekeeper and accustomed to homely fare, and I have learned how to make and to cook a great many things which are simple and nutritious; I have had appropriate dresses made, and Maria has gone to town and bought me a great variety of household linen, all good and plain, for our damask table-cloths would look perfectly ridiculous here. I have also laid in a great many other things which you will see from time to time.'"

"What a wonderful moment this would have been for a great slump in stocks!" remarked the Master of the House. "Everything swept away but the cot and the rill and the dear little wife with her coarse linen and her determination to keep no servant. The husband of your Anita would have been the luckiest fellow on Wall Street. If I were working on this story I would have the blackest of Black Fridays just here."

"'Now, Harold,' said Anita, 'I do not in the least intend to impose upon you. Because I choose to work is no reason why you should be compelled to do so.'

"'I am glad to hear that,' said I.

"'I knew you would be,' continued Anita. 'But of course neither of us will want very much done for us if we live a cotter's life with these simple surroundings, and so I think one man will be quite enough to do for you all you will want done. But of course if you think it necessary to have two I shall not object.'

"'One will be enough,' said I, 'and I will see about sending for him this afternoon.'

"'I am so glad,' said Anita, 'that you have not got him now, for we can have our first meal in the cot all by ourselves. I'll run up-stairs and dress, and then I will come down and do my first cooking.'

"In a very short time Anita appeared in a neat dress of coarse blue stuff, a little short in the skirts, with a white apron over it.

"'Come, now,' said she, gayly, 'let us go into the kitchen and see what we shall have for dinner. Shall it be dinner or lunch? Cotters dine about noon.'

"'Oh, make it lunch,' said I. 'I am hungry, and I do not want to wait to get up a dinner.' Anita agreed to this, and we went to work to take the lid off a hamper which she told me had been packed by Mrs. Parker and contained everything we should want for several days.

"'Besides,' she said, 'that widow woman has left no end of things, all in boxes and cans, labelled. She must have been a very thrifty person, and it was an excellent piece of business to buy the house just as it stood, with everything in it.'

"Anita found it difficult to make a choice of what she should cook for luncheon. 'Suppose we have some tea?'

"'Very good,' said I, for I knew that was easy to make.

"'Then,' said she, on her knees beside the hamper, with her forefinger against her lips, 'suppose-suppose we have some croquettes. I know how to make some very plain and simple croquettes out of-'

"'Oh, don't let us do that,' said I; 'they will take too long, and I am hungry.'

"'Very well, then,' said Anita. 'Let us have some boiled eggs; they are quick.'

"I agreed to this.

"'The next thing,' said Anita, 'is bread and butter. Would you like some hot soda-biscuit?'

"'No,' said I; 'you would have to make some dough and find the soda, and-isn't there anything ready baked?'

"'Oh, yes,' she answered; 'we have Albert biscuit and-'

"'Albert biscuit will do,' I interrupted.

"'Now,' said she, 'we will soon have our first meal in the cot.'

"'This is a very unassuming lunch,' she said, when we were at last seated at the table, 'but I am going to give you a nice dinner. If you want more than three eggs I will cook you some in a few minutes. I put another stick of wood in the fire so as to keep the water hot.'

"I was in considerable doubt as to what sort of man it would be best for us to have. I would have been very glad to have my special valet, because he was an extremely handy man in many ways; but I thought it better to consider a little before sending for him: he might be incongruous. I had plenty of time to consider, for Anita occupied nearly the whole afternoon in getting up our dinner. She was very enthusiastic about it, and did not want me to help her at all, except to make a fire in the stove. After that, she said, everything would be easy. The wood was all in small pieces and piled up conveniently near. As I glanced around the kitchen I saw that Baxter had had this little room fitted up with every possible culinary requirement.

"We had dinner a little before eight. Anita sat down, hot, red, but radiant with happiness.

"'Now, then,' said she, 'you will find I have prepared for you a high-grade cotter's dinner; by which I mean that it is a meal which all farmers or country people might have every day if they only knew enough, or were willing to learn. I have looked over several books on the subject, and Mrs. Parker told me a great deal. Maria told me a great many things also. They were both poor in early life, and knew what they were talking about. First we will have soup-a plain vegetable soup. I went into the garden and picked the vegetables myself.'

"'I wish you had asked me to do that,' said I.

"'Oh, no,' she answered; 'I do not intend to be inferior to any countrywoman. Then there is roast chicken. After that a lettuce salad with mayonnaise dressing; I do not believe cotters have mayonnaise dressing, nor shall we every day; but this is an exceptional meal. For the next course I have made a pie, and then we shall have black coffee. If you want wine you can get a bottle from the wine-hamper; but I shall not take any: I intend to live consistently through the whole of this experience.'

"There was something a little odd about the soup: it tasted as if a variety of vegetables had been washed in it and then the vegetables thrown away. I removed the soup-plates while Anita went out to get the next course. When she put the dish on the table she said something had given way while the fowl was cooking, and it had immediately stuck its legs high in the air. 'It looks funny,' she remarked, 'but in carving you can cut the legs off first.'

"I found one side of the fowl much better cooked than the other,-in fact, I should have called it kiln-dried,-and the other side had certainly been warmed. The mayonnaise was very peculiar and made me think of the probable necessity of filling the lamps, and I hoped Baxter had had this attended to. The pie was made of gooseberry jam, the easiest pie in the world to make, Anita told me. 'You take the jam just as it is, and put it between two layers of dough, and then bake it.' The coffee was very like black writing-ink, and, having been made for a long time, was barely tepid.

"Strange as it may appear, however, I ate a hearty dinner. I was very hungry.

"'Now,' said Anita, as she folded her napkin, 'I do not believe you have enjoyed this dinner half as much as I enjoyed the cooking of it, and I am not going to wash up anything, for I will not deprive myself of the pleasure of sitting with you while you smoke your after-dinner cigar on the front porch. These dishes will not be wanted until to-morrow, and if you will take hold of one end of the table we will set it against the wall. There is a smaller table which will do for our breakfast.'

"I drank several glasses of wine as I smoked, but I did not feel any better. If I had known what was going to happen I should have preferred to go hungry. I did not tell Anita I was not feeling well, for that would have made her suffer in mind more than I was suffering in body; but when I had finished my smoke, and she had gone into the house to light the parlor lamp, I hurried over to the barn, where Baxter had had a telephone put up, and I called him up in town, and told him to send me a chef who could hoe and dig a little in the garden.

"'I thought you would want a man of that kind,' Baxter telephoned. 'Will Isadore do? He is at your town house now, and can leave by the ten-o'clock train.'

"I knew Isadore. He was the second chef in my town house, a man of much experience, and good-natured. I told Baxter to make him understand what sort of place he was coming to, and to send him on without delay.

"'Do you want him to live in the house?' asked Baxter. And I replied that I did not.

"'Very good,' said he; 'I will have a tent put up for him near Baldwin's.'

"When I went to the house I told Anita I had engaged a man.

"'I am glad,' said she; 'but I have just thought of something: I cannot possibly cook for a man.'

"'Oh, you won't have to do that,' I answered. 'He will live near here, just the other side of the road.'

"'That will do very well,' said she. 'I do not mind being your servant, Harold, but I cannot be a servant's servant.'"

"Do you know," said the Master of the House, "as this story goes on I feel poorer and poorer every minute-I suppose by comparison. In fact, I do not know that I can afford to light another cigar. But one thought comforts me," he continued: "if I had been living in that cot with my wife I would not have had the stomach-ache; so that balances things somewhat."

The lady smiled.

"The next morning a little after eight o'clock I came down to open the house, and there, standing by the porch, hat in hand, I saw Isadore. He was a middle-aged man, large and solid, with very flat feet and a smoothly shaven face, twinkling eyes, and a benevolent smile. I was very glad to see him, especially before breakfast. I took him away from the house, so that Anita might not overhear our conversation, and then I laid the whole case before him. He was an Alsatian, but his English was perfectly easy to understand.

"'I know precisely what it is that is wanted,' said he, 'and Mr. Baxter has made the arrangements with me. It is that madame shall not suppose anything, but that what she wishes to be done shall be done.'

"'That is the idea,' said I. 'Don't interfere with her, but have everything done all right.'

"'And I am to be man of all work. I like that. You shall see that I am charmed. Now I will go and change my clothes.' And this well-dressed man turned away toward Baldwin's tent.

"When Anita came down the servant I had engaged was at the kitchen door waiting for orders. He was a plainly dressed man, his whole appearance neat but humble. 'He looks like a foreigner,' said Anita.

"'You are right,' I replied; 'he is an Alsatian.'

"'And his name?'

"I was about to tell her Isadore, but I stopped myself. It was barely possible that she might have heard the name of the man who for two years had composed the peculiar and delicious ic

es of which she was so fond; she might even have seen him, and the name might call up some recollection. 'Did you say your name was Isaac?' I called out to the man.

"'Yes, sir,' he answered; 'it is that. I am Isaac.'

"'I am going to get breakfast,' said Anita. 'Do you suppose he can build a fire?'

"'Oh, yes,' I replied; 'that is what he is engaged for-to be the man of all work.'

"Prompted by curiosity, I shortly afterwards looked in at the kitchen door. 'While you prepare the table, madame,' the man of all work was saying, 'shall I arrange the coffee for the hot water?'

"'Do you know how to do it?' she asked.

"'Oh, yes, madame,' the good Isaac replied. 'In a little hut in Alsace, where I was born, I was obliged to learn to do all things. My father and my mother had no daughter, and I had to be their daughter as well as their son. I learn to cook the simple food. I milk the cow, I rub the horse, I dig in the garden, I pick the berries in the woods.' As he talked Isaac was not idle; he was busy with the coffee.

"'That is very interesting,' said Anita to me; 'where there are no daughters among the poor the sons must learn a great deal.'

"I remained at the kitchen door to see what would happen next. There was a piece of dough upon a floury board, and when Anita went to lay the table the Alsatian fairly flew upon the dough. It was astonishing to see with what rapidity he manipulated it. When Anita came back she took the dough and divided it into four portions. 'There will be two rolls apiece for us,' she said. 'And now, Isaac, will you put them into the stove? The back part is where we bake things. We are going to have some lamb chops and an omelet,' she said to me as she approached the hamper.

"'Ah, madame,' cried the Alsatian, 'allow me to lift the chops. The raw meat will make your fingers smell.'

"'That is true,' said Anita; 'you may take them out.' And then she went back to the dining-room.

"Isaac knelt by the hamper. Then he lifted his eyes to the skies and involuntarily exclaimed: 'Oh, tonnerre! They were not put by the ice.' And he gave a melancholy sniff. 'But they will be all right,' he said, turning to me. 'Have trust.' The man of all work handled the chops, and offered to beat the omelet; but Anita would not let him do this: she made it herself, a book open beside her as she did so. Then she told Isaac to put it on the stove, and asked if I were ready for breakfast. As she turned to leave the room I saw her assistant whip her omelet off the stove and slip on it another one. When or where he had made it I had no idea; it must have been while she was looking for the sugar.

"'A most excellent breakfast,' said I, when the meal was over; and I spoke the exact truth.

"'Yes,' said Anita; 'but I think I shall do better after I have had more practice. I wonder if that man really can wash dishes.' On being questioned, Isaac declared that in the humble cot in which he was born he had been obliged to wash dishes; there were no daughters, and his mother was infirm.

"'That is good; and if any of the plates need a little rubbing up afterwards I can do them,' said Anita. 'Now we will take a walk over the place, which we have not done yet.'

"When we returned Isaac was working in the garden. Anita went into the house, and then the man of all work approached me; he had in his hand a little piece of red earthenware, which he held up before me in one hand and touched his cap with the other. 'Sir,' said he, 'is it all pots? Grass, bushes, everything?'

"'Oh, no,' said I. 'What is the matter?'

"'Excuse me,' said he, 'but everywhere I work in the garden I strike pots, and I broke this one. But I will be more careful; I will not rub so deep.'

"For two or three days Anita and I enjoyed ourselves greatly. We walked, we sat in the shade, we lay in hammocks, we read novels. 'That man,' said Anita, 'is of the greatest possible assistance to me. The fact is that, having been taught to do all sorts of things in his infancy, he does the hard work of the kitchen, and all that is necessary for me to do is to give the finishing touches.'

"That afternoon, when I saw the well-known chef Isadore-for some years head cook to the Duke of Oxminster, and willing to accept a second place in the culinary department of my town house only on account of extraordinary privileges and emoluments-when I saw this man of genius coming down the hill carrying a heavy basket which probably contained meats packed in ice, I began to wonder about two things: in the first place, I wondered what exceptional remuneration in addition to his regular salary Baxter had offered Monsieur Isadore in return for his exceptional services in our cot; and in the second place, I wondered if it were exactly fair to practise such a variety of deceptions upon Anita. But I quieted my conscience by assuring it that I was doing everything for her benefit and happiness, particularly in regard to this man of all work, who was probably saving us from chronic dyspepsia. Besides, it was perfectly fair play, for if she had told me she was going to do all my cooking I never would have come to this cot.

"It was that evening, when we were both in a good humor after a good dinner, that my wife somewhat disturbed my peace of mind. 'Everything is going on so smoothly and in such a pastoral and delightful way,' said she, 'that I want some of our friends to visit us. I want them to see for themselves how enjoyable such a life as this is. I do not believe any of them know anything about it.'

"'Friends!' I exclaimed. 'We do not want people here. We cannot entertain them. Such a thing was never contemplated by either of us, I am sure.'

"'That is true,' said Anita; 'but things are different from what I expected. They are ever and ever so much better. And we can entertain people. We have a guest-room which is fitted up and furnished as well as ours is. If we are satisfied, I am sure anybody ought to be. I tell you who will be a good person to invite for the first one-Mr. Rounders.'

"'Rounders!' I exclaimed. 'He is the last man in the world for a guest in this cot.'

"'No, he is not,' answered Anita. 'He would like it very much indeed. He would be perfectly willing and glad to do anything you do, and to live in any way you live. Besides, he told me, not very long ago, that he often thought of the joys of an humble life, without care, without anxiety, enough, no more, and a peaceful mind.'

"'Very well,' said I; 'this is your picnic, and we will have Rounders and his wife.'

"'No, indeed,' said Anita, very emphatically. 'She cannot come anyway, because she is in Europe. But I would not have her if she were here. If he comes, he is to come alone. Shall I write him a note, or will you? There is no time to waste.'

"She wrote the note, and when it was finished Isaac carried it to Baldwin and told him to have it mailed.

"The more I thought about this invitation the more interested I became in it. No one could be more unsuited to a cotter's life than Godfrey Rounders. He was a rich man of middle age, but he was different from any other rich man with whom I was acquainted. It was impossible to talk to him or even to be with him for five minutes without perceiving that he was completely controlled by the money habit. He knew this, but he could not help it. In business resorts, in society, and in the clubs he met great capitalists, millionaires, and men of wealth of all degrees, who were gentlemen, scholars, kind and deferential in manner, and unobtrusive in dress, and not to be distinguished, so far as conversation or appearance could serve as guides, from those high types of gentlemen which are recognized all over the world. Rounders longed to be like one of these, but he found it to be impossible. He was too old to reform, and the money habit had such a hold over him that I believe even when he slept he was conscious of his wealth. He was not a coarse, vulgar Dives: he had the instincts of a gentleman; but these were powerless. The consciousness of money showed itself on him like a perspiration; wipe his brows as he might, it always reappeared.

"He had not been poor in his early life; his father was a man of moderate means, and Rounders had never known privations and hardships; but, in his intense desire to make people think that his character had not been affected by his money, he sometimes alluded to straits and difficulties he had known in early days, of which he was not now in the least ashamed. But he was so careful to keep these incidents free from any suspicion of real hardships or poverty that he always failed to make the impression he desired. I have seen him quite downcast after an interview with strangers, and I was well aware what was the matter with him. He knew that, in spite of his attempts to conceal the domination of his enslaving habit, these people had discovered it. Considering all this, I came to believe it would please Rounders very much to come to stay a few days with us. Life in a cot, without any people to wait upon him, would be a great thing for him to talk about; it might help to make some people believe that he was getting the better of his money habit.

"In the middle of the night I happened to wake, then I happened to think of Rounders, then I happened to think of a story Baxter had told me, and then I burst out into a loud laugh. Fortunately Anita did not awake; she merely talked in her sleep, and turned over. The story Baxter had told me was this: In the past winter I had given a grand dinner, and Rounders was one of the guests. Isadore's specialty was ices, pastry, salads, and all sorts of delicate preparations, and he had excelled himself on this occasion, especially in the matter of sweets. At an unhappy moment Rounders had said to his neighbor that if she could taste the sort of thing she was eating as his cook made it she would know what it really ought to be. An obliging butler carried this remark to Monsieur Isadore as he was sipping his wine in his dressing-gown and slippers. The interesting part of this anecdote was Baxter's description of Isadore's rage. The furious cook took a cab and drove directly to Baxter's hotel. The wording of Monsieur Isadore's volcanic remarks I cannot state, but he butchered, cut up, roasted, carved, peppered, and salted Rounders's moral and social character in such a masterly way that Baxter laughed himself hoarse. The fiery cook would have left my service then and there if Baxter had not assured him that if the gilded reptile ever dined with him again Isadore should be informed beforehand, that he might have nothing to do with anything that went on the table. In consequence of this promise, Monsieur Isadore, having withdrawn a deposit of several thousand dollars from one of the trust companies with which Rounders was connected, consented to remain in my household.

"'Now, then,' I asked myself, 'how are we going to get along with Rounders and my man of all work Isaac?' But the invitation had gone, and there was no help for it. I concluded, and I think wisely, that it would be unkind to trouble Anita by telling her anything about this complication, but I would prepare the mind of the good Isaac.

"I went into the garden the next morning, where our man of all work was gathering vegetables, and when I told him that Mr. Godfrey Rounders was coming to spend a few days with us the face of Isadore-for it was impossible at that moment to think of him as Isaac-was a wonderful sight to see: his brows contracted, his countenance darkened, and his eyes flashed as though they were about to shoot out lightning. Then all color, even his natural ruddiness, departed from his face. He bowed gravely.

"'I have heard it said you have taken some sort of dislike to Mr. Rounders,' said I; 'and while I have nothing to do with it, and do not want to know anything about it, I do not wish to force you into an unpleasant position, and if you would rather go away while Mr. Rounders is here, I will have some one sent to take your place until he leaves. Then we shall want you back again. In this unusual position you have acquitted yourself most admirably.'

"While I was speaking Isadore had been thinking hard and fast; it was easy to see this by the varied expressions which swept over his face. When I had finished he spoke quite blandly:

"'It is that it would be beneath me, sir, to allow any of the dislike of mine to interfere with the comfort or the pleasure of yourself and madame. I beg that you will not believe that I will permit myself even to think of such a thing. I remain so long as it is that you wish me. Is it that you intend that your visitor shall know my position in your town house?'

"'Oh, no,' said I; 'as I have not told my wife, of course I shall not tell him. I am much obliged to you for your willingness to stay. It would be very awkward if you should go.'

"'I understand that, sir,' said Isaac, 'and I would do not one thing to discompose madame or yourself.'

"Rounders arrived according to schedule, and I met him at the gate, and explained that my wife insisted it would be incongruous for a carriage to drive up to the cot. 'I like that!' exclaimed Rounders. 'I like to walk a little.' I took up one of his valises, the good Isaac carried the two larger ones, while Rounders, with an apologetic look from right to left, as if there might be some person present to whom this action should be explained, took up some canes and umbrellas wrapped in a rug, and we all went down to the cot, where Anita was waiting to receive us.

"'Oh, I like this,' said Rounders, quite cheerfully. 'I do not know when I have gone anywhere without some of my people. But I assure you I like it. At the bottom of our hearts we all like this sort of thing.'

"Anita showed him everything, and probably bored him dreadfully; but our guest was determined to be pleased, and never ceased to say how much he liked everything. There was no foolish pride about him, he said; he believed in coming close to nature; and although a great many of the peaceful joys of humanity were denied the man of affairs, still, when the opportunity came, how gladly our inward natures rose up to welcome it! 'Your wife tells me,' said he, 'that she is cook, housekeeper, everything. This is charming! It must be a joy to you to know she is capable of it. But, my dear friend,' he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, 'you must not let her overwork herself. She will be very apt to do it; the temptation is great. I am sure if I were she the temptation to overwork in these new spheres would be very great.'

"Rounders certainly did overwork himself, and this was in the line of trying to make us believe that he thoroughly liked this plan of ours of living in a cot by a rill, and that he was quite capable of forgetting his ordinary life of affluence and luxury in the simple joys of our rural household. He would have produced an impression on both Anita and me if he had not said so much about it; but I knew what he was trying to do, and made all the necessary allowances for him.

"But, say what he might, I knew he was not satisfied. I could see that he missed his 'people,' by whom he was accustomed to be surrounded and served; and I soon found out that his meals did not suit him. Anita visited the kitchen much more frequently than she had done just before Rounders arrived, and she talked a great deal about the dishes which were served to us; but, so far as I could judge, she had no more to do with their preparation than she had previously had. I was thoroughly well satisfied with everything; and, although Rounders was not, it was impossible for him to say so when he sat opposite the lady who told him two or three times at every meal that she presided in the kitchen. Of course I would have done everything in my power to give Rounders things to eat that he liked, but I did not know what to do. Our table was just as good, though not as varied, as it was when we were in town; and that Rounders was accustomed to living better than we did I could not for one moment believe. I came to the conclusion that, in spite of his efforts to subdue his dominating habit, he could not resist the temptation to let us know that he was not used to humble life, or even the appearance of it.

"So I enjoyed our three good meals a day,-Anita would not allow us any more,-which were prepared by one of the best cooks on the continent from the choicest materials furnished regularly under Baxter's orders; and if Rounders chose to think that what was good enough for me was not good enough for him, he must go his own way and suffer accordingly. In fortune and in station I was so immeasurably superior to him that it nettled me a little to see him put on airs at the table to which I had invited him. But Rounders was Rounders, and I did not allow my irritation to continue.

"In two or three days our visitor's overwork began to show on him: his naturally plump cheeks hung down, his eyes drooped, and, although he drank a great deal of wine, he was seldom in good spirits. On the fourth day of his visit, after the morning mail had been brought to us by Isaac, Rounders came to me and told me he had just received a letter which would make it necessary for him to go home that afternoon. I expressed my regret, but did not urge him to stay, for it was obvious that he wanted to go. 'I have had a most delightful time,' he said, as he took leave of Anita; 'but business is business, and I cannot put it aside.'

"I believed both these statements to be incorrect: I knew that at that season he was not likely to be called away on business, and he had given me no reason to suppose he was enjoying himself; and as I walked with him to the gate I am afraid I was only stiffly polite. Our spirits rose after his departure. Anita said she had found him an incongruity, and I was tired of the spectacle of a purse-proud man trying to appear like other people. But if I were harsh in my judgment of him I was speedily punished. On the third day after he left I received a message from Baxter, who wanted to see me at Baldwin's tent. He was not allowed to come into the grounds, for Anita said that would look too much like business.

"I found that Baxter's errand was indeed urgent, and that he was fully warranted in disturbing our privacy. The members of an English syndicate were coming down from Canada to make final arrangements with me for the purchase of a great tract of mining land, and as my presence and signature were absolutely necessary in the concluding stages of the transaction, I would be obliged to be in New York on the next day but one.

"I was greatly annoyed by this intelligence. The weather was particularly fine, Anita was reading me a most interesting novel, and I was settling myself down to a thorough enjoyment of our cottage life, which I did not wish interfered with by anybody or anything, and I growlingly asked why the syndicate had chosen such an unsuitable time of the year to come down from Canada. But Baxter did not know. I continued to growl, but there was no way out of it. I must go to New York. For the sake of perhaps half a million dollars, which would not alter our ordinary manner of living, which would not give us any pleasures, privileges, or advantages of any kind which we did not now possess, we must break up our delightful life at the cot and rill, and go back to the humdrum of ordinary society.

"Baxter tried to console me. He said we could easily return when this business had been settled. But I knew that going away would break the charm; I thoroughly understood Anita's nature, and I was sure if she left the cot for a time she would not want to go back to it. But when I told her Baxter's business, and that she would have to have some one come and pack up for her, she flatly declared that no one should do anything of the kind. She would stay where she was.

"'You can't stay here by yourself!' I cried.

"'Of course not,' she said. 'Who could imagine such an absurdity? But I shall not be alone. I was thinking this very morning of Fanny Ransmore and her mother. I want some women guests this time, and they would be delightful after Mr. Rounders. Fanny is as lively as a cricket, and Mrs. Ransmore could take care of anybody. You can tell Baxter to have some one to patrol the grounds at night, and we shall get along beautifully. I am sure you will not be away long.'

"'But can you get the Ransmores?' I asked.

"'Certainly,' said she. 'They are at Newport now; but I will telegraph immediately, and they can start to-night and get here to-morrow afternoon. You need not be afraid they cannot come. They would give up any engagement on earth to be our only guests.'

"The matter was settled according to Anita's plan, and I was more willing to go to New York when I reflected that after the Ransmores came Anita would not be able to read aloud to me."

"At this point," said the Master of the House, "your hero makes me angry. Why should he think he could not go away and leave his wife for three days, when I leave my wife, and daughter too, for three years? His Anita is not worth one twentieth as much as either my wife or daughter. Then again, if I were in his place, I would not allow a disadvantageous half-million to take me away from you two. It is only the absolutely necessary thousands that make me leave you as I do."

"Your sentiments are just as nice as they can be, papa," said the Daughter of the House; "but don't you see if the gentleman did what you would do it would spoil the story?"

John Gayther smiled with pleasure. Here was a young lady who never forgot the principle of the thing, whatever the thing might be.

"That is true!" exclaimed the captain, stretching himself at full length in his chair. "I did not think of that. Madam, please proceed; let the King of Siam recommence his performances."

"I will merely remark," said the Mistress of the House, "that if the King of Siam undertook to emulate my hero in all his performances, it would be a pretty hard thing for his already overtaxed subjects.

"The Ransmores arrived on time, and were as delighted with the invitation as Anita had said they would be. According to her orders, neither of them brought a maid, which must have been pretty hard on the old lady; but they declared that the fun of waiting on themselves would be greater than anything Newport could possibly offer them.

"I went to New York, attended to my business, which occupied me for three days, and then I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a trip to Philadelphia to look at a large steam-yacht which was in course of construction at the shipyards there. I did not feel in such a hurry to go back to the cot now that the Ransmores were there, and I was sure also that Anita would like to hear about the new yacht, in which we hoped to make a Mediterranean voyage during the winter. But early in the forenoon of my second day in Philadelphia, while I was engaged in a consultation concerning some of the interior fittings of the yacht, I received a telegram from Baxter informing me that my wife had returned from the cot on the previous evening, and was now at our town house. At this surprising intelligence I dropped the business in hand and went to New York by the first train.

"'Of course,' said Anita, when we were alone, 'I will tell you why I left that precious cot. We had a very good time after you left, and I showed the Ransmores everything. The next day Fanny and I determined to go fishing, leaving Mrs. Ransmore to read novels in a hammock, an occupation she adores. Isaac was just as good as he could be all the time; he got rods for us, and made us some beautiful bait out of raw beef, for of course we did not want to handle worms; and we started for the river. We had just reached a place where we could see the water, when Fanny called out that somebody had a chicken-yard there, and that we would have to go around it. We walked ever and ever so far, over all sorts of stones and bushes, until we made up our minds we were inside a chicken-yard and not outside, and so we could not get around it. I was very much put out, and did not like it a bit because we could not reach the river; but Fanny saw through it all, and said she was sure the fence had been put there to keep all sorts of things from disturbing us; and then she proposed fishing in the rill.

"'We tried this a long time, but not a bite could we get; and then Fanny went wandering up the stream to see if she could find a spring, because she said she had heard that trout were often found in cold streams. After a while she came running back, and said she had found the spring, and what on earth did I think it was? She had soon come to what seemed to be the upper end of the rill, and went down on her hands and knees and looked under the edge of a great flat rock, and there she saw the end of an iron pipe through which the water was running. When I heard this I threw down my fishing-rod and would have nothing to do with an artificial rill. I remembered then that I had thought, two or three times, it had improved very much since I had first seen it; and when I asked Mr. Baxter about it last night, he said the original rill had not water enough in it for the little cataracts and ponds, and all that, and so he had brought down water from some other stream about half a mile away.

"'When we went back to the cot Fanny seemed to have her suspicions excited, and she pried into everything, and soon told me that the furniture and all the things in the cot were only imitation of the things plain country people use, and were, in reality, of the best materials and wonderfully well made, and that it must have cost a lot of money to buy all these imitations of old-fashioned, poor-folksy things. Then she went into the garden and peered about, and told Isaac, who was working there, that she had never seen so many different kinds of vegetables all ripe at the same time. He touched his cap, and said that was a compliment to his gardening. But pretty soon she saw the edge of a flower-pot sticking above the ground, and showed it to me. I made him dig up whole beds of things, and there was nothing but pots and pots, in which everything was growing.

"'I went back to the house and looked about a good deal more, with Fanny at my elbow to tell me how poor people would never have this or that or the other thing. Then I was very angry with myself for not being able to see things without having them pointed out to me by that Fanny Ransmore, who was not invited to pry about and make herself disagreeable in that way.'

"'And were you angry with me?' I asked.

"'Yes,' she answered; 'for a little while. But when I remembered the plans I had made I thought we were about square, and that I had concealed as much from you as you had from me. I was not angry, but I was determined I would not stay in that mock-cot any longer. I could not bear the sight of anything I looked at. I thought the quickest way of settling the matter was to get rid of the whole business at once, and I told Isaac to put a crowbar under the kitchen stove, which was full of burning wood, and turn it over. But he was horrified, and said he might be arrested and put in prison for doing that; and, besides, it would be such a shame to waste so many beautiful things. Fanny and her mother thought so, too. And I asked Isaac where the family lived who used to own the cot, and he said they were still at the hotel, not being able to find any suitable quarters. So I sent for the widow and her daughter and son, and I told them to take the cot just as it was, and to keep it forever, and I would have Mr. Maxwell make out the law papers. They went about shouting with delight at everything they saw, very different from that Fanny! So it was really a very nice thing to do, and I feel a great deal better. And here I am, and you will find Fanny and her mother somewhere in the house whenever you want to see them. After this I think it will be better for us both not to try any affectionate frauds on each other.'

"I was very glad the investigating Fanny had not discovered all my affectionate frauds, and that I was able myself to reveal to Anita the identity of the useful Isaac. This did amaze her, and for a moment I thought she was going to cry; but she was not in the habit of doing much of that sort of thing, and presently she laughed. 'Monsieur Isadore,' she exclaimed, 'working in the garden and washing pots and pans! Why, don't you know some people think he is almost as good as our head chef Leonard?'

"'As good!' I cried. 'He is infinitely better. Leonard could never have done for us what our good Isaac did. And now I must tell you a story about Isadore that Baxter related to me this morning as we drove up from the station.' I then told her the story of Isadore alias Isaac-of his dislike for Mr. Rounders, and of the noble manner in which he had determined to stand by us when he heard that gentleman was about to visit us. 'After Rounders's arrival,' I remarked, 'things went on apparently as well as before-'

"I made him dig up whole beds of things."

"'Apparently!' Anita interrupted. 'They went on better than before. I let Isaac, as we called him, do a great deal more of the cooking than he did before Mr. Rounders came. I thought our meals were remarkably good, and if Mr. Rounders did not like them, as I sometimes thought he did not, I believed it was because he could not help putting on airs even to us.'

"I laughed. 'Well,' said I, 'the state of the case was this: during the whole time Rounders stayed with us, Isadore did not cook one particle of food for him.'

"'That was impossible,' cried Anita. 'I noticed nothing of the kind, and, besides, Mr. Rounders would have found it out immediately.'

"'Of course neither of us noticed it,' said I, 'for Isadore did not serve us with any of the things he gave to Rounders. And as for the latter discovering that he was eating his food raw, he had no idea that such was the case. He supposed he was eating what we ate, and therefore did not like to say anything about it.'

"'But I do not understand!' cried Anita. 'How could any one eat things and not know they were uncooked?'

"'You do not understand,' said I, 'because you do not comprehend the deep and wonderful art of Isadore. Baxter tried to explain some of it to me as he heard it from the lips of the chef himself, but I do not know enough of kitchen magic to understand it. As Isadore waited on us, he was able to bring us well-prepared food, and to give Mr. Rounders something very different, but which looked just like that we had. Even his coffee was served in a cup heated hot in the oven, while the coffee itself had merely been warmed. I cannot explain all these uncooked meals, and if you want to know more you must ask Isadore himself. But Baxter told me that spices and condiments must have been used with wonderful effect, and that the poor man must have lived mostly on biscuits. Isadore said that all his life he would laugh when he thought of Mr. Rounders trying to eat a chicken croquette the inside of which was perfectly raw, while the outside smoked, and looking at the same time with astonishment at you and me as we quietly ate what seemed to be exactly like the thing he had on his plate.'

"'But, Harold,' said Anita, 'that was a shameful way to treat our guest!'

"'That is what Baxter said to Isadore; but the cook excused himself by stating that all this happened in a cot, in a dear little cot, where everything was different from everything else in the world, and where he had tried to make you and me happy, and where he himself had been so happy, especially when he saw Mr. Rounders trying to eat chicken croquettes. He was also so pleased with the life at the cot that he is going to have one of his own when he goes back to Alsace, which will be shortly, as he has made enough to satisfy his wants, and he intends to retire there and be happy in a cot.'

"Anita reflected for a few moments, and then she said: 'I think life in a cot might be very happy indeed-for Isaac.'"

With this the Mistress of the House rose from her chair.

"Is that at all?" exclaimed her daughter. "There are several things I want to know."

"That is all," replied the story-teller. "Like the good King of Siam, I consider my already overtaxed subjects." And with this she went into the house.

"Do either of you suppose," remarked the Master of the House, "that that Anita woman gave the whole of that great estate to the widow and her two children? How much land do you think, John Gayther, was enclosed inside that chicken wire?"

"I have been calculating it in my head," replied the gardener, "and it must have been over a thousand acres. And for my part, sir, I don't believe it was all given to the widow. When Mr. Baxter came to attend to the papers I think he made over the cot and about seven acres of land, which was quite enough to be attended to by a half-grown boy."

"That is my opinion, too," said the Daughter of the House, "and I think that the opulent owner of that great estate made a deer-park of the rest of it, with reindeer, fallow deer, red deer, stags, and all sorts of deer, and not one of them able to jump over the wire."

"Ah, me!" said the captain, rising and folding his arms as he leaned his broad back against a pillar of the summer-house, "these great volcanoes of wealth, always in eruption, always squirting out town houses, country houses, butlers, chefs, under-chefs, diamonds, lady's-maids, horses, carriages, seaside gardens, thousand-acre poultry-yards, private sidewalks, and clouds of money which obscure the sun, daze my eyes and amaze my soul! John Gayther, I wish you would send me one of your turnip-hoers; I want him to take my second-best shoes to be mended."

THIS STORY IS TOLD BY

THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE

AND IS CALLED

THE GILDED IDOL AND THE

KING CONCH-SHELL

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