Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
"My dear," said Thaddeus, one night, as he and Mrs. Perkins entered the library after dinner, "that was a very good dinner to-night. Don't you think so?"
"All except the salmon," said Bessie, with a smile.
"Salmon?" echoed Thaddeus. "Salmon? I did not see any salmon."
"No," said Bessie, "that was just the trouble. It didn't come up, although it was in the house before dinner, I'm certain. I saw it arrive."
"Ellen couldn't have known you intended it for dinner," said Thaddeus.
"Yes, she knew it was for dinner," returned Bessie, "but she made a mistake as to whose dinner it was for. She supposed it was bought for the kitchen-table, and when I went down-stairs to inquire about it a few minutes ago it was fulfilling its assumed mission nobly. There wasn't much left but the tail and one fin."
"Well!" ejaculated Thaddeus, "I call that a pretty cool proceeding. Did you give her a talking to?"
"No," Bessie replied, shortly; "I despise a domestic fuss, so I pretended I'd gone down to talk about breakfast. We'll have breakfast an hour or two earlier to-morrow, dear."
"What's that for?" queried Thaddeus, his eyes open wide with astonishment. "You are not going shopping, are you?"
"No, Teddy, I'm not; but when I got downstairs and realized that Ellen had made the natural mistake of supposing the fish was for the down-stairs dinner, this being Friday, I had to think of something to say, and nothing would come except that we wanted breakfast at seven instead of at eight. It doesn't do to have servants suspect you of spying upon them, nor is it wise ever to appear flustered--so mamma says--in their presence. I avoided both by making Ellen believe I'd come down to order an early breakfast."
"You are a great Bessie," said Thaddeus, with a laugh. "I admire you more than ever, my dear, and to prove it I'd get up to breakfast if you'd ordered it at 1 A.M."
"You'd be more likely to stay up to it," said Bessie, "and then go to bed after it."
"There's your Napoleonic mind again," said Thaddeus. "I should never have thought of that way out of it. But, Bess," he continued, "when I was praising to-night's dinner I had a special object in view. I think Ellen cooks well enough now to warrant us in giving a dinner, don't you?"
"Well, it all depends on what we have for dinner," said Bessie. "Ellen's biscuits are atrocious, I think, and you know how lumpy the oatmeal always is."
"Suppose we try giving a dinner with the oatmeal and biscuit courses left out?" suggested Thaddeus, with a grin.
Bessie's eyes twinkled. "You make very bright after-dinner speeches, Teddy," she said. "I don't see why we can't have a dinner with nothing but pretty china, your sparkling conversation, and a few flowers strewn about. It would be particularly satisfactory to me."
"They're not all angels like you, my dear," Thaddeus returned. "There's Bradley, for instance. He'd die of starvation before we got to the second course in a dinner of that kind, and if there is any one thing that can cast a gloom over a dinner, it is to have one of the guests die of starvation right in the middle of it."
"Mr. Bradley would never do so ungentlemanly a thing," said Bessie, laughing heartily. "He is too considerate a man for that; he'd starve in silence and without ostentation."
"Why this sudden access of confidence in Bradley?" queried Thaddeus. "I thought you didn't like him?"
"Neither I did, until that Sunday he spent with us," Bessie answered. "I've admired him intensely ever since. Don't you remember, we had lemon pie for dinner--one I made myself?"
"Yes, I remember," said Thaddeus; "but I fail to see the connection between lemon pie and Bradley. Bradley is not sour or crusty."
"You wouldn't have failed to see if you'd watched Mr. Bradley at dinner," retorted Bessie. "He ate two pieces of it."
"And just because a man eats two pieces of lemon pie prepared by your own fair hands you whirl about, and, from utterly disliking him, call him, upon the whole, one of the most admirable products of the human race?" said Thaddeus.
"Not at all," Bessie replied, with a broad smile; "but I did admire the spirit and politeness of the man. On our way home from church in the morning we were talking about the good times children have on their little picnics, and Mr. Bradley said he never enjoyed a picnic in his life, because every one he had ever gone to was ruined by the baleful influence of lemon pie."
Thaddeus laughed. "Then he didn't like lemon pie?" he asked.
"No, he hated it," said Bessie, joining in the laugh. "He added that the original receipt for it came out of Pandora's box."
"Poor Bradley!" cried Thaddeus, throwing his head back in a paroxysm of mirth. "Hated pie--declared his feelings--and then to be confronted by it at dinner."
"He behaved nobly," said Bessie. "Ate his first piece like a man, and then called for a second, like a hero, when you remarked that it was of my make."
"You ought to have told him it wasn't necessary, Bess," said Thaddeus.
"I felt that way myself at first," Bessie explained; "but then I thought I wouldn't let him know I remembered what he had said."
"I fancy that was better," said Thaddeus. "But about that dinner. What do you say to our inviting the Bradleys, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, the Robinsons, and the Twinings?"
"How many does that make? Eight besides ourselves?" asked Bessie, counting upon her fingers.
"Yes--ten altogether," said Thaddeus.
"It can't be done, dear," said Bessie. "We have only eight fruit plates."
"Can't you and I go without fruit?" Thaddeus asked.
"Not very well," laughed Bessie. "It would never do."
"They might think the fruit was poisoned if we did, eh?" suggested Thaddeus.
"Besides, Mary never could serve dinner for ten; eight is her number. Last time we had ten people, don't you remember, she dropped a tray full of dishes, and poured the claret into the champagne glasses?"
"Oh, yes, so she did," said Thaddeus. "That's how we came to have only eight fruit plates. I remember. I don't think it was the number of people at the table, though. It was Twining caused the trouble, he had just made the pleasant remark that he wouldn't have an Irish servant in his house, when Mary fired the salute."
"Then that settles it," said Bessie. "We'll cut the Twinings out, and ask the others. I don't care much for Mrs. Twining, anyhow; she's nothing but clothes and fidgets."
"And Twining doesn't do much but ask you what you think of certain things, and then tell you you are all wrong when he finds out," said Thaddeus. "Yes, it's just as well to cut them off this time. We'll make it for eight, and have it a week from Thursday night."
"That's Mary's night off," said Bessie.
"Then how about having it Friday?"
"That's Maggie's night off, and there won't be anybody to mind the baby."
"Humph!" said Thaddeus. "I wish there were a baby safe-deposit company somewhere. Can't your mother come over and look after him?"
"No," said Bessie, "she can't. The child always develops something every time mother comes. Not, of course, that I believe she gives it to him, but she looks for things, don't you know."
"Yes," said Thaddeus, "I know. Then make it Wednesday. That's my busy day down-town, and I shan't be able to get home much before half-past six, but if dinner is at seven, there will be time enough for me to dress."
"Very well," said Bessie. "I will write the invitations to-morrow, and, meanwhile, you and I can get up the menu."
"Oysters to begin with, of course," said Thaddeus.
"I suppose so," said Bessie, "though, you remember, the last time we had oysters you had to open them, because the man from the market didn't get here until half-past seven."
"And Ellen had never opened any except with a tack-hammer," said Thaddeus. "Yes, I remember. But lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Put down the oysters. Then we'll have some kind of a puree--celery puree, eh?"
"That will be very good if Ellen can be induced to keep it thick."
"Perhaps we'd better tell her we want a celery consomme," suggested Thaddeus. "Then it will be sure to be as thick as a dictionary."
"I guess it will be all right," said Bessie. "What kind of fish?"
"Bradley likes salmon; Robinson likes sole; Phillips likes whitebait, and so do I."
"We'll have whitebait," said Bessie, simply. "Then a saddle of mutton?"
"Yes, and an entree of some kind, and next individual ruddy ducks."
"No Roman punch?"
"We can get along without that, I think," said Thaddeus. "We want to keep this dinner down to Mary's comprehension, and I'm afraid she wouldn't know what to make of an ice in the middle of the dinner. The chances are she'd want to serve it hot."
"All right, Teddy. What next?"
"I would suggest a lemon pie for Bradley," smiled Thaddeus.
"What do you say to Ellen's making one of her tipsy-cakes?" suggested Bessie.
"Just the thing," said Thaddeus, smacking his lips with enthusiasm. "I could eat a million of 'em. Then we can finish up with coffee and fruit."
So it was settled. The invitations were sent out, and Bessie devoted her energies for the next ten days to making ready.
Ellen's culinary powers were tested at every meal. For dinner one night she was requested to prepare the puree, which turned out to be eminently satisfactory. Thaddeus gave her a few practical lessons in the art of opening oysters, an art of which he had become a master in his college days--in fact, if his own words were to be believed, it was the sole accomplishment he had there acquired which gave any significance whatever to his degree of B. A.--so that in case the "fish gentleman" failed to appear in time nothing disastrous might result. Other things on the menu were also ordered at various times, and all went so well that when Thaddeus left home on the chosen Wednesday morning, it was with a serene sense of good times ahead. The invited guests had accepted, and everything was promising.
As Thaddeus had said, Wednesday was his busy day, and never had it been busier than upon this occasion. Everything moved smoothly, but there was a great deal to move, and finally, when all was done, and Thaddeus rose to leave his desk, it was nearly six o'clock, and quite impossible for him to reach home before seven. "I shall be late," he said, as he hurried off; and he was right. He arrived at home coincidently with his guests, rushed to his room, and dressed. But one glimpse had he of Bessie, and that was as they passed on the stairs, she hurrying down to receive her guests, he hurrying up to change his clothes.
"Oh, Thad!" was all she said, but to Thaddeus it was disconcerting.
"What is the matter, dear?" he asked.
"Nothing; I'll tell you later. Hurry," she gasped, "or the dinner will be spoiled."
Thaddeus hurried as he never hurried before, and in fifteen minutes walked, immaculate as to attire, into the drawing-room, where Bessie, her color heightened to an unusual degree, and her usually bright eyes fairly flaming with an unwonted brilliance, was entertaining the Bradleys, the Phillipses, and the Robinsons.
"Didn't expect me, did you?" said Thaddeus, as he entered the room.
"No," said Bradley, dryly. "This is an unexpected pleasure. I didn't even know you were a friend of the family."
"Well, I am," said Thaddeus. "One of the oldest friends I've got, in fact, which is my sole excuse for keeping you waiting. Old friends are privileged--eh, Mrs. Robinson?"
"Dinner is served," came a deep bass voice from the middle of the doorway.
Thaddeus jumped as if he had seen a ghost, and, turning to see what could have caused the strange metamorphosis in the soprano tremolo of Mary's voice, was astonished to observe in the parting of the portieres not the more or less portly Mary, but a huge, burly, English-looking man, bowing in a most effective and graceful fashion to Mrs. Bradley, and then straightening himself up into a pose as rigid and uncompromising as that of a marble statue.
"What on earth--" began Thaddeus, with a startled look of inquiry at Bessie. But she only shook her head, and put her finger to her lips, enjoining silence, which Thaddeus, fortunately, had the good sense to understand, even if his mind was not equal to the fathoming of that other mystery, the pompous and totally unexpected butler.
But if Thaddeus was surprised to see the butler, he was amazed at the dinner which the butler served. Surely, he thought, if Ellen can prepare a dinner like this, she ought to be above taking sixteen dollars and a home a month. It was simply a regal repast. The oysters were delicious, and the puree was superior to anything Thaddeus had ever eaten in the line of soups in his life--only it was lobster puree, and ten times better than Ellen's general run of celery puree. He winked his eye to denote his extreme satisfaction to Bessie when he thought no one was looking, but was overwhelmed with mortification when he observed that the wink had been seen by the overpowering butler, who looked sternly at him, as much as to say, "'Ow wery wulgar!"
"I must congratulate your cook upon her lobster puree, Mrs. Perkins," said Mr. Phillips. "It is delicious."
"Yes," put in Thaddeus. "But you ought to taste her celery puree. She is undoubtedly great on purees."
Bessie coughed slightly and shook her head at Thaddeus, and Thaddeus thought he detected the germ of a smile upon the cold face of the butler. He was not sure about it, but it curdled his blood just a little, because that ghost of a smile seemed to have just a tinge of a sneer in it.
"This isn't the same cook you had last time, is it?" asked Bradley.
"Yes," said Thaddeus. "Same one, though it was my wife who made that lem--"
"Thaddeus," interrupted Bessie, "Mrs. Robinson tells me that she and Mr. Robinson are going down to New York to the theatre on Friday night. Can't we all go?"
"Certainly," said Thaddeus. "I'm in on any little diversion of that sort. Why, what's this?--er--why, yes, of course. Phillips, you'll go; and you, too, eh, Bradley?"
Thaddeus was evidently much upset again; for, instead of the whitebait he and Bessie had decided upon for their fish course, the butler had entered, bearing in a toplofty fashion a huge silver platter, upon which lay a superb salmon, beautifully cooked and garnished. This he was now holding before Thaddeus, and stood awaiting his nod of approval before serving it. Inasmuch as Thaddeus not only expected whitebait, but had also never before seen the silver platter, it is hardly surprising that he should sit staring at the fish in a puzzled sort of way. He recovered shortly, however, gave the nod the butler was waiting for, and the dinner proceeded. And what a dinner it was! Each new course in turn amazed Thaddeus far more than the course that had preceded it; and now, when the butler, whom Thaddeus had got more or less used to, came in bearing a bottle of wine, followed by another stolid, well- dressed person, who might have been his twin-brother and who was in reality no more than assistant to the other, Thaddeus began to fear that the wine he had partaken of had brought about that duplication of sight which is said to be one of the symptoms of over-indulgence. Either that or he was dreaming, he thought; and the alternative was not a pleasant one, for Thaddeus did not over-indulge, and as a person of intellect he did not deem it the proper thing to dream at the dinner-table, since the first requisite of dreaming is falling asleep. This Thaddeus never did in polite society.
To say that he could scarcely contain himself for curiosity to know what had occurred to bring about this singular condition of affairs is to put it with a mildness which justice to Thaddeus compels me to term criminal. Yet, to his credit be it said, that through the whole of the repast, which lasted for two hours, he kept silent, and but for a slight nervousness of manner no one would have suspected that he was not as he had always been. Indeed, to none of the party, not even excepting his wife, did Thaddeus appear to be anything but what he should be. But when, finally, the ladies had withdrawn and the men remained over the coffee and cigars, he was compelled to undergo a still severer test upon his loyalty to Bessie, whose signal to him to accept all and say nothing he was so nobly obeying.
Bradley began it. "I didn't know you'd changed from women to men servants, Perkins?"
"Yes," said Thaddeus "we've changed."
"Rather good change, don't you think?"
"Splendid," said Phillips. "That fellow served the dinner like a prince."
"I don't believe he's any more than a duke, though," said Bradley. "His manner was quite ducal--in fact, too ducal, if Perkins will let me criticise. He made me feel like a poor, miserable, red-blooded son of the people. I wanted an olive, and, by Jove, I didn't dare ask for it."
"That wasn't his fault," said Robinson, with a laugh. "You forget that you live in a country where red blood is as good as blue. Where did you get him, Thaddeus?"
Thaddeus looked like a rat in a corner with a row of cats to the fore.
"Oh!--we--er--we got him from--dear me! I never can remember. Mrs. Perkins can tell you, though," he stammered. "She looks after the menagerie."
"What's his name?" asked Phillips.
Thaddeus's mind was a blank. He could not for the life of him think what name a butler would be likely to have, but in a moment he summoned up nerve enough to speak.
"Grimmins," he said, desperately.
"Sounds like a Dickens' character," said Robinson. "Does he cost you very much?"
"Oh no--not so very much," said Thaddeus, whose case was now so desperate that he resolved to put a stop to it all. Unfortunately, his method of doing so was not by telling the truth, but by a flight of fancy in which he felt he owed it to Bessie to indulge.
"No--he doesn't cost much," he repeated, boldly. "Fact is, he is a man we've known for a great many years. He--er--he used to be butler in my grandfather's house in Philadelphia, and--er--and I was there a great deal of the time as a boy, and Grimmins and I were great friends. When my grandfather died Grimmins disappeared, and until last month I never heard a word of him, and then he wrote to me stating that he was out of work and poor as a fifty-cent table- d'hote dinner, and would like employment at nominal wages if he could get a home with it. We were just getting rid of our waitress, and so I offered Grimmins thirty a month, board, lodging, and clothes. He came on; I gave him one of my old dress-suits, set him to work, and there you are."
"I thought you said a minute ago Mrs. Perkins got him?" said Bradley, who is one of those disagreeable men with a memory.
"I thought you were talking about the cook," said Thaddeus, uneasily. "Weren't you talking about the cook?"
"No; but we ought to have been," said Phillips, with enthusiasm. "She's the queen of cooks. What do you pay her?"
"Sixteen," said Thaddeus, glad to get back on the solid ground of truth once more.
"What?" cried Phillips. "Sixteen, and can cook like that? Take me down and introduce me, will you, Perkins? I'd like to offer her seventeen to come and cook for me."
"Let's join the ladies," said Thaddeus, abruptly. "There's no use of our wasting our sweetness upon each other."
If the head of the house had expected to be relieved from his unfortunate embarrassments by joining the ladies, he was doomed to bitter disappointment, for the conversation abandoned at the table was resumed in the drawing-room. The dinner had been too much of a success to be forgotten readily.
Thaddeus's troubles were set going again when he overheard Phillips saying to Bessie, "Thaddeus has been telling us the remarkable story of Grimmins."
Nor were his woes lightened any when he caught Bessie's reply: "Indeed? What story is that?"
"Why, the story of the butler--Grimmins, you know. How you came to get him, and all that," said Phillips. "Really, you are to be congratulated."
"I am glad to know you feel that way," said Bessie, simply, with a glance at Thaddeus which was full of wonderment.
"He is a treasure," said Bradley; "but your cook is a whole chestful of treasures. And how fortunate you and Thaddeus are! The idea of there being anywhere in the world a person of such ability in her vocation, and so poor a notion of her worth!"
Thaddeus breathed again, now that the cook was under discussion. He knew all about her.
"Yes, indeed," said Bessie. "He did well."
"I mean the cook," returned Bradley. "You mean she did well, don't you?"
What Bessie would have answered, or what Thaddeus would have done next if the conversation had been continued, can be a matter of unprofitable speculation only, for at this point a wail from above- stairs showed that Master Perkins had awakened, and the ladies, considerate of Bessie's maternal feelings, promptly rose to take their leave, and in ten minutes she and Thaddeus were alone.
"What on earth is the story of Grimmins, Thaddeus?" she asked, as the door closed upon the departing guests.
Thaddeus threw himself wearily down upon the sofa and explained. He told her all he had said about the butler and the cook.
"That's the story of Grimmins," he said, when he had finished.
"Oh, dear me, dear me!" cried Bessie, "you told the men that, and I--I, Thaddeus, told the women the truth. Why, it's--it's awful. You'll never hear the end of it."
"Well, now that they know the truth, Bess," Thaddeus said, "suppose you let me into the secret. What on earth is the meaning of all this--two butlers, silver platters, dinner fit for the gods, and all?"
"It's all because of the tipsy-cake," said Bessie.
"The what?" asked Thaddeus, sitting up and gazing at his wife as if he questioned her sanity.
"The tipsy-cake," she repeated. "I gave Ellen the bottle of brandy you gave me for the tipsy-cake, and--and she drank half of it."
"And the other half?"
"Mary drank that. They got word this morning that their brother was very ill, and it upset them so I don't believe they knew what they were doing; but at one o'clock, when I went down to lunch, there was no lunch ready, and when I descended into the kitchen to find out why, I found that the fire had gone out, and both girls were--both girls were asleep on the cellar floor. They're there yet--locked in; and all through dinner I was afraid they might come to, and-- make a rumpus."
"And the dinner?" said Thaddeus, a light breaking through into his troubled mind.
"I telegraphed to New York to Partinelli at once, telling him to serve a dinner for eight here to-night, supplying service, cook, dinner, and everything, and at four o'clock these men arrived and took possession. It was the only thing I could do, Thad, wasn't it?"
"It was, Bess," said Thaddeus, gravely. "It was great; but--by Jove, I wish I'd known, because--Did you really tell the ladies the truth about it?"
"Yes, I did," said Bessie. "They were so full of praises for everything that I didn't think it was fair for me to take all the credit of it, so I told them the whole thing."
"That was right, too," said Thaddeus; "but those fellows will never let me hear the end of that infernal Grimmins story. I almost wish we--"
"You wish what, Teddy dear?"
"I almost wish we had not attempted the tipsy-cake, and had stuck to my original suggestion," said Thaddeus.
"What was that?" Bessie asked.
"To have lemon pie for dessert, for Bradley's sake," answered Thaddeus, as he locked the front door and turned off the gas.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.