JOHN KENDRICK BANGS
It may interest the readers of this collection of tales if there
should be any such to know that the incidents upon which the
stories are based are unfortunately wholly truthful. They have one
and all come under the author's observation during the past ten
years and with the exception of "Mr. Bradley's Jewel" concerning
whom it is expressly stated that she was employed through lack of
other available material not one of the servants herein made famous
or infamous as the case may be was employed except upon
presentation of references written by responsible persons that could
properly have been given only to domestics of the most sterling
character. It is this last fact that points the moral of the tales
here presented if it does not adorn them.
J. K. B.
THE EMANCIPATION OF THADDEUS
They were very young and possibly too amiable. Thaddeus was but
twenty-four and Bessie twenty-two when they twain made one walked
down the middle aisle of St. Peter's together.
Everybody remarked how amiable she looked even then; not that a
bride on her way out of church should look unamiable of course but
we all know how brides do look as a rule on such occasions--looks
difficult of analysis but strangely suggestive of determined
timidity if there can be such a quality expressed in the human
face. It is the natural expression of one who knows that she has
taken the most important step of her life and on turning to face
those who have been bidden to witness the ceremony observes that
the sacredness of the occasion is somewhat marred by the presence in
church of the unbidden curiosity-seekers who have come for much the
same reason as that which prompts them to go to the theatre--to
enjoy the spectacle. But Bessie's face showed nothing but that
intense amiability for which she had all her life long been noted;
and as for Thaddeus he never ceased to smile from the moment he
turned and faced the congregation until the carriage door closed
upon him and his bride and then of course he had to his lips
being otherwise engaged. Indeed Thaddeus's amiability was his
greatest vice. He had never been known to be ill-natured in his
life but once and that was during the week that Bessie had kept him
in suspense while she was making up her mind not to say "No" to an
important proposition he had made--a proposition by-the-way which
resulted in this very ceremony and was largely responsible for the
trials and tribulations which followed.
Thaddeus was rich--that is he had an income and a vocation; a
charming little home was awaiting their coming off in a convenient
suburb; and best of all Bessie was an accomplished house-keeper
having studied under the best mistresses of that art to be found in
the country. And even if she had not completely mastered the art of
keeping house Thaddeus was confident that all would go well with
them for their waitress was a jewel inherited from Bessie's
mother and the cook though somewhat advanced in years was beyond
cavil having been known to the family of Thaddeus for a longer
period than Thaddeus himself had been. The only uncertain quantity
in the household was Norah the up-stairs girl who was not only
new but auburn-haired and of Celtic extraction.
Under such circumstances did the young couple start in life and
many there were who looked upon them with envy. At first of
course the household did not run as smoothly as it might have done-
-meals were late and served with less ceremony than either liked;
but as Bessie said as she and Thaddeus were finishing their
breakfast one morning "What could you expect?"
To which Thaddeus with his customary smile replied "What indeed!
We get along much better than I really thought we should with old
Old Ellen was the cook and she had been known to Thaddeus as "Old
Ellen" even before his lips were able to utter the words.
"Ellen has her ways and Jane has hers" said Bessie. "After Jane
has got accustomed to Ellen's way of getting breakfast ready she
will know better how to go about her own work. I think perhaps
cook's manner is a little harsh. She made Jane cry about the omelet
this morning; but Jane is teary anyhow."
"It wouldn't do to have Ellen oily and Jane watery" Thaddeus
answered. "They'd mix worse than ever then. We're in pretty good
luck as it is."
"I think so too Teddy" Bessie replied; "but Jane is so foolish.
She might have known better than to send the square platter down to
Ellen for an omelet when the omelet was five times as long as it
"You always had square omelets though at your house--that is
whenever I was there you had" said Thaddeus. "And I suppose Jane's
notion is that as things happened under your mother's regime so
they ought to happen here."
"Possibly that was her notion" replied Bessie; "but then in your
family the omelets were oblong and Ellen is too old to depart from
her traditions. Old people get set in their ways and as long as
results are satisfactory we ought not to be captious about
"No indeed we shouldn't" smiled Thaddeus; "but I don't want you
to give in to Ellen to too great an extent my dear. This is your
home and not my mother's and your ways must be the ways of the
"Ellen is all right" returned Bessie "and I am so delighted to
have her because you know Teddy dear she knows what you like
even better perhaps than I do--naturally so having grown up in
"Reverse that my dear. Our family grew up on Ellen. She set the
culinary pace at home. Mother always let her have her own way and
it may be she is a little spoiled."
"Do you know Teddy I wonder that having had Ellen for so many
years your mother was willing to give her up."
"Oh I can explain that" Thaddeus answered. "I'm the youngest you
know; the rest of the family were old enough to be weaned. Besides
father was getting old and he had a notion that the comforts of a
hotel were preferable to the discomforts of house-keeping. Father
likes to eat meals at all hours and the annunciator system of hotel
life by which you can summon anything in an instant from a shower-
bath to a feast of terrapin was rather pleasing to him. He was
always an admirer of the tales of the genii and he regards the
electric button in a well-appointed hotel as the nearest approach to
the famous Aladdin lamp known to science. You press the button and
your genii do the rest."
"But a hotel isn't home" said Bessie.
"A hotel isn't this home" answered Thaddeus. "Love in a cottage
for me; but Bessie perhaps you--perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea
for you to speak to Jane and Ellen this morning about their
differences. I am an hour late now."
Then Thaddeus kissed Bessie and went down to business.
On Thaddeus's departure Bessie's cheerfulness also deserted her and
for the first time in her life she felt that it would do her good if
she could fly out at somebody--somebody however who was not
endeared to the heart of Thaddeus or too intimately related to her
own family which left no one but Norah upon whom to vent the
displeasure that she felt. Norah was therefore sought out and
requested rather peremptorily to say how long it had been since she
had dusted the parlor; to which Norah was able truthfully to answer
"This mornin' mim." Whereupon Bessie's desire to be disagreeable
departed and saying that Norah could now clean the second-story
front-room windows she withdrew to her own snug sewing-room until
luncheon should be served. She was just a trifle put out with Norah
for being so efficient. There is nothing so affronting to a young
house-keeper as the discovery that the inherited family jewels upon
whom much reliance has been placed are as paste alongside of the
newly acquired bauble from whom little was expected. It was almost
unkind in Norah Bessie thought to be so impeccably conscientious
when Jane and Ellen were developing eccentricities; but there was
the consoling thought that when they had all been together a month
or two longer their eccentricities would so shape themselves that
they would fit into one another and ultimately bind the little
domestic structure more firmly together.
"Perhaps if I let them alone" Bessie said to herself "they'll
forget their differences more quickly. I guess on the whole I
will say nothing about it."
That night when Thaddeus came home the first thing he said to his
wife was: "Well I suppose you were awfully firm this morning eh?
Went down into the kitchen and roared like a little tyrant eh? I
really was afraid to read the paper on the way home. Didn't know
but what I'd read of a 'Horrid Accident in High Life. Mrs. Thaddeus
Perkins's Endeavor to Maintain Discipline in the Household Results
Fatally. Two Old Family Servants Instantly Killed and Three of the
Kitchen Table Legs Broken by a Domestic Explosion!'"
"Be serious Thaddeus" said Bessie.
And Thaddeus became instantly serious. "They--they haven't left us
have they?" he whispered in an awe-struck tone.
"No. I--I thought I'd let them fight it out between themselves"
replied Bessie. "You see Thaddeus servants are queer and do not
like to have their differences settled by others than themselves.
It'll work out all right if we let them alone."
"I don't know but that you are right" said Thaddeus after a few
moments of thought. "They're both sensible girls and capable of
fighting their own battles. Let's have dinner. I'm hungry as a
It was half-past six o'clock and the usual hour for dinner. At
8.10 dinner was served. The intervening time was consumed by Jane
and Ellen endeavoring to settle their differences by the silent
sniffy method--that is Jane would sniff and Ellen would be silent;
and then Ellen would sniff and Jane would be silent. As for
Thaddeus and Bessie they were amused rather than angry to have the
dear little broiled chicken Bessie had provided served on the large
beef-platter; and when the pease came up in a cut-glass salad-dish
Thaddeus laughed outright but Bessie's eyes grew moist. It was too
evident that Jane and Ellen were not on speaking terms and there
was strong need for some one to break the ice. Fortunately
Bessie's mother called that evening and some of her time was spent
below-stairs. What she said there only Ellen and Jane knew but it
had its effect and for two or three weeks the jewels worked almost
as satisfactorily as did Norah the new girl and quite
"Bessie" said Thaddeus one night as they ate their supper "does
it occur to you that the roast is a little overdone to-night?"
"Yes Teddy it is very much overdone. I must speak to Ellen about
it. She is a little careless about some things. I've told her
several times that you like your beef rare."
"Well I'd tell her again. Constant dropping of water on its
surface will wear away a stone and I think perhaps the constant
dropping of an idea on a cook's head may wear away some of the
thickest parts of that--at least until it is worn thin enough for
the idea to get through to where her brain ought to be. You might
say to her too that for several nights past dinner has been cold."
"I'll speak to her in the morning" was Bessie's reply; and the dear
little woman was true to her purpose.
"She explained about the beef and the cold dinner Ted" she said
when Thaddeus came home that afternoon.
"Satisfactorily to all hands I hope?" said Thaddeus with his usual
"Yes perfectly. In fact I wonder we hadn't thought of it
ourselves. In the old home you know the dinner-hour was six
o'clock while here it is half-past six."
"What has that got to do with it?" asked Thaddeus.
"How obtuse of you Teddy!" exclaimed Bessie. "Don't you see the
poor old thing has been so used to six-o'clock dinners that she has
everything ready for us at six? And if we are half an hour hate of
course things get cold; or if they are kept in the oven as was the
case with the beef last night they are apt to be overdone?"
"Why of course. Ha! Ha! Wonder I didn't think of that" laughed
Thaddeus though his mirth did seem a little forced. "But--she's--
she's going to change I suppose?"
"She said she'd try" Bessie replied. "She was really so very nice
about it I hadn't the heart to scold her."
"I'm glad" was all Thaddeus said and during the rest of the meal
he was silent. Once or twice he seemed on the verge of saying
something but apparently changed his mind.
"Are you tired to-night dear?" said Bessie as the dessert was
"No. Why?" said Thaddeus shortly.
"Oh nothing. I thought you seemed a little so" Bessie answered.
"You mustn't work too hard down-town."
"No my dear girl" he said. "I won't and I don't. I was thinking
all through dinner about those girls down-stairs. Perhaps--perhaps
I had better talk to them eh? You are so awfully kind-hearted and
it does seem to me as though they imposed a little on you that's
all. The salad to-night was atrocious. It should have been kept on
the ice instead of which it comes to the table looking like a last
Bessie's eyes grew watery. "I'm afraid it was my fault" she said.
"I ought to have looked after the salad myself. I always did at
home. I suppose Jane got it out expecting me to prepare it."
"Oh well never mind" said Thaddeus desirous of soothing the
troubled soul of his wife. "I wouldn't have mentioned it only Jane
does too much thinking in a thoughtless way anyhow. Servants
aren't paid to think."
"I'll tell you what Thaddeus" said Bessie her spirits returning
"we are just as much to blame as they are; we've taken too much for
granted and so have they. Suppose we spend the evening putting
together a set of rules for the management of the house? It will be
lots of fun and perhaps it will do the girls good. They ought to
understand that while our parents have had their ways--and
reasonable ways--there is no reason why we should not have our
"In other words" said Thaddeus "what we want to draw up is a sort
of Declaration of Independence."
"That's it exactly" Bessie replied.
"Better get a slate and write them on that" suggested Thaddeus
with a broad grin. "Then we can rub out whatever Jane and Ellen
"I hate you when you are sarcastic" said Bessie with a pout and
then she ran for her pad and pencil.
The evening was passed as she had suggested and when they retired
that night the house of Perkins was provided with a constitution and
"I don't suppose I shall recognize my surroundings when I get back
home to-night" said Thaddeus when he waked up in the morning.
"Why not?" asked Bessie. "What strange transformation is there to
"The discipline will be so strict" answered Thaddeus. "I presume
you will put those rules of ours into operation right away?"
"I have been thinking about that" said Bessie after a moment.
"You see Thad there are a great many things about running a house
that neither you nor I are familiar with yet and it seems to me
that maybe we'd better wait a little while before we impose these
rules on the girls; it would be awkward to have to make changes
afterwards you know."
"There is something in that" said Thaddeus; "but after all not so
much as you seem to think. All rules have exceptions. I've no
doubt that the cook will take exception to most of them."
"That's what I'm afraid of and as she's so old I kind of feel as if
I ought to respect her feelings a little more than we would Norah's
for instance. I can just tell you I shall make Norah stand around."
"I think it would be a good plan if you did" said Thaddeus. "I'm
afraid Norah will die if you don't. She works too hard to be a real
servant--real servants stand around so much you know."
"Don't be flippant Thaddeus. This is a very serious matter. Norah
is a good girl as you say. She works so much and so quickly that
she really makes me tired and I'm constantly oppressed with the
thought that she may get through with whatever she is doing before I
can think of something else to occupy her time. But with her we
need have none of the feeling that we have with Jane and Ellen. She
is young and susceptible to new impressions. She can fall in with
new rules while the other two might chafe under them. Now I say
we wait until we find out if we cannot let well enough alone and
not raise discord in our home."
"There never was an Eden without its serpent" sighed Thaddeus. "I
don't exactly like the idea of fitting our rules to their
"It isn't that dear. I don't want that either; but neither do we
wish to unnecessarily hamper them in their work by demanding that
they shall do it our way."
"Oh well you are the President of the Republic" said Thaddeus.
"You run matters to suit yourself and I believe we'll have the most
prosperous institution in the world before we know it. If it were a
business matter I'd have those rules or die; but I suppose you
can't run a house as you would a business concern. I guess you are
right. Keep the rules a week. Why not submit 'em to your mother
"I thought of that" said Bessie. "But then it occurred to me that
as Ellen had served always under your mother it would be better if
we consulted her."
"I don't" said Thaddeus. "She'd be sure to tell you not to have
any rules or if she didn't she would advise you to consult with
the cook in the matter which would result in Ellen's becoming
President and you and I taxpayers. She used to run our old house
and now see the consequences!"
"What are the consequences?" asked Bessie.
"Mother and father have been driven into a hotel and the children
have all been married."
"That's awful" laughed Bessie.
And so the rules were filed away for future reference. That they
would have remained on file for an indefinite period if Thaddeus had
not asked a friend to spend a few weeks with him I do not doubt.
Bessie grew daily more mistrustful of their value and Thaddeus
himself preferred the comfort of a quiet though somewhat irregular
mode of living to the turmoil likely to follow the imposition of
obnoxious regulations upon the aristocrats below-stairs. But the
coming of Thaddeus's friend made a difference.
The friend was an elderly man with a business and a system. He was
a man for instance who all his life had breakfasted at seven
lunched at one and dined at six-thirty of which Thaddeus was aware
when he invited him to make his suburban home his headquarters while
his own house was being renovated and his family abroad. Thaddeus
was also aware that the breakfast and dinner hours under Bessie's
regime were nominally those of his friend and so he was able to
assure Mr. Liscomb that his coming would in no way disturb the usual
serenity of the domestic pond. The trusting friend came. Breakfast
number one was served fifteen minutes after the hour and for the
first time in ten years Mr. Liscomb was late in arriving at his
office. He had not quite recovered from the chagrin consequent upon
his tardiness when that evening he sat down to dinner at Thaddeus's
house served an hour and ten minutes late Ellen having been
summoned by wire to town to buy a pair of shoes for one of her
sister's children the sister herself suffering from poverty and
"I hope you were not delayed seriously this morning Mr. Liscomb"
said Bessie after dinner.
"Oh no not at all!" returned Liscomb polite enough to tell an
untruth although its opposite was also a part of his system.
"Ellen must be more prompt with breakfast" said Thaddeus. "Seven
sharp is the hour. Did you speak to her about it?"
"No but I intend to" answered Bessie. "I'll tell her the first
thing after breakfast to-morrow. I meant to have spoken about it
to-day but when I got down-stairs she had gone out."
"Was it her day out?"
"No; but her sister is sick and she was sent for. It was all
right. She left word where she was going with Jane."
"That was very considerate of her" said Liscomb politely.
"Yes" said Bessie. "Ellen's a splendid woman."
Later on in the evening about half-past nine when Mr. Liscomb
wearied with the excitement of the first irregular day he had known
from boyhood retired Thaddeus took occasion to say:
"Bessie I think you'd better tell Ellen about having breakfast
promptly in the morning to-night before we go to bed."
"Very well" returned Bessie "I'll go down now and do it;" and down
she went. In a moment she was back. "The poor thing was so tired"
she said "that she went to bed as soon as dinner was cooked so I
couldn't tell her."
"Why didn't you send up word to her by Jane?"