Forest paused as he was lifting the silver tray, and put it down again. He looked at the table; then he looked at the lady opposite.
’We servants, Miss, have never been asked what we think. Mr. Mannering—that’s not his way.’
‘But I may ask it, mayn’t I, Forest?’
Forest’s intelligent face flamed.
’Well, if we’ve really to speak out what we think, Miss—that’s Cook and me—why, of course, the feeding here—well, it’s a scandal! that’s what it is. The Master will have it. No change, he says, from what it used to be. And the waste—well, you ask Cook! She can’t help it!’
‘Has she been here long, Forest?’
‘Well, Forest,’ Miss Bremerton approached him confidingly, ’don’t you think that you, and Cook, and I—you know Mr. Mannering wishes me to do the housekeeping—well, that between us we could do something?’
Forest considered it.
‘I don’t see why not, Miss,’ he said at last, with caution. ’You can reckon on me, that’s certain, and on Cook, that’s certain too. As for the young uns, we can get round them! They’ll eat what they’re given. But you’ll have to go careful with the Squire.’
Miss Bremerton smiled and nodded. They stood colloguing in the twilight for ten minutes more.
’I say, Pamela, who is this female, and why has she descended on us?’
The speaker was Desmond Mannering. He was sitting on the edge of a much dilapidated arm-chair in the room which had been the twins’ “den” from their childhood, in which Pamela’s governess even, before the girl’s school years, was allowed only on occasional and precarious footing. Here Pamela dabbed in photography, made triumphant piles of the socks and mittens she kept from her father’s eye, read history, novels, and poetry, and wrote to her school friends and the boys she had met in Scotland. Ranged along the mantelpiece were numbers of snapshots—groups and single figures—taken by her, with results that showed her no great performer.
At the moment, however, Pamela was engaged in marking Desmond’s socks. She was very jealous of her sisterly prerogative in the matter of Desmond’s kit, and personal affairs generally. Forest was the only person she would allow to advise her, and one or two innocent suggestions made that morning by her new chaperon had produced a good deal of irritation.
Pamela looked up with a flushed countenance.
’I believe father did it specially that he might be able to tell Alice and Margaret that he hadn’t a farthing for their war charities.’
‘You mean because she costs so much?’
‘Two hundred and fifty,’ said Pamela drily.
‘My hat!—and her keep! I call that mean of father,’ said Desmond indignantly. ’You can’t go tick with a secretary. It means cash. There’ll never be anything for you, Pam, and nothing for the garden. The two old fellows that were here last week have been turned off, Forest tells me?’