She had filled Verner’s Pride with guests after their marriage—as she had coveted to do. From that period until early spring she had kept it filled, one succession of guests, one relay of visitors arriving after the other. Pretty, capricious, fascinating, youthful, Mrs. Verner was of excessive popularity in the country, and a sojourn at Verner’s Pride grew to be eagerly sought. The women liked the attractive master; the men bowed to the attractive mistress; and Verner’s Pride was never free. On the contrary, it was generally unpleasantly crammed; and Mrs. Tynn, who was a staid, old-fashioned housekeeper, accustomed to nothing beyond the regular, quiet household maintained by the late Mr. Verner, was driven to the verge of desperation.
“It would be far pleasanter if we had only half the number of guests,” Lionel had said to his wife in the winter. He no longer remonstrated against any: he had given that up as hopeless. “Pleasanter for them, pleasanter for us, pleasanter for the servants.”
“The servants!” slightingly returned Sibylla. “I never knew before that the pleasure of servants was a thing to be studied.”
“But their comfort is. At least, I have always considered so, and I hope I always shall. They complain much, Sibylla.”
“Do they complain to you?”
“They do. Tynn and his wife say they are nearly worked to death. They hint at leaving. Mrs. Tynn is continually subjected also to what she calls insults from your French maid. That of course I know nothing of; but it might be as well for you to listen to her on the subject.”
“I cannot have Benoite crossed. I don’t interfere in the household myself, and she does it for me.”
“But, my dear, if you would interfere a little more, just so far as to ascertain whether these complaints have grounds, you might apply a remedy.”
“Lionel, you are most unreasonable! As if I could be worried with looking into things! What are servants for? You must be a regular old bachelor to think of my doing it.”
“Well—to go to our first point,” he rejoined. “Let us try half the number of guests, and see how it works. If you do not find it better, more agreeable in all ways, I will say no more about it.”
He need not have said anything, then. Sibylla would not listen to it. At any rate, would not act upon it. She conceded so far as to promise that she would not invite so many next time. But, when that next time came, and the new sojourners arrived, they turned out to be more. Beds had to be improvised in all sorts of impossible places; the old servants were turned out of their chambers and huddled into corners; nothing but confusion and extravagance reigned. Against some of the latter, Mrs. Tynn ventured to remonstrate to her mistress. Fruits and vegetables out of season; luxuries in the shape of rare dishes, many of which Verner’s Pride had never heard of, and did not know how to cook, and all of the most costly nature, were daily sent down from London purveyors. Against this expense Mary Tynn spoke. Mrs. Verner laughed good-naturedly at her, and told her it was not her pocket that would be troubled to pay the bills. Additional servants were obliged to be had; and, in short, to use an expression that was much in vogue at Deerham about that time, Verner’s Pride was going the pace.