She repaid them, however, by adroit educational remarks.
“How stupid of me again!” she said once. “I held out my hock glass for the champagne! Do tell me again which is which, dear Mrs. Maper.”
“I suppose you never had a drink of champagne in your life afore you come here,” said Mrs. Maper, beamingly. And she indicated the port glass.
“No, no, Lucy, don’t play pranks on a stranger,” her husband put in tactfully. “It’s this glass, Miss O’Keeffe.”
“Oh, thank you!” Eileen gushed. “And this is what? Sherry?”
“No, port,” replied Mr. Maper, scarcely able to repress a wink.
“You’ll have to tell me again to-morrow night,” said Eileen, enjoying her own comedy powers. “My poor father tried to teach me the difference between bird’s-eye and shag, but I could never remember.”
“Ah, Bob’s the boy for teaching you that,” guffawed the mill owner. “I stick to half-crown cigars myself.” His wife shot him a dignified rebuke, as though he were forgetting his station in undue familiarity.
Afterwards Eileen wondered who Bob was, but at the moment she could think of nothing but the farcical complications arising from the idea of Mrs. Maper’s providing Mr. Maper with a male companion secretly to improve his manners. Of course the two companions would fall in love with each other.
After dinner things usually woke up a little, for Eileen was made to play and even sing from the scores of “Madame Angot” and other recent comic operas—a form of music that had not hitherto come her way, though it was the only form the music-racks held to feed the grand piano with. Not till the worthy couple had retired, could she permit herself her old Irish airs, or the sonatas and sacred pieces of the Convent.
Accident—the key to all great inventions—supplied Eileen with a new way of educating her mistress. The cook had been impertinent, Mrs. Maper complained. “Why don’t you hunt her?” Eileen replied. Mrs. Maper corrected the Irishism by saying, “Do you mean dismiss?” Eileen hastened to accuse herself of Irish imperfections, and henceforward begged to learn the correct phrases or pronunciations. Sometimes she ventured apologetically to wonder if the Irish way was not more approved of the dictionary. Then they would wander into the library in the apparently unoccupied wing, and consult dictionary after dictionary till Eileen hoped Mrs. Maper’s brain had received an indelible impression.