The Middlemount House had just been organized on the scale of a first class hotel, with prices that had risen a little in anticipation of the other improvements. The landlord had hitherto united in himself the functions of clerk and head waiter, but he had now got a senior, who was working his way through college, to take charge of the dining-room, and had put in the office a youth of a year’s experience as under clerk at a city hotel. But he meant to relinquish no more authority than his wife who frankly kept the name as well as duty of house-keeper. It was in making her morning inspection of the dusting that she found Clementina in the parlor where Lander had told her to sit down till he should come for her.
“Why, Clem!” she said, “I didn’t know you! You have grown so! Youa folks all well? I decla’e you ah’ quite a woman now,” she added, as the girl stood up in her slender, graceful height. “You look as pretty as a pink in that hat. Make that dress youaself? Well, you do beat the witch! I want you should come to my room with me.”
Mrs. Atwell showered other questions and exclamations on the girl, who explained how she happened to be there, and said that she supposed she must stay where she was for fear Mr. Lander should come back and find her gone; but Mrs. Atwell overruled her with the fact that Mrs. Lander’s breakfast had just gone up to her; and she made her come out and see the new features of the enlarged house-keeping. In the dining-room there were some of the waitresses who had been there the summer before, and recognitions of more or less dignity passed between them and Clementina. The place was now shut against guests, and the head-waiter was having it put in order for the one o’clock dinner. As they came near him, Mrs. Atwell introduced him to Clementina, and he behaved deferentially, as if she were some young lady visitor whom Mrs. Atwell was showing the improvements, but he seemed harassed and impatient, as if he were anxious about his duties, and eager to get at them again. He was a handsome little fellow, with hair lighter than Clementina’s and a sanguine complexion, and the color coming and going.
“He’s smaht,” said Mrs. Atwell, when they had left him—he held the dining-room door open for them, and bowed them out. “I don’t know but he worries almost too much. That’ll wear off when he gets things runnin’ to suit him. He’s pretty p’tic’la’. Now I’ll show you how they’ve made the office over, and built in a room for Mr. Atwell behind it.”
The landlord welcomed Clementina as if she had been some acceptable class of custom, and when the tall young clerk came in to ask him something, and Mrs. Atwell said, “I want to introduce you to Miss Claxon, Mr. Fane,” the clerk smiled down upon her from the height of his smooth, acquiline young face, which he held bent encouragingly upon one side.