Rumor of the fact could not fail to go through the house, and long before his day’s work was done it reached the chef, and amused him as a piece of the Boss’s luck. He was smoking his evening pipe at the kitchen door after supper, when Clementina passed him on one of the many errands that took her between Mrs. Milray’s room and her own, and he called to her: “Boss, what’s this I hear about a pair o’ glass slippas droppin’ out the sky int’ youa lap?”
Clementina was so happy that she thought she might trust him for once, and she said, “Oh, yes, Mr. Mahtin! Who do you suppose sent them?” she entreated him so sweetly that it would have softened any heart but the heart of a tease.
“I believe I could give a pootty good guess if I had the facts.”
Clementina innocently gave them to him, and he listened with a well-affected sympathy.
“Say Fane fust told you about ’em?”
“Yes. ‘He’e’s a package for you,’ he said. Just that way; and he couldn’t tell me who left it, or anything.”
“Anybody asked him about it since?”
“Oh, yes! Mrs. Milray, and Mrs. Atwell, and Mr. Atwell, and everybody.”
“Everybody.” The chef smiled with a peculiar droop of one eye. “And he didn’t know when the slippas got into the landlo’d’s box?”
“No. The fust thing he knew, the’ they we’e!” Clementina stood expectant, but the chef smoked on as if that were all there was to say, and seemed to have forgotten her. “Who do you think put them thea, Mr. Mahtin?”
The chef looked up as if surprised to find her still there. “Oh! Oh, yes! Who d’ I think? Why, I know, Boss. But I don’t believe I’d betta tell you.”
“Oh, do, Mr. Mahtin! If you knew how I felt about it”—
“No, no! I guess I betta not. ’Twouldn’t do you any good. I guess I won’t say anything moa. But if I was in youa place, and I really wanted to know whe’e them slippas come from”—
“I do—I do indeed”—
The chef paused before he added, “I should go at Fane. I guess what he don’t know ain’t wo’th knowin’, and I guess nobody else knows anything. Thea! I don’t know but I said mo’n I ought, now.”
What the chef said was of a piece with what had been more than once in Clementina’s mind; but she had driven it out, not because it might not be true, but because she would not have it true. Her head drooped; she turned limp and springless away. Even the heart of the tease was touched; he had not known that it would worry her so much, though he knew that she disliked the clerk.
“Mind,” he called after her, too late, “I ain’t got no proof ’t he done it.”
She did not answer him, or look round. She went to her room, and sat down in the growing dusk to think, with a hot lump in her throat.
Mrs. Atwell found her there an hour later, when she climbed to the chamber where she thought she ought to have heard Clementina moving about over her own room.