“Yes, it looks pretty well; but there’s a small heap of stuff over there near the fence which rather inclines me to believe that the weeds have been pulled out within the last few days—in fact, since you wrote to announce our return. John is an energetic man in an emergency, and I haven’t a doubt he has been here at least once a week ever since we left. I’ll keep a record of John this fall.”
And so the two contented home-comers talked happily along, and when they closed their eyes in sleep that night they were, upon the whole, very well satisfied with life.
Weeks elapsed, and with them some of the air-castles collapsed. Whether custom staled the infinite variety of the cook’s virtues, and age withered the efficiency of Mary, the waitress, or whether something was really and radically wrong with the girls, Thaddeus and Bessie could not make out. Certain it was, however, that by slow degrees the satisfaction for which that first dinner seemed to stand as guarantor wore away, and dissatisfaction entered the household. Mary developed a fondness for church at most inconvenient hours—hours at which in fact, neither Thaddeus nor Bessie had ever supposed church could be. That it was eternal they both knew, but they had always supposed there were intermissions. Then the cook’s family, which had hitherto been moderately healthful, began to show signs of invalidism, though no such calamity as actual dissolution ever set its devastating step within the charmed circle of her relatives. Cousins fell ill whom she alone could comfort; nephews developed maladies for which she alone could care; and, according to Thaddeus’s record, John had been compelled on penalty of a fine to attend the funerals of some twenty-four deceased intimate friends in less than two months, although the newspapers contained no mention of the existence of a possible epidemic in the Celtic quarter. It is true that John showed a more pronounced desire to make his absence less inconvenient to his employer than did Mary and the cook, by providing a substitute when the Ancient Order of Funereal Hibernians compelled him to desert the post of duty; but Thaddeus declared the “remedy worse than the disease,” for the reason that John’s substitute—his own brother-in-law—was a weaver by trade, whose baskets the public did not appreciate, and whose manner of cutting grass in the early fall and of tending furnace later on was atrocious.
“If I could hire that man in summer,” Thaddeus remarked one night when John’s substitute had “fixed” the furnace so that the library resembled a cold-storage room, “I think we could make this house an arctic paradise. He seems to have a genius for taking warmth by the neck and shaking enough degrees of heat out of it to turn a conflagration into an iceberg. I think I’ll tell the Fire Commissioners about him.”
“He can’t compare with John,” was Bessie’s answer to this.
“No. I think that’s why John sends him here when he is off riding in carriages in honor of his deceased chums. By the side of Dennis, John is a jewel.”