“Mr. Perkins and I didn’t know what to make of it. There wasn’t a thing stolen, and it was clear to my mind that I’d done the woman an injustice in connecting her with thieves. She was honest, except in so far as she had ordered all those salads and creams and things from time to time on Mr. Perkins’s account, which was easy enough for her to do, since Mrs. Perkins let her do the ordering. There was only one explanation of the matter. She was crazy, and I said so.
“‘I fancy you are right,’ said Mr. Perkins. ’We’ll have to send her to an asylum!’
“‘That’s the thing,’ said I, ’and we’d better do it the first thing in the morning. I wouldn’t tackle her to-night, because she’s probably excited, and like as not would make a great deal of trouble.’
“And that,” said the detective, “was where Mr. Perkins and I made our mistake. Next morning she wasn’t to be found, and to this day I haven’t heard a word of her. She disappeared just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “Of course, I don’t mean to say that anything supernatural occurred. She simply must have slipped down and out while we were asleep. The front door was wide open in the morning, and a woman answering to her description was seen to leave the Park station, five miles from the Perkins house, on the six-thirty train that morning.”
“And you have no idea where she is now?” I asked of the detective, when he had finished.
“No,” he answered, “not the slightest. For all I know she may be cooking for you at this very minute.”
With which comforting remark he left me.
For my part, I hope the detective was wrong. If I thought there was a possibility of Margaret’s ever being queen of my culinary department, I should either give up house-keeping at once and join some simple community where every man is his own chef, or dine forevermore on canned goods.
She was quite the reverse of beautiful—to some she was positively unpleasant to look upon; but that made no difference to Mrs. Thaddeus Perkins, who, after long experience with domestics, had come to judge of the value of a servant by her performance rather than by her appearance. The girl—if girl she were, for she might have been thirty or sixty, so far as any one could judge from a merely superficial glance at her face and figure—was neat of aspect, and, what was more, she had come well recommended. She bore upon her face every evidence of respectability and character, as well as one or two lines which might have indicated years or toothache—it was difficult to decide which. On certain days, when the weather was very warm and she had much to do, the impression was that the lines meant years, and many of them, accentuated as they were by her pallor, the whiteness of her face making the lines seem almost black in their intensity. When she smiled, however, which she rarely did—she was solemn enough to have been a butler—one was impressed with the idea of hours of pain from a wicked tooth. At any rate, she was engaged as waitress, and put in charge of the first floor of the Perkins household.