It was two days after the cranberry episode that the solution came, and it was in this wise:
“Did ye send for me?” Jane asked, suddenly materializing in Mrs. Perkins’s room.
“No, Jane, I haven’t; why?”
The girl began to shed tears.
“Because—you’d ought to have, ma’am. I know well enough that I ain’t satisfactory to you,” she returned, her voice quivering, “and I can’t be, and I know you want me to go—and I—I’ve come to give you notice.”
Then Mrs. Perkins looked at Jane with sorrow on her countenance, for she had acquired an affection for her which the maid’s delinquencies had not been able to efface.
“Can’t you try and do better?” she asked.
“No, ma’am,” returned Jane. “Not with the system—never. Mr. Perkins is too easy, and you do be so soft-hearted it don’t keep a girl up to her work. When I first come here, ma’am, not knowin’ ye well, I was afraid to be anything but what was right, but the way you took accidents, and a bit of a shortcomin’ once in a while, sort of took away my fear, and I’ve been goin’ down hill ever since. Servant-girls is only human, Mrs. Perkins.”
Mrs. Perkins looked at Jane inquiringly.
“We needs to be kept up to our work just as much as anybody else, and when a lady like yourself is too easy, it gets a girl into bad habits, and occasionally it does us good if the gentleman of the house will swear at us, Mrs. Perkins, and sort of scare us, so it does. It was that that was the making of me. The last place I was in, ma’am, I was so afraid of both the missus and the gentleman that I didn’t dare to be careless; and I didn’t dare be careless with you until I found you all the time a-smilin’, whatever went wrong, and Mr. Perkins never sayin’ a word, whether the dishes come to the table clean or not.”
“Well, Jane,” said Mrs. Perkins, somewhat carried away by this course of reasoning, “you haven’t been what we hoped—there is no denying that; but knowing that you were disappointing us, why couldn’t you have made a special effort?”
“Oh, Mrs. Perkins,” sobbed the poor woman, “you don’t understand. We’re all disappointin’ to them we loves, but—it’s them we fear—”
“Then why aren’t you afraid of us?”
Jane laughed through her tears. The idea was preposterous.
“Afraid of you and Mr. Perkins? Ah!” she said, sadly, “if I only could be—but I can’t. Why, Mrs. Perkins, if Mr. Perkins should come in here now and swear at me the way Mr. Barley did when I worked there, I’d know he was only puttin’ it on, and that inside he’d be laughin’ at me. No, ma’am, it’s no use. I feel that I must go, or I’ll be forever ruined. It was the cranberry showed me; a girl had ought to be discharged for that. Dirty dinner plates isn’t excusable, and yet neither of you said a word, and next week it’ll be the same way—so I’m goin’. You won’t send me off, so I’ve got to do it myself.”