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In a Strange Land
by [?]

“Did you wish to speak to me, sir?” she asked.

She was an Englishwoman and she had a cockney accent!

“I wanted to thank you for the hot-water bottle,” I replied in some confusion.

“I saw by the visitors’ book that you were English, sir, and I always send up a ‘ot-water bottle to English gentlemen. Is there anything else, sir?”

“Not at the moment, thank you.”

She gave me a polite little nod and withdrew. It was not easy to make her acquaintance, for she knew her place, as she would herself have put it, and she kept me at a distance. But I was persistent and I induced her at last to ask me to have a cup of tea in her own little parlour.

I learned that she had been lady’s maid to a certain Lady Ormskirk, and Signor Niccolini—for she never alluded to her deceased husband in any other way—had been his lordship’s chef. Signor Niccolini was a very handsome man and for some years there had been an “understanding” between them. When they had both saved a certain amount of money they were married, retired from service and looked about for an hotel. They had bought this one on an advertisement because Signor Niccolini thought he would like to see something of the world. That was nearly thirty years ago and Signor Niccolini had been dead for fifteen. His widow had never been back to England. I asked her if she was not homesick.

“I don’t say as I wouldn’t like to go back on a visit, though I expect I’d find many changes. But my family didn’t like the idea of me marrying a foreigner and I ‘aven’t spoken to them since. Of course there are many things here that are not the same as they are at ‘ome, but it’s surprising what you get used to. I see a lot of life. I don’t know as I should care to live the ‘umdrum life they do in places like London.”

It was extraordinary that she could have lived for thirty years in this wild and almost barbaric country without its having touched her. Though I knew no Turkish and she spoke it with ease, I was convinced that she spoke it most incorrectly and with a cockney accent. I suppose she had remained the precise, prim English lady’s maid, knowing her place, through all these vicissitudes because she had no faculty of surprise. She took everything that came as a matter of course. She looked upon everyone who wasn’t English as a foreigner and therefore as someone almost imbecile, for whom allowances must be made. She ruled her staff despotically (for did she not know how an upper servant in a great house should exercise his authority over the under servant?) and everything about the hotel was clean and neat.

“I do my best,” she said, when I congratulated her on this.”Of course, one can’t expect foreigners to ‘ave the same ideas that we ‘ave, but as his lordship used to say to me, ‘What we’ve got to do, Parker,’ he said to me, ‘what we’ve got to do in this life is to make the best of our raw material.'”

But she kept her greatest surprise for the eve of my departure.”I’m glad you’re not going before you’ve seen my two sons. They’ve been away on business, but they’ve just come back. You’ll be surprised when you see them. I’ve trained them with my own ‘ands, so to speak, and when I’m gone they’ll carry on the ‘otel between them.”

In a moment two tall, swarthy, strapping young fellows entered. Her eyes lighted up with pleasure. They took her in their arms and gave her resounding kisses.