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Jane
by [?]

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.

“I fancy we’ve at last got a real treasure,” said Mrs. Perkins. “There’s no nonsense about Jane–I think.” The last two words were added apologetically.

“Where did you get her?” asked Thaddeus. “At an Imbecility Office?”

“I don’t quite know what you mean–an Imbecility Office?”

“Only my pet, private, and particular name for it, my dear. You would speak of it as an Intelligence Office, no doubt,” was the reply. “My observation of the fruit of Intelligence Offices has convinced me that they deal in Imbecility.”

“Not quite,” laughed Mrs. Perkins. “They look after Domestic Vacancies.”

“Well, they do it with a vengeance,” said Perkins. “We’ve had more vacancies in this house to do our cooking and our laundering and our house-work generally than two able-bodied men could shake sticks at. It seems to me that the domestic servant of to-day is fonder of preoccupation than of occupation.”

“Jane, I think, is different from the general run,” said Mrs. Perkins. “As I said, she has no nonsense about her.”

“Is she–an–an ornament to the scene–pretty, and all that?” asked Perkins.

“Quite the reverse,” replied the little house-keeper. “She is as plain as a–as a–“

“Say hedge-fence and be done with it,” said Perkins. “I’m glad of it. What’s the use of providing a good dinner for your friends if they are going to spend all their time looking at the waitress? When I give a dinner it makes me tired to have the men afterwards speak of the waitress rather than of the puree or the birds. If any domestic is to dominate the repast at all it should be the cook.”

“Service counts for a great deal, though, Ted,” suggested Mrs. Perkins.

“True,” replied Thaddeus; “but on the whole, when I am starving, give me a filet bearnaise served by a sailor, rather than an empty plate brought in in style by a butler of illustrious lineage and impressive manner.” Then he added: “I hope she isn’t too homely, Bess–not a ‘clock-stopper,’ as the saying is. You don’t want people’s appetites taken away when you’ve worked for hours on a menu calculated to tickle the palates of your guests. Would her homeliness–ah–efface itself, for instance, in the presence of a culinary creation, or is it likely to overshadow everything with its ineffaceable completeness?”

“I think she’ll do,” returned Mrs. Perkins; “especially with your friends, who, it seems to me, would one and all insist upon finishing a ‘creation,’ as you call it, even if lightning should strike the house.”