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Miss Sakers
by [?]

On Saturdays I always get back from the office early. This particular Saturday afternoon I looked at our chimneys as I came down the street. I thought it very queer, but, to make certain, as soon as I got into the house I opened the drawing-room door. It was just as I thought. I called up-stairs to Eliza, rather sharply.

She came down and said, “Well, what’s the matter?”

I said, calmly, “The matter? Jane has apparently gone mad, that’s all.” (Jane is the name of our servant.)

Eliza said that she did not think so, and asked me what the girl had done.

I must say it made me feel rather sarcastic–it would have made any man feel sarcastic. I said, “Oh, nothing. Merely lit the fire in the drawing-room; and not only lit it, but piled coals on it. It is not Sunday, so far as I am aware.” It is our rule to have the drawing-room fire lit on Sundays only. We are rather exclusive, and some other people seem to be rather stuck-up, and between the two we do not have many callers. If any one comes, it is always perfectly easy for Eliza to say, “The housemaid has foolishly forgotten to light the fire here. Shall we not step into the dining-room?” I hate to see anything like waste.

“At this very moment,” I added, “the drawing-room fire is flaming half-way up the chimney. It seems we can afford to burn half a ton of coals for nothing. I cannot say that I was aware of it.”

“You are satirical!” said Eliza. “I always know when you are being satirical, because you move your eyebrows, and say, ‘I am aware,’ instead of ‘I know.’ I told Jane to light the fire myself.”

“May I ask why?”

“Miss Sakers is coming in. She sent me a note this morning to say so.”

“That puts a different complexion on the affair. Very tactful of her to have announced the intention. I do not grudge a handful of firing when there is a reason. I only ask that there shall be a reason.” Miss Sakers is the vicar’s daughter. Strictly speaking, I suppose her social position is superior to our own. I know for a fact that she has been to county balls. She seemed anxious to cultivate an intimacy with us, so I gathered. I was not absurdly pleased about it. One has one’s dignity. Besides, at the office we frequently see people far above Miss Sakers. A nobleman who had called to see one of the partners once remarked to me, “Your office is a devilish long way from everywhere!” There was no particular reason why he should have spoken to me, but he seemed to wish it. After that, it was no very great thing that Miss Sakers seemed anxious to know us better. At the same time, I do not pretend that I was displeased. I went into the drawing-room and put some more coal on.

“Is it to be a party?” I asked.

“Not at all. She is coming quite as a friend.”

I went up-stairs and changed all my clothes, and then purchased a few flowers, which I placed in vases in the drawing-room. Eliza had got two kinds of cake; I added a plate of mixed biscuits on my own responsibility. Beyond this, I did nothing in the way of preparation, wishing to keep the thing as simple and informal as possible.

* * * * *

The tea was quite a success. Miss Sakers was to have a stall at the bazaar in aid of the new church. I promised her five shillings at first, but afterward made it seven-and-six. Though no longer young, Miss Sakers is very pleasant in her manner.

After tea Miss Sakers and Eliza both did needlework. Miss Sakers was doing a thing in crewels. I could not see what Eliza was doing. She kept it hidden, almost under the table.