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by [?]


They called her Treesa. She was not young. That she had ever been was hard to realize. Whatever her childhood, and however the years had brought her up to woman’s estate, there was no footprint upon the worn face of the gladsome time we call youth. No light in the eye of other and happier days. No echo in the quiet heart, of bounding pulses, or ever a sweet enthusiasm. The treadmill of duty in life’s most trivial task, enthralled her every faculty. Her daily round was in a large hotel–an arena of toil circumscribed by four brick walls. Her domain was the parlor floor; that sacred area of rosy vistas and costly suites, where she was as proud to tread as a king in his royal glory. Where beauty and fashion made for her a panorama of short glimpses amid pauses of broom and duster.

The maids on the other floors might earn the wage just as honorably; Treesa permitted no trespass upon her exalted territory. The bridal chambers, the private sitting rooms, the luxurious sleeping apartments–these were her pride and her joy. The Excelsior had a reputation, national and international. Princes and potentates had slumbered in Treesa’s chambers. The “nobility and the gentry” had been feted there. Year after year her pale eyes had watched over the welfare of distinguished visitors, American and foreign. They had seen the help come and go; she was still the “girl of the parlor floor.” Discreet, silent, honest, they might well allow her a share of caprice. “Cranky” they called her, yet no one found fault. She neglected no duty. The lady manager of the interior was not always the same. She changed from time to time; Treesa was always the same, and always there. At length there came a dainty little woman, full of native pluck, who was born to rule, and rule she did, to the limit of her jurisdiction. Though so far apart, a kindred chord was struck between mistress and maid. The high spirit that smouldered in these two never crossed; but with the smallest tangible demonstration they were fast friends. The girl’s horizon now bordered a triune interest;–the church, the mistress, and the parlor floor. Gaunt and spare, she trod her beat. Shy of manner, with eyes looking nowhere, she seemed a human machine of the broom. A woman without kith or kin, without a history, and apparently without a memory. Never sick, never absent, never a letter from friends, never a visit away. The old habitues of the house liked her. She gave no sign of favor or disfavor, till at last it was their way to respect her and leave her alone. But whenever a mission of trust was needed Treesa was the one called upon.

But as the calmest stream is ruffled at some time on its course, so there comes to every human life a shock that upturns hidden forces. And this came to Treesa. It was when she was one day summoned to the private office downstairs: that dread tribunal for the wrongdoers of the large household–a locality as little heeded by the girl as any other foreign place, albeit there had been new and strange proprietors as the years went by. Without so much as a ripple of excitement upon her homely features, she came down and stood within the door, respectfully awaiting orders. The two arbiters of her destiny were in close conference upon ways and means. Expense must be cut down. There must be a weeding out. Raising his head and looking in some curiosity at the queer apparition, the new partner said: “Are you Teresa O’Toole?”

“Me name is that same, sir,” she said, meeting the eyes. “An’ what thin, sir?” she added, as for a moment he was silent.

“Yes–ah–” he went on, this time not exactly confronting the expectant face–“We’ve been thinking, Teresa–we were just saying–that you are getting along in years now, and–ah–the fact is, we think you ought to have a rest. Some one younger, and stronger, ought to relieve you, and give you a chance to pick up. You are a good girl,” with encouraging justice, “a very good girl, and have been faithful and honest. But we–” he hesitated, as Treesa’s lean face suddenly darkened with an unwonted flush. Then she broke out: