Part 3 out of 4
"Mrs. Thaddler's simply furious, I hear," said the visitor. "Mrs. Ree
was in this morning and told me all about it. Poor Mrs. Ree! The home
is church and state to her; that paper of Miss Bell's she regards as
They both laughed as that stormy meeting rose before them.
"I was so proud of you, Viva, standing up for her as you did. How did
you ever dare?"
"Why I got my courage from the girl herself. She was--superb! Talk of
blasphemy! Why I've committed _lese majeste_ and regicide and the
Unpardonable Sin since that meeting!" And she told her friend of her
brief passage at arms with Mrs. Halsey. "I never liked the woman," she
continued; "and some of the things Miss Bell said set me thinking. I
don't believe we half know what's going on in our houses."
"Well, Mrs. Thaddler's so outraged by 'this scandalous attack upon the
sanctities of the home' that she's going about saying all sorts of
things about Miss Bell. O look--I do believe that's her car!"
Even as they spoke a toneless voice announced, "Mr. and Mrs. Thaddler,"
and Madam Weatherstone presently appeared to greet these visitors.
"I think you are trying a dangerous experiment!" said Mrs. Thaddler to
her young hostess. "A very dangerous experiment! Bringing that young
iconoclast into your home!"
Mr. Thaddler, stout and sulky, sat as far away as he could and talked to
Mrs. Porne. "I'd like to try that same experiment myself," said he to
her. "You tried it some time, I understand?"
"Indeed we did--and would still if we had the chance," she replied. "We
think her a very exceptional young woman."
Mr. Thaddler chuckled. "She is that!" he agreed. "Gad! How she did
set things humming! They're humming yet--at our house!"
He glanced rather rancorously at his wife, and Mrs. Porne wished, as she
often had before, that Mr. Thaddler wore more clothing over his domestic
"Scandalous!" Mrs. Thaddler was saying to Madam Weatherstone. "Simply
scandalous! Never in my life did I hear such absurd--such
outrageous--charges against the sanctities of the home!"
"There you have it!" said Mr. Thaddler, under his breath. "Sanctity of
the fiddlesticks! There was a lot of truth in what that girl said!"
Then he looked rather sheepish and flushed a little--which was needless;
easing his collar with a fat finger.
Madam Weatherstone and Mrs. Thaddler were at one on this subject; but
found it hard to agree even so, no love being lost between them; and the
former gave evidence of more satisfaction than distress at this
"dangerous experiment" in the house of her friends. Viva sat silent,
but with a look of watchful intelligence that delighted Mrs. Porne.
"It has done her good already," she said to herself. "Bless that girl!"
Mr. Thaddler went home disappointed in the real object of his call--he
had hoped to see the Dangerous Experiment again. But his wife was well
"They will rue it!" she announced. "Madam Weatherstone is ashamed of
her daughter-in-law--I can see that! _She_ looks cool enough. I don't
know what's got into her!"
"Some of that young woman's good cooking," her husband suggested.
"That young woman is not there as cook!" she replied tartly. "What she
_is_ there for we shall see later! Mark my words!"
Mr. Thaddler chuckled softly. "I'll mark 'em!" he said.
Diantha had her hands full. Needless to say her sudden entrance was
resented by the corps of servants accustomed to the old regime. She had
the keys; she explored, studied, inventoried, examined the accounts,
worked out careful tables and estimates. "I wish Mother were here!" she
said to herself. "She's a regular genius for accounts. I _can_ do
it--but it's no joke."
She brought the results to her employer at the end of the week. "This
is tentative," she said, "and I've allowed margins because I'm new to a
business of this size. But here's what this house ought to cost you--at
the outside, and here's what it does cost you now."
Mrs. Weatherstone was impressed. "Aren't you a little--spectacular?"
Diantha went over it carefully; the number of rooms, the number of
servants, the hours of labor, the amount of food and other supplies
"This is only preparatory, of course," she said. "I'll have to check it
off each month. If I may do the ordering and keep all the accounts I
can show you exactly in a month, or two at most."
"How about the servants?" asked Mrs. Weatherstone.
There was much to say here, questions of competence, of impertinence, of
personal excellence with "incompatibility of temper." Diantha was given
a free hand, with full liberty to experiment, and met the opportunity
with her usual energy.
She soon discharged the unsatisfactory ones, and substituted the girls
she had selected for her summer's experiment, gradually adding others,
till the household was fairly harmonious, and far more efficient and
economical. A few changes were made among the men also.
By the time the family moved down to Santa Ulrica, there was quite a new
spirit in the household. Mrs. Weatherstone fully approved of the Girls'
Club Diantha had started at Mrs. Porne's; and it went on merrily in the
larger quarters of the great "cottage" on the cliff.
"I'm very glad I came to you, Mrs. Weatherstone," said the girl. "You
were quite right about the experience; I did need it--and I'm getting
She was getting some of which she made no mention.
As she won and held the confidence of her subordinates, and the growing
list of club members, she learned their personal stories; what had
befallen them in other families, and what they liked and disliked in
their present places.
"The men are not so bad," explained Catharine Kelly, at a club meeting,
meaning the men servants; "they respect an honest girl if she respects
herself; but it's the young masters--and sometimes the old ones!"
"It's all nonsense," protested Mrs. James, widowed cook of long
standing. "I've worked out for twenty-five years, and I never met no
such goings on!"
Little Ilda looked at Mrs. James' severe face and giggled.
"I've heard of it," said Molly Connors, "I've a cousin that's workin' in
New York; and she's had to leave two good places on account of their
misbehavin' theirselves. She's a fine girl, but too good-lookin'."
Diantha studied types, questioned them, drew them out, adjusted facts to
theories and theories to facts. She found the weakness of the whole
position to lie in the utter ignorance and helplessness of the
individual servant. "If they were only organized," she thought--"and
knew their own power!--Well; there's plenty of time."
As her acquaintance increased, and as Mrs. Weatherstone's interest in
her plans increased also, she started the small summer experiment she
had planned, for furnishing labor by the day. Mrs. James was an
excellent cook, though most unpleasant to work with. She was quite able
to see that getting up frequent lunches at three dollars, and dinners at
five dollars, made a better income than ten dollars a week even with
several days unoccupied.
A group of younger women, under Diantha's sympathetic encouragement,
agreed to take a small cottage together, with Mrs. James as a species of
chaperone; and to go out in twos and threes as chambermaids and
waitresses at 25 cents an hour. Two of them could set in perfect order
one of the small beach cottage in an hour's time; and the occupants,
already crowded for room, were quite willing to pay a little more in
cash "not to have a servant around." Most of them took their meals out
in any case.
It was a modest attempt, elastic and easily alterable and based on the
special conditions of a shore resort: Mrs. Weatherstone's known interest
gave it social backing; and many ladies who heartily disapproved of
Diantha's theories found themselves quite willing to profit by this very
practical local solution of the "servant question."
The "club girls" became very popular. Across the deep hot sand they
ploughed, and clattered along the warping boardwalks, in merry pairs and
groups, finding the work far more varied and amusing than the endless
repetition in one household. They had pleasant evenings too, with
plenty of callers, albeit somewhat checked and chilled by rigorous Mrs.
"It is both foolish and wicked!" said Madam Weatherstone to her
daughter-in-law, "Exposing a group of silly girls to such danger and
temptations! I understand there is singing and laughing going on at
that house until half-past ten at night."
"Yes, there is," Viva admitted. "Mrs. James insists that they shall all
be in bed at eleven--which is very wise. I'm glad they have good
times--there's safety in numbers, you know."
"There will be a scandal in this community before long!" said the old
lady solemnly. "And it grieves me to think that this household will be
responsible for it!"
Diantha heard all this from the linen room while Madam Weatherstone
buttonholed her daughter-in-law in the hall; and in truth the old lady
meant that she should hear what she said.
"She's right, I'm afraid!" said Diantha to herself--"there will be a
scandal if I'm not mighty careful and this household will be responsible
Even as she spoke she caught Ilda's childish giggle in the lower hall,
and looking over the railing saw her airily dusting the big Chinese
vases and coquetting with young Mr. Mathew.
Later on, Diantha tried seriously to rouse her conscience and her common
sense. "Don't you see, child, that it can't do you anything but harm?
You can't carry on with a man like that as you can with one of your own
friends. He is not to be trusted. One nice girl I had here simply left
the place--he annoyed her so."
Ilda was a little sulky. She had been quite a queen in the small
Norwegian village she was born in. Young men were young men--and they
might even--perhaps! This severe young housekeeper didn't know
everything. Maybe she was jealous!
So Ilda was rather unconvinced, though apparently submissive, and
Diantha kept a careful eye upon her. She saw to it that Ilda's room had
a bolt as well as key in the door, and kept the room next to it empty;
frequently using it herself, unknown to anyone. "I hate to turn the
child off," she said to herself, conscientiously revolving the matter.
"She isn't doing a thing more than most girls do--she's only a little
fool. And he's not doing anything I can complain of--yet."
But she worried over it a good deal, and Mrs. Weatherstone noticed it.
"Doesn't your pet club house go well, 'Miss Bell?' You seem troubled
"I am," Diantha admitted. "I believe I'll have to tell you about
it--but I hate to. Perhaps if you'll come and look I shan't have to say
She led her to a window that looked on the garden, the rich, vivid,
flower-crowded garden of Southern California by the sea. Little Ilda,
in a fresh black frock and snowy, frilly cap and apron, ran out to get a
rose; and while she sniffed and dallied they saw Mr. Mathew saunter out
and join her.
The girl was not as severe with him as she ought to have been--that was
evident; but it was also evident that she was frightened and furious
when he suddenly held her fast and kissed her with much satisfaction.
As soon as her arms were free she gave him a slap that sounded smartly
even at that distance; and ran crying into the house.
"She's foolish, I admit," said Diantha,--"but she doesn't realize her
danger at all. I've tried to make her. And now I'm more worried than
ever. It seems rather hard to discharge her--she needs care."
"I'll speak to that young man myself," said Mrs. Weatherstone. "I'll
speak to his grandmother too!"
"O--would you?" urged Diantha. "She wouldn't believe anything except
that the girl 'led him on'--you know that. But I have an idea that we
could convince her--if you're willing to do something rather
melodramatic--and I think we'd better do it to-night!"
"What's that?" asked her employer; and Diantha explained. It was
melodramatic, but promised to be extremely convincing.
"Do you think he'd dare! under my roof?" hotly demanded Madam
"I'm very much afraid it wouldn't be the first time," Diantha
reluctantly assured her. "It's no use being horrified. But if we could
only make _sure_--"
"If we could only make his grandmother sure!" cried Madam Weatherstone.
"That would save me a deal of trouble and misunderstanding. See here--I
think I can manage it--what makes you think it's to-night?"
"I can't be absolutely certain--" Diantha explained; and told her the
reasons she had.
"It does look so," her employer admitted. "We'll try it at any rate."
Urging her mother-in-law's presence on the ground of needing her
experienced advice, Mrs. Weatherstone brought the august lady to the
room next to Ilda's late that evening, the housekeeper in attendance.
"We mustn't wake the servants," she said in an elaborate whisper. "They
need sleep, poor things! But I want to consult you about these
communicating doors and the locksmith is coming in the morning.--you see
this opens from this side." She turned the oiled key softly in the
lock. "Now Miss Bell thinks they ought to be left so--so that the girls
can visit one another if they like--what do you think?"
"I think you are absurd to bring me to the top floor, at this time of
night, for a thing like this!" said the old lady. "They should be
permanently locked, to my mind! There's no question about it."
Viva, still in low tones, discussed this point further; introduced the
subject of wall-paper or hard finish; pointed out from the window a tall
eucalyptus which she thought needed heading; did what she could to keep
her mother-in-law on the spot; and presently her efforts were rewarded.
A sound of muffled speech came from the next room--a man's voice dimly
heard. Madam Weatherstone raised her head like a warhorse.
"What's this! What's this!" she said in a fierce whisper.
Viva laid a hand on her arm. "Sh!" said she. "Let us make sure!" and
she softly unlatched the door.
A brilliant moon flooded the small chamber. They could see little Ilda,
huddled in the bedclothes, staring at her door from which the key had
fallen. Another key was being inserted--turned--but the bolt held.
"Come and open it, young lady!" said a careful voice outside.
"Go away! Go away!" begged the girl, low and breathlessly. "Oh how
_can_ you! Go away quick!"
"Indeed, I won't!" said the voice. "You come and open it."
"Go away," she cried, in a soft but frantic voice. "I--I'll scream!"
"Scream away!" he answered. "I'll just say I came up to see what the
screaming's about, that's all. You open the door--if you don't want
anybody to know I'm here! I won't hurt you any--I just want to talk to
you a minute."
Madam Weatherstone was speechless with horror, her daughter-in-law
listened with set lips. Diantha looked from one to the other, and at
the frightened child before them who was now close to the terrible door.
"O please!--_please!_ go away!" she cried in desperation. "O what shall
I do! What shall I do!"
"You can't do anything," he answered cheerfully. "And I'm coming in
anyhow. You'd better keep still about this for your own sake. Stand
from under!" Madam Weatherstone marched into the room. Ilda, with a
little cry, fled out of it to Diantha.
There was a jump, a scramble, two knuckly hands appeared, a long leg was
put through the transom, two legs wildly wriggling, a descending body,
and there stood before them, flushed, dishevelled, his coat up to his
He did not notice the stern rigidity of the figure which stood between
him and the moonlight, but clasped it warmly to his heart.--"Now I've
got you, Ducky!" cried he, pressing all too affectionate kisses upon the
face of his grandmother.
Young Mrs. Weatherstone turned on the light.
It was an embarrassing position for the gentleman.
He had expected to find a helpless cowering girl; afraid to cry out
because her case would be lost if she did; begging piteously that he
would leave her; wholly at his mercy.
What he did find was so inexplicable as to reduce him to gibbering
astonishment. There stood his imposing grandmother, so overwhelmed with
amazement that her trenchant sentences failed her completely; his
stepmother, wearing an expression that almost suggested delight in his
discomfiture; and Diantha, as grim as Rhadamanthus.
Poor little Ilda burst into wild sobs and choking explanations, clinging
to Diantha's hand. "If I'd only listened to you!" she said. "You told
me he was bad! I never thought he'd do such an awful thing!"
Young Mathew fumbled at the door. He had locked it outside in his
efforts with the pass-key. He was red, red to his ears--very red, but
there was no escape. He faced them--there was no good in facing the
They all stood aside and let him pass--a wordless gauntlet.
Diantha took the weeping Ilda to her room for the night. Madam
Weatherstone and Mrs. Weatherstone went down together.
"She must have encouraged him!" the older lady finally burst forth.
"She did not encourage him to enter her room, as you saw and heard,"
said Viva with repressed intensity.
"He's only a boy!" said his grandmother.
"She is only a child, a helpless child, a foreigner, away from home,
untaught, unprotected," Viva answered swiftly; adding with quiet
sarcasm--"Save for the shelter of the home!"
They parted in silence.
WHAT DIANTHA DID
"We are weak!" said the Sticks, and men broke them;
"We are weak!" said the Threads, and were torn;
Till new thoughts came and they spoke them;
Till the Fagot and the Rope were born.
For the Fagot men find is resistant,
And they anchor on the Rope's taut length;
Even grasshoppers combined,
Are a force, the farmers find--
In union there is strength.
Ross Warden endured his grocery business; strove with it, toiled at it,
concentrated his scientific mind on alien tasks of financial calculation
and practical psychology, but he liked it no better. He had no interest
in business, no desire to make money, no skill in salesmanship.
But there were five mouths at home; sweet affectionate feminine mouths
no doubt, but requiring food. Also two in the kitchen, wider, and
requiring more food. And there were five backs at home to be covered,
to use the absurd metaphor--as if all one needed for clothing was a four
foot patch. The amount and quality of the covering was an unceasing
surprise to Ross, and he did not do justice to the fact that his
womenfolk really saved a good deal by doing their own sewing.
In his heart he longed always to be free of the whole hated load of
tradesmanship. Continually his thoughts went back to the hope of
selling out the business and buying a ranch.
"I could make it keep us, anyhow," he would plan to himself; "and I
could get at that guinea pig idea. Or maybe hens would do." He had a
theory of his own, or a personal test of his own, rather, which he
wished to apply to a well known theory. It would take some years to
work it out, and a great many fine pigs, and be of no possible value
financially. "I'll do it sometime," he always concluded; which was cold
His real grief at losing the companionship of the girl he loved, was
made more bitter by a total lack of sympathy with her aims, even if she
achieved them--in which he had no confidence. He had no power to change
his course, and tried not to be unpleasant about it, but he had to
express his feelings now and then.
"Are you coming back to me?" he wrote. "How con you bear to give so
much pain to everyone who loves you? Is your wonderful salary worth
more to you than being here with your mother--with me? How can you say
you love me--and ruin both our lives like this? I cannot come to see
you--I _would_ not come to see you--calling at the back door! Finding
the girl I love in a cap and apron! Can you not see it is wrong,
utterly wrong, all this mad escapade of yours? Suppose you do make a
thousand dollars a year--I shall never touch your money--you know that.
I cannot even offer you a home, except with my family, and I know how
you feel about that; I do not blame you.
"But I am as stubborn as you are, dear girl; I will not live on my
wife's money--you will not live in my mother's house--and we are
drifting apart. It is not that I care less for you dear, or at all for
anyone else, but this is slow death--that's all."
Mrs. Warden wrote now and then and expatiated on the sufferings of her
son, and his failing strength under the unnatural strain, till Diantha
grew to dread her letters more than any pain she knew. Fortunately they
Her own family was much impressed by the thousand dollars, and found the
occupation of housekeeper a long way more tolerable than that of
house-maid, a distinction which made Diantha smile rather bitterly.
Even her father wrote to her once, suggesting that if she chose to
invest her salary according to his advice he could double it for her in
a year, maybe treble it, in Belgian hares.
_"They'd_ double and treble fast enough!" she admitted to herself; but
she wrote as pleasant a letter as she could, declining his proposition.
Her mother seemed stronger, and became more sympathetic as the months
passed. Large affairs always appealed to her more than small ones, and
she offered valuable suggestions as to the account keeping of the big
house. They all assumed that she was permanently settled in this well
paid position, and she made no confidences. But all summer long she
planned and read and studied out her progressive schemes, and
strengthened her hold among the working women.
Laundress after laundress she studied personally and tested
professionally, finding a general level of mediocrity, till finally she
hit upon a melancholy Dane--a big rawboned red-faced woman--whose
husband had been a miller, but was hurt about the head so that he was no
longer able to earn his living. The huge fellow was docile, quiet, and
endlessly strong, but needed constant supervision.
"He'll do anything you tell him, Miss, and do it well; but then he'll
sit and dream about it--I can't leave him at all. But he'll take the
clothes if I give him a paper with directions, and come right back."
Poor Mrs. Thorald wiped her eyes, and went on with her swift ironing.
Diantha offered her the position of laundress at Union House, with two
rooms for their own, over the laundry. "There'll be work for him, too,"
she said. "We need a man there. He can do a deal of the heavier
work--be porter you know. I can't offer him very much, but it will help
Mrs. Thorald accepted for both, and considered Diantha as a special
There was to be cook, and two capable second maids. The work of the
house must be done thoroughly well, Diantha determined; "and the food's
got to be good--or the girls wont stay." After much consideration she
selected one Julianna, a "person of color," for her kitchen: not the
jovial and sloppy personage usually figuring in this character, but a
tall, angular, and somewhat cynical woman, a misanthrope in fact, with a
small son. For men she had no respect whatever, but conceded a grudging
admiration to Mr. Thorald as "the usefullest biddablest male person" she
had ever seen. She also extended special sympathy to Mrs. Thorald on
account of her peculiar burden, and the Swedish woman had no antipathy
to her color, and seemed to take a melancholy pleasure in Julianna's
Diantha offered her the place, boy and all. "He can be 'bell boy' and
help you in the kitchen, too. Can't you, Hector?" Hector rolled large
adoring eyes at her, but said nothing. His mother accepted the
proposition, but without enthusiasm. "I can't keep no eye on him, Miss,
if I'm cookin' an less'n you keep your eye on him they's no work to be
got out'n any kind o' boy."
"What is your last name, Julianna?" Diantha asked her.
"I suppose, as a matter o' fac' its de name of de last nigger I
married," she replied. "Dere was several of 'em, all havin' different
names, and to tell you de truf Mis' Bell, I got clean mixed amongst 'em.
But Julianna's my name--world without end amen."
So Diantha had to waive her theories about the surnames of servants in
"Did they all die?" she asked with polite sympathy.
"No'm, dey didn't none of 'em die--worse luck."
"I'm afraid you have seen much trouble, Julianna," she continued
sympathetically; "They deserted you, I suppose?"
Julianna laid her long spoon upon the table and stood up with great
gravity. "No'm," she said again, "dey didn't none of 'em desert me on
no occasion. I divorced 'em."
Marital difficulties in bulk were beyond Diantha's comprehension, and
she dropped the subject.
Union House opened in the autumn. The vanished pepper trees were dim
with dust in Orchardina streets as the long rainless summer drew to a
close; but the social atmosphere fairly sparkled with new interest.
Those who had not been away chattered eagerly with those who had, and
both with the incoming tide of winter visitors.
"That girl of Mrs. Porne's has started her housekeeping shop!"
"That 'Miss Bell' has got Mrs. Weatherstone fairly infatuated with her
"Do you know that Bell girl has actually taken Union House? Going to
make a Girl's Club of it!"
"Did you ever _hear_ of such a thing! Diantha Bell's really going to
try to run her absurd undertaking right here in Orchardina!"
They did not know that the young captain of industry had deliberately
chosen Orchardina as her starting point on account of the special
conditions. The even climate was favorable to "going out by the day,"
or the delivery of meals, the number of wealthy residents gave
opportunity for catering on a large scale; the crowding tourists and
health seekers made a market for all manner of transient service and
cooked food, and the constant lack of sufficient or capable servants
forced the people into an unwilling consideration of any plan of
In a year's deliberate effort Diantha had acquainted herself with the
rank and file of the town's housemaids and day workers, and picked her
assistants carefully. She had studied the local conditions thoroughly,
and knew her ground. A big faded building that used to be "the Hotel'
in Orchardina's infant days, standing, awkward and dingy on a site too
valuable for a house lot and not yet saleable as a business block, was
the working base.
A half year with Mrs. Weatherstone gave her $500 in cash, besides the
$100 she had saved at Mrs. Porne's; and Mrs. Weatherstone's cheerfully
offered backing gave her credit.
"I hate to let you," said Diantha, "I want to do it all myself."
"You are a painfully perfect person, Miss Bell," said her last employer,
pleasantly, "but you have ceased to be my housekeeper and I hope you
will continue to be my friend. As a friend I claim the privilege of
being disagreeable. If you have a fault it is conceit. Immovable
Colossal Conceit! And Obstinacy!"
"Is that all?" asked Diantha.
"It's all I've found--so far," gaily retorted Mrs. Weatherstone. "Don't
you see, child, that you can't afford to wait? You have reasons for
hastening, you know. I don't doubt you could, in a series of years,
work up this business all stark alone. I have every confidence in those
qualities I have mentioned! But what's the use? You'll need credit for
groceries and furniture. I am profoundly interested in this business.
I am more than willing to advance a little capital, or to ensure your
credit. A man would have sense enough to take me up at once."
"I believe you are right," Diantha reluctantly agreed. "And you shan't
lose by it!"
Her friends were acutely interested in her progress, and showed it in
practical ways. The New Woman's Club furnished five families of patrons
for the regular service of cooked food, which soon grew, with
satisfaction, to a dozen or so, varying from time to time. The many
families with invalids, and lonely invalids without families, were glad
to avail themselves of the special delicacies furnished at Union House.
Picnickers found it easier to buy Diantha's marvelous sandwiches than to
spend golden morning hours in putting up inferior ones at home; and many
who cooked for themselves, or kept servants, were glad to profit by this
outside source on Sunday evenings and "days out."
There was opposition too; both the natural resistance of inertia and
prejudice, and the active malignity of Mrs. Thaddler.
The Pornes were sympathetic and anxious.
"That place'll cost her all of $10,000 a year, with those twenty-five to
feed, and they only pay $4.50 a week--I know that!" said Mr. Porne.
"It does look impossible," his wife agreed, "but such is my faith in
Diantha Bell I'd back her against Rockefeller!"
Mrs. Weatherstone was not alarmed at all. "If she _should_ fail--which
I don't for a moment expect--it wont ruin me," she told Isabel. "And if
she succeeds, as I firmly believe she will, why, I'd be willing to risk
almost anything to prove Mrs. Thaddler in the wrong."
Mrs. Thaddler was making herself rather disagreeable. She used what
power she had to cry down the undertaking, and was so actively
malevolent that her husband was moved to covert opposition. He never
argued with his wife--she was easily ahead of him in that art, and, if
it came to recriminations, had certain controvertible charges to make
against him, which mode him angrily silent. He was convinced in a dim
way that her ruthless domineering spirit, and the sheer malice she often
showed, were more evil things than his own bad habits; and that even in
their domestic relation her behavior really caused him more pain and
discomfort than he caused her; but he could not convince her of it,
"That Diantha Bell is a fine girl," he said to himself. "A damn fine
girl, and as straight as a string!"
There had crept out, through the quenchless leak of servants talk, a
varicolored version of the incident of Mathew and the transom; and the
town had grown so warm for that young gentleman that he had gone to
Alaska suddenly, to cool off, as it were. His Grandmother, finding Mrs.
Thaddler invincible with this new weapon, and what she had so long
regarded as her home now visibly Mrs. Weatherstone's, had retired in
regal dignity to her old Philadelphia establishment, where she upheld
the standard of decorum against the weakening habits of a deteriorated
world, for many years.
As Mr. Thaddler thought of this sweeping victory, he chuckled for the
hundredth time. "She ought to make good, and she will. Something's got
to be done about it," said he.
Diantha had never liked Mr. Thaddler; she did not like that kind of man
in general, nor his manner toward her in particular. Moreover he was
the husband of Mrs. Thaddler. She did not know that he was still the
largest owner in the town's best grocery store, and when that store
offered her special terms for her exclusive trade, she accepted the
She told Ross about it, as a matter well within his knowledge, if not
his liking, and he was mildly interested. "I am much alarmed at this
new venture," he wrote, "but you must get your experience. I wish I
could save you. As to the groceries, those are wholesale rates, nearly;
they'll make enough on it. Yours is a large order you see, and steady."
When she opened her "Business Men's Lunch" Mr. Thaddler had a still
better opportunity. He had a reputation as a high flyer, and had really
intended to sacrifice himself on the altar of friendship by patronizing
and praising this "undertaking" at any cost to his palate; but no
sacrifice was needed.
Diantha's group of day workers had their early breakfast and departed,
taking each her neat lunch-pail,--they ate nothing of their
employers;--and both kitchen and dining room would have stood idle till
supper time. But the young manager knew she must work her plant for all
it was worth, and speedily opened the dining room with the side entrance
as a "Caffeteria," with the larger one as a sort of meeting place;
papers and magazines on the tables.
From the counter you took what you liked, and seated yourself, and your
friends, at one of the many small tables or in the flat-armed chairs in
the big room, or on the broad piazza; and as this gave good food,
cheapness, a chance for a comfortable seat and talk and a smoke, if one
had time, it was largely patronized.
Mr. Thaddler, as an experienced _bon vivant,_ despised sandwiches.
"Picnicky makeshifts" he called them,--"railroad rations"--"bread and
leavings," and when he saw these piles on piles of sandwiches, listed
only as "No. 1," "No. 2" "No. 3," and so on, his benevolent intention
wavered. But he pulled himself together and took a plateful, assorted.
"Come on, Porne," he said, "we'll play it's a Sunday school picnic," and
he drew himself a cup of coffee, finding hot milk, cream and sugar
crystals at hand. "I never saw a cheap joint where you could fix it
yourself, before," he said,--and suspiciously tasted the mixture.
"By jing! That's coffee!" he cried in surprise. "There's no scum on
the milk, and the cream's cream!" Five cents! She won't get rich on
Then he applied himself to his "No. 1" sandwich, and his determined
expression gave way to one of pleasure. "Why that's bread--real bread!
I believe she made it herself!"
She did in truth,--she and Julianna with Hector as general assistant.
The big oven was filled several times every morning: the fresh rolls
disappeared at breakfast and supper, the fresh bread was packed in the
lunch pails, and the stale bread was even now melting away in large
bites behind the smiling mouths and mustaches of many men. Perfect
bread, excellent butter, and "What's the filling I'd like to know?"
More than one inquiring-minded patron split his sandwich to add sight to
taste, but few could be sure of the flavorsome contents, fatless,
gritless, smooth and even, covering the entire surface, the last
mouthful as perfect as the first. Some were familiar, some new, all
The six sandwiches were five cents, the cup of coffee five, and the
little "drop cakes," sweet and spicy, were two for five. Every man
spent fifteen cents, some of them more; and many took away small cakes
in paper bags, if there were any left.
"I don't see how you can do it, and make a profit," urged Mr. Eltwood,
making a pastorial call. "They are so good you know!"
Diantha smiled cheerfully. "That's because all your ideas are based on
what we call 'domestic economy,' which is domestic waste. I buy in
large quantities at wholesale rates, and my cook with her little helper,
the two maids, and my own share of the work, of course, provides for the
lot. Of course one has to know how."
"Whenever did you find--or did you create?--those heavenly sandwiches?"
"I have to thank my laundress for part of that success," she said.
"She's a Dane, and it appears that the Danes are so fond of sandwiches
that, in large establishments, they have a 'sandwich kitchen' to prepare
them. It is quite a bit of work, but they are good and inexpensive.
There is no limit to the variety."
As a matter of fact this lunch business paid well, and led to larger
The girl's methods were simple and so organized as to make one hand wash
the other. Her house had some twenty-odd bedrooms, full accommodations
for kitchen and laundry work on a large scale, big dining, dancing, and
reception rooms, and broad shady piazzas on the sides. Its position on
a corner near the business part of the little city, and at the foot of
the hill crowned with so many millionaires and near millionaires as
could get land there, offered many advantages, and every one was taken.
The main part of the undertaking was a House Worker's Union; a group of
thirty girls, picked and trained. These, previously working out as
servants, had received six dollars a week "and found." They now worked
an agreed number of hours, were paid on a basis by the hour or day, and
"found" themselves. Each had her own room, and the broad porches and
ball room were theirs, except when engaged for dances and meetings of
one sort and another.
It was a stirring year's work, hard but exciting, and the only
difficulty which really worried Diantha was the same that worried the
average housewife--the accounts.
WHAT DIANTHA DID
THE POWER OF THE SCREW.
Your car is too big for one person to stir--
Your chauffeur is a little man, too;
Yet he lifts that machine, does the little chauffeur,
By the power of a gentle jackscrew.
For all her employees she demanded a ten-hour day, she worked fourteen;
rising at six and not getting to bed till eleven, when her charges were
all safely in their rooms for the night.
They were all up at five-thirty or thereabouts, breakfasting at six, and
the girls off in time to reach their various places by seven. Their day
was from 7 A. M. to 8.30 P. M., with half an hour out, from 11.30 to
twelve, for their lunch; and three hours, between 2.20 and 5.30, for
their own time, including their tea. Then they worked again from 5.30
to 8.30, on the dinner and the dishes, and then they came home to a
pleasant nine o'clock supper, and had all hour to dance or rest before
the 10.30 bell for bed time.
Special friends and "cousins" often came home with them, and frequently
shared the supper--for a quarter--and the dance for nothing.
It was no light matter in the first place to keep twenty girls contented
with such a regime, and working with the steady excellence required, and
in the second place to keep twenty employers contented with them. There
were failures on both sides; half a dozen families gave up the plan, and
it took time to replace them; and three girls had to be asked to resign
before the year was over. But most of them had been in training in the
summer, and had listened for months to Diantha's earnest talks to the
clubs, with good results.
"Remember we are not doing this for ourselves alone," she would say to
them. "Our experiment is going to make this kind of work easier for all
home workers everywhere. You may not like it at first, but neither did
you like the old way. It will grow easier as we get used to it; and we
_must_ keep the rules, because we made them!"
She laboriously composed a neat little circular, distributed it widely,
and kept a pile in her lunch room for people to take.
It read thus:
Food and Service.
General Housework by the week . . . $10.00
General Housework by the day . . . $2.00
Ten hours work a day, and furnish their own food.
Additional labor by the hour . . . $ .20
Special service for entertainments, maids and waitresses, by the hour .
. . $ .25
Catering for entertainments.
Delicacies for invalids.
Lunches packed and delivered.
Caffeteria . . . 12 to 2
What annoyed the young manager most was the uncertainty and irregularity
involved in her work, the facts varying considerably from her
In the house all ran smoothly. Solemn Mrs. Thorvald did the laundry
work for thirty-five--by the aid of her husband and a big mangle for the
"flat work." The girls' washing was limited. "You have to be
reasonable about it," Diantha had explained to them. "Your fifty cents
covers a dozen pieces--no more. If you want more you have to pay more,
just as your employers do for your extra time."
This last often happened. No one on the face of it could ask more than
ten hours of the swift, steady work given by the girls at but a fraction
over 14 cents an hour. Yet many times the housekeeper was anxious for
more labor on special days; and the girls, unaccustomed to the three
free hours in the afternoon, were quite willing to furnish it, thus
adding somewhat to their cash returns.
They had a dressmaking class at the club afternoons, and as Union House
boasted a good sewing machine, many of them spent the free hours in
enlarging their wardrobes. Some amused themselves with light reading, a
few studied, others met and walked outside. The sense of honest leisure
grew upon them, with its broadening influence; and among her thirty
Diantha found four or five who were able and ambitious, and willing to
work heartily for the further development of the business.
Her two housemaids were specially selected. When the girls were out of
the house these two maids washed the breakfast dishes with marvelous
speed, and then helped Diantha prepare for the lunch. This was a large
undertaking, and all three of them, as well as Julianna and Hector
worked at it until some six or eight hundred sandwiches were ready, and
two or three hundred little cakes.
Diantha had her own lunch, and then sat at the receipt of custom during
the lunch hour, making change and ordering fresh supplies as fast as
The two housemaids had a long day, but so arranged that it made but ten
hours work, and they had much available time of their own. They had to
be at work at 5:30 to set the table for six o'clock breakfast, and then
they were at it steadily, with the dining rooms to "do," and the lunch
to get ready, until 11:30, when they had an hour to eat and rest. From
12:30 to 4 o'clock they were busy with the lunch cups, the bed-rooms,
and setting the table for dinner; but after that they had four hours to
themselves, until the nine o'clock supper was over, and once more they
washed dishes for half an hour. The caffeteria used only cups and
spoons; the sandwiches and cakes were served on paper plates.
In the hand-cart methods of small housekeeping it is impossible to exact
the swift precision of such work, but not in the standardized tasks and
regular hours of such an establishment as this.
Diantha religiously kept her hour at noon, and tried to keep the three
in the afternoon; but the employer and manager cannot take irresponsible
rest as can the employee. She felt like a most inexperienced captain on
a totally new species of ship, and her paper plans looked very weak
sometimes, as bills turned out to be larger than she had allowed for, or
her patronage unaccountably dwindled. But if the difficulties were
great, the girl's courage was greater. "It is simply a big piece of
work," she assured herself, "and may be a long one, but there never was
anything better worth doing. Every new business has difficulties, I
mustn't think of them. I must just push and push and push--a little
more every day."
And then she would draw on all her powers to reason with, laugh at, and
persuade some dissatisfied girl; or, hardest of all, to bring in a new
one to fill a vacancy.
She enjoyed the details of her lunch business, and studied it carefully;
planning for a restaurant a little later. Her bread was baked in long
cylindrical closed pans, and cut by machinery into thin even slices, not
a crust wasted; for they were ground into crumbs and used in the
The filling for her sandwiches was made from fish, flesh, and fowl; from
cheese and jelly and fruit and vegetables; and so named or numbered that
the general favorites were gradually determined.
Mr. Thaddler chatted with her over the counter, as far as she would
allow it, and discoursed more fully with his friends on the verandah.
"Porne," he said, "where'd that girl come from anyway? She's a genius,
that's what she is; a regular genius."
"She's all that," said Mr. Porne, "and a benefactor to humanity thrown
in. I wish she'd start her food delivery, though. I'm tired of those
two Swedes already. O--come from? Up in Jopalez, Inca County, I
"New England stock I bet," said Mr. Thaddler. "Its a damn shame the way
the women go on about her."
"Not all of them, surely," protested Mr. Porne.
"No, not all of 'em,--but enough of 'em to make mischief, you may be
sure. Women are the devil, sometimes."
Mr. Porne smiled without answer, and Mr. Thaddler went sulking away--a
bag of cakes bulging in his pocket.
The little wooden hotel in Jopalez boasted an extra visitor a few days
later. A big red faced man, who strolled about among the tradesmen,
tried the barber's shop, loafed in the post office, hired a rig and
traversed the length and breadth of the town, and who called on Mrs.
Warden, talking real estate with her most politely in spite of her
protestation and the scornful looks of the four daughters; who bought
tobacco and matches in the grocery store, and sat on the piazza thereof
to smoke, as did other gentlemen of leisure.
Ross Warden occasionally leaned at the door jamb, with folded arms. He
never could learn to be easily sociable with ranchmen and teamsters.
Serve them he must, but chat with them he need not. The stout gentleman
essayed some conversation, but did not get far. Ross was polite, but
far from encouraging, and presently went home to supper, leaving a
carrot-haired boy to wait upon his lingering customers.
"Nice young feller enough," said the stout gentleman to himself, "but
raised on ramrods. Never got 'em from those women folks of his, either.
He _has_ a row to hoe!" And he departed as he had come.
Mr. Eltwood turned out an unexpectedly useful friend to Diantha. He
steered club meetings and "sociables" into her large rooms, and as
people found how cheap and easy it was to give parties that way, they
continued the habit. He brought his doctor friends to sample the lunch,
and they tested the value of Diantha's invalid cookery, and were more
Hungry tourists were wholly without prejudice, and prized her lunches
for their own sake. They descended upon the caffeteria in chattering
swarms, some days, robbing the regular patrons of their food, and sent
sudden orders for picnic lunches that broke in upon the routine hours of
the place unmercifully.
But of all her patrons, the families of invalids appreciated Diantha's
work the most. Where a little shack or tent was all they could afford
to live in, or where the tiny cottage was more than filled with the
patient, attending relative, and nurse, this depot of supplies was a
A girl could be had for an hour or two; or two girls, together, with
amazing speed, could put a small house in dainty order while the sick
man lay in his hammock under the pepper trees; and be gone before he was
fretting for his bed again. They lived upon her lunches; and from them,
and other quarters, rose an increasing demand for regular cooked food.
"Why don't you go into it at once?" urged Mrs. Weatherstone.
"I want to establish the day service first," said Diantha. "It is a
pretty big business I find, and I do get tired sometimes. I can't
afford to slip up, you know. I mean to take it up next fall, though."
"All right. And look here; see that you begin in first rate shape.
I've got some ideas of my own about those food containers."
They discussed the matter more than once, Diantha most reluctant to take
any assistance; Mrs. Weatherstone determined that she should.
"I feel like a big investor already," she said. "I don't think even you
realize the _money_ there is in this thing! You are interested in
establishing the working girls, and saving money and time for the
housewives. I am interested in making money out of it--honestly! It
would be such a triumph!"
"You're very good--" Diantha hesitated.
"I'm not good. I'm most eagerly and selfishly interested. I've taken a
new lease of life since knowing you, Diantha Bell! You see my father
was a business man, and his father before him--I _like it._ There I
was, with lots of money, and not an interest in life! Now?--why,
there's no end to this thing, Diantha! It's one of the biggest
businesses on earth--if not _the_ biggest!"
"Yes--I know," the girl answered. "But its slow work. I feel the
weight of it more than I expected. There's every reason to succeed, but
there's the combined sentiment of the whole world to lift--it's as heavy
"Heavy! Of course it's heavy! The more fun to lift it! You'll do it,
Diantha, I know you will, with that steady, relentless push of yours.
But the cooked food is going to be your biggest power, and you must let
me start it right. Now you listen to me, and make Mrs. Thaddler eat her
Mrs. Thaddler's words would have proved rather poisonous, if eaten. She
grew more antagonistic as the year advanced. Every fault that could be
found in the undertaking she pounced upon and enlarged; every doubt that
could be cast upon it she heavily piled up; and her opposition grew more
rancorous as Mr. Thaddler enlarged in her hearing upon the excellence of
Diantha's lunches and the wonders of her management.
"She's picked a bunch o' winners in those girls of hers," he declared to
his friends. "They set out in the morning looking like a flock of sweet
peas--in their pinks and whites and greens and vi'lets,--and do more
work in an hour than the average slavey can do in three, I'm told."
It was a pretty sight to see those girls start out. They had a sort of
uniform, as far as a neat gingham dress went, with elbow sleeves, white
ruffled, and a Dutch collar; a sort of cross between a nurses dress and
that of "La Chocolataire;" but colors were left to taste. Each carried
her apron and a cap that covered the hair while cooking and sweeping;
but nothing that suggested the black and white livery of the regulation
"This is a new stage of labor," their leader reminded them. "You are
not servants--you are employees. You wear a cap as an English carpenter
does--or a French cook,--and an apron because your work needs it. It is
not a ruffled label,--it's a business necessity. And each one of us
must do our best to make this new kind of work valued and respected."
It is no easy matter to overcome prejudices many centuries old, and meet
the criticism of women who have nothing to do but criticize. Those who
were "mistresses," and wanted "servants,"--someone to do their will at
any moment from early morning till late evening,--were not pleased with
the new way if they tried it; but the women who had interests of their
own to attend to; who merely wanted their homes kept clean, and the food
well cooked and served, were pleased. The speed, the accuracy, the
economy; the pleasant, quiet, assured manner of these skilled employees
was a very different thing from the old slipshod methods of the ordinary
So the work slowly prospered, while Diantha began to put in execution
the new plan she had been forced into.
While it matured, Mrs. Thaddler matured hers. With steady dropping she
had let fall far and wide her suspicions as to the character of Union
"It looks pretty queer to me!" she would say, confidentially, "All those
girls together, and no person to have any authority over them! Not a
married woman in the house but that washerwoman,--and her husband's a
"And again; You don't see how she does it? Neither do I! The expenses
must be tremendous--those girls pay next to nothing,--and all that broth
and brown bread flying about town! Pretty queer doings, I think!"
"The men seem to like that caffeteria, don't they?" urged one caller,
perhaps not unwilling to nestle Mrs. Thaddler, who flushed darkly as she
replied. "Yes, they do. Men usually like that sort of place."
"They like good food at low prices, if that's what you mean," her
"That's not all I mean--by a long way," said Mrs. Thaddler. She said so
much, and said it so ingeniously, that a dark rumor arose from nowhere,
and grew rapidly. Several families discharged their Union House girls.
Several girls complained that they were insultingly spoken to on the
street. Even the lunch patronage began to fall off.
Diantha was puzzled--a little alarmed. Her slow, steady lifting of the
prejudice against her was checked. She could not put her finger on the
enemy, yet felt one distinctly, and had her own suspicions. But she
also had her new move well arranged by this time.
Then a maliciously insinuating story of the place came out in a San
Francisco paper, and a flock of local reporters buzzed in to sample the
victim. They helped themselves to the luncheon, and liked it. but that
did not soften their pens. They talked with such of the girls as they
could get in touch with, and wrote such versions of these talks as
They called repeatedly at Union House, but Diantha refused to see them.
Finally she was visited by the Episcopalian clergyman. He had heard her
talk at the Club, was favorably impressed by the girl herself, and
honestly distressed by the dark stories he now heard about Union House.
"My dear young lady," he said, "I have called to see you in your own
interests. I do not, as you perhaps know, approve of your schemes. I
consider them--ah--subversive of the best interests of the home! But I
think you mean well, though mistakenly. Now I fear you are not aware
that this-ah--ill-considered undertaking of yours, is giving rise to
considerable adverse comment in the community. There is--ah--there is a
great deal being said about this business of yours which I am sure you
would regret if you knew it. Do you think it is wise; do you think it
is--ah--right, my dear Miss Bell, to attempt to carry on a--a place of
this sort, without the presence of a--of a Matron of assured standing?"
Diantha smiled rather coldly.
"May I trouble you to step into the back parlor, Dr. Aberthwaite," she
said; and then;
"May I have the pleasure of presenting to you Mrs. Henderson Bell--my
"Wasn't it great!" said Mrs. Weatherstone; "I was there you see,-- I'd
come to call on Mrs. Bell--she's a dear,--and in came Mrs. Thaddler--"
"O I know it was old Aberthwaite, but he represented Mrs. Thaddler and
her clique, and had come there to preach to Diantha about propriety--I
heard him,--and she brought him in and very politely introduced him to
her mother!--it was rich, Isabel."
"How did Diantha manage it?" asked her friend.
"She's been trying to arrange it for ever so long. Of course her father
objected--you'd know that. But there's a sister--not a bad sort, only
very limited; she's taken the old man to board, as it were, and I guess
the mother really set her foot down for once--said she had a right to
visit her own daughter!"
"It would seem so," Mrs. Porne agreed. "I _am_ so glad! It will be so
much easier for that brave little woman now."
Diantha held her mother in her arms the night she came, and cried tike a
"O mother _dear!_" she sobbed, "I'd no idea I should miss you so much.
O you blessed comfort!"
Her mother cried a bit too; she enjoyed this daughter more than either
of her older children, and missed her more. A mother loves all her
children, naturally; but a mother is also a person--and may, without
sin, have personal preferences.
She took hold of Diantha's tangled mass of papers with the eagerness of
a questing hound.
"You've got all the bills, of course," she demanded, with her anxious
"Every one," said the girl. "You taught me that much. What puzzles me
is to make things balance. I'm making more than I thought in some
lines, and less in others, and I can't make it come out straight."
"It won't, altogether, till the end of the year I dare say," said Mrs.
Bell, "but let's get clear as far as we can. In the first place we must
separate your business,--see how much each one pays."
"The first one I want to establish," said her daughter, "is the girl's
club. Not just this one, with me to run it. But to show that any group
of twenty or thirty girls could do this thing in any city. Of course
where rents and provisions were high they'd have to charge more. I want
to make an average showing somehow. Now can you disentangle the girl
part front the lunch part and the food part, mother dear, and make it
Mrs. Bell could and did; it gave her absolute delight to do it. She
set down the total of Diantha's expenses so far in the Service
Department, as follows:
Rent of Union House . . . $1,500
Rent of furniture . . . $300
One payment on furniture . . . $400
Fuel and lights, etc. . . . $352
Service of 5 at $10 a week each . . . $2,600
Food for thirty-seven . . . $3,848
Total . . . $9,000
"That covers everything but my board," said Mrs. Bell.
"Now your income is easy--35 x $4.50 equals $8,190. Take that from your
$9,000 and you are $810 behind."
"Yes, I know," said Diantha, eagerly, "but if it was merely a girl's
club home, the rent and fixtures would be much less. A home could be
built, with thirty bedrooms--and all necessary conveniences--for $7,000.
I've asked Mr. and Mrs. Porne about it; and the furnishing needn't cost
over $2,000 if it was very plain. Ten per cent. of that is a rent of
$900 you see."
"I see," said her mother. "Better say a thousand. I guess it could be
done for that."
So they set down rent, $1,000.
"There have to be five paid helpers in the house," Diantha went on, "the
cook, the laundress, the two maids, and the matron. She must buy and
manage. She could be one of their mothers or aunts."
Mrs. Bell smiled. "Do you really imagine, Diantha, that Mrs.
O'Shaughnessy or Mrs. Yon Yonson can manage a house like this as you
Diantha flushed a little. "No, mother, of course not. But I am keeping
very full reports of all the work. Just the schedule of labor--the
hours--the exact things done. One laundress, with machinery, can wash
for thirty-five, (its only six a day you see), and the amount is
regulated; about six dozen a day, and all the flat work mangled.
"In a Girl's Club alone the cook has all day off, as it were; she can do
the down stairs cleaning. And the two maids have only table service and
"Yes. But two girls together, who know how, can do a room in 8
minutes--easily. They are small and simple you see. Make the bed,
shake the mats, wipe the floors and windows,--you watch them!"
"I have watched them," the mother admitted. "They are as quick as--as
"Well," pursued Diantha, "they spend three hours on dishes and tables,
and seven on cleaning. The bedrooms take 280 minutes; that's nearly
five hours. The other two are for the bath rooms, halls, stairs,
downstairs windows, and so on. That's all right. Then I'm keeping the
menus--just what I furnish and what it costs. Anybody could order and
manage when it was all set down for her. And you see--as you have
figured it--they'd have over $500 leeway to buy the furniture if they
were allowed to."
"Yes," Mrs. Bell admitted, "_if_ the rent was what you allow, and _if_
they all work all the time!"
"That's the hitch, of course. But mother; the girls who don't have
steady jobs do work by the hour, and that brings in more, on the whole.
If they are the right kind they can make good. If they find anyone who
don't keep her job--for good reasons--they can drop her."
"M'm!" said Mrs. Bell. "Well, it's an interesting experiment. But how
about you? So far you are $410 behind."
"Yes, because my rent's so big. But I cover that by letting the rooms,
Mrs. Bell considered the orders of this sort. "So far it averages about
$25.00 a week; that's doing well."
"It will be less in summer--much less," Diantha suggested. "Suppose you
call it an average of $15.00."
"Call it $10.00," said her mother ruthlessly. "At that it covers your
deficit and $110 over."
"Which isn't much to live on," Diantha agreed, "but then comes my
special catering, and the lunches."
Here they were quite at sea for a while. But as the months passed, and
the work steadily grew on their hands, Mrs. Bell became more and more
cheerful. She was up with the earliest, took entire charge of the
financial part of the concern, and at last Diantha was able to rest
fully in her afternoon hours. What delighted her most was to see her
mother thrive in the work. Her thin shoulders lifted a little as small
dragging tasks were forgotten and a large growing business substituted.
Her eyes grew bright again, she held her head as she did in her keen
girlhood, and her daughter felt fresh hope and power as she saw already
the benefit of the new method as affecting her nearest and dearest.
All Diantha's friends watched the spread of the work with keenly
sympathetic intent; but to Mrs. Weatherstone it became almost as
fascinating as to the girl herself.
"It's going to be one of the finest businesses in the world!" she said,
"And one of the largest and best paying. Now I'll have a surprise ready
for that girl in the spring, and another next year, if I'm not
There were long and vivid discussions of the matter between her and her
friends the Pornes, and Mrs. Porne spent more hours in her "drawing
room" than she had for years.
But while these unmentioned surprises were pending, Mrs. Weatherstone
departed to New York--to Europe; and was gone some months. In the
spring she returned, in April--which is late June in Orchardina. She
called upon Diantha and her mother at once, and opened her attack.
"I do hope, Mrs. Bell, that you'll back me up," she said. "You have the
better business head I think, in the financial line."
"She has," Diantha admitted. "She's ten times as good as I am at that;
but she's no more willing to carry obligation than I am, Mrs.
"Obligation is one thing--investment is another," said her guest. "I
live on my money--that is, on other people's work. I am a base
capitalist, and you seem to me good material to invest in. So--take it
or leave it--I've brought you an offer."
She then produced from her hand bag some papers, and, from her car
outside, a large object carefully boxed, about the size and shape of a
plate warmer. This being placed on the table before them, was
uncovered, and proved to be a food container of a new model.
"I had one made in Paris," she explained, "and the rest copied here to
save paying duty. Lift it!"
They lifted it in amazement--it was so light.
"Aluminum," she said, proudly, "Silver plated--new process! And bamboo
at the corners you see. All lined and interlined with asbestos, rubber
fittings for silver ware, plate racks, food compartments--see?"
She pulled out drawers, opened little doors, and rapidly laid out a
table service for five.
"It will hold food for five--the average family, you know. For larger
orders you'll have to send more. I had to make _some_ estimate."
"What lovely dishes!" said Diantha.
"Aren't they! Aluminum, silvered! If your washers are careful they
won't get dented, and you can't break 'em."
Mrs. Bell examined the case and all its fittings with eager attention.
"It's the prettiest thing I ever saw," she said. "Look, Diantha; here's
for soup, here's for water--or wine if you want, all your knives and
forks at the side, Japanese napkins up here. Its lovely, but--I should
Mrs. Weatherstone smiled. "I've had twenty-five of them made. They
cost, with the fittings, $100 apiece, $2,500. I will rent them to you,
Miss Bell, at a rate of 10 per cent. interest; only $250 a year!"
"It ought to take more," said Mrs. Bell, "there'll be breakage and
"You can't break them, I tell you," said the cheerful visitor, "and
dents can be smoothed out in any tin shop--you'll have to pay for
it;--will that satisfy you?"
Diantha was looking at her, her eyes deep with gratitude. "I--you know
what I think of you!" she said.
Mrs. Weatherstone laughed. "I'm not through yet," she said. "Look at
my next piece of impudence!" This was only on paper, but the pictures
were amply illuminating.
"I went to several factories," she gleefully explained, "here and
abroad. A Yankee firm built it. It's in my garage now!"
It was a light gasolene motor wagon, the body built like those
old-fashioned moving wagons which were also used for excursions, wherein
the floor of the vehicle was rather narrow, and set low, and the seats
ran lengthwise, widening out over the wheels; only here the wheels were
lower, and in the space under the seats ran a row of lockers opening
outside. Mrs. Weatherstone smiled triumphantly.
"Now, Diantha Bell," she said, "here's something you haven't thought of,
I do believe! This estimable vehicle will carry thirty people inside
easily," and she showed them how each side held twelve, and turn-up
seats accommodated six more; "and outside,"--she showed the lengthwise
picture--"it carries twenty-four containers. If you want to send all
your twenty-five at once, one can go here by the driver.
"Now then. This is not an obligation, Miss Bell, it is another valuable
investment. I'm having more made. I expect to have use for them in a
good many places. This cost pretty near $3,000, and you get it at the
same good interest, for $300 a year. What's more, if you are smart
enough--and I don't doubt you are,--you can buy the whole thing on
installments, same as you mean to with your furniture."
Diantha was dumb, but her mother wasn't. She thanked Mrs. Weatherstone
with a hearty appreciation of her opportune help, but no less of her
"Don't be a goose, Diantha," she said. "You will set up your food
business in first class style, and I think you can carry it
successfully. But Mrs. Weatherstone's right; she's got a new investment
here that'll pay her better than most others--and be a growing thing I
And still Diantha found it difficult to express her feelings. She had
lived under a good deal of strain for many months now, and this sudden
opening out of her plans was a heavenly help indeed.
Mrs. Weatherstone went around the table and sat by her. "Child," said
she, "you don't begin to realize what you've done for me--and for
Isobel--and for ever so many in this town, and all over the world. And
besides, don't you think anybody else can see your dream? We can't _do_
it as you can, but we can see what it's going to mean,--and we'll help
if we can. You wouldn't grudge us that, would you?"
As a result of all this the cooked food delivery service was opened at
"It is true that the tourists are gone, mostly," said Mrs. Weatherstone,
as she urged it, "but you see there are ever so many residents who have
more trouble with servants in summer than they do in winter, and hate to
have a fire in the house, too."
So Diantha's circulars had an addition, forthwith.
These were distributed among the Orchardinians, setting their tongues
wagging anew, as a fresh breeze stirs the eaves of the forest.
The stealthy inroads of lunches and evening refreshments had been
deprecated already; this new kind of servant who wasn't a servant, but
held her head up like anyone else ("They are as independent
as--as--'salesladies,'" said one critic), was also viewed with alarm;
but when even this domestic assistant was to be removed, and a square
case of food and dishes substituted, all Archaic Orchardina was
There were plenty of new minds in the place, however; enough to start
Diantha with seven full orders and five partial ones.
Her work at the club was now much easier, thanks to her mother's
assistance, to the smoother running of all the machinery with the
passing of time, and further to the fact that most of her girls were now
working at summer resorts, for shorter hours and higher wages. They
paid for their rooms at the club still, but the work of the house was so
much lightened that each of the employees was given two weeks of
vacation--on full pay.
The lunch department kept on a pretty regular basis from the patronage
of resident business men, and the young manager--in her ambitious
moments--planned for enlarging it in the winter. But during the summer
her whole energies went to perfecting the _menus_ and the service of her
Mrs. Porne was the very first to order. She had been waiting
impatiently for a chance to try the plan, and, with her husband, had the
firmest faith in Diantha's capacity to carry it through.
"We don't save much in money," she explained to the eager Mrs. Ree, who
hovered, fascinated, over the dangerous topic, "but we do in comfort, I
can tell you. You see I had two girls, paid them $12 a week; now I keep
just the one, for $6. My food and fuel for the four of us (I don't
count the babies either time--they remain as before), was all of $16,
often more. That made $28 a week. Now I pay for three meals a day,
delivered, for three of us, $15 a week--with the nurse's wages, $21.
Then I pay a laundress one day, $2, and her two meals, $.50, making
$23.50. Then I have two maids, for an hour a day, to clean; $.50 a day
for six days, $3, and one maid Sunday, $.25. $26.75 in all. So we only
_But!_ there's another room! We have the cook's room for an extra
guest; I use it most for a sewing room, though and the kitchen is a sort
of day nursery now. The house seems as big again!"
"But the food?" eagerly inquired Mrs. Ree. "Is it as good as your own?
Is it hot and tempting?"
Mrs. Ree was fascinated by the new heresy. As a staunch adherent of the
old Home and Culture Club, and its older ideals, she disapproved of the
undertaking, but her curiosity was keen about it.
Mrs. Porne smiled patiently. "You remember Diantha Bell's cooking I am
sure, Mrs. Ree," she said. "And Julianna used to cook for dinner
parties--when one could get her. My Swede was a very ordinary cook, as
most of these untrained girls are. Do take off your hat and have dinner
with us,--I'll show you," urged Mrs. Porne.
"I--O I mustn't," fluttered the little woman. "They'll expect me at
home--and--surely your--supply--doesn't allow for guests?"
"We'll arrange all that by 'phone," her hostess explained; and she
promptly sent word to the Ree household, then called up Union House and
ordered one extra dinner.
"Is it--I'm dreadfully rude I know, but I'm _so_ interested! Is
Mrs. Porne smiled. "Haven't you seen the little circular? Here's one,
'Extra meals to regular patrons 25 cents.' And no more trouble to order
than to tell a maid."
Mrs. Ree had a lively sense of paltering with Satan as she sat down to
the Porne's dinner table. She had seen the delivery wagon drive to the
door, had heard the man deposit something heavy on the back porch, and
was now confronted by a butler's tray at Mrs. Porne's left, whereon
stood a neat square shining object with silvery panels and bamboo
"It's not at all bad looking, is it?" she ventured.
"Not bad enough to spoil one's appetite," Mr. Porne cheerily agreed.
"Open, Sesame! Now you know the worst."
Mrs. Porne opened it, and an inner front was shown, with various small
doors and drawers.
"Do you know what is in it?" asked the guest.
"No, thank goodness, I don't," replied her hostess. "If there's
anything tiresome it is to order meals and always know what's coming!
That's what men get so tired of at restaurants; what they hate so when
their wives ask them what they want for dinner. Now I can enjoy my
dinner at my own table, just as if I was a guest."
"It is--a tax--sometimes," Mrs. Ree admitted, adding hastily, "But one
is glad to do it--to make home attractive."
Mr. Porne's eyes sought his wife's, and love and contentment flashed
between them, as she quietly set upon the table three silvery plates.
"Not silver, surely!" said Mrs. Ree, lifting hers, "Oh, aluminum."
"Aluminum, silver plated," said Mr. Porne. "They've learned how to do
it at last. It's a problem of weight, you see, and breakage. Aluminum
isn't pretty, glass and silver are heavy, but we all love silver, and
there's a pleasant sense of gorgeousness in this outfit."
It did look rather impressive; silver tumblers, silver dishes, the whole
dainty service--and so surprisingly light.
"You see she knows that it is very important to please the eye as well
as the palate," said Mr. Porne. "Now speaking of palates, let us all
keep silent and taste this soup." They did keep silent in supreme
contentment while the soup lasted. Mrs. Ree laid down her spoon with
the air of one roused from a lovely dream.
"Why--why--it's like Paris," she said in an awed tone.
"Isn't it?" Mr. Porne agreed, "and not twice alike in a month, I think."
"Why, there aren't thirty kinds of soup, are there?" she urged.
"I never thought there were when we kept servants," said he. "Three was
about their limit, and greasy, at that."
Mrs. Porne slipped the soup plates back in their place and served the
"She does not give a fish course, does she?" Mrs. Ree observed.
"Not at the table d'hote price," Mrs. Porne answered. "We never
pretended to have a fish course ourselves--do you?" Mrs. Ree did not,
and eagerly disclaimed any desire for fish. The meat was roast beef,
thinly sliced, hot and juicy.
"Don't you miss the carving, Mr. Porne?" asked the visitor. "I do so
love to see a man at the head of his own table, carving."
"I do miss it, Mrs. Ree. I miss it every day of my life with devout
thankfulness. I never was a good carver, so it was no pleasure to me to
show off; and to tell you the truth, when I come to the table, I like to
eat--not saw wood." And Mr. Porne ate with every appearance of
"We never get roast beef like this I'm sure," Mrs. Ree admitted, "we
can't get it small enough for our family."
"And a little roast is always spoiled in the cooking. Yes this is far
better than we used to have," agreed her hostess.
Mrs. Ree enjoyed every mouthful of her meal. The soup was hot. The
salad was crisp and the ice cream hard. There was sponge cake, thick,
light, with sugar freckles on the dark crust. The coffee was perfect
and almost burned the tongue.
"I don't understand about the heat and cold," she said; and they showed
her the asbestos-lined compartments and perfectly fitting places for
each dish and plate. Everything went back out of sight; small leavings
in a special drawer, knives and forks held firmly by rubber fittings,
nothing that shook or rattled. And the case was set back by the door
where the man called for it at eight o'clock.
"She doesn't furnish table linen?"
"No, there are Japanese napkins at the top here. We like our own
napkins, and we didn't use a cloth, anyway."
"And how about silver?"
"We put ours away. This plated ware they furnish is perfectly good. We
could use ours of course if we wanted to wash it. Some do that and some
have their own case marked, and their own silver in it, but it's a good
deal of risk, I think, though they are extremely careful."
Mrs. Ree experienced peculiarly mixed feelings. As far as food went,
she had never eaten a better dinner. But her sense of Domestic
Aesthetics was jarred.
"It certainly tastes good," she said. "Delicious, in fact. I am
extremely obliged to you, Mrs. Porne, I'd no idea it could be sent so
far and be so good. And only five dollars a week, you say?"
"For each person, yes."
"I don't see how she does it. All those cases and dishes, and the
That was the universal comment in Orchardina circles as the months
passed and Union House continued in existence--"I don't see how she does
WHAT DIANTHA DID
LIKE A BANYAN TREE
The Earth-Plants spring up from beneath,
The Air-Plants swing down from above,
But the Banyan trees grow
Both above and below,
And one makes a prosperous grove.
In the fleeting opportunities offered by the Caffeteria, and in longer
moments, rather neatly planned for, with some remnants of an earlier
ingenuity, Mr. Thaddler contrived to become acquainted with Mrs. Bell.
Diantha never quite liked him, but he won her mother's heart by frank
praise of the girl and her ventures.
"I never saw a smarter woman in my life," he said; "and no airs. I tell
you, ma'am, if there was more like her this world would be an easier
place to live in, and I can see she owes it all to you, ma'am."
This the mother would never admit for a moment, but expatiated loyally
on the scientific mind of Mr. Henderson Bell, still of Jopalez.
"I don't see how he can bear to let her out of his sight," said Mr.
"Of course he hated to let her go," replied the lady. "We both did.
But he is very proud of her now."
"I guess there's somebody else who's proud of her, too," he suggested.
"Excuse me, ma'am, I don't mean to intrude, but we know there must be a
good reason for your daughter keeping all Orchardina at a distance.
Why, she could have married six times over in her first year here!"
"She does not wish to give up her work," Mrs. Bell explained.
"Of course not; and why should she? Nice, womanly business, I am sure.
I hope nobody'd expect a girl who can keep house for a whole township to
settle down to bossing one man and a hired girl."
In course of time he got a pretty clear notion of how matters stood, and
meditated upon it, seriously rolling his big cigar about between pursed
lips. Mr. Thaddler was a good deal of a gossip, but this he kept to
himself, and did what he could to enlarge the patronage of Union House.
The business grew. It held its own in spite of fluctuations, and after
a certain point began to spread steadily. Mrs. Bell's coming and Mr.
Eltwood's ardent championship, together with Mr. Thaddler's, quieted the
dangerous slanders which had imperilled the place at one time. They
lingered, subterraneously, of course. People never forget slanders. A
score of years after there were to be found in Orchardina folk who still
whispered about dark allegations concerning Union House; and the papers
had done some pretty serious damage; but the fame of good food, good
service, cheapness and efficiency made steady headway.
In view of the increase and of the plans still working in her mind,
Diantha made certain propositions to Mr. Porne, and also to Mrs. Porne,
in regard to a new, specially built club-house for the girls.
"I have proved what they can do, with me to manage them, and want now to
prove that they can do it themselves, with any matron competent to
follow my directions. The house need not be so expensive; one big
dining-room, with turn-up tables like those ironing-board seat-tables,
you know--then they can dance there. Small reception room and office,
hall, kitchen and laundry, and thirty bedrooms, forty by thirty, with an
"ell" for the laundry, ought to do it, oughtn't it?"
Mrs. Porne agreed to make plans, and did so most successfully, and Mr.
Porne found small difficulty in persuading an investor to put up such a
house, which visibly could be used as a boarding-house or small hotel,
if it failed in its first purpose.
It was built of concrete, a plain simple structure, but fine in
proportions and pleasantly colored.
Diantha kept her plans to herself, as usual, but they grew so fast that
she felt a species of terror sometimes, lest the ice break somewhere.
"Steady, now!" she would say. "This is real business, just plain
business. There's no reason why I shouldn't succeed as well as Fred
Harvey. I will succeed. I am succeeding."
She kept well, she worked hard, she was more than glad to have her
mother with her; but she wanted something else, which seemed farther off
than ever. Her lover's picture hung on the wall of her bedroom, stood
on her bureau, and (but this was a secret) a small one was carried in
Rather a grim looking young woman, Diantha, with the cares of the world
of house-keepers upon her proud young shoulders; with all the stirring
hopes to be kept within bounds, all the skulking fears to be resisted,
and the growing burden of a large affair to be carried steadily.
But when she woke, in the brilliant California mornings, she would lie
still a few moments looking at the face on the wall and the face on the
bureau; would draw the little picture out from under her pillow and kiss
it, would say to herself for the thousandth time, "It is for him, too."
She missed him, always.
The very vigor of her general attitude, the continued strength with
which she met the days and carried them, made it all the more needful
for her to have some one with whom she could forget every care, every
purpose, every effort; some one who would put strong arms around her and
call her "Little Girl." His letters were both a comfort and a pain. He
was loyal, kind, loving, but always that wall of disapproval. He loved
her, he did not love her work.
She read them over and over, hunting anew for the tender phrases, the
things which seemed most to feed and comfort her. She suffered not only
from her loneliness, but from his; and most keenly from his sternly
suppressed longing for freedom and the work that belonged to him.
"Why can't he see," she would say to herself, "that if this succeeds, he
can do his work; that I can make it possible for him? And he won't let
me. He won't take it from me. Why are men so proud? Is there anything
so ignominious about a woman that it is disgraceful to let one help you?
And why can't he think at all about the others? It's not just us, it's
all people. If this works, men will have easier times, as well as
women. Everybody can do their real work better with this old primitive
business once set right."
And then it was always time to get up, or time to go to bed, or time to
attend to some of the numberless details of her affairs.
She and her mother had an early lunch before the caffeteria opened, and
were glad of the afternoon tea, often held in a retired corner of the
broad piazza. She sat there one hot, dusty afternoon, alone and
unusually tired. The asphalted street was glaring and noisy, the cross
street deep in soft dust, for months unwet.
Failure had not discouraged her, but increasing success with all its
stimulus and satisfaction called for more and more power. Her mind was
busy foreseeing, arranging, providing for emergencies; and then the
whole thing slipped away from her, she dropped her head upon her arm for
a moment, on the edge of the tea table, and wished for Ross.
From down the street and up the street at this moment, two men were
coming; both young, both tall, both good looking, both apparently
approaching Union House. One of them was the nearer, and his foot soon
sounded on the wooden step. The other stopped and looked in a shop
Diantha started up, came forward,--it was Mr. Eltwood. She had a vague
sense of disappointment, but received him cordially. He stood there,
his hat off, holding her hand for a long moment, and gazing at her with
evident admiration. They turned and sat down in the shadow of the
The man at the shop window turned, too, and went away.
Mr. Eltwood had been a warm friend and cordial supporter from the epoch
of the Club-splitting speech. He had helped materially in the slow,
up-hill days of the girl's effort, with faith and kind words. He had
met the mother's coming with most friendly advances, and Mrs. Bell found
herself much at home in his liberal little church.
Diantha had grown to like and trust him much.
"What's this about the new house, Miss Bell? Your mother says I may
"Why not?" she said. "You have followed this thing from the first.
Sugar or lemon? You see I want to disentangle the undertakings, set
them upon their own separate feet, and establish the practical working
of each one."
"I see," he said, "and 'day service' is not 'cooked food delivery.'"
"Nor yet 'rooms for entertainment,' she agreed. "We've got them all
labelled, mother and I. There's the 'd. s.' and 'c. f. d.' and 'r. f.
e.' and the 'p. p.' That's picnics and parties. And more coming."
"What, more yet? You'll kill yourself, Miss Bell. Don't go too fast.
You are doing a great work for humanity. Why not take a little more
"I want to do it as quickly as I can, for reasons," answered Diantha.
Mr. Eltwood looked at her with tender understanding. "I don't want to
intrude any further than you are willing to want me," he said, "but
sometimes I think that even you--strong as you are--would be better for
She did not contradict him. Her hands were in her lap, her eyes on the
worn boards of the piazza floor. She did not see a man pass on the
other side of the street, cast a searching glance across and walk
quickly on again.
"If you were quite free to go on with your beautiful work," said Mr.
Eltwood slowly, "if you were offered heartiest appreciation, profound
respect, as well as love, of course; would you object to marrying, Miss
Bell?" asked in an even voice, as if it were a matter of metaphysical
inquiry. Mrs. Porne had told him of her theory as to a lover in the
home town, wishing to save him a long heart ache, but he was not sure of
it, and he wanted to be.
Diantha glanced quickly at him, and felt the emotion under his quiet
words. She withdrew her eyes, looking quite the other way.
"You are enough of a friend to know, Mr. Eltwood," she said, "I rather
thought you did know. I am engaged."
"Thank you for telling me; some one is greatly to be congratulated," he
spoke sincerely, and talked quietly on about less personal matters,
holding his tea untasted till it was cold.
"Do let me give you some that is hot," she said at last, "and let me
thank you from my heart for the help and strength and comfort you have
been to me, Mr. Eltwood."
"I'm very glad," he said; and again, "I am very glad." "You may count
upon anything I can do for you, always," he continued. "I am proud to
be your friend."
He held her hand once more for a moment, and went away with his head up
and a firm step. To one who watched him go, he had almost a triumphant
air, but it was not triumph, only the brave beginning of a hard fight
and a long one.
Then came Mrs. Bell, returned from a shopping trip, and sank down in a
wicker rocker, glad of the shade and a cup of tea. No, she didn't want
it iced. "Hot tea makes you cooler," was her theory.
"You don't look very tired," said the girl. "Seems to me you get
stronger all the time."
"I do," said her mother. "You don't realize, you can't realize,
Diantha, what this means to me. Of course to you I am an old woman, a
back number--one has to feel so about one's mother. I did when I
married, and my mother then was five years younger than I am now."
"I don't think you old, mother, not a bit of it. You ought to have
twenty or thirty years of life before you, real life."
"That's just what I'm feeling," said Mrs. Bell, "as if I'd just begun to
live! This is so _different!_ There is a big, moving thing to work
for. There is--why Diantha, you wouldn't believe what a comfort it is
to me to feel that my work here is--really--adding to the profits!"
Diantha laughed aloud.
"You dear old darling," she said, "I should think it was! It is
_making_ the profits."
"And it grows so," her mother went on. "Here's this part so well
assured that you're setting up the new Union House! Are you _sure_
about Mrs. Jessup, dear?"
"As sure as I can be of any one till I've tried a long time. She has
done all I've asked her to here, and done it well. Besides, I mean to
keep a hand on it for a year or two yet--I can't afford to have that
Mrs. Jessup was an imported aunt, belonging to one of the cleverest
girls, and Diantha had had her in training for some weeks.
"Well, I guess she's as good as any you'd be likely to get," Mrs. Bell
admitted, "and we mustn't expect paragons. If this can't be done by an
average bunch of working women the world over, it can't be done--that's
"It can be done," said the girl, calmly. "It will be done. You see."
"Mr. Thaddler says you could run any kind of a business you set your
hand to," her mother went on. "He has a profound respect for your
"Seems to me you and Mr. Thaddler have a good deal to say to each other,
motherkins. I believe you enjoy that caffeteria desk, and all the
compliments you get."
"I do," said Mrs. Bell stoutly. "I do indeed! Why, I haven't seen so
many men, to speak to, since--why, never in my life! And they are very
amusing--some of them. They like to come here--like it immensely. And
I don't wonder. I believe you'll do well to enlarge."
Then they plunged into a discussion of the winter's plans. The day
service department and its employment agency was to go on at the New
Union House, with Mrs. Jessup as manager; the present establishment was
to be run as a hotel and restaurant, and the depot for the cooked food
Mrs. Thorvald and her husband were installed by themselves in another
new venture; a small laundry outside the town. This place employed
several girls steadily, and the motor wagon found a new use between
meals, in collecting and delivering laundry parcels.
"It simplifies it a lot--to get the washing out of the place and the
girls off my mind," said Diantha. "Now I mean to buckle down and learn
the hotel business--thoroughly, and develop this cooked food delivery to
"Modest young lady," smiled her mother. "Where do you mean to stop--if
"I don't mean to stop till I'm dead," Diantha answered; "but I don't
mean to undertake any more trades, if that is what you mean. You know
what I'm after--to get 'housework' on a business basis, that's all; and
prove, prove, PROVE what a good business it is. There's the cleaning
branch--that's all started and going well in the day service. There's
the washing--that's simple and easy. Laundry work's no mystery. But
the food part is a big thing. It's an art, a science, a business, and a
handicraft. I had the handicraft to start with; I'm learning the
business; but I've got a lot to learn yet in the science and art of it."
"Don't do too much at once," her mother urged. "You've got to cater to
people as they are."
"I know it," the girl agreed. "They must be led, step by step--the
natural method. It's a big job, but not too big. Out of all the women
who have done housework for so many ages, surely it's not too much to
expect one to have a special genius for it!"
Her mother gazed at her with loving admiration.
"That's just what you have, Dina--a special genius for housework. I
wish there were more of you!"
"There are plenty of me, mother dear, only they haven't come out. As
soon as I show 'em how to make the thing pay, you'll find that we have a
big percentage of this kind of ability. It's all buried now in the
occasional 'perfect housekeeper.'
"But they won't leave their husbands, Dina."
"They don't need to," the girl answered cheerfully. "Some of them
aren't married yet; some of them have lost their husbands, and _some_ of
them"--she said this a little bitterly--"have husbands who will be
willing to let their wives grow."
"Not many, I'm afraid," said Mrs. Bell, also with some gloom.
Diantha lightened up again. "Anyhow, here you are, mother dear! And
for this year I propose that you assume the financial management of the
whole business at a salary of $1,000 'and found.' How does that suit
Mrs. Bell looked at her unbelievingly.
"You can't afford it, Dina!"
"Oh, yes, I can--you know I can, because you've got the accounts. I'm
going to make big money this year."
"But you'll need it. This hotel and restaurant business may not do
"Now, mother, you _know_ we're doing well. Look here!" And Diantha
produced her note-book.
"Here's the little laundry place; its fittings come to so much, wages so
much, collection and delivery so much, supplies so much--and already
enough patronage engaged to cover. It will be bigger in winter, a lot,
with transients, and this hotel to fall back on; ought to clear at least
a thousand a year. The service club don't pay me anything, of course;
that is for the girls' benefit; but the food delivery is doing better
than I dared hope."
Mrs. Bell knew the figures better than Diantha, even, and they went over
them carefully again. If the winter's patronage held on to equal the
summer's--and the many transient residents ought to increase it--they
would have an average of twenty families a week to provide for--one
The expenses were:
Food for 100 at $250 a week. Per capita. $600
per year $13,000
Labor--delivery man. $600
Head cook. $600
Two assistant cooks. $1,040
Three washers and packers. $1,560
Office girl. $520
Per year $4,320