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A short story by George V. Hobart

You Should Worry About The Servants

Title:     You Should Worry About The Servants
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

When Peaches and I get tired of the Big Town--tired of its noises and hullabaloo; tired of being tagged by taxis as we cross a street; tired of watching grocers and butchers hoisting higher the highest cost of living--that's our cue to grab a choo-choo and breeze out to Uncle Peter Grant's farm and bungalow in the wilds of Westchester, which he calls Troolyrooral.

Just to even matters up Uncle Peter and his wife visit us from time to time in our amateur apartment in the Big Town.

Uncle Peter is a very stout old gentleman. When he squeezes into our little flat the walls act as if they were bow-legged.

Uncle Peter always goes through the folding doors sideways and every time he sits down the man in the apartment below us kicks because we move the piano so often.

Aunt Martha is Uncle Peter's wife and she weighs more and breathes oftener.

When the two of them visit our bird-cage at the same time the janitor has to go out and stand in front of the building with a view to catching it if it falls.

When we reached Troolyrooral we found that "Cousin" Elsie Schulz was also a visitor there.

"Cousin" Elsie is a sort of privileged character in the family, having lived with Aunt Martha for over twenty years as a sort of housekeeper.

They call her "Cousin Elsie" just to make it more difficult.

Three or four years ago Elsie married Gustave Bierbauer and quit her job.

"Cousin" Elsie believes that conversation was invented for her exclusive use, and the way she can grab a bundle of the English language and break it up is a caution.

Language is the same to Elsie as a syphon is to a highball--and that's a whole lot.

Two years after their marriage old Gustave stopped living so abruptly that the coroner had to sit on him.

The post mortem found out that Gustave had died from a rush of words to his brainpan.

The coroner also found, upon further examination, that all of these words had formerly belonged to Elsie, with the exception of a few which were once the property of Gustave's favorite bartender.

After Gustave's exit Aunt Martha tried to get Elsie back on her job, but the old Dutch had her eye on Herman Schulz, and finally married him.

So now every once in a while Elsie moseys over from Plainfield, N. J., where she lives with Herman, and proceeds to sew a lot of pillow slips and things for Aunt Martha.

Yesterday morning, while Peaches and I were at breakfast, Elsie meandered in, bearing in her hand a wedding invitation which Herman had forwarded to her from Plainfield.

Being, as I say, a privileged character, she does pretty much as she likes around the bungalooza.

Elsie read the invitation: "Mr. und Mrs. Rudolph Ganderkurds request der honor of your presence at der marriage of deir daughter, Verbena, to Galahad Schmalzenberger, at der home of der bride's parents, Plainfield, N. J. March Sixteenth. R. S. V. P."

"Vell," said Elsie, "I know der Ganderkurds and I know deir daughter, Verbena, und I know Galahad Schmalzenberger; he's a floorwalker in Bauerhaupt's grocery store, but I doan'd know vot it is dot R. S. V. P. yet!"

I gently kicked Peaches on the instep under the table, and said to Elsie, "Well, that is a new one on me. Are you sure it isn't B. & O. or the C. R. R. of N. J.? I've heard of those two railroads in New Jersey, but I never heard of the R. S. V. P."

For the first time in her life since she's been able to grab a sentence between her teeth and shake the pronouns out of it Elsie was phazed.

She kept looking at the invitation and saying to herself, "R. S. V. P.! Vot is it? I know der honor of your presence; I know der bride's parents, but I don't know R. S. V. P."

All that day Elsie wandered through the house muttering to herself, "R. S. V. P.! Vot is it? Is it some secret between der bride und groom? R. S. V. P.! It ain'd my initials, because dey begin mit E, S. Vot is dot R. S. V. P.? Vot is it? Vot is it?"

That evening we were all at dinner when Elsie rushed in with a cry of joy. "I got it!" she said. "I haf untied der meaning of dot R. S. V. P. It means Real Silver Vedding Presents!"

I was just about to drink a glass of water, so I changed my mind and nearly choked to death.

Peaches tried to say something, which resulted in a gurgle in her throat, while Uncle Peter fell off his chair and landed on the cat, which had never done him any harm.

Elsie's interpretation of that wedding invitation is going to set Herman Schulz back several dollars, or I'm not a foot high.

And maybe they don't have their troubles at Troolyrooral with the servant problem.

It's one hard problem, that--and nobody seems to get the right answer.

One morning later on Peaches and I were out on the porch drinking in the glorious air and chatting with Hep Hardy, who had come out to spend Sunday with us, when Aunt Martha came bustling out followed by Uncle Peter, who, in turn, was followed by Lizzie Joyce, their latest cook.

Lizzie wore a new lid, trimmed with prairie grass and field daisies, hanging like a shade over the left lamp; she had a grouchy looking grip in one hand and a green umbrella with black freckles in the other.

She was made up to catch the first train that sniffed into the station.

Aunt Martha whispered to us plaintively, "Lizzie has been here only two days and this makes the seventh time she has started for town."

Busy Lizzie took the center of the stage and scowled at her audience. "I'm takin' the next train for town, Mem!" she announced, with considerable bitterness.

Uncle Peter made a brave effort to scowl back at her, but she flashed her lanterns at him and he fell back two paces to the rear.

"What is it this time, Lizzie?" inquired Aunt Martha.

Lizzie put the grouchy grip down, folded her arms, and said, "Oh, I have me grievances!"

Uncle Peter sidled up to Aunt Martha and said in a hoarse whisper, "My dear, this shows a lack of firmness on your part. Now, leave everything to me and let me settle this obstreperous servant once and for all!"

Uncle Peter crossed over and got in the limelight with Lizzie.

"It occurs to me," he began in polished accents, "that this is an occasion upon which I should publicly point out to you the error of your ways, and send you back to your humble station with a better knowledge of your status in this household."

"S'cat!" said Lizzie, and Uncle Peter began to fish for his next line.

"I want you to understand," he went on, "that I pay you your wages!"

"Sure, if you didn't," was Lizzie's come-back, "I'd land on you good and hard, that I would. What else are you here for, you fathead?"

"Fathead!" echoed Uncle Peter in astonishment.

"Peter, leave her to me," pleaded Aunt Martha.

But Uncle Peter rushed blindly on to destruction. "Elizabeth," he said, sternly, "in view of your most unrefined and unladylike language it behooves me to reprimand you severely. I will, therefore----"

Then Lizzie and the green umbrella struck a Casey-at-the-bat pose and cut in: "G'wan away from me with your dime-novel talk or I'll place the back of me unladylike hand on your jowls!"

"Peter!" warningly exclaimed the perturbed Aunt Martha.

"Yes, Martha; you're right," the old gentleman said, turning hastily. "I must hurry and finish my correspondence before the morning mail goes," and he faded away.

"It isn't an easy matter to get servants out here," Aunt Martha whispered to us; "I must humor her. Now, Lizzie, what's wrong?"

"You told me, Mem, that I should have a room with a southern exposure," said the Queen of the Bungalow.

"And isn't the room as described?" inquired Aunt Martha.

"The room is all right, but I don't care for the exposure," said the Princess of Porkchops.

"Well, what's wrong?" insisted our patient auntie.

"Sure," said the Baroness of Bread-pudding, "the room is so exposed, Mem, that every breeze from the North Pole just nachully hikes in there and keeps me settin' up in bed all night shiverin' like I was shakin' dice for the drinks. When I want that kind of exercise I'll hire out as chambermaid in a cold-storage. I'm a cook, Mem, it's true, but I'm no relation to Doctor Cook, and I ain't eager to sleep in a room where even a Polar bear would be growlin' for a fur coat."

"Very well, Lizzie," said Aunt Martha, soothingly; "I'll have storm windows put on at once and extra quilts sent to the room, and a gas stove if you wish."

"All right, Mem," said the Countess of Cornbeef, removing the lid, "I'll stay; but keep that husband of yours with the woozy lingo out of the kitchen, because I'm a nervous woman--I am that!" and then the Duchess of Devilledkidneys got a strangle-hold on her green umbrella and ducked for the grub foundry.

Aunt Martha sighed and went in the house.

"Hep," I said; "this scene with Her Highness of Clamchowder ought to be an awful warning to you. No man should get married these days unless he's sure his wife can juggle the frying pan and take a fall out of an egg-beater. They've had eight cooks in eight days, and every time a new face comes in the kitchen the coal-scuttle screams with fright.

"You can see where they've worn a new trail across the lawn on the retreat to the depot.

"It's an awful thing, Hep! Our palates are weak from sampling different styles of mashed potatoes.

"We had one last week who answered roll-call when you yelled Phyllis.

"Isn't that a peach of a handle for a kitchen queen with a map like the Borough of The Bronx on a dark night?

"She came here well recommended--by herself. She said she knew how to cook backwards.

"We believed her after the first meal, because that's how she cooked it.

"Phyllis was a very inventive girl. She could cook anything on earth or in the waters underneath the earth, and she proved it by trying to mix tenpenny nails with the baked beans.

"When Phyllis found there was no shredded oats in the house for breakfast she changed the cover of the wash tub into sawdust and sprinkled it with the whisk-broom, chopped fine.

"It wasn't a half bad breakfast food of the home-made kind, but every time I took a drink of water the sawdust used to float up in my throat and tickle me.

"The first and only day she was with us Phyllis squandered two dollars worth of eggs trying to make a lemon meringue pie.

"She tried to be artistic with this, but one of the eggs was old and nervous and it slipped.

"Uncle Peter asked Phyllis if she could cook some Hungarian goulash and Phyllis screamed, 'No; my parents have been Swedes all their lives!' Then she ran him across the lawn with the carving knife.

"Aunt Martha went in the kitchen to ask what was for dinner and Phyllis got back at her, 'Im a woman, it is true, but I will show you that I can keep a secret!'

"When the meal came on the table we were compelled to keep the secret with her.

"It looked like Irish stew, tasted like clam chowder, and behaved like a bad boy.

"On the second day it suddenly occurred to Phyllis that she was working, so she handed in her resignation, handed Hank, the gardener, a jolt in his café department, handed out a lot of unnecessary talk, and left us flat.

"The next rebate we had in the kitchen was a colored man named James Buchanan Pendergrast.

"James was all there is and carry four. He was one of the most careful cooks that ever made faces at the roast beef.

"The evening he arrived we intended to have shad roe for dinner and James informed us that that was where he lived.

"Eight o'clock came and no dinner. Then Aunt Martha went in the kitchen to convince him that we were human beings with appetites.

"She found Careful James counting the roe to see if the fish dealer had sent the right number.

"He was up to 2,196,493 and still had a half pound to go.

"James left that night followed by shouts of approval from all present.

"I'm telling you all this, Hep, just to prove that Fate is kind while it delays your wedding until some genius invents an automatic cook made of aluminum and electricity."

Hep laughed and shook his head.

"The servant problem won't delay my wedding," he chortled; "if there wasn't a cook left in the world we wouldn't care; we're going to be vegetarians because we're going to live in the Garden of Eden."

"Tush!" I snickered.

"Tush, yourself!" said Hep.

"Oh, tush, both of you," said Peaches; "John said that very thing to me three weeks before we were married."

"Sure I did," I went back, "and we're still in the Garden, aren't we? Of course, if you want to sub-let part of it and have Hep and his bride roaming moon-struck through your strawberry beds, that's up to you!"

"Well," said friend wife, "being alone in the Garden of Eden is all right, but after you've been there three or four years there's a mild excitement in hearing a strange voice, even if it is that of a Serpent!"

Close the door, Delia, I feel a draft.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: You Should Worry About The Servants