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The gollywog put a smiling face and a clean cap halfway into the room and said:

"Please, ma'am, cook wishes to know if she can speak to you, and if you please there is no . . ."

There tumbled out a list of household necessities, which vexed me absurdly. But the writing-chair was comfortable and helped me through the narrative. The table was alluring, and I wanted to be alone. Cook arrived before Mary had finished, and then the monologue became a duet.

"There's not more than half a dozen glasses altogether, and I'm sure I don't know what to do about the teapot. There's only one tray . . ."

"And as for the cooking utensils, well, I never see such a lot. And that dirty! The kitchen dresser has never been cleaned out since the flood, I should think. Stuffed up with dirty cloths and broken crockery. As for the kitchen table, there's knives without handles and forks without prongs; not a shape that isn't dented; the big fish kettle's got a hole in it as big as your 'and, and the others ain't fit to use. The pastry board's broke . . ."

I wanted to stop my ears and tell them to get out. I had asked for competent servants, and understood that competent servants bought or hired whatever was necessary for their work. That was the way things were managed at home. But then my cook had been with me for eight years and my housemaid for eleven. They knew my ways, and