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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesKathleen - Chapter 12
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Kathleen - Chapter 12 Post by :eniks Category :Long Stories Author :Christopher Morley Date :May 2012 Read :1966

Click below to download : Kathleen - Chapter 12 (Format : PDF)

Kathleen - Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII

It was a feverish and excited Eliza that Kathleen found in the kitchen when she tripped downstairs after the soup course. On a large platter the cook had built a kind of untidy thicket of parsley and chopped celery, eked out with lettuce leaves. Ambushed in this were lurking a number of very pallid and bluish-looking eggs, with a nondescript stuffing bulging out of them.

"I forgot to measure the yolks, Miss," wailed Eliza. "That's why the stuffing don't fit. Shall I throw a dash of rum on board to stiffen 'em up?"

In spite of her vexation, Kathleen could not help laughing. "No, no," she said. "We'll tidy up the nest a bit and send them upstairs."

"That's grand," said Eliza, watching Kathleen's quick fingers. "'Tis a beautiful comely hand you have, miss, one that it's a pleasure to admire."

"Now, Eliza," said Kathleen, "you must not shout up the dumb waiter so. I distinctly heard you cry out '_This plate's for the parson_!' as you sent up one of the dishes of soup."

"If you please, Miss," said Eliza. "That was because it was the plate I spilled a spoonful of pepper into, and I thought it had better go to the cloth than anywhere else. Miss Kathleen, I have something very urgent to say to you before them two counterfeiters upstairs commit any affidavits or sworn statements."

"You dish out the eggs, Eliza," said Kathleen, "and I'll send them up the dumb waiter. Quick, now! And where's your dessert? Is it ready?"

"All doing finely, Miss," answered Eliza, but as she opened the oven door her assurance collapsed. She drew out a cottage pudding, blackened and burnt to carbon.

"A great success," said the bogus cook, but holding it on the other side of her apron so that Kathleen could not see. "Here, I'll just shoot it up the shaft myself before it gets cold." She hurried into the pantry, whisked it into the dumb waiter before Kathleen could catch a glimpse, and sent it flying aloft.

"That smelt a little burnt, cook," said Kathleen.

"Just a wee bit crisp on one side, miss."

Kathleen was in the pantry, with her nose up the dumb-waiter shaft, sniffing the trail of the cottage pudding and wondering whether she ought to recall it for inspection, when Eliza, turning toward the back door, saw the gas-man on the threshold. The cook's mind moved rapidly in this emergency. She knew that if Priapus found himself face to face with Kathleen, dangerous exposures would follow at once.

"Mary," she whispered to the maid, who had just come down from upstairs, "run tell the Mistress the gas-man is here again. I'll send him down the cellar." And while Kathleen was still in the pantry and before the pseudo gas-man could demur, Eliza seized him by the coat and hurried him across the kitchen to the cellar door. She opened this and pointed downstairs. The bewildered gas-man disappeared down the steps and Eliza closed the door and turned the key.

"Now, Miss," said Eliza. "I have something very serious to say to you--"

Just at that moment she saw the clerical black of the Reverend Mr. Carter coming down the kitchen stairs.

"--and that is, we'd best get this fruit up without delay," and seizing a large bowl of apples, oranges, and bananas, she passed it to Kathleen and backed her into the pantry again. Kathleen unsuspectingly pushed the fruit up the dumb waiter and meanwhile it took no more than an instant for Eliza to take the curate by the arm, motion him to silence, and push him toward the cellar door.

"He's down there," she whispered, and Carter innocently followed his fellow Scorpion. Again Eliza closed the door and turned the key.

"Well, Eliza," said Kathleen, "I don't think you're much of a cook, but you're a willing worker."

"Miss Kathleen," said the cook, who was now more anxious than ever to cleanse her bosom of much perilous stuff, "are you very down on practical jokes?"

"Practical jokes? Why, yes, Eliza. I think they are the lowest form of humour. Good gracious! I do believe we've forgotten the coffee! Have you got it ready?"

"Yes, Miss; yes, Miss; right here," said Eliza, bustling to the stove. "But don't you think, miss, that a frank confession atones for a great deal?"

"Really, Eliza, you are the most priceless creature! I don't wonder Joe was taken with you! Hush! There's the front-door bell; what do you suppose that is?"

They both listened, Kathleen at the dumb-waiter shaft and Eliza at the kitchen door. Eliza started to say something, but Kathleen waved her to be quiet. A heavy step sounded on the stair, and the agitated Mary appeared, followed by a huge policeman. Eliza, of course, recognized the Iron Duke, but the gas-light and the disguise prevented the latter from knowing his fellow venturer.

"What on earth is the matter?" said Kathleen.

"Please, Miss," said the blue-coat, "your mother said there's a gas-man down here and I've been sent by headquarters to take him in charge. I think he's a sneak thief."

"There's no such person here, officer," said Kathleen.

Eliza still kept her sovereign wits about her. She advanced to the policeman, and whispering mysteriously "He's in here," took his sleeve and led him to the cellar door.

"He's down there," she repeated; "put the cuffs on him, quick!" She opened the door, and the doubtful policeman, hypnotized by her decision, stepped on to the cellar stairs. The door closed behind him, and again Eliza turned the key.

"What does all this mean?" demanded Kathleen, angrily. "Has everybody gone daft? Eliza, ever since you came into the house, there has been nothing but turmoil. I wish you would explain. Why have you sent the policeman into the cellar?"

"There's three dangerous counterfeiters down there, Miss," said Eliza. "I want to tell you the truth about this, Miss Kathleen, before that American gets down here--he's bound to be here soon. He's the worst of the lot."

"Open that door at once!" said Kathleen, stamping her foot. "I don't know what on earth you mean by counterfeiters, but if there are any down there, let's have them up, and see what they have to say."

The dining-room bell rang, and Mary instinctively hurried upstairs. At the same moment Blair ran down, three steps at a time, and bounded into the kitchen. He started when he saw Eliza.

"Are you all right, Miss Kent?" he asked, anxiously. "I've been so worried about you. Is that gas-man still here? I think I can smell gas escaping. Can I help in any way?"

"What you smell is a burnt cottage pudding," replied Kathleen. "There's a policeman in the cellar, I wish you'd call him up. I have a great mind to ask him to take Eliza in charge. I don't think she's quite right."

Blair looked at Eliza closely.

"I agree with you, Miss Kathleen," he said. "She looks like a bad egg to me--a devilled egg, in fact. Which is the cellar door, cook?"

Eliza saw her chance.

"Right here, sir," she said, taking hold of the door knob. She swung the door open.

"Looks very dark," said Blair. "I can't quite see the step. Where is it?"

Eliza, eager to add this last specimen to her anthology in the cellar, stepped forward to point out the stairway. With one lusty push Blair shoved her through the door, and banged it to. He turned the key in the lock and thrust it into his pocket.

"Miss Kent," he said, "I'm afraid you must think us all crazy. If you will only let me have five minutes' uninterrupted talk with you, I can explain these absurd misadventures. Please, won't you let me?"

"To tell you the truth," said Kathleen, "I'm hungry. I've had only a plate of soup, and that was--counterfeit. I think that mad woman intended it for the curate, for whom she had conceived a dislike."

"Let's go up and sit in the dining-room, and I can talk while you eat."

At that moment Mrs. Kent's voice sounded at the top of the stairs.

"Kathleen, dear, is everything all right?"

"Yes, Mother," called Kathleen in the same silvery soprano that set Blair's heart dancing.

"Your father wants Mr. Blair to come up to the drawing-room and talk to him. He wants to tell him about the Battle of Wolverhampton."

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