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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 14. I Favor Permanency In Office
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 14. I Favor Permanency In Office Post by :best4you Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2615

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 14. I Favor Permanency In Office

XIV. I FAVOR PERMANENCY IN OFFICE

As soon as my secretary had gone I went into her room and looked for my friend Vespa. I found him on the floor, quite dead, but not demolished. Picking him up and carrying him to my study, I carefully gummed him to a card. Under his motionless form I wrote, "The good services of this friend I shall ever keep in grateful remembrance." Then I pinned the card to the wall between two bookcases.

During the rest of that day I found myself in a state of unreasonable exaltation. Several times I put to myself the questions: Why is it that you feel so cheerful and so gay? Why have you the inclination to whistle and to dance in your room? Why do you light a cigar, and let it go out through forgetfulness? Why do you answer your grandmother at random, and feel an inclination to take a long walk by yourself, although you know there are people invited to an afternoon tea?

I was not able to give an adequate answer to these questions, nor did I very much care to. I knew that my high spirits were caused by the discoveries the good Vespa had enabled me to make, and the fact that this reason could not be proved adequate did not trouble me at all; but prudence and a regard for my own interests made it very plain to me that other people should not know I had been exalted, and how. If I desired my nun to continue as my secretary, I must not let any one know that I cared in the least to hear her voice, or to have the front of her bonnet turned towards me.

At dinner, that day, my grandmother remarked to me:--

"Are you still satisfied with the House of Martha's sister? Does she do your work as you wish to have it done?"

I leaned back in my chair, and answered with deliberation:--

"Yes, I think she will do very well, and that after more practice she will do better. As it is, she is industrious and attentive. I place great stress upon that point, for I do not like to repeat my sentences; but she has a quick ear, and catches every word."

"Then," asked my grandmother, "you do not wish to make a change at present?"

"Oh, no," I said; "it would be very annoying to begin again with a new amanuensis. I am getting accustomed to this person, and that is a very important matter with me. So I do not wish to make any change so long as this sister does her work properly."

"I must say," resumed my grandmother, after a little pause, in which she seemed to be considering the subject, "that I was not altogether in favor of that young woman taking the position of your secretary. She can have had but little experience, and I thought that an older and steadier person would answer your purpose much better; but this one was unemployed at the time, and wished very much to do literary work; and as the institution needed the money you would pay, which would probably amount to a considerable sum if your book should be a long one, and as you were in a great hurry, and might engage some one from the city if one of the Martha sisters were not immediately available, Mother Anastasia and I concluded that it would be well to send this young person until one of the older sisters, competent for the work, should be disengaged. I thought you would be very anxious to have this change made as soon as possible, so that you might feel that you had a permanent secretary."

"Oh, no," said I, trying very hard not to appear too much in earnest. "This person is very steady, and there is a certain advantage in her being young, without much experience as a secretary. I wish any one who writes for me to work in my way; and if such a person has been accustomed to work in other people's ways, annoyance and interruption must surely result, and that I wish very much to avoid. A secretary should be a mere writing-machine, and I do not believe an elderly person could be that. She would be sure to have notions how my work should or should not be done, and in some way or other would make those notions evident."

"I don't quite agree with you," said my grandmother, "but of course you know your own business better than I do; and I suppose, after all, it doesn't make much difference whether the sister is young or not. They all dress alike, and all look ugly alike. I don't suppose there would be anything attractive about the Venus de Milo, if she wore a coal-scuttle bonnet and a gray woolen shawl."

"No," I answered, "especially if she kept the opening of her coal-scuttle turned down over her paper, as if she were about to empty coals upon it."

"That's very proper," said my grandmother, speaking a little more briskly. "All she has to do is to keep her eyes on her work, and I suppose, from what you say, that the flaps of her bonnet do not interfere with her keeping her ears on you. But if at any time you desire to make a change, all you have to do is to let me know, and I can easily arrange the matter."

I promised that I would certainly let her know in case I had such a desire.

That evening Walkirk remarked to me that he thought nothing could be more satisfactory for me than to have on tap, so to speak, an institution like the House of Martha, from which I could draw a secretary whenever I wanted one, and keep her for as long or as short a time as pleased me; and to have this supply in the immediate neighborhood was an extraordinary advantage.

I agreed that the arrangement was a very good one; and I think he was about to ask some questions in regard to my nun, but I began my recital, and cut off any further conversation on the subject.

My monologue was rather disjointed that evening, for my mind was occupied with other things, or, more strictly speaking, another thing. I felt quite sure, however, that Walkirk did not notice my preoccupation, for he gave the same earnest and interested attention to my descriptions which he had always shown, and which made him such an agreeable and valuable listener. Indeed, his manner put me at my ease, because, on account of the wandering of my mind, his general expression indicated that, if I found it necessary to pause in order that I might arrange what I should say next, he was very glad of the opportunity thus given him to reflect upon what I had just said. He was an admirable listener.

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