The Black Robe HTML version

The Order Of The Dishes
WHEN Miss Notman assumed the post of housekeeper in Lady Loring's
service, she was accurately described as "a competent and respectable
person"; and was praised, with perfect truth, for her incorruptible devotion to
the interests of her employers. On its weaker side, her character was
represented by the wearing of a youthful wig, and the erroneous conviction
that she still possessed a fine figure. The ruling idea in her narrow little mind
was the idea of her own dignity. Any offense offered in this direction
oppressed her memory for days together, and found its way outward in
speech to any human being whose attention she could secure.
At five o'clock, on the day which followed his introduction to Romayne, Father
Benwell sat drinking his coffee in the housekeeper's room--to all appearance
as much at his ease as if he had known Miss Notman from the remote days of
her childhood. A new contribution to the housekeeper's little library of
devotional works lay on the table; and bore silent witness to the means by
which he had made those first advances which had won him his present
position. Miss Notman's sense of dignity was doubly flattered. She had a
priest for her guest, and a new book with the reverend gentleman's
autograph inscribed on the title-page.
"Is your coffee to your liking, Father?"
"A little more sugar, if you please."
Miss Notman was proud of her hand, viewed as one of the meritorious details
of her figure. She took up the sugar-tongs with suavity and grace; she
dropped the sugar into the cup with a youthful pleasure in ministering to the
minor desires of her illustrious guest. "It is so good of you, Father, to honor
me in this way," she said--with the appearance of sixteen super-induced upon
the reality of sixty.
Father Benwell was an adept at moral disguises of all kinds. On this occasion
he wore the disguise of pastoral simplicity. "I am an idle old man at this hour
of the afternoon," he said. "I hope I am not keeping you from any household
"I generally enjoy my duties," Miss Notman answered. "To-day, they have not
been so agreeable as usual; it is a relief to me to have done with them. Even
my humble position has its trials."
Persons acquainted with Miss Notman's character, hearing these last words,
would have at once changed the subject. When she spoke of "her humble
position," she invariably referred to some offense offered to her dignity, and
she was invariably ready to state the grievance at full length. Ignorant of this