veranilda marthorpe had trouble finding good help.
so although jenny wilks, her maid of all work, was not the sharpest pin in the cushion, veranilda kept her on because she was at least respectful and never complained, about her wages or anything else.
veranilda was surprised one morning when jenny asked for a day off.
"a day off? whatever for?" veranilda had a sudden vague idea that jenny - who never spoke of herself and was of course never encouraged to do so - might have a sick or dying relative somewhere.
"i would just like to have one, ma'am."
veranilda laughed, somewhat relieved. "but what are you going to do on this so-called ' day off' ?"
"i don't know, ma'am, but i would like one."
veranilda laughed again. she looked at the grandfather clock in the shadows of the drawing room. it showed eleven o'clock.
"i will tell you what. you may have a half day off - for whatever good it may do you. you may leave at noon. but be back in time to help cook prepare tea." veranilda looked at jenny with her best "humorous" expression. "do you think that will suit you ?" she almost added, sarcastically, "miss", but thought better of it.
jenny hesitated. "yes, ma'm. thank you, ma'am."
much as veranilda had suspected, jenny did not have a clear idea of what she wanted to do with her time off.
she walked to a little park about ten minutes walk from the marthorpe house and took a seat on a bench facing the street.
a few people walked by, but not many, for it was a cold day.
none of the people who passed by spoke to jenny, or she to them.
after a while she judged it must be time to return to help mrs jennings prepare tea.
a military looking older man with thick glasses and a handlebar mustache was walking by, and jenny politely enquired of him what time it was.
he looked at her curiously, took a watch out of his vest pocket and told her it was getting on to quarter past three.
jenny thanked him, and after allowing him time to move along so that he might not imagine she was following him, got up and returned to the house.
she never asked mrs marthorpe for time off again.
that night she had the most peaceful sleep she had had for years, untroubled by strange dreams.