This is too awful, said Sophie; a strike of servants at a moment like this, with the Duke of Syria staying in the house. Something must be done immediately. Quick, finish my hair and Ill go and see what I can do to bring them round.
I cant finish your hair, madame, said Richardson quietly, but with immense decision. I belong to the union and I cant do another half-minutes work till the strike is settled. Im sorry to be disobliging.
But this is inhuman! exclaimed Sophie tragically; Ive always been a model mistress and Ive refused to employ any but union servants, and this is the result. I cant finish my hair myself; I dont know how to. What am I to do? Its wicked!
Wicked is the word, said Richardson; Im a good Conservative, and Ive no patience with this Socialist foolery, asking your pardon. Its tyranny, thats what it is, all along the line, but Ive my living to make, same as other people, and Ive got to belong to the union. I couldnt touch another hairpin without a strike permit, not if you was to double my wages.
The door burst open and Catherine Malsom raged into the room.
Heres a nice affair, she screamed, a strike of household servants without a moments warning, and Im left like this! I cant appear in public in this condition.
After a very hasty scrutiny Sophie assured her that she could not.
Have they all struck? she asked her maid.
Not the kitchen staff, said Richardson, they belong to a different union.
Dinner at least will be assured, said Sophie, that is something to be thankful for.
Dinner! snorted Catherine, what on earth is the good of dinner when none of us will be able to appear at it? Look at your hairand look at me! or rather, dont.
I know its difficult to manage without a maid; cant your husband be any help to you? asked Sophie despairingly.
Henry? Hes in worse case than any of us. His man is the only person who really understands that ridiculous new-fangled Turkish bath that he insists on taking with him everywhere.
Surely he could do without a Turkish bath for one evening, said Sophie; I cant appear without hair, but a Turkish bath is a luxury.
My good woman, said Catherine, speaking with a fearful intensity, Henry was in the bath when the strike started. In it, do you understand? Hes there now.
Cant he get out?
He doesnt know how to. Every time he pulls the lever marked release he only releases hot steam. There are two kinds of steam in the bath, bearable and scarcely bearable; he has released them both. By this time Im probably a widow.
I simply cant send away Gaspare, wailed Sophie; I should never be able to secure another omelette specialist.
Any difficulty that I may experience in securing another husband is of course a trifle beneath any ones consideration, said Catherine bitterly.
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