the stove with a huge wooden spoon raised to his lips. He was sampling his wife’s fare. Reginald nodded approvingly and replaced the spoon on the small ceramic holder.
“ Mr. Charles, sir, I need to talk to you, if you have a moment.”
Reginald turned around and saw Figgs.
“ Figgs! Yes, come right in here and have a seat. I wanted to have a word with you also. I have a little something for you,” he hinted wondering how Figgs would take the news of getting an unasked for raise in salary. He smiled as he turned down the flame. Figgs sat at the table in one of the high-backed wooden chairs. Reginald washed off his hands and dried them with a small, striped kitchen towel. He replaced it on the towel rack and walked over to join Figgs.
He pulled out the chair finally getting his first clear look at the affable caretaker. Figgs’ appearance shocked him. He looked ill – or tired. Figgs’ weight didn’t seem to be affected so perhaps it wasn’t his health that was the problem. Maybe it was a member of his family that was suffering. Tending to a family member’s health takes its toll – more so than looking after a big, drafty mansion. Reginald hoped it wasn’t his wife.
“ What is it, sir?” Figgs asked solemnly. “Have I done something wrong?”
It was so like Figgs to be concerned about his job performance. Figgs was one of those people that had a work ethic a mile wide.
“ When have you ever disappointed anyone on that front? You do a perfectly marvelous job of maintaining this place and that’s why I’m giving you this.”
Reginald withdrew a letter-sized envelope and attempted to hand it to Figgs. Figgs seemed reluctant to touch it. He figured he’d help him along, and placed it in his hand. Figgs’ fingers grasped the envelope in the same manner a Venus fly-trap secures a meal. He stared at it unsure of what it contained. He opened the flap and looked inside. When he saw the check, he shook his head from side-to-side. His shoulders drooped – his hands fell heavily into his lap.
“ I don’t deserve this, sir. I don’t!”
Figgs’ hands started to tremble. Reginald was startled – he hadn’t been expecting this reaction. What was upsetting him? Maybe it the same reason that Figgs hadn’t been sleeping? It was obviously a problem that overshadowed everything.
Figgs pushed the envelope back towards Reginald.
“ I can’t, sir! I can’t under the circumstances … ”
Suddenly, he collapsed forward on the table – his head resting on his forearms. From the way his body was shaking, it appeared he was crying, but about what? Reginald thought he had it. Arthur’s death. That must be what was troubling him.
Reginald pushed the envelope back under Figgs hand. He skootched his chair forward – dragging it over the tiled floor. He patted Figgs on his back, in an attempt to calm him down. He knew Figgs had deeply respected Arthur Perry, but had never expected this kind of emotion. And why now? When Reginald had last seen him, he’d been fine.
“ There, there, William. Losing Arthur Perry was a shock to us all. I quite understand your attachment to him. There’ll never be another like him.”
Figgs took his head off his arm and looked up at him. “You think this is about Mr. Perry? Well, maybe it is … maybe it is,” he muttered with a far-off look in his eyes glistening with tears. ” He wiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “I’ve failed him.”
Reginald studied his face trying to discern the answer to the riddle of how Figgs could possibly have failed Arthur. After a moment, he decided that the quickest way to find out was to simply ask.
“ I don’t understand. What do you mean failed him ?”
“ It means I quit. I can no longer do the job that Mr. Perry hired me to do. This is the first time in my life that I ever quit anything, but …” Figgs said reaching out and putting the open palm of one