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LIFE AMONG THE LOWLY            263
fectly scorned logic and reason in every shape, and always took refuge in intuitive certainty; and here she was per­fectly impregnable. No possible amount of talent, or au­thority, or explanation could ever make her believe that any other way was better than her own, or that the course she had pursued in the smallest matter could be in the least modified. This had been a conceded point with her old mistress, Marie's mother; and " Miss Marie," as Dinah always called her young mistress, even after her marriage, found it easier to submit than contend ; and so Dinah had ruled supreme. This was the easier, in that she was perfect mistress of that diplomatic art which unites the utmost subservience of maimer with the utmost inflexibility as to measure.
Dinah was mistress of the whole art and mystery of ex­cuse-making, in all its branches. Indeed, it was an axiom with her that the cook can do no wrong; and a cook in a Southern kitchen finds abundance of heads and shoulders on which to lay off every sin and frailty, so as to maintain her own immaculateness entire. If any part of the dinner was a failure, there were fifty indisputably good reasons for it; and it was the fault undeniably of fifty other peo­ple, whom Dinah berated with unsparing zeal.
But it was very seldom that there was any failure in-Dinah's last results. Though her mode of doing every­thing was peculiarly meandering and circuitous, and with­out any sort of calculation as to time and place, — though her kitchen generally looked as if it had been arranged by a hurricane blowing through it, and she had about as many places for each cooking utensil as there were days in the year, — yet, if one would have patience to wait her own good time, up would come her dinner in perfect order, and in a style of preparation with which an epicure could find no fault.
It was now the season of incipient preparation for din­ner. Dinah, who required large intervals of reflection and repose, and was studious of ease in all her arrange-