Penelope's English Experiences
Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 1 out of 2
This etext was prepared by Les Bowler, St. Ives, Dorset.
Penelope's English Experiences
being extracts from the commonplace book of Penelope Hamilton
by Kate Douglas Wiggin.
To my Boston friend Salemina.
No Anglomaniac, but a true Briton.
Part First--In Town.
I. The weekly bill.
II. The powdered footman smiles.
III. Eggs a la coque.
IV. The English sense of humour.
V. A Hyde Park Sunday.
VI. The English Park Lover.
VII. A ducal tea-party.
VIII. Tuppenny travels in London.
IX. A Table of Kindred and Affinity.
X. Apropos of advertisements.
XI. The ball on the opposite side.
XII. Patricia makes her debut.
XIII. A Penelope secret.
XIV. Love and lavender.
Part Second--In the Country.
XV. Penelope dreams.
XVI. The decay of Romance.
XVII. Short stops and long bills.
XVIII. I meet Mrs. Bobby.
XIX. The heart of the artist.
XX. A canticle to Jane.
XXI. I remember, I remember.
XXII. Comfort Cottage.
XXIII. Tea served here.
XXIV. An unlicensed victualler.
XXV. Et ego in Arcadia vixit.
Part First--In Town.
Chapter I. The weekly bill.
10 Dovermarle Street.
Here we are in London again,--Francesca, Salemina, and I. Salemina
is a philanthropist of the Boston philanthropists limited. I am an
artist. Francesca is- It is very difficult to label Francesca.
She is, at her present stage of development, just a nice girl; that
is about all: the sense of humanity hasn't dawned upon her yet; she
is even unaware that personal responsibility for the universe has
come into vogue, and so she is happy.
Francesca is short of twenty years old, Salemina short of forty, I
short of thirty. Francesca is in love, Salemina never has been in
love, I never shall be in love. Francesca is rich, Salemina is
well-to-do, I am poor. There we are in a nutshell.
We are not only in London again, but we are again in Smith's private
hotel; one of those deliciously comfortable and ensnaring hostelries
in Mayfair which one enters as a solvent human being, and which one
leaves as a bankrupt, no matter what may be the number of ciphers on
one's letter of credit; since the greater one's apparent supply of
wealth, the greater the demand made upon it. I never stop long in
London without determining to give up my art for a private hotel.
There must be millions in it, but I fear I lack some of the
essential qualifications for success. I never could have the heart,
for example, to charge a struggling young genius eight shillings a
week for two candles, and then eight shillings the next week for the
same two candles, which the struggling young genius, by dint of
vigorous economy, had managed to preserve to a decent height. No, I
could never do it, not even if I were certain that she would
squander the sixteen shillings in Bond Street fripperies instead of
laying them up against the rainy day.
It is Salemina who always unsnarls the weekly bill. Francesca
spends an evening or two with it, first of all, because, since she
is so young, we think it good mental-training for her, and not that
she ever accomplishes any results worth mentioning. She begins by
making three columns headed respectively F., S., and P. These
initials stand for Francesca, Salemina, and Penelope, but they
resemble the signs for pounds, shillings, and pence so perilously
that they introduce an added distraction.
She then places in each column the items in which we are all equal,
such as rooms, attendance, fires, and lights. Then come the extras,
which are different for each person: more ale for one, more hot
baths for another; more carriages for one, more lemon squashes for
another. Francesca's column is principally filled with carriages
and lemon squashes. You would fancy her whole time was spent in
driving and drinking, if you judged her merely by this weekly
statement at the hotel.
When she has reached the point of dividing the whole bill into three
parts, so that each person may know what is her share, she adds the
three together, expecting, not unnaturally, to get the total amount
of the bill. Not at all. She never comes within thirty shillings
of the desired amount, and she is often three or four guineas to the
good or to the bad. One of her difficulties lies in her inability
to remember that in English money it makes a difference where you
place a figure, whether, in the pound, shilling, or pence column.
Having been educated on the theory that a six is a six the world
over, she charged me with sixty shillings' worth of Apollinaris in
one week. I pounced on the error, and found that she had jotted
down each pint in the shilling instead of in the pence column.
After Francesca had broken ground on the bill in this way, Salemina,
on the next leisure evening, draws a large armchair under the lamp
and puts on her eye-glasses. We perch on either arm, and, after
identifying our own extras, we summon the butler to identify his.
There are a good many that belong to him or to the landlady; of that
fact we are always convinced before he proves to the contrary. We
can never see (until he makes us see) why the breakfasts on the 8th
should be four shillings each because we had strawberries, if on the
8th we find strawberries charged in the luncheon column and also in
the column of desserts and ices. And then there are the peripatetic
lemon squashes. Dawson calls them 'still' lemon squashes because
they are made with water, not with soda or seltzer or vichy, but
they are particularly badly named. 'Still' forsooth! when one of
them will leap from place to place, appearing now in the column of
mineral waters and now in the spirits, now in the suppers, and again
in the sundries. We might as well drink Chablis or Pommery by the
time one of these still squashes has ceased wandering, and charging
itself at each station. The force of Dawson's intellect is such
that he makes all this moral turbidity as clear as crystal while he
remains in evidence. His bodily presence has a kind of illuminating
power, and all the errors that we fancy we have found he traces to
their original source, which is always in our suspicious and
inexperienced minds. As he leaves the room he points out some proof
of unexampled magnanimity on the part of the hotel; as, for
instance, the fact that the management has not charged a penny for
sending up Miss Monroe's breakfast trays. Francesca impulsively
presses two shillings into his honest hand and remembers afterwards
that only one breakfast was served in our bedrooms during that
particular week, and that it was mine, not hers.
The Paid Out column is another source of great anxiety. Francesca
is a person who is always buying things unexpectedly and sending
them home C.O.D.; always taking a cab and having it paid at the
house; always sending telegrams and messages by hansom, and notes by
I should think, were England on the brink of a war, that the Prime
Minister might expect in his office something of the same hubbub,
uproar, and excitement that Francesca manages to evolve in this
private hotel. Naturally she cannot remember her expenditures, or
extravagances, or complications of movement for a period of seven
days; and when she attacks the Paid Out column she exclaims in a
frenzy, 'Just look at this! On the 11th they say they paid out
three shillings in telegrams, and I was at Maidenhead!' Then
because we love her and cannot bear to see her charming forehead
wrinkled, we approach from our respective corners, and the
conversation is something like this:-
Salemina. "You were not at Maidenhead on the 11th, Francesca; it
was the 12th."
Francesca. "Oh! so it was; but I sent no telegrams on the 11th."
Penelope. "Wasn't that the day you wired Mr. Drayton that you
couldn't go to the Zoo?"
Francesca. "Oh yes, so I did: and to Mr. Godolphin that I could.
I remember now; but that's only two."
Salemina. "How about the hairdresser whom you stopped coming from
Francesca. "Yes, she's the third, that's all right then; but what
in the world is this twelve shillings?"
Penelope. "The foolish amber beads you were persuaded into buying
in the Burlington Arcade?"
Francesca. "No, those were seven shillings, and they are splitting
Salemina. "Those soaps and sachets you bought on the way home the
day that you left your purse in the cab?"
Francesca. "No; they were only five shillings. Oh, perhaps they
lumped the two things; if seven and five are twelve, then that is
just what they did. (Here she takes a pencil.) Yes, they are
twelve, so that's right; what a comfort! Now here's two and six on
the 13th. That was yesterday, and I can always remember yesterdays;
they are my strong point. I didn't spend a penny yesterday; oh yes!
I did pay half a crown for a potted plant, but it was not two and
six, and it was a half-crown because it was the first time I had
seen one and I took particular notice. I'll speak to Dawson about
it, but it will make no difference. Nobody but an expert English
accountant could find a flaw in one of these bills and prove his
By this time we have agreed that the weekly bill as a whole is
substantially correct, and all that Salemina has to do is to
estimate our several shares in it; so Francesca and I say good night
and leave her toiling like Cicero in his retirement at Tusculum. By
midnight she has generally brought the account to a point where a
half-hour's fresh attention in the early morning will finish it.
Not that she makes it come out right to a penny. She has been
treasurer of the Boston Band of Benevolence, of the Saturday Morning
Sloyd Circle, of the Club for the Reception of Russian Refugees, and
of the Society for the Brooding of Buddhism; but none of these
organisations carries on its existence by means of pounds,
shillings, and pence, or Salemina's resignation would have been
requested long ago. However, we are not disposed to be captious; we
are too glad to get rid of the bill. If our united thirds make four
or five shillings in excess, we divide them equally; if it comes the
other way about, we make it up in the same manner; always meeting
the sneers of masculine critics with Dr. Holmes's remark that a
faculty for numbers is a sort of detached-lever arrangement that can
be put into a mighty poor watch.
Chapter II. The powdered footman smiles.
Salemina is so English! I can't think how she manages. She had not
been an hour on British soil before she asked a servant to fetch in
some coals and mend the fire; she followed this Anglicism by a
request for a grilled chop, 'a grilled, chump chop, waiter, please,'
and so on from triumph to triumph. She now discourses of methylated
spirits as if she had never in her life heard of alcohol, and all
the English equivalents for Americanisms are ready for use on the
tip of her tongue. She says 'conserv't'ry' and 'observ't'ry'; she
calls the chambermaid 'Mairy,' which is infinitely softer, to be
sure, than the American 'Mary,' with its over-long a; she ejaculates
'Quite so!' in all the pauses of conversation, and talks of smoke-
rooms, and camisoles, and luggage-vans, and slip-bodies, and trams,
and mangling, and goffering. She also eats jam for breakfast as if
she had been reared on it, when every one knows that the average
American has to contract the jam habit by patient and continuous
This instantaneous assimilation of English customs does not seem to
be affectation on Salemina's part; nor will I wrong her by fancying
that she went through a course of training before she left Boston.
From the moment she landed you could see that her foot was on her
native heath. She inhaled the fog with a sense of intoxication that
the east winds of New England had never given her, and a great throb
of patriotism swelled in her breast when she first met the Princess
of Wales in Hyde Park.
As for me, I get on charmingly with the English nobility and
sufficiently well with the gentry, but the upper servants strike
terror to my soul. There is something awe-inspiring to me about an
English butler. If they would only put him in livery, or make him
wear a silver badge; anything, in short, to temper his pride and
prevent one from mistaking him for the master of the house or the
bishop within his gates. When I call upon Lady DeWolfe, I say to
myself impressively, as I go up the steps: 'You are as good as a
butler, as well born and well bred as a butler, even more
intelligent than a butler. Now, simply because he has an
unapproachable haughtiness of demeanour, which you can respectfully
admire, but can never hope to imitate, do not cower beneath the
polar light of his eye; assert yourself; be a woman; be an American
citizen!' All in vain. The moment the door opens I ask for Lady
DeWolfe in so timid a tone that I know Parker thinks me the parlour-
maid's sister who has rung the visitors' bell by mistake. If my
lady is within, I follow Parker to the drawing-room, my knees
shaking under me at the prospect of committing some solecism in his
sight. Lady DeWolfe's husband has been noble only four months, and
Parker of course knows it, and perhaps affects even greater hauteur
to divert the attention of the vulgar commoner from the newness of
Dawson, our butler at Smith's private hotel, wields the same
blighting influence on our spirits, accustomed to the soft
solicitations of the negro waiter or the comfortable indifference of
the free-born American. We never indulge in ordinary democratic or
frivolous conversation when Dawson is serving us at dinner. We
'talk up' to him so far as we are able, and before we utter any
remark we inquire mentally whether he is likely to think it good
form. Accordingly, I maintain throughout dinner a lofty height of
aristocratic elegance that impresses even the impassive Dawson,
towards whom it is solely directed. To the amazement and amusement
of Salemina (who always takes my cheerful inanities at their face
value), I give an hypothetical account of my afternoon engagements,
interlarding it so thickly with countesses and marchionesses and
lords and honourables that though Dawson has passed soup to
duchesses, and scarcely ever handed a plate to anything less than a
baroness, he dilutes the customary scorn of his glance, and makes it
two parts condescending approval as it rests on me, Penelope
Hamilton, of the great American working class (unlimited).
Apropos of the servants, it seems to me that the British footman has
relaxed a trifle since we were last here; or is it possible that he
reaches the height of his immobility at the height of the London
season, and as it declines does he decline and become flesh? At all
events, I have twice seen a footman change his weight from one leg
to the other, as he stood at a shop entrance with his lady's mantle
over his arm; twice have I seen one stroke his chin, and several
times have I observed others, during the month of July, conduct
themselves in many respects like animate objects with vital organs.
Lest this incendiary statement be challenged, levelled as it is at
an institution whose stability and order are but feebly represented
by the eternal march of the stars in their courses, I hasten to
explain that in none of these cases cited was it a powdered footman
who (to use a Delsartean expression) withdrew will from his body and
devitalised it before the public eye. I have observed that the
powdered personage has much greater control over his muscles than
the ordinary footman with human hair, and is infinitely his superior
in rigidity. Dawson tells me confidentially that if a footman
smiles there is little chance of his rising in the world. He says a
sense of humour is absolutely fatal in that calling, and that he has
discharged many a good footman because of an intelligent and
I tremble to think of what the powdered footman may become when he
unbends in the bosom of the family. When, in the privacy of his own
apartments, the powder is washed off, the canary-seed pads removed
from his aristocratic calves, and his scarlet and buff magnificence
exchanged for a simple neglige, I should think he might be guilty of
almost any indiscretion or violence. I for one would never consent
to be the wife and children of a powdered footman, and receive him
in his moments of reaction.
Chapter III. Eggs a la coque.
Is it to my credit, or to my eternal dishonour that I once made a
powdered footman smile, and that, too, when he was handing a
buttered muffin to an earl's daughter?
It was while we were paying a visit at Marjorimallow Hall, Sir Owen
and Lady Marjorimallow's place in Surrey. This was to be our first
appearance in an English country house, and we made elaborate
preparations. Only our freshest toilettes were packed, and these
were arranged in our trunks with the sole view of impressing the
lady's-maid who should unpack them. We each purchased dressing-
cases and new fittings, Francesca's being of sterling silver,
Salemina's of triple plate, and mine of celluloid, as befitted our
several fortunes. Salemina read up on English politics; Francesca
practised a new way of dressing her hair; and I made up a portfolio
of sketches. We counted, therefore, on representing American
letters, beauty, and art to that portion of the great English public
staying at Marjorimallow Hall. (I must interject a parenthesis here
to the effect that matters did not move precisely as we expected;
for at table, where most of our time was passed, Francesca had for a
neighbour a scientist, who asked her plump whether the religion of
the American Indian was or was not a pure theism; Salemina's partner
objected to the word 'politics' in the mouth of a woman; while my
attendant squire adored a good bright-coloured chromo. But this is
Three days before our departure, I remarked at the breakfast-table,
Dawson being absent: "My dear girls, you are aware that we have
ordered fried eggs, scrambled eggs, buttered eggs, and poached eggs
ever since we came to Dovermarle Street, simply because we do not
know how to eat boiled eggs prettily from the shell, English
fashion, and cannot break them into a cup or a glass, American
fashion, on account of the effect upon Dawson. Now there will
certainly be boiled eggs at Marjorimallow Hall, and we cannot refuse
them morning after morning; it will be cowardly (which is
unpleasant), and it will be remarked (which is worse). Eating them
minced in an egg-cup, in a baronial hall, with the remains of a
drawbridge in the grounds, is equally impossible; if we do that,
Lady Marjorimallow will be having our luggage examined, to see if we
carry wigwams and war-whoops about with us. No, it is clearly
necessary that we master the gentle art of eating eggs tidily and
daintily from the shell. I have seen English women--very dull ones,
too--do it without apparent effort; I have even seen an English
infant do it, and that without soiling her apron, or, as Salemina
would say, 'messing her pinafore.' I propose, therefore, that we
order soft-boiled eggs daily; that we send Dawson from the room
directly breakfast is served; and that then and there we have a
class for opening eggs, lowest grade, object method. Any person who
cuts the shell badly, or permits the egg to leak over the rim, or
allows yellow dabs on the plate, or upsets the cup, or stains her
fingers, shall be fined 'tuppence' and locked into her bedroom for
The first morning we were all in the bedroom together, and, there
being no blameless person to collect fines, the wildest civil
On the second day Salemina and I improved slightly, but Francesca
had passed a sleepless night, and her hand trembled (the love-letter
mail had come in from America). We were obliged to tell her, as we
collected 'tuppence' twice on the same egg, that she must either
remain at home, or take an oilcloth pinafore to Marjorimallow Hall.
But 'ease is the lovely result of forgotten toil,' and it is only a
question of time and desire with Americans, we are so clever. Other
nations have to be trained from birth; but as we need only an ounce
of training where they need a pound, we can afford to procrastinate.
Sometimes we procrastinate too long, but that is a trifle. On the
third morning success crowned our efforts. Salemina smiled, and I
told an anecdote, during the operation, although my egg was cracked
in the boiling, and I question if the Queen's favourite maid-of-
honour could have managed it prettily. Accordingly, when eggs were
brought to the breakfast-table at Marjorimallow Hall, we were only
slightly nervous. Francesca was at the far end of the long table,
and I do not know how she fared, but from various Anglicisms that
Salemina dropped, as she chatted with the Queen's Counsel on her
left, I could see that her nerve was steady and circulation free.
We exchanged glances (there was the mistake!), and with an
embarrassed laugh she struck her egg a hasty blow.
Her egg-cup slipped and lurched; a top fraction of the egg flew in
the direction of the Q.C., and the remaining portion oozed, in
yellow confusion, rapidly into her plate. Alas for that past
mistress of elegant dignity, Salemina! If I had been at Her
Majesty's table, I should have smiled, even if I had gone to the
Tower the next moment; but as it was, I became hysterical. My
neighbour, a portly member of Parliament, looked amazed, Salemina
grew scarlet, the situation was charged with danger; and, rapidly
viewing the various exits, I chose the humorous one, and told as
picturesquely as possible the whole story of our school of egg-
opening in Dovermarle Street, the highly arduous and encouraging
rehearsals conducted there, and the stupendous failure incident to
our first public appearance. Sir Owen led the good-natured laughter
and applause; lords and ladies, Q.C.'s and M.P.'s joined in with a
will; poor Salemina raised her drooping head, opened and ate a
second egg with the repose of a Vere de Vere--and the footman
Chapter IV. The English sense of humour.
I do not see why we hear that the Englishman is deficient in a sense
of humour. His jokes may not be a matter of daily food to him, as
they are to the American; he may not love whimsicality with the same
passion, nor inhale the aroma of a witticism with as keen a relish;
but he likes fun whenever he sees it, and he sees it as often as
most people. It may be that we find the Englishman more receptive
to our bits of feminine nonsense just now, simply because this is
the day of the American woman in London, and, having been assured
that she is an entertaining personage, young John Bull is willing to
take it for granted so long as she does not try to marry him, and
even this pleasure he will allow her on occasion,--if well paid for
The longer I live, the more I feel it an absurdity to label nations
with national traits, and then endeavour to make individuals conform
to the required standard. It is possible, I suppose, to draw
certain broad distinctions, though even these are subject to change;
but the habit of generalising from one particular, that mainstay of
the cheap and obvious essayist, has rooted many fictions in the
public mind. Nothing, for instance, can blot from my memory the
profound, searching, and exhaustive analysis of a great nation which
I learned in my small geography when I was a child, namely, 'The
French are a gay and polite people, fond of dancing and light
One young Englishman whom I have met lately errs on the side of
over-appreciation. He laughs before, during, and after every remark
I make, unless it be a simple request for food or drink. This is an
acquaintance of Willie Beresford, the Honourable Arthur Ponsonby,
who was the 'whip' on our coach drive to Dorking,--dear, delightful,
adorable Dorking, of hen celebrity.
Salemina insisted on my taking the box seat, in the hope that the
Honourable Arthur would amuse me. She little knew him! He sapped
me of all my ideas, and gave me none in exchange. Anything so
unspeakably heavy I never encountered. It is very difficult for a
woman who doesn't know a nigh horse from an off one, nor the
wheelers from the headers (or is it the fronters?), to find subjects
of conversation with a gentleman who spends three-fourths of his
existence on a coach. It was the more difficult for me because I
could not decide whether Willie Beresford was cross because I was
devoting myself to the whip, or because Francesca had remained at
home with a headache. This state of affairs continued for about
fifteen miles, when it suddenly dawned upon the Honourable Arthur
that, however mistaken my speech and manner, I was trying to be
agreeable. This conception acted on the honest and amiable soul
like magic. I gradually became comprehensible, and finally he gave
himself up to the theory that, though eccentric, I was harmless and
amusing, so we got on famously,--so famously that Willie Beresford
grew ridiculously gloomy, and I decided that it could not be
The names of these English streets are a never-failing source of
delight to me. In that one morning we drove past Pie, Pudding, and
Petticoat Lanes, and later on we found ourselves in a 'Prudent
Passage,' which opened, very inappropriately, into 'Huggin Lane.'
Willie Beresford said it was the first time he had ever heard of
anything so disagreeable as prudence terminating in anything so
agreeable as huggin'. When he had been severely reprimanded by his
mother for this shocking speech, I said to the Honourable Arthur:-
"I don't understand your business signs in England,--this 'Company,
Limited,' and that 'Company, Limited.' That one, of course, is
quite plain" (pointing to the front of a building on the village
street), "'Goat's Milk Company, Limited'; I suppose they have but
one or two goats, and necessarily the milk must be Limited."
Salemina says that this was not in the least funny, that it was
absolutely flat; but it had quite the opposite effect upon the
Honourable Arthur. He had no command over himself or his horses for
some minutes; and at intervals during the afternoon the full
felicity of the idea would steal upon him, and the smile of
reminiscence would flit across his ruddy face.
The next day, at the Eton and Harrow games at Lord's cricket-ground,
he presented three flowers of British aristocracy to our party, and
asked me each time to tell the goat-story, which he had previously
told himself, and probably murdered in the telling. Not content
with this arrant flattery, he begged to be allowed to recount some
of my international episodes to a literary friend who writes for
Punch. I demurred decidedly, but Salemina said that perhaps I ought
to be willing to lower myself a trifle for the sake of elevating
Punch! This home-thrust so delighted the Honourable Arthur that it
remained his favourite joke for days, and the overworked goat was
permitted to enjoy that oblivion from which Salemina insists it
should never have emerged.
Chapter V. A Hyde Park Sunday.
The Honourable Arthur, Salemina, and I took a stroll in Hyde Park
one Sunday afternoon, not for the purpose of joining the fashionable
throng of 'pretty people' at Stanhope Gate, but to mingle with the
common herd in its special precincts,--precincts not set apart,
indeed, by any legal formula, but by a natural law of classification
which seems to be inherent in the universe. It was a curious and
motley crowd--a little dull, perhaps, but orderly, well-behaved, and
self-respecting, with here and there part of the flotsam and jetsam
of a great city, a ragged, sodden, hopeless wretch wending his way
about with the rest, thankful for any diversion.
Under the trees, each in the centre of his group, large or small
according to his magnetism and eloquence, stood the park 'shouter,'
airing his special grievance, playing his special part, preaching
his special creed, pleading his special cause,--anything, probably,
for the sake of shouting. We were plainly dressed, and did not
attract observation as we joined the outside circle of one of these
groups after another. It was as interesting to watch the listeners
as the speakers. I wished I might paint the sea of faces, eager,
anxious, stolid, attentive, happy, and unhappy: histories written
on many of them; others blank, unmarked by any thought or
aspiration. I stole a sidelong look at the Honourable Arthur. He
is an Englishman first, and a man afterwards (I prefer it the other
way), but he does not realise it; he thinks he is just like all
other good fellows, although he is mistaken. He and Willie
Beresford speak the same language, but they are as different as
Malay and Eskimo. He is an extreme type, but he is very likeable
and very well worth looking at, with his long coat, his silk hat,
and the white Malmaison in his buttonhole. He is always so
radiantly, fascinatingly clean, the Honourable Arthur, simple,
frank, direct, sensible, and he bores me almost to tears.
The first orator was edifying his hearers with an explanation of the
drama of The Corsican Brothers, and his eloquence, unlike that of
the other speakers, was largely inspired by the hope of pennies. It
was a novel idea, and his interpretation was rendered very amusing
to us by the wholly original Yorkshire accent which he gave to the
French personages and places in the play.
An Irishman in black clerical garb held the next group together. He
was in some trouble, owing to a pig-headed and quarrelsome Scotchman
in the front rank, who objected to each statement that fell from his
lips, thus interfering seriously with the effect of his peroration.
If the Irishman had been more convincing, I suppose the crowd would
have silenced the scoffer, for these little matters of discipline
are always attended to by the audience; but the Scotchman's points
were too well taken; he was so trenchant, in fact, at times, that a
voice would cry, 'Coom up, Sandy, an' 'ave it all your own w'y,
boy!' The discussion continued as long as we were within hearing
distance, for the Irishman, though amiable and ignorant, was firm,
the 'unconquered Scot' was on his native heath of argument, and the
listeners were willing to give them both a hearing.
Under the next tree a fluent Cockney lad of sixteen or eighteen
years was declaiming his bitter experiences with the Salvation Army.
He had been sheltered in one of its beds which was not to his taste,
and it had found employment for him which he had to walk twenty-two
miles to get, and which was not to his liking when he did get it. A
meeting of the Salvation Army at a little distance rendered his
speech more interesting, as its points were repeated and denied as
fast as made.
Of course there were religious groups and temperance groups, and
groups devoted to the tearing down or raising up of most things
except the Government; for on that day there were no Anarchist or
Socialist shouters, as is ordinarily the case.
As we strolled down one of the broad roads under the shade of the
noble trees, we saw the sun setting in a red-gold haze; a glory of
vivid colour made indescribably tender and opalescent by the kind of
luminous mist that veils it; a wholly English sunset, and an
altogether lovely one. And quite away from the other knots of
people, there leaned against a bit of wire fence a poor old man
surrounded by half a dozen children and one tired woman with a
nursing baby. He had a tattered book, which seemed to be the story
of the Gospels, and his little flock sat on the greensward at his
feet as he read. It may be that he, too, had been a shouter in his
lustier manhood, and had held a larger audience together by the
power of his belief; but now he was helpless to attract any but the
children. Whether it was the pathos of his white hairs, his garb of
shreds and patches, or the mild benignity of his eye that moved me,
I know not, but among all the Sunday shouters in Hyde Park it seemed
to me that that quavering voice of the past spoke with the truest
Chapter VI. The English Park Lover.
The English Park Lover, loving his love on a green bench in
Kensington Gardens or Regent's Park, or indeed in any spot where
there is a green bench, so long as it is within full view of the
passer-by,--this English public lover, male or female, is a most
interesting study, for we have not his exact counterpart in America.
He is thoroughly respectable, I should think, my urban Colin. He
does not have the air of a gay deceiver roving from flower to
flower, stealing honey as he goes; he looks, on the contrary, as if
it were his intention to lead Phoebe to the altar on the next bank
holiday; there is a dead calm in his actions which bespeaks no other
course. If Colin were a Don Juan, surely he would be a trifle more
ardent, for there is no tropical fervour in his matter-of-fact
caresses. He does not embrace Phoebe in the park, apparently,
because he adores her to madness; because her smile is like fire in
his veins, melting down all his defences; because the intoxication
of her nearness is irresistible; because, in fine, he cannot wait
until he finds a more secluded spot: nay, verily, he embraces her
because--tell me, infatuated fruiterers, poulterers, soldiers,
haberdashers (limited), what is your reason? For it does not appear
to the casual eye. Stormy weather does not vex the calm of the Park
Lover, for 'the rains of Marly do not wet' when one is in love. By
a clever manipulation of four arms and four hands they can manage an
umbrella and enfold each other at the same time, though a feminine
macintosh is well known to be ill adapted to the purpose, and a
continuous drizzle would dampen almost any other lover in the
The park embrace, as nearly as I can analyse it, seems to be one
part instinct, one part duty, one part custom, and one part reflex
action. I have purposely omitted pleasure (which, in the analysis
of the ordinary embrace, reduces all the other ingredients to an
almost invisible faction), because I fail to find it; but I am
willing to believe that in some rudimentary form it does exist,
because man attends to no purely unpleasant matter with such
praiseworthy assiduity. Anything more fixedly stolid than the Park
Lover when he passes his arm round his chosen one and takes her
crimson hand in his, I have never seen; unless, indeed, it be the
fixed stolidity of the chosen one herself. I had not at first the
assurance even to glance at them as I passed by, blushing myself to
the roots of my hair, though the offenders themselves never changed
colour. Many a time have I walked out of my way or lowered my
parasol, for fear of invading their Sunday Eden; but a spirit of
inquiry awoke in me at last, and I began to make psychological
investigations, with a view to finding out at what point
embarrassment would appear in the Park Lover. I experimented (it
was a most arduous and unpleasant task) with upwards of two hundred
couples, and it is interesting to record that self-consciousness was
not apparent in a single instance. It was not merely that they
failed to resent my stopping in the path directly opposite them, or
my glaring most offensively at them, nor that they even allowed me
to sit upon their green bench and witness their chaste salutes, but
it was that they did fail to perceive me at all! There is a kind of
superb finish and completeness about their indifference to the
public gaze which removes it from ordinary immodesty, and gives it a
certain scientific value.
Chapter VII. A ducal tea-party.
Among all my English experiences, none occupies so important a place
as my forced meeting with the Duke of Cimicifugas. (There can be no
harm in my telling the incident, so long as I do not give the right
names, which are very well known to fame.) The Duchess of
Cimicifugas, who is charming, unaffected, and lovable, so report
says, has among her chosen friends an untitled woman whom we will
call Mrs. Apis Mellifica. I met her only daughter, Hilda, in
America, and we became quite intimate. It seems that Mrs. Apis
Mellifica, who has an income of 20,000 pounds a year, often
exchanges presents with the duchess, and at this time she had
brought with her from the Continent some rare old tapestries with
which to adorn a new morning-room at Cimicifugas House. These
tapestries were to be hung during the absence of the duchess in
Homburg, and were to greet her as a birthday surprise on her return.
Hilda Mellifica, who is one of the most talented amateur artists in
London, and who has exquisite taste in all matters of decoration,
was to go down to the ducal residence to inspect the work, and she
obtained permission from Lady Veratrum (the confidential companion
of the duchess) to bring me with her. I started on this journey to
the country with all possible delight, little surmising the agonies
that lay in store for me in the mercifully hidden future.
The tapestries were perfect, and Lady Veratrum was most amiable and
affable, though the blue blood of the Belladonnas courses in her
veins, and her great-grandfather was the celebrated Earl of Rhus
Tox, who rendered such notable service to his sovereign. We roamed
through the splendid apartments, inspected the superb picture-
gallery, where scores of dead-and-gone Cimicifugases (most of them
very plain) were glorified by the art of Van Dyck, Sir Joshua, or
Gainsborough, and admired the priceless collections of marbles and
cameos and bronzes. It was about four o'clock when we were
conducted to a magnificent apartment for a brief rest, as we were to
return to London at half-past six. As Lady Veratrum left us, she
remarked casually, 'His Grace will join us at tea.'
The door closed, and at the same moment I fell upon the brocaded
satin state bed and tore off my hat and gloves like one distraught.
"Hilda," I gasped, "you brought me here, and you must rescue me, for
I absolutely decline to drink tea with a duke."
"Nonsense, Penelope, don't be absurd," she replied. "I have never
happened to see him myself, and I am a trifle nervous, but it cannot
be very terrible, I should think."
"Not to you, perhaps, but to me impossible," I said. "I thought he
was in Homburg, or I would never have entered this place. It is not
that I fear nobility. I could meet Her Majesty the Queen at the
Court of St. James without the slightest flutter of embarrassment,
because I know I could trust her not to presume on my
defencelessness to enter into conversation with me. But this duke,
whose dukedom very likely dates back to the hour of the Norman
Conquest, is a very different person, and is to be met under very
different circumstances. He may ask me my politics. Of course I
can tell him that I am a Mugwump, but what if he asks me why I am a
"He will not," Hilda answered. "Englishmen are not wholly devoid of
"And how shall I address him?" I went on. "Does one call him 'your
Grace,' or 'your Royal Highness'? Oh for a thousandth-part of the
unblushing impertinence of that countrywoman of mine who called your
future king 'Tummy'! but she was a beauty, and I am not pretty
enough to be anything but discreetly well-mannered. Shall you sit
in his presence, or stand and grovel alternately? Does one have to
curtsy? Very well, then, make any excuses you like for me, Hilda:
say I'm eccentric, say I'm deranged, say I'm a Nihilist. I will
hide under the scullery table, fling myself in the moat, lock myself
in the keep, let the portcullis fall on me, die any appropriate
early English death,--anything rather than curtsy in a tailor-made
gown; I can kneel beautifully, Hilda, if that will do: you
remember my ancestors were brought up on kneeling, and yours on
curtsying, and it makes a great difference in the muscles."
Hilda smiled benignantly as she wound the coil of russet hair round
her shapely head. "He will think whatever you do charming, and
whatever you say brilliant," she said; "that is the advantage in
being an American woman."
Just at this moment Lady Veratrum sent a haughty maid to ask us if
we would meet her under the trees in the park which surrounds the
house. I hailed this as a welcome reprieve to the dreaded function
of tea with the duke, and made up my mind, while descending the
marble staircase, that I would slip away and lose myself
accidentally in the grounds, appearing only in time for the London
train. This happy mode of issue from my difficulties lent a
springiness to my step, as we followed a waxwork footman over the
velvet sward to a nook under a group of copper beeches. But there,
to my dismay, stood a charmingly appointed tea-table glittering with
silver and Royal Worcester, with several liveried servants bringing
cakes and muffins and berries to Lady Veratrum, who sat behind the
steaming urn. I started to retreat, when there appeared, walking
towards us, a simple man, with nothing in the least extraordinary
"That cannot be the Duke of Cimicifugas," thought I, "a man in a
corduroy jacket, without a sign of a suite; probably it is a
Banished Duke come from the Forest of Arden for a buttered muffin."
But it was the Duke of Cimicifugas, and no other. Hilda was
presented first, while I tried to fire my courage by thinking of the
Puritan Fathers, and Plymouth Rock, and the Boston Tea-Party, and
the battle of Bunker Hill. Then my turn came. I murmured some
words which might have been anything, and curtsied in a stiff-necked
self-respecting sort of way. Then we talked,--at least the duke and
Lady Veratrum talked. Hilda said a few blameless words, such as
befitted an untitled English virgin in the presence of the nobility;
while I maintained the probationary silence required by Pythagoras
of his first year's pupils. My idea was to observe this first duke
without uttering a word, to talk with the second (if I should ever
meet a second), to chat with the third, and to secure the fourth for
Francesca to take home to America with her.
Of course I know that dukes are very dear, but she could afford any
reasonable sum, if she found one whom she fancied; the principal
obstacle in the path is that tiresome American lawyer with whom she
considers herself in love. I have never gone beyond that first
experience, however, for dukes in England are as rare as snakes in
Ireland. I can't think why they allow them to die out so,--the
dukes, not the snakes. If a country is to have an aristocracy, let
there be enough of it, say I, and make it imposing at the top, where
it shows most, especially since, as I understand it, all that
Victoria has to do is to say, 'Let there be dukes,' and there are
Chapter VIII. Tuppenny travels in London.
If one really wants to know London, one must live there for years
This sounds like a reasonable and sensible statement, yet the moment
it is made I retract it, as quite misleading and altogether too
We have a charming English friend who has not been to the Tower
since he was a small boy, and begs us to conduct him there on the
very next Saturday. Another has not seen Westminster Abbey for
fifteen years, because he attends church at St. Dunstan's-in-the-
East. Another says that he should like to have us 'read up' London
in the red-covered Baedeker, and then show it to him, properly and
systematically. Another, a flower of the nobility, confesses that
he never mounted the top of an omnibus in the evening for the sake
of seeing London after dark, but that he thinks it would be rather
jolly, and that he will join us in such a democratic journey at any
time we like.
We think we get a kind of vague apprehension of what London means
from the top of a 'bus better than anywhere else, and this vague
apprehension is as much as the thoughtful or imaginative observer
will ever arrive at in a lifetime. It is too stupendous to be
comprehended. The mind is dazed by its distances, confused by its
contrasts; tossed from the spectacle of its wealth to the
contemplation of its poverty, the brilliancy of its extravagances to
the stolidity of its miseries, the luxuries that blossom in Mayfair
to the brutalities that lurk in Whitechapel.
We often set out on a fine morning, Salemina and I, and travel
twenty miles in the day, though we have to double our twopenny fee
several times to accomplish that distance.
We never know whither we are going, and indeed it is not a matter of
great moment (I mean to a woman) where everything is new and
strange, and where the driver, if one is fortunate enough to be on a
front seat, tells one everything of interest along the way, and
instructs one regarding a different route back to town.
We have our favourite 'buses, of course; but when one appears, and
we jump on while it is still in motion, as the conductor seems to
prefer, and pull ourselves up the cork-screw stairway,--not a simple
matter in the garments of sophistication,--we have little time to
observe more than the colour of the lumbering vehicle.
We like the Cadbury's Cocoa 'bus very much; it takes you by St.
Mary-le-Strand, Bow-Bells, the Temple, Mansion House, St, Paul's,
and the Bank.
If you want to go and lunch, or dine frugally, at the Cheshire
Cheese, eat black pudding and drink pale ale, sit in Dr. Johnson's
old seat, and put your head against the exact spot on the wall where
his rested,--although the traces of this form of worship are all too
apparent,--then you jump on a Lipton's Tea 'bus, and are deposited
at the very door. All is novel, and all is interesting, whether it
be crowded streets of the East End traversed by the Davies' Pea-Fed
Bacon 'buses, or whether you ride to the very outskirts of London,
through green fields and hedgerows, by the Ridge's Food or Nestle's
There are trams, too, which take one to delightful places, though
the seats on top extend lengthwise, after the old 'knifeboard
pattern,' and one does not get so good a view of the country as from
the 'garden seats' on the roof of the omnibus; still there is
nothing we like better on a warm morning than a good outing on the
Vinolia tram that we pick up in Shaftesbury Avenue. There is a
street running from Shaftesbury Avenue into Oxford Street, which was
once the village of St. Giles, one of the dozens of hamlets
swallowed up by the great maw of London, and it still looks like a
hamlet, although it has been absorbed for many years. We constantly
happen on these absorbed villages, from which, not a century ago,
people drove up to town in their coaches.
If you wish to see another phase of life, go out on a Saturday
evening, from nine o'clock on to eleven, starting on a Beecham's
Pill 'bus, and keep to the poorer districts, alighting occasionally
to stand with the crowd in the narrower thoroughfares.
It is a market night, and the streets will be a moving mass of men
and women buying at the hucksters' stalls. Everything that can be
sold at a stall is there: fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, crockery,
tin-ware, children's clothing, cheap toys, boots, shoes, and sun-
bonnets, all in reckless confusion. The vendors cry their wares in
stentorian tones, vying with one another to produce excitement and
induce patronage, while gas-jets are streaming into the air from the
roofs and flaring from the sides of the stalls; children crying,
children dancing to the strains of an accordion, children
quarrelling, children scrambling for the refuse fruit. In the midst
of this spectacle, this din and uproar, the women are chaffering and
bargaining quite calmly, watching the scales to see that they get
their full pennyworth or sixpennyworth of this or that. To the
student of faces, of manners, of voices, of gestures; to the person
who sees unwritten and unwritable stories in all these groups of
men, women, and children, the scene reveals many things: some
comedies, many tragedies, a few plain narratives (thank God!) and
now and then--only now and then--a romance. As to the dark alleys
and tenements on the fringe of this glare and brilliant confusion,
this Babel of sound and ant-bed of moving life, one can only surmise
and pity and shudder; close one's eyes and ears to it a little, or
one could never sleep for thinking of it, yet not too tightly lest
one sleep too soundly, and forget altogether the seamy side of
things. One can hardly believe that there is a seamy side when one
descends from his travelling observatory a little later, and stands
on Westminster Bridge, or walks along the Thames Embankment. The
lights of Parliament House gleam from a hundred windows, and in the
dark shadows by the banks thousands of coloured discs of light
twinkle and dance and glow like fairy lamps, and are reflected in
the silver surface of the river. That river, as full of mystery and
contrast in its course as London itself--where is such another? It
has ever been a river of pageants, a river of sighs; a river into
whose placid depths kings and queens, princes and cardinals, have
whispered state secrets, and poets have breathed immortal lines; a
stream of pleasure, bearing daily on its bosom such a freight of
youth and mirth and colour and music as no other river in the world
Sometimes we sally forth in search of adventures in the thick of a
'London particular,' Mr. Guppy's phrase for a fog. When you are
once ensconced in your garden seat by the driver, you go lumbering
through a world of bobbing shadows, where all is weird, vague, grey,
dense; and where great objects loom up suddenly in the mist and then
disappear; where the sky, heavy and leaden, seems to descend bodily
upon your head, and the air is full of a kind of luminous yellow
A Lipton's Tea 'bus is the only one we can see plainly in this sort
of weather, and so we always take it. I do not wish, however, to be
followed literally in these modest suggestions for omnibus rides,
because I am well aware that they are not sufficiently specific for
the ordinary tourist who wishes to see London systematically and
without any loss of time. If you care to go to any particular
place, or reach that place by any particular time, you must not, of
course, look at the most conspicuous signs on the tops and ends of
the chariots as we do; you must stand quietly at one of the regular
points of departure and try to decipher, in a narrow horizontal
space along the side, certain little words that show the route and
destination of the vehicle. They say that it can be done, and I do
not feel like denying it on my own responsibility. Old Londoners
assert that they are not blinded or confused by Pears' Soap in
letters two feet high, scarlet on a gold ground, but can see below
in fine print, and with the naked eye, such legends as Tottenham
Court Road, Westbourne Grove, St. Pancras, Paddington, or Victoria.
It is certainly reasonable that the omnibuses should be decorated to
suit the inhabitants of the place rather than foreigners, and it is
perhaps better to carry a few hundred stupid souls to the wrong
station daily than to allow them to cleanse their hands with the
wrong soap, or quench their thirst with the wrong (which is to say
the unadvertised) beverage.
The conductors do all in their power to mitigate the lot of unhappy
strangers, and it is only now and again that you hear an absent-
minded or logical one call out, 'Castoria! all the w'y for a penny.'
We claim for our method of travelling, not that it is authoritative,
but that it is simple--suitable to persons whose desires are
flexible and whose plans are not fixed. It has its disadvantages,
which may indeed be said of almost anything. For instance, we had
gone for two successive mornings on a Cadbury's Cocoa 'bus to
Francesca's dressmaker in Kensington. On the third morning,
deceived by the ambitious and unscrupulous Cadbury, we mounted it
and journeyed along comfortably three miles to the east of
Kensington before we discovered our mistake. It was a pleasant and
attractive neighbourhood where we found ourselves, but unfortunately
Francesca's dressmaker did not reside there.
If you have determined to take a certain train from a certain
station, and do not care for any other, no matter if it should turn
out to be just as interesting, then never take a Lipton's Tea 'bus,
for it is the most unreliable of all. If it did not sound so
learned, and if I did not feel that it must have been said before,
it is so apt, I should quote Horace, and say, 'Omnibus hoc vitium
est.' There is no 'bus unseized by the Napoleonic Lipton. Do not
ascend one of them supposing for a moment that by paying fourpence
and going to the very end of the route you will come to a neat tea
station, where you will be served with the cheering cup. Never; nor
with a draught of Cadbury's cocoa or Nestle's milk, although you
have jostled along for nine weary miles in company with their
blatant recommendations to drink nothing else, and though you may
have passed other 'buses with the same highly-coloured names glaring
at you until they are burned into the grey matter of your brain, to
remain there as long as the copy-book maxims you penned when you
were a child.
These pictorial methods doubtless prove a source of great financial
gain; of course it must be so, or they would never be prosecuted;
but although they may allure millions of customers, they will lose
two in our modest persons. When Salemina and I go into a cafe for
tea we ask the young woman if they serve Lipton's, and if they say
yes, we take coffee. This is self-punishment indeed (in London!),
yet we feel that it may have a moral effect; perhaps not
commensurate with the physical effect of the coffee upon us, but
these delicate matters can never be adjusted with absolute
Sometimes when we are to travel on a Pears' Soap 'bus we buy
beforehand a bit of pure white Castile, cut from a shrinking,
reserved, exclusive bar with no name upon it, and present it to some
poor woman when we arrive at our journey's end. We do not suppose
that so insignificant a protest does much good, but at least it
preserves one's individuality and self-respect.
Chapter IX. A Table of Kindred and Affinity.
On one of our excursions Hilda Mellifica accompanied us, and we
alighted to see the place where the Smithfield martyrs were
executed, and to visit some of the very old churches in that
vicinity. We found hanging in the vestibule of one of them
something quite familiar to Hilda, but very strange to our American
eyes: 'A Table of Kindred and Affinity, wherein whosoever are
related are forbidden in Scripture and our Laws to Marry Together.'
Salemina was very quiet that afternoon, and we accused her
afterwards of being depressed because she had discovered that, added
to the battalions of men in England who had not thus far urged her
to marry them, there were thirty persons whom she could not legally
espouse even if they did ask her!
I cannot explain it, but it really seemed in some way that our
chances of a 'sweet, safe corner of the household fire' had
materially decreased when we had read the table.
"It only goes to prove what Salemina remarked yesterday," I said:
"that we can go on doing a thing quite properly until we have seen
the rule for it printed in black and white. The moment we read the
formula we fail to see how we could ever have followed it; we are
confused by its complexities, and we do not feel the slightest
confidence in our ability to do consciously the thing we have done
all our lives unconsciously."
"Like the centipede," quoted Salemina:-
"'The centipede was happy quite
Until the toad, for fun,
Said, "Pray, which leg goes after which?"
Which wrought his mind to such a pitch,
He lay distracted in a ditch
Considering how to run!'"
"The Table of Kindred and Affinity is all too familiar to me,"
sighed Hilda, "because we had a governess who made us learn it as a
punishment. I suppose I could recite it now, although I haven't
looked at it for ten years. We used to chant it in the nursery
schoolroom on wet afternoons. I well remember that the vicar called
one day to see us, and the governess, hearing our voices uplifted in
a pious measure, drew him under the window to listen. This is what
he heard--you will see how admirably it goes! And do not imagine it
is wicked: it is merely the Law, not the Gospel, and we framed our
own musical settings, so that we had no associations with the Prayer
Here Hilda chanted softly, there being no one in the old
"A woman may not marry with her Grandfather . Grandmother's Husband,
Husband's Grandfather .. Father's Brother . Mother's Brother .
Father's Sister's Husband .. Mother's Sister's Husband . Husband's
Father's Brother . Husband's Mother's Brother .. Father . Step-
Father . Husband's Father .. Son . Husband's Son . Daughter's
Husband .. Brother . Husband's Brother . Sister's Husband .. Son's
Son . Daughter's Son . Son's Daughter's Husband .. Daughter's
Daughter's Husband . Husband's Son's Son . Husband's Daughter's Son
.. Brother's Son . Sister's Son . Brother's Daughter's Husband ..
Sister's Daughter's Husband . Husband's Brother's Son . Husband's
"It seems as if there were nobody left," I said disconsolately,
"save perhaps your Second Cousin's Uncle, or your Enemy's Dearest
"That's just the effect it has on one," answered Hilda. "We always
used to conclude our chant with the advice:-
"And if there is anybody, after this, in the universe . left to .
marry .. marry him as expeditiously . as you . possibly . can ..
Because there are very few husbands omitted from this table of .
Kindred and . Affinity .. And it behoveth a maiden to snap them up
without any delay . willing or unwilling . whenever and . wherever
"We were also required to learn by heart the form of Prayer with
Thanksgiving to be used Yearly upon the Fifth Day of November for
the happy deliverance of King James I. and the Three Estates of
England from the most traitorous and bloody-intended Massacre by
Gunpowder; also the prayers for Charles the Martyr and the
Thanksgiving for having put an end to the Great Rebellion by the
Restitution of the King and Royal Family after many Years'
interruption which unspeakable Mercies were wonderfully completed
upon the 29th of May in the year 1660!"
"1660! We had been forty years in America then," soliloquised
Francesca; "and isn't it odd that the long thanksgivings in our
country must all have been for having successfully run away from the
Gunpowder Treason, King Charles the Martyr, and the Restituted Royal
Family; yet here we are, you and I, the best of friends, talking it
As we jog along, or walk, by turns, we come to Buckingham Street,
and looking up at Alfred Jingle's lodgings say a grateful word of
Mr. Pickwick. We tell each other that much of what we know of
London and England seems to have been learned from Dickens.
Deny him the right to sit among the elect, if you will; talk of his
tendency to farce and caricature; call his humour low comedy, and
his pathos bathos--although you shall say none of these things in my
presence unchallenged; the fact remains that every child, in America
at least, knows more of England--its almshouses, debtors' prisons,
and law-courts, its villages and villagers, its beadles and cheap-
jacks and hostlers and coachmen and boots, its streets and lanes,
its lodgings and inns and landladies and roastbeef and plum-pudding,
its ways, manners, and customs,--knows more of these things and a
thousand others from Dickens's novels than from all the histories,
geographies, biographies, and essays in the language. Where is
there another novelist who has so peopled a great city with his
imaginary characters that there is hardly room for the living
population, as one walks along the ways?
O these streets of London! There are other more splendid shades in
them,--shades that have been there for centuries, and will walk
beside us so long as the streets exist. One can never see these
shades, save as one goes on foot, or takes that chariot of the
humble, the omnibus. I should like to make a map of literary London
somewhat after Leigh Hunt's plan, as projected in his essay on the
World of Books; for to the book-lover 'the poet's hand is always on
the place, blessing it.' One can no more separate the association
from the particular spot than one can take away from it any other
'Fleet Street is always Johnson's Fleet Street' (so Leigh Hunt
says); 'the Tower belongs to Julius Caesar, and Blackfriars to
Suckling, Vandyke, and the Dunciad. . .I can no more pass through
Westminster without thinking of Milton, or the Borough without
thinking of Chaucer and Shakespeare, or Gray's Inn without calling
Bacon to mind, or Bloomsbury Square without Steele and Akenside,
than I can prefer brick and mortar to wit and poetry, or not see a
beauty upon it beyond architecture in the splendour of the
Chapter X. Apropos of advertisements.
Francesca wishes to get some old hall-marked silver for her home
tea-tray, and she is absorbed at present in answering advertisements
of people who have second-hand pieces for sale, and who offer to
bring them on approval. The other day, when Willie Beresford and I
came in from Westminster Abbey (where we had been choosing the best
locations for our memorial tablets), we thought Francesca must be
giving a 'small and early'; but it transpired that all the silver-
sellers had called at the same hour, and it took the united strength
of Dawson and Mr. Beresford, together with my diplomacy, to rescue
the poor child from their clutches. She came out alive, but her
safety was purchased at the cost of a George IV. cream-jug, an
Elizabethan sugar-bowl, and a Boadicea tea-caddy, which were, I
doubt not, manufactured in Wardour Street towards the close of the
Salemina came in just then, cold and tired. (Tower and National
Gallery the same day. It's so much more work to go to the Tower
nowadays than it used to be!) We had intended to take a sail to
Richmond on a penny steamboat, but it was drizzling, so we had a
cosy fire instead, slipped into our tea-gowns, and ordered tea and
thin bread-and-butter, a basket of strawberries with their frills
on, and a jug of Devonshire cream. Willie Beresford asked if he
might stay; otherwise, he said, he should have to sit at a cold
marble table on the corner of Bond Street and Piccadilly, and take
his tea in bachelor solitude.
"Yes," I said severely, "we will allow you to stay; though, as you
are coming to dinner, I should think you would have to go away some
time, if only in order that you might get ready to come back.
You've been here since breakfast-time."
"I know," he answered calmly, "and my only error in judgment was
that I didn't take an earlier breakfast, in order to begin my day
here sooner. One has to snatch a moment when he can, nowadays; for
these rooms are so infested with British swells that a base-born
American stands very little chance!"
Now I should like to know if Willie Beresford is in love with
Francesca. What shall I do--that is what shall we do--if he is,
when she is in love with somebody else? To be sure, she may want
one lover for foreign and another for domestic service. He is too
old for her, but that is always the way. When Alcides, having gone
through all the fatigues of life, took a bride in Olympus, he ought
to have selected Minerva, but he chose Hebe.
I wonder why so many people call him 'Willie' Beresford, at his age.
Perhaps it is because his mother sets the example; but from her lips
it does not seem amiss. I suppose when she looks at him she recalls
the past, and is ever seeing the little child in the strong man,
mother fashion. It is very beautiful, that feeling; and when a girl
surprises it in any mother's eyes it makes her heart beat faster, as
in the presence of something sacred, which she can understand only
because she is a woman, and experience is foreshadowed in intuition.
The Honourable Arthur had sent us a dozen London dailies and
weeklies, and we fell into an idle discussion of their contents over
the teacups. I had found an 'exchange column' which was as
interesting as it was novel, and I told Francesca it seemed to me
that if we managed wisely we could rid ourselves of all our useless
belongings, and gradually amass a collection of the English articles
we most desired. "Here is an opportunity, for instance," I said,
and I read aloud-
"'S.G., of Kensington, will post 'Woman' three days old regularly
for a box of cut flowers.'"
"Rather young," said Mr. Beresford, "or I'd answer that
I wanted to tell him I didn't suppose that he could find anything
too young for his taste, but I didn't dare.
"Salemina adores cats," I went on. "How is this, Sally, dear?-
"'A handsome orange male Persian cat, also a tabby, immense coat,
brushes and frills, is offered in exchange for an electro-plated
revolving covered dish or an Allen's Vapour Bath.'"
"I should like the cat, but alas! I have no covered dish," sighed
"Buy one," suggested Mr. Beresford. "Even then you'd be getting a
bargain. Do you understand that you receive the male orange cat for
the dish, and the frilled tabby for the bath, or do you get both in
exchange for either of these articles? Read on, Miss Hamilton."
"Very well, here is one for Francesca-
"'A harmonium with seven stops is offered in exchange for a really
good Plymouth cockerel hatched in May.'"
"I should want to know when the harmonium was hatched," said
Francesca prudently. "Now you cannot usurp the platform entirely,
my dear Pen. Listen to an English marriage notice from the Times.
It chances to be the longest one to-day, but there were others just
as remarkable in yesterday's issue.
"'On the 17th instant, at Emmanuel Church (Countess of Padelford's
connection), Weston-super-Mare, by the Rev. Canon Vernon, B.D.,
Rector of St. Edmund the King and Martyr, Suffolk Street, uncle of
bride, assisted by the Rev. Otho Pelham, M.A., Vicar of All Saints,
Upper Norwood, Dr. Philosophial Konrad Rasch, of Koetzsenbroda,
Saxony, to Evelyn Whitaker Rake, widow of the late Richard Balaclava
Rake, Barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple and Bombay, and third
surviving daughter of George Frederic Goldspink, C.B., of Sydenham
House, Craig Hill, Commissioner of Her Majesty's Customs, and
formerly of the War Office.'"
By the time this was finished we were all quite exhausted, but we
revived like magic when Salemina read us her contribution:-
"'A NAME ENSHRINED IN LITERATURE AND RENOWNED IN COMMERCE,--Miss
Willard, Waddington, Essex. Deal with her whenever you possibly
can. When you want to purchase, ask her for anything under the
canopy of heaven, from jewels, bijouterie, and curios to rare books
and high-class articles of utility. When you want to sell, consign
only to her, from choice gems to mundane objects. All transactions
embodying the germs of small profits are welcome. As a sample of
her stock please note: A superlatively exquisite, essentially
beautiful, and important lace flounce for sale, at a reasonable
price. Also a bargain of peerlessly choice character.--Six grandly
glittering paste cluster buttons, of important size, emitting
dazzling rays of incomparable splendour and lustre. Don't readily
forget this or her name and address,--Clara (Miss) Willard (the Lady
Trader), Waddington, Essex. Immaculate promptitude and scrupulous
liberality observed: therefore, on these credentials, ye must deal
with her; it is the duty of intellect to be reciprocal.'"
Just here Dawson entered, evidently to lay the dinner-cloth, but,
seeing that we had a visitor, he took the tea-tray and retired
"It is five-and-thirty minutes past six, Mr. Beresford," I said.
"Do you think you can get to the Metropole and array yourself and
return in less than an hour? Because, even if you can, remember
that we ladies have elaborate toilets in prospect,--toilets intended
for the complete prostration of the British gentry. Francesca has a
yellow gown which will drive Bertie Godolphin to madness. Salemina
has laid out a soft, dovelike grey and steel combination, directed
towards the Church of England; for you may not know that Sally has a
vicar in her train, Mr. Beresford, and he will probably speak to-
night. As for me-"
Before these shocking personalities were finished Salemina and
Francesca had fled to their rooms, and Mr. Beresford took up my
broken sentence and said, "As for you, Miss Hamilton, whatever gown
you wear, you are sure to make one man speak, if you care about it;
but, I suppose, you would not listen to him unless he were English";
and with that shot he departed.
I really think I shall have to give up the Francesca hypothesis,
and, alas! I am not quite ready to adopt any other.
We discussed international marriages while we were at our toilets,
Salemina and I prinking by the light of one small candle-end, while
Francesca, as the youngest and prettiest, illuminated her charms
with the six sitting-room candles and three filched from the little
table in the hall.
I gave it as my humble opinion that for an American woman an English
husband was at least an experiment; Salemina declared that for that
matter a husband of any nationality was an experiment. Francesca
ended the conversation flippantly by saying that in her judgment no
husband at all was a much more hazardous experiment.
Chapter XI. The ball on the opposite side.
We are all three rather tired this morning,--Salemina, Francesca,
and I,--for we went to one of the smartest balls of the London
season last night, and were robbed of half our customary allowance
of sleep in consequence.
It may be difficult for you to understand our weariness, when I
confess that the ball was not quite of the usual sort; that we did
not dance at all; and, what is worse, that we were not asked, either
to tread a measure, or sit out a polka, or take 'one last turn.'
To begin at the beginning, there is a large vacant house directly
opposite Smith's Private Hotel, and there has been hanging from its
balcony, until very lately, a sign bearing the following notice:-
THESE COMMANDING PREMISES
WITH A SUPERFICIAL AREA OF
10,000 FT. AND 50 FT.
FRONTAGE TO DOVERMARLE ST.
WILL BE SOLD BY AUCTION
ON TUESDAY, JUNE 28TH, BY
MESSRS. SKIDDY, YADDLETHORPE AND SKIDDY
LAND AGENTS AND SURVEYORS
27 HASTINGS PLACE, PALL MALL.
A few days ago, just as we were finishing a late breakfast, an
elderly gentleman drove up in a private hansom, and alighted at this
vacant house on the opposite side. Behind him, in a cab, came two
men, who unlocked the front door, went in, came out on the balcony,
cut the wires supporting the sign, took it down, opened all the
inside shutters, and disappeared through some rear entrance. The
elderly gentleman went upstairs for a moment, came down again, and
"The house has been sold, I suppose," said Salemina; "and for my
part I envy the new owner his bargain. He is close to Piccadilly,
has that bit of side lawn with the superb oak-tree, and the duke's
beautiful gardens so near that they will seem virtually his own when
he looks from his upper windows."
At tea-time the same elderly gentleman drove up in a victoria, with
a very pretty young lady.
"The plot thickens," said Francesca, who was nearest the window.
"Do you suppose she is his bride-elect, and is he showing her their
future home, or is she already his wife? If so, I fear me she
married him for his title and estates, for he is more than a shade
too old for her."
"Don't be censorious, child," I remonstrated, taking my cup idly
across the room, to be nearer the scene of action. "Oh, dear! there
is a slight discrepancy, I confess, but I can explain it. This is
how it happened: The girl had never really loved, and did not know
what the feeling was. She did know that the aged suitor was a good
and worthy man, and her mother and nine small brothers and sisters
(very much out at the toes) urged the marriage. The father, too,
had speculated heavily in consorts or consuls, or whatever-you-call-
'ems, and besought his child not to expose his defalcations and
losses. She, dutiful girl, did as she was bid, especially as her
youngest sister came to her in tears and said, 'Unless you consent
we shall have to sell the cow!' So she went to the altar with a
heart full of palpitating respect, but no love to speak of; that
always comes in time to heroines who sacrifice themselves and spare
"It sounds strangely familiar," remarked Mr. Beresford, who was with
us, as usual. "Didn't a fellow turn up in the next chapter, a young
nephew of the old husband, who fell in love with the bride,
unconsciously and against his will? Wasn't she obliged to take him
into the conservatory, at the end of a week, and say, 'G-go! I
beseech you! for b-both our sakes!'? Didn't the noble fellow wring
her hand silently, and leave her looking like a broken lily on the-"
"How can you be so cynical, Mr. Beresford? It isn't like you!"
exclaimed Salemina. "For my part, I don't think the girl is either
his bride or his fiancee. Probably the mother of the family is
dead, and the father is bringing his eldest daughter to look at the
house: that's my idea of it."
This theory being just as plausible as ours, we did not discuss it,
hoping that something would happen to decide the matter in one way
"She is not married, I am sure," went on Salemina, leaning over the
back of my chair. "You notice that she hasn't given a glance at the
kitchen or the range, although they are the most important features
of the house. I think she may have just put her head inside the
dining-room door, but she certainly didn't give a moment to the
butler's pantry or the china closet. You will find that she won't
mount to the fifth floor to see how the servants are housed,--not
she, careless, pretty creature; she will go straight to the drawing-
And so she did; and at the same instant a still younger and prettier
creature drove up in a hansom, and was out of it almost before the
admiring cabby could stop his horse or reach down for his fare. She
flew up the stairway and danced into the drawing-room like a young
whirlwind; flung open doors, pulled up blinds with a jerk, letting
in the sunlight everywhere, and tiptoed to and fro over the dusty
floors, holding up her muslin flounces daintily.
"This must be the daughter of his first marriage," I remarked.
"Who will not get on with the young stepmother," finished Mr.
"It is his youngest daughter," corrected Salemina,--"the youngest
daughter of his only wife, and the image of her deceased mother, who
was, in her time, the belle of Dublin."
She might well have been that, we all agreed; for this young beauty
was quite the Irish type, such black hair, grey-blue eyes, and
wonderful lashes, and such a merry, arch, winsome face, that one
loved her on the instant.
She was delighted with the place, and we did not wonder, for the
sunshine, streaming in at the back and side windows, showed us rooms
of noble proportions opening into one another. She admired the
balcony, although we thought it too public to be of any use save for
flowering plants; she was pleased with a huge French mirror over the
marble mantle; she liked the chandeliers, which were in the worst
possible taste; all this we could tell by her expressive gestures;
and she finally seized the old gentleman by the lapels of his coat
and danced him breathlessly from the fireplace to the windows and
back again, while the elder girl clapped her hands and laughed.
"Isn't she lovely?" sighed Francesca, a little covetously, although
she is something of a beauty herself.
"I am sorry that her name is Bridget," said Mr. Beresford.
"For shame!" I cried indignantly. "It is Norah, or Veronica, or
Geraldine, or Patricia; yes, it is Patricia,--I know it as well as
if I had been at the christening.--Dawson, take the tea-things,
please; and do you know the name of the gentleman who has bought the
house on the opposite side?"
"It is Lord Brighton, miss." (You would never believe it, but we
find the name is spelled Brighthelmston.) "He hasn't bought the
'ouse; he has taken it for a week, and is giving a ball there on the
Tuesday evening. He has four daughters, miss, and two h'orphan
nieces that generally spends the season with 'im. It's the youngest
daughter he is bringing out, that lively one you saw cutting about
just now. They 'ave no ballroom, I expect, in their town 'ouse,
which accounts for their renting one for this occasion. They
stopped a month in this 'otel last year, so I have the honour of
"Lady Brighthelmston is not living, I should judge," remarked
Salemina, in the tone of one who thinks it hardly worth while to
"Oh, yes, miss, she's alive and 'earty; but the daughters manages
everythink, and what they down't manage the h'orphan nieces does.
The 'ouse is run for the young ladies, but m'ludanlady seems to
Dovermarle Street was so interesting during the next few days that
we could scarcely bear to leave it, lest something exciting should
happen in our absence.
"A ball is so confining!" said Francesca, who had come back from the
corner of Piccadilly to watch the unloading of a huge van, and found
that it had no intention of stopping at Number Nine on the opposite
First came a small army of charwomen, who scrubbed the house from
top to bottom. Then came men with canvas for floors, bronzes and
jardinieres and somebody's family portraits from an auction-room,
chairs and sofas and draperies from an upholsterer's.
The night before the event itself I announced my intention of
staying in our own drawing-room the whole of the next day. "I am
more interested in Patricia's debut," I said, "than anything else
that can possibly happen in London. What if it should be wet, and
won't it be annoying if it is a cold night and they draw the heavy
curtains close together?"
But it was beautiful day, almost too warm for a ball, and the heavy
curtains were not drawn. The family did not court observation; it
was serenely unconscious of such a thing. As to our side of the
street, I think we may have been the only people at all interested
in the affair now so imminent. The others had something more
sensible to do, I fancy, than patching up romances about their
At noon the florists decorated the entrance with palms, covered the
balcony with a gay awning, and hung the railing with brilliant
masses of scarlet and yellow flowers. At two the caterers sent
silver, tables, linen, and dishes, and a Broadwood grand piano was
installed; but at half-past seven, when we sat down to dinner, we
were a trifle anxious, because so many things seemed yet to do
before the party could be a complete success.
Mr. Beresford and his mother were dining with us, and we had sent
invitations to our London friends, the Hon. Arthur Ponsonby and
Bertie Godolphin, to come later in the evening. These read as
The pleasure of your company is requested
at the coming-out party of
The Hon. Patricia Brighthelmston
July --- 189-
On the opposite side of the street.
Dancing about 10-30. 9 Dovermarle Street.
At eight o'clock, as we were finishing our fish course, which
chanced to be fried sole, the ball began literally to roll, and it
required the greatest ingenuity on Francesca's part and mine to be
always down in our seats when Dawson entered with the dishes, and
always at the window when he was absent.
An enormous van had appeared, with half a dozen men walking behind
it. In a trice, two of them had stretched a wire trellis across one
wall of the drawing-room, and two more were trailing roses from
floor to ceiling. Others tied the dark wood of the stair railing
with tall Madonna lilies; then they hung garlands of flowers from
corner to corner and, alas! could not refrain from framing the
mirror in smilax, nor from hanging the chandeliers with that same
ugly, funereal, and artificial-looking vine,--this idea being the
principal stock-in-trade of every florist in the universe.
We could not catch even a glimpse of the supper-rooms, but we saw a
man in the fourth story front room filling dozens of little glass
vases, each with its single malmaison, rose, or camellia, and
despatching them by an assistant to another part of the house; so we
could imagine from this the scheme of decoration at the tables.--No,
not new, perhaps, but simple and effective.
By the time we had finished our entree, which happened to be lamb
cutlets and green peas, and had begun our roast, which was chicken
and ham, I remember, they had put wreaths at all the windows, hung
Japanese lanterns on the balcony and in the oak-tree, and
transformed the house into a blossoming bower.
At this exciting juncture Dawson entered unexpectedly with our
sweet, and for the first and only time caught us literally 'red-
handed.' Let British subjects be interested in their neighbours, if
they will (and when they refrain I am convinced that it is as much
indifference as good breeding), but let us never bring our country
into disrepute with an English butler! As there was not a single
person at the table when Dawson came in, we were obliged to say that
we had finished dinner, thank you, and would take coffee; no sweet
to-night, thank you.
Willie Beresford was the only one who minded, but he rather likes
cherry tart. It simply chanced to be cherry tart, for our cook at
Smith's Private Hotel is a person of unbridled fancy and endless
repertory. She sometimes, for example, substitutes rhubarb for
cherry tart quite out of her own head; and when balked of both these
dainties, and thrown absolutely on her own boundless resources, will
create a dish of stewed green gooseberries and a companion piece of
liquid custard. These unrelated concoctions, when eaten at the same
moment, as is her intention, always remind me of the lying down
together of the lion and the lamb, and the scheme is well-nigh as
dangerous, under any other circumstances than those of the digestive
millennium. I tremble to think what would ensue if all the rhubarb
and gooseberry bushes in England should be uprooted in a single
night. I believe that thousands of cooks, those not possessed of
families or Christian principles, would drown themselves in the
Thames forthwith, but that is neither here nor there, and the
Honourable Arthur denies it. He says, "Why commit suicide? Ain't
I had forgotten to say that we ourselves were all en grande
toilette, down to satin slippers, feeling somehow that it was the
only proper thing to do; and when Dawson had cleared the table and
ushered in the other visitors, we ladies took our coffee and the men
their cigarettes to the three front windows, which were open as
usual to our balcony.
We seated ourselves there quite casually, as is our custom, somewhat
hidden by the lace draperies and potted hydrangeas, and whatever we
saw was to be seen by any passer-by, save that we held the key to
the whole story, and had made it our own by right of conquest.
Just at this moment--it was quarter-past nine, although it was still
bright daylight--came a little procession of servants who
disappeared within the doors, and, as they donned caps and aprons,
would now and then reappear at the windows. Presently the supper
arrived. We did not know the number of invited guests (there are
some things not even revealed to the Wise Woman), but although we
were a trifle nervous about the amount of eatables, we were quite
certain that there would be no dearth of liquid refreshment.
Contemporaneously with the supper came a four-wheeler with a man and
a woman in it.
Sal. "I wonder if that is Lord and Lady Brighthelmston?"
Mrs. B. "Nonsense, my dear; look at the woman's dress."
W.B. "It is probably the butler, and I have a premonition that that
is good old Nurse with him. She has been with family ever since the
birth of the first daughter twenty-four years ago. Look at her cap
ribbons; note the fit of the stiff black silk over her comfortable
shoulders; you can almost hear her creak in it!"
B.G. "My eye! but she's one to keep the goody-pot open for the
youngsters! She'll be the belle of the ball so far as I'm
Fran. "It's impossible to tell whether it's the butler or
paterfamilias. Yes, it's the butler, for he has taken off his coat
and is looking at the flowers with the florist's assistant."
B.G. "And the florist's assistant is getting slated like one
o'clock! The butler doesn't like the rum design over the piano; no
more do I. Whatever is the matter with them now?"
They were standing with their faces towards us, gesticulating wildly
about something on the front wall of the drawing-room; a place quite
hidden from our view. They could not decide the matter, although
the butler intimated that it would quite ruin the ball, while the
assistant mopped his brow and threw all the blame on somebody else.
Nurse came in, and hated whatever it was the moment her eye fell on
it. She couldn't think how anybody could abide it, and was of the
opinion that his ludship would have it down as soon as he arrived.
Our attention was now distracted by the fact that his ludship did
arrive. It was ten o'clock, but barely dark enough yet to make the
lanterns effective, although they had just been lighted.
There were two private carriages and two four-wheelers, from which
paterfamilias and one other gentleman alighted, followed by a small
"One young chap to brace up the gov'nor," said Bertie Godolphin.
"Then the eldest daughter is engaged to be married; that's right;
only three daughters and two h'orphan nieces to work off now!"
As the girls scampered in, hidden by their long cloaks, we could not
even discover the two we already knew. While they were divesting
themselves of their wraps in an upper chamber, Nurse hovering over
them with maternal solicitude, we were anxiously awaiting their
criticisms of our preparations.
Chapter XII. Patricia makes her debut.
For three days we had been overseeing the details. Would they
approve the result? Would they think the grand piano in the proper
corner? Were the garlands hung too low? Was the balcony scheme
effective? Was our menu for the supper satisfactory? Were there
too many lanterns? Lord and Lady Brighthelmston had superintended
so little, and we so much, that we felt personally responsible.
Now came musicians with their instruments. The butler sent four
melancholy Spanish students to the balcony, where they began to tune
mandolins and guitars, while an Hungarian band took up its position,
we conjectured, on some extension or balcony in the rear, the
existence of which we had not guessed until we heard the music
later. Then the butler turned on the electric light, and the family
came into the drawing-rooms.
They did admire them as much as we could wish, and we, on our part,
thoroughly approved of the family. We had feared it might prove
dull, plain, dowdy, though wellborn, with only dear Patricia to
enliven it; but it was well-dressed, merry, and had not a thought of
glancing at the windows or pulling down the blinds, bless its simple
The mother entered first, wearing a grey satin gown and a diamond
crown that quite established her position in the great world. Then
girls, and more girls: a rose-pink girl, a pale green, a lavender,
a yellow, and our Patricia, in a cloud of white with a sparkle of
silver, and a diamond arrow in her lustrous hair.
What an English nosegay they made, to be sure, as they stood in the
back of the room while paterfamilias approached, and calling each in
turn, gave her a lovely bouquet from a huge basket held by the
Everybody's flowers matched everybody's frock to perfection; those
of the h'orphan nieces were just as beautiful as those of the
daughters, and it is no wonder that the English nosegay descended
upon paterfamilias, bore him into the passage, and if they did not
kiss him soundly, why did he come back all rosy and crumpled,
smoothing his dishevelled hair, and smiling at Lady Brighthelmston?
We speedily named the girls Rose, Mignonette, Violet, and Celandine,
each after the colour of her frock.
"But there are only five, and there ought to be six," whispered
Salemina, as if she expected to be heard across the street.
"One--two--three--four--five, you are right," said Mr. Beresford.
"The plainest of the lot must be staying in Wales with a maiden aunt
who has a lot of money to leave. The old lady isn't so ill that
they can't give the ball, but just ill enough so that she may make
her will wrong if left alone; poor girl, to be plain, and then to
miss such a ball as this,--hello! the first guest! He is on time to
be sure; I hate to be first, don't you?"
The first guest was a strikingly handsome fellow, irreproachably
dressed and unmistakably nervous.
"He is afraid he is too early!"
"He is afraid that if he waits he'll be too late!"
"He doesn't want the driver to stop directly in front of the door."
"He has something beside him on the seat of the hansom."
"The tissue paper has blown off: it is flowers."
"It is a piece! Jove, this IS a rum ball!"
"What IS the thing? No wonder he doesn't drive up to the door and
go in with it!"
"It is a HARP, as sure as I am alive!"
Then electrically from Francesca, "It is Patricia's Irish lover! I
forget his name."
"Hush!" she exclaimed at this chorus of Hibernian Christian names,
"it is Patricia's undeclared impecunious lover. He is afraid that
she won't know his gift is a harp, and afraid that the other girls
will. He feared to send it, lest one of the sisters or h'orphan
nieces should get it; it is frightful to love one of six, and the
cards are always slipping off, and the wrong girl is always
receiving your love-token or your offer of marriage."
"And if it is an offer, and the wrong woman gets it, she always
accepts, somehow," said Mr. Beresford; "It's only the right one who
declines!" and here he certainly looked at me pointedly.
"He hoped to arrive before any one else," Francesca went on, "and
put the harp in a nice place, and lead Patricia up to it, and make
her wonder who sent it. Now poor dear (yes, his name is sure to be
Terence), he is too late, and I am sure he will leave it in the
hansom, he will be so embarrassed."
And so he did, but alas! the driver came back with it in an instant,
the butler ran down the long path of crimson carpet that covered the
sidewalk, the first footman assisted, the second footman pursued
Terence and caught him on the staircase, and he descended
reluctantly, only to receive the harp in his arms and send a tip to
the cabman, whom of course he was cursing in his heart.
"I can't think why he should give her a harp," mused Bertie
Godolphin. "Such a rum thing, a harp, isn't it? It's too heavy for
her to 'tote,' as you say in the States."
"Yes, we always say 'tote,' particularly in the North," I replied;
"but perhaps it is Patricia's favourite instrument. Perhaps Terence
first saw her at the harp, and loved her from the moment he heard
her sing the 'Minstrel Boy' and the 'Meeting of the Waters.'"
"Perhaps he merely brought it as a sort of symbol," suggested Mr.
Beresford; "a kind of flowery metaphor signifying that all Ireland,
in his person, is at her disposal, only waiting to be played upon."
"If that is what he means, he must be a jolly muff," remarked the
Honourable Arthur. "I should think he'd have to send a guidebook
with the bloomin' thing."
We never knew how Terence arranged about the incubus; we only saw
that he did not enter the drawing room with it in his arms. He was
well received, although there was no special enthusiasm over his
arrival; but the first guest is always at a disadvantage.
He greeted the young ladies as if he were in the habit of meeting
them often, but when he came to Patricia, well, he greeted her as if
he could never meet her often enough; there was a distinct
difference, and even Mrs. Beresford, who had been incredulous,
succumbed to our view of the case.
Patricia took him over to the piano to see the arrangement of some
lilies. He said they were delicious, but looked at her.
She asked him if he did not think the garlands lovely.
He said, "Perfectly charming," but never lifted his eyes higher than
"Do you like my dress?" her glance seemed to ask.
"Wonderful!" his seemed to reply, as he stealthily put out his hand
and touched a soft fold of its white fluffiness.
I could hear him think, as she leaned into the curve of the
Broadwood and bent over the flowers-
'Have you seen but a bright lily grow
Before rude hands have touched it?
Have you marked but the fall of the snow
Before the soil hath smutched it?
Have you felt the wool of beaver?
Or swan's down ever?
Or have smelt o' the bud o' the brier?
Or the nard i' the fire?
Or have tasted the bag of the bee?
Oh, so white! oh, so soft! oh, so sweet is she!'
A footman entered, bearing the harp, which he placed on a table in
the corner. He disclaimed all knowledge of it, having probably been
well paid to do so, and the unoccupied girls gathered about it like
bees about a honeysuckle, while Patricia and Terence stayed by the
"To think it may never be a match!" sighed Francesca, "and they are
such an ideal pair! But it is easy to see that the mother will
oppose it, and although Patricia is her father's darling, he cannot
allow her to marry a handsome young pauper like Terence."
"Cheer up!" said Bertie Godolphin reassuringly. "Perhaps some
unrelenting beggar of an uncle will die of old age next and leave
him the title and estates."
"I hope she will accept him to-night, if she loves him, estates or
no estates," said Salemina, who, like many ladies who have elected
to remain single, is distinctly sentimental, and has not an ounce of
"Well, I think a fellow deserves some reward," remarked Mr.
Beresford, "when he has the courage to drive up in a hansom bearing
a green harp with yellow strings in his arms. It shows that his
passion has quite eclipsed his sense of humour. By the way, I am
not sure but I should choose Rose, after all; there's something very
attractive about Rose."
"It is the fact that she is promised to another," laughed Francesca
"She would make an admirable wife," Mrs. Beresford interjected--
absent-mindedly; "and so of course Terence will not choose her, and
similarly neither would you, if you had the chance."
At this Mrs. Beresford's son glances up at me with twinkling eyes,
and I can hardly forbear smiling, so unconscious is she that his
choice is already made. However, he replies: "Who ever loved a
woman for her solid virtues, mother? Who ever fell a victim to
punctuality, patience, or frugality? It is other and different
qualities which colour the personality and ensnare the heart; though
the stodgy and reliable traits hold it, I dare say, when once
captured. Don't you know Berkeley says, 'D--n it, madam, who falls
in love with attributes?'"
Meantime Violet and Celandine have come out on the balcony, and
seeing the tinkling musicians there, have straightway banished them
to another part of the house.
"A good thing, too!" murmured Bertie Godolphin, "making a beastly
row in that 'nailing' little corner, collecting a crowd sooner or
later, don't you know, and putting a dead stop to the jolly little
The Honourable Arthur glanced critically at Celandine. "I should
make up to her," he said thoughtfully. "She's the best groomed one
of the whole stud, though why you call her Celandine I can't think."
"It's a flower, and her dress is yellow, can't you see, man? You've
got no sense of colour," said the candid Bertie. "I believe you'd
just as soon be a green parrot with a red head as not."
And now the guests began to arrive; so many of them and so near
together that we hardly had time to label them as they said good
evening, and told dear Lady Brighthelmston how pretty the
decorations were, and how prevalent the influenza had been, and how
very sultry the weather, and how clever it was of her to give her
party in a vacant house, and what a delightful marriage Rose was
making, and how well dear Patricia looked.
The sound of the music drifted into the usually quiet street, and by
half-past eleven the ball was in full splendour. Lady
Brighthelmston stood alone now, greeting all the late arrivals; and
we could catch a glimpse now and then of Violet dancing with a
beautiful being in a white uniform, and of Rose followed about by
her accepted lover, both of them content with their lot, but with
feet quite on the solid earth.
Celandine was a bit of a flirt, no doubt. She had many partners,
walked in the garden with them impartially, divided her dances, sat
on the stairs. Wherever her yellow draperies moved, nonsense,
merriment, and chatter followed in her wake.
Patricia danced often with Terence. We could see the dark head,
darker and a bit taller than the others, move through the throng,
the diamond arrow gleaming in its lustrous coils. She danced like a
flower blown by the wind. Nothing could have been more graceful,
more stately. The bend of her slender body at the waist, the pose
of her head, the line of her shoulder, the suggestion of dimple in
her elbow--all were so many separate allurements to the kindling eye
Terence certainly added little to the general brilliancy and gaiety
of the occasion, for he stood in a corner and looked at Patricia
whenever he was not dancing with her, 'all eye when one was present,
all memory when one was gone.'
Chapter XIII. A Penelope secret.
Shortly after midnight our own little company broke up, loath to
leave the charming spectacle. The guests departed with the greatest
reluctance, having given Dawson a half-sovereign for waiting up to
lock the door. Mrs. Beresford said that it seemed unendurable to
leave matters in such an unfinished condition, and her son promised
to come very early next morning for the latest bulletins.
"I leave all the romances in your hands," he whispered to me; "do
let them turn out happily, do!"
Salemina also retired to her virtuous couch, remembering that she
was to visit infant schools with a great educational dignitary on
Francesca and I turned the gas entirely out, although we had been
sitting all the evening in a kind of twilight, and slipping on our
dressing-gowns sat again at the window for a farewell peep into the
past, present, and future of the 'Brighthelmston set.'
At midnight the dowager duchess arrived. She must at least have
been a dowager duchess, and if there is anything greater, within the
bounds of a reasonable imagination, she was that. Long streamers of
black tulle floated from a diamond soup-tureen which surmounted her
hair. Narrow puffings of white traversed her black velvet gown in
all directions, making her look somewhat like a railway map, and a
diamond fan-chain defined, or attempted to define, what was in its
nature neither definable nor confinable, to wit, her waist, or what
had been, in early youth, her waist.
The entire company was stirred by the arrival of the dowager
duchess, and it undoubtedly added new eclat to what was already a
fashionable event; for we counted three gentlemen who wore orders
glittering on ribbons that crossed the white of their immaculate
linen, and there was an Indian potentate with a jewelled turban who
divided attention with the dowager duchess's diamond soup-tureen.
At twelve-thirty Lord Brighthelmston chided Celandine for flirting
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