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The invitations having been issued, we must turn to the arrangements of the dinner-table. Dinners á la Russe have been in great favour the last few years, and they are more convenient because no one has the trouble of carving. In these dinners all the dishes are carved by the servants at the sideboards; but this plan is not convenient unless you have a large staff of servants.
Carving is a useful accomplishment, and one that is not so much practised as it might be. Lord Chesterfield says about carving: “However triling some things may seem, they are no longer so when about half the world thinks them otherwise. Carving, as it occurs once at least in every day, is not beneath our notice. We should use ourselves to carve adroitly and genteelly.” Lady Mary Wortley Montague used to dine by herself an hour or two beforehand, in order that she might carve at her father's table, and she only followed the general custom of her day.
A white damask cloth is spread over the dinner table. Down each side and along each end are long and short slips, which are drawn off before the dessert. Before each person is placed a serviette folded in some intricate form, with a roll of bread inside. Knives, forks, and spoons are ready for immediate use, and on the right band of each person are placed sherry, claret, and champagne glasses. No tumblers are seen at modern dinner parties. Salt should be within reach of every guest, also a water decanter and glass.
The old-fashioned centre flower épergne has retired from its conspicuous position, and is replaced by majolica bowls and vases of all shapes and sizes, or by acacias and other flowers. At fashionable dinner-parties, a plateau of plate glass occupies the centre of the table. On its surface, here and there, are swans of Irish china, their folded wings clasping small bouquets. The edges of the miniature lake are closely bordered with brightcoloured flowers; and the flowers are scattered instead of being in groups.
This decoration wants a large table, it crowds up a small one. The dessert should be placed amongst the flowers; grapes look doubly tempting peeping out from ferns and moss. The dessert is placed on the table from the beginning, and as fruit is as beautiful as it is delicious, it helps the ornament. No wine is put upon the dinner-table.
While we are on the subject of dinners, it may be well to say a few words on the etiquette of eating. The correct deportment at table has been much modified during the course of the last ten years. There are still many things, however, which may not be done : one is to cut our bread; another to dab up the gravy from our plates with our bread; to touch anything of our food except bread with our fingers. Whilst eating soup we must never raise our plates to pour it into our spoons. There are two ways of putting a spoon to our mouth. The side should touch the lips.
Never make a noise whilst eating or drinking. It is related by a recent distinguished visitor to America, that
the Americans almost always put their knives in their mouths, but as their knives do not cut, the fashion is not dangerous, though ugly. In England, where, happily, knives do cut, to put them in the mouth is dangerous and ugly. Never empty your glass at a draught. Eat slowly, never speak with your mouth full; the consequences to your neighbours may be exceedingly disagree. able. Use no knife but a fish-knife to fish ; when fishknives are not provided, use your fork and a piece of bread, which should not be eaten but left on the dish. These little prescriptions are elementary, but essential.
Take care not to inconvenience your right and lefthand neighbour by brusque or frequent movement. If anything falls from your plate, or your bread falls from the table, you must not pick it up again. Look as though you did not perceive it.
Never whisper to anyone or speak in a foreign tongue ; it is rude to the people who are looking at you and do not understand.
If you are ever victim to a servant's awkwardness (and what mistress of a house is not?), do not complain or show yourself vexed at it, although you have the right to
Nothing is so disagreeable to a man as to see his wife show temper at her servant's shortcomings before their guests.
A French lady once told me the following anecdote on the subject of controlling temper :
“There was a regiment of hussars formed with a new and elegant uniform ; they wore a white dolman braided with gold; the garment was very dear, and young men with slender purses could not often renew it.
“A young man of good family, though poor, enlisted in this regiment. He went quickly through all the grades, and was at last named officer. His parents gave him all their spare money for his equipment. He wore this splendid costume, of which he was not a little proud, for the first time at a dinner at his colonel's.
“He was an intelligent fellow, though as violent as gunpowder. He had often been reprimanded for this fault; when he became second lieutenant, his chiefs had warned him against indulging it.
“ He was placed at table near the mistress of the house, on account of his new grade; he began to talk with much gaiety and diverting originality. One of the dishes was served with a thick dark-coloured sauce. The servant who was performing the butler's functions took
the dish from the table to carve it; he stooped badly, the dish leaned on one side and all the sauce fell on the young officer's shoulder. In the twinkling of an eye all the consequences of this terrible misfortune presented them. selves to his imagination; he saw himself ruined, for he had not the means of buying another dolman. The blood flew to his face and blinded him; he got up in a fury, gave his chair a kick, and took his serviette by one hand to strike the servant. Happily, his eye met that of the colonel fixed upon him;
he saw all the consequences of what he was about to do. His expression changed as if wine is put on the table before the host and then handed once round by the butler.
The servants hand round the principal dishes and then leave the
by enchantment; he held out his serviette to the stupified valet, and said in an amiable tone: “Will you wipe my dolman, please?'
The lady continued: “We all burst out laughing. He went on talking and joking as brilliantly as before. The colonel was much pleased with him, and did much for his advancement. The countess wrote a few days after to invite him to go and see her, when she showed him a superb dolman, admirably braided; she begged him to accept it, saying it was her own work, and that she had embroidered it on purpose for him. By his presence of mind he gained useful support, whilst if he had given away to his first movement, the consequences might have been disastrous.”
Amongst the other things to be avoided, is talking loudly. Do not forcibly draw attention to yourself. If you have any esprit, it will soon be perceived, you need not draw attention to it.
I am still talking of the more stylish kinds of dinners (of the less stylish I intend to talk anon) in the following remarks. After dinner the table is cleared of everything but the dessert and the flowers. The crumbs are taken off the slips on to a plate, and the slips are then withdrawn. A dessert plate, on which is a d’oyley, finger-glass, and silver knife and fork, is placed before each guest, together with three wine-glasses. These glasses should be small and not contain much water. The dessert dishes are brought more forward from the centre of the table, and spoons placed before each guest. The
The hostess very soon rises, looking at the same time at the lady on her husband's right hand, and all the ladies rise from their seats. The gentlemen do the same. The host, or some gentleman nearer the door, rises and opens it, and the ladies retire to the drawing-room. Coffee is handed round in both drawing and dining-rooms. The gentlemen do not leave the ladies long, as it is not now the fashion to drink much wine after dinner.
When the gentlemen come upstairs, tea is served with biscuits, and bread and butter. These are handed round. At half-past ten or eleven the guests begin to depart. The arrival of a carriage is announced quietly to its owner by a servant.
In dinners of less pretension, the table is still set with care and precision ; the different courses are placed on it and removed in proper order. No dish should be taken off the table till the plates on which it has been served are removed. The dishes of vegetables and sauces are kept on the sideboard and always handed. The guests may partake a second time from the joint or poultry, but, not of either soup nor fish. Gentlemen carve and assist their neighbours, and should notice anything that is wanting, passing salt or pepper, etc., if within their reach, or asking a servant for it, but they must not get up from their seats to get it.
brows over the page, protruding his lips in a vicious pout as he read.
“He disdains to notice the slander,” resumed Mrs. Baxter, unabashed at her failure to elicit a conjugal conpliment. “ Seriously, Mr. Wyllys, I am thankful for the guidance of reason and will that counterbalance my mercurial temperament. My spirit resembles nothing else so much as a mettled steed, whose curvettings are restrained by an inexorable rein. But for my sober judgment, Impulse would have led me into an erratic course, I fear."
Relaxing the tension of the fingers and wrist that had pulled hard at an imaginary curb, and unclenching the teeth from their bite upon the word "inexorable,” she sighed, reflectively.
“ The combination is rare- commenced the gentle
in her comfortable causeuse, when the door-bell heralded a visitor.
“My dear Mr. Wyllys!” she cried, futtering forward to meet him. "You are doubly welcome when you come alone. One sees you so seldom except in a crowd, that it is a genuine pleasure to have a few moments' quiet conversation with you."
“ It is like yourself to excuse my unfashionable early call with such gracious tact,” responded the gentleman, bowing low over her hand.
He shook hands with the doctor with less empressement, but most respectfully, and sank upon a divan near the hostess.
« I have another engagement this evening, but I could not deny myself the pleasure of paying my devoirs to you in passing. I will not ask if you have recovered from the fatigue of Thursday night"—with an expressive look at her blooming face. “I believe, however, it is never a weariness to you to be agreeable, as it is to us duller and less benevolent mortals. I am horribly cross, always, on the morning succeeding a party. It is as if I had overdrawn my account, in the matter of social entertaiament; borrowed too heavily from the reserve fund intended by Nature for daily expenses. But this rule applies only to people whose resources of spirits, wit, and general powers of pleasing, are limited. You are above the need of such pitiful economy as we find necessary.”
“ Shall I undeceive you?” beamed the lady. “ If the doctor-dear, patient martyr!—were put into the witess-box, he might tell sad tales, make divulgations that would demolish your pretty and flattering theory. Doctor, my love! Mr. Wyllys is anxious to know what was the status of my spiritual and mental thermometer, on the morning after our little re-union, last week?"
“ Eh, what did you say, my dear ? ”
He lowered his folio. His eyebrows were perked discontentedly, and his forefinger was in the doomed bow she had tied not fifteen minutes before.
Mrs Baxter tried, unsuccessfully, to frown down the offending digit before she made reply.
“Mr. Wyllys has heard that I am like champagne, * stale, flat, and unprofitable '—with a dash of vinegarwhen the effervescence wrought by social excitement is off,” vivified, by her mirthful misrepresentation of her visitor's words, into radiance that revealed every molar, and forced her eyelids into utter retirement.
“Ah!" The doctor smiled absently, and re-bent his
" It is preposterous !” ejaculated the doctor, closing the Russian leather album with a concussion like the report of a pocket-pistol.
“I think not, my dear,” said the wife, gently corrective. * It is, as Mr. Wyllys says, a rare combination, but certainy not an impossible one."
"It is preposterous," reitetated the doctor, with a ruinous tug at his cravat, “ that a rational creature, who can read and write, should waste time in disfiguring good, honest paper with such incongruous, not to say blasphemous, nonsense as I find here. It was bad enough for mediæval monks to deck the Word of Life in the motley wear of a harlequin. Greek, German, black-letter text, are, all of them, stumbling-blocks to the unlearned, diversions to the thoughtless. But when the sacred Scriptures are bedizened into further illegibility by paint and gilding, and illustrated by birds, beasts, and even fishes, daubed upon fields, azure, argent, and verde, the offence becomes an abomination. Such profanation is offered that divinest of pastorals, the twenty-third psalm, in this volume," elevating it in strong disgust.
Mrs. Baxter arose and took it from his hand in time to save it from being tossed to the table or floor.
“Tastes differ, my dear husband," was all she said, but her forbearance and real sweetness of temper called forth a look of unfeigned respect from the amused spectator.
“ I wouldn't keep it in the parlour, if I were in your place, Jane,” the doctor expostulated, seeing her deposit the folio upon a stand beyond his reach.
“I will not ask you to look at it again, love,”-still amiably.
She returned to the subject when the critic had helped himself to a volume which was more to his taste.
“ I saw few things when I was abroad, before my marriage, that interested me more than the illuminated missials and breviaries preserved in convents, museums, and private collections of vertu,” she said to Mr. Wyllys. “I am the possessor of a remarkably fine specimen of the illuminator's art—the gift of a dear friend and relative, now no more. I had not looked into it for years until after I had commenced my humble album, which, allow me to observe, my excellent husband does not guess is my handiwork. To return "the hands describing an inward curve, and subsiding into an embrace upon her knee—“the best touches in my work were after my precious reliquary. I must show it to you. I am chary of displaying it to nonappreciative or irreverent eyes. Consequently it seldom sees the light.”
Orrin followed her to an escritoire at the back of the Toom, peeping covertly at his watch as he went. Mrs. Baxter laid her hand upon her bust, and chocked down some rebellious uprising of memory or regret, as she unlocked a drawer.
“This is it!” mournfully, taking out a thin volume bound in gilded leather and carved boards, and redolent of the scent of some Indian wood.
Orrin examined it in pleased surprise. He had expected to see an absurdity. He beheld a gem of its kind; a collection of Latin hymns, including the Stabat Mater, Dies Iræ, and Veni Sancte Spiritus, each page encircled by a border of appropriate design, and delicate, yet rich colouring.
“I have never seen anything finer. I do not wonder that you prize it highly. I thank you for showing it to me,” he said, sincerely. “By whom was it executed ? "
My friend ordered it for me of an adept in his art, then resident at Florence. I forget his name, but you will find it cleverly concealed from the common eye in some one of the convolutions of the title-page,” was the reply.
The fly-leaf adhered slightly to the page designated, and Orrin read the inscription upon the former before detaching it.
“Jane Lanneau, from Ginevra. Florence, January ist, 18–. I have surely seen that handwriting before ! + Ginevra'” he repeated slowly, and the pretty name fell musically from his tongue. “There is poetry in the word !”
" You would have said so, had you known her!” Mrs. Baxter winked away two unbidden tears that glazed her eyes, without forming and dropping --swallowed anew and very hard. “She always reminded me of a plaintive poem set to music. That is, in the later years of an existence which was all song and sunniness when it was fresh and new."
Orrin fluttered a few leaves; commented upon the grace and finish of a decoration here and there, and went
back to the inscription. It was strongly like Jessie Kirke's writing, but the resemblance was undoubtedly accidental. The one line had been penned, he learned from the date, before she was born.
“She was the Helena to my Hermia,” pursued the hostess. “We lived the same life until her marriage, which preceded mine by five years. She was my senior by some months, but in heart and soul we were twins ! ” -pressing her hands gradually together, beginning at the wrists, and passing upward to the finger-tips, to express the idea of onen’ss. “ And by a most extra-or-dinary coincidence, we beth married clergymen!”
“Another evii cnce of the perfect harmony of soul existing between yih. Did I understand you to say that she is not living?"
“ Alas! she has been in her grave for fifteen years. I never saw her after her marriage, which was a surprise to all her friends. We anticipated a brilliant union for
But she bestowed herself, her talents, her beauty, upon a clerical widower who was twelve years older than herself. My poor Ginevra! it was a strange ending to her sanguine dreanis. Mr. Kirke was a scholarly man, it is true, and a thorough gentleman, and of his devotion to her there could be no doubt. It was such worship as few women can inspire. I believe that he tried faithfully to make her happy, but my personal acquaintanceship with him was very slight.
“Kirke ! ” repeated Orrin, more deliberately and with less emphasis than was his wont, and he was always the reverse of abrupt. His lazy articulation was now almost a drawl. “I know a gentleman-a clergyman of that name-Rev. Donald L. Kirke, resident, now, and I fancy for many years, at Dundee— "
“ It is the very same!” Mrs. Baxter started tragically, and leaned gaspingly towards him, her throat swelling like a pouter pigeon's. “And you know him, you say? Tell me something about him-about his family! My sweet cousin left a child, I know. Does it still live? Dundee! yes! that was the quaint Scotch pame of my Ginevra's new home. I have always associated it with
The Cotter's Saturday Night.' You recollect ' Dundee's wild, warbling measures ’? Do sit down and tell me all!"
“ You should visit Dundee," said Orrin, sauntering back to the fireplace, but declining the seat she offered. “ It is a beautiful valley-sheltered from storms by a barricade of picturesque hills. I was there in May, and the climate and flowers-especially the wealth of roses, reminded me of sunny Provence. I became quite well acquainted with Mr. Kirke. He is, as you describe him, a thorough gentleman-one of the genuine 'old school'handsome, refined, and scholarly. His daughters, of whom there are two, are cultivated ladies. The younger —who is, I presume, the child to whom you refer—is, I have heard, very like her beautiful mother. You would be interested in her, first, for your cousin's sake, but very soon for her own. This matter of family likeness is a
curious one. I see now what was the resemblance that puzzled me last Spring. Miss Jessie Kirke might easily be mistaken for your daughter."
“ If she were, what a happy woman I should be ! cried the flattered lady, casting up her brown eyes, and raising her clasped hands to a level with her chin. “The relief afforded by your charming description is beyond expression. I have never dared inquire respecting my lost darling's babe. And she is really a Lanneau ! Heaven bless her! I feared-how I feared! to hear that she had grown up an awkward rustic, whose faint likeness to her parent would pain, not gratify me. Therefore, I have maintained no correspondence with Mr. Kirke since our exchange of letters immediately after his wife's decease.' Jessie Kirke!' what a riante, piquante, bewitching name!
" I wish you could prevail upon her father to entrust her to you for a time. She would be a feature in our society this winter. Her face and manners are strikingly attractive, and hers is a style of beauty that will improve with years and knowledge of the world. Her bearing and conversation have much of the fascination which is, I suspect, a family gift. She will grow handsomer until
- I cannot say when. Women, like leaves, have their time to fade, and this trying season lies, with a large majority, a little on the bright side of thirty. The Lanneaus have not lost the secret they brought from fair France -the magic that purchases the gift of perennial youth."
“ Fie! fie! how you digress! I am dying for information of my beloved young cousin, and you launch into irrelevant gallantries—flattery that is thrown away, let me tell you, upon one of my age and gravity!! frowned Mrs. Baxter with her forehead, her lips openly refractory, and her eyes dancing with delight. “Do sit down and tell me more!”
“I cannot, thank you! I have already bored you with a visit three times as long as I meant it should be. Your cousin does the family credit. I can award her no higher praise. Au revoir !"
“One second !” she entreated, detaining him. “The discoveries of this evening seem trifles to you. To me they are an Event! I shall write to the precious lamb to-morrow. Please give me her address in full.”
Orrin dictated, and she wrote it upon her ivory tablets.
* Perhaps it would be as well not to mention me in connection with this renewal of your intercourse with Mr. Kirke's family," he said, carelessly. "Your friendship will be the more welcome if it is supposed that it has its root in your fond recollection of your lamented relative. Excuse the suggestion--but from what I have seen of father and daughters, I am inclined to think them sensitive and proud-as they have a right to be. Your tact hardly needed this hint, however. There is a ring! I have loitered here shamefully! Do you know that your beautiful drawing-room is likened, about town, to Circe's cave?”
CHAPTER VI. MR. WYLLYS was careful not to repeat his visit within a week. He could trust to the natural growth of the seed he had sown, and he was too politic to appear solicitous on his own account for the resumption of cousinly intercourse between the houses of Baxter and Kirke. He did not overrate his influence with the would-be leader of Hamilton society. Four days after his party call, he had a note from Jessie. “ Dear Cousin Orrin,
“I enclose a letter received last night from Mrs. Baxter, wife of the President of Marion College. She is, I have learned from this, my nearest living relative, outside my immediate family circle, being my mother's first cousin. I have never heard of her until the arrival of this communication. My father knew her, years ago, but did not remember whom she had married. I little imagined when I listened to Roy's praises of his friend, Dr. Baxter, that I had any personal interest in, or connection with his family. Mrs. Baxter writes, you see, in an affectionate strain, and is urgent in her request that I should pass the winter with her. My father and sister agree with me that you are the proper person to consult with regard to my answer to the invitation. You are, doubtless, acquainted with Mrs. Baxter, and are certainly more au fait to the usages of Hamilton polite society than we are.
“Tell me freely what you think I ought to do—freely as if I were in blood, as I am in heart,
" Your Kinswoman,
"Here is an example of bereditary transmission that would stagger Wendell Holmes himself !” thought Orrin, scanning the epistle, letter by letter. “The chirography of the girl, who could not write at the time of her mother's death, is precisely similar to hers—as similar as it is unlike that of the sister by whom she was educated. It is a nut to crack for those who carp at the idea that the handwriting is a criterion of character, who attribute variety of penmanship to educational influences entirely. What has my fair 'kinswoman' inherited from her maternal progenitor besides her features and carriage, and these sloping, slender Italian characters, I wonder? It may be worth my while to investigate the question as a psychological phenomenon."
To secure the facilities for doing this, he resolved to run down to Dundee the next day.
The early train he had condemned in the spring started now before daylight, and he called himself a fool, as he took his place in the cold, smoky car, for making the journey at all. Being mortal, he was liable to these spasms of prudence and faltering of purpose, during which he held serious questioning with Common-senseleaving feeling out of the question—whether he were not squandering time and thought in prosecuting his favourite pastime of winning and wasting hearts. He knew that,