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.