|Chapter Title||A DINNER PARTY.|
|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||Ada and her Cousin Charles, A Tale for Victorian Boys and Girls|
ADA AND HER COUSIN CHARLES, A TALE FOR VICTORIAN BOYS AND GIRLS. BY E. A. SAMSON. CHAPTER XIX. A DINNER PARTY. Afewdays subsequently Mr. Mullock gave a grand dinner party:in his palatial residence at Brighton. The guests, who had had the honour of an invita tion, were all, with one exception, gentlemen eminent for their wealth and notorious for their prodigality in every .thing that. fed their vanity, and for their parsimony in everything relating to the culture of the mind. Into the antecedents of the connives it would not be.iwise to inquire too closely. Some had acquired their wealth honestly --it having been thrust upon them, as it were, while they slept, or by a lucky venture in a gold-mine ; others-well, we will not pursue the subject further. But they all equally prided themselves upon- the industry and perseverance that had landed them in affluence, and upionitheir superior shrewdness to the ordinary run of men. Among them was.s-man of the law. who had entered into a - matrimonial alliance with his hensekeeper, a lady not especially dis tinguished by her familiar acquaintance with the intricacies of the English language. There was another gentle- man-a large importer, whose domestic circle was ruled over by a lady whom he had selected for his wife from among the Hebes of the Vestibulian Caft. But of this, enough. They were all, whether merchants, shepherd-kings, or 'chip-owners, immensely rich,-therefore, immensely - respectable, and, conse quenttly, held in high esteem by small tradesmen, who intrigued to get their custom, and fawned upon and flattered them. It is much to be hoped that in the course of time wealth will be ac corded much greater privileges than it now has. At present, one of its chief pleasures is the right that it possesses to heap insult upon cultured poverty, without fear .of ulterior consequences. That is, in itself, though, but a very inadequate recognition of its undoubted prerogative to doas itjustlikes without having to account to any one for the way-in which it feels inclined to exercise its rights. I hold that M'Closky, in the Octoroon, and Legree in Uncle Tom's Cabin, were much ill-used men.
Having money -at their command, why should they not have been permitted to kill with impunity insignificant half castes, and flog' to death, by way of pleasant pastime, their old and worn out slaves, and that without incurring the hatred of their fellow-men? These' things were much better managed in the good old times of the Roman Caesars. Now-a-days wealth is unjustly shorn of half its pleasures, its claims, and its privileges. Where, I ask, is the use of a lady's having money, unless it give her the unquestioned power to select, at her own sweet pleasure, as governess for her; girls any woman educated or not-the less educated, indeed, the better,' because the more servile she will be 'and the more - obedient to her. pupils' .petty whims and insolent caprices ? Charles, the exception above referred to,' found: himself amongst the most welcomed; of the guests. He was greeted with marked favour by the youthful heiress, whose eyes of washed out, blueish, willow-patterned hue, as he apiproached to bow to her, shone luridly' as those of a quadrupedal member of the feline species, watching furtively to pounce upon a quaking little mouse that it hoped would shortly of hr it matter for digestive rumination. Everything that could possibly add to the success of the dinner party and to the ease of mind of the economically inclined donor, had been arranged by the affluent Mr. Mullock himself. He had contracted at such a low figure with Mr. Bustle'em, the noted caterer, at so much or, rather, so little, per head, that it was hardly within the bounds of possibility that the poor man could have made a half-penny's profit by the transaction. In a simnilar justifiable and laudable spirit of restricting his expenditure within thenarrowest limits, he had purchased, at a nominal price, a few cases of damaged wines, chiefly claret and champagne that had been salvaged from the Loch Ard. As to whether or not they were of choice quality, andhadstill a fragrant bouquet, he knew nothing, neither did he care. It was sufficient for him that they had the names and bore the appearance of wines. Under any circumstances he could not have known a good vintage from a bad one by its- flavour, for the special beverage with which he was wont to slake his own thirst was whiskey of the celebrated Lorne brand, heightened to his taste, the better to suit his fastidious palate, by whiffs and puffs, from the shortest of blackened pipes, of the darkest of short-cut Barrett's twist, a tobacco anything but aromatic. The soup, a tinned preparation of nondescript flavour and consistency, supplied by a meat preserving compa ny, having been partaken of in silence, a sherry, gambogy in colour, and fiery in taste, was handed round-in cat glasses that, the host informed the sharers of his hospitality had cost him fifteen guineas a dozen. Mrs. Mullock introduced into her corporeal system several doses of this delectable liquid, Her tongue was loosened, and the re mainder of the dinner was enlivened by her pleasant reminiscences. These remembrances of hers all had a bearing upon her matronly practice of invariably securing as far as she could, good value for her money. "Only fancy," she said, whilst struggling with a por tion of an antediluvian turkey, " my poor dear first husband died in a boardinghouse, on a Thursd::-. The woman who kept it (she was an officer's widow by-the-by, and a lady of culture and refinement, who had been reduced by adverse circumstances to the sad necessity' of earning a pre carious livelihood in this disesteemed fashion) made plenty of money by us, for we paid her five and twenty shillings a week each. Well now, only fancy, this woman actually wanted me to pay her in full up to the Saturday. No I ma'am, 1 said, my poor dear de parted could not, as you must admit, partake of any of your fond on the Thursday, and of course, eat nothing on the Friday and the Saturday, so it is very dishonest of you to try and impose on me in that way. Accordingly I only paid her for half a week, and immediately left the house of such a grasping. extortionate creature. That is how I manage matters, for it is well known to my friends that I am always ready and willing to pay what is just, and that I hate meanness." In enlightened, brilliant talk of this en joyable character, she amused and delighted her guests, between the different courses. Also at dessert another tale she told them, with many I a smile of self-complacency, and with infinite humour. It was to the effect that a schoolmistress had charged her a sixpence for a copybook that had been used by the treasure of her heart, 1 the delight of' her soul, the gushing Sophonisba, her well-loved daughter. "Why? ma'am, I said to her, do you I not buy your copybooks by the dozen ? then you could supply them to my i daughter at four- pence half-penny < each ! The schoolmistress made me a very humble apology, and in paying 4 her I deducted the gross overcharge." I Then she went on to say, "I soon 4 took iaway,"my Sophonisba, from a womarrnivho would thus make a wilful mistake in -her own favor, and placed her with a lady who had been recom- I nienddt'o me as goiod6 techer, and who only charged for her pupils a guined?-id a-haf a-quarter, while I I had been paying the former one two I guinaas. Of course.I removed her without notice, for the woman having 11 tried to cheat me, was not worthy of 1 any consideration." At this evidence of I good healthy discrimination the guests i were filled with admiration, comp!i. 2 mented her on her perspicacity, told her she was a lady who had "an eye to business," and so on. "Yes," she added, "I always took care to keep: governesses and schoilmistresses, and that kind of people in their places, else you know they would soon get 1 beyond bearing, they would bedo pre- I 1 sumptuous. I never allowed a week to pass without giving theur a good talk ing to. I did it you know for the' best, for my heart was wrapped up in 1 my darling, Sophonisba ; I-spared no expense in bringing her up. - She was I always dressed in the latest fashions. , and no matter what was the cost of I Sdress, or a mantle, or a bonnet, or a hat, she had nbut to wish for it and it
was ihers. I, have; freque:nly paid more than a hundred pounds to.Alston and Brown for her summer things alone., One. winter I gave twenty guineas foran, .ermine jacket for her. Nobody can my Ihave not been a good mother to.my daughter. I never al lowed any petty governess to dictate to my Sophonisba, who one day will be among the richest women in the colony." - At this moment a hurried whisper was heard at that good lady's end of the table.. An attendant, approaching her with much fear, and in evident con sternation, informed her in subdued, but agitated tones, that the ruling power in the kitchen was recalcitrant, and with many violent imprecations, and threats of appealing to a kettle of boil ing water, as a ready means of enforcing her will,refnsedto allow Mr. Bustle'em's employds entrance into her privileged domain. "Tell her," whispered Mrs. Mullock in reply, reddening and with. some little confusion of manner, "TelE her," I will beg her pardon in the morning. I will also give her a new dress, and increase her wages." A cook, in her estimation, was a person of far higher importance than a mere paltry governess. The one was to be conciliated, the other snubbed and treated with contumely. And this, except in rare cases, will always be the case so long as governesses have no official recognised status. Dinner at length was over, and the guests assembled in the drawing-room. Here was an opportunity for the host to disport himself. And he did it to his full satisfaction. He drew the at tention of everybody to the costliness of his furniture, the rich texture of the carpets and the hangings, and the gorgeousness of the frames surround ing the oleographs with which he had bedecked his walls. Then they partook of coffee, " our fathous mixture at one shilling apound," served in porcelain cups that had cost him, Mr. Mullock said, ever so many guineas each. And Charles, seated at the piano, rattled off several quadrilles and waltzes, thus further ingratiating himself with the Mullocks, for it helped to pass the time, and saved them the expense of the paid services of a pro fessional musician. The fair daughter of the house, the squat and beauteous Sophonisba, of would-be light, elastic toe, was more than ever smitten with the elegant and accomplished Charles. She determined to have him, by hook or by crook, for husband. Mrs. Mullock, mere, was of opinion that she had never before met such a delightful and such a polished young man. In her eyes he was even more gentlemanly than the footmen with whom she had associated in her earlier years. He had waltzed with her twice, and had insidiously led her to b :lieve that in grace of style and poetry of motion, she had but two compeers, her daughter Sophonisba and the Terpsichorean goddess Taglioni; in fact, that she was superior to Cerito.