|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier (NSW : 1872 - 1881)|
|Trove Title||Our Christmas Supper. A Story of a Royal Swan!|
Qur Ohzmimm tupper,,
A STORY OF A ROYAL SWAN.
PERHAPS the jolliest Adelphi festivity of all was the club supper at Christmas. Work was comparatively at a stand- still. The Pantomimes were out, the plays were in full swing, the critical notices were written, the novels were published, the law courts were closed, and it did no harm if the pictures remained where they were on the easel. The Christmas supper was a great institution. It was a stan- ding rule that, besides bringing good stories, good songs, and good spirits, each member should contribute some item to the jovial feast. Everything was acceptable, from a farm- house loaf to a pot of marmalade. The rooms were hung with choice paintings and engravings, all lent for the occasion. And it seldom happened that such as were away from England on duty or necessity forgot the famous night
of the Adelphi supper.
Everything was arranged on the highest scale of festivity. A piano was hired ; musicians brought their pet instruments, and on this occasion every member wilfully and obstinately determined to make a night of it, .Now Jack Green was a universal genius and a thorough good fellow. He was a walking encyclopaedia, and knew something of everything. ,,. - In case of any doubt or dispute he was: always appealed to,
and generally managed to settle the difficulty. At the outset of his career he was unfortunately cursed with a small competency, sufficient to keep himself comfortably, and the consequence waa that he never took to work seriously or distinguished himself at anything. He was everything by turns but nothing long. He had travelled and gained experience ; what he read he managed to remem- ber. He was a bit of an artist, a bit of a doctor, and a bit of a lawyer. He had been in the army, had walked the hospitals, was entitled to wear a barristers' wig, and knew the picture-galleries of the continent by heart. He had even condescended to amateur theatricals, could recite fairly, and was celebrated for singing a good comic song. What wonder then that Jack Green was an oracle and s favourite, and you may guess what consternation prevailed when it was known that Jack Green would nob be able t( preside over the destinies of the annual Adelphi supper What could they do without Jack Green ? Who was t< take the chair?, .What, was to be the special object o interest at this year's supper ? The year before last Jacl . Green had arranged the procession of the Boar's Head, ant
had coached the singing members and they all led on the disl from the kitchen to the club-room solemnly chanting am "decked with bays and rosemary." For the next year' , feast some enthusiast had slain a peacock, and for this dis!
all the artists put their heads together and arranged
fantastic Veronese show, which was a great success, bu the members pf the club positively refused, when Chiaros euro, the pre-Raffaelite artist, insisted that they should a borrow long fair wigs and trunk hose from Clarkson's an May's, in Bow Street, Mr. Whistler was entreated i . decorate the old club-room in peacock fresco, but at, last happy compromise was made with feather fans recently in ported by, eclectic grocers from Japan. But all these glori« had departed, and what was to be done for this year's feas , now; that nobody had suggested anything, and Jack Gre«
v was hopelessly : absent ?
. Consternation sat on. every face, and gloom hung heavy c every, countenance, when suddenly one evening the stewa] appeared in the club-room carrying in his arms a mysterioi box. It was directed and labelled, marked "immediate and every "care" was to be taken of this important bo The hand-writing showed clearly that it came from Jai Green, who was known to be staying somewhere in t! neighbourhood of the Isle of Portland and Chesil Ban Great was the excitement to know, what J^ack Green h sent for the supper, for it was to come of to-morrow evenir and as yet everything was behindhand. A committee inspection was assembled, and the precious box was open with great deliberation and care. It might be glass,
decorative art, or game. First came straw, then : numerable layers of paper, so many that the committee j some time believed it was a hoax, then wool, then sw< herbs and lake flowers mixed up with grass, and last of al magnificent white swan ! Here was indeed a surpri They had all eaten boar's head, and had enjoyed peaco< but no single member of the. club had ever tasted awi He was indeed a royal bird ; no loiterer on the Than reaches marked with the Queen's sign, no stray b belonging to the Vintners' or the Dyers' Company, but ( of the unmarked "game of swans" from the famous brc
at Abbotsbury, in Dorsetshire, which descended to the earl- dom of Honester when the monasteries were destroyed. Here was an archseological and a gastronomic feast at one and the same time. But there waa no time to be lost, and meanwhile how was he to be cooked ? The club library furnished a complete historical account and natural history of the swan, but did not mention a word about the impor- tant cmestion of the stuffing and the sauce. In this emergency a special sub-committee was told off to visit the British Museum directly the doors were open in the morn- ing, and having studied the history of royal dishes were counselled to return immediately with a sauce and a stuffing on penalty of instant expulsion from the Adelphi. The charge was instantly undertaken, and George Smith, who was known to be the model cook at every Wimbledon meeting and a professed epicure into the bargain, undertook ¡ to superintend the basting of the royal bird. There he lay on the club table, with his glassy eye and drooping feathers, little knowing what trouble was being tmdertaken on his behalf. The committee of taste returned punctually from the British Museum, and their labours were rewarded. They strongly recommended a stuffing of chestnuts and a very peculiar sweet sauce. The greatest activity prevailed in the kitchen and in the club-room, and the musicians were alive to the importance of the occasion. When the cover was removed it was arranged that the choristers should break into that pathetic and exquisitely harmonised madrigal "The Silver Swan," and the impromptu poet arranged a humorous ditty on the subject of "The Swan with Two Nicks (Necks)."
All the preliminaries passed off satisfactorily, although some curiosity was expressed at the plucking of the noble bird. The chestnut stuffing was a work of art ; the sweet sauce would have done credit to Soy er. In came the garlanded dish amid the hush of the assembled guests and their friends, preceded by the cook in his shirt-sleeves, who wore for the occasion a garland of rushes. The cover was removed ; the madrigal by Orlando Gibbons was dolefully chanted, and as it happened gave the cue for the first depression of the evening. For whilst the choir wailed out that the silver swan was "leaning her breast against the reedy shore," and "thus sung her first and last and sung no more," it was anxiously observed that the carver was in trouble. He hacked, he hewed, he carved, he tore, but he could not separate one limb from the obstinate bird. He was called a muff, he was ridiculed, and he was deposed. But the second carver was no better than the first. And what is worse, when the bird was mangled no one could eat it. It was as tough as a shoe, and as insipid as leather. In order to separate the remaining limbs the last volunteer carver was compelled to send for a saw. It was unanimously voted that the best part of a roast swan was the stuffing, or the sauce. The tough swan was the signal for universal depression and complete failure. Nothing went off well that night. The stories fell flat, the singers I did not distinguish themselves, and such an unusual thing
as wrangling was actually heard at the Adelphi supper table. The evening beginning badly ended miserably, and though no one dared to say so, not a single member enjoyed himself one bit. But how to tell Jack Green? He was such a good fellow, he had meant so well, and it was such s shame to disappoint him. His life and soxil were centered in the club, and the record of any disastrous failure would have broken his heart. But still Jack Green was coming back, and the murder must out. When he returned, Jact Green was anxious and fidgety. He did not ask one wore about the supper, he did not call for the merni-, he did no ask about the songs, but he cast his eyes regretfully at th< club walls and heaved a sigh. He was hipped, nervous, anc depressed, and evidently there was something on his mind At last, a member bolder than the rest took the bull by tin horns and asked Jack Green what was the matter. Was h offended, or had he lost his competency ? There was some thing the matter with a vengeance. "I am sorry not ti see the poor swan." "See it, what nonsense! What d< you mean!" "Why, didn't you fellows like it?" Not , bit, it was beastly ; there !" " But I took so much troubl to get it for you." " I dare say ; and we took a great dea of trouble to get the stuffing." "But why isn't it stuffed That's just my grievance." "Stuffed, my dear Jack! I was stuffed." "What with?" " Chestnuts- the; wouldn't stand sage and onions." "Chestnuts ! Sage an onions." "Yes; and served up with sweet sauce." Her Jack Green nearly fainted. "Why, my dear fellows, yo don't mean to say you cooked the swan ?" " Cooked it should think we did ! " Here Jack Green burst out into a uncontrollable fit of laughter. Cooked it ! Why that siva zvas a hundred andjen years old ! " " What !" "A vetera swan from the swannery at Abbotsbury, as remarkable s the old carp at Versailles." " But you sent it to be eaten. " No, you fool-io be stuffed-in a glass case ! " Humiliatio fell upon the assembled company as old Jack Green, sti chuckling to himself and stroking his beard said, "Fane eating a swan a hundred and ten years old ! " The Adelpl gradually recovered its spirits, and good fellowship WE restored. But from that day' to this one of the forbidde subienfcs has been the Christmas sunner and tTiA " Ol