All the élite in London know these bits of pasteboard well, and all the élite like to avail themselves of Lady Beranger’s invitation, for Lady Beranger’s house is one of the swellest in town, and offers multifarious attractions.
Everything is en règle this fine June night, when myriads of stars keep high jubilee in the sky, and a round, yellow moon like a big blubber ball, promises to develop into yet greater brightness as the hours wear on.
The windows are ablaze from top to bottom of the Belgravian mansion. The floral decorations—banks of purple and white violets, straight from the glorious Riviera, are perfect and costly.
Achille, Lord Beranger’s famous French chef, has surpassed himself in dainty concoctions. Gunter has sent in buckets of his world-renowned ice, and Covent Garden has been ransacked for choicest fruits.
One little aside before we go any further. All this magnificence and lavishness is “on tic.” The Berangers, like a good many others of their class, are as poor as church mice; but “Society”—that English Juggernauth that crushes everything under its foot—demands that its votaries shall even ruin themselves to satisfy its claims—but revenons à nos moutons.
Everybody who is anybody is here. All the lords and the ladies, the honourables and dishonourables, the hangers on to aristocratic skirts, the nouveau riche, the pet parsons and actors, eligibles and detrimentals, and the black sheep, that go towards composing the “upper current.” The spacious rooms teem with handsome thoroughbred men, and lovely well-dressed?—women. And yet “they come! they come,” though the clocks are chiming midnight and Coote and Tinney’s Band hasbeen pouring out its softest strains for two hours.
The host and hostess are still on duty near the entrance, all ready to be photographed; so we’ll just take them.
Lord Beranger is tall and thin. His hair is so fair that the silver threads thickly intersecting it are hardly visible. His eyes are blue—the very light blue that denotes either insincerity or imbecility—his smile is too bland to be genuine, his talk is measured to match his gait, and he lives the artificial life of so many of his brotherhood, to whom the opinion of “the world” is everything.
Lady Beranger is fair, fat and forty—and a hypocrite—as she awaits her tardy guests, so weary, that under the shelter of her long trailing blue velvet skirts and point de gaze, she indulges in thegallinacious tendency of standing first on one leg and then on the other—her expression is as sweet as if she delighted to be a martyr to these late votaries of fashion.