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I remember on one accasion, when the late Queen Victoria was having her tea in a tent at a Buckingham Palace garden-party, a footman spread a nakpin over her knees, another footman handed her tea on a salver, and she looked up for a moment, glanced round at the sea of faces, all bent on every action of her own, and made some remark with a mischievous smile to the Duke of Connaught, who was standing near her. He responded with a few words, and an equally amused smile. They were evidently commenting on the manner in which the Royal lady's subjects were watching her.
Wherever the Royal party move, a way is cleared for them by officials of the Royal household. During tea they sometimes send for some of their friends to join them, and when tea is over, the King and Queen, Princes and Princesses emerge from the tent and stand outside, and when they see any person to whom they wish to speak, they send an equerry to convey the Royal command. Such an honour as this is very highly appreciated, as may be imagined. The members of the Royal Family do not keep together. Princess Christian always finds many friends with whom to talk, which she does in a most animated, laughing manner. Her Royal Highness has an extremely pretty silvery laugh and a sweetly toned speaking voice. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, also finds many acquaintances with whom to talk and laugh. The Duchess of Connaught generally remains somewhat apart with her daughter, Princess Patricia, and the Duke, should he happen to be present.
A Question of Clothes
Meanwhile, some of the visitors enjoy a row on the lake in the boats with scarlet cushions, and manned by men in the picturesque uniforms referred to above. Other guests saunter through the well-kept paths, admiring the beautiful flowers and the trees, also the landscape gardening, which makes the grounds appear much larger than they really are.
It need hardly be said that a very careful toilette is necessary when one is the guest of the highest gentleman and lady in the realm. Light summer gowns are the rule, but should the weather be uncertain, it would be imprudent to wear a costume that would be ruined by a sharp shower of rain. The refreshment tents, numerous as they are, would be incapable of affording shelter to the large number of guests invited (usually about 3,000), even if they were accessible in a couple of minutes. They are ranged along the wall of Buckingham Palace Road, and it would necessitate an undignified helter-skelter to reach them in time. Of course, no one would dream of entering the Palace, no matter what the weather might be, unless specially invited to do so by the Royal hosts.
Men wear garden-party costume, and a silk hat is imperative for any palace in town. At a Windsor garden-party it is different, though the great majority of the male guests abide by the regulation costume. I remember seeing the late Mark Twain in a white drill suit, a white felt hat, and a Byronic scarlet tie at a Windsor party of the kind.
The refreshments themselves are worthy of Royal hospitality. Sandwiches of every description, cakes, fruit of the finest, including immense strawberries, and delicious cream, with tea and coffee of the best are provided with lavish hospitality.
Why Restaurant Hospitality is so Popular - A " Pay Party " and How to Arrange It - The Part of
Hostess - Reluctant Payers and How to Manage Them
It has become very usual to entertain for the most part at restaurants by those who live in cities and large towns.
This is owing chiefly to the increasing scarcity of good servants, who are being attracted in large numbers to the Colonies, induced by the prospect of high wages and more independence than they find in the Old World.
Another reason is that this custom ensures much saving of trouble and anxiety, as compared with a luncheon or a dinner-party at home. Should there be any dish imperfectly cooked at a restaurant meal, the hostess does not feel that her household management is impugned, as it would be in similar circumstances at her own home. Long waits between the courses, a cause of much harassment to hostesses at a dinner-party, mean very little to her when they occur at a restaurant, though, as a matter of fact, they very seldom do.
The Advantages of a Restaurant
Hotel and restaurant organisation is usually excellent, and a hostess dining a party of friends will sometimes give private orders to the waiters not to let the courses follow each other too quickly. The scene is bright, gay, and enjoyable, and she wishes her party to make the most of it. The other diners present afford plenty to talk about, and if "the proper study of mankind is man," as the philosopher has told us, it is very certain that the congenial study for woman-kind is other women.
There is nothing wrong or odd about this. The restaurant offers an interesting study of life and character.
A novel plan for arranging to dine together is what is called the "pay-party." Eight or ten individuals belonging to the same set fix on an evening and a favourite restaurant, and each undertakes to pay the eighth or tenth share of the cost. It is wise to settle as nearly as possible what that will be. Then each knows how much he or she will be called upon to pay.
The question of wine is rather an important one in this connection, and should be settled beforehand. The champagne standard is not accessible to every one. As there are wines at all prices, it is not very difficult to decide on what will prove agreeable to all.
The usual method of arranging such a party is to have a meeting, perhaps at the house of a friend for tea. There everything is arranged, and someone - generally one of the men of the party - appointed to go to the restaurant, choose a table (not too near the orchestra, for a party of the kind likes to talk), confer with the head waiter or manager about the bill of fare, and order the wine.
The precise hour when the dinner is to be served is also arranged. But little then remains to be done.
Punctuality is essential to the success of these pay-parties. Men sometimes become very much annoyed by delay in sitting down to table, and it is only polite for all to arrive in good time, and avoid any excuse for impatience or bad temper.
A hostess is often chosen for an occasion of this sort. If it be well-managed, she has no trouble whatever. Her business is to settle where everyone shall sit, and as she is sure to be a popular person (or she would not be selected for the post), she does the honours agreeably, sees that those sit together who are congenial to each other, keeps the talk away from politics or other cloud-compelling subjects watches that every one, even the shy girl or youth, has proper attention from the waiters, and is often the life and soul of the evening.
A theatre is sometimes included in the pay-party, but it is really better to make two bites of this cherry. An evening at a fashionable restaurant is so pleasant, and the cookery is so superlatively good, that the entertainment suffices for one evening.
The theatre pay-party is arranged on exactly similar lines.
The Person who will not Pay
There is one point about these parties that occasionally presents some little difficulty. Money is a disagreeable thing to have any friction about, and there are unfortunately many persons who have a constitutional objection or dislike to parting with money. They hate paying for anything, and the task of obtaining even a few shillings from them is extremely disagreeable. Anyone undertaking it is unlikely to wish to have these reluctant payers included in any future plans of the kind.
Oddly enough, it is almost always those with plenty of money who dislike paying. It is said that the secret of becoming a millionaire is to "shiver over every sixpence." But it is very bad manners not to pay one's share at once in a party of the kind. The theatre or restaurant requires ready money, and someone has to produce the full amount.
If has been found a good plan to collect the estimated payments the day before the party takes place, possibly because it is then looked forward to with pleased anticipation, and human nature dislikes paying for pleasures that are past.