The Art of Entertaining Part 35

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There was much talk, much music, much laughter, no stiffness. It was real hospitality. In one of the windows of the palace stood looking out the Crown Prince of Germany, later on to be the n.o.ble Emperor Frederic, even then feeling the pressure of that malady which in another year was to kill him. He who had been, in the procession of Princes on the great day, so important and so handsome a figure, was on this day a silent observer. The Queen after this gave an evening party to all the royalties, and the amba.s.sadors, and many invited guests.

The hospitality of the Queen is, of course, regal, but her dinners must of a necessity be formal. General Grant mentioned his disappointment that he did not sit next her, when she invited him to Windsor, but she had one of her children on either side, and he came next to the Princess Beatrice.

The entertainments at Marlborough House are much less formal. The Prince of Wales, the most genial and hospitable of men, cannot always pen up his delightful cordiality behind the barriers of rank.

As for the King and Queen of Italy, they do not try to restrain their cordiality. The Court of Italy is most easy-going, democratic, and agreeable, in spite of its thousand years of grandeur. The favoured guest who is to be presented receives a card to the _cercle_, on a certain Monday evening. The card prescribes low-necked dress, and any colour but black. To drive to the Quirinal Palace on a moonlight night in Rome is not unpleasant.

The grand staircase, all covered with scarlet carpet, was lined with gigantic cuira.s.siers in scarlet, who stood as motionless as statues.

We entered a grand hall frescoed by Domenichino. How small we felt under these giant figures. We pa.s.sed on to another _salon_, frescoed by Julio Romano, so on to another where a handsome cavalier, the Prince Vicovara, received our cards, and opening a door, presented us to the Marchesa Villamarina, the Queen's dearest friend and favourite lady-in-waiting. We were arranged in rows around a long and handsome room. Presently a little movement at the door, and the deep courtesies of the Princess Brancaccio and the Princess Vicovara, both Americans, told us that the Queen had entered.

Truly she is a royal beauty, a wonder on a throne. An accomplished scholar, a thoughtful woman, Marguerite of Savoy is the rose of the nineteenth century; her smile keeps Italy together. She is the sweetest, the most beautiful of all the queens, and as she walks about accompanied by her ladies, who introduce every one, she speaks to each person in his or her own language; she is mistress of ten languages.

After she had said a few gracious words, the Queen disappeared, and the Marchesa Villamarina asked us to take some refreshments, saying, "I hope we shall see you on Thursday."

The next day came an invitation to the grand court-ball. This is a very fine sight. The King and Queen enter and take their places on a high estrade covered with a crimson velvet baldaquin. Then the ladies and gentlemen of the household and the amba.s.sadors enter.

The Count Gianotti, a very handsome Piedmontese, the favourite friend of the King, the prefect of the palace and master of ceremonies, declared the ball opened, and the Queen danced with the Baron Kendall.

The royal quadrille over, dancing became general. The King stood about looking soldier-like, bored and silent; a patriot and brave man, he hates society. The Queen does all the social work, and she does it admirably.

What a company that was,--all the Roman n.o.bility, the diplomatic corps, the visitors to Rome, S. P. Q. R., the senate and the Roman people. After the dancing, supper was announced. Royalty does not sup in public in Rome, as in England. The difference in etiquette is curious. The King and Queen retired. We went in as we pleased at ten o'clock, had seats, and supped gloriously; the excellent Italian cookery, of which we have spoken previously, was served admirably. The housekeeping at the Quirinal is excellent.

The Queen of Italy moves about amongst the amba.s.sadors' wives, and summons any stranger to whom she may wish to speak, to her side. A presentation to her is more personal and gracious than a like honour at any other court.

A presentation at court resolves itself into two advantages. One sees the paraphernalia of royalty, always amusing and interesting to American eyes. Americans see its poetry, its almost vanished meaning, better than others. Power, even when it descends for a day on fresh Republican shoulders, is awe-inspiring. The boy who is a leader at school is more important than the boy who walks behind him. "A captain of thousands" was an old Greek term for leaders.h.i.+p, dignity, and honour. Therefore it is not sn.o.bbery to desire to see these people on whom have fallen the ermine of power. It is sn.o.bbery to bow down before some unworthy bearer of a t.i.tle; but when, as in the case of Marguerite of Savoy, there is a very good, a very gifted, a very wonderful woman behind it all, we are glad that she has been born to wear all these jewels.

We have in our minds one more scene, and a very picturesque one. In September, 1888, the Duc d'Aosta, brother to King Humbert, married his niece, Let.i.tia Bonaparte, daughter of the Princess Clotilde and Prince Jerome Bonaparte. This marriage occurred at Turin. A fine week of autumn weather was devoted to this ceremony. It was a great gathering of all the family of Victor Emmanuel. The Pope had granted an especial dispensation to the nearly related couple. The degree of consanguinity so repellent to us, is not considered, however, as prejudicial to marriage in Spain, Italy, or Germany.

The King of Italy made this occasion of his brother's marriage, an open door for returning to the old Italian customs of past centuries, in the art of entertaining. The city of Turin was _en fete_ for the week. At booths, in the open air, strolling companies were playing opera, tragedy, burlesque, and farce. At the King's charge, the streets were lined with gay decorations of pink and white silk, banners and escutcheons; music was heard everywhere, and at evening brilliant illuminations followed the river.

When the royal cortege appeared on their way to a public square they were preceded by six hundred young cavaliers in the dress of Prince Eugene, powdered hair, bright red and blue coats, each detachment escorting a royal carriage. First came the King and Queen, then the bridal pair.

They mounted a superb thing, like a basket of flowers, in the Piazza Vittorio Emmanuel, where all the royalties sat around the bride. Music and flags saluted them. The vast crowd sat and looked at them for two hours. A gayly decorated balloon, covered with roses, floated over the Queen's head, and finally, as the rosy light faded away, a gun from the fortress sounded the hour of departure. The glittering cavalcade drove back to the palace, and we foreigners knew that we had seen a real, mediaeval Italian festa.

ENTERTAINING AT EASTER.

"There is a tender hue that tips the first young leaves of spring, A trembling beauty in their notes when young birds learn to sing A purer look when first on earth the gus.h.i.+ng brook appears, A liquid depth in infant eyes that fades with summer years."

In the early days of ec.u.menical councils it was a mooted point when Easter should be celebrated. The Christian Jews kept the feast on the same day as their Pa.s.sover, the fourteenth of Nisan, the month corresponding to our March or April; but the Gentile church observed the first Sunday following this, because Christ rose from the dead on that day. It was not until the fourth century that the Council of Nice decided upon the first Sunday after the full moon which follows the twenty-first of March. The contest was waged long and heavily, but the Western churches were victorious; a vote settled it.

Perhaps this victory decided the later and more splendid religious ceremonials of Easter, which are much more observed in Rome and in all Catholic countries than those of Christmas. Constantine gratified his love of display by causing Easter to be celebrated with unusual pomp and parade. Vigils and night watches were inst.i.tuted, people remaining all night in the churches in Rome, and carrying high wax tapers through the streets in processions.

People in the North, glad of an escape from four months of darkness, watch to see the sun dawn on an Easter morning. They have a superst.i.tious feeling about this observance, which came originally from Egypt, and is akin to the legend that the statue of Memnon sings when the first ray of the sun touches it.

It is the queen of feasts in all Catholic churches, the world over. In early days, the fasting of Lent was restricted to one day, the Friday of Pa.s.sion Week, Good Friday; then it extended to forty hours, then to forty days,--showing how much fas.h.i.+on, even in churchly affairs, has to do with these matters. One witty author says that, "people who do not believe in anything will observe Lent, for it is the fas.h.i.+on."

Certainly, the little dinners of Lent, in fas.h.i.+onable society, are amongst the most agreeable of all entertainments. The _creme d'ecrevisse_, the oyster and clam soups, the newly arrived shad, the codfish _a la royale_ and other tempting dainties are very good, and the dinner being small, and at eight o'clock, there is before it a long twilight for the drive in the Park.

A pope of Rome once offered a prize to the man who would invent one thousand ways of cooking eggs, for eggs can always be eaten in Lent, and let us hope that he found them. The greatest c.o.xcomb of all cooks, Louis Ude, who was p.r.o.ne to demand a carriage and five thousand a year, was famous for his little Lenten _menus_, and could cook fish and eggs marvellously. The amus.e.m.e.nts of Lent have left one joke in New York. Roller skates were once a very fas.h.i.+onable amus.e.m.e.nt for Lenten afternoons, though now gone out, and a club had rented Irving Hall for their playground and chosen _Festina lente_, "Make haste slowly," for their motto. It was a very witty motto, but some wise Malaprop remarked, "What a very happy selection, 'Festivals of Lent!'"

However, Lent once pa.s.sed, with its sewing circles and small whist-parties, then comes the brilliant Easter, with its splendid dinners, its weddings, its christenings and caudle parties, its ladies' lunches, its Meadow Brook hunt, its asparagus parties, and the chickens of gayety which are hatched out of Easter eggs. It is a great day for the confectioner. In Paris, that city full of gold and misery, the splendour and luxury of the Easter egg _bonbonniere_ is fabulous.

A few years since a Paris house furnished an Easter egg for a Spanish infanta, which cost eight hundred pounds sterling.

Easter dinners can be made delightful. They are simple, less heavy, hot, and stuffy, than those of mid-winter. That enemy of the feminine complexion, the furnace, is put out. It no longer sends up its direful sirocco behind one's back. Spring lamb and mint sauce, asparagus and fresh dandelion salad, replace the heavy joint and the canned vegetables. A foreigner said of us that we have everything canned, even the canvas-back duck and the American opera. Everything should be fresh. The ice-cream man devises allegorical allusions in his forms, and there are white dinners for young brides, and roseate dinners for _debutantes_.

For a gorgeous ladies' lunch, behold a _menu_. This is for Easter Monday:--

Little Neck clams.

Chablis. Beef tea or _consomme_ in cups.

_Cotelettes de cervelles a la cardinal._ Cuc.u.mbers.

Little ducks with fresh mushrooms.

Champagne. Artichokes.

Sweetbread _a la Richelieu_.

Asparagus, Hollandaise sauce.

Claret. Roman punch.

_Pate de foie gras._ Roast snipe.

Tomato salad, lettuce.

Liqueur. Ice-creams, in form of nightingales' nests.

Strawberries, sugared fruit, nougat cakes.

Coffee.

Of course, a season of such rejoicing, when "Christians stand praying, each in an exalted att.i.tude, with outstretched hands and uplifted faces, expressing joy and gladness," is thought to be very propitious for marriage. There is generally a wedding every day, excepting Friday, during Easter week. A favourite spring travelling-dress for an Easter bride is fawn coloured cashmere, with a little round hat and bunch of primroses.

For a number of choir boys to sing an epithalamium, walking up the aisle before the bride, is a new and very beautiful Easter fas.h.i.+on.

A favourite entertainment for Easter is a christening. Christening parties are becoming very important functions in the art of entertaining. Many Roman Catholics are so anxious for the salvation of the little new soul, that they have their children baptized as soon as possible, but others put off this important ceremony until mamma can go to church, when little master is five weeks old. Then friends are invited to the ceremony very much in this fas.h.i.+on:--

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton request the pleasure of your company at the baptism of their infant daughter at the Cathedral, Monday, March 30, at 12 o'clock. At home, after the ceremony, 14 W.

Ellicott Square.

Many wealthy Roman Catholics have private chapels where the ceremony may be performed earlier.

Presents are sent to the mamma, of flowers and bonbonnieres shaped like an altar, a cradle, a powder-box; and there may be gold tea-scoops, pap-spoons and a caudle-cup. Gifts of old Dutch silver and the inevitable posy or couplet are very favourite gifts for the baby and mamma on these auspicious occasions.

Caudle is a very succulent porridge made of oatmeal, raisins, spices, and rum, all boiled together for several days until it becomes a jelly gruel. It is very much sweetened, and is served hot in cups. The caudle-cup designed by Albrecht Durer for some member of the family of Maximilian is still shown. Caudle cards are very often stamped with a cameo resemblance of these cups, and the invitation reads:--

MRS. JAMES HAMILTON, at Home, Thursday, March 30, from three to six.

Caudle.

These do not require an answer.

Very pretty tea-gowns are worn by mamma and the ladies of her family for this entertainment, but the guests come in bonnets and street dresses. There is no objection to having the afternoon tea-table with its silver tea-kettle, alcohol-lamp, pretty silver tea-set, plates of bread and b.u.t.ter, and little cakes ready for those ladies who prefer tea. Caudle is sometimes added to the teas of a winter afternoon, by the remnants of old Dutch families, even when there is no little master as a _raison d'etre_, and delicious it is.

There is a pretty account of the marriage of Marguerite of Austria with Philibert, the handsome Duke of Savoy. It is called _Mariage aux oeufs_. She had come to the Castle of Brae, in the charming district of Bresse lying on the western slopes of the Alps. Here the rich princess kept open house, and Philibert, who was hunting in the neighbourhood, came to pay his court to her. It was Easter Monday, and high and low danced together on the green. The old men drew their bows on a barrel filled with wine, and when one succeeded in planting his arrow firmly in it he was privileged to drink as much as he pleased _jusqu'a merci_.

A hundred eggs were scattered in a level place, covered with sand, and a lad and la.s.s, holding each other by the hand, came forward to execute a dance of the country. According to the ancient custom, if they succeeded in finis.h.i.+ng the _branle_ without breaking a single egg they became affianced, and even the will of their parents might not avail to break their union. Three couples had already tried it unsuccessfully and shouts of laughter derided their attempts, when the sound of a horn was heard, and Philibert of Savoy, radiant with youth and happiness, appeared on the scene. He bent his knees before the n.o.ble _chatelaine_ and besought her hospitality. He proposed to her to try the egg fortune. She accepted. Their grace and beauty charmed the lookers-on and they succeeded, without a single crash, in treading the perilous maze.

The Art of Entertaining Part 35

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The Art of Entertaining Part 35 summary

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