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The Hand of Ethelberta

7.The Dining-Room Of A Town House - The
Butler's Pantry
A few weeks later there was a friendly dinner-party at the
house of a gentleman called Doncastle, who lived in a
moderately fashionable square of west London. All the
friends and relatives present were nice people, who
exhibited becoming signs of pleasure and gaiety at being
there; but as regards the vigour with which these emotions
were expressed, it may be stated that a slight laugh from far
down the throat and a slight narrowing of the eye were
equivalent as indices of the degree of mirth felt to a Ha-ha-
ha! and a shaking of the shoulders among the minor traders
of the kingdom; and to a Ho- ho-ho! contorted features,
purple face, and stamping foot among the gentlemen in
corduroy and fustian who adorn the remoter provinces.
The conversation was chiefly about a volume of musical,
tender, and humorous rhapsodies lately issued to the world
in the guise of verse, which had been reviewed and talked
about everywhere. This topic, beginning as a private
dialogue between a young painter named Ladywell and the
lady on his right hand, had enlarged its ground by degrees,
as a subject will extend on those rare occasions when it
happens to be one about which each person has thought
something beforehand, instead of, as in the natural order of
things, one to which the oblivious listener replies
mechanically, with earnest features, but with thoughts far
away. And so the whole table made the matter a thing to
inquire or reply upon at once, and isolated rills of other chat
died out like a river in the sands.
'Witty things, and occasionally Anacreontic: and they have
the originality which such a style must naturally possess
when carried out by a feminine hand,' said Ladywell.
 
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