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The Two Destinies

The Prelude
THE GUEST WRITES AND TELLS THE STORY OF THE DINNER PARTY.
MANY years have passed since my wife and I left the United States to pay our first visit
to England.
We were provided with letters of introduction, as a matter of course. Among them there
was a letter which had been written for us by my wife's brother. It presented us to an
English gentleman who held a high rank on the list of his old and valued friends.
"You will become acquainted with Mr. George Germaine," my brother-in-law said, when
we took leave of him, "at a very interesting period of his life. My last news of him tells
me that he is just married. I know nothing of the lady, or of the circumstances under
which my friend first met with her. But of this I am certain: married or single, George
Germaine will give you and your wife a hearty welcome to England, for my sake."
The day after our arrival in London, we left our letter of introduction at the house of Mr.
Germaine.
The next morning we went to see a favorite object of American interest, in the metropolis
of England--the Tower of London. The citizens of the United States find this relic of the
good old times of great use in raising their national estimate of the value of republican
institutions. On getting back to the hotel, the cards of Mr. and Mrs. Germaine told us that
they had already returned our visit. The same evening we received an invitation to dine
with the newly married couple. It was inclosed in a little note from Mrs. Germaine to my
wife, warning us that we were not to expect to meet a large party. "It is the first dinner we
give, on our return from our wedding tour" (the lady wrote); "and you will only be
introduced to a few of my husband's old friends."
In America, and (as I hear) on the continent of Europe also, when your host invites you to
dine at a given hour, you pay him the compliment of arriving punctually at his house. In
England alone, the incomprehensible and discourteous custom prevails of keeping the
host and the dinner waiting for half an hour or more--without any assignable reason and
without any better excuse than the purely formal apology that is implied in the words,
"Sorry to be late."
Arriving at the appointed time at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Germaine, we had every
reason to congratulate ourselves on the ignorant punctuality which had brought us into
the drawing-room half an hour in advance of the other guests.
In the first place, there was so much heartiness, and so little ceremony, in the welcome
accorded to us, that we almost fancied ourselves back in our own country. In the second
place, both husband and wife interested us the moment we set eyes on them. The lady,
 
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