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The Byzantine Omelette
SOPHIE CHATTEL-MONKHEIM was a Socialist by conviction and a Chattel-
Monkheim by marriage. The particular member of that wealthy family whom she had
married was rich, even as his relatives counted riches. Sophie had very advanced and
decided views as to the distribution of money: it was a pleasing and fortunate
circumstance that she also had the money. When she inveighed eloquently against the
evils of capitalism at drawing-room meetings and Fabian conferences she was conscious
of a comfortable feeling that the system, with all its inequalities and iniquities, would
probably last her time. It is one of the consolations of middle-aged reformers that the
good they inculcate must live after them if it is to live at all.
On a certain spring evening, somewhere towards the dinner-hour, Sophie sat tranquilly
between her mirror and her maid, undergoing the process of having her hair built into an
elaborate reflection of the prevailing fashion. She was hedged round with a great peace,
the peace of one who has attained a desired end with much effort and perseverance, and
who has found it still eminently desirable in its attainment. The Duke of Syria had
consented to come beneath her roof as a guest, was even now installed beneath her roof,
and would shortly be sitting at her dining-table. As a good Socialist, Sophie disapproved
of social distinctions, and derided the idea of a princely caste, but if there were to be
these artificial gradations of rank and dignity she was pleased and anxious to have an
exalted specimen of an exalted order included in her house-party. She was broad-minded
enough to love the sinner while hating the sin - not that she entertained any warm feeling
of personal affection for the Duke of Syria, who was a comparative stranger, but still, as
Duke of Syria, he was very, very welcome beneath her roof. She could not have
explained why, but no one was likely to ask her for an explanation, and most hostesses
envied her.
"You must surpass yourself to-night, Richardson," she said complacently to her maid; "I
must be looking my very best. We must all surpass ourselves."
The maid said nothing, but from the concentrated look in her eyes and the deft play of her
fingers it was evident that she was beset with the ambition to surpass herself.
A knock came at the door, a quiet but peremptory knock, as of some one who would not
be denied.
"Go and see who it is," said Sophie; "it may be something about the wine."
Richardson held a hurried conference with an invisible messenger at the door; when she
returned there was noticeable a curious listlessness in place of her hitherto alert manner.
"What is it?" asked Sophie.
"The household servants have 'downed tools,' madame," said Richardson.