The Black Robe HTML version

The Sandwich Dance
A FINE spring, after a winter of unusual severity, promised well for the
prospects of the London season.
Among the social entertainments of the time, general curiosity was excited, in
the little sphere which absurdly describes itself under the big name of Society,
by the announcement of a party to be given by Lady Loring, bearing the
quaint title of a Sandwich Dance. The invitations were issued at an unusually
early hour; and it was understood that nothing so solid and so commonplace
as the customary supper was to be offered to the guests. In a word, Lady
Loring's ball was designed as a bold protest against late hours and heavy
midnight meals. The younger people were all in favor of the proposed reform.
Their elders declined to give an opinion beforehand.
In the small inner circle of Lady Loring's most intimate friends, it was
whispered that an innovation in the matter of refreshments was
contemplated, which would put the tolerant principles of the guests to a
severe test. Miss Notman, the housekeeper, politely threatening retirement on
a small annuity, since the memorable affair of the oyster-omelet, decided on
carrying out her design when she heard that there was to be no supper. "My
attachment to the family can bear a great deal," she said. "But when Lady
Loring deliberately gives a ball, without a supper, I must hide my head
somewhere--and it had better be out of the house!" Taking Miss Notman as
representative of a class, the reception of the coming experiment looked, to
say the least of it, doubtful.
On the appointed evening, the guests made one agreeable discovery when
they entered the reception rooms. They were left perfectly free to amuse
themselves as they liked.
The drawing-rooms were given up to dancing; the picture gallery was
devoted to chamber music. Chess-players and card-players found remote and
quiet rooms especially prepared for them. People who cared for nothing but
talking were accommodated to perfection in a sphere of their own. And lovers
(in earnest or not in earnest) discovered, in a dimly-lighted conservatory with
many recesses, that ideal of discreet retirement which combines solitude and
society under one roof.
But the ordering of the refreshments failed, as had been foreseen, to share in
the approval conferred on the arrangement of the rooms. The first impression
was unfavorable. Lady Loring, however, knew enough of human nature to
leave results to two potent allies--experience and time.
Excepting the conservatory, the astonished guests could go nowhere without
discovering tables prettily decorated with flowers, and bearing hundreds of