The Debutante’s First Dinner: 1898

The Debutante, Edward Robert Hughes 1886

The Debutante, Edward Robert Hughes 1886

HER FIRST DINNER. 

A Debutante’s Infelicity.  

Characters :  

Marian Ashhurst: A Debutante  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam: A Society Man

 Jack: Miss Ashhurst’s Brother

 Alice: A Friend  

Scene. — A coupé, in which the debutante, a bewildering mass of white satin and soft furs, is being driven rapidly to her destination.  

Debutante [in a funk]— Oh, dear, how cold my hands are! And my throat’s so dry I have to swallow every five seconds. I’ve forgotten all Jack’s advice, too. What shall I do? Good gracious, here we are! [Breathes a silent prayer, grabs her gloves, fan, etc., frantically, and vanishes within a brilliantly lighted mansion.]  

Lackey — [opening door] — Second floor, front, please.  

[Debutante rushes past him up the stairs, fearful of being late, and hurries into the dressing-room. Perceives several figures in dainty gowns, but brushes by them, oblivious of everything.]  

Alice [out two years] — Why, Marian, don’t you know me? Is this your first dinner? Aren’t you frightened? But no, you look as calm as an old campaigner. I want you to meet Miss ___ . [Introduces her to the others.]  

Debutante [bowing and smiling nervously] — I am glad you think, Alice, I look calm. Frankly, it’s all I can do to keep my teeth from chattering.  

Alice — What nonsense ! But what are we waiting for? Let’s go down. [The debutante trails reluctantly in the rear.]  

Voices — How do you do? How are you? Let me present. Allow me to introduce, etc.  

Hostess— Ah ! Miss Ashhurst ! So glad to see you! Allow me to present Mr. Van Luydam Beedam.  

Miss Ashhurst [who wonders vaguely why she thinks at that moment of Jack in one of his tempers] — How do you do?  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam— Miss Ashhurst, I believe I have the pleasure of taking you in to dinner.  

[Miss Ashhurst is saved the awkwardness of a reply by dinner being announced.]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [to himself]— She’s pretty, but, Jove! I shall have to wring every word out of her. I know that sort. [Aloud.] Let us consider. Miss Ashhurst, that we have discussed all the usual topics — the weather, the opera, the last new book — and let’s promote ourselves to a more intimate understanding and discuss each other. We will each give a personal sketch. Now you begin.  

Miss Ashhurst [whom nobody could put at her ease] — No, please, I can’t, really ; you begin. [Finds that she is the last girl to draw off her gloves, and tugs away frantically.]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [resignedly]— Well, I’ll account for myself, so as to give you courage. I am nothing if not commonplace. I live in a most respectable quarter of the town, with a most unimpeachable parent, and all my surroundings from childhood have been of an extreme propriety and spotless virtue.  

Miss Ashhurst [to herself] — Heavens ! I’ve used some other fork instead of the oyster-fork! What shall I do? I’m sure he saw it. [Aloud.] Tell me some more — do.  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam, [flattered] — Such environments ought to have been my ruin, but I was far too lazy, and I am at present merely a harmless butterfly. [Looks at his companion and encounters a stony stare of horror.] What can be the matter with her? Is she ill? [Goes on talking, bravely, if disconnectedly,]  

Miss Ashhurst [to herself] — What is that creeping up my neck? [Follows it cautiously with her hand, and encounters an atom of an insect. Why did she wear those violets?]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [to himself] — Thank heavens, she has taken off that look! [Aloud.] Now, really, it is your turn.  

Miss Ashhurst [lying recklessly]— I’ve been out three years. I used to be fearfully nervous and easily rattled, but I have gotten over that entirely. [Again that feeling on her neck. It can’t be — but it is!]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [to himself]— Most extraordinary young person. There’s that expression again. [Aloud.] Please go on, you’re doing finely.  

[Miss Ashhurst seizing opportunity, when her neighbor is helping himself to something, to take off her violets and drop them under the table.]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [turning]— Why, Miss Ashhurst, where are your violets?  

Miss Ashhurst [blushing]— They were faded, so I threw them away.  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [to himself] — That’s a lie. [Aloud.] Excuse me for being personal, Miss Ashhurst, but you have eaten absolutely nothing.  

Miss Ashhurst [who shivers at the mere mention of food] — What an idea! I’ve eaten enormously.  

Mr. Van  Luydam Beedam [to himself ]— Jove! That’s another. [Aloud.] Aren’t you going to throw any more light on your character?  

Miss Ashhurst— No, really, there is nothing else to tell. [To herself] Oh! where is my slipper? I kicked it off because it hurt, and now I can’t find it. [Peers desperately under the table.]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam — Have you dropped your glove, or anything? Let me get it. [Stoops down.] 

Miss Ashhurst [to herself] — He must not find it! [Aloud.]  No, indeed, here they both are. [Holds her gloves up eagerly.]  

[She sees her hostess give the signal for departure. She must conceal her loss. Nods adieu to Mr. Van Luydam Beedam and finds out to her cost that there is a difference between a French heel and no slipper!]  

Mr. Van Luydam Beedam [to himself as he lights a cigar and sighs contentedly] — I wonder if that walk of hers is natural, or cultivated? 

Scene. — The drawing-room. The gentlemen have joined the ladies, and the talk flows on smoothly. The door is opened, and on the threshold appears the rigid figure of the butler, bearing a tray on which a white satin slipper (surely a No. 6) rests conspicuously. Tableau.]  

Scene. — Miss Ashhurst’s home. Time — midnight.

Mrs. Ashhurst [comforting a weeping figure] — Don’t cry, Marian. The first plunge is always the coldest.  

Miss Ashhurst [between sobs] — Oh — mummie — is there — are there — any biscuits — in — the house?

[Curtain.]   

 The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 18 April 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil previous told of the exhausting life of the Society Beauty with its endless round of balls and calls. One hopes that Miss Ashhurst’s next foray into company will be made in more comfortable shoes.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

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