Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/133

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vant will hand you, on a silver salver, a cup of chocolate, or some other permissible refreshment, while your hostess glides over the carpet to show to a new guest or group the identical civilities of which you have just had the benefit. A lady sits at your right hand, as silent as yourself; but you must neither hope for an introduction, nor dare to address her without one, since both these things are forbidden by our code. Another sits at your left, looking wistfully at the fire, or at the stand of greenhouse plants, or, still more likely, at the splendid French clock, but not speaking a word; for she, too, has not the happiness of knowing anybody who chances to sit near her.

Presently she rises; the hostess hastens towards her, presses her hand with great affection, and begs to see her often. She falls into the custody of the footman at the parlour door, is by him committed to his double at the hall door, and then trips lightly down the steps to her carriage, to enact the same farce at the next house where there may be a reception on the same day. You look at the clock, too, rise are smiled upon, and begged to come again; and, passing through the same tunnel of footmen, reach the door and the street, with time and opportunity to muse on the mystery of visiting.

Now you are not to go away with the idea that those who reduce visiting to this frigid system, are, of necessity, heartless people. That would be very unjust. They are often people of very good hearts indeed; but they have somehow allowed their notions of social intercourse to become sophisticated, so that visiting has ceased with them to be even a symbol of friendly feeling, and they look upon it as merely a mode of exhibiting wealth, style, and desirable acquaintances; an assertion, as it were, of social position. Then they will tell you of the great “waste of time” incurred by the old system of receiving morning calls, and how much better it is to give up one day to it than every day; though, by the way, they never did scruple to be “engaged” or “out” when visits were not desirable. Another thing is—but this, perhaps, they will not tell you,—that the present is an excellent way of refining one’s circle; for, as the footman has strict orders not to admit any one, or even receive a card, on other than the regular days, all those