THE WHIRL BEGINS
May 30. The People of the Whirlpool have come to the Bluffs, and the swirl and spray has, in a measure, followed them. I had well-nigh written, “are settled at the Bluffs,” but the Whirlpoolers are perpetual migrants, unlike the feathered birds of passage never absolutely settling anywhere even for the nesting season, sometimes even taking to the water by preference, at the time, of all others, when home is most loved and cherished by the “comfortably poor.”
The houses, nominally closed since the holidays, have been reopened, one by one, ever since the general return from the south in April, after which season, Mrs. Jenks-Smith assures me, it is bad form to be seen in New York on Sunday.
This fiat, however, does not prevent members of almost every family from spending several days a week in the city, thus protecting themselves against the possible monotony of home living by lunching and dining, either singly or in informal groups, at the public restaurants.
Father has always held the theory that ladies should dress inconspicuously in the public streets and hostelries, and for a woman to do otherwise, he considered, was to prove that she had no claim upon gentility. Evan used to go so far as to say that the only people who display their fine clothes in hotels are those who have no homes in which to wear them.
Dear, innocent provincials, the Whirlpoolers have changed all that, and given the custom their hall mark that stamps it vogue. In fact, in glancing at the papers, by the light of our Bluff Colony, which, after all, is but a single current of the pool that whirls in the shape of the letter S, it seems to me that a new field has been opened for the society journalist—the reporting of the gowns worn at the restaurants in the “between seasons.”
One evening, a few weeks ago, Evan and I went, by request, to one of the most celebrated of these resorts to call upon some friends of his, a bride and groom, then passing through the city. We were directed where to find them in the corridor—midway would have been a better term. We found them, and many others beside!
“Where do these people come from?” I whispered to Evan, looking down the row of women of all ages and, if expression may indicate, all grades, who, dressed and undressed in lavish opulence, were lolling about, much as if expecting a call to go upon the stage and take part in some spectacle, but that the clothes and jewels were too magnificent to be stage properties.
“Brewers’ wives from the west, and unknown quantities; people who come to New York to see and be seen,” he answered carelessly; but almost as he spoke his words were checked by the entrance of an equally gorgeous group, composed of those who Lavinia Dorman had assured us were among the most conservative of our new neighbours, all talking aloud, as if to an audience, as they literally swept into the dining room, where Mrs. Center was already seated. To be sure, the clothes, in their cases, were worn with a difference,—the ease of habit,—but to all outward appearance the distinction began and ended there. Ah me! to think of having such things cross the horizon in May, when, unless one is forced to be miserable, one must be inexpressibly happy.