I suppose, in showing Vienna to us, we showed more of Vienna to the baroness and her friends than they ever had seen before. We went into all the booths and shows; we were in St. Stephen’s Church at sunset to see the light filter through those marvels of stained-glass windows. Instead of stately drives in the Prater, we took little excursions into the country and dined at blissful open-air restaurants, with views of the Danube and distant Vienna, which they never had seen before. They became quite enthusiastic over seeking out new diversions for us, and, through their court influence, I feel sure that few Americans could have got a more intimate knowledge of Vienna than we.
An amusing coincidence happened while we were there, concerning the gown Mrs. Jimmie was to be painted in. The baroness’s brother, Count Georg Brunow, was an authority on dress, and, as he designed all the gowns for his cousin, who was also in the Emperor’s suite, he begged permission to design Mrs. Jimmie’s. His English was a little queer, so this is what he said after an anxious scrutiny of Mrs. Jimmie’s beauty:
“You must have a gown of white—soft white chiffon or mull over a white satin slip. It must be very full and fluffy around the foot, and be looped up on the skirt and around the decollete corsage with festoons of small pink considerations.”
“Considerations?” said Mrs. Jimmie.
“Carnations, you mean,” said Bee.
“Yes, thank you. My English is so rusty. I mean pink carnations.”
Mrs. Jimmie thanked him, and we all discussed it approvingly. Still, she told me privately that she would not decide until she got back to Paris to her own man, who knew her taste and style.
“You know, for a portrait,” said Count Georg, “you do not want anything pronounced. It must be quite simple, so that in fifty years it will still be beautiful.”
When we got back to Paris, we presented ourselves before Mrs. Jimmie’s dressmaker, who has dressed her ever since she was sixteen. She told him to design a gown for a full-length portrait. He looked at her carefully and said, slowly:
“I would suggest a gown of soft white over a white satin slip. It should be cut low in the corsage, and have no sleeves. A touch of colour in the shape of loops of small pink roses at the foot, heading a triple flounce of white, and on the shoulders and around the top of the bodice. You know for a portrait, madame, you want no epoch-making effect. It should be quite simple, so that in the years to come it may still please the eye as a work of art and not a creation of the dressmaker’s skill.”
Bee and I nearly had to be removed in an ambulance, and even Mrs. Jimmie looked startled.
“Order it,” I whispered. “Plainly, Providence has a hand in this design. It might be dangerous to flout such a sign from heaven.”
All of which goes to prove that the eye of the artist is true the world over. Or, at least, that is the deduction I drew. Bee is more skeptical.