Within the next few days the house-party arrived. There would be twenty of them at least, not counting valets and ladies’ maids, so that large as Castle Raa was the house was full.
They were about equally divided as to sex and belonged chiefly to my husband’s class, but they included Mr. Eastcliff’s beautiful wife, Camilla, and Alma’s mother, who, much to Alma’s chagrin, had insisted upon being invited.
My husband required me to receive them, and I did so, though I was only their nominal hostess, and they knew it and treated me accordingly.
I should be ashamed to speak of the petty slights they put upon me, how they consulted Alma in my presence and otherwise wounded my pride as a woman by showing me that I had lost my own place in my husband’s house.
I know there are people of the same class who are kind and considerate, guileless and pure, the true nobility of their country—women who are devoted to their homes and children, and men who spend their wealth and strength for the public good—but my husband’s friends were not of that kind.
They were vain and proud, selfish, self-indulgent, thoroughly insincere, utterly ill-mannered, shockingly ill-informed, astonishingly ill-educated (capable of speaking several languages but incapable of saying a sensible word in any of them), living and flourishing in the world without religion, without morality, and (if it is not a cant phrase to use) without God.
What their conduct was when out shooting, picnicking, driving, riding, motoring, and yachting (for Mr. Eastcliff had arrived in his yacht, which was lying at anchor in the port below the glen), I do not know, for “doctor’s orders” were Alma’s excuse for not asking me to accompany them.
But at night they played bridge (their most innocent amusement), gambled and drank, banged the piano, danced “Grizzly Bears,” sang duets from the latest musical comedies, and then ransacked the empty houses of their idle heads for other means of killing the one enemy of their existence—Time.
Sometimes they would give entertainments in honour of their dogs, when all the animals of all the guests (there seemed to be a whole kennel of them) would be dressed up in coats of silk and satin with pockets and pocket-handkerchiefs, and then led downstairs to the drawing-room, where Alma’s wheezy spaniel and my husband’s peevish terrier were supposed to receive them.
Sometimes they would give “freak dinners,” when the guests themselves would be dressed up, the men in women’s clothes, the women in men’s, the male imitating the piping treble of the female voices, and the female the over-vowelled slang of the male, until, tiring of this foolishness, they would end up by flinging the food at the pictures on the walls, the usual pellet being softened bread and the favourite target the noses in the family portraits, which, hit and covered with a sprawling mess, looked so ridiculous as to provoke screams of laughter.