The Ironmonger had preceded her!
It is one of the tragedies of the elite that even peers are not equal. The law of class distinction, that amazing doctrine of timidity, penetrated even the oak door of 8 Chelmsford Gardens. The Ironmonger’s daughter found that being the daughter of a man who had made an honest living rendered her socially the unequal of the daughters of men who, acting on a free translation of ’The earth is the Lord’s,’ had done nothing but inherit unearned substance.
Then there was her cheerfulness, and the menacing voice!
Turning from the aloofness of the exclusive, Lady Durwent thought of taking in famous performing Lions and feeding them. Unfortunately the market was too brisk, and the only Lion she could get was an Italian tenor from Covent Garden, who refused to roar, but left a poignant memory of garlic.
It was then that a brilliant idea entered her brain. Lady Durwent decided to cultivate unusual people.
No longer would she batter at oak doors that refused to open; no more would she dangle morsels of food in front of overfed Lions. She would create a little Kingdom of remarkable people—not those acclaimed great by the mealy mob, but those whose genius was of so rare and subtle a growth that ordinary eyes could not detect it at all. Her only fear was that she might be unable to discover a sufficient number to create a really satisfactory clientele.
But she reckoned without her London.
For every composer in the Metropolis who is trying to translate the music of the spheres, there are a dozen who can only voice the discordant jumble of their minds or ask the world to listen to the hollow echo of their creative vacuum. For every artist striving to catch some beauty of nature that he may revisualise it on canvas, there are a score whose eyes can only cling to the malformation of existence. For every writer toiling in the quiet hours to touch some poor, dumb heart-strings, or to open unseeing eyes to the joy of life, there are many whose gaze is never lifted from the gutter, so that, when they write, it is of the slime and the filth that they have smelt, crying to the world that the blue of the skies and the beauty of a rose are things engendered of sentimental minds unable to see the real, the vital things of life.
To this community of poseurs Lady Durwent jingled her town house and her title—and the response was instantaneous. She became the hostess of a series of dinner-parties which gradually made her the subject of paragraphs in the chatty columns of the press, and of whole chapters in the gossip of London’s refined circles.
Her natural cheerfulness expanded like a sunflower, and when her son Malcolm secured a commission in the —th Hussars, her triumph was complete. Even the staggering news that Dick had been taken away from Eton to avoid expulsion for drunkenness proved only a momentary cloud on the broad horizon of her contentment.