Mrs. Jennings took the missive, and frowning threateningly at the girl, who withdrew to the dark recesses of the servants’ quarters, opened it by slitting its throat with a terrific paper-knife.
’8 CHELMSFORD GARDENS.
’DEAR MRS LE ROY JENNINGS,—An American author is coming to dinner next Friday. There will just be a few unusual people, and I have asked them for 8.30. I want him to meet one of England’s intellectual women, and I know he will be interested to hear of your ideas on the New Home.
’My daughter joins with me in wishing you every success.—Until Friday, dear,
Mrs. Jennings, who had made a complete failure of her own home, and consequently felt qualified to interfere with all others, scribbled a hasty note of acceptance in a handwriting so forceful that on some words the pen slid off the paper completely.
Then, with a look of profundity, she resumed the Resolution.
And so, by the medium of His Majesty’s mail, a little group of actors were warned for a performance at Lady Durwent’s house, No. 8 Chelmsford Gardens.
Through the November fog the endless traffic of the streets was cautiously feeling its way along the diverging channels of the Metropolis—a snorting, sliding, impatient fleet of vehicles perpetually on their way, yet never seeming to get there. Taxi-cabs hugged the pavements, trying to penetrate the gloom with their meagre lights; omnibuses fretted and bullied their way, avoiding collision by inches, but struggling on and on as though their very existence depended on their reaching some place immediately or being interned for failure. Hansom-cabs, with ancient, glistening horses driven by ancient, glistening cabbies, felt for elbow-space in the throng of motor-vehicles. And on all sides the badinage of the streets, the eternal wordy conflict of London’s mariners of traffic, rose in cheerful, insulting abundance.
On the pavements pedestrians jostled each other—men with hands in their pockets and arms tight to their sides, women with piqued noses and hurrying steps; while sulky lamps offered half-hearted resistance to the conquering fog that settled over palaces, parks, and motley streets until it hugged the very Thames itself in unholy glee.
And through the impenetrable mist of circumstance, the millions of souls that make up the great city pursued their millions of destinies, undeterred by biting cold and grisly fog. For it was a day in the life of England’s capital; and every day there is a great human drama that must be played—a drama mingling tragedy and humour with no regard to values or proportion; a drama that does not end with death, but renews its plot with the breaking of every dawn; a drama knowing neither intermezzo nor respite: and the name of it is—LONDON.