It was not done in a day—this gathering about her of so brilliant and delightful a society. She had lived many years at Walpole Lodge, ever since her widowhood, and was now quite an old lady. In her early life she had written several charming books—chiefly biographies of distinguished men whom she had known, and even now she occasionally put pen again to paper, and sent some delightful social essay or some pleasantly written critique to one or other of the Reviews of the day.
Her married life had been neither very long nor very happy. She had never learnt to love her husband’s country home. At his death she had turned her back thankfully upon Kynaston, and had never seen it again. Of her two sons, she stood in some awe of the elder, whose cold and unresponsive character resembled her dead husband’s, whilst she adored Maurice, who was warm-hearted and affectionate in manner, like herself. There were ten years between them, for she had been married twelve years; and at her secret heart Lady Kynaston hoped and believed that John would remain unmarried, so that the estates and the money might in time become Maurice’s.
It is the second Thursday in December, and Lady Kynaston is “at home” to the world. Her drawing-rooms—there are three of them, not large, but low, comfortable rooms, opening one out of the other—are filled, as usual, with a mixed and brilliant crowd.
Across the square hall is the dining-room, where a cold supper, not very sumptuous or very recherche, but still sufficient of its kind for the occasion, is laid out; and beyond that is Lady Kynaston’s boudoir, where there is a piano, and which is used on these occasions as a music-room, so that those who are musical may retire there, and neither interfere, nor be interfered with, by the rest of the company. Some one is singing in the music-room now—singing well, you may be sure, or he would not be at Walpole Lodge—but the strains of the song can hardly be heard at all across dining-room and hall, in the larger of the three rooms, where most of the guests are congregated.