Mr and Mrs Milburn were in the drawing-room to receive their young guests, a circumstance which alone imparted a distinction to the entertainment. At such parties the appearance of the heads of the house was by no means invariable; frequently they went to bed. The simple explanation was that the young people could stand late hours and be none the worse next day; their elders had to be more careful if they wanted to get down to business. Moreover, as in all new societies, between the older and the younger generation there was a great gulf fixed, across which intercourse was difficult. The sons and daughters, born to different circumstances, evolved their own conventions, the old people used the ways and manners of narrower days; one paralysed the other. It might be gathered from the slight tone of patronage in the address of youth to age that the advantage lay with the former; but polite conversation, at best, was sustained with discomfort. Such considerations, however, were far from operating with the Milburns. Mrs Milburn would have said that they were characteristic of quite a different class of people; and so they were.
No one would have supposed, from the way in which the family disposed itself in the drawing-room, that Miss Filkin had only just finished making the claret cup, or that Dora had been cutting sandwiches till the last minute, or that Mrs Milburn had been obliged to have a distinct understanding with the maid—Mrs Milburn’s servants were all “maids,” even the charwoman, who had buried three husbands—on