Elaine sitting with Courtenay at an elaborately appointed luncheon table, gay with high goblets of Bohemian glassware, was mistress of three discoveries. First, to her disappointment, that if you frequent the more expensive hotels of Europe you must be prepared to find, in whatever country you may chance to be staying, a depressing international likeness between them all. Secondly, to her relief, that one is not expected to be sentimentally amorous during a modern honeymoon. Thirdly, rather to her dismay, that Courtenay Youghal did not necessarily expect her to be markedly affectionate in private. Someone had described him, after their marriage, as one of Nature’s bachelors, and she began to see how aptly the description fitted him.
“Will those Germans on our left never stop talking?” she asked, as an undying flow of Teutonic small talk rattled and jangled across the intervening stretch of carpet. “Not one of those three women has ceased talking for an instant since we’ve been sitting here.”
“They will presently, if only for a moment,” said Courtenay; “when the dish you have ordered comes in there will be a deathly silence at the next table. No German can see a plat brought in for someone else without being possessed with a great fear that it represents a more toothsome morsel or a better money’s worth than what he has ordered for himself.”
The exuberant Teutonic chatter was balanced on the other side of the room by an even more penetrating conversation unflaggingly maintained by a party of Americans, who were sitting in judgment on the cuisine of the country they were passing through, and finding few extenuating circumstances.
“What Mr. Lonkins wants is a real deep cherry pie,” announced a lady in a tone of dramatic and honest conviction.
“Why, yes, that is so,” corroborated a gentleman who was apparently the Mr. Lonkins in question; “a real deep cherry pie.”
“We had the same trouble way back in Paris,” proclaimed another lady; “little Jerome and the girls don’t want to eat any more creme renversee. I’d give anything if they could get some real cherry pie.”
“Real deep cherry pie,” assented Mr. Lonkins.
“Way down in Ohio we used to have peach pie that was real good,” said Mrs. Lonkins, turning on a tap of reminiscence that presently flowed to a cascade. The subject of pies seemed to lend itself to indefinite expansion.
“Do those people think of nothing but their food?” asked Elaine, as the virtues of roasted mutton suddenly came to the fore and received emphatic recognition, even the absent and youthful Jerome being quoted in its favour.
“On the contrary,” said Courtenay, “they are a widely-travelled set, and the man has had a notably interesting career. It is a form of home-sickness with them to discuss and lament the cookery and foods that they’ve never had the leisure to stay at home and digest. The Wandering Jew probably babbled unremittingly about some breakfast dish that took so long to prepare that he had never time to eat it.”