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An Ideal Hostess
by [?]

The saying that “One-half of the world ignores how the other half lives” received for me an additional confirmation this last week, when I had the good fortune to meet again an old friend, now for some years retired from the stage, where she had by her charm and beauty, as well as by her singing, held all the Parisian world at her pretty feet.

Our meeting was followed on her part by an invitation to take luncheon with her the next day, “to meet a few friends, and talk over old times.” So half-past twelve (the invariable hour for the “second breakfast,” in France) the following day found me entering a shady drawing-room, where a few people were sitting in the cool half-light that strayed across from a canvas-covered balcony furnished with plants and low chairs. Beyond one caught a glimpse of perhaps the gayest picture that the bright city of Paris offers,–the sweep of the Boulevard as it turns to the Rue Royale, the flower market, gay with a thousand colors in the summer sunshine, while above all the color and movement, rose, cool and gray, the splendid colonnade of the Madeleine. The rattle of carriages, the roll of the heavy omnibuses and the shrill cries from the street below floated up, softened into a harmonious murmur that in no way interfered with our conversation, and is sweeter than the finest music to those who love their Paris.

Five or six rooms en suite opening on the street, and as many more on a large court, formed the apartment, where everything betrayed the artiste and the singer. The walls, hung with silk or tapestry, held a collection of original drawings and paintings, a fortune in themselves; the dozen portraits of our hostess in favorite roles were by men great in the art world; a couple of pianos covered with well-worn music and numberless photographs signed with names that would have made an autograph-fiend’s mouth water.

After a gracious, cooing welcome, more whispered than spoken, I was presented to the guests I did not know. Before this ceremony was well over, two maids in black, with white caps, opened a door into the dining- room and announced luncheon. As this is written on the theme that “people know too little how their neighbors live,” I give the menu. It may amuse my readers and serve, perhaps, as a little object lesson to those at home who imagine that quantity and not quality is of importance.

Our gracious hostess had earned a fortune in her profession (and I am told that two chefs preside over her simple meals); so it was not a spirit of economy which dictated this simplicity. At first, hors d’oeuvres were served,–all sorts of tempting little things,–very thin slices of ham, spiced sausages, olives and caviar, and eaten–not merely passed and refused. Then came the one hot dish of the meal. “One!” I think I hear my reader exclaim. Yes, my friend, but that one was a marvel in its way. Chicken a l’espagnole, boiled, and buried in rice and tomatoes cooked whole–a dish to be dreamed of and remembered in one’s prayers and thanksgivings! After at least two helpings each to this chef-d’oeuvre, cold larded fillet and a meat pate were served with the salad. Then a bit of cheese, a beaten cream of chocolate, fruit, and bon-bons. For a drink we had the white wine from which champagne is made (by a chemical process and the addition of many injurious ingredients); in other words, a pure brut champagne with just a suggestion of sparkle at the bottom of your glass. All the party then migrated together into the smoking-room for cigarettes, coffee, and a tiny glass of liqueur.

These details have been given at length, not only because the meal seemed to me, while I was eating it, to be worthy of whole columns of print, but because one of the besetting sins of our dear land is to serve a profusion of food no one wants and which the hostess would never have dreamed of ordering had she been alone.