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A Touch Of Realism
by [?]

“I HOPE you’ve come full of suggestions for Christmas,” said Lady Blonze to her latest arrived guest; “the old-fashioned Christmas and the up-to-date Christmas are both so played out. I want to have something really original this year.”

“I was staying with the Mathesons last month,” said Blanche Boveal eagerly, “and we had such a good idea. Every one in the house-party had to be a character and behave consistently all the time, and at the end of the visit one had to guess what every one’s character was. The one who was voted to have acted his or her character best got a prize.”

“It sounds amusing,” said Lady Blonze.

“I was St. Francis of Assisi,” continued Blanche; “we hadn’t got to keep to our right sexes. I kept getting up in the middle of a meal, and throwing out food to the birds; you see, the chief thing that one remembers of St. Francis is that he was fond of the birds. Every one was so stupid about it, and thought that I was the old man who feeds the sparrows in the Tuileries Gardens. Then Colonel Pentley was the Jolly Miller on the banks of Dee.”

“How on earth did he do that?” asked Bertie van Tahn.

” ‘He laughed and sang from morn till night,’ ” explained Blanche.

“How dreadful for the rest of you,” said Bertie; “and anyway he wasn’t on the banks of Dee.”

“One had to imagine that,” said Blanche.

“If you could imagine all that you might as well imagine cattle on the further bank and keep on calling them home, Mary-fashion, across the sands of Dee. Or you might change the river to the Yarrow and imagine it was on the top of you, and say you were Willie, or whoever it was, drowned in Yarrow.”

“Of course it’s easy to make fun of it,” said Blanche sharply, “but it was extremely interesting and amusing. The prize was rather a fiasco, though. You see, Millie Matheson said her character was Lady Bountiful, and as she was our hostess of course we all had to vote that she had carried out her character better than anyone. Otherwise I ought to have got the prize.”

“It’s quite an idea for a Christmas party,” said Lady Blonze; “we must certainly do it here.”

Sir Nicholas was not so enthusiastic. “Are you quite sure, my dear, that you’re wise in doing this thing?” he said to his wife when they were alone together. “It might do very well at the Mathesons, where they had rather a staid, elderly house-party, but here it will be a different matter. There is the Durmot flapper, for instance, who simply stops at nothing, and you know what Van Tahn is like. Then there is Cyril Skatterly; he has madness on one side of his family and a Hungarian grandmother on the other.”

“I don’t see what they could do that would matter,” said Lady Blonze.

“It’s the unknown that is to be dreaded,” said Sir Nicholas. “If Skatterly took it into his head to represent a Bull of Bashan, well, I’d rather not be here.”

“Of course we shan’t allow any Bible characters. Besides, I don’t know what the Bulls of Bashan really did that was so very dreadful; they just came round and gaped, as far as I remember.”

“My dear, you don’t know what Skatterly’s Hungarian imagination mightn’t read into the part; it would be small satisfaction to say to him afterwards: ‘You’ve behaved as no Bull of Bashan would have behaved.’ “

“Oh, you’re an alarmist,” said Lady Blonze; I particularly want to have this idea carried out. It will be sure to be talked about a lot.”

“That is quite possible,” said Sir Nicholas.

* * * *

Dinner that evening was not a particularly lively affair; the strain of trying to impersonate a self- imposed character or to glean hints of identity from other people’s conduct acted as a check on the natural festivity of such a gathering. There was a general feeling of gratitude and acquiescence when good-natured Rachel Klammerstein suggested that there should be an hour or two’s respite from “the game” while they all listened to a little piano-playing after dinner. Rachel’s love of piano music was not indiscriminate, and concentrated itself chiefly on selections rendered by her idolised offspring, Moritz and Augusta, who, to do them justice, played remarkably well.