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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Country Breakfast in England

By Joseph A. Nimes

[By the Author of “Aristocracy,” “American Coin,” etc.]

  • SCENE.—Breakfast-room at Beaulieu Manor. High wainscot of old oak; walls papered in deep maroon; deep-maroon damask window-curtains, and maroon leather-seated chairs. Old oak fire-place; log fire in the grate; long breakfast-table, hissing urn and tea things at one end, four covered silver dishes at the other containing cutlets, sausages, poached eggs, and curried fowl. In the middle and up the sides, plates of hot roils in napkins: a large dish of butter scrolls and bullets, a silver stand of boiled eggs, a glass dish of orange marmalade, and two racks of dry toast. On sideboard, cold ham, beef, game, and huge loaf of bread.
  • LADY BAR-DEXTER(the lady of the house), age thirty-five, once pretty, now buxom, with that burnt-faced, diminishing-eyed look which the average high-born British matron (unless a “frisky”) gets in a few years after marriage, and which is not so much the result of annual maternity as the effect of an unlimited consumption of brown stout at luncheon and brown sherry at dinner.
  • The HON. MRS. VILLIERS and MISS VILLIERS, mother and daughter. Mother, gray-haired, arched eyebrows, pale, thin and icy; daughter, thoroughbred and shy.
  • LADY VIOLET CROPPER, a “frisky”; pretty, bold, cold-eyed, and horsey.
  • LORD HENRY NODDLE, her brother.
  • CAPTAIN FITZRUBBISHE, of the Queen’s Own Bombardiers.
  • [Silence reigns. Enter your humble servant—whom we will call MR. THOMPSON WITHAPEE, of Philadelphia. Both the men are reading their letters while they eat, the torn-open envelopes littering the table and adjoining plates.]

  • MEN.Baw![which I interpret as “Good morning.”]

    WOMEN.Ning![which I ditto.]

    [I seat myself in one of a half-dozen vacant places amid utter silence. After a pause:]
    LADY BAR-DEXTER.Tea, Mr. Withapee?

    I.If you please.

    [LADY B-D. pours out the tea, and I wail some minutes.]
    LADY BAR-DEXTER.Here is your tea, Mr. Withapee.[I am separated from her Ladyship by NODDLE and FITZRUBBISHE, but neither offers to pass the cup.]Come and get it, please.[This I discover to be the custom. Every one gets up and goes for his own tea. I go for my tea. I go back to my seat and wonder how I shall get something to eat. While I sip my tea and puzzle about it:]

    LADY BAR-DEXTER.The Hammonds come to-morrow, Captain Fitzrubbishe.


    LADY BAR-DEXTER.They can only stay two nights, though.

    CAPTAIN FITZRUBBISHE.Really. Can’t they.

    [Enter LORD BASIL DUMPLINGE, age twenty-five, in scarlet hunting-coat and top-boots.]


    [DUMPLINGE makes straight for the silver dishes, lifts the cover off each, and scrutinizes contents through eye-glass. Looks disappointed, but helps himself to a poached egg, and carries it to seat next me. Sits down, and proceeds to open his letters, which are in a pile beside his plate. I take the lip and go and help myself to a sausage.]
    LORD BASIL DUMPLINGE[with eyes on letter].By Jove! I say[to LADY VIOLET CROPPER, to whom he hasn’t before spoken.]

    LADY VIOLET.Hello!

    LORD BASIL.Here’s a lark. The Jones-Fieldings have a meet at their shop next Tuesday.

    LADY VIOLET.Never!

    [LORD BASIL tears open another letter with his thumb.]

    LADY BAR-DEXTER[to MISS VILLIERS].There’s to be a hunt-ball at Boskell next week.

    MISS VILLIERS.Is there?

    [Enter SIR JOHN BAR-DEXTER, a bearded man of forty-five, and a bluff manner, also in hunting “pink.”]


    SIR JOHN[after helping himself in silence to some cold grouse from the sideboard].Look sharp, Dumplinge. Ha’ pas’ nine, and eight miles to Tombridge Tun.

    LADY VIOLET.Going to ride Vixie?

    LORD BASIL.No fear.

    [I have disposed of my sausage, and think I’ll say something.]
    I.What a beautiful view there is from my room window, Lady Bar-Dexter.

    LADY BAR-DEXTER.Oh, is there?

    I.It is the finest woodland bit of scenery I can remember.

    LADY BAR-DEXTER.Really. Is it?

    I.Yes. It seemed like a reproduction of one of Wilkie’s or Birket Foster’s best landscapes.


    [The other men look up and regard me curiously through their eye-glasses. LADY VIOLET winks openly at DUMPLINGE, who draws down the corners of his mouth. I feel sat upon, and subside.]
    SIR JOHN.Ought to have a rattling good run to-day. My tea, please.
    [And so on for half an hour longer, while three or four more men come in, and I sit and listen.]

    The Argonaut, 188–.