Lady Betty's Comment

by Betty Stair

In opposition to the familiar precept of a patriot touching the price and preciousness of liberty, femininity, scorning to be free, exults in shackles. We hesitate over our own taste, and turn rather to the crowning of some courageous male, with a liking and a talent for notoriety. The duties of this gentleman being irksome and his reward being ridicule, it is perhaps amazing that we stand in no nearer danger of lacking a leader for want of aspirants than does the nation of begging for a President. Once guided by a master mind the most exotic may come frankly forth to meet and struggle with the daily weariness of dinner giving and dinner eating: may look towards a triumphant overthrow of those problems on what forks to use, what jewels to adopt, what mannerisms to affect and what fads to uplift. As our persons are no more sacred than our habits we feel that our vanity is never safe; and our present despot, who owns a Turkish taste in femininity, and insists on the fashionableness of fat, unhappy is the woman who, like Mrs. Spottletoe of Chuzzlewit fame, is lean and dry and errs on the side of slimness.


The dawn of the racing season alters the bucolic character of the roads leading to Morris Park and makes them gay and noisy thoroughfares—conglomerations of smart traps and rainbow frocks. The drive to and from the track is the jolliest feature of a programme that—as is not uncommonly the case where the mighty are involved—smacks not a little of sameness. The inevitable lunch at the club house is occasionally enlivened by a friendly tiff over the possession of a piazza table where is offered a view of the course combined with the comforts of repletion, and is, in consequence, considered a vantage point of desirability. We meet the same people, and we eat of the same dishes disguised in the same service, that daily play the routine of our fashion; for, as Thackeray says of his British, wherever we may go, we carry with us our pills and our prejudices. And there be times, too, when we almost echo those cravings of poor Becky Sharp who, having attained the summits of society, cries in the desperation of her ennui: "Oh, how much gayer it would be to dance in spangles in a booth!"


That enterprising bachelor, Mr. James Henry Smith, evinces a nice taste in matters feminine. His much-to-be-desired box seat is not infrequently embellished by the presence of Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who this year shows a preference for the varying shades of Quaker gray, and was recently admired in a cloth of that color made with a plain skirt and a blousing coat with bishop sleeves. Mrs. Alfred likewise leans modestly towards the dove and is shown at her best in a soft pale frock trimmed with passementerie of the same shade and topped by a large hat of black chip tipped well towards the right side. Mrs. Alfred is young enough to ignore the ravages of a possible embonpoint, but there be other matrons who hang so uncertainly about that borderland of beauty that they somehow manage to convey the hint that only by an unwinking watchfulness do they succeed in foiling the onslaughts of his ogreship of avoirdupois. In their eye lurks terror and in their lines one spells their secret of rebellious hunger; of Delsarte, gymnastics and massage. Sometimes the matron is an improvement on the maid. But this is not always true. For those who turn coarse and harsh with years, we recommend Christian Science and a less flexible self-denial.


We find it difficult to understand that lack of sense and taste which led to the recent criticisms of Mr. Jefferson's oratory on the Actor's Home occasion. Mr. Jefferson, happening by mistake to pass over one of the many names of benefactors, and, presto! there were a dozen listeners, malice-prompted, eager to ascribe to this falter of an old man's memory every meager and jealous motive. An intricate and, of a necessity, a somewhat didactic argument, delivered in the open air, does not become the simplest of tasks in the hands of an old gentleman who has turned his back upon the fourscore mark. He was brave and he was most obliging to undertake a speech of any character, and now his payment seems to be in the customary false, ill-natured coin.


It is said that the late Ward McAllister shrank with peculiar distaste from the vulgarity of divorce. If so he is to be congratulated on passing away before the publication of his niece's domestic misfits. Mrs. Young is appallingly frank concerning her wrongs and the suit threatens to be spicy; although so far, the name of the actress corespondent has not been given to the press. It was good of Mr. McAllister to attempt that separation of wheat from chaff which at one time rendered his verdicts of such dread power among social aspirants; it may be the irony of mockery that to-day his family are conspicuous upon only two points. One relative goes clamorously into the divorce court while another wins celebration by the showy style of a bodice.


The gossip who predicted that the wife of the French ambassador would decline to be received by the Countess Cassini must content herself as best she may with the development of some lesser scandal, for certainly this last effort has met refutation. Mme. Cambon dined at the Russian embassy like the diplomatic woman that she is.

The visit of Miss Roosevelt to Cuba is said to have been more or less of a failure speaking from a Latin standpoint. Miss Roosevelt did not "take" with the Cuban element. She is uncompromisingly Anglo-Saxon and lacks that pliability which would endear her to the children of another race. Cuban women excel in charm of mannerism and in their eyes Miss Roosevelt appears unpolished and uncut. We may like her better as she is, but it is safe to say that had she but a few added years of experience there would have been a more gracious outcome to her trip. Miss Roosevelt Scovel was recently dining at Sherry's. She wore an exquisite white frock but is not herself a pretty girl though her grace uplifts somewhat her mediocrity of appearance.


It is the province of brides to be as bedecked as circumstances permit. Why then does Mrs. Depew automobile about Washington in a miserable machine that most people would refuse to be seen in? Is it humility? It is not gallant in Chauncey to permit the lady to appear in such an antiquated rattletrap. In appearance she is a plain woman; sensible, gracious and nice. Her position is a trying one which she supports with tact. So far she has been guilty of no error of taste and her manner with her husband is pleasant without bearing a trace of that silliness which the Senator's great age encouraged Washington to expect. No one has yet enjoyed any spiteful fun at Mrs. Depew's expense though many were on the qui vive for entertainment.


Idlehours has been duly garnished for the return of the master, who loves this home better than the gray pile which represents the best architectural type on Fifth Avenue. Mr. Vanderbilt is modestly conscious of the prestige wrested from Fournier, and is a cheering illustration of the soundness of open-air enjoyment.


How often have we read of the monthly ten thousand dollars which our ambassador will lavish upon Brook House! In justice to Mr. Reid it must be owned that he is simplicity itself, and by no one is it supposed that either he or Mrs. Reid have part in the publication of these details. He showed wisdom in a preference for his own household over the proffered royal quarters which would have been assigned him. He is chosen for his fitness, but were he the veriest clod the dignity of his position would still carry with it a sufficient measure of respect. Our desire to embellish its importance is absurd, and the hysteria of the dailies is calculated to place a dignified gentleman in a ridiculous light. Mrs. Reid's name and cultivation will doubtless enable her to support a monotonous role with grace; but, in consideration of British proficiency in matters ceremonial, their money will not be called upon to add a jot to the dignity of their reception. Their early departure has not prevented the opening of their country place, Ophir Hall, in the vicinity of White Plains, while their neighbor, Colonel Astor, has long been established at Ferncliffe.


Miss Nannie Leiter, of studious renown, is visiting Chicago in the company of her father. Mamma Leiter plans a garden party in compliment to Ambassador and Madame Cambon, while brother Joseph courts fame from the arena of Buffalo Bill; but for a clear space of a day or two we have learned naught of Daisy of the violet orbs. They are the loveliest eyes in Washington, by contrast with which the commoner grays and blues appeal to the enamoured diplomats but as so many soulless pebbles.


From London wafts the rumor that Alexandra, pleading a dread of copy-designing peeresses, guards with jealous vigilance the secret of her coronation crown, and gossip adds that she fears to have it duplicated by some enterprising American. It is doubtful if the peculiar humor of the British populace would allow of a full appreciation of this joke. Years and etiquette combined have led her Majesty to the thraldom of the rouge and enamel pot. Like the sensible woman that she is she attempts no concealment of the fact that she protects herself from becoming hideous by the employment of three maids whose duty it is to successively undertake the embellishment of the royal countenance. By means of this relief no one of these women loses her delicacy of eye and touch, and Alexandra blooms with the rosy softness of a girl.


The papers seem to be woefully wrought up over the financial rating of Mr. Harry Lehr. Whether he is or whether he is not a wine boomer would not ordinarily be a query of agitating importance. Nor yet is the exact proportion of his yearly salary of national interest. No one ever accused this agile gentleman of setting up for a millionaire while his ingenuousness touching his wife's property is disconcerting in its frankness.


Now that Tom Reed is settled in New York one wonders somewhat that one hears so little of his family. They are to be congratulated on their breeding, for with his prominence to back them they would find notoriety an easy plum. A gentleman called at Mr. Reed's office a day or two ago to ask for an autograph letter on the plea that he had in his possession one of each of the speakers, and wound up his request with the half joking query of "You are a great man, are you not, Mr. Reed?" "No," said the rotund Tom in his big-voiced drawl, "No, but I am a good man."