The Blotting Book

E. F. Benson
The Blotting Book

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Title: The Blotting Book
Author: E. F. Benson
Release Date: March 7, 2004 [EBook #11493] [Date last updated:
December 21, 2004]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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The Blotting Book

Mrs. Assheton's house in Sussex Square, Brighton, was appointed with
that finish of smooth stateliness which robs stateliness of its formality,
and conceals the amount of trouble and personal attention which has,
originally in any case, been spent on the production of the smoothness.
Everything moved with the regularity of the solar system, and, superior
to that wild rush of heavy bodies through infinite ether, there was never
the slightest fear of comets streaking their unconjectured way across
the sky, or meteorites falling on unsuspicious picnicers. In Mrs.
Assheton's house, supreme over climatic conditions, nobody ever felt
that rooms were either too hot or too cold, a pleasantly fresh yet
comfortably warm atmosphere pervaded the place, meals were always
punctual and her admirable Scotch cook never served up a dish which,
whether plain or ornate, was not, in its way, perfectly prepared. A
couple of deft and noiseless parlour-maids attended to and anticipated
the wants of her guests, from the moment they entered her hospitable
doors till when, on their leaving them, their coats were held for them in
the most convenient possible manner for the easy insertion of the
human arm, and the tails of their dinner-coats cunningly and unerringly
tweaked from behind. In every way in fact the house was an example of
perfect comfort; the softest carpets overlaid the floors, or, where the
polished wood was left bare, the parquetry shone with a moonlike
radiance; the newest and most entertaining books (ready cut) stood on
the well-ordered shelves in the sitting-room to beguile the leisure of the
studiously minded; the billiard table was always speckless of dust, no
tip was ever missing from any cue, and the cigarette boxes and
match-stands were always kept replenished. In the dining-room the
silver was resplendent, until the moment when before dessert the cloth
was withdrawn, and showed a rosewood table that might have served
for a mirror to Narcissus.
Mrs. Assheton, until her only surviving son Morris had come to live
with her some three months ago on the completion of his four years at
Cambridge, had been alone, but even when she was alone this
ceremony of drawing the cloth and putting on the dessert and wine had
never been omitted, though since she never took either, it might seem

to be a wasted piece of routine on the part of the two noiseless
parlourmaids. But she did not in the least consider it so, for just as she
always dressed for dinner herself with the same care and finish,
whether she was going to dine alone or whether, as tonight, a guest or
two was dining with her, as an offering, so to speak, on the altar of her
own self-respect, so also she required self-respect and the formality that
indicated it on the part of those who ministered at her table, and
enjoyed such excellent wages. This pretty old-fashioned custom had
always been the rule in her own home, and her husband had always had
it practised during his life. And since then--his death had occurred
some twenty years ago--nothing that she knew of had happened to
make it less proper or desirable. Kind of heart and warm of soul though
she was, she saw no reason for letting these excellent qualities cover
any slackness or breach of observance in the social form of life to
which she had been accustomed. There was no cause, because one was
kind and wise, to eat with badly cleaned silver, unless the parlour-maid
whose office it was to clean it was unwell. In such a case, if the extra
work entailed by her illness would throw too much on the shoulders of
the other servants, Mrs. Assheton would willingly clean the silver
herself, rather than that it should appear dull and tarnished. Her
formalism, such as it was, was perfectly simple and sincere. She would,
without any very poignant regret or sense of martyrdom, had her very
comfortable income been cut down to a tenth of what it was, have gone
to live in a four-roomed cottage with
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