Of course there is in Mallingham, as in every other country town, a first set and a second set—perhaps even a third, but that must be very close indeed to the unclassed tradesmen set, which is no set at all. And here it may be mentioned that the tradesmen's families are, as a rule, very much more refined and almost invariably better educated than the families of the first or second sets. Some years ago there was an amateur performance of one of Mr. Sutro's delightful plays given in aid of some deserving charity. Charity performances cover, as does Charity itself, a multitude of sins, but the leading lady did not need to make any appeal for leniency, so ably did she represent the part of the refined woman who was not quite sure whether she loved her husband or not. She was the daughter of a professional man, but had never succeeded in getting into the first set; for it must be remembered that there is no graduating from one set to another: one is either accepted or rejected at once. A couple of years later, however, the play was repeated, only this time it was under the highest patronage, so the management resolved to get the real thing. They managed to secure the services of a lady of title for the chief part, and the result was appalling. The refinement had vanished from the part, so had the correct pronunciation of the English language, so had the good taste in the toilettes worn, so had every vestige of intelligence. In place of these we were shown a pert young person with a voice like that of a barmaid in a country inn and a taste in dress to correspond. In the matter of memory for the words of the dialogue also the advantage was certainly on the side of the humbler representative of the part. In one of Mr. Henry James' most delightful short stories the catastrophe of “The Real Thing” is depicted. It was not more pronounced than that of the second representation of the comedy.


It is really very difficult to understand what are the qualifications for the best set in Mallingham; but somehow people usually find themselves in the set that suits them, and very seldom do the rulers of the social grades in Mallingham make a mistake. They have now and again sailed very close to the wind, however; for that was a nasty rub they got when they hastened to call upon a stranger, with the title of Baroness, who had taken a house in the new part of the town and kept a man-servant. As the story was told me, the ladies jammed one another in the doorway in their anxiety to be the first caller upon the Baroness, or Madame la Baronne, as the wife of a retired Indian civil servant called her, having studied the idioms of the Comédie française. Madame la Baronne was indeed a lady of great personal charm, and she was invited everywhere—even to the villa of the wife of the leading brewer, which represented a sort of Distinguished Strangers' Gallery in Mallingham. The competition among the most select for the presence of Madame at their houses was strenuous; and as she was in such demand it really should not have been regarded as so surprising that a London magistrate should send her a peremptory invitation by the hand of two detectives to come to the court over which he presided. His messengers would take no denial, he wanted her so badly, so she had perforce to throw over her local engagements and grant the magistrate the favour which he requested of her.

Her portrait was in the Daily Mirror the next day, in connection with a startling series of headlines, beginning, “The Bogus Baroness Again—Arrest at Mallingham.” She was one of the most notorious swindlers that France ever returned to her native shore, after a series of exploits in Paris.

The ladies of Mallingham ran up against one another in the porch of her villa in their haste to get back the cards they had left upon her.

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