"I'VE been thinking," said I, speaking to my husband, who stood drawing on his gloves.
"Have you?" he answered; "then give me the benefit of your thoughts."
"That we shall have to give a party. You know we've accepted a number of invitations this winter, and it's but right that we should contribute our share of social entertainment."
"I have thought as much myself," was his reply. "And so far we stand agreed. But, as I am very busy just now, the heaviest part of the burden will fall on you."
"There is a way of making it light, you know," I returned.
"How?" he queried.
"By employing a professional caterer. He will supply everything for the table, and furnish writers. We will have nothing to do but receive our guests."
My husband shrugged his shoulders and smiled, as he said, "What will it cost?"
"Almost anything we please. But the size of the company will have the most to do with that."
"Say we invite one hundred."
"Then we can make the cost range anywhere between three hundred dollars and a thousand."
"A large sum to throw away on a single evening's entertainment of our friends. I am very sure I could put it to a better use."
"Very likely," I answered. "Still, we cannot well help ourselves. Unless we give a party, we shall have to decline invitations in future. But there is no obligation resting on us to make it sensational. Let the Hardings and the Marygolds emulate extravagance in this line; we must be content with a fair entertainment; and no friend worth the name will have any the less respect for us."
"All that is a question of money and good fame," said my husband, his voice falling into a more serious tone. "I can make it three, five, or ten hundred dollars, and forget all about the cost in a week. But the wine and the brandy will not set so easily on my conscience."
A slight but sudden chill went through my nerves.
"If we could only throw them out?"
"There is no substitute," replied my husband, "that people in our circle would accept. If we served coffee, tea, and chocolate instead, we would be laughed at."
"Not by the fathers and mothers, I think. At least not by those who have grown-up-sons," I returned. "Only last week I heard Mrs. Gordon say that cards for a party always gave her a fit of low spirits. She has three sons, you know."
"Rather fast young men, as the phrase is. I've noticed them in supper-rooms, this winter, several times. A little too free with the wine."
We both stood silent for the space of nearly a minute.
"Well, Agnes," said my husband, breaking the silence, "how are we to decide this matter?"
"We must give a party, or decline invitations in future," I replied.
"Which shall it be?" His eyes looked steadily into mine. I saw that the thing troubled him.
"Turn it in your thought during the day, and we'll talk it over this evening," said I.
After tea my husband said, laying down the newspaper he had been reading and looking at me across the centre-table, "What about the party, Agnes?"
"We shall have to give it, I suppose." We must drop out of the fashionable circle in which I desired to remain; or do our part in it....