Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Young Man's Fancy

In the days that followed the party at Held Manor, it became obvious to everyone that Willard Henley was completely smitten by Minerva Ackermann. Obvious to everyone except Minerva, at first, but after a gushing conversation with Doris and Mabel in their bedroom, Minerva was set  straight. What a dilemma! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

An Elegant Party

The young men have suggested a dance party and Mrs. Arrow has enthusiasticly agreed. Our girls have been invited, of course! Mrs. A. promised that it would be an elegant affair, conducted with great decorum and none of that embarrassing nonsense that occured at the last party. Mother and Father gave their permissions for Dolly and Minerva to attend, but insisted that they wear their own clothes. What could they wear? After hours of staring into the wardrobe, they hit upon the idea of wearing the oriental costumes they had worn to a fancy dress ball. Garbed in their exotic flowing robes they set off for Held Manor.

And what a party! Mabel was at her best, working her way through the guests as they arrived. Doris was closely followed by a Mr. Sleevebrace from the Arrow Company and she seemed to be relishing the attention. Mabel appeared to be unconcerned by the lack of an escort, but Dolly and Minerva had suspicions that her nonchalance was due to the serious conversation between Mr. Arrow and the earnest young Mr. Millwork in the lounge. Harold was crooning a rendition of "It Had To Be You" at the piano, winking meaningfully at the pretty redheaded pianist whenever he came to the words, "for all your faults, I love you still". Mr. Arrow Sr., an amiable old gentleman, chuckled and nodded.  

Mrs. Arrow had introduced the girls to each of the guests, and Minerva, despite her awkwardness in this unfamiliar setting, could not help but note that Mr. Willard Henley was watching her every move throughout the evening. The redhead at the piano began playing "Stardust".

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Arrival of Mr. Arrow and His Handsome Colleagues.

Chastened by the admonitions of their parents, Dolly and Minerva have promised not to be taken in by the temptations of the Arrow family at Held Manor. They are allowed to socialize with them, but not to dress in their style. However, there is much to tempt them at the moment, because Doris and Mabel's father has arrived. Mr. Arrow is a big name in the men's clothing industry and he has brought along several of his underlings. 

"I declare!" exclaims Minerva. "I have never seen such a gathering of handsome, well-dressed young men in one place!".  Not only blessed with classic profiles, they were a bright and energetic group, obviously bent on proving themselves in the business world. 

Dolly agreed, but added, "I'm sure I should have nothing to add to their conversations. Their health seems excellent, and the weather seems to be of little interest to them."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How Margaret Hogarth Changed Her Publication

Mother, as you may know, has roamed various publications in her younger days. She was born in a Hogarth Print, namely Gin Lane, and although it was all misery to her and her family, she had the satisfaction of knowing that her image inspired a national thrill of horror and the beginnings of a movement to save children from the mire of drunken poverty. The image was crudely copied in a religious tract, self-published by Reverend Jabez Drinkwater, which circulated widely in the 1790s. This diatribe against gin among the desperately poor was often paired with its co-publication, Gin and Gentry, based on Hogarth's prints of members of the upper class who drink and gamble away their fortunes, health, and reputations. 

For young Margaret, this was an opportunity to move into the more comfortable world of the ton, but for all the luxury, she had to be constantly on her guard against the advances of inebriated rakes. It was on a pleasant May morning on the estate of Sir Wilmot (Wild Will) Slyde. Margaret had wandered to the fields to view the progress on the construction of expanded pleasure gardens. Surrounded by marble terraces, a placid pool reflected the classical folly. Tall yew hedges enclosed the whole. How beautiful it would be when finished, she thought, all lit by torches, lively music playing, the scent of roses or lilacs drifting in the air. But all spoiled by the crude bacchanal that was Sir Wilmot's idea of a party.

No sooner than that thought went through her mind did Margaret hear a stumbling footstep -- arms, and the stench of whiskey, wrapped around her. Sir Wilmot! He must have seen her going to the secluded grove and seen his opportunity to accost her unseen. Margaret cried out for help, and kind Fortune smiled, for, as Sir Wilmot did not remember, the groundskeepers and landscape architect were close at hand. The young architect, a specialist in classical outdoor structures, was in the midst of giving instructions to a stonemason when he heard Margaret's alarm. In a flash, he disengaged Sir Wilmot from the trembling girl and gave him a tongue-lashing only a sodden drunk could ignore. Unfortunately, Sir Wilmot was a sodden drunk, and it took a well-placed kick in the pants to explain the situation to that miserable creature. 

The upshot of it all was that James Ackermann lost his employment, Sir Wilmot's garden was left unfinished, and a young couple fell in love. Margaret joined James in Ackermann's Repository, and they lived happily ever after.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Violating the Prime Directive

Mother and Father have decided to have a serious discussion with Dolly and Minerva about the Arrow family. "They seem to be fine people and very amusing," says Father, "but there are boundaries that should not be crossed.  Most of us in the world of publications travel a bit and experience life from a different perspective. I have no problem with this. I, myself, have divided much of my time between periodicals, and if it were not for that, I would not have met your dear mother."

Mother smiled. "What a good move it was, dear James! I could have spent my whole life in that morbid religious tract, a sad victim of the Gin Craze. But there you were, and you welcomed me into the lovely world of Ackermann's Repository."

"I could have settled you into Vetusta Monumenta,my dear, " replied Father, "but there are so few women there! And Ackermann's Repository is the best life one could ask for. But back to the subject," he turned to the girls, "the one hard and fast rule, the Prime Directive, is that we do not bring our world into another publication. We do not interfere or even identify ourselves. That is what the Arrows have done, without any regard for the effect on the Space-Time Continuum. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well-intentioned that interference may be, the results are inevitably disastrous."

Dolly and Minerva looked down in shamed silence. They had been such willing victims.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fashion Review

Dolly and Minerva have decided to wear some of the Arrow sisters' dresses home, to see what Mother's reaction will be. As it happens, Delphine has dropped by to borrow some sheet music and Geneviève is paying a call to Mother. After a long, long moment of heavy silence and stone-faced stares at exposed legs, they begin pitching in their impressions. Being well-brought-up ladies, they are loathe to make negative remarks, but are hard-pressed to find compliments. In general, the fabrics are admired, but even with an extra 18" in length, the styles are just too bizarre. Geneviève gamely tries to equate them with the outlandish get-ups of French youth after the Revolution, a radical "anti-style", which resulted in the young men being called "Incroyables" and the girls, "Merveilleuses". Basically translated, "weirdos" and "freaks".

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Trying on New Styles

Dolly and Minerva are spending more and more time with the Arrow sisters, Doris and Mabel. Everything they do seems so interesting and fun to the Ackermann girls. Their world seems so much more daring and innovative than what exists between the covers of Ackermann's Repository of the Arts

Today, Doris and Mabel have decided that our girls must have a makeover. Upstairs in their bedroom, they have pulled out several fashionable frocks, silk hose, shoes, hats, and assorted undergarments. After some hairdressing and makeup, Dolly and Minerva are outfitted to the last detail. The underwear comes as a shock -- so little of it! And those stockings! Why wear something that is made to look as if you aren't wearing it? Short skirts and almost bare legs will take some getting used to. All it takes is a little impromptu Charleston lesson to make the girls realize that short skirts are so much fun! And Minerva shows a unique talent for doing the Shimmy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mah Jong Party

The next week, Dolly and Minerva were invited to the Arrow home for a Mah Jong Party. "It's so much fun!" exclaimed Doris. "It's like a card game, but played with little tiles." "It's a Chinese game," added Mabel. 

Dolly and Minerva still could not imagine what Mah Jong would be like, but their new friends' enthusiasm was so infectious, they agreed to come. The next week, they arrived at Held Manor and a loud clickety-clacking noise was audible from the drive. The girls entered a room done up in a manner quite reminiscent of the Chinese apartments of the Brighton Pavilion. Seated on the floor around a low table were Doris and Mabel with four friends, all decked out in the most gaudy robes of silk brocade. "I love dress-up!" declared Dolly. "This will be fun!".

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sitting in the Lap of Luxury

Dolly asks Mrs. Arrow if she may "wash her hands" and is shown to the bathroom. And what a bathroom it is. Dolly immediately called for Minerva to witness this palatial version of a most basic convenience. Mrs. A. instructed her on the use of the toilet bowl and discreetly left her alone for a few moments. Upon their return, Mrs. A. gave the girls a detailed tour of the room, explaining the functions of each fixture. Of course, they were mesmerized, as any female would be. They happily ran hot and cold water from every tap and stared, hypnotised by the whirlpool in the flushing toilet bowl. As an added treat, Mrs. A. allowed them to borrow all the gorgeously-coloured brochures from the plumbing fixture companies.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Modern Temptations

Dolly and Minerva cannot talk enough about the marvellous kitchen at Held Manor. Of course, they only speak of it to Mother. Mrs. Arrow has asked that details be a secret between them, but Mother can be trusted on such matters.  Before this revelation, Dolly and Minerva scarcely knew where the kitchen was in their own home, much less what skills or labour went into the preparation of daily necessities. Now they described the amazing devices and innovations that made housework actually pleasant. Miss Mabel had chatted cheerfully while she quickly ironed a rack of frocks, without a single black smudge. Miss Doris quickly mopped the floor to a gleaming shine. It was "linoleum", she informed them. So easy to keep clean, and always wax-bright. Mrs. Held had served cold fizzy drinks for the young ladies from an "ice box", while she made tea on a a miraculous stove that shot out a little ring of flame right under the kettle.

Mother was fascinated by every detail, but warned her daughters that these things belonged to the Arrows and would only last as long as that family remained in the neighbourhood. "I might have a chat with Mr. Rudolph Ackermann, though," she added. "Just a few ideas. He does enjoy his contraptions."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Labour-Saving Devices

In the days following the party at Held Manor, Dolly and Minerva had very mixed feelings about any further contact with the new people lodged there. However, after several days, a note arrived from Mrs. Arrow, expressing her thanks for their attendance and her deepest regrets about the indecorous behaviour of a number of her guests. A cousin from Life magazine had brought along some friends, whom, he said, were prominent cover subjects, widely considered "the bee's knees" by the popular set. From Mrs. Arrow's words, Dolly and Minerva deduced that "the bee's knees" (whatever that meant) were not what was expected. Mrs. A. begged her neighbours to put this episode behind them and feel free to call at any time. 

Encouraged, Dolly and Minerva set out the next day to leave calling cards. Arriving at the front door, the girls dropped the massive door knocker several times without response. Finding the door unlatched, they crept into the dim reception hall and deposited their cards on the sideboard. From the rear of the house floated the sounds of laughter and female chatter. With unaccustomed daring, Dolly and Minerva followed the noise to a large sunny room where they found Mrs. Arrow and the two Misses Arrow cheerfully doing what resembled housework.

"My dear girls," chirped Mrs. Arrow, "don't look so shocked! We couldn't possibly have left New York without our labour-saving devices! They do save so much money on hiring servants and besides, they make the drudgery of household tasks a pure joy to do!"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Publication Tramps

Recently, news went around that nearby Held Manor had been rented for the summer, and better yet, a jolly crowd of young, well-off people would be gathering frequently at the baronial hall. What entertaining parties were anticipated by the local residents! What opportunities to meet eligible men! 

Dolly and Minerva were so pleased to receive an invitation to a dance at the Manor immediately after the moving-in, despite a few reports of loud and raucous laughter and something that could scarcely be called music issuing from the old hall at hours when no decent person should be awake. Arriving at the door with a lovely garden pedestal as a gift, Dolly and Minerva are confronted with a sight they are at a complete loss to understand. What is that noise? What are those people wearing? Why are they leaping about in that frantic manner? Suddenly it dawns on them.

Publication tramps. Been there, done that.