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To thoroughly understand the charm of the words "the ice is bearing", you must live in a country house for some weeks without any visible means of amusement!

Lady Broadmere was very fond of inviting people to her beautiful place in Downshire, but was not very particular in having a judicious admixture of young men and maidens, or in assorting her guests properly, and it so happened lately that the two Beverley girls (nieces of her ladyship), Florrie and I, had an uninterrrupted fortnight of each other's company, with rainy days the first part of the time and half-and-half frost the rest, and our delight can be better imagined than described when one morning at breakfast, the butler announced in his pompous stage aside:-

"The ice is bearing on the upper lake, my lady."

"That is good news, girls, is it not?" replied our brisk little hostess. "Are you sure it is safe, Barnes?"

"Quite safe, my lady; the men were trying it last night."

"Then get your skates, my children, and be off,"continued the old lady. "I have some letters to write, but will look you up later on."

We needed no second bidding and within an incredibly short time,

Our skates were ringing
On the frozen streams.

Lunch was only an interlude; but when the stable clock chimed five, we thought it time to turn homewards, forgotten in the healthy ennui and boredom alike exercise and invigorating day we had had.

Some pleasant anticipations also added to our high spirits, for Lady Broadmere's nephew was to arrive that evening, bringing some college friends with him, and we were on the tiptoe of expectation to know what they would be like and resolved to don, in honour of the occasion, our pretty new teagowns just home from Liberty's, and which we had hitherto considered too good to be wasted on chairs and tables, be they never so artistic and beautiful! For indeed, Broadmere Court was very beautiful!

It was a fancy of her ladyship's to have the various suites of rooms furnished in various styles, and, like a wise woman, she had put herself and her house in the hands of Mr Liberty of Regent Street, who for nearly six months had been allowed to work his own artistic will upon the place, with a result which defies description. The stately dining rooms were furnished according the Puritan fashion, high oak wainscoting, polished oak table, deep set fireplace with a genuine chimney corner and low overmantle in oak. One of the boudoirs was entirely Japanese, another was Moorish; but the drawing-rooms were simply Liberty, and the smaller drawing-room, in which tea was always served was, I always thought, the sweetest room in the house. The walls were covered with a sort of embossed old gold paper, and high up near the ceiling, was a broad band or conice of white painted wood, a curously carved and panelled screen, also of white wood, divided it from the larger room and all of th rest of the furniture was white also. The high tasteful overmantel, the whatnot, with its delicate and many-coloured china upon it, the small tables and little odd comfortable chairs were all white and most tempting to sit upon, all except the chair of state, the one over which we girls most frequently quarrelled, as it was the most rest-inviting of the lot - this was covered in tapestry velvet and received one into its well-padded arms in the most luxurious manner.

Thyrza Beverley had secured it by the time I entered the room, and was having a lovely discussion with my sister Florrie on the sacred rights of possesion - they made a pretty picture with the candelight falling softly upon them. Florrie was wearing a gown of pale silvery-blue gauze, trimmed with real old silver embroidery, which formed a V at the neck and fastening at the side, fell open showing a full pleated under-robe of silver gauze, which glittered and shone like hoar frost in the moonlight; her quaint 18th century sleeves werer gathered at the top with a heavy wide cuff of silver embroidery and a full undersleeve of silver gauze; altogether, the dress and its colouring was just the tone and style to suit Florrie's willowy beauty; and here let me add en parenthese, that dresses made at Liberty's are specially designed to suit the individuality of the wearer regardless of what Dame Fashion may have to say on the subject. Therefore, it was as cultivated a taste which had suggested the cut and colouring of Thyrza's gown, as had assisted Florrie in her choice.

It - Thyrza's gown - was of pale blue terracotta Umritza cashmere, fastened with a sort of knot at the breast; from there the loose fronts fell to the feet; they, together with the V neck and sleeve 'tops' were outlined with black velvet, three little black velvet covered buttons holdinh the 'tops' together. The underskirt was of creme silk, with the black repeated in smockings at the neck and waist, and the cuffs werer rows of black velvet, each row ending in a little tufty bow of the same.

Poor little Lottie Beverley was not allowed the dignity of a tea-gown, such vanities being considered only proper for 'come-out young ladies', of which she was not one, so after a somewhat stormy scene with her sister and aunt, she was permitted the compromise of a tea jacket, and very pretty and young she looked in it too. It was made of bronze Tintoretto silk (almost the colour of her hair!) With a loose simple front and the same silk in shrimp pink, and softly draped skirt of the same colour and material.

She looked me well over as she held out my cup of tea to me, while I helped myself to the sugar she always would forget to put in, and I asked her, rather consciously, how she thought I looked, knowing well that my long trailing gown of apricot art velveteen, edged with dark brown fur (skunk) and its soft, full, silk front, was almost the prettiest of them all. I liked the long false sleeves, which fell from the shoulder and showed the silk lining, and plain long train I thought suited my tall figure better than anything much looped and draped would have done; but before Lottie could answer my conceited query, the door was thrown wide open, and our hostess and her newly-arrived guests claimed our attention, and most opportunely turned our thoughts from the study of dress, all-powerful though it is, to the yet more engrossing study of Man!

Sylvia's Home Journal, 1889



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