In the country, where the hostess does not depend on the tender mercies of the florist and the caterer, the decoration of the lunch table grows to be a kind of cult. One’s wits are so sharpened by necessity, that what to a city woman would seem a great trouble becomes a pleasure to the country entertainer. Perhaps there may be some readers of GOOD HOUSEKEEPING who have not lived long enough in the country to feel their emancipation from florist and caterer, and to them these suggestions may not some amiss. The arrangement of beautiful flowers s a delight, and it seems hard to realize that there the women who give up that pleasant task to the florist, or worse, to the butler, but such there are whose time is too precious to spend in the “fussing” the country hostess delights in.
Unless one has time to send to the city, and even then when one must trust to another’s taste, what to use for name cards is one of the greatest problems. Of course one can do without cards, but they are useful and attractive in many ways. Any small souvenir of a pleasant hour is dear to woman’s heart, and oh! the comfort cards are to the hostess who may be “mistress of herself though china fall” and yet gets wonderfully “rattled” trying to remember how she decided to seat ten or a dozen women of different ages and tastes. Happy she who does not see two women side by side who “don’t speak,” looking as if all the bonbons on the table could not sweeten their dispositions.
Then, when one has gathered together a large and, perhaps, incongruous company, cards with quotations, conundrums, etc., tide over that awkward pause that “falls like a blight” on the spirit of the hostess, particularly when she knows that the serving of her guests will be a very slow process. Given some artistic talent, or a faculty for doggerel verse, one can manufacture an endless variety of pretty and amusing cards. Take, for instance, sketches of different heroines of poetry and prose with appropriate quotations, asking the guests to guess the authors, and giving a small prize to the most successful guesser.
In planning for our luncheon, we first consult the china closet and look over all our treasures. Let us suppose we have found a goodly supply of pink china, glass, etc., for of all the colors, to use a German expression, pink is the most “grateful,” by daylight or gaslight pink by itself is beautiful, and the various combinations of pink and white, pink and green, pink and lavender, pink and blue, and pink and gray, are all charming.
We will imagine our polished mahogany bare then we place upon it a dainty linen centerpiece, embroidered in pink carnations and knots of ribbon, and at each place a fringed plate doily, a small round tumbler doily and a fringed napkin folded corner- wise all embroidered in pink, like our centerpiece, and all fair and fresh for we will not yield to the fascinations of silk, satin, velvet, or bolting cloth — everything on our table must wash! On the centerpiece we decide to set an openwork glass basket, filled with American Beauties. Through the handles of the basket we draw a pink satin ribbon, and tie a soft bow, letting the loops and ends fall among the rose stems.
This glass basket is such a joy that every woman who loves a pretty table should have one. The openwork basket is very attractive “filled with fruit, apples of gold in a network of silver,” and it is the prettiest receptacle possible for flowers the glass lining is then placed inside to hold the water.
To go back to our pink table. We now add the bonbon and salted almond dishes, the graceful pink glass claret decanter, with its tall, attendant glasses, and all the sparkling glass and gleaming silver we can boast. Then come the princess lamps in their silver, and pink-and-white candlesticks, with the pink silk shades that have been made at home ; and, perhaps, the pink china candelabra, with pink candles and pink paper shades, though the princess lamps are more satisfactory, as they do not need watching like the candles.
Now the last little touches that mean so much, and then we can go to the servants’ dining room and lay out on the table all the dishes for the courses in their order. The old-fashioned Limoges soup plates, gay with pink roses and butterflies the little plates wreathed with morning-glories, holding small doilies on which to set the pink shells for the “lobster en coquille,” and so we go on. There are the coalport plates for the piece de resistance, the pink class cups and saucers for the frozen punch, and all our other pink possessions in rank and file, down to the pink rosebud plates waiting for the pink charlotte russes in their lady-finger cases, and the pink after-dinner coffeecups, like “pretty maids all in a row.”
The last thing we do just before the guests arrive is to arrange the cards. These are the plain white correspondence cards that can be bought of any stationer. We punch two holes in opposite corners of each card and tie down a fragrant, long-stemmed American Beauty with narrow pink ribbons, leaving enough space to write the name across the lower corner, and our duties are done.
The time for a pink-and-gray lunch is in the early spring, when one comes home from the woods laden with pussy willows. They will keep a long time, so we shall not need to hurry our luncheon. All our pink “things” and, above all, our silver dishes can come on again. In the center of the table we place a silver bowl filled to overflowing with branches covered with soft gray velvet pussy willows, and at each place bunches of pussy-willow twigs tied with gray and pink ribbons. The silver candlesticks hold pink candles with sage and pink ribbons. The silver candlesticks hold pink candles with silver paper shades, and the name cards are made of birch bark, which is easily peeled in the spring. The cards may have sprigs of pussy willow tied to them with pink and gray ribbons. If so fortunate as to possess much of the Dresden china with the flower garlands and blue bows, or the charming French china in pink and blue, one may make centerpiece, doilies and napkins to match, copying the design on the china in flower wreaths and blue bows. Then carry out the pink and blue idea in Dresden lamps with dainty figured shades, the pink glass, that old blue Sevres tray and the old-fashioned blue glass bottle that belonged to grandfather.
Forget-me-nots are about the only blue flowers that will not turn purple by gaslight. For pink flowers we may have La France roses tied with blue ribbons. The pink-and-white Japan lilies, when one can afford to cut the whole stalk with flowers, buds and leaves, make a most beautiful table decoration. Tall glasses, each containing a few stalks scattered here and there all about the table, are very effective, and the pretty face of one’s opposite neighbor is even prettier seen through a forest of lilies.
To make the pink-and-blue luncheon as “Frenchy” as possible, dress little bisque dolls about four or five inches high — some as pages in pink satin knee breeches, blue satin coats with lace jabots and three- cornered pink satin hats ; some as court ladies in blue satin skirts and pink satin trains. After we have succeeded in powdering their wee wigs and dotting their small cheeks with infinitesimal bits of court plaster, we shall be quite satisfied with the work. Cut small cards and write on them Mme. A. or Mlle. B., and tie them to the hands of the dolls with narrow pink and blue ribbons.