Published 23rd April 1904
Approx. 2,900 words
(First read 23/12/1994)
Lady Mabel Hartridge and her husband 'Tit-bits' have just spent a gruelling time being entertained at the New York and Newport homes of Mr & Mrs Cyrus S. Vane (for an idea of Mrs V see Mrs Murchison in Mammon & Co. ~ 'She spoke in a shrill, piercing voice, audible without effort above the pounding of the donkey-engine'.) On parting, the Vanes press the Hartridges to visit again whenever they're in the USA. While inwardly vowing 'never under any circumstances would she set foot in this continent again', Lady H accidentally returns the invitation. With the grim inevitability of short stories, needless to say Mr & Mrs V turn up in London nine months later*, at which Mabel is heard to say:
... I absolutely refuse to [...] take in her and her husband [...] nobody has people to stay with them in London. It isn't done. Think what a frightful nuisance it would be! People from elsewhere stay in hotels. That is what hotels are for.In the note of 'finished insincerity' she writes to tell them her 'poky little house' is sadly full, she tries to fob them off by inviting them to someone else's ball. Mr & Mrs V, brutish Americans though they may be, realize they're not wanted and ~ fairly subtly ~ have their revenge. The Defeat of Lady Hartridge is Society Benson at his best: very funny. Available in Fine Feathers and Other Stories (1994).
*There may be some kind of symbolism at work here. Or there may not.