Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - Dinners and Diners, by Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis, 1899 - Chapter 40 - The Midland Hotel (St. Pancras)

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THE dramatic moment of the evening came when Juliette, the new French maid, with despair painted on her face, out of breath, and with her bonnet on one side of her head, came running into the dining-room at the Midland Hotel, and told Miss Dainty that the dog had escaped. Miss Dainty for one moment was overwhelmed, for she pictured Jack in fierce combat with every big dog in London; but, recovering herself, said that she wanted boy messengers. The wild duck was getting cold, the manager was beginning to look unhappy, the waiter was sympathetic but helpless, the French maid was weeping. If messenger boys could straighten out the difficulties Miss Dainty should have had a dozen; but she said that she only wanted three. So three little boys stood in a row and received their instructions. One was to go, in a cab, to Miss Dainty’s flat to see whether Jack had returned there; another, in a cab, was to go round to all the places that Jack had been taken to during the day, chiefly milliners’ and dress-[-286-]makers’ and bonnet-makers’ shops, to see whether he had wandered away to any of those localities the third was, in a cab, to go to all the places where Jack had special canine enemies to see whether he had gone to fight a parting fight with any of them. The three small boys were sent on their way, the weeping maid dismissed to mount guard over the pile of baggage, and then I told the manager to serve us our duck and he smiled again, while the waiter allowed the look of sympathy to die out in his face and woke to sudden activity.
Miss Dainty was going out to America to play what she called “a thinking part,” with an English company on tour there. She was to have gone to Liverpool by a morning train, and a little crowd, male and female, assembled to see her off, to give her the customary bouquets, and to wish her the customary good voyage. But no Miss Dainty arrived. In her place appeared an agitated French maid, who explained that her mistress could not possibly go by this train, because one of her new hats had not been sent home. The lady section of the crowd was sym­pathetic, the male section gave their bouquets to the maid to take back to Miss Dainty, and we all went our separate ways.
In the afternoon I got this telegram:  "Alone in London and starving. Going night train. Will you give me dinner ? - DAINTY" I was of course delighted to give the little lady dinner; telegraphed to her that I would meet her at the station and give her dinner at the Midland Grand Hotel, and sent a note to the manager of the [-287-] French restaurant at the hotel asking him to keep a table for me, and to order a small dinner for two.
A cab with a pile of boxes on the top brought Miss Dainty with her bouquets, and her maid, and Jack, the fighting dog, to the station.
“Are you going to take the dog?” I asked; and Miss Dainty said, “Certainly. I am going to take him to bite the Custom-house officers if they interfere with my sealskin cloak.” Of course, such a reason as this was unanswerable.
The maid and the baggage and the dog were left on the platform, the former being given strict injunctions to keep a watchful eye on the two latter, and I took Miss Dainty off to the hotel.
Through the long curving corridor, with its brightly-painted walls and blaze of electric light, we went to the lift, and were quickly deposited on the first floor, where the restaurant is.
As a rule one does not expect to get a good dinner at a railway hotel ; but I knew that the Midland was one of the exceptions which prove the rule, and that I had not done wrong in asking Miss Dainty to dine with me there. The room, a fine large saloon, has a comfortable red paper with handsomely framed mirrors to break the monotony of its surface, and what painting there is on pillars and cornice has some­thing of an Egyptian brilliancy of colour. At one end a semicircular screen of curtains shuts off the serving-room. At the other end great doors lead into a drawing-room. The chairs, of red velvet, have a comfortable look. The lights on the tables are electric globes with yellow shades.
    [-288-] This was the dinner that the manager had ordered for us. When I saw petite marmite on the menu I groaned. I am beginning to believe that it is a sort of fetish that restaurant managers worship

Petite marmite.
Sole Portugaise.
Filet Rossini.
Pomme soufflée.
Canard sauvage à la presse.
Salade de laitue.
Pouding à la reine.
Bombe Midland.
Petits fours.

With the soup, which was strong and hot, Miss Dainty told me how she had boarded out her pets for the time of her absence, and it seemed to me that the gold-fish, the parrot, the cat, and the love-birds had, with Miss Dainty’s usual perverseness, been sent to people who would loathe the sight of them. Jack was to go with his mistress to protect her from all perils in an unknown land and to bite Custom-house officers.
When the sole and its rubicund surrounding of tomatoes appeared, I inquired whether Miss Dainty contemplated matrimony during her travels, and was politely snubbed by being told that that was a matter in which she would not think of moving without first asking my consent.
As Miss Dainty toyed with the truffles of the excellently-cooked fillet, she informed me that America is a country which understands and [-289-] admires art, and I gathered that she looks forward to returning to England as a second Bernhardt or Duse, and that the bags of dollars which, with their hands and hearts, endless swains are sure to offer her, are but a secondary consideration.
Then came the wild duck; and as the manager was squeezing the rich brown fluid from the silver press the frightened maid came bustling into the room, and we heard the awful news that Jack was lost.
By the time that Miss Dainty had sent off her little army of boy-messengers and had ordered the maid back to her post on baggage guard, our table was the centre of attraction to the room. The old Anglo-Indian colonel, whose pretty daughter was sitting opposite to him, the family party of mother and son and daughter, the young honeymoon couple, the half a dozen old gentlemen dining in solitary state, all were taking an interest in the hunt for Jack. “I shall not leave London until Jack is found,” said Miss Dainty, as her slice of the duck’s breast was put in front of her. “But your boat starts to­morrow,” I protested. “The boat must wait,” said Miss Dainty decisively. “I don’t go without Jack.”
    We ate our pudding in silence. “I expect the poor dear is fighting half a dozen dogs now,” was the only remark that Miss Dainty made with the ice.
I called for my bill: Two dinners, 12s. ; one bottle 343, 15s. ; two cups of coffee, 1s. ; total £1:8s.
“I am going now,” said Miss Dainty, as she [-290-] drew on her gloves, “to send Juliette and the boxes back to the flat, and then you shall drive me round to all the police-stations in London to see if Jack is at any of them.”
As we walked down the long corridor I was thinking of the pleasant evening I was going to spend, when there was a patter of little feet behind us, and the next moment Miss Dainty was hugging Jack, an unrepentant, muzzleless dog, with a great cut over one eye, and an ear bitten through.
When the train containing Miss Dainty and the bouquets and the boxes and the maid and the dog steamed out of the station I sighed a great sigh, which had something of relief in it.
17th January.