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“The Circle of the Mudsill includes Negroes, Clerks, Irish Laborers, Patent and other Agents, Hackmen, Faro-Dealers, Washerwomen, and Newspaper-Correspondents. In the Hotel Circle the Newest Strangers, Harpists, Members of Congress, Concertina-Men, Provincial Judges, Card-Writers, College-Students, Unprotected Females, 'Star' and States' Boys, Stool-Pigeons, Contractors, Sellers of Toothpicks, and Beau Hickman, are found. The Circle of the White House embraces the President, the Cabinet, the Chiefs of Bureaus, the Embassies, Corcoran and Riggs, formerly Mr Forney, and until recently George Sanders and Isaiah Rynders. The little innermost circle is intended to represent a select body of residents, intense exclusives, who keep aloof from the other circles and hold them all in equal contempt. This circle is known only by report; in all probability it is a myth. It is worthy of remark that the circles of the White House and the hotels rise higher and sink lower than that of the Mudsill, but whether this is a fact, or a mere necessity of the diagram is not known.”
The decade between 1870-1880 was an era of extravagant display and profuseness. Everybody seemed to be rich—made so by the war,—and each householder vied with his neighbor in the magnificence of his house and appointments and the costliness of his entertainments. The following account of a society ball in those days—1874-might be regarded as overdrawn, were it not found in so staid and reputable a magazine as Lippincott's then was:
“ It is like an Aztec revel for its flowers : the great stairways, leading up and down between the rooms that glow with light and resound with the tones of flute and violin, are wound with shrubs where art conceals every thing but the branch and blossom ; doors are arched with palms and long banana leaves; flowers swing from lintel and window and bracket, stream from the pictures, crown the statues ; sprays of dropping vines wreathe the chandeliers that shed the soft brilliance of wax-lights around them ; mantels are covered with moss; tables are bedded with violets; tall vases overflow with roses and heliotropes, with cold camellias and burning geraniums; the orchestra is hidden with latticed bloom and bud; and yellow acacias and scarlet passion-flowers and a great white orchid with a honeyed breath encircle the fern-filled basin, where a fountain plays. The murmur of music the wealth of perfume, make the atmosphere an enchantment. A crowd of gorgeous hues and tissues, bare bosoms and blazing jewels, ascend and descend the stairs : here are women the fame of whose beauty is world-wide, wearing lace whose intricate design, over the pale shimmer of some perfectly tinted silk beneath, represents the labor of a lifetime, wearing necklaces and tiaras of diamonds, where the great stones set in a frosty floral splendor seem to throb with a spirit of their own. There of course is the President ; yonder is the ChiefJustice; here again the general of all our armies ; here flash the glittering insignia of soldiers ; here the fantastic array of diplomats ; down one vista the dancers float through their mazes ; down another shine the crystal and gold and silver of the tables, red with Burgundy and Bordeaux, tempting with terrapin and truffle, with spiced meats and salads, pastries, confections, and fruits; and close by is the punch-room. You have your choice of the frozen article or of that claret concoction to hold whose glowing ruby a bowl has been hollowed in the ice itself, or of the champagne punch, where to every litre of the champagne a litre of brandy, a litre of red rum, a litre of green tea are given, and where you flushed and fevered damsel dipping a ladle and tossing off her jorum as coolly as though she had not had her three wines at dinner that day, and had not, in half the houses of her dozen morning calls, sipped her sherry or set down her little punch-glass empty of its delicious mixture of old spirits and fermenting fruit-juices. Perhaps that sight sets you to thinking. You may have been attracted earlier in the night by her delicate toilette and her face pure as a pearl : you saw her later, warm from the dance, eating and drinking in the supper-room ; then her partner's arm was round her waist, her head was on his shoulder, and she was plunging into the German, whirling to maddening measures, presently caught in a new embrace, flying from that man's arms to another's, growing wild with the abandon of the figure, hair flying, dress disordered, powder caked, face burning, till, pausing an instant for the champagne in a servant's hands, your girl with the face as pure as a pearl seemed nothing but a bacchante. And you ask yourself, 'What is to be the end for her, of these midnights rich in every delight of vanity—the thin slipper, the bare flesh, the brain loaded with false tresses, the pores stopped with the dust of white and pink ball, the heated dance, the indigestible banquet, the scanty sleep to get which she doses herself nightly with some tremendous drug ?' You wonder what emotions are stimulated by the whirling dances, the rich dainties, the breath of the exotics, the waltz-music, the common contact, the emulation of dress, the unseasonable hours, the twice-breathed air, the everlasting drams. 'I saw Florimonde going the round of her halfdozen parties the other night,' wrote a 'looker-on in
Venice,' toward the close of the last season.
'What a resplendent creature she was, the hazel-eyed beauty, with the faintest tinge of sunset hues on her oval cheeks ! Her dress was of that peculiar tarnished shade of pinklike yellow sunshine suffusing a pale rose—which made the white shoulders rising from it whiter and more polished yet ; the panier and scarf were of yellowest point lace; and a necklace of filigree and of large pale topazes, each carved in cameo, illuminated the whole. Maudita went out with Florimonde, too, that night, as she had gone every night for two months before. Skirt over skirt of fluffy net flowed round Maudita, and let their misty clouds blow about the trailing ornaments of long green grasses and blue corn-flowers that she wore, while puffs and falls half-veiled the stomacher of Mexican turquoise and diamond sparks, whose device imitated a spray of the same flowers; and in among the masses of her glittering, waving auburn hair rested a slender diadem of the turquoise again—that whose nameless tint, half blue, half green, makes it an inestimable treasure among the Navajoes, as it was once among the Aztecs, who called it the chalchivitl ; each cluster of Maudita's turquoises set in a frost-work of finest diamonds-a splendid toilette, indeed, as fresh and radiant as the morning dew upon the meadows. When they set out on the love-path, that is. When they came home from it, and from all the fatigues and fervors of the German, a metamorphosis. The gauzy dress was so fringed and trodden on and torn that it seemed to hold together like many an ill-assorted marriage, by the cohesion of habit alone; the hair-Madge Wildfire's was of more respectable appearance; the powder had fallen on arms and shoulders; and to my critical eyes, if to no others, the sunset hues remained on only one of Florimonde's cheeks.''