For a book that ends so badly for its heroine, The Portrait of a Lady begins delightfully:
Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more
agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as
afternoon tea…Those that I have in mind in beginning to unfold this simple history offered an admirable setting to an innocent pastime. The implements of the little feast had been disposed upon the lawn of an old English country-house, in what I should call the perfect middle of a splendid summer afternoon.
Part of the afternoon had waned, but much of it was left, and what was left was of the finest and rarest quality. Real dusk would not arrive for many hours; but the flood of summer light had begun to ebb, the air had grown mellow, the shadows were long upon the smooth, dense turf. They lengthened slowly, however, and the scene expressed that sense of leisure still to come which is perhaps the chief source of one’s enjoyment of such a scene at such an hour. From five o’clock to eight is on certain occasions a little eternity; but on such an occasion as this the interval could be only an eternity of pleasure.
“That sense of leisure still to come which is perhaps the chief source of one’s enjoyment of such a scene at such an hour”–perfect. I think that might be why I like the thought of cocktails and hors d’ouevres every afternoon so much. If only…