the spirit of the salon (a story)

It was her first time at the salon and she was both excited and nervous. Her great aunt was one of the grand dames chaperoning the night. And as a result, she was given an invitation, when she came of age.
Her aunt described the manor to her, so she would know where to go thru the evening.
Inside the front door, in the first reception room was the room where there was an instrument night. Tonight, the performer was playing a flute. So she sat for a bit and listened to it’s soft whispering tone. She had a lovely daydream of tall grass with a light breeze blowing it around.
Then she moved onto the next room. There were small tables with a small board that had pegs on it and decks of cards. She quietly asked a person just inside the door what it was. She was told cribbage. So she watched a few hands to see what it was about.
Then moved on to the next room. There was a poetry reading. She was delighted to find that the Brownings were the poets of this night. She adored their story as much as their poetry.
A bell rang and the people gathered in the hall for a cup of tea and some lovely cookies and sandwiches. By then she was ready to wet her tongue a bit. The air was quite dry.
After the tea, there was a card handed around to everyone with this evening’s discussion topic. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw it wasn’t politics. But she ducked out before it awoke. She just wanted a light evening. It wasn’t that long since she’d been in school. She wasn’t quite ready for deep topics as yet.
The next room had an artist at his easel. Her aunt had said it was a youngish man named Rossetti . He was just finishing drawing a young woman he had brought with him. And as she sat watching, he wrote a sonnet on the back of the piece. He dedicated it to his sponsor of the evening.
In the last room, they had a magician who was half doing a card trick and half watching the seance which was the main event in the room. He didn’t seem to want them to know he was observing so closely. He glanced down whenever the lady at the head of the table glanced his way. At the end of the seance, he laughed and told the room every trick they had performed. The audience giggled, half in relief and half in excitement. It was still a good show. Whether honest or not. The lady performing was only half way protesting. She had only done it for entertainment, so she didn’t really care if he saw thru her act or not. She lightly patted his cheek as she walked by him and smiled.
And in the final room, there was a sloe gin punch for the ladies and a madeira for the men. Everyone was chatting happily about the evening. Her aunt made a few introductions for her.
One of whom was a skeleton covered with a cape. So she knew her aunt had been tippling during the evening.
Which is what she thought again when her aunt said the man in front of her was a mid-range demon, who was chained in servitude to the lord of the manor. She just stifled her grin by biting her cheek.
But then she looked into his eyes, and saw souls screaming in them.
She woke up in a start. And convinced herself it was a dream. Till she saw the dress she had worn in the dream was on the dummy on the corner. And she’d never seen it before this day!

 

## . . . .
[Horace’s][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace]
definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse”). became the backdrop for a wave of entertaining across Europe.
In that vein,
## . . . .
[Catherine de Vivonne,][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_de_Vivonne,_marquise_de_Rambouillet] marquise de Rambouillet developed the rules of salon etiquette.
In a time of social censure and needing a chaperone to engage in respectable contact between genders, the salon was a much needed method of socializing for both genders; and learning for women in salons like those within the [blue stocking society][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Stockings_Society] . It gave women a chance to learn more than domestic skills and knitting/crocheting. To do more than raise their children and cater to their husbands. It was a wave of feminism in a restrictive time.

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