It comes to be a quasi-liberal notion of despair: fanfare trampled in the streets, the holocaust of joy resounding in a mauling silence, and surely the end of happiness.

But otherwise the stride of life was well, straight and to the sky. I have approached her several times, and been rebuked, though it’s a temporary thing. She’s of an imbalanced mind, sick for want of worry and nothing at all to pass the digits. There hasn’t been a day when the tea has not fallen, from her demitasse directly through her blouse, and so forth. The menialest of tasks upset her motor capacity, and I should think it best she marry a doctor, precisely because of it.

Tea, that rudimentary halt of time which suffers the unsocial to be social, was taken at half-past three on Sunday. She was there, garmented with frills and crenellated tails dragged among the hungry weevils stalking soon behind. We sat, on dainty cushions, and eyed a table full of powdered biscuits. And, forgive me for forgetting Ms. Manheim, a crock stuffed with pale blue jam.

Oh she thwarted the hour, all beside her looking ill with empty moments. Not a thing to say, such gentlemen, such monochrome tycoons spacing the most patient time with laps of their spoon through English tea. One sugar for the gentleman next to me, and he drowned it as a tyrant with a prod of his silver spoon. Not a thing emerged.

Until, at some sudden bend of courage, she marred the incarcerating still with a motion for her cup. It led the vast majority of us, three at most, and perhaps it was four, to recognize in the madame a necessary reluctance to engage in living. Nonetheless, and despite our mixed elation, she grappled with the stem. Innocence, I say, was flashed inside her eyes, and designated fear. What was the first time we had endured the private hour, of conversation, of the manner in which the erudite say to each other: Such is the state of our lives? And we finish it with ironic grins.

But for the madame: The swollen body of tea crept right near the precipice, looking down. Yet it would not have done the madame well to acknowledge it; she is greatly afeared of high places. And so it neared her gorge, and as her lips collided, she released a measure of élan, which, I’m boldly certain is no part of her heritage, nor should be part of her posterity.

Great floods waked between her lips of a sudden and she was content, though still we gentleman had little to discuss but why clocks are round and wherefore prime ministers are prime, one of their number, when they obviously succeed one another. I, myself, was quite nearly ready to implore the gentleman from Hapsburg, a steelman by trade, to test me with a Prussian riddle. Though as I formed the trying phrase, it led her to incontinence, I fear. And so, all nations by-the-by were looking on, and she, however stoic, was soaked in blackest tea.

I confess that never before has a man, gentle or Lord, been made witness to so evident an impropriety, that he should announce once more the return of the hour, and bid farewell to greetings and our necessary platitudes for continuing the day. Dreadful hour, it has been made! I dare say, it shall be a dire circumstance when I take to tea again.

And, forgive me, Ms. Manheim, the biscuits, lovely as they are, with a crock filled with pale blue jam, are to be delivered to the bedside. The tea I shall take in my room.