Flora Deland

"I found the Misses Laughlins' Scottish Tea Room--where Diana Bell and Hilary Jones had done their courting--in the heart of the Ninth City. It was frequented by girls from offices, some schoolteachers of both sexes, some housewives 'downtown shopping'--a subdued company. The food was simple, well-cooked, and cheap. I had noticed a strange apparition there and I hoped to see it again--a tall woman sitting alone, dressed in what I took to be the height of fashion. One day she reappeared. She wore a hat resembling a nest on which an exotic bird was resting, and an elaborate dress of what I think used to be called 'changeable satin,' blues and greens of a peacock's feathers intermingling. Before eating it was necessary that she remove her gloves and raise her veil with gestures of apparently uncalculated grace. Zounds! What was this? As before, when she entered or rose to take her departure the room was filled with the rustle of a hundred petticoats. Not only what was she, but why should she visit our humble board?

"Jolibois" dress, Lanvin, c1922-23. In the Met Museum.
Her face was not strictly beautiful. Norms of feminine beauty change from century to century and sometimes oftener. Her face was long, thin, pale, and bony. You will later hear Henry Simmons describe it as 'horsy.' It can be seen in Flemish and French paintings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The kindest thing that could be said of it in 1926 that it was 'aristocratic,' a designation more apologetic than kind. What was sensational about her was what we lustful soldiers at Fort Adams used to call her 'build,' her 'altogether,' her 'figger.'

You can imagine my surprise when on leaving she approached me with extended hand and said, "You are Mr. North, I believe. I've long wanted to introduce myself. I am Mrs. Edward Darley.--Might I sit down for a moment?'" (64)

Wilder, Thornton. Theophilus North. New York: Perennial, 2003 [1973].

I like Ted North's delight and incomprehension regarding her elaborate style of dress in a simple restaurant. It all makes sense once he realizes she's a "smearer, a newspaper chatterbox"--what better place to get the gossip of the town? Zounds!