A delightful collection of Mosher’s stories from the New Yorker between 1926-1940 that captures the wealth and poverty of the times. The eponymous story is 2nd in the collection, where we first meet Mr. Opal the wealthy, somewhat bored bachelor whom we tag along with for a handful of other stories. Opal reluctantly goes out night after night and is an amazing guest but an awful host. Dinner at Eight was one of my favorites of the bunch, wherein Mr. Opal finally repays the kindness of his previous hosts, but he’s so distraught he feels that no one will show up, imagining their excuses (death in the family, a touch of bubonic plague) or that the liquor will be poisoned and they’ll drop dead or have convulsions (“If one of the guests dropped dead, should they go on with the dinner? If he dropped dead, would they simply go on and eat without him?”) or that uninvited friends will show up (“Ah, gwan in and eat and we’ll stay here and send out for some sandwiches”). He also is confused about the time and number of guests, “Had he asked eight people, perhaps, to come at seven? Eight at seven, or seven at eight?” The phone rings, he anticipates the bailing of his guests, but it is only his co-hostess, “Ah, Angelina, you’ll be over at quarter of eight. That’s good of you. Thanks a lot. Yes, I count on you. Yes, I am glad you’re coming.”
I also thoroughly enjoyed A House of Tone, where the lad recognizes his old landlady as standing out from other patrons of a casino in Monte Carlo.
Mrs. Kelsey might have been a duchess, as she passed through the park. She might have been a diplomat’s wife. Actually, however, she had been my landlady for several years in that “apartments-unfurnished” house in the Murray Hill district. With this stately grande dame I had argued and scrapped and nagged over matters of plumbing and lighting fixtures and cleaning and the icebox pan. I had admired her then in her way, certainly. I was aware how she had come to Murray Hill, a stranger there, and how she had slaved and fought tooth and nail for her living. She had taken one of the few houses of the grander period left there, and though renting it out by floors and rooms, she had struggled to retain something of its old style, holding off, as it were, the encroaching skyscrapers, the lunchrooms, the Chinese laundries, the tailoring shops, which seeped daily through the brownstone barriers. Now I saw that she had been successful not only economically. It was as though she had salvaged a spirit from the wreckage of Murray Hill magnificence and had made it a part of herself.