The Inner Sisterhood
--A SOCIAL STUDY IN HIGH COLORS--
The Valley of Unrest: A Book without a Woman
JOHN P. MORTON AND COMPANY
* * * * *
Copyrighted according to Law,
By Douglass Sherley.
* * * * *
The Inner Sisterhood.
One of the Sisterhood.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Just After the Ball:
Miss Kate Meadows.
ROBERT FAIRFIELD, LOVER:
Miss Belle Mason.
THE BUZZ-SAW GIRL:
Miss Alice Wing.
FLIRTING FOR REVENUE ONLY:
Miss Rose Clendennin.
Mother and Daughter:
Miss Sophia Gilder.
A CASE OF COMPOUND FRACTURE.
Miss Mary Lee Manley.
Platitudes and Pleasures:
Miss Lena Searlwood.
* * * * *
A Bit of Sweet Simplicity
* * * * *
Just After The Ball.
The storm-door closes with a bang! My escort, a stupid fellow, has
said "Good-night!" He drives down the street in his old rattletrap
of a coupe. I am so glad he is gone! And yet I am always afraid of
burglars--or--something dreadful, whenever I go into the house alone
so late at night. I bolt the inside door. I mount the hall-chair, left
waiting by papa, and, trembling with a nameless fear, turn out the gas
and leave myself in darkness. I make two vain dashes for the stair; a
third, and I have found it. I grope for the heavy rail and go rapidly
up, two steps at a time, and finally, out of breath, badly frightened,
reach my room. What a relief! I turn on the light--two, three, yes, four
burners, and wish for more. I stir up the fire into a blaze; look over
my left shoulder, but see nothing; listen, but hear nothing. I wheel
my dressing-table near by; seat myself before the pretty oval mirror.
I tear off those ugly blossoms, sent by that stupid man for me to wear;
I look long and earnestly at the tired face I see reflected in the pretty
oval mirror, with its beveled edges and dainty drapery of pink silk and
pure white mull. It is not a pretty face; even my friends do not think
me beautiful. Yet I sometimes fancy--alas! perhaps it is only a
fancy--that I have on my face a suggestion of beauty, even if beauty
itself be absent. My eyes are full and dark, with long lashes; my mouth
is somewhat large, not a good shape either, and some people--who do not
like me--say that they can easily detect a hard, cold expression which
does not please them. But my profile is good in spite of my ill-featured
mouth, and there is--generally acknowledged--a certain high-born,
well-bred look about the poise of my shapely head which gains for me
more than a mere passing notice. My manners are pronounced "charming,"
and by many--those who like me--charmingly faultless. So, after all, in
spite of this lack of a positive style of beauty, I am what might be
termed a "social success." But it is a social success which I have
slowly gained, with much labor, and its duration is somewhat uncertain.
I am just beginning to be sure of myself, although this is my fourth
winter out. True, I have almost always had an escort to every thing
given, but I have never been able to fully assert myself. Now, wherever
I go, I boldly, and without fear, seek out some comfortable place in
some one room, at reception, party, or ball, and rest assured that all
of my now-many friends and half dozen or more lovers will seek me out,
and having found me, will linger about me the entire evening; and if
I like, I need not even move from that one pleasant place during the
entertainment, but have my supper brought to me and the two or three
other girls who make up our set, for you know it is so disagreeable to
crowd into the supper-room; it is a vulgar eagerness, that carries with
it a low-born air of actual hunger, and it is so vulgar to be hungry;
and our set is so well-born and so well-reared. But, O, my! my hair's
all in a tangle; comes of trying to do it up in a Langtry-knot. I don't
think it is a nice way to fix hair, anyhow. I like to pile mine on the
top of my head. Don't much care if people like it or not. And yet--well,
yes, I believe I do care a little bit. I suppose I'll have to take it
down myself to-night, and not call the maid, because she's very tired,
and when she's tired she's cross; I hate cross people. But I ought not
to blame her, because I've been out four nights this week, and the
musicale is to-morrow evening. The musicales are always so nice--for
people who like music, and I have many friends who are so devoted to
music, at least they say they are. O, this is such a gay season! I don't
know why, but people say it is always going to be dull, and yet, it is
always so gay. The men go down to the Pelham Club a great deal more than
they ought, and yet they don't neglect us entirely; and surely we have
no reason to complain for a lack of parties. Just think of it! three
crushes in two weeks, seven small affairs, excellent play at the theater
all of next week, and I already have three nights engaged, and a chance
of two more. That stupid fellow said something about would I like to go
with him some time during the week. How provokingly vague! But he never
made it more definite and final; just never said another word about it.
I hate men who neglect things.
Now, my hair is all combed out, and it's not a bad color, either. I
never knew that Belle Mason to have as good a time as she undoubtedly
had to-night. She was actually surrounded the entire evening; four or
five men all the time, and I not more than three. I never did like her;
she has such a conceited air; and now she'll be worse than ever. But I
should not have cared if every other man in the house had stood by her
the entire evening, but to think that even Robert Fairfield was with her
constantly! He only bowed _AT ME_ from across the room, and never
came near me. At the Monday-night German he gave me, with a hand-touch
and a smile, this red rose, then a bud, and I, foolishly, wore it
to-night, although it was faded. The horrid, withered thing! Yes, I was
actually foolish enough to wear it for his sake, and he all the time by
the side of Belle Mason! It was a brilliant affair to-night--so every
body said; at least a dozen said as much to me, and I heard a great many
more saying that same thing to our hostess. All the people really seemed
to have a good time. But somehow I didn't enjoy myself much, and there
are several reasons why. I abominate going out with a stupid man; but
there was no other to go with, so it was an absolute necessity, because
go I must. He brought a shabby, uncomfortable coupe. He had sent ugly,
dabby flowers; and he hung about me the entire evening with the silent,
confident air of the young person who fancies himself engaged to you.
He said nothing; he did nothing--except bring me a melted ice; but he
looked a number of unutterably stupid things. And I heard more than one
woman, in a loud, coarse whisper, say, "I wonder why she came with that
stupid stick of a man?" But, of course, they didn't mean for me to hear
it; they would not be so unkind; but, unfortunately for my comfort, I
did hear, and every word. But that was not all. It's a hard thing for a
woman, in a gay season, to appear each night in a new dress. Of course
you can have one nice, white dress, and change the ribbons--sometimes
pink, sometimes blue, or any color that may happen to strike your
fancy--but sooner or later people will find that out; they will just
know it's the same dress with other ribbons, and it's a social deception
which fashionable society-idiots just will not tolerate. You must appear
in a new dress or an old dress, undisguised. Now, to-night, how was
I to know that Mrs. Babbington Brooks could afford to give so elegant
an affair, or in fact would be able to induce so large a number of
the best and nicest people in town to be present at this, her first
entertainment. People said it was going to be crude, perhaps
disagreeable. So I wore that pale-blue silk--old shade of blue--which
I almost ruined at the Monday-night German. When I entered the
dressing-room four or five of my best girl-friends affectionately kissed
me on the cheek, and exclaimed something about being so glad that I had
worn my pretty, pale-blue silk, and that it was so becoming; and was it
not that same "love-of-a-dress" which I had worn at the Monday-night
German? Now I really would believe those girls malicious if I did not
know they were--each one of the dear, sweet creatures--_perfectly
devoted_ to me; because they have told me of their devotion many
times, and I know they would not say any thing they did not mean--girls
in our set never do!
But this painful fact remains: my pale-blue silk is _not_ becoming!
I am entirely too dark to wear pale-blue, and I am just dying for a
terra-cotta. It's the loveliest shade in all the world! Papa likes blue,
so I ordered it to please him, because he is of the opinion that every
body looks well in that color, because mamma always looked well in blue
when she was young and beautiful. That reminds me what several old
married women said to me at the party to-night: "O, my dear, your mamma
was perfectly beautiful when she was your age! And she had so much
attention, and from such nice young men!" And they looked right at that
stupid fellow, for his silent stupidity had driven away all the other
men, who were just as nice as any of mamma's old beaus, too. But those
old ladies could not have meant any thing, because they are dear mamma's
most intimate friends, and I am sure must take a kindly interest in my
welfare. It's a dreadful thing to have had a beautiful mamma, when you
are not considered beautiful yourself, in fact barely good-looking.
But quickly to bed, or I will look what I am, tired and worn-out, at the
musicale to-morrow evening. I must be fresh and well-rested, because I
am to play, and alone, a most difficult instrumental piece. It's one of
those lovely "Nocturnes." I wonder if I'll be encored? I was not when I
played at the last musicale.
The lights are out! The fire burns low! I thrust back the little
dressing-table, with its pretty oval mirror, beveled edges, and dainty
drapery of pale pink silk and pure white mull. I tenderly take that
withered rose from off the floor, where I rudely tossed it in my anger
of an hour ago.
I forget that stupid fellow, my escort; the pale-blue dress, so often
worn; the random words--idle, thoughtless, and unkind, at least in
their effect; even pretty Belle Mason fades away, and her charm and
her triumph no longer remembered against her. I go a-drifting from all
unpleasant memories! I murmur a prayer learned at mamma's knee long
years ago, and alas! for long years left unsaid. I kneel in the
firelight glow, I tenderly, fondly kiss that red rose. True, it is
withered and dead, yet how sweet it is to my lips, and how dear it is
to my heart! Something whispers that I love the man who gave it me! It
seems to quiver to life again, and tremulous with a strange, new joy,
I remember the hand-touch and the smile which came with the giving of
that red rose.
Miss Kate Meadows
(of the Inner Sisterhood)]
* * * * *
A Dash of Jealousy and Hypocrisy
Done up in Old Gold.
* * * * *
ROBERT FAIRFIELD, LOVER.
Robert Fairfield is an average man among men--but he is something more:
He is the ideal man among women. All women have ideals, and there is
not, there can not be a more dangerous piece of heart-furniture. An
ideal is easily broken, sometimes badly damaged, always liable to
injury; and the heart of woman hath not one cabinet-maker who can, with
his touch and skill, bring back one departed charm, one lost beauty.
I know this man--and yet I do not. I love him--and yet, again, I do not.
I suspect that, woman-like, I am more fond of his charming, delicate
attentions than I am of the man himself. I sometimes fancy that he loves
me; but I am wise enough in my day and generation to be painfully aware
of the fact that just about six other women entertain the same delicious
fancy. He has told me of his love, told me in a gentle, artistic
manner--and doubtless he has told the six other females the same story;
for he need not trouble himself to vary the telling each time, because
he has no fear of detection.
He knows that he is never the topic of conversation among women. They
seldom, if ever, discuss their ideals, and all of them, myself included,
have a most evidently-conscious air whenever dear Robert's name happens
to be mentioned, no matter how trivial the mention. But I am the
least touched, and surely the more unresponsive of the entire seven,
consequently he is more devoted to me than to any of the others. He was
by my side the entire evening at Mrs. Babbington Brooks's elegant and
most fashionable ball the other night; he was my escort to the musicale
last Tuesday, and O, he did look so handsome! And he never before said
SO MANY positively tender things, and he said them in such a tired,
pathetic tone, that he almost won my heart; really, when I'm with the
man I am sure that I love him, and most devotedly. But I have perfect
control over myself and my limited supply of feeling--Henry Seyhmoor
says I am without a heart; so I only look at him full in the face when
he tells me all those tender little things, and then turn away with a
light laugh--assumed, of course--and gently but firmly remind him that
I am _not_ Kate Meadows.
Ah, here is a note from him now! He always writes from the Club--the
Pelham, of course. I don't know the people who belong to any other Club.
What a nice thing it must be to go down to the Club at night, or
whenever you like--I wish I was a man. And this is his note:
"Your Platonic friend, Henry Seyhmoor, seems quite devoted here of
late, my dear Miss Mason. I saw you with him last evening at the
theater; your talk charmed him into unusual silence. How entertaining
you must have been!
"Won't you go with me to the opera Friday night; and won't you be as
nice to me then as you were at the musicale--no, not that nice only,
but even nicer still--as nice--as--well--as I should like you to be;
A note of mere nothings. My common sense tells me that much. Yet I find
myself forming words for myself between the written lines, and twice
read that dainty card, with the crest and motto of Pelham. Of course
I'll go with him; for to go with Robert Fairfield any where means a
delightful time to any girl so fortunate. It means a bunch of roses
almost heavenly in their sweet loveliness! It means the two best seats
in the theater! It means the turning of a hundred envious female eyes
from all parts of the crowded house; for our theater is always crowded
on Friday nights, no matter what the play or players may chance to be.
Because it is fashionable to go on Friday nights, and theatergoers in
this town are so fashionable.
I am glad, at least once a year, that I am a Methodist, because we
don't keep Lent. But Kate Meadows is very high-church, and, of course,
she ought to keep it! I wonder if she will? She was not out during the
Langtry engagement; but that was on account of lack of men, not on
account of Lent; because her little brother told my Cousin Mary's little
girl that nobody had asked his sister to go any where for days and days,
and that his papa had to take her whenever she went any where. However,
I suppose she'll go, if she goes at all, with her papa; he often takes
her out. I heard her say that she did just love to go out with her dear
papa, and that it pleased him so much. Poor old man! I saw him nodding
and napping, nearly dead for sleep, the last time he was out with her.
It's a shame to keep him up so! As for myself, I would never go _any
where_ if I had to, for the lack of a man, always be dragging poor
papa out. It must be so very mortifying. But nothing could mortify
that girl; she is such an upstart. Her bonnets and her dresses are the
talk of the town, because they are so ugly and unbecoming. But she
has a gracious and pleasant manner, and sometimes has a good deal of
attention--whenever she once gets out. People frequently say nice
things about her; but I am sure it's their duty, because she entertains
charmingly and often. She never gives any thing like a regular party,
but quiet little affairs that are acknowledged to be very elegant by
all who are so fortunate as to be invited--because people never decline
invitations to her house. She is the only girl that I am afraid may
finally win Robert Fairfield. She's passionately, foolishly in love with
him! Why, I saw him give her a red rose-bud at our last Monday-night
German, off in the corner--he didn't know I was looking--and didn't I
see her wear that same red bud, then a withered rose, to Mrs. Babbington
Brooks' the following Thursday evening? She wore the shriveled thing on
her left shoulder, nestled down in a lover's knot of pale-blue ribbon.
But I made myself so agreeable and altogether lovely that dear Robert
F. did not go near her the entire evening; only gave her, from across
the room, by my side, the _bow of compensation_. He left that rose,
thanks to me and my successful efforts, to languish unnoticed in its
lover's knot of pale blue. Ah, Kate Meadows, that time your lover's
knot was made in vain!
The "Earnest Workers," a society of our church, for ladies only, meets
this afternoon at four, and it's nearly that time now; so I must put on
what I call my "charity dress and poverty hat." It's such a good thing
to dress plain and religious-like now and then, just for a change,
especially when it's becoming. I will carry my little work-basket and
wear, as I go down the street, a quiet, sober smile, and cultivate a
pious air--a trifle pious anyhow. And if I chance to meet Mr. Fairfield
he will, of course, join me, and wonder as we walk how one so worldly
can be, at times, so charitably inclined and so full of such good works
and holy thoughts. I sometimes wish I was good. But it's so stupid to be
good, and the men don't like you half as well. And I am very willing to
acknowledge it, I like the admiration of men. I don't know any "balm in
Gilead" so sweet and altogether acceptable.
But see! Down the street, right beneath my room-window, comes
_that_ Kate Meadows; and Robert Fairfield's with her! He holds her
prayer-book in his hand! How earnestly they are talking! I wonder what
it's about? What a tender look on his face turned full toward her
downcast eyes! O, the _hypocrite_! They are both hypocrites; we are
all hypocrites! On their way to that horrid afternoon Lenten service!
It's a whole square out of the way to come by this house! She did it on
purpose; I know it, I know it! She just wanted me to see her with him!
She's the meanest girl in this town! I always disliked her, and now I
fairly despise the very ground she walks on--when she's walking it with
him! She's coming to spend all of Tuesday morning with me; won't I be
gracious though! I'll kiss her three or four times, instead of the
regulation-twice! I _can_ be hypocritical, and _sauve_ too!
I don't wish I was good! I don't ever want to be good! They have turned
the corner! They are out of sight! I just won't go one step to the
"Earnest Workers!" It's all nonsense, any how! Just sewing, and
gossiping, and talking about the minister and his wife, and all the rest
of the congregation who are not there! No, _no_, NO! I'll just stay
right here at home, and I'll have--yes, I will--I'll have a real good
Miss Bella Mason.
(of the Inner Sisterhood.)]
* * * * *
A Wild Fantasy
In Garrulous Red.
* * * * *
The Buzz-Saw Girl
I just must talk! I must talk all the time! Of course I talk entirely
too much--no one knows that any better than I do--yet I can not help it!
I know that my continual cackling is dreadful, and I know just exactly
when it begins to bore people, but somehow I can't stop myself, but go
right on and on in spite of myself.
Aunt Patsey says I am simply fearful, and just like a girl she used to
know, who lived down-East, a Miss Polly Blanton, who talked _all_
the time; told every thing, every thing she knew, every thing she had
ever heard; and then when she could think of nothing else, boldly began
on the _family secrets_. Well, I believe I am just like that
girl--because I am constantly telling things about our domestic life
which is by no means pleasant. Pa and ma lead an awful kind of an
existence--live just like cats and dogs. Now I ought never to tell that,
yet somehow it will slip out in spite of myself!
My pa says I really do act as if I did not have good sense, and I am,
for the world, just like ma. And ma, she says I am without delicacy,
manners, or any of the other new touches that most girls have. As for
Aunt Patsey, she is _always_ after me! She is "Old Propriety"
itself! She goes in heavy for _good form_. "Not good form, my dear,
not good form!" is what I hear from morning until night. I do get so
tired of it! They are all real hard on me! No body ever gives me
encouragement, and yet every body is ready with heavy doses of
admonition! Now ma is a powerful big talker herself, although she won't
acknowledge it; but she always seems to know just what not to say! I
call that real talking-luck! I am so unlucky talking.
But the big power in our house is Aunt Patsey Wing! There is always
bound to be such a person in every well-furnished house! They seem to
be just as necessary as the sofas and easy-chairs--but not quite so
comfortable to have around. We are all deathly afraid of her! She is
rich, stingy, and says that she has made a will, leaving every dollar
to the "Widows and Orphans' Home"--a nice way to do her relations! So of
course we are on the strain; on our best behavior to effect a change in
our favor. Ma says she will never, in this world, change it--and changes
made in any other world won't do us any good. But pa says he knows how
to break it! Mr. Meggley, her lawyer, who drew up the will, has made
an agreement to sell pa the flaw--for of course there is one in it, for
all wills have flaws--then he will employ another lawyer and break it
without any trouble. My, it will be so exciting! I suppose we will have
to prove that Aunt Patsey was of unsound mind. Pa will give us our
testimony to learn by heart! Pa is a real enterprising man! Some people
say he is a regular schemer, but Aunt Patsey says that he is a brilliant
financier! He has made and lost two or three big fortunes! He lost one
not long ago, and it is so hard just now to make both ends meet. But
Aunt Patsey pays a little board; that helps along, at least with the
Pa gives me a small allowance--when he has the money; then not one cent
more! I believe every body in town knows just how much he allows me! Pa
says I told it, myself. Perhaps I did; one can't remember every thing
one chances to say. Although my amount is small, yet I have quite a
little way of fixing myself, and always looking real nice. Aunt Patsey
says I do pretty well, until I open my big mouth and begin to rattle,
rattle, rattle! She says I talk more and say less than any body she has
ever known, except that down-East girl, Polly Blanton, who always
told--when in want of any other topic--the _family secrets_. Aunt
Patsey is forever-and-a-day preaching to me about _good form_; what
I ought, and what I ought not to do; sometimes repeats long passages
from the prayer-book--nearly all the morning service--then says, "It's
no use, no use; just like pouring water on a duck's back!" But she must
love to do useless things, for she just keeps right on. She says that
I ought to be able to keep silent once in a while, anyhow; but I don't
know _how_ to keep silent.
Some body had to come and tell her--Aunt Patsey--that I talked a great
deal, and very loud, at the theater, between acts. Now the idea of
finding fault with girls, or any body, who talk _between acts!_ Why
it's just perfectly delightful! I begin the moment the curtain drops;
I don't even wait for the music to begin--it is such a waste of time!
I know that I do talk a little too loud; but just lots of real nice
persons talk real loud at the theater--it comes natural. When people
turn around and look at me as if I was really doing something dreadful,
then I talk ever and ever so much more! People can't frown _me_
down--no indeed, double deed, not if Alice Wing knows any thing about
herself! People who know me never try; except my family, headed by Aunt
Patsey, who always says, "We are prompted by a deep sense of duty, my
I am _almost engaged_! Even Aunt Patsey likes the man, and O,
so do I! He is nice and quiet, and just loves to hear me talk--never
interrupts me, but lets me go on, and looks at me so admiring-like all
the time! Ma says I am sure to spoil every thing by too much talking! He
is _so_ timid! I encourage him, though, all I can; he seems to like
encouragement _so_ much! He understands and appreciates me, too,
and that is a great deal; for most of the other men act so funny when
they are left alone with me! They nearly always have a solemn, almost
scared look--but I really don't know why! I must confess that I like
stupid men; they may not talk much, yet they seem real eager to listen!
Then stupid men always have such good manners, which, in society, counts
for a great deal! People who have good manners are so safe--they never
do any thing startling! I wish my manners were better--but they are
not! After one of Aunt Patsey's talks on _good form_, and strict
propriety, I try to improve--regenerate, if possible. I often watch Miss
Lena Searlwood, one of the older girls, who is a great favorite with
Aunt Patsey--but it is no use! She is a self-contained woman, never ill
at ease, and who puts you, and at once, at rights with yourself. She is
a most beautiful and discreet talker! She would rather die, burn at the
stake, suffer on the rack, than tell even the suspicion of a _family
secret_! Aunt Patsey is always talking her up to me, wishing that
I would be only a little bit like her anyhow. So the other night, at
a party, I took special care to notice the attractive Lena. She is so
graceful; quiet grace, ma calls it. She leaned against a heavy, carved
chimney-piece, with dark-red plush hangings, and she looked for all the
world just like a tall, white flower, slender, beautiful! She was slowly
picking to pieces, leaf by leaf, a pale-pink rose, which she had stolen
away from somewhere about her willowy, white throat. And while she was
doing all this--and it took quite a while, too--she looked full in the
face of the man by her side, that rather good-looking, stuck-up Calburt
Young, _and said nothing_--absolutely not a word! She did this long
enough to make me almost lose my breath. I could not do a thing like
that; it would give me nervous prostration sure! Yet, I know it is
very effective! It was just like some picture you read about, and it
was beautiful, striking, down to the smallest detail. But situations
effective, and details pleasing, are not in my line, and they are
just as much a mystery as improper fractions used to be when I was a
schoolgirl. I hated my school! It was called a "Young Ladies' Seminary."
It was a fashionable, intellectual hot-house, where premature, fleeting
blooms were cultivated regardless of any future consequence. But I
was a barren bush! I never fashion-flowered into a profusion of showy
blossoms. Aunt Patsey said that I did not reap the harvest of my golden
opportunities; but pa, he growled and grumbled a good deal when the
bills came pouring in, but paid them, and roundly swore that he was glad
he had no more fool-daughters to finish off in a fashionable seminary.
I have a keen sense of the ridiculous, and it gets me in trouble all the
time. I don't mean any harm; but I can't help telling a good thing when
I hear it or see it myself. Now that _same_ Calburt Young can't
bear me; he hates me in good fashion because I made fun of his doleful
air, and said that he had the looks and the manners of a man who had, in
a desperate mood, shot down his sweetheart, concealed the fact, and was
suffering the pangs of deep remorse for the dreadful deed. He heard
about it and got angry! He _does_ look awful gloomy! He says I am
crude, _very_ crude, and put people on edge; and that I am so
good-natured, so good-humored all the time that it reduces less
fortunate people into a state of most desperate defiance--defiance
against my everlasting flow of animal spirits, unchecked by any thing.
He told all that to Sophia Gilder, and Sophia is my bosom-friend; so she
told me! Aunt Patsey has a great admiration for her mother, Mrs. John
Robert Gilder, but says that Sophia, poor girl, is a milk-sop--weak,
weak! and taps her shining forehead knowingly. Auntie has a most
alarming way of disposing of people! I know all about her
methods--gracious goodness! I ought by this time.
About two or three months after I was finished off at the Seminary, Miss
Lena Searlwood gave a little affair in my honor. She called it a tea--it
really was more like a dinner! They do entertain _so_ well! I was
taken home afterward by that Calburt Young--a great privilege I suppose!
He was in a bad humor anyhow; had not seen enough of Miss Lena! He let
me do all of the talking, never once suggesting a new topic, and
listened with an air, not of attention, but enforced toleration. It made
me furious! Two or three times he said "Yes?" which was really worse
than nothing! Finally, when near home, he turned to me and in a tired,
indifferent tone, said: "Beg pardon, Miss Wing; you are _just out_,
I believe! What did you study while at school?" It was a fling--I knew
it--so I answered, "I studied how to be rude to arrogant, patronizing
people who are forever asking impudent questions with a desire to give
pain, sir!" He placed my night-key in the door deliberately, calmly;
pushed open the door, lifted his hat, turned on his heel, without even
closing one half of the storm-doors, like other men always do, and said:
"Miss Wing, you have been well taught! You were, indeed, a very apt
scholar! I congratulate you! I have the honor to bid you good-night!" I
could have picked a dozen pale-pink roses to pieces just then, but not
leaf by leaf; I could have torn up a whole rose-tree by the roots! They
say Mr. Young is so smart, wonderful deep, and all that; but he is just
a mean, rude man, and I won't ever have any thing more to do with him;
and when I say I won't, _I won't_!
How some people do ruffle me into a fever-heat of dislike and ardent
opposition. Of course I know that it is all wrong, yet after all there
is a certain kind of satisfaction. Now, for instance, _that_ Mrs.
Babbington Brooks, with her smooth, oily tongue, abominable phrases,
"Yes, my sweet loves," and her "O! my dear doves," sets me fairly wild.
She is such a vulgar, low-born person! I always feel tempted to fly
right at her and tear off her load of tawdry, costly finery, exhaling a
strong, close odor of greenbacks. How people have taken them up! all on
account of their money. They are invited every where; and only last
season people were turning up their noses and asking, "Who, pray, are
the Brookses?" Thanks to a cook from somewhere, and a butler from
somewhere else, their entertainments are said to be really delightful,
and their dinners perfection itself. They are not yet quite sure of
their position! They are afraid it will not be permanent! But they will
succeed. I know they will, because I _feel it_! To me there is
always something very fascinating about these desperate social
strugglers--especially when they are successful. Aunt Patsey, too, she
says they will succeed, and Aunt Patsey knows! But she don't know every
thing, for Mrs. John Robert Gilder has fooled her. But I am not
surprised; she would have fooled me, also, if I was not so intimate with
Sophia, who tells me _every thing_--the only person who ever did;
and there is just nothing I would not do for her. I know Sophia Gilder's
_other secret!_ She is caring a great deal too much for a man who
don't take overmuch interest in her. But the man don't even know that
she cares any thing for him, and I don't believe he will ever
know--unless I tell him myself! Now I call that real tragedy; just as
good as any you ever see on the stage, or read about in books. I would
love to tell him; but that is _one thing_ I have never told, and I
never will, either! As they say in novels, it will go down to my grave
with me. I am so anxious about Sophia, I am afraid it may take her
there. But I have my doubts, she is right healthy-looking yet. Aunt
Patsey says that love hurts a powerful lot, but don't often kill out and
out. Robert Fairfield is the man. Ma says she never could understand why
he don't pay me devoted attention. His father was one of her old beaus.
She was engaged to him; Aunt Patsey broke it off--she was scheming for
pa--she could break off any thing, that ancient female! Mr. Fairfield is
polite to me, and that is about all. When I was a school-girl I used to
dream about him! In my dreams he was always dressed like a knight, and
rode a milk-white steed, waved his hand toward me, and then I always
waked up. It was so provoking. I never could get any further into the
dream. I know I would like him if I knew him real well. He is quiet, but
not one bit stupid. He talks little, but oh, he is such an attentive
listener! He don't come after me, so I can't run after him. For I don't
know, and I don't want to know any thing about _catching_ men--as
if they were wild animals, fish, or something. Aunt Patsey calls it
_diplomacy_! Diplomacy? Fiddle-sticks! It is down right deception
of the very worst kind. I know that I talk too much, tell a great many
things that ought to be left unsaid, but I do not tell lies--there is no
other name for them--and knowingly, with malice aforethought, make an
injury or do a wrong to any body.
But, my, my! I am always in trouble. Tom, my little brother, ran into
the room just now, nearly out of breath, and made a little speech which
almost gave me a nervous chill: "Oh, sister Alice! Won't you catch it,
though? Aunt Patsey is just in from her meeting of the 'Cruelty to
Animals' Association. She is in a dreadful way! She is just talking ma
black and blue! She is giving you 'Hail Columbia!' She met Mrs.
Par-dell, the manicure, the woman who ma says goes around fixing finger
nails for fifty cents, and gives you five dollars' worth of gossip,
sometimes scandal--to those who like it. She told Aunt Patsey a long
tale about what you had certainly said: that Aunt Patsey was seven years
older than she acknowledged; had been dyeing her hair for years; did not
have a real tooth of her own in her head, and was a regular old tyrant
here at home, and that all of us were afraid as death of even her thin,
old shadow. Oh, but won't you catch it, though! Sis, you had better
skip, and pretty quick, too! I think she's coming up-stairs now!"
It is awful, but I suppose I must have been telling just such a tale,
but to whom I can not, for the life of me, think. See now, all this
comes of telling the _family secrets_. That Mrs. Par-dell is a
dangerous woman! I refused flatly to have her make bird-claws out of
my finger-nails. This is her revenge! I am powerless! But it was not a
slander, it was all the truth; just as true as gospel. That's the reason
she is in such a rage. But she is coming; this house won't hold us both
just now, so I am off _via_ back stairs--to dine with my dear
Sophia Gilder, if I don't find that fraud, Mrs. Babbington Brooks, there
ahead of me. She and Mrs. John Robert G. are inseparable. The old dragon
draws near--I am gone, leaving behind a smile and a kiss for my ancient
female relative. Ah, Aunt Patsey, not _good form_, you know, to get
angry with people--even with your niece,
Miss Alice Wing,
(of the Inner Sisterhood.)]
* * * * *
The Cool Quiet Flirtatious Underglow
Of a Green Opal.
* * * * *
FLIRTING FOR REVENUE ONLY
I am a Private Corporation.
My capital stock is a pretty face, a clear head, and pleasant manners.
I was incorporated by the "social legislature" four winters ago. Mamma
was the active, successful lobbyist. My father was the silent, financial
lever absolutely necessary for the passage of the bill--opposition
The social Banking-House (our residence), on a fashionable avenue, had
been erected years before. A great mass of brick and mortar--stone-front
of course--not beautiful, but imposing. It was left unfurnished--a
portion of it--until I was ready to start in upon my social career. That
is quite a usual plan with people who are prospectively fashionable.
They do nothing with the drawing-room, library, and reception-room until
the daughter of the house is pronounced ready. The plastering, after a
dry of eighteen years, has had plenty of time to settle, and is not apt
to crack the costly papers or ruin the elaborate frescoes; and the
wood-work no longer in danger of warping or opening too much.
My incorporation was an event. Business at once set in, and, with slight
fluctuations, has continued ever since brisk and healthful. The venture
has been a decided success. The constant, untiring skill of mamma, and
the valuable experience of each gay season has enabled me to frequently
increase the capital stock. For my face is more pretty than it was four
years ago, and my manners are more easy and pleasing. Mamma says manners
are every thing--and they are a great deal. I have grown to be somewhat
of a woman of the world. I have met so many new people--strangers from
all parts of the earth! I have been every where, and done so much. There
is nothing local about me! Some people say that I am all things to all
men; perhaps I am, for if I am not _broad_ I am not any thing. I
abhor narrow-mindedness! I am a trifle fraudulent in a harmless way,
which I am free to confess is more than a trifle fascinating to most of
the men I know. I smile, make eyes, sometimes sigh, and with many
devices coax the masculine fancy into life, and for my sake. Yet,
withal, I am said to be conscientious--very, in fact, and never
intentionally deceive. My reputation is better, alas! than I deserve. My
network is invisible but effectual; my weaving-power artless, but it is
the art concealing the artful.
I am a Private Corporation! Therefore, I own all the stock. I constantly
make loans, but I never sell. The collateral--either the many shades of
love or the subtle changes of friendship--must be A No. 1 in every
respect. It is _collateral_, not indorsements which I require.
Paper not able to sustain itself is not considered worth much in my
It is my sweet expectation to retire from business whenever I chance to
find--or rather when I am found--by the right purchaser. I often long
for that time; I often picture to myself the undoubted delights of a
domestic life, and--but in the meantime I carry on a carefully perfected
=Flirting for Revenue Only.=
That is my long-chosen motto, from which I do not depart. A Private
Corporation must have protection! Self-preservation is the first
consideration, the first law. I am full of little formulas of both
manner and speech--they afford me ample protection. Make-talk is the
complete salvation of the female Banker (social). I never disdain the
use of a _promoter_, no matter how trivial it may be. _Promoters_
help you to float heavy, stupid men, and save you from a complete wreck
on the shores of stupidity; and they act as most excellent elicitors
when applied to clever men--draw out the very best in them. I have
_promoters_ and _promoters_. I was asked not long since to give my
definition or receipt of this valuable article. This was the one which
I gave: Take some tangible object visible to the eye; for instance, a
banjo. Attract attention to it in some successful way. Talk first about
the banjo itself (the promoter), then if the man is clever he will,
unconsciously, be _led up_ from a discussion of that or other
musical instruments to a chat on music, ballads, operas, in fact the
very best he has to tell, the best he happens to know on that subject.
In this way we are able to rise above the trivial, worn topics of the
day--the usual make-talk of the multitude. I am always very happy in the
selection of my _promoters_. I may not be very original, but I am
quick to appropriate new ideas. I rapidly get them into the line of
march, ready for immediate use.
To be a "social success" one must be something of an actress. Men
usually expect a vast amount of acting from young women, who will,
if they are discreet, certainly live up to that expectation. Men are
willing to be deceived, but it must not be a labeled deceit. I go down
the street and meet Mr. Seyhmoor; although I see him a block off, and
before he sees me, yet I affect great surprise when he greets me--a
little start is quite effective. The trifling little deception floods
my face with color, which comes almost at my command. It easily flashes
upon him that I am indeed surprised, and betrayed into an expression of
my delight. He is flattered. He joins me. A batch of envious women watch
my little triumph. _That_ is
=Flirting for Revenue Only=
Then a walk down the street, a talk of mere wordy nothings, but of deep
and tender looks. In point of words, a make-talk affair; in point of
feeling, a vague shadowy suggestion of twenty delicious possibilities;
in point of fact a walk without any serious results. Calburt Young, a
fascinating man-about-town, a semi-Bohemian, joins me at a fashionable
ball. He takes me away from the dancing-room (and the other men), for
Bohemians never dance. He finds, as only he can, some quiet unoccupied
nook, a little out of the way, and yet a very proper place. An effective
spot environed by flowers, and palms broad and graceful, hung with
dimly-lighted, richly-colored lanterns--where you may see but not be
seen, where you may hear the gayety and yet by it not be disturbed.
Music from the ball-room reaches me, and a delicate oriental perfume
fills the air. Calburt Young, handsome, silent, with a look of earnest
appeal on his face, looks down into mine. Not the man, but his manner,
the situation, the music, the stealthy, intoxicating odor of perfume
and flowers, the sway of each tropical leaf, the distant gayety, all
surcharge my soul; gratify to the fullest extent my sensuous nature--my
love of the picturesque and the luxurious. The temptation is strong to
depart from my fixed principle. But I do not yield. I half extend my
ungloved hand, white and ringless, murmur in a low voice suggestive of
suppressed emotion, "You are very good to me! I was tired; I am glad
to have this rest--and with you, Mr. Young!"
I am permeated with the deliciousness of the situation! I am conscious
of the magnetic something about me, drawing him near to me! I can almost
feel his hot, quick breath on my cheek where the color comes and goes.
He is within my power! But I do not love him. With an effort I banish
the tender manner. My voice, now a trifle cold, asserts itself in clear,
even tones: "Let us return; I am rested now. Mr. Seyhmoor claims me for
the next dance!"
The spell is broken! Calburt Young does not understand! He is wise, but
I--I am a woman, and a woman of the world. But he does not reproach me.
How can he? I have not allowed him to say a word of love to me. I have
been environed not only with flowers, colored lights, and sweet music,
but also with the harmless platitudes of speech. I whirl away into the
dance with Henry Seyhmoor! I have been boldly flirting,
=Flirting for Revenue Only=.
Sometimes I am not so successful in this avoidance of exactly what I
have skillfully brought out. Sometimes this policy leads to a proposal.
The tide grows too strong. The man breaks down the barrier, but what
good does it do? I have maintained a high protective tariff; there is
nothing tangible which he can produce against me; there is never any
thing which he can _say_ against me; and if I have been ordinarily
skillful and cautious there is absolutely nothing for him to
_think_, but "How good she has been to me; how delicately,
tenderly, she has tried to avoid giving me pain!"
At the start, my first season out, it was a hard policy to follow, and I
would often spend a sleepless hour, after the man had said "good-night!"
But those foolish old days have gone, and with them the early freshness
of my youth, although the _appearance_ remains. I have seen so many
men promptly revive beneath the showers of another woman's glance
and of another woman's tender--perhaps like mine--unmeant words, mere
platitudes, platitudes effectual, intangible. They are not sufficient
proof in any court of conscience, law, or public opinion. They are the
glorious privileges of a woman who is a Private Corporation,
=Flirting for Revenue Only=.
Robert Fairfield! There is a magic something in the very name itself.
And the man! ah, after all, old things are best. My heart never knew a
sensation--the quick, throbbing something which we call _love_--until
I met him, when hardly more than a school-girl. It was my first winter!
He was young, attractive, somewhat wild, and quite the _fashion_
that year, and in fact ever since. He is a dainty love-maker. He is
ready with a hundred delicate little attentions unknown to most men,
and highly gratifying to most women. But after all their influence is
limited--at least with me. His actual presence is necessary. Mamma
opposed the match--for we were engaged (never announced) at one time.
She always disliked him, and on that one subject has always been
unreasonable. But she has more influence over me than he has, or ever
could have. She can generally eradicate the dangerous effects of his
presence. This he resented--and rightly. I must renounce mother, home,
every thing, and come to him, or--I must cling to him and let all other
things go. He recognized no middle course; I constantly sought one. I
put him off; I made him many promised, and meant them all--when with
him. Finally he was forbidden the house, and now we barely more than
speak. He is somewhat devoted to a half dozen or more of our best young
women, and they are all more or less devoted to him. The world---our
little world--once said we would marry; but the world has decided that
it was, mistaken, and that we did not even love one another. And did we,
or not? In short, do we?
There are times, moments of despondency, more frequent here of late,
when something within whispers, "You are waiting too long! You are,
indeed, far above par, but will it last?"
The credit of my Banking-House (social) is apparently without limit. My
pretty face stands well the wear and tear of hard social work. My worst
female enemy dares not call me _passe_ in the slightest degree,
although I am a shade beyond the uncertain age of twenty-five. But
surely these strange premonitions must come as a warning. They surely
mean something. My womanly intuition--and it can be trusted--plainly
prompts me to give up this dangerous, ruinous policy of
=Flirting for Revenue Only=.
I must abandon my little formulas of speech and manners. I must quit
making eyes. I must grant myself a pause in this social farce. I must
try to let myself love the man whom my _real honest self_ hath
chosen years ago. The man I drove from my door for the sake of
_general revenue_. The man against whom I closed my heart! But will
he come back again? Will his proud spirit brook an uncertainty? But,
after all, is it _well worth_, the while? Those are uncertain
questions--I dismiss them. There is no immediate danger. My humor
changes; I am no longer despondent. Away with Doubtful Uncertainty and
all of his stale retinue, tricked out in danger-signals--each a false
one. Sleep on, sweet Conscience, sleep on! To-night the
wedding-reception--given to a woman married for her money! Another
glorious opportunity for me!
=A.B.= _I may be found any time between the hours of nine and
one, on the crowded stair, in a nook beneath, in the dancing-room,
or--somewhere about the flower-decked house in my accustomed capacity of
Private Corporation, skillfully, successfully_
=Flirting For Revenue Only.=
Miss Rose Clendennin,
(of the Inner Sisterhood.)]
* * * * *
A Symphony in Pink
With Philistine Traces.
* * * * *
=Mother and Daughter=
We are not on good terms, mamma and I, She is hard, exacting,
unreasonable; she is proud, ambitious, worldly; she is deeply embittered
against me because I am not a social success, because I am not
brilliant, attractive. Her one thought, by day and by night, has been
the promotion of my interests--from her own selfish standpoint. I am
never consulted--always ignored, and my feelings trampled upon. My
slightest objection fills her with indignant surprise, and is met with a
prompt rebuke and a _dictum_, from which there is absolutely no
appeal. Always unwilling, yet always obedient--passively obedient.
This is my third winter out and, to quote mamma, no prospects, no
prospects! Of course, I am nothing of a belle, nothing of a social
queen among women. This is a source of endless mortification to mamma.
But there is no reason why it should be so, because a belle in this
town is a lost art. Lost in the days of the brilliant Bettie V. and the
beautiful Alice B. Nowadays belleship is like statesmanship, the honors
are divided. We have plenty of real pretty women, but no startling
beauties. There is not a girl in my set but who is fully up to the
average in appearance, manners, mind. Competition may do well enough for
trade, but it does not produce any one reigning belle in social circles.
So I am not entirely to blame; the causes which work against me also
work against others. I go to the utmost limit, and sometimes beyond.
I do every thing which my better nature will license--often a great
deal besides. My opportunities are excellent. I am invited every where,
because we belong to a highly respectable and somewhat ancient family
(we have a beautiful family-tree, _arranged_ by mamma before I was
grown); and I go every where, even when I am forced to go with papa,
which, I am glad to say, is never more than twice in one season.
Papa is really a dear, good man. He has not only the love but also
the pity of a devoted daughter, for he does have such a hard time
with mamma. While he understands perfectly all about making money,
and just lots of it, too, yet, _papa does not shine_ in mamma's
fashionable circle. He is a slave to her slightest whim--and she is
full of them. He is ready, and always, to do her most capricious
bidding. Yet they are not congenial; I am positive she never loved
him. He was, even when they married, counted among the rich men of
the community. And she--she was the youngest child in a large family,
with high notions and small income. But he is devoted to her! She
may not be lovable, but she is magnetic. She forces homage from all,
devotion from many. But she is an evil magnet; and she is conscious
of her power, which she wields in a high-handed and a most unscrupulous
manner. Unlike most women of the fashionable world, she makes a decided
point of poor papa's attendance. He must always go with her--and he
does. Often he comes to his home tired out, worn down to the very
quick--making money he calls it--and mamma, fresh and ready, eager for
the social battle which, like a war-horse, she scents from afar, drags
him out with her--somewhere--generally, when there is nothing more
exciting on hand, across the way to that bric-a-brac-shop of a house,
where the tawdry elegant, always weary Mrs. Babbington Brooks holds
forth in an ultra-aesthetic style peculiarly her own. There they spend
the entire evening in what mamma softly calls "a sweet communion of
congenial souls," which, being translated according to methods of the
earth, earthy, means simply a tiresome time over cards, the constant
sipping of a pale pink stuff which foams--dissipated looking, but
harmless. This they drink out of dainty little cups somewhat larger than
a thimble. "Fragile art gems," to quote Mrs. Babbington Brooks, "which I
was so wildly fortunate as to find in a curiously jolly shop somewhere
about Venice, the last time I was over on the other side. Ah! how I do
Now, there is a fair sample of that woman's talk; it is a mystery to me
how she keeps it up. Mamma says that she is "wierdly picturesque;" papa
says (but only to me) that she is "a regular downright fool." But they
are both wrong; she is a woman with a sufficient amount of brains to
know just how easily and successfully so-called sensible people may be
imposed upon; and how readily they can be made use of--stepping stones
to the accomplishment of selfish desires. But she does not fool mamma.
They both use one another to advantage. There is always between them a
tacit little arrangement. Mrs. Babbington Brooks never stops short of
a positive sensation. Her methods are bold, startling, successful. Her
husband, an insignificant looking man, invented something, an air-brake
for railway trains, an improvement on the Westinghouse air-brake,
"Brooks' Unbroken Circuit." This, after years of obscure struggling,
brought them into immediate wealth, but not at once into social notice.
Their first efforts in that direction, or rather, _her_ first
efforts, were complete failures. They nibbled about on the outer edge;
finally, it dawned upon her to play some decided role. She determined to
be an aesthete. She built a house accordingly; she dressed accordingly;
and she acted, but above all, she talked accordingly. Thanks to her
wandering brother, an ideal American adventurer, she obtained from
London, far ahead of the general importation, a complete outfit of
Lilies, Languors, Yearnings, Reachings-out, Poppies, Wasted Passions,
Platonics, Heart-throbs, and all the more lately approved instruments of
aesthetic torture. Her establishment was ready. She wanted recognition.
She waited for an opportune moment. It came. Oscar Wilde, the apostle
in chief of the aesthetic school, reached our shores. He brought a letter
of introduction "To the one aesthete in all America, Mrs. Babbington
Brooks." On his arrival he sent her this letter, and with it a note,
written in a full, round hand, stating that he would be at her service
after his lecture in her town, on the eighteenth of the coming February,
and, being it was she, his terms were only three hundred dollars; usual
price, five hundred. She wired an eager acceptance of his generous
offer, and at once set her household in readiness. She invited the
town--the fashionable, so-called desirable portion of it--and waited the
issue. Her gilded net was well spread; her bait irresistible. She easily
caught them all, large and small; her house was crowded; her effort a
recognized masterpiece. Mamma says she could have readily made
arrangements with Oscar Wilde for a season in London--a female aesthete,
and from the crude land of America! Now, she is actually quite the rage!
Her triumph is now complete; her following large, composed of a batch of
deluded fools, caught by the glamour and the blow of brazen trumpets,
with just the _tincture_ of an artistic principle.
A large amount of money was spent on my educational training, both at
home and abroad. A young woman who can play a little, sing in fairly
good voice a few pretty songs, popular ballads, and paint an occasional
plaque, or even rise to the dignity of a panel, can surely make claim to
the free chromo distribution of that flattering term, "most highly
I was systematically advertised--by mamma--for about four years prior
to my _debut_. Every body was made to know that I was "growing up"
rapidly, "coming on," but still young, "oh, very young, and cares
absolutely nothing about men." Fact: cared more then than I do now.
Young fellows--available matches--would be invited out "very informally
indeed," to dinner or to tea, "would just drop in, you know," each
occasion skillfully planned by mamma. She is an excellent
manager--always manages to have her own way. On each one of these
occasions it was so arranged that they would catch a glimpse of
me--supposed to be entirely accidental. I was made to pose for the
occasion over my books or fancy-work. I was "so studious!" or "so
skillful with my needle!"--running comment by mamma during the
_accidental_ glimpse of her darling daughter. These things are
always effective, for mamma is really an artistic woman. Her social
villainy fascinates me into a constant state of acquiescence. There is
an irresistible glamour, there is a touch of his Satanic majesty which
gains me, against my will, body and soul. She is a bad, dangerous woman.
What an awful idea to have of my own mother! but, fortunately, other
people don't know her as we do--papa and I.
But after all the constant planning, the education with trimmings, the
high art dressing, the effective situations without number, in short,
the whole broad system of skillful social advertising, I am not the one
magnet-point; I am not the belle of the town. This has caused the breach
between us; and it grows wider every day. Mamma used to be unkind, but
now she is cruel. Those uncertain social honors can never be mine;
therefore a reconciliation is out of the question. Men come to the
house frequently and in fair numbers, but frequent and merely polite
attentions do not satisfy mamma. I have never had a real lover. Men seem
to like me well enough; they send me flowers, take me out, and do not
let me suffer at balls or parties for want of attention. But they do not
make love or ask me the all--important question, "Will you be my wife?"
This confession would surprise most people. My name is constantly
mentioned in a tender way with some one man of my acquaintance, but
there is never any thing beyond the mention.
During the past winter mamma has been trying a new plan. She has
determined to marry me off, having proved to be such worthless material
for the make up of a reigning belle. She has made earnest, successful
effort to induce a batch of clever young lawyers into a frequent and
regular attendance at the house, under pretext of a quasi-ideal Literary
Association. A wise bait, which always ensnares the eager-nibbling
lawyer. It _sounds well_ to have people say that he is a gifted
young lawyer and a member of a most delightful and highly select
literary association--and the average young lawyer acknowledges a
fondness--inexpensive, of course--for all things which _sound well_;
the legal mind bows down before the mighty shrine of "Euphony."
Any thing can be readily organized in this town, but to keep it going is
a different matter and a desperate hard thing to do after the novelty
wears off. But mamma seldom allows any of her organizations to die a
natural death. Her present venture, of a literary nature, is thriving;
it has grown to be the idle fashion of the social hour. Mamma alternates
with her always coadjutor, Mrs. Babbington Brooks, in entertaining the
motley, and somewhat cultured crowd. Mamma, First Director and Chief
Manager; Mrs. Babbington Brooks, Second Director and Most Worthy
Assistant. This "Culture-Seeking Club" (its name) has been organized,
mamma says, on my account. It is her last effort in my behalf. She has
always opposed the idea of my forming an alliance with a poor, petty
young lawyer; but she has grown desperate, and organized this club in
order that I might, or rather she, angle for some rising young barrister
with brains, and a promise of something better than the usual
fulfillment--poverty. It is a positive tragedy, this being calculatingly
thrown at the head of a so-called desirable young man!
Nominally I am a member of the "Culture-Seeking Club," but actually
and at heart I am a Philistine out and out. This pernicious high-art
and culture-seeking fever has never caught my practical soul in its
relentless grasp. I love not the ways of the social aesthete. Gleams
and shadows do not thrill me; sunflowers and daisies do not gratify my
hungry soul--or self. Mamma says I am not sufficiently clever to tempt
the brainy monster, _i.e._, Culture Fiend. She has taken me in
hand; I am to play a role also. She has a strange power over me which I
am unable to withstand. It is the fatal power which a strong mind gets
over the more weak and readily yielding mind incapable of a successful
resistance. She is a woman with a bad heart and a clear head. I am
irresolute, full of most excellent intentions, and in effect as bad as
she without the redeeming features of extraordinary cleverness. I am to
play the role of a young maiden with an object in life. I am to be full
of a new desire to grapple with the weighty problems of the moment. I am
to be carefully coached for each club meeting; I am to be veneered with
a thin skin of glittering knowledge. I am, indeed, bewildered, startled.
I am made to read all of the book notices worth the reading. I am made
to pore over a half dozen reviews which people in this town know
absolutely nothing about--although they do call mamma the "Pioneer
introducer of good Periodicals." I am superficial, but she is not. She
reads each good book itself, not the criticism only. She reads it
carefully, thoroughly, as few other people ever do. Then she gives me a
special line of thought to follow, and I am made to go through a little
combination of what I have read and of that which she has told me in her
direct, compact manner. Thus does she enable me to produce a written
paper which never fails to start the "Culture-Seeking Club" into a
little flutter of supposed intellectual excitement. For a moment, at
least, I am forgotten, or, if remembered at all, they say to one another
as they sip that everlasting pale pink foam out of the "dainty art gems
from Venice, you know:" "Ah, Sophia Gilder is her more clever mamma's
own daughter; but, alas! she will never be such a woman as her
mother--the gifted Mrs. John Robert Gilder, the life and soul of our
Culture-Seeking Club!" And I piously hope to heaven that I may be saved
from such a fate, and never be the woman that I know mamma to be!
My last effort was said to be a wild, jagged thing--a reaching out, a
groping after. It was called "Souls Antagonistic: A Symphony." I wore an
especial costume--"suited to the subject," said mamma. "A sweet poem of
a gown," echoed Mrs. Babbington Brooks. When I finished my task, for it
was a task, and imposed by a hard task-master, Mrs. Brooks glided, like
the serpent she is, over to my seat and looked down with a false longing
into my flushed face. Then in a low, somewhat musical voice, full of a
false tenderness and a borrowed pathos, "May I, sweet young girl, touch
with mine the precious lips which to-night have made exceeding glad my
sad, sad soul with those wise and honeyed words?" She kissed me. I
fairly trembled with an intense loathing. That oily-tongued creature
hates me with a deadly hatred. And she fears me, for she knows that I
have found her out and know her to be what she is, a most _successful
fashionable fraud_. But it is folly to run counter to the social
current. It is best to hold my peace. It is hard to do, but it can be,
and it must be done. I was nervous--rebellious. I quickly fled away from
that false woman and her loathsome caress. I sought rest and quiet in a
distant cushioned corner of the deserted hallway. I was angry--too angry
for tears. I buried my throbbing head in my hands and tried to forget my
miserable existence; it was such a failure. It was so unlike that which
I wished it to be, and yet I did not have the will-power to make it so.
I was in one of my morbid moods. Resolutions I knew to be useless. On
the morrow they would be broken. It was always, and I fear ever will be
"Mother and Daughter;" never "Daughter and Mother." She always takes the
lead, and I, always weak enough to follow. Was there no one to whom I
could turn? No one to yield me a few kindly words to strengthen me for
that constant, useless warfare against, yes, against my own mother?
As if in answer to my silent call, a footstep! My hands dropped into my
lap. A man stood near. I did not look up; I knew who he was. We need
hear but once the footfall of certain people and always after know
instantly if they are near. A voice: "Miss Gilder, do I intrude?"
Robert Fairfield is not a man of many words. He stood by me in an
attitude of _sympathetic silence_. He made to me an unspoken
appeal. In my heart there was a grateful answer. A sad, smileless face
was uplifted, and then my lips also gave answer. It was a brief story.
It was my daily life of home oppression. But it was not briefly told. It
ought not have been told at all; but I am human, so human. The time had
reached me when somebody _must know_, and the time had brought with
it into my sorrowful presence this same Robert Fairfield. I had barely
known him. An accidental introduction, a few dances at a ball, and
once--just once--a brief but serious talk at a summer-night concert. I
was nothing to him; he was every thing to me; I loved him, I love him.
But custom, and rightly, too, keeps a woman silent. He may know the
story of my miserable home life, but he does not know--and he must never
know--of the magnetic power which drew me toward him, made me tell my
story, and left me with a regret and a tenderness which has closed my
heart to any other who may chance to come.
Miss Sophia Gilder,
(of the Inner Sisterhood.)]
* * * * *
A Cold Gray Study.
* * * * *
A CASE OF COMPOUND FRACTURE.
Family Position, Wealth, and Personal Beauty are potent factors in the
mysterious make-up of a social success, but they are not omnipotent.
A woman may have this desirable trinity, and yet be as nothing in the
social world. In fact, she may be without one, two, or all three, and
yet achieve unaccountable success in a social way.
My first winter out was a flat failure. I did not lack wealth and family
position, but I was awkward and not beautiful; in short, ugly. But my
failure was not due to this lack of beauty, for other women far more
ugly than I outshone me in every way. _I did not know myself_.
There is the key to many a mystery. I tried to be like other women
and--failed. I had a little individuality of my own, but for a time did
not know it.
During that formative period I had one love-affair; at least, I did the
loving and Gerome Meadows did the "affair," for with him it was nothing
more. He was a man just a trifle above the average in looks and manners,
intellect--every thing. He was always attractive and agreeable. He was
always making a graceful effort to please, and He was--with me--always
successful. He was four and twenty, yet he was a genuine boy. He was
full of a boy's love and full of a boy's charming susceptibility. He was
responsive to the different natures of many women. He was peculiarly a
loveable man. He had diligently, conscientiously courted a goodly number
of these different natured women; and they all had, at some one time, a
tender leaning toward, without a positive love for, this Gerome Meadows.
I am one of the number. Twice has he courted me, and twice have I
refused him. First, because _he_ did not love me; second, because
_I_ did not love him.
It was during that formative period when first he came, _sent by his
mother_. She was a wise woman, who selected mates for her always
obedient children. It was an honor to be selected--so she thought. A
sacrifice--so considered by the unselected.
Gerome had for me somewhat of a circumstantial love. We had always known
one another. We had been constantly thrown together. It would have been
a pre-eminently proper arrangement. It would have been the alliance of
the two influential and wealthy families. Therefore, his mother wished
it and ordered it to be so. But an unexpected disappointment awaited her
honorable ladyship. It had not occurred to her that a woman could be so
foolish, so neglectful of her own interests and of her own happiness,
as to refuse in marriage the hand of her precious son. My evident
hesitation--for at heart I loved him--surprised and somewhat alarmed
her. I was invited to dine with the family. I was treated as a
prospective member. With the soup, the fish, and the heavy meats, they
dealt out the virtues of their Gerome, seriously and earnestly. With the
sweetmeats and the coffee they smilingly touched upon his lightest and
most pardonable faults. My heart trembled for its safety. It was a well
planned effective process. That night he told me of his love with the
air of a man who fully expects a warm response and affirmative answer.
Both were bravely denied him. I told him that he was mistaken; I told
him he did not, and never would, have for me the grand passion of his
life. He said--what else could he say?--"You are wrong; you deeply wrong
me. You are plunging my young life, hitherto so full of hope, down into
a depth of bitterness and regret from which it may never rise again!"
This was said in a tragic, somewhat stilted, but impressive manner. I
was touched; it was my first experience; it was the first time that I
had ever heard a man talk about his broken, blasted hopes and his empty,
ruined life. But it is all a very old story now. I know just how much to
believe--in truth, precious little. Nothing dulls the edge of a woman's
sensibilities more quickly than frequent proposals. His rejection was a
relief to Gerome; he was tired of making love to women especially
selected by his mother; he did not fancy the process. Thus far he had
always been unsuccessful. I had told him no--but, womanlike, I did not
mean it; I did not want him to go out of my life. In a vague way I was
conscious of a desire to win his love, but it was during my social
formative period when every thing was vague. I was unconscious of my
power, yet I did not know how to accomplish my end. So Gerome left me. I
was unable to keep him. But, somehow, I did not consider it a finality;
it was simply an awkward pause. I hoped for his return and a renewal of
his protestations. I had heard women say that if a man really cared for
a woman he would easily brook the first refusal and speedily return. So
I thought, but I was mistaken; he did not return.
Two moons had not waxed and waned before he was having what now I am
sure must have been the one passionate love of his life. This was
unexpected; a blow in the dark to my pride, and, alas! I fear, also, to
my heart. It was the death-knell to my better nature. It gave direction
to the formation of my social life. From that moment I am conscious of
a change, and for the worse, in my hitherto attractive nature. It was
attractive on account of its sweetness and its purity. It was a nature
which, until then, had known nothing of the hot, passionate love of the
world and of all things worldly. The formative period was gone, and with
it most that was good.
It was hard to have a man court me, not exactly for my money, but
because I chanced to be the nearest fruit in reach and because his
crafty mother thought it would be an excellent arrangement! Especially
hard, because in spite of myself I had for him a very tender feeling.
My sudden loss and quick appropriation by another created within me an
unjust resentment; my resentment was silent and unnoticed, but it filled
me with a desire for revenge. This was the evil which crept into my
life; this was the element which warped my better nature, made me
grasping, worldly, hard to please. This sudden desertion placed me in
a false position. People said that Gerome had never loved me--simply
trifling. The friends of that _other woman_, a great brown-eyed
beauty with the subtle charm and fatal fascination of a devil most
lovely, made it appear that of course Gerome Meadows had never loved
me--why should he? He cowardly held his peace and let them prattle; he
was kneeling low before the shrine of his own selection; he was in open
rebellion against his irate mother, who did not approve of this
I was left alone and let alone. But fate was not altogether against
me. Death did me a friendly service. He called to her last resting-place
an ancient dame who had severely played the role of grandmother and
mother-in-law in our large establishment--unloved, tyrannical,
unregretted. But custom bade us mourn. Then was my opportunity. Our
doors were closed, but I was not idle--_I studied myself_, and,
retrospectively, all of my friends. After several months of hard
training and much serious thought I found myself ready. I had
established my little theories about life, and their intricate relations
to myself, and cast about carefully for something upon which I might
with safety and good results practice upon. Most of my friends were
tame, uninteresting, and none of them just then my lovers. I resorted to
many of the little airs and tricks of social trade. I soon found myself
doing quite a brisk little business in a quiet way; quite quiet, for
I still wore light mourning and, of course, was not going out; we all
thought it best to pay the highest possible respect to the late but
unlamented grandmother. I soon gained the reputation--which I bravely
sustained--of being far above the idle, cruel dealer in human hearts; I
was said to be full of old-fashioned coquetry, but not even flirtatious;
that I was gracious, had pleasing manners, but was the very soul of
sincerity, and would never be guilty of leading men on and on. I was
frequently contrasted with that devilish brown-eyed beauty--a recognized
flirt, ready to sacrifice any man on her crowded altar. A man once said
to me of her:
"Such kings of shreds have wooed and won her,
Such crafty knaves her laurel owned,
It has become almost an honor
Not to be crowned."
"Hush! hush! she is my friend," I said, for I knew him to be one of
her rejected lovers. In a month I had gently told him nay. But he was
innocent, he did not know that I had played my cards for him. He thought
me cold, but he thought me kind. He advertised me in desirable places
and with most desirable people. I captivated several other desirable
men. It is so easy for a woman to fool a man. But I was eager to try
my powers on better metal--some man of the world. A victory in such a
quarter would fully establish me, and it would bring the very best men
to my side, for they, like sheep, readily follow the well-known leader.
And perhaps--Gerome might return.
One winter's night late, after I had gone to my room, two men called.
Ordinarily I should have excused myself, but something--we call it fate,
I believe--prompted me to see them. One was an old friend--a friend of
the family. The other a thorough man of the world, and--I knew it
intuitively--my desired victim. He was an idle, indifferent, Social
Drifter. He was an artist by profession; his inclination--and his
leisure--made him more of a _diletante_ than any thing else. He was
more notorious than famous. He had done nothing to give himself fame,
but he had done many odd things which gave him notoriety. I have always
had a secret but deep-rooted love of notoriety; it makes my blood tingle
with a most delicious sensation. I knew that he could give me a great
deal of _quiet notoriety_ which was the one thing needed to make me
a success--notice, notice, constant notice! The surgeon may be ever so
skillful and yet if his skill be not known his instruments, rusted with
disuse, will cling to their unopened cases and his hand will forget its
cunning. So is it with the flirtatious maiden; she must hang forth a
sign which may be read, and quickly, even by those who run.
My artist lover was not the ideal slender, pale-faced youth; he was not
beautiful, he was not good looking. But perhaps I should have loved him
if he had been the one, and tolerated him longer if he had been the
other. He was aggressive; he was open, direct always; he was not blunt,
yet he was free from the all-prevalent use of the _preliminary_.
He loved me! And he very soon told me as much and more. He made no
concealment of the fact to me, or indeed to others. He loved me, was
proud of it, and glad to have all know of it. Of course this was just
what I wanted, for he was not a susceptible man. He had not been in love
for years. His declarations meant something, and people knew it. Thus
was I brought into notice. "Who, pray, is this Mary Lee Manley?" they
began to ask. "Is she the same scrawny, ugly girl who was such a flat
failure in society two years ago?" "What has she done to herself? She
is certainly not a beauty but she has improved, just how we are unable
The men began to find me, hunted me up, and were unable to realize that
I was that self same individual whom they had so diligently avoided
her first season out. All the while my affair went on, systematically
artistic, with that Social Drifter. No man will ever love me again
as I was loved by that man. I wantonly played with his openly avowed
affections. I was deliberate, artistic. I was cold. I led him on
blindly. I calculated every move with mathematical accuracy. I left
nothing undone. I skillfully covered my tracks. I always told him sadly,
gently, that I did not love him, and that I never could. Yet I told him
in such a manner that, almost breathless with a new hope, he refused to
believe me, refused to listen. He was always considerate and I hated him
for his consideration. He was always thoughtful, unselfish, and alas,
always loving. Finally, after I had successfully played him for all
that he was worth--which was a great deal to me--I told him to go. I
dismissed him with scorn and without reason. Of course there had been no
love in my heart for this man, but his delicate attentions were always
intensely flattering. And once, just once, I might have yielded, but
my family, my own judgment, every thing, was against the man, and to
the end he continued to be simply a trial for my untried and newly
discovered powers. And then, perhaps the more potent reason of all,
Gerome Meadows gave uneasy indications of a desire to return. I, and
immediately, made arrangements for the full gratification of his desire.
Now was my chance. Revenge, when delayed, is all the sweeter for the
delay. The world must know of my power, and through Gerome Meadows! I
had waited long and patiently, but I had not wasted my time. I had gone
through a severe social training, and with the best results. I was an
accomplished flirt, but I was not trammeled by the always dangerous
reputation--it was not known. It was simply a rumor about town that I
might be somewhat of a trifler, but it had not been affirmed, and few
believed the idle, unauthorized rumor; it had not even reached the ears
of Gerome Meadows. He had hotly quarreled with his devilish, brown-eyed
beauty. She had dismissed him after a highly tragic scene. The details
were highly sensational--as told by her devoted partizans, and warmly
denied by his and his outraged family (principally irate mother). They
sound like the fragments of a romance written by Bulwer, and with a
liberal touch of Lucile. It was the talk of the town, and many things
were said, and a few were done. I was silent and hopeful. My triumph was
near! She had done with him, and forever. He did not cut his handsome
throat! He did not do any of the thrilling but uncomfortable things done
by the usual rejected lover in the average novel--_but he came back
to me!_ Once more Gerome Meadows was my recognized lover, and the
people--the fickle people--began to whisper it about (greatly to my
satisfaction), that perhaps this very uncertain Mr. Meadows had always
loved me from the time his sister Kate and myself were school-girls
together. And furthermore, he had for a while yielded to the manifold
fascinations of that devilish brown-eyed beauty. In fact, he himself
told me a goodly number of just such little speeches; discoursed on the
difference between real love and mere fascination. He told me that I was
the only woman he ever could really love, and that he had for me a pure
and warm affection. Ah! how sweet were those declarations to my ear. But
not to my heart--it was closed against him.
I was not the woman he had known and halfway loved before--for I had
eagerly tasted deep and long of the Egyptian flesh-pots, and I refused
any other kind of social sustenance. I allowed him to believe that his
tardy return had routed all rivals from the field. I forced him to fancy
me to be so different from _that other woman_. I was, in truth, a
cool, quiet reaction. I coaxed him into believing me to be full of a
gentle, womanly purity. I made him blind to the fact that I was a
worldly woman, conscious of and ready to unhesitatingly use my
worldliness. I measured my powers aright--I could at my own sweet will
allow him, force him, coax him, make him _do any thing_. I cunningly
wove a web in and around the heart of Gerome Meadows--his rejected, torn
and dejected heart. I gently soothed him into not quite a forgetfulness,
yet a strong and healthful calm. He was grateful. Reactions are always
dangerous; he wondered why he had not known me before as he knew me
then. And while he wondered I charmed him into a new love fever. It was
almost a touch of real passion. It was a skillful drawing together of
the scattered ligaments of that other and violently broken love. I had
labored hard, and not altogether in vain. He was mine for the taking.
Would I take him?
We stood together late one afternoon in a rich oriel window which
overhung the street. We were silent. The rustle of the light summer
drapery filled the air with a faint but melodiously tender undertone.
We looked out of the broad open window down the street. It was near the
close of a superb summer's day. I was in a mood to yield. My old nature
seemed to rise out of its former self. It was the one golden opportunity
for the man by my side. The old tender leaning toward him came back
again, stronger, more subtle than ever before. It was--for the
while--love, or something very like unto love. My nature, my soul was at
its utmost flow, but no one touched the flood-gates. Gerome was passive,
silent. One word, a hand-touch, and I would have loved him and bound
myself to him for weal or woe! Little things are every thing in a
woman's life. Robert Fairfield passed by beneath the window; he briefly
paused, politely looked up, lifted his hat, _smiled_, and--innocent
of what he had done--went on his way. He had simply done what was the
proper and usual thing, but his conventional smile had come into my life
at a strangely opportune moment--or, was it opportune? My heart had been
laid bare, the flood-gates had been touched, and they had slowly opened
beneath the magic influence of a _smile_. Gerome Meadows had been
silent. He had lost his one golden opportunity. I told him so, and sent
him away. I fired upon him a volley of ridicule and contempt; my revenge
was complete. He was angry, surprised, disappointed. The old wounds were
torn open afresh; but he was not easily undone. He immediately made
peace with his irate mother. He placed himself in her charge. He
promised to try again, but under her direction and according to her
selection. In a few days more he goes to the altar with this new and
latest love. But, ah! Gerome, your charming, susceptible self never
loved but once! Where is that devilish brown-eyed beauty? It is well
that she is silent! One word from her and--but, go marry. And pray, take
with you my conventional wishes for your peace and happiness. On your
wedding day I will write you a dainty card and send you a trifle.
What shall it be? What would be, under the "existing circumstances," the
most appropriate thing? Perhaps a little Cupid, somewhat weather-beaten
and with an empty quiver might do, or, best of all, _a lock of
golden-brown hair_ stolen from the rich, heavy tresses of that
devilish brown-eyed beauty. What say you? But _au revoir_, Gerome
There is to be a reception--a most elegant affair--the night of the
wedding. It is to be given by that now well-satisfied lady, Mrs.
Gillespie Meadows, the mother of my dear, dear Gerome. My escort: Robert
Fairfield. The beginning of another end! What will it be?
Miss Mary Lee Manley,
(of The Inner Sisterhood.)]
* * * * *
An Olive Outline
In Shades and Shadows
Of a Clever Social Life.
* * * * *
Platitudes and Pleasures.
My life is different from the usual social existence of the average
I have never followed the mirage of a definite ideal.
I have never been a straggler for social honors--they have been mine
without the struggling. I was born to a position. It is mine by right
of inheritance. There is no strong odor of lately acquired greenbacks
about our old and very respectable establishment. We live on a quiet,
unfashionable street; we are somewhat apart from the world, and yet we
are frequently sought--for we never seek. My grandfather was a man of
excellent parts and much power in his native State. He was a well-known,
important factor in the home of his adoption. His wife was celebrated
for her ready wit and radiant beauty in the days when Madison was
My father is a great man. It is not a greatness hedged in by a local
limit; he is known far and wide. His scientific researches have made him
famous and his name familiar and beloved on foreign shores. Nor is he a
prophet without honor even in his own country.
My mother is a rare woman. She is peculiarly a womanly woman. She
constantly gives her best thought, her best effort, to the members of
her family, always forgetting self; and she is full of the tenderest
consideration toward other people. She never speaks ill of her neighbor;
she is always true. She is always ready to discharge her duty--and more.
She is tender, gentle, firm; there is not a flower which blooms more
full, better rounded out, more sweet, better to look upon, or in any way
more complete, more perfect than she.
I may not be great or entirely good myself, but I constantly breathe an
atmosphere exhilarating and pure--made so by the presence of a great man
and a good woman.
Our house is the tacitly recognized head-quarters for all kinds and
conditions of clever people, and some not so clever, but who--in their
way--are just as interesting:
Men Who Have Risen.
People Of The Army.
People Of The Navy.
Bohemians, Ragged As To Their Cuffs, Unkempt
As To Their Raiment.
All Classes, Shades And Conditions Of Life.
In Short, A Strange Kaleidoscopic Circle.
To be a gentleman above question is the _badge of admission_. To be
clever is the _badge of promotion_. I am the center of this
intensely interesting circle. I am the focus, the magnet around which
they all revolve. The bulk of the social burden rests on me. The minute
but highly important details are carefully watched and skillfully
righted by the good mother. I am the General Entertainer, but she is the
ameliorator of those little roughnesses, those little sharp corners
which cling even to unconventional people. Her clear, well-balanced
mind, her gentle, yet quietly positive temperament, peculiarly fit her
for this necessary but frequently neglected social work.
I am young, beautiful, untrammeled; I am full of an unlimited ambition;
I am not content with the small things of life; I will have none of
those precious morsels--mere fragments--which tempt and readily please
my sweet sisters in Vanity Fair. Young, yet I am far enough beyond
twenty to have ideas of my own. Beautiful, yet I am free from that
all-conscious air which pervades the average beauty. Untrammeled,
because men do not touch me--have not the power to rouse within me one
tender feeling. I am interested always, but I am never susceptible.
Women depend too much on their intuitions; they know so little about
human nature, and less about man-nature. An intuition is oftentimes a
safeguard to woman but more frequently a danger, because it creates
within her too much of a servile dependence upon mere impulses and first
impressions. My own intuitions are strong, but I want my knowledge to be
stronger. I want to know all there is to know about men, women, and
things. Women are usually like open books to me, easily read while
passing on to matters more interesting--men.
A man once asked me what special impression or effect I should like to
have on a man of the world who had been every where, done every thing,
seen every thing, knew every thing (or at least thought so)--in fine,
a man with the edge of every desire dulled, the glow of every passion
cooled. My answer was simply this: I should try to give him what I
constantly and without much effort gave most men--_A new sensation_.
After all it is not such a hard thing to do. Blase men are my especial
prey; they can always be reached; their vulnerable points are many, but
generally well concealed.
I have lost my early enthusiasms, but my enthusiastic _manner_
still remains. A genuine, cynical touch has, here of late, fallen into
my life. It is not an affectation. I am all the better for that touch;
it makes me more of a power among my subjects. For they are in reality
my subjects. In the main they are loyal. They are ready to fight for me
and my cause--if I had one.
I have divided my subjects--and other men--into:
Platitudes are men who lead an honest, stupid existence. They are
contented with their lot--because ignorant of any other. They are
resentful of all innovations--because they are narrow-minded and full
of deep ruts; they are guiltless of one clever thought; they sometimes
stumble into somewhat of a clever action, but humbly deprecate the move,
unconscious of having done a clever thing. Such men used to float about
me in shoals of delicious stupidity. I was such a new creature! I was so
different from the women they had met and always known. They were the
foolish moths, I the candle-flame. They dashed blindly into danger; they
fluttered about in ungraceful, ungracious misery. Finally, they would
fly out and go on their little commonplace ways full of scars and petty
burns, but not altogether marred--all the better for their uncomfortable
but harmless burning. But nowadays it is quality not numbers which I
desire, so they let me alone and are indeed astonished, bewildered, to
find that I can go on, quite successfully too, and _without them_.
Poor little fools; they are not an absolute necessity to any one--hardly
A Platitude is a selfish creature, and never very grateful unless he
expects a continuance of past favors. With him a cessation of favors
means a cessation of gratitude. A limited number of the Platitude class
still linger about me--principally on account of a long-contracted
habit. They are content with whatever they get; they are entirely
harmless, always useful in some way, and occasionally quite interesting.
* * * * *
A Pleasure is the direct opposite of a Platitude.
He is a clever man--clever in some one particular way. He is generally
a man with many brilliant theories brilliantly brought forth. He is
ready to entertain any proposition. He is ready to try any new field of
human action. He is sometimes sympathetic, more frequently antagonistic.
But my so-called _Pleasures_ may not be forced under any one head
which will accurately describe them as a class. Indeed, each one is a
class within himself; that is my reason for using so broad a term as
Pleasures: they are, in fact, Pleasures to me. They are really necessary
to my happiness--not individually, but as an entirety.
Most of these men have been at some one time my lovers--at least after
a fashion. Some of them are foolishly constant. They are not foolish on
account of their constancy--a most commendable trait--but because of
their inability to know just when to make a display of their devotion.
The general run of lovers--at least mine--are distressingly inopportune.
This a woman, in spite of herself, deeply resents; it is so unpardonably
stupid of a sensible man not to know just when to make known his tender
passion. Lovers seldom study the women they love. They labor hard and
plow straight on, in spite of any timid opposition from the other
quarter; they are heedless of the future; they are eager to gain the
prize, and often stride far beyond--overstep the mark, which sometimes
is but a mere shadow line.
Most women fail to understand why they are unable to retain their
rejected lovers. To me the explanation is plain. The average woman has
nothing to give her lover, when he asks the all-important question, but
a few tender, meaningless words to environ her _yes_ or _no_.
Of course, when the answer is yes, they both feed on the thought of
marriage until its consummation. But if she is forced to say no, it
leaves her barren of any thing to offer in lieu of the affection
demanded. She is at once destituted of resources. She has no mental
reservoir out of which she may feed the man's desire, and gently but
effectually turn it into an intellectual channel of her own making and
directing. Therefore the man is lost to her--be he Platitude or
Pleasure. She has made the fatal failure of neglecting to furnish--and
at once--a sufficient amount of intellectual excitement to fascinate the
man into lingering, and force him finally into a steadfast allegiance.
Women ought never insult their rejected lovers by _asking_ them for
their friendship. Those things come, if come they can, of themselves. It
is such an ugly mistake to insist on giving every thing a name. Emotions
thrive so much better when they are nameless. We rightly label poisons,
but why should we label perfumes? I love a touch of the vague and of the
mysterious. It is the mystery-man who wins the woman. Direct
courtships--when found in novels--read well, but they are not advisable
in real life. Women like to upset well-laid plans by perverse and
counter movements. A man must always let a woman do a reasonable share
of the courting. I know so many men who have been courted outright by
their wives--of course in a gentle, womanly way. It is often done. I
have sometimes been so much interested in a man that I have fancied
myself at last in love. But it is always a fleet-footed fancy. Interest
and Love are not always the same--Robert Fairfield once interested me,
but I never loved him.
I lead an ideal, independent life. I have no uncongenial family
ties. My wishes, yea, even my whims, find instant gratification, if
gratification is possible. I am just delicate enough to gain the
tenderest consideration from all who know me. My little social sins
gain the readiest forgiveness--from those who love me--and, in the eyes
of some, grow into positive virtues. I maybe outrageously tardy for an
engagement, or, without any particular reason, break it altogether,
yet be understood and upheld. Platitudes do not always understand, and
sometimes foolishly rebel. But it is of no use. I have a little way
of making them believe that it was actually they and not I who had
committed the offense. And they plead for _me_ to forgive _them!_
My modes of life are somewhat peculiar--at least commonplace persons
think them so. I give little lunches and dinners. I invite just
whomsoever I please. Now and then, for the sake of good form, and of the
good mother, I have regulation affairs, to which I bid the _society
regulars_--the so-called first and best set, who take invitations
as a matter of course, who consider themselves the social salt of the
earth, who go every where, and move about the houses of other people
as if they owned them. The _Society Regular_ is a well-dressed,
bad-mannered, somewhat disagreeable animal, devoid of innate delicacy,
and absolutely without gratitude. They are Platitudes of the first
water. They do not frequent my house. They never dine or lunch with
me, my Pleasures and other Platitudes.
This regulation affair is generally and afternoon tea. I leave out my
retinue, the Kaleidoscopic Circle, and tell them about it afterward. My
Social Exquisites and my Social Drifters are _reformed regulars_--brands
snatched from the burning by me. Briefless Barristers delight me very
much. I have several interesting specimens in the legal line. It is
interesting to have "young men of great promise" around me. True, their
fees are small and few between, yet that enables them to see just that
much more of me. In the old days I used to read law with them; but I
have very wisely abandoned that little habit--it was tiresome.
I have one or two Men Who Have Risen. They are crude, uncultured
creatures, but full of excellent points. One of them is a widower,
who made his large fortune killing hogs, and afterward canning peas,
tomatoes, etc. Of course he talks all the time about how he made his
money. I am always an attentive listener, and I verily believe that I
now have a practical knowledge of the hog business and canning interests
of the country.
Men Unsuccessful look to me for new inspiration, new hope. They are
always interesting. They are mental fragments flung aside by God, and
by Him held down--so they tell me. They are bitter, cynical, and nearly
always dyspeptic. They are near of kin to my Sympathy Seekers, who are
pale, light-haired creatures, continually making appeals for sympathy.
But my Sympathy Finders are very near and dear to me. They are generally
silent, melancholy men. They are always bearable, unless they chance to
be in love with some other woman, and make me, along with a dozen other
people, their _one and only_ confidant. Then is my life made a
burden. I am privately interviewed on all occasions, the more
inopportune the better. I am cornered and made a vessel for his pent-up
feelings. I am told of her cruel treatment. I am told of her charms and
of her faults--principally not loving him. I am worked up into a nervous
state. My physical nature grants him tears, while my mental nature
speculates about the sincerity of his passion and just to how many
others he may have told the self-same story. Of course all this is
wearing, yet it is very interesting.
Newspaper Reporters are a much-abused, downtrodden class. I have known
many, and I have yet to know one unworthy of a true woman's confidence.
Treat them as if they were dogs, and they will act like dogs--forever
barking and biting at your heels; but treat them like human beings, with
due and just consideration, and they will prove to you the wisdom of
your course. Newspaper Poets gather about me in a body. I have all
styles and gradations. They run the entire range from bad to fairly
good; but there is one who writes a most exquisite verse. He is a
tender, sympathetic, yet cynical man. Somehow he has slipped away. I was
not able to hold him, nor did I wish or even dare to keep him. He is
scornful of the world. He sees no reason why he should be here. He would
rather not have been born--if _he_ had been consulted. After all,
I may have idealized and overrated him. One of his rival poet friends
once told me that my favorite and favored verse-maker was an inveterate
poker-player and a continual loser! Ergo, the cynicism and scornfulness
of the world. But banish tawdry thought!
Authors Private and Authors Public haunt my salon; men who have written
and printed "little things of their own" for "private circulation only;"
and men who have given their books to the world at large--generally to
the detriment of the world. They are full of twists and notions. They
seek me to gain admiration, and they do--for I am a generous person.
People Of The Army and People Of The Navy are valuable to have around,
for the sake of looks and manners. They never disappoint you. A man
who has been on an Arctic expedition is especially desirable. You get
material for a hero at small cost. I have one Arctic Explorer, and two
army men who have been stationed in Yellowstone Park, and who fought
with the dead Custer. My Bohemians are my chief delight, and they are
many. They give the brightest, strongest colors to my Kaleidoscopic
Circle. They give me new strength to fight the little battles and calms
of every-day life. They give me the halo and the aroma of a new
existence. This, in brief, the retinue.
I seldom have--and less here of late than ever--a desire to marry.
To me marriage would be such an uncertain thing--a risk with so little
to gain. I am unwilling to relinquish my hold on the center of this
charming circle. As it is I am a possibility--unfulfilled, it is true,
yet a possibility--to twenty men or more. So I am unwilling to give
up _all_ of my Pleasures just for the sake of any _one_ particular
Pleasure, who might in six months, aye six days, reduce himself into
a miserable Platitude. I may and I may not be a great number of things;
but alas, above all, I am critical. Platitudes as Platitudes may
constantly afford even considerable interest, but Platitudes do not make
ideal husbands for women of my peculiar temperament and mental caliber.
I would rather be a Queen of Possibilities reigning over many hearts
than a Queen of just one heart, and that one, perhaps, a most unworthy
Miss Lina Searlwood,
(of the Inner Sisterhood.)]