Lilian Bell.

From a girl's point of view online

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have to face the fact that there are hun-
dreds of sweet, nice girls, of good family
and good training, who regard the securing
for themselves of another girl's lover a per-
fectly legitimate operation.

Not infrequently one hears it said that
So-and-So is one of the most attractive girls
in town, because she can cut any girl out
that she tries to. You may say that a man
so easily won is no great loss, or that such
things may occur in other circles of society
but not in yours. Possibly they do not.
One does not deny the honor of honorable
men and women in any walk in life. But
in polite society, fashionable society, these
things occur. Oftener in New York than in
Boston, and oftener in London and Paris
than in New York. Indeed, we may sneer,
as we often do, at the primitive customs
of the lowly, and at their absurd phrase of
"keeping company." It makes a delight-
ful jest. But beneath it is a greater regard
for the rights of a man or woman in love
than one is apt to find higher in the social

With them, to select one another "to


keep company," is like an offer of marriage.
To "keep steady company" is the formal
announcement of an engagement, which is
a potential marriage. It is the first step
towards matrimony, and is almost as sacred
and final.

With their more fortunate and envied
sisters in the smart set, an engagement is
the loosest kind of a bond, and neither
man nor woman is safe from the wooing of
other men and women until the marriage
vows have been pronounced, and, if your
society is very fashionable, not even then.

So that this society of which I speak
would undeniably be called "good."

Now, of course, all women desire to be
loved. She is a very queer woman who
would deny that proposition if asked by the
right person, and I hope he would have
sense enough not to believe her if she did.
I do not object to a girl making herself at-
tractive to men in a modest and maidenly
way. On the contrary, I heartily approve
of it. But I would have her select a man
who belonged to no other girl, and to
know that nothing but misery can result


from the taking of a lover away from her

It is the fashion for women to deny that
this is done. I never could see why. But
possibly they deny it because they are
afraid, if they discuss it, that people will
think some girl has lured a lover or two
away from them.

People who have witnessed the outward
results of this phenomenon also deny the
true cause, on the ground that the robber
girl was not clever enough to have done it.
That she simply was more to the man's
taste than the first girl, and so it was all
the fault of the man.

Of course, I cannot deny the fickleness of
man. But I do say that the girl hardly
lives, no matter how pretty she is, who has
not the wit to get another girl's lover if she
wants him. It makes no difference how
young she is, she never makes the mistake
of disparaging the first girl. No woman of
the world is less liable to such an error than a
girl who deliberately intends to get another
girl's lover.

She begins by gaining her confidence.


Very likely she manages to stay all night
with her. (That is the time when you tell
everything you know, just because it is dark,
and then spend the rest of your life wishing
you hadn't.)

Then, when she has the points of the
compass, so to speak, she says she will help
her dear friend, and the dear friend, not be-
ing clever (or she wouldn't have confided),
thinks she is the loveliest girl in the world,
and, after promising to send her lover to
call in order to be " helped," she calmly
goes to sleep, just as if she has not seen the
beginning of the end.

The other girl has observed and she is,
of course, pretty and attractive. Girls who
do not know anything and who never study
are always pretty. It is only the plain girl
who is obliged to be clever. The first
time she sees the lover of her dear friend
she begins to laud her to the sky. She her-
self is looking so pretty, and she shows off
in the most favorable light, while all the
time singing her dear friend's praise with
such fatal persistency that she fairly makes
him sick of the sound of her name and of


her namby-pamby virtues. Now the man
would hardly be human if he did not tell
this artless little creature that he had had
enough of her dear friend, and that he would
much prefer to talk about herself. Pouts
of hurt surprise. She "thought you were
such a friend of hers !" She " only wanted
to entertain you by the only subject " she
" thought would interest you." Presto !
The entering wedge ! She knows it, but
the man does not. He has no idea of being
disloyal to his sweetheart, but he is a lost
man nevertheless lost to the first girl and
won by the second. Won in a perfectly
harmless and legitimate way too. Won
while doing her duty, keeping her promise,
helping her friend. Her conscience acquits
her. She has only observed and made use
of her cleverness to know that too smooth
and easy a course to true love generally
gives him to the other girl.

But in reality she has stolen him she has
committed a real theft. And, personally,
I should prefer to know her had she stolen
money. You can jail a man who steals
your watch, but the girl who steals a man's



heart away from his sweetheart walks free,
and uncondemned even to their shame be
it spoken by those who know what she
has done.

Nobody dares condemn her even the
friends of the robbed girl, for that presup-
poses some lack in her charm, and gives
publicity to her loss. The wronged girl,
because of her pride and conventionality
and civilization, makes no outcry. A bar-
barian in her place would have fallen on
the robber girl in a fury and scratched her
eyes out. Sometimes I am sorry that our
barbaric days are over.

Some of the greatest tragedies in life have
come from this disloyalty among girls in
their relations with each other.

I have no patience with those people who
fall in love with forbidden property and
give as their excuse, " I couldn't help it."
Such culpable weakness is more dangerous
to society than real wickedness.

Love is not a matter of infatuation. It
is not the temptation which is wrong. It
is the deliberate following it up, simply
because the temptation is agreeable. Of


course, it is agreeable ! You are not often
irresistibly tempted to go and have your
teeth filled !

Men never will have done with their strict-
ures on girls until girls achieve two things.
One is to observe more honor in their rela-
tions with each other, and the other is to
learn to think.

"All that I am, my mother made me"


PERHAPS you think that girls do not know
enough about other girls' husbands to dis-
cuss them with any profit. But if there has
been a dinner or theatre party within our
memory where the married girls did not take
the bachelors and leave their husbands for
us, we would just like to know when it was,
that's all.

I dare say it never occurVed to these wives
what an opportunity this custom gives us to
study social problems at close range. We
girls are supposed to be blind and deaf and
dumb ; but we are none of the three. We
try to see all there is to see, and hear all
there is to hear, and then, when we get to-
gether, we wouldn't be human if we didn't
talk it over and tell each other how infinite-
ly better we could manage Jessie's husband


than she does, and that it seems a pity that
Carrie doesn't understand George.

I suppose it would be rather handsome of
us always to pretend that we did not hear the
covert rebuke or the open sarcasm bandied
about between these husbands and wives.
On the whole, I think it would be chivalrous
for us to be utterly oblivious, and talk about
the weather, if anybody asked us if we knew
that Mary never could spend a cent without
having John ask her what she did with it.

That is the way men do when they do not
wish to tell on each other. I think men are
fine in that way. We girls all think so, only
we seldom have the moral courage to emu-
late their admirable example. We are so
fond of " talking things over." And if the
married women do not wish us to talk their
husbands over, just let them give us our own
rightful property, the bachelors, and \ve will
never utter another cheep.

However, I would not give up my small
experience with other girls' husbands for a
great deal. It has convinced me of some-
thing of which I always have been reasona-
bly sure, and that is that American men


make the best husbands in the world, and
that women who cannot get along with
Americans, and who think men of another
race, who have more polish, more finesse,
more veneer, would suit, them better, could
not manage to live happily with the Angel

Dear me ! If these dissatisfied American
wives could only realize that an all -wise
Providence had, in the American man, given
us the best article in the market, and that
when we rebel at our lot we are simply
proving that we do not deserve our good
fortune, they would never even discuss the
subject of having men of any other nation-

Of course, in every nation there is a class
of men who are as noble, as high-minded,
as chivalrous as even the most captious
American girl could wish. But I refer to
the general run of men when I say that
there is something about men born outside
of America, a native selfishness or callous-
ness, a lack of perception and appreciation
of the fineness of womanhood, amounting
to a sort of mental brutality, which wellnigh


unfits them for close social contact with the
super-sensitive American woman. And just
as surely as American women persist in
disregarding this subtle yet unmistakable
truth, just so surely will they lay themselves
open to these soul -bruises from foreign
husbands which American men, as a race,
are incapable of inflicting. I say they are
incapable of inflicting them, because Amer-
ican men, in the face of everything said and
written to the contrary, are, in regard to
women, the finest-grained race of men in the

Now in this generalizing, I beg that you
will not accuse me of asserting that these
strictures are true of every man who is not
an American, or that all American men are
perfect. But I do wish to state clearly and
frankly my admiration for American men
as a race. When an American man is a
gentleman, he is to my mind the most per-
fect gentleman that any race can produce,
because his good manners spring from his
heart, and there are a few of us old-fash-
ioned enough to plead that politeness should
go deeper than the skin.


Now if the assertion is made that the
American man makes the best husband in
the world, let him not think that there is
no room for improvement, for with him it
is much the same as it is with the wild
strawberry. At first blush one would say
that there could be no more delicious
flavor than that of the wild strawberry.
Yet everybody knows what the skilled gar-
deners have made of it in the form of the
cultivated fruit. Nevertheless, the crude ar-
ticle, found growing wild upon its native
heath, is much to be preferred to the can-
died ginger of other nations.

After admitting that the wild strawberry
is capable of cultivation, and even attaining,
under skilful care, the highest type of per-
fection, let no one make the mistake of
thinking that the time for such improve-
ment is after they have been grown and
placed upon the market. If they are found
to be knotty, half green, or in a state of de-
cadence, and you are bound to buy straw-
berries, you can take them, and, by your na-
tive woman's wit, you can dress them into a
state of palatableness, even if you have to


reduce them to a pulp in the sacred mysteries
of a short-cake.

But in order to take all the comfort which
strawberries are capable of giving to man-
kind, they should be perfect in themselves
when they come from the hand of the gar-
dener just as it was his mother's duty to
have trained that husband of yours before he
came under your influence.

It really is asking too much of a woman
to expect her to bring up a husband and her
children too. She vainly imagines, when
she marries this piece of perfection, with
whom she is so blindly in love, that he is
already trained, or, rather, that he is the one
human being in the world who has been
perfect from infancy, and who never needed
training. She never dreams of the curious
fact that mothers always train their daugh-
ters to make good wives, yet rarely ever
think of training their boys to make good

Therefore, unless, like Topsy, they have
"just growed" good and kind and consid-
erate, a woman has a life-work before her in
training her own husband.


But the fact of the matter is that while
we girls receive specific training, to the ex-
press end of making good wives, the boys
of the family receive only general training
of chivalry and courtesy towards all women
not with a view of having to spend the
greater part of their lives with one woman,
or the tact with which this one woman must
be treated.

I wonder what would happen if somebody
should open a Select Kindergarten for Em-
bryo Husbands ? Yet we girls have been
in a similar institution for embryo wives
since childhood. We are told in our early
teens: "Well, only your mother would bear
that. No husband would ;" or, " You will
have to be more gentle and unselfish with
your brother, if you want to make some
man a good wife."

A good wife ! It has a magic sound !
Of course, every girl expects to marry,
and the shadowy idea of making a good
wife to this mysterious but delightfully
interesting personage, who is growing up
somewhere in the world, and waiting for
her, even as she is waiting for him, makes


the hard task of self-discipline easier, for
we all wish to make " a good wife."

Nor are we taught alone to be gentle and
sweet and faithful. We girls have to learn
that all-potent factor in a happy life tact.
We are early taught that it is not enough to
master the fundamental principles which
govern the genus man. We have to dis-
cover that each man must be treated differ-
ently. We must cater to individual tastes.
We must learn individual needs, and fill
them. In short, we are taught to observe
men, to study them, and then to hold our-
selves accordingly.

Pray do not imagine that all this is put
into words, or that we have certain hours
for studying how to make good wives, or
that it is as rigid or exhausting as a broom
drill. It is the intangible, esoteric phi-
losophy which permeates the households
of thousands of American families, where
the mothers are the companions and confi-
dantes of the daughters. It is an under-
stood thing. You would be surprised to
know how young some girls are when they
have thoroughly mastered this wonderful


tact with men. And what is it that makes
the American girl so dangerous for all the
other women in the world to compete with?
It is because she studies her man. And
how did she learn it ? By seeing her moth-
er manage her father or, perhaps, by seeing
how easily her father could be managed, if
her mother only understood him better.

There is a great deal of progressive
thought among girls in this generation.

Why in the world mothers train their
girls and boys alike up to a certain point
in general courtesy and consideration for
each other, and then go on with the girls,
teaching them the gentle, faithful finesse
which every wife has to understand, yet
leaves her boy to "gang his ain gait " just
at the formative period of his life, I am not
able to say.

If I could only hear some mother say to
her son, " Don't let your slate-pencil squeak
so! Try not to make distracting noises.
You may have a nervous wife, and you
might just as well learn to be quiet. There
is no sense in thinking just because you are
a boy that you can make unnecessary and


superfluous noises!" I think I should die
of joy ! Or how would it sound to hear her
say, " Whenever you come in and find your
sister irritable, don't simply take yourself
out of her way. Look around and do some-
thing kind for her. Make a point of know-
ing what she likes and of doing it. Life is
so much more monotonous for women than
for men, you should be especially gener-
ous with your sister, so that some day you
will make some sweet girl a good hus-

Can't you just see what kind of a husband
that boy would make ?

Romance comes later to a boy than to a
girl, but it hits him just as hard when it does
come, and a boy is quite as responsive as a
girl to the suggestion of a personal chivalry
which shall prepare him to be a better hus-
band to a shadowy personality which he
cannot do better than to keep in his mind
and heart.

Why does a woman, who finds it difficult,
perhaps even impossible, to persuade her
husband to do certain essential things, never
take pity on the poor little girl across the


street, who, in ten or fifteen years, is going
to marry her son ?

Take, at random, the subject of a wife's
having an allowance. Thousands of wives
have it, and therefore they are not the ones
we are to consider. But where there are thou-
sands who possess an allowance from their
husbands, or who have money in their own
right, there are millions who never have a
cent they are not obliged to ask their hus-
bands for.

There is no question of gift about it. At
the altar he endowed her with all his world-
ly goods, and he thinks he has lived up to
the letter of his vow when he tells her that
all he has is as much hers as his. But un-
less that oft-quoted saying is followed up by
a certain sum, no matter how small, which
is in truth her very own, she feels that that
clause in the marriage service might as well
be stricken out.

When wives as universally share in add-
ing to the general prosperity of the home
by managing the house, keeping their hus-
band's clothes in order, and caring for the
children as men always admit is the case,


wives are actually adding dollars to their
husband's income. Then ought not a man
to divide that same income with her in the
form of an allowance, for which, if only to
add to her self-respect, he has no more right
to call her to account than she has to insist
on seeing a list of his expenditures?

I have nothing to say about extrava-
gant or untrustworthy wives, who do not
come into the subject at all. I am only
referring to the magnificent multitude of
good, careful, thrifty, typical American wives,
whose sole aim in life is to make a hap-
py home for husband and children. Nor
am I denying that these women have all
their wishes granted, and are allowed to
spend their husbands' money with reason-
able freedom, provided they account for it
afterwards. I am only asserting that every
married woman, from the farmer's wife to
that of the bank president, should have
some money regularly which is sacredly her

Perhaps men think I am exaggerating
the evil. Perhaps they do not know that
the only advice married women give to


engaged girls which never varies is: "Be
sure you ask for an allowance from the
first, because, if you don't, you may never
get it."

I suppose that the majority of men do
not know that their wives hate to ask them
for money. Of course it does not seem so
terrible to those of us whose fathers occa-
sionally want to keep back enough money to
buy coal when our daughterly demands get
refused. But it never occurs to us that a
girl's lover-husband, this courteous stranger
whom she has loved and married, would
ever forget his theatre and American-
Beauty days sufficiently to say: "What
did you do with that dollar I gave you

Now, frankly speaking, it never occurs to
unmarried girls that the honeymoon can
ever wear off. We look upon husbands as
only married sweethearts. We sort of half-
way believe them at least we used to, be-
fore we observed other girls' husbands
when they tell us that they long for the time
when they can pay our bills and buy clothes
for us. We never thought, until we were


told, that any little generous arrangement,
which we expected to last, must be fixed
during the first few weeks of marriage. I
dare say most of us had planned to say, in
answer to the money question, " Just as
you like, dear. I'd rather have you man-
age such matters for me. You know so
much more about them than I do." It is a
horrible shock, from a sentimental point of
view, to be told to say, " I'll take an al-
lowance, please," and then, if two amounts
are mentioned, to grab for the biggest.
Oh, it is a shame ! It is a shame to be
told that we shall be sorry if we don't, and
to know that we shall have no opportunity
to show how unselfish and trusting we are.

It is all your fault, you men, that you do
not think of these things more. You might
stop a moment to consider that it is rather
a delicate matter for a woman to ask money
of a man. If your wife is like most wives,
she is doing as much to help you make
your money as you are. She is keeping
you well and happy and your home beauti-
ful. You could not keep your mind on
business an hour if she did not. Therefore


she deserves every dollar which, after dis-
cussing your future life together, you feel
that you can afford to give her. She ought
to be made to feel that she has earned it,
and that she may spend it freely and hap-
pily, or invest it, just as she chooses. Do
you think that you would not get the whole
of it back if you were ill and needed it ? It
is an ungracious thing to call her to account
for every dollar. How do you know but
that she wants to save a little out of the
market-money to buy you a nicer birthday
present than usual ?

American men are the most lavish hus-
bands in the world. It is only that they
do not think what a joy it is to a woman
to have even the smallest amount of money
of her very own, concerning which no one
on earth has a right to question her.

And yet, what is the use of trying to train
a husband into a habit of thought like this,
when he has been used to hearing his moth-
er argue his father into giving her money,
and yet to know that she and all the world
considered him generous, and that, in truth,
ho was ?


A woman who suffers heartache because
her husband never apologizes to her, or who
endures mortification unspeakable because
she has not a penny of her own, has no right
to rebel, even in her own heart, unless she
is training her son to make the sort of hus-
band for some little girl, now in pinafores,
which she would have wished for herself.



SOMEBODY has cleverly defined a bore as
"a man who talks so much about himself
that I never can get a chance to talk about
myself." But that is too narrow. I am
broad-minded. I want somebody to find a
definition large enough (if possible) to in-
clude all the bores. I do not know, how-
ever, but that I am asking too much.

Neither is this definition entirely true.
For I have heard men talk about themselves
for hours at a time, and they talked so well
and kept their Ego so carefully hidden that
I was enchanted, and never mentioned my-
self, even when they paused for breath.
Then, too, I have been bored to the verge
of suicide by some worthy soul who insisted
upon talking to me of (presumably) my pet
subject myself and who was doing his


poor little best to say nice things and to be

A bore is a man or a woman who never
knows How or When. There are times in
the lives of all of us when it bores us to be
talked to of home or friends or wife or hus-
band or mother or religion. There are times
when nothing but a large, comfortable si-
lence can soothe the worry and fret of a
trying day. At such times let the tactless
woman and the thoughtless man beware,
because everything they say will be a

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Online LibraryLilian BellFrom a girl's point of view → online text (page 5 of 8)