Lilian Bell.

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tract my attention, thereby proving that I
am a woman, I can honestly say that I never
remember seeing one. Women who are ca-
pable of being really bored never even see
such men ; any more than if you were be-
ing roasted alive you would care if a hair-
pin pulled.

It is a mistake to confound the irresist-
ible man with the fool. Neither is he stu-
pid. Very often he is a man of no small
amount of brain. He is, of course, always
conceited, and generally, though not always,
handsome. I am not describing the soft,
sapient, pretty man who lisps, nor the weak-
kneed young gentleman with pink cheeks
who sings tenor. Far worse. The irresist-
ible man, as we know him, is often a man
who is doing a man's work in the world, and
doing it well. He is frequently a man of
character, but through that character runs
this strange, irritating thread of conceit,
which blinds our eyes to whatever of real
worth may be within, because of his exas-
peratingly confident exterior.

We should brush him aside as carelessly


as if he were a fly should there be nothing
to him worth hating. But the maddening
part of it to us is that the irresistible man
is worth saving, only he will not be saved.
He thinks he is perfect as he is. If he
could get our point of view and let some
woman take a hand at him, she might efface
his irresistibleness and make a man of him.
But no, the irresistible man is in this world
to give points not to take them.

A queer thing about this particular type
of the irresistible man is that he nearly al-
ways has grown up in a small town and has
only come to the city because his village
got too small for his talents. That of itself
explains his whole attitude towards the
world. Having probably been the "show
pupil " at school, having taken prizes and
ranked first among his fellows until he was
twenty -one, he brings that confident atti-
tude with him and plants himself in the heart
of the great city, like Ajax defying the light-
ning, without the thought that changed en-
vironments might demand change of con-
duct as well as change in clothes.

Doubtless the whole town helped to spoil


him. Doubtless he has heard all his life
that the town was too small for him, and
that a man like himself ought to go to the
city, where there would be a market for his
talents. Doubtless he has conquered the
hearts of all the village maidens ; therefore
he expects the same arts to obtain among
city girls. This system of easy victory and
of yearning for other worlds to conquer, in-
stead of making him fit himself capably for
a larger field, has, on account of this absurd
fault of irresistibleness, only made him su-
perficial. His crudeness is, to the unini-
tiated, almost pitiful. Having never been
obliged to work for pre-eminence, he decries
exertion, and never admits that he has to try
hard to win anything. His cheap little ac-
complishments of singing badly possibly
even of reciting dialect with realistic effects,
he is accustomed to say he "just picked
up." I often have thought that he must
have picked them up after somebody else
had thrown them away. But they have been
efficacious in his town, and in a larger field,
with foemen more worthy of his steel, they
are intended to enslave.


The irresistible man is too pitiful to
laugh at with any degree of comfort. The
pathos of the situation is almost too ap-
parent. That is one reason why he is
allowed to go on as he is. It is why no one
has the heart to try to correct him. What
can you say to a man whose confidence in
his power to please you is such that at part-
ing he says: "I cannot spare you another
evening this week, but I'll come next Thurs-
day if I can. Don't expect me, however,
until I let you know, and don't be dis-
appointed if you find that I can't come, after

To be sure, you have not asked him to re-
peat his visit at all. To be sure, you have
nearly died during this call which is just
over. But what are you going to do ? We
have a white bulldog whose confident atti-
tude towards the world is quite like that of
the irresistible man. Jack blunders in
where nobody wants him, and puts his great,
heavy paw on our best gowns, and scratches
at the door when we want to sleep, and gets
under our feet when we are trying to catch
a train, and makes a nuisance of himself


generally. But he is so sure that we love
him that we haven't the heart to turn him
out-of-doors. We simply endure him, be-
cause he is a dumb brute who is so used to
being petted that everybody tolerates him,
and nobody tries to improve him or teach
him better manners.

Confidence is a beautiful thing. But it is
also one of the most delicate of attributes,
and requires the daintiest handling. The
man who is confident with women must be
very sure of a personal magnetism, or of suf-
ficient merit to insure success, otherwise his
confidence will prove the flattest of failures.
The only difference between the irresistible
man who bores us to death and the suc-
cessful man who is so fascinating that he
cannot come too often, is that one has con-
fidence with nothing to base it on, and the
other bases his confidence on fact.

Women are not looking for flaws in men.
They are only too anxious to make the best
of sorry specimens, and to shut their eyes to
faults, and to coax virtues into prominence.
Men have nothing to complain of in the way
women in society treat them. They get


better than they deserve and much better
than they give. So all they will have to do
to win a better opinion will be to deserve
it, and, if they make never so slight an ad-
vance, they will see that they are met more
than half-way by even the most captious
critics of their acquaintance.

Adaptability is a heaven-sent gift. It is
like the straw used in packing china. It
not only saves jarring, but it prevents worse
disasters, and without it a man is only safe
when he is alone. The moment he comes
into smart contact with his fellow-beings
there is a crash, and the assembled company
have a vision of broken fragments of human-
ity, which might have remained whole and
suffered no more injury than a possible
nick had the combatants been padded with
adaptability. The irresistible man is the man
who thinks he can get through the world
without it. The irresistible man is the one
who is so perfect in his own estimation that
he needs no change. He is beyond human


His opposite, the clever man, said to
me yesterday : " You know, to be actually
interested is as likely to make one grate-
ful as anything in this world, unless it be a
realization of the kindness of Fate in spar-
ing us the perpetual society of fools."

The perpetual society of fools ! Think
of it, and then revel, you women, in the
thought that we are only bored occasion-
ally once a week, say, or once a day, or
once every two hours, taking our bores as
we do ill-flavored medicine. It never oc-
curred to me before I heard that phrase
that life held anything more wearisome than
to be bored occasionally.

I have read Ben-Hur, and thought how
awful it would be to be a galley-slave. I
have read The Seats of the Mighty, and


shuddered at the idea of being imprisoned
for five years alone and without a light. I
have seen a flock of sheep driven by shout-
ing, panting, racing little boys, and have been
glad I did not have to drive sheep for my
daily bread. I have rejoiced that my lot
was not that of a Paris cab-horse, but I
never in all my life thought of any fate so
appalling as that contained in those words
the perpetual society of fools.

Why not reform our penitentiary meth-
ods ? What is a prison cell to a clever em-
bezzler, if he can have books and a pipe ?
Nothing but a long rest for his worn-out
nerves possibly a grateful change.

But what would be the feelings of a man
of brilliant intellect for the accomplished
villain is always clever who was detected
in his crime, and who stood breathless be-
fore his accusers, waiting for and expect-
ing a life sentence at hard labor, to hear
the judge's voice pronounce sentence, " Con-
demned for life to the perpetual society of
fools !"

I believe the man would be taken from
the court-room a raving maniac.


I cannot but think that a real fool is con-
scious of his own foolishness. He must
realize his aloofness from the rest of man-
kind, and in moments of such bitter self-
knowledge I can picture many whom the
world regards as too far gone to compre-
hend their calamity praying the prayer of
the court-jester, "God be merciful to me a
fool." I am a little tender towards such.
I do not condemn them. They have reached
the stage when they are the victims of hu-
man pity a lamentable condition. But
those dense persons inhabiting the thickly
populated region bordering on foolishness
those self-satisfied, uncomprehending ego-
tists occupying the half-way house between
wisdom and folly, known as stupidity
against such my wrath burns fiercely. They
are so deceptive so un-get-at-able. They
wear the semblance of wisdom, yet it is
but a cloak to snare and delude mankind
into testing their intelligence. They are not
labelled by Heaven, like the fools we may
avoid if we will, or to whom we may go in
a spirit of philanthropy. They do not wear
straw in their hair like maniacs, nor drool


like simpletons. Now they infest society
clad in the most immaculate of evening
clothes. Often they are college graduates,
and get along very well with other men.
They are frequently found among the rich,
sometimes even among the poor. Some-
times they are stolid and cannot under-
stand. Sometimes they are indifferent and
won't understand. Sometimes they are

We women are those upon whose souls
their stupidity bears most heavily. But
stay they do not oppress all women
alike ! There are women whose spiritual
needs never soar above the alphabet. When
these men are men of family, and one ex-
pects to find their wives sitting with clinched
hands and set teeth, simply enduring life
and praying for death, one is often sur-
prised to see that they are generally stout
women, who wear many diamonds and a
bovine expression in their eyes. Evident-
ly there is no nervous tension in their
house, and the dense man is quite capable
of comprehending the a b c of human nat-
ure and of keeping his family in flannels.


In strictly fashionable society the stupid
man is not conspicuous, because one never
has time to comprehend that one is not
understood. If he nods his head sagely
and says nothing, one is probably grateful
and passes on to the next, thinking that
he is most entertaining. But in that
society where one sometimes sits dov^n and
breathes, where conversation is considered
as a fine art, and where talk is a mutual
game of battledoor and shuttlecock, then
it is that your stupid man looms up on
the horizon like a blanket of clouds.

In America, particularly, conversation is
something which not even the French, who
approach it most nearly, can thoroughly
understand, for with all its blinding nim-
bleness and kaleidoscopic changes there
is a substratum of Puritan morality which
holds some things sacred too sacred even
to argue in public and one who transgresses
turns off the colored lights, and lo ! your
conversation is all in grays and browns.
To converse properly in America one must
possess not only a nimble wit and a broad
understanding, but he must take into con-


sideration one's pedigree, and the effect of
the climate.

This practically bars the stupid man from
ever hearing the sound of his own voice
outside the secluded walls of his own home
or should. It ought also to bar the sim-
ply witty man ; for what is more jarring
than a misplaced wit or an ill-timed jocu-
larity ?

No, the chief requisite for a seat among
the glorious company of the elect is a deep-
seeing, far-reaching, sensitive comprehen-
sion a capacity to see not only through a
thing but over it and under it and beyond
it ; to see not only its derivation and ances-
try, but its purport and import and influ-
ence and posterity ; to detect the inner
meaning and the double meaning, and to
smile alone at its surface meaning. There
are those of us, particularly women, who
must have this all-enveloping comprehension
from others if we are to be thought fit to live.
Our conversation is such that, if we were
taken literally, we deserve to be strangled.

In this day of mad competition in every
walk in life, it is not those who can shout


the loudest, even in those busy marts where
voice reigns supreme, who are going to be
heard. No one man can continue to shout
the loudest. A momentary audience and a
raw throat are the most he can expect. But
it is he who can exaggerate the most in-
telligently and overpaint the most subtly.
That sort of impertinence will attract the
eye and ear of the most loudly howling mob.
Even the wayfarer gets an inkling from a
poster, but it is a man of the widest com-
prehension who gets the whole truth from
the subtlest exaggeration, and he who pos-
sesses a sense of humor who realizes its

To persons of this ilk the stupid man is
a calamity compared to which the loss of
fortune and back-door begging would be a

But of course there are grades of stupidity
even among stupid men, and of these the
educated stupid man is perhaps the most
exhausting, because a woman is constantly
led into trying to converse with him, hav-
ing heard rumors that he is a college
man, or that he has written a book on


mathematics. If a man is a genuine fool,
of course one would merely show him pict-
ures, or play games with him, and so save
brain tissue. But with the deceptive half-
way man, one is defenceless.

A single instance of a bona-fide conver-
sation will serve as a fearful warning to the

A graduate of a German university, a
man who has written three books and has
a reputation for always winning his law-
suits, sought me out after a dinner, with
the fatal accuracy of a man who has dined
to repletion and wishes to be amused.

Possibly because I also had dined and
was therefore affable, I endeavored to see
if there was any forgotten corner of his
mind, any blind alley I hitherto had left
unexplored, where I might find mine own
and feel at home.

His face was dull, heavy, unemotional,
but I said in sprightly tones to coax his
lethargy :

" I have made such a delicious discovery
to-day. I have found that Carlyle has given
the most acute definition of humor I ever


read. Isn't that rather surprising, when
Carlyle's humor is rather lumbering ?"

He thought a moment.

"It is," he said, carefully, with that want
of recklessness which should endear him to
a stone image.

"Do you -know it, or shall I tell you?"
I said, with fatal geniality.

Another pause.

"Tell me," he said, heavily, wadding his
mind with cotton, for fear some lightness
should percolate through it.

" Why, he said that humor was an appre-
ciation of the under side of things. Isn't
that delicious ?"

I spoke with unctuous satisfaction, for I
really expected him to comprehend. He
looked at my beaming countenance with
grave suspicion, and slowly reddened. He
said nothing. I still smiled, but my smile
was fast freezing.

"Well?" I said, impatiently.

"You are jesting," he said. "That isn't
the real answer."

"Why, yes, it is. Do you mean to say
that you don't understand ?"


"You jest so much. I never can tell
he broke off, helplessly.

" But surely you see that," I urged.
" How would you define humor?"

" Why, humor is something funny. There's
nothing funny about er that that Carlyle

" Yes, but it's only a very delicate and
occult way of exhibiting his acuteness," I
said. " Don't you see ? An appreciation
of the under side of things the side that
does not lie on the surface."

" Are you serious ?" he asked, as I leaned
back to rest from my toil.

" Perfectly. But I can hardly believe
that you are."

" Do you mean to say that you really see
anything in that definition ?"

"I do," I said, with ominous distinct-

My manner indicated his stupidity, and
he resented it. He grew excited.

" Now, tell me, on your honor, do you
really see anything funnier in the under
side of that sofa than in the top side ?"

I could have screamed with anguish. But,


being in company, I only smote my hands
together in my impotence and prayed for

The tension was relieved by the young
son of our hostess in the library just be-
yond having overheard our conversation.
He laid his hand over his mouth and went
into such convulsions of silent laughter,
all the time writhing and twisting his lean
body into such contortions that in watching
his extraordinary gymastics over the head
of my unconscious vis-a-vis, and wondering
if the boy ever could untie himself, I for-
got my suffering. I even relaxed my mental
strain and forgot the stupid man.

Would I could keep on forgetting him.


" You have taught me
To be in love with noble thoughts?


THAT clever bon-mot, " To say ' everybody
is talking about him ' is a eulogy. To say
'every one is talking about her' is an
elegy," is no longer true, more's the pity.
More's the pity, I mean, because such a de-
licious bit deserves a longer life. I could
weep over the early death of an epigram
with a hearty spirit, which is second only to
the grief I feel at a good story spoiled for
relation's sake. Cleverness, like beauty, is
its own excuse for being, and the first attri-
bute of the new woman is her cleverness.
It is the new woman who is responsible
for the death of that epigram. But as she
did not take an active part in the mur-
der, but was only an accessory after the
fact, let us hope that she will escape with as
light a sentence as possible from that stern


old judge, public opinion, who is not her

The newspapers have ridiculed the new
woman to such an extent, and their ridicule
is so popular, that it requires an act of phys-
ical courage to stand up in her defence and
to tell the public that the bloomer girl is not
new ; that they have had the newspaper crea-
tion like the poor with them always; that
they have passed over the real new woman
without a second glance. In other words, to
assure them as delicately as possible that
they have been barking up the wrong tree.

The first thing which endears the new
woman to me personally, more even than
her cleverness, is that she has a sense of
humor. You may deny that, if you want
to. I firmly believe it, but I am not infallible.
Thank Heaven that I am not. I abominate
those people who are always right. You
can't amuse yourself by picking flaws in
them. They are so irritatingly conclusive.
Now I am never conclusive, and you ought
to be glad of it. It makes it so much pleas-
anter for you to be able to disagree with me


Why have men always possessed an ex-
clusive right to the sense of humor ? I
believe it is because they live out-of-doors
more. Humor is an out-of-door virtue. It re-
quires ozone and the light of the sun. And
when the new woman came out-of-doors to
live, and mingled with men and newer wom-
en, she saw funny things, and her sense of
humor began to grow and thrive. The fun
of the situation is entirely lost if you stay at
home too much.

Now don't let the supersensitive men
who always want women to pursue the per-
fectly lady-like employment of knitting gray
socks don't let them have a fit right here for
fear women have come out-of-doors to stay
and are never going in-doors again. Even
women, my dear sirs, know enough to go in
when it rains. They love a hearth-rug quite
as well as a cat does. A cat and a woman
always come home to the hearth-rug. But
there is very little mental exhilaration in
a hearth-rug. Plenty of comfort, but lit-
tle humor. The real excitement of life, at
least to a cat, is when in a morning stroll
abroad she goes out of her sphere the


hearth-rug and meets some feline friend to
whom she extends a claw, playful or other-
wise ; or possibly meets some merry puppy
which induces her to move rapidly up the
nearest tree with an agility which you never
would believe the mother of a family could
boast if you had not been an eye-witness to
the interesting scene. Such an encounter
will not induce her to want to stay up a
tree. It only makes the safety of the
hearth-rug more inviting. Now, if she al-
ways remained on the hearth-rug, how could
we tell, should the hearth-rug be invaded in
the absence of her natural protectors, that
she could defend herself ? For my part, I
am glad to know, when I leave her, that she
is not so helpless or so sleepy as she looks.
It is a great thing to know that a cat's tree-
climbing abilities are not hopelessly dor-
mant. It does not make her purr the less
when she is stroked. Her fur is as soft, her
ways are as gentle as they ever were, and as
she lies there so quietly upon the hearth-rug
she looks as though she never had left it.
Only once in a while she regards you out
of one eye in a companionable way, as who


should say, " That's all right. You know I
can climb a tree when occasion requires."

The dear new woman ! I like her. Per-
haps she is crude in her newness. Give her
time. Perhaps she makes a little too much
of her freedom. How do you know what she
suffered before she became new ? Perhaps
she has her faults. Are you perfect ?

Of course there is the woman who shrieks
on political platforms and neglects her hus-
band, and lets her children grow up like
little ruffians ; the woman who wears bloom-
ers and bends over her handle-bar like a
monkey on a stick ; the woman who wants
to hold office with men and smoke and talk
like men alas, that there is that variety of
woman but she is not new. Pray did you
never see her before she wore bloomers ?
Bloomers are no worse than the sort of
clothes she used to wear. Her swagger is
no more pronounced now than it used to be
in skirts. She has always had bloomer in-
stincts. You don't pretend to declare, do
you, that there never were unconventional
women, ill-dressed and rowdy women, before
the new woman was heard of? That is the


great mistake you make. These women are
not new women. We've always had them.
We never, unfortunately, have been without

The real new woman is a creature quite
different. She is one whom you would wish
to know. She is one whom you would in-
vite to your most select dinners. You would
be better men if you had more friends like
her, and broader- minded women if you
dropped a few of those who hand you
doughnut recipes over the back fence, and
who entertain you with the history of the
baby's measles, and how they are managing
to meet the payments on their little house.
I am not unsympathetic, either, with the
measles or the payments, but I prefer the
subjects of conversation which a new wom-
an selects. There is more ozone in them.

The new woman whom I mean is silk-
lined. She is nearly always pretty. She
is always clever. She is always a lady, and
she is always good. Perhaps, to the cyni-
cal, that combination sounds as if she might
not be interesting; but she is. Of course
not always. One may have all those gifts,


and yet not know how to make use of them
for other people's benefit. The gift of being
interesting is a distinct one by itself. But
the new woman, having fresh and outside
interests, is generally able to talk of them

The new woman is new only in the sense
that she has opened her eyes and has begun
to see the value of the simple, common,
every-day truths which lie nearest to her.
The whole world becomes new to those who
suddenly awake to the beauties which they
never had thought of before.

Once women taught their daughters house-
keeping and sewing from stern principle,

and made it neither beautiful nor attractive.


Then house-keeping went out of fashion.

Feather-headed boys married trivial girls,
and began to make a home without the first
gleam of knowledge as to how the thing
should be done. The foolish little wife
knew not how to cook or sew. The fool-

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Online LibraryLilian BellFrom a girl's point of view → online text (page 7 of 8)