Women by L. W.
|Mrs. Philip Markham.||Philip Markham.|
|Miss Ethel Arnold.||Frank Beverly.|
(The four have been dining together and discussing the people
they had met some hours before at a reception.)
Philip Markham. At all events, I call her a very beautiful woman.—Don't
you say so, Beverly? I am telling Miss Arnold that I considered Miss St.
Mrs. Markham. Oh, Philip, how can you say so?
Beverly. I admired her immensely.
Mrs. M. (with a shrug). Oh, I dare say. A round, soulless face, a large
Philip. You women have no eyes. She has cheeks (to quote Cherbuliez)
like those fruits one longs to bite into, a pair of fine eyes, well-cut
lips—(Breaks off and laughs).
Mrs. M. (severely). Pray go on.
Philip. Not while you regard me with that virtuous air of condemnation.
Mrs. M. I confess I saw nothing to admire in the girl except that she
looked healthy and strong.
Miss Arnold. Nor did I. Moreover, she had the fault of being badly
Beverly. She was beautiful, then, not by reason of her dress, as most of
your sex are, but in spite of it. You women always underrate physical
beauty in each other.
Mrs. M. (pretending not to have heard Beverly's remark). Yes, Ethel,
very badly dressed, and her hair was atrociously arranged.
Philip. Oh, we did not look at her hair, we were so much attracted by
her face and figure.
Mrs. M. (piqued). Take my advice, Ethel, and never marry. While we were
engaged Philip never thought of seeing beauty in any girl except myself:
now he is in a state of enthusiasm bordering upon frenzy over every new
face he comes across.
Beverly. He knows, I suppose, that you do not mind it—that you are the
more flattered the more he admires the entire sex.
Mrs. M. Of course I do not mind it: the only thing is—
Philip. Well, what is the only thing, Jenny?
Beverly. You remember, Cousin Jenny, I was talking the other day about
the perversity of your sex. You either cannot or will not understand your
husbands: they hide nothing, extenuate nothing, yet you fail to grasp the
idea of that side of their minds which is at once the best and the most
dangerous. If Philip did not regard all women with interest, and some with
particular interest, he could not have had it in his head to be half so
much in love with you as he is.
Philip. That is true, Frank—so true that we won't ask how you found it
Miss A. You men always stand by each other so faithfully! Now, I have
observed these traits among my married friends: the husbands invariably
give a half sigh at the sight of a beautiful girl, implying, "Oh, if I
were not a married man!" while the wives, on meeting a man who attracts
admiration, as uniformly believe that, let him be ever so handsome, clever
or fascinating, he cannot compare with their own particular John.
Mrs. M. That is true, Ethel; and it shows how much more faithful women
are than men.
Philip. Now, Jenny, that is nonsense.
Beverly. Oh, I dare say there is a soupçon of truth in it. But I think I
could give wives a recipe for keeping their husbands' affections, which,
unpopular although it might be, would yet prove salutary.
Miss A. Give it by all means, Mr. Beverly. Anything so beneficial would
naturally be popular.
Beverly. Pardon me, no. Were I to suggest a pilgrimage, a fast, or
scourgings even, the fair sex would undertake the remedy at once, for they
like some éclat about their smallest doings. All I want them to do is to
correct their little spirit of self-will and cultivate good taste.
Mrs. M. Women self-willed! Most women have no will at all.
Beverly. I never saw a woman yet who had not a will; and I am the last
person to deny their right to it. What I suggest is that they suit it to
the requirements of their lives, not let it torment them by going all
astray, by delighting in its errors and persisting in its chimeras.
Miss A. I grant the first, that we have wills, but I do insist that we
have good taste.
Beverly. Now, then, we will consider this abstract question. I maintain
that, considering their interest in women and their natural zest in
pursuing them, men show more right up-and-down faithfulness and devotion
to their obligations than women do.
Philip. Hear! hear!
Miss A. Oh, if you start upon the hypothesis that man is a being
Beverly. Not at all. You must, however, grant at the outset that man is
the free agent in society—has always been since the beginning of
civilization. He has made all the laws, enjoying complete immunity to suit
the requirements of his wishes and needs, yet everybody knows that, in
spite of the clamor of the woman-suffragists, all the laws favor women.
The basis of every system of civilized society proves that men are
inclined to hold themselves strictly to their obligations toward your sex.
There is no culprit toward whom a jury of men are less lenient than one
who has manifested any light sense of his domestic duties. Is not that
Mrs. M. I suppose it is. But it ought to be so, of course. It is
impossible for men to be good enough to their wives.
Beverly. Just so. But what I claim is, that while every man holds, at
least theoretically, to the very highest ideal of a man's duties in the
marriage relation, very few wives render their husbands' existences so
altogether happy that these obligations become not only the habit but the
joy of their lives.—Don't interrupt me, Jenny.—Not but what the lovely
creatures are willing—nay, anxious—to do so, but just at the point of
accomplishment their little failings of blindness and perversity come in.
They are determined to retain their husbands' complete allegiance, but
their devices and contrivances are mostly dull blunders. Considering what
a frail tie, based on illusion, binds the sexes, my wonder as a bachelor
is that men are, as a rule, as faithful to their wives as they seem to be.
Philip. We have been friends, Frank, for fifteen years, and I married
your first cousin, but notwithstanding all that Jenny will insist now that
I give up your acquaintance.
Mrs. M. No, Philip, I am not angry with Frank: I only feel sorry for
Miss A. So do I. Yet I am curious to know, Jenny, what he means by
saying that wives' devices to keep their husbands' love are mostly dull
Beverly. I am waiting for a chance to develop my views. I know plenty of
men who are absolutely loyal to their wives—faithful to the smallest
obligation of married life—yet who regard their marriage as the great
folly of their youth. Now, a woman's intuitions ought to be, it seems to
me, so clear and unerring that she should never permit her face and voice
to become unpleasant to her husband. And this effect generally comes from
the absurdity of her attempts to hold him to her side: they have ended by
repelling him. Now, if your sex would only remember that we are horribly
fastidious, and that it is necessary to behave with good taste—
Mrs. M. Oh! oh! Monster!
Miss A. Barbarian!
Beverly. I will give you an instance. In our trip up and down the
Saguenay last summer you both remember the bridal couple on board the
Philip. I remember the bride, a charming creature. The young fellow
could not compare with her in any qualities of cleverness or good looks.
Beverly. Perhaps not. At the same time, he was her superior in some nice
points. Pretty although the bride was, and enviable as we considered his
good-luck, one could not help wincing for him when this delicate, refined
little creature "showed off" before the crowd of indifferent passengers.
At table she put her face so close to his, and when they stood or sat
together on deck she hung about him in such a way, that, as I noticed over
and over, it brought the blood to his cheeks and made him ashamed to raise
his eyes. Depend upon it, that young man, in spite of his infatuation,
said within himself a hundred times on his wedding-journey, "Poor innocent
little darling! she has no idea of the attention she attracts to us."
Mrs. M. (eagerly). Yes, she did know all about it. She was so proud of
being newly married that if everyone with whom she came in contact would
not allude to her position she made a point of confiding the fact that she
was a bride of a week, and actually wore me out with pouring her raptures
into my ears.
Miss A. Jenny, you should not have told that. It will confirm Mr.
Beverly in his cynicism regarding her want of taste.
Philip. I remember the morning the young fellow and I walked into
Chicoutimi together that I said to him, "Lately married, I believe?" and
he only nodded stiffly and pointed out the falls in the distance.
Beverly. Now, it is a deliciously pretty blunder for a bride to proclaim
her good-luck, but it is a blunder nevertheless. For six months a man
forgives it: after that he has no fondness for being paraded as a part and
parcel of a woman's belongings. By that time he has probably found out
that she is not all gushing unconsciousness. Besides this adorable
innocence I observed something else in this pretty bride. Despite her
fresh raptures, she was capable of jealousy: if her husband left her for
an hour he found her a trifle sullen on his return.
Miss A. She had nobody else.
Mrs. M. She naturally wanted to feel that he was interested in nothing
Beverly. But she should not have shown it. This is another perverse and
suicidal inconsistency on a woman's part: she should never exhibit these
small meannesses of pique, sullen tempers, jealousy, to her husband, since
they place her wholly at a disadvantage, making her less attractive than
the objects she wishes to detach him from.
Mrs. M. (a little embarrassed and looking toward her husband
deprecatingly, at which he laughs and shakes his head). Woman is a
creature of impulse. She does not study what it is most politic for her to
do: she gives herself utterly—she simply asks for everything in return.
Beverly. Does she give herself utterly? Does she not generally keep an
accurate debit-and-credit account of what is due to her? Then the moment
she feels her rights infringed upon, what is her usual course? She holds
it her prerogative to set out upon a course of conduct eminently qualified
to displease the very man whom it is her interest and her salvation to
Mrs. M. But he should try as well to please her.
Beverly. That is begging the question. Besides, her requirements are
unreasonable. She holds too tight a rein: a man is never safe after he
feels that strain at the bit. Now even you, Jenny—whom I hold up as a
model of a wife—you will not let Philip express his admiration for a
pretty woman without—
Mrs. M. (eagerly). I delight in having him admire any one whom I
consider worthy of admiration. I do not like to see any man run away with
by an infatuation for mere outside beauty.
Beverly. Yet "mere outside beauty" is clearly the most important gift
Nature has bestowed upon women.
} Oh! oh! oh!
Philip. What is your recipe, Frank, for putting an end to disagreements
between husbands and wives?
Beverly. Wives are to give up studying their own requirements, and try
to understand their husbands.
Miss A. And what will the result be?
Beverly. All men, instead of remaining bachelors like myself, will
become infatuated with domestic life. No man could resist the prospect of
being constantly caressed, waited upon, admired, flattered. And once
married, a man's own home would become so fascinating a place to him that
he would never, except against his will, exchange it for his club or the
drawing-room of his neighbor's wife.
Miss A. And in return are husbands prepared to give up a nice sense of
their own requirements and study to understand their wives?
Beverly. Not at all: they are far too stupid to understand their wives:
there is something too fine and elusive about a woman's intellect and
heart to be attained by one of our sex. Besides, are things ever
equal—two souls ever just sufficiently like and unlike exactly to
understand each other? Let women perfect themselves in the art of giving
happiness, and the good action will command its own reward.
Miss A. Do you comprehend, Jenny, what the full duty of woman is? For my
part, I think it is better to go on in the old way, since it is said that
"a mill, a clock and a woman always want mending." I think women have
their own little requirements.
Mrs. M. (who has left her seat and gone round to her husband, and is
cracking his almonds with an air of being anxious to conciliate him). The
fact is, Ethel, you unmarried women know nothing at all about it.