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HAT is all this smoke about?' '0 sir, it's Miss Louie, who got on to the roof last night with Mr. Tom, and stopped up all the chimneys with old newspapers.'

Miss Louie is a Country-house Flirt, who delights in playing practical jokes with her cousin Tom, or with anybody else who may be handy. She thinks nothing of clipping up a hair-brush into the bed of a bachelor-guest. She makes apple-pie beds for crusty old gentlemen, judges and suchlike; she muffles up the clappers of bells; puts aperient waters into the tea-urn; and paints the tail of a Countess's pet Havannah sky-blue.

The Countess happens to be a Flirt too - a grande dame too high-placed for scandal to assail her. She abhors practical joking, and preaches to Louie - a sort of connection of hers - on the utter bad taste of the thing. Louie does not care. She puts on a comical pout when being lectured, and delights to plague the Countess above all other women. Why? Because the Countess is what Louie calls an arrant poacher, for ever trying to appropriate unattached men, who are not fair game for married women.

Louie is nineteen, but looks younger. She would have got married two years ago, but for practical jokes played upon suitors who had serious intentions towards her. Wishing to try the nerve of one, she took a loaded gun from his hand, said, 'Mind your eye,' and shot both barrels over his head, within an inch of his hat. He swooned with fright, and Louie laughed till the tears ran out of her eyes. Another suitor was bragging of his horsemanship. Louie defied him to ride a donkey of her own, which she alleged to be as tame as a lamb, but she had sent Tom to hire a vicious Nubian jackass from a strolling circus; and when the horseman had bestridden this beast, it carried him through a quick-set hedge, where he left much of his clothes and portions of his skin. He did not forgive his inamorata for the intense mirth with which she hailed this exploit.

Louie likes no one except Tom, whom she plagues as much as others, and who often calls her a 'little brute.' There has been no talk of marriage between them. Tom would hesitate proposing to a girl who might sew up his coat-tails on his wedding morning. She, on her side, has no present thoughts of matrimony. She likes flirting too well. She flirts with everybody; deliberately leading one man after another to believe that she is in earnest, and then coolly enlightening him as to her real sentiments by some joke, which sends him away besplashed with ridicule and gnashing his teeth. Louie is very pretty, and can assume all sorts of manners. She can sham sentiment, melancholy, deep corroding love; and she once nearly drove a simple silly lover frantic with terror, by saying she would die for him, and flinging herself into a lake with her clothes on. She can swim; and when she scrambled out remarked, laughing, that she had tried the water-cure for love, and that truly it had cured her.

Louie does not like London, though she has spent two whole seasons there, and beguiled her weariness as she could by decoying the Countess's lovers from her. She was the Countess's visitor, and my lady had to threaten more than once to send her home. There is no describing the pitch of secret enmity to which these two arrived; and if it had not been for the fear of what Louie's malicious tongue would say were she packed off, her ladyship would have broken with the girl once and for ever.

For the Countess is one of those ladies for whom life is love and love is life. She has a husband, but never troubles herself as to his whereabouts. They are occasionally together, when they are good friends enough, unless the Countess happens to be troubled with one of her nervous headaches, which make her waspish; but at ordinary times my lord goes his way and my lady hers. Twenty men at least, among the best in society, have, turn by turn, acted as the Countess's cavaliere servente, attending her in all places, and having their petites entrées to her boudoir; but, as we have already said, she is too high-perched for scandal to touch her. Who has a right to complain if her husband does not? She changes lovers almost as frequently as a jockey does horses. Every man who is for the moment a 'lion' in society becomes the butt of her shafts; and many of these lions, succumbing, have had the honour of being led in her train for a week or two like pet spaniels. She has tried all sorts of men, poets, painters, warriors, statesmen, and foreigners.

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An Italian and a Hungarian fought about her with pistols; a Frenchman and a Spaniard exchanged blustering epigrams in her honour. The very effrontery of the things she says and does closes the mouths of people who would criticize her if she were more timid. Nobody believes ill of her, because if people believed anything at all they would have to believe too much.

Such a monitress as my lady might have converted madcap Louie into a Flirt of the finest brilliancy, and she conscientiously tried her best for the girl whom she befriends for family reasons. But Louie - like most practical-joking maidens - has money of her own, and does not care whether she is befriended or not. At any rate, she claims to go her own way, and that way is not the Countess's.

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Perhaps she divines more about her chaperon's goings on than she ought to be able to do if girls were as innocent as novels paint them. She has uttered a queer thing or two at times, which have made the Countess's ears tingle, and turned her lover for the nonce to the colour of mulberry. 'My dear, you must weigh your words,' her ladyship would say, biting her lips. 'Why, if there's nothing in them they can't hurt you,' was the pert response.

Girls like this Miss Louie have their uses, for, Flirts themselves, they can divulge all the tricks of their craft for the amusement of ears masculine. They are the spies and traitresses of the women's camp. For the sake of raising a laugh they will blow up secrets like so much loose powder, and they are the first to tell men that the saintly purity, the angelic sweetness, the virginal modesty ascribed to women and girls are all 'bosh.' Louie has before now entertained her cousin Tom with recitals of the conversations she used to hold at school with other girls, and there was the grin of semi-incredulity on Tom's lips at the enormity of these conversations. When reproached for her flightiness by those who have a right to reproach her, Louie usually says, 'Oh, boys will be boys; why shouldn't girls be boys too?'

Flirts of Louie's temperament make good wives for hypochondriacal men, who may be the better for a little healthy excitement; and, on the whole, it may be said that the man who marries a Flirt at all had best wed a merry one.

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orna About Flirts orna Flirt's Power orna Season Flirt orna Example And Precept
orna Plain Sisters orna Ecclesiastical Flirt orna Home Regimental Flirts orna Foreign Regimental Flirt
orna Seaside Flirt orna Tourist Flirt orna Country-Town-House Flirts orna Sentimental Flirt
orna Studious Flirt

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Taken from original text, as written. May contain OCR errors.