FANNY is the Flirt-daughter of a Flirt-mother, who never had a chance of becoming anything else but a thorn to the other sex. Her parents were separated by mutual consent when she was about six years old, and she was taken to live with the one whom she knew and liked the least. But her mother was a beautiful creature, who won her admiration before securing her love she was always so brightly dressed, so gay (when not out of temper), and she received such a number of well-dressed men in her drawing-rooms! Few ladies came; and little Fanny grew up to prefer gentlemen, because they took her on their knees and gave her bonbons. Her mother's fits of temper were like rapid alternations of cloud or sunshine. If things went wrong - if there were creditors or such-like annoyances - Fanny got slapped for nothing, and would run howling to the kitchen, to take comfort of the maid, a middle-aged sharp-eyed Frenchwoman, who was paid with mamma's cast-off dresses, and with vails from visitors.
Fanny received no education to speak of; for her mother, who wanted her to play Propriety in the drawing-room when she received visitors, or in the carriage when she drove in the Park, could not think of sending her to school. Sometimes a governess came to give her lessons; but governesses and mamma had a trick of quarrelling, chiefly about Fanny's backwardness and the impossibility of making her learn anything so long as her mother encouraged her in idleness and saucy ways.
When mamma was in a good-humour she would have Fanny brought into her dressing-room, and spent hours in covering her with finery, combing her hair, and washing her hands in milk of almonds to make them white. She said that the wild little mite had the same blue eyes as herself; and she took pleasure in hearing gentlemen say that she would grow up as pretty as a fairy.
The time came, however, when Fanny was called up less and less often into the presence of visitors. This was when she had reached her tenth year, and began to look too much of a hoyden for a mother who wished to appear perennially twenty-five. As a consequence, she took to living a great deal with the servants in the kitchen. They employed her to fetch and carry, and opened her small mind wonderfully with their tattle. She could hardly read large print, but was aware that the potman courted Sue the housemaid, and that when a certain policeman looked over the area-railings, softly whistling, he was after Meg the cook. Then she learned what duns meant, and saw many of them parleying with Jack the page-boy, a precocious imp, who treated her on terms of easy familiarity, and got her to steal pomatum and scented soaps for him out of her mother's dressing-room. By-and-by this lad informed her that 'missus' was going to 'old Gooseberry,' which he explained to mean 'blue smash,' or anything else that signified bankruptcy.
The servants did not receive their wages regularly, and set meals were no longer the rule in the dining-room. Fanny therefore ate with the servants, while her mother took breakfast in bed and generally dined out. Sometimes mamma would vanish for six weeks together to Paris or the seaside, and on her return rate Fanny sharply for looking such a slut. The truth is, Fanny enjoyed her mother's absences; for they allowed her to go gadding about with the servants, who took her to Rosherville, and wound up the excursion with a happy evening at some music-hall, where she and the precocious page drank negus out of the same tumbler. This blissful life was abruptly interrupted when Fanny was fourteen. An execution was put into the house. Fanny's mother contrived to secrete her jewels, and went off to the Continent with them; and Fanny herself was sent to reside with a distant connection, a curate in Yorkshire.
It was three years before the mother and daughter met again, and by that time Fanny had learned to read, write, gabble French, and strum three tunes on the piano. The curate's wife imparted to her such, knowledge as she possessed; the curate teased her with moral lectures; but on the whole she rather enjoyed her life at the parsonage, where she had plenty of playfellows, and was held in some respect by reason of her London experiences. She became a romp, and had the pleasure of seeing the curate's male progeny fight with their fists for the honour of dancing attendance on her. She was just sixteen when Tom, the eldest boy, who was fourteen and a half, proposed that they should elope together, and set up house with eleven and sixpence he had saved out of his pocket-money. She flew at rather higher game in accepting the advances of a country-town baker's heir, who paid his court by presenting her with small fruit-pies, which he made surreptitiously with his father's flour. This flirtation was in a fair way towards driving the young baker to commit suicide in one of his own ovens, when Fanny was called away from the parsonage to join her mother, who had returned to London, and expressed her intention of bringing her daughter 'out.'
Fanny was rather sorry to leave the parsonage for the purpose of resuming what she remembered as a life of discomfort; but she found her mother much changed. By some arrangement with Fanny's father all debts had been paid, and the separated wife was to enjoy a handsome allowance payable monthly, but contingent on no further debts being contracted. Later on the daughter discovered that this arrangement had been effected by parentally defrauding her of some property to which she was entitled under her mother's marriage settlement. Anyhow, the maintenance allowed was sufficient to keep mother and child in decent state. They had a brougham, a footman, a well-furnished house in the West-end, and a margin to buy an occasional opera-box with. Fanny learned that she was to become her mother's bosom friend and companion, and do her best to catch a husband who should provide them both with a sumptuous establishment.
Fanny was exceedingly pretty, and her queer bringing-up had rendered her knowing as a young cat. She was not slow to discern that her respected mother was selfishness in petticoats, and only set store by her as a marketable commodity; nevertheless, she took a semi-contemptuous liking for the faded, light-headed, garrulous lady, who initiated her into the arts by which men may be cozened. Not that such arts really need teaching like an abstruse science, for women pick them up intuitively; yet young Flirts can always learn something from older ones, especially when these older ones know the fortune and parentage of every man in society.
Fanny went to balls; and her mother told her afterwards the exact worldly position of every partner with whom she had danced. She bade her beware of 2,000l. a year, which is but gilded misery; 5,000l. with landed property, said she, was too often comparative pauperism, for the land ate up most of the income; 10,000l. a year derivable from a bank or manufactory, and with an M.P.ship annexed, would do as a pis-aller; but it would be foolishness not to pitch one's ambition on the best things at once, and go in straight for a coronet and 50,000l. per annum. Such prizes, she told her, frequently fall to the lot of girls who have nothing but their good looks to bring their husbands. Fanny, who began to think no small champagne of herself on finding her beauty attract general notice, laid the maternal maxims to heart, and trifled with a great number of suitors whom most other girls in her position would have been glad to catch. She did not flout them, but behaved worse - leading each one on separately to hope, and hope till, finding a better match, she dropped him as unceremoniously as a withered flower.
During her first season she was all the rage. Afterwards at Spa, and during a round of visits in country houses, she kept eligible men round her in shoals; but she was too giddy to see that such chances as she then had would never come again, and she became noted for an incorrigible Flirt before the novelty of dancing upon men's hearts and vanities had in any way began to pall upon her. During her second season she was less in vogue than the first; but setting it down for a dull season, she adjourned her hopes without losing any of her illusions. At her third season, however, her eyes opened somewhat, for she who had flirted with everybody began to be flirted with in her turn by men who made fun of her.
This is always a sign of decadency. Fanny's mother grew cross, and accused her of not knowing how to play her cards; the girl retorted with vehement recriminations, and there were some fine screaming scenes between the attached couple. On the whole, Fanny's mother did wrong to initiate quarrels, for she had everything to lose by wounding the girl's pride. Fanny took a brooding resolution, that when she married it should be for herself alone, and that she would never allow her mother to set foot within her house.
She insensibly lapsed into the second manner of Flirts, which is one of great softness. She saw that several men whom she had rejected had married, and were both prosperous and happy - which made her jealous and cautious, but not more easy to please; for looking at her marriage from a purely personal point of view, she was now unconsciously more fastidious than when she regarded it as a speculation in which her mother was to have a half-share. On the other hand, men, knowing her to be a Flirt, were not duped by her softened manner; and many held aloof who would have urged their suits if they could have believed she would have treated them au serieux.
She was still so pretty as to seem a most desirable acquisition to men who count beauty for much in the choice of a wife; and she had a small tender spot in her heart - just enough to keep her romantic after many deceptions. So it befell that one bright day she began to take a serious interest in one of her love-affairs with a young gentleman of property. The wooer had good looks and good temper on his side; and she really liked him - so much so that her cheeks flamed and her pulses throbbed on several occasions when she thought a proposal was impending. But he heard of her reputation, turned shy, and suddenly jilted her - by which blow she was nearly driven out of her senses. For several days it seemed to her as if life had lost all its savour - all its prospects; then she rallied, and, becoming reckless from her humiliation, threw herself at the head of the first man who offered himself. This person chanced to be a middle-aged archæologist, who was as much embarrassed as flattered by the hazard which put him in possession of a young, brilliant, and very expensive wife, much too skittish for him to manage.
His archæological studies were not benefited in consequence. Flirts like Fanny do not make good wives. The girl had married more to spite her mother than to please herself; and once she had exhausted the pleasure of seeing her parent gnash her teeth, she found out that she had mated herself to a man by no means congenial to her tastes. The archæologist had married in order to have a home; Fanny wanted to enjoy her privileges as a matron by gadding about to amusements too costly for her husband's purse. In their early days of connubial bliss, when free from the rheumatic attacks to which a misplaced ardour on the subject of lake dwellings had rendered him liable, her husband used to escort her on these occasions; but he soon grew tired of his rôle. A demand for extra pin-money produced a coolness between the couple; the first milliner's bill, about a yard in length, occasioned a decided breach.
Fanny's mother did not help to mend matters, for, being called in as an ally by her reconciled and repentant daughter, she went to work as mothers-in-law not unfrequently do, and entered her protest against the marital theories of economy. Then daily bickerings arose, stinging speeches and mutual recriminations; all of which ended at last by the archæologist making a cheerful surrender of half his income for the sake of seeing his wife and her mother leave his house together.
Thereupon the husbandless pair of Flirts resumed their old life in company. It was not a joyous life. For the young wife especially it became a weary round of dissipations, which, being now aimless, was bereft of all zest. She could not marry again whilst her husband was alive, and the continuance of her alimony depended on her not breaking any of the commandments that concern marriage. On the whole, Fanny learned, rather too late, that flirting is a wind which seldom blows light craft on a prosperous voyage.
|About Flirts||Flirt's Power||Season Flirt||Example And Precept|
|Plain Sisters||Ecclesiastical Flirt||Home Regimental Flirts||Foreign Regimental Flirt|
|Seaside Flirt||Tourist Flirt||Country-Town-House Flirts||Sentimental Flirt|
|Taken from original text, as written. May contain OCR errors.|