THE goal of woman is marriage, and flirting is to girls a means of reaching the goal; in the case of married women it is a pastime, a consolation, or a vengeance. Both the girl and the married Flirt proceed by the same methods, though the one faces the goal and the other turns her back to it. The career of the former may close at the altar in great honour, that of the latter is apt to end with a tumble into the Divorce Court; for the essence of flirting is, that it is a stolen pleasure and a speculation, whose future results cannot be foreseen.
Flirting is, anyhow, a pleasant thing; and, without looking so far as to see how it ends, one may acknowledge it as a source of the most gratifying emotions obtainable on this earth. What would society be without it? - from the modest girl whose unconscious arts encourage the bashful lover to be bold, down to the experienced coquette, who shoots with, an unerring aim glances that are meant to leave a festering wound. Every woman who flirts stimulates for the moment the vanity of the man whom she tries to please. Flirting is flattery in action. It may be so delicate as to leave a balm on the wounds it inflicts; and since of all forms of vanity the ambition to charm the other sex is, in both men and women, that which is first born and last dies, and which moreover rages strongest whilst it lives, there is no limit to the voluptuousness which may be caused by exciting it.
The imagination of the man who is flirted with expands into radiant visions; his blood flows in quicker pulses. Look at him when the eye of the coquette falls upon him deep and quiet, or light and playful, or with an electric flash. However worn and prosy he may be, his face beams, he throws out his chest, his voice is tuned into the softest inflections, or becomes uncontrollable from sudden emotion. So long as his charmer is within sight, he follows her with his gaze, dumbly soliciting a second glance, as a man holds out his glass to be refilled; and when she is gone, he glides into the most pleasing pensiveness. He is castle-building. No matter how often a man may have been mocked, the coaxing, caressing look of some new face, seen for the first time, will elevate him over present cares, and make him, it may be but for a brief instant, a poet. Eclogues and epics, fairer than have ever been printed, are composed daily in the hearts of commonplace men who could not rhyme two lines on paper; for every man is able to imagine himself the hero of a romance, and the woman who inspires that romance gifts him with the fancy to create a heroine.
Women would be too vain if they could realise the power of their seductions. It is lucky for men that they cannot. They themselves have no such impressionability as men, except in cases where their hearts or fortunes are deeply involved. A woman loves once in her life, and it is in the power of her lover to throw her, by a mere look, into shivering fits or silent ecstasies; she can also, on occasions, be made extremely wretched or happy by a man whom she does not love, but desires to marry. Save in these instances, however, she cares nothing for man's looks. A male Flirt may amuse, offend, or frighten her; but there will be no magic thrilling in her sensations, no giddy whirl of her mind, no castle-building. How coldly impervious a pure-minded woman can be to incendiary declarations was seen in poor Werther's case:
'Charlotte, when she saw his body Borne before her on a shutter, Like a well-conducted person, Went on cutting bread-and-butter.'
But supposing the situation had been reversed, and Charlotte, instead of a staid matron, had been a girl Flirt, setting her cap at "Werther, a well-conducted married man, would Werther have remained insensible? Not likely. There is no use in denying that men cannot match women in callous propriety; for neither age, nor dignity, nor marriage-vows will steel them against the shafts of the Flirt.
A little saucy-eyed girl of seventeen will turn the head of a prudent king, make a hoary statesman forget his intriguing business, and drive a pious bishop into terrible wrestling with the devil. It is this universal laxity in men's morals which arms women with their tremendous power - power of which, we repeat, few of them can guess the extent. But some of them do guess it in time, and make a wild use of their weapons of offence out of pure malice, and without a thought of deriving any advantage from their recklessness beyond the intimate satisfaction of having done mischief. Cruelty is no name for the heartless deliberation with which some of these pretty creatures will plunge a dagger into the heart which they have first set fluttering to assure themselves of its being alive.
Say, for instance, that a young man at the opera, standing up in the stalls between the acts to reconnoitre the boxes, lets his glance fall upon a woman of surpassing beauty. Their eyes meet, and she does not turn hers away, but examines the man a moment, smiles vaguely, and then goes on talking with her box-companion. But in another moment she has looked again at the man, and this time, when their eyes meet, a tinge of modest confusion overspreads her cheeks; she hesitates, then throws a wistful glance, which says, as plainly as possible, 'I wish we knew each other. I feel drawn towards you.'
One such glance suffices to set the man's heart and head aflame, and at the close of the performance behold him on the grand staircase waiting to see his charmer come out. But she is a practised Flirt, who has only amused herself by trying the killing-power of her eyes; just as a man, when going out to shoot, may prove his double-barrel by knocking a miserable sparrow off a branch, so, with the coldest of unconscious stares, she sweeps by, leaving the presumptuous wight dumbfounded. He slinks off with a lagging step, out of conceit with himself, red to his ear-tips, and full of bile. It may be years before he recovers from this humiliation; and forget it he never will, if he lives to a hundred. There are some men who have carried the deep scar of one false glance all through their lives.
|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.|