Mrs. Edward Leigh
MY FIRST FLIRTATION.-A FEMALE PLOT
I was born a flirt, and my training certainly improved the failing. My father was a stern, sad man, and liked none but his opposites, and of course I had every advantage given me to cultivate my flirting propensities. His house was always filled with gay young men, who flattered and caressed the child of their host. Before I was a year old I was rigged out in the most expensive finery, and sent to the store to be petted and spoiled by my father's dozen clerks. As soon as my lips could call a name, I was hired by a handful of candy or some fine toy, to claim each one for a sweetheart. Even at two years of age, I looked with contempt upon the five and six year old urchins, and respectfully informed the maternal ancestors, who suggested that I should wait for their sons, that I could not think of marrying boys, that even some of the grown up men were too small for me.
I was not a pretty child; so far from it that I was sometimes considered extremely ugly; yet I was often singled out from among a dozen children, as a most interesting girl. I was constitutionally a frail infant, with a rather sleepy eye, and an old looking face, when at rest, but the moment mischief entered my mind, every feature danced with glee, and I found it impossible to keep still until that mischief was perpetrated.
I heard the word coquette applied to myself so often, that I answered to it, as if it was my real name; and although I did not know the meaning of it, I thought it must have been something very praiseworthy, and strove still harder to deserve the name.
I have never yet sent one of my children out to be admired, nor do I ever intend to do so, for (a little wholesome advice may be endured just here,) the seeds of vanity are in the heart of every infant, and flattery, even to the very young, has a most baneful influence upon the after life of the child upon whom it is bestowed. And a vain child, is it not disgusting? Admiration will of course serve to spoil a child, even before it knows the meaning of the word.
Friends beware how you tell a child that it is beautiful, and 'so sweet'. You little know how much of what you say the young mind understands, and how a thoughtless word may corrode in a young innocent heart for years, and even impress its whole after life. Never, as you value my friendship, never say a child is ugly where it can hear of it. For any ugly child, as well as a person of mature years, is well aware of that important fact, but still consoles his or herself with the idea that perhaps their style may suit some body else. No, it is much better to let them think that you admire them in moderation, than to know that you think they are not good looking. Dear reader, let me give you an instance that will explain my meaning:
There is in this community, a deformed boy. His face is as perfect as an angel's; a rose bud mouth, blue eyes, a broad open forehead, and clustering curls of golden hue. Still, to see the form of that child, without looking at his face, you would deem him hideous. And the boy knows it, but his kind mother to whom he always confided his troubles, told him that any one who could see his face, would never call him ugly. Not because his face was so pretty, but because it was the index of his own pure heart; and with goodness in the face, the form was never thought of. The child believed his mother, until one day he entered a room full of company. One of the party, a thoughtless giddy girl, covered her face with her hands and exclaimed "what a horrid looking fright." The boy rushed from the room, and was not found for hours, and then was sitting like any statue, although traces of tears were upon his face. He suffered himself to be taken to the house, but said he did not wish to see his mother, for she had deceived him, and he did not care to be good any more, for every body would hate him any how. The sight of his mother, who was weeping bitterly, softened his heart, and he promised to try and be good. But months, and even years, elapsed before he could be persuaded to show himself to strangers, and even to this day, the most intense hatred rankles in his heart towards this young lady who so thoughtlessly wounded his feelings.
At the age of five, I was formally engaged to some two or three young gentlemen, full grown, but told them that I did not wish my father to know it, as he might not wish me to leave him quite so soon, and to be certain not to tell each other as one might chance to tell somebody else, and it might get to my father's ears. As my health was not good, they took me in the summer to the North, and in the winter to New Orleans. A constant change seemed to be necessary to preserve my life. Of course travelling served to increase my self-confidence. I became as vain as a peacock, not of my beauty, for I knew I was not pretty, but of my cleverness, and made myself as pert as possible to any one who came in my way; no doubt much to the disgust of every sensible person.
Time passed on and so must I, for the interesting part of one's life is never until after childhood is passed. At the tender age of twelve, I received my first real love letter, from a youth of fifteen summers, who was quite in earnest, and wrote with the consent of both parents. He ended his letter thus:
"My pen is bad, my ink is pale,
My love to you will never fail."
And how did I answer such a loving epistle? Let me see, can I remember it?
Your pen is bad: then get another.
Just borrow one from John, your brother,
And from him too, you will not fail,
To get some ink that is not pale.
So if you write again to me,
I want a letter fit to see.
By that slight hint, I'd have you know,
I want your letters just to show.
Girls try in vain to secrets keep.
They're sure to tell them in their sleep.
I received no more letters from John's brother, and to this day, he thinks I served him badly, although I only showed his letter to two or three of my most intimate friends, under promise of secrecy, and they, of course, told some two or three of their friends under strict promise of secrecy; and thus it went the rounds. But he certainly expects that, if he knew anything about women. Single men will exclaim, what a vile slander upon the fair sex! But I appeal to married men, to declare to the truth of my statement; and I ask them one and all, if they ever had a family secret that they did not wish exposed to public view, which their wives did not find too heavy to keep, and therefore, shared its weight with some two or three of her friends; and then it went.
I wonder what time it is? Those apples smell so tempting! I do wish Edward would come home. Besides, I am growing tired of writing, so I will put by my desk, until to-morrow night, and in its place by the fireside, I will put Edward's chair, and throw upon it his nice warm wrapper. His slippers are there already. He will come in presently, with a smile and a kiss, and "Ella, darling what are you sitting up spoiling your bright eyes for? You know it is against my orders, and I will be obeyed." How strict he is. Oh, dear me, that child is awake. I believe the little wretch knows when it is time for her father to come home, for she wakes up every night just before he gets here. Little Ella is now three months old, and is exactly like Edward, only a little more so. He would have her named Ella, for he said no other name was sweet enough for her to have. Look at her kicking in her little crib. How her eyes sparkle, and the curls cluster in rings about her pure white forehead. She is a darling baby, and yet Edward says I must love the other children the best; and I am sure he seems to do so. There, I hear his firm footsteps upon the hard pavement before our door, and I must put by my writing until to-morrow night. * * * *
It was Edward sure enough, and he is now fast asleep; but I feel very sad, for he has been making a confession to me. He has told me a secret. As it is impossible for me to see any of my lady friends to-night, I will relieve my mind by writing it down. I expect the paper will keep a secret quite as well as either of my bosom confidants.
Four years ago, Mr. Leigh, my husband, met, at the Montevale Springs, Miss Bella Dean, who was then a beautiful, brilliant and dashing belle, and of course he became very much fascinated with her. To use his own words, he fancied himself very desperately in love. She gave him every encouragement, and drew him to the final point, a formal declaration of love-allowed him to take many liberties that are sometimes vouchsafed to engaged parties, and then coolly informed him that he was too poor for her to think even for a moment of marrying him. That, instead of supporting a husband, she would like to have one able to support her. She went almost too far, and Edward took his hat, made a polite bow, and left the maiden alone in her glory, and went on his way rejoicing.
The next day, he received a polite note from Miss Bella, stating that she only said what she did to try him, and was sorry she did so; but all to no avail. Edward never called to see her again, and indeed had never met her until this morning, when she called to see him at his office, looking as bright and more beautiful than ever, and still she said, 'in maiden meditation fancy free.' He was married, she had heard, to a widow with three children; she felt really sorry for him. He thanked her very kindly; said he needed pity, for he had found his wife was much older than he thought she was before marriage. That she had false teeth, and wore a wig; and besides, the children were terribly in the way. 'Neddy, how could you?' cried I, almost dying with laughter. 'Ella, don't interrupt me, can I never teach you to have any manners, and to speak only when you are spoken to?' 'And that your temper was dreadful, which fact I attributed to your being in ill health,' pinching and kissing my plump rosy cheeks. I then asked her how she could have been so cruel as to drive me to such depths of despair, and told her all my un-happiness was caused by that thoughtless act of hers. And darling, I told her if she would faithfully promise not to divulge our internal arrangements, and bear patiently your sarcastic remarks, that I would be glad to have her to dine with us to-morrow, but she must excuse the badly cooked food, that I had become accustomed to it. And, if possible, I would persuade you to call and see her in the morning, and bring her here in our carriage; but that you were dreadfully jealous of handsome, dashing women, and you might get into one of "your little tempters," and if you did, there would be no doing anything with you.
'Oh Neddy,' said I.
'Ella do hush. Now, to-morrow, I want you to make yourself look your very prettiest, and dress the children very nicely; and it is useless to tell you to have a nice clean house, for you never have it any other way. But here is some money to send to the market if you need anything from there. So you can get up one of your extra dinners. Perhaps it would be best to invite two or three of our friends. Miss Bella will see no one before you call there in the morning, who will correct my untrue statement, for she is a stranger here.'
I readily promised all Edward wished, and he ate his apple and chestnuts, and went to sleep, before I had time to tell him who sent them. Well, I can do that some other time.
Now a plan is maturing in this most fertile brain of mine which will be productive of some fun, if it only comes to perfection. Edward has one of the best old maiden Aunts who is the kindest old soul in the world. She is always willing to lend herself to the young for an indefinite time, and in any way she can be of service, or add to the enjoyment of others, she will do so. I will write this moment for her to come and spend a few days with me. She can get the note early in the morning, and I will call for her before I go for Miss Bella Dean. So here goes:
"Dear Aunt Tabitha:
Edward has been kind enough to invite some friends of his to spend the day with us. I am not feeling very well. Will you please come and spend a day or two with us and take charge of affairs? Please put on your best clothes, for I would like to have you make a call or two with me before we come home. Please send me an answer by the bearer.
Your affectionate niece,
I will invite Mr. Hunt who is really an elegant looking gentleman and is also very intellectual, besides he is one of Edward's best friends. There is Miss Fannie Wright, who thinks Edward a piece of perfection, and I think she is engaged to Mr. Hunt. Then Mr. Brown and Miss Cayle, together with two married gentlemen and their wives, will complete my list. They are all full of fun and will gladly lend themselves to any prank of mine. This will not be the first time they have done so.
The children are sleeping so sweetly, and so is Edward! Their dreamy breathing makes me feel sleepy too. Little Ella seemed perfectly satisfied as soon as her father gave her his good-night kiss, and now she is revelling in fairy land. I would give worlds to know what bright fancies and hopes are now weaving in her young brain.
Kind parent if you would like to keep your children out of mischief, keep them busy, and give them something pleasant to think about. I have learned that lesson to-day. This morning I found my little Lelia sitting very quietly by herself, with her little hands folded, and apparently in a deep study. I asked her why she did not go and play with the other children? 'Ella', she said looking very wise, 'don't you want a child to ever frink (think) a bit?' 'Think? why child what are you thinking about?' 'Why Ella, maun Nancy told me that our old rooster crowed every night at one o'clock, in franks (thanks) to God that he had let him live that long, and, Ella, we don't even give franks for living all night!' Darling child what a reproof! Edward says he will commence having prayers to-morrow morning. Thank God he is religious: truly so without affectation.