[To CLARENCE DAY, JR.]
“You should only,” we are told, “wear white in early youth and old age. It is very becoming with a fresh complexion or white hair. When you no longer feel as young as you were, other colours are more flattering. Also, you should avoid bright lights and worry.”
Here, the beauty specialist reminds you of the specialist who says in winter, “Avoid wet feet and germs.” In spite of both, we are still subjected to sunshine and anxiety and rain and microbes.
But there are risks which the would-be young can and should avoid. Surely Miss Wilcox ought to have known better than to flop down on the grass with an effort and a bump, clasping (with some difficulty) her knees because Vera, who is sixteen, slim and lithe, with the gawky grace of a young colt, had made such an obvious success of the operation!
It is better not to sit on the grass after thirty when sprawling at all is difficult, let alone sprawling gracefully.
Poor Miss Wilcox! At seventeen she had been a pretty, bouncing girl with bright blue eyes, bright pink cheeks and brighter yellow hair. All the young men of the neighbourhood had kissed her in conservatories or bushes and to each in turn, she had answered, “Well, I never!”
Then an era of intellectual indifference to the world set in. She read Milton in a garret and ate very little. When addressed, she gave the impression of being suddenly dragged down from some sublime pinnacle of thought. This was the period of absent-mindedness, of untidiness, of unpunctuality, for she was convinced that these three ingredients compose the spiritual life. But it was not a success. True, her cheeks lost their roses, but without attaining an interesting transparent whiteness and her figure became angular, rather than thin. Cold food, ugly clothes and enforced isolation began to lose their charms and Miss Wilcox abandoned the intellectual life.
She discovered that men were her only interest—probably she had always known it. Even the curate, who was like a curate on the stage, was glorified into an adventurous possibility from the mere fact that he belonged to that strange, tropical species—the other sex.
Unfortunately, Miss Wilcox, who was practical and orderly, knew just “what men liked in a woman.” It was, it appeared, necessary to be bright—relentlessly bright, with a determined, irrelevant cheerfulness which no considerations of appropriateness could check and it was necessary to have “something to say for yourself” which in Miss Wilcox’s hands, meant a series of pert tu quoques of the “you’re another” variety. Her two other axioms, “Don’t let them see that you care for them” and “feed the beasts,” were alas! never put to the test as no man had ever considered the possibility of being loved by Miss Wilcox and the feeding stage had, in consequence, never been reached.