Unless a lady is noticed by a gentleman, what use does she have for him? None!
Or so I have concluded from various tales and rules of propriety. Perhaps my review of the literature has been less than rigorous, but Kate, isn’t this what we have been learning? If a lady is charming then she is noticed, and pursued (and envied, rewarded with piquant notes and toads in her handbags). And if a gentleman handsome then he is all the better for doing the pursuing. On the other hand, I have been hard pressed to find instances of ladies instigating anything remotely titillating.
There are pretty sketches to go with our stories which draw a very clear line between the noticed and the not-noticed, the handsome and the not-handsome. Pages of pencil and watercolour may as well be hollering that we have made these norms and had damn well follow them! It’s like that fable with the man, the dogs, and the gross amount of saliva. Didn’t the dogs eat him when he wouldn’t reward them according to the rules he had established? Imagine the righteous indignation in those dogs.
Perhaps you can tell that I am straining to be funny, Kate. I am frustrated – I have again been in the company of a certain Mr. Thorton. Considering that we are a part of a circle of acquaintance in Kent I am ever a booby for being surprised and eager to see him. And then he gives me the notice due to a smudge upon one’s shoe, and then I invariably become desperate, and then my attempts to secure his attention end in sarcasm and failure. Very quickly too.
Edward is too superior for his own good, and far too superior for mine, since every flirtation I’ve had has been doomed by daydreams of his nimble tongue and slightly curly hair.
Well, the last is a bit unfair and I will save you writing me back to point it out. The one boy who I saw more than once at the university was boring and rotten through, necessitating no comparison to Edward in order to cool my heels. I wonder what about me gives Edward such very cool heels.
Perhaps it has to do with my being an incorrigible (if evidently unsuccessful) flirt all around, as Alexandra has been so kind as to inform me. I might have retorted that I find most gentlemen’s conversation vastly more interesting than hers, for she never reads any of the books I do, except that my dearth of female friends makes me wonder if she is right, and if I make her angry then I will have no one else with whom I could trade tea biscuits.
I am not being a lady, Kate, whether Alexandra is right or not – whether I am flirting with everything in pant-legs, or just with the indifferent Edward. And if your geologist cousin is not a lady, she has little else in her favour. I know perfectly well that any prettiness of mine is vainly contrived!
How much easier it would be if I were a masked avenger. My vanity would be buoyed, my laziness forgotten, my features hidden by paper-mache. Nobody would expect me to keep up acquaintances, to keep up appearances, or to be a lady. I could join any intriguing company, and if I were flirting, well, no one would see me grin.
Alexandra says that my grinning is half the trouble. At time like these I understand why you don’t like her very much. If she were interested in me one whit then l would think she resents my talking to the boys rather than talking to her.
PS. I wonder when they shall stop being boys, and be men? Frightening, frightening thought, for that would make us women, Kate!