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The Better Part
by [?]

As I watch, year after year, the flowers of our aristocratic hothouses blooming behind the glass partitions of their conservatories, tended always by the same gardeners, admired by the same amateurs, and then, for the most part, withering unplucked on their virgin stems, I wonder if the wild flowers appreciate the good luck that allows them to taste the storm and the sunshine untrammelled and disperse perfume according to their own sweet will.

To drop a cumbersome metaphor, there is not the shadow of a doubt that the tamest and most monotonous lives in this country are those led by the women in our “exclusive” sets, for the good reason that they are surrounded by all the trammels of European society without enjoying any of its benefits, and live in an atmosphere that takes the taste out of existence too soon.

Girls abroad are kept away from the “world” because their social life only commences after marriage. In America, on the contrary, a woman is laid more or less on the shelf the day she becomes a wife, so that if she has not made hay while her maiden sunshine lasted, the chances are she will have but meagrely furnished lofts; and how, I ask, is a girl to harvest always in the same field?

When in this country, a properly brought up young aristocrat is presented by her mamma to an admiring circle of friends, she is quite a blasée person. The dancing classes she has attended for a couple of years before her début (that she might know the right set of youths and maidens) have taken the bloom off her entrance into the world. She and her friends have already talked over the “men” of their circle, and decided, with a sigh, that there were matches going about. A juvenile Newporter was recently overheard deploring (to a friend of fifteen summers), “By the time we come out there will only be two matches in the market,” meaning, of course, millionnaires who could provide their brides with country and city homes, yachts, and the other appurtenances of a brilliant position. Now, the unfortunate part of the affair is, that such a worldly-minded maiden will in good time be obliged to make her début, dine, and dance through a dozen seasons without making a new acquaintance. Her migrations from town to seashore, or from one country house to another, will be but changes of scene: the actors will remain always the same. When she dines out, she can, if she cares to take the trouble, make a fair guess as to who the guests will be before she starts, for each entertainment is but a new shuffle of the too well-known pack. She is morally certain of being taken in to dinner by one of fifty men whom she has known since her childhood, and has met on an average twice a week since she was eighteen.

Of foreigners such a girl sees little beyond a stray diplomatist or two, in search of a fortune, and her glimpses of Paris society are obtained from the windows of a hotel on the Place Vendôme. In London or Rome she may be presented in a few international salons, but as she finds it difficult to make her new acquaintances understand what an exalted position she occupies at home, the chances are that pique at seeing some Daisy Miller attract all the attention will drive my lady back to the city where she is known and appreciated, nothing being more difficult for an American “swell” than explaining to the uninitiated in what way her position differs from that of the rest of her compatriots.

When I see the bevies of highly educated and attractive girls who make their bows each season, I ask myself in wonder, “Who, in the name of goodness, are they to marry?”