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The Climber
by [?]

That form of misplaced ambition, which is the subject of the preceding chapter, can only be regarded seriously when it occurs among simple and sincere people, who, however derided, honestly believe that they are doing their duty to themselves and their families when they move heaven and earth to rise a few steps in the world. The moment we find ambition taking a purely social form, it becomes ridiculous. The aim is so paltry in comparison with the effort, and so out of proportion with the energy- exerted to attain it, that one can only laugh and wonder! Unfortunately, signs of this puerile spirit (peculiar to the last quarter of the nineteenth century) can be seen on all hands and in almost every society.

That any man or woman should make it the unique aim and object of existence to get into a certain “set,” not from any hope of profit or benefit, nor from the belief that it is composed of brilliant and amusing people, but simply because it passes for being exclusive and difficult of access, does at first seem incredible.

That humble young painters or singers should long to know personally the great lights of their professions, and should strive to be accepted among them is easily understood, since the aspirants can reap but benefit, present and future, from such companionship. That a rising politician should deem it all-important to be on friendly terms with the “bosses” is not astonishing, for those magnates have it in their power to make or mar his fortune. But in a milieu as fluctuating as any social circle must necessarily be, shading off on all sides and changing as constantly as light on water, the end can never be considered as achieved or the goal attained.

Neither does any particular result accompany success, more substantial than the moral one which lies in self-congratulation. That, however, is enough for a climber if she is bitten with the “ascending” madness. (I say “she,” because this form of ambition is more frequent among women, although by no means unknown to the sterner sex.)

It amuses me vastly to sit in my corner and watch one of these fin-de- siecle diplomatists work out her little problem. She generally comes plunging into our city from outside, hot for conquest, making acquaintances right and left, indiscriminately; thus falling an easy prey to the wolves that prowl around the edges of society, waiting for just such lambs to devour. Her first entertainments are worth attending for she has ingeniously contrived to get together all the people she should have left out, and failed to attract the social lights and powers of the moment. If she be a quick-witted lady, she soon sees the error of her ways and begins a process of “weeding”–as difficult as it is unwise, each rejected “weed” instantly becoming an enemy for life, not to speak of the risk she, in her ignorance, runs of mistaking for “detrimentals” the fines fleurs of the worldly parterre. Ah! the way of the Climber is hard; she now begins to see that her path is not strewn with flowers.

One tactful person of this kind, whose gradual “unfolding” was watched with much amusement and wonder by her acquaintances, avoided all these errors by going in early for a “dear friend.” Having, after mature reflection, chosen her guide among the most exclusive of the young matrons, she proceeded quietly to pay her court en regle. Flattering little notes, boxes of candy, and bunches of flowers were among the forms her devotion took. As a natural result, these two ladies became inseparable, and the most hermetically sealed doors opened before the new arrival.

A talent for music or acting is another aid. A few years ago an entire family were floated into the desired haven on the waves of the sister’s voice, and one young couple achieved success by the husband’s aptitude for games and sports. In the latter case it was the man of the family who did the work, dragging his wife up after him. A polo pony is hardly one’s idea of a battle-horse, but in this case it bore its rider on to success.