ADVENTURERS and adventuresses are associated in our minds with the Old World rather than with the New, with the past rather than the present. The very names carry us back a century or more, when the time and civilization were more favorable than now to the development of the character they recall.
Saint Germain — the favorite of Pompadour, the mysterious count, who was believed to be an Alsatian Jew, to be the illegitimate son of a Spanish princess, to be a Portuguese marquis, and who was none of these — glimmers out of the voluptuous and selfish reign of Louis XV. We think of his personal grace, his fine tact, his prodigious memory, his reputed discovery of the philosopher’s stone, and the elixir of life, his boasting that he had lived four hundred years. We remember Voltaire told Frederic, that Saint Germain was a man who never died, and who knew everything; and how, after a varied career as a splendid spy, he died quietly at the court of Hesse-Cassel.
Casanova, the magnificent profligate, who charmed both men and women, and described his licentious career in his own memoirs, rises lustrous among our recollections. A checkered life was his. He was always in intrigues, and often in prison. At ten years of age he began life by making love to Bettina, and still a youth left Padua on account of a student’s brawl; revelled in the choicest vices of Venice; escaped from Sant’ Andrea, and won the favor of Pope Benedict. Weary of Yussuf Ali’s doting wife and of all manner of success, he left Constantinople with an immense fortune, and, gambling it away, performed in the orchestra of the theatre of San Samuele at Venice, to save himself from starvation. Playing the gallant, the politician, the financier, the priest, the magician, as occasion demanded, he became the bosom friend of Marshal de Richelieu, and the wildly loved of the Duchess de Chartres. The companion of philosophers, empresses, and kings, he died at last prosaically enough as the librarian of a Bohemian count, reviving his vanity and comforting his age with the grateful task of narrating in many volumes what he should have blushed to confess to the silence of the night.
Then comes Chevalier d’Eon, the favorite of the Empress Elizabeth; a brave soldier and ingenious trickster, condemned for years to wear woman’s garments, and, after a life as romantic as dishonest, dying neglected and wretched in a land of strangers.
We think of modern adventurers as frequenters of London or Paris or Berlin, habitués of Brighton or Biarritz, Hombourg or Wiesbaden, and as our unavoidable companions on the Danube or the Rhine. But we scarcely expect to find on our own shores the men and women who live by their wits and the absence of wit in others. They are numerous, however. All our large cities have them, and New York has more than all the rest. They gravitate to great centres, which are needful to their existence, and whose varied phases of life yield the opportunities that make their career possible. The last few years have materially added to our adventurers. The war made many by disturbing the ordinary conditions of society, and lowering the moral tone of the community as it is always lowered at such times. New York is now the chosen home of adventurers both foreign and domestic, especially of the latter, who hold that all roads lead to Rome, and that Rome is on the island of Manhattan. Broadway eclipses the Strand, the Boulevards, or the Corso in the variety of its throngs, which include adventurers by the hundred at any hour of the day.
Adventurers seem persons born out of parallel with nature, who misdirect their energies and capacities. To avoid wholesome occupation, they endure anxious toil ; to be free from common duties, they accept the degradation of perpetual shame and the pain of perpetual doubt. Their whole mental and moral code is strangely deranged. They believe that to seem is better than to be ; that falsehood is preferable to truth ; that cheating is the chief end and crowning glory of man. They see all fitnesses at a wrong angle ; their instincts are inverted ; their apprehension is wholly at fault. Nothing is sacred to them ; nothing worthy of esteem. To their thinking, all seriousness and responsibility are taken out of life. He is the best who deceives the most, and gains by all moral failure material success.
In a great city the temptation to get along without work is besetting and constant. Wealth without worth, prosperity without labor, flash by on every hand; and the weak nature says to itself, “Why should I toil without reward when others no better than I enjoy without desert?” So the weak nature conceives that to get without earning is most desirable, and bends all his faculties to such accomplishment. The first false idea of every adventurer is to have something for nothing ; to share the fruit of labor without labor ; to be at the restful summit, omitting the fatigue of climbing. Discarding honesty and the obligation of work, the way downward is easy ; for it is paved with the smooth mosaics of selfishness and self-indulgence.
In New York the adventurer and adventuress are part of society. They are so many as to form distinctive classes, recognizable to a trained eye, though not at a glance. The men and women representing the profession — for it is strictly such — are as different as any persons can be who have the same object and the same needs. They carry out their purpose in dissimilar ways, each managing men and circumstances in a manner peculiar to his or her sex. They cannot be treated together, they are so unlike. Let us, therefore, look at the adventurers first.
To New York all who leave Europe for their own good and our ill of course come first; and there they stay while dupes may be had and falsehoods can deceive. That city has had a vast number of French counts, German barons, Italian marquises, and will have, no doubt, for many generations. America has a strange fascination for the nobility of the Continent. They will persist in leaving their picturesque chateaux, and Rhenish castles, and Tuscan villas, with all their splendors, for the rude homes of the great Republic and the uncultivated natives who are bent upon making money and incapable of appreciating art.
They often obtain the entrée to houses of the wealthy, criticise the elaborate dinners, pay court to the delighted daughters, and are fêted and coddled in every way, until the adventurers condescend to borrow money,— which it is considered a high pleasure to lend,—and soon after suddenly disappear.
Polish patricians, tracing their pedigree back to John Sobieski, who have fled from Russian persecution, have been welcomed and petted by generous gentlemen and sympathetic ladies. They have been contended for by fashionable dames, and to secure them has been the triumph of the season. They have been on the eve of making an alliance with staid merchants’ bewitching daughters, when they have found it convenient to take an early train on some road that issues no return tickets.
Distinguished Irishmen without number have favored the city with their presence, and made epics about the glory of their ancestors. The difference between them and the representatives of other nations is that they stay with us even after they are found out. They accommodate themselves to circumstances, and have keen perceptions of the situation. As it changes they change. They make a good deal of noise when their pretension is dethroned ; but they soon resign themselves to the inevitable, and look cheerfully upon destiny. An inflated Celt, whose talk makes common romances insipid, slips out of the charmed circle he broke into by force of sheer impudence, and devotes himself with equal complacency to borrowing small sums and reciting Tom Moore over punches of fusel-oil. Take him all in all, the Irish adventurer is the most tolerable of his kind. He can always appreciate a joke ; and he is so self-satisfied that it does not seem to make much difference with him whether he is toasted in the place of honor, or is a rollicking devotee to a free lunch.
Few of the foreign adventurers gain much more than infamy and a little newspaper gossip, which is poor compensation for the magnificent impositions they practise. Sometimes they contrive to capture a wealthy wife, and the paternal Croesus, being unable to undo what has once been done, says, “ Bless you, my children ! ” with a sardonic smile, and transfers a certain portion of his income to the fellow he would have horsewhipped if it were not unfashionable so to treat one’s son-in-law.
The foreign adventurers must deplore these degenerate days of rationalism and common sense, and long for the shifting back of a century when such fellows as Cagliostro could infatuate cardinals, and bring women like Elisa von der Recke in humble worship at their feet.
Of the true American adventurers there is a great variety. They range from the lofty, brilliant fellows who in the days of Elizabeth of England would have plotted with Essex and fought with Raleigh, to the mean and vulgar creatures that exchange glaring falsehoods for trivial loans, and kiss the dust to escape the penalty of their misdeed.
The brightest class are men of strong mind and weak morals, supreme egotists whom the eternal Ich of the German metaphysicians always dazzles and deludes. They glitter through the community constantly, and in these weak, piping times of peace, seek commercial triumphs and financial crowns. Their natural field is Wall Street. The magnitude of its operations, and the reckless spirit of its operators, attract at first and fascinate at last. They crave and need the excitement of “corners" and “lockings-up” of bull and bear combinations involving millions. It is to them the daily intoxication to which they have accustomed their nervous system. Withhold it, and they cannot live. To wealth they grow indifferent At first the end, it soon becomes the means. Love of power and sensation drives them on when mere avarice has long been sated. The energy, the foresight, the resolution, the daring, that might have instituted great reforms, and moulded empires are spent in the pursuit of superfluous riches.
Many of the present rulers ot Wall Street have been in very different callings. They have been cattle-drivers, ferrymen, shoemakers, pedlers, and horse-jockeys. They have extraordinary ability of a certain kind, understand human nature, and believe in the commercial advantage of unscrupulousness. The financial magnates are more adventurous now than they ever were before. Each month seems to render them more reckless and unprincipled, more dishonest actually. Jacob Little used to make country people stare by the magnitude of his operations and the suddenness of his combinations ; but he never forfeited his reputation for financial integrity, and never dreamed of doing what is now done in Wall Street almost daily without compunction or criticism.
Speculation in the banking quarter means making money by any means that will not lead to the penitentiary. By success they are preserved from the necessity of offending in the common way, and are able to dictate terms to fortune. Early failure would have changed the entire current of their lives.
Yet how few of the financial adventurers have any permanent success ! Those who were powers and radiating influences ten or twelve years ago have sunk out of sight and are forgotten now. Hardly a great name on the Stock Exchange to-day had been heard of twenty years ago ; and the monetary kings of the present will be uncrowned and throneless before the eighth decade of the century has past. They rise and fall with the rapidity of revolutionary heroes in Mexico or South America, and, once down, the most sensitive echo does not murmur that they have ever been. They are used as pawns by the great players, who let them stand or move them about for a while ; then exchange them as the game grows interesting, or sweep them ruthlessly from the board.
They learn nothing by experience. Each one fancies himself wiser than his predecessor; trusts his thought and his destiny more, and yet is ruined in exactly the same way. Some subtle law of temperament deters them from following uniform courses for any length of time. They seem to become victims of what might be called great moral surprises. They lie down honest in intention, and bent upon duty. They awake in the morning, or out of a midnight dream, in the midst of a spiritual revolution, and the rebels of their constitution beat down the guards of their strongest purpose.
Their hopefulness is always beyond their executive capacity, and their intense desires strangle their conscientiousness. However much they maybe in the dark to-day, they fondly believe they will be in the full tide of radiance to-morrow. They are not wholly dishonest by any means ; they simply have an elastic code of morals, and stretch or contract it to suit their passing interest.
This is not truer of stock gamblers than of any class of men who set their future upon the cast of a die, who largely hope, largely play, and largely lose.
There is something to admire, after all, in the adventurer ; for he is cut by a broad pattern. He does not whine nor fret because he throws double aces instead of double sixes. He does not make wry faces when he finds the cordial, so tempting at first, very bitter at the dregs. There is usually cheerful stoicism in his philosophy, and he is really strongest in his adversity; for the buoyancy of spirit that runs into wild schemes, while the sun shines, lends no little grace to misfortune after the ight has fallen.
Adventurers of another order, not far removed from Wall Street speculators, are the persons interested in gold and silver mines, who can direct everybody to wealth but themselves. They make a good show, live superbly, have handsome offices and impressive stock certificates, talk smoothly and plausibly, persuade you they are personally interested in your welfare, and that to insure it you must take a few shares that cannot help paying twenty to thirty per cent the first year, and will be certain to double in value the second.
They are very adroit managers. Their great point is gained when they induce you to make your first investment, perhaps but a few hundreds ; for they know you will continue what you have begun, your love of gain once excited. They always assure you that only such an amount, naming a fixed sum, will be needed to develop the resources of the mine. You are generally told you are to have a peculiar advantage over ordinary stockholders, that you are one of the corporators, and that you are taken into the company as a particular favor. If you ask why a mine so rich requires capital, you are answered that the precious metal is there, but that machinery must be had to work the mine with profit. A slender sum will suffice. The trap is deftly laid, and you walk into it so easily you do not perceive you are in it until you have been there some time. Not to resist stubbornly in the beginning is to be overcome completely in the end.
The vicinity of Pine Street, where Potosi and California are supposed to be held in condensed form, is dedicated to mining companies whose prospects, if realized, would pay the national debt in six months. Pine Street has many sins to answer for, many deep disappointments and sorrows to heal which it only aggravates. Of late its success in clever swindling has been diminished, and many adventurers who owned buried fortunes in Colorado and Nevada have been obliged to abandon their determination of making the community rich for the slenderest advance, and seek some new form of financial philanthropy.
Many unspoken tragedies are shut up in those handsome offices. The smiles of the sleek president and the bland manner of the stately secretary have been purchased at heavy cost. They are the bright foreground to a very dark picture. Those who can least afford to lose money — widows left with a little property, invalid clergymen, young men of small savings, hardworking tradesmen providing against a rainy day — are usually the people who invest in mines, and who seldom, if ever, get returns.
The political adventurer abounds in Manhattan, which offers him a better field than any other city under the sun. The condition of the municipal government is such that any man of persistent sycophancy and low instincts can get any office for which he is unfit. Men sit on the judicial bench and try fellows who might with much reason exchange places with the judge, and try him.
People from the country are lost in perplexity when they enter a metropolitan court of so-called justice. They are unable to distinguish between the judge and the criminal. But the resident citizens pick out the man with the worst face, and set him down for the wearer of the ermine.
A biographic sketch of city officers would be marvellous reading. It would be termed a bitter satire on free institutions, and the representation of an incredible state of corruption.
The literary adventurer is a curious specimen. He is not dangerous, but he is a superhuman bore. He haunts Printing-blouse Square, and is ever going up the stairs of newspaper and magazine offices with rolls of manuscript that timid men would rather die than read, and which editors dream of when they suffer from the nightmare. The misfortune of this order of persons is that they are great geniuses whom the world has conspired against, having determined in universal conclave to reject them from the roll of fame. If you don’t understand how this can be, don’t, for your love of peace, tell them so. If you do, they will prove to you by endless monologue why they are persecuted of fate, and that you are the one favored mortal predestined to comprehend them. That may be a flattering assurance, but you would need to be ten times a Job to endure with patience the infliction they seek to put upon you.
How such adventurers keep body and soul together is past finding out. No one seems willing to buy their writings, but they console themselves with the recollection that “ Paradise Lost ” sold for five pounds ; that “Jane Eyre ” could not for years find a publisher ; that “Vanity Fair” went begging. They therefore quit the higher walks of composition, and descend to the vulgar affairs of every-day life. They make reports of sublunary things as they see them in the city, and the sordid editors give them legal-tenders therefor, which they take under protest, for they feel that they must live for the enlightenment of after ages. Their invention is better than their memory sometimes. What once finds a market they sell again and again in the same form, and when censured for dishonesty, they vow that it js the lot of genius to suffer, and mourn the degenerate age.
Below all such adventurers are those who live by their wits ; who enjoy the excitement that springs from the uncertainty of rising without knowing where they will get their breakfast, and after breakfast where they will secure their dinner. Such men hang about the hotels and places of amusement, walk In crowded thoroughfares, and lounge in the parks, with a keen eye for a benevolent person that will part with money and be chary of counsel. They are subtle physiognomists, and no reserve or discipline can shut them away from you, if you are capable of the slenderest loan. They make acquaintances without the least observation of form, without regard to time or place or circumstance. They know all their race on instinct, and after a single though monosyllabic response from you, they are willing to take you into the holy of holies of their confidence. They believe that the firmest purpose of man will yield to artful flattery, and they act upon that belief. They are not long in detecting the weak side or the chief point of your self-love. Having that advantage, you are assaulted with your own surrendered weapons, and are entirely vanquished while you fancy you are the victor.
Subtle and successful politicians these livers by their wits would have been. They might have been governors or have gone to Congress without difficulty, if they had directed their energies to that end, and were capable of any stability of purpose. But their bane, at least part of it, is vacillating will and unsettled motive. They are half Bourbons in that they learn nothing and forget everything. Their plan of the morning is changed in the afternoon, and that of the evening is revolutionized at midnight. They are always poor, of course; and poverty is too pressing to admit of serious deliberation. They are as improvident when they have money as if they had Fortunatus’s purse; and if they had it they would, I believe, by some means exhaust its magic power. To supply immediate need is their object. They resemble the Italian lazzaroni, who, when asked to earn money in some honest way, touch their waistcoats imperiously, say they are not hungry, and refuse to work.
Many of them were no doubt honest at the beginning ; but by bad management, bad habits, or bad fortune, they either fell too far below their own standard of duty to rise again, or blunted their moral sense to an extent that made any kind of successful fraud seem legitimate. As they continue in false relations, their pride lessens and their selfishness grows; while a new and wretched vanity, that finds pleasure in prosperous imposition, comes to their aid. They labor to wheedle and dupe a man very much as an artist labors to finish a statue or poem; and when the task is accomplished, they look upon their shameful execution with admiring eyes. They set out with a certain largeness of purpose, determined to beard the gods, in the King Cambyses’ vein. But their ambition lowers, and their scope of action narrows rapidly. They talk of mortgaged real estate and involved lawsuits at first, and borrow hundreds and thousands of dollars. But they soon descend to lower planes, are contented with decimal loans, and careless of the rudest rebuffs. After a while they condescend to borrow so paltry a sum as a dollar or even postalcurrency. But, reaching that stage, Blackwell’s or Randall’s Island is drawing them beyond their power to resist, and their course must be near a close.
When they find a new person or set of persons, they frequently make demands they have long before surrendered, hoping by fresh audacity to win. After asking for five hundred dollars, and declaring they must have it, they touch the sliding-scale, and accept fifty cents ultimately, with an air of having been cheated out of four hundred and ninety-nine dollars and a half.
Marvellous their capacity to borrow money, and marvellous their instinct of pecuniary perception ! I think they are clairvoyants, at least so far as pocket-books are concerned. They are able to determine just how much you have, which is just the sum they cannot live without. They tell such pitiful stories, so appeal to you in the name of humanity, that if you refuse you feel as if you had incurred a dreadful responsibility, had stained your soul with a possible crime. If you have refused, you hesitate to read the notices under the head of The Morgue in your morning paper ; but if you had second sight you might know that the fellow who stood the day before on the brink of destruction is on the brink of a bar-room, from which he is in rapid process of expulsion.
Magnificent Secretaries of the Treasury such adventurers would make ; for they can always borrow, and always avoid payment. They have prostituted their financial genius. They can extract money from almost any source. I am not sure they could not get a loan from some of our wealthiest men without giving a mortgage on their souls.
The common rule, that men who obtain money of you once and don’t pay it are effectually got rid of, does not apply to this kind of adventurer. He borrows this week with more coolness and adroitness than he did last week, and the fact that you have lent to him again and again assures him of his right to your purse. Even when you are angry and resolved to punish the insolence of the fellow, he mollifies you, and has another favor before you are well aware of it.
I remember a notorious person of the sort who owed everybody, from his nearest relatives to his barber and washerwoman, and who, though he bore all of nature’s credentials that he was a fool, was gifted as a borrower. “ There comes that scoundrel,” said one of his victims to a friend. “ He owes me two hundred dollars, and if he does n’t pay it, I ’ll thrash him.” The next day the victim met his friend, who asked, “ Did you get your money ? ” “No ! Confound the fellow ; he borrowed five hundred more of me ; and I’m afraid I had to apologize to myself for thinking him dishonorable, though I know he’s as great a villain as ever went unhanged.”
These parasites have regular divisions, which can be understood by the amount they want to borrow. There are the thousand-dollar, the five-hundred, the one-hundred, the fifty, the ten, the one-dollar, and the fifty-cent men, — the first the alpha and the last the omega of the entire profession. You know the thousand-dollar borrower is a freshman in the college of swindling, and the one-dollar borrower a senior. The former has a disease that may be cured, the latter has the seal of death on his face.
Some of these spongers seem to have uniform success. They neither advance nor retrograde. You see them to-day lounging on the Astor House steps or in front of Niblo’s, and they look precisely as if they had gone to bed ten years ago, slept the time away in a night, and risen fresh in the morning. In all that while they have not earned a single dollar, and they have spent a small fortune. What sacrifices of faith they have made, what ingenuity they have displayed, what energy they have Spent to unworthy purpose ! They have distributed their deceptions impartially. They have even deceived the deceivers, have had adventures with adventurers. They have borrowed of the foreign rogues, of the Wall Street gamesters, of the mining swindler, of the political trickster, of the literary charlatan, of the social savages of their own tribe. They are all the enemies of society, and if they could prey upon each other the community would be none the worse.
The first class is the most audacious, the second the most reckless, the third the most unscrupulous, the fourth the most infamous, the fifth the most ridiculous. and the sixth the most contemptible. There are variations from each of these that can hardly be determined ; but wherever an adventurer is, entire dishonesty, inextinguishable selfishness, and coarseness of character may be found.
Probably most of them follow the bent of a temperament for which their ancestors are responsible ; but they are guiltier than branded convicts, because they commit crimes that the law cannot reach and society will not punish. Keen insight or close observation will detect them ; for it is nature’s fiat that a counterfeit cannot long deceive. But they impose year after year upon the many who rarely have protection in understanding of character or wholesome scepticism. Nor do the adventurers suffer from remorse. Their spiritual part is materialized away; the best instincts are vulgarized ; the ideals, by and through which men aspire and ascend, are with them interpreted by the commonest vanity and the merest self-interest. They may believe they err sometimes ; they may be willing to admit society has a prejudice against them ; but if they have a bad name, they must have the sweet and secret consciousness of having deserved their reputation.
The adventuresses have a narrower field, as all women do, for their operations ; but no one can say they do not work it well. They have but two objective points, — men and money ; and one of them is always obtained through the other.
There are no courts nor kings here for our modern adventuresses to tamper with and control; but there are men who, though the strongest and the shrewdest, can be made to dance to a woman’s will, if she will but sing a new and seductive tune.
European adventuresses have but few opportunities in this country. Unsupported by relatives, friends, or fortune, they are always suspected; and coming here only in quest of money, they sink to a grade too low to admit of anything deserving the name of adventure.
Feminine Americans have little natural aptitude for the career, shameful for men, hideous for women. They rarely accept or seek it; it is forced upon them by circumstance. But, once entering upon it, they follow it with an ardor and bring to it a degree of tact that only France has heretofore shown. Something goes wrong with a woman’s heart usually before her ethics are at fault. Let her meet her destiny, as the romancers style it, in the shape of tenderness, sympathy, and loyalty, and there will be no smouldering volcanoes in her life, no unacted tragedies surging through her soul.
The great city invites adventuresses from every town and village between the Northern lakes and the Gulf, the Atlantic and the Pacific. In this crowded wilderness, in this confusion of individuals, it says, you can so lose yourself that the man who starves for you cannot hunt you down. If you have shame or woe to hide, or memories to banish, leap into the currents of Broadway, and its waves will conceal you, and its tumult will drown the voice of self-accusation.
An adventuress is not difficult of detection to a clear vision ; but eyes are used in this world for almost everything but seeing. She varies her form ; but in the place where her heart was before some man broke it (as she would say), she is almost always the same. She is usually handsome or bears traces of handsomeness departed or departing. At least, she looks interesting, and interestingness is the sum of all we seek in humanity, literature, and art. She is rarely young, nor is she old. She is of an uncertain age. She may be thirty, she may be less ; she may be forty. She is calm and cold apparently; but if you study her, you will see her calmness and coldness are the result of severe self-discipline, and in her eye gleams of intensity and anxiety that dart out while her manners are relieving guard.
There are certain hard lines in her face; the soft mouth has lost some of its symmetry, the nose is questioning and suspicious, the nostril expanded as though it knew each individual had an odor, and were determining to what species he should be assigned. Across the brow flit subtle shadows, and between and over the eyes they gather ever and anon as if the electricity of her system were centring there to burst: and then the lightning leaps sharp and quickly out below, and momentary darkness falls from the hair to the defiant chin. Her ears are a trifle prominent, and when you look at them you see they are listening, — listening perhaps for what she will never hear again. Her form is full, a trifle too full to indicate fineness and spirituality ; and her manner is too decided and positive to be attractive at first. Her toilet is somewhat outré, and there is more and less of it than there should be, while some of her jewelry might be spared for the sake of taste. But above all there is an expression in her face and her air that declares something has gone out of her life, — something that rounded and completed her womanhood,—something that will never return. She has been a wife and mother; she is not likely to be again ; for the memory of that wifehood and maternity makes her shudder, and sends the strange almost lurid look out of her eye. She may have a child or children with her; and if you could look into her chamber after midnight, you would see her bending over the bed where the little creatures lie, with tears baptizing the whispered prayers for them, which she never utters for herself.
Unlike the adventurer, the adventuress has a conscience, leels remorse, suffers for the past, dares not reflect upon the future. When the mental torture comes, she plunges into excitement, and laughs wildest when her heart sinks like burning lead in her bosom.
Adventuresses are most at home in the great hotels. Hardly one of the Broadway houses that has not several of the singular sisterhood. They always avoid each other, are enemies on instinct. Men alone they affect. Without doing anything you can describe, they always attract attention. When they enter the ordinary, or sit in the drawing-room, or walk in the corridor, every masculine eye beholds, and many masculine eyes follow them. They know, with almost mathematical certainty, the impression they are making, when is their time to glance, to speak, to drop a handkerchief, to write a note. Nothing escapes their acute senses, The man whom they have selected for a dupe is such before he has spoken. What is the boasted reason of our sex to the subtle instincts of theirs ! They have made men a study as Balzac and Goethe made women a study, and they have found their profit in it, be sure. They grow upon their acquaintances imperceptibly but rapidly, and, after a few hours of untrammelled talk, seem like old friends you are bound to assist when trouble comes. It will come very soon. The adventuress is always in trouble, and she tells so sad a story that you feel during its narration as if you should dry every tear with a hundred-dollar note. You are too liberal altogether. She accepts half the sum : is eternally grateful, and the situation changes with the pressure of a hand.
The adventuress lives in Manhattan ; but she goes to Washington frequently when Congress is in session, for there she reaps a harvest. She brings all her arts to bear on members of the Mouse and Senate, who yield to feminine influence when they can withstand bribes and the clamor of constituents. The adventuress often arranges her campaign on the Hudson, and fights it out on the Potomac. She completes there what she begins here.
Women want their rights. Let them have their rights by all means ; but their rights are little compared to their privileges. Men have neither when an accomplished adventuress has fairly taken them in her toils.
“ Keep pretty women out of my sight,” said St. Evremond, “ and the thunder-stroke shall not make me swerve. But with their eyes looking into mine, I am like wax over the flame of a taper.”
Adventuresses do not decline so rapidly as the adventurers. Women of education and some breeding, as they usually are, seldom descend with the plummet-like promptness of men. Culture seems to make ledges for them, and there they lodge, instead of plunging over the precipice down to the dizzy depths below. They change their nearest friends as they do their gowns ; for those wear out even quicker than these. But they laugh and are gay, go clad in purple, and seem to float on the top wave of life. At the theatre and the opera, at the picture-galleries and the Academy balls, they queen it grandly, and many of their sex who know them not envy them the gilded shell in which they masquerade. They all have a history different from the one they tell, and sadder far. If they wrote autobiographies, the simple truth would be more eloquent than any rhetoric.
If they could be set right, could once get their feet on the firm rock of principle, all might be well; but they seem incapable somehow; their will is too weak, their love of variety and excitement too great. They often turn to white memories and fairer futures, and stretch out their pale hands. But the voice that drove Ahasuerus seems to say, “ March, march ! ” and they go on and on, until the long grass of the churchyard muffles their weary footsteps forever.