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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Slim Princess - Chapter 3. The Cruelty Of Law
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The Slim Princess - Chapter 3. The Cruelty Of Law Post by :MSCOTT Category :Long Stories Author :George Ade Date :May 2012 Read :1814

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The Slim Princess - Chapter 3. The Cruelty Of Law


If the father was worried by the prolonged crisis, the younger sister, Jeneka, was well-nigh distracted, for she could not hope to marry until Kalora had been properly mated and sent away.

In Morovenia there is a very strict law intended to eliminate the spinster from the social horizon. It is a law born of craft and inspired by foresight. The daughters of a household must be married off in the order of their nativity. The younger sister dare not contemplate matrimony until the elder sister has been led to the altar. It is impossible for a young and attractive girl to make a desirable match leaving a maiden sister marooned on the market. She must cooperate with her parents and with the elder sister to clear the way.

As a rule this law encourages earnest getting-together in every household and results in a clearing up of the entire stock of eligible daughters. But think of the unhappy lot of an adorable and much-coveted maiden who finds herself wedged in behind something unattractive and shelf-worn! Jeneka was thus pocketed. She could do nothing except fold her hands and patiently wait for some miraculous intervention.

In Morovenia the discreet marrying age is about sixteen. Jeneka was eighteen--still young enough and of a most ravishing weight, but the slim princess stood as a slight, yet seemingly insurmountable barrier between her and all hopes of conventional happiness.

Count Malagaski did not know that the shameful fact of Kalora's thinness was being whispered among the young men of Morovenia. When the daughters were out for their daily carriage-ride both wore flowing robes. In the case of Kalora, this augmented costume was intended to conceal the absence of noble dimensions.

It is not good form in Morovenia for a husband or father to discuss his home life, or to show enthusiasm on the subject of mere woman; but the Count, prompted by a fretful desire to dispose of his rapidly maturing offspring, often remarked to the high-born young gentlemen of his acquaintance that Kalora was a most remarkable girl and one possessed of many charms, leaving them to infer, if they cared to do so, that possibly she weighed at least one hundred and eighty pounds.

These casual comments did not seem to arouse any burning curiosity among the young men, and up to the day of Kalora's nineteenth anniversary they had not had the effect of bringing to the father any of those guarded inquiries which, under the oriental custom, are always preliminary to an actual proposal of marriage.

Count Selim Malagaski had a double reason for wishing to see Kalora married. While she remained at home he knew that he would be second in authority. There is an occidental misapprehension to the effect that every woman beyond the borders of the Levant is a languorous and waxen lily, floating in a milk-warm pool of idleness. It is true that the women of a household live in certain apartments set aside as a "harem." But "harem" literally means "forbidden"--that is, forbidden to the public, nothing more. Every villa at Newport has a "harem."

The women of Morovenia do not pour tea for men every afternoon, and they are kept well under cover, but they are not slaves. They do not inherit a nominal authority, but very often they assume a real authority. In the United States, women can not sail a boat, and yet they direct the cruise of the yacht. Railway presidents can not vote in the Senate, and yet they always know how the votes are going to be cast. And in Morovenia, many a clever woman, deprived of specified and legal rights, has learned to rule man by those tactful methods which are in such general use that they need not be specified in this connection.

Kalora had a way of getting around her father. After she had defied him and put him into a stewing rage, she would smooth him the right way and, with teasing little cajoleries, nurse him back to a pleasant humor. He would find himself once more at the starting-place of the controversy, his stern commands unheeded, and the disobedient daughter laughing in his very face.

Thus, while he was ashamed of her physical imperfections, he admired her cleverness. Often he said to Popova: "I tell you, she might make some man a sprightly and entertaining companion, even if she _is slender."

Whereupon the crafty Popova would reply: "Be patient, your Excellency. We shall yet have her as round as a dumpling."

And all the time he was keeping her trained as fine as the proverbial fiddle.

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