All is Not Glitter and Romance in Monaco, Writes Famous Novelist and Contributor of MacLean's
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIMAugust151925
Dingy Moths of Monte Carlo
All is Not Glitter and Romance in Monaco, Writes Famous Novelist and Contributor of MacLean's
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
THE name of Monte Carlo is so woven with the romance of the novelist and seenario writer, that it is hard for those who lack personal knowl edge of the place to picture it in a guise other than that which netion has given it. But there are those who frequent its terraees, and tlit about the flame of chance.who have none of the color of the 1% 0 ti)? `fitO 1 flu1t~ ,ittti til t' or it tilv to assi \tanv lio~t' at' rat i> of itotr Inst tort s of itt' an it to hos' 1% Itt) S 1 tie itt tie rtrtctit k'uv,s tnt' ito Ut t~ fe t people. t c rt.tt resort ` to subject or ar t 150 1! u: ,u Air or rent .trkirttz t itat t Ito s ` Kit Ut' IS rIot tO t)t' `ontlareti -0111 `.t rt ` Ito fort tt W tiltt'it a 10 N .tC' - 1)1 tOt hot ii :rt'cectis a tot a' \t,tn' (`art a are not ;tl I Ut nt''~ ,re n tort ill attracttvo. 11)0 ç i..ttittCt t n t It' 5' X. bar tn~.t ittuc. be i `rtt'cas~t1t' rttay Itavo iual° , ant rIte itunkind Itat o rn o~u'oi a wonderful race of to,, his so tar as tite tvotnort are are of a heavier attti 0 tar, t t r 1 taliatt or French `i'rtert. o. There is anotlter nt C' nt UtUti V of t `10 SON tltsti!tctlV a. trust repulsive.
P - .e • tvtig of the Casino • to oe quite sure that to 1\ -e 0) c vet ed place at o miCe, are to he found 1 • in ii repel almost as • •~• i Is ot am use of the .10:tie ant minister to f 0 auv here are the -~ er let .iflitt~ years have ao ott -1 t her vices for the tatn& g. There are French - .-.~nt-n and even a few • _t •trrgst - mm. some decrcptt. I-ri :d r.. few of them t~lv. mir • o ni h the uttaa:-iierl and a~ • :vart:e of -he woman - at er pe~nal attraction it :-n s c aoe I. ha~ sacriticed her - t a rdtd •a~sion and -r Ce You can see them vet - -it t:Ces. handling their t. ci •tn :ia'v-ii-:e rinners. the pri-ed r rnaining tiesire fla-Ling v n-ri from their eyes. their faces rn-ti rial cf the sefitarv ;ice w ta.s a ghter e!cle. If there is any d ii ate it -he payment of a staLe tr.~t n~n~ almost p-onous in s~-'-th Thsyarethe ghouls a alit crad e. an ugly reminder c.: or eaed cancer of
tic part n the - a . trims whir-h are a~.e - ha~ - `KPchen,' anti a ant `~. -~ I T ey company. as n a r.. urflect to a -a a e. and et c-i oov~ ;~p a g. n nati;e of P~r. treri s-i entree. p al :re wi--es a. rates )nt asigiorrrng a a a c l-t ir ai re :ni .~ea ;er -) -lay a a -as a cx n f'm re f :1-c
rrDany ar~ au a! r.gu~ari~. ni yet ;nh -f af:y e(prE'ssl5ri as a `a mas `.o a" nrj sr,u tn~ a ri.s t icerent E.ver'. ;`r hi' women with `€5 pa ,arda-,~ofe C `)t~Ct SCX' - ii: 7;rio lovw a ar ittin~pra or. pfoa~ure. does a Ki~-ian arid tL
es }e1cx t Lsr.es f heir ms he •D1) J at n an-i
arbitrarj restrictions as to evening toilette. This very fact, however, robs them at night of all picturesqueness and gives them a sordid, almost a business-like appearance. They are the haunt of women who have no ambition or no inducement to shine in more brilliant company and who prefer to continue their struggle against late without the trouble of changing their clothes or the diversion of watching other women’s toilettes. There are a certain number of frequenters, too, who are affected by the more stringent regulations now existing as to entry into the Sporting Club, and who welcome the comparative lack of competition in rooms which the most flamboyant of lighting fails to render other than sombre and a little depressing, and others who, after an afternoon’s play prefer not to leave the place at all, and dine in the bar with the click of the ball and the sing-song announcement of the croupiers still in their ears. A certain number of women, too, become habituées because of the larger spaces, the greater certainty of a seat at the tables, and the very fact that there are no distractions to take their minds off the business of gambling; for gambling with women, if they are in earnest at all, is a much more serious affair than with men. The latter, curiously enough, talk readily of their winnings, but seldom of their losses. The woman who wins seems to find a quaint pleasure in concealing the fact, while if she loses she bemoans her ill-fortune right and left, even to perfect strangers. The person who knows the women frequenters of the place best, individually and collectively, is the man behind the bar, who has a regular account with a small crowd of them, and who has to rely upon his own judgment to avoid a bad debt. Taken as a whole, I have gathered from his confidences that his opinion of his clients is scarcely an exalted one.
Above all places, then, it is in the Sporting Club that for one or two brief months of the year are gathered together the most beautiful and the most wonderfully adorned women of this era. France, America, England and Italy send of their best, and a little after midnight on a gala night at the Opera, say, during the first week of February, there can be found here a galaxy of beauty unrivalled in the world. For months the greatest artists of London and Paris have designed clothes in which their clients may dazzle the habitues of this centre of fashion. The jewellers of the Rue de la Paix have followed suit, as have also the designers of those costly knick-knacks which lend distinction to a woman’s toilette. Here is, if not the market-place, at any rate the arena for the whole world, where one woman may display her charms against another. There are no tangible rewards, and each one is her own secret judge of her success or non-success. She may sweep indifferently into the room in some absolutely new creation, dispensing her customary salutations and displaying her usual gracious interest in the gambling, but she can gauge to a nicety the measure of triumph she had achieved, and distance between herself and her rivals.
The coming of a new beauty lends zest to the game. I remember, notwithstanding the fact that play was high and
interest in the tables immense, the entry into the rooms late one night last season of an Egyptian princess of whose beauty one had heard rumors. Her gown appeared to be a ereaseless draping of white, lier smoothly brushed hair was as black as ebony, ropes of rose-pink pearls hung from her neck, her violet eyes were silent pools of light. For a moment the tables were forgotten and there was a little buzz of interest amongst the onlookers as she approached the principal of her rivals, a fair-haired princess of France with matchless complexion and dazzling brown eyes, living at that time under the protection of an American multi-millionaire. The encounter was watched with supercilious curiosity by a great Italian artist, herself a famous beauty, whose gown of rose-colored chiffon and whose jewels—for many generations the pride of one of the first families of Rome—had created a little stir of interest only a few moments before. All three, although they trod now the flowery ways, were born—an ancestor of the Egyptian woman, indeed, had at one time ruled the Kingdom of the Nile— and not once, by the flicker of an eyelid, did either of them display more than a general interest in the other.
"Merveilleuse!” the French woman murmured under her breath.
“Ravissante!” the Italian agreed. They knew better than to stoop to small criticisms. There was a new rival in the field to make the struggle more than ever worth while.
A famous Frenchman in search of a simile once described the women of Monte Carlo as a wonderful bouquet of flowers, exotics of the rarest and most evanescent type, mingled with cottage blooms of the simplest variety and interspersed here and there with a few flaming weeds of the fields. Without a doubt there is a sort of intimate promiscuity amongst the habituées here which exists nowhere else in the world. The spirit of latitudinarianism is carried to almost embarrassing lengths. The only woman w'ho is not tolerated is the woman without looks or style who fails to subscribe to the joyous and universal spirit of good comradeship.
There is something a little mysterious about it too. The women who make Monte Carlo the paradise of the pleasureseeker are after all just the women whom one meets at Deauville or Trouville, Ostend or Biarritz in the summer, or in Paris or London in the season. Yet here, in an atmosphere kindlier, at any rate, than could possibly exist in the two latter places, without that line of demarcation between the two castes which at such close quarters would certainly lead to an unbecoming self-consciousness, the sort of freemasonry to which all subscribe is certainly for the common good. In fact, one might almost go so far as to say that if ever a silent and unrecorded battle has been fought between the just and the unjust, between the Aspasias of the demi-monde and her sisters who have passed through the portals of St. George’s, Hanover Square, the victory has fallen to the unjust, for in Monte Carlo it is Aspasia who rules, Aspasia, whose clothes and trinkets and jewellery her legally blessed sisters are only too anxious to imitate.
Last night a trio of exquisitely-gowned young Parisiennes lounged on the stools of the bar in the Sporting Club, laughing good-naturedly at the bad French of a young Englishman who was endeavoring to entertain them. An English girl, belonging to one of the best families, strolled in and took an adjacent stool. She was smartly-gowned herself, but she
watched; with admiration some slight detail in the toilette of one of her neighbors.
“If one could only copy that!” she sighed pensively. “I must get Charlie to find out who dresses her.”
This pot-pourri of femininity is without a doubt a strange and brilliant mixture. The queens of the two worlds meet here as nowhere else, with all their satellites, absolutely without distinction, hemmed up in narrow spaces, neighbors at the chemin de fer and roulette tables, seated side by side in the crowded bar. Madame the-safely-married views with toleration, although she affects to ignore it, the presence of her husband exchanging amenities with one of those beautiful votaries of pleasure whose unions are unblessed except for the few magic words scrawled across the face of a cheque. In so doing she subscribes to the established custom. Jealousy on account of one of her own order perhaps, but with these others seldom, if ever!
Every woman in her heart likes to think that her husband is sufficiently a man of the world to know how to make himself attractive in any quarter, and is herself ingenuous enough to believe that his attentions are but a subscription to the spirit of the place.
I saw a charming Englishwoman of position one night last season rise angrily from the chemin de fer table, where she had certainly had abominable luck, and recount her experiences indignantly to a woman who had recently been her righthand neighbor—a Frenchwoman of the other world, whose jewels and intrigues were at that time exciting everyone’s interest. The latter smiled sympathetically.
‘‘Madame must try once more,” she said. Madame displayed her bag—empty— and a mille note fluttered into it. “For fortune!” the Frenchwoman whispered pleasantly.
Madame accepted it without an instant’s hesitation. A moment later she was back in her place, trying her luck once more. She may have paid the mille back again, but at any rate she accepted it, and accepted it in the spirit which implies an airy sort of uncertainty as to the exact condition of the offering.
To be truthful at the expense of one’s patriotism, one must confess that so far as regards the women of one’s own race neither the American nor the English can compete successfully in this brief but magnificent pageant. There may be something in the dictum of the greatest living artist in women’s apparel who has given it out as his considered opinion that no woman of Anglo-Saxon race excels in the “grande toilette de soir.” In feature, complexion and actual figure, she may hold her own against her rivals; but her carriage as a rule is inferior, she lacks the artist’s touch in her use of cosmetics, and more than anything she has not that splendid audacity which enables some women to wear amazing clothes without a trace of self-consciousness. Nevertheless, she has her moment of triumph, when the youth of her race, in loose white flannel clothes, concealing little of the splendour of her young body, her tennis racquet under her arm, a healthy flush of exercise upon her cheeks, her shining hair a little ruffled, her eyes bright with hungry expectation, she troops into the bar, deserted at this hour by her exotic rivals, and clamors hungrily for tea and plenty of meringues.
The admiration she excites when her white teeth flash into the snowy flakes of her favorite food is at least a wholesome one.
Her rivals are still in the hands of their couturières, their masseuse and manicurists, slaves of those who minister to their perfection, and there is no challenge from the afternoon habituées of the place to her supremacy. At night she will be negligible. Her gown, whoever designed it, will be suggestive of Oxford Street, her carriage will have lost its pleasant free and easy grace, even her good looks will seem to lack the lure which mounts like wine to men’s senses. Yet, in a moment of sanity, as she stands up and calls for another meringue, one may wonder whether her victory is not won upon a worthier field.
For the women of Monte Carlo who reign like queens for one season or two in a fairy kingdom are after all only fugitive, though exquisite excrescences on the ocean of real life.
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