Everything is Possible to Will
Chapter II. Freighted
Chapter II. Freighted.
Zee was the second of a family of seventeen—four girls in as many successive years taking the lead in family honors. But Father Time has silvered the locks of some thirty odd years, since the old home rung with the shouts of the elder children. Blush of shame has never dyed the cheeks of sire of son of that forest of olive branches. Believing children to be heaven-sent blessings, the heads of the household were not careful to let their moderation therein be known of all men; so that the little chicks came trooping on the stage almost too fast to count them; and the mother's life, in consequence, was a slow martyrdom. But the father radiated an atmosphere of wondrous love and peace, as, giving glad welcome to each tiny floweret, he tossed it on his back with a lightheartedness which never owned a burden. How nobly did both parents do their part! what a dear old-fashioned couple they were! pity that such heroism should ever become antiquated.
As the dunce of the family, Zee is the black sheep amid a bevy of fair daughters. Out of the frying-pan into the fire, is her hot-water experience. Perhaps she lets the baby fall oftener than is wont;10 she has no girlish love of babies—they are no novelty. She is dubbed a “character” and accepts the distinctive appellation as a badge of disgrace; it may mean Turk, hobgoblin,11 or cannibal, for aught she knows. Friend she, as yet, has none, so mopes alone, the butt of her quick-witted sisters; or if permitted to join in their sports, a dreamy clumsiness, native page 11 to her in her early youth, spoils the fun, or obtains the credit of so doing; hence, they leave her pretty much to her own will and zigzag perplexities, for-gotten when she hides away in one of her densest copses,12 where all her happy hours are spent.
Too proud to court favor, she deems it a weakness to betray affection; hence, whatever of the lamb there is about her she chooses to conceal; and though lynx-eyed to the failings of others, she appears blind to her own. But oh, when there is no eye to pity, how she lashes herself with the rod she makes for her own back, in impotent resentment of that mysterious something which makes her unlike other people; the while she fails signally in attempting to be a copyist, hedged in, as she is, by strict conscientiousness coupled with felt incapacity!
Zee gladly put school-days, with their cuffing and snubbing, a long way behind her, although it was years ere she could shake herself free from the clutches of Miss Pout, who hung over her like the sword of Damocles.13 And to this hour, when speaking of her, Zee's eyes flash with unwonted fire, as she says: “When Miss Pout crosses my path, I long to tell her she has stood between me and the sun all my life, in failing to make the acquisition of knowledge possible to me. Oh! to think of her cold, hawk-like eye, ever ready to pounce down on this poor timid chick; of her long fingers that made my ears tingle; of her shrill voice, bearing word of doom to me; of her measured tread, which made me feel as if she were scrunching me body and soul beneath her feet, with all the enjoyment one has in scrunching a fine, large juicy apple. A sudden jump admonished me of her approach; a chill ran through me as her shadow fell upon me; and, like a startled deer, I longed to bound out of her sight, looking guilty, through fear doubtless. But, there, she has since become a wife and a mother; marriage may have humanised her.”
But Zee did at length escape Miss Pout's tyranny, and if she stand not in the world's front ranks as a clever woman, she will prove up to the average, page 12 even in this fast age. And if to play well is to work well, it augurs well for Zee since she had become ringleader in all kinds of sports; so it is to be hoped that the mother will make something of her, for in the hive she calls home there is no room for drones. Indeed, she threw herself with all her might into whatever her hands found to do, and was fast becoming at home, spite of those long limbs of hers, which she had once wished to take off and hang up out of sight.
She used the needle deftly, and soon eclipsed her sisters in concocting doll-finery; even taught Sadai how to tie a bow in her bonnet-strings, and was commended by the father for so doing—sweet commendation to Zee, because rare. She displayed more skill, also, in the compounding of cakes, puddings, and tarts than did any of her sisters; her fingers were becoming useful, so it was to be hoped she would nurse the everlasting baby without breaking it more than a little. Indeed, she took to domestic affairs with right good will, resolving to “eclipse all the Betties14 in creation,” and thus make something more than a stop-gap at home.
The multitudinous wants of nine girls and eight boys kept a sempstress constantly employed; hence, Zee's aptitude for the needle was no mean qualification in the estimation of the mother, who, assuming that Zee's feelings were as blunt as her brain, was conscious of no unkindness in speaking of her to strangers as “clever at her needle, though dull at her books.” But, oh! how Zee hated that sort of make-weight! how painfully humiliated she felt in the presence of those who had been informed of her deficiencies, when in all probability she was lost sight of amid a crowd of petticoated romps!15
So morbidly sensitive was she, indeed, as to her defects, both of body and mind, that when it was said of her, jokingly, “The ill-weed grows apace,” the “ill-weed” joke left its sting, and scalding tears furrowed her cheeks; but as they offered no remedy, she carefully covered up her sore spot. The pert self-assertion characteristic of her, which led her into page 13 many a pitched battle in defence of the weaker party, not always on the side of right, was wholly the result of bad training; she had never been told that self-assertion and self-seeking are essentially vulgar, and must be resolutely lived down until quiet dignity loyally ascends its rightful throne. Furthermore, whatever she advanced by way of opinion was met by a covert sneer, “Oh! you're a dunce!” which raised her ire, and was met by a quick retort that made her appear as unloving as unlovely; for never, even in thought, did she own to being a dunce. Though kicking against the prick of her own making, she would submit to no paring-down process; and to throw such children ruthlessly back on their “own wicked hearts” bars rather than unlocks their strong incorrigible natures. There ought to be room for such as Zee in this big world, but conventionalism possesses no elasticity.
Youth, of true metal, has a deal of wild blood to use up. Nature economises her resources; she is too chary16 of her pure grain to scatter it with spendthrift prodigality, when less costly tares,17 as evidence of good soil, will answer her purpose equally well. Whenever a child is found to be chafing under ill-judged restraint, he is certain to possess some force of character in his superabundance of energy.
The dominant will, “the thorn in the flesh,” is rightly disciplined, the surplus energy of the restive soul given of heaven to one of its favorites. Zee was capable of the utmost heroism, as are all girls; but there was no good angel to tell her that she had a soul to form, i.e., to convert her faults into virtues, and that all mental flints and briars are discipline needful in the forming of it. Never in a book, such as is herein attempted, had she seen herself photographed with the simplicity and directness that at once gives prominence to the flaws of character and their remedy, or she would have become a very different woman. For among the more thoughtful, those who took the trouble to peep under the surface of the girl's better nature found sterling metal waiting on the miner's skill; she would rather have broken her page 14 mental shins against huge boulders by the hill side than lounge idly in flowery meads.
Full of animal spirits, restrictions chafe her sorely; the spur works less harm than the curb. Open as the day, free as the air she breathes, gay as the sunshine dancing on the ever-changeful wave, she possesses too much force and vigor to be held in by the cords of precision and propriety; snap goes every leading-string the instant it is thrown around her. Exuberance of life is given to those whose course resembles the madly-rushing torrent hemmed in by coarse, stony mountains, rather than the pebbly prettiness of the well-sheltered valley.
Courage Zela, mountain-climber! each step brings the summit nearer; faint heart never yet breathed the bracing air of mountain-top. Let not difficulties frown thee down, nor envy thou the career of the tame and aimless, who will shirk life's noblest duties rather than ruffle their charming placidity, or risk the loss of their sweet-tempered insipidity. Not of such flimsy stuff are God's heroes made. Theirs is a lion-hearted love of truth, a mighty power of endurance, of entire self-abnegation; and in ruling well their own spirits, in order to stand against the stream of iniquity around them, they make grand acquisitions of moral courage. In the long-run, such beings have power with God and prevail with men. It were well to drop jewels in their path; they will have thorns and thistles enough.
Except when resenting personal injustice, or when stocks and stones unloosed her faltering tongue, Zee rarely ventured on more than monosyllables. She envied the girls from whose lips platitudes fell glibly, knowing nothing as yet of the power of thought, which would in its own good time find utterance. Gems are the better for friction; and the girl was now considerably brought out by a visit to London, by being thrown into the society of girls as superior to her early associates as the bumpkin18 was beneath them. An inward something spurred Zee on to a goal above mediocrity; she never placed herself on a footing with other clods; hence, in all the parties in which page 15 she figured she stood resolutely shoulder to shoulder with the belle. Yes, she sunned herself in the light of the wittiest, that her own stupidity might stand out in bold relief, and, oh! what a senseless lump she felt herself to be!
Seeing her torn by conflicting emotions that she could not wholly conceal, a lady friend judiciously helped Zee to perceive that she was unjust to herself, inasmuch as the belle in question was an only child, the favorite alike of nature and of fortune. And while admitting that Zee might have neglected her opportunities of improvement, the lady insisted that dissatisfaction with present attainments in itself evidenced a capacity for improvement, pointing to the fact that some natures ripen by slow degrees because of the excellence of the fruit maturing. Happily Zee was not too dense to understand the drift of such an inspiring insinuation.
Returning to her home, a good genius of another form is found gravitating towards her, a “blue stocking;” such, at least, was the contemptuous term then applied to sensible women. Ruby, the lady in question, was one of three sisters who had been educated in France; and whether she had once been subjected to the dunce-ordeal and a fellow-feeling prompted her to court Zee's society is unknown, but they were soon close friends. Very patiently, Ruby, whose preference for Zee was regarded as “one of her crochets,” bore with the queer girl, and tried to draw her out, to strike the key-note of an instrument apparently all unstrung, knowing that the moot question whether Zee had, or had not, her “right change” had never been fairly settled, and she so far succeeded in chasing away the diffidence that walled her in as to induce the timid child to express herself frankly, since she was in no danger of being snubbed.
What an oracle the naturally taciturn Ruby appeared to the ignorant Zee, as, in her attempt to win the latter to a loving appreciation of the useful and the good, she opened such of her stores of wisdom as came within the limits of the girl's comprehension! To her own circle, Ruby hinted page 16 broadly that there was more in Zee than in any of her sisters, in that she had a mind, whereas they possessed only retentive memories and a great capacity for instruction,i.e., cramming. Rank heresy, doubtless. But Ruby was as discriminating as thoughtful, and her carefully-formed opinions had in them an honest ring that commended them to the judgment; and she finally intimated to Zee's parents that she could discover no want in the girl, and if she was not the brightest star around their table, she was still well-freighted with common-sense. Sadai gladly gave Zee to understand that Ruby's good opinion of her was “quite a feather in her cap.” Hence, to Ruby is due not only the dawn of happier days, but she left on Zee's spirits a lasting gladness, though they have never since met.
Thenceforward, Zee resolved to find her own way up the ladder of learning—i.e., to learn from observation what she had failed to gain from books; she had always been quick to see the use of intelligible objects. The danger is that, instead of living out her true life, she will submit to the conventional paring down against which her own soul wisely revolted at that time.
Restless as impulsive, with an exaggerated truthfulness prompting her to lay bare every deviation from it in others, she was not likely to be a desirable companion to the commonalty, who were ever on thorns lest she should let light in on the dirty corners of their being. It is hard work to tear off plausibility's cloak; nevertheless, cobwebs on the brain need a spring-cleaning as much as does any haunted house.
It came to pass at length, that in reference to herself, despite her own gloomy forebodings and those of her friends, Zee, who was so fast budding into womanhood that at sixteen she was often told she “would never see twenty again,” soon spread her canvas with the breeze, cropped the top of the morning for freshness, and capped all with the rose-glow of health, in which crown of blessing she ranked second to no one. In truth, she trod the earth with a jaunty, off-hand carelessness that suited her as well page 17 as if her every nerve had been poised on wings. How or when metamorphosed no one could tell, but the thought of dunce faded out of all minds except, perhaps, those of her parents, in whose presence she was never quite at her ease, knowing that they feared she would “lose her head” in some of her daring flights. On the principle of a dunce—once a dunce always a dunce—haziness continued to float about their mental arithmetic, and prevented them reckoning her up rightly. Moreover, animal spirits were to some extent tabooed by the circle in which she moved; hence, there being no demand for the only ware she could offer on change, but a small share of self-glorification was open to her. She, nevertheless, held on in her happy-go-lucky way without any breakneck consequences.
Metaphorically speaking the two elder girls “came out” hand in hand; and Sadai became at once the full-blown cabbage rose19 —so brilliant in conversation, indeed (she had a wonderful memory), that one of her disputants, who gloried in his penetration declared: “Miss—is born to be an old maid if ever a girl was.” Adverse criticism, due to the fact, perchance, that in argument with her he invariably came off worsted, and the masculine mind resented the defeat. Sadai could afford to smile at his prediction, since a troop of beaux followed in her train; but with a perversity truly feminine, she cared most for the one (not the one alone) who cared least for her.
Zee had her dreams of love in a cottage, and was vain enough to believe she was worth loving even though not one of the male gender should make the discovery. Ěasy to be won she would not be, however unlikely to be sought. The few beings of either sex whom she deigned to honor with her esteem must bear the wear and tear of a life-long friendship, into which compact she never entered lightly, even with a girl. She knew a royal road to boy-favor, but declined the assumptions of hobbledehoyism,20 and as yet no eligible had risen on her horizon.
Having long since run past Sadai in height (Sadai's active mind had stunted her growth), Zee was spared page 18 the, to most girls of marketable age, extreme mortification of wearing her elder sister's old clothes. In the matter of personal attractions, those, but few in number, who could see soul in Zee's face pronounced her “the flower of the flock.” But when any such compliment was repeated to her, she laughed it away, saying: “They must be possessed of second sight or of some divining-rod, which transformed one at will,” etc., declaring she could “see nothing but her nose when she looked in the glass—the dear old nose, which had been provocative of more fun than all the Grecians in creation.” She good-humoredly accepted the, in her own estimation, fact that she was plain-looking, and made the best of it.
One Midsummer's night, Zee and a girl-friend had strolled together through a fine old park, in itself a wordless poem, A shower had newly laid the dust, and given to each tiny blade of grass its own drop of dew; indeed, Nature's many witcheries made the turf so springy, the girls could but dance over it, as to the right of them, to the left of them, in front of them, and behind them, the nightingale was betrayed, by the stillness of all things, into a gush of melody that hushed Zee's very being into forgetfulness as she listened with delighted awe.
Entering the parlor on her return home, she was introduced to a gentleman, whom we shall name Wrax; but unmindful of the stranger, the girl, whose frame quivered with the blissful intoxication of the hour, burst into a rapturous description of the old park, every inch of which was familiar to Wrax, being at the door of his childhood's home. So little had Wrax impressed Zee's mind (it was too full as of yore), that she had forgotten the eventful hour of meeting until he recalled it in after years.
Having for years merely visited her home at intervals, Zee was its only inmate to whom Wrax was a stranger; his visits thenceforth became so frequent, and his proffered excuses in reference thereto so far-fetched, that between the girls (there were two at least old enough to think of love and the like of it) there was page 19 soon plenty of surmising as to which had made “a case of smite.” Fruitless surmises, however, since Wrax was pointedly equal in his attentions to the sisters, frequently proposing a walk with both, carefully avoiding a walk with either alone; and if betrayed into a momentary toying with one, he turned with extra sweetness to the other instanter.
Wrax's advances were supported by good prospects and comely proportions; he was very tall, with a good head well-set on broad shoulders, together with the promise of all the whisker-and-moustache trimmings supposed to make a man look manly in the eyes of the fair sex. Then, too, he “had a nose,” as Zee said. So that any girl who had unfortunately nothing but marriage to look forward to might have been forgiven the wish that he would turn his thoughts her way.
A married sister of Ruby's once said that our Adonis21 “struck her at first sight as the handsomest young fellow she had ever seen.” But then she had seen him at his best, having met him at the door of Zee's home one fine winter's night, after a brisk walk had given bloom to his cheek and light to his eye. He was all animation, indeed, notwithstanding his deep-mourning habiliments;22 for well he knew there was to be a dance in the homely kitchen, and he loved the mazy whirl. Wrax, wild with excitement, was up to all sorts of hair-brained tricks. He, of course, led off in the first set of quadrilles23 with Sadai, choosing Zee, later in the evening, for “Sir Roger de Coverley,”24 remarking aside to his partner, “No other couple in the room can make so high an arch as we can.” And as they stood there, arms aloft, in all the joyousness of ruddy health, more than one whispered to another: “They're a fine couple!”
At length, his visits became so entirely a matter of course, the marvel was if he thought an excuse necessary; still, he was never off his guard, but so studiously polite and kind, that Zee fancied he purposed entrapping both sisters unawares, a mode of procedure which revolted her honest soul; she had no faith in the happy-with-either creed.
But it must be confessed Sadai early succumbed to page 20 Wrax's fascinations; hence, to Sadai, “Which is the favorite?” became a question of vital import, for with all the ardor of nineteen summers, she indulged alternately in great expectations and wretched misgivings; whereas the freedom-loving Zee was not to be caught, to whom Sadai exclaimed, in all the desperation of “over-head-and-ears” helplessness: “Oh, Zee! I'd give anything to be as free and easy with Wrax as you are; but I am tongue-tied in his presence.”
The father and mother, too, shared the ever-recurring doubt as to which was the loadstone; an attraction there must be, else why his frequent visits? Wrax was, indeed, “such a catch,” respecting family, position, etc., that the girls' entire visiting circle presently asked, with growing interest: “Which is it to be? Is Zee's star in the ascendent?”25 No, it must be Sadai, notwithstanding that trifles light as air now and again pointed to Zee, sufficiently to make her sister draw love-lorn sighs when no one listened. She had, nevertheless, more than air to live upon; many a neatly turned compliment from Wrax fed the flame, if it were ever so little on the wane.
Many a friend, the parents included, unhesitatingly expressed the hope that Zee might prove to be the reigning queen, since Sadai had already ample conceit in reference to beaux. On a certain occasion, an old lady spent an evening in the bosom of the family, of whom Wrax, of course, made one, after whose departure mamma inquired of her friend: “Which do you think is the favorite?” To which, the old lady replied, sagaciously: “Well, I don't know; he talks to Sadai, but he looks at Zee.” A nice distinction, proving the good dame to be well versed in love-passages.
A sprat supper was another eventful episode. Betty, having cleaned the fish, and spread them soldier-like, stiff and straight, on a dish, dredging each layer with flour, the girls were to cook them, for to make her daughters good cooks the mother spared neither time nor expense. Admonished of the danger of “too many cooks,” Wrax yet opined there would be more fun with the girls in the kitchen than with the old folk in the parlor; and so, with a spring and a bound, made for page 21 the familiar stove-territory, guaranteeing that by his aid the fish should be browned to perfection. To the full enjoyment of these nice little fish it is imperative that they be served hot and hot. And in cooking the first dish, Sadai was confused not a little by the quizzical Zee and his lordship himself, who watched the operations with inspiriting enthusiasm, making suggestions wide of the mark, to which Zee added piquancy, the pair cracking nuts and jokes, as the sprats frizzled in the pan.
The first dish was cooked, and served with the greatest nicety, of which dish Wrax, as a visitor, was in duty bound to partake. But no; left to his own sweet will, he elected to remain to watch Zee's wand of enchantment, since she threatened to excel Sadai. Heigh Ho, for Sadai! ill-starred Sadai! She could not dare to stay behind too; into the parlor she must go, followed by the dear little fish. Love-sauce is said to be mawkish26 rather than appetising, and it probably sufficed her cravings of hunger for the nonce.
Cooking that second dish of sprats must have been delirious work to the mischief-loving Zee. With so much spice in her composition, it must have demanded the resolution of a Hercules to resist the temptation to fizz up like champagne, and explode in a jocund fit of laughter. Did she conceal an inward chuckle? No doubt she did; not by so much as a smile would she help the solution of the vexed question. Wrax should find his own way, at his own pleasure, out of his selfmade tangle. Suppressed merriment must, nevertheless, have tingled to her finger-ends, as she, with her elfish wiles, played on our hero's heart-strings, demurely turning the fish meanwhile. The very sprats put on their best behavior, as if they too enjoyed the sport.
Entering the parlor, followed by Wrax and Betty with the fish, Zee, by a quick appreciative glance, imposed silence on both parents, the merry twinkle in whose eyes told her plainly that the joke was not lost upon them. No sooner, however, was Wrax well off the premises than the laugh was all against the, for the page 22 time being, much-to-be-pitied Sadai, who was already sufficiently in the dumps without her sister's banter. Given a cause of triumph, the young are often cruel. As far as Wrax was concerned, Zee was indifferent enough to be saucy, and the witch could tease a little; it was a family weakness, and at Sadai she must have her fling, with some spirit if not wit; and concluded her twitting by proposing another sprat-supper, at which Sadai, by waiving the priority of right in the cooking of the fish, should effectually nail the artful Wrax.
As younger sisters were fast trenching on womanhood, their elders gave place to them perforce, and electing to become a model “school-marm” by profession, Sadai voluntarily returned to the blissful quiet and unfading bowers of the Misses Smirke and Pout's seminary to qualify herself for her high vocation. Being thus summarily disposed of, the mother said, dryly: “If Sadai be his choice, Wrax's visits will now cease.” And Zee gloried in his being put to the test, triumphing inwardly by anticipation. Novice though she was in affairs of the heart, she was as keen-scented as those who had been through the wood; but never a word did she say.
Sadai had vanished, but her spiritualised presence remained, or Zee said it did, and that it explained the impossibility of the devoted lover absenting himself; and by talking much of Sadai, all of which Zee faithfully chronicled to her, Wrax appeared resolved that “his particular weakness” should remain an open question.
The conventionalism that makes truth play lackey to expediency requires a girl to conceal her love if it exists; in Zee's case there was no love to discover, therefore none to conceal. She, skittish young thing, soliloquised thusly: “Eh! Mr. Wrax, you sly old fox! you'll bag your game without the waste of powder and shot, will you? But the very artlessness of somebody, who is neither to be bribed into love nor goaded into love by jealousy, may foil your deep-laid schemes. You are but drifting on to sand-banks, with the wind page 23 dead in your teeth; veer round, old boy! make ‘true as the needle to the pole’ your motto, and come calm, come storm, you'll have a fair chance of bringing somebody to port. But now, good day, sir!”
Sadai having fled the home-nest, Zee must follow her example; and that she might see something of the world, it was arranged that she should go to Scotland, to a widowed aunt in easy circumstances. Wrax protested vehemently against Zee's being “exiled,” as he called it, urging that he had seen a tear drop on her work during the discussion of the subject. Wrax may have flattered himself that the precious tear was his own by right divine; but no, it was wholly due to a cat-like love of home, coupled with an English girl's ignorant prejudices against the Scotch.
At length the time of trial came, the time of triumph too; for on the night of parting Wrax was woefully depressed. At the last moment, it fell to Zee's lot, as usual, to “let him out,” when he became greatly agitated, seized her hand, kissed it reverently, put something into it, gasped out “Goodbye,” and tore himself away, to hide perchance a tearfulness he tried in vain to choke down.
Love will out; it has many voices. Wrax had never made Sadai a present; and to crow over her clever sister, in being the first to have an acknowledged lover, was the uppermost feeling in the mind of the meddlesome, irrepressible Zee. She may have blessed her stars, and felt for Wrax a puzzled sort of gratitude at his having singled her out as the object of special favor; but she was conscious of no tender sentiment, no aching void within which he alone could fill. Fancy had not painted him her beau-ideal.
With an embarrassment quite novel, and feeling as sheepish, though from a different cause, as even Wrax could desire, Zee returned to the parlor, with that tale-telling present of his, which she wished at the bottom of the sea rather than that she should have to exhibit it. Yet she never dreamed of concealing it from her parents, who evidently expected Wrax to make some sign. On looking at his gift, behold a lady's pen-knife! page 24 Unlucky choice! “Sure to cut their love in two,” said the mother, presently adding, as she warmed under the discussion of the subject: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” A sorry prospect for one of the twain, according to the knifecutting logic.
The father and mother rejoiced to find that Sadai had “not had it all her own way;” and assuming that Zee must love Wrax if he loved her, they complimented her on his being all that could be desired, with much more to the same purpose.
To have changed places with Zee, Sadai, who fancied her charms were irresistible to all save Wrax, would gladly have thrown her intellectual superiority overboard. But, bemoaning the crook in her lot, she must wear the willow for a season, writing herself down of all girls most miserable, and Zee blessed above women. Love's vapors blotted out her bit of blue sky, as briny tears deluged her pillow, or she sighed out her griefs on the bosom of some sweet girl confidant, as sorely tried may be as herself. Overwhelming as is such sorrow while it lasts, how petty it looks when life's well-fought battles fill the mind's foreground! It is well if the soul is stretched on the rack but once on its way to the valley of the shadow.
The following lines chimed only too well with Zee's spirit of perversity lang syne, and to her mind suggested the treatment Wrax's variable conduct merited. Where a life-long happiness or misery is at stake, a girl, instead of taking her lover's professions of attachment on trust, should test his sincerity by all reasonable methods, and counterfeit men richly deserve the treatment the lines prescribe; but to subject a really generous, unselfish man to such waywardness is an almost unpardonable crime.
Now out upon this smiling, no smile shall meet his sight;
But a word of gay reviling is all he'll hear to-night,
For he'll hold my smiles too lightly if he always see me smile,
He'll think they shine more brightly when I have frowned awhile.
‘Tis not kindness keeps a lover, he must feel the chain he wears,
All the sweet enchantment's over when he has no anxious cares;
For the heart would seem too common it he knew that heart his won,
Ah! the empire of a woman is still in the unknown,
Let change without a reason make him never feel secure,
For ’tis an April season that a lover must endure;
They're all of them so faithless, their torment is your gain;
Would you keep your own heart scatheless, be the one to give the pain.27
To give pain to kill self-love and selfishness, is sometimes imperatively necessary, but take care that you wound to heal, to develop true manliness; such wounding, to be effective, must first have cut deep within one's own spirit. Love execrates the mere animalism, which teaches that the gratification of the passions is happiness; love cannot exalt itself by the abasement of another. Impossible! A nobler, more interested love—the love which can reverence only the God-like in the beloved—must be cultivated before passion's supremacy shall be displaced.
Appreciating the highest in themselves, girls should aim at naturalness at all costs. Nature, even in its “fall,” is better than art, because more God-like, and the grace which is born of inward beauty of character is divine. And yet it is to be feared that “society,” so-called, is daily becoming more artificial. Art-imitators are usually of the feminine gender, distinguished by an imposing self-consciousness—an I-am-holier-than-thou imperiousness, which aims at putting others down, much as a cat sets paw upon a mouse. Art-manufactured women stand much on the parade of hollow dignity; every movement of the body, together with the expression of the face, is trained with consummate art; every emotion, every impulse even, are reduced to measure, until they can almost be produced on the point of a lancet: and, in consequence, the outer tabernacle28 becomes as statuesque as though eut in marble. There is wisdom, of a sort, in such training, since if the muscles of the face have too much play, the face ages before its time; on the other hand, the lungs need exercise, and a voice, soft and low, is cultivated at the expense of the lungs. Extremes are dangerous; and art may be studied till it degenerates page 26 into the cream of the cream of artfulness, contrasting unfavorably with that perfect truthfulness conventionalism finds it impossible to deal with.
If art-imitators be sincere, if their souls are as transparent as their seeming, goodness will supply a silver thread of consistency, whereon the pearls of character may hang together in unmistakable harmony. But if a scratch-cat nature lurks beneath the fair exterior, how treacherous the whole appears! Girls, don't ape anything; to ape is seemly only for monkeys. Have done with cant of thought, of word, of look, and of deed. Go wade, if need be, through waters dark and deep, subject to every trial to which woman is heir, and if after some twenty, thirty years of close companionship, insincerity be the last sin those who know you best are likely lay to your charge, you are a something immeasurably better than actors. Art may be bought at too high a price. Character alone is wealth, beauty, goodness. Make the soul beautiful, it will enrich and beautify the life.
10 Customary or habitual behaviour.
11 A mischievous, artful sprite; an animal or apparition which causes terror.
12 A thicket of small trees periodically cut for economic purposes, or, more generally, the underwood of a wood or forest.
13 A simile used to indicate imminent danger, which may at any moment descend. The phrase originated from the story told by Cicero, in which a sword hung over the courtier Damocles’ head by a horse hair. It was used to explain what life with power was really like – filled with imminent danger, not just wealth and pleasure.
14 A pet name for (female) homemakers; domestic goddesses.
15 A ‘romp’ refers especially to a lively, playful girl or young woman.
16 To be frugal; sparing; careful not to waste.
17 The seed of a vetch: usually in reference to its small size.
18 A clown, or a reference to one who grows up in the country.
19 A cabbage rose was a cultivated hybrid rose which has large fragrant flowers with overlapping petals, known for its beauty. Particularly English. In reference to Sadai's ‘bloom’ and beauty.
20 A hobbledehoy is a youth at the age between boyhood and manhood; an adolescent, but especially one who is clumsy or awkward.
21 Generally, a beautiful or handsome young man, with allusion to the beautiful Adonis of classical myth (the lover of Aphrodite).
22 Deep mourning was the first stage of mourning, and it immediately followed the death of a husband, wife, or child. The length of mourning depended on the person’s degree of relation to the deceased, and could last for up to two years for widows. Clothes were deep black, with little or no adornment, and dresses were often made with black silk or bombazine trimmed with crape.
23 A traditional English square dance, typically performed by four couples.
24 A well-known English country dance. The tune that accompanies the dance carries the same name.
25 If someone is “in the ascendant” it refers to the person gaining influence, popularity, or success over that of other people.
26 To be overly sentimental.
27 A poem called “Cottage Courtship” by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, which calls on wives to usurp social norms and take control of their relationships. Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838), known as "L.E.L", was an English Romantic poet and novelist of great popularity.
28 A temporary dwelling constructed of branches, boards, or canvas, which is generally movable.