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- Hold Up Your Heads, Girls! - 19/19 -
character? And how, indeed, can boys and girls grow in character without friends? Do not fancy the boys like in you qualities differing from those the girls are most fond of. Very young boys may, or very unworthy men. A twelve-year-old thinks girls are "no good,"--can't fly a kite without letting go the string, and can't play ball without hitting him on the head with a bat. A fifteen-year-old thinks girls will do for some occasions, especially if the girls are his sisters. They can fasten neck-ties very well, and save a fellow a good deal of embarrassment at dancing-school. He wishes they wouldn't be such tell- tales, though. But an eighteen-year-old, or a youth of twenty, cannot conceive any thing more adorable than the winning ways of girlhood.
A boy likes a girl sometimes, just as you girls too often like each other, because she is pretty, or bright, or pert. He is fond of a girl at other times because the beauty of her character reveals itself in all kinds of womanly acts. If he marries, he usually meets the deserts of whatever fondness he cherishes. He may be happy for a while in association with a pretty face, a saucy tongue, and a becoming costume; but not for long,--not for long.
While you are never to forget that you are young women, and that you owe large tributes to girls everywhere, do not exact consideration from the boys merely because you are girls. The boys never think of asking you to favor them. Though you are privileged to demand courtesy, that should not prevent you from engaging in honest toil with boys, or from associating with them in harmless pleasures. A boy appreciates it when a girl takes hold and helps to row, to rake, or to add accounts.
I think it is extremely commendable when a boy and girl can study together, work in the factory at the same bench, drive or walk with one another, and are not foolishly conscious that he is a boy and she is a girl. It is a pleasure to see a girl look at a boy without blushing, and to observe a boy look into a girl's eyes without immediately lowering his lashes.
Why is this susceptibility? It is not because boys and girls are always to fall in love when they meet. Every girl has a work to do for the boys,--some traits in their characters to discountenance, some features to encourage. How can she do this, if she is always thinking, Maybe he loves me? Work with the boys she must: join in merry-making and in whimsical enjoyments, why should she not? but in her gayest moment let her be mindful, not of a difference in sex, but of the fact that both a boy and a girl owe deference to each other, courtesy, kindness, and conformity, as of friend with friend.
It is quite possible for young women to have friends among the young men without this friendship developing into a strong affection. You do not know, girls, how valiantly you are defended by the boys. Boys are usually such uncommunicative creatures! But touch their friendship, and they will throw a volley of rhetoric right in among a crowd of gossipers. Slow to receive favors from you, as they sometimes seem, they never forget a kindness done by you.
Now suppose your association with boys does sometime grow into a love for a young man,--just suppose the case. Ought you to marry him? Of course I don't know: I am not capable of advising, on account of my singularity. I might tremblingly suggest, however, that love, health, and virtue having been seriously contemplated, there should be few, if any, hindrances to marriage; for out of this trinity will spring patience, courage, industry, joy, and all that is needful to united lives.
If you think my suggestion lacks the significance of experience, why, hunt up some of the best authorities on the subject. William Penn was a very moral kind of a man, and experienced in the art of living; and, like a true Quaker, he put a negative wherever one was needed. He said, "Never marry but for love, but see thou lovest what is lovely." Only two conditions, you note; but on them hangs the destiny of all the future. It is certainly right for you to think of marriage, to regard it joyfully, yet so as with a serious joy. But girls, dear girls, do not inflame your hearts with the visions of married life which are so frequently delineated in the prevalent fiction of the day. You will be happier without all that extravagance of romantic affection which fills circulating libraries. Do not read the trash: it will make you expect too much; it will make real life seem insignificant; it will cause you to be more and more susceptible in the presence of young men; it will blot leaves in your book of life which ought to be all white; it will make truth fictitious; it will lead to temptation,--to death. Says Miss Yonge, "If every modest woman or girl would abstain from such books as poison, and never order or read one which makes crime and impurity prominent, or tampers with dilemmas about the marriage vow, there would be fewer written and published, and less wildfire would be spread abroad." Shun the romances which centre all in a false, unnatural affection. Oh, that they were all sunk in the ocean, the food for obscene sharks! And, oh, that only such pure and beautiful romances remained as picture the lives of a Hermann and a Dorothea, or a Gabriel and an Evangeline!
But, girls, how some of you do treat the boys! No wonder they grow conceited: you allow them to become so. Here is a girl only eighteen years old who has an impression, such a strong impression, there is but one praise-worthy act for a girl to do, and that is to get married. Each new birthday will frighten her, and she will dread to be alive and single at twenty-five. She seizes every matrimonial opportunity, and haunts a young man like a conviction of conscience.
Here is another girl quite absorbed in the thought that a _live_ man pays her certain attentions, and she takes his conceit for grave wisdom, and his kindness for infinite tenderness. She looks upon him as an importation from the priesthood of the Grand Llama,--perhaps he is the Grand Llama himself; certainly the inhabitant of a land where young men do not grow humanly. He is a _rara avis_, a glorious phenomenon, a marked consideration in the world, a being to be devoutly gazed at to come to some appreciation of him.
I feel you are berating me, girls, so far as your natures will allow; but, then, do I not speak the truth? Could I not unfold pitiful stories about girls who marry fine wedding receptions and the servitude of reverses? about young women who are vain enough to think there can be no union of hearts without union of intellects, and so lay snares for college students? Could I not picture to you the _mariage de convenance_ in America? And could I not describe the marriage of a jilt?
I cannot too earnestly repeat that marriage is the common and acceptable destiny of both boys and girls; but I must complain because girls do not regard it sufficiently before they enter into it. In the distress which follows their hastiness, in the despair which sometimes hardens their hearts, women call marriage a lottery, and man faithless.
I must think that marriage is not only a very natural, but a very beautiful, way of increasing love.
"Love is the burden of all Nature's odes,--the song of the birds an epithalamium, a hymeneal. The marriage of the flowers spots the meadows, and fringes the hedges with pearls and diamonds. In the deep waters, in the high air, in woods and pastures, and the bowels of the earth, this is the employment and condition of all things." [Footnote: Thoreau.]
"God has set the type of marriage everywhere throughout the creation. Each creature seeks its perfection in another. The very heavens and earth picture it to us." [Footnote: Luther.]
Youths and maidens, you are in the heyday of vigorous, joyous life! Your delight is, like the springtime, rich in hope and promise. Your laugh rings true; your voices mingle in frolic glee, or in quiet tones of kind regard. Now join hands in the glad though earnest work of life,--not life's drudgery, not its toils. No! for the cheer of your spirits, the courage which looks despair full in the face, and crushes it with lively endeavor,--these will permit no drudgery; these will make out of the most desolate moorland a very garden of life!
You can do _all_! Now make the earth renew its vigor; now make health and courage come again in the world; now restore the reign of cheer; now break the bonds of vice; now bring back an earthly Paradise! With your strong bodies, your glad hearts, your vigorous minds, your imperial sway over the hearts of one another, your persuasive control over the feelings of your elders, it is for you to make the future what you will. Oh, make it the dawn of that civilization, of that Christianity, when again "the morning stars shall sing together!"
Only you can restore virtue; only you can cast out corruption; only you can drive the fiends of intemperance, of fraud, of oppression, of despair, of craftiness, of selfishness, from the land!
Girls, in the great work of the future, in the reformation of the present, can you not do most? When woman was thrust out of Paradise, man followed her. When she shall return again, and the gates shall swing open on noiseless hinges at the approach of her pure feet, man shall be seen, not following, but walking by her side.
Raphael and Guido have painted the angel Michael with a beautiful maiden's face, though his body is muscular, and his wings are tipped with strength, while, firm as a Hercules, he stands upon the writhing coils of Satan. The Devil but turns his coward head to look with vanquished strength upon the clear, calm smile of the angel. Maidenly love of what is pure, of what is brave, of what is manly, will crush the evil in youths who are tempted; yes, and make from an Adam of mere muscle and intelligence a very god of virtue.
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