Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

same remark does not apply. If a thing is lucrative, it is very certain “women don't do it.” It is “out of their sphere." The only remedy for this is that they should get into another sphere," and make it theirs as soon as possible. Though capable, respectable, and qualified (to a certain extent), they are often so poor as to be recipients of charity, sometimes in health and youth, more frequently in age or sickness. It is not for people in this position to talk of risk, or difficulty, or hardship; they face these already, and often want besides, while uneducated men and women, without special teaching or superior ability, can maintain a family, or earn a competence.

The fact that retailers are, as a class, thought inferior to governesses, leads to the opinion that to join the former would be to degrade oneself to their level. But it is not so. Both kinds of work are a monotonous repetition of the same mental processes. Neither of them contribute (after a certain amount of practice) to mental improvement, but the advantage is with the retailer, because he earns most money. And money represents leisure, instruction, reading-what you will that contributes to edification. There is nothing in retailing to make or keep people ignorant. There is the temptation of poverty, in both classes, to make them dishonest, servile, mean, unworthy of respect and confidence as equals ; but which will feel this temptation most? The one whose poverty is hopeless, or the one whose honest exertions can raise him above it ?

But far more fatal than their ignorance to the successful pursuit of business by women, would be what they would call knowledge. They would hold, for instance, that it was not right to sell a thing cheaper when it was scarce ; to sell it cheaper than any one else, or dearer ; to follow the same trade as another person within a certain distance; to ask for payment of a debt, especially if the debtor is rich. They believe that they are illused if called upon to pay interest for money that they are using, and that intending to pay their debts, and promising to pay them, is as honest in itself, and ought to procure them the same credit and character, as actual payment. They will boast of not caring for money; of not securing what is their own. They will complain loudly of the injustice of being compelled to pay what they acknowledge they owe, and justify the complaint by the remark that, “ they would not do so." Then they have an indefinite general notion of the duties of a shopkeeper, which is something like this—they ought to ask a fair price for their goods. What is a fair price? Well, what they can live by. At what rate are they to live? Oh, at such a rate as the fair profits of their trade will allow. What are fair profits ? Oh, enough for them to live on.

Add to this confusion of ideas about right and wrong, the feminine belief that people have a character till they have lost it; whereas, in a

[ocr errors]

a

commercial sense, they only have one when they have earned it. Conscious of the best intentions, they expect to be trusted as if they had the capacity, and still more, the endurance, to carry them out, and they have an unconscious dexterity in not making themselves liable for the consequences of their own failure. Indeed they will altogether repu

. diate a bargain that turns out unprofitable to them. In these matters they are often inferior to the class beneath them, and a merchant will trust many an uncultivated woman, deficient in manners and spelling, sooner than these well-taught, well-behaved ladies.

Then again, young ladies, as distinguished from young women, spend all the money they get as fast as they get it, or nearly so. It is thought more refined to let it come without knowledge, and go without care. Why should any one refuse themselves the pleasure of spending money? The motives for doing so are to be found in looking forward, and looking forward would destroy their ephemeral quality of young ladies. The most that experience can teach them is to make their money last till the end of the month or quarter when the supply is to be renewed. Why should they keep it longer? For unforeseen events? Because they must provide for the future? These are motives that young ladies would be shy of quoting, and somewhat ashamed of. They would cultivate, in preference, the habit of living a day at a time, and letting the morrow provide for itself. Such people cannot be trusted to have money constantly passing through their hands without any distinct mark as to how much is theirs and how much belongs to their creditors. If they have got so far as to look forward a few years, and to wish to improve their position, they are rising to the morality of shopkeepers. At any rate, until they have learnt this they are “not strong enough for the place," and must be content with the inferior position due to inferior character. Though, perhaps, not guilty of the glaring dishonesty of outliving their income, they do not rise to the strict integrity of providing for the future. If they start a retail shop it is in their power to spend all their profits, and all their capital, and probably something more before they are stopped by having no more money. Their resistance to constant temptation ought to be such that they continually add profits to capital ; profits saved in sixpences, saved out of petty wants by constant self-denial.

No brilliant destiny this; nothing at all to be urged on any woman, one would think, until they compared it with the alternative.

And this is the alternative.

It is not given to any human being to say they will not change; they may choose some of the influences that will change them, but they cannot choose to stand still. Now what effect is likely to be produced on the mind by the presence and prospect of hopeless poverty? As a girl becomes aware of the thousand wants and wishes of womanhood, the thousand needs that society has invented, what effect will it produce on her to know that she cannot hope to supply them except by begging; that the small resources she now possesses will become less and less as the friends of her childhood die off? Can there be anything more likely to sap the honesty, to embitter the heart, and make temptation irresistible? The one poor refuge being to attempt an employment for which they are consciously unfit, or at least for which the refusal of others to accept their services proves their unfitness.

It is somewhat laughable that one of the most serious objections felt to beginning a retail business should be a fear of degradation. Women wish not only to be honourable ; the first, the ruling, the constant wish of their life, is to have the good opinion of others, chiefly of the other sex. If the reality and the appearance of goodness are not to be had together, there is little doubt that the majority of women will quietly forsake the former for the latter, so that, after owning that the temptations and the misery of poverty were best removed by the labour that earned most money, they would quietly neglect or ignore the fact, and follow the course they thought more calculated to insure them the world's respect.

Now this unconscious belief in other people's inferiority is the most insidious temptation that besets us on earth. It is true enough, judging by the actions of mankind, for we compare their actions with our principles. But he is a sorry wretch indeed, whose principles are not better than his actions. And every one judges another's conduct by a rule of right, not by comparing it with his own. Wherefore let women hold fast with all their might to the truth that even in a worldly sense it is wisest to follow the best they know. They will never be isolated by adopting a too strict morality. There are thousands as good as they, whose adherence and approval will never leave them solitary and unrespected if any act of theirs is worthy of respect. They need not so anxiously grasp at the good opinion of the world as to neglect the conduct that ought to bring it. If this were needful, the world would offer them a most melancholy future, for their whole life must be either solitary or degraded. But, fortunately, even the average morality of the world can appreciate the fitness of a woman's providing for herself, looking to the future, and relieving her friends of the burden of her maintenance. Some people's notions of right are below this standard, and oddly enough, these will look down upon her ; nevertheless respect and friendship will not fail her if she has energy to earn them,

bu

THE PEARL GOBLET;

OR,
THE WATERS OF THE MIRACULOUS FOUNTAIN.

A FAIRY TALE,

BY MISS EDITH HERAUD.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE HEART OF GOLD. SLOWLY wending along the cross-roads that led to the stately cathedral of the isles, moved the long mourning procession, that ushered the last Lord of St. Valerie to the costly mausoleum of his race. Onward came the long line of coaches, hung with deep black coverings, ornamented with jet and steel according to the custom of the islands, each carriage bearing on its front the lordly crest of St. Valerie, emblazoned in prominent characters of gold. In the centre of the funeral train might be seen the tall, grave-like hearse, its black waving plumes fanning the air with ghost-like stillness, as though conscious of the solemn mission on which their state was journeying. Following wearily on foot, with heavy hearts, and eyes whose vision was clouded by the scalding drops, came the simple-hearted, sorrowing inhabitants of the islands. Onward they wended in the direction of the grand cathedral, whose deepsounding bell uttered its ill-omened wailings across the surrounding country, bearing to the neighbouring islands tidings of a sister's loss. Toll-toll-booming in the air like the wail of memory for joys obscured and sepulchred in the past. And now the procession proceeds up the long stony entrance to the grand cathedral. Toll-tollushering in a spirit to the shades of the eternal, investing it with the bright immortal crown, for which it yearned even while yet imprisoned in the flesh. Anon the mourning cortége is admitted within the gates of the sacred edifice, and soon is lost among the gloomy aisles. Tolltoll—“ ashes to ashes, dust to dust "-words fraught with a deep mystical meaning, of which no tongue may tell. And now the procession appears once more along the stony entrance, and wends its way towards the courtly sepulchre in which repose the bones of many generations of St. Valerie descent. Toll-toll ! blessed are they who go to their last home hallowed by the tears of lamenting thousands. Toll-toll ! the sepulchre is opened—the coffin lowered in its costly pall—and the Lord of St. Valerie is laid by the side of his princely ancestors, sleeping the so-called death sleep, which revivifies the spirit to an eternal waking. Slowly moves the procession on its homeward route, the bell ceases its oracular utterings, and the sepulchre is left in VOL VI.

LL

solitary grandeur, to groan beneath the weight of its newly acquired burden.

The day is sinking, and the tints of evening bathe in a yellow-purple light the turrets of St. Valerie. Within the castle there are tears and lamentations, for the domestics sorrow as for a great calamity, the loss of their honoured, patriarchal chieftain, Without, rising from the further terrace of the garden, borne onward with the breeze, like the shriek of a spirit in purgatorial torture, comes the wail of a lost hopethe cry of a soul in agony.

Alaric St. Valerie lay stretched full-length beneath a giant oak, that rose from the further terrace of the garden. In the bitterness of his spirit, he inveighed against a destiny that had reserved him to a calamity unprecedented within the annals of his race. Feeling the hopelessness of his situation, he gave utterance to a long despairing moan, at the same time exclaiming

“My error was wilful, and my mind knowingly perverted, and my chastisement is but the just reward of my offence. And yet is my heart unequal to sustain the burden measured according to the weight of its iniquity. Oh, 'tis hard to bear alone, unsolaced by the friendly sympathetic tear, even those sorrows entailed upon us by our own misdoing ! And yet it is but just ; with ourselves alone rests the responsibility of evil, by ourselves unaided should we pay the forfeiture of sin. But oh, 'tis hard-hard—the torture of the spirit, the terrible heart-agony that eats into the very roots and fibres of pulsation, and rendereth life a curse—to bear it in the solitude of unloved, unpitied existence! To sustain it all alone! alone! alone! Oh, help me, help me, my punishment is greater than I can bear!”

The rustle of a woman's drapery is heard brushing along the leaves of the waving branches, a figure attired in snow-white vestments, significant of the virgin purity in which the soul has weaved its garment, emerges from the spreading chestnuts; the next moment, two loving hands are thrown around the neck of the solitary mourner, a gentle cheek is pressed against his forehead, and a soft, soothing voice, twice repeateth in his hearing

“ Alaric-Alaric !”
“ Winnifred !"
“Dear, dear Alaric !"

“Heaven bless thee, Winnifred !” said Alaric, folding her closely in his bosom. “Oh, may heaven bless thee, my betrothed one; may heaven bless thee!”

“Ah !” lisped Tiny, whose fairy figure had crept unperceived beneath the shelter of the branches ; “it is a heart of gold. Treasure it, my foster-brother, treasure it with a miser's greed of wealth—such other thou shalt never find-it is a heart of gold."

« PreviousContinue »