"You must go and see your cousin Caroline," said my mother, the first evening after I got home; "you've no idea how pretty she's grown."

"She's what I call a pattern girl," said my uncle Jacob, "a girl that can make the most of life."

"She is a model housekeeper and manager," said Aunt Polly.

Now if Aunt Polly called a girl a model house-keeper, it was the same for her that it would be for a man to receive a doctorate from a college; in fact it would be a good deal more, as Aunt Polly was one who always measured her words, and never said anything pro forma, or without having narrowly examined the premises.

Elderly people who live in happy matrimony are in a gentle way disposed to be match-makers. If they have sense, as my elders did, they do not show this disposition in any very pronounced way. They never advise a young man directly to try his fortune with "So and so," knowing that that would, in nine cases out of ten, be the direct way to defeat their purpose. So my mother's gentle suggestion, and my uncle Jacob's praise, and Aunt Polly's endorsement, were simply in the line of the most natural remarks.

Cousin Caroline was the daughter of Uncle Jacob's brother, the only daughter in the family. Her father was one of those men most useful and necessary in society, composed of virtues and properties wholly masculine. He was strong, energetic, shrewd, acridly conscientious, and with an intensity of self-will and love of domination. This rugged rock, all granite, had won a tender woman to nestle and flower in some crevice of his heart and she had clothed him with a garland of sons and one flower of a daughter. Within a year or two her death had left this daughter the mistress of her father's family. I remembered Caroline of old, as my school companion; the leading scholar, in every study, always good natured, steady, and clear-headed, ready to help me when I faltered in a translation, or the solution of an algebraic problem. In those days I never thought of her as pretty. There were the outlines and rudiments, which might bloom into beauty, but thin, pale, colorless, and deficient in roundness and grace.

I had seen very little of Caroline through my college life; we had exchanged occasionally a cousinly letter, but in my last vacation she was away upon a visit. I was not, therefore, prepared for the vision which bloomed out upon me from the singer's seat, when I looked up on Sunday and saw her, standing in a shaft of sunlight that lit up her whole form with a kind of glory. I rubbed my eyes with astonishment, as I saw there a very beautiful woman, and beautiful in quite an uncommon style, one which promised a more lasting continuance of personal attraction than is usual with our New England girls. I own, that a head and bust of the Venus de Milo type; a figure at once graceful, yet ample in its proportions; a rich, glowing bloom, speaking of health and vigor,—gave a new radiance to eyes that I had always admired, in days when I never had thought of even raising the question of Caroline's beauty. These charms were set off, too, by a native talent for dress,—that sort of instinctive gift that some women have of arranging their toilet so as exactly to suit their own peculiar style. There was nothing fussy, or furbelowed, or gaudy, as one often sees in the dress of a country beauty, but a grand and severe simplicity, which in her case was the very perfection of art.

My Uncle Ebenezer Simmons lived at a distance of nearly two miles from our house, but that evening, after tea, I announced to my mother that I was going to take a walk over to see cousin Caroline. I perceived that the movement was extremely popular and satisfactory in the eyes of all the domestic circle.

Whose thoughts do not travel in this direction, I wonder, in a small country neighborhood? Here comes Harry Henderson home from college, with his laurels on his brow, and here is the handsomest girl in the neighborhood, a pattern of all the virtues. What is there to be done, except that they should straightway fall in love with each other, and taking hold of hands walk up the Hill Difficulty together? I presume that no good gossip in our native village saw any other arrangement of our destiny as possible or probable.

I may just as well tell my readers first as last, that we did not fall in love with each other, though we were the very best friends possible, and I spent nearly half my time at my uncle's house, besetting her at all hours, and having the best possible time in her society; but our relations were as frankly and clearly those of brother and sister as if we had been children of one mother.

For a beautiful woman, Caroline had the least of what one may call legitimate coquetry, of any person I ever saw. There are some women, and women of a high class too, who seem to take a natural and innocent pleasure in the power which their sex enables them to exercise over men, and who instinctively do a thousand things to captivate and charm one of the opposite sex, even when they would greatly regret winning his whole heart. If well principled and instructed they try to keep themselves under control, but they still do a thousand ensnaring things, for no other reason, that I can see, than that it is their nature, and they cannot help it. If they have less principle this faculty becomes then available power, by which they can take possession of all that a man has, and use it to carry their own plans and purposes.

Of this power, whatever it may be, Caroline had nothing; nay, more, she despised it, and received the admiration and attentions which her beauty drew from the opposite sex, with a coldness, in some instances amounting to incivility.

With me she had been from the first so frankly, cheerfully and undisguisedly affectionate and kind, and with such a straightforward air of comradeship and a literal ignoring of everything sentimental, that the very ground of anything like love-making did not seem to exist between us. The last evening before I was to leave for my voyage to Europe, I spent with her, and she gave me a curiously-wrought traveling-case, in which there was a pocket for any imaginable thing that a bachelor might be supposed to want on his travels.

"I wish I could go with you," she said to me, with an energy quite out of her usual line.

"I am sure I wish you could," said I; and what with the natural softness of heart that a young man feels, when he is plunging off from the safe ground of home into the world and partly from the unwonted glow of feeling that came over Caroline's face, as she spoke, I felt quite a rush of emotion, and said, as I kissed her hand, "Why didn't we think of this before, Caroline?"

"Oh, nonsense, Henry; don't you be sentimental, of all things," she replied briskly, withdrawing her hand. "Of course, I didn't mean anything more than that I wished I was a young fellow like you, free to take my staff and bundle, and make my way in the great world. Why couldn't I be?"

"You," said I, "Caroline, you, with your beauty and your talents,—I think you might be satisfied with a woman's lot in life."

"A woman's lot! and what is that, pray? to sit with folded hands and see life drifting by—to be a mere nullity, and endure to have my good friends pat me on the back, and think I am a bright and shining light of contentment in woman's sphere?"

"But," said I, "you know, Caroline, that there is always a possibility in woman's destiny, especially a woman so beautiful as you are."

"You mean marriage. Well, perhaps if I could do as you can, go all over the world, examine and search for the one I want, and find him, the case would be somewhat equal; but my chances are only among those who propose to me. Now, I have read in the Arabian Nights of princesses so beautiful that men came in regiments, to seek the honor of their hand; but such things don't occur in our times in New England villages. My list for selection must be confined to such of the eligible men in this neighborhood as are in want of wives; men who want wives as they do cooking-stoves, and make up their minds that I may suit them. By the by, I have been informed already of one who has had me under consideration, and concluded not to take me. Silas Boardman, I understand, has made up his mind, and informed his sisters of the fact, that I am altogether too dressy in my taste for his limited means, and besides that I am too free and independent; so that door is closed to me, you'll observe. Silas won't have me!"

"The conceited puppy!" said I.

"Well, isn't that the common understanding among men—that all the marriageable girls in their neighborhood are on exhibition for their convenience? If the very first idea of marriage with any one of them were not so intensely disagreeable to me, I would almost be willing to let some of them ask me, just to hear what I could tell them. Now you know, Harry, I put you out of the case, because you are my cousin, and I no more think of you in that way than if you were my brother, but, frankly, I never yet saw the man that I could by any stretch of imagination conceive of my wanting, or being willing to marry; I know no man that it wouldn't be an untold honor to me to be doomed to marry. I would rather scrub floors on my knees for a living."

"But you do see happy marriages."

"Oh, yes, dear souls, of course I do, and am glad of it, and wonder and admire; yes, I see some happy marriages. There's Uncle Jacob and his wife, kind old souls, two dear old pigeons of the sanctuary!—how charmingly they get along! and your father and mother—they seemed one soul; it really was encouraging to see that people could live so."

"But you musn't be too ideal, Caroline; you musn't demand too much of a man."

"Demand? I don't demand anything of any man, I only want to be let alone. I don't want to wait for a husband to make me a position, I want to make one for myself; I don't want to take a husband's money, I want my own. You have individual ideas of life, you want to work them out; so have I: you are expected and encouraged to work them out independently, while I am forbidden. Now, what would you say if somebody told you to sit down quietly in the domestic circle and read to your mother, and keep the wood split and piled, and the hearth swept, and diffuse a sweet perfume of domestic goodness, like the violet amid its leaves, till by and by some woman should come and give you a fortune and position, and develop your affections,—how would you like that? Now the case with me is just here, I am, if you choose to say it, so ideal and peculiar in my views that there is no reasonable prospect that I shall ever marry, but I want a position, a house and home of my own, and a sphere of independent action, and everybody thinks this absurd and nobody helps me. As long as mother was alive, there was some consolation in feeling that I was everything to her. Poor soul! she had a hard life, and I was her greatest pride and comfort, but now she is gone, there is nothing I do for my father that a good, smart housekeeper could not be hired to do; but you see that would cost money, and the money that I thus save is invested without consulting me: it goes to buy more rocky land, when we have already more than we know what to do with. I sacrifice all my tastes, I stunt my growth mentally and intellectually to this daily tread-mill of house and dairy, and yet I have not a cent that I can call my own, I am a servant working for board and clothes, and because I am a daughter I am expected to do it cheerfully; my only escape from this position is to take a similar one in the family of some man to whom, in addition to the superintendence of his household, I shall owe the personal duties of a wife, and that way out you may know I shall never take. So you are sure to find me ten or twenty years hence a fixture in this neighborhood, spoken of familiarly as 'old Miss Caroline Simmons,' a cross-pious old maid, held up as a warning to contumacious young beauties how they neglect their first gracious offer. 'Caroline was a handsome gal in her time,' they'll say, 'but she was too perticklar, and now her day is over and she's left an old maid. She held her head too high and said "No" a little too often; ye see, gals better take their fust chances.'"

"After all, cousin," I said, "though we men are all unworthy sinners, yet sometimes you women do yield to much persuasion, and take some one out of pity."

"I can't do that; in fact I have tried to do it, and can't. This desperate dullness, and restraint, and utter paralysis of progress that lies like a nightmare on one, is a dreadful temptation; when a man offers you a fortune, which will give you ease, leisure, and power to follow all your tastes and a certain independent stand, such as unmarried women cannot take, it is a great temptation."

"But you resisted it!"

"Well, I was sorely tried; there were things I wanted desperately—a splendid house in Boston, pictures, carriages, servants,—oh, I did want them; I wanted the éclat, too, of a rich marriage, but I couldn't; the man was too good a man to be trifled with; if he would only have been a good uncle or grandpa I would have loved him dearly, and been ever so devoted, kept his house beautifully, waited on him like a dutiful daughter, read to him, sung to him, nursed him, been the best friend in the world to him, but his wife I could not be; the very idea of it made the worthy creature perfectly repulsive and hateful to me."

"Did you ever try to tell your father how you feel?"

"Of what earthly use? There are people in this world who don't understand each other's vernacular. Papa and I could no more discuss any question of the inner life together than if he spoke Chickasaw and I spoke French. Papa has a respect for my practical efficiency and business talent, and in a certain range of ideas we get on well together. He thinks I have made a great mistake, and that there is a crack in my head somewhere, but he says nothing; his idea is that I have let slip the only chance of my life, but still, as I am a great convenience at home, he is reconciled. I suppose all my friends mourn in secret places over me, and I should have been applauded and commended on all hands if I had done it; but, after all, wouldn't it be a great deal more honest, more womanly, more like a reasonable creature, for me to do just what you are doing, fit myself to make my own way, and make an independence for myself? Really it isn't honest to take a position where you know you can't give the main thing asked for, and keep out somebody perhaps who can. My friend has made himself happy with a woman who perfectly adores him, and ought to be much obliged to me that I didn't take him at his word; good, silly soul that he was."

"But, after all, the Prince may come—the fated knight—Caroline."

"And deliver the distressed damsel?" she said, laughing. "Well, when he comes I'll show him my 'swan's nest among the reeds.' Soberly, the fact is, cousin," she said, "you men don't know us women. In the first place they say that there are more of us born than there are of you: and that doesn't happen merely to give you a good number to choose from, and enable every widower to find a supernumerary; it is because it was meant that some women should lead a life different from the domestic one. The womanly nature can be of use otherwhere besides in marriage, in our world. To be sure, for the largest class of women there is nothing like marriage, and I suppose the usages of society are made for the majority, and exceptional people mustn't grumble if they don't find things comfortable; but I am persuaded that there is a work and a way for those who cannot marry."

"Well, there's Uncle Jacob has just been preaching to me that no man can be developed fully without a wife," said I.

"Uncle Jacob has matrimony on the brain! it's lucky he isn't a despotic Czar or, I believe, he'd marry all the men and women, wille nille. I grant that the rare, real marriage, that occurs one time in a hundred, is the true ideal state for man and woman, but it doesn't follow that all and everything that brings man and woman together in marriage is blessed, and I take my stand on St. Paul's doctrine that there are both men and women called to some higher state; now, it seems to me that the number of these increases with the advancement of society. Marriage requires so close an intimacy that there must be perfect agreement and sympathy; the lower down in the scale of being one is, the fewer distinctive points there are of difference or agreement. It is easier for John and Patrick, and Bridget and Katy, to find comfortable sympathy and agreement than it is for those far up in the scale of life where education has developed a thousand individual tastes and peculiarities. We read in history of the Rape of the Sabines, and how the women thus carried off at hap-hazard took so kindly to their husbands that they wouldn't be taken back again. Such things are only possible in the barbarous stages of society, when characters are very rudimentary and simple. If a similar experiment were made on women of the cultivated classes in our times I fancy some of the men would be killed; I know one would,"—she said with an energetic grasp of her little fist and a flash out of her eyes.

"But the ideal marriage is the thing to be sought," said I.

"For you, who are born with the right to seek, it is the thing to be sought," she said; "for me, who am born to wait till I am sought by exactly the right one, the chances are so infinitesimal that they ought not to be considered; I may have a fortune left me, and die a millionaire; there is no actual impossibility in that thing's happening—it is a thing that has happened to people who expected it as little as I do—but it would be the height of absurdity to base any calculation upon it and yet all the arrangements that are made about me and for me, are made on the presumption that I am to marry. I went to Uncle Jacob and tried to get him to take me through a course of medical study, to fit me for a professional life, and it was impossible to get him to take any serious view of it, or to believe what I said; he seemed really to think I was plotting to upset the Bible and the Constitution, in planning for an independent life."

"After all, Caroline, you must pardon me if I say that it does not seem possible that a woman like you will be allowed—that is you know—you will—well—find somebody—that is, you will be less exacting by and by."

"Exacting! why do you use that word, when I don't exact anything? I am not so very ideal in my tastes, I am only individual; I must have in myself a certain feeling towards this possible individual, and I don't find it. In one case certainly I asked myself why I didn't? The man was all he should be, I didn't object to him in the slightest degree as a man; but looked on respecting the marriage relation, he was simply intolerable. It must be that I have no vocation to marry, and yet I want what any live woman wants; I want something of my own; I want a life-work worth doing; I want a home of my own; I want money that I can use as I please, that I can give and withhold, and dispose of as absolutely mine, and not another's; and the world seems all arranged so as to hinder my getting it. If a man wants to get an education there are colleges with rich foundations, where endowments have been heaped up, and scholarships founded, to enable him to prepare for life at reasonable expense. There are no such for women, and their schools, such as they are, infinitely poorer than those given to men, involve double the expense. If you ask a professional man to teach you privately, he laughs at you, compliments you, and sends you away with the feeling that he considers you a silly, cracked-brain girl, or perhaps an unsuccessful angler in matrimonial waters; he seems to think that there is no use teaching you, because you will throw down all, and run for the first man that beckons to you. That sort of presumption is insufferable to me."

"Oh, well, Carrie, you know those old Doctors, they get a certain jog-trot way of arranging human life; and then men that are happily married are in such bliss, and such women-worshipers that they cannot make up their mind that anybody they care about should not enter their paradise."

"I do not despise their paradise," said Caroline; "I think everybody most happy that can enter it. I am thankful to see that they can. I am delighted and astonished every day at beholding the bliss and satisfaction with which really nice, pretty girls take up with the men they do, and I think it all very delightful; but it's rather hard on me that, since I can't have that, I mustn't have anything else."

"After all, Caroline, is not your dissatisfaction with the laws of nature?"

"Not exactly; I won't quarrel with the will that made me a woman, not in my deepest heart. Neither being a woman do I want to be unwomanly. I would not, if I could, do as Georges Sand did, put on men's clothes and live a man's life. Anything of that sort in a woman is very repulsive and disgusting to me. At the same time, I do think that the customs and laws of society might be modified so as to give to women who do not choose to marry, independent position and means of securing home and fortune. Marriage never ought to be entered on as a means of support. It seems to me that our sex are enough weighted by nature, and that therefore all the laws and institutions of society ought to act in just the contrary direction, and tend to hold us up—to widen our way, to encourage our efforts, because we are the weaker party, and need it most. The world is now arranged for the strong, and I think it ought to be re-arranged for the weak."

I paused, and pondered all that she had been saying.

"My mother—" I began.

"Now, please don't quote your mother to me. I know what she would say. If two angels were sent down from Heaven, the one to govern an empire, and the other to sweep the streets, they would not wish to change with each other; it is perhaps true.

"But then, you see, that is only possible because they are angels. Your mother has got up somewhere into that region, but I am down in the low lands, and must do the best I can on my plane. I can conceive of those moral heights where one thing is just as agreeable as another, but I have not yet reached them. Besides, you know Jacob wrestled with his angel, and was commended for it; and I think we ought to satisfy ourselves by good, strong effort that our lot is of God. If we really cannot help ourselves, we may be resigned to it as His will."

"Caroline," I said, "if you might have exactly what you want, what would it have been?"

"In the first place, then, exactly the same education with my brothers. I hear of colleges now, somewhere far out west, where a brother and sister may go through the same course together; that would have suited me. I am impatient of half-education. I am by nature very thorough and exact. I want to be sure of doing whatever I undertake as well as it can be done. I don't want to be flattered and petted for pretty ignorance. I don't want to be tolerated in any half way, slovenly work of any kind because I am a woman. When I have a thorough general education, I then want to make professional studies. I have a great aptitude for medicine. I have a natural turn for the care of sick, and am now sent for far and near as one of the best advisers and watchers in case of sickness. In that profession I don't doubt I might do great good, be very happy, have a cheerful home of own, and a pleasant life-work; but I don't want to enter it half taught. I want to be able to do as good work as any man's; to be held to the same account, and receive only what I can fairly win."

"But, Caroline, a man's life includes so much drudgery."

"And does not mine? Do you suppose that the care of all the house and dairy, the oversight of all my father's home affairs, is no drudgery? Much of it is done with my own hands, because no other work than mine can content me. But when you and I went to school together, it was just so: you know I worked out my own problems and made my own investigations. Now all that is laid aside; at least, all my efforts are so hap-hazard and painfully incomplete, that it is discouraging to me."

"But would not your father consent?"

"My father is a man wedded to the past, and set against every change in ideas. I have tried to get his consent to let me go and study, and prepare myself to do something worth doing, but he is perfectly immovable. He says I know more now than half the women, and a great deal too much for my good, and that he cannot spare me. At twenty-one he makes no further claim on any of my brothers; their minority comes to an end at a certain period—mine, never."

We were walking in the moonlight up and down under the trees by the house. Caroline suddenly stopped.

"Cousin," she said, "if you succeed; if you get to be what I hope you will—high in the world, a prosperous editor—speak for the dumb, for us whose lives burn themselves out into white ashes in silence and repression."

"I will," I said.

"You will write to me; I shall rejoice to hear of the world through you—and I shall rejoice in your success," she added.

"Caroline," I said, "do you give up entirely wrestling with the angel?"

"No; if I did, I should not keep up. I have hope from year to year that something may happen to bring things to my wishes; that I may obtain a hearing with papa; that his sense of justice may be aroused; that I may get Uncle Jacob to do something besides recite verses and compliment me; that your mother may speak for me."

"You have never told your heart to my mother?"

"No; I am very reticent, and these adoring wives have but one recipe for all our troubles."

"I think, Caroline, that her's is a wide, free nature, that takes views above the ordinary level of things, and that she would understand and might work for you. Tell her what you have been telling me."

"You may, if you please. I will talk with her afterward perhaps she will do something for me."

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