The next day I spoke to my uncle Jacob of Caroline's desire to study, and said that some way ought to be provided for taking her out of her present confined limits.

He looked at me with a shrewd, quizzical expression, and said: "Providence generally opens a way out for girls as handsome as she is. Caroline is a little restless just at present, and so is getting some of these modern strong-minded notions into her head. The fact is, that our region is a little too much out of the world; there is nobody around here, probably, that she would think a suitable match for her. Caroline ought to visit, now, and cruise about a little in some of the watering-places next summer, and be seen. There are few girls with a finer air, or more sure to make a sensation. I fancy she would soon find the right sphere under these circumstances."

"But does it not occur to you, uncle, that the very idea of going out into the world, seeking to attract and fall in the way of offers of marriage, is one from which such a spirit as Caroline's must revolt? Is there not something essentially unwomanly in it—something humiliating? I know, myself, that she is too proud, too justly self-respecting, to do it. And why should a superior woman be condemned to smother her whole nature, to bind down all her faculties, and wait for occupation in a sphere which it is unwomanly to seek directly, and unwomanly to accept when offered to her, unless offered by the one of a thousand for whom she can have a certain feeling?"

"To tell the truth," said my uncle, looking at me again, "I always thought in my heart that Caroline was just the proper person for you—just the woman you need—brave, strong, and yet lovely; and I don't see any objection in the way of your taking her."

Elderly people of a benevolent turn often get a matter-of-fact way of arranging the affairs of their juniors that is sufficiently amusing. My uncle spoke with a confidential air of good faith of my taking Caroline as if she had been a lot of land up for sale. Seeing my look of blank embarrassment, he went on:

"You perhaps think the relationship an objection, but I have my own views on that subject. The only objection to the intermarriage of cousins is one that depends entirely on similarity of race peculiarities. Sometimes cousins inheriting each from different races, are physiologically as much of diverse blood as if their parents had not been related, and in that case there isn't the slightest objection to marriage. Now, Caroline, though her father is your mother's brother, inherits evidently the Selwyn blood. She's all her mother, or rather her grandmother, who was a celebrated beauty. Caroline is a Selwyn, every inch, and you are as free to marry her as any woman you can meet."

"You talk as if she were a golden apple, that I had nothing to do but reach forth my hand to pick," said I. "Did it never occur to you that I couldn't take her if I were to try?"

"Well, I don't know," said Uncle Jacob, looking me over in a manner which indicated a complimentary opinion. "I'm not so sure of that. She's not in the way of seeing many men superior to you."

"And suppose that she were that sort of woman who did not wish to marry at all?" said I.

My uncle looked quizzical, and said, "I doubt the existence of that species."

"It appears to me," said I, "that Caroline is by nature so much more fitted for the life of a scholar than that of an ordinary domestic woman, that nothing but a most absorbing and extraordinary amount of personal affection would ever make the routine of domestic life agreeable to her. She is very fastidious and individual in her tastes, too, and the probabilities of her finding the person whom she could love in this manner are very small. Now it appears to me that the taking for granted that all women, without respect to taste or temperament, must have no sphere or opening for their faculties except domestic life, is as great an absurdity in our modern civilization as the stupid custom of half-civilized nations, by which every son, no matter what his character, is obliged to confine himself to the trade of his father. I should have felt it a hardship to be condemned always to be a shoemaker if my father had been one."

"Nay," said my uncle, "the cases are not parallel. The domestic sphere of wife and mother to which woman is called, is divine and god-like; it is sacred, and solemn, and no woman can go higher than that, and anything else to which she devotes herself, falls infinitely below it."

"Well, then," said I, "let me use another simile. My father was a minister, and I reverence and almost adore the ideal of such a minister, and such a ministry as his was. Yet it would be an oppression on me to constrain me to enter into it. I am not adapted to it, or fitted for it. I should make a failure in it, while I might succeed in a lower sphere. Now it seems to me that just as no one should enter the ministry as a means of support or worldly position, but wholly from a divine enthusiasm, so no woman should enter marriage for provision, or station, or support; but simply and only from the most purely personal affection. And my theory of life would be, to have society so arranged that independent woman shall have every facility for developing her mind and perfecting herself that independent man has, and every opportunity in society for acquiring and holding property, for securing influence, and position, and fame, just as man can. If laws are to make any difference between the two sexes, they ought to help, and not to hinder the weaker party. Then, I think, a man might feel that his wife came to him from the purest and highest kind of love—not driven to him as a refuge, not compelled to take him as a dernier resort, not struggling and striving to bring her mind to him, because she must marry somebody,—but choosing him intelligently and freely, because he is the one more to her than all the world beside."

"Well," said my uncle, regretfully, "of course I don't want to be a matchmaker, but I did hope that you and Caroline would be so agreed; and I think now, that if you would try, you might put these notions out of her head, and put yourself in their place."

"And what if I had tried, and become certain that it was of no use?"

"You don't say she has refused you!" said my uncle, with a start.

"No, indeed!" said I. "Caroline is one of those women whose whole manner keeps off entirely all approaches of that kind. You may rely upon it, uncle, that while she loves me as frankly and truly and honestly as ever sister loved a brother, yet I am perfectly convinced that it is mainly because I have kept myself clear of any misunderstanding of her noble frankness, or any presumption founded upon it. Her love to me is honest comradeship, just such as I might have from a college mate, and there is not the least danger of its sliding into anything else. There may be an Endymion to this Diana, but it certainly won't be Harry Henderson."

"H'm!" said my uncle. "Well, I'm afraid then that she never will marry, and you certainly must grant that a woman unmarried remains forever undeveloped and incomplete."

"No more than a man," said I. "A man who never becomes a father is incomplete in one great resemblance to the divine being. Yet there have been men with the element of fatherhood more largely developed in celibacy than most are in marriage. There was Fénelon, for instance, who was married to humanity. Every human being that he met held the place of a child in his heart. No individual experience of fatherhood could make such men as he more fatherly. And in like manner there are women with more natural motherhood than many mothers. Such are to be found in the sisterhoods that gather together lost and orphan children, and are their mothers in God. There are natures who do not need the development of marriage; they know instinctively all it can teach them. But they are found only in the rarest and highest regions."

"Well," said my uncle, "for every kind of existence in creation God has made a mate, and the eagles that live on mountain tops, and fly toward the sun, have still their kindred eagles. Now, I think, for my part, that if Fénelon had married Madame Guyon, he would have had a richer and a happier life of it, and she would have gone off into fewer vagaries, and they would have left the Church some splendid children, who might, perhaps, have been born without total depravity. You see these perfected specimens owe it to humanity to perpetuate their kind."

"Well," said I, "let them do it by spiritual fatherhood and motherhood. St. Paul speaks often of his converts as those begotten of him—the children of his soul; a thousand-fold more of them there were, than there could have been if he had weighted himself with the care of an individual family. Think of the spiritual children of Plato and St. Augustine!"

"This may be all very fine, youngster," said, my uncle, "but very exceptional; yet for all that, I should be sorry to see a fine woman like Caroline withering into an old maid."

"She certainly will," said I, "unless you and mother stretch forth your hands and give her liberty to seek her destiny in the mode in which nature inclines her. You will never get her to go husband-hunting. The mere idea suggested to her of exhibiting her charms in places of resort, in the vague hope of being chosen, would be sufficient to keep her out of society. She has one of those independent natures to which it is just as necessary for happiness that she should make her own way, and just as irksome to depend on others, as it is for most young men. She has a fine philosophic mind, great powers of acquisition, a curiosity for scientific research; and her desire is to fit herself for a physician,—a sphere perfectly womanly, and in which the motherly nature of woman can be most beautifully developed. Now, help her with your knowledge through the introductory stages of study, and use your influence afterward to get her father to give her wider advantages."

"Well, the fact is," said my uncle, "Caroline is a splendid nurse; she has great physical strength and endurance, great courage and presence of mind, and a wonderful power of consoling and comforting sick people. She has borrowed some of my books, and seemed to show a considerable acuteness in her remarks on them. But somehow the idea that a lovely young woman should devote herself to medicine, has seemed to me a great waste, and I never seriously encouraged it."

"Depend upon it," said I, "Caroline is a woman who will become more charming in proportion as she moves more thoroughly and perfectly in the sphere for which nature has adapted her. Keep a great, stately, white swan shut up in a barn-yard and she has an ungainly gait, becomes morose, and loses her beautiful feathers; but set her free to glide off into her native element and all is harmonious and beautiful. A superior woman, gifted with personal attractions, who is forgetting herself in the enthusiasm of some high calling or profession, never becomes an old maid; she does not wither; she advances as life goes on, and often keeps her charms longer than the matron exhausted by family cares and motherhood. A charming woman, fully and happily settled and employed in a life-work which is all in all to her, is far more likely to be attractive and to be sought than one who enters the ranks of the fashionable waiters on Providence."

"Well, well," said my uncle, "I'll think of it. The fact is, we fellows of three-score ought to be knocked on the head peaceably. We have the bother of being progressive all through our youth, and by the time we get something settled, up comes your next generation and begins kicking it all over. It's too bad to demolish the house we spend our youth in building just when we want rest, and don't want the fatigue of building over."

"For that matter," said I, "the modern ideas of woman's sphere were all thought out and expressed in the Greek mythology ages and ages ago. The Greeks didn't fit every woman to one type. There was their pretty, plump little Aphrodite, and their godlike Venus de Milo; there was Diana—the woman of cold, bright, pure physical organization,—independent, free, vigorous. There was Minerva, the impersonation of the purely intellectual woman, who neither wished nor sought marriage. There was Juno, the house-keeper and domestic queen, and Ceres, the bread-giver and provider. In short, the Greeks conceived a variety of spheres of womanhood; but we, in modern times, have reduced all to one—the vine that twines, and the violet hid in the leaves; as if the Victoria Regia hadn't as good a right to grow as the daisy, and as if there were not female oaks and pines as well as male!"

"Well, after all," he said, "the prevalent type of sex through nature, is that of strength for man and dependence for woman."

"Nay," said I; "if you appeal to nature in this matter of sex, there is the female element in grand and powerful forms, as well as in gentle and dependent ones. The she-lion and tiger are more terrible and untamable than the male. The Greek mythology was a perfect reflection of nature, and clothed woman with majesty and power as well as with grace; how splendid those descriptions of Homer are, where Minerva, clad in celestial armor, leads the forces of the Greeks to battle! What vigor there is in their impersonation of the Diana; the woman strong in herself, scorning physical passion, and terrible to approach in the radiant majesty of her beauty, striking with death the vulgar curiosity that dared to profane her sanctuary! That was the ideal of a woman, self-sufficient, victorious, and capable of a grand, free, proud life of her own, not needing to depend upon man. The Greeks never would have imagined such goddesses if they had not seen such women, and our modern civilization is imperfect if it does not provide a place and sphere for such types of womanhood. It takes all sorts of people to make up a world, and there ought to be provision, toleration, and free course for all sorts."

"Well, youngster," said my uncle, "I think you'll write tolerable leaders for some radical paper, one of these days, but you fellows that want to get into the chariot of the sun and drive it, had better think a little before you set the world on fire. As for your Diana, I thank Heaven she isn't my wife, and I think it would be pretty cold picking with your Minerva."

"Permit me to say, uncle, that in this 'latter day glory' that is coming, men have got to learn to judge women by some other standard than what would make good wives for them, and acknowledge sometimes a femininity existing in and for itself. As there is a possible manhood complete without woman, so there is a possible womanhood complete without man."

"That's not the Christian idea," said my uncle.

"Pardon me," I replied, "but I believe it is exactly what St. Paul meant when he spoke of the state of celibacy, in devotion to the higher spiritual life, as being a higher state for some men and women than marriage."

"You are on dangerous ground there," said my uncle, "you will run right into monastic absurdity."

"High grounds are always dangerous grounds," said I, "full of pitfalls and precipices, yet the Lord has persisted in making mountains, precipices, pitfalls, and all, and being made they may as well be explored, even at the risk of breaking one's neck. We may as well look every question in the face, and run every inquiry to its ultimate."

"Go it then," said my uncle, "and joy go with you; the chariot of the sun is the place for a prospect! Up with you into it, my boy, that kind of driving is interesting; in fact, when I was young, I should have liked it myself, but if you don't want to kick up as great a bobbery as Phæton did, you'd better mind his father's advice: spare the whip, and use the reins with those fiery horses of the future."

"But, now," said I, "as the final result of all this, will you help Caroline?"

"Yes, I will; soberly and seriously, I will. I'll drive over there and have a little talk with the girl, as soon as you're gone."

"And, uncle," said I, "if you wish to gain influence with her, don't flatter nor compliment; examine her, and appoint her tasks exactly as you would those of a young man in similar circumstances. You will please her best so; she is ready to do work, and make serious studies; she is of a thorough, earnest nature, and will do credit to your teaching."

"What a pity she wasn't born a boy," said my uncle, under his breath.

"Well, let you and me do what we can," said I, "to bring in such a state of things in this world that it shall no longer be said of any woman that it was a pity not to have been born a man."

Subsequently I spoke to my mother on the same subject and gave her an account of my interview with Caroline.

I think that my mother, in her own secret heart, had cherished very much the same hopes for me that had been expressed by Uncle Jacob. Caroline was an uncommon person, the star of the little secluded neighborhood, and my mother had seen enough of her to know that, though principally absorbed in the requirements of a very hard domestic sphere she possessed an uncommon character and great capabilities. Between her and my mother, however, there had been that silence which often exists between two natures, both sensitive and both reticent, who seem to act as non-conductors to each other. Caroline stood a little in awe of the moral and religious force of my mother, and my mother was a little chilled by the keen intellectualism of Caroline.

There are people that cannot understand each other without an interpreter, and it is not unfrequently easier for men and women to speak confidentially to each other than to their own sex. There are certain aspects in which each sex is sure of more comprehension than from its own. I served, in this case, as the connecting wire of the galvanic battery to pass the spark of sympathetic comprehension between these two natures.

My mother was one of those women naturally timid, reticent, retiring, encompassed by physical diffidence as with a mantle—so sensitive that, even in an argument with me, the blood would flush into her cheeks—yet, she had withal that deep, brooding, philosophical nature, which revolves all things silently, and with intensest interest, and comes to perfectly independent conclusions in the irresponsible liberty of solitude. How many times has this great noisy world been looked out on, and silently judged by these quiet thoughtful women of the Virgin Mary type, who have never uttered their magnificat till they uttered it beyond the veil! My mother seemed to be a woman in whom religious faith had risen to that amount of certainty and security, that she feared no kind of investigation or discussion, and had no prejudices or passionate preferences. Thus she read the works of the modern physical philosophical school with a tranquil curiosity, and a patient analysis, apparently enjoying every well-turned expression, and receiving with interest, and weighing with deliberation every record of experiments, and every investigation of facts. Her faith in her religion was so perfect that she could afford all these explorations, no more expecting her Christian hopes to fall, through any discoveries of modern science, than she expected the sun to cease shining on account of the contradictory theories of astronomers. They who have lived in communion with God have a mode of evidence unknown to philosophers; a knowledge at first hand. In the same manner, the wideness of Christian charity gave my mother a most Catholic tolerance for natures unlike her own.

"I have always believed in the doctrine of vocations," she said, as she listened to me; "it is one of those points where the Romish church has shown a superior good sense in discovering and making a place for every kind of nature."

"Caroline has been afraid to confide in you, lest you should think her struggles to rise above her destiny, and her dissatisfaction with it, irreligious."

"Far from it," said my mother; "I wholly sympathize with her; people don't realize what it is to starve faculties; they understand physical starvation, but the slow fainting and dying of desires and capabilities for want of anything to feed upon, the withering of powers for want of exercise, is what they do not understand. This is what Caroline is condemned to, by the fixed will of her father, and whether any mortal can prevail with him, I don't know."

"You might, dear mother, I am sure."

"I doubt it; he has a manner that freezes me. I think in his hard, silent, interior way, he loves me, but any argument addressed to him, any direct attempt to change his opinions and purpose only makes him harder."

"Would it not, then, be her right to choose her course without his consent—and against it?" My mother sat with her blue eyes looking thoughtfully before her.

"There is no point," she said slowly, "that requires more careful handling, to discriminate right from wrong, than the limits of self-sacrifice. To a certain extent it is a virtue, and the noblest one, but there are rights of the individual that ought not to be sacrificed; our own happiness has its just place, and I cannot see it to be more right to suffer injustice to one's self than to another, if one can help it. The individual right of self-assertion of child against parent is like the right of revolution in the State, a difficult one to define, yet a real one. It seems to me that one owes it to God, and to the world, to become all that one can be, and to do all that one can do, and that a blind, unreasoning authority that forbids this is to be resisted by a higher law. If I would help another person to escape from an unreasoning tyranny, I ought to do as much for myself."

"And don't you think," said I, "that the silent self-abnegation of some fine natures has done harm by increasing in those around them the habits of tyranny and selfishness?"

"Undoubtedly," said my mother, "many wives make their husbands bad Christians, and really stand in the way of their salvation, by a weak, fond submission, and a sort of morbid passion for self-sacrifice—really generous and noble men are often tempted to fatal habits of selfishness in this way."

"Then would it not be better for Caroline to summon courage to tell her father exactly how she feels and views his course and hers?"

"He has a habit," said my mother, "of cutting short any communication from his children that doesn't please him by bringing down his hand abruptly and saying, 'No more of that, I don't want to hear it.' With me he accomplishes the same by abruptly leaving the room. The fact is," said my mother, after a pause, "I more than suspect that he set his foot on something really vital to Caroline's life, years ago, when she was quite young."

"You mean an attachment?"

"Yes. I had hoped that it had been outgrown or superseded, probably it may be, but I think she is one of the sort in which such an experience often destroys all chance for any other to come after it."

"Were you told of this?"

"I discovered it by an accident, no matter how. I was not told, and I know very little, yet enough to enable me to admire the vigor with which she has made the most of life, the cheerfulness and thoroughness with which she has accepted hard duties. Well," she added, after a pause, "I will talk with Caroline, and we will see what can be done, and then," she added, "we can carry the matter to a higher One, who understands all, and holds all in his hands."

My mother spoke with a bright assured force of this resort, sacred in every emergency.

This was the last night of my stay at home, the next day I was to start for my ship to go to Europe. I sat up late writing to Caroline, and left the letter in my mother's hands.

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