A young man who commences life as a reformer, and a leader in the party of progress, while saying the best and most reasonable things in the world, and advocating what appear to him the most needed reforms, often finds himself, in consequence, in the condition of one who has pulled the string of a very large shower-bath. He wanted cold water, and he gets a deal more than he bargained for; in fact, often catches his breath, and wonders when this sort of thing is going to stop. My articles on the "Modern Woman," in the Milky Way, had brought me into notice in certain enthusiastic circles, and I soon found myself deluged with letters, appeals, pamphlets, newspapers, all calling for the most urgent and immediate attention, and all charging me on my allegiance to "the cause," immediately, and without loss of time, to write articles for said papers gratuitously, to circulate said pamphlets, to give favorable notices of said books, and instantly to find lucrative situations for hosts of distressed women who were tired of the humdrum treadmill of home-life, and who wished to have situations provided where there was no drudgery and no labor, but very liberal compensation. The whole large army of the incapables,—the blind, the halt, the lame, the weary, and the forlorn,—all seemed inclined to choose me as their captain, and to train under my banner. Because I had got into a subordinate position on the Great Democracy, they seemed to consider that it was my immediate business to make the Great Democracy serve their wants, or to perish in the attempt.

My friend, Ida Van Arsdel, was a serious, large-minded, large-brained woman, who had laid a deep and comprehensive plan of life, and was adhering to it with a patient and silent perseverance. Still she had no sympathy in that class of society where her lot was cast. Her mother and her Aunt Maria were women who lived and breathed merely in the opinions of their set and circle, and were as incapable of considering any higher ideal of life, or any unworldly purpose, as two canary-birds. Mr. Van Arsdel, a quiet, silent man, possessed a vein of good sense which led him to appreciate his eldest daughter at her real worth; and he was not insensible to the pleasure of having one feminine companion who, as he phrased it, "understood business," and with whom he could talk and advise understandingly. But even he had no sympathy with those larger views of the wants and needs of womanhood, in view of which Ida was acting. It followed very naturally that as Ida got no sympathy in her own circle, she was led to seek it in the widening sphere of modern reformers—a circle in which so much that is fine and excellent and practical, is inevitably mixed with a great deal that is crude and excessive.

At her request I accompanied her and Eva one evening to a sort of New-Dispensation salon, which was held weekly at the house of Mrs. Stella Cerulean. Mrs. Stella Cerulean was a brilliant woman—beautiful in person, full of genius, full of enthusiasm, full of self-confidence, the most charming of talkers, and the most fascinating of women. Her career from early life had been one of those dazzling successes which always fall to the lot of beauty, seconded by a certain amount of tact and genius. Of both these gifts Mrs. Cerulean had just enough to bewilder the head of any gentleman who made her acquaintance. She had in her girlhood made the tour of Europe, shone as a star in the courts of France and Russia, and might be excused for a more than ordinary share of complacency in her successes. In common with handsome women generally, she had, during the greater part of her life, never heard anything but flattery from gentlemen, and it always agreed with her remarkably well. But Mrs. Cerulean was one of those women, with just intellect and genius enough to render her impatient of the mere common-place triumphs of beauty. She felt the intoxicating power of the personal influence which she possessed, and aspired to reign in the region of the mind as well as to charm the senses. She felt herself called to the modern work of society regeneration, and went into it with all the enthusiasm of her nature, and with all that certainty of success which comes from an utter want of practical experience. Problems which old statesmen contemplated with perplexity, which had been the despair of ages, she took up with a cheerful alacrity.

She had one simple remedy for the reconstruction of society about whose immediate application she saw not the slightest difficulty. It was simply and only to be done by giving the affairs of the world into the hands of women, forthwith. Those who only claim equality for women were, in Mrs. Cerulean's view, far behind the age. Woman was the superior sex, the divine sex. Had not every gentleman of her acquaintance, since she could remember, told her this with regard to herself? Had they not always told her that she could know everything without study, simply by the divine intuitions of womanhood; that she could flash to conclusions without reasoning, simply by the brilliancy of her eyes; that her purity was incorruptible in its very nature; that all her impulses were heavenly and God-given? Naturally enough, then, it was her deduction that all that was wanting to heal the woes and wants of society was that she and other such inspired beings should immediately take to themselves their power, and reign.

Such is a general sketch of Mrs. Cerulean's view of the proper method of introducing the millennium. Meanwhile, she did her part in it by holding salons once a week, in which people entertaining similar views met for the purpose, apparently, of a general generation of gas, without any particular agreement as to the method in which it should be applied. This was the company of people to whom Eva rather pathetically alluded in one of her conversations once, as such nice people, who were so very puzzling to her, because no two of them ever seemed to think alike on any subject; and all agreed in opening their eyes very wide in astonishment if anybody quoted the Bible to them as an authority in faith and practice.

Ida was much courted and petted by this circle. And sensible, good girl as she was, she was not wholly without pleasure in the admiration they showed for her. Then, again, there were, every evening, ventilated in this company quantities of the most splendid and heroic ideas possible to human beings. The whole set seemed to be inspired with the spirit of martyrdom, without any very precise idea of how to get martyred effectually. It was only agreed that everything in the present state of society was wrong, and was to be pulled down forthwith. But as to what was to come after this demolition, there were as many opinions in the circle as there were persons, and all held with a wonderful degree of tenacity. A portion of them were of opinion that a new dispensation fresh from the heavenly realms was being inaugurated by means of spiritualistic communications daily and hourly conveyed to privileged individuals. It was, however, unfortunate that these communications were, very many of them, in point-blank opposition to each other; so that the introduction of revelations from the invisible world seemed only likely to make the confusion worse confounded. Then again, as to all the existing relations of life, there was the same charming variety of opinion. But one thing seemed to be pretty generally conceded among the whole circle, that in the good time coming, nobody was ever to do anything that he did not want to do, or feel at the moment just like doing. The great object of existence apparently was to get rid of everything that was disagreeable and painful. Thus, quite a party of them maintained that all marriage relations ought to drop, from the moment that either party ceased to take pleasure in them, without any regard to the interest of the other party or the children; because the fundamental law of existence was happiness—and nothing could make people happy but liberty to do just as they had a mind to.

I must confess that I found my evening at Mrs. Cerulean's salon a very agreeable one; the conversation of thoroughly emancipated people has a sparkling variety to it which is exactly the thing to give one a lively, pleasant evening. Everybody was full of enthusiasm, and in the very best of spirits. And there appeared to be nothing that anybody was afraid to say. Nobody was startled by anything. There was not a question, as it appeared, that had been agitated since the creation of the world, that was not still open to discussion.

As we were walking home after spending an evening, Ida asked me:

"Now, Mr. Henderson, what do you think of it?"

"Well, Miss Ida," said I, "after all, I'm a believer in the old-fashioned Bible."

"What, really, Mr. Henderson?"

"Really and squarely, Miss Ida. And never more so than when I associate with very clever people who have given it up. There is, to my mind, a want of common sense about all theories of life that are not built on that."

"Well," said Ida, "I have long since made up my mind, for my own part, that if the cause of woman is to be advanced in this world, it is not so much by meeting together and talking about it, as by each individual woman proposing to herself some good work for the sex, and setting about it patiently, and doing it quietly. That is rather my idea; at the same time, I like to hear these people talk, and they certainly are a great contrast to the vapid people that are called good society. There is a freshness and earnestness of mind about some of them that is really very interesting; and I get a great many new ideas."

"For my part," said Eva, "to be sure I have been a sad idler, but if I were going to devote myself to any work for women, it should be in the church, and under the guidance of the church. I am sure there is something we can do there. And then, one's sure of not running into all sorts of vagaries."

"Now," said Ida, "all I want is that women should do something; that the lives of girls, from the time they leave school till the time they are married, should not be such a perfect waste as they now are. I do not profess to be certain about any of these theories that I hear; but one thing I do know: we women will bear being made a great deal more self-sustaining and self-supporting than we have been. We can be more efficient in the world, and we ought to be. I have chosen my way, and mean to keep to it. And my idea is that a woman who really does accomplish a life-work is just like one that cuts the first path through a wood. She makes a way where others can walk."

"That's you, Ida," said Eva; "but I am not strong enough to cut first paths."

I felt a little nervous flutter of her hand on my arm as she said this. It was in the dark, and involuntarily, I suppose, my hand went upon hers, and before I thought of it I felt the little warm thing in my own as if it had been a young bird. It was one of those things that people sometimes do before they know it. But I noticed that she did not withdraw her hand, and so I held it, querying in my own mind whether this little arrangement was one of the privileges of friendship. Before I quite resolved this question we parted at the house-door.

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