« 上一页继续 »
been occupied by Mrs. Haywood and her daughter.
Meanwhile Captain Headly closely interrogated the fugitive as to the number and appearance of the Indians who had created all this alarm—their probable object in visiting the farm in this seemingly hostile manner— and the number of shots he had heard fired. To all these questions the soldier, who had now in some degree recovered from his panic, answered in his usual drawling tone, his stick and knife, which had been drawn from the recesses of one of his skirts, affording him his usual amusement; but nothing of course was elicited beyond what already has been related. Whether any one had been killed in the house, or the guns merely discharged to frighten the fugitive—or that the reports had proceeded from the fishing-party that had been sent for, with a view to alarm the Indians, and deter them from the commission of outrage, were surmises that severally occurred to Captain Headly, but without enabling him to arrive at any definite conclusion. That there was every cause for apprehension he had no doubt. The appearance of a band of strange Indians in the neighbourhood, however small in number, dressed in their war-paint, gave earnest of coming trouble not only through their own acts, but by the influence of example on the many Indians they had been accustomed to look upon as friends and allies. In the midst of these reflections arose a feeling of self-gratulation that he had preserved that discipline, and that attention to duty, which he knew that all must now admit to have been correct, and which, if any difficulty did occur, could not fail to prove of the utmost importance.
His first consideration now was the safety of the small fishing-party to whioh we have already alluded, and who, it was matter of more than usual satisfaction to him to recollect, were, in accordance with an order never departed from on these and similar occasions, furnished with the necessary arms and ammunition, although only in their fatigue dress.
"Mr. Elmsley," he said, turning to that officer, who seemed to be waiting his orders, "who commands the fishing-party?"
"Corporal Nixon, sir," replied the lieutenant, at once entering into the motive for the inquiry—"a brave but discreet soldier, and one who, I am sure, will evince all necessary resolution if he sees anything of these Indians. The men who are with him too arc all fine young fellows, and among our best shots."
"I am glad to hear this," was the rejoinder; "but still, twelve Indians firing from the woods upon half their number in an open boat, and taken by surprise, would, I fear, render the activity, courage, and skill of those latter but of little effect. My hope is that corporal Nixon may see nothing of them, but that, on the contrary, if he has been apprised by the boy, as this fellow states he was to be, of their presence at Heywood Farm, he will make his way back without stopping, or use every precaution to conceal himself until he can drop down under cover of the darkness."
"What, sir," returned the lieutenant with a surprise he could ill conceal, "would you desire him not to afford the necessary succour to Mr. Heywood, if indeed he should be in time to be of any service?"
"Mr. Elmsley," said his captain somewhat sternly, "my sympathy for the fate of those at the farm is perhaps quite as strong as yours, but I have a higher stake at issue—a higher object than the indulgence of personal sympathy. I can ill afford, threatening as appearances are at this moment, to risk the lives of six men—the best you say in the Fort—out of the very small force at my disposal. Nothing must be left undone to insure their safety. Order a gun to be fired immediately from the south bastion. It will be distinctly heard by the party, and if not already apprised of the existing danger, they will at once understand the signal. Besides, the report may also have the effect of alarming the Indians."
Lieutenant Elmsley withdrew to execute the order, and soon afterwards the dull booming of a cannon was heard, reverberating throughout the surrounding woods, and winding its echoes along the waters of the narrow and tranquil Chicago. So unusual an event as this excited a good deal of curiosity and speculation, not only among the inmates of the Fort, but among the numerous friendly Indians encamped without, who, wholly unacquainted with the cause of the alarm, were, by the strict orders of Captain Headly, kept ignorant of the information of which Ephraim Giles had been the bearer.
That night there was a more than ordinary vigilance exercised by the sentinels, and although all the rest of the garrison were exempt from extraordinary duty, the watchful and anxious commanding officer slept not.
(To be continued.)
Let it not be for a moment supposed that we are about to attempt a crusade in defence of blue-stockings! Better undertake, singlehanded, to lay a T rail to the Pacific, tunnelling the Rocky Mountains. Whether the prejudice entertained against this class—is it numerous enough to claim the title of a class ?—be just or not, it is most potent; and, like the deaf adder, it stoppeth its ears. We hardly know of one more obstinate, unless it be that against old maids,—or thot other, perhaps worse one, against stepmothers.
Now prejudices are very respectable things. They have antiquity and ancestry in their favour. They enjoy unflinching allegiance from many very dignified and important people. They partake of the nature of faith, the most consolatory and consonant of all the tendencies of the human mind. They save the trouble of argument and reflection, and all the discomfort of doubt. Who then will rashly quarrel with prejudices?
To be sure they may bo occasionally the cause of injustice; even the epithet cruel has been from time to time applied to them by precise and over-conscientious people. They often sweep into one category instances the most obviously incongruous, forcing into a single class individuals of all sixes, till the array is like that of the army in Bombastes Furioso, which consists of "three-foot drummer, six-foot fifer, two very odd privates, and the general." Prejudice never wastes time in sifting or weighing, measuring or comparing. It glories at once in the promptitude and the irrevocableness of its decisions. It is fond of whirling a sword horizontally, and feels quite clear of any guilt when heads are sliced off. The only thing that makes it at all nervous, is the head's venturing to talk afterwards. This is lite majestf—" most tolerable and not to be borne."
Therefore, we shall not attempt it,—least of all when literary women are in question. It is many a long year, many a dusty century, since this would have been safe. In the days of Miriam or Deborah, perhaps—but that was in the world's callow time, before lordship had become so much an object of desire among the stronger part of creation, and before education had been brought to offer its all-potent arm in aid of this design. Now-a-days, to be betrayed into the quixotism of defending blue-stockings,
is to allow one's self to be suspected of wearing them. The utmost extent to which our courage will carry us is some little examination, after the natural-history fashion; some search into growth and properties, aims, destiny, and uses or no-uses. And to keep very clear of all ungenerous imputations of sympathy, we shall take care to deal with the subject after the desultory, unsystematic, and feminine manner. We repudiate learning; we disclaim accuracy; we abjure logic. We shall aim only at the pretty prattle which is conceded to our sex as a right, and admired as a charm.
How many literary women has any one person ever seen? How many has the world seen? How would the list compare in length with that of the pretty triflers who never in the whole course of their mortal lives took up a book with the least intention of obtaining any information from it? The spite which is generally nourished against these unhappy ladies implies great respect; for their numbers are too insignificant to attract notice, if the individuals were not of donsequence. And it may be noticed here, as being particularly curious, that the man who declaims loudest against the ideal of a writing woman, is sure to be most vain-glorious of the smallest literary performance on the part of his wife or daughter. The gift of a place does not sooner silence a vehement patriot, than the first essay or magazine story produced by a lady of his family, does the indignant definer of " woman's sphere," with a pudding and a shirt for its two poles.
But as to the comparative scarcity of literary ladies. It seems strange to a simple looker-on that they should not be prized, at least on the principle of the Queen Anne's farthing, which, valueless in itself, became precious because there were but four struck. There is not even yet a "mob of gentle[women] that write with ease." Women are said to be peculiarly favoured in the possession of the quality called "passive courage," (fortitude?) one of the benevolent provisions of nature for need—but they have always, as a body, shown a good deal of cowardice in this matter. The risks are too fearful. So that really the number is kept down as low as prudence can desire. It would require no Briareus to count on his fingers all that have dabbled in ink during the last century. No fear of usurpation; no danger that the pen will be snatched from strong hands and wielded in defiance, or even in selfdefence. A handful of chimney swallows might as well be suspected of erecting their quills against the eagles—or owls. Swallows! literary ladies are hardly more abundant than dodos.
Now let us ask what is the distinguishing mark of the literary woman of our day. Is it inky fingers—corrugated brows—unkempt locks —unrighteous stockings—towering talk—disdain of dinner—aspirations after garments symbolical of authority—any or all of these? Who pretends anything of the kind? One could almost wish there were some startling peculiarities, even though exhibited by only a few individuals, to break up the uniformity of society. What a treat it would be to see a blue enter a party with the suitable airs, and cross the awful space of carpet which sometimes intervenes between the door and the hostess, with gown pinned up from the mud, or one black slipper and one white one, the unconscious head all the while nodding graciously on either side, secure of the due effect of the entrfe! But alas! no literary lady, since Mrs. Ann Royall, has borne about with her the least outward token of the dreaded power within. Curls, ribbons, bracelets, bouquets, fans—not an item lacking; all oorrect, to the very shoe-tie. Here surely is a title to respect—a claim to the feminine character, though a loss to society. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu did better when she received her English visiters at Venice in a mask and domino, as a reproof to their curiosity.
And as in dress, so in other matters. Whether from the increased facilities of life, or because the world has grown older, and so more cunning and commonplace, there is no telling a bookish woman any more, even in her housekeeping. There are no more cobwebs in literary parlours than elsewhere. The presence of "books that are books" does not necessarily now imply the absence of books which are principally covers and "illustrations." All sorts of unmanageable nnd worse than useless bindings may be found intermixed with plain, serviceable duodecimos, and the blue, and yellow, and gray paper of the Reviews and Magazines. Even an inkstand does not take the place of nick-nacks and pretty lumber, though these generally drive the more suspicious article into a by-comer.
"There is a general notion," says Sydney Smith, "that if you once suffer women to eat of the tree of knowledge, the rest of the family will soon be reduced to the same aerial and unsatisfactory diet." But the children of literary mammas seem to be nearly as well cared for, as if their mothers did not, or could not
read—which is probably in some minds the criterion of a thoroughly admirable wife and mother. They are even found in some cases to entertain the profoundest and most tender affection for her whom society agrees to consider a deluded female. This would seem as if a love of books did not quite extinguish the affections, or the qualities which inspire affection. "Would a mother desert her infant for a quadratic equation V says the satirist just quoted. And it remains to be proved that there is greater complaint of missing buttons, or more neglect of the "stitch in time," in consequence of some use of the pen as well as the thimble, than in houses where the only amusement is dressing, and the only serious employment scolding the servants.
With regard to domestic government, the point on which the sensitive wisdom of the world is most alarmed—fearing lest the staff of authority should be wrested from the grasp of the legal ruler, by hands that were long ago decided to be too weak to wield it even if peaceably accorded—does it not seem as if the want of interest in home affairs, which is charged as a natural fault in the literary lady, should set at rest any dread of her usurping too large a share of direction in home arrangements? Is it the absent-minded, absorbed, wool-gathering, star-gazing dame that will quarrel to have the bacon fried instead of boiled? Will she recall the eyes ever "in fine frenzy rolling" to the dull earth long enough or with interest enough to insist upon new carpets? It seems as if one fear or the other must be unfounded. Either literary women care about domestic matters or they do not. If they do, their employments cannot be objected against as interfering with exclusively feminine duties; if not, surely their husbands need not fear improper interference.
But we have hitherto neglected to inquire what it is that entitles a woman to the appellation of literary; or perhaps we should express the matter better, if we should say, what fastens upon her that imputation. Must she have written a book? Phoebus Apollo! how few then have claims upon a tabouret at thy court! And must the size of the book be taken into account? Then those who dilate most unscrupulously will sit highest. Or will the number of volumes settle precedence? There will, in that case, be little room for any but Mrs. Ellis, Mrs. Gore, and their immediate sisterhood. But to the point. If not a book, will a poem be sufficient? or an essay? or a magazine article? Then more of us are included in the glory or odium of female authorship. Or does writing letters make one literary? In these Californian days it is to be hoped not, lest some of our fair friends should be tempted to neglect their absent brothers rather than be liable to misconstruction, in so important a particular. Writing letters sometimes ends in writing books, as more than Madame de Sevign6 can testify. How is it with keeping a journal? Does that come within the canon? Might it not be maliciously interpreted to be writing a book in disguise?
Does the toleration for which a female writer may hope depend in any degree upon the olass of subjects which may engage her pen? We have an idea that some gentlemen would award a palm (no pun, positively,) to her who writes a Cook's Oracle, where a rod or a fool's cap would be the doom of a lady who should presume to touch political economy. Next to a family receipt-book, one would suppose books of instruction for children would be most popular in female hands; but there is no doubt that some men think Mrs. Barbauld wore, or should have worn, a beard, and would be surprised to see a picture of Mrs. Trimmer in petticoats. The novel of fashionable life, provided it have no suspicion of a moral, and make no pretension to teach anything whatever, may pass as feminine, without detracting from the fame of its author; but a novel with the least bit of bone in it is "mannish"—a very different term from "manly." Poetry, provided it be of the sigh-away, die-away cast, does not injure a lady's reputation; acrosticmaking is considered quite an accomplishment, and so are watch-paper verses; but poetry which some unthinking, out-of-the-world critics praise as "masculine" for vigour and freshness, is insufferable. If we could show to some objectors the delicate Elizabeth Barrett Browning—the minutest, most fragile, most ethereal creature the sun ever shone upon, with a voice like a ring-dove's, we might swear in vain to her identity as the author of some of the strongest and bravest poetry that has appeared in our day; so obstinate a conviction exists in some minds of the close connexion between mentalpower and masculine coarseness.
It seems a little inconsistent that anybody should venture in our day to put such dangerous weapons as the ologiea into the hands of a sex to whose peculiar charms too much mind is known to be so fatal. Why not leave a girl in the hands of the nurse until she is fit to be transferred to those of the seamstress, the pastry-cook, the dancing-master, the teacher of music, in succession? Why occupy precious hours and risk fine eyes over even French and Italian, which could be learned in colloquy with these artists? Why not adapt means to ends? Is it certain that school-knowledge will pass in at one ear and out at the other? If not, how far safer not to impart it! Considering the advantage that may be taken of it, the
unsexing and uhsphering that may ensue upon an indiscreet use of it, surely it were best to send Grammar and History, Philosophy and Mathematics, to the limbo of forgotten things, as far as females are concerned. If Madame de Stael had been brought up only to sing and dance, regulate household affairs, and tend children, would she have written the books which provoked Napoleon to banish her from Paris? If Mrs. Somerville had spent years sitting with her feet in the stocks and her arms pinioned in a back-board to make her genteeL while her eyes were employed in counting bead-work, or devising stitches in crochet, could she ever have lowered herself by writing about the geography of the heavens? Prevention is certainly better than cure. Choke the fountain rather than have to dam the river (no pun will be suspected here). Shut up our schools for young ladies; bid the teachers "go spin!" Use the copy-books for recipes or papillottes; the learned treatises popularized "for the use of schools" to kindle fires less to be dreaded than those of literary ambition: and if our daughters should not thereafter be "like polished stones at the corners of the temple," they will at least make kitchenhearths, which we all know to be a far more obviously useful part of the social edifice.
One great duty of woman, if not the greatest, is to be agreeable. Now, if teaching her to think for herself, and so putting her upon the temptation of expressing her thoughts, imperil in the least degree this her high vocation, we vote for the instant abandonment of female cultivation, and would advocate a heavier fine on selling to a female under forty, unaccompanied by parent or guardian, a card of Joseph Gillott'spens, than for allowing a paper of poison to go from the shop unlabelled. We would be the very Jack Cade of legislators for such offenders. To be sure there may be question as to the universality of the feeling on which our zeal is predicated. Some men openly profess to like intelligent women, and there are doubtless others who in secret do not altogether reprobate the use of the pen in female hands, although they may for harmony's sake refrain from the avowal of such liberality, except, as we have hinted, the case fall within the limits of their own family circle, when they usually go beyond mere toleration. It is very desirable that unanimity be obtained in this matter. The natural desire to be agreeable will be quite strong enough to set things right after they are fully understood. To stand well with all men will far outweigh the penurious and timid praise of a few. So true is this that Madame do Stael herself confessed that she would gladly give her intellect and her fame for beauty I
But is beauty always the alternative? Ah, there is an important question. Many scandals have been uttered against the outward charms of literary ladies. "Ugly!" said a celebrated poet in our own hearing, on this very topic; "ugly, yes—they all are!" Which must mean that lines of thought are disadvantages to the peculiar charm of the female face—an equivocal compliment, rather. But waiving this delicate point—is the face, which has no lines of thought, on that account beautiful? If not, how fearful the risk of leaving the head unfurnished! If the face may be vacant yet not lovely—if we may neglect the brain without securing the beauty—how difficult becomes the decision of the parent. In old times—happy times!—when fairies attended at the birth of daughters, and offered choice of gifts, the balance between beauty and good sense was easily struck. It was understood that to select the one, precluded all chance of obtaining the other, without a new and more compulsive spell. Now, without any great insight into futurity, and with only a little fat beginning of a face, with a button nose and twinkling eyes to guide our estimate of probabilities of comeliness, while on the other hand frowns the fear lest furnishing the brain may, by giving a superabundance of meaning to the face, mar the promise of beauty,—how anxious must be the deliberation. A critical survey of society might lead one to suppose that with some parents a decision proves impossible, the poor child being left to grow up without either beauty or brains!
Our own convictions on this subject were rendered unalterable some years since in the course of a lecture by a young gentleman, before a debating society, at whose sitting we were so happy as to assist. The question was one not unfrequently discussed on those occasions—the comparative education of the sexes. Our friend was warm against sharing the sciences with women. His picture of the ideal blue-stocking, a hideous man-woman, with highcrowned cap and spectacles, hoarse voice and masculine stride, still haunts our imagination, and has ever proved an effectual scare-crow in that field. On the other hand, his fancy's sketch of a charming young person was such M to leave in one's mind a somewhat confused mass of roses, lilies, smiles, blushes, pearls, ■now, raven's wings, and Aurora's fingers, very fascinating, though suggestive of despair to most of the sex. But what made the most distinct impression on our memory was the question, repeated in various forms as different branches of knowledge were examined with reference to their fitness for female use—" Will 't render her more alluring?" Here lay the key—far more potent than Blue Beard's, which locked up only women literally headless—to the
whole popular philosophy of female claims on the score of intellect. This hint as to the object of woman's being, solved a world of doubts. Here was a touchstone by which to try any pursuit; a test to determine the value of any talent. Whatever does not conduce to the grand aim must be, if not noxious, at best indifferent. Whoever contends that an education regulated by this principle would leave woman insignificant and unhappy, shows only his ignorance of the world; for do we not see every day splendid people who avow it, consciously or unconsciously? and can splendid people be unhappy or insignificant?
There is one potent argument against allowing women in habits of literary employment— the injury that would arise to the great cause of public amusements. Our theatres would be worse filled even than they are at present, and the opera would cease its languishing existence at once, if the fair eyes that now are fain to let down the "fringed curtains" as a veil against the intensity of floods of gas-light, should learn to prefer the shaded study-lamp at home, and the singing of the quiet fire to the louder efforts of the cantatrice. Dancing, except in horrible sobriety, after the piano, would become obsolete, waltzing might be studied in the abstract, or as an illustration of the revolution of the heavenly bodies, but "certain stars" would no longer " shoot madly from their spheres" to join the giddy round in person. Parties would break up at eleven; for eyes and nerves would so rise in value if put to serious use, that any wilful expenditure of their powers would soon be voted mauvait ton, and if that should ever happen, adieu to suppers and champagne! There is really no end to the overturn that might result from an innovation of this sort. Imagination pictures the splendid fabric of Fashion tottering to its fall—undermined by that seemingly impotent instrument, the pen, wielded by female hands. We shrink from our own picture of so mournful a reversal of the present happy state of thingp. It is one of the perversities of the imagination to torment itself with delineations of what can never by any possibility occur, and this is truly a case in point.
The truth being conceded that no women but those who are ugly and unattractive should or do write, a thought suggests itself with respect to the limited duration of the beauty which is so justly considered the most desirable of female possessions, and the most natural and proper bar to any extensive cultivation of the mind. As none but very robust beauty lasts beyond fifty, would it not be advisable to establish schools, specially fitted for that age, in which the remains of a lovely woman might have an opportunity of some education suited