Lucy H.M. Soulsby.

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if you are to do him good and not evil all the days of his life, you must
remember that you are your brother's keeper in this matter.

"_She worketh willingly with her hands_." The idea is going out that, to
be like a lady, you must sit with your hands before you. I heard of a
village tea the other day where a curate's maid-of-all-work was boasting
that her mistress was a real lady who could not do a thing! "Dear! how
strange," said an old servant; "my first mistress taught me, with her own
hands, all the house-work I know." "Ah! she couldn't have been a _real_
lady," said the other. "Perhaps not," said the old woman reflectively; "I
can't tell, but I know she was an Earl's daughter." If you knew anything
of Colonial life in old uncivilized days, you would know how invariably it
turned out that those settlers were nobody at home who talked there about
what they were "accustomed to," and how they could not do this or
that, - while the real ladies laughed and buckled to. I do not believe in a
woman being thoroughbred if she cannot do what comes to her to do; she may
have little bodily strength, but if she is of the right sort, spirit
carries her through, just as you often find uneducated people, unnerved by
pain or fright, crying and pitying themselves: a real lady has nerve for
it all, though she is ten times more sensitive, and, till the occasion
arises, she may lie on the sofa all day, and believe herself quite unable
to do a thing!

People sometimes seem to think it the mark of a sensitive, high-bred,
refined nature to be unable to conquer fads, and fancies, and fears. You
hear them say, with an air of modest pride, "I _can't_ eat this or that;"
"I _can't_ touch spiders:" very likely they suffer if they do, and I do
not see that they need be always forcing themselves to do it, but they
should feel the power to do it _if need be_; if you are not master of
yourself, there is bad blood about you somewhere; _noblesse oblige_
applies preeminently to such things.

And I think _noblesse oblige_ ought to teach us another lesson in this
matter of work. So many often say, or feel, "It's not my duty to do this
or that; why should I? it's just as much _her_ business, - why shouldn't
_she_ do the dirty work?" The true lady says, "_Somebody_ must do the
dirty work, and why not I as well as another?" And so she worketh
willingly with her hands; for "common household service" is

"The wageless work of Paradise."

"_She bringeth her food from afar_." She is foreseeing and businesslike:
she is not obliged to get inferior articles because she is driven at the
last moment and cannot send to the best shop; she is never unable to match
her dress because she has not thought about new gloves till the very
afternoon that she wants them; she does not forget till half-past six that
dinner has not been ordered, and then, in despair, order in ready-cooked
things from a shop.

"_She riseth while it is yet night_." Early rising is a great trial to
some, but I think those who are conscientious often make a mistake between
sloth and conscientious care of health: and the Virtuous Woman should be
very careful of her health. Some girls think it fine not to be; they say,
"Oh, well, I shall only die the sooner! Better to wear out than rust out!"
and they feel - and so do some of their friends - that they are very noble
characters, and accordingly these tragedy queens stalk picturesquely
through wet grass when they could quite well keep on the gravel. I hope
none of you will develop into tragic heroines. I have no patience when I
see girls with perfectly prosperous lives inventing tragedies for
themselves. They have no right "to take in vain the sacred name of grief."
If there is nothing else to romance about, they fall back on being
"misunderstood," which generally means that their mother understands them
a great deal too well to please them. I dare say you will not see this in
yourselves or in your friends, but it will strike you very much in your
acquaintances, and you will, in time, recognize your own share of human
nature, for we all do, undoubtedly, enjoy being sorry for ourselves,
though I suspect life is much happier for all of us than we deserve.

But to return to the question of health. If you could go out like the
flame of a candle, well and good! the world would probably be well rid of
you if you were going through life tragically, longing for death, but you
will not "wear out" in consequence of carelessness about wet feet and want
of sleep, and over-fatigue, and fancifulness about eating. These things
destroy, not your life, but your nerves and temper, and all that makes
your life a comfort to others; "wearing out" yourself means that you will
wear out others, and require from them much time and nursing and good
temper.

Now, sleep is a most important consideration in such a nervous generation
as ours: every woman ought to have eight hours' sleep, and more if she
needs it, but she should not wake up and then go to sleep again; that
second sleep, which is so pleasant, is the sleep of the sluggard. I would
like to give her "a chamber deaf to noise and blind to light," and never
let her be woke, but she should get up the moment she wakes of her own
accord, or, at most, spend ten minutes in the process of waking.

"_She planteth a vineyard_." I should like my Virtuous Woman to be fond of
gardening, and at all events read in Bacon's Essays how God Almighty first
planted a garden.

"_She strengthened her arms_." This verse makes us fancy the Virtuous
Woman as being unpleasingly strong, but we should guard against being
purposely weak, with an idea of its being pleasing; Thackeray's Amelia is
hardly a good model, and Patient Grizzel did her husband an infinity of
harm!

"_Her candle goeth not out by night_." But the Virtuous Woman must be
self-denying in the matter of sitting up, now that modern life makes so
many more demands upon her brain. You know it is self-indulgence when you
sit up late; you were not bound to be so sociable as all that; you only
hinder yourself and others from proper time for prayer and sleep; if you
made a move after a reasonable amount of talk, the others would be
sensible too. And so you repent and force yourself to get up very
punctually the next morning, not seeing that this is on the principle that
two wrongs make a right. It is your duty to get up in good time, but it is
also a duty to get sufficient sleep. I know you have a more comfortable
feeling when you have punished yourself, - you feel that you took the
self-indulgence and you want to pay for it. This sounds fair and honest,
but it is not, because you pay for it with the health and strength that
God gave you to use for Him. Instead of the satisfactory scourge and hair
shirt of rising betimes next morning, try the more commonplace penance of
going to bed in proper time the next night, without any dawdling. So many
girls do things in a dreamy, dawdling way, that must be a sore trial to
those about them: if a thing has to be done, you should do it in a quick,
purpose-like way, and not waste your own time and other people's temper. A
girl will placidly tell you, "I'm always slow, it's my way," never
realizing that "ways" may be very objectionable. We think it dishonest in
workmen that there should be a difference between a man who works by time
and one who works by the piece: you blame the workman who spends twice as
much of his master's time as he need, but, when you dawdle, you spend
_your_ Master's time: getting through with things quickly and "deedily" is
a matter of habit, and the Virtuous Woman practises it in everything she
does.

"_Her hands hold the distaff_." The Virtuous Woman will not be satisfied
until she knows how to make a dress and do plain work; not that, having
acquired the knowledge, she will necessarily use it, for a woman with
brains and education can employ her time to more purpose, and can give
employment to poorer women at her gate, by putting out her work. It is
burying her talent in the ground if she employs, in making her children's
frocks, the time which should be spent in cultivating her mind, so as to
be fit to educate them when they are older.

"_She stretcheth out her hand to the poor_." The "classes" are poor and
needy, as well as the "masses:" read Mozley's "University Sermon" on "Our
Duty to our Equals," and learn to see that they also need a stretched-out
hand. We may be very kind in our district; are we as kind to social
bores? We may be very energetic in school feasts; are we as careful to
provide amusements of other kinds for people who, in rank or brains, are
slightly our inferiors?

"_She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household
are clothed with scarlet_" (marg., double garments). She looks after the
health of other people as well as her own; she does not keep her maid
sitting up night after night, or overwork her dressmaker. She is as
considerate for the flyman waiting for her on a rainy night as she would
be for her father's coachman and horses, remembering that the flyman is
quite as liable to catch cold as the coachman, and has fewer facilities
for curing himself.

"_Her clothing is silk and purple_." She dresses suitably, richly if
occasion demand it, but never showily. If she has to walk as a rule, she
will not buy dresses that look fit only for a carriage: she will not wear,
in church, a brilliant dress that would be suitable at a flower-show.

"_Her husband is known in the gates_." There was doubtless a great
difference among the husbands at the gate, and I feel sure that this one
took a specially large and public-spirited view of the business there
discussed. The Virtuous Woman would not usurp his office, just because she
had the power of speaking well, - she would remember the Russian proverb,
"The Master is the Head of the House, while the Mistress is its Soul,"
and she would be a very high-souled mistress, and care greatly that her
master should not only be a good husband and a father, but should also
serve his generation as a good citizen and a true patriot. When the public
good demanded sacrifices, she would not drag him back by insisting on his
duty to his family, nor would she persuade him to rob the public stores,
or time, by taking little perquisites or shortening his office hours. She
would feel with De Tocqueville, who says, "A hundred times I have seen
weak men show real public virtue, because they had by their sides women
who supported them - not by advice as to particulars, but by fortifying
their feelings of duty, and by directing their ambition. More frequently,
I must confess, I have observed the domestic influence gradually
transforming a man, naturally generous, noble, and unselfish, into a
cowardly, commonplace, place-hunting, self-seeker, thinking of public
business only as the means of making himself comfortable; and this simply
by daily contact with a well-conducted woman, a faithful wife, an
excellent mother, but from whose mind the grand notion of public duty was
entirely absent."

The husband of "a superior woman" is usually much to be pitied, but surely
the reason is that the woman is not superior enough. She has capabilities
and knowledge, and has learnt to value them, and is right in so doing,
but she has not learnt the next page of Life's Lesson Book, which is, the
relative insignificance of her own acquirements, and the value of the
qualities she has not got, - qualities which her husband very likely
possesses, only he has not the feminine power of expression. How often a
woman's seeming superiority lies in this gift of words, which, as George
Eliot says, is in her, "often a fatal aptitude for expressing what she
neither believes nor feels." The man often silently knows, and _lives_,
the noble sentiment, which the woman fluently utters, imagining herself to
be its discoverer and prophet. Another point to remember in this matter is
that women are apt to overvalue intellect, perhaps because it is only
during the last few years that intellectual advantages have been within
their reach. Sydney Smith looked forward hopefully to a day when French
would be a common accomplishment, and women would be no more vain of
possessing it than of having two arms and legs! Perhaps when, not only
French, but still higher education becomes more generally diffused, we may
learn the proportions, and realize that, though intellect is a good gift,
many others are to be preferred before it. The more we know, the wider our
horizon grows, and the smaller we ourselves seem relatively to the wider
expanse around us. "Man's first word is, No: his second, Yes: and his
third is, No, again." We start with ignorance and are necessarily humble,
in a negative way: then comes the schoolroom, when we prize highly the
knowledge so laboriously acquired; and then comes the schoolroom of life,
which sends us back again to humility, though of a larger and nobler kind.

(The tendency of the day is to overvalue education, rather than the
reverse, so I need not dwell on the necessity laid upon the modern
Virtuous Woman, of developing her intellect, more than Solomon required
from his ideal.)

"_She maketh fine linen and selleth it_." She is reliable and punctual,
and clear in business arrangements. How much charitable work of the
present day requires good arithmetic and a clear business head! She will
not miss her train, and she will write a clear legible hand, especially
when names and addresses are concerned. A good handwriting is a matter of
patience and self-discipline, and a truly unselfish person would force
herself to acquire it, because she can thereby, in small ways, be of so
much use and comfort to others.

"_She shall rejoice in time to come_." She is not likely to do this,
unless she learns to rejoice in the present also. Rejoicing is a habit
like most other virtues, and if we fail in this, it is probably ourselves
and not our circumstances that need to be changed. "The aids to
_happiness_ are all within," and the Virtuous Woman will take life bravely
and cheerfully, like the heroes of old, and will think it a poor thing to
pity herself and to go about with a long face. She

"Welcomes and makes hers
Whate'er of good though small the present brings -
Kind greetings, sunshine, song of birds, and flowers,
With a child's pure delight in little things;
And of the griefs unborn will rest secure,
Knowing that mercy ever will endure."

"_She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of
kindness_." Perhaps few things have done so much harm in the world as
sympathy! Are we not all conscious of having perpetually allowed the
kindness of our tongue to be divorced from wisdom, so that our
affectionate sympathy has weakened our friend and done more harm than
good? It is so much pleasanter to both when we join in her discontent or
irritation, instead of being to her a second and a better self, aiding her
to see things wisely, as she would see them when she grew calmer. "A
book," said Dr. Johnson, "should teach us either to enjoy life, or to
endure it," and so should a friend.

"_The law of kindness_." It may seem a small thing that the Virtuous Woman
should never lose an opportunity of saying a kind word, but, if we all did
this, the world would be revolutionized; how it lowers our moral
temperature when some needless criticism is made, or some disparaging
remark is repeated to us! The Virtuous Woman would set herself to be a
non-conductor of these "stings and arrows," while, in "a voice ever soft,
gentle, and low," she would pass on to us the pleasant things our friends
say, which make us feel "on the sunny side of the wall." What was said of
St. Theresa will be true of her - "it came to be understood that absent
persons were safe where she was. It would be hard to exaggerate the power
of influence for good which the confidence she had thus won must have
given her. Her nobility felt the treachery which always lies in
detraction, the kind of advantage taken, as it were, of the
unprotectedness of the absent."

Some separate wisdom and kindness in another way; they are so anxious to
help others that they stretch a point of conscience, and persist in a
forbidden friendship, in order to help the friend. Now you may be unjustly
treated in being told to give up your friend, and you may feel, and
rightly, that it is very cruel to him or her. Perhaps so, but your want of
principle, in being disobedient or deceitful, must harm your friend
infinitely more than any amount of your good advice can do her good.
_Acting on principle always helps others_: it is the most catching thing
in the world, whereas our words and our personal influence do not help
them one bit, unless God is speaking through us, and making us His
instruments, which He will not do if we are behaving wrongly.

"_She looketh well to the ways of her household_." She gives her servants
full work, and insists on its being done, at the right time and in the
right way, but she is careful never to overwork them, and to remember that
servants have rights and feelings; she is not only kind, but
_considerate_, which involves far more sympathy and thought.

"_She eateth not the bread of idleness_." But she never does her servants'
work, or spoils them. Of course, if she is very poor, and has few
servants, she will lend a helping hand, but she will be wise in her
industry, and understand that riches are a call, not to idleness, but to
another kind of work - overseeing and directing, but not doing. "One good
head is worth a hundred good hands," but the head must know how things
should be done, and therefore the Virtuous Woman will make it a point of
conscience to know how to cook, and equally a point of conscience not to
do it, if she has servants who ought to see to it.

"_Her children shall rise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and
he praiseth her_." My Virtuous Woman may never marry, but she will be a
mother in Israel in spite of that. Every woman finds scope for
motherliness if it is in her; one way or another she will find children
looking to her for love and help, and she must fit herself to educate
those children, for this is a woman's main duty in life; she should never
be satisfied till she has earned a right to the compliment which Steele
paid his wife - that "to know her was a liberal education," until

"Men at her side
Grow nobler, girls purer, and, through the whole town,
The children are gladder that pull at her gown."

"_A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised_." I may seem to
have made my last words to you consist of merely worldly-wise counsels,
and to have left out of sight "the one thing needful," but in many other
Scripture lessons we have spoken of that Prayer, and Bible reading, that
"going in the strength of the Lord God," which is the only source of
strength for man or woman.

I have tried to give a few practical counsels for everyday life,
believing, as I do firmly, that the best part of this world's wisdom is
really one with Christianity, and that the fruits of dutifulness, common
sense, and kindliness, cannot be produced unless there is the root of real
religion. Solomon takes that root for granted, only at the close reminding
us of its necessity; and, in picturing our ideal woman, I am sure we all
see her with

"A brow serene
Speaking calm hope and trust within her, whence
Welleth a noiseless spring of patience,
That keepeth all her life so fresh, so green
And full of holiness, that every look,
The greatness of her woman's soul revealing,
Unto me bringeth blessing, and a feeling
As when I read in God's own Holy Book."




Making Plans.


_Holidays_. - This is the time to show if school has done you any good.

At school you are reminded constantly of Prayer, hard work, tidiness,
regularity, self-control: you are practised in these things, and the great
underlying principles of life are brought before you so that not one of
you has any excuse for being careless and unconscientious in the holidays.
Also you are most of you communicants, and you know that it is impossible
to be a communicant and to "let yourself go" in these ways.

You have duties in the holidays as well as in school time. It is wrong to
spend two months in self-indulgence without any self-discipline. You must
open your eyes to your duties, - practising, sensible reading, tidiness,
and daily unselfishness.

It may be no one's business to remind you in the holidays, and your mother
may let you alone a good deal, from wishing you to have "a good time;" but
you alter very considerably during two months, and it is your part to see
that you alter for the better.

Two months means two Communions with definite resolves, two definite
upward stages in life. If you let yourself go till you get back to the
crutches of school, you will have gone two very definite stages downhill.

Some of you are tidy here, but at home your temptation is to plaster some
neatly folded garment or sash over the recesses of an untidy drawer, or to
use anything that comes to hand, any racquet, or croquet-mallet, or
oil-can, or thimble; your own cannot be found - you take the nearest and
then leave that also lying about.

Do you think these things do not matter? You would think it mattered very
much if you grew up an unreliable, unconscientious woman, and yet, I do
not know in what lesson-book you can learn to be thorough and reliable and
conscientious, except in the daily lesson-book of these trifles.

You each know that daily practise is a duty, if your mother wishes you to
learn music. A daily duty neglected, or a daily duty done, means a very
considerable difference in the person by the end of two months.

There are one or two further points in your holiday and grown-up life
which I should like to talk about to-day.

_Visits_. - Enrich your life with them, instead of letting them be times
when you slip back morally. Take your conscience with you (but do not wear
it outside), and be very careful to keep your rules, your prayers, your
home standard of right and wrong, your quietness and self-control. Do not
"let yourself go," and do silly things for fun. A great many leave their
sense of responsibility at home, whereas our visits are part of the
regular course of that life for which God will judge us. And keep your
mind open, get new ideas, read the books in the house, instead of taking a
store with you.

Next consider your duty in the choice of people you live with. First,
there are your relations. You say you cannot choose these; no, but you can
choose which side of them you will draw out. Every one is a magnet; some
attract the worried, irritable side of other people, some the serene,
pleasant side. If you try to see the bright side of things and to agree
instead of differing, and if you say nice things about people when they
are out of the room, your family circle will show themselves very
different from what they might be if you were a magnet for unpleasantness!

Secondly, there are your friends. Do not let one person monopolize you, or
you her; do not have friends given to secrets, and do not let any one trap
you into a promise not to tell. If her secret is all right, she cannot
object to your telling your mother, and if it is silly you had better be
clear of it. And do not forget that nice people do not deal in secrets,
they keep their family affairs to themselves. It is the Rosa Matildas at
"Young Ladies' Academies" who have secrets in a corner.

Thirdly, choose your book friends carefully. You live with people in
books, so have a conscience about your choice in this just as much as with
living friends. Some books are bad for any one; a great many more would do
harm to you, but perhaps not touch an older person. When I was your age,
many an argumentative book (which seems thin and empty to me now) might
have upset my faith. Many an exciting, passionate book (which I now read
with a calm and critical mind) would have filled my whole heart and soul!
Be thankful if you are kept under direction about books; but if you are
not, use common sense and conscience. Manage yourself sensibly, and since
you know that you are in a very mouldable, impressionable stage, it stands
to reason that you had better steadily read classics now, to form and
strengthen your mind.

When a girl reads sentimental and passionate poetry, neglecting Scott,
Milton, and Wordsworth, I call it the same sort of wrong mismanaging of
herself as if she ruined her digestion with a greedy love of pastry.


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