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would probably introduce them. Throw open a door in the rear that should lay bare the long vista of chambers through which their childhood might symbolically be represented as having travelled-what silence! what solemn solitude! Open a door in advance that should do the same figurative office for the future suddenly what a jubilation! what a
tumult of festal greetings!
But the succeeding stages of life did not, perhaps, in either case fully correspond to the early promise. Rank and station the two young ladies attained; but rank and station do not always throw people upon prominent stages of action or display. Many a family, possessing both rank and wealth, and not undistinguished possibly by natural endowments of an order fitted for brilliant popularity, never emerge from obscurity, or not into any splendor that can be called national; sometimes, perhaps, from a temper unfitted for worthy struggles in the head of the house; possibly from a haughty, possibly a dignified disdain of popular arts, hatred of petty rhetoric, petty sycophantic courtships, petty canvassing tricks; or again, in many cases, because accidents of ill-luck have intercepted the fair proportion of success due to the merits of the person; whence, oftentimes, a hasty self-surrender to impulses of permanent disgust. But, more frequently than any other cause, I fancy that impatience of the long struggle required for any distinguished success interferes to thin the ranks of competitors for the prizes of public ambition. Perseverance is soon refrigerated in those who fall back under any result, defeated or not defeated, upon splendid mansions and luxuries of every kind, already
far beyond their needs or their wishes. The soldier described by the Roman satirist as one who had lost his purse, was likely enough, under the desperation of his misfortune, to see nothing formidable in any obstacle that crossed his path towards another supplementary purse; whilst the very same obstacle might reasonably alarm one who, in retreating, fell back under the battlements of twenty thousand per annum. In the present case, there was nothing at all to move wonder in the final result under so continual a siege of temptation from the seductions of voluptuous ease; the only wonder is, that one of the young ladies, namely, Miss Watson, whose mind was masculine, and in some directions aspiring, should so readily have acquiesced in a result which she might have anticipated from the beginning.
Happy was the childhood, happy the early dawn of womanhood, which these two young ladies passed under the guardianship of Mrs. Schreiber. Education in those days was not the austere old lady that she is now. At least, in the case of young ladies,
her exactions were merciful and considerate. If Miss Smith sang pretty well, and Miss Watson very well, and with the power of singing difficult part music at sight, they did so for the same reason that the lark sings, and chiefly under the same gentle tuition that of nature, glad almighty nature, breathing inspiration from her Delphic tripod of happiness, and health, and hope. Mrs. Schreiber pretended to no intellectual gifts whatever; and yet, practically, she was wiser than many who have the greatest. First of all other tasks which she imposed upon her wards, was that of daily exercise, and exercise carried to
excess. She insisted upon four hours' exercise daily; and, as young ladies walk fast, that would have yielded, at the rate of three and a half miles per hour, thirteen plus one third miles. But only two and a half hours were given to walking; the other one and a half to riding. No day was a day of rest; absolutely none. Days so stormy that they "kept the raven to her nest," snow the heaviest, winds the most frantic, were never listened to as any ground of reprieve from the ordinary exaction. I once knew (that is, not personally, for I never saw her, but through the reports of her many friends) an intrepid lady,* living in the city of London (that is, technically the city, as opposed to Westminster, etc., Mary-lebone, etc.), who made a point of turning out her newborn infants for a pretty long airing, even on the day of their birth. It made no difference to her whether the month were July or January; good, undeniable air is to be had in either month. Once only she was baffled, and most indignant it made her, because the little thing chose to be born at half-past nine P. M.; so that, by the time its toilet was finished, bonnet and cloak all properly adjusted, the watchman was calling "Past eleven, and a cloudy night;" upon which, most reluctantly, she was obliged to countermand the orders for that day's exercise, and considered herself, like the Emperor Titus, to have lost a day. But what came of the London lady's or of
* If I remember rightly, some account is given of this palæstric lady and her stern Pædo-gymnastics, in a clever book on household medicine and surgery under circumstances of inevitable seclusion from professional aid, written about the year 1820-22, by Mr. Haden, a surgeon of London.
Mrs. Schreiber's Spartan discipline? Did the little blind kittens of Gracechurch-street, who were ordered by their penthesiléan mamma, on the very day of their nativity, to face the most cruel winds did they, or did Mrs. Schreiber's wards, justify, in after life, this fierce discipline, by commensurate results of hardiness? In words written beyond all doubt by Shakspeare, though not generally recognized as his, it might have been said to any one of this Amazonian brood,
"Now mild may be thy life;
For a more blust'rous birth had never babe.
Quiet and gentle be thy temperature ;
For thou'rt the rudeliest welcomed to this world
That e'er was woman's child. Happy be the sequel!
As fire, air, water, earth, and heaven, can make,
To herald thee from darkness!"-Pericles, Act III.
As to the city kittens, I heard that the treatment prospered; but the man who reported this added, that by original constitution they were as strong as Meux's dray-horses; and thus, after all, they may simply illustrate the old logical dictum ascribed to some medical man, that the reason why London children of the wealthier classes are noticeable even to a proverb for their robustness and bloom, is because none but those who are already vigorous to excess, and who start with advantages of health far beyond the average scale, have much chance of surviving that most searching quarantine, which, in such an
*For myself, meantime, I am far from assenting to all the romantic abuse applied to the sewerage and the church-yards of London, and even more violently to the river Thames. As a tidal river, even
atmosphere, they are summoned to weather at starting. Coming, however, to the special case of Mrs. Schreiber's household, I am bound to report that in no instance have I known young ladies so thoroughly steeled against all the ordinary host of petty maladies which, by way of antithesis to the capital warfare of dangerous complaints, might be be called the guerilla nosology; influenza, for instance, in milder forms, catarrh, headache, toothache, dyspepsia in transitory shapes, etc. Always the spirits of the two girls were exuberant; the enjoyment of life seemed to be intense, and never did I know either of them to suffer from ennui. My conscious knowledge of them commenced when I was about two years old, they being from ten to twelve years older.
beyond the metropolitan bridges, the Thames undoubtedly does much towards cleansing the atmosphere, whatever may be the condition of its waters. And one most erroneous postulate there is from which the Times starts in all its arguments, namely, this, that supposing the Thames to be even a vast sewer, in short, the cloaca maxima of London, there is in that arrangement of things any special reproach applying to our mighty English capital. On the contrary, all great cities that ever were founded have sought out, as their first and elementary condition, the adjacency of some great cleansing river. In the long process of development through which cities pass, commerce and other functions of civilization come to usurp upon the earlier functions of such rivers, and sometimes (through increasing efforts of luxurious refinement) may come entirely to absorb them. But, in the infancy of every great city, the chief function for which she looks to her river is that of purification. Be thou my huge cloaca, says infant Babylon to the Euphrates, says infant Nineveh to the Tigris, says infant Rome to the Tiber. So far is that reproach from having any special application to London. Smoke is not unwholesome; in many circumstances it is salubrious, as a counteragent to worse influences. Even sewerage is chiefly insalubrious from its moisture, and not, in any degree yet demonstrated, from its odor.