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"A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles."
THE love of dress is said by some to be the ruling passion of the female soul. This is a slanderous accusation, no doubt; and one which is to be traced to the anxiety with which the stronger sex would fain fasten upon the weaker the imputation of a frivolity and feebleness of mind proportioned to their deficiency in bodily energy; and this in revenge for certain signal victories obtained by the weakest of the one over the strongest of the other. For myself, though no champion of "woman's rights "in a technical sense, and even a firm and submissive believer in the inferiority of the sisterhood in many essential points, I deny the particular imputation entirely, and defy those who write us down.
popinjays to any thing like reasonable proof. So much by way of general protest.
A single instance proves nothing; if it did, I should not be disposed to mention, even in this confidential way, -"to a few friends," the heart-breaking quarrel which divided pretty Candace Beamer from her faithful swain, and which began, as I must believe, however reluctantly, in the attractions of a string of blue glass beads, and other seductive appendages thereunto appertaining.
The parents of Candace are the plainest of plain people. They are of the small number small even here of those who do not make the slightest effort towards any thing beyond bare utility, who do not seem even to wish that the banks of life's muddy stream should be cheered by a single flower. They toil on and on, with the single object of acquiring an additional number of acres on which their children may toil after them.
Candace never in her little life wore any thing better than a shilling calico; but truly, if all girls wore faces like hers, silks might
go out of fashion. Yet I doubt whether her father or mother ever noticed the exceeding beauty of that rich cheek, with its twilight shadows of brown hair, or the grace of a person which, though petite, and unaided by the plastic art, asked nothing from callisthenics. They would be more likely to lament that such little hands could not accomplish half as much work as Nabby Gilkin's, whose fingers are long, and hard, and horny as the claws of an ostrich.
It is not to be supposed that Candace could be quite as indifferent on the subject of her own personal appearance as were her parents. There are some secrets that will not be kept, do what we will. But she was a sweet-tempered and submissive lassie, who took it for granted that father and mother must know best, being the oldest. And besides, Lewis Arden, who knew a good deal, had never hinted to her that she did not look as pretty as she ought.
But light will occasionally penetrate even the depths of the wilderness. A young lady came to make a visit at Mrs. Flyaway's,
whose aim it seemed to be to atone for the parsimony of nature towards her person, by loading herself with every attainable gewgaw, giving preference to those which would be likely to strike at the greatest distance. This could be none other than a distinguished guest in our village, where finery is "a sight for sair e'en."
Not that we have not some attempts at the beautifying art. Some of our fair damsels will line their straw bonnets with coarse cotton flowers, which appear with enhanced meanness lying near such fresh, rose-bud complexions. And they are apt to be fond of doleful caricatures of jewelry-"whiting's eyes for pearls," and copper brooches set with green glass.
When I see these sad-looking affairs, I am sometimes tempted to ask (being a little given to moralising), wherein, after all, consists the essential difference between mean and costly ornaments? The one strikes us as palpably absurd; how much less absurd is the other? Why is a necklace that costs fifty cents more ridiculous than one at fifty
dollars? By what standard is finery legitimated? Should it be proportioned to the means of the wearer? Is every woman to get as much as she can? If so, let no smile curl the lip of the town-bred dame as she casts her careless eye around the humble village church. The rustic maiden only
follows her example, and she is not to blame for the partiality of fortune. What does mere ornament do for either? It may flush with pride a cheek otherwise wan and lifeless, but will it smooth a harsh skin, blanch a brown throat, or give a soft, womanly tenderness to the light of a haughty eye?
It may not be disputed that the habit of wearing counterfeits is of unmixed evil meaning; but here the country girl is clearly superior. She wears every thing in good faith, and leaves the shame of a false outside to those who despise her.
It would require no laboured argument to prove that the country girl's longing after finery has no inherent vulgarity that does not attach with equal force to the more successful and costly efforts of the city