When this is done perfectly, it is a very pretty manoeuvre, and, the pupils returning to their places at the same movement, the column continues on its way with its distances perfectly preserved, but as no two of your class make circles of the same size, or move at similar rates of speed, your small procession finds itself in hopeless disorder, and in trying to rearrange yourselves, each one of you discovers that she has yet something to learn about turning. However, after a little trot and the usual closing walk, the lesson ends, and you retire from the ring, with the exception of Nell, who, having been taught by an amateur to leap in a more or less unscientific manner, has begged the master to give her "one little lesson," a proposition to which he has consented.
The hurdle is brought out, placed half-way down one of the long sides of the school, and Nell walks her horse quietly down the other, turns him again as she comes on the second long side, shakes her reins lightly, putting him to a canter, and is over— "beautifully," as you say to yourself, as you watch her enviously.
"You did not fall off," the master comments, coiling the lash of the long whip with which he has stood beside the hurdle during Miss Nell's performance, "but you did not guard yourself against falling when you went up, and had you had some horses, you might have come down before he did, although that is not so easy for a lady as it is for a man. When you start for a leap, you must draw your right foot well back, so as to clasp the pommel with your knee, and just as the horse stops to spring upward, you must lean back and lift both hands a little, and then, when he springs, straighten yourself, feel proud and haughty, if you can, and, as he comes down, lean back once more and raise your hands again, because your horse will drop on his fore legs, and you desire him to lift them, that he may go forward before you do. You should practise this, counting one, as you lean backward, drawing but not turning the hands backward and upward; two, as you straighten yourself wit the hands down, and three, as you repeat the first movement; and, except in making a water jump, or some other very long leap, the 'two' will be the shortest beat, as it is in the waltz. And, although you must use some strength in raising your hands, you must not raise them too high, and you must not lean your head forward or draw your elbows back. A jockey may, when riding in a steeplechase for money, but he will be angry with himself for having to do it, and a lady must not. I would rather that you did not leap again to-day, because what I told you will only confuse you until you have time to think it over and to practise it by yourself in a chair. And I would rather that you did not leap again in your own way, until you have let me see you do it once or twice more, at least."
"You did not have to whip my horse to make him leap," Nell says,
"The whip was not to strike him, but to show him what was ready for him if he refused," says the master. "One must never permit a horse to refuse without punishing bum, for otherwise he may repeat the fault when mounted by a poor rider, and a dangerous accident may follow. One must never brutalize a horse—indeed, no one but a brute does—but one must rule him."
By this time he has taken Nell from her saddle and is in the reception room where he finds you grouped and gazing at him in a manner rather trying even to his soldierly gravity, and decidedly amusing to the wise fairy, who glances at him with a laugh and betakes herself to her own little nest.
"My young ladies," he says. "I will show you one little leap, not high, you know, but a little leap sitting on a side saddle," and, going out, he takes Nell's horse, and in a minute you see him sailing through the air, light as a bird, and without any of the encouraging shouts used by some horsemen. It is only a little leap, but it impresses your illogical minds as no skilfulness in the voltes and no haute ecole airs could do, for leaping is the crowning accomplishment of riding in the eyes of all your male friends except the cavalryman, and when he returns to the reception room, you linger in the hope of a little lecture, and you are not disappointed.
"My young ladies," he says, "at the point at which you are in the equestrian art, what you should do is to keep doing what you know, over and over again, no matter if you do it wrong. Keep doing and doing, and by and by you will do it right. I have tried that plan of perfecting each step before undertaking another, but it is of no use with American ladies. You will not do things at all, unless you can do them well, you say. That is to say if you were to go to a ball, and were to say, 'No, I have taken lessons, I have danced in school, but I am afraid I cannot do so well as some others. I will not dance here.' That would not be the way to do. Dance, and again dance, and if you make a little mistake, dance again! The mistake is of the past; it is not matter for troubling; dance again, and do not make it again. And so of riding, ride, and again ride! Try all ways. Take your foot out of the stirrup sometimes, and slip it back again without stopping your horse, and when you can do it at the walk, do it at the trot, and keep rising! And learn not to be afraid to keep trotting after you are a little tired. Keep trotting! Keep trotting! Then you will know real pleasure, and you will not hurt your horses, as you will if you pull them up just as they begin to enjoy the pace. And then"—looking very hard at nothing at all, and not at you, Esmeralda, as your guilty soul fancies— "and then, gentlemen will not be afraid to ride with you for fear of spoiling their horses by checking them too often."
And with this he goes away, and on! Esmeralda, does not the society young lady make life pleasant for you and Nell in the dressing-room, until the beauty attracts general attention by stating that she has had an hour of torment!
"Perhaps you have not noticed that most of these saddles are buckskin," she continues; "I did not, until I found myself slipping about on mine to day as if it were glazed, and lo! It was pigskin, and that made the difference. I would not have it changed, because the Texan is always sneering at English pigskin, and I wanted to learn to ride on it; but, until the last quarter of the hour, I expected to slip off. I rather think I should have," she adds, "only just as I was ready to slip off on one side, something would occur to make me slip to the other. I shall not be afraid of pigskin again, ad you would better try it, every one of you. Suppose you should get a horse from a livery stable some day with one of those slippery saddles!"
"I am thinking of buying a horse," says the society young lad; "but the master says that I do not know enough to ride a beast that has been really trained. Fancy that!"
"And all the authorities agree with him," says Versatilia, who has accumulated a small library of books on equestrianism since she began to take lessons. "Your horse ought not to know much more than you do—for if he do, you will find him perfectly unmanageable."
Here you and Nell flee on the wings of discretion. The daring of the girl! To tell the society young lady that a horse may know more than she does!
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy. Shakespeare.
And now, Esmeralda, having determined to put your master's advice into practice and to "keep riding," you think that you must have a habit in order to be ready to take to the road whenever you have an opportunity, and to be able to accompany Theodore, should he desire to repeat your music-ride? And you would like to know just what it will cost, and everything about it? And first, what color can you have?
You "can" have any color, Esmeralda, and you "can" have any material, for that matter. Queen Guinevere wore grass green silk, and if her skirt were as long as those worn by Matilda of Flanders, Norman William's wife, centuries after, her women must have spent several hours daily in mending it, unless she had a new habit for every ride, or unless the English forest roads were wider than they are to-day. But all the ladies of Arthur's court seem to have ridden in their ordinary dress. Enid, for instance, was arrayed in the faded silk which had been her house-dress and waking-dress in girlhood, when she performed her little feat of guiding six armor-laden horses. Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stuart seem to have liked velvet, either green or black, and to have adorned it with gold lace, and both probably took their fashions form France; the young woman in the Scotch ballad was "all in cramoisie"; Kate Peyton wore scarlet broadcloth, but secretly longed for purple, having been told by a rival, who had probably found her too pretty for scarlet, that green or purple was "her color."
There are crimson velvet and dark blue velvet and Lincoln green velvet habits without end in fiction, and in the records of English royal wardrobes, but, beautiful as velvet is, and exquisitely becoming as it would be, you would better not indulge your artistic taste by wearing it. It would cost almost three times as much as cloth; it would be nearly impossible to make a well fitting modern skirt of it, and it would be worn into ugliness by a very few hours of trotting. Be thankful, therefore, that fashion says that woollen cloth is the most costly material that may be used.
In India, during the last two or three seasons, Englishwomen have worn London-made habits of very light stuffs, mohairs and fine Bradford woollens, and there is no reason why any American woman should not do the same. In Hyde Park, for three summers, in those early morning hours when some of the best riders go, attended by a groom, to enjoy something more lively than the afternoon parade, skirts of light tweed and covert coats of the same material worn over white silk shirts, with linen collars and a man's tie, have made their wearers look cool and comfortable, and duck covert jackets, with ordinary woollen skirts have had a similar effect, but American women have rather hesitated as to adopting these fashions, lest some one, beholding, should say that they were not correct. Thus did they once think that they must wear bonnets with strings in church, no matter what remonstrance was made by the thermometer, or how surely they were deafened to psalm and sermon by longing for the cool, comfortable hats, which certain wise persons had decided were too frivolous for the sanctuary.
New York girls have worn white cloth habits at Lenox without shocking the moral sense of the inhabitants, but Lenox, during the season, probably contains a smaller percentage of simpletons than any village in the United States, and some daring Boston girls have appeared this year in cool and elegant habits of shepherd's check, and have pleased every good judge who has seen them. If quite sure that you have as much common sense and independence as these young ladies, imitate them, but if not, wear the regulation close, dark cloth habit throughout the year, be uncomfortable, and lose half the benefit of your summer rides from becoming overheated, to say nothing of being unable to "keep trotting" as long as you could if suitably clothed for exercise. But might you not, if your habit were thin, catch cold while your horse was walking? You might if you tried, but probably you would not be in a state so susceptible to that disaster as you would if heavily dressed.
There is little danger that the temperature will change so much during a three hours' ride that you cannot keep yourself sufficiently warm for comfort and for safety, and if you start for a long excursion, you must use your common sense. The best and least expensive way of solving the difficulty is to have an ordinary habit, with the waist and skirt separate, and to wear a lighter coat, with a habit shirt, or with a habit shirt and waistcoat, whenever something lighter is desirable. This plan gives three changes of dress, which should be enough for any reasonable girl.
But still, you do not know what color you can wear? Black is suitable for all hours and all places, even for an English fox hunt, although the addition of a scarlet waistcoat, just visible at the throat and below the waist, is desirable for the field. Dark blue, dark green, dark brown are suitable for most occasions, and a riding master whose experience has made him acquainted with the dress worn in the principal European capitals, declares his preference for gray with a white waistcoat.
Among the habits shown by English tailors at the French exhibition of 189, was one of blue gray, and a Paris tailor displayed a tan-colored habit made with a coat and waistcoat revealing a white shirt front. London women are now wearing white waistcoats and white ties in the Park, both tie and waistcoat as stiff and masculine as possible.
This affectation of adopting men's dress, when riding, is comparatively modern. Sir Walter gives the date in "Rob Roy," when Mr. Francis sees Diana for the first time and notices that she wears a coat, vest and hat resembling those of a man, "a mode introduced during my absence in France," he says, "and perfectly new to me." But this coat had the collar and wide sharply pointed lapels and deep cuffs now known as "directoire," and its skirts were full, and so long that they touched the right side of the saddle, and skirts, lapels, collar and cuffs were trimmed with gold braid almost an inch wide. The waistcoat, the vest, as Sir Walter calls it, not knowing the risk that he ran in this half century of being considered as speaking American, had a smaller, but similar, collar and lapels, work outside those of the coat, and the "man's tie" was of soft white muslin, and a muslin sleeve and ruffles were visible at the wrists. The hat was very broad brimmed, and was worn set back from the forehead, and bent into coquettish curves, and altogether the fair Diana might depend upon having a very long following of astonished gazers if she should ride down Beacon Street or appear in Central Park to-day.
Your habit shall not be like hers, Esmeralda, but shall have a plain waist, made as long as you can possibly wear it while sitting, slightly pointed in front and curving upward at the side to a point about half an inch below that where the belt of your skirt fastens, and having a very small and perfectly flat postilion, or the new English round back. Elizabeth of Austria may wear a princess habit, if it please her, but would you, Esmeralda, be prepared, in order to have your habit fit properly, to postpone buttoning it until after you were placed in the saddle, as she was accustomed to do in the happy days when she could forget her imperial state in her long wild gallops across the beautiful Irish hunting counties? The sleeves shall not be so tight that you can feel them, nor shall the armholes be so close as to prevent you from clasping your hands above your head with your arms extended at full length, and the waist shall be loose. If you go to a tailor, Esmeralda, prepare yourself to make a firm stand on this point. Warn him, in as few words as possible, that you will not take the habit out of his shop unless it suits you, and do not allow yourself to be overawed by the list of his patrons, all of whom "wear their habits far tighter, ma'am." Unless you can draw a full, deep breath with your habit buttoned, you cannot do yourself or your teacher any credit in trotting, and you will sometimes find yourself compelled to give your escort the appearance of being discourteous by drawing rein suddenly, leaving him, unwarned, to trot on, apparently disregarding your plight. Both your horse and his will resent your action, and unless he resemble both Moses and Job more strongly than most Americans, he will have a few words to say in regard to it, after you have repeated it once or twice. And, lastly, Esmeralda, no riding master with any sense of duty will allow you to wear such a habit in his presence without telling you his opinion of it, and stating his reasons for objecting to it, and you best know whether or not a little lecture of that sort will be agreeable, especially if delivered in the presence of other women. Warn your tailor of your determination, then, and if his devotion to his ideal should compel him to decline your patronage, go to another, until you find one who will be content not to transform you into the likeness of a wooden doll. Women are not made to advertise tailors, whatever the tailors may think.
What must you pay for your habit? You may pay three hundred dollars, if you like, although that price is seldom charged, unless to customers who seem desirous of paying if, but the usual scale runs downward from one hundred and fifty dollars. This includes cloth and all other materials, and finish as perfect within as without, and is not dear, considering the retail price of cloth, the careful making, and the touch of style which only practised hands can give. The heavy meltons worn for hunting habits in England cost seven dollars a yard; English tweeds which have come into vogue during the last few years in London, cost six dollars, broadcloth five dollars; rough, uncut cheviots, about six dollars; and shepherds' checks, single width, about two dollars and a half. For waistcoats, duck costs two dollars and a quarter a yard, and fancy flannels and Tattersall checks anywhere from one dollar and a half to two dollars. The heavy cloths are the most economical in the end, because they do not wear out where the skirt is stretched over the pommel, the point at which a light material is very soon in tatters.
The small, flat buttons cost twenty-five cents a dozen; the fine black sateen used for linings may be bought for thirty-five cents a yard, and canvas for interlinings for twenty-five cents. With these figures you may easily make your own computations as to the cost of material, for unless a woman is "more than common tall," two yards and a half will be more than enough for her habit skirt, which should not rest an inch on the ground on the left side when she stands, and should not be more than a quarter of a yard longer in its longest part. Two lengths, with allowance for the hem two inches deep are needed for the skirt, and when very heavy melton is used, the edges are left raw, the perfect riding skirt in modern eyes being that which shows no trace of the needle, an end secured with lighter cloths by pressing all the seams before hemming, and then very lightly blind-stitching the pointed edges in their proper place.
Strength is not desirable in the sewing of a habit skirt. It is always possible that one may be thrown, and the substantial stitching which will hold one to pommel and stirrup may be fatal to life. So hems are constructed to tear away easily, and seams are run rather than stitched, or stitched with fine silk, and the cloth is not too firmly secured to the wide sateen belt. The English safety skirts, invented three or four years ago, have the seam on the knee-gore open from the knee down to the edge, and the two breadths are caught together with buttons and elastic loops, all sewed on very lightly so as to give way easily. The effect of this style of cutting is, if one be thrown, to transform one into a flattered or libelous likeness of Lilian Russell in her naval uniform, prepared to scamper away from one's horse, and from any other creatures with eyes, but with one's bones unbroken and one's face unscathed by being dragged and pounded over the road, or by being kicked.
For the waist and sleeves, Esmeralda, you will allow as much as for those of your ordinary frocks, and if you cannot find a fashionable tailor who will consent to adapt himself to your tastes and to your purse, you may be fortunate enough to find men who have worked in shops, but who now make habits at home, charging twenty-five dollars for the work, and doing it well and faithfully, although, of course, not being able to keep themselves informed as to the latest freaks of English fashion by foreign travellers and correspondents, as their late employers do. There are two or three dressmakers in Boston and five or six in New York whose habits fit well, and are elegant in every particular, and, if you can find an old-fashioned tailoress who really knows her business, and can prepare yourself to tell her about a few special details, you may obtain a well-fitting waist and skirt at a very reasonable price.
Of these details the first is that the sateen lining should be black. Gay colors are very pretty, but soon spoiled by perspiration, and white, the most fitting lining for a lady's ordinary frock, is unsuitable for a habit, since one long, warm ride may convert it into something very untidy of aspect. This lining, of which all the seams should be turned toward the outside, should end at the belt line, and between it and the cloth outside should be a layer of canvas, cut and shaped as carefully as possible, and the whalebones, each in its covering, should be sewed between the canvas and the sateen. If a waistcoat be worn, it should have a double sateen back with canvas interlining, and may be high in the throat or made with a step collar like that of the waist. The cuffs are simply indicated by stitching and are buttoned on the outside of the sleeve with two or three buttons. Simulated waistcoats, basted firmly to the shoulder seams and under-arm seams of the waist, and cut high to the throat with an officer collar, are liked by ladies with a taste for variety, and are not expensive, as but for a small quantity of material is required for each one. They are fastened by small hooks except in those parts shown by the openings, and on these flat or globular pearl buttons are used.
When a step collar and a man's tie are worn, the ordinary high collar and chemisette, sold for thirty-eight cents, takes the place of the straight linen band worn with the habit high in the throat, and the proper tie is the white silk scarf fastened in a four-in-hand knot, and, if you be wise, Esmeralda you will buy this at a good shop, and pay two dollars and a quarter for it, rather than to pay less and repent ever after. Some girls wear white lawn evening ties, but they are really out of place in the saddle, in which one is supposed to be in morning dress. Wear the loosest of collars and cuffs, and fasten the latter to your habit sleeves with safety pins. The belts of your habit skirt and waist should also be pinned together at the back, at the sides, and the front, unless your tailor has fitted them with hooks and eyes, and if you be a provident young person, you will tuck away a few more safety pins, a hairpin or two, half a row of "the most common pin of North America," and a quarter-ounce flash of cologne, in one of the little leather change pouches, and put it either in your habit pocket or your saddle pocket. Sometimes, after a dusty ride of an hour or two, a five-minute halt under the trees by the roadside, gives opportunity to remove the dust from the face and to cool the hands, and the cologne is much better than the handkerchief "dipped in the pellucid waters of a rippling brook," a la novelist, for the pellucid brook of Massachusetts is very likely to run past a leather factory, in which case its waters are anything but agreeable. Whether or not your habit shall have a pocket is a matter of choice. If it have one, it should be small and should be on the left side, just beyond the three flat buttons which fasten the front breadth and side breadth of your habit at the waist. When thus placed, you can easily reach it with either hand.
Fitting the habit over the knee is a feat not to be effected by an amateur without a pattern, and the proper slope and adjustment of the breadths come by art, not chance; but Harper's Bazaar patterns are easily obtained by mail. The best tailors adjust the skirt while the wearer sits on a side saddle, and there is no really good substitute for this, for, although one my guess fairly well at the fir of the knee, nothing but actual trial will show whether or not, when in the saddle, the left side of the skirt hangs perfectly straight, concealing the right side, and leaving the horse's body visible below it. When your skirt is finished, no matter if it be made by the very best of tailors, wear it once in the school before you appear on the road with it, and, looking in the mirror, view it "with a crocket's eye," as the little boy said when he appeared on the school platform as an example of the advantages of the wonderful merits of oral instruction.
An elastic strap about a quarter of a yard long should be sewed half way between the curved knee seam and the hem, and should be slipped over the right toe before mounting, and a second strap, for the left heel, should be sewed on the last seam on the under side of the habit, to be adjusted after the foot is placed in the stirrup. The result of this cutting and arrangement is the straight, simple, modern habit which is so great a change from the riding dress of half a century ago, with its full skirt which nearly swept the ground. The short skirt first appears in the English novel in "Guy Livingstone," and is worn by the severe and upright Lady Alice, the dame who hesitated not to snub Florence Bellasis, when snubbing was needful, and who was a mighty huntress. Now everybody wears it, and the full skirts are seen nowhere except in the riding-school dressing-rooms, where they yet linger because they may be worn by anybody, whereas the plain skirts fits but one person. It seems odd that so many years were required to discover that a short skirt, held in place by a strap placed over the right toe and another slipped over the left heel, really protected the feet more than yards of loosely floating cloth, but did not steam and electricity wait for centuries? Since the new style was generally adopted, Englishwomen allow themselves the luxury of five or six habits, instead of the one or two formerly considered sufficient, but each one is worn for several years. When the extravagant wife, in Mrs. Alexander's "A Crooked Path," suggests that she may soon want a new habit, her husband asks indignantly, "Did I not give you one two years ago?"
The trousers may mach the habit or may be of stockinet, or the imported cashmere tights may be worn. Women who are not fat and whose muscles are hard, may choose whichsoever one of these pleases them, but fat women, and women whose flesh is not too solid, must wear thick trousers, and would better have them lined with buckskin, unless they would be transformed into what Sairey would call "a mask of bruiges," and would frequent remark to Mrs. Harris that such was what she expected. Trousers with gaiter fastenings below the knee are preferred by some women who put not their faith in straps alone, and knee-breeches are liked by some, but to wear knee breeches means to pay fifteen dollars for long riding-boots, instead of the modest seven or eight dollars which suffice to buy ordinary Balmoral boots. Gaiters must button on the left side of each leg, and trouser straps may be sewed on one side and buttoned on the other, instead of being buttoned on both sides as men's are. Tailors sometimes insist on two buttons, but as a woman does not wear her trousers except with the strap, it is not difficult to see why she needs to be able to remove it. The best material for the strap is thick soft kid, or thin leather lined with cloth. The thick, rubber strap used by some tailors is dangerous, sometimes preventing the rider from placing her foot in the stirrup, sometimes making her lose it at a critical moment. Whether breeches, tights, or trousers are worn, they must be loose at the knee, or trotting will be impossible, and the rider will feel as if bound to the second pommel, and will sometimes be unable to rise at all.
As to gloves, the choice lies between the warm antelope skin mousquetaires at two dollars a pair, and the tan-colored kid gauntlets at the same price. The former are most comfortable for winter, the latter for summer, and neither can be too large. Nobody was ever ordered out for execution for wearing black gloves, although they are unusual, and now and then one sees a woman, whose soul is set on novelty, gorgeous in yellow cavalry gauntlets, or even with white dragoon gauntlets, making her look like a badly focused photograph.
Lastly, as to the hat. What shall it be, Esmeralda?
No tuft of grass-green plumes for you, like Queen Guinevere's, nor yet the free flowing feather to be seen in so many beautiful old French pictures, nor the plumed hat which "my sweet Mistress Ann Dacre" wore when Constance Sherwood's loving eyes first fell upon her, but the simple jockey cap, exactly matching your habit, and costing two dollars and a half or three dollars; the Derby cap for the same price or a little more; or, best of all, the English or the American silk hat, as universally suitable as a black silk frock was in the good old times when Mrs. Rutherford Birchard Hayes was in the White House. The English Henry Heath hat at seven or eight dollars, with its velvet forehead piece and its band of soft, rough silk, stays in place better than any other, but it is too heavy for comfort. If you can have an American hatter remodel it, making it weigh half a pound less, it will be perfection, always provided that he does not, as he assuredly will unless you forbid it, throw away the soft, rough band, which keeps the hat in place, and substitute one of the American smooth bands, designed to slip off without ruffling the hair, and doing it instantly, the moment that a breeze touches the brim of the hat. A hunting guard, fastened at the back of the hat brim and between two habit buttons is better than an elastic caught under the braids of your hair, for when an elastic does not snap outright, it is always trying to do so, and in the effort holds the hat so tightly on the head so as sometimes to give actual pain. The hunting guard is no restraint at all unless the hat flies off, in which case it keeps it from following the example of John Gilpin's, but with the Henry Heath lining, your hat is perfectly secure in anything from a Texas Norther to a New England east wind. If you follow London example, and wear a straw hat for morning rides, sew a piece of white velvet on the inner side of the band, and your forehead will not be marked.
Arrayed after these suggestions, Esmeralda, you will be inconspicuous, and that is the general aim of the true lady's riding dress, with the exception of those worn by German princesses, when, at a review, they lead the regiments which they command. Then, their habits may be frogged and braided with gold, or they may fire the air in habit and hat of white and scarlet, the regimental colors, as the Empress of Germany did the other day. If you were sure of riding as these royal ladies do, perhaps even white and scarlet might be permitted to you, but can you fancy yourself, Esmeralda, sweeping across a parade ground with a thousand horsemen behind you, and ready to salute your sovereign and commander-in-chief at the right moment, and to go forward with as much precision as if you, too, were one of those magnificently drilled machines brought into being by the man of blood and iron?
'Tis an old maxim in the schools, That flattery's the food of fools. Swift.
If American children and American girls were the angels which their mothers and their lovers tell them that they are, the best possible riding master for them would be an American soldier who had learned and taught riding at West Point. Being of the same race, pupil and teacher would have that vast fund of common memories, hopes and feelings; that common knowledge of character, of good qualities and of defects, and that ability to divine motives and to predict action which constitute perfect sympathy, and their relations to one another would be mutually agreeable and profitable. Unfortunately, Esmeralda, you, like possibly some other American girls, are not an angel, and if you were, you could not have such a riding master, because the very few men who have the specified qualifications are too well acquainted with the characteristics of their countrywomen to instruct them in the equestrian art. Who, then, shall be his substitute? Clearly, either a person sufficiently patient and clever to neutralize the faults of American women, or one capable of adapting himself to them, of eluding them, and of forcing a certain quantity of knowledge upon his pupils, almost in spite of themselves. The former is hardly to be found among natives of the United States; the latter can be found nowhere else, except, possibly, in certain English shires in which the inhabitants so closely resemble the average American that when they immigrate hither they are scarcely distinguishable from men whose ancestors came two or three centuries ago.
A foreign teacher, whether French, German, or Hungarian, always regards himself in the just and proper European manner as the superior of his pupil. The traditions in which he has been reared, in which he has been instructed, not only in riding, but in all other matters, survive from the time when all learning was received from men whose title to respect rested not only on their wisdom but on their ecclesiastical office, and who expected and received as much deference from their pupils as from their congregations. Undeniably, there are unruly children in European schools, but their rebelliousness is never encouraged, and their teachers are expected to quell it, not to submit to it, much less to endeavour to avoid it by giving no commands which are distasteful. Even in the worst conducted private schools on the continent, there is always at least one master who must be obeyed, whose authority is held as beyond appeal, and in the school conducted either by the church or by civil authority, the duty of enforcing perfect discipline is regarded as quite as imperative as that of demanding well-learned lessons.
Passing through these institutions, the young European enters the military school with as little thought of disputing any order which may be given him as of arguing with the priest who states a theological truth from the pulpit. And, indeed, had he been reared under the tutelage of one of those modern silver-tongued American pedagogues, who make gentle requests lest they should elicit antagonism by commands, the military school should soon completely alter the complexion of his ideas, for he would find his failures in the execution of orders treated as disobedience. He would not be punished at first, it is true, but pretty theories that he was nervous, or ill, or the victim of hereditary disability, or of fibre too delicately attenuated to perform any required act, would not be admitted except, indeed, as a reason for expulsion. Moreover, the tests to which he would be compelled to submit before this escape from discipline lay open to him, would be neither slight nor easily borne, for the European military teacher has yet to learn the existence of that exquisite personal dignity which is hopelessly blighted by corporal punishment or infractions of discipline.
"Will you teach me how to ride, sir?" asked a Boston man of a Hungarian soldier, one of the pioneers among Boston instructors.
"Will I teach you! Eh! I don't know," said the exile dolefully, for during his few weeks in the city, he had seen something of the ways of the American who fancies himself desirous of being taught. "Perhaps you will learn, but will—I—teach—you? You can ride?"
"Very well! Mount that horse, and ride around the ring."
Away went the pupil, doing his best, but before he had traversed two sides of the school, the master shouted to the horse, and the pupil was sitting in the tan. He picked himself up, and returned to the mounting-stand, saying: "Will you tell me how to stay on next time?"
"I will," cried the Hungarian in a small ecstasy; "and I will make a rider of you!" And he did, too, and certainly took as much pleasure in his pupil in the long course of instruction which followed, and in the resultant proficiency.
In European riding-schools for ladies, there is, of course, no resort to corporal punishment, but there is none of that careful abstention from telling disagreeable truths which popular ignorance extracts from American teachers in all schools, except in the military and naval academies. Indeed, the need of it is hardly felt, for that peculiar self-consciousness which makes an American awkward under observation and restive under reproof is scarcely found in countries not democratic, and the "I'm ez good ez you be" feeling that is at the bottom of American intractability, has no chance to flourish in lands where position is a matter of birth and not of self-assertion.
A French woman, compelled to make part of her toilet in a railway waiting-room under the eyes of half a score of enemies, that is to say, of ten other women, arranges her tresses, purchased or natural, uses powder-puff and hare's foot if she choose, and turns away from the mirror armed for conquest; but an American similarly situated, forgets half her hair-pins, does not dare to wash her face carefully lest some one should sniff condemnation of her fussiness, and looks worse after her efforts at beautifying. A French girl, told that her English accent is bad, corrects it carefully; an American, gently reminded that a French "u" is not pronounced like "you," changes it to "oo," and stares defiance at Bocher and all his works. And even that commendable reserve which hinders well-bred Americans from frank self-discussion, stands in the way of perfect sympathy between him and the European master, representative of races in which everybody, from an emperor in his proclamations to the peasant chatting over his beer or petit vin, may discourse upon his most recondite peculiarities.
For all these reasons, the European riding master is often misunderstood, even by his older pupils, and young girls almost invariably mistake his patient reiteration and his methodical vivacity for anger, so that his classes seldom contain any pupils not really anxious to learn, or whose parents are not determined that they shall learn in his school and no other. Teaching is a matter of strict conscience with him, and even after years of experience, and in spite of more than one severe lesson as to American sensitiveness, he continues to speak the truth. Even when his pupils have become what the ordinary observer calls perfect riders, he allows no fault to go unreproved, although nobody can more thoroughly enjoy the evening classes, organized by fairly good riders rather for amusement than for instruction. If you think you can endure perfect discipline and incessant plain speaking go to him, Esmeralda.
If you cannot, take the other alternative, the American or the English master, but remember that it is only by absolute submission that you will obtain the best instruction which he is capable of giving. If you do not compel him to tax his mind with remembering all your foibles and weaknesses, you may, thanks to race sympathy, learn more rapidly at first from him than from a foreigner, and, unless you are rude and insubordinate to the point of insolence, you may depend upon receiving no actual harshness from him, although he will refuse to flatter you, and will repeat his warnings against faults, quite as persistently as any foreigner.
A very little observation of your fellow pupils will show you that presumption upon his good nature is wofully common, and that his American inability to forget that a woman is a woman, even when she conducts herself as if her name were Ursa or Jenny, often subjects him to stupendous impertinence, which he receives with calm and silent contempt. You will find that his instruction follows the same lines as that of all foreign masters in the United States, for there is no American system of horsemanship, the traditions of the army, and of the north, being derived from France, those of the south fro, England, and those of the southwest from Spain, by the way of Mexico and Texas. Under his instruction, you will remain longer in the debatable land between perfect ignorance of horsemanship, and being a really accomplished rider, than you would if taught by a foreigner, but, as has already been said, you will learn more rapidly at first, an the result, if you choose to work hard, will be much the same.
Should you, by way of experiment, choose to take lessons from both native and foreign masters, you will find each frankly ready to admit the merits of the other, and to acknowledge that he himself is better suited to some pupils than to others and, to come back to what was told you at the outset, you will find them unanimous in assuring you that your best teacher, the instructor without whose aid you can learn nothing, is yourself, your slightly rebellious, but withal clever, American self. You can learn, Esmeralda. There is no field of knowledge into which the American woman has attempted to enter, in which she has not demonstrated her ability to compete, when she chooses to put forth all her energy, with her sisters of other nations, but she must work, and must work steadily. There are American teachers of grammar who cannot parse; American female journalists who cannot write; American women calling themselves doctors, but unable to make a diagnosis between the cholera and the measles; and American women practising law and dependent for a living on blatant self-advertising, but with the faculties of Vassar and Wellesley in existence; with the editor of Harper's Bazar receiving the same salary as Mr. Curtis; with American women acknowledged as a credit to the medical and to the legal profession—what of it? The American woman can learn anything, can do anything. Do you learn to ride, and, having done it, "keep riding." At present you have received just sufficient instruction to qualify you to ride properly escorted, on good roads, but—