He reached home in good time: and played the grand seigneur—nobody could do it better when driven to it—to do honor to his sister. She was a peerless bride: she stood superior with ebon locks and coal black eyes, encircled by six bridemaids—all picked blondes. The bevy, with that glorious figure in the middle, seemed one glorious and rare flower.
After the wedding, the breakfast; and then the traveling carriage; the four liveried postilions bedecked with favors.
But the bride wept on Vizard's neck; and a light seemed to leave the house when she was gone. The carriages kept driving away one after another till four o'clock: and then Vizard sat disconsolate in his study, and felt very lonely.
Yet a thing no bigger than a leaf sufficed to drive away this somber mood, a piece of amber-colored paper scribbled on with a pencil: a telegram from Ashmead: "Good news: lost sheep turned up. Is now with her mother at Claridge's Hotel."
Then Vizard was in raptures. Now he understood Ina's composure, and the half sly look she had given him, and her dry eyes at parting, and other things. He tore up to London directly, with a telegram flying ahead: burst in upon her, and had her in his arms in a moment, before her mother: she fenced no longer, but owned he had gained her love, as he had deserved it in every way.
She consented to be married that week in London: only she asked for a Continental tour before entering Vizard Court as his wife; but she did not stipulate even for that—she only asked it submissively, as one whose duty it now was to obey, not dictate.
They were married in St. George's Church very quietly, by special license. Then they saw her mother off, and crossed to Calais. They spent two happy months together on the Continent, and returned to London.
But Vizard was too old-fashioned, and too proud of his wife, to sneak into Vizard Court with her. He did not make it a county matter; but he gave the village such a fete as had not been seen for many a day. The preparations were intrusted to Mr. Ashmead, at Ina's request. "He will be sure to make it theatrical," she said; "but perhaps the simple villagers will admire that, and it will amuse you and me, love: and the poor dear old Thing will be in his glory—I hope he will not drink too much."
Ashmead was indeed in his glory. Nothing had been seen in a play that he did not electrify Islip with, and the surrounding villages. He pasted large posters on walls and barn doors, and his small bills curled round the patriarchs of the forest and the roadside trees, and blistered the gate posts.
The day came. A soapy pole, with a leg of mutton on high for the successful climber. Races in sacks. Short blindfold races with wheelbarrows. Pig with a greasy tail, to be won by him who could catch him and shoulder him, without touching any other part of him; bowls of treacle for the boys to duck heads in and fish out coins; skittles, nine pins, Aunt Sally, etc., etc., etc.
But what astonished the villagers most was a May-pole, with long ribbons, about which ballet girls, undisguised as Highlanders, danced, and wound and unwound the party-colored streamers, to the merry fiddle, and then danced reels upon a platform, then returned to their little tent: but out again and danced hornpipes undisguised as Jacky Tars.
Beer flowed from a sturdy regiment of barrels. "The Court" kitchen and the village bakehouse kept pouring forth meats, baked, boiled, and roast; there was a pile of loaves like a haystack; and they roasted an ox whole on the Green; and, when they found they were burning him raw, they fetched the butcher, like sensible fellows, and dismembered the giant, and so roasted him reasonably.
In the midst of the reveling and feasting, Vizard and Mrs. Vizard were driven into Islip village in the family coach, with four horses streaming with ribbons.
They drove round the Green, bowing and smiling in answer to the acclamations and blessings of the poor, and then to Vizard Court. The great doors flew open. The servants, male and female, lined the hall on both sides, and received her bowing and courtesying low, on the very spot where she had nearly met her death; her husband took her hand and conducted her in state to her own apartment.
It was open house to all that joyful day, and at night magnificent fireworks on the sweep, seen from the drawing-room by Mrs. Vizard, Miss Maitland, Miss Gale, Miss Dover, and the rosy-cheeked curate, whom she had tied to her apron-strings.
At two in the morning, Mr. Harris showed Mr. Ashmead to his couch. Both gentlemen went upstairs a little graver than any of our modern judges, and firm as a rock; but their firmness resembled that of a roof rather than a wall; for these dignities as they went made one inverted V—so, A.
It is time the "Woman-hater" drew to a close, for the woman-hater is spoiled. He begins sarcastic speeches, from force of habit, but stops short in the middle. He is a very happy man, and owes it to a woman, and knows it. He adores her; and to love well is to be happy. But, besides that, she watches over his happiness and his good with that unobtrusive but minute vigilance which belongs to her sex, and is often misapplied, but not so very often as cynics say. Even the honest friendship between him and the remarkable woman he calls his "viragos" gives him many a pleasant hour. He is still a humorist, though cured of his fling at the fair sex. His last tolerable hit was at the monosyllabic names of the immortal composers his wife had disinterred in his library. Says he to parson Denison, hot from Oxford, "They remind me of the Oxford poets in the last century:
"Alma novem celebres genuit Rhedyeina poetas. Bubb, Stubb, Grubb, Crabbe, Trappe. Brome, Carey, Tickell, Evans."
As for Ina Vizard, La Klosking no longer, she has stepped into her new place with her native dignity, seemliness and composure. At first, a few county ladies put their little heads together, and prepared to give themselves airs; but the beauty, dignity, and enchanting grace of Mrs. Vizard swept this little faction away like small dust. Her perfect courtesy, her mild but deep dislike of all feminine back-biting, her dead silence about the absent, except when she can speak kindly—these rare traits have forced, by degrees, the esteem and confidence of her own sex. As for the men, they accepted her at once with enthusiasm. She and Lady Uxmoor are the acknowledged belles of the county. Lady Uxmoor's face is the most admired; but Mrs. Vizard comes next, and her satin shoulders, statuesque bust and arms, and exquisite hand, turn the scale with some. But when she speaks, she charms; and when she sings, all competition dies.
She is faithful to music, and especially to sacred music. She is not very fond of singing at parties, and sometimes gives offense by declining. Music sets fools talking, because it excites them, and then their folly comes out by the road nature has provided. But when Mrs. Vizard has to sing in one key, and people talk in five other keys, that gives this artist such physical pain that she often declines, merely to escape it. It does not much mortify her vanity, she has so little.
She always sings in church, and sings out, too, when she is there; and plays the harmonium. She trains the villagers—girls, boys and adults—with untiring good humor and patience.
Among her pupils are two fine voices—Tom Wilder, a grand bass, and the rosy-cheeked curate, a greater rarity still, a genuine counter-tenor.
These two can both read music tolerably; but the curate used to sing everything, however full of joy, with a pathetic whine, for which Vizard chaffed him in vain; but Mrs. Vizard persuaded him out of it, where argument and satire failed.
People come far and near to hear the hymns at Islip Church, sung in full harmony—trebles, tenors, counter-tenor, and bass.
A trait—she allows nothing to be sung in church unrehearsed. The rehearsals are on Saturday night, and never shirked, such is the respect for "Our Dame." To be sure, "Our Dame" fills the stomachs and wets the whistles of her faithful choir on Saturday nights.
On Sunday nights there are performances of sacred music in the great dining-hall. But these are rather more ambitious than those in the village church. The performers meet on that happy footing of camaraderie the fine arts create, the superior respect shown to Mrs. Vizard being mainly paid to her as the greater musician. They attack anthems and services; and a trio, by the parson, the blacksmith, and "Our Dame," is really an extraordinary treat, owing to the great beauty of the voices. It is also piquant to hear the female singer constantly six, and often ten, notes below the male counter-tenor; but then comes Wilder with his diapason, and the harmony is noble; the more so that Mrs. Vizard rehearses her pupils in the swell—a figure too little practiced in music, and nowhere carried out as she does it.
One night the organist of Barford was there. They sung Kent's service in F, and Mrs. Vizard still admired it. She and the parson swelled in the duet, "To be a Light to lighten the Gentiles," etc. Organist approved the execution, but said the composition was a meager thing, quite out of date. "We have much finer things now by learned men of the day."
"Ah," said she, "bring me one."
So, next Sunday, he brought her a learned composition, and played it to her, preliminary to their singing it. But she declined it on the spot. "What!" said she. "Mr. X., would you compare this meaningless stuff with Kent in F? Why, in Kent, the dominant sentiment of each composition is admirably preserved. His 'Magnificat' is lofty jubilation, with a free, onward rush. His 'Dimittis' is divine repose after life's fever. But this poor pedant's 'Magnificat' begins with a mere crash, and then falls into the pathetic—an excellent thing in its place, but not in a song of triumph. As to his 'Dimittis,' it simply defies the words. This is no Christian sunset. It is not good old Simeon gently declining to his rest, content to close those eyes which had seen the world's salvation. This is a tempest, and all the windows rattling, and the great Napoleon dying, amid the fury of the elements, with 'te'te d'arme'e!' on his dying lips, and 'battle' in his expiring soul. No, sir; if the learned Englishmen of this day can do nothing nearer the mark than DOLEFUL MAGNIFICATS and STORMY NUNC DIMITTISES, I shall stand faithful to poor dead Kent, and his fellows—they were my solace in sickness and sore trouble."
In accordance with these views of vocal music, and desirous to expand its sphere, Mrs. Vizard has just offered handsome prizes in the county for the best service, in which the dominant sentiment of the words shall be as well preserved as in Kent's despised service; and another prize to whoever can set any famous short secular poem, or poetical passage (not in ballad meter), to good and appropriate music.
This has elicited several pieces. The composers have tried their hands on Dryden's Ode; on the meeting of Hector and Andromache (Pope's "Homer"); on two short poems of Tennyson; etc., etc.
But it is only the beginning of a good thing. The pieces, are under consideration. Vizard says the competitors are trifiers. He shall set Mr. Arnold's version of "Hero and Leander" to the harp, and sing it himself. This, he intimates, will silence competition and prove an era. I think so too, if his music should happen to equal the lines in value. But I hardly think it will, because the said Vizard, though he has taste and ear, does not know one note from another. So I hope "Hero and Leander" will fall into abler hands; and in any case, I trust Mrs. Vizard will succeed in her worthy desire to enlarge, very greatly, the sphere and the nobility of vocal music. It is a desire worthy of this remarkable character, of whom I now take my leave with regret.
I must own that regret is caused in part by my fear that I may not have done her all the justice I desired.
I have long felt and regretted that many able female writers are doing much to perpetuate the petty vices of a sex, which, after all, is at present but half educated, by devoting three thick volumes to such empty women as Biography, though a lower art than Fiction, would not waste three pages on. They plead truth and fidelity to nature. "We write the average woman, for the average woman to read," say they. But they are not consistent; for the average woman is under five feet, and rather ugly. Now these paltry women are all beautiful—[Greek], as Homer hath it.
Fiction has just as much right to select large female souls as Biography or Painting has; and to pick out a selfish, shallow, illiterate creature, with nothing but beauty, and bestow three enormous volumes on her, is to make a perverse selection, beauty being, after all, rarer in women than wit, sense, and goodness. It is as false and ignoble in art, as to marry a pretty face without heart and brains is silly in conduct.
Besides, it gives the female reader a low model instead of a high one, and so does her a little harm; whereas a writer ought to do good—or try, at all events.
Having all this in my mind, and remembering how many noble women have shone like stars in every age and every land, and feeling sure that, as civilization advances, such women will become far more common, I have tried to look ahead and paint La Klosking.
But such portraiture is difficult. It is like writing a statue.
"Qui mihi non credit faciat licet ipse periclum, Mox fuerit studis aequior ille meis."
Harrington Vizard, Esq., caught Miss Fanny Dover on the top round but one of the steps of his library. She looked down, pinkish, and said she was searching for "Tillotson's Sermons."
"What on earth can you want of them?"
"To improve my mind, to be sure," said the minx.
Vizard said, "Now you stay there, miss—don't you move;" and he sent for Ina. She came directly, and he said, "Things have come to a climax. My lady is hunting for 'Tillotson's Sermons.' Poor Denison!" (That was the rosy curate's name.)
"Well," said Fanny, turning red, "I told you I should. Why should I be good any longer? All the sick are cured one way or other, and I am myself again."
"Humph!" said Vizard. "Unfortunately for your little plans of conduct, the heads of this establishment, here present, have sat in secret committee, and your wings are to be clipped—by order of council."
"La!" said Fanny, pertly.
Vizard imposed silence with a lordly wave. "It is a laughable thing; but this divine is in earnest. He has revealed his hopes and fears to me."
"Then he is a great baby," said Fanny, coming down the steps. "No, no; we are both too poor." And she vented a little sigh.
"Not you. The vicar has written to vacate. Now, I don't like you much, because you never make me laugh; but I'm awfully fond of Denison; and, if you will marry my dear Denison, you shall have the vicarage; it is a fat one."
"And," said Mrs. Vizard, "he permits me to furnish it for you. You and I will make it 'a bijou.' "
Fanny kissed them both, impetuously: then said she would have a little cry. No sooner said than done. In due course she was Mrs. Denison, and broke a solemn vow that she never would teach girls St. Matthew.
Like coquettes in general, who have had their fling at the proper time, she makes a pretty good wife; but she has one fault—she is too hard upon girls who flirt.
Mr. Ashmead flourishes. Besides his agency she sometimes treats for a new piece, collects a little company, and tours the provincial theaters. He always plays them a week at Taddington, and with perfect gravity loses six pounds per night. Then he has a "bespeak," Vizard or Uxmoor turn about. There is a line of carriages; the snobs crowd in to see the gentry. Vizard pays twenty pounds for his box, and takes twenty pounds' worth of tickets, and ,Joseph is in his glory, and stays behind the company to go to Islip Church next day, and spend a happy night at the Court. After that he says he feels good for three or four days.
Mrs. Gale now leases the Hillstoke farm of Vizard, and does pretty well. She breeds a great many sheep and cattle. The high ground and sheltering woods suit them. She makes a little money every year, and gets a very good house for nothing. Doctress Gale is still all eyes, and notices everything. She studies hard, and practices a little. They tried to keep her out of the Taddington infirmary; but she went, almost crying, to Vizard, and he exploded with wrath. He consulted Lord Uxmoor, and between them the infirmary was threatened with the withdrawal of eighty annual subscriptions if they persisted. The managers caved directly, and Doctress Gale is a steady visitor.
A few mothers are coming to their senses and sending for her to their unmarried daughters. This is the main source of her professional income. She has, however, taken one enormous fee from a bon vivant, whose life she saved by esculents. She told him at once he was beyond the reach of medicine, and she could do nothing for him unless he chose to live in her house, and eat and drink only what she should give him. He had a horror of dying, though he had lived so well; so he submitted, and she did actually cure that one glutton. But she says she will never do it again. "After forty years of made dishes they ought to be content to die; it is bare justice," quoth Rhoda Gale, M.D.
An apothecary in Barford threatened to indict this Gallic physician. But the other medical men dissuaded him, partly from liberality, partly from discretion: the fine would have been paid by public subscription twenty times over and nothing gained but obloquy. The doctress would never have yielded.
She visits, and prescribes, and laughs at the law, as love is said to laugh at locksmiths.
To be sure, in this country, a law is no law, when it has no foundation in justice, morality, or public policy.
Happy in her position, and in her friends, she now reviews past events with the candor of a mind that loves truth sincerely. She went into Vizard's study one day, folded her arms, and delivered herself as follows: "I guess there's something I ought to say to you. When I told you about our treatment at Edinburgh, the wound still bled, and I did not measure my words as I ought, professing science. Now I feel a call to say that the Edinburgh school was, after all, more liberal to us than any other in Great Britain or Ireland. The others closed the door in our faces. This school opened it half. At first there was a liberal spirit; but the friends of justice got frightened, and the unionists stronger. We were overpowered at every turn. But what I omitted to impress on you, is, that when we were defeated, it was always by very small majorities. That was so even with the opinions of the judges, which have been delivered since I told you my tale. There were six jurists, and only seven pettifoggers. It was so all through. Now, for practical purposes, the act of a majority is the act of a body. It must be so. It is the way of the world: but when an accurate person comes to describe a business, and deal with the character of a whole university, she is not to call the larger half the whole, and make the matter worse than it was. That is not scientific. Science discriminates."
I am not sorry the doctress offered this little explanation; it accords with her sober mind and her veneration of truth. But I could have dispensed with it for one. In Britain, when we are hurt, we howl; and the deuce is in it if the weak may not howl when the strong overpower them by the arts of the weak.
Should that part of my tale rouse any honest sympathy with this English woman who can legally prescribe, consult, and take fees, in France, but not in England, though she could eclipse at a public examination nine-tenths of those who can, it may be as well to inform them that, even while her narrative was in the press, our Government declared it would do something for the relief of medical women, but would sleep upon it.
This is, on the whole, encouraging. But still, where there is no stimulus of faction or personal interest to urge a measure, but only such "unconsidered trifles" as public justice and public policy, there are always two great dangers: 1. That the sleep may know no waking; 2. That after too long a sleep the British legislator may jump out of bed all in a hurry, and do the work ineffectually; for nothing leads oftener to reckless haste than long delay.
I hope, then, that a few of my influential readers will be vigilant, and challenge a full discussion by the whole mind of Parliament, so that no temporary, pettifogging half-measure may slip into a thin house—like a weasel into an empty barn—and so obstruct for many years legislation upon durable principle. The thing lies in a nutshell. The Legislature has been entrapped. It never intended to outlaw women in the matter. The persons who have outlawed them are all subjects, and the engines of outlawry have been "certificates of attendance on lectures," and "public examinations." By closing the lecture room and the examination hall to all women—learned or unlearned—a clique has outlawed a population, under the letter, not the spirit, of a badly written statute. But it is for the three estates of the British realm to leave off scribbling statutes, and learn to write them, and to bridle the egotism of cliques, and respect the nation. The present form of government exists on that understanding, and so must all forms of government in England. And it is so easy. It only wants a little singleness of mind and common sense. Years ago certificates of attendance on various lectures were reasonably demanded. They were a slight presumptive evidence of proficiency, and had a supplementary value, because the public examinations were so loose and inadequate; but once establish a stiff, searching, sufficient, incorruptible, public examination, and then to have passed that examination is not presumptive, but demonstrative, proof of proficiency, and swallows up all minor and merely presumptive proofs.
There is nothing much stupider than anachronism. What avail certificates of lectures in our day? either the knowledge obtained at the lectures enables the pupil to pass the great examination, or it does not. If it does, the certificate is superfluous; if it does not, the certificate is illusory.
What the British legislator, if for once he would rise to be a lawgiver, should do, and that quickly, is to throw open the medical schools to all persons for matriculation. To throw open all hospitals and infirmaries to matriculated students, without respect of sex, as they are already open, by shameless partiality and transparent greed, to unmatriculated women, provided they confine their ambition to the most repulsive and unfeminine part of medicine, the nursing of both sexes, and laying out of corpses.
Both the above rights, as independent of sex as other natural rights, should be expressly protected by "mandamus," and "suit for damages." The lecturers to be compelled to lecture to mixed classes, or to give separate lectures to matriculated women for half fees, whichever those lecturers prefer. Before this clause all difficulties would melt, like hail in the dog days. ,Male modesty is a purely imaginary article, set up for a trade purpose, and will give way to justice the moment it costs the proprietors fifty per cent. I know my own sex from hair to heel, and will take my Bible oath of that.
Of the foreign matriculated student, British or European, nothing should be demanded hut the one thing, which matters one straw—viz., infallible proofs of proficiency in anatomy, surgery, medicine, and its collaterals, under public examination. This, which is the only real safeguard, and the only necessary safeguard to the public, and the only one the public ask, should he placed, in some degree, under the sure control of Government without respect of cities; and much greater vigilance exercised than ever has been yet. Why, under the system which excludes learned women, male dunces have been personated by able students, and so diplomas stolen again and again. The student, male or female, should have power to compel the examiners, by mandamus and other stringent remedies, to examine at fit times and seasons. In all the paper work of these examinations, the name, and of course the sex, of the student should he concealed from the examiners. There is a very simple way of doing it.
Should a law be passed on this broad and simple basis, that law will stand immortal, with pettifogging acts falling all around, according to the custom of the country. The larger half of the population will no longer be unconstitutionally juggled, under cover of law, out of their right to take their secret ailments to a skilled physician of their own sex, and compelled to go, blushing, writhing, and, after all, concealing and fibbing, to a male physician; the picked few no longer robbed of their right to science, reputation, and Bread.
The good effect on the whole mind of woman would be incalculable. Great prizes of study and genius offered to the able few have always a salutary and wonderful operation on the many who never gain them; it would be great and glad tidings to our whole female youth to say, "You need not be frivolous idlers; you need not give the colts fifty yards' start for the Derby—I mean, you need not waste three hours of the short working day in dressing and undressing, and combing your hair. You need not throw away the very seed—time of life on music, though you are unmusical to the backbone; nor yet on your three "C's—croquet, crochet, and coquetry: for Civilization and sound Law have opened to you one great, noble, and difficult profession with three branches, two of which Nature intended you for. The path is arduous, but flowers grow beside it, and the prize is great."
I say that this prize, and frequent intercourse with those superior women who have won it, would leaven the whole sex with higher views of life than enter their heads at present; would raise their self-respect, and set thousands of them to study the great and noble things that are in medicine, and connected with it, instead of childish things.
Is there really one manly heart that would grudge this boon to a sex which is the nurse and benefactress of every man in his tender and most precarious years?
Realize the hard condition of women. Among barbarians their lot is unmixed misery; with us their condition is better, but not what it ought to be, because we are but half civilized, and so their lot is still very unhappy compared with ours.
And we are so unreasonable. We men cannot go straight ten yards without rewards as well as punishments. Yet we could govern our women by punishments alone. They are eternally tempted to folly, yet snubbed the moment they would be wise. A million shops spread their nets, and entice them by their direst foible. Their very mothers—for want of medical knowledge in the sex—clasp the fatal, idiotic corset on their growing bodies, though thin as a lath. So the girl grows up, crippled in the ribs and lungs by her own mother; and her life, too, is in stays—cabined, cribbed, confined: unless she can paint, or act, or write novels, every path of honorable ambition is closed to her. We treat her as we do our private soldiers—the lash, but no promotion; and our private soldiers are the scum of Europe for that very reason, and no other.
I say that to open the study and practice of medicine to women folk, under the infallible safeguard of a stiff public examination, will be to rise in respect for human rights to the level of European nations, who do not brag about just freedom half as loud as we do, and to respect the constitutional rights of many million citizens, who all pay the taxes like men, and, by the contract with the State implied in that payment, buy the clear human right they have yet to go down on their knees for. It will also import into medical science a new and less theoretical, but cautious, teachable, observant kind of intellect; it will give the larger half of the nation an honorable ambition, and an honorable pursuit, toward which their hearts and instincts are bent by Nature herself; it will tend to elevate this whole sex, and its young children, male as well as female, and so will advance the civilization of the world, which in ages past, in our own day, and in all time, hath, and doth, and will, keep step exactly with the progress of women toward mental equality with men.