Then he retired, disconsolate, and, once out of sight, whipped into a gin-palace and swallowed a quartern of neat brandy, to take the taste out of his mouth. "Go it, Ned," said he, to himself; "you can't afford to make enemies.
The old lady went off bitter against the whole party except Mr. Severne; and he retired to his friends, disembarrassed of the one foe he had not turned into a downright friend, but only disarmed. Well does the great Voltaire recommend what he well calls "le grand art de plaire."
Vizard sent Harris into Barfordshire, to prepare for the comfort of the party; and to light fires in all the bedrooms, though it was summer; and to see the beds, blankets and sheets aired at the very fires of the very rooms they were to be used in. This sacred office he never trusted to a housekeeper; he used even to declare, as the result of experience, that it was beyond the intellect of any woman really to air mattresses, blankets, and sheets—all three. He had also a printed list he used to show about, of five acquaintances, stout fellows all, whom "little bits of women" (such was his phraseology) had laid low with damp beds, having crippled two for life with rheumatism and lumbago, and sent three to their long home.
Meantime Severne took the ladies to every public attraction by day and night, and Vizard thanked him, before the fair, for his consideration in taking them off his hands; and Severne retorted by thanking him for leaving them on his.
It may seem, at first, a vile selection; but I am going to ask the ladies who honor me with their attention to follow, not that gay, amorous party of three, but this solitary cynic on his round.
Taking a turn round the garden in Leicester Square, which was new to him, Harrington Vizard's observant eye saw a young lady rise up from a seat to go, but turn pale directly, and sit down again upon the arm of the seat, as if for support.
"Halloo!" said Vizard, in his blunt way, "you are not well. What can I do for you?"
"I am all right," said she. "Please go on;" the latter words in a tone that implied she was not a novice, and the attentions of gentlemen to strange ladies were suspected.
"I beg your pardon," said Vizard, coolly. "You are not all right. You look as if you were going to faint."
"What, are my lips blue?"
"No; but they are pale."
"Well, then it is not a case of fainting. It may be exhaustion."
"You know best. What shall we do?"
"Why, nothing. Yes; mind our own business."
"With all my heart; my business just now is to offer you some restorative—a glass of wine."
"Oh, yes! I think I see myself going into a public-house with you. Besides, I don't believe in stimulants. Strength can only enter the human body one way. I know what is the matter with me."
"What is it?"
"I am not obliged to tell you."
"Of course you are not obliged; but you might as well."
"Well, then, it is Hunger."
"Hunger — famine — starvation. Don't you know English?"
"I hope you are not serious, madam," said Vizard, very gravely. "However, if ladies will say such things as that, men with stomachs in their bosoms must act accordingly. Oblige me by taking my arm, as you are weak, and we will adjourn to that eating-house over the way."
"Much obliged," said the lady, satirically, "our acquaintance is not quite long enough for that."
He looked at her; a tall, slim, young lady, black merino, by no means new, clean cuffs and collar leaning against the chair for support, and yet sacrificing herself to conventional propriety, and even withstanding him with a pretty little air of defiance that was pitiable, her pallor and the weakness of her body considered.
The poor Woman-hater's bowels began to yearn. "Look here, you little spitfire," said he, "if you don't instantly take my arm, I'll catch you up and carry you over, with no more trouble than you would carry a thread-paper."
She looked him up and down very keenly, and at last with a slight expression of feminine approval, the first she had vouchsafed him. Then she folded her arms, and cocked her little nose at him, "You daren't. I'll call the police."
"If you do, I'll tell them you are my little cousin, mad as a March hare: starving, and won't eat. Come, how is it to be?" He advanced upon her.
"You can't be in earnest, sir," said she, with sudden dignity.
"Am I not, though? You don't know me. I am used to be obeyed. If you don't go with me like a sensible girl, I'll carry you—to your dinner—like a ruffian."
"Then I'll go—like a lady," said she, with sudden humility.
He offered her his arm. She passed hers within; but leaned as lightly as possible on it, and her poor pale face was a little pink as they went.
He entered the eating-house, and asked for two portions of cold roast beef, not to keep her waiting. They were brought.
"Sir," said she, with a subjugated air, "will you be so good as cut up the meat small, and pass it to me a bit or two at a time."
He was surprised, but obeyed her orders.
"And if you could make me talk a little? Because, at sight of the meat so near me, I feel like a tigress—poor human nature! Sir, I have not eaten meat for a week, nor food of any kind this two days."
"So I must be prudent. People have gorged themselves with furious eating under those circumstances; that is why I asked you to supply me slowly. Thank you. You need not look at me like that. Better folk than I have died of hunger. Something tells me I have reached the lowest spoke, when I have been indebted to a stranger for a meal."
Vizard felt the water come into his eyes; but he resisted that pitiable weakness. "Bother that nonsense!" said he. "I'll introduce myself, and then you can't throw stranger in my teeth. I am Harrington Vizard, a Barfordshire squire."
"I thought you were not a Cockney."
"Lord forbid! Does that information entitle me to any in return?"
"I don't know; but, whether or no, my name is Rhoda Gale."
"Have another plate, Miss Gale?"
He ordered another.
"I am proud of your confiding your name to me, Miss Gale; but, to tell the truth, what I wanted to know is how a young lady of your talent and education could be so badly off as you must be. It is not impertinent curiosity."
The young lady reflected a moment. "Sir," said she, "I don't think it is; and I would not much mind telling you. Of course I studied you before I came here. Even hunger would not make me sit in a tavern beside a fool, or a snob, or (with a faint blush) a libertine. But to tell one's own story, that is so egotistical, for one thing.
"Oh, it is never egotistical to oblige."
"Now, that is sophistical. Then, again, I am afraid I could not tell it to you without crying, because you seem rather a manly man, and some of it might revolt you, and you might sympathize right out, and then I should break down."
"No matter. Do us both good."
"Yes, but before the waiters and people! See how they are staring at us already."
"We will have another go in at the beef, and then adjourn to the garden for your narrative."
"No: as much garden as you like, but no more beef. I have eaten one sirloin, I reckon. Will you give me one cup of black tea without sugar or milk?"
Vizard gave the order.
She seemed to think some explanation necessary, though he did not.
"One cup of tea agrees with my brain and nerves," said she. "It steadies them. That is a matter of individual experience. I should not prescribe it to others any the more for that."
Vizard sat wondering at the girl. He said to himself, "What is she? A lusus naturoe?"
When the tea came, and she had sipped a little, she perked up wonderfully. Said she, "Oh, the magic effect of food eaten judiciously! Now I am a lioness, and do not fear the future. Yes; I will tell you my story—and, if you think you are going to hear a love-story, you will be nicely caught—ha-ha! No, sir;" said she, with rising fervor and heightened color, "you will hear a story the public is deeply interested in and does not know it; ay, a story that will certainly be referred to with wonder and shame, whenever civilization shall become a reality, and law cease to be a tool of injustice and monopoly." She paused a moment; then said a little doggedly, as one used to encounter prejudice, "I am a medical student; a would-be doctor."
"And so well qualified by genuine gifts, by study from my infancy, by zeal, quick senses, and cultivated judgment, that, were all the leading London physicians examined to-morrow by qualified persons at the same board as myself, most of those wealthy practitioners—not all, mind you— would cut an indifferent figure in modern science compared with me, whom you have had to rescue from starvation—because I am a woman."
Her eye flashed. But she moderated herself, and said, "That is the outline; and it is a grievance. Now, grievances are bores. You can escape this one before it is too late."
"If it lies with me, I demand the minutest details," said Vizard, warmly.
"You shall have them; and true to the letter."
Vizard settled the small account, and adjourned, with his companion, to the garden. She walked by his side, with her face sometimes thoughtfully bent on the ground, and sometimes confronting him with ardor, and told him a true story, the simplicity of which I shall try not to spoil with any vulgar arts of fiction.
A LITTLE NARRATIVE OF DRY FACTS TOLD TO A WOMAN-HATER BY A WOMAN.
"My father was an American, my mother English. I was born near Epsom and lived there ten years. Then my father had property left him in Massachusetts, and we went to Boston. Both my parents educated me, and began very early. I observe that most parents are babies at teaching, compared with mine. My father was a linguist, and taught me to lisp German, French, and English; my mother was an ideaed woman: she taught me three rarities—attention, observation, and accuracy. If I went a walk in the country, I had to bring her home a budget: the men and women on the road, their dresses, appearance, countenances, and words; every kind of bird in the air, and insect and chrysalis in the hedges; the crops in the fields, the flowers and herbs on the banks. If I walked in the town, I must not be eyes and no eyes; woe betide me if I could only report the dresses! Really, I have known me, when I was but eight, come home to my mother laden with details, when perhaps an untrained girl of eighteen could only have specified that she had gone up and down a thoroughfare. Another time mother would take me on a visit: next day, or perhaps next week, she would expect me to describe every article of furniture in her friend's room, and the books on the table, and repeat the conversation, the topics at all events. She taught me to master history accurately. To do this she was artful enough to turn sport into science. She utilized a game: young people in Boston play it. A writes an anecdote on paper, or perhaps produces it in print. She reads it off to B. B goes away, and writes it down by memory; then reads her writing out to C. C has to listen, and convey her impression to paper. This she reads to D, and D goes and writes it. Then the original story and D's version are compared; and, generally speaking, the difference of the two is a caution— against oral tradition. When the steps of deviation are observed, it is quite a study.
"My mother, with her good wit, saw there was something better than fun to be got out of this. She trained my memory of great things with it. She began with striking passages of history, and played the game with father and me. But as my power of retaining, and repeating correctly, grew by practice, she enlarged the business, and kept enriching my memory, so that I began to have tracts of history at my fingers' ends. As I grew older, she extended the sport to laws and the great public controversies in religion, politics, and philosophy that have agitated the world. But here she had to get assistance from her learned friends. She was a woman valued by men of intellect, and she had no mercy—milked jurists, physicians, and theologians and historians all into my little pail. To be sure, they were as kind about it as she was unscrupulous. They saw I was a keen student, and gave my mother many a little gem in writing. She read them out to me: I listened hard, and thus I fixed many great and good things in my trained memory; and repeated them against the text: I was never allowed to see that.
"With this sharp training, school subjects were child's play to me, and I won a good many prizes very easily. My mother would not let me waste a single minute over music. She used to say 'Music extracts what little brains a girl has. Open the piano, you shut the understanding.' I am afraid I bore you with my mother."
"Not at all, not at all. I admire her."
"Oh, thank you! thank you, sir! She never uses big words; so it is only of late I have had the nous to see how wise she is. She corrected the special blots of the female character in me, and it is sweet to me to talk of that dear friend. What would I give to see her here!
"Well, then, sir, she made me, as far as she could, a—what shall I say? a kind of little intellectual gymnast, fit to begin any study; but she left me to choose my own line. Well, I was for natural history first; began like a girl; gathered wild flowers and simples at Epsom, along with an old woman; she discoursed on their traditional virtues, and knew little of their real properties: that I have discovered since.
"From herbs to living things; never spared a chrysalis, but always took it home and watched it break into wings. Hung over the ponds in June, watching the eggs of the frog turn to tadpoles, and the tadpoles to Johnny Crapaud. I obeyed Scripture in one thing, for I studied the ants and their ways.
"I collected birds' eggs. At nine, not a boy in the parish could find more nests in a day than I could. With birdnesting, buying, and now and then begging, I made a collection that figures in a museum over the water, and is entitled 'Eggs of British Birds.' The colors attract, and people always stop at it. But it does no justice whatever to the great variety of sea-birds' eggs on the coast of Britain.
"When I had learned what little they teach in schools, especially drawing, and that is useful in scientific pursuits, I was allowed to choose my own books, and attend lectures. One blessed day I sat and listened to Agassiz—ah! No tragedy well played, nor opera sung, ever moved a heart so deeply as he moved mine, that great and earnest man, whose enthusiasm for nature was as fresh as my own, and his knowledge a thousand times larger. Talk of heaven opening to the Christian pilgrim as he passes Jordan! Why, God made earth as well as heaven, and it is worthy of the Architect; and it is a joy divine when earth opens to the true admirer of God's works. Sir, earth opened to me, as Agassiz discoursed.
"I followed him about like a little bloodhound, and dived into the libraries after each subject he treated or touched.
"It was another little epoch in my life when I read 'White's Letters to Pennant' about natural history in Selborne. Selborne is an English village, not half so pretty as most; and, until Gilbert White came, nobody saw anything there worth printing. His book showed me that the humblest spot in nature becomes extraordinary the moment extraordinary observation is applied to it. I must mimic Gilbert White directly. I pestered my poor parents to spend a month or two in the depths of the country, on the verge of a forest. They yielded, with groans; I kissed them, and we rusticated. I pried into every living thing, not forgetting my old friends, the insect tribe. Here I found ants with grander ideas than they have to home, and satisfied myself they have more brains than apes. They co-operate more, and in complicated things. Sir, there are ants that make greater marches, for their size, than Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Even the less nomad tribes will march through fields of grass, where each blade is a high gum-tree to them, and never lose the track. I saw an army of red ants, with generals, captains, and ensigns, start at daybreak, march across a road, through a hedge, and then through high grass till noon, and surprise a fortification of black ants, and take it after a sanguinary resistance. All that must have been planned beforehand, you know, and carried out to the letter. Once I found a colony busy on some hard ground, preparing an abode. I happened to have been microscoping a wasp, so I threw him down among the ants. They were disgusted. They ran about collecting opinions. Presently half of them burrowed into the earth below and undermined him, till he lay on a crust of earth as thin as a wafer, and a deep grave below. Then they all got on him except one, and be stood pompous on a pebble, and gave orders. The earth broke—the wasp went down into his grave—and the ants soon covered him with loose earth, and resumed their domestic architecture. I concluded that though the monkey resembles man most in body, the ant comes nearer him in mind. As for dogs, I don't know where to rank them in nature, because they have been pupils of man for centuries. I bore you?"
"Oh, yes, I do: an enthusiast is always a bore. 'Les facheux,' of Moliere are just enthusiasts. Well, sir, in one word, I was a natural philosopher—very small, but earnest; and, in due course, my studies brought me to the wonders of the human body. I studied the outlines of anatomy in books, and plates, and prepared figures; and from that, by degrees, I was led on to surgery and medicine—in books, you understand; and they are only half the battle. Medicine is a thing one can do. It is a noble science, a practical science, and a subtle science, where I thought my powers of study and observation might help me to be keen at reading symptoms, and do good to man, and be a famous woman; so I concluded to benefit mankind and myself. Stop! that sounds like self-deception. It must have been myself and mankind I concluded to benefit. Anyway, I pestered that small section of mankind which consisted of my parents, until they consented to let me study medicine in Europe."
"What, all by yourself?"
"Yes. Oh, girls are very independent in the States, and govern the old people. Mine said 'No' a few dozen times; but they were bound to end in 'Yes,' and I went to Zurich. I studied hard there, and earned the approbation of the professors. But the school deteriorated; too many ladies poured in from Russia: some were not in earnest, and preferred flirting to study, and did themselves no good, and made the male students idle, and wickeder than ever—if possible."
"What else could you expect?" said Vizard.
"Nothing else from unpicked women. But when all the schools in Europe shall be open—as they ought to be, and must, and shall—there will be no danger of shallow girls crowding to any particular school. Besides, there will be a more strict and rapid routine of examination then to sift out the female flirts and the male dunces along with them, I hope.
"Well, sir, we few, that really meant medicine, made inquiries, and heard of a famous old school in the south of France, where women had graduated of old; and two of us went there to try—an Italian lady and myself. We carried good testimonials from Zurich, and, not to frighten the Frenchmen at starting, I attacked them alone. Cornelia was my elder, and my superior in attainments. She was a true descendant of those learned ladies who have adorned the chairs of philosophy, jurisprudence, anatomy, and medicine in her native country; but she has the wisdom of the serpent, as well as of the sage; and she put me forward because of my red hair. She said that would be a passport to the dark philosophers of France."
"Was not that rather foxy, Miss Gale?"
"Foxy as my hair itself, Mr. Vizard.
"Well, I applied to a professor. He received me with profound courtesy and feigned respect, but was staggered at my request to matriculate. He gesticulated and bowed 'a la Francaise, and begged the permission of his foxy-haired invader from Northern climes to consult his colleagues. Would I do him the great honor to call again next day at twelve? I did and met three other polished authorities. One spoke for all, and said, If I had not brought with me proofs of serious study, they should have dissuaded me very earnestly from a science I could not graduate in without going through practical courses of anatomy and clinical surgery. That, however (with a regular French shrug), was my business, not theirs. It was not for them to teach me delicacy, but rather to learn it from me. That was a French sneer. The French are un gens moqueur, you know. I received both shrug and sneer like marble. He ended it all by saying the school had no written law excluding doctresses; and the old records proved women had graduated, and even lectured, there. I had only to pay my fees, and enter upon my routine of studies. So I was admitted on sufferance; but I soon earned the good opinion of the professors, and of this one in particular; and then Cornelia applied for admission, and was let in too. We lived together, and had no secrets; and I think, sir, I may venture to say that we showed some little wisdom, if you consider our age, and all that was done to spoil us. As to parrying their little sly attempts at flirtation, that is nothing; we came prepared. But, when our fellow-students found we were in earnest, and had high views, the chivalrous spirit of a gallant nation took fire, and they treated us with a delicate reverence that might have turned any woman's head. But we had the credit of a sneered-at sex to keep up, and felt our danger, and warned each other; and I remember I told Cornelia how many young ladies in the States I had seen puffed up by the men's extravagant homage, and become spoiled children, and offensively arrogant and discourteous; so I entreated her to check those vices in me the moment she saw them coming.
"When we had been here a year, attending all the lectures—clinical medicine and surgery included—news came that one British school, Edinburgh, had shown symptoms of yielding to Continental civilization and relaxing monopoly. That turned me North directly. My mother is English: I wanted to be a British doctress, not a French. Cornelia had misgivings, and even condescended to cry over me. But I am a mule, and always was. Then that dear friend made terms with me: I must not break off my connection with the French school, she said. No; she had thought it well over; I must ask leave of the French professors to study in the North, and bring back notes about those distant Thulians. Says she, 'Your studies in that savage island will be allowed to go for something here, if you improve your time—and you will be sure to, sweetheart— that I may be always proud of you.' Dear Cornelia!"
"Am I to believe all this?" said Vizard. "Can women be such true friends?"
"What cannot women be? What! are you one of those who take us for a clique? Don't you know more than half mankind are women?"
"Alas for them!" said Rhoda, sharply.
"Well, well," said Vizard, putting on sudden humility, "don't let us quarrel. I hate quarreling—where I'm sure to get the worst. Ay, friendship is a fine thing, in men or women; a far nobler sentiment than love. You will not admit that, of course, being a woman."
"Oh, yes, I will," said she. "Why, I have observed love attentively; and I pronounce it a fever of the mind. It disturbs the judgment and perverts the conscience. You side with the beloved, right or wrong. What personal degradation! I observe, too, that a grand passion is a grand misfortune: they are always in a storm of hope, fears, doubt, jealousy, rapture, rage, and the end deceit, or else satiety. Friendship is steady and peaceful; not much jealousy, no heart-burnings. It strengthens with time, and survives the small-pox and a wooden leg. It doubles our joys, and divides our grief, and lights and warms our lives with a steady flame. Solem e mundo tollunt, qui tollunt amicitiam."
"Halloo!" cried Vizard. "What! you know Latin too?"
"Why, of course—a smattering; or how could I read Pliny, and Celsus, and ever so much more rubbish that custom chucks down before the gates of knowledge, and says, 'There— before you go the right road, you ought to go the wrong; it is usual. Study now, with the reverence they don't deserve, the non-observers of antiquity.'"
"Spare me the ancients, Miss Gale," said Vizard, "and reveal me the girl of the period. When I was so ill-bred as to interrupt you, you had left France, crowned with laurels, and were just invading Britain.
Something in his words or his tone discouraged the subtle observer, and she said, coldly, "Excuse me: I have hardly the courage. My British history is a tale of injustice, suffering, insult, and, worst of all, defeat. I cannot promise to relate it with that composure whoever pretends to science ought: the wound still bleeds."
Then Vizard was vexed with himself, and looked grave and concerned. He said, gently, "Miss Gale, I am sorry to give you pain; but what you have told me is so new and interesting, I shall be disappointed if you withhold the rest: besides, you know it gives no lasting pain to relate our griefs. Come, come—be brave, and tell me."
"Well, I will," said she. "Indeed, some instinct moves me. Good may come of my telling it you. I think—somehow— you are—a—just—man."
In the act of saying this, she fixed her gray eyes steadily and searchingly upon Vizard's face, so that he could scarcely meet them, they were so powerful; then, suddenly, the observation seemed to die out of them, and reflection to take its place: those darting eyes were turned inward. It was a marked variety of power. There was something wizard-like in the vividness with which two distinct mental processes were presented by the varied action of a single organ; and Vizard then began to suspect that a creature stood before him with a power of discerning and digesting truth, such as he had not yet encountered either in man or woman. She entered on her British adventures in her clear silvery voice. It was not, like Ina Klosking's, rich, and deep, and tender; yet it had a certain gentle beauty to those who love truth, because it was dispassionate, yet expressive, and cool, yet not cold. One might call it truth's silver trumpet.
On the brink of an extraordinary passage, I pause to make no fewer than three remarks in my own person: 1st. Let no reader of mine allow himself to fancy Rhoda Gale and her antecedents are a mere excrescence of my story. She was rooted to it even before the first scene of it—the meeting of Ashmead and the Klosking— and this will soon appear. 2d. She is now going into a controverted matter; and, though she is sincere and truthful, she is of necessity a partisan. Do not take her for a judge. You be the judge. 3d. But, as a judge never shuts his mind to either side, do not refuse her a fair hearing. Above all, do not underrate the question. Let not the balance of your understanding be so upset by ephemeral childishness as to fancy that it matters much whether you break an egg top or bottom, because Gulliver's two nations went to war about it; or that it matters much whether your queen is called queen of India or empress, because two parties made a noise about it, and the country has wasted ten thousand square miles of good paper on the subject, trivial as the dust on a butterfly's wing. Fight against these illusions of petty and ephemeral minds. It does not matter the millionth of a straw to mankind whether any one woman is called queen, or empress, of India; and it matters greatly to mankind whether the whole race of women are to be allowed to study medicine and practice it, if they can rival the male, or are to be debarred from testing their scientific ability, and so outlawed, though taxed in defiance of British liberty, and all justice, human and divine, by eleven hundred lawgivers—most of 'em fools.
"WHEN I reached Great Britain, the right of women to medicine was in this condition—a learned lawyer explained it carefully to me. I will give you his words: The unwritten law of every nation admits all mankind, and not the male half only, to the study and practice of medicine and the sale of drugs. In Great Britain this law is called the common law and is deeply respected. Whatever liberty it allows to men or women is held sacred in our courts until directly and explicitly withdrawn by some act of the Legislature. Under this ancient liberty, women have occasionally practiced general medicine and surgery up to the year 1858. But for centuries they monopolized, by custom, one branch of practice, the obstetric; and that, together with the occasional treatment of children, and the nursing of both sexes, which is semi-medical, and is their monopoly, seems, on the whole, to have contented them, till late years, when their views were enlarged by wider education and other causes. But their abstinence from general practice, like their monopoly of obstetrics, lay with women themselves, and not with the law of England. That law is the same in this respect as the common law of Italy and France; and the constitution of Bologna, where so many doctresses have filled the chairs of medicine and other sciences, makes no more direct provision for female students than does the constitution of any Scotch or English university. —The whole thing lay with the women themselves, and with local civilization. Years ago, Italy was far more civilized than England; so Italian women took a large sphere. Of late the Anglo-Saxon has gone in for civilization with his usual energy, and is eclipsing Italy; therefore his women aspire to larger spheres of intellect and action, beginning in the States, because American women are better educated than English. The advance of women in useful attainments is the most infallible sign in any country of advancing civilization. All this about civilization is my observation, sir, and not the lawyer's. Now for the lawyer again: Such being the law of England, the British Legislature passed an act in 1858, the real object of which was to protect the public against incapable doctors, not against capable doctresses or doctors. The act excludes from medical practice all persons whatever, male or female, unless registered in a certain register; and to get upon that register the person, male or female, must produce a license or diploma, granted by one of the British examining boards specified in a schedule attached to the act.
"Now, these examining boards were all members of the leading medical schools. If the Legislature had taken the usual precaution, and had added a clause compelling those boards to examine worthy applicants, the act would have been a sound public measure; but for want of that foresight—and without foresight a lawgiver is an impostor and a public pest—the State robbed women of their old common-law rights with one hand, and with the other enabled a respectable trades-union to thrust them out of their new statutory rights. Unfortunately, the respectable union, to whom the Legislature delegated an unconstitutional power they did not claim themselves, of excluding qualified persons from examination, and so robbing them of their license and their bread, had an overpowering interest to exclude qualified women from medicine. They had the same interest as the watchmakers' union, the printers', the painters' on china, the calico-engravers', and others have to exclude qualified women from those branches, though peculiarly fitted for them; but not more so than they are for the practice of medicine, God having made them, and not men, the medical, and unmusical, sex.
"Wherever there's a trades-union, the weakest go to the wall. Those vulgar unions I have mentioned exclude women from skilled labor they excel in, by violence and conspiracy, though the law threatens them with imprisonment for it. Was it in nature, then, that the medical union would be infinitely forbearing, when the Legislature went and patted it on the back, and said, you can conspire with safety against your female rivals. Of course the clique were tempted more than any clique could bear by the unwariness of the Legislature, and closed the doors of the medical schools to female applicants. Against unqualified female practitioners they never acted with such zeal and consent; and why? The female quack is a public pest, and a good foil to the union; the qualified doctress is a public good, and a blow to the union.
"The British medical union was now in a fine attitude by act of Parliament. It could talk its contempt of medical women, and act its terror of them, and keep both its feigned contempt and its real alarm safe from the test of a public examination—that crucible in which cant, surmise, and mendacity are soon evaporated or precipitated, and only the truth stands firm.
"For all that, two female practitioners got upon the register, and stand out, living landmarks of experience and the truth, in the dead wilderness of surmise and prejudice.
"I will tell you how they got in. The act of Parliament makes two exceptions: first, it lets in, without examination— and that is very unwise—any foreign doctor who shall be practicing in England at the date of the act, although, with equal incapacity, it omits to provide that any future foreign doctor shall be able to demand examination (in with the old foreign fogies, blindfold, right or wrong; out with the rising foreign luminaries of an ever-advancing science, right or wrong); and, secondly, it lets in, without examination, to experiment on the vile body of the public, any person, qualified or unqualified, who may have been made a doctor by a very venerable and equally irrelevant functionary. Guess, now, who it is that a British Parliament sets above the law, as a doctor-maker for that public it professes to love and protect!"
"The Regius Professor of Medicine?"
"Then I give it up."
"The Archbishop of Canterbury."
"Oh, come! a joke is a joke."
"This is no joke. Bright monument of British funkyism and imbecility, there stands the clause setting that reverend and irrelevant doctor-maker above the law, which sets his grace's female relations below the law, and, in practice, outlaws the whole female population, starving those who desire to practice medicine learnedly, and oppressing those who, out of modesty, not yet quite smothered by custom and monopoly, desire to consult a learned female physician, instead of being driven, like sheep, by iron tyranny—in a country that babbles Liberty—to a male physician or a female quack.
"Well, sir, in 1849 Miss Elizabeth Blackwell fought the good fight in the United States, and had her troubles; because the States were not so civilized then as now. She graduated doctor at Geneva, in the State of New York.
"She was practicing in England in 1858, and demanded her place on the register. She is an Englishwoman by birth; but she is an English M.D. only through America having more brains than Britain. This one islander sings, 'Hail, Columbia!' as often as 'God save the Queen!' I reckon.
"Miss Garrett, an enthusiastic student, traveled north, south, east, and west, and knocked in vain at the doors of every great school and university in Britain, but at last found a chink in the iron shutters of the London Apothecaries'. It seems Parliament was wiser in 1815 than in 1858, for it inserted a clause in the Apothecaries Act of 1815 compelling them to examine all persons who should apply to them for examination after proper courses of study. Their charter contained no loop-hole to evade the act, and substitute 'him' for 'person;' so they let Miss Garrett in as a student. Like all the students, she had to attend lectures on chemistry botany, materia medica, zoology, natural philosophy, and clinical surgery. In the collateral subjects they let her sit with the male students; but in anatomy and surgery she had to attend the same lectures privately, and pay for lectures all to herself. This cost her enormous fees. However, it is only fair to say that, if she had been one of a dozen female students, the fees would have been diffused; as it was, she had to gild the pill out of her private purse.
"In the hospital teaching she met difficulties and discouragement, though she asked for no more opportunities than are granted readily to professional nurses and female amateurs. But the whole thing is a mere money question; that is the key to every lock in it.
"She was freely admitted at last to one great hospital, and all went smoothly till some surgeon examined the students viva voce; then Miss Garrett was off her guard, and displayed too marked a superiority; thereupon the male students played the woman, and begged she might be excluded; and, I am sorry to say, for the credit of your sex, this unmanly request was complied with by the womanish males in power.
"However, at her next hospital, Miss Garrett was more discreet, and took pains to conceal her galling superiority.
"All her trouble ended—where her competitors' began—at the public examination. She passed brilliantly, and is an English apothecary. In civilized France she is a learned physician.
"She had not been an apothecary a week, before the Apothecaries' Society received six hundred letters from the medical small-fry in town and country; they threatened to send no more boys to the Apothecaries', but to the College of Surgeons, if ever another woman received an apothecary's license. Now, you know, all men tremble in England at the threats of a trades-union; so the apothecaries instantly cudgeled their brains to find a way to disobey the law, and obey the union. The medical press gave them a hint, and they passed a by-law, forbidding their students to receive any part of their education privately, and made it known, at the same time, that their female students would not be allowed to study the leading subjects publicly. And so they baffled the Legislature, and outlawed half the nation, by a juggle which the press and the public would have risen against, if a single grown-up man had been its victim, instead of four million adult women. Now, you are a straightforward man; what do you think of that?"
"Humph!" said Vizard. "I do not altogether approve it. The strong should not use the arts of the weak in fighting the weak. But, in spite of your eloquence, I mean to forgive them anything. Shakespeare has provided there with an excuse that fits all time:
"'Our poverty, but not our will, consents.'"
"Poverty! the poverty of a company in the city of London! Allons donc. Well, sir, for years after this all Europe, even Russia, advanced in civilization, and opened their medical schools to women; so did the United States: only the pig-headed Briton stood stock-still, and gloried in his minority of one; as if one small island is likely to be right in its monomania, and all civilized nations wrong.
"But while I was studying in France, one lion-hearted Englishwoman was moving our native isle. First she tried the University of London; and that sets up for a liberal foundation. Answer—'Our charter is expressly framed to exclude women from medical instruction.'
"Then she sat down to besiege Edinburgh. Now, Edinburgh is a very remarkable place. It has only half the houses, but ten times the intellect, of Liverpool or Manchester. And the university has two advantages as a home of science over the English universities: it is far behind them in Greek, which is the language of error and nescience, and before them in English, and that is a tongue a good deal of knowledge is printed in. Edinburgh is the only center of British literature, except London.
"One medical professor received the pioneer with a concise severity, and declined to hear her plead her cause, and one received her almost brutally. He said, 'No respectable woman would apply to him to study medicine.' Now, respectable women were studying it all over Europe."
"Well, but perhaps his soul lived in an island."
"That is so. However, personal applicants must expect a rub or two; and most of the professors, in and out of medicine, treated her with kindness and courtesy.
"Still, she found even the friendly professors alarmed at the idea of a woman matriculating, and becoming Civis Edinensis; so she made a moderate application to the Senate, viz., for leave to attend medical lectures. This request was indorsed by a majority of the medical professors, and granted. But on the appeal of a few medical professors against it, the Senate suspended its resolution, on the ground that there was only one applicant.
"This got wind, and other ladies came into the field directly, your humble servant among them. Then the Senate felt bound to recommend the University Court to admit such female students to matriculate as could pass the preliminary examination; this is in history, logic, languages, and other branches; and we prepared for it in good faith. It was a happy time: after a good day's work, I used to go up the Calton Hill, or Arthur's Seat, and view the sea, and the Piraens, and the violet hills, and the romantic undulations of the city itself, and my heart glowed with love of knowledge, and with honorable ambition. I ran over the names of worthy women who had adorned medicine at sundry times and in divers places, and resolved to deserve as great a name as any in history. Refreshed by my walk—I generally walked eight miles, and practiced gymnastics to keep my muscles hard—I used to return to my little lodgings; and they too were sweet to me, for I was learning a new science—logic."
"That was a nut to crack."
"I have met few easier or sweeter. One non-observer had told me it was a sham science, and mere pedantry; another, that it pretended to show men a way to truth without observing. I found, on the contrary, that it was a very pretty little science, which does not affect to discover phenomena, but simply to guard men against rash generalization, and false deductions from true data; it taught me the untrained world is brimful of fallacies and verbal equivoques that ought not to puzzle a child, but, whenever they creep into an argument, do actually confound the learned and the simple alike, and all for want of a month's logic.
"Yes, I was happy on the hill, and happy by the hearth; and so things went on till the preliminary examination came. It was not severe; we ladies all passed with credit, though many of the male aspirants failed."
"How do you account for that?" asked Vizard.
"With my eyes. I observe that the average male is very superior in intellect to the average female; and I observe that the picked female is immeasurably more superior to the average male, than the average male is to the average female."
"Is it so simple as that?"
"Ay; why not? What! are you one of those who believe that Truth is obscure— hides herself—and lies in a well? I tell you, sir, Truth lies in no well. The place Truth lies in is—the middle of the turnpike road. But one old fogy puts on his green spectacles to look for her, and another his red, and another his blue; and so they all miss her, because she is a colorless diamond. Those spectacles are preconceived notions, 'a priori reasoning, cant, prejudice, the depth of Mr. Shallow's inner consciousness, etc., etc. Then comes the observer, opens the eyes that God has given him, tramples on all colored spectacles, and finds Truth as surely as the spectacled theorists miss her. Say that the intellect of the average male is to the average female as ten to six, it is to the intellect of the picked female as ten to a hundred and fifty, or even less. Now, the intellect of the male Edinburgh student was much above that of the average male, but still it fell far below that of the picked female. All the examinations at Edinburgh showed this to all God's unspectacled creatures that used their eyes."
These remarks hit Vizard hard. They accorded with his own good sense and method of arguing; but perhaps my more careful readers may have already observed this. He nodded hearty approval for once, and she went on:
"We had now a right to matriculate and enter on our medical course. But, to our dismay, the right was suspended. The proofs of our general proficiency, which we hoped would reconcile the professors to us as students of medicine, alarmed people, and raised us unscrupulous enemies in some who were justly respected, and others who had influence, though they hardly deserved it.
"A general council of the university was called to reconsider the pledge the Senate had given us, and overawe the university court by the weight of academic opinion. The court itself was fluctuating, and ready to turn either way. A large number of male students co-operated against us with a petition. They, too, were a little vexed at our respectable figure in the preliminary examination.
"The assembly met and the union orator got up; he was a preacher of the Gospel, and carried the weight of that office. Christianity, as well as science, seemed to rise against us in his person. He made a long and eloquent speech, based on the intelligent surmises and popular prejudices that were diffused in a hundred leading articles, and in letters to the editor by men and women, to whom history was a dead letter in modern controversies; for the Press battled this matter for two years, and furnished each party with an artillery of reasons, pro and con.
"He said, 'Woman's sphere is the hearth and the home: to impair her delicacy is to take the bloom from the peach: she could not qualify for medicine without mastering anatomy and surgery—branches that must unsex her. Providence, intending her to be man's helpmate, not his rival, had given her a body unfit for war or hard labor, and a brain four ounces lighter than a man's, and unable to cope with long study and practical science. In short, she was too good, and too stupid, for medicine.'
"It was eloquent, but it was 'a priori reasoning, and conjecture versus evidence: yet the applause it met with showed one how happy is the orator 'qui hurle avec les loups.' Taking the scientific preacher's whole theory in theology and science, woman was high enough in creation to be the mother of God, but not high enough to be a sawbones.
"Well, a professor of belles-lettres rose on our side, not with a rival theory, but with facts. He was a pupil of Lord Bacon, and a man of the nineteenth century; so he objected to 'a priori reasoning on a matter of experience. To settle the question of capacity he gave a long list of women who had been famous in science. Such as Bettesia Gozzadini, Novella Andrea, Novella Calderini, Maddelena Buonsignori, and many more, who were doctors of law and university professors: Dorotea Bocohi, who was professor both of philosophy and medicine; Laura Bassi, who was elected professor of philosophy in 1732 by acclamation, and afterward professor of experimental physics; Anna Manzolini, professor of anatomy in 1760; Gaetaua Agnesi, professor of mathematics; Christina Roccati, doctor of philosophy in 1750; Clotilde Tambroni, professor of Greek in 1793; Maria Dalle Donne, doctor of medicine in 1799; Zaffira Ferretti, doctor of medicine in 1800; Maria Sega, doctor of medicine in 1799; Madalena Noe, graduate of civil law in 1807. Ladies innumerable, who graduated in law and medicine at Pavia, Ferrara, and Padua, including Elena Lucrezia Cornaro of Padua, a very famous woman. Also in Salamanca, Alcala', Cordova, he named more than one famous doctress. Also in Heidelberg, Gottingen, Giessen, Wurzburg, etc., and even at Utrect, with numberless graduates in the arts and faculties at Montpellier and Paris in all ages. Also outside reputations, as of Doctor Bouvin and her mother, acknowledged celebrities in their branch of medicine. This chain, he said, has never been really broken. There was scarcely a great foreign university without some female student of high reputation. There were such women at Vienna and Petersburg; many such at Zurich. At Montpellier Mademoiselle Doumergue was carrying all before her, and Miss Garrett and Miss Mary Putnam at Paris, though they were weighted in the race by a foreign language. Let the male English physician pass a stiff examination in scientific French before he brayed so loud. He had never done it yet. This, he said, is not an age of chimeras; it is a wise and wary age, which has established in all branches of learning a sure test of ability in man or woman—public examination followed by a public report. These public examinations are all conducted by males, and women are passing them triumphantly all over Europe and America, and graduate as doctors in every civilized country, and even in half-civilized Russia.
"He then went into our own little preliminary examination, and gave the statistics: In Latin were examined 55 men and 3 women: 10 men were rejected, but no women; 7 men were respectable, 7 optimi, or first-rate, 1 woman bona, and 1 optima. In mathematics were examined 67 men and 4 women, of whom 1 woman was optima, and 1 bona: 10 men were optimi, and 25 boni; the rest failed. In German 2 men were examined, and 1 woman: 1 man was good, and 1 woman. In logic 28 men were examined, and 1 woman: the woman came out fifth in rank, and she had only been at it a month. In moral philosophy 16 men were examined; and 1 woman: the woman came out third. In arithmetic, 51 men and 3 women: 2 men were optimi, and 1 woman optima; several men failed, and not one woman. In mechanics, 81 men and 1 woman: the woman passed with fair credit, as did 13 men; the rest failing. In French were examined 58 men and 4 women: 3 men and 1 woman were respectable; 8 men and 1 woman passed; two women attained the highest excellence, optimoe, and not one man. In English, 63 men and 3 women: 3 men were good, and 1 woman; but 2 women were optimoe, and only 1 man."
"Fancy you remembering figures like that," said Vizard.
"It is all training and habit," said she, simply.
"As to the study and practice of medicine degrading women, he asked if it degraded men. No; it elevated them. They could not contradict him on that point. He declined to believe, without a particle of evidence, that any science could elevate the higher sex and degrade the lower. What evidence we had ran against it. Nurses are not, as a class, unfeminine, yet all that is most appalling, disgusting, horrible, and unsexing in the art of healing is monopolized by them., Women see worse things than doctors. Women nurse all the patients of both sexes, often under horrible and sickening conditions, and lay out all the corpses. No doctor objects to this on sentimental grounds; and why? Because the nurses get only a guinea a week, and not a guinea a flying visit: to women the loathsome part of medicine; to man the lucrative! The noble nurses of the Crimea went to attend males only, yet were not charged with indelicacy. They worked gratis. The would-be doctresses look mainly to attending women, but then they want to be paid for it: there was the rub—it was a mere money question, and all the attempts of the union to hide this and play the sentimental shop-man were transparent hypocrisy and humbug.
"A doctor justly revered in Edinburgh answered him, but said nothing new nor effective; and, to our great joy, the majority went with us.
"Thus encouraged, the university court settled the matter. We were admitted to matriculate and study medicine, under certain conditions, to which I beg your attention.
"The instruction of women for the profession of medicine was to be conducted in separate classes confined entirely to women.
"The professors of the Faculty of Medicine should, for this purpose, be permitted to have separate classes for women.
"All these regulations were approved by the chancellor, and are to this day a part of the law of that university.
"We ladies, five in number, but afterward seven, were matriculated and registered professional students of medicine, and passed six delightful months we now look back upon as if it was a happy dream.
"We were picked women, all in earnest. We deserved respect, and we met with it. The teachers were kind, and we attentive and respectful: the students were courteous, and we were affable to them, but discreet. Whatever seven young women could do to earn esteem, and reconcile even our opponents to the experiment, we did. There was not an anti-student, or downright flirt, among us; and, indeed, I have observed that an earnest love of study and science controls the amorous frivolity of women even more than men's. Perhaps our heads are really smaller than men's, and we haven't room in them to be like Solomon—extremely wise and arrant fools.
"This went on until the first professional examination; but, after the examination, the war, to our consternation, recommenced. Am I, then, bad-hearted for thinking there must have been something in that examination which roused the sleeping spirit of trades-unionism?"
"It seems probable."
"Then view that probability by the light of fact:
"In physiology the male students were 127; in chemistry, 226; 25 obtained honors in physiology; 31 in chemistry.
"In physiology and chemistry there were five women. One obtained honors in physiology alone; four obtained honors in both physiology and chemistry.
"So, you see, the female students beat the male students in physiology at the rate of five to one; and in chemistry, seven and three-quarters to one.
"But, horrible to relate, one of the ladies eclipsed twenty-nine out of the thirty-one gentlemen who took honors in chemistry. In capacity she surpassed them all; for the two, who were above her, obtained only two marks more than she did, yet they had been a year longer at the study. This entitled her to 'a Hope Scholarship' for that year.
"Would you believe it? the scholarship was refused her—in utter defiance of the founder's conditions—on the idle pretext that she had studied at a different hour from the male students, and therefore was not a member of the chemistry class."
"Then why admit her to the competition?" said Vizard.
"Why? because the 'a priori reasoners took for granted she would be defeated. Then the cry would have been, 'You had your chance; we let you try for the Hope Scholarship; but you could not win it.' Having won it, she was to be cheated out of it somehow, or anyhow. The separate-class system was not that lady's fault; she would have preferred to pay the university lecturer lighter fees, and attend a better lecture with the male students. The separate class was an unfavorable condition of study, which the university imposed on us, as the condition of admitting us to the professional study of medicine? Surely, then, to cheat that lady out of her Hope Scholarship, when she had earned it under conditions of study enforced and unfavorable, was perfidious and dishonest. It was even a little ungrateful to the injured sex; for the money which founded these scholarships was women's money, every penny of it. The good Professor Hope had lectured to ladies fifty years ago; had taken their fees, and founded his scholarships with their money: and it would have done his heart good to see a lady win and wear that prize which, but for his female pupils, would never have existed. But it is easy to trample on a dead man: as easy as on living women.
"The perfidy was followed by ruthless tyranny. They refused to admit the fair criminal to the laboratory, 'else,' said they, 'she'll defeat more men.
"That killed her, as a chemist. It gave inferior male students too great an advantage over her. And so the public and Professor Hope were sacrificed to a trades-union, and lost a great analytical chemist, and something more—she had, to my knowledge, a subtle diagnosis. Now we have at present no great analyst, and the few competent analysts we have do not possess diagnosis in proportion. They can find a few poisons in the dead, but they are slow to discover them in the living; so they are not to be counted on to save a life, where crime is administering poison. That woman could, and would, I think.
"They drove her out of chemistry, wherein she was a genius, into surgery, in which she was only a talent. She is now house-surgeon in a great hospital, and the public has lost a great chemist and diagnostic physician combined.
"Up to the date of this enormity, the Press had been pretty evenly divided for and against us. But now, to their credit, they were unanimous, and reprobated the juggle as a breach of public faith and plain morality. Backed by public opinion, one friendly professor took this occasion to move the university to relax the regulation of separate classes since it had been abused. He proposed that the female students should be admitted to the ordinary classes.
"This proposal was negatived by 58 to 47.
"This small majority was gained by a characteristic maneuver. The queen's name was gravely dragged in as disapproving the proposal, when, in fact, it could never have been submitted to her, or her comment, if any, must have been in writing; and as to the general question, she has never said a public word against medical women. She has too much sense not to ask herself how can any woman be fit to be a queen, with powers of life and death, if no woman is fit to be so small a thing, by comparison, as a physician or a surgeon.
"We were victims of a small majority, obtained by imagination playing upon flunkyism, and the first result was we were not allowed to sit down to botany with males. Mind you, we might have gathered blackberries with them in umbrageous woods from morn till dewy eve, and not a professor shocked in the whole faculty; but we must not sit down with them to an intellectual dinner of herbs, and listen, in their company, to the pedantic terms and childish classifications of botany, in which kindred properties are ignored. Only the male student must be told in public that a fox-glove is Digitalis purpurea in the improved nomenclature of science, and crow-foot is Ranunculus sceleratus, and the buck-bean is Menyanthis trifoliata, and mugwort is Artemesia Judaica; that, having lost the properties of hyssop known to Solomon, we regain our superiority over that learned Hebrew by christening it Gratiola officinalis. The sexes must not be taught in one room to discard such ugly and inexpressive terms as snow-drop, meadow-sweet, heart's-ease, fever-few, cowslip, etc., and learn to know the cowslip as Primula veris—by class, Pentandria monogynia; and the buttercup as Ranunculus acnis—Polyandria monogynia; the snow-drop as Galanthus nivalis—Hexandria monogynia; and the meadow-sweet as Ulnaria; the heart's ease as Viola tricolor; and the daisy as Bellis perennis—Syngenesia superflua."
"Well," said Vizard, "I think the individual names can only hurt the jaws and other organs of speech. But the classification! Is the mild luster of science to be cast over the natural disposition of young women toward Polyandria monogynia? Is trigamy to be identified in their sweet souls with floral innocence, and their victims sitting by?"
"Such classifications are puerile and fanciful," said Miss Gale; "but, for that very reason, they don't infect animals with trigamy. Novels are much more likely to do that."
"Especially ladies' novels," suggested Vizard, meekly.
"Some," suggested the accurate Rhoda. "But the sexes will never lose either morals or delicacy through courses of botany endured together. It will not hurt young ladies a bit to tell them in the presence of young gentlemen that a cabbage is a thalamifioral exogen, and its stamens are tetradynamous; nor that the mushroom, Psalliata campestris, and the toad-stool, Myoena campestris, are confounded by this science in one class, Cryptogamia. It will not even hurt them to be told that the properties of the Arum maculatum are little known, but that the males are crowded round the center of the spadix, and the females seated at the base."
Said Vizard, pompously, "The pulpit and the tea-table are centers of similar phenomena. Now I think of it, the pulpit is a very fair calyx, but the tea-table is sadly squat."
"Yes, sir. But, more than that, not one of these pedants who growled at promiscuous botany has once objected to promiscuous dancing, not even with the gentleman's arm round the lady's waist, which the custom of centuries cannot render decent. Yet the professors of delicacy connive, and the Mother Geese sit smirking at the wall. Oh, world of hypocrites and humbugs!"
"I am afraid you are an upsetter general," said Vizard. "But you are abominably sincere; and all this is a curious chapter of human nature. Pray proceed."
Miss Gale nodded gravely, and resumed.
"So much public ridicule fell on the union for this, and the blind flunkyism which could believe the queen had meddled in the detail, that the professors melted under it, and threw open botany and natural history to us, with other collateral sciences.
"Then came the great fight, which is not ended yet.
"To qualify for medicine and pass the stiff examination, by which the public is very properly protected, you must be versed in anatomy and clinical surgery. Books and lectures do not suffice for this, without the human subject—alive and dead. The university court knew that very well when it matriculated us, and therefore it provided for our instruction by promising us separate classes.
"Backed by this public pledge, we waited on the university professor of anatomy to arrange our fees for a separate lecture. He flatly refused to instruct us separately for love or money, or to permit his assistants. That meant, 'The union sees a way to put you in a cleft stick and cheat you out of your degree, in spite of the pledge the university has given you; in spite of your fees, and of your time given to study in reliance on the promise.'
"This was a heavy blow. But there was an extramural establishment called Surgeons' Hall, and the university formally recognized all the lecturers in this Hall; so we applied to those lecturers, and they were shocked at the illiberality of the university professors, and admitted us at once to mixed classes. We attended lectures with the male students on anatomy and surgery, and of all the anticipated evils, not one took place, sir.
"The objections to mixed classes proved to be idle words; yet the old-fashioned minds opposed to us shut their eyes and went on reasoning 'a priori, and proving that the evils which they saw did not arise must arise should the experiment of mixed classes, which was then succeeding, ever he tried.
"To qualify us for examination we now needed but one thing more—hospital practice. The infirmary is supported not so much by the university as the town. We applied, therefore, with some confidence, for the permission usually conceded to medical students. The managers refused us the town infirmary. Then we applied to the subscribers. The majority, not belonging to a trades-union, declared in our favor, and intimated plainly that they would turn out the illiberal managers at the next election of managers.
"But by this time the war was hot and general, and hard blows dealt on both sides. It was artfully suppressed by our enemies in the profession and in the Press that we had begged hard for the separate class which had been promised us in anatomy, and permission to attend, by ourselves, a limited number of wards in the infirmary; and on this falsehood by suppression worse calumnies were built.
"I shall tell you what we really were, and what foul mouths and pens insinuated we must be.
"Two accomplished women had joined us, and we were now the seven wise virgins of a half-civilized nation, and, if I know black from white, we were seven of its brightest ornaments. We were seven ladies, who wished to be doctresses, especially devoted to our own sex; seven good students, who went on our knees to the university for those separate classes in anatomy and clinical surgery which the university was bound in honor to supply us; but, our prayer rejected, said to the university, 'Well, use your own discretion about separate or mixed classes; but for your own credit, and that of human nature, do not willfully tie a hangman's noose to throttle the weak and deserving, and don't cheat seven poor, hard-working, meritorious women, your own matriculated students, out of our entrance-fees, which lie to this day in the university coffers, out of the exceptionally heavy fees we have paid to your professors, out of all the fruit of our hard study, out of our diplomas, and our bread. Solve the knot your own way. We will submit to mixed classes, or anything, except professional destruction.'
"In this spirit our lion-hearted leader wrote the letter of an uninjured dove, and said there were a great many more wards in the infirmary than any male student could or did attend; we would be content to divide the matter thus: the male students to have the monopoly of two-thirds, we to have the bare right of admission to one-third. By this the male students (if any) who had a sincere objection to study the sick, and witness operations, in our company, could never be troubled with us; and we, though less favored than the male students, could just manage to qualify for that public examination, which was to prove whether we could make able physicians or not.
"Sir, this gentle proposal was rejected with rude scorn, and in aggressive terms. Such is the spirit of a trades-union.
"Having now shown you what we were, I will now tell you what our enemies, declining to observe our conduct, though it was very public, suggested we must be— seven shameless women, who pursued medicine as a handle for sexuality; who went into the dissecting-room to dissect males, and into the hospital to crowd round the male patient, and who demanded mixed classes, that we might have male companions in those studies which every feminine woman would avoid altogether.
"This key-note struck, the public was regaled with a burst of hypocrisy such as Moli'ere never had the luck to witness, or oh, what a comedy he would have written!
"The immodest sex, taking advantage of Moli'ere's decease without heirs of his brains, set to work in public to teach the modest sex modesty.
"In the conduct of this pleasant paradox, the representatives of that sex, which has much courage and little modesty, were two professors—who conducted the paradox so judiciously that the London Press reprimanded them for their foul insinuations—and a number of young men called medical students.
"Now, the medical student surpasses most young men in looseness of life, and indecency of mind and speech.
"The representatives of womanhood to be instructed in modesty by these animals, old and young, were seven prudes, whose minds were devoted to study and honorable ambition. These women were as much above the average of their sex in feminine reserve and independence of the male sex as they were in intellect.
"The average girl, who throughout this discussion was all of a sudden puffed as a lily, because she ceased to be observed, can attend to nothing if a man is by; she can't work, she can't play, she is so eaten up with sexuality. The frivolous soul can just manage to play croquet with females; but, enter a man upon the scene, and she does even that very ill, and can hardly be got to take her turn in the only thing she has really given her mind to. We were angels compared with this paltry creature, and she was the standing butt of public censure, until it was found that an imaginary picture of her could be made the handle for insulting her betters.
"Against these seven prudes, decent dotards and their foul-mouthed allies flung out insinuations which did not escape public censure; and the medical students declared their modesty was shocked at our intrusion into anatomy and surgery, and petitioned against us. Some of the Press were deceived by this for a time, and hurlaient avec les loups.
"I took up, one day, my favorite weekly, in which nearly every writer seems to me a scholar, and was regaled with such lines as these:
"'It appears that girls are to associate with boys as medical students, in order that, when they become women, they may be able to speak to men with entire plainness upon all the subjects of a doctor's daily practice.
"'In plain words, the aspirants to medicine and surgery desire to rid themselves speedily and effectually of that modesty which nature has planted in women.' And then the writer concludes: 'We beg to suggest that there are other places besides dissecting-rooms and hospitals where those ladies may relieve themselves of the modesty which they find so troublesome. But fathers naturally object to this being done at their sons' expense."
"Infamous!" cried Vizard. "One comfort, no man ever penned that. That is some old woman writing down young ones."
"I don't know," said Rhoda. "I have met so many womanish men in this business. All I know is, that my cheeks burned, and, for once in the fight, scalding tears ran down them. It was as if a friend had spat upon me.
"What a chimera! What a monstrous misinterpretation of pure minds by minds impure! To us the dissecting-room was a temple, and the dead an awe, revolting to all our senses, until the knife revealed to our minds the Creator's hand in structural beauties that the trained can appreciate, if wicked dunces can't.
"And as to the infirmary, we should have done just what we did at Zurich. We held a little aloof from the male patients, unless some good-natured lecturer, or pupil, gave us a signal, and then we came forward. If we came uninvited, we always stood behind the male students: but we did crowd round the beds of the female patients, and claimed the inner row: AND, SIR, THEY THANKED GOD FOR US OPENLY.
"A few awkward revelations were made during this discussion. A medical student had the candor to write and say that he had been at a lecture, and the professor had told an indelicate story, and, finding it palatable to his modest males, had said, 'There, gentlemen: now, if female students were admitted here, I could not have told you this amusing circumstance.' So that it was our purifying influence he dreaded in secret, though he told the public he dreaded the reverse.
"Again, female patients wrote to the journals to beg that female students might be admitted to come between them and the brutal curiosity of the male students, to which they were subjected in so offensive a way that more than one poor creature declared she had felt agonies of shame, even in the middle of an agonizing operation.
"This being a cry from that public for whose sake the whole clique of physicians—male and female—exists, had, of course, no great weight in the union controversy.
"But, sir, if grave men and women will sit calmly down and fling dirt upon every woman who shall aspire to medicine in an island, though she can do so on a neighboring continent with honor, and choose their time when the dirt can only fall on seven known women— since the female students in that island are only seven—the pretended generality becomes a cowardly personality, and wounds as such, and excites less cold-hearted, and more hot-headed blackguards to outrage. It was so at Philadelphia, and it was so at Edinburgh.
"Our extramural teacher in anatomy was about to give a competitive examination. Now, on these occasions, we were particularly obnoxious. Often and clearly as it had been proved, by 'a priori reasoning, that we must be infinitely inferior to the average male, we persisted in proving, by hard fact, that we were infinitely his superior; and every examination gave us an opportunity of crushing solid reasons under hollow fact.
"A band of medical students determined that for once 'a priori reasoning should have fair play, and not be crushed by a thing so illusory as fact. Accordingly, they got the gates closed, and collected round them. We came up, one after another, and were received with hisses, groans, and abusive epithets.
"This mode of reasoning must have been admirably adapted to my weak understanding; for it convinced me at once I had no business there, and I was for private study directly.
"But, sir, you know the ancients said, 'Better is an army of stags with a lion for their leader, than an army of lions with a stag for their leader.' Now, it so happened that we had a lioness for our leader. She pushed manfully through the crowd, and hammered at the door: then we crept quaking after. She ordered those inside to open the gates; and some student took shame, and did. In marched our lioness, crept after by her—her—"
"A thousand thanks, good sir. Her does. On second thoughts, 'her hinds.' Doe is the female of buck. Now, I said stags. Well, the ruffians who had undertaken to teach us modesty swarmed in too. They dragged a sheep into the lecture-room, lighted pipes, produced bottles, drank, smoked, and abused us ladies to our faces, and interrupted the lecturer at intervals with their howls and ribaldry: that was intended to show the professor he should not be listened to any more if he admitted the female students. The affair got wind, and other students, not connected with medicine, came pouring in, with no worse motive, probably, than to see the lark. Some of these, however, thought the introduction of the sheep unfair to so respected a lecturer, and proceeded to remove her; but the professor put up his hand, and said, 'Oh, don't remove her: she is superior in intellect to many persons here present.'
"At the end of the lecture, thinking us in actual danger from these ruffians, he offered to let us out by a side door; but our lioness stood up and said, in a voice that rings in my ear even now, 'Thank you, sir; no. There are gentlemen enough here to escort us safely.'
"The magic of a great word from a great heart, at certain moments when minds are heated! At that word, sir, the scales fell from a hundred eyes; manhood awoke with a start, ay, and chivalry too; fifty manly fellows were round us in a moment, with glowing cheeks and eyes, and they carried us all home to our several lodgings in triumph. The cowardly caitiffs of the trades-union howled outside, and managed to throw a little dirt upon our gowns, and also hurled epithets, most of which were new to me; but it has since been stated by persons more versed in the language of the canaille that no fouler terms are known to the dregs of mankind.
"Thus did the immodest sex, in the person of the medical student, outrage seven fair samples of the modest sex—to teach them modesty.
"Next morning the police magistrates dealt with a few of our teachers, inflicted severe rebukes on them, and feeble fines.
"The craftier elders disowned the riot in public, but approved it in private; and continued to act in concert with it, only with cunning, not violence. It caused no honest revulsion of feeling, except in the disgusted public, and they had no power to help us.
"The next incident was a stormy debate by the subscribers to the infirmary; and here we had a little feminine revenge, which, outraged as we had been, I hope you will not grudge us.
"Our lioness subscribed five pounds, and became entitled to vote and speech. As the foulest epithets had been hurled at her by the union, and a certain professor had told her, to her face, no respectable woman would come to him and propose to study medicine, she said, publicly, that she had come to his opinion, and respectable women would avoid him—which caused a laugh.
"She also gave a venerable old physician, our bitter opponent, a slap that was not quite so fair. His attendant had been concerned in that outrage, and she assumed—in which she was not justified— that the old doctor approved. 'To be sure,' said she, 'they say he was intoxicated, and that is the only possible excuse.'
"The old doctor had only to say that he did not control his assistants in the street; and his own mode of conducting the opposition, and his long life of honor, were there to correct this young woman's unworthy surmises, and she would have had to apologize for going too far on mere surmise. But, instead of that, he was so injudicious as to accuse her of foul language, and say, 'My attendant is a perfect gentleman; he would not be my attendant if he were not.'
"Our lioness had him directly. 'Oh,' said she, 'if Dr. So-and-so prefers to say that his attendant committed that outrage on decency when in his sober senses, I am quite content.'
"This was described as violent invective by people with weak memories, who had forgotten the nature of the outrage our lioness was commenting on; but in truth it was only superior skill in debate, with truth to back it.
"For my part, I kept the police report at the time, and have compared it with her speech. The judicial comments on those rioters are far more severe than hers. The truth is it was her facts that hit too hard, not her expressions.
"Well, sir, she obtained a majority; and those managers of the infirmary who objected to female students were dismissed, and others elected. At the same meeting the Court of Contributors passed a statute, making it the law of the infirmary that students should be admitted without regard to sex.
"But as to the mere election of managers, the other party demanded a scrutiny of the votes, and instructive figures came out. There voted with us twenty-eight firms, thirty-one ladies, seven doctors.
"There voted with the union fourteen firms, two ladies, thirty-seven doctors, and three druggists.
"Thereupon the trades-union, as declared by the figures, alleged that firms ought not to vote. Nota bene, they always had voted unchallenged till they voted for fair play to women.
"The union served the provost with an interdict not to declare the new managers elected.
"We applied for our tickets under the new statute, but were impudently refused, under the plea that the managers must first be consulted: so did the servants of the infirmary defy the masters in order to exclude us.
"By this time the great desire of women to practice medicine had begun to show itself. Numbers came in and matriculated; and the pressure on the authorities to keep faith, and relax the dead-lock they had put us in, was great.
"Thereupon the authorities, instead of saying, 'We have pledged ourselves to a great number of persons, and pocketed their fees,' took fright, and cast about for juggles. They affected to discover all of a sudden that they had acted illegally in matriculating female students. They would, therefore, not give back their fees, and pay them two hundred pounds apiece for breach of contract, but detain their fees and stop their studies until compelled by judicial decision to keep faith. Observe, it was under advice of the lord-justice-general they had matriculated us, and entered into a contract with us, for fulfilling which it was not, and is not, in the power of any mortal man to punish them.
"But these pettifoggers said this: 'We have acted illegally, and therefore not we, but you, shall suffer: we will profit by our illegal act, for we will cheat you out of your fees to the university and your fees to its professors, as well as the seed-time of your youth that we have wasted.'
"Now, in that country they can get the opinions of the judges by raising what they call an action of declarator.
"One would think it was their business to go to the judges, and meantime give us the benefit of the legal doubt, while it lasted, and of the moral no-doubt, which will last till the day of judgment, and a day after.
"Not a bit of it. They deliberately broke their contract with us, kept our fees, and cheated us out of the article we had bought of them, disowned all sense of morality, yet shifted the burden of law on to our shoulders. Litigation is long. Perfidy was in possession. Possession is nine points. The female students are now sitting with their hands before them, juggled out of their studies, in plain defiance of justice and public faith, waiting till time shall show them whether provincial lawyers can pettifog as well as trades-union doctors.
"As for me, I had retired to civilized climes long before this. I used to write twice a week to my parents, but I withheld all mention of the outrage at Surgeons' Hall. I knew it would give them useless pain. But in three weeks or so came a letter from my father, unlike any other I ever knew him to write. It did not even begin, 'My dear child.' This was what he said (the words are engraved in my memory): 'Out of that nation of cowards and skunks! out of it this moment, once and forever! The States are your home. Draft on London inclosed. Write to me from France next week, or write to me no more. Graduate in France. Then come North, and sail from Havre to New York. You have done with Britain, and so have I, till our next war. Pray God that mayn't be long!'
"It was like a lion's roar of anguish. I saw my dear father's heart was bursting with agony and rage at the insult to his daughter, and I shed tears for him those wretches had never drawn from me.
"I had cried at being insulted by scholars in the Press; but what was it to me that the scum of the medical profession, which is the scum of God's whole creation, called me words I did not know the meaning of, and flung the dirt of their streets, and the filth of their souls, after me? I was frightened a little, that is all. But that these reptiles could wound my darling old lion's heart across the ocean! Sir, he was a man who could be keen and even severe with men, but every virtuous woman was a sacred thing to him. Had he seen one, though a stranger, insulted as we were, he would have died in her defense. He was a true American. And to think the dregs of mankind could wound him for his daughter, and so near the end of his own dear life. Oh!" She turned her head away.
"My poor girl!" said Vizard, and his own voice was broken.
When he said that, she gave him her hand, and seemed to cling to his a little; but she turned her head away from him and cried, and even trembled a little.
But she very soon recovered herself, and said she would try to end her story. It had been long enough.
"Sir, my father had often obeyed me; but now I knew I must obey him. I got testimonials in Edinburgh, and started South directly. In a week I was in the South of France. Oh, what a change in people's minds by mere change of place! The professors received me with winning courtesy; some hats were lifted to me in the street, with marked respect; flowers were sent to my lodgings by gentlemen who never once intruded, on me in person. I was in a civilized land. Yet there was a disappointment for me. I inquired for Cornelia. The wretch had just gone and married a professor. I feared she was up to no good, by her writing so seldom of late.
"I sent her a line that an old friend had returned, and had not forgotten her, nor our mutual vows.
"She came directly, and was for caressing away her crime, and dissolving it in crocodile tears; but I played the injured friend and the tyrant.
"Then she curled round me, and coaxed, and said, 'Sweetheart, I can advance your interests all the better. You shall be famous for us both. I shall be happier in your success than in my own.'
"In short, she made it very hard to hold spite; and it ended in feeble-minded embraces. Indeed, she was of service to me. I had a favor to ask: I wanted leave to count my Scotch time in France.
"My view was tenable; and Cornelia, by her beauty and her popularity, gained over all the professors to it but one. He stood out.
"Well, sir, an extraordinary occurrence befriended me; no, not extraordinary— unusual.
"I lodged on a second floor. The first floor was very handsome. A young Englishman and his wife took it for a week. She was musical—a real genius. The only woman I ever heard sing without whining; for we are, by nature, the medical and unmusical sex."
"So you said before."
"I know I did; and I mean to keep saying it till people see it. Well, the young man was taken violently and mysteriously ill; had syncope after syncope, and at last ceased to breathe.
"The wife was paralyzed, and sat stupefied, and the people about feared for her reason.
"After a time they begged me to come down and talk to her. Of course I went. I found her with her head upon his knees. I sat down quietly, and looked at him. He was young and beautiful, but with a feminine beauty; his head finely shaped, with curly locks that glittered in the sun, and one golden lock lighter than the rest; his eyes and eyelashes, his oval face, his white neck, and his white hand, all beautiful. His left hand rested on the counterpane. There was an emerald ring on one finger. He was like some beautiful flower cut down. I can see him now.
"The woman lifted her head and saw me. She had a noble face, though now distorted and wild.
"She cried, 'Tell me he is not dead! tell me he is not dead!' and when I did not reply, the poor creature gave a wild cry, and her senses left her. We carried her into another room.
"While the women were bringing her to, an official came to insist on the interment taking place. They are terribly expeditious in the South of France.
"This caused an altercation, and the poor lady rushed out; and finding the officer peremptory, flung her arms round the body, and said they should not be parted—she would be buried with him.
"The official was moved, but said the law was strict, and the town must conduct the funeral unless she could find the sad courage to give the necessary instructions. With this he was going out, inexorable, when all of a sudden I observed something that sent my heart into my mouth, and I cried 'Arretez!' so loud that everybody stared.
"I said, 'You must wait till a physician has seen him; he has moved a finger.'
"I stared at the body, and they all stared at me.
"He had moved a finger. When I first saw him, his fingers were all close together; but now the little finger was quite away from the third finger—the one with the ring on.
"I felt his heart, and found a little warmth about it, but no perceptible pulse. I ordered them to take off his sheet and put on blankets, but not to touch him till I came back with a learned physician. The wife embraced me, all trembling, and promised obedience. I got a fiacre and drove to Dr. Brasseur, who was my hostile professor, but very able. I burst on him, and told him I had a case of catalepsy for him—it wasn't catalepsy, you know, but physicians are fond of Greek; they prefer the wrong Greek word to the right English. So I called it 'catalepsy,' and said I believed they were going to bury a live man. He shrugged his shoulders, and said that was one of the customs of the country. He would come in an hour. I told him that would not do, the man would be in his coffin; he must come directly. He smiled at my impetuosity, and yielded.
"I got him to the patient. He examined him, and said he might be alive, but feared the last spark was going out. He dared not venture on friction. We must be wary.
"Well, we tried this stimulant and that, till at last we got a sigh out of the patient; and I shall not forget the scream of joy at that sigh, which made the room ring, and thrilled us all.
"By-and-by I was so fortunate as to suggest letting a small stream of water fall from a height on his head and face. We managed that, and by-and-by were rewarded with a sneeze.
"I think a sneeze must revivify the brain wonderfully, for he made rapid progress, and then we tried friction, and he got well very quick. Indeed, as he had nothing the matter with him, except being dead, he got ridiculously well, and began paying us fulsome compliments, the doctor and me.
"So then we handed him to his joyful wife.
"They talk of crying for joy, as if it was done every day. I never saw it but once, and she was the woman. She made a curious gurgle; but it was very pretty. I was glad to have seen it, and very proud to be the cause.
The next day that pair left. He was English and so many good-natured strangers called on him that he fled swiftly, and did not even bid me good-by. However, I was told they both inquired for me, and were sorry I was out when they went."
"How good of them!" said Vizard, turning red.
"Oh, never mind, sir; I made use of him. I scribbled an article that very day, entitled it, 'While there's life there's hope,' and rushed with it to the editor of a journal. He took it with delight. I wrote it 'a la Francaise: picture of the dead husband, mourning wife, the impending interment; effaced myself entirely, and said the wife had refused to bury him until Dr. Brasseur, whose fame had reached her ears, had seen the body. To humor her, the doctor was applied to, and, his benevolence being equal to his science, he came: when, lo! a sudden surprise; the swift, unerring eye of science detected some subtle sign that had escaped the lesser luminaries. He doubted the death. He applied remedies; he exhausted the means of his art, with little avail at first, but at last a sigh was elicited, then a sneeze; and, marvelous to relate, in one hour the dead man was sitting up, not convalescent, but well. I concluded with some reflections on this most important case of suspended animation very creditable to the profession of medicine, and Dr. Brasseur."
"There was a fox!"
"Well, look at my hair. What else could you expect? I said that before, too.
"My notice published, I sent it to the doctor, with my respects, but did not call on him. However, one day he met me, and greeted me with a low bow. 'Mademoiselle,' said he, 'you were always a good student; but now you show the spirit of a confr'ere, and so gracefully, that we are all agreed we must have you for one as soon as possible.'
"I courtesied, and felt my face red, and said I should be the proudest woman in France.
"'Grand Dieu,' said he, 'I hope not; for your modesty is not the least of your charms.'
"So, the way was made smooth, and I had to work hard, and in about fourteen months I was admitted to my final examination. It was a severe one, but I had some advantages. Each nation has its wisdom, and I had studied in various schools.
"Being a linguist, with a trained memory, I occasionally backed my replies with a string of French, German, English, and Italian authorities that looked imposing.
"In short, I did pass with public applause and cordial felicitation; they quite fe'ted me. The old welcomed me; the young escorted me home and flung flowers over me at my door. I reappeared in the balcony, and said a few words of gratitude to them and their noble nation. They cheered, and dispersed.
"My heart was in a glow. I turned my eyes toward New York: a fortnight more, and my parents should greet me as a European doctress, if not a British.
"The excitement had been too great; I sunk, a little exhausted, on the sofa. They bought me a letter. It was black-edged. I tore it open with a scream. My father was dead."
"I WAS prostrated, stupefied. I don't know what I did, or how long I sat there. But Cornelia came to congratulate me, and found me there like stone, with the letter in my hand. She packed up my clothes, and took me home with her. I made no resistance. I seemed all broken and limp, soul and body, and not a tear that day.
"Oh, sir, how small everything seems beside bereavement! My troubles, my insults, were nothing now; my triumph nothing; for I had no father left to be proud of it with me.
"I wept with anguish a hundred times a day. Why had I left New York? Why had I not foreseen this every-day calamity, and passed every precious hour by his side I was to lose?
"Terror seized me. My mother would go next. No life of any value was safe a day. Death did not wait for disease. It killed because it chose, and to show its contempt of hearts.
"But just as I was preparing to go to Havre, they brought me a telegram. I screamed at it, and put up my hands. I said 'No, no;' I would not read it, to be told my mother was dead. I would have her a few minutes longer. Cornelia read it, and said it was from her. I fell on it, and kissed it. The blessed telegram told she was coming home. I was to go to London and wait for her.
"I started. Cornelia paid my fees, and put my diploma in my box. I cared for nothing now but my own flesh and blood—what was left of it—my mother.
"I reached London, and telegraphed my address to my mother, and begged her to come at once and ease my fears. I told her my funds were exhausted; but, of course, that was not the thing I poured out my heart about; so I dare say she hardly realized my deplorable condition—listless and bereaved, alone in a great city, with no money.
"In her next letter she begged me to be patient. She had trouble with her husband's executors; she would send me a draft as soon as she could; but she would not leave, and let her child be robbed.
"By-and-by the landlady pressed me for money. I gave her my gowns and shawls to sell for me."
"And just now I was a fox."
"You are both. But so is every woman."
"She handed me a few shillings, by way of balance. I lived on them till they went. Then I starved a little."
"With a ring on your finger you could have pawned for ten guineas!"
"Pawn my ring! My father gave it me." She kissed it tenderly, yet, to Vizard, half defiantly.
"Pawning is not selling, goose!" said he, getting angry.
"But I must have parted with it."
"And you preferred to starve?"
"I preferred to starve," said she, steadily.
He looked at her. Her eyes faced his. He muttered something, and walked away, three steps to hide unreasonable sympathy. He came back with a grand display of cheerfulness. "Your mother will be here next month," said he, "with money in both pockets. Meantime I wish you would let me have a finger in the pie—or, rather my sister. She is warm-hearted and enthusiastic; she shall call on you, if you will permit it."
"Is she like you?"
"Not a bit. We are by different mothers. Hers was a Greek, and she is a beautiful, dark girl."
"I admire beauty; but is she like you— in—in—disposition?"
"Lord! no; very superior. Not abominably clever like you, but absurdly good. You shall judge for yourself. Oblige me with your address."
The doctress wrote her address with a resigned air, as one who had found somebody she had to obey; and, as soon as he had got it, Vizard gave her a sort of nervous shake of the hand, and seemed almost in a hurry to get away from her. But this was his way.
She would have been amazed if she had seen his change of manner the moment he got among his own people.
He burst in on them, crying, "There—the prayers of this congregation are requested for Harrington Vizard, saddled with a virago."