“I began to explore the mind of Lizzie, an’ she acted as my guide in the matter. For her troubles the girl was about equally indebted to her parents an’ the Smythe school. Now the Smythe school had been founded by the Reverend Hopkins Smythe, an Englishman who for years had been pastor of the First Congregational Church—a soothin’ man an’ a favorite of the rich New-Yorkers. People who hadn’t slept for weeks found repose in the First Congregational Church an’ Sanitarium of Pointview. They slept an’ snored while the Reverend Hopkins wept an’ roared. His rhetoric was better than bromide or sulphonal. In grateful recollection of their slumbers, they set him up in business.
“Now I’m agoin’ to talk as mean as I feel. Sometimes I get tired o’ bein’ a gentleman an’ knock off for a season o’ rest an’ refreshment. Here goes! The school has some good girls in it, but most of ’em are indolent candy-eaters. Their life is one long, sweet dream broken by nightmares of indigestion. Their study is mainly a bluff; their books a merry jest; their teachers a butt of ridicule. They’re the veriest little pagans. Their religion is, in fact, a kind of Smythology. Its High Priest is the Reverend Hopkins. Its Jupiter is self. Its lesser gods are princes, dukes, earls, counts, an’ barons. Its angels are actors an’ tenors. Its baptism is flattery. Poverty an’ work are its twin hells. Matrimony is its heaven, an’ a slippery place it is. They revel in the best sellers an’ the worst smellers. They gossip of intrigue an’ scandal. They get their lessons if they have time. They cheat in their examinations. If the teacher objects she is promptly an’ generally insulted. She has to submit or go—for the girls stand together. It’s a sort of school-girls’ union. They’d quit in a body if their fun were seriously interrupted, an’ Mr. Smythe couldn’t afford that, you know. He wouldn’t admit it, but they’ve got him buffaloed.
“Lizzie no sooner got through than she set out with her mother to find the prince. She struck Aleck in Italy.”
Socrates leaned back and laughed.
“Now, if you please, I’ll climb back on my pedestal,” he said.
“Thank God! Lizzie began to rise above her education. She went to work in her father’s store, an’ the whole gang o’ Lizzie-chasers had to change their gait again. She organized our prosperous young ladies’ club—a model of its kind—the purpose of which is the promotion of simple livin’ an’ a taste for useful work. They have fairs in the churches, an’ I distribute a hundred dollars in cash prizes—five dollars each for the best exhibits o’ pumpkin-pie, chicken-pie, bread, rolls, coffee, roast turkey, plain an’ fancy sewin’, an’ so on. One by one the girls are takin’ hold with us an’ lettin’ go o’ the grand life. They’ve begun to take hold o’ the broom an’ the dish-cloth, an’ the boys seem to be takin’ hold o’ them with more vigor an’ determination. The boys are concluding that it’s cheaper to buy a piano-player than to marry one, that canned prima-donnas are better than the home-grown article, that women are more to be desired than playthings.