It was a habit of mine to relate stories to her out of my own fertile imagination. In return for this she kept secret the fact that I sat up and wrote when I should have been in bed. I was obliged to take some means of inducing her to keep silence, as she—even Gertie, who firmly believed in me—on waking once or twice at unearthly hours and discovering me in pursuit of my nightly task, had been so alarmed for my sanity that I had the greatest work to prevent her from yelling to father and mother on the spot. But I bound her to secrecy, and took a strange delight in bringing to her face with my stories the laughter, the wide-eyed wonder, or the tears—just as my humour dictated.
“You’ll easily get someone else to tell you stories.”
“Not like yours. And who will take my part when Horace bullies me?”
I pressed her to me.
“Gertie, Gertie, promise me you will love me a little always, and never, never forget me. Promise me.”
And with a weakly glint of winter sunshine turning her hair to gold, and with her head on my shoulder, Gertie promised—promised with the soluble promise of a butterfly-natured child.
N.B.—This is dull and egotistical. Better skip it. That’s my advice—S. P. M.
As a tiny child I was filled with dreams of the great things I was to do when grown up. My ambition was as boundless as the mighty bush in which I have always lived. As I grew it dawned upon me that I was a girl—the makings of a woman! Only a girl—merely this and nothing more. It came home to me as a great blow that it was only men who could take the world by its ears and conquer their fate, while women, metaphorically speaking, were forced to sit with tied hands and patiently suffer as the waves of fate tossed them hither and thither, battering and bruising without mercy. Familiarity made me used to this yoke; I recovered from the disappointment of being a girl, and was reconciled to that part of my fate. In fact, I found that being a girl was quite pleasant until a hideous truth dawned upon me—I was ugly! That truth has embittered my whole existence. It gives me days and nights of agony. It is a sensitive sore that will never heal, a grim hobgoblin that nought can scare away. In conjunction with this brand of hell I developed a reputation of cleverness. Worse and worse! Girls! girls! Those of you who have hearts, and therefore a wish for happiness, homes, and husbands by and by, never develop a reputation of being clever. It will put you out of the matrimonial running as effectually as though it had been circulated that you had leprosy. So, if you feel that you are afflicted with more than ordinary intelligence, and especially if you are plain with it, hide your brains, cramp your mind, study to appear unintellectual—it is your only chance. Provided a woman is beautiful allowance will be made for all her shortcomings. She can be unchaste, vapid, untruthful, flippant, heartless, and even clever; so long as she is fair to see men will stand by her, and as men, in this world, are “the dog on top”, they are the power to truckle to. A plain woman will have nothing forgiven her. Her fate is such that the parents of uncomely female infants should be compelled to put them to death at their birth.