TWO WONDERFUL OLD LADIES
It is a pity that our language has no other word to indicate that one has lived seventy, eighty, or ninety years, than the word “old”; for the word “old” carries with it implications of “senility” and decrepitude, which many merely chronologically “old” people very properly resent. The word “young,” similarly, needs the assistance of another word, for we all know individuals of thirty and forty, sometimes even only twenty, whom it is as absurd to call “young” as it is to call those others of seventy, eighty, or ninety, “old.”
“Youth” is too large and rich a word to serve the limited purpose of numbering the years of undeveloped boys and girls. It should stand rather for the vital principle in men and women, ever expanding, and rebuilding, and refreshing the human organism, partly a physical, but perhaps in a greater degree a spiritual energy.
I am not writing this out of any compliment to two wonderful “old” ladies of whom I am particularly thinking. They would consider me a dunce were they to suspect me of any such commonplace intent. No! I am not going to call them “eighty years young,” or employ any of those banal euphemisms with which would-be “tactful” but really club-footed sentimentalists insult the intelligence of the so-called “old.” Of course, I know that they are both eighty or thereabouts, and they know very well that I know. We make no secret of it. Why should we? Actually though the number of my years falls short of eighty, I feel so much older than either of them, that it never occurs to me to think of them as “old,” and often as I contemplate their really glowing energetic youth, I grow melancholy for myself, and wonder what has become of my own.
They were schoolgirls together. Luccia married Irene’s brother—for they allow me the privilege of calling them by their Christian names—and they have been friends all their lives. Sometimes I see them together, though oftener apart, for Luccia and her white-haired poet husband—no “older” than herself,—are neighbours of mine in the country, and Irene lives for the most part in New York—as much in love with its giant developments as though she did not also cherish memories of that quaint, almost vanished, New York of her girlhood days; for she is nothing if not progressive.
But I will tell about Luccia first, and the first thing it is natural to speak of—so every one else finds too—is her beauty. They say that she was beautiful when she was young (I am compelled sometimes, under protest, to use the words “young” and “old” thus chronologically) and, of course, she must have been. I have, however, seen some of her early portraits, before her hair was its present beautiful colour, and I must confess that the Luccia of an earlier day does not compare with the Luccia of today. I don’t think I should have fallen in love with her then, whereas