For a few weeks you might believe yourself in a fairy-land of romance if you married your lover and went to live in the two rooms. But at the end of that period you would begin to realize that you were in a very actual land of poverty and discomfort.
Discomfort is relative. Those rooms to the shop-girl who had toiled for years, and lived in a fourth-flight-back tenement, would represent luxury. To you, after a few months, they would mean absolute penury.
You would begin to miss your beautiful home, and your maids, and your carriages. Your husband would know you were missing them, and he would be miserable. Unless your father came to your rescue, your dream of romantic love would end in a nightmare of regret and sorrow.
Your father knows you,—the creature of refined tastes and luxurious habits that he has made you,—and your lover does not. Neither do you know yourself.
It requires a woman in ten thousand, one possessed of absolute heroism, like the old martyrs who sang at the stake while dying, to do what you contemplate, and to be happy in the doing.
Nothing like a life of self-indulgence disintegrates great qualities. You are romantically and feverishly in love with a handsome and gifted young man. But do not rush into a marriage with him until you can bring your father to settle a competence upon you, or until your lover has spanned the abyss of poverty with a bridge of comfort. You have had no training in self-denial or self-dependence. The altar is a bad place to begin your first lesson.
Wait awhile. I know my advice seems worldly and cold, but it is the result of wide observation.
If you cannot sit in your gold and white boudoir, and be true to Ernest while he battles a few more years with destiny, then you could not remain loyal in thought while you held your numb fingers over a chilly radiator in an uncomfortable flat, or omitted dessert from your dinner menu to cut down expenses.
Your brain-cells have been developed in opulence.
You could not train your mind to inexorable economy, even at the command of Cupid.
Take the advice of a woman of the world, my dear girl, and do not attempt the impossible and so spoil two lives.
Again I say, wait awhile.
There are girls who could be perfectly happy in the position you picture for yourself with Ernest, but not you.
Better hide your ideal in your heart than shatter it on the unswept hearthstone of the commonplace.
Better be in your lover’s life the unattained joy, than ruin his happiness by discontent.
It is less of a tragedy for a man to hear a woman say “I cannot go with you,” than to hear her say “I cannot stay with you.”
To Miss Jane Carter
Of the W.C.T.U.
And so, my dear Jane, I have fallen from my pedestal, in your estimation. Yet, having carefully regarded myself in the mirror, and finding no discolorations, and feeling no wounds or contusions, I think my pedestal must have been very near the earth, else I would be conscious of some bruises.