“Well, you see, since then I seem to have been under a ban, which shows itself in all sorts of little ways—in business, in society, everywhere. My mother, poor thing, hears it in her shop from her customers, and it always takes the same annoying form: regret about modern disbelief, and free-thinking, and so on; and I am certain that most people regard it as a stroke of wonderful good luck, that I was prevented in good time from corrupting—yes, no less than corrupting—our noble workpeople. So I said to myself, ’Since there is such a wide difference between my opinions and those of the people whom I wish to assist, and since my nature is what it is, there is nothing else to be done but for me to keep myself thoroughly occupied with my work, and hold my peace.’”
“Peace! Yes, there it is again!” said Rachel. “But no, no! I am sure you are not right.”
“Well, let me speak to you about yourself, Miss Garman,” said Jacob Worse, becoming more courageous. “Neither I nor any one else of your acquaintance will be able to comply fully with the conditions you lay down. But I know one person who has the power, and that, Miss Garman, is yourself. You have all the qualifications we others lack.”
“I! a woman! and, worse than all, a lady!” said Rachel, looking at him with the greatest astonishment. “And how, if I may ask?”
“You must write!”
Rachel hesitated, and looked at him suspiciously. “That is not the first time I have heard this. More than one person has mentioned it to me before. I suppose it is that authorship is reckoned as one of the bad habits of an emancipated woman.”
Jacob Worse again began to lose his self-command. “I don’t mind your calling me a coward, Miss Garman. But when you think, or pretend to think, that I am not speaking more seriously than some of these—”
“No, no; sit down, I beg you,” said Rachel, anxiously, putting her hand on his arm. “I did not mean any harm, but I am so suspicious. I beg pardon. There, now, don’t think any more about it. You really do think, then, that I ought to write?”
“I am quite sure you ought,” answered Worse, who soon became quiet again. “You have so much originality and so much energy, that you will be able to overcome every difficulty, and in courage you are certainly not wanting.”
Amid the whirl of the dance around them, these encouraging words sounded doubly strange in her ears, and seemed to open out new vistas before her.
“But what have I got to write about? What do I know that the world does not know already? No, you really must be wrong, Mr. Worse. It is beyond me;” and she looked down at her dress, and could not help feeling that Worse was becoming rather dull.
“It is not very easy to say beforehand what your subject ought to be,” said he; “but it is clear that there are endless things that the world can only learn from a woman, and which it seems to be expecting to hear. For you it is but to have the will. You are now passing through a crisis in your life, and you have such a fund of energy—”