“I wish I could go west, or south, or somewhere. What a box women are put into, measured for it, and put in young; if we go anywhere it’s in a box, veiled and pinioned and shut in by disabilities. Father, I should like to break things and get loose!”
What a sweet-voiced little innocent, it was to be sure.
“Thee will no doubt break things enough when thy time comes, child; women always have; but what does thee want now that thee hasn’t?”
“I want to be something, to make myself something, to do something. Why should I rust, and be stupid, and sit in inaction because I am a girl? What would happen to me if thee should lose thy property and die? What one useful thing could I do for a living, for the support of mother and the children? And if I had a fortune, would thee want me to lead a useless life?”
“Has thy mother led a useless life?”
“Somewhat that depends upon whether her children amount to anything,” retorted the sharp little disputant. “What’s the good, father, of a series of human beings who don’t advance any?”
Friend Eli, who had long ago laid aside the Quaker dress, and was out of Meeting, and who in fact after a youth of doubt could not yet define his belief, nevertheless looked with some wonder at this fierce young eagle of his, hatched in a Friend’s dove-cote. But he only said,
“Has thee consulted thy mother about a career, I suppose it is a career thee wants?”
Ruth did not reply directly; she complained that her mother didn’t understand her. But that wise and placid woman understood the sweet rebel a great deal better than Ruth understood herself. She also had a history, possibly, and had sometime beaten her young wings against the cage of custom, and indulged in dreams of a new social order, and had passed through that fiery period when it seems possible for one mind, which has not yet tried its limits, to break up and re-arrange the world.
Ruth replied to Philip’s letter in due time and in the most cordial and unsentimental manner. Philip liked the letter, as he did everything she did; but he had a dim notion that there was more about herself in the letter than about him. He took it with him from the Southern Hotel, when he went to walk, and read it over and again in an unfrequented street as he stumbled along. The rather common-place and unformed hand-writing seemed to him peculiar and characteristic, different from that of any other woman.
Ruth was glad to hear that Philip had made a push into the world, and she was sure that his talent and courage would make a way for him. She should pray for his success at any rate, and especially that the Indians, in St. Louis, would not take his scalp.
Philip looked rather dubious at this sentence, and wished that he had written nothing about Indians.