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VI. the creator of the home.

There took place lately near my house two of those instantaneous deaths which are commonly called tragic, but which seem to me the most enviable mode of passing away from earth. Two maiden ladies had for many years led their blameless lives together in a modest cottage quaintly situated in the sharp angle of two streets, and made picturesque in summer by the flowers and vines that were devoutly tended by its occupants. They had long eked out their modest income by taking a few boarders, and had by simple kindliness made their house as genuine a home to many other persons as to themselves. As years grew upon them this care was laid aside, and they dwelt quietly together. One day last week one of them was taken to drive by a young girl, a relative. She took with her a pet dog. In some way the dog almost fell out. The old lady leaned forward suddenly to save him. The motion brought on palpitation of the heart, and she died without a struggle. The news was swiftly carried to her home, where the shock produced a similar [29] effect upon the other sister, and was almost as suddenly fatal. In each case it scarcely seemed like death, but like the sundering of some exquisitely delicate cord.
We scarce could say, She died;
So sweetly anchored on the other side.

In thinking on this sudden extinction of a household, my thoughts have often turned back upon the fact of that household itself; how complete it was, how contented, how serene, and how thoroughly feminine. After all, let men boast as much as they please, and women complain as much, there is one immense advantage in the position of women-that they can create a home for themselves unaided, as men can not. How independent seems the life of a young unmarried man compared to that of a young woman! How the sister usually envies the brother! But by a silent compensation in nature, as years advance, the balance changes, and if they are left alone in the world it is the brother who has reason to envy the sister. “A bachelor's life,” says some one, “is a splendid breakfast, a tolerably flat dinner, and a most miserable supper.” A single man may have an estate, a principality ; he can own a great hotel and fill it with guests; but he cannot create a home without a woman to help him, and that, too, a woman whose service is not for [30] money. When it comes to a home, there is not a solitary dress-maker in the land, ensconced in her one little room with her geraniums, her canary, and her sewing-machine, who cannot completely eclipse him, this being the result not of his sins, but of his sex.

Undoubtedly each reader will think, or try to think, of some exception to all this — some single man who is happy, some “jolly bachelor,” some cheerful widower. No doubt there are those who can be happy, especially during the first half of life, without the sense of ]home. A, with his wealth, and his paintings, and his yachts, and his delightful monologue; B, with his perpetual journeyings; C, with his six dogs; and our late Professor Sophocles in Cambridge, with that family of hens which he tended, like a herdsman, with a long staff, and which he trained to take food from stakes placed upright in the ground instead of scratching in the flower-beds --all these may doubtless have found a bachelor life not inconsistent with happiness; but where, after all, is the home? Neither yachts, nor pictures, nor steamer tickets, nor dogs, nor hens can supply that. “Home,” says the proverb, “is where the heart is;” but if so, no man seems to have heart enough to fit out a home without a woman to help him. A woman can do it for herself: there lies her advantage. [31]

It may be harder for a woman to make money; undoubtedly it is harder. She makes a dollar, perhaps, where a man makes twenty; but when it comes to purchasing power, her dollar goes the farthest towards the maintenance of a home. So long as she retains that, she is strong and self-respecting; and even if she parts with it, so strong is the instinct of home that she can sometimes reconstruct it for herself even in a boarding-house. If the home is combined with a little freedom in the use of money, it gives more comfort and more local prestige than a lone man can win by a fortune. What would be the social condition of any country village in our Atlantic States without its first-class Maiden Lady? She is the daughter of “old Squire” somebody, or of “Parson” somebody else; she lives in the great square house with its elms, and its white lilacs, and its breezy hall; she has a maid or two, who have lived with her so long that they seem like half-sisters; she has in daily use the precious china and the old chairs that her envious city nieces try vainly to rival at auction-rooms. She manages the book club and the church sociable; she is the confidante of all the love affairs; she calls upon the new-comers, if worthy-indeed, the new-comers, if worthy, bring letters to her. To the older inhabitants of the town she always seems young and elegant; she has a prolonged tradition of precedence that [32] outlasts youth and beauty; if she has a sister, they are spoken of to the end of their days as “the Parker girls.” All this is the joint result of womanhood and women, or of that womanhood which creates home. It is not only potent for itself, but it extends its potency over all other homes. What, compared to this, is the social position given by wealth to the lonely old bachelor of the country village? Though he be a millionaire, he is simply “the old bach.”

The truth is that as people grow older it is the man who becomes dependent, and the woman the central and essential figure of the household, since she can do without him, and he cannot do without her. The proof of this lies in the fact that we see all around us self-sufficing and contented households of women, while a house that contains men only is a barrack, not a home. In youth it is easy to ignore this, to say with Shakespeare in “Henry V.”

Tis ever common
That men are merriest when away from home;

but the merriment is shallow, the laugh is forced, and years and illness and sorrow soon bring man back, a repentant prodigal, to his home and to woman, the only home-maker.

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