- The New Woman
Margaret Hartwell was beautiful. Everybody admitted that. She was intelligent, industrious and amiable. Her husband loved her and was proud of her; but he found, rather to his dismay, that the little peculiarities which had amused him in the days of his short courtship, and which had occasionally called forth a hearty laugh while on the wedding tour, were not mere girlish whims and fancies. They were the straws which indicate the true direction of the wind.
Margaret was refined and gentle. She had virtues enough for two or three women; but she was a daughter of Wyoming, and Frank Hartwell was forced to acknowledge that his lovely wife had deeply imbibed the social and political heresy of her native State. She not only believed in the emancipation of women, but she had evidently been accustomed to a full measure of freedom, which she intended still to enjoy.
It was not Frank Hartwell’s desire to become the lord and master of his wife; but he did expect her to lean on him somewhat. Woman in his opinion was a very high order of being; but she was too delicately constructed, morally and physically, for general usefulness. Her fields were the home and church; and even in those sacred enclosures she needed the support and protection of him for whose happiness she was created.
Housekeeping had been started on a scale suitable to a couple in moderate circumstances, and Margaret had shown excellent judgment in the selection of their one servant, who, after furnishing the usual references, had been carefully examined as to her knowledge of housework.
“Lucinda does not belong to the ignorant class of women who hire out before they have fitted themselves for any employment,” said the young mistress to her husband, as they arose from the dinner table. “She understands cooking, washing and ironing—has learned them as a carpenter masters his trade.”
“Speaking of the carpenter reminds me of the kitchen window shutters,” said Frank; “has Jenkins been here?”
“He sent word that he wouldn’t come before next week, so I bought the screws and hinges and hung the shutters myself.”
Margaret was leaning against the sideboard. In stature she was barely [End Page 298] medium, but her form was exquisitely moulded, and she was remarkably graceful. A European might have been puzzled as to her nationality; not because of the tiny mouth with its dainty curves, nor the nose, whose contours deviated from the purely Grecian only enough to impart brightness of expression. Her complexion was brownish yellow, with skin soft and clear; she had large black eyes shaded by the longest and silkiest lashes; her hair was black and glossy as the raven tresses of the Mongolian, but finer in texture, and possessed of that much coveted quality, a slight waviness; she wore a pale cream house gown of soft material, the bodice tastefully trimmed with dark red velvet and chiffon.
“Did you say that you hung the shutters, Margaret?” asked Frank.
“Yes, I thought it unsafe to be longer without them.”
“Who instructed you in carpentry?” he asked, when he had returned from an inspection of the work.
“There is a manual training department in our schools, and Albert and I took a course in the various branches. We both intended to study professions, but every civilized person should know how to be handy about a house.”
“Did you and Albert learn the same branches, may I ask?”
“We went through the entire department. Albert won first prize for cake-making, but I beat him in the metal shop.”
“Would it not have been proper for you to confine yourselves within certain limits—the one to the feminine and the other to the masculine portion?”
“I beg your pardon, Frank. We did not regard labor as masculine and feminine. Albert is larger and stronger than I, but we both have human facilities.”
“Hereafter, my dear,” said Mr. Hartwell, taking one of her pretty dimpled hands in his, “you must leave the men’s part to me. I don’t want you to injure your health and make yourself coarse.”
“The bargain was that you would...