Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,
The Family Purse,
The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,
Little Things that are Trifles,
A Mistake on John's Part,
Must-haves and May-bes,
What Good Will It Do?
Shall I Pass It On?
"Only Her Nerves,"
The Rule of Two,
The Perfect Work of Patience,
According to His Folly,
Is Marriage Reformatory?
And Other Relations-in-Law,
A Timid Word for the Step-mother,
Children as Helpers,
Children as Burden-bearers,
Our Young Person,
Getting Along in Years,
The Gospel of Conventionalities,
Familiar, or Intimate?
Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,
The Family Invalid,
A Temperance Talk,
A Parting Word for Boy,
Homely, But Important,
GETTING ALONG IN YEARS.
"Does your husband think a full beard becoming to him?" asked I of a young wife.
Her twenty-three-year-old lord, whose good-looking face had been adorned and made positively handsome by a sweeping brown moustache, had, since our last meeting, "raised" an uneven crop of reddish whiskers that shortened a face somewhat too round, and altogether vulgarized what had been refined.
"No, indeed! He knows, as I do, that it disfigures him. It is a business necessity to which he sacrificed vanity. The appearance of maturity carries weight in the commercial world. His beard adds ten years to his real age."
Being in an audience collected to hear an eminent clergyman last summer, I heard an astonished gasp behind me, as the orator arose:
"Why he has shaved off his beard! How like a round oily man of God he looks!"
"True," said another, "but fifteen years younger. He is getting along in years, you see, and wants to hide the fact."
The last speaker sat opposite to me at the hotel table that day, and in discussing the leader of the morning service, repeated the phrase that had jarred upon my ear.
"It is fatal to a clergyman's popularity and to a woman's hopes to be suspected of getting along in years."
I told the story of my bearded youth and asked:
"Where then is the safe ground? When is it altogether reputable for one to declare his real age?"
"Oh, anywhere from thirty to forty-five! Before and after that term life can hardly be said to be worth the living."
I smiled, as the rattler meant I should. But the words have stayed by me, the more persistently that observation bears me out in the suspicion that the merry speaker only uttered the thought of many others.
"The years of man's life are three-score-and-ten," says the Word of Him who made man and knew what was in man. The wearer of a body that, with tolerably good treatment ought to last for seventy years, must then, according to popular judgment, spend nearly half of that time in learning how to play his part in the world, barely a fifth in carrying out God's designs in and for him, and then remain for a quarter of a century a cumberer of the home and earth. Such waste of strength, time and accumulated capital would be cried out upon as wretched mismanagement were the scheme of human devising.
The French proverb that "a woman" (and presumably a man) "is just as old as she chooses to be," comes so much nearer what I believe was our Creator's wise and merciful purpose in giving us life, that I turn thankfully and hopefully to this side of the subject.
The best way to avoid growing old is not to be afraid of getting along in years. To come down to "hard pan"--whence originates this unwholesome dread of ripeness and maturity? It surely is not a fear of death that makes us blanch and shrink back at the oft-recurring mile-stones in the journey of life that brings all of us nearer the goal towards which we are bound.
I once heard a young woman say, seriously:
"I hope that when I am forty-five, I may quietly die. I do not dread death, but I do shudder at the idea of being laid on the shelf."
I do not mean to be severe when I assert that, nine times out of ten, it is the victim's own fault that she is pushed out of the way, or, as our slangy youth of to-day put it, "is not in it." It is your business and mine to be in it, heart, soul, and body, and to keep our places there by every effort in our power. A fear of that which is high, or mental or physical inertia, or, to be less euphemistic and more exact, laziness--should not deter us. This object is not to be accomplished by adopting juvenile dress and kittenish ways. We should beautify old age, not accentuate it by artificial means. When your roadster, advanced in years and woefully stiff in the joints, makes a lame attempt to imitate a gamboling colt, and feebly elevates his hind legs, and pretends to shy at a piece of paper in the road, you smile with contemptuous amusement and say:
"The old fool is in his dotage!"
But if he keeps on steadily to his work, doing the best he can, your comment is sure to be somewhat after this fashion:
"This is truly a wonderful horse! He is just as good as on the day I bought him, fifteen years ago!"
Let us determine to face the situation, when it is necessary, calmly and sensibly. For, unlike the aforesaid horse, we do not expect to be knocked on the head with a club, or quietly chloroformed out of existence at a stated period. We would do well to follow our optimistic principles, and look at the many benefits which, in the words of the old catechism, "do accompany and flow from" this state. If you have lived well, fifty is better than thirty, as the sun-and-frost-kissed (not bitten) Catawba grape is better than the tiny green sphere of June, and as maturity is nearer perfection than crude youth. The tedious routine of the life-school, the hours spent in acquiring knowledge for which you had no immediate use, are past. The wisdom that must come with time and experience is yours.
Another of the great advantages in being near the top of the mountain is that you can speak from superior knowledge words of comfort and encouragement to those beneath you, who are still toiling over the path you have trod. Such help from you who have "been there," and have now successfully passed the most trying places, will do more to keep up others' hearts than many sermons preached by one who knows it all only in theory.
Since old age is inevitable, do not let us try to pretend that it is not, and let us never act as if there were any hope of shunning it. On the other hand, neither should we wish that it were possible for us to evade it. It is just as much of a God-ordained period as youth, and we ought to grow old in the manner in which God meant we should. He meant us to keep heart and soul young by constant occupation and by unselfish interest in the affairs of others.
I know one woman, past the fifties, who is, the young people declare, "much more fun than any girl." Their enjoyments are hers, and she laughs as heartily over their fun, sympathizes as sincerely in their disappointments, as if she were thirty years younger than she is. In fact, her sympathy is more genuine, for her age puts her completely beyond the faintest suspicion of rivalry, and it is easier to tell of one's defeats and triumphs when the listener is too far along in years to be jealous or envious.
It should not be necessary for us to call courage into use to reconcile us to our lost youth. Plain common sense is all that is requisite. We have gained much on life in the past century. As science has taught us how to ward off death, so has it instructed us in the art of preserving youth far beyond middle age. Over my fireplace hangs a portrait of my grandmother, one of the loveliest women of her time.
She died at the age of fifty, and in it she wears a mob-cap and an old woman's gown. For years before her death, she felt that she belonged to the past generation, did not join in the younger people's occupations, and claimed her place in the chimney-corner. In her day the "dead-line" in a man's life was drawn at fifty. Now we know that to be out of all reason. If the years of a man's life are three-score-and-ten let us determine to move the dead-line on to seventy, and claim that we are not old until we have reached that point. And if, by reason of strength we can hold on to four-score, let us push it on the ten years farther, and, taking courage, thank God for this new lease of life.
We do not belong to the past generation, but to the acting, working, living present. Our juniors are the rising generation, and no one belongs to the past except those who have laid aside the burden of life--light to some, wearisome to others--forever. They are the only ones who have any excuse for stepping out of the ranks. They have done so by their Captain's order. Let us, who remain, stand bravely in our places, that we may be present or accounted for when the roll-call containing our names is read.