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An Old-Fashioned Girl

"Then, my dear, can't you bear a little ridicule for the sake of a good cause? You said
yesterday that you were going to make it a principle of your life, to help up your sex as
far and as fast as you could. It did my heart good to hear you say it, for I was sure that
in time you would keep your word. But, Polly, a principle that can't bear being laughed
at, frowned on, and cold-shouldered, is n't worthy of the name."
"I want to be strong-minded in the real sense of the word, but I don't like to be called so
by people who don't understand my meaning; and I shall be if I try to make the girls
think soberly about anything sensible or philanthropic. They call me old-fashioned now,
and I 'd rather be thought that, though it is n't pleasant, than be set down as a rampant
woman's rights reformer," said Polly, in whose memory many laughs, and snubs, and
sarcasms still lingered, forgiven but not forgotten.
"This love and thought and care for those weaker, poorer, or worse than ourselves,
which we call Christian charity, is a very old fashion, my dear. It began eighteen
hundred years ago, and only those who honestly follow the beautiful example set us
then, learn how to get genuine happiness out of life. I 'm not a 'rampant woman's rights
reformer,'" added Miss Mills, with a smile at Polly's sober face; "but I think that women
can do a great deal for each other, if they will only stop fearing what 'people will think,'
and take a hearty interest in whatever is going to fit their sisters and themselves to
deserve and enjoy the rights God gave them. There are so many ways in which this can
be done, that I wonder they don't see and improve them. I don't ask you to go and make
speeches, only a few have the gift for that, but I do want every girl and woman to feel
this duty, and make any little sacrifice of time or feeling that may be asked of them,
because there is so much to do, and no one can do it as well as ourselves, if we only
think so."
"I 'll try!" said Polly, influenced more by her desire to keep Miss Mills' good opinion than
any love of self-sacrifice for her sex. It was rather a hard thing to ask of a shy, sensitive
girl, and the kind old lady knew it, for in spite of the gray hair and withered face, her
heart was very young, and her own girlish trials not forgotten. But she knew also that
Polly had more influence over others than she herself suspected, simply because of her
candid, upright nature; and that while she tried to help others, she was serving herself in
a way that would improve heart and soul more than any mere social success she might
gain by following the rules of fashionable life, which drill the character out of girls till they
are as much alike as pins in a paper, and have about as much true sense and
sentiment in their little heads. There was good stuff in Polly, unspoiled as yet, and Miss
Mills was only acting out her principle of women helping each other. The wise old lady
saw that Polly had reached that point where the girl suddenly blooms into a woman,
asking something more substantial than pleasure to satisfy the new aspirations that are
born; a time as precious and important to the after-life, as the hour when the apple
blossoms fall, and the young fruit waits for the elements to ripen or destroy the harvest.
Polly did not know this, and was fortunate in possessing a friend who knew what
influences would serve her best, and who could give her what all women should desire
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