Work: A Story of Experience
XX. At Forty
"NEARLY twenty years since I set out to seek my fortune. It has been a long search, but
I think I have found it at last. I only asked to be a useful, happy woman, and my wish is
granted: for, I believe I am useful; I know I am happy."
Christie looked so as she sat alone in the flowery parlor one September afternoon,
thinking over her life with a grateful, cheerful spirit. Forty to-day, and pausing at that
half-way house between youth and age, she looked back into the past without bitter regret
or unsubmissive grief, and forward into the future with courageous patience; for three
good angels attended her, and with faith, hope, and charity to brighten life, no woman
need lament lost youth or fear approaching age. Christie did not, and though her eyes
filled with quiet tears as they were raised to the faded cap and sheathed sword hanging on
the wall, none fell; and in a moment tender sorrow changed to still tenderer joy as her
glance wandered to rosy little Ruth playing hospital with her dollies in the porch. Then
they shone with genuine satisfaction as they went from the letters and papers on her table
to the garden, where several young women were at work with a healthful color in the
cheeks that had been very pale and thin in the spring.
"I think David is satisfied with me; for I have given all my heart and strength to his work,
and it prospers well," she said to herself, and then her face grew thoughtful, as she
recalled a late event which seemed to have opened a new field of labor for her if she
chose to enter it.
A few evenings before she had gone to one of the many meetings of working-women,
which had made some stir of late. Not a first visit, for she was much interested in the
subject and full of sympathy for this class of workers.
There were speeches of course, and of the most unparliamentary sort, for the meeting was
composed almost entirely of women, each eager to tell her special grievance or theory.
Any one who chose got up and spoke; and whether wisely or foolishly each proved how
great was the ferment now going on, and how difficult it was for the two classes to meet
and help one another in spite of the utmost need on one side and the sincerest good-will
on the other. The workers poured out their wrongs and hardships passionately or
plaintively, demanding or imploring justice, sympathy, and help; displaying the
ignorance, incapacity, and prejudice, which make their need all the more pitiful, their
relief all the more imperative.
The ladies did their part with kindliness, patience, and often unconscious condescension,
showing in their turn how little they knew of the real trials of the women whom they
longed to serve, how very narrow a sphere of usefulness they were fitted for in spite of
culture and intelligence, and how rich they were in generous theories, how poor in
practical methods of relief.
One accomplished creature with learning radiating from every pore, delivered a charming
little essay on the strong-minded women of antiquity; then, taking labor into the region of
art, painted delightful pictures of the time when all would work harmoniously together in