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When their daughters left school, Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Fleming considered their education as finished, and their own duty towards them amply and honourably discharged. Any effort for further improvement, or even any regular plan for keeping up and turning to account the knowledge already acquired, never once entered into their calculation. Miss Norris was intended to be a lady; and both her mother and herself concurred in thinking it exceedingly unlady-like to do anything useful. The course pursued, was in full accordance with this sentiment. The young lady seldom rose before eight or nine o'clock. She then amused herself for an hour or two at her music, or drawing, or fancy work, or altering her dresses to the newest mode. Then succeeded a round of morning visits, and dressing for dinner. Novel reading, and gay parties, occupied the evening, and often a great part of the night. Not a thought was bestowed on the improvement of the mind, nor an hour employed on any thing really beneficial to herself or others. Not a step of advancement in qualification for the duties of future life: least of all were the concerns of eternity made a matter of solicitude. Perhaps a chapterin the Bible diversified the reading on the Sabbath, and perhaps a few words of prayer, carelessly uttered night and morning, discharged the conscience of its demands for the performance of religious duties; but religion, as a vital, operative principle, influencing the heart and conduct, was altogether unknown.
When a few years had been thus frittered away at home, the pretty face and gay dress of Miss Norris attracted the attention of a recruiting officer who happened to be visiting the town. Her parents disapproved the connexion ; but their daughter had been too much accustomed to her own way to be easily controlled, and had formed her principles on the novel system, too effectually to be easily diverted from the felicity of fancying herself a heroine, admired by a fine gentleman and a soldier, opposed by narrow-minded, unfeeling parents, but determined to pursue her own course, at whatever risk or sacrifice, and quite disposed even to conclude the affair by an elopement. Her lover, however, was in this particular rather more discreet. He was not indeed regardless of her blue eyes and auburn hair, or of her singing and dancing, about which he talked so rapturously; but Selina Norris had other attractions, about which he was quite as much concerned. It was well known that her father had saved money in business ; indeed, he had more than once thrown out a hint, when any remark was made about his pretty daughter, that he had laid by a few snug hundreds against her marriage. These, by current report, were magnified into thousands, (this is easily done ; it is only adding a cipher, which is nothing of itself;) and on these the warmest affection of the captain centered. Hence he was induced to proceed warily, and to take no step that might irretrievably forfeit the favour of her parents. To carry off an unportioned beauty, would by no means have made good his calculations. It was much better to persuade the young lady, and for her to persuade her fond parents, that she was desperately in love, and that, if thwarted, she should certainly break her heart.
A few tears, screamings, faintings, and fastings, sufficiently confirmed this alarming determination, and the young lady and her lover gained their point. They were married with the consent, if not with the hearty concurrence of her parents.
But were they happy? No! my young reader. They possessed none of the pre-requisites of domestic happiness; no intellectual cultivation to render them rational and improving companions to each other ; no sense of domestic responsibilities to stimulate them to the discharge of the quiet humble duties of domestic life ; no taste for the genuine home-born delights and fireside enjoyments of domestic bliss ; no inward spring of support and consolation arising from the power of religion in the heart, realizing the presence of an invisible God, and animating them with the prospect of a blissful eternity. For want of these solid principles, the young couple were like voyagers on the ocean, without pilot or rudder to guide their course, and without ballast or anchor to steady their vessel. For a few gay sunshiny hours all was smooth and jocund; but the first squall that arose, they were tossed hither and thither. Imprudent and impatient, they were continually getting into difficulties.
Having formed vain and erroneous expectations, they were perpetually liable to disappointments. Extravagant in their claims on each other, and regardless of their own obligations, every vexation and trial they had to encounter, became an occasion of reproach and recrimination between themselves, of discontent with their circumstances, and of rebellion against the allotments of Providence.
After four or five years of extravagance and poverty, gaiety and misery, Selina returned to the home of her parents, with two ill-managed children, to live in a state of disgraceful as well as uncomfortable dependence, and to endure all the disappointment and mortification of a deserted wife, without experiencing anything of the humbling and beneficial effects of sanctified affliction. It is now more than twenty years since the important period of her leaving school, and she has seen various vicissitudes in life, which ought to work patience, experience, wisdom, resignation, and other kindred graces. But alas ! she is the same vain, giddy, superficial creature as ever ; and her misguided parents, on looking back at her education, are compelled to confess, that they only reap that which they sowed.
The three daughters of Mrs. Fleming were lively, good-humoured girls, by no means distinguished either for natural abilities or mental cultivation. It was usual, as Mrs. Fleming understood, for young ladies in their line of life to be taught French, music, drawing, and dancing. Accordingly these items were set down in the school bill; and it was taken for granted that they understood them. They had never been partial to these pursuits, and had not exercised the degree of patience and perseverance necessary even to the attainment of mechanical aptitude, (taste and science are out of the question where the mind is not cultivated ;) and what little they had acquired, was speedily lost after their return home. It was not considered necessary or expedient to furnish them with a musical instrument; so they seldom had an opportunity of practising. When occasionally visiting where an opportunity was afforded, they sometimes carelessly and awkwardly played a song or duet. Their portfolios contained a few unfinished sketches, or hastily daubed flowers, to which now and then an addition was made, each more slovenly than the last. Into a French book they perhaps scarcely ever looked from the time of their leaving school. The whole time employed on these acquirements was absolutely wasted. More than this, they were really injured by the vain imagination that they were accomplished young ladies. Who could doubt it? They had been at a genteel boarding school, and had learned French, music, drawing, etc. etc. Their little smattering of knowledge soon passed away; but the vain consciousness of having possessed it
, was an everpresent argument against the degradation of stooping to acquire the vulgar arts of domestic utility. Now Mrs. Fleming herself was
a notable woman; and, though she valued herself on having given her daughters “the education of ladies," she could not quite be convinced that it would be unnecessary or improper for them to get a little knowledge of household business ; for with all their accomplishments, they might at last come to be only tradesmen's wives : besides, she really thought they were bound to render her some assistance, and lighten her fatigues. It was an :lmost daily source of altercation; the mother ometimes coaxing, sometimes insisting on the help of her daughters in the kitchen, or the laundry; the young ladies sometimes refusing, sometimes ngraciously complying, and sometimes so awk