This story is, first, for young women to read; second, for young men to read; after that, for anybody who wants to. Anyone who doubts its facts and figures is referred to “Social Diseases and Marriage,” by Dr. Prince Morrow, or to “Hygiene and Morality,” by Miss Lavinia Dock, a trained nurse of long experience.
Some will hold that the painful facts disclosed are unfit for young girls to know. Young girls are precisely the ones who must know them, in order that they may protect themselves and their children to come. The time to know of danger is before it is too late to avoid it.
If some say “Innocence is the greatest charm of young girls,” the answer is, “What good does it do them?”
Along the same old garden path,
Sweet with the same old flowers;
Under the lilacs, darkly dense,
The easy gate in the backyard fence —
Those unforgotten hours!
The “Foote Girls” were bustling along Margate Street with an air of united purpose that was unusual with them. Miss Rebecca wore her black silk cloak, by which it might be seen that “a call” was toward. Miss Jessie, the thin sister, and Miss Sallie, the fat one, were more hastily attired. They were persons of less impressiveness than Miss Rebecca, as was tacitly admitted by their more familiar nicknames, a concession never made by the older sister.
Even Miss Rebecca was hurrying a little, for her, but the others were swifter and more impatient.
“Do come on, Rebecca. Anybody’d think you were eighty instead of fifty!” said Miss Sallie.
“There’s Mrs. Williams going in! I wonder if she’s heard already. Do hurry!” urged Miss Josie.
But Miss Rebecca, being concerned about her dignity, would not allow herself to be hustled, and the three proceeded in irregular order under the high-arched elms and fence-topping syringas of the small New England town toward the austere home of Mr. Samuel Lane.
It was a large, uncompromising, square, white house, planted starkly in the close-cut grass. It had no porch for summer lounging, no front gate for evening dalliance, no path-bordering beds of flowers from which to pluck a hasty offering or more redundant tribute. The fragrance which surrounded it came from the back yard, or over the fences of neighbors; the trees which waved greenly about it were the trees of other people. Mr. Lane had but two trees, one on each side of the straight and narrow path, evenly placed between house and sidewalk — evergreens.
Mrs. Lane received them amiably; the minister’s new wife, Mrs. Williams, was proving a little difficult to entertain. She was from Cambridge, Mass., and emanated a restrained consciousness of that fact. Mr. Lane rose stiffly and greeted them. He did not like the Foote girls, not having the usual American’s share of the sense of humor. He had no enjoyment of the town joke, as old as they were, that “the three of them made a full yard;” and had frowned down as a profane impertinent the man — a little sore under some effect of gossip — who had amended it with “make an ‘ell, I say.”
Safely seated in their several rocking chairs, and severally rocking them, the Misses Foote burst forth, as was their custom, in simultaneous, though by no means identical remarks.
“I suppose you’ve heard about Morton Elder?”