They are never alone that are accompanied with noble thoughts. — SIR PHILIP SIDNEY.
“I’ve finished my book, and now what can I do till this tiresome rain is over?” exclaimed Carrie, as she lay back on the couch with a yawn of weariness.
“Take another and a better book; the house is full of them, and this is a rare chance for a feast on the best,” answered Alice, looking over the pile of volumes in her lap, as she sat on the floor before one of the tall book-cases that lined the room.
“Not being a book-worm like you, I can’t read forever, and you needn’t sniff at ‘Wanda,’ for it’s perfectly thrilling!” cried Carrie, regretfully turning the crumpled leaves of the Seaside Library copy of that interminable and impossible tale.
“We should read to improve our minds, and that rubbish is only a waste of time,” began Alice, in a warning tone, as she looked up from “Romola,” over which she had been poring with the delight one feels in meeting an old friend.
“I don’t wish to improve my mind, thank you: I read for amusement in vacation time, and don’t want to see any moral works till next autumn. I get enough of them in school. This isn’t ‘rubbish’! It’s full of fine descriptions of scenery — ”
“Which you skip by the page, I’ve seen you do it,” said Eva, the third young girl in the library, as she shut up the stout book on her knee and began to knit as if this sudden outburst of chat disturbed her enjoyment of “The Dove in the Eagle’s Nest.”
“I do at first, being carried away by my interest in the people, but I almost always go back and read them afterward,” protested Carrie. “You know you like to hear about nice clothes, Eva, and Wanda’s were simply gorgeous; white velvet and a rope of pearls is one costume; gray velvet and a silver girdle another; and Idalia was all a ‘shower of perfumed laces,’ and scarlet and gold satin mask dresses, or primrose silk with violets, so lovely! I do revel in ‘em!”
Both girls laughed as Carrie reeled off this list of elegances, with the relish of a French modiste.
“Well, I’m poor and can’t have as many pretty things as I want, so it is delightful to read about women who wear white quilted satin dressing-gowns and olive velvet trains with Mechlin lace sweepers to them. Diamonds as large as nuts, and rivers of opals and sapphires, and rubies and pearls, are great fun to read of, if you never even get a look at real ones. I don’t believe the love part does me a bit of harm, for we never see such languid swells in America, nor such lovely, naughty ladies; and Ouida scolds them all, so of course she doesn’t approve of them, and that’s moral, I’m sure.”
But Alice shook her head again, as Carrie paused out of breath, and said in her serious way: “That’s the harm of it all. False and foolish things are made interesting, and we read for that, not for any lesson there may be hidden under the velvet and jewels and fine words of your splendid men and women. Now, this book is a wonderful picture of Florence in old times, and the famous people who really lived are painted in it, and it has a true and clean moral that we can all see, and one feels wiser and better for reading it. I do wish you’d leave those trashy things and try something really good.”
“I hate George Eliot, — so awfully wise and preachy and dismal! I really couldn’t wade through ‘Daniel Deronda,’ though ‘The Mill on the Floss’ wasn’t bad,” answered Carrie, with another yawn, as she recalled the Jew Mordecai’s long speeches, and Daniel’s meditations.
“I know you’d like this,” said Eva, patting her book with an air of calm content; for she was a modest, common-sense little body, full of innocent fancies and the mildest sort of romance. “I love dear Miss Yonge, with her nice, large families, and their trials, and their pious ways, and pleasant homes full of brothers and sisters, and good fathers and mothers. I’m never tired of them, and have read ‘Daisy Chain’ nine times at least.”
“I used to like them, and still think them good for young girls, with our own ‘Queechy’ and ‘Wide, Wide World,’ and books of that kind. Now I’m eighteen I prefer stronger novels, and books by great men and women, because these are always talked about by cultivated people, and when I go into society next winter I wish to be able to listen intelligently, and know what to admire.”
“That’s all very well for you, Alice; you were always poking over books, and I dare say you will write them some day, or be a blue-stocking. But I’ve got another year to study and fuss over my education, and I’m going to enjoy myself all I can, and leave the wise books till I come out.”
“But, Carrie, there won’t be any time to read them; you’ll be so busy with parties, and beaux, and travelling, and such things. I would take Alice’s advice and read up a little now; it’s so nice to know useful things, and be able to find help and comfort in good books when trouble comes, as Ellen Montgomery and Fleda did, and Ethel, and the other girls in Miss Yonge’s stories,” said Eva, earnestly, remembering how much the efforts of those natural little heroines had helped her in her own struggles tor self-control and the cheerful bearing of the burdens which come to all.