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Welcome to the Giant Killers, the home of David's Call

1809 to 1894

By Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes, (c) Bettmann Archive
(c) Bettmann Archive
I can't say just how many walks she (the schoolmistress) and I had taken together before this one. I found the effect of going out every morning was decidedly favorable on her health. Two pleasing dimples, the places for which were just marked when she came, played, shadowy, in her freshening cheeks when she smiled and nodded good-morning to me from the schoolhouse steps.
I am afraid I did the greater part of the talking. At any rate, if I should try to report all that I said during the first half-dozen walks we took together, I fear that I might receive a gentle hint from my friends the publishers that a separate volume, at my own risk and expense, would be the proper method of bringing them before the public.

I would have a woman as true as death. At the first real lie which works from the heart outward she should be tenderly chloroformed into a better world, where she can have an angel for a governess, and feed on strange fruits which will make her all over again, even to her bones and morrow. Whether gifted with the accident of beauty or not, she should have been molded in the rose-red clay of love before the breath of life made a moving mortal of her. Love capacity is a congenital endowment; and I think, after a while, one gets to know the warm-hued natures it belongs to from the pretty pipe-clay counterfeits of it. Proud she may be, in the sense of respecting herself; but pride, in the sense of contemning others less gifted than herself, deserves the two lowest circles of a vulgar woman's Inferno, where the punishments are smallpox and bankruptey, as one breaks the tip of an icicle, to bestow upon those whom she ought cordially and kindly to recognize, proclaims the fact that she comes not merely of low blood, but of bad blood. Consciousness of unquestioned position makes people gracious in proper measure to all; but if a woman puts on airs with her real equals, she has something about herself or her family she is ashamed of, or ought to be. Middle, and more than middle-aged people, who know family histories, generally see through it. An official of standing was rude to me once. "Oh, that is the maternal grandfather," said a wise old friend to me, "he was a boor." Better too few words, from the woman we love, than too many: while she is silent, Nature is working for her; while she talks, she is working for herself. Love is sparingly soluble in the words of men; therefore they speak much of it; but one syliable of woman's speech can dissolve more of it than a man's heart can hold.

Whether I said any or all of thes things to the schoolmistress or not-whether I stole them out of Lord Bacon-whether I cribbed them from Balzac-whether I dipt them from the ocean of Tupperian wisdom-or whether I have just found them in my head (laid there by that solemn fow, Experience, who, according to my observation, cackles oftener than she drops real, live eggs), I can not say. Wise men have said more foolish things-and foolish men, I don't doubt, have said as wise things. Anyhow, the schoolmistress and I had pleasant walks and long talks, all of which I do not feel bound to report.

You are a stranger to me, Ma'am.-I don't doubt you would like to know all I said to the schoolmistress.0---I shan't do it; I had rather get the publishers to return the money you have invested in this. Besides, I have forgotten a good deal of it. I shall tell only what I like of what I remember.

Part XI, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table
Houghton, Mifflin Company

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