Mrs. Farrinder, meanwhile, was not eager to address the assembly. Sh_onfessed as much to Olive Chancellor, with a smile which asked that _emporary lapse of promptness might not be too harshly judged. She ha_ddressed so many assemblies, and she wanted to hear what other people had t_ay. Miss Chancellor herself had thought so much on the vital subject; woul_ot she make a few remarks and give them some of her experiences? How did th_adies on Beacon Street feel about the ballot? Perhaps she could speak fo_hem more than for some others. That was a branch of the question on which, i_ight be, the leaders had not information enough; but they wanted to take i_verything, and why shouldn't Miss Chancellor just make that field her own?
Mrs. Farrinder spoke in the tone of one who took views so wide that they migh_asily, at first, before you could see how she worked round, look almos_eretricious; she was conscious of a scope that exceeded the first flight o_our imagination. She urged upon her companion the idea of labouring in th_orld of fashion, appeared to attribute to her familiar relations with tha_ysterious realm, and wanted to know why she shouldn't stir up some of he_riends down there on the Mill-dam?
Olive Chancellor received this appeal with peculiar feelings. With her immens_ympathy for reform, she found herself so often wishing that reformers were _ittle different. There was something grand about Mrs. Farrinder; it lifte_ne up to be with her: but there was a false note when she spoke to her youn_riend about the ladies in Beacon Street. Olive hated to hear that fine avenu_alked about as if it were such a remarkable place, and to live there were _roof of worldly glory. All sorts of inferior people lived there, and s_rilliant a woman as Mrs. Farrinder, who lived at Roxbury, ought not to mi_hings up. It was, of course, very wretched to be irritated by such mistakes;
but this was not the first time Miss Chancellor had observed that th_ossession of nerves was not by itself a reason for embracing the new truths.
She knew her place in the Boston hierarchy, and it was not what Mrs. Farrinde_upposed; so that there was a want of perspective in talking to her as if sh_ad been a representative of the aristocracy. Nothing could be weaker, sh_new very well, than (in the United States) to apply that term too literally;
nevertheless, it would represent a reality if one were to say that, b_istinction, the Chancellors belonged to the bourgeoisie—the oldest and best.
They might care for such a position or not (as it happened, they were ver_roud of it), but there they were, and it made Mrs. Farrinder seem provincial
(there was something provincial, after all, in the way she did her hair too)
not to understand. When Miss Birdseye spoke as if one were a "leader o_ociety," Olive could forgive her even that odious expression, because, o_ourse, one never pretended that she, poor dear, had the smallest sense of th_eal. She was heroic, she was sublime, the whole moral history of Boston wa_eflected in her displaced spectacles; but it was a part of her originality,
as it were, that she was deliciously provincial. Olive Chancellor seemed t_erself to have privileges enough without being affiliated to the exclusiv_et and having invitations to the smaller parties, which were the real test;
it was a mercy for her that she had not that added immorality on he_onscience. The ladies Mrs. Farrinder meant (it was to be supposed she mean_ome particular ones) might speak for themselves. She wished to work i_nother field; she had long been preoccupied with the romance of the people.
She had an immense desire to know intimately some very poor girl. This migh_eem one of the most accessible of pleasures; but, in point of fact, she ha_ot found it so. There were two or three pale shop-maidens whose acquaintanc_he had sought; but they had seemed afraid of her, and the attempt had come t_othing. She took them more tragically then they took themselves; the_ouldn't make out what she wanted them to do, and they always ended by bein_diously mixed up with Charlie. Charlie was a young man in a white overcoa_nd a paper collar; it was for him, in the last analysis, that they cared muc_he most. They cared far more about Charlie than about the ballot. Oliv_hancellor wondered how Mrs. Farrinder would treat that branch of th_uestion. In her researches among her young townswomen she had always foun_his obtrusive swain planted in her path, and she grew at last to dislike hi_xtremely. It filled her with exasperation to think that he should b_ecessary to the happiness of his victims (she had learned that whatever the_ight talk about with her, it was of him and him only that they discourse_mong themselves), and one of the main recommendations of the evening club fo_er fatigued, underpaid sisters, which it had long been her dream t_stablish, was that it would in some degree undermine his position—distinct a_er prevision might be that he would be in waiting at the door. She hardl_new what to say to Mrs. Farrinder when this momentarily misdirected woman,
still preoccupied with the Mill-dam, returned to the charge.
"We want labourers in that field, though I know two or three lovel_omen—sweet home-women—moving in circles that are for the most part closed t_very new voice, who are doing their best to help on the fight. I have severa_ames that might surprise you, names well known on State Street. But we can'_ave too many recruits, especially among those whose refinement is generall_cknowledged. If it be necessary, we are prepared to take certain steps t_onciliate the shrinking. Our movement is for all—it appeals to the mos_elicate ladies. Raise the standard among them, and bring me a thousand names.
I know several that I should like to have. I look after the details as well a_he big currents," Mrs. Farrinder added, in a tone as explanatory as could b_xpected of such a woman, and with a smile of which the sweetness wa_hrilling to her listener.
"I can't talk to those people, I can't!" said Olive Chancellor, with a fac_hich seemed to plead for a remission of responsibility. "I want to giv_yself up to others; I want to know everything that lies beneath and out o_ight, don't you know? I want to enter into the lives of women who are lonely,
who are piteous. I want to be near to them—to help them. I want to d_omething—oh, I should like so to speak!"
"We should be glad to have you make a few remarks at present," Mrs. Farrinde_eclared, with a punctuality which revealed the faculty of presiding.
"Oh dear, no, I can't speak; I have none of that sort of talent. I have n_elf-possession, no eloquence; I can't put three words together. But I do wan_o contribute."
"What have you got?" Mrs. Farrinder inquired, looking at her interlocutress,
up and down, with the eye of business, in which there was a certain chill.
"Have you got money?"
Olive was so agitated for the moment with the hope that this great woman woul_pprove of her on the financial side that she took no time to reflect tha_ome other quality might, in courtesy, have been suggested. But she confesse_o possessing a certain capital, and the tone seemed rich and deep in whic_rs. Farrinder said to her, "Then contribute that!" She was so good as t_evelop this idea, and her picture of the part Miss Chancellor might play b_aking liberal donations to a fund for the diffusion among the women o_merica of a more adequate conception of their public and private rights—_und her adviser had herself lately inaugurated—this bold, rapid sketch ha_he vividness which characterised the speaker's most successful publi_fforts. It placed Olive under the spell; it made her feel almost inspired. I_er life struck others in that way—especially a woman like Mrs. Farrinder,
whose horizon was so full—then there must be something for her to do. It wa_ne thing to choose for herself, but now the great representative of th_nfranchisement of their sex (from every form of bondage) had chosen for her.
The barren, gas-lighted room grew richer and richer to her earnest eyes; i_eemed to expand, to open itself to the great life of humanity. The serious,
tired people, in their bonnets and overcoats, began to glow like a company o_eroes. Yes, she would do something, Olive Chancellor said to herself; sh_ould do something to brighten the darkness of that dreadful image that wa_lways before her, and against which it seemed to her at times that she ha_een born to lead a crusade—the image of the unhappiness of women. Th_nhappiness of women! The voice of their silent suffering was always in he_ars, the ocean of tears that they had shed from the beginning of time seeme_o pour through her own eyes. Ages of oppression had rolled over them;
uncounted millions had lived only to be tortured, to be crucified. They wer_er sisters, they were her own, and the day of their delivery had dawned. Thi_as the only sacred cause; this was the great, the just revolution. It mus_riumph, it must sweep everything before it; it must exact from the other, th_rutal, blood-stained, ravening race, the last particle of expiation! It woul_e the greatest change the world had seen; it would be a new era for the huma_amily, and the names of those who had helped to show the way and lead th_quadrons would be the brightest in the tables of fame. They would be names o_omen weak, insulted, persecuted, but devoted in every pulse of their being t_he cause, and asking no better fate than to die for it. It was not clear t_his interesting girl in what manner such a sacrifice (as this last) would b_equired of her, but she saw the matter through a kind of sunrise-mist o_motion which made danger as rosy as success. When Miss Birdseye approached,
it transfigured her familiar, her comical shape, and made the poor littl_umanitary hack seem already a martyr. Olive Chancellor looked at her wit_ove, remembered that she had never, in her long, unrewarded, weary life, ha_ thought or an impulse for herself. She had been consumed by the passion o_ympathy; it had crumpled her into as many creases as an old glazed, distende_love. She had been laughed at, but she never knew it; she was treated as _ore, but she never cared. She had nothing in the world but the clothes on he_ack, and when she should go down into the grave she would leave nothin_ehind her but her grotesque, undistinguished, pathetic little name. And ye_eople said that women were vain, that they were personal, that they wer_nterested! While Miss Birdseye stood there, asking Mrs. Farrinder if sh_ouldn't say something, Olive Chancellor tenderly fastened a small battere_rooch which confined her collar and which had half detached itself.