WITHIN THE HOME.
St. John, in his Gospel, has given us a passing glimpse into a home of Bethany, nineteen hundred years ago, which sheltered a love between brother and sister, between Lazarus and his sister Mary, so perfect and so beautiful as to move Christ in pity to call forth Lazarus from the dead and give him back to his sister. It was to strengthen such love as this, and to multiply it, that the Divine Babe came to us on the first Christmas, and now that the Christmastide approaches once again, when home is the dearest, jolliest place on earth, and its members are drawn together more closely than is the wont, by the genial love and kindliness of the season, let us consider the relationship of brother and sister as it affects the girl who is a student of music.
In the October Etude we talked of some of those girls who, in the faded, lavender-scented past, walked beside their greater kin and ministered to them, but this month we will take a more personal, intimate view of the question, bringing it down, even unto ourselves.
The girl of to-day.
The relationship of the brother and sister of to-day is, of course, different in many ways from what it was in the time of Lazarus and Mary, or even in the days of Wolfgang and Nanny Mozart. Girlhood has received what it has long been petitioning for, co-education; but the very privilege which has permitted you to enter the ranks and march beside your brother has made you a responsible person, you music-students with the rest. You cannot say with the old Quaker egotist: “All folks are queer, wife, but thee and me, and thee is a little queer.” “Thee” is not removed, because music is your study, from the questions and discussion which are going on as to the girl student, and the use or abuse she has made of her privileges.
Of all that has come forth from interviews with grave heads of colleges, and from the back pages of the magazines where the philosophers discuss “The Girl” with half-kindly, half-ironical interest, two statements there are which appeal to us for consideration. One is that she is grown too wise; so wise, in fact, as to be unwholesome for daily food; the other, that she is altogether brighter and quicker than her brother. In all such statements there is exaggeration, but there is bound to be in them, also, a germ or two of truth. Ask yourselves how much truth there is in these declarations: that is, of truth as regards you. Having had all the advantages of the present day and generation, how have, not you, but your neighbors profited by your good fortune? If it be true that you are altogether brighter than your brothers, have you allowed this to be the cause for alienation (this is what is meant by being “too wholesome for daily food”)? Or have you used it as a sweet and vivid power to help your brother upward to a noble rounding of his career?
Help your brother in his career.
The girl to whom it has been given to reinforce a brother’s growth is fortunate, and she has been but poorly educated indeed, no matter how many years at college or conservatory she may have spent, if she has not yet learned that education for self-advancement alone is no education, and that our study-hours profit us only in so far as they teach us, through right thinking and sympathetic understanding, to be a power for good to others. You can always help your brother through your knowledge. Lillian Bell has said that the only well-brought-up young man is he who has been brought up by a sister, and there is much more than jest in her remark. You can (and I know that you are willing to) use your young wisdom to “bring your brother up” to what you would wish to have him become; but remember that this is a task which must be undertaken as humbly and as carefully as ever knight of old undertook the search for the Holy Grail, for here you are dealing with human nature, man, human nature, difficult, complex, almost unknowable.
In the first chapter of the “Reign of Law” James Lane Allen compares the growth and preparation of the hemp for the market to the growth and preparation of a man as a factor of the universe, and says in conclusion: “Ah, type of our life, which, also, is earth-sown, earth-rooted; which must struggle upward, be cut down, and broken, e’er the separation take place between our dross and our worth,—poor perishable shard and immortal fiber. Oh, the mystery, the mystery of the growth from the casting of the seed into the earth, until the time when, lead through all changes and cleansed by weakness, it is borne from the fields of its nativity for the long service.” Does this give you a new light on the life of your brother, on the forces which combine to make or wreck a man as he struggles on to the fulfillment of his destiny?
I have known girls who lived in daily intercourse with their brothers, meeting them each day at table, who never yet took one clear look into their brothers’ lives or thoughts. Engrossed in their music, their lectures, or their languages were these girls, and because their brothers did not enter into their interests, this was reason sufficient for why there should be nothing in common between them. Never a thought of getting outside themselves or of trying to find a common ground upon which it might be possible to meet a brother, shy, awkward, gruff, or surly, as the case might be; never a striving to understand why he was as he was, or what lay beneath this demeanor; to know his temptations, or to realize through what devious ways a man goes to find his real self.
Help a brother to a true manhood.
Whether his ambition be to be a musician or a carpenter, or even if he have no conscious aim, your culture and education should furnish you with a means to help him to an understanding and a completion of this real self. William Dean Howells has said that the culture of our nation is in the hands of its women, and a precious trust it is, one which you will inherit with the attainment of your womanhood; but, in accepting this responsibility, try to realize that one does not need large fields in which to accomplish results. To have helped one life to a beautiful unfolding is blessedness enough for any girl. Booth Tarkington’s sister must have felt this when she read his dedication to her of his story “Monsieur Beaucaire,” in which he says in finishing: “and so I make bold to offer you this play, bespeaking your attendance for an hour, to watch, if you will, the faces in what I would have for your pleasure a little theater, and begging you during just the time of performance to believe the actors real as they move across your stage, dancing in the candle-light of long ago, while your kindly fancy brings you some faint echo of the crumbled and forgotten fiddles which I have wished would play again for you, my dear sister.” Every line of this dainty and chivalrous dedication tells of the entire understanding and good-fellowship between this brother and sister of to-day. Let there be such comradeship between you, my musical girls, and your brothers. Welcome the spirit of it into your homes this Christmastide, and so answer best the queries of the philosophers.Etude Magazine. December, 1901