“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10)
One day I had a great surprise. I had been watching a young girl grow through what had been for her awkward, changing years. She was not pretty, nor was she very attractive, but she had a good, true heart hidden away under her blundering ways, and I loved her. I had not seen her for a few months, so one day I purposed to call upon the family and learn how they were prospering. It was a pleasant spring morning which I chose for this walk, and I tapped lightly on the door. Her mother opened for me and pressed me to stay with them for dinner. While we talked, I heard the sewing machine humming in another room, and presently her mother said, “Clara is doing the spring sewing for the children.” I was surprised to hear that, for I thought of Clara as a girl too unskilled to undertake such a task. But my surprise gave place to wonder when a little later the door opened and Clara came in to greet me. It was Clara’s voice and face indeed, but otherwise I should never have recognized my little friend in this graceful young woman before me. How such a change could have taken place in the few short months of my absence I could not understand. My little Clara had blossomed into a young woman.
Childhood is a wonderful thing. The little baby in its mother’s arms, a tender plant dependent upon mother for all things, holds in its little body, not only the possibility, but the sure promise of manhood or womanhood. The infant mind now so imperfect and undeveloped possesses powers of growth and development that may sometime make it one of the foremost persons of the world. Every name, though ever so great, and every record, though ever so inspiring, can be traced back to an infant’s crib. Even our Savior was once a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.
Childhood holds untold possibilities and promises. While it is true that many men never reach their childhood’s promise, never become noble characters, but remain mediocre and dull, it is not always because there was in them no possibility of better things. We must admit that circumstances and environment, as well as heredity, have much to do with the nature and development of children, but much more depends upon their individual disposition and effort. God meant that every child should grow into a noble, upright person, and there is in every child that which may be brought to the fullness of manhood or womanhood. Those who fail to be such have somewhere along the way wasted that which God has given them.
Womanhood is a wonderful thing. In womankind we find the mothers of the race. There is no man so great, nor none so low, but once he lay a helpless, innocent babe in a woman’s arms, and was dependent upon her love and care for his existence. It is woman who rocks the cradle of the world and holds the first affections of mankind. She possesses a power beyond that of a king on his throne. There was the ancient Jochebed, who received the infant Moses from the hand of Pharaoh’s daughter, and in a few short years she had taught him so to love his people and the God of his people that when he came to man’s estate he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the honor of being the grandson of the king. Womanhood stands for all that is pure and clean and noble. She who does not make the world better for having lived in it has failed to be all that a woman should be.
Childhood holds it promises, womanhood its fulfillments, and youth, those golden days of girlhood, the transition. This change is almost too great for us to comprehend. We marvel when we see the tiny, green bud develop into a mature rose of brilliant hue; how much more wonderful is the change from the immaturities of childhood to the beauty and grace of young womanhood! We see this miracle performed before us continually, yet we never cease to wonder at the sweetness, charm, and beauty of every woman newly budded forth.
Wonderful changes take place in the body of a girl in this transition. She takes on a new form and new symmetry. Organs that have been dormant during childhood suddenly wake into life and activity. She becomes, not merely a person, but a woman. And with this change in her physical being comes just as wonderful changes in her nature. She has new emotions, new thoughts, and new aspirations. She has a new view of life and takes a new course of action.
It is as if she were in another world, so completely does she change.
The awakening comes suddenly. Not that she will know the day or the week when the change comes, nor will she be conscious of the miracle in her nature, but the things of childhood will slip away from her. The little girl loses interest in her play world. She who did play whole days with her dolls now leaves them in their little beds weeks at a time. And one day she will say, “Mother, I do not play with these dolls any more, and I have a mind to put them away for they take up so much room.” Then, Marguerite and Rosemary and Hilda May are dressed nicely and, with a last loving pat, are tucked away in a box or old trunk in the attic and left to themselves while their little mother is hurrying away to the land of “grownups.” Mother looks on with dismay as she sees these changes, for she knows that her little girl is getting away from her, and that she must make room in her heart and life for the young woman developing before her eyes. She would put it off a little longer, for she will miss her little daughter, her baby girl; but even mother love cannot stay the hand of time.
Youth cannot stand monotony. So rapid are the changes in those eventful years that nature has tuned the mind and spirit of youth to seek and desire change and variety. Even a few days of sameness become wearisome to the girl. The more full life is of excitement and change, the more happy she is. Life to her is a succession of glad surprises.
The child becomes a woman at last. She slipped into girlhood naturally, and just as naturally will she lay off girlish ways and settle into womanhood. Life will take on a more sober look and she will see things more distinctly. Many of the admonitions and reproofs that she received in her girlhood, and which seemed hard and unnecessary at the time, will now appear in their true light, and she will thank her guardians who gave them. Her cheeks will glow with embarrassment when she thinks of some of her girlish escapades, and become redder still when she thinks of some of the things she wanted to do but Mother would not permit. She will talk more quietly and laugh less boisterously. New feelings of responsibility will press in upon her. Life will look more earnest and serious than it used to do. She will wonder how she could ever have been so careless of consequences. Our child is now a woman, and her nature craves something more real and satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of youth.
You, my dear girls, are now in these busy, changing years. I can have no better wish and prayer for you than that you may arrive in due time into the glorious state of womanhood with hearts pure and hands clean. Good women are needed everywhere, and the call for them will never grow faint. There will always be responsible places in life to be filled by women who are true and noble. Their price is above rubies; that is, their worth is more than all the riches of this world.
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