CHAPTER I. IMPORTANCE OF THE TIME OF YOUTH; DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS THAT WOMEN MEET WITH IN LIFE, AND THE NECESSITY OF PROVIDING FOR THEM.
The most important period of life is that in which we are the better able, in making good use of the present, to repair the past and prepare for the future; that period holds the intermediate place between the age of infancy and the age of maturity, embracing the advantages of both, presenting at the same time the flowers of the one with the fruits of the other. In order to prepare for the future we need a certain assistance from the past, for this preparation demands a certain maturity of judgment and a force of will that experience alone can give.
The child, devoid as it is of personal experience, can, by turning that of others to good account, make up for the deficiencies of its youth, and prepare for the future without having to learn in the severe school of self-experience. But, through an unfortunate occurrence of circumstances, and very often without any fault of theirs, the greater part of children attain the age of manhood and womanhood without having reaped the precious advantages offered them by the first stage of life, when the soul is most susceptible of receiving the impress of grace and virtue. A vitiated or inadequate primitive education, bad example, pernicious instruction? perchance, or at least personal levity of character, combined with that of childhood, deprive this age of many advantages, and call for a total reparation of the past, at a period of life that should be the living figure of hope.
Happy, indeed, are those who have only the levity and negligences of childhood to repair, and who have never felt the crushing weight of a humiliating and grievous fault! Alas! that purity, that innocence so common formerly among children, is every day disappearing from their midst, many among them have become the victims of sin ere the passions of the heart manifested their presence; and their hearts have quivered from the sting of remorse ere they felt the perfidious lurings of pleasure. Many have received from sin that doleful experience, that premature craftiness, which, far from enlightening the mind, obscures and blinds it,—which, far from fortifying the will, enfeebles and enervates it.
Such is the light by which we can truly see the importance that should be attached to the time of youth. At this period of life sin has not yet taken deep root in the heart,—it has not at least assumed the frightful magnitude of one of those inveterate habits, justly called habits of second nature, which invade and pollute the sacred sanctuary of both body and soul, forming in the earliest instincts, inclinations and desires so violent, so obstinate, that superhuman efforts with a life-long struggle are the consequences entailed upon the unfortunate victims, who desire to hold them in subjection.
However, it is invariably true that, if the passions peculiar to youth virulently assail virtue and expose the heart to the seductions of pleasure, they also give a great facility of doing good, by inflaming youthful zeal which age never fails to cool....