I belong to a race, the sole end of whose existence is to give pleasure to others. None will deny the goodness of such an end, and I flatter myself most persons will allow that we amply fulfil it. Few of the female sex especially but will acknowledge, with either the smile or the sigh called forth by early recollections, that much of their youthful happiness was due to our presence; and some will even go so far as to attribute to our influence many a habit of housewifery, neatness, and industry, which ornaments their riper years.
But to our influence, our silent, unconscious influence alone, can such advantages be ascribed; for neither example nor precept are in our power; our race cannot boast of intellectual endowments; and though there are few qualities, moral or mental, that have not in their turn been imputed to us by partial friends, truth obliges me to confess that they exist rather in the minds of our admirers than in our own persons.
We are a race of mere dependents; some might even call us slaves. Unable to change our place, or move hand or foot at our own pleasure, and forced to submit to every caprice of our possessors, we cannot be said to have even a will of our own. But every condition has its share of good and evil, and I have often considered my helplessness and dependence as mere trifles compared with the troubles to which poor sensitive human beings are subject.
Pain, sickness, or fatigue I never knew. While a fidgetty child cannot keep still for two minutes at a time, I sit contentedly for days together in the same attitude; and I have before now seen one of those irritable young mortals cry at a scratch, while I was hearing needles drawn in and out of every part of my body, or sitting with a pin run straight through my heart, calmly congratulating myself on being free from the inconveniences of flesh and blood.
Of negative merits I possess a good share. I am never out of humor, never impatient, never mischievous, noisy, nor intrusive; and though I and my fellows cannot lay claim to brilliant powers either in word or deed, we may boast of the same qualifications as our wittiest king, for certainly none of us ever 'said a foolish thing,' if she 'never did a wise one.'
Personal beauty I might almost, without vanity, call the 'badge of all our tribe.' Our very name is seldom mentioned without the epithet pretty; and in my own individual case I may say that I have always been considered pleasing and elegant, though others have surpassed me in size and grandeur.
But our most striking characteristic is our power of inspiring strong attachment. The love bestowed on us by our possessors is proof against time, familiarity, and misfortune:'Age cannot wither' us, 'nor custom stale'Our 'infinite variety.'
With no trace of our original beauty left,—dress in tatters, complexion defaced, features undistinguishable, our very limbs mutilated, the mere wreck of our former selves,—who has not seen one of us still the delight and solace of some tender young heart; the confidant of its fancies, and the soother of its sorrows; preferred to all newer claimants, however high their pretensions; the still unrivalled favorite, in spite of the laughter of the nursery and the quiet contempt of the schoolroom...?