Das Ewigweibliche in Little Girls

Das Ewigweibliche comes packed in pretty small parcels sometimes. As “every grain of gold is gold,” so every morsel of a girl-child seems to be completely womankind. She cradles her dolls, and arrays them in garments of her own making, or marring, at a surprisingly early age. She calmly takes charge of younger brothers (or, with equal confidence, of older ones) almost as soon as she can go alone. From early infancy girls appear to know by intuition how to circumvent (which is, being translated, come around) the male dwellers in the abode, by means of that Eve-ish, not to say elvish, mental faculty supposed to consist in arriving at conclusions without ratiocination. Dress up any least little girl in full-grown feminine garb, and she does not look like a child masquerading as a woman, but like a woman seen through the small end of a telescope ; or like one of the little woodwives of Teutonic fairy mythology.

It is not so with a man-child. The boy, until he has passed that period up to which it has been suggested that, for the peace of society, he should be kept in a barrel and fed through the bung, is a creature by himself. He is not simply the young of the male human animal ; he is a distinct species, and passes into the state of mature humanity not merely by growth, but by a metempsychosis. The human family is not classified just right in the books. It should be said to consist of the two species, Homo sapiens (male and female) and Homo puer.

It is sometimes piteous to see how a grown man will instinctively recognize the womanliness of some little bit of a girl, and depend on it. The other day I was waiting my turn at the village meat-market, when a father and little daughter came in. They were evidently from the country, and I saw at once that the man was not at all accustomed to doing the marketing. It was plain enough that he had lately lost his wife, and that this little creature whom he had brought with him, a slender, large-eyed, timid child, not more than seven or eight years old, was now his main-stay and dependence. I saw him stoop over — he was a tall, lean, thin-faced man — and consult her a moment; then he came forward, and asked in a hesitating way, as if he were not sure how they asked in marketing, if they had any sausages. On being answered in the negative, he went back to the little girl, and, bendingdown, consulted her inaudibly as to what they had better do in that emergency. Then he came back to the counter and said, “ Waal, I guess we ‘ll have some beef.” But immediately he turned again to the child, who had stolen to his side, and I know as well as if I had heard his whispered question that he was asking her, “ What kind of beef had we better have, dearie ? ”