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MISS VINCENT AS A MEDICAL STUDENT.
The young lady whom we have known as The Terror, as Lurida, as Miss Vincent, Secretary of the Pansophian Society, had been reading various works selected for her by Dr. Butts,--works chiefly relating to the nervous system and its different affections. She thought it was about time to talk over the general subject of the medical profession with her new teacher,--if such a self-directing person as Lurida could be said to recognize anybody as teacher.
She began at the beginning. "What is the first book you would put in a student's hands, doctor?" she said to him one day. They were in his study, and Lurida had just brought back a thick volume on Insanity, one of Bucknill and Puke's, which she had devoured as if it had been a pamphlet.
"Not that book, certainly," he said. "I am afraid it will put all sorts of notions into your head. Who or what set you to reading that, I should like to know?"
"I found it on one of your shelves, and as I thought I might perhaps be crazy some time or other, I felt as if I should like to know what kind of a condition insanity is. I don't believe they were ever very bright, those insane people, most of them. I hope I am not stupid enough ever to lose my wits."
"There is no telling, my dear, what may happen if you overwork that busy brain of yours. But did n't it make you nervous, reading about so many people possessed with such strange notions?"
"Nervous? Not a bit. I could n't help thinking, though, how many people I had known that had a little touch of craziness about them. Take that poor woman that says she is Her Majesty's Person,--not Her Majesty, but Her Majesty's Person,--a very important distinction, according to her: how she does remind me of more than one girl I have known! She would let her skirts down so as to make a kind of train, and pile things on her head like a sort of crown, fold her arms and throw her head back, and feel as grand as a queen. I have seen more than one girl act very much in that way. Are not most of us a little crazy, doctor,--just a little? I think so. It seems to me I never saw but one girl who was free from every hint of craziness."
"And who was that, pray?"
"Why, Euthymia,--nobody else, of course. She never loses her head,--I don't believe she would in an earthquake. Whenever we were at work with our microscopes at the Institute I always told her that her mind was the only achromatic one I ever looked into,--I did n't say looked through.---But I did n't come to talk about that. I read in one of your books that when Sydenham was asked by a student what books he should read, the great physician said, 'Read "Don Quixote."' I want you to explain that to me; and then I want you to tell me what is the first book, according to your idea, that a student ought to read."
"What do you say to my taking your question as the subject of a paper to be read before the Society? I think there may be other young ladies at the meeting, besides yourself, who are thinking of pursuing the study of medicine. At any rate, there are a good many who are interested in the subject; in fact, most people listen readily to anything doctors tell them about their calling."
"I wish you would, doctor. I want Euthymia to hear it, and I don't doubt there will be others who will be glad to hear everything you have to say about it. But oh, doctor, if you could only persuade Eutbymia to become a physician! What a doctor she would make! So strong, so calm, so full of wisdom! I believe she could take the wheel of a steamboat in a storm, or the hose of a fire-engine in a conflagration, and handle it as well as the captain of the boat or of the fire-company."
"Have you ever talked with her about studying medicine?"
"Indeed I have. Oh, if she would only begin with me! What good times we would have studying together!"
"I don't doubt it. Medicine is a very pleasant study. But how do you think practice would be? How would you like being called up to ride ten miles in a midnight snow-storm, just when one of your raging headaches was racking you?"
"Oh, but we could go into partnership, and Euthymia is n't afraid of storms or anything else. If she would only study medicine with me!"
"Well, what does she say to it?"
"She does n't like the thought of it. She does n't believe in women doctors. She thinks that now and then a woman may be fitted for it by nature, but she does n't think there are many who are. She gives me a good many reasons against their practising medicine, you know what most of them are, doctor,--and ends by saying that the same woman who would be a poor sort of doctor would make a first-rate nurse; and that, she thinks, is a woman's business, if her instinct carries her to the hospital or sick-chamber. I can't argue her ideas out of her."
"Neither can I argue you out of your feeling about the matter; but I am disposed to agree with your friend, that you will often spoil a good nurse to make a poor doctor. Doctors and side-saddles don't seem to me to go together. Riding habits would be awkward things for practitioners. But come, we won't have a controversy just now. I am for giving women every chance for a good education, and if they think medicine is one of their proper callings let them try it. I think they will find that they had better at least limit themselves to certain specialties, and always have an expert of the other sex to fall back upon. The trouble is that they are so impressible and imaginative that they are at the mercy of all sorts of fancy systems. You have only to see what kinds of instruction they very commonly flock to in order to guess whether they would be likely to prove sensible practitioners. Charlatanism always hobbles on two crutches, the tattle of women, and the certificates of clergymen, and I am afraid that half the women doctors will be too much under both those influences."
Lurida believed in Dr. Butts, who, to use the common language of the village, had "carried her through" a fever, brought on by over-excitement and exhausting study. She took no offence at his reference to nursery gossip, which she had learned to hold cheap. Nobody so despises the weaknesses of women as the champion of woman's rights. She accepted the doctor's concession of a fair field and open trial of the fitness of her sex for medical practice, and did not trouble herself about his suggested limitations. As to the imaginative tendencies of women, she knew too well the truth of the doctor's remark relating to them to wish to contradict it.
"Be sure you let me have your paper in season for the next meeting, doctor," she said; and in due season it came, and was of course approved for reading.
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