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  • 1890
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face carefully lest some one should sniff condemnation of her fussiness, and looks worse after her efforts at beautifying. A French girl, told that her English accent is bad, corrects it carefully; an American, gently reminded that a French “u” is not pronounced like “you,” changes it to “oo,” and stares defiance at Bocher and all his works. And even that commendable reserve which hinders well-bred Americans from frank self-discussion, stands in the way of perfect sympathy between him and the European master, representative of races in which everybody, from an emperor in his proclamations to the peasant chatting over his beer or _petit vin_, may discourse upon his most recondite peculiarities.

For all these reasons, the European riding master is often misunderstood, even by his older pupils, and young girls almost invariably mistake his patient reiteration and his methodical vivacity for anger, so that his classes seldom contain any pupils not really anxious to learn, or whose parents are not determined that they shall learn in his school and no other. Teaching is a matter of strict conscience with him, and even after years of experience, and in spite of more than one severe lesson as to American sensitiveness, he continues to speak the truth. Even when his pupils have become what the ordinary observer calls perfect riders, he allows no fault to go unreproved, although nobody can more thoroughly enjoy the evening classes, organized by fairly good riders rather for amusement than for instruction. If you think you can endure perfect discipline and incessant plain speaking go to him, Esmeralda.

If you cannot, take the other alternative, the American or the English master, but remember that it is only by absolute submission that you will obtain the best instruction which he is capable of giving. If you do not compel him to tax his mind with remembering all your foibles and weaknesses, you may, thanks to race sympathy, learn more rapidly at first from him than from a foreigner, and, unless you are rude and insubordinate to the point of insolence, you may depend upon receiving no actual harshness from him, although he will refuse to flatter you, and will repeat his warnings against faults, quite as persistently as any foreigner.

A very little observation of your fellow pupils will show you that presumption upon his good nature is wofully common, and that his American inability to forget that a woman is a woman, even when she conducts herself as if her name were Ursa or Jenny, often subjects him to stupendous impertinence, which he receives with calm and silent contempt. You will find that his instruction follows the same lines as that of all foreign masters in the United States, for there is no American system of horsemanship, the traditions of the army, and of the north, being derived from France, those of the south fro, England, and those of the southwest from Spain, by the way of Mexico and Texas. Under his instruction, you will remain longer in the debatable land between perfect ignorance of horsemanship, and being a really accomplished rider, than you would if taught by a foreigner, but, as has already been said, you will learn more rapidly at first, an the result, if you choose to work hard, will be much the same.

Should you, by way of experiment, choose to take lessons from both native and foreign masters, you will find each frankly ready to admit the merits of the other, and to acknowledge that he himself is better suited to some pupils than to others and, to come back to what was told you at the outset, you will find them unanimous in assuring you that your best teacher, the instructor without whose aid you can learn nothing, is yourself, your slightly rebellious, but withal clever, American self. You can learn, Esmeralda. There is no field of knowledge into which the American woman has attempted to enter, in which she has not demonstrated her ability to compete, when she chooses to put forth all her energy, with her sisters of other nations, but she must work, and must work steadily. There are American teachers of grammar who cannot parse; American female journalists who cannot write; American women calling themselves doctors, but unable to make a diagnosis between the cholera and the measles; and American women practising law and dependent for a living on blatant self-advertising, but with the faculties of Vassar and Wellesley in existence; with the editor of Harper’s Bazar receiving the same salary as Mr. Curtis; with American women acknowledged as a credit to the medical and to the legal profession–what of it? The American woman can learn anything, can do anything. Do you learn to ride, and, having done it, “keep riding.” At present you have received just sufficient instruction to qualify you to ride properly escorted, on good roads, but–

“KEEP RIDING!”