Nettie by Alfred
Nettie was a bright, fair girl of fifteen years of age, tall and
graceful in movement and form, and resolute in character beyond her
years. She was standing on the departure platform of the L. &N. W.
Railway at Euston Square, watching the egress of the Manchester
express, or rather that part of it which disclosed a head, an arm, and
a cap, all moving in frantic and eccentric evolutions.
Tom, her brother, two years her senior, was on his way back to
school for his last term, full of vague, if big, ideas of what he was
going to be when, school days over, he should put away childish
things. Most of our fellows, he had said loftily, as he stood beside
his sister on the platform a few moments before, go into the Army or
Navy and become admirals or generals or something of that sort. And
then he had hinted with less definiteness that his own career would
probably combine the advantages of all the professions though he only
followed one. But Tom soon dropped from these sublime heights to more
mundane considerations, and his last words concerned a new cricket bat
which Nettie was to screw out of the gov'nor for him, a new pup which
she was to bring up by hand under his special directions, and
correspondence, which on her part at least, was to be regular, and not
too much occupied with details about the kids.
Nettie sighed as she turned her steps homewards, and her
handkerchief was damped by at least one drop of distilled emotion that
bedewed the rose upon her cheek. Poor Nettie, she too was conscious of
a destiny, and had bewildered thoughts of what she was going to be! She
had opened her heart on this subject to her brother Tom during the
holidays; but she had not received much encouragement, and at the
present moment she was inclined to murmur at the reflection that the
world was made for boys, and after all she was only a girl.
What will you be? Tom had said in answer to her question during
one of their confidential chats. You? why, youwell, you will stay
with the mater, of course.
Yes; but girls do all sorts of things nowadays, Tom, she had
replied. Some are doctors, some are authors, some are
Blue-stockings, responded the ungallant Tom. Don't be absurd,
Net, he added patronisingly; you'll stay with the pater and mater,
and some day you will marry some fellow, or you can keep house for me,
and then, when I am not with my ship or my regiment, of course I shall
be with you.
Poor Nettie! She had formed an idea that the possibilities of life
ought to include something more heroic for her than keeping house for
her brother, and she had determined that she would not sink herself in
the hum-drum of uneventful existence without some effort to avoid it;
and so it happened that that same evening, after doing her duty by the
baby pup and Tom's new cricket bat, she startled her father and mother
by the somewhat abrupt and altogether unexpected question,
Father, what am I going to be?
Be? repeated her father, drawing her on to his knee, why, be my
good little daughter as you always have been, Nettie. Are you tired of
But no, Nettie was not tired of her father's love, and she had no
idea of being less affectionate because she wanted to be more wise and
useful, and so she returned her father's caresses with interest, and
treated her mother in the same way, so that there might be no jealousy;
and then, sitting down in the armchair with the air of one commanding
attention, harked back to the all-absorbing topic. You know, father,
there's Minnie Roberts, isn't there?
What if there is? replied her father.
Well, you know she's going to the University, don't you, dad?
No, I didn't.
Well, she is. Then she'll be a doctor, or professor, or something.
That's what I should like to be.
Mr. Anderson looked from his wife to his daughter with somewhat of
surprise on his face. He was a just man; and he and his wife had but
recently discussed the plans (including personal sacrifices) by which
Master Tom's advancement was to be secured. Really, that anything
particular needed to be done for Nettie had hardly occurred to him. He
had imagined her going on at the High School for another year, say, and
then settling down as mother's companion. His desire not to be harsh,
coupled with his unreadiness, led Mr. Anderson to temporise. Well,
little girl, he said, you plod on, and we'll have a talk about it.
Nettie was in a triumphant mood. She had expected repulse, to be
reminded of the terrible expense Tom was, and was to be, and she felt
the battle already won. Doubtless the fact that Nettie was heartened
was a great deal toward the success that was unexpectedly to dazzle
her. She worked hard at school, and yet so buoyant was her spirit, that
she found it easy to neglect none of her customary duties at home. She
helped dust the drawing-room, and ran to little Dorothy in her troubles
as of yore; and Mrs. Anderson came to remark more and more often to her
husband, what a treat it would be when Nettie came home for good. You
can see she has forgotten every word about the idea of a profession,
said that lady; and I'm very glad. She's the light of the house.
Forgotten! Oh no! Far from it! as they were soon to realise. The end of
the term cameTom was expected home on the morrow, Saturday. In the
afternoon Nettie walked in from school, her face ablaze with
excitement. For a moment she could say nothing; so that her mother
dropped her work and wondered if Nettie had picked up a thousand-pound
note. Then came the announcementMother! I've won a Scholarship!
Yes, mother dear, I'm the QUEEN VICTORIA SCHOLAR! Nettie stood up
And what does that do for you?
Why, I can go on studying for my profession for three years, and it
won't cost father a penny!
What profession, dear?
I don't know, mother, what. But I want to be a doctor.
A doctor, mother. Minnie Roberts is studying for a doctor; and I
think it's splendid.
What! cut people open with a knife!
Yes, mother, if it's going to do them good.
But, my dear
However, Nettie knew very little about the medical profession; she
only knew that Minnie Roberts went about just in the independent way
that a man does, and was studying hard, and seemed very lively and
witty. So detailed discussion was postponed to congratulation, inquiry,
and surmise. What will Tom say? Nettie found herself
continually asking herself, and herself quite unable to answer herself.
What Tom did actually say we must detail in its proper place, which
comes when Mr. Anderson and Nettie go to meet him at the station. They
were both rather excited, for Mr. Anderson had, to tell the truth, felt
somewhat guilty towards his little daughter over the question of the
profession. While he had flattered himself that the idea was a passing
fancy, she had cherished his words of encouragement, and had made
easier the realisation of her dream by her steady improvement of the
opportunity at hand, viz., her school work.
Tom kissed Nettie and shook hands with his father, and then it was
that Nettie said,
Tom, I've won a Scholarship!
And then it was, standing beside his luggage, that Tom replied,
Though not strictly to the point, no other word or phrase could have
shown those who knew Tom how much he was moved. Nettie knew. She was
rather sorry Tom had to be told at all, for he had been quite
unsuccessful this term, a good deal to his father's disappointment; and
Nettie was sure he must feel the contrast of her own success rather
keenly. They talked of other things on the way home, and directly Tom
had kissed his mother and Dorothy and Joe, Nettie said, Now shall we
go and get the pup? I can tell you he's a beauty!
What a brick you are, Net, to think of it! said Tom. Yes; let's
These holidays were very delightful to Nettie and Tom; that young
man permitted, even encouraged, terms of perfect equality. He forgot to
patronise or disparage his sister or her sex. Perhaps his sister's
success and his own lack of it had made him feel a bit modest. Nettie
had explained her achievement both to herself and others by the fact
that she had been so happy. And she was right. Some people talk as
though a discipline of pain were necessary for all people in order to
develop the best in them. That is not so. There are certain
temperaments found in natures naturally fine, to whom a discipline of
pleasure is best, especially in youth, and happily God often sends
pleasure to these: we mean the pleasure of success; the pleasure of
realising cherished plans; the pleasure of health and strength to meet
every duty of life cheerfully. And now Nettie began to build castles in
the air for Tom. Tom would go to Sandhurst; he would pass well; he
would have a commission in a crack regiment. And Tom's repentance of
some former disparagement of the sex was shown in such remarks as that
Beauchamp majoryou know, the fellow I told you a good deal about.
Oh yes, a fine fellow!
Well, I don't know, NetI begin to think he's a beastly idiot.
That fellow was bragging to me the other day that he bullied his
sisters into fagging for him when he was at home. I think that's enough
for me. And so holidays again came to an end, to Nettie's secret
delight. She hated parting with Tom, but she longed to be back at her
* * * * *
Six years passed away and Nettie's career had been one of unbroken
success. She had proceeded to Newnham and had come out splendidly in
her examinations. Only one thing clouded her sky. Tom had not been
successful. In spite of all that coaching could do, he had been plucked
at Sandhurst, and the doctor had prohibited further study for the
present. Nettie wrote to him constantly, making light of his failure,
and assuring him of ultimate success. And now she was to make her start
in her chosen profession. Before long she would be able to write
herself Nettie Anderson, M.D. and she was then to go into practice
with her elder friend, Minnie Roberts. Little paragraphs had even
appeared in some of the papers that for the first time in the history
of medicine in England, two lady graduates in medicine are to practise
in partnership. Miss Roberts was already settled in one of the
Bloomsbury squares, and had a constantly increasing circle of clients.
One Saturday afternoon in October the inaugural banquet was held.
Nettie had a flat of her own in the house, and here the feast was
spread. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, Tom, and the two doctors formed the
company. They were all so proud of Nettie that they almost forgot Tom's
lack of success. There was what is understood as a high time. Who so
gay and bright as Nettie! Who so gentle and courteous as Tom! (I am
afraid a discipline of failure is best for some of us!) How the time
flew! How soon mother and Nettie had to go to Nettie's room for the
mother to don her bonnet and get back home in decent time!
But you'll be marrying, you know, some day, Nettie.
Ah! time will show, mother dear, was Nettie's answer; and then she
added, but if I do it will be from choice and not necessity.