In the Riding-School; Chats With Esmeralda
Theo. Stephenson Browne

Part 3 out of 3

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

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--



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