I accidentally came across this gem in the New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, 23 June 1849, at the National Library’s marvellous Papers Past website. Just the thing for young women to send to their brothers to encourage their undying gratitude? I think not. But it’s interesting, and gives an insight into a way of life for young people that is so different to 21st century New Zealand that it could be from a another galaxy.
The model sister
There is one in every home; the very worst brother that ever refused to take his sisters out walking, must recollect a Model Sister.
It was she who mended all his gloves, and used to practice waltzing with him in the drawing-room, and ran over “The Maid of Langollen,” at least fifty times, before he caught the right air.
It was she who was the confidant of all his boyish loves, and wrote his first attempts at love-letters, and curled his hair when be wanted to be “very smart!’
It was she who always ran and opened the door for him when it was raining and fetched whatever he wanted out of bedroom, and always had “some silver” when he was going out, and was positive she “could spare it.” These loans occurred pretty often, and yet did she ever allude to them, or get tired of lending. Brothers have short memories — but you know it is a fact.
If “papa was angry at your being out so late,” wasn’t she in the passage to warn you, and to ask you “how you could be so foolish?” If she was fearful of a disturbance, didn’t she wait outside, and rush in, and, with her arms round her father’s neck, beg of him “not to speak so harsh to you?” If she knew you had no dinner, wasn’t the cloth always laid for you in a private room; whilst, by some means, she got you a glass of wine, and came in and out to see if there was anything you wanted? Again, if you had been “out,” and complained of being hungry, didn’t she steal down stairs, and when they were all in bed, smuggle a tray of cold meat into your room, and never forgot the pickles? And if any harsh voice called out loudly, “Who’s that upstairs?” didn’t she put her hand over your mouth, and call out, “Its only me, papa.”
Besides, who in illness nursed you ? Who was it that brought you up your tea, and gave you your medicine, and would tempt you with: delicate puddings, sago, and “such nice, water gruel,” and would sit up with you all night,, and bathe your temples, and kiss you, and be on her feet it’ you only turned, and ask you a thousand times if you felt better, and half crying call you “dear brother ” — words you know, that never sound so touching as in a sick room. More than this, have you no recollection when you were very, very ill, waking up and finding her kneeling at your bedside? You have felt this — you must have— every one has — and you have loved her with all your soul, though perhaps you were too weak at the time to say it.
She was always kind — always repaying a brother’s roughness with gentleness — and thinking herself more than rewarded if you only walked out with her, or spared an evening, not more than one in the whole year, to take her to the theatre. How grateful she was, too, if you read to her of an evening, whilst she was working — knitting, probably, a beautiful steel purse, the destination of which was only learnt on your next birthday!
You have not forgotten either her coming to see you at school, and bringing you large bags of ginger-bread and oranges, and a plum-cake made with her own hands; and her walking with you, hand in hand, round the play-ground, or through the neighbouring fields, making you all the while display, by her affectionate questions, your wonderful store of half-year’s learning, whilst mamma listened and admired by your happy side?
Who was it, too, that attended to your linen both when you were a boy, and when you were at that neutral age, vibrating between manhood and childhood, which is called (no one can tell why) hobbedehoyhood; and, when asked, replaced all stray buttons, sewed missing strings on collars, hemmed your scarfs, was the first to teach you the difficult art of tying your neck handkerchiefs, trimmed your nails, packed your box when you were going anywhere, and even accompanied you, taking courage from your cowardice, to the dentist’s?
Who was the companion of all your romps, and used to pull your sprouting whiskers, and make you quizzical presents of bear’s grease, and bring you home all the fine things she had heard the young ladies say about her “darling brother?” Who ever took such pains to make that “darling brother” smart or admired him more, and danced only with him when she wouldn’t dance with anybody else?
And when there was “a little disagreement” at home, and you were hiding in a garret, nursing your pride, which had been hurt by some hard word, or trying to cure your young man’s dignity that had been sadly wounded by an angry blow, who came to see you oftener, bringing you always “a few things that mother had put up for you,” and, by her kindness, gradually led you home, where she knew too well your father was only waiting to receive you with open arms? You were angry at the time with the artifice, but soon lost your anger in the depths of your affection, and the quick joy of the reconciliation.
Who did all this? You must remember, if ever you had a childhood— your heart tells you it was your Sister. If not sensible, then, of all the love which was being daily forced with such mildness on you, you must feel it now, and will turn back with me, and, in your brother’s heart, try to thank, as I now thank, with a life’s pent-up gratitude, that Model Sister.
From Mayhem’s Model Women.