Part 3 out of 4
we presently renewed our acquaintance.
When it came to courtship, which it soon did, I can of course
best describe my own--and am least inclined to. But of Jeff I
heard somewhat; he was inclined to dwell reverently and admiringly,
at some length, on the exalted sentiment and measureless perfection
of his Celis; and Terry--Terry made so many false starts and met so
many rebuffs, that by the time he really settled down to win Alima,
he was considerably wiser. At that, it was not smooth sailing.
They broke and quarreled, over and over; he would rush off to
console himself with some other fair one--the other fair one
would have none of him--and he would drift back to Alima, becoming
more and more devoted each time.
She never gave an inch. A big, handsome creature, rather
exceptionally strong even in that race of strong women, with a
proud head and sweeping level brows that lined across above her
dark eager eyes like the wide wings of a soaring hawk.
I was good friends with all three of them but best of all with
Ellador, long before that feeling changed, for both of us.
From her, and from Somel, who talked very freely with me,
I learned at last something of the viewpoint of Herland toward
Here they were, isolated, happy, contented, when the booming
buzz of our biplane tore the air above them.
Everybody heard it--saw it--for miles and miles, word flashed
all over the country, and a council was held in every town and village.
And this was their rapid determination:
"From another country. Probably men. Evidently highly civilized.
Doubtless possessed of much valuable knowledge. May be dangerous.
Catch them if possible; tame and train them if necessary
This may be a chance to re-establish a bi-sexual state for our people."
They were not afraid of us--three million highly intelligent
women--or two million, counting only grown-ups--were not
likely to be afraid of three young men. We thought of them as
"Women," and therefore timid; but it was two thousand years
since they had had anything to be afraid of, and certainly more
than one thousand since they had outgrown the feeling.
We thought--at least Terry did--that we could have our pick of them.
They thought--very cautiously and farsightedly--of picking us,
if it seemed wise.
All that time we were in training they studied us, analyzed
us, prepared reports about us, and this information was widely
disseminated all about the land.
Not a girl in that country had not been learning for months as much
as could be gathered about our country, our culture, our personal characters. No wonder
their questions were hard to answer. But I am sorry to say, when we were
at last brought out and--exhibited (I hate to call it that, but that's what
it was), there was no rush of takers. Here was poor old Terry fondly imagining
that at last he was free to stray in "a rosebud garden of girls"--and behold!
the rosebuds were all with keen appraising eye, studying us.
They were interested, profoundly interested, but it was not
the kind of interest we were looking for.
To get an idea of their attitude you have to hold in mind their
extremely high sense of solidarity. They were not each choosing
a lover; they hadn't the faintest idea of love--sex-love, that is.
These girls--to each of whom motherhood was a lodestar, and
that motherhood exalted above a mere personal function, looked
forward to as the highest social service, as the sacrament of a
lifetime--were now confronted with an opportunity to make the
great step of changing their whole status, of reverting to their
earlier bi-sexual order of nature.
Beside this underlying consideration there was the limitless
interest and curiosity in our civilization, purely impersonal, and
held by an order of mind beside which we were like--schoolboys.
It was small wonder that our lectures were not a success; and
none at all that our, or at least Terry's, advances were so ill
received. The reason for my own comparative success was at first
far from pleasing to my pride.
"We like you the best," Somel told me, "because you seem
more like us."
"More like a lot of women!" I thought to myself disgustedly,
and then remembered how little like "women," in our derogatory
sense, they were. She was smiling at me, reading my thought.
"We can quite see that we do not seem like--women--to you.
Of course, in a bi-sexual race the distinctive feature of each sex
must be intensified. But surely there are characteristics enough
which belong to People, aren't there? That's what I mean about you
being more like us--more like People. We feel at ease with you."
Jeff's difficulty was his exalted gallantry. He idealized
women, and was always looking for a chance to "protect" or to
"serve" them. These needed neither protection nor service. They
were living in peace and power and plenty; we were their guests,
their prisoners, absolutely dependent.
Of course we could promise whatsoever we might of advantages,
if they would come to our country; but the more we knew of theirs,
the less we boasted.
Terry's jewels and trinkets they prized as curios; handed them about,
asking questions as to workmanship, not in the least as to value;
and discussed not ownership, but which museum to put them in.
When a man has nothing to give a woman, is dependent wholly
on his personal attraction, his courtship is under limitations.
They were considering these two things: the advisability of
making the Great Change; and the degree of personal adaptability
which would best serve that end.
Here we had the advantage of our small personal experience with
those three fleet forest girls; and that served to draw us together.
As for Ellador: Suppose you come to a strange land and find
it pleasant enough--just a little more than ordinarily pleasant--
and then you find rich farmland, and then gardens, gorgeous
gardens, and then palaces full of rare and curious treasures--
incalculable, inexhaustible, and then--mountains--like the
Himalayas, and then the sea.
I liked her that day she balanced on the branch before me and
named the trio. I thought of her most. Afterward I turned to her
like a friend when we met for the third time, and continued the
acquaintance. While Jeff's ultra-devotion rather puzzled Celis,
really put off their day of happiness, while Terry and Alima
quarreled and parted, re-met and re-parted, Ellador and I grew
to be close friends.
We talked and talked. We took long walks together. She
showed me things, explained them, interpreted much that I had
not understood. Through her sympathetic intelligence I became
more and more comprehending of the spirit of the people of
Herland, more and more appreciative of its marvelous inner
growth as well as outer perfection.
I ceased to feel a stranger, a prisoner. There was a sense of
understanding, of identity, of purpose. We discussed--everything.
And, as I traveled farther and farther, exploring the rich, sweet
soul of her, my sense of pleasant friendship became but a broad
foundation for such height, such breadth, such interlocked combination
of feeling as left me fairly blinded with the wonder of it.
As I've said, I had never cared very much for women, nor they
for me--not Terry-fashion. But this one--
At first I never even thought of her "in that way," as the girls
have it. I had not come to the country with any Turkish-harem
intentions, and I was no woman-worshipper like Jeff. I just liked
that girl "as a friend," as we say. That friendship grew like a tree.
She was SUCH a good sport! We did all kinds of things together.
She taught me games and I taught her games, and we raced and
rowed and had all manner of fun, as well as higher comradeship.
Then, as I got on farther, the palace and treasures and snowy
mountain ranges opened up. I had never known there could be
such a human being. So--great. I don't mean talented. She was
a forester--one of the best--but it was not that gift I mean.
When I say GREAT, I mean great--big, all through. If I had known
more of those women, as intimately, I should not have found her
so unique; but even among them she was noble. Her mother was
an Over Mother--and her grandmother, too, I heard later.
So she told me more and more of her beautiful land; and I told
her as much, yes, more than I wanted to, about mine; and we
became inseparable. Then this deeper recognition came and grew.
I felt my own soul rise and lift its wings, as it were.
Life got bigger. It seemed as if I understood--as I never had before--
as if I could Do things--as if I too could grow--if she would help me.
And then It came--to both of us, all at once.
A still day--on the edge of the world, their world. The two
of us, gazing out over the far dim forestland below, talking of
heaven and earth and human life, and of my land and other lands
and what they needed and what I hoped to do for them--
"If you will help me," I said.
She turned to me, with that high, sweet look of hers, and
then, as her eyes rested in mine and her hands too--then suddenly
there blazed out between us a farther glory, instant, overwhelming
--quite beyond any words of mine to tell.
Celis was a blue-and-gold-and-rose person; Alma, black-
and-white-and-red, a blazing beauty. Ellador was brown: hair
dark and soft, like a seal coat; clear brown skin with a healthy
red in it; brown eyes--all the way from topaz to black velvet they
seemed to range--splendid girls, all of them.
They had seen us first of all, far down in the lake below, and
flashed the tidings across the land even before our first exploring flight.
They had watched our landing, flitted through the forest with us,
hidden in that tree and--I shrewdly suspect--giggled on purpose.
They had kept watch over our hooded machine, taking turns
at it; and when our escape was announced, had followed along-
side for a day or two, and been there at the last, as described.
They felt a special claim on us--called us "their men"--and
when we were at liberty to study the land and people, and be
studied by them, their claim was recognized by the wise leaders.
But I felt, we all did, that we should have chosen them
among millions, unerringly.
And yet "the path of true love never did run smooth"; this
period of courtship was full of the most unsuspected pitfalls.
Writing this as late as I do, after manifold experiences both
in Herland and, later, in my own land, I can now understand and
philosophize about what was then a continual astonishment and
often a temporary tragedy.
The "long suit" in most courtships is sex attraction, of course.
Then gradually develops such comradeship as the two temperaments
allow. Then, after marriage, there is either the establishment
of a slow-growing, widely based friendship, the deepest, tenderest,
sweetest of relations, all lit and warmed by the recurrent flame
of love; or else that process is reversed, love cools and fades,
no friendship grows, the whole relation turns from beauty to ashes.
Here everything was different. There was no sex-feeling to
appeal to, or practically none. Two thousand years' disuse had
left very little of the instinct; also we must remember that those
who had at times manifested it as atavistic exceptions were often,
by that very fact, denied motherhood.
Yet while the mother process remains, the inherent ground
for sex-distinction remains also; and who shall say what long-
forgotten feeling, vague and nameless, was stirred in some of
these mother hearts by our arrival?
What left us even more at sea in our approach was the lack
of any sex-tradition. There was no accepted standard of what
was "manly" and what was "womanly."
When Jeff said, taking the fruit basket from his adored one,
"A woman should not carry anything," Celis said, "Why?" with
the frankest amazement. He could not look that fleet-footed,
deep-chested young forester in the face and say, "Because she is
weaker." She wasn't. One does not call a race horse weak because
it is visibly not a cart horse.
He said, rather lamely, that women were not built for heavy work.
She looked out across the fields to where some women were
working, building a new bit of wall out of large stones; looked
back at the nearest town with its woman-built houses; down at
the smooth, hard road we were walking on; and then at the little
basket he had taken from her.
"I don't understand," she said quite sweetly. "Are the women in
your country so weak that they could not carry such a thing as that?"
"It is a convention," he said. "We assume that motherhood
is a sufficient burden--that men should carry all the others."
"What a beautiful feeling!" she said, her blue eyes shining.
"Does it work?" asked Alima, in her keen, swift way. "Do all
men in all countries carry everything? Or is it only in yours?"
"Don't be so literal," Terry begged lazily. "Why aren't you
willing to be worshipped and waited on? We like to do it."
"You don't like to have us do it to you," she answered.
"That's different," he said, annoyed; and when she said,
"Why is it?" he quite sulked, referring her to me, saying,
"Van's the philosopher."
Ellador and I talked it all out together, so that we had an
easier experience of it when the real miracle time came. Also,
between us, we made things clearer to Jeff and Celis. But Terry
would not listen to reason.
He was madly in love with Alima. He wanted to take her by
storm, and nearly lost her forever.
You see, if a man loves a girl who is in the first place young
and inexperienced; who in the second place is educated with a
background of caveman tradition, a middle-ground of poetry and
romance, and a foreground of unspoken hope and interest all
centering upon the one Event; and who has, furthermore,
absolutely no other hope or interest worthy of the name--
why, it is a comparatively easy matter to sweep her off her feet
with a dashing attack. Terry was a past master in this process.
He tried it here, and Alima was so affronted, so repelled,
that it was weeks before he got near enough to try again.
The more coldly she denied him, the hotter his determination;
he was not used to real refusal. The approach of flattery she
dismissed with laughter, gifts and such "attentions" we could
not bring to bear, pathos and complaint of cruelty stirred only a
reasoning inquiry. It took Terry a long time.
I doubt if she ever accepted her strange lover as fully as did
Celis and Ellador theirs. He had hurt and offended her too often;
there were reservations.
But I think Alima retained some faint vestige of long-
descended feeling which made Terry more possible to her than
to others; and that she had made up her mind to the experiment
and hated to renounce it.
However it came about, we all three at length achieved full
understanding, and solemnly faced what was to them a step of
measureless importance, a grave question as well as a great happiness;
to us a strange, new joy.
Of marriage as a ceremony they knew nothing. Jeff was for
bringing them to our country for the religious and the civil
ceremony, but neither Celis nor the others would consent.
"We can't expect them to want to go with us--yet," said Terry sagely.
"Wait a bit, boys. We've got to take 'em on their own terms--if at all."
This, in rueful reminiscence of his repeated failures.
"But our time's coming," he added cheerfully. "These women have
never been mastered, you see--" This, as one who had made a discovery.
"You'd better not try to do any mastering if you value your
chances," I told him seriously; but he only laughed, and said,
"Every man to his trade!"
We couldn't do anything with him. He had to take his own medicine.
If the lack of tradition of courtship left us much at sea in our
wooing, we found ourselves still more bewildered by lack of
tradition of matrimony.
And here again, I have to draw on later experience, and as
deep an acquaintance with their culture as I could achieve, to
explain the gulfs of difference between us.
Two thousand years of one continuous culture with no men.
Back of that, only traditions of the harem. They had no exact
analogue for our word HOME, any more than they had for our
They loved one another with a practically universal affection,
rising to exquisite and unbroken friendships, and broadening to
a devotion to their country and people for which our word PATRIOTISM
is no definition at all.
Patriotism, red hot, is compatible with the existence of a
neglect of national interests, a dishonesty, a cold indifference to
the suffering of millions. Patriotism is largely pride, and very
largely combativeness. Patriotism generally has a chip on its shoulder.
This country had no other country to measure itself by--save
the few poor savages far below, with whom they had no contact.
They loved their country because it was their nursery,
playground, and workshop--theirs and their children's. They were
proud of it as a workshop, proud of their record of ever-increasing
efficiency; they had made a pleasant garden of it, a very practical
little heaven; but most of all they valued it--and here it is hard
for us to understand them--as a cultural environment for their children.
That, of course, is the keynote of the whole distinction--
From those first breathlessly guarded, half-adored race mothers,
all up the ascending line, they had this dominant thought of building
up a great race through the children.
All the surrendering devotion our women have put into their
private families, these women put into their country and race.
All the loyalty and service men expect of wives, they gave,
not singly to men, but collectively to one another.
And the mother instinct, with us so painfully intense, so
thwarted by conditions, so concentrated in personal devotion to
a few, so bitterly hurt by death, disease, or barrenness, and even
by the mere growth of the children, leaving the mother alone in
her empty nest--all this feeling with them flowed out in a strong,
wide current, unbroken through the generations, deepening and
widening through the years, including every child in all the land.
With their united power and wisdom, they had studied and
overcome the "diseases of childhood"--their children had none.
They had faced the problems of education and so solved them
that their children grew up as naturally as young trees; learning
through every sense; taught continuously but unconsciously--
never knowing they were being educated.
In fact, they did not use the word as we do. Their idea of
education was the special training they took, when half grown
up, under experts. Then the eager young minds fairly flung
themselves on their chosen subjects, and acquired with an ease,
a breadth, a grasp, at which I never ceased to wonder.
But the babies and little children never felt the pressure of that
"forcible feeding" of the mind that we call "education." Of this, more later.
Our Relations and Theirs
What I'm trying to show here is that with these women the
whole relationship of life counted in a glad, eager growing-up to
join the ranks of workers in the line best loved; a deep, tender
reverence for one's own mother--too deep for them to speak
of freely--and beyond that, the whole, free, wide range of
sisterhood, the splendid service of the country, and friendships.
To these women we came, filled with the ideas, convictions,
traditions, of our culture, and undertook to rouse in them the
emotions which--to us--seemed proper.
However much, or little, of true sex-feeling there was between us, it
phrased itself in their minds in terms of friendship, the one purely personal
love they knew, and of ultimate parentage. Visibly we were not mothers,
nor children, nor compatriots; so, if they loved us, we must be friends.
That we should pair off together in our courting days was
natural to them; that we three should remain much together, as
they did themselves, was also natural. We had as yet no work,
so we hung about them in their forest tasks; that was natural, too.
But when we began to talk about each couple having
"homes" of our own, they could not understand it.
"Our work takes us all around the country," explained Celis.
"We cannot live in one place all the time."
"We are together now," urged Alima, looking proudly at
Terry's stalwart nearness. (This was one of the times when they
were "on," though presently "off" again.)
"It's not the same thing at all," he insisted. "A man wants a
home of his own, with his wife and family in it."
"Staying in it? All the time?" asked Ellador. "Not imprisoned,
"Of course not! Living there--naturally," he answered.
"What does she do there--all the time?" Alima demanded.
"What is her work?"
Then Terry patiently explained again that our women did not
"But what do they do--if they have no work?" she persisted.
"They take care of the home--and the children."
"At the same time?" asked Ellador.
"Why yes. The children play about, and the mother has
charge of it all. There are servants, of course."
It seemed so obvious, so natural to Terry, that he always grew
impatient; but the girls were honestly anxious to understand.
"How many children do your women have?" Alima had her
notebook out now, and a rather firm set of lip. Terry began to
"There is no set number, my dear," he explained. "Some have
more, some have less."
"Some have none at all," I put in mischievously.
They pounced on this admission and soon wrung from us the general
fact that those women who had the most children had the least servants,
and those who had the most servants had the least children.
"There!" triumphed Alima. "One or two or no children, and
three or four servants. Now what do those women DO?"
We explained as best we might. We talked of "social duties,"
disingenuously banking on their not interpreting the words as we did;
we talked of hospitality, entertainment, and various "interests."
All the time we knew that to these large-minded women whose whole
mental outlook was so collective, the limitations of a wholly personal
life were inconceivable.
"We cannot really understand it," Ellador concluded. "We
are only half a people. We have our woman-ways and they have
their man-ways and their both-ways. We have worked out a
system of living which is, of course, limited. They must have a
broader, richer, better one. I should like to see it."
"You shall, dearest," I whispered.
"There's nothing to smoke," complained Terry. He was in the
midst of a prolonged quarrel with Alima, and needed a sedative.
"There's nothing to drink. These blessed women have no pleasant
vices. I wish we could get out of here!"
This wish was vain. We were always under a certain degree
of watchfulness. When Terry burst forth to tramp the streets at
night he always found a "Colonel" here or there; and when, on
an occasion of fierce though temporary despair, he had plunged
to the cliff edge with some vague view to escape, he found several
of them close by. We were free--but there was a string to it.
"They've no unpleasant ones, either," Jeff reminded him.
"Wish they had!" Terry persisted. "They've neither the vices
of men, nor the virtues of women--they're neuters!"
"You know better than that. Don't talk nonsense," said I,
I was thinking of Ellador's eyes when they gave me a certain
look, a look she did not at all realize.
Jeff was equally incensed. "I don't know what `virtues of
women' you miss. Seems to me they have all of them."
"They've no modesty," snapped Terry. "No patience, no submissiveness,
none of that natural yielding which is woman's greatest charm."
I shook my head pityingly. "Go and apologize and make
friends again, Terry. You've got a grouch, that's all. These
women have the virtue of humanity, with less of its faults than
any folks I ever saw. As for patience--they'd have pitched us
over the cliffs the first day we lit among 'em, if they hadn't that."
"There are no--distractions," he grumbled. "Nowhere a man
can go and cut loose a bit. It's an everlasting parlor and nursery."
"and workshop," I added. "And school, and office, and laboratory,
and studio, and theater, and--home."
"HOME!" he sneered. "There isn't a home in the whole pitiful place."
"There isn't anything else, and you know it," Jeff retorted
hotly. "I never saw, I never dreamed of, such universal peace and
good will and mutual affection."
"Oh, well, of course, if you like a perpetual Sunday school,
it's all very well. But I like Something Doing. Here it's all done."
There was something to this criticism. The years of pioneering
lay far behind them. Theirs was a civilization in which the
initial difficulties had long since been overcome. The untroubled
peace, the unmeasured plenty, the steady health, the large good
will and smooth management which ordered everything, left
nothing to overcome. It was like a pleasant family in an old
established, perfectly run country place.
I liked it because of my eager and continued interest in the
sociological achievements involved. Jeff liked it as he would have
liked such a family and such a place anywhere.
Terry did not like it because he found nothing to oppose, to
struggle with, to conquer.
"Life is a struggle, has to be," he insisted. "If there is no
struggle, there is no life--that's all."
"You're talking nonsense--masculine nonsense," the peaceful
Jeff replied. He was certainly a warm defender of Herland. "Ants
don't raise their myriads by a struggle, do they? Or the bees?"
"Oh, if you go back to insects--and want to live in an anthill--!
I tell you the higher grades of life are reached only through
struggle--combat. There's no Drama here. Look at their plays!
They make me sick."
He rather had us there. The drama of the country was--to our
taste--rather flat. You see, they lacked the sex motive and, with
it, jealousy. They had no interplay of warring nations, no aristocracy
and its ambitions, no wealth and poverty opposition.
I see I have said little about the economics of the place; it
should have come before, but I'll go on about the drama now.
They had their own kind. There was a most impressive array
of pageantry, of processions, a sort of grand ritual, with their arts
and their religion broadly blended. The very babies joined in it.
To see one of their great annual festivals, with the massed and
marching stateliness of those great mothers, the young women brave
and noble, beautiful and strong; and then the children, taking part
as naturally as ours would frolic round a Christmas tree--it was
overpowering in the impression of joyous, triumphant life.
They had begun at a period when the drama, the dance,
music, religion, and education were all very close together; and
instead of developing them in detached lines, they had kept the
connection. Let me try again to give, if I can, a faint sense of the
difference in the life view--the background and basis on which
their culture rested.
Ellador told me a lot about it. She took me to see the children,
the growing girls, the special teachers. She picked out books for
me to read. She always seemed to understand just what I wanted
to know, and how to give it to me.
While Terry and Alima struck sparks and parted--he always
madly drawn to her and she to him--she must have been, or
she'd never have stood the way he behaved--Ellador and I had
already a deep, restful feeling, as if we'd always had one another.
Jeff and Celis were happy; there was no question of that;
but it didn't seem to me as if they had the good times we did.
Well, here is the Herland child facing life--as Ellador tried
to show it to me. From the first memory, they knew Peace,
Beauty, Order, Safety, Love, Wisdom, Justice, Patience, and Plenty.
By "plenty" I mean that the babies grew up in an environment which
met their needs, just as young fawns might grow up in dewy forest
glades and brook-fed meadows. And they enjoyed it as frankly and
utterly as the fawns would.
They found themselves in a big bright lovely world, full of
the most interesting and enchanting things to learn about and to do.
The people everywhere were friendly and polite. No Herland
child ever met the overbearing rudeness we so commonly show
to children. They were People, too, from the first; the most
precious part of the nation.
In each step of the rich experience of living, they found the
instance they were studying widen out into contact with an endless
range of common interests. The things they learned were RELATED,
from the first; related to one another, and to the national prosperity.
"It was a butterfly that made me a forester," said Ellador.
"I was about eleven years old, and I found a big purple-and-green
butterfly on a low flower. I caught it, very carefully, by the closed
wings, as I had been told to do, and carried it to the nearest insect
teacher"--I made a note there to ask her what on earth an insect
teacher was--"to ask her its name. She took it from me with a
little cry of delight. `Oh, you blessed child,' she said. `Do you like
obernuts?' Of course I liked obernuts, and said so. It is our best
food-nut, you know. `This is a female of the obernut moth,' she
told me. `They are almost gone. We have been trying to exterminate
them for centuries. If you had not caught this one, it might
have laid eggs enough to raise worms enough to destroy thousands
of our nut trees--thousands of bushels of nuts--and make years
and years of trouble for us.'
"Everybody congratulated me. The children all over the
country were told to watch for that moth, if there were any more.
I was shown the history of the creature, and an account of the
damage it used to do and of how long and hard our foremothers
had worked to save that tree for us. I grew a foot, it seemed to
me, and determined then and there to be a forester."
This is but an instance; she showed me many. The big
difference was that whereas our children grow up in private homes
and families, with every effort made to protect and seclude them
from a dangerous world, here they grew up in a wide, friendly
world, and knew it for theirs, from the first.
Their child-literature was a wonderful thing. I could have
spent years following the delicate subtleties, the smooth simplicities
with which they had bent that great art to the service of the child mind.
We have two life cycles: the man's and the woman's. To the man
there is growth, struggle, conquest, the establishment of his family,
and as much further success in gain or ambition as he can achieve.
To the woman, growth, the securing of a husband, the subordinate
activities of family life, and afterward such "social" or charitable
interests as her position allows.
Here was but one cycle, and that a large one.
The child entered upon a broad open field of life, in which
motherhood was the one great personal contribution to the national
life, and all the rest the individual share in their common activities.
Every girl I talked to, at any age above babyhood, had her cheerful
determination as to what she was going to be when she grew up.
What Terry meant by saying they had no "modesty" was that this
great life-view had no shady places; they had a high sense of personal
decorum, but no shame--no knowledge of anything to be ashamed of.
Even their shortcomings and misdeeds in childhood never
were presented to them as sins; merely as errors and misplays--
as in a game. Some of them, who were palpably less agreeable
than others or who had a real weakness or fault, were treated
with cheerful allowance, as a friendly group at whist would treat
a poor player.
Their religion, you see, was maternal; and their ethics, based
on the full perception of evolution, showed the principle of
growth and the beauty of wise culture. They had no theory of
the essential opposition of good and evil; life to them was
growth; their pleasure was in growing, and their duty also.
With this background, with their sublimated mother-love,
expressed in terms of widest social activity, every phase of their
work was modified by its effect on the national growth. The
language itself they had deliberately clarified, simplified, made
easy and beautiful, for the sake of the children.
This seemed to us a wholly incredible thing: first, that any
nation should have the foresight, the strength, and the persistence
to plan and fulfill such a task; and second, that women should have
had so much initiative. We have assumed, as a matter of course,
that women had none; that only the man, with his natural energy
and impatience of restriction, would ever invent anything.
Here we found that the pressure of life upon the environment
develops in the human mind its inventive reactions, regardless of sex;
and further, that a fully awakened motherhood plans and works without limit,
for the good of the child.
That the children might be most nobly born, and reared in an
environment calculated to allow the richest, freest growth, they
had deliberately remodeled and improved the whole state.
I do not mean in the least that they stopped at that, any more
than a child stops at childhood. The most impressive part of their
whole culture beyond this perfect system of child-rearing was
the range of interests and associations open to them all, for life.
But in the field of literature I was most struck, at first, by the
They had the same gradation of simple repetitive verse and story
that we are familiar with, and the most exquisite, imaginative tales;
but where, with us, these are the dribbled remnants of ancient folk
myths and primitive lullabies, theirs were the exquisite work of great
artists; not only simple and unfailing in appeal to the child-mind,
but TRUE, true to the living world about them.
To sit in one of their nurseries for a day was to change one's
views forever as to babyhood. The youngest ones, rosy fatlings
in their mothers' arms, or sleeping lightly in the flower-sweet air,
seemed natural enough, save that they never cried. I never heard a
child cry in Herland, save once or twice at a bad fall; and then people
ran to help, as we would at a scream of agony from a grown person.
Each mother had her year of glory; the time to love and learn,
living closely with her child, nursing it proudly, often for two years
or more. This perhaps was one reason for their wonderful vigor.
But after the baby-year the mother was not so constantly in
attendance, unless, indeed, her work was among the little ones.
She was never far off, however, and her attitude toward the
co-mothers, whose proud child-service was direct and continuous,
was lovely to see.
As for the babies--a group of those naked darlings playing on
short velvet grass, clean-swept; or rugs as soft; or in shallow pools
of bright water; tumbling over with bubbling joyous baby laughter--
it was a view of infant happiness such as I had never dreamed.
The babies were reared in the warmer part of the country, and
gradually acclimated to the cooler heights as they grew older.
Sturdy children of ten and twelve played in the snow as
joyfully as ours do; there were continuous excursions of them,
from one part of the land to another, so that to each child the
whole country might be home.
It was all theirs, waiting for them to learn, to love, to use, to
serve; as our own little boys plan to be "a big soldier," or "a
cowboy," or whatever pleases their fancy; and our little girls plan
for the kind of home they mean to have, or how many children;
these planned, freely and gaily with much happy chattering,
of what they would do for the country when they were grown.
It was the eager happiness of the children and young people
which first made me see the folly of that common notion of ours
--that if life was smooth and happy, people would not enjoy it.
As I studied these youngsters, vigorous, joyous, eager little
creatures, and their voracious appetite for life, it shook my previous
ideas so thoroughly that they have never been re-established.
The steady level of good health gave them all that natural stimulus
we used to call "animal spirits"--an odd contradiction in terms.
They found themselves in an immediate environment which was
agreeable and interesting, and before them stretched the years of
learning and discovery, the fascinating, endless process of education.
As I looked into these methods and compared them with our
own, my strange uncomfortable sense of race-humility grew apace.
Ellador could not understand my astonishment. She explained
things kindly and sweetly, but with some amazement that they needed
explaining, and with sudden questions as to how we did it that left
me meeker than ever.
I betook myself to Somel one day, carefully not taking Ellador.
I did not mind seeming foolish to Somel--she was used to it.
"I want a chapter of explanation," I told her. "You know my
stupidities by heart, and I do not want to show them to Ellador
--she thinks me so wise!"
She smiled delightedly. "It is beautiful to see," she told me,
"this new wonderful love between you. The whole country is interested,
you know--how can we help it!"
I had not thought of that. We say: "All the world loves a lover,"
but to have a couple of million people watching one's courtship--and
that a difficult one--was rather embarrassing.
"Tell me about your theory of education," I said. "Make it
short and easy. And, to show you what puzzles me, I'll tell you
that in our theory great stress is laid on the forced exertion of the
child's mind; we think it is good for him to overcome obstacles."
"Of course it is," she unexpectedly agreed. "All our children
do that--they love to."
That puzzled me again. If they loved to do it, how could it be
"Our theory is this," she went on carefully. "Here is a young
human being. The mind is as natural a thing as the body, a thing
that grows, a thing to use and enjoy. We seek to nourish, to
stimulate, to exercise the mind of a child as we do the body.
There are the two main divisions in education--you have those
of course?--the things it is necessary to know, and the things it
is necessary to do."
"To do? Mental exercises, you mean?"
"Yes. Our general plan is this: In the matter of feeding the
mind, of furnishing information, we use our best powers to meet
the natural appetite of a healthy young brain; not to overfeed it,
to provide such amount and variety of impressions as seem most
welcome to each child. That is the easiest part. The other division
is in arranging a properly graduated series of exercises which
will best develop each mind; the common faculties we all have,
and most carefully, the especial faculties some of us have.
You do this also, do you not?"
"In a way," I said rather lamely. "We have not so subtle and
highly developed a system as you, not approaching it; but tell me more.
As to the information--how do you manage? It appears that all of you
know pretty much everything--is that right?"
This she laughingly disclaimed. "By no means. We are, as you
soon found out, extremely limited in knowledge. I wish you
could realize what a ferment the country is in over the new things
you have told us; the passionate eagerness among thousands of
us to go to your country and learn--learn--learn! But what we
do know is readily divisible into common knowledge and special
knowledge. The common knowledge we have long since learned
to feed into the minds of our little ones with no waste of time
or strength; the special knowledge is open to all, as they desire
it. Some of us specialize in one line only. But most take up several
--some for their regular work, some to grow with."
"To grow with?"
"Yes. When one settles too close in one kind of work there
is a tendency to atrophy in the disused portions of the brain.
We like to keep on learning, always."
"What do you study?"
"As much as we know of the different sciences. We have,
within our limits, a good deal of knowledge of anatomy, physiology,
nutrition--all that pertains to a full and beautiful personal life.
We have our botany and chemistry, and so on--very rudimentary, but
interesting; our own history, with its accumulating psychology."
"You put psychology with history--not with personal life?"
"Of course. It is ours; it is among and between us, and it
changes with the succeeding and improving generations. We are at work,
slowly and carefully, developing our whole people along these lines.
It is glorious work--splendid! To see the thousands of babies improving,
showing stronger clearer minds, sweeter dispositions, higher capacities--
don't you find it so in your country?"
This I evaded flatly. I remembered the cheerless claim that the
human mind was no better than in its earliest period of savagery,
only better informed--a statement I had never believed.
"We try most earnestly for two powers," Somel continued.
"The two that seem to us basically necessary for all noble life:
a clear, far-reaching judgment, and a strong well-used will. We
spend our best efforts, all through childhood and youth, in
developing these faculties, individual judgment and will."
"As part of your system of education, you mean?"
"Exactly. As the most valuable part. With the babies,
as you may have noticed, we first provide an environment which
feeds the mind without tiring it; all manner of simple and interesting
things to do, as soon as they are old enough to do them; physical
properties, of course, come first. But as early as possible, going
very carefully, not to tax the mind, we provide choices, simple choices,
with very obvious causes and consequences. You've noticed the games?"
I had. The children seemed always playing something; or else,
sometimes, engaged in peaceful researches of their own. I had wondered
at first when they went to school, but soon found that they never did--
to their knowledge. It was all education but no schooling.
"We have been working for some sixteen hundred years,
devising better and better games for children," continued Somel.
I sat aghast. "Devising games?" I protested. "Making up new
ones, you mean?"
"Exactly," she answered. "Don't you?"
Then I remembered the kindergarten, and the "material"
devised by Signora Montessori, and guardedly replied: "To some
extent." But most of our games, I told her, were very old--came
down from child to child, along the ages, from the remote past.
"And what is their effect?" she asked. "Do they develop the
faculties you wish to encourage?"
Again I remembered the claims made by the advocates of "sports,"
and again replied guardedly that that was, in part, the theory.
"But do the children LIKE it?" I asked. "Having things made
up and set before them that way? Don't they want the old games?"
"You can see the children," she answered. "Are yours more
Then I thought, as in truth I never had thought before, of the
dull, bored children I had seen, whining; "What can I do now?";
of the little groups and gangs hanging about; of the value of some
one strong spirit who possessed initiative and would "start something";
of the children's parties and the onerous duties of the older people
set to "amuse the children"; also of that troubled ocean of
misdirected activity we call "mischief," the foolish, destructive,
sometimes evil things done by unoccupied children.
"No," said I grimly. "I don't think they are."
The Herland child was born not only into a world carefully prepared,
full of the most fascinating materials and opportunities to learn,
but into the society of plentiful numbers of teachers, teachers born
and trained, whose business it was to accompany the children along that,
to us, impossible thing--the royal road to learning.
There was no mystery in their methods. Being adapted to
children it was at least comprehensible to adults. I spent many
days with the little ones, sometimes with Ellador, sometimes
without, and began to feel a crushing pity for my own childhood,
and for all others that I had known.
The houses and gardens planned for babies had in them nothing
to hurt--no stairs, no corners, no small loose objects to swallow,
no fire--just a babies' paradise. They were taught, as rapidly
as feasible, to use and control their own bodies, and never did I
see such sure-footed, steady-handed, clear-headed little things.
It was a joy to watch a row of toddlers learning to walk, not only
on a level floor, but, a little later, on a sort of rubber rail raised
an inch or two above the soft turf or heavy rugs, and falling off
with shrieks of infant joy, to rush back to the end of the line and
try again. Surely we have noticed how children love to get up on
something and walk along it! But we have never thought to
provide that simple and inexhaustible form of amusement and
physical education for the young.
Water they had, of course, and could swim even before they
walked. If I feared at first the effects of a too intensive system of
culture, that fear was dissipated by seeing the long sunny days
of pure physical merriment and natural sleep in which these
heavenly babies passed their first years. They never knew they
were being educated. They did not dream that in this association
of hilarious experiment and achievement they were laying the
foundation for that close beautiful group feeling into which they
grew so firmly with the years. This was education for citizenship.
Their Religions and Our Marriages
It took me a long time, as a man, a foreigner, and a species
of Christian--I was that as much as anything--to get any clear
understanding of the religion of Herland.
Its deification of motherhood was obvious enough; but
there was far more to it than that; or, at least, than my first
interpretation of that.
I think it was only as I grew to love Ellador more than I
believed anyone could love anybody, as I grew faintly to appreciate
her inner attitude and state of mind, that I began to get some
glimpses of this faith of theirs.
When I asked her about it, she tried at first to tell me, and
then, seeing me flounder, asked for more information about ours.
She soon found that we had many, that they varied widely, but
had some points in common. A clear methodical luminous mind
had my Ellador, not only reasonable, but swiftly perceptive.
She made a sort of chart, superimposing the different
religions as I described them, with a pin run through them all,
as it were; their common basis being a Dominant Power or Powers,
and some Special Behavior, mostly taboos, to please or placate.
There were some common features in certain groups of religions,
but the one always present was this Power, and the things which
must be done or not done because of it. It was not hard to trace
our human imagery of the Divine Force up through successive
stages of bloodthirsty, sensual, proud, and cruel gods of early
times to the conception of a Common Father with its corollary
of a Common Brotherhood.
This pleased her very much, and when I expatiated on the
Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and so on, of our God,
and of the loving kindness taught by his Son, she was much impressed.
The story of the Virgin birth naturally did not astonish her,
but she was greatly puzzled by the Sacrifice, and still more by the
Devil, and the theory of Damnation.
When in an inadvertent moment I said that certain sects had
believed in infant damnation--and explained it--she sat very
"They believed that God was Love--and Wisdom--and Power?"
"Yes--all of that."
Her eyes grew large, her face ghastly pale.
"And yet that such a God could put little new babies to burn
--for eternity?" She fell into a sudden shuddering and left me,
running swiftly to the nearest temple.
Every smallest village had its temple, and in those gracious
retreats sat wise and noble women, quietly busy at some work
of their own until they were wanted, always ready to give comfort,
light, or help, to any applicant.
Ellador told me afterward how easily this grief of hers was
assuaged, and seemed ashamed of not having helped herself out of it.
"You see, we are not accustomed to horrible ideas," she said,
coming back to me rather apologetically. "We haven't any. And
when we get a thing like that into our minds it's like--oh, like
red pepper in your eyes. So I just ran to her, blinded and almost
screaming, and she took it out so quickly--so easily!"
"How?" I asked, very curious.
"`Why, you blessed child,' she said, `you've got the wrong
idea altogether. You do not have to think that there ever was
such a God--for there wasn't. Or such a happening--for there wasn't.
Nor even that this hideous false idea was believed by anybody.
But only this--that people who are utterly ignorant will believe
anything--which you certainly knew before.'"
"Anyhow," pursued Ellador, "she turned pale for a minute
when I first said it."
This was a lesson to me. No wonder this whole nation of women
was peaceful and sweet in expression--they had no horrible ideas.
"Surely you had some when you began," I suggested.
"Oh, yes, no doubt. But as soon as our religion grew to any
height at all we left them out, of course."
From this, as from many other things, I grew to see what I
finally put in words.
"Have you no respect for the past? For what was thought and
believed by your foremothers?"
"Why, no," she said. "Why should we? They are all gone.
They knew less than we do. If we are not beyond them, we are
unworthy of them--and unworthy of the children who must go
This set me thinking in good earnest. I had always imagined
--simply from hearing it said, I suppose--that women were by
nature conservative. Yet these women, quite unassisted by any
masculine spirit of enterprise, had ignored their past and built
daringly for the future.
Ellador watched me think. She seemed to know pretty much
what was going on in my mind.
"It's because we began in a new way, I suppose. All our folks
were swept away at once, and then, after that time of despair,
came those wonder children--the first. And then the whole
breathless hope of us was for THEIR children--if they should have
them. And they did! Then there was the period of pride and
triumph till we grew too numerous; and after that, when it all
came down to one child apiece, we began to really work--to
make better ones."
"But how does this account for such a radical difference in
your religion?" I persisted.
She said she couldn't talk about the difference very
intelligently, not being familiar with other religions, but that
theirs seemed simple enough. Their great Mother Spirit was to them
what their own motherhood was--only magnified beyond human limits.
That meant that they felt beneath and behind them an upholding,
unfailing, serviceable love--perhaps it was really the
accumulated mother-love of the race they felt--but it was a Power.
"Just what is your theory of worship?" I asked her.
"Worship? What is that?"
I found it singularly difficult to explain. This Divine Love
which they felt so strongly did not seem to ask anything of them
--"any more than our mothers do," she said.
"But surely your mothers expect honor, reverence, obedience,
from you. You have to do things for your mothers, surely?"
"Oh, no," she insisted, smiling, shaking her soft brown hair.
"We do things FROM our mothers--not FOR them. We don't have
to do things FOR them--they don't need it, you know. But we
have to live on--splendidly--because of them; and that's the
way we feel about God."
I meditated again. I thought of that God of Battles of ours,
that Jealous God, that Vengeance-is-mine God. I thought of our
"You have no theory of eternal punishment then, I take it?"
Ellador laughed. Her eyes were as bright as stars, and there
were tears in them, too. She was so sorry for me.
"How could we?" she asked, fairly enough. "We have no
punishments in life, you see, so we don't imagine them after death."
"Have you NO punishments? Neither for children nor criminals--
such mild criminals as you have?" I urged.
"Do you punish a person for a broken leg or a fever? We have
preventive measures, and cures; sometimes we have to `send the
patient to bed,' as it were; but that's not a punishment--it's only
part of the treatment," she explained.
Then studying my point of view more closely, she added:
"You see, we recognize, in our human motherhood, a great tender
limitless uplifting force--patience and wisdom and all subtlety
of delicate method. We credit God--our idea of God--with all that
and more. Our mothers are not angry with us--why should God be?"
"Does God mean a person to you?"
This she thought over a little. "Why--in trying to get close
to it in our minds we personify the idea, naturally; but we
certainly do not assume a Big Woman somewhere, who is God.
What we call God is a Pervading Power, you know, an Indwelling
Spirit, something inside of us that we want more of. Is your God
a Big Man?" she asked innocently.
"Why--yes, to most of us, I think. Of course we call it an
Indwelling Spirit just as you do, but we insist that it is Him, a
Person, and a Man--with whiskers."
"Whiskers? Oh yes--because you have them! Or do you
wear them because He does?"
"On the contrary, we shave them off--because it seems
cleaner and more comfortable."
"Does He wear clothes--in your idea, I mean?"
I was thinking over the pictures of God I had seen--rash
advances of the devout mind of man, representing his Omnipotent
Deity as an old man in a flowing robe, flowing hair, flowing beard,
and in the light of her perfectly frank and innocent questions this
concept seemed rather unsatisfying.
I explained that the God of the Christian world was really the
ancient Hebrew God, and that we had simply taken over the patriarchal
idea--that ancient one which quite inevitably clothed its thought of
God with the attributes of the patriarchal ruler, the grandfather.
"I see," she said eagerly, after I had explained the genesis and
development of our religious ideals. "They lived in separate groups,
with a male head, and he was probably a little--domineering?"
"No doubt of that," I agreed.
"And we live together without any `head,' in that sense--just
our chosen leaders--that DOES make a difference."
"Your difference is deeper than that," I assured her. "It is
in your common motherhood. Your children grow up in a world where
everybody loves them. They find life made rich and happy for them
by the diffused love and wisdom of all mothers. So it is easy for
you to think of God in the terms of a similar diffused and competent
love. I think you are far nearer right than we are."
"What I cannot understand," she pursued carefully, "is your
preservation of such a very ancient state of mind. This patriarchal
idea you tell me is thousands of years old?"
"Oh yes--four, five, six thousand--every so many."
"And you have made wonderful progress in those years--in other things?"
"We certainly have. But religion is different. You see, our
religions come from behind us, and are initiated by some great
teacher who is dead. He is supposed to have known the whole thing
and taught it, finally. All we have to do is believe--and obey."
"Who was the great Hebrew teacher?"
"Oh--there it was different. The Hebrew religion is an
accumulation of extremely ancient traditions, some far older than
their people, and grew by accretion down the ages. We consider
it inspired--`the Word of God.'"
"How do you know it is?"
"Because it says so."
"Does it say so in as many words? Who wrote that in?"
I began to try to recall some text that did say so, and could
not bring it to mind.
"Apart from that," she pursued, "what I cannot understand
is why you keep these early religious ideas so long. You have
changed all your others, haven't you?"
"Pretty generally," I agreed. "But this we call `revealed religion,'
and think it is final. But tell me more about these little temples of yours," I urged.
"And these Temple Mothers you run to."
Then she gave me an extended lesson in applied religion,
which I will endeavor to concentrate.
They developed their central theory of a Loving Power, and
assumed that its relation to them was motherly--that it desired
their welfare and especially their development. Their relation to it,
similarly, was filial, a loving appreciation and a glad fulfillment
of its high purposes. Then, being nothing if not practical, they
set their keen and active minds to discover the kind of conduct
expected of them. This worked out in a most admirable system of ethics.
The principle of Love was universally recognized--and used.
Patience, gentleness, courtesy, all that we call "good breeding,"
was part of their code of conduct. But where they went far
beyond us was in the special application of religious feeling to
every field of life. They had no ritual, no little set of
performances called "divine service," save those religious
pageants I have spoken of, and those were as much educational as
religious, and as much social as either. But they had a clear established
connection between everything they did--and God. Their cleanliness,
their health, their exquisite order, the rich peaceful beauty
of the whole land, the happiness of the children, and above all
the constant progress they made--all this was their religion.
They applied their minds to the thought of God, and worked
out the theory that such an inner power demanded outward expression.
They lived as if God was real and at work within them.
As for those little temples everywhere--some of the women
were more skilled, more temperamentally inclined, in this direction,
than others. These, whatever their work might be, gave
certain hours to the Temple Service, which meant being there
with all their love and wisdom and trained thought, to smooth
out rough places for anyone who needed it. Sometimes it was a
real grief, very rarely a quarrel, most often a perplexity; even in
Herland the human soul had its hours of darkness. But all through
the country their best and wisest were ready to give help.
If the difficulty was unusually profound, the applicant was
directed to someone more specially experienced in that line of thought.
Here was a religion which gave to the searching mind a rational
basis in life, the concept of an immense Loving Power working
steadily out through them, toward good. It gave to the "soul"
that sense of contact with the inmost force, of perception of the
uttermost purpose, which we always crave. It gave to the "heart"
the blessed feeling of being loved, loved and UNDERSTOOD. It gave
clear, simple, rational directions as to how we should live--and why.
And for ritual it gave first those triumphant group demonstrations,
when with a union of all the arts, the revivifying combination of
great multitudes moved rhythmically with march and dance,
song and music, among their own noblest products and the open
beauty of their groves and hills. Second, it gave these numerous
little centers of wisdom where the least wise could go to the most
wise and be helped.
"It is beautiful!" I cried enthusiastically. "It is the most
practical, comforting, progressive religion I ever heard of. You DO
love one another--you DO bear one another's burdens--you DO realize
that a little child is a type of the kingdom of heaven. You are
more Christian than any people I ever saw. But--how about death?
And the life everlasting? What does your religion teach about eternity?"
"Nothing," said Ellador. "What is eternity?"
What indeed? I tried, for the first time in my life, to get a real
hold on the idea.
"It is--never stopping."
"Never stopping?" She looked puzzled.
"Yes, life, going on forever."
"Oh--we see that, of course. Life does go on forever, all about us."
"But eternal life goes on WITHOUT DYING."
"The same person?"
"Yes, the same person, unending, immortal." I was pleased to
think that I had something to teach from our religion, which theirs
had never promulgated.
"Here?" asked Ellador. "Never to die--here?" I could see her
practical mind heaping up the people, and hurriedly reassured her.
"Oh no, indeed, not here--hereafter. We must die here, of course,
but then we `enter into eternal life.' The soul lives forever."
"How do you know?" she inquired.
"I won't attempt to prove it to you," I hastily continued. "Let
us assume it to be so. How does this idea strike you?"
Again she smiled at me, that adorable, dimpling, tender,
mischievous, motherly smile of hers. "Shall I be quite, quite honest?"
"You couldn't be anything else," I said, half gladly and half
a little sorry. The transparent honesty of these women was a
never-ending astonishment to me.
"It seems to me a singularly foolish idea," she said calmly.
"And if true, most disagreeable."
Now I had always accepted the doctrine of personal immortality
as a thing established. The efforts of inquiring spiritualists,
always seeking to woo their beloved ghosts back again, never
seemed to me necessary. I don't say I had ever seriously and
courageously discussed the subject with myself even; I had simply
assumed it to be a fact. And here was the girl I loved, this
creature whose character constantly revealed new heights and
ranges far beyond my own, this superwoman of a superland,
saying she thought immortality foolish! She meant it, too.
"What do you WANT it for?" she asked.
"How can you NOT want it!" I protested. "Do you want to go
out like a candle? Don't you want to go on and on--growing and
--and--being happy, forever?"
"Why, no," she said. "I don't in the least. I want my child--
and my child's child--to go on--and they will. Why should _I_ want to?"
"But it means Heaven!" I insisted. "Peace and Beauty and
Comfort and Love--with God." I had never been so eloquent on
the subject of religion. She could be horrified at Damnation,
and question the justice of Salvation, but Immortality--that was
surely a noble faith.
"Why, Van," she said, holding out her hands to me. "Why
Van--darling! How splendid of you to feel it so keenly. That's
what we all want, of course--Peace and Beauty, and Comfort
and Love--with God! And Progress too, remember; Growth, always
and always. That is what our religion teaches us to want
and to work for, and we do!"
"But that is HERE, I said, "only for this life on earth."
"Well? And do not you in your country, with your beautiful religion
of love and service have it here, too--for this life--on earth?"
None of us were willing to tell the women of Herland about
the evils of our own beloved land. It was all very well for us to
assume them to be necessary and essential, and to criticize--
strictly among ourselves--their all-too-perfect civilization, but
when it came to telling them about the failures and wastes of our
own, we never could bring ourselves to do it.
Moreover, we sought to avoid too much discussion, and to
press the subject of our approaching marriages.
Jeff was the determined one on this score.
"Of course they haven't any marriage ceremony or service,
but we can make it a sort of Quaker wedding, and have it in the
temple--it is the least we can do for them."
It was. There was so little, after all, that we could do for them.
Here we were, penniless guests and strangers, with no chance
even to use our strength and courage--nothing to defend them
from or protect them against.
"We can at least give them our names," Jeff insisted.
They were very sweet about it, quite willing to do whatever
we asked, to please us. As to the names, Alima, frank soul that
she was, asked what good it would do.
Terry, always irritating her, said it was a sign of possession.
"You are going to be Mrs. Nicholson," he said. "Mrs. T. O.
Nicholson. That shows everyone that you are my wife."
"What is a `wife' exactly?" she demanded, a dangerous gleam
in her eye.
"A wife is the woman who belongs to a man," he began.
But Jeff took it up eagerly: "And a husband is the man
who belongs to a woman. It is because we are monogamous,
you know. And marriage is the ceremony, civil and religious,
that joins the two together--`until death do us part,'"
he finished, looking at Celis with unutterable devotion.
"What makes us all feel foolish," I told the girls, "is that
here we have nothing to give you--except, of course, our names."
"Do your women have no names before they are married?"
Celis suddenly demanded.
"Why, yes," Jeff explained. "They have their maiden names
--their father's names, that is."
"And what becomes of them?" asked Alima.
"They change them for their husbands', my dear," Terry
"Change them? Do the husbands then take the wives' `maiden names'?"
"Oh, no," he laughed. "The man keeps his own and gives it to her, too."
"Then she just loses hers and takes a new one--how unpleasant!
We won't do that!" Alima said decidedly.
Terry was good-humored about it. "I don't care what you do
or don't do so long as we have that wedding pretty soon," he said,
reaching a strong brown hand after Alima's, quite as brown and
nearly as strong.
"As to giving us things--of course we can see that you'd like to,
but we are glad you can't," Celis continued. "You see, we love you
just for yourselves--we wouldn't want you to--to pay anything.
Isn't it enough to know that you are loved personally--and just as men?"
Enough or not, that was the way we were married. We had
a great triple wedding in the biggest temple of all, and it looked
as if most of the nation was present. It was very solemn and very
beautiful. Someone had written a new song for the occasion,
nobly beautiful, about the New Hope for their people--the New
Tie with other lands--Brotherhood as well as Sisterhood, and,
with evident awe, Fatherhood.
Terry was always restive under their talk of fatherhood.
"Anybody'd think we were High Priests of--of Philoprogenitiveness!"
he protested. "These women think of NOTHING but children, seems to me!
We'll teach 'em!"
He was so certain of what he was going to teach, and Alima
so uncertain in her moods of reception, that Jeff and I feared the
worst. We tried to caution him--much good that did. The big
handsome fellow drew himself up to his full height, lifted that
great chest of his, and laughed.
"There are three separate marriages," he said. "I won't
interfere with yours--nor you with mine."
So the great day came, and the countless crowds of women,
and we three bridegrooms without any supporting "best men," or any
other men to back us up, felt strangely small as we came forward.
Somel and Zava and Moadine were on hand; we were thankful
to have them, too--they seemed almost like relatives.
There was a splendid procession, wreathing dances, the new
anthem I spoke of, and the whole great place pulsed with feeling
--the deep awe, the sweet hope, the wondering expectation of
a new miracle.
"There has been nothing like this in the country since our
Motherhood began!" Somel said softly to me, while we watched
the symbolic marches. "You see, it is the dawn of a new era. You
don't know how much you mean to us. It is not only Fatherhood
--that marvelous dual parentage to which we are strangers--the
miracle of union in life-giving--but it is Brotherhood. You are
the rest of the world. You join us to our kind--to all the
strange lands and peoples we have never seen. We hope to know them
--to love and help them--and to learn of them. Ah! You cannot know!"
Thousands of voices rose in the soaring climax of that great
Hymn of The Coming Life. By the great Altar of Motherhood, with
its crown of fruit and flowers, stood a new one, crowned as well.
Before the Great Over Mother of the Land and her ring of
High Temple Counsellors, before that vast multitude of calm-
faced mothers and holy-eyed maidens, came forward our own
three chosen ones, and we, three men alone in all that land,
joined hands with them and made our marriage vows.
We say, "Marriage is a lottery"; also "Marriages are made in
Heaven"--but this is not so widely accepted as the other.
We have a well-founded theory that it is best to marry "in
one's class," and certain well-grounded suspicions of international
marriages, which seem to persist in the interests of social progress,
rather than in those of the contracting parties.
But no combination of alien races, of color, of caste, or creed,
was ever so basically difficult to establish as that between us,
three modern American men, and these three women of Herland.
It is all very well to say that we should have been frank about
it beforehand. We had been frank. We had discussed--at least
Ellador and I had--the conditions of The Great Adventure, and
thought the path was clear before us. But there are some things
one takes for granted, supposes are mutually understood, and to
which both parties may repeatedly refer without ever meaning
the same thing.
The differences in the education of the average man and
woman are great enough, but the trouble they make is not mostly
for the man; he generally carries out his own views of the case.
The woman may have imagined the conditions of married life to
be different; but what she imagined, was ignorant of, or might
have preferred, did not seriously matter.
I can see clearly and speak calmly about this now, writing
after a lapse of years, years full of growth and education, but at
the time it was rather hard sledding for all of us--especially for
Terry. Poor Terry! You see, in any other imaginable marriage
among the peoples of the earth, whether the woman were black,
red, yellow, brown, or white; whether she were ignorant or educated,
submissive or rebellious, she would have behind her the marriage
tradition of our general history. This tradition relates the woman
to the man. He goes on with his business, and she adapts herself to
him and to it. Even in citizenship, by some strange hocus-pocus,
that fact of birth and geography was waved aside, and the woman
automatically acquired the nationality of her husband.
Well--here were we, three aliens in this land of women. It
was small in area, and the external differences were not so great
as to astound us. We did not yet appreciate the differences between
the race-mind of this people and ours.
In the first place, they were a "pure stock" of two thousand
uninterrupted years. Where we have some long connected lines
of thought and feeling, together with a wide range of differences,
often irreconcilable, these people were smoothly and firmly
agreed on most of the basic principles of their life; and not only
agreed in principle, but accustomed for these sixty-odd generations
to act on those principles.
This is one thing which we did not understand--had made no
allowance for. When in our pre-marital discussions one of those
dear girls had said: "We understand it thus and thus," or "We
hold such and such to be true," we men, in our own deep-seated
convictions of the power of love, and our easy views about
beliefs and principles, fondly imagined that we could convince
them otherwise. What we imagined, before marriage, did not
matter any more than what an average innocent young girl imagines.
We found the facts to be different.
It was not that they did not love us; they did, deeply and
warmly. But there are you again--what they meant by "love"
and what we meant by "love" were so different.
Perhaps it seems rather cold-blooded to say "we" and "they,"
as if we were not separate couples, with our separate joys and
sorrows, but our positions as aliens drove us together constantly.
The whole strange experience had made our friendship more
close and intimate than it would ever have become in a free and
easy lifetime among our own people. Also, as men, with our
masculine tradition of far more than two thousand years, we were a unit,
small but firm, against this far larger unit of feminine tradition.
I think I can make clear the points of difference without a too
painful explicitness. The more external disagreement was in the
matter of "the home," and the housekeeping duties and pleasures
we, by instinct and long education, supposed to be inherently
appropriate to women.
I will give two illustrations, one away up, and the other away
down, to show how completely disappointed we were in this regard.
For the lower one, try to imagine a male ant, coming from
some state of existence where ants live in pairs, endeavoring to
set up housekeeping with a female ant from a highly developed
anthill. This female ant might regard him with intense personal
affection, but her ideas of parentage and economic management
would be on a very different scale from his. Now, of course, if
she was a stray female in a country of pairing ants, he might have
had his way with her; but if he was a stray male in an anthill--!
For the higher one, try to imagine a devoted and impassioned
man trying to set up housekeeping with a lady angel, a real
wings-and-harp-and-halo angel, accustomed to fulfilling divine
missions all over interstellar space. This angel might love the man
with an affection quite beyond his power of return or even of
appreciation, but her ideas of service and duty would be on a
very different scale from his. Of course, if she was a stray angel
in a country of men, he might have had his way with her; but
if he was a stray man among angels--!
Terry, at his worst, in a black fury for which, as a man, I must
have some sympathy, preferred the ant simile. More of Terry and
his special troubles later. It was hard on Terry.
Jeff--well, Jeff always had a streak that was too good for
this world! He's the kind that would have made a saintly priest in
parentagearlier times. He accepted the angel theory, swallowed it whole,
tried to force it on us--with varying effect. He so worshipped
Celis, and not only Celis, but what she represented; he had
become so deeply convinced of the almost supernatural advantages
of this country and people, that he took his medicine like
a--I cannot say "like a man," but more as if he wasn't one.
Don't misunderstand me for a moment. Dear old Jeff was no
milksop or molly-coddle either. He was a strong, brave, efficient
man, and an excellent fighter when fighting was necessary. But
there was always this angel streak in him. It was rather a wonder,
Terry being so different, that he really loved Jeff as he did; but
it happens so sometimes, in spite of the difference--perhaps
because of it.
As for me, I stood between. I was no such gay Lothario as
Terry, and no such Galahad as Jeff. But for all my limitations I
think I had the habit of using my brains in regard to behavior
rather more frequently than either of them. I had to use brain-
power now, I can tell you.
The big point at issue between us and our wives was, as may
easily be imagined, in the very nature of the relation.
"Wives! Don't talk to me about wives!" stormed Terry. "They
don't know what the word means."
Which is exactly the fact--they didn't. How could they? Back
in their prehistoric records of polygamy and slavery there were
no ideals of wifehood as we know it, and since then no possibility
of forming such.
"The only thing they can think of about a man is FATHERHOOD!"
said Terry in high scorn. "FATHERHOOD!" As if a man was always
wanting to be a FATHER!"
This also was correct. They had their long, wide, deep, rich
experience of Motherhood, and their only perception of the
value of a male creature as such was for Fatherhood.
Aside from that, of course, was the whole range of personal
love, love which as Jeff earnestly phrased it "passeth the love of
women!" It did, too. I can give no idea--either now, after long
and happy experience of it, or as it seemed then, in the first
measureless wonder--of the beauty and power of the love they gave us.
Even Alima--who had a more stormy temperament than either
of the others, and who, heaven knows, had far more provocation--
even Alima was patience and tenderness and wisdom personified
to the man she loved, until he--but I haven't got to that yet.
These, as Terry put it, "alleged or so-called wives" of ours,
went right on with their profession as foresters. We, having no
special learnings, had long since qualified as assistants. We had
to do something, if only to pass the time, and it had to be work
--we couldn't be playing forever.
This kept us out of doors with those dear girls, and more or
less together--too much together sometimes.
These people had, it now became clear to us, the highest,
keenest, most delicate sense of personal privacy, but not the
faintest idea of that SOLITUDE A DEUX we are so fond of. They had,
every one of them, the "two rooms and a bath" theory realized.
From earliest childhood each had a separate bedroom with toilet
conveniences, and one of the marks of coming of age was the
addition of an outer room in which to receive friends.
Long since we had been given our own two rooms apiece, and
as being of a different sex and race, these were in a separate
house. It seemed to be recognized that we should breathe easier
if able to free our minds in real seclusion.
For food we either went to any convenient eating-house,
ordered a meal brought in, or took it with us to the woods,
always and equally good. All this we had become used to and
enjoyed--in our courting days.
After marriage there arose in us a somewhat unexpected urge
of feeling that called for a separate house; but this feeling found
no response in the hearts of those fair ladies.
"We ARE alone, dear," Ellador explained to me with gentle
patience. "We are alone in these great forests; we may go and eat
in any little summer-house--just we two, or have a separate
table anywhere--or even have a separate meal in our own rooms.
How could we be aloner?"
This was all very true. We had our pleasant mutual solitude
about our work, and our pleasant evening talks in their apartments
or ours; we had, as it were, all the pleasures of courtship carried
right on; but we had no sense of--perhaps it may be called possession.
"Might as well not be married at all," growled Terry. "They
only got up that ceremony to please us--please Jeff, mostly.
They've no real idea of being married.
I tried my best to get Ellador's point of view, and naturally
I tried to give her mine. Of course, what we, as men, wanted to
make them see was that there were other, and as we proudly said
"higher," uses in this relation than what Terry called "mere parentage."
In the highest terms I knew I tried to explain this to Ellador.
"Anything higher than for mutual love to hope to give life,
as we did?" she said. "How is it higher?"
"It develops love," I explained. "All the power of beautiful
permanent mated love comes through this higher development."
"Are you sure?" she asked gently. "How do you know that
it was so developed? There are some birds who love each other
so that they mope and pine if separated, and never pair again if
one dies, but they never mate except in the mating season.
Among your people do you find high and lasting affection appearing
in proportion to this indulgence?"
It is a very awkward thing, sometimes, to have a logical mind.
Of course I knew about those monogamous birds and beasts too,
that mate for life and show every sign of mutual affection,
without ever having stretched the sex relationship beyond its
original range. But what of it?
"Those are lower forms of life!" I protested. "They have no
capacity for faithful and affectionate, and apparently happy--
but oh, my dear! my dear!--what can they know of such a love
as draws us together? Why, to touch you--to be near you--to
come closer and closer--to lose myself in you--surely you feel
it too, do you not?"
I came nearer. I seized her hands.
Her eyes were on mine, tender radiant, but steady and
strong. There was something so powerful, so large and changeless,
in those eyes that I could not sweep her off her feet by my
own emotion as I had unconsciously assumed would be the case.
It made me feel as, one might imagine, a man might feel who
loved a goddess--not a Venus, though! She did not resent my
attitude, did not repel it, did not in the least fear it, evidently.
There was not a shade of that timid withdrawal or pretty resistance
which are so--provocative.
"You see, dearest," she said, "you have to be patient with us.
We are not like the women of your country. We are Mothers, and
we are People, but we have not specialized in this line."
"We" and "we" and "we"--it was so hard to get her to be
personal. And, as I thought that, I suddenly remembered how we
were always criticizing OUR women for BEING so personal.
Then I did my earnest best to picture to her the sweet intense joy
of married lovers, and the result in higher stimulus to all creative work.
"Do you mean," she asked quite calmly, as if I was not holding
her cool firm hands in my hot and rather quivering ones, "that with you,
when people marry, they go right on doing this in season and out of season,
with no thought of children at all?"
"They do," I said, with some bitterness. "They are not mere
parents. They are men and women, and they love each other."
"How long?" asked Ellador, rather unexpectedly.
"How long?" I repeated, a little dashed. "Why as long as they live."
"There is something very beautiful in the idea," she admitted,
still as if she were discussing life on Mars. "This climactic
expression, which, in all the other life-forms, has but the one purpose,
has with you become specialized to higher, purer, nobler uses. It has--
I judge from what you tell me--the most ennobling effect on character.
People marry, not only for parentage, but for this exquisite interchange
--and, as a result, you have a world full of continuous lovers, ardent,
happy, mutually devoted, always living on that high tide of supreme
emotion which we had supposed to belong only to one season and one use.
And you say it has other results, stimulating all high creative work.
That must mean floods, oceans of such work, blossoming from this intense
happiness of every married pair! It is a beautiful idea!"
She was silent, thinking.
So was I.
She slipped one hand free, and was stroking my hair with it
in a gentle motherly way. I bowed my hot head on her shoulder and
felt a dim sense of peace, a restfulness which was very pleasant.
"You must take me there someday, darling," she was saying.
"It is not only that I love you so much, I want to see your
country --your people--your mother--" she paused reverently.
"Oh, how I shall love your mother!"
I had not been in love many times--my experience did not
compare with Terry's. But such as I had was so different from this
that I was perplexed, and full of mixed feelings: partly a growing
sense of common ground between us, a pleasant rested calm feeling,
which I had imagined could only be attained in one way; and partly a
bewildered resentment because what I found was not what I had looked for.
It was their confounded psychology! Here they were with this
profound highly developed system of education so bred into
them that even if they were not teachers by profession they all
had a general proficiency in it--it was second nature to them.
And no child, stormily demanding a cookie "between meals,"
was ever more subtly diverted into an interest in house-building
than was I when I found an apparently imperative demand had
disappeared without my noticing it.
And all the time those tender mother eyes, those keen scientific
eyes, noting every condition and circumstance, and learning how to
"take time by the forelock" and avoid discussion before occasion arose.
I was amazed at the results. I found that much, very much,
of what I had honestly supposed to be a physiological necessity
was a psychological necessity--or so believed. I found, after my
ideas of what was essential had changed, that my feelings changed also.
And more than all, I found this--a factor of enormous weight--these
women were not provocative. That made an immense difference.
The thing that Terry had so complained of when we first
came--that they weren't "feminine," they lacked "charm," now
became a great comfort. Their vigorous beauty was an aesthetic
pleasure, not an irritant. Their dress and ornaments had not a
touch of the "come-and-find-me" element.
Even with my own Ellador, my wife, who had for a time
unveiled a woman's heart and faced the strange new hope and
joy of dual parentage, she afterward withdrew again into the
same good comrade she had been at first. They were women, PLUS,
and so much plus that when they did not choose to let the
womanness appear, you could not find it anywhere.
I don't say it was easy for me; it wasn't. But when I made
appeal to her sympathies I came up against another immovable wall.
She was sorry, honestly sorry, for my distresses, and made all manner
of thoughtful suggestions, often quite useful, as well as the wise
foresight I have mentioned above, which often saved all difficulty
before it arose; but her sympathy did not alter her convictions.
"If I thought it was really right and necessary, I could
perhaps bring myself to it, for your sake, dear; but I do not want
to--not at all. You would not have a mere submission, would you?
That is not the kind of high romantic love you spoke of, surely?
It is a pity, of course, that you should have to adjust your highly
specialized faculties to our unspecialized ones."
Confound it! I hadn't married the nation, and I told her so.
But she only smiled at her own limitations and explained that she
had to "think in we's."
Confound it again! Here I'd have all my energies focused on
one wish, and before I knew it she'd have them dissipated in one
direction or another, some subject of discussion that began just
at the point I was talking about and ended miles away.
It must not be imagined that I was just repelled, ignored, left
to cherish a grievance. Not at all. My happiness was in the hands
of a larger, sweeter womanhood than I had ever imagined. Before
our marriage my own ardor had perhaps blinded me to much of this.
I was madly in love with not so much what was there as with
what I supposed to be there. Now I found an endlessly beautiful
undiscovered country to explore, and in it the sweetest wisdom
and understanding. It was as if I had come to some new place
and people, with a desire to eat at all hours, and no other
interests in particular; and as if my hosts, instead of merely
saying, "You shall not eat," had presently aroused in me a lively
desire for music, for pictures, for games, for exercise, for playing
in the water, for running some ingenious machine; and, in the
multitude of my satisfactions, I forgot the one point which was
not satisfied, and got along very well until mealtime.
One of the cleverest and most ingenious of these tricks was
only clear to me many years after, when we were so wholly at one
on this subject that I could laugh at my own predicament then.
It was this: You see, with us, women are kept as different as
possible and as feminine as possible. We men have our own world,
with only men in it; we get tired of our ultra-maleness and
turn gladly to the ultra-femaleness. Also, in keeping our women
as feminine as possible, we see to it that when we turn to them
we find the thing we want always in evidence. Well, the
atmosphere of this place was anything but seductive. The very
numbers of these human women, always in human relation, made
them anything but alluring. When, in spite of this, my hereditary
instincts and race-traditions made me long for the feminine response
in Ellador, instead of withdrawing so that I should want her more,
she deliberately gave me a little too much of her society.
--always de-feminized, as it were. It was awfully funny, really.
Here was I, with an Ideal in mind, for which I hotly longed,
and here was she, deliberately obtruding in the foreground of my
consciousness a Fact--a fact which I coolly enjoyed, but which
actually interfered with what I wanted. I see now clearly enough
why a certain kind of man, like Sir Almroth Wright, resents the
professional development of women. It gets in the way of the sex
ideal; it temporarily covers and excludes femininity.
Of course, in this case, I was so fond of Ellador my friend,
of Ellador my professional companion, that I necessarily enjoyed
her society on any terms. Only--when I had had her with me in
her de-feminine capacity for a sixteen-hour day, I could go to my
own room and sleep without dreaming about her.
The witch! If ever anybody worked to woo and win and hold
a human soul, she did, great superwoman that she was. I couldn't
then half comprehend the skill of it, the wonder. But this I soon
began to find: that under all our cultivated attitude of mind
toward women, there is an older, deeper, more "natural" feeling,
the restful reverence which looks up to the Mother sex.
So we grew together in friendship and happiness, Ellador and
I, and so did Jeff and Celis.
When it comes to Terry's part of it, and Alima's, I'm sorry--
and I'm ashamed. Of course I blame her somewhat. She wasn't
as fine a psychologist as Ellador, and what's more, I think she had
a far-descended atavistic trace of more marked femaleness, never
apparent till Terry called it out. But when all is said, it
doesn't excuse him. I hadn't realized to the full Terry's character
--I couldn't, being a man.
The position was the same as with us, of course, only with
these distinctions. Alima, a shade more alluring, and several
shades less able as a practical psychologist; Terry, a hundredfold
more demanding--and proportionately less reasonable.
Things grew strained very soon between them. I fancy at first,
when they were together, in her great hope of parentage and his
keen joy of conquest--that Terry was inconsiderate. In fact, I know it,
from things he said.
"You needn't talk to me," he snapped at Jeff one day, just
before our weddings. "There never was a woman yet that did not
enjoy being MASTERED. All your pretty talk doesn't amount to a hill
o'beans--I KNOW." And Terry would hum:
I've taken my fun where I found it.
I've rogued and I've ranged in my time,
The things that I learned from the yellow and black,
They 'ave helped me a 'eap with the white.
Jeff turned sharply and left him at the time. I was a bit
Poor old Terry! The things he'd learned didn't help him a
heap in Herland. His idea was to take--he thought that was the way.
He thought, he honestly believed, that women like it. Not the women
of Herland! Not Alima!
I can see her now--one day in the very first week of their
marriage, setting forth to her day's work with long determined
strides and hard-set mouth, and sticking close to Ellador.
She didn't wish to be alone with Terry--you could see that.
But the more she kept away from him, the more he wanted
He made a tremendous row about their separate establishments,
tried to keep her in his rooms, tried to stay in hers. But there
she drew the line sharply.
He came away one night, and stamped up and down the
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