The Forerunner, Volume 1 (1909-1910)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Part 4 out of 18
That we will _now_--_this year_--begin in good earnest to prevent all
That we will do our duty by our children and young people, as a wise
Society should, and cut off the crop of criminals by not making them.
That--; no; here are quite enough resolutions for one year.
On the top floor of a New York boarding-house lived a particularly
attractive woman who was an actress. She was also a widow, not
divorcee, but just plain widow; and she persisted in acting under her
real name, which was Mrs. Leland. The manager objected, but her
reputation was good enough to carry the point.
"It will cost you a great deal of money, Mrs. Leland," said the manager.
"I make money enough," she answered.
"You will not attract so many--admirers," said the manager.
"I have admirers enough," she answered; which was visibly true.
She was well under thirty, even by daylight--and about eighteen on the
stage; and as for admirers--they apparently thought Mrs. Leland was a
carefully selected stage name.
Besides being a widow, she was a mother, having a small boy of about
five years; and this small boy did not look in the least like a "stage
child," but was a brown-skinned, healthy little rascal of the ordinary
With this boy, an excellent nursery governess, and a maid, Mrs. Leland
occupied the top floor above mentioned, and enjoyed it. She had a big
room in front, to receive in; and a small room with a skylight, to sleep
in. The boy's room and the governess' rooms were at the back, with
sunny south windows, and the maid slept on a couch in the parlor. She
was a colored lady, named Alice, and did not seem to care where she
slept, or if she slept at all.
"I never was so comfortable in my life," said Mrs. Leland to her
friends. "I've been here three years and mean to stay. It is not like
any boarding-house I ever saw, and it is not like any home I ever had.
I have the privacy, the detachment, the carelessness of a
boarding-house, and 'all the comforts of a home.' Up I go to my little
top flat as private as you like. My Alice takes care of it--the
housemaids only come in when I'm out. I can eat with the others
downstairs if I please; but mostly I don't please; and up come my little
meals on the dumbwaiter--hot and good."
"But--having to flock with a lot of promiscuous boarders!" said her
"I don't flock, you see; that's just it. And besides, they are not
promiscuous--there isn't a person in the house now who isn't some sort
of a friend of mine. As fast as a room was vacated I'd suggest
somebody--and here we all are. It's great."
"But do you _like_ a skylight room?" Mrs. Leland's friends further
inquired of her?"
"By no means!" she promptly replied. "I hate it. I feel like a mouse
in a pitcher!"
"Then why in the name of reason--?"
"Because I can sleep there! _Sleep_!--It's the only way to be quiet in
New York, and I have to sleep late if I sleep at all. I've fixed the
skylight so that I'm drenched with air--and not drenched with rain!--and
there I am. Johnny is gagged and muffled as it were, and carried
downstairs as early as possible. He gets his breakfast, and the
unfortunate Miss Merton has to go out and play with him--in all
weathers--except kindergarten time. Then Alice sits on the stairs and
keeps everybody away till I ring."
Possibly it was owing to the stillness and the air and the sleep till
near lunchtime that Mrs. Leland kept her engaging youth, her vivid
uncertain beauty. At times you said of her, "She has a keen intelligent
face, but she's not pretty." Which was true. She was not pretty. But
at times again she overcame you with her sudden loveliness.
All of which was observed by her friend from the second floor who wanted
to marry her. In this he was not alone; either as a friend, of whom she
had many, or as a lover, of whom she had more. His distinction lay
first in his opportunities, as a co-resident, for which he was heartily
hated by all the more and some of the many; and second in that he
remained a friend in spite of being a lover, and remained a lover in
spite of being flatly refused.
His name in the telephone book was given "Arthur Olmstead, real estate;"
office this and residence that--she looked him up therein after their
first meeting. He was rather a short man, heavily built, with a quiet
kind face, and a somewhat quizzical smile. He seemed to make all the
money he needed, occupied the two rooms and plentiful closet space of
his floor in great contentment, and manifested most improper domesticity
of taste by inviting friends to tea. "Just like a woman!" Mrs. Leland
"And why not? Women have so many attractive ways--why not imitate
them?" he asked her.
"A man doesn't want to be feminine, I'm sure," struck in a pallid,
overdressed youth, with openwork socks on his slim feet, and perfumed
Mr. Olmstead smiled a broad friendly smile. He was standing near the
young man, a little behind him, and at this point he put his hands just
beneath the youth's arms, lifted and set him aside as if he were an
umbrella-stand. "Excuse me, Mr. Masters," he said gravely, but you were
standing on Mrs. Leland's gown."
Mr. Masters was too much absorbed in apologizing to the lady to take
umbrage at the method of his removal; but she was not so oblivious. She
tried doing it to her little boy afterwards, and found him very heavy.
When she came home from her walk or drive in the early winter dusk, this
large quietly furnished room, the glowing fire, the excellent tea and
delicate thin bread and butter were most restful. "It is two more
stories up before I can get my own;" she would say--"I must stop a
When he began to propose to her the first time she tried to stop him.
"O please don't!" she cried. _"Please_ don't! There are no end of
reasons why I will not marry anybody again. Why can't some of you men
be nice to me and not--that! Now I can't come in to tea any more!"
"I'd like to know why not," said he calmly. "You don't have to marry me
if you don't want to; but that's no reason for cutting my acquaintance,
She gazed at him in amazement.
"I'm not threatening to kill myself, am I? I don't intend going to the
devil. I'd like to be your husband, but if I can't--mayn't I be a
brother to you?"
She was inclined to think he was making fun of her, but no--his proposal
had had the real ring in it. "And you're not--you're not going to--?"
it seemed the baldest assumption to think that he was going to, he
looked so strong and calm and friendly.
"Not going to annoy you? Not going to force an undesired affection on
you and rob myself of a most agreeable friendship? Of course not. Your
tea is cold, Mrs. Leland--let me give you another cup. And do you think
Miss Rose is going to do well as 'Angelina?'"
So presently Mrs. Leland was quite relieved in her mind, and free to
enjoy the exceeding comfortableness of this relation. Little Johnny was
extremely fond of Mr Olmstead; who always treated him with respect, and
who could listen to his tales of strife and glory more intelligently
than either mother or governess. Mr. Olmstead kept on hand a changing
supply of interesting things; not toys--never, but real things not
intended for little boys to play with. No little boy would want to play
with dolls for instance; but what little boy would not be fascinated by
a small wooden lay figure, capable of unheard-of contortions. Tin
soldiers were common, but the flags of all nations--real flags, and true
stories about them, were interesting. Noah's arks were cheap and
unreliable scientifically; but Barye lions, ivory elephants, and
Japanese monkeys in didactic groups of three, had unfailing attraction.
And the books this man had--great solid books that could be opened wide
on the floor, and a little boy lie down to in peace and comfort!
Mrs. Leland stirred her tea and watched them until Johnny was taken
"Why don't you smoke?" she asked suddenly. "Doctor's orders?"
"No--mine," he answered. "I never consulted a doctor in my life."
"Nor a dentist, I judge," said she.
"Nor a dentist."
"You'd better knock on wood!" she told him.
"And cry 'Uncle Reuben?' he asked smilingly.
"You haven't told me why you don't smoke!" said she suddenly.
"Haven't I?" he said. "That was very rude of me. But look here.
There's a thing I wanted to ask you. Now I'm not pressing any sort of
inquiry as to myself; but as a brother, would you mind telling me some
of those numerous reasons why you will not marry anybody?"
She eyed him suspiciously, but he was as solid and calm as usual,
regarding her pleasantly and with no hint of ulterior purpose. "Why--I
don't mind," she began slowly. "First--I have been married--and was
very unhappy. That's reason enough."
He did not contradict her; but merely said, "That's one," and set it
down in his notebook.
"Dear me, Mr. Olmstead! You're not a reporter, are you!"
"O no--but I wanted to have them clear and think about them," he
explained. "Do you mind?" And he made as if to shut his little book
"I don't know as I mind," she said slowly. "But it looks
"This is a very serious business, Mrs. Leland, as you must know. Quite
aside from any personal desire of my own, I am truly 'your sincere
friend and well-wisher,' as the Complete Letter Writer has it, and there
are so many men wanting to marry you."
This she knew full well, and gazed pensively at the toe of her small
flexible slipper, poised on a stool before the fire.
Mr. Olmstead also gazed at the slipper toe with appreciation.
"What's the next one?" he said cheerfully.
"Do you know you are a real comfort," she told him suddenly. "I never
knew a man before who could--well leave off being a man for a moment and
just be a human creature."
"Thank you, Mrs. Leland," he said in tones of pleasant sincerity. "I
want to be a comfort to you if I can. Incidentally wouldn't you be more
comfortable on this side of the fire--the light falls better--don't
move." And before she realized what he was doing he picked her up,
chair and all, and put her down softly on the other side, setting the
footstool as before, and even daring to place her little feet upon
it--but with so businesslike an air that she saw no opening for rebuke.
It is a difficult matter to object to a man's doing things like that
when he doesn't look as if he was doing them.
"That's better," said he cheerfully, taking the place where she had
been. "Now, what's the next one?"
"The next one is my boy."
"Second--Boy," he said, putting it down. "But I should think he'd be a
reason the other way. Excuse me--I wasn't going to criticize--yet! And
"Why should you criticize at all, Mr. Olmstead?"
"I shouldn't--on my own account. But there may come a man you love."
He had a fine baritone voice. When she heard him sing Mrs. Leland
always wished he were taller, handsomer, more distinguished looking; his
voice sounded as if he were. And I should hate to see these reasons
standing in the way of your happiness," he continued.
"Perhaps they wouldn't," said she in a revery.
"Perhaps they wouldn't--and in that case it is no possible harm that you
tell me the rest of them. I won't cast it up at you. Third?"
"Third, I won't give up my profession for any man alive."
"Any man alive would be a fool to want you to," said he setting down,
"Fourth--I like _Freedom!"_ she said with sudden intensity. "You don't
know!--they kept me so tight!--so _tight_--when I was a girl! Then--I
was left alone, with a very little money, and I began to study for the
stage--that was like heaven! And then--O what _idiots_ women are!" She
said the word not tragically, but with such hard-pointed intensity that
it sounded like a gimlet. "Then I married, you see--I gave up all my
new-won freedom to _marry!_--and he kept me tighter than ever." She
shut her expressive mouth in level lines--stood up suddenly and
stretched her arms wide and high. "I'm free again, free--I can do
exactly as I please!" The words were individually relished. "I have
the work I love. I can earn all I need--am saving something for the
boy. I'm perfectly independent!"
"And perfectly happy!" he cordially endorsed her. "I don't blame you
for not wanting to give it up."
"O well--happy!" she hesitated. "There are times, of course, when one
isn't happy. But then--the other way I was unhappy all the time."
"He's dead--unfortunately," mused Mr. Olmstead.
He looked at her with his straightforward, pleasant smile. "I'd have
liked the pleasure of killing him," he said regretfully.
She was startled, and watched him with dawning alarm. But he was quite
quiet--even cheerful. "Fourth--Freedom," he wrote. "Is that all?"
"No--there are two more. Neither of them will please you. You won't
think so much of me any more. The worst one is this. I like--lovers!
I'm very much ashamed of it, but I do! I try not to be unfair to
them--some I really try to keep away from me--but honestly I like
admiration and lots of it."
"What's the harm of that?" he asked easily, setting down,
"No harm, so long as I'm my own mistress," said she defiantly. "I take
care of my boy, I take care of myself--let them take care of themselves!
Don't blame me too much!"
"You're not a very good psychologist, I'm afraid," said he.
"What do you mean?" she asked rather nervously.
"You surely don't expect a man to blame you for being a woman, do you?"
"All women are not like that," she hastily asserted. "They are too
conscientious. Lots of my friends blame me severely."
"Women friends," he ventured.
"Men, too. Some men have said very hard things of me."
"Because you turned 'em down. That's natural."
"No, I don't. I'm different.".
"How different?" she asked.
He looked at her steadily. His eyes were hazel, flecked with changing
bits of color, deep, steady, with a sort of inner light that grew as she
watched till presently she thought it well to consider her slipper
again; and continued, "The sixth is as bad as the other almost. I
hate--I'd like to write a dozen tragic plays to show how much I
hate--Housekeeping! There! That's all!"
"Sixth--Housekeeping," he wrote down, quite unmoved. "But why should
anyone blame you for that--it's not your business."
"No--thank goodness, it's not! And never will be! I'm _free,_ I tell
you and I stay free!--But look at the clock!" And she whisked away to
dress for dinner.
He was not at table that night--not at home that night--not at home for
some days--the landlady said he had gone out of town; and Mrs. Leland
missed her afternoon tea.
She had it upstairs, of course, and people came in--both friends and
lovers; but she missed the quiet and cosiness of the green and brown
Johnny missed his big friend still more. "Mama, where's Mr. Olmstead?
Mama, why don't Mr. Olmstead come back? Mama! When is Mr. Olmstead
coming back? Mama! Why don't you write to Mr. Olmstead and tell him to
come back? Mama!--can't we go in there and play with his things?"
As if in answer to this last wish she got a little note from him saying
simply, "Don't let Johnny miss the lions and monkeys--he and Miss Merton
and you, of course, are quite welcome to the whole floor. Go in at any
Just to keep the child quiet she took advantage of this offer, and
Johnnie introduced her to all the ins and outs of the place. In a
corner of the bedroom was a zinc-lined tray with clay in it, where
Johnnie played rapturously at making "making country." While he played
his mother noted the quiet good taste and individuality of the place.
"It smells so clean!" she said to herself. "There! he hasn't told me
yet why he doesn't smoke. I never told him I didn't like it."
Johnnie tugged at a bureau drawer. "He keeps the water in here!" he
said, and before she could stop him he had out a little box with bits of
looking-glass in it, which soon became lakes and rivers in his clay
Mrs. Leland put them back afterward, admiring the fine quality and
goodly number of garments in that drawer, and their perfect order. Her
husband had been a man who made a chowder of his bureau drawers, and who
expected her to find all his studs and put them in for him.
"A man like this would be no trouble at all," she thought for a
moment--but then she remembered other things and set her mouth hard.
"Not for mine!" she said determinedly.
By and by he came back, serene as ever, friendly and unpresuming.
"Aren't you going to tell me why you don't smoke?" she suddenly demanded
of him on another quiet dusky afternoon when tea was before them.
He seemed so impersonal, almost remote, though nicer than ever to
Johnny; and Mrs. Leland rather preferred the personal note in
"Why of course I am," he replied cordially. "That's easy," and he
fumbled in his inner pocket.
"Is that where you keep your reasons?" she mischievously inquired.
"It's where I keep yours," he promptly answered, producing the little
notebook. "Now look here--I've got these all answered--you won't be
able to hold to one of 'em after this. May I sit by you and explain?"
She made room for him on the sofa amiably enough, but defied him to
convince her. "Go ahead," she said cheerfully.
"First," he read off, "Previous Marriage. This is not a sufficient
objection. Because you have been married you now know what to choose
and what to avoid. A girl is comparatively helpless in this matter; you
are armed. That your first marriage was unhappy is a reason for trying
it again. It is not only that you are better able to choose, but that
by the law of chances you stand to win next time. Do you admit the
justice of this reasoning?"
"I don't admit anything," she said. "I'm waiting to ask you a
"Ask it now."
"No--I'll wait till you are all through. Do go on."
"'Second--The Boy,'" he continued. "Now Mrs. Leland, solely on the
boy's account I should advise you to marry again. While he is a baby a
mother is enough, but the older he grows the more he will need a father.
Of course you should select a man the child could love--a man who could
love the child."
"I begin to suspect you of deep double-dyed surreptitious designs, Mr.
Olmstead. You know Johnnie loves you dearly. And you know I won't
marry you," she hastily added.
"I'm not asking you to--now, Mrs. Leland. I did, in good faith, and I
would again if I thought I had the shadow of a chance--but I'm not at
present. Still, I'm quite willing to stand as an instance. Now, we
might resume, on that basis. Objection one does not really hold against
me--now does it?"
He looked at her cheerily, warmly, openly; and in his clean, solid
strength and tactful kindness he was so unspeakably different from the
dark, fascinating slender man who had become a nightmare to her youth,
that she felt in her heart he was right--so far. "I won't admit a
thing," she said sweetly. "But, pray go on."
He went on, unabashed. "'Second--Boy,' Now if you married me I should
consider the boy as an added attraction. Indeed--if you do marry
again--someone who doesn't want the boy--I wish you'd give him to me. I
mean it. I think he loves me, and I think I could be of real service to
He seemed almost to have forgotten her, and she watched him curiously.
"Now, to go on," he continued. "'Third-Profession.' As to your
profession," said he slowly, clasping his hands over one knee and gazing
at the dark soft-colored rug, "if you married me, and gave up your
profession I should find it a distinct loss, I should lose my favorite
She gave a little start of surprise.
"Didn't you know how much I admire your work?" he said. "I don't hang
around the stage entrance--there are plenty of chappies to do that; and
I don't always occupy a box and throw bouquets--I don't like a box
anyhow. But I haven't missed seeing you in any part you've played
yet--some of 'em I've seen a dozen times. And you're growing--you'll do
better work still. It is sometimes a little weak in the love
parts--seems as if you couldn't quite take it seriously--couldn't let
yourself go--but you'll grow. You'll do better--I really think--after
you're married "
She was rather impressed by this, but found it rather difficult to say
anything; for he was not looking at her at all. He took up his notebook
again with a smile.
"So--if you married me, you would be more than welcome to go on with
your profession. I wouldn't stand in your way any more than I do now.
'Fourth--Freedom,'" he read slowly. "That is easy in one way--hard in
another. If you married me,"--She stirred resentfully at this constant
reference to their marriage; but he seemed purely hypothetical in tone;
"_I_ wouldn't interfere with your freedom any. Not of my own will. But
if you ever grew to love me--or if there were children--it would make
_some_ difference. Not much. There mightn't be any children, and it
isn't likely you'd ever love me enough to have that stand in your way.
Otherwise than that you'd have freedom--as much as now. A little more;
because if you wanted to make a foreign tour, or anything like that, I'd
take care of Johnnie. 'Fifth--Lovers.'" Here he paused leaning forward
with his chin in his hands, his eyes bent down. She could see the broad
heavy shoulders, the smooth fit of the well-made, coat, the spotless
collar, and the fine, strong, clean-cut neck. As it happened she
particularly disliked the neck of the average man--either the cordy, the
beefy or the adipose, and particularly liked this kind, firm and round
like a Roman's, with the hair coming to a clean-cut edge and stopping
"As to lovers," he went on--"I hesitate a little as to what to say about
that. I'm afraid I shall shock you. Perhaps I'd better leave out that
"As insuperable?" she mischievously asked.
"No, as too easy," he answered.
"You'd better explain," she said.
"Well then--it's simply this: as a man--I myself admire you more because
so many other men admire you. I don't sympathize with them, any!--Not
for a minute. Of course, if you loved any one of them you wouldn't be
my wife. But if you were my wife--"
"Well?" said she, a little breathlessly. "You're very irritating! What
would you do? Kill 'em all? Come--If I were your wife?--"
"If you were my wife--" he turned and faced her squarely, his deep eyes
blazing steadily into hers, "In the first place the more lovers you had
that you didn't love the better I'd be pleased."
"And if I did?" she dared him.
"If you were my wife," he purused with perfect quietness, "you would
never love anyone else."
There was a throbbing silence.
"'Sixth--Housekeeping,'" he read.
At this she rose to her feet as if released. "Sixth and last and
all-sufficient!" she burst out, giving herself a little shake as if to
waken. "Final and conclusive and admitting no reply!"--I will not keep
house for any man. Never! Never!! Never!!!"
"Why should you?" he said, as he had said it before; "Why not board?"
"I wouldn't board on any account!"
"But you are boarding now. Aren't you comfortable here?"
"O yes, perfectly comfortable. But this is the only boarding-house I
ever saw that was comfortable."
"Why not go on as we are--if you married me?"
She laughed shrilly. "With the other boarders round them and a whole
floor laid between," she parodied gaily. "No, sir! _If_ I ever married
again--and I wont--I'd want a home of my own--a whole house--and have it
run as smoothly and perfectly as this does. With no more care than I
"If I could give you a whole house, like this, and run it for you as
smoothly and perfectly as this one--then would you marry me?" he asked.
"O, I dare say I would," she said mockingly.
"My dear," said he, "I have kept this house--for you--for three years."
"What do you mean?" she demanded, flushingly.
"I mean that it is my business," he answered serenely. "Some men run
hotels and some restaurants: I keep a number of boarding houses and make
a handsome income from them. All the people are comfortable--I see to
that. I planned to have you use these rooms, had the dumbwaiter run to
the top so you could have meals comfortably there. You didn't much like
the first housekeeper. I got one you liked better; cooks to please you,
maids to please you. I have most seriously tried to make you
comfortable. When you didn't like a boarder I got rid of him--or
her--they are mostly all your friends now. Of course if we were
married, we'd fire 'em all." His tone was perfectly calm and business
like. "You should keep your special apartments on top; you should also
have the floor above this, a larger bedroom, drawing-room, and bath and
private parlor for you;--I'd stay right here as I am now--and when you
wanted me--I'd be here."
She stiffened a little at this rather tame ending. She was stirred,
uneasy, dissatisfied. She felt as if something had been offered and
withdrawn; something was lacking.
"It seems such a funny business--for a man," she said.
"Any funnier than Delmonico's?" he asked. "It's a business that takes
some ability--witness the many failures. It is certainly useful. And
"I thought it was real estate," she insisted.
"It is. I'm in a real estate office. I buy and sell houses--that's how
I came to take this up!"
He rose up, calmly and methodically, walked over to the fire, and laid
his notebook on it. "There wasn't any strength in any of those
objections, my dear," said he. "Especially the first one. Previous
marriage, indeed! You have never been married before. You are going to
It was some weeks after that marriage that she suddenly turned upon
him--as suddenly as one can turn upon a person whose arms are about
"And why don't you smoke?--You never told me!"
"I shouldn't like to kiss you so well if you smoked!"--said he.
"I never had any idea," she ventured after a while, "that it could
She beats upon her bolted door,
With faint weak hands;
Drearily walks the narrow floor;
Sullenly sits, blank walls before;
Life calls her, Duty, Pleasure, Gain--
Her dreams respond;
But the blank daylights wax and wane,
Dull peace, sharp agony, slow pain--
No hope beyond.
Till she comes a thought! She lifts her head,
The world grows wide!
A voice--as if clear words were said--
"Your door, o long imprisoned,
Is locked inside!"
PRIVATE MORALITY AND PUBLIC IMMORALITY
There is more sense in that convenient trick of blaming "the old Adam"
for our misbehavior than some of us have thought. That most culpable
sinner we no longer see as a white-souled adult baby, living on uncooked
food in a newmade garden, but as a husky, hairy, highly carnivorous and
bloodthirsty biped, just learning his giant strength, and exercising it
like a giant.
Growing self-conscious and intelligent, he developed an ethical sense,
and built up system after system of morals, all closely calculated to
advance his interests in this world or the next. The morals of the
early Hebrews, for instance, with which we are most familiar, were
strictly adjusted to their personal profit; their conception of Diety
definitely engaging to furnish protection and reward in return for
specified virtuous conduct.
This is all reasonable and right in its way. If good conduct were not
ultimately advantageous it would not be good. The difficulty with the
ancient scheme of morality lies in its narrow range. "The soul that
sinneth it shall die," is the definite statement; the individual is the
one taken to task, threatened, promised, exhorted and punished. Our
whole race-habit of thought on questions of morality is personal. When
goodness is considered it is "my" goodness or "your" goodness--not ours;
and sins are supposed to be promptly traceable to sinners; visible,
catchable, hangable sinners in the flesh. We have no mental machinery
capable of grasping the commonest instances of collective sin; large,
public continuing sin, to which thousands contribute, for generations
upon generations; and under the consequences of which more thousands
suffer for succeeding centuries. Yet public evils are what society
suffer from most to-day, and must suffer from most in increasing ratio,
as years pass.
In concrete instance, we are most definitely clear as to the verb "to
steal." This is wrong. It says so in the Bible. It if a very simple
commandment. If a man steals he is a thief. And our law following
slowly along after our moral sense, punishes stealing. But it is one
man stealing from one other man who is a thief. It is the personal
attack upon personal property, done all at once, which we can see, feel,
and understand. Let a number of men in combination gradually alienate
the property of a number of other men--a very large number of other men,
and our moral sense makes no remark. This is not intended in any ironic
sense--it is a plain fact, a physiological, or psychological fact.
The racial mind, long accustomed to attach moral values to personal acts
only, cannot, without definite effort, learn to attach them to
collective acts. We can do it, in crude instances, when mere numbers
are in question and the offence is a plain one. If a number of men in a
visible moving group commit murder or arson before our eyes, we had as
lief hang a dozen as one: but when it comes to tracing complicity and
responsibility in the deaths of a few screaming tenants of firetrap
tenements, a death unnecessary perhaps, but for the bursting of the fire
hose--then we are at fault. The cringing wretch who lit the oilsoaked
rags in the cellar we seize in triumph. He did it. Him we can hang.
"The soul that sinneth it shall die." But if the fire is "an accident,"
owing to "a defective flue," if the fire-escape breaks, the stairs give
away under a little extra weight, or ill-built walls crumble
prematurely--who can we lay hands on? Where is the soul that sinneth?
Our brains are not trained to follow a complex moral relation; we travel
in the deep ruts of mental habit as old as Adam aforesaid. Our sense of
duty, of obligation, of blame or praise is all hopelessly egotistic.
"Who is to blame?" we continue to say; when we should say, "Who are to
blame?" One heavy dose of poison resulting in one corpse shows us
murder. A thousand tiny doses of poison, concealed in parcels of food,
resulting in the lowered vitality, increased illness and decreased
efficiency of thousands of persons, shows us nothing. There is need
to-day for very honest mental effort in readjusting our moral sense so
that we may recognize social evils, social offenders and social
Here we are all together, rising and falling in masses under the
influence of other person's conduct, with no possibility of tracing the
death of this particular baby to the dirty hands of that particular
milker of far-off cows. It wasn't murder--he never saw the baby. You
can't hang a man for not washing his hands. We see babies die, look in
vain for the soul that sinneth, and do nothing.
We should have a poor opinion of any state where there was no moral
sense ai all, no weight of public opinion to uphold standards, no
measures to protect innocence and punish crime. This we should call
barbarism or savagery, and feel proud of our Christian civilization,
where we legislate so profusely and punish so severely--when we can lay
hands on individual offenders, whose crimes, though small, are at least
whole ones. But we are in precisely that state of barbarism in regard
to the fractional crimes of our complex social life.
If seven doctors in succession refuse to answer a poor man's call and he
dies for lack of medical aid--who has killed him? Has he seven
murderers--or is each doctor one-seventh of a murderer? Or is it not
murder at all just to let a man die?
If again, the doctor does his duty and the man dies because the
medicine given him was different from what the doctor ordered--a
cheaper, weaker drug, an adulteration or substitute--then who killed
him? The druggist who sold--the clerk who put up the prescription--the
advertiser of the stuff--the manufacturer of it--or those who live on
money invested in the manufacturing company? "The clerk!" we cry,
delightedly. "He put up the poison! He knew it was not what was
ordered! He did it with his hands!" "The soul that sinneth _it_ shall
die." And perhaps it does--or at least the body of it. Yet the same
drug goes on poisoning.
We might perhaps pass on from that shaggy Adam of our remote past and
his necessary limitations, and begin to study the real relation of human
beings in modern life, learning at last that human conduct changes as
society develops, that morality is no longer a mere matter of "thou
shalt" and "thou shalt not," but a vast complex of mutually interactive
conduct in which personal responsibility has small place.
Take an evil like our railroad management with its yearly tale of
bloodshed and dismemberment, its hundreds and thousands of killed and
wounded. We cannot pick out and hang a director or president when the
dead brakeman is dragged out from between the cars that did not have
automatic couplers. The man is dead, is killed, is murdered--but we
cannot fix responsibility. Can we arrest for murder the poor mother who
is caring for her boy sick with typhoid fever; just because she empties
slops on a watershed that feeds a little brook, that feeds a river, that
feeds a city--and thousands die of that widespread disease? She is not
personally guilty of murder. There are others in plenty between her and
the victim and many back of her to blame for her ignorance. Who can
untangle the responsibility for the ruin of a girl who was utterly
untaught, underpaid, improperly dressed, ill-fed, influenced by every
gorgeously dressed idle woman who stood before her counter, and tempted
by many men in turn? There is the one "sin"--but is she the only
Consider the two awful instances of recent date--the Iroquois Theatre
fire in Chicago, the Slocum disaster in New York. Even if it were
possible to "fix responsibility," to find the one person, or more than
one whom we could prove to blame for these holocausts, what could we do
to these persons as fit punishment for such an injury to society? If we
could devise tortures prolonged and painful enough to make such
criminals feel as felt their dying victims, what good would that do? It
would raise no dead, restore no health, prevent no repetition of similar
horrors. That much has been established by the history of our primitive
systems--punishment does not prevent.
Here is the real question for society to ask--Adam did not know enough.
The age of personal morals is the age of personal punishment. The age
of recognized public evils is the age of prevention. This we are
beginning to see, beginning to do. After the Iroquois fire we were more
stringent in guarding our theatres. After the Slocum disaster the
inspection of steamships was more thorough. After the slaughter of the
innocents in the burning schoolhouse, many other school buildings were
condemned and more were safeguarded.
But this is only a beginning--a feeble, temporary, ineffectual effort.
Social morality does not consist in spasmodic attempts to be good,
following upon some terrible catastrophe. A mother's duty to a child is
not mere passionate protection after it has fallen through the ice; the
soldier's duty is not confined to wild efforts to recover the flag after
it has been lost. We have a constant definite active duty to society,
each one of us; there lies our responsibility and failing therein is our
When men or women fail in full honest efficient performance of their
social service, which means their special kind of work, they sin--if we
must call it sin--against society. Better drop the very name and
thought of "sin" and say merely, "Why are we to-day so inefficient and
unreliable in our social duty?" For reason good. We are not taught
social duty. For further reason that we are taught much that militates
against it. Our social instinct is not yet strong enough to push and
pull us into perfect relation with one another without conscious effort.
We need to be taught from infancy, which way our duty lies--the most
imperative duty of a human creature--to give his life's best service to
This would call for new standards in the nursery, the school and the
shop, as well as the platform, press and pulpit. That is our crying
need; a truer standard of duty, and the proper development of it. The
School City is a step this way, a long one; as is the George Junior
Republic and other specific instances of effort to bring out the social
But it is in our work that we need it most. From babyhood we should be
taught that we are here dependent on one another, beautifully
specialized that we may serve one another; owing to the State, our great
centralized body, the whole service of our lives. What every common
soldier knows and most of them practice is surely not too difficult for
a common business man. Our public duty is most simple and clear--to do
our best work for the service of the world. And our personal sin--the
one sin against humanity--is to let that miserable puny outgrown
Ego--our exaggerated sense of personality--divert us from that service.
With God Above--Beneath--Beside--
Rising with the resistless tide
Of life, and Sure of Getting There.
Patient with Nature's long delay,
Proud of our conscious upward swing;
Not sorry for a single day,
And Not Afraid of Anything!
With Motherhood at last awake--
With Power to Do and Light to See--
Women may now begin to Make
The People we are Meant to Be!
THE HUMANNESS OF WOMEN
A woman by the river's brim,
A wife and servant is to him--
And she is nothing more.
We have made mistakes, as old as humanity, about the world, and about
First, as to the world:
This we have assumed to be a general battlefield for men to struggle in;
a place for free competition; full of innumerable persons whose natural
mode of life was to struggle, for existence, with one another.
This is the individualist view, and is distinctly masculine.
Males are essentially individualistic--born to vary and compete; and an
exclusively masculine world must be individualistic and competitive.
We have been wrong. The new Social Philosophy recognizes Society as an
orderly life-form, having its own laws of growth; and that we, as
individuals, live only as active parts of Society. Instead of accepting
this world of warfare, disease, and crime, of shameful, unnecessary
poverty and pain, as natural and right, we now see that all these evils
may be removed, and we propose to remove them. Humanity is waking up,
is beginning to understand its own nature, is beginning to face a new
and a possible problem, instead of the dark enigma of the past.
Second, as to the woman:
Our mistake about her was a very strange one. No one knows yet how or
why it was made; yet there it stands; one of the most colossal blunders
ever made by mankind. In the face of all creation, where the female is
sometimes found quite self-sufficient, often superior, and always equal
to the male, our human race set up the "andro-centric theory," holding
that man alone is the race type; and that woman was "his female." In
what "Mr. Venus" described as "the vicious pride of his youth," our
budding humanity distinguished itself by discrediting its mother. "You
are a female," said Ancient Man, "and that's all. We are the People!"
This is the alpha and omega of the old idea about woman. It saw in her
only sex--not Humanity.
The New Woman is Human first, last and always. Incidentally she is
female; as man is male. As a male he has done his small share in the
old physical process of reproduction; but as a Human Creature he has
done practically all in the new Social processes which make
He has been Male--and Human:--She has been Female--and nothing
else;--that is, in our old idea.
Holding this idea; absurd, erroneous, and mischievous to a terrible
degree; we strove to carry it out in our behavior; and human history so
far is the history of a wholly masculine world, competing and fighting
as males must, forever seeking and serving the female as males must, yet
building this our world as best they could alone.
Theirs is the credit--and the shame--of the world behind us, the world
around us; but the world before us has a new element--the Humanness of
For a little over a century we have become increasingly conscious of a
stir, an uprising, and protest among women. The long-suppressed "better
half" of humanity has begun to move and push and lift herself. This
Woman's movement is as natural, as beneficial, as irresistible as the
coming of spring; but it has been misunderstood and opposed from the
first by the glacial moraine of old ideas, the inert force of sheer
blank ignorance, and prejudice as old as Adam.
At first the women strove for a little liberty, for education; then for
some equality before the law, for common justice; then, with larger
insight, for full equal rights with men in every human field; and as
essential base of these, for the right of suffrage.
Woman suffrage is but one feature of the movement, but it is a most
important one. The opposition to it is wholly one of sex-prejudice, of
feeling, not of reason; the opposition of a masculine world; and of an
individualism also masculine. The male is physiologically an
individualist. It is his place in nature to vary, to introduce new
characteristics, and to strive mightily with his rivals for the favor of
the females. A world of males must fight.
With the whole of history of this combative sort; with masculinity and
humanity identical, in the average mind; there is something alien,
unnatural, even revolting, in the claim of woman to her share in the
work and management of the world. Against it he brings up one constant
cry--that woman's progress will injure womanhood. All that he sees in
woman is her sex; and he opposes her advance on the ground that "as a
woman" she is unfit to take part in "a man's world"--and that if she
did, it would mysteriously but inevitably injure her "as a woman."
Suggest that she might be able to take part in "a woman's world,"--and
has as much right to a world made her way as he has to his man-made
world! Suggest that without any such extreme reversal, she has a right
to half the world; half the work, half the pay, half the care, half the
To all this replies the Male-individualist:
"The World has to be as it is. It is a place to fight in; fight for
life, fight for money. Work is for slaves and poor people generally.
Nobody would work unless they had to. You are females and no part of
the world at all. Your place is at home: to bear and rear children--and
Now what is the position toward women of this new philosophy that sees
Society as one thing, and the main thing to be considered; that sees the
world as a place open to ceaseless change and improvement; that sees the
way so to change and improve it that the major part of our poor silly
sins and sorrows will disappear utterly for lack of cause?
From this viewpoint male and female fall into two lower positions, both
right and proper; useful, beautiful, essential for the replenishment of
the race on earth. From this viewpoint men and women rise, together,
from that lower relation, to the far higher one of Humanness, that
common Humanness which is hers as much as his. Seeing Society as the
real life-form; and our individual lives as growing in glory and power
as we serve and develop Society; the movement of women becomes of
majestic importance. It is the advance of an entire half the race, from
a position of arrested development, into full humanness.
The world is no longer seen as a battlefield, where it is true, women do
not belong; but as a garden--a school--a church--a home, where they
visibly do belong. In the great task of cultivating the earth they have
an equal interest and an equal power. Equality is not identity. There
is work of all kinds and sizes--and half of it is woman's.
In that vast labor of educating humanity, till all of us understand one
another; till the thoughts and feelings necessary to our progress can
flow smooth and clear through the world-mind, women have preeminent
part. They are the born teachers, by virtue of their motherhood, as
well as in the human joy of it.
In the power of organization which is essential to our progress we have
special need of women, and their rapid and universal movement in this
direction is one of the most satisfactory proofs of our advance. In
every art, craft and profession they have the same interests, the same
power. We rob the world of half its service when we deny women their
share in it.
In direct political action there is every reason for women's voting that
there is for men's; and every reason for a spreading universal suffrage
that there is for democracy. As far as any special power in government
is called for, the mother is the natural ruler, the natural
administrator and executive. The functions of democratic government may
be wisely and safely shared between men and women.
Here we have our great position fairly before us:--the improvement of
the world is ours to make; women are coming forward to help make it;
women are human with every human power; democracy is the highest form of
government--so far; and the use of the ballot is essential to democracy;
therefore women should vote!
Against this rises the tottering fortress of the ultra-masculine,
abetted by a petty handful of witless traitors--those petticoated
creatures who also see in women nothing but their sex. They may be, in
some cases, honest in their belief; but their honesty does no credit to
their intelligence. They are obsessed by this dominant idea of sex; due
clearly enough to the long period of male dominance--to our androcentric
culture. The male naturally sees in the female, sex; first, last and
always. For all these centuries she has been restricted to the exercise
of feminine duties only, with the one addition of house-service.
The wife-and-mother sex, the servant sex, she is to him; and nothing
more. The woman does not look at men in this light. She has to
consider them as human creatures, because they monopolize the human
functions. She does not consider the motorman and conductor as males,
but as promotors of travel; she does not chuck the bellboy under the
chin and kiss the waiter!
Inextricably mingled with the masculine view is the individualist view,
seeing the world forever and ever as a place of struggle.
Then comes this great change of our time, the dawning of the Social
consciousness. Here is a world of combination, of ordered grouping and
inter-service. Here is a world now wasting its wealth like water--all
this waste may be saved. Here is a world of worse than unnecessary war.
We will stop this warfare. Here is a world of hideous diseases. We
will exterminate them. Here is a world of what we call "Sin"--almost
all of which is due to Ignorance, Ill-health, Unhappiness, Injustice.
When the world learns how to take care of itself decently; when there
are no dirty evil places upon it, with innocent children born daily and
hourly into conditions which inevitably produce a certain percentage of
criminality; when the intelligence and good breeding which now
distinguish some of us are common to all of us--we shan't hear so much
A socially conscious world, intelligent, courageous, earnest to improve
itself, seeking to establish a custom of peaceful helpful
interservice--such a world has no fear of woman, and no feeling that she
is unfit to participate in its happy labors. The new social philosophy
welcomes woman suffrage.
But suppose you are not in any sense Socialistically inclined. Suppose
you are still an Individualist, albeit a believer in votes for women.
Even so, merely from the woman's point of view, enough can be said to
justify the promise of a New World.
What makes the peace and beauty of the Home--its
Her service is given, not hired. Her attitude is of one seeking to
administer a common fund for the common good. She does not set her
children to compete for their dinner--does not give most to the
strongest and leave the weakest to go to the wall. It is only in her
lowest helplessness; under the degrading influence of utter poverty,
that she is willing to exploit her children and let them work before
If she, merely as Woman, merely as wife and mother, comes forward to
give the world the same service she has given the home, it will be
wholly to its advantage.
Go and look at the legislation initiated or supported by women in every
country where women vote--and you will see one unbroken line of social
service. Not self-interest--not mercenary profit--not competition; but
one steady upward pressure; the visible purpose to uplift and help the
This world is ours as much as man's. We have not only a right to half
its management but a duty to half its service. It is our duty as human
beings to help make the world better--quickly! It is our duty as Women
to bring our Motherhood to comfort and help humanity--our children every
HERE IS THE EARTH
Here is the earth: As big, as fresh, as clean,
As when it first grew green;
Our little spots of dirt walled in,
As easy to outgrow as sin,
In the swift, sweet, triumphal hour
Of nature's power.
We have not hurt the world: Still safe we rest
On that great loving breast.
Proud, patient mother! Strong and still!
Our little years of doing ill
Lost in her smooth, unmeasured time
Of life sublime.
We need not grieve, nor kneel our faults to own;
She has not even known
That we offended! Our misdeeds
She covers with one summer's weeds:
Her love we thought so long away--
Is ours to-day.
And here are we. Our bodies are as new
As ever Adam grew:
Replenished still with daily touch,
By the fair mother, loving much.
Glad living things! Still conscious part
Of earth's rich heart!
And for the soul which these fair bodies give
Increasing room to live--?
It is the same soul that was born
In the dim, lovely, unknown morn
Of Nature's waking--the same soul--
Still here, and whole!
Strong? `Tis the force that governs ring on ring
Where quiet planets swing.
Glad? `Tis the joy of riotous flowers
And meadow-larks in May, now ours,
Ours endlessly--to have--to give--
To all who live!
No grief behind have we, no fear before
But only more and more
The splendid passion of the soul
In new creation to unroll:
All life, poured new in all the lands,
Through our glad hands!
WHAT DIANTHA DID
Duck! Dive! Here comes another one!
Wait till the crest-ruffles show!
Beyond is smooth water in beauty and wonder--
Shut your mouth! Hold your breath! Dip your head under!
Dive through the weight and the wash, and the thunder--
Look out for the undertow!
If Diantha imagined that her arithmetical victory over a too-sordid
presentation of the parental claim was a final one, she soon found
It is easy to say--putting an epic in an epigram--"She seen her duty and
she done it!" but the space and time covered are generally as far beyond
our plans as the estimates of an amateur mountain climber exceed his
Her determination was not concealed by her outraged family. Possibly
they thought that if the matter was well aired, and generally discussed,
the daring offender might reconsider. Well-aired it certainly was, and
widely discussed by the parents of the little town before young people
who sat in dumbness, or made faint defense. It was also discussed by
the young people, but not before their parents.
She had told Ross, first of all, meaning to have a quiet talk with him
to clear the ground before arousing her own family; but he was suddenly
away just as she opened the subject, by a man on a wheel--some wretched
business about the store of course--and sent word that night that he
could not come up again. Couldn't come up the next night either. Two
long days--two long evenings without seeing him. Well--if she went away
she'd have to get used to that.
But she had so many things to explain, so much to say to make it right
with him; she knew well what a blow it was. Now it was all over
town--and she had had no chance to defend her position.
The neighbors called. Tall bony Mrs. Delafield who lived nearest to
them and had known Diantha for some years, felt it her duty to make a
special appeal--or attack rather; and brought with her stout Mrs.
Schlosster, whose ancestors and traditions were evidently of German
Diantha retired to her room when she saw these two bearing down upon the
house; but her mother called her to make a pitcher of lemonade for
them--and having entered there was no escape. They harried her with
questions, were increasingly offended by her reticence, and expressed
disapproval with a fullness that overmastered the girl's self-control.
"I have as much right to go into business as any other citizen, Mrs.
Delafield," she said with repressed intensity. "I am of age and live in
a free country. What you say of children no longer applies to me."
"And what is this mysterious business you're goin' into--if one may
inquire? Nothin you're ashamed to mention, I hope?" asked Mrs.
"If a woman refuses to mention her age is it because she's ashamed of
it?" the girl retorted, and Mrs. Delafield flushed darkly.
"Never have I heard such talk from a maiden to her elders," said Mrs.
Schlosster. "In my country the young have more respect, as is right."
Mrs. Bell objected inwardly to any reprimand of her child by others; but
she agreed to the principle advanced and made no comment.
Diantha listened to quite a volume of detailed criticism, inquiry and
condemnation, and finally rose to her feet with the stiff courtesy of
"You must excuse me now," she said with set lips. "I have some
necessary work to do."
She marched upstairs, shut her bedroom door and locked it, raging
inwardly. "Its none of their business! Not a shadow! Why should
Mother sit there and let them talk to me like that! One would think
childhood had no limit--unless it's matrimony!"
This reminded her of her younger sister's airs of superior wisdom, and
did not conduce to a pleasanter frame of mind. "With all their
miserable little conventions and idiocies! And what 'they'll say,' and
'they'll think'! As if I cared! Minnie'll be just such another!"
She heard the ladies going out, still talking continuously, a faint
response from her mother now and then, a growing quiet as their steps
receded toward the gate; and then another deeper voice took up the theme
and heavily approached.
It was the minister! Diantha dropped into her rocker and held the arms
tight. "Now I'll have to take it again I suppose. But he ought to know
me well enough to understand."
"Diantha!" called her mother, "Here's Dr. Major;" and the girl washed
her face and came down again.
Dr. Major was a heavy elderly man with a strong mouth and a warm hand
clasp. "What's all this I hear about you, young lady?" he demanded,
holding her hand and looking her straight in the eye. "Is this a new
kind of Prodigal Daughter we're encountering?"
He did not look nor sound condemnatory, and as she faced him she caught
a twinkle in the wise old eyes.
"You can call it that if you want to," she said, "Only I thought the
Prodigal Son just spent his money--I'm going to earn some."
"I want you to talk to Diantha, Doctor Major," Mrs. Bell struck in.
"I'm going to ask you to excuse me, and go and lie down for a little. I
do believe she'll listen to you more than to anybody."
The mother retired, feeling sure that the good man who had known her
daughter for over fifteen years would have a restraining influence now;
and Diantha braced herself for the attack.
It came, heavy and solid, based on reason, religion, tradition, the
custom of ages, the pastoral habit of control and protection, the
father's instinct, the man's objection to a girl's adventure. But it
was courteous, kind, and rationally put, and she met it point by point
with the whole-souled arguments of a new position, the passionate
enthusiasm of her years.
They called a truce.
"I can see that you _think_ its your duty, young, woman--that's the main
thing. I think you're wrong. But what you believe to be right you have
to do. That's the way we learn my dear, that's the way we learn!
Well--you've been a good child ever since I've known you. A remarkably
good child. If you have to sow this kind of wild oats--" they both
smiled at this, "I guess we can't stop you. I'll keep your secret--"
"Its not a secret really," the girl explained, "I'll tell them as soon
as I'm settled. Then they can tell--if they want to." And they both
"Well--I won't tell till I hear of it then. And--yes, I guess I can
furnish that document with a clean conscience."
She gave him paper and pen and he wrote, with a grin, handing her the
She read it, a girlish giggle lightening the atmosphere. "Thank you!"
she said earnestly. "Thank you ever so much. I knew you would help
"If you get stuck anywhere just let me know," he said rising. "This
Proddy Gal may want a return ticket yet!"
"I'll walk first!" said Diantha.
"O Dr. Major," cried her mother from the window, "Don't go! We want you
to stay to supper of course!"
But he had other calls to make, he said, and went away, his big hands
clasped behind him; his head bent, smiling one minute and shaking his
head the next.
Diantha leaned against a pearly eucalyptus trunk and watched him. She
would miss Dr. Major. But who was this approaching? Her heart sank
miserably. Mrs. Warden--and _all_ the girls.
She went to meet them--perforce. Mrs. Warden had always been kind and
courteous to her; the girls she had not seen very much of, but they had
the sweet Southern manner, were always polite. Ross's mother she must
love. Ross's sisters too--if she could. Why did the bottom drop out of
her courage at sight of them?
"You dear child!" said Mrs. Warden, kissing her. "I know just how you
feel! You want to help my boy! That's your secret! But this won't do
it, my dear!"
"You've no idea how badly Ross feels!" said Madeline. "Mrs. Delafield
dropped in just now and told us. You ought to have seen him!"
"He didn't believe it of course," Adeline put in. "And he wouldn't say
a thing--not a thing to blame you."
"We said we'd come over right off--and tried to bring him--but he said
he'd got to go back to the store," Coraline explained.
"He was mad though!" said Dora--"_I_ know."
Diantha looked from one to the other helplessly.
"Come in! Come in!" said Mrs. Bell hospitably. "Have this rocker, Mrs.
Warden--wouldn't you like some cool drink? Diantha?"
"No indeed!" Mrs. Warden protested. "Don't get a thing. We're going
right back, it's near supper time. No, we can't think of staying, of
course not, no indeed!--But we had to come over and hear about this dear
child's idea!--Now tell us all about it, Diantha!"
There they sat--five pairs of curious eyes--and her mother's sad
ones--all kind--all utterly incapable of understanding.
She moistened her lips and plunged desperately. "It is nothing
dreadful, Mrs. Warden. Plenty of girls go away to earn their livings
nowadays. That is all I'm doing."
"But why go away?"
"I thought you were earning your living before!"
"Isn't teaching earning your living?"
"What _are_ you going to do?" the girls protested variously, and Mrs.
Warden, with a motherly smile, suggested--
"That doesn't explain your wanting to leave Ross, my dear--and your
"I don't want to leave them," protested Diantha, trying to keep her
voice steady. "It is simply that I have made up my mind I can do better
"Do what better?" asked Mrs. Warden with sweet patience, which reduced
Diantha to the bald statement, "Earn more money in less time."
"And is that better than staying with your mother and your lover?"
pursued the gentle inquisitor; while the girls tried, "What do you want
to earn more money for?" and "I thought you earned a lot before."
Now Diantha did not wish to state in so many words that she wanted more
money in order to marry sooner--she had hardly put it to herself that
way. She could not make them see in a few moments that her plan was to
do far more for her mother than she would otherwise ever be able to.
And as to making them understand the larger principles at stake--the
range and depth of her full purpose--that would be physically
"I am sorry!" she said with trembling lips. "I am extremely sorry.
But--I cannot explain!"
Mrs. Warden drew herself up a little. "Cannot explain to me?--Your
mother, of course, knows?"
"Diantha is naturally more frank with me than with--anyone," said Mrs.
Bell proudly, "But she does not wish her--business--plans--made public
Her daughter looked at her with vivid gratitude, but the words "made
public" were a little unfortunate perhaps.
"Of course," Mrs. Warden agreed, with her charming smile, "that we can
quite understand. I'm sure I should always wish my girls to feel so.
Madeline--just show Mrs. Bell that necktie you're making--she was asking
about the stitch, you remember."
The necktie was produced and admired, while the other girls asked
Diantha if she had her fall dressmaking done yet--and whether she found
wash ribbon satisfactory. And presently the whole graceful family
withdrew, only Dora holding her head with visible stiffness.
Diantha sat on the floor by her mother, put her head in her lap and
cried. "How splendid of you, Mother!" she sobbed. "How simply
splendid! I will tell you now--if--if--you won't tell even
"Dear child" said her Mother, "I'd rather not know in that case. It
"That's what I kept still for!" said the girl. "It's hard enough,
goodness knows--as it is! Its nothing wicked, or even risky, Mother
dear--and as far as I can see it is right!"
Her mother smiled through her tears. "If you say that, my dear child, I
know there's no stopping you. And I hate to argue with you--even for
your own sake, because it is so much to my advantage to have you here.
I--shall miss you--Diantha!"
"Don't, Mother!" sobbed the girl.
"Its natural for the young to go. We expect it--in time. But you are
so young yet--and--well, I had hoped the teaching would satisfy you till
Ross was ready."
Diantha sat up straight.
"Mother! can't you see Ross'll never be ready! Look at that family!
And the way they live! And those mortgages! I could wait and teach and
save a little even with Father always losing money; but I can't see Ross
wearing himself out for years and years--I just _can't_ bear it!"
Her mother stroked her fair hair softly, not surprised that her own plea
was so lost in thought of the brave young lover.
"And besides," the girl went on "If I waited--and saved--and married
Ross--what becomes of _you,_ I'd like to know? What I can't stand is to
have you grow older and sicker--and never have any good time in all your
Mrs. Bell smiled tenderly. "You dear child!" she said; as if an
affectionate five-year old had offered to get her a rainbow, "I know you
mean it all for the best. But, O my _dearest_! I'd rather have
you--here--at home with me---than any other 'good time' you can
She could not see the suffering in her daughter's face; but she felt she
had made an impression, and followed it up with heart-breaking
sincerity. She caught the girl to her breast and held her like a little
child. "O my baby! my baby! Don't leave your mother. I can't bear
A familiar step outside, heavy, yet uncertain, and they both looked at
each other with frightened eyes.
They had forgotten the biscuit.
"Supper ready?" asked Mr. Bell, with grim humor.
"It will be in a moment, Father," cried Diantha springing to her feet.
"At least--in a few moments."
"Don't fret the child, Father," said Mrs. Henderson softly. "She's
feeling bad enough."
"Sh'd think she would," replied her husband. "Moreover--to my mind--she
He got out the small damp local paper and his pipe, and composed himself
in obvious patience: yet somehow this patience seemed to fill the
kitchen, and to act like a ball and chain to Diantha's feet.
She got supper ready, at last, making griddle-cakes instead of biscuit,
and no comment was made of the change: but the tension in the atmosphere
was sharply felt by the two women; and possibly by the tall old man, who
ate less than usual, and said absolutely nothing.
"I'm going over to see Edwards about that new incubator," he said when
the meal was over, and departed; and Mrs. Bell, after trying in vain to
do her mending, wiped her clouded glasses and went to bed.
Diantha made all neat and tidy; washed her own wet eyes again, and went
out under the moon. In that broad tender mellow light she drew a deep
breath and stretched her strong young arms toward the sky in dumb
"I knew it would be hard," she murmured to herself, "That is I knew the
facts--but I didn't know the feeling!"
She stood at the gate between the cypresses, sat waiting under the
acacia boughs, walked restlessly up and down the path outside, the dry
pepper berries crush softly under foot; bracing herself for one more
struggle--and the hardest of all.
"He will understand!" he told herself, over and over, but at the bottom
of her heart she knew he wouldn't.
He came at last; a slower, wearier step than usual; came and took both
her hands in his and stood holding them, looking at her questioningly.
Then he held her face between his palms and made her look at him. Her
eyes were brave and steady, but the mouth trembled in spite of her.
He stilled it with a kiss, and drew her to a seat on the bench beside
him. "My poor Little Girl! You haven't had a chance yet to really tell
me about this thing, and I want you to right now. Then I'm going to
kill about forty people in this town! _Somebody_ has been mighty
She squeezed his hand, but found it very difficult to speak. His love,
his sympathy, his tenderness, were so delicious after this day's
trials--and before those further ones she could so well anticipate. She
didn't wish to cry any more, that would by no means strengthen her
position, and she found she couldn't seem to speak without crying.
"One would think to hear the good people of this town that you were
about to leave home and mother for--well, for a trip to the moon!" he
added. "There isn't any agreement as to what you're going to do, but
they're unanimous as to its being entirely wrong. Now suppose you tell
me about it."
"I will," said Diantha. "I began to the other night, you know, you
first of course--it was too bad! your having to go off at that exact
moment. Then I had to tell mother--because--well you'll see presently.
Now dear--just let me say it _all_--before you--do anything."
"Say away, my darling. I trust you perfectly."
She flashed a grateful look at him. "It is this way, my dear. I have
two, three, yes four, things to consider:--My own personal problem--my
family's--yours--and a social one."
"My family's?" he asked, with a faint shade of offence in his tone.
"No no dear--your own," she explained.
"Better cut mine out, Little Girl," he said. "I'll consider that
"Well--I won't talk about it if you don't want me to. There are the
"I won't question your second, nor your imposing third, but isn't the
first one--your own personal problem--a good deal answered?" he
suggested, holding her close for a moment.
"Don't!" she said. "I can't talk straight when you put it that way."
She rose hurriedly and took a step or two up and down. "I don't
suppose--in spite of your loving me, that I can make you see it as I do.
But I'll be just as clear as I can. There are some years before us
before we can be together. In that time I intend to go away and
undertake a business I am interested in. My purpose is to--develop the
work, to earn money, to help my family, and to--well, not to hinder
"I don't understand, I confess," he said. "Don't you propose to tell me
what this 'work' is?"
"Yes--I will--certainly. But not yet dear! Let me try to show you how
I feel about it."
"Wait," said he. "One thing I want to be sure of. Are you doing this
with any quixotic notion of helping me--in _my_ business? Helping me to
take care of my family? Helping me to--" he stood up now, looking very
tall and rather forbidding, "No, I won't say that to you."
"Would there be anything wrong in my meaning exactly that?" she asked,
holding her own head a little higher; "both what you said and what you
"It would be absolutely wrong, all of it," he answered. "I cannot
believe that the woman I love would--could take such a position."
"Look here, Ross!" said the girl earnestly. "Suppose you knew where
there was a gold mine--_knew it_--and by going away for a few years you
could get a real fortune--wouldn't you do it?"
"Naturally I should," he agreed.
"Well, suppose it wasn't a gold mine, but a business, a new system like
those cigar stores--or--some patent amusement specialty--or
_anything_--that you knew was better than what you're doing--wouldn't
you have a right to try it?"
"Of course I should--but what has that to do with this case?"
"Why it's the same thing! Don't you see? I have plans that will be of
real benefit to all of us, something worth while to _do_--and not only
for us but for _everybody_--a real piece of progress--and I'm going to
leave my people--and even you!--for a little while--to make us all
happier later on."
He smiled lovingly at her but shook his head slowly. "You dear, brave,
foolish child!" he said. "I don't for one moment doubt your noble
purposes. But you don't get the man's point of view--naturally. What's
more you don't seem to get the woman's."
"Can you see no other point of view than those?" she asked.
"There are no others," he answered. "Come! come! my darling, don't add
this new difficulty to what we've got to carry! I know you have a hard
time of it at home. Some day, please God, you shall have an easier one!
And I'm having a hard time too--I don't deny it. But you are the
greatest joy and comfort I have, dear--you know that. If you go
away--it will be harder and slower and longer--that's all. I shall have
you to worry about too. Let somebody else do the gold-mine, dear--you
stay here and comfort your Mother as long as you can--and me. How can I
get along without you?"
He tried to put his arm around her again, but she drew back. "Dear,"
she said. "If I deliberately do what I think is right--against your
wishes--what will you do?"
"Do?" The laughed bitterly. "What can I do? I'm tied by the leg
here--l can't go after you. I've nothing to pull you out of a scrape
with if you get in one. I couldn't do anything but--stand it."
"And if I go ahead, and do what you don't like--and make
you--suffer--would you--would you rather be free?" Her voice was very
low and shaken, but he heard her well enough.
"Free of you? Free of _you_?" He caught her and held her and kissed
her over and over.
"You are mine!" he said. "You have given yourself to me! You cannot
leave me. Neither of us is free--ever again." But she struggled away
"Both of us are free--to do what we think right, _always_ Ross! I
wouldn't try to stop you if you thought it was your duty to go to the
North Pole!" She held him a little way off. "Let me tell you, dear.
Sit down--let me tell you all about it." But he wouldn't sit down.
"I don't think I want to know the details," he said. "It doesn't much
matter what you're going to do--if you really go away. I can't stop
you--I see that. If you think this thing is your 'duty' you'll do it if
it kills us all--and you too! If you have to go--I shall do
nothing--can do nothing--but wait till you come back to me! Whatever
happens, darling--no matter how you fail--don't ever be afraid to come
back to me."
He folded his arms now--did not attempt to hold her--gave her the
freedom she asked and promised her the love she had almost feared to
lose--and her whole carefully constructed plan seemed like a child's
sand castle for a moment; her heroic decision the wildest folly.
He was not even looking at her; she saw his strong, clean-cut profile
dark against the moonlit house, a settled patience in its lines. Duty!
Here was duty, surely, with tenderest happiness. She was leaning toward
him--her hand was seeking his, when she heard through the fragrant
silence a sound from her mother's room--the faint creak of her light
rocking chair. She could not sleep--she was sitting up with her
trouble, bearing it quietly as she had so many others.
The quiet everyday tragedy of that distasteful life--the slow withering
away of youth and hope and ambition into a gray waste of ineffectual
submissive labor--not only of her life, but of thousands upon thousands
like her--it all rose up like a flood in the girl's hot young heart.
Ross had turned to her--was holding out his arms to her. "You won't go,
my darling!" he said.
"I am going Wednesday on the 7.10," said Diantha.
THE "ANTI" AND THE FLY
The fly upon the Cartwheel
Thought he made all the Sound;
He thought he made the Cart go on--
And made the wheels go round.
The Fly upon the Cartwheel
Has won undying fame
For Conceit that was colossal,
And Ignorance the same.
But to-day he has a Rival
As we roll down History's Track--
For the "Anti" on the Cartwheel
Thinks she makes the Wheels go back!
I was walking, peacefully enough, along a plain ordinary road, when I
lifted my head and observed an impressive gateway. The pillars were of
stone, high, carven, massive; mighty gates of wrought iron hung between
them, the gray wall stretched away on either side.
As the gates were open and there was no prohibitory sign, I entered, and
for easy miles walked on; under the springing arches of tall elms, flat
roofs of beech, and level fans of fir and pine; through woodland, park
and meadow, with glimpses of starred lily-ponds, blue lakelets, and
bright brooks; seeing the dappled deer, the swans and pheasants--a
glorious place indeed.
Then a smooth turn, and across velvet lawns and statued gardens I saw a
towering palace, so nobly beautiful, so majestic, I took off my hat
involuntarily. Approaching it I was met by courteous servingmen; told
that it was open to visitors; and shown from hall to hall, from floor to
floor; where every object was a work of art; where line, color and
proportion, perfect architecture and fitting decoration made an
"Whose it is?" I inquired. "Some Duke?--King?--Emperor? Who owns this
palace?--this glorious estate?"
They bowed and offered to lead me to him.
Downward and toward the back; through servants' apartments; through
workroom, scullery and stable; out to the last and least and meanest
little yard; narrow and dark, stone-paved, stone-walled, shadowed by
caves of barns; there, huddled in a barrel, they pointed out a man.
They bowed to him, they called him master. They told me he was the
owner of this vast estate.
I could not believe it--but they stood bowing--and he ordered them away.
"What!" I cried. "_You!_--you are the owner--the master of all this
wealth of beauty--this beauty of wealth! You own these miles of breezy
upland and rich valley--still forests and bright lakes! You own these
noble trees--those overflowing flowers--those glades of browsing deer!
You own this palace--a joy to the eye and uplift to the soul! This
majesty and splendor--this comfort, beauty, form, you own all this--and
He regarded me superciliously, with a weary expression.
"Young man," he said, "you are a dreamer--a visionary--a Utopian!--an
idealist! You should consider Facts, my young sir; fix your mind on
Facts! The _Fact_ is that I live in this Barrel."
It was a fact;--he did visibly live in the Barrel.
It was also a fact that he owned that vast estate.
And there was no lid on the Barrel.
OUR ANDROCENTRIC CULTURE; or, THE MAN-MADE WORLD
HEALTH AND BEAUTY.
NOTE--The word "Androcentric" we owe to Prof. Lester F. Ward. In his
book, "Pure Sociology," Chap. 14, he describes the Androcentric Theory
of life, hitherto universally accepted; and introduces his own
"Gyneacocentric Theory." All who are interested in the deeper
scientific aspects of this question are urged to read that chapter.
Prof. Ward's theory is to my mind the most important that has been
offered the world since the Theory of Evolution; and without exception
the most important that has ever been put forward concerning women.
Among the many paradoxes which we find in human life is our low average
standard of health and beauty, compared with our power and knowledge.
All creatures suffer from conflict with the elements; from enemies
without and within--the prowling devourers of the forest, and "the
terror that walketh in darkness" and attacks the body from inside, in
Among wild animals generally, there is a certain standard of excellence;
if you shoot a bear or a bird, it is a fair sample of the species; you
do not say, "O what an ugly one!" or "This must have been an invalid!"
Where we have domesticated any animal, and interfered with its natural
habits, illness has followed; the dog is said to have the most diseases
second to man; the horse comes next; but the wild ones put us to shame
by their superior health and the beauty that belongs to right
In our long ages of blind infancy we assume that sickness was a
visitation frown the gods; some still believe this, holding it to be a
special prerogative of divinity to afflict us in this way. We speak of
"the ills that flesh is heir to" as if the inheritance was entailed and
inalienable. Only of late years, after much study and long struggle
with this old belief which made us submit to sickness as a blow from the
hand of God, we are beginning to learn something of the many causes of
our many diseases, and how to remove some of them.
It is still true, however, that almost every one of us is to some degree
abnormal; the features asymmetrical, the vision defective, the digestion
unreliable, the nervous system erratic--we are but a job lot even in
what we call "good health"; and are subject to a burden of pain and
premature death that would make life hideous if it were not so
As to beauty--we do not think of expecting it save in the rarely
exceptional case. Look at the faces--the figures--in any crowd you
meet; compare the average man or the average woman with the normal type
of human beauty as given us in picture and statue; and consider if there
is not some general cause for so general a condition of ugliness.
Moreover, leaving our defective bodies concealed by garments; what are
those garments, as conducive to health and beauty? Is the practical
ugliness of our men's attire, and the impractical absurdity of our
women's, any contribution to human beauty? Look at our houses--are they
beautiful? Even the houses of the rich?
We do not even know that we ought to live in a world of overflowing
loveliness; and that our contribution to it should be the loveliest of
all. We are so sodden in the dull ugliness of our interiors, so used to
calling a tame weary low-toned color scheme "good taste," that only
children dare frankly yearn for Beauty--and they are speedily educated
out of it.
The reasons specially given for our low standards of health and beauty
are ignorance, poverty, and the evil effects of special trades. The Man
with the Hoe becomes brother to the ox because of over-much hoeing; the
housepainter is lead-poisoned because of his painting; books have been
written to show the injurious influence of nearly all our industries
These causes are sound as far as they go; but do not cover the whole
The farmer may be muscle-bound and stooping from his labor; but that
does not account for his dyspepsia or his rheumatism.
Then we allege poverty as covering all. Poverty does cover a good deal.
But when we find even a half-fed savage better developed than a well
paid cashier; and a poor peasant woman a more vigorous mother than the
idle wife of a rich man, poverty is not enough.
Then we say ignorance explains it. But there are most learned
professors who are ugly and asthmathic; there are even doctors who can
boast no beauty and but moderate health; there are some of the petted
children of the wealthy, upon whom every care is lavished from birth,
and who still are ill to look at and worse to marry.
All these special causes are admitted, given their due share in lowering
our standards, but there is another far more universal in its
application and its effects. Let us look back on our little ancestors
the beasts, and see what keeps them so true to type.
The type itself set by that balance of conditions and forces we call
"natural selection." As the environment changes they must be adapted to
it, if they cannot so adapt themselves they die. Those who live are, by
living, proven capable of maintaining themselves. Every creature which
has remained on earth, while so many less effective kinds died out,
remains as a conqueror. The speed of the deer--the constant use of
speed--is what keeps it alive and makes it healthy and beautiful. The
varied activities of the life of a leopard are what have developed the
sinuous gracile strength we so admire. It is what the creature does for
its living, its daily life-long exercise which makes it what it is.
But there is another great natural force which works steadily to keep
all animals up to the race standard; that is sexual selection.
Throughout nature the male is the variant, as we have already noted.
His energy finds vent not only in that profuse output of decorative
appendages Ward defines as "masculine efflorescence" but in variations
not decorative, not useful or desirable at all.
The female, on the other hand, varies much less, remaining nearer the
race type; and her function is to select among these varying males the
specimens most valuable to the race. In the intense masculine
competition the victor must necessarily be stronger than his fellows; he
is first proven equal to his environment by having lived to grow up,
then more than equal to his fellows by overcoming them. This higher
grade of selection also develops not only the characteristics necessary
to make a living; but secondary ones, often of a purely aesthetic
nature, which make much of what we call beauty. Between the two, all
who live must be up to a certain grade, and those who become parents
must be above it; a masterly arrangement surely!
Here is where, during the period of our human history, we in our newborn
consciousness and imperfect knowledge, have grieviously interfered with
the laws of nature. The ancient proprietary family, treating the woman
as a slave, keeping her a prisoner and subject to the will of her
master, cut her off at once from the exercise of those activities which
alone develop and maintain the race type.
Take the one simple quality of speed. We are a creature built for
speed, a free swift graceful animal; and among savages this is still
seen--the capacity for running, mile after mile, hour after hour.
Running is as natural a gait for _genus homo_ as for _genus cervus._
Now suppose among deer, the doe was prohibited from running; the stag
continuing free on the mountain; the doe living in caves and pens,
unequal to any exercise. The effect on the species would be,
inevitably, to reduce its speed.
In this way, by keeping women to one small range of duties, and in most
cases housebound, we have interfered with natural selection and its
resultant health and beauty. It can easily be seen what the effect on
the race would have been if all men had been veiled and swathed, hidden
in harems, kept to the tent or house, and confined to the activities of
a house-servant. Our stalwart laborers, our proud soldiers, our
athletes, would never have appeared under such circumstances. The
confinement to the house alone, cutting women off from sunshine and air,
is by itself an injury; and the range of occupation allowed them is not
such as to develop a high standard of either health or beauty. Thus we
have cut off half the race from the strengthening influence of natural
selection, and so lowered our race-standards in large degree.
This alone, however, would not have hid such mischievous effects but for
our further blunder in completely reversing nature's order of sexual
selection. It is quite possible that even under confinement and
restriction women could have kept up the race level, passably, through
this great function of selection; but here is the great fundamental
error of the Androcentric Culture. Assuming to be the possessor of
women, their owner and master, able at will to give, buy and sell, or do
with as he pleases, man became the selector.
It seems a simple change; and in those early days, wholly ignorant of
natural laws, there was no suspicion that any mischief would result. In
the light of modern knowledge, however, the case is clear. The woman
was deprived of the beneficent action of natural selection, and the man
was then, by his own act, freed from the stern but elevating effect of
sexual selection. Nothing was required of the woman by natural
selection save such capacity as should please her master; nothing was
required of the man by sexual selection save power to take by force, or
buy, a woman.
It does not take a very high standard of feminine intelligence,
strength, skill, health, or beauty to be a houseservant, or even a
housekeeper; witness the average.
It does not take a very high standard of masculine, intelligence,
strength, skill, health or beauty to maintain a woman in that
Here at the very root of our physiological process, at the beginning of
life, we have perverted the order of nature, and are suffering the
It has been held by some that man as the selector has developed beauty,
more beauty than we had before; and we point to the charms of our women
as compared with those of the squaw. The answer to this is that the
squaw belongs to a decadent race; that she too is subject to the man,
that the comparison to have weight should be made between our women and
the women of the matriarchate--an obvious impossibility. We have not on
earth women in a state of normal freedom and full development; but we
have enough difference in their placing to learn that human strength and
beauty grows with woman's freedom and activity.
The second answer is that much of what man calls beauty in woman is not
human beauty at all, but gross overdevelopment of certain points which
appeal to him as a male. The excessive fatness, previously referred to,
is a case in point; that being considered beauty in a woman which is in
reality an element of weakness, inefficiency and ill-health. The
relatively small size of women, deliberately preferred, steadfastly
chosen, and so built into the race, is a blow at real human progress in
every particular. In our upward journey we should and do grow larger,
leaving far behind us our dwarfish progenitors. Yet the male, in his
unnatural position as selector, preferring for reasons both practical
and sentimental, to have "his woman" smaller than himself, has
deliberately striven to lower the standard of size in the race. We used
to read in the novels of the last generation, "He was a magnificent
specimen of manhood"--"Her golden head reached scarcely to his
shoulder"--"She was a fairy creature--the tiniest of her sex." Thus we
have mated, and yet expected that by some hocus pocus the boys would all
"take after their father," and the girls, their mother. In his efforts
to improve the breed of other animals, man has never tried to
deliberately cross the large and small and expect to keep up the
standard of size.
As a male he is appealed to by the ultra-feminine, and has given small
thought to effects on the race. He was not designed to do the
selecting. Under his fostering care we have bred a race of women who
are physically weak enough to be handed about like invalids; or mentally
weak enough to pretend they are--and to like it. We have made women who
respond so perfectly to the force which made them, that they attach all
their idea of beauty to those characteristics which attract men;
sometimes humanly ugly without even knowing it.
For instance, our long restriction to house-limits, the heavy
limitations of our clothing, and the heavier ones of traditional
decorum, have made women disproportionately short-legged. This is a
particularly undignified and injurious characteristic, bred in women and
inherited by men, most seen among those races which keep their women
most closely. Yet when one woman escapes the tendency and appears with
a normal length of femur and tibia, a normal height of hip and shoulder,
she is criticized and called awkward by her squatty sisters!
The most convenient proof of the inferiority of women in human beauty is
shown by those composite statues prepared by Mr. Sargent for the World's
Fair of '93. These were made from gymnasium measurements of thousands
of young collegians of both sexes all over America. The statue of the
girl has a pretty face, small hands and feet, rather nice arms, though
weak; but the legs are too thick and short; the chest and shoulders
poor; and the trunk is quite pitiful in its weakness. The figure of the
man is much better proportioned.
Thus the effect on human beauty of masculine selection.
Beyond this positive deteriorative effect on women through man's
arbitrary choice comes the negative effect of woman's lack of choice.
Bought or stolen or given by her father, she was deprived of the
innately feminine right and duty of choosing. "Who giveth this woman?"
we still inquire in our archaic marriage service, and one man steps
forward and gives her to another man.
Free, the female chose the victor, and the vanquished went unmated--and
without progeny. Dependent, having to be fed and cared for by some man,
the victors take their pick perhaps, but the vanquished take what is
left; and the poor women, "marrying for a home," take anything. As a
consequence the inferior male is as free to transmit his inferiority as
the superior to give better qualities, and does so--beyond computation.
In modern days, women are freer, in some countries freer than in others;
here in modern America freest of all; and the result is seen in our
improving standards of health and beauty.
Still there remains the field of inter-masculine competition, does there
not? Do not the males still struggle together? Is not that as of old,
a source of race advantage?
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