Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Re: Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Postby admin » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:24 am

Chapter 10: 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 still indeed.

“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 beyond us.”

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 world-nightmare — Hell.

“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 answered her.

“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.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24073
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Postby admin » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:25 am

Chapter 11: Our Difficulties

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 premarital 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 earlier 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 defeminized, 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 defeminine 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,

and

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 disquieted myself.

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 her — naturally.

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 moonlit road, swearing under his breath. I was taking a walk that night too, but I wasn’t in his state of mind. To hear him rage you’d not have believed that he loved Alima at all — you’d have thought that she was some quarry he was pursuing, something to catch and conquer.

I think that, owing to all those differences I spoke of, they soon lost the common ground they had at first, and were unable to meet sanely and dispassionately. I fancy too — this is pure conjecture — that he had succeeded in driving Alima beyond her best judgment, her real conscience, and that after that her own sense of shame, the reaction of the thing, made her bitter perhaps.

They quarreled, really quarreled, and after making it up once or twice, they seemed to come to a real break — she would not be alone with him at all. And perhaps she was a bit nervous, I don’t know, but she got Moadine to come and stay next door to her. Also, she had a sturdy assistant detailed to accompany her in her work.

Terry had his own ideas, as I’ve tried to show. I daresay he thought he had a right to do as he did. Perhaps he even convinced himself that it would be better for her. Anyhow, he hid himself in her bedroom one night . . .

The women of Herland have no fear of men. Why should they have? They are not timid in any sense. They are not weak; and they all have strong trained athletic bodies. Othello could not have extinguished Alima with a pillow, as if she were a mouse.

Terry put in practice his pet conviction that a woman loves to be mastered, and by sheer brute force, in all the pride and passion of his intense masculinity, he tried to master this woman.

It did not work. I got a pretty clear account of it later from Ellador, but what we heard at the time was the noise of a tremendous struggle, and Alima calling to Moadine. Moadine was close by and came at once; one or two more strong grave women followed.

Terry dashed about like a madman; he would cheerfully have killed them — he told me that, himself — but he couldn’t. When he swung a chair over his head one sprang in the air and caught it, two threw themselves bodily upon him and forced him to the floor; it was only the work of a few moments to have him tied hand and foot, and then, in sheer pity for his futile rage, to anesthetize him.

Alima was in a cold fury. She wanted him killed — actually.

There was a trial before the local Over Mother, and this woman, who did not enjoy being mastered, stated her case.

In a court in our country he would have been held quite “within his rights,” of course. But this was not our country; it was theirs. They seemed to measure the enormity of the offense by its effect upon a possible fatherhood, and he scorned even to reply to this way of putting it.

He did let himself go once, and explained in definite terms that they were incapable of understanding a man’s needs, a man’s desires, a man’s point of view. He called them neuters, epicenes, bloodless, sexless creatures. He said they could of course kill him — as so many insects could — but that he despised them nonetheless.

And all those stern grave mothers did not seem to mind his despising them, not in the least.

It was a long trial, and many interesting points were brought out as to their views of our habits, and after a while Terry had his sentence. He waited, grim and defiant. The sentence was: “You must go home!”
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24073
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Postby admin » Thu Oct 19, 2017 7:26 am

Chapter 12: Expelled

We had all meant to go home again. Indeed we had NOT meant — not by any means — to stay as long as we had. But when it came to being turned out, dismissed, sent away for bad conduct, we none of us really liked it.

Terry said he did. He professed great scorn of the penalty and the trial, as well as all the other characteristics of “this miserable half-country.” But he knew, and we knew, that in any “whole” country we should never have been as forgivingly treated as we had been here.

“If the people had come after us according to the directions we left, there’d have been quite a different story!” said Terry. We found out later why no reserve party had arrived. All our careful directions had been destroyed in a fire. We might have all died there and no one at home have ever known our whereabouts.

Terry was under guard now, all the time, known as unsafe, convicted of what was to them an unpardonable sin.

He laughed at their chill horror. “Parcel of old maids!” he called them. “They’re all old maids — children or not. They don’t know the first thing about Sex.”

When Terry said SEX, sex with a very large S, he meant the male sex, naturally; its special values, its profound conviction of being “the life force,” its cheerful ignoring of the true life process, and its interpretation of the other sex solely from its own point of view.

I had learned to see these things very differently since living with Ellador; and as for Jeff, he was so thoroughly Herlandized that he wasn’t fair to Terry, who fretted sharply in his new restraint.

Moadine, grave and strong, as sadly patient as a mother with a degenerate child, kept steady watch on him, with enough other women close at hand to prevent an outbreak. He had no weapons, and well knew that all his strength was of small avail against those grim, quiet women.

We were allowed to visit him freely, but he had only his room, and a small high-walled garden to walk in, while the preparations for our departure were under way.

Three of us were to go: Terry, because he must; I, because two were safer for our flyer, and the long boat trip to the coast; Ellador, because she would not let me go without her.

If Jeff had elected to return, Celis would have gone too — they were the most absorbed of lovers; but Jeff had no desire that way.

“Why should I want to go back to all our noise and dirt, our vice and crime, our disease and degeneracy?” he demanded of me privately. We never spoke like that before the women. “I wouldn’t take Celis there for anything on earth!” he protested. “She’d die! She’d die of horror and shame to see our slums and hospitals. How can you risk it with Ellador? You’d better break it to her gently before she really makes up her mind.”

Jeff was right. I ought to have told her more fully than I did, of all the things we had to be ashamed of. But it is very hard to bridge the gulf of as deep a difference as existed between our life and theirs. I tried to.

“Look here, my dear,” I said to her. “If you are really going to my country with me, you’ve got to be prepared for a good many shocks. It’s not as beautiful as this — the cities, I mean, the civilized parts — of course the wild country is.”

“I shall enjoy it all,” she said, her eyes starry with hope. “I understand it’s not like ours. I can see how monotonous our quiet life must seem to you, how much more stirring yours must be. It must be like the biological change you told me about when the second sex was introduced — a far greater movement, constant change, with new possibilities of growth.”

I had told her of the later biological theories of sex, and she was deeply convinced of the superior advantages of having two, the superiority of a world with men in it.

“We have done what we could alone; perhaps we have some things better in a quiet way, but you have the whole world — all the people of the different nations — all the long rich history behind you — all the wonderful new knowledge. Oh, I just can’t wait to see it!”

What could I do? I told her in so many words that we had our unsolved problems, that we had dishonesty and corruption, vice and crime, disease and insanity, prisons and hospitals; and it made no more impression on her than it would to tell a South Sea Islander about the temperature of the Arctic Circle. She could intellectually see that it was bad to have those things; but she could not FEEL it.

We had quite easily come to accept the Herland life as normal, because it was normal — none of us make any outcry over mere health and peace and happy industry. And the abnormal, to which we are all so sadly well acclimated, she had never seen.

The two things she cared most to hear about, and wanted most to see, were these: the beautiful relation of marriage and the lovely women who were mothers and nothing else; beyond these her keen, active mind hungered eagerly for the world life.

“I’m almost as anxious to go as you are yourself,” she insisted, “and you must be desperately homesick.”

I assured her that no one could be homesick in such a paradise as theirs, but she would have none of it.

“Oh, yes — I know. It’s like those little tropical islands you’ve told me about, shining like jewels in the big blue sea — I can’t wait to see the sea! The little island may be as perfect as a garden, but you always want to get back to your own big country, don’t you? Even if it is bad in some ways?”

Ellador was more than willing. But the nearer it came to our really going, and to my having to take her back to our “civilization,” after the clean peace and beauty of theirs, the more I began to dread it, and the more I tried to explain.

Of course I had been homesick at first, while we were prisoners, before I had Ellador. And of course I had, at first, rather idealized my country and its ways, in describing it. Also, I had always accepted certain evils as integral parts of our civilization and never dwelt on them at all. Even when I tried to tell her the worst, I never remembered some things — which, when she came to see them, impressed her at once, as they had never impressed me. Now, in my efforts at explanation, I began to see both ways more keenly than I had before; to see the painful defects of my own land, the marvelous gains of this.

In missing men we three visitors had naturally missed the larger part of life, and had unconsciously assumed that they must miss it too. It took me a long time to realize — Terry never did realize — how little it meant to them. When we say MEN, MAN, MANLY, MANHOOD, and all the other masculine derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities. To grow up and “be a man,” to “act like a man”— the meaning and connotation is wide indeed. That vast background is full of marching columns of men, of changing lines of men, of long processions of men; of men steering their ships into new seas, exploring unknown mountains, breaking horses, herding cattle, ploughing and sowing and reaping, toiling at the forge and furnace, digging in the mine, building roads and bridges and high cathedrals, managing great businesses, teaching in all the colleges, preaching in all the churches; of men everywhere, doing everything —“the world.”

And when we say WOMEN, we think FEMALE— the sex.

But to these women, in the unbroken sweep of this two-thousand-year-old feminine civilization, the word WOMAN called up all that big background, so far as they had gone in social development; and the word MAN meant to them only MALE— the sex.

Of course we could TELL them that in our world men did everything; but that did not alter the background of their minds. That man, “the male,” did all these things was to them a statement, making no more change in the point of view than was made in ours when we first faced the astounding fact — to us — that in Herland women were “the world.”

We had been living there more than a year. We had learned their limited history, with its straight, smooth, upreaching lines, reaching higher and going faster up to the smooth comfort of their present life. We had learned a little of their psychology, a much wider field than the history, but here we could not follow so readily. We were now well used to seeing women not as females but as people; people of all sorts, doing every kind of work.

This outbreak of Terry’s, and the strong reaction against it, gave us a new light on their genuine femininity. This was given me with great clearness by both Ellador and Somel. The feeling was the same — sick revulsion and horror, such as would be felt at some climactic blasphemy.

They had no faintest approach to such a thing in their minds, knowing nothing of the custom of marital indulgence among us. To them the one high purpose of motherhood had been for so long the governing law of life, and the contribution of the father, though known to them, so distinctly another method to the same end, that they could not, with all their effort, get the point of view of the male creature whose desires quite ignore parentage and seek only for what we euphoniously term “the joys of love.”

When I tried to tell Ellador that women too felt so, with us, she drew away from me, and tried hard to grasp intellectually what she could in no way sympathize with.

“You mean — that with you — love between man and woman expresses itself in that way — without regard to motherhood? To parentage, I mean,” she added carefully.

“Yes, surely. It is love we think of — the deep sweet love between two. Of course we want children, and children come — but that is not what we think about.”

“But — but — it seems so against nature!” she said. “None of the creatures we know do that. Do other animals — in your country?”

“We are not animals!” I replied with some sharpness. “At least we are something more — something higher. This is a far nobler and more beautiful relation, as I have explained before. Your view seems to us rather — shall I say, practical? Prosaic? Merely a means to an end! With us — oh, my dear girl — cannot you see? Cannot you feel? It is the last, sweetest, highest consummation of mutual love.”

She was impressed visibly. She trembled in my arms, as I held her close, kissing her hungrily. But there rose in her eyes that look I knew so well, that remote clear look as if she had gone far away even though I held her beautiful body so close, and was now on some snowy mountain regarding me from a distance.

“I feel it quite clearly,” she said to me. “It gives me a deep sympathy with what you feel, no doubt more strongly still. But what I feel, even what you feel, dearest, does not convince me that it is right. Until I am sure of that, of course I cannot do as you wish.”

Ellador, at times like this, always reminded me of Epictetus. “I will put you in prison!” said his master. “My body, you mean,” replied Epictetus calmly. “I will cut your head off,” said his master. “Have I said that my head could not be cut off?” A difficult person, Epictetus.

What is this miracle by which a woman, even in your arms, may withdraw herself, utterly disappear till what you hold is as inaccessible as the face of a cliff?

“Be patient with me, dear,” she urged sweetly. “I know it is hard for you. And I begin to see — a little — how Terry was so driven to crime.”

“Oh, come, that’s a pretty hard word for it. After all, Alima was his wife, you know,” I urged, feeling at the moment a sudden burst of sympathy for poor Terry. For a man of his temperament — and habits — it must have been an unbearable situation.

But Ellador, for all her wide intellectual grasp, and the broad sympathy in which their religion trained them, could not make allowance for such — to her — sacrilegious brutality.


It was the more difficult to explain to her, because we three, in our constant talks and lectures about the rest of the world, had naturally avoided the seamy side; not so much from a desire to deceive, but from wishing to put the best foot foremost for our civilization, in the face of the beauty and comfort of theirs. Also, we really thought some things were right, or at least unavoidable, which we could readily see would be repugnant to them, and therefore did not discuss. Again there was much of our world’s life which we, being used to it, had not noticed as anything worth describing. And still further, there was about these women a colossal innocence upon which many of the things we did say had made no impression whatever.

I am thus explicit about it because it shows how unexpectedly strong was the impression made upon Ellador when she at last entered our civilization.

She urged me to be patient, and I was patient. You see, I loved her so much that even the restrictions she so firmly established left me much happiness. We were lovers, and there is surely delight enough in that.

Do not imagine that these young women utterly refused “the Great New Hope,” as they called it, that of dual parentage. For that they had agreed to marry us, though the marrying part of it was a concession to our prejudices rather than theirs. To them the process was the holy thing — and they meant to keep it holy.

But so far only Celis, her blue eyes swimming in happy tears, her heart lifted with that tide of race-motherhood which was their supreme passion, could with ineffable joy and pride announce that she was to be a mother. “The New Motherhood” they called it, and the whole country knew. There was no pleasure, no service, no honor in all the land that Celis might not have had. Almost like the breathless reverence with which, two thousand years ago, that dwindling band of women had watched the miracle of virgin birth, was the deep awe and warm expectancy with which they greeted this new miracle of union.

All mothers in that land were holy. To them, for long ages, the approach to motherhood has been by the most intense and exquisite love and longing, by the Supreme Desire, the overmastering demand for a child. Every thought they held in connection with the processes of maternity was open to the day, simple yet sacred. Every woman of them placed motherhood not only higher than other duties, but so far higher that there were no other duties, one might almost say. All their wide mutual love, all the subtle interplay of mutual friendship and service, the urge of progressive thought and invention, the deepest religious emotion, every feeling and every act was related to this great central Power, to the River of Life pouring through them, which made them the bearers of the very Spirit of God.

Of all this I learned more and more — from their books, from talk, especially from Ellador. She was at first, for a brief moment, envious of her friend — a thought she put away from her at once and forever.

“It is better,” she said to me. “It is much better that it has not come to me yet — to us, that is. For if I am to go with you to your country, we may have ‘adventures by sea and land,’ as you say [and as in truth we did], and it might not be at all safe for a baby. So we won’t try again, dear, till it is safe — will we?”

This was a hard saying for a very loving husband.

“Unless,” she went on, “if one is coming, you will leave me behind. You can come back, you know — and I shall have the child.”

Then that deep ancient chill of male jealousy of even his own progeny touched my heart.

“I’d rather have you, Ellador, than all the children in the world. I’d rather have you with me — on your own terms — than not to have you.”

This was a very stupid saying. Of course I would! For if she wasn’t there I should want all of her and have none of her. But if she went along as a sort of sublimated sister — only much closer and warmer than that, really — why I should have all of her but that one thing. And I was beginning to find that Ellador’s friendship, Ellador’s comradeship, Ellador’s sisterly affection, Ellador’s perfectly sincere love — none the less deep that she held it back on a definite line of reserve — were enough to live on very happily.

I find it quite beyond me to describe what this woman was to me. We talk fine things about women, but in our hearts we know that they are very limited beings — most of them. We honor them for their functional powers, even while we dishonor them by our use of it; we honor them for their carefully enforced virtue, even while we show by our own conduct how little we think of that virtue; we value them, sincerely, for the perverted maternal activities which make our wives the most comfortable of servants, bound to us for life with the wages wholly at our own decision, their whole business, outside of the temporary duties of such motherhood as they may achieve, to meet our needs in every way. Oh, we value them, all right, “in their place,” which place is the home, where they perform that mixture of duties so ably described by Mrs. Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon, in which the services of “a mistress” are carefully specified. She is a very clear writer, Mrs. J. D. D. Bacon, and understands her subject — from her own point of view. But — that combination of industries, while convenient, and in a way economical, does not arouse the kind of emotion commanded by the women of Herland. These were women one had to love “up,” very high up, instead of down. They were not pets. They were not servants. They were not timid, inexperienced, weak.

After I got over the jar to my pride (which Jeff, I truly think, never felt — he was a born worshipper, and which Terry never got over — he was quite clear in his ideas of “the position of women”), I found that loving “up” was a very good sensation after all. It gave me a queer feeling, way down deep, as of the stirring of some ancient dim prehistoric consciousness, a feeling that they were right somehow — that this was the way to feel. It was like — coming home to mother. I don’t mean the underflannels-and-doughnuts mother, the fussy person that waits on you and spoils you and doesn’t really know you. I mean the feeling that a very little child would have, who had been lost — for ever so long. It was a sense of getting home; of being clean and rested; of safety and yet freedom; of love that was always there, warm like sunshine in May, not hot like a stove or a featherbed — a love that didn’t irritate and didn’t smother.

I looked at Ellador as if I hadn’t seen her before. “If you won’t go,” I said, “I’ll get Terry to the coast and come back alone. You can let me down a rope. And if you will go — why you blessed wonder-woman — I would rather live with you all my life — like this — than to have any other woman I ever saw, or any number of them, to do as I like with. Will you come?”

She was keen for coming. So the plans went on. She’d have liked to wait for that Marvel of Celis’s, but Terry had no such desire. He was crazy to be out of it all. It made him sick, he said, SICK; this everlasting mother-mother-mothering. I don’t think Terry had what the phrenologists call “the lump of philoprogenitiveness” at all well developed.

“Morbid one-sided cripples,” he called them, even when from his window he could see their splendid vigor and beauty; even while Moadine, as patient and friendly as if she had never helped Alima to hold and bind him, sat there in the room, the picture of wisdom and serene strength. “Sexless, epicene, undeveloped neuters!” he went on bitterly. He sounded like Sir Almwroth Wright.

Well — it was hard. He was madly in love with Alima, really; more so than he had ever been before, and their tempestuous courtship, quarrels, and reconciliations had fanned the flame. And then when he sought by that supreme conquest which seems so natural a thing to that type of man, to force her to love him as her master — to have the sturdy athletic furious woman rise up and master him — she and her friends — it was no wonder he raged.

Come to think of it, I do not recall a similar case in all history or fiction. Women have killed themselves rather than submit to outrage; they have killed the outrager; they have escaped; or they have submitted — sometimes seeming to get on very well with the victor afterward. There was that adventure of “false Sextus,” for instance, who “found Lucrese combing the fleece, under the midnight lamp.” He threatened, as I remember, that if she did not submit he would slay her, slay a slave and place him beside her and say he found him there. A poor device, it always seemed to me. If Mr. Lucretius had asked him how he came to be in his wife’s bedroom overlooking her morals, what could he have said? But the point is Lucrese submitted, and Alima didn’t.

“She kicked me,” confided the embittered prisoner — he had to talk to someone. “I was doubled up with the pain, of course, and she jumped on me and yelled for this old harpy [Moadine couldn’t hear him] and they had me trussed up in no time. I believe Alima could have done it alone,” he added with reluctant admiration. “She’s as strong as a horse. And of course a man’s helpless when you hit him like that. No woman with a shade of decency —”

I had to grin at that, and even Terry did, sourly. He wasn’t given to reasoning, but it did strike him that an assault like his rather waived considerations of decency.

“I’d give a year of my life to have her alone again,” he said slowly, his hands clenched till the knuckles were white.

But he never did. She left our end of the country entirely, went up into the fir-forest on the highest slopes, and stayed there. Before we left he quite desperately longed to see her, but she would not come and he could not go. They watched him like lynxes. (Do lynxes watch any better than mousing cats, I wonder!)

Well — we had to get the flyer in order, and be sure there was enough fuel left, though Terry said we could glide all right, down to that lake, once we got started. We’d have gone gladly in a week’s time, of course, but there was a great to-do all over the country about Ellador’s leaving them. She had interviews with some of the leading ethicists — wise women with still eyes, and with the best of the teachers. There was a stir, a thrill, a deep excitement everywhere.

Our teaching about the rest of the world has given them all a sense of isolation, of remoteness, of being a little outlying sample of a country, overlooked and forgotten among the family of nations. We had called it “the family of nations,” and they liked the phrase immensely.

They were deeply aroused on the subject of evolution; indeed, the whole field of natural science drew them irresistibly. Any number of them would have risked everything to go to the strange unknown lands and study; but we could take only one, and it had to be Ellador, naturally.

We planned greatly about coming back, about establishing a connecting route by water; about penetrating those vast forests and civilizing — or exterminating — the dangerous savages. That is, we men talked of that last — not with the women. They had a definite aversion to killing things.

But meanwhile there was high council being held among the wisest of them all. The students and thinkers who had been gathering facts from us all this time, collating and relating them, and making inferences, laid the result of their labors before the council.

Little had we thought that our careful efforts at concealment had been so easily seen through, with never a word to show us that they saw. They had followed up words of ours on the science of optics, asked innocent questions about glasses and the like, and were aware of the defective eyesight so common among us.

With the lightest touch, different women asking different questions at different times, and putting all our answers together like a picture puzzle, they had figured out a sort of skeleton chart as to the prevalence of disease among us. Even more subtly with no show of horror or condemnation, they had gathered something — far from the truth, but something pretty clear — about poverty, vice, and crime. They even had a goodly number of our dangers all itemized, from asking us about insurance and innocent things like that.

They were well posted as to the different races, beginning with their poison-arrow natives down below and widening out to the broad racial divisions we had told them about. Never a shocked expression of the face or exclamation of revolt had warned us; they had been extracting the evidence without our knowing it all this time, and now were studying with the most devout earnestness the matter they had prepared.

The result was rather distressing to us. They first explained the matter fully to Ellador, as she was the one who purposed visiting the Rest of the World. To Celis they said nothing. She must not be in any way distressed, while the whole nation waited on her Great Work.

Finally Jeff and I were called in. Somel and Zava were there, and Ellador, with many others that we knew.

They had a great globe, quite fairly mapped out from the small section maps in that compendium of ours. They had the different peoples of the earth roughly outlined, and their status in civilization indicated. They had charts and figures and estimates, based on the facts in that traitorous little book and what they had learned from us.

Somel explained: “We find that in all your historic period, so much longer than ours, that with all the interplay of services, the exchange of inventions and discoveries, and the wonderful progress we so admire, that in this widespread Other World of yours, there is still much disease, often contagious.”

We admitted this at once.

“Also there is still, in varying degree, ignorance, with prejudice and unbridled emotion.”

This too was admitted.

“We find also that in spite of the advance of democracy and the increase of wealth, that there is still unrest and sometimes combat.”

Yes, yes, we admitted it all. We were used to these things and saw no reason for so much seriousness.

“All things considered,” they said, and they did not say a hundredth part of the things they were considering, “we are unwilling to expose our country to free communication with the rest of the world — as yet. If Ellador comes back, and we approve her report, it may be done later — but not yet.

“So we have this to ask of you gentlemen [they knew that word was held a title of honor with us], that you promise not in any way to betray the location of this country until permission — after Ellador’s return.”

Jeff was perfectly satisfied. He thought they were quite right. He always did. I never saw an alien become naturalized more quickly than that man in Herland.

I studied it awhile, thinking of the time they’d have if some of our contagions got loose there, and concluded they were right. So I agreed.

Terry was the obstacle. “Indeed I won’t!” he protested. “The first thing I’ll do is to get an expedition fixed up to force an entrance into Ma-land.”

“Then,” they said quite calmly, “he must remain an absolute prisoner, always.”

“Anesthesia would be kinder,” urged Moadine.

“And safer,” added Zava.

“He will promise, I think,” said Ellador.

And he did. With which agreement we at last left Herland.
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 24073
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Previous

Return to The First Sex (All Embryos are Girls)

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests