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The Best Works of Charlotte Perkins GilmanHerlandThe CruxThe ForerunnerThe Man made WorldThe Yellow WallpaperWhat Diantha Did
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The Best Collection of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Man made World
The Yellow Wallpaper
by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman
This is written from memory, unfortunately. If I could have
brought with me the material I so carefully prepared, this would
be a very different story. Whole books full of notes, carefully
copied records, firsthand descriptions, and the pictures--that's
the worst loss. We had some bird's-eyes of the cities and parks;
a lot of lovely views of streets, of buildings, outside and in, and
some of those gorgeous gardens, and, most important of all, of
the women themselves.
Nobody will ever believe how they looked. Descriptions
aren't any good when it comes to women, and I never was good
at descriptions anyhow. But it's got to be done somehow; the rest
of the world needs to know about that country.
I haven't said where it was for fear some self-appointed
missionaries, or traders, or land-greedy expansionists, will take it
upon themselves to push in. They will not be wanted, I can tell
them that, and will fare worse than we did if they do find it.
It began this way. There were three of us, classmates and
friends--Terry O. Nicholson (we used to call him the Old Nick,
with good reason), Jeff Margrave, and I, Vandyck Jennings.
We had known each other years and years, and in spite of
our differences we had a good deal in common. All of us were
interested in science.
Terry was rich enough to do as he pleased. His great aim was
exploration. He used to make all kinds of a row because there
was nothing left to explore now, only patchwork and filling in,
he said. He filled in well enough--he had a lot of talents--great
on mechanics and electricity. Had all kinds of boats and motorcars,
and was one of the best of our airmen.
We never could have done the thing at all without Terry.
Jeff Margrave was born to be a poet, a botanist--or both--but
his folks persuaded him to be a doctor instead. He was a good
one, for his age, but his real interest was in what he loved to call
"the wonders of science."
As for me, sociology's my major. You have to back that up
with a lot of other sciences, of course. I'm interested in them all.
Terry was strong on facts--geography and meteorology and
those; Jeff could beat him any time on biology, and I didn't care
what it was they talked about, so long as it connected with
human life, somehow. There are few things that don't.
We three had a chance to join a big scientific expedition. They
needed a doctor, and that gave Jeff an excuse for dropping his just
opening practice; they needed Terry's experience, his machine,
and his money; and as for me, I got in through Terry's influence.
The expedition was up among the thousand tributaries and
enormous hinterland of a great river, up where the maps had to
be made, savage dialects studied, and all manner of strange flora
and fauna expected.
But this story is not about that expedition. That was only the
merest starter for ours.
My interest was first roused by talk among our guides. I'm
quick at languages, know a good many, and pick them up readily.
What with that and a really good interpreter we took with us,
I made out quite a few legends and folk myths of these scattered
And as we got farther and farther upstream, in a dark tangle
of rivers, lakes, morasses, and dense forests, with here and there
an unexpected long spur running out from the big mountains beyond,
I noticed that more and more of these savages had a story about a
strange and terrible Woman Land in the high distance.
"Up yonder," "Over there," "Way up"--was all the direction
they could offer, but their legends all agreed on the main point
--that there was this strange country where no men lived--only
women and girl children.
None of them had ever seen it. It was dangerous, deadly, they
said, for any man to go there. But there were tales of long ago,
when some brave investigator had seen it--a Big Country, Big
Houses, Plenty People--All Women.
Had no one else gone? Yes--a good many--but they never
came back. It was no place for men--of that they seemed sure.
I told the boys about these stories, and they laughed at them.
Naturally I did myself. I knew the stuff that savage dreams are
But when we had reached our farthest point, just the day
before we all had to turn around and start for home again, as the
best of expeditions must in time, we three made a discovery.
The main encampment was on a spit of land running out into
the main stream, or what we thought was the main stream. It had
the same muddy color we had been seeing for weeks past, the
I happened to speak of that river to our last guide, a rather
superior fellow with quick, bright eyes.
He told me that there was another river--"over there, short
river, sweet water, red and blue."
I was interested in this and anxious to see if I had understood,
so I showed him a red and blue pencil I carried, and asked again.
Yes, he pointed to the river, and then to the southwestward.
"River--good water--red and blue."
Terry was close by and interested in the fellow's pointing.
"What does he say, Van?"
I told him.
Terry blazed up at once.
"Ask him how far it is."
The man indicated a short journey; I judged about two hours,
"Let's go," urged Terry. "Just us three. Maybe we can really
find something. May be cinnabar in it."
"May be indigo," Jeff suggested, with his lazy smile.
It was early yet; we had just breakfasted; and leaving word
that we'd be back before night, we got away quietly, not wishing
to be thought too gullible if we failed, and secretly hoping to
have some nice little discovery all to ourselves.
It was a long two hours, nearer three. I fancy the savage could
have done it alone much quicker. There was a desperate tangle
of wood and water and a swampy patch we never should have
found our way across alone. But there was one, and I could see
Terry, with compass and notebook, marking directions and trying
to place landmarks.
We came after a while to a sort of marshy lake, very big, so
that the circling forest looked quite low and dim across it. Our
guide told us that boats could go from there to our camp--but
"long way--all day."
This water was somewhat clearer than that we had left, but
we could not judge well from the margin. We skirted it for
another half hour or so, the ground growing firmer as we
advanced, and presently we turned the corner of a wooded
promontory and saw a quite different country--a sudden view
of mountains, steep and bare.
"One of those long easterly spurs," Terry said appraisingly.
"May be hundreds of miles from the range. They crop out like that."
Suddenly we left the lake and struck directly toward the
cliffs. We heard running water before we reached it, and the
guide pointed proudly to his river.
It was short. We could see where it poured down a narrow
vertical cataract from an opening in the face of the cliff. It was
sweet water. The guide drank eagerly and so did we.
"That's snow water," Terry announced. "Must come from
way back in the hills."
But as to being red and blue--it was greenish in tint. The
guide seemed not at all surprised. He hunted about a little and
showed us a quiet marginal pool where there were smears of red
along the border; yes, and of blue.
Terry got out his magnifying glass and squatted down to
"Chemicals of some sort--I can't tell on the spot. Look to me
like dyestuffs. Let's get nearer," he urged, "up there by the fall."
We scrambled along the steep banks and got close to the pool
that foamed and boiled beneath the falling water. Here we
searched the border and found traces of color beyond dispute.
More--Jeff suddenly held up an unlooked-for trophy.
It was only a rag, a long, raveled fragment of cloth. But it was
a well-woven fabric, with a pattern, and of a clear scarlet that the
water had not faded. No savage tribe that we had heard of made
The guide stood serenely on the bank, well pleased with our
"One day blue--one day red--one day green," he told us, and
pulled from his pouch another strip of bright-hued cloth.
"Come down," he said, pointing to the cataract. "Woman
Then we were interested. We had our rest and lunch right
there and pumped the man for further information. He could tell
us only what the others had--a land of women--no men--babies,
but all girls. No place for men--dangerous. Some had gone
to see--none had come back.
I could see Terry's jaw set at that. No place for men?
Dangerous? He looked as if he might shin up the waterfall on the spot.
But the guide would not hear of going up, even if there had been
any possible method of scaling that sheer cliff, and we had to get
back to our party before night.
"They might stay if we told them," I suggested.
But Terry stopped in his tracks. "Look here, fellows," he said.
"This is our find. Let's not tell those cocky old professors. Let's
go on home with 'em, and then come back--just us--have a little
expedition of our own."
We looked at him, much impressed. There was something
attractive to a bunch of unattached young men in finding an
undiscovered country of a strictly Amazonian nature.
Of course we didn't believe the story--but yet!
"There is no such cloth made by any of these local tribes,"
I announced, examining those rags with great care. "Somewhere
up yonder they spin and weave and dye--as well as we do."
"That would mean a considerable civilization, Van. There
couldn't be such a place--and not known about."
"Oh, well, I don't know. What's that old republic up in the
Pyrenees somewhere--Andorra? Precious few people know anything
about that, and it's been minding its own business for a thousand
years. Then there's Montenegro--splendid little state--you could
lose a dozen Montenegroes up and down these great ranges."
We discussed it hotly all the way back to camp. We discussed
it with care and privacy on the voyage home. We discussed it after that,
still only among ourselves, while Terry was making his arrangements.
He was hot about it. Lucky he had so much money--we
might have had to beg and advertise for years to start the thing,
and then it would have been a matter of public amusement--just
sport for the papers.
But T. O. Nicholson could fix up his big steam yacht, load his
specially-made big motorboat aboard, and tuck in a "dissembled"
biplane without any more notice than a snip in the society column.
We had provisions and preventives and all manner of supplies.
His previous experience stood him in good stead there. It was
a very complete little outfit.
We were to leave the yacht at the nearest safe port and go up
that endless river in our motorboat, just the three of us and a pilot;
then drop the pilot when we got to that last stopping place of the
previous party, and hunt up that clear water stream ourselves.
The motorboat we were going to leave at anchor in that wide
shallow lake. It had a special covering of fitted armor, thin but
strong, shut up like a clamshell.
"Those natives can't get into it, or hurt it, or move it," Terry
explained proudly. "We'll start our flier from the lake and leave
the boat as a base to come back to."
"If we come back," I suggested cheerfully.
"`Fraid the ladies will eat you?" he scoffed.
"We're not so sure about those ladies, you know," drawled
Jeff. "There may be a contingent of gentlemen with poisoned
arrows or something."
"You don't need to go if you don't want to," Terry remarked drily.
"Go? You'll have to get an injunction to stop me!" Both Jeff
and I were sure about that.
But we did have differences of opinion, all the long way.
An ocean voyage is an excellent time for discussion. Now we
had no eavesdroppers, we could loll and loaf in our deck chairs
and talk and talk--there was nothing else to do. Our absolute
lack of facts only made the field of discussion wider.
"We'll leave papers with our consul where the yacht stays,"
Terry planned. "If we don't come back in--say a month--they
can send a relief party after us."
"A punitive expedition," I urged. "If the ladies do eat us we
must make reprisals."
"They can locate that last stopping place easy enough, and
I've made a sort of chart of that lake and cliff and waterfall."
"Yes, but how will they get up?" asked Jeff.
"Same way we do, of course. If three valuable American
citizens are lost up there, they will follow somehow--to say
nothing of the glittering attractions of that fair land--let's call it
`Feminisia,'" he broke off.
"You're right, Terry. Once the story gets out, the river will
crawl with expeditions and the airships rise like a swarm of mosquitoes."
I laughed as I thought of it. "We've made a great mistake not to let
Mr. Yellow Press in on this. Save us! What headlines!"
"Not much!" said Terry grimly. "This is our party. We're
going to find that place alone."
"What are you going to do with it when you do find it--if
you do?" Jeff asked mildly.
Jeff was a tender soul. I think he thought that country--if
there was one--was just blossoming with roses and babies and
canaries and tidies, and all that sort of thing.
And Terry, in his secret heart, had visions of a sort of
sublimated summer resort--just Girls and Girls and Girls--and
that he was going to be--well, Terry was popular among women even
when there were other men around, and it's not to be wondered
at that he had pleasant dreams of what might happen. I could see
it in his eyes as he lay there, looking at the long blue rollers
slipping by, and fingering that impressive mustache of his.
But I thought--then--that I could form a far clearer idea of
what was before us than either of them.
"You're all off, boys," I insisted. "If there is such a place--and
there does seem some foundation for believing it--you'll find it's
built on a sort of matriarchal principle, that's all. The men have
a separate cult of their own, less socially developed than the
women, and make them an annual visit--a sort of wedding call.
This is a condition known to have existed--here's just a survival.
They've got some peculiarly isolated valley or tableland up there,
and their primeval customs have survived. That's all there is to it."
"How about the boys?" Jeff asked.
"Oh, the men take them away as soon as they are five or six, you see."
"And how about this danger theory all our guides were so sure of?"
"Danger enough, Terry, and we'll have to be mighty careful.
Women of that stage of culture are quite able to defend themselves
and have no welcome for unseasonable visitors."
We talked and talked.
And with all my airs of sociological superiority I was no
nearer than any of them.
It was funny though, in the light of what we did find, those
extremely clear ideas of ours as to what a country of women
would be like. It was no use to tell ourselves and one another that
all this was idle speculation. We were idle and we did speculate,
on the ocean voyage and the river voyage, too.
"Admitting the improbability," we'd begin solemnly, and
then launch out again.
"They would fight among themselves," Terry insisted.
"Women always do. We mustn't look to find any sort of order
"You're dead wrong," Jeff told him. "It will be like a nunnery
under an abbess--a peaceful, harmonious sisterhood."
I snorted derision at this idea.
"Nuns, indeed! Your peaceful sisterhoods were all celibate, Jeff,
and under vows of obedience. These are just women, and mothers, and
where there's motherhood you don't find sisterhood--not much."
"No, sir--they'll scrap," agreed Terry. "Also we mustn't look
for inventions and progress; it'll be awfully primitive."
"How about that cloth mill?" Jeff suggested.
"Oh, cloth! Women have always been spinsters. But there
they stop--you'll see."
We joked Terry about his modest impression that he would
be warmly received, but he held his ground.
"You'll see," he insisted. "I'll get solid with them all--and
play one bunch against another. I'll get myself elected king in no
time--whew! Solomon will have to take a back seat!"
"Where do we come in on that deal?" I demanded. "Aren't
we Viziers or anything?"
"Couldn't risk it," he asserted solemnly. "You might start a
revolution--probably would. No, you'll have to be beheaded, or
bowstrung--or whatever the popular method of execution is."
"You'd have to do it yourself, remember," grinned Jeff. "No
husky black slaves and mamelukes! And there'd be two of us and
only one of you--eh, Van?"
Jeff's ideas and Terry's were so far apart that sometimes it was
all I could do to keep the peace between them. Jeff idealized women
in the best Southern style. He was full of chivalry and sentiment,
and all that. And he was a good boy; he lived up to his ideals.
You might say Terry did, too, if you can call his views about
women anything so polite as ideals. I always liked Terry. He was
a man's man, very much so, generous and brave and clever; but
I don't think any of us in college days was quite pleased to have
him with our sisters. We weren't very stringent, heavens no! But
Terry was "the limit." Later on--why, of course a man's life is
his own, we held, and asked no questions.
But barring a possible exception in favor of a not impossible
wife, or of his mother, or, of course, the fair relatives of his
friends, Terry's idea seemed to be that pretty women were just
so much game and homely ones not worth considering.
It was really unpleasant sometimes to see the notions he had.
But I got out of patience with Jeff, too. He had such rose-
colored halos on his womenfolks. I held a middle ground, highly
scientific, of course, and used to argue learnedly about the
physiological limitations of the sex.
We were not in the least "advanced" on the woman question,
any of us, then.
So we joked and disputed and speculated, and after an
interminable journey, we got to our old camping place at last.
It was not hard to find the river, just poking along that side
till we came to it, and it was navigable as far as the lake.
When we reached that and slid out on its broad glistening bosom,
with that high gray promontory running out toward us, and the straight
white fall clearly visible, it began to be really exciting.
There was some talk, even then, of skirting the rock wall and
seeking a possible footway up, but the marshy jungle made that
method look not only difficult but dangerous.
Terry dismissed the plan sharply.
"Nonsense, fellows! We've decided that. It might take
months--we haven't got the provisions. No, sir--we've got to take
our chances. If we get back safe--all right. If we don't, why,
we're not the first explorers to get lost in the shuffle. There are
plenty to come after us."
So we got the big biplane together and loaded it with our
scientifically compressed baggage: the camera, of course; the
glasses; a supply of concentrated food. Our pockets were
magazines of small necessities, and we had our guns, of course--
there was no knowing what might happen.
Up and up and up we sailed, way up at first, to get "the lay
of the land" and make note of it.
Out of that dark green sea of crowding forest this high-
standing spur rose steeply. It ran back on either side, apparently,
to the far-off white-crowned peaks in the distance, themselves
"Let's make the first trip geographical," I suggested.
"Spy out the land, and drop back here for more gasoline.
With your tremendous speed we can reach that range and
back all right. Then we can leave a sort of map on board--
for that relief expedition."
"There's sense in that," Terry agreed. "I'll put off being
king of Ladyland for one more day."
So we made a long skirting voyage, turned the point of the cape
which was close by, ran up one side of the triangle at our best speed,
crossed over the base where it left the higher mountains, and so back
to our lake by moonlight.
"That's not a bad little kingdom," we agreed when it was
roughly drawn and measured. We could tell the size fairly by our
speed. And from what we could see of the sides--and that icy
ridge at the back end--"It's a pretty enterprising savage who
would manage to get into it," Jeff said.
Of course we had looked at the land itself--eagerly, but we
were too high and going too fast to see much. It appeared to be
well forested about the edges, but in the interior there were wide
plains, and everywhere parklike meadows and open places.
There were cities, too; that I insisted. It looked--well, it
looked like any other country--a civilized one, I mean.
We had to sleep after that long sweep through the air, but we
turned out early enough next day, and again we rose softly up
the height till we could top the crowning trees and see the broad
fair land at our pleasure.
"Semitropical. Looks like a first-rate climate. It's wonderful
what a little height will do for temperature." Terry was studying
the forest growth.
"Little height! Is that what you call little?" I asked. Our
instruments measured it clearly. We had not realized the long
gentle rise from the coast perhaps.
"Mighty lucky piece of land, I call it," Terry pursued.
"Now for the folks--I've had enough scenery."
So we sailed low, crossing back and forth, quartering the
country as we went, and studying it. We saw--I can't remember
now how much of this we noted then and how much was supplemented
by our later knowledge, but we could not help seeing this much,
even on that excited day--a land in a state of perfect cultivation,
where even the forests looked as if they were cared for; a land
that looked like an enormous park, only it was even more evidently
an enormous garden.
"I don't see any cattle," I suggested, but Terry was silent. We
were approaching a village.
I confess that we paid small attention to the clean, well-built
roads, to the attractive architecture, to the ordered beauty of the
little town. We had our glasses out; even Terry, setting his machine
for a spiral glide, clapped the binoculars to his eyes.
They heard our whirring screw. They ran out of the houses
--they gathered in from the fields, swift-running light figures,
crowds of them. We stared and stared until it was almost too late
to catch the levers, sweep off and rise again; and then we held
our peace for a long run upward
"Gosh!" said Terry, after a while.
"Only women there--and children," Jeff urged excitedly.
"But they look--why, this is a CIVILIZED country!" I protested.
"There must be men."
"Of course there are men," said Terry. "Come on, let's find 'em."
He refused to listen to Jeff's suggestion that we examine the
country further before we risked leaving our machine.
"There's a fine landing place right there where we came
over," he insisted, and it was an excellent one--a wide, flattopped
rock, overlooking the lake, and quite out of sight from the interior.
"They won't find this in a hurry," he asserted, as we scrambled
with the utmost difficulty down to safer footing. "Come on, boys--
there were some good lookers in that bunch."
Of course it was unwise of us.
It was quite easy to see afterward that our best plan was to
have studied the country more fully before we left our swooping
airship and trusted ourselves to mere foot service. But we were
three young men. We had been talking about this country for
over a year, hardly believing that there was such a place, and now
--we were in it.
It looked safe and civilized enough, and among those upturned,
crowding faces, though some were terrified enough, there was great
beauty--on that we all agreed.
"Come on!" cried Terry, pushing forward. "Oh, come on!
Here goes for Herland!"
Not more than ten or fifteen miles we judged it from our
landing rock to that last village. For all our eagerness we thought
it wise to keep to the woods and go carefully.
Even Terry's ardor was held in check by his firm conviction
that there were men to be met, and we saw to it that each of us
had a good stock of cartridges.
"They may be scarce, and they may be hidden away somewhere--
some kind of a matriarchate, as Jeff tells us; for that matter,
they may live up in the mountains yonder and keep the women
in this part of the country--sort of a national harem! But
there are men somewhere--didn't you see the babies?"
We had all seen babies, children big and little, everywhere
that we had come near enough to distinguish the people. And
though by dress we could not be sure of all the grown persons,
still there had not been one man that we were certain of.
"I always liked that Arab saying, `First tie your camel and
then trust in the Lord,'" Jeff murmured; so we all had our weapons
in hand, and stole cautiously through the forest. Terry studied
it as we progressed.
"Talk of civilization," he cried softly in restrained
enthusiasm. "I never saw a forest so petted, even in Germany.
Look, there's not a dead bough--the vines are trained--actually!
And see here"--he stopped and looked about him, calling Jeff's
attention to the kinds of trees.
They left me for a landmark and made a limited excursion on
"Food-bearing, practically all of them," they announced returning.
"The rest, splendid hardwood. Call this a forest? It's a truck farm!"
"Good thing to have a botanist on hand," I agreed.
"Sure there are no medicinal ones? Or any for pure ornament?"
As a matter of fact they were quite right. These towering trees
were under as careful cultivation as so many cabbages. In other
conditions we should have found those woods full of fair foresters
and fruit gatherers; but an airship is a conspicuous object, and
by no means quiet--and women are cautious.
All we found moving in those woods, as we started through
them, were birds, some gorgeous, some musical, all so tame that
it seemed almost to contradict our theory of cultivation--at least
until we came upon occasional little glades, where carved stone
seats and tables stood in the shade beside clear fountains, with
shallow bird baths always added.
"They don't kill birds, and apparently they do kill cats,"
Terry declared. "MUST be men here. Hark!"
We had heard something: something not in the least like a
birdsong, and very much like a suppressed whisper of laughter
--a little happy sound, instantly smothered. We stood like so
many pointers, and then used our glasses, swiftly, carefully.
"It couldn't have been far off," said Terry excitedly.
"How about this big tree?"
There was a very large and beautiful tree in the glade we had
just entered, with thick wide-spreading branches that sloped out
in lapping fans like a beech or pine. It was trimmed underneath
some twenty feet up, and stood there like a huge umbrella, with
circling seats beneath.
"Look," he pursued. "There are short stumps of branches left
to climb on. There's someone up that tree, I believe."
We stole near, cautiously.
"Look out for a poisoned arrow in your eye," I suggested, but
Terry pressed forward, sprang up on the seat-back, and grasped the trunk.
"In my heart, more likely," he answered. "Gee! Look, boys!"
We rushed close in and looked up. There among the boughs
overhead was something--more than one something--that clung
motionless, close to the great trunk at first, and then, as one and
all we started up the tree, separated into three swift-moving
figures and fled upward. As we climbed we could catch glimpses
of them scattering above us. By the time we had reached about
as far as three men together dared push, they had left the main
trunk and moved outward, each one balanced on a long branch
that dipped and swayed beneath the weight.
We paused uncertain. If we pursued further, the boughs
would break under the double burden. We might shake them off,
perhaps, but none of us was so inclined. In the soft dappled light
of these high regions, breathless with our rapid climb, we rested
awhile, eagerly studying our objects of pursuit; while they in
turn, with no more terror than a set of frolicsome children in a
game of tag, sat as lightly as so many big bright birds on their
precarious perches and frankly, curiously, stared at us.
"Girls!" whispered Jeff, under his breath, as if they might fly
if he spoke aloud.
"Peaches!" added Terry, scarcely louder. "Peacherinos--
They were girls, of course, no boys could ever have shown
that sparkling beauty, and yet none of us was certain at first.
We saw short hair, hatless, loose, and shining; a suit of some
light firm stuff, the closest of tunics and kneebreeches, met by
trim gaiters. As bright and smooth as parrots and as unaware of
danger, they swung there before us, wholly at ease, staring as we
stared, till first one, and then all of them burst into peals of
Then there was a torrent of soft talk tossed back and forth;
no savage sing-song, but clear musical fluent speech.
We met their laughter cordially, and doffed our hats to them,
at which they laughed again, delightedly.
Then Terry, wholly in his element, made a polite speech, with
explanatory gestures, and proceeded to introduce us, with pointing
finger. "Mr. Jeff Margrave," he said clearly; Jeff bowed as
gracefully as a man could in the fork of a great limb. "Mr.
Vandyck Jennings"--I also tried to make an effective salute and
nearly lost my balance.
Then Terry laid his hand upon his chest--a fine chest he had,
too, and introduced himself; he was braced carefully for the
occasion and achieved an excellent obeisance.
Again they laughed delightedly, and the one nearest me
followed his tactics.
"Celis," she said distinctly, pointing to the one in blue;
"Alima"--the one in rose; then, with a vivid imitation of Terry's
impressive manner, she laid a firm delicate hand on her gold-
green jerkin--"Ellador." This was pleasant, but we got no nearer.
"We can't sit here and learn the language," Terry protested.
He beckoned to them to come nearer, most winningly--but they
gaily shook their heads. He suggested, by signs, that we all go
down together; but again they shook their heads, still merrily.
Then Ellador clearly indicated that we should go down, pointing
to each and all of us, with unmistakable firmness; and further
seeming to imply by the sweep of a lithe arm that we not only
go downward, but go away altogether--at which we shook our
heads in turn.
"Have to use bait," grinned Terry. "I don't know about you
fellows, but I came prepared." He produced from an inner pocket
a little box of purple velvet, that opened with a snap--and out
of it he drew a long sparkling thing, a necklace of big varicolored
stones that would have been worth a million if real ones. He held
it up, swung it, glittering in the sun, offered it first to one, then
to another, holding it out as far as he could reach toward the girl
nearest him. He stood braced in the fork, held firmly by one hand
--the other, swinging his bright temptation, reached far out
along the bough, but not quite to his full stretch.
She was visibly moved, I noted, hesitated, spoke to her companions.
They chattered softly together, one evidently warning her,
the other encouraging. Then, softly and slowly, she drew nearer.
This was Alima, a tall long-limbed lass, well-knit and evidently
both strong and agile. Her eyes were splendid, wide, fearless,
as free from suspicion as a child's who has never been rebuked.
Her interest was more that of an intent boy playing a fascinating
game than of a girl lured by an ornament.
The others moved a bit farther out, holding firmly, watching.
Terry's smile was irreproachable, but I did not like the look in his
eyes--it was like a creature about to spring. I could already see
it happen--the dropped necklace, the sudden clutching hand, the
girl's sharp cry as he seized her and drew her in. But it didn't
happen. She made a timid reach with her right hand for the gay
swinging thing--he held it a little nearer--then, swift as light,
she seized it from him with her left, and dropped on the instant
to the bough below.
He made his snatch, quite vainly, almost losing his position
as his hand clutched only air; and then, with inconceivable rapidity,
the three bright creatures were gone. They dropped from the
ends of the big boughs to those below, fairly pouring themselves
off the tree, while we climbed downward as swiftly as we could.
We heard their vanishing gay laughter, we saw them fleeting
away in the wide open reaches of the forest, and gave chase, but
we might as well have chased wild antelopes; so we stopped at
length somewhat breathless.
"No use," gasped Terry. "They got away with it. My word!
The men of this country must be good sprinters!"
"Inhabitants evidently arboreal," I grimly suggested.
"Civilized and still arboreal--peculiar people."
"You shouldn't have tried that way," Jeff protested. "They
were perfectly friendly; now we've scared them."
But it was no use grumbling, and Terry refused to admit any
mistake. "Nonsense," he said. "They expected it. Women like to
be run after. Come on, let's get to that town; maybe we'll find
them there. Let's see, it was in this direction and not far from the
woods, as I remember."
When we reached the edge of the open country we reconnoitered
with our field glasses. There it was, about four miles off, the
same town, we concluded, unless, as Jeff ventured, they all had
pink houses. The broad green fields and closely cultivated gardens
sloped away at our feet, a long easy slant, with good roads
winding pleasantly here and there, and narrower paths besides.
"Look at that!" cried Jeff suddenly. "There they go!"
Sure enough, close to the town, across a wide meadow, three
bright-hued figures were running swiftly.
"How could they have got that far in this time? It can't be the
same ones," I urged. But through the glasses we could identify
our pretty tree-climbers quite plainly, at least by costume.
Terry watched them, we all did for that matter, till they
disappeared among the houses. Then he put down his glass and
turned to us, drawing a long breath. "Mother of Mike, boys--what
Gorgeous Girls! To climb like that! to run like that! and afraid
of nothing. This country suits me all right. Let's get ahead."
"Nothing venture, nothing have," I suggested, but Terry preferred
"Faint heart ne'er won fair lady."
We set forth in the open, walking briskly. "If there are any men,
we'd better keep an eye out," I suggested, but Jeff seemed lost in
heavenly dreams, and Terry in highly practical plans.
"What a perfect road! What a heavenly country! See the flowers,
This was Jeff, always an enthusiast; but we could agree with
The road was some sort of hard manufactured stuff, sloped
slightly to shed rain, with every curve and grade and gutter as
perfect as if it were Europe's best. "No men, eh?" sneered Terry.
On either side a double row of trees shaded the footpaths; between
the trees bushes or vines, all fruit-bearing, now and then seats
and little wayside fountains; everywhere flowers.
"We'd better import some of these ladies and set 'em to
parking the United States," I suggested. "Mighty nice place
they've got here." We rested a few moments by one of the fountains,
tested the fruit that looked ripe, and went on, impressed, for all
our gay bravado by the sense of quiet potency which lay about us.
Here was evidently a people highly skilled, efficient, caring
for their country as a florist cares for his costliest orchids. Under
the soft brilliant blue of that clear sky, in the pleasant shade of
those endless rows of trees, we walked unharmed, the placid
silence broken only by the birds.
Presently there lay before us at the foot of a long hill the town
or village we were aiming for. We stopped and studied it.
Jeff drew a long breath. "I wouldn't have believed a collection
of houses could look so lovely," he said.
"They've got architects and landscape gardeners in plenty,
that's sure," agreed Terry.
I was astonished myself. You see, I come from California, and
there's no country lovelier, but when it comes to towns--! I have
often groaned at home to see the offensive mess man made in the
face of nature, even though I'm no art sharp, like Jeff. But this
place! It was built mostly of a sort of dull rose-colored stone, with
here and there some clear white houses; and it lay abroad among
the green groves and gardens like a broken rosary of pink coral.
"Those big white ones are public buildings evidently," Terry
declared. "This is no savage country, my friend. But no men?
Boys, it behooves us to go forward most politely."
The place had an odd look, more impressive as we approached.
"It's like an exposition." "It's too pretty to be true."
"Plenty of palaces, but where are the homes?" "Oh there are
little ones enough--but--." It certainly was different from any
towns we had ever seen.
"There's no dirt," said Jeff suddenly. "There's no smoke,
"he added after a little.
"There's no noise," I offered; but Terry snubbed me--"That's
because they are laying low for us; we'd better be careful how
we go in there."
Nothing could induce him to stay out, however, so we walked on.
Everything was beauty, order, perfect cleanness, and the
pleasantest sense of home over it all. As we neared the center
of the town the houses stood thicker, ran together as it were,
grew into rambling palaces grouped among parks and open squares,
something as college buildings stand in their quiet greens.
And then, turning a corner, we came into a broad paved space
and saw before us a band of women standing close together in
even order, evidently waiting for us.
We stopped a moment and looked back. The street behind
was closed by another band, marching steadily, shoulder to
shoulder. We went on--there seemed no other way to go--and
presently found ourselves quite surrounded by this close-massed
multitude, women, all of them, but--
They were not young. They were not old. They were not, in
the girl sense, beautiful. They were not in the least ferocious.
And yet, as I looked from face to face, calm, grave, wise, wholly
unafraid, evidently assured and determined, I had the funniest
feeling--a very early feeling--a feeling that I traced back and
back in memory until I caught up with it at last. It was that sense
of being hopelessly in the wrong that I had so often felt in early
youth when my short legs' utmost effort failed to overcome the
fact that I was late to school.
Jeff felt it too; I could see he did. We felt like small boys, very
small boys, caught doing mischief in some gracious lady's house.
But Terry showed no such consciousness. I saw his quick eyes
darting here and there, estimating numbers, measuring distances,
judging chances of escape. He examined the close ranks about us,
reaching back far on every side, and murmured softly to me,
"Every one of 'em over forty as I'm a sinner."
Yet they were not old women. Each was in the full bloom of rosy
health, erect, serene, standing sure-footed and light as any pugilist.
They had no weapons, and we had, but we had no wish to shoot.
"I'd as soon shoot my aunts," muttered Terry again. "What
do they want with us anyhow? They seem to mean business."
But in spite of that businesslike aspect, he determined to try his
favorite tactics. Terry had come armed with a theory.
He stepped forward, with his brilliant ingratiating smile, and
made low obeisance to the women before him. Then he produced
another tribute, a broad soft scarf of filmy texture, rich in color
and pattern, a lovely thing, even to my eye, and offered it with
a deep bow to the tall unsmiling woman who seemed to head the ranks
before him. She took it with a gracious nod of acknowledgment,
and passed it on to those behind her.
He tried again, this time bringing out a circlet of rhinestones,
a glittering crown that should have pleased any woman on earth.
He made a brief address, including Jeff and me as partners in his
enterprise, and with another bow presented this. Again his gift
was accepted and, as before, passed out of sight.
"If they were only younger," he muttered between his teeth.
"What on earth is a fellow to say to a regiment of old Colonels
In all our discussions and speculations we had always
unconsciously assumed that the women, whatever else they might be,
would be young. Most men do think that way, I fancy.
"Woman" in the abstract is young, and, we assume, charming.
As they get older they pass off the stage, somehow, into private
ownership mostly, or out of it altogether. But these good
ladies were very much on the stage, and yet any one of them
might have been a grandmother.
We looked for nervousness--there was none.
For terror, perhaps--there was none.
For uneasiness, for curiosity, for excitement--and all we saw was
what might have been a vigilance committee of women doctors, as cool
as cucumbers, and evidently meaning to take us to task for being there.
Six of them stepped forward now, one on either side of each
of us, and indicated that we were to go with them. We thought
it best to accede, at first anyway, and marched along, one of these
close at each elbow, and the others in close masses before, behind,
on both sides.
A large building opened before us, a very heavy thick-walled
impressive place, big, and old-looking; of gray stone, not like the
rest of the town.
"This won't do!" said Terry to us, quickly. "We mustn't let
them get us in this, boys. All together, now--"
We stopped in our tracks. We began to explain, to make signs
pointing away toward the big forest--indicating that we would
go back to it--at once.
It makes me laugh, knowing all I do now, to think of us three
boys--nothing else; three audacious impertinent boys--butting
into an unknown country without any sort of a guard or defense.
We seemed to think that if there were men we could fight them, and
if there were only women--why, they would be no obstacles at all.
Jeff, with his gentle romantic old-fashioned notions of
women as clinging vines. Terry, with his clear decided practical
theories that there were two kinds of women--those he wanted
and those he didn't; Desirable and Undesirable was his demarcation.
The latter as a large class, but negligible--he had never thought
about them at all.
And now here they were, in great numbers, evidently
indifferent to what he might think, evidently determined on some
purpose of their own regarding him, and apparently well able to
enforce their purpose.
We all thought hard just then. It had not seemed wise to
object to going with them, even if we could have; our one chance
was friendliness--a civilized attitude on both sides.
But once inside that building, there was no knowing what
these determined ladies might do to us. Even a peaceful detention
was not to our minds, and when we named it imprisonment it
looked even worse.
So we made a stand, trying to make clear that we preferred
the open country. One of them came forward with a sketch of our flier,
asking by signs if we were the aerial visitors they had seen.
This we admitted.
They pointed to it again, and to the outlying country, in
different directions--but we pretended we did not know where
it was, and in truth we were not quite sure and gave a rather wild
indication of its whereabouts.
Again they motioned us to advance, standing so packed about
the door that there remained but the one straight path open. All
around us and behind they were massed solidly--there was simply
nothing to do but go forward--or fight.
We held a consultation.
"I never fought with women in my life," said Terry, greatly
perturbed, "but I'm not going in there. I'm not going to be--
herded in--as if we were in a cattle chute."
"We can't fight them, of course," Jeff urged. "They're all
women, in spite of their nondescript clothes; nice women, too;
good strong sensible faces. I guess we'll have to go in."
"We may never get out, if we do," I told them. "Strong and sensible,
yes; but I'm not so sure about the good. Look at those faces!"
They had stood at ease, waiting while we conferred together,
but never relaxing their close attention.
Their attitude was not the rigid discipline of soldiers; there
was no sense of compulsion about them. Terry's term of a "vigilance
committee" was highly descriptive. They had just the aspect of sturdy
burghers, gathered hastily to meet some common need or peril, all moved
by precisely the same feelings, to the same end.
Never, anywhere before, had I seen women of precisely this quality.
Fishwives and market women might show similar strength, but it was coarse
and heavy. These were merely athletic--light and powerful. College
professors, teachers, writers--many women showed similar intelligence but
often wore a strained nervous look, while these were as calm as cows,
for all their evident intellect.
We observed pretty closely just then, for all of us felt that it
was a crucial moment.
The leader gave some word of command and beckoned us on,
and the surrounding mass moved a step nearer.
"We've got to decide quick," said Terry.
"I vote to go in," Jeff urged. But we were two to one against
him and he loyally stood by us. We made one more effort to be
let go, urgent, but not imploring. In vain.
"Now for a rush, boys!" Terry said. "And if we can't break
'em, I'll shoot in the air."
Then we found ourselves much in the position of the suffragette
trying to get to the Parliament buildings through a triple cordon
of London police.
The solidity of those women was something amazing. Terry
soon found that it was useless, tore himself loose for a moment,
pulled his revolver, and fired upward. As they caught at it, he
fired again--we heard a cry--.
Instantly each of us was seized by five women, each holding
arm or leg or head; we were lifted like children, straddling
helpless children, and borne onward, wriggling indeed, but most
We were borne inside, struggling manfully, but held secure
most womanfully, in spite of our best endeavors.
So carried and so held, we came into a high inner hall,
gray and bare, and were brought before a majestic gray-haired
woman who seemed to hold a judicial position.
There was some talk, not much, among them, and then suddenly
there fell upon each of us at once a firm hand holding a
wetted cloth before mouth and nose--an order of swimming
A Peculiar Imprisonment
From a slumber as deep as death, as refreshing as that of a
healthy child, I slowly awakened.
It was like rising up, up, up through a deep warm ocean,
nearer and nearer to full light and stirring air. Or like the return
to consciousness after concussion of the brain. I was once thrown
from a horse while on a visit to a wild mountainous country quite
new to me, and I can clearly remember the mental experience of
coming back to life, through lifting veils of dream. When I first
dimly heard the voices of those about me, and saw the shining
snowpeaks of that mighty range, I assumed that this too would
pass, and I should presently find myself in my own home.
That was precisely the experience of this awakening: receding
waves of half-caught swirling vision, memories of home, the
steamer, the boat, the airship, the forest--at last all sinking away
one after another, till my eyes were wide open, my brain clear,
and I realized what had happened.
The most prominent sensation was of absolute physical comfort.
I was lying in a perfect bed: long, broad, smooth; firmly soft
and level; with the finest linen, some warm light quilt of blanket,
and a counterpane that was a joy to the eye. The sheet turned
down some fifteen inches, yet I could stretch my feet at the foot
of the bed free but warmly covered.
I felt as light and clean as a white feather. It took me some
time to conscientiously locate my arms and legs, to feel the vivid
sense of life radiate from the wakening center to the extremities.
A big room, high and wide, with many lofty windows whose
closed blinds let through soft green-lit air; a beautiful room, in
proportion, in color, in smooth simplicity; a scent of blossoming
I lay perfectly still, quite happy, quite conscious, and yet not
actively realizing what had happened till I heard Terry.
"Gosh!" was what he said.
I turned my head. There were three beds in this chamber, and
plenty of room for them.
Terry was sitting up, looking about him, alert as ever. His
remark, though not loud, roused Jeff also. We all sat up.
Terry swung his legs out of bed, stood up, stretched himself
mightily. He was in a long nightrobe, a sort of seamless garment,
undoubtedly comfortable--we all found ourselves so covered.
Shoes were beside each bed, also quite comfortable and goodlooking
though by no means like our own.
We looked for our clothes--they were not there, nor anything
of all the varied contents of our pockets.
A door stood somewhat ajar; it opened into a most attractive
bathroom, copiously provided with towels, soap, mirrors, and all
such convenient comforts, with indeed our toothbrushes and combs,
our notebooks, and thank goodness, our watches--but no clothes.
Then we made a search of the big room again and found a
large airy closet, holding plenty of clothing, but not ours.
"A council of war!" demanded Terry. "Come on back to bed
--the bed's all right anyhow. Now then, my scientific friend, let
us consider our case dispassionately."
He meant me, but Jeff seemed most impressed.
"They haven't hurt us in the least!" he said. "They could have
killed us--or--or anything--and I never felt better in my life."
"That argues that they are all women," I suggested, "and
highly civilized. You know you hit one in the last scrimmage--
I heard her sing out--and we kicked awfully."
Terry was grinning at us. "So you realize what these ladies
have done to us?" he pleasantly inquired. "They have taken
away all our possessions, all our clothes--every stitch. We have
been stripped and washed and put to bed like so many yearling
babies--by these highly civilized women."
Jeff actually blushed. He had a poetic imagination. Terry had
imagination enough, of a different kind. So had I, also different.
I always flattered myself I had the scientific imagination, which,
incidentally, I considered the highest sort. One has a right to a
certain amount of egotism if founded on fact--and kept to one's
"No use kicking, boys," I said. "They've got us, and apparently
they're perfectly harmless. It remains for us to cook up some plan
of escape like any other bottled heroes. Meanwhile we've got to put
on these clothes--Hobson's choice."
The garments were simple in the extreme, and absolutely
comfortable, physically, though of course we all felt like supes
in the theater. There was a one-piece cotton undergarment, thin
and soft, that reached over the knees and shoulders, something
like the one-piece pajamas some fellows wear, and a kind of
half-hose, that came up to just under the knee and stayed there
--had elastic tops of their own, and covered the edges of the first.
Then there was a thicker variety of union suit, a lot of them
in the closet, of varying weights and somewhat sturdier material
--evidently they would do at a pinch with nothing further. Then
there were tunics, knee-length, and some long robes. Needless to
say, we took tunics.
We bathed and dressed quite cheerfully.
"Not half bad," said Terry, surveying himself in a long mirror.
His hair was somewhat longer than when we left the last barber,
and the hats provided were much like those seen on the prince
in the fairy tale, lacking the plume.
The costume was similar to that which we had seen on all the
women, though some of them, those working in the fields, glimpsed
by our glasses when we first flew over, wore only the first two.
I settled my shoulders and stretched my arms, remarking:
"They have worked out a mighty sensible dress, I'll say that for
them." With which we all agreed.
"Now then," Terry proclaimed, "we've had a fine long sleep
--we've had a good bath--we're clothed and in our right minds,
though feeling like a lot of neuters. Do you think these highly
civilized ladies are going to give us any breakfast?"
"Of course they will," Jeff asserted confidently. "If they had
meant to kill us, they would have done it before. I believe we are
going to be treated as guests."
"Hailed as deliverers, I think," said Terry.
"Studied as curiosities," I told them. "But anyhow, we want food.
So now for a sortie!"
A sortie was not so easy.
The bathroom only opened into our chamber, and that had
but one outlet, a big heavy door, which was fastened.
"There's someone outside," Jeff suggested. "Let's knock."
So we knocked, whereupon the door opened.
Outside was another large room, furnished with a great table
at one end, long benches or couches against the wall, some smaller
tables and chairs. All these were solid, strong, simple in structure,
and comfortable in use--also, incidentally, beautiful.
This room was occupied by a number of women, eighteen to
be exact, some of whom we distinctly recalled.
Terry heaved a disappointed sigh. "The Colonels!" I heard
him whisper to Jeff.
Jeff, however, advanced and bowed in his best manner; so did
we all, and we were saluted civilly by the tall-standing women.
We had no need to make pathetic pantomime of hunger; the
smaller tables were already laid with food, and we were gravely
invited to be seated. The tables were set for two; each of us found
ourselves placed vis-a-vis with one of our hosts, and each table
had five other stalwarts nearby, unobtrusively watching. We had
plenty of time to get tired of those women!
The breakfast was not profuse, but sufficient in amount and
excellent in quality. We were all too good travelers to object to
novelty, and this repast with its new but delicious fruit, its dish
of large rich-flavored nuts, and its highly satisfactory little cakes
was most agreeable. There was water to drink, and a hot beverage
of a most pleasing quality, some preparation like cocoa.
And then and there, willy-nilly, before we had satisfied our
appetites, our education began.
By each of our plates lay a little book, a real printed book,
though different from ours both in paper and binding, as well,
of course, as in type. We examined them curiously.
"Shades of Sauveur!" muttered Terry. "We're to learn the language!"
We were indeed to learn the language, and not only that, but
to teach our own. There were blank books with parallel columns,
neatly ruled, evidently prepared for the occasion, and in these,
as fast as we learned and wrote down the name of anything, we
were urged to write our own name for it by its side.
The book we had to study was evidently a schoolbook, one
in which children learned to read, and we judged from this, and
from their frequent consultation as to methods, that they had
had no previous experience in the art of teaching foreigners their
language, or of learning any other.
On the other hand, what they lacked in experience, they
made up for in genius. Such subtle understanding, such instant
recognition of our difficulties, and readiness to meet them,
were a constant surprise to us.
Of course, we were willing to meet them halfway. It was wholly
to our advantage to be able to understand and speak with them, and
as to refusing to teach them--why should we? Later on we did try
open rebellion, but only once.
That first meal was pleasant enough, each of us quietly studying
his companion, Jeff with sincere admiration, Terry with that highly
technical look of his, as of a past master--like a lion tamer,
a serpent charmer, or some such professional. I myself was
It was evident that those sets of five were there to check any
outbreak on our part. We had no weapons, and if we did try to do any
damage, with a chair, say, why five to one was too many for us, even
if they were women; that we had found out to our sorrow. It was not
pleasant, having them always around, but we soon got used to it.
"It's better than being physically restrained ourselves,"
Jeff philosophically suggested when we were alone. "They've
given us a room--with no great possibility of escape--and
personal liberty--heavily chaperoned. It's better than we'd
have been likely to get in a man-country."
"Man-Country! Do you really believe there are no men here,
you innocent? Don't you know there must be?" demanded Terry.
"Ye--es," Jeff agreed. "Of course--and yet--"
"And yet--what! Come, you obdurate sentimentalist--what
are you thinking about?"
"They may have some peculiar division of labor we've never
heard of," I suggested. "The men may live in separate towns, or
they may have subdued them--somehow--and keep them shut up.
But there must be some."
"That last suggestion of yours is a nice one, Van,"
Terry protested. "Same as they've got us subdued and shut up!
you make me shiver."
"Well, figure it out for yourself, anyway you please. We saw
plenty of kids, the first day, and we've seen those girls--"
"Real girls!" Terry agreed, in immense relief. "Glad you
mentioned 'em. I declare, if I thought there was nothing in the
country but those grenadiers I'd jump out the window."
"Speaking of windows," I suggested, "let's examine ours."
We looked out of all the windows. The blinds opened easily
enough, and there were no bars, but the prospect was not reassuring.
This was not the pink-walled town we had so rashly entered the
day before. Our chamber was high up, in a projecting wing of a sort
of castle, built out on a steep spur of rock. Immediately below us
were gardens, fruitful and fragrant, but their high walls followed the
edge of the cliff which dropped sheer down, we could not see how far.
The distant sound of water suggested a river at the foot.
We could look out east, west, and south. To the southeastward
stretched the open country, lying bright and fair in the morning light,
but on either side, and evidently behind, rose great mountains.
"This thing is a regular fortress--and no women built it, I can
tell you that," said Terry. We nodded agreeingly. "It's right up
among the hills--they must have brought us a long way."
"We saw some kind of swift-moving vehicles the first day,"
Jeff reminded us. "If they've got motors, they ARE civilized."
"Civilized or not, we've got our work cut out for us to get
away from here. I don't propose to make a rope of bedclothes and
try those walls till I'm sure there is no better way."
We all concurred on this point, and returned to our discussion
as to the women.
Jeff continued thoughtful. "All the same, there's something
funny about it," he urged. "It isn't just that we don't see any men
--but we don't see any signs of them. The--the--reaction of
these women is different from any that I've ever met."
"There is something in what you say, Jeff," I agreed. "There
is a different--atmosphere."
"They don't seem to notice our being men," he went on.
"They treat us--well--just as they do one another. It's as if our
being men was a minor incident."
I nodded. I'd noticed it myself. But Terry broke in rudely.
"Fiddlesticks!" he said. "It's because of their advanced age.
They're all grandmas, I tell you--or ought to be. Great aunts,
anyhow. Those girls were girls all right, weren't they?"
"Yes--" Jeff agreed, still slowly. "But they weren't afraid--
they flew up that tree and hid, like schoolboys caught out of bounds--
not like shy girls."
"And they ran like marathon winners--you'll admit that, Terry,"
Terry was moody as the days passed. He seemed to mind our
confinement more than Jeff or I did; and he harped on Alima, and
how near he'd come to catching her. "If I had--" he would say,
rather savagely, "we'd have had a hostage and could have made terms."
But Jeff was getting on excellent terms with his tutor, and
even his guards, and so was I. It interested me profoundly to note
and study the subtle difference between these women and other
women, and try to account for them. In the matter of personal
appearance, there was a great difference. They all wore short hair,
some few inches at most; some curly, some not; all light and clean
"If their hair was only long," Jeff would complain,
"they would look so much more feminine."
I rather liked it myself, after I got used to it. Why we should
so admire "a woman's crown of hair" and not admire a Chinaman's
queue is hard to explain, except that we are so convinced that
the long hair "belongs" to a woman. Whereas the "mane" in horses
is on both, and in lions, buffalos, and such creatures only on the male.
But I did miss it--at first.
Our time was quite pleasantly filled. We were free of the
garden below our windows, quite long in its irregular rambling
shape, bordering the cliff. The walls were perfectly smooth and
high, ending in the masonry of the building; and as I studied
the great stones I became convinced that the whole structure
was extremely old. It was built like the pre-Incan architecture
in Peru, of enormous monoliths, fitted as closely as mosaics.
"These folks have a history, that's sure," I told the others.
"And SOME time they were fighters--else why a fortress?"
I said we were free of the garden, but not wholly alone in it.
There was always a string of those uncomfortably strong women
sitting about, always one of them watching us even if the others
were reading, playing games, or busy at some kind of handiwork.
"When I see them knit," Terry said, "I can almost call them
"That doesn't prove anything," Jeff promptly replied.
"Scotch shepherds knit--always knitting."
"When we get out--" Terry stretched himself and looked at
the far peaks, "when we get out of this and get to where the real
women are--the mothers, and the girls--"
"Well, what'll we do then?" I asked, rather gloomily. "How
do you know we'll ever get out?"
This was an unpleasant idea, which we unanimously considered,
returning with earnestness to our studies.
"If we are good boys and learn our lessons well," I suggested.
"If we are quiet and respectful and polite and they are not afraid
of us--then perhaps they will let us out. And anyway--when we
do escape, it is of immense importance that we know the language."
Personally, I was tremendously interested in that language,
and seeing they had books, was eager to get at them, to dig into
their history, if they had one.
It was not hard to speak, smooth and pleasant to the ear, and
so easy to read and write that I marveled at it. They had an
absolutely phonetic system, the whole thing was as scientific as
Esparanto yet bore all the marks of an old and rich civilization.
We were free to study as much as we wished, and were not
left merely to wander in the garden for recreation but introduced
to a great gymnasium, partly on the roof and partly in the story
below. Here we learned real respect for our tall guards. No
change of costume was needed for this work, save to lay off outer
clothing. The first one was as perfect a garment for exercise as
need be devised, absolutely free to move in, and, I had to admit,
much better-looking than our usual one.
"Forty--over forty--some of 'em fifty, I bet--and look at
'em!" grumbled Terry in reluctant admiration.
There were no spectacular acrobatics, such as only the young
can perform, but for all-around development they had a most
excellent system. A good deal of music went with it, with posture
dancing and, sometimes, gravely beautiful processional performances.
Jeff was much impressed by it. We did not know then how
small a part of their physical culture methods this really was,
but found it agreeable to watch, and to take part in.
Oh yes, we took part all right! It wasn't absolutely compulsory,
but we thought it better to please.
Terry was the strongest of us, though I was wiry and had
good staying power, and Jeff was a great sprinter and hurdler,
but I can tell you those old ladies gave us cards and spades.
They ran like deer, by which I mean that they ran not as if
it was a performance, but as if it was their natural gait.
We remembered those fleeting girls of our first bright adventure,
and concluded that it was.
They leaped like deer, too, with a quick folding motion of the
legs, drawn up and turned to one side with a sidelong twist of
the body. I remembered the sprawling spread-eagle way in which
some of the fellows used to come over the line--and tried to learn
the trick. We did not easily catch up with these experts, however.
"Never thought I'd live to be bossed by a lot of elderly lady
acrobats," Terry protested.
They had games, too, a good many of them, but we found
them rather uninteresting at first. It was like two people playing
solitaire to see who would get it first; more like a race or a--a
competitive examination, than a real game with some fight in it.
I philosophized a bit over this and told Terry it argued against
their having any men about. "There isn't a man-size game in the lot,"
"But they are interesting--I like them," Jeff objected, "and
I'm sure they are educational."
"I'm sick and tired of being educated," Terry protested.
"Fancy going to a dame school--at our age. I want to Get Out!"
But we could not get out, and we were being educated
swiftly. Our special tutors rose rapidly in our esteem. They
seemed of rather finer quality than the guards, though all were
on terms of easy friendliness. Mine was named Somel, Jeff's
Zava, and Terry's Moadine. We tried to generalize from the names,
those of the guards, and of our three girls, but got nowhere.
"They sound well enough, and they're mostly short,
but there's no similarity of termination--and no two alike.
However, our acquaintance is limited as yet."
There were many things we meant to ask--as soon as we could talk
well enough. Better teaching I never saw. From morning to night
there was Somel, always on call except between two and four;
always pleasant with a steady friendly kindness that I grew to
enjoy very much. Jeff said Miss Zava--he would put on a title,
though they apparently had none--was a darling, that she reminded
him of his Aunt Esther at home; but Terry refused to be won,
and rather jeered at his own companion, when we were alone.
"I'm sick of it!" he protested. "Sick of the whole thing. Here
we are cooped up as helpless as a bunch of three-year-old orphans,
and being taught what they think is necessary--whether we like it
or not. Confound their old-maid impudence!"
Nevertheless we were taught. They brought in a raised map
of their country, beautifully made, and increased our knowledge
of geographical terms; but when we inquired for information as
to the country outside, they smilingly shook their heads.
They brought pictures, not only the engravings in the books
but colored studies of plants and trees and flowers and birds.
They brought tools and various small objects--we had plenty of
"material" in our school.
If it had not been for Terry we would have been much more
contented, but as the weeks ran into months he grew more and
"Don't act like a bear with a sore head," I begged him.
"We're getting on finely. Every day we can understand them better,
and pretty soon we can make a reasonable plea to be let out--"
"LET out!" he stormed. "LET out--like children kept after
school. I want to Get Out, and I'm going to. I want to find the
men of this place and fight!--or the girls--"
"Guess it's the girls you're most interested in," Jeff commented.
"What are you going to fight WITH--your fists?"
"Yes--or sticks and stones--I'd just like to!" And Terry squared
off and tapped Jeff softly on the jaw. "Just for instance," he said.
"Anyhow," he went on, "we could get back to our machine and clear out."
"If it's there," I cautiously suggested.
"Oh, don't croak, Van! If it isn't there, we'll find our way down
somehow--the boat's there, I guess."
It was hard on Terry, so hard that he finally persuaded us to
consider a plan of escape. It was difficult, it was highly dangerous,
but he declared that he'd go alone if we wouldn't go with him, and of
course we couldn't think of that.
It appeared he had made a pretty careful study of the environment.
From our end window that faced the point of the promontory we could get
a fair idea of the stretch of wall, and the drop below. Also from the
roof we could make out more, and even, in one place, glimpse a sort of
path below the wall.
"It's a question of three things," he said. "Ropes, agility, and
not being seen."
"That's the hardest part," I urged, still hoping to dissuade him.
"One or another pair of eyes is on us every minute except at night."
"Therefore we must do it at night," he answered. "That's easy."
"We've got to think that if they catch us we may not be so
well treated afterward," said Jeff.
"That's the business risk we must take. I'm going--if I break
my neck." There was no changing him.
The rope problem was not easy. Something strong enough to
hold a man and long enough to let us down into the garden, and
then down over the wall. There were plenty of strong ropes in
the gymnasium--they seemed to love to swing and climb on
them--but we were never there by ourselves.
We should have to piece it out from our bedding, rugs, and
garments, and moreover, we should have to do it after we were
shut in for the night, for every day the place was cleaned to
perfection by two of our guardians.
We had no shears, no knives, but Terry was resourceful.
"These Jennies have glass and china, you see. We'll break a glass
from the bathroom and use that. `Love will find out a way,'" he
hummed. "When we're all out of the window, we'll stand three-man
high and cut the rope as far up as we can reach, so as to have more
for the wall. I know just where I saw that bit of path below, and
there's a big tree there, too, or a vine or something--I saw the leaves."
It seemed a crazy risk to take, but this was, in a way, Terry's
expedition, and we were all tired of our imprisonment.
So we waited for full moon, retired early, and spent an anxious
hour or two in the unskilled manufacture of man-strong ropes.
To retire into the depths of the closet, muffle a glass in thick
cloth, and break it without noise was not difficult, and broken
glass will cut, though not as deftly as a pair of scissors.
The broad moonlight streamed in through four of our windows--we
had not dared leave our lights on too long--and we worked hard and
fast at our task of destruction.
Hangings, rugs, robes, towels, as well as bed-furniture--even the
mattress covers--we left not one stitch upon another, as Jeff put it.
Then at an end window, as less liable to observation, we
fastened one end of our cable, strongly, to the firm-set hinge of
the inner blind, and dropped our coiled bundle of rope softly over.
"This part's easy enough--I'll come last, so as to cut the rope,"
So I slipped down first, and stood, well braced against the
wall; then Jeff on my shoulders, then Terry, who shook us a
little as he sawed through the cord above his head. Then I
slowly dropped to the ground, Jeff following, and at last we
all three stood safe in the garden, with most of our rope with us.
"Good-bye, Grandma!" whispered Terry, under his breath,
and we crept softly toward the wall, taking advantage of the
shadow of every bush and tree. He had been foresighted enough
to mark the very spot, only a scratch of stone on stone, but we
could see to read in that light. For anchorage there was a tough,
fair-sized shrub close to the wall.
"Now I'll climb up on you two again and go over first," said
Terry. "That'll hold the rope firm till you both get up on top.
Then I'll go down to the end. If I can get off safely, you can see
me and follow--or, say, I'll twitch it three times. If I find there's
absolutely no footing--why I'll climb up again, that's all. I don't
think they'll kill us."
From the top he reconnoitered carefully, waved his hand, and
whispered, "OK," then slipped over. Jeff climbed up and I followed,
and we rather shivered to see how far down that swaying, wavering
figure dropped, hand under hand, till it disappeared in a mass of
foliage far below.
Then there were three quick pulls, and Jeff and I, not without
a joyous sense of recovered freedom, successfully followed our leader.
We were standing on a narrow, irregular, all too slanting little
ledge, and should doubtless have ignominiously slipped off and
broken our rash necks but for the vine. This was a thick-leaved,
wide-spreading thing, a little like Amphelopsis.
"It's not QUITE vertical here, you see," said Terry, full of pride
and enthusiasm. "This thing never would hold our direct weight,
but I think if we sort of slide down on it, one at a time, sticking
in with hands and feet, we'll reach that next ledge alive."
"As we do not wish to get up our rope again--and can't
comfortably stay here--I approve," said Jeff solemnly.
Terry slid down first--said he'd show us how a Christian
meets his death. Luck was with us. We had put on the thickest
of those intermediate suits, leaving our tunics behind, and made
this scramble quite successfully, though I got a pretty heavy fall
just at the end, and was only kept on the second ledge by main
force. The next stage was down a sort of "chimney"--a long
irregular fissure; and so with scratches many and painful and
bruises not a few, we finally reached the stream.
It was darker there, but we felt it highly necessary to put as
much distance as possible behind us; so we waded, jumped, and
clambered down that rocky riverbed, in the flickering black and
white moonlight and leaf shadow, till growing daylight forced a halt.
We found a friendly nut-tree, those large, satisfying, soft-
shelled nuts we already knew so well, and filled our pockets.
I see that I have not remarked that these women had pockets
in surprising number and variety. They were in all their garments,
and the middle one in particular was shingled with them. So we stocked
up with nuts till we bulged like Prussian privates in marching order,
drank all we could hold, and retired for the day.
It was not a very comfortable place, not at all easy to get at,
just a sort of crevice high up along the steep bank, but it was well
veiled with foliage and dry. After our exhaustive three- or four-
hour scramble and the good breakfast food, we all lay down
along that crack--heads and tails, as it were--and slept till the
afternoon sun almost toasted our faces.
Terry poked a tentative foot against my head.
"How are you, Van? Alive yet?"
"Very much so," I told him. And Jeff was equally cheerful.
We had room to stretch, if not to turn around; but we could very
carefully roll over, one at a time, behind the sheltering foliage.
It was no use to leave there by daylight. We could not see
much of the country, but enough to know that we were now at
the beginning of the cultivated area, and no doubt there would
be an alarm sent out far and wide.
Terry chuckled softly to himself, lying there on that hot
narrow little rim of rock. He dilated on the discomfiture of our
guards and tutors, making many discourteous remarks.
I reminded him that we had still a long way to go before getting
to the place where we'd left our machine, and no probability of finding
it there; but he only kicked me, mildly, for a croaker.
"If you can't boost, don't knock," he protested. "I never said
'twould be a picnic. But I'd run away in the Antarctic ice fields
rather than be a prisoner."
We soon dozed off again.
The long rest and penetrating dry heat were good for us, and
that night we covered a considerable distance, keeping always in
the rough forested belt of land which we knew bordered the
whole country. Sometimes we were near the outer edge, and
caught sudden glimpses of the tremendous depths beyond.
"This piece of geography stands up like a basalt column," Jeff
said. "Nice time we'll have getting down if they have confiscated
our machine!" For which suggestion he received summary chastisement.
What we could see inland was peaceable enough, but only
moonlit glimpses; by daylight we lay very close. As Terry said,
we did not wish to kill the old ladies--even if we could; and short
of that they were perfectly competent to pick us up bodily and
carry us back, if discovered. There was nothing for it but to lie
low, and sneak out unseen if we could do it.
There wasn't much talking done. At night we had our
marathon-obstacle race; we "stayed not for brake and we stopped
not for stone," and swam whatever water was too deep to wade and
could not be got around; but that was only necessary twice. By
day, sleep, sound and sweet. Mighty lucky it was that we could
live off the country as we did. Even that margin of forest seemed
rich in foodstuffs.
But Jeff thoughtfully suggested that that very thing showed
how careful we should have to be, as we might run into some stalwart
group of gardeners or foresters or nut-gatherers at any minute.
Careful we were, feeling pretty sure that if we did not make good
this time we were not likely to have another opportunity; and at
last we reached a point from which we could see, far below, the
broad stretch of that still lake from which we had made our ascent.
"That looks pretty good to me!" said Terry, gazing down at it.
"Now, if we can't find the 'plane, we know where to aim if we have
to drop over this wall some other way."
The wall at that point was singularly uninviting. It rose so
straight that we had to put our heads over to see the base, and
the country below seemed to be a far-off marshy tangle of rank
vegetation. We did not have to risk our necks to that extent,
however, for at last, stealing along among the rocks and trees like
so many creeping savages, we came to that flat space where we
had landed; and there, in unbelievable good fortune, we found
"Covered, too, by jingo! Would you think they had that
much sense?" cried Terry.
"If they had that much, they're likely to have more," I warned
him, softly. "Bet you the thing's watched."
We reconnoitered as widely as we could in the failing moonlight--
moons are of a painfully unreliable nature; but the growing dawn
showed us the familiar shape, shrouded in some heavy cloth
like canvas, and no slightest sign of any watchman near.
We decided to make a quick dash as soon as the light was strong
enough for accurate work.
"I don't care if the old thing'll go or not," Terry declared.
"We can run her to the edge, get aboard, and just plane down--plop!
--beside our boat there. Look there--see the boat!"
Sure enough--there was our motor, lying like a gray cocoon
on the flat pale sheet of water.
Quietly but swiftly we rushed forward and began to tug at
the fastenings of that cover.
"Confound the thing!" Terry cried in desperate impatience.
"They've got it sewed up in a bag! And we've not a knife among
Then, as we tugged and pulled at that tough cloth we heard
a sound that made Terry lift his head like a war horse--the sound
of an unmistakable giggle, yes--three giggles.
There they were--Celis, Alima, Ellador--looking just as they
had when we first saw them, standing a little way off from us,
as interested, as mischievous as three schoolboys.
"Hold on, Terry--hold on!" I warned. "That's too easy. Look
out for a trap."
"Let us appeal to their kind hearts," Jeff urged. "I think they
will help us. Perhaps they've got knives."
"It's no use rushing them, anyhow," I was absolutely holding
on to Terry. "We know they can out-run and out-climb us."
He reluctantly admitted this; and after a brief parley among
ourselves, we all advanced slowly toward them, holding out our
hands in token of friendliness.
They stood their ground till we had come fairly near, and
then indicated that we should stop. To make sure, we advanced
a step or two and they promptly and swiftly withdrew. So we
stopped at the distance specified. Then we used their language,
as far as we were able, to explain our plight, telling how we were
imprisoned, how we had escaped--a good deal of pantomime here and
vivid interest on their part--how we had traveled by night and hidden
by day, living on nuts--and here Terry pretended great hunger.
I know he could not have been hungry; we had found plenty
to eat and had not been sparing in helping ourselves. But they
seemed somewhat impressed; and after a murmured consultation
they produced from their pockets certain little packages, and
with the utmost ease and accuracy tossed them into our hands.
Jeff was most appreciative of this; and Terry made extravagant
gestures of admiration, which seemed to set them off, boy-
fashion, to show their skill. While we ate the excellent biscuits
they had thrown us, and while Ellador kept a watchful eye on
our movements, Celis ran off to some distance, and set up a sort
of "duck-on-a-rock" arrangement, a big yellow nut on top of
three balanced sticks; Alima, meanwhile, gathering stones.
They urged us to throw at it, and we did, but the thing was
a long way off, and it was only after a number of failures, at
which those elvish damsels laughed delightedly, that Jeff succeeded
in bringing the whole structure to the ground. It took me still
longer, and Terry, to his intense annoyance, came third.
Then Celis set up the little tripod again, and looked back at
us, knocking it down, pointing at it, and shaking her short curls
severely. "No," she said. "Bad--wrong!" We were quite able to
Then she set it up once more, put the fat nut on top, and
returned to the others; and there those aggravating girls sat and
took turns throwing little stones at that thing, while one stayed
by as a setter-up; and they just popped that nut off, two times
out of three, without upsetting the sticks. Pleased as Punch they
were, too, and we pretended to be, but weren't.
We got very friendly over this game, but I told Terry we'd be
sorry if we didn't get off while we could, and then we begged for knives.
It was easy to show what we wanted to do, and they each proudly produced
a sort of strong clasp-knife from their pockets.
"Yes," we said eagerly, "that's it! Please--" We had learned
quite a bit of their language, you see. And we just begged for
those knives, but they would not give them to us. If we came a
step too near they backed off, standing light and eager for flight.
"It's no sort of use," I said. "Come on--let's get a sharp stone
or something--we must get this thing off."
So we hunted about and found what edged fragments we could, and
hacked away, but it was like trying to cut sailcloth with a clamshell.
Terry hacked and dug, but said to us under his breath. "Boys,
we're in pretty good condition--let's make a life and death dash
and get hold of those girls--we've got to."
They had drawn rather nearer to watch our efforts, and we
did take them rather by surprise; also, as Terry said, our recent
training had strengthened us in wind and limb, and for a few
desperate moments those girls were scared and we almost triumphant.
But just as we stretched out our hands, the distance between
us widened; they had got their pace apparently, and then, though
we ran at our utmost speed, and much farther than I thought wise,
they kept just out of reach all the time.
We stopped breathless, at last, at my repeated admonitions.
"This is stark foolishness," I urged. "They are doing it on
purpose--come back or you'll be sorry."
We went back, much slower than we came, and in truth we
As we reached our swaddled machine, and sought again to tear
loose its covering, there rose up from all around the sturdy forms,
the quiet determined faces we knew so well.
"Oh Lord!" groaned Terry. "The Colonels! It's all up--they're
forty to one."
It was no use to fight. These women evidently relied on
numbers, not so much as a drilled force but as a multitude
actuated by a common impulse. They showed no sign of fear,
and since we had no weapons whatever and there were at least a
hundred of them, standing ten deep about us, we gave in as
gracefully as we might.
Of course we looked for punishment--a closer imprisonment,
solitary confinement maybe--but nothing of the kind happened.
They treated us as truants only, and as if they quite understood
Back we went, not under an anesthetic this time but skimming
along in electric motors enough like ours to be quite recognizable,
each of us in a separate vehicle with one able-bodied lady on either
side and three facing him.
They were all pleasant enough, and talked to us as much as
was possible with our limited powers. And though Terry was keenly
mortified, and at first we all rather dreaded harsh treatment, I
for one soon began to feel a sort of pleasant confidence and to
enjoy the trip.
Here were my five familiar companions, all good-natured as
could be, seeming to have no worse feeling than a mild triumph
as of winning some simple game; and even that they politely suppressed.
This was a good opportunity to see the country, too, and the
more I saw of it, the better I liked it. We went too swiftly for close
observation, but I could appreciate perfect roads, as dustless
as a swept floor; the shade of endless lines of trees; the ribbon
of flowers that unrolled beneath them; and the rich comfortable
country that stretched off and away, full of varied charm.
We rolled through many villages and towns, and I soon saw
that the parklike beauty of our first-seen city was no exception.
Our swift high-sweeping view from the 'plane had been most attractive,
but lacked detail; and in that first day of struggle and capture,
we noticed little. But now we were swept along at an easy rate of
some thirty miles an hour and covered quite a good deal of ground.
We stopped for lunch in quite a sizable town, and here,
rolling slowly through the streets, we saw more of the population.
They had come out to look at us everywhere we had passed, but
here were more; and when we went in to eat, in a big garden place
with little shaded tables among the trees and flowers, many eyes
were upon us. And everywhere, open country, village, or city--
only women. Old women and young women and a great majority
who seemed neither young nor old, but just women; young girls,
also, though these, and the children, seeming to be in groups by
themselves generally, were less in evidence. We caught many glimpses
of girls and children in what seemed to be schools or in playgrounds,
and so far as we could judge there were no boys. We all looked,
carefully. Everyone gazed at us politely, kindly, and with eager interest.
No one was impertinent. We could catch quite a bit of the talk now,
and all they said seemed pleasant enough.
Well--before nightfall we were all safely back in our big room.
The damage we had done was quite ignored; the beds as smooth and
comfortable as before, new clothing and towels supplied. The only
thing those women did was to illuminate the gardens at night, and
to set an extra watch. But they called us to account next day.
Our three tutors, who had not joined in the recapturing expedition,
had been quite busy in preparing for us, and now made explanation.
They knew well we would make for our machine, and also
that there was no other way of getting down--alive. So our flight
had troubled no one; all they did was to call the inhabitants to
keep an eye on our movements all along the edge of the forest
between the two points. It appeared that many of those nights
we had been seen, by careful ladies sitting snugly in big trees by
the riverbed, or up among the rocks.
Terry looked immensely disgusted, but it struck me as extremely
funny. Here we had been risking our lives, hiding and prowling like
outlaws, living on nuts and fruit, getting wet and cold at night,
and dry and hot by day, and all the while these estimable women
had just been waiting for us to come out.
Now they began to explain, carefully using such words as we
could understand. It appeared that we were considered as guests
of the country--sort of public wards. Our first violence had made
it necessary to keep us safeguarded for a while, but as soon as
we learned the language--and would agree to do no harm--they would
show us all about the land.
Jeff was eager to reassure them. Of course he did not tell on
Terry, but he made it clear that he was ashamed of himself, and
that he would now conform. As to the language--we all fell upon
it with redoubled energy. They brought us books, in greater
numbers, and I began to study them seriously.
"Pretty punk literature," Terry burst forth one day, when we were
in the privacy of our own room. "Of course one expects to begin on
child-stories, but I would like something more interesting now."
"Can't expect stirring romance and wild adventure without men,
can you?" I asked. Nothing irritated Terry more than to have us
assume that there were no men; but there were no signs of them
in the books they gave us, or the pictures.
"Shut up!" he growled. "What infernal nonsense you talk!
I'm going to ask 'em outright--we know enough now."
In truth we had been using our best efforts to master the
language, and were able to read fluently and to discuss what we
read with considerable ease.
That afternoon we were all sitting together on the roof--we
three and the tutors gathered about a table, no guards about. We
had been made to understand some time earlier that if we would
agree to do no violence they would withdraw their constant
attendance, and we promised most willingly.
So there we sat, at ease; all in similar dress; our hair, by now,
as long as theirs, only our beards to distinguish us. We did not
want those beards, but had so far been unable to induce them to
give us any cutting instruments.
"Ladies," Terry began, out of a clear sky, as it were,
"are there no men in this country?"
"Men?" Somel answered. "Like you?"
"Yes, men," Terry indicated his beard, and threw back his
broad shoulders. "Men, real men."
"No," she answered quietly. "There are no men in this country.
There has not been a man among us for two thousand years."
Her look was clear and truthful and she did not advance this
astonishing statement as if it was astonishing, but quite as a
matter of fact.
"But--the people--the children," he protested, not believing
her in the least, but not wishing to say so.
"Oh yes," she smiled. "I do not wonder you are puzzled.
We are mothers--all of us--but there are no fathers. We thought
you would ask about that long ago--why have you not?" Her look
was as frankly kind as always, her tone quite simple.
Terry explained that we had not felt sufficiently used to the
language, making rather a mess of it, I thought, but Jeff was franker.
"Will you excuse us all," he said, "if we admit that we find it hard
to believe? There is no such--possibility--in the rest of the world."
"Have you no kind of life where it is possible?" asked Zava.
"Why, yes--some low forms, of course."
"How low--or how high, rather?"
"Well--there are some rather high forms of insect life in which
it occurs. Parthenogenesis, we call it--that means virgin birth."
She could not follow him.
"BIRTH, we know, of course; but what is VIRGIN?"
Terry looked uncomfortable, but Jeff met the question quite
calmly. "Among mating animals, the term VIRGIN is applied to the
female who has not mated," he answered.
"Oh, I see. And does it apply to the male also? Or is there a
different term for him?"
He passed this over rather hurriedly, saying that the same
term would apply, but was seldom used.
"No?" she said. "But one cannot mate without the other surely.
Is not each then--virgin--before mating? And, tell me, have you
any forms of life in which there is birth from a father only?"
"I know of none," he answered, and I inquired seriously.
"You ask us to believe that for two thousand years there have
been only women here, and only girl babies born?"
"Exactly," answered Somel, nodding gravely. "Of course we
know that among other animals it is not so, that there are fathers
as well as mothers; and we see that you are fathers, that you come
from a people who are of both kinds. We have been waiting, you
see, for you to be able to speak freely with us, and teach us about
your country and the rest of the world. You know so much, you see,
and we know only our own land."
In the course of our previous studies we had been at some
pains to tell them about the big world outside, to draw sketches,
maps, to make a globe, even, out of a spherical fruit, and show
the size and relation of the countries, and to tell of the numbers
of their people. All this had been scant and in outline, but they
I find I succeed very poorly in conveying the impression I
would like to of these women. So far from being ignorant, they
were deeply wise--that we realized more and more; and for clear
reasoning, for real brain scope and power they were A No. 1, but
there were a lot of things they did not know.
They had the evenest tempers, the most perfect patience and
good nature--one of the things most impressive about them all
was the absence of irritability. So far we had only this group to
study, but afterward I found it a common trait.
We had gradually come to feel that we were in the hands of
friends, and very capable ones at that--but we couldn't form any
opinion yet of the general level of these women.
"We want you to teach us all you can," Somel went on, her
firm shapely hands clasped on the table before her, her clear quiet
eyes meeting ours frankly. "And we want to teach you what we
have that is novel and useful. You can well imagine that it is a
wonderful event to us, to have men among us--after two thousand
years. And we want to know about your women."
What she said about our importance gave instant pleasure to Terry.
I could see by the way he lifted his head that it pleased him. But when
she spoke of our women--someway I had a queer little indescribable feeling,
not like any feeling I ever had before when "women" were mentioned.
"Will you tell us how it came about?" Jeff pursued. "You said
`for two thousand years'--did you have men here before that?"
"Yes," answered Zava.
They were all quiet for a little.
"You should have our full history to read--do not be alarmed
--it has been made clear and short. It took us a long time to learn
how to write history. Oh, how I should love to read yours!"
She turned with flashing eager eyes, looking from one to the
other of us.
"It would be so wonderful--would it not? To compare the
history of two thousand years, to see what the differences are--
between us, who are only mothers, and you, who are mothers
and fathers, too. Of course we see, with our birds, that the father
is as useful as the mother, almost. But among insects we find him
of less importance, sometimes very little. Is it not so with you?"
"Oh, yes, birds and bugs," Terry said, "but not among animals--
have you NO animals?"
"We have cats," she said. "The father is not very useful."
"Have you no cattle--sheep--horses?" I drew some rough
outlines of these beasts and showed them to her.
"We had, in the very old days, these," said Somel, and
sketched with swift sure touches a sort of sheep or llama," and
these"--dogs, of two or three kinds, "that that"--pointing to my
absurd but recognizable horse.
"What became of them?" asked Jeff.
"We do not want them anymore. They took up too much room--we need
all our land to feed our people. It is such a little country, you know."
"Whatever do you do without milk?" Terry demanded incredulously.
"MILK? We have milk in abundance--our own."
"But--but--I mean for cooking--for grown people," Terry
blundered, while they looked amazed and a shade displeased.
Jeff came to the rescue. "We keep cattle for their milk, as well as
for their meat," he explained. "Cow's milk is a staple article of diet.
There is a great milk industry--to collect and distribute it."
Still they looked puzzled. I pointed to my outline of a cow.
"The farmer milks the cow," I said, and sketched a milk pail, the
stool, and in pantomime showed the man milking. "Then it is
carried to the city and distributed by milkmen--everybody has
it at the door in the morning."
"Has the cow no child?" asked Somel earnestly.
"Oh, yes, of course, a calf, that is."
"Is there milk for the calf and you, too?"
It took some time to make clear to those three sweet-faced
women the process which robs the cow of her calf, and the calf
of its true food; and the talk led us into a further discussion of
the meat business. They heard it out, looking very white, and
presently begged to be excused.
A Unique History
It is no use for me to try to piece out this account with
adventures. If the people who read it are not interested in these
amazing women and their history, they will not be interested at all.
As for us--three young men to a whole landful of women--
what could we do? We did get away, as described, and were
peacefully brought back again without, as Terry complained,
even the satisfaction of hitting anybody.
There were no adventures because there was nothing to fight.
There were no wild beasts in the country and very few tame ones.
Of these I might as well stop to describe the one common
pet of the country. Cats, of course. But such cats!
What do you suppose these Lady Burbanks had done with
their cats? By the most prolonged and careful selection and
exclusion they had developed a race of cats that did not sing!
That's a fact. The most those poor dumb brutes could do was to
make a kind of squeak when they were hungry or wanted the door open,
and, of course, to purr, and make the various mother-noises
to their kittens.
Moreover, they had ceased to kill birds. They were rigorously
bred to destroy mice and moles and all such enemies of the food supply;
but the birds were numerous and safe.
While we were discussing birds, Terry asked them if they
used feathers for their hats, and they seemed amused at the idea.
He made a few sketches of our women's hats, with plumes and
quills and those various tickling things that stick out so far; and
they were eagerly interested, as at everything about our women.
As for them, they said they only wore hats for shade
when working in the sun; and those were big light straw hats,
something like those used in China and Japan. In cold weather
they wore caps or hoods.
"But for decorative purposes--don't you think they would be
becoming?" pursued Terry, making as pretty a picture as he could
of a lady with a plumed hat.
They by no means agreed to that, asking quite simply if the
men wore the same kind. We hastened to assure her that they did
not--drew for them our kind of headgear.
"And do no men wear feathers in their hats?"
"Only Indians," Jeff explained. "Savages, you know." And he
sketched a war bonnet to show them.
"And soldiers," I added, drawing a military hat with plumes.
They never expressed horror or disapproval, nor indeed much surprise--
just a keen interest. And the notes they made!--miles of them!
But to return to our pussycats. We were a good deal impressed
by this achievement in breeding, and when they questioned us--I can
tell you we were well pumped for information--we told of what had
been done for dogs and horses and cattle, but that there was no effort
applied to cats, except for show purposes.
I wish I could represent the kind, quiet, steady, ingenious way
they questioned us. It was not just curiosity--they weren't a bit
more curious about us than we were about them, if as much. But
they were bent on understanding our kind of civilization, and
their lines of interrogation would gradually surround us and
drive us in till we found ourselves up against some admissions
we did not want to make.
"Are all these breeds of dogs you have made useful?" they asked.
"Oh--useful! Why, the hunting dogs and watchdogs and
sheepdogs are useful--and sleddogs of course!--and ratters, I
suppose, but we don't keep dogs for their USEFULNESS. The dog is
`the friend of man,' we say--we love them."
That they understood. "We love our cats that way.
They surely are our friends, and helpers, too. You can
see how intelligent and affectionate they are."
It was a fact. I'd never seen such cats, except in a few rare
instances. Big, handsome silky things, friendly with everyone
and devotedly attached to their special owners.
"You must have a heartbreaking time drowning kittens," we
suggested. But they said, "Oh, no! You see we care for them
as you do for your valuable cattle. The fathers are few compared
to the mothers, just a few very fine ones in each town; they live
quite happily in walled gardens and the houses of their friends.
But they only have a mating season once a year."
"Rather hard on Thomas, isn't it?" suggested Terry.
"Oh, no--truly! You see, it is many centuries that we have
been breeding the kind of cats we wanted. They are healthy and
happy and friendly, as you see. How do you manage with your dogs?
Do you keep them in pairs, or segregate the fathers, or what?"
Then we explained that--well, that it wasn't a question of
fathers exactly; that nobody wanted a--a mother dog; that, well,
that practically all our dogs were males--there was only a very
small percentage of females allowed to live.
Then Zava, observing Terry with her grave sweet smile,
quoted back at him: "Rather hard on Thomas, isn't it? Do they
enjoy it--living without mates? Are your dogs as uniformly
healthy and sweet-tempered as our cats?"
Jeff laughed, eyeing Terry mischievously. As a matter of fact
we began to feel Jeff something of a traitor--he so often flopped
over and took their side of things; also his medical knowledge
gave him a different point of view somehow.
"I'm sorry to admit," he told them, "that the dog, with us,
is the most diseased of any animal--next to man. And as to temper
--there are always some dogs who bite people--especially children."
That was pure malice. You see, children were the--the RAISON
D'ETRE in this country. All our interlocutors sat up straight at once.
They were still gentle, still restrained, but there was a note of
deep amazement in their voices.
"Do we understand that you keep an animal--an unmated male animal--
that bites children? About how many are there of them, please?"
"Thousands--in a large city," said Jeff, "and nearly every
family has one in the country."
Terry broke in at this. "You must not imagine they are all
dangerous--it's not one in a hundred that ever bites anybody.
Why, they are the best friends of the children--a boy doesn't
have half a chance that hasn't a dog to play with!"
"And the girls?" asked Somel.
"Oh--girls--why they like them too," he said, but his voice flatted
a little. They always noticed little things like that, we found later.
Little by little they wrung from us the fact that the friend of
man, in the city, was a prisoner; was taken out for his meager
exercise on a leash; was liable not only to many diseases but to
the one destroying horror of rabies; and, in many cases, for the
safety of the citizens, had to go muzzled. Jeff maliciously added
vivid instances he had known or read of injury and death from mad dogs.
They did not scold or fuss about it. Calm as judges, those
women were. But they made notes; Moadine read them to us.
"Please tell me if I have the facts correct," she said.
"In your country--and in others too?"
"Yes," we admitted, "in most civilized countries."
"In most civilized countries a kind of animal is kept which is
no longer useful--"
"They are a protection," Terry insisted. "They bark if burglars
try to get in."
Then she made notes of "burglars" and went on: "because of
the love which people bear to this animal."
Zava interrupted here. "Is it the men or the women who love
this animal so much?"
"Both!" insisted Terry.
"Equally?" she inquired.
And Jeff said, "Nonsense, Terry--you know men like dogs
better than women do--as a whole."
"Because they love it so much--especially men. This animal
is kept shut up, or chained."
"Why?" suddenly asked Somel. "We keep our father cats
shut up because we do not want too much fathering; but they are
not chained--they have large grounds to run in."
"A valuable dog would be stolen if he was let loose," I said.
"We put collars on them, with the owner's name, in case they do
stray. Besides, they get into fights--a valuable dog might easily
be killed by a bigger one."
"I see," she said. "They fight when they meet--is that common?"
We admitted that it was.
"They are kept shut up, or chained." She paused again, and asked,
"Is not a dog fond of running? Are they not built for speed?"
That we admitted, too, and Jeff, still malicious, enlightened
"I've always thought it was a pathetic sight, both ways--to
see a man or a woman taking a dog to walk--at the end of a string."
"Have you bred them to be as neat in their habits as cats are?"
was the next question. And when Jeff told them of the effect of
dogs on sidewalk merchandise and the streets generally, they
found it hard to believe.
You see, their country was as neat as a Dutch kitchen, and as
to sanitation--but I might as well start in now with as much as
I can remember of the history of this amazing country before
And I'll summarize here a bit as to our opportunities for
learning it. I will not try to repeat the careful, detailed account
I lost; I'll just say that we were kept in that fortress a good six
months all told, and after that, three in a pleasant enough city
where--to Terry's infinite disgust--there were only "Colonels"
and little children--no young women whatever. Then we were
under surveillance for three more--always with a tutor or a
guard or both. But those months were pleasant because we were
really getting acquainted with the girls. That was a chapter!--
or will be--I will try to do justice to it.
We learned their language pretty thoroughly--had to; and
they learned ours much more quickly and used it to hasten our
Jeff, who was never without reading matter of some sort, had
two little books with him, a novel and a little anthology of verse;
and I had one of those pocket encyclopedias--a fat little thing,
bursting with facts. These were used in our education--and theirs.
Then as soon as we were up to it, they furnished us with plenty of
their own books, and I went in for the history part--I wanted to
understand the genesis of this miracle of theirs.
And this is what happened, according to their records.
As to geography--at about the time of the Christian era this
land had a free passage to the sea. I'm not saying where, for good
reasons. But there was a fairly easy pass through that wall of
mountains behind us, and there is no doubt in my mind that
these people were of Aryan stock, and were once in contact with
the best civilization of the old world. They were "white," but
somewhat darker than our northern races because of their constant
exposure to sun and air.
The country was far larger then, including much land beyond
the pass, and a strip of coast. They had ships, commerce, an army,
a king--for at that time they were what they so calmly called us
--a bi-sexual race.
What happened to them first was merely a succession of
historic misfortunes such as have befallen other nations often
enough. They were decimated by war, driven up from their
coastline till finally the reduced population, with many of the
men killed in battle, occupied this hinterland, and defended it for
years, in the mountain passes. Where it was open to any possible
attack from below they strengthened the natural defenses so that
it became unscalably secure, as we found it.
They were a polygamous people, and a slave-holding people,
like all of their time; and during the generation or two of this
struggle to defend their mountain home they built the fortresses,
such as the one we were held in, and other of their oldest buildings,
some still in use. Nothing but earthquakes could destroy such
architecture--huge solid blocks, holding by their own weight.
They must have had efficient workmen and enough of them in those days.
They made a brave fight for their existence, but no nation can
stand up against what the steamship companies call "an act of
God." While the whole fighting force was doing its best to defend
their mountain pathway, there occurred a volcanic outburst,
with some local tremors, and the result was the complete filling
up of the pass--their only outlet. Instead of a passage, a new
ridge, sheer and high, stood between them and the sea; they were
walled in, and beneath that wall lay their whole little army.
Very few men were left alive, save the slaves; and these now seized
their opportunity, rose in revolt, killed their remaining masters
even to the youngest boy, killed the old women too, and the
mothers, intending to take possession of the country with the
remaining young women and girls.
But this succession of misfortunes was too much for those
infuriated virgins. There were many of them, and but few of
these would-be masters, so the young women, instead of submitting,
rose in sheer desperation and slew their brutal conquerors.
This sounds like Titus Andronicus, I know, but that is their
account. I suppose they were about crazy--can you blame them?
There was literally no one left on this beautiful high garden
land but a bunch of hysterical girls and some older slave women.
That was about two thousand years ago.
At first there was a period of sheer despair. The mountains
towered between them and their old enemies, but also between
them and escape. There was no way up or down or out--they
simply had to stay there. Some were for suicide, but not the
majority. They must have been a plucky lot, as a whole, and they
decided to live--as long as they did live. Of course they had hope,
as youth must, that something would happen to change their fate.
So they set to work, to bury the dead, to plow and sow,
to care for one another.
Speaking of burying the dead, I will set down while I think
of it, that they had adopted cremation in about the thirteenth
century, for the same reason that they had left off raising cattle
--they could not spare the room. They were much surprised to
learn that we were still burying--asked our reasons for it, and
were much dissatisfied with what we gave. We told them of the
belief in the resurrection of the body, and they asked if our God
was not as well able to resurrect from ashes as from long corruption.
We told them of how people thought it repugnant to have their loved
ones burn, and they asked if it was less repugnant to have them decay.
They were inconveniently reasonable, those women.
Well--that original bunch of girls set to work to clean up the
place and make their living as best they could. Some of the
remaining slave women rendered invaluable service, teaching
such trades as they knew. They had such records as were then
kept, all the tools and implements of the time, and a most
fertile land to work in.
There were a handful of the younger matrons who had escaped
slaughter, and a few babies were born after the cataclysm
--but only two boys, and they both died.
For five or ten years they worked together, growing stronger
and wiser and more and more mutually attached, and then the
miracle happened--one of these young women bore a child. Of
course they all thought there must be a man somewhere, but
none was found. Then they decided it must be a direct gift from
the gods, and placed the proud mother in the Temple of Maaia
--their Goddess of Motherhood--under strict watch. And there,
as years passed, this wonder-woman bore child after child, five
of them--all girls.
I did my best, keenly interested as I have always been in
sociology and social psychology, to reconstruct in my mind the
real position of these ancient women. There were some five or six
hundred of them, and they were harem-bred; yet for the few
preceding generations they had been reared in the atmosphere of
such heroic struggle that the stock must have been toughened
somewhat. Left alone in that terrific orphanhood, they had clung
together, supporting one another and their little sisters, and
developing unknown powers in the stress of new necessity. To this
pain-hardened and work-strengthened group, who had lost not
only the love and care of parents, but the hope of ever having
children of their own, there now dawned the new hope.
Here at last was Motherhood, and though it was not for all
of them personally, it might--if the power was inherited--found
here a new race.
It may be imagined how those five Daughters of Maaia,
Children of the Temple, Mothers of the Future--they had all the
titles that love and hope and reverence could give--were reared.
The whole little nation of women surrounded them with loving
service, and waited, between a boundless hope and an equally
boundless despair, to see if they, too, would be mothers.
And they were! As fast as they reached the age of twenty-five
they began bearing. Each of them, like her mother, bore five
daughters. Presently there were twenty-five New Women,
Mothers in their own right, and the whole spirit of the country
changed from mourning and mere courageous resignation to
proud joy. The older women, those who remembered men, died off;
the youngest of all the first lot of course died too, after a
while, and by that time there were left one hundred and fifty-five
parthenogenetic women, founding a new race.
They inherited all that the devoted care of that declining band
of original ones could leave them. Their little country was quite safe.
Their farms and gardens were all in full production. Such industries
as they had were in careful order. The records of their past were
all preserved, and for years the older women had spent their time
in the best teaching they were capable of, that they might leave
to the little group of sisters and mothers all they possessed of
skill and knowledge.
There you have the start of Herland! One family, all
descended from one mother! She lived to a hundred years old;
lived to see her hundred and twenty-five great-granddaughters
born; lived as Queen-Priestess-Mother of them all; and died with a
nobler pride and a fuller joy than perhaps any human soul has
ever known--she alone had founded a new race!
The first five daughters had grown up in an atmosphere of
holy calm, of awed watchful waiting, of breathless prayer. To
them the longed-for motherhood was not only a personal joy,
but a nation's hope. Their twenty-five daughters in turn, with a
stronger hope, a richer, wider outlook, with the devoted love and
care of all the surviving population, grew up as a holy sisterhood,
their whole ardent youth looking forward to their great office.
And at last they were left alone; the white-haired First Mother
was gone, and this one family, five sisters, twenty-five first cousins,
and a hundred and twenty-five second cousins, began a new race.
Here you have human beings, unquestionably, but what we
were slow in understanding was how these ultra-women, inheriting
only from women, had eliminated not only certain masculine
characteristics, which of course we did not look for, but so
much of what we had always thought essentially feminine.
The tradition of men as guardians and protectors had quite
died out. These stalwart virgins had no men to fear and therefore
no need of protection. As to wild beasts--there were none in
their sheltered land.
The power of mother-love, that maternal instinct we so
highly laud, was theirs of course, raised to its highest power;
and a sister-love which, even while recognizing the actual relationship,
we found it hard to credit.
Terry, incredulous, even contemptuous, when we were alone,
refused to believe the story. "A lot of traditions as old as
Herodotus--and about as trustworthy!" he said. "It's likely women--
just a pack of women--would have hung together like that! We
all know women can't organize--that they scrap like anything--
are frightfully jealous."
"But these New Ladies didn't have anyone to be jealous of,
remember," drawled Jeff.
"That's a likely story," Terry sneered.
"Why don't you invent a likelier one?" I asked him.
"Here ARE the women--nothing but women, and you yourself admit
there's no trace of a man in the country." This was after we
had been about a good deal.
"I'll admit that," he growled. "And it's a big miss, too. There's
not only no fun without 'em--no real sport--no competition; but
these women aren't WOMANLY. You know they aren't."
That kind of talk always set Jeff going; and I gradually grew
to side with him. "Then you don't call a breed of women whose
one concern is motherhood--womanly?" he asked.
"Indeed I don't," snapped Terry. "What does a man care for
motherhood--when he hasn't a ghost of a chance at fatherhood?
And besides--what's the good of talking sentiment when we are
just men together? What a man wants of women is a good deal
more than all this `motherhood'!"
We were as patient as possible with Terry. He had lived about
nine months among the "Colonels" when he made that outburst;
and with no chance at any more strenuous excitement than our
gymnastics gave us--save for our escape fiasco. I don't suppose
Terry had ever lived so long with neither Love, Combat, nor
Danger to employ his superabundant energies, and he was irritable.
Neither Jeff nor I found it so wearing. I was so much interested
intellectually that our confinement did not wear on me; and as for
Jeff, bless his heart!--he enjoyed the society of that tutor of his
almost as much as if she had been a girl--I don't know but more.
As to Terry's criticism, it was true. These women, whose
essential distinction of motherhood was the dominant note of
their whole culture, were strikingly deficient in what we call
"femininity." This led me very promptly to the conviction that
those "feminine charms" we are so fond of are not feminine at all,
but mere reflected masculinity--developed to please us because they
had to please us, and in no way essential to the real fulfillment
of their great process. But Terry came to no such conclusion.
"Just you wait till I get out!" he muttered.
Then we both cautioned him. "Look here, Terry, my boy! You
be careful! They've been mighty good to us--but do you remember
the anesthesia? If you do any mischief in this virgin land,
beware of the vengeance of the Maiden Aunts! Come, be a man!
It won't be forever."
To return to the history:
They began at once to plan and built for their children, all
the strength and intelligence of the whole of them devoted to
that one thing. Each girl, of course, was reared in full knowledge
of her Crowning Office, and they had, even then, very high ideas
of the molding powers of the mother, as well as those of education.
Such high ideals as they had! Beauty, Health, Strength,
Intellect, Goodness--for those they prayed and worked.
They had no enemies; they themselves were all sisters and friends.
The land was fair before them, and a great future began to form itself
in their minds.
The religion they had to begin with was much like that of old
Greece--a number of gods and goddesses; but they lost all interest
in deities of war and plunder, and gradually centered on their
Mother Goddess altogether. Then, as they grew more intelligent,
this had turned into a sort of Maternal Pantheism.
Here was Mother Earth, bearing fruit. All that they ate was
fruit of motherhood, from seed or egg or their product. By motherhood
they were born and by motherhood they lived--life was, to them, just
the long cycle of motherhood.
But very early they recognized the need of improvement as well
as of mere repetition, and devoted their combined intelligence to
that problem--how to make the best kind of people. First this was
merely the hope of bearing better ones, and then they recognized
that however the children differed at birth, the real growth lay
Then things began to hum.
As I learned more and more to appreciate what these women
had accomplished, the less proud I was of what we, with all our
manhood, had done.
You see, they had had no wars. They had had no kings, and
no priests, and no aristocracies. They were sisters, and as they
grew, they grew together--not by competition, but by united action.
We tried to put in a good word for competition, and they
were keenly interested. Indeed, we soon found from their earnest
questions of us that they were prepared to believe our world must
be better than theirs. They were not sure; they wanted to know;
but there was no such arrogance about them as might have been expected.
We rather spread ourselves, telling of the advantages of
competition: how it developed fine qualities; that without it
there would be "no stimulus to industry." Terry was very strong
on that point.
"No stimulus to industry," they repeated, with that puzzled
look we had learned to know so well. "STIMULUS? TO INDUSTRY? But
don't you LIKE to work?"
"No man would work unless he had to," Terry declared.
"Oh, no MAN! You mean that is one of your sex distinctions?"
"No, indeed!" he said hastily. "No one, I mean, man or
woman, would work without incentive. Competition is the--the
motor power, you see."
"It is not with us," they explained gently, "so it is hard for
us to understand. Do you mean, for instance, that with you no mother
would work for her children without the stimulus of competition?"
No, he admitted that he did not mean that. Mothers, he
supposed, would of course work for their children in the home;
but the world's work was different--that had to be done by men,
and required the competitive element.
All our teachers were eagerly interested.
"We want so much to know--you have the whole world to tell us of,
and we have only our little land! And there are two of you--the two sexes--
to love and help one another. It must be a rich and wonderful world.
Tell us--what is the work of the world, that men do--which we have not here?"
"Oh, everything," Terry said grandly. "The men do everything, with us."
He squared his broad shoulders and lifted his chest. "We do not allow our
women to work. Women are loved--idolized--honored--kept in the home to care
for the children."
"What is `the home'?" asked Somel a little wistfully.
But Zava begged: "Tell me first, do NO women work, really?"
"Why, yes," Terry admitted. "Some have to, of the poorer sort."
"About how many--in your country?"
"About seven or eight million," said Jeff, as mischievous as ever.
Comparisons Are Odious
I had always been proud of my country, of course. Everyone is.
Compared with the other lands and other races I knew, the United States
of America had always seemed to me, speaking modestly, as good as the
best of them.
But just as a clear-eyed, intelligent, perfectly honest, and
well-meaning child will frequently jar one's self-esteem by innocent
questions, so did these women, without the slightest appearance
of malice or satire, continually bring up points of discussion
which we spent our best efforts in evading.
Now that we were fairly proficient in their language, had read
a lot about their history, and had given them the general outlines
of ours, they were able to press their questions closer.
So when Jeff admitted the number of "women wage earners"
we had, they instantly asked for the total population, for the
proportion of adult women, and found that there were but
twenty million or so at the outside.
"Then at least a third of your women are--what is it you call
them--wage earners? And they are all POOR. What is POOR, exactly?"
"Ours is the best country in the world as to poverty,"
Terry told them. "We do not have the wretched paupers and beggars
of the older countries, I assure you. Why, European visitors tell
us, we don't know what poverty is."
"Neither do we," answered Zava. "Won't you tell us?"
Terry put it up to me, saying I was the sociologist, and I
explained that the laws of nature require a struggle for existence,
and that in the struggle the fittest survive, and the unfit perish.
In our economic struggle, I continued, there was always plenty
of opportunity for the fittest to reach the top, which they did,
in great numbers, particularly in our country; that where there was
severe economic pressure the lowest classes of course felt it the
worst, and that among the poorest of all the women were driven into
the labor market by necessity.
They listened closely, with the usual note-taking.
"About one-third, then, belong to the poorest class,"
observed Moadine gravely. "And two-thirds are the ones who are
--how was it you so beautifully put it?--`loved, honored, kept
in the home to care for the children.' This inferior one-third have
no children, I suppose?"
Jeff--he was getting as bad as they were--solemnly replied that,
on the contrary, the poorer they were, the more children they had.
That too, he explained, was a law of nature:
"Reproduction is in inverse proportion to individuation."
"These `laws of nature,'" Zava gently asked, "are they all the
laws you have?"
"I should say not!" protested Terry. "We have systems of law
that go back thousands and thousands of years--just as you do,
no doubt," he finished politely.
"Oh no," Moadine told him. "We have no laws over a hundred
years old, and most of them are under twenty. In a few weeks more,"
she continued, "we are going to have the pleasure of showing you
over our little land and explaining everything you care to know about.
We want you to see our people."
"And I assure you," Somel added, "that our people want to see you."
Terry brightened up immensely at this news, and reconciled
himself to the renewed demands upon our capacity as teachers.
It was lucky that we knew so little, really, and had no books to
refer to, else, I fancy we might all be there yet, teaching those
eager-minded women about the rest of the world.
As to geography, they had the tradition of the Great Sea,
beyond the mountains; and they could see for themselves the
endless thick-forested plains below them--that was all. But from
the few records of their ancient condition--not "before the
flood" with them, but before that mighty quake which had cut
them off so completely--they were aware that there were other
peoples and other countries.
In geology they were quite ignorant.
As to anthropology, they had those same remnants of information
about other peoples, and the knowledge of the savagery of the
occupants of those dim forests below. Nevertheless, they
had inferred (marvelously keen on inference and deduction their
minds were!) the existence and development of civilization in
other places, much as we infer it on other planets.
When our biplane came whirring over their heads in that first
scouting flight of ours, they had instantly accepted it as proof of
the high development of Some Where Else, and had prepared to
receive us as cautiously and eagerly as we might prepare to
welcome visitors who came "by meteor" from Mars.
Of history--outside their own--they knew nothing, of
course, save for their ancient traditions.
Of astronomy they had a fair working knowledge--that is a
very old science; and with it, a surprising range and facility in
Physiology they were quite familiar with. Indeed, when it
came to the simpler and more concrete sciences, wherein the
subject matter was at hand and they had but to exercise their
minds upon it, the results were surprising. They had worked out
a chemistry, a botany, a physics, with all the blends where a
science touches an art, or merges into an industry, to such
fullness of knowledge as made us feel like schoolchildren.
Also we found this out--as soon as we were free of the country,
and by further study and question--that what one knew, all knew,
to a very considerable extent.
I talked later with little mountain girls from the fir-dark
valleys away up at their highest part, and with sunburned plains-
women and agile foresters, all over the country, as well as those
in the towns, and everywhere there was the same high level of
intelligence. Some knew far more than others about one thing--
they were specialized, of course; but all of them knew more about
everything--that is, about everything the country was acquainted
with--than is the case with us.
We boast a good deal of our "high level of general intelligence"
and our "compulsory public education," but in proportion to their
opportunities they were far better educated than our people.
With what we told them, from what sketches and models we
were able to prepare, they constructed a sort of working outline
to fill in as they learned more.
A big globe was made, and our uncertain maps, helped out
by those in that precious yearbook thing I had, were tentatively
indicated upon it.
They sat in eager groups, masses of them who came for the
purpose, and listened while Jeff roughly ran over the geologic
history of the earth, and showed them their own land in relation
to the others. Out of that same pocket reference book of mine
came facts and figures which were seized upon and placed in
right relation with unerring acumen.
Even Terry grew interested in this work. "If we can keep this up,
they'll be having us lecture to all the girls' schools and colleges--
how about that?" he suggested to us. "Don't know as I'd object to
being an Authority to such audiences."
They did, in fact, urge us to give public lectures later, but not
to the hearers or with the purpose we expected.
What they were doing with us was like--like--well, say like
Napoleon extracting military information from a few illiterate
peasants. They knew just what to ask, and just what use to make
of it; they had mechanical appliances for disseminating information
almost equal to ours at home; and by the time we were led forth
to lecture, our audiences had thoroughly mastered a well-
arranged digest of all we had previously given to our teachers,
and were prepared with such notes and questions as might have
intimidated a university professor.
They were not audiences of girls, either. It was some time
before we were allowed to meet the young women.
"Do you mind telling what you intend to do with us?" Terry
burst forth one day, facing the calm and friendly Moadine with
that funny half-blustering air of his. At first he used to storm and
flourish quite a good deal, but nothing seemed to amuse them more;
they would gather around and watch him as if it was an exhibition,
politely, but with evident interest. So he learned to check himself,
and was almost reasonable in his bearing--but not quite.
She announced smoothly and evenly: "Not in the least. I
thought it was quite plain. We are trying to learn of you all we
can, and to teach you what you are willing to learn of our country."
"Is that all?" he insisted.
She smiled a quiet enigmatic smile. "That depends."
"Depends on what?"
"Mainly on yourselves," she replied.
"Why do you keep us shut up so closely?"
"Because we do not feel quite safe in allowing you at large
where there are so many young women."
Terry was really pleased at that. He had thought as much,
inwardly; but he pushed the question. "Why should you be afraid?
We are gentlemen."
She smiled that little smile again, and asked: "Are `gentlemen'
"You surely do not think that any of us," he said it with a
good deal of emphasis on the "us," "would hurt your young girls?"
"Oh no," she said quickly, in real surprise. "The danger is
quite the other way. They might hurt you. If, by any accident,
you did harm any one of us, you would have to face a million mothers."
He looked so amazed and outraged that Jeff and I laughed outright,
but she went on gently.
"I do not think you quite understand yet. You are but men,
three men, in a country where the whole population are mothers--
or are going to be. Motherhood means to us something which
I cannot yet discover in any of the countries of which you tell
us. You have spoken"--she turned to Jeff, "of Human Brotherhood
as a great idea among you, but even that I judge is far from
a practical expression?"
Jeff nodded rather sadly. "Very far--" he said.
"Here we have Human Motherhood--in full working use,"
she went on. "Nothing else except the literal sisterhood of our
origin, and the far higher and deeper union of our social growth.
"The children in this country are the one center and focus of
all our thoughts. Every step of our advance is always considered
in its effect on them--on the race. You see, we are MOTHERS," she
repeated, as if in that she had said it all.
"I don't see how that fact--which is shared by all women--
constitutes any risk to us," Terry persisted. "You mean they
would defend their children from attack. Of course. Any mothers
would. But we are not savages, my dear lady; we are not going
to hurt any mother's child."
They looked at one another and shook their heads a little, but
Zava turned to Jeff and urged him to make us see--said he
seemed to understand more fully than we did. And he tried.
I can see it now, or at least much more of it, but it has taken
me a long time, and a good deal of honest intellectual effort.
What they call Motherhood was like this:
They began with a really high degree of social development,
something like that of Ancient Egypt or Greece. Then they
suffered the loss of everything masculine, and supposed at first
that all human power and safety had gone too. Then they developed
this virgin birth capacity. Then, since the prosperity of their
children depended on it, the fullest and subtlest coordination
began to be practiced.
I remember how long Terry balked at the evident unanimity
of these women--the most conspicuous feature of their whole
culture. "It's impossible!" he would insist. "Women cannot
cooperate--it's against nature."
When we urged the obvious facts he would say: "Fiddlesticks!"
or "Hang your facts--I tell you it can't be done!" And we never
succeeded in shutting him up till Jeff dragged in the hymenoptera.
"`Go to the ant, thou sluggard'--and learn something," he
said triumphantly. "Don't they cooperate pretty well? You can't
beat it. This place is just like an enormous anthill--you know an
anthill is nothing but a nursery. And how about bees? Don't they
manage to cooperate and love one another?
As the birds do love the Spring
Or the bees their careful king,
as that precious Constable had it. Just show me a combination
of male creatures, bird, bug, or beast, that works as well, will
you? Or one of our masculine countries where the people work
together as well as they do here! I tell you, women are the natural
cooperators, not men!"
Terry had to learn a good many things he did not want to.
To go back to my little analysis of what happened:
They developed all this close inter-service in the interests of
their children. To do the best work they had to specialize, of
course; the children needed spinners and weavers, farmers and
gardeners, carpenters and masons, as well as mothers.
Then came the filling up of the place. When a population
multiplies by five every thirty years it soon reaches the limits
of a country, especially a small one like this. They very soon
eliminated all the grazing cattle--sheep were the last to go, I believe.
Also, they worked out a system of intensive agriculture surpassing
anything I ever heard of, with the very forests all reset with
fruit- or nut-bearing trees.
Do what they would, however, there soon came a time when they
were confronted with the problem of "the pressure of population"
in an acute form. There was really crowding, and with it,
unavoidably, a decline in standards.
And how did those women meet it?
Not by a "struggle for existence" which would result in an
everlasting writhing mass of underbred people trying to get
ahead of one another--some few on top, temporarily, many constantly
crushed out underneath, a hopeless substratum of paupers
and degenerates, and no serenity or peace for anyone, no
possibility for really noble qualities among the people at large.
Neither did they start off on predatory excursions to get more
land from somebody else, or to get more food from somebody else,
to maintain their struggling mass.
Not at all. They sat down in council together and thought it
out. Very clear, strong thinkers they were. They said: "With our
best endeavors this country will support about so many people,
with the standard of peace, comfort, health, beauty, and progress
we demand. Very well. That is all the people we will make."
There you have it. You see, they were Mothers, not in our
sense of helpless involuntary fecundity, forced to fill and overfill
the land, every land, and then see their children suffer, sin, and
die, fighting horribly with one another; but in the sense of Conscious
Makers of People. Mother-love with them was not a brute passion,
a mere "instinct," a wholly personal feeling; it was--a religion.
It included that limitless feeling of sisterhood, that wide
unity in service, which was so difficult for us to grasp. And
it was National, Racial, Human--oh, I don't know how to say it.
We are used to seeing what we call "a mother" completely
wrapped up in her own pink bundle of fascinating babyhood,
and taking but the faintest theoretic interest in anybody else's
bundle, to say nothing of the common needs of ALL the bundles.
But these women were working all together at the grandest of
tasks--they were Making People--and they made them well.
There followed a period of "negative eugenics" which must
have been an appalling sacrifice. We are commonly willing to
"lay down our lives" for our country, but they had to forego
motherhood for their country--and it was precisely the hardest
thing for them to do.
When I got this far in my reading I went to Somel for more
light. We were as friendly by that time as I had ever been in my
life with any woman. A mighty comfortable soul she was, giving
one the nice smooth mother-feeling a man likes in a woman, and yet
giving also the clear intelligence and dependableness I used to
assume to be masculine qualities. We had talked volumes already.
"See here," said I. "Here was this dreadful period when they
got far too thick, and decided to limit the population. We have
a lot of talk about that among us, but your position is so different
that I'd like to know a little more about it.
"I understand that you make Motherhood the highest social service--
a sacrament, really; that it is only undertaken once, by the majority
of the population; that those held unfit are not allowed even that;
and that to be encouraged to bear more than one child is the very
highest reward and honor in the power of the state."
(She interpolated here that the nearest approach to an
aristocracy they had was to come of a line of "Over Mothers"--
those who had been so honored.)
"But what I do not understand, naturally, is how you prevent it.
I gathered that each woman had five. You have no tyrannical husbands
to hold in check--and you surely do not destroy the unborn--"
The look of ghastly horror she gave me I shall never forget.
She started from her chair, pale, her eyes blazing.
"Destroy the unborn--!" she said in a hard whisper.
"Do men do that in your country?"
"Men!" I began to answer, rather hotly, and then saw the gulf
before me. None of us wanted these women to think that OUR women,
of whom we boasted so proudly, were in any way inferior to them.
I am ashamed to say that I equivocated. I told her of certain
criminal types of women--perverts, or crazy, who had been known
to commit infanticide. I told her, truly enough, that there was
much in our land which was open to criticism, but that I hated to
dwell on our defects until they understood us and our conditions better.
And, making a wide detour, I scrambled back to my question
of how they limited the population.
As for Somel, she seemed sorry, a little ashamed even, of her
too clearly expressed amazement. As I look back now, knowing
them better, I am more and more and more amazed as I appreciate
the exquisite courtesy with which they had received over and
over again statements and admissions on our part which must
have revolted them to the soul.
She explained to me, with sweet seriousness, that as I had supposed,
at first each woman bore five children; and that, in their eager desire
to build up a nation, they had gone on in that way for a few centuries,
till they were confronted with the absolute need of a limit. This fact
was equally plain to all--all were equally interested.
They were now as anxious to check their wonderful power
as they had been to develop it; and for some generations gave the
matter their most earnest thought and study.
"We were living on rations before we worked it out," she said.
"But we did work it out. You see, before a child comes to one of us
there is a period of utter exaltation--the whole being is uplifted
and filled with a concentrated desire for that child. We learned
to look forward to that period with the greatest caution. Often our
young women, those to whom motherhood had not yet come, would
voluntarily defer it. When that deep inner demand for a child
began to be felt she would deliberately engage in the most active work,
physical and mental; and even more important, would solace her longing
by the direct care and service of the babies we already had."
She paused. Her wise sweet face grew deeply, reverently tender.
"We soon grew to see that mother-love has more than one
channel of expression. I think the reason our children are so--so
fully loved, by all of us, is that we never--any of us--have
enough of our own."
This seemed to me infinitely pathetic, and I said so. "We have
much that is bitter and hard in our life at home," I told her, "but this
seems to me piteous beyond words--a whole nation of starving mothers!"
But she smiled her deep contented smile, and said I quite misunderstood.
"We each go without a certain range of personal joy," she said, "but
remember--we each have a million children to love and serve--OUR children."
It was beyond me. To hear a lot of women talk about "our children"!
But I suppose that is the way the ants and bees would talk--do talk, maybe.
That was what they did, anyhow.
When a woman chose to be a mother, she allowed the child-
longing to grow within her till it worked its natural miracle.
When she did not so choose she put the whole thing out of her
mind, and fed her heart with the other babies.
Let me see--with us, children--minors, that is--constitute
about three-fifths of the population; with them only about one-
third, or less. And precious--! No sole heir to an empire's throne,
no solitary millionaire baby, no only child of middle-aged parents,
could compare as an idol with these Herland children.
But before I start on that subject I must finish up that little
analysis I was trying to make.
They did effectually and permanently limit the population in numbers,
so that the country furnished plenty for the fullest, richest life for all
of them: plenty of everything, including room, air, solitude even.
And then they set to work to improve that population in quality--
since they were restricted in quantity. This they had been at work on,
uninterruptedly, for some fifteen hundred years. Do you wonder they
were nice people?
Physiology, hygiene, sanitation, physical culture--all that
line of work had been perfected long since. Sickness was almost
wholly unknown among them, so much so that a previously high
development in what we call the "science of medicine" had become
practically a lost art. They were a clean-bred, vigorous lot,
having the best of care, the most perfect living conditions always.
When it came to psychology--there was no one thing which
left us so dumbfounded, so really awed, as the everyday working
knowledge--and practice--they had in this line. As we learned
more and more of it, we learned to appreciate the exquisite
mastery with which we ourselves, strangers of alien race, of unknown
opposite sex, had been understood and provided for from the first.
With this wide, deep, thorough knowledge, they had met and
solved the problems of education in ways some of which I hope
to make clear later. Those nation-loved children of theirs
compared with the average in our country as the most perfectly
cultivated, richly developed roses compare with--tumbleweeds.
Yet they did not SEEM "cultivated" at all--it had all become a
And this people, steadily developing in mental capacity, in
will power, in social devotion, had been playing with the arts and
sciences--as far as they knew them--for a good many centuries
now with inevitable success.
Into this quiet lovely land, among these wise, sweet, strong
women, we, in our easy assumption of superiority, had suddenly
arrived; and now, tamed and trained to a degree they considered safe,
we were at last brought out to see the country, to know the people.
Our Growing Modesty
Being at last considered sufficiently tamed and trained to be
trusted with scissors, we barbered ourselves as best we could. A
close-trimmed beard is certainly more comfortable than a full
one. Razors, naturally, they could not supply.
"With so many old women you'd think there'd be some razors,"
sneered Terry. Whereat Jeff pointed out that he never before
had seen such complete absence of facial hair on women.
"Looks to me as if the absence of men made them more
feminine in that regard, anyhow," he suggested.
"Well, it's the only one then," Terry reluctantly agreed.
"A less feminine lot I never saw. A child apiece doesn't seem
to be enough to develop what I call motherliness."
Terry's idea of motherliness was the usual one, involving a
baby in arms, or "a little flock about her knees," and the complete
absorption of the mother in said baby or flock. A motherliness
which dominated society, which influenced every art and industry,
which absolutely protected all childhood, and gave to it the
most perfect care and training, did not seem motherly--to Terry.
We had become well used to the clothes. They were quite as
comfortable as our own--in some ways more so--and undeniably
better looking. As to pockets, they left nothing to be desired.
That second garment was fairly quilted with pockets. They were
most ingeniously arranged, so as to be convenient to the hand
and not inconvenient to the body, and were so placed as at once
to strengthen the garment and add decorative lines of stitching.
In this, as in so many other points we had now to observe,
there was shown the action of a practical intelligence, coupled
with fine artistic feeling, and, apparently, untrammeled by any
Our first step of comparative freedom was a personally
conducted tour of the country. No pentagonal bodyguard now!
Only our special tutors, and we got on famously with them.
Jeff said he loved Zava like an aunt--"only jollier than any aunt
I ever saw"; Somel and I were as chummy as could be--the best of
friends; but it was funny to watch Terry and Moadine. She was
patient with him, and courteous, but it was like the patience and
courtesy of some great man, say a skilled, experienced diplomat,
with a schoolgirl. Her grave acquiescence with his most preposterous
expression of feeling; her genial laughter, not only with, but, I
often felt, at him--though impeccably polite; her innocent questions,
which almost invariably led him to say more than he intended--Jeff
and I found it all amusing to watch.
He never seemed to recognize that quiet background of superiority.
When she dropped an argument he always thought he had silenced her;
when she laughed he thought it tribute to his wit.
I hated to admit to myself how much Terry had sunk in my esteem.
Jeff felt it too, I am sure; but neither of us admitted it to the other.
At home we had measured him with other men, and, though we knew his failings,
he was by no means an unusual type. We knew his virtues too, and they had
always seemed more prominent than the faults. Measured among women--our
women at home, I mean--he had always stood high. He was visibly popular.
Even where his habits were known, there was no discrimination against him;
in some cases his reputation for what was felicitously termed "gaiety"
seemed a special charm.
But here, against the calm wisdom and quiet restrained humor
of these women, with only that blessed Jeff and my inconspicuous
self to compare with, Terry did stand out rather strong.
As "a man among men," he didn't; as a man among--I shall
have to say, "females," he didn't; his intense masculinity seemed
only fit complement to their intense femininity. But here he was
all out of drawing.
Moadine was a big woman, with a balanced strength that
seldom showed. Her eye was as quietly watchful as a fencer's.
She maintained a pleasant relation with her charge, but I doubt
if many, even in that country, could have done as well.
He called her "Maud," amongst ourselves, and said she was
"a good old soul, but a little slow"; wherein he was quite wrong.
Needless to say, he called Jeff's teacher "Java," and sometimes
"Mocha," or plain "Coffee"; when specially mischievous, "Chicory,"
and even "Postum." But Somel rather escaped this form
of humor, save for a rather forced "Some 'ell."
"Don't you people have but one name?" he asked one day,
after we had been introduced to a whole group of them, all with
pleasant, few-syllabled strange names, like the ones we knew.
"Oh yes," Moadine told him. "A good many of us have
another, as we get on in life--a descriptive one. That is the name
we earn. Sometimes even that is changed, or added to, in an
unusually rich life. Such as our present Land Mother--what you
call president or king, I believe. She was called Mera, even as a
child; that means `thinker.' Later there was added Du--Du-Mera
--the wise thinker, and now we all know her as O-du-mera--
great and wise thinker. You shall meet her."
"No surnames at all then?" pursued Terry, with his somewhat
patronizing air. "No family name?"
"Why no," she said. "Why should we? We are all descended
from a common source--all one `family' in reality. You see, our
comparatively brief and limited history gives us that advantage
"But does not each mother want her own child to bear her name?"
"No--why should she? The child has its own."
"Why for--for identification--so people will know whose
child she is."
"We keep the most careful records," said Somel. "Each one
of us has our exact line of descent all the way back to our dear
First Mother. There are many reasons for doing that. But as to
everyone knowing which child belongs to which mother--why should she?"
Here, as in so many other instances, we were led to feel the
difference between the purely maternal and the paternal attitude
of mind. The element of personal pride seemed strangely lacking.
"How about your other works?" asked Jeff. "Don't you sign
your names to them--books and statues and so on?"
"Yes, surely, we are all glad and proud to. Not only books and
statues, but all kinds of work. You will find little names on the
houses, on the furniture, on the dishes sometimes. Because otherwise
one is likely to forget, and we want to know to whom to be grateful."
"You speak as if it were done for the convenience of the
consumer--not the pride of the producer," I suggested.
"It's both," said Somel. "We have pride enough in our work."
"Then why not in your children?" urged Jeff.
"But we have! We're magnificently proud of them," she insisted.
"Then why not sign 'em?" said Terry triumphantly.
Moadine turned to him with her slightly quizzical smile.
"Because the finished product is not a private one. When they are
babies, we do speak of them, at times, as `Essa's Lato,' or `Novine's
Amel'; but that is merely descriptive and conversational. In the records,
of course, the child stands in her own line of mothers; but in dealing
with it personally it is Lato, or Amel, without dragging in its ancestors."
"But have you names enough to give a new one to each child?"
"Assuredly we have, for each living generation."
Then they asked about our methods, and found first that
"we" did so and so, and then that other nations did differently.
Upon which they wanted to know which method has been
proved best--and we had to admit that so far as we knew there
had been no attempt at comparison, each people pursuing its own
custom in the fond conviction of superiority, and either despising
or quite ignoring the others.
With these women the most salient quality in all their
institutions was reasonableness. When I dug into the records
to follow out any line of development, that was the most astonishing
thing--the conscious effort to make it better.
They had early observed the value of certain improvements,
had easily inferred that there was room for more, and took the
greatest pains to develop two kinds of minds--the critic and
inventor. Those who showed an early tendency to observe, to
discriminate, to suggest, were given special training for that
function; and some of their highest officials spent their time in
the most careful study of one or another branch of work, with
a view to its further improvement.
In each generation there was sure to arrive some new mind
to detect faults and show need of alterations; and the whole corps
of inventors was at hand to apply their special faculty at the
point criticized, and offer suggestions.
We had learned by this time not to open a discussion on any
of their characteristics without first priming ourselves to answer
questions about our own methods; so I kept rather quiet on this
matter of conscious improvement. We were not prepared to show
our way was better.
There was growing in our minds, at least in Jeff's and mine,
a keen appreciation of the advantages of this strange country and
its management. Terry remained critical. We laid most of it to his
nerves. He certainly was irritable.
The most conspicuous feature of the whole land was the
perfection of its food supply. We had begun to notice from that
very first walk in the forest, the first partial view from our 'plane.
Now we were taken to see this mighty garden, and shown its
methods of culture.
The country was about the size of Holland, some ten or
twelve thousand square miles. One could lose a good many Hollands
along the forest-smothered flanks of those mighty mountains.
They had a population of about three million--not a large
one, but quality is something. Three million is quite enough to
allow for considerable variation, and these people varied more
widely than we could at first account for.
Terry had insisted that if they were parthenogenetic they'd
be as alike as so many ants or aphids; he urged their visible
differences as proof that there must be men--somewhere.
But when we asked them, in our later, more intimate
conversations, how they accounted for so much divergence
without cross-fertilization, they attributed it partly to the
careful education, which followed each slight tendency to differ,
and partly to the law of mutation. This they had found in their
work with plants, and fully proven in their own case.
Physically they were more alike than we, as they lacked all
morbid or excessive types. They were tall, strong, healthy, and
beautiful as a race, but differed individually in a wide range of
feature, coloring, and expression.
"But surely the most important growth is in mind--and in the
things we make," urged Somel. "Do you find your physical variation
accompanied by a proportionate variation in ideas, feelings,
and products? Or, among people who look more alike, do you
find their internal life and their work as similar?"
We were rather doubtful on this point, and inclined to hold
that there was more chance of improvement in greater physical
"It certainly should be," Zava admitted. "We have always
thought it a grave initial misfortune to have lost half our
little world. Perhaps that is one reason why we have so striven
for conscious improvement."
"But acquired traits are not transmissible," Terry declared.
"Weissman has proved that."
They never disputed our absolute statements, only made
notes of them.
"If that is so, then our improvement must be due either to
mutation, or solely to education," she gravely pursued. "We
certainly have improved. It may be that all these higher qualities
were latent in the original mother, that careful education is
bringing them out, and that our personal differences depend on
slight variations in prenatal condition."
"I think it is more in your accumulated culture," Jeff suggested.
"And in the amazing psychic growth you have made. We know very little
about methods of real soul culture--and you seem to know a great deal."
Be that as it might, they certainly presented a higher level of
active intelligence, and of behavior, than we had so far really
grasped. Having known in our lives several people who showed
the same delicate courtesy and were equally pleasant to live with,
at least when they wore their "company manners," we had assumed
that our companions were a carefully chosen few. Later we were
more and more impressed that all this gentle breeding was breeding;
that they were born to it, reared in it, that it was as natural
and universal with them as the gentleness of doves or the alleged
wisdom of serpents.
As for the intelligence, I confess that this was the most
impressive and, to me, most mortifying, of any single feature of
Herland. We soon ceased to comment on this or other matters
which to them were such obvious commonplaces as to call forth
embarrassing questions about our own conditions.
This was nowhere better shown than in that matter of food
supply, which I will now attempt to describe.
Having improved their agriculture to the highest point, and
carefully estimated the number of persons who could comfortably
live on their square miles; having then limited their population
to that number, one would think that was all there was to be done.
But they had not thought so. To them the country was a unit--it
was theirs. They themselves were a unit, a conscious group;
they thought in terms of the community. As such, their
time-sense was not limited to the hopes and ambitions of an
individual life. Therefore, they habitually considered and carried
out plans for improvement which might cover centuries.
I had never seen, had scarcely imagined, human beings
undertaking such a work as the deliberate replanting of an entire
forest area with different kinds of trees. Yet this seemed to them
the simplest common sense, like a man's plowing up an inferior
lawn and reseeding it. Now every tree bore fruit--edible fruit,
that is. In the case of one tree, in which they took especial pride,
it had originally no fruit at all--that is, none humanly edible--
yet was so beautiful that they wished to keep it. For nine hundred
years they had experimented, and now showed us this particularly
lovely graceful tree, with a profuse crop of nutritious seeds.
They had early decided that trees were the best food plants,
requiring far less labor in tilling the soil, and bearing a larger
amount of food for the same ground space; also doing much to
preserve and enrich the soil.
Due regard had been paid to seasonable crops, and their fruit
and nuts, grains and berries, kept on almost the year through.
On the higher part of the country, near the backing wall of
mountains, they had a real winter with snow. Toward the south-
eastern point, where there was a large valley with a lake whose
outlet was subterranean, the climate was like that of California,
and citrus fruits, figs, and olives grew abundantly.
What impressed me particularly was their scheme of fertilization.
Here was this little shut-in piece of land where one would have
thought an ordinary people would have been starved out long ago
or reduced to an annual struggle for life. These careful culturists
had worked out a perfect scheme of refeeding the soil with all that
came out of it. All the scraps and leavings of their food,
plant waste from lumber work or textile industry, all the
solid matter from the sewage, properly treated and combined--
everything which came from the earth went back to it.
The practical result was like that in any healthy forest; an
increasingly valuable soil was being built, instead of the
progressive impoverishment so often seen in the rest of the world.
When this first burst upon us we made such approving comments
that they were surprised that such obvious common sense should be
praised; asked what our methods were; and we had some difficulty
in--well, in diverting them, by referring to the extent of our own
land, and the--admitted--carelessness with which we had skimmed
the cream of it.
At least we thought we had diverted them. Later I found that
besides keeping a careful and accurate account of all we told
them, they had a sort of skeleton chart, on which the things we
said and the things we palpably avoided saying were all set down
and studied. It really was child's play for those profound educators
to work out a painfully accurate estimate of our conditions
--in some lines. When a given line of observation seemed to lead
to some very dreadful inference they always gave us the benefit
of the doubt, leaving it open to further knowledge. Some of the
things we had grown to accept as perfectly natural, or as belonging
to our human limitations, they literally could not have believed;
and, as I have said, we had all of us joined in a tacit endeavor
to conceal much of the social status at home.
"Confound their grandmotherly minds!" Terry said. "Of
course they can't understand a Man's World! They aren't human
--they're just a pack of Fe-Fe-Females!" This was after he had
to admit their parthenogenesis.
"I wish our grandfatherly minds had managed as well," said Jeff.
"Do you really think it's to our credit that we have muddled along
with all our poverty and disease and the like? They have peace and
plenty, wealth and beauty, goodness and intellect. Pretty good people,
"You'll find they have their faults too," Terry insisted; and
partly in self-defense, we all three began to look for those faults
of theirs. We had been very strong on this subject before we got
there--in those baseless speculations of ours.
"Suppose there is a country of women only," Jeff had put it,
over and over. "What'll they be like?"
And we had been cocksure as to the inevitable limitations, the
faults and vices, of a lot of women. We had expected them to be
given over to what we called "feminine vanity"--"frills and
furbelows," and we found they had evolved a costume more
perfect than the Chinese dress, richly beautiful when so desired,
always useful, of unfailing dignity and good taste.
We had expected a dull submissive monotony, and found a
daring social inventiveness far beyond our own, and a mechanical
and scientific development fully equal to ours.
We had expected pettiness, and found a social consciousness
besides which our nations looked like quarreling children--
feebleminded ones at that.
We had expected jealousy, and found a broad sisterly affection,
a fair-minded intelligence, to which we could produce no parallel.
We had expected hysteria, and found a standard of health and vigor,
a calmness of temper, to which the habit of profanity, for instance,
was impossible to explain--we tried it.
All these things even Terry had to admit, but he still insisted
that we should find out the other side pretty soon.
"It stands to reason, doesn't it?" he argued. "The whole
thing's deuced unnatural--I'd say impossible if we weren't in it.
And an unnatural condition's sure to have unnatural results.
You'll find some awful characteristics--see if you don't! For
instance--we don't know yet what they do with their criminals--
their defectives--their aged. You notice we haven't seen any!
There's got to be something!"
I was inclined to believe that there had to be something, so
I took the bull by the horns--the cow, I should say!--and asked Somel.
"I want to find some flaw in all this perfection," I told her
flatly. "It simply isn't possible that three million people have no
faults. We are trying our best to understand and learn--would
you mind helping us by saying what, to your minds, are the
worst qualities of this unique civilization of yours?"
We were sitting together in a shaded arbor, in one of those
eating-gardens of theirs. The delicious food had been eaten, a
plate of fruit still before us. We could look out on one side over
a stretch of open country, quietly rich and lovely; on the other,
the garden, with tables here and there, far apart enough for
privacy. Let me say right here that with all their careful "balance
of population" there was no crowding in this country. There was
room, space, a sunny breezy freedom everywhere.
Somel set her chin upon her hand, her elbow on the low wall
beside her, and looked off over the fair land.
"Of course we have faults--all of us," she said. "In one way
you might say that we have more than we used to--that is, our
standard of perfection seems to get farther and farther away. But
we are not discouraged, because our records do show gain--
"When we began--even with the start of one particularly
noble mother--we inherited the characteristics of a long race-
record behind her. And they cropped out from time to time--
alarmingly. But it is--yes, quite six hundred years since we have
had what you call a `criminal.'
"We have, of course, made it our first business to train out,
to breed out, when possible, the lowest types."
"Breed out?" I asked. "How could you--with parthenogenesis?"
"If the girl showing the bad qualities had still the power to
appreciate social duty, we appealed to her, by that, to renounce
motherhood. Some of the few worst types were, fortunately,
unable to reproduce. But if the fault was in a disproportionate
egotism--then the girl was sure she had the right to have children,
even that hers would be better than others."
"I can see that," I said. "And then she would be likely to rear
them in the same spirit."
"That we never allowed," answered Somel quietly.
"Allowed?" I queried. "Allowed a mother to rear her own
"Certainly not," said Somel, "unless she was fit for that
This was rather a blow to my previous convictions.
"But I thought motherhood was for each of you--"
"Motherhood--yes, that is, maternity, to bear a child. But
education is our highest art, only allowed to our highest artists."
"Education?" I was puzzled again. "I don't mean education.
I mean by motherhood not only child-bearing, but the care of babies."
"The care of babies involves education, and is entrusted only
to the most fit," she repeated.
"Then you separate mother and child!" I cried in cold horror,
something of Terry's feeling creeping over me, that there must
be something wrong among these many virtues.
"Not usually," she patiently explained. "You see, almost
every woman values her maternity above everything else. Each
girl holds it close and dear, an exquisite joy, a crowning honor,
the most intimate, most personal, most precious thing. That is,
the child-rearing has come to be with us a culture so profoundly
studied, practiced with such subtlety and skill, that the more we
love our children the less we are willing to trust that process to
unskilled hands--even our own."
"But a mother's love--" I ventured.
She studied my face, trying to work out a means of clear explanation.
"You told us about your dentists," she said, at length, "those
quaintly specialized persons who spend their lives filling little
holes in other persons' teeth--even in children's teeth sometimes."
"Yes?" I said, not getting her drift.
"Does mother-love urge mothers--with you--to fill their
own children's teeth? Or to wish to?"
"Why no--of course not," I protested. "But that is a highly
specialized craft. Surely the care of babies is open to any woman
"We do not think so," she gently replied. "Those of us who
are the most highly competent fulfill that office; and a majority
of our girls eagerly try for it--I assure you we have the very
"But the poor mother--bereaved of her baby--"
"Oh no!" she earnestly assured me. "Not in the least bereaved.
It is her baby still--it is with her--she has not lost it. But
she is not the only one to care for it. There are others whom she
knows to be wiser. She knows it because she has studied as they
did, practiced as they did, and honors their real superiority. For
the child's sake, she is glad to have for it this highest care."
I was unconvinced. Besides, this was only hearsay; I had yet
to see the motherhood of Herland.
The Girls of Herland
At last Terry's ambition was realized. We were invited,
always courteously and with free choice on our part, to address
general audiences and classes of girls.
I remember the first time--and how careful we were about
our clothes, and our amateur barbering. Terry, in particular, was
fussy to a degree about the cut of his beard, and so critical of our
combined efforts, that we handed him the shears and told him
to please himself. We began to rather prize those beards of ours;
they were almost our sole distinction among those tall and sturdy
women, with their cropped hair and sexless costume. Being
offered a wide selection of garments, we had chosen according to
our personal taste, and were surprised to find, on meeting large
audiences, that we were the most highly decorated, especially Terry.
He was a very impressive figure, his strong features softened
by the somewhat longer hair--though he made me trim it as
closely as I knew how; and he wore his richly embroidered tunic
with its broad, loose girdle with quite a Henry V air. Jeff looked
more like--well, like a Huguenot Lover; and I don't know what
I looked like, only that I felt very comfortable. When I got back
to our own padded armor and its starched borders I realized with
acute regret how comfortable were those Herland clothes.
We scanned that audience, looking for the three bright faces
we knew; but they were not to be seen. Just a multitude of girls:
quiet, eager, watchful, all eyes and ears to listen and learn.
We had been urged to give, as fully as we cared to, a sort of
synopsis of world history, in brief, and to answer questions.
"We are so utterly ignorant, you see," Moadine had
explained to us. "We know nothing but such science as we have
worked out for ourselves, just the brain work of one small half-
country; and you, we gather, have helped one another all over
the globe, sharing your discoveries, pooling your progress.
How wonderful, how supremely beautiful your civilization must be!"
Somel gave a further suggestion.
"You do not have to begin all over again, as you did with us.
We have made a sort of digest of what we have learned from you,
and it has been eagerly absorbed, all over the country. Perhaps
you would like to see our outline?"
We were eager to see it, and deeply impressed. To us, at first,
these women, unavoidably ignorant of what to us was the basic
commonplace of knowledge, had seemed on the plane of children,
or of savages. What we had been forced to admit, with growing
acquaintance, was that they were ignorant as Plato and Aristotle
were, but with a highly developed mentality quite comparable
to that of Ancient Greece.
Far be it from me to lumber these pages with an account of
what we so imperfectly strove to teach them. The memorable fact
is what they taught us, or some faint glimpse of it. And at
present, our major interest was not at all in the subject matter of
our talk, but in the audience.
Girls--hundreds of them--eager, bright-eyed, attentive
young faces; crowding questions, and, I regret to say, an
increasing inability on our part to answer them effectively.
Our special guides, who were on the platform with us, and
sometimes aided in clarifying a question or, oftener, an answer,
noticed this effect, and closed the formal lecture part of the
evening rather shortly.
"Our young women will be glad to meet you," Somel suggested,
"to talk with you more personally, if you are willing?"
Willing! We were impatient and said as much, at which I saw
a flickering little smile cross Moadine's face. Even then, with all
those eager young things waiting to talk to us, a sudden question
crossed my mind: "What was their point of view? What did they
think of us?" We learned that later.
Terry plunged in among those young creatures with a sort of
rapture, somewhat as a glad swimmer takes to the sea. Jeff, with
a rapt look on his high-bred face, approached as to a sacrament.
But I was a little chilled by that last thought of mine, and kept
my eyes open. I found time to watch Jeff, even while I was
surrounded by an eager group of questioners--as we all were--
and saw how his worshipping eyes, his grave courtesy, pleased
and drew some of them; while others, rather stronger spirits they
looked to be, drew away from his group to Terry's or mine.
I watched Terry with special interest, knowing how he had
longed for this time, and how irresistible he had always been at
home. And I could see, just in snatches, of course, how his suave
and masterful approach seemed to irritate them; his too-intimate
glances were vaguely resented, his compliments puzzled and annoyed.
Sometimes a girl would flush, not with drooped eyelids and inviting
timidity, but with anger and a quick lift of the head. Girl after
girl turned on her heel and left him, till he had but a small ring of
questioners, and they, visibly, were the least "girlish" of the lot.
I saw him looking pleased at first, as if he thought he was
making a strong impression; but, finally, casting a look at Jeff,
or me, he seemed less pleased--and less.
As for me, I was most agreeably surprised. At home I never
was "popular." I had my girl friends, good ones, but they were
friends--nothing else. Also they were of somewhat the same
clan, not popular in the sense of swarming admirers. But here,
to my astonishment, I found my crowd was the largest.
I have to generalize, of course, rather telescoping many
impressions; but the first evening was a good sample of the
impression we made. Jeff had a following, if I may call it that,
of the more sentimental--though that's not the word I want.
The less practical, perhaps; the girls who were artists of some sort,
ethicists, teachers--that kind.
Terry was reduced to a rather combative group: keen, logical,
inquiring minds, not overly sensitive, the very kind he liked least;
while, as for me--I became quite cocky over my general popularity.
Terry was furious about it. We could hardly blame him.
"Girls!" he burst forth, when that evening was over and we
were by ourselves once more. "Call those GIRLS!"
"Most delightful girls, I call them," said Jeff, his blue eyes
"What do YOU call them?" I mildly inquired.
"Boys! Nothing but boys, most of 'em. A standoffish, disagreeable
lot at that. Critical, impertinent youngsters. No girls at all."
He was angry and severe, not a little jealous, too, I think.
Afterward, when he found out just what it was they did not like,
he changed his manner somewhat and got on better. He had to.
For, in spite of his criticism, they were girls, and, furthermore, all
the girls there were! Always excepting our three!--with whom
we presently renewed our acquaintance.
When it came to courtship, which it soon did, I can of course
best describe my own--and am least inclined to. But of Jeff I
heard somewhat; he was inclined to dwell reverently and admiringly,
at some length, on the exalted sentiment and measureless perfection
of his Celis; and Terry--Terry made so many false starts and met so
many rebuffs, that by the time he really settled down to win Alima,
he was considerably wiser. At that, it was not smooth sailing.
They broke and quarreled, over and over; he would rush off to
console himself with some other fair one--the other fair one
would have none of him--and he would drift back to Alima, becoming
more and more devoted each time.
She never gave an inch. A big, handsome creature, rather
exceptionally strong even in that race of strong women, with a
proud head and sweeping level brows that lined across above her
dark eager eyes like the wide wings of a soaring hawk.
I was good friends with all three of them but best of all with
Ellador, long before that feeling changed, for both of us.
From her, and from Somel, who talked very freely with me,
I learned at last something of the viewpoint of Herland toward
Here they were, isolated, happy, contented, when the booming
buzz of our biplane tore the air above them.
Everybody heard it--saw it--for miles and miles, word flashed
all over the country, and a council was held in every town and village.
And this was their rapid determination:
"From another country. Probably men. Evidently highly civilized.
Doubtless possessed of much valuable knowledge. May be dangerous.
Catch them if possible; tame and train them if necessary
This may be a chance to re-establish a bi-sexual state for our people."
They were not afraid of us--three million highly intelligent
women--or two million, counting only grown-ups--were not
likely to be afraid of three young men. We thought of them as
"Women," and therefore timid; but it was two thousand years
since they had had anything to be afraid of, and certainly more
than one thousand since they had outgrown the feeling.
We thought--at least Terry did--that we could have our pick of them.
They thought--very cautiously and farsightedly--of picking us,
if it seemed wise.
All that time we were in training they studied us, analyzed
us, prepared reports about us, and this information was widely
disseminated all about the land.
Not a girl in that country had not been learning for months as much
as could be gathered about our country, our culture, our personal characters. No wonder
their questions were hard to answer. But I am sorry to say, when we were
at last brought out and--exhibited (I hate to call it that, but that's what
it was), there was no rush of takers. Here was poor old Terry fondly imagining
that at last he was free to stray in "a rosebud garden of girls"--and behold!
the rosebuds were all with keen appraising eye, studying us.
They were interested, profoundly interested, but it was not
the kind of interest we were looking for.
To get an idea of their attitude you have to hold in mind their
extremely high sense of solidarity. They were not each choosing
a lover; they hadn't the faintest idea of love--sex-love, that is.
These girls--to each of whom motherhood was a lodestar, and
that motherhood exalted above a mere personal function, looked
forward to as the highest social service, as the sacrament of a
lifetime--were now confronted with an opportunity to make the
great step of changing their whole status, of reverting to their
earlier bi-sexual order of nature.
Beside this underlying consideration there was the limitless
interest and curiosity in our civilization, purely impersonal, and
held by an order of mind beside which we were like--schoolboys.
It was small wonder that our lectures were not a success; and
none at all that our, or at least Terry's, advances were so ill
received. The reason for my own comparative success was at first
far from pleasing to my pride.
"We like you the best," Somel told me, "because you seem
more like us."
"More like a lot of women!" I thought to myself disgustedly,
and then remembered how little like "women," in our derogatory
sense, they were. She was smiling at me, reading my thought.
"We can quite see that we do not seem like--women--to you.
Of course, in a bi-sexual race the distinctive feature of each sex
must be intensified. But surely there are characteristics enough
which belong to People, aren't there? That's what I mean about you
being more like us--more like People. We feel at ease with you."
Jeff's difficulty was his exalted gallantry. He idealized
women, and was always looking for a chance to "protect" or to
"serve" them. These needed neither protection nor service. They
were living in peace and power and plenty; we were their guests,
their prisoners, absolutely dependent.
Of course we could promise whatsoever we might of advantages,
if they would come to our country; but the more we knew of theirs,
the less we boasted.
Terry's jewels and trinkets they prized as curios; handed them about,
asking questions as to workmanship, not in the least as to value;
and discussed not ownership, but which museum to put them in.
When a man has nothing to give a woman, is dependent wholly
on his personal attraction, his courtship is under limitations.
They were considering these two things: the advisability of
making the Great Change; and the degree of personal adaptability
which would best serve that end.
Here we had the advantage of our small personal experience with
those three fleet forest girls; and that served to draw us together.
As for Ellador: Suppose you come to a strange land and find
it pleasant enough--just a little more than ordinarily pleasant--
and then you find rich farmland, and then gardens, gorgeous
gardens, and then palaces full of rare and curious treasures--
incalculable, inexhaustible, and then--mountains--like the
Himalayas, and then the sea.
I liked her that day she balanced on the branch before me and
named the trio. I thought of her most. Afterward I turned to her
like a friend when we met for the third time, and continued the
acquaintance. While Jeff's ultra-devotion rather puzzled Celis,
really put off their day of happiness, while Terry and Alima
quarreled and parted, re-met and re-parted, Ellador and I grew
to be close friends.
We talked and talked. We took long walks together. She
showed me things, explained them, interpreted much that I had
not understood. Through her sympathetic intelligence I became
more and more comprehending of the spirit of the people of
Herland, more and more appreciative of its marvelous inner
growth as well as outer perfection.
I ceased to feel a stranger, a prisoner. There was a sense of
understanding, of identity, of purpose. We discussed--everything.
And, as I traveled farther and farther, exploring the rich, sweet
soul of her, my sense of pleasant friendship became but a broad
foundation for such height, such breadth, such interlocked combination
of feeling as left me fairly blinded with the wonder of it.
As I've said, I had never cared very much for women, nor they
for me--not Terry-fashion. But this one--
At first I never even thought of her "in that way," as the girls
have it. I had not come to the country with any Turkish-harem
intentions, and I was no woman-worshipper like Jeff. I just liked
that girl "as a friend," as we say. That friendship grew like a tree.
She was SUCH a good sport! We did all kinds of things together.
She taught me games and I taught her games, and we raced and
rowed and had all manner of fun, as well as higher comradeship.
Then, as I got on farther, the palace and treasures and snowy
mountain ranges opened up. I had never known there could be
such a human being. So--great. I don't mean talented. She was
a forester--one of the best--but it was not that gift I mean.
When I say GREAT, I mean great--big, all through. If I had known
more of those women, as intimately, I should not have found her
so unique; but even among them she was noble. Her mother was
an Over Mother--and her grandmother, too, I heard later.
So she told me more and more of her beautiful land; and I told
her as much, yes, more than I wanted to, about mine; and we
became inseparable. Then this deeper recognition came and grew.
I felt my own soul rise and lift its wings, as it were.
Life got bigger. It seemed as if I understood--as I never had before--
as if I could Do things--as if I too could grow--if she would help me.
And then It came--to both of us, all at once.
A still day--on the edge of the world, their world. The two
of us, gazing out over the far dim forestland below, talking of
heaven and earth and human life, and of my land and other lands
and what they needed and what I hoped to do for them--
"If you will help me," I said.
She turned to me, with that high, sweet look of hers, and
then, as her eyes rested in mine and her hands too--then suddenly
there blazed out between us a farther glory, instant, overwhelming
--quite beyond any words of mine to tell.
Celis was a blue-and-gold-and-rose person; Alma, black-
and-white-and-red, a blazing beauty. Ellador was brown: hair
dark and soft, like a seal coat; clear brown skin with a healthy
red in it; brown eyes--all the way from topaz to black velvet they
seemed to range--splendid girls, all of them.
They had seen us first of all, far down in the lake below, and
flashed the tidings across the land even before our first exploring flight.
They had watched our landing, flitted through the forest with us,
hidden in that tree and--I shrewdly suspect--giggled on purpose.
They had kept watch over our hooded machine, taking turns
at it; and when our escape was announced, had followed along-
side for a day or two, and been there at the last, as described.
They felt a special claim on us--called us "their men"--and
when we were at liberty to study the land and people, and be
studied by them, their claim was recognized by the wise leaders.
But I felt, we all did, that we should have chosen them
among millions, unerringly.
And yet "the path of true love never did run smooth"; this
period of courtship was full of the most unsuspected pitfalls.
Writing this as late as I do, after manifold experiences both
in Herland and, later, in my own land, I can now understand and
philosophize about what was then a continual astonishment and
often a temporary tragedy.
The "long suit" in most courtships is sex attraction, of course.
Then gradually develops such comradeship as the two temperaments
allow. Then, after marriage, there is either the establishment
of a slow-growing, widely based friendship, the deepest, tenderest,
sweetest of relations, all lit and warmed by the recurrent flame
of love; or else that process is reversed, love cools and fades,
no friendship grows, the whole relation turns from beauty to ashes.
Here everything was different. There was no sex-feeling to
appeal to, or practically none. Two thousand years' disuse had
left very little of the instinct; also we must remember that those
who had at times manifested it as atavistic exceptions were often,
by that very fact, denied motherhood.
Yet while the mother process remains, the inherent ground
for sex-distinction remains also; and who shall say what long-
forgotten feeling, vague and nameless, was stirred in some of
these mother hearts by our arrival?
What left us even more at sea in our approach was the lack
of any sex-tradition. There was no accepted standard of what
was "manly" and what was "womanly."
When Jeff said, taking the fruit basket from his adored one,
"A woman should not carry anything," Celis said, "Why?" with
the frankest amazement. He could not look that fleet-footed,
deep-chested young forester in the face and say, "Because she is
weaker." She wasn't. One does not call a race horse weak because
it is visibly not a cart horse.
He said, rather lamely, that women were not built for heavy work.
She looked out across the fields to where some women were
working, building a new bit of wall out of large stones; looked
back at the nearest town with its woman-built houses; down at
the smooth, hard road we were walking on; and then at the little
basket he had taken from her.
"I don't understand," she said quite sweetly. "Are the women in
your country so weak that they could not carry such a thing as that?"
"It is a convention," he said. "We assume that motherhood
is a sufficient burden--that men should carry all the others."
"What a beautiful feeling!" she said, her blue eyes shining.
"Does it work?" asked Alima, in her keen, swift way. "Do all
men in all countries carry everything? Or is it only in yours?"
"Don't be so literal," Terry begged lazily. "Why aren't you
willing to be worshipped and waited on? We like to do it."
"You don't like to have us do it to you," she answered.
"That's different," he said, annoyed; and when she said,
"Why is it?" he quite sulked, referring her to me, saying,
"Van's the philosopher."
Ellador and I talked it all out together, so that we had an
easier experience of it when the real miracle time came. Also,
between us, we made things clearer to Jeff and Celis. But Terry
would not listen to reason.
He was madly in love with Alima. He wanted to take her by
storm, and nearly lost her forever.
You see, if a man loves a girl who is in the first place young
and inexperienced; who in the second place is educated with a
background of caveman tradition, a middle-ground of poetry and
romance, and a foreground of unspoken hope and interest all
centering upon the one Event; and who has, furthermore,
absolutely no other hope or interest worthy of the name--
why, it is a comparatively easy matter to sweep her off her feet
with a dashing attack. Terry was a past master in this process.
He tried it here, and Alima was so affronted, so repelled,
that it was weeks before he got near enough to try again.
The more coldly she denied him, the hotter his determination;
he was not used to real refusal. The approach of flattery she
dismissed with laughter, gifts and such "attentions" we could
not bring to bear, pathos and complaint of cruelty stirred only a
reasoning inquiry. It took Terry a long time.
I doubt if she ever accepted her strange lover as fully as did
Celis and Ellador theirs. He had hurt and offended her too often;
there were reservations.
But I think Alima retained some faint vestige of long-
descended feeling which made Terry more possible to her than
to others; and that she had made up her mind to the experiment
and hated to renounce it.
However it came about, we all three at length achieved full
understanding, and solemnly faced what was to them a step of
measureless importance, a grave question as well as a great happiness;
to us a strange, new joy.
Of marriage as a ceremony they knew nothing. Jeff was for
bringing them to our country for the religious and the civil
ceremony, but neither Celis nor the others would consent.
"We can't expect them to want to go with us--yet," said Terry sagely.
"Wait a bit, boys. We've got to take 'em on their own terms--if at all."
This, in rueful reminiscence of his repeated failures.
"But our time's coming," he added cheerfully. "These women have
never been mastered, you see--" This, as one who had made a discovery.
"You'd better not try to do any mastering if you value your
chances," I told him seriously; but he only laughed, and said,
"Every man to his trade!"
We couldn't do anything with him. He had to take his own medicine.
If the lack of tradition of courtship left us much at sea in our
wooing, we found ourselves still more bewildered by lack of
tradition of matrimony.
And here again, I have to draw on later experience, and as
deep an acquaintance with their culture as I could achieve, to
explain the gulfs of difference between us.
Two thousand years of one continuous culture with no men.
Back of that, only traditions of the harem. They had no exact
analogue for our word HOME, any more than they had for our
They loved one another with a practically universal affection,
rising to exquisite and unbroken friendships, and broadening to
a devotion to their country and people for which our word PATRIOTISM
is no definition at all.
Patriotism, red hot, is compatible with the existence of a
neglect of national interests, a dishonesty, a cold indifference to
the suffering of millions. Patriotism is largely pride, and very
largely combativeness. Patriotism generally has a chip on its shoulder.
This country had no other country to measure itself by--save
the few poor savages far below, with whom they had no contact.
They loved their country because it was their nursery,
playground, and workshop--theirs and their children's. They were
proud of it as a workshop, proud of their record of ever-increasing
efficiency; they had made a pleasant garden of it, a very practical
little heaven; but most of all they valued it--and here it is hard
for us to understand them--as a cultural environment for their children.
That, of course, is the keynote of the whole distinction--
From those first breathlessly guarded, half-adored race mothers,
all up the ascending line, they had this dominant thought of building
up a great race through the children.
All the surrendering devotion our women have put into their
private families, these women put into their country and race.
All the loyalty and service men expect of wives, they gave,
not singly to men, but collectively to one another.
And the mother instinct, with us so painfully intense, so
thwarted by conditions, so concentrated in personal devotion to
a few, so bitterly hurt by death, disease, or barrenness, and even
by the mere growth of the children, leaving the mother alone in
her empty nest--all this feeling with them flowed out in a strong,
wide current, unbroken through the generations, deepening and
widening through the years, including every child in all the land.
With their united power and wisdom, they had studied and
overcome the "diseases of childhood"--their children had none.
They had faced the problems of education and so solved them
that their children grew up as naturally as young trees; learning
through every sense; taught continuously but unconsciously--
never knowing they were being educated.
In fact, they did not use the word as we do. Their idea of
education was the special training they took, when half grown
up, under experts. Then the eager young minds fairly flung
themselves on their chosen subjects, and acquired with an ease,
a breadth, a grasp, at which I never ceased to wonder.
But the babies and little children never felt the pressure of that
"forcible feeding" of the mind that we call "education." Of this, more later.
Our Relations and Theirs
What I'm trying to show here is that with these women the
whole relationship of life counted in a glad, eager growing-up to
join the ranks of workers in the line best loved; a deep, tender
reverence for one's own mother--too deep for them to speak
of freely--and beyond that, the whole, free, wide range of
sisterhood, the splendid service of the country, and friendships.
To these women we came, filled with the ideas, convictions,
traditions, of our culture, and undertook to rouse in them the
emotions which--to us--seemed proper.
However much, or little, of true sex-feeling there was between us, it
phrased itself in their minds in terms of friendship, the one purely personal
love they knew, and of ultimate parentage. Visibly we were not mothers,
nor children, nor compatriots; so, if they loved us, we must be friends.
That we should pair off together in our courting days was
natural to them; that we three should remain much together, as
they did themselves, was also natural. We had as yet no work,
so we hung about them in their forest tasks; that was natural, too.
But when we began to talk about each couple having
"homes" of our own, they could not understand it.
"Our work takes us all around the country," explained Celis.
"We cannot live in one place all the time."
"We are together now," urged Alima, looking proudly at
Terry's stalwart nearness. (This was one of the times when they
were "on," though presently "off" again.)
"It's not the same thing at all," he insisted. "A man wants a
home of his own, with his wife and family in it."
"Staying in it? All the time?" asked Ellador. "Not imprisoned,
"Of course not! Living there--naturally," he answered.
"What does she do there--all the time?" Alima demanded.
"What is her work?"
Then Terry patiently explained again that our women did not
"But what do they do--if they have no work?" she persisted.
"They take care of the home--and the children."
"At the same time?" asked Ellador.
"Why yes. The children play about, and the mother has
charge of it all. There are servants, of course."
It seemed so obvious, so natural to Terry, that he always grew
impatient; but the girls were honestly anxious to understand.
"How many children do your women have?" Alima had her
notebook out now, and a rather firm set of lip. Terry began to
"There is no set number, my dear," he explained. "Some have
more, some have less."
"Some have none at all," I put in mischievously.
They pounced on this admission and soon wrung from us the general
fact that those women who had the most children had the least servants,
and those who had the most servants had the least children.
"There!" triumphed Alima. "One or two or no children, and
three or four servants. Now what do those women DO?"
We explained as best we might. We talked of "social duties,"
disingenuously banking on their not interpreting the words as we did;
we talked of hospitality, entertainment, and various "interests."
All the time we knew that to these large-minded women whose whole
mental outlook was so collective, the limitations of a wholly personal
life were inconceivable.
"We cannot really understand it," Ellador concluded. "We
are only half a people. We have our woman-ways and they have
their man-ways and their both-ways. We have worked out a
system of living which is, of course, limited. They must have a
broader, richer, better one. I should like to see it."
"You shall, dearest," I whispered.
"There's nothing to smoke," complained Terry. He was in the
midst of a prolonged quarrel with Alima, and needed a sedative.
"There's nothing to drink. These blessed women have no pleasant
vices. I wish we could get out of here!"
This wish was vain. We were always under a certain degree
of watchfulness. When Terry burst forth to tramp the streets at
night he always found a "Colonel" here or there; and when, on
an occasion of fierce though temporary despair, he had plunged
to the cliff edge with some vague view to escape, he found several
of them close by. We were free--but there was a string to it.
"They've no unpleasant ones, either," Jeff reminded him.
"Wish they had!" Terry persisted. "They've neither the vices
of men, nor the virtues of women--they're neuters!"
"You know better than that. Don't talk nonsense," said I,
I was thinking of Ellador's eyes when they gave me a certain
look, a look she did not at all realize.
Jeff was equally incensed. "I don't know what `virtues of
women' you miss. Seems to me they have all of them."
"They've no modesty," snapped Terry. "No patience, no submissiveness,
none of that natural yielding which is woman's greatest charm."
I shook my head pityingly. "Go and apologize and make
friends again, Terry. You've got a grouch, that's all. These
women have the virtue of humanity, with less of its faults than
any folks I ever saw. As for patience--they'd have pitched us
over the cliffs the first day we lit among 'em, if they hadn't that."
"There are no--distractions," he grumbled. "Nowhere a man
can go and cut loose a bit. It's an everlasting parlor and nursery."
"and workshop," I added. "And school, and office, and laboratory,
and studio, and theater, and--home."
"HOME!" he sneered. "There isn't a home in the whole pitiful place."
"There isn't anything else, and you know it," Jeff retorted
hotly. "I never saw, I never dreamed of, such universal peace and
good will and mutual affection."
"Oh, well, of course, if you like a perpetual Sunday school,
it's all very well. But I like Something Doing. Here it's all done."
There was something to this criticism. The years of pioneering
lay far behind them. Theirs was a civilization in which the
initial difficulties had long since been overcome. The untroubled
peace, the unmeasured plenty, the steady health, the large good
will and smooth management which ordered everything, left
nothing to overcome. It was like a pleasant family in an old
established, perfectly run country place.
I liked it because of my eager and continued interest in the
sociological achievements involved. Jeff liked it as he would have
liked such a family and such a place anywhere.
Terry did not like it because he found nothing to oppose, to
struggle with, to conquer.
"Life is a struggle, has to be," he insisted. "If there is no
struggle, there is no life--that's all."
"You're talking nonsense--masculine nonsense," the peaceful
Jeff replied. He was certainly a warm defender of Herland. "Ants
don't raise their myriads by a struggle, do they? Or the bees?"
"Oh, if you go back to insects--and want to live in an anthill--!
I tell you the higher grades of life are reached only through
struggle--combat. There's no Drama here. Look at their plays!
They make me sick."
He rather had us there. The drama of the country was--to our
taste--rather flat. You see, they lacked the sex motive and, with
it, jealousy. They had no interplay of warring nations, no aristocracy
and its ambitions, no wealth and poverty opposition.
I see I have said little about the economics of the place; it
should have come before, but I'll go on about the drama now.
They had their own kind. There was a most impressive array
of pageantry, of processions, a sort of grand ritual, with their arts
and their religion broadly blended. The very babies joined in it.
To see one of their great annual festivals, with the massed and
marching stateliness of those great mothers, the young women brave
and noble, beautiful and strong; and then the children, taking part
as naturally as ours would frolic round a Christmas tree--it was
overpowering in the impression of joyous, triumphant life.
They had begun at a period when the drama, the dance,
music, religion, and education were all very close together; and
instead of developing them in detached lines, they had kept the
connection. Let me try again to give, if I can, a faint sense of the
difference in the life view--the background and basis on which
their culture rested.
Ellador told me a lot about it. She took me to see the children,
the growing girls, the special teachers. She picked out books for
me to read. She always seemed to understand just what I wanted
to know, and how to give it to me.
While Terry and Alima struck sparks and parted--he always
madly drawn to her and she to him--she must have been, or
she'd never have stood the way he behaved--Ellador and I had
already a deep, restful feeling, as if we'd always had one another.
Jeff and Celis were happy; there was no question of that;
but it didn't seem to me as if they had the good times we did.
Well, here is the Herland child facing life--as Ellador tried
to show it to me. From the first memory, they knew Peace,
Beauty, Order, Safety, Love, Wisdom, Justice, Patience, and Plenty.
By "plenty" I mean that the babies grew up in an environment which
met their needs, just as young fawns might grow up in dewy forest
glades and brook-fed meadows. And they enjoyed it as frankly and
utterly as the fawns would.
They found themselves in a big bright lovely world, full of
the most interesting and enchanting things to learn about and to do.
The people everywhere were friendly and polite. No Herland
child ever met the overbearing rudeness we so commonly show
to children. They were People, too, from the first; the most
precious part of the nation.
In each step of the rich experience of living, they found the
instance they were studying widen out into contact with an endless
range of common interests. The things they learned were RELATED,
from the first; related to one another, and to the national prosperity.
"It was a butterfly that made me a forester," said Ellador.
"I was about eleven years old, and I found a big purple-and-green
butterfly on a low flower. I caught it, very carefully, by the closed
wings, as I had been told to do, and carried it to the nearest insect
teacher"--I made a note there to ask her what on earth an insect
teacher was--"to ask her its name. She took it from me with a
little cry of delight. `Oh, you blessed child,' she said. `Do you like
obernuts?' Of course I liked obernuts, and said so. It is our best
food-nut, you know. `This is a female of the obernut moth,' she
told me. `They are almost gone. We have been trying to exterminate
them for centuries. If you had not caught this one, it might
have laid eggs enough to raise worms enough to destroy thousands
of our nut trees--thousands of bushels of nuts--and make years
and years of trouble for us.'
"Everybody congratulated me. The children all over the
country were told to watch for that moth, if there were any more.
I was shown the history of the creature, and an account of the
damage it used to do and of how long and hard our foremothers
had worked to save that tree for us. I grew a foot, it seemed to
me, and determined then and there to be a forester."
This is but an instance; she showed me many. The big
difference was that whereas our children grow up in private homes
and families, with every effort made to protect and seclude them
from a dangerous world, here they grew up in a wide, friendly
world, and knew it for theirs, from the first.
Their child-literature was a wonderful thing. I could have
spent years following the delicate subtleties, the smooth simplicities
with which they had bent that great art to the service of the child mind.
We have two life cycles: the man's and the woman's. To the man
there is growth, struggle, conquest, the establishment of his family,
and as much further success in gain or ambition as he can achieve.
To the woman, growth, the securing of a husband, the subordinate
activities of family life, and afterward such "social" or charitable
interests as her position allows.
Here was but one cycle, and that a large one.
The child entered upon a broad open field of life, in which
motherhood was the one great personal contribution to the national
life, and all the rest the individual share in their common activities.
Every girl I talked to, at any age above babyhood, had her cheerful
determination as to what she was going to be when she grew up.
What Terry meant by saying they had no "modesty" was that this
great life-view had no shady places; they had a high sense of personal
decorum, but no shame--no knowledge of anything to be ashamed of.
Even their shortcomings and misdeeds in childhood never
were presented to them as sins; merely as errors and misplays--
as in a game. Some of them, who were palpably less agreeable
than others or who had a real weakness or fault, were treated
with cheerful allowance, as a friendly group at whist would treat
a poor player.
Their religion, you see, was maternal; and their ethics, based
on the full perception of evolution, showed the principle of
growth and the beauty of wise culture. They had no theory of
the essential opposition of good and evil; life to them was
growth; their pleasure was in growing, and their duty also.
With this background, with their sublimated mother-love,
expressed in terms of widest social activity, every phase of their
work was modified by its effect on the national growth. The
language itself they had deliberately clarified, simplified, made
easy and beautiful, for the sake of the children.
This seemed to us a wholly incredible thing: first, that any
nation should have the foresight, the strength, and the persistence
to plan and fulfill such a task; and second, that women should have
had so much initiative. We have assumed, as a matter of course,
that women had none; that only the man, with his natural energy
and impatience of restriction, would ever invent anything.
Here we found that the pressure of life upon the environment
develops in the human mind its inventive reactions, regardless of sex;
and further, that a fully awakened motherhood plans and works without limit,
for the good of the child.
That the children might be most nobly born, and reared in an
environment calculated to allow the richest, freest growth, they
had deliberately remodeled and improved the whole state.
I do not mean in the least that they stopped at that, any more
than a child stops at childhood. The most impressive part of their
whole culture beyond this perfect system of child-rearing was
the range of interests and associations open to them all, for life.
But in the field of literature I was most struck, at first, by the
They had the same gradation of simple repetitive verse and story
that we are familiar with, and the most exquisite, imaginative tales;
but where, with us, these are the dribbled remnants of ancient folk
myths and primitive lullabies, theirs were the exquisite work of great
artists; not only simple and unfailing in appeal to the child-mind,
but TRUE, true to the living world about them.
To sit in one of their nurseries for a day was to change one's
views forever as to babyhood. The youngest ones, rosy fatlings
in their mothers' arms, or sleeping lightly in the flower-sweet air,
seemed natural enough, save that they never cried. I never heard a
child cry in Herland, save once or twice at a bad fall; and then people
ran to help, as we would at a scream of agony from a grown person.
Each mother had her year of glory; the time to love and learn,
living closely with her child, nursing it proudly, often for two years
or more. This perhaps was one reason for their wonderful vigor.
But after the baby-year the mother was not so constantly in
attendance, unless, indeed, her work was among the little ones.
She was never far off, however, and her attitude toward the
co-mothers, whose proud child-service was direct and continuous,
was lovely to see.
As for the babies--a group of those naked darlings playing on
short velvet grass, clean-swept; or rugs as soft; or in shallow pools
of bright water; tumbling over with bubbling joyous baby laughter--
it was a view of infant happiness such as I had never dreamed.
The babies were reared in the warmer part of the country, and
gradually acclimated to the cooler heights as they grew older.
Sturdy children of ten and twelve played in the snow as
joyfully as ours do; there were continuous excursions of them,
from one part of the land to another, so that to each child the
whole country might be home.
It was all theirs, waiting for them to learn, to love, to use, to
serve; as our own little boys plan to be "a big soldier," or "a
cowboy," or whatever pleases their fancy; and our little girls plan
for the kind of home they mean to have, or how many children;
these planned, freely and gaily with much happy chattering,
of what they would do for the country when they were grown.
It was the eager happiness of the children and young people
which first made me see the folly of that common notion of ours
--that if life was smooth and happy, people would not enjoy it.
As I studied these youngsters, vigorous, joyous, eager little
creatures, and their voracious appetite for life, it shook my previous
ideas so thoroughly that they have never been re-established.
The steady level of good health gave them all that natural stimulus
we used to call "animal spirits"--an odd contradiction in terms.
They found themselves in an immediate environment which was
agreeable and interesting, and before them stretched the years of
learning and discovery, the fascinating, endless process of education.
As I looked into these methods and compared them with our
own, my strange uncomfortable sense of race-humility grew apace.
Ellador could not understand my astonishment. She explained
things kindly and sweetly, but with some amazement that they needed
explaining, and with sudden questions as to how we did it that left
me meeker than ever.
I betook myself to Somel one day, carefully not taking Ellador.
I did not mind seeming foolish to Somel--she was used to it.
"I want a chapter of explanation," I told her. "You know my
stupidities by heart, and I do not want to show them to Ellador
--she thinks me so wise!"
She smiled delightedly. "It is beautiful to see," she told me,
"this new wonderful love between you. The whole country is interested,
you know--how can we help it!"
I had not thought of that. We say: "All the world loves a lover,"
but to have a couple of million people watching one's courtship--and
that a difficult one--was rather embarrassing.
"Tell me about your theory of education," I said. "Make it
short and easy. And, to show you what puzzles me, I'll tell you
that in our theory great stress is laid on the forced exertion of the
child's mind; we think it is good for him to overcome obstacles."
"Of course it is," she unexpectedly agreed. "All our children
do that--they love to."
That puzzled me again. If they loved to do it, how could it be
"Our theory is this," she went on carefully. "Here is a young
human being. The mind is as natural a thing as the body, a thing
that grows, a thing to use and enjoy. We seek to nourish, to
stimulate, to exercise the mind of a child as we do the body.
There are the two main divisions in education--you have those
of course?--the things it is necessary to know, and the things it
is necessary to do."
"To do? Mental exercises, you mean?"
"Yes. Our general plan is this: In the matter of feeding the
mind, of furnishing information, we use our best powers to meet
the natural appetite of a healthy young brain; not to overfeed it,
to provide such amount and variety of impressions as seem most
welcome to each child. That is the easiest part. The other division
is in arranging a properly graduated series of exercises which
will best develop each mind; the common faculties we all have,
and most carefully, the especial faculties some of us have.
You do this also, do you not?"
"In a way," I said rather lamely. "We have not so subtle and
highly developed a system as you, not approaching it; but tell me more.
As to the information--how do you manage? It appears that all of you
know pretty much everything--is that right?"
This she laughingly disclaimed. "By no means. We are, as you
soon found out, extremely limited in knowledge. I wish you
could realize what a ferment the country is in over the new things
you have told us; the passionate eagerness among thousands of
us to go to your country and learn--learn--learn! But what we
do know is readily divisible into common knowledge and special
knowledge. The common knowledge we have long since learned
to feed into the minds of our little ones with no waste of time
or strength; the special knowledge is open to all, as they desire
it. Some of us specialize in one line only. But most take up several
--some for their regular work, some to grow with."
"To grow with?"
"Yes. When one settles too close in one kind of work there
is a tendency to atrophy in the disused portions of the brain.
We like to keep on learning, always."
"What do you study?"
"As much as we know of the different sciences. We have,
within our limits, a good deal of knowledge of anatomy, physiology,
nutrition--all that pertains to a full and beautiful personal life.
We have our botany and chemistry, and so on--very rudimentary, but
interesting; our own history, with its accumulating psychology."
"You put psychology with history--not with personal life?"
"Of course. It is ours; it is among and between us, and it
changes with the succeeding and improving generations. We are at work,
slowly and carefully, developing our whole people along these lines.
It is glorious work--splendid! To see the thousands of babies improving,
showing stronger clearer minds, sweeter dispositions, higher capacities--
don't you find it so in your country?"
This I evaded flatly. I remembered the cheerless claim that the
human mind was no better than in its earliest period of savagery,
only better informed--a statement I had never believed.
"We try most earnestly for two powers," Somel continued.
"The two that seem to us basically necessary for all noble life:
a clear, far-reaching judgment, and a strong well-used will. We
spend our best efforts, all through childhood and youth, in
developing these faculties, individual judgment and will."
"As part of your system of education, you mean?"
"Exactly. As the most valuable part. With the babies,
as you may have noticed, we first provide an environment which
feeds the mind without tiring it; all manner of simple and interesting
things to do, as soon as they are old enough to do them; physical
properties, of course, come first. But as early as possible, going
very carefully, not to tax the mind, we provide choices, simple choices,
with very obvious causes and consequences. You've noticed the games?"
I had. The children seemed always playing something; or else,
sometimes, engaged in peaceful researches of their own. I had wondered
at first when they went to school, but soon found that they never did--
to their knowledge. It was all education but no schooling.
"We have been working for some sixteen hundred years,
devising better and better games for children," continued Somel.
I sat aghast. "Devising games?" I protested. "Making up new
ones, you mean?"
"Exactly," she answered. "Don't you?"
Then I remembered the kindergarten, and the "material"
devised by Signora Montessori, and guardedly replied: "To some
extent." But most of our games, I told her, were very old--came
down from child to child, along the ages, from the remote past.
"And what is their effect?" she asked. "Do they develop the
faculties you wish to encourage?"
Again I remembered the claims made by the advocates of "sports,"
and again replied guardedly that that was, in part, the theory.
"But do the children LIKE it?" I asked. "Having things made
up and set before them that way? Don't they want the old games?"
"You can see the children," she answered. "Are yours more
Then I thought, as in truth I never had thought before, of the
dull, bored children I had seen, whining; "What can I do now?";
of the little groups and gangs hanging about; of the value of some
one strong spirit who possessed initiative and would "start something";
of the children's parties and the onerous duties of the older people
set to "amuse the children"; also of that troubled ocean of
misdirected activity we call "mischief," the foolish, destructive,
sometimes evil things done by unoccupied children.
"No," said I grimly. "I don't think they are."
The Herland child was born not only into a world carefully prepared,
full of the most fascinating materials and opportunities to learn,
but into the society of plentiful numbers of teachers, teachers born
and trained, whose business it was to accompany the children along that,
to us, impossible thing--the royal road to learning.
There was no mystery in their methods. Being adapted to
children it was at least comprehensible to adults. I spent many
days with the little ones, sometimes with Ellador, sometimes
without, and began to feel a crushing pity for my own childhood,
and for all others that I had known.
The houses and gardens planned for babies had in them nothing
to hurt--no stairs, no corners, no small loose objects to swallow,
no fire--just a babies' paradise. They were taught, as rapidly
as feasible, to use and control their own bodies, and never did I
see such sure-footed, steady-handed, clear-headed little things.
It was a joy to watch a row of toddlers learning to walk, not only
on a level floor, but, a little later, on a sort of rubber rail raised
an inch or two above the soft turf or heavy rugs, and falling off
with shrieks of infant joy, to rush back to the end of the line and
try again. Surely we have noticed how children love to get up on
something and walk along it! But we have never thought to
provide that simple and inexhaustible form of amusement and
physical education for the young.
Water they had, of course, and could swim even before they
walked. If I feared at first the effects of a too intensive system of
culture, that fear was dissipated by seeing the long sunny days
of pure physical merriment and natural sleep in which these
heavenly babies passed their first years. They never knew they
were being educated. They did not dream that in this association
of hilarious experiment and achievement they were laying the
foundation for that close beautiful group feeling into which they
grew so firmly with the years. This was education for citizenship.
Their Religions and Our Marriages
It took me a long time, as a man, a foreigner, and a species
of Christian--I was that as much as anything--to get any clear
understanding of the religion of Herland.
Its deification of motherhood was obvious enough; but
there was far more to it than that; or, at least, than my first
interpretation of that.
I think it was only as I grew to love Ellador more than I
believed anyone could love anybody, as I grew faintly to appreciate
her inner attitude and state of mind, that I began to get some
glimpses of this faith of theirs.
When I asked her about it, she tried at first to tell me, and
then, seeing me flounder, asked for more information about ours.
She soon found that we had many, that they varied widely, but
had some points in common. A clear methodical luminous mind
had my Ellador, not only reasonable, but swiftly perceptive.
She made a sort of chart, superimposing the different
religions as I described them, with a pin run through them all,
as it were; their common basis being a Dominant Power or Powers,
and some Special Behavior, mostly taboos, to please or placate.
There were some common features in certain groups of religions,
but the one always present was this Power, and the things which
must be done or not done because of it. It was not hard to trace
our human imagery of the Divine Force up through successive
stages of bloodthirsty, sensual, proud, and cruel gods of early
times to the conception of a Common Father with its corollary
of a Common Brotherhood.
This pleased her very much, and when I expatiated on the
Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, and so on, of our God,
and of the loving kindness taught by his Son, she was much impressed.
The story of the Virgin birth naturally did not astonish her,
but she was greatly puzzled by the Sacrifice, and still more by the
Devil, and the theory of Damnation.
When in an inadvertent moment I said that certain sects had
believed in infant damnation--and explained it--she sat very
"They believed that God was Love--and Wisdom--and Power?"
"Yes--all of that."
Her eyes grew large, her face ghastly pale.
"And yet that such a God could put little new babies to burn
--for eternity?" She fell into a sudden shuddering and left me,
running swiftly to the nearest temple.
Every smallest village had its temple, and in those gracious
retreats sat wise and noble women, quietly busy at some work
of their own until they were wanted, always ready to give comfort,
light, or help, to any applicant.
Ellador told me afterward how easily this grief of hers was
assuaged, and seemed ashamed of not having helped herself out of it.
"You see, we are not accustomed to horrible ideas," she said,
coming back to me rather apologetically. "We haven't any. And
when we get a thing like that into our minds it's like--oh, like
red pepper in your eyes. So I just ran to her, blinded and almost
screaming, and she took it out so quickly--so easily!"
"How?" I asked, very curious.
"`Why, you blessed child,' she said, `you've got the wrong
idea altogether. You do not have to think that there ever was
such a God--for there wasn't. Or such a happening--for there wasn't.
Nor even that this hideous false idea was believed by anybody.
But only this--that people who are utterly ignorant will believe
anything--which you certainly knew before.'"
"Anyhow," pursued Ellador, "she turned pale for a minute
when I first said it."
This was a lesson to me. No wonder this whole nation of women
was peaceful and sweet in expression--they had no horrible ideas.
"Surely you had some when you began," I suggested.
"Oh, yes, no doubt. But as soon as our religion grew to any
height at all we left them out, of course."
From this, as from many other things, I grew to see what I
finally put in words.
"Have you no respect for the past? For what was thought and
believed by your foremothers?"
"Why, no," she said. "Why should we? They are all gone.
They knew less than we do. If we are not beyond them, we are
unworthy of them--and unworthy of the children who must go
This set me thinking in good earnest. I had always imagined
--simply from hearing it said, I suppose--that women were by
nature conservative. Yet these women, quite unassisted by any
masculine spirit of enterprise, had ignored their past and built
daringly for the future.
Ellador watched me think. She seemed to know pretty much
what was going on in my mind.
"It's because we began in a new way, I suppose. All our folks
were swept away at once, and then, after that time of despair,
came those wonder children--the first. And then the whole
breathless hope of us was for THEIR children--if they should have
them. And they did! Then there was the period of pride and
triumph till we grew too numerous; and after that, when it all
came down to one child apiece, we began to really work--to
make better ones."
"But how does this account for such a radical difference in
your religion?" I persisted.
She said she couldn't talk about the difference very
intelligently, not being familiar with other religions, but that
theirs seemed simple enough. Their great Mother Spirit was to them
what their own motherhood was--only magnified beyond human limits.
That meant that they felt beneath and behind them an upholding,
unfailing, serviceable love--perhaps it was really the
accumulated mother-love of the race they felt--but it was a Power.
"Just what is your theory of worship?" I asked her.
"Worship? What is that?"
I found it singularly difficult to explain. This Divine Love
which they felt so strongly did not seem to ask anything of them
--"any more than our mothers do," she said.
"But surely your mothers expect honor, reverence, obedience,
from you. You have to do things for your mothers, surely?"
"Oh, no," she insisted, smiling, shaking her soft brown hair.
"We do things FROM our mothers--not FOR them. We don't have
to do things FOR them--they don't need it, you know. But we
have to live on--splendidly--because of them; and that's the
way we feel about God."
I meditated again. I thought of that God of Battles of ours,
that Jealous God, that Vengeance-is-mine God. I thought of our
"You have no theory of eternal punishment then, I take it?"
Ellador laughed. Her eyes were as bright as stars, and there
were tears in them, too. She was so sorry for me.
"How could we?" she asked, fairly enough. "We have no
punishments in life, you see, so we don't imagine them after death."
"Have you NO punishments? Neither for children nor criminals--
such mild criminals as you have?" I urged.
"Do you punish a person for a broken leg or a fever? We have
preventive measures, and cures; sometimes we have to `send the
patient to bed,' as it were; but that's not a punishment--it's only
part of the treatment," she explained.
Then studying my point of view more closely, she added:
"You see, we recognize, in our human motherhood, a great tender
limitless uplifting force--patience and wisdom and all subtlety
of delicate method. We credit God--our idea of God--with all that
and more. Our mothers are not angry with us--why should God be?"
"Does God mean a person to you?"
This she thought over a little. "Why--in trying to get close
to it in our minds we personify the idea, naturally; but we
certainly do not assume a Big Woman somewhere, who is God.
What we call God is a Pervading Power, you know, an Indwelling
Spirit, something inside of us that we want more of. Is your God
a Big Man?" she asked innocently.
"Why--yes, to most of us, I think. Of course we call it an
Indwelling Spirit just as you do, but we insist that it is Him, a
Person, and a Man--with whiskers."
"Whiskers? Oh yes--because you have them! Or do you
wear them because He does?"
"On the contrary, we shave them off--because it seems
cleaner and more comfortable."
"Does He wear clothes--in your idea, I mean?"
I was thinking over the pictures of God I had seen--rash
advances of the devout mind of man, representing his Omnipotent
Deity as an old man in a flowing robe, flowing hair, flowing beard,
and in the light of her perfectly frank and innocent questions this
concept seemed rather unsatisfying.
I explained that the God of the Christian world was really the
ancient Hebrew God, and that we had simply taken over the patriarchal
idea--that ancient one which quite inevitably clothed its thought of
God with the attributes of the patriarchal ruler, the grandfather.
"I see," she said eagerly, after I had explained the genesis and
development of our religious ideals. "They lived in separate groups,
with a male head, and he was probably a little--domineering?"
"No doubt of that," I agreed.
"And we live together without any `head,' in that sense--just
our chosen leaders--that DOES make a difference."
"Your difference is deeper than that," I assured her. "It is
in your common motherhood. Your children grow up in a world where
everybody loves them. They find life made rich and happy for them
by the diffused love and wisdom of all mothers. So it is easy for
you to think of God in the terms of a similar diffused and competent
love. I think you are far nearer right than we are."
"What I cannot understand," she pursued carefully, "is your
preservation of such a very ancient state of mind. This patriarchal
idea you tell me is thousands of years old?"
"Oh yes--four, five, six thousand--every so many."
"And you have made wonderful progress in those years--in other things?"
"We certainly have. But religion is different. You see, our
religions come from behind us, and are initiated by some great
teacher who is dead. He is supposed to have known the whole thing
and taught it, finally. All we have to do is believe--and obey."
"Who was the great Hebrew teacher?"
"Oh--there it was different. The Hebrew religion is an
accumulation of extremely ancient traditions, some far older than
their people, and grew by accretion down the ages. We consider
it inspired--`the Word of God.'"
"How do you know it is?"
"Because it says so."
"Does it say so in as many words? Who wrote that in?"
I began to try to recall some text that did say so, and could
not bring it to mind.
"Apart from that," she pursued, "what I cannot understand
is why you keep these early religious ideas so long. You have
changed all your others, haven't you?"
"Pretty generally," I agreed. "But this we call `revealed religion,'
and think it is final. But tell me more about these little temples of yours," I urged.
"And these Temple Mothers you run to."
Then she gave me an extended lesson in applied religion,
which I will endeavor to concentrate.
They developed their central theory of a Loving Power, and
assumed that its relation to them was motherly--that it desired
their welfare and especially their development. Their relation to it,
similarly, was filial, a loving appreciation and a glad fulfillment
of its high purposes. Then, being nothing if not practical, they
set their keen and active minds to discover the kind of conduct
expected of them. This worked out in a most admirable system of ethics.
The principle of Love was universally recognized--and used.
Patience, gentleness, courtesy, all that we call "good breeding,"
was part of their code of conduct. But where they went far
beyond us was in the special application of religious feeling to
every field of life. They had no ritual, no little set of
performances called "divine service," save those religious
pageants I have spoken of, and those were as much educational as
religious, and as much social as either. But they had a clear established
connection between everything they did--and God. Their cleanliness,
their health, their exquisite order, the rich peaceful beauty
of the whole land, the happiness of the children, and above all
the constant progress they made--all this was their religion.
They applied their minds to the thought of God, and worked
out the theory that such an inner power demanded outward expression.
They lived as if God was real and at work within them.
As for those little temples everywhere--some of the women
were more skilled, more temperamentally inclined, in this direction,
than others. These, whatever their work might be, gave
certain hours to the Temple Service, which meant being there
with all their love and wisdom and trained thought, to smooth
out rough places for anyone who needed it. Sometimes it was a
real grief, very rarely a quarrel, most often a perplexity; even in
Herland the human soul had its hours of darkness. But all through
the country their best and wisest were ready to give help.
If the difficulty was unusually profound, the applicant was
directed to someone more specially experienced in that line of thought.
Here was a religion which gave to the searching mind a rational
basis in life, the concept of an immense Loving Power working
steadily out through them, toward good. It gave to the "soul"
that sense of contact with the inmost force, of perception of the
uttermost purpose, which we always crave. It gave to the "heart"
the blessed feeling of being loved, loved and UNDERSTOOD. It gave
clear, simple, rational directions as to how we should live--and why.
And for ritual it gave first those triumphant group demonstrations,
when with a union of all the arts, the revivifying combination of
great multitudes moved rhythmically with march and dance,
song and music, among their own noblest products and the open
beauty of their groves and hills. Second, it gave these numerous
little centers of wisdom where the least wise could go to the most
wise and be helped.
"It is beautiful!" I cried enthusiastically. "It is the most
practical, comforting, progressive religion I ever heard of. You DO
love one another--you DO bear one another's burdens--you DO realize
that a little child is a type of the kingdom of heaven. You are
more Christian than any people I ever saw. But--how about death?
And the life everlasting? What does your religion teach about eternity?"
"Nothing," said Ellador. "What is eternity?"
What indeed? I tried, for the first time in my life, to get a real
hold on the idea.
"It is--never stopping."
"Never stopping?" She looked puzzled.
"Yes, life, going on forever."
"Oh--we see that, of course. Life does go on forever, all about us."
"But eternal life goes on WITHOUT DYING."
"The same person?"
"Yes, the same person, unending, immortal." I was pleased to
think that I had something to teach from our religion, which theirs
had never promulgated.
"Here?" asked Ellador. "Never to die--here?" I could see her
practical mind heaping up the people, and hurriedly reassured her.
"Oh no, indeed, not here--hereafter. We must die here, of course,
but then we `enter into eternal life.' The soul lives forever."
"How do you know?" she inquired.
"I won't attempt to prove it to you," I hastily continued. "Let
us assume it to be so. How does this idea strike you?"
Again she smiled at me, that adorable, dimpling, tender,
mischievous, motherly smile of hers. "Shall I be quite, quite honest?"
"You couldn't be anything else," I said, half gladly and half
a little sorry. The transparent honesty of these women was a
never-ending astonishment to me.
"It seems to me a singularly foolish idea," she said calmly.
"And if true, most disagreeable."
Now I had always accepted the doctrine of personal immortality
as a thing established. The efforts of inquiring spiritualists,
always seeking to woo their beloved ghosts back again, never
seemed to me necessary. I don't say I had ever seriously and
courageously discussed the subject with myself even; I had simply
assumed it to be a fact. And here was the girl I loved, this
creature whose character constantly revealed new heights and
ranges far beyond my own, this superwoman of a superland,
saying she thought immortality foolish! She meant it, too.
"What do you WANT it for?" she asked.
"How can you NOT want it!" I protested. "Do you want to go
out like a candle? Don't you want to go on and on--growing and
--and--being happy, forever?"
"Why, no," she said. "I don't in the least. I want my child--
and my child's child--to go on--and they will. Why should I want to?"
"But it means Heaven!" I insisted. "Peace and Beauty and
Comfort and Love--with God." I had never been so eloquent on
the subject of religion. She could be horrified at Damnation,
and question the justice of Salvation, but Immortality--that was
surely a noble faith.
"Why, Van," she said, holding out her hands to me. "Why
Van--darling! How splendid of you to feel it so keenly. That's
what we all want, of course--Peace and Beauty, and Comfort
and Love--with God! And Progress too, remember; Growth, always
and always. That is what our religion teaches us to want
and to work for, and we do!"
"But that is HERE, I said, "only for this life on earth."
"Well? And do not you in your country, with your beautiful religion
of love and service have it here, too--for this life--on earth?"
None of us were willing to tell the women of Herland about
the evils of our own beloved land. It was all very well for us to
assume them to be necessary and essential, and to criticize--
strictly among ourselves--their all-too-perfect civilization, but
when it came to telling them about the failures and wastes of our
own, we never could bring ourselves to do it.
Moreover, we sought to avoid too much discussion, and to
press the subject of our approaching marriages.
Jeff was the determined one on this score.
"Of course they haven't any marriage ceremony or service,
but we can make it a sort of Quaker wedding, and have it in the
temple--it is the least we can do for them."
It was. There was so little, after all, that we could do for them.
Here we were, penniless guests and strangers, with no chance
even to use our strength and courage--nothing to defend them
from or protect them against.
"We can at least give them our names," Jeff insisted.
They were very sweet about it, quite willing to do whatever
we asked, to please us. As to the names, Alima, frank soul that
she was, asked what good it would do.
Terry, always irritating her, said it was a sign of possession.
"You are going to be Mrs. Nicholson," he said. "Mrs. T. O.
Nicholson. That shows everyone that you are my wife."
"What is a `wife' exactly?" she demanded, a dangerous gleam
in her eye.
"A wife is the woman who belongs to a man," he began.
But Jeff took it up eagerly: "And a husband is the man
who belongs to a woman. It is because we are monogamous,
you know. And marriage is the ceremony, civil and religious,
that joins the two together--`until death do us part,'"
he finished, looking at Celis with unutterable devotion.
"What makes us all feel foolish," I told the girls, "is that
here we have nothing to give you--except, of course, our names."
"Do your women have no names before they are married?"
Celis suddenly demanded.
"Why, yes," Jeff explained. "They have their maiden names
--their father's names, that is."
"And what becomes of them?" asked Alima.
"They change them for their husbands', my dear," Terry
"Change them? Do the husbands then take the wives' `maiden names'?"
"Oh, no," he laughed. "The man keeps his own and gives it to her, too."
"Then she just loses hers and takes a new one--how unpleasant!
We won't do that!" Alima said decidedly.
Terry was good-humored about it. "I don't care what you do
or don't do so long as we have that wedding pretty soon," he said,
reaching a strong brown hand after Alima's, quite as brown and
nearly as strong.
"As to giving us things--of course we can see that you'd like to,
but we are glad you can't," Celis continued. "You see, we love you
just for yourselves--we wouldn't want you to--to pay anything.
Isn't it enough to know that you are loved personally--and just as men?"
Enough or not, that was the way we were married. We had
a great triple wedding in the biggest temple of all, and it looked
as if most of the nation was present. It was very solemn and very
beautiful. Someone had written a new song for the occasion,
nobly beautiful, about the New Hope for their people--the New
Tie with other lands--Brotherhood as well as Sisterhood, and,
with evident awe, Fatherhood.
Terry was always restive under their talk of fatherhood.
"Anybody'd think we were High Priests of--of Philoprogenitiveness!"
he protested. "These women think of NOTHING but children, seems to me!
We'll teach 'em!"
He was so certain of what he was going to teach, and Alima
so uncertain in her moods of reception, that Jeff and I feared the
worst. We tried to caution him--much good that did. The big
handsome fellow drew himself up to his full height, lifted that
great chest of his, and laughed.
"There are three separate marriages," he said. "I won't
interfere with yours--nor you with mine."
So the great day came, and the countless crowds of women,
and we three bridegrooms without any supporting "best men," or any
other men to back us up, felt strangely small as we came forward.
Somel and Zava and Moadine were on hand; we were thankful
to have them, too--they seemed almost like relatives.
There was a splendid procession, wreathing dances, the new
anthem I spoke of, and the whole great place pulsed with feeling
--the deep awe, the sweet hope, the wondering expectation of
a new miracle.
"There has been nothing like this in the country since our
Motherhood began!" Somel said softly to me, while we watched
the symbolic marches. "You see, it is the dawn of a new era. You
don't know how much you mean to us. It is not only Fatherhood
--that marvelous dual parentage to which we are strangers--the
miracle of union in life-giving--but it is Brotherhood. You are
the rest of the world. You join us to our kind--to all the
strange lands and peoples we have never seen. We hope to know them
--to love and help them--and to learn of them. Ah! You cannot know!"
Thousands of voices rose in the soaring climax of that great
Hymn of The Coming Life. By the great Altar of Motherhood, with
its crown of fruit and flowers, stood a new one, crowned as well.
Before the Great Over Mother of the Land and her ring of
High Temple Counsellors, before that vast multitude of calm-
faced mothers and holy-eyed maidens, came forward our own
three chosen ones, and we, three men alone in all that land,
joined hands with them and made our marriage vows.
We say, "Marriage is a lottery"; also "Marriages are made in
Heaven"--but this is not so widely accepted as the other.
We have a well-founded theory that it is best to marry "in
one's class," and certain well-grounded suspicions of international
marriages, which seem to persist in the interests of social progress,
rather than in those of the contracting parties.
But no combination of alien races, of color, of caste, or creed,
was ever so basically difficult to establish as that between us,
three modern American men, and these three women of Herland.
It is all very well to say that we should have been frank about
it beforehand. We had been frank. We had discussed--at least
Ellador and I had--the conditions of The Great Adventure, and
thought the path was clear before us. But there are some things
one takes for granted, supposes are mutually understood, and to
which both parties may repeatedly refer without ever meaning
the same thing.
The differences in the education of the average man and
woman are great enough, but the trouble they make is not mostly
for the man; he generally carries out his own views of the case.
The woman may have imagined the conditions of married life to
be different; but what she imagined, was ignorant of, or might
have preferred, did not seriously matter.
I can see clearly and speak calmly about this now, writing
after a lapse of years, years full of growth and education, but at
the time it was rather hard sledding for all of us--especially for
Terry. Poor Terry! You see, in any other imaginable marriage
among the peoples of the earth, whether the woman were black,
red, yellow, brown, or white; whether she were ignorant or educated,
submissive or rebellious, she would have behind her the marriage
tradition of our general history. This tradition relates the woman
to the man. He goes on with his business, and she adapts herself to
him and to it. Even in citizenship, by some strange hocus-pocus,
that fact of birth and geography was waved aside, and the woman
automatically acquired the nationality of her husband.
Well--here were we, three aliens in this land of women. It
was small in area, and the external differences were not so great
as to astound us. We did not yet appreciate the differences between
the race-mind of this people and ours.
In the first place, they were a "pure stock" of two thousand
uninterrupted years. Where we have some long connected lines
of thought and feeling, together with a wide range of differences,
often irreconcilable, these people were smoothly and firmly
agreed on most of the basic principles of their life; and not only
agreed in principle, but accustomed for these sixty-odd generations
to act on those principles.
This is one thing which we did not understand--had made no
allowance for. When in our pre-marital discussions one of those
dear girls had said: "We understand it thus and thus," or "We
hold such and such to be true," we men, in our own deep-seated
convictions of the power of love, and our easy views about
beliefs and principles, fondly imagined that we could convince
them otherwise. What we imagined, before marriage, did not
matter any more than what an average innocent young girl imagines.
We found the facts to be different.
It was not that they did not love us; they did, deeply and
warmly. But there are you again--what they meant by "love"
and what we meant by "love" were so different.
Perhaps it seems rather cold-blooded to say "we" and "they,"
as if we were not separate couples, with our separate joys and
sorrows, but our positions as aliens drove us together constantly.
The whole strange experience had made our friendship more
close and intimate than it would ever have become in a free and
easy lifetime among our own people. Also, as men, with our
masculine tradition of far more than two thousand years, we were a unit,
small but firm, against this far larger unit of feminine tradition.
I think I can make clear the points of difference without a too
painful explicitness. The more external disagreement was in the
matter of "the home," and the housekeeping duties and pleasures
we, by instinct and long education, supposed to be inherently
appropriate to women.
I will give two illustrations, one away up, and the other away
down, to show how completely disappointed we were in this regard.
For the lower one, try to imagine a male ant, coming from
some state of existence where ants live in pairs, endeavoring to
set up housekeeping with a female ant from a highly developed
anthill. This female ant might regard him with intense personal
affection, but her ideas of parentage and economic management
would be on a very different scale from his. Now, of course, if
she was a stray female in a country of pairing ants, he might have
had his way with her; but if he was a stray male in an anthill--!
For the higher one, try to imagine a devoted and impassioned
man trying to set up housekeeping with a lady angel, a real
wings-and-harp-and-halo angel, accustomed to fulfilling divine
missions all over interstellar space. This angel might love the man
with an affection quite beyond his power of return or even of
appreciation, but her ideas of service and duty would be on a
very different scale from his. Of course, if she was a stray angel
in a country of men, he might have had his way with her; but
if he was a stray man among angels--!
Terry, at his worst, in a black fury for which, as a man, I must
have some sympathy, preferred the ant simile. More of Terry and
his special troubles later. It was hard on Terry.
Jeff--well, Jeff always had a streak that was too good for
this world! He's the kind that would have made a saintly priest in
parentagearlier times. He accepted the angel theory, swallowed it whole,
tried to force it on us--with varying effect. He so worshipped
Celis, and not only Celis, but what she represented; he had
become so deeply convinced of the almost supernatural advantages
of this country and people, that he took his medicine like
a--I cannot say "like a man," but more as if he wasn't one.
Don't misunderstand me for a moment. Dear old Jeff was no
milksop or molly-coddle either. He was a strong, brave, efficient
man, and an excellent fighter when fighting was necessary. But
there was always this angel streak in him. It was rather a wonder,
Terry being so different, that he really loved Jeff as he did; but
it happens so sometimes, in spite of the difference--perhaps
because of it.
As for me, I stood between. I was no such gay Lothario as
Terry, and no such Galahad as Jeff. But for all my limitations I
think I had the habit of using my brains in regard to behavior
rather more frequently than either of them. I had to use brain-
power now, I can tell you.
The big point at issue between us and our wives was, as may
easily be imagined, in the very nature of the relation.
"Wives! Don't talk to me about wives!" stormed Terry. "They
don't know what the word means."
Which is exactly the fact--they didn't. How could they? Back
in their prehistoric records of polygamy and slavery there were
no ideals of wifehood as we know it, and since then no possibility
of forming such.
"The only thing they can think of about a man is FATHERHOOD!"
said Terry in high scorn. "FATHERHOOD!" As if a man was always
wanting to be a FATHER!"
This also was correct. They had their long, wide, deep, rich
experience of Motherhood, and their only perception of the
value of a male creature as such was for Fatherhood.
Aside from that, of course, was the whole range of personal
love, love which as Jeff earnestly phrased it "passeth the love of
women!" It did, too. I can give no idea--either now, after long
and happy experience of it, or as it seemed then, in the first
measureless wonder--of the beauty and power of the love they gave us.
Even Alima--who had a more stormy temperament than either
of the others, and who, heaven knows, had far more provocation--
even Alima was patience and tenderness and wisdom personified
to the man she loved, until he--but I haven't got to that yet.
These, as Terry put it, "alleged or so-called wives" of ours,
went right on with their profession as foresters. We, having no
special learnings, had long since qualified as assistants. We had
to do something, if only to pass the time, and it had to be work
--we couldn't be playing forever.
This kept us out of doors with those dear girls, and more or
less together--too much together sometimes.
These people had, it now became clear to us, the highest,
keenest, most delicate sense of personal privacy, but not the
faintest idea of that SOLITUDE A DEUX we are so fond of. They had,
every one of them, the "two rooms and a bath" theory realized.
From earliest childhood each had a separate bedroom with toilet
conveniences, and one of the marks of coming of age was the
addition of an outer room in which to receive friends.
Long since we had been given our own two rooms apiece, and
as being of a different sex and race, these were in a separate
house. It seemed to be recognized that we should breathe easier
if able to free our minds in real seclusion.
For food we either went to any convenient eating-house,
ordered a meal brought in, or took it with us to the woods,
always and equally good. All this we had become used to and
enjoyed--in our courting days.
After marriage there arose in us a somewhat unexpected urge
of feeling that called for a separate house; but this feeling found
no response in the hearts of those fair ladies.
"We ARE alone, dear," Ellador explained to me with gentle
patience. "We are alone in these great forests; we may go and eat
in any little summer-house--just we two, or have a separate
table anywhere--or even have a separate meal in our own rooms.
How could we be aloner?"
This was all very true. We had our pleasant mutual solitude
about our work, and our pleasant evening talks in their apartments
or ours; we had, as it were, all the pleasures of courtship carried
right on; but we had no sense of--perhaps it may be called possession.
"Might as well not be married at all," growled Terry. "They
only got up that ceremony to please us--please Jeff, mostly.
They've no real idea of being married.
I tried my best to get Ellador's point of view, and naturally
I tried to give her mine. Of course, what we, as men, wanted to
make them see was that there were other, and as we proudly said
"higher," uses in this relation than what Terry called "mere parentage."
In the highest terms I knew I tried to explain this to Ellador.
"Anything higher than for mutual love to hope to give life,
as we did?" she said. "How is it higher?"
"It develops love," I explained. "All the power of beautiful
permanent mated love comes through this higher development."
"Are you sure?" she asked gently. "How do you know that
it was so developed? There are some birds who love each other
so that they mope and pine if separated, and never pair again if
one dies, but they never mate except in the mating season.
Among your people do you find high and lasting affection appearing
in proportion to this indulgence?"
It is a very awkward thing, sometimes, to have a logical mind.
Of course I knew about those monogamous birds and beasts too,
that mate for life and show every sign of mutual affection,
without ever having stretched the sex relationship beyond its
original range. But what of it?
"Those are lower forms of life!" I protested. "They have no
capacity for faithful and affectionate, and apparently happy--
but oh, my dear! my dear!--what can they know of such a love
as draws us together? Why, to touch you--to be near you--to
come closer and closer--to lose myself in you--surely you feel
it too, do you not?"
I came nearer. I seized her hands.
Her eyes were on mine, tender radiant, but steady and
strong. There was something so powerful, so large and changeless,
in those eyes that I could not sweep her off her feet by my
own emotion as I had unconsciously assumed would be the case.
It made me feel as, one might imagine, a man might feel who
loved a goddess--not a Venus, though! She did not resent my
attitude, did not repel it, did not in the least fear it, evidently.
There was not a shade of that timid withdrawal or pretty resistance
which are so--provocative.
"You see, dearest," she said, "you have to be patient with us.
We are not like the women of your country. We are Mothers, and
we are People, but we have not specialized in this line."
"We" and "we" and "we"--it was so hard to get her to be
personal. And, as I thought that, I suddenly remembered how we
were always criticizing OUR women for BEING so personal.
Then I did my earnest best to picture to her the sweet intense joy
of married lovers, and the result in higher stimulus to all creative work.
"Do you mean," she asked quite calmly, as if I was not holding
her cool firm hands in my hot and rather quivering ones, "that with you,
when people marry, they go right on doing this in season and out of season,
with no thought of children at all?"
"They do," I said, with some bitterness. "They are not mere
parents. They are men and women, and they love each other."
"How long?" asked Ellador, rather unexpectedly.
"How long?" I repeated, a little dashed. "Why as long as they live."
"There is something very beautiful in the idea," she admitted,
still as if she were discussing life on Mars. "This climactic
expression, which, in all the other life-forms, has but the one purpose,
has with you become specialized to higher, purer, nobler uses. It has--
I judge from what you tell me--the most ennobling effect on character.
People marry, not only for parentage, but for this exquisite interchange
--and, as a result, you have a world full of continuous lovers, ardent,
happy, mutually devoted, always living on that high tide of supreme
emotion which we had supposed to belong only to one season and one use.
And you say it has other results, stimulating all high creative work.
That must mean floods, oceans of such work, blossoming from this intense
happiness of every married pair! It is a beautiful idea!"
She was silent, thinking.
So was I.
She slipped one hand free, and was stroking my hair with it
in a gentle motherly way. I bowed my hot head on her shoulder and
felt a dim sense of peace, a restfulness which was very pleasant.
"You must take me there someday, darling," she was saying.
"It is not only that I love you so much, I want to see your
country --your people--your mother--" she paused reverently.
"Oh, how I shall love your mother!"
I had not been in love many times--my experience did not
compare with Terry's. But such as I had was so different from this
that I was perplexed, and full of mixed feelings: partly a growing
sense of common ground between us, a pleasant rested calm feeling,
which I had imagined could only be attained in one way; and partly a
bewildered resentment because what I found was not what I had looked for.
It was their confounded psychology! Here they were with this
profound highly developed system of education so bred into
them that even if they were not teachers by profession they all
had a general proficiency in it--it was second nature to them.
And no child, stormily demanding a cookie "between meals,"
was ever more subtly diverted into an interest in house-building
than was I when I found an apparently imperative demand had
disappeared without my noticing it.
And all the time those tender mother eyes, those keen scientific
eyes, noting every condition and circumstance, and learning how to
"take time by the forelock" and avoid discussion before occasion arose.
I was amazed at the results. I found that much, very much,
of what I had honestly supposed to be a physiological necessity
was a psychological necessity--or so believed. I found, after my
ideas of what was essential had changed, that my feelings changed also.
And more than all, I found this--a factor of enormous weight--these
women were not provocative. That made an immense difference.
The thing that Terry had so complained of when we first
came--that they weren't "feminine," they lacked "charm," now
became a great comfort. Their vigorous beauty was an aesthetic
pleasure, not an irritant. Their dress and ornaments had not a
touch of the "come-and-find-me" element.
Even with my own Ellador, my wife, who had for a time
unveiled a woman's heart and faced the strange new hope and
joy of dual parentage, she afterward withdrew again into the
same good comrade she had been at first. They were women, PLUS,
and so much plus that when they did not choose to let the
womanness appear, you could not find it anywhere.
I don't say it was easy for me; it wasn't. But when I made
appeal to her sympathies I came up against another immovable wall.
She was sorry, honestly sorry, for my distresses, and made all manner
of thoughtful suggestions, often quite useful, as well as the wise
foresight I have mentioned above, which often saved all difficulty
before it arose; but her sympathy did not alter her convictions.
"If I thought it was really right and necessary, I could
perhaps bring myself to it, for your sake, dear; but I do not want
to--not at all. You would not have a mere submission, would you?
That is not the kind of high romantic love you spoke of, surely?
It is a pity, of course, that you should have to adjust your highly
specialized faculties to our unspecialized ones."
Confound it! I hadn't married the nation, and I told her so.
But she only smiled at her own limitations and explained that she
had to "think in we's."
Confound it again! Here I'd have all my energies focused on
one wish, and before I knew it she'd have them dissipated in one
direction or another, some subject of discussion that began just
at the point I was talking about and ended miles away.
It must not be imagined that I was just repelled, ignored, left
to cherish a grievance. Not at all. My happiness was in the hands
of a larger, sweeter womanhood than I had ever imagined. Before
our marriage my own ardor had perhaps blinded me to much of this.
I was madly in love with not so much what was there as with
what I supposed to be there. Now I found an endlessly beautiful
undiscovered country to explore, and in it the sweetest wisdom
and understanding. It was as if I had come to some new place
and people, with a desire to eat at all hours, and no other
interests in particular; and as if my hosts, instead of merely
saying, "You shall not eat," had presently aroused in me a lively
desire for music, for pictures, for games, for exercise, for playing
in the water, for running some ingenious machine; and, in the
multitude of my satisfactions, I forgot the one point which was
not satisfied, and got along very well until mealtime.
One of the cleverest and most ingenious of these tricks was
only clear to me many years after, when we were so wholly at one
on this subject that I could laugh at my own predicament then.
It was this: You see, with us, women are kept as different as
possible and as feminine as possible. We men have our own world,
with only men in it; we get tired of our ultra-maleness and
turn gladly to the ultra-femaleness. Also, in keeping our women
as feminine as possible, we see to it that when we turn to them
we find the thing we want always in evidence. Well, the
atmosphere of this place was anything but seductive. The very
numbers of these human women, always in human relation, made
them anything but alluring. When, in spite of this, my hereditary
instincts and race-traditions made me long for the feminine response
in Ellador, instead of withdrawing so that I should want her more,
she deliberately gave me a little too much of her society.
--always de-feminized, as it were. It was awfully funny, really.
Here was I, with an Ideal in mind, for which I hotly longed,
and here was she, deliberately obtruding in the foreground of my
consciousness a Fact--a fact which I coolly enjoyed, but which
actually interfered with what I wanted. I see now clearly enough
why a certain kind of man, like Sir Almroth Wright, resents the
professional development of women. It gets in the way of the sex
ideal; it temporarily covers and excludes femininity.
Of course, in this case, I was so fond of Ellador my friend,
of Ellador my professional companion, that I necessarily enjoyed
her society on any terms. Only--when I had had her with me in
her de-feminine capacity for a sixteen-hour day, I could go to my
own room and sleep without dreaming about her.
The witch! If ever anybody worked to woo and win and hold
a human soul, she did, great superwoman that she was. I couldn't
then half comprehend the skill of it, the wonder. But this I soon
began to find: that under all our cultivated attitude of mind
toward women, there is an older, deeper, more "natural" feeling,
the restful reverence which looks up to the Mother sex.
So we grew together in friendship and happiness, Ellador and
I, and so did Jeff and Celis.
When it comes to Terry's part of it, and Alima's, I'm sorry--
and I'm ashamed. Of course I blame her somewhat. She wasn't
as fine a psychologist as Ellador, and what's more, I think she had
a far-descended atavistic trace of more marked femaleness, never
apparent till Terry called it out. But when all is said, it
doesn't excuse him. I hadn't realized to the full Terry's character
--I couldn't, being a man.
The position was the same as with us, of course, only with
these distinctions. Alima, a shade more alluring, and several
shades less able as a practical psychologist; Terry, a hundredfold
more demanding--and proportionately less reasonable.
Things grew strained very soon between them. I fancy at first,
when they were together, in her great hope of parentage and his
keen joy of conquest--that Terry was inconsiderate. In fact, I know it,
from things he said.
"You needn't talk to me," he snapped at Jeff one day, just
before our weddings. "There never was a woman yet that did not
enjoy being MASTERED. All your pretty talk doesn't amount to a hill
o'beans--I KNOW." And Terry would hum:
I've taken my fun where I found it.
I've rogued and I've ranged in my time,
The things that I learned from the yellow and black,
They 'ave helped me a 'eap with the white.
Jeff turned sharply and left him at the time. I was a bit
Poor old Terry! The things he'd learned didn't help him a
heap in Herland. His idea was to take--he thought that was the way.
He thought, he honestly believed, that women like it. Not the women
of Herland! Not Alima!
I can see her now--one day in the very first week of their
marriage, setting forth to her day's work with long determined
strides and hard-set mouth, and sticking close to Ellador.
She didn't wish to be alone with Terry--you could see that.
But the more she kept away from him, the more he wanted
He made a tremendous row about their separate establishments,
tried to keep her in his rooms, tried to stay in hers. But there
she drew the line sharply.
He came away one night, and stamped up and down the
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!"
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
"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
"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,
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 whichseems
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
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
"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.
The Crux, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A NOVEL BY CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
CHARLTON COMPANY NEW YORK 1911
This story is, first, for young women to read; second, for young men to read; after that, for anybody who wants to. Anyone who doubts its facts and figures is referred to "Social Diseases and Marriage," by Dr. Prince Morrow, or to "Hygiene and Morality," by Miss Lavinia Dock, a trained nurse of long experience.
Some will hold that the painful facts disclosed are unfit for young girls to know. Young girls are precisely the ones who must know them, in order that they may protect themselves and their children to come. The time to know of danger is before it is too late to avoid it.
If some say "Innocence is the greatest charm of young girls," the answer is, "What good does it do them?"
I. THE BACK WAY 9
II. BAINVILLE EFFECTS 31
III. THE OUTBREAK 60
IV. TRANSPLANTED 81
V. CONTRASTS 101
VI. NEW FRIENDS AND OLD 126
VII. SIDE LIGHTS 149
VIII. A MIXTURE 174
IX. CONSEQUENCES 204
X. DETERMINATION 229
XI. THEREAFTER 256
XII. ACHIEVEMENTS 283
Who should know but the woman?--The young wife-to-be? Whose whole life hangs on the choice; To her the ruin, the misery; To her, the deciding voice.
Who should know but the woman?--The mother-to-be? Guardian, Giver, and Guide; If she may not foreknow, forejudge and foresee, What safety has childhood beside?
Who should know but the woman?--The girl in her youth? The hour of the warning is then, That, strong in her knowledge and free in her truth, She may build a new race of new men.
THE BACK WAY
Along the same old garden path, Sweet with the same old flowers; Under the lilacs, darkly dense, The easy gate in the backyard fence-- Those unforgotten hours!
The "Foote Girls" were bustling along Margate Street with an air of united purpose that was unusual with them. Miss Rebecca wore her black silk cloak, by which it might be seen that "a call" was toward. Miss Jessie, the thin sister, and Miss Sallie, the fat one, were more hastily attired. They were persons of less impressiveness than Miss Rebecca, as was tacitly admitted by their more familiar nicknames, a concession never made by the older sister.
Even Miss Rebecca was hurrying a little, for her, but the others were swifter and more impatient.
"Do come on, Rebecca. Anybody'd think you were eighty instead of fifty!" said Miss Sallie.
"There's Mrs. Williams going in! I wonder if she's heard already. Do hurry!" urged Miss Josie.
But Miss Rebecca, being concerned about her dignity, would not allow herself to be hustled, and the three proceeded in irregular order under the high-arched elms and fence-topping syringas of the small New England town toward the austere home of Mr. Samuel Lane.
It was a large, uncompromising, square, white house, planted starkly in the close-cut grass. It had no porch for summer lounging, no front gate for evening dalliance, no path-bordering beds of flowers from which to pluck a hasty offering or more redundant tribute. The fragrance which surrounded it came from the back yard, or over the fences of neighbors; the trees which waved greenly about it were the trees of other people. Mr. Lane had but two trees, one on each side of the straight and narrow path, evenly placed between house and sidewalk--evergreens.
Mrs. Lane received them amiably; the minister's new wife, Mrs. Williams, was proving a little difficult to entertain. She was from Cambridge, Mass., and emanated a restrained consciousness of that fact. Mr. Lane rose stiffly and greeted them. He did not like the Foote girls, not having the usual American's share of the sense of humor. He had no enjoyment of the town joke, as old as they were, that "the three of them made a full yard;" and had frowned down as a profane impertinent the man--a little sore under some effect of gossip--who had amended it with "make an 'ell, I say."
Safely seated in their several rocking chairs, and severally rocking them, the Misses Foote burst forth, as was their custom, in simultaneous, though by no means identical remarks.
"I suppose you've heard about Morton Elder?"
"What do you think Mort Elder's been doing now?"
"We've got bad news for poor Miss Elder!"
Mrs. Lane was intensely interested. Even Mr. Lane showed signs of animation.
"I'm not surprised," he said.
"He's done it now," opined Miss Josie with conviction. "I always said Rella Elder was spoiling that boy."
"It's too bad--after all she's done for him! He always was a scamp!" Thus Miss Sallie.
"I've been afraid of it all along," Miss Rebecca was saying, her voice booming through the lighter tones of her sisters. "I always said he'd never get through college."
"But who is Morton Elder, and what has he done?" asked Mrs. Williams as soon as she could be heard.
This lady now proved a most valuable asset. She was so new to the town, and had been so immersed in the suddenly widening range of her unsalaried duties as "minister's wife," that she had never even heard of Morton Elder.
A new resident always fans the languishing flame of local conversation. The whole shopworn stock takes on a fresh lustre, topics long trampled flat in much discussion lift their heads anew, opinions one scarce dared to repeat again become almost authoritative, old stories flourish freshly, acquiring new detail and more vivid color.
Mrs. Lane, seizing her opportunity while the sisters gasped a momentary amazement at anyone's not knowing the town scapegrace, and taking advantage of her position as old friend and near neighbor of the family under discussion, swept into the field under such headway that even the Foote girls remained silent perforce; surcharged, however, and holding their breaths in readiness to burst forth at the first opening.
"He's the nephew--orphan nephew--of Miss Elder--who lives right back of us--our yards touch--we've always been friends--went to school together, Rella's never married--she teaches, you know--and her brother--he owned the home--it's all hers now, he died all of a sudden and left two children--Morton and Susie. Mort was about seven years old and Susie just a baby. He's been an awful cross--but she just idolizes him--she's spoiled him, I tell her."
Mrs. Lane had to breathe, and even the briefest pause left her stranded to wait another chance. The three social benefactors proceeded to distribute their information in a clattering torrent. They sought to inform Mrs. Williams in especial, of numberless details of the early life and education of their subject, matters which would have been treated more appreciatively if they had not been blessed with the later news; and, at the same time, each was seeking for a more dramatic emphasis to give this last supply of incident with due effect.
No regular record is possible where three persons pour forth statement and comment in a rapid, tumultuous stream, interrupted by cross currents of heated contradiction, and further varied by the exclamations and protests of three hearers, or at least, of two; for the one man present soon relapsed into disgusted silence.
Mrs. Williams, turning a perplexed face from one to the other, inwardly condemning the darkening flood of talk, yet conscious of a sinful pleasure in it, and anxious as a guest, and a minister's wife, to be most amiable, felt like one watching three kinetescopes at once. She saw, in confused pictures of blurred and varying outline, Orella Elder, the young New England girl, only eighteen, already a "school ma'am," suddenly left with two children to bring up, and doing it, as best she could. She saw the boy, momentarily changing, in his shuttlecock flight from mouth to mouth, through pale shades of open mischief to the black and scarlet of hinted sin, the terror of the neighborhood, the darling of his aunt, clever, audacious, scandalizing the quiet town.
"Boys are apt to be mischievous, aren't they?" she suggested when it was possible.
"He's worse than mischievous," Mr. Lane assured her sourly. "There's a mean streak in that family."
"That's on his mother's side," Mrs. Lane hastened to add. "She was a queer girl--came from New York."
The Foote girls began again, with rich profusion of detail, their voices rising shrill, one above the other, and playing together at their full height like emulous fountains.
"We ought not to judge, you know;" urged Mrs. Williams. "What do you say he's really done?"
Being sifted, it appeared that this last and most terrible performance was to go to "the city" with a group of "the worst boys of college," to get undeniably drunk, to do some piece of mischief. (Here was great licence in opinion, and in contradiction.)
"Anyway he's to be suspended!" said Miss Rebecca with finality.
"Suspended!" Miss Josie's voice rose in scorn. "Expelled! They said he was expelled."
"In disgrace!" added Miss Sallie.
Vivian Lane sat in the back room at the window, studying in the lingering light of the long June evening. At least, she appeared to be studying. Her tall figure was bent over her books, but the dark eyes blazed under their delicate level brows, and her face flushed and paled with changing feelings.
She had heard--who, in the same house, could escape hearing the Misses Foote?--and had followed the torrent of description, hearsay, surmise and allegation with an interest that was painful in its intensity.
"It's a shame!" she whispered under her breath. "A shame! And nobody to stand up for him!"
She half rose to her feet as if to do it herself, but sank back irresolutely.
A fresh wave of talk rolled forth.
"It'll half kill his aunt."
"Poor Miss Elder! I don't know what she'll do!"
"I don't know what he'll do. He can't go back to college."
"He'll have to go to work."
"I'd like to know where--nobody'd hire him in this town."
The girl could bear it no longer. She came to the door, and there, as they paused to speak to her, her purpose ebbed again.
"My daughter, Vivian, Mrs. Williams," said her mother; and the other callers greeted her familiarly.
"You'd better finish your lessons, Vivian," Mr. Lane suggested.
"I have, father," said the girl, and took a chair by the minister's wife. She had a vague feeling that if she were there, they would not talk so about Morton Elder.
Mrs. Williams hailed the interruption gratefully. She liked the slender girl with the thoughtful eyes and pretty, rather pathetic mouth, and sought to draw her out. But her questions soon led to unfortunate results.
"You are going to college, I suppose?" she presently inquired; and Vivian owned that it was the desire of her heart.
"Nonsense!" said her father. "Stuff and nonsense, Vivian! You're not going to college."
The Foote girls now burst forth in voluble agreement with Mr. Lane. His wife was evidently of the same mind; and Mrs. Williams plainly regretted her question. But Vivian mustered courage enough to make a stand, strengthened perhaps by the depth of the feeling which had brought her into the room.
"I don't know why you're all so down on a girl's going to college. Eve Marks has gone, and Mary Spring is going--and both the Austin girls. Everybody goes now."
"I know one girl that won't," was her father's incisive comment, and her mother said quietly, "A girl's place is at home--'till she marries."
"Suppose I don't want to marry?" said Vivian.
"Don't talk nonsense," her father answered. "Marriage is a woman's duty."
"What do you want to do?" asked Miss Josie in the interests of further combat. "Do you want to be a doctor, like Jane Bellair?"
"I should like to very much indeed," said the girl with quiet intensity. "I'd like to be a doctor in a babies' hospital."
"More nonsense," said Mr. Lane. "Don't talk to me about that woman! You attend to your studies, and then to your home duties, my dear."
The talk rose anew, the three sisters contriving all to agree with Mr. Lane in his opinions about college, marriage and Dr. Bellair, yet to disagree violently among themselves.
Mrs. Williams rose to go, and in the lull that followed the liquid note of a whippoorwill met the girl's quick ear. She quietly slipped out, unnoticed.
The Lane's home stood near the outer edge of the town, with an outlook across wide meadows and soft wooded hills. Behind, their long garden backed on that of Miss Orella Elder, with a connecting gate in the gray board fence. Mrs. Lane had grown up here. The house belonged to her mother, Mrs. Servilla Pettigrew, though that able lady was seldom in it, preferring to make herself useful among two growing sets of grandchildren.
Miss Elder was Vivian's favorite teacher. She was a careful and conscientious instructor, and the girl was a careful and conscientious scholar; so they got on admirably together; indeed, there was a real affection between them. And just as the young Laura Pettigrew had played with the younger Orella Elder, so Vivian had played with little Susie Elder, Miss Orella's orphan niece. Susie regarded the older girl with worshipful affection, which was not at all unpleasant to an emotional young creature with unemotional parents, and no brothers or sisters of her own.
Moreover, Susie was Morton's sister.
The whippoorwill's cry sounded again through the soft June night. Vivian came quickly down the garden path between the bordering beds of sweet alyssum and mignonette. A dew-wet rose brushed against her hand. She broke it off, pricking her fingers, and hastily fastened it in the bosom of her white frock.
Large old lilac bushes hung over the dividing fence, a thick mass of honeysuckle climbed up by the gate and mingled with them, spreading over to a pear tree on the Lane side. In this fragrant, hidden corner was a rough seat, and from it a boy's hand reached out and seized the girl's, drawing her down beside him. She drew away from him as far as the seat allowed.
"Oh Morton!" she said. "What have you done?"
Morton was sulky.
"Now Vivian, are you down on me too? I thought I had one friend."
"You ought to tell me," she said more gently. "How can I be your friend if I don't know the facts? They are saying perfectly awful things."
"Why--the Foote girls--everybody."
"Oh those old maids aren't everybody, I assure you. You see, Vivian, you live right here in this old oyster of a town--and you make mountains out of molehills like everybody else. A girl of your intelligence ought to know better."
She drew a great breath of relief. "Then you haven't--done it?"
"Done what? What's all this mysterious talk anyhow? The prisoner has a right to know what he's charged with before he commits himself."
The girl was silent, finding it difficult to begin.
"Well, out with it. What do they say I did?" He picked up a long dry twig and broke it, gradually, into tiny, half-inch bits.
"They say you--went to the city--with a lot of the worst boys in college----"
"Well? Many persons go to the city every day. That's no crime, surely. As for 'the worst boys in college,'"--he laughed scornfully--"I suppose those old ladies think if a fellow smokes a cigarette or says 'darn' he's a tough. They're mighty nice fellows, that bunch--most of 'em. Got some ginger in 'em, that's all. What else?"
"They say--you drank."
"O ho! Said I got drunk, I warrant! Well--we did have a skate on that time, I admit!" And he laughed as if this charge were but a familiar joke.
"Why Morton Elder! I think it is a--disgrace!"
"Pshaw, Vivian!--You ought to have more sense. All the fellows get gay once in a while. A college isn't a young ladies' seminary."
He reached out and got hold of her hand again, but she drew it away.
"There was something else," she said.
"What was it?" he questioned sharply. "What did they say?"
But she would not satisfy him--perhaps could not.
"I should think you'd be ashamed, to make your aunt so much trouble. They said you were suspended--or--expelled!"
He shrugged his big shoulders and threw away the handful of broken twigs.
"That's true enough--I might as well admit that."
"Oh, Morton!--I didn't believe it. Expelled!"
"Yes, expelled--turned down--thrown out--fired! And I'm glad of it." He leaned back against the fence and whistled very softly through his teeth.
"Sh! Sh!" she urged. "Please!"
He was quiet.
"But Morton--what are you going to do?--Won't it spoil your career?"
"No, my dear little girl, it will not!" said he. "On the contrary, it will be the making of me. I tell you, Vivian, I'm sick to death of this town of maiden ladies--and 'good family men.' I'm sick of being fussed over for ever and ever, and having wristers and mufflers knitted for me--and being told to put on my rubbers! There's no fun in this old clamshell--this kitchen-midden of a town--and I'm going to quit it."
He stood up and stretched his long arms. "I'm going to quit it for good and all."
The girl sat still, her hands gripping the seat on either side.
"Where are you going?" she asked in a low voice.
"I'm going west--clear out west. I've been talking with Aunt Rella about it. Dr. Bellair'll help me to a job, she thinks. She's awful cut up, of course. I'm sorry she feels bad--but she needn't, I tell her. I shall do better there than I ever should have here. I know a fellow that left college--his father failed--and he went into business and made two thousand dollars in a year. I always wanted to take up business--you know that!"
She knew it--he had talked of it freely before they had argued and persuaded him into the college life. She knew, too, how his aunt's hopes all centered in him, and in his academic honors and future professional life. "Business," to his aunt's mind, was a necessary evil, which could at best be undertaken only after a "liberal education."
"When are you going," she asked at length.
She gave a little gasp.
"That's what I was whippoorwilling about--I knew I'd get no other chance to talk to you--I wanted to say good-by, you know."
The girl sat silent, struggling not to cry. He dropped beside her, stole an arm about her waist, and felt her tremble.
"Now, Viva, don't you go and cry! I'm sorry--I really am sorry--to make you feel bad."
This was too much for her, and she sobbed frankly.
"Oh, Morton! How could you! How could you!--And now you've got to go away!"
"There now--don't cry--sh!--they'll hear you."
She did hush at that.
"And don't feel so bad--I'll come back some time--to see you."
"No, you won't!" she answered with sudden fierceness. "You'll just go--and stay--and I never shall see you again!"
He drew her closer to him. "And do you care--so much--Viva?"
"Of course, I care!" she said, "Haven't we always been friends, the best of friends?"
"Yes--you and Aunt Rella have been about all I had," he admitted with a cheerful laugh. "I hope I'll make more friends out yonder. But Viva,"--his hand pressed closer--"is it only--friends?"
She took fright at once and drew away from him. "You mustn't do that, Morton!"
"Do what?" A shaft of moonlight shone on his teasing face. "What am I doing?" he said.
It is difficult--it is well nigh impossible--for a girl to put a name to certain small cuddlings not in themselves terrifying, nor even unpleasant, but which she obscurely feels to be wrong.
Viva flushed and was silent--he could see the rich color flood her face.
"Come now--don't be hard on a fellow!" he urged. "I shan't see you again in ever so long. You'll forget all about me before a year's over."
She shook her head, still silent.
"Won't you speak to me--Viva?"
"I wish----" She could not find the words she wanted. "Oh, I wish you--wouldn't!"
"Wouldn't what, Girlie? Wouldn't go away? Sorry to disoblige--but I have to. There's no place for me here."
The girl felt the sad truth of that.
"Aunt Rella will get used to it after a while. I'll write to her--I'll make lots of money--and come back in a few years--astonish you all!--Meanwhile--kiss me good-by, Viva!"
She drew back shyly. She had never kissed him. She had never in her life kissed any man younger than an uncle.
"No, Morton--you mustn't----" She shrank away into the shadow.
But, there was no great distance to shrink to, and his strong arms soon drew her close again.
"Suppose you never see me again," he said. "Then you'll wish you hadn't been so stiff about it."
She thought of this dread possibility with a sudden chill of horror, and while she hesitated, he took her face between her hands and kissed her on the mouth.
Steps were heard coming down the path.
"They're on," he said with a little laugh. "Good-by, Viva!"
He vaulted the fence and was gone.
"What are you doing here, Vivian?" demanded her father.
"I was saying good-by to Morton," she answered with a sob.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself--philandering out here in the middle of the night with that scapegrace! Come in the house and go to bed at once--it's ten o'clock."
Bowing to this confused but almost equally incriminating chronology, she followed him in, meekly enough as to her outward seeming, but inwardly in a state of stormy tumult.
She had been kissed!
Her father's stiff back before her could not blot out the radiant, melting moonlight, the rich sweetness of the flowers, the tender, soft, June night.
"You go to bed," said he once more. "I'm ashamed of you."
"Yes, father," she answered.
Her little room, when at last she was safely in it and had shut the door and put a chair against it--she had no key--seemed somehow changed.
She lit the lamp and stood looking at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were star-bright. Her cheeks flamed softly. Her mouth looked guilty and yet glad.
She put the light out and went to the window, kneeling there, leaning out in the fragrant stillness, trying to arrange in her mind this mixture of grief, disapproval, shame and triumph.
When the Episcopal church clock struck eleven, she went to bed in guilty haste, but not to sleep.
For a long time she lay there watching the changing play of moonlight on the floor.
She felt almost as if she were married.
Lockstep, handcuffs, ankle-ball-and-chain, Dulltoil and dreary food and drink; Small cell, cold cell, narrow bed and hard; High wall, thick wall, window iron-barred; Stone-paved, stone-pent little prison yard-- Young hearts weary of monotony and pain, Young hearts weary of reiterant refrain: "They say--they do--what will people think?"
At the two front windows of their rather crowded little parlor sat Miss Rebecca and Miss Josie Foote, Miss Sallie being out on a foraging expedition--marketing, as it were, among their neighbors to collect fresh food for thought.
A tall, slender girl in brown passed on the opposite walk.
"I should think Vivian Lane would get tired of wearing brown," said Miss Rebecca.
"I don't know why she should," her sister promptly protested, "it's a good enough wearing color, and becoming to her."
"She could afford to have more variety," said Miss Rebecca. "The Lanes are mean enough about some things, but I know they'd like to have her dress better. She'll never get married in the world."
"I don't know why not. She's only twenty-five--and good-looking."
"Good-looking! That's not everything. Plenty of girls marry that are not good-looking--and plenty of good-looking girls stay single."
"Plenty of homely ones, too. Rebecca," said Miss Josie, with meaning. Miss Rebecca certainly was not handsome. "Going to the library, of course!" she pursued presently. "That girl reads all the time."
"So does her grandmother. I see her going and coming from that library every day almost."
"Oh, well--she reads stories and things like that. Sallie goes pretty often and she notices. We use that library enough, goodness knows, but they are there every day. Vivian Lane reads the queerest things--doctor's books and works on pedagoggy."
"Godgy," said Miss Rebecca, "not goggy." And as her sister ignored this correction, she continued: "They might as well have let her go to college when she was so set on it."
"College! I don't believe she'd have learned as much in any college, from what I hear of 'em, as she has in all this time at home." The Foote girls had never entertained a high opinion of extensive culture.
"I don't see any use in a girl's studying so much," said Miss Rebecca with decision.
"Nor I," agreed Miss Josie. "Men don't like learned women."
"They don't seem to always like those that aren't learned, either," remarked Miss Rebecca with a pleasant sense of retribution for that remark about "homely ones."
The tall girl in brown had seen the two faces at the windows opposite, and had held her shoulders a little straighter as she turned the corner.
"Nine years this Summer since Morton Elder went West," murmured Miss Josie, reminiscently. "I shouldn't wonder if Vivian had stayed single on his account."
"Nonsense!" her sister answered sharply. "She's not that kind. She's not popular with men, that's all. She's too intellectual."
"She ought to be in the library instead of Sue Elder," Miss Rebecca suggested. "She's far more competent. Sue's a feather-headed little thing."
"She seems to give satisfaction so far. If the trustees are pleased with her, there's no reason for you to complain that I see," said Miss Rebecca with decision.
* * * * *
Vivian Lane waited at the library desk with an armful of books to take home. She had her card, her mother's and her father's--all utilized. Her grandmother kept her own card--and her own counsel.
The pretty assistant librarian, withdrawing herself with some emphasis from the unnecessary questions of a too gallant old gentleman, came to attend her.
"You have got a load," she said, scribbling complex figures with one end of her hammer-headed pencil, and stamping violet dates with the other. She whisked out the pale blue slips from the lid pockets, dropped them into their proper openings in the desk and inserted the cards in their stead with delicate precision.
"Can't you wait a bit and go home with me?" she asked. "I'll help you carry them."
"No, thanks. I'm not going right home."
"You're going to see your Saint--I know!" said Miss Susie, tossing her bright head. "I'm jealous, and you know it."
"Don't be a goose, Susie! You know you're my very best friend, but--she's different."
"I should think she was different!" Susie sharply agreed. "And you've been 'different' ever since she came."
"I hope so," said Vivian gravely. "Mrs. St. Cloud brings out one's very best and highest. I wish you liked her better, Susie."
"I like you," Susie answered. "You bring out my 'best and highest'--if I've got any. She don't. She's like a lovely, faint, bright--bubble! I want to prick it!"
Vivian smiled down upon her.
"You bad little mouse!" she said. "Come, give me the books."
"Leave them with me, and I'll bring them in the car." Susie looked anxious to make amends for her bit of blasphemy.
"All right, dear. Thank you. I'll be home by that time, probably."
* * * * *
In the street she stopped before a little shop where papers and magazines were sold.
"I believe Father'd like the new Centurion," she said to herself, and got it for him, chatting a little with the one-armed man who kept the place. She stopped again at a small florist's and bought a little bag of bulbs.
"Your mother's forgotten about those, I guess," said Mrs. Crothers, the florist's wife, "but they'll do just as well now. Lucky you thought of them before it got too late in the season. Bennie was awfully pleased with that red and blue pencil you gave him, Miss Lane."
Vivian walked on. A child ran out suddenly from a gate and seized upon her.
"Aren't you coming in to see me--ever?" she demanded.
Vivian stooped and kissed her.
"Yes, dear, but not to-night. How's that dear baby getting on?"
"She's better," said the little girl. "Mother said thank you--lots of times. Wait a minute--"
The child fumbled in Vivian's coat pocket with a mischievous upward glance, fished out a handful of peanuts, and ran up the path laughing while the tall girl smiled down upon her lovingly.
A long-legged boy was lounging along the wet sidewalk. Vivian caught up with him and he joined her with eagerness.
"Good evening, Miss Lane. Say--are you coming to the club to-morrow night?"
She smiled cordially.
"Of course I am, Johnny. I wouldn't disappoint my boys for anything--nor myself, either."
They walked on together chatting until, at the minister's house, she bade him a cheery "good-night."
Mrs. St. Cloud was at the window pensively watching the western sky. She saw the girl coming and let her in with a tender, radiant smile--a lovely being in a most unlovely room.
There was a chill refinement above subdued confusion in that Cambridge-Bainville parlor, where the higher culture of the second Mrs. Williams, superimposed upon the lower culture of the first, as that upon the varying tastes of a combined ancestry, made the place somehow suggestive of excavations at Abydos.
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