AS I look over my mass of notes, of hastily jotted down or wholl_econstructed conversations, and some of Ellador's voluminous papers, I a_istressingly conscious of the shortcomings of this book. There is no time no_o improve it, and I wish to publish it, as a little better than no report a_ll of the long visit of my wife from Herland to the world we know.
In time I hope, if I live, and if I come back again, to make a far mor_ompetent study than this. Yet why trouble myself to do that? She will do it, I am sure, with the help of her friends and sisters, far better than I could.
I had hoped that she could go blazing about our world, lecturing on th_onders and beauties of Herland, but that was all dropped when they decide_ot to betray their strange geographical secret—yet. I am allowed to print th_revious account of our visit there—even that will set explorers on thei_rack; but she did not wish to answer specific questions while here, nor t_efuse to answer.
They were quite right. The more I see of our world, the surer I am that the_re right to try to preserve their lovely country as it is, for a while a_east.
Ellador begs that I explain how inchoate, how fragmentary, ho_isproportionate, her impressions necessarily were.
"The longer I stay," she said, "the more I learn of your past ard understan_f your present, the more hopeful I feel for you. Please make that ver_lear." This she urged strongly.
The war did not discourage her, after a while. "What is one more—among s_any?" she asked, with a wry smile. "The very awfulness of this is its bes_ope; that, and the growing wisdom of the people. You'll have no more, I'_ure; that is, no more except those recognized as criminal outbreaks, an_unitive ones; the receding waves of force as these turbulent cross-current_ie down and disappear.
"But, Van, dear, whatever else you leave out, be sure to make it as strong a_ou can about the women and children."
"Perhaps you'd better say it yourself, my dear. Come, you put in a chapter," _rged. But she would not.
"I should be too abusive, I'm afraid," she objected; "and I've talked enoug_n the subject—you know that."
She had, by this time, gone over it pretty thoroughly. And it is not ver_ifficult to give the drift of it—we all know the facts. Her position, as _erlander, was naturally the maternal one.
"The business of people is, of course, to be well, happy, wise, beautiful, productive and progressive."
"Why don't you say 'good,' too," I suggested.
"Don't be absurd, Van. If people are well and happy, wise, beautiful, productive and progressive, they must incidentally be good; that's being good.
What sort of goodness is it which does not produce those effects ? Well, these
'good' people need a 'good' world to live in, and they have to make it; _lean, safe, comfortable world to grow in.
"Then, since they all begin as children, it seems so self-evident that the wa_o make better people and a better world is to teach the children how."
"You'll find general agreement so far," I admitted.
"But the people who train children are, with you, the mothers," she pursued,
"and the mothers of your world have not yet seen this simple truth."
"They talk of nothing else," I suggested. "They are always talking of th_onderful power and beauty of motherhood, from the most ancient morality t_llen Key."
"Yes, I know they talk about it. Their idea of motherhood, to what it ought t_e, is like a birchbark canoe to an ocean steamship, Van. They haven't seen i_s a whole—that's the trouble. What prevents them is their dwarfed condition, not being people, real, world-building people; and what keeps them dwarfed i_his amazing relic of the remote past— their domestic position."
"Would you 'destroy the home,' as they call it, Ellador?"
"I think the home is the very loveliest thing you have on earth," sh_nexpectedly replied.
"What do you mean, then?" I asked, genuinely puzzled. "You can't have home_ithout women in them, can you? And children?"
"And men," she gravely added. "Why, Van—do not men have homes, and love the_early? A man does not have to stay at home all day, in order to love it; wh_hould a woman ?"
Then she made clear to me, quite briefly, how the home should be to the woma_ust what it was to a man, and far more to both, in beauty and comfort, i_rivacy and peace, in all the pleasant rest and dear companionship we s_rize; but that it should not be to him a grinding weight of care and expense, or an expression of pride; nor to her a workshop or her sole means of persona_xpression.
"It is so pathetic," she said, "and so unutterably absurd, to see great city- size and world-size women trying to content themselves and express themselve_n one house; or worse, one flat. You know how it would be for a man, surely.
It is just as ridiculous for a woman And your city-size and world-size men ar_ll tied up to these house-size women. It's so funny, Van, so painfully'
funny, like a horse harnessed with an eohippus."
"We haven't got to wait for Mrs. Eohippus to catch up to Mr. Horse, I hope ?"
"You won't have to wait long," she assured me. "They are born equal, your boy_nd girls; they have to be. It is the tremendous difference in cultura_onditions that divides them; not only in infancy and youth; not only in dres_nd training; but in this wide gulf of industrial distinction, this permanen_ivision which leaves one sex free to rise, to develop every social power an_uality, and forcibly restrains the other to a laborlevel thousands of year_ehind. It is beginning to change, I can see that now, but it has to b_omplete, universal, before women can do their duty as mothers."
"But I thought— at least I've always heard—that it was their duty as mother_hich kept them at home."
She waved this aside, with a touch of impatience. "Look at the children," sh_aid; "that's enough. Look at these girls who do not even know enough abou_otherhood to demand a healthy father. Why, a—a—sheep would know better tha_o mate with such creatures as some of your women marry.
"They are only just beginning to learn that there are such diseases as the_ave been suffering and dying from for all these centuries. And they are s_oor) They haven't any money, most of them; they are s_isorganized—unorganized— apparently unconscious of any need of organization."
I mentioned the growth of trade unions, but she said that was but a tiny step —useful, but small; what she meant was Mother Union. . . .
"I suppose it is sex," she pursued, soberly. "With us, motherhood is s_imple. I had supposed, at first, that your bi-sexual method would mean _etter motherhood, a motherhood of two, so to speak. And I find that men hav_o enjoyed their little part of the work that they have grown to imagine it a_uite a separate thing, and to talk about 'sex' as if it was wholly distinc_rom parentage. Why, see what I found the other day"—and she pulled out a cop_f a little yellow medical magazine, published by a physician who specialize_n sex diseases, and read me a note this doctor had written on
"Sterilization," wherein he said that it had no injurious effect on sex.
"Just look at that!" she said. "The man is a doctor—and thinks the removal o_arental power is no loss to 'sex'! What men—yes, and some women, too— seem t_ean by sex is just their preliminary pleasure… . When your women are reall_wake and know what they are for, seeing men as the noblest kind o_ssistants, nature's latest and highest device for the improvement o_arentage, then they will talk less of 'sex' and more of children."
I urged, as genuinely as I could, the collateral value and uses of se_ndulgence ; not the common theories of "necessity," which any well-traine_thlete can deny, but the more esoteric claims of higher flights of love, an_f far-reaching stimulus to all artistic faculty: the creative inpulse in ou_ork.
She listened patiently, but shook her head when I was done.
"Even if all those claims were true," she said, "they would not weigh as a_unce to a ton beside the degradation of women, the corruption of the body an_ind through these wholly unnecessary diseases, and the miserable misbor_hildren. Why, Van, what's 'creative impulse' and all its 'far-reachin_timulus' to set beside the stunted, meager starveling children, the million_f poor little sub-ordinary children, children who are mere accidents and by- products of this much-praised 'sex'? It's no use, dear, until all th_hildren orf the world are at least healthy; at least normal; until th_verage man and woman are free from taint of sex-disease and happy in thei_ove—lastingly happy in their love—there is not much to boast of in thi_opular idea of sex and sex indulgence.
"It can not be changed in a day or a year," she said. "This is evidently _atter of long inheritance, and that's why I allow three generations to ge_ver it. But nothing will help much till the women are free and see their dut_s mothers."
"Some of the 'freest' women are urgirig more sex freedom," I teminded her.
"They want to see the women doing as men have done, apparently."
"Yes, I know. They are almost as bad as the antis—but not quite. They ar_erely a consequence of wrong teaching and wrong habits; they were ther_efore, those women, only not saying what they wanted. Surely, you neve_magined that all men could be unchaste and all women chaste, did you?"
I shamefacedly admitted that that was exactly what we had imagined, and tha_e had most cruelly punished the women who were not.
"It's the most surprising thing I ever heard of," she said; "and you bred an_rained plenty of animals, to say nothing of knowing the wild ones. Is ther_ny case in nature of a species with such a totally opposite traits in the tw_exes?"
There wasn't, that I knew of, outside of their special distinctions, o_ourse.
All these side issues she continually swept aside, all the minor points an_iscussable questions, returning again and again to the duty of women.
"As soon as the women take the right ground, men will have to follow suit,"
she said, "as soon as women are free, independent and conscientious. They hav_he power in their own hands, by natural law."
"What is going to rouse them, to make them see it?" I asked.
"A number of things seems to be doing that," she said, meditatively. "From m_oint of view, I should think the sense of maternal duty would be th_trongest thing, but there seem to be many forces at work here. The economi_hange is the most imperative, more so, even, than the political, and both ar_oing on fast. There's the war, too, that is doing wonders for women. It i_pening the eyes of men, millions of men, at once, as no arguments ever coul_ave."
"Aren't you pleased to see the women working for peace ?" I asked.
"Immensely, of course. All over Europe they are at it — that's what I mean."
"But I meant the Peace Movement."
"Oh, that? Talking for peace, you mean, and writing and telegraphing. Yes, that's useful, too. Anything that brings women out into social relation, int_ sense of social responsibility, is good. But all that they say and write an_rge will not count as much as what they do.
"Your women will surely have more sense than the men about economics," sh_uggested. "It does not seem to me possible for business women to mishandl_ood as men do, or to build such houses. It is all so—unreasonable: to mak_eople eat what is not good, or live in dark, cramped little rooms."
"You don't think they show much sense in their own clothes?" I offered, mischievously.
"No, they don't. But that is women as they are, the kind of women you men hav_een so long manufacturing. I'm speaking of real ones, the kind that are ther_nderneath, and sure to come out as soon as they have a chance. And what _lorious time they will have—cleaning up the world! I'd almost like to sta_nd help a little."
Gradually it had dawned upon me that Ellador did not mean to stay, even i_merica. I wanted to be sure.
"Like to stay ? Do you mean that you want to go back—for good ?"
"It is not absolutely clear to me yet," she answered. "But one thing I'_ertain about. If I live here I will not have a child."
I thought for a moment that she meant the distress about her would have som_eleterious effect and prevent it; but when I looked at her, saw the folde_rms, the steady mouth, the fixed determination in her eyes, I knew that sh_eant "will not" when she said it.
"It would not be right," she added, simply. "There is no place in all you_orld, that I have seen or read of, where I should be willing to raise _hild."
"We could go to some lovely place alone," I urged; "some island, clean an_eautiful——"
"But we should be 'alone' there. That is no place for a child."
"You could teach it — as they do in Herland," I still urged. "I teach it ? I ?
What am I, to teach a child?"
"You would be its mother," I answered.
"And what is a mother to teach a solitary little outcast thing as you suggest?
Children need the teaching of many women, and the society of many children, for right growth. Also, they need a social environment—not an island!"
"You see, dear," she went on, after a little, "in Herland everything teaches.
The child sees love and order and peace and comfort and wisdom everywhere. N_hild, alone, could grow up so—so richly endowed. And as to these countries _ave seen—these cities of abomination—I would die childless rather than t_ear a child in this world of yours."
In Herland to say "I would die childless" is somewhat equivalent to our saying
"I would suffer eternal damnation." It is the worst deprivation they can thin_f.
"You are going to leave me!" I cried. It burst upon me with sudden bitterness.
She was not "mine," she was a woman of Herland, and her heavenly country, he_till clear hope of motherhood, were more to her than life in our land wit_e. What had I to offer her that was comparable to that upland paradise?
She came to me, then, and took me in her arms—strong, tender, loving arms— an_ave me one of her rare kisses.
"I'm going to stay with you, my husband, as long as I live—if you want me. I_here anything to prevent your coming back to Herland?"
As a matter of fact, there was really nothing to prevent it, nothing I migh_eave behind which would cost me the pain her exile was costing her; an_specially nothing which could compensate for losing my wife.
We began to discuss it, with eager interest. "I don't mean to forsake thi_oor world," she assured me. "We can come back again—later, much later. M_ind is full of great things that can be done here, and I want to get all th_isdom of Herland at work to help. But let us go back now, while we are young, and before this black, stupid confusion has—has hurt me any worse. Perhaps i_s no harm, that I have suffered so. Perhaps our child will have a heart tha_ches for all the world — and will do more than any of us to help it.
Especially if it is—a Boy."
"Do you want a boy, darling?"
"Oh, do I not! Just think—none of us, ever, in these two thousand years, ha_ad one. If we, in Herland, can begin a new kind of men!" …
"What do you want of them?" I said, teasingly. "Surely you women alone hav_ccomplished all that the world needs, haven't you?"
"Indeed, no, Van. We haven't begun. Ours is only a—a sample: a little bit of _ocal exhibit. If what we have done is the right thing, then it becomes ou_learest duty to spread it to all the world. Such a new life as you hav_pened to us, Van, you Splendid Man!"
"Splendid Man! Splendid! I thought you thought we were to blame for all th_isery in the world? Just look at the harm we've done!"
"Just look at the good you've done, too! Why, my darling, the harm you hav_one is merely the result of your misunderstanding and misuse of Sex; and th_ood you have done is the result of the humanness of you, the big, nobl_umanness that has grown and grown, that has built and lifted and taught th_orld in spite of all the dragging evil. Why, dear, when I see the courage, the perseverance, the persistent growth you men have shown, cumbered as yo_ave been from the beginning by the fruits of your mistakes, it seems as i_ou were almost more than human?"
I was rather stunned by this. No man who had seen Herland and then come bac_o our tangled foolishness, waste and pain, could be proud of his manmad_orld. No man who had solidly grasped the biological facts as to the initia_se of his sex, and his incredible misuse of it, could help the further sham_or the anomalous position of the human male, completely mistaken, an_roducing a constant train of evils.
I could see it all plainly enough. And now, to have her talk like this!
"Remember, dear, that men never meant to do it, or any part of it," sh_enderly explained. "The trouble evidently began when nobody knew much; i_ecame an ironclad 'custom' even before religion took it up, and law.
Remember, too, that the women haven't died— they are here yet, in equa_umbers. Also, even the unjust restrictions have saved them from a great dea_f suffering which the men met. And then nothing could rob them of thei_nheritance. Every step the men really made upward lifted the women, too. An_on't forget Love, ever. That has lived and triumphed even through all th_ust and slavery and shame."
I felt comforted, relieved.
"Besides," she went on, "you men ought to feel proud of the real world wor_ou have done, even crippled as you were by your own excessive sex, and b_hose poor, dragging dead-weights of women you had manufactured. In spite o_t all, you have invented and discovered and built and adorned the world. Yo_ave things as far along as we have, even some things better, and man_ciences and crafts we know nothing about. And you've done it alone—just men!
In spite of all the kindness and honest recognition she showed, I could no_elp a feeling of inner resentment at this tone. Of course, we three men ha_een constantly impressed with all that they had done in Herland—just women, alone— but that she thought it equally wonderful for men to do it was no_holly gratifying.
She went on serenely.
"We had such advantages, you see. Being women, we had all the constructive an_rganizing tendencies of motherhood to urge us on and, having no men, w_issed all that greediness and quarreling your history is so sadly full of.
Also, being isolated, we could just grow—like a sequoia in a sheltere_ountain glade.
"But you men, in this mixed, big world of yours, in horrid confusion of min_nd long ignorance, with all those awful religions to mix you up and hold yo_ack, and with so little real Happiness—still, you have built the world ! Van, dear, it shows how much stronger humanity is than sex, even in men. All that _ave had to learn, you see, for we make no distinction at home—women ar_eople, and people are women. "At first I thought of men just as males—_erlander would, you know. Now I know that men are people, too, just as muc_s women art; and it is as one person to another that I feel this big love fo_ou, Van. You are so nice to live with. You are such good company. I never ge_ired of you. I like to play with you, and to work with you. I admire an_njoy the way you do things. And when we sit down quietly, near together—i_akes me so happy, Van!"
* * * * * * * *
There were still a few big rubies in that once fat little bag she so wisel_rought with her. We made careful plans, which included my taking a set o_horough lessons in aviation and mechanics; there must be no accidents on thi_rip. By a previous steamer we sent the well-fitted motorboat that shoul_arry us and our dissembled aeroplane up that long river.
Of baggage, little could be carried, and that little, on Ellador's part, consisted largely of her mass of notes, all most carefully compressed, an_one on the finest and lightest paper. She also urged that we take with us th_ightest and newest of encyclopaedias. "We can leave it in the boat, i_ecessary, and make a separate trip," she suggested. Also photographs sh_ook, and a moving picture outfit with well-selected films. "We can make them, I'm sure," she said; "but this one will do to illustrate." It did.
After all, her requirements did not weigh more than the third passenger who_e might have carried.
The river trip was a growing joy; day after day of swift gliding through thos_ark, drooping forests and wide, reedy flats; and when at last we shot ou_pon the shining silver of that hidden lake, and she saw above her the height_f Herland — my calm goddess trembled and cried, stretching her arms to i_ike a child to its mother.
But we set swiftly to work on our aeroplane, putting it all soundly togethe_nd fastening in the baggage, and then sealed up the tight sheathed boat lik_ trim cocoon.
Then the purr of our propeller, the long, skating slide on the water, and up— and up—in a widening spiral, Ellador breathless, holding fast to the supports, till we topped the rocky rim, rose above the forest, her forest — and saile_ut over the serene expanse of that fair land. "O, let's look," she begged;
"let's look at the whole of it first—it's the whole of it that I love!" So w_wept in a great circle above, as one might sweep over Holland: the gree_ields, blossoming gardens, and dark woods, spread like a model of heave_elow us, and the cities, the villages—how well I remembered them, in thei_cattered loveliness, rich in color, beautiful in design, everywhere fringe_nd shaded by dean trees, lit and cheered by bright water, radiant wit_lowers.
She leaned forward like a young mother over her sleeping child, tender, proud, gloating.
"No smoke!" she murmured; "no brutal noise, no wickedness, no disease. Almos_o accidents or sickness—almost none." (This in a whisper, as if she wer_pologizing for some faint blemish on the child.)
"Beauty!" she breathed. "Beauty! Beauty!—everywhere. Oh, I had forgotten ho_eautiful it was'"
So had I. When I first saw it I was still too accustomed to our commo_gliness to really appreciate this loveliness.
When we had swung back to the town where we had lived most, and made ou_mooth descent in a daisied meadow, there were many to meet us, with my Well- remembered Somel, and, first and most eager, Jeff and Celis, with their baby.
Ellador seized upon it as eagerly as her gentle tenderness would allow, wit_everent kisses for the little hands, the rosy feet. She caught Celis to he_rms and held her close. She even kissed Jeff, which he apparently liked, an_obody else minded. And then—well, if you live in a country of about thre_illion inhabitants, and love them all; if you have been an envo_xtraordinary—very extraordinary, indeed — to a far-off, unknown world, an_ave come back unexpectedly—why, your hands are pretty full for a while.
* * * * * * * *
We settled back into the smooth-running Herland life without a ripple. N_rouble about housing; they had always a certain percentage of vacancies, t_llow for freedom of movement. No trouble about clothes; those perfec_arments were to be had everywhere, always lovely and suitable. No troubl_bout food; that smooth, well-adjusted food supply was available wherever w_ent.
No appeals for deserving charity—no need of them. Nothing to annoy an_epress, everything to give comfort and strength; and under all, mor_erceptible to me now than before, that vast, steady, onmoving current o_efinite purpose, planning and working to make good better and better best.
The "atmosphere" in the world behind us is that of a thousand mixed currents, pushing and pulling in every direction, controverting and opposing on_nother.
Here was peace—and power, with accomplishment.
Eagerly she returned to her people. With passionate enthusiasm she poured out, in wide tours of lecturing, and in print, her report of world conditions. Sh_aw it taken up, studied, discussed by those great-minded over-mothers of th_and. She saw the young women, earnest eyed, of boundless hope and hig_urpose, planning, as eager missionaries plan, what they could do to spread t_ll the world their proven gains. Reprints of that encyclopaedia wer_cattered to every corner of the land, and read swiftly, eagerly, to crowdin_roups of listeners. There began to stir in Herland a new spirit, pushing, seeking, a new sense of responsibility, a larger duty.
"It is not enough," they said, "that we should be so happy. Here is the whol_ound world—millions and hundreds of millions of people—and all their babies!
Not in a thousand years will we rest, till the world is happy!"
And to this end they began to plan, slowly, wisely, calmly, making no haste; sure, above all, that they must preserve their own integrity and peace if the_ere to help others.
* * * * * * * *
When Ellador had done her utmost, given all that she had gathered and seen th_reat work growing, she turned to me with a long, happy sigh.
"Let's go to the forest," she said. And we went.
We went to the rock where I had first landed and she showed me where thre_aughing girls had been hidden. We went to the tree where they had slippe_way like quicksilver. We went to a far-off, quiet place she knew, a place o_uge trees, heavy with good fruit, of smooth, mossy banks, of quiet pools an_inkling fountains. Here, unexpected, was a little forester house, still an_lean, with tall flowers looking in at the windows.
"I used to love this best of all," she said. "Look—you can see both ways."
It was on a high knoll and, through the great boughs, a long vista opened to _right sunlight in the fields below.
The other side was a surprise. The land dropped suddenly, fell to a rock_rink and ended. Dark and mysterious, far beyond, in a horizon-sweeping gloo_f crowding jungle, lay—the world.
"I always wanted to see—to know—to help," she said. "Dear—you have brought m_o much! Not only love, but the great new spread of life—of work to do for al_umanity.
"And then—the other new Hope, too, —perhaps—perhaps—a son !"