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| Chapter 2
FOR a long time my wife from Wonderland, as I love to call her, used to the utmost the high self-restraint taught by her religion, her education, the whole habit of her life. She knew that I should be grieved by her distresses, that I expected the new experiences would be painful to her and was watching to give what aid and comfort I could; and further she credited me with, a racial sensitiveness and pride far beyond the facts.
Here again was one of the differences between her exquisitely organized people and ours. With them the majority of their interests in life were communal; their love and pride and ambition was almost wholly for the group, even motherhood itself was viewed as social service, and so fulfilled. They were all of them intimately acquainted with their whole history, that was part of their beautiful and easy educational system; with their whole country, and with all its industries.
The children of Herland were taken to all parts of the country, shown all its arts and crafts, taught to honor its achievements and to appreciate its needs and difficulties. They grew up with a deep and vital social consciousness which not one in a thousand of us could approach.
This kind of thing does not show; we could not see it externally, any more than one could see a good housewife's intimate acquaintance with and pride in the last detail of her menage. Further, as our comments on their country had been almost wholly complimentary (they had not heard Terry's!), we had not hurt this national pride; or if we had they had never let us see it.
Now here was Ellador, daring traveler, leaving her world for mine, and finding herself, not as we three had been, exiled into a wisely ordered, peaceful and beautiful place, with the mothering care of that group of enlightened women; but as one alone in a world of which her first glimpse was of hideous war. As one who had never in her life seen worse evil than misunderstanding, or accident, and not much of these; one to whom universal comfort and beauty was the race habit of a thousand years, the sight of Europe in its present condition was far more of a shock than even I had supposed.
She thought that I felt as she did. I did feel badly, and ashamed, but not a thousandth part as she would have felt the exposure of some fault in Herland; not nearly as badly as she supposed.
I was constantly learning from her to notice things among us which I had never seen before, and one of the most conspicuous of my new impressions was the realization of how slightly socialized we are. We are quite indifferent to public evils, for the most part, unless they touch us personally; which is as though the housewife was quite indifferent to having grease on the chairs unless she happened to spoil her own dress with it. Even our "reformers" seem more like such a housewife who should show great excitement over the greasy chairs, but none over the dusty floor, the grimy windows, the empty coal-bin, the bad butter, or the lack of soap. Special evils rouse us, some of us, but as for a clean, sanitary, effortless housekeeping — we have not come to want it — most of us.
But Ellador, lovely, considerate soul that she was, had not only the incessant shock of these new impressions to meet and bear, but was doing her noble best to spare my feelings by not showing hers. She could not bear to blame my sex, to blame my country, or at least my civilization, my world; she did not wish to cast reproach on me.
I was ashamed, to a considerable degree. If a man has been living in the pleasant atmosphere of perfect housekeeping, such as I have mentioned, and is then precipitated suddenly into foul slovenliness, with noise, confusion and ill-will, he feels it more than if he had remained in such surroundings from the first.
It was the ill-will that counted most. Here again comes the psychic difference between the women of Herland and us. People who grow up amid slang, profanity, obscenity, harsh contradiction and quarrelling, do not particularly note or mind it. But one reared in an atmosphere of the most subtle understanding, gracious courtesy, and a loving use of language as an art, is very sharply impressed if someone says: "Hold yer jaw, yer son of a —!," or even by a glowering roomful of silent haters.
That's what was heavy on Ellador all the time, — the atmosphere, the social atmosphere of suspicion, distrust, hatred, of ruthless self-aggrandizement and harsh scorn.
There was a German officer on this ship. He tried to talk to Ellador at first, merely because she was a woman and beautiful. She tried to talk to him, merely because he was a human being a member of a great nation.
But I, watching, saw how soon the clear light of her mind brought out the salient characteristics -of his, and of how, in spite of all her exalted philosophy, she turned shuddering away from him.
We were overhauled by an English vessel before reaching our destination in Sweden, and all three of us were glad to be transferred because we could so reach home sooner. At least that was what we thought. The German officer was not glad, I might add.
Ellador hailed the change with joy. She knew more about England than about the Scandinavian countries, and could speak the language. I think she thought it would be — easier there.
We were unable to get away as soon as we expected. Terry indeed determined to enlist, or to join the service in some way, and they were glad to use him and his aeroplane. This was not to be wondered at. If Terry had the defects of his qualities he also had the qualities of his defects, and he did good work for the Allies.
Ellador, rather unexpectedly asked to stay awhile: "It is hard," she said, "but we may not come again perhaps, and I want to learn all I can."
So we stayed and Ellador learned. It did not take her long. She was a rapid reader, and soon found the right books. She was a marvellous listener, and many were glad to talk to her, and to show her things.
We investigated in London, Manchester, Birmingham; were entertained in beautiful country places; went motoring up into Scotland and in Ireland; visited Wales, and then, to my great surprise, she urged that we go to France.
"I want to see, to know," she said. "To really know ."
I was worried about her. She had a hard-set fixity of expression. Her unfailing gentleness was too firm of surface, and she talked less and less with me about social conditions.
We went to France.
She visited hospitals, looking at those broken men, those maimed and blinded boys, and grew paler and harder daily. Day by day she gathered in the new language, till soon she could talk with the people.
Then we ran across Terry, scouting about with his machine; and Ellador asked to be taken up — she wanted to see a battlefield. I tried to dissuade her from this, fearing for her. Even her splendid health seemed shaken by all she had witnessed. But she said: "It is my duty to see and know all I can. This is not, they tell me — exceptional? This — war?"
"Not at all," said Terry. "It's only bigger than usual, as most things are now. Why, in all our history there have only been about three hundred years without war."
She looked at him, her eyes widening, darkening. "When was that?" she said. "After Jesus came?"
Terry laughed. "Oh no," he said. "It wasn't any one time. It's three hundred years here and there, scattering. So you see war is really the normal condition of human life."
"So," she said. "Then I ought to see it. Take me up, please."
He didn't want to; said it was dangerous; but it was very hard to say no to Ellador, and she had her way. She saw the battle lines of trenches. She saw the dead men; she saw and heard the men not dead, where there had been recent fighting. She saw the ruins, ruins everywhere.
That night she was like a woman of marble, cold, dumb, sitting still by the window where she could rest her eyes on the far stars. She treated me with a great poignant tenderness, as one would treat a beloved friend whose whole family had become lepers.
We went back to England, and she spent the last weeks of our stay there finding out all she could about Belgium.
That was the breaking point. She locked the door of her room, but I heard her sobbing her heart out — Ellador, who had never in all her splendid young life had an experience of pain, and whose consciousness was mainly social. We feel these horrors as happening to other people; she felt them as happening to herself.
I broke the lock — I had to get to her. She would not speak, would not look at me, but buried her face in the pillow, shuddering away from me as if I, too, were a German. The great sobs tore her. It was, I suddenly felt, not like the facile tears of an ordinary woman, but like the utter breakdown of a strong man. And she was ashamed of it.
Then I had enough enlightenment to see some little relief for her, not from the weight of horrible new knowledge, but from the added burden of her self-restraint.
I knelt beside her and got her into my arms, her head hidden on my shoulder. "Dear," said I, "Dear — I can't help the horror, but at least I can help you bear it — and you can let me try. You see you're all alone here — I'm all you've got. You'll have to let it out somehow — just say it all to me."
She held me very close then, with a tense, frightened grip. "I want — I want — my Mother!" she sobbed.
Ellador's mother was one of those wise women who sat in the Temples, and gave comfort and counsel when needed. They loved each other more than I, not seeing them always together, had understood. Yet her mother had counseled her going, had urged it, for the sake of their laud and its future.
"Mother! Mother! Mother!" she sobbed under her breath. "Oh — Mother! Help me bear it!"
There was no Mother and no Temple, only one man who loved her, and in that she seemed to find a little ease, and slowly grew quieter.
"There is one thing we know more about than you do," I suggested. "That is how to manage pain. You mustn't keep it to yourself — you must let it out — let the others help bear it. That's good psychology, dear."
"It seems so — unkind," she murmured.
"Oh, no, it's not unkind; it's just necessary. 'Bear ye one another's burdens,' you know. Also we have a nice proverb about marriage. 'It makes joy double and halveth trouble.' Just pile it on me, dearest — that's what a husband is for."
"But how can I say to you the things I feel? It seems so rude, so to reflect on your people — your civilization."
"I think you underrate two things," I suggested. "One is that I'm a human creature, even if male; the other that my visit to Herland, my life with you, has had a deep effect on me. I see the awfulness of war as I never did before, and I can even see a little of how it must affect you. What I want you to do now is to relieve the pressure of feeling which is hurting so, by putting it into words — letting it out. Say it all. Say the very worst. Say — 'This world is not civilized, not human. It is worse than the humble savagery below our mountains.' Let out, dear — I can stand it. And you'll feel better."
She lifted her head and drew a long, shuddering breath.
"I think you are right — there must be some relief. And here are You!" Suddenly she threw her arms around me and held me close, close.
"You do love me — I can feel it! A little — a very little — like mother love! I am so grateful!"
She rested in my arms, till the fierce tempest of pain had passed somewhat, and then we sat down, close together, and she followed my advice, seeking to visualize, to put in words, to fully express, the anguish which was upon her.
"You see," she began slowly, "it is hard for me to do this because I hate to hurt you. You must care so — so horribly."
"Stop right there, dear," I told her. "You overestimate my sensitiveness. What I feel is nothing at all to what you feel — I can see that. Remember that in our race-traditions war is a fine thing, a splendid thing. We have idealized war and the warrior, through all our history. You have read a good deal of our history by now."
She had, I knew, and she nodded her head sadly. "Yes, it's practically all about war," she agreed. "But I didn't — I couldn't visualize it."
She closed her eyes and shrank back, but I went on steadily: "So you see this is not — to us — wholly a horror; it is just more horrible than other wars on account of the infamous behavior of some combatants, and because we really are beginning to be civilized. Now this pain that you see is no greater than the same pain all the way back in history — always. And you are not being miserable about that, surely?"
No, she admitted, she wasn't.
"Very well," I hurried on, "we, the human race, outside of Herland, have been fighting one another for all the ages, and we are here yet; some of these military enthusiasts say because of war — some of the pacifists say in spite of it, and I'm beginning to agree with them. With you, Ellador, through you, and because of you, and because of seeing what human life can be, in your blessed country, I see things as I never did before. I'm growing."
She smiled a little at that, and took my hand again.
"You are the most important ambassador that ever was," I continued. "You are sent from your upland island, your little hidden heaven, to see our poor blind bleeding world and carry news of it to your people. Perhaps that vast storehouse of mother-love can help to set us straight at last. And you can't afford to feel our sorrow — you'd die of it. You must think — and talk it off, remorselessly, to me."
"You Amazing Darling!" she answered at last, drawing a deep breath. "You are right — wholly right. I'm afraid I have — a little — underrated your wisdom. Forgive me!"
I forgave her fast enough, though I knew it was an impossible offence, and she began to free her mind.
"First as to Christianity," she said. "That gave me great hopes — at first. Not the mythology of course, but the spirit; and when that missionary man enlarged on the spread of Christianity and its countless benefits I began to feel that here was a lovely thing it would do us good to know about — something very close to Motherhood."
"Motherhood," always reverently spoken, was the highest, holiest word they knew in Herland.
"But as I've read and talked and studied all these weeks, I do not find that Christianity has done one thing to stop war, or that Christian countries fight any less than heathen ones — rather more. Also they fight among themselves. Christianity has not brought peace on earth — not at all."
"No," I admitted, "it hasn't, but it tries to — ameliorate, to heal and save."
"That seems to me simply — foolish," she answered. "If there is a house on fire, the only true way to check the destruction is to put the fire out. To sit about trying to heal burned skin and repair burned furniture is — foolish."
"Especially when the repaired furniture serves as additional fuel for more fire," I added.
"You see it!" she exclaimed joyfully. "Then why don't you — but, I see — you are only one. You alone cannot change it."
"Oh no, I'm not alone in that," I answered cheerfully. "There are plenty more who see it."
"Then why — " she began, but checked herself, and paused a little, continuing slowly. "What I wish to get off my mind is this spectacle of measureless suffering which human beings are deliberately inflicting on one another. It would be hard enough to bear if the pain was unavoidable — that would be pure horror, and the eager rush to help. But here there is not only horror but a furious scorn — because they do not have to have it at all."
"You're quite right, my dear," I agreed. "But how are you going to make them stop?"
"That's what I have to find out," she answered gravely. "I wish Mother was here — and all the Over-Mothers. They would find a way. There must be a way. And you are right — I must not let myself be overcome by this — "
"Put it this way," I suggested. "Even if three quarters of the world should be killed there would be plenty left to refill, as promptly as would be wise. You remember how quickly your country filled up?"
"Yes," she said. "And I must remember that it is the race-progress that counts, not just being alive."
Then, wringing her hands in sudden bitterness, she added: "But this stops all progress! It is not merely that people are being killed. Half the world might die in an earthquake and not do this harm! It is the Hating I mind more than the killing — the perversion of human faculty. It's not humanity dying — it is humanity going mad!"
She was shivering again, that black horror growing in her eyes.
"Gently dear, gently," I told her. Humanity is a large proposition. You and I have a whole round world to visit — as soon as it is safe to travel. And in the meantime I want to get you to my country as soon as possible. We are not at war. Our people are good-natured and friendly. I think you'll like us."
It was not unnatural for an American, in war-mad Europe, to think of his own land with warm approval, nor for a husband to want his wife to appreciate his people and his country.
"You must tell me more about it," she said eagerly. "I must read more too — study more. I do not do justice to the difference, I am sure. I am judging the world only by Europe. And see here, my darling — do you mind if we see the rest first? I want to know The World as far as I can, and as quickly as I can. I'm sure that if I study first for awhile, in England — they seem so familiar with all the world — that we might then go east instead of west, and see the rest of it before we reach America — leave the best to the last."
Except for the danger of traveling there seemed no great objection to this plan. I would rather have her make her brief tour and then return with me to my own dear country at the end, than to have her uneasy there and planning to push on.
We went back to a quiet place in England, where we could temporarily close our minds to the Horror, and Ellador, with unerring judgment, found an encyclopedic young historian with the teaching gift, and engaged his services for a time.
They had a series of maps — from old blank "terra incognita" ones, with its bounding ocean of ancient times, to the spread of accurate surveying which now gives us the whole surface of the earth. She kissed the place where her little homeland lay hidden — but that was when he was not looking.
The rapid grasp she made at the whole framework of our history would have astonished anyone not acquainted with Her-land brains and Herland methods of education. It did astonish the young historian. She by no means set herself to learn all that he wanted to teach her; on the contrary she continually checked his flow of information, receiving only what she wanted to know.
A very few good books on world evolution — geological, botanical, zoological, and ethnic, gave her the background she needed, and such a marvel of condensation as Winwood Reade's Martydom of Man supplied the outline of history.
Her own clear strong uncrowded and logical mind, with its child-fresh memory, saw, held and related the facts she learned, with no apparent effort. Presently she had a distinct view of what we people have been up to on earth for the few ages of our occupancy. She had her estimate of time taken and of the rate of our increased speed. I had never realized how long, how immeasurably long and slow, were the years "before progress," so to speak, or the value of each great push of new invention. But she got them all clearly in place, and, rigidly refusing to be again agonized by the ceaseless wars, she found eager joy in counting the upward steps of social evolution.
This joy increased as the ages came nearer to our own. She became fascinated with the record of inventions and discoveries and their interrelative effects. Each great religion as it entered, was noted, defined in its special power and weakness, and its consequences observed. She made certain map effects for herself, "washing in" the different areas with various colors, according to the different religions, and lapping them over where they had historically lapped, as for instance, where the "mafiana" of the Spaniard marks the influence following Oriental invasion, and where Buddhism produces such and such effects according to its reception by Hindu, Chinese, or Japanese.
"I could spend a lifetime in these details," she eagerly explained again, "but I'm only after enough to begin on. I must get them placed — so that I can understand what each nation is for, what they have done for one another, and for the world; which of them are going on, and how fast; which of them are stopping — or sinking back — and why. It is profoundly interesting."
Ellador's attitude vaguely nettled me, just a little, in that earlier consciousness I was really outgrowing so fast. She seemed like an enthusiastic young angel "slumming." I resented — a little — this cheerful and relentless classification — just as poor persons resent being treated as "cases."
But I knew she was right after all, and was more than delighted to have her so soon triumph over the terrible influence of the war. She did not, of course, wholly escape or forget it. Who could? But she successfully occupied her mind with other matters.
"It's so funny," she said to me. "Here in all your history books, the whole burden of information is as to who fought who — and when; and who 'reigned' and when — especially when. Why are your historians so morbidly anxious about the exact date?"
"Why it's important, isn't it?" I asked.
"From certain points of view, yes; but not in the least from that of the general student. The doctor wants to know at just what hour the fever rises, or declines; he has to have his 'chart' to study. But the public ought to know how fever is induced and how it is to be avoided. People in general ought to know the whole history of the of the world in general; and what were the most important things that happened. And here the poor things are required to note and remember that this king "came to the throne" at such a date and died at such another — facts of no historic importance whatever. And as to the wars and wars and wars ' — and all these 'decisive battles of history' — " Ellador had the whole story so clearly envisaged now that she could speak of war without cringing — "why that isn't history at all!"
"Surely it's part of history, isn't it?" I urged.
"Not even part of it. Go back to your doctor's 'chart' — his 'history of the case.' That history treats of the inception, development, success or failure of the disease he is treating. To say that 'At four-fifteen p. m. the patient climbed into another patient's bed and bit him,' is no part of that record of tuberculosis or cancer."
"It would be if it proved him delirious, wouldn't it?" I suggested.
Ellador lifted her head from the chart she was filling in, and smiled enchantingly. "Van," she said, "I'm proud of you. That's splendid!
"It would then appear," she pursued, glancing over her papers, "as if the patent had a sort of intermittent fever — from the beginning; hot fits of rage and fury, when he is practically a lunatic, and cold fits, too," she cried eagerly, pursuing the illustration, "cold and weak, when he just lies helpless and cannot do anything."
We agreed that as a figure of speech this was pretty strong and clear, with its inevitable suggestion that we must study the origin of the disease, how to cure, and still better, prevent it.
"But there is a splendid record behind all that," she told me. I can't see that your historians have ever seen it clearly and consecutively. You evidently have not come to the place where all history has to be consciously revised for educational purposes."
"Ours is more complex than yours, isn't it?" I offered. "So many different nations and races, you know?"
But she smiled wisely and shook her head, quoting after her instructor: "And history, with all her volumes vast, hath but one page.'
"They all tell about the same things," she said. "They all do the same things, and not one of them ever sees what really matters most — ever gives 'the history of the case' correctly. I truly think, dear, that we could help you with your history."
She had fully accepted the proposition I made that day when the Horror so overthrew her, and now talked to me as freely as if I were one of her sisters. She talked about men as if I wasn't one, and about the world as if it was no more mine than hers.
There was a strange exaltation, a wonderful companionship, in this. I grew to see life as she saw it, more and more, and it was like rising from some tangled thorny thicket to take a bird's eye view of city and farmland, of continent and ocean. Life itself grew infinitely more interesting. I thought of that benighted drummer's joke, that "Life is just one damn thing after another," so widely accepted as voicing a general opinion. I thought of our pathetic virtues of courage, cheerfulness, patience — all so ridiculously wasted in facing troubles which need not be there at all.
Ellador saw human life as a thing in the making, with human beings as the makers. We have always seemed to regard it as an affliction — or blessing — bestowed upon us by some exterior force. Studying, seeing, understanding, with her, I grew insensibly to adopt her point of view, her scale of measurements, and her eager and limitless interest. So when we did set forth on our round-the-world trip to my home, we were both fairly well equipped for the rapid survey which was all we planned for.