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- Their Yesterdays - 20/34 -
patience, old world--patience--down-to-date-ism may, in time, accomplish even this.
In those old, old, times, too, it was the fashion for men and women to mate in love. In love, they planned and builded their homes. In love, they brought forth children and reared them, with queer, old-fashioned notions about marriage, to serve the race. In those times, now so sadly old and out-of-date, men planned and labored for homes and children and women were home makers and mothers. But the world is now far from those ancient ways and out-of-date ideals. Marriage has little to do with home making these modern days. It has almost nothing to do with children. We have, in our down-to-date-ism, come to be a nation of childless wives and homeless husbands. We are dwellers in flats, apartments, hotels, where children would be in the way but dogs are welcome if only they be useless dogs. We live in houses that are always for sale or rent. It is our proud boast that we possess nothing that is not on the market for a price. The thought of selling a home is not painful for we do not know, the value of a home. We have, for convenience, to gratify our modern, down-to-date, ever changing tastes, popularized the divorce court as though a husband or wife of more than three seasons is old-fashioned and should be discarded for one of a newer pattern, more in harmony with our modern ideals of marriage.
From the down-to-date--the all-the-way-down-to-date woman, I mean--one gains new and modern ideas of the service that womankind is to render to the race. Almost it is as though God did not know what he was about when he made woman. To place a home above a club; a nursery above the public platform; a fireside above politics; the prattle of children above newspaper notoriety; the love of boys and girls above the excitement of social conquest; the work of bearing strong men and true women for the glory of the race above the near intellectual pursuits and the attainments of a shallow thinking; all this is to be sadly old-fashioned. All this is so behind-the-times that one must confess such shocking taste with all humiliation.
I hereby beg pardon of the down-to-date powers that be, and most humbly pray that they will graciously forgive my boorishness. I assure you that, after all, I am not so benighted that I do not realize how seriously babies would interfere in the affairs of those down-to-date women who are elevating the race. By all means let the race be elevated though it perish, childless, in the process. Very soon, now, womanhood itself will be out-of-date for the world, in this also, seems to be evolving something new.
So the woman, who knew herself to be a woman, most of all, was tired of things new and longed, deep in her heart, for the old, old, things that were built into the very foundation of the race and that no amount of gilding and trimming and ornamenting can ever cover up or hide; and no amount of disregarding or ignoring can do away with; lest indeed the race perish from the earth.
"And when do you take your vacation?" asked a fellow worker as they were leaving the building after the day's work.
"Not until the last of the month," returned the woman wearily. "And you?"
"Me, oh, I must go Monday! And it's such a shame! I've just received a charming invitation for two weeks later but no one cares to exchange time with me. No one, you see, can go on such short notice. I don't suppose that you--" she paused suggestively.
"I will exchange time with you," said the woman simply.
"Will you really? Now, that _is_ clever of you! Are you _sure_ that you don't mind?"
"Indeed, I will be glad to get away earlier."
"But can you get ready to go so soon?"
The woman smiled. "I shall do very little getting ready."
The other looked at her musingly. "No, I suppose not, you are so queer that way. Seems to me I can't find time enough to make new things. One just _must_ keep up, you know."
"It is settled then?" asked the woman, at the corner where they parted.
"It will be so good of you," murmured the other.
The woman had many invitations to spend her brief vacation with friends, but, that night, she wrote a letter to the people who lived in her old home and asked if they would take her for two weeks, requesting that they telegraph their answer. When the message came, she wired them to meet her and went by the first train.
At the old home station, her train took a siding at the upper end of the yards to let the outgoing express pass. From the window where she sat the woman saw a tall man, dressed in a business suit of quiet gray, standing on the rear platform of the slowly moving outbound train and waving his hand to someone on the depot platform. Just a glimpse she had of him before he passed from sight as her own train moved ahead to stop at the depot where she was greeted by her host. Not until they were driving toward her old home did the woman know who it was that she had seen.
The woman was interested in all that the people had to tell about her old playmate and asked not a few questions but she was glad that he had not known of her coming. She was glad that he was gone. The man and the woman were strangers and the woman did not wish to meet a stranger. The boy lived, for her, only in her Yesterdays and the woman told herself that she was glad because she feared that the man, if she met him, would rob her of the boy. She feared that he would be like so many that she had been forced to know in the world that denied her womanhood. She had determined to be for two weeks, as far as it is possible for a woman to be, just a girl again and she wanted no company other than the little boy who lived only in the long ago.
As soon as supper was over she retired to her room--to the little room that had been hers in her childhood--where, before lighting the lamp, she sat for awhile at the open window looking out into the night, breathing long and deep of the pure air that was sweetly perfumed with the odor of the meadows and fields. In the brooding quiet; in the soft night sounds; in the fragrant breeze that gently touched her hair; she felt the old, old, forces of life calling to her womanhood and felt her womanhood stir in answer. For a long time she sat there giving free rein to the thoughts and longings that, in her city life, she was forced to suppress.
Rising at last, as though with quick resolution, she lighted her lamp and prepared for bed; loosening her hair and deftly arranging the beautiful, shining, mass that fell over her shoulders in a long braid. Then, smiling as she would have smiled at the play of a child, she knelt before her trunk and, taking something from its depth, quickly put out the light again and once more seated herself in a low rocking chair by the open window.
Had there been any one to see, they would not have understood. Who is there, indeed, to understand the heart of womanhood? The woman, sitting in the dark before the window in that room so full of the memories of her childhood, held close in her arms an ancient doll whose face had been washed so many times by its little mother that it was but a smudge of paint.
That night the woman slept as a child sleeps after a long, busy, happy, childhood day--slept to open her eyes in the morning while the birds in the trees outside her window were heralding the coming of the sun. Rising she looked and saw the sky glorious with the light of dawning day. Flaming streamers of purple and scarlet and silver floated high over the buildings and trees next door. The last of the pale stars sank into the ocean of blue and, from behind the old orchard above the house where the boy lived, long shafts of golden light shot up as if aimed by some heavenly archer hiding behind the hill.
When the day was fully come, the woman quickly dressed and went out into the yard. The grass was dew drenched and fragrant under her feet. The flowers were fresh and inviting. But she did not pause until, out in the garden, at the farther corner, close by the hedge, she stood under the cherry tree--sacred cathedral of her Yesterdays.
When she turned again to go back to the house, the woman's face was shining with the light that glows only in the faces of those women who know that they are women and who dream the dreams of womanhood.
So the woman spent her days. Down in the little valley by the brook, that, as it ran over the pebbly bars, drifted in the flickering light and shade of the willows, slipped between the green banks, or crept softly beneath the grassy arch, sang its song of the Yesterdays: up in the orchard beyond the neighboring house where so many, many, times she had helped the boy play out his dreams; on the porch, in the soft twilight, watching the stars as they blossomed above while up from the dusky shadows in the valley below came the call of the whip-poor-will and the bats on silent wings flitted to and fro; out in the garden under the cherry tree in the corner near the hedge--in all the loved haunts of the boy and girl--she spent her days.
And the tired look went out of her eyes. Strength returned to her weary body, courage to her heart, and calmness to her over-wrought nerves. Amid those scenes of her Yesterdays she was made ready to go back to the world that values so highly things that are new, and, in the strength of the old, old, things to keep the dreams of her womanhood. And, as she went, there was that in her face that all men love to see in the face of womankind.
Poor old world! Someday, perhaps, it will awake from its feverish dream to find that God made some things in the heart of the race too big to be outgrown.
The heights of Life are fortified. They are guarded by narrow passes where the world must go single file and where, if one slip from the trail, he falls into chasms of awful depths; by cliffs of apparent impassable abruptness which, if in scaling, one lose his head he is lost; and by false trails that seem to promise easy going but lead in the wrong direction. Not in careless ease are those higher levels gained. The upward climb is one of strenuous effort, of desperate struggle, of hazardous risk. Only those who prove themselves fit may gain the top.
Somewhere in the life of every man there is a testing time. There is a trial to prove of what metal he is made. There is a point which, won
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