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- Their Yesterdays - 30/34 -
somewhat more fully to that work than she had ever done before. She left for herself less time for the dreams of her womanhood--less time for waiting beside that old, old, door beyond which lay the life that she desired with all the strength of her woman heart.
And that world in which she labored--that life to which she now gave herself more and more--rewarded her more and more abundantly. Because she was strong in body with skillful hands and quick brain; because she was superior in these things to many who labored beside her; she received a larger reward than they. For the richness, the fullness, of her womanhood, she received nothing. From love, the only thing that can make that which a woman receives fully acceptable to her, she received nothing.
There were many who, now, congratulated the woman upon what they called her success. And some, who knew the measure of the reward she received from the world that set a price upon the things of her womanhood, envied her; wishing themselves as fortunate as she. She was even pointed out and spoken of triumphantly, by certain modern, down-to-date, ones, as an example of the successful woman of the age. Her success--as it was called--was cited as a triumphant argument for the right of women to sell their womanhood for a price: to put their strength of mind and flesh and blood, their physical and intellectual vigor, their vitality and life, upon a market that cannot recognize their womanhood; even though by so doing they rob the race of the only contribution they can make that will add to its perfection.
Really, if the customs and necessities of this age of "down-to-date-ism" are to take the world's mothers, then it would seem that this age of "down-to-date-ism" should find, for the perpetuation and perfection of the race, a substitute for women. The age should evolve a better way, a more modern method, than the old-fashioned way that has been in vogue so long. For, just as surely as the laws of life are beyond our power to repeal, so surely will the operation of the laws of life not change to accommodate our newest thinking and the race, by spending its best woman strength in work that cannot recognize womanhood, will bequeath to the ages to come an ever lowering standard of human life.
The woman felt this--she felt that she could most truly serve the race by being true to the dreams of her womanhood. She felt that the work she was doing was not her real work but a makeshift to be undertaken under protest and discarded without regret when her opportunity to enter upon the real work of her life should present itself. But still, even while feeling this, gradually there had come to be, for her, an amount of satisfaction in knowing that she was succeeding in that which she had set her hand to do. In the increasing reward she received, in the advanced position she occupied, in the deference that was shown her, in the authority that was given her, in the larger interests that were intrusted to her, and even in the attitude of those who held her to be a convincing example of the newest womanhood, there was coming to be a kind of satisfaction.
Then came that day when the woman expressed a little of this satisfaction to the man who had always understood and who had been always so kind. In this, too, the woman felt that he understood.
The man had not sought to take advantage of the intimacy she had granted him in those trying days when Death had come into her life. He had never failed in being kind and considerate in the thousand little things of the work that brought them together and that gave her opportunity to learn his goodness and the genuine worth of his manhood. Nor had he failed to make her understand that still he hoped for the time when she would go with him into the life beyond the old, old, door. But that day, when she made known to him, a little, her growing satisfaction in that which the world called her success, she saw that he was hurt. For the first time he seemed to be troubled and afraid for her.
Very gravely lie looked down into her eyes. Very gravely he congratulated her. And then, quietly and convincingly, with words of authority, he pointed out to her the possible heights she might reach--would reach--if she continued. He told her of the place that she, if she chose, might gain. He spoke of the reward that would be hers. And, as he talked to her of these things, he saw the light of interest and anticipation kindling in her eyes. Sadly he saw it. Then, pausing--hesitating--he asked her slowly: "Do you really think that it is, after all, worth while? For _you_, I mean, do you think that it would be a satisfying success?" He did not wish to interfere with her career, he said--and smiled a little at the word. He would even help her if--if--she was sure that such a career would bring her the real happiness he so much wanted her to have.
And the woman, as the man looked into her eyes and as she saw the trouble in his thoughtful face and listened to his gravely spoken words, felt ashamed. Remembering, again, the dreams of her womanhood, she was ashamed. From that day, the woman was haunted by the thought of Failure.
Why, she asked herself, why could she not open the door of her heart to this man who had been so good to her--so true to her and to himself? If he had taken advantage in any way, if he had sought to use his power, she would not have cared so much. But because she knew him so well; because she had seen his splendid character, his fine manhood, his kindness of heart, and his strength; because of the dreams of her womanhood; she had tried to open the door and bid him take possession of her heart that was as an empty room furnished and ready. But she could not. She seemed to have lost the key. Why--why--could she not give this man what he asked? Why could she not go with him into the life of her dreams? What was it that held her back? What was it that held shut the door of her womanhood against him? Could it be that, after all, she was fit only for the career upon which she was already entered? Could it be that she was not worthy to enter into the life her womanhood craved--the life for which she had longed with such passionate longing--the life she had desired with such holy desire? Could it be that she was unworthy of her womanhood?
Bitterly this woman, who knew herself to be a woman, who had dreamed the dreams of womanhood, and who was pointed out as a successful woman--bitterly she felt that she had failed.
She knew that her failure could not be because she had squandered the wealth of her womanhood. Very carefully had she kept the treasures of her womanhood for the coming of that one for whom she waited--knowing not who he was but only that she would know him when he came. Might it be that he _had_ come and she did not know him? Might it be that the heart of her womanhood did not know? If this was so then, indeed, Life itself is but an accident and must trust to blind chance the fulfillment of its most sacred mission--the perpetuation and perfection of itself.
That the Creator should give laws for the right mating of all his creatures except man--leaving men and women, alone, with no guide to lead them aright in this relationship that is most vital to the species--is unthinkable. Deeply implanted in the hearts of men and women there is, also, an instinct; an instinct that is superior to the dictates of the social, financial, or ecclesiastical will. And it is this natural instinct of mate selection that should govern the marriages of human kind as truly as it marries the birds of the fields and the wild things that mate in the forests.
The woman knew, instinctively, that she should not give herself to this man. She felt in her heart that to do so would make her kin to her sisters in the unnamable profession. The church would sanction, the state would legalize, and society would accept such a union--does accept such unions--but only the divine laws of Life, given for the protection of Life, can ever make a man and a woman husband and wife. The laws that govern the right mating of human kind are not enacted by organizations either social, political, or religious, but are written in the hearts of those who would, in mating, fulfill the purpose of Life. These laws may be broken by man but they cannot by him be repealed; and the penalty that is imposed for their violation is very evident to all who have eyes to see and who observe with understanding.
The woman knew, also, that, in respect and honor and gratitude to this man, she dared not do this thing against which the instinct of her heart protested. But still she asked herself: "Why? Why was the door shut against him? Why was it not in her power to do that which she so longed to do?"
And still, the thought of Failure haunted her.
And so it was, that, in asking, "why"--in seeking the reason of her failure, the woman was led back even to the years of her childhood. Back into her Yesterdays she went in search of the key that kept fast locked the door of her heart against the man whom she would have so gladly admitted. And, all the way back, as she retraced the steps of her years, she looked for one who might have the key. But she found no one. And in her Yesterdays she found only a boy who had entered her heart when it was the heart of a little girl.
That the boy of her Yesterdays lived still in the heart of the woman, she knew. But surely--surely--the boy was not strong enough to hold her woman heart against the man who sought admittance. The boy could not hold the door against the man and against the woman herself. Those vows, made so solemnly under the cherry tree, were but childish vows. It was but a play wedding, after all. And the kiss that had sealed the vows--the kiss that was so different from other kisses--it was but a childish kiss ... In the long years that had come between that boy and girl the vows and the kiss had become but memories--even as the games they played--even as her keeping house and her family of dolls. That child wedding belonged only to the Yesterdays.
The woman was haunted by the thought of Failure.
The world said that he was a young man to have achieved so notable a Success. And he was. But years have, really, little to do with a man's age. It is the use that a man makes of his years that ages him or keeps him young.
This man knew that he was a man. He knew that manhood is not a matter of years. And, knowing this, he had dreamed a man's dream. In the world he had found something to do--a man's work--and from his Occupation he had gained Knowledge. He had learned the value of Ignorance and, behind the things that men have hung upon and piled about it, he had come to recognize Religion. He knew both the dangers and the blessings of Tradition. He had gained the heights that are fortified by Temptation and from those levels so far above the lowlands had looked out upon Life. Death he knew as a fact and through Failure he had passed as through a smelting furnace. It is these things, I say, that count for more in life than years. So, although he was still young, the man was ready for Success. He was in the fullness of his manhood strength. The tide of Life, for him, was just reaching
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