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- Their Yesterdays - 6/34 -
to tell her, the little girl did not know. Almost he was ready to tell her, when--But that belongs to the other part of my story.
About the man in his bare, lonely, room in the great city, the world in its madness raged--struggling, pushing, crowding, jostling, scrambling--a swirling, writhing, mass of life--but the man did not heed. On every side, this life went rushing, roaring, rumbling, thundering, whirring, shrieking, clattering by. But the man noticed the world now no more than it noticed him. In his Yesterdays he had found something to do. He had found the only thing that a man, who knows himself to be a man, can do in truth to his manhood. Again, in his Yesterdays, he was building a house for the little girl who lived next door--the little girl who did not know.
Someday this childish old world will grow weary of its games of war and wealth. Someday it will lose interest in its playthings--banks, and stocks, and markets. Someday it will lose faith in its fairies of fame, its giants of position and power. Then will the disconsolate, forlorn, old world turn to Mother Nature to learn from her that the only Occupation that is of real and lasting worth is the one Occupation in which all of Mother Nature's children have fellowship--the Occupation of home building.
In meadow and forest and field; in garden and grove and hedge and bush; in mountain and plain and desert and sea; in hollow logs; amid swaying branches; in rocky dens and earthy burrows; high among towering cliffs and mighty crags; low in the marsh grass and among reeds and rushes; in stone walls; in fence corners; in tufts of grass and tiny shrubs; among the flowers and swinging vines; everywhere--everywhere--in all this great, round, world, Mother's children all are occupied in home building--occupied in this and nothing more. This is the one thing that Mother's children, in all the ages since the beginning, have found worth doing. One wayward child alone is occupied just now, seemingly, with everything _but_ home building. Man seems to be doing everything these days but the one thing that must be the foundation work of all. But never mind--homebuilding will be the world's work at the last. When all the playthings of childhood and all the childish games of men have failed, homebuilding will endure. Occupation must in the end mean home building or it is meaningless.
And the din, the confusion, the struggle, the turmoil of life--when it all means to men the building of homes and nothing more; when the efforts of men, the ambitions of men, the labor and toil of men are all to make homes for the little girls next door; then, will Mother Nature smile upon her boys and God, I am sure, will smile upon them, too.
The man came back from his Yesterdays with a new heart, with new courage and determination, and the next day he found something to do.
I do not know what it was that the man found to do--_that_ is not my story.
* * * * *
It was nearly the time of falling leaves when the woman, who knew herself to be a woman, knocked at one of those doors, at which she did not wish to knock, and was admitted.
It does not matter which of the doors it was. I cannot tell you what work it was that the woman found to do. What mattered to her--and to the world if only the world would understand--was this: that she was forced by the customs of the age and by necessity to enter a life that her woman heart did not desire. While her dreams were of the life that lies beyond the old, old, door that has stood open since the beginning; while she waited on the threshold and longed to go in; she was forced to turn aside, to seek admittance at one of those other doors. This it is that matters--matters greatly. Perhaps only God who made the woman heart and who Himself set that door open wide--perhaps only God knows how greatly it matters.
Of course, if the woman had not known herself to be a woman, it would have made little difference either to her or to the world.
And the woman when she had joined that great company of women, who, in these modern days labor behind the doors through which they must go alone, found them to be good women--good and brave and true. And most of them, she found, were in that great company of workers just as she was there--just as every woman who knows her womanhood is there--through circumstances, the custom of the age, necessity. The only saving thing about it all is this: their woman hearts are somewhere else.
And the woman found also that, while the door opened readily enough to her knock, she was received without a welcome. Through that other door, the door that God himself has opened, she would have entered into a joyous welcome--she would have been received with gladness, with rejoicing, with holiest love, and highest honor. To her, in the world that lies beyond the old, old, door, would have been rendered homage and reverence second only to that given to God Himself. _There,_ she would have been received as a _woman_ for her _womanhood;_ she would have been given first place among all created things. But the world into which she entered alone did not so receive her. It received her coldly. Its manner said quite plainly: "Why are you here? What do you want?" It said: "There is no sentiment here, no love, no reverence, no homage; there is only business here, only law, only figures and facts."
This world was not unkind to her, but it did not receive her as a woman. It could not. It did not value her _womanhood_. Womanhood has no value there. It valued her clear brain, her physical strength, her skillful hands, her willing feet, her ready wit: but her womanhood it ignored. The most priceless gift of the Creator to his creatures--the one thing without which all human effort would be in vain, no Christian prayer would be possible; the one thing without which mankind would perish from the earth--this world, into which the woman went, rejected. But the things that belonged to her womanhood--the charm of her manner; the beauty of her face and form; the appeal of her sex; the quick intuitions of her soul--all these this world received and upon them put a price. They became not forces to be used by her in wifehood and motherhood but commercial assets, valued in dollars, worth a certain price upon the woman labor market in the business world.
And the woman's heart, because she knew herself to be a woman, rebelled at this buying and selling the things of her womanhood. These things she rightly felt to be above price--far, far, above price. They were the things of her wifehood and motherhood. They were given her to be used by her in love, in mating, in bearing and rearing children, in the giving of life to the world.
The things of a woman's womanhood are as far above price as life itself to which they belong. Even as color and perfume belong to the flowers; even as the music of the birds belongs to the feathery songsters; even as the blue belongs to the sky, and the light to the stars; so these graces of a woman belong to her and to the mission of her womanhood are sacred. They are hers to be used in her holy office of womanhood; by her alone, without price, for the glory and honor of life and the future of the race. So the woman's heart rebelled, but secretly, instinctively, almost unconsciously. Open rebellion would have made it impossible for her to remain in the world into which she entered because of her necessity and the custom of the age.
She found, too, that this world into which she had entered was very courteous, that it was even considerate and kind--as considerate and kind as it was possible to be--for it seemed to understand her position quite as well as she herself understood it. And this world paid her very well for the services she was asked to render. But it asked of her no favors. It accorded her no honors. It sought her with no offering. And, because of this, the woman, in the heart of her womanhood, felt ashamed and humiliated.
It is the right of womanhood to bestow favors. It is a woman's right to be honored above all creatures of earth. Since the beginning of life itself her sex has been so honored--has received the offerings from life. Mankind, alone, has at times attempted to change this law but has never quite succeeded. Mankind never can fully succeed in this because woman holds life itself in her keeping. So the woman felt that her womanhood was humiliated and shamed. But she hid this feeling also, hid it carefully, buried it deeply, because she knew that if she did not it would betray her and she would not be permitted to remain in the world into which necessity forced her. To the woman, it seemed that the world into which she had gone, itself, felt her shame and humiliation. That, in secret, it desired to ask of her; to accord to her honors; to seek her with offerings. But this world could not do these things because it dared not recognize her womanhood. When a woman goes into that world into which she must go alone, she leaves her womanhood behind. Her womanhood is not received there.
But most of all, the thing that troubled the woman was this: the risk she ran in entering into that life behind the door at which she had sought admittance. She saw that there was danger there--grave danger--to her womanhood. In the busy, ceaseless, activity of that life there would be little time for her waiting beside the old, old, door. The exacting demands of her work, or profession, or calling, or business, would leave little leisure for the meditation and reflection that is so large a part of the preparation necessary for entrance into that other world of which she had dreamed. Constant contact with the unemotional facts and figures of that life which sets a market value upon the sacred things of womanhood would make it ever more difficult for her to dream of love. There was grave danger that interest and enthusiasm in other things would supplant her longing for wifehood and motherhood. She feared that in her Occupation she might not know, when he came, that one who was to cross the threshold with her into the life of her dreams--that, indeed, he might come and go again while she was busy with other things. She feared that she would come to accept the commercial valuation of the things that belonged to her womanhood and thus forget their higher, holier, use and that the continued rejection of her womanhood would, in time, lead her to think of it lightly, as incidental rather than supreme. There was real danger that she would lose her desire to be sought, to give, to receive offerings; that she would cease to rebel secretly; that she would no longer feel humiliated at her position. She feared in short this danger--the gravest danger to her womanhood and thus to all that womankind holds in her keeping--that she would come to feel contented, satisfied, and happy, in being a part of the world into which she was forced to go by the custom of the age and by necessity. Because this woman knew herself to be a woman she feared this. If she had not come to know her womanhood she would not have feared it. Neither would it have mattered.
The woman was thinking of these things that Saturday afternoon as she walked homeward from her work. She often walked to her home on Saturday afternoons, when there was time, for she was strong and vigorous, with an abundance of good red woman blood in her veins, and loved the free movement in the open air.
Perhaps, though, it is not exact to say that she was _thinking_ of these things. The better word would be _feeling_. She was not
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