The bold intrusion of Miss Audacia Dangereyes into my apartment had left a most disagreeable impression on my mind. This was not lessened by the reception of her paper, which came to hand in due course of next mail; and which I found to be an exposition of all the wildest principles of modern French communism. It consisted of attacks directed about equally against Christianity, marriage, the family state, and all human laws and standing order, whatsoever. It was much the same kind of writing with which the populace of France was indoctrinated and leavened in the era preceding the first revolution, and which in time bore fruit in blood. In those days, as now, such doctrines were toyed with in literary salons and aristocratic circles, where their novelty formed an agreeable stimulus in the vapid common-place of fashionable life. They were then, as now, embraced with enthusiasm by fair illuminati, who fancied that they saw in them a dawn of some millennial glory; and were awakened from their dream, like Madame Roland, at the foot of the guillotine, bowing their heads to death and crying, "O Liberty, what things are done in thy name!"

The principal difference between the writers on the Emancipated Woman, and those of the French illuminati, was that the French prototypes were men and women of elegance, culture, and education; whereas their American imitators, though not wanting in a certain vigor and cleverness, were both coarse in expression, narrow in education, and wholly devoid of common decency in their manner of putting things. It was a paper that a man who reverenced his mother and sisters could scarcely read alone in his own apartments without blushing with indignation and vexation.

Every holy secret of human nature, all those subjects of which the grace and the power consists in their exquisite delicacy and tender refinement, were here handled with coarse fingers. Society assumed the aspect of a pack of breeding animals, and all its laws and institutions were to return to the mere animal basis.

It was particularly annoying to me that this paper, with all its coarseness and grossness, set itself up to be the head leader of Woman's Rights; and to give its harsh clamors as the voice of woman. Neither was I at all satisfied with the manner in which I had been dragooned into taking it, and thus giving my name and money to its circulation. I had actually been bullied into it; because, never having contemplated the possibility of such an existence as a female bully, I had marked out in my mind no suitable course of conduct adequate to the treatment of one. "What should I have done?" I said to myself. "What is a man to do under such circumstances? Shall he engage in a personal scuffle? Shall he himself vacate his apartment, or shall he call in a policeman?"

The question assumed importance in my eyes, because it was quite possible that, having come once, she might come again; that the same course of conduct might be used to enforce any kind of exaction which she should choose to lay on me. But, most of all was I sensitive, lest by any means some report of it might get to the Van Arsdels. My trepidation may then be guessed, on having the subject at once proposed to me by Mr. Van Arsdel that evening as I was sitting with him and Ida in her study.

"I want to know, Mr. Henderson," he said, "if you are a subscriber for the Emancipated Woman, the new organ of the Woman's Rights party?"

"Now, papa," said Ida, "that is a little unjust! It only professes to be an organ of the party, but it is not recognized by us."

"Have you seen the paper?" said Mr. Van Arsdel to me.

Like a true Yankee I avoided the question by asking another.

"Have you subscribed to it, Mr. Van Arsdel?"

"Well, yes," said he laughing, "I confess I have; and a pretty mess I have made of it. It is not a paper that any decent man ought to have in his house. But the woman came herself into my counting-room and, actually, she badgered me into it; I couldn't get her out. I didn't know what to do with her. I never had a woman go on so with me before. I was flustered, and gave her my five dollars to get rid of her. If she had been a man I'd have knocked her down."

"Oh, papa," said Ida, "I'll tell you what you should have done; you should have called me. She'd have got no money and no subscriptions out of me, nor you either if I'd been there."

"Now, Mr. Henderson, misery loves company; has she been to your room?" said Mr. Van Arsdel.

"I confess she has," said I, "and that I have done just what you did—yielded at once."

"Mr. Henderson, all this sort of proceeding is thoroughly vexatious and disagreeable," said Ida; "and all the more so that it tends directly to injure all women who are trying to be self-supporting and independent. It destroys that delicacy and refinement of feeling which men, and American men especially, cherish toward women, and will make the paths of self-support terribly hard to those who have to tread them. There really is not the slightest reason why a woman should cease to be a woman because she chooses to be independent and pursue a self-supporting career. And claiming a right to dispense with womanly decorums and act like a man is just as ridiculous as it would be for a man to claim the right to wear woman's clothes. Even if we supposed that society were so altered as to give to woman every legal and every social right that man has; and if all the customs of society should allow her to do the utmost that she can for herself, in the way of self-support, still, women will be relatively weaker than men, and there will be the same propriety in their being treated with consideration and delicacy and gentleness that there now is. And the assumptions of these hoydens and bullies has a tendency to destroy that feeling of chivalry and delicacy on the part of men. It is especially annoying and galling to me, because I do propose to myself a path different from that in which young women in my position generally have walked; and such reasoners as Aunt Maria and all the ladies of her circle will not fail to confound Miss Audacia's proceedings and opinions, and mine, as all belonging to the same class. As to the opinions of the paper, it is mainly by the half truths that are in it that it does mischief. If there were not real evils to be corrected, and real mistakes in society, this kind of thing would have no power. As it is, I have no doubt that it will acquire a certain popularity and do immense mischief. I think the elements of mischief and confusion in our republic are gathering as fast as they did in France before the revolution."

"And," said I, "after all, republics are on trial before the world. Our experiment is not yet two hundred years old, and we have all sorts of clouds and storms gathering—the labor question, the foreign immigration question, the woman question, the monopoly and corporation question, all have grave aspects."

"You see, Mr. Henderson," said Ida, "as to this woman question, the moderate party to which I belong is just at that disadvantage that people always are when there is a party on ahead of them who hold some of their principles and are carrying them to every ridiculous extreme. They have to uphold a truth that is constantly being brought into disrepute and made ridiculous by these ultra advocates. For my part, all I can do is to go quietly on with what I knew was right before. What is right is right, and remains right no matter how much ultraists may caricature it."

"Yes, my daughter," said Mr. Van Arsdel, "but what would become of our country if all the women could vote, and people like Miss Audacia Dangyereyes should stump the country as candidates for election?"

"Well, I am sure," said Ida, "we should have very disagreeble times, and a great deal to shock us."

"It is not merely that," said Mr. Van Arsdel, "the influence of such women on young men would be demoralizing."

"When I think of such dangers," said Ida, "I am, on the whole, very well pleased that there is no immediate prospect of the suffrage being granted to women until a generation with superior education and better balanced minds and better habits of consecutive thought shall have grown up among us. I think the gift of the ballot will come at last as the result of a superior culture and education. And I am in no hurry for it before."

"What is all this that you are talking about?" said Eva, who came into the room just at this moment. "Ma and Aunt Maria are in such a state about that paper that Papa has just brought home! They say there are most horrid things in it, Mr. Henderson; and they say that it belongs to the party which you, and Ida, and all your progressive people are in."

"It is an excresence of the party," said I; "a diseased growth; and neither Miss Ida nor I will accept of it as any expression of our opinion, though it does hold some things which we believe."

"Well," said Eva, "I am curious to see it, just because they don't want I should. What can there be in it so very bad?"

"You may as well keep out of it, chick," said her father, caressing her. "And now, I'll tell you, Ida, just what I think; you good women are not fit to govern the world, because you do not know, and you oughtn't to know, the wickedness that you have got to govern. We men have to know all about the rogues, and the sharpers, and the pickpockets, and the bullies; we have to grow hard and sharp, and 'cut our eye-teeth,' as the saying is, so that at last we come to not having much faith in anybody. The rule is, pretty much, not to believe anybody that you meet, and to take for granted that every man that you have dealings with will cheat you if he can. That's bad enough, but when it comes to feeling that every woman will cheat you if she can, when women cut their eye-teeth, and get to be sharp, and hard, and tricky, as men are, then I say, Look out for yourself, and deliver me from having anything to do with them."

"Why, really!" said Eva, "papa is getting to be quite an orator. I never heard him talk so much before. Papa, why don't you go on to the platform at the next Woman's Rights Convention, and give them a good blast?"

"Oh I'll let them alone," said Mr. Van Arsdel; "I don't want to be mixed up with them, and I don't want my girls to be, either. Now, I do not object to what Ida is doing, and going to do. I think there is real sense in that, although Mother and Aunt Maria feel so dreadfully about it. I like to see a woman have pluck, and set herself to be good for something in the world. And I don't see why there shouldn't be women doctors; it is just the thing there ought to be. But I don't go for all this hurrah and hullaballoo, and pitching women head-first into politics, and sending them to legislatures, and making them candidates for Congress, and for the Presidency, and nobody knows what else."

"Well," said I, "why not a woman President, as well as a woman Queen of England?"

"Because," said he, "look at the difference. The woman Queen in England comes to it quietly; she is born to it, and there is no fuss about it. But whoever is set up to be President of the United States is just set up to have his character torn off from his back in shreds, and to be mauled, pummeled, and covered with dirt by every filthy paper all over the country. And no woman that was not willing to be draggled through every kennel, and slopped into every dirty pail of water, like an old mop, would ever consent to run as a candidate. Why, it's an ordeal that kills a man. It killed Gen. Harrison, and killed old Zack. And what sort of a brazen tramp of a woman would it be that could stand it, and come out of it without being killed? Would it be any kind of a woman that we should want to see at the head of our government? I tell you, it's quite another thing to be President of a democratic republic, from what it is to be hereditary Queen."

"Good for you, papa!" said Eva, clapping her hands. "Why how you go on! I never did hear such eloquence. No, Ida, set your mind at rest, you shan't be run for President of the United States. You are a great deal too good for that."

"Now," said Mr. Van Arsdel, "there's your friend, Mrs. Cerulean, tackled me the other night, and made a convert of me, she said. Bless me! she's a handsome woman, and I like to hear her talk. And if we didn't live in the world we do, and things weren't in any respect what they are, nothing would be nicer than to let her govern the world. But in the great rough round of business she's nothing but a pretty baby after all,—nothing else in the world. We let such women convert us, because we like to have them around. It amuses us, and don't hurt them. But you can't let your baby play with matches and gunpowder, if it wants to ever so much. Women are famous for setting things agoing that they don't know anything about. And then, when the explosion comes, they don't know what did it, and run screaming to the men."

"As to Mrs. Cerulean," said Eva, "I never saw anybody that had such a perfectly happy opinion of herself, as she has. She always thinks that she understands everything by intuition. I believe in my heart that she'd walk into the engine-room of the largest steamship that ever was navigated, and turn out the chief engineer and take his place, if he'd let her. She'd navigate by woman's God-given instincts, as she calls them."

"And so she'd keep on till she'd blown up the ship," said Mr. Van Arsdel.

"Well," said I, "one fact is to be admitted, that men, having always governed the world, must by this time have acquired a good deal of traditional knowledge of the science of government, and of human nature, which women can't learn by intuition in a minute."

"For my part," said Ida, "I never was disposed to insist on the immediate granting of political rights to women. I think that they are rights, and that it is very important for the good of society that these rights should finally be respected. But I am perfectly willing, for my part, to wait and come to them in the way, and at the time, that will be best for the general good. I would a great deal rather come to them by gradual evolution than by destructive revolution. I do not want them to be forced upon society, when there is so little preparation among women that they will do themselves no credit by it. All history shows that the most natural and undeniable human rights may be granted and maintained in a way that will just defeat themselves, and bring discredit on all the supporters of them, just as was the case with the principles of democratic liberty in the first French Revolution. I do not want the political rights of woman advocated in a manner that will create similar disturbances, and bring a lasting scandal on what really is the truth. I do not want women to have the ballot till they will do themselves credit and improve society by it. I like to have the subject proposed, and argued, and agitated, and kept up, in hopes that a generation of women will be educated for it. And I think it is a great deal better and safer, where it can be done, to have people educated for the ballot, than to have them educated by the ballot."

"Well, Ida, there's more sense in you than in the most of 'em," said Mr. Van Arsdel.

"Yes," said Ida, "I think that an immediate rush into politics of such women as we have now, without experience or knowledge of political economy of affairs, would be, as Eva says, just like women's undertaking to manage the machinery of a large steamer by feminine instincts. I hope never to see women in public life till we have had a generation of women who have some practical familiarity with the great subjects which are to be considered, about which now the best instructed women know comparatively nothing. The question which mainly interests me at present is a humanitarian one. It's an absolute fact that a great portion of womankind have their own living to get; and they do it now, as a general rule, with many of the laws and institutions of society against them. The reason of this is, that all these laws and institutions have been made by men, without any consent or concurrence of theirs. Now, as women are different from men, and have altogether a different class of feelings and wants and necessities, it certainly is right and proper that they should have some share in making the laws with which they are to be governed. It is true that the laws have been made by fathers and brothers and husbands; but no man, however, near, ever comprehends fully the necessities and feelings of women. And it seems to me that a State where all the laws are made by men, without women, is just like a family that is managed entirely by fathers and brothers, without any concurrence of mothers and sisters. That's my testimony, and my view of the matter."

"I don't see," said Eva, "if women are to make the laws in relation to their own interests, or to have a voice in making them, why they need go into politics with men in order to do it, or why they need cease to act like women. If the thing has got to be done, I would have a parliament of women meet by themselves, and deliberate and have a voice in all that concerns the State. There, that's my contribution to the programme."

"That's the way the Quakers manage their affairs in their yearly meetings," said Ida. "I remember I was visiting Aunt Dinah once, during a yearly meeting, and learned all about it. I remember the sisters had a voice in everything that was done. The Quaker women have acquired in this way a great deal of facility in the management of business, and a great knowledge of affairs. They really seem to me superior to the men."

"I can account for that," said I. "A man among the Quakers is restricted and held in, and hasn't as much to cultivate and develop him as ordinary men in the world; whereas, woman, among the Quakers, has her sphere widened and developed."

At this moment our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Jim Fellows. He seemed quite out of breath and excited, and had no sooner passed the compliments of the evening, than he began.

"Well," said he, "Hal, I have just come from the Police Court, where there's a precious row. Our friend Dacia Dangyereyes is up for blackmailing and swindling; and there's a terrible wash of dirty linen going on. I was just in time to get the very earliest notes for our paper."

"Good!" said Mr. Van Arsdel. "I hope the creature is caught at last."

"Never believe that," said Jim. "She has as many lives as a cat. They never'll get a hold on her. She'll talk 'em all round."

"Disgusting!" said Ida.

"Ah!" said Jim, "it's part of the world as it goes. She'll come off with flying colors, doubtless, and her cock's feathers will be flaunting all the merrier for it."

"How horribly disagreeable," said Eva, "to have such women around. It makes one ashamed of one's sex."

"I think," said Ida, "there is not sufficient resemblance to a real woman in her to make much trouble on her account. She's an amphibious animal, belonging to a transition period of human society."

"Well," said Jim, "if you'll believe it, Mrs. Cerulean and two or three of the ladies of her set are actually going to invite Dacia to their salon, and patronize her."

"Impossible!" said Ida, flushing crimson; "it cannot be!"

"Oh, you don't know Mrs. Cerulean," said Jim; "Dacia called on her with her newspaper, and conducted herself in a most sweet and winning manner, and cast herself at her feet for patronage; and Mrs. Cerulean, regarding her through those glory spectacles which she usually wears, took her up immediately as a promising candidate for the latter-day. Mrs. Cerulean don't see anything in Dacia's paper that, properly interpreted, need make any trouble; because, you see, as she says, everything ought to be love, everywhere, above and below, under and over, up and down, top and side and bottom, ought to be love, LOVE. And then when there's general all-overness and all-throughness, and an entire mixed-up-ativeness, then the infinite will come down into the finite, and the finite will overflow into the infinite, and, in short, Miss Dacia's cock's feathers will sail right straight up into heaven, and we shall see her cheek by jowl with the angel Gabriel, promenading the streets of the new Jerusalem. That's the programme. Meanwhile, Dacia's delighted. She hadn't the remotest idea of being an angel, or anything of the sort; but since good judges have told her she is, she takes it all very contentedly."

"Oh," said Ida, "it really can't be true, Mr. Fellows; it really is impossible that such ladies as Mrs. Cerulean's set—ladies of family and position, ladies of real dignity and delicacy—are going to indorse the principles of that paper; principles which go to the immediate dissolution of civilized society."

"That's just what they are doing," said Jim; "And they are having a glorious high old time doing it too. Mrs. Cerulean herself intends to write for the paper on the subject of fortyfication and twentification and unification, and everything else that ends with ation. And it is thought it will improve the paper to have some nice little hymns inserted in it, to the tune of 'I Want to be an Angel.' I asked Mrs. Cerulean what if my friend Dacia should rip an oath in the midst of one of her salons—you know the little wretch does swear like a pirate; and you ought to see how serenely she looked over my head into the far distant future, and answered me so tenderly, as if I had been a two hours' chicken peeping to her. 'Oh, James,' says she, 'there are many opinions yet to be expressed on the subject of what is commonly called profanity. I have arrived at the conclusion myself, that in impassioned natures, what is called profanity, is only the state of prophetic exaltation which naturally seeks vent in intensified language. I shouldn't think the worse of this fine vigorous creature if, in a moment's inspired frenzy, she should burst the tame boundaries of ordinary language. It is true, the vulgar might call it profane. It requires anointed eyes to see such things truly. When we have risen to these heights where we now stand, we behold all things purified. There is around us a new heaven and a new earth.' And so you see, Dacia Dangyereyes turns out a tip-top angel of the new dispensation."

"Well," said Ida, rising, with heightened color, "this, of course, ends my intercourse with Mrs. Cerulean, if it be true."

"But," said Eva, "how can they bear the scandal of this disgraceful trial? This certainly will open their eyes."

"Oh," said Jim, "you will see, Mrs. Cerulean will adhere all the closer for this. It's persecution, and virtue in all ages has been persecuted; therefore, all who are persecuted, are virtuous. Don't you see the logical consistency? And then, don't the Bible say, 'Blessed are ye when men persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you?'"

"It don't appear to me," said Ida, "that she can so far go against all common sense."

"Common sense!" said Jim; "Mrs. Cerulean and her clique have long since risen above anything like common sense; all their sense is of the most uncommon kind, and relates to a region somewhere up in the clouds, where everything is made to match. They live in an imaginary world, and reason with imaginary reasons, and see people through imaginary spectacles, and have glorious good times all the while. All I wish is, that I could get up there and live; for you see I get into the state of prophetic ecstasy pretty often with this confounded hard grind below here, and then, when I rip out a naughty word, nobody sees the beauty of it. Mother looks glum. Sister Nell says, 'Oh, Jim!' and looks despairing."

"But the fact is," said Mr. Van Arsdel, "Mrs. Cerulean is a respectable woman, of respectable family, and this girl is a tramp; that's what she is; and it is absolutely impossible that Mrs. Cerulean can know what she is about."

"Well, I delicately suggested some such thing to Mrs. Cerulean," said Jim; "but, bless me! the way she set me down! Says she, 'Do you men ever inquire into the character of people that you unite with to carry your purposes? You join with anybody that will help you, without regard to antecedents!"

"She don't speak the truth," said Mr. Van Arsdel. "We men are very particular about the record of those we join with to carry our purposes. You wouldn't find a board of bankers taking a man that had a record for swindling, or a man that edited a paper arguing against all rights of property. Doctors won't admit a man among them who has the record of a quack or a malpractitioner. Clergymen won't admit a man among them who has a record of licentiousness or infidel sentiments. And if women will admit women, in utter disregard to their record of chastity, or their lax principles as to the family, they act on lower principles than any body of men."

"Besides," said I, "that kind of tolerance cuts the very ground from under the whole woman movement; for the main argument for proposing it, was to introduce into politics that superior delicacy and purity, which women manifest in family life. But if women are going to be less careful about delicacy and decorum and family purity than men are, the quagmire of politics, foul enough now, will become putrid."

"Oh, come," said Eva, "the subject does get too dreadful; I can't bear to think of it, and I move that we have a game of whist, and put an end to it. Come, now, do let's sit down sociably, and have something agreeable."

We went out into the parlor and sat down to the whist-table, Eva and Alice, with Jim Fellows and myself respectively as partners, and indulged ourselves in one of those agreeable chatty games which make the designation "whist" quite an amusing satire—one of those games played with that charming disregard of all rules which is so inspiring. In the best of spirits we talked across the table to each other, trumped our partners' queens, and did all sorts of enormities in the excitement of the brilliant by-play of conversation which we kept up all the while. It may be a familiar experience to many, that one never thinks of so many things to say, and so many fruitful topics for immediate discussion, as when one professes to be playing whist. But then, if a young gentleman wishes a good opportunity to reconnoiter a certain face, no more advantageous position can be given him than to have it vis à vis at the whist-table.

"Now, Mr. Henderson," said Alice, "we are going to make a good churchman of you."

"I am happy to hear it," said I. "I am ready to be made anything good of, that you can mention."

"Well," said Alice, "we are going to press you and Mr. Fellows, here, into the service of the church."

"Shall be perfectly enchanted!" said Jim. "If the church only knew my energies, they would have tried to get me long before."

"Then," said Eva, "you must go with us to-morrow evening; for we are going to be up all night, about the floral decorations of our church for Easter morning. Oh! you have no idea what splendid things we are going to do. We shall be at work hard, all day to-morrow, upon our wreaths and crosses; and the things must all be put up late at night so as to keep them from withering. Then, you know, we must be out again to the sunrise service."

"Why," said I, "it is a regular piece of dissipation."

"Certainly,—religious dissipation, you know," said Alice.

"Well," said Eva, "I don't know why we should not be up all night to dress the church, for once in our lives, as well as to be up all night dancing the German. Ida says it is wicked to do either. Ida makes a perfect hobby of everybody's keeping their health."

"Yes, but," said I, "if people keep themselves, generally, in temperance and soberness, they can afford a great strain, now and then, if it be for a good purpose."

"At any rate," said Eva, "you and Mr. Fellows come round and take tea with us and help us carry our trophies to the church."

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook