Upon Julia’s return to England in April of 1906 she was greeted with the news of the destruction of San Francisco by earthquake and fire. Nigel, to whom it had occurred to her to send a telegram from Flushing, met her at Queenboro’, and, his imagination fired by the great physical drama, it was the first piece of news he imparted. Julia, although she was looking straight into a pair of ardent handsome eyes (Nigel had recovered his looks, and the subtle marks of Time enhanced them), sent her mind on a flight of seven thousand miles to centre about the young American friend that she had so nearly forgotten.
“He must be—let me see—five- or six-and-twenty,” she announced.
“Who?” Nigel’s eyes flashed.
“A Californian I met when he was a boy—Mrs. Bode’s brother. You can’t mean that everybody was killed.”
“Let us hope not. First reports are always exaggerated. But the Californians in London are frantic—can’t get a penny on their letters of credit, either. Indeed, nothing outside of our own bailiwick has excited us as much as this in many a long day.”
“I felt some big earthquakes in India—”
“Oh, nothing like this,” said Nigel, who would brook no cheapening of the magnificent panorama in his mind. “With the possible exception of the eruption of Mont Pelée, this is the most dramatic thing that Nature has done in our time. Think of it! Not a second’s warning. The most important city on the Pacific Coast and its half million people wiped out. The earth rocking miles of blazing buildings for hours. Precipices along the coast plunging into the sea! The hills rolling like grain. Jupiter! What a sight from an airship! Would that I had been there to see.”
“I don’t fancy you would have seen much from an airship, if there was any smoke with the fire. Have you reconstructed all that from bald cablegrams?”
“The bald facts are enough—”
“To have made your imagination happy. I have always said that you would satisfy it yet with a work of pure romance. But I don’t mean to joke. It is too awful. I heard only a confused rumor on the train yesterday. Poor Dan! But I feel sure that he could take care of himself, and of a good many others—if there was any chance at all.”
“Possibly. But enough of horrors. I want to look at you.” (They had a compartment to themselves.) “You must have enjoyed yourself quite as well as you meant to do. I never saw any one so—well—improved, although that sounds banal. It never occurred to me that you could be prettier than when you first came to London, but you are. Your eyes—what is it?”
“Oh, my eyes have seen things. I have done a good deal more than enjoy myself.”
“Have you come back to be the high priestess of some cult?”
“Not I. I have sat at the feet of wise men in Benares and in Persia, and learned—a little. We Occidentals are never initiated into the deeper mysteries. They despise—or fear—us too much for that. But even a little of the wisdom of the East must widen our vision and prove an everlasting antidote to the modern spirit of unrest—about nothing.”
“And enable you to forget your friends for four years? We have each had three letters from you and three or four times as many post cards.”
“One secret of enjoying the East is to forget the West. And for at least a year I was intoxicated—drunk is more expressive—with its enchantments. The spell broke in Calcutta, where I spent a winter in society. Then I went to Benares to study.”
“You could have told me as much in a cablegram. What took you to Acca?”
“I went to see Abdul Baha Abbas, and investigate the new religion. My master told me of it in India, and I found that in Persia, after losing some twenty-five thousand by massacre, it had got the best of its enemies by converting the government. Even the women are receiving the higher education. So I went on to headquarters. Not that any religion could make a personal appeal to me, but I had an idea about this one. The idea proved to be reasonable, and, accordingly, I have brought you the Bahai religion as a present.”
“Brought me? What should I do with it?”
“Make use of it to your own glory and the benefit of the race. We have always agreed that Socialism would never prevail until it acquired a soul. That admirably constructed but unappealing machine needs the Bahai religion to give it light and fire; and the Bahai religion, sane and practical as it is, needs a good working medium. Combined, they will sweep the world. With your skill and enthusiasm, you will find the task congenial and not too difficult. Like Socialism, the new and practical sort, Bahaism must begin at the top and filter down, for it makes its appeal to the brain, to the advanced thinker, to those that feel the need of a religion, but have long since outgrown all the silly old dogmas, with their bathos and sentimentalities, primarily intended only for the ignorant. Unity in rights. Freedom of the political as well as the spiritual conscience. In other words, the elimination of all that provokes war; which means universal peace. Peace. Peace. Peace. That is the keynote of the Bahai religion, as love was intended to be of Christianity. All the best principles of the five prevailing religions are incorporated in this, all the barriers between them razed, and all the nonsense and narrow-mindedness left out. And the keynote of all this? Knowledge. True knowledge, intellectual as well as spiritual. The universal spread of science and the development of the arts, to war in men’s minds—the real battleground—against the greed of money which makes man so stunted, uninteresting, and miserable to-day. One language, one people, one faith. No hierarchy. Good morals and charitable deeds as a matter of course. The worship of one God, and the universal peace, to be founded in the centre of the civilized world. Unity and Peace! Then we are promised that the earthly world shall become heavenly. Not in our time. But it will be interesting to help start the ball rolling, and to watch it roll. Every man is supposed to have a latent desire for perfection. There is your cue. There lies the brain of this religion. What a subtle appeal to vanity, man’s primal and deathless weakness! Even greed only ministers to it. If I wrote fiction I should take this cue myself, but as it is I have brought it to you. Go to Acca, get it all at first hand, and write your immortal book.”
“So you did think of me that far?” Nigel stared at her, fascinated, but with his man’s ardor checked. In spite of her frank delight in greeting him, the spontaneous friendliness of her manner, she seemed to him incredibly remote. The eyes that looked straight into his had new and unfathomable depths, and he wondered if she had not learned more of Eastern lore than she had any intention of admitting.
“Of course,” she said, smiling. “And I have speculated a great deal about you. All I know is that you won the Nöbel Peace Prize—a wonderful book! I read it—and your last—in the colonial edition. But I know nothing else about you. Have you fallen in love with any one else?”
“No, I have not,” said Nigel, crossly, “and I am not so sure that I am still in love with you. I only know that you haunt my imagination and make all other women seem flat.”
“Ah! We could be the ideal friends. But hasn’t anything happened to you besides merely writing books and becoming a peer of the realm?”
“Oh, yes, I have been discovered by the United States of America.”
“They were long enough about it. But they always get hold of the little men first.”
“Well, I might be one of the little ones, judging by the fuss they are making over me. Reams of stuff in magazines and the Sunday newspapers—all about my ‘great’ works; in which I find myself credited with an assortment of philosophies no two men could carry; at least a hundred attitudes toward Life; and incredible designs upon the peace of the world—although still others maintain that I am merely a dilettante aristocrat playing with picturesque material. I am so bewildered that I hardly know what I am myself. Some of the adverse criticisms are so good that I forget the writer doesn’t in the least know what he is writing about. The only thing clear to me is that my income is trebled, and that I am offered unheard-of sums (from the modest European point of view) to write for their magazines and newspapers. I have even been invited to go over and lecture, and am promised a unique advertisement: ‘The Peer among Authors.’ Fancy trying to be original after that! I believe I have also a cult—and am making hay while the sun shines; for I am given to understand that crazes don’t last long over there. Each of us, as discovered,—sometimes a few of us at once,—is the ‘greatest of modern English authors.’ I should think their own authors would combine, capture the press, and train their guns on us, and their eloquence on their public: it would appear that the American public, in art matters, believes everything it is told long enough and loud enough. Far be it from me, however, to complain. It has enabled me to put a new roof on my old castle—as good as an American wife, without the bother—and buy a villa on the Riviera—which I am hoping you will consent to occupy with me.”
“Not I. You go to Acca, and I to my work here. If it hadn’t haunted me, assisted by indignant letters from Bridgit, I doubt if I ever should have left the East. But if the East is in my blood, some magnet in the West directed at my brain cells dragged me home. Besides, what have I developed myself for? Now is the time to find out.”
Nigel sighed. “The old order changeth. You women are not far off from getting all you want, no doubt about that, but you will lose more than you gain.”
“From your point of view. It is not what you want. We shall get what we want, which is more to the point.”
“Well, I can’t blame you,” said Nigel, honestly. “Man was bound to have his day of reckoning. For my part I hardly care, being a lover of change, and wanting to see all of this world’s progress it shall be possible to crowd into my own little span. And although you are far from all the old ideals, it would be the more interesting to live with you. I have always had a sneaking preference for polygamy—one wife for children and solid comfort, and one for companionship—to keep a man from roving abroad.”
To his surprise Julia colored and a look of distress and apprehension routed the bright composure of her face.
“I should like children!” she exclaimed. “They would not interfere with my work, either. Why should they?” Then she darted off the track of self. “Tell me of Ishbel. She is happy, I feel sure, and she has two dear little babies. I am the godmother of the first.”
“Yes, but she haunts that shop. It was running to seed without her, and she had no sooner taken hold again than the work microbe woke up. Dark doesn’t fancy it, but says there’s nothing for a sensible man to do these days but take woman as he finds her and chew his little cud in silence. He doesn’t forget how both Ishbel and Bridgit calmly shuffled off their husbands when they had no further use for them.”
“Work. I fancy that was the real magnet that brought me back. I revelled—revelled—but the reaction set in like a rising tide, and at last was quite as irresistible. I should have come back before this, but I wanted to remain in Acca until I was convinced that the Bahai religion was all it attempted to be. Go there at once. Abdul Baha has promised that you shall live in his house. Moreover, they want a big author to exploit it in the West before it has been misrepresented and cheapened by the swarm of little writers, always in search of what they call ‘copy.’ ”
“I should feel like a bally hypocrite. I’ve no more religion in me than you have. If God is in man, and self is God, then that atom we call self is what is given us to lean on without asking for more. To demand help outside of ourselves is a confession of failure.”
“Of course. But how many have penetrated the secrets that far? The majority must have a religion to talk about and lean on. When they get the right one, the world will be a far more comfortable place to live in. That, to my mind, is the whole point. You and I have useful brains, and it is our business to help the world along. In my inmost soul, I don’t care any more for the cause of woman or the rights of the working-class—save in so far as it gives me the horrors to think of any one being cold and hungry—than you care about religion; but I shall work just as hard for both as if I never had had a thought for anything else. Now tell me about Bridgit.”
Nigel left her at the door of her hotel and did not see her again for two days. Little did he guess the reason. He carried away to his club (both resentfully and sadly) the picture of a new Julia, all intellect, poise, and mystery; a Julia from whom the impulsiveness, ingenuousness, and young enthusiasm had gone forever, left in that unfathomable East which gives knowledge and takes personality; a cold brilliant creature, with developed genius, no doubt, but with nothing left to beg unto a man’s heart and senses. And this, indeed, was one side of Julia, and the only one she purposed the world should see; because in time it was to be her whole self, and she a happy mortal.
When she shut the door of her sitting-room in the gloomy exclusive hotel in one of the quiet streets near Piccadilly, to which she had telegraphed for rooms, she subsided into the easiest chair and cried for half an hour; nor did she ascend from the slough of her despondency for the rest of the day. For the past four years she had lived virtually out of doors. As her angry frightened eyes looked back they recalled nothing but floods of golden light, an endless procession of Orientals, gleaming bronze or copper, turbanned, hooded, dressed in flowing robes of white or every primal hue; streets, crooked, latticed, balconied, sun-baked; gorgeous bazaars; life, color, beauty, romance (to Western eyes) everywhere. She was come to a London wrapped in its old familiar drizzle; huddled over the small grate, its cold penetrated her marrow; in the narrow street, dull, grimy, flat, there was rarely a sound. As she had entered the ugly entrance hall below she had been met by two solemn footmen, one of whom had conducted her slowly up three flights of stairs (there was no lift in this exclusive hostelry); another followed an hour later with her luncheon of good food cooked abominably. The butler stood in front of her like a statue and pretended not to observe her swollen eyes.
If she had been wise, she would have gone to the Carlton or the Ritz, where at least she could have descended at intervals into a very good similitude of luxury and magnificence, been able to fancy herself in the midst of “life”; she would have dined with brilliantly dressed and animated people, and, incidentally, been cheered by French cooking. But, like many others, she favored the small hotel where one was almost obliged to bring a letter of introduction, where one was supposed to be “at home” with personal servants; and where, indeed, one was as deeply immersed in privacy and silence as if quite at home in North Hampstead. Julia, who had been consoled for the loss of the dainty dishes of the East by the kaleidoscopic pleasures of the continent, choked over her shoulder of mutton, large-leaved greens, and hard round peas unseasoned, boiled potatoes, and pudding, wept once more after the remains and the butler had vanished, cursed women, and half determined to take the night train for Egypt and Syria.
She had not wanted to “be met,” shrinking from too prompt a reminder of the past. Now she wished that everybody she had ever known had crowded the platform at Victoria, and “rushed her about,” until she felt at home once more in this huge and dismal and overpowering mass of London. And as ill-luck would have it even her two best friends would be denied her for days, possibly for weeks. Ishbel was in Paris. Bridgit was in Cannes recovering from severe physical injuries incurred in the cause of woman. At one of the great Liberal meetings in the north, during the General Election, she had risen and demanded that the new Government declare its intentions regarding the enfranchisement of women. She had been pulled down, one man had held his hat before her face, and when she struggled to her feet again, protesting that she had the same right to interrupt the speaker with questions as any of the men that had gone unreproved, she had been dragged out by six stewards and plain-clothes detectives, with as much vigor as if she had been the six men and they the one dauntless female. They had mauled her, twisted her, pummelled her, and finally flung her with violence to the pavement. She had gathered herself up, although suffering from a broken rib, attempted to address the crowd in the streets, been arrested and swept off to the town hall. She had given a false name that she might be shown no favor, and the next morning, refusing to pay her fine, was sent to gaol for seven days. She had lain in a cold cell for nearly twenty-four hours unattended, in solitary confinement, and on a small allowance of food which she could not have eaten if well. At the gaol she asked to be sent to the hospital, but before her request was granted, a member of the new Government ascertained her name, and, horrified at the possible consequences to himself, paid her fine summarily, and sent her to a nursing home. Here she had lain until her broken rib had mended, and was now in the south of France assuaging a severe attack of intercostal neuralgia.
This story, told by Nigel, had filled Julia with an intense wrath, and struck the first real spark of enthusiasm in her for the cause of woman, but it burned low in these dull hours of loneliness and nostalgia, and she wished that her magnificent friend had remained as in the early days of their acquaintance, whole in bone and skin, and untroubled of mind.
But if Julia was acting much as the average woman acts during her first hours alone in an immense and inhospitable city, which the sun refuses to shine upon, a city that knows not of her existence and cares less, she was furious with herself, even before she recovered. Where was the poise, the serenity, the grand impersonal attitude, she had learned from her subtle masters in the East? Where the full calm determination with which she had returned to take up her self-elected duties, to gratify a long latent but now full-grown ambition to build a unique pedestal for herself in the world; in other words, to achieve fame and power? Out there it had been both easy and natural to plan, to dream, to vision herself at the head of womankind, burning with the enthusiasm of the artist, even if the cause itself left her cold. She had believed herself made over to that extent, at least; and now she dared not see Nigel Herbert lest she marry him off-hand, and insure herself a life companion and the common happiness of woman.
She denied him admittance, even refusing to go down to the telephone (such were the primitive arrangements of this exclusive hostelry), and vowed that once more, peradventure for the last time, she would wrestle with her peculiar problem and inspect her new armor at every joint.
For Julia, even during her first year in India, had learned lessons untaught by Eastern philosophers. She had no difficulty in recalling the moment when that green shoot had wriggled its head out of what she called the morass in the depths of her nature. She had been floating one moonlight night in a boat propelled by a turbanned silhouette, on a small lake surrounded by a park as dense as a jungle. From the head of the lake rose a marble palace of many towers and balconies, whose white steps were in the green waters. Just overhead was poised the full moon,—a crystal lantern lit with a white flame. A nightingale was pouring forth its love song. Warm, delicious odors were wafted across the lake from the gardens about the palace.
Julia, whose soul had been steeped in all this beauty, her senses swimming with pleasure, suddenly, with no apparent volition, sat upright and gasped with resentment. Why was she alone on such a night? Why, in heaven’s name, was not a man with her,—the most charming man the world held, of course (there never was anything moderate in Julia’s demands upon Life)? why was not this perfect mate, his own soul steeped, his senses swimming, even as were her own, sitting beside her, looking at her with eyes that proclaimed them as one and divinely happy? It was the night and the place for the very fullness of love, and she was alone. How incongruous! How inartistic! What a waste! Women have been known to feel like this in Venice. How much more so Julia, in the untravelled undesecrated depths of India, at night, with the moon and the nightingale and the heavy warm scents of Oriental trees, and shrubs, and flowers!
When Julia realized where her unleashed imagination had soared, she frowned, deliberately laughed, and opened her inner ear that she might enjoy the crash to earth. But she sat up all that night. From her room in the guest bungalow (her friends had provided her with many letters), she could look upon the white palace, gleaming like sculptured ivory against the black Eastern night, hear the waters lapping the marble steps. Strange sounds came out of the quarters devoted to the superfluous wives and their female offspring: passionate melancholy singing, sharp infuriated cries, monotonous string music, infinitely hopeless.
And she was free, free as the nightingale, free to love; young, beautiful, with the world at her feet. What a fool she was!
Although she had now been in India for nearly a year, this was the first time the sex within her had stirred, and she had been one with scenes lovelier than this, revelled from first to last in all the beauty and variety and mystery and color which she had craved so long in England. In spite of dirt and stench, of entomological bedfellows, bullock carts, and lack of every luxury in which the British soul delights, she was too young and too philosophical to have permitted the worst of these to interfere with her complete satisfaction. And it had, this wondrous East, absorbed and satisfied her until to-night. She had asked for nothing more. And now she wanted a lover.
Looking back upon her life with France, she discovered that she had practically forgiven him the moment she had been assured of his insanity. No doubt he had been irresponsible from the first. This admission had subconsciously wiped out his offences, and with them the memory of that whole odious experience. She still blamed her mother, but she had pitied France when she thought of him at all. The heavy noxious growth in her soul had withered and disappeared, the dark waters turned clear and sparkling. She was ready for love, for the rights and the glory of youth.
Kneeling there, gazing out at the enchanted palace, watching the moon sail over the misty tree-tops to disappear into the dark embrace of the Himalayas, her annoyance passed, she exulted in this new development, these vast and turbulent demands. She would find love and find it soon.
With Julia to think was to do. The next day she set out on her quest. To love any of these Indian princes was out of the question, even though she might live in marble palaces for the rest of her life. There was nothing for it but to go to Calcutta and present her letters to the viceroy and notable British residents. She found Calcutta the most ill-smelling city on earth, but its society was brilliant and industrious, and she met more charming men than in all her years in England. For some obscure reason Englishmen always are more charming, natural, and even original in the colonies and dependencies than on their own misty isle. Perhaps they are more adaptable than they think, more susceptible to “atmosphere” than would seem possible, bred as they are into formalities and mannerisms of a thousand years of tradition, too hide-bound for mere human nature to combat unassisted.
Moreover, in India they wear helmets, which are vastly becoming, and white linen or khaki, which wars with stolidity. Julia met them by the dozen and liked them all. She danced six nights out of seven, flirted in marble palaces whose steps were in the Ganges, on marble terraces vocal and scented. She had never been so beautiful before, she was quite happy, she was indisputably the belle of the winter, she had several proposals under the most romantic conditions (carefully arranged by herself), and she was wholly unable to fall in love.
At the end of the season she understood, and was aghast. She demanded the wholly impossible in man, a man that never will emerge from woman’s imagination and come to life; a man without common weaknesses, who was never absurd, who was a miracle of tenderness, passion, strength, humor, justice, high-mindedness, magnetism, intellect, cleverness, wit, sincerity, mystery, fidelity, provocation, responsiveness, reserve; who was gay, serious, sympathetic, vital, stimulating, always able to thrill, and never to bore; a being of light with no clay about him, who wooed like a god, and never looked funny when his feelings overcame him, and never perspired, even in India.
In short, Julia packed her trunks and went to Benares to study Hindu philosophy.
But although she was not long finding her balance (in which humor played as distinguished a part as her learned masters), she never wholly ceased to be haunted by the vision of the perfect lover and the complete happiness he must bestow upon a woman as yet not all intellect. There were times when she sat up in bed at night exclaiming aloud in tones of indignation and surprise, “Where is my husband? Mine? He must exist on this immense earth. Where is he?”
She knew that other women of humor and intellect, Ishbel, for instance, had ended by accepting the best that life purposed to offer them, and been quite happy, or happy enough. But she dared make no such experiment with herself. Genius of some sort she had, and she guessed that geniuses had best be content with dreams and make no experiments with mere mortal men. She knew that if she exiled herself to America, or the continent of Europe, with the most satisfactory man she had met in Calcutta, or even with Nigel Herbert, she ran the risk of hating him and herself before the honeymoon was out. Nevertheless, the woman in her laughed at intellect and went on demanding and dreaming.
But all this did not affect her will nor hinder her mental progress. While automatically hoping, she was hopeless, and bent all her energies toward accomplishing that ideal of perfection she had vaguely outlined the night at White Lodge when once more settling the fate of Nigel. Here in Benares, sitting at the feet of men that appeared to live in their marvellous intellects, and to be quite purged of earthly dross, it seemed simple enough to her strong will and brain. Of mysteries she was permitted more than one glimpse. She felt herself drawing from unseen, unfathomable sources a vital fluid which she chose to believe would in time restore in her that perfect balance of sex qualities, that unity in the ego, which had been the birthright of the man-woman who rose first out of the chaos of the universe, who was happy until clove in half and sent forth to wage the eternal war of sex, even while striving blindly for completion. She learned that in former solar systems, whose record is open only to those so profoundly versed in occult lore that their disembodied selves read at will the invisible tablets, that chosen women had attained this state of perfection, of absolute knowledge, of original sex, and with it immortality. Immortal women. Wonderful and haunting phrase! At certain periods of even earth’s history, they had reappeared in human form to accomplish their great and individual work. But their number so far had been few, and they were easily called to mind, these great women that stood out in history; indispensable, mysteriously powerful; disappearing when their work was done, and leaving none of their kind behind them.
Julia’s favorite teacher, an old Sufi Mohammedan named Hadji Sadrä, told her that the world, the Western world particularly, was ripe for them again, that now their numbers would be many, for modern conditions made their general supremacy possible for the first time in Earth’s history. There was no movement in the East or West that this old philosopher was not cognizant of, no tendency, no deep persistent stifled mutter; and although he had all the contempt of the ancient Oriental brain for the crude attempts of the Occident to think for itself, he had a growing respect for Western women, and told Julia that all conditions, both in the heavens and on the earth pointed to the coming reign of woman; led in the first place by those reincarnated immortal souls of whom he was convinced she was one, possibly the greatest. So he interpreted her horoscope, laughing at the narrow wisdom of the Western mind which could see naught but a ridiculous position in the peerage of Europe; the starry hieroglyphics plainly indicated that she was to rule her sex and lead it to victory.
All this was highly gratifying to Julia (to whom would it not be?), and feeling herself destined to greatness, found its spiritual part simpler of achievement than if the suggesting had been lacking. In this ideal of perfection there was no question of eliminating human nature, with its minor entrancing elements, its sympathy, tenderness, its power to love; merely the complete control of a highly trained mind over the baser desires, the contemptible faults, the foolish ambitions and temptations, which keep the average mind in a state of bondage, restless, vaguely aspiring, always dipping, and never happy. Nevertheless, love could be but an incident. The highest ideal was to stand alone. The greatest attributes of the masculine and female mind united in one mortal brain, the ability to obliterate the world at will and live in the contemplation of knowledge, the irresistible power which comes of absolute mastery of self and of living in self alone,—unity in the ego, independence of mortal conditions—here was the perfect ideal which Julia was bidden to attain, which few but Orientals have even formulated.
On this high flight had Julia been sustained during the following years. But, sitting in her gloomy, chill and tasteless London sitting-room, she looked back upon it as a fool’s paradise, and felt merely a dismal traveller in a strange city; but recalling a threat of Hadji Sadrä, dared not send for the man she still liked best in the world.
Night came, and the night had no terrors for Julia. Her Hindu master had taught her the science of relaxation, and given her certain powerful suggestions, one being that she should fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed and not awaken for eight hours.
The morning, therefore, found her refreshed; and although she was still annoyed at the discovery that she had not made herself over once for all, she had no intention of rocking her feminine ego in her arms again for some time to come. Another lesson she had learned was to switch thought off and on; she relegated her femaleness to the depths, and turned her attention to the work that had drawn her to England. The monthly bulletins with which Mrs. Herbert had remorselessly pursued her, alone would have kept her informed on every phase of the Woman’s War, and she had heard somewhat of it elsewhere. She was satisfied that in this new and menacing demand for the ballot, women were prompted neither by vanity nor mere superfluous energy, but by an experience with poverty which had taught them that this great problem was their peculiar province. They were prepared to devote their lives to its solution, to court sacrifices such as man had never contemplated; and they had the time, the instinct, the practical knowledge, which would enable them, if armed with political power, to solve this hideous and disgraceful problem once for all.
Julia had driven through a famine district in India and felt her brain wither, her veins freeze, as she stared at mile after mile of starving skeletons, lying or huddled by the roadside, feebly begging with eyes that seemed to accuse the Almighty for multiplying the superfluous of earth. What to do for these wretches, dying by the million, she had no more idea than Great Britain herself; but if it was beyond human power to grapple with the question of starving millions in a season of drought in India, so much the more reason to attack the less desperate but no less abominable question in a land where the poor were the result of the callousness of man. In dealing with this complicated problem many lessons would be learned that might later be applied to poverty on the grand scale.
The ballot, therefore, was but a means to an end, and to assist in winning it she had returned; meaning to devote to it all her time, her energies, and her talents. But must she join this new “militant movement”? She frowned with distaste. As to many at that date, it seemed both foolish and vulgar. Moreover, like all fastidious women that wish for fame, she shrank from notoriety, from figuring in any sort of public mess. However! She should soon be given her rôle, and whatever it might be, she was resolved to play it to a finish, and without protest.
Meanwhile she was eating her breakfast, the one appetizing meal in England, and when she was further refreshed, she opened the newspaper on the tray, remembering the disaster in San Francisco. The news was more encouraging. The city was still burning, but the loss of life had been comparatively small, and the inhabitants were either escaping in droves to the towns across the bay or camping on the hills behind San Francisco. Once more Julia’s thoughts flew to Daniel Tay, and she conceived the idea of writing to him. Surely an old friend could do no less, and now if ever he would be grateful for remembrance.
Therefore, as soon as she was dressed, she went to the desk in the drawing-room and committed the most momentous act of her life. She wrote to Tay a long and lively letter, full of feminine sympathy, of concern for his welfare and for that of his city. There were many allusions to their brief but unforgotten friendship (she had almost forgotten it!), references to his boyish sympathy, and assurances that she was now well, happy, free, and full of interest in life. “Do write to me,” she concluded. “That is, if you ever receive this; and tell me all about your life in the past ten years. Did you go on your ten-thousand-dollar spree? Have you made your great fortune? Are you ruling the destinies of your city? I have always felt sure you would never stop at being merely a rich man. And Mrs. Bode? And Ella?” (alas!) “I do hope they have not suffered too much in this terrible disaster. If you like, if you have not wholly forgotten me all these years, I’ll write you of my life in the East these past four, and much else. I remember how freely I used to talk to you, dear little boy that you were, and I don’t think I have ever talked so freely to any one else. It would be rather exciting to correspond with you. But if you have quite lost interest in me, at least remember that I have not in you,—no! not for one moment—and long to hear how you have weathered this frightful calamity.”
Now, why do women lie like that? Julia was as truthful as any mortal who is a component part of that complicated organism known as society may be, but she wrote these lines without flinching, quite persuaded for the moment, indeed, that she meant every word of them. Perhaps here lies the explanation, in so much as all memories are alive in the subconsciousness, and leap to the mind the instant their slumbers are disturbed by the essential vibration; there to assume full and dazzling control. Let it go at that.
Julia, as a matter of fact, looked somewhat dubiously at the last paragraph of her letter. It was not in the least Oriental. She was also astonished at the length of the letter itself. She had long since discovered, however, that there are some people to whom one can write, and many more to whom one cannot. Oddly enough Nigel Herbert was of the last. He wrote a colorless letter himself, never striking that spark which fires the epistolary ardor; but Julia reflected that she could write for hours on end to Daniel Tay; she felt as if embarked on some vital current which leaped direct from London to San Francisco, no less than seven thousand miles. She sealed the letter.
Then she discovered that the sun was out and remembered that she had an aunt. Her feelings for her only relative in England were not of unmixed cordiality, but it would be something at least to bask for a little in the presence of one so entirely satisfied with herself. Moreover, she wanted news of her mother; and this duty was inevitable in any case.
She determined to walk the short distance to Tilney Street as she wished to post the letter herself. Still exhilarated at the writing of it, she ignored the mud of the streets, sniffed the old familiar grimy air, with some abatement of nostalgia for the East, and even found amusement in the windows of Bond Street.
When she came to the first pillar box and applied her letter to its yawning mouth, she paused suddenly, assailed by one of those subtle feminine presentiments which her long residence in the Orient had not taught her to despise. She withdrew the letter and walked on, smiling, but disturbed. She even passed two more boxes, but at the fourth shot the letter in. Her planets had long since made a fatalist of her, more or less. And she had adventurous blood.
She found Mrs. Winstone risen, groomed, coifed, with even her smile on, and seated before her desk in the front ell of the drawing-room, answering notes and cards of invitation.
“Ah, Julia!” she said casually, as she rose and offered her cheek. “Home again? How nice. But that coat and skirt, my dear! Quite old style.”
“Rather!” said Julia, making herself comfortable. “I took them out with me. Who’s your tailor now?”
“Oh, a new man. A duck. I’ll take you to him this afternoon. Just left one of the big houses, so his prices are quite possible—at present. Glad you’ve kept your complexion. How is it you don’t sunburn?”
“I don’t fancy people born in the tropics ever do. Glad you haven’t grown fat.”
“I’d put on a bit if it weren’t the fashion to look like a plank back and front. I’ve got to the age where I’d look better filled out. ’Fraid I’m really gettin’ on. Beaux are younger every year.”
“You look quite unchanged to me,” said Julia, politely. “How’s the duke?”
“Quite fit, I believe. They’re still at Bosquith. Margaret broke her leg huntin’.”
“Have you heard from my mother lately? I have not, for several months. I had hoped to find a letter here.”
“I got her usual quarterly page the other day. She seems well enough. I’ve been to Nevis since you left. Nerves got rackety, and the doctor told me to go where I’d really be quiet. I was! But I shouldn’t wonder if I went again some day. Never looked so well in my life as when I came back. Simply vegetated.”
“And how does my mother look? I cannot imagine her changed—but—it is a good many years!”
“She looks exactly the same. Ain’t you ever goin’ back?”
“Not until she sends for me. I can’t help feeling that she doesn’t want me,—prefers not to be actively reminded of the last and most tragic disappointment of her life. I sometimes wonder that she writes to me. Her letters are even briefer than those to you.”
“Perhaps you are right. She hasn’t forgiven you—or herself. I tried to tell her some of your charmin’ experiences with Harold,—there was so little to talk about, I thought it might be interestin’ to see how she took it,—but she wouldn’t listen!”
“Poor mother! What a life! I wonder if she would let me have Fanny?”
“Yes, I am quite alone, you know. I could do for her nicely, and it would almost be like having a child of my own.”
“I detest Fanny,” said Mrs. Winstone, with some show of human emotion. “She’s a minx. Jane will have her hands full three or four years from now.”
“She was such a dear little thing.”
“Well, she’s a little devil now. I don’t say she mightn’t be halfway decent if she’d led a life like other children, but she’s never played with a white child, and rules those pic’nies like a she-dragon—she’s not too unlike Jane in some things. Her only companion is a washed-out middle-aged governess, who might as well try to manage a hurricane. Jane vows she shall never marry. Her mistake in France seems to have fixed her hatred of man once for all, and although Fanny bores her, she’s of no two minds as to her duty toward the brat. She is never to meet a young man of her own class, if you please, and as soon as she is old enough is to be trained in all the duties relating to the estate. Nice time Jane’ll have preventin’ Fanny meetin’ men if only one sets foot on the island; and there’s talk of rebuildin’ Bath House. She’s overcharged with vitality, that child, she’s a will of iron, and she’s already an adept at deceivin’ her grandmother—no mean accomplishment! And she’ll get worse instead of better in that ghastly life. I wouldn’t trust her across the street three years from now.”
“Oh, the poor little thing! She must be rescued. Surely if my mother doesn’t care for her she’ll be the more willing to give her up. But she must, a little. She was strict with me, but always kind and even affectionate.”
“She’s not to Fanny. She looks upon her as a plague; and with good reason, for a noisier or more messy child I never saw. But she’ll do her duty as she sees it.”
“I believe Fanny is really adorable. I shall write at once and beg for her.”
“You won’t get her, and you needn’t regret it. I’m no fool where my sex is concerned: Fanny’s the sort that’s put into the world to make trouble. What are your plans? Shall you take a flat in town?”
“It will depend.” Julia paused a moment and then hurled her bomb. “I’ve come back to enroll in the Woman’s War.”
“What?” Mrs. Winstone looked about to faint; then her expression became stony. “Why, women are disgracin’ their sex, makin’ perfect fools of themselves! Bridgit Herbert must have gone mad. All her friends will cut her. A woman of her class fightin’ men and sleepin’ in prison! She deserved all she got, and so will you if you’ve anything to do with these tatterdermalion females shriekin’ for notoriety. That’s all they’re after. Forcin’ their way into the House of Commons! No wonder the men are disgusted. It’s a middle-class movement, anyhow. You! That’s the reason, I suppose, you don’t mind wearin’ a coat and skirt four years old.”
“Oh, but I do mind! I hope you’ll take me to your tailor this very day.”
“There! I knew you were jokin’. I should simply retire if I had a suffragette in the family. Come down to luncheon and then we’ll go out and shop.”
During the early weeks of this same year, Christabel Pankhurst had established in London a branch of the Woman’s Social and Political Union founded in Manchester in 1903 by Mrs. Pankhurst. The rooms were in Park Walk, Chelsea, and here were the headquarters of that “Militant Movement” so execrated by the National Union of Woman’s Suffrage Societies, and by Society in general. Their numbers were few, their funds were almost nil, their years, with one or two exceptions, absurdly young, they were thrown entirely upon one another for sympathy and approval, a goodly proportion had already been severely pummelled by men twice their size, and in the proportion of three or more to one, and several were still in hospital, injured, perhaps for life. But they had made all England talk about them, and a few, a very few, farsighted men had apprehended them as a definite and permanent factor in the politics of the twentieth century.
Of these was Nigel Herbert, and it was from him that Julia learned all that she did not know already of their history. Bridgit had sent her clippings from newspapers containing references to the opening of the campaign by Miss Pankhurst and Annie Kenny, at the first great Liberal meeting of the General Election in October, which resulted in their arrest and imprisonment. At Acca she had heard the movement discussed by English pilgrims; and in English newspapers, read in continental reading-rooms, she had come across many comments—indignant, sarcastic, infuriate—upon the performances of these outrageous females. But from Bridgit she had not heard since a few days before that lady’s own battle royal, and it was to Nigel that she turned for unimpassioned information. He had told her something in the train, and he gave a concise history of the new movement as soon as he was permitted once more to sun himself in her presence.
“They’re here to stay,” he said. “I know six or eight of them personally; been making a study of them, although they don’t know it. They’re like no other women under the sun—nor any sun that has ever shone. They’ve a new group of brain cells, and something new and big is coming out of it. The only historical analogy I know of is those old martyrs that died in the cause of some new departure in religion; those that make such excellent subjects for stained-glass windows. They’ve got the same look those old leader-martyrs had when chained up to the stake and waiting for the faggot. The same grim patient mouths, the same clairvoyant eyes, as if looking straight at the unborn millions liberated by the martyrdom of the few. Their enthusiasm is cold—and eternal. They are as deliberate as death. There are no better brains in the world. Precious few as good. They never take a step that isn’t calculated beforehand, and they never take a step backward. Discouragement and fear are sensations they have never experienced. When they are hurt they don’t know it. They fear injury or death no more than they fear the brutes that maul them. In short, they’re a new force let loose into the world; and the geese outside put them down as hysterical females. But if this silly old world had always been quick to see and wise to act we’d have no history. So there you are.”
And the next day Julia accepted this estimate without reserve. Having introduced herself at headquarters, registered, and paid her dues, she sat for a time listening to a quick incisive debate upon all steps to be taken in the House of Commons, on the night of the 25th, in case the Woman’s Suffrage Resolution, for which Mr. Kier Hardie had secured a place, should be talked out by its enemies.
After a time Julia forgot to listen, being quite convinced that they would act as they purposed to act, and make no misstep. Their looks interested her far more than their words. With possibly two exceptions, whose flesh gave them a superficially conventional appearance, they did not look like women at all. They looked pure brain, sexless, selfless, ruthless. Most of them had as little flesh as it is possible to carry and live, as if Nature herself had sent them into the world trained and hardened for fight and for no other purpose whatever. Julia saw not the slightest evidence of personal ambition in those grim set faces, with eyes that were preternaturally keen in debate, and, to use Nigel’s word, clairvoyant in repose; merely that stern inflexible purpose which has been the equipment of martyrs since Society emerged out of chaos; but directed by a mental power, a modern balance, that saved them from the stupidities of fanaticism. That they were ready to go to the stake, or the hangman, she did not doubt, and it was possible that some of them would, unless the enemy came to its senses in time; but that they would fail in their purpose ultimately was as unthinkable as that they would ever lay down their arms. Truly a new force unleashed. Were these the immortal women?
Julia felt thrilled, exalted. All the iron in her nature, a gift of inheritance which had saved her from degradation and melancholy and the common foolishness of women; which, in a word, had made her stronger than life, rose from its long sleep and exulted. Here was a career, and here were associates worth while. The cause of woman in the abstract had left her cold, but when she realized the immense brain power, the unqualified courage, the unhuman endurance, imperative to put the right sort of new life into a great but long moribund cause, and sweep it to a triumphant finish, she felt on fire with enthusiasm; the abilities she had so long played with crystallized suddenly and leapt at their opportunity. Some day she should command these women, or their successors, and to do that would be as great a feat as to lead them to victory. She was more than willing to consecrate her personal ambition to the future of her sex, but that she never could lose sight of it would but give her an additional power. She could become as grim, as relentless, as indomitable as they, but she doubted she could ever be as selfless, or if she wished to be. For a moment she envied as much as she admired them, but the personality she once had believed murdered by her husband had long since revived with a double vitality, and the time was not yet when it could dissolve in the crucible of a cause.
When the meeting broke up she asked to be given active work to do, being well aware that one must serve before fit to command. They had been taught to expect her by Mrs. Herbert, and her offer of service as well as her donation was thankfully accepted. One of their number was told off to instruct her, and she was ordered to hold herself in readiness to go to the Midlands and take part in a by-election, working to defeat the liberal candidate if he persisted in his attitude of hostility to woman’s demand for the vote. She and her present instructor, Mrs. Lime, should heckle him when he spoke, canvass, distribute suffrage literature, and speak against him in the market-place, or at any corner where they could gather a crowd.
The latter part of the program was by no means to Julia’s taste, but she had made up her mind to obey orders, and she took them in the same matter-of-fact fashion in which they were delivered. Mentally, she shrugged her shoulders. If these women could stand it, she could. There was not a coarse, a vulgar, a hard face among them. And should she not exult in the prospect of a stirring career, the constant outlet for her energies, the lethe for her womanhood? The more adventurous the details, the better!
“She looks like Lady Macbeth,” said one of the girls as Julia departed with an armful of literature, and accompanied by Mrs. Lime. “Cool, calculating, ambitious, intellectual, unscrupulous in the grand manner.”
“H’m,” said another, dubiously. “Lady Macbeth had her weaknesses, and lost her mind,—something Mrs. France must retain if she is to be as useful to this cause as Mrs. Herbert and Lady Dark would have us believe.”
“Lady Macbeth up to date, then. The original was shut up in a castle with too few interests and opportunities; nothing to distract her mind. And remember she accomplished her purpose first.”
If one will dig deeply enough into the psychology of those great enthusiasms which have altered the course of history, one will generally discover some personal, overlaid, self-forgotten motive which bred the martyrs and kindled the leaders necessary to arrest the attention of the world, and make the vast number of converts essential to give any cause dignity and insure to it victory. It may be an acute disappointment in human nature, some assault upon highest instincts or treasured convictions, or even disappointed ambition; but above all is it likely to have its seed in that burning hatred of injustice which animates all minds with a natural bias for reform. The Prophets may have been inspired and preordained, but leaders and martyrs hardly, although they are entitled to the first rank in the history of the Great Causes.
With Bridgit Herbert it had been not only the profound reaction of a fine mind from the empty life of society, but the bitter recognition that she had lavished the wealth of her nature on a handsome fool, who laughed and kissed her when her ego struggled out of its embryo and looked for wings on his. Then had come the amazing discovery that the men she most liked, of whose friendly devotion she had felt assured, had no possible use for her when they found that she purposed to console herself with her intellect instead of with themselves; that so slight was the impression the greatness in her nature had made on them, they would be the first to balk her on every issue she held most dear. Her vanity soon healed, but she had been cut to the quick; and all the obstinacy, scorn, and strength in her arose, and counselled her to pay back to man something of what woman had suffered at his hand throughout the ages.
It is possible that if Christabel Pankhurst, bred on suffrage as she was, had not been refused admission to the Bar when she applied to the Benchers of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, she might not have conceived the Militant Movement at the psychological moment. Julia needed no further inducement to enter the career she once for all elected to follow that afternoon in Chelsea, but she, too, needed the sharp personal jolt to banish the abstract, and substitute the concrete enthusiasm; and she got it long before her impersonal ardor had time to cool.
Ten days after she had received her first instructions, she arrived with Mrs. Lime in the Midland town where the by-election campaign was to open. Mrs. Lime was an experienced heckler, and was already acquainted with the inside of prison and gaol, but unknown in the Midlands. Julia had found much inspiration in Mrs. Lime, a typical product of that awakening which began in 1901. Her small body looked as if it might have an unbreakable skeleton of steel, and her gaunt, dark, rapt face was deeply lined, although she was but twenty-four. Like Annie Kenny, she had been a half-timer at the loom at the age of ten, and had worked in the cotton mill until she married a plumber eight years later. Her husband died when she was twenty-two, and she was using his savings in the cause which she knew to be the one hope for thousands of girls, overworked and underfed, as she had been. In her early youth she had managed, against desperate odds, to acquire an education of sorts, and her speeches were remarkably effective; terse, logical, and informing. Once she would have worshipped the luminous beauty of this new recruit, but now she merely regarded it as a practical asset.
“Don’t let yourself run down,” she said to Julia as they sat in their hotel the night before the opening of the campaign, discussing their own. “Keep that hair bright, and wear your good clothes, as long as you’ve got them. Our ladies think too little about clothes, and its natural, being at this business all their lives, as you might say. But with you it’s different. You’ve got the born style, and you’d have hard work looking dingy. Don’t try. You’ve got just the air and the beauty to attract the crowd at the street corner, although you’ll soon be too familiar a figure to the police to get past the door. But ugly little things like me can do the heckling.”
The Liberal candidate made his first speech on the following night, but neither Julia nor Mrs. Lime found it possible to enter the hall. Men were learning wisdom. All women without cards or escorts were barred. Both the girls were roughly handled as they attempted again and again to obtain entrance; and as there was no crowd outside to address, they went back to the hotel to await the candidate’s return. They sat in the passage, and when he came in, shortly after eleven o’clock, Mrs. Lime immediately confronted him.
“You will tell us, if you please,” she said, “what you mean to do about giving the ballot to women.”
The candidate, who had congratulated himself upon accomplishing the exclusion of suffragettes from the hall, and had even taken the precaution to leave by the back door, colored with annoyance; and his eyes flashed contempt upon the plain little figure planted in his path.
“I state my intentions on the platform,” he said haughtily, and attempted to brush past her. But Mrs. Lime changed her own position and once more impeded his progress.
“Your intentions regarding votes for women,” she said in her even emotionless voice. “You are said to oppose it. I warn you that unless you assert that this is not true, and that you will do all in your power to assist us in winning the ballot, we shall do all we can to defeat you in this election.”
“We?” He laughed outright. “How many more of them are there like you?”
Julia rose and came forward. “Two,” she said. “And two against one is a proportion never to be despised.”
The man stared at her and his overbearing manner underwent a change.
“Oh, you!” he said. “Well you might get something out of a man if you tried hard enough.”
France had more than once burst out that his wife had the north pole in her eyes, that it was a waste of time to look for it anywhere else; and the frozen stare which this candidate received dashed his mounting ardor. He frowned heavily. “I say!” he said. “Get out of this. It’s no business for you.”
“Since when have politics ceased to be the business of English women? You will declare for us publicly and unmistakably, or I shall make it my business to defeat you.”
He stared at her again, this time in some dismay. He had yet to learn the power of women in general, when possessed of the brain and courage and holy fervor that are no mean substitutes for beauty and family, but he well knew the power that women of the class to which this antagonist belonged had wielded in the political history of England. For a moment he hesitated. What was a promise to a woman? And it would be safe to get rid of this woman as quickly as possible. The other, of course, didn’t matter. But he was an honest man in politics, whatever his other failings, and he would as soon have given the vote to the devil as to women. He turned on his heel.
“Do your worst,” he said. “That’s all you’ll get out of me.”
The next day Julia hired a motor car, and they pursued the candidate from town to town and village to village. He was contesting a large borough, whose member, returned at the general election, had died suddenly. It contained several towns and many villages. In the latter, Julia and Mrs. Lime visited every cottage, petted the children, distributed their literature, promised all they conscientiously could if the ballot were given to women, and implored help in defeating a man who was an avowed enemy. They converted most of the women, and made no little impression on the men, most of them colliers, who gathered about their car in the evenings. The car impressed the men almost as much as the eloquence of the speakers. Their thick heads, generally thicker at eight in the evening, were as impervious to female suffrage as the heads at Westminster, but Julia and Mrs. Lime had borrowed all the arguments of the Conservative candidate and used them with no less eloquence, and the more penetrating ingenuity of their sex.
At every hall they were refused admittance. Julia soon grew accustomed to being pulled about; her arms were black and blue; and she had twice been obliged to invest in new hats both for herself and Mrs. Lime. Her diffidence had vanished, and, her fighting blood up, and now completely interested, she spoke whenever the opportunity offered.
One dark night, when they had had the usual experience at the hall entrance, they were prowling about hoping to find an unguarded door, when they espied a scaffolding under one of the high windows. It was elevated on a rough trestle. The same idea animated them simultaneously. Without a word they climbed the precarious foothold, tearing their skirts, and splintering their hands, and felt their way along the scaffolding until they were close to the window. Then they unrolled their white banners inscribed “Votes for Women,” and waited. The candidate, who possessed the inestimable advantage of belonging to the party just come into power, was lauding its virtues, promising all things in its name, and reiterating the abominations, now somewhat stale, of the party that was responsible for the colossal war taxes, and the industrial depression. There were pertinent questions asked, which he answered good-naturedly; for although he would fain have gone through his carefully rehearsed speech uninterrupted, he was far too keen a politician to insult a voter.
“Now!” whispered Mrs. Lime, and simultaneously two heads appeared at the window, two banners were waved, and Julia, having the more carrying voice, cried out: —
“And how about Votes for Women?”
If a flaming sword had appeared, there could not have been more excitement. The candidate turned purple. The chairman jumped to his feet, crying “outrageous,” and the audience took up the word and shouted it, some shaking their fists. Several men ran down the aisle.
“The stewards!” whispered Mrs. Lime, “and they’ll be joined by the door police.”
It was darker than ever without, after the glare of the hall, but once more they felt their way along the scaffolding, reached the uprights, and clambered down just as a dark mass turned the corner of the building.
There was no time to cross the street. Mrs. Lime seized Julia’s hand and darted under the trestle. “Lie down with your face to the wall, and close,” she commanded.
Their clothes were dark and they were unobserved by the men, who stood for a moment looking up.
“I’ll go up this side,” said one of the policemen, after straining the back of his neck in vain, “and you go up the other. The rest look in that shed behind. That’s where they likely are.”
The men mounted gingerly, the others disappeared. Mrs. Lime gave Julia a tug, they wriggled out, and ran round to the front entrance. Before those on the rear benches knew what was happening, the two girls were halfway down the middle aisle. Then another roar arose.
“Put them out! Put them out!”
Julia and Mrs. Lime attempted to mount a bench, but were pulled down. About them was a sea of astonished indignant faces, such as, no doubt, confronted the British working-man years before when he so far forgot himself as to demand equal political rights with the gentry and the employer. Julia laughed outright as she saw those scandalized faces, but it would have fared ill with them when the police and stewards came running back, had not several gentlemen, who, unwilling to see violence done to women, however they might disapprove of their tactics, formed a bodyguard, and escorted them to the door. Quite satisfied with their night’s work they went to their inn and slept soundly.
So far they had not spoken in any of the larger towns, for in this manufacturing and colliery district it was difficult to collect a crowd in the market-place except on Saturday nights, and heretofore heavy rains had kept the men indoors with their pipe and beer. But they distributed their literature on the streets, and in shops and hotel dining-rooms, visited every house to which they could obtain entrance, and scored one signal triumph. The Conservative candidate, watching their progress, and having no fixed scruples to violate, came out sonorously for Woman. He even called on them personally and promised his active help in Parliament if they would canvass for him. They did not place too much faith in his word, but they were out to defeat an enemy, one who was also a member of that party responsible for all the indignities visited upon their cause. By this time that momentous night had come and gone when Mrs. Pankhurst and her band were forcibly ejected from the latticed gallery above the House of Commons, after hearing their bill talked out; and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, after receiving the deputation of representative women with amiability and encouragement, had astounded them with the warning that they were to expect nothing from his Cabinet. So war had been declared on the Government, and this was merely the first of the by-elections which was to give the women an opportunity to exhibit their power.
“We’ve a chance!” said Mrs. Lime, as the Conservative candidate smiled himself out of their presence. Her dark eyes were full of light, her sad mouth smiling. “Oh, but a chance! If we could only win! There’d be some head-shaking up there at Westminster.”
“Well!” said Julia, also triumphant, “at least we’ve made the Liberal candidate look persecuted. I know that every time he catches sight of us he longs to call the police.”
The following day was Saturday and they arrived at one of the most important towns in the district. The sun was out and it was immediately decided to take the corner hustings. By this time, Julia had quite forgotten her old objection to street corners; it seemed to her that she had forgotten everything she had known on any subject than the one in possession; and she was further inspired by the discovery that her tongue possessed both persuasiveness and power. Even bad speakers like to hear themselves talk as soon as they have mastered fright, and never was there a good one that would not rather be on the stump than off it. Julia was enjoying this hard fighting as she had never enjoyed anything in her life.
The town was surrounded by cigarette factories, and on this Saturday afternoon it seemed to Julia that every girl they employed must be promenading the streets with her hooligan swain. They were bold-looking creatures, cheaply and loudly attired, and universally hilarious. By this time Julia had concluded that the common people of this section of the Midlands were more common, more rude, more offensive than any she had encountered in England, with the possible exception of the barbarians in the London slaughter houses. Even Mrs. Lime remarked sadly that comparative prosperity did not seem to improve her class. But Julia had yet to learn that these young people had a brutal license in their natures, a ribald savagery, that was a part of their general indifference to morals or any sense of decency.
She and Mrs. Lime immediately divided the town into districts, and seeing a group on a corner near to which there was a convenient box, Julia mounted her platform and began to address the eight or ten young men and women. At first they merely gave a rough laugh; then one cried out: —
“W’y, it’s a bloomin’ suffragette! Oh, I say, wot a lark! W’y ain’t ’er golden ’air ’anging down ’er back?”
Julia had heard remarks of this sort before, although her speaking experience had lain almost altogether in the villages, where the human animal, less sophisticated, is also less aggressive. In a few moments the group had become a crowd that blocked the street, and she quite believed that no speaker had ever looked into so many hard and hostile eyes. The face of every man wore an insulting grin. She went on unperturbed, however, welcoming them at any price, for this was her first opportunity to address a town crowd. The more hostile, the better. She was confident of getting their ear in time.
But it was soon evident that they had no intention of giving her their ear. They roared with laughter, they gave unearthly cat-calls. Finally one hurled a vile epithet at her. This was a signal which unloosed their proudest accomplishment. When they had exhausted their vocabulary, and it was a large one when it came to obscenity, they began again; but finding that she looked down at them undisturbed, merely waiting for a pause, they began to grow angry, and pushed forward. Julia’s box was already against the wall, there was no possible means of retreat, and there was not a friendly face in that ugly crowd. But she was not conscious of any fear. Not only was she fearless by nature, but she had been trained during these last four years to impassivity in any crisis. What she really felt was the profound disdain of the aristocrat for the brainless mob, and although she did not realize this at the moment, it did flash through her mind that here was one section of the poor that might go to the devil for all the help and sympathy it would ever get from her. But of these and other uncomplimentary sentiments she betrayed no more than she did of fear, although she was not sufficiently hardened to suppress an inward quiver at the foul language with which she had now been assailed for some ten minutes.
“Oh, I say!” cried one of the girls, when her companions finally paused to draw breath. “Is she a bloomin’ stature? Let’s put some life in ’er.” And another shrieked, “Wot’s golden ’air for if it ain’t ’anging down ’er back? Let’s put it w’ere it belongs.”
The crowd surged forward. Julia, looking into those primitive faces, the faces of good old barbarians, full of the lust to hurt, wondered if her time had come. She made no doubt that they would tear the clothes off her back, perhaps trample her underfoot, for they had lashed their passions far beyond their limited powers of restraint. She squared her shoulders. For the moment the world looked to her full of eyes and fists. Then she hastily glanced to right and left. Down the street two blue-clad figures were advancing, accompanied by the Liberal candidate and another man. She drew a long breath of relief. She had grown to look upon the British policeman as her natural enemy, but now she hailed him as her only friend on earth.
She raised her arm and indicated the approach of the law. One of the men followed her gesture, and shouted, “The bobbies.” The clinched hands dropped and the crowd fell back. As the two policemen strode up Julia expected to see official fists fly, and as many arrests made as two men of law could handle. To her amazement the policemen pushed their way through the mob and jerked her off the box.
“Nice doings, this,” cried one, indignantly. “Obstructing traffic and collecting crowds. Ain’t you suffragettes ever going to learn sense?”
“I!” cried Julia, with still deeper indignation. “You had better arrest your townspeople. Couldn’t you hear them using language that alone ought to send them to jail? And couldn’t you see that they would have torn me to pieces in another moment? Why don’t you arrest them?”
“It’s you we’re going to arrest. It’s you that’s obstructing traffic and collecting crowds, not them. They’re out for their ’arf ’oliday.”
“But I tell you they threatened me with violence.”
“Serves you right. You come along, and if you make any fuss you’ll get hurt, sure enough.”
And Julia, filled with a wrath of which she had never dreamed herself capable, was dragged off between the two policemen, while the crowd jeered and howled, and the Liberal candidate stood on the other side of the street laughing softly.
Once her fury so far overcame her that she struggled and attempted to break away, but one of the men gave her arm such a wrench that she walked quietly to the Town Hall, thankful that anger had burned up her tears.
At the Town Hall she was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic, and promptly committed to a cell, to await trial on Monday morning.
So Julia spent twenty-four hours in prison. She could have summoned sleep at night had she been disposed, but nothing was farther from her thought. She was too infuriated to sleep and forget for a moment the gross injustice to which she had been subjected by the laws of a country supposed to be the most enlightened on the globe. She had mounted a box to make a peaceable—not an incendiary—speech, something men did whenever they listed, and with no fear of punishment. Her denouncement of the Liberal candidate and her plea for Suffrage would have contained no offence against law and order; but she had been treated as if she had incited a riot, while the vile creatures that had insulted and threatened her were not even reprimanded.
In a mind naturally fair and just, nothing will cause rebellion so profound as an act of gross injustice. Had Julia, from a safe vantage point, seen Mrs. Lime or any other woman treated as she had been, her soul would have boiled with righteous wrath; but it takes the personal indignity to sink deep and bear results. Julia in that long night and the day that followed, cold, half-fed, alone, in a vermin-ridden cell, forgot her ambitions, her artistic pleasure in playing a part well, and became as rampant a suffragette as any of the little band in Park Walk. She would war against these stupid brutes in power as long as they left breath in her, fight to give women the opportunity to do better. Something was rotten when justice worked automatically without logic; and if men were too indifferent to effect a cure, it was time another sex took hold. No wonder these chosen women were indifferent to femininity, and gowns, and all that had given woman her superficial power in the past. What mortal happiness they missed mattered nothing. They were equipped for one purpose only, to avenge and protect the millions ignored by nature and fortune, and the victims of man-made laws; and if they were mauled, and torn, and despised, and killed, it was but the common fate of the advance guard, the martyrs in all great reforms; they were quite consistent in being as indifferent to sympathy as to the denunciations of the fools that saw in them but a new variety of the unwomanly woman.
And so Julia received her baptism of fire.
On Sunday afternoon, her wrath had burned itself out, but not its consequences. As she had no intention of making herself ill she was about to lie down and sleep, when her door was opened and she was told that she was free.
This was by no means welcome, for she wished to express herself in court, refuse to pay her fine, and go to gaol, that being the program of the suffragettes. But she was told to depart, and no explanation was given her. Wondering if the duke had been telegraphed to, and brought swift influence to bear, she left the prison with some uneasiness; her old-fashioned relative was her one source of apprehension. If disapproval overcame his sense of justice and he cut down her income, she should have that much less to devote to the Suffrage cause.
At the inn she found that Mrs. Lime, who had escaped arrest, was out, and ordered the maid to bring her bath. When she had finished, the maid returned with her tea, and stood by sympathetically.
“So you’ve been to prison?” she asked.
“I have,” said Julia.
“That’s no place for you, mum. Wot’s the perlice thinking of, giving you wot for like that?”
“Do you belong to this town?”
“I do, mum.”
“Then, let me tell you, it is a disgrace to a civilized country.”
“Oh, I say!”
Julia, who wanted to talk to somebody, gave an account of her adventure with the mob, and while omitting their language, let it be understood in her descriptions of their appearance and performance.
The woman nodded emphatically. “Right you are. It’s them factory girls. They’re no good. Trollops, all of ’em. W’y, d’you know, I worked in one of them factories for seven years, and I was the only girl in the lot that kep’ me virtue.” (She looked like a black-and-tan terrier and was not much larger.) “That I did, though!” And she nodded her head as if keeping time to a hymn.
Julia, who had finished her tea, stood up and began to unpin her hair as a hint that she would like to be alone. But the woman set down the tray and exclaimed in a voice of rapture: —
“Oh, my eye, wot hair! Oh, but I’ve always admired golden ’air, me own’s that black.”
“It’s very disreputable hair at present,” said Julia, amiably. “It hasn’t been down since yesterday morning. Naturally I couldn’t use the prison comb—if there was one!”
“Oh—would you—would you let me brush it, now?” cried the woman, eagerly. “I’ve never ’ad me ’ands in ’air like that. I’d enjoy it, that I would.”
“Why—if you like.” Julia, who was tired, felt that it would not be unpleasant to have the services of a maid once more.
She sat down and the woman began to unbraid the long plaits.
“Are you sure you have the time?” asked Julia, perfunctorily.
“Oh, yes. Me ’usband’s ’ead waiter, and the master would give up the ’otel before ’im; and he—Jim—-don’t dare say nothing to me, for fear I’d caterwaul. I can do that awful. Oh, my eye, but this is ’air!”
She shook out the long strands and held one up to the light. “Oh, Gawd!” she cried, with mounting fervor. “No wonder them trollops wanted to mar you. They were jealous, that’s wot. They’d ’ave cut it off if the perlice ’adn’t come along, and pinned it on their own ’eads. And beauties they’d ’ave been!”
“Do you suppose they were drunk?”
“ ’Alf and ’alf. It wasn’t time to be full up, but you oughter see them in the market-place at ten o’clock!”
“What makes them so brutal, then? I’ve never seen anything like them in England.”
“Oh, I fawncy they’re about the worst England’s got. Maybe it’s the cigarette factories does it, I cawn’t say. But they’re a rotten lot, and all me sisters was the same. I ’ad a blond sister, but her hair was more whitish, not gold like yours. She was pretty and more gentle-like, but she went to the bad fast enough. I swore I’d keep me virtue an’ I did. I never spoke to a man I wasn’t introduced to proper until the night I met Jim in the merry-go-round—in the same seat, he was, and he made up to me—fell that in love he couldn’t see straight, and when he tried ’is nonsense, he got wot for and then he respected me from that day forth—I’ve read me penny dreadfuls, you see. Well, we got married proper, and now we ’ave two good positions, and may own a public some day. It pays to be virtuous, it do. He isn’t the only sweetheart I ever ’ad, either,” she rambled on; and Julia, seeing that nothing would quench her, resigned herself, for the woman’s touch was deft and light. “I ’ad a fine ’andsome sweetheart once—Jim ain’t nothing to look at, and would drink if I didn’t caterwaul so—’andsome and upstanding he was, and all the girls was after him; and he was steady, too, had one job and kep’ it. He was in a big Manchester draper’s shop. He used to come ’ere, and I used to visit me aunt—he was me cousin and ’is name was Harry Muggs. He was in love with me that desperate he’d swear he’d kill himself if I didn’t ’ave ’im. He knew I’d kep’ me virtue, and he thought me grand. Once he was down ’ere after me ’ard, and we took a walk and come to a pond, and when I told ’im once more I wouldn’t ’ave ’im, and started to go ’ome, I was that tired saying no, he caught me round me waist and ’eld me over the pond and swore he’d drop me in if I didn’t ’ave ’im. I was that frightened I thought I’d die, and I screamed like I was stuck. But I wouldn’t give in, and then he threw me on the bank and run off and I’ve never seen ’im since.”
“Why didn’t you marry him, if he was such a paragon?” asked Julia, languidly.
“Oh, I couldn’t, mum. He was a chance child. Me aunt ’ad ’im by a butler where she lived. I ’adn’t kep’ me virtue for that—wot’s the matter —”
Julia was doubled up.
“Oh—nothing—really—I think I must be a bit hysterical after my experience. Would you mind telling me what the weather looks like? It was rather threatening when I came in.”
The woman went to the window and lifted the sash curtain. “It damps, mizzles like,” she said dubiously. “But I don’t fawncy it’ll rain ’ard. ’Ere comes your friend. She was ready to drop last night. My, but she’s that stringy to look at.”
“Would you mind telling her that I am here? She must be anxious.”
The woman departed unwillingly, her eyes fixed to the last on the hair Julia was braiding. A moment later Mrs. Lime came in. She looked thinner and gaunter than ever, but her eyes burned with sombre enthusiasm.
“Oh, you poor dear!” she exclaimed. “But you mustn’t mind, for the more unfair treatment we receive, the sooner will the right-thinking people of the country be roused, and the more recruits we shall get. That’s where the law shows its stupidity.”
“I didn’t mind in the least,” said Julia, dryly. But she made no confidences. That violent upheaval and readjustment were sacred to herself.
“There’s another thing,” said Mrs. Lime. “A reporter was with the Liberal candidate and the policemen at the time of your arrest. He’s also the correspondent of a London paper. He hunted me up at once to get some particulars about your family, etc. —”
“Oh!” exclaimed Julia. “Did you tell him?”
“Why, of course. We cannot have too much publicity, and you will be a great help to us. The story will be in the London newspaper to-morrow morning as well as here. No doubt there will be a London reporter down to interview you —”
“Ah!” Julia’s color had been steadily rising. “I can’t have that.”
“There’s only one thing to think of,” said Mrs. Lime, severely, “and that is the cause. People complain that we’re sensational, trying to attract public attention. Why, of course we are. Rather. How otherwise can we make ourselves known, much less felt, become a political issue, if we don’t take the obvious method? No newspaper would notice our existence if we didn’t make ourselves ‘news’ and force their hand. Peaceful demonstrations, like shrinking personalities, belong to the dark ages of Suffrage, when nothing was accomplished. Now, if that reporter comes down from London, you must talk. Jump at every chance to further the cause that’s given you. It isn’t so often we’re interviewed.”
“Very well,” said Julia, and half wished she had changed her name and dyed her skin and hair.
As Mrs Lime had anticipated, a reporter of one of the less conservative London newspapers arrived on the following morning. He was accompanied by the correspondent of a chain of American newspapers, commonly referred to as “Yellow.” Mrs. Lime saw them first and gave a full account of the campaign. Then Julia descended, and having made up her mind to talk, she talked to some purpose. When she finished, there was no confusion in either of the young men’s minds as to her opinion of the Government, the police, and the prison system of England. Her description of the mob was so graphic that the American correspondent nodded with approval.
“Say!” he exclaimed. “You ought to have six months of this experience, and then go over to the U. S. and lecture. You’d make money for your cause all right, all right. Better think it over.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” said Mrs. Lime, with enthusiasm. “We will think it over.”
During the afternoon the girls once more started off on the heels of the candidate. But their work was almost done. The polling took place on the following Thursday. Almost as much to their own amazement as to that of every one else, the Liberal candidate was defeated by a small majority. But if it was the first demonstration of the power of the Militants in by-elections, it was by no means the last.
There was no question in the London press of ignoring this issue and its cause. With one accord it expressed astonishment, indignation, and righteous wrath, at the unpatriotic selfishness of a set of women that were a disgrace to their country and their sex.
Mrs. Lime was recalled to London, and Julia, being now full fledged, was ordered to make a tour of certain districts of the north and west, speak in all circumstances, and make converts not only to the cause of Suffrage, but to the Woman’s Social and Political Union.
Julia for the next four months spoke nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. She had encounters with the police, although she tactfully avoided street corners, and they hardly could eject her from a hall she herself had hired. There were towns, however, where the feeling among men was so strong against the new manifestation of Suffrage, that owners refused to rent her their halls, and then she spoke either in a friendly drawing-room, at a working-girls’ club, on the common, or, on Sunday, in an open field. On the whole, however, she had far less trouble with the authorities than she expected and fewer unfriendly demonstrations. Occasionally, the rear benches were occupied by hooligans employed to howl her down, and to these infringements the police were deaf; but in the audience there was usually a sprinkling of respectable men who had come to hear what she had to say; and when they were tired of the interruptions, they arose as one man and disposed of the intruders.
She found herself addressing great and greater crowds, for the north was awakening in earnest; the laboring women had been ready for years, and now the middle class, long torpid, was furnishing recruits every hour. Annie Kenny’s second and long imprisonment caused wide-spread interest as well as indignation, and her release was celebrated by great meetings of welcome both in London and the provinces. After addressing crowds in Lancashire, and receiving an ovation, she went to Wales to speak, and Mrs. Pethick Lawrence and Bridgit Herbert, once more whole and belligerent, held a series of meetings in Yorkshire.
Like a heather fire the new gospel of Suffrage swept over the north, and where a few months since the W. S. P. U. had struggled along with a few hundred members, it now reckoned its thousands.
Julia, like many another aspirant for fame, found that she must submit to have notoriety thrust upon her first. She was regarded as “news” both by the British and the American press. Reporters followed her about, she had been ordered by headquarters to have her photograph taken, and it frequently embellished the sumptuous weekly newspapers. There was no question of her popularity as a speaker, aside from the growing popularity of her subject. She not only spoke with a full command of the principles and intentions of the new movement, often brilliantly, and always well, never with sentimentality, and often with power, but she was a charming figure to look at. She had sent for her trunks and her maid.
She rarely felt tired, for the artificial method of relaxation which she had been taught, and practised daily, gave both brain and body a more complete rest than sleep itself. Therefore, was she always in form, and never looked worn. As her fame grew, more and more of the county people attended her meetings, and many distinguished names upon which the Government relied for opposition were added to the list of converts.
She was also complimented by covert offers from the pillars of the anti-suffrage party, and one supporter of the Government went so far as to make love to her; then, finding himself inoculated with his own virus, retired in discomfort after a dry reference by Julia to Parnell and Mrs. O’Shea.
“How do you like being famous?” asked Mrs. Herbert one day. They had planned to meet for Sunday.
“Famous? Is that what you call it?”
“Rather. We live in the twentieth century. The advertising poster is the modern work of art. I’m told your picture has appeared in every illustrated paper in the United States. It’s not only your beauty and brains and Kingsborough connection. Some people have a magnetism for the public, and you are one of them. You strike the spark.”
“The oddest thing about it all is that there doesn’t seem to be the least jealousy among the women in London. They might easily resent that a newcomer with no more ability than themselves should suddenly shoot up into what you call fame. It’s almost uncanny.”
“Jealous? Not they. What they’re after is freedom and power for women, and they don’t care tuppence whose sun shines the brightest in the process. They’re depersonalized, those women.”
“All the same it’s uncanny. It makes them the more formidable. As Nigel says, they’re a new race. I believe I’m growing just like them. I’d go to the stake myself, or blow up Westminster. The only thing that worries me is the attitude of the duke. Of course he is furious, looks upon me as a disgrace to the family, particularly since I can’t keep out of the newspapers. I’ve had two letters from him, threatening to withdraw my income if I don’t retire into private life. He’s not the man to take back what he has given, without qualms, but I fancy he will, and that will leave me with exactly two hundred pounds a year,—all that I am allowed from Harold’s estate. That would merely keep me, and so far I’ve never called upon the Union’s exchequer. I wish I might always be able not only to pay my own expenses, but contribute largely to the fund.”
“The duke running the W. S. P. U. is sufficiently humorous. However, you’ve nothing to worry about. The American public would pay much gold to hear you speak, and you can always write.”
Early in September Julia spoke in Bradford and Keighley, and on the following Sunday she slipped away and went to Haworth, not only to rest and read a number of letters forwarded by her solicitors, but to worship at the shrine of the Brontës.
She took a fly at the station in the valley, but halfway up the steep road which leads to the village she descended precipitately; the fly and the horse had executed a right angle. She walked the rest of the distance, the rough stones giving a foothold, and soon reached the long crooked street which begins with the Black Bull Inn and finishes at the moor. Short streets ending nowhere radiated from this central thoroughfare at irregular intervals. There was no business to speak of in Haworth. The men worked in Keighley or Bradford, the young women in the worsted mills of the valley. Julia, driving the day before, had watched the long procession of girls, shawls pinned about their heads, file out of the factories, and, two by two, cross the valley either to the road that led up to Haworth, or to another village higher above the moor. It was the proud boast of Haworth that every inhabitant had a bank book, and Julia felt it would be a relief to visit one village where there was no poverty. It looked trim and prosperous, picturesque though it was, and such men and women as were to be seen had none of that pinched hopeless look which had put fire into so many of her speeches.
After she had duly admired Branwell Brontë’s chair, which the landlady of the inn assumed she had come to see, and had made it understood that she really intended to stay overnight, she was shown to a large room upstairs, overlooking the churchyard. The inn, in fact, formed one of its walls, and there were flat stones directly beneath her window. It was a gloomy crowded churchyard, with toppling box-tombs and heavy dusty trees, its farther boundary the low stone parsonage that had sheltered the Brontës. They, too, could read the inscriptions on the stones from their windows. Small wonder they died of consumption.
From the street came the sound of children’s voices and wooden clogs. Her room, with its old four-post bed, was almost sumptuous. Julia would have liked to stay a month. But time pressed. She established herself comfortably and slit the large envelope containing her letters.
At sight of one she sat upright and changed color, but put it aside to read last.
The first she opened was from the duke. He wrote tersely and to the point. This was his final warning. The next time she should receive his communication through his solicitors. Another was from Hadji Sadrä containing much advice and some approval. Her mother, to whom Mrs. Winstone had sent numerous printed accounts of her “performances,” wrote as briefly as the duke and even more to the point. Julia was a public woman and a disgrace to her blood. (It would never have occurred to Mrs. Edis to add that she was a disgrace to her sex.) The request for Fanny had some time since been curtly refused.
Then she looked at the envelope of Tay’s letter, and finally opened it. To her surprise it was dated May second. It began characteristically.
“Do I remember you? Gee! Well! Rather, oh, princess of the eyes and hair. Things have happened since last we met, not forgetting April sixteenth of the current year, but I can see you as plainly as I saw the chimney fall on my bed on the date just mentioned. Yes, I’ve grown some, and you may imagine me, at the present moment, if you please, dressed in khaki and top-boots, with a beard of three weeks’ growth (I’m as smooth as a play-actor generally) and almost as much dirt; for water, like everything else in this now historic town, is mighty scarce. At the present moment I am stifling in the linen closet, that being the only room in my wrecked home without a window; if I lit a candle where it could be seen I’d be liable to a bullet in my devoted head, such being the stern ardors of those new to authority. I’ve not had a minute to answer your letter in the daytime. What between standing in the bread-line for hours on end (often with a Chinaman in front and a nigger behind) that my poor old parents may not starve—every servant deserted on the 16th—and cooking two meals a day in the street (lucky I’ve always been a good camper), and hustling round Oakland the rest of the time, trying to patch up the house of Tay, besides inditing many pages of foolscap to assure the eastern and Central American firms we do business with that we are still at the same old stand (so they won’t sell us out to somebody else),—well, my golden princess of the tower, you can figure out that I’m pretty busy.
“I wish you could have seen the old town, for there’ll never be a new one like it, conglomeration of weird and separate eras as it was; but on the whole I’d rather you saw it now. It makes the Roman Forum look like thirty cents. Imagine miles of broken walls, columns, and arches, of all shades of red and brown and smoky gray, yawning cellars full of twisted débris, one heap of ruins with a dome like an immense bird-cage, still supporting something they called a statue, but never much to look at until its present chance to appear suspended in air. If it wasn’t the wreck of my town, I’d have some artistic spasms, but as it is, I’m only thinking out ways and means to get rid of these artistic ruins as quickly as possible.
“It’s rather fine, do you know, the enthusiasm of these homeless, meatless, pretty-well-cleaned-out inhabitants, for the great new city that is to be. We all feel like pioneers—and look like them!—but with this difference: we know that we are in at the making of a great new city, and the old boys never knew what was coming to them, or how soon they’d move on. Here we stick, and sixty earthquakes couldn’t shake us off, or take the courage out of us. It is almost worth while.
“And, oh, Lord, how we do love one another. (Or did.) No ‘Society.’ All Socialists (accidental and temporary but real). It’s a good object-lesson of what the world would be if there was no money in it. But alas! over in Oakland—where there is a little business doing—the phrase ‘earthquake love’ is now heard, and carries its own subtle meaning. I don’t fancy the original man in us has altered much. He just got a jolt out of the saddle, but the saddle is still there and so is the man.
“It seemed odd to get your letter, fairly reeking with the Old World, in the midst of all this chaos, and for at least half an hour I was transported, hypnotized. You’re some writer, dear lady, and in those all too brief paragraphs I saw considerably more of England than I have recalled during the past ten years—to say nothing of what you call the East. What an experience of life you have had, you dainty princess that should be kept in a glass case. But thank God you’ve shut him up. By Jove, I believe if this hadn’t happened I’d have taken the first train east (our east), and the first boat over to renew my former distinguished offer. I’ve never been hit so hard, and I’ve known some corking girls, too. I don’t say I haven’t been hit, but not all the way through; at all events you have the honor of having received my one proposal. Perhaps I’ve worked too hard to think seriously of getting married, and I’ve gone little into society—sometimes one party a winter. Yes, I was well on the road to making my everlasting pile when the old city went to pot, but this fire (the earthquake wouldn’t have stopped business twenty-four hours, bad as it was) has set us all back ten years. But I’ll get there all the same, and I rather like the prospect of the fight.
“So! You’re in sympathy with the suffragettes? I can’t see you in any such rôle, and hope you’ll have a new fad by the time you get this—heaven knows when that will be, for our post-office is stuck in the mud, and those across the bay are so congested with mail that it will take another earthquake to turn them inside out. I got your letter by a miracle.
“To go back to your suffragettes, I haven’t heard a word about them since April 16th; or any other outside news, for the matter of that. The newspapers set up at once in Oakland, but nobody is interested in any news outside of this afflicted district, and the newspapers don’t print any. All Europe might be at war and we wouldn’t be any the wiser. Nor would we care a five-cent piece if we were.
“But I hope they’ve been suppressed, and that when I get over—as I will the moment I dare leave—they will be as dead as William Jennings Bryan. At all events I hope you will be well out of it. I don’t like the idea one little bit. Why don’t you come here? To a traveller like you that would be but a nice little jaunt. The railroads are going to advertise our poor old city as the greatest ruin in the world, and we hope the tourist will swallow the bait and drop a few thousands in our lonesome pockets. This house will be patched up as soon as the great American Working-man can be induced to work, but at present he is camping on the hills and eating out of the hand of the Government. Until that paternal hand is withdrawn not a stroke will he do. But we could put you up somehow, and maybe you’d enjoy it.
“Poor Cherry lost her house on Nob Hill, and all that was in it—except her jewels. She put those in a pillow-case and hiked for the Presidio—her machines were commandeered at once to carry hospital patients to safety, to say nothing of dynamite. Now, she’s camping with us and does the house work, and pares potatoes, while I fry them—on a stove we’ve rigged up just off the sidewalk, and surrounded with inside window-blinds. She’s game, like all the women, doesn’t kick about anything, and only screams when we have one of our numerous little imitations of the grand shake. Emily, luckily for her, had married and gone to New York to live, but her personal income will be nil for some time to come. Her name is Morison, if you ever happen to run across her.
“Well, dear little princess, my candle is guttering, and I can’t buy another to-night. No stores in S. F., and it’s a toss-up if I remember to get another to-morrow in Oakland. The moment two men are gathered together—well, you have imagination—we talked nothing but earthquake and fire for a week after April 16th, and now we talk nothing but insurance. What’s more, I’ve had architects at work for the last three weeks drawing plans for our new business house, and when I can induce the great American Working-man to clean out the débris, I’ll get to work and do something besides talk. But what a letter from a pioneer and busted capitalist! Yes, please write to me and tell me the story of your life—perhaps I should explain that that is slang. But you couldn’t write enough to satisfy me, and the minute I’m free (as free as an American man ever is) I’ll make tracks for little old London—unless you come here. Why not? Do. You shall have your daily tub if I have to haul water from the bay. And I can cook. If I’ve got any imagination, you’ve a lien on it all right. Perhaps you think this is what you call chaff. Just you wait. I’m not what you call reckless, either, but—Oh, hang it! I’m in no position to write a love letter.
“Yes, I’m twenty-six, but I can tell you there are times I feel forty. I’ve worked like a dog these last five years, and not only at business. We—a few of us have been trying to clean up the politics of this abandoned town. Well, it’s all to do.
“Really, no more; I’m writing in the dark.
“But always your devoted
Julia smiled all through this letter, and wondered if the original boy in some men ever grew up, and if even in the United States there were another Daniel Tay. Then she read it over again, and then she answered it. The moment she took up her pen she came to herself with a shock. She had been travelling between San Francisco and Bosquith, and now she realized that she had nothing to write him about but her work in the cause upon which she was embarked. She had, these last months, bestowed barely a thought on all that had gone before, and she did not feel the least desire to write of anything else. Would it bore as well as disillusionize him? Well, what if it did? To write to him again was irresistible, but she must write out her present self; if he didn’t answer—well—perhaps, so much the better.
But, beyond the subject, she was at no pains to bore him. She took pride in writing him a far better letter than her first and gave the liveliest possible account of her numerous adventures. She even told him all she had felt during those twenty-four hours in prison, something she had never intended to confide to any one; but although she would not have admitted it, she had a secret hankering for his complete sympathy and understanding.
“And you’ve no idea,” she concluded, “what a wonderful thing it is to have a vital interest in life, to live wholly outside of yourself, to strive for a sort of perfection, while at the same time your vanity is titillated with the thought that you are helping to make history. I really do not know whether I have any personal ambition left or not. When I started out I was consumed with it. This great cause was merely but a means to an end. But now—I don’t know whether it is because I have never a moment to think of myself, I am so busy, or whether the cause is so much greater than any individual can be—I don’t know. I don’t know. The balance may be struck later. The only thing I strive to hold on to is my sense of humor.”
When this letter was sealed, she had a sudden access of conscience and indited another to Nigel, whom she had quite neglected since her departure from London. She reminded him that he had published nothing for a year, and asked him to consider her suggestion that he go to Acca and write the Bahai-Socialism novel. “I shall worry until you do,” she concluded this epistle, “for it would be a thousand pities if the subject were cheapened by the horde of third-raters, always nosing for new ‘copy.’ The Bahais want a big man. And how you would enjoy writing on Mount Carmel. Do write me that you will go at once.”
The landlady knocked and announced that her dinner was ready. She snatched up Tay’s letter and made an instinctive movement to put it in her bosom, but was reminded that her blouse buttoned in the back. Nor had she a pocket. So she put the letter into her hand-bag, and wondered if fashion would be the death of romance.
After dinner, she started for the moor. She wanted a spray of white heather, and to walk in the paths of the Brontës. The long crooked street of the village was deserted, the good people lingering over their Sunday meal. But Julia felt little interest in them. As she reached the end of the street and looked out over the great purple expanse undulating away until it melted into the low pale sky brushed with white, she was wondering which of these narrow paths had been Charlotte’s and trying to conjure up the tragic figure of Emily, one of her literary loves. She walked for several miles and managed to find the nook in the glen which she had been told by the landlady of the Black Bull was the spot where Charlotte had sat so often to dream the books that must have transformed her bleak life into wonderland. No object she for all the sympathy that had been wasted on her. Immortality! Julia, whose ego was enjoying a brief recrudescence, felt that it was a small thing to be half starved and lonely, afflicted by a drunken brother, and sisters dying of consumption, when consoled with an imagination that not only swamped life for this poor sickly little mortal, but must have whispered to her of undying fame. And she had contributed her share to the cause of which this devotee at her shrine was a symbol, vastly different from all that is modern as she had been; for had she not been of the few to make the world recognize the genius of woman? She had, in truth, been one of the flaming torches.
Julia climbed out of the glen and started to return. After she had traversed several of the knolls, she saw that the moor down by the village was alive with people. The landlady had told her that all Haworth took its Sunday afternoon walk on the moor, but she still felt no interest in them, and renewed her search for white heather.
She passed the first group and nodded, as she had a habit of doing, for she had come to feel as if the toilers of England were her especial charge. They smiled in return, and one stared and whispered to the others. Julia guessed that she had been at the meeting in Keighley the night before. The crowd became thicker and she was soon in the midst of it. She would have been stared at in any case, for strangers were rare in Haworth. Tourists came for an hour to visit the Brontë Museum, and hastened off to catch their train. And Julia was fair to look upon and exceeding well dressed. The girls turned to look after her with approval, and when she made her way out of what would seem to be a large family party gossiping pleasantly, and, wandering off, stooped once more, a girl followed and asked her shyly if she were looking for white heather.
“Oh,” said Julia, “would you help me? I should like a spray for luck, and as a memento of your village.”
“It’s hard to find, miss, but we can look. I’ve found many a bit.”
They strayed off together, Julia good-naturedly answering the eager questions. Suddenly the girl turned.
“Why!” she exclaimed. “They’re all coming this way, and that excited!”
Julia looked and saw that the whole company was streaming toward her. They paused, held a hurried conference, and then one of the younger women came directly up to the stranger.
“We are thinking,” she said diffidently, “that you may be Mrs. France, who spoke last night at Keighley, and has been speaking all over the north.”
“Yes, I am Mrs. France,” said Julia, wondering what was coming.
“And you really are a suffragette?”
“That is what they call us.”
“We’ve never seen one, only one or two of us who were at the meeting last night. The rest of us didn’t go, we was that tired, and we’re wondering if you wouldn’t give us a speech here.”
“Oh—really—I rarely speak on Sunday, and even suffragettes must rest, you know.”
The woman’s face fell, but she said politely, “Of course. We know what work is. But we may never have another chance—and we’re that curious. We’d like to know what it’s all about.”
Julia hesitated. What right had she to refuse this simple request? It was her business to advance the cause of Suffrage and make converts wherever she could. Nor was she tired. She was merely in a dreaming mood, and wanted to think of the Brontës; to anticipate, as she realized in a flash of annoyance, the rereading of Tay’s letter. She had deliberately been trying to forget it.
“I will speak with pleasure,” she said. “Have you something I could stand on? I’m not very tall, you know.”
“One of the men went for a table. We made sure you would be so kind.”
The man was even now stalking up the moor with a kitchen table balanced on his head. As Julia walked toward the smiling company she felt once more the ardent propagandist.
“If I may, ma’am,” said a tall young man. He lifted her lightly and stood her on the table.
“Now,” said Julia, smiling down into several hundred faces, a few set in disdain, but for the most part friendly, “what is it you wish me to tell you? How much do you know of this great movement?”
“Well,” said one of the older women, “we read a lot about militants, and suffragettes, and fighting the police, and going to prison, and big meetings all over England, and we’d like to know what it’s all about. That’s all.”
“You might begin,” said one of the men, with a faint accent of sarcasm, “by telling us what good the vote’ll do you when you get it.”
Julia began by reminding them of the interest that so many of the factory women of the north had taken in the enfranchisement of their sex for several years before the militant movement began, and of the many Annie Kennys whose eyes were opened to the injustice of the absence of a minimum wage for women. One of the men interrupted her.
“Yes, ma’am, and if you raise women’s wages so that they can no longer undercut men, the lot of ’em’ll be kicked out.”
“Not all. The best will be retained, for the best are as efficient as the men. The inferior ones will find other employment, or be taken care of by men, who will then be able to support their families. They can return to their place in the home, that woman’s sphere of which we hear so much.”
This was received with cheers, but the man growled: —
“It’ll take time. It’ll take time. Better let well enough alone.”
“As it is the women that suffer, it is for them to say whether it is well enough. Of course it will take time. We do not promise Utopia in a day—nor ever, for that matter. But, if you will take the trouble to observe, it is the women of this country that are waging war on poverty, not the men. Without the ballot they are forced to advance at a snail’s pace. On all the boards to which they are admitted they do the work, and the men, who outnumber them, defeat every project for the betterment of the poor that would force the ratepayers to disgorge a few more shillings. Doctors, and all thinking and humane men, for that matter, would be thankful if these boards were composed entirely of women, for they alone understand the needs of other women and of children. Man lacks the instinct, to begin with, and has long since grown callous to the sources of his income. Higher wages mean smaller dividends, and he chooses to close his eyes to the fact that his dividends are largely due to the toil of wornout women and stunted children; of women that have all the duties of their households to discharge after they come home from the mills, children whose minds must remain as undeveloped as their ill-nourished bodies.”
“You want to go to Parliament, and right all that, I suppose?”
“We have not even thought of it. What we want is the power to send men to Parliament, who will be forced to keep their election promises if they would be returned a second time. Doubtless an ultimate result of the ballot would be a Woman’s Parliament which would deal exclusively with the Poor Laws. Then the men who oppose us now will be profoundly relieved that they no longer are obliged to waste valuable hours solemnly sitting upon such questions as the proper sort of nursing bottles to be adopted for pauper children, what shall be done with milk, or whether cabbage is a normal breakfast for school children. Do you know that if the House sat day and night for 365 days of the year, they could not begin to dispose of all the bills brought before it, and that many of these bills are of a pressing domestic nature? However well disposed, they cannot deal adequately with the Poor Laws, and that they do not welcome the assistance of women is but one more evidence of that conservatism in men’s minds which is a logical result of having had their own way, uncriticised, too long. Their fear of us is childish. They would not be thrown out of business. Every day they are confronted by questions of the gravest nature—questions of national and international policy which require their best faculties and all of their time. Women have more time than man ever thinks he has, in any case; and we have the maternal instincts and the nagging conscience which would force us to discharge our duties to the poor.
“Let me add that the women of this new militant movement have eliminated from their compositions all the old sentimentality and bathos which weakened the Suffrage cause for so many years. Sentimentality is sympathy run amôk. It roused that distrust of men we are fighting to-day, and made many of their public utterances asinine. You will hear no frantic protests to-day that women want the vote because they have as much right to it as men. That is a good argument in itself, but the women of to-day have progressed far beyond that or even of the old war cry, ‘Taxation without representation.’ They are animated, in their greater experience, by one purpose only, the desire to eliminate poverty and all the evils, moral and physical, that are always its partners; to reduce the hours of work and increase wages, to give every child good food, a decent education, and a comfortable home. The millions must work, but we are determined that they shall work for their own comfort as well as for that of their employers, that they shall have a reasonable amount of leisure and of the pleasures of life, cease to be machines whose only object in living is to contribute to the comfort and idleness of the thousands above them. We appreciate the wastage among the poor of England. Given strong bodies and a fair education, many would rise in the world and have respectable if not distinguished careers. What we further desire is to give these exceptional boys and girls a chance, the same chance they would have if born in the middle class. Beyond that we promise nothing. The point now is, not only that the misery in this country is appalling, but that these boys and girls have no chance of rising out of the rut unless possessed of positive genius. Hundreds have latent talent, thousands a certain amount of ability which would raise them above the station in which they were born —”
“Are you a Socialist?” demanded an abrupt voice.
“Yes, and England is already half socialistic in her institutions, only the pill has been gilded with less offensive names, so that she need not recognize it. But that old-time Socialism, which was only a weak step-sister of anarchy, no longer exists save in the minds of the old and tired theorists. The younger men and women who are giving their brains and time to the question would do nothing so futile as to divide the wealth of the world into small and equal shares. The modern Socialists would have as little mercy on the idle and vicious and lazy as Society has. All must work, and if the confiscation of much land forces the aristocrat to work, so much the better for him. All will be given the chance to work, to rise. More than that no mortal laws can accomplish, or should attempt, in justice to the human race. Socialism perfected is neither more nor less than the primal law of Nature reëstablished, rescued from the vagaries of a blundering civilization and crystallized into brain. Man will work, do his share, or go out into the by-ways, lie down and die.
“A word as to our much-abused Militant Tactics. Although we are women we are by no means too proud to learn from men. If you will glance back to that time when the laboring men of England were demanding the franchise,—in the ’30’s,—you may recall that they did not confine themselves to heckling, holding indignation meetings, forcing their way into halls where great men were speaking, and demanding their rights. They arose and smashed things. They burned the Mansion House in Bristol, the Custom House, the Bishop’s Palace, the Excise Office, three prisons, four toll houses, and forty-two private dwellings, and they set several towns on fire. So far we have borrowed only the mildest of their tactics. We have hurt no one physically, and we have been moderate in all our demonstrations; but because we are women we are as severely criticised as if we had blown up the entire Cabinet and set fire to London. Such is the hopeless conservatism of the human mind. But because we are women and enlightened, we hope we never shall have to resort to measures so extreme. We hope to educate the average mind out of its conservatism. If we fail, then of course we shall have to forget that we are women and emulate the great sex which now thinks it despises us, but is proving every day how much it fears us. As yet, it does not fear us enough. That is the whole trouble at present.”
Although she had too much tact and experience to talk down to any audience, however humble, she knew when to drop the abstract and divert with anecdote and illustration. Her address had been listened to respectfully, and interrupted with many a “Hear! Hear!” and when she paused, flung out her hands, smiled, and said, “Now let me tell you the true story of several of our adventures with the police,” they clapped and cheered. She talked for ten minutes longer, and her anecdotes, while making them laugh delightedly, inspired as much indignation as if they had been delivered with solemn passion; no doubt more so. When she finally leaped down, they escorted her in a body to the inn, where those that were not too bashful shook hands with her heartily; and many vowed they would “turn it over” and “pass the word on” to those that had not had the good fortune to hear her.
Julia, excited, and well content, ran up to her room. As she opened the door she was astonished to see Bridgit Herbert standing at the window, scowling at the tombstones.
“You! How jolly!” she cried, as Mrs. Herbert turned. “How did you trace me? I purposely left no word —”
“You forget your maid—”
“What is the matter? You look— Sit down.”
“I’ve come north to see you. The devil is to pay.”
“The Militants haven’t disbanded—”
“Good lord, no. They’re all right. It’s I that have gone clean to the devil.”
“You?” Julia stared at her. Mrs. Herbert certainly looked worn, even haggard. The fresh color was no longer in her dark face, her black eyes were heavy as if with much wakefulness. Even her spirited nostrils hung limp.
“Do come out with it!” gasped Julia.
“I’m in love,” said Mrs. Herbert. And she sat down.
“Oh!” exclaimed Julia. And then she added thoughtfully, “What a bore.”
“Isn’t it? And I thought I was immune, having had the disease so hard the first time. But the young thirties! Oh, lord!”
“Can’t you get over it?”
“Can’t you imagine how I’ve tried? That’s the reason I look like this. It’s a wonder he doesn’t run when he sees me. But it’s no use. I’m done for.”
“What sort of a man can he be to bowl you over? Do I know him?”
“Possibly. He’s a cousin of Geoff’s, although I never met him till lately, as it happened. They weren’t friends, and he was away nearly all the time I was coruscating in society. His name’s Robert Maundrell; he’s also a cousin of Lord Barnstaple, who married that beautiful Californian. It was at their place, Maundrell Abbey, where I went for the Twelfth, that the mischief was done. I met him at Cannes, but he was clever enough to amuse me without rousing my suspicions; to interest me, and then make me miss him a bit. At just the right moment he reappeared—at Maundrell Abbey! Heaven! but it’s bad. After all I’ve gone through for the cause, after standing on my own two feet for years, not giving a hang if all the men on earth were exterminated—rather wishing they were! I feel like a slave. It’s hideous to feel that you no longer belong to yourself.”
“But you won’t chuck the cause?”
“Rather not. But the trouble is that I thought I was made on the same pattern as those women up in London, desexed, all brain and nerve and religious devotion to an ideal. And now I’m—Oh, lord! And to make matters worse I’m marrying a man who cares about as much for the cause as he does for Mohammedanism. Oh, damn! And I thought myself possessed of the true martyr’s fire. I wonder if you are?”
“Bridgit!” said Julia, with equal abruptness. “Be quite honest. Did you never think of this, never dream of falling in love once more—of the real thing?”
Mrs. Herbert stood up and thrust her hands into the pockets of her covert coat. For a moment she glared at Julia, then shrugged her shoulders. “Well—I don’t fancy I admitted it at the time—but I also fancy it was in the back of my head more or less. Oh—here goes—I used to wake up in the night and wonder in a sort of fury where he was—what are you laughing at?”
“Oh, I fancy we idiots are all alike.”
“So you’ve been through it, too? Good. But you’ll probably win out. You’ve got the ruthless will, like those others. Oh! I worship the very air they breathe. They are the true women of destiny, equipped at every point, a new sex. And I—the worst of it is, when I did give my fancy rein it was to imagine a man who would be a great intellectual force in the world, a great editor or statesman to whom men deferred, who would fight single-handed, if necessary, to give the vote to women. I shouldn’t have cared a bit if he had sprung from the people. Should have rather liked it, as I’d have felt the more consistent. But—well, we make ideals out of imported cloth, and then we marry our own sort. I fancy Nature takes a hand in manipulating our instincts. Oh, lord!” And she began pacing up and down the room.
“You haven’t told me anything about Mr. Maundrell. He can’t be a fool —”
“What attracted you to him? I don’t fancy I ever met him —”
“You’d remember him if you had. He’s beastly good-looking, and he’s travelled and explored, and is as well-read as any man I ever met. He went out as a volunteer in the South African war and got three medals, one with clasps. Now he’s standing for Parliament—at a by-election next week. Oh, he’s all right, as the Americans say, only he doesn’t care a hang for Suffrage —”
“He’ll make you desert us—”
“No, he won’t. I may be an ass, as the man said in ‘The Liars,’ but I’m not a silly ass. If he were as bad as that, I’d have been strong enough to resist him. No, he’s big in all his ideas. He only exacts the promise that I shall take part in no more raids, run no further risk of gaol, and not make engagements that would separate us. Otherwise, I can speak in public, and give up every moment of my time to Suffrage when he is not at home. He will also vote for our bill when it comes up.”
“It’s not so bad.”
“Oh, it could be worse. But I wish I’d met him when I was eighteen, or had proved my strength by rooting this out, or had never met him at all. I’d have preferred the second, for I gloried in my strength. I’m not one of the chosen, like those women up there. That’s what rankles. I wonder if you are!”
She sat down abruptly and leaned forward. “I wonder? You’ve beauty. There’s the rub. They won’t let us alone. They give us the chance.”
“Tell me,” said Julia, hastily, “how did he ever make you consent? He must have had a difficult wooing.”
“He almost shook his fist in my face, if you will know; swore he’d have me if he had to beat me into submission—oh, worse! He didn’t frighten me, but he fascinated me. If the primal woman is born in you, there she is for good and all. I had the haunting sense that this man was my mate, the other half of me, and when a woman gets that idea into her head she’s done for. It’s more than passion, more than any longing for companionship. All sorts of subtle chords vibrate, inheritances from all the women, complex and simple, that have contributed to her brain cells. When those chords begin to hum you’re done for. I’m not one of the chosen, that’s all there is to it. I’ve got to marry and be happy.”
And then they both laughed.
In a moment Julia said grimly, “The only thing to do is to set your ideal of man so high that no mortal can fill it.”
“Rot. When the man comes along that can set those chords humming, ideals fly off in company with good resolutions. Now tell me your experience. You’ve had one of some sort. It’s only fair you should tell me. I’ve admired you more than any living woman, and I’d feel better if I could admire you less. You look ruthless, and you’ve had a good training to make you so—I used to rejoice at it—but, well, you are young and beautiful and you’ve red hair. Out with it.”
Julia, who under all her careless frankness, was intensely reserved, colored and hesitated; but this exasperated baring of her haughty friend’s inner self merited response, and she told the tale of her sudden awakening in India, of her deliberate search for a lover. Mrs. Herbert nodded triumphantly.
“But you see,” added Julia, “I couldn’t find him, because I wanted too much. They all made me laugh sooner or later, and a finer set of men I never met. They are all picked men out there, so to speak. They must be almost perfect physically, or they couldn’t stand the climate; they are absolutely without fear; they have every manly qualification, in fact, and quite enough brains. Many were charming. But they all seemed to melt into one composite man and made no deeper impression on me than if they were a statue erected to the glorification of British manhood. One can’t marry that.”
“All the men in the world are not in India. How about Nigel?”
“I like him better than anyone, but I can’t fall in love with him. I don’t fancy I’d have the chance again even if I wanted it. He’s now the head of his house and the last of it, and he takes his duties as a Whig peer with Socialist tendencies very seriously. To marry me would put an end to his public usefulness, for he would have to live out of England. When a man of Nigel’s sort reaches his age he faces his responsibilities, and when he balances them against a love-marriage that would cut him off from a good half of them he keeps out of temptation. I like him all the better for it, and if I had not become almost depersonalized in this cause, the woman in me might —”
“I don’t think it’s Nigel, but I do believe that one day you’ll have a battle to fight —”
“Not now. For a few days after I came back from India, perhaps. But I doubt if I ever have time again even to think of it. When I’m not talking, or speaking, or writing, I deliberately relax, as my master taught me, and that banishes thought. Every morning—during my walk—I recall some bit of the knowledge I was taught by Hadji Sadrä, and I could do this if my mind were excited, threatened with a deluge. Oh, I have had discipline of all sorts!”
“It sounds formidable enough. Perhaps you are one of the chosen. But —”
“I even wrote a long letter this morning to a man I might say I don’t know,” continued Julia, now in the full tide of self-revelation. “And it interested me mightily for the moment —”
“Not at all. He was a boy of fifteen when I met him at Bosquith. I had forgotten his existence, but when I heard of the frightful disaster in San Francisco, his home, I thought it only decent to write to him. Of course he answered, and as his letter was lost for months—I only got it yesterday—and as he really has been through a tragic experience—he lost his fortune, and just missed losing his life—it was the least I could do to write again.”
“H’m. There’s nothing more fascinating than a correspondence with a man you don’t know. I’ve had one or two. The saving grace is, that you are always disappointed when you meet them. They are commonplace, if only by contrast with the arbitrary figure in your imagination. But it’s a bad sign—or a healthy one—that you can be interested even to that extent while conducting a Suffrage campaign with the fury of the martyr in your soul—I can’t imagine any of those women up there —”
“It means nothing to me!” said Julia, angrily. “And if I hadn’t posted my letter, I’d tear it up. I don’t care in the least whether I ever see him again or not. And I probably won’t, for I wrote of nothing but the cause. I couldn’t think of anything else. He’ll hate that. Besides, he can’t leave California for years yet. You know what those American business men are. He’s keen on making his millions. That’s all he thinks of.”
“Good. See that you don’t go to California when they send you over to lecture. Let me see his letter?”
Julia made an instinctive, almost tigerish, and wholly traditional movement toward her bosom. Then she remembered that the letter was in the hand-bag, laughed, and produced it.
Mrs. Herbert’s black eyes flashed through it.
“H’m!” she commented. “He seems to be a jolly sort. He’s a man. And there’s a sort of fresh Western breeze in his letter. I can smell and hear the Pacific—and see those wonderful ruins. I love that expression—‘makes the Roman Forum look like thirty cents.’ That’s fifteen pence—one and three. It’s not effective at all translated. But I’ve always liked American slang. There’s something big and free and young about it. And so is this man, I should say —”
“Oh, nonsense! Don’t romance about him, please. He’s the antithesis of the man I’d made up in my imagination when I bolted from Calcutta —”
“That makes just about as much difference as if I had made up my mind that Robert Maundrell should fall in love with somebody else. Mr. Tay may give your ideal one in the eye that will make it look like—thirty cents. Describe him to me. Is he good-looking?”
“I don’t know,” said Julia, crossly. “I’ve forgotten. He was a dark wiry boy with a lean face and a square jaw. He suggests the North American Indian, but is a new type altogether—Western American, no doubt. But I’d rather talk about you. You’ve disappointed me, but I don’t see why you should be quite so cut up about it. Ishbel is married and in love and has two babies, but she has come out as an ardent suffragette; so much so that her business has suffered —”
“Yes, but she marches in no parades, and takes part in no raids. Dark will stand for a good deal, but he’s threatened to go to India if she goes too far; and she won’t. Trust her. She’s just like any other woman in love. And Dark’s a good fellow, not the sort a woman would care to sacrifice. So is Robert. There you are.”
“I love Ishbel as much as ever,” said Julia, thoughtfully. “But somehow I don’t find her as interesting —”
“A happy woman has no psychology in her. Her mind may go on developing, but her ego is at a standstill. That’s where I’m aiming! And I wanted to stand alone! I’m not the myself I thought. That’s what cuts. After those six men mauled me and broke my rib, and I lay in that wretched prison all night, I thought I was seasoned for life. And I wasn’t!”
Julia sprang to her feet. “What’s the use of worrying about what can’t be helped?” she cried angrily. “Let’s go down to supper.”
A fortnight later Julia was recalled to London. She took a small flat in Clement’s Inn, Strand, where the W. S. P. U. was about to establish itself. She learned immediately that on the first day of the autumn session of Parliament a deputation of women intended to go to the Lobby of the House and send word to the Prime Minister that they expected some assurance from him regarding the prospects of franchise for their sex. Hundreds would await the news without.
By this time there was no danger of any definite move by the women being overlooked by the press, and they were treated as news no matter with what lack of sympathy. As to be spectacular whenever the opportunity offered was a part of their policy, they overlooked no means to that end; quite aware that Julia was as valuable an asset as they were likely to have, she was drafted to make one of the deputation to the House of Commons on October third. By this time other women of the aristocracy had flocked to their standard, and several prominent in the arts, but Julia had a very special personality, and a value for the press which insured her a separate “story” whether or not she were the chief figure in any of the carefully rehearsed scenes executed by the Militants. Therefore, having received her instructions for the third, she called on the duke the night of the second. She had not heard from him since the letter received at Keighley, nor had she heard from his solicitors.
The duke was in the library and rose ceremoniously as she was shown in, but did not offer his hand. Julia took the same chair from which she had defied him in a period of her life that now seemed identical with a lost personality.
“I should have called long ago,” she said, “but you were at Bosquith when I returned from Syria, and I have been out of London ever since.”
“I am quite aware of your movements during the past five months.” The duke spoke with all his innate formality, and infused his tone with icy sarcasm, but Julia had detected in a glance that he looked far more of a human being than of old. Bridgit had told her a strange tale of riding over to see her “Aunt Peg” when that dame was suffering from a broken leg, and catching a glimpse of the duke in an adjoining room, flat on the floor, with his boy and two little girls racing up and down his small but sacred person. Julia had accused Mrs. Herbert of trying to impose on her credulity, but as she inspected that meagre countenance she found it decidedly less gray and tight than formerly, the eyes brighter, the prim lines of the mouth relaxed. Yes; he was, conceivably, the uxorious parent.
“Of course I know you must hate what I am doing. If you and thousands like you didn’t hate it, we shouldn’t be doing it, if you don’t mind a bull. But that is the point, you see. We intend to fight to the last ditch, and then win. You don’t guess this and so you prolong the fight. I haven’t come to convert you, but because I know exactly how you feel. You have behaved splendidly toward me, for I know you have longed, for months, to recall your generous allowance. You can’t make up your mind to violate your word, so I have come to renounce it myself.”
“Ah!” The duke rose and began pacing up and down the room. “Yes—you would suspect—you are clever enough. Ah! If you would only divert your cleverness into a respectable channel. How could you go off your head about this atrocious nonsense?”
“Nonsense? Come down to Clement’s Inn and talk to the women for a few minutes. You might not approve of us any more than you do now, but you would no longer use the word nonsense. You might hate, but you would be forced to respect —”
“Respect? Respect women that have parted with the last shred of female decency, that are distracting this poor country with their puerile demands, when she is faced by such grave problems within and without that we need every ounce of our energy, every moment of our time —”
“Quite so. That is one of our staple arguments. We are only asking to help you. Turn the Poor Laws over to us, with the ballot, and you will have that much more time and energy to devote to the survival of the House of Lords, and to the survival of Great Britain among nations.”
“And have a new and worse problem on our hands to distract us! It is bad enough now with half female England gone mad and making this great Empire ridiculous in the eyes of the world—do you fancy we are mad enough even to argue the question of giving you power? Never. You can raid the House of Commons and force your way into the house of the Prime Minister, and fight with the police and go to gaol, and shriek and parade, until the day of doom, and you’ll be no nearer your object than you are to-day. That is what has made me lose all patience with you. I trained your mind, I watched you grow under my roof into as intellectual a woman as is possible with the limitations of the female brain; I guided you in your study of politics, and, save when you took the wrong side out of sheer perversity, I was quite satisfied with you. And now! It has saddened and angered me beyond description to see you making a public spectacle of yourself, suffering bodily injury, disgracing yourself, your sex, and your country, in a ridiculous and hopeless cause.”
“Well, you see, we don’t believe it to be hopeless, and that sustains us.”
“What difference does it make what you believe?”
“Not so much now, except as a means to an end. You said a moment ago that we had lost every shred of female decency, in other words, forgotten that we were mere women. Does not that strike you as portentous?”
“It strikes me as hideous.”
“I mean that when women have been battered and mauled and hurt, as we have been, without a second’s loss of courage or resource; when we have not once failed to score every point we have preconceived, from the heckling of candidates half out of their senses, to arresting the gaze of the civilized world,—doesn’t it strike you that we may be something more than mere women?”
“Yes, fools, and shameless ones.”
“Well, I share Nigel Herbert’s theory, that we are a new sex and a new race. A new force let loose into the world, is how he expressed it. When I went north five months ago the Union in London numbered only a few hundreds. Now it’s as well known as the Liberal party. And all of the new active members have the same set grim intent look, although many are still in their teens. I believe they were born that way and only waited for the call. Not one of them looks as if she had ever given a thought to a lover —”
“And you extol them for that?”
“No, I merely mention it. You see, all revolutions demand and breed their martyrs; people who were born, so to speak, to fight and die in that cause and for no other purpose whatever. Hundreds of thousands will join us as converts, but only a limited number will join the fighting army. That sort of thing is in a woman or it isn’t. Many will help us with money and name and sympathy, vote when their time comes, and cheerfully accept such political duties as may be thrust upon them, but they are too soft, what you call too womanly, to fight. We make no complaint. The race must go on and these women may be depended upon to take care of it. But all these girls that are flocking to our standard, that speak to jeering crowds on street corners, that are hustled and twisted and pinched by policemen—when they interrupt meetings, or sell literature on the street—they are made of different elements, they are the ones chosen to win a cause, not to enjoy its victory. What matters it to them whether they are maimed for life, whether their youth goes before they have known any of its rights? Nothing. It is not of the least consequence. We sacrifice them as ruthlessly as they sacrifice themselves, as we would sacrifice ourselves. It is only the principle that matters. Let them die in a good cause, and be grateful for the opportunity. So they would, if they gave even that much thought to self. That is what you cannot understand. If you did, you would know what I mean by the word portentous —”
“How do you like the prospect of looking like those women—gray and dingy as the bark of an old tree?”
“Oh, they don’t all look gray and dingy. We have handsome women in the W. S. P. U.—several that are older than I. Many women are born dingy. Others have merely that freshness of youth which is as likely to vanish after one year of domestic life, as after the same time spent in fighting for a cause that will improve the lot of women in general. Don’t worry about me. What looks I have are indestructible. I learned secrets in the East. I know how to rest—a lesson many of these young enthusiasts wouldn’t learn if I could teach them. They are screwed up to be martyrs and won’t have anything else. But the heads of any movement must be all that and more, so I have no intention of going to pieces.”
“I am told that if—I—a—withdraw the seven hundred and fifty I have allowed you, you may be persuaded to go to work on a newspaper or make money in some other way—I understand you give the greater part of your income to this abominable cause —”
“Yes. I know how you must feel about that. I made sure you would withdraw it before this —”
“I have tried to! I have been on the point of writing to my solicitors twenty times. But it would be the first time in my life that I had ever broken my word, taken back what I had given, and I have not been able to make up my mind to do it.”
“I know, so I shall do it for you. I’ll write to your solicitors to-morrow. I shall still have two hundred a year, and I am sure now that I can make money —”
“Make money! It is sickening. Women of our class don’t talk about making money.”
“No, but a good many of them would make it if they could, and more than you know turn an honest penny —”
“Oh, let me keep my illusions!” The duke flung himself into a chair and grasped the arms. “Can you imagine what it is to me to see my great country going to the dogs? Socialism, democracy, the daily increasing power of a class that in my youth knew its place and kept it? And now women degrading their sex and proselytizing thousands that would have remained content with their duties to home and society if let alone! Why, you hear nothing but this infernal Suffrage—” The duke was never so impressive as when mildly profane. “Margaret, of course, is unaffected, but the women that gather at my board! They babble about nothing else, whether for or against. To my mind the very subject among all decent people should be tabû. I sometimes feel as if I could hear the greatest nation the world has ever seen rattling about my ears. My poor country! And I would have her impeccable always in the eyes of Europe—” (It was characteristic that he omitted the rest of the world.) “I would have her lower and middle classes respect her unquestioningly, without presuming to rule. The present Government is an abomination, and the number of labor representatives in Parliament is a disgrace in the history of England. And now the women! They should have pity on our troubles and give us their assistance, instead of adding to our problems and making us ridiculous. A fine reputation we are getting abroad—that we can no longer manage our women, that we are obliged to resort to physical violence, as if we were returned to the dark ages! Oh, that we could shut them up in harems! Let the Turks take warning.”
“Well, you can’t shut us up, and you can’t manage us, and that is the whole point. English women have grown up on politics; they have learned as much at the table as in the schoolroom; the bright ones have grown more and more like their fathers, and now you behold the result. As for the Mohammedan women—Ferrero calls attention to the fact that the British in India have noted that in public administration certain women keep the spirit of economy with which they manage a home; and that is why, especially in despotic states, they rule better than men. So, give us, who have had a vastly wider experience, the vote, and be grateful that we are willing to help you.”
“Never. You will never obtain the franchise. Put that idea out of your head. Why not go and live on the continent for a while? The society in Vienna is delightful —”
Julia rose. “I’ve said all I came to say, and more. I am very grateful for your generosity in the past, and I only wished to disabuse your mind of any fear you might have of subjecting me to privations. I shall manage splendidly. I pay very little for my flat in Clement’s Inn —”
The duke writhed. “I can’t do it!” he cried. “I can’t! I gave you my word, and that is the end of it. Besides, you lived with me so long that you are, in a sense, of my house. Keep the money, but for heaven’s sake, come to your senses. I only ask one favor now. Take no part in these disgraceful raids and street scenes.”
Julia hesitated, but she was betraying no secret, for the women never struck without warning. “I’d like to thank you, go, and say no more, but I think I should tell you that a number of us are going to attend the opening of Parliament to-morrow and demand a hearing. Of course, there may be trouble with the police —”
“Do you mean that those termagants will begin to worry us on the very first day of Parliament?”
“We lose no time. We’ll get in if we can, and if we can’t—well, we’ll make ourselves felt, one way or another.”
“I—I’d be grateful if you would give me your promise to stay at home.”
“You see I have given my promise to go to the House.”
“The police will certainly interfere. I fancy they will take the first opportunity— That is only a hint.”
“Oh, we are quite convinced that the police have their orders from the Government. But we mind nothing. Nothing! At the same time let me tell you that we are not going to-morrow with the intention of creating a disturbance. We are not in love with rows, and although we are willing to be hurt, we are not in love with that, either. How we behave depends entirely upon how they behave.”
The duke regarded her for a minute. Then he looked down and tapped a penholder on the table. “Very well,” he said. “Go with the others, I only trust and pray—I intercede for you every morning at prayers—that you won’t be accidentally hurt in these forays, and that you will come to your senses before long. As soon as you do we should be happy to have you come and live with us. I—I have always missed you.”
He rose. Julia ran over and threw her arms about his neck. “You are a dear!” she cried. “And you always were nice to me in your funny way.”
The duke laughed, and disentangled himself.
“There, there!” he said. “You look now about as old as you did when you came to us. You are not quite remade. I shall hope.”
“Corker. Please write often. Hearing from you too good to be true. Letters like what rain would have been on April 16. Suffrage and get over it. No game for you. Don’t get hurt again. Writing.
Julia found this cablegram on her table when she returned on the following evening from the House of Commons. Its extravagance relaxed the angry tension of her mind, and she could imagine no future moment in which she would be in a more fitting mood to answer it. She removed her battered hat, washed the dirt and blood from her hands and face, and her pen was soon flying over large sheets of the W. S. P. U.
“Long before you get this you will have read in the newspapers the more sensational details of to-day’s encounter between the Militants and the police, and of its abominable sequel; but there are details the newspapers never print, and when I relate a few of them perhaps you will understand why I am not likely to lose sympathy with this cause. Besides, to-day, I have a grievance of my own which has put me in such a state of fury that if I couldn’t relieve my mind in a letter to you, I should probably go out and get into more trouble.
“You will have read that twenty of our number, including Mrs. Pankhurst, Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, and Mrs. Cobden Sanderson, succeeded in obtaining entrance to the Lobby of the House of Commons, sent for the Chief Liberal Whip, and persuaded him to go to the Prime Minister and ask if he intended to do anything during this session toward the enfranchisement of women. The Prime Minister sent word back that the Government had no intention of giving the vote to women during their term of office.
“How many times have they gone to that Lobby full of hope, inspired by the justice of their cause—however, sentimentalizing is not in our line. This was the most direct rebuff they had received, and they made up their minds to hold a meeting of protest then and there. One of the women sprang upon a settee and began to address the others. The police had been watching for a signal. In five minutes they had dragged and driven the women out of the Lobby, knocking Mrs. Pankhurst down, and mauling Mrs. Lawrence and the rest in their usual fashion. When the women waiting outside saw how their comrades were being handled, they rushed forward, and soon were engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter with the police. Even those that merely spoke to the women of the deputation were struck or arrested. Seven were dragged off to the police station, and a few moments later, Mrs. Cobden Sanderson, knowing that Mrs. Lawrence was ill, and not willing that the girls should go to gaol without an older woman, managed to get herself arrested.
“Of course, you want to know what I was doing all this time. That is what I am writing to tell you, for therein lies my grievance. And let me tell you that I have a red-haired temper, quite out of tune with princesses on towers. You might as well know me as I am and not romance about me any more.
“I went with the deputation to the House, being one of those drafted, and marching at the head of a large body of members of the Union that accompanied us, but had no hope of gaining admittance. At the Strangers’ Entrance we were met by the usual number of watchful police, and the Inspector asked at once which was Mrs. France; the others craned their necks and took in all my points when I was indicated. I was then informed that I could not enter, that the orders were positive. There was no time to waste in protest over minor matters, another was chosen in my place, and I was left outside with the rank and file. I was annoyed, and had no difficulty in guessing the cause of my exclusion. The duke may despise the present Government, but he had not scrupled to bring his personal influence to bear on it in order to save me from possible hurt—or notoriety.
“However, it is one of our principles to waste no time over spilt milk, but immediately to place ourselves in readiness for the next opportunity. I stood quietly with the others as close to the entrance as the police outside would permit, and waited. At the end of what seemed interminable hours, during which a large crowd gathered, many friendly, for the public is beginning to respect our pluck and persistence, some jeering and making abominable jokes, our women standing as erect and patient as soldiers, with eager set faces, ready to fight if need be, but quite as ready to disperse peaceably if their deputation were treated with respect—well, suddenly the doors were flung open and out tumbled a medley of women and police. Mrs. Pankhurst, with closed eyes and rigid limbs, as if defying the worst, pushed along on her heels, and finally flung to the ground; Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, struggling indignantly, torn and mauled; the rest treated as if they were circus beasts of the forest that had got loose in the arena,—out they came in a wild disgraceful scrimmage. What a cartoon for posterity to gape at!
“Of course we made a rush for our friends and leaders, inspired with precisely the same instinct to go to their assistance as if they and we had been Men. One of our rigid principles is never to attack the police, to assume that they are merely obeying orders; and even when they treat us with their customary brutality, to struggle, but not to strike; it being our desire to show, if possible, that a great battle can be won in these days by brains instead of force.
“Therefore, although we attempted to reach our leaders, it was merely to rescue them if we could; at all events to show our sympathy and indignation. But we did not reach them. The police outside were waiting for their signal; they immediately closed in and began striking and pushing us about, at first not ungently: they merely bashed hats, knocked a few shoulders, and twisted a few arms. But as fast as they dispersed one group, or turned to attack another, we made a new rush; some in the direction of Mrs. Pankhurst, others toward those being led off to the police station, others, myself among them, intending to force our way into the House, and make another demonstration in the Lobby. Mrs. Lime had managed to keep by my side, for she intended to enter with me. But suddenly she caught sight of a girl being abominably mauled by a policeman, and made a brave attempt to rescue her. The policeman dropped the girl, seized Mrs. Lime, whirled her about, gripped her by the shoulders, and, rushing her against the palings of Palace Yard, struck her breasts against the iron again and again. That sight sent me off my head. I forgot instructions, forgot the lofty impassivity I had been taught in the East—an admirable recipe for occasions like this, but, as yet, beyond me—I leaped on the man and struck him on the back of the head with all my might. He dropped Mrs. Lime and whirled about on me as furiously as if my fist had been as hard as his own, but when he saw me, he merely dropped his arm, scowled, and said: —
“ ‘Go home! Go home! You’ll get hurt,’ and ran over to pull two women apart who had locked arms. Then I realized what I had dimly been conscious of, that my only injuries were to my clothes, and that these were but the result of the general scuffle; every policeman had avoided me or brushed me off. They had received orders to do me no harm. Among all those hundreds of indomitable women I alone was to go scot free. The idea so enraged me that I flew at another policeman and struck him, determined to go to prison with the others. But he, too, brushed me off, although he was already panting and angry, and no doubt would have liked to strike me and then drag me to the police station. I attacked another, and he turned his back on me with an oath, seized a girl who was merely pushing her way quietly through the struggling mass, her face set and gray, her eyes with that strange intent look worn by nearly every face belonging to our women—seized her, threw her down, and kicked her in the side.
“Well—I managed to drag her and Mrs. Lime out of the crowd, put them into a four-wheeler, and take them to Westminster Hospital. They will die, no doubt; if not now, then later, devoured by the most horrible of all diseases. But if we have lost them, we shall have gained forty in their place, for this insensate policy of the Government has its logical consequence—illustrates the old truth, ‘The blood of martyrs is the seed of reform.’ Have they never read history?
“And yet, sometimes I despair. We shall win in the end, of course, for it is as impossible to exterminate this new force as to chain the Atlantic. But when? And shall we be here to see? We are only mortal, after all, and our bodies, strong to endure as they are, can be broken by men. And the great mass of women are so slow in awakening. In spite of the tremendous increase in our numbers during the past year, and the interest we have aroused, our recruits are a mere handful when compared with the female population of Great Britain, in general. Not until all, or at least three-fourths, of those women have awakened and rallied to our side can we win. Of that I am convinced. One thing I strove to do in the north was to convert the political women, those that always assist the men so potently at every general election. If we can persuade these women to desert the men and fight for women alone, we shall have made a great stride. This autumn I am to renew my acquaintance with my old associates and visit country houses during the autumn and winter, making converts of women who would be of inestimable benefit to us. But that is a sort of inactive service under which I chafe. Would that we could rouse all the women at once, form a rebel army, take to the field and fight like men. Perhaps we shall be driven to that in the end. It is all very well to plan to win by brains alone, and it would be to our immortal glory if we did, but it is to be considered that we are opposing men either without brains themselves, or who have been bred on the idea of physical force and really respect nothing else. Well, whatever happens, I only ask that I may be here to see. I am willing to give my brain and body and soul and every penny I can command to this cause, but I want to give the last of myself at the last minute, all the same.
“Now, write and tell me honestly if you would have me desert these women, when I can be of signal assistance to them in not one but many ways; and if you think I would be anything but what this cause has made of me if I would.