[Illustration: In the glowing heart of the fire she saw her home warm
with holy love.]
By: HAROLD BELL WRIGHT
Author of "The Winning Of Barbara Worth" etc., etc.
With illustrations by F. GRAHAM COOTES
To Mrs. Elsbery W. Reynolds
In admiration of the splendid motherhood that, in her sons, has
contributed such wealth of manhood to the race. And, in her daughter,
has given to human-kind such riches of womanhood. With kindest
regards, I inscribe this book.
H. B. W.
"Relay Heights" June 8, 1912
Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law, Pleased with a rattle,
tickled with a straw; Some livelier plaything gives his youth delight,
A little louder, but as empty quite; Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his
riper stage, And beads and prayer-books are the toys of age; Pleased
with this bauble still, as that before; Till tired he sleeps, and
life's poor play is o'er.
"AN ESSAY ON MAN"—Pope.
There was a man.
And it happened—as such things often so happen—that this man went
back into his days that were gone. Again and again and again he went
back. Even as every man, even as you and I, so this man went back into
Then—why then there was a woman.
And it happened—as such things sometimes so happen—that this woman
also went back into her days that were gone. Again and again and again
she went back. Even as every woman, even as you and I, so this woman
went back into her Yesterdays.
So it happened—as such things do happen—that the Yesterdays of this
man and the Yesterdays of this woman became Their Yesterdays, and that
they went back, then, no more alone but always together.
Even as one, they, forever after, went back.
What They Found in Their Yesterdays
And the man and the woman who went back into Their Yesterdays found
there the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life. Just as they found
these things in their grown up days, even unto the end, so they found
them in Their Yesterdays.
Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life there are. No life can have less.
No life can have more. All of life is in them. No life is without them
Dreams, Occupation, Knowledge, Ignorance, Religion, Tradition,
Temptation, Life, Death, Failure, Success, Love, Memories: these are
the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life—found by the man and the
woman in their grown up days—found by them in Their Yesterdays—and
they found no others.
It does not matter where this man and this woman lived, nor who they
were, nor what they did. It does not matter when or how many times
they went back into Their Yesterdays. These things are all that they
found. And they found these things even as every man and woman finds
them, even as you and I find them, in our days that are and in our
days that were—in our grown up days and in our Yesterdays.
And it is so that in all of these Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life
there is a man and there is a woman.
THE THIRTEEN TRULY GREAT THINGS OF LIFE
The man, for the first time, stood face to face with Life and, for the
first time, knew that he was a man.
For a long time he had known that some day he would be a man. But he
had always thought of his manhood as a matter of years. He had said to
himself: "when I am twenty-one, I will be a man." He did not know,
then, that twenty-one years—that indeed three times twenty-one
years—cannot make a man. He did not know, then, that men are made of
other things than years.
I cannot tell you the man's name, nor the names of his parents, nor
his exact age, nor just where he lived, nor any of those things. For
my story, such things are of no importance whatever. But this is of
the greatest importance: as the man, for the first time, stood face to
face with Life and, for the first time, realized his manhood, his
manhood life began in Dreams.
It is the dreams of life that, at the beginning of life, matter. Of
the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life, Dreams are first.
It was green fruit time. From the cherry tree that grew in the upper
corner of the garden next door, close by the hedge that separated the
two places, the blossoms were gone and the tiny cherries were already
well formed. The nest, that a pair of little brown birds had made that
spring in the hedge, was just empty, and, from the green laden
branches of the tree, the little brown mother was calling anxious
advice and sweet worried counsel to her sons and daughters who were
trying their new wings.
In the cemetery on the hill, beside a grave over which the sod had
formed thick and firm, there was now another grave—another grave so
new that on it no blade of grass had started—so new that the yellow
earth in the long rounded mound was still moist and the flowers that
tried with such loving, tender, courage, to hide its nakedness were
not yet wilted. Cut in the block of white marble that marked the
grass-grown grave were the dearest words in any tongue—Wife and
Mother; while, for the new-made mound that lay so close beside, the
workmen were carving on a companion stone the companion words.
There were two other smaller graves nearby—one of them quite
small—but they did not seem to matter so much to the tall young
fellow who had said to himself so many times: "when I am twenty-one, I
will be a man." It was the two graves marked by the companion words
that mattered. And certainly he did not, at that time, feel himself a
man. As he left the cemetery to go home with an old neighbor and
friend of the family, he felt himself rather a very small and lonely
boy in a very big and empty world.
But there had been many things to do in those next few days, with no
one but himself to do them. There had been, in the voices of his
friends, a note that was new. In the manner of the men who had come to
talk with him on matters of business, he had felt a something that he
had never felt before. And he had seen the auctioneer—a lifelong
friend of his father—standing on the front porch of his boyhood home
and had heard him cry the low spoken bids and answer the nodding heads
of the buyers in a voice that was hoarse with something more than long
speaking in the open air. And then—and then—at last had come the
sharp blow of the hammer on the porch railing and from the trembling
lips of the old auctioneer the word: "Sold."
It was as though that hammer had fallen on the naked heart of the boy.
It was as though the auctioneer had shouted: "Dead."
And so the time had come, a week later, when he must go for a last
look at the home that was his no longer. Very slowly he had walked
about the yard; pausing a little before each tree and bush and plant;
putting forth his hand, at times, to touch them softly as though he
would make sure that they were there for he saw them dimly through a
mist. The place was strangely hushed and still. The birds and bees and
even the butterflies seemed to have gone somewhere far away. Very
slowly he had gone up the steps to open the front door. Very slowly he
had passed from room to room in the empty, silent, house. On the
kitchen porch he had paused again, for a little, because he could not
see the steps; then had gone on to the well, the garden, the
woodhouse, the shop, the barn, and so out into the orchard that shaded
the gently rising slope of the hill beyond the house. At the farther
side of the orchard, on the brow of the hill, he had climbed the rail
fence and had seated himself on the ground where he could look out and
away over the familiar meadows and fields and pastures.
A bobo-link, swinging on a nearby bush, poured forth a tumbling
torrent of silvery melody. Behind him, on the fence, a meadow lark
answered with liquid music. About him on every side, in the soft
sunlight, the bluebirds were flitting here and there, twittering
cheerily the while over their bluebird tasks. And a woodpecker, hard
at work in the orchard shade, made himself known by the din of his
But the man, who did not yet quite realize that he was a man, gave no
heed to these busy companions of his boyhood. To him, it was as though
those men with their shovels had heaped that mound of naked, yellow,
earth upon his heart. The world, for him, was as empty as the old
house down there under the orchard hill. For a long time he sat very
still—seeing nothing, hearing nothing, heeding nothing—conscious
only of that dull, aching, loneliness—conscious only of that heavy
weight of pain.
A mile or more away, beyond the fields, a moving column of smoke from
a locomotive lifted itself into the sky above the tree tops and
streamed back a long, dark, banner. As the column of smoke moved
steadily on toward the distant horizon, the young man on the hilltop
watched it listlessly. Then, as his mind outran the train to the
cities that lay beyond the line of the sky, his eyes cleared, his
countenance brightened, his thoughts went outward toward the great
world where great men toil mightily; and the long, dark, banner of
smoke that hung above the moving train became to him as a flag of
battle leading swiftly toward the front. Eagerly now he
watched—watched until, far away, the streaming column of smoke passed
from sight around a wooded hill and faint and clear through the still
air—a bugle call to his ears—came the long challenging whistle.
Then it was that he realized his manhood—knew that he was a man—and
understood that manhood is not a matter of only twenty-one years. And
then it was—as he sat there alone on the brow of the little hill with
his boyhood years dead behind him and the years of his manhood
before—that his manhood life began, even as the manhood life of every
man really begins, with his Dreams.
Indeed it is true that all life really begins in dreams. Surely the
lover dreams of his mistress—the maiden of her mate. Surely mothers
dream of the little ones that sleep under their hearts and fathers
plan for their children before they hold them in their arms. Every
work of man is first conceived in the worker's soul and wrought out
first in his dreams. And the wondrous world itself, with its myriad
forms of life, with its grandeur, its beauty and its loveliness; the
stars and the heavenly bodies of light that crown the universe; the
marching of the days from the Infinite to the Infinite; the procession
of the years from Eternity to Eternity; all this, indeed, is but God's
good dream. And the hope of immortality—of that better life that lies
beyond the horizon of our years—what a vision is that—what a
wondrous dream—given us by God to inspire, to guide, to comfort, to
hold us true!
With wide eyes the man looked out upon a wide world somewhat as a
conquering emperor, confident in his armed strength, might from a
hilltop look out over the scene of a coming battle. He did not see the
grinding hardships, the desperate struggles, the disastrous losses,
the pitiful suffering. The dreadful dangers did not grip his heart.
The horrid fear of defeat did not strike his soul. He did not know the
dragging weight of responsibility nor the dead weariness of a losing
fight. He saw only the deeds of mighty valor, the glorious exhibitions
of courage, of heroism, of strength. He felt only the thrill of
victories, the pride of honors and renown. He knew only the
inspiration of a high purpose. He heard only the call to greatness.
And it was well that in his Dreams there were only these.
The splendid strength of young manhood stirred mightily in his limbs.
The rich, red, blood of youth moved swiftly in his veins. His eager
spirit shouted aloud in exultation of the deeds that he would do. And,
surely, it was no shame to him that at this moment, when for the first
time he realized his manhood, this man, in his secret heart, felt
himself to be a leader of men, a conqueror of men, a savior of men. It
was no shame to him that he felt the salvation of the world depending
And he was right. Upon him and upon such as he the salvation of the
world does depend. But it is well, indeed, that these
unrecognized, dreaming, saviors of the world do not know, as they
dream, that their crosses, even then, are being prepared for them. It
is their salvation that they do not know. It is the salvation of the
world that they do not know.
And then, as one from the deck of a ship bound for a foreign land
looks back upon his native shore when the vessel puts out from the
harbor, this man turned from his years that were to come to his years
that were past and from dreaming of his future slipped back into the
dreams of his Yesterdays. Perhaps it was the song of the bobo-link
that did it; or it may have been the music of the meadow lark; or
perhaps it was the bluebird's cheerful notes, or the woodpecker's loud
tattoo—whatever it was that brought it about, the man dreamed again
the dreams of his boyhood—dreamed them even as he dreamed the dreams
of his manhood.
And there was no one to tell him that, in dreaming, his boyhood and
his manhood were the same.
Once again a boy, on a drowsy summer afternoon, he lay in the shade of
the orchard trees or, in the big barn, sought the mow of new mown hay,
and, with half closed eyes, slipped away from the world that droned
and hummed and buzzed so lazily about him into another and better
world of stirring adventure and brave deeds. Once again, when the sun
was hidden under heavy skies and a steady pouring rain shut him in,
through the dusk of the attic he escaped from the narrow restrictions
of the house, and, from his gloomy prison, went out into a fairyland
of romance, of knighthood, and of chivalry. Again it was winter time
and the world was buried deep under white drifts, with all its
brightness and beauty of meadow and forest hidden by the cold mantle,
and all its music of running brooks and singing birds hushed by an icy
hand, when, snug and warm under blankets and comforters, after an
evening of stories, he slipped away into the wonderland of dreams—not
the irresponsible, sleeping, dreams—those do not count—but the
dreams that come between waking and sleeping, wherein a boy dare do
all the great deeds he ever read about and can be all the things that
ever were put in books for boys to wish they were.
Oh, but those were brave dreams—those dreams of his Yesterdays! No
cruel necessity of life hedged them in. No wall of the practical or
possible set a limit upon them. No right or wrong decreed the way they
should go. In his Yesterdays, there were fairy Godmothers to endow him
with unlimited power and to grant all his wishes, even unto mountains
of golden wealth and vast caverns filled with all manner of precious
gems. In his Yesterdays, there were wicked giants and horrid dragons
and evil beasts to kill, with always a good Genii to see that they did
not harm him the while he bravely took their baleful lives. In his
Yesterdays, he was a prince in gorgeous raiment; an emperor with
jeweled scepter and golden crown; a knight in armor, with a sword and
proudly stepping horse of war; he was a soldier leading a forlorn
hope; or a general, with his plumed staff officers about him,
directing the battle from a mountain top; he was a sailor cast away on
a desert island; or a captain commanding his ship in a storm or,
clinging to the shrouds in a smother of battle flame and smoke,
shouting his orders through a trumpet to his gallant crew; he was a
pirate; a robber chief; a red Indian; a hunter; a scout of the
plains—he could be anything, in those dreams of his Yesterdays,
So, even as the man, the boy had dreamed. But the man did not think of
it in that way—the dreams of his manhood were too real.
Then in his Yesterdays would come, also, the putting of his dreams
into action, for the play of children, even as the works of men, are
only dreams in action after all. The quiet orchard became a vast and
pathless forest wherein lurked wild beasts and savage men ready to
pounce upon the daring hunter; or, perhaps, it was an enchanted wood
with lords and ladies imprisoned in the trees while in the carriage
house—which was not a carriage house at all but a great castle—a
cruel giant held captive their beautiful princess. The haymow was a
robbers' cave wherein great wealth of booty was stored; the garden, a
desert island on which lived the poor castaway. And many a long summer
hour the bold captain clung to the rigging of his favorite apple tree
ship and gazed out over the waving meadow sea, or the general of the
army, on his rail fence war horse, directed the battle from the
hilltop or led the desperate charge.
But rarely, in his Yesterdays, could the boy put his dreams into
successful action alone. Alone he could dream but to realize his
dreams, he needs must have the help of another. And so she came
to take her place in his life, to help him play out his dreams—the
little girl who lived next door.
Who was she? Why, she was the beautiful princess held captive by the
giant in his carriage house castle until rescued by the brave prince
who came to her through the enchanted wood. She was the crew of the
apple tree ship; the robber band; the army following her general in
his victorious charge; and the relief expedition that found the
castaway on his desert island. Sometimes she was even a cannibal
chief, or a monster dragon, or a cruel wild beast. And always—though
the boy did not know—she was a good fairy weaving many spells for his
The man remembered well enough the first time that he met her. A new
family was moving into the house that stood just below the garden and,
from his seat on the gate post, the boy was watching the big wagons,
loaded with household goods, as they turned into the neighboring yard.
On the high seat of one of the wagons was the little girl. A big man
lifted her down and the boy, watching, saw her run gaily into the
house. For some time he held his place, swinging his bare legs
impatiently, but he did not see the little girl come out into the yard
again. Then, dropping to the ground, the boy slipped along the garden
fence under the currant bushes to a small opening in the hedge that
separated the two places. Very cautiously, at first, he peered through
the branches. Then, upon finding all quiet, he grew bolder, and on
hands and knees crept part way through the little green tunnel to find
himself, all suddenly, face to face with her.
That was the beginning. The end had come several years later when the
family had moved again.
The parting, too, he remembered well enough. A boy and girl parting it
was. And the promises—boy and girl promises they were. At first many
poorly written, awkwardly expressed, laboriously compiled, but warmly
interesting letters were exchanged. Then the letters became shorter
and shorter; the intervals between grew longer and longer; until, even
as childhood itself goes, she had slipped out of his life. Even as the
brave dreams of his boyhood she had gone—even as his Yesterdays.
The bobo-link had long ago left his swinging bush. The meadow lark had
gone to find his mate in a distant field. The twittering bluebirds had
finished their tasks. The woodpecker had ceased from his labor. The
sunshine was failing fast. Faint and far away, through the still
twilight air, came the long, clear, whistle of another train that was
following swiftly the iron ways to the world of men.
The man on the hill came back from his Yesterdays—came back to
wonder: "where is the little girl now? Has she changed much? Her eyes
would be the same and her hair—only a little darker perhaps. And does
she ever go back into the Yesterdays? It is not likely," he thought,
"no doubt she is far too busy caring for her children and attending to
her household duties to think of her childhood days and her childhood
playmate. And what would her husband be like?" he wondered.
There was no woman in the dreams of the man who that afternoon, for
the first time, realized his manhood and began his manhood life. He
dreamed only of the deeds that he would do; of the work he would
accomplish; of the place he would win; and of the honors he would
receive. The little girl lived for him only in his Yesterdays. She did
not belong to his manhood years. She had no place in his manhood
Slowly he climbed the rail fence again and, through the orchard, went
down the hill toward the house. But he did not again enter the house.
He went on past the kitchen porch to the garden gate where he stood,
for some minutes, looking toward the hedge that separated the two
places and toward the cherry tree that grew in the corner of the
garden next door.
At the big front gate he paused again and turned lingeringly as one
reluctant to go. The old home in the twilight seemed so lonely, so
deserted by all to whom it had been most kind.
At last, with a movement suggestive of a determination that could not
have belonged to his boyhood, he set his face toward the world. Down
the little hill in the dusk of the evening he went, walking quickly;
past the house where the little girl had lived; across the creek at
the foot of the hill; and on up the easy rise beyond. And, as he went,
there was on his face the look of a man. There was in his eyes a new
light—the light of a man's dream. Nor did he once look back.
To-morrow he would leave the friends of his boyhood; he would leave
the scenes of his Yesterdays; he would go to work out his dreams—even
as in his Yesterdays, he would play them out—for the works of men are
as the plays of children but dreams in action, after all.
Would he, could he, play out his manhood dreams alone?
And the woman also, for the first time, was face to face with Life
and, for the first time, knew that she was a woman.
For a long while she had seen her womanhood approaching. Little by
little, as her skirts had been lengthened, as her dolls had been put
away, as her hair had been put up, she had seen her womanhood drawing
near. But she had always said to herself: "when I do not play with
dolls, when I can dress like mother, and fix my hair like mother, I
will be a woman." She did not know, then, that womanhood is a matter
of things very different from these. Until that night she did not
know. But that night she knew.
I cannot tell you the woman's name, nor where she lived, nor any of
those things that are commonly told about women in stories. But, as my
story is not that kind of a story, it will not matter that I cannot
tell. What really matters to my story is this: the woman, that night,
when, for the first time, she knew herself to be a woman, began her
woman life in dreams. Because the dreams of life are of the greatest
importance—because Dreams are of the Thirteen Truly Great Things of
Life—this is my story: that the woman life of this woman, when first
she knew herself to be a woman, began in dreams.
It was the time of the first roses. For a week or more she had been
very busy with a loving, tender, joyous, occupation that left her no
time to think of herself. Her dearest friend—her girlhood's most
intimate companion, and, save for herself, the last of their little
circle—was to be married and she was to be bridesmaid.
They had been glad days—those days of preparation—for she rejoiced
greatly in the happiness of her friend and had shared, as fully as it
was possible for another to share, the sweet sacredness, the holy
mysteriousness, and the proud triumph of it all. But with the gladness
of those days, there had come into her heart a strange quietness like
the quietness of an empty room that is furnished and ready but without
At the wedding that evening she had been all that a bridesmaid should
be, even to the last white ribbon and the last handful of rice, for
she would that no shadow of a cloud should come over the happiness of
her friend. But when the new-made husband and wife had been put safely
aboard the Pullman, and, with the group on the depot platform
frantically waving hats and handkerchiefs and shouting good lucks and
farewells, the train had pulled away, the loneliness in her heart had
become too great to hide. Her escort had made smart jokes about her
tears, alleging disappointment and envy. He was a poor, shallow,
witless, fool who could not understand; and that he could not
understand mattered, to her, not at all. She had commanded him to take
her home and at her front door had thanked him and sent him away.
And then it was—in the blessed privacy of her own room, with the door
locked and the shades drawn close, with her wedding finery thrown
aside and the need of self-repression no longer imperative—that, as
she sat in a low chair before the fire, she looked, for the first
time, boldly at Life and, for the first time, knew that she was a
woman—knew that womanhood was not a matter of long skirts, of hair
dressing, and the putting away of dolls.
She was tired, very tired, from the responsibilities and excitement of
the day but she did not feel that she could sleep. From the fire, she
looked up to the clock that ticked away so industriously on the
mantle. It was a little clock with a fat, golden, cupid grasping the
dial in his chubby arms as though striving to do away with time when
he might better have been busy with his bow and arrows. The hands of
the clock pointed nearly midnight. The young woman looked into the
Already her girl friend had been a wife several hours—a wife. Already
the train was miles away bearing the newly wedded ones to their future
home—their home. The hours would go swiftly into days, the days into
weeks and months and years, and there would be boys and girls—their
children. And the years would go swiftly as the days and there would
be the weddings of their sons and daughters and then—the children of
And the woman who that night knew that she was a woman—the woman
whose heart, as she sat alone before the fire, was even as an empty
room—a room that is furnished and ready but without a tenant—what,
this woman asked herself, would the years bring her? The years of her
childhood and girlhood were past. What of her womanhood years that
were to come?
There are many doors in the life of these modern days at which a woman
may knock with hope of being admitted; and this woman, as she sat
alone before her fire that night, paused before them all—all save
two. Two doors she saw but did not pause before; and one of
them was idleness and pleasure. And one other door there is that
stands open wide so that there is no need to knock for admittance.
Before this wide open door the woman paused a long time. It is older
than the other doors. It is very, very, old. Since the beginning it
has never been closed. But though it stood open so wide and there was
no need to knock for admittance, still the woman could not enter for
she was alone. No woman may enter that old, old, open door, alone.
Three times before she had stood before that ancient door and had been
urged to cross the threshold; but always she had hesitated, had held
back, and turned away. She wondered if always she would hesitate, if
always she would turn away; or would some one come with whom she could
gladly, joyously, confidently, cross the threshold. She could not say.
She could only wait. And while she waited she would knock at one of
the other doors. She would knock because she must. The custom of the
age, necessity, circumstances, forced her to knock at one of those
doors that, in the life of these modern days, opens to women who seek
I cannot tell just what the circumstances of the woman's life were nor
why it was necessary. Nor does it in the least matter that I cannot
tell. The necessity, the circumstances, have nothing to do with my
story save this: that, whatever they were, I am quite sure they ought
not to have been. I am quite sure that any circumstance, or
necessity, or custom, that forces a woman who knows herself to be a
woman to seek admittance at any one of those doors through which she
must enter alone is not right. This it is that belongs to my story:
the woman did not wish to enter the life that lies on the other side
of those doors through which she must go alone.
Alone in her room that night, with the shades drawn close and the only
light the light of the dancing fire, this woman who, for the first
time, knew herself to be a woman, did not dream of a life on the other
side of those doors at which she must ask admittance. She dreamed of a
future beyond the old, old, door that has stood open wide since the
And it was no shame to her that she so dreamed. It was no shame that
she called before her, one by one, those who had asked her to cross
with them the threshold and those who might still ask her. It was no
shame that, while her heart said always, "no," she still
waited—waited for one whom she knew not but only knew that she would
know him when he came. And it was no shame to her that, even while
this was so, she saw herself in the years to come a wife and mother.
In the glowing heart of the fire she saw her home warm with holy love,
bright with sacred companionship. In the dancing flames she saw her
children—happy, beautiful, children. Nor did she in her dreams fear
the flickering shadows that came and went for in the dusk of the room
she felt the dear presence of that one who was to be her other self;
who was to be to her strength in her weakness, hope in her sadness,
and comfort in her mourning.
It is well indeed that the shadows of life bring no fears into our
dreams else we would not dare to dream and life itself would lose its
purpose and its meaning.
So the woman saw her future, not in the shadows that came and went
upon the wall, but in the glowing heart of the fire. And, as she
dreamed her dreams of womanhood, her face grew beautiful with a
tender, thoughtful, beauty that is given only to those women who dream
such dreams. With the realization of her womanhood and the beginning
of her woman life, her lips curved in a smile that was different from
the smile of girlhood and there came into her eyes a light that was
never there before. And then, as one setting out on a long journey
might turn back for a last farewell view of loved familiar scenes, she
turned to go back for a little into her Yesterdays.
There was a home in those Yesterdays and there was a mother—a mother
who lived now in a better home than any of earth's building. A father
she had never known but there was a big, jolly, uncle who had done and
was doing yet all that an uncle of limited means could do to take her
father's place in the life of his sister's only child. And there was
sunshine in her Yesterdays—bright sunshine—unclouded by city smoke;
and flowers unstained by city grime; and blue skies unmarred by city
buildings; and there were beautiful trees and singing birds and broad
fields in her Yesterdays. Also there were dreams—such dreams as only
those who are very young or very wise dare to dream.
It may have been the firelight that did it; it may have been the
vision of her children who lived only in the life that she saw beyond
the old, old, open door: or perhaps it was the wedding finery that lay
over a nearby chair: or the familiar tick, tick, tick, of the clock in
the arms of the fat cupid who neglected his bow and arrows in a vain
attempt to do away with time—whatever it was that brought it about,
the woman dreamed again the dreams of childhood—dreamed them even as
she dreamed those first dreams of her womanhood.
And no one was there to tell her that the dreams of her girlhood and
of her womanhood were the same.
Again, on a long summer afternoon, as she kept house in a snug corner
of the vine shaded porch, she was really the mistress of a grand
mansion that was furnished with beautiful carpets and furniture, china
and silver, books and pictures. And in that mansion she received her
distinguished guests and entertained her friends with charming grace
and dignity, even as she set her tiny play table with dishes of
thimble size and served tea and cakes to her play lady friends. Again,
as she rocked her dollies to sleep beside the evening fire and tucked
them into their beds with a little mother kiss for each, there were
dreams of merry boys and girls who should some day call her mother.
And there were dreams of fine dresses and jewels the while she
stitched tiny garments for her newest child who had come to her with
no clothing at all, or fashioned a marvelous hat for another whose
features were but a smudge of paint and whose hair had been glued on
so many times that it was far past combing and a hat was a necessity
to hide the tangled mat. And sometimes she was a princess shut up in a
castle tower and a noble prince, who wore golden armor and rode a
great war horse, would come to woo her and she would ride away with
him through the deep forest followed by a long procession of lords and
ladies, of knights and squires and pages. Or, perhaps, she would be a
homeless girl in pitiful rags who, because of her great beauty, would
be stolen by gypsies and sold to a cruel king to be kept in a dungeon
until rescued by a brave soldier lover.
And, in her Yesterdays, the master of the dream home over which she
was mistress—the father of her dream children—the prince with whom
she rode away through the forest—the soldier lover who rescued her
from the dungeon—and the hero of many other adventures of which she
was the heroine—was always the same. Outside her dreams he was a
sturdy, brown cheeked, bare legged, little boy who lived next door.
But what a man is outside a woman's dreams counts for little after
all—even though that woman be a very small and dainty little woman
with a very large family of dolls.
The woman remembered so well their first meeting. It was at the upper
end of the garden near the strawberry beds and he was creeping toward
her on hands and knees through a hole in the hedge that separated the
two places. How she had jumped when she first caught sight of him! How
he had started and turned as if to escape when he saw her watching
him! How shyly they had approached each other with the first timid
offerings of friendship!
Many, many, times after that did he come to her through the opening in
the hedge. Many, many, times did she go to him. And he came in many
disguises. In many disguises she helped him put his dreams into
action. But always, to her, he was a hero to be worshiped, a leader to
be followed, a master to be obeyed. Always she was very proud of
him—of his strength and courage—of the grand deeds he wrought—and
of the great things that he would some day do. And sometimes—the most
delightful times of all—at her wish, he would help her, in his
masterful way, to play out her dreams. And then, though he liked being
an Indian or a robber or a soldier best, he would be a model husband
and help her with the children; although he did, at times, insist upon
punishing them rather more than she thought necessary. But when the
little family was ill with the measles or scarlet fever or whooping
cough no dream husband could have been more gentle, more thoughtful,
or more wise, in his attention.
And once they had played a wedding.
The woman whose heart was as an empty room stirred in her chair
uneasily as one who feels the gaze of a hidden observer. But the door
was locked, the shades drawn close, and the only light was the
flickering light of the fire. The night without was very dark and
still. There was no sound in the sleeping house—no sound save the
steady tick, tick, tick, of the time piece in the chubby arms of the
fat cupid on the mantle.
And once they had played a wedding.
It was when her big, jolly, uncle was married. The boy and the girl
were present at the ceremony and she wore a wonderful new dress while
the boy, scrubbed and combed and brushed, was arrayed in his best
clothes with shoes and stockings. There were flowers and music and
good things to eat and no end of laughter and gay excitement; and the
jolly uncle looked so big and fine and solemn; and the bride, in her
white veil, was so like a princess in one of the dreams; that the
little girl was half frightened and felt a queer lump in her throat as
she clung to her mother's hand. And there was a strange ceremony in
which the minister, in his gown, read out of a book and said a prayer
and asked questions; and the uncle and the princess answered the
questions; and the uncle put a ring on the finger of the princess; and
the minister said that they were husband and wife. And then there were
kisses while everybody laughed and cried and shook hands; and some one
told the little girl that the princess was her new auntie; and her
uncle caught her up in his big arms and was his own jolly self again.
It was all very fine and strange and impressive to their childish
eyes; and so, of course, the very next day, the boy and the girl
played a wedding.
It was up in that quiet corner of the garden, near the hedge, and the
cherry tree was in bloom and showered its delicate blossoms down upon
them with every puff of air that stirred the branches; while, in the
hedge nearby, a little brown bird was putting the finishing touch to a
new nest. The boy's shepherd dog, who sat up when you told him, was
the minister; and all the dollies were there, dressed in their finest
gowns. The little girl was very serious and again, half frightened,
felt that queer lump in her throat as she promised to be his wife. And
the boy looked very serious, too, as he placed a little brass ring
upon her finger and, speaking for the brown eyed, shaggy coated,
minister, said: "I pronounce you husband and wife and anything that
God has done must never be done any different by anybody forever and
ever, Amen." And then—because there was no one else present and they
both felt that the play would not be complete without—then, he had
kissed her, and they were both very, very, happy.
So it was that, in the quiet secrecy of her dimly lighted room, the
woman who that night knew herself to be a woman, felt her cheeks hot
with blushes and upon her hot cheeks felt her tears.
So it was that she came back from her Yesterdays to wonder: where was
the boy now? What kind of a man had he grown to be? Was he making his
way to fame and wealth or laboring in some humble position? Had he a
home with wife and children? Did he ever go back into the Yesterdays?
Had he forgotten that wedding under the cherry tree? When the one with
whom she would go through the old, old, door into the life of her
womanhood dreams should come, would it matter if the hero of her
childhood dreams went in with them? He could be no rival to that one
who was to come for he lived only in the Yesterdays and the Yesterdays
could not come back. The fat little cupid on the mantle neglected his
bow and arrows in vain; he could not do away with time.
Very slowly the woman prepared for her rest and, when she was ready,
knelt in the soft dusk of her room, a virgin in white to pray. And
God, I know, understood why her prayer was confused and uncertain with
longings she could not express even to him who said: "Except ye become
as little children." God, I know, understood why this woman, who that
night, for the first time, knowing herself to be a woman had dreamed a
true woman's dream—God, I know, understood why, as she lay down to
sleep in the quiet darkness, she stretched forth her empty arms and
almost cried aloud.
In to-morrow's light it would all be gone, but that night—that
night—her womanhood dreams of the future were real—real even as the
girlhood dreams of her Yesterdays.
In a small, bare, room in a cheap city boarding house, the man cowered
like a wild thing, wounded, neglected, afraid; while over him, gaunt
and menacing, cruel, pitiless, insistent, stood a dreadful need—the
need of Occupation—the need of something to do.
In all the world there is no danger so menacing as the danger of
idleness: there is no privation so cruel, no suffering so pitiful, as
the need of Occupation: there is no demand so imperative, no necessity
so dreadful, as the want of something to do.
Occupation is the very life of Life. As nature abhors a vacuum so life
abhors idleness. To be is to be occupied. Even though one spend
his days in seeking selfish pleasures still must he occupy himself to
live, for the need of something to do is most imperative upon those
who strive hardest to do nothing. As life and the deeds of men are
born in dreams so life itself is Occupation. A man is the thing
he does. What the body is to the spirit; what the word is to the
thought; what the sunshine is to the sun; Occupation is to Dreams. One
of the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life is Occupation.
From the cherry tree in the upper corner of the garden near the hedge,
the cherries had long ago been gathered. The pair of brown birds had
reared their children and were beginning to talk with their neighbors
and kinfolk about their winter home in the south. In the orchard on
the hill back of the house, the late fruit was hanging, full ripe,
upon the bending boughs. From the brow of the hill, where the man had
sat that afternoon when, for the first time, he faced Life and knew
that he was a man, the fields from which the ripened grain had been
cut lay in the distance, great bars and blocks and patches of golden
yellow, among the still green pastures and meadows and the soft brown
strips of the fall plowing. In the woods, the squirrels were beginning
to take stock of the year's nut crop and to make their estimates for
the winter's need, preparing, the while, their storehouses to receive
the precious hoard. And over that new mound in the cemetery, the grass
fairies had woven a coverlid thick and firm and fine as though, in
sweet pity of its yellow nakedness, they would shield it from the
winds that already had in them a hint that summer's reign was past.
But all this was far, very far, from where, in his small bare room,
the man crouched frightened and dismayed. The rush and roar of the
crowded trains on the elevated road outside his window shook the
casement with impatient fury. The rumbling thunder of the heavily
loaded subway trains jarred the walls of the building. The rattle and
whirr of the overflowing surface cars rose sharply above the hum and
din of the city streets. To the man who asked only a chance, only a
place, only room to stand and something—anything—to do, it was
maddening. A blind, impotent, fury took possession of him. He clenched
his fists and cursed aloud.
But the great, crowded, world heeded his curses as little as it
noticed him and he fell again into the silence of his hopelessness.
Out from the sheltered place of his dreams the man had come into the
busy world of deeds—into the world where those who, like himself, had
dreamed, were putting their dreams into action. Out from the years of
his boyhood he had come into the years of his manhood—out from the
scenes of his Yesterdays into the scenes of his to-days.
For weeks, with his young strength stirring mightily within him and
his rich, red, blood hot in his veins, he had been crying out to the
world: "Make way for me. Give me a place that I may work out my
dreams. Give me something to do." For weeks, he had been trying to
convince the world that it needed him. But the busy, happy, world—the
idle, dreaming, world—the discontented, sullen, world—was not so
easily convinced. His young strength and his red blood did not seem to
count for as much as they should. His confidence and his courage did
not seem to impress. His high rank in the boyhood world did not
entitle him to a like position among men. His graduating address had
made no stir in the world of thought. His athletic record had caused
no comment in the world of industry. His coming did not disturb the
world of commerce.
A few he found who wrought with all the vigor and enthusiasm of their
dreaming. These said: "What have you done that we should make room for
you? Prove yourself first then come to us." Many he saw who had
wearied of the game and were dreaming new dreams. These said: "We
ourselves are without Occupation. There are not places enough for all.
Stand aside and give us room." Many others there were who, with dreams
forgotten, labored as dull cattle, goaded by brute necessity, with no
vision, no purpose, no hope, to make of their toil a blessing. And
these laughed at him with vicious laughter, saying: "Why should anyone
want anything to do?"
So the man in those days saw his dreams going from him—saw his bright
visions growing dim. So he came to feel that his young strength was of
no value; that his red blood was worthless; that his courage was vain.
So his confidence was shaken; his faith was weakened; his hope grew
faint. He came to feel that the things that he had dreamed were
already all wrought out—that there were no more great works to be
done—that all that could be done was being accomplished—that in all
the world there was nothing more for a man to do. Disappointed,
discouraged, disheartened, weary and alone, he told himself that he
had come too late—that in all the world there was nothing more for a
man to do.
He did not look out upon the world, now, as a conquering emperor,
confident in his armed strength, might look over the field of a coming
battle. He did not dream, now, of victories, of honors, and renown. He
did not, now, see himself a savior of the world. The world had
stretched this man also upon the cross that it has always ready for
such as he.
It was not the man's pressing need that hurt him so—gladly he would
have suffered for his dreams. It was not for privation and hardships
that he cared—proudly he would have endured those for his dreams. Nor
was it loneliness and neglect that made him afraid—he was willing to
work out his dreams alone. That which sent him cowering like a
wounded, wild thing to his room was this: he felt that his strength,
his courage, his willingness, his purpose, were as nothing in the
world. That which frightened him with dreadful fear was this: he felt
that his dreams were going from him. That for which he cared was this:
he felt that he was too late. This was the cross upon which the world
stretched him—the cross of enforced idleness—the cross of nothing
It is not strange that in his lonely suffering the man sought to
escape by the only way open to him—the way that led to his
Yesterdays. There was a welcome for him there. There was a place for
him. He was wanted there. There his life was held of value. It is not
at all strange that he went back. As one flees from a desolate,
burning, desert waste, to a land of shady groves and fruitful gardens,
of cool waters and companionable friends, so this man fled from his
days that were into his days that were gone—so he went back into his
It may have been the soft dusk of the twilight hour that did it: or it
may have been the loneliness of his heart: or, perhaps, it was the
picture he found in his trunk as he searched among his few things
trying to decide what next he should take to the pawn shop. Whatever
it was that brought it about, the man was a boy again in the boyhood
world of his Yesterdays.
And it happened that the day in his Yesterdays to which the man went
back was one of those days when the boy could find nothing to do.
Every game that he had ever played was played out. Every source of
amusement he had exhausted. There was in all his boyhood world
nothing, nothing, for him to do.
The orchard was not a trackless forest inhabited by fierce, wild
beasts; nor an enchanted wood with lords and ladies imprisoned in the
trees; it was only an orchard—a commonplace old orchard—nothing
more. Indians and robbers were stupid creatures of no importance
whatever. There were no fairies, no giants, no soldiers left in the
boyhood world. The rail fence war horse refused to charge. The apple
tree ship was a wreck on the rocks of discontent. The hay had all been
cut and stored away in the barn. The excitement and fun of the grain
harvesting was over and the big stacks were waiting the threshers. It
was not time for fall apple picking and the cider mill, nor to gather
the corn, nor to go nutting. There was nothing, nothing, to do.
The boy's father was busy with some sort of work in the shop and told
his little son not to bother. The hired man was doing something to the
barnyard fence and told the boy to get out of the way. A carpenter was
repairing the roof of the house and the long ladder looked inviting
enough, but, the instant the boy's head appeared above the eaves, the
man shouted for him to get down and to run and play. Even the new red
calf refused to notice him but continued its selfish, absorbing,
occupation with wobbly legs braced wide and tail wagging supreme
indifference. His very dog had deserted him and had gone away
somewhere on business of his own, apparently forgetting the needs of
his master. And mother—mother too was busy, as busy as could be with
sweeping and dusting and baking and mending and no end of things that
must be done.
But somehow mother's work could always wait. At least it could wait
long enough for her to look lovingly down into the troubled,
discontented, little face while she listened to the plaintive whine:
"There's nothin' at all to do. Mamma, tell me—tell me something to
Poor little boy in the Yesterdays! Quickly mother's arm went around
him. Lovingly she drew him close. And mother's work waited still as
she considered the serious problem. There was no feeling of not being
wanted in the boy's heart then. As he looked up at her he felt already
renewed hope and quickening interest.
Then mother's face brightened, in a way that mother faces do, and the
boy's eyes began to shine in eager anticipation. What should he do?
Why mother knew the very thing of course. It was the best—the very
best—the most interesting thing in all the world for a boy to do. He
should build a house for the little girl who lived next door.
Out under the lilac bushes he should build it, in a pretty corner of
the yard, where mother, from her window, every now and then, could
look out to see how well he was doing and help, perhaps, with careful
suggestions. Mother herself would ask the carpenter man for some
clean, new boards, some shingles and some nails. And it would all be a
secret, between just mother and the boy, until the house was finished
and ready and then he should go and bring the little girl and they
would see how surprised and glad she would be.
It was wondrous magic those mothers worked in the Yesterdays. In a
twinkle, for the boy who could find nothing to do, the world was
changed. In a twinkle, there was nothing in all the world worth doing
save this one thing—to build a house for the little girl next door.
With might and main he planned and toiled and toiled and planned;
building and rebuilding and rebuilding yet again. He cut his fingers
and pounded his thumb and stuck his hands full of slivers and minded
it not at all so absorbed was he in this best of all Occupations.
But keep it secret! First there was father's smiling face close beside
mother's at the window. Then the hired man chanced to pass and paused
a moment to make admiring comment. And, later, the carpenter man came
around the corner of the house and, when he saw, offered a bit of
professional advice and voluntarily contributed another board. Even
the boy's dog, as though he had heard the news that the very birds
were discussing so freely in the tree tops, came hurrying home to
manifest his interest. Keep it secret! How could the boy keep
it secret! But the little girl did not know. Until he was almost ready
to tell her, the little girl did not know. Almost he was ready to tell
her, when—But that belongs to the other part of my story.
About the man in his bare, lonely, room in the great city, the world
in its madness raged—struggling, pushing, crowding, jostling,
scrambling—a swirling, writhing, mass of life—but the man did not
heed. On every side, this life went rushing, roaring, rumbling,
thundering, whirring, shrieking, clattering by. But the man noticed
the world now no more than it noticed him. In his Yesterdays he had
found something to do. He had found the only thing that a man, who
knows himself to be a man, can do in truth to his manhood. Again, in
his Yesterdays, he was building a house for the little girl who lived
next door—the little girl who did not know.
Someday this childish old world will grow weary of its games of war
and wealth. Someday it will lose interest in its playthings—banks,
and stocks, and markets. Someday it will lose faith in its fairies of
fame, its giants of position and power. Then will the disconsolate,
forlorn, old world turn to Mother Nature to learn from her that the
only Occupation that is of real and lasting worth is the one
Occupation in which all of Mother Nature's children have
fellowship—the Occupation of home building.
In meadow and forest and field; in garden and grove and hedge and
bush; in mountain and plain and desert and sea; in hollow logs; amid
swaying branches; in rocky dens and earthy burrows; high among
towering cliffs and mighty crags; low in the marsh grass and among
reeds and rushes; in stone walls; in fence corners; in tufts of grass
and tiny shrubs; among the flowers and swinging vines;
everywhere—everywhere—in all this great, round, world, Mother's
children all are occupied in home building—occupied in this and
nothing more. This is the one thing that Mother's children, in all the
ages since the beginning, have found worth doing. One wayward child
alone is occupied just now, seemingly, with everything but home
building. Man seems to be doing everything these days but the one
thing that must be the foundation work of all. But never
mind—homebuilding will be the world's work at the last. When all the
playthings of childhood and all the childish games of men have failed,
homebuilding will endure. Occupation must in the end mean home
building or it is meaningless.
And the din, the confusion, the struggle, the turmoil of life—when it
all means to men the building of homes and nothing more; when the
efforts of men, the ambitions of men, the labor and toil of men are
all to make homes for the little girls next door; then, will Mother
Nature smile upon her boys and God, I am sure, will smile upon them,
The man came back from his Yesterdays with a new heart, with new
courage and determination, and the next day he found something to do.
I do not know what it was that the man found to do—that is not
* * * * *
It was nearly the time of falling leaves when the woman, who knew
herself to be a woman, knocked at one of those doors, at which she did
not wish to knock, and was admitted.
It does not matter which of the doors it was. I cannot tell you what
work it was that the woman found to do. What mattered to her—and to
the world if only the world would understand—was this: that she was
forced by the customs of the age and by necessity to enter a life that
her woman heart did not desire. While her dreams were of the life that
lies beyond the old, old, door that has stood open since the
beginning; while she waited on the threshold and longed to go in; she
was forced to turn aside, to seek admittance at one of those other
doors. This it is that matters—matters greatly. Perhaps only God who
made the woman heart and who Himself set that door open wide—perhaps
only God knows how greatly it matters.
Of course, if the woman had not known herself to be a woman, it would
have made little difference either to her or to the world.
And the woman when she had joined that great company of women, who, in
these modern days labor behind the doors through which they must go
alone, found them to be good women—good and brave and true. And most
of them, she found, were in that great company of workers just as she
was there—just as every woman who knows her womanhood is
there—through circumstances, the custom of the age, necessity. The
only saving thing about it all is this: their woman hearts are
And the woman found also that, while the door opened readily enough to
her knock, she was received without a welcome. Through that other
door, the door that God himself has opened, she would have entered
into a joyous welcome—she would have been received with gladness,
with rejoicing, with holiest love, and highest honor. To her, in the
world that lies beyond the old, old, door, would have been rendered
homage and reverence second only to that given to God Himself.
There, she would have been received as a woman for her
womanhood; she would have been given first place among all
created things. But the world into which she entered alone did not so
receive her. It received her coldly. Its manner said quite plainly:
"Why are you here? What do you want?" It said: "There is no sentiment
here, no love, no reverence, no homage; there is only business here,
only law, only figures and facts."
This world was not unkind to her, but it did not receive her as a
woman. It could not. It did not value her womanhood. Womanhood
has no value there. It valued her clear brain, her physical strength,
her skillful hands, her willing feet, her ready wit: but her womanhood
it ignored. The most priceless gift of the Creator to his
creatures—the one thing without which all human effort would be in
vain, no Christian prayer would be possible; the one thing without
which mankind would perish from the earth—this world, into which the
woman went, rejected. But the things that belonged to her
womanhood—the charm of her manner; the beauty of her face and form;
the appeal of her sex; the quick intuitions of her soul—all these
this world received and upon them put a price. They became not forces
to be used by her in wifehood and motherhood but commercial assets,
valued in dollars, worth a certain price upon the woman labor market
in the business world.
And the woman's heart, because she knew herself to be a woman,
rebelled at this buying and selling the things of her womanhood. These
things she rightly felt to be above price—far, far, above price. They
were the things of her wifehood and motherhood. They were given her to
be used by her in love, in mating, in bearing and rearing children, in
the giving of life to the world.
The things of a woman's womanhood are as far above price as life
itself to which they belong. Even as color and perfume belong to the
flowers; even as the music of the birds belongs to the feathery
songsters; even as the blue belongs to the sky, and the light to the
stars; so these graces of a woman belong to her and to the mission of
her womanhood are sacred. They are hers to be used in her holy office
of womanhood; by her alone, without price, for the glory and honor of
life and the future of the race. So the woman's heart rebelled, but
secretly, instinctively, almost unconsciously. Open rebellion would
have made it impossible for her to remain in the world into which she
entered because of her necessity and the custom of the age.
She found, too, that this world into which she had entered was very
courteous, that it was even considerate and kind—as considerate and
kind as it was possible to be—for it seemed to understand her
position quite as well as she herself understood it. And this world
paid her very well for the services she was asked to render. But it
asked of her no favors. It accorded her no honors. It sought her with
no offering. And, because of this, the woman, in the heart of her
womanhood, felt ashamed and humiliated.
It is the right of womanhood to bestow favors. It is a woman's right
to be honored above all creatures of earth. Since the beginning of
life itself her sex has been so honored—has received the offerings
from life. Mankind, alone, has at times attempted to change this law
but has never quite succeeded. Mankind never can fully succeed in this
because woman holds life itself in her keeping. So the woman felt that
her womanhood was humiliated and shamed. But she hid this feeling
also, hid it carefully, buried it deeply, because she knew that if she
did not it would betray her and she would not be permitted to remain
in the world into which necessity forced her. To the woman, it seemed
that the world into which she had gone, itself, felt her shame and
humiliation. That, in secret, it desired to ask of her; to accord to
her honors; to seek her with offerings. But this world could not do
these things because it dared not recognize her womanhood. When a
woman goes into that world into which she must go alone, she leaves
her womanhood behind. Her womanhood is not received there.
But most of all, the thing that troubled the woman was this: the risk
she ran in entering into that life behind the door at which she had
sought admittance. She saw that there was danger there—grave
danger—to her womanhood. In the busy, ceaseless, activity of that
life there would be little time for her waiting beside the old, old,
door. The exacting demands of her work, or profession, or calling, or
business, would leave little leisure for the meditation and reflection
that is so large a part of the preparation necessary for entrance into
that other world of which she had dreamed. Constant contact with the
unemotional facts and figures of that life which sets a market value
upon the sacred things of womanhood would make it ever more difficult
for her to dream of love. There was grave danger that interest and
enthusiasm in other things would supplant her longing for wifehood and
motherhood. She feared that in her Occupation she might not know, when
he came, that one who was to cross the threshold with her into the
life of her dreams—that, indeed, he might come and go again while she
was busy with other things. She feared that she would come to accept
the commercial valuation of the things that belonged to her womanhood
and thus forget their higher, holier, use and that the continued
rejection of her womanhood would, in time, lead her to think of it
lightly, as incidental rather than supreme. There was real danger that
she would lose her desire to be sought, to give, to receive offerings;
that she would cease to rebel secretly; that she would no longer feel
humiliated at her position. She feared in short this danger—the
gravest danger to her womanhood and thus to all that womankind holds
in her keeping—that she would come to feel contented, satisfied, and
happy, in being a part of the world into which she was forced to go by
the custom of the age and by necessity. Because this woman knew
herself to be a woman she feared this. If she had not come to know her
womanhood she would not have feared it. Neither would it have
The woman was thinking of these things that Saturday afternoon as she
walked homeward from her work. She often walked to her home on
Saturday afternoons, when there was time, for she was strong and
vigorous, with an abundance of good red woman blood in her veins, and
loved the free movement in the open air.
Perhaps, though, it is not exact to say that she was thinking
of these things. The better word would be feeling. She was not
thinking of them as I have set them down: but she was feeling them
all. She was conscious of them, just as she was conscious of the dead
brown leaves that drifted across her path, though she was not thinking
of the leaves. She felt them as she felt the breath of fall in the
puff of air that drifted the leaves: but she did not put what she felt
into words. So seldom do the things that women feel get themselves put
The young woman had chosen a street that led in the direction of her
home through one of the city's smaller parks, and, as she went, the
people she met turned often to look after her for she was good to look
at. She walked strongly but with a step as light as it was firm and
free; and, breathing deeply with the healthful exercise, her cheeks
were flushed with rosy color, her eyes shone, her countenance—her
every glance and movement—betrayed a strong and perfect womanhood—a
womanhood that, rightly understood, is wealth that the race and age
can ill afford to squander.
Coming to the park, she walked more slowly and, after a little, seated
herself on a bench to watch the squirrels that were playing nearby.
The foliage had already lost its summer freshness though here and
there a tree or bush made brave attempt to retain its garb of green.
Not a few brown leaves whirled helplessly about—the first of
unnumbered myriads that soon would be offered by the dying summer in
tribute to winter's conquering power. The sun was still warm but the
air had in it a subtle flavor that seemed a blending of the coming
season with the season that was almost gone.
Near the farther entrance to the little park, a carpenter was
repairing the roof of a house and, from where she sat, the woman could
see the long ladder resting against the eaves. A boy with his shepherd
dog came romping along the walk under the trees as irresponsible as
the drifting leaves. The squirrels scampered away; the boy and dog
whirled on; and the woman, from the world into which she had entered
because she must, went far away into the world of childhood. From her
day of toil in a world that denied her womanhood she went back into
her Yesterdays where womanhood—motherhood—was supreme. Perhaps it
was that subtle flavor in the air that did it; or it may have been the
boy and his dog as they whirled past—care free as the drifting brown
leaves; or perhaps it was the sight of the man repairing the roof of
the house with his long ladder resting against the eaves: the woman
herself could not have told what it was, but, whatever it was, she
slipped away to one of the brightest, happiest, days in all her
But, for a little while, that day was not at all bright and happy. It
started out all right then, little by little, everything went wrong;
and then it changed again and became one of the best of all her
Yesterdays. The day went wrong for a little while at first because
everything in the house was being taken up, or taken down, beaten,
shaken, scrubbed or dusted; everything was being arranged or
disarranged and rearranged again. Surely there was never such
confusion, so it seemed to the little girl, in any home in all the
world. Every time that she would get herself nicely settled with her
dolls she would be forced to move again; until there was in the whole,
busy, bustling place no corner at all where she was not in somebody's
way. When she would have entered into the confusion and helped to
straighten things out, the woman told her, rather sharply, to go away,
and declared that her efforts to help only made things worse.
Out in the garden, at the opening in the hedge, she called and called
and waited and waited for the boy. But the boy did not answer. He was
too busy, she thought, to care about her. She felt quite sure that he
did not even want her to help in whatever it was that he was doing.
Perhaps, she thought wistfully, peering through the little green
tunnel, perhaps if she could go and find him he might—when he saw how
miserable and lonely she was—he might be kind. But to go through the
hedge was forbidden, except when mother said she might.
Sorrowfully she turned away to seek the kitchen where the cook was
busy with the week's baking. But the cook, when the little girl
offered to roll the pie crust or stir the frosting for the cake, was
hurried and cross and declared that the little girl could not help but
only hinder and that it would be better for her not to get in the way.
Once more, in a favorite corner of the big front porch, she was just
beginning to find some comfort with her doll when the woman with the
broom forced her to move again.
Poor little girl! What could she do under such trying
circumstances—what indeed but go to mother. All the way up the long
stairs she went to where mother was as busy as ever a mother could be
doing something with a lot of things that were piled all over the
room. But mother, when she saw the tear stained little face,
understood in a flash and put aside whatever it was that she was
doing, quickly, and held the little girl, dolly and all, close in her
mother arms until the feeling of being in the way and of not being
wanted was all gone. And, when the tears were quite dry, mother said,
so gently that it did not hurt, "No dearie, I'm afraid you can't help
mother now because mother's girl is too little to understand what it
is that mother is doing. But I'll tell you something that you
can do. Mother will give you some things from the pantry and
you may go over to see the little boy. And I am as sure, as sure can
be, that, when he sees all the nice things you have, he will play
keeping house with you."
So the little girl in the Yesterdays, with her treasures from mother's
pantry, went out across the garden and through the hedge to find the
boy. Very carefully she went through the opening in the hedge so that
she would lose none of her treasures. And oh, the joy of it! The
splendid wonder of it! She found that the boy had built a house—all
by himself he had built it—with real boards, and had furnished it
with tiny chairs and tables made from boxes. Complete it was, even to
a beautiful strip of carpet on the floor and a shelf on which to put
the dishes. Then, indeed, when the boy told her how he had made the
house for her—just for her—and how it was to have been a surprise;
and that she had come just in time because if she tad come sooner it
would have spoiled the fun—the heart of the little girl overflowed
with gladness. And to think that all the time she was feeling so not
wanted and in the way the boy was doing this and all for her!
Did her mother know? She rather guessed that she did; mothers have
such a marvelous way of knowing everything, particularly the nicest
So the little girl gave the boy all the treasures that she had brought
so carefully and they had great fun eating them together; and all the
rest of that day they played "keephouse." And this is why that day was
among the best of all the woman's Yesterdays.
Several men going home from work passed the spot where the young woman
sat. Then a group of shop girls followed; then another group and, in
turn, two women from an office that did not close early on Saturdays.
After them a young girl who looked very tired came walking alone, and
then there were more men and women in a seemingly endless procession.
And so many girls and women there were in the procession that the
woman, as she came back from her Yesterdays, wondered who was left to
make homes for the world.
The sun was falling now in long bars and shafts of light between the
buildings and the trees, and the windows of the house where the man
had been fixing the roof were blazing as if in flames. The man had
taken down his ladder and gone away. It was time the young woman was
going home. And as she went, joining the procession of laborers, her
heart was filled with longing—with longing and with hope. The boy of
her Yesterdays lived only in those days that were gone. He had no
place in the dreams of her womanhood. He was only the playmate of the
little girl. Even as those years were gone the boy had gone out of her
life. But somewhere, perhaps, that one who was to go with her through
the old, old, open door was even then building for her a home—their
home. Perhaps, some day, an all wise Mother Nature would tell her to
leave the world that gave her no welcome—that could not recognize her
womanhood—that made her heart rebel in humiliation and shame—and go
to do her woman's work.
Very carefully would she go when the time came, taking all the
treasures of her womanhood. She would go very carefully that none of
her treasures be lost.
The green of the pastures and the gold of the fields was buried so
deeply under banks of snow that no one could say: "Here the cattle fed
and the buttercups grew; there the grain was harvested; here the corn
stood in shocks; there the daisies and meadow grass sheltered the nest
of the bobo-link." As death calls alike the least and the greatest
back to the dust from which they came, so winter laid over the varied
and changing scenes of summer a cold, white, shroud of wearisome
sameness. The birds were hundreds of miles away in their sunny
southland haunts. The bees, the butterflies, and many of the tiny wood
folk, were all snugly tucked in their winter beds, dreaming, perhaps,
as they slept, of the sunshiny summer days. In the garden the wind had
heaped a great drift high against the hedge on the boy's side, and, on
the little girl's side, the cherry tree in the corner stood shivering
in its nakedness with bare arms uplifted as though praying for mercy
to the stinging cold wind.
In the city the snow, as fast as it fell, was stained by soot and
grime and lay in the streets a mass of filth. The breath of the
laboring truck horses arose from their wide nostrils like clouds of
steam and, in the icy air, covered their breasts and shoulders and
sides with a coat of white frost. The newsboys and vendors of pencils
and shoestrings shivered in nooks and corners and doorways and, as the
people went with heads bent low before the freezing blast that swirled
through the narrow canyons between the tall buildings, the snowy
pavement squeaked loudly under their feet.
And the man who had found something to do, from his Occupation, began
to acquire Knowledge. In doing things, he began to know things.
But the man had to gain first a knowledge of Knowledge. He first had
to learn this: that a man might know all about a thing without ever
knowing the thing itself. He had to understand that Knowledge is not
knowing about a thing but knowing the thing. When first
he had dreamed his manhood dreams, before he had found something to
do, the man, quite modestly, thought that he knew a great deal. In his
school days, he had exhausted many text books and had passed many
creditable examinations upon many subjects and so he had thought that
he knew a great deal. And he did. He knew a great deal about
things. But when he had found something to do, and had tried to do it,
he found also very quickly that, although he knew so much about the
thing he had to do, he knew very, very, little of the thing itself and
that only knowledge of the thing itself could ever help him to realize
From his Occupation, he learned this also: that Knowledge is not what
some other man knows and tells you but what the thing that you have
found to do makes known to you. Knowledge is not told, cannot
be told, to one by another, even though that other has it abundantly
for, to the one to whom it is told, it remains ever what someone else
knows. What the thing that a man finds to do makes known to him,
that is Knowledge. So Knowledge is to be had not from books
alone but rather from Life. So idleness is a vicious ignorance and
those who do the most are wisest.
Before he had found something to do the man had called himself a
thinker. But when he tried to do the thing that he had found to do, he
quickly realized that he had only thought that he thought. He found
that he was not at all a thinker but a listener—a receiver—a
rememberer. In his school days, the thoughts of others were offered
him and he, because he had accepted them, called them his own. He
came, now, to understand that thinking is not accepting the thoughts
of others but finding thoughts of your own in whatever it is that you
have found to do.
Thinking the thoughts of others is a delightful pastime and profitable
but it is not really thinking. Also, if one be blessed with a good
memory, he may thus cheaply acquire a reputation for great wisdom;
just as one, if he happens to be born with a nose of uncommon length
or bigness, may attract the attention of the world. But no one should
deceive himself. A man because he is able, better than the multitude,
to repeat the thoughts of other men must not therefore think himself a
better thinker than the crowd. No more should the one with the
uncommon nose flatter himself that he is necessarily handsome or
distinguished in appearance because the people notice him. He who
attracts the attention of the world should inquire most carefully into
the reason for the gathering of the crowd; for a crowd will gather as
readily to listen to a mountebank as to hear an angel from heaven.
To repeat what others have thought is not at all evidence that he who
remembers is thinking. Great thoughts are often repeated
thoughtlessly. A man's Occupation betrays him or establishes his claim
to Knowledge. That which a man does proclaims that which he thinks or
in his thoughtlessness finds him out.
Of course, when the man had learned this, he said at first, quite
wrongly, that his school days were wasted. He said that what he had
called his education was all a mistake—that it was vanity only and
wholly worthless. But, as he went on gaining ever more and more
Knowledge from the thing that he was doing, and, through that thing,
of many other things, he came to understand that his school days were
not wasted but very well spent indeed. He came to see that what he had
called education was not a mistake. He came to understand that what
was wrong was this: he had considered his education complete,
finished, when he had only been prepared to begin. He had considered
his schooling as an end to be gained when it was only a means to the
end. He had considered his learning as wealth to hold when it was
capital to invest. He had mistaken the thoughts that he received from
others for Knowledge when they were given him only to inspire and to
help him in acquiring Knowledge.
And then, of this knowledge of Knowledge gained by the man from his
Occupation, there was born in him a mighty passion, a burning desire.
It was the passion for Knowledge. It was the desire to know. To know
the thing that he had found to do was not enough. He determined to use
that knowledge to gain Knowledge of many other things. He felt within
himself a new strength stirring—the strength of thought. He saw that
knowledge of things led ever to more knowledge, even as link to link
in a golden chain. One end of the chain he held in his Occupation; the
other was somewhere, far beyond his sight, hidden in the mists that
shroud the Infinite Fact, fast to the mighty secret of Life itself.
Link by link, he determined to follow the chain. From knowing things
to knowledge of other things he would go even until he held in his
grip the last link—until he held the key to the riddle—until he knew
the answer to the sum of Life.
And facts—cold, uncompromising, all powerful, unanswerable
facts—should give him this mastering knowledge of Life. For him there
should be no sentiment to deceive, no illusion to beguile, no fancy to
lead astray. As resistlessly as the winter, with snowflake upon
snowflake, had buried all the delightful vagaries of summer, so this
man, in his passion for Knowledge, would have buried all the charming
inconsistencies, the beautiful inaccuracies, the lovely pretenses of
Life. The illusions, the sentiment, the fancies, the poetry of Life,
he would have buried under the icy sameness of his facts, even as the
flowers and grasses were hidden under winter's shroud of snow. But he
could not. Under the snow, summer still lived. Under the cold facts of
Life, the tender sentiments, the fond fancies, the dear illusions have
strength even as the flowers and grasses.
I do not know what it was that brought it about. It does not matter
what it was. Perhaps it was the sight of some boys coasting down a
little hill, on a side street, near where the man lived at this time:
perhaps it was a group of children who, on their way home from school,
were waging a merry snow fight: or, perhaps, it was the man's own
effort to acquire Knowledge: or, it may be, that his brain was weary,
that the way of Knowledge seemed over long, that the links in the
golden chain were many and passed all too slowly through his hand—I
do not know—but, whatever it was that did it, the man, as he sat
before his fire that winter evening with a too solid and substantial
book, slipped away from his grown up world of facts back into the no
less real world of childhood, back into his Yesterdays—to a school
day in his Yesterdays.
Once again he made his way in the morning to the little schoolhouse
that stood half way up a long hill, in the edge of a bit of timber,
nearly two miles from his home. The yard, beaten smooth and hard by
many bare and childish feet, was separated from the timber by a rail
fence but was left open in front to any stray horses or cattle that,
wandering down the road, might be tempted to rest a while in the shade
of a great tree that stood near the center of the little clearing. The
stumps of the other forest beauties that had once, like this tree,
tossed their branches in the sunlight were still holding the places
that God had given them and made fine seats for the girls or bases for
the boys when they played ball at recess or noon. And often, when the
shouting youngsters had been called from their sports by the rapping
of the teacher's ruler at the door and only the busy hum of their
childish voices came floating through the open windows, a venturesome
squirrel or a saucy chipmunk would creep stealthily along the fence,
stopping now and then to sit bolt upright with tail in air to look and
listen. Then suddenly, at sight of a laughing face at the window or
the appearance of some boy who had gained the coveted permission to
get a bucket of water, the little visitor would whisk away again like
a flash and, with a warning chatter to his mate, would seek safety
among the leaves and branches of the forest only to reappear once more
when all was quiet until, at last, made bold by many trials, he would
leap from the fence and scamper across the yard to take possession of
the tallest stump as though he himself were a schoolboy. Sometimes a
crow, after carefully watching the place for a little while from a
safe position on the fence across the road, would fly quietly down to
look for choice bits dropped from the dinner baskets of the children.
Or again, a long, lazy, black snake would crawl across the yard to
search for the little mice that lived in the foundation of the house
and in the corners of the fence. Or, perhaps, a chicken hawk, that had
been sailing on outstretched wings in ever narrowing circles, would
drop from the blue sky to claim his share of the plunder only to be
frightened away again by the sound of the teacher's voice raised in
sharp rebuke of some mischievous urchin.
The schoolhouse was not a large building nor was it, in the least,
imposing. It was built of wood with a foundation of rough stone and
there were heavy shutters which were always carefully closed at night
to keep out the tramps who might seek a lodging place within. And
there was a woodshed, too, where the boys romped upon rainy days and
where was fought many a schoolboy battle for youthful love and honor.
The building had once been painted white but the storm and sunshine of
many months had worn away the paint, and there remained only the dark,
weather stained, boards save beneath the cornice and the window ledge
where one might still find traces of its former glory. The chimney,
too, was old and some of the bricks had crumbled and fallen from the
top which made it look ragged against the sky. And the steps and
threshold were worn very thin—very, very, thin.
Wearied with his passion for Knowledge; tired of his cold facts;
hungering in his heart for a bit of wholesome sentiment as one in
winter hungers for the summer flowers; the man who sat before his fire
that night, with a too heavy and substantial book, crossed once more
with childish feet the worn threshold of the old schoolhouse and stood
within the entry where hung the hats and dinner baskets of his mates.
They looked very familiar to him—those hats—and, as he saw them in
his memory, each offered mute testimony to its owner's disposition and
rank in childhood's world. There were broad brimmed straws that
belonged to the patient, plodding, boys and caps that seemed made to
set far back on the heads of the boisterous lads. There was the old
slouch felt of the poor boy who did chores for his board and the
brimless hat of the bully of the school. There were the trim sailors
of the good little boys and the head gear of his own particular chum.
And there—the man who sought Knowledge only in facts smiled at the
fire and a fond light came into his eyes while his too solid and
substantial hook slipped unheeded to the floor—there was a sunbonnet
of blue checkered gingham hanging by its long strings from a hook near
With fast beating heart, the boy saw that the next hook was vacant and
placing his own well worn straw beside the bonnet he wondered if she
would know whose hat it was. And then once more, with reluctant hand,
the seeker of Knowledge, in his Yesterdays, pushed open the door
leading to the one room in the building and, with a sigh of regret,
passed from the bright sunlight of boyish freedom to the shadow of his
There were neither tinted walls nor polished woodwork in that hall of
learning. But, thank God, learning does not depend upon tinted walls
or polished woodwork. Indeed it seems that rude rafters and
unplastered ceilings most often covers the head of learning. The
humble cottage of the farmer shelters many a true scholar and
statesmen are bred in log cabins. Neither was there a furnace with
mysterious cranks and chains nor steam pipes nor radiators. But, when
the cold weather came, the room was warmed by an old sheet iron stove
that stood near the center of the building with an armful of wood in a
box nearby and the kindlings for to-morrow's fire drying on the floor
beneath. The desks were of soft pine, without paint or varnish, but
carved with many a quaint and curious figure by jack knives in the
hands of ambitious youngsters. The seats were rude benches worn smooth
and shiny. A water bucket had its place near the door and a rusty tin
dipper that leaked quite badly hung from a nail in the casing.
And hanging upon the dingy wall were the old maps and charts that,
torn and soiled by long usage, had patiently guided generations of
boys and girls through the mysteries of lands and seas, icebergs,
trade winds, deserts, and plains. Still patiently they marked for the
boy's bewildered brain latitude and longitude, the tropic of cancer,
the arctic circle, and the poles. Were they hanging there still? the
man wondered. Were they still patiently leading the way through a
wilderness of islands and peninsulas, capes and continents, rivers,
lakes, and sounds? Or had they, in the years that had gone since he
looked upon their learned faces, been sunk to oblivion in the depths
of their own oceans by the weight of their own mountain ranges? And,
suddenly, the man who sought Knowledge in facts found himself wishing
in his heart that some gracious being would make for older children
maps and charts that they might know where flow the rivers of
prosperity, where rise the mountains of fame, where ripple the lakes
of love, where sleep the valleys of rest, or where thunders the ocean
At one end of the old schoolroom, behind the teacher's desk, was a
blackboard with its accompanying chalk, erasers, rulers, and bits of
string. To the boy, that blackboard was a trial, a temptation, a
vindication, or a betrayal. Often, as he sat with his class on the
long recitation seat that faced the teacher's desk, with half studied
lesson, but with bright hopes of passing the twenty minutes safely,
before the slow hand of the old clock had marked but half the time,
his hopes would be blasted by a call to the board where he would bring
upon himself the ridicule of his schoolmates, the condemnation of the
teacher, and would take his seat to hear, with burning cheeks, the
awful sentence: "You may study your lesson after school."
After school—sorrowfully the boy saw the others passing from the
room, leaving him behind. And the last to go, glancing back with tear
dimmed eyes, was the little girl. Sadly he listened to the voices in
the entry and heard their shouts as they burst out doors;
and—suddenly, his heart beat quicker and his cheeks burned—that
was her voice!
Clear and sweet through the open window of the man's memory it
came—the voice of his little girl mate of the Yesterdays.
She was standing on the worn threshold of the old schoolhouse, calling
to her friends to wait; and the boy knew that she was lingering there
for him and that she called to her companions loudly so that he would
But the teacher knew it too and bade the little girl go home.
Then, while the boy listened to that sweet voice growing fainter and
fainter in the distance; while he saw her, in his fancy, walking
slowly, lagging behind her companions, looking back for him; the
teacher talked to him very seriously about the value of his
opportunities; told him that to acquire an education was his duty;
sought to impress upon him that the most important thing in life was
Of course, thought the boy, teacher must know. And, thinking this, he
felt himself to be a very bad boy, indeed; because, in his heart, he
knew that he would have, that moment, given up every chance of an
education; he would have sacrificed every hope of wisdom; he would
have thrown away all Knowledge and heaven itself just to be walking
down the road with the little girl. And he must have been a little
had—that boy—because also, most ardently, did he wish that he was
big enough to thrash the teacher or whoever it was that invented
As the man stooped to take up again his too solid and substantial
book, he felt that he was but a schoolboy still. To him, the world had
become but a great blackboard. In his private life or in conversation
with a friend, he might hide his poorly prepared lesson behind a show
of fine talk, a pet quotation, or an air of learning; but when he was
forced to put what he knew where all men might see—when he was made
to write his sentences in books or papers or compelled to do his
problems in the business world—then it was that his lack of
preparation was discovered, and that he brought upon himself the
ridicule or condemnation of his fellows. Unconsciously he listened,
half expecting to hear again the old familiar sentence: "You may study
your lesson after school." After school—would there be any after
school, he wondered.
"And, after all, was that teacher in his Yesterdays right?" the man
asked himself. "Was Knowledge the most important thing in life? After
all, was that schoolboy of the Yesterdays such a bad schoolboy
because, in his boyish heart, he rebelled against the tasks that kept
him from his schoolmates and from the companionship of the little
girl? Was that boy so bad because he wished that he was big enough to
thrash whoever it was that invented blackboards, to rob schoolboys of
their schoolgirl mates?"
Suppose—the man asked himself, as he laid aside the too heavy and
substantial book and looked into the fire again—suppose, that, after
a lifetime devoted to the pursuit of Knowledge, there should be no
one, when school time was over, to linger on the worn old threshold
for him? Suppose he should be forced, in the late afternoon, to go
down the homeward road alone? Could it be truly said that his manhood
years had been well spent? Could any number of accumulated facts
satisfy him if the hour was a lonely hour when school closed for the
day? Might it not be that there is a Knowledge to be gained from Life
that is of more value than the wintry Knowledge of facts?
As the man looked back into his Yesterdays, the blackboard and its
condemnation mattered little to him. It was the going home alone that
mattered. What, he wondered, would matter most when, at last, he could
look back upon his grown up school days—the world blackboard with its
approval or its condemnation, or the going home alone?
* * * * *
It was the time of melting snow. The top of the orchard hill was a
faded brown patch as though, on a shoulder of winter's coat, the
season had worn a hole quite through; while the fields of the fall
plowing made spots that looked pitifully thin and threadbare; and the
creek, below the house where the little girl lived, was a long dark
line looking for all the world like a rip where the icy stitching of a
seam in the once proud garment had, at last, given way. But the drift
in the garden on the boy's side of the hedge was still piled high
against the barrier of thickly interwoven branches and twigs and the
cherry tree, in its shivering nakedness, seemed to be pleading, now,
for spring to come quickly.
The woman who knew herself to be a woman did not attempt to walk home
from her work that Saturday afternoon. The streets were too muddy and
she was later than usual because of some extra work.
Of her Occupation—of the world into which she had gone—the woman
also was gaining Knowledge. Though, she did not learn from choice but
because she must. And she learned of her work only what was needful
for her to know that she might hold her place. She had no desire to
know more. Because the woman already knew the supreme thing, she had
no desire to learn more of her Occupation than she must. Already she
knew her womanhood, and that, to a woman who knows, is the supreme
thing. For a woman with understanding there is no Knowledge greater
than this: the knowledge of her womanhood. There was born in her no
passion for knowledge of things. She burned with no desire to follow
the golden chain, link by link, to its hidden end. In her womanhood
she held already the answer to the sum of Life.
The passion of her womanhood was not to know but to trust—not
facts but faith—not evidence but belief—not reason but
emotion. Her desire was not to take from the world by the power
of Knowledge but to receive from the world by right of her sex and love.
She did not crave the independence of great learning but longed, rather,
for the prouder dependence of a true womanhood. Out of her woman heart's
fullness she pitied and fed the poor mendicant without inquiring into
the economic condition that made him a beggar. Her situation, she
accepted with secret rebellion, with hidden shame and humiliation
in her heart, but never asked why the age forced her into such a
position. For affection, for sympathy, for confidence, and understanding,
she hungered with a woman hunger; and, through her hunger for these,
from the men and women with whom she labored she gained Knowledge of
Life. Of the lives of her fellow workers—of the women who had entered
that world, even as she had entered it, because they must—of the men
whom she came to know under circumstances that forbade recognition of
her womanhood—she gained Knowledge; and the Knowledge she gained was
this: that the world is a world of hungry hearts.
I do not know just what the circumstances were under which the woman
learned this. I do not know what her Occupation was nor who her
friends were; nor can I tell in detail of the peculiar incidents that
led to this Knowledge. Such things are not of my story. This, only,
belongs to my story: the woman learned that the world is a world of
hungry hearts. Cold and cruel and calculating and bold, fighting
desperately, merciless, and menacing, the world is but a hungry
hearted world with it all. This, when a woman knows it, is, for her, a
saving Knowledge. Just to the degree that a woman knows this, she is
wise above all men—wise with a wisdom that men cannot attain. Just to
the degree that a woman is ignorant of this, she is unlearned in the
world's best wisdom.
Long before she knocked at the door of the world into which she had
been admitted, upon condition that she left her womanhood without, the
woman had thought herself wise in knowledge of mankind. In her school
days, text books and lessons had meant little to her beside the
friendship of her schoolmates. At her graduation she had considered
her life education complete. She thought, modestly, that she was
fitted for a woman's place in life. And that which she learned first
from the world into which she had gone was this: that her knowledge of
life was very, very, meager; that there were many, many, things about
men and women that she did not know.
School could fit her only for the fancy work of Life: plain sewing she
must learn of Life itself. School had made her highly ornamental: Life
must make her useful. School had developed her capacity for pleasure
and enjoyment: not until Life had developed her capacity for sorrow
and pain would her education be complete. School had taught her to
speak, to dress, and to act correctly: Life must teach her to feel.
School had trained her mind to appreciate: Life must teach her to
sympathize. School had made her a lady: Life must make the lady a
The woman had known her life schoolmates only in pleasure—in those
hours when they came to her seeking to please or desiring to be
pleased. In her Occupation she was coming to know them in their hours
of toil, when there was no thought of gaining or giving pleasure, but
only of the demands of their existence; when duty, pitiless, stern,
uncompromising, duty held them in its grip; when need, unrelenting,
ever present, dominating need, drove them under its lash. She had
known them only in their hours of leisure—when their minds were free
for the merry jest, the ready laugh, the quick sympathy: now she was
coming to know them in those other hours when their minds were intent
upon the battle they waged—when their thoughts were all of the
attack, the defense, the advance, the retreat, the victory or defeat.
She had known them only in their hours of rest—when their hands were
empty, their nerves and muscles relaxed, their hearts calm and their
brains cool; now she saw them when their hands held the weapons of
their warfare—the tools of their craft—when their nerves and muscles
were braced for the strain of the conflict or tense with the effort of
toil; when their hearts beat high with the zeal of their purpose and
their brains were fired with the excitement of their efforts. She had
known them only in the hours of their dreaming—when, as they looked
out upon life, they talked confidently of the future: she was learning
now to know them when they were working out their dreams; at times
with hopes high and courage strong; at other times discouraged,
frightened, and dismayed. She had known them only as they dreamed of
the past—when they talked in low tones of the days that were gone:
now she saw them as they thought only of the present and the days that
were to come. So this woman, from the world into which she had gone,
gained knowledge of mankind.
And this is the pity and the danger of it: that the woman gained this
knowledge from a world, that, even as it taught her, denied her
womanhood. The sadness of it all is this: to the world that refused to
recognize her womanhood, it was given to teach her that which would
make her womanhood complete. The knowledge that she must have to
complete her womanhood the woman should have gained only from the life
of her dreams—the life that is beyond that old, old, open door
through which she could not pass alone. In the companionship,
sympathy, strength, protection, and love, of that one who was to cross
with her the threshold of the door that God set open in the beginning,
she should have gained the knowledge of life that would ripen her
girlhood into womanhood. For what else, indeed, has God given love to
men and women? In the strength that would come to her with her
children, the woman should have been privileged to learn sorrow and
pain. In the world that would have honored, above all else, her
womanhood, she should have been permitted to find the knowledge of
life that would perfect and complete her womanhood.
Fruit, I know, may be picked green from the tree and artificially
forced to a kind of ripeness. But the fruit that matures under
Nature's careful hand; that knows in its ripening the warm sunshine
and the cleansing showers, the cool of the quiet evening and the
freshness of the dewy morn, the strength of the roaring storms and the
softness of the caressing breeze—this fruit alone, I say, has the
flavor that is from heaven.
It is a trite saying that many a girl of sixteen, these days, knows
more of life than her grandmother knew at sixty. It remains to be
proven that, because of this knowledge, the young woman of to-day is a
better woman than her grandmother was. But, as the only positive proof
would be her children, the case is very likely to be thrown out of
court for lack of evidence for it seems, somehow, that, when women
gain Knowledge from that world into which they go alone, leaving their
womanhood behind, they acquire also a strange pride in being too wise
to mate for love or to bear children. And yet, it is true, that the
knowledge that enables a woman to live happy and contented without
children is a damnable knowledge and a menace to the race.
Poor old world, you are so "grown up" these days and your palate is so
educated to the artificial flavor that you have forgotten, seemingly,
how peaches taste when ripened on the trees. God pity you, old world,
if you do not soon get back into the orchard before you lose your
taste for fruit altogether.
The knowledge that the woman gained from her Occupation made her
question, more and more, if that one with whom she could cross the
threshold of the door that led to the life of her dreams, would ever
come. The knowledge she gained made her doubt her courage to enter
that door with him if he should come. In the knowledge she gained of
the world into which she had gone alone, her womanhood's only
salvation was this: that she gained also the knowledge that the world
of men, even as the world of women, is a world of hungry hearts. It
was this that kept her—that made her strong—that saved her. It was
this knowledge that saved her womanhood for herself and for the race.
The week, for the woman, had been a hard week. The day, for her, had
been a hard day. When she boarded the car to go to her home she was
very tired and she was not quite the picture of perfect woman health
that she had been that other Saturday—the time of falling leaves.
For some unaccountable reason there was one vacant seat left in the
car and she dropped into it with a little inward sigh of relief. With
weary, unseeing, eyes she stared out of the window at the throng of
people hurrying along through the mud and slush of the streets. Her
tired brain refused to think. Her very soul was faint with loneliness
and the knowledge that she was gaining of life.
The car stopped again and a party of girls of the high school age,
evidently just from the Saturday matinee, crowded in. Clinging to the
straps and the backs of seats, clutching each other with little gusts
and ripples of laughter, they filled the aisle of the crowded car with
a fresh and joyous life that touched the tired woman like a breath of
spring. In all this work stale, stupidly weary, world there is nothing
so refreshing as the wholesome laugh of a happy, care free, young
girl. The woman whose heart was heavy with knowledge of life would
have liked to take them in her arms. She felt a sense of gratitude as
though she were indebted to them just for their being. And would
these, too—the woman thought—would these, too, be forced by the
custom of the age—by necessity—to go into the world that would not
recognize their womanhood—that would put a price upon the priceless
things of their womanhood—that would teach them hard lessons of life
and, with a too early knowledge, crush out the sweet girlish
naturalness, even as a thoughtless foot crushes a tender flower while
still it is in the bud?
And thinking thus, perhaps because of her weariness, perhaps because
of some chance word dropped by the girls as they talked of their
school and schoolmates, the woman went back again into her
Yesterdays—to the schoolmates of her Yesterdays. The world in which
she now lived and labored was forgotten. Forgotten were the worries
and troubles of her grown up life—forgotten the trials and
disappointments—forgotten the new friends, the uncongenial
acquaintances, the cruel knowledge, the heartless business—forgotten
everything of the present—all, all, was lost in a golden mist of the
The tall, graceful, girl holding to a strap at the forward end of the
car, in the woman's Yesterdays, lived just beyond the white church at
the corner. The dark haired, dark eyed, round faced one, she knew as
the minister's daughter. While the dainty, doll like, miss clinging to
her sturdier sister, in those days of long ago, was the woman's own
particular chum. And the girl with the yellow curls—the one with the
golden hair—the blue eyed, and the brown—the slender and the
stout—every one—belonged to the tired woman's Yesterdays—every one
she had known in the past and to each she gave a name.
And then—as the woman, watching the young schoolgirls in the crowded
car, lived once again those days of the old schoolhouse on the hill
where, with her girl companions of the long ago, she sought the
beginnings of Knowledge—the boys came, too. Just as in the Yesterdays
they had come to take their places in the old schoolroom, they came,
now, to take their places in the woman's memory.
There was the tall, thin, lad whose shoulders seemed, even in his
school days, to find the burden of life too heavy; and who wore always
on his face such a sad and solemn air that one was almost startled
when he laughed as though the parson had cracked a joke at a funeral.
The woman smiled as she remembered how his clothes were never known to
fit him. When his trousers were so short that they barely reached
below his knees his coat sleeves covered his hands and the skirts of
that garment almost swept the ground; but, when the trousers were
rolled up at the bottom and hung over his feet like huge bags, his
long, thin, arms showed, half way to his elbows, in a coat that was
too small to button about even his narrow chest. That boy never missed
his lessons, though, but when he learned them no one ever knew for he
seemed to be always drawing grotesque figures and funny faces on his
slate or whittling slyly on some curious toy when the teacher's back
was turned. He had no particular chum or crony. He was never a leader
but dared to follow the boldest. To the little boys and girls he was a
hero; to the older ones he was—"Slim."
The woman, by chance, had met this old schoolmate, one day, in her
grown up world. In the editorial rooms of a large city daily he was
the chief, and she noticed that his clothing fitted him a little
better; that he was a little broader in the shoulders; a little larger
around the waist; his face was not quite so solemn and his eyes had a
more knowing look perhaps. But still—still—the woman could see that
he was, after all, the same old "Slim" and she fancied, with another
smile, that he often, still, whittled toys when the teacher's back was
Then came the fat boy—"Stuffy." He, too, had another name which does
not matter. Always in the Yesterdays, as in the to-days, there is a
"Stuffy." "Stuffy" was evidently built to roll through life, pushed
gently by that special providence that seems to look after the affairs
of fat people. His teeth were white and even, his eyes of the deepest
blue, and his nose—what there was of it—was almost hidden by cheeks
that were as red and shiny as the apples he always carried in his
pocket. He was very generous with those same apples—was
"Stuffy"—though one was tempted to think that he shared his fruit not
so much from choice but rather because he disliked the hard work that
was sure to follow a refusal of the pressing invitation to "go
halvers." The woman fancied that she could see again the look of
mingled fun and fear, generosity and greed, that went over her
schoolmate's face as he saw the half of his eatable possessions pass
into the keeping of his companions. And then, as he watched the
tempting morsels disappear, the expression on his face would seem to
show a battle royal between his stomach and his heart, in that he
rejoiced to see the happiness of his friends, even while he coveted
that which gave them pleasure. She wondered where was "Stuffy" now?
She felt sure that he must live in a big house, and drive to and from
his place of business in a fine carriage, with fine horses and a
coachman in livery, and dine and wine his friends as often as he chose
with never a fear that he would run short of good things for himself.
She was quite sure, too, that he would suffer with severe attacks of
gout at times and would have four or five half grown daughters and a
wife of great ambition. Does he, she wondered, does he ever—in the
whirl and rush of business or in the excitement and pleasure of his
social life—does he ever go back to those other days? Does the grown
up "Stuffy" remember how once he traded marbles for candy or bought
sweet cakes with toys?
And then, there was the boy with the freckled face and tangled hair,
whose nose seemed always trying to peep into his own mischief lighted
eyes as though wishing to see what new deviltry was breeding there:
and his crony, who never could learn the multiplication table, who was
forever swearing vengeance on the teacher, whose clothes were always
torn, and who carried frogs and little snakes in his pockets: and the
timid boys who always played in one corner of the yard by themselves
or with the girls or stood by and watched, with mingled admiration and
envy, the games and pranks of the bolder lads: and "Dummy"—poor
"Dummy"—the shining mark for every schoolboy trick and joke; with his
shock of yellow hair, his weak cross eyes, his sharp nose, thin lips,
and shambling, shuffling, shifting manner—poor "Dummy."
And of course there was a bully, the Ishmael of the school, whom
everybody shunned and nobody liked; who fought the teacher and
frightened the little children; who chewed, and smoked, and swore, and
lied, and did everything bad that a boy could do. He had a few
followers, a very few, who joined him rather through fear than
admiration and not one of whom cared for or trusted him. The woman
remembered how this schoolboy face was sadly hard and cold and cruel,
as though, because he had gotten so little sunshine from life, his
heart was frozen over. She had read of him, in the grown up world,
receiving sentence for a dreadful crime, and, remembering his father
and mother, had wondered if his grandparents were like them and how
many generations before his birth his career of crime began.
Again and again, the car had stopped to let people off but the woman
had not noticed. The schoolgirls, all but the tall one who had found a
seat, were gone. But the woman had not seen them go.
And then, as she sat dreaming of the days long gone—as she saw again
the faces of her school day friends, one there was that stood out from
among them all. It was the face of the boy who lived next door—the
boy who had stood with her under the cherry tree; who had put a tiny
play ring of brass upon her finger; and who had kissed her with a kiss
that was somehow different. He was the hero of her Yesterdays as he
was the acknowledged chieftain of the school. No one could run so
fast, swim so far, dive so deep, or climb so high as he. No one could
throw him in wrestling or defeat him in boxing. He was their lord,
their leader, their boyish master and royally he ruled them all—his
willing subjects. He it was who stopped the runaway horse; who killed
the big snake; and who pulled the minister's little daughter from the
pond. It was he who planned the parties and the picnics; the sleigh
rides in winter and the berrying trips in summer. It was he whom the
girls all loved and the boys all worshiped—bold, handsome, daring,
dashing, careless, generous, leader of the Yesterdays.
Again she saw his face lifted slyly from a spelling book to smile at
her across the aisle. Again she felt the rich, warm, color rush to her
cheeks as he took his seat, beside her on the recitation bench. Again
her eyes were dimmed with tears when he was punished for some broken
rule or shone with gladness when she heard his clear voice laughing
with his friends or calling to his mates and her.
And once again, in the late afternoon, with him and with the other
boys and girls, she went down the road from the little schoolhouse in
the edge of the timber on the hill; her sunbonnet hanging by its
strings and her dinner basket on her arm. Onward, through the long
shadows that lay across their way, they went together, to pause at
last before the gate of her home, there to linger for a little, while
the others still went on. Farther and farther in the evening they
watched their schoolmates go—up the road past the house where he
lived—past the orchard and over the hill—until, in the distance,
they seemed to vanish into the sunset sky and she was left with him
The conductor called the woman's street but she did not heed. The man
in uniform pulled the bell cord and, as the car stopped, called again,
looking toward her expectantly. But she did not notice. With a smile,
the man, who knew her, approached, and: "Beg your pardon Miss, but
here's your street."
With blushing cheeks and confused manner, she stammered her thanks,
and hurried from the car amid the smiles of the passengers. And the
woman did not know how beautiful she was at that moment. She was
wondering: in the hungry hearted world—under all his ambition, plans,
and labor, with the knowledge that must have come to him also from
life—was his heart ever hungry too?
When the man had gained a little knowledge from the thing that he had
found to do and had wearied himself greatly trying to follow the
golden chain, link by link, to the very end, he came, then, to
understand the value of Ignorance. He came to see that success in
working out his dreams depended quite as much upon Ignorance as upon
Knowledge—that, indeed, to know the value of Ignorance is the highest
order of Knowledge.
There are a great many things about this man's life that I do not
know. But that does not matter because most of the things about any
man's life are of little or no importance. That the man came to know
the value of Ignorance was a thing of vast importance to the man and,
therefore, is of importance to my story. Ignorance also is one of the
Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life but only those who have much
knowledge know its value.
A wise Ignorance is rich soil from which the seeds of Knowledge will
bring forth fruit, a hundred fold. "I do not know": this is the
beginning and the end of wisdom. One who has never learned to say: "I
do not know," has not the A B C of education. He who professes to be
educated but will not confess Ignorance is intellectually condemned.
A man who pretends to a knowledge which he has not is like a pygmy
wearing giant's clothing, ridiculous: but he who admits Ignorance is
like a strong knight, clothed in a well fitting suit of mail, ready to
When a man declares openly his ignorance concerning things of which he
knows but little, the world listens with increased respect when he
speaks of the thing he knows: but when a man claims knowledge of all
things, the world doubts mightily that he knows much of anything, and
accepts questioningly whatever he says of everything.
That which a man does not know harms him not at all, neither does it
harm the world; but that which, through a shallow, foolish,
self-conceit, he professes to know, when he has at best only a half
knowledge, or, in a self destructive vanity, deceives himself into
thinking that he knows, betrays him always to the injury of both
himself and others. An honest Ignorance is a golden vessel, empty,
ready to be filled with wealth but a pretentious or arrogant knowledge
is a vessel so filled with worthless trash that there is no room for
that which is of value.
The world is as full of things to know as it is full of hooks, No man
can hope to read all the books in the world. Selection is enforced by
necessity. So it is in Knowledge. One should not think that, because a
man is ignorant of some things, he is therefore a fool; his ignorance
may be the manifestation of a choice wiser than that of the one who
elects to sit in judgment upon him.
With the passion to know fully aroused; with his mind fretting to
grapple with the problem of Life; and his purpose fired to solve the
riddle of time; the man succeeded in acquiring this: that he must dare
to know little. He came to understand that, while all knowable things
are for all mankind to know, no man can know them all; and that the
wisest men to whom the world pays highest tribute, are the wisest
because they have not attempted to know all, but, recognizing the
value of Ignorance, have dared to remain ignorant of much.
Intellectual giants they are; intellectual babes they are, also. The
man had thought that there was nothing that these men—these wise
ones—did not know. He came to understand that even he knew
some things of which they were ignorant. So his determination to know
all things passed to a determination to know nothing of many things
that he might know more of the things that were most closely
associated with his life and work. He determined to know the most of
the things that, to him, were most vital.
He saw also that he must work out his dreams within the circle of his
own limitations; and that his limitations were not the limitations of
his fellow workers; neither were their limitations his. He did not
know yet just where the outmost circle of his limitations lay but he
knew that it was there and that he must make no mistake when he came
to it. And this, too, is true: just to the degree that the man
recognized his limitations, the circle widened.
Also the man came to understand that there are things knowable and
things unknowable. He came to see that truest wisdom is in this: for
one to spend well his strength on the knowable things and refuse to
dissipate his intellectual vigor upon the unknowable. Not until he
began really to know things was he conscious in any saving degree of
the unknowable. He saw that those who strive always with the
unknowable beat the air in vain and exhaust themselves in their
senseless folly. He saw that to concern oneself wholly with the
unknowable is to rob the world of the things in which are its life. To
meditate much upon the unknowable is an intellectual dissipation that
produces spiritual intoxication and often results in spiritual
delirium tremens. A habitual spiritual drunkard is a nuisance in the
world. The wisdom of Ignorance is in nothing more apparent than in a
clear recognition of the unknowable.
And then the man came to regret knowing some of the things that he
knew. He came, in some things, to wish with all his heart that he had
Ignorance where he had Knowledge. He found that much of the time and
strength that he desired to spend in acquiring the knowledge that
would help him to work out his dreams, he must spend, instead, in
ridding himself of knowledge that he had already acquired. He learned
that to forget is quite as necessary as to remember and very often
much more difficult. Young he was, and strong he was, but, already, he
felt the dragging power of the things he would have been better for
not knowing—the things he desired to forget. They were very little
things in comparison to the things that in the future he would wish to
forget; but to him, at this time, they did not seem small. So it was
that, in his effort to acquire Knowledge, the man began to strive also
I do not know what it was that the man had learned that he desired to
forget. My story is not the kind of a story that tells those things. I
know, only, that for him to forget was imperative. I know, only, that
had he held fast to Ignorance in some things of which he had gained
knowledge, it would have been better. For him in some things Ignorance
would have been the truest wisdom. Ignorance would have helped him to
work out his dreams when Knowledge only hindered by forcing him to
spend much time striving to forget. Those who know too much of evil
find it extremely difficult to gain knowledge of the good. Those who
know too much of the false find it very hard to recognize the true. A
too great knowledge of things that are wrong makes it almost
impossible for one to believe in that which is right. Ignorance,
rightly understood, is, indeed, one of the Thirteen Truly Great Things
And then this man, in learning the value of Ignorance, came perilously
near believing that no man could know anything. He came
dangerously near the belief that Knowledge is all a mirage toward
which men journey hopelessly; a phantom to be grasped by no hand; a
will-o'-the-wisp to be followed here and there but leading nowhere.
He, for a little, said that Ignorance is the truest wisdom. He
believed, for a time, that to say always: "I do not know," is the
height of all intelligence. One by one, he saw his intellectual idols
fall in the dust of the commonplace. Little by little, he discovered
that the intellectual masters he had served were themselves only
servants. His intellectual Gods, he found to be men like himself. And
so, for a while, he said: "We can know nothing. We can only think that
we know. We can only pretend to know. There is no real
Knowledge but only Ignorance. Ignorance should be exalted. In
Ignorance lies peace, contentment, happiness, and safety." Even of his
work—of his dreams he said this. He said: "It is no use." To the very
edge of this pit he came but he did not fall in.
To accept the fact of the unknowable without losing his faith in the
knowable: to recognize the unknown without losing in the least his
grip upon the known: to find the Knowledge of Yesterday becoming the
Ignorance of to-day and still hold fast to the Knowledge of the
present; to watch his intellectual leaders dropping to the rear and to
follow as bravely those who were still in the front: to see his
intellectual heroes fall and his intellectual idols crumbling in the
dust and still to keep burning the fire of his enthusiasm: to find
Knowledge so often a curse and Ignorance a blessing and still to
desire Knowledge: all this, the man learned that he must do if he
would work out his dreams. That which saved the man from the pit of
hopeless disbelief in everything and helped him to a clear
understanding of Ignorance, was this: he went back again into his
From sheltered fence corners and hidden woodland hollows, from the lee
of high banks, and along the hedge in the garden, the last worn and
ragged remnant of winter's garment was gone. The brook in the valley,
below the little girl's house, had broken the last of its fetters and
was rejoicing boisterously in its freedom. The meadow and pasture
lands showed the tender green of the first grass life. Pussy willow
buds were swelling and over the orchard and the wood a filmy veil of
summer color was dropped as though by fairy hands. In the cherry tree,
a pair of brown birds, just returning from their southern home, were
discussing the merits of the nearby hedge as a building site: the
madam bird insisting, as women will, that the beautiful traditions of
the spot made it, for home building, peculiarly desirable. It was a
well known fact, said she, that brown birds had builded there for no
one knows how many ages. Even in the far away city, the man felt the
season in the air. The reek of city odors could not altogether drown
the subtle perfume that betrayed the near presence of the spring. As
though the magic of the budding, sprouting, starting, time of the year
placed him under its spell, the man went back to the springtime of his
life—back into his Yesterdays.
Once again, he walked under the clear skies of childhood. Once again,
he lived in the blessed, blessed, days when he had nothing to
forget—when his mind and life were as a mountain brook that, clear
and pure, from the spring of its birth runs ever onward, outward,
turning never back, pausing never to form stagnant, poisonous, pools.
And there it was—in his Yesterdays—in the pure sunlight of
childhood—that he found new intellectual faith—that he came to a
right understanding of the real wisdom of Ignorance.
The intellectual giants of his Yesterdays—those wise ones upon whose
learning he looked with childish awe—who were they? Famous scholars
who lectured in caps and gowns and words of many syllables upon themes
of mighty interest to themselves? Students who, in their laboratory
worlds, discovered many wonderful things that were not so and solved
many puzzling problems with solutions that were right and entirely
satisfactory until the next graduating class discovered them to be all
wrong and no solution at all? Great religious leaders who were
supernaturally called, divinely commissioned, and armed with holy
authority to point out the true and only way of life until some other
with the same call, commission, and authority, pointed out a wholly
different true and only way? Great statesmen upon whose knowledge and
leadership the salvation of the nation depended, until the next
election discovered them to be foolish puppets of a dishonest and
corrupt party and put new leaders in their places to save the nation
with a new brand of political salvation, the chief value of which was
its newness? No indeed! Such as these were not the intellectual giants
of the man's Yesterdays. The heights of knowledge in those days were
held by others than these.
One of the very highest peaks in the whole mountain range of learning,
in the Yesterdays, was held by the hired man. Again, at chore time,
the boy followed this wise one about the stables and the barn,
watching, from a safe position near the door, while the horses were
groomed and bedded down for the night. Again the pungent odors from
the stalls, the scent of the straw and the hay in the loft, the smell
of harness leather damp with sweat was in his nostrils and in his
ears, the soft swish of switching tails, the thud of stamping hoofs,
the contented munching of grain, the rustle of hay, with now and then
a low whinny or an angry squeal. And fearlessly to and fro in this
strange world moved the hired man. In and out among the horses he
passed, perfectly at home in the stalls, seeming to share the most
intimate secrets of the horse life.
Everything that there was to know about a horse, confidently thought
the little boy, this wonderful man knew. The very language that he
used when talking about horses was a language full of strange, hard,
words, the meaning of which was hidden from the childish worshiper of
wisdom. Such words as "ringbone" and "spavin" and "heaves" and
"stringhalt" and "pastern" and "stifle" and "wethers" and "girth" and
"hock," to the boy, seemed to establish, beyond all question, the
intellectual greatness of the one who used them just as words of many
syllables sometimes fix for older children the position on the
intellectual heights of those who use them. "Chiaroscuro,"
"cheiropterous," "eschatology," and the "unearned increment"—who, in
the common, every day, grown up, world, would dare question the
artistic, scientific, religious, or political, knowledge of one who
could talk like that?
Nor did the intellectual strength of this wise one of the Yesterdays
exhaust itself with the scientific knowledge of horses. He was equally
at home in the co-ordinate sciences of cows and pigs and chickens.
Again the boy stood in the cow shed laboratory and watched, with
childish wonder, the demonstration of the master's superior wisdom as
the white streams poured into the tinkling milk pail. How did he do
it—wondered the boy—where did this wizard in overalls and hickory
shirt and tattered straw hat acquire his marvelous scientific skill?
In the garden, the orchard, or the field, it was the same. No secret
of nature was hidden from this learned one. He knew whether potatoes
should be planted in the dark or light of the moon: whether next
winter would be "close" or "open": whether the coming season would be
"early" or "late": whether next summer would be "wet" or "dry." Always
he could tell, days ahead, whether it would rain or if the weather
would be fair. With a peach tree twig he could tell where to dig for
water. By many signs he could say whether luck would be good or bad.
Small wonder that the boy felt very ignorant, very humble, in the
presence of this wise one!
Then, one day, the boy, to his amazement, learned that this wizard of
the barnyard knew nothing at all about fairies. Common, every day,
knowledge was this knowledge of fairies to the boy: but the wise one
knew nothing about them. So dense was his ignorance that he even
seemed to doubt and smiled an incredulous smile when the boy tried to
It was a great day in his Yesterdays when the boy discovered that the
hired man did not know about fairies.
As the years passed and the time approached when the boy was to become
a man, he learned the meaning of many words that were as strange to
the intellectual hero of his childhood as the language of that
companion of horses had once been strange to him. In time, much of the
knowledge of that barnyard sage became, to the boy, even as the boy's
knowledge of fairies had been to the man. Still—still—it was a great
day in his Yesterdays when the boy discovered that the hired man did
not know about fairies. Perhaps, though, it was just as well that the
hired man did not know. If he had become too familiar with the
fairies, his potatoes might not have been planted either in the light
or the dark of the moon and the world's potatoes must be planted
Equally great in his special field of knowledge was the old, white
haired, negro who lived in a tiny cabin just a little way over the
hill. Strange and awful were the things that he knew about the
fearsome, supernatural, creatures, that lived and moved in the unseen
world. Of "hants" and "spirits" and "witches" and "hoodoos" he told the
boy with such earnest confidence and so convincing a manner that to
doubt was impossible. In the unknowable world, the old negro moved
with authority unquestioned, with piety above criticism, with a
religious zeal of such warmth that the boy was often moved by the old
man's wisdom and goodness to go to him with offerings from mother's
And then, one day, the boy discovered that this wonderfully wise one
could neither read nor write. Everybody that the boy knew, in the
grown up world, could read and write. The boy himself could even read
"cat" and "rat" and "dog." Vaguely the boy wondered, even then, if the
old black saint's lack of those commonplace accomplishments accounted,
in any way, for his marvelous knowledge of the unseen world.
And father—father—was the greatest, the wisest, and the best man
that ever lived. The boy wondered, sometimes, why the Bible did not
tell about his father. Surely, in all the world, there was no other
man so good as he. And, as for wisdom! There was nothing—nothing—that
father did not know! Always, when other men came to see them,
there was talk of such strange things as "government" and "party"
and "campaigns" and "senators" and "congressmen"—things that the boy
did not in the least know about—but he knew that his father knew,
which was quite enough, indeed, for a boy of his age to know.
The boy, in his Yesterdays, wondered greatly when he heard his father
sometimes wish that he could be a boy again. To him, in the ignorance
of his childhood, such a wish was very strange. Not until the boy had
himself become a man and had learned to rightly value Ignorance did he
understand his father's wish and in his heart repeat it.
But there was one in those Yesterdays, upon whose knowledge the boy
looked in admiring awe, who taught him that which he could never
outgrow. Very different from the wisdom of the hired man was the
wisdom of this one. Very different was his knowledge from the
knowledge of the old negro. Nor was his learning like, in any way, to
the learning that made the boy's father so good and so wise among men.
But this leader did not often come openly to the boy's home. Always,
when his mother saw the boy in the company of this one, she called him
into the house, and often she explained to him that the one whom he so
admired was a bad boy and that she did not wish her little son to play
with him. So this intellectual leader of the Yesterdays was forced to
come, stealthily, through the orchard, dodging from tree to tree,
until, from behind the woodshed, he could, with a low whistle, attract
the attention of his admiring disciple and beckon him to his side.
Then the two would slip away over the brow of the hill or down behind
the barn where, safe from mother's watchful eye, the boy could enjoy
the companionship of this one whom Knowledge had so distinguished.
And often the older boy laughed at the Ignorance of his younger
companion—laughed and sneered at him in the pride of superior
learning—while the little boy felt ashamed and, filled with
admiration for his forbidden friend, wondered if he would ever grow to
be as wise. Scarcely could he hope, for instance, to be able, ever, to
smoke and chew and swear in so masterful a way. And the little
learner's face would beam with timid adoration and envy as he listened
to the tales of wicked adventures so boastfully related by his
teacher. Would he, could he, ever be so bold, so wise in knowledge of
Poor little boy in the Yesterdays who knew nothing of the value of
Ignorance! Poor boys in the grown up world—admiring and envying those
who know more of evil than themselves!
So, always, secretly, the boy, as the years passed, gained the
knowledge that makes men wish that they could be boys again. So,
always, do men learn the value of Ignorance too late.
And then, as the man lived again in his Yesterdays, and, realizing in
his manhood the value of Ignorance, wished that he could be a boy
again, the little girl came to take her place in his intellectual life
even as she took her place in all the life of his boyhood. Again he
saw her wondering eyes as she stood with him in the stable door to
watch the hired man among the horses. Again he felt her timid hand in
his as he led her to a place where, safe from horns and heels, they
could observe, together, the fascinating operation of milking.
Together they listened to the words of strange wisdom and marveled at
the knowledge of the barnyard scientist.
All that the boy learned from the old negro, of the fearsome creatures
that inhabit the unseen world, he, in turn, gave to the little girl.
And sometimes she even went with him on a pilgrimage to the cabin over
the hill; there to gaze, half frightened, at the black-faced seer who
had such store of awful wisdom.
The boy's pride in his father's superior goodness and wisdom she
shared fully—because he was the father of the boy.
All the sweet lore of childhood was theirs in common. All the wise
Ignorance of his Yesterdays she shared.
Only in the boy's forbidden friendship with that one who had such
knowledge of evil the little girl did not share. This knowledge—the
knowledge that was to go with him, even in his manhood years, and
which, at last, would teach him the real value of Ignorance—the boy
gained alone. Sadly, the man remembered how, sometimes, when the boy
had stolen away to drink at that first muddy fountain of evil, he
would hear her calling and would be held from answering by the jeers
of his wicked teacher. But never when he was playing with the little
girl did the boy answer the signal whistle of that one whose knowledge
he envied but of whose friendship he was ashamed.
In his Yesterdays, the ignorance of his little girl mate was an anchor
that held the boy from drifting too far in the current of evil. In his
Yesterdays, the goodness and wisdom of his father was not a
will-o'-the-wisp but, to the boy, a steady guiding light. What
mattered, then, if the knowledge of the old negro was but a
foolish mirage? What mattered if the hired man did not know
about fairies or if he did know so many things that were not
so? So it was that the man came to know the value of Ignorance. So it
was that the man did not fall into the pit of saying: "There is only
And so it was, as he returned again from his Yesterdays, that day when
even the reeking atmosphere of the city could not hide, altogether,
the sweetness of the spring, that the memory of the little girl was
with him even as the perfume of the season was in the air.
* * * * *
It was the time of the first flowers.
The woman had been out, somewhere, on a business errand and was
returning to the place where she worked. A crowd had gathered,
blocking the sidewalk, and she was forced to stop. Quickly, as if by
magic, the people came running from all directions. The woman was
annoyed. Her destination was only a few doors away and she had much
work, still, to do before the remaining hours of the afternoon should
be gone. She could not cross the street without going back for the
traffic was very heavy. She faced about as if to retrace her steps,
then, paused and turned again. The street would be open in a moment.
It would be better to wait. Above the heads of the people she could
see, already, the helmets of the police clearing the sidewalk. Pushing
into the jam, she worked slowly forward.
Clang, clang, clang, with a rattle and clatter and crash, a patrol
wagon swung up to the curb—so close that a spatter of mud from the
gutter fell on the woman's skirt. The wagon wheeled and backed. The
police formed a quick lane across the sidewalk. The crowd surged
forward and carried the woman close against the blue coated barrier.
Down the lane held by the officers of the law, so close to the woman
that she could have touched them, came two poor creatures who were not
ignorant of what is commonly called the world. They had seen life—so
the world would have said. They were wise. They had knowledge of many
things of which the woman, who shrank back from them in horror, knew
nothing. Their haggard, painted, faces, their disheveled hair, their
tawdry clothing, false jewels, and drunken blasphemies, drew a laugh
from the crowd.
Upon the soul of the woman the laughter of the crowd fell like a demon
laugh from the depths of hell. Almost she shrieked aloud her protest.
Because she knew herself to be a woman, she almost shrieked aloud.
It was over in an instant. The patrol wagon rumbled away with its
burden of woe. The crowd melted as magically as it had gathered. At
the entrance of the building where she worked, the woman turned to
look back, as though fascinated by the horror of that which she had
seen. But, upon the surface of that sea of life, there was not the
faintest ripple to mark the spot of the tragedy.
And the crowd had laughed.
The woman knew the character of that place so near the building in
which she worked. Several times, each day, she passed the swinging
doors of the saloon below and, always, she saw men going in and out.
Many times she had caught glimpses of the faces of those who occupied
the rooms above as they watched at the windows. When first she went to
work she had known little of such things, but she was learning. Not
because she wished to learn but because she could not help it. But the
knowledge of such things had come to her so gradually that she had
grown accustomed to knowing even as she came to know. She had become
familiar with the fact without being forced to feel.
Perhaps, if the incident had occurred a few years later, when the
woman's knowledge was more complete, she, herself, might have been
able to laugh with the crowd. This knowledge that enables one so to
laugh is, seemingly, much prized these days among those who have not
the wisdom to value Ignorance.
The afternoon passed, as such afternoons must, and the woman did her
work. What mattered the work that was being wrought in the soul of her
womanhood—the work committed to her hands—the work that refused to
recognize her womanhood—that work was done—and that is all
that seems to matter. And, when her day's work was done, the woman
boarded a car for her home.
It was an hour when many hundreds of toilers were going from their
labor. So many hundreds there were that the cars could scarcely hold
them and there were seats for only a few. Among those hundreds there
were many who were proud of their knowledge of life. There were not
many who knew the value of Ignorance. The woman who knew that she was
a woman was crowded in a car where there was scarcely room for her to
stand. She felt the rude touch of strangers—felt the bodies of
strange men forced against her body—felt their limbs crushed against
her limbs—felt their breath in her face—felt and trembled in
frightened shame. In that car, crowded close against the woman, there
were men whose knowledge of life was very great. By going to the
lowest depths of the city's shame, where the foulest dregs of humanity
settle, they had acquired that knowledge.
At first the woman had dreaded those evening trips from work in the
crowded cars. But it was an everyday experience and she was becoming
accustomed to it. She was learning not to mind. That is the horror of
it—she was learning not to mind.
But this night it was different. The heart of her womanhood shrank
within her trembling and afraid—cried out within her in protest at
the outrage. In the fetid atmosphere of the crowded car; in the rough
touch of the crushing bodies of sweating humanity; in the coarse, low,
jest; she felt again the demon that she had heard in the laughter of
the crowd. She saw again the horror of that which had leered at her
from out the disfigured, drunken, faces of the poor creatures taken by
Must she—must she learn to laugh that laugh with the crowd? Must she
gain knowledge of the unclean, the vicious, the degrading things of
life by actual contact? Was it not enough for her to know that those
things were in the world as she knew that there was fever in the marsh
lands; or must she go in person into the muck and mire of the swamps?
So it was that this woman, who knew herself to be a woman, did not
crave Knowledge, but Ignorance. She prayed to be kept from knowing too
much. And it was well for her so to pray. It was the highest wisdom.
Because she knew her womanhood, she was afraid. She feared for her
dream life that was to be beyond the old, old, door. She feared for
that one who, perhaps, would come to cross with her the threshold for
it was given this woman to know that only with one in whose purity of
life she believed could she ever enter into the life of her dreams.
The Master of Life, in His infinite wisdom, made the heart of
womanhood divinely selfish. This woman knew that her dreams could
never be for her save through her belief in the one who should ask her
to go with him through that old, old, door. And the things that the
woman found herself learning made it hard for her to believe in any
man. The knowledge that was forced upon her was breeding doubt and
distrust and denial of good. The realization of her womanhood's
beautiful dream was possible only through wise Ignorance. She must
fight to keep from learning too much.
And in the woman's fight there was this to help her: in the crowd that
had laughed, her startled eyes had seen one or two who did not
laugh—one or two there were whose faces were filled with pity and
with shame. Always, in the crowded cars, there was some one who tried
quietly to shield her from the press—some one who seemed to
understand. It was this that helped. These men who knew the value of
Ignorance kept the spark of her faith in men alive. The faith, without
which her dreams would be idle dreams, impossible of fulfillment, was
kept for her by those men who knew the value of Ignorance.
The woman went to her work the next morning with a heart that was
heavy with dread and nerves that were quivering with fear. The
brightness, the beauty, and the joy, of her womanhood, she felt to be
going from her as the sunshine goes under threatening clouds. The
blackness, the ugliness, and the sorrow, of life, she felt coming over
her as fog rolls in from the sea. The faith, trust, and hope, that is
the soul of womanhood was threatened by doubt, distrust, and despair.
The gentleness, sensitiveness, and delicacy, that is the heart of
womanhood was beset by coarseness, vulgarity, and rudeness. Could she
harden her woman heart, steel her woman nerves, and make coarse her
woman soul to withstand the things that she was forced to meet and
know? And if she could—what then—would she gain or lose thereby? For
the life of which she had dreamed, would she gain or lose?
It was nearly noon when a voice at her side said: "You are ill!"
It was a voice of authority but it was not at all unkind.
Turning, she looked up into his face and stammered a feeble denial.
No, she was not ill.
But the kind eyes looked down at her so searchingly, so gravely, that
her own eyes filled with tears.
"Come, come," said the voice, "this won't do at all. You must not lose
your grip, you know. It will be all right to-morrow. Take the
afternoon off and get out into the fresh air."
And something in his voice—something in his grave, steady, eyes—told
her—made her feel that he understood. It helped her to know that this
man of large affairs, of power and authority, understood.
So, for that afternoon, she went to a park in a distant part of the
city to escape, for a few hours, the things that were crowding her too
closely. Near the entrance of the park, she met a gray haired
policeman who, looking at her keenly, smiled kindly and touched his
hat; then, before she had passed from sight, he turned to follow
leisurely the path that she had taken. Finding a quiet nook on the
bank of a little stream that was permitted to run undisturbed by the
wise makers of the park, the woman seated herself, while the
policeman, unobserved by her, paused not far away to watch a group of
children at play.
[Illustration: The life that crowded her so closely drifted far, far
Perhaps it was the blue sky, unstained by the city smoke: perhaps it
was the sunbeams that filtered through the leafy net-work of the trees
to fall in golden flakes and patches on the soft green: perhaps it was
the song that the little brook was singing as it went its merry way:
perhaps it was the twittering, chirping, presence of the feathery folk
who hopped and flitted so cheerily in and out among the shrubs and
flowers—whatever it was that brought it about, the life that crowded
her so closely drifted far, far, away. The city with its noisy clamor,
with its mad rush and unceasing turmoil, was gone. The world of
danger, and doubt, and fear, was forgotten. The woman lived again the
days that were gone. The sky so blue above her head was the sky that
arched her days of long ago. The sunshine that filtered through the
trees was the same golden wealth that enriched the days of her
childhood. The twittering, chirping, feathery, folk were telling the
same old stories. The little brook that went so merrily on its way was
singing a song of the Yesterdays.
They were free days—those Yesterdays—free as the days of the
feathery folk who lived among the shrubs and flowers. There was none
of the knowledge that, with distrust and doubt and despair, shuts in
the soul. They were bright days—those Yesterdays—as bright as the
sunlight that out of a clear sky comes to glorify the world. There was
none of that dark and dreadful knowledge that shrouds the soul in
gloom. And they were glad days—those Yesterdays—glad with the
gladness of the singing brook. There was none of that knowledge that
stains and saddens the heart.
The woman, sitting there so still by the little brook, did not notice
a well dressed man who was strolling slowly through the park. A little
way down the walk, the man turned, and again went slowly past the
place where the woman sat. Once more he turned and this time seated
himself where he could watch her. The man's face was not a good face.
For a little while he watched the woman, then rising, was starting
leisurely toward her when the gray haired policeman came suddenly into
view around a turn in the path. The officer did not hesitate; nor was
he smiling, now, as he stepped in front of the man. A few crisp words
he spoke, in a low tone, and pointed with his stick. There was no
reply. The fellow turned and slunk away while the guardian of the law,
with angry eyes, watched him out of sight, then turned to look toward
the woman. She had not noticed. The officer smiled and quietly
strolled on down the path.
The woman had noticed neither the man nor her protector because she
was far, far, away in her Yesterdays. She did not heed the incident
because she was a little girl again, playing beside the brook that
came across the road and made its winding way through the field just
below the house. It was only a little brook, but beautifully clear and
fresh, for it had come only a short distance from its birth place in a
glen under the hill that she could see from her window. In some
places, the long meadow grass, growing close down to the edge, almost
touched above, making a cool, green, cradle arch through which the
pure waters flowed with soft whispers as though the baby stream were
crooning to itself a lullaby. In other stretches, the green willows
bent far over to dip their long, slim, fingers in the slow current
that crept so lazily through the flickering light and shade that it
seemed scarce to move at all. And other places there were, where the
streamlet chuckled and laughed over tiny pebbly bars in the sunlight
or gurgled past where flags and rushes grew.
Again, with her dolls, the little girl played on the grassy bank;
washing their tiny garments in the clear water and hanging them on the
flags or willows to dry; resting often to listen to the fairy song the
water sang; or to whisper to the brook the secrets of her childhood
dreams. The drowsy air was full of the sweet, grassy, smell mingled
with the odor of mint and the perfume of the willows and flags and
warm moist earth. Gorgeous winged butterflies zigzagged here and there
from flower to flower—now near for a little—then far away. Honeybees
droned their hymns of industry the while they searched for sweet
treasures. And now and then a tiny green frog would come out of a
shadowy nook in the bank of the stream to see what the little girl was
doing; or a bird would drop from out the blue sky for a drink or a
bath in the pebbly shallows. And not far away—easily within
call—mother sat on the shady porch, with her sewing, where she could
watch over her little girl.
Dear, innocent, sheltered, protected, Yesterdays—when mother told her
child all that was needful for her to know, and told her in a most
tender, beautiful, way. Dear, blessed, Yesterdays—when love did not
leave vice to teach the sacred truths of love—days that were days of
blissful Ignorance—not vicious Ignorance but ignorance of the
vicious. There was a wealth of Ignorance in those Yesterdays that is
of more worth to womanhood, by far, than much knowledge of the world.
And often the boy would come, too, and, together, they would wade hand
in hand in the clear flood, mingling their shouts and laughter with
the music of their playmate brook, while the minnows darted to and fro
about their bare legs; or, they would build brave dams and bridges and
harbors with the bright stones; or, best of all, fashion and launch
the ships of childhood.
Oh, childish ships of the Yesterdays! What precious cargoes they
carried! What priceless treasures they bore to the far away port of
The little brook was a safe stream for the boy and the girl to play
beside. Nor did they know, then, that their streamlet flowed on and on
until it joined the river; and that the river, in its course, led it
past great cities that poured into it the poisons and the filth of
their sewers, fouling its bright waters, until it was unfit for
children to play beside.
They did not know, then—but the woman knew, now.
And what—she thought as she came back from her Yesterdays—what of
the boy who had played with her beside the brook? He, too, must have
learned what happened to their brook. In learning, what had happened
to him—she wondered—and wondering, she was afraid.
Because she was no longer ignorant, she was afraid for the mate of her
Yesterdays. Not that she thought over to meet him again. She did not
wish, now, to meet him for she was afraid. She would rather have him
as he was in her Yesterdays.
Slowly the woman turned away from the quiet seat beside the brook. It
was time for her to go.
Not far away, she passed the gray haired policeman, who again smiled
and touched his hat.
Smiling in return she bade him: "Good afternoon."
"Good afternoon, Miss," he said, still smiling gravely. "Come again,
Miss, when ye's want a breath of air that's pure and clean."
May heaven bless, for the sweet sake of womanhood, all men who
It was springtime—blossoming time—mating time. The world was a riot
of color and perfume and song.
Every twig that a few weeks before had been a bare, unsightly stick
was now a miracle of dainty beauty. From the creek, below the little
girl's house, the orchard hill appeared against the soft, blue, sky a
wonderous, cumulus, cloud of fleecy whiteness flushed with a glow of
delicate pink. The meadows and pastures were studded with stars of
gold and pearl, of ruby and amethyst and silver. The fairy hands that
had thrown over the wood a filmy veil of dainty color now dressed each
tree and bush in robes of royal fabric woven from many tints of
shimmering, shining, green.
Through the amber light above new turned furrows; amid the jewel glint
of water in the sun; in the diamond sparkle of the morning; against
the changing opal skies of evening; the bees and all their winged kin
floated and darted, flashed and danced, and whirled, from flower to
flower and field to field, from blossom to blossom and tree to tree,
bearing their pollen messages of love and life while sweet voiced
birds, in their brightest plumage, burdened the perfumed air with the
passionate melody of their mating time.
All nature seemed bursting with eager desire to evidence a Creator's
power. Every tint and color, every breath of perfume, every note of
music, every darting flight or whirling dance, was a call to life—a
challenge to love—an invitation to mate—a declaration of God. The
world throbbed and exulted with the passion of the Giver of Life.
Life itself begat Religion.
Not the least of the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life is Religion.
Religion is an exaltation of Life or it is nothing. To exalt Life
truly is to be most truly religious.
But the man, when he first awoke that morning, did not think of
Religion. His first thought was a thought of lazy gratitude that he
need not get up. It was Sunday. With a long sigh of sleepy content, he
turned toward the wall to escape the too bright light that, from the
open window, had awakened him and dozed again.
It was Sunday.
There are bitter cold, icy, snowy, Sundays in mid-winter when one hugs
the cheerless radiator and, shivering in chilly discomfort, wishes
that Sundays were months instead of days apart. There are stifling,
sticky, sweltering. Sundays in midsummer when one prays, if he can
pray at all, for the night to come. And there are blustering, rainy,
sleety, dismal, Sundays in the fall when the dead hours go in funeral
procession by and the world seems a gloomy tomb. But a Sunday in
blossoming time! That is different! The very milk wagons, as they
clattered, belated, down the street rattled a cheery note of
fellowship and good will. The long drawn call of the paper boy had in
it a hint of the joy of living. And the rumble of an occasional
passing cab came like a deep undertone of peace.
The streets were nearly empty. The stores and offices, with closed
doors, were deserted and still. A solitary policeman on the corner
appeared to be meditating, indifferent to his surroundings. The few
pedestrians to be seen moved leisurely and appeared as though in a
mood for reflective thought and quiet interest in the welfare of their
fellows. The hurrying, scrambling, jostling, rushing crowd; the
clanging, crashing, roaring turmoil; the racking madness, the fierce
confusion, the cruel selfishness of the week day world was as a
dreadful dream in the night. In the hard fought battle of life, the
world had called a truce, testifying thus to the place and power of
This is not to say that the world professes Religion; but it is
to say that Religion possesses the world. In a thousand, thousand,
forms, Religion possesses the world. In thoughts, in deeds, in
words—in song and picture and story—in customs and laws and
industries—in society, state, and school—in all of the Thirteen
Truly Great Things of Life, Religion makes itself manifest and
declares its power over men. If one proclaim himself without Religion
then is its power made known in that one's peculiarity. If Religion
did not possess the world, to scorn it would mark no one as different
from his fellows, And this, too, is true: so imperial is the fact of
Religion, that he who would deny it is forced to believe so firmly in
his disbelief that he accepts the very thing he rejects, disguised in
a dress of his own making, and thus bows down in worship before a God
of his own creation.
To many, Sunday is a day of labor. To many others, it is a day of
roistering and debauch. To some, it is a day of idleness and
thoughtless pleasure. To some, it is a day of devotion and worship.
But still, I say, that, whatever men, as individuals, may do with the
day, the deserted streets, the silent stores, the closed banks, the
empty offices, evidence that, to the world, this day is not as other
days and give recognition—not to creeds and doctrines of warring
sects indeed—but, to Religion.
Again the man awoke. Coming slowly out of his sleep and turning
leisurely in his bed he looked through the open window at the day. And
still he did not think of Religion.
Leisurely he arose and, after his bath, shaved himself with particular
care. With particular care he dressed, not in the garb of every day,
but in fresher, newer, raiment. Thus did he, even as the world, give
unthinking testimony to the power and place of Religion.
Later, when the church bells sent their sweet voiced invitations
ringing over the city, the man went to church. He did not go to church
because he was a religious man nor because he was in a religious mood;
he went because it was his habit to go occasionally. Even as most men
sometimes go to church, so this man went. Nor did he, as a member of
any religious organization, feel it his duty to go. He went as he had
always gone—as thousands of others who, like himself, in habit of
dress and manner were giving unconscious testimony to the power of
Religion in the world, went, that day, to some place of public
The streets of the city were now well filled with people. Yesterday,
these same people, in the same streets, had rushed along with anxious,
eager, strained, expressions upon their faces that told of nerves
tense, minds intent, and bodies alert, in the battle they waged for
daily bread, for gain, and for all the things that are held by men to
be worth the struggle. To-morrow, these same people would again lose
themselves in the fierce and strenuous effort of their lives. But
to-day, they walked leisurely; they spoke calmly; they thought coolly;
they had time to notice each other; to greet each other, to smile, to
shake each others' hands. There were many children, too, who, dressed
in their Sunday clothes, with clean faces and subdued manners, even as
their parents, evidenced the power of Religion in the life of
humankind. And, even as their parents, the children knew it not. They
did not recognize the power of Religion in their lives.
The man did not think of the meaning of these things; though he felt
it, perhaps, somewhat as he felt the warm life of the sun filled air:
he sensed it, perhaps, as he sensed the beauty of the morning. He did
not realize, then, how, in his Dreams, Religion had subtly manifested
itself. He did not realize, that, in his Occupation, he was, every
day, revealing the influence of Religion in his life. He had seen
Religion but dimly when he had thought to follow the golden chain of
Knowledge, link by link, to its hidden end. Dimly had he seen it when
he was learning the value of Ignorance. And yet, in all of these
things it had been even as it would be in all the things that were yet
to come. No man can escape Religion. Man may escape particular forms
of Religion, indeed, but Religion itself he cannot escape.
With many others the man entered a church. An usher gravely led him to
a seat. I do not know what church it was to which the man went that
morning nor does it, for my story, matter that I do not know. My story
is not of churches nor of sects nor of creeds. This is my story: that
the man came to realize in his life the power of Religion.
It may have been the beauty of the morning that did it; it may have
been that the week just past was unusually hard and trying and that
the day of rest, therefore, was more than usual, needed: or, perhaps,
it was because the man had learned that he could never follow the
golden chain of Knowledge to its hidden end and had come to know the
value of Ignorance for Religion walks ever close to both Knowledge and
Ignorance, hand in hand with each; whatever it was that brought it
about, the man, that Sunday, came to realize the power of Religion in
the world and in his own manhood life.
It was very quiet in the church but it was not a sad quietness. The
people moved softly and, when they spoke at all, spoke in whispers but
there was no feeling of death in the air; rather was there a feeling
of life—a feeling of life, too, that was very unlike the feeling of
life in a crowded place of business or amusement. The sweet,
plaintively pleading, tones of the organ trembled in the air. The
glorious sunshine came through the stained glass windows softened and
subdued. Here and there heads were bowed. The people became very
still. And, in the stillness, the man felt strongly the spirit of the
day and place. The organ tones increased in volume. The choir filed
in. The preacher entered. The congregation arose to sing an old
The man did not sing, but, as he listened to the music and followed
the words of the hymn, he smiled. The people were singing about
unknowable things—of streets of gold and gates of pearl—of crowns
and harps and the throne of God.
All his life, the man had known that hymn but he had never before
thought of it just as he thought of it that morning. He looked about
at the people who were singing. Who were they? Uneducated,
irresponsible, fanatical dreamers of no place or importance in the
week day world? No indeed! They were educated, responsible, practical,
hard headed, clear brained, people of power and influence—and—the
man smiled again—they were singing about unknowable things. For the
first time in his life, the man wondered at the strangeness of it all.
When the minister prayed, the man listened as he had never listened to
a prayer before. He felt baffled and bewildered as though he had
wandered into a strange land, among strange people, of whose customs
he was ignorant, and whose language he could neither speak nor
understand. Who was this man who seemed on such familiar terms with
the Infinite? Upon what did he base his assurance that the wealth of
blessings he asked for himself and his people would be granted or even
heard? Had he more than finite mind that he could know the Infinite?
The sermon that followed was largely a sermon about unknowable things.
It was full of beautiful, helpful, thoughts about things that it was
impossible for anyone to really know anything about. Very familiar
were the things that the minister said that morning. Since his
childhood, the man had heard them over and over many times; but he had
never before thought of them in just that way.
The sermon was finished and the beautifully mysterious and impressive
words of the benediction were spoken as the people stood with bowed
heads, hushed and still. Again the deep tones of the organ trembled in
the air as the crowd poured forth from the building into the street.
The man was thoughtful and troubled. He felt as one, who, meeting an
old friend after many years, finds him changed beyond recognition. He
was as one visiting, after years of absence, his old home to find the
familiar landmarks all gone with the years. He was sadly conscious
that something had gone out of his life—that something exceedingly
precious had been taken away from him and that it could never be
Seriously, sadly, the man asked himself: must his belief in Religion
go as his faith in fairies had gone? Was Religion, after all, but a
beautiful game played by the grown up world, even as children play?
And if, indeed, his faith must go because songs and prayers and
sermons have to do so largely with unknowable things, what of the
spirit of the world expressed in the day that is so set apart from all
other days? Sunday is a fact knowable enough. And the atmosphere of
the church is another fact as knowable as the atmosphere of a race
track, a foundry, or a political convention. And the fruits of
Religion in the lives of men—these are as clearly knowable as the
fruits of drunkenness, or gambling, or licentiousness. The man was as
sure of the fruits of Religion as he was sure that the sun was
shining—that the day, so warm and bright, was unlike the cold, hard,
stormy, days of winter. And still—and still—the songs and prayers
and sermons about unknowable things—must his belief in Religion go as
his faith in fairies had gone?
Unknowable things? Yes—as unknowable as that mysterious something
that colors the trees and plants and flowers with tints of infinite
shadings—as unknowable as that which puts the flavor in the peach,
the strength in the corn, the perfume in the rose—as unknowable as
the awful force that reveals itself in the lightning flash or speaks
in the rolling thunder—as unknowable as the mysterious hand that
holds the compass needle to the north and swings the star worlds far
beyond the farthest reach of the boasting eye of Science. Unknowable?
Yes—as unknowable as that which lies safe hidden behind the most
commonplace facts of life—as unknowable indeed, as Life itself.
"Nature," said the man, in answer to himself, and smiled at the
foolishness of his own answer. Is nature then so knowable? Are all her
laws revealed; all her secrets known; all her ways understood; all her
mysteries made clear? Do the wise men, after all, know more of nature
than they do of God? Do they know more of earth than of heaven? Do
they know more of a man's mind than they do of his soul? And yet—and
yet—does one refuse to live because he cannot understand the mystery
of life? Does one deny the earth because the secrets of Mature are
unknowable? Does one refuse to think because thoughts are not material
things—because no one has ever seen a thought to say from whence it
came or whither it went?
Disbelief demands a knowledge as exact as that demanded by belief. To
deny the unknowable is as impossible as to affirm it. If it be true
that man knows too much to believe in miracles these days, it is just
as true that he does not know enough to disbelieve in them. And, after
all, there is no reason why anyone should believe in miracles; neither
is there any reason why one should disbelieve in them.
Every altar is an altar to an unknown God. But man does not refuse to
believe in bread because he cannot understand the mystery of the wheat
field. One believes in a garden, not because he knows how, from the
same soil, water, and air, Nature produces strawberries, potatoes,
sweet corn, tomatoes, or lettuce, but because fresh vegetables are
good. The hungry man neither believes nor disbelieves but sits down to
the table and, if he be a right minded man, gives thanks to the God of
gardens who, in ways so unknowable, gives such knowable gifts to man.
Nor was the man, at this time, able to distinguish clearly between
Religion and the things that men have piled about and hung upon
Religion. Therefore was he troubled about his waning belief and
worried because of his growing doubt. He did not wish to doubt; he
wished to believe.
In all these many years, through intellectual pride or selfish
ambition, because of an earnest but mistaken purpose to make clear, or
in a pious zeal to emphasize, men have been piling things about and
hanging things upon Religion; and, always, they have insisted that
this vast accumulation of things is Religion.
These things that men have hung upon Religion are no more a part of
Religion than the ivy that grows upon the stone wall of a fortress is
a part of the nation's defensive strength. These things that men have
piled about Religion belong to it no more than a pile of trash dumped
at the foot of a cliff belongs to the everlasting hills. But these
traditions and customs of men, with their ever multiplying confusions
of doctrines and creeds and sects, beautiful as they are, hide
Religion even as the ivy hides the wall. Even as the accumulated trash
of the ages piled at the foot of the cliff is of interest to the
archaeologist and the seeker after curious junk, so these things that
men have piled about Religion are of interest. But the observer, in
admiration of the ivy, is in danger of ignoring the stern reality of
the fortress. The curious digger in the pile of trash, if his interest
be great, heeds not the grandeur of the cliff that towers above his
That afternoon the man went for a long walk. He wished to think out,
if he could, the things that troubled him.
Without plan on his part, his walk led toward a quarter of the city
where he had never been before and where he came at last to an old
cemetery. The ancient iron gates, between their vine clad columns of
stone, were invitingly open and within the enclosure were great trees
that locked their green arms above the silent, grass grown, graves as
though in sheltering kindness for the dead. Tempted by the beauty of
the place the man entered, and, in the deep shade of the old trees,
screened from the road by their mossy trunks, found a seat. Here and
there, among the old graves under the trees, a few people moved
slowly; pausing often to decipher the inscriptions upon the leaning
and fallen tombstones. So old was that ancient burying place that
there was left among the living no one to keep the flowers upon the
graves and visitors came only from idle curiosity.
And it was so, that, as the man sat there under the quiet old trees,
the graves with their leaning and fallen tombstones, or, perhaps, the
day itself, led his mind back to those companion graves that marked
the passing of his boyhood—back to father and mother and to their
religion—back to the religion of his Yesterdays. And the week of toil
and strife, of struggle and of storm, slipped far, far, away. The
disturbing questions, the doubt and the uncertainty of the morning,
raised as the fogs lift to leave the landscape clear.
It was such a little way from the boy's home to the church that, when
the weather was fine, they always walked. And surely no day could have
been finer than that Sunday to which the man went back. As the boy,
all washed and combed and dressed in his Sunday best, sat on the big
gate post waiting for his father and mother, it seemed to him that
every living thing about the place knew what day it was. In the
pasture across the road, the horses, leisurely cropping the new grass,
paused often to lift their heads and look about with an air of kindly
interest in things to which they would have given no heed at all had
they been in week day harness. And one old gray, finding an inviting
spot, lay down to roll—got up—and, because it felt so good, lay down
again upon his other side; and then, as if regretting that he had no
more sides to rub, stretched himself out with such a huge sigh of
content that the boy on the gate post laughed; whereat the horse
raised his head and looked at him as though to say: "Little boy, don't
you know that it is Sunday?" Under the big elm, in the corner of the
pasture, the cows stood, with half closed eyes, chewing their cuds
with an air of pious meditation. The hens strolled sedately about
singing solemnly: ca-w-w, ca-w-w, ca-w-w, and the old red rooster,
standing on tiptoe, flapped his wings as if to crow then checked
himself suddenly and looked around as if to say: "Bless me, I nearly
forgot what day it is!" Then the clear, mellow, tones of the church
bell floated across the little valley and the boy's parents came out
of the house. The dog, stretched at full length on the porch, lifted
his head but did not offer to follow. He, too, seemed to know, thought
the boy as he climbed down from the post to walk soberly away with his
Before they reached the lower end of the garden, the little girl with
her mother and uncle came out of their house and, at the gate, waited
for them while the little girl waved her hand in greeting. Then the
two men and the two women walked on ahead and, as the boy and girl
followed, the boy, looking shyly at his companion, saw the sunlight on
her soft, brown, hair that was so prettily arranged with a blue
ribbon—saw the merry eyes under the broad brim of her best hat—saw
the flushed, softly rounded, cheek with the dimple, the curve of the
red lips, and the dainty chin—saw her dress so clean and white and
starched—saw and wondered if the angels in heaven could be more
beautiful than this little girl.
So they went, that Sunday, down the hill, across the creek, and up the
gentle slope beyond, until they came to the cross roads where the
white church stood under the old elm and maple trees. Already there
were many teams standing under the sheds or tied to the hitch racks
along the side of the road. And by the roads that led away in four
directions, through the fields and meadows and pastures of the farms,
other country folk were coming from their homes and their labors to
worship the God of seedtime and harvest.
There were no ushers in that church of the Yesterdays for there would
be no strangers save those who would come with their friends; but the
preacher himself was at the door to greet his people or was moving
here and there among them, asking with care for the absent ones.
Neither was there a great organ to fill the air with its trembling
tones; but, at the humble instrument that served as well, the mother
of the little girl presided, while the boy's father led the country
choir. And the sunlight of that Sunday streamed through the open
windows, softened only by the delicate traceries of gently waving
branches and softly rustling leaves.
And in the songs and prayers and sermons of that worship in the
Yesterdays, the boy heard the same unknowable things that the man had
heard that morning in the city church. Among those people, the boy
felt stirring the same spirit that had moved the man. The old preacher
was long ago resting in the cemetery on the hill, with the boy's
parents, the mother of the little girl, and many, many, others of his
flock. A new and more modern minister would be giving, now, to the
children of that old congregation, the newest and most modern things
that theologians do not know about Religion. But the same old spirit
would be there still; doing the same work for the glory of the race.
And the boy in the Yesterdays, as he listened to the songs and prayers
and sermons, had wondered in his heart about the things he heard—even
as the man, he had asked himself many unanswerable questions… But
there had been no doubt in the questions of the boy. There had been no
disbelief in his wonder. Because the girl's mother played the
organ—because the boy's father sang in the choir—because his mother
and the little girl were there beside him—the boy believed that which
he could not understand.
"By their fruits"—it is a text as good for grown up children as for
boys and girls.
What the preachers say about Religion matters little after all. It is
the fathers and mothers and the little girls who keep the faith of the
world alive. The words of those sermons and prayers and songs
in his Yesterdays would go with the boy no farther than the church
door; but that which was in the hearts of those who sang and preached
and prayed—that which song and sermon and prayer attempted but could
not express—that would go with the boy through all the years
of his life. From that the man could never get wholly away. It
became as much a part of him as his love for his parents was a part.
When church and Sunday school were over the boy went home to the
miracle of the Sunday dinner. And, even as the unknowable things upon
the Sunday dinner table contributed to his manhood's physical strength
and health, so the things expressed by the day that is set apart from
all other days contributed to that strength of manhood that is more
vital than the strength of bone and muscle and nerve and sinew. In the
book wherein it is written: "Man shall not live by bread alone," it is
written, also: "Except ye become as little children."
Slowly the man arose. Slowly and regretfully he turned to leave his
place under the great trees that, in the solemn, quiet, twilight of
the old cemetery, locked their arms protectingly above the dead.
"Except ye become as little children."
Must men in Religion be always trying to grow up? Are the wisest and
the greatest among scholars nearer the secrets of the unknowable
power, that, through Religion, possesses the world, than the
unthinking children are? As the man in the late afternoon went out
through the ancient iron gates, between the vine covered columns of
stone, he knew that his belief in Religion would not go as his faith
in fairies had gone. Because of those companion graves and all that
they meant to him—because of the little girl in his Yesterdays—his
faith in Religion would not go.
* * * * *
The woman, alone in her room, sat at the open window looking out over
the city. The long, spring, Sunday was drawing to its close. Above the
roofs of the houses across the street, above the towering stories of
the buildings in the down town districts, above factory chimneys,
church steeples, temple dome, and cathedral spire, she saw the evening
sky light with the glory of the passing day. Over a triumphant arch in
the west, through which the sun had gone, a mighty cloud curtain of
purple was draped, fold on fold, all laced and looped with silver and
edged with scarlet flame. Above the curtain, far flung across the wide
sky, banners of rose and crimson and gold flashed and gleamed; while,
marching in serried ranks, following the pathway of the sun, went
innumerable thousands of cloud soldiers in their uniforms of light.
Slowly the procession passed—the gleaming banners vanished—the
marching armies disappeared—the curtain in the west was drawn close.
The woman at the window watched until the last of the light was gone
and, in the still sky above, the stars hung motionless. Like a
benediction, the sweet mystery of twilight had come upon the land.
Like a softly breathed blessing from heaven, the night had come.
Because of the experience through which she had passed in the week
just gone, that day, dedicated to Religion, had held for the woman a
Looking into the darkness that hid the city from her eyes she
shuddered. There were so many there to whom the night came not as a
blessing, but as a curse. Out there, in the soft darkness into which
the woman looked, dreadful crimes were being committed, horrid deeds
were being planned. Out there, in the quiet night, wretched poverty,
gaunt pain, and loathsome disease were pulling down their victims. Out
there, in the blackness, hideous licentiousness, beastly passion,
debasing pleasure were stalking their prey. Out there, murderers of
souls were lying in wait; robbers of hearts were creeping stealthily;
slayers of purity were watching; killers of innocence were lurking. To
the woman at the window, that night, the twinkling lights of the city
were as beacon fires on the outskirts of hell.
And to-morrow—to-morrow—she must go down into that hell. All that
was there in the darkness, she must see, she must know, she must feel.
All those things of evil would be watching her, crowding her, touching
her, hungering for her; placing pitfalls in her way; longing for her
to slip; waiting for her to fall; testing her, trying her, always
ready with a damnable readiness; always hoping with a hellish hope.
Into that she must go—even into that—this woman, who knew herself to
be a woman, must go.
And what—what—of her dreams? Could she, she asked herself that
night, could she go into that life, day after day, and still have a
heart left for dreaming? Against the unclean strength that threatened
her, where would she find the strength to keep her womanhood pure and
strong for the holy mission of womanhood?
Clear and sweet from out the darkness of the night came the sound of a
bell. Then another, and another, and another, until, from every
quarter of the city, their music came, as though in answer to her
question. Some, near at hand, rang loud, triumphant, peals as though
rejoicing over victories already won; others, farther away, in softer
tones, seemed to promise strength for present need; while still
others, in more distant places, sounding soft and far away, seemed to
gently warn, to beckon, to call, to plead. Lifting her tear filled
eyes from the lights of the streets the woman looked at the stars,
and, so looking, saw, lifting into the sky, the church spires of the
In a little, the music of the bells ceased. But the woman, at the
window, sat still with her face upturned to the stars.
Gone, now, were the city lights that to her had seemed as beacon fires
on the outskirts of hell. Gone, now, the horrors of that life to which
night comes not as a benediction. Gone, now, her fears for her dreams.
The woman lived again a Sunday evening in her Yesterdays.
It may have been the flaming glory of the sky; it may have been the
music of the bells; it may have been the stars—whatever it was—the
woman went again into the long ago. Once again she went back into her
Yesterdays—to a Sunday evening in her Yesterdays.
The little girl was on the front porch of her home with mother. The
sun was going down behind the great trees in the old churchyard at the
cross roads while, across the valley, the voice of the bell was
calling the people to evening worship. And, with the ringing of the
bell, the boy and his mother came to sit with them while the men were
gone to church.
Then, while the mothers, seated in their easy chairs, talked in low
tones, the boy and the girl, side by side, on the steps of the porch,
watched the light go out of the sky and tried to count the stars as
they came. As the twilight deepened, the elms in the pasture across
the road, the maples along the drive, and the willows down by the
creek, became shadowy and indistinct. From the orchard, an owl sent
forth his quavering call and was answered by his mate from the roof of
the barn. Down in the shadow of the little valley, a whip-poor-will
cried plaintively, and, now and then, a bat came darting out of the
dusk on swift and silent wings. And there, in the darkness across the
valley, shone the single light of the church. The children gave up
trying to count the stars and grew very still, as, together, they
watched the lights of the church. Then one of the mothers laughed, a
low happy laugh, and the children began telling each other about God.
Many things the boy and the girl told each other about God. And who is
there to say that the things they told were not just as true as many
things that older children tell? Though, I suppose, as the boy and
girl did not quarrel or become angry with each other that Sunday
evening, their talk about God could scarcely be considered orthodox.
Their service under the stars was not at all regular, I know. With
childish awe and reverence—with hushed voices—they only told each
other about God. They did not discuss theology—they were not church
members—they were only children.
Then, by and by, the father and uncle came, and, with his parents, the
boy went home, calling through the dark, as he went, many good
nights—each call sounding fainter and farther away. And, when she
could neither hear nor make him hear more, the little girl went with
her mother into the house, where, when she was ready for bed, she
knelt to pray that old familiar prayer of the Yesterdays—forgetting
not in her prayer to ask God to bless and keep the boy.
Oh, childish prayers of the Yesterdays! Made in the strength of a
childish faith, what power divine is in them to keep the race from
death! Oh, childish understanding of God, deep grounded in that wisdom
to which scholars can never attain! Does the Master of Life still set
little children among His disciples in vain?
The woman no longer feared that which lay in the darkness of the city.
She knew, now, that she would have strength to keep the treasures of
her womanhood safe for him should he come to lead her into the life of
her dreams. She knew, now, what it was that would help her—that would
enable her to keep that which Life had committed to her.
As she turned from the window, strength and peace were in her heart.
As she knelt beside her bed to pray, her prayer was that prayer of her
Yesterdays. The prayer of a child it was—the prayer of a woman who
knows that she is a woman it was also.
It was summer time—growing time.
The children of the little brown birds that had nested in the hedge
near the cherry tree, that year, were flying now, quite easily, away
from their little brown mother's counsel and advice. Even to the top
of the orchard hill, they went in search of brave adventure, rejoicing
recklessly in their freedom. But, for the parent birds, the ties of
the home in the hedge were still strong. And, every day, they examined
with experienced eyes the cherries, that, on the near by tree, were
fast nearing ripening time.
With every gesture expressing more clearly than any spoken word his
state of mind, the man jerked down the top of his desk, slammed the
door, jabbed the elevator bell, and strode grimly out of the building.
The man's anger was not one of those flash like bursts of wrath, that,
passing as quickly as they come, leave the sky as clear as though no
storm had crossed it. Nor was it the slow kindling, determined, anger,
that, directed against a definite object, burns with steady purpose.
It was rather that sullen, hopeless, helpless rage, that, finding
nothing to vent itself upon, endures even while recognizing that its
endurance is in vain. It was the anger of a captive, wild thing
against the steel bars of its cage, which, after months of effort, it
has found too strong. It was the anger of an explorer against the
impassable crags and cliffs of a mountain range that bars his path. It
was the anger of a blind man against the darkness that will not lift.
The man's work demanded freedom and the man was not free. In his
dreams, at the beginning of his manhood, he had thought himself free
to work out his dreams. He had said to himself: "Alone, in my own
strength, I will work. Depending upon no man, I will be independent.
Limited only by myself, I will be free." He said this because he did
not, then, know the strength of the bars. He had not, at that time,
seen the mountain range. He had not faced the darkness that would not
lift. Difficulties, hardships, obstacles, dangers, he had expected to
face, and, in his strength, to overcome. But the greatest difficulty,
the severest hardship, the most trying obstacle, the gravest danger,
he had not foreseen.
Little by little, as the days and months had passed and the man had
made progress in his work, this thing had made itself felt. Little by
little, this thing had forced itself upon him until, at last, he was
made to realize the fact that he was not independent of but dependent
upon all men. He found that he was limited not alone by himself but by
others. He understood, now, that he was not free to work out his
dreams. He saw, now, that the thing most difficult to overcome—the
thing that forbade his progress and refused him freedom—was
Tradition. On every side he met this: "It has never been done; it,
therefore, can never be done. The fathers of our fathers believed
this, therefore we must believe it. This has always been, therefore
this must always be. Others do this, think this, believe this,
therefore you must so do and think and believe." The man found, that,
beyond a point which others could see, others denied him the right to
go. The established customs and habits of others fixed the limit of
the progress he could make with the approval of the world.
At first he had laughed—secure in his own strength, he had laughed
contemptuously. But that was because he did not then realize the power
of this thing. Later he did not laugh. He became angry with a sullen,
hopeless, helpless, rage that accomplished nothing—that could
accomplish nothing—but only weakened the man himself. As one shut in
a cell exhausts himself beating against the walls, so he wearied
Not until he was in the full swing of his work had this thing come
upon him in force. At the beginning of his manhood life, when, in the
strength of his first manhood dreams he had looked out upon the world
as a conquering emperor upon the field of a coming battle, he had not
seen this thing. When he was crying out to the world for something to
do this thing had not made itself felt. Not until he had made
noticeable progress—not until he was in the full swing of his
work—did he find himself forced to reckon with what others had done
or said or thought or believed.
And never had the man felt his own strength as he felt it now when
face to face with this thing against which his strength seemed so
helpless. If only he could have freedom! He asked nothing but that. As
in the beginning he had asked of the world only room and something to
do, he asked now only for freedom to do. And the world granted him the
freedom of the child who is permitted to play in the yard but must not
go outside the fence. He was free to do his work—to play out his
dreams—only so far as the established customs and fixed
habits—Tradition—willed. "Beyond the fence that shuts in the
familiar home ground," said the world, "you must not go. If you dare
climb over the fence—if you dare go out of the yard," said the world,
"I will punish you—I will ridicule you, condemn you, persecute you,
ostracize you. I will brand you false, a self-seeker, a pretender, a
charlatan, a trickster, a rogue. I will cry you unsafe, dangerous, a
menace to society and the race, an evil to all that is good, an
unspeakable fool. Stay in the yard," said the world, "and you may do
what you like."
Even in matters of personal habits and taste, the man found that he
was not free. In his dress; in the things he ate and drank; in his
pleasures; in the books he read, the plays he attended, the pictures
he saw, the music he heard, he found that he was expected to obey the
mandates of the world—he found that he was expected to conform to
Tradition—to the established customs and habits of others. In
religion, in politics, in society, in literature, in art—as in his
work—the world said: "Don't go outside the yard."
I do not know what work it was that the man was trying to do. It does
not matter what his work was. But this I know: in every work that man,
since the beginning, has tried to do, man has been hindered as this
man was hindered—man has been denied as this man was denied, freedom.
Tradition has always blocked the wheels of progress. The world has
moved ahead always in spite of the world. Just as the world has always
crucified its saviors, so, always, it has hindered and held back its
And this, too, I know: after the savior is crucified, those who nail
him to the cross accept his teaching. While the world hinders and
holds back its leaders, it always follows them.
But the man did not think of this that day when he left the scene of
his labor in such anger. He thought only of that which he was trying
to do. When he went back to his work, the next day, he was still angry
and with his anger, now, came discontent, doubt, and fear, to cloud
his vision, to clog his brain and weaken his heart.
A friend, at lunch, said: "You look fagged, knocked out, done up, old
man. You've been pegging away too long and too steadily. Why don't you
let up for awhile? Lay off for a week or two. Take a vacation."
Again and again, that hot, weary, afternoon, the words of the man's
friend came back to him until, by evening, he was considering the
suggestion seriously. "Why not?" he asked himself. He was
accomplishing little or nothing in his present mood. Why not accept
the friendly advice? Perhaps—when he came back—perhaps, he could
again laugh at the world that denied him freedom.
So he came to considering places and plans. And, as he considered,
there was before him, growing always clearer as he looked, the scenes
of his boyhood—the old home of his childhood—the place of his
Yesterdays. There were many places of interest and pleasure to which
the man might go, but, among them all, there was no place so
attractive as the place of his Yesterdays. There was nothing he so
wished to do as this: to go back to the old home and there to be, for
a little while, as nearly as a man could be, a boy again.
If the man had thought about it, he would have seen in this desire to
spend his vacation at the old home something of the same force that so
angered him by hindering his work. But the man did not think about it.
He wrote a letter to see if he might spend two weeks with the people
who were living in the house where he was born and, when the answer
came assuring him a welcome, quickly made his arrangements to go.
With boyish eagerness, he was at the depot a full half hour before the
time for his train. While he waited, he watched the crowd, feeling an
interest in the people who came and went in the never ending
profession that he had not felt since that day when he had first come
to the city to work out his dreams among men. In the human tide that
ebbed and flowed through this world gateway, he saw men of wealth and
men of poverty—people of culture and position who had come or were
going in Pullman or private cars and illiterate, stupid, animal
looking, emigrants who were crowded, much like cattle, in the lowest
class. There were business men of large affairs; countrymen with
wondering faces; shallow, pleasure seekers; artists and scholars; idle
fools; vicious sharks watching for victims; mothers with flocks of
children clinging to their skirts; working girls and business women;
chattering, laughing, schoolgirls; and wretched creatures of the
outcast life—all these and many more.
And, as he watched, perhaps because he was on his vacation, perhaps
because of something in his heart awakened by the fact that he was
going to his boyhood home, the man felt, as he had never felt before,
his kinship with them all. With wealth and poverty, with culture and
illiteracy, with pleasure and crime, with sadness and joy, as
evidenced in the lives of those who passed in the crowd, the man felt
a sympathy and understanding that was strangely new. And, more than
this, he saw that each was kin to the other. He saw that, in spite of
the wide gulf that separated the individuals in the throng, there was
a something that held them all together—there was a force that
influenced all alike—there was a something common to all. In spite of
the warring elements of society; in spite of the clashing forces of
business; in spite of the conflicting claims of industry represented
in the throng; the man recognized a brotherhood, a oneness, a kinship,
that held all together. And he felt this with a strange feeling that
he had always known that it was there but had never recognized it
The man did not realize that this was so because he was not thinking
of the people in their relation to his work. He did not know, that,
because his heart and mind were intent upon the things of his
Yesterdays, he saw the world in this new light. He did not, then,
understand that the force which hindered and hampered him in his
work—that denied him the full freedom he demanded—was the same force
that he now felt holding the people together. Even as they all,
whether traveling in Pullman, private car, or emigrant train, passed
over the same rails, so they all, in whatever class they traveled on
the road of Life, were guided by the Traditions—the established
customs—the fixed habits—that are common to their race or nation.
And the strength of a people, as a people, is in this oneness—this
force that makes them one—the Traditions and customs and habits of
life that are common to all. It is the fences of the family dooryards
that hold the children of men together and make the people of a race
or nation one.
So it was that the man, knowing it not, left his work behind and went,
for strength and rest, back to the scenes of his Yesterdays in
obedience to the command of the very thing that, in his work, had
stirred him to such rage. For what, after all, are Traditions and
customs and habits but a going back into the Yesterdays.
As the train left the city farther and farther behind, the man's
thoughts kept pace with the fast flying wheels that were bearing him
back to the scenes of his childhood. From the present, he retraced his
steps to that day when he had dreamed his first manhood dreams and to
those hard days when he was asking of the world only something to do.
As, step by step, he followed his way back, incidents, events,
experiences, people, appeared, even as from the car window he caught
glimpses of the whirling landscape, until at last he saw, across the
fields and meadows familiar to his childhood, the buildings of the old
home, the house where the little girl had lived, the old church, and
the orchard hill where he had sat that day when the smoke of a distant
train moving toward the city became to him a banner leading to the
battle front. Then the long whistle announced the station. Eagerly the
man collected his things and, before the train had come to a full
stop, swung himself to the depot platform where he was met by his
As they drove past the fields and pastures, so quiet after the noisy
city, the man grew very still. Past the little white church among its
old trees at the cross roads; down the hill and across the creek; and
slowly up the other side of the valley they went: then past the house
where the little girl had lived; and so turned in, at last, to the
home of that boy in the Yesterdays. And surely it was no discredit to
the man that, when they left him alone in his old room to prepare for
the evening meal, he scarce could see for tears.
Scenes of childhood! Memories of the old home! Recollections of the
dear ones that are gone! No more can man escape these things of the
Yesterdays than he can avoid the things of to-day. No more can man
deny the past than he can deny the present. Tradition is to men as a
governor to an engine; without its controlling power the race would
speed quickly to its own destruction. One of the Thirteen Truly Great
Things of Life is Tradition.
For two happy, healthful, restful, strengthening, inspiring weeks, the
man lived, so far as a man can live, in his Yesterdays. In the cool
shade of the orchard that once was an enchanted wood; under the old
apple tree ship beside the meadow sea; on the hill where, astride his
rail fence war horse, the boy had directed the battle and led the
desperate charge and where the man had dreamed the first of his
manhood dreams; in the garden where the castaway had lived on his
desert island; in the yard near mother's window where the boy had
builded the brave play house for the little girl next door; in the
valley, below where the little girl lived, beside the brook that in
its young life ran so pure and clear; at the old school house in the
edge of the timber; in the ancient cemetery, beside the companion
graves; through the woods and fields and pastures; beside the old mill
pond with its covered bridge; the man lived again those days of the
But, in the places of his Yesterdays, the man found, already, many
changes. The houses and buildings were a little more weather-beaten,
with many of the boards in the porch floors and steps showing decay.
The trees in the orchard were older and more gnarled with here and
there gaps in their ranks. The fences showed many repairs. The little
schoolhouse was almost shabby and, with the wood cleared away, looked
naked and alone. The church, too, was in need of a fresh coat of
white. And there were many new graves in the cemetery on the hill. As
time had wrought changes in the man himself, even so had it altered
the scenes of his boyhood. Always, in men and in things, time works
But it is not the changes wrought by time that harms. These come as
the ripening of the fruit upon the tree. It is the sudden, violent,
transformations that men are ever seeking to make, both in things and
in themselves, that menace the ripening life of the race. It is well,
indeed, for the world to hold fast to its Traditions. It is well to
cling wisely to the past.
Nor did the man live again in his Yesterdays alone. He could not.
Always, she was there—his boyhood mate—the little girl who lived
But the opening in the hedge that, at the lower end of the garden,
separated the boy's home from the home of the little girl, was closed.
Long and carefully the man searched; smiling, the while, at a foolish
wish in his heart that time would leave that little gate of the
Yesterdays always open. But the ever growing branches had woven a
thick barrier across the green archway hiding it so securely that, to
the man, no sign was left to mark where it had been.
With that foolish regret still in his heart, the man asked, quite
casually, of the people who were living in the house if they knew
aught about his playmate of the Yesterdays.
They could tell him very little; only that she lived in a city some
distance from his present home. What she was doing; whether married or
alone; they could not say.
And the man, as he stood, with bared head, under the cherry tree in
the corner near the hedge, told himself that he was glad that the
people could tell him nothing. In his busy, grown up, life there was
no room for a woman. In his battle with the things that challenged his
advance, he must be free to fight. It was better for him that the
little girl lived only in his Yesterdays. The little girl who had
helped him play out his boyhood dreams must not hinder him while he
worked out the dreams of his manhood. That is what the man told
himself as he stood, with bared head, under the cherry tree. With the
memory of that play wedding and that kiss in his heart, he told
I wonder, sometimes, what would happen if men should chance to
discover how foolish they really are.
No doubt, the man reflected—watching the pair of brown birds as they
inspected the ripening cherries—no doubt she has long ago forgotten
those childish vows. Perhaps, in the grown up world, she has even
taken new and more binding vows. Would he ever, he wondered, meet one
with whom he could make those vows again? Once he had met one with
whom he thought he wished to make them but he knew, now, that he had
been mistaken. And he knew, too, that it was well that he had found
his mistake in time. Somehow, as he stood there again under the cherry
tree, the making of such vows seemed to the man more holy, more
sacred, than they had ever seemed before. Would he dare—He wondered.
Was there, in all the world, a woman with whom he could—The man
shrugged his shoulders and turned away. Yes, indeed, it was much
better that she lived only in his Yesterdays. And still—still—in the
man's heart there was regret that Time had closed that gateway of his
And often, in the twilight of those evenings, after a day of wandering
about the place, visiting old scenes, or talking with the long time
friends of his people, the man would recall the traditions of his
family; hearing again the tales his father would tell by the winter
fireside or listening to the stories that his mother would relate on a
Sunday or a stormy afternoon. Brave tales they were—brave tales and
true stories of the man's forbears who had lived when the country was
young and who had played no small part in the nation's building. And,
as he recalled these traditions of his people, the man's heart
thrilled with loyal pride while he determined strongly to keep the
splendid record clean. As a sacred heritage, he would receive these
traditions. As a holy duty he would be true to that which had been.
Reluctantly, but with renewed strength and courage, when the time came
for his going, the man set his face away from his Yesterdays—set it
again toward his work—toward the working out of his dreams. And, as
he went, there was for the thing that checked his progress something
more than anger—for the thing that forced him to go slowly there was
Standing on the rear platform, as his train moved slowly away past an
incoming train that had just pulled onto a siding, the man saw the
neighbor who lived next door to his old home drive hurriedly up. The
man in the carriage waved his hand and the man on the moving train,
answering in like manner, wondered idly what had brought the neighbor
there. Surely he had not come to bid one who was almost a stranger
good-bye. And, strangely enough, as the man watched from the window
for a last view of the scenes of his Yesterdays, there was in his
heart, again, regret that the little opening in the hedge was closed.
* * * * *
The city was sweltering in a summer heat wave. The sun shone through a
dingy pall of vile smoke with a sickly, yellow, glare. From the
pavement and gutter, wet by the sprinkling wagons, in a vain effort to
lay the dust, a sticky, stinking, steam lifted, filling the nostrils
and laving the face with a combination of every filthy odor. The
atmosphere fairly reeked with the smell of sweating animals,
perspiring humanity, rotting garbage, and vile sewage. And, in the
midst of the hot filth, the people moved with languid, feeble manner;
their faces worn and pallid; their eyes dull and weary; their voices
thin and fretful.
The woman's heart was faint with the weight of suffering that she was
helpless to relieve. Her quivering nerves shrieked with the horror of
conditions that she could not change. Her brain ached with
contemplation of the cruel necessity that tortured humankind. Her very
soul was sick with the hopelessness of the gasping, choking,
struggling, multitude who, in their poverty and blindness, toiled to
preserve their lives of sorrow and pain and sought relief from their
labors in pleasures more horrible and destructive, by far, than the
slavery to which they gave themselves for the means to pay.
The woman was tired—very tired. Heart and nerves and brain and soul
and body were tired with a weariness that, it seemed to her, would
never pass. She was tired of the life into which she had gone because
it was the custom of the age and because of her necessity—the life
into which she had not wished to go because it denied her womanhood.
Because she knew herself to be a woman, she felt that she was being
robbed of the things of her womanhood. The brightness and beauty, the
strength and joyousness of her womanhood were, by her, held as sacred
trusts to be kept for her children and, through them, for the race.
She wearied of the struggle to keep the things of her womanhood from
the world that was taking them from her—that put a price upon
them—that used them as thoughtlessly as it uses the stone and metal
and wood that it takes from the earth. She was tired of the horrid
life that crowded her so closely—that crushed itself against her in
the crowded cars—that leered into her face on the street—that
reached out for her from every side—that hungered for her with a
fierce hunger and longed for her with a damnable, fiendish, longing.
She was faint and weak from contact with the loathsome things that she
was forced to know and that would leave their mark upon her womanhood
as surely as the touch of pitch defiles. And she was weary, so weary,
waiting for that one with whom she could cross the threshold of the
old, old, open door.
Little time was left to her, now, for thought and preparation for the
life of which she had dreamed. Little heart was left to her, now, for
dreaming. Little courage was left for hope. But still her dreams
lived. Still she waited. Still, at times, she hoped.
But the thing that most of all wearied the woman, who knew that she
was a woman, was this: the restless, discontented, dissatisfied,
uneasy, spirit of the age that, scorning Tradition in a shallow, silly
pride, struggles for and seems to value only that which is new
regardless of the value of the thing itself. The new in dress,
regardless of beauty or fitness in the costume—the new in thought,
regardless of the saneness of the thinking—the new in customs and
manner of living—the new in the home, in marriage relation, in the
education and rearing of children—new philosophy, new science, new
religion, new art, new music, new books, new cooking, new women—it
sometimes appears that the crime of crimes, the most degrading
disgrace, these days, is to be held old-fashioned, behind-the-times,
out-of-date, and that everything, everything, not new is
old-fashioned—everything not of the times is
behind-the-times—everything not down-to-date is out-of-date.
Patriotism, love of country, is old, very old, and is also—or
therefore—quite out-of-date. To speak or write of patriotism,
seriously, or to consider it a factor in life—to live it, depend upon
it, or appeal to it, is to be considered very strange and sadly
old-fashioned. The modern, down-to-date, age considers seriously not
patriotism but "graft" and "price" and "boodle." These are the modern
forces by which the nation is said to be governed; these are the means
by which the nation strives to go ahead. To talk only of these things,
to believe only in these things, to live only these things, is to be
modern and down—low down—to-date. To work from any motive but the
making of money is to be queerly behind-the-times. To write a book or
paint a picture or sing a song, to preach a sermon, to do anything for
any reason under heaven but for cash marks you a fanatic and a fool.
To believe, even, that anyone does anything save for the money there
is in it stamps you simple and unsophisticated, indeed. To profess
such belief, save you put your tongue in your cheek, marks you
Long, long, ago mankind put its best strength, its best thought, its
best life, into its works, without regard for the price, simply
because it was its work. And the work so wrought in those queer
old-fashioned days has most curiously endured. There is little danger
that much of our modern, down-to-date work will endure for the very
simple reason that we do not want it to endure. "The world wants
something new." Down-to-date-ism does not want its work to last longer
than the dollar it brings. Never fear, the world is getting something
new! But, though we have grown so bravely away from those queer,
old-fashioned days we have not succeeded yet in growing altogether
away from the works that those old-fashioned days produced. But,
patience, old world—patience—down-to-date-ism may, in time,
accomplish even this.
In those old, old, times, too, it was the fashion for men and women to
mate in love. In love, they planned and builded their homes. In love,
they brought forth children and reared them, with queer, old-fashioned
notions about marriage, to serve the race. In those times, now so
sadly old and out-of-date, men planned and labored for homes and
children and women were home makers and mothers. But the world is now
far from those ancient ways and out-of-date ideals. Marriage has
little to do with home making these modern days. It has almost nothing
to do with children. We have, in our down-to-date-ism, come to be a
nation of childless wives and homeless husbands. We are dwellers in
flats, apartments, hotels, where children would be in the way but dogs
are welcome if only they be useless dogs. We live in houses that are
always for sale or rent. It is our proud boast that we possess nothing
that is not on the market for a price. The thought of selling a home
is not painful for we do not know, the value of a home. We have, for
convenience, to gratify our modern, down-to-date, ever changing
tastes, popularized the divorce court as though a husband or wife of
more than three seasons is old-fashioned and should be discarded for
one of a newer pattern, more in harmony with our modern ideals of
From the down-to-date—the all-the-way-down-to-date woman, I mean—one
gains new and modern ideas of the service that womankind is to render
to the race. Almost it is as though God did not know what he was about
when he made woman. To place a home above a club; a nursery above the
public platform; a fireside above politics; the prattle of children
above newspaper notoriety; the love of boys and girls above the
excitement of social conquest; the work of bearing strong men and true
women for the glory of the race above the near intellectual pursuits
and the attainments of a shallow thinking; all this is to be sadly
old-fashioned. All this is so behind-the-times that one must confess
such shocking taste with all humiliation.
I hereby beg pardon of the down-to-date powers that be, and most
humbly pray that they will graciously forgive my boorishness. I assure
you that, after all, I am not so benighted that I do not realize how
seriously babies would interfere in the affairs of those down-to-date
women who are elevating the race. By all means let the race be
elevated though it perish, childless, in the process. Very soon, now,
womanhood itself will be out-of-date for the world, in this also,
seems to be evolving something new.
So the woman, who knew herself to be a woman, most of all, was tired
of things new and longed, deep in her heart, for the old, old, things
that were built into the very foundation of the race and that no
amount of gilding and trimming and ornamenting can ever cover up or
hide; and no amount of disregarding or ignoring can do away with; lest
indeed the race perish from the earth.
"And when do you take your vacation?" asked a fellow worker as they
were leaving the building after the day's work.
"Not until the last of the month," returned the woman wearily. "And
"Me, oh, I must go Monday! And it's such a shame! I've just received a
charming invitation for two weeks later but no one cares to exchange
time with me. No one, you see, can go on such short notice. I don't
suppose that you—" she paused suggestively.
"I will exchange time with you," said the woman simply.
"Will you really? Now, that is clever of you! Are you
sure that you don't mind?"
"Indeed, I will be glad to get away earlier."
"But can you get ready to go so soon?"
The woman smiled. "I shall do very little getting ready."
The other looked at her musingly. "No, I suppose not, you are so queer
that way. Seems to me I can't find time enough to make new things. One
just must keep up, you know."
"It is settled then?" asked the woman, at the corner where they
"It will be so good of you," murmured the other.
The woman had many invitations to spend her brief vacation with
friends, but, that night, she wrote a letter to the people who lived
in her old home and asked if they would take her for two weeks,
requesting that they telegraph their answer. When the message came,
she wired them to meet her and went by the first train.
At the old home station, her train took a siding at the upper end of
the yards to let the outgoing express pass. From the window where she
sat the woman saw a tall man, dressed in a business suit of quiet
gray, standing on the rear platform of the slowly moving outbound
train and waving his hand to someone on the depot platform. Just a
glimpse she had of him before he passed from sight as her own train
moved ahead to stop at the depot where she was greeted by her host.
Not until they were driving toward her old home did the woman know who
it was that she had seen.
The woman was interested in all that the people had to tell about her
old playmate and asked not a few questions but she was glad that he
had not known of her coming. She was glad that he was gone. The man
and the woman were strangers and the woman did not wish to meet a
stranger. The boy lived, for her, only in her Yesterdays and the woman
told herself that she was glad because she feared that the man, if she
met him, would rob her of the boy. She feared that he would be like so
many that she had been forced to know in the world that denied her
womanhood. She had determined to be for two weeks, as far as it is
possible for a woman to be, just a girl again and she wanted no
company other than the little boy who lived only in the long ago.
As soon as supper was over she retired to her room—to the little room
that had been hers in her childhood—where, before lighting the lamp,
she sat for awhile at the open window looking out into the night,
breathing long and deep of the pure air that was sweetly perfumed with
the odor of the meadows and fields. In the brooding quiet; in the soft
night sounds; in the fragrant breeze that gently touched her hair; she
felt the old, old, forces of life calling to her womanhood and felt
her womanhood stir in answer. For a long time she sat there giving
free rein to the thoughts and longings that, in her city life, she was
forced to suppress.
Rising at last, as though with quick resolution, she lighted her lamp
and prepared for bed; loosening her hair and deftly arranging the
beautiful, shining, mass that fell over her shoulders in a long braid.
Then, smiling as she would have smiled at the play of a child, she
knelt before her trunk and, taking something from its depth, quickly
put out the light again and once more seated herself in a low rocking
chair by the open window.
Had there been any one to see, they would not have understood. Who is
there, indeed, to understand the heart of womanhood? The woman,
sitting in the dark before the window in that room so full of the
memories of her childhood, held close in her arms an ancient doll
whose face had been washed so many times by its little mother that it
was but a smudge of paint.
That night the woman slept as a child sleeps after a long, busy,
happy, childhood day—slept to open her eyes in the morning while the
birds in the trees outside her window were heralding the coming of the
sun. Rising she looked and saw the sky glorious with the light of
dawning day. Flaming streamers of purple and scarlet and silver
floated high over the buildings and trees next door. The last of the
pale stars sank into the ocean of blue and, from behind the old
orchard above the house where the boy lived, long shafts of golden
light shot up as if aimed by some heavenly archer hiding behind the
When the day was fully come, the woman quickly dressed and went out
into the yard. The grass was dew drenched and fragrant under her feet.
The flowers were fresh and inviting. But she did not pause until, out
in the garden, at the farther corner, close by the hedge, she stood
under the cherry tree—sacred cathedral of her Yesterdays.
When she turned again to go back to the house, the woman's face was
shining with the light that glows only in the faces of those women who
know that they are women and who dream the dreams of womanhood.
So the woman spent her days. Down in the little valley by the brook,
that, as it ran over the pebbly bars, drifted in the flickering light
and shade of the willows, slipped between the green banks, or crept
softly beneath the grassy arch, sang its song of the Yesterdays: up in
the orchard beyond the neighboring house where so many, many, times
she had helped the boy play out his dreams; on the porch, in the soft
twilight, watching the stars as they blossomed above while up from the
dusky shadows in the valley below came the call of the whip-poor-will
and the bats on silent wings flitted to and fro; out in the garden
under the cherry tree in the corner near the hedge—in all the loved
haunts of the boy and girl—she spent her days.
And the tired look went out of her eyes. Strength returned to her
weary body, courage to her heart, and calmness to her over-wrought
nerves. Amid those scenes of her Yesterdays she was made ready to go
back to the world that values so highly things that are new, and, in
the strength of the old, old, things to keep the dreams of her
womanhood. And, as she went, there was that in her face that all men
love to see in the face of womankind.
Poor old world! Someday, perhaps, it will awake from its feverish
dream to find that God made some things in the heart of the race too
big to be outgrown.
The heights of Life are fortified. They are guarded by narrow passes
where the world must go single file and where, if one slip from the
trail, he falls into chasms of awful depths; by cliffs of apparent
impassable abruptness which, if in scaling, one lose his head he is
lost; and by false trails that seem to promise easy going but lead in
the wrong direction. Not in careless ease are those higher levels
gained. The upward climb is one of strenuous effort, of desperate
struggle, of hazardous risk. Only those who prove themselves fit may
gain the top.
Somewhere in the life of every man there is a testing time. There is a
trial to prove of what metal he is made. There is a point which, won
or lost, makes him winner or loser in the game. There is a Temptation
that to him is vital.
To pray: "Lead us not into temptation," is divine wisdom for
Temptation lies in wait. There is no need to seek it. And, when once
it is met, there is no dodging the issue or shifting the burden of
responsibility. In the greatest gifts that men possess are the seeds
which, if grown and cultivated, yield poisonous fruit. In the very
forces that men use for greatest good are the elements of their own
destruction. And, whatever the guise in which Temptation comes, the
tempter is always the same—Self. Temptation spells always the mastery
of or the surrender to one's self.
Once I stood on a mighty cliff with the ocean at my feet. Ear below,
the waves broke with a soothing murmur that scarce could reach my ears
and the gray gulls were playing here and there like shadows of half
forgotten dreams. In the distance, the fishing boats rolled lazily on
the gentle swell and the sunlight danced upon the surface of the sea.
Then, as I looked, on the far horizon the storm chieftain gathered his
clans for war. I saw the red banners flashing. I watched the hurried
movements of the dark and threatening ranks. I heard the rumbling
tread of the tramping feet. And, like airy messengers sent to warn me,
the gusts of wind came racing and wailed and sobbed about the cliff
because I would not heed their warning. The startled boats in the
offing spread their white wings and scurried to the shelter of their
harbor nests. The gray gulls vanished. The sunlight danced no more
upon the surface of the sea. And then, as the battle front rolled
above my head, the billows, lashed to fury by the wind and flinging in
the air the foam of their own madness, came rushing on to try their
strength against the grim and silent rock. Again and again they hurled
their giant forms upon the cliff, until the roar of the surf below
drowned even the thunder in the clouds above and the solid earth
trembled with the shock, but their very strength was their ruin and
they were dashed in impotent spray from the stalwart object of their
assault. And at last, when the hours of the struggle were over; when
the storm soldiers had marched on to their haunts behind the hills;
when the gulls had returned to their sports; and the sun shone again
on the waters; I saw the bosom of the ocean rise and fall like the
breast of an angry child exhausted with its passion while the cliff,
standing stern and silent, seemed to look, with mingled pride and
pity, upon its foe now moaning at its feet.
Like that cliff, I say, is the soul of a man who, in temptation, gains
the mastery of himself. The storm clouds of life may gather darkly
over his head but he shall not tremble. The lightning of the world's
wrath and the thunder of man's disapproval shall not move him. The
waves of passion that so try the strength of men shall be dashed in
impotent spray from his stalwart might. And when, at last, the storms
of life are over—when the sun shines again on the waters as it shone
before the fight began—he shall still stand, calm and unmoved, master
of himself and men.
Because those things are true, I say: that Temptation is one of the
Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life.
And the man knew these things—knew them as well as you know them. In
the full knowledge of these things he came to his testing time. To win
or to lose, in the full knowledge of all that victory or defeat meant
to him, he went to his Temptation.
It was early winter when his time came but he knew that first morning
after he had returned from his vacation that it was coming. The moment
he entered the room to take up again the task of putting his dreams
into action, he saw her and felt her power for she was one of those
women who compel recognition of their sex as the full noonday sun
compels recognition of its light and heat.
An hour later her duties brought her to him, and, for a few moments,
they stood face to face. And the man, while he instructed her in the
work that she was to do, felt the strength of her power even as a
strong swimmer feels the current of the stream. Through her eyes, in
her voice, in her presence, this woman challenged the man, made him
more conscious of her than of his work. The subtle, insinuating,
luring, strength of her beat upon him, enveloped him, thrilled him. As
she turned to go back to her place, his eyes followed her and he knew
that he was approaching a great crisis in his life. He knew that soon
or late he would be forced into a battle with himself and that
tremendous stakes would be at issue. He knew that victory would give
him increased power, larger capacity, and a firmer grip upon the
enduring principles of life or defeat would make of him a slave, with
enfeebled spirit, humiliated and ashamed.
Every day, in the weeks that followed, the man was forced to see
her—to talk with her—to feel her strength. And every day he felt
himself carried irresistibly onward toward the testing that he knew
must come. He was conscious, too, that the woman, also, knew and
understood and that it pleased her so to use her power. She willed
that he should feel her presence. In a thousand subtle forms she
repeated her challenge. In ways varied without number she called to
him, lured him, led him. To do this seemed a necessity to her. She was
one of those women whose natures seem to demand this expression of
themselves. Instinctively, she made all men with whom she came in
contact feel her power and, instinctively—unconsciously, perhaps—she
gloried in her strength.
If the man could have had other things in common with her it would
have been different. If there had been, as well, the appeal of the
intellect—of the spirit—if the beauty of her had been to him an
expression of something more than her sex—if there had been ideals,
hopes, longings, fears, even sorrow or regret, common to both, it
would have been different. But there was nothing. Often the man sought
to find something more but there was nothing. So he permitted himself
to be carried onward by a current against which, when the time should
come, he knew he would need to fight with all his might. And always,
as the current swept him onward toward the point where he must make
the decisive struggle, he felt the woman's power over him growing ever
At last it came.
It was Saturday. The man left the place where he worked earlier than
usual that he might walk to his rooms for he felt the need of physical
action. He felt a strong desire to run, to leap, to use his splendid
muscles that throbbed and exulted with such vigorous life. As he
strode along the streets, beyond the business district, he held his
head high, he looked full into the faces of the people he met with a
bold challenging look. The cool, bracing air, of early winter was
grateful on his glowing skin and he drank long deep breaths of it as
one would drink an invigorating tonic. Every nerve and fiber of him
was keenly, gloriously, alive with the strength of his splendid
manhood. Every nerve and fiber of him was conscious of her and exulted
in that which he had seen in her eyes when she had told him that she
would be at home that evening and that she would be glad to have him
call. With all his senses abnormally alert, he saw and noted
everything about him. A thousand trivial, commonly unseen things,
along his way and in the faces, dress, and manner, of the people whom
he met, caught his eye. Yet, always, vividly before him, was the face
of her whose power he had felt. Under it all, he was conscious that
this was his testing time. He knew—or it would have been no
Temptation—it would have been no trial. Impatiently he glanced at his
watch and, as he neared the place where he lived, quickened his
stride, springing up the steps of the house at last with a burst of
In the front hall, at the foot of the stairs, the little daughter of
his landlady greeted him with shouts of delight and, with the
masterful strength of four feminine years, dragged him, a willing
captive, through the open door to her mother's pleasant sitting room.
She was a beautiful, dainty, little miss with hair and eyes very like
that playmate of the man's Yesterdays and it was his custom to pay
tribute to her charms in the coin of childhood as faithfully and as
regularly as he paid his board.
Seated now, with the baby on his lap and the smiling mother looking
on, he produced, after the usual pretense of denial and long search
through many pockets, the weekly offering. And then, as though some
guardian angel willed it so, the little girl did a thing that she had
never done before. Putting two plump and dimpled arms about his neck
she said gravely: "Mamma don't like me to kiss folks, you know, but
she said she wouldn't care if I kissed you" Whereupon a sweet
little rosebud mouth was offered trustingly, with loving innocence, to
A crimson flame flushed the man's face. With a laugh of embarrassment
and a quick impulsive hug he held the child close and accepted her
Then he went quickly upstairs to his room.
It was sometime later when the man began to prepare for the evening to
which he had looked forward with such eagerness and all his fierce and
driving haste was gone. The mad tumult of his manhood strength was
stilled. He moved, now, with a purpose, sullen, grim, defiant. The
fight was on. While he was still vividly conscious of the woman whose
compelling power he felt, he felt, now, as well, the pure touch of
those baby lips. While he still saw the light in the woman's eyes and
sensed the meaning of her smile, he saw and sensed as clearly the
loving innocence that had shown in the little girl's face as it was
lifted up to his. Upon his manhood's strength lay the woman's luring
spell. Upon his manhood the baby's kiss lay as a seal of
sacredness—upon his lips it burned as a coal of holy fire. The fight
The man's life was not at all an easy life. Beside his work and his
memories there was little to hold him true. Since that day when he
stood face to face with Life and, for the first time, knew that he was
a man, he had been, save for a few friends among the men of his own
class, alone. The exacting demands of his work had left him little
time or means to spend in seeking social pleasures or in the delights
of fellowship with those for whose fellowship he would have cared,
even had the way to their society been, at that period of his life,
open to him. He told himself, always, that sometime in the future,
when he had worked out still farther his dreams, he would find the way
to the social life that he would enjoy but until then, he must, of
necessity, live much alone. And now—now—the testing time—the crisis
in his life—had come. Even as it must come to every man who knows his
manhood so it had come to him.
The man was not deceived. He knew the price he would pay in defeat.
But, even while he knew this—even while he knew what defeat would
mean to him, so great was her power that he went on making ready to go
to her. With the kiss of the little girl upon his lips he made ready
to go to the woman. It was as though he had drifted too far and the
current had become too strong for him to turn back. Thus do such men
yield to such temptations. Thus are men betrayed by the very strength
of their manhood.
With mad determination he waited the hour. Uneasily he paced his room.
He tried to read. He threw himself into a chair only to arise and move
about again. Every few moments he impatiently consulted his watch. At
every step in the hall, without his door, he started as if alarmed. He
became angry, in a blind rage, with the woman, with himself and even
with the little girl. At last, when it was time to go, he threw on his
overcoat, took his hat and gloves, and, with a long, careful look
about the room, laid his hand on the door. He knew that the man who
was going out that evening would not come hack to his room the same
man. He knew that that man could never come back. He felt as
though he was giving up his apartments to a stranger. So he hesitated,
with his hand upon the door, looking long and carefully about. Then
quickly he threw open the door and, down the hall and down the stairs,
went as one who has counted the cost and determined recklessly.
[Illustration: Two dimpled arms went around his neck]
The man had opened the front door and was about to pass out when a
sweet voice called: "Wait, oh, wait."
Turning, he saw a tiny figure in white flying toward him.
The little girl, all ready for bed, had caught sight of him and, for
the moment, had escaped from her mother's attention.
The man shut the door and caught her up. Two dimpled arms went around
his neck and the rosebud mouth was lifted to his lips.
Then the mother came and led her away while the man stood watching her
as she went.
Would he ever dare touch those baby lips again he wondered. Could he,
he asked himself, could he face again those baby eyes? Could he ever
again bear the feeling of that soft little body in his arms?
At the farther end of the hall, she turned, and, seeing him still
there, waved her hand with a merry call: "Good-bye, good-bye."
Then she passed from his sight and, in place of this little girl of
rosy, dimpled, flesh, the startled man saw a dainty maiden of his
Yesterdays, standing under a cherry tree with fallen petals of the
delicate blossoms in her wayward hair, and with eyes that looked at
him very gravely and a little frightened as, for the shaggy coated
minister, he spoke the solemn words: "I pronounce you husband and wife
and anything that God has done must never be done any different by
anybody forever and ever, Amen." By some holy magic the kiss of the
little girl became the kiss of his play wedding wife of the long ago.
Very slowly the man went up the stairs again to his room; there to
spend the evening not as he had planned, when he was in the mastering
grip of self, but safe in the quiet harbor of the Yesterdays where the
storms of life break not or are felt only in those gentle ripples that
scarce can stir the surface of the sea.
The fierce passion that had shaken the very soul of him passed on as
the storm clouds pass. In the calm of the days that were gone, he
rested as one who has fought a good fight and, safe from out the
turmoil and the danger, has come victoriously into the peace that
passeth all understanding.
In the sweet companionship of his childhood mate, with the little girl
who lived next door, the man found again, that night, his better self.
In the boy of the long-ago, he found again his ideals of manhood. In
his Yesterdays, he found strength to stand against the power of the
temptation that assailed him.
Blessed, blessed Yesterdays!
* * * * *
It was the time of the first snow when, again, the woman sat alone in
her room before the fire, with her door fast locked and the shades
drawn close, even as on that other night—the night when her womanhood
began in dreams.
In the soft dusk, while the shadows of the flickering light came and
went upon the walls, and the quiet was broken only by the tick, tick,
tick, of the timepiece held in the chubby arms of the fat cupid on the
mantle, the woman sat very still. Face to face with her Temptation,
she sat alone and very still.
For several months, the woman had seen her testing time approaching.
That day when, looking into her eyes, the man of authority had so
kindly bidden her leave her work for the afternoon, she had known that
this time would come. In the passing weeks she had realized that the
day was approaching when she must decide both for him and for herself.
She had not sought to prevent the coming of that day. She had
knowingly permitted it to come. She was even pleased in a way to watch
it drawing near. Not once, in those weeks, had he failed to be very
kind or ceased to make her feel that he understood. In a hundred ways,
as their work called them together and gave opportunity, he had told
her, in voice and look and the many ways of wordless speech, that the
time was coming. He had been very careful, too—very careful—that, in
their growing friendship, the world should have no opportunity to
misjudge. And the woman, seeing his care, was grateful and valued his
friendship the more.
So had come at last that Saturday when, with low spoken words, at the
close of the day's work, he had asked if he might call upon her the
following evening; saying gravely, as he looked down into her face,
that he had something very important to tell her. And she had gravely
said that he might come; while her blushes to him confessed that she
knew what it was of importance that he would say.
Scarcely had she reached her home that afternoon when a messenger boy
appeared with a great armful of roses and, as she arranged the flowers
on her table, burying her flushed face again and again in their
fragrant coolness, she had told herself that to-morrow, when he asked
her to cross with him the threshold of that old, old door, she would
answer: yes. But, even as she so resolved, she had been conscious of
something in her heart that denied the resolution of her mind.
And so it was that, as she sat alone before her fire that night, she
knew that she was face to face with a crisis in her life. So it was
that she had come to the testing time and knew that she must win or
lose alone. In the sacred privacy of her room, with the perfume of his
roses filling the air and the certainty that when he came on the
morrow she must answer, she looked into the future to see, if she
might, what it held for her and for him if she should cross with him
the threshold of that old, old, door.
He was a man whose love would honor any woman—this she knew. And he
was a man of power and influence in the world—a man who could provide
for his mate a home of which any woman would be proud to be the
mistress. Nor could she doubt his love for nothing else could have
persuaded such a man to ask of a woman that which he was coming to ask
Beginning with her answer on the following evening the woman traced,
in thought, all that would follow. She saw herself leaving the life
that she had never desired because it could not recognize her
womanhood and, in fancy, received the congratulations of her friends.
She lived, in her imagination, those busy days when she would be
making ready for the day that was to come. Very clearly, she pictured
to herself the wedding; it would be a quiet wedding, she told herself,
but as beautiful and complete as cultured taste and wealth could make
it. Then they would go away, for a time, to those cities and lands
beyond the sea that, all her life, she had longed to visit. When they
returned, it would be to that beautiful old home of his family—the
home that she had so often, in passing, admired; and in that home, so
long occupied by him alone, she would be the proud mistress. And
then—then—would come her children—their children—and so all the
fulfillment of her womanhood's dreams.
But the woman's face, as she looked into a future that seemed as
bright as ever woman dared to dream, was troubled. As she traced the
way that lay so invitingly before her, this woman, who knew herself to
be a woman, was sad. Her heart, still, was as an empty room—a room
that is furnished and ready but without a tenant. Deep within her
woman heart she knew that this man was not the one for whom she waited
by the open door. She did not know who it was for whom she waited. She
knew only that this man was not the one. And she wished—oh, how she
wished—that this was not so. Because of her longing—because of the
dreams of her womanhood—because of her empty heart—she was resolved
to cross with this man, who was not the man for whom she waited, the
threshold that she could not cross alone. Honor, regard, respect, the
affection of a friend, she could give him—did give him indeed—but
she knew that this was not enough for a woman to give the man with
whom she would enter that old, old, door.
Rising, the woman went to her mirror to study long and carefully the
face and form that she saw reflected there. She saw in the glass, a
sweet, womanly, beauty, expressing itself in the color and tone of the
clean carved features; in the dainty texture of the clear skin and
soft, brown, hair; and in the rounded fullness and graceful lines of
the finely moulded body. Perfect physical strength and health was
there—vital, glowing, appealing. And culture of mind, trained
intelligence, thoughtfulness, was written in that womanly face. And,
with it all, there was good breeding, proud blood, with gentleness of
This woman knew that she was well equipped to stand by this man's side
however high his place in life. She was well fitted to become the
mistress of his home and the mother of his children. She had guarded
well the choicest treasures of her womanhood. She had squandered none
of the wealth that was committed to her. She had held it all as a
sacred trust to be kept by her for that one with whom she should go
through the old, old door. And she had determined that, to-morrow
evening, she would give herself, with all the riches of her womanhood,
to this one who could give her, in return, the home of her dreams.
While her heart was still as an empty room, she had determined to
cross, with this man, the threshold over which no woman may again
Turning from her mirror, slowly the woman went to the great bunch of
roses that stood upon her table. They were his roses; and they fitly
expressed, in their costly beauty, the life that he was coming to
offer to her. Very deliberately she bent over them, burying her face
in the mass of rich color, inhaling deeply their heavy fragrance.
Thoughtfully she considered them and all that, to her, they
symbolized. But there was no flush upon her cheek now. There was no
warmth in the light of her eyes. No glad excitement thrilled her.
There was no trembling in her touch—no eager joyousness in her
Suddenly, some roisterer, passing along the street with his
companions, laughed a loud, reckless, half drunken, laugh that sounded
in the quiet darkness with startling clearness.
The woman sprang back from the flowers as though a poisonous serpent,
hidden in their fragrant beauty, had struck her. With a swift look of
horror on her white face she glanced fearfully about the room.
Again the laugh sounded; this time farther down the street.
The woman sank into her chair, trembling with a nameless fear. To her,
that laugh in the dark had sounded as the laughter of the crowd that
day when she was forced so close to the outcast women who were in the
hands of the police.
"But those women," argued the frightened woman with herself, "sell
themselves to all men for a price."
"And you," answered the heart of her womanhood, "and you, also, will
sell yourself to one man, for a price. The wealth of womanhood
committed to you—all the treasures that you have guarded so
carefully—you will sell now to this good man for the price that he
can pay. If he could not pay the price—if he came to you empty
handed—would you say yes?"
"But I will be true to him," argued the woman. "I will give myself to
him and to him only as wife to husband."
"You are being false to him already," replied her woman heart, "for
you are selling yourself, not giving yourself to him. You are planning
to deceive him. You would make him think that he is taking to himself
a wife when, for a price, you are selling to him—something higher
than a public woman, it is true—but something, as true, very much
lower than a wife. What matter whether the price be in gold and silver
or in property and social position—it is a price. Except he pay you
your price he could not have you."
And what, thought the woman, what if—after she had crossed the
threshold with this good man—after she had entered with him into the
life that lay on the other side that door—what if, then, that other
one should come? What if the one for whom her empty heart should have
waited were to come and stand alone before that door through which she
could not go back? And the children—the dear children of her
dreams—what of them? Had not her unborn children the right to demand
that they be born in love? And if she should say, "no," to this
man—if she should turn once more away from the open door, through
which he would ask her to go with him—what then? What if that one who
had delayed his coming so long should never come?
And then the woman, who knew herself to be a woman, saw the lonely
years come and go. While she waited without the door that led to the
life of her womanhood's dreams, she saw the beauty that her mirror
revealed slowly fading—saw her firm, smooth, cheeks become thin and
wrinkled, her bright eyes grow dim and pale, her soft, brown, hair
turn thin and gray, her body grow lean and stooped. All the wealth of
her womanhood that she had treasured with such care she saw become as
dust, worthless. All the things of her womanhood she would be forced
to spend in that life that denied her womanhood, and then, when she
had nothing left, she would be cast aside as a worn out machine. Never
to know the joy of using her womanhood! Never to have a home! Never to
feel the touch of a baby hand! To lay down the wealth of her woman
life and go empty and alone in her shriveled old age! With an
exclamation, the woman sprang to her feet and stretched out her arms.
"No, no, no," she whispered fiercely, "anything, anything, but that. I
will be true to him. I will be a faithful wife. He shall never know.
He shall not feel that he is cheated. And perhaps—" she dropped into
her chair again and buried her face in her hands as she
whispered—"perhaps, bye and bye, God will let me love him. Surely,
God will let me love him, bye and bye."
Sometime later, the woman did a strange thing. Going to her desk,
softly, as a thief might go, she unlocked a drawer and took from it a
small jewel case. For several moments she stood under the light
holding the little velvet box in her hand unopened. Then, lifting the
lid, she looked within and, presently, from among a small collection
of trinkets that had no value save to her who knew their history, took
a tiny brass ring. Placing the box on the dresser, she tried,
musingly, to fit the little ring on her finger. On each finger in turn
she tried, but it would go only part way on the smallest one; and she
smiled sadly to see how she had grown since that day under the cherry
Turning again, she went slowly across the room to the fire that now
was a bed of glowing coals. For a little she stood looking down into
the fire. Then, slowly, she stretched forth her hand to drop the ring.
But she could not do it. She could not.
Returning the little circle of brass to its place among the trinkets
in the jewel box, the woman prepared for bed.
The timepiece in the arms of the fat cupid ticked loudly now in the
darkness that was only faintly relieved by the glowing embers of the
With sleepless eyes the woman who had determined to give herself
without love lay staring into the dusk. But she did not see the
darkness. She did not see the grotesque and ghostly objects in the
gloom. Nor did she see the somber shadows that came and went as the
dying fire gained fitful strength. The woman saw the bright sun
shining on the meadows and fields of the long ago. She saw again the
scenes of her childhood. Again, as she stood under the cherry tree
that showered its delicate blossoms down with every puff of air, she
looked with loving confidence into the face of the brown cheeked boy
who spoke so seriously those childish vows. Again, upon her lips she
felt that kiss of the childhood mating.
The soft light of the fire grew fainter and fainter as the embers
slowly turned to ashes. Could it be that the woman, in her temptation,
would let the sacred fire of love burn altogether out? Must the
memories of her Yesterdays turn to ashes too?
The last faint glow was almost gone when the woman slipped quickly out
of her bed and, in the darkness, groped her way across the room to the
desk where she found the little jewel case.
And I think that the fat cupid who was neglecting his bow and arrows
to wrestle with time must have been pleased to see the woman, a little
later, when the dying fire flared out brightly for a moment, lying
fast asleep, while, upon the little finger of the hand that lay close
to her smiling lips, there was a tiny circle of brass.
In childhood, the Master of Life exalts Life. A baby in its mother's
arms is the fullest expression of Divinity.
It was Christmas time; that season of the year when, for a brief
period, the world permits the children to occupy the place in the
affairs and thoughts of men that is theirs by divine right.
In the birth of that babe in Bethlehem, the Giver of Life placed the
seal of his highest approval upon childhood and decreed that, until
the end of time, babies should be the true rulers of mankind and the
lawful heirs of heaven. And it is so, that the power of Mary's babe,
from his manger cradle throne, has been more potent on earth in the
governments of men than the strength of many emperors with their armed
It is written large in Nature's laws that mankind should be governed
by love of children. The ruling purpose and passion of the race can
be, with safety, nothing less than the purpose and passion of all
created things—of even the trees and plants—the purpose to reproduce
its kind—the passion for its offspring. The world should be ruled by
boys and girls.
But Mammon has usurped the throne of Life. His hosts have trampled the
banners of loyal love in the dust. His forces have compelled the
rightful rulers of the world to abdicate. But, even as gross
materialism has never succeeded in altogether denying Divinity, so,
for a few days each year, at Christmas time, childhood asserts its
claims and compels mankind to render, at least a show, of homage.
Poor, blind, deceived and betrayed, old world; to so fear a foolish
and impotent anarchism that spends its strength in vain railings
against governments while you pay highest honors and present your
choicest favors to those traitors who filch your wealth of young life
under pretense of loyal service. The real anarchists, old world, are
not those who loudly vociferate to the rabble on the street corners
but those who, operating under the laws of your approval, betray their
country in its greatest need—its need of children. The real
anarchists, old world, are those whose banners are made red by the
blood of babies; who fatten upon the labor of their child slaves; and
who seek to rule by the slaughter of children even as that savage of
old whose name in history is hated by every lover of the race.
Regicides at heart, they are, for they kill, for a price, the God
ordained rulers of mankind. A child is nearer, by many years, to God
than the grown up rebel who traitorously holds his own mean interests
superior to the holy will of Life as vested in the sacred person of a
boy or girl.
To prate, in empty swelling words, of the sacredness of life, the
power of religion, the dignity of state, the importance of commercial
interests and the natural wealth of the nation, while ignoring the
sacredness, power, dignity, importance, and wealth of childhood, is
evidence of a criminal thoughtlessness.
Children and Life are one. They are the product, the producers, and
the preservers of Life. They exalt Life. They interpret Life. Without
them Life has no meaning. The child is no more the possession of its
parents than the parents are the property of the child. Children are
the just creditors of the human race. Mankind owes them everything.
They owe mankind nothing. A baby has no debts.
Nor is the passion for children satisfied only in bearing them. A
woman who does not love all babies is unsafe to trust with one
of her own flesh. A man who does not love all children is unfit
to father offspring of his own blood. One need not die to orphan a
child. One need only refuse to care for it. One need only place other
interests first. Men and women who desire to become parents will not
go unsatisfied in a world that is so full of boys and girls for whom
there are neither fathers nor mothers.
The Master of Life said: "Except ye become as little children." His
false disciple—world—teaches: "Except ye become grown up." But the
laws of Life are irrevocable. If a man, heeding the world, grows up to
possess the earth, his holdings, at the last, are reduced—if he be
one of earth's big men—to six feet of it, only; while the man who
never grows up inherits a heaven that the false kings of earth know
When the man left his work, at close of the day before Christmas, he
was as eager as he had been that Saturday when he faced the crisis of
his life. With every sense keenly alive, he plunged into the throng of
belated shoppers that filled the streets and crowded into the gaily
decked stores until it overflowed into the streets again. Nearly
everyone was carrying bundles and packages for it was too late, now,
to depend upon the overworked delivery wagons. In almost every face,
the Christmas gladness shone. In nearly every voice, there was that
spirit of fellowship and cheery good will that is invoked by Christmas
thoughts and plans. Through the struggling but good natured crowd, the
man worked his way into a store and, when he forced his way out again,
his arms, too, were full. For a moment he waited on the corner for a
car then, with a look of smiling dismay at the number of people who
were also waiting, he turned away, determined to walk. He felt, too,
that the exercise in the keen air would be a relief to the buoyant
strength and gladness that clamored for expression.
As he swung so easily along the snowy pavement, with the strength of
his splendid manhood revealed in every movement and the cleanness of
his heart and mind illuminating his countenance, there were many among
those he met who, while they smiled in sympathy with his spirit,
passed from their smiles to half sighs of envy and regret.
With the impatient haste of a boy, the man dashed up the steps of his
boarding house and ran up stairs to his room; chuckling in triumph
over his escape from the watchful eyes of the little daughter of the
house. For the first time since his boyhood the man was to have the
blessed privilege of sharing the Christmas cheer of a home.
When the evening meal was over and it was time for his little playmate
to go to sleep, he retired again to his room, almost as excited, in
his eager impatience for the morning, as the child herself. Safe
behind his closed door, he began to unwrap his Christmas packages and
parcels that he might inspect again his purchases and taste, by
anticipation, the pleasure he would know when on the morrow the child
would discover his gifts. Very carefully he cut the strings from the
last and largest package and, tenderly removing the wrappings,
revealed a doll almost as tall as the little girl herself. It was as
large, at least, as a real flesh and blood baby.
The wifeless, homeless, man who has never purchased a doll for some
little child mother has missed an educational experience of more value
than many of the things that are put in text books to make men wise.
Rather awkwardly the man held the big doll in his arms, smoothing its
dress and watching the eyes that opened and closed so lifelike;
cautiously he felt for and found that vital spot which if pressed
brought forth a startling: "papa—mama."
As the dear familiar words of childhood sounded in the lonely bachelor
room, the man felt a queer something grip his heart. Tenderly he laid
the doll upon his big bed and stood for a little looking down upon it;
a half-serious, half-whimsical, expression on his face but in his eyes
a tender light. Then, adjusting his reading lamp, he seated himself
and attempted to busy his strangely disturbed mind with a book. But
the sentences were meaningless. At every period, his eyes turned to
that little figure on the bed, with its too lifelike face and hair and
form while the thoughts of the author he was trying to read were
crowded out by other thoughts that forced themselves upon him with a
persistency and strength that would not be denied.
The weeks following the testing of the man had been to him very
wonderful weeks. He seemed to be living in a new world, or, rather,
for him, the same old world was wonderfully enriched and glorified.
Never had he felt his manhood's strength stirring so within him. Never
had his mind been so alert, his spirit so bold. He moved among men
with a new power that was felt by all who came in touch with him;
though no one knew what it was. He was conscious of a fuller mastery
of his work; a clearer grasp of the world events. As one, climbing in
the mountains, reaches a point higher than he has ever before attained
and gains thus a wider view of the path he has traveled, of the
surrounding country, and of the peak that is the object of his climb
as well, so this man, in his life climb, had reached a higher point
and therefore gained a wider outlook. It is only when men stay in the
lowlands of self interest or abide in the swamps of self indulgence
that their views of life are narrowly circumscribed. Let a man master
himself but once and he stands on higher ground, with wider outlook,
with keener vision, and clearer atmosphere.
The man had always seen Life in its relation to himself; he came, now,
to consider his own life in its relation to all Life; which point of
view has all the difference that lies between a low valley and the
mountain peaks that shut it in. He felt his relation, too, not alone
to all human life but to all created things. With everything that
lived he felt himself kin. With the very dray horses on the street,
dragging with patient courage their heavily loaded trucks; with the
stray dog that dodged in and out among the wheels and hoofs of the
crowded traffic; even with the sparrow that perched for a moment on
the ledge outside the window near his desk, he felt a kinship that was
new and strange. Had they not all, he reflected, horse and dog and
sparrow and man—had they not all one thing in common—Life? Was not
Life the one thing supreme to each? Were they not, each one, a part of
the whole? Was not the supreme object of every life, of all life, to
live? Is the life of a man, he asked himself, more mysterious than the
life of a horse? Can science—blind, pretentious, childish
science—explain the life of a dog with less uncertainty than it can
explain the life of a man? Or can the scientist make a laboratory
sparrow more easily than he can produce a laboratory man? With the
very trees that lined the streets near where he lived, he felt a
kinship for they, too, within their trunks and limbs, had life—they,
too, were parts of the whole even as he was a part—they, too,
belonged even as he belonged.
Thus the man saw Life from a loftier height than he had ever before
attained. Thus he sensed, as never before, the bigness, the fullness,
the grandness, the awfulness, of Life. And so the man became very
humble with a proud humbleness. He became very proud with a humble
pride. He became even as a child again.
And then, standing thus upon this new height that he had gained, the
man looked back into the ages that were gone and forward into the ages
that were to come and so saw himself and his age a link between the
past and the future; linking that which had been to that which was to
be. All that Life had ever been—the sum of all since the unknown
beginning—was in the present. In the present, also, was all that Life
could ever be, even unto the unknown end. Within his age and within
himself he felt stirring all the mighty forces that, since the
beginning, had wrought in the making of man. Within his age and within
himself he felt the forces that would work out in the race results as
far beyond his present vision as his age was beyond the ages of the
most distant past.
Since the day when he had first realized his manhood, the working out
of his dreams had been to the man the supreme object of his life. He
had put his life, literally, into his work. For his work he had lived.
But that Christmas eve, when his mind and heart were so filled with
thoughts of childhood and those new emotions were aroused within him,
he saw that the supreme thing in his life must be Life itself. He saw
that not by putting his life into his work, would he most truly live,
but by making his work contribute to his life. He realized that the
greatest achievements of man are but factors in Life—that the one
supreme, dominant, compelling, purpose of Life is to live—to
live—to live—to express itself in Life—that the only
adequate expression of Life is Life—that the passion of Life
is to pass itself on—from age to age, from generation to generation,
in a thousand thousand forms, in a thousand thousand ages, in a
thousand thousand peoples, Life had passed itself on—was even then
passing itself on—seeking ever fuller expression of itself; seeking
ever to perfect itself; seeking ever to produce itself. He saw that
the things that men do come out of their lives even as the plants come
out of the soil into which the seed is dropped; and, that, even as the
dead and decaying plant goes back into the earth from which it came,
to enrich and renew the ground, so man's work, that comes out of his
life, is reabsorbed again into his life to enrich and renew it. He
realized, now, that the object of his life must be not his work but
Life itself—that his effort must be not to do but to be—that he must
accomplish not a great work but a great Life.
It was inevitable that the man should come to see, also, that the
supreme glory of his manhood's strength was in this: the reproduction
of his kind. The man life that ran so strongly in his veins, that
throbbed so exultantly in his splendid body, that thrilled so keenly
in his nerves—the man life that he had from his parents and from
countless generations before—the life that made him kin to all his
race and to all created things—this life he must pass on. This was
the supreme glory of his manhood: that he could pass it on—that he
could give it to the ages that were to come.
From the heights which he attained that Christmas eve, the man laughed
at the empty, swelling, words of those who talk about the sacredness
of work—who prattle as children about leaving a great work when they
are gone—who gibber as fools about contributing a great work to the
If the men of a race will perfect the manhood strength of the race; if
they will exalt their manhood power; if they will fulfill the mission
of life by perfecting and producing ever more perfect lives; if they
will endeavor to contribute to the ages to come stronger, better, men
than themselves; why, the work of the world will be done—even as the
plant produces its flowers and fruit, the work of the world will be
done. In the exaltation of Life is the remedy for the evils that
threaten the race. The reformations that men are always attempting in
the social, religious, political, and industrial world are but
attempts to change the flavor or quality of the fruit when it is
ripening on the tree. The true remedy lies in the life of the tree; in
the soil from which it springs; in the source from which the fruit
derives its quality and flavor. In the appreciation of Life, in the
passion of Life, in the production of Life, in the perfection of Life,
in the exaltation of Life, is the salvation of human kind. For this,
and this alone, man has right to live—has right to his place and part
All this the man saw that Christmas eve because the kiss of the little
girl, on that night of his temptation, had awakened something in his
manhood that was greater than the dreams he had been denying himself
to work out. The friendship of the child had revealed to him this
deeper truth of Life; that there are, for all true men,
accomplishments greater than the rewards of labor. The baby had taught
him that the legitimate fruit of love is more precious to Life, by
far, than the wealth and honors that the world bestows—that, indeed,
the greatest wealth, the highest honors, are not in the power of the
world to give; nor are they to be won by toil. In his thinking, this
man, too, was led by a little child.
The man's thoughts were interrupted by a knock at his door.
It was the little girl's mother; to tell him, as she had promised,
that the child was safely asleep.
With his arms filled with presents, the man went softly down the
When all had been arranged for the morning, the man returned again to
his room; but not to sleep. There was in his heart a feeling of
reverent pride and gladness, as though he had been permitted to assist
in a religious rite, and, with his own hands, to place an offering
upon a sacred altar. And, if you will understand me, the man was
right. Whatever else Christmas has come to mean to the grown up world,
its true meaning can be nothing less than this.
Nor did the man again turn to his book or attempt to take up the train
of thought that had so interfered with his reading. Something more
compelling than any printed page—something more insistant than his
own thoughts of Life and its meaning—lured him far away from his
grown up days—took him back again into his days that were gone. Alone
in his room that Christmas eve, the man went back, once more, to his
Yesterdays—back to a Christmas in his Yesterdays.
Once again, his boyhood home was the scene of busy preparations for
the Christmas gaieties. Once again, the boy, tucked snugly under the
buffalo robe, drove with his parents away through the white fields to
the distant town while the music in his heart kept time to the melody
of the jingling bells. Once again, he experienced the happy perplexity
of selecting—with mother's help—a present for father while father
obligingly went to see a man on business and of choosing—with
father's assistance—a gift for mother while she rested in a far
corner of the store. And then, once again, he faced the trying
question: what should he get for the little girl who lived next door.
What, indeed, could he get for her but a beautiful new
doll—one with brown hair, very like the little girl's own, and brown
eyes that opened and closed as natural as life.
The next day the boy went, with his father and the little girl and her
uncle, in the big sleigh, to the woods to find a tree for the
Christmas "exercises" at the church; and, in the afternoon, in company
with the older people, helped to make the wreaths of evergreen and
deck the tree with glittering tinsel; while the little girl strung
long strings of snowy pop corn and labored earnestly at the sweet task
of filling mosquito bar stockings with candy and nuts.
Then came that triumphant Christmas eve, when, before the assembled
Sunday school and the crowded church, the boy took part, with his
class, in the entertainment and sat, with wildly beating heart, while
the little girl, all alone, sang a Christmas carol; and proud he was,
indeed, when the applause for the little singer was so long and loud.
And then, when the farmer Santa Claus had distributed the last
stocking of candy, the boy and the girl, with their elders, went home
together, in the clear light of the stars; while, across the white
fields, came the sound of gay laughter and happy voices mingled with
the ringing music of the sleigh bells—growing fainter and fainter—as
friends and neighbors went their several ways.
But, best of all—by far the best of all—was that Christmas morning
at home. At the first hint of gray light in the winter sky, the boy
was awake and out of bed to gather his Christmas harvest; hailing each
toy and game and book with exclamations of delight and arousing all
the house with his shouts of: "Merry Christmas."
The foolish, grown up, old world has a saying that we value most the
things that we win for ourselves by toil and hardship; but, believe
me, it is not so. The real treasures of earth are the things that are
won by the toil of those who bring to us, without price, the fruits of
their labor as tokens of their love.
Very early, that long ago Christmas morning, the boy went over to the
little girl's house; for his happiness would not be complete until he
could share it with her. And the man, who, alone in his bachelor room
that Christmas eve, dreamed of his Yesterdays, saw again, with
startling clearness, his boyhood mate as she stood in the doorway
greeting him with shouts of, "Merry Christmas," as he went toward her
through the snow; and the heart of the man beat quicker at the lovely
vision—even as the heart of the boy—for she held, close in her
little mother arms, the new addition to her family of dolls—his gift.
The lonely man, that night, realized, as he had never realized before,
how full, at that moment, was the cup of the boy's proud happiness. He
realized and understood.
I wonder—do you, also, understand?
In the still house, the big clock in the lower hall struck the hour.
The man in his lonely room listened, counting the
It was Christmas.
* * * * *
And the woman, also, when she had passed safely through her trial,
looked out upon Life from a point higher than she had ever reached
before. Never before had Life, to her, looked so wide.
But the woman did not feel stronger after the crisis through which she
had passed; she felt, more keenly than before, her weakness. More than
ever, she felt the need of a strength that she could not find within
herself. More than ever, she was afraid of the Life, that, from where
she now stood, seemed so wide. Nor did she feel a kinship with all
Life. She stood on higher ground, indeed, but the wideness of the
view, to her, only emphasized her loneliness. She sadly felt herself
as one apart—as one denied the right of fellowship. More keenly than
ever before, she felt, in the heart of her womanhood, the humiliation
of the life that sets a price upon the things of womanhood while it
refuses to recognize womanhood itself. More than ever, in her woman
heart, she was ashamed. Neither could she feel that she was doing her
part in Life—that she was taking her place—that she was a link
joining the ages of the past to the ages that would come. She felt
herself, rather, a parasite, attached to Life—not a part of—not
belonging to—but feeding upon.
This woman who knew herself to be a woman saw, more clearly than ever
before, that one thing, only, could give her full fellowship with the
race. She saw that one thing, only, could make her a link between the
ages that were gone and the ages that were to come. That one thing,
only, could satisfy her woman heart—could make her feel that she was
That one thing which the woman recognized as supreme is the thing
which the Master of Life has committed peculiarly to womanhood. Not to
woman's skillful hands; not to her ready brain; not to the things of
her womanhood upon which the world into which she goes alone to labor
puts a price has the Master of Life committed this supreme thing; but
to her womanhood—her sex. In the womanhood that is denied by
the world that receives womankind alone, is wealth that may not be
bought by any price that the world can pay. In the womanhood of women
is that supreme thing without which human life would perish from the
earth. The exercise of this power alone can give to woman the high
place in Life that belongs to her by right divine. The woman saw that,
for her, all other work in the world would be but a makeshift—a
substitute; and, because of this, while Life had, never before seemed
so large, she had, never before felt so small—so useless.
But still, for the woman, there was peace in her loneliness—there was
a peace that she had not had before—there was a calmness, a
quietness, that was not hers before her trial. It was the peace of the
lonely mountain top to which one climbs from out a noisy, clamoring,
village; the calmness of the deep sky uncrossed by cloud or marked by
smoke of human industry; the quietness of the wide prairie, untouched
by man's improvements. And this tranquil rest was hers because she
knew—deep in her woman's heart she knew—that she had done well; that
she had not been untrue to the soul of her womanhood.
The woman knew that she had done well because she had come to
understand that, while life is placed peculiarly in the care and
keeping of her sex, her sex has been endowed, for the protection,
perfection, and perpetuation of Life, with peculiar instincts. She had
come to understand that, while woman has been made the giver and
guardian of Life, she, for that reason, is subject to laws that are
not to be broken save with immeasurable loss to the race. To her sex
is given, by Life itself, the divine right of selection that the
future of the race may be assured. To her sex is given an instinct
superior to reason that her choice may perfect human kind. For her,
and for the Life of her kind, there is the law that if she permits aught
but her woman instinct to influence her in selecting her mate
her children and the children of her children shall mourn.
In the crisis of her life the woman had heard many voices—bold and
tempting, pleading and subtle—urging her to say: "Yes." But always
her instinct—her woman heart—had whispered: "No. This man is not
your mate. This is not the man you would choose to be the father of
your children. Better, far better, contribute nothing to the race than
break the law of your womanhood. Better, far better, never cross the
threshold of that open door than cross it with one who, in your heart
of hearts you know, to be not the right one."
So the woman had peace. Even in her loneliness, she had peace—knowing
that she had done well.
And the woman tried, now, to interest herself in the things that so
many of the women of her day seemed to find so interesting. She
listened to brave lectures by stalwart women on woman's place and
sphere in the world's work. She heard bold talks by militant women
about woman's emancipation and freedom. She attended lectures by
intellectual women on the higher life, and the new thought, and the
advanced ideas. She read pamphlets and books written by modern women
on the work of women in the social, political and industrial fields.
She became acquainted with many "new" women who, striving mightily
with all their strength of body and soul for careers, looked with a
kind of lofty disdain or pitying contempt upon those old-fashioned
mothers whose children interfere with the duty that "new" women think
they owe the world.
But this woman who knew herself to be a woman could not interest
herself in these things to which she tried to give attention. She felt
that in giving herself to these things she would betray Life. She felt
the hollowness, the shallowness, the emptyness of it all in comparison
with that which is divinely committed to womankind. She could not but
wonder: what would be the racial outcome? When women have long enough
substituted other ideals for the ideals of motherhood—other passions
for the passions of their sex—other ambitions for the ambition to
produce and to perfect Life—other desires for the desire to keep that
which Life has committed to them—what then? "How," she asked herself,
"would the world get along without mothers? Or how could the race
advance if the best of women refused to bear children?" And then came
the inevitable thought: are the best women, after all, refusing
to bear children? Might it not be that the wisdom of Mother Nature is
in this also, and that the refusal of a woman to bear children is the
best evidence in the world that she is unfit to be a mother? Is it not
better that the mothers of the race should be those who hold no ideal,
ambition, desire, aim, or purpose in life higher than motherhood? Such
women—such mothers—have, thus far, through their sons and daughters,
won every victory in Life. It is they who have made every advance of
the race possible. Will it not continue to be so, even unto the end?
Is not this indeed the law of Life? If there be any work for women
greater or of more value to the human race than the work of motherhood
then, indeed, is the end of the world, for mankind, at hand.
From where she lay, the woman, when she first awoke that Christmas
morning, could see the sun just touching the topmost branches of the
tall trees that grew across the street.
It was a beautiful day. But the woman did not at first remember that
it was Christmas. Idly, as one sometimes will when awakening out of a
deep sleep, she looked at the sunshine on the trees and thought that
the day promised to be clear and bright. Then, looking at the clock in
the chubby arms of the fat cupid on the mantle, she noticed the time
with a start of dismay. She must arise at once or she would be late to
her work. Why, she wondered, had not someone called her. Then, a
crumpled sheet of tissue paper and a bit of narrow ribbon on the
floor, near the table, caught her eye and she remembered.
It was Christmas.
The woman dropped back upon her pillow. She need not go to work that
day. She had not been called because it was a holiday. Dully she told
herself again that it was Christmas.
The house was very quiet. There were no bare feet pattering down the
hall to see what Santa Claus had left from his pack. No exulting
shouts had awakened her. In the rooms below, there was no cheerful
litter of toys and games and pop corn and candy and nuts with bits of
string and crumpled paper from hastily opened parcels and shining
scraps of tinsel from the tree. There were no stockings hanging on the
mantle. At breakfast, there would be a few friendly gifts and, later,
the postman would bring letters and cards with the season's greetings.
That was all.
The sun, climbing higher above the tall buildings down town, peeped
through the window and saw the woman lying very still. And the sun
must have thought that the woman was asleep for her eyes were closed
and upon her face there was the wistful smile of a child.
But the woman was not asleep though she was dreaming. She had escaped
from the silent, childless, house and had fled far, far, away to a
land of golden memories. She had gone back into her Yesterdays—to a
Christmas in her Yesterdays.
Once again a little girl, she lived those happy, busy, days of
preparation when she had asked herself a thousand times each day: what
would the boy give her for Christmas? And always, as she wondered, the
little girl had tried not to wish that it would be a doll lest she
should be disappointed. And always she was unable to wish, half so
earnestly, for anything else. Again she spent the hours learning the
song that she was to sing at the church on Christmas eve and wondered,
often, if he would like her new dress that mother was making
for the occasion. And then, as the day drew near, there was that merry
trip to the woods to bring the tree, followed by that afternoon at the
church. The little girl wondered, that night of the entertainment, if
the boy guessed how frightened she was for him lest he forget the
words of his part; or, when she was singing before the crowd of people
that filled the church, did he know that she saw only him? And then
the triumph—the beautiful triumph—of that Christmas morning!
The little girl in the Yesterdays needed no one to remind her what day
it was. As soon as it was light, she opened her eyes, and, wide awake
in an instant, slipped from her bed to steal down stairs while the
rest of the household still slept. And there, in the gray of the
winter morning, she found his gift. It was so beautiful, so lifelike,
with its rosy cheeks and brown hair that, almost, the little girl was
afraid that she was not awake after all; and she caught her breath
with a gasp of delight when she finally convinced herself that it was
real. She knew that it was from the boy—she knew. Quickly she
clasped it in her arms, with a kiss and a mother hug; and then, back
again she ran to her warm bed lest dolly catch cold. The other
presents could wait until it was really, truly, daylight and uncle had
made a fire; and she drew the covers carefully up under the dimpled
chin of her treasure that lay in the hollow of her arm, close to her
own soft little breast, as natural as life—as natural, indeed, as the
mother life that throbbed in the heart of the little girl.
For women also it is written: "Except ye become as little children."
If only women would understand!
All the other gifts of that Christmas time were as nothing to the
little girl beside that gift from the boy. The other things she would
enjoy all the more because the supreme wish of her heart had been
granted; but, had she been disappointed in that, all else would
have had little power to please. Under all her Christmas pleasure
there would have been a longing for something more. Her Christmas
would not have satisfied. Her cup of happiness would not have been
full. So, all the treasures that the world can lay at woman's feet will
never satisfy if the one gift be lacking. And that woman who has felt
in her arms a tiny form moulded of her own flesh—who has drawn close
to her breast a soft little cheek and felt upon her neck the touch of
a baby hand—that woman knows that I put down the truth when I write
that those women who deny the mother instinct of their hearts and, for
social position, pleasure, public notice, wealth, or fame, kill their
love for children, are to be pitied above all creatures for they deny
themselves the heaven that is their inheritance.
Eagerly, that morning, the little girl watched for the coming of the
boy for she knew that he would not long delay; and, when she saw him
wading through the snow, flung open wide the door to shout her
greeting as she proudly held his gift close to her heart; while on her
face and in her eyes was the light divine. And great fun they had,
that Christmas day, with their toys and games and books; but never for
long was the new doll far from the little girl's arms. Nor did she
need many words to make her happiness in his gift understood to the
The sun was shining full in the window now; quite determined that the
woman should sleep no longer. Regretfully, as one who has little heart
for the day, she arose just as footsteps sounded outside her door.
Then came a sharp rap upon the panel and—"Merry Christmas"—called
her uncle's hearty voice.
Bravely the woman who knew herself to be a woman answered: "Merry
And that winter's coat, also, began to appear thin and threadbare.
By looking carefully, one could see that the twigs of the cherry tree
were brightening with a delicate touch of fresh color, while the tiny
tips of the tender green buds were cautiously peeping out of their
snug wrappings as if to ask the state of the weather. In the orchard
and the woods, too, the Life that slept deep in the roots and under
the bark of trunks and limbs was beginning to stir as though, in its
slumber, it heard Spring knocking at its bedroom door.
I do not know what business it was that called the man to a
neighboring city. The particular circumstances that made the journey
necessary are of no importance whatever to my story. The important
thing is this: for the first time the man was forced to recognize, in
his own life and in his work, the fact of Death. He came to see that,
in the most abundant life, Death cannot be ignored. Because Death is
one of the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life, this is my story: that
the man was introduced to Death.
Hurriedly he arranged for his absence, and, rushing home, packed a few
necessities of travel in his grip, snatched a hasty dinner, and thus
reached the depot just in time to catch the evening train. He would
make the trip in the night, devote the following day to the business
that demanded his presence, and the next night would return to his
The Pullmans were well filled, mostly with busy, eager, men who, like
himself, were traveling at night to save the daylight for their work.
But the man, perhaps because he was tired with the labor of the day or
because he wished to have for the business of the morrow a clear,
vigorous, brain, made no effort to find acquaintances who might be on
the train or to meet congenial strangers with whom to spend a pleasant
hour. When he had read the evening papers and had outlined in his mind
a plan of operation to meet the situation that compelled him to make
the hurried trip, he retired to his berth.
The low, monotonous, hum of the flying wheels on the heavy steel
rails; the steady, easy, motion of the express as it flew over the
miles of well ballasted track; the dim light of the curtained berth,
and the quiet of the Pullman, soon lulled the tired traveler to sleep.
Mile after mile and mile after mile was marked off, with the steady
regularity of time itself, by the splendidly equipped train as it
rushed through the darkness with its sleeping passengers. Hamlets,
villages, way stations, signal towers, were passed with flash like
quickness; while the veteran in the engine cab, with the schooling of
thirty years in the hand that rested on the throttle, gazed steadily
ahead to catch, with quick eye and clear brain, the messages of the
signal lamps that, like bright colored dots of a secret code, appeared
on the black sheet of night.
With a suddenness that defies description, the change came.
The trained eyes that looked from the cab window read a message from
Death in the night ahead. In the fractional part of a second, the hand
on the throttle responded, doing in flash like movements all that the
thirty years had taught it to do. There was a frightful jarring,
jolting crash of grinding, screaming, brakes, followed on the instant
by a roaring, smashing, thundering, rending of iron and steel and
The veteran, whose eye and brain and hand had been thirty years in
service, lay under his engine, a mangled, inanimate mass of flesh; His
fireman, who had looked forward to a place on the engineer's side of a
cab as a young soldier dreams of sword and shoulder straps, lay still
beside his chief. From the wrecked coaches, above the sound of hissing
steam and crackling flames, came groans and shrieks and screams of
tortured men and women and children.
Then, quickly, the hatless, coatless, and half dressed forms of the
more fortunate ones ran here and there. Voices were heard calling and
answering. There were oaths and prayers and curses mingled with sharp
spoken commands and the sound of axes and saws and sledges, as the
men, who a few minutes before were sleeping soundly in their berths,
toiled with superhuman energy to free their fellows from that horrid
To the man who had escaped from the trap of death that had caught so
many of his fellow passengers and who toiled now with the strength of
a giant among the rescuers, it all seemed a dream of terror from which
he must presently awake. He did not think, then, of the Death that had
come so close while he slept. He was not conscious of the danger that
had threatened him. He did not feel gratitude for his escape. He could
not think. He could only strive madly, with the strength of despair,
in the fight to snatch others from the grip of an awful fate; and, as
he fought, he prayed to be awakened from his dream.
It was over at last.
Hours later, the man reached his destination, and still, because his
business was so urgent, there was no time for him to think of the
Death that had come so close. Rarely does the business of life give
men time to think of the Death that stands never far away. But, when
his work was finished and he was again aboard the train, on his way
home, there was opportunity for a fuller realization of the danger
through which he had passed so narrowly—there was time to think. Then
it was that the man realized a new thing in his life. Then it was that
a new factor entered into his thinking—Death. Not the knowledge of
Death; he had always had that of course. Not the fear of Death; this
man was no coward. But the fact of Death—it was the fact of Death
that he realized now as he had never realized it before.
All unexpected and unannounced—without sign of its approach or
warning of its presence—Death had stood over him. He had looked into
the eyes of the King. Death had touched him on the shoulder, as it
were, and had passed on. But Death would come again. The one firmly
fixed, undeniable, unalterable, fact in Life was, to him, now, that
Death would come again. When or how; that, he could not know; perhaps
not for many years; perhaps before the flying train could carry him
another mile. How strange it is that this one fixed, permanent,
unalterable, inevitable fact of Life—Death—is most commonly ignored.
The most common thing in Life is Death; yet few there are who
recognize it as a fact until it presents itself saying: "Come."
Going back into the years, the man recalled the death of his mother;
and, later, when he was standing on the very threshold of his manhood,
the death of his father. Those graves on the hillside were still in
his memory but they had not realized Death for him. His grief at the
loss of those so dear to him had overshadowed, as it were, the fact of
Death itself. He thought of Death only as it had taken his parents; he
did not consider it in thinking of himself. But now—now—he had
looked into the eyes of the King. He had felt the touch of the hand
that chills. He had heard the voice that cannot be disobeyed. Death
had come into his life a fact.
The low, steady, hum and whirr of the wheels and the smooth, easy
movement of the train told him of the flying miles. One by one, those
miles that lay between him and the end of his journey would go until
the last was gone and he would step from the coach to the platform of
his home depot. And, then, all suddenly, to the man, those flying
miles became as the years of his life. Even as the miles of his
journey were passing so his years had gone—so his years were going
and would go.
The man was a young man still. For the first time, he felt himself
growing old. Involuntarily he looked at his hands; firm, strong, young
hands they were, but the man, in his fancy, saw them shaking,
withered, and parched, with prominent dull blue veins, and the skinny
fingers bent and crooked with the years. He glanced down at his
powerful, full moulded limbs, and, in fancy, saw them thin and
shrunken with age. And, suddenly, he remembered with a start that the
next day would be his birthday. In the fullness of his young manhood's
strength, he had ignored the passing years even as he had ignored
Death. As he had learned to forget Death, he had learned to forget his
birthdays. It was strange how fast the years were going, thought the
man. Scarcely would there be time for the working out of his dreams.
And, once, it had been such a long, long, time between his birthdays.
Once, he had counted the months, then the weeks, then the days that
lay between. Once, he remembered—
Perhaps it was the thought of his birthday that did it; perhaps it was
the memory of those graves in the old cemetery at home. Whatever it
swas, the man slipped back into his Yesterdays when birthdays were ages
and ages apart and, more than anything else in the world, the boy
wanted to grow up.
At seven, he had looked with envy upon the boy of nine while the years
of grown up men were beyond his comprehension. At nine, fifteen was
the daring limit of his dreams; so far away it seemed that scarcely he
hoped to reach it. As for eighteen—one must be very, very, old,
indeed, to be eighteen. How long the years ahead had seemed,
then—and now, how short they were when looking back!
And the birthdays—the birthdays that the man had learned to
forget—how could he have learned to forget them! What days of
triumph—what times of victorious rejoicing—those days once had been!
And so, with the fact of Death so recently forced into his life, with
the miles as years slipping under the fast whirring wheels that bore
him onward, the man lived again a birthday in the long ago.
Weeks before that day the boy had planned the joyous occasion, for
mother had promised that he should have a party. A birthday party!
Joyous festival of the Yesterdays! What delightful hours were spent in
anticipation! What innumerable questions were asked! What a multitude
of petitions were formed and presented! What anxious consultations
with the little girl who lived next door! What suggestions were
offered, accepted and rejected, and rejected or accepted all over
again! What lists of the guests to be invited were made, revised and
then revised again! What counting of the days, and, as the day drew
near, what counting of the hours; not forgetting, all the time, to
hint, in various skillfully persuasive and suggestive ways, as to the
presents that would be most fitting and acceptable! And at last, when
the day had come, as all days must at last come, was there ever in the
history of mortal man or boy such a day?
There was real wealth of love in mother's kiss that morning. There was
holy pleasure in the pride that was in father's face and voice. There
was unmarred joy when the little girl captured him and, while he
pretended—only pretended—to escape, gave him the required number of
thumps on the back with her soft little fist and the triumphant "one
to grow on." Then came, at last, the crowning event: and so the man
saw, again, the boys and girls who, that afternoon in his Yesterdays,
helped to celebrate his birthday. Why had he permitted them to pass
out of his life? Why had he gone out of their lives? Why must the
years rob him of the friends of the Yesterdays?
With the birthday feast of good things and the games and sports of
childhood the busy afternoon passed. Up and down the road and across
the fields, the guests departed, with their party dresses soiled,
their party combed hair disheveled, and their party cleaned faces
smudged with grime; but with the clean, clean, joy of the Yesterdays
in their clean, clean, childish hearts. Together the boy and the girl
watched them go, with waving hands and good-bye shouts, until the last
one had passed from sight and the last whoop and call had died away.
And then, reluctantly, the little girl herself went home and the boy
was left alone by the garden hedge.
Oh, brave, brave, day of the Yesterdays! Brave birthdays of the long
ago when Death was not a fact but a fiction! When the years were ages
apart, and the farthest reach of one's imagination carried only to
being grown up!
From his Yesterdays the man came back to wonder: if Death should wait
until he was wrinkled, bent, and old—until his limbs were palsied,
his hearing gone, his voice cracked and shrill, and his eyes dim—if
Death should let him stay until he had seen the last of his companions
go home in the evening after that last birthday—would there be one to
stand beside him—to watch with him as the others passed from sight?
Would there be anyone to help him celebrate his last birthday, if
Death should fail to come again until he was old?
* * * * *
Everyone was very kind to the woman that morning when the word came
that her uncle had been killed in a railroad accident. All that kind
hearts could do for her was done. Every offer of assistance was made.
But there was really nothing that anyone could do just then. She must
first go as quickly as she could to her aunt.
The man of authority, who had always seemed to understand her woman
heart and who had paid to her the highest tribute possible for a man
to pay a woman, had broken the news to her as gently as news of Death
can be told, and, as soon as she was ready, his own carriage was
waiting before the entrance in the street below. Nor did he burden her
with talk as they were driven skillfully through the stream of the
down town traffic and then, at a quicker pace, through the more open
streets of the residence district.
There is so little that can be said, even by the most thoughtful, when
Death enters thus suddenly into a life. The man knew that the woman
needed him. He knew that, save for the invalid aunt, there was now no
near relative to help her do the necessary things that must be done.
There was no one to help her think what would be best to do. So he
asked her gently, as they neared the house, if she would not permit
him, for the next few days, to take the place in her life that would
have been taken by an older brother. Kindly he asked that she trust
him fully—that she let him think and do for her—be a help to her in
her need—even as he would have helped her had she consented to come
into his life as he wished her to come. And the woman, because she
knew the goodness and honor of this man's heart, thanked him with
gratitude too great for words and permitted him to do for her all that
a most intimate relative would have done.
At last it was over. The first uncontrollable expressions of
grief—the arrangements for the funeral—the service at the house and
the long ride to the cemetery with the final parting and the return to
the house that would never again be quite the same—all those hard,
first, days were past and to-morrow—to-morrow—the woman would go
back to her work. In the final going over of affairs, the finishing of
unfinished business, the ending of undeveloped plans and prospects,
the settling and closing of accounts, and the considering of new
conditions enforced by Death, it had been made very clear that for the
woman to work was, now, more than ever necessary. There was, now, no
one but her upon whom the invalid aunt could depend for even the
necessities of life.
And the woman was glad that she was able to provide for that one who
had always been so gentle, so patient, in suffering and who, in her
sorrow, was now so brave. Since the death of the girl's own mother,
the aunt had taken, so far as she could, a mother's place in the life
of the child; and, as the years had passed and the little girl had
grown into young womanhood, she had grown into the heart of the
childless woman until she was as a daughter of her own flesh. So the
woman did not feel this added care that was forced upon her by the
changed conditions as a burden other than a burden of love. But still,
that afternoon, when it was all over, and she faced the new future
that Death had set before her, she realized the fact of Death as she
had never realized it before.
The years since her mother's death had not been many, and, it seemed
to her, now, that they had passed very quickly. She was only a little
girl, then, and her uncle and his wife had taken her so fully into
their hearts that she had scarcely felt the gap in her life after the
first weeks of the separation had passed. Her mother belonged to the
days of her childhood and, though the years were not many as she
looked back, those childhood days seemed far, far, away. Death had
come to her, now, in the days of her womanhood. Suddenly,
unexpectedly, with awful, startling, reality, the fact of Death had
come into her life; forcing her to consider, as she had never
considered before, the swiftly passing years.
What—she asked herself as she thought of the morrow—what, for her,
lay at the farthermost end of that procession of to-morrows? When the
best of her strength was gone with the days and weeks and months and
years—what then? When Death should come for that one who was, in
everything but blood, her mother and who was, now, her only
companion—what then? To be left alone in the world—to go, alone, all
the rest of the journey—this was the horror that Death brought to
her. As she looked, that afternoon, into the years that were to come,
this woman, who knew that she was a woman, and who was still in the
glory and beauty of her young womanhood, felt suddenly old—she felt
as though every day of the sad days just passed had been a year.
And then, at last, from her grief of the present and from her
contemplation of the years that were to come, she turned wearily back
to the long ago. In the loneliness and sorrow of her life she went,
again, hack into her Yesterdays. There was, indeed, no other place for
her to go but back into her Yesterdays. Only in the Yesterdays can one
escape the sadness and loneliness that attend the coming of Death.
Death has little power in the Yesterdays. In childhood life, Death is
not a fact.
Funerals were nothing more than events of surpassing interest in those
days—a subdued, intense, interest that must not be too openly
expressed, it is true, but that nevertheless could not be altogether
suppressed. Absorbed in her play the little girl would hear, suddenly,
the ringing of the bell in the white church across the valley; and it
would ring, not joyously, cheerily, interestingly, as on Sundays but
with sad, solemn, measured, notes, that would fill her childish heart
with hushed excitement. And then—it mattered not where he was or what
he was doing—the little boy would come, rushing with eager haste, to
join her at the front gate where they always watched together for the
procession and strove for the honor of sighting first the long string
of vehicles that would soon appear on one of the four roads leading to
the church. And oh, joy of joys, if it so happened that the procession
came by the way that led past the place where they danced with such
First would come, moving with slow feet and drooping head, the old
gray horse and time worn phaeton of the minister; and they would feel
a little strange and somewhat hurt because the man of God, who usually
greeted them so cheerily, would not notice them as he passed. But the
sadness in their hearts would be forgotten the next moment as they
gazed, with excited interest and whispered exclamations, at the
shining, black, hearse with its beautiful, coal black, horses that,
stepping proudly, tossing their plumed heads, and shaking the tassels
on the long nets that hung over their glossy sides, seemed to invite
the admiration that greeted them. And then, through the glass sides of
the hearse, the boy and the girl, with gasps of interest, would
discover the long black coffin half hidden by its load of flowers; or,
perhaps, the hearse, the horses, and the coffin, would all be snow
white which, the little girl thought, was prettiest of all. Then would
follow the long line of carriages, filled with people who wore their
Sunday clothes; and the boy and the girl, recognizing a friend or
acquaintance, here and there, would wonder to themselves how it would
seem to be riding in such a procession. One by one, they would count
the vehicles and recall the number in the last funeral they had
watched; gleefully triumphant, if this procession were longer than the
last; scornfully disappointed, if it were not so imposing. And then,
when the last carriage had gone up the hill on the other side of the
creek and had disappeared from sight among the trees that half hid the
church, they would wait for the procession to reappear after the
services and would watch it crawling slowly along the distant road on
its way to the cemetery.
And the next day they would play a funeral.
Even as they had played a wedding, they would play a funeral. Only,
they played a wedding but that once, while they played funerals many,
Sometimes it would be a doll's funeral when the chief figure in the
solemn rites would be taken from the grave, after it was all over, and
would be rocked to sleep with the other dollies, none the worse,
apparently, for the sad experience. Again, the part of the departed
would be taken by a mouse that had met a violent death at the hands of
the cook; or, perhaps, they would find a baby bird that had fallen
from its nest before its wings were strong. But the grandest, most
triumphant, most successful funeral of the Yesterdays was a kitten
that had most opportunely died the very day a real grown up funeral
had passed the house. What a funeral that was—with an old shoe box
for a coffin, the boy's wagon draped with pieces of black cloth
borrowed from the rag bag for a hearse, the shepherd dog for a proudly
stepping team, and all the dolls in their carriage following slowly
behind! In a corner of the garden, not far from the cherry tree, they
dug a real grave and set up a real tombstone, fashioned by the boy, to
mark the spot. And the little girl was so earnest in her sorrow that
she cried real tears at which the boy became, suddenly, very gay and
boisterous, as boys will upon such occasions, and helped her to forget
Oh, boy of the Yesterdays, who would not let his little girl mate
grieve but made her laugh and forget! Where was he now? The woman
wondered. Had Death come into his life, too? Were the years ever, to
him, as a funeral procession? Did ever he feel that he was growing
old? Could he, now, make her forget her grief—could he help her to
laugh again—or had his power gone even as those Yesterdays when
Death, too, was only a pleasing game?
From the next room, a gentle voice called softly and the woman arose
to go to her aunt. For that one who was left dependent upon her she
would be brave and strong—she would go back to her work in the
Only children are privileged to play with the fact of Death. Only in
the Yesterdays are funerals events of merely passing interest. Only in
the Yesterdays does Death go always past the door.
And that year, also, went to join the years of the Yesterdays.
It is as though Life, bringing to man every twelve months a new year,
bids him try again. Always, it is necessary for man to try again.
Indeed Life itself is nothing less than this: a continual trying
In the world laboratory, mankind is conducting a series of elaborate
experiments—always on the verge of the great discovery but never
quite making it—always thinking that the secret is about to be
revealed but never quite uncovering it—always failing in his
experiments but always finding in the process something that leads
him, with hope renewed, to try again.
The man had failed.
Sadly, sternly, with the passing of the year, he admitted to himself
that he had failed. Humiliated and ashamed, with the coming of the new
year, he admitted that he must begin again. Bitterly he called himself
a fool. And perhaps he was—more or less. Most men are a little
foolish. The man who has never been forced to swallow his own folly
has missed a bitter but wholesome tonic that, more than likely, he
needs. This man was not the kind of a man who would blame any one but
himself for his failure. If he had been that particular kind of a fool
his failure would have been of little value either to him or to any
one. Neither would there be, for me, a story.
I do not know the particulars of this man's failure—neither the what,
the why, nor the how. I know only that he failed—that it was
necessary for him to fail. Nor is this a story of such particulars for
they are of little importance. A man can fail in anything. Some, even,
seem to fail in everything. This, therefore, is my story: that as
Failure enters into the life of every man it came into the life of
this man. In some guise or other Failure seems to be a necessity. It
is one of the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life. But the man did
not, at that time, understand that his failure was a necessity.
That understanding came to him only with Success.
You may say that this man was too young to accomplish a real Failure.
But you need not bother about that, either. One is never too young to
experience Failure. And Failure, to the one who fails, is always, at
the time, very real.
So this man saw the castles that he had toiled so hard to build come
tumbling down about him. So he was awakened from his bright dreams to
find that they were only dreams. So he came to see his work as
idleness and folly. Sorrowfully he looked at the ruin of his building.
Hopelessly he recalled his dreams. Despairingly he looked upon his
fruitless labor. With his fine manhood's strength dead within him, he
bitterly felt himself to be but a weakling; fit only to be pushed
aside by the stronger, better, men among whom he went, now, with
lifeless step and downcast face. There was left in his heart no
courage and no hope. He saw himself a most miserable coward, and,
ashamed and disgraced in his own sight, he shrank from the eyes of his
fellows and withdrew into himself to hide.
And the only thing that saved the man was this: he did not pity
himself. Self-pity is debilitating. It is the dry rot that weakens the
life lines. It is the rust that eats the anchor chains. At the last
analysis, a man probably knows less about himself than he knows about
others. The only difference is that what he knows about others is
sometimes right while that which he thinks he knows about himself is
nearly always wrong. Salvation is in pitying someone else. If one must
have pity he should accept it from strangers only. The pity of
strangers is harmless to the object of it and very gratifying—to the
strangers. Self-accusation, self-censure, self-condemnation: these are
the antidotes for the poison that sometimes enters the soul through
Failure. But these antidotes must be administered with care.
Self-accusation has, usually, a very low percentage of cause.
Self-censure, undiluted, is dangerous to self-respect. And
self-condemnation is rarely to be had pure. When one brings himself to
trial before himself his chance for justice is small—the judge is
nearly always prejudiced, the jury packed, and the evidence
The man, when he had withdrawn into himself, saw the world moving on
its way without him as though his failure mattered, to it, not at all.
He was forced to realize that the work of the world could be done
without him. He was compelled to see that the sum of human happiness
and human woe would be neither less nor more because of him. The world
did not really need his success—he needed it. The world did not
suffer from his failure—he suffered. He did not understand, then,
that no man is in line for success until he understands how little
either his success or his failure matters to the world. He did not
know, then, how often a good strong failure is the corner stone of a
well builded life.
A child is not crippled for life because it falls when it is learning
to walk; neither has a man come to the end of his upward climb because
he "stubs his toe." The man knew this later but just then he was too
sore at heart to think of even trying to get up again. All those first
months of that new year he did nothing but the labor that was
necessary for him to do in order to live. And, in that which he did,
he had no heart but toiled as a dumb beast toils in obedience to its
master. The joy of work which is the reward of labor was gone.
So the spring came. The air grew warm and balmy. The grass on the
lawns and in the parks began to look soft and inviting to feet that
were weary with the feel of icy pavements. The naked trees were being
clothed in spring raiment, fresh and green. The very faces of the
people seemed to glow with a new warmth as though a more generous life
was stirring in their veins. As the sun gathered strength, and the
coldness and bleakness of winter retreated farther and farther before
the advance of summer, the manner and dress of the crowds upon the
streets marked the change as truly as the habits of the birds and
flowers, until, at last, here and there, straw hats appeared and
suddenly, as bluebirds come, barefooted boys were playing marbles in
the alleys and fishing tackle appeared in the windows of the stores.
All his life the man had been an ardent fisherman. And so, when his
eyes were attracted that noon, as he was passing one of those windows
filled with rods and reels and lines and hooks and nets and all things
dear to the angler's heart, he paused. His somber face brightened. His
form, that was already stooped a little, straightened. His listless
eyes, for a moment, shone with their old time fire. Then he went on to
But, less than ever, that afternoon, was the man's heart in his labor.
While his hands mechanically performed their appointed tasks and his
brain as mechanically did its part, the man himself was not there. He
had gone far, far, away into his Yesterdays. Once again, in his
Yesterdays, the man went fishing.
The boy was a very small boy when first he went fishing. And he fished
in the brook that ran through the valley below the little girl's
house. His hook was only a pin, bent by his own fingers; his line, a
bit of string or thread borrowed from mother's work basket; and his
rod, a slender branch of willow or a green shoot from one of the trees
in the orchard, or, it might be, a stalk of the tall pigweed that grew
down behind the barn; and for bait, those humble friends of boyhood,
the angle worms. How the boy shouted and danced with glee when he
found a big one; even though he did shudder a little as he picked it
up, squirming and wiggling, to drop it into the old baking powder can
he called his bait box! And how the little girl shrieked with fear and
admiration! Very proud was the boy that he had courage to handle the
crawling things—though many of them did escape into their tiny holes
before he could bring himself quite to the point of catching them and
pulling them out. "Only girls are afraid of worms and toads and bugs.
Boys can bait their own hooks." Manfully, too, did he hide his
thoughts when conscience pricked him, even as he the worm. "Do worms
have feelin's?" He wondered. "Does it hurt?" Half frightened, he had
laughed, one day, when the little girl asked: "What if some wicked
giant should catch you and stick you on a great hook and swing you
through the air, kicking and squirming, and drop you into the water
where it's deep, and leave you there till some great fish comes along
to swallow you like the man in the Bible that mother reads about?"
But the boy in his Yesterdays carried home no fish from that little
brook; though he spent many hours in the hot summer sun watching
eagerly for a bite. He knew there must be fish there—great big
fellows—there were such lovely places for them under the grassy
banks—if only they would come out—but they never did. Not until he
was older did the boy understand the real reason of this failure. The
water was not deep enough. He learned, in time, that big fish are not
found in shallow streams.
I do not know, but perhaps, the man, even as the boy, was fishing in a
too shallow stream.
As he grew older, the boy wandered farther down the creek. A "sure
'nough" fishhook took the place of the bent pin and a real "boughten"
line, with a sinker, was tied to the hook though he still used the
slender willow rods. And, now, he sometimes brought home a fish or two
from the deeper water down in the pasture lot; and no success in after
life would ever bring to the man the same thrill of delight that was
felt by the boy when he landed a tiny "chub" or "shiner." No Roman
general, returning in triumph from the wars with captives chained to
his chariot, ever moved with a prouder spirit than he, when he went
home to mother with his little string of captured fishes.
Then there came a day that was the proudest in his life—the day when
he was given a larger hook, a longer line, a cane pole, and permission
to go to the mill pond. No more fishing for him in the brook now! He
had outgrown all that. How small the little stream seemed, now, as he
crossed it on his way down the road! Could it be possible, he asked
himself, that he was ever content to fish there, and with a bent pin,
at that? And he felt carefully in his pocket to see if those extra
hooks were safe; and took another peep at the big worms in his bait
box—an old tomato can this time. There would be no twinge of
conscience when he baited his hook that day. And proudly he tried to
take longer steps in the dusty road; almost breaking into a run as he
neared the turn where he knew that he would see the pond.
Often, the boy wondered if there could be anywhere in all the world
such another body of water as that old mill pond. Often, he wondered
how deep it was down by the dam in the shadow of the giant elms that
half hid the mill. Many times, he questioned: "Where did all the water
come from anyway?" Surely it could not all come from the tiny
stream that flowed down the valley below the little girl's house! Why,
he could wade in that and there were boats on this!
Once again, the man, in his Yesterdays, stood at that turn in the
road; under his bare, boyish, feet the hot, hot, dust; over his head
the blue, blue, sky; before him the beautiful water that mirrored back
the trees, the clouds, and the buildings. Once again, he sat in the
shadow of the old covered bridge, fish pole in hand, and, with boyish
delight and pride, hailed each addition to the string of catfish and
suckers that swam near by, safely anchored to the bank. He could hear
the drowsy hum of the mill across the pond and the merry shout of the
miller hailing some passer-by. And, now and then, would come, the
clatter of horses' hoofs and the rumble of a farmer's wagon on the
planks above his head and he would idly watch the ever widening
circles in the water as some bit of dirt, jarred from the beams above,
marred the glassy surface. The swallows were wheeling here and there
in swift, graceful motions; one moment lightly skimming the surface of
the pond and the next, high in air above the trees and buildings. A
water snake came gliding toward an old log close by. A turtle was
floating lazily in the sun. And a kingfisher startled him with its
harsh, discordant, rattle as it passed in rapid flight toward the
upper end of the pond where the tall cat-tails were nodding in the
sunlight and the drooping willows fringed the bank with green.
The shadows of the giant elms near the dam grew longer and longer. A
workman left the mill and started across the pasture toward his home.
A farmer stopped on his way from the field to water his team. The
frogs began to call shrilly from the reeds and rushes. The swallows,
twittering, sought their nests beneath the bridge. It was time that
the boy was going home.
Slowly, reluctantly, the little fisherman drew his line from the water
and wrapped it carefully round the pole. Then, picking up his string
of fish, he inspected them thoughtfully—admiring the largest and
wishing that the others were like him—and, casting one last glance at
the water, the trees, the mill, started down the road toward home.
He must hurry now. It was later than he thought. Mother would be
watching and waiting supper for him. How pleased she would be to see
his fish. He wished that the string were longer. How quickly the night
was coming on. It was almost dark. And then, as the boy went down into
the deepening dusk of the valley, he saw, on the other side, the light
in the windows. He was almost home.
Tired little fisherman. Wearily he crossed the creek and made his way
up the gentle slope toward the lights that gleamed so brightly against
the dark mass of the orchard hill, while high above, the first stars
of the evening were coming out. And then, as in the gloaming he
reached at last the gate where the little girl lived, he found her
waiting—watching anxiously—eager to greet him with sweet solicitude.
"Did you catch anything?"
Proudly the boy exhibited his catch—wishing again in his heart that
the string were longer. Sadly, he told how the biggest fish of all had
dropped from his hook just when he had it almost landed. And
sometimes—the man remembered—sometimes the boy was forced to answer
that he had caught nothing at all. But always, then, would he bravely
declare that he would have better luck next time.
Tired little fisherman—going home with his catch in the evening!
Always—disappointed little fisherman—wishing that his string were
longer! Always-brave-to-try-again little fisherman—when his day was a
day of failure!
The man came back from his Yesterdays, that afternoon, to wonder: when
the shadows of his life grew longer and longer—when his sun was
slowly setting—when he reluctantly withdrew, at last, from the busy
haunts of men—when he went down the road toward home, as it grew
darker and darker until he could not see the way, would there be a
light in the window for him? Would he know that someone was waiting
and watching? And would he wish that his string of fish were longer?
However great his catch, would he not wish that the string were
longer? And might it not be, too, that always in life the largest fish
would be the one that he had almost landed?
And it was so that the old fire came again into the man's eyes to
stay. He stood once more erect before men. Again his countenance was
lighted with courage and with hope. With the brave words of the little
fisherman who had caught nothing, the man, once again, faced the world
to work out his dreams.
* * * * *
And the woman who knew herself to be a woman was haunted by the
thought of Failure.
After Death had come with such suddenness into her life, she had gone
back to her work, and, in spite of the changes that Death had wrought,
the days had gone much as the days before. But, because of the new
conditions and the added responsibilities, she gave herself, now,
somewhat more fully to that work than she had ever done before. She
left for herself less time for the dreams of her womanhood—less time
for waiting beside that old, old, door beyond which lay the life that
she desired with all the strength of her woman heart.
And that world in which she labored—that life to which she now gave
herself more and more—rewarded her more and more abundantly. Because
she was strong in body with skillful hands and quick brain; because
she was superior in these things to many who labored beside her; she
received a larger reward than they. For the richness, the fullness, of
her womanhood, she received nothing. From love, the only thing that
can make that which a woman receives fully acceptable to her, she
There were many who, now, congratulated the woman upon what they
called her success. And some, who knew the measure of the reward she
received from the world that set a price upon the things of her
womanhood, envied her; wishing themselves as fortunate as she. She was
even pointed out and spoken of triumphantly, by certain modern,
down-to-date, ones, as an example of the successful woman of the age.
Her success—as it was called—was cited as a triumphant argument for
the right of women to sell their womanhood for a price: to put their
strength of mind and flesh and blood, their physical and intellectual
vigor, their vitality and life, upon a market that cannot recognize
their womanhood; even though by so doing they rob the race of the only
contribution they can make that will add to its perfection.
Really, if the customs and necessities of this age of
"down-to-date-ism" are to take the world's mothers, then it would seem
that this age of "down-to-date-ism" should find, for the perpetuation
and perfection of the race, a substitute for women. The age should
evolve a better way, a more modern method, than the old-fashioned way
that has been in vogue so long. For, just as surely as the laws of
life are beyond our power to repeal, so surely will the operation of
the laws of life not change to accommodate our newest thinking and the
race, by spending its best woman strength in work that cannot
recognize womanhood, will bequeath to the ages to come an ever
lowering standard of human life.
The woman felt this—she felt that she could most truly serve the race
by being true to the dreams of her womanhood. She felt that the work
she was doing was not her real work but a makeshift to be undertaken
under protest and discarded without regret when her opportunity to
enter upon the real work of her life should present itself. But still,
even while feeling this, gradually there had come to be, for her, an
amount of satisfaction in knowing that she was succeeding in that
which she had set her hand to do. In the increasing reward she
received, in the advanced position she occupied, in the deference that
was shown her, in the authority that was given her, in the larger
interests that were intrusted to her, and even in the attitude of
those who held her to be a convincing example of the newest womanhood,
there was coming to be a kind of satisfaction.
Then came that day when the woman expressed a little of this
satisfaction to the man who had always understood and who had been
always so kind. In this, too, the woman felt that he understood.
The man had not sought to take advantage of the intimacy she had
granted him in those trying days when Death had come into her life. He
had never failed in being kind and considerate in the thousand little
things of the work that brought them together and that gave her
opportunity to learn his goodness and the genuine worth of his
manhood. Nor had he failed to make her understand that still he hoped
for the time when she would go with him into the life beyond the old,
old, door. But that day, when she made known to him, a little, her
growing satisfaction in that which the world called her success, she
saw that he was hurt. For the first time he seemed to be troubled and
afraid for her.
Very gravely lie looked down into her eyes. Very gravely he
congratulated her. And then, quietly and convincingly, with words of
authority, he pointed out to her the possible heights she might
reach—would reach—if she continued. He told her of the place that
she, if she chose, might gain. He spoke of the reward that would be
hers. And, as he talked to her of these things, he saw the light of
interest and anticipation kindling in her eyes. Sadly he saw it. Then,
pausing—hesitating—he asked her slowly: "Do you really think that it
is, after all, worth while? For you, I mean, do you think that
it would be a satisfying success?" He did not wish to interfere with
her career, he said—and smiled a little at the word. He would even
help her if—if—she was sure that such a career would bring her the
real happiness he so much wanted her to have.
And the woman, as the man looked into her eyes and as she saw the
trouble in his thoughtful face and listened to his gravely spoken
words, felt ashamed. Remembering, again, the dreams of her womanhood,
she was ashamed. From that day, the woman was haunted by the thought
Why, she asked herself, why could she not open the door of her heart
to this man who had been so good to her—so true to her and to
himself? If he had taken advantage in any way, if he had sought to use
his power, she would not have cared so much. But because she knew him
so well; because she had seen his splendid character, his fine
manhood, his kindness of heart, and his strength; because of the
dreams of her womanhood; she had tried to open the door and bid him
take possession of her heart that was as an empty room furnished and
ready. But she could not. She seemed to have lost the key.
Why—why—could she not give this man what he asked? Why could she not
go with him into the life of her dreams? What was it that held her
back? What was it that held shut the door of her womanhood against
him? Could it be that, after all, she was fit only for the career upon
which she was already entered? Could it be that she was not worthy to
enter into the life her womanhood craved—the life for which she had
longed with such passionate longing—the life she had desired with
such holy desire? Could it be that she was unworthy of her womanhood?
Bitterly this woman, who knew herself to be a woman, who had dreamed
the dreams of womanhood, and who was pointed out as a successful
woman—bitterly she felt that she had failed.
She knew that her failure could not be because she had squandered the
wealth of her womanhood. Very carefully had she kept the treasures of
her womanhood for the coming of that one for whom she waited—knowing
not who he was but only that she would know him when he came. Might it
be that he had come and she did not know him? Might it be that
the heart of her womanhood did not know? If this was so then, indeed,
Life itself is but an accident and must trust to blind chance the
fulfillment of its most sacred mission—the perpetuation and
perfection of itself.
That the Creator should give laws for the right mating of all his
creatures except man—leaving men and women, alone, with no guide to
lead them aright in this relationship that is most vital to the
species—is unthinkable. Deeply implanted in the hearts of men and
women there is, also, an instinct; an instinct that is superior to the
dictates of the social, financial, or ecclesiastical will. And it is
this natural instinct of mate selection that should govern the
marriages of human kind as truly as it marries the birds of the fields
and the wild things that mate in the forests.
The woman knew, instinctively, that she should not give herself to
this man. She felt in her heart that to do so would make her kin to
her sisters in the unnamable profession. The church would sanction,
the state would legalize, and society would accept such a union—does
accept such unions—but only the divine laws of Life, given for the
protection of Life, can ever make a man and a woman husband and wife.
The laws that govern the right mating of human kind are not enacted by
organizations either social, political, or religious, but are written
in the hearts of those who would, in mating, fulfill the purpose of
Life. These laws may be broken by man but they cannot by him be
repealed; and the penalty that is imposed for their violation is very
evident to all who have eyes to see and who observe with
The woman knew, also, that, in respect and honor and gratitude to this
man, she dared not do this thing against which the instinct of her
heart protested. But still she asked herself: "Why? Why was the door
shut against him? Why was it not in her power to do that which she so
longed to do?"
And still, the thought of Failure haunted her.
And so it was, that, in asking, "why"—in seeking the reason of her
failure, the woman was led back even to the years of her childhood.
Back into her Yesterdays she went in search of the key that kept fast
locked the door of her heart against the man whom she would have so
gladly admitted. And, all the way back, as she retraced the steps of
her years, she looked for one who might have the key. But she found no
one. And in her Yesterdays she found only a boy who had entered her
heart when it was the heart of a little girl.
That the boy of her Yesterdays lived still in the heart of the woman,
she knew. But surely—surely—the boy was not strong enough to hold
her woman heart against the man who sought admittance. The boy could
not hold the door against the man and against the woman herself. Those
vows, made so solemnly under the cherry tree, were but childish vows.
It was but a play wedding, after all. And the kiss that had sealed the
vows—the kiss that was so different from other kisses—it was but a
childish kiss … In the long years that had come between that boy and
girl the vows and the kiss had become but memories—even as the games
they played—even as her keeping house and her family of dolls. That
child wedding belonged only to the Yesterdays.
The woman was haunted by the thought of Failure.
The world said that he was a young man to have achieved so notable a
Success. And he was. But years have, really, little to do with a man's
age. It is the use that a man makes of his years that ages him or
keeps him young.
This man knew that he was a man. He knew that manhood is not a matter
of years. And, knowing this, he had dreamed a man's dream. In the
world he had found something to do—a man's work—and from his
Occupation he had gained Knowledge. He had learned the value of
Ignorance and, behind the things that men have hung upon and piled
about it, he had come to recognize Religion. He knew both the dangers
and the blessings of Tradition. He had gained the heights that are
fortified by Temptation and from those levels so far above the
lowlands had looked out upon Life. Death he knew as a fact and through
Failure he had passed as through a smelting furnace. It is these
things, I say, that count for more in life than years. So, although he
was still young, the man was ready for Success. He was in the fullness
of his manhood strength. The tide of Life, for him, was just reaching
I do not know just what it was in which the man achieved Success. Just
what it was, indeed, is not my story; nor does it matter for Success
is always the same. My story is this: that the man achieved Success
while he was still young and strong to rejoice in the triumph.
The dreams that he had dreamed on the hilltop, when first he realized
his manhood, were, in part, fulfilled. He was looked upon by the world
as one not of the common herd—as one not of the rank and file. He was
accepted, in the field of his work, as a leader—a master. He was held
as one having authority and power. The world pointed him out to its
children as an example to be followed. The mob, that crowds always at
the foot of the ladder, looked up and cursed or begged or praised as
is the temper of such mobs. His name was often in the papers. When he
appeared on the streets or in public places he was recognized. The
people told each other who he was and what he had done. He was
received as a companion by those who were counted great by the world.
Doors that were closed to the multitude, and that had been closed to
him, were opened readily. Opportunities, offered only to the few, were
presented. The golden stream of wealth flowed to his feet. By the
foolish hangers-on of the world he was sought—he was offered praise
and admiration. All that is called Success, in short, was his; not in
so great a measure as had come to some older than he, it is true; but
it was genuine; it was merited; it was secure; and, with the years, it
would increase as a river nearing the sea.
And the man, as he looked back to that day of his dreams, was glad
with an honest gladness. As he looked back to the time when he had
asked of the world only something to do, he was proud with a just
pride. As he looked back upon the things out of which he had builded
his Success and saw how well he had builded, he was satisfied. But
still in his gladness and pride and satisfaction there was a
In his dreams, when he had looked out upon the world as a conquering
emperor, the man had seen only the deeds of valor—the exhibitions of
courage, of heroism, of strength—he had seen only the victories—the
honors. But now, in the fulfillment of his dreams—when he had won the
victory—when the honors were his—he knew the desperate struggle, the
disastrous losses, the pitiful suffering. He had felt the dangers grip
his heart. He had felt the horrid fear of defeat striking at his soul.
Upon him were the marks of the conflict. His victory had not been won
without effort. Success had demanded a price and he had paid. Perhaps
no one but the man himself knew how great was the price he had paid.
The man found also that Success brought cares greater than he had ever
known in the days of his struggle. Always there are cares that wait at
the end of the battle and attend only upon the victor. Always there
are responsibilities that come only when the victory is won—that are
never seen in the heat of the conflict.
Once let it be discovered that you have the strength and the
willingness to carry burdens and burdens will be heaped upon you until
you stagger, fainting, under the load. Life has never yet bred a man
who could shoulder the weight that the world insists that he take up
in his success. And, when the man could not carry all the burdens that
the world brought because his strength and endurance was only that of
a mortal, the world cursed him—called him selfish, full of greed,
heartless, an oppressor caring nothing for the woes of others. Those
who had offered no helping hand in the time of his need now clamored
loudly for a large part of his strength. Those who had cared nothing
for his life in the times of his hardships now insisted that he give
the larger part of his life to them. Those who had held him back now
demanded that he lift them up to a place beside him. Those who had
shown him only indifference—coldness—contempt, now begged of him
And from all these things that attended his success the man found it
impossible to escape. The cares, the burdens, the responsibilities
that Success forced him to take up rested heavily upon him. So heavy
indeed were these things that he had little strength or will left for
the enjoyment of that which he had so worthily won.
And the victory that he had so hardily gained, the place that he now
held, the man found that he could keep only by the utmost exertion of
his strength. The battles he had fought were nothing in comparison to
those he must now fight. The struggle he had made was nothing to the
effort he must continue to make. Temptations multiplied and appeared
in many new and unexpected forms. The very world that pointed him out
as an example watched eagerly for excuse to condemn. Those who sought
him with honors—who praised and flattered him, in envy, secretly
hoped for his ruin. Those who followed him like dogs for favors would
howl like wolves on his trail if he turned ever so little aside. Those
who opened for him the doors of opportunities would flock like
vultures to carrion if he should fall. The world, that, without
consideration, heaped upon him its burdens, would trample him beneath
its feet if he should slip under the weight. Nor had he in Success won
freedom. His very servants were freer than he, to come and go, to seek
their peculiar pleasures.
The chains with which Success had fettered the man were unusually
galling and heavy upon him that day, when, on his way to an important
appointment, his carriage was checked in a crowded street. The man's
mind was so absorbed in the business waiting his attention that he did
not notice how dense was the crowd that barred the way.
Impatiently—with overwrought nerves—he spoke sharply, commanding his
man to drive on.
The man begged pardon but it was impossible.
"Impossible," still more sharply, "what's the matter?"
The driver ventured a smile, "It's the circus parade, sir."
"Then turn around."
But that, too, was impossible. The traffic had pushed in behind
hemming them in.
Then, down the street that crossed in front of the crowded jam of
vehicles, came the familiar sound of trumpets and the gorgeously
attired heralds at the head of the procession appeared, followed by
the leading band with its crashing, smashing, music.
As gilded chariot followed gilded chariot, each drawn by many pairs of
beautiful horses, gaily plumed and equipped—as the many riders, in
glittering armor and flashing, spangled, costumes, rode proudly past;
followed by the long line of elephants and camels with the cages of
their fellow captives; and, in turn, by the chariot racers, the
clowns, and the wagons of black faced fun makers; and at last by the
steam calliope with its escort of madly shouting urchins—the man in
the carriage slipped away from the cares and burdens of the present
into the freedom of his Yesterdays. He escaped from the galling chains
that Success had put upon him and lived again a circus day in the long
Weeks before the date of the great event, the barns and sheds and
every available wall in the little village, to which the boy often
went with his father, would be covered with gorgeous pictures
announcing the many startling, stupendous, wonders, to be seen for so
small a price. There was a hippopotamus of such size that a boat load
of twenty naked savages was not for him a mouthful. There were
elephants so huge that the house where the boy lived was but a play
house beside them. There were troops of aerial artists, who, on wires
and rings and trapeze and ladders and ropes, did daring, dreadful,
death defying, deeds, that no simian in his old world forest would
ever think of attempting. There was a great, glittering, gorgeous,
procession, of such length that the farther end was lost beyond the
distant horizon and tents that covered more acres of ground than the
boy could see from the top of the orchard hill.
Wonderful promises of the billboards! Wonderful! Wonderful promises of
the billboards of Life! Wonderful!
Then would follow the days of waiting—the endless days of
waiting—when the boy, with the help of the little girl, would try to
be everything that the billboards pictured, from the roaring lion in
his cage to the painted clown who cut such side splitting capers and
the human fly that, with her gay Japanese parasol, walked upside down
upon a polished ceiling. When circus day was coming, the fairies and
knights and princes and soldiers and all their tried and true
companions were forced to go somewhere—anywhere—out of the boy's
way. There was no time, in those busy days, even for fishing. The old
mill pond had no charm that was not exceeded by the promises of the
billboards. The earth itself, indeed, was merely a place upon which to
pitch a circus tent. The charms of the little girl, even, were almost
totally eclipsed by the captivating loveliness of those ladies who, in
spangled tights of blue and pink and red, hung by their teeth at dizzy
heights, bestrode glittering wheels upon slack wires, or were shot
from cannon to soar, amid black smoke and lurid flame, like angels,
far above the heads of the common people.
There was no lying in bed to be called the third time the morning of
that day; when at last it came. Scarcely had the sun peeped through
the orchard on the hill when the boy was up and at the window
anxiously looking to see if the sky was clear. Very early the start
for town was made for there is much on circus day that is not pictured
on the billboards—that, of course, the boy knew. And, as they
drove through the fresh smelling fields, the boy would wonder if the
long journey would ever come to an end and would ask himself, with
sinking heart: "What if they had mistaken the day? What if something
had happened that the circus could not materialize the promises of the
billboards? What, if the hippopotamus, the elephants, the beautiful
ladies in spangles and tights, and all the other promises of the
billboards should fail?" And somewhere, deep within his being, the boy
would feel a thrill of gladness that the little girl was so close
beside him. If anything should happen that the promises of the
billboards should fail he would need the little girl. While, if
nothing happened—if it was all as pictured—still it would not be
enough if the little girl were not there.
It was all over at last. The spangled riders galloped out of the ring;
the trapeze performers made their last death defying leap; the clown
cracked his last joke and cut his last caper; the last peanut in the
sack was devoured by the elephant; and, at the close of the long day,
the boy and the girl went back through the quiet fields to their
homes; tired with the excitement and wonder of it all but with sighs
of content and happiness. And, deep in his heart, that night, the boy
resolved that he would grow up to travel with a circus. He would be
very sorry to leave father and mother and the little girl but nothing
in the world—nothing—should keep him from such a glorious career.
The man knew, now, that the promises of those billboards in his
Yesterdays were never fulfilled. He knew, now, that the golden
chariots were not gold at all but only gilded. He knew, now, that
those wondrous beings who wore the glittering, spangled, costumes,
were only very common and very ordinary men and women. He did not,
now, envy the riders in the procession or the performers in the tent.
He knew that to have a place in the parade or to perform in the ring,
is to envy those whose applause you must win. The quiet of the old
fields; the peaceful home under the orchard hill; the gentle
companionship of the little girl; these were the things that in the
man's life endured long after the glamor of the circus was gone.
Through the circus day crowd the man was driven on to his appointment
but his mind was not now occupied with the business that awaited him.
His thoughts were not with the crowd that filled the streets. His
heart was in his Yesterdays. The music of the circus band, the sight
of the parade that so stirred his memories of childhood, had awakened
within him a hunger for the old home scenes. He longed to escape from
Success—to get away from the circus parade of Life in which he found
himself riding. He was weary of performing in the ring. He wanted to
go home through the quiet fields. Perhaps—perhaps—amid the scenes of
his Yesterdays, he might find that which Success had not brought.
As quickly as he could make arrangements, he went.
Of the woman's success, I cannot write here. My story has been poorly
told, indeed, if I have not made it clear that, for this woman who
knew herself to be a woman, Success was inseparable from Love.
For every woman who knows herself to be a woman, Love and Success are
Again it was that time of the year when every corner of the world is a
On bough and branch, in orchard and wood; on bush and vine, in garden
and yard; in meadow grass and pasture sod; on the silvery lichens that
cling to the rocks; among the ferns and mosses that dwell in cool
retreats; amid the reeds and rushes by the old mill pond; in the
fragrant mints and fluted blades on the banks of the little creek; the
children of Nature sought their mates or by their mates were sought.
Every flower cup was a loving cup, lifted to drink a pledge to Life;
every tint of color was a blush of love, called forth by the wooing of
Life; every perfumed breath was a breath of love, a blessing and
prayer of Life; every rustling movement was a whisper of love, a
promised word of Life; every touch of the breeze was a caress of love,
a passionate kiss of Life; every sunbeam was a smile of love, warm
with the tender triumph of Life.
The bees, that, in their labor for hive and swarm, carry the golden
pollen from flower to flower, preach thus the word of God. The gauze
winged insects, that, in the evening, dance their aerial mating dance,
declare thus the Creator's will. The fireflies, that, in the night
time, light their tiny lamps of love, signal thus a message from the
throne on high.
The fowls of the air, singing their mating songs; the wild stallion on
the hills, trumpeting aloud his fiery strength; the bull on the
plains, thundering his bellowing challenge; the panther that in the
mountains screams to his mate; the wolf that in the timber howls to
his mistress; declare thus the supreme law of Life—make known the
unchanging purpose of God—and evidence an authority and power divine.
In all this wooing and mating; in all this seeking and being sought;
in all this giving and receiving; in all this loving and being loved;
in all natural and holy desire; Life is exalted—the divine is
worshiped—acceptable offerings to God are made.
To preserve Life—to perpetuate Life—to produce Life—to perfect
Life—to exalt Life—this is the purpose of Life. In all the activity
of Life there is no other meaning manifest. This, indeed, is
Life. How foolish then to think only of eternal Life as though it
began at the grave. This Life that is, is the eternal Life.
Eternity is to-day. The man and woman who mate in love fulfill
thus the eternal law of Life, and, in their children, conceived and
born in Love, do they know and do the will of God, even as do all
things that are alive.
Life and Love are one.
The man had been at his boyhood home but three days when the neighbor,
who lived next door, told him that his childhood playmate was coming,
with her aunt, to visit their old home for a few weeks.
"Needs a rest and quiet" the neighbor said; and smiled at nothing at
all as neighbors will sometimes do.
Perhaps, though, the neighbor smiled at the look of surprise and
bewilderment that swept over the man's face as he heard the news, or
it might have been at the mingling of pleasure and regret that was in
his voice as he answered: "Indeed." Or, perhaps, the neighbor was
wondering what the woman would say and how she would look if she knew
that the man was to be next door. Whatever the reason the neighbor
They did not know that the woman was, in reality, seeking to escape
from the thought of Failure that so haunted her. Since that day when
her good friend had talked to her of her career and had gravely
asked—"for you do you think it would be success?"—her work
had become more and more unbearable. In desperation, at last, she had
arranged to go, for a few weeks, back to the scenes of her girlhood;
hoping to find there, as she had found before, the peace and strength
The cherry tree, in the corner of the garden near the hedge, showered
the delicate petals of its blossoms down with every touch of the
gentle breeze. In the nearby bower of green, a pair of brown birds had
just put the finishing touch to a new nest. But, in the years that had
passed since that boy and girl play wedding, the tree had grown large,
and scarred, and old. Many pairs of brown birds had nested and reared
their broods in the hedge since that day when the lad had kissed his
childhood mate with a kiss that was different. And the little opening
through which the boy and girl had so often gone at each other's call
was closed by a growth of branches that time had woven as if to shut,
forever, that gateway of their Yesterdays. On his former visit, the
man had looked for that gateway of his childhood but could not find
it. And now, when he heard that she was coming, he went again,
curiously, to see if he could find any sign to show where the opening
had been. But the branches that the years had woven hid from the man's
eyes every trace of the old way that, in his Yesterdays, had been so
Late that afternoon, when the neighbor, coming from the depot with his
guests, drove slowly up the hill, the man stood at the gate where,
years before, the little boy had sat on the post, and, swinging his
bare legs, had watched the big wagons, loaded with household goods,
turning into the yard of the place next door.
There was no reason why the man should get up when the first touches
of gray light showed in the eastern sky the next morning, but the day
seemed to call him and he arose and went out. From the little hill
where he had sat that day when first he knew that he was a man and
where his manhood life began with his dreams, he watched the sun rise
and saw the sleeping world awake. Then back through the orchard that
was all dew drenched and ringing with the morning hymn of the birds,
he went, until he stood in the garden.
The man did not know why he went into the garden. Something seemed to
lead him there. And he went very softly as one goes into places that
are holy with the memories of dead years. Very still, he stood,
watching the two birds that had builded their nest in the hedge near
the cherry tree that, now, lifted its branches so high. The two birds
were very, very, busy that morning; but, busy as they were, the father
bird could not resist pouring forth the joy of his life in a flood of
melody while his mate, swinging and fluttering and chirping on a
nearby twig, seemed to enter as fully and heartily into his sentiments
as though the song were her own. Breathlessly, with bare head and
upturned, eager, face, the man watched and listened.
When the song was ended he drew a long breath—then started and,
without moving from his place, looked carefully around. A low call had
reached his ears—a familiar call that seemed to come out of the long
ago. Surely his fancy was playing him strange tricks that morning.
He was turning toward the house when, again, that call came—low and
clear. It was a call of his Yesterdays. And this time it was followed
by a low, full throated laugh that was as full of music as the song of
the bird to which the man had been listening.
With amazement and wonder upon his face, he turned quickly toward the
hedge, as a voice that was like an echo of the laugh said: "Good
morning! Pardon me for startling you—you looked so much like the
little boy that I couldn't resist."
[Illustration: When they told me that you were here I wanted to go
"But where are you?" asked the man, bewildered still.
Again came that low, full throated laugh. Then: "I believe you think I
am a ghost. I'm here at the hedge—at the old place. Have you
Slowly, as she spoke, he went toward the hedge, guided by her voice.
"So you found it then," he said slowly, gazing at the beautiful
woman face that was framed in the green of the leaves and branches.
And at his words, the woman's heart beat quicker—so he had
tried to find it—but aloud she only said: "Of course."
To which he returned smilingly: "But it is quite grown over now, isn't
it? You could scarcely come through there now as you used to do—could
The woman laughed again. "I could if I were a man"—she challenged.
A moment later he stood beside her; a little breathless, with his
clothing disarranged, and a scratch or two on his face and hands.
"Do you know"—she said when they had shaken hands quite properly as
grown up people must do—"do you know that I was dreadfully afraid to
meet you? When they told me that you were here I wanted to go away
again. I was afraid that you would be so different. Do you
"Yes," he said, gravely, "I understand." But he did not tell her,
then, how fully he understood.
She went on: "But when I looked through the hedge and saw you with
your hat off, watching the birds, I knew you were the same little
boy—and—well—I could not resist giving the old call."
And, all at once, the man knew why he had risen early that morning and
why he had gone into the garden.
After that, they spent many days together in the scenes of their
childhood; living over again, so far as man and woman may, their
Yesterdays. And so cane, at last, the day that was forever after, to
them, the day of all their days.
It was in the afternoon and they were together down by the little
brook, in the shade of the willows, where the stream, running lazily
under the patches of light and shade, murmured drowsily—seeming more
than half asleep. She was weaving an old time daisy chain from a great
armful that he had helped her gather on their way to the cool retreat.
A bit of fancy work that she had brought from the house lay neglected
near his hat, which the man, boy like, had cast aside. He was
industriously fishing for minnows, with a slender twig of willow for a
rod, a line of thread from her sewing, and a pin, that she had found
for him, fashioned into a hook. With a pointed stick he had dug among
the roots of the old tree for bait—securing one, tiny, thin, worm and
rejoicing gleefully at his success. For a long time neither had said a
word; but the woman, her white fingers busy with the daisies in her
lap, had several times looked up from her pretty task to smile at the
man who was so intensely and seriously interested in his childish
"Gee! I nearly got one that time!" He exclaimed with boyish triumph
and disappointment in his voice.
The woman laughed merrily. "One would think," she said, "that your
fame in life depended upon your catching one of those poor little
fish. What do you suppose your dear, devoted, public would say if they
could see you now?"
The man grunted his disapproval. "I came out here to get away from
said public," he retorted. "Why do you drag 'em into our paradise?"
At his words, a warm color crept into the woman's face, and, bending
low over the daisies in her lap, she did not answer.
Lifting the improvised fishing tackle of his childhood and looking at
it critically the man said: "I suppose, now, that if this rod were a
split bamboo, and this thread were braided silk, and this pin with its
wiggly piece of worm were a "Silver Doctor" or a "Queen of the Waters"
or a "Dusty Miller" or a "Brown Hackle"; and if this stream were an
educated stream, with educated trout; and the house up there were a
club house; and your dear old aunt, who is watching to see that I
don't eat you, were a lot of whist playing old men; I suppose you
would think it all right and a proper sport for a man. But for me—I
can't see much difference—except that, just now—" he carefully
lowered his hook into the water—"just now, I prefer this. In fact,"
he added meditatively, "I would rather do this than anything else in
The color in the woman's face deepened.
After a little, he looked cautiously around to see her bending over
the daisy chain. A moment later, under pretense of examining his bait,
he stole another look. Then, in spite of his declaration, he abandoned
his sport to stretch himself full length on the ground at her side.
She did not look at him but bent her head low over the wealth of white
and gold blossoms in her lap; and the man noticed, with an odd feeling
of pleasure, the beautiful curve of her white neck from the soft brown
hair to the edge of her dress low on the shoulder. Then, with a sly
smile, as the boy of their Yesterdays might have done, he stealthily
raised the slender willow twig and with the tip cautiously attempted
to lift the thin golden chain that she always wore loosely about her
throat with the locket or pendant concealed by her dress.
She clutched the chain with a frightened gesture and a little
exclamation. "You must not—you must not do that."
The man laughed aloud as the mischievous boy would have laughed.
But the woman, with flaming cheeks, caught the twig from his hand and
threw it into the creek. "If you are not good, I shall call auntie,"
At which he looked ruefully toward the porch and became very serious.
"Do you know that I am going away to-morrow?" he asked.
"And leave your paradise for your dear public?" she said mockingly.
"The public will be glad."
"And you, will you care?"
"I'm going back to my work, too, next week," she replied.
"But will you care to-morrow?" he persisted.
The woman's fingers, busy with the daisy chain, trembled.
The man, when she still did not answer his question, arose and,
picking up his hat and her sewing, held out his hand.
She looked up into his face questioningly.
"Come"—he said with a grave smile—"come."
Still without speaking, she gave him her hand and he helped her to her
feet; and, at her touch, the man again felt that thrill of pleasure.
The aunt, from her place on the porch, saw them coming up the grassy
slope, through the daisies, toward the house. She saw them coming and
smiled—as the neighbor had smiled, so she smiled, apparently, at
nothing at all.
But the man and the woman did not go to the porch where the old lady
sat. With a wave of their hands, they passed from her sight around the
house, and, a few minutes later, stood face to face in that quiet,
secluded, corner of the garden, under the old cherry tree, close by
"Now," said the man gently, "now tell me—will you be sorry to have me
go away to-morrow?"
She made no pretense that she did not understand, Nor did she hesitate
as one in doubt. Lifting her head, proudly, humbly, graciously, she
looked at him and, in that look, surrendered to him, without reserve,
all the treasures of her womanhood that, with such care, she had kept
against that hour. And her face was shining with the light that only a
woman's mate can kindle.
The man caught his breath. "My wife," he said. "My wife,"
A few moments later he whispered: "Tell me again—I know that you have
always belonged to me and I to you—but tell me again—you will—you
will—be my wife?"
Releasing herself gently, she lifted her hands and, unfastening that
slender chain of gold from around her throat, with rosy cheeks and
happy, tender, eyes, held out to him a tiny brass ring.
So the Yesterdays of the man and the Yesterdays of the woman became
All that Dreams, Occupation, Knowledge, Ignorance, Religion,
Tradition, Temptation, Life, Death, Failure, Success, Love and
Memories had given him, this man who knew that he was a man, gave to
her. All that the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life had given her,
this woman who knew herself to be a woman, gave to him. And thus these
two became one. As God made them one, they became one.
And this is the love that I say, is one of the Thirteen Truly Great
Things of Life.
But my story is not yet quite finished for still, you must know, there
And the years of the man and the woman passed until all their days
Even as they had, together, crossed the threshold of the old, old,
door that has stood open since the beginning, they stood now,
together, upon the threshold of another door that has never been
And it was so, that, as once they went back into the Yesterdays that
became Their Yesterdays, so they still went back to the days that were
past. It was so, that the things of their manhood and womanhood had
become to them, now, even as the things of their childhood. They knew,
now, that, indeed, the work of men is but the play of children, after
Their years were nearly spent, it is true. His hair was silvery white
and his form was bent and trembling. Her cheeks were like the drying
petals of a rose and her once brown hair was as white as his. But the
vigor and strength and life of their years lived still—gloriously
increased in the lives that they had given to the race.
Gone were the years of their manhood and womanhood—even as the days
of their boyhood and girlhood—they were gone. But, as the boy and the
girl had lived in the man and the woman, the man and the woman lived,
now, in their boys and girls and in the children of their children.
And this was the true glory and the fulfillment of their lives—that
they could live thus in their children—that they could see themselves
renewed in their children and in their children's children.
So it was that Memories became to this man and this woman, also, one
of the Thirteen Truly Great Things of Life.
There are many things that might be told about this man and
woman—about the work they did, the place they held in life, and the
rewards and honors they received—but I have put down all that, at the
end, seemed of any importance to them. Therefore have I put down
all that matters to my story.
What matters to them and to my story is this: always, as they went
back into the Yesterdays, they went back to the days of their
childhood and to the days of their children. They went back only to
Their Yesterdays. To those other days—those days when they
were strangers—they did not go back.