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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSamantha On The Woman Question - Chapter 3. "Polly's Eyes Crowed Tender"
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Samantha On The Woman Question - Chapter 3. 'Polly's Eyes Crowed Tender' Post by :terirhodes Category :Long Stories Author :Marietta Holley Date :May 2012 Read :2593

Click below to download : Samantha On The Woman Question - Chapter 3. "Polly's Eyes Crowed Tender" (Format : PDF)

Samantha On The Woman Question - Chapter 3. "Polly's Eyes Crowed Tender"

CHAPTER III. "POLLY'S EYES CROWED TENDER"

Lorinda wuz dretful glad to see us and so wuz her husband and Polly. But the Reunion had to be put off on account of a spell her husband wuz havin'. Lorinda said she could not face such a big company as she'd invited while Hiram wuz havin' a spell, and I agreed with her.

Sez I, "Never, never, would I have invited company whilst Josiah wuz sufferin' with one of his cricks."

Men hain't patient under pain, and outsiders hain't no bizness to hear things they say and tell on 'em. So Polly had to write to the relations puttin' off the Reunion for one week. But Lorinda kep' on cookin' fruit cake and such that would keep, she had plenty of help, but loved to do her company cookin' herself. And seein' the Reunion wuz postponed and Lorinda had time on her hands, I proposed she should go with me to the big out-door meetin' of the Suffragists, which wuz held in a nigh-by city.

"Good land!" sez she, "nothin' would tempt me to patronize anything so brazen and onwomanly as a out-door meetin' of wimmen, and so onhealthy and immodest." I see she looked reproachfully at Polly as she said it. Polly wuz arrangin' some posies in a vase, and looked as sweet as the posies did, but considerable firm too, and I see from Lorinda's looks that Polly wuz one who had to leave father and mother for principle's sake.

But I sez, "You're cookin' this minute, Lorinda, for a out-door meetin'" (she wuz makin' angel cake). "And why is this meetin' any more onwomanly or immodest than the camp-meetin' where you wuz converted, and baptized the next Sunday in the creek?"

"Oh, them wuz religious meetin's," sez she.

"Well," sez I, "mebby these wimmen think their meetin' is religious. You know the Bible sez, 'Faith and works should go together,' and some of the leaders of this movement have showed by their works as religious a sperit and wielded aginst injustice to young workin' wimmen as powerful a weepon as that axe of the 'Postles the Bible tells about. And you said you went every day to the Hudson-Fulton doin's and hearn every out-door lecture; you writ me that there wuz probable a million wimmen attendin' them out-door meetin's, and that wuz curosity and pleasure huntin' that took them, and this is a meetin' of justice and right."

"Oh, shaw!" sez Lorinda agin, with her eye on Polly. "Wimmen have all the rights they want or need." Lorinda's husband bein' rich and lettin' her have her way she is real foot loose, and don't feel the need of any more rights for herself, but I told her then and there some of the wrongs and sufferin's of Serepta Pester, and bein' good-hearted (but obstinate and bigoted) she gin in that the errents wuz hefty, and that Serepta wuz to be pitied, but she insisted that wimmen's votin' wouldn't help matters.

But Euphrasia Pottle, a poor relation from Troy, spoke up. "After my husband died one of my girls went into a factory and gits about half what the men git for the same work, and my oldest girl who teaches in the public school don't git half as much for the same work as men do, and her school rooms are dark, stuffy, onhealthy, and crowded so the children are half-choked for air, and the light so poor they're havin' their eyesight spilte for life, and new school books not needed at all, are demanded constantly, so some-one can make money."

"Yes," sez I, "do you spoze, Lorinda, if intelligent mothers helped control such things they would let their children be made sick and blind and the money that should be used for food for poor hungry children be squandered on _on_-necessary books they are too faint with hunger to study."

"But wimmen's votin' wouldn't help in such things," sez Lorinda, as she stirred her angel cake vigorously.

But Euphrasia sez, "My niece, Ellen, teaches in a state where wimmen vote and she gits the same wages men git for the same work, and her school rooms are bright and pleasant and sanitary, and the pupils, of course, are well and happy. And if you don't think wimmen can help in such public matters just go to Seattle and see how quick a bad man wuz yanked out of his public office and a good man put in his place, mostly by wimmen's efforts and votes."

"Yes," sez I, "it is a proved fact that wimmen's votes do help in these matters. And do you think, Lorinda, that if educated, motherly, thoughtful wimmen helped make the laws so many little children would be allowed to toil in factories and mines, their tender shoulders bearin' the burden of constant labor that wears out the iron muscles of men?"

Polly's eyes growed tender and wistful, and her little white hands lingered over her posies, and I knowed the hard lot of the poor, the wrongs of wimmen and children, the woes of humanity, wuz pressin' down on her generous young heart. And I could see in her sweet face the brave determination to do and to dare, to try to help ondo the wrongs, and try to lift the burdens from weak and achin' shoulders. But Lorinda kep' on with the same old moth-eaten argument so broke down and feeble it ort to be allowed to die in peace.

"Woman's suffrage would make women neglect their homes and housework and let their children run loose into ruin."

I knowed she said it partly on Polly's account, but I sez in surprise, "Why, Lorinda, it must be you hain't read up on the subject or you would know wherever wimmen has voted they have looked out first of all for the children's welfare. They have raised the age of consent, have closed saloons and other places of licensed evil, and in every way it has been their first care to help 'em to safer and more moral surroundin's, for who has the interest of children more at heart than the mothers who bore them, children who are the light of their eyes and the hope of the future."

Lorinda admitted that the state of the children in the homes of the poor and ignorant wuz pitiful. "But," sez she, "the Bible sez 'ye shall always have the poor with you,' and I spoze we always shall, with all their sufferin's and wants. But," sez she, "in well-to-do homes the children are safe and well off, and don't need any help from woman legislation."

"Why, Lorinda," sez I, "did you ever think on't how such mothers may watch over and be the end of the law to their children with the father's full consent during infancy when they're wrastlin' with teethin', whoopin'-cough, mumps, etc., can be queen of the nursery, dispensor of pure air, sunshine, sanitary, and safe surroundin's in every way, and then in a few years see 'em go from her into dark, overcrowded, unsanitary, carelessly guarded places, to spend the precious hours when they are the most receptive to influence and pass man-made pitfalls on their way to and fro, must stand helpless until in too many cases the innocent healthy child that went from her care returns to her half-blind, a physical and moral wreck. The mother who went down to death's door for 'em, and had most to do in mouldin' their destiny during infancy should have at least equal rights with the father in controllin' their surroundin's during their entire youth, and to do this she must have equal legal power or her best efforts are wasted. That this is just and right is as plain to me as the nose on my face and folks will see it bom-bye and wonder they didn't before.

"And wimmen who suffer most by the lack on't, will be most interested in openin' schools to teach the fine art of domestic service, teachin' young girls how to keep healthy comfortable homes and fit themselves to be capable wives and mothers. I don't say or expect that wimmen's votin' will make black white, or wash all the stains from the legislative body at once, but I say that jest the effort to git wimmen's suffrage has opened hundreds of bolted doors and full suffrage will open hundreds more. And I'm goin' to that woman's suffrage meetin' if I walk afoot."

But here Josiah spoke up, I thought he wuz asleep, he wuz layin' on the lounge with a paper over his face. But truly the word, "Woman's Suffrage," rousts him up as quick as a mouse duz a drowsy cat, so, sez he, "I can't let you go, Samantha, into any such dangerous and onwomanly affair."

"Let?" sez I in a dry voice; "that's a queer word from one old pardner to another."

"I'm responsible for your safety, Samantha, and if anybody goes to that dangerous and onseemly meetin' I will. Mebby Polly would like to go with me." As stated, Polly is as pretty as a pink posy, and no matter how old a man is, nor how interestin' and noble his pardner is, he needs girl blinders, yes, he needs 'em from the cradle to the grave. But few, indeed, are the female pardners who can git him to wear 'em.

He added, "You know I represent you legally, Samantha; what I do is jest the same as though you did it."

Sez I, "Mebby that is law, but whether it is gospel is another question. But if you represent me, Josiah, you will have to carry out my plans; I writ to Diantha Smith Trimble that if I went to the city I'd take care of Aunt Susan a night or two, and rest her a spell; you know Diantha is a widder and too poor to hire a nurse. But seein' you represent me you can set up with her Ma a night or two; she's bed-rid and you'll have to lift her round some, and give her her medicine and take care of Diantha's twins, and let her git a good sleep."

"Well, as it were--Samantha--you know--men hain't expected to represent wimmen in everything, it is mostly votin' and tendin' big meetin's and such."

"Oh, I see," sez I; "men represent wimmen when they want to, and when they don't wimmen have got to represent themselves."

"Well, yes, Samantha, sunthin' like that."

He didn't say anything more about representin' me, and Polly said she wuz goin' to ride in the parade with some other college girls. Lorinda's linement looked dark and forbiddin' as Polly stated in her gentle, but firm way this ultimatum. Lorinda hated the idee of Polly's jinin' in what she called onwomanly and immodest doin's, but I looked beamin'ly at her and gloried in her principles.

After she went out Lorinda said to me in a complainin' way, "I should think that a girl that had every comfort and luxury would be contented and thankful, and be willin' to stay to home and act like a lady."

Sez I, "Nothin' could keep Polly from actin' like a lady, and mebby it is because she is so well off herself that makes her sorry for other young girls that have nothin' but poverty and privation."

"Oh, nonsense!" sez Lorinda. But I knowed jest how it wuz. Polly bein' surrounded by all the good things money could give, and bein' so tender-hearted her heart ached for other young girls, who had to spend the springtime of their lives in the hard work of earnin' bread for themselves and dear ones, and she longed to help 'em to livin' wages, so they could exist without the wages of sin, and too many on 'em had to choose between them black wages and starvation. She wanted to help 'em to better surroundin's and she knowed the best weepon she could put into their hands to fight the wolves of Want and Temptation, wuz the ballot. Polly hain't a mite like her Ma, she favors the Smiths more, her grand-ma on her pa's side wuz a Smith and a woman of brains and principle.

Durin' my conversation with Lorinda, I inquired about Royal Gray, for as stated, he wuz a great favorite of ourn, and I found out (and I could see it gaulded her) that when Polly united with the Suffragists he shied off some, and went to payin' attention to another girl. Whether it wuz to make Polly jealous and bring her round to his way of thinkin', I didn't know, but mistrusted, for I could have took my oath that he loved Polly deeply and truly. To be sure he hadn't confided in me, but there is a language of the eyes, when the soul speaks through 'em, and as I'd seen him look at Polly my own soul had hearn and understood that silent language and translated it, that Polly wuz the light of his eyes, and the one woman in the world for him. And I couldn't think his heart had changed so sudden. But knowin' as I did the elastic nature of manly affection, I felt dubersome.

This other girl, Maud Vincent, always said to her men friends, it wuz onwomanly to try to vote. She wuz one of the girls who always gloried in bein' a runnin' vine when there wuz any masculine trees round to lean on and twine about. One who always jined in with all the idees they promulgated, from neckties to the tariff, who declared cigar smoke wuz so agreeable and welcome; it did really make her deathly sick, but she would choke herself cheerfully and willin'ly if by so chokin' she could gain manly favor and admiration.

She said she didn't believe in helpin' poor girls, they wuz well enough off as it wuz, she wuz sure they didn't feel hunger and cold as rich girls did, their skin wuz thicker and their stomachs different and stronger, and constant labor didn't harm them, and working girls didn't need recreation as rich girls did, and woman's suffrage wouldn't help them any; in her opinion it would harm them, and anyway the poor wuz on-grateful.

She had the usual arguments on the tip of her tongue, for old Miss Vincent, the aunt she lived with, wuz a ardent She Aunty and very prominent in the public meetin's the She Auntys have to try to compel the Suffragists not to have public meetin's. They talk a good deal in public how onwomanly and immodest it is for wimmen to talk in public. And she wuz one of the foremost ones in tryin' to git up a school to teach wimmen civics, to prove that they mustn't ever have anything to do with civics.

Yes, old Miss Vincent wuz a real active, ardent She Aunty, and Maud Genevieve takes after her. Royal Gray, his handsome attractive personality, and his millions, had long been the goal of Maud's ambition. And how ardently did she hail the coolness growing between him and Polly, the little rift in the lute, and how zealously did she labor to make it larger.

Polly and Royal had had many an argument on the subject, that is, he would begin by makin' fun of the Suffragists and their militant doin's, which if he'd thought on't wuz sunthin' like what his old revolutionary forbears went through for the same reasons, bein' taxed without representation, and bein' burdened and punished by the law they had no voice in making, only the Suffragettes are not nearly so severe with their opposers, they haven't drawed any blood yet. Why, them old Patriots we revere so, would consider their efforts for freedom exceedingly gentle and tame compared to their own bloody battles.

And Royal would make light of the efforts of college girls to help workin' girls, and the encouragement and aid they'd gin 'em when they wuz strikin' for less death-dealin' hours of labor, and livin' wages, and so forth. I don't see how such a really noble young man as Royal ever come to argy that way, but spoze it wuz the dead hand of some rough onreasonable old ancestor reachin' up out of the shadows of the past and pushin' him on in the wrong direction.

So when he begun to ridicule what Polly's heart wuz sot on, when she felt that he wuz fightin' agin right and justice, before they knowed it both pairs of bright eyes would git to flashin' out angry sparks, and hash words would be said on both sides. That old long-buried Tory ancestor of hisen eggin' him on, so I spoze, and Polly's generous sperit rebellin' aginst the injustice and selfishness, and mebby some warlike ancestor of hern pushin' her on to say hash things. 'Tennyrate he had grown less attentive to her, and wuz bestowin' his time and attentions elsewhere.

And when she told him she wuz goin' to ride in the automobile parade of the suffragists, but really ridin' she felt towards truth and justice to half the citizens of the U.S., he wuz mad as a wet hen, a male wet hen, and wuz bound she shouldn't go.

Some men, and mebby it is love that makes 'em feel so (they say it is), and mebby it is selfishness (though they won't own up to it), but they want the women they love to belong to them alone, want to rule absolutely over their hearts, their souls, their bodies, and all their thoughts and aims, desires, and fancies. They don't really say they want 'em to wear veils, and be shet in behind lattice-windowed harems, but I believe they would enjoy it.

They want to be foot loose and heart loose themselves, but always after Ulysses is tired of world wandering, he wants to come back and open the barred doors of home with his own private latch-key, and find Penelope knitting stockings for him with her veil on, waitin' for him.

That sperit is I spoze inherited from the days when our ancestor, the Cave man, would knock down the woman he fancied, with a club, and carry her off into his cave and keep her there shet up. But little by little men are forgettin' their ancestral traits, and men and wimmen are gradually comin' out of their dark caverns into the sunshine (for women too have inherited queer traits and disagreeable ones, but that is another story).

Well, as I said, Royal wuz mad and told Polly that he guessed that the day of the Parade he would take Maud Vincent out in the country in his motor, to gather May-flowers. Polly told him she hoped they would have a good time, and then, after he had gone, drivin' his car lickety-split, harem skarum, owin' to his madness I spoze, Polly went upstairs and cried, for I hearn her, her room wuz next to ourn.

And I deeply respected her for her principles, for he had asked her first to go May-flowering with him the day of the Suffrage meeting. But she refused, havin' in her mind, I spoze, the girls that couldn't hunt flowers, but had to handle weeds and thistles with bare hands (metaforically) and wanted to help them and all workin' wimmen to happier and more prosperous lives.

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