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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

The current is turbid and unwholesome


Women

must not expect to receive as much love as they give! It is inviting men to esteem lightly what should be a priceless possession. It is not waiting for them to drag down the banner to the dust; it is making haste to trail it for them with malice aforethought. Men now are not too constant, too devoted to the higher aims of life; but let constancy and devotion not be expected of them, and in what seven-league boots will they stride down the broad road! It is doing them but left-handed service thus to throw the door open to weakness and wavering concerning higher interests, and a blind devotion to the god of this world. To assume that their tone may be low, is to lower their tone. Men are less good than they would be if goodness were demanded of them. The current is turbid and unwholesome, because it is not strictly required to be pure and clear. The way for women to be truly serviceable to men, is to be themselves exacting.

"Exacting"? What word is that? An exacting woman? An exacting wife? "Hail! Horrors, hail!" The unlovely being has existed, and within the memory of men still living, but it has always been looked upon as a monster,

"Whom none could love, whom none could thank, Creation's blot, creation's blank!"

We have fallen on evil times indeed if such a being is to be held up for approval and imitation.

But the character of exaction

depends somewhat on the nature of the thing exacted. To exact from a man that to which you have a right, and which it is his own truest interest to bestow, is neither unchristian nor unamiable. One may and should grant large room for the play of tastes; for differences of organization, opinion, habit, education; but a catholicity which admits to its presence anything that defileth is no fruit of that tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. The gardener who is tolerant of weeds and not untender towards misshapen, or dwarfed, or otherwise imperfect flowers will have but a sorry show for the eyes of the master. Such latitude is a source of deterioration. It is the kindness which kills. Each sex should be to the other an incitement to lofty aims. Each should stand on its own mountain-height and call to the other through clear, bright air; but such sufferance only draws both down into the damp, unwholesome valley-lands where lurk fever and pestilence. A woman cannot with impunity open her doors to unworthy guests. There may be bowing and smiling, and never-ending smooth speech, but in the end, and long before the end, they shall draw their swords against the beauty of her wisdom and shall defile her brightness. A man may go all lengths in pursuit of his own selfish comfort, but he does not the less respect those who hold themselves above it, and if women, who should be pure and purifying, mar the spotlessness of a divine sanctity and lessen the claims of an imperial dignity, thinking thereby to be meeter for profane approach, they work a work whose evil strikes its roots into the inmost life of society. From mistaken kindness woman may weave a narrow garland, but there is lost a glory from the hand that bears and the brow that wears it. If the queen is content to spend her life in the kitchen over bread and honey, and if she is satisfied that the king spend his in the parlor counting out his money, neither king nor queen will receive that homage or command that allegiance which is the rightful royal prerogative.


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