Hydrogen Jukebox Press
An Online Edition
edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers
Monday, April 6, 1914
Round the rim of the fountain's upper basin sat the birds, bathed and refreshed, with feathers fluffed out luxuriously in the warmth of the sun. They felt that it was worth having lain under the heel of winter to attain this spring morning, and wondered if there were not something impious in the migratory restlessness of species which prefer to make their own climate. There was little talk for some time, but it was felt that the Fireman was thinking.
"Eugenics," he said at last, apropos of nothing, "which to man is a new discovery, is in fact the religion of nature, and has been from the beginning. What does life worship if not the race-stream?"
"We know that." The Sparrow could hardly wait to put in his chirp. "We don't hold go-to-church days about it, but it's our rule of daily conduct all the same. I don't see any of us building, for personal vanity or convenience, in a location unwholesome for fledglings!"
"Or drinking," chirped his mate, "for our own pleasure a liquor which poisons young in the egg!"
"We have always been eugenist--and come to think of it, we have always been feminist, too--haven't we, my dear?"
But his mate had gone to see about an earthworm that was lured by the sunbeams out on to the pavement, and he had no choice but to follow.
"It is true," said the White Pigeon, "that many of our immemorial customs are similar to those for which the feminist movement stands. For instance, even among us who mate for life instead of for a season, a mother bird ill-used by her mate is entitled to break off relations--"
The Gray Pigeon sat up very erect and smooth. "That never happens."
"It never does," agreed the White Pigeon. "If it did I should not like to speak of it. It never happens, partly on account of this very freedom, and partly because, while no approach attaches to her course, the mother bird would meet with unavoidable inconvenience, not to say trouble--trouble not to be compared, however, to that of being bound to a peckish or stingy mate."
"Who ever heard of choosing a mate with a peckish disposition," objected the Gray Pigeon. "Why choose such such a mate from among plenty of better ones? Have women no foresight?"
"Foresight has little chance amid the artificial conditions under which human matings take place. How well do you think you would have known your mate, Gray Sister, if you had seen him only, say, while pluming himself, or during a short flight? Also among human beings the future mother is not given a free choice. Many considerations are given weight which do not come into the question with us at all. She is taught to look at the comfort of the nest provided, at something known as social position, at everything but those personal qualities which, inherent in her mate, determine the character of her future children. In fact, though I can scarcely believe it, I have heard Mrs. Grundy will not allow girls to speak or even think of their future children."
"I have heard that, too," mused the Gray Pigeon, "and I have wondered for years who Mrs. Grundy is. I know by sight nearly all the influential women about here, but this one who wields such power over future as well as present generations, I have never seen."
"Nor I. You would suppose her to be at least president of one of the leading clubs; but her name is not on the roster of any, so far as I can learn. You would think she must attend all of the principal social functions. Every one must be afraid not to invite her; yet somehow she is never seen."
"Have you looked in the phone book?" chattered two voices together. The Sparrow and his mate had returned.
"Her phone is certainly not in her own name," said the Pigeons.
"Maybe she lives outside the city," suggested the Hensparrow.
"Hardly. She is a living force, here and now. You would not believe how many senseless customs are kept up, to the inconvenience of everybody, because she has indorsed them; how many false ideas prevail by the weight of her judgment; how many marriages even are made with an eye to her approval."
"Possibly," theorized the Sparrow, "she is a life-long cripple, who never goes out, but exercises her authority over society from a wheeled chair."
"Such things have been known," agreed the Gray Pigeon, "but they are rare. I wonder, by the way, if the absence of cripples or infirm among us is not partly due to the fact that we have no Mrs. Grundy to thwart, among pigeons, the course of natural selection?"
"What magnificent force of character she must have!" The White Pigeon hates to speak ill of any one.
"If she would use it for good instead of evil," said the Gray Pigeon quickly.
"But is it proved that [t]he influence is for evil," pleaded the White Pigeon. Is it not possible that the dread of what she may say prevents a great deal of misbehavior? It is so easy to misjudge people!"
"It is much easier to see right through them in the twinking of a coffee pot!" exclaimed the Sparrow. ["]I've always noticed that the ones who are too particular to breathe deep when Mrs. Grundy may hear of it are the ones who need watching; while those who do right from principle, without thought of how they appear to her, may often be misunderstood temporarily or by shallow critics, yet they are to be trusted. Their characters are founded on something more stable than other folks' opinions."
"Of course, if one were unable to act from higher motives," said the Gray Pigeon, "Mrs. Grundy's whims are a better criterion than none. But like the control of a child by a fickle or selfish parent, it is a relation one is glad to outgrow."
"If Mrs. Grundy were wiser," lamented the White Pigeon. "If she would teach women to think first and always of the welfare of the coming generation, and to plan their lives accordingly!"
"The thing to do," said the Fireman, "is to find Mrs. Grundy and convert her to a belief in eugenics. She would be the world's most powerful worker for the good of the race if once enlisted."
"We might find her," said the Gray Pigeon, "but we could hardly convert her."
"I will do that," promised the Fireman.
All the birds sprang into the air in astonishment. It is naturally unusual for the Iron Fireman to even imagine taking an active part in affairs.
"Let us look into automobiles," suggested the Gray Pigeon. "Many shut-ins will go out today."
"Do you suppose he will really step down from his place and convert Mrs. Grundy?" asked the White Pigeon as she flew away.
"If he does," replied her sister, "his descent will prove the lesser miracle."
The Sparrow, who is utterly shameless about peeping and listening, now proposed to his mate a search of all windows. "We can find her," said he, confidently. So today the pair of them are fluttering curiously about every door and window that is open to the spring day, looking for Mrs. Grundy.
Don't let them find her
in your house!