Hydrogen Jukebox Press
An Online Edition
edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers
Monday, June 15, 1914
Over the square the evening sky was deeply, darkly, greenly blue. Above Cameron Hill a star flamed and quivered in the ascending heat waves. The courthouse yard was filled with an orange-tinted glow from paper lanterns hung where a lawn fete was in progress under the trees.
The continual sparkling shower of fountain spray gleamed in the electric light from the street. From among the water hyacinths and ferns a tree toad kept trilling his happiness and gratitude for the perpetual rain supplied by the Fireman. "Cool rrrrain! Sweet rrrrain!" he sang.
"The town won't need an incinerator if this weather keeps on," said a fretful voice, and between the glinting leaves and broad, white blossoms of the magnolia branches appeared two green eyes of the Screech Owl who lives on Vine street. He had come down, out of curiosity, to see--from a safe distance, of course--what the unusual lights in the courthouse park could mean.
"Not our square," sang the Tree Toad. "Here it is always cool."
"Most of the city's real workers are half incinerated already," wailed the disgruntled owlet. "If Central does not answer promptly in these days, the public should take it for granted she has become faint. Some of them fall at their work every day. Why don't everybody who can do so sleep on the porch? I can't stand a wakeful city--people gasping and turning until midnight, when I want to go abroad quietly, make me nervous."
"When it does begin to rain," trilled the Tree Toad, hopefully, "when it does begin to rain, it may rain forty days and forty nights!"
"Yes, no doubt the rain will come down and wet our bones," said the Owl. "It's all very well for you--that pocket shower you find big enough for your needs; but it only tantalizes the rest of us." He raised his whimpering screech of "Oh, that I had never been borrrrn!" and the little negroes of the street made haste to get away before the cry of ill omen could be repeated, for everybody knows that is is bad luck to listen to the Screech Owl.
"Oh, Fireman, dear, and did ye hear
the news that's goin' round?" cried a new voice, and the Tree Toad and the Owl looked
up to see the Night Hawk whirling in light, swift circles around the square. He cannot
sing, and it was odd to hear him try.
'Tis the most distressful country that ever I did note.
For they're starving Englishwomen for the wanting
of the vote."
The Fireman was amused. "After the tortures of forcible feeding, I shouldn't think the suffragettes would mind being allowed to starve," he said. "Starvation has no sting, and the government no victory on that score. And, after all, the resolution to treat women offenders as harshly as men is a step in the direction of equality."
"Do women want that kind of equality?" asked the Tree Toad, horrified.
"It depends on the kind of women. Not all the fifty-seven varieties who applied for the post of meat inspector would ask for it. Those who all their lives have been cared for, their needs and wishes met as soon as expressed, do not. Women who are like the magnolia flowers--frail without being the finer for their frailty, marred by a touch or soiled by a breath--would not wish it. Others have not sufficient imagination to realize a difference in customs, nor courage to face anything new. They are the ones who can't bear to think of going to the polls--'Down there among all those Men!' They pass through throngs of the same kind of men on the street every day, and yet do not realize that if women voted there would be as many women as men at the polls.
"But there are plenty of women who know which world they are living in, and recognize their own worth and duty in it, who ask nothing better than the chance to relinquish superficial special courtesies for fundamental justice, and would cheerfully throw their lives into the balance if necessary to obtain the transfer."
The Owl's shivering cry again rang across the shadows.
"I am in terror of this feminism!" he wailed. "I have a horror of women fighting, of sacrilege and destruction, of the danger to women and to civilization. Have you ever wondered why the Ants, for instance, and the Bees, with their elaborate social system--as far as it goes more perfect in some respects than man's--never advanced any farther in the line of development? Why should this be, except that with their races femininism reigns supreme?"
"Some things," said the Fireman, "will endure while the tides run and the sun shines. The interdependence of man and woman for the good of the child is one. There are other menaces which ought to be looked for: the Colorado situation, the growth of Mormonism, the wave of immorality that is sweeping so large a portion of the younger generation--these are threats against civilization more terrible than the militant hatchet."
"But," wailed the Owl, "these are not so disconcertingly new!"
And everybody felt that he had said the last word.