Society, we all agree, has some very unjust
Society Smiles on the Man.
rules regarding the immorality of men and
It smiles on the man, while it cuts the woman
dead for the very same sin.
Most of us indulge in a good deal of sentimental
sorrow and indignation on this subject when it arises
for discussion; but when we are put to the test, we
find ourselves wholly unable to start a reform on a
Some time ago I met, during a shopping tour, a
young woman whom I had known well, if not inti-
mately, but of whom I had heard nothing for a
period of several years. The last I knew of her
she had buried her husband after a brief and most
From the dry-goods counter where we met, we
walked to the street together. As I turned to go
my separate way, I said: "I should like to see you
for a good chat. If you will give me your address,
I will send you my card."
The young woman looked me squarely in the eyes
a moment without answering. Then she said
bravely: "No, I hardly think you will want to
have me call when I tell you that I am keeping
house with a man to whom I am not married. We
are very fond of each other, but we do not believe
in marriage. He was wretchedly married, and is
divorced. I passed through purgatory, to speak
mildly, during my brief married life. Now I am
perfectly happy with this man, and he is contented
and at peace with me. We are faithful to each
other, and we live a better, cleaner, and more loyal
life than lots of wives and husbands whom you have
on your visiting list. Yes, I am sure you will not
send me your card. I shall not blame you, for that
is the way of the world--the world, which I
There was scorn in her face and in her voice, but
there was resentment, too; the resentment a woman
always feels after she boldly declares she will give
up the world for love, and the world takes her at
"It is all very droll," she continued, without
ing for me to speak. "The man with whom I am
living (and she named him) has been quite a favor-
ite with a lot of people who have fine homes and
who entertain a good deal. He still received their
cards, though I am sure a great many of them know
all about his present life. But no cards come to me
from the people who know. It is all so funny--so
She laughed, but there was no mirth in the laugh;
no amusement in her eyes.
"Don't waste any pity on me," she said as she
turned away. "I am happy for the first time in my
life. I am satisfied and contented, and I believe I
am doing right. Good-by--I shall not look for the
I came home full of self-analyzing queries.
First of all, I said that I believed the girl was
so great a sinner as the girl who marries a man she
despises, for his money. She is not so much of a
sinner as the wife who flirts with other men, crim-
inal in thought if not in deed.
She is no more sinful than the man she lives with.
I meet--we all of us meet--everywhere we go,
sinners of those three classes. The woman who
married for money, the flirting wife, the fallen man,
all call upon us, and we encounter them in other
people's houses--even in the house of the clergy.
They partake of the sacrament in our churches.
Yet all of us--every one of us--would hesitate to
send this young woman a card and introduce her to
I confess I did not send the young woman my
To have done so would have involved her and
myself and many others in a series of embarrass-
But the experience taught me how much more
ready we all are to condemn the unjust laws of
society than to attempt to defy them.
Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.