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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter III

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"I cannot argue with you," said the Old Maid. "I know one case. They were both poor; it would have made no difference to her, but it did to him. Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that, as you say, our instincts are given us to guide us. I do not know. The future is not in our hands; it does not belong to us. Perhaps it were wiser to listen to the voices that are sent to us."

"I remember a case, also," said the Woman of the World. She had risen to prepare the tea, and was standing with her back to us. 'Like the woman you speak of, she was poor, but one of the sweetest creatures I have ever known. I cannot help thinking it would have been good for the world had she been a mother."

"My dear lady," cried the Minor Poet, "you help me!"

"I always do, according to you," laughed the Woman of the World. "I appear to resemble the bull that tossed the small boy high into the apple-tree he had been trying all the afternoon to climb."

"It is very kind of you," answered the Minor Poet. "My argument is that woman is justified in regarding marriage as the end of her existence, the particular man as but a means. The woman you speak of acted selfishly, rejecting the crown of womanhood because not tendered to her by hands she had chosen."

"You would have us marry without love?" asked the Girton Girl.

"With love, if possible," answered the Minor Poet; "without, rather than not at all. It is the fulfilment of the woman's law."

"You would make of us goods and chattels," cried the Girton Girl.

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"I would make of you what you are," returned the Minor Poet, "the priestesses of Nature's temple, leading man to the worship of her mysteries. An American humorist has described marriage as the craving of some young man to pay for some young woman's board and lodging. There is no escaping from this definition; let us accept it. It is beautiful--so far as the young man is concerned. He sacrifices himself, deprives himself, that he may give. That is love. But from the woman's point of view? If she accept thinking only of herself, then it is a sordid bargain on her part. To understand her, to be just to her, we must look deeper. Not sexual, but maternal love is her kingdom. She gives herself not to her lover, but through her lover to the great Goddess of the Myriad Breasts that shadows ever with her guardian wings Life from the outstretched hand of Death."

"She may be a nice enough girl from Nature's point of view," said the Old Maid; "personally, I shall never like her."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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