Morovenia is a state in which both the mosque and the motor-car now occur in the same landscape. It started out to be Turkish and later decided to be European.
The Mohammedan sanctuaries with their hideous stencil decorations and bulbous domes are jostled by many new shops with blinking fronts and German merchandise. The orthodox turn their faces toward Mecca while the enlightened dream of a journey to Paris. Men of title lately have made the pleasing discovery that they may drink champagne and still be good Mussulmans. The red slipper has been succeeded by the tan gaiter. The voluminous breeches now acknowledge the superior graces of intimate English trousers. Frock-coats are more conventional than beaded jackets. The fez remains as a part of the insignia of the old faith and hereditary devotion to the Sick Man.
The generation of males which has been extricating itself from the shackles of Orientalism has not devoted much worry to the Condition of Woman.
In Morovenia woman is still unliberated. She does not dine at a palm-garden or hop into a victoria on Thursday afternoon to go to the meeting of a club organized to propagate cults. If she met a cult face to face she would not recognize it.
Nor does she suspect, as she sits in her prison apartment, peeping out through the lattice at the monotonous drift of the street life, that her sisters in far-away Michigan are organizing and raising missionary funds in her behalf.
She does not read the dressmaking periodicals. She never heard of the Wednesday matinee. When she takes the air she rides in a carriage that has a sheltering hood, and she is veiled up to the eyes, and she must never lean out to wriggle her little finger-tips at men lolling in front of the cafes. She must not see the men. She may look at them, but she must not see them. No wonder the sisters in Michigan are organizing to batter down the walls of tradition, and bring to her the more recent privileges of her sex!
Two years ago, when this story had its real beginning, the social status of woman in Morovenia was not greatly different from what it is to-day, or what it was two centuries ago.
Woman had two important duties assigned to her. One was to hide herself from the gaze of the multitude, and the other was to be beautiful—that is, fat. A woman who was plump, or buxom, or chubby might be classed as passably attractive, but only the fat women were irresistible. A woman weighing two hundred pounds was only two-thirds as beautiful as one weighing three hundred. Those grading below one hundred and fifty were verging upon the impossible.
If it had been planned to make this an old-fashioned discursive novel, say of the Victor Hugo variety, the second chapter would expend itself upon a philosophical discussion of Fat and a sensational showing of how and why the presence or absence of adipose tissue, at certain important crises, had altered the destinies of the whole race.