However some may try to analyse man’s love for woman, to explain it, or explain it away, belittle it, nay, even resent and befoul it, it remains an unaccountable phenomenon, a “mystery we make darker with a name.” Biology, cynically pointing at certain of its processes, makes the miracle rather more miraculous than otherwise. Musical instruments are no explanation of music. “Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?” says Benedick, in Much Ado About Nothing, commenting on Balthazar’s music. But they do, for all that, though no one considers sheep’s gut the explanation. To cry “sex” and to talk of nature’s mad preoccupation with the species throws no light on the matter, and robs it of no whit of its magic. The rainbow remains a rainbow, for all the sciences. And woman, with or without the suffrage, stenographer or princess, is of the rainbow. She is beauty made flesh and dwelling amongst us, and whatever the meaning and message of beauty may be, such is the meaning of woman on the earth—her meaning, at all events, for men. That is, she is the embodiment, more than any other creature, of that divine something, whatever it may be, behind matter, that spiritual element out of which all proceeds, and which mysteriously gives its solemn, lovely and tragic significance to our mortal day.
If you tell some women this of themselves, they will smile at you. Men are such children. They are so simple. Dear innocents, how easily they are fooled! A little make-up, a touch of rouge, a dash of henna—and you are an angel. Some women seem really to think this; for, naturally, they know nothing of their own mystery, and imagine that it resides in a few feminine tricks, the superficial cleverness with which some of them know how to make the most of the strange something about them which they understand even less than men understand it.
Other women indeed resent man’s religious attitude toward them as sentimental, old-fashioned. They prefer to be regarded merely as fellow-men. To show consciousness of their sex is to risk offence, and to busy one’s eyes with their magnificent hair, instead of the magnificent brains beneath it, is to insult them. Yet when, in that old court of law, Phryne bared her bosom as her complete case for the defence, she proved herself a greater lawyer than will ever be made by law examinations and bachelor’s degrees; and even when women become judges of the Supreme Court, a development easily within sight, they will still retain the greater importance of being merely women. Yes, and one can easily imagine some future woman President of the United States, for all the acknowledged brilliancy of her administration, being esteemed even more for her superb figure.