“Would you enfranchise the women?” asked the countess.
“I would, but under the same conditions.”
“But would your best element of women exercise the privilege?” asked the little countess.
“Not all of them at first, and some of them never, I suppose; but when once our country awakens to the meaning of patriotism, and our women understand that they are citizens exactly as the men are citizens, they will do their duty, and do it more conscientiously than the men.”
“It is a very interesting subject,” said the count; “and your suggestions open up many possibilities. Women do vote in several of your States, I am told.”
“How I would love to see a woman who had voted,” cried the countess, clasping her hands with all the vivacity of a French woman.
“Why, I have voted,” said Bee, laughing. “I voted for President McKinley in the State of Colorado, and my sister and Mrs. Jimmie voted for school trustee in Illinois.” All three of the Tolstoys turned eagerly toward Bee.
“Do tell me about it,” said the count.
“There is very little to tell. I simply went and stood in line and cast my ballot.”
“But was there no shooting, no bribery, no excitement?” cried the countess. “Do they go dressed as you are now?”
“No, I dressed much better. I wore my best Paris gown, and drove down in my victoria. While I was in the line half a dozen gentlemen, who attended my receptions, came up and chatted with me, showed me how to fold my ballot, and attended me as if we were at a concert. When I came away, I took a street-car home, and sent my carriage for several ladies who otherwise would not have come.”
“And you,” said the countess, turning to Mrs. Jimmie.
“It was in a barber shop,” she said, laughing. “When I went in, the men had their feet on the table, their hats on their heads, and they were all smoking, but at my entrance all these things changed. Hats came off, cigars were laid down, and feet disappeared. I was politely treated, and enjoyed it immensely.”
“How very interesting,” said Tolstoy. “But are there not societies for and against suffrage? Why do your women combine against it?”
“Because American women have not awakened to the meaning of good citizenship, and they prefer chivalry to justice, regardless of the love of country. I never belonged to any suffrage society, never wrote or spoke or talked about it. I think the responsibility of voting would be heavy and often disagreeable, but, if the women were enfranchised, I would vote from a sense of duty, just as I think many others would; and, as to the good which might accrue, I think you will agree with me that women’s standards are higher than men’s. There would be far less bribery in politics than there is now.”
“Is there much bribery?” asked Tolstoy.
“Unfortunately, I suppose there is. Have you heard how the ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tom Reed, defines an honest man in politics? ‘An honest man is a man that will stay bought!’”