“Apropos of crude workmanship,” began my host after a pause, during which he had been examining his long fingers with an air of criticism and doubtful approbation. “You know why I wrote to you?”
I confessed that I was unable to guess his motive.
“Well, then, listen to me. Your article was written with a good deal of youthful power; but it was thoroughly false. You spoke of what you did not know. I thought it was my duty to guard you from future errors, especially as I felt that you were a young man standing upon the threshold of life, about to enter upon a career of great mischief or great usefulness. Then you are of my own blood—but there is no need of apologies. You have come, as I thought you would.”
“It was especially my sentiments regarding Norsewomen, I believe, that you objected to,” I said hesitatingly; for in spite of his fine eyes, my friend still impressed me as an unknown quantity, and I mentally labelled him x, and determined by slow degrees to solve his equation.
“Yes,” he answered; “your sentiments about Norsewomen, or rather about women in general. They are made very much of the same stuff the world over. I do not mind telling you that I speak from bitter experience, and my words ought, therefore, to have the more weight.”
“Your experience must have been very wide,” I answered by way of pleasantry, “since, as you hint, it includes the whole world.”
He stared for a moment, did not respond to my smile, but continued in the same imperturbable monotone:
“When God abstracted that seventh or ninth rib from Adam, and fashioned a woman of it, the result was, entre nous, nothing to boast of. I have ever ceased to regret that Adam did not wake up in time to thwart that hazardous experiment. It may have been necessary to introduce some tragic element into our lives, and if that was the intention, I admit that the means were ingenious. To my mind the only hope of salvation for the human race lies in its gradual emancipation from that baleful passion which draws men and women so irresistibly to each other. Love and reason in a well-regulated human being, form at best an armed neutrality, but can never cordially co-operate. But few men arrive in this life at this ideal state, and women never. As it is now, our best energies are wasted in vain endeavors to solve the matrimonial problem at the very time when our vitality is greatest and our strength might be expended with the best effect in the service of the race, for the advancement of science, art, or industry.”
“But would you then abolish marriage?” I ventured to ask. “That would mean, as I understand it, to abolish the race itself.”
“No,” he answered calmly. “In my ideal state, marriage should be tolerated; but it should be regulated by the government, with a total disregard of individual preferences, and with a sole view to the physical and intellectual improvement of the race. There should be a permanent government commission appointed, say one in each State consisting of the most prominent scientists and moral teachers. No marriage should be legal without being approved and confirmed by them. Marriage, as it is at present, is, in nine cases out of ten, an unqualified evil; as Schopenhauer puts it, it halves our joys and doubles our sorrows—”