“I consider, on the contrary, that the two questions are inseparably connected together,” said Pestsov; “it is a vicious circle. Woman is deprived of rights from lack of education, and the lack of education results from the absence of rights. We must not forget that the subjection of women is so complete, and dates from such ages back that we are often unwilling to recognize the gulf that separates them from us,” said he.
“You said rights,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, waiting till Pestsov had finished, “meaning the right of sitting on juries, of voting, of presiding at official meetings, the right of entering the civil service, of sitting in parliament...”
“But if women, as a rare exception, can occupy such positions, it seems to me you are wrong in using the expression ‘rights.’ It would be more correct to say duties. Every man will agree that in doing the duty of a juryman, a witness, a telegraph clerk, we feel we are performing duties. And therefore it would be correct to say that women are seeking duties, and quite legitimately. And one can but sympathize with this desire to assist in the general labor of man.”
“Quite so,” Alexey Alexandrovitch assented. “The question, I imagine, is simply whether they are fitted for such duties.”
“They will most likely be perfectly fitted,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “when education has become general among them. We see this...”
“How about the proverb?” said the prince, who had a long while been intent on the conversation, his little comical eyes twinkling. “I can say it before my daughter: her hair is long, because her wit is...”
“Just what they thought of the negroes before their emancipation!” said Pestsov angrily.
“What seems strange to me is that women should seek fresh duties,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “while we see, unhappily, that men usually try to avoid them.”
“Duties are bound up with rights—power, money, honor; those are what women are seeking,” said Pestsov.
“Just as though I should seek the right to be a wet-nurse and feel injured because women are paid for the work, while no one will take me,” said the old prince.
Turovtsin exploded in a loud roar of laughter and Sergey Ivanovitch regretted that he had not made this comparison. Even Alexey Alexandrovitch smiled.
“Yes, but a man can’t nurse a baby,” said Pestsov, “while a woman...”
“No, there was an Englishman who did suckle his baby on board ship,” said the old prince, feeling this freedom in conversation permissible before his own daughters.
“There are as many such Englishmen as there would be women officials,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
“Yes, but what is a girl to do who has no family?” put in Stepan Arkadyevitch, thinking of Masha Tchibisova, whom he had had in his mind all along, in sympathizing with Pestsov and supporting him.