In the Land of the Heavy Laden came once a dreary day. And the King, who sat upon the Great White Throne, raised his eyes and saw afar off how the hills around were hot with hostile feet and the sound of the mocking of his enemies struck anxiously on the King’s ears, for the King loved his enemies. So the King lifted up his hand in the glittering silence and spake softly, saying: “Call the Servants of the King.” Then the herald stepped before the armpost of the throne, and cried: “Thus saith the High and Mighty One, who inhabiteth Eternity, whose name is Holy,—the Servants of the King!”
Now, of the servants of the king there were a hundred and forty-four thousand,—tried men and brave, brawny of arm and quick of wit; aye, too, and women of wisdom and women marvelous in beauty and grace. And yet on this drear day when the King called, their ears were thick with the dust of the enemy, their eyes were blinded with the flashing of his spears, and they hid their faces in dread silence and moved not, even at the King’s behest. So the herald called again. And the servants cowered in very shame, but none came forth. But the third blast of the herald struck upon a woman’s heart, afar. And the woman straightway left her baking and sweeping and the rattle of pans; and the woman straightway left her chatting and gossiping and the sewing of garments, and the woman stood before the King, saying: “The servant of thy servants, O Lord.”
Then the King smiled,—smiled wondrously, so that the setting sun burst through the clouds, and the hearts of the King’s men dried hard within them. And the low-voiced King said, so low that even they that listened heard not well: “Go, smite me mine enemies, that they cease to do evil in my sight.” And the woman quailed and trembled. Three times she lifted her eyes unto the hills and saw the heathen whirling onward in their rage. And seeing, she shrank—three times she shrank and crept to the King’s feet.
“O King,” she cried, “I am but a woman.”
And the King answered: “Go, then, Mother of Men.”
And the woman said, “Nay, King, but I am still a maid.” Whereat the King cried: “O maid, made Man, thou shalt be Bride of God.”
And yet the third time the woman shrank at the thunder in her ears, and whispered: “Dear God, I am black!”
The King spake not, but swept the veiling of his face aside and lifted up the light of his countenance upon her and lo! it was black.
So the woman went forth on the hills of God to do battle for the King, on that drear day in the land of the Heavy Laden, when the heathen raged and imagined a vain thing.
THE DAMNATION OF WOMEN
I remember four women of my boyhood: my mother, cousin Inez, Emma, and Ide Fuller. They represented the problem of the widow, the wife, the maiden, and the outcast. They were, in color, brown and light-brown, yellow with brown freckles, and white. They existed not for themselves, but for men; they were named after the men to whom they were related and not after the fashion of their own souls.