There is some subtle attraction in a Catherine of Russia or a Manon Lescaut which tempts the cunning lust of men to cry their praise for the nobility of heart that lies beneath. But what elusive charm is there in the mother of children whose stainless virtue is her only personality? None? Yet to the all-seeing eye, to the all-comprehending brain—to that omniscience whom some call God, be it in Trinity or in Unity, and others know not what to call—these are the women who lift immeasurably above fame, infinitely above repute.
So, therefore, rob them of their virtue and you prize a jewel from its setting, you wrench a star from the mystery of the heavens and bring it down to earth, you filch from the generous hand of Nature that very possession which she holds most dear. For without virtue, these women are nothing. Without virtue, you may see them dragging the bed of the streets for the bodies they can find. It is the last task which Nature sets them—bait to lure men from the theft of that virtue in others which they can in no wise repay.
And this very virtue itself needs no little power of subtle comprehension to understand; for intrinsically it is a fixed quality while outwardly it changes, just as the tide of custom ebbs or flows. Intrinsically then, it is that quality in a woman which breeds respect in men—respect, the lure of which is so often their own vanity. And the pure, the chaste, the untouched woman, whether it be vanity or not, is she whom men most venerate. Of these they make mothers—for these alone they will live continently. And however much love a man may bear in his heart for a woman whom some other than himself has possessed, the knowledge of it will corrupt like a poison in the blood though he forgive her a thousand times.