“And do not regard him as sound on this subject?”
“No sounder than other men of his class. He regards woman as man’s inferior.”
“I think you state the case too strongly,” said Mrs. Emerson, a red spot burning on her cheek. “He thinks them mentally different.”
“Of course he does.”
“But not different as to superiority and inferiority,” replied Irene.
“Mere hair-splitting, my child. If they are mentally different, one must be more highly organized than the other, and of course, superior. Mr. Emerson thinks a man’s rational powers stronger than a woman’s, and that, therefore, he must direct in affairs generally, and she follow his lead. I know; I’ve talked with and drawn him out on this subject.”
Mrs. Emerson sighed again faintly, while her eyes dropped from the face of her visitor and sunk to the floor. A shadow was falling on her spirit—a weight coming down with a gradually increasing pressure upon her heart. She remembered the night of her return from Ivy Cliff and the language then used by her husband on this very subject, which was mainly in agreement with the range of opinions attributed to him by Mrs. Talbot.
“Marriage, to a spirited woman,” she remarked, in a pensive undertone, “is a doubtful experiment.”
“Always,” returned her friend. “As woman stands now in the estimate of man, her chances for happiness are almost wholly on the side of old-maidism. Still, freedom is the price of struggle and combat; and woman will first have to show, in actual strife, that she is the equal of her present lord.”
“Then you would turn every home into a battlefield?” said Mrs. Emerson.
“Every home in which there is a tyrant and an oppressor,” was the prompt answer. “Many fair lands, in all ages, have been trampled down ruthlessly by the iron feet of war; and that were better, as the price of freedom, than slavery.”
Irene sighed again, and was again silent.
“What,” she asked, “if the oppressor is so much stronger than the oppressed that successful resistance is impossible? that with every struggle the links of the chain that binds her sink deeper into her quivering flesh?”
“Every age and every land have seen noble martyrs in the cause of freedom. It is better to die for liberty than live an ignoble slave,” answered the tempter.
“And I will die a free woman.” This Irene said in her heart.
SENTIMENTS like these, coming to Irene as they did while she was yet chafing under a recent collision with her husband, and while the question of submission was yet an open one, were near proving a quick-match to a slumbering mine in her spirit, and had not her husband been in a more passive state than usual, there might have been an explosion which would have driven them asunder with such terrific force that reunion must have been next to impossible.