THE CONFESSIONS OF A COLLEGE PROFESSOR'S WIFE





A college professor--as may be proved by any number of novels and

plays--is a quaint, pedantic person, with spectacles and a beard, but

without any passions--except for books. He takes delight in large fat

words, but is utterly indifferent to such things as clothes and

women--except the dowdy one he married when too young to know better....

It is always so interesting to see ourselves as authors see us.



Even more entertaining to us, however, is the shockingly inconsistent

attitude toward academic life maintained by practical people who know

all about real life--meaning the making and spending of money.



One evening soon after I became a college professor's wife I enjoyed the

inestimable privilege of sitting next to one of America's safest and

sanest business men at a dinner party given in his honor by one of the

trustees of the university.



When he began to inform me, with that interesting air of originality

which often accompanies the platitudes of our best citizens, that

college professors were "mere visionary idealists--all academic

theories; no practical knowledge of the world"--and so on, as usual--I

made bold to interrupt:



"Why, in the name of common sense, then, do you send your own sons to

them to be prepared for it! Is such a policy safe? Is it sane? Is it

practical?" And I am afraid I laughed in the great man's face.



He only blinked and said "Humph!" in a thoroughly businesslike manner;

but throughout the rest of the evening he viewed me askance, as though I

had become a dangerous theorist too--by marriage. So I turned my back on

him and wondered why such a large and brilliant dinner was given for

such a dull and uninteresting Philistine!



This shows, by the way, how young and ignorant I was. The mystery was

explained next day, when it was intimated to me that I had made what is

sometimes called, even in refined college circles, a break. Young

professors' wives were not expected to trifle with visitors of such

eminent solvency; but I had frequently heard the materialistic

tendencies of the age condemned in public, and had not been warned in

private that we were all supposed to do our best to work this

materialist for a million, with which to keep up the fight against

materialism.



In the cloistered seclusion of our universities, dedicated to high

ideals, more deference is shown to the masters of high finance than to

the masters of other arts--let me add not because Mammon is worshiped,

but because he is needed for building cloisters.



The search for truth would be far more congenial than the search for

wealth; but, so long as our old-fashioned institutions remain, like

old-fashioned females, dependent for their very existence on the bounty

of personal favor, devious methods must be employed for coaxing and

wheedling money out of those who control it--and therefore the truth.



I was a slender bride and had a fresh, becoming trousseau. He was a

heavy-jowled banker and had many millions. I was supposed to ply what

feminine arts I could command for the highly moral purpose of obtaining

his dollars, to be used in destroying his ideals.



Well, that was the first and last time I was ever so employed. Despite

the conscientious flattery of the others he gruntingly refused to give a

penny. And--who knows--perhaps I was in part responsible for the loss of

a million! A dreadful preface to my career as a college professor's

wife.



However, before pursuing my personal confessions, I must not overlook

the most common and comic characteristic of the college professor we all

know and love in fiction. I refer to his picturesque absent-mindedness.

I had almost forgotten that; possibly I have become absent-minded by

marriage too! Is not the dear old fellow always absent-minded on the

stage? Invariably and most deliriously! Just how he manages to remain on

the Faculty when absent-minded is never explained on the program; and it

often perplexes us who are behind the scenes.



I tell my husband that, in our case, I, as the dowdy and devoted wife,

am supposed to interrupt his dreams--they always have dreams--remove his

untidy dressing gown--they always wear dressing gowns--and dispatch him

to the classroom with a kiss and a coat; but how about that great and

growing proportion of his colleagues who, for reasons to be stated, are

wifeless and presumably helpless?



Being only a woman, I cannot explain how bachelors retain their

positions; but I shall venture to assert that no business in the

world--not even the army and navy--is conducted on a more ruthless and

inexorable schedule than the business of teaching.



My two brothers drift into their office at any time between nine and ten

in the morning and yet control a fairly successful commercial

enterprise; whereas, if my husband arrived at his eight-o'clock

classroom only one minute late there would be no class there to teach.

For it is an unwritten law among our engaging young friends the

undergraduates that when the "prof" is not on hand before the bell stops

ringing they can "cut"--thus avoiding what they were sent to college for

and achieving one of the pleasantest triumphs of a university course.



My confessions! Dear me! What have I, a college professor's wife, to

confess? At least three things:



1--That I love my husband so well that I wish I had never married

him.



2--That I have been such a good wife that he does not know he ought

never to have had one.



3--That if I had to do it all over again I would do the same thing

all over again! This is indeed a confession, though whether it be of

weakness of will or strength of faith you may decide if you read the

rest.



The first time I saw the man who became my husband was at the Casino in

Newport. And what was a poor professor doing at Newport? He was not a

professor--he was a prince; a proud prince of the most royal realm of

sport. Carl, as some of you might recall if that were his real name, had

been the intercollegiate tennis champion a few years before, and now,

with the kings of the court, had come to try his luck in the annual

national tournament. He lasted until the finals this time and then was

put out. That was as high as he ever got in the game.



Alas for the romance of love at first sight! He paid not the slightest

attention to me, though he sat beside me for ten minutes; for, despite

his defeat, he was as enthusiastically absorbed in the runner-up and the

dashing defender of the title as--well, as the splendid sportsman I have

since found him to be in disappointments far more grim.



As for me, I fear I hardly noticed him either, except to remark that he

was very good-looking; for this was my first visit to Newport--the last

too--and the pageantry of wealth and fashion was bewilderingly

interesting to me. I was quite young then. I am older now. But such

unintellectual exhibitions might, I fancy, still interest me--a

shocking confession for a college professor's wife!



I did not see Carl again for two years, and then it was in another kind

of pageant, amid pomp and circumstance of such a different sort; and,

instead of white flannel trousers, he now wore a black silk gown. It had

large flowing sleeves and a hood of loud colors hanging down behind; and

he was blandly marching along in the academic procession at the

inaugural ceremonies of the new president of the university.



I wonder why it is that when the stronger sex wishes to appear

particularly dignified and impressive, as on the bench or in the pulpit,

it likes to don female attire! No matter whether suffragists or

antis--they all do it. Now some of these paraders seemed as embarrassed

by their skirts as the weaker sex would be without them; but the way

Carl wore his new honors and his new doctor's hood attracted my

attention and held it. He seemed quite aware of the ridiculous aspect of

an awkward squad of pedagogues paraded like chorus girls before an

audience invited to watch the display; but, also, he actually enjoyed

the comedy of it--and that is a distinction when you are an actor in the

comedy! His quietly derisive strut altogether fascinated me. "Hurrah!

Aren't we fine!" he seemed to say.



As the long, self-conscious procession passed where I sat, smiling and

unnoticed, he suddenly looked up. His veiled twinkle happened to meet my

gaze. It passed over me, instantly returned and rested on ray eyes for

almost a second. Such a wonderful second for little me!... Not a gleam

of recollection. He had quite forgotten that our names had once been

pronounced to each other; but in that flashing instant he recognized, as

I did, that we two knew each other better than anyone else in the whole

assemblage.



The nicest smile in the world said as plainly as words, and all for me

alone: "Hurrah! You see it too!" Then, with that deliciously derisive

strut, he passed on, while something within me said: "There he is!--at

last! He is the one for you!" And I glowed and was glad.



Carl informed me afterward that he had a similar sensation, and that all

through the long platitudinous exercises my face was a great solace to

him.



"Whenever they became particularly tiresome," he said, "I looked at

you--and bore up."



I was not unaware that he was observing me; nor was I surprised when,

at the end of the exhausting ordeal, he broke through the crowd--with

oh, such dear impetuosity!--and asked my uncle to present him, while I,

trembling at his approach, looked in the other direction, for I felt the

crimson in my cheeks--I who had been out three seasons! Then I turned

and raised my eyes to his, and he, too, colored deeply as he took my

hand.



We saw no comedy in what followed.



There was plenty of comedy, only we were too romantic to see it. At the

time it seemed entirely tragic to me that my people, though of the sort

classified as cultured and refined, deploring the materialistic tendency

of the age, violently objected to my caring for this wonderful being,

who brilliantly embodied all they admired in baccalaureate sermons and

extolled in Sunday-school.



It was not despite but because of that very thing that they opposed the

match! If only he had not so ably curbed his materialistic tendencies

they would have been delighted with this well-bred young man, for his

was an even older family than ours, meaning one having money long enough

to breed contempt for making it. Instead of a fortune, however, merely a

tradition of _noblesse oblige_ had come down to him, like an unwieldy

heirloom. He had waved aside a promising opening in his cousin's

bond-house on leaving college and invested five important years, as well

as his small patrimony, in hard work at the leading universities abroad

in order to secure a thorough working capital for the worst-paid

profession in the world.



"If there were only some future in the teaching business!" as one of my

elder brothers said; "but I've looked into the proposition. Why, even a

full professor seldom gets more than four thousand--in most cases less.

And it will be years before your young man is a full professor."



"I can wait," I said.



"But a girl like you could never stand that kind of life. You aren't

fitted for it. You weren't brought up to be a poor man's wife."



"Plenty of tune to learn while waiting," I returned gayly enough, but

heartsick at the thought of the long wait.



Carl, however, quite agreed with my brothers and wanted impetuously to

start afresh in pursuit of the career in Wall Street he had forsworn,

willing and eager--the darling!--to throw away ambition, change his

inherited tastes, abandon his cultivated talents, and forget the five

years he had "squandered in riotous learning," as he put it!



However, I was not willing--for his sake. He would regret it later.

They always do. Besides, like Carl, I had certain unuttered ideals about

serving the world in those days. We still have. Only now we better

understand the world. Make no mistake about this. Men are just as noble

as they used to be. Plenty of them are willing to sacrifice

themselves--but not us. That is why so few of the sort most needed go in

for teaching and preaching in these so-called materialistic days.



What was the actual, material result of my lover's having taken

seriously the advice ladled out to him by college presidents and other

evil companions of his innocent youth, who had besought him not to seek

material gain?



At the time we found each other he was twenty-seven years of age and had

just begun his career--an instructor in the economics department, with a

thousand-dollar salary. That is not why he was called an economist; but

can you blame my brothers for doing their best to break the

engagement?... I do not--now. It was not their fault if Carl actually

practiced what they merely preached. Should Carl be blamed? No; for he

seriously intended never to marry at all--until he met me. Should I be

blamed? Possibly; but I did my best to break the engagement too--and

incidentally both our hearts--by going abroad and staying abroad until

Carl--bless him!--came over after me.



I am not blaming anybody. I am merely telling why so few men in

university work, or, for that matter, in most of the professions

nowadays, can support wives until after the natural mating time is past.

By that time their true mates have usually wed other men--men who can

support them--not the men they really love, but the men they tell

themselves they love! For, if marriage is woman's only true career, it

is hardly true to one's family or oneself not to follow it before it is

too late--especially when denied training for any other--even though she

may be equally lacking in practical training for the only career open to

her.



This sounds like a confession of personal failure due to the typical

unpreparedness for marriage of the modern American girl. I do not think

anyone could call our marriage a personal failure, though socially it

may be. During the long period of our engagement I became almost as well

prepared for my lifework as Carl was for his. Instead of just waiting in

sweet, sighing idleness I took courses in domestic science, studied

dietetics, mastered double-entry and learned to sew. I also began

reading up on economics. The latter amused the family, for they thought

the higher education of women quite unwomanly and had refused to let me

go to college.



It amused Carl too, until I convinced him that I was really interested

in the subject, not just in him; then he began sending me boxes of books

instead of boxes of candy, which made the family laugh and call me

strong-minded. I did not care what they called me. I was too busy making

up for the time and money wasted on my disadvantageous advantages, which

may have made me more attractive to men, but had not fitted me to be the

wife of any man, rich or poor.



All that my accomplishments and those of my sisters actually

accomplished, as I see it now, was to kill my dear father; for, though

he made a large income as a lawyer, he had an even larger family and

died a poor man, like so many prominent members of the bar.



I shall not dwell on the ordeal of a long engagement. It is often made

to sound romantic in fiction, but in realistic life such an unnatural

relationship is a refined atrocity--often an injurious one--except to

pseudo-human beings so unreal and unromantic that they should never be

married or engaged at all. I nearly died; and as for Carl--well,

unrequited affection may be good for some men, but requited affection in

such circumstances cannot be good for any man--if you grant that

marriage is!



A high-strung, ambitious fellow like Carl needed no incentive to make

him work hard or to keep him out of mischief, any more than he needed a

prize to make him do his best at tennis or keep him from cheating in the

score. What an ignoble view of these matters most good people accept! In

point of fact he had been able to do more work and to play better tennis

before receiving this long handicap--in short, would have been in a

position to marry sooner if he had not been engaged to marry! This may

sound strange, but that is merely because the truth is so seldom told

about anything that concerns the most important relationship in life.



Nevertheless, despite what he was pleased to call his inspiration, he

won his assistant professorship at an earlier age than the average, and

we were married on fifteen hundred a year.



Oh, what a happy year! I am bound to say the family were very nice about

it. Everyone was nice about it. And when we came back from our wedding

journey the other professors' wives overwhelmed me with kindness and

with calls--and with teas and dinners and receptions in our honor. Carl

had been a very popular bachelor and his friends were pleased to treat

me quite as if I were worthy of him. This was generous, but disquieting.

I was afraid they would soon see through me and pity poor Carl.



I had supposed, like most outsiders, that the women of a university town

would be dreadfully intellectual and modern--and I was rather in awe of

them at first, being aware of my own magnificent limitations; but, for

the most part, these charming new friends of mine, especially the

wealthier members of the set I was thrown with, seemed guilelessly

ignorant in respect of the interesting period of civilization in which

they happened to live--almost as ignorant as I was and as most "nice

people" are everywhere.



Books sufficiently old, art sufficiently classic, views sufficiently

venerable to be respectable--these interested them, as did foreign

travel and modern languages; but ideas that were modern could not be

nice because they were new, though they might be nice in time--after

they became stale. College culture, I soon discovered, does not care

about what is happening to the world, but what used to happen to it.



"You see, my dear," Carl explained, with that quiet, casual manner so

puzzling to pious devotees of "cultureine"--and even to me at first,

though I adored and soon adopted it! "--universities don't lead

thought--they follow it. In Europe institutions of learning may

be--indeed, they frequently are--hotbeds of radicalism; in America our

colleges are merely featherbeds for conservatism to die in respectably."

Then he added: "But what could you expect? You see, we are still

intellectually _nouveaux_ over here, and therefore self-consciously

correct and imitative, like the _nouveaux riches_. So long as you have a

broad _a_ you need never worry about a narrow mind."



As for the men, I had pictured the privilege of sitting at their feet

and learning many interesting things about the universe. Perhaps they

were too tired to have their feet encumbered by ignorant young women;

for when I ventured to ask questions about their subject their answer

was--not always--but in so many cases a solemn owllike "yes-and-no" that

I soon learned my place. They did not expect or want a woman to know

anything and preferred light banter and persiflage. I like that, too,

when it is well done; but I was accustomed to men who did it better.



I preferred the society of their wives. I do not expect any member of

the complacent sex to believe this statement--unless I add that the men

did not fancy my society, which would not be strictly true; but, even if

not so intellectual as I had feared, the women of our town were far more

charming than I had hoped, and when you cannot have both cleverness and

kindness the latter makes a more agreeable atmosphere for a permanent

home. I still consider them the loveliest women in the world.



In short my only regret about being married was that we had wasted so

much of the glory of youth apart. Youth is the time for love, but not

for marriage! Some of our friends among the instructors marry on a

thousand a year, even in these days of the high cost of living; and I

should have been so willing to live as certain of them do--renting

lodgings from a respectable artisan's wife and doing my own cooking on

her stove after she had done hers.



Carl gave me no encouragement, however! Perhaps it was just as well; for

when first engaged I did not know how to cook, though I was a good

dancer and could play Liszt's Polonaise in E flat with but few mistakes.



As it turned out we began our wedded life quite luxuriously. We had a

whole house to ourselves--and sometimes even a maid! In those days there

were no flats in our town and certain small but shrewd local capitalists

had built rows of tiny frame dwellings which they leased to assistant

professors, assistant plumbers, and other respectable people of the same

financial status, at rates which enabled them--the owners, not the

tenants--to support charity and religion.



They were all alike--I refer to the houses now, not to all landlords

necessarily--with a steep stoop in front and a drying yard for Monday

mornings in the rear, the kind you see on the factory edges of great

cities--except that ours were cleaner and were occupied by nicer people.



One of our next-door neighbors was a rising young butcher with his bride

and the house on the other side of us was occupied by a postman, his

progeny, and the piercing notes of his whistle--presumably a cast-off

one--on which all of his numerous children, irrespective of sex or age,

were ambitiously learning their father's calling, as was made clear

through the thin dividing wall, which supplied visual privacy but did

not prevent our knowing when they took their baths or in what terms they

objected to doing so. It became a matter of interesting speculation to

us what Willie would say the next Saturday night; and if we had

quarreled they, in turn, could have--and would have--told what it was

all about.



"Not every economist," Carl remarked whimsically, "can learn at first

hand how the proletariat lives."



I, too, was learning at first hand much about my own profession. My

original research in domestic science was sound in theory, but I soon

discovered that my dietetic program was too expensive in practice.

Instead of good cuts of beef I had to select second or third quality

from the rising young butcher, who, by the way, has since risen to the

dignity of a touring car. Instead of poultry we had pork, for this was

before pork also rose.



My courses in bookkeeping, however, proved quite practical; and I may

say that I was a good purchasing agent and general manager from the

beginning of our partnership, instead of becoming one later through

bitter experience, like so many young wives brought up to be ladies, not

general houseworkers.



Frequently I had a maid, commonly called along our row the "gurrul"--and

quite frequently I had none; for we could afford only young beginners,

who, as soon as I had trained them well, left me for other mistresses

who could afford to pay them well.



"Oh, we should not accuse the poor creatures of ingratitude," I told

Carl one day. "Not every economist can learn at first hand the law of

supply and demand."



If, however, as my fashionable aunt in town remarked, we were

picturesquely impecunious--which, to that soft lady, probably meant

that, we had to worry along without motor cars--we were just as

desperately happy as we were poor; for we had each other at least. Every

other deprivation seemed comparatively easy or amusing.



Nor were we the only ones who had each other--and therefore poverty.

Scholarship meant sacrifice, but all agreed that it was the ideal life.



To be sure, some members of the Faculty--or their wives--had independent

means and could better afford the ideal life. They were considered noble

for choosing it. Some of the alumni who attended the great games and the

graduating exercises were enormously wealthy, and gave the interest of

their incomes--sometimes a whole handful of bonds at a time--to the

support of the ideal life.



Was there any law compelling them to give their money to their Alma

Mater? No--just as there was none compelling men like Carl to give their

lives and sacrifice their wives. These men of wealth made even greater

sacrifices. They could have kept in comfort a dozen wives apiece--modest

ones--on what they voluntarily preferred to turn over to the dear old

college. Professors, being impractical and visionary, cannot always see

these things in their true proportions.



We, moreover, in return for our interest in education, did we not

shamelessly accept monthly checks from the university treasurer's

office? It was quite materialistic in us. Whereas these disinterested

donors, instead of receiving checks, gave them, which is more blessed.

And were they not checks of a denomination far larger than those we

selfishly cashed for ourselves? Invariably. Therefore our princely

benefactors were regarded not only as nobler but as the Nobility.



Indeed, the social stratification of my new home, where the excellent

principles of high thinking and plain living were highly recommended for

all who could not reverse the precept, struck me, a neophyte, as for all

the world like that of a cathedral town in England, except that these

visiting patrons of religion and learning were treated with a reverence

and respect found only in America. Surely it must have amused them, had

they not been so used to it; for they were quite the simplest, kindest,

sweetest overrich people I had ever met in my own country--and they

often took pains to tell us broad-mindedly that there were better things

than money. Their tactful attempts to hide their awful affluence were

quite appealing--occasionally rather comic. Like similarly conscious

efforts to cover evident indigence, it was so palpable and so

unnecessary.



"There, there!" I always wanted to say--until I, too, became accustomed

to it. "It's all right. You can't help it."



It was dear of them all the same, however, and I would not seem

ungrateful for their kind consideration. After all, how different from

the purse-proud arrogance of wealth seen in our best--selling--fiction,

though seldom elsewhere.



For the most part they were true gentlefolk, with the low voices and

simple manners of several generations of breeding; and I liked them, for

the most part, very much--especially certain old friends of our parents,

who, I learned later, were willing to show their true friendship in more

ways than Carl and I could permit.



One is frequently informed that the great compensation for underpaying

the college professor is in the leisure to live--_otium cum dignitate_

as returning old grads call it when they can remember their Latin,

though as most of them cannot they call it a snap.



Carl, by the way, happened to be the secretary of his class, and his

popularity with dear old classmates became a nuisance in our tiny home.

I remember one well-known bachelor of arts who answered to the name of

Spud, a rather vulgar little man. Comfortably seated in Carl's study one

morning, with a cigar in his mouth, Spud began:



"My, what a snap! A couple of hours' work a day and three solid months'

vacation! Why, just see, here you are loafing early in the morning! You

ought to come up to the city! Humph! I'd show you what real work means."



Now my husband had been writing until two o'clock the night before, so

that he had not yet made preparation for his next hour. It was so early

indeed that I had not yet made the beds. Besides, I had heard all about

our snap before and it was getting on my nerves.



"Carl would enjoy nothing better than seeing you work," I put in when

the dear classmate finished; "but unfortunately he cannot spare the

time."



Spud saw the point and left; but Carl, instead of giving me the thanks I

deserved, gave me the first scolding of our married life! Now isn't that

just like a husband?



Of course it can be proved by the annual catalogue that the average

member of the Faculty has only about twelve or fourteen hours of

classroom work a week--the worst-paid instructor more; the highest-paid

professor less. What a university teacher gives to his students in the

classroom, however, is or ought to be but a rendering of what he

acquires outside, as when my distinguished father tried one of his

well-prepared cases in court. Every new class, moreover, is a different

proposition, as I once heard my brother say of his customers.



That is where the art of teaching comes in and where Carl excelled. He

could make even the "dismal science," as Carlyle called economics,

interesting, as was proved by the large numbers of men who elected his

courses, despite the fact that he made them work hard to pass. Nor does

this take into account original research and the writing of books like

Carl's scholarly work on The History of Property, on which he had been

slaving for three solid summers and hundreds of nights during termtime;

not to speak of attending committee meetings constantly, and the furnace

even more constantly. The latter, like making beds, is not mentioned in

the official catalogue. I suppose such details would not become one's

dignity.



As in every other occupation, some members of the Faculty do as little

work as the law requires; but most of them are an extremely busy lot,

even though they may, when it suits their schedule better, take exercise

in the morning instead of the afternoon--an astonishing state of affairs

that always scandalizes the so-called tired business man.



As for Carl, I was seeing so little of him except at mealtimes that I

became rather piqued at first, being a bride. I felt sure he did not

love me any more!



"Do you really think you have a right to devote so much time to outside

work?" I asked one evening when I was washing the dishes and he was

starting off for the university library to write on his great book.--It

was the indirect womanly method of saying: "Oh, please devote just a

little more time to me!"--"You ought to rest and be fresh for your

classroom work," I added.



Being a man he did not see it.



"The way to advance in the teaching profession," he answered, with his

veiled twinkle, "is to neglect it. It doesn't matter how poorly you

teach, so long as you write dull books for other professors to read.

That's why it is called scholarship--because you slight your scholars."



"Oh, I'm sick of all this talk about scholarship!" I cried. "What does

it mean anyway?"



"Scholarship, my dear," said Carl, "means finding out all there is to

know about something nobody else cares about, and then telling it in

such a way that nobody else can find out. If you are understood you are

popular; if you are popular you are no scholar. And if you're no

scholar, how can you become a full professor? Now, my child, it is all

clear to you."



And, dismissing me and the subject with a good-night kiss, he brushed

his last year's hat and hurried off, taking the latchkey.



So much for _otium_.



"But where does the dignity come in?" I asked Carl one day when he was

sharpening his lawnmower and thus neglecting his lawn tennis; for, like

a Freshman, I still had much to learn about quaint old college customs.



"Why, in being called p'fessor by the tradesmen," said Carl. "Also in

renting a doctor's hood for academic pee-rades at three dollars a

pee-rade, instead of buying a new hat for the rest of the year. Great

thing--dignity!"



He chuckled and began to cut the grass furiously, reminding me of a

thoroughbred hunter I once saw harnessed to a plow.



"P'fessors of pugilism and dancing," he went on gravely, "haven't a bit

more dignity than we have. They merely have more money. Just think!

There isn't a butcher or grocer in this town who doesn't doff his hat to

me when he whizzes by in his motor--even those whose bills I haven't

paid. It's great to have dignity. I don't believe there's another place

in the world where he who rides makes obeisance to him who walks. Much

better than getting as high wages as a trustee's chauffeur! A salary is

so much more dignified than wages."



He stopped to mop his brow, looking perfectly dignified.



"And yet," he added, egged on by my laughter, for I always loved his

quiet irony--it was never directed at individuals, but at the ideas and

traditions they blandly and blindly followed--



"And yet carping critics of the greatest nation on earth try to make out

that art and intellectuality are not properly recognized in the States.

Pessimists! Look at our picture galleries, filled with old masters from

abroad! Think how that helps American artists! Look at our colleges,

crowded with buildings more costly than Oxford's! Think how that

encourages American teachers! Simply because an occasional foreign

professor gets higher pay--bah! There are better things than money. For

example, this!"



And he bent to his mower again, with much the same derisively dignified

strut as on that memorable day long ago when I came and saw and was

conquered by it--only then he wore black silk sleeves and now white

shirtsleeves.



And so much for dignity.



I soon saw that if I were to be a help and not a hindrance to the man I

loved I should have to depart from what I had been carefully trained to

regard as woman's only true sphere. Do not be alarmed! I had no thought

of leaving home or husband. It is simply that the home, in the

industrial sense, is leaving the house--seventy-five per cent of it

social scientists say, has gone already--so that nowadays a wife must go

out after it or else find some new-fashioned productive substitute if

she really intends to be an old-fashioned helpmate to her husband.



It was not a feminist theory but a financial condition that confronted

us. My done-over trousseau would not last forever, nor would Carl's

present intellectual wardrobe, which was becoming threadbare. Travel

abroad and foreign study are just as necessary for an American scholar

as foreign buying is for an American dealer in trousseaus.



I thought of many plans; but in a college town a woman's opportunities

are so limited. We are not paid enough to be ladies, though we are

required to dress and act like them--do not forget that point. And yet,

when willing to stop being a lady, what could one do?



Finally I thought of dropping entirely out of the social, religious and

charitable activities of the town, investing in a typewriter and

subscribing to a correspondence-school course in stenography. I could at

least help Carl prepare his lectures and relieve him of the burden of

letter writing, thus giving him more time for book reviewing and other

potboiling jobs, which were not only delaying his own book but making

him burn the candle at both ends in the strenuous effort to make both

ends meet.



I knew Carl would object, but I had not expected such an outburst of

profane rage as followed my announcement. The poor boy was dreadfully

tired, and for months, like the thoroughbred he was, he had repressed

his true feelings under a quiet, quizzical smile.



"My heavens! What next?" he cried, jumping up and pacing the floor.

"Haven't you already given up everything you were accustomed to--every

innocent pleasure you deserve--every wholesome diversion you actually

need in this God-forsaken, monotonous hole? Haven't I already dragged

you down--you, a lovely, fine-grained, highly evolved woman--down to the

position of a servant in my house? And now, on top of all this--No, by

God! I won't have it! I tell you I won't have it!"



It may be a shocking confession, but I loved him for that wicked oath.

He looked so splendid--all fire and furious determination, as when he

used to rush up to the net in the deciding game of a tennis match, cool

and quick as lightning.



"You are right, Carl dear," I said, kissing his profane lips; for I had

learned long since never to argue with him. "I am too good to be a mere

household drudge. It's an economic waste of superior ability. That's why

I am going to be your secretary and save you time and money enough to

get and keep a competent maid."



"But I tell you--"



"I know, dear; but what are we going to do about it? We can't go on this

way. They've got us down--are we going to let them keep us down? Look

into the future! Look at poor old Professor Culberson. Look at half of

the older members of the Faculty! They have ceased to grow; their

usefulness is over; they are all gone to seed--because they hadn't the

courage or the cash to develop anything but their characters!"



Carl looked thoughtful. He had gained an idea for his book and, like a

true scholar, forgot for the moment our personal situation.



"Really, you know," he mused, "does it pay Society to reward its

individuals in inverse ratio to their usefulness?" He took out his

pocket notebook and wrote: "Society itself suffers for rewarding that

low order of cunning called business sense with the ultimate control of

all other useful talents." He closed his notebook and smiled.



"And yet they call the present economic order safe and sane! And all of

us who throw the searchlight of truth on it--dangerous theorists! Can

you beat it?"



"Well," I rejoined, not being a scholar, "there's nothing dangerous

about my theory. Instead of your stenographer becoming your wife, your

wife becomes your stenographer--far safer and saner than the usual

order. Men are much more apt to fall in love with lively little

typewriters than with fat, flabby wives."



Though it was merely to make a poor joke out of a not objectionable

necessity, my plan, as it turned out, was far wiser than I realized.



First, I surreptitiously card-catalogued the notes and references for

Carl's "epoch-making book," as one of the sweet, vague wives of the

Faculty always called her husband's volumes, which she never read. Then

I learned to take down his lectures, to look up data in the library, to

verify quotations, and even lent a hand in the book reviewing.



Soon I began to feel more than a mere consumer's interest--a producer's

interest--in Carl's work. And then a wonderful thing happened: My

husband began to see--just in time, I believe--that a wife could be more

than a passive and more or less desirable appendage to a man's life--an

active and intelligent partner in it. And he looked at me with a new and

wondering respect, which was rather amusing, but very dear.



He had made the astonishing discovery that his wife had a mind!



Years of piano practice had helped to make my fingers nimble for the

typewriter, and for this advantage I was duly grateful to the family's

old-fashioned ideals, though I fear they did not appreciate my

gratitude. Once, when visiting them during the holidays, I was

laughingly boasting, before some guests invited to meet me at luncheon,

about my part in the writing of Carl's History of Property, which had

been dedicated to me and was now making a sensation in the economic

world, though our guests in the social world had never heard of it.



Suddenly I saw a curious, uncomfortable look come over the faces of the

family. Then I stopped and remembered that nowadays wives--nice wives,

that is--are not supposed to be helpmates to their husbands except in

name; quite as spinsters no longer spin. They can help him spend. At

that they are truly better halves, but to help him earn is not nice. To

our guests it could mean only one thing--namely, that my husband could

not afford a secretary. Well, he could not. What of it?



For a moment I had the disquieting sensation of having paraded my

poverty--a form of vulgarity that Carl and I detest as heartily as a

display of wealth.



The family considerately informed me afterward, however, that they

thought me brave to sacrifice myself so cheerfully. Dear me! I was not

being brave. I was not being cheerful. I was being happy. There is no

sacrifice in working for the man you love. And if you can do it with

him--why, I conceitedly thought it quite a distinction. Few women have

the ability or enterprise to attain it!



One of my sisters who, like me, had failed to "marry well" valeted for

her husband; but somehow that seemed to be all right. For my part I

never could see why it is more womanly to do menial work for a man than

intellectual work with him. I have done both and ought to know.... Can

it be merely because the one is done strictly in the home or because no

one can see you do it? Or is it merely because it is unskilled labor?



It is all right for the superior sex to do skilled labor, but a true

womanly woman must do only unskilled labor, and a fine lady none at

all--so clothed as to prevent it and so displayed as to prove it, thus

advertising to the world that the man who pays for her can also pay for

secretaries and all sorts of expensive things. Is that the old idea?



If so I am afraid most college professors' wives should give up the

old-fashioned expensive pose of ladyhood and join the new womanhood!



Well, as it turned out, we were enabled to spend our sabbatical year

abroad--just in time to give Carl a new lease of life mentally and me

physically; for both of us were on the verge of breaking down before we

left.



Such a wonderful year! Revisiting his old haunts; attending lectures

together in the German and French universities; working side by side in

the great libraries; and meeting the great men of his profession at

dinner! Then, between whiles, we had the best art and music thrown in!

Ah, those are the only real luxuries we miss and long for! Indeed, to

us, they are not really luxuries. Beauty is a necessity to some persons,

like exercise; though others can get along perfectly well without it

and, therefore, wonder why we cannot too.



Carl's book had already been discovered over there--that is perhaps the

only reason it was discovered later over here--and every one was so kind

about it. We felt quite important and used to wink at each other across

the table. "Our" book, Carl always called it, like a dear. His work was

my work now--his ambitions, my ambitions; not just emotionally or

inspirationally, but intellectually, collaboratively. And that made our

emotional interest in each other the keener and more satisfying. We had

fallen completely in love with each other. For the first time we two

were really one. Previously we had been merely pronounced so by a

clergyman who read it out of a book.



Oh, the glory of loving some one more than oneself! And oh, the

blessedness of toiling together for something greater and more important

than either! That is what makes it possible for the other thing to

endure--not merely for a few mad, glad years, followed by drab duty and

dull regret, but for a happy lifetime of useful vigor. That, and not

leisure or dignity, is the great compensation for the professorial life.



What a joy it was to me during that rosy-sweet early period of our union

to watch Carl, like a proud mother, as he grew and exfoliated--like a

plant that has been kept in a cellar and now in congenial soil and

sunshine is showing at last its full potentialities. Through me my boy

was attaining the full stature of a man; and I, his proud mate, was

jealously glad that even his dear dead mother could not have brought

that to pass.



His wit became less caustic; his manner more genial. People who once

irritated now interested him. Some who used to fear him now liked him.

And as for the undergraduates who had hero-worshiped this former tennis

champion, they now shyly turned to him for counsel and advice. He was

more of a man of the world than most of his colleagues and treated the

boys as though they were men of the world too--for instance, he never

referred to them as boys.



"I wouldn't be a damned fool if I were you," I once overheard him say to

a certain young man who was suffering from an attack of what Carl called

misdirected energy.



More than one he took in hand this way; and, though I used to call

it--to tease him--his man-to-man manner, I saw that it was effective. I,

too, grew fond of these frank, ingenuous youths. We used to have them at

our house when we could spare an evening--often when we could not.



None of this work, it may be mentioned, is referred to in the annual

catalogue or provided for in the annual budget; and yet it is often the

most vital and lasting service a teacher renders his students--especially

when their silly parents provide them with more pocket money than the

professor's entire income for the support of himself, his family, his

scholarship and his dignity.



"Your husband is not a professor," one of them confided shyly to

me--"he's a human being!"



After the success of our book we were called to another college--a full

professorship at three thousand a year! Carl loved his Alma Mater with a

passion I sometimes failed to understand; but he could not afford to

remain faithful to her forever on vague promises of future favor. He

went to the president and said so plainly, hating the indignity of it

and loathing the whole system that made such methods necessary.



The president would gladly have raised all the salaries if he had had

the means. He could not meet the competitor's price, but he begged Carl

to stay, offering the full title--meaning empty--of professor and a

minimum wage of twenty-five hundred dollars, with the promise of full

pay when the funds could be raised.



Now we had demonstrated that, even on the Faculty of an Eastern college,

two persons could live on fifteen hundred. Therefore, with twenty-five

hundred, we could not only exist but work efficiently. So we did not

have to go.



* * * * *



I look back on those days as the happiest period of our life together.

That is why I have lingered over them. Congenial work, bright prospects,

perfect health, the affection of friends, the respect of rivals--what

more could any woman want for her husband or herself?



Only one thing. And now that, too, was to be ours! However, with

children came trouble, for which--bless their little hearts!--they are

not responsible. Were we? I wonder! Had we a right to have children? Had

we a right not to have children? It has been estimated by a member of

the mathematical department that, at the present salary rate, each of

the college professors of America is entitled to just two-fifths of a

child.



Does this pay? Should only the financially fit be allowed to survive--to

reproduce their species? Should or should not those who may be fittest

physically, intellectually and morally also be entitled to the privilege

and responsibility of taking their natural part in determining the

character of America's future generations, for the evolution of the race

and the glory of God?



I wonder!



* * * * *



(_Boston Transcript_)





THE CITIZEN AND THE NATION. The Conquest Of Obstacles facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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