Now we have no God. We have had two: the old God that our fathers handed down to us, that we hated, and never liked; the new one that we made for ourselves, that we loved; but now he has flitted away from us, and we see what he was made of -- the shadow of our highest ideal, crowned and throned. Now we have no God.
I have no conscience, none, but I would not like to bring a soul into this world. When it sinned and when it suffered something like a dead hand would fall on me, -- You did it, you, for your own pleasure you created this thing! See your work! If it lived to be eighty it would always hang like a millstone round my neck, have the right to demand good from me, and curse me for its sorrow. A parent is only like to God: if his work turns out bad so much the worse for him; he dare not wash his hands of it. Time and years can never bring the day when you can say to your child, Soul, what have I to do with you?
Of all cursed places under the sun, where the hungriest soul can hardly pick up a few grains of knowledge, a girls boarding-school is the worst. They are called finishing schools, and the name tells accurately what they are. They finish everything but imbecility and weakness, and that they cultivate. They are nicely adapted machines for experimenting on the question, Into how little space a human being can be crushed? I have seen some souls so compressed that they would have fitted into a small thimble, and found room to move there -- wide room. A woman who has been for many years at one of those places carries the mark of the beast on her till she dies.
The troubles of the young are soon over; they leave no external mark. If you wound the tree in its youth the bark will quickly cover the gash; but when the tree is very old, peeling the bark off, and looking carefully, you will see the scar there still. All that is buried is not dead.
Perhaps the old monks were right when they tried to root love out; perhaps the poets are right when they try to water it. It is a blood-red flower, with the color of sin; but there is always the scent of a god about it.
A little weeping, a little wheedling, a little self-degradation, a little careful use of our advantages, and then some man will say .Come, be my wife! With good looks and youth marriage is easy to attain. There are men enough; but a woman who has sold herself, even for a ring and a new name, need hold her skirt aside for no creature in the street. They both earn their bread in one way. Marriage for love is the most beautiful external symbol of the union of souls; marriage without it is the least clean traffic that defiles the world.
We all enter the world little plastic beings, with so much natural force, perhaps, but for the rest -- blank; and the world tells us what we are to be, and shapes us by the ends it sets before us. To you it says -- Work; and to us it says -- Seem! To you it says -- As you approximate to man's highest ideal of God, as your arm is strong and your knowledge great, and the power to labor is with you, so you shall gain all that human heart desires. To us it says -- Strength shall not help you, nor knowledge, nor labor. You shall gain what men gain, but by other means. And so the world makes men and women.
From our earliest hour we have been taught that the thought of the heart, the shaping of the rain-cloud, the amount of wool that grows on a sheep's back, the length of a drought, and the growing of the corn, depend on nothing that moves immutable, at the heart of all things; but on the changeable will of a changeable being, whom our prayers can alter. To us, from the beginning, Nature has been but a poor plastic thing, to be toyed with this way or that, as man happens to please his deity or not; to go to church or not; to say his prayers right or not; to travel on a Sunday or not. Was it possible for us in an instant to see Nature as she is --the flowing vestment of an unchanging reality?
Power! Did you ever hear of men being asked whether other souls should have power or not? It is born in them. You may dam up the fountain of water, and make it a stagnant marsh, or you may let it run free and do its work; but you cannot say whether it shall be there; it is there. And it will act, if not openly for good, then covertly for evil; but it will act.
Slavery may, perhaps, be best compared to the infantile disease of measles; a complaint which so commonly attacks the young of humanity in their infancy, and when gone through at that period leaves behind it so few fatal marks; but which when it normally attacks the fully developed adult becomes one of the most virulent and toxic of diseases, often permanently poisoning the constitution where it does not end in death.