As she stared at the blaze of blue sky above the slashed and ponderous mountain, she thought, “I am dead already. What difference does it make, the transition from the dead I am, to the dead I shall be, very soon!” Yet her soul sickened and felt wan.
If anatomy pre-supposes a corpse, then psychology pre-supposes a world of corpses. Personalities, which means personal criticism and analysis, pre-supposes a whole world-laboratory of human psyches waiting to be vivisected. If you cut a thing up, of course it will smell. Hence, nothing raises such an infernal stink, at last, as human psychology.
I should say, “Miss Manby, you may have my husband, but not my horse. My husband won’t need emasculating, and my horse I won’t have you meddle with. I’ll preserve one last male thing in the museum of this world, if I can.”
Lou listened, smiling faintly.
“That’s what I will say,” she replied at length. “The funny thing is, mother, they think all their men with their bare faces or their little quotation-mark mustaches are so tremendously male.”
“I know it. Like little male motor-cars. Give him a little gas, and start him on low gear, and away he goes: all his make gear rattling, like a cheap motor car.”
“I’m afraid I dislike men altogether, mother.”
He did not want to touch her, nor to be touched by her. He kept his spirit there, alert, on its guard, but out of contact. It was as if he had unconsciously accepted the battle, the old battle. It was her target, the old object of her deadly weapons. Be he refused to shoot back. It was as if he caught all her missiles in full flight, before they touched him, and silently threw them on the ground behind him. And in some essential part of himself he ignored her, staying in another world.
That other world! Mere male armour of artificial imperviousness! It angered her.
She could tell he had been insulted, so he had congealed into stiff insistence.
“At the bottom of all men is the same,” she said to herself: “an empty, male conceit of themselves.”
And it all cost, cost, cost. And a man was always let down. At one time no water. At another a poison-weed. Then a sickness. Always, some mysterious malevolence fighting, fighting against the will of man…. The curious, subtle thing, like a mountain fever, got into the blood, so that the men at the ranch.. had bursts of queer, violent, half-frenzied energy, in which, however, they were wont to lose their wariness. And then, damage of some sort.
Slowly, they were pithed. The energy went out of them. And more than that, the interest. An inertia of indifference invading the soul, the body healthy and active, but wasting the soul, the living interest, quite away.
“I don’t hate men because they’re men, as nuns do. I dislike them because they’re not men enough: babies, and playboys, and poor things showing off all the time, even to themselves. I don’t say I’m any better. I only wish with all my soul, that some men were bigger and stronger and deeper than I am… ”