His in Herland, All Chapters

His in Herland is a response to the utopia/adventure/polemic novella Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Told from the point of view of Terry, Herland's original fang-less villain, and from the point of view of a disguised male citizen of the supposedly all female Herland, His in Herland tackles the following problem:

Are utopias possible?

Okay, why not?

* * *

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

Alim and Terry, Chapter 10

Herland was never attacked directly, thank God. It managed to stay untrammeled and unbombed throughout the war.

We did assist with wounded soldiers coming through the land below the mountain passage; eventually we established a medical aid unit in the village clinic.

"We" was Moadine and Somel, I and scores of young women, not only the "brash girls" but some of Van and Jeff's disciples.

Juste was not part of the "we," not directly. She agreed with Terry that the European War was not our war. She focused instead on protecting the pass. She didn't object to our humanitarian efforts, however, and aided in "sheltering" (imprisoning) soldiers of the Axis nations (they were well-fed and housed, and, I suspected, personally kindly cared for; more than a few stayed in reach of Herland once the war ended and they were freed).

We were nominally neutral. But all our aid came from the Allies, which was what Moadine wanted. Moadine believed that Herland would suffer if the Allies lost. Her reasons had to do, as far I learned, with the allegiances of the various governments in the regions below Herland. Those nations were a cushion to Herland, a fence between us and the world, and Moadine was loathe to lose it.

"We" did not include Jeff, despite his medical knowledge. He was disgusted and horrified by the European War and felt that he would taint Celis and their baby, Rosalind, with an "aura" of violence if he worked in the clinic. He created a manual for first-aid. And he occasionally agreed to go to the fortress to care for pilots who crashed in the lake. But he denounced any more involvement.

Celis didn't push him--she didn't want him to get infected with Terry's patriotism or manly sense of duty and fly off to help--while Herland's mentors were divided on his behavior. On the one hand, he was obviously not acting for the good of anything larger than his wife and child. On the other, many of them agreed with Juste that the outside war was none of our concern. Still others objected to Herland girls coming to help in the clinic.  

The girls came anyway, much to my relief. My peers, my fellow citizens were a solace when Terry disappeared. They accepted me as male (with a number of jokes at my expense) and set to work.

Terry made infrequent trips in the first two years. Every six to eight months, he would show up with supplies. His visits were rushed though he often spent hours with Moadine relaying messages, I suspected, from her people--"spies," Terry called them--in Europe.

And then Terry stopped coming, and I didn't think about why; I didn't tell myself he was dead or captured. America had entered the war by then, and Terry was American, so maybe he'd been assigned to a specific unit or whatever the American air force did.

"Did you hear?" Taila asked one morning as I was stitching up a soldier's shoulder wound. "A plane came in from the east yesterday, landed on the meadows near the cliff."

"A plane?"

It couldn't be Terry; he would never be so reckless as to enter our territory without pre-arranged signals. It couldn't be--

"The scouts let it land. It was Van and Ellador--can you believe it!?"

"They're lucky they didn't get shot," said Kal crisply as she came in carrying masks to distribute to the soldiers returning to the front.

Moadine's people had watchers with weapons on the cliffs, weapons borrowed from outside nations and never permitted further into Herland.

"You'd think they didn't realize there's a war on," Kal said caustically.

"Oh, but that's probably why they came back," Taila told her.

I said something placatory ("I'm glad they're safe") and tried not to notice the shrinking of my heart. It was good that Van and Ellador had returned. It didn't mean Terry was--

I took the next trip up the mountain passage with news and "supplies" for Juste (Juste paid no attention to Herland's strictures on weapons; if any invaders broached Har's borders, she wanted her women to shoot and to kill). Celis was visiting, as she often did without Jeff or Rosalind. Celis liked being a mother; she also liked to temporarily stop being one.

"Jeff's enough parent," she said with a shrug. "He coos and praises and encourages Rosy to play official games. He's a devotee of Herland's system."

"As long as she thinks for herself," Juste said robustly, and Celis rolled her eyes.

"Rosy's a brat who has her father wrapped around her finger," she told me after Juste strolled out of Har's storehouse. "I play the disciplinarian, but sometimes I'd rather let someone else do it, like Clarice. Believe me, when she's old enough, Rosy will go her own way."

"Has she met Van and Ellador?"

"Sure. They're going to try for a child, you know."

"How are they?" I said, storing the rifles I'd brought into the wooden racks. I locked the bar that held them in place.

Do they know where Terry is? Do they know if he is alive? Do they care? 
 
"Full of ideas. Ellador's been giving lectures all over Herland about her experience."

"Does she talk about the war?" I set the ammunition in the top cupboard above the barred windows--I was tall enough to reach it now.

"No," Celis said, stretching out in the opposite windowsill and kicking up her feet. "She lectures about the trip that she and Van made around the world. The conditions. The women. She claims women out there don't wish to improve the world or can't see that it needs improvement or something; they are stuck in man-made systems."

I turned and stared at Celis who shrugged.

"Has Ellador heard of Edith Cavell?" I said,  striving to sound level-headed and rational. "Nurses in field hospitals? Women in the munitions factories?"

"Those are all war examples, Alim," Celis said, not unkindly.

"Those women are choosing, aren't they? They're making decisions about what they support? They're sacrificing money and time and their lives? Edith Cavell was executed!"

"For a war that Ellador believes was preventable."

"Anything is preventable," I said. "Any system can be dismantled and destroyed and cast down, even Herland's. What does pointing that out accomplish?"

"Change. Progress. In the long-run, you understand. For the good of humanity."

"Bullshit," I said.

I'd picked up bad habits from the soldiers. Celis didn't flinch.

"Oh, Ellador's lectures aren't so bad," she said. "Pretty-sounding rhetoric. The whole world crafted into theory and argument. But they're like that, you know: Van and Ellador. You know that."

I did. And I suppose Terry would say he was fighting for people like Van and Ellador, allowing them the privilege of a safe home where they could argue their theories and present their Reasons for Everything.

"They're publishing a book," Celis said. "With all their ideas."

"Send me a copy."

Better to skim the book than attend one of Herland's endless lectures.

I went back to the job that Terry had encouraged me to take up, and I felt better. Words were only words after all, and I needed to be doing something. I helped Kal set up triage, then treated incoming soldiers for broken bones and chemical burns and other damage. My compatriots worked alongside me, Kal on a regular basis (she also drove the hospital ambulance) and Taila and, surprisingly enough, Jancey, who was quite good at getting soldiers to relax before surgery.

I didn't approach any of my Herland compatriots romantically--or even sexually. Juste had made her feelings about "taking advantage" clear. And I saw the risk now, not to the Herland women who were as clever and professional as any wartime specialist, but to our outfit's smooth running. If nothing else, Herland taught me that there are times when the work comes first.

But I watched our young women--who grew up without men--flirt with the soldiers, and I grinned over Celis's foresight. No amount of "absence" in one's education can dictate future behavior. These women may never have met men (knowingly) in their younger years. They had no trouble adjusting to them now--or to me.

A few did try to flirt with me, but most of them looked past me to the greater prize. Other, older men, I thought at first, but eventually I realized I was making the mentors' mistake--defining my friends entirely in terms of one system or another: progress equals no men; war equals men and marriage.

"We always liked you, Alim," Fiona told me when she came to fix the ambulance and to check the trucks. "You as Alima. You're not the only one who got in trouble growing up, you know. You're not even the only one who hid from the mentors. There are so many girls in Herland who want to run races and play loud games and throw eggs off roofs--"

"You remember that?!"

"Sure. I was so jealous of Ellador and Celis for getting you. I'm not sure I saw the point of the egg toss--"

I chuckled. Fiona grinned.

"But there're bigger dreams in Herland than the mentors can envision. Or keep in line."

"Even if it means we don't 'progress'?"

"What's the use of progress if a girl can't dress up in jewelry and laugh her head off at a silly mustache?" She flicked her finger at the one I was attempting.

"We want opportunities," she told me seriously. "We want education and cooperation and good hygiene, sure. We also want danger. Diversions. The old stories. Prayers. Love affairs. Rituals. Celebrations. Independence--our own homes, our own apartments. Jobs in fashion. Jobs in war. We even want sweet babies that we raise ourselves. Maybe all those things token the end of civilization. But they're--"

"--captivating," I said, and she nodded, smile glimmering. She meant what she was saying. She wanted a world of chance and wonder, not the planned program that Herland lay devotedly at her feet.

She wasn't the only one. We all needed time to figure out our real wants and needs. So when pretty Nieve came to deliver finely made surgical tools, I spoke to her like a friend and learned about her interests and watched her return to her craft work without making advances. After the war, as the soldiers said in their near-sleep voices. After the war. 

In the meantime, our village clinic was growing. We now had an X-ray machine, obtained by one of Moadine's agents, and a full pharmacy; we had access by then to supplies through the American Medical Department. What Terry had brought to us in irregular and dangerous visits from the north were delivered to us now on safer routes from the south. We were a small organization but we fell beneath flight paths between the front and various airfields, hence our use to the Allies.

I was restocking shelves with antiseptics when Ellador came in.

She said, "Oh, Alima. Alim, I mean. Oh, look at you."

I was nearly six feet by then, not as wide-shouldered as I would be by the end of the war, but then I was never as big a chap as Terry. I still only shaved twice a week. But. Still. I was eighteen going on nineteen, and I looked it.

Ellador looked sophisticated. She was wearing Herland dress, but her hair was coiffed like the women in Van's dictionary. Of course, she was older. Of course, she was more experienced.

I hugged her because I couldn't not. She'd been my friend and companion and defender while I was growing up. I had to remember that.

She helped me stock the remaining shelves, then sat down and shook her head at me in wonder.

"You look a proper man. Van said that is the right thing to say."

"I suppose. Have you heard anything about Terry?"

"Only how you two tricked the rest of us. Oh, you mean-- No, we haven't. I know he's missing but--" Her shoulders hunched. "I hate talking about the war. I hate it, Alim. So much hatred and destruction and for such selfish reasons."

I didn't disagree. I got up to make tea, and Ellador accepted a mug.

"But you are doing such fine things here. Men are so noble," she said with flushed enthusiasm.

"Terry's idea," I told her. "And he was right. I'm helping people."

"Yes. Yes, you are."

"I read Van's book, the one about your trip around the world. How everything out there is broken and hampered and stalled."

I tried to keep my voice level, but she heard the note of disdain. She cocked an eyebrow and waited, sipping her tea.

She said, almost coyly, "I don't want to upset you--"

"Cut it out, Ellie. I'm not your husband."

She eyed me, then nodded.

She said straightly, "There are many things that need to be fixed. Many injustices."

"But your explanations for those injustices are all based on theory," I said. "Not practice. Your idea of progress is to undo the human condition."

"If the ideas behind a country or institution are wrong, they must be fixed, rethought, retried."

"But countries and institutions aren't ideas. They are people. I've met religious soldiers, Ellador. Catholics. Protestants. Jews. British Muslims. I've sat by their beds as they talk about their families and their God. You dismiss religion in your book. You treat it with such contempt--as little more than a civilizing influence. And yet it sustains them--"

"I don't doubt that. People can be very good. But you must admit that the ideas behind the religious thought are corrupt, inherently problematic. The patriarchal Father with his stern voice and demands of obedience."

"That's not what they believe. Not exactly. You're trivializing a larger passion."

"Which is rooted in an inability to question."

"No, Ellador." I slammed my hand down, then stood, shaking, and paced to the door. I took a deep breath and came back. Ellador was looking patient and long-suffering, and I frowned at her imperturbability.

I had an inkling then that nothing I said would change her mind.

I tried anyway--I'm sure she felt the same:

"People aren't a collection of theories, Ellador. They aren't some overriding system. There are theories out there about how people should rise up against those who keep them down; how people should revolt against debunked traditions. But all these theories come after. They look back at things. They don't experience them. The soldiers don't believe in your theories, no matter how clever you sound. They believe in--have faith in--something emotional or intellectual. Traditional. Personal. Your authority can't stop them--unless you plan to 'fix' their minds."

"But Alima--Alim--I have seen unjust systems out there, corrupt industries that control everything from the so-called free press to the industry's workers. Government institutions that print propaganda. Religions that take money for profit. Traditions that bind little girls' feet. Policies that thrive on old ideas, such as slavery. Men who preach against other races. Where else can we begin but by changing how people think? Re-educating them?"

Maybe I would have agreed with her two years ago. I would have been as appalled by the "injustices" she listed as she was. But here's the thing about true education: the perfect, trite theories no longer fit.

I'd read newspapers and books brought in by the soldiers. I'd talked to them.

I said, "Haven't you noticed, Ellador, how eventually all these theories and policies you praise come down to force? Eugenics. Segregation. Your fancy progressive philosophers are not entirely trustworthy."

"Except they saw the need for reform, better working conditions, cleaner cities, more charity," she insisted. "New ideas. Experimentation. Trial and error. The problem is that nations stop--they get stuck on one notion--they go to war!"

"They make it impossible for the individual to operate, to move, to dream, to leave. Where else have you seen that?"

"No--no--Alim, Herland taught you, didn't it? You're here now, helping others because--"

"Because of Terry, Ellador. Because a man with bourgeois, petty, so-called chauvinistic ideals--ideals you despise--pulled the best out of his upbringing and encouraged me to do the same. And yet, according to you, he has nothing to offer. No one has anything to offer who doesn't fit the theory of progress."

"I think people do wonderful things, but they could do better! They can learn--"

"They learn because there are wars, challenges, change. They don't learn in a vacuum, Ellador."

She threw up her hands and sighed.

"You let me get away with less than Van," she told me. "He's nearby," she added and looked about wistfully as if he might come in at any moment.

I sighed too because Ellador did adore Van, and that was individual and real, more real than any of her theories.

I said as if it were a concession, "Herland did raise me well."

I was healthy. I could read and write. When Terry arrived, I'd been ready to tackle his ideas, to take on the wildness of the outside world. So my upbringing wasn't all bad.

Van came in a few minutes later while Ellador and I were exchanging news about various friends (we'd retreated to the safe and normal world of gossip). He gaped at me, then laughed and hugged me.

"I am so impressed by what you have done here," he said in that absolutely faultlessly friendly way that Van has.

As they were leaving for Herland--in Van's plane (flight plan approved)--Ellador said, face faintly crimson, "You know we want to try for a baby. A boy, perhaps."

"You'll be a wonderful mother," I told her. "You helped raise me."

And I meant it. The world Terry wanted to give me was a world of flaws. There was a place there for Ellador and Van, who were also flawed.

Like me.

Winter came. I worked at the hospital. I visited pregnant Ellador and pregnant (again) Celis. I made jokes with my companions. I learned soldiers' stories, sitting by their beds after I operated on them.

I sobbed some nights when I was too tired to think and couldn't stave off my fears, the things I hoped wouldn't come to pass or turn out to be true. I trooped between Har and the village with messages and supplies.

I was at Har, discussing medical supplies for prisoners with Juste when Moadine came to fetch me.

"I need Alim," she said. "An important surgery."

There were three Herlander surgeons by then; Taila, Sabine, and I. Taila and Sabine were both currently in the village. Jeff--not a surgeon but an adequate doctor--sometimes tended to soldiers in the fortress, but he was currently wholly occupied with Celis's second pregnancy. So I left Juste to finish up the list and joined Moadine in her car.

She drove rapidly down the mountain roads while I watched the scenery of high trees and rocky outgrowths flash by, leaning on the car door like a boy of twelve.

Speaking of which--

"Did you always know I was a boy?" I said as we swept around the town of Jontz to join the road  coming up from the factories in the west. I turned my head on my arm and studied her.

"I knew about your mother."

I considered that.

"Don't tell me one of your spies is Juste's companion!" I said, faintly horrified though I wasn't sure why. Juste never kept secrets from anyone.

Moadine laughed then, a full laugh with her head back.

"No. Your mother. She worked for me."

I nodded, unsurprised. I was too young to remember my earliest years, but I'd begun to put the pieces together. I'd spoken to Juste, to other women in Har. My mother hadn't returned initially because she was ill; she'd returned so I would be safe; she could leave me in Har and continue her work for Moadine.

She did become ill later--and Har welcomed her home. I was privileged to be her son. I would never let a mentor shame me over my mother again.

I said to Moadine, "When I came to the plains as a little boy--did that worry you?"

"You weren't always happy," she said. "But you were Miranda's child, so I knew you were tough or could be, knew you had it in you to survive, find a purpose."

Herland rhetoric. From Moadine, it sounded natural. 

She said gently, "Miranda volunteered--rather like you at the hospital."

"That's all Terry."

"No. His idea, perhaps. And a wise one. But nobody sticks at anything like you have done without desire, commitment, belief. You are a good man, Alim."

I breathed that in. I looked away, so she couldn't see the moisture in my eyes (not that she would mind) and pressed my face to my arm.

I woke when it was dusk, sprawled in the passenger seat, head lolling. The car was slowing outside massive stone walls, and I recognized the fortress. I sat up, tilting my head and rolling my shoulders.

"Dinner time," I hazarded since we'd left Har in late afternoon and the fortress is three hours away by car.

"A little after seven." Moadine threaded the narrow arched gate and began the slow climb up cobblestone roads. When we reached the keep, the tower, she pulled into a courtyard and parked. We got out.

I had my medical kit with me, and I jogged up the narrow steps to the wide grass lawn bordered by the wall that Terry and Van and Jeff had once escaped across. The gymnasium had become a hospital dormitory, a row of beds along the wall facing the windows and door. The fortress didn't get as many wounded as we did in the village, but Somel ran it, and she liked to be prepared. I suspected she foresaw the keep as an actual hospital for Herland, one with updated machinery based on medical advances in the outside world. In the meantime, it doubled as a military clinic.

There was currently one patient in the farthest bed. I went towards it, came up on it with the faint light of the glowing lamps above me and the half-light of dusk behind me and saw Terry asleep on the white-sheeted cot.

"He landed near the lake two days ago," Moadine said. "The scouts spotted him and sent out a team. We didn't know it was Terry, of course. Not until we reached him."

I nodded. I sat on the side of the bed and studied the bearded face. He was thinner there, despite the beard, thin all over. I examined him thoroughly, noting old burns and scars. New ones. He had a broken leg, but it had already been set--"By Jeff," Somel told me. "He couldn't leave his friend in pain."

I checked the splint anyway. Then I settled back on the side of the bed while Moadine told me of Terry's arrival.

"The plane was shredded. He was obviously attacked. And he came here, forced that plane to carry him back to us. To you."

I nodded and took his hand. Moadine set hers on my shoulder.

"He will recover," she said. "He'll get better. And when he wants to leave, he can go. And you. Nobody can stop you."

"Thank you," I said when she reached the outside door. I said it softly and looked up to say it louder, but Moadine was already turning back, and I saw her smile in the light above the door.

"I'm so glad," she said and went out.

I sat there through the night. Somel checked in a few times as well as a nurse who carried blankets and asked quietly if the patient was cold. I took an extra one and tucked it around Terry more closely. I picked up his hand again and waited.

Dawn came, the light soft and cold yet brighter still than the dormitory's artificial product. It filled in the windows that lined the opposite wall, sent ambassadors to stroke the sides of the cot. I yawned as Terry stirred.

He opened his eyes, saw me. And I guess I hadn't changed so much because he said, "Alim" and grinned a Terry grin. I let one side of my mouth slide upwards, relaxing, believing.

"Hullo, boy," he said. "I told you I'd come get you."

The End

Terry in Herland, Chapter 9

Let's back up.

Once we got engaged, Alim was ready to bust his cage. Now that he'd decided to leave, the moment couldn't come soon enough. He turned overnight from an energetic puppy into something far less controllable, a demented hummingbird in desperate search for sustenance.

When he wasn't working, I would haul him out of Solis, Maodine keeping pace (we were gaining more freedom though I was never allowed to take Alim to the cliff edge--or go myself, for that matter). I would race Aim across the meadows, forcing him to leap streams, trip over tussocks, and scrabble up rises. He got wet and dirty, all while yelling, "Sweetie-pie" at me in high glee.

I was fairly certain that Moadine knew he was a boy. I wondered about the others. Was their stillness, their carefulness around Alim due to his male identity? Did they think he didn't notice their cautiousness? Their "special" treatment as if he were a wild animal always about to bite? Wouldn't it have been kinder to let him know he was "not like the others"?

In any case, his undimmed enthusiasm--his interpretation of our engagement as "I can tackle Terry whenever I want"--did nothing to convince our mentors that I was a proper spouse-to-be. I saw Clarice pull Alim aside more than once for serious chats. He told me later, giggling, that she warned him against me. Considering that I was behaving with nearly headmaster strictness, simply to keep Alim in line, I could rather see her point.

We were married in a ceremony that struck me as part state pageant, part museum opening with the three couples as the artsy unveiling. I can't blame the women. It was mostly Jeff's doing.

On the other hand, the women were terribly excited about the "new Fatherhood," i.e. having a baby the old-fashioned way. And Celis did get pregnant almost immediately. I hoped that all this outpouring of support for male contributions--however biological--would mean that Alim and I would be allowed to leave Herland with Van and Ellador.

Problem was: Van and Ellador's departure was planned for after Celis gave birth, and Alim would never last so long. He was getting more and more wild until Celis hauled him bodily out to the forest every day. Alim did suggest to the mentors that he take me to Har to meet his guardian Juste, which would have solved all our problems. The mentors hmmed and hawed. The idea was "being considered in counsel as a matter of  reflection."

Bureaucracies are the same the world over.

Finally I swallowed my pride--my reputation as it was would be utterly besmirched--and put the second part of the plan in motion.

This entailed me initially making pronouncements about my husbandly expectations: "Alima should be at home, fulfilling her wifely duties, always at my side!"

How anyone could believe that I would prefer a spouse that stuck to me like a leech--? But the women of Herland are not terribly sophisticated about male needs.

Which is not to say that some of my complaints didn't resonate with me personally. I honestly never understood Herland's treatment of a couple's living arrangements: the lack of privacy, the assumption that being "apart" was (merely) sexual (and sex could be accomplished anywhere). We had no home, no place of our own until I insisted on (at least) a private room.

But of course, Herland doesn't have many couples.

Not officially, that is.

In any case, Alim and I seemed as closely monitored as before. I had a few qualms, wondering if Moadine and the other mentors were worried about--

I won't offend the sensibilities of my readers by suggesting what the women of Herland may have
suspected about Alim and me. The country was both less restrictive and more prurient than our own, even in those years before the Great War. Things that offended us never occurred to them, yet they appeared scandalized by any suggestion that humans were, ah, physical beings.

I wonder that Van's female co-author never remarks on this incongruity in their treatise Herland. She never raises the issue of that country's excessive supervision, its coy avoidance of physical matters but then she comes from the same strata of society as Van (and me, but I'm no intellectual). She seems equally unaware of purely physical labor, such as washing babies' diapers and scrubbing floors. A lack of appreciation of how other people--other classes, other cultures--live creeps through her work.

And perhaps, as Van postulated  to me later, all societies have rules of acceptable behavior, even the Bohemians.

I broke those rules: I became more demanding of Alim ("Where have you been?"!) and frustrated at the lack of intimacy, which I hardly had to mimic after eighteen months of forced celibacy.

The final confrontation occurred as Alim describes, not as scripted; I was prepared to "act" pain, not actually experience it. Alim was so shocked and horrified by his overly eager performance, he muttered, "Sorry, sorry, ah, Terry, sorry," which nearly gave the game away.

It was as well that Alim got carried away, that the pain I presented was real rather then manufactured. Moadine was suspicious. She came more than once to my now-prison in Solis to question me. At first I thought she was interrogating me to emphasize my uncivilized and brutal nature, and I felt as defensive as if I'd committed the deed.

Eventually I began to realize that she was trying to prepare my defense.

"Alima may have misunderstood you," she said. "Your advances. In your country, how does the act of sexual congress proceed?"

"My behavior is no more allowable there," I told her sullenly, unable to admit that I was rather touched by her solicitude.

She shook her head and had me go over the order of events again.

Then the edict came down: I was to leave with Van and Ellador within the next month. I promised to keep Herland's secrets. Ellador vouched for me. I think Van convinced her that "gentlemen" keep their word. Or she realized that nobody would believe me about Herland anyway.

I didn't promise not to kidnap one of the country's citizens.

We left on a bright morning. I flew us out, banking the plane to bring us into the landing near the large lake. I wished Alim could have seen it, but he would be flying in my plane soon enough.

I thought.

The world outside Herland was at war.

Van records the shock, the horror of that revelation. It was the European War then, the nearly unpreventable series of events that snowballed from assassination to invasion. The breaking of treaties. The declaration of hostilities. And then Belgium's borders were breached, and Great Britain entered the fray.

I went to France to meet friends of mine in the British army there. Van and Ellador followed, the fools, all for the sake of Ellador's "education." She insisted I take her up in the plane to view the destruction of trench warfare--this was in the lull between battles in 1915. I protested, but Ellador insisted, and she's as difficult to say "No" to as Alim. Van told me later that Ellador cried that night over the unimaginable destruction she saw. Of course she did.

I was planning to offer my plane, my abilities as a pilot, and my extremely rough French to the RFC. I had connections--the aviation world back then was not so large--and I could hardly go home and settle back into the business world, not when it seemed likely that the war would not end as rapidly as the mindless politicians were promising.

First, I needed to return to Herland. The location of that country is known now in many government offices, but the wariness I developed during the war stays with me. Suffice it to say that I was able to make the return trip with little difficulty; a few months later, it was far more dangerous.

I encountered British and French expeditions as Alim said I would. They queried me closely about the war in Europe and made their plans. I equipped myself and started up the mountain passage. I'd made an initial pass in the plane over where I understood Har to be, so I was not surprised when Alim met me half-way up my ascent.

He was already three inches taller, nearly my height. His shoulders had broadened, his frame expanding to encompass all that cheerful energy. He waved and shouted, then heaved off his backpack to scramble down the path to hug me.

"You came! You came!"

There was no way to soften the blow.

"I'm not taking you with me," I said.

He didn't seem to hear. He talked about seeing my plane, about his preparations "for months and months" beforehand, about his hurried goodbyes in Har that morning. I held his arms and studied the mobile face with its faint beard (he would be using a razor at least once a week now) and knew how much I'd missed him.

And how much I absolutely was not going to take him with me. Not now.

"Alim," I said, and his eyes dipped, dimmed.

He'd heard me.

He said, "You promised."

"The countries out there--in the West--are at war. It's a bad war, Alim. It's old and modern all at once. It's destroying everything. It could destroy everything."

"Even in America?"

"It's not there yet."

"Then--"

"I'm going to fight, Alim, for the Entente Powers."

"I can help."

"No."

"Yes. You've said--how many times have you talked about men being honorable and courageous and valiant--?"

"It's not your fight."

"I can make it my fight. You're the one who said not to stay in the 'nursery,' not to be 'coddled.'"

"It's not your fight." I shook him gently. "These countries have nothing to do with Herland."

"I'm going to be an American."

"But you aren't. Not yet. Alim, I have cousins and uncles in the British army. Many Americans do. And I have relatives in the Netherlands. That's where my political allegiances lie. Shortly after we returned, the Germans sank a boat full of Americans. I was horrified. I still am. Because they were civilians. Because it was outside the bounds of decent behavior, as even some German newspapers reported. But mostly, Alim, because I am American. Do you understand? I have investment. You don't."

He was shaking his head.

"Here," I said urgently. "The war could come here. Do you want Herland invaded? By anyone? Do you want your people bombed?"

He needed to understand war as a reality, not a lesson in sociology or philosophy. In Van's second narrative--With Her in Ourland--he applauds Ellador's reaction to the European War. How she nobly, triumphantly, unrealistically determined that wars should never happen at all. She convinced herself that women from Herland could fix it all if only someone would invite enough of them for a long weekend.

Personally, I think Ellador was suffering from shock. She and Van set off on a trip around the world after heroically convincing themselves that "race-progress" is the ultimate good. If so many people died, oh, well, maybe it was for the best, countries being so overpopulated and all. The world would learn from its mistakes and do better next time: not fill itself up so much. I wasn't there to argue that a small population can damage itself as readily as a large one. Closed communities, no matter how ideal, can be ruthless.

I doubt my objections would have made any difference. Ellador became quite adept at dismissing "unlikable" behavior in communities she approved of while despising it in ones she disliked. She went so far as to argued that Germany was merely behaving like a disobedient child: prideful and vengeful, of course, but full of such terribly good and progressive ideas before things went so wrong.

It is as well that I was busy flying medical supplies to various locations when she came up with that rhetorical "explanation." I'm not sure I could have retained my chivalry and refrained from punching her.

In her and Van's trip around the world, Ellador correctly diagnosed much injustice. But she never comprehended the impact of every day human emotions and attitudes and beliefs; she barely glimpsed the wild love and deep sacrifice and desperate imagination--the hopes for the future, the ties of family and friendship, the curiosity about "the other"--that explain so much human endeavor. She never peered deeply into the tangle of motives and desires, needs and beliefs and viewpoints that thread through any single event. She had a theory and the theory overrode all observations.

We men in Herland had been prevented from a more exacting examination of that country. Ellador refused the more exacting examination--the non-streamlined, non-ideological version--of the outside world by choice. It was, after all, how she was raised.

Van, head over heels in love, put up token arguments before swooning into utter agreement. They retreated into their self-satisfied and carefully constructed version of reality, their prejudices against much of the human race intact.

As for me, I was back in the middle of an international conflict. When I encountered Alim in the pass, I never considered asking him if women possessing little outside diplomatic experience could mend centuries of interlocking treaties and grudges with a strong dose of commonsense. Nor did I consider debating the nature of war's awfulness. However much I wished to keep him safe and alive, I never considered telling him to retreat into Herland and bar the proverbial door.

The Germans had released gas a few months earlier at the Second Battle of Ypres. I didn't want Alim to hide in a temple and philosophize about the dreadful behaviors of uncivilized and ignorant people who were only behaving so badly because of their disappointing education (tut, tut, tut).

He was a man, not a child jumping around with his hands over his ears. He could help defend Herland, keep its borders strong. He could arrange for Herland to have lookouts. He wouldn't be alone. If I'd learned nothing else in eighteen months, I'd learned that there were Colonels and "brash girls" to help him. The women of Herland could protect themselves.

We stayed the night in the mountain pass. It was like our meetings at the base of the tower--only much colder, of course (no swimming competitions). I started a fire, and we ate from Alim's pack (he had fruits and bread and roasted lamb). I kept my arm around his shoulders as he took in his disappointment, then listened to me explain the war that was growing and stretching and looming over the world.

He was ready the next morning to take on the role I'd proposed. In fact, he requested that I not leave immediately as I'd planned, that I wait in the village below the pass until he could bring Juste to meet me, to learn from me directly what was happening in Europe and now Africa.

Juste came--a wiry woman with a mane of curly red hair--and with her, Moadine, who greeted me calmly. Her eyes flickered with amusement between me and an abashed Alim, and she nodded as if confirming a fact to herself.

"I think she always knew we were lying," he whispered to me. "She wasn't even a little alarmed when Juste told her you were nearby--or when she saw how, um, male I've gotten."

Marthe Cnockaert, Belgium Spy
I was thinking that Moadine likely knew a great deal more about the world than the subterfuge of one overactive boy. She and Juste bent over the newspapers I'd brought and asked such precise questions about the European conflict that I began to wonder if Van and Jeff and I had ever surprised her.

Were all the mentors hiding a deeper agenda?

No, I decided. Moadine had always behaved differently than the others: observing more than educating, querying more than remonstrating or classifying. As if she had a specific mission--given to her by her queen perhaps.

"Is Ellador your spy then?" I hazarded.

"Not wittingly," she said good-humoredly while Juste harrumphed, which was as good a confession that Moadine had spies in the outside world.

I wondered for the first time what else Alim's mother had been doing beyond the borders of Herland, other than getting pregnant.

I said civilly, "How is Celis?"

"Blooming. The baby is due soon. Jeff is, ah, engaged in fatherhood."

I gathered that the women of Herland wanted Jeff to use his practical skills as a doctor, but Jeff was too busy doing useless things like planning a pageant about Parenthood. I saw Alim smirk and surmised that Celis--who wrote Alim weekly-- found the whole dispute endlessly amusing.

"I'll come back to get you," I told Alim as I gathered my belongings. "We'll still make that final trip together."

He came out to the field below the village. He waved his hand as the plane lifted me into the air and bore me back to war.

Alim in Herland, Chapter 8

I ran away when Terry was confined. Moadine assured me it was only for a few days, but I couldn't bear myself: my cowardice, my fears, my inability to argue (as Ellador argued for me).

I ran and spent two days with the pruners in the forest; I hauled away detritus, and they thanked me gravely, then asked about the "visitors."

I couldn't say anything without getting mad, without raging about everyone's unfairness, without saying, "Terry was just getting back what I won! I know I gave the necklace up, but I didn't want to, and he's the only one who noticed!"

"Fine," I said instead. "Interesting."

"Do they have opinions about forestry? New methods? Better ways to use timber?"

"I guess. They have opinions about a lot of things."

Finally, I ran from them and their questions. I hiked to the edge of the northern cliff and looked down at the broad lake below. Then I trekked to where Terry's plane was still covered and wondered if I could learn to fly it without killing myself. I got the cover off and sat at the wheel and felt absolutely useless.

Celis found me there.

"Looks like a car," she said, peering over my shoulder. "Only less controllable."

"You want to try it?"

"No. But then I don't want to leave." She ruffled my hair. "I heard about Terry rescuing your prize. You never wanted to donate that necklace, did you?"

"No."

"Be sure to thank him."

I should. I knew that. And yet, Why couldn't I take back the necklace myself? Why can't I announce to Herland who I am and accept the fall-out? Why can't I act like Terry?

I glanced at Celis, gold curls bouncing as she surveyed the plane's instruments. She dimpled at me.

"I wish I could be honest," I told her.

Maybe I would have gone on. Maybe I would have said, I'm a boy, Celis. I'm nearly a man.

Except Celis's index finger was on my lips.

"Nobody is honest," she said, her eyes meeting mine squarely. "Not completely. Well, Ellador maybe. Do you know why the mentors praise her so much?"

"She's smart. She works hard. She--"

"Yes. And the mentors value those things. But it's more than that. You know why Ellador ran to the temple for guidance? The religious issue that upset her?"

I never paid much attention to Ellador and Van's philosophical discussions. I shrugged and raised an eyebrow.

"Van, bless him, tried to explain to Ellador about infant damnation. It's a belief from out there--" Celis gestured towards the cliffs. "A belief that unbaptized children--children who are not inoculated against the sins of their ancestors--are doomed to hell."

"That's unpleasant," I said.

"Of course it is. But it's part of a wider theology, a bigger understanding of how people think. Religions are complex. People are complex. Yet Ellador ran off in hysterics to a Temple Mother."

Celis's tone was fondly exasperated.

"And of course, the Temple Mother told her, 'No, no, that sort of thing can't be true. Only ignorant people have ever believed it.' Ellador's no fool. She realized immediately that dismissing the idea wasn't going to make it easier to grasp or improve her understanding of the outside world. You know--that big picture she's always pursuing."

I nodded.

"She should have known better than to run to someone who wouldn't talk to her as honestly as Van. But she did. That's why mentors like Clarice put up with her. Because Ellador is appalled by the right--or, rather, wrong--things. She's offended when appropriate. Appreciative when appropriate. She's a 'good' girl."

I considered that, hands stroking the plane's wheel.

I said, "I like Ellador--"

"So do I. Ellador's genuine. She naturally exhibits the qualities Herland wants to create. But not everyone--not every girl--is an Ellador."

I eyed her. She gave me a rueful smile. 

She said, "Why do you think they're always trying to reinvent the games?"

"The old games aren't rational. They don't serve a purpose."

"They don't fit the rhetoric: 'service,' 'advancement,' 'progress.' The old games come crawling out of the imagination full of primitive jokes. A good society makes certain assumptions in order to operate smoothly. Games challenge those assumptions."

Everything is so seamless, Terry complained about Herland once. Real life isn't like that.

Maybe I have some Van in me; I said, "The mentors do ask questions. They want us to think."

"But not creatively--"

I started to protest. People innovated. They changed the designs of houses. They improved machinery. They came up with new educational techniques.

"Not wildly," Celis said. "Why do you think the old stories are never told in Herland's theaters? The ones with unkind stepmothers and brutal kings and rampaging monsters? There's always a line, an edge of the world--and if we fall off it, we're lost."

"People tell the stories anyway."

"Sure. But the fear is always there. Nobody, not even your Terry, believes that a person can explore an idea and not become it."

"Maybe they do become it. I met Terry and now--"

Now I want to leave.

I always knew I had to. Now I had a reason to think I could.

Celis shrugged. "Maybe we change based on what we learn. But I couldn't possibly become all the things I ask and think and want and say and suggest any more than the story tellers can. You can't be the hero and the villain and the monster and the deviant all at once. Not in reality."

Unless people are heroes and villains and monsters and deviants all in one.

Still, I knew what Celis meant. I once suggested to Marta--not Clarice, thankfully--that it might be judicious to drown some of the cats who were violating their breeding and killing songbirds. Marta sat me down and explained in detail why "breeding" was the answer to Herland's difficulties, not "aggresssive reaction." I nodded and nodded and nodded, terrified that my suggestion had been too "male." Except I wasn't devoted to the idea of slaughtering cats. I simply tossed out the idea because--

Because Celis mentioned it. And Celis liked cats.

I eyed her, and she gave me another half-smile.

"Herland hasn't gotten rid of 'femininity'. It simply changed the definition. And some of us still don't match it. Whatever the mentors might tell Terry."
Betty Robinson

"I think even Terry would agree that women have more opportunities here than out there--"

"In some ways. But suppose I decided to be one of those religious women--Van mentioned them--a Catholic or a Jew, a woman devoted to religious beliefs, prayers and services, ancient patriarchal sacraments, her family, all outside of the public gaze. Or suppose I was a woman who decided to compete, like a man, at flying planes or winning races in what Van calls 'the Olympics'? Or suppose I was a woman who owned a business and treated all my employees--even the working mothers--exactly the same? Do you think Herland would take me seriously? Or do you think they would decide I was wrong-headed, badly educated, poorly mothered and shouldn't be allowed to breed until I was 'better'?"
Effa Manley, Sports Executive

"Do you want to do those things? Go to church? Compete in the Olympics? Run a business?"

"No. I like it here. I like what I make of it. People like Clarice--I keep them out."

"You say the right things."

"Call it self-protection. Why should I give up comfort and a good job--and now a decent man--for the sake of expressing myself loudly and non-helpfully?"

Yet Celis's failure to "express herself" had also earned her some criticism. A "good" girl questioned, then thoughtfully and philosophically repackaged what she'd learned into the "progressive" paradigm that Herland had perfected.

Maybe that's what all societies did. Even Terry compared Herland to what he already knew. And it wasn't as if any of us could do anything else.

I sighed. Celis sighed.

I asked a question I knew would amused her (besides, I wanted to know the answer):

"You like Jeff?"

I honestly couldn't see it--and not just because I'm male. Van and Ellador, yes. Anyone and Terry, absolutely. But moralizing, virtuous, praise-heavy Jeff with hard-headed, pragmatic, funny Celis?

Celis waved a hand.
 
"He's a bit overly chivalrous. But he's kind. And he doesn't argue, which I don't like doing either. Beside, if I don't nab him, Jancey will and make his life a terror." She hesitated. "Besides," she added, not looking at me, "I want to have a child and rear that child the way your mother did--"

"You know!?" I jerked, my knee hitting the wheel. "Not just about, you know, my biology? You also know how I was born?"

"Sure. Someone had to look after you when you arrived on the plains. Juste thought it should be me. Actually, she thought it should be my mother, Coraline. She and Juste--and me, of course--go back to the same ancestress. Coraline passed the duty off to me."

So much for mothers not being invested in their specific children. There was an entire network operating beneath the surface of Herland, running counter to the official fiction that every woman was every child's mother, that children knew their heritage as a matter of record, not emotional fact.

I never noticed--and yet--

The women in Har prepared me carefully to enter the center of Herland. Ellador and Celis, three years older, had requested me to work with them within a matter of months.

"Does Ellador know? About--" I gestured at myself.

"I think Ellador thinks you are a girl with . . . extra bits."

I stared at her. I got ready to shout, I am not! Then I started to laugh because I felt offended--as I knew Terry would be if anyone accused him of being a man with female parts.

"There are, you know," Celis said. "People like that in Herland. Nature is far more variable than the mentors pretend. And far more ready to force its hand. The leaders decide, Oh, those babies must be girls, whatever they might think. But you--you're--" she waved a hand; apparently, we weren't going to say the word boy out loud "--as much as I'm a girl. Good thing Jeff showed up. Once you got a bit older, I might have started experimenting with you--"

"Experimenting?" I said, shaken to the core.

"You think girls in Herland don't experiment? I know the mentors like to sell the story of 'no sexual feeling.' Poor Terry. He must be pulling his hair out, believing that. Did you tell him it was nonsense?"

Face burning, I said, "I thought it wasn't nonsense--in the plains at least."

Now Celis looked offended.

I added, "I thought it was just me--feeling stuff--"

"Ridiculous. Do you know how many mentors have lovers? And how many girls peer at the old carvings of men in the temples to the west? As if a philosophy of niceness can cut off desire."

She was so blessedly scornful. But this unloading of sensible sexual female feeling was too much for me. I held up a hand, and she laughed and stopped.

A few minutes later, she whispered, "If there is a girl on your mind--"

"Shut up," I squawked, and she giggled and patted my arm.

"I want to leave Herland," I said after a few minutes. "I need to leave. And soon--"

"Ellador told the mentors that you and Terry are engaged. Maybe that will help."

* * *
 
"I heard about our engagement," Terry said.

There in the middle of Solis's town square, he looped the necklace around my neck, bent me backwards, and smacked me on the lips.

So I hit him on the nose, which bled.

In his narrative, Van calls Terry's initial advance "a dashing attack." He calls our entire courtship "stormy."

Van can be eye-rollingly daft. He was so sure that Terry fit a "type," he never seemed to see how much Terry played up to that role.

Terry was being deliberately obnoxious and, I think, thumbing his nose at the mentors. He'd gathered that our so-called engagement was entirely within my purview. As long as I kept coming back . . .

Which of course I did--how else could we plan my escape? And if it meant being teased and wrestled with and provoked into more than one unexpected boxing match--

I admit, I got into the act. I started to call Terry sentimental names such as "darling" and "honey" and "cutesy" and "Snowball" (one of the Har cats' names) until he finally broke and shouted "bunch-backed toad" at me. Whenever Terry felt he couldn't be too insulting, he used quotes from Shakespeare, which Herland doesn't have.

His explosions still upset Clarice. She was constantly trying to pull me into private conferences. When I wouldn't go, she urged me into corners: Are you sure you want to marry such an impolite man? Will you be able to talk with each other rationally? What about your duties as a forester? Are you not worried . . . ?

I fobbed her off, but I came to appreciate her concern. I wouldn't want a sister of mine to marry the kind of man Terry was pretending to be. All that overacting! As Terry pointed out, Clarice was looking out for me (and he dislikes her).

After all, even Ellador began to wonder if she'd done the right thing when she told the mentors that Terry and I were engaged. And Celis muttered, "Why is he acting this way?" when Terry started quoting really bawdy Shakespeare at the end of a lecture.

"It's a plan," I said between gritted teeth, then went across the hall and punched him. He laughed and mock-boxed me around the hall.

I swear some of the girls looked envious--the ones who snuck peaks in the western temples, I guess.

As the triple wedding ceremony neared--planned almost entirely by Jeff with some suggestions from various mentors, mostly to tone it down--Terry and I had to pretend greater cooperation. (We had to want to get married.) And that wasn't that hard either. I liked leaning against Terry, his arm slung over my shoulder, as we discussed flying or astronomy or the newish game of basketball.

The wedding day arrived. All three of us couples married in a blur of high ceremony and multiple speeches followed by a grand parade. And then we started married life, and everything went back to how it was before. We didn't move into a home (like Juste's tower in Har) or share a name or perform the same job although Terry sometimes wandered out to the forest with me.

Nobody saw the need for us to be "together apart," mostly because everybody pretended not to understand the idea that marriage would lead to (permissible) sex. Celis had no trouble getting instantly pregnant, but Celis is resourceful (Jeff never stood a chance). Ellador was more virginal although I think she and Van managed to get further than he implies in his roundabout narrative.

I hoped--at some level, I truly believed--that the mentors didn't provide us with a separate residence because they knew Terry and I would be leaving.

But they were still uncommitted, unsupportive, un-something. Whenever I mooted the topic, they said, "You need to learn to be a couple here first."

"You have to be patient," Terry told me. "This plan has two parts."

The second part of the plan entailed Terry acting more like an ass. He leered at me, called him "his woman," complained loudly about my job and whined incessantly about not having a "home."

He then started making noises about "intimacy," which was code for "sex." Finally, he proclaimed his intentions of making a dead-set at me--well, at Alima. And then he tried, knowing full well that Moadine was in the room next door. The plan was for Moadine to rescue me, but I got caught up in the act and kneed him in the groin which he told me later was a dirty trick for one man to play on another. Running in, Moadine gave me a bemused look and helped groaning Terry to his feet while I ran off screaming.

When I calmed down, petted by Marta and Clarice, I proclaimed my intentions of returning immediately to Har. Everyone said, "Oh, yes, of course, you must!"

The idea--Terry's idea--was that Herland would either locked him up permanently, in which case I would have to break him out, or it would expel him. I was a little afraid that something wholly primitive would emerge from within my many mothers, and Terry would be strung up, drawn and quartered (I'd seen pictures in Van's dictionary). That was one reason I asked Moadine to "guard" me. She seemed to like Terry, to tolerate him, and she wouldn't spit him on a pike.

"She might have," Terry said much later. "But she'd have done it so calmly and efficiently, I'd have hardly felt a thing."

Actually, Moadine doubted the entire performance. Before I left for Har, she came to see me. I was throwing things into a bag, not entirely mimicking rage since it burned me that I couldn't simply leave Herland with Terry, that we had to go through this entire stupid subterfuge to begin with.

Moadine sat on a chair in our room--Terry had insisted on that much privacy--and studied me.

Finally she said, "Did he truly try to take you by force?"

"You heard."

"Yes. You never agreed to his actions?"

"No. He talked about it. That's why I asked you to stay next door."

"Yes, you did. It wasn't a game?"

I gave her a lifted eyebrow. If Terry truly had done what we both said he'd done, he would hardly deserve this kind of defense. What difference does it make what I thought or agreed to? Terry came at me!

Moadine looked back, eyes partly hooded.

"Not a game," I said forcefully.

"His behavior strikes me as uncharacteristic."

I hurried to the bureau and emptied it of more clothes plus the necklace which I shoved into my tunic out of Moadine's sight. I kept my face turned away while I contemplated the empty drawers.

I hadn't expected her to know Terry so well, to be able to distinguish between bluster and teasing as opposed to malice and domination. I hadn't realized that anyone but me--and possibly Celis--would see that Terry was honest bravado and strength and good humor and sharp wits and (sometimes) hidebound beliefs. He was never actually dangerous or cruel.

It infuriated me that Jeff had taken the whole thing at face value. He wouldn't speak to Terry, calling him "my former acquaintance!" At least Van tried, but Van never questioned the "woman's version."

So Moadine was being fair, inconveniently so.

"Whatever he does is characteristic to him," I said.

"Yes," she said slowly, watching me throw in my kit (which contained one of Terry's razors; I was approaching that point).

"I hope you are happy in Har," she said at the door and left, as self-contained as always.

Ellador wept when we parted; she "couldn't understand Terry," and I didn't dare tell her the truth. Ellador was the passport to Van and Terry leaving. She had to believe utterly in the necessity; she had to go, so Van could go, and Van had to go, so Terry could leave too.

Celis winked and kissed me. She was several months pregnant by then, and I patted her belly and grinned at her delight.

"We're suppose to keep you from horrid thoughts," I told her.

"I'd be more horrified if I didn't know you were going to be alright. You are, aren't you?"

"Yes," I said.

If she guessed the rest--and being Celis, she probably did--she didn't say.

I left that afternoon. I went to Har where Juste rolled her eyes at my distressful story and put me to work clearing a new field. I agreed. I had time. Terry had to get thrown out of Herland--after which, he would fly north, breach the mountain passage, and take me away from my home.

Terry in Herland, Chapter 7

Alim and I met up two days later in Solis's center. He scuffed his feet and hunched his shoulders.

"We weren't fighting," he said immediately, but the tone was less statement and more query.

"No," I assured him.

The evening before Jeff had remonstrated with me about delicate female sensibilities. Personally, I'd never seen anyone as blithe and hard-headed as Celis, but I shrugged.

Van was less critical of my so-called argument with "Alima"; he and his Ellador were constantly arguing themselves except they did it calmly and judiciously with few flare-ups. I didn't bother to explain that we hadn't been arguing, that I'd been talking to Alim the way I talk to Jeff and Van: loud, pugnacious, faintly insulting. The way I talk to men. I wasn't prepared to share Alim's secret with Van. Not yet.

I sat beside Alim on the edge of a fountain while mentors strolled a few feet away, the bitchy one--Clarice--within a stone's throw. I glared at her and she moved off. If she was a New York society mama, she would have sniffed.

I reminded myself that I had a male foreman who didn't act much different from Clarice. Officious. It didn't make me warm to her.

I said quietly, "Have you thought about leaving here, Alim?"

I felt like one of the women with their constant questions. But they had a point--I couldn't browbeat Alim into realizing he needed to think about his future. I couldn't say, "You're crazy if you think you can keep on pretending to be a 'girl'!" In the ten months since I'd met him, he'd grown another inch. In a few more . . .

He glowered at nothing and stuck out his chin belligerently. Now he reminded me of a New York City messenger boy.

"What would I do?" he said.

That was a point. I was tempted to give him the Horatio Alger speech about pulling oneself up by
one's bootstraps, chancing one's arm. But I'd met too many undernourished New York City messenger boys. My family's company tips them well. But they don't have anything like Alim's health and freedom, upbringing or living conditions. Herland at least made me appreciate what Alim would have to give up if he left.

Still--

I said, "Do you think if they knew, they would treat you like they treated us?"

Imprison him. Study him.

Or would they eject him?

Another shrug. I sighed. I was the same as a boy, impossible to communicate with.

"Your leader in Har--"

"I'm not her problem," he said. "I help. I'm helpful. But she's not my mother."

And his mother was dead.

"I know I have to leave," he said softly. "I know that." 

"With us," I said as softly. "You could leave with us."

"Will they let you leave?"

"Van and Ellador want to get married or something--whatever you people here call it. She wants to see the outside world. Your leaders are considering it."

"They might be happy to send me away," he said uncertainly.

And they might not. I knew perfectly well--however cagey Alim was when he answered my questions--how much information the women in Herland kept back from us men. They would send us away with little more knowledge than we came in with. Alim knew a great deal more, knew everything his quick mind and eyes had gathered in now-sixteen-years.

Lizzie Borden
Of course, so did Ellador. But Ellador was a woman. They might decide that she would stay loyal to Herland due to her biology (considering the number of women who murdered and stole and cheated and spied, I found this unlikely, but Herland had no criminals that I heard of--except women who would make bad mothers). They might decide that Alim's biology would make him inherently less loyal, more likely to "side" with the patriarchal world outside their borders.

I thought they did Alim little justice. But could we trust them to know that? 

I considered taking the problem to Moadine. She seemed the most objective of the mentors. She might decide Alim was a risk, but I trusted she would decide so on the merits, not on her idea of how "good" people behaved.

And then I asked Alim about the necklace.

I was in Solis's town center with my and Alim's "followers." I liked them, the girls who approached me alongside Alim after lectures. I even found Kal, the young woman who mentioned cars during the first lecture, rather attractive. Under different circumstances--

But I sensed the mentors' unease when Kal and the others congregated around me and Alim. Our watchers were braced like ruffled pigeons to swoop in and peck away at our group solidarity.

"I'm not going to hurt anyone," I snapped at Moadine once on the way back to our sleeping quarters.

"No," she said serenely. "But you might end up in a bad situation," which was the first purely honest thing she'd said to me.

I wasn't sure if she meant I would receive harm at the hands of the girls or from the watching "mothers". A pretty girl with a vicious tongue can leave a man feeling like scat on a shoe. I rather think, though, that Moadine was referring to my physical safety. Protective debutante mamas have nothing on the ladies of Herland.

I didn't want to get incapacitated for flirting inappropriately. I also didn't think it fair that these girls should be eyed so suspiciously. I never liked the New York mamas who treated a slightly flirty girl like she was one step away from becoming a loose woman.

So the next time Van and Jeff and I went out to meet "the girls," I loudly proclaimed, "You lucky dogs! Mine are more like 'boys' than girls. I can't get anywhere with them at all."

Then I winked at Alim, who glared his consternation.

"Idiot," Fiona said as I wandered up to her and the others; Alim shook his head at me and muttered, "Demented."


That was the day I gave them some of the jewelry pieces I'd bought at Marcus & Co. before leaving New York. Nieve, the girl I thought Alim fancied (he paid her more attention than he did the others and grinned foolishly at her contributions, no matter how mundane and practical), turned over a brooch of enameled flowers.

"I could make something like this," she said, and the young women began a murmured discussion of metal and glass work.

"What about the necklace you won off me?" I said to Alim.

He flushed and shrugged.

"Did someone take it away from you? You won it fair and square."

"I donated it."

"Donated? Voluntarily?"

He shrugged again, looking away. His feet scuffed the ground.

"The temple, right?" Fiona said, her tone sympathetic.

All the young women were eyeing us now, drawn to Alim's unhappiness and my fierce tone. 

I said, "Did you want to give it to the temple?"

Alim's hunched shoulders were becoming a permanent characteristic. I glanced at the girls, and they looked resigned.

I said, "None of you wear jewelry. Is that because you're not allowed?"

Lea said, "It's not that simple. Jewelry is--not tasteful."

"Because women in Herland aren't vain," I said caustically.

They laughed at that.

"Oh, they are," Lea assured me. "There're lots of things people can do with even the simplest of tunics: frills on the edges, patterns on the sleeves. Any girl who wants can give her clothes an extra flair."

I laughed. I had a niece in a girls' school--I knew exactly what Lea was describing.

"You said yourself some of our clothes are quite attractive," Alim said desperately.

The reaction to our last so-called argument had scared him. He watched the watchers now as much as they watched us. He was sneaking glances at them now.

"Yes, I did," I said. "But your dress is a uniform, is it not?"

"Of course," Fiona said. "Isn't all dress?"

I glowered. I considered that a specious argument. What about regional differences? What about different contexts and occasions?

Fiona raised her brows; I didn't scare her.

She said, "The mentors say that women in your country are slaves to trends: I must dress this way in order to belong."

Speechless, I waved my hand at the young women's collectively shortish hair. Alim--with his thick, shoulder-length locks--frankly stood out.

Fiona shrugged.

Lea said, "Jewels make a girl conspicuous, not for her accomplishments--her mind, her service, her work--but because she wants to attract notice." She glanced at Alim's lowered head. Maybe she mistook his flush of vexation for modest embarrassment, for she grinned and added, "Because she won something."

"Alima outwitted me," I said evenly. "She deserved to keep the necklace. Don't you ever find or make things you want for yourselves?"

"Yes," said Nieve, and Alim threw her a grateful glance.

"We do," Kal told me, eyes sliding from me to the mentors lurking about the square. "Everyone does. We create little collections of our successes in our rooms, above our beds."

"But not in the public eye. I get it. Which temple, Alima?"

Surprised, Alim nodded automatically towards Solis's religious building on the east side of the square.

I crossed the square. I went up shallow steps and across a stone patio. I entered a quiet interior with a glowing brazier at the floor's center. Past the brazier was an altar heaped with various items from fruits to linens.

A woman--a priestess or whatever Herland wants to call her--rose from a corner where she was talking softly to a young woman, one I recognized from Van's group. 

"May I help you?" said the priestess.

"Not yet," I said.

I sorted through the various items, reaching out occasionally to prevent those closest to the edge of the altar from tumbling to the floor. I caught a glint and stacked a few baskets of grain to one side to uncover Alim's necklace.

I jerked at the chain and caught the necklace in the palm of my hand. I nodded to the priestess and walked out of the temple.

I could see Alim and the others in the middle of the square, mouths wide open. Between them and the temple stood a line of older women.

The Colonels were back, and they were not happy.

I wasn't chloroformed this time or buried in the fortress. I was escorted--frog-marched--back to our quarters in Solis. I was settled in a chair. I was told to wait; three women stayed behind to watch me.

Eventually, Moadine and Somel and Java arrived with Jeff and Van. Jeff and Van looked more upset than the women, but of course, the women has always assumed I would behave barbarously.

"How could you, Terry?" Jeff cried. "Such sacrilege! The women's temple!"

"It was terribly dangerous," Van said. "Some cultures would kill you for violating a holy place."

"Yes, they would," I said and turned to our mentors. "But surely, Herland is too rational for that. Your religion is all about kindness and good conduct. God--the Goddess--is a force, a feeling, a pervasive aura of love, yes?"

Silence while Jeff sighed and wagged his head.

"They worship Motherhood," Van said. "An Earth Mother."

"You know as well as I do how other cultures worship Earth Mothers," I told him. "They kill Winter Kings. They sprinkle blood in the soil for their crops. They sacrifice--"

"It's not the same!" Van said sharply before I mentioned what some cultures did with "babies." I wasn't going to. I was going to mention what some cultures did with the aftermath of childbirth. Then I was going to move on to female and male temple prostitution.

I'm not religious--agnostic probably describes me best--but I'll opt for a dangerous, in-your-face, tangible religion any day over a "nice" one.

Somel said, "Our religion was like that, long ago. During those early years, after our ancestors were cut off from the world but still remembered it, our religion was harsher, crueler, more--"

"Physical."

"Yes."

"And now your religion is all about good thoughts and rational discourse and endless discussion--"

As if human beings have no dark sides, no poetic stirrings from the deep, no infernos, no demon royalty, no savage moons. 
Paid clergy.

"They have rituals--" Van, the sociologist, pointed out.

"Pageants in the service of the state," I told him and turned back to the mentors. "Why the altar? Who gets those 'sacrifices'?"

"Women volunteer their time to act as Temple Mothers, to listen to the troubles of others."

Like the young woman in the temple today. She was one of Van's followers; maybe she was jealous of the attention he paid to Ellador. Would she admit it? Would she be that frank? Or would her whimpers get wrapped up in acceptable rhetoric, the proper way to talk about one's troubles. 

I said, "Just as a priest listens to confessions. We have paid clergy. I guess you do as well."

"The donations are not given automatically to the Temple Mothers. They are distributed, often returned to the community."

"Who decides that? You? Your queen? Other mentors?"

"A committee."

"How wonderful," Jeff proclaimed and gave me another disappointed shake of the head.

I got up, kicking back my chair. "This is mine," I said, holding up the necklace. "For Alima. I don't care who bullied her into giving it up. She's getting it back."

Van followed me into our bedroom or dormitory (it's not like we ever had real privacy); he sat on the bed across from mine.

He said hesitantly, "You really shouldn't have--a temple, Terry!"

The Bachelor Maids
"Another form of power, one group holding sway over another."

Van sighed. He's as non-religious as me but he gives greater value than I do to beliefs and faith. People, Van maintains, are motivated as much by large ideas as small ones.

He isn't completely wrong. Except for all the times he is.

I said, "You know what Jeff  is doing right now? He's translating 'committee' into 'sweet service organization'--oh, the good little women--"

Van winced. Jeff's veneration of Herland's women made him as queasy as it did me and, to be fair, many of the women themselves.

He said, "Many of those organizations do good work--they're efficient, determined--"

"Not the way Jeff describes it. He thinks it is 'so marvelous' how these women work together. 'So inspiring.' Like those Victorian pictures of happy happy people."

"I don't think the women see it that way. Not here and not in our country."

"No, they don't. That's the point. Herland has leaders. It has groups that make decisions for everyone else. Like in any social order."

"And some are better than others. American democracy, for one."

"Exactly! But that's at least open, transparent!"

"Back room deals? Oregon Land Scandal?"

I groaned and let my head collapse into my hands.

"I hate the pretense," I mumbled, feeling like Alim. "The way we're supposed to accept how seamless and right-thinking everything is--"

"If you would only accept it, give it a chance--" Van said, then held up both hands when I glared at him through my fingers.

Here in Herland, Van had Ellador. He had good food, nice views, and endless opportunities to converse on any and all topics. Herland was Van's paradise--or at least his idea of a very, very good club.

Jeff was the one who saw Herland as heavenly, the kind of heaven where people float around playing harps and sitting on clouds and looking like cherubs with nothing whatsoever to do (because someone else is doing all the real work behind the scenes).

I wanted to go home to the messy, loud, dirty, problematic West, and I wanted to take Alim with me.

I was monitored indoors for several days. When I was let out again, our group of "brash girls" (Alim's term) had been disbanded, sent back to their various regions and towns. Only Alim remained. I understood from Van that Ellador had defended "Alima's" right to stick with me. She'd told the mentors that we--like Van and Ellador, like Celis and Jeff--were engaged.

Van told me what Ellador had done with a hopeful smile, as if being engaged would wipe out all my objections and supposed bad behavior. An engaged man would presumably never annoy his many, many in-laws with uncouth behavior.

God help a marriage built on that assumption.

I said, "Suppose Alima wants to leave too, like Ellador?"

Van blew out a long breath. "Ellador doesn't think they will encourage her--"

"Let her, you mean."

"Support her in leaving. Come on, Terry, you know as well as I do: you violate taboos, you have to  pay a price."

I did. But Alim shouldn't have to.