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 "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.

Alim in Herland, Chapter 6

When Terry and the others left the fortress, I returned to the plains to find that my duties now included learning the visitors' language. The men were going to be "let out" to meet the population. Celis and Ellador and I would be among the first to welcome them. Ellador had insisted.

The mentors in the fortress had created a bilingual dictionary and grammar manual. They must have also consulted women in Herland who knew English already, though according to Terry, they never admitted being familiar with any other languages.

Celis and Ellador--who both knew I spoke English--fell on me when I returned. Marta smiled at their questions ("How do you say--?" "Is this the right word for--?") and Clarice tried to look pleased.

"Juste is open to so many new ideas," she said and for the first time--Terry's complaints sounding in my ears--I realized that she not being complimentary about Juste, who ensured that Har's townspeople could communicate with the outside world.

Most of the mentors in Herland encouraged their students to try out new things, from playing different musical instruments to experimenting with dyes and mosaics and clay. The outcome was always progress, improvement, advancement. But the encouragement to search, to look, to wander was genuine.

"Okay," Terry grudgingly admitted once, "your education was more enjoyable than mine."

I swaggered and stuck at my tongue. I didn't tell him that his description of boarding schools, despite the sports, made my skin crawl. My sex would have been discovered in no time at all in a girls' boarding school. And a boys' boarding school sounded like the old stories of punishing  underworlds (Herland's official religion doesn't include anything as scary and exciting as "hell").

I also didn't mention that there were mentors like Clarice who ruffled like birds against the freedom of youngsters to go anywhere and do anything. When Terry told me about "high society mamas," I pictured Clarice twitching over a girl's misstep at a dance, shaking her head over an incorrectly sewn hem.

Of course Clarice dealt with civil projects, not parties. Did that make her any less . . . rigid? Reproachful?

For the first time, I considered that perhaps there wasn't anything wrong with me (other than being not a girl); that Clarice was like that, the kind of person who finds the lecture-y note in a discussion of plant-life.

I felt myself stretching, expanding, feeling at home in my own skin. After all, it wasn't as if Clarice could lecture me out of it.

The sensation was like growing taller--though Terry said my "growth spurt" hadn't hit yet. And I saw, also for the first time, that Celis treated Clarice lightly--a prickly hedgehog to be placated--while Ellador tensed in her presence, Ellador who wanted to ask questions and find answers and break some imaginary barrier that Clarice placed around us.

Did Clarice make that barrier or was she only using it? How much did Herland's civilization decide even the questions we asked? As much as Terry's civilization affected him? Like the time he took for granted that I would agree that women couldn't be soldiers, then was perplexed when I found his question odd.

When we finally met officially, I wanted to ask him--okay, mock him, So, Terry, did women build that bridge over there? Huh? Huh? Hey, Terry, how about that aqueduct?

I didn't, couldn't. We were surrounded by dozens of mentors as well as young women who had come to hear the "visitors" talk. Ordinarily, with so many young women around, I would flush and feel awkward, reminding myself over and over and over, Don't show interest. Don't act interested. Ignore them.

I was too busy reminding myself that I wasn't supposed to know Terry that well; I mustn't walk up and slap him on the back and challenge him to an arm-wrestle.

I sat through the mind-numbing question-and-answer session that was only slightly enlivened when a girl from the west region said, "Does everyone in your country drive cars?" Terry straightened, head turning in the direction of the questioner, but Clarice or some other mentor added a question about "industrial waste" and "pollution," and Van and Jeff fell all over themselves trying to make the outside world sound not-so-bad when it came to "industrial by-products."

In Herland, we let our industrial by-products escape into river water--that's how Terry, Van, and Jeff found us. But Herland was not to be shown in a bad light (so we'd all been instructed), and no one asked another question about cars or planes or anything interesting.

I could understand why the leaders wanted to keep back information. If the men had landed in the north--as Terry said now they should have--Juste would have locked them up too. Eh, no, she would have made Terry help me with the sheep, put Jeff to work inoculating people, and bullied Van into teaching the youngsters, so the teachers could take a break. But she wouldn't have thrown open Har's secrets to them.

And yet--

It annoyed me to see Terry rebuffed, to see his every point "shot-down" (an English term) or ignored as if he had nothing to contribute. If this was how men were treated, I was lucky I'd never told my secret to even the nicest Herland lass.

The unfairness continued after the lecture when the smallest number of girls approached Terry. I went with them--after all, I had a claim. Celis sidled up to Jeff while Ellador was already standing with Van.

"Mr. Popularity," Terry said, jerking his chin at Van's milling group of excited girls.

In all honesty, Van's success didn't surprise me. Van treated Herland citizens the way I treated Celis and Ellador. He was maybe a little self-conscious--they all were, even Terry (I sympathized)--but he greeted them with easy respect and interest: friendly-like. It made sense he would gather the girls who wanted to talk and ask questions, discuss philosophy and what-not.

"People like whom Ellador likes," a girl, Fiona told Terry.

I hadn't considered that, and I should have. I'd seen how the girls formed groups when we were younger, despite our mentors' insistence that we all play together.

"People also like Celis," I said, nodding to where she lingered in Jeff's smaller-than-Van group. "So what about Jeff, uh, Mr. Margrave?"

Fiona made a face.

"He's too solicitous," she said.

Both Terry and I laughed. When we entered the hall that morning, Jeff tried to "help" Celis carry a basket as if she couldn't carry it herself. She looked at him like he'd sprouted horns and fangs.Then she smiled sweetly and patted his arm.

I said, "Celis seems to like him."

"Oh, Celis," another girl, Lea, said. "Celis likes everyone."

There were a few guffaws then, and I frowned because Celis is my companion on the job hence someone I defend.

But then another girl, Kal, added, "Celis is no fool. She's knows what she's doing."

"Not like Jacey," said Fiona. "Jacey's always looking for someone to do her work for her. She'd love a man who carried her basket."

This was true, yet Fiona saying it startled me. Juste and my mother could be this blunt about another woman's failings, but the women on the plains had always seemed more circumspect--ah, forgiving--ah, nice--to me.

But then, I didn't have that much exposure. Within half-a-year of my arrival in Herland at age nine and three-quarters, I was put on forestry duty with Celis and Ellador. The rest of the time, I went home to Har. My meetings with Herland girls were confined to planned social events. I never knew they could be so "catty" (Terry's word).

I glanced around the hall again at Van's large group of studious girls, Jeff's group of simperers (other than Celis), Terry's smallest group of girls who I guess I would describe as "brash." My eyes went past the groups to the lurking mentors. They watched from the walls, their eyes flickering. It wasn't only the men they watched but the girls too. Their eyes lingered longest on the group surrounding Terry. We all knew the kind of behavior that the mentors "corrected." In a few seconds, I realized, they would move across the polished floor and break up our high-spirited cadre. 

I turned back; my eyes met Terry's.

"Exactly like a debutante ball," he said and smirked.

I didn't understand his words.

I knew exactly what he meant.

Clarice was the one to approach, to politely urge Fiona and the others off to "greet our other male guests." I didn't budge. Terry was my friend, the person who played games with me and talked to me and thought it was normal that I wanted to run and wrestle and throw things. I was as outraged at his treatment as when someone hurt Celis or Ellador. I ignored Clarice's raised eyebrow.

"Alima, don't you think the other men would appreciate your interest?"

"No," I said. "I think they're well-occupied."

"Perhaps our visitor would prefer some older company. Some of the mentors, perhaps."

"No," Terry said good-naturedly. "Alima here is a great hostess, very proper."

I knew enough by then to know that "proper" was an insult--at least to a boy. I glared at him. He grinned back.

"And she knows excellent games," he added.

"Yes, well, Alima likes the old games."

That was code--Herland citizens were supposed to prefer new games, carefully crafted to help students discover their potential. They weren't supposed to favor the games passed on over time, the ones that involved dirty limericks and possible scuffling, the ones that often appeared incomprehensible and erratic to adult eyes.

When I was younger and freshly come to the plains, I led my peers in a game I'd learned from other children in Har; it involved breaking through an opposing group's linked hands. Terry told me it sounded like "red rover," a game he'd played at school. Pollite was naturally distressed by the lack of clear value ("What is being accomplished!?")--and by the fact that some kids cried although the rest liked it.

I knew Juste and my mother had played it as children--wasn't honoring parental role models a value? But Herland claimed not to practice "ancestor worship" and now Clarice added:

"Of course, Miranda was an Unexpected mother."

I felt my cheeks flush--I knew this emotion; I'd battled frustrated anger often enough--and I turned away, ready to stomp off. Terry caught my arm.

"How fascinating," he said. "'Unexpected' sounds like my mother."

I heard Clarice sigh. There was a pause. She walked on, tunic rustling.

"What was that about?" Terry said to me.

I hunched one shoulder.

"Not all women in Herland are encouraged to give birth," said Moadine.

She must have come up as Clarice left. I turned back and ducked my head apologetically. Moadine was one of the principle mentors, and I knew Terry liked her. She was owed respect.

Brownlee Brothers
"You mean all that rigamarole about 'appealing' to a 'bad girl' to renounce motherhood?" Terry's voice borderlined disgusted. "Taking babies away from girls with too much 'ego' because otherwise they will raise them wrong?"

"Miranda was a good woman," Moadine said.

She hadn't answered Terry's question, but I was grateful anyway and felt myself relax. Terry loosened his grip on my arm as he glanced down at me.

“Your mother was Miranda?"

"Yeah."

"Who died?"

"Four years ago."

Terry looked away from me towards Clarice and then straight at Moadine.

"Is this your so-called tolerance?" he said. "Denigrating the name of a dead woman who raised a decent human being?"

"No," she said and strolled away.

Terry shook his head in irritated admiration. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that woman was a statesman of Disraeli's type."

I hardly heard him. I was thinking, We won. We got them to leave. Stupid people. So there.

Nobody in Herland would approve of me thinking, much less saying any of that out loud. So I shakily punched Terry's shoulder. And he knew.

The next day we had an "argument."

It started because Terry was bragging about the Bulldogs, his college football team, and how they beat their rivals in 1909 ("they didn't get past the 30 yard line the whole game!"). And I was pointing out that he'd admitted that those same rivals "trounced" his college the year before. And he'd started complaining about the other team's coach going too far in an anti-Bulldog pep talk, and I was asking oh so innocently why a Bulldog would be such a good mascot for a sports team in the first place.

And suddenly, mentors were standing between us, and Clarice was holding up her hands, palms out. Only Moadine stood back aways, watching us.

Marta said carefully, "What are you two discussing?"

"Games," I said, braced to tell them more, to get them laughing about the image of a bulldog with a football (Van had a dictionary with pictures, so I knew what a bulldog looked like). Terry shook his head slightly. At me. I shook my head back.  Marta and the others simply misunderstood. I could explain--

"Are games really something to argue about?"

"We weren't--"

"We don't resolve disagreements this way, Alima," Clarice said, but Marta doesn't like flat pronouncements and frowned at her (so, they weren't arguing?).

Marta said, "It sounds like a, ah, very competitive topic."

"It's sports," I said.

"A type of sports, I suppose. Is there value in these sports?"

And quite suddenly, I couldn't stand it. They didn't get it-- It wasn't-- What they were saying-- Why were they so stupid?!

At least I didn't say so out loud. I turned and tried to stride away like Terry would, shoulders back, arms swinging, but I stumbled on the pavement, and I knew my face was red, and I wanted to run-run-run.

I think Terry called to me, but suddenly Celis and Ellador were there, walking beside me, bracing me up. They were talking cheerfully, the way they did when we were younger, and they knew I'd gotten into trouble, and they would rush in to take me someplace safe. We left the town center--the visitors were staying in Solis--and headed past the fountains to the meadows and the trees. I collapsed under one. Celis swung herself up into a branch while Ellador sat cautiously beside me.

I buried my head in my arms. No one said anything; the only sound was wind blowing and leaves rasping and Celis whistling.

"Thanks," I finally mumbled.

Ellador said slowly, "Why were you and Terry arguing?"

"We weren't!"

"Oh."

"You talk to Van; you disagree with Van," I reminded her.

"They confer," Celis said merrily. "Consult. Negotiate."

"Sometimes he says things that upset me," Ellador admitted. "He told me about this horrible religious idea that other day, and I ran to the temple for comfort. I wish I hadn't. It was embarrassing."

"Do you confer with Jeff?" I said to Celis, a little nastily.

She didn't get offended.  For the first time, I realized that she was more like Terry than I'd appreciated when I met him.

"Jeff compliments me," Celis said. "I like it."

I grinned at Ellador then, who shook her head at Celis's complete lack of interest in anything "substantial."

Not that we would betray Celis's supposed lack of seriousness, of productive desires, to the mentors (especially Clarice). And I realized that we had always been like this, a unit against a larger culture. Like Terry and me. Like Juste and her companion. Like other groups and cliques and partners in Herland.

"We weren't arguing," I told Ellador more calmly. "It was funny--what we were talking about. Fun."

She looked doubtful but nodded.

"You were very loud," she explained.

I knew girls who got as loud. But I also knew that it wasn't encouraged, not outside of children's play (and even then . . . ). Herland was unified. Herland was cooperative. Herland was rational and logical and solved problems without butting heads. We weren't animals.

Right then I felt like a sour bulldog.