Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

My Queen, an electronic edition

by Sandette [Walsh, Marie A.]

date: 1878
source publisher: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers; S. Low, Son & Co.
collection: Genre Fiction

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CHAPTER XVII.
THE HAREM.

THE most interesting spot in Zion, or at least the one which most strongly excites the curiosity, is that block on South Temple street extending from Main street eastward, and shut out from profane gaze by a high wall. | | 221 Now, a wall is a direct challenge, an insult to the social, liberty-loving spirit of the age. A fence should be sacred from invasion; but a wall--bah! A prize to the one who scales it. So thinks the traveler as he goes up South Temple street, twisting, turning, stretching his neck till it aches, trying to look upon the other side of the wall.

And what does he see? An immense yard with numerous buildings, sheds, and a few cottages; then, a two-story house, or rather two contiguous houses, painted a dull yellow. They have queer little gables in front, and over the portico of the larger house is a representation of a bee-hive, while over the other a lion couchant keeps watch. Just beyond the Lion House the wall opens, forming a large, arched gateway, over which a stony eagle spreads its wings. Passing through the Eagle Gate, the explorer finds himself upon a road leading to the highland, called the Bench. On each side of the road rises a wall. In the one on the left are several gates, through which may be seen glimpses of gardens, of vast granaries and cattle-houses, to whose shelter at evening-close come a goodly herd of fat, glossy beeves and kine. Further on, a rushing, foaming, mountain stream gives vigorous life to the huge machinery of busy mills.

But there is nothing remarkable in these things except it be the wall, with its vain attempt at pillar-making, which gives it a dropsical look. Nothing remarkable! Why, in all the land it stands alone! Civilization stares at it in astonishment. It is the stronghold of the American Mohammed.

From that corner building overlooking Main street issues daily the newspaper, whose doting anxiety to | | 222 restore ancient barbarism has earned for it the title of Grandmother.

That yard is the tithing-yard of legendary fame, where beings, neither feathered nor four-footed, have bled in various ways.

These gardens, granaries, herds, these busy mills, are the riches of the chief. Behold his harem. Yes, those dingy, prosaic-looking houses of the Bee-hive and the Lion are the seraglio of the Modern Mohammed.

A harem! The most lethargic imagination rouses at the sound, and bids arise visions of sculptured halls, gleaming with tinted marbles and golden arabesques; of porphyry fountains filling the air with freshness and music; of jeweled vases emitting aromatic odors; of hasheesh vapors, laden with Elysian dreams, floating through fantastic chibouques; of beauteous slaves, wooing gentle zephyrs with perfumed fans, while, on luxurious couches, recline gazelle-eyed, languishing Fatimas, bewitching, child-like Dudus and inspired Zuleikas. Such the harem of the Orient--its repulsiveness masked 'neath barbaric splendor.

But the harem of the Occident?

Adobe walls, rough floors, contracted space; here no perfumes, no slaves, no jewels, no gorgeous sheen, no lazy dreaming. Ugliness banishes beauty; rude work replaces the divan; the newspaper and ballot the chibouque; women who think and work, instead of dreaming slaves.

O America! nature's wonder-land! Hast thou exhausted all thy poesy on thy mountains, lakes, rivers and forests, leaving life so commonplace that even a harem must be shorn of its dreamy splendor?

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But it must be so; for a harem in America, in the 19th century, is a moral anachronism.

It is at variance with the requirements of civilization, with the ruling ideas of the age--which are individual freedom and equality of the sexes.

That a beautiful Persian, incapable of thought, whose heaven is indolence, whose only desires are sweetmeats, jewels and hasheesh; who never heard of a soul, of woman's responsibilities, can enjoy all the happiness of which she is capable, as a nabob's No. 16--or 160--is very possible; but that a spiritual woman, the evolvement of generations of culture, should thus uncrown herself, is a mystery. It shows how much fanaticism can distort the purest mind, and argues most strongly for a sound philosophical education for that very emotional being--woman.

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