Josephine Conger Kaneko

The Dream of Mirah

Source: The Masses, December, 1911;
Transcribed:Sally Ryan for in 2002.

MIRAH grew up in a tiny village set on the banks of a small, but beautiful stream. She loved passionately the woods, the skies, the birds of the air. Indeed, she drank in with every breath the atmosphere in which was the tang of nature, of things untouched by the processes of civilization. No breath of the great, roaring centers of man-made society ever tainted her blood, or diluted the rich ozone of her forest home.

Every fall Mirah saw the life about her, the trees, the flowers, the grass, the great wide fields, and the stream, succumb to the chilling frosts of winter. But with the spring out came the whole lot of them again. And early in childhood she learned that winter was the night-time of the green things, that Nature was giving her children a season of rest and recuperation, that they might all the more effIciently contribute to their own, and others' needs. So the season with its spread of snow was far from being sad, and spring was a positive delight, with its bursting buds, its delicious odors, its stir of life over the fields and woods.

As Mirah grew to womanhood she evolved a philosophy all her own, in which love was the central note. Life, the whole world, fairly abounded in it.

And Mirah dreamed dreams. While she sat in a favorite spot beside the stream with her needle work in her hands, her eyes wandered again and again to the shadows that danced on the surface of the waters, to the myriad changing lights, to the unending beauty that lay about her and fairly engulfed her.

If love was the keynote of natural life, it was also the keynote of a woman's life. If love manifested itself everywhere in nature, it would manifest itself always in her life; the love that means everything to a woman. It must come to her. She would wait, and then she would know the fulness of it, even as the trees, the flowers and the birds knew it.

When Mirah was twenty-one love came. It came in the form of one James O'Neil. It matters not if James would look to you or to me like a very commonplace man whose culture smacked of acquaintance with the inhabitants of a barnyard, rather than there of a Fifth Avenue finishing school. James' very presence radiated love--to Mirah. And that it should always be so she did not even question.

* * *

There came the evening of the ceremony and the marriage feast. It war one of those nights when the lanes were sweet with summer and the moon hung low on the horizon. Mirah felt that she stood on the threshold of Life at last. To her, personal achievement, ambition, social service, were unknown terms. Love was everything and James was love. James was also the world

Mirah's girlhood dream had come true, and it lasted in its completeness about one year. Then came little rifts which she refused at first to recognize. She tried to bridge over and smooth over, and make excuses to herself; she could not believe but that the fulness of life came from simply being married to James. Came in serving him to the best of her ability.

James failed in one undertaking after another. Mirah stuck closely to the home, laying all her energies upon its altar. As a last resort came the move to a large city. Economic determinism did its worst with them. Neither Mirah nor James knew anything about "economic determinism," but it played havoc with Mirah's dreams, and with James' hopes.

To-day James is working half time, and Mirah, in faded calico, unkempt and all but discouraged, is trying to keep up the old delusion of a woman's personal service to an individual man as the one avenue to happiness in life; she spends her days in fighting the dirt and vermin of a slum tenement, while little Eloise, the sometime love child of her dreams, frequently stands in the bread line at the door of a great bakery awaiting her turn for the stale loaf cold charity will hand her.

And neither James nor Mirah nor Eloise have ever, in their wildest protestations, struck the keynote of their triple misery.