Part 11 out of 11
"He's gone up to the city," was the reply.
"To the city," said Thyrsis. "When did he go?"
"He left this morning."
"And when will he be back?"
"I don't know. He left rather suddenly, and he didn't say."
"I see," said Thyrsis. "Tell him I called, please."
And so he went home and mailed another note to Mr. Harding, asking
him to make an appointment for a meeting; after which he waited for
three or four days--but still there came no reply.
"Have you heard anything more from Mr. Harding?" he asked of
"No, dear," she answered. "I don't expect to hear." But he saw that
she was nervous and _distrait_; and he knew by her unwonted interest
in the mail that she was all the time hoping to get some word from
When it came to handling any affair with Corydon, Thyrsis was a poor
diplomatist. He would tell himself that this or that should be kept
from her for the present; but the secrecy always irked him--his
impulse was to talk things out with her, to go hand in hand with her
to face the facts of their life. So now, in this case; one afternoon
he settled her comfortably in a hammock, and sat beside her and took
"Corydon," he said, "I've something I want to tell you. I've been
having a correspondence with Mr. Harding."
She started, and stared at him wildly. "What do you mean?" she
"I wrote him two letters," said he.
"I wanted to explain about us," he said; and then he told her what
he had put in the first letter, and read Mr. Harding's reply, which
he had in his pocket.
"What do you make of it?" he asked.
"Tell me what your answer was!" cried Corydon, quickly; and so he
began to outline his second letter.
But she did not let him get very far. "You wrote him that way about
marriage!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, dear," said he.
"But, Thyrsis! He'll be perfectly horrified!"
"You think so?"
"Why, Thyrsis! Don't you understand? He's a clergyman!"
"I know; but it's the truth---"
"You don't know anything about people at all!" she cried. "Can't you
realize? He doesn't reason about things like you; you can't appeal
to him in that way!"
"Well, what was I to do---"
"We'll never see him again!" exclaimed Corydon, in despair.
"That won't be any worse than it was before, will it?"
"Tell me," she rushed on, in her agitation. "Did you tell him that I
had no idea what you were doing?"
"Of course I told him that."
"But did you make it perfectly clear to him?"
"I tried to, dear."
"Tell me what you said! Tell me the rest of the letter."
And so he recited it, as well as he could, while she listened,
breathless with dismay. "How could you!" she cried.
Then she read over Mr. Harding's letter once more. "You see," she
said; "he was simply dazed. He didn't know what to say, he didn't
know what to think."
"He'll get over it in time. He had to know, somehow."
"But _why_ did he have to know? Why couldn't things have stayed as
"But my dear, you are in love with the man, aren't you?"
"But I don't want to marry him, Thyrsis! I don't--I don't love him
"You might have come to it in the course of time," he replied.
"Don't you see that he'd have to give up being a clergyman?" she
"That's been done before," he said.
"But--see it from his point of view! Think of the scandal!"
"I don't think much about scandals," Thyrsis answered. "That part
could be arranged."
"But do the laws give people divorces in that way?"
"Our divorce laws are relics of feudalism," he answered. "One does
not take them seriously."
"But how can you get around them, Thyrsis?"
"You simply have to admit whatever offense they require."
"But Thyrsis! Think how that would seem to Mr. Harding!"
"My dear," he answered, "if I knew that a divorce was necessary to
your happiness, I would take upon myself whatever disgrace was
Corydon sat gazing at him. "Is it so easy to give me up?" she asked.
"It wasn't easy at all, my dear," he answered. "It was a fight that
I fought out."
"But you decided that you could do it!" she exclaimed; and that, he
found, was the aspect of the matter that stayed with her in the end.
It seemed a poor sort of compliment he had paid her; and how could
he make real to her the pangs the decision had cost him? He expected
her to take that for granted--in all these years, had he not been
able to convince her of his love?
It was the old story between them, he reflected; he was always being
called upon to express his feelings, and always reluctant to attempt
it. Just now she wanted him to enter upon an eloquent exposition of
how he had suffered and hesitated before he mailed the letter; and
she would hang upon his words, and drink them in greedily--and of
course, the more convincing he made them, the more she would love
She could never leave him, she insisted--the idea of giving him up
was madness. She had not meant any such thing by falling in love
with Mr. Harding. Why must he be so elemental, so brutally direct?
He was like some clumsy animal, blundering about in the garden where
she kept her sentimental plants. He frightened her, as he had
frightened Mr. Harding. She stood appalled at this thing which he
had done; the truth being that his action had sprung from a certain
deep conviction in him, which he never found courage to utter to
Section 15. Thyrsis pledged his word that he would write no more to
Mr. Harding; and so they settled down to wait for a reply. But a
couple more days passed, and still there came nothing.
Corydon was restless and impatient. "What _can_ he be doing?" she
exclaimed. Finally it chanced that Thyrsis had to go to Bellevue
upon some errand; and so the two drove into town together, and came
upon the solution of the mystery.
On the street they met Mr. Jennings, the high-school principal.
"Good-morning," said he. "A fine day." And then, "Have you heard the
news about Harding?"
"What news?" asked Thyrsis.
"He's gone away."
"He's resigned his pastorate."
Thyrsis stared at the man, dazed; he felt Corydon beside him give a
start. "Resigned his pastorate!" she echoed.
"Yes," said the other, "just so."
"We none of us know. We're at our wits' end."
"But--how did you hear it?"
"I'm one of the trustees of the church, and his letter was read last
Thyrsis could not find a word to utter. He sat staring at the man in
"What did he say?" cried Corydon, at last.
"He said that for some time he had been dissatisfied with his work,
and felt the need of more study and reflection. It quite took our
breath away, for nobody'd had the least idea that anything was
"But what's he going to do?"
"Apparently he's going abroad," was the answer--"at least he
ordered his mail to be forwarded to an address in Switzerland. And
that's all we know."
Then, after a few remarks about the spiritual ferment in the
churches, the worthy high-school principal went on his way, and left
Corydon and Thyrsis in the middle of the street. For a minute or two
they sat staring before them as if in a trance; and then suddenly
from Thyrsis' lips there burst a peal of wild laughter. "By the Lord
God, he ran away from it!" he cried; and he seized Corydon by the
arm and cried again, "He ran away from it!"
"Thyrsis!" exclaimed the other. "Don't laugh about it!"
"Don't laugh!" he gasped; and again the convulsion of hilarity swept
But Corydon turned upon him swiftly. "No!" she cried. "Stop! It's no
She was staring at him, her eyes wide with consternation and
dismay. "Think!" she exclaimed. "He's given up his career!"
"Yes," he said, "so it seems."
"It's awful!" she cried. "Oh, how _could_ he!"
He saw the way the news affected her, and he made an effort to
control himself. "The man simply couldn't face it," he said. "He
didn't dare to trust himself. He ran."
"But Thyrsis!" she exclaimed. "I can't believe it! He's given up his
"He's fled like Joseph," said Thyrsis--"leaving his cloak in the
hands of the temptress!"
And then, the strain proving too much for him, he began to laugh
again. Becoming aware of the stares of some people on the street, he
started up the horse, and drove on into the country, where he could
be alone, and could give unrestrained expression to the emotions
that possessed him.
He imagined the dismay and perplexity of the unhappy clergyman, with
his belief in the sacred institution of marriage--and with the
vision of Corydon pursuing him all day, and haunting his dreams at
night. He imagined him trying to face the interview with the
husband--with the terrible, conventionless husband, whose arguments
could not be answered. "He simply couldn't face me! He went the very
morning I was coming!"
So he would laugh again; he would laugh until he was so weak that he
had to lie back in his seat. "I can't believe that it's true!" he
exclaimed. "My dear, I think it's the funniest thing that ever
happened since the world began!"
"But Thyrsis!" she protested. "Think what we've done to him! The
man's life is wrecked!"
"Nonsense!" said he. "It's the best thing that could have happened
to him. He might have gone on preaching sermons all his life--but
now he's got some ideas to work out. He'll have time to read books,
and to think."
"But he must be suffering so!" exclaimed Corydon, who could not
forget her love, even in the presence of his ribaldry.
"He needs to suffer," Thyrsis replied. "He may meet some of the
radicals over there, and come back with a new point of view."
But Corydon shook her head. "You don't know him," she said. "He
couldn't possibly change. I don't think I'll ever hear from him
Thyrsis looked at her and saw that there were tears in her eyes. He
put his hand upon hers. "We'll have to worry through for a while
longer, dear," he said. "Never mind--we'll manage to make out
Section 16. They drove home; and all through supper they talked
about this breathless event. Afterwards they sat in the twilight,
upon the porch, and threshed it out in its every aspect.
"Corydon," said he, "I don't believe you really loved him as much as
you thought. Did you?"
She stared before her without answering.
"Would you have loved him for long?" he persisted.
She pondered over this. "I don't think one could love a man always,"
she answered, "unless he had a mind."
At which he pondered in turn. "Then it was too bad to drive him
"That's just it," said she. "That's what I couldn't make clear to
"But still, we had to find out."
"_You_ may have," she said. "I didn't."
Thyrsis looked, and saw that she was smiling through her tears. He
took her hand in his. "We'll see each other through, dear," he said.
"We'll have to wait until the world grows up."
He felt an answering pressure of her hand. "Thyrsis," she said, "you
must promise me that you will never do anything dreadful like that
again. You must understand me; I might think that I was in love, but
it would never be real--truly it wouldn't. No man could ever mean to
me what you mean--I know that! And I couldn't give you up--you must
never let yourself think of such a thing! I couldn't give you up!"
So there came to Thyrsis one of those bursts of tenderness that she
knew so well. He put his arms about her and kissed her with fervor;
but even while he spoke with her, and gave her the love she desired,
there was something in him that sank back and moaned with despair.
So the captive sinks and moans when he finds that his break for
freedom has led only to the tightening of his chains.
_They stood for the last time before the cabin, bidding farewell to
the little glen and all its memories.
"There are lines in the poem for everything," she said. "Even for
that!" And she quoted--
"He hearkens not! light comer, he is flown!"
He laughed. "I can do better yet," he said--
"Alack, for Corydon no rival now!"
There was a pause. "That was five years," she mused. "And there were
"It will mean another book," he said. "To tell about the new work;
and how Thyrsis became a social lion; and how, like Icarus, he flew
too high and melted his wings. And then, 'The Exploiters,' the book
of his vengeance! And then Corydon---"
"Yes, do not forget Corydon," she said.
"How he watched her dying before his eyes, and how he prayed for
months for courage to kill her, and could not, but ran away. And
"It will make a long story."
"Yes--a long story. 'Love's Deliverance,' let us call it."
"They will smile at that. It sounds like Reno, Nevada."
"'Love's Deliverance,' even so," he said. "To tell how Thyrsis went
out into the wilderness and found himself; and of the new love that
came to Corydon."
"It will be a Bible for lovers," said she.
"Yes," he replied, and smiled-"with a book of Chronicles, and a book
of Proverbs, and a book of Psalms, and a book of Revelations--"
"And several books of Epistles," she interposed.
"The tablets in the temple are cracked," he said, "and the fortresses
of privilege are crumbling. When the Revolution is here--when there
are no longer priests nor judges nor class-taboos--then out of the
hunger of our own hearts we shall have to shape our sex-ideals, and
organize our new aristocracies."
"They will call it a book of 'free love'," said she.
To which he answered, gravely: _"Let us redeem our great words from
base uses. Let that no longer call itself Love, which knows that it
is not free!"_