Part 3 out of 11
which I am panting. And it has come to me that I dare not marry you,
that I should be binding my life to ruin. My head is surging with
plans, and a whole infinity of future, and I simply cannot carry any
woman with me on this journey.
As I say this, I see the tears of despair in your eyes. I can only
tell you what I am--God made me for an _artist,_ not a _lover!_ I
have not deep feelings--I do not care for human suffering; I can
_work,_ that is all. Art is no respecter of persons, and neither am
I--I labor for something which is not of self, and requires denial
of self. And as I think about you, the feeling comes to me that it
is not this you want, that I should make you utterly wretched if I
married you. You love _love;_ you do not wish to fling yourself into
a struggle such as my life must be. I see that in all your letters
--your terror of this highest self of mine. If you married me, you
would have to fight a battle that would almost kill you. You would
have to wear your heart out, night and day--you would have to lose
yourself and your feelings--fling away everything, and live in
self-contempt and effort. You would have to know it--I can't help
it--that I love life, and that to human hearts I owe no allegiance;
that to me they are simply impatience and vexation.
Do you want such a life? If you can learn to love it for what it
is--a wild, unnatural, but royal life--very well. If you are coming
to me with pleading eyes, secretly wishing for affection, and in
terror of me when you don't get it, then God help you, that is all!
You are a child, and you can not dream what I mean. But every day I
learn something more of a great savage force of mine, that will
stand out against the rest of this world, that is burning me up,
that is driving me mad. One of two things it will do to you--it will
make you the same kind of creature, or it will tear the soul out of
you. Do you understand that? And nothing will stop it--it cares for
nothing in the world but the utterance of itself! And if you wish to
marry me, it will be with no promise of mine save to wreak it upon
you! To take you, and make you just such a creature, kill or
cure--nothing else! Not one instant's patience--but just one
insistent, frantic demand that you succeed--and fiery, writhing
disgust with you when you do not succeed--disgust that will make you
scream--and make you live! Do you understand this--and do you get
any idea of the temper behind this? And how it seems to you, I don't
know--it is the only kind of truth I am capable of; I shall simply
fling naked the force of my passionate, raging will, and punish you
with it each instant of your life--until you understand it, and love
it, and worship it, as I do.
Now, I don't know what you will think about this letter--and I don't
care. It is here--and you must take it. It does not come to you for
criticism, any more than it would come for criticism to the world.
It will rule the world. If I marry you I must live all my soul
before you, and you must share it; if you think you can do this
without first having suffered, having first torn loose your own
crushed self, you are mistaken. But remember this--I shall demand
from you just as much fire as I give; you may say you _cannot_, you
may weep and say you cannot--I will gnash my teeth at you and say
Perhaps I'm a fool to think I can do this. At any rate, I don't want
to do anything else; I am a fool to think of doing anything else,
and you to let me.
I _cannot_ be false to my art without having a reaction of disgust,
and you cannot marry me, unless you understand that. When I sat down
to this letter I called myself mad for trying to tie my life to
yours. Now I am interested in you again. You may wish to make this
cast still; and oh, of course I shall drop back as usual, and you'll
be happy, and I'll be your "Romeo"!
_Ugh_--how I hated that letter! _"Romeo"_ indeed! Wouldn't we have a
fine sentimental time--you with your prettiest dress on, and I
holding you in my arms and telling you how much I loved you!
MY DEAR THYRSIS:
I shall be your wife. This thought takes hold of me firmly and
calmly, and I have no tears, nor fright, nor uncertainty. I
suffered, of course, while I read your letter, and my self-control
toppled, but no "tears of despair" came into my eyes. I am not
despairing--I shall be your wife, and I shall feel that for many
years one of my greatest efforts will be to prevent you from
becoming my "Romeo." I am very weak and human, and you become that
easily--do you know it?
Rejoice, I have gained my self-control, and well, I am going to be
your wife. Or else (it comes to me quite as a matter of course,
without any feeling of it being unnatural or unusual) I shall not
care to live. But after all, I do not fear that I shall die--I shall
be your wife. You may even gainsay it, you may _even_ tell me I
shall ruin your life, you may _even_ tell me that you refuse to take
me--but sooner or later I shall be your wife. I say it with perfect
certainty, and almost composure.
It is unfortunate that at such a time as this I cannot see you--it
is quite cruelly wicked. There is so much to say, not all in _your_
favor either. Some day I shall learn to bring out and keep before me
that higher self of yours, which _now_ I do not fear. I also have a
higher self, though it does not show itself very often. It is a self
which can meet that self of yours without flinching, but which loves
it, and stretches out its arms to it--which knows that without that
self of yours it cannot, _will_ not live. It is hard to realize such
a thing, but I beseech you no longer, I am going with you. You see
now, I have no fear of your not taking me--I simply have no fear of
If I had, I could not write you this way. But you have been the
means of showing me I _can_ awaken, and that I was not meant to live
the life of the people around me. Chance tried hard to put me to
sleep forever, but you have roused me. Dear me, how I smile to
myself at my confidence! But I am so sure--this feeling would not be
in my heart if it had no meaning! I was not meant for this life I am
leading. I am not afraid because I have no proof that I am a genius,
and no prospect of being one at present. I do not know whether what
you have must come as an inspiration direct from God, I do not know
whether I am _capable_ of winning any of this life that you are
seeking; but I do know this--I'm going to have the chance to try,
and you are going to give it to me. Do you suppose I could tell you
that I am willing to stay at home and let you leave me?
I have not even any fear now of your wishing to leave me. Why, I
wouldn't hold my life at a pennyworth if you were out of it!
"You are my only means of breathing, you fool," I thought. I
sometimes wonder how you could think of leaving me, when I feel as I
do at present. I ask myself why it is that you know nothing of it,
and why it does not make you put out your hand in gladness to
me--how you could write me that all my letters showed you I did not
want to struggle to lead your life!
My words are failing me now--this is probably the reason you know
nothing about me.
Besides, when I have written you before this, I have been worrying
and doubting and afraid. I am none of these now; and I do not
believe I am deluding myself--in fact I _know_ I am not. _I shall
be your wife._ It is indeed a pity I cannot talk to you now--yes, a
very great pity. It is also rather incomprehensible, that you can
imagine leaving me _now._ And all my letters have told you that I
wish to be petted and cuddled, did they? If you were here, I do not
know that it would do any good to give my feelings vent, it would
profit me nothing to strike you, and what could I do? I cannot hate
you--it is not natural that one should hate one's husband.
Some day, oh, _some_ day, I tell myself--you will no lonnger play
and trifle with me and my soul!
Did you really think you are going to put me to sleep again? Surely
my life is something; and you have given me some reason for its
existence. I can hardly tell you what I wish to say; people run in
and out, and I am bothered--I suppose this is one of my tasks. But
do you not see that you have taken the responsibility of a soul into
your hands? I cannot live without you. What is it--do creatures go
around the world struggling and saying they must live, and are they
only pitiful fools for trying?
And are you one of God's chosen ones? Will you tell me, "Corydon,
you simply cannot live my life--you are not fit?" Dear Thyrsis, I
actually believe that if you should tell me that now, I should laugh
with joy, for I would see that I had gained one victory, that of
proving to you your own weakness and stupidity. And I should not let
you discourage me. I should throw my arms around your neck, and
cling to you until you had promised to take me. After all, it is a
small boon to ask the privilege of trying to live, it cannot but be
a glory to you to help me; and if I do not make you waste your time
or money, how can I hinder you?
Ask yourself how you have treated me--have I not suffered a little?
Though I may have been miserably weak, have I not now a little
courage? Why do the moments blind you so, that you can speak to me
as though I were a sawdust doll?
There is only one thing that I will let myself do. I know that you
are strong and brave, and that I can be if I go with you; and I am
going with you--there simply is no other alternative--for I love
you! Yes, dear, I saw it very plainly as I read your letter to-day.
I seem to feel very differently about it all now. I know we _cannot_
sit still and love each other--this costs me no pang. You need not
love me one bit; I may simply belong to you, we may simply belong to
I see how I fall into blindness of the high things at home. How
almost impossible it is for me to do anything, while I have the
earthly ties of love! I study--but how? How is it possible to live
the physical life of other people--to be sympathetic and agreeable
and conciliatory, and gain anything for your own soul? How is such a
creature as myself to get what it wants, unless it goes away where
there are no contrary and disturbing influences--where it has no
ties, no obligations? The souls that have won, how did they do it--
did they go alone, or did they stay in the parlor and serve tea?
Such thoughts as these would make me grovel at your feet, if need
be, in an agony of prayer. The means, I cry--and you are the means!
What is there for me, then, but to beseech you to have faith in me?
I suppose, as yet, you have little or no cause--though once or twice
I have risen to you, even though perhaps you did not know it. I am
almost happy now--for I feel that this _useless_ strife is at an
end, this craving and wondering if you wish to leave me. And for all
that, I despise you, too--for your blind and wanton cruelty in
wishing to crush what you have created! How do you expect God to
value your soul, when you so lightly value mine?
But after all, will it help me to beseech you? The thing I honor in
you is your desire to be right--and I know that you will act toward
me as your sense of right prompts you. You will act toward me as you
feel you _must_ do, to be true. Yes, be true to yourself, please; I
am happy to trust in yourself so. If you believe that I will mar
your life, I do not wish to go I with you. I do not know why, but I
feel that something has come to me to prevent my despair from
returning; I shall take care of my soul--there _must_ be something
for me in this life. I have a feeling that perhaps you will think I
am writing this last mute acceptance of your will, without knowing
what I am doing. But I _know_ that I shall struggle without you, I
shall not die.
And I wish that you would do one thing--see me as soon as you can;
let it be early in the morning, and it shall be decided _on_ _that_
_day_ whether I am to marry you or not. I shall leave you, not to
see you again--or knowing that I am to be your wife. I am sick unto
death of fuming and sighing, tears and fears.
What will you do, Thyrsis? I cannot write any more.
I unfold the letter again. _What, in the name of God, are you going
THE VICTIM APPROACHES
_A silence had fallen upon them. She sat watching where the light of
the sun flickered among the birches; and he had the book in his
hand, and was turning the pages idly. He read--
"I know these slopes; who knows them if not I?"
And she smiled, and quoted in return--
"Here cam'st thou in thy jocund youthful time,
Here was thine height of strength, thy golden prime!
And still the haunt beloved a virtue yields."
Section 1. It was early one November afternoon, in his cabin in the
forest, that Thyrsis wrote the last of his minstrel's songs. He had
not been able to tell when it would come to him, so he had made no
preparations; but when the last word was on the paper, he sprang to
his feet, and strode through the snow-clad forest to the nearest
farm-house. The farmer came with a wagon, and Thyrsis bundled all
his belongings into his trunk, and took the night-train for the
He came like a young god, radiant and clothed in glory. All the
creatures of his dreams were awake within him, all his demons and
his muses; he had but to call them and they answered. There was a
sound of trumpets and harps in his soul all day; he was like a man
half walking, half running, in the midst of a great storm of wind.
He had fought the good fight, and he had conquered. The world was at
his feet, and he had no longer any fear of it. The jangling of the
street-cars was music to him, the roar and rush of the city stirred
his pulses--this was the life he had come to shape to his will!
And so he came to Corydon, glorious and irresistible. His mind was
quite made up--he would take her; he was master now, he had no
longer any doubts or fears. He was thrilled all through him with the
thought of her; how wonderful it was at such an hour to have some
one to communicate with--some one in whose features he could see a
reflection of his own exaltation! He recollected the words of the
old German poet--
"Der ist selig zu begrussen Der ein treues Herze weiss!"
He went to Corydon's home. In the parlor he came upon her
unannounced; and she started and stared at him as at a ghost. She
did not make a sound, but he saw the pallor sweep over her face, he
saw her tremble and sway. She was like a reed shaken by the wind--
so fragile and so sensitive! He got a sudden sense of the storm of
emotion that was shaking her; and it frightened him, while at the
same time it thrilled him strangely.
He came and took her hands in his, and gently touched her cheek with
his lips. She stared at him dumbly.
"It's all right, sweetheart," he whispered. "It's all right." And
she closed her eyes, and it seemed as if to breathe was all she
"Come, dearest," he said. "Let us go out."
And half in a daze she put on her hat and coat, and they went out on
the street. He took her arm to steady her.
"Well?" she asked.
"It's all right, dearest," he said.
"You got my letter?"
"Yes, I got it. And it was a wonderful letter. It couldn't have been
"And there's no more to be said. There's no refusing such a
challenge. You shall come with me."
"But Thyrsis! Do you _want_ me to come?"
"Yes," he said, "I want you."
And he felt a tremor pass through her arm. He pressed it tightly to
his side. "I love you!" he whispered.
"Ah Thyrsis!" she exclaimed. "How you have tortured me!"
"Hush, dear!" he replied. "Let's not think of that. It's all past
now. We are going on! You have proven your grit. You are wonderful!"
They went into the park, and sat upon a bench in the sun.
"I've finished the book!" he said. "And in a couple more days it'll
be copied. I've a letter of introduction to a publisher, and he
wrote me he'd read it at once."
"It seems like a dream to me," she whispered.
"We won't have to wait long after that," he said. "Everything will
be clear before us."
"And what will you do in the meantime?" she asked.
"Mother wants me to stay with her," he said. "I've only got ten
dollars left. But I'll get some from the publisher."
"Are you sure you can?" she asked.
"Oh, Corydon!" he cried, "you've no idea how wonderful it is--the
book, I mean. You'll be amazed! It kept growing on me all the
time--I got new visions of it. That was why it took me so long. I
didn't dare to appreciate it, while I was doing it--I had to keep
myself at work, you know; but now that it's done, I can realize it.
And oh, it's a book the world will heed!"
"When can I see it, Thyrsis?"
"As soon as it's copied--the manuscript is all a scrawl. But you know
the minstrel's song at the end? My Gethsemane, I called it! I found
a new form for it--it's all in free verse. I didn't mean it to be
that way, but it just wrote itself; it broke through the bars and
ran away with me. Oh, it marches like the thunder!"
He pulled some papers from his coat-pocket. "I was going over it on
the train this morning," he said. "Listen!"
He read her the song, thrilling anew with the joy of its effect upon
her. "Oh, Thyrsis!" she cried, in awe. "That is marvellous!
Marvellous! How could you do it?"
And yet, for all the delight she expressed, Thyrsis was conscious of
a chill of disappointment, of a doubt lurking in the background of
his mind. It was inevitable, in the nature of things--how could the
book mean to any human creature what it had meant to him? Seven long
months he had toiled with it, he had been through the agonies of a
child-birth for it. And another person would read it all in one
day!--It was the old, old agony of the artist, who can communicate
so small a part of what has been in his soul.
Section 2. He wanted to talk about his book, but Corydon wanted to
talk about him. She had waited so long, and suffered so much--and
now at last he was here! "Oh, Thyrsis!" she cried. "There's just no
use in my trying--I can't do anything at all without you!"
"You won't have to do it any more," he said. "We shall not part
"And you are sure you want me? You have no more doubts?"
"How could I have any doubts--after that letter. Ah, that was a
brave letter, Corydon! It made me think of you as some old Viking's
daughter! That is the way to go at the task!"
"And then I may feel certain!" she said.
"You may stop thinking all about it," he replied. "We'll waste no
more of our time--we'll put it aside and get to work."
They spent the day wandering about in the park and talking over
their plans. "I suppose it'll be all right now that I'm with you,"
said Thyrsis. "I mean, there's no great hurry about getting
"Oh, no!" she answered. "We dare not think of that, until you have
"How I wish we didn't have to get married!" he exclaimed.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because-why should we have to get anybody else's permission to live
our lives? I've thought about it a good deal, and it's a
slave-custom, and it makes me ashamed of myself."
"But don't you believe in marriage, dear?"
"I do, and I don't. I believe that a man who exposes a woman to the
possibility of having a child, ought to guarantee to support the
woman for a time, and to support the child. That's obvious
enough--no one but a scoundrel would want to avoid it. But marriage
means so much more than that! You bind yourself to stay together,
whether love continues or whether it stops; you can't part, except
on some terms that other people set down. You have to make all sorts
of promises you don't intend to keep, and to go through forms you
don't believe in, and it seems to me a cowardly thing to do."
"But what else can one do?" asked Corydon.
"It's quite obvious what _we_ could do. We don't intend to be
husband and wife; and so we could simply go away and go on with our
"But think of our parents, Thyrsis!"
"Yes, I know--I've thought of them. But if every one thought of his
parents, how would the world ever move?"
"But, dearest!" exclaimed Corydon, "if we didn't marry, they'd
simply go out of their senses!"
"I know. But then, they might threaten to go out of their senses if
we _did_ marry? And would that work also?"
"We must be sensible," said the girl. "It means so much to them, and
so little to us."
"Yes, I suppose so," he answered. "But all the same, I hate it; when
you once begin conforming, you never know where you'll stop."
"_We_ shall know," declared the other. "Whatever we may have to do
to get married, we shall both of us know that neither would ever
dream of wishing to hold the other for a moment after love had
ceased. And that is the essential thing, is it not?"
"Yes," assented Thyrsis. "I suppose so."
"Well, then, we'll make that bargain between us; that will be _our_
"That suits me better," he replied.
She thought for a moment, and then said, with a laugh, "Let us have
a little ceremony of our own."
"Very well," said he.
"Are you ready for it now?" she inquired. "Your mind is quite made
"Quite made up."
She looked about her, to make sure that no one was in sight; and
then she put her hand in his. "I have been to weddings," she said.
"And so I know how they do it.--I take thee, Thyrsis, to be the
companion of my soul. I give myself to thee freely, for the sake of
love, and I will stay so long as thy soul is better with me than
without. But if ever this should cease to be, I will leave thee; for
if my soul is weaker than thine, I have no right to be thy mate."
She paused. "Is that right?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, "that is right."
"Very well then," she said; "and now, you say it!"
And she made him repeat the words--"I take thee, Corydon, to be the
companion of my soul. I give myself to thee freely, for the sake of
love, and I will stay so long as thy soul is better with me than
without. But if ever this should cease to be, I will leave thee; for
if my soul is weaker than thine, I have no right to be thy mate."
"Now," she exclaimed, with an eager laugh--"now we're married!" And
as he looked he caught the glint of a tear in her eyes.
Section 3. But the world would not be content to leave it on that basis.
When they parted that afternoon, it was with a carefully-arranged
program of work--they were to visit each other on alternate days and
go on with their German and music. But in less than a week they had
run upon an obstruction; there was no quiet room for them at Corydon's
save her bedroom, and one evening when Thyrsis came, she made the
announcement that they could no longer study there.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Well," explained Corydon, "they say the maid might think it wasn't
She had expected him to fly into a rage, but he only smiled grimly.
"I had come to tell you the same sort of thing," he explained. "It
seems you can't visit me so often, and you're never to stay after
ten o'clock at night."
"Why is that?" she inquired.
"It's a question of what the hall-boy might think," said he.
They sat gazing at each other in silence. "You see," said Thyrsis,
at last, "the thing is impossible--we've got to go and get married.
The world will never give us any peace until we do."
"Nobody has any idea of what we mean!" exclaimed Corydon.
"No idea whatever," he said. "They've nothing in them in anyway to
correspond with it. You talk to them about souls, and they haven't
any. You talk to them about love, and they think you mean obscenity.
Everybody is thinking obscenity about us!"
"Everybody but our parents," put in Corydon.
To which he answered, angrily, "They are thinking of what the others
But everybody seemed to have to think something, and that was the
aspect of the matter that puzzled them most. Why did everybody find
it necessary to be thinking about it at all? Why did everybody
consider it his business? As Thyrsis phrased it--"Why the hell can't
they let us alone?"
"We've got to get married," said she. "That's the only way to get
the best of them."
"But is that really getting the best of them?" he objected. "Isn't
that their purpose--to make us get married?"
This was a pregnant question, but they did not follow it up just
then. They went on to the practical problem of where and when and
how to accomplish their purpose.
"We can go to a court," said he.
"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "We'd have to meet a lot of men, and I
couldn't stand it."
"But surely you don't want to go to a church!" he said.
"Couldn't we get some clergyman to marry us quietly?"
"But then, there's a lot of rigmarole!"
"But mightn't he leave it out?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said. "They generally believe in it, you see."
He decided to make an attempt, however.
"Let's go to-morrow morning," he said. "I'm going over to have the
sound-post set in my violin, and that'll take an hour or so. Perhaps
we can finish it up in the meantime."
"A good idea," said Corydon. "It'll give me to-night to tell mother
Section 4. So behold them, the next morning, emerging from the
little shop of the violin-dealer, and seeking for some one to fasten
them in the holy bonds of matrimony! They were walking down a great
avenue, and there were many churches--but they were all rich
churches. "I never thought about it before," said Thyrsis. "But I
wonder if there are any poor churches in the city!"
They stopped in front of one brown-stone structure that looked a
trifle less elaborate. "It says Presbyterian," said Corydon, reading
the sign. "I wonder how they do it."
"I don't know," said he. "But he'd want a lot of money, I'm sure."
"But mightn't he have a curate, or something?"
"Goose," laughed Thyrsis, "there are no Presbyterian curates!"
"Well, you know what I mean," she said--"an assistant, or an
apprentice, or something."
"I don't know," said he. "Let's go and ask."
So, with much trepidation, they rang the bell of the parsonage on
the side-street. But the white-capped maid who answered told them
that the pastor was not in, and that there were no curates or
They went on.
"How much do you suppose they charge, anyway?" asked Thyrsis.
"I don't know--I think you give what you can spare. How much money
"I've got eight dollars to my name."
"Have you got it with you?"
"Yes--all of it."
"I get my twenty-five to-morrow," she added.
"Do you really get it?" he asked. "You can depend on it?"
"Oh yes--it comes the middle of each month."
"I've heard of people getting incomes from investments, and things
like that, but it always seemed hard to believe. I never thought I'd
meet with it in my own life."
"It's certainly very nice," said Corydon.
"Where does it come from?"
"There's a trustee of the estate who sends it. It's Mr. Hammond."
"That bald-headed man I met once?"
"Yes, he's the one. He's quite a well-known lawyer, and they say I'm
fortunate to have him."
"I see," said Thyrsis. "I'll have to look into it some day. You know
you have to endow me with all your worldly goods!"
They went on down the avenue, and came to a Jewish temple with a
gilded dome. "I wonder how that would do," said Corydon.
"I don't think it would do at all," said Thyrsis. "We'd surely have
to believe something there."
So they went on again. And on a corner, as they stopped to look
about them, a strange mood came suddenly to Thyrsis. It was as if a
veil was rent before him--as if a bolt of lightning had flashed.
What was he going to do? He was going to bind himself in marriage!
He was going to be trapped--he, the wild thing, the young stag of
"What is it?" asked Corydon, seeing him standing motionless.
"I--I was just thinking," he said.
"I was afraid, Corydon, I wondered if we were sure--if we
"If we _realized!_" she cried.
"You know--it'll be forever--"
"Why, Thyrsis!" she exclaimed, in horror.
And so he started, and laughed uneasily. "It was just a queer fancy
that came to me," he said.
"But how _could_ you!" she cried.
"Come, dearest," he said, hurriedly--"it's nothing. It seems so
strange, that's all."
In the middle of the block they came to another church. "Unitarian!"
he exclaimed. "Oh, maybe that's just the thing!"
And so they went in, and found a friendly clergyman, Dr. Hamilton by
name, to whom they explained their plight. They answered his
questions--yes, they were both of age, and they had told their
parents. Also, with much stammering, Thyrsis explained that his
worldly goods amounted to eight dollars.
"But--how are you going to live?" asked Dr. Hamilton.
Thyrsis was tempted to mention the masterpiece, but he decided not
to. "I'm going to earn money," he said.
"Well," responded the other, "I suppose it's all right. I'll marry
And so the sexton was called in for a witness, and the clergyman
stood before them and made a little speech, and said a prayer, and
then joined their hands together and pronounced the spell. The two
trembled just a little, but answered bravely, "I do," in the proper
places, and then it was over. They shook hands with the doctor, and
promised to come hear one of his sermons; and with much trepidation
they paid him two dollars, which he in turn paid to the sexton. And
then they went outside, and drew a great breath of relief. "It
wasn't half as bad as I expected," the bridegroom confessed.
Section 5. Thyris invested in a newspaper, and as they went back to
get the violin they read the advertisements of furnished rooms. In
respectable neighborhoods which they tried they found that the
prices were impossible for them; but at last, upon the edge of a
tenement district, they found a corner flat-house, with a saloon
underneath, where there were two tiny bedrooms for rent in an
apartment. The woman, who was a seamstress, was away a good deal in
the day, and Corydon learned with delight that she might use the
piano in the parlor. The rooms were the smallest they had ever seen,
but they were clean, and the price was only fifty cents a day--a
dollar and a half a week for Thyrsis' and two dollars for Corydon's,
because there was a steam-radiator in it.
There was a racket of school-children and of streetcars from the
avenue below, but they judged they would get used to this; and
having duly satisfied the landlady that they were married, and
having ascertained that she had no objection to "light housekeeping,"
they engaged the rooms and paid a week's rent in advance.
"That leaves us two and a half to start life on!" said Thyrsis, when
they were on the street again. "Our housekeeping will be light
They walked on, and sat down in the park to talk it over.
"It's not nearly so reckless as it would seem," he argued. "For I
have to earn money for myself any-how. And then there's the book."
"When will you hear about it?"
"I called the man up the day before yesterday. He said they were
"Have you said anything to him about money?"
"Will they pay something in advance?"
"They will, I guess, if they like the story. I don't know very much
about the business end of it."
"We mustn't let them take advantage of us!" exclaimed Corydon.
"No, of course not. But I hate to have to think about the money side
of it. It's a cruel thing that I have to sell my inspiration."
"What else could you do?" she asked.
"It's something I've thought a great deal about," said he. "It kept
forcing itself upon me all the time I was writing. Here I am with my
vision--working day and night to make something beautiful and
sacred, something without taint of self. And I have to take it to
business-men, who will go out into the market-place and sell it to
make money! It will come into competition with thousands of other
books--and the publishers shouting their virtues like so many
barkers at a fair. I can hardly bear to think of it; I'd truly
rather live in a garret all my days than see it happen. I don't want
the treasures of my soul to be hawked on the streets."
"But how else could people get them?" asked Corydon.
"I would like to have a publishing-house of my own, and to print my
books with good paper and strong bindings that would last, and then
sell them for just what they cost. So the whole thing would be
consistent, and I could tell the exact truth about what I wrote. For
I know the truth about my work; I've no vanities, I'd be as
remorseless a critic of myself as Shelley was. I'd be willing to
leave it to time for my real friends to find me out--I'd give up the
department-store public to the authors who wanted it. And then, too,
I could sell my books cheaply, so that the poor could get them. I
always shudder to think that the people who most need what I write
will have it kept away from them, because I am holding it back to
make a profit!"
"We must do that some day!" declared Corydon.
"We must live very simply," he said, "so we can begin it soon.
Perhaps we can do it with the money we get from this first book. We
could get everything we need for a thousand dollars a year, and save
The other assented to this.
"I've got the prospectus of my publishing-house all written,"
Thyrsis went on. "And I've several other plans worked out--people
would laugh if they saw them, I guess. But before I get through, I'm
going to have a reading-room where anyone can come and get my books.
It'll be down where the poor people are; and I'm going to have
travelling libraries, so as to reach people in the country. That is
the one hope for better things, as I see it--we must get ideas to
Thus discoursing, they strolled back to the home of Thyrsis' mother,
and he went in to get his belongings together. Corydon went with
him; and as they entered, the mother said, "There's an express
package for you."
So Thyrsis went to his room, and saw a flat package lying on the
bed. He stared at it, startled, and then picked it up and read the
label upon it. "Why--why!--" he gasped; and then he seized a pair
of scissors and cut the string and opened it. It was his manuscript!
With trembling fingers he turned it over. There was a letter with
it, and he snatched it up. "We regret," it read, "that we cannot
make you an offer for the publication of your book. Thanking you for
the privilege of examining it, we are very truly yours." And that
"They've rejected the book!" gasped Thyrsis; and the two stared at
each other with consternation and horror in their eyes.
That was a possibility that had never occurred to Thyrsis in his
wildest moment. That anyone in his senses could reject that book!
That anyone could read a single chapter of it and not see what it
"They only had it five days!" he exclaimed; and instantly an
explanation flashed across his mind. "I don't believe they read it!"
he cried. "I don't believe they ever looked at it!"
But, read or unread, there was the manuscript--rejected. There was
no appeal from the decision; there was no explanation, no
apology--they had simply rejected it! It was like a blow in the face
to Thyrsis; he felt like a woman whose love is spurned.
"Oh the fools! The miserable fools!" he cried.
But he could not bring much comfort to his soul by that method. The
seriousness of it remained. The publishing-house was one of the
largest and most prosperous in the country; and if they were fools,
how many more fools might there not be among those who stood between
him and the public? And if so, what would he do?
Section 6. So these two began their life under the shadow of a
cloud. At the very first hour, when they should have been all
rapture, there had come into the chamber of their hearts this grisly
spectre--that was to haunt them for so many years!
But they clenched their hands grimly, and put the thought aside, and
moved their worldly goods to the two tiny rooms. When they had got
their trunks in, there was no place to sit save on the beds; and
though Corydon had cast away all superfluities for this pilgrimage,
still it was a puzzle to know where to put things.
But what of that--they were together at last! What an ecstasy it was
to be actually unpacking, and to be mingling their effects! A kind
of symbol it was of their spiritual union, so that the most
commonplace things became touched with meaning. Thyrsis thrilled
when the other brought in an armful of books to him--all this wealth
was to be added to his store! He owned no books himself, save a few
text-books, and some volumes of poetry that he knew by heart. Other
books he had borrowed all his life from libraries; and he often
thought with wonder that there were people who would pay a dollar or
two for a book which they did not mean to read but once!
Also there were a hundred trifles which came from Corydon's trunk,
and which whispered of the intimacies of her life; the pictures she
put upon her bureau, the sachet-bags that went into the drawer, the
clothing she hung behind the door. It disturbed him strangely to
realize how close she was to be to him from now on.
And then, the excursion to the corner-grocery, and the delight of
the plunge into housekeeping! A pound of butter, and some salt and
pepper, and a bunch of celery; a box of "chipped beef", and a dozen
eggs, and a quart of potatoes; and then to the baker's, for rolls
and sponge-cakes--did ever a grocer and a baker sell such ecstasies
before? They carried it all home, and while Corydon scrubbed the
celery in the bath-room, Thyrsis got out his chafing-dish and set
the beef and eggs to sizzling, and they sat and sniffed the
delicious odors, and meantime munched at rolls and butter, because
they were so hungry they could not wait.
What an Elysian festivity they made of it! And then to think that
they would have three such picnics every day! To be sure, the
purchases had taken one half of Thyrsis' remaining capital; but
then, was it not just that spice of danger that gave the keen edge
to their delight? What was it that made the sense of snugness and
intimacy in their little retreat, save the knowledge of a cold and
hostile world outside?
The next morning Thyrsis took his manuscript to another publisher,
and then they went at their work. Corydon laughed aloud with delight
as they began the German--for what were all its terrors now, when
she had Thyrsis for a dictionary! They fairly romped through the
books. In the weeks that followed they read "Werther" and "Wilhelm
Meister" and "Wahlverwandschaften"; they read "Undine" and "Peter
Schlemil" and the "Leben eines Taugenichts"; they read Heine's
poems, and Auerbach's and Freitag's novels, and Wieland's
"Oberon"--is there anybody in Germany who still reads Wieland's
"Oberon?" Surely there must somewhere be young couples who delight
in "Der Trompeter von Sekkingen," and laugh with delight over "der
Also they went at music. Corydon had been taught to play as many
"pieces" as the average American young lady; but Thyrsis had tried
to persuade her to a new and desperate emprise--he insisted that
there was nothing to music until one had learned to read it at
sight. So now, every day when their landlady had gone out, he moved
his music-stand into the little parlor, and they went at the task.
Thyrsis proposed to achieve it by a _tour_ _de_ _force_--the way to
read German was to read it, and the way to read music was to read
music. He would set up a piece they had never seen before, and they
would begin; and he would pound out the time with his foot, and make
Corydon keep up with him--even though she was only able to get one
or two notes in each bar, still she must keep up with him. At first
this was agony to her--she wanted to linger and get some semblance
of the music; but Thyrsis would scold and exhort and shout, and
pound out the time.
And so, to Corydon's own amazement, it was not many weeks before she
found that she was actually reading music, that they were playing
it together. In this way they learned Haydn's and Mozart's sonatas,
they even adventured Beethoven's trios, with the second violin left
out. Then Thyrsis subscribed to a music-library, and would come home
twice a week with an armful of new stuff, good and bad. And whenever
in all their struggles with it they were able to achieve anything
that really moved them as music, what a rapture it brought them!
Section 7. This was indeed the nearest they could ever come to creative
achievement together; this was the one field in which their abilities
were equal. In all other things there were disharmonies--they came
upon many reefs and shoals in these uncharted matrimonial seas.
Thyrsis was swift and impatient, and had flung away all care about
external things; and here was Corydon, a woman, with all a woman's
handicaps and disabilities. She was like a little field-mouse in her
care of her person--she must needs scrub herself minutely every
morning, and have hot water for her face every night; her hair had
to be braided and her nails had to be cared for--and oh, the time it
took her to get her clothes on, or even to get ready for the street!
She would struggle like one possessed to accomplish it more quickly,
while Thyrsis chafed and growled and agonized in the next room.
There was nothing he could do meantime--for were they not going to
do everything together?
Then there was another stumbling-block--the newspapers! Thyrsis had
to know what was going on in the world. He had learned to read the
papers and magazines like an exchange-editor; his eye would fly from
column to column, and he would rip the insides out of one in two or
three minutes. To Corydon it was agony to see him do this, for it
took her half an hour to read a newspaper. She besought him to read
it out loud--and was powerless to understand the distress that this
caused him. He stood it as long as he could, and then he took to
marking in the papers the things that she needed to know; and this
he continued to do religiously, until he had come to realize that
Corydon never remembered anything that she read in the papers.
This was something it took him years to comprehend; there were
certain portions of the ordinary human brain which simply did not
exist in his wife. She had lived eighteen years in the world, and it
had never occurred to her to ask how steam made an engine go, or
what was the use of the little glass knobs on the telegraph-poles.
And it was the same with politics and business, and with the
thousand and one personalities of the hour. When these things came
up, Thyrsis would patiently explain to her what she needed to know;
and he would take it for granted that she would pounce upon the
information and stow it away in her mind--just as he would have
done in a similar case. But then, two or three weeks later, the same
topic would come up, and he would see a look of sudden terror come
into Corydon's eyes--she had forgotten every word of it!
He came, after a long time, to honor this ignorance. People had to
bring some real credentials with them to win a place in Corydon's
thoughts; it was not enough that they were conspicuous in the
papers. And it was the same with facts of all sorts; science existed
for Corydon only as it pointed to beauty, and history existed only
as it was inspiring. They read Green's "History of the English
People" in the evenings; and every now and then Corydon would have
to go and plunge her face into cold water to keep her eyes open, The
long parliamentary struggle was utter confusion to her--she had no
joy to watch how "freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to
precedent." But once in a while there would come some story, like
that Of Joan of Arc--and there would be the girl, with her hands
clenched, and hot tears in her eyes, and the fires of martyrdom
blazing in her soul!
These were the hours which revealed to Thyrsis the treasure he had
won--the creature of pure beauty whose heart was in his keeping. He
was humbled and afraid before her; but the agony of it was that he
could not dwell in those regions of joy with her--he had to know
about stupid things and vulgar people, he had to go out among them
to scramble for a living. So there had to be a side to his mind that
Corydon could not share. And it did not suffice just to tolerate the
existence of such things--he had to be actively interested in them,
and to take their point of view. How else could he hold his place in
the world, how could he win in the struggle for life?
This, he strove to persuade himself, was the one real difficulty
between them, the one thing that marred the perfection of their
bliss. But as time went on, he came to suspect that there was
something else--something even more vital and important. It seemed
to him that he had given up that which was the chief source of his
power--his isolation. The center of his consciousness had been
shifted outside of himself; and try as he would, he could never get
it back. Where now were the hours and hours of silent brooding?
Where were the long battles in his own soul? And what was to take he
place of them--could conversation do it, conversation no matter how
interesting and worth while? Thyrsis had often quoted a saying of
Emerson's, that "people descend to meet." And when one was married
did not one have to descend all the time?
He reasoned the matter out to himself. It was not Corydon's fault,
he saw clearly; it would have been the same had he married one of
the seraphim. He did not want to live the life of any seraph--he
wanted to live his own life. And was it not obvious that the mere
physical proximity of another person kept one's attention upon
external things? Was not one inevitably kept aware of trivialities
and accidents? Thyrsis had an ideal, that he should never permit an
idle word to pass his lips; and now he saw how inevitably the
common-place crept in upon them--how, for instance, their
conversation had a way of turning to personality and jesting.
Corydon was sensitive to external things, and she kept him aware of
the fact that his trousers were frayed and his hair unkempt, and
that other people were remarking these things.
Such was marriage; and it made all the more difference to an author,
he reasoned, because an author was always at home. Thyrsis had been
accustomed, when he opened his eyes in the morning, to lie still and
let images and fancies come trooping through his mind; he would plan
his whole day's work in that way, while his fancy was fresh and
there was nothing to disturb him. But now he had to get up and
dress, thus scattering these visions. In the same way, he had been
wont to walk and meditate for hours; but now he never walked alone.
That meant incidentally that he no longer got the exercise he
needed--because Corydon could never walk at his pace. And if this
was the case with such external things, how much more was it the
case with the strange impulses of his inmost soul! Thyrsis was now
like a hunter, who starts a deer, and instead of putting spurs to
his horse and following it, has to wait to summon a companion--and
meanwhile, of course, the deer is gone!
From all this there was but one deliverance for them, and that was
music. Music was their real interest, music was their religion; and
if only they could go on and grow in it--if only they could acquire
technique enough to live their lives in it! This would take years,
of course; but they did not mind that, they were willing to work
every day until they were exhausted--if only the world would give
them a chance! But alas, the world did not seem to be minded that
Section 8. Thyrsis had waited a week, and then written the second
publisher, and received a reply to the effect that at least two
weeks were needed for the consideration of a manuscript. And
meantime his last penny was gone, and he was living on Corydon's
money. It was clear that he must earn something at once; and so he
had to leave her to study and practice in her own room, while he
cudgelled his brains and tormented his soul with hack-work.
He tried his verses again; but he found that the spring had dried up
in him. Life was now too sombre a thing, the happy spontaneous
jingles came no more. And what he did by main force of will sounded
hollow and vapid to him--and must have sounded so to the editors,
who sent them back.
Then he tried book-reviewing; but oh, the ghastly farce of
book-reviewing! To read futile writing and sham writing of a hundred
degrading varieties--and never dare to utter a truth about them! To
labor instead to put one's self in the place of the school-girl
reader and the tired shop-clerk reader and the sentimental
married-woman reader, and imagine what they would think about the
book, and what they would like to have said about it! To take these
little pieces of dishonesty to an office, and sit by trembling while
they were read, and receive two dollars apiece for them if they were
published, and nothing at all if one had been so lacking in cunning
as to let the editor think that the book was not worth the space!
However, Thyrsis had cunning enough to earn the cost of his room and
his food for two weeks more. Then one day the postman brought him a
letter, the inscription of which made his heart give a throb. He
ripped the envelope open and read a communication from the second
"We have been interested in your manuscript, and while we do not
feel that we can undertake its publication, we should like an
opportunity to talk with you about it."
"What does _that_ mean?" asked Corydon, trembling.
"God knows," he answered. "I'll go and see them this morning."
When he came back, it was to sink into a chair and stare in front of
him with a savage frown. "Don't ask me!" he said, to Corydon. "Don't
"Please tell me!" cried the girl. "Did you see them?"
"Yes," said Thyrsis--"I saw a fat man!"
"A fat man!"
"Yes--a fat man. A fat body, and a fat mind, and a fat soul."
"Please tell me, Thyrsis!"
"He said my book wouldn't sell, because the public had got tired of
that sort of thing."
"That sort of thing!"
"It seems that people used to buy 'historical romances', and now
they've stopped. The man actually thought my book was one of that
"I see. But then--couldn't you tell him?"
"I told him. I said, 'Can't you see that this book is original--that
it's come out of a man's heart?' 'Yes,' he said, 'perhaps. But you
can't expect the public to see it.' And so there you are!"
Thyrsis sat with his nails dug into his palms. "It's just like the
book-reviews!" he cried. "He knows better, but that doesn't
count--he's thinking about the public! And he's got to the point
where he doesn't really care--he's a fat man!"
"And so he'll not publish the book?"
"He'll not have anything more to do with me. He hates me."
"Yes. Because I have faith, and he hasn't! Because I wouldn't stoop
to the indignity he offered!"
"What did he offer?"
"He says that what the public's reading now is society
novels--stories about up-to-date people who are handsome and
successful and rich. They want automobiles and theatre-parties and
country-clubs in their novels."
"But Thyrsis! You don't know anything about such things!"
"I know. But he said I could find out. And so I could. The point he
made was that I've got passion and color--I could write a moving
love-story! In other words, I could use my ecstasy to describe two
There was a pause. "And what did you do with the manuscript?" asked
Corydon, in a low voice.
"I took it to another publisher," he answered.
"And what are you going to do now?"
"I've been to see the editor of the 'Treasure Chest.'"
The "Treasure Chest" was a popular magazine of fiction, a copy of
which Thyrsis had seen lying upon the table of their landlady. He
had glanced through the first story, and had declared to Corydon
that if he had a stenographer he could talk such a story at the rate
of twenty thousand words a day.
"And did the editor see you?"
"Yes. He's a big husky 'advertising man'--he looks like a
prize-fighter. He said if I could write, to go ahead and prove it.
He pays a cent for five words--a hundred dollars for a complete
serial. He pays on acceptance; and he said he'd read a scenario for
me. So I'm going to try it."
"What's it to be about?" asked Corydon.
"I'm going to try what they call a 'Zenda' story," said Thyrsis.
"The editor says the readers of the 'Treasure Chest' haven't got
tired of 'Zenda' stories."
And so Thyrsis spent the afternoon and evening wandering about in
the park; and sometime after midnight he wrote out his scenario. The
advantage of a "Zenda" story was that, as the adventures happened in
an imaginary kingdom, there would be no need to study up "local
color". As for the conventional artificial dialect, he could get it
from any of the "romances" in the nearby circulating library. He did
not dare to take the scenario the next day, but waited a decent
interval; and when he returned it was to report that the story was
considered to be promising, and that he was to write twenty thousand
words for a test.
Section 9. So Thyrsis shut himself up and went to work. Sometimes he
wrote with rage seething in his heart, and sometimes with laughter on
his lips. This latter was the case when he did the love-scenes--because
of the "passion and color" he bestowed upon the fascinating countess
and the clever young American engineer. He could have written the twenty
thousand words in three days; but he waited ten days, so that the editor
might not think that he was careless. And three days later he went back
for the verdict.
The editor said it was good, and that if the rest was like it he
would accept the story. So Thyrsis went to work again, and finished
the manuscript, and put it away until time enough had elapsed. And
meanwhile came a letter from the literary head of the third
publishing-house, regretting that he could not accept the book.
It was such a friendly letter that Thyrsis went to call there, and
met a pleasant and rather fine-souled gentleman, Mr. Ardsley by
name, who told him a little about the problems he faced in life.
"You have a fine talent," he said--"you may even have genius. Your
book is obviously sincere--it's _vêcu,_ as the French say. I suspect
you must have been in love when you wrote it."
"In a way," said Thyrsis, flushing slightly. He had not intended
that to show.
The other smiled. "It's overwrought in places," he went on, "and it
tends to incoherency. But the main trouble is that it's entirely
over the heads of the public. They don't know anything about the
kind of love you're interested in, and they'd laugh at it."
"But then, what am I to do?" cried Thyrsis.
"You'll simply have to keep on trying, till you happen to strike
"But--how am I to live?"
"Ah," said Mr. Ardsley, "that is the problem." He smiled, rather
sadly, as he sat watching the lad. "You see how _I've_ solved it,"
he went on. "I was young once myself, and I tried to write novels.
And in those days I blamed the publishers--I thought they stood in
my way. But now, I see how it is; a publisher is engaged in a highly
competitive business, and he barely makes interest on his capital;
he can't afford to publish books that won't pay their way. Here am
I, for instance--it's my business to advise this house; and if I
advise them wrongly, what becomes of me? If I take them your
manuscript and say, 'It's a real piece of work,' they'll ask me,
'Will it pay its way?' And I have to answer them, 'I don't think it
"But such things as they publish!" exclaimed the boy, wildly.
And Mr. Ardsley smiled again. "Yes," he said. "But they pay their
way. In fact, they save the business."
So Thyrsis went out. He saw quite clearly now the simple truth--it
was not a matter of art at all, but a matter of business. It was a
business-world, and not an art-world; and he--poor fool--was trying
to be an artist!
For three days more he toiled at his pot-boiler; and then, late at
night, he went out to get some fresh air, and to try to shake off
the load of despair that was upon him. And so came the explosion.
Perhaps it was because the wind was blowing, and Thyrsis loved the
wind; it was a mirror of his own soul to him, incessant and
irresistible and mysterious. And so his demons awoke again. He had
gone through all that labor, he had built up all that glory in his
spirit--and it was all for naught! He had made himself a flame of
desire--and now it was to be smothered and stifled!
He had written his book, and it was a great book, and they knew it.
But all they told him was to go and write another book--and to do
pot-boilers in the meantime! But that was impossible, he could not
do it. He would win with the book he had written! He would make them
hear him--he would make them read that book!
He began to compose a manifesto to the world; and towards morning he
came home and shut himself in and wrote it. He called it "Business
and Art;" and in it he told about his book, and how he had worked
over it. He told, quite frankly, what the book was; and he asked if
there was anywhere in the United States a publisher who published
books because they were noble, and not because they sold; or if
there was a critic, or booklover, or philanthropist, or a person of
any sort, who would stand by a true artist. "This artist will work
all day and nearly all night," he wrote, "and he wants less than the
wages of a day-laborer. All else that ever comes to him in his life
he will give for a chance to follow his career!"
Then Corydon awoke, and he read it to her. She listened, thrilling
"Oh, Thyrsis!" she cried. "What are you going to do with it?"
"I'm going to have it printed," he said, "and send it to all the
publishers; and also to literary men and to magazines."
"And are you going to sign your name to it?" she cried.
"I've already signed my name to it," he answered.
"And when are you going to do it?"
"As soon as the book comes back from the next publisher."
Then he sat down to breakfast; and afterwards, without resting, he
finished the pot-boiler, and took it to the editor. After a due
interval he went again, trembling and faint with anxiety. He had
sold only one book-review, and he was using Corydon's money again.
People who hated him had predicted that he would do just that, and
he had answered that he would die first!
He came home, radiant with delight. "He says he'll take it!" he
proclaimed. "Only I've got to do a new ending for the fourth
installment--he wants something more exciting. So I'm going to have
the countess caught in a burning tower!"
And he wrote that, and went yet again, and came home with a hundred
dollars buttoned tightly in his inside vest-pocket. He was like a
man who has escaped from a dungeon. The field was clear before him
at last! His manifesto was going out to the world!
THE BAIT IS SEIZED
_They sat, gazing down the slope of the little vale. She was turning
idly the pages of the book, and she read to him--
"Lovely all times she lies, lovely to-night!--
Only, methinks, some loss of habit's power
Befalls me wandering through this upland dim.
Once pass'd I blindfold here, at any hour;
Now seldom come I, since I came with him."
"It was here we first read the poem," he said. "Every spot brings
back some line of it."
"Even the old oak-tree where we used to sit," she smiled--
"Hear it, O Thyrsis, still our tree is there!"_
Section 1. Thyrsis was half hoping that the next publisher would
decline the manuscript; and he was only mildly stirred when he got a
letter saying that although the publisher could not make an offer
for the book, one of his readers was so much interested in it that
he would like to have a talk with the author. Thyrsis replied that
he was willing; and to his surprise he learned that the reader was
none other than that Prof. Osborne, who in the university had
impressed upon him his ignorance of the art of writing.
He paid a call at the professor's home, and they had a long talk.
There was nothing said about their former interview. Evidently the
other recognized that Thyrsis had succeeded in making good his claim
to be allowed to hew his own way; and Thyrsis was content with that
They talked about the book. The professor first assured him that it
would not sell, and then went on to explain to him why; and so they
came to a grapple.
"The thing is sincere, perhaps even exalted," said Prof. Osborne;
"but it's overstrained and exaggerated."
"But isn't it alive?" asked Thyrsis.
The other pondered; he always spoke deliberately, choosing his words
with precision. "Some people might think so," he said. "For myself,
I have never known any such life."
"But what's that got to do with it?" cried Thyrsis.
"It has much to do with it--for me. One has to judge by what one
"But can't one be taught?"
The professor meditated again. "I have lived forty-five years," he
said, "and you have lived less than half that. I imagine that I have
read more, studied more, thought more than you. Yet you ask me to
submit myself to your teaching!"
"No, no!" cried Thyrsis, eagerly. "It is not as if it were a matter
of learning--of scholarship--of knowledge of the world. There is an
intensity of experience that is not dependent upon time; in the
things of the imagination--in matters of inspiration--surely one
does not have to be old or learned."
"That might be true," admitted the other, hesitatingly.
"You read the poetry of Keats or Shelley, for instance. They were as
young as I am when they wrote it, and yet you do not refuse to
acknowledge its worth. Is it just because they are dead, and their
poems are classics?"
So these two wrestled it out. Thyrsis could bring the other to the
point of acknowledging that there might be genius in his work, but
he could not bring him to the point of _doing_ anything about it.
The poet went away, seeing the situation quite clearly. Prof.
Osborne was an instructor; it was his business to know; and if he
should abdicate before one of his pupils, then what would become of
authority? He had certain models, which he set before his class;
these models constituted literature. If anyone might disregard them
and proceed to create new models according to his own lawless
impulse--then what anarchy would reign in a classroom! Under such
circumstances, it was remarkable that the professor had even been
willing to admit of doubts; as Thyrsis walked home he clenched his
hands and whispered to himself, "I'll get that man some day!"
Section 2. The road now lay clear before Thyrsis, and accordingly he
set grimly to work. He had his document printed upon a long slip of
paper, and got several packages for Corydon to address. And one
evening they took them out and dropped them into the mailbox. "And
now we'll see!" he said.
They soon saw. When he came in for lunch the next day, Corydon came
to the door, in great excitement. "S-sh!" she whispered. "There's a
"A reporter!" he echoed.
"What does she want?"
"She wants an interview about the book."
"Where is she from?"
"She's from the 'Morning Howl'. She's read the circular."
"But I never sent it there!"
"I know; but she says a friend gave it to her. She knows all about
So Thyrsis went in, like a lamb to the slaughter. He was new to
interviews, and he yielded to the graces of the friendly and
sympathetic lady. Yes, he would be glad to tell about his book; and
about where and how he had written it, and all the hopes he had
based upon it.
"And your wife tells me you've just been married!" said the lady,
with a winning smile, and she proceeded to question him about this.
They had become good friends by that time, and Thyrsis told her many
things that he would not have told save to a charming lady. And then
she asked for his picture, explaining that she could give so much
more space to the "story" if she had one. And then she begged for a
picture of Corydon, and was deeply hurt that she could not have it.
She prolonged the interview for an hour or so, and came back again
and again in the effort to get this picture of Corydon. Finally she
rose to go; but out in the hall, as she was bidding them good-bye,
she suddenly exclaimed that she had left her gloves, and went back
and got them, and then hurried away. And it was not until an hour or
two later that Thyrsis made the horrible discovery that the
photograph of Corydon which had stood upon his bureau was standing
upon his bureau no longer!
So next morning, there were their two photographs upon the second
page of the 'Morning Howl', and a, two-column headline:
"YOUTHFUL GENIUS OFFERS HIMSELF FOR SALE!"
Thyrsis rushed through this article, writhing with horror and
dismay. The woman had made him into what they called a "human
interest" feature. There was very little about his book, but there
was much about the picturesque circumstances under which he had
written it. There was a description of their personal appearance--
of Corydon's sweet face and soulful black eyes, and of his broad
forehead and sensitive lips. There was also a complete description
of their domestic _ménage_, including the chafing-dish and the odor
of lamb-chops. There was a highly diverting account of how they had
"eloped" with only eight dollars in the world; together with all the
agonies of their parents, as imagined by the sympathetic lady.
They had been butchered to make a holiday for the readers of a
yellow journal! "This is a wonderfully interesting world," the paper
seemed to say--"well worth the penny it costs to read about it! Here
on the first page is Antonio Petronelli, who cut up his sweetheart
with a butcher-knife, and packed her in a trunk. And here are seven
people burned in a tenement-house; and an interview with Shrike, the
plunger, who made three millions out of the wheat-corner. But most
diverting of all are these two little cherubs who ran away and got
married, and now want the world to support them while they write
masterpieces of literature!"
And could not one see the great public devouring the tale--the Wall
Street clerks in the cars, and the shop-girls over their sandwiches
and coffee, and the loungers in the cafes of the Tenderloin! Could
not one picture their smiles--not contemptuous, but genial, as of
people who have learned that it is indeed an interesting world, and
well worth the penny it costs to read about it!
Section 3. Corydon shed tears of rage over this humiliation, and she
wrote a letter full of bitter scorn to the newspaper woman. In reply
to it came a friendly note to the effect that she had done the best
thing in the world for them--that when they knew more about life and
the literary game, they would recognize this!
The tangible results of the adventure were three. First there came a
letter, written on scented note-paper, from a lady who commended
their noble ideals and wished them success--but who did not sign her
name. Second, there came a visit from a brother poet--a man about
forty years of age, shabby and pitiful, with watery, light blue eyes
and a feeble straggly moustache, and a manner of agonized
diffidence. He stood in the doorway and shifted from one foot to the
other, and explained that he had read the article, and had come
because he, too, was an unrecognized genius. He had written two
volumes of poetry, which were the greatest poetry ever produced in
English--Milton and Shakespeare would be forgotten when the world
had read these volumes. For ten years he had been trying to find
some publisher or literary man to recognize him; and perhaps Thyrsis
would be the man.
He came in and sat on the bed and unwrapped his two volumes--several
hundred typewritten pages, elaborately bound up in covers of faded
pink silk. And Thyrsis read one and Corydon the other, while the
poet sat by and watched them and twisted his hands nervously. His
poetry was all about stars and blue-bells and moonlight, about
springtime and sighing lovers, about cold, rain-beaten graves and
faded leaves of autumn--the subjects and the images which have been
the stock in trade of minor poets for two thousand years and more.
Thyrsis, as he read, could have marked fifty phrases which were
feeble imitations of things in Tennyson and Longfellow and Keats;
and he read for half an hour, in the vain hope of finding a single
This interview was a very painful one. He could not bear to hurt the
poor creature's feelings, and he did not know how to get rid of him.
The matter was made still more difficult by the presence of Corydon,
who did not know the models, and therefore thought the poetry was
good. She let the visitor go on to pour out his heart; until at last
came a climax that Thyrsis had been expecting all along. The man
explained that he was a bookkeeper, out of work, and with a wife and
three children on the verge of starvation; and then he tried to
borrow some money from them!
The third result was the important one. It was a letter from a
"We are on the lookout for vital and worth-while books," it read,
"and we are not afraid to venture. We have been much interested in
the account of your work, and we should be very glad if you would
give us a chance to read it immediately."
Thyrsis had never heard of this publishing-house, but that did not
chill his delight. He hurried downtown with the manuscript, and came
back to report. The concern was lodged in two small rooms in an
obscure office-building. The manager, a Mr. Taylor, was a man not
particularly prepossessing in appearance, but he was a person of
intelligence, and was evidently interested in the book. Moreover he
had promised to read it at once.
And that same week came the reply--a reply which set the two almost
beside themselves with happiness. "I have read your manuscript,"
wrote Mr. Taylor. "And I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a work
of genius. In fact, I am not sure but what it is the greatest piece
of literature it has ever been my fortune as a publisher to come
upon. It is vital, and passionately sincere, and I will stake my
reputation upon the prophecy that it will be an instantaneous
success. I hope that we may become the publishers of it, and will be
glad if you will come to see me at once and talk over terms."
Thyrsis read this aloud; and then he caught Corydon in his arms, and
tears of joy and relief ran down her cheeks.
He went to see the publisher, and for ten or fifteen nunutes he
listened to such a panegyric upon his book as made his cheeks burn.
Visions of freedom and triumph rose before him--he had come into his
own at last. An then Mr. Taylor proceeded to outline his business
proposition--and as Thyrsis realized the nature of it, it was as if
he had been suddenly plunged into an Arctic sea. The man wanted him
to pay one-half the cost of the plates of his book, and in addition
to guarantee to take one hundred copies at the wholesale price of
ninety cents per copy!
"Is that--is that customary in publishing?" asked the other.
"Not always," Mr. Taylor replied; "but it is our custom. You see, we
are an unusual sort of publishing-house. We do not run after the
best-sellers and the trash--we publish real books, books with a
mission and a message for the world. And we advertise them widely
--we make the world heed them; and so we feel justified in asking
the author to help us with a part of the expense. We pay ten per
cent. royalty, of course, and in addition the author has the hundred
copies of his book, which he can sell to friends and others if he
"What would it cost for my book?" Thyrsis asked.
And the man figured it up and told him it could be done for about
two hundred and fifty dollars. "I'll make it two hundred and
twenty-five to you," he said--"just because of my interest in your
But Thyrsis only shook his head sadly. "I wish I could do it," he
said, "but I simply haven't the money--that's all."
And so he took his departure, and carried his manuscript to another
publisher, and then went home, crushed and sick.
Section 4. But the more Thyrsis thought of this plan, the more it
came to possess him. If he could only get that book printed, it
could not fail to make its impression! He had thought many times in
his desperation of trying to publish it himself; and if he did that,
he would have to pay the cost of the plates, of the printing and
everything; whereas by this method he could get it for much less,
and would have a hundred copies which he could send to critics and
men of letters, in order to make certain of the book's being read.
When the manuscript came back from the next publisher, with a formal
note of rejection, Thyrsis made up his mind that he would
concentrate his efforts upon this plan. So he got down to another
An old sea-captain had told him a story of some American college
boys who had stolen a sacred idol in China. Thyrsis saw a plot in
that, and the editor of the "Treasure Chest" considered it a "bully"
idea. So he toiled day and night for a couple more weeks, and earned
another hundred dollars. And then he did something he had never done
in his life before--he went to some relatives to beg. He pleaded how
hard he had worked, and what a chance he had; he would pay back the
money out of the first royalties from the book--which could not
possibly fail to earn the hundred dollars he asked for.
Besides this, he had some money left from his first story; and so he
went to Mr. Taylor, who was affable and enthusiastic as ever, and
paid his money and signed the contracts. He was told that his book
would be ready for the spring-trade; which meant that he would have
to possess his soul in patience for three months. Meantime he had
forty dollars left--upon which he figured that he could have eight
weeks of uninterrupted study.
But alas, for the best-laid plans of men! It was on a Tuesday
morning that he paid out his precious two hundred and twenty-five
dollars; and on the next Thursday morning, as he was glancing
through the newspapers, he gave a cry of dismay.
"Corydon," he called. "What's the name of that lawyer, your
"John C. Hammond," she replied.
"He shot himself in his office yesterday!" exclaimed Thyrsis; and he
read her the account, which stated that Hammond had been
speculating, and was believed to have lost heavily in the recent
slump in cotton.
Corydon was staring at him with terror in her eyes. "What does it
mean?" she cried.
"I don't know," said Thyrsis. "We'll have to inquire!"
They went out and telephoned to Corydon's father, and Thyrsis got
hold of a college friend, a lawyer, and the four went to the office
of the dead man. It was weeks before they became sure of the whole
sickening truth, but they learned enough on that first day to make
them fairly certain. John C. Hammond had got rid of everything--not
only his own funds, but the funds belonging to the eight or ten
heirs of the estate. The house in which he lived and everything in
it was held in the name of his wife; and so there was not a penny to
pay Corydon her four thousand dollars!
The girl was almost prostrated with misery; she vowed that she would
go back to her parents, that she would go to work in an office. And
poor Thyrsis could only hold her in his arms and whisper, "It
doesn't matter, dear--it doesn't matter! The book will be out in the
spring, and I can do pot-boilers for two!"
Section 5. But in the small hours of the night Thyrsis lay awake in
his little room, and the soul within him was sick with horror. He
was trapped--there was no use trying to dodge the fact, he was
trapped! His powers were waning hour by hour, his vision was dying
within him; every day he knew that he was weaker, that the grip of
circumstance was tighter upon him. Ah, the hideous cruelty of the
thing--it was like a murder in the night-time, like a torturing in
some secret dungeon! He was burning up with his inward fires--there
was a new book coming to ripeness within him, a book that would be
greater even than his first one. And he could not write it, he could
not even think about it! And there was the soul of Corydon calling
to him, there were all the heights of music and poetry--and instead
of climbing, he must torture his brain with hack-writing! He must go
down to the editors, and fawn and cringe, and try to get books to
review; he must study the imbecilities of the magazines and watch
out for topics for articles; he must rack his brains for jokes and
jingles--he, the master of life, the bearer of a new religion, the
proud, high-soaring eagle, whose foot had never known a chain!
When such thoughts came to him, he would dig his nails into the
palms of his hands, he would grit his teeth and curse the world. No,
they should not conquer him! They should never bend him to their
will! They might starve him, they might kill him--they might kill
Corydon, also, but he would never give up! He would fight, and fight
again, he would struggle to the last gasp--he would do his work,
though all the powers of hell rose up to stop him!
One thing became clear to him that night, they could not afford two
rooms. They must get along with one, and with the dollar and a half
one at that. The steam-radiator had proved a farce, anyway--there
was never any steam, and they had had to use gas-heaters. And now,
what things Corydon could not get into his room, she would have to
send back to her parents. The cost of the other room was the price
of a book-review, and that sometimes meant a whole day of his
He talked it over with his wife, and she agreed with him. And so
they underwent the humiliation of telling their landlady, and they
obtained permission to keep Corydon's trunk in the hall, as there
was no place for it in the tiny room. Such things as would not go
upon the little dressing-stand, or hang behind the door, they put
into boxes and shoved under the bed. And now, when midnight came,
Thyrsis would go out for a walk while Corydon went to bed; and then
he would come in and make his own bed upon the floor, with a quilt
which the landlady had given them, and a pair of blankets they had
borrowed from home, and his overcoat and some of Corydon's skirts
when it was cold. Sometimes it would be very cold, and then he would
have to sleep in his clothing; for there was no room save directly
under the window, and they would not sleep with the window down. In
the morning Corydon would turn her face to the wall while Thyrsis
washed and dressed; and then he would go out and walk, while she
took her turn.
And so he parted with the last shred of his isolation. He had to do
all his work now with his wife in the room with him. And though she
would sit as still as a mouse for hours, still he could not think as
before; also, when she was worn out at night, he had to stop work
and let her sleep. Under such circumstances it was small wonder that
he was sometimes nervous and irritable; and, of course, there could
be nothing hid between them, and when he was out of sorts, Corydon
would be plunged into a bottomless pit of melancholy.
Then the strain and worry, and the night and day toil, began to have
effects upon their health. Thyrsis had a strong constitution, but
now he began to have headaches, and sometimes, if he worked on
doggedly, they grew severe. He blamed this upon their heater; he
knew little about hygiene, but he had studied physics, and he knew
that a gas-heater devitalized the air. They had tried living in the
room without heat, but in mid-winter they could not stand it. So on
moderate days they would sit with the window up and their overcoats
on; and when it was too cold for this, they would burn the heater
for an hour or so, and when they began to feel the effects of the
poisons, they would go out and walk for a while and let the room
But then again, Thyrsis wondered if the headaches might not be due
to the food he was eating. They were anxious to economize on food;
but they did not know just how to set about it. Thyrsis had read the
world's literature in English, French and German, in Italian, Latin
and Greek; but in none of that reading had he found anything about
the care of his own body. Such subjects had not been taught at
school or college or university, and he knew of no books about them.
Both he and Corydon had come from families which had the traditions
of luxurious living, brought down from old days when there were
plenty of negro servants, and when the ladies had been skilled in
baking and preserving, and the men with chafing-dish and punch-bowl.
At his grandfather's table Thyrsis had been wont to see a great
platter of fried chicken at one end, and a roast beef at the other,
and a cold ham on a side table; and he had hot bread three times a
day, and cake and jam and ice-cream--and he had been taught to
believe that such things were needed to keep up one's working-powers.
But now he had read how Thoreau had lived upon corn-meal mush; and
he and Corydon resolved to patronize the less expensive foods. The
price of meat and eggs and butter in the winter-time was in truth
appalling; so they would buy potatoes and rice and corn-meal and
prunes and turnips. They paid the landlady for the use of her
gas-range, and would cook a sauce-pan full of some one of these
things, and fill up with it three times a day. Then, at intervals,
some one would invite them out to dinner; and because they were
under-nourished they would gorge themselves--which was evidently
not an ideal method of procedure. So in the end Thyrsis made up his
mind to consult a physician about it; and this was a visit he never
forgot--for it led directly to the most momentous events of his
Section 6. The doctor announced that he had a little dyspepsia, and
gave him a bottle full of a red liquid that would digest his food.
Also he warned him to eat slowly, and to rest after meals. And
Thyrsis, after thanking him, had started to go; when the doctor, who
was an old friend of both families, asked the question, "How's
"She's pretty well," said Thyrsis.
"And are you expecting any children yet?" asked the other, with a
Thyrsis started. "Heavens, no!" he said.
"Why not?" asked the doctor.
"We aren't going to have any."
"But why? Are you preventing it?"
Thyrsis hesitated a moment. "We're not living that way," he said.
The doctor stared at him. "Come here, boy," he said, "and sit down."
"Now tell me what you mean," said the other.
"I mean that we--we're just brother and sister," said Thyrsis.
"But--why did you get married?"
"We got married because we wanted to study."
"To study what?"
"Well, everything--music, principally."
"And how long do you expect to keep that up?"
"Oh, for a good many years--until we've accomplished something, and
until we've got some money."
And the doctor sank back and drew his breath. "I don't wonder your
stomach's out of order!" he said.
"What do you mean?" asked Thyrsis.
But the man did not answer that question. Instead he asked, "Don't
you realize what you'll do to Corydon?"
"You'll wreck her whole life--her health, to begin with."
"But how, doctor? She's perfectly happy. It's what we both want to
"But doesn't she love you?"
"Why, yes--but not that way."
The doctor smiled. "How do you know?" he asked.
"Because--she's told me so."
"And if it was otherwise--do you think she'd tell you that?"
"Why, of course she would."
"My boy," said the man, "she'd die first!"
Thyrsis was staring at him, amazed.
"Let me tell you a little about a good woman," said the other. "I've
been married for thirty years--really married, I mean; we've got
five children. And in all those thirty years my wife has never made
an advance of that sort to me!"
After which the doctor went on to expound his philosophy of sex.
"Love is just a little thing to you," he said; "you've got your
books and your career. And you want it to be the same with
Corydon--you've succeeded in persuading her that that's what she
wants also. You're going to make her a copy of yourself! But you
simply can't do it, boy--she's a woman. And a woman's one interest
in the world is love--it's everything in life to her, the thing
she's made for. And if you deprive her of love, whole love, I mean,
you wreck her entirely. Just now is the time when she ought to be
having her children, if she's ever to have any--and you're trying to
satisfy her with music and philosophy!"
"But," cried Thyrsis, horrified, "I know she doesn't feel that way
"Maybe not," said the other. "Her eyes are not opened. It's your
business to open them. What are you a man for?"
"But--she's all right as she is---"
"Isn't she nervous?"
"Isn't she sometimes melancholy? And doesn't she like you to kiss
her? Doesn't she show she's happy when you hold her in your arms."
Thyrsis sat mute.
"You see!" said the other, laughing. "The girl is in love with you,
and you haven't sense enough to know it."
Again Thyrsis could find no words. "But if we had a child it would
ruin us!" he cried, wildly. "I've not a cent, and my whole career's
"Well," said the other, "if it's as bad as that, don't have any
"But--but how _can_ we?"
"Don't you know how to control it?"
Thyrsis was staring at him, open-eyed. "Why, no!" he said.
"Good lord!" laughed the other. "Where have you been keeping
And then the doctor proceeded to explain to him the "artificial
sterilization of marriage." No whisper of such a thing had ever come
to the boy before, and he could hardly credit his ears. But the
doctor spoke of it as a man of the world, to whom it was a matter of
course; he went into detail as to the various methods that people
used. And when finally Thyrsis rose to leave he patted him
indulgently on the shoulder, and laughed, "Go home to your wife, my
Section 7. The effect of this conversation upon Thyrsis was alarming
to him. At first he tried to put the thing aside, as being something
utterly inconceivable between him and Corydon. But it would not be
The doctor had planted his seed with cunning. If he had told Thyrsis
that he was doing harm to himself, Thyrsis would have said that it
was not true, and stood by it; for he knew about himself. But the
man had made his statements about Corydon--and how could he be sure
The crucial point was that it set him to thinking about her in this
new way; a way which he had not dreamed of previously. And when once
he had begun to think about her so, he found he could not stop. For
hitherto in his life, whenever he had thought of passion it had been
as a temptation; he had known that it was wrong, and all that was
best in him had risen up to oppose it. But now all that was
changed--the image of Corydon the doctor had called up was one that
broke down all resistance, and left him at the mercy of his
These impulses awoke--and with a suddenness and force that terrified
him. He thought of her as his wife, and this thought was like a rush
of flame upon him. His manhood leaped up, and cried aloud for its
rights. He discovered, almost instantly, that he loved her thus,
that he desired her completely. This was true now, and it had been
true from the beginning; he had been a fool to try to persuade
himself otherwise. What else had been the meaning of the passionate
protests in his letters to her? Of the images he had used--of
carrying her away in his arms, of breaking her to his will? And she
loved him, too--she desired him completely! Why else had it been
that those passages were precisely the ones that satisfied her? Why
was it that she was always most filled with joy when he was
aggressive and masterful?
Ah God, what an inhuman life it was they had been living all these
months! In that inevitable proximity--shut up in a little room! And
with the most intimate details of her life about him--with her
kisses always upon his lips, her arms always about him, the subtle
perfume of her presence always in his senses! Was it any wonder that
they were nervous and restless--always sinking into tenderness, and
exchanging endearments, and then starting up to scourge themselves?
He went home, and there was Corydon preparing supper. He went to her
and caught her in his arms and kissed her. "I love you, sweetheart!"
he whispered. And as she yielded to his embraces, he kissed her
again and again, upon her lips and upon her cheeks and upon her
neck. Ah, she loved him--else how could she let him kiss her like
But it was not so quickly that the inhibitions of a lifetime could
be overcome. A sudden fear took hold of Thyrsis. What was he doing?
No, she must have no idea of this--at least not until he had
reasoned it out, until he had made up his mind that it was right.
So he drew back--and as he did so he noticed in her eyes a look of
surprise. He did not often greet her in that way!
"I'm hungry as a bear," he said, to change the subject; and so they
sat down to their supper.
Thyrsis had important writing to do that evening, and he tried his
best, but he could not put his mind upon anything. He was all in a
ferment. He pleaded that he had to think about his work, and went
out for a long walk.
A storm was raging, and the icy gale beat upon him. It buffeted him,
it flung him here and there; and he set himself to fight it, he
drove his way through it, lusty and exultant. And music surged
within him, lusty and exultant music. All the pent-up passion of his
lifetime awoke in him, the blood ran hot in his veins; from some
hidden portion of his being came wave after wave of emotion,
sweeping him away--and he spread his wings to it, he rose to the
heights upon it, he laughed and sang aloud in the glory of it. He
had known such hours in his own soul's life, but never anything like
it with Corydon. He cried out, what a child he had been! He had
taken her, he had sought to shape her to his will; and he had
failed, she was not yet his--and all because he had left unused the
one great power he had over her, the one great hold he had upon her.
But now it would be changed--she should have him! And as he battled
on with the elements there came to him Goethe's poem of passion:
"Dem Schnee, dem Regen,
Dem Wind entgegen!"
Section 8. So for hours he went. But when he had come home, and
stood in the vestibule, stamping the snow from him, there came a
reaction. It was Corydon he had been thinking of--Corydon, the
gentle and innocent! How could he say such things to her? How could
he hint of them? Why, he would fill her with terror! It was not to
be thought of!
He went upstairs, and found that she was asleep. So he crept into
his little bunk; but sleep would not come to him. The image of her
haunted him. He listened to her breathing--he was as close to her as
that, and still she was not his!
It was nearly day before he slept, and so he awoke tired and
restless. And then came rage at himself--he went out and walked
again, and stormed and scolded. He would not permit this, he had
work to do. And he made up his mind that he would not allow himself
to think about the matter for three days. By that time the truth
would be clearer to him; and he meant to settle this question with
his reason, and not with his blind desire.