Part 4 out of 11
He adhered to his resolution firmly. But when the three days were
past, and he tried to think about it, it was only to be swept away
in another storm of emotion. It seemed that the more tightly he
pent this river up, the fiercer was its rush when finally it broke
loose. For always his will was paralyzed by that suggestion that he
might be doing harm to Corydon!
At last he made up his mind that he must speak to her; and one
afternoon he came and knelt beside her and put his arms about her.
"Sweetheart," he said, "I've something to ask you about."
Now to Corydon the mind of Thyrsis was like an open book. For days
she had known that something was disturbing him. But also she had
known that he was not ready to tell her. "What is it?" she asked.
"It's something very important," he said.
"You know, I went to see the doctor the other day."
"And he told me--he thinks we are doing each other harm by the way
we are living."
"What way, Thyrsis?"
"By not being really married. He says you are suffering because of
"But Thyrsis!" she cried, in astonishment. "I'm not!"
"He says you wouldn't know it, Corydon. It would keep you nervous
"But dear," she said, "I'm perfectly happy!"
"Are you sure of it?"
"And--and if it was ever otherwise--you would tell me?"
"And are you sure of _that_?"
She hesitated; and when she tried to answer, her voice was a
whisper--"I think so, dear."
There was a pause. "Thyrsis," she exclaimed, suddenly, "I would have
"No, you needn't," he said; and he told her what the doctor had
It was quite as new to her as it had been to him, and even more
startling. "I see," she said, in a low voice.
"Listen, Corydon," he whispered, "do you think you love me at all
"I don't know," she answered. "I never thought of such a thing."
"Do you think you could learn to love me so?"
"How can I tell, Thyrsis? It's so strange to me. It--it frightens
He looked up at her; and he saw that a flush was mottling her
throat, and spreading over her cheeks. He saw the wild look in her
eyes also; and he turned away.
"Very well, dearest," he said. "I don't want to disturb you."
So he tried to go back to his work. But he could not do his real
work at all. He could practice the violin or read German with
Corydon, but when he tried to plan his new book--that involved
turning his thoughts loose to graze in a certain pasture, and they
would not stay in that pasture, but jumped the fence and came back
to her. And so he found himself taking more long journeys, in which
he walked in the midst of the storm of his desire.
So, of course, all the former naturalness was gone between them. No
longer could they kiss and toy with one another as children in a
fairy-world. They had suddenly become man and woman--fighting the
age-long duel of sex. They would talk about the question; and the
more they talked about it, the more it came to dominate the thoughts
of both of them; and this broke down the barriers between
them--Thyrsis became bolder, and more open in his speech. He lost
his awe of her maidenhood and her innocence--he wooed her, he lured
her on; he rejoiced in his power to agitate her, to startle her, to
speak to her about secret things. He would clasp her in his arms and
shower his kisses upon her; and she would yield to him, almost
fainting with bliss--and then shrink from him in sudden alarm.
Then he would go out into the night and battle again with the wintry
winds. That frightened shrinking of hers puzzled him. Everything was
so strange to him; and how could he be sure what was right? He
wanted to do what was right, with all his soul he wanted it; if he
were to do wrong, or to make her think less of him, he could never
forgive himself all his life. But then would come the wild surge of
his longing, and his man's power would cry out within him. It was
his business to overcome her shrinking, to compel her to yield. The
question of the doctor rang in his ears as a taunt--"Why are you a
man?" Why _was_ he a man?
Section 9. In the end these emotions reached a point where Thyrsis
could no longer bear them. They were a torment to him, they deprived
him of all rest and sleep. One afternoon he had held her a long time
in his arms, and it hurt him; he turned away, and put his hands to
his forehead. "Dearest," he cried, "I can't stand this any longer!"
"Why?" she asked. "What do you mean?"
"I mean it's just tearing me to pieces!"
She stared at him in fright. "Thyrsis!" she exclaimed. "You are
He sunk down upon the bed and hid his face in his arms. "Yes," he
whispered, "I am unhappy!"
And so, all at once, he broke down her resistance. What had swayed
him had been the thought of her suffering; and the thought of his
suffering now conquered her.
Only she did not take days to debate it. She fled to him instantly,
and wrapped her arms about him.
"Thyrsis," she whispered, "listen to me! I had no idea of that!"
"No, sweetheart," he said. "I'm sorry--I'm ashamed of myself--"
"No, no!" she cried, vehemently. "Don't say that! I love you,
Thyrsis! I love you, heart and soul!"
He turned and gazed at her with his haggard eyes.
"I will do anything for you," she rushed on. "You shall have me! I
will be your wife!"
Then, however, as he clasped her to him, there came once more the
shrinking. "Only give me a little time, dear," she whispered. "Let
me get used to it. Let it come naturally."
But the only way he could have given her time would have been to go
away. Here he was, in her room--with every reminder of her about
him, with every incitement to his desire. And he had but two things
to choose between--to go out and walk and think about her, or to
come home and sit with her and talk about their love.
They had their supper, and then again she was in his arms. He told
her about this trouble--he showed how the love of her was consuming
him. Far into the night they sat talking, and he poured out his
heart to her, he bore her with him to the mountain-tops of his
desire. He took down a book of Spenser's, and read her the
"Epithalamium"; he read her Shelley's "Epip sychidion," which they
both loved. All the power of Thyrsis' genius was turned now to
passion, and the hidden forces of him were revealed as never had
they been revealed to her before. He became eloquent; he talked to
her as he had lived with himself; he awed her and frightened her, as
he had that evening upon the hill-top. Then at last, as the tide of
his feeling swept him away again, he clasped her to him tightly, and
hid his face in her neck. "I love you! Oh, I love you!" he cried.
She had sunk back and closed her eyes. "My Thyrsis!" she whispered.
"You love me?" he asked. "You are quite sure?"
"I am quite sure!" she said.
He kissed her; again and again he kissed her, until he had made sure
of her desire. Then suddenly, he began with trembling fingers to
unfasten the neck of her dress.
For a moment she did not comprehend what he meant. Then she gave a
start. "Thyrsis!" she cried.
And she sprang up, staring at him with fright in her eyes.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Thyrsis!" she gasped. "What--what were you going to do?"
And at her question, shame swept over him. He was horrified at
himself. How could he find words to tell her what he had been going
He turned away with a moan, and put his hands over his face. "Oh
God, I can't stand this!" he exclaimed.
Suddenly he went to his hat and coat. "I must go out!" he said.
"What do you mean?" cried Corydon.
"I mean I've got to go somewhere!" he replied. "I can't stand it--I
can't stay here."
"Thyrsis!" she cried, wildly. And she sprang to him and flung her
arms about him. "No, no!" she cried. "No!"
"But what am I to do?"
And she pressed him tightly to her. "Thyrsis!" she whispered. "Can't
you understand? Don't be so stupid, dear!"
"Yes, sweetheart--can't you see? I'm only a child! And it's so
strange! It frightens me! Try to realize how I feel!"
"But what am I to do?"
"Do? Why you must _make_ me, Thyrsis!" And as she said this she hid
her face upon his shoulder and sobbed. "You are a man, Thyrsis, you
are a man, and I am only a girl! Do what you want to! Don't pay any
attention to me!"
And those words to Thyrsis were like the crashing of a peal of
thunder. He clutched her to him, with a force that crushed her, that
made her cry out. The soul of the cave-man awoke in him--he lifted
his mate in his arms and bore her away to a secret place.
"Put down the light," she whispered, and he did this. And then again
he began to unfasten her dress.
She submitted at first, she let him have his way. But later, when
his hands touched the soft garment on her bosom, he felt a sharp
tremor pass through her.
"Thyrsis!" she whispered.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Wait dear, wait!"
"Why wait?" he cried.
"Just a moment--please, dear!"
But he answered her--"No! Not a moment! No!"
She clung to him, trembling, pleading. "Please, dearest, please! I'm
But nothing could stop him now. She was his--his to do what he
pleased with! And he would bend her to his will! The voice of his
manhood shouted aloud to him now, and it was like the clashing of
wild cymbals in his soul.
He went on with what he was doing. She shrunk away from him, but he
followed her, he held her fast.
Then she began to sob--"Oh Thyrsis, wait--spare me! I can't bear it!
But he answered her, "Be still! I love you! You are mine." And for
every sob and every shudder and every moan of fear he had but one
response--"I love you! You are mine!"
He knew that he loved her now--and he knew what his love meant.
Before this they had been strangers; but now he would penetrate to
the secret places, to the holy of holies of her being.
Never in all his life had Thyrsis known woman. To him woman had been
the supreme mystery of life, a creature of awe and sacredness--not
to be handled, scarcely even to be thought about. Now the awful ban
was lifted, the barriers were down; what had been hidden was
revealed, what had been forbidden was permitted. So all the chained
desire of a lifetime drove him on; it was almost more than he could
bear. The touch of her warm breasts, the faint perfume of her
clothing, the pressure of her soft, white limbs--these things set
every nerve of him a-tremble, they turned a madness loose in him. A
blinding whirl of emotion seized him, he was like a leaf swept away
in a gale; his words came now in wild sobs, "I love you! I love
So with quivering fingers he stripped her before him; and she
crouched there, cowering and weeping. He took her in his arms; and
that clasp there was no misunderstanding, for all the mastery of his
will was in it. Nor did she try to resist him--she lay still, but
shaking like a leaf, and choking with sobs. And so it was that he
wreaked his will upon her.
Section 10. And then came the reaction--the most awful experience of
his life. Thyrsis was sitting upon the bed, and staring in front of
him, dazed. He was exhausted, faint, shuddering with horror. "Oh, my
God, my God!" he whispered.
What had he done? Corydon, the gentle and pure--she had trusted
herself to him, and how had he treated her? He had tortured her, he
had defiled her! Oh, it was sickening; brutal, like a butchery! He
sunk down in a heap, moaning, "My God! I can't bear it! I can't bear
And then a strange thing happened--the strangest of all strange
things! An unforeseeable, an unimaginable thing!
Corydon had started up, and was listening; and now suddenly he felt
her arms stealing about him. "Thyrsis!" she whispered. "Thyrsis!"
"Oh, what shall I do?" he sobbed.
"What's the matter?"
"Oh, it was so horrible! horrible!"
"Thyrsis!" she panted, swiftly. "Don't say that!"
"How could I have done it?" he rushed on. "What a monster I am!"
"No! no!" she cried. "You don't understand, I love you! Don't you
know that I love you?"
And she tightened her clasp about him, she stole into his arms
again. "Forgive me!" she whispered. "Please, please--forgive me,
He stared at her, dazed. "Forgive _you_?"
"I had no right to behave like that!" she cried. "I was afraid--I
couldn't control myself. But oh, Thyrsis, I love you!"
And she pressed herself upon him convulsively; she was troubled no
longer. "Yes!" she panted. "Yes! I don't mind it any more! I am
yours! I am yours! You may do whatever you please to me, Thyrsis--I
She covered him with kisses--his face, his neck, his body. She drew
him down to her again, whispering in ecstasy, "_My husband!_"
He was lost in amazement. Could this be Corydon, the gentle and
shrinking? No, she was gone; and in her stead this creature of
desire--tumultuous and abandoned! She was like some passion-goddess
out of the East, shameless and terrible and destroying! She was like
a tigress of the jungle, calling in the night for its mate. She
locked him fast in her arms--she was swept away in a whirlwind of
emotion, as he had been swept before. And all her being rose up in
one song of exultation--"Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!"
"Ah, Thyrsis!" she cried. "My Thyrsis! I belong to you now! You can
never escape me now! You can never leave me--my love, my love!"
And as Thyrsis listened to this song, his passion died. Reason awoke
again, and a cold fear struck into his heart! What was the meaning
Long hours afterward, as she lay, half-asleep, in his arms, she felt
him give a sudden start and shudder.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said--"I just happened to think of something.
Something that frightened me."
"What was it?"
"I was thinking, dear--_suppose I should become domestic!_"
THE CORDS ARE TIGHTENED
_She had been reading in the little cabin, and a hush had fallen
"Yes, thou art gone! And round me too the night In ever-nearing
circle weaves her shade."
"Gone!" she said, and smiled sadly. "Where is he gone?"
And she turned the page and read again--
"But Thyrsis nevermore we swains shall see;
See him come back, and cut a smoother reed,
And blow a strain the world at last shall heed--
For Time, not Corydon, hath conquer'd thee!"
Then, after a pause, she added, "How often I have remembered those
words! And how pitiful they are, when I remember them!"_
Section 1. It was a tiny cupboard of a room in a tenement. They sat
upon their bed to eat, and they hid their soiled dishes beneath it.
Dirty children screamed upon the avenue in front, and frowsy-headed
women and wolfish men caroused in the saloon below. Yet here there
came to them the angel with the flame-tipped wings, and here they
dreamed their dream of wonder.
In the glory of their new-found passion all life became transfigured
to them; they discovered new meaning in the most trivial actions.
There was no corner so obscure that they might not come upon the
young god hidden; they might touch his warm, tender flesh, and hear
his silvery laughter, and thrill with the wonder of his presence.
They spoke a new language, full of fire and color; they read new
meanings in each other's eyes. The slightest touch of hand upon
hand, or of lips to lips, was enough to dissolve them in tenderness
They rejoiced in the marvel of each other's being--in the glory of
their bodies, newly revealed. To Thyrsis especially this was life's
last miracle, a discovery so fraught with bliss as to be a continual
torment. The incitements that were hidden in the softness and the
odor of unbound and tumbled hair; the exquisiteness of maiden
breasts, moulded of marble, rosy-tipped; the soft contour of snowy
limbs, the rhythmic play of moving muscles--to dwell amid these
things, to possess them, was suddenly to discover in reality what
before had only existed in the realm of painting and sculpture.
Corydon also, in the glow of his delight, of his rapture and his
ravening desire, discovered anew the wonder of herself, and came to
a new consciousness of her beauty. She would stand and gaze before
her, with her hands upon her breasts, and her head flung back and
her eyes closed in ecstasy, so that he might come to her and kiss
her--might kiss her again and again, might touch her with his
lover's hands and clasp her with his lover's arms.
In most of these things she was his teacher. For Corydon was one
person, in body, mind and soul; in her there were no disharmonies,
no warring elements. His friend the doctor had set forth his idea of
"a good woman"; but Corydon's goodness proved to be after no such
pattern. Now that she was his, she was his; she belonged to him, she
was a part of him, and there could be no thought of a secret shame,
of any reserves or hesitations. Her body was herself, and it was joy
to her; it was joy the more, because she could give it for love; and
she sought for new ways to utter the completeness of her giving.
She was like a little child about it--so free, so spontaneous, so
genuine; Thyrsis marvelled at her utter naturalness. For himself, in
the midst of these things, there was always a sense of the strange
and the terrible, a sense of penetrating to forbidden mysteries; but
Corydon laughed in the sunlight of utter bliss--and she laughed most
at him, when she found that her simple language had startled him.
For the maiden out of ancient Greece was now become a lover! And so
she was revealed to Thyrsis--she who might have marched in the
Panathenaic processions, with one of the sacred vessels in her
hands, or run in the Attic games, bare-limbed and fearless. So he
learned to think of her, singing in the myrtle groves Of Mount
Hymettus, or walking naked in the moonlight in Arcadian meadows.
So he thought of her all through her life, whenever a moment of joy came
to her--whenever, for instance, she found her way to the water. They
had dressed her in long skirts and put her in a drawing-room--but Corydon
had got to the water in spite of them; and all that any Nereid had ever
known, that she had known from the time the waves first kissed her feet.
And so it was also with love; she was born to be a priestess of
love's religion. She had waited for this hour--that she might take
his hand, and lead him into the temple, and teach him the ritual. It
was a ministry that she entered upon with the joy of all her being.
"Ah, let me teach you how to love!" she would cry. "Ah, let me teach
you how to love!"
Love was to her an utter blending of two selves, the losing of one's
personality in another's; it meant the forgetting of one's self, and
all the ends of self. And Thyrsis marvelled at the glory that came
upon her, at each new rapture she discovered. All the language of
lovers was known to her, all the songs of lovers were upon her lips:
"Du bist mir ewig,
Bist mir immer--
Erb und Eigen
Ein und All!"
Such was her woman's gift: precious beyond all treasures of earth,
and given without price or question. And Thyrsis trembled as he
realized it; he lived upon his knees before her, and floods of
tenderness welled up in his heart. How utterly she trusted him, how
completely she belonged to him! And what could he do to show himself
worthy of it--this most wonderful dream of his life come true--
"If someone should give me a heart to keep,
With love for the golden key!"
Yet, amid all these raptures, Thyrsis was haunted by ghosts of
doubt. Would he be able to do what his heart yearned to do? Love
meant so much to her--and could it mean that much to him? Why could
it not be to him the complete thing it was to her--why must he argue
and wonder and fear?
For Thyrsis' ancestors had not dallied in Arcadian meadows. They had
come from the wilds of Palestine and the deserts of Northern Africa;
they had argued and wondered and feared in Gothic cloisters, in New
England meeting-houses; and the shadow of their souls hung over him
still. He could not love love as Corydon loved it, he could not
trust it as she trusted it. It could never seem to him the utterly
natural thing--there was always a fear of pollution, a hint of
satiety, a thrill of shame. Directly the first fires of passion had
spent themselves, these anxieties came to him; he remembered how in
his virgin youth he had thought of passion--as of something strange
and uncomfortable, even grotesque, suggesting too closely a kinship
with the animals. So he noticed that his feelings always waned
before Corydon's. She wished him to linger--love meant so much to
Then too, the code of passion was all unknown to him. What was right
and what was wrong? When should one yield to desire, and when should
one restrain it? To Corydon such questions never came--to her
there was no such possibility as excess; she was complete and
perfect, and nature told her. If there were temptations and
restraints and regrets, they were for Thyrsis; and he had to keep
them for his own secret, he could ask no help from her. For he
discovered immediately that with his proud imperiousness, he could
not endure to have Corydon refuse herself to him. So this laid a new
burden upon him, an appalling one. For were they not always
together--her lips always calling him, the impulse towards her
always with him?
There was another circumstance--the means they had to take to
prevent the consequences of their love. From the very first, Thyrsis
had shrunk from the thought of this; but it was only later that he
realized how much it repelled him. It offended all his sense of
economy and purpose; it was something done, and at the same time
undone--and so it had in it the essence of all futility and
wrongness. It took from passion its meaning and its excuse; and yet
he could not say this to Corydon; and he knew also that he could no
longer do without her. He was bound--bound fast! And every hour his
chains would become tighter; what was now spontaneous joy would
become a habit--a thing like eating and sleeping, a new and
humiliating necessity of the flesh!
Section 2. Such were their problems. They might have solved them
all, perhaps--had they only had time. But others came crowding upon
them, others still more insistent and perplexing. The world was
pressing them, jealous of their dream of delight.
Their little fund of money was gone, and so Thyrsis went back to his
hack-work. All day he sat by the window and slaved at it, while
Corydon lay upon the bed and read, or wandered about the park by
herself. Thyrsis' burden was twice as heavy now, for he had to earn
for two; and when in the ecstasies of love she cried out to him that
she was his forever, the cruel mockery of circumstance translated
this to mean that he would forever have to earn for two!
He wrote more book-reviews, and peddled them about; sometimes he was
forced to exchange them for books he reviewed, and then to sell the
books for twenty or thirty cents apiece. He wrote up some ideas for
political cartoons, and got three dollars for one of them. He wrote
a parody upon a popular poem, and got six dollars for that. He met a
college friend, just returned from a trip in the Andes, and he
patiently collected the material for a narrative, and sold it to a
minor magazine for fifteen dollars.
And meanwhile he toiled furiously at another pot-boiler, a tale of
Hessians and Tories and a red-cheeked and irresistible revolutionary
heroine, to fill the insatiable maw of the readers of the "Treasure
Chest." On one occasion, when everything went wrong, Corydon took
the half-dozen solid silver coffee-spoons and the heavy gold-plated
berry-spoon which had constituted her outfit of wedding-presents,
and sold them to a nearby jeweler for two dollars and a quarter.
But through all this bitter struggle they looked forward to a
glorious ending. In April the book would be out--and then they would
be free! They would go away to the country--perhaps to the little
cabin of last summer! Ah, how they dreamed of that cabin, how they
hungered for it! They pictured it, covered in snow, with the
ice-bound brook in front of it--both the cabin and the brook asleep,
and dreaming of the spring-time.
Thyrsis was dreaming of it also, with tears in his eyes and a mighty
passion in his heart; for his new book was calling to him--he had to
fight hard to keep it from taking possession of his thoughts and
driving the pot-boilers out of the temple.
There came the joyful excitement of reading the proofs of his book;
also of inspecting the cover-design, and the sample of the paper,
and the "dummy". And then--it was two weeks from now! Then it was
only ten days--then only one week. And finally the raptures of the
first sample copy!
It was time the publishers had begun to advertise it, and Thyrsis
went to see Mr. Taylor about the matter. Mr. Taylor was vague in his
replies. Then came publication-day, and still no advertisements; and
Thyrsis called again, and insisted and expostulated, and learned to
his consternation that they were not going to advertise it; the
season was a bad one, the firm had met with unexpected expenses, and
so on. When Thyrsis reminded them of their promises, and threatened
and stormed, Mr. Taylor informed him quietly that there was nothing
in the contract about advertising.
So Thyrsis went home, and tried to forget his rage in the work of
disposing of his hundred copies. He had prepared himself for the
possibility of everything else failing, but here he had a plan
whereby he felt that his deliverance was assured. He had made up a
list of a hundred of the best-known men of letters in the
country--college presidents and professors, editors and clergymen,
novelists and poets and critics; and he had done more hack-work, and
earned the twenty dollars it would take to send to each of them a
copy of the book, together with his manifesto, and a little type-
written note. This, he felt, would make certain of the book's being
read; and once let the book be read by the real leaders of the
country's thought, and his siege would be at an end!
So the packages went to the post-office, freighted with the burden
of his hopes and longings. And two or three times a week Thyrsis
went to see his publishers, and find out how the book was going. He
was never able to ascertain just what they were doing with it, or
how they expected to sell it; Mr. Taylor would tell him vaguely that
it was doing fairly well--the season was "slow", and he must give
the book time to "catch on".
And then came the reviews. A clipping-bureau had written, offering
to furnish them at five cents apiece; and this was moderate,
considering that there were only a dozen altogether. Most of these
were from unimportant out-of-town papers, whose book-reviews are
written by the high-school nieces and the elderly maiden-aunts of
the publishers. Of the metropolitan newspapers and literary organs,
only three noticed the book at all; and two of these gave
perfunctory mention, evidently made up from the publisher's
statement on the cover.
The third writer had connected the book with the interview in the
"Morning Howl", and he wrote a burlesque review of it, in which he
hailed it as the "Great American Novel". His method was to retell
the story, quoting the most highly-wrought passages, with just
enough comment to keep it in the vein of farce. To Thyrsis this
mockery came like a blast of fire in the face; he did not know that
it was the regular method of the newspaper--a method by means of
which it had made itself known as the cleverest and most readable
paper in the country.
Section 3. All this was the harder for him, because it came at a
black and spectral hour of his life. It was not enough that the book
was falling flat, and that all their hopes were collapsing; a new
and most terrible calamity befell them. For three months now they
had been dissolved in the bliss of their young dream of love; and
now suddenly had come a thunderbolt, splitting the darkness about
them, and revealing the grim hand of Fate closing down!
For several years of her life Corydon had carried a trying
burden--once each month she would have to lie down for three or four
days and be a semi-invalid. And last month this had not happened;
the time had come and gone, and she was as well as ever. She had
told Thyrsis about it, and how it disturbed her; it might mean
nothing, it had happened several times before to her; but then
again--it might mean that she had conceived.
The idea had been too frightful to contemplate, however, and they
had put it aside. It was not possible--the doctor had told them how
to prevent it; he had told them that "everybody" did it, and that
they could feel safe.
But now came the second month; and Corydon, filled with a vague
terror, waited for the day. And horrible beyond all telling--the day
came and went once more! And two days came--three days! And so
finally Corydon went to see the doctor.
When she came home again, and entered the room, Thyrsis saw it all
in her face, without her uttering a word. He went sick, all at once;
and Corydon sank down upon the bed.
"Well?" he asked, in a hoarse voice.
"It's true," she said.
"And what did he say?"
"He said--he said I was in splendid shape, and that I would have a
And Thyrsis stared at her, and then suddenly burst into wild
laughter, and hid his head in his arms. Such was their mood that she
could not feel sure whether he was laughing or crying.
Now, indeed, they were facing the reality of life. All the problems
with which they had ever wrestled were as child's play to this
problem; they could sit and read the deadly terror in each other's
eyes. Corydon's lip was trembling, and her face was white and drawn
and old. So swiftly had fled her young dream of joy!
"Thyrsis," she said, in a low voice, "it means ruin!"
"Yes," he answered.
And she clenched her hands tightly. "I will kill myself first!" she
whispered. "I will not drag you down!"
He made no reply.
"Listen, Thyrsis," she went on. "There is only one thing to be
thought of. I must get rid of it."
"Get rid of it?" he echoed. "How?"
"I don't know," she said. "But women often do it."
"I've heard of it," he replied. "But isn't it dangerous?"
"I don't know," she said, "and I don't care."
There was a pause.
"Why don't you ask the doctor?" he inquired.
"The doctor? There was no use us asking him, Thyrsis."
"Because--he doesn't understand. He likes babies. That's his
They argued this. But in the end Thyrsis resolved that he must see
the doctor himself. He must see him if it was only to pour out his
anguish. It was the doctor's fault that this fearful accident had
But the boy soon saw that it was as Corydon had said, there was
nothing to be gained in that quarter. Babies were indeed the
doctor's business; they were the business of the whole world, from
his point of view. People got married to have babies; they were in
the world to have babies, and anything else was just nonsense.
Nowadays babies were the only excuse that people had for
living--their morality began and ended with them. Moreover, babies
were fine in themselves; they were beautiful and fat and jolly. The
pagan old gentleman sang a very paean in praise of babies--the
more of them there were, the more laughter upon earth.
Also, having them was the business of women--that, and not reading
German poetry and playing the piano. They all made a little fuss at
the outset, but then they submitted, and they soon found that Nature
knew more than they. Babies completed women's lives, they settled
their nerves; they gave them something to think about, and saved
them from hysteria and extravagance and sentimentalism, and all the
rest of the ills of the hour.
Then the doctor fixed his keen eyes upon him. "Are you and Corydon
thinking about an abortion?" he demanded.
"I--I don't know," stammered Thyrsis. The word sounded ugly.
"I got that impression from her," said the other. "And now let me
tell you--if you do that, it'll be something you'll never forgive
yourself for as long as you live. In the first place, you may lose
your wife. It's a very dangerous thing, and a woman is seldom the
same after it. You might make it impossible for her ever to have a
child again, and so blast her whole life. You'll have to trust her
in the hands of some vile scoundrel--you understand, of course, that
it's a crime?"
"I suppose so," said Thyrsis.
"It's a crime not only against the law--it's a crime against God.
And it's the curse of our age!"
There was a pause.
"What's the matter with Corydon, anyway?" demanded the doctor.
"She's so young!" cried Thyrsis.
"Nonsense! She's nineteen now, isn't she? And she couldn't be in
"But she's so undeveloped--mentally, I mean."
"There's nothing in the world will develop her like maternity. And
can't you see that she wants the baby?"
"Wants it!" shouted Thyrsis.
"Why, of course! She's dead in love with you, boy. And she wants the
baby! Why shouldn't she have it?"
"If I could only make you understand--" protested Thyrsis, feebly.
"Yes!" exclaimed the doctor. "That's what they all say! Not a day
passes that some woman doesn't sit in this office and say it! Each
case is different from any other case that ever was or could be.
They tell me how much they suffer, and what a state their nerves are
in, and how busy they are, and how poor they are--their social duties,
and their artistic duties, and their religious duties, and their
philanthropic duties! And they weep and wring their hands, and tell me
agonizing stories, and they offer me any sum I could ask--many a time
I might earn a thousand dollars by something that wouldn't take me
ten minutes, if only I didn't have a conscience!--Go away, boy, and
get those ideas out of your head!"
Section 4. So Thyrsis went away, with a new realization of the
seriousness of his position, with a new sense of the grip in which
he was fast. It was a conspiracy of Nature, a conspiracy of all the
world! It was a Snare!
All through this love-adventure, even when most under the sway of
his emotions, Thyrsis' busy mind had been groping and reaching for
an understanding of it. Little by little this had come to him--and
now the picture was complete. He had beheld the last scene of the
panorama; he had got to the moral of the tale!
He had been the sport of cosmic forces, of the blind and
irresistible reproductive impulse of Nature. Step by step he had
been driven, he had played his part according to the plan. He had
hesitated and debated and resolved and decided--thinking that he had
something to do with it all! But now he looked back, and saw himself
as a leaf swept along by a torrent. And all the while the torrent
had known its destination! He had had many plans and many purposes,
but always Nature had had but one plan and one purpose--which was
Twelve months ago Thyrsis had been a boy, carefree and happy, rapt
in his dream of art; and now here he was, a married man, with the
cares of parenthood on his shoulders! If anyone had told him that a
trick could be played upon him, he would have laughed at them. How
confident he had been--how certain of his mastery of life! And now
he was in the Snare!
Dismayed as he was, Thyrsis could not but smile as he realized it.
The artist in him appreciated the technique of the performance. How
cunningly it had all been managed--how cleverly the device had been
hidden how shrewdly the bait had been selected!
He went back over the adventure. What a fuss he and Corydon had made
about it! What a vast amount of posturing and preluding, of backing
and filling! And how solemnly they had taken it--how earnestly they
had believed in the game! What convictions had weighed upon them,
what exaltations had thrilled them--two pitiful little puppets, set
here and there by unseen hands! Rehearsing from prologue to curtain
the age-long drama, the drama of Sex that had been played from the
beginning of the world!
He marvelled at the prodigality that Nature had displayed--at the
treasures she had squandered to accomplish her purpose! She would
create a million eggs to make one salmon; and she had created a
million emotions to make one baby! What poems she had written for
them--what songs she had composed for them! She had emptied the
cornucopiae of her gifts into their lap! She had strewn the pathway
with roses before them, she had filled their mouths with honey, and
their ears with the sound of sweet music; she had blinded them, she
had stunned them, she had sent them drunken and reeling to their
And the elaborate set of pretenses and illusions that she had
invented for them! The devices to lull their suspicions--the virtues
and renunciations, the humilities and the consecrations! Corydon
had been frightened and evasive; Nature had made him suffer, so as
to break her down! And he had been proud and defiant; and so
Corydon, the meek and gentle, had been turned into a heroine of
revolt! Nay, worse than that; those very powers and supremacies that
he had thought were his protection--were they not, also, a part of
the Snare? His culture and his artistry, his visions and his
exaltations--what had they been but a lure for the female? The iris
of the burnished dove, the ruff about the grouse's neck, the gold
and purple of the butterfly's wing! Even his genius, his miraculous,
ineffable genius--that had been the plume of the partridge, the
crowning glory before which his mate had capitulated!
These images came to Thyrsis, until he burst into wild, sardonic
laughter. He saw himself in new and grotesque lights; he was the
peacock, spreading his gorgeousness before a dazzled and wondering
world; he was the young rooster, strutting before his mate, and
thrilling with the knowledge of his own importance! He was each of
the barnyard creatures by turn, and Corydon was each of the
fascinated females. And somewhere, perhaps, stood the farmer,
smiling complacently--for should there not be somewhere a farmer in
this universal barnyard?
But then, the laughter died; for he thought of Maeterlinck's "Life
of the Bee", and shuddered at the fate of the male-creature. He was
a mere accident in the scheme of Nature--she wasted all his
splendors to accomplish the purpose of an hour. And now it had been
accomplished. He had had his moment of ecstasy, his dizzy flight
into the empyrean; and now behold him falling, disembowelled and
torn, an empty shell!
But no--it was not quite that way, Thyrsis told himself, after
further reflection. In the human hive the male creature was not only
the bearer of the seed he was also the worker. And so there was one
more function he had to perform. All those fine frenzies of his, his
ideals and his enthusiasms--they had served their purpose, and would
fade; but before him there was still a future--a drab and dreary
future of perpetual pot-boiling!
He recalled their bridal-night. All that had puzzled him in it and
startled him--how clear it was now! Corydon had shrunk from him,
just enough to lure him; and then, suddenly, her whole being had
seemed to change--she had caught him, and held him fast. For he had
accomplished her purpose; he had gotten her with child! And so he
must stand by her--he must bring her food, that she might give the
child life! And for that purpose she would hold him; for that she
would use every art of which she was mistress--the whole force of
her being would go into it!
She would not know this, of course; she would do it blindly and
instinctively, as she had done everything so far. She would do it by
those same generous and beautiful qualities that had made him hers!
Therein lay the humor of his whole adventure--there lay the deadly
nature of this Snare. The cords of it were woven out of love and
tenderness, out of ecstasy and aspiration; and they were wound about
his very heart-strings, so that it would kill him to pull them
loose. And he would never pull them loose--he saw that in a sudden
vision of ruin! She would be noble to the uttermost limit of
nobleness. She would threaten to destroy herself--and so he would
save her! She would bid him cast her away--and so he would stand by
her to the end! And the end would be simply the withering and
shrivelling of those radiant qualities which he called his
genius--qualities which were so precious to him, but about which
Nature knew nothing!
So grim an aspect had life come to wear to this boy of twenty-one!
He stripped all the flesh of illusion from its fair face, and saw
the grinning skull beneath. And he mocked at himself, because of all
those virtues by which he had been caught--and which yet he knew
were stronger than his will. Through faith and love he had been made
a captive; and through faith and love would he waste away and
Section 5. Meantime, Corydon was prosecuting an inquiry into these
matters upon her own account, and getting at quite other points of
view. There were some, it seemed, who took this game less seriously
than she and Thyrsis; and these managed to go free--they broke the
cords of the Snare, they slipped between the fingers of the hand of
Fate. Corydon had heard a certain scientist refer to man as
"Nature's insurgent son"; and now came the discovery that Nature had
insurgent daughters also.
Being in an "interesting condition," Corydon was entitled to the
confidences of the married women acquaintances of the family. They
were eager to know all about her, and what she was going to do; and
they told her their own experiences. She brought these to Thyrsis,
who was thus admitted to a view of the inner workings of the
It was as the doctor had said; each one of these middle-class ladies
considered herself a special case, but their stories all seemed to
fit together. Nature's boundless and irrational fecundity was an
exceedingly trying feature of the life of middle-class ladies. In
the first place, the having of babies was a tedious and painful
matter. One became grotesquely disfigured, and had to hide away and
sever all social relationships. One lost one's grace and
attractiveness, and hence the power to hold one's husband. And then,
there were all the cares and the inconveniences of children. What
was one to do with them, in a city where the best hotels and
apartment-houses barred them out?
Then, too, even supposing the best of intentions--there was the
cost of living. At present prices it was impossible for a man who
had only a salary to support more than one or two children; and with
prices increasing as they were, one could not be sure of educating
even these. And meanwhile, the Nature of Things had apparently
planned it that a woman should bear a child once a year for half her
So all these middle-class ladies used devices to prevent conception.
But these were not always successful--husbands were frequently
inconsiderate. And so came the abortion-business, which the doctor
had described as the curse of the age.
Now and then one could accomplish the thing by some of the
innumerable drugs that were advertised for the purpose. But these
always made one ill, and seldom did anything else. Corydon met one
young person, the wife of a rising stockbroker, who had presented
her husband with twins in the first year of their marriage, and who
declared that she was apparently designed to populate all the
tenements in the city. This airy and vivacious young lady lay back
in her automobile and prattled to Corydon, declaring that she was
"always in trouble." She had tried to coax her family physician in
vain, and had finally gone elsewhere. She had got quite used to the
experience. All that troubled her nowadays was how to make excuses
to her friends. one could not have "appendicitis" forever!
But there was another side to the matter. There was one woman who
had had a hemorrhage; and another whose sister had contracted
blood-poisoning, and had died in agony. There were even some who
pleaded and exhorted like the doctor, and talked about the thing's
being murder. All of which arguments and fears Corydon brought to
her husband, to be pondered and discussed.
They spent whole days wandering about in the park in agony of soul.
They had one brief month in which to decide the question--the
question of life or death to the possible child. Truly here, once
more, was an issue to which Thyrsis might apply the words af
"Choose well, your choice is
Brief and yet endless!"
Section 6. This was also the month in which the fate of the book was
decided. Each day, as he went for the mail, Thyrsis' heart would
beat high with expectation; and each day he would be chilled with
bitter disappointment. He was still hoping for a real review, or for
some signs of the book's "catching on". Nor did he finally give up
until he chanced to have a talk about it with his friend, Mr.
Ardsley; who explained to him that here, too, he had fallen into a
His "publishers" were not really publishers at all. They did not
make their profit by selling books--they made it out of authors.
There were many vain and foolish people who wrote books which they
were anxious to see in print, so that they might be known as
literary lights among their friends. Many of them had money, and
would buy a number of copies; and the "publishers" had the expenses
guaranteed in advance and so would make a profit upon the sale of
even one or two hundred copies. All this being well known, the
reviews never paid any attention to the announcements of this
concern, nor did "the trade" handle their books. As for Thyrsis'
volume, they had printed it very cheaply--it was to be doubted if it
had cost them what he had paid them. And they had even published it
as a "net price" book--thereby taking three cents more off the
royalty to which he was entitled!
Mr. Ardsley had declared that he would be lucky if his book sold
three hundred copies; and so he felt that it was quite a tribute to
the merits of his work when, after six months more of waiting, he
received a royalty statement from the concern showing a sale of
seven hundred and forty-three copies, and enclosing a check for
eight-nine dollars and sixteen cents. This check Thyrsis paid over
to his rich relative, and a week or two later, when he sold a short
story, he sent the balance of the hundred dollars that he owed. And
so he figured that the privilege of writing his first book and
offering it to the hundred great men of letters of the country, had
cost him the sum of one hundred and thirty-five dollars and
Meantime, of course, Thyrsis was hearing from these great men of
letters. When he counted up at the end he found that he had received
replies from sixteen of them; whether the other eighty-four received
his book, or what they did with it, he never knew. Of these sixteen,
six wrote formal acknowledgements, and two others said that they
found nothing to appeal to them in his book; so there were left
eight who gave him comfort, Several of these were among the really
vital men of the time, as Thyrsis found out later, when he came to
read their books, and to know them as something other than newspaper
names. Several of them wrote him long and really helpful criticisms
of his work, recognizing the merits he knew it had, and pointing out
defects which he was quick to acknowledge. Four of them even told
him that he had undoubted genius, and predicted great things for
him. But that was as far as any of them went. They wrote their
opinions, and there they stopped, as if at a blank wall. No one
among them seemed to feel that he could take any action upon his
opinion, however favorable; not one comprehended that what the boy
was groping for was neither praise nor blame, but a chance for life.
Not one had any advice of a practical sort to offer; not one had any
personal or human thing to say; not one even asked to see him! And
lest this should be due to oversight, or to false delicacy, Thyrsis
wrote, in his desperation, and reminded them that the "genius" they
recognized was being killed by starvation. To this, one did not
reply, and another advised him to take up newspaper work, as "a
means of getting in touch with the public"!
It was a ghastly thing to the boy as he came to realize it--this
utter deadness and coldness of "the world". Thyrsis himself was all
afire with love--with love, not only for his vision and his art, but
for all humanity, and for humanity's noblest dreams. His friends
were poets and sages of past time, men of generous faith and quick
sympathies; and in all the world of the living, was there not one
such man to be found? Was there nothing left upon earth but critical
discernment and epistolary politeness?
The question pursued him still more, after the one interview which
resulted from all this correspondence. There was a distinguished
Harvard professor who had told him that he had rare powers and must
go on; and hearing that the professor was in New York, Thyrsis asked
the privilege of calling.
It was in one of the city's most expensive hotels--for the
professor had married a rich wife, and was what people called
"socially prominent". The other did not know this; but it seemed an
awful thing to him that anyone should be sitting in a brocaded
silk-covered chair in a palace of luxury like this, while possessed
of the knowledge that his genius was starving.
"You tell me to go on, professor," he said. "But how _can_ I go on?"
The professor was fingering his gold eyeglasses and studying his
"You must get some kind of routine work," he declared--"enough to
support you. You can't expect to live by your writing."
"But if I do that, I can't write!" cried Thyrsis.
"You'll have to do the best you can," said the other.
"But I can't do _anything!_ The emotions of it eat me all up. I
daren't even let myself think about my work when I have to do other
"I should think," commented the professor, "that you would find you
are still more hindered by the uncertainties of hack-work."
"I do find that," the boy replied. "That is just what is the matter
"I'm afraid you'll be forced to a compromise in the end."
"But I won't! I won't!" cried Thyrsis, wildly. "I will starve
The other said nothing.
"Or I will beg!" added Thyrsis.
The other's look clouded slightly--as the boy, with his quick
sensitiveness, noted instantly. "Of course," said the professor, "if
you are not ashamed to do that--"
"But why should I be ashamed? Greater men than I have begged for
"Yes. I know that. And naturally--I honor that feeling in you. If
you have that much fervor--why, of course, you will do it. But I'm
afraid you'll find it a humiliating experience."
"I wouldn't expect to find it a picnic," answered Thyrsis, and took
his departure--having perceived that the professor's leading thought
was a fear lest he should begin his begging that day.
So there it was! There was the eminent critic, the writer of
exquisite appreciations of literature! The darling of the salons of
Boston--which called itself the Athens of America and the hub of the
universe! A man with a brain full of all the culture of the
ages--and with the heart of a mummy and the soul of a snob! He had
approved of Thyrsis' consecration with his lips--because he did not
dare to disapprove it, because the ghosts of a thousand paupers of
genius had stood over him and awed him into silence. But in his
secret heart he had despised this wan and haggard boy who threatened
to beg; and the boy went out of the palace of luxury, feeling like
an outcast rat.
Section 7. From this interview Thyrsis went to meet Corydon in the
park; and after he had told her what had happened, they began one
more discussion of their great problem. This had to be the final
one; for the month of respite had passed, and the time for action
Through their long arguments, Thyrsis had gradually come to realize
that the decision rested with him. Corydon was in his hands; she had
become a burden upon him, and she would rather she were dead; and so
he had to take the responsibility and issue the command. So through
many an hour while Corydon slept he had marshalled the facts and
tested them, hungering with all his soul for knowledge of the right.
To bring a child into the world would shatter every plan they had
formed. And yet, again and again, he forced himself to face the
idea. They had always meant to have children ultimately; and now the
gift was offered--and suppose they rejected it, and it should never
be offered again! However unpropitious the hour might be, still the
hour was here--the task was already one-third done. And if there
were cares and responsibilities, expenses and pains of child-birth--at
least they would be for a child; whereas, in the other case, there
were also cares and responsibilities, expenses and pains--and for
Throughout all this long pilgrimage of love, Thyrsis had been struck
by the part which blind chance had played. It was blind chance that
had brought Corydon to the country where he had gone. It was blind
chance that he had read his book to her. And then--the chance that
he had gone to see a doctor about diet! And that dark accident in
the night, that had opened the gates of life to a new human soul!
And now, strangest of all--the chance by which this last issue was
to be decided! By a walk in the park, and a casual meeting with a
"God knows I want to do what is right!" Thyrsis had said. "But I
just don't know what to say!"--And then they sat down upon a bench,
and the nurse-maid came and sat beside them.
It was five or ten minutes before Thyrsis noted what was going on.
He was lost in his sombre brooding, his eyes fixed upon vacancy;
when suddenly he heard Corydon exclaim: "Isn't he a little love!" He
turned to look.
The nurse-maid was in charge of a carriage, and in the carriage was
a baby; and the baby was smiling at Corydon, and Corydon was smiling
back. She was poking her finger at it, and it was catching at the
finger with its chubby paws. "Isn't he a little love!" Corydon
Thyrsis stared at her. But then, quickly, he hid his thought. He
even pretended to be interested.
"Isn't he pretty?" she asked him.
Now as a matter of fact he seemed to Thyrsis to be quite
conspicuously ugly. He had red hair, and a flat nose, and was
altogether lacking in aristocratic attributes. But Thyrsis answered
promptly, "Yes, dear," and continued to watch.
And Corydon continued to play. Apparently she knew something about
babies--how to amuse them and how to handle them, and had even heard
rumors about how to feed them. She was asking questions of the
nurse-maid, and displaying interest--Thyrsis would have been no more
amazed had he found her in converse with a Chaldean astrologer. For
a full quarter of an hour she had managed to forget her agonies of
spirit, and to play with a baby!
They got up to go. "You like babies, don't you, dearest?" asked
Thyrsis, as they walked.
"Why, yes," she said.
And then there was a silence, while he pondered. Here, he perceived
in a flash, was the great hand of Nature again!
Since the first day of their marriage Thyrsis had been haunted by
the sense of a dark shadow hanging over them, of a seed of tragedy
in their love. He had his great task to do, and Corydon could not do
it with him. The long road of his art-pilgrimage stretched out
before him; and some day he must take his staff and go.
And now here, of a sudden, was the solution of the problem! The
answer to the riddle of all their disharmonies! Let Corydon have her
baby--and then he might have his books! As he pondered, there came
to him the words of the old doctor--"She wants that baby!"
So before he reached home, his mind was made up. Cost what it might,
she should have the baby. But he would not tell her his reason--that
must be a secret between himself and Mother Nature. And then it
seemed to him that he could hear Mother Nature laughing behind her
curtain--and laughing not only at Corydon, but at him. He recalled
with a twinge all his earlier cynicism, his biological bitterness;
he had taken up the burden of his virtues again!
Section 8. In many ways this decision, once arrived at, was a relief
to them. It lifted the weight of a great fear from their lives; it
gave them six months more of respite--and in six months, what might
not Thyrsis be able to do? He had been toiling incessantly at his
hack-work, and had saved nearly ninety dollars, which would be
enough to keep them going until his new book was written.
This book was now fairly seething in him. A wonderful thing it was
to be, far beyond his first; in the beauty of it and the glow of it
he was forgetting all his disappointments, all the mockeries of fate
and the hardness of the world. If only he could get _this_ book
done, then surely he would be saved, then surely men would be forced
to give him a chance!
So he waited not a moment after the decision was made; he even
blamed himself for having waited so long. From the "higher regions"
there had come a windfall in the shape of two railroad-passes; and a
couple of days later they stepped out upon the depot-platform of a
little town upon the shore of Lake Ontario.
Oh, the joy of being in the country again! The smell of the
newly-plowed earth, the sight of the spring-time verdure; and then
the first glimpse of the lake, with its marvellous clear-green
water, and the fresh cold breeze that blew from off it! There was
challenge and adventure in that air--Thyrsis thought of argonauts
and old sea-rovers, and his soul was stirred to high resolves. He
took deep breaths of delight, and clenched his hands, and imagined
that he was at his book already.
They found a second-hand tent which could be bought for eight
dollars; four dollars more would pay for the lumber, and so they
would live rent-free for the next five months! They went far down
the shore of the lake, looking for a place to camp, and picked out a
rocky headland, a mile from the nearest farmhouse, and completely
out of sight of all the world. The rich woman who owned it was in
Europe, but the agent gave permission; and then Thyrsis looked at
his watch and made a wild suggestion--"Let's get settled this
"Why, it's nearly three o'clock!" cried Corydon. "It'll be dark!"
"There'll be a moon," he replied, "and we can work all night if want
"But suppose it should rain!"
"I don't see any signs of it. And what's the use of spending a night
in the town, and wasting all that money?"
And so it was decided. They went to the store and purchased their
housekeeping equipment. What a sense of power and prosperity it gave
them as they made their selection--two canvas-cots and two pairs of
blankets, a lamp and an oil-can and a tiny oil-stove, two water-
buckets and an axe and a wash-basin, a camp-stool and a hammock and
a box full of groceries! They got a team to carry all this, in
addition to their lumber and their trunks. They stopped at a
farm-house, and arranged to get their milk and eggs and bread and
vegetables, and also to borrow a hammer and saw; and then till after
sundown Thyrsis toiled at the building of the platform and the
cutting of stakes and poles for the tent.
Corydon fried some bacon and heated a can of corn, and they had a
marvellous and incredible supper. Afterwards they raised the tent,
and she held the poles erect while Thyrsis tied the guy-ropes. They
had been advised to choose a sheltered place, back in the woods; but
they were all for adventure and a view of the water, and so they
were out on the open point. There were pine-trees, however, and
Thyrsis had strong ropes with which to anchor the tent fast. When he
finished, about ten o'clock at night, he stood off and admired the
job by the light of the moon, and declared that a storm might tear
the tent to pieces, but could never blow it over.
They hauled in their trunks and the rest of their belongings, and
set up the cots and spread the blankets. Then by the light of the
oil-lamp they gazed about.
"Oh, Thyrsis," she cried, "isn't it glorious!"
"It's our home," he said. "A home we made all for ourselves!"
"And a home without a landlady!" she added.
"And with no saloon underneath!" said he. "And no street-cars and no
screaming children in front of it!"
Instead there was the night with its thousand eyes, and the lake,
with the moon-fire flung wide across it, and the pine-trees singing
in the wind.
"Brr! it's cold!" exclaimed Corydon.
"We'll have to sleep with our clothes on for a while," said he. And
yet they laughed aloud in glee. "It's all we want!"
"It's all we ever could want!" declared Corydon. "Oh, let's work
hard and earn money enough, so that we can stay here beneath the
open sky, and not have to go back into slavery!"
Then, in the morning, the joy of a plunge in the icy lake, and of a
run in the woods, and of breakfast eaten in the warm sunlight! There
was much work still to be done; Thyrsis had to build a stand of
shelves and a table for the tent, and a table and a bench outside;
and then all their belongings had to be unpacked and set in order.
Such fun as they had laying out the imaginary partitions in their
house; two bedrooms and a library, a kitchen and a pantry--and all
outdoors for a living-room!
They would count this the beginning of their love; at last they were
free to love, and to be happy as they chose. There was no longer
anyone to criticize them scarcely anyone to know about them; their
only contact with the world was when they went for the mail and for
provisions. They learned that the washer-woman who came for their
clothes was ashamed for the poverty in which they lived, and that
some of the neighbors suspected them of being oil-smugglers; on two
occasions came sheriffs from distant counties to compare Thyrsis
with the photographs and descriptions of long-sought bank-burglars
and murderers. But although Thyrsis had often declared that he would
rob a bank to secure his freedom to work, he had not yet done it,
and so these experiences only added piquancy to their adventure.
It was a life such as might have been lived in the Garden of Eden.
They cooked and ate and studied out doors, in a sunny glade when it
was cool, and in the shade of a great oak-tree when it was warm.
They wandered about in the forest, they bathed naked in the crystal
lake--diving from the rocky headland, and afterwards standing upon
it and drying themselves in the sun. Corydon was now free to fling
away the conventionalities which had hampered her in the city; by
way of signalizing her enfranchisement she cut short her hair--that
untamed, rebellious hair which had taken so long to dry and to braid
and to keep in order!
So they lived, in daily touch with the great heart of Nature. They
saw the sun rise on one side of the rocky headland, and set upon the
other; they watched the great storms sweep across the lake, and the
lightnings stab into the water. Sometimes, at night, the gale would
shake their tent until they could not be sure if it was wind or
thunder; but the stays held fast, and they slept untroubled. And
then the storm would pass, and in the morning there would be the
lake, sparkling in the sunlight; and the sky, clear as crystal, with
the white gulls wheeling about, and grey-blue herons standing near
There were bass to be caught from the rocky point. "So we must have
at least one meal of fish every day," declared Thyrsis.
"I'm willing," said Corydon--"if you'll catch them."
"And then, there are lots of squirrels about."
"Squirrels!" cried she.
"Yes. I can knock one over with a stone now and then--you'll see."
"But, Thyrsis! To eat them!"
"Did you ever taste one?" he laughed.
"But it's cruel!" she exclaimed; and he thought to himself, How like
the little Corydon of old!
"Wait till I've skinned him and fried him in bacon grease," he
And even so it proved. Corydon was troubled by the crisp little toes
turned up in the air, but when these had been cut off, she yielded
to the allurements of odor and taste. "I'm nothing but a digesting
machine nowadays!" she lamented.
To which Thyrsis replied in the words of the village-girl in
"Faust," "'She feeds two when she eats!'"
They had been obliged to give up their attempt to live on prunes and
turnips. For the doctor had warned them that Corydon must have
plenty of "good nourishing food"; and this warning was backed up by
all her women acquaintances--and also by Corydon's own inner voices.
The appetite that she developed was appalling to them--not only as
to quantity but as to quality. She would find herself unable to eat
anything they had in their pantry, and with a craving for the
wildest and most impossible things; or she would not know what she
wanted--and would travel to the store and gaze about at the
provisions, until a sudden illumination came. Sometimes she would be
so hungry for it that she could not wait to get home, but would sit
down by the road-side and devour the contents of the market-basket.
To these cravings she yielded religiously, because she had been told
that they represented vital needs of her system. Some one had told
her an appalling tale about a pregnant woman who had been possessed
by a desire for bananas; and because she had not gratified it, the
baby when born had cried for five weeks--until they had fed it a
These strange experiences lent new interest to their intimacy. They
went through all the journey of maternity together. Pretty soon the
changes in her body began to be noticeable; and day by day they
would watch these. How wonderful it all was, how incredible! Thyrsis
would sink upon his knees before her, and clasp his arms about her
and laugh "She's going to have a little baby!" And Corydon would
blush and protest; she did not like to be teased about it--she was
still only half reconciled to it. "I'm only a child myself!" she
would cry. "I've no education--nothing! And I'm not fit for it!"
Then he would have to comfort her, telling her that life was long,
and that the child would be something to study.
They discussed the weighty question of the name which they should
give the child. In this, as in other matters, they were without
precedents and limitations, and they found that excess of freedom is
sometimes an embarrassment. They were impelled towards literary
reminiscence; and Thyrsis soon realized that this was a matter in
which the sensuous temperament would have to have its way. "After
all," argued Corydon, "to you a name is a name. If you can call the
baby and have it answer, isn't that all you care about?"
"Yes," he assented, "I suppose so; if the name's too unhandy for
calling, I can have a nickname."
To Corydon, on the other hand, a name was a vital thing; a child
that was lovely under one name might be unendurable under another.
She had been reading Ossian, and the poems of the neo-Celtic
enthusiasts; so after much pondering and consultation she announced
that Cedric and Eileen were the two names from which they would
Section 9. Many moods of tenderness came to them. He loved to fondle
her, to exchange endearments with her. They gave each other foolish
names, after the fashion of lovers the world over; and they would go
on to modify these names, and add prefixes and suffixes, until the
most ingenious philologist could not have figured out where the
names had started. They made new words, also; they invented a whole
language for use in these times of illumination, and which Thyrsis
denoted by the name of "dam-fool talk".
One was always discovering new qualities in Corydon. She had as many
moods as the lake by which they lived, and it seemed to him that
with each mood her whole personality changed--she would even look
like another being. There was the every-day Corydon, demure, and
rather silent; and then there was the Corydon who lived in the arms
of Nature--who swam in the water, a sister of the mermaids, and made
herself drunken with the sunlight; and then would come a mood of
mischief, and laughter would break from her, and her wit would be
such that Thyrsis would sigh for a stenographer. She would make
herself a Grecian costume out of a sheet, and dance to music of her
own making; or she would put trinkets upon her forehead, and be a
gypsy-queen--she could be anything that was wild and exotic and
unpremeditated. She had dances for that mood also--she would laugh
and caper as merrily as any young witch. But then, again, there
would come the Corydon of melancholy and despair; her features would
shrink up, her face would become peaked and pitiful, she would seem
like a child of ten. Sometimes Thyrsis could laugh her out of such a
mood by telling her of her "beady black eyes"; and she did not like
to desecrate her eyes.
And now there was a new Corydon--the Corydon who had been chosen of
the Lord, the worker of a miracle. This gave new awe to her
presence, it set a crown upon her forehead. One morning, in mid-
summer, they had come out from their bath, and she stood upon the
rock in the sunshine; and suddenly he saw her give a start, and
stand transfixed, staring in front of her.
"What is it?" he asked.
Her voice thrilled as she whispered, "Thyrsis! It moved!"
"Moved?" he echoed.
"I felt the child move!" she cried.
And so he came and put his hands upon her body, and together they
stood waiting, breathless, as if listening for a far-off sound.
"There! There!" she cried. "Did you feel it?"
Yes, he had felt it. And in all his life had he ever felt anything
stranger? The first sign of the new life that was to be--the first
hail out of the darkness of nonentity! And truly, to hear that hail
was to be rapt into regions of wonder unspeakable!
It was to be a new human soul; a creature like themselves, with a
mind of its own, and a sense of responsibility--It would be a man
or a woman, independent, self-creating, and knowing naught about
this strange inception. And yet, it would be their life also; they
had caused it--but for them it would never have been! Blindly,
unwittingly, following the guidance of some power greater than
themselves, they had called it into being. And in some mysterious
and incredible way it would share their qualities; it would be a
blending of their natures, a symbol of their union, of the strange
fire that had blazed up in them and fused them together. Truly, had
they not come here to the essence of love, that great blind force
which had ruled and guided all things from Time's beginning?
They had come to the very making of life, it seemed. And yet, they
wondered--were they really there? This new soul that was to be--had
they in truth created it? Or had it existed before this? And whence
did it come? If it was really the dignified and divine thing that it
would someday imagine itself to be, was it not uncanny that it
should have come thus--a nameless, half-human, half-animal thing,
kicking inside the body of a woman?
It was Being, in all its ineffable mystery, its monstrous and
unendurable strangeness. They lived face to face with it, they saw a
thousand aspects of it. Sometimes Corydon would be obsessed with the
sense of the sheer weight she carried; a burden fastened upon her
and not to be got rid of--an imposition and torment to her. Then
again, she would see herself in grotesque and even comical
lights--as akin to all the animals, a cousin of the patient cow. And
then would come a moment of sudden wonder, when she would be
transfigured, a being divine, conferring the boon of life upon
It was in this last way that Thyrsis thought of her. There was about
her a sense of brooding mystery, as of one who walks in the midst of
supernatural presences. She would sit for hours gazing before her,
like Joan of Arc listening to her voices; and he would be touched
with awe, and would kiss her tenderly and with reverence.
This brought new meanings into their love, new meanings into his
life; he would clench his hands and vow afresh his battle with the
world. How hideous a thing it was that at this time she should be
tormented by fears of want and failure! That she should have to go
without comforts, that she should even fear to ask for necessities
--because she knew how fast his little store of money was going!
Other women had children, and they did not have to be haunted by the
doubt if it was right to have them, if there would be any place for
them in the world. And some of these were selfish and idle women,
too--and yet they had everything they needed! And here was Corydon,
beautiful and noble, the very soul of devotion--Corydon must be
harrowed and tortured! He did not really mind the world's treatment
of himself, but for this treatment of her--ah, someday the world
should pay for that! Someday it should do penance for its mockery
and its blindness, that had been a blasphemy against the holy spirit
At such times as this he would put his arms about her, and try to
whisper something of the pity and grief that filled his heart. He
would try to tell her how much he really loved her, how utterly he
was devoted to her. Some day she should have her rights, some day he
would repay her for all that she had dared for him. And then the
tears would come into Corydon's eyes, and she would answer that she
feared nothing and cared about nothing, so long as she had his love.
Section 10. After these things, Thyrsis would go at his book again.
He would go at it doggedly, desperately. He had scarcely taken time
to get settled in the tent and to get their housekeeping régime
under way, before he had heard the call of the book and wandered
away to wrestle with it. The writing of it was a matter of life and
death with him now--of life and death, not only for himself, and for
Corydon, but for the unborn soul as well. His money would last him
only six or eight weeks, and then he would have to take to
pot-boiling again. So every hour was precious; this time there could
be no blundering permitted.
Thyrsis was not writing now about minstrels and princesses; he was
not painting enraptured pictures of joy and love. The pain of life
had become too real to him. His six months of contact with the world
had filled him with bitterness; and he was forging a sharp spear,
that he could drive into the heart of folly and stupidity.
It was the story of Hathawi, the dreamer, which he had come upon in
a Hindoo legend. "The Hearer of Truth," was to be the title of the
book; and for it Thyrsis was working out a new style. In the
original it had been a fanciful tale; but he meant to take it over
to the world of everyday reality, to give it the atmosphere of utter
verihood. He meant to use a style of biblical simplicity, bare of
all ornament, dealing with the most elemental things. And this might
seem easy, but in reality it was the hardest thing in the world--it
was like blank verse. One might toil all day for a single phrase
into which to pack one's meaning.
He wished to show Hathawi from the beginning; the solitary child,
the seer of life's mystery, who went away into a lonely place to
brood. He dwelt in the high mountains, where the lightning played
and the storm-winds shook him; he disciplined his will by fasting
and prayer, so that the self in him died, and he could perceive
eternal things, and aspects of being that are hidden. He went into
the forests and dwelt with the wild things, and learned to
understand their language--not only their beauty and their power,
which are plain; not only their fears and their hatreds, which are
painful to discover; but also their love, which is deepest of all.
He learned to know the life which is in lifeless things--in water
and air and fire; the joys and sorrows of the flowers, and the
venerable wisdom of great trees, and the worship which is in the
floods of sunlight. And having learned these things, Hathawi came
back into the world.
He found that he was able to read the souls of men, but at first he
could not believe what he read--it was so terrible, and so far from
nature. He preferred to stay among the poor, because they were
closer to the heart of things, and their falsehoods were simple. But
he discovered that the evil and misery of men's life came from
above, and so he went into the "great world" to dwell.
And everywhere he went, men's innermost thoughts were revealed to
him, and to themselves through him. He acted upon men and women like
wine--an impulse seized them to speak the truth, the truth that they
had hidden even from their own hearts. Afterwards, when they
realized what they had done, they hated Hathawi and feared him; but
they said nothing, because each thought that the secret was his own.
But then, as his power grew, Hathawi began to reveal men in more
public ways, and a scandal arose. There was whispered a story of a
great statesman who had declared at a banquet what was his real work
in the world; and one day a bishop arose in his cathedral and said
that he taught the dogmas of his church, because they were necessary
to keep the people in subjection. Then came the famous episode of a
policeman who bade the prisoner go free and arrested the judge
instead. Other policemen were called upon to hinder their comrade,
but they declared that he was right; and then newspaper reporters,
when ordered to write about it, avowed that they would write only
what they believed. After which came a convention of one of the
great political parties; and the presidential candidate made a
speech, outlining his actual beliefs, and so destroyed his party.
This, of course, was a national calamity, for all statesmen declared
that the people could not be deceived by one party; and then, too,
it was reported that Hathawi meant to attend the convention of the
Because of this they shut him up in jail, charging him with being a
vagrant, which he undoubtedly was. But he won over all the jailers
and the prisoners to his doctrine, and so the jail was emptied.
Moreover, it was found that some of those who loved him most truly
had come to share his power of hearing truth. The madness was
spreading everywhere; agitators were busy among the people, and
public safety was threatened. So a certain very rich man, who in
Hathawi's presence had vowed himself a wolf, engaged an assassin to
strike him down in broad daylight upon the street.
Then in order to suppress the disturbance, they spirited the body
away and burned it, and scattered the ashes. But this was a bad
thing for them to do, for the ashes became seeds of the new
contagion, and all through the great city, in the strangest and most
unaccountable way, men would suddenly begin to speak the truth. And,
of course this made business impossible--the merchants and traders
had to move away; and how was it possible to preserve authority,
when sooner or later all the lawyers and the judges and the
politicians would speak truth? So the people arose and declared that
they were weary of lies, and they erected a statue of Hathawi at one
of the places where his ashes had fallen, and declared that every
candidate for office must make his speeches there. After that it was
a long time before there were any officials elected--because no man
could be found to whom prominence and power were not more precious
than public welfare. But meanwhile the people thrived exceedingly.
Finally, however--the climax of the story--the news of all this had
spread to other nations, and the rulers of these nations perceived
that it was anarchy, and could by no means be permitted--their own
people were threatening to rise. It must be clearly shown that a
state without a government would be plundered by enemies; and so
they prepared to plunder it. And so arose a great agitation in
Hathawi's home-state, and men called for a dictator, and for
preparations of defence. But the followers of Hathawi cried out,
saying, "Let us submit! Let us open our city to these men, and let
them do their will--for the power of the truth is greater than even
they." And so it was decided.
When the hostile rulers heard of this a great fear took possession
of them. They remembered the fate of certain famous diplomatists
they had already sent over; and they dared not trust themselves near
the statue of the Hearer of Truth. So their plans of invasion came
to naught; and among their own people there was laughter and bitter
mockery; and behold, one morning, a statue of Hathawi which some one
had set up in a public-square! Here the lovers of truth gathered by
thousands, and the soldiers who were sent to shoot them laid down
their arms and joined them; and so, all over the world, was the end
of the dominion of the lie.
Section 11. Such was the outline of Thyrsis' story. He judged that
it might be a very great story, or a comparatively commonplace
one--it all depended upon the power with which it was visioned. He
must get into himself and wrestle the thing out. This was to be his
act of creation--his baby!
It was the first time since his marriage that Thyrsis had tried
really to do what he called work. All things else had been mere
echoes of the work he had done the previous summer; but now he had
to do something new, something that was an echo of nothing else.
Every day that he faced the task, his agony and despair of soul grew
greater; for he found that he _could_ not do the work. He could not
even begin to do it--he could not even try to do it! He was
helpless, bound hand and foot!
It was not his fault, it was not Corydon's fault; it was a tragedy
inherent in the very nature of things--in the two natures that were
in himself. There was the man, who loved a woman, and hungered to
see her happy; and there was the artist, to whom solitude was the
very breath of life. To write this book--to write it really--he
would have to spend weeks of brooding over it, thinking about
nothing else day and night; he would have to shape his whole
existence to that end to be free from every distracting
circumstance, from everything that called him out of himself. And
how could he hope for such a thing, while he was living in a tent
with another person?
Thyrsis had his artist's standard of perfection. Of course, he could
never actually be satisfied with what he did; but at least he could
feel that it was the best he was equal to--he could get a real and
honest sense of exhaustion for himself. But now, the moment that he
faced the problem fairly, he saw he could never get that real and
honest sense of exhaustion again. He was dragged up to the issue and
forced to face it instantly. The pressure of circumstances upon him
was overwhelming; and he had to make up his mind to do something he
had never done before--instead of really writing his books, to do
the best he could with them!
Yet, inevitable as this was, and clearly as he saw it, he could not
make up his mind to it. In reality, he never did make up his mind to
it. He did it, and in his inmost heart he knew that he was doing it;
but all the time he was trying to deny it, was wrestling with agony
and despair in his soul in the effort to do something else.
He would go away in the morning and try to think about the book; and
just when he would get started, it would be time for dinner, and
there would be the image of Corydon waiting for him. And so he would
go home, and go back in the afternoon--and when he had got started
again, it would be dark. The next day, having explained his trouble,
he would take his lunch away with him; but in the forenoon there
would come a drenching thunder-storm, and he would have to go back
again. Or he would try to work in the tent at night; and the wind
would howl and blow the lamp so that he could not put his mind on
anything. Nor did it avail him to rail at himself, to tell himself
that he was a fool for being at the mercy of such mishaps. It was
none the less a fact that he was at the mercy of them, and that he
could no longer give himself up to the sway of his imagination.
And always there was Corydon, yearning for his companionship. It had
always been their idea that they should do the work together; so
completely would they be fused in the fire of love, that she would
share his soul states and write parts of his books. But now that
idea had to be abandoned; and this was _her_ tragedy.
"I have to sit and think of my health!" she would exclaim.
"It isn't your health, dear," he would plead; "it's the health of
"I know that. But then, am I always to sit at home and be placid,
while you go away to wrestle with the angels?"
"Not always, Corydon," he said. "This will pass--"
"If I do," she cried, "I only stay to wrestle with the demons. And
is that so very good for a pregnant woman?"
"My dear!" he protested.
"It's just as I said!" she went on. "I ought not to have had the
child! I'm only a school-girl, with a school-girl's tasks. And I try
and try, but I can't help it--everything within me rebels at the
cares of mother-hood."
"That's one mood, dear," he said. "But you know that's not true
"It's all the clearer to me," she insisted, "since we've had to give
up our music. I can't work at the piano any more--I may never be
"But even if you could, Corydon, I couldn't afford to get you one
"No, of course not. And you have to give up your violin!"
"Much time I have to practice it in our present plight!"
"I know--I know! But don't you see, we lose our last hope of growing
together? I've a vision that haunts me all the time--you going away
to do your work, and staying for longer and longer periods--and I
sitting at home to mind the baby!"
Day after day he would come back, and she would ask him how the book
was going; and he would have to answer that it was not going at all.
Then, in his desperation, he would make up his mind to write what he
could--to be content with this glimpse of one scene, and with that
feeble echo of what he knew the next scene ought to be; and he would
bring the result to Corydon, and would discover with a secret pang
that she did not know the difference. But then he would ask
himself--how could she know the difference? The difference did not
exist! His vision of the thing had existed in himself, and in
himself alone; if he never uttered it, the world would never know
what it might have been--and would never care. Ah, what a future was
that to look forward to--to filling the ears of the world with
lamentations concerning the books that he might have written! And
all the time knowing that the ears of the world were deaf to every
sound he made!
Section 12. He thought that he realized the bitterness of this
tragedy all at once; but the real bitterness was that he had to
realize more and more of it every day. It was a tragedy he had to
live in the house with. He had to watch it working itself out in all
the little affairs of life; he had to see it manifesting itself in
his own soul, and in the soul of Corydon, and even in the soul of
the child. Worst of all to him, the artist, he had to see it working
itself out in what he wrote--in book after book that went out to
represent him to the world, and that did not represent him at all,
but only represented the Snare in which he had been caught! It was
one of the facts about this Snare, that there was no merciful Keeper
to come and put the victim out of his misery with a blow upon the
head; that he was left alone, to writhe and twist and tear himself
to pieces, and to perish of slow exhaustion. It was not a murder
--it was a crucifixion!
He could not have told for whom his heart bled most, for himself, or
for Corydon. Here she was, with her grim problems and her bitter
necessities; needing advice and comfort, needing companionship--needing
a husband! And she had married an artist--a reed that would grow
"nevermore again as a reed with the reeds by the river!" That could
not grow, even if it had wanted to! For it was quite in vain that the
world cried out to him to settle down and become as other men; he
could not. The thing that was tearing at his vitals would continue
to tear; the only choice he had was between self-expression and
So, wrung as his heart was, he had to go away and as he could. If he
yielded to his desire and stayed by her, then the book would not be
written in time; and so all their hopes would be gone--they would
never win their freedom then! And he would explain this to her; with
their relentless devotion to the truth, they would talk it all out
between them. They would trace every cord and knot of the Snare. And
Corydon would grant that he was right, and that she must submit. He
must stay away all day--and all night, if need be--till the book
Not that they were always able to settle their problems in the cold
light of reason. Sometimes Thyrsis, with his artist's ups and downs,
would be nervous and irritable; he would manifest impatience over
trifles, and this would give rise to tragedies. There was a vast
amount of fetching and emptying of water to be done for their little
establishment; and sometimes a man who was carrying the destinies of
the human race in his consciousness was not as prompt as he might
have been in attending to these humble tasks. And moreover, the
water all had to be dipped up from the lake; and sometimes, when it
was stormy, it was a difficult matter to get it as free from specks
as was needed for the ablutions of a fastidious young lady like
"If you'd only take a little trouble!" she would say.
"Trouble!" he would exclaim. "Do you think I enjoy hearing you
complain about it?"
"But Thyrsis, this is dirtier than ever!"
"I know it. The wind is blowing harder."
"But if you'd only reach out a little ways---"
"I reached out till I nearly fell into the water!"
"But Thyrsis, how can I ever wash my face?"
And so it would go. Thyrsis would be absorbed in some especially
important mental operation, and it would be a torment to him to have
such things forced upon his attention. Corydon, it seemed to him,
was always at the mercy of externals; and she was forever dragging
him out of himself, and making him aware of them. The frying-pan was
not clean enough, or his hair was unkempt; his trousers were ragged
or his coat was too small for him. Was life always to consist of
such impertinences as this?
And so Thyrsis, in a sudden burst of rage, gave the water-bucket a
kick which sent it rolling down the bank, and then strode away to
his work. But unfortunately his work was not of a sort which he
could do with angry emotions in his soul. And so very soon remorse
overcame him. He returned, to find that Corydon had rushed out to
the end of the point, and flung herself down upon the rocks in
hysterics. And this, of course, was not a good thing for a pregnant
woman, and so he had to set to work to soothe her.
But alas, to soothe her was never an easy task, because of her
sensitiveness, and her exalted ideals of him. However humbly he
might apologize and beg forgiveness, there would remain her grief
that it had been possible for a quarrel to occur between them. She
would drive him nearly wild by debating the event, and rehearsing it
again and again, trying to justify herself to him, and him to
himself. Thyrsis was robust, he wanted to let the past take care of
itself; he would tell her of all the worries that were harassing
him, and would plead with her to grant him the privilege of any
ordinary human creature, to manifest annoyance now and then. And
Corydon would promise it--she would promise him anything he asked
for; but this was a boon it did not lie within the possibility of
her temperament to grant. He could be angry at fate and at the
world, and could rage and storm at them all he pleased; but he could
never be harsh with Corydon without inflicting upon her pain that
wrecked her, and wrecked him into the bargain.
Perhaps, he thought, it was her condition that accounted for this
morbidness. She was liable to fits of depression, and to mysterious
illness--nausea and faintness and what not. Also, she had been told
weird tales about prenatal influences; and he, not having been
educated in such matters, could not be sure what were the facts. So,
whenever she had been unhappy, there was the possibility that she
had done some irreparable harm to the child! And that made more
problems for an over-worked and sensitive artist.
He soon saw that he had to suppress forever the side of him that was
stern and exacting. Such things had a place in his own life, but no
longer in Corydon's. Instead, he would see how she suffered, and his
heart would be wrung, and he would come back again and again to
comfort her, and to tell her how he loved her, how he longed to do
what was right. He would set before her the logic of the situation,
so that if things went wrong she might realize that it was neither
his fault nor hers--that it was the world, which kept them in this
misery, and shut them up to suffer together. So it was, all through
their lives, that their remorseless reason saved them; they would
find in the analysis and exposition of the causes of their own
unhappiness the one common satisfaction they had in life.
Section 13. These were the circumstances of the writing of "The
Hearer of Truth". It was completed in six weeks, and it did not
satisfy its author, the finishing of it brought him no joy. But
that, though he did not realize it, was the one circumstance in its
favor--the less it satisfied him, the more chance there was that
the world would know what it was about.
He had the manuscript copied, and then he sent it off to a magazine
in Boston, whose editor had been one of his hundred great men, and
had promised to read the new manuscript at once. Meantime Thyrsis
sent for some books to review, and got to work at another plot to be
submitted to the editor of the "Treasure Chest". For their own
treasure-chest was now all but empty, and one could not live forever
upon blueberries and fish.
Day by day they waited; and at last, one fateful afternoon, the
farmer came with some provisions and their mail. There was a letter
from Boston, and Thyrsis opened it and read as follows:
"I have read your manuscript, 'The Hearer of Truth', and I wish to
tell you of the very great pleasure it has given me. It is noble and
fine, and amazingly clever as well. I must say frankly that I was
astonished at the qualities of maturity and restraint it shows. I
think it quite certain that we shall wish to use it as a serial; but
before I can say anything definite, the manuscript will have to be
read by my associates. In the meantime I wished to tell you
personally how highly I think of your work."
Thyrsis read this, and then, without a word, he passed it on to
Corydon. As soon as the farmer's back was turned, the two fell into
each other's arms, and all but wept. It was victory, beyond all
question. The magazine might pay as much as five hundred dollars for
the serial rights--and with that start, they would surely be safe.
Besides that, it would mean recognition for Thyrsis--the world would
have to discuss his work!
Doing pot-boilers was easy after such a triumph as that. They even
treated themselves to holidays--they purchased a quart of ice-cream
on one day, and hired a boat and went picnicking on another. Thyrsis
got out his fiddle once again, and even became so reckless as to
inquire about the price of a "practice-clavier" for Corydon. Also he
began inquiring as to the cost of houses; when they got the money
they would build themselves a little cabin here--a cabin just the
size of the tent, but with a room upstairs where Thyrsis could do
his work. After that they would be free from all the world--they
would never go back to be haunted by the sight of
"Sorrow barricadoed evermore
Within the walls of cities."
Section 14. So a month passed by; and Thyrsis wrote again to the
editor, and was told that they were still discussing the story. And
then, after two more weeks, there came another letter; and this was
the way it read:
"I am sorry to have to tell you that the decision has been adverse
to using your story. My own opinion of it has not changed in the
least; but I have been unable to induce my associates to view it in
the same light. They seem to be unanimous in the opinion that your
work is too radical for us to put to the front. We have a very
conservative, fastidious, and sophisticated constituency; and this
is one of the limitations by which we are bound. I am more than
sorry that things have turned out so, and I trust I need hardly say
that I shall be glad to read anything else that you may have to
submit to us."
And there it was! "A conservative, fastidious, and sophisticated
constituency!" Thyrsis believed that he would never forget that
phrase while he lived. Could one get up a thing like that anywhere
in the world save in Boston?