Part 5 out of 11
It was a bitter and cruel disappointment--the more so because it had
taken six weeks of his precious time. But there was nothing to be
done about it save to send off the manuscript to another magazine.
And when it had come back from there he sent it to another, and to
yet another--paying each time a total of eighty cents to the
express-company, a sum which was very hard for him to spare. To make
an ending at once to the painful episode, he continued to send it
from one place to another, until "The Hearer of Truth" had had the
honor of being declined by a total of fifteen magazines and
twenty-two publishing-houses. The pilgrimage occupied a period of
nineteen months--after which, to Thyrsis' great surprise, the
thirty-eighth concern offered to publish it. And so the book was
brought out, with something of a flourish, and met with its thirty-
eighth rejection--at the hands of the public!
THE CAPTURE IS COMPLETED
_The shadow of a dark cloud had fallen upon the woods, and the
voices of the birds were strangely hushed.
"There is a spell about this place for me," she said, and quoted--
"Here came I often, often in old days--
Thyrsis and I, we still had Thyrsis then!"
"Where is Thyrsis now?" she asked; and he smiled sadly, and
"Ah me! this many a year
My pipe is lost, my shepherd's holiday!
Needs must I lose them, needs with heavy heart
Into the world and wave of men depart!"_
Section 1. They returned to the city early in October--not so much
because they minded the cold in the tent, as because their money was
gone, and it was not easy to do hack-work at a distance. One had to
be on the spot, to interview the editors, to study their whims and
keep one's self in their minds; otherwise some one else got the
So Thyrsis came back to his "world"; and he found this world up in
arms against him. All the opposition that he had ever had to face
was nothing to what he faced now. Society seemed to have made up its
collective mind that he should give in; and every force it could use
was brought to bear upon him--every person he knew joined in the
assault upon him.
He was bound to admit that they had all the arguments on their side.
He had gone his own obstinate way, in defiance of all advice and of
all precedent; and now he saw what had come of it--exactly what
every common-sense person had foreseen. He and Corydon had tried
their "living as brother and sister"--and here she was with child!
And that was all right, no one proposed to blame him for it; it was
what people had predicted, and they were rather pleased to have
their predictions come true--to see the bubble of his pretenses
burst, and to be able to point out to him that he was like all other
men. What they wanted now was simply that he should recognize his
responsibility, and look out for Corydon's welfare. Living in
tenement-rooms and in tents, like gypsies and savages, was all right
by way of a lark; it was all very picturesque and romantic in a
novel; but it would not do for a woman who was about to become a
mother. Corydon had been delicately reared. She was used to the
comforts and decencies of life; and to get her in her present plight
and then not provide these things for her would be the act of a
All through his life the world had had but one message for Thyrsis:
"Go to work!" From the world's point of view his languages and
literatures, his music and writing were all play; to "work" was to
get a "position". And now this word was dinned into his ears day and
night, the very stones in the street seemed to cry it at him--"Get a
position! Get a position!"
As chance would have it, the position was all ready. In the higher
regions they were preparing to open a branch of a great family
establishment abroad, and Thyrsis was invited to take charge of it.
He would be paid three thousand dollars a year at the start, and two
or three times as much ultimately; and what more could he want? He
knew nothing about the work, but they knew his abilities--that if he
would undertake it, and give his attention to it, he would succeed.
He would meet people of culture, they argued, and be broadened by
contact with men; as for Corydon, it would make her whole life over.
Surely, for her sake, he could not refuse!
Thyrsis had foreseen just such things. He had braced himself to meet
the shock, and the world found him with his hands clenched and his
jaws set. There was no use in arguing with him, he had but one
answer--"No! No! No!" He would not take that position, and he would
not take any other position--neither now, nor at any future time. He
was not a business-man, he was an artist; and an artist he would
remain to the end. It might as well be understood at the outset;
there was nothing that the world could do or say to him that would
move him one inch. They might starve him, they might kill him, they
might do what they could or would--but never would he give in.
"But--what are you going to do?" they cried.
He answered, "I am going to write my books."
"But you have already written two books, and nothing has come of
"Something may come of them yet," he said. "And if it doesn't, I
shall simply go on and write another, and another, and another. I
shall continue to write so long as I have the strength left in me; I
shall be trying to write when I die."
And so, while they argued and pleaded and scolded and wept, he stood
in silence. They could not understand him--he smiled bitterly as he
realized how impossible it was for them to understand even the
simplest thing about him. There was the dapper corporation lawyer
and his exquisite young wife, who came to argue about it; and
Thyrsis asked them not to tell Corydon why they had come. He saw
them look at each other significantly, and he could read their
thought--that he was afraid of his wife's importunities. And how
could he explain to them what he had really meant--that if they had
told Corydon they had come to persuade him to give up his art,
Corydon would probably have found it impossible to be even decently
polite to them!
Section 2. So Thyrsis went away, carrying the burden of the scorn
and contempt of every human soul he knew. It was in truth a dark
hour in his life. He was at his wit's end for the bare necessities.
He had reached the city with less money in his pocket than he had
had the year before; and all the ways by which he had got money
seemed to have failed him at once. All the editors who published
book-reviews seemed to have a stock on hand; or else to know of
people whose style of writing pleased their readers better. And none
of them seemed to fancy any ideas for articles that Thyrsis had to
Worst of all, the editor of the '"Treasure Chest" turned down the
pot-boiler which he had been writing up in the country. He would not
say anything very definite about it--he just didn't like the
story--it had not come up to the promise of the scenario. He hinted
that perhaps Thyrsis was not as much interested in his work as he
had been before. It seemed to be lacking in vitality, and the style
was not so good. Thyrsis offered to rewrite parts of the story; but
no, said the editor, he did not care for the story at all. He would
be willing to have Thyrsis try another, but he was pretty well
supplied with serials just then, and could not give much
Corydon had yielded to her parents and gone to stay with them for a
while; and Thyrsis had got his own expenses down to less than five
dollars a week--including such items as stationery and postage on
his manuscripts. And still, he could not get this five dollars. In
his desperation he followed the cheap food idea to extremes, and
there were times when an invitation to an honest meal was something
he looked forward to for a week. And day after day he wandered about
the streets, racking his brains for new ideas, for new plans to try,
for new hopes of deliverance.
In later years he looked back upon it all--knowing then the depth of
the pit into which he had fallen, knowing the full power of the
forces that were ranged against him--and he marvelled that he had
ever had the courage to hold out. But in truth the idea of surrender
did not occur to him; the possibility of it did not lie in his
character. He had his message to deliver. That was what he was in
the world for, and for nothing else; and he must deliver what he
could of it.
He would go alone, and his vision would come to him. It would come
to him, radiant, marvellous, overwhelming; there had never been
anything like it in the world, there might never be anything like it
in the world again. And if only he could get the world to realize
it--if only he could force some hint of it into the mind of one
living person! It was impossible not to think that some day that
person would be discovered--to believe otherwise would be to give
the whole world up for damned. He would imagine that chance person
reading his first book; he would imagine the publishers and their
advisers reading "The Hearer of Truth"--might it not be that at
this very hour some living soul was in the act of finding him out?
At any rate, all that he could do was to try, and to keep on trying;
to embody his vision in just as many forms as possible, and to
scatter them just as widely as possible. It was like shooting arrows
into the air; but he would go on to shoot while there was one arrow
left in his quiver.
Section 3. Thyrsis reasoned the problem out for himself; he saw what
he wanted, and that it was a rational and honest thing for him to
want. He was a creative artist, engaged in learning his trade. When
he had completed his training, he would not work for himself, he
would work to bring joy and faith to millions of human beings,
perhaps for ages after. And meantime, while he was in the
practice-stage, he asked for the bare necessities of existence.
Nor was it as if he were an utter tyro; he had given proof of his
power. He had written two books, which some of the best critics in
the country had praised. To this people made answer that it was no
one's business to look out for genius and give it a chance to live.
But with Thyrsis it was never any argument to show that a thing did
not exist, if it was a thing which he knew _ought_ to exist. He
looked back over the history of art, and saw the old hideous state
of affairs--saw genius perishing of starvation and misery, and men
erecting monuments to it when it was dead. He saw empty-headed rich
people paying fortunes for the manuscripts of poems which all the
world had once rejected; he saw the seven towns contending for Homer
dead, through which the living Homer begged his bread. And Thyrsis
could not bring himself to believe that a thing so monstrous could
continue to exist forever.
There was no other department of human activity of which it was
true. If a man wanted to be a preacher, he would find that people
had set up divinity-schools and established scholarships for which
he could contend. And the same was true if he wished to be an
engineer, or an architect, or a historian, or a biologist; it was
only the creative artist of whom no one had a thought--the creative
artist, who needed it most of all! For his was the most exacting
work, his was the longest and severest apprenticeship.
Brooding over this, Thyrsis hit upon another plan. He drew up a
letter, in which he set forth what he wanted, and stated what he had
so far done; he quoted the opinions of his work that had been
written by men-of-letters, and offered to submit the books and
manuscripts about which these opinions had been written. He sent a
copy of this letter to the president of each of the leading
universities in the country, to find out if there was in a single
one of them any fellowship or scholarship or prize of any sort,
which could be won by such creative literary work. Of those who
replied to him, many admitted that his point was well taken, that
there should have been such provision; but one and all they agreed
that none existed. There were rewards for studying the work of the
past, but never for producing new work, no matter how good it might
Then another plan occurred to him. He wrote an anonymous article,
setting forth some of his amusing experiences, and contrasting the
credit side of the "pot-boiling" ledger with the debit side of the
"real art" ledger. This article was picturesque, and a magazine
published it, paying twenty-five dollars for it, and so giving him
another month's lease of life. But that was all that came of
it--there was no rich man who wrote to the magazine to ask who this
tormented genius might be.
Then Thyrsis, in his desperation, joined the ranks of the begging
letter-writers. He would send long accounts of his plight to eminent
philanthropists--having no idea that the secretaries of eminent
philanthropists throw out basketsful of such letters every day. He
would read in the papers of some public-spirited enterprise--he
would hear of this man or that woman who was famous for his or her
interest in helpful things--and he would sit down and write these
people that he was starving, and implore them to read his book. In
later years, when he came to know of some of these newspaper idols,
it was a comfort to him to feel certain that his letters had been
thrown away unread.
Also he begged from everybody he met, under whatever circumstances
he met them. If by any chance the person might be imagined to
possess money, sooner or later would come some hour of distress,
when Thyrsis would be driven to try to borrow. On one occasion he
counted it up, and there were forty-three individuals to whom he had
made himself a nuisance. With half a dozen of them he had actually
succeeded; but always promising to return the money when his next
check came in--and always scrupulously doing this. There was never
anyone who rose to the understanding of what he really wanted--a
free gift, for the sake of his art. There was never anyone who could
understand his utter shamelessness about it; that fervor of
consecration which made it impossible for a man to humiliate him, or
to insult him--to do anything save to write himself down a dead
People were quite clear in their views upon this question; a man
must earn his own way in the world. And that was all right, if a man
were in the world for himself. But what if he were working for
humanity, and had no time to think about himself? Was that truly a
disgraceful thing? Take Jesus, for instance; ought he to have kept
at his carpenter's trade, instead of preaching the Sermon on the
Mount? Or was it that his right to preach the Sermon was determined
by the size of the collection he could take among the audience?
And then, while he pondered this problem of "earning one's own way,"
Thyrsis was noting the lives of the people who were preaching it.
What were _they_ doing to earn the luxuries they enjoyed? Even
granting that one recognized their futile benevolence as justifying
them personally--what about the tens of thousands of others who
lived in utter idleness, squandering in self-indulgence and
ostentation huge fortunes of which they had never earned a penny?
The boy could not go upon the streets of the city without having
this monstrous fact flaunted in his face in a thousand forms. So
many millions for folly and vice, and not one cent for his art! This
was the thing upon which he was brooding day and night--and filling
his soul with an awful bitterness which was to horrify the world in
Section 4. He might not come to see Corydon in her home; but she
would meet him in the street, and they would walk in the park, a
pitiful and mournful pair. They had to walk slowly, and often he
would have to help her, for her burden had now become great. She had
altered all her dresses, and she wore a long cape, and even then was
not able to hide the disfigurement of her person. They would sit
upon a bench in the cold, and talk about the latest aspects of his
struggle, what he was doing and what he hoped to do. Corydon would
bring him the opinions of a few more members of the bourgeois world,
and they would curse this world and these people together. For there
was no more thought of giving up on Corydon's side than there was on
his; it was not for nothing that he had talked to her upon the
hill-top in the moonlight.
Meanwhile, however, time was passing, and the prospect of her
approaching confinement hung over them like a black thunder-cloud.
It came on remorselessly, menacingly. The event was due about
Christmas time, and there must be some money then--there must be
some money then! But where was it to be found?
Thyrsis had tried another story for the "Treasure Chest," but the
editor had not liked his plot. Also he was taking "The Hearer of
Truth" from one place to another; but with less and less hope, as he
learned from various editors and publishers how radical and
subversive they considered it. He took it now mechanically, as a
matter of form--making it his rule always to count upon rejection,
so that he might never be disappointed.
One of Corydon's rich friends had told her of a certain famous
surgeon, and Corydon had gone to see him. He had a beautiful private
hospital, and his prices were unthinkable; but he had seemed to be
interested in her, and when she told him her circumstances, he had
said that he would try to "meet her halfway." But even with the
reductions he quoted, it would cost them nearly a hundred and fifty
dollars; and how could Thyrsis get such a sum? Even if the surgeon
were willing to wait--what prospect was there that he could ever get
This again was the curse of their leisure-class upbringing. They did
not know how poor women had their babies, and they shrunk from the
thought of finding it out. Corydon had met this man, and had been
impressed by him; and Thyrsis realized, even if she did not, that
she had got her heart set upon the plan. And if he did not make it
possible, and then anything were to go wrong with her, how would he
ever be able to forgive himself? This event would come but once, and
might mean so much to them.
So he said to himself that he would "raise the money". But the days
passed and became weeks, and the weeks became months, and there was
no sign of the raising. And then suddenly came one of those shafts
of sunlight through the clouds--one of those will-o'-the-wisps that
were forever luring Thyrsis into the swamps. Another editor liked
"The Hearer of Truth"; another editor said that it was a great piece
of literature, and that he would surely use it! So Thyrsis went
to the great surgeon and told him that he would be able to pay him
in a little while; and the arrangement was made for Corydon to come.
And then the editor put the "great piece of literature" away in his
desk, and forgot all about it for a month--while Thyrsis waited, day
by day, in an agony of suspense.
The appointed time had come--the day when Corydon must go to the
hospital; and still the editor had not reported, and there was only
fifteen or twenty dollars, earned by weeks of verse-writing and
reviewing. So in desperation Thyrsis made up his mind to give up his
violin. He had paid ninety dollars for it three years before; and
now, after taking it round among the dealers, he sold it for
So, to the very gateway of life itself, Thyrsis was hounded by these
spectres of want; even to the hospital they came, and followed him
inside. Here was a beautiful place, a revelation to him of the
possibilities of civilization and science. But it was all for the
rich and prosperous, it was not for him; he felt that he had no
business to be there.
What a contrast it all made with the tenement-room in which he had
to house! Here were glimpses to be had of rich women, soft-skinned
and fair, clad in morning-gowns of gorgeous hue; here were baskets
of expensive fruits and armfuls of sweet-scented flowers; and here
was he with his worn clothing and his haggard face, his hungry
stomach and still hungrier heart! Must not all these people know
that he had had to ask for special rates, and then for credit on top
of that? Must they not all know that he was a failure--that most
worthless of all worthless creatures, the man who cannot support his
family? What did it mean to them if he had written masterpieces of
literature--what would it avail with them that he was the bearer of
a new religion! Thyrsis had heard too much of the world's opinion of
him; he shrunk from contact with his fellow-creatures, reading an
insult into every glance. He was like a dog that has been too much
beaten, and cringes even before it is struck.
Section 5. But these thoughts were for himself; he did not whisper
them to Corydon. However people might despise him, they did not
blame her, and there was no need of this bitterness in her cup.
Corydon was beautiful--ah God, how beautiful she looked, lying there
in the snowy bed, with the snowy lace about her neck and arms! How
like the very goddess of motherhood she looked, a halo of light
about her forehead. She, too, must have flowers, to whisper to her
of hope and joy; and so he had brought her three pitiful little
pinks, which he had purchased from a lame girl upon the corner. The
tears started into Corydon's eyes as she saw these--for she knew
that he had gone without a part of his dinner in order to bring them
Everybody had come to love her already, he could see. How gentle and
kind they were to her; and how skillfully they did everything for
her! His heart was full of thankfulness that he had been able to
bring her to this haven of refuge. And resolutely he put aside all
thoughts of his own humiliation--he swept his mind clear of
everything else, and went with her to face this new and supreme
experience of her life.
"You will stay with me?" she had pleaded; and he had promised that
he would stay. She could not bear to have him out of her sight at
all, and so they made him a bed upon the couch, and he spent the
night there; and through the next day he sat with her and read to
her. But now and then he would know that her thoughts had wandered,
and he would look at her and see her eyes wide with fear. "Oh,
Thyrsis," she would whisper, "I'm only a child; and I'm not fit to
be a mother!"
He would try to comfort her and soothe her. But in truth, he too was
full of fears and anxieties. He had felt the dome-like shape within
her abdomen, which they said was the head of the child; and he could
not conceive how it was ever to be got out. But they told him that
the thing had happened before. There was nothing for either of them
to do but to wait;
They were in the hands of Nature, who had brought them thus far, who
had had her will with them so utterly. And now her purpose was to be
revealed to them--now they were to know the wherefore of all that
they had done. They were like two children, travelling through a
dark valley; they walked hand in hand, lifting their eyes to the
mountain-tops, and seeking the first signs of the coming light.
Section 6. Outside, whenever they opened the window, they could hear
the noise of the busy city; and it seemed so strange that
street-cars should jangle on, and news-boys shout, and tired men
hurry home to their dinners--while such a thing as this was
preparing. Thyrsis gave utterance to the thought; and the doctor,
who was in the room, smiled and responded, "It happens twice every
second in the world!"
This was the house-physician, who was to take charge of the case; a
young man, handsome and rather dapper. He went about his work with
an air of its being an old story to him--an air which was at once
reassuring and disturbing. The two sat and watched him, while he
made his preparations.
He had two white-gowned nurses with him, and he spoke to them for
the most part in nods. One of them was elderly and grey-haired, and
apparently his main reliance; the other was young and pretty, and
her heart went out to Corydon. She sat by the bedside and confided
to her that she was a pupil, and that this was only her third
"Will it hurt me much?" the girl asked, weakly.
And then suddenly, before there was time for an answer, she turned
white, and clutched Thyrsis' hand with a low cry.
"What's the matter?" he whispered.
Her fingers closed upon his convulsively, and she started up, crying
The doctor was standing by the window, opening a case of
instruments. He did not even turn.
"Doctor!" Thyrsis cried, in alarm.
He put the case down and came toward the bed. "I guess there is
nothing wrong," he said, with a slight smile. He laid his hand upon
the shuddering girl.
"It is all right," he said, "I shall examine her in a few moments."
He turned away, while Thyrsis and the young nurse held Corydon's
hand and whispered to her soothingly.
She sank back and lay tossing from side to side, moaning; and
meantime the doctor went quietly on, arranging his basins and
bottles, and giving his orders. Then finally he came and made his
"She is doing very well," he said, "and now, Miss Mary, I have an
engagement for the theatre for this evening. I think there will be
no need of me for some hours."
Thyrsis started, aghast. "Doctor!" he cried.
"What is it?" asked the other.
"Something might happen!" he exclaimed.
"I shall be only two or three blocks away," was the reply--"They
will send for me if there is need."
"But this pain!" cried Thyrsis, excitedly. "What is she to do?"
The man stood by the bedside, washing his hands. "You cannot have a
child-birth without pain," he said. "These are merely false pains,
as we call them; the real birth-pains may not come for hours--perhaps
not until morning. There are membranes which have to be broken, and
muscles which have to be stretched--and there is no way of doing it
but this way."
He stood with his hand on the doorknob. "Do not be worried," he
said. "Whatever happens, the attendant will know what to do."
"The theatre!" It seemed so strange! To be sure, it was
unreasonable--if a man had several cases each week to attend to, he
could not be expected to suffer with each one. But at least he need
not have mentioned the theatre! It gave one such a strange feeling
Section 7. However, he was gone, and Thyrsis turned to Corydon, who
lay moaning feebly. It was like a knife cutting her, she said; she
could not bear to lie down, and when she tried to sit up she could
not endure the weight of her own body. She found it helped her for
Thyrsis to support her, and so he sat beside her, holding her
tightly, while she wrestled with her task. The nurse fanned her
brow, on which the sweat stood in drops.
Thyrsis' position strained every muscle in his body; it made each
minute seem an hour. But he clung there, till his head reeled.
Anything to help her--anything, if only he could have helped her!
But there was no help; she was gone alone into the silent chamber of
pain, where there comes no company, no friend, no love. His spirit
cried out to her, but she heard him not--she was alone, alone! Is
there any solitude that the desert or the ocean knows, that is like
the solitude of suffering?
It would come over her in spasms, and Thyrsis could feel her body
quiver; it would be all he could do to hold her. And minute after
minute, hour after hour, it was the same, without a moment's
respite--until she broke into sobbing, crying that she could not
bear it, that she could not bear it! She clutched wildly at Thyrsis'
hand, and her arms shook like a leaf.
He ran in fright for the elder nurse, who had left the room. She
came and questioned Corydon, and shook her head. "There is nothing
to be done," she said.
"But something is wrong!" Thyrsis cried. He had been reading a book,
and his mind was full of images of all sorts of accidents and
horrors, of monstrosities and "false presentations." "You must send
for the doctor," he repeated, "I know there _must_ be something
"I will send for the doctor if you wish," was the reply. "But you
must order it. The birth has not yet begun, you know--when it does
the character of the pains will change altogether, and she will
know. Meantime there is nothing whatever for the doctor to do."
"He might give her an opiate!" Thyrsis exclaimed.
"If he did," said the woman, "that would stop the birth. And it must
So they turned once more to the task. Thyrsis bore it until it
seemed to him that his body was on fire; then he asked the nurse to
take his place. He reeled as he tried to walk to the sofa; he flung
himself down and lay panting. Outside he could still hear the busy
sounds of the street--the world was going on its way, unknowing,
unheeding. There came a chorus of merry laughter to him--his soul
was black with revolt.
He went back to his post, biting his lips together.
She was only a child--she was too tender; it was monstrous, he
cried. Why, she was being torn to pieces! She writhed and quivered,
until he thought she was in convulsions. And then, little by little,
all this faded from his thoughts; he had his own pain to bear. He
must hold her just so, with the grip of a wrestler; his arms ached,
and his temples throbbed, and he fought with himself and whispered
to himself--he would stay there until he dropped.
Would the doctor never come? It was preposterous for him to leave
her like this. The time passed on; he was wild with impatience, and
suddenly Corydon sank back and burst into tears. He could stand it
no more, and sent for the nurse again.
"You must send for the doctor!" he cried.
"He has just come in," the woman answered; "I heard him close the
The doctor entered the room, softly. He was perfectly groomed, clad
in evening-dress, and with his gloves and his silk hat in his hand.
Thyrsis hated him at that moment--hated him with the fury of some
tortured beast. He was only an assistant; and were not assistants
notoriously careless? Why had the great surgeon himself not come to
see to it?
"How does she bear it?" he said, to the nurse; and he took off his
overcoat and coat, and rolled up his sleeves, while she reported
progress. Then he felt Corydon's pulse, and after washing his hands,
made another examination. Thyrsis watched him with his heart in his
He rose without saying anything.
"Has it presented?" the nurse asked.
"Not yet," he said, and turned to look at the temperature of the
It was so, then--there was nothing to be done! Thyrsis was dazed--he
could hardly believe it. He had never dreamed it could be anything
"How long is this to last, doctor?" he cried. "She is suffering so
"I fear it will be until morning," he said--"it is a question of the
rigidity of certain muscles. But you need not be alarmed, she is
doing very well."
He spoke a few words to the patient, and then turned towards the
door. "I shall sleep in the next room," he said to his assistant;
"you may call me at any time."
Section 8. So the two went apart again; and the leaden-footed hours
crept by, and the girl still wrestled with the fiend. The young
nurse was asleep on the couch, and the elder sat dozing in her
chair; the two were alone--all alone! One of the window-shades was
raised, and Thyrsis could see far over the tops of the buildings.
Somewhere out there was another single light, where perhaps some
other soul counted the fiery pulses of torture. A death--or another
birth, perhaps! The doctor had said it happened twice every second!
Thyrsis was unskilled in pain, and perhaps he bore it ill; he feared
that the nurses thought so too--that Corydon called too often for
something, or cried out too much in mere aimless misery.
But the time sped on, and at last a faint streak of day appeared in
the sky, and the shadows began to pale in the room. Thyrsis started,
realizing that it was morning. He had given up the morning, as a
thing that would never come again. He insisted upon sending for the
doctor, who came, striving not to yawn, but to look pleased. Once
more he shook his head; there was nothing to do.
The street began to waken. The milkman came, his cans rattling; now
and then he shouted to his horse, or whistled, or banged upon a
gate. Then the sun came streaming into the room. The newsboys began
to call--the young nurse woke up and began to straighten her hair.
The elder nurse also opened her eyes, but did not stir; she seemed
to challenge anyone to assert that she had ever been asleep.
"Perhaps, Miss Mary," ventured the young nurse, timidly, "we had
best prepare the patient."
Corydon seemed to rest a little easier now, and they carried her and
laid her on the couch. They made the bed, with many sheets and with
elaborate care; and then they brought her back and dressed her,
putting a short gown upon her, and drawing long white bags over her
limbs. Ah, how white she was, and what fearful lines of suffering
had been graven into her forehead!
She lay in a kind of stupor, and Thyrsis, exhausted, began to doze.
He knew not how long a time had passed--it had been an hour, perhaps
two, when suddenly he opened his eyes and sat up with a bound
galvanized into life by a cry from Corydon. She had started forward,
grasping around her wildly, uttering a series of rising screams. He
clutched her hand, and stared around the room in fright.
They were alone. He leaped up; but the nurse ran into the room at
the same instant. She gazed at the girl, whose face had flushed
suddenly purple; she came to her, and took her hand.
"You feel some pain?" she asked.
Corydon could not speak, but she nodded; a moment later she sunk
back with a gasp.
"A kind of bearing-down pain?" said the nurse. "Different from the
Corydon gasped her assent again.
"That is the birth," the nurse said. "The doctor will be here in a
Again the horrible spasm seized the girl, and brought her to a
sitting posture; again her hand clutched Thyrsis' with a grip like
death, and again the veins on her forehead leaped out. Like the
surging of an ocean billow, it seemed to sweep over her; and then
suddenly she screamed, and sank back upon the pillow.
Thyrsis was wild with alarm; but the doctor entered, placid as ever.
"So they've come?" he said.
Nothing seemed to disturb him. He was like a being out of another
region. He took off his coat and bared his arms; he put on a long
white apron, and washed his hands elaborately again, and then once
more examined his patient. His face was opposite to Thyrsis, and the
latter watched his expression, breathless with dread. But the doctor
only said, "Ah, yes."
He turned to Corydon. "These pains that you feel," he said, "are
from the compressing of the womb. Don't let them frighten
you--everything is just as it should be. You will find that you can
help at each pang by holding your breath; just as soon as you cry
out, it releases the diaphragm, and the pressure stops, and the pain
passes. You must bear each one just as long as you can. I don't want
you to faint, of course--but the longer the pressure lasts, the
sooner it will all be over."
The girl was staring at him with her wild eyes--she looked like a
hunted creature in a trap. It sounded all so very simple--but the
horror of it drove Thyrsis mad. Ah, God, it was monstrous--it was
superhuman--it was a thing beyond all thinking! It wrung all his
soul, it shook him as the tempest shakes a leaf--the sight of this
It was like the sudden closing of a battle; the shock of squadrons, the
locking of warriors in a grip of death. There was no longer time for
words now, no longer time for a glance about him; the spasms came, one
after another, relentless, unceasing, inevitable--each trooping upon the
heels of the last; they were uncounted--uncountable--piling upon one
another like waves upon the sea, like the gusts of a raging storm. And
this girl, this child, that he had watched over so hungrily, that was
so tender and so sensitive--it was like wild horses tearing her apart!
The agony would flame up in her, he would see her body turn rigid,
her face flush scarlet, her teeth become set and her gums fleshed. The
muscles would stand out in her cheeks, the perspiration start upon
her forehead. She would grip Thyrsis' hand until all the might of
both his arms was not enough to match her.
On the other side of the bed knelt the young nurse, wrestling with
the other hand; and Thyrsis could see her face flush too, each
time--until at last a cry seem to tear its way from the girl's
throat, and would sink back, faint and white.
It was a new aspect of life to Thyrsis, a new revelation of being;
it was pain such as he had never dreamed it was horror the like of
which was unknown in his philosophy. All the suffering of the night
was nothing to a minute of this; it came upon her with the rush of a
flood of waters--it seized her--instant, insistent, relentless as
the sweep of the planets. Thyrsis had been all unprepared for it; he
cried out for time to think--to realize it. But there was no time
to think or to realize it. The thing was here--now! It glared into
his eyes like a fiend of hell; it was fiery, sharp as steel--and it
had to be seized with the naked hands!
The pangs came, each one worse than the last. They built themselves
up in his soul in a symphony of terror; they lifted him out of
himself, they swept him away beyond all control, like a leaf in the
autumn wind. He had never known such a sensation before--his soul
seemed whirled into pieces. His feeling was apart from his action;
he could not control his thoughts; he was going mad! He loved her
so--she was so beautiful; and to see her thus, in the grip of
He tried to get hold of himself again--he talked to himself, pinning
his attention on the task of his hands. Perhaps maybe it was his
fancy--it did not really hurt her so! Maybe--
He spoke to her, calling to her, in between the crises. She turned
her eyes upon him, looking unutterable agony; she could not speak.
And then again came the spasm, and she reared herself to meet it.
She seemed to loom before his eyes; she was no longer human, but in
her agony transfigured. She was the suffering of being, made flesh;
a figure epic, colossal, worthy of an Angelo; the mighty mother
herself, the earth-mother, from whose womb have come the races!
And then--"Perhaps she would be more comfortable with another
pillow," said the doctor, and the spell was broken.
Corydon shook her head with swift impatience. This was her conflict,
the gesture seemed to say. They had only to let her alone--she had
no words to spare for them.
"How long does this last?" Thyrsis asked, his voice trembling. The
doctor made a motion to him to be silent--evidently he did not wish
Corydon to hear the answer to that question.
Section 9. For the girl's soul was rising within her; perhaps from
the deeps of things there came comfort to her, from the everlasting,
universal motherhood of life. Nature must have told her that this at
least was pain to some purpose; something was being accomplished.
And she shut her jaws together again, and closed with it--driving,
driving, with all the power of her being. A feeling of awe stole
over Thyrsis as he watched her--a feeling the like of which he had
never known in his life before. She was a creature consecrated, made
holy by suffering; she was the sacredness of life incarnate, a thing
godlike, beyond earth. It came as a revelation, changing the whole
aspect of life to him. It was hard to realize--that woman, woman who
endured this, was the same being that he had met in the world all
his life--laughing and talking, careless and commonplace. This--this
was woman's _fate_! It was the thing for which woman was made, and
the lowest, meanest of them might have to bear it! He swore vows of
reverence and knighthood; he fell upon his knees before her,
weeping, his soul white-hot with awe. Ah what should he do that he
might be worthy to live upon the earth with a woman?
And this was no mere fine emotion; there was no room for imagination
in it--the reality exceeded all imagination. Overwhelming it was,
furious, relentless; his thoughts strove to roam, but it seized him
by the hair and dragged him back. Here--_here!_
She was wrung and shaken with her agony, her eyes shut, her face
uplifted, her muscles turned to stone. And the minutes dragged out
into hours--there was no end to it--there was no end to it! There
was no meaning--it was only naked, staring terror. It beat him up
again and again; he would sink back exhausted, thinking that he
could feel no more; but it dragged him up once more--to agony
without respite! The caverns of horror were rent open; they split
before his eyes--deeper, deeper--in vistas and abysses from which he
shrunk appalled. Here dwelt the furies, despair and madness--here
dwelt the demon-forces of being, grisly phantoms which come not into
the light of day. Their hands were upon him, their claws were in his
flesh; and over their chasms he shuddered--he scented the smoke of
that seething pit of life, whose top the centuries have sealed, and
into which no mortal thing may gaze and live.
Life--life--here was life, he felt. What had he known of it before
this?--the rest was pageantry and sham. Beauty, pleasure, love--here
they were in the making of them--here they were in the real truth of
them! Raw, naked, hideous it was; and it was the source of all
things else! His being rose in one titan throb of rebellion. It was
monstrous--it was unthinkable! He wanted no such life--he had no
right to it! Let there be an end of it! No life that ever was could
be worth such a price as this! It was a cheat, a horror--there
could be no justice in such a thing! There could be no God in it--it
was oppression, it was wrong! He thought of the millions that
swarmed on the earth--they had all come from this! And it was
happening every hour--every second! He saw it, the whole of it--the
age-long agony, the universal birth-pang of being. And he hated it,
hated it with a wild, raging hatred--he would have annihilated it
with one sweep of his arm.
And yet--there was no way to annihilate it! It was here--it was
inevitable. And it was everlasting--it was an everlasting delusion,
an everlasting madness. It was a Snare!
Yes, he came back to the thought--that was the image for it! It
mattered not how much you might cry out, you were in it, and it held
you! It held you as it held Corydon, in throb after throb of
torment. She moaned, she choked, she tossed from side to side; but
it held her. It seemed to him that the storm of her agony beat upon
her like the tempest upon a mountain pine-tree.
Section 10. The doctor's hands were red with blood now, like a
butcher's. He bent over his work, his lips set. Now and then he
would speak to the young nurse, whom he was teaching; and his words
would break the spell of Thyrsis' nightmare.
"You can see the head now," he said once, turning to the boy.
And Thyrsis looked; through the horrible gaping showed a little
patch, the size of a dollar--purplish black, palpitating, starting
forward when the crises shook the mother. "And that is a head!" he
whispered, half aloud.
"But how can it ever get out?" he cried suddenly with wildness.
"It will get out," the doctor answered, smiling. "Wait--you will
"But the baby will be dead!" he panted.
"It is very much alive," replied the other. "I can hear its heart
All the while Thyrsis had never really believed in the child--it was
too strange an idea. He could think only of the woman, and of her
endless agony. Every minute seemed a life-time to him--the long
morning had come and gone, and still she lay in her torment. He was
sick in body, and sick in soul; she had exerted the strength of a
dozen men, it seemed to him.
But now her strength was failing her, he was certain; her moans were
becoming more frequent, her protests more vehement. The veins stood
out on the doctor's forehead as he worked with her--muscular, like a
pugilist. Gigantic, he seemed to Thyrsis--terrible as fate. Time and
again the girl screamed, in sudden agony; he would toil on, his lips
set. Once it was too much even for him--her cries had become
incessant, and he nodded to the nurse, who took a bottle from the
table, and wetting a cloth with it, held it to Corydon's face. Then
she shouted aloud, again and again--wildly, and more wildly,
laughing hysterically; she began flinging her arms about--and then
calling to Thyrsis, as her eyes closed, murmuring broken sentences
of love, "babbling o' green fields." It was too much for the
boy--there was a choking in his throat, and he rushed from the room
and sank down upon a chair in the hall, crying like a child.
After a while he rose up. He paced the hall, talking to himself. He
could not go on acting in this way--he must be a man. Others had
borne this--he would bear it too; he would get himself together. It
would all be over before long, and then how he would be ashamed of
He went back. "It is the chloroform that makes her do that," said
the young nurse, soothingly. "She is out of pain when she cries out
Corydon was coming back from her stupor; the strife began again. She
cried out for its end, she could bear no more. "Help me! Help me!"
The head was the size of a saucer now--but each time that she
screamed it would go back. Thyrsis stood up to get the strength to
grip her hand; her face stared up into the air, looking like the
face of a wolf. And still there was no end--no end!
There was an hour more of that--the room seemed to Thyrsis to reel.
Corydon was crying, moaning that she wished to die. There was now in
sight a huge, bulging object--black, monstrous--rimmed with a band
of bleeding, straining flesh, tight like the top of a drum. The
doctor was bent over, toiling, breathless.
"No more! No more!" screamed the girl. "Oh, my God! my God!"
And the doctor answered her, panting: "Once more! once more! Now!
now!" And so on, for minute after minute; luring her on, pleading
with her, promising her, lying to her--"Once more! Once more! This
will be the last!" He called to her, he rallied her; he signalled to
Thyrsis to help him--to inspire her, to goad her to new endurance.
And then another titan effort, and suddenly--incredibly--there burst
upon Thyrsis' sight an apparition. Sick at heart, numb with horror,
dazed--he scarcely knew what it was. It happened so swiftly that he
had hardly time to see; but something leaped forth something
enormous, supernatural! It came--it came--there seemed never to be
an end to it! He started to his feet, staring, crying out; and at
the same moment the doctor lifted the thing aloft, with a cry of
exultation. He held it dangling by one leg. Great God! It was a man!
A man! A thing with the head of a man, the body of a man, the legs
and arms, the face of a man! A thing hideous--impish--demoniac! A
thing purple and dripping with blood--ghastly--unthinkable--
monstrous--a spectre of nightmare dreams!
And suddenly the doctor lifted his hand and smote it; and the mouth
of the thing opened, and there came forth a purplish froth--and then
a cry! It was a sound like a tin-pan beaten--a sound that was itself
a living presence, an apparition; a thing superhuman, out of another
world--like the wailing of a lost spirit, terrifying to every sense!
With Thyrsis it was like the falling down of towers within him--his
whole being collapsed, and he sunk down upon the bed, sobbing,
Section 11. When he looked up again the elder nurse had the baby in
her arms; and there was a wan smile on Corydon's face.
The doctor's hand was in the ghastly wound, and he was talking to
the young nurse, giving her instruction, in a strange, monotonous
tone. "The placenta," he was saying, "often has to be removed; we do
it by twisting it round and round--very gently, of course. Then it
There came a rush of blood, and Thyrsis turned away his head.
"Give me the basin," said the doctor. "There!--And now the next
thing is to see that the uterus contracts immediately. We assist it
by compressing the walls, thus. It must be tightly bandaged."
Thyrsis had turned to see the child. He looked at it, and clenched
his hands to control his emotions. Yes, it was a man! it was a man!
Not a monster, not a demon--a baby!
His boy! himself! God, what a ghastly thing to realize! It had his
forehead, it had his nose! It was a caricature of himself! A
caricature grotesque and impish, and yet one that no human being
could mistake--a caricature by the hand of a master!
And it was a living thing! It had power of motion--it twisted and
writhed, it bent its arms and legs! It winked its eyelids, it opened
and shut its mouth, it breathed and made sounds! And it had feeling,
too! It had cried out when it was struck!
Gently, with one finger, he touched it; and the contact with its
flesh sent a shudder through every nerve of him. His child! His
child! And a living child! A creature that would go on; that would
eat and sleep and grow, that would learn to make sounds, and to
understand things! That would come to think and to will! That would
be a man!
"Is it--is it all right?" he asked the nurse, in a trembling
"It's a magnificent boy," she said. And then she struck a match, and
held the light in front of its eyes; and the eyes turned to follow
the light. "He sees!" she said.
Yes, he could see! And Thyrsis had already heard that he could
speak! What could it not do--this marvellous object! It was Nature's
supreme miracle--it was the answer to all the riddles, the solution
of all the mysteries! It was a vindication of the subterfuges, a
reward for the sacrifices, a balm for the pain! It was the thing for
which all the rest had been, it was the crown and consummation of
their love--it was Life's supreme shout of triumph and exultation!
The nurse was holding the child up before Corydon; and she was
gazing at it, she was feeding her eyes upon it. And oh, the smile
that came upon her face--the ineffable smile! The pride, and the
relief, and the beatific happiness! This thing she had done--it was
her act of creation! Her battle that had been fought, her victory
that had been won; and now they brought her the crown and the
guerdon! To Thyrsis there came suddenly the words of Jesus: "A woman
when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour hath come; but
as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more
the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world." And he sunk
down beside the bed, and caught the woman's hand in his, and began
to sob softly to himself.
Section 12. Later on he went into the street. Evening was come
again--for twenty-two hours that siege had lasted! And the boy had
eaten nothing since noon of the day before, and he was weak and
But how strange the world seemed to him all at once! Peopled with
phantom creatures, that came he knew not whence, and went he knew
not whither! Creatures of awe and horror, who came out of chaos,
and went back into annihilation! Who were flung here and there by
cosmic forces, played with by tragic destinies! And all of them
without any sense of the perpetual marvel of their own being! They
ate and dressed and slept, they laughed and played and worked, they
hated and loved and got and spent, with no thought of the wonder of
their lightest breath, with no sense of the terrors that ringed them
about--the storms that swept them hither and thither, the million
miracles that were wrought for them every instant of their lives!
He went into a restaurant, and sat down; and in the seat beside him,
close at his elbow, was a man. He was a fat man--eating roast pork,
and apple-sauce, and mashed potatoes, and bread. And Thyrsis looked
at him with wondering eyes. "Man," he imagined himself saying, "do
you know how you came into this world? A thing impish, demoniac--purple
and dripping with blood--a spectre of nightmare dreams?"
"W-what?" the man gasped.
"And you know nothing of the pain that it cost! You have no sense of
the strangeness of it! You never think what your coming meant to
And then--in the seat opposite was a woman; and Thyrsis watched her.
"You!" he thought, "a woman! Can it be that you know what you are?
The fate that you play with--the power that dwells in you! To
create new life, that may be handed down through endless ages!"
Thyrsis did not say these things; they were what he wanted to
say--what he thought that he ought to say. But then he reminded
himself that these things were forbidden; these mighty facts of
child-birth, of life-creation--they might not be spoken about! They
must be kept hidden, veiled with mystery--if one wished to refer to
them, he must employ metaphors and polite evasions.
And as Thyrsis sat and thought about this, he clenched his hands.
Some day the world would hear about it--some day the world would
think about it! Some day people would behold life--would realize
what it was and what it meant. They did not realize it now--else
how could it be that women, who bore the race with so much pain and
sorrow, should be drudges and slaves, or the ornaments and
playthings of men? Else how could it be that life, which cost such a
fearful price, should be so cheap upon the earth? For every man that
lived and walked alive, some woman had had to bear this agony; and
yet men were pent up in mines and sweatshops, they were ground up in
accidents in factories and mills--nay, worse than that, were dressed
up in gaudy uniforms, and armed with rifles and machine-guns, and
marched out to slaughter each other by tens and hundreds of
So, as he walked the streets that night, Thyrsis made a vow. Some
day he would put before the world this vision that had come to him,
some day he would blast men's souls with it. He would shake them
with this horror, he would thrill them with this sense of the
infinite preciousness and holiness of life! He would drive it into
them like a barbed arrow--that never afterwards in all their lives
would they be rid of. Never afterwards would they dare to mock,
never afterwards would they be able to rest until these things had
been done away with, until these horrors had been driven from the
THE CAPTIVE BOUND
_They sat with the twilight shadows about them. Memories too
poignant assailed them, and her hand trembled as it lay upon his
"How strange it was!" she whispered. "Have we kept the faith?"
"Who knows?" he answered; and in a low voice he read--
"And long the way appears, which seem'd so short
To the less practised eye of sanguine youth;
And high the mountain-tops, in cloudy air,
The mountain-tops where is the throne of Truth,
Tops in life's morning-sun so bright and bare!"_
Section 1. This was a golden hour in Thyrsis' life. The gates of
wonder were flung open, and all things were touched with a new and
mystic glow. He scarcely realized it at the time; for once he was
too much moved to think about his own emotions, the artist was
altogether lost in the man. Even the room in which he lodged was
relieved of its sordidness; it was a thing that men had made, and so
a part of the mystery of becoming. He yearned for some one to whom
he could impart his great emotion; but because of the loneliness of
his life he could find no one but the keeper of his lodging-house.
Even she became a human thing to him, because of her interest in the
great tidings. If all the world loved a lover, it loved yet more one
through whom the supreme purpose of love had been accomplished.
Thyrsis went each day to the hospital, to watch the new miracle
unfolding itself; to see the Child asserting its existence as a
being with a life of its own. He could never tire of watching it; he
watched it asleep, with the faint heaving of its body, and the soft,
warm odor that clung to it; he watched its awakenings--the opening
of its eyes, and the sucking movements that it made perpetually with
its lips. They had dressed it up now, and hid some of its
strangeness; but each morning the nurse would undress it, and give
it a bath; and then he marvelled at the short crooked legs, and the
tiny red hands that clutched incessantly at the air, and the strange
prehensile feet, that carried one back to distant ages, hinting at
the secrets of Nature's workshop. Sometimes they would permit him to
hold this mystic creature in his arms--after much exhortation, and
assurance that his left arm was properly placed at the back of its
head. One found out in this way what a serious business life really
Corydon lay back among her pillows and smiled at these things. Most
wonderful it was to him to see how swiftly she recovered from her
ordeal, how hourly the flush of health seemed to steal back into her
cheeks. He became ashamed of the memory of his convulsive anguish
and his blind rebellions. He saw now that her pain had not been as
other pain; it was a constructive pain, a part of the task of her
life. It was a battle in which she had fought and conquered; and now
she sat, throned in her triumphal chariot, acclaimed by the plaudits
of a multitude of hopes and joys unseen.
There came the miracle of the milk. Incessantly the Child's lips
moved, and its hands groped out; it was an embodied demand for new
experience--for life, it knew not what. But Nature knew, and had
timed the event to this hour. And Thyrsis watched the phenomenon,
marvelling--as one marvels at the feat of engineers, who tunnel from
opposite sides of a mountain, and meet in the centre without the
error of an inch.
It was in accordance with the impression which Corydon made upon
him, as a dispenser of abundance, a goddess of fruitfulness, that
there should have been more milk than the Child needed. The balance
had to be drawn off with a little vacuum-pump; and Thyrsis would
watch the tiny jets as they sprayed upon the glass bulb. The milk
was rich and golden-hued; he tasted it, with mingled wonder and
These procedures filled the room with a warm, luscious odor, as of a
dairy; they were eminently domestic procedures, such as in fancy he
had been wont to tease her about. But he had few jests at
present--he was in the inner chambers of the temple of life, and
hushed and stilled with awe. The things that he had witnessed in
that room were never to be forgotten; each hour he pledged himself
anew, to the uttermost limits of his life. The voice of skeptic
reason was altogether silent in him now. And also he was interested
to observe that all protest was ended in Corydon; the impulses of
motherhood had now undisputed sway in her.
Section 2. BUT even in such an hour of consecration, the sordid
world outside would not leave him unmolested. It was as if the black
clouds had parted for a moment, while the sunlight poured through;
and now again they rolled together. The great surgeon, who had told
Thyrsis that he would wait for his money, professed now to have
forgotten his agreement. Perhaps he had really forgotten it--who
could tell, with the many things he had upon his mind? At any rate,
Corydon found herself suddenly confronted with a bill, which she was
powerless to pay; with white cheeks and trembling lips she told
Thyrsis about it--and so came more worry and humiliation. The very
food that she ate became tasteless to her, because she felt she had
no right to it; and in a few days she was begging Thyrsis to take
So he helped to carry her downstairs, and back to her parents' home;
and then he returned to his own lonely room, and sat for hours in
the bitter cold, with his teeth set tightly, and the nails dug into
the palms of his hands. It so happened that just then the editor was
beginning to change his mind about "The Hearer of Truth"; and so he
had new agonies of anxiety and disappointment.
Again he might not come to see Corydon; and this led to a great
misfortune. For she could not do without him now, her craving for
him was an obsession; and so she left her bed too soon, and climbed
the stairs to his room. Again and again she did this, in spite of
his protests; and when, a little later, the doctors found that she
had what they called "womb-trouble", they attributed it to this.
Perhaps it was not really so, but Corydon believed it, and through
all the years she laid upon it the blame for innumerable headaches
and backaches. Thus an episode that might have been soon forgotten,
stayed with her, as the symbol of all the agonies of which her life
She would come, bringing the baby with her; and they would lay it
upon the bed, and then sit and talk, for hours upon hours, wrestling
with their problems. Later on, when Corydon was able, they would go
to the park, craving the fresh air. But in midwinter there were few
days when they could sit upon a bench for long; and so they would
walk and walk, until Corydon was exhausted, and he would have to
help her back to the room.
Thyrsis in these days was like a wild animal in a cage; pacing back
and forth and testing every corner of his prison. But they never
thought of giving up; never in all their lives did that possibility
come into their discourse. And doggedly, blindly, they kept on with
their studies. Corydon mastered new lists of German words, and they
read Freitag's "Verlorene Handscrift" together, and von Scheffel's
"Ekkehard", and even attempted "Iphigenie auf Tauris"--though in
truth they found it difficult to detach themselves to quite that
extent from the world of every-day. It is not an easy matter to
experience the pure _katharsis_ of tragedy, with a baby in the room
who has to be nursed every hour or two, and who is liable to awaken
at any moment and make some demand.
He was such an intricate and complicated baby, with so many things
to be understood--belly-bands and diapers and irrational length of
skirts. Sometimes, when Corydon was quite exhausted, the attending
to these matters fell to Thyrsis, who became for the time a most
domestic poet. He once sent an editorial-room into roars of
merriment by offering to review a book upon the feeding of infants.
But he told himself that even the hilarious editors had been infants
once upon a time; and he had divined that there were secrets about
life to be learned, and great art-works to be dreamed, even amid
belly-bands and diapers. Also, Thyrsis would brave a great deal of
ridicule in order to be paid a dollar for the reading of a book that
he really wanted to read. For books that one wanted to read came so
seldom; and dollars were so difficult to earn!
It seemed as if the task grew harder every week. He went without
cuffs, and wore old and frayed collars, and washed his solitary
necktie until it was threadbare, and lived upon prunes and crackers,
and gave up the gas-stove in his room--and still he could scarcely
manage to get together the weekly rent. He studied the magazines in
the libraries, and racked his wits for new ideas to interest their
editors. He haunted editorial-rooms until his presence became a
burden, and he brought new agonies and humiliations upon himself. He
would part from Corydon in the afternoon, and shut himself in his
room; and sitting in bed to keep warm, he would work until midnight
at some new variety of pot-boiler. After which he would go out to
walk and clear his brain--and even then, exhausted as he was, his
vision would come to him again, wonderful and soul-shaking. So he
would walk on, and go back to write until nearly dawn at something
he really loved.
Section 3. It was so that he wrote his poem, "Caradrion". It was out
of thoughts of Corydon, and of the tears which they shed in each
other's presence, that this poem was made. Thyrsis had a fondness
for burrowing into strange old books, in which one found the
primitive wonder of the soul of man, first awakening to the mystery
of life. Such a book was Physiologus, with his tales of strange
beasts and magic jewels. "There is a bird called Caradrion", Thyrsis
had read.... "And if the sick man can be healed, Caradrion goes to
him, and touches him upon the mouth, and takes his sickness from
him; and so the man is made well." And out of this hint he had
fashioned the legend of the two children who had grown up together
in "the little cot, fringed round with tender green"; one of them
Cedric, and one Eileen--for he had given the names that Corydon
They grew "unto the days of love", so the story ran--
"And Cedric bent above her, stooping light,
To press a kiss upon her tender cheek.
And said, 'Eileen, I love thee; yea I love,
And loved thee ever, thou my soul's delight.'
So time sped on, until there came
"To Cedric once a strange unlovely thought,
That haunted him and would not let him be.
'Eileen,' he said, 'there is a thing called death,
Of which men speak with trembling at the lips;
And I have thought how it would be with me
If I should never gaze upon thee more.'"
So Cedric went to find out about these matters; he sought a
witch--"the haggard woman, held in awe."
"He found her crouching by a caldron fire;
Far gleams of light fled through the vault away.
And tongues of darkness flickered on the wall.
Then Cedric said, 'I seek the fate to know'.
And the witch laughed, and gazed on him and sang:
'Fashioned in the shadow-land,
Out into darkness hurled;
Trusted to the Storm-wind's hand,
By the Passion-tempest whirled!
Young or old!
Rising, falling, disappearing,
Seeking, calling, hating, fearing;
Blasted by the lightning shock,
Trampled in the earthquake rock;
Were I man I would not plead
In the roll of fate to read!'
"Then Cedric shuddered, but he said again,
'I seek the fate,' and the witch waved her hand;
And straight a peal of thunder shook the ground,
And clanged and battered on the cavern walls,
Like some huge boulder leaping down the cliff.
And blinding light flashed out, and seething fire
Shattered the seamy crags and heaving floor."
And so in a vision of terror Cedric saw the little vale, and the cot
"fringed round with tender green"; and upon the lawn he saw Eileen,
lying as one dead.
"And Cedric sprang, and cried, 'My love! Eileen!'
And on the instant came a thunder-crash
Like to the sound of old primeval days,
Of mountain-heaving shock and earthquake roar,
Of whirling planets shattered in the dark."
And so, half wild with grief and despair, Cedric wandered forth into
the world; and after great suffering, the birds took pity upon him,
and gave him advice--that he should seek Caradrion.
"'Caradrion?' cried Cedric, starting up,
'Speak swiftly, ere too late, where dwelleth he?'
'Ah, that I know not,' spake the little voice,
'Yet keep thy courage, seek thou out the stork,
The ancient stork that saw from earliest days,
Sitting in primal contemplation lost,
Sphinx-like, seraphic, and oracular,
Watching the strange procession of men's dreams.'"
But the stork was cruel and would not heed him, and led Cedric a
weary chase through the marshes and the brakes. But Cedric pursued,
and finally seized the bird by the throat, and forced the secret
"'Fare southward still,
Fronting the sun's midnoon, all-piercing shaft,
Unto the land where daylight burns as fire;
Where the rank earth in choking vapor steams,
And fierce luxurious vegetation reeks.
So shalt thou come upon a seamèd rock,
Towering to meet the sun's fierce-flashing might,
Baring its granite forehead to the sky.
There on its summit, in a cavern deep,
Dwells what thou seekest, half a bird, half man,
Caradrion, the consecrate to pain.'"
Then came the long journey and the search for the seamèd rock.
"'Twas night; and vapors, curling, choked the ground,
And the rock writhed like flesh of one in pain.
But Cedric mounted up to find the cave,
Crying aloud: 'I seek Caradrion.'
And so, till from the cavern depth a voice:
'Come not, except to sorrow thou be born.'
And Cedric, panting, stretched his shrunken arms:
'Another's sorrow would I change to joy,
And mine own joy to sorrow; help thou me.'
To which the voice, sunk low, replied: 'Come thou.'
And Cedric came, unfearing, in the dark,
And saw in gloomy night a form in pain,
With wings stretched wide, and beating faint and fast.
'Art thou Caradrion?' he murmured swift,
And echo gave reply, 'Caradrion'."
So Cedric told of his errand, and pleaded for help; he heard the
answer of the voice:
"'Yea, I can save her, if thou be a soul
That can dare pain and face the rage of fate;
A soul that feareth not to look on death.'
'Speak on,' said Cedric, shaking, and he spoke:
'This is my law, that am Caradrion,
Whose way is sorrow and whose end is death;
That by my pain some fleeting grace I win,
Some joy unto another I can give.
Far through this world of woe I seek, and find
Some soul crushed utterly, and steeped in pain;
And when it sleeps, I stoop on silent wing,
And with a kiss take all its woe away--
Take it for mine, and then into this cave
Return alone, the blessing's price to pay.'
Then up sprang Cedric. 'Nay,' he,' cried, 'then swift,
Ere life be gone!' But once more spake the voice:
'Nay, boy, my race is run, my power is spent;
This hope alone I give thee, as thou wilt;
Whoso stands by and sees my heart-throb cease,
Who tastes its blood, my power and form are his,
And forth he fares in solitary flight,
Caradrion, the consecrate to pain.
And so my word is said; now hide thee far
In the cave's night, and wrestle there in prayer.'
But Cedric said, 'My prayer is done; I wait.'
So in the cave the hours of night sped by,
And sounds came forth as when a woman fights
In savage pain a life from hers to free."
Then in the dawn a dark shadow flew from the cave, and sped across
the blue, and came to the little vale, where Eileen lay dying, as he
had seen her in the vision in the "haggard woman's" cavern.
"Then Cedric sprang, and cried, 'My love! Eileen!'
And Eileen heard him not; nor knew he wept.--
For mighty sorrow burst from out his heart,
And flooded all his being, and he sunk,
And moaned: 'Eileen, I love thee! Yea, I love,
And loved thee ever; and I can not think
That I shall never gaze upon thee more.
My life for thine--ah, that were naught to give,
Meant not the gift to see thee nevermore!
Never to hear thy voice. Nay, nay, Eileen,
Gaze on me, speak to me, give me but one word,
And I will go and never more return.'
But Eileen answered not; he touched her hand,
And she felt nothing. Then he whispered, low,
'Oh, may God keep thee--for it must be done--
Guard thee, and bless thee, thou my soul's delight!
And when thou waken'st, wilt thou think of me,
Of Cedric, him that loved thee, oh so true?
Nay, for they said thou shouldst no sorrow know,
And that would be a sorrow, yea, it would.
And must thou then forget me, thou my love?
And canst not give me but one single word,
To tell me that I do not die in vain?
Gaze at me, Eileen, see, thy love is here,
Here as of old, above thee stooping light,
To press a kiss upon thy tender lips.--
Ah, I can kiss thee--kiss thee, my Eileen,
Kiss as of yore, with all my passion's woe!'
And as he spoke he pressed her to his heart,
Long, long, with yearning, and he felt the leap
Of molten metal through his throbbing veins;
His eyes shot fire, and anguish racked his limbs,
And he fell back, and reeled, and clutched his brow.
An instant only gazed he on her face,
And saw new life within her gray cheek leap,
And her dark eyelids tremble. Then with moan,
And fearful struggle, swift he fled away,
That she might nothing of his strife perceive.
And then, reminded of his gift of flight,
He started from the earth, and beat aloft,
Each sweep of his great wings a torture-stroke
Upon his fainting heart. And thus away,
With languid flight he moved, and Eileen, raised
In new-born joy from off her couch of pain,
Saw a strange bird into the distance fade."
And so Cedric went back to the seamèd rock, and there he heard a
voice calling, "I seek Caradrion!" And as before he answered,
"Come not, except to sorrow thou be born!"
And again, in the cave--
"The hours of night sped by.
And sounds came forth as when a woman fights
In savage pain, a life from hers to free.
But Eileen dwelt within the happy vale,
Thinking no thought of him that went away."
Section 4. This had come so very easily to Thyrsis that he could not
believe that it was good. "Just a little story," he said to Corydon,
when he read it to her, and he was surprised to see how it affected
her--how the tears welled into her eyes, and she clung to him
sobbing. It meant more to her than any other thing that he had
written; it was the very voice of their tenderness and their grief.
Then Thyrsis took it to the one editor he knew who was a lover of
poetry, and was surprised again, at this man's delight. But he
smiled sadly as he realized that the editor did not use poetry--they
did not praise so recklessly when it was a question of something to
"The poem is too long for any magazine," was the verdict, "and it's
not long enough for a book. And besides, poetry doesn't sell." But
none the less Thyrsis, who would never take a defeat, began to offer
it about; and so "Caradrion" was added to the list of stamp-consuming
manuscripts, and set out to see the world at the expense of its
So there was one more wasted vision, one more futile effort--and one
more grapple with despair, in the hours when he and his wife sat
wrapped in a blanket in the tenement-room. Corydon was growing more
nervous and unhappy every day, it seemed to him. There were,
apparently, endless humiliations to be experienced by a woman "whose
husband did not support her". Some zealous relative had suggested to
her the idea that the "hall-boys" might think she was not really
married; and so now she was impelled to speculate upon the
psychology of these Ethiopian functionaries, and look for slights
and disapproval from them!
Thyrsis, from much work and little sleep, was haggard and wild of
aspect; the cry of the world, "Take a position!" rang in his ears
day and night. The springs of book-reviews had dried up entirely,
and by sheer starvation he was forced to a stage lower yet. A former
college friend was editing a work of "contemporary biography", and
offered Thyrsis some hack-writing. It meant the carrying home of
huge bundles of correspondence from the world's most brightly-shining
lights, and the making up of biographical sketches from their eulogies
of themselves. With every light there came a portrait, showing what
manner of light it was. As for Thyrsis, he did his writing with the
feeling that he would like to explore with a poniard the interiors
of each one of these people.
For nearly three months now an eminent editor had been trying to
summon up the courage to accept "The Hearer of Truth". He had
written several letters to tell the author how good a work it was;
and now that it was to be definitely rejected, he soothed his
conscience by inviting the author to lunch. The function came off at
one of the most august and stately of the city's clubs, a marble
building near Fifth Avenue, where Thyrsis, with a new clean collar,
and his worn shoes newly shined, passed under the suspicious eyes of
the liveried menials, and was ushered before the eminent editor.
About the vast room were portraits of bygone dignitaries; and there
were great leather-upholstered arm-chairs in which one might see the
dignitaries of the present--some of them with little tables at their
sides, and decanters and soda and cracked ice. They went into the
dining-room, where everyone spoke and ate in whispers, and the
waiters flitted about like black and white ghosts; and while Thyrsis
consumed a cupful of cold _bouillon_, and a squab _en casserole_,
and a plate of what might be described as an honorific salad, he
listened to the soft-voiced editor discussing the problem of his
The editor's theme was what the public wanted. The world had existed for
a long time, it seemed, and was not easily to be changed; it was necessary
for an author to take its prejudices into consideration--especially
if he was young, and unknown, and--er--dependent upon his own resources.
It seemed to Thyrsis, as he listened, that the great man must have
arranged this luncheon as a stage-setting for his remarks--planning
it on purpose to light a blaze of bitterness in the soul of the hungry
poet. "Look at me," he seemed to say--"this is the way the job is done.
Once I was poor and unknown like you--actually, though you might not
credit it, a raw boy from the country. But I had taste and talent,
and I was judicious; and so now for thirty years I have been at the
head of one of the country's leading magazines. And see--by my mere
word I am able to bring you here into the very citadel of power! For
these men about you are the masters of the metropolis. There is a rich
publisher--his name is a household word--and you saw how he touched
me on the shoulder. There is an ex-mayor of the city--you saw how he
nodded to me! Yonder is the head of one of the oldest and most
exclusive of the city's landed families--even with him I am
acquainted! And this is power! You may know it by all these signs of
mahogany furniture, and leather upholstery, and waiters of
reverential deportment. You may know it by the signs of
respectability and awesomeness and chaste abundance. Make haste to
pay homage to it, and enroll yourself in its service!"
Thyrsis held himself in, and parted from the editor with all
courtesy; but then, as he walked down Fifth Avenue, his fury burst
into flame. Here, too, was power--here, too, the signs of it!
Palaces of granite and marble, arid towering apartment-hotels; an
endless vista of carriages and automobiles, with rich women lolling
in them, or descending into shops whose windows blazed with jewels
and silver and gold. Here were the masters of the metropolis, the
masters of life; the dispensers of patronage--that "public" which he
had to please. He would bring his vision and lay it at their feet,
and they would give him or deny him opportunity! And what was it
that they wanted? Was it worship and consecration and love? One
could read the answer in their purse-proud glances; in the barriers
of steel and bronze with which they protected the gates of their
palaces; in the aspects of their flunkeys, whose casual glances were
like blows in the face. One could read the answer in the pitiful
features of the little errand-girl who went past, carrying some bit
of their splendor to them; or of the ragged beggar, who hovered in
the shelter of a side-street, fearing their displeasure. No, they
were not lovers of life, and protectors; they were parasites and
destroyers, devourers of the hopes of humanity! Their splendors were
the distilled essence of the tears and agonies of millions of
defeated people--their jewels were drops of blood from the heart of
the human race!
Section 5. So, with rage and bitterness, Thyrsis was gnawing out his
soul in the night-time; distilling those fierce poisons which he was
to pour into the next of his works--the most terrible of them all,
and the one which the world would never forgive him.
There came another episode, to bring matters to a crisis. In the far
Northwest lived another branch of Thyrsis' family, the head of which
had become what the papers called a "lumber-king". One of this great
man's radiant daughters was to be married, and the family made the
selecting of her trousseau the occasion for a flying visit to the
metropolis. So there were family reunions, and Thyrsis was invited
to bring his wife and call.
Corydon voiced her perplexity.
"What do they want to see _us_ for?" she asked.
"I belong to their line," he said.
"But--you are poor!" she exclaimed.
"I know," he said, "but the family's the family, and they are too
proud to be snobbish."
"But--why do they ask me?"
Thyrsis pondered. "They know we have published a book," he said. "It
must be their tribute to literature."
"Are they people of culture?" she asked.
"Not unless they've tried very hard," he answered. "But they have
old traditions--and they want to be aristocratic."
"I won't go," said Corydon. "I couldn't stand them."
And so Thyrsis went alone--to that same temple of luxury where he
had called upon the college-professor. And there he met the
lumber-king, who was tall and imposing of aspect; and the
lumber-queen, who was verging on stoutness; and the three
lumber-princesses, who were disturbing creatures for a poet to gaze
upon. It seemed to Thyrsis that he had been dwelling in the slums
all his life--so sharp was the shock which came to him at the
meeting with these young girls. They were exquisite beyond telling:
the graceful lines of their figures, the perfect features, the
radiant complexions; the soft, filmy gowns they wore, the faint,
intoxicating perfumes that clung to them, the atmosphere of serenity
which they radiated. There was that in Thyrsis which thrilled at
their presence--he had been born into such a world, and might have
had such a woman for his mate.
But he put such thoughts from him--he had made his choice long ago,
and it was not the primrose-path. Perhaps he was over-sensitive,
acutely aware of himself as a strange creature with no cuffs, and
with hardly any soles to his shoes. And all the time of these women
was taken up by the arrival of packages of gowns and millinery;
their conversation was of diamonds and automobiles, and the
forthcoming honeymoon upon the Riviera. So it was hard for him not
to feel bitterness; hard for him to keep his thoughts from going
back to the lonely child-wife wandering about in the park--to all
her deprivations, her blasted hopes and dying glories of soul.
The family was going to the matinée; as there was room in their car,
they asked Thyrsis to go with them. So he watched the lumber-king
(who had refused to lend him money, but had offered him a
"position") draw out a bank-note from a large roll, and pay for a
box in one of Broadway's great palaces of art. And now--having been
advised so often to study what the public wanted--now Thyrsis had a
chance to recline at his ease and follow the advice.
"The Princess of Prague", it was called; it was a "musical comedy";
and evidently exactly what the public wanted, for the house was
crowded to the doors. The leading comedian was said by the papers to
be receiving a salary of a thousand dollars a week. He held the
center of the stage, clad in the costume of a lieutenant of marines,
and winked and grinned, and performed antics, and sang songs of no
doubtful significance, and emitted a fusillade of cynical jests. He
was supposed to be half-drunk, and making love to a run-away
princess--who would at one moment accept his caresses, and then
spurn him coquettishly, and then execute an unlovely dance with him.
In between these diverting procedures a chorus would come on, a
score or so of highly-painted women, hopping and gliding about, each
time clad in new costumes more cunningly indecent than the last.
From beginning to end of this piece there was not a single line of
real humor, a spark of human sentiment, a gleam of intelligence; it
was a kind of delirium tremens of the drama. To Thyrsis it seemed as
if a whole civilization, with all its resources of science and
art--its music and painting and costumes, its poets and composers,
its actors, singers, orchestra, and audience--had all at once fallen
victims to an attack of St. Vitus' dance. He sat and listened, while
the theatre full of people roared and howled its applause; while the
family beside him--mother and father and daughters--laughed over
jokes that made him ashamed to turn and look at them. In the end the
realization of what this scene meant--not only the break-down of a
civilization, but the trap in which his own spirit was caught--made
him sick and faint all over. He had to ask to be excused, and went
out and sat in the lobby until the "show" was done.
The family found him there, and the bride-to-be inquired if he "felt
better"; then, looking at his pale face, an idea occurred to her,
and after a bit of hesitation, she asked him if he would not stay to
dinner. In her mind was the conflict between pity for this poor boy,
and doubt as to the fitness of his costume; and Thyrsis, having read
her mind in a flash, was divided between his humiliation, and his
desire for some food. In the end the baser motive won; he buried his
pride, and went to dinner.--And so, as the fates had planned it, the
impulse to his next book was born.
Section 6. There came another guest to the meal--the rector of the
fashionable church which the family attended at home. He was a young
man, renowned for the charm of his oratory; smooth-shaven,
pink-and-white-cheeked, exquisite in his manners, gracious and
insinuating. His ideas and his language and his morals were all as
perfectly polished as his finger-nails; and never before in his life
had Thyrsis had such a red rag waved in his face. But he had come
there for the dinner, and he attended to that, and let Dr. Holland
provide the flow of soul; until at the very end, when the doctor was
sipping his _demi-tasse_.
The conversation had come, by some devious route, to Vegetarianism;
and the clergyman was disapproving of it. That made no difference to
Thyrsis, who was not a vegetarian, and knew nothing about it; but
how he hated the arguments the man advanced! For that which made the
doctor an anti-vegetarian was an attitude to life, which had also
made him a Republican and an Imperialist, a graduate of Harvard and
a beneficiary of the Apostolic Succession. Because life was a
survival of the fittest, and because God had intended the less fit
to take the doctor's word as their sentence of extermination.
The duty of animals, as the clergyman set it forth to them, was to
convert plant-tissue into a more concentrated and perfect form of
nutriment. "The protein of animal flesh," he was saying, "is more
nearly allied to human tissue; and so it is clearly more fitted for
Here Thyrsis entered the conversation. "Doctor Holland," he said,
mildly, "I should think it would occur to you to follow your
argument to its conclusion."
The other turned to look at him. "What conclusion?" he asked.
"I should think you would become a cannibal," Thyrsis replied.
And then there was silence at the table. When Dr. Holland spoke
again it was to hurry the conversation elsewhere; and from time to
time thereafter he would steal a puzzled glance at Thyrsis.
But this the boy did not see. His thoughts had gone whirling on;
here, in this elegant dining-room, the throes of creation seized
hold of him. For this was the image he had been seeking, the phrase
that would embrace it all and express it all--the concentrated
bitterness of his poisoned life! Yes, he had them! He had them, with
all their glory and their power! They were Cannibals. _Cannibals_!
So, when he set out from the hotel, he did not go home, but walked
instead for uncounted hours in the park. And in those hours he lived
through the whole of his new book, the unspeakable book--"The Higher
In the morning he told Corydon about it. She cried in terror, "But,
Thyrsis, nobody would publish it!"
"Of course not," said he.
"But then," she asked, "how can you write it?"
"I shall write it," he said, "if I have to die when I get through".
So he shut himself up in his room once more.
Section 7. A famous scientist began the story--reasoning along the
lines of Dr. Holland's argument. The grass took the inorganic
matter, and made it into food; the steer ate the grass, and carried
it to the next stage; and beyond that was one stage more. So the
scientist began making experiments--in a quiet way, of course. He
reported the results before a learned scientific body, but his
colleagues were so scandalized that the matter was hushed up.
The seed had been sown, however. A younger man took up the idea, and
made researches in the South Seas--substantiating the claim that
those races which took to anthropophagy had invariably supplanted
the others. The new investigator printed his findings in a book
which was circulated privately; and pretty soon he was called into
consultation by the master-mind of the country's finance--the
richest man in the world. This man was old and bald and feeble; and
now suddenly there came to him a new lease of life--new health and
new enthusiasm. It was given out that he had got it by wandering
about bare-footed in the grass, and playing golf all day--an
explanation which the public accepted without question. No one
remarked the fact that the old man began devoting his wealth to the
establishing of foundling asylums; nor did any one think it
suspicious that the younger generation of this multi-millionaire
should rise so suddenly to power and fame.
But there began to be strange rumors and suspicions. There were
young writers, who had developed a new technique, and had carried
poetic utterance to undreamed of heights; and in this poetry were
cryptic allusions, hints of diabolic things. A Socialist paper
printed the ménu of a banquet given by these "Neo-Nietzscheans", and
demanded to know what one was to understand by _filet de mouton
blanc_, and wherein lay the subtle humor of _paté de petit bête_.
And at last the storm broke--a youth scarcely in his teens published
a book of poems in which the dread secret was blazoned forth to the
world with mocking defiance. There were frantic attempts to suppress
this book, but they failed; and then a prosecuting officer, eager
for notoriety, placed the youth upon trial for his life. And so the
issue was drawn.
The public at large awakened to a dazed realization of the head-way
which the new idea had made. It had become a cult of the
ruling-class, the esoteric religion of the state; everywhere its
defenders sprang up--it seemed as if all the intellectual as well as
the material power of the community was under its spell. To oppose
it was not merely bad form--it was to incur a stigma of moral
inferiority, to be the victim of a "slave-ethic".
With the scientific world, of course, its victory was speedy; the
new doctrine was in line with recognized evolutionary teaching. The
great names of Darwin and Spencer were invoked in its support; and,
of course, when it came to economic science, there could be no two
opinions. Had _laissez-faire_ ever meant anything, if _laissez-faire_
did not mean this?
At the very outset, the country was startled by the publication of a
book by a college professor, famed as a leading sociologist, in
which the case was presented without any attempt at sophistication.
It was a fact, needing no attestation, that the mass of mankind had
always lived in a state of slavery. At the present hour, under the
forms of democracy, there were a quarter of a million men killed
every year in industry, and half a million women living by
prostitution, and two million children earning wages, and ten
million people in want; and in comparison with these things, how
humane was the new cult, how honest and above-board, how clean and
economical! For the first time there could be offered to the
submerged tenth a real social function to be performed. Once let the
new teaching be applied upon a world-wide scale, and the proletariat
might follow its natural impulse to multiply without limit; there
would be no more "race-suicide" to trouble the souls of eminent
And this at the time when the attention of the community was
focussed upon the new _cause célèbre_! When the public prints were
filled with an acrimonious discussion as to the meaning of the
instructions given to the jury. If anyone chose to will his body to
a purchaser, said the judge, and then go and commit suicide, there
was no law to prevent him; and, of course, the subsequent purposes
of the purchaser had nothing to do with the point at issue. This was
a matter of taste--here the learned justice rapped for order--a
matter of prejudice, largely, and the question at issue was one of
law. There was no law controlling a man's dietetic idiosyncrasies,
and it was to be doubted if constitutionally any such law would
stand--certainly not in a federal court, unless it chanced to be a
matter of interstate commerce.
In their bewilderment and dismay, the people turned to the Church.
Surely the doctrines of Christianity would stand like a barricade
against this monstrous cult. But already within the Church there had
been rumors and disturbances; and now suddenly a bishop arose and
voiced his protest against this attempt "to drag the Church into the
mire of political controversy." It must be made perfectly clear,
said the bishop, that Christianity was a religion, and not a
dietetic dogma. Its purpose was to save the souls of men, and not to
concern itself with their bodies. It had been stated that we should
have the poor always with us; which made clear the futility of
attempting to change the facts of Nature. Also it was certain that
the founder of Christianity had been a meat-eater; and though there
might be more than one interpretation placed upon his command
concerning little children---
There we might leave Thyrsis with the established Church. He had it
just where he wanted it, and he shook it until its smoothly-shaven
pink and white cheeks turned purple, and the _demi-tasse_ went
flying out of its beautifully manicured fingers! And while he did it
he laughed aloud in hideous glee, and in his soul was a cry like the
hunting-call of the lone gray wolf, that he had heard at midnight in
his wilderness camp. So far a journey had come the little boy who
had been dressed up in scarlet and purple robes, and had carried the
bishop's train at the confirmation service! And so heavy a penalty
did the church pay for its alliance with "good society"!
Section 8. Thyrsis paid a week's living expenses to have this
manuscript copied; and then he took it about to the publishers.
First came his friend Mr. Ardsley, who had become his chief adviser.
When Thyrsis went to see him, Mr. Ardsley drew out an envelope from
his desk, and took from it the opinion of his reader. "'What in the
world is the matter with this boy?'" he read. "That's the opening
And then he fixed his eyes upon the boy. "What in the world _is_ the
matter?" he asked.
Thyrsis sat silent; there was no reply he could make. He was
strongly tempted to say to the man, "The matter is that I am not
getting enough to eat!"
But already Thyrsis himself had judged "The Higher Cannibalism" and
repudiated it. It was born of his pain and weakness, and it was not
the work he had come into the world to do. So at the end he had
placed a poem, which told of a visit from his muse, after the
fashion of Musset's "Nuits"; the muse had been sad and silent, and
in the end the poet had torn up the product of his hours of despair,
and had renewed his faith with the gracious one.
Meantime the long winter months dragged by, and still there was no
gleam of hope. For Corydon it was even harder than for her husband.
He at least was expressing his feelings, while she could only pine
and chafe, without any sort of vent. Her life was a matter of
colorless routine, in which each day was like the last, except in
increased monotony. She tried hard not to let him see how she
suffered; but sometimes the tears would come. And her unhappiness
was bad for the child, which in the beginning had been robust and
magnificent, but now was not growing properly. Thyrsis would have
ridiculed the idea that nervousness could affect her milk; but the
time came when, in later life, he saw the poisons of fatigue and
fear in test-tubes, and so he understood why the child had not been
able to lift its head until it was a year old, and had then been
well on the way to having "rickets."
All their life was so different from the way they had dreamed it!
The dream still lured them; but its voice grew fainter and more
remote. How were they to keep it real to themselves, how were they
to hold it? Their existence was made up of endless sordidness, of
dreary commonplace, that opposed them with its passive inertia where
it did not actively attack them. "Ah, Thyrsis!" Corydon would cry to
him, "this will kill us if it lasts too long!"
For one thing, they no longer heard any music at all--She was not
strong enough to practice the piano; and his violin was gone. Here
in the great city an endless stream of concerts and operas and
recitals flowed past; and here were they, like starving children who
press their faces against a pastry-cook's window and devour the
sweets with their eyes. Thyrsis kept up with musical and dramatic
progress by reading the accounts in the papers and magazines; but
this was a good deal like slaking one's thirst with a mirage. He
used to wonder sometimes if he were to write to these great
artists--would they invite him to hear them, or would they too
despise him? He never had the courage to try.
Once in the course of the long winter some one presented Corydon
with two tickets to the opera, and they went together, in a state of
utter bliss. It was an unusual experience for Thyrsis, for their
seats were in the orchestra, and hitherto he had always heard his
operas from the upper rows in the fifth balcony, where the air was
hot and stifling, and the singers appeared as a pair of tiny arms
that waved, and a head (frequently a bald head) that emitted a thin,
far-distant voice. This had become to him one of the conventions of
the opera; and now to discover the singers as full-sized human
beings, with faces and legs and loud voices, was very disturbing to
his sense of illusion.
Also, alas, they had not been free to select the opera. It was "La
Traviata"; and there was not much food for their hungry souls in
this farrago of artificiality and sham sentiment. They shut their
eyes and tried to enjoy the music, forgetting the gallant young men
of fashion and their fascinating mistresses. But even the music, it
seemed, was tainted; or could it be, Thyrsis wondered, that he could
no longer lose himself in the pure joy of melody? Many kinds of
corruption he had by this time learned about; the corruption of men,
and of women, and of children; the corruption of painting and
sculpture, of poetry and the drama. But the corruption of music was
something which even yet he could not face; for music was the very
voice of the soul--the well-spring from which life itself was
derived. Thyrsis thought, as he and Corydon wandered about in the
foyers of this palatial opera-house, was there anywhere on earth a
place in which heaven and hell came so close together. A place where
the lust and pride of the flesh displayed themselves in all their
glory; and in contrast with the purest ecstasies the human spirit
had attained! He pointed out one rich dowager who swept past them;
her breasts all but jostling out of her corsage as she walked, her
stomach squeezed into a sort of armor-plate of jewels, her cheeks
powdered and painted, her head weighted with false hair and a tiara
of diamonds, her face like a mask of pride and scorn. And then, in
juxtaposition with that, the _Waldweben_ and the _Feuerzauber_, or
the grim and awful tragedy of the Siegfried funeral-march! There
were people in this opera-house who knew what such music meant;
Thyrsis had read it in their faces, in that suffocating top-gallery.
He wondered if some day the demons that were evoked by the music
might not call to them and lead them in revolt, to drive the money-
changers from the temple once again!
Section 9. Another editor was reading "The Hearer of Truth," and a
publisher was hovering on the brink of venturing "The Higher
Cannibalism"; and so the two had new hopes to lure them on. When the
spring-time had come, they would once more escape from the city, and
would put up their tent on the lake-shore! They spent long
afternoons picturing just how they would live--what they would eat,
and what they would wear, and what they would study. As for
Cedric--so they had called the baby--they saw him playing beneath
the big tree in front of the tent. And what fun they would have
giving him his bath on the little beach inside the point!
"I'll fix up a clothes-basket for him to sleep in!" declared
"Nonsense, dear!" said Corydon. "I've told you many times
before--we'll _have_ to have a crib for him!"
"But why?" cried he; and there would follow an argument which gave
pain to his economical soul.
Corydon declared herself willing to do her share in the matter of
saving money; but it seemed to him that whenever he suggested a
concrete idea, there would be objections. "We can get up at dawn,"
he would say, "and save the cost of oil."
"Yes," she would answer.
"And we can do our own laundry," he would continue. But immediately
another argument would begin; it was impossible to persuade Corydon
that diapers could be washed in cold water, even when one had the