Part 6 out of 11
whole of the Great Lakes for a washtub.
They would go on to contemplate the glorious time when they would
have money enough to build a home of their own, that could be
inhabited in winter as well as in summer; Corydon always referred to
it with the line from "Caradrion"--"the little cot, fringed round
with tender green." It would be fine for the baby, they agreed--he
should never have to go back to the city again. Thyrsis had a vision
of him as he would be in that home: a brown and freckled country
boy, with what were known, in the dialect of "dam-fool talk", as
"yagged panties and bare feets".
But Corydon would protest at that picture. "It's all right," she
said, "to put up with ugliness if you have to. But what's the use of
making a fetish of it?"
"It wouldn't be ugliness," replied he. "It would be Nature!
'Blessings on thee, little man!'"
"That's all very well. But I want Cedric to have curls--"
"Curls!" he cried. "And then a Fauntleroy suit, I suppose!"
"No--at least not while we're poor. But I want him to look
"If you have curls, then you'll want a nurse-maid to brush them!"
"Nonsense, Thyrsis! Can't a mother take care of her child's own
"_Some_ mothers can--they have nothing better to do. But if you were
going in for the hair-dresser's art, why did you cut off your own?"
And so would come yet new discussions. "You'll be wanting me to
maintain an establishment!" Thyrsis would cry, whenever these
aesthetic impulses manifested themselves. He seemed to be haunted by
that image of an establishment. All married men came to it in the
end--there seemed to be something in matrimony that predisposed to
it; and far better adopt at once the ideals and habits of the
gypsies, than to settle into respectability with a nurse-maid and a
Thyrsis was under the necessity of sweeping clean his soul, because
of all the luxury and wantonness he saw in this metropolis, and the
madness to which it goaded his soul. Some day fame would come to
him, he knew--wealth also, perhaps; and oh, there must be one man in
all the city who was not corrupted, who did not learn extravagance
and self-indulgence, who practiced as well as preached the life
of faith! And so, again and again, he and Corydon would renew the
pledges of their courtship-days--pledges to a discipline of Spartan
Poor as he was, Thyrsis still found time to figure over the things
he meant to do when he got money: the publishing-house that was to
bring out his books at cost, and the free reading-rooms and the
circulating libraries. Also, he wanted to edit a magazine; for there
was a great truth which he wished to teach the world. "We must make
these things that we have suffered count for something!" he would
say to Corydon, again and again. "We must use them to open people's
eyes!" He was thinking how, when at last he had escaped from the
pit, he would be in a position to speak for those others who were
left behind. Men would heed him then, and he could show them how
impossible it was for the creative artist to do his work, and at the
same time carry on the struggle for bread. He would induce some rich
man to set aside a fund for the endowment of young writers; and so
the man who had a real message might no longer have to starve.
Thyrsis had by this time tried all the world, and he knew that there
was no one to understand. Just about now he was utterly stranded,
and had to borrow money for even his next day's food. And oh, the
humiliations and insults that came with these loans! And worse yet,
the humiliations and insults that came without any loans! There was
one rich man who advanced him ten dollars; Thyrsis, when he returned
it, sent a check he had received from some out-of-town magazine--and
in return was rebuked by the rich man for failing to include the
"exchange" on the check. Thyrsis wrote humbly to inquire what manner
of thing the "exchange" on a check might be; and learned that he was
still in the rich man's debt to the sum of ten cents!
His case was the more hopeless, he found, because he was a married
man. The world might have pardoned a young free-lance who was
willing to "rough it" and take his chances for a while; but a man
who had a wife and child--and was still prating about poetry! To the
world the possession of a wife and child meant self-indulgence; and
when a man had fallen into that trap, he simply had to settle down
and take the consequence. How could Thyrsis explain that his
marriage had not been as other men's? How could he hint at such a
thing, without proving himself a cad?
Section 10. The work of "contemporary biography" had come to an end;
there followed weeks of seeking, and then another opening
appeared--Mr. Ardsley offered him a chance to do some manuscript-reading.
This was really a splendid opportunity, for the work would not be
difficult, and the payment would be five dollars for each manuscript.
Thyrsis accepted joyfully, and forthwith carried off a couple of embryo
books to his room.
It was a new and curious occupation, which opened up to him whole
worlds whose existence he had not previously suspected. Through his
review-writing he had become acquainted with the books that had seen
the light of day; now he made the startling discovery that for every
one that was born, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, that died
in the womb. He could see how it went--the hordes of half-educated
people who read books and were moved to write something like them.
Each manuscript was a separate tragedy; and often there would be a
letter or a preface to make certain that one did not miss the sense
of it. Here would be a settlement-worker, burning with a message,
but unable to draw a character or to write dialogue; here would be a
business-man, who had studied up the dialect of the region where he
spent his summer vacations, and whose style was so crude that one
winced as he turned the pages; here would be a poor bookkeeper, or a
type-writer, or other cog in the business machine, who had read of
the fortunes made by writers of fiction, and had spent all his hours
of leisure for a year in composing a tale of the _grand monde_, or
some feeble imitation of the sugar-coated "historical romance" of
Sometimes as he read these manuscripts, a shudder would come over
Thyrsis; how they made him realize the odds in the game of life!
These thousands and tens of thousands panting and striving for
success; and he lost in the throng of them! What madness it seemed
to imagine that he might climb over their heads--that he had been
chosen to scale the heights of fame! Their letters and prefaces
sounded like a satire upon his own attitude, a _reductio ad
absurdum_ of his claims to "genius". Here, for instance, was a man
who wrote to introduce himself as America's first epic poet
--stating incidentally that he was an inspector of gas-meters, and
had a wife and six children. His poem occupied some six hundred
foolscap sheets, finely bound up by hand; it set forth the
soul-states of a Byron from Alabama--an aristocratic hero who was
refused by the lady of his heart, and voiced his anger and
perplexity in a long speech, two lines of which stamped themselves
forever upon the mind of the reader---
"But I! he cried. My limbs are straight,
My purse well-filled, my veins all F. F. V.!"
As a method of earning one's living, this was almost too good to be
true. The worse the manuscripts were the easier was his task; in
fact, when he came upon one which showed traces of real power and
interest he cursed his fate, for then it might take several days to
earn his five dollars. But for the most part the manuscripts were
bad enough, and he could have earned a year's income in a week, if
only there had been enough of them. So he made a great effort to
succeed at the work, and filled his reports with epigrams and keen
observations, carefully adapted to what he knew was Mr. Ardsley's
point of view. He allowed time for these devices to be effective,
and then paid a visit to find out about the prospects.
"Mr. Ardsley," he began, "I am going to try to meet you half way
with a book."
"Ah!" said the other.
"I want to write a novel that you can publish. I believe that I can
Mr. Ardsley warmed immediately. "I have always been certain that you
could," said he. He went on to expound to Thyrsis the ethics of
opportunism--how it would not be necessary to be false to his
convictions, to write anything that he did not believe--but simply
to put his convictions into a popular form, and to impart no more
than the public could swallow at the first mouthful.
Thyrsis told him the outline of a plot. He would write a story of
the struggles of a young author in the metropolis--not such a young
author as himself, a rebel and a frenzied egotist, but a plain,
everyday young author whom other people could care about. He had the
"local color" for such a tale, and he could do it without too much
waste of time. Mr. Ardsley thought it an excellent idea.
After which Thyrsis came, very cautiously, to the meat of the
matter. "I want to get away into the country to write it," he said;
"and so I wanted to ask you about the manuscripts you are sending
me. Have you found my work satisfactory?"
"Why, yes," said the other.
"And do you think you can send them through the summer?"
"I presume so. It depends upon how many come to us."
"You--you couldn't arrange to let me have any more of them?"
"Not at present," said Mr. Ardsley. "You see, I have regular
readers, whose work I know. I'll send you what I have to spare."
"Thank you," said Thyrsis. "I'll be glad to have all you can give
So he went away; and in the little room he and Corydon had an
anxious consultation. He had been getting about twenty dollars a
month; which was not enough for the family to exist upon. "Our only
hope is a new book," he declared; and Corydon saw that was the
truth. "Each week that I stay here is a loss," he added. "I have to
"But can you stand tenting out in April?" asked she.
"I'll chance it," he replied--"if you'll say the word."
She saw that her duty was before her; she must nerve herself and
face it, though it tore her heartstrings. She must stay and take
care of the baby, while he went away to work!
He sat and held her hands, and saw her bite her lips and fight to
keep back the tears in her eyes. Their hearts had grown together, so
that it was like tearing their flesh to separate them. They had
never imagined that such a thing could come into their lives.
"Thyrsis," she whispered--"you'll forget me!"
He pressed her hands more tightly. "No, dear! No!" he said.
"But you'll get used to living without me!" she cried. "And it's the
time in my life when I need you most!"
"I will stay, dearest, if you say so."
She exclaimed, "No, no! I must stand it!"
And seeing her grief, his heart breaking with pity, a strange
impulse came to Thyrsis. He took her hands in his, and knelt down
before her, and began to pray. It had been years since he had
thought of prayer, and Corydon had never thought of it in her life.
It came from the deeps of him--a few stammering words, simple,
almost childish, yet exquisite as music. He prayed that they might
have courage to keep up the fight, that they might be able to hold
their love before them, that nothing might ever dim their vision of
each other. It was a prayer without theology or metaphysics--a
prayer to the unknown gods; but it set free the well-spring of
tenderness and pity within them; and when he finished Corydon was
sobbing upon his shoulder.
THE CAPTIVE IN LEASH
_They were standing on the hill-top, watching the last glimmer of
the sinking moon. As the faint perfume of the clover came to them
upon the warm evening wind, she sighed, and whispered--
"Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here!
'Mid city noise, not as with thee of yore,
Thyrsis! in reach of sheep-bells is my home!"
"Go on," he said, and she quoted--
"Then through the great town's harsh, heart-wearying roar,
Let in thy voice a whisper always come,
To chase fatigue and fear:
Why faintest thou? I wandered till I died.
Roam on! The light we sought is shining still."_
Section 1. Thyrsis made his plans and packed his few belongings.
There came another pass from the "higher regions", and he took the
night-train once more, and came to the little town upon the shores
of Lake Ontario. Once more the sun shone on the crystal-green water,
and the cold breeze blew from off the lake. There was still snow in
the ravines of the deep woods, but Thyrsis got his tent out of the
farmer's barn, and patched up the holes the mice had gnawed, and put
it up on the old familiar spot.
It was strange to him to be there without Corydon. There were so
many things to remind him of her--a sudden memory would catch him
unawares, and stab him like a knife. There was the rocky headland
where they had swam, and there was the pine-tree that the lightning
had splintered, one day while they were standing near. When darkness
came, and he was unpacking a few old things that they had left up in
the country, his loneliness seemed to him almost more than he could
bear; he sat by the little stove, holding a pair of her old faded
slippers in his hands, and felt his tears trickling down upon them.
But it took him only a day or two to drive such things out of his
mind. There was no time for sentiment now--it was "Clear ship for
action!" For once in his life he was free, and had a chance to work.
He was full of his talk with Mr. Ardsley, and meant to do his best
to be "practical." And so behold him wandering about in the
water-soaked forests, or tramping the muddy roads, or sitting by his
little stove while the cold storms beat upon the tent--wrestling
with his unruly Pegasus, and dragging it back a hundred times a day
to what was proper, and human, and interesting!
The neighbors had warned him that it was too early for tenting, but
Thyrsis had vowed he would stand it. And now, as if to punish him
for his defiance, there was emptied out upon him the cave of all the
winds; for four weeks there were such storms of rain and sleet and
snow as the region had never known in April. There were nights when
he sat wrapped in overcoats and blankets, with a fire in the stove;
and still shivering for the gale that drove through the canvas.
There came one calm, starlit night when he lay for hours almost
frozen, and sat up in the morning to find a glass of water at his
bedside frozen solid. Thirteen degrees the thermometer showed,
according to the farmer; and oh, the agony of getting out of bed,
and starting a fire with green wood! In the end Thyrsis poured in
half a can of kerosene, and got the stove red-hot; and then he
turned round to warm his back, and smelled smoke, and whirled about
to find his tent in a blaze!
With a bucket of water and a broomstick he beat out the fire, and
went for a run to warm up. But when he came back there was more
wind, so that he could not keep warm in the tent, and more rain, so
that he could not find shelter in the woods. In the end he
discovered a ruined barn, in a corner of which he would sit, wrapped
in his blankets and writing with cold fingers.
Perhaps all these mishaps had something to do with the refusal of
his ideas to flow. But apparently it was in vain that Thyrsis tried
at any time to work at things that were interesting to other people.
Perhaps he could have worked better at them, if there had not been
so many things that were interesting to _him_. He would find himself
confronted with the image of the society clergyman, or of the sleek
editor in his club, or some other memory out of the world of luxury
and pride. And each day came the newspaper, with its burden of
callousness and scorn; and perhaps also a letter from Corydon, with
something to goad him to new tilts with the enemies of his soul.
So, before long, almost without realizing it, he was putting the
"interesting" things aside, and girding himself for another battle.
His message was still undelivered; and in vain he sought to content
himself by blaming the world for this. Until he had forced the world
to hear him, he had simply not yet done his work. He must take his
thought and shape it anew--into some art-work finer, stronger,
truer than he had yet achieved.
Day after day he pondered this idea--eating with it and walking with
it and sleeping with it; until at last, of a sudden, the vision came
to him. It came late at night, while he was undressing; and he sat
for five or ten minutes, with his shirt half off, as if in a trance.
Then he put the shirt on again, and went out to wander about the
woods, laughing and talking to himself.
"Genius surrounded by Commercialism"--that was his theme; and it
would have to be a play. Its hero would be a young musician, a mere
boy, a master of the demon-voices of the violin; he would be rapt in
his vision, and around him a group of people who would be
embodiments of the world and all its forces of evil. One by one they
came trooping before Thyrsis' fancy, with all their trappings of
pomp and power, their greatness and their greed--sinister and
cruel figures, but also humorous, very creatures of the spirit of
comedy! Yes, he had a comedy this time--a real comedy!
Section 2. In this hour, of course, Thyrsis forgot all about the
"plot" he had outlined to Mr. Ardsley, and about his promises to be
"practical." Something arose within him, imperious and majestic, and
swept all this out of the way with one gesture of the hand. He
dropped everything else and plunged into the play. Never yet in his
life had anything taken hold of him to such an extent; it drove him
so that he forgot to eat, he forgot to sleep. He would work over
some part of it until he was exhausted--and then, without warning,
some other part would open out in a vista before him, and he would
spring up in pursuit of that. Characters and episodes and dialogue,
wild humor, scalding satire, grim tragedy--they thronged and jostled
and crowded one another in his imagination.
"The Genius" was the title of the play. Its protagonist had come
home after completing his education in Vienna; and there was the
family gathered to greet him. Mr. Hartman, the father, was a
wholesale grocer--a business large enough to have brought wealth,
but painfully tainted with "commonness". Then there was Mrs.
Hartman, stout and tightly-laced, who had studied the science of
elegance while her husband studied sugar. There was the elder son,
who under his mother's guidance had married well; and Miss Violet
Hartman, who was looking up to the perilous heights of a foreign
Only of late had the family come to realize what an asset to their
career this "Genius" might be. They had humored him in his strange
whim to devote his life to fiddling; money had been spent on him
freely--he brought home with him a famous Cremona instrument for
which three thousand dollars had been paid. But now it was dawning
upon them that this was an "ugly duckling"; he was to make his
_début_ in the metropolis, where an overwhelming triumph was
expected; and then he would return to the home city in the middle
West, and would play at _musicales_, which even the most exclusive
of the "_élite_" must attend.
There was also the great Prof. Reminitsky, the teacher who had made
Lloyd, and had come to New York with him; and there was the Herr
Prof. von Arne, of the University of Berlin, a world-renowned
psychiatrist, author of "The Neurosis of Inspiration". The Herr
Professor had come to America to make some studies for his
forthcoming masterpiece on the religious mania; and he was glad to
see his old friend Reminitsky, whose seventeen-year-old musical
prodigy was most interesting material for study.
Prof. Reminitsky was the world's greatest authority in the art of
tearing the human soul to pieces by means of horse-hair rubbed with
resin and scraped over the intestines of a pig. There were no tricks
of finger-gymnastics and of tone-production that he had not
mastered. As for the emotions produced thereby, he felt them, but in
a purely professional way; that is, the convictions he had
concerning them related to their effects upon audiences, and more
especially upon the score or two of critical experts whose
psychology had been his life-study. But having studied also the
psychology of youth, he knew that his _protégé_ must needs have
other convictions concerning his performances. This was his supreme
greatness--that he understood the paranoia of enthusiasm, and used
this understanding to tempt his pupils to new heights of
In all of which, of course, his friend von Arne was a great help to
him. Von Arne had dug through a score of great libraries, and had
travelled all the world over, frequenting cafes and salons,
monasteries and prayer-cells, prisons and hospitals and
asylums--wherever one might get new glimpses of the extraordinarily
intricate phenomena of the aberration called "Genius". He had
several thousand cases of it at his finger-tips--he had measured
its reaction-times and calculated its cephalic index, and analyzed
its secretions and tested it for indecan. He knew trance and
clairvoyance, auto-suggestion and telepathic hallucination, epilepsy
and hysteria and ecstasy; and over the head of any disputatious
person he would swing the steam-shovel of his erudition, and bury
the unfortunate beneath a wagon-load of Latin and Greek derivatives.
Also, there was Moses Rosen, the business-manager. Moses was short,
and wore a large diamond ring, and he also was a specialist in the
phenomena of "Genius". He studied them from the point of view of the
box-office, and his tests were quite as definite as those of the
psychological laboratory. There came to Moses an endless stream of
prodigies, all of them having long hair and picturesque aspects, and
talking rapidly and rolling their eyes; the problem was to determine
which of them had the faculty of true Genius, which not only talked
rapidly and rolled its eyes, but also had the power of causing money
to flow in through a box-office window.
In this case Moses felt that the prospects were good; the only
trouble being that the prodigy intended to render a _concerto_ by a
strange composer--a stormy and unconventional thing which would
annoy the critics. Moses suggested something that was "classic"; and
agreed with Mrs. Hartman that there ought to be something
corresponding to "good form" in music.
Section 3. So all these strange creatures were poking and peering
and smelling about the "Genius"; and meanwhile, there came at
intervals faint strains of music from a distant room. At last Lloyd
Hartman entered; beautiful, pale and sensitive--a haunted boy, and
the most haunting figure that had yet come to Thyrsis' imagination.
Also, it was the hardest piece of work he had ever undertaken; for
the character had come to him, not as a formula or a collection of
phrases, but as an intuition, a part of his own soul; and he would
work out a scene a score of times, finding words to phrase it, and
then rejecting them. By what speeches could he give his sense of the
gulf that lay between Lloyd and the people about him? For this boy
could not cope with them in argument, he would have no mastery of
the world of facts. He must be without any touch of sophistication,
of cynicism; and yet, when he spoke to them, it must be clear that
he knew them for different beings from himself. He would go with
them meekly; but one would feel that it was because his path lay in
their direction. When the point came that their ways parted, he
would go his own way; and just there lay the seed of the
The family gathers about him, and he answers their questions. He
will wear the kind of tie that his sister prefers, and they may set
any date they please for the _musicales_ at home. He hears the
"copy" which Moses has prepared for his advertisements; and then he
sits, absent-minded, while they talk about him. Music is in his
thoughts, and gradually it steals into his aspect and the gestures
of his hand. They watch him, and a pall comes over them: until at
last the mother exclaims that he makes her nervous, and leads the
Then Miss Arnold is announced--Helena Arnold, who has been
recommended as accompanist at the great concert. She is young and
beautiful; and the two go into the next room to play, while the
professors remain to talk over this new complication.
Prof. von Arne, of course, lays especial emphasis upon the
sex-element in psychopathology; he and Reminitsky have talked the
subject out many years ago, and adopted a definite course of action.
The abnormalities incidental to sex-repression were innumerable, and
for the most part destructive; but there could be no question that
all the more striking phenomena of the neurosis called "Genius" were
greatly increased in their intensity by this means. So, in dealing
with his pupils, and especially with a prodigy like young Hartman,
Prof. Reminitsky would call into service all the paraphernalia of
religious mysticism; teaching his pupil to regard woman as the
object of exalted adoration, a being too holy to be attained to even
in thought. And now, of course, when the proposed accompanist turns
out to be a decidedly alluring young female, it is necessary to take
Meanwhile from the distance come bursts of wild music; and at last
Helena returns--pale, and deeply agitated. "It is that _concerto!_"
she says, and then asks to be excused from talking. Lloyd comes, and
stands by the door watching her. When his teacher begins to open
business negotiations, he asks him abruptly to leave them alone.
Helena asks, "Who wrote that music?" He tells her a ghastly story of
a titan soul who starved in a garret and shot himself, crushed by
the mockery of the world.
"I might have saved him!" the boy exclaims. "I was so busy with the
music I forgot the man!"
They talk about this epoch-making _concerto_, and how Lloyd means to
force it upon the public. "And you shall play it with me!" he
exclaims. "You are the first that has ever understood it!"
"I cannot play it!" she protests; to which he answers, "It was like
his voice come back from the grave!" And so we see these two souls
cast into the crucible together.
Section 4. The second act showed the aftermath of the great concert,
and took place in the drawing-room of the Hartman family's
apartment, at four o'clock in the morning. We see Moses and the two
professors, who have not been able to tear themselves away;
dishevelled, _distrait_, wild with vexation, they pace about and
lament. Failure, utter ruin confronts them--the structure of their
hopes lies in the dust! They blame it all on "that woman"--and
members of the family concur in this. It was she who kept Lloyd to
his resolve to play that mad _concerto;_ and then, to cast aside all
the master had taught them, all the results of weeks of
drilling--and to play it in that frantic, demonic fashion. Now the
men await the morning papers, which will bring them the verdict of
"the world"; and they shudder with the foreknowledge of what that
verdict will be.
Lloyd and Helena enter. They have been walking for hours, and have
not been thinking of "the world". They listen, half-heeding, to the
protests and laments; they could not help it, they explain--the
music took hold of them.
The two professors go off to get the papers, and Moses goes into the
next room to rest; after which it becomes clear to the audience that
Lloyd and Helena are fighting the sex-duel.
"You do not care about people," she is saying, sombrely.
To which his reply is, "It is not to be found in people."
"And yet from people it must come!" she insists.
He answers, "They do not even know what I mean; and they have no
"It is a problem," Lloyd continues, after a pause. "Shall one go on
alone, or wait and bring others with him?--You have brought that
problem into my life."
She answers to this, "I cannot see how my love will hinder you."
He replies, "If you love _me_, who will love my art?"
So it goes--until the professors return with their freight of the
world's Philistinism. And here came a scene, over which Thyrsis
shook for many a day with merriment. The accounts of the concert are
read; Moses awakens and comes in; and as the agony increases, the
members of the family appear, one by one, clad in their
dressing-gowns, and adding their lamentations to the chorus. Gone is
all the prestige of the two professors, gone all the profits of
Moses, gone all the visions of social triumphs in the city of the
To all of which uproar the two listen patiently; until at last the
mother, in a transport of vexation, turns upon Helena, and accuses
her of ensnaring the boy. And then--the climax of the scene--Lloyd
springs up; all that Genius in him, which has so far gone into
music, turns now into rage and scorn. He pictures these
people--pawing over his inspiration with their unclean
hands--peering at it, weighing it, chaffering over it--taking it
into the market-place to be hawked about. He shows them what they
are, and what that "world" is, to which they would offer his muse as
a whore. And then at the climax of his speech, as he is waving his
violin in the air, the Herr Prof. von Arne ventures to put in a
word; and the boy whirls upon him, and brings down the three
thousand-dollar treasure upon the eminent psychiatrist's head!
The third act, which was the hardest of all to write, was to take
place in a garret. Lloyd has gone away alone, and three years have
passed, and now he lies dying of a wasting disease. Helena has come
to him again--and still they are fighting the duel. "A woman will do
anything for a man but renounce him," says Lloyd; and she cannot
understand this fierce instinct of his.
She has come and found him; and he lies gasping for breath, and
speaking in broken sentences. Yet he will not have her bring grief
into his chamber; he has fought his way through grief, and through
hatred and contempt, and now he lies at peace upon the bosom of
nature. No longer is he wrapped up in his own vision; he has learned
from the million suns in the sky and the million trees of the
forest. He tells her that the thing called "Genius" springs
ceaselessly from the heart of life.
He has cast out fear; and with it he has cast out love. "What are
you?" he asks. "What am I?" And he sets forth in blazing words his
vision of the soul, which is as a flash of light in a raindrop, and
yet one with the eternal process. As the fruit of his life he leaves
one symphony in manuscript, and some pages of writing in which he
has summed up his faith. That is enough, he says--that is victory;
for that he fled away, and killed his love.
The two professors come, having learned that Lloyd is dying. But
even they cannot divert him. He tells von Arne that his learning
will submit itself, and that scientists will be as gardeners,
tending the young flowers of faith. His mother and father come, and
he whispers that even for them there is hope--that in the deepest
mire of respectability the spark of the soul still glows. His mother
bursts into weeping by his bed, and he tells her that even from the
dungeon of pride there may be deliverance. So he sends them all away
Then Helena sits at the piano and plays a few bars of that sonata of
Beethoven's which is an utterance of most poignant grief, and which
some publisher has cruelly misnamed the "Moonlight". And after long
silence, the dying man communes with his muse. A light suffuses the
room, and he whispers, "Take thine own time; for the seeds of thy
glories are planted in the hearts of men!"
Section 6. Over these things Thyrsis would work for six hours at a
stretch, sitting without moving a muscle; for days and nights he
would wander about at random in the woods. He ate irregularly, of
such things as he could put his hands upon; and sleep fled from him
like a mistress spurned. When, after a couple of months, he had
finished the task, there was an incessant throbbing in his forehead,
and--alas for the sudden tumble from the heights of Parnassus!--he
had lost almost entirely the power of digesting food.
But the play was done. He sent it off to be copied, and wrote paeans
of thanksgiving to Corydon. Once more he had a weapon, newly-forged
and sharpened, wherewith to pierce that tough hide of the world!
There remained the practical question: What did one do when he had a
play completed? What was the first step to be taken? Thyrsis
pondered the problem for several days; and then, as chance would
have it, his eye was caught by a newspaper paragraph to the effect
that "Ethelynda Lewis, the popular _comédienne_, is to be starred in
a serious drama next season, under the management of Robertson
Jones. Miss Lewis's play has not yet been selected." Now, as it
happened, "Ethelynda Lewis" had been on the play-bill of "The
Princess of Prague", that tragic "musical comedy" to which Thyrsis
had been taken; but he never noticed the names of actors and
actresses, and had no suspicions. He sent his manuscript to this
future star; and a week later came a note, written on scented
monogram paper in a tall and distinguished chirography,
acknowledging the receipt of his play and promising to read it.
Then Thyrsis turned to attack the manuscripts which had been
accumulating while he was writing. They were coming more frequently
now--apparently Mr. Ardsley liked his work. To Corydon, who had gone
to the country with her parents, he wrote that he was getting some
money ahead, and so she might join him before long.
This brought him a deluge of letters; and it forced him to another
swift descent into the world of reality. "I have told you nothing of
my sufferings," wrote Corydon. "At least a score of times I have
written you long letters and then torn them up, saying that your
work must not be disturbed. But oh, Thyrsis, I do not think I can
stand it much longer! Can you imagine what it means to be shut up in
a boarding-house, without one living soul to understand about me?"
She would go on to tell of her griefs and humiliations, her longings
and rages and despairs. Then, too, Cedric was not growing as he
should. "He is beautiful," she wrote, "and every one loves him. But
he makes not the least attempt to sit up, and I am very much
worried. I fear that I ought not to go on nursing him--I am too
nervous to eat as I should. And then I think of the winter, and that
we may still be separated, and I do not see how I am to stand it. It
is as if I were in a prison. I think of you, and I cannot make you
real to me."
To all of which Thyrsis could only reply with vague hopes--and then
go away for a tramp in the forest, and call to his soul for new
courage. He had still troubles enough of his own. For one thing, the
fiend in his stomach was not to be exorcised by any spell he knew.
It was all very picturesque to portray one's hero as dying of
disease; but in reality it was not at all satisfactory. Thyrsis did
not die, he merely ate a bowl of bread and milk, and then went about
for several hours, feeling as if there were a football blown up
inside of him.
He had a touching faith in the medical profession in those days, and
whenever there was anything wrong with him, he would turn the
problem over to a doctor and his soul would be at rest. In this case
the doctor told him that he had dyspepsia--not a very difficult
diagnosis--and gave him a bottle full of a red liquid to be taken
after meals. To Thyrsis this seemed an example of the marvels of
science, of the adjustment of means to ends; for behold, when he had
taken the red liquid, the bread and milk disappeared as if by magic!
And he might go on and eat anything else--if there was trouble, he
had only to take more of the red liquid! So he plunged into work on
a pot-boiler, and wrote Corydon to be of cheer, that the dawn was
Section 7. Corydon, in the meantime, had received a copy of his
play; and he was surprised at the effect it had upon her. "It is
marvellous," she wrote; "it is like a blaze of lightning from one
end to the other. And yet, much as I rejoice in its power, the main
feeling it brought me was of anguish; for it seemed to me as if in
this play you had spoken out of your inmost soul. Can it be that you
are really chafing against the bond of our love? That you feel that
I have hold of you and cling to you; and that you resent it, and
shrink from me? Oh Thyrsis, what can I do? Shall I bid you go, and
blot the thought of you from my mind? Is that what you truly want?
'A woman will do anything for a man but renounce him!' Did you not
shudder for me when you wrote those words?
"It is two o'clock in the morning, and so far I have not been able
to sleep. I have lain awake with torturing thoughts; and then the
baby wakened up, and I had to put him to sleep again--any
indisposition of mine always affects him. I am sitting on the floor
at the foot of the bed, writing with a candle; and hoping to get
myself sufficiently exhausted, so that I shall no longer lie awake.
"Go and find your vision over my corpse, and may God bless you!...I
wrote that hours ago, and I tried to mean it. I try to tell myself
that I will take the child and go away, and crush my own hopes and
yearnings, and give my life to him. But no--I cannot, I cannot! It
is perfectly futile for me to think of that--I crave for life, and
I cannot give up. There is that in me that will never yield, that
will take no refusal. Sometimes I see myself as a woman of seventy,
still seeking my life. Do you not realize that? I feel that I shall
never grow old!
"How strange a thing it is, Thyrsis, that you and I, who might do so
much with so little chance, should have no chance at all. I read of
other poets and their wives--at least they managed to have a hut on
some hillside, and they did not absolutely starve.
"I am tired now; perhaps I can sleep. But I will tell you something,
Thyrsis--does it sound so very foolish? Not only will I never grow
old, but I will never give up your love! Yes, some day you will find
out how to seek your vision in spite of the fact that I am your
Section 8. Another day, there would be moods of peace, and even of
merriment; it was always like putting one's hand into a grab-bag, to
open a new letter from Corydon. In after years he would read them,
and strange were the memories they brought!
"My Thyrsis," she wrote: "I have been reading a story of Heine in
Zangwill's "Dreamers of the Ghetto". I did not know about Heine. He
loved and married a sweet little woman of the people--Mathilde--who
didn't appreciate his writings. I am not only going to love you, but
I am going to appreciate your writings! Some day I am going to be
educated--and won't it be fine when I am educated?
"I keep very busy, but I have not so much time as I had last summer.
I live almost all my life in hope--the present is nothing. I think I
get more strength by gazing at my baby than in any other way. I
wonder if I can ever infuse into him my inspiration and my desire.
It is wonderfully exciting to me to think of what a free soul could
do, if it possessed my spirit and my dreams. Ah, even you don't
know! I smile to myself when I think how surprised you might some
day be! Oh, my baby, my baby, surely you will not fail me--little
soul that is to be. This is what I say to him, and then I squeeze
him in ecstasy, and he coughs up his milk. Dear funny little thing,
that is so pleased with a red, white and blue rattle. At present he
is grinning at it ecstatically--and he is truly most horribly
cunning. His favorite expression is 'Ah-boo, ah-boo'; and is not
that just _too_ bright? Everybody tries to spoil him--even a
twelve-year-old boy here wanted to kiss him. And wonder of wonders,
he has two teeth appearing in his lower gums! Poor me--he bites hard
enough as he is."
And then again:
"My Beloved: I am sitting with my candle once more. It is too hot
for a lamp. I have been reading 'Paradise Lost', and truly I am
astonished that it is so beautiful. Also I have been reading a book
about Unitarianism, and I did not know that such things had been
written. But I think it is hardly worth while to call one's self a
Unitarian. I was thinking that I will go back and read the Bible
through. I would not mind, if I knew I did not have to believe it.
"Also; this week, I read 'Paul and Virginia'. Oh, do not write
anything to me about our meeting, until you are sure it can be! It
breaks my heart.
"Did it ever occur to you that we might embark for the tropics? We'd
have a hut, and I might learn to raise fruits and vegetables. I sigh
for some verdant isle--and I am not joking. We might find some place
where steamers came now and then, and some one in New York could
attend to your manuscripts.
"To-night I was trying to put my baby to sleep and he wouldn't go,
but just lay in my lap and kicked and grinned. I tried to coax him
to go to sleep, but if I was the least bit impatient he'd begin to
cry. And then he'd grin at me so roguishly, as if to say, 'Let's
play before I go to sleep!' Finally I looked right at him and said,
'Now, you have played long enough, and I wish you to be a good boy
and go to sleep!' And then he laughed, and I put him on his side and
he went to sleep! Wasn't that bright for a baby just seven months
"I think I write you much more interesting letters than you write
me. To be sure I have no books into which to put my thoughts. Also,
I have a great deal of time to compose letters to you; Cedric wakes
me up so much in the night, and often I cannot go to sleep again. It
plays havoc with me as a rule; and yet sometimes, when I'm not too
exhausted, there is a certain joy in watching by the dim candle
light the rosy upturned face and the little groping mouth. Oh
Thyrsis, he is all mine and yours, and we must make him glad he was
borned, mustn't we?"
Section 9. Such letters would come at a time when Thyrsis was almost
prostrated with exhaustion; and great waves of loneliness and
yearning would sweep over him. Ah God, what a fate it was--to labor
as he labored, and then to have no means of recreation or respite,
no hand to smooth his forehead, no voice to whisper solace! Who
could know the tragedy of that aspect of his life?
There came one day an incident that almost broke his heart. Down the
lake came a private yacht, beautiful and swift, clean as a new
penny, its bronze and white paint glistening in the sunlight. It
anchored not far out from the point where Thyrsis camped, and a boat
put off, and from it three young girls stepped ashore. They were
slender and graceful, clad all in white--as spotless as the vessel
itself, and glowing with health and joyfulness. They cast shy
glances at the tent, and asked Thyrsis to direct them to the nearest
farm-house; he watched them disappear through the woods, and saw
them return with a basket of fruit.
It was just at sunset, and there was a new moon in the sky, and the
evening star trembled upon the bosom of the waters. There in the
magic stillness lay the vessel--and suddenly came the sounds of a
guitar, and of young voices singing. Wonderful to tell, they sang
--not "ragtime" and "college songs," but the chorus of the
"Rheintoechter," and Schubert's "Auf dem Wasser zu singen", and
other music, unknown to Thyrsis, exquisite almost beyond enduring.
It pierced him to the heart; he sat with his hands clenched, and
every nerve of him a-quiver, and the hot tears raining down his
cheeks. It was loveliness not of this earth, it was an apparition;
that presence which had been haunting him ever since he had come to
"So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
And hear old Triton blow his wreathéd horn."
The music died away, and rose again; and the deeps of his spirit
were opened, and ecstasy and grief welled up together within him.
Then he made out that the anchor was being lifted; and he was
tempted to spring up and cry out to them to stay. But no--what did
they know of him? What would they care about him? So he crouched by
the bank, drinking greedily the precious notes; and as the yacht
with its gleaming lights stole away into the twilight, all the
poet's soul went yearning with it. Still he could hear the faint
"Blow, blow, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!"
He sat with his face hidden in his hands, shuddering. Here he was,
wrestling in the pit with sickness and despair--and there above him
were the heights of art. If only he could live with such music, what
prodigies could he not perform. And they who possessed it--did it
mean to them what it meant to him? They who had everything that life
could offer--music and art, freedom and beauty and health--all the
treasures of life as their birthright--had they never a thought of
those who had nothing, and were set to slave in the galleys of their
Thyrsis was always coming upon some aspect of this thing called
Privilege. Corydon had suggested that there might be some work that
she could do at home; and so one day he was looking over the
advertisements in a newspaper, and came upon a composition by a man
who was seeking a governess for his three children. It was written
in a style all its own; it revealed a person accustomed to specify
exactly what he wanted, and it occupied three or four inches, as if
symbolic of the fact that he did not consider expense. He described
the life of his children; they had servants and a tutor to attend to
their physical and mental needs, and the father now sought a friend
and, companion, to take charge of their spiritual and social
development. The specifications evoked a picture of an establishment,
in which all the community's resources, all the sciences and arts of
civilization, were set at work to create joy and power for three
young people. What a contrast it made with the care that little Cedric
was getting, as revealed in his mother's letters!
Thyrsis could see in his mind's eye the master and provider of this
establishment. How well he knew the type--how often had he sat in
some quiet corner and listened while it revealed itself. A man alert
and aggressive; immaculate in appearance as the latest fashion-plate,
and overlaid with a veneer of culture--yet underneath it still the
predatory talons, the soul of the hawk. He was a "practical" man;
that is, he understood profit. He was trained to see where profit
lay, and swift to seize upon it. As a business-man he ruled labor,
and crushed his competitors, and directed legislatures and political
machines; as a lawyer he protected his kind from attack, as a judge
he bent the law to the ends of greed. So he lived in palaces, and
travelled about in private-cars and yachts, and had servants and
governesses for his children, and valets and secretaries to attend
himself. And whenever by any chance he got a glimpse of Thyrsis' soul,
how he hated it! On the other hand, to Thyrsis he was a portent of
terror. He ruled in every field of human activity; and yet one saw
that if his rule continued, it would mean the destruction of civilization!
Whenever Thyrsis met one of these men, whether in imagination or
reality, he found himself with hands clenched, and every nerve of
him a-tingle with the lust of combat.
Section 10. A most trying thing it was to a man who carried the
burden of the future in his soul--to have to wrestle with an
obstinate stomach! But so it was again; the magic red liquid seemed
to be losing its power. Then, the pot-boiler was not going well; and
to cap the climax, the manuscripts stopped coming. Thyrsis, after
waiting two or three weeks in suspense and dread, wrote to Mr.
Ardsley, and received a reply to the effect that he would not be
able to send any more. Mr. Ardsley had sent them because of his
interest in the proposed "practical" novel; and now he had learned
that the poet had been giving his time to the writing of an
Thyrsis' predicament was a desperate one, and drove him to a
desperate course. It was now midsummer; and run down from overwork
as he was, could he face the thought of returning to the sweltering
city, to go to work in some office? Or was he to hire out as a
farm-laborer, under he knew not what conditions? He recoiled from
either of these alternatives; and then suddenly, as he racked his
brains, a wild idea flashed over him. For years he had talked and
dreamed of escaping from civilization. He had pictured himself upon
some tropic island, where bananas and cocoanuts grew; or again in
some Northern wilderness, where he might hunt and fish, and live
like the pioneers. And now--why not do it? He had an axe and a rifle
and a fishing-rod; and only a few days previously he had heard a man
telling of a lake in the Adirondacks, where not a dozen people went
in the course of a year.
It was early one morning the idea came to him; and within an hour he
had struck his tent and packed his trunk. He stowed his camp-stuff
and bedding in a dry-goods box, and leaving his tent with the
farmer, he purchased a ticket to a place on the edge of the
wilderness. He put up at a village-hotel, and the next day drove
fifteen miles by a stage, and five more by a wagon, and spent the
night at a lumber-camp far in the wilderness. The next day, carrying
as much of his belongings as he could, he walked three miles more,
and came to the tiny lake that was his goal.
It was perhaps half a mile long; the virgin forest hung about it
like a great green curtain, and the shadows of the blue mountains
seemed as if painted upon its surface. Thyrsis gave a gasp of
delight as he pushed through the bushes and saw it; he stripped and
plunged into the crystal water--and hot and tired and soul-sick as
he was, the coolness of it was like a clasp of protecting arms.
There was a rock rising from the centre, and he swam out and stood
upon it, and gazed about him at all the ravishing beauty, and
laughed and whooped so that the mountains rang with the echoes.
He found an abandoned "open-camp", or shed, the roof of which he
made water-proof with newspapers and balsam-boughs. He cut fresh
boughs for his bed, and spread his blankets upon them, and went back
to the lumber-shanties, and purchased a box of prunes and a bag of
rice. There were huckleberries in profusion upon the hills, and in
the lakes were fish, and in the forests squirrels and rabbits,
partridges and deer. There were the game-laws, to be sure; but there
was also a "higher law", as eminent authorities had declared. As one
of the wits at the lumber-camp put it, "If any wild rabbit comes
rushing out to bite you, don't you hesitate to defend yourself!"
So, with the sum of one dollar and twenty-three cents in his
pocket-book, Thyrsis began the happiest experience of his life. He
watched the sun rise and set behind the mountains; and sometimes he
climbed to the summits to see it further upon its way. He watched
the progress of the tempests across the lake, and swam in the water
while the rain splashed his face and the lightning splintered the
pines in the forest. He crouched in the bushes and saw the wild
ducks feeding, and the deer that came at sunset to drink. He watched
the loons diving, and spying him out with their wild eyes--sometimes,
as they rose in flight, beating the surface of the water with a sound
like thunder. At night he heard their loud laughter, and the creaking
cries of the herons flying past. Sometimes far up in the hills a
she-fox would bark, or some too-aged tree of the forest would come
down with a booming crash. Thyrsis would lie in his open camp and
watch the moonlight through the pines, and prayers of thankfulness
would well up within him--
"Peace of the forest, rich, profound,
Gather me closely, fold me round!"
There had been much carrying and hard work to do before he was
settled, and there was more of it all through his stay. He had to
cook all his meals and clean up afterwards; and because the nights
were cold and his blankets few, there was much firewood to be cut.
Also, there was no food unless he went out and found it, and so he
spent hours each day tramping about in the forests. By the time he
had got home and had cleaned the game and cooked it, he was
ravenously hungry, and there was never any question as to what would
digest. This was just what he had sought; and so now, deliberately,
he banned all the muses from his presence, and poured the rest of
the dyspepsia-medicine into the lake. His muscles became hard, and
the flush of health returned to his cheeks, and as he went about his
tasks he laughed and sang, and shouted his defiance to the world.
And to Corydon he wrote his newest plan--to earn a little in the
city that winter, and come back in the early spring and build a
log-cabin for herself and the baby!
Section 11. Twice a week his mail came to the lumbercamp, in care of
the friendly foreman. Each time that he went out to get it, he hoped
for some new turn. There was a publisher interested in "The Hearer
of Truth", and an editor was reading "The Higher Cannibalism"; also,
and most important of all, Miss Ethelynda Lewis had now had "The
Genius" for nearly two months, and had not yet reported. Thyrsis
wrote to remind her, and after another two weeks, he wrote yet more
urgently. At last came a note--"I have been away from the city, and
have not had a chance to read the play. I will attend to it at
once." And then, after three weeks more, Thyrsis wrote again--and at
last came a letter that made his heart leap.
"I have read your play", wrote the popular _comédienne_: "I am very
much interested in it indeed. I have asked my manager to read it,
and will write you again shortly."
Thyrsis sent this to Corydon, and again there was rejoicing and
expectation. "If only I can get the play on," he wrote, "our future
is safe, for the profits from plays are enormous. It will be a great
piece of luck if I have found the right person at the first
More weeks passed. Thyrsis watched the pageant of autumn upon the
mountains--he saw the curtains of the lake-shore change to gold and
scarlet, and from that to pale yellow and brown; and now, with every
lightest breeze that stirred, there were showers of leaves came
fluttering to the ground. The deer left the lake-shore and took to
the "hard-wood", and the drumming of partridges thundered at sunset.
The nights were bitterly cold, and he spent a good part of his day
chopping logs and carrying them to camp, so that he might keep a
blazing fire all night. There were hunting-parties in the woods,
and he got a deer, and sold part of it, and had the rest hanging
near his camp.
And then one night came the first snow-storm; in the morning it lay
white and sparkling in the sunlight--and oh, the wonder of a
hunting-trip, when the floor of the wilderness was like a page on
which could be read the tale of all that happened in the night! One
could hardly believe that so many creatures were in these
woods--there were tracks everywhere one looked. Here a squirrel had
run, and here a partridge; here had been a porcupine, with feet like
a baby's, and here a fox, and here a bear with two cubs. And in yon
hollow a deer had slept through the night, and here he had blown
away the snow from the moss; here two bucks had fought; and here one
of them had been started by a hunter, and had bounded away with
leaps that it was a marvel to measure.
Thyrsis nearly lost his life at these fascinating adventures; for
another storm came up, and covered his tracks, and when he tried to
find his way back by the compass, he found that he had forgotten
which end of the needle pointed to the North! So he wandered about
for hours; and in the end had to decide by the toss of a penny
whether he should get out to the main road, or wander off into
twenty miles of trackless wilderness, without either food or
matches. Fortunately the penny fell right; and he spent the night at
a farmhouse, and the next day got back to the lumber-camp.
And there was a letter from Ethelynda Lewis! Thyrsis tore it open
and read this incredible message:
"Your play has been carefully considered, and I am disposed to
accept it. It is certainly very unusual and interesting, and I think
it can be made a success. There are, however, certain changes which
ought to be made. I am wondering if you will come to the city, so
that we can talk it over. It would not be possible to settle a
matter so important by mail; and there is no time to be lost, for I
am ready to go ahead with the work at once, and so is my manager."
Section 12. Nothing that the mail had ever brought to Thyrsis had
meant so much to him as this. He was transported with delight. Yes,
for this he would go back to the city!--But then, he caught his
breath, realizing his plight. How was he to get to the city, when he
had only three dollars to his name?
He turned the problem over in his mind. Should he send a telegram to
some relative and beg for help? No, he had vowed to die first.
Should he write to the actress, and explain? No, for that would kill
his chances. There was just one way to be thought of; venison in the
woods was worth eleven cents a pound, and the smallest of deer would
get him to the city!
And so began a great adventure. Thyrsis wrote Miss Ethelynda that he
would come; and that night he loaded up some more buckshot "shells",
and before dawn of the next day was out upon the hunt. The snow was
gone now; and with soft shoes on his feet he wandered all day
through the wilderness--and was rewarded by two chances to shoot at
the white tails of flying deer.
And then came night, and he rigged up a "jack", a forbidden
apparatus made of a soap-box and a lantern and a tin-plate for a
reflector. He had an ingenious arrangement of straps and cords,
whereby he could fasten this upon his head; and he had found an old
lumber-trail where the deer came to feed upon the soft grass. Down
this he crept like a thief in the night, with the light gleaming
ahead, and the deer tramping in the thickets and whistling their
alarms. Now and then one would stand and stare, his eye-balls
gleaming like coals of fire; and at last came the roar of the gun,
and the jacklight tumbled to the ground. When Thyrsis lighted up
again and went to examine, there were spots of blood upon the
leaves--but no deer.
So the next day he was up again at dawn, watching by one of the
runways to the lake. And then came another tramp, through the
thickets and over the mountains--and more shots at the "flags" of
the elusive enemy. Thyrsis' back ached, and his feet were as if
weighted with lead, but still he plodded on and on--it was his life
against a deer's.
If only he had had a boat, so that he could have set up his "jack"
in that! But he had no boat--and so he wrapped himself in blankets
and sat to watch another runway at sunset; and when no deer came he
decided to stay on until the moon rose. It was a bitterly cold
night, and his hands almost froze to the gun-barrel when he touched
it. And the moon rose, and forthwith went behind a cloud--and then
came a deer!
There was hardly a trace of motion in the air, but somehow the
creature half-scented Thyrsis; and so it stood and trumpeted to the
night. Oh, the wildness of that sound--and the thumping of the heart
of the hunter, and the breathless suspense, and the burning desire.
The deer would take a step, and a twig would crack; and then it
would stand still again, and Thyrsis would listen, crouching like a
statue, clutching his weapon and striving to penetrate the darkness.
And then the deer would take two or three more steps, and stand
again; and then, in sudden alarm, bound away; and then come back
again, step by step--fascinated by this mysterious thing there in
the darkness. For three mortal hours that creature pranced and
cavorted about Thyrsis, while he waited with chattering teeth; then
in the end it took a sudden fright, and went bounding away through
So came another day's hunting; and at sundown another watch by a
runway; and another deer, that approached from the wrong direction,
and came upon a man, worn out by three days and nights of effort,
lying sound asleep at his post!
But there could be only one ending to this adventure. Thyrsis was
out for a deer, and he would never quit until he got one. All his
planning and wandering had availed him nothing; but now, the next
morning, as he stepped out from his camp with a bucket in his
hand--behold, at the edge of a thicket, a deer! Thyrsis stood rooted
to the spot, staring blankly; and the deer stood staring at him.
It was a time of agony. Should he try to creep back to his gun, or
should he make a sudden dash? He started to try the latter, and had
a pang of despair as the deer whirled and bolted away. He leaped to
the camp and grabbed his gun and sprang out into sight again--and
there, off to the right, was another deer. It was a huge buck, with
wide-spreading antlers, rising out of the bushes where it stood. It
saw Thyrsis, and started away; and in a flash he raised his gun and
fired. He saw the deer stumble, and he fired the other barrel; and
then he started in wild pursuit.
He had been warned to beware of a wounded deer; but he forgot
that--he forgot also that he had no more shells upon him. He ran
madly through the forest, springing over fallen logs, plunging
through thickets--he would have seized hold of the animal with his
bare hands, if only he could have caught up with it.
The deer was badly hurt. It would leap ahead, and then stumble, half
falling, and then leap again. Even in this way, the distance it
covered was amazing; Thyrsis was appalled at the power of the
creature, its tremendous bounds, the shock of its fall, and the
crashing of the underbrush before it. It seemed like a huge boulder,
leaping down a precipice; and Thyrsis stood at a safe distance and
watched it. According to the poetry-books he should have been
ashamed--perhaps moved to tears by the reproachful look in the great
creature's eyes. But assuredly the makers of the poetry-books had
never needed the price of a railroad-ticket as badly as Thyrsis
He only realized that night how desperate his need had been. He lay
in his berth on board a train for the city--while back at his
"open-camp" a wild blizzard was raging, and the thermometer stood at
forty degrees below zero. But Thyrsis was warm and comfortable; and
also he was brown and rugged, once more full of health and eagerness
for life. All night he listened to the pounding of the flying train;
and fast as the music of it went, it was not fast enough for his
imagination. It seemed as if the rails were speaking--saying to
him, over and over and over again, "Ethelynda Lewis! Ethelynda
Lewis! Ethelynda Lewis!"
THE END OF THE TETHER
_They sat still watching upon the hill-top, drinking in the scent of
"Ah, if only we might have come back here!" she sighed. "If only tee
had never had to leave!"
"That way lies unhappiness" he said.
"Perhaps," she answered; and then quoted--
'Yet, Thyrsis, let me give my grief its hour
In the old haunt, and find our tree-topp'd hill!
Who, if not I, for questing here hath power?"
"I wonder," said he, "if the poet put as much into these stanzas as
we find in them!"_
Section 1. Through the summer Corydon had been living week by week
upon the hope that her husband would be able to send for her; all
through the fall she had been dreaming of the arrangements they
would make for the winter. But by now it had become clear that they
would have to be separated for a part of the winter as well. She had
sent him long letters, full of hopes and yearnings, anxieties and
rebellions; but in the end she had brought herself to face the
inevitable. And then it transpired that even a greater sacrifice was
required of her--she was to be forbidden to see Thyrsis at all! If a
man did not support his wife, said the world, it was common-sense
that he should not have any wife; that was the quickest way to bring
him to his senses. And so the two had threshed out that problem, and
chosen their course; they would live in the same city, and yet
confine themselves to writing letters!
A curious feeling it gave Thyrsis, to know that she was so near to
him, and yet not to be going to meet her! He could not endure any
part of the city where he had been with her, and got himself a hall
bedroom on the edge of a tenement-district far up town. Then he had
his shoes shined, and purchased a clean collar, and wrote Miss
Ethelynda Lewis that he was ready to call. While he was waiting to
hear from her, there came to him a strange adventure; assuredly one
of the strangest that ever befell a struggling poet, in a world
where many strange adventures have befallen struggling poets.
For six months Thyrsis had not seen his baby; and there had come in
the meantime so many letters, telling so many miraculous things
about that baby! So many dreams he had dreamed about it, so many
hopes and so many prayers were centered in it! Twenty-two hours had
he sat by the bedside when it was born; and through all the trials
that had come afterwards, how he had suffered and wept for it! Now
his heart was wrung with longing to see it, to touch it--his child.
He wrote Corydon that he could not stand it; and Corydon wrote back
that he was right--he should surely see the baby. And so it was
arranged between them that Thyrsis was to be at a certain place in
the park, and she would send the nurse-girl there with little
He went and sat upon a bench; and the hour came, and at last down
the path strolled a nurse-girl, wheeling a baby-carriage. He looked
at the girl--yes, she was Irish, as Cordon had said, and answered
all specifications; and then he looked at the baby, and his heart
sank into his boots. Oh, such a baby! With red hair and a pug-nose,
plebeian and dull-looking--such a baby! Thyrsis stared at the maid
again--and she smiled at him. Then she passed on, and he sank down
upon a bench. Great God, could it be that that was his child? That
he would have to go through life with something so ugly, so alien to
him? A terror seized him. It was like a nightmare. He was hardly
able to move.
But then he told himself it could not be! Corydon had written him
all about the baby; it was beautiful, with a noble head; everyone
loved it. But then, were not mothers notoriously blind? Had there
ever been a mother dissatisfied with her child? Or a father either,
for that matter? Was it not a kind of treason for him to be so
disgusted with this one--since it so clearly must be his?
There was none other in sight; and though he waited half an hour,
none came. At last he could stand it no more, but hurried away to
the nearest telegraph-office. "Has baby red hair?" he wrote. "Did
he come to the park?" And then he went to his room and waited, and
soon after came the reply: "Baby has golden hair. Nurse was ill.
Could not come."
Thyrsis read this, and then shut the door upon the messenger-boy,
and burst into wild, hilarious laughter. He stood there with his
arms stretched out, invoking all posterity to witness--"What do you
think of _that?_ What do you think of _that?_"
And a full hour later he was sitting by his bedside, his chin
supported on his hands, and still invoking posterity. "Will you ever
know what I went through?" he was saying. "Will you ever realize
what my books have cost?" Then he smiled grimly, thinking of
Voltaire's cruel epigram--that "letters addressed to posterity
seldom reach their destination!"
Section 2. Thyrsis received a reply to his note, and went to call
upon Miss Ethelynda Lewis. Miss Lewis dwelt in a luxurious
apartment-house on Riverside Drive, where a colored maid showed him
into a big parlor, full of spindle-legged gilt furniture upholstered
in flowered silk. Also the room contained an ebony grand piano, and
a bookcase, in which he had time to notice the works of Maupassant
and Marie Corelli.
Then Miss Lewis entered, clad in a morning-gown of crimson
"liberty". She was _petite_ and exquisite, full of alluring
dimples--and apparently just out of a perfumed bath. Thyrsis sat on
the edge of his chair and gazed at her, feeling quite out of his
She placed herself on the flowered silk sofa and talked. "I am
immensely interested in that play," she said. "It is _quite_ unique.
And you are so young, too--why, you seem just a boy. Really, you
know I think you must be a genius yourself."
Thyrsis murmured something, feeling uncomfortable.
"The only thing is," Miss Lewis went on, "it will need a lot of
revision to make it practical."
"In what part?" he asked.
"The love-story, principally," said the other. "You see, in that
respect, you have simply thrown your chances away."
"I don't understand," said he.
"You have made your hero act so queerly. Everyone feels that he is
in love with Helena--you meant him to be, didn't you? And yet he
goes away from her and won't see her! Everyone will be disappointed
at that--it's impossible, from every point of view. You'll have to
have them married in the last act."
Thyrsis gasped for breath.
"You see," continued Miss Lewis, "I am to play the part of Helena,
and I am to be the star. And obviously, it would never do for me to
be rejected, and left all up in the air like that. I must have some
sort of a love-scene."
"But"--protested the poet--"what you want me to change is what my
play is _about!_"
"How do you mean?" asked the other.
"Why, it's a new kind of love," he stammered--"a different kind."
"But, people don't understand that kind of love."
"But, Miss Lewis, that's why I wrote my play! I want to _make_ them
"But you can't do anything like that on the stage," said Miss Lewis.
"The public won't come to see your play." And then she went on to
explain to him the conditions of success in the business of the
Thyrsis listened, with a clutch as of ice about his heart. "I am
very sorry, Miss Lewis," he said, at last--"but I couldn't possibly
do what you ask."
"Couldn't do it!" cried the other, amazed.
"It would not fit into my idea at all."
"But, don't you want to get your play produced?"
"That's just it, I want to get my play produced. If I did what you
want me to, it wouldn't be my play. It would be somebody else's
And there he stood. The actress argued with him and protested. She
showed him what a great chance he had here--one that came to a new
and unknown writer but once in a lifetime. Here was a manager ready
to give him a good contract, and to put his play on at once in a
Broadway theatre; and here was a public favorite anxious to have the
leading role. It would be everything he could ask--it would be fame
and fortune at one stroke. But Thyrsis only shook his head--he could
not do it. He was almost sick with disappointment; but it was a
situation in which there was no use trying to compromise--he simply
could not make a "love-story" out of "The Genius".
So at last there came a silence between them--there being nothing
more for Miss Lewis to say.
"Then I suppose you won't want the play," said Thyrsis, faintly.
"I don't know," she answered, with vexation. "I'll have to think
about it again, and talk to my manager. I had not counted on such a
possibility as this."
And so they left it, and Thyrsis went away. The next morning he
received a letter from "Robertson Jones, Inc.", asking him to call
Section 3. Robertson Jones, the great "theatrical producer", was
large and ponderous, florid of face and firm in manner--the
steam-roller type of business-man. And it became evident at once
that he had invited Thyrsis to come and be rolled.
"Miss Lewis tells me you can't agree about the play," said he.
"No," said Thyrsis, faintly.
And then Mr. Jones began. He told Thyrsis what he meant to do with
this play. Miss Lewis was one of the country's future "stars", and
he was willing to back her without stint. He had permitted her to
make her own choice of a role, and she should have her way in
everything. There were famous playwrights bidding for a chance to
write for her; but she had seen fit to choose "The Genius".
"Personally," said Mr. Jones, "I don't believe in the play. I would
never think of producing it--it's not the sort of thing anybody is
interested in. But Miss Lewis likes it; she's been reading Ibsen,
and she wants to do a 'drama of ideas', and all that sort of thing,
you know. And that's all right--she's the sort to make a success of
whatever she does. But you must do your share, and give her a part
she can make something out of--some chance to show her charm.
Otherwise, of course, the thing's impossible."
Mr. Jones paused. "I'm very sorry"--began Thyrsis, weakly.
"What's your idea in refusing?" interrupted the other.
Thyrsis tried to explain--that he had written the play to set forth
a certain thesis, and that he was asked to make changes that
directly contradicted this thesis.
"Have you ever had a play produced?" demanded the manager abruptly.
"No," said Thyrsis.
"Have you written any other plays?"
"Your first trial! Well, don't you think it a good deal to expect
that your play should be perfect?"
"I don't think"--began Thyrsis.
"Can't you see," persisted the other, "that people who have been in
this business all their lives, and have watched thousands of plays
succeed and fail, might be able to give you some points on the
matter?"--And then Mr. Jones went on to set forth to Thyrsis the
laws of the theatrical game--a game in which there was the keenest
competition, and in which the "ante" was enormously high. To produce
"The Genius" would cost ten thousand dollars at the least; and were
those who staked this to have no say whatever in the shaping of the
play? Manifestly this was absurd; and as the manager pressed home
the argument, Thyrsis felt as if he wanted to get up and run! When
Mr. Jones talked to you, he looked you squarely in the eye, and you
had a feeling of presumption, even of guilt, in standing out against
him. Thyrsis shrunk in terror from that type of personality--he
would let it have anything in the world it wanted, so only it would
not clash with him. But never before had it demanded one of the
children of his dreams!
Mr. Jones went on to tell how many things he would do for the play.
It would go into rehearsal at once, and would be seen on Broadway by
the first of February. They would pay him four, six and eight per
cent., and his profits could not be less than three hundred dollars
a week. With Ethelynda Lewis in the leading role the play might well
run until June--and there would be the road profits the next season,
Thyrsis' brain reeled as he listened to this; it was in all respects
identical with another famous temptation--"The devil taketh him
upon a high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the
"And then there is England"--the man was saying.
"No, no!" cried Thyrsis, wildly. "No!"
"But _why_ not?" demanded the other.
"It's impossible! I _couldn't_ do it!"
"You mean you couldn't do the writing?"
"I wouldn't know how to!"
"Well then, that's easily arranged. Let me get some one to
collaborate with you. There's Richard Haberton--you know who he
"No," said Thyrsis, faintly.
"He's the author of 'The Rajah's Diamond'--it's playing with five
companions now, and its third season. And he dramatized 'In Honor's
Cause'--you've seen that, no doubt. We have paid him some sixty
thousand dollars in royalties so far. And he'll take the play and
fix it over--you wouldn't have to stir a finger."
Thyrsis sprang up in his agitation. "Please don't ask me, Mr.
Jones," he cried. "I simply _could_ not do it!"
It seemed strange to Thyrsis, when he thought it over afterwards,
that the great Robertson Jones should have taken the trouble to
argue so long with the unknown author of a play in which he did not
believe. Was it that opposition incited him to persist? Or had he
told Ethelynda Lewis he would get her what she wanted, and was now
reluctant to confess defeat? At any rate, so it was--he went on to
drive Thyrsis into a corner, to tear open his very soul. Also, he
manifested anger; it was a deliberate affront that the boy should
stand out like this. And Thyrsis, in great distress of soul,
explained that he did not mean it that way--he apologized abjectly
for his obstinacy. It was the _ideas_ that he had tried to put into
his play, and that he could not give up!
"But," persisted the manager--"write other plays, and put your ideas
into them. If you've once had a Broadway success, then you can write
anything you please, and you can make your own terms for
That thought had already occurred to Thyrsis; it was the one that
nearly broke down his resistance. He would probably have
surrendered, had the play not been so fresh from his mind, and so
dear to him; if he had had time enough to become dissatisfied with
it, as he had with his first novel--or discouraged about its
prospects, as he had with "The Hearer of Truth"! But this child of
his fancy was not yet weaned; and to tear it from his breast, and
hand it to the butcher--no, it could not be thought of!
Section 4. So he parted from Mr. Jones, and went home, to pass two
of the most miserable days of his life. He had pronounced his
"_Apage,_ _Satanas!_"--he had turned his back upon the kingdoms of
the earth. And so presumably--virtue being its own reward--he should
have been in a state of utter bliss. But Thyrsis had gone deeper
into that problem, and asked himself a revolutionary question: Why
should it always be that Satan had the kingdoms of the earth at his
bestowal? Thyrsis did not want any kingdoms--he only wanted a chance
to live in the country with his wife and child. And why, in order to
get these things, must a poet submit himself to Satan?
Then came the third morning after his interview; and Thyrsis found
in his mail another letter from Robertson Jones, Inc. It was a
letter brief and to the point, and it struck him like a thunderbolt.
"Miss Ethelynda Lewis has decided that she wishes to accept your
play as it stands. I enclose herewith a contract in duplicate, and
if the terms are acceptable to you, will you kindly return one copy
signed, and retain the other yourself."
Thyrsis read, not long after that, of a young playwright who died of
heart-failure; and he was not surprised--if all playwrights had to
go through experiences such as that. He could hardly believe his
eyes, and he read the letter over two or three times; he read the
contract, with Mr. Jones' impressive signature at the bottom. He did
not know anything about theatrical contracts, but this one seemed
fair to him. It provided for a royalty upon the gross receipts, to
be paid after the play had earned the expenses of its production.
Thyrsis had hoped that he might get some cash in advance, but that
was not mentioned. In the flush of his delight he concluded that he
would not take the risk of demanding anything additional, but signed
the contract and mailed it, and sent a telegram to acquaint Corydon
with the glorious tidings.
Section 5. One of the consequences of this triumph was that Thyrsis
purchased a new necktie and half a dozen collars; and another was
that an angry world was in some part appeased, and permitted the
struggling poet to see his wife and child once more.
They met in the park; and strange it was to him to see Corydon after
six months' absence. She was beautiful as ever, somewhat paler,
though still with the halo of motherhood about her. He could
scarcely realize that she was his; she seemed like a dream to
him--like some phantom of music, thrilling and wonderful, yet frail
and unsubstantial. She clung to his arm, trembling with delight, and
pouring out her longing and her grief. There came to them one of
those golden hours, when the deeps of their souls welled up, and
they pledged themselves anew to their faith.
Even stranger it was to see the child; to be able to look at him all
he pleased, and to speak to him, and to hold him in his arms! He was
as beautiful as Thyrsis could have wished, and the father had no
trouble at all in being interested in him; his smiles were things to
make the angels jealous. Thyrsis would push his carriage out into
the park, and they would sit upon a bench and gaze at him--each
making sure that the other had missed none of his fine points.
He was beginning to make sounds now, and had achieved the word
"puss-ée". This originally had signified the woolly kitten he
carried with him, but now by a metonymy it had come to include all
kinds of living things; and great was the delight of the parents
when a big red automobile flashed past, and the baby pointed his
finger, exclaiming gleefully, "Puss-ée!" It is an astonishing thing,
how little it takes to make parents happy; regarded, purely as an
abstract proposition, it would be difficult to explain why two
people who possessed between them a total of sixty-four teeth, more
or less, should have been so much excited by the discovery that the
baby had four.
But parenthood, as Thyrsis found, meant more than charming
baby-prattle and the counting of teeth. Little Cedric's tiny fingers
were twisted in his heart-strings--he loved him with a love the
intensity of which frightened him when he realized it. And sometimes
things went wrong, and then with a pang as from the stab of a knife
would come the thought that he might some day lose this child. So
much pain and toil a child cost, so much it took of one's strength
and power; and then, such a fragile thing it was--exposed to so many
perils and uncertainties, to the ravages of so many diseases, that
struck like a cruel enemy in the dark! Corydon and Thyrsis were so
ignorant--they were like children themselves; and where should they
turn for knowledge? There were doctors, of course; but this took so
much money--and even with all the doctors, see how many babies died!
Thyrsis was learning the bitter truth of Bacon's saying about
"giving hostages to fortune." And dearly as he loved the child, the
artist in him cried out against these ties. Where now was that
care-free outlook, that recklessness, that joy in life as a
spectacle, which made up so much of the artist's attitude? When one
had a wife and child one no longer enjoyed tragedies--one lived,
them; and one got from them, not _katharsis_, but exhaustion. One
became timid and cautious and didactic, and other inartistic things.
One learned that life was real, life was earnest, and the grave was
not its goal!
Cedric had been weaned; but still he was not growing properly. Could
it be that there was something wrong with what they fed him? Corydon
would come upon advertisements telling of wonderful newly-discovered
foods for infants, and giving pictures of the rosy and stalwart ones
who were fed upon these foods. She would take to buying them--and
they were not cheap foods either. Then, during the winter, the child
caught cold; and they took that to mean that it had been in some way
exposed--that was what everybody said, and what the name "cold"
itself suggested. So Corydon would add more flannel dresses and
blankets, until the unfortunate mite of life would be in a purple
stew. And still, apparently, these mysterious "colds" were not to be
thwarted. Thyrsis felt that in all this there must be something
radically wrong, and yet he knew not what to do. Surely it should
not have been such a task to keep life in one human infant.
Then, too, the training of the baby was going badly. He lived in
close contact with nervous people who were disturbed if he cried;
and so Corydon's energies were given to a terrified effort to keep
him from crying. He must be dandled and rocked to sleep, he must be
played with and amused, and have everything he cried for; and it was
amazing how early in life this little creature learned the hold
which he had upon his mother. His chief want had come to be to sleep
all day and lie awake half the night; and during these hours of
wakefulness he pursued the delightful pastime of holding some one's
hand and playing with it. Corydon, nervous and sick and wrestling
with melancholia, would have to lie awake for uncounted hours and
submit to this torment. The infant had invented a name for the
diversion; he called it "Hoodaloo mungie"--which being translated
signified "Hold your finger". To the mother this was like the
pass-word of some secret order of demons, who preyed upon and racked
her in the night; so that never after in her life could she hear the
phrase, even in jest, without experiencing a nervous shock.
Section 6. This was a period of great hopefulness for Thyrsis, but
also of desperate struggle. For until the production of his play in
January, he had somehow to keep alive, and that meant more
hack-work. Also he had to lay something by, for after the rehearsals
the play would go on the road for a couple of weeks, to be "tried on
the dog"; and during that period he must have money enough to
travel, and stay at hotels, and also to take Corydon with him, if
The rehearsals began an interesting experience for him; he was
introduced into a new and strange world. Thyrsis himself was shy,
and disposed to run away and hide his emotions; but here were
people--the actor-folk--whose business it was to live them in sight
of the world. And these emotions were their life; they were very
intense, yet quick both to come and to go. Such people were
intensely personal; they were like great children, vain and
sensitive, their moods and excitements not to be taken too
seriously. But it was long before Thyrsis came to realize this, and
meanwhile he had some uncomfortable times. To each of the players,
apparently, the interest of a play centered in those places in which
he was engaged in speaking his lines; and to each the author of the
play was a more or less benevolent despot, who had the happiness of
the rest of the world in his keeping. Once at a rehearsal, when
Thyrsis was engaged in cutting out one of the speeches attributed to
"Mrs. Hartman", he discovered that lady standing behind him in a
flood of tears!
In the beginning Thyrsis paid many visits to the apartment on
Riverside Drive; for Miss Lewis professed to be very anxious that he
should consult with her and tell her his ideas of her part. But
Thyrsis soon discovered that what she really wanted was to have him
listen to _her_ ideas. Miss Lewis was at war with Thyrsis' portrayal
of Helena--it was incomprehensible to her that Lloyd should not be
pursuing her, and she playing the coquette, according to all
romantic models. Particularly she could not see how Lloyd was to
resist the particularly charming Helena which she was going to make.
She was always trying to make Thyrsis realize this incongruity, and
to persuade him to put some "charming" lines into her part. "You
boy!" she would exclaim. "I believe you are as obstinate as your
hero!" Miss Lewis was only two years older than the "boy", but she
saw fit to adopt this grandmotherly attitude toward him.
And then came Robertson Jones, suggesting a man who could play the
part of Lloyd. But Miss Lewis declared indignantly that she would
not have him, because he was not handsome enough. "If," she vowed,
"I've got to make love to a man and be rejected by him, at least I'm
not going to have it an ugly man!" When an actor was finally agreed
upon and engaged, Thyrsis had a talk with him, and it seemed as if
Miss Lewis, in her preoccupation with his looks, had overlooked the
matter of his brains. But Thyrsis was so new at this game that he
did not feel capable of judging. He shrunk from the thought of
having any actor play his part--that was so precious and so full of
meaning to him.
But when the rehearsals began, Thyrsis speedily forgot this feeling.
The most sensitive poet to the contrary notwithstanding, the purpose
of a play is to be acted; and Thyrsis was like an inventor, who has
dreamed a great machine, and now sees the parts of it appearing as
solid steel and brass; sees them put together, and the great device
getting actually under way.
The rehearsals were held in a little hall on the East Side, and
thither came the company--six men and three women. There was no
furniture or setting, they all wore their street clothing, and in
the beginning they went through their parts with the manuscript in
their hands. And yet--they had been selected because they resembled
the characters in the play; and every time they went over the lines
they gave them with more feeling and understanding. So--vaguely at
first, and then more clearly--the poet began to see them as
incarnations of his vision. These characters had been creatures of
his fancy; they had lived in it, he had walked and talked and
laughed and wept with them. Now to discover them outside him--to be
able to hear them with his physical ears and see them with his
physical eyes--was one of the strangest experiences of his life. It
was so thrilling as to be almost uncanny. It was a new kind of
inspiration, of that strange "subliminal uprush" which made the
mystery of his life. And it was a kind that others could experience
with him. Corydon would come every day to the rehearsals, and for
four or five hours at a stretch they would sit and watch and listen
in a state of perfect transport.
Section 7. Also, there were things not in the manuscript which were
sources of interest and delight. There was Mr. Tapping, the stage
director, for instance; Thyrsis could see himself writing another
play, just to get Mr. Tapping in. He was a man well on in years, and
wrecked by dissipation--almost bald and toothless, and with one foot
crippled with gout. Yet he was a perfect geyser of activity--
bounding about the stage, talking swiftly, gesticulating--like some
strange gnome or cobold out of the bowels of the earth. Thyrsis was
the creator of the play, so far as concerned the words; but this man
was to be the creator of it on the stage. And that, too, required a
kind of genius, Thyrsis perceived.
Mr. Tapping had talked the problems out with him at the
beginning--talking until two o'clock in the morning, in a
super-heated office filled with the smoke of ten thousand dead
cigars. He talked swiftly, eagerly, setting forth his ideas; to
Thyrsis it was a most curious experience--to hear the vision of his
inmost soul translated into the language of the Tenderloin! "Your
fiddler's this kind of a guy," Mr. Tapping would say--"he knows
he's got the goods, and he don't care whether those old fogies think
he's dippy, or what the hell they think. Ain't that the dope, Mr.
Author?" And Thyrsis would answer faintly that he thought that was
"the dope."--This was a word that Mr. Tapping used every time he
opened his mouth, apparently; it designated all things connected
with the play--character, dialogue, action, scenery, music, costume.
"That's the way to dope it out to them!" he would cry to the actors.
Miss Lewis, and Mr. Tilford, the leading man, moved through their
parts with dignity; the stage director showed them the "business" he
had laid out, but they did not trouble to act at rehearsals, and he
did not criticize what they did. But all the other people had to be
taught their roles and drilled in them; and that meant that Mr.
Tapping had to have in him five actors and two actresses, and play
all their seven parts as they came. Marvellous it was to see him do
this; springing from place to place, and changing his whole aspect
in a flash--now scolding shrewishly in the words of Violet Hartman,
now discoursing, with the accent and manner of Prof, von Arne, upon
the _psychopathia_ _sexualis_ of Genius.
He did not know all the parts, of course; but that was never allowed
to trouble him. He would take a sentence out of the actor's lips,
and then go on to elaborate it in his Tenderloin dialect; or, if the
scene was highly emotional, and required swift speech, he would fall
back upon the phrase "and so and so, and so and so." He could run
the whole gamut of human emotions with those words, "and so and so."
"No, that's no good!" he would cry to "Mrs. Hartman." "What are
those words?--'Wretched, ungrateful son--do you care nothing at all
for your parents' feelings? Do you owe us nothing for what we have
done? And so and so? And so and so? And so and so?'" Mr. Tapping's
voice would rise to a wail; and then in a flash he would turn to
Moses Rosen (he called all the actors by their character-names).
"That's your cue, Rosen, you rush in left centre, and throw up your
hands--right here--see? And what's your dope?--oh yes--'I have
spent seven thousand dollars on this thing! You have ruined me! You
have betrayed me! And so and so! And so and so! And so and so!'--
And then you run over here to the professor--'You have trapped me!
And so and so!'"
Day by day as the work progressed, and the actors came to know their
lines, Thyrsis' excitement grew. The great machine was running, he
was getting some sense of the power of it! And new aspects of it
were revealed to him; there came the composer who was to do the
incidental music, and the orchestra-leader who was to conduct it;
there came the costume-designer and the scene-painter, and even the
press-agent who was to "boost" the play, and wanted picturesque
details about the author's life. Corydon and Thyrsis were invited to
go with Mr. Tilford to select a wig, and with Mr. Tapping to see the
carpenters who were building the various "sets", in a big loft
over near the North River. As the two walked home each day after
these adventures, it was all they could do to keep from hugging each
other on the street.
It was a thing of especial moment to Thyrsis, because it was the
first time in his life that his art had received any assistance from
the outside world--the first time this world had done anything but
scold at him and mock him. Here at last was recognition--here was
success! Here were material things submitting themselves to his
vision, coming to him humbly to be taught, and to co-operate in the
creation of beauty! So Thyrsis caught sudden glimpses of what his
life might have been. He was like a man who had been chained in a
black dungeon, and who now gets sight of the green earth and the
blue sky, and smells the perfume of the flowers and hears the
singing of the birds. With forces such as this at his command, the
power of his vision would be multiplied tenfold; and he was
transported with the delight of the discovery, he and Corydon found
their souls once more in this new hope.
So out of these moods there began the burgeoning of new plans in his
mind. Even amid the rush of rehearsals, he was dreaming of other
things to write; some time before "The Genius" had reached the
public, he had finished the writing of "The Utopians"--that fragment
of a vision which was perhaps the greatest thing he ever did, and
certainly the most characteristic.
Section 8. As usual, the immediate occasion of the writing was
trivial enough. It was his "leading lady" who was responsible for
it. Miss Lewis had taken a curious fancy to Thyrsis--he was a new
type to her, and it pleased her to explore him. "How in the world
did you ever get him to marry you?" she would exclaim to Corydon. "I
could as soon imagine a marble statue making love to me!" And she
told others about this strange poet, who was obviously almost
starving, and yet had refused to let Richard Haberton revise his
play for him, and had all but refused to let Robertson Jones Inc.,
produce it. Before long she came to Thyrsis to say that one of her
friends desired to meet him, and would he come to a supper-party.
Thyrsis heard this with perplexity.
"A supper-party!" he exclaimed. "But I can't!"
"Why--I have no clothes."
"Nobody expects a poet to have clothes," laughed Miss Lewis. "Come
in the garments of your fancy. And besides, Barry's a true
Barry Creston, the giver of this party, was one of the sons of "Dan"
Creston, the mine-owner and "railroad-king", who a short while
before had been elected senator from a Western state under
circumstances of great scandal. "The old man's a hard character, I
guess," said Miss Lewis; "but you must not believe all you read in
the papers about Barry."
"I never read anything about him," said the other; and so Miss Lewis
went on to explain that Griswold, the Wall Street plunger, had got a
divorce from his wife after throwing her into Barry's arms; and that
Barry's sister had married an Austrian arch-duke who had maltreated
her, and that Barry had kicked him out of a hotel-window in Paris.
This invitation was a cause of much discomfort to Thyrsis. He had
not come to the point where he was even curious about the life of
the Barry Crestons of the world; and yet he did not like to hurt
Miss Lewis' feelings. She made it evident to him that she was
determined to exhibit her "lion"; and so he said "all right."
The supper party was at the _Café_ _de_ _Bohême_, which was an
Aladdin's palace buried underground beneath a building in the
"Tenderloin". Fountains splashed in marble basins, and birds sang
amid the branches of tropical flowering trees, while on a little
stage a man in the costume and character of a Paris _apache_ sang a
song of ferocious cynicism. And after him came a Japanese juggler of
prodigious swiftness, and then a fat German woman in peasant guise
who sang folk-songs, and wound up with "O, du lieber Augustin!"
After which the company joined in the chorus of "Funiculi, funicula"
and "Gaudeamus igitur"--for the patrons of the "Boheme" were nothing
if they were not cosmopolitan.
Cosmopolitan also was the company at Barry Creston's table. On one
side of Thyrsis was Miss Lewis, and on the other was Mlle. Armand,
the dancer who had set New York in a furore. Opposite to her was
Scarpi, the famous baritone; and then there was Massey, a sculptor
from Paris, and Miss Rita Seton, of the "Red Hussars" Company, and a
Miss Raymond, a gorgeous creature with a red flamingo feather in her
hat, who had been Massey's model for his sensational figure of
Finally there was Barry Creston himself: a new type, and a
disconcerting one. He was not at all the "gilded youth" whom Thyrsis
had expected to find; he was a man of about thirty, widely cultured,
urbane and gracious in his manner, and quite evidently a man of
force. He was altogether free from that crude egotism which Thyrsis
had found to be the most prominent characteristic of the American
man of wealth. He spoke in French with Armand and in Italian with
Scarpi and in German with the head-waiter who worshipped before him;
and yet one did not feel that there was any ostentation about
it--all this was his _monde_. And although he exhaled an atmosphere
of vast wealth, this, too, seemed a matter of course; he assumed
that you also were provided with unlimited funds--that all the
world, in fact, was in the same fortunate case. Evidently he was
well-known at the "Bohême", for the waiters gathered like flies
around the honey-pot, and the august head-waiter himself took the
order, and beamed his approval at Barry's selections. So presently
there flowed in a stream of costly viands, served in _outré_ and
fantastic fashion--many of them things not known even by name to
Thyrsis. There were costly wines as well, and at the end an ice in
the shape of a great basket of fruit, wonderfully carved and colored
like life, resting upon a slab of ice, which in turn was set in a
silver tray with handles.
Thyrsis was dazed at all this waste, and at the uproar in the place,
where dozens of other parties were squandering money in the same
blind fashion, and all laughing, chatting, joining in the choruses
with the performers on the stage. Now and then he would catch a
little of his host's conversation, which was of all the capitals of
Europe, and of art-worlds, the very existence of which was unknown
to him. And then, on his left hand, there was Mlle. Armand, deftly
picking off the leaves of an artichoke and dipping them into
_mayonnaise_, and saying in her little bird's voice, "They tell me,
Monsieur, that you have _du génie_. Oh, you should go to Paree to
live--it is not here that one appreciates _du génie_!" And, then
while Thyrsis was working out an explanation of his failure to visit
Paris, some one in the café caught sight of Scarpi, and there was a
general call for him; and according to the genial custom of the
"Bohême" he stood up, amid tumultuous applause, and sang one of his
own rollicking songs.
So the revelry went forward, while Thyrsis marvelled, and tried to
hide his pain. There could be no question of any enjoyment for
him--when he knew that the cost of this affair would have paid all
his expenses for a winter! Doubtless what Barry Creston spent for
his cigars would have saved Thyrsis and his family from misery all
their lives; and he wondered if the man would have cared had he
known. Barry was one of the princes of the new dispensation; and
sometimes princes were compassionate, Thyrsis reflected. Apparently
this one was all urbanity and charm, having no thought in life save
to play the perfect host to brilliant artists and _demi-mondaimes_,
and to skim the cream off the top of civilization.
But then suddenly the conversation took a new turn, and Thyrsis got
another view of the young prince. There had been trouble out in the
Western mines; and some one mentioned it--when in a flash Thyrsis
saw the set jaw and the clenched fist and the steel grey eye of old
"Dan" Creston. (Thyrsis had read somewhere a sketch of this senator,
whose fortune was estimated at fifty millions, and who ran the
governments of three states.) Barry, it seemed, had had charge of
the mines for three years--that was how he had won his spurs. In
those days, he said, there had been no unions--he told with a quiet
smile how he had broken them. Now again "agitators" had crept in, so
that in some of the camps the men were being moved out bodily, and
replaced by foreigners, who knew a good job when they had it. To
make this change had taken the militia; but it would be done
thoroughly, and afterwards there would be no more trouble.
The supper-party broke up about two o'clock, and Miss Raymond, the
lady of the flamingo hat, was the only one who showed any effects
from all the wine that had been consumed. Thyrsis, to his great
surprise discovered that his host had taken a fancy to him, and had
asked Miss Lewis to bring him out to luncheon at the Creston place
in the country. And so came the wonderful experience which brought
to him the vision of "The Utopians."
Section 9. They went, one Saturday morning, in Miss Lewis'
automobile--out to Riverside Drive, and up the valley of the Hudson.
This was in itself a Utopian experience for Thyrsis, who had never
before taken a trip in one of these magic chariots. It leaped over
the frozen roads like a thing of life, and he lay back in the
cushioned seats and closed his eyes and listened to the hum of the
machinery, imagining what life might be for him, if he could rest
like this when he was worn from overwork. It was like some great
adventure in music, like a minstrel's chanting of heroic deeds; it
was Nature with all her pageantry unrolled in a panorama before his
eyes. And meantime Miss Lewis was chattering on about the play and
its prospects; and about other plays and their prospects; and about
the people at the supper-party and their various loves and hates.
So they came to the great stone castle of the Crestons, set upon a
mountain-top overlooking the valley of this "American Rhine."
Thyrsis gasped when he saw it, and he gasped many times again while
Barry was showing them about. For this place was a triumph of a
hundred arts and sciences; into its perfections had gone all the
skill of the architects and designers, the weavers and carpenters,
the painters and sculptors of a score of centuries and climes. The
very dairies, the stables, the dog-kennels were things to be
wondered at and studied; and in the vast halls were single pictures
over which Thyrsis would fain have lingered for hours. Then, best of
all, the great portico, with its stone pillars, and its view of the
noble river, and of the snow-clad hills, dazzling in the sunlight!
They had luncheon; after which Barry played upon the organ, and Miss
Lewis sat beside him and left Thyrsis to wander at will. He made his
way out to the portico, and paced back and forth there; and while
the organ rolled and thundered to him, the majesty of the scene
swept over him, and in towering splendors his soul arose. He thought
of the wretched room in which he was pent, he thought of his starved
and struggling life; and all the rage of his defeated genius awoke
in him. In the name of that genius he uttered his defiance, and by
the title of it he took possession of this castle, and of all things
it contained. Yes--for he was the true lord and master of it--he was
the prince disinherited! And the meaning of it, its excuse for
being, was this brief hour! For this its glories had been assembled;
for this the architects and designers, the weavers and carpenters,
the painters and sculptors had labored in a score of centuries and
climes; for this the great organ had been built, and for this the
great musician had composed--that he might behold, in one hour of
transfiguration, what the life of man would be in that glad time
when all the arts of civilization were turned to the fostering of
the soul! When he who carried in the womb of his spirit the new life
of the ages, would be loved instead of being hated, would be
cherished instead of being neglected, would be reverenced instead of
being mocked! When palaces would be built for him and beauty and joy
would be gathered for him, and the paths would be made clear before