Part 7 out of 11
his feet! So out of boundless love and rapture would he speak to
men, and bring to them those gifts that were beyond price, the
treasures of his unfolding inspiration.
So it was that the Utopians came to Thyrsis; those men of the
future, worshippers of joy! They came to him, alive and in the
flesh, beautiful and noble, gracious and free-hearted--as some day
they will come, if so the earth endure; as they will stand upon that
portico, and listen to that music, and gaze upon the valley of that
American Rhine! And will they remember the long-dead dreamer, and
how they walked with him there and spoke with him; how they put
their arms about him, and gave him of their love and understanding?
Will they remember what shuddering rapture their touch conveyed to
him; how the tears ran down his cheeks, and he pledged his soul to
yet more years of torment, so only their glory might come to be upon
earth? Will they read the blazing words in which he pictured them,
the trumpet-blast he sounded to the dead souls of his time?
Thyrsis knew that this was the greatest hour of his life, and he
fought like mad to hold it. But that might not be--the music ceased,
and he heard the voices of his host and Miss Lewis. They came to the
door; and then Thyrsis' thoughts came back quickly to earth. For he
saw that Barry Creston's arm was about the woman, and she was
leaning upon him; nor did they separate when they saw him, but stood
there, smiling; so that at last Thyrsis had solved for him the
problem of their relationship. It was not so that the Utopians
loved, he thought, as he watched them; and found himself wondering
if young Creston was as imperious with his women as he was with the
slaves in his Western mines.
The car came to the door, and they parted from their host and sped
back to the city. "What do you think of him?" asked Miss Lewis--and
went on in a burst of confidence to tell him that it was to this
prince of the new dispensation that he owed the great chance of his
life. For it was Barry Creston who had given the Broadway
"show-girl" the start that had made her a popular _comédienne_; it
was Barry Creston who had awakened in her an interest in the "drama
of ideas", and had set her to fermenting with new ambitions; and
finally it was Barry Creston who in a moment of indulgence had
promised the money which had set the managers and actors and
musicians, the stage-carpenters and scene-painters and press-agents
to work at the task of embodying "The Genius"!
Section 10. It may have been a coincidence; but from that hour dated
the process of Thyrsis' disillusionment concerning the production of
his play. Could it be, he asked himself, that such wealth as Barry
Creston's could buy true art? Could it be that forces set in motion
by it could really express his vision? "Genius surrounded by
Commercialism", had been the formula of his play; and did not the
formula describe his own position as well as Lloyd's?
A strange thing was this theatrical business--the business of
selling emotions! One had really to feel the emotions, in order to
portray them with force; yet one had at the same time to appraise
them with the eye of the business-man--one must not feel emotions
that would not pay. Also, one boomed and boosted his own particular
emotions, celebrating their merits in the language of the
circus-poster. If you had taken up a certain play, you considered it
the greatest play that had ever made its bow to Broadway; and you
actually persuaded yourself to believe it--at least those who made
the real successes were men who possessed that hypnotic power.
There was, for instance, Mr. Rosenberg, the press-agent and
advertising-man. He was certain that "The Genius" was a play of
genius, and its author a man of genius; and yet Thyrsis knew that if
it had been Meyer and Levinson, across the street, who were
producing it, Mr. Rosenberg would have called it "rot". Mr.
Rosenberg was to Thyrsis a living embodiment of Moses Rosen in the
play--so much so that he felt the resemblance in the names to be
perilous, and winced every time he heard Rosenberg speak of Rosen.
But fortunately neither Rosenberg nor Rosen possessed a sense of
irony, and so there were no feelings hurt. Thyrsis had written the
play without having met either a press-agent or the head of a
music-bureau; he had drawn the character of Moses after the fashion
of the German, evolving the idea of an elephant out of his inner
consciousness. But now that it was done, he was amazed to see how
well it was done; he was like an astronomer who works out the orbit
of a new planet, and afterwards discovers it with his telescope.
As the preparations neared completeness, Thyrsis found himself more
and more disturbed about the production. He was able to judge of the
actors now, and they seemed to him to be cheap actors--to be relying
for their effects upon exaggeration, to be making the play into a
farce. But when he pointed this out to Mr. Tapping, Mr. Tapping was
offended; and when he spoke to Mr. Jones, he was referred to Miss
Lewis. All he could accomplish with Miss Lewis, however, was to
bring up the eternal question of the lack of "charm" in her part.
Poor Ethelynda was also getting into an unhappy frame of mind; she
had begun to doubt whether the "drama of ideas" was her _forte_
after all--and whether the ideas in this particular drama were real
ideas or sham. She got the habit of inviting friends in to judge it,
and she was always of the opinion of the last friend; so the
production was like a ship whose pilot has lost his bearings.
The time drew near for the opening-performance, which was to be
given in a manufacturing city in New England. The nerves of all the
company were stretched to the breaking point; and overwrought as he
was himself, Thyrsis could not but pity the unhappy "leading lady",
who could hardly keep herself together, even with the drugs he saw
The "dress-rehearsal" began at six o'clock on Sunday evening; and
from the very start everything went wrong. But Thyrsis did not know
the peculiar fact about dress-rehearsals, that everything always
goes wrong; and so he suffered untellable agonies at the sight of
the blundering and stupidity. Mr. Tapping stormed and fumed and
hopped about the stage, and swore, first at his gouty foot, and then
at some member of the company; and he sent them back, over and over
again through the scenes--it was midnight before they finished the
first act, and it was six o'clock in the morning before they
finished the second, and it was nearly noon of Monday before the
wretched men and women went home to sleep.
Thyrsis had left before that, partly because he could not endure to
see the mess that things were in, and partly because they told him
he would have to make a speech that night, and he had to spend two
of his hardearned dollars for the hire of a dress-suit. Here, as
always, the scarcity of dollars was like a thorn in his flesh. He
had been obliged to leave Corydon heart-broken at home, because he
had not been able to lay by enough to bring her; he had to stay at a
cheap hotel--cheaper even than any of the actors; and when Miss
Lewis and Mr. Tapping went out to lunch, he would have to say that
he was not hungry, and then go off and get something at a corner
The hour of the performance came; and Thyrsis, like a gambler who
has staked all his possessions upon the turn of one card, sat in a
box and watched the audience and the play. The house was crowded;
and the play-wright saw with amazed relief that all his agonies of
the night before had been needless--the performance went without a
hitch from beginning to end. And also, to his unutterable delight,
the play seemed to "score". He had gazed at the rows of respectable
burghers of this prosperous manufacturing town, and wondered what
understanding they could have of his tragedy of "genius". But they
seemed to be understanding; at any rate they laughed and applauded;
and when Lloyd smashed the violin over von Arne's head and the
curtain went down, there was quite a little uproar.
Thyrsis came out and made his timid speech, which was also
applauded; and then came the last act, and the women got out their
handkerchiefs on schedule time, and Mr. Rosenberg stood behind
Thyrsis in the box, rubbing his hands together gleefully. So the
play-wright sent a telegram to his wife, saying that the play was a
certain success; and then he went to bed, assuredly the happiest man
who had ever slept in that fifty-cent hotel!
But alas--the next morning, there were the local papers; and with
one accord they all "roasted" the play! Their accounts of it sounded
for all the world like the play itself--those extracts which the two
professors had read from the criticisms of Lloyd's concert! Thyrsis
wondered if the critics must not have taken offence at the satire!
Then, going to the theatre, the first person he met was Rosenberg,
who sent another chill to his heart. "First nights are always good,"
said Mr. Rosenberg. "It was all 'paper', you know. To-night is the
And so the second performance came; and in the theatre were some two
hundred people, and the occasion was the most awful "frost" that
ever froze the heart of an unhappy partisan of the "drama of ideas".
After which, according to schedule, the play moved to another
manufacturing town; and in the theatre were some two hundred and
fifty people--and a frost some ten degrees lower yet!
Section 11. So at twelve o'clock that night there was a consultation
in a room at the hotel, attended by Thyrsis and Miss Lewis and Mr.
Tapping and Mr. Jones.
"You see," said the last named; "the play is a failure."
"Absolutely!" said Mr. Tapping.
"I knew it would be!" cried Miss Lewis.
"And you?" asked Mr. Jones of Thyrsis.
"It has not succeeded in these towns," said Thyrsis. But then--how
could it succeed, except where there are intellectual people? You
promised to take it to New York."
"It's no use!" declared Jones. "New York would laugh it dead in one
"It would," said Mr. Tapping, decisively.
"I knew it all along," cried Miss Lewis.
So they went on for ten minutes; and then, "What are you going to
do?" asked Thyrsis, in terror.
"The play must be altered," said Jones.
"It must be altered as Miss Lewis asked you at first."
Thyrsis sprang up. "What!" he cried.
"It must be done!" said Mr. Jones.
"It must," said Mr. Tapping.
"I knew it all along!" cried Miss Lewis again.
"But I won't stand for it!" exclaimed Thyrsis, wildly.
"It must be done!" said Mr. Jones, in his heaviest steam-roller
"But I won't have it!"
"What'll you do?"
"I'll go to law! I'll get an injunction."
"What is there in our contract to prevent our altering the play?"
demanded the man.
"What!" gasped Thyrsis. "You know what our understanding was!"
"Humph!" said the other. "Can you prove it?"
"And do you mean that you would go back on that understanding?"
"And do you mean that you expect me to see this money wasted and the
play sent to pot?"
Thyrsis, in his agony, turned to Miss Lewis. "Will you let him break
our bargain?" he cried.
"But what else is there to be done?" she answered.
"Don't you see that the play is a failure? And don't you see the
plight you've got me in?"
Thyrsis was dumb with dismay. He stared from one of these people to
another, and his heart went down--down. He saw that his case was
hopeless. He had no one to help him or to advise him, and he had
less than eleven dollars in his pocket.
"What do you propose to do?" he asked, weakly.
"I have already telegraphed to Richard Haberton," said Jones. "He
will meet us and see the next two performances; and then we'll lay
the company off until we get some kind of a practical play."
And so the steam-roller rolled and the matter was settled; and
Thyrsis, broken-hearted, bid the trio farewell, and took an early
train back to New York.
He never saw any member of the company again--and he never saw the
"practical play" which Mr. Richard Haberton made out of "The
Genius". What was done he gathered from the press-clippings that
came to him--the famous author of "The Rajah's Diamond" caused
Helena to fall into Lloyd's arms at the end of the second act, and
had them safely if not happily married at the beginning of the
third. Also he wrote several "charming" scenes for Ethelynda Lewis,
and two weeks later the play had a second opening in another
manufacturing town of New England--where the critics, awed by the
name of the distinguished dramatist upon the play-bills, were moved
to faint praise. But perhaps it was that Mr. Richard Haberton
required more than two weeks' time for the evolving of real "charm";
at any rate the audience came in no larger numbers to see this new
version, and the misbegotten production lived for another six
performances, and died a peaceful death at the very gates of the
And such was the end of Thyrsis' career as a play-wright. In return
for all his labors and his agonies he received some weeks later a
note from Robertson Jones, Inc., to the effect that the books of
"The Genius" showed a total deficit of six thousand seven hundred
and forty-two dollars and seventeen cents; and accordingly, under
the contract, there was nothing due to the author.
_They sat in the darkness, watching where the starlight gleamed upon
"We had always hope," she was saying. "How endlessly we hoped!"
"Could we do it now?" he asked; and after a pause, he quoted from
"Unbreachable the fort
Of the long-batter'd world uplifts its wall;
And strange and vain the earthly turmoil grows,
And near and real the charm of thy repose,
And night as welcome as a friend would fall!"_
Section 1. Thyrsis came home beaten and crushed, worn out with
overwork and worry, his heart black with rage and bitterness and
despair. He met Corydon in the park, and she listened to his story,
white and terrified. She had swallowed all her disappointment, had
stayed at home with the baby while he went with the play; and now
the outcome of it all was this!
"What are you going to do?" she whispered; and he answered, "I don't
know. I don't know."
She saw the terrible state he was in, and she dared not utter a
single word of her own grief. She bit her lip, and choked back her
tears. "This is my life," she thought to herself; "I must endure,
endure--that is all!"
He could not afford even to sit and talk with her very long; there
was no time to indulge in the luxury of despair. His money was gone,
and he was in debt for some that he had borrowed. Since irregular
eating had been telling upon him again, he had been getting his
meals with an acquaintance of the family, who kept a boarding-house
uptown. On the strength of his prospects, she had trusted him for
four dollars a week; and now the play had failed, and he had to go
and tell her, and listen to new protests as to his folly in refusing
to "get a position". But in the end she bade him stay on; and so he
was divided between his shame, and the need of something to eat day
Time dragged on, and still there was no gleam of light. There were
shameful hours in these weeks--he touched the lowest point yet in
his life. This was a typical cheap boarding-house, a place where the
drudges of trade were herded; it was a home of sordidness and
ugliness--to Thyrsis its people seemed like carefully selected types
of all things that he hated in the world. There was a young broker's
clerk, whose patter was of prices, and of fortunes made without
service. There was a grey-haired bookkeeper for a giant "trust", a
man who could not have had more pride in that great engine of
exploitation, or more contempt for its victims, had he been the
president and chief owner thereof. There was a young divinity-student,
who made greedy reaches for the cake-plate, and who summed up for
Thyrsis all the cant and commonness of the church. There was a
dry-goods clerk, who wore flaring ties, and who played the role of
a "masher" upon the avenue every evening. And finally there was a
red-faced Irish-man who wore large shiny cuffs and a false diamond,
and who held some political job, and was voluble in behalf of "the
Among these people Thyrsis sat three times a day, silent and
tortured, paying a high price for each morsel of food he ate. But
also he was lonely, and craving any sort of respite; and in the
course of time he became acquainted with several of the younger men.
One of the diversions in their pitiful and narrow lives was to
gather in some room and indulge in petty gambling; sitting for hours
upon hours with their faculties alert upon the attempt to get from
each other some small fraction of that weekly stipend which kept
them alive. Sometimes they played "penny-ante", and sometimes
_vingt_ _et_ _un_; once, as it chanced, they needed another player,
and they urged Thyrsis to join them.
And so, for the first time in his life, Thyrsis learned what it
meant to lay his soul upon the lap of the goddess of chance. From
eight o'clock that evening until two the next morning, he sat in a
suffocating room full of cigarette-smoke, trying in vain to win back
the dollar or two he had lost at the outset; flushed and trembling
with excitement, and hating himself with a bitter and tormenting
hatred. And so he discovered his vice; he discovered that he had in
him the soul of the gambler! And all the rest of the winter he had
to wrestle with that shame. He would go to his dinner, tired and
heartsick; and they would ask him to play again; and he--the man who
carried a message for humanity in his heart--he would yield! Three
times during that winter he fell into the mire; on Washington's
birthday he began to play in the morning, and stopping only for
meals, he played until long after midnight. Forever afterwards he
was a humbler and a gentler man because of that experience;
understanding how squalor abases one, and how swiftly and stealthily
an evil passion closes its grasp about the soul.
Section 2. Of this shameful thing he said not a word to Corydon. But
he avoided meeting her, because of the depths of his despair. And so
at last there came a letter from her--a long and unusual one.
Corydon, too, was having her troubles, it appeared.
"I am writing in haste," she said; "I shall mail the letter at once,
before my resolution fails me. At least a dozen times I have made up
my mind to tell you or to write you what is here, and each time I
have turned back. But now I have got to a stage where I must have
"I enclose a long letter which I wrote you years ago, before we were
married. I was looking over some old papers the other day and came
upon it. Generally when I wrote you letters that I did not send, I
tore them up; but something led me to keep this one--I had a feeling
that some day it would be interesting as a curiosity. You see, I am
always persuading myself that I can get over this trouble, and learn
to laugh at it; and I am always succeeding--but only to have it crop
up in some different form. I have told you a little of it now and
then--but stop and read the enclosed, and you will see."
So Thyrsis read the old letter--a missive of anguish and terror, and
beginning with elaborate preludings and hesitations:
"I implore you to be patient with me this once; and when I have
gotten through, I want you still to love me, if possible. I have
been trying to get the courage to write you something that is so
mean and low, childish and almost imbecile, that there have been
moments in which my horror of it was absolutely unspeakable; when I
have imagined myself as a soul damned, when I thought that if you
knew, you would think I had a diseased brain. I only ask you to read
patiently what I am going to write; but know that every word is a
horrible effort, that it is torture and humiliation to me to write
it. I have a feeling now as though I were psychologically dissecting
"It must have been eight years ago, when I was sick in bed; in a
fever or delirium I conceived the idea that there was a coffin under
my bed. The thought took hold of me, somehow, like an octopus, and I
used to writhe under it, and get into fearful perspirations. I never
went near a bed that I didn't think of this thing with the same
"And so I seemed to have created a nervousness, a sense of dread,
before which I was absolutely helpless. I cannot tell you how
hopelessly or fearfully I suffered, or what depths of despondency
and despair and blackness I was cast into. I cannot understand how a
creature could so manufacture torments for itself. But this is not
all, just for once have mercy--and yet even now I am laughing at
"The winter I was sixteen I was much disappointed that I could not
go to college, and almost the whole winter, when I was not diverted,
I would brood over this habit. As I grew older, it would come to me
in spasms, and it seemed to my dawning sense so monstrously child-
like, so insane, that I was aghast that it had power to affect me. I
can find no words to tell you of the unspeakable horror with which I
saw, in my older days, that a thought could so torment me; the mere
fact of its being able to torment I could never forget. I know it
was silly, unreasonable; and yet every time it came to me I would be
plunged into a hopelessness and melancholy, than which I can
honestly conceive nothing more fearful upon earth.
"Well, I continued to pursue myself with this morbidity (I would
almost, rather kill myself than write this). As I got older my
terror was less, but my melancholy greater, until I would be only
half conscious of what I was allowing myself to do. I seemed to have
engendered within myself a hob-goblin. Once--it was only last
winter--I saw a nasty word written on a fence, and it sent a shudder
through me, for I knew it would follow me and make me think of other
things like it. I felt, since thoughts have such power to terrorize
me, how can I ever get away from them?
"Oh, how I have struggled--tried to say it was not true--that I was
just as sane as other people! And this made my thirst for beauty all
the more maddening, and my melancholy all the more complete! So I
have lived, at intervals, and words cannot describe the hell that I
have endured, the more horrible because it seemed to me so
unreasonable, so insane. It occurred to me more or less this summer,
though in a milder form; but it often frightened me more than ever,
as I felt how beautiful you were, and what you would think of me, if
you knew I was capable of being the prey of such thoughts. So they
were always more dreadful to me.
"Can you possibly understand how the thought of a word could make me
shudder? The mere idea of my being capable of thinking of anything
that was not beautiful! When I longed to be only the embodiment of
beauty--and sometimes I _am_ beautiful! I look into the glass, and I
seem to have something in my face that is a promise of a glory to
come--a light, a something,--I love to imagine it. And then, that a
thought should knock me prone, and make me cringe--from the mere
fact of its lowness and meanness!
"For the last two or three days I have again victimized myself; and
when I was not studying I was asking myself in anguish what was the
matter with me, and if there was no hope for me on earth. I dodged
around and tried to laugh it off, then I went to the piano and lost
myself in the dissatisfaction of my playing; but when I stopped, I
was conscious of a great depression, as though I were chained in a
dungeon. I jumped up, and said I could stand it no longer. I will
tell Thyrsis, I said; but no, I will die first! I added. He could
not tolerate me afterwards, he would think me only fit for the
insane-asylum. Oh, why should I be so cursed? And then, somehow, I
imagined that I told you, and that you laughed at me, that you
pitied me--and that you held out your hand, and said, 'Come, you
_shall_ find beauty--poor, deluded, wretched, little creature!' I
really imagined that this had happened, and I was relieved as with a
draught of fresh air.
"Oh, God in Heaven, to think that I could ever have been so
degraded! My head hurts, and I absolutely am dazed, to think that I
have been able to write you of something for which (though it has
not been my making) I am so ashamed and humiliated I can hardly hold
my head up. I think in my short life I have atoned for the sins of
Section 3. Such was the old-time letter. "And now," wrote Corydon,
"I don't want you to think that if I did not send you this, it was
because I was afraid to do it, or unwilling to trust to your love.
It was simply because I felt that I could conquer these things--that
it would be weak and contemptible of me not to do so. Nor is the
reason I write you now that I have not been able to conquer them,
that I am still at the mercy of such habits. I am a grown woman, and
I am not afraid of words; I tell myself this a hundred times; and it
is true--and yet there is a way in which it is not true. The thing
is so intricate--I never get to the end of it; I rid myself of the
fear of a hateful idea, but there remains the fact that I should
have been afraid; there is the fear of fear. And then comes a flood
of shame--that I should have it in me to be afraid of fear!
"Thyrsis, as I write to you now I see clearly how perfectly
preposterous and unreal all this is; and again there comes to me the
impulse to tear up this letter, and banish the troop of hob-goblins
from my mind. But no, this time I am determined to make a clean
breast of the thing--for I see that secrecy and solitude are what it
feeds on. If I were happy and busy with you such ideas would have no
power over me. But think how it is, with my loneliness and despair!
I don't want to say anything to make your task harder--but oh,
Thyrsis, it is frightful to have nothing to do but wait, and wait,
and wait! The baby wakes me up in the night and I lie for hours--it
is at such times that these phantoms take hold of me. Do you realize
that I literally never know what it is to have more than three or
four consecutive hours of sleep?
"No, I am not insane, I tell myself; I am not insane! It is the
circumstances of my life that cause this melancholia and misery. It
has been my life, from the very beginning--for what a hopeful and
joyous creature I would have been, had I only had a chance as a
girl! I know that; and you must tell it to me, and help me to
Thyrsis read this with less surprise than Corydon had imagined; for
she had been wont to drop hints about her trouble from time to time.
He was shocked, however, to find what a hold it had taken upon her;
the thing sent a chill of fear to his heart. Could it be after all
that she had some taint? But he saw at once that he must not let her
see any such feeling; the least hint of it would have driven her to
distraction. On the contrary, he must minimize the trouble, must
help her to laugh it away, as she asked.
He went to meet her in the park, and found her in an agony of
distress; she had mailed the letter, and then she had wished to
recall it, and had been struggling ever since with the idea that he
would be disgusted with her. Now, when she found that such was not
the case, that he still loved her and trusted her, she was
transported with gratitude.
"But dearest," he said, "how absurd it is to be ashamed of an idea!
If ugly things exist, don't we have to hear of them and know of
them? And so why frighten ourselves because they are in our minds?"
"But Thyrsis," cried she, "they are so hateful!"
"Yes," he said. "But then the more you hate them, the more they
"That's just it!" she exclaimed.
"But what harm can they do? Can they have any effect upon your
character? You must say to yourself that all this is a consequence
of the structure of your brain-cells. What could be more futile than
trying to forget? As if the very essence of the trying was not
So Thyrsis went on to argue with her. He made her promise him that
in future she would tell him of all her obsessions, permitting no
fear or shame to deter her; and so thereafter he would have to
listen periodically to long accounts of her psychological agonies,
and help her to hunt out the "hob-goblins" from the tangled thickets
of her mind. They were forever settling the matter, positively and
finally--but alas, only to have something unsettle it again. So
Thyrsis had to add to his other accomplishments the equipment of a
psycho-pathologist; he brushed up his French, and read learned
treatises upon the researches in the _Salpêtrière_, and the theories
of the "Nancy School".
Section 4. Another month passed by, and still there was no rift in
the clouds. Once more Corydon was forbidden to see him, and so
her pain grew day by day. At last there came another letter, voicing
utter despertion. Something must be done, she declared, she was
slowly going out of her mind. Thyrsis could have no idea of the
shamefulness of her position, the humiliations she had to face. "I
tell you the thing is putting a brand upon my soul," she wrote. "It
is something I shall never get over all my life. It is withering me
up--it is destroying my self-respect, my very decency; it is
depriving me of my power to act, or even to think. People come in,
relatives or friends--even strangers to me--and peer at me and pry
into my affairs; I hear them whispering in the parlor--'Hasn't he
got a position yet?' or 'How can she have anything to do with him?'
The servants gossip about me--the woman I have for a nurse despises
me and insults me, and I have not the courage to rebuke her. To-day
I went almost wild with fury--I rushed into the bathroom and locked
the door and flung myself upon the floor. I found myself gnawing at
the rug in my rage--I mean that literally. That is what life has
left for me!
"I tell you you must take me away, we must get out of this fiendish
city. Let us go into the wilderness as you said, and live as we
can--I would rather starve to death than face these things. Let us
get into the country, Thyrsis. You can work as a farm-hand, and earn
a few dollars a week--surely that could not be a greater strain upon
us than the way things are now."
When Thyrsis received this, he racked his brains once more; and then
he sat down and wrote a letter to Barry Creston. He told how he had
worked over the play, and how it had gone to ruin; he told of his
present plight. He knew, he said, that Mr. Creston had been
interested in the play, and that he was a man understood the needs
of the artist-life. Would he lend two hundred dollars, which would
suffice until Thyrsis could get another work completed?
He waited a week for a reply to this; and when it arrived he opened
it with trembling fingers. He half expected a check to fall
fluttering to the floor; but alas, there was not a single flutter.
"I have read your letter," wrote the young prince, "and I have
considered the matter carefully. I would do what you ask, were it
not for my conviction that it would not be a good thing for you. It
seems to me the testimony of all experience, that artists do their
great work under the spur of necessity. I do not believe that real
art can ever be subsidized. It is for men that you are writing; and
you must find out how to make men hear you. You may not thank me for
this now, but some day you will, I believe."
After duly pondering which communication, Thyrsis racked his wits,
and bethought him of yet another person to try. He sat himself down
and addressed Mr. Robertson Jones. He explained that he was in this
cruel plight, owing to his having devoted so many months to "The
Genius." Even the actors had received something for the performances
of the play they had given; but the author had received nothing at
all. He asked Mr. Jones for a personal loan to help him in a great
emergency; and he promised to repay it at the earliest possible
moment. To which Mr. Jones made this reply--"Inasmuch as the failure
of the play was due solely to your own obstinacy, it seems to me
that your present experiences are affording exactly the discipline
Section 5. However, there are many ups and downs in the trade of
free-lance writer. The very day after he had received this letter,
there came, in quick succession two bursts of sunlight through the
clouds of Thyrsis' despair. The first was a letter, written in a
quaint script, from a man who explained that he was interested in a
"Free People's Theatre" in one of the cities of Germany. "You will
please to accept my congratulations," he wrote; "I had never known
such a play as yours in America to be written. I should greatly be
pleased to translate the play, so that it might be known in Germany.
Our compensation would have to be little, as you will understand;
but of appreciation I think you may receive much in the Fatherland."
To which Thyrsis sent a cordial response, saying that he would be
glad of any remuneration, and enclosing a copy of the manuscript of
"The Genius". And then--only two days later--came the other event,
a still more notable one; a letter from the publisher who had been
number thirty-seven on the list of "The Hearer of Truth". Thyrsis
had got so discouraged about this work that he now sent it about as
a matter of routine, and without thinking of it at all. Great,
therefore, was his amazement when he opened the letter and read that
this publisher was disposed to undertake it, and would be glad to
see him and talk over terms.
Thyrsis went, speculating on the way as to what strange manner of
being this publisher might be. The solution of the mystery he found
was that the publisher was new at the business, and had entrusted
his "literary department" to a very young man who had enthusiasms.
The young man held his position for only a month or two; but in that
month or two Thyrsis got in his "innings".
The publisher wished to bring the book out that spring. He offered a
ten per cent royalty, and the trembling author summoned the courage
to ask for one hundred dollars advance; when he got it, he was
divided between his delight, and a sneaking regret that he had not
tried for a hundred and fifty!
The very next day came the contracts and the money; Thyrsis
marvelled at the fact that there were people who could sign checks
for a hundred dollars, and apparently not mind it in the least. With
the money he was able to pay all his debts, and also a bill which
Corydon had received from a "specialist" who had been treating her.
This was a new habit that Corydon was developing, as a result of
headaches and backaches and other obscure miseries. These amiable
"specialists" permitted one to run up a bill with them; and so,
whenever Thyrsis made a new "strike", there were always debts to eat
up the greater part of it.
They had now another hope to lure them; new proofs to read, and in
due time, new reviews. But it would be fall before they could expect
more money from the book, and meantime there was still the problem
of the summer. So, as usual, Thyrsis was plotting and planning,
groping about him and trying one desperate scheme after another; his
head was like a busy workshop, from which came every hour new plans,
new expedients, new experiments. And meanwhile, of course, deep down
in his soul there was forming the new work, that some day would
emerge and take possession of him, driving everything else from his
People would repeat to him, over and over, their dreary
formula--"Get a position! Get a position!" And patiently,
unwearyingly, Thyrsis would set himself to explain to them what it
was like to be inspired. It was not perversity upon his part, it was
not conceit; it was no more these than it was laziness. It was
something that was in him--something that he had not put there
himself, something that he could not take out of himself; a thing
that took possession of him, without any intention upon his part,
without any permission; a thing that required him to do certain
acts, and that tore him to pieces if he did not do them. And how
should he be blamed because he could not do as other men--because he
could not take care of himself, nor even of his wife and child?
Because he could not have any rights, because he could not possess
the luxuries of manhood and self-respect? Because, in short, he was
cast out into the gutter for every dog to snarl at and for every
loafer to spurn? Could it be that in this whole civilization, with
its wealth and power, its culture and learning, its sciences and
arts and religions--there was not to be found one single man or
woman who could recognize such a state of affairs, and realize what
Section 6. About this time Thyrsis thought of another plan. Perhaps
he might get some one to publish the play in book form--that would
bring him a little money, and possibly also it might help him to
interest some other manager or actor. So he took the manuscript to
his friend Mr. Ardsley, who told him it would not sell, and then
gave him another lecture upon his folly in not having written the
"practical" novel; and then he took it to the publisher for whom
Prof. Osborne acted as reader. So he had another conference with
that representative of authority.
"I'll get him some day," Thyrsis had said to himself, after their
last interview; and he found that he had almost "got" him now. There
was no chance of the play's selling, said the professor, and
therefore no recommending it for publication; but it was indeed a
remarkable piece of work--one might possibly say that it was a
_great_ piece of work.
To which the author responded, "Why can't one say that surely?"
"I'm not quite sure," said the other, "whether your violinist is a
genius, or only thinks he is."
Thyrsis pondered this. "That's rather an important question," he
"Yes," admitted the other.
"There ought to be some way of deciding such a question definitely."
"Yes, there ought to be."
"But there isn't?"
"No--I'm afraid there isn't. We know too little about genius as
"But, professor," said Thyrsis, "you are a critic--you write books
of criticism. And that's the one question a critic has to answer."
"Yes, I know," said Prof. Osborne.
"And yet, when you face the issue, you give up."
"It has generally taken a long time to decide such a matter," was
the professor's reply.
"Yes, it has," said the other; "and meantime the man is starved
There was a pause. "You have never had any such experience
yourself?" asked Thyrsis. "Of inspiration, I mean."
"No," was the answer. "I couldn't pretend to."
"So your judgments are never from first-hand knowledge?"
The professor hesitated. "I am dealing with you frankly---" he
"I know," said Thyrsis, "and I appreciate that. You understand that
it's an important point for me to get clear. I've felt that all
along about you--I've felt it about so many others who set
themselves against me. And yet I have to bear the burden of their
"I never condemned you," interposed the other.
"Ah, but you did!" cried Thyrsis. "You told me that I knew less
about writing than anyone in your class! And you spoke as one who
"But you had given no indications in the class-room--"
"I know! I know! I tried to get you to see the reason. I wanted to
create literature; and you set me down with a lot of formulas--you
told me to write about 'The Duty of the College Man to Support
"It's difficult to see," began Prof. Osborne, "how we could teach
college boys to create literature--"
"At least," said the other, "you need not follow a method which
would make it impossible for one of them to create literature if he
had it in him."
"Does it seem to you as bad as that?" asked the professor, a little
"It truly does," said Thyrsis.
"But what would you say we could do?"
To which the boy replied, "You might try to get your pupils to feel
one deep emotion about life, or to think one worth-while thought;
then they might stand a chance of knowing how it feels to write."
Section 7. Thyrsis was still reading in the papers and magazines of
philanthropists and public-spirited citizens; and he was still
sitting down to write them and explain his plight. He would beg them
to believe that he wanted nothing but a bare living; and he would
send copies of his books or articles or manuscripts, and ask these
people to read them. And about this time an unusual thing
happened--one of these philanthropists answered his letter. He wrote
that he did not agree with Thyrsis' ideas, by any means, but
appreciated the power of his writing, and was certain that he had a
career before him. Whereupon Thyrsis made haste to follow up his
advantage, and wrote another letter--one of the most intense and
impassioned that he ever composed in his life.
He told about the new book he was dreaming. For years he had read
his country's history, and lived in it and thrilled with it.
Especially had he read the Civil War; and now he was planning a book
that should hold the War, and all the meanings of the War, as a
wine-cup holds the rich flavors and aromas of the grape. A titan
struggle it had been, the birth-agony of a nation; and it was a
thing to be contemplated with amazement, that it should have
produced so little in the way of art. Half a dozen poems there were;
but of novels not one above the grade of juvenile fiction.
What Thyrsis was planning was a new form; a series of swift visions,
of glimpses into the very heart of the nation's agony. He described
some of the scenes that were haunting him and driving him. The
winter's night in the ditches in front of Marye's Heights, when the
dead and dying lay piled in windrows, and the soul of a people
sobbed in despair! The night on the field of Gettysburg, when the
young soldier lay wounded, but rapt in his vision, seeing the hosts
of the victorious future defiling upon that hallowed ground! The
ghastly scenes in Andersonville, and the escape, and the long
journey filled with perils; and the siege of Petersburg, and the
surrender; and last of all the ecstasy of the dying man in the
capital, when the grim, war-worn legions were tramping for two days
through the city. Such, wrote Thyrsis, was the book that he wished
to compose, and that was being stifled in him for the lack of two or
three hundred dollars.
Upon the receipt of this letter the philanthropist wrote again,
suggesting that the poet come to see him and talk things over. He
sent the price of a railroad ticket to Boston; and so Thyrsis made
the acquaintance of a new world--one might almost say of a whole new
system of worlds.
For here was the Athens of America, the hub of the universe. In
Boston they worshipped culture, they lived in literature and art and
the transcendental excellences; and by the way of showing that there
was no snobbery in them, they opened the gates of their most august
mansions to this soul-sick poet, and invited him to tea.
Thyrsis got a strange impression among these people, who were living
upon their knees before the shrine of their own literary history.
One was treading here upon holy ground; in these very houses had
dwelt immortal writers--their earthly forms had rested in these
chairs, and their auras yet haunted the dim religious light of these
drawing-rooms. There were old people who had known them in the
flesh, and could tell anecdotes about them--to which one listened in
reverent awe; at every gathering one met people who were writing
biographies and memoirs of them, or editing their letters and
journals, or writing essays and appreciations, criticisms and
commentaries and catalogs and bibliographies. And to be worthy of
the visitations of such hallowed influences, one must guard one's
mind as a temple, a place of silences and serenities, to which no
vulgar things could penetrate; one excluded all the uproar of these
days of undisciplined egotism--above all things else one preserved
an attitude of aloofness from that which presumed to call itself
"literature" in such degenerate times.
To have become acquainted with these high standards was perhaps
worth the rent of a room and the cost of some food and clean
collars. So Thyrsis reflected when, after his week of waiting, he
had his interview with the benevolent philanthropist, who explained
to him, at great length, how charity had the effect of weakening the
springs of character, and destroying those qualities of
self-reliance and independence which were the most precious things
in a man.
Section 8. It was a curious coincidence, one that seemed almost
symbolic--that Thyrsis should have gone from the Brahmins of Boston
to the Socialists of the East Side!
In one of the publishing-houses he visited, Thyrsis had met a young
man who gave him a Socialist magazine to read; as the magazine was
published in the next building, Thyrsis went in and met the editor.
About this time they were crowning a new king in England, and
Thyrsis, who had no use for kings, wrote a sarcastic poem which the
Socialist editor published free of charge. And so the boy discovered
a new way in which he could relieve his feelings.
"I see what you want," he admitted, in his arguments with this
editor; "and it's the same thing as I want--every man with any
sense must see that, in the ultimate outcome, all this capital will
be owned by the public and not by private individuals. But what I
object to is the way you go at it. The industrial process is a
necessary thing; it is drilling and disciplining the workers. They
are not yet fitted for the responsibility of managing the world."
"But," asked the editor, "what's to be the sign when they _are_
"When they have been educated," Thyrsis answered.
To which the editor responded, "Who is to educate them, if we
That was an interesting point; and Thyrsis found little by little
that a new light was dawning upon him. He had somehow conceived of
industrial evolution as something vast and intangible and
mechanical, something that went on independent of men, and that
could not be hurried or delayed. What this editor pointed out was
that the process was a definite one, that it went on in the minds of
men, and involved human effort--of which the publishing of Socialist
literature was a most essential part.
"You ought to hear Darrell," said the man; and a few days later he
wrote Thyrsis a note, asking him to go to a hall over on the East
Side that evening.
Thyrsis went, and found a working-men's meeting-room, ill-lighted
and ill-ventilated, with perhaps two hundred people in it. The
chairman introduced the speaker of the evening; and so Thyrsis got
his first glimpse of Henry Darrell.
He was something over forty years of age, slight of build; his face
was pale to the point of ghostliness, and this impression was
heightened by a jet black mustache and beard. One's first thought
was that this man was no stranger to suffering.
He was not a good speaker, in the conventional sense, he fumbled for
words, and repeated himself--and yet from his first sentence Thyrsis
found himself listening spellbound. The voice went through him like
the toll of a bell; never in all his life had he heard a speaker who
put such a burden of anguish into his words--who gave such a sense
of gigantic issues, of age-long destinies hanging in the balance, of
world-embracing hopes and powers struggling to be born. Here was a
prophet who carried in his soul the future of the race; who in the
sudden flashes of his vision, in the swift rushes of his passionate
pleadings, evoked from the deeps of the consciousness forces that
one contemplated with terror--confronted one with martyrdoms and
agonies and despairs.
"Revolution" was his title; he pictured modern civilization as it
presented itself to the proletarian man--a gigantic Moloch, to which
human lives were fed, a monster from whose dominion there was no
deliverance, even in the uttermost parts of the earth. He pictured
accident, disease and death, unemployment and starvation,
child-labor, prostitution, war; he was the voice of the dispossessed
of the earth, the man beneath the machine, ground up body, mind and
soul in this "world-wide mill of economic might". And he showed how
this man dragged down with him all society; how the chain that bound
the slave was fastened also to the master--so that from the poverty
and oppression and degradation of this "downmost man" came all the
ulcers that festered in the social body. He saw the great economic
machine grinding on day and night, the mighty forces rushing to
their culmination. He saw the toiling millions pressed deeper and
deeper into the mire; he saw their blind, convulsive struggles for
deliverance; he saw over them the gigantic slave-driver with his
thousand-lashed whip--the capitalist state, class-owned
class-administered--backed by the capitalist church and the
capitalist press and capitalist "public sentiment". So the hopes of
the people went down in blood and reaction sat enthroned. The
nations, ridden by despotisms, and whirled into senseless wars, ran
the old course of militarism, imperialism, barbarism; and so
civilization slid back yet again into the melting-pot!
Thyrsis had never heard such a speech as this in his life. When it
was over, he went up to the platform where Darrell sat, looking more
exhausted and pain-driven than ever; and in a few hesitating words
he told of his interest, and asked for the speaker's address, that
he might write to him. And that night he posted a letter,
introducing himself as a young writer, who felt impelled to learn
more about Darrell's ideas.
In reply came a note from the other, asking him to dine with him;
and Thyrsis answered accepting.
Then, as chance would have it, he mentioned the circumstance to his
mother. "Darrell!" she cried. "You don't mean Henry Darrell!"
"Yes," said Thyrsis. "Why?"
"And you would meet that man?"
"Why not?" he asked, perplexed.
"Haven't you read anything about him in the papers? That monster!"
"What do you mean?"
"A man who deserted his wife and children, and left them to starve,
and ran away with some rich woman!"
Thyrsis recollected vaguely some sensational headlines, about the
clergyman and college professor who had done the shocking things his
mother spoke of, and was now a social outcast, and a preacher of
anarchy and revolution. He recalled also that there had been a
woman, beautiful and richly-dressed, with Darrell at the meeting.
The boy was not disturbed by all this, for he had long ago made up
his mind that every man had to work out his own sex-problems; in
fact, his first impulse was to admire a man who had had the courage
to face the world upon such an issue. But he was sorry he had
mentioned it to his mother, for she wept bitterly when she found
that he meant to accept the invitation. That was the culmination of
her life's defeat--that her son, who had been designed for a bishop,
should be going to sit at table with Henry Darrell and his paramour!
Section 9. Thyrsis went to the apartment-hotel where Darrell lived,
and was introduced to the beautiful lady as Mrs. Darrell, and they
went down to the dining-room--where he noticed that everyone turned
to stare at them as they entered. It made him feel that he must be
doing something quite desperate; and yet it was not easy to imagine
any wickedness of the man opposite to him--his voice was so kind,
and his smile so gentle, and his whole aspect so appealing. He was
dressed in black, and wore a soft black bow at his throat, which
made still more conspicuous the pallor of his face; Thyrsis had
never met a man he took to more quickly--there was something about
him that was like a little child, calling for affection and
Yet, also, there was the mind of a thinker. He was a man of culture,
in the most vital sense of the word; he had swept the heavens of
thought with a powerful telescope--had travelled, and knew many
languages, and their literatures and arts. He had tested them all by
a strong acid of his own; so that to talk with him was to discover
the feet of clay of one's idols.
He spoke of Dante and Angelo, who were two of his heroes; he told of
great experiences among the latter's titan frescos. He spoke of
Mazzini, whose greatness as a writer the world had yet to
appreciate; he spoke also of Wagner, whose music he valued less than
his critical and polemical work. He told of modern artists both in
Germany and Italy--revolutionary forces of whom Thyrsis had never
heard at all. The day must come, said Darrell, when Americans would
discover the great movements of contemporary thought, and realize
their own provincialness. America thought of itself as "the land of
the free", and that made it hard to teach. It was obvious enough
that there had never been any real freedom in America--only
government by propertied classes. The Revolution had been a
rebellion of country gentlemen and city merchants; as one might know
from the "constitution" they had adopted--one of the greatest
barriers to human progress ever devised. And so with the Civil War,
which to Darrell was one of the deeds of the newly-risen monster of
They went upstairs again, and Thyrsis found another man seated in
the drawing-room. He was introduced by the name of Paret, and
Thyrsis recognized him as the editor of "The Beacon", a magazine of
which he had chanced upon a copy some time before. It was the first
Socialist publication he had ever seen, and it had repelled him
because its editor had printed his own picture in a conspicuous
place, and also because in his leading editorial he had dealt
flippantly with an eminent reformer and philanthropist for whom
Thyrsis had a profound respect.
But here was the editor himself--not merely his photograph: a little
man, clad in evening dress, very neat and dapper. He had a black
beard, trimmed to a point, and also a sarcastic smile, and he
impressed Thyrsis as a drawing-room edition of Mephistopheles. He
lounged at ease in a big chair, not troubling to talk; save that
every now and then he would punctuate the discussion with some droll
reflection that stuck in one's mind like a burr.
Some one spoke of certain evangelists who were conducting a
temperance campaign among the workers in the steel-mills. Said
Paret: "If I had to live in hell, I'm sure I'd rather be drunk than
sober!" And a little later Thyrsis spoke of a novel he had been
reading, which set out to solve the problem of "capital and labor".
Its solution seemed to be for the handsome young leader of the union
to marry the daughter of the capitalist; and Paret remarked, with
his dry smile, "No doubt if the capitalists and their daughters are
willing, the union-leaders will come to the scratch." Again, Darrell
was telling about the ten years' struggle he had waged to waken the
Church to the great issue of the time; and how at last he had given
up in despair. Paret remarked, "For my part, I never try to talk
economics with preachers. When you talk to a business-man, he
understands a business proposition, and you can get somewhere; but
when you talk with a preacher, and you think he's been understanding
you, you find that all the time he's been thinking what Moses would
have said about it."
There came other guests: a German, hard-fisted,
bullet-headed--editor of an East Side labor-paper. Some one spoke of
working-men losing their votes through being unemployed and cast
adrift; and Thyrsis remembered this man's grim comment, "They lose
their votes, but they don't lose their voices!" There came a young
man, fair as an Antinous, who with his verbal battering-ram shook
the institutions of society so as to frighten even the author of
"The Higher Cannibalism". There came also a poetess, whose work
he had seen in the magazines, and with her a Russian youth who had
come to study the thought of America, and was now going home,
because America had no thought. Thyrsis had a good deal of
patriotism left in him, and might have been angered by this
stripling's contempt; but the stripling spoke with such quiet
assurance, and his contempt was so boundless as to frighten one.
"These people," he said--"they simply do not know what the
intellectual life means!"
When Thyrsis went home that evening, he carried with him new ideas
to ponder; also some of Darrell's pamphlets and speeches--the
product of his ten years' struggle to make the teachings of Christ
of some authority in the Christian Church. Thyrsis sat up late, and
read one of these pamphlets, an indictment of Capitalism from the
point of view of the artist and spiritual creator. It was a
magnificent piece of writing; it came to Thyrsis like an echo out of
his own life. So, before he slept that night he had written a letter
to Darrell, telling of his struggles and his defeats. "I do not ask
you to help _me_" he wrote. "I ask you to read my work, and decide
if that be worth saving. For ashamed as I am to say it, I am at the
end of my resources, and if some help does not come, I do not know
what will become of me."
Thyrsis had now tried all varieties of the great and successful of
the earth--the publishers and editors and authors, the college
professors and clergymen, the statesmen and capitalists and
philanthropists. And now, for the first time, he tried the
Socialists. He trembled when he opened Darrell's reply. Could it be
that this man would be like all the rest?
But no, he was different! "Dear Brother:" he wrote. "I understand
what you have told me, and I appreciate your position. Send me your
manuscripts at once; I leave to-morrow for a lecture-trip, and on my
way I will read everything, and let you hear from me on my return.
In the meantime, I should add that I am helping two Socialist
publications, and a good many individuals too, and that my resources
have been absurdly exaggerated in the public prints. I say this,
that you may not overestimate what I might possibly be able to do."
Section 10. So Thyrsis sent a manuscript of his play, and a copy of
his first novel, and a set of proofs of "The Hearer of Truth"; and
then for a couple of weeks he waited in suspense and dread. He could
not see how a man like Henry Darrell could fail to appreciate his
work; but on the other hand, after so many disappointments and
rebuffs, how could he bring himself to believe that any one would
really give him aid?
At last came a second letter; a letter full of warm-hearted
sympathy--pointing out the faults of immaturity in his work, but
also recognizing its real merits. It closed with this all-important
sentence: "I will do what I can to help you, so come and let us talk
Thyrsis went; and as they sat in his study, Darrell put his arm
about him, and told him a little of his own career. He had begun
life as a street-waif, a newsboy and bootblack; and once when he was
ill, he had gone to a drug-store for help, and the druggist had
given him a poison by mistake, so that all his life thereafter he
had more sick days than well. He told how, at an early age, he had
gone to a country college to seek an education as a divinity-student;
he had arrived, weary and footsore, and with his last cent had bought
a post-card to let his mother know that he was safe He told how, as
a clergyman and college professor the gospel of the time had come to
him; how he had preached and labored, amid persecution and obloquy,
until he had come to realize that the Church was a dead sepulchre;
and how at last he had thrown everything to the winds, and given
himself to the working-class political movement.
Then Thyrsis, scrupulous as ever, said, "I know nothing about
Socialism. I mean to study it; but I might not come to believe in
it--how can I tell? I would not want you to help me under any
At which the other smiled gently. "I am working for the truth," he
They talked about Thyrsis and his needs. Presumably, he said, he
would have money from his new book in the fall, but meantime he
wanted to take his family into the country. He could live on thirty
dollars a month; it would be a matter of some two hundred and fifty
dollars. Darrell said he would give him this; and Thyrsis sat there,
powerless to thank him, his voice trembling, and a mist of tears in
He went on to tell his friend of the work that he meant to do.
Darrell had said that to him the Civil War was a crime; but Thyrsis
did not know what he meant by that. "I believe in my country!" he
said. "It has tried for high things--and it will come to them! I
know that it can be thrilled and roused, and made to see the shame
into which it is fallen."
Darrell pressed his arm, and answered, with a smile, "I won't argue
with you about the War; you go ahead and write your book!"
So Thyrsis went home to Corydon, as one who brings a reprieve to a
prisoner under sentence of death. Such a deliverance as it was to
them! And such transports of relief and gratitude as they
experienced! He sang the praises of Darrell, and of the new friends
he had made at Darrell's; also he brought an invitation for Corydon
to come with him to an evening reception the next week. They were
anxious to meet her, he said; and Corydon was anxious to go.
But, alas, this did not work out according to expectations. Thyrsis
discovered now what his wife had meant when she wrote that suffering
and humiliation were breaking down her character. She could not bear
to meet intellectual people, to take part in the competition of
their life. For the most part these were men and women of intense
personalities, absorbed in their own ideas, keenly critical, and not
very merciful to any sort of weakness. And Corydon was morbidly
aware of her own lack of accomplishments, and acutely sensitive as
to what others thought about her. A strange figure she must have
made in any one's drawing-room--with the old dress she had fixed up,
and the lace-collar she had borrowed for the occasion, and the sad
face with the large dark eyes. The talk of the company ran to
politics; and Corydon had nothing to say about politics. She could
only sit in a corner while Thyrsis talked, and suffer agonies of
To make matters worse, there came a literary lion that evening; one
of the few modern writers whose books Corydon knew and loved. But
when they were introduced, he scarcely looked at her; he went on
talking to an East Side poetess whose opinions were fluent and
ready. So Corydon found herself shunted into a corner with an
unknown old lady. It was one of Corydon's peculiarities that she
abhorred old ladies; and this one questioned her about the feeding
of infants and told her that she was ill-equipped for the
responsibilities of motherhood!
On her way home she poured out her bitterness to Thyrsis. "I can see
exactly how it is," she said. "They all think you've married a
"You haven't given them much chance to think otherwise," he pleaded.
"They don't want any chance," she exclaimed. "They've got it all
settled! You are the rising light, which is to astonish the
world--and I'm your youthful blunder. I stay at home and take care
of the baby, and they all feel sorry for you."
"Do you want them to feel sorry for _you?_" he asked.
To which Corydon answered, "I don't want them to know about me at
all. I want to get away, and stay by myself, and get back my
self-respect." And so it was decided that in a couple of weeks
more--the first of April--they would shake the dust of the city from
their feet. They sent for their tent and other goods, and began
inquiring about a place to camp.
Section 11. A few days more passed; and then, one Sundav morning,
Thyrsis' mother came to him in tears, with a copy of a newspaper
"magazine-supplement" in her hand.
"Look at this!" she cried; and Thyrsis stared.
There was a full-page article, with many illustrations, and a
headline two inches deep--"Henry Darrell to found Free-Love Colony!
Ex-college professor and clergyman buys farm to teach his
doctrines." There was a picture of Darrell, standing upon a ladder
and nailing up an announcement of his defiance to the institution of
marriage; and there were pictures of his wife and child, and of the
farm he had bought, and a long account of the colony which he was
organizing, and in which he meant to preach and practice his ideas
of "free love".
Thyrsis was half dazed. "I don't believe it!" he cried; whereat his
mother wrung her hands.
"Not believe it!" she exclaimed. "Why, the paper even gives the
price he paid for the place!"
So Thyrsis took the article and went to see Henry Darrell again; and
there followed one of the most painful experiences of his life.
He found his friend like a man blasted by a stroke of lightning. His
very physical appearance was altered; his voice shook and his eyes
were wild, and he paced the room, his whole aspect one cry of agony.
He pointed Thyrsis to a lot of clippings that lay upon the
table--the first editorial comments upon this new pronouncement.
There was one from an evening paper, which had close upon a million
circulation, and had devoted its whole editorial page to a scathing
denunciation, in which it was declared that "Prof. Darrell's
morality is that of the higher apes."
"Think of it!" the man cried. "And the thing will go from one end of
the country to the other!"
"But"--gasped Thyrsis, bewildered--"then it is not true?"
"True?" cried Darrell. "True? How can you ask me?"
"But--the colony! What is it to be?"
"There is not going to be any colony. I never dreamed of such a
'And haven't you bought any farm?"
"My wife bought a farm, over a year ago--because we wanted to live
in the country!"
"But then," gasped Thyrsis--"how dare they?"
"They dare anything with me!" cried the other. "_Anything!_"
"And have you no redress?"
"Redress? What redress?"
He went on to tell Thyrsis what had happened. He and Mrs. Darrell
had gone down to the farm to see about getting it ready, and a woman
had come, representing that she wished to write a magazine article
about "the country-homes of literary Americans". Upon this pretext
she had secured a photograph of the place, and of Darrell, and of
his wife and child. She had even attempted to secure a photograph of
his wife's aged mother, who lived with her, and who was involved in
the affair because the money belonged to her. Then the woman had
gone away--and a couple of weeks later had come this!
"And I thought they were through with us!" Darrell whispered, with a
shudder. "I thought it was all over!"
He sat in a chair, with his face hid in his arms. Thyrsis put his
hand upon his shoulder, and the man caught it. "Listen," he
exclaimed. "You can see this thing from the outside, you know the
literary world. Do you think that I can ever rise above this? Is
there any use in trying?"
"How do you mean?" Thyrsis asked, perplexed.
"I mean--is it worth while for me to go on writing? Can I ever have
Thyrsis was shocked at the question--as he had been at the way
Darrell took the whole thing. He knew that his friend had money
enough to live comfortably; and why should any sort of criticism
matter to a man who was economically free?
"Brother," he said, "you have forgotten your Dante."
"How do you mean?" asked the other.
"_Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir le gente!_" quoted Thyrsis; and
then he added, "You don't seem to realize that these are newspapers,
and nobody really credits them."
"Ah, but they do!" cried Darrell. "You don't know what I have been
through with! My oldest friends have cut me! Clergymen have refused
to sit at table with me! The organization that I gave ten years of
my life to founding has gone all to pieces. I have been utterly
ruined--I have been wiped out, destroyed!"
"But, my dear man," Thyrsis argued, "you are setting out to teach a
new doctrine, one that is abhorrent to people. And how can you
expect to avoid being attacked? It seems to me that either you ought
not to have done it, or else been prepared for some of this uproar."
"But because a man becomes a Socialist, are they to libel him in
these foul ways?"
"I don't mean that. It's not only that you are a Socialist, but that
you have defied their marriage-laws."
"But I haven't!" exclaimed Darrel.
"What do you mean?" asked Thyrsis, perplexed.
"I have defied no law--nor even any convention. I have done
everything that the world requires."
Thyrsis stared at him, amazed. "Why, surely," he gasped, "you
and--and Mrs. Darrell--you are not _married?_"
"Married!" exclaimed the other. "We were married here in New York,
by a regularly-ordained clergyman!"
Thyrsis could not find words to express his dismay. "I--I had no
idea of that!" he gasped. I thought--"
"You see the lies!" cried the other. "Even _you_ had swallowed
It took Thyrsis some time to adjust himself to this new point of
view. He had thought of his friend as a man who had boldly defied
the convention of marriage; and instead of that he was apparently a
man cowering under the lash of the world's undeserved rage. But if
so--what an amazing and incredible thing was the mesh of slander and
falsehood in which he had been entangled!
Section 12. Little by little Thyrsis drew from Darrell the story of
his marital experience. Before he had been of age, as a poor
student, he had boarded with a woman many years his senior, who had
set out to lure him into marrying her. "I don't believe that she
ever loved me one hour," he said. "She had made up her mind that I
was a man of brilliant parts, and that I would have worldly success.
To me the thing was like an evil dream--I couldn't realize it. And I
can't tell you about it now--it was too horrible. She was older than
I, and so different--she was more like a man. And for twenty years
she held me; I had to stay--I was utterly at her mercy!"
The man's voice fell to a whisper, and he pressed Thyrsis' hand
convulsively; there were tears upon his cheeks. "I could not tell it
all to anyone," he said. "It makes me cry like a child to think of
it. I'm only getting over it little by little--realizing how I was
tortured. This woman had no interest in me, intellectual or
spiritual; she brought up my children to despise me. I would stay
upstairs in my study, writing sermons--that was all my life! For
twenty years I waded through my own blood!"
Darrell paused to get control of himself, and then went on.
"One of my parishioners was my present wife's mother. She was one of
the old-time abolitionists, and she was wealthy; and now, in her old
age, she saw the new light, and became a Socialist. This, of course,
was like gall to her family; they were powers in the state--the
railroad people, who control the legislature and run the government.
And so their newspapers denounced me, and denounced the university
where I taught.
"Then came her daughter--a young girl out of college. I was at their
home often, and we became friends. She saw how unhappy I was, and
she tried to open my wife's eyes, and to win her over to me. But, of
course, she failed in that; and then, little by little we found that
we loved each other. You know me--you know that I am not a base man,
nor a careless man; and you will believe me when I tell you that
there was nothing between us that the world could have called wrong.
We knew that we loved, and we knew that there was no hope. And that
went on for eight years; for eight years I renounced--and strove
with every power of my heart and soul to make something out of that
renunciation, to transmute it into spiritual power. And I failed--I
could not do it; and in the end I knew the reason. It was not beauty
and nobility--it was madness and horror; it was not life--it was
death! The time came when I knew that our renunciation was simply a
crime against the soul. Can you see what I mean?"
"Yes," said Thyrsis, "I can see."
'And see what that meant to me--the situation I faced! I was a
clergyman--and preaching a new crusade to the world. It was like
being in a cage, with bars of red-hot metal. A hundred times I would
go towards them--and a hundred times I would shrink back. But I had
to grasp them in the end."
"I see!" whispered the other.
"The thing was becoming a scandal anyway; the world was bound to
make a scandal of it, whether we would or no. It was a scandal that
I visited in another woman's home, it was a scandal that I spent her
money in my propaganda. The very children on the streets would taunt
my children about it. And then, my health broke down from overwork;
and the mother was going abroad, and she invited me to go with her
and her daughter; and, of course, that made it worse. So at last the
old lady came to me. 'You love my daughter,' she said, 'and the
world has thrown her into your arms. You must let a divorce be
arranged, and then marry my daughter.'"
"And you got the divorce yourself?" asked Thyrsis.
"No," said Darrell. "There were grounds enough; but it would have
meant to attack my wife in the public prints, and I would not do it.
I had to let her charge me with desertion, and say nothing."
"And, of course, they distorted that," said Thyrsis.
"They distorted everything!" cried the other. "My present wife gave
my first wife all her patrimony; and I thought that was generous--I
thought it was a proof of love. But the newspapers made it that she
had bought me!"
"And they distorted your second marriage?" asked Thyrsis.
"They lied about it deliberately," was Darrell's reply--"Some of
our friends gave little addresses of greeting; and so the newspapers
called it a new kind of wedding--a 'Socialist wedding', which we
had designed for our new kind of unions! And now, when we buy a
farm, so that we can live quietly in the country, they turn that
into a 'free love colony'!"
Section 13. Thyrsis went away from this interview with some new
problems to ponder upon. He had seen a little of this power of the
newspapers to defile and torment a man; but he had never dreamed of
anything as bad as this. This was murderous, this was monstrous. He
saw these papers now as gigantic engines of exploitation and
oppression--irresponsible, unscrupulous, wanton--turned loose in
society to crush and destroy whom they would.
They had taken this man Darrell and they had poured out their
poisons upon him; they had tortured him hideously, they had burned
him up as with vitriol. As a public force he was no longer a human
being at all--he was a deformity, a spectre conjured up to bring
fright to the beholder. And through it all he was utterly
helpless--as much at their mercy as an infant in the hands of
savages. And what had he done? Why had the torture been visited upon
Thyrsis pictured the men who had led in this soul-hunt. They were
supposed to be enlightened Americans at the dawn of the twentieth
century; and did they truly hold to the superstition of marriage as
a religious sacrament, not to be dissolved by mortal power? Did they
really believe that a man who had once been drawn into matrimony was
obligated for life--no matter how unhappy he might be, no matter to
what indignities he might be subjected? Or, if they did recognize
the permissibility of divorce--then why this hue and cry after
Darrell, who had borne his punishment for twenty years, and had
waited for eight or ten years to test the depths of his new love?
The question answered itself; and the answer fanned Thyrsis' soul
into a blaze of indignation. All this patter about the deserted
wife, sitting at home with her children and weeping her eyes
out--all that was so much hocus-pocus for the ears of the mob. The
chiefs of this Inquisition and their torturers and slaves wrote it
with their tongues in their cheeks. What they saw was that they had
got securely strapped upon their rack the man who had threatened
their power, who had laid bare its sources and exposed its iniquity.
And they meant that if ever he came out of their torture-chamber,
it should be so mangled and crippled that never again would he lift
a finger against them!
The gist of the "Darrell case", when you got right down to it, was a
quarrel over property; it was the snarling of wolves who had been
disturbed at their feeding. Darrell had denounced wealth and the
exploiters of wealth, and now he had married a woman of wealth; and
was he to get away with his prize? That was the meaning of all the
loud halloo--for that the hounds were unleashed and the
hunting-horns sounded. Thyrsis pictured the men who "wrote up" the
Darrell story. He had known them in the newspaper-world--the
servants of the giant publicity-machine; living and working in the
roar and rush of it, in a stifling atmosphere where the finer
qualities of the soul were poisoned and withered over night. They
lived their lives, almost without exception, by means of alcohol and
coffee and tobacco; they were scornful, disillusioned, cynical
beyond all telling and all belief. Their only god in heaven or earth
or the waters under the earth was "copy". To such men there were two
possible bonds of interest in a woman--the first being lust, and the
second money. In the case of Henry Darrell they found both these
motives; and so how clear the story was to them!
Thyrsis thought, also, of the men who owned and managed the papers;
those who had turned loose the hunt and directed it. Rich men were
they, who had built these publicity machines for their own purposes.
And what were they in their private lives? Some of them were
notoriously dissolute; and still others hid their ways under a veil
of hypocrisy--just as in their editorials they hid their
class-interests under pretenses of principle. And how easy it would
have been for Darrell to get what he wanted without losing his
reputation--if only he had been willing to follow the example of
these eminent citizens! Thyrsis knew one man, the editor of an
appallingly respectable journal, who had invited a young girl to his
wife's home and there attempted to seduce her. He knew the
proprietor of another, whose cheerful custom it was to go about
among his newly-married women-friends and suggest that, inasmuch as
he was a "superman," and their husbands were weaklings, they should
let him become in secret the father of their children. This amateur
eugenist was accustomed to maintain that the great men in history
had for the most part been bastards; and Thyrsis, knowing this fact
about him, would read editorials in his papers, in which Henry
Darrell was denounced as an enemy of the home!
Meantime Thyrsis was reading Darrell's books and pamphlets, and
coming to realize what a mind was here being destroyed. For this
man, it seemed to him, was master of the noblest prose utterance
that had been heard in America since Emerson died. He went again to
hear him speak, in another ill-lighted and stuffy hall before less
than a hundred people; and the pain of this was more than he could
bear. He went home that night with his friend, and labored with him
with all the force of his being. "You stay here," he declared, "and
put yourself at the mercy of your enemies! You waste your faculties
contending with them--even knowing about them is enough to destroy
you. And all the while you might escape from them altogether--might
do your real work, that the world knows nothing of. No one can
hinder you. And when you have written the book of your soul, then
your tormentors will be--they will be like the tormentors of Dante!
Go away! Go away to Europe, where you can be free!"
And so before long, he stood upon a steamer-pier and waved Henry
Darrell and his wife farewell. And every now and then would come
letters, telling of long, long agonies; for Darrell had to fight for
those few rare days when ill health would permit him to think. So
year by year he labored at what Thyrsis knew, if it was ever
finished, would be America's first world-poem; and in the meantime
eminent statesmen and moralists who were alarmed at the progress of
"Socialist agitation", would continue to conjure up before the
public mind the night-mare spectre of the once-respected clergyman,
who had deserted his weeping wife and children, and run away with a
rich woman to found a "free-love colony"!
Section 14. A couple of days after the Darrells sailed, Thyrsis set
out himself to find a home. On account of the new book, he would
have to be near a library, and so he had selected a college-town not
far from New York. He went there now, and put up for a week at a
students' boarding-house, while prosecuting his search.
A strange experience it was to him, after the years of struggle and
contact with the world, to come back to that academic atmosphere; to
find men who were still peacefully counting up the "feminine
endings" in Shakespeare's verse, and writing elaborate theses upon
the sources of the Spenserian legends. Upon his excursions into the
country some of these young men would tramp with him--threshing out,
student-fashion, the problems of the universe; and how staggering it
was to meet a man who was about to receive a master's degree in
literature--and who regarded Arthur Hugh Clough as a "dangerous"
poet, and Tennyson's "Two Voices" as containing vital thought, and
T. H. Green as the world's leading philosopher! And this was the
"education" that was dispensed at America's most aristocratic
university--for this many millions of dollars had been contributed,
and scores of magnificent buildings erected!
Thyrsis saw that a partial explanation lay in the fact that in
connection with the university there existed a great theological
seminary. Some of these future ministers came also to the
boarding-house, and Thyrsis listened to their shop-talk--about the
difference between "transubstantiation" and "consubstantiation", and
the status of the controversy over the St. John Gospel. He heard one
man cite arguments from Paley's "Moral Philosophy"; and another
making bold to state that he was uncertain about the verbal
inspiration of the Pentateuch!
To Thyrsis, as he listened to these discussions, it was as if he
felt a black shadow stealing across his soul. He wondered why he
should hate these men with a personal hatred; he tried to argue with
himself that they must be well-meaning and earnest. The truth was
that they seemed to him just like the law-students, men moved by
sordid and low ideals; the only difference was that their minds were
not so keen as the lawyers'. Thyrsis was coming little by little to
understand the economic causes of things, and he perceived that this
theological world represented a stagnant place in the stream of
national culture; it being a subsidized world, maintained half by
charity, vital men turned from it; it drew to itself the feebler
minds, or such as wished to live at ease, and not inquire too
closely into the difference between truth and falsehood.
Section 15. A few miles out from the town Thyrsis found a farm with
an abundance of wild woodland, where the farmer gave him permission
to camp. And so he went back and got some lumber, and loaded his
tent and supplies on a wagon, and wrote Corydon that he would meet
her the next afternoon. With the help of the farmer's boy he labored
the rest of the day at building the platform, and putting up the
tent, and getting their belongings in order. The next day he was up
at dawn, constructing tables and stands; and later on he hired the
farmer's "jagger-wagon", and drove in for Corydon and Cedric and the
It was a glorious spring day, of turquoise sky and glinting
sunshine; and later, when the sun was low, the woods were flushed
with a glow of scarlet and purple. It lent a glory to the scene,
shedding a halo about the commonest tasks; the unpacking of blankets
and dishes, the ranging of groceries upon shelves. They were free
from all the world at last--they were setting out upon the journey
of their lives together!
So it was with singing and laughter that they went at their work.
The baby crawled about on the tent-floor and got into everybody's
way, and crowed with delight at the novel surroundings; and later on
his mother gave him his supper and put him to bed; and then she
spread a feast of bread and butter, and fresh milk and eggs and a
can of fruit, and they sat down to the first meal they had eaten
together in many a long, long month.
They were tired and ravenously hungry; but their happiness of soul
was keener even than any physical sensation, and they sat leaning
upon their elbows and gazing across the table, reading the wonder in
each other's eyes.
"It has been a year since we parted!" whispered Corydon.
"Just a year!" he said. "It seems like ten of them."
"And do you remember, Thyrsis, how we prayed! How we prayed for this
He took her hands in his. Once more they renewed their pledges of
devotion; once more the vision of their hopes unrolled before them.
"From now on," he whispered, "our life is our own! We can make it
whatever we will. Let us make it something beautiful."
And so there they made a compact. They would speak no more of the
year that was past; it was a bad dream, and now it was gone. Let it
be swept from their thoughts, and let them go on to make the future
what they desired it to be.
_They sat in the little cabin, where she had been reading some lines
from the poem again--
"O easy access to the hearer's grace
When Dorian shepherds sang to Proserpine!"
"Ah, yes!" he said. "But our lot was cast in a different time."
She put her hand upon his. "Even so," she said; and then turned the
page, and read once more--
"What though the music of thy rustic flute
Kept not for long its happy, country tone;
Lost it too soon, and learnt a stormy note
Of men contention-tost, of men who groan,
Which task'd thy pipe too sore, and tired thy
It failed, and thou wast mute!
Yet hadst thou always visions of our light!_"
Section 1. The _mise-en-scéne_ of their new adventure in domesticity
was a tent eighteen feet by twelve; but as the side-walls were low,
they could walk only in the centre, and must range their belongings
at the sides. To the left, as one entered the tent, there stood a
soapbox with a tiny oil-stove upon it; and then a stand, made out of
a packing-box, to hold their dishes, their cooking-utensils and
their limited supply of provisions. Next down the line came a trunk,
and in the corner the baby's crib--which had been outgrown by the
farmer's children, and purchased by Thyrsis for a dollar. At the
rear was a folding-table, and above it a board from which Corydon
hung her clothing; along the other wall were her canvas cot, and a
little stand with some books, and a wash-stand and another trunk.
Some distance off in the woods stood a second tent, seven feet
square, in which Thyrsis had a cot for himself, and also a
canvas-chair in which he sat to receive the visits of his muse. They
got their drinking water from a spring near by; there was a tiny
stream beside the tent which provided their washing-water. In this
stream Thyrsis hollowed out a flat basin, in which they might set
their butter-crock, and a pail of milk, and a larger pail that held
their meat. Below that was a deeper pool from which they dipped
water, and lower yet a third pool, with a board on which Corydon
might sit and wash diapers, to her heart's content and her back's
The tent had been old when Thyrsis got it, and as this was the third
season he had used it, it was dark and dun of hue. They had not
noticed this at the outset as they had put it up on a bright,
sunshiny day, and also before the trees had put out all their
foliage. But now, when rain came, they found that they had to light
a lamp in order to read in the tent; and, of course, it was on rainy
days that they had to be inside. Thyrsis did not realize the
influence which this tent had upon his wife's spirits; it was only
after he saw her made physically ill by having to live in a room
with yellow wall-paper, that he came to understand the power which
her surroundings had over Corydon.
If they'so much as touched a finger to the roof of the tent while it
was raining, a steady dripping would come through at that point.
Then, as the rains grew heavier, water took to running down the pole
that stood in the centre of the tent, and formed a pool in the
middle of the floor, so that Thyrsis had to get the axe and cut a
hole there. And, of course, there was no way to dry anything; the
woods, which were low, were turned into a swamp, and one's shoes
became caked with mud, and there was no keeping the tent-floor
In this place they had to keep an able-bodied, year-and-a-half-old
baby! There was no other place to keep him. He could not be allowed
on the damp floor, nor where he could touch the top of the tent; so
Thyrsis set up sticks at all four corners of his crib, and tied
strong twine about them, making a little pen; and therein they put
the baby, and therein he had to stay. He had his rattle and his
rubber-doll and his blocks and the rest of his gim-cracks; and after
he had howled long enough to satisfy himself that there was no
deliverance from his prison, he settled back and accepted his tragic
fate. There came occasions when Corydon was sick, and unable to
move; then Thyrsis would put up his umbrella and take Cedric to his
own tent, where he would draw a chalk-line across the floor.
One-half of the forty-nine square feet of space was his, and in it
he would sit and read and study; in the other half the baby would
play. After long experience he came to realize that at such times
Papa would not pay any attention to him, and that crossing the
chalk-line involved getting one's "mungies" spanked.
There were other troubles that fell upon them. At first, it being
April, it was cold at night; and they had no stove, and no room for
a stove. Later on the ceaseless rains brought a plague of
mosquitoes; and so Thyrsis had to rig up a triangular door and cover
the entrance to the tent with netting; and when the weather grew
better, he had to get more netting and construct a little house, in
which the baby could play outdoors. And then there had to be more
spankings of "mungies", to teach the infant that this mysterious
mosquito-bar must not be walked through, nor pulled at, nor poked
with sticks, nor even eaten.
They prayed for fair days, and a little sunshine; and it seemed as
if the weather-demons had discovered this, and were playing with
them. There would come a bright morning, and they would spread a rug
in the baby's cage, and hang out all their damp belongings to dry;
and then would come a sudden shower, and baby and rug and belongings
would all have to pile back into the tent. And then it would clear
again, and everything would go out once more; and they would prepare
dinner, and be comfortably settled to eat, when it would begin to
sprinkle again. They would move in the clothing and the baby, and
when it began to rain harder, they would move in the table and the
food; and forthwith the rain would cease. Because it was poor fun
eating in a dark tent by lamp-light, amid the odor of gas-stove and
cooking, they might move out once more--but only to repeat the same
experience over again.
For six weeks after their arrival there was not a day without rain,
and it would rain sometimes for half a week without ceasing. So
everything they owned became damp and mouldy--all their clothing,
their food, the very beds upon which they slept. One of their
miseries was the lack of place to keep things; all their odds and
ends had to be stowed away under the cots--where one might find
clothing, and books, and manuscripts, and a hammock, and an
umbrella, and some shoes, and a box of prunes, and a sack of
potatoes, and half a ham. When water got in at the sides of the tent
and wet all these objects, and the bedclothing hung over the floor
and got into them, it was trying to the temper to have to rummage
Section 2. Before she left the city Corydon had taken the baby to
consult a famous "child-specialist"--at five dollars per
consultation; she had received the dreadful tidings that Cedric was
threatened with the "rickets". So she had come out to the country
with one mighty purpose in her soul. "Under-nourishment", the doctor
had said; and he had laid out a regular schedule. Six times daily
the unhappy infant was to be fed; and each time some elaborate
concoction had to be got ready--practically nothing could be eaten
in a state of nature. The first meal would consist of, say a poached
egg on a piece of toast, and the juice of an orange, with the seeds
carefully excluded; the next of some chicken broth with a cracker or
two, and the pulp of prunes with the skins removed; the next of some
beef chopped up and pounded to a pulp and broiled, together with a
bit of mashed potato or some other cooked vegetable; the next of
some gruel, with cream and sugar, and some more prunes.
And these operations, of course, took the greater part of Corydon's
day; she would struggle at them until she was ready to drop, and
when she had to give up they would fall to Thyrsis. Some of them
fell to him quite frequently--for instance, the pounding of the
meat. It had to have all the fat and gristle carefully cut out; and
there had to be a clean board, and a clean hammer, both of which
must be scraped and washed afterwards; and whenever by any chance
Corydon let the meat stay on the fire a second too long, so that it
got hard, the whole elaborate operation had to be gone over
again--was not the baby's life at stake?
It was quite vain for him to protest as to the pains that Corydon
took to remove every tiniest fragment of the skin of a stewed prune.
"Surely, dearest," he would argue, "the internal arrangements of a
baby are not so delicate as to be torn by a tiny bit of prune-skin!"
But to Corydon the internal arrangements of babies were mysterious
things--to be understood only by a child-specialist at five dollars
per visit. "He told me what to do," she would say; "and I am going
to do it."
So she would prepare the concoctions, and would sit and feed them to
the baby, spoonful by spoonful; and long after the little one had
been stuffed to the bursting-point, she would hold the spoon poised
in front of its mouth, making tentative passes, and seeking by some
device to cajole the mouth into opening and admitting one last
morsel of the precious nutriment. The child had a word of its own
inventing, wherewith it denoted things that were good to eat. "Hee,
gubum, gubum!" he would exclaim; and Corydon would hold the spoon
and repeat "Gubum, gubum,"--long after the baby had begun to sputter
and gasp and make plain that it was no longer "gubum".
Also, under the instructions of the specialist, they made an attempt
to break the child of the "hoodaloo mungie" habit. A baby should lie
down and go to sleep without handling, the authority had declared;
and now that there was all outdoors for him to cry in, they resolved
that he should be taught. So they built up the fence about the crib,
and laid the baby in for his afternoon nap, and started to go away.
And the baby gave one look of perplexity and dismay, and then began
to cry. By the time they had got out of the tent he was screaming
like a creature possessed; and Corydon and Thyrsis sat outside and
stared at each other in wonder and alarm. When she could stand it no
more, they went away to a distance; but still the uproar went on.
Now and then they would creep back and peep in at the purple and
choking infant; and then steal away again, and discuss the
phenomenon, and wish that the "child-specialist" were there to
advise them. Finally, when the crying had gone on for two hours
without a moment's pause, they gave up, because they were afraid the
baby might cry itself into convulsions. And so the "hoodaloo mungie"
habit went on for some time yet.
Under the "stuffing regime" the infant at first thrived amazingly;
he became fat and rosy, and Corydon's heart beat high with joy and
pride. But then came midsummer, and the hot season; and first of all
a rash broke out upon the precious body, and in spite of powders and
ointments, refused to go away. Later on came the "hives", with which
the baby was spotted like the top of a pepper-crust. And then, as
fate willed it, the family of a woman who did some laundry for
Corydon developed the measles; and Corydon found it out too
late--and so they were in for the first of a long program of
It was a siege that lasted for a month and more--a nightmare
experience. The child had to be kept in a dark place, under pain of
losing its eyesight; and when it was very hot in the tent, some one
had to sit and fan it. It could not sleep, but writhed and moaned,
now screaming in torment, now whimpering like a frightened cur--a
sound that wrung Thyrsis' very heart. And oh, the sight of the
little body--purple, a mass of eruptions, and with beads of
perspiration upon it! Corydon's mother came to help her through this
ordeal, and would sit for hours upon hours, rocking the wailing
infant in her arms.
Section 3. But there were ups as well as downs in this tenting
adventure. There came glorious days, when they took long tramps over
the hills; or when Thyrsis would carry the child upon his shoulder,
and they would wander about the meadows, picking daisies and clover,
and making garlands for Corydon. Once Cedric sat down upon a
bumble-bee, and that was hard upon him, and perhaps upon the bee.
But for the most part the little one was enraptured during these
excursions. He was fascinated with the flowers, and continually
seeking for an opportunity to devour some of them; while he was
doing it he would wear such a roguish smile--it was impossible not
to believe that he understood the agitation which these abnormal
appetites occasioned in his parents. Corydon would be seized with a
sudden access of affection, and she would clutch him in her arms and
squeeze him, and fairly smother him with kisses. Of course the
youngster would protest wildly at this, and so not infrequently the
demonstration would end tragically.
"I can't have any joy in my baby at all!" she would lament; and
Thyrsis would have to soothe the child, and plead with her to find
more practical ways of demonstrating her maternal devotion.
Cedric was beginning to make determined efforts to talk now, and he
had the most original names for things. His parents would adopt
these into their own speech, which thus departed rapidly from
established usage. They had to bring themselves to realize that if
they went on in that fashion, the child would never learn to speak
so that any one else could understand him. The grandmothers were
most strenuous upon this point, and would laboriously explain to the
infant that chickens and pigeons and sparrows were not all known as
"ducky-ducks"; they would plead with it to say "bottle of milk",
while its reckless parents were delighting themselves with such
perversions as "bobbu mookie-mook."
Two or three times each week the farmer would bring their mail; and
once a week they would hire an old scare-crow of a horse, and a
buggy which might have passed for the one-horse shay in its
ninety-ninth year, and drive to a town for provisions. It was
amazing what loads of provisions a family of three could consume in
the course of a week--especially when one of them was following the
"stuffing regime". There had to be a lot of figuring done to get it
for the sum of thirty dollars a month; and this put another grievous
burden upon Thyrsis. Corydon, alas, had no talents for figuring, and
was cursed with a weakness for such superfluities as clean laundry
and coffee with cream. This was one more aspect of the difference
between the Hebrew and the Greek temperament; and sometimes the
Hebrew temperament would lose its temper, and the Greek temperament
would take to tears. The situation was all the more complicated
because of their pitiful ignorance. They really did not know what
was necessity and what was luxury. For instance, Thyrsis had read
somewhere that people could live without meat; but Corydon had never
heard of such an idea, and insisted with vehemence that it was an
However, there was no evading the issue of poverty; for the thirty
dollars was all they had. "The Hearer of Truth" had been out several
months now, and had not sold a thousand copies; and so it was to be
doubted if Thyrsis would ever get another dollar from that. Also, he
had heard from the translator of "The Genius", and had agreed to
accept twenty-five dollars as an "honorarium" for the production of
his play in Germany--this princely sum to be paid when the play
came out during the following winter.
Meantime, of course, he was driving away at his new work. Domestic
duties took up most of his morning; but he would get away into the
woods in the afternoons, and in the evenings, when the family was
asleep, he would work until far after midnight. He was bringing out
basketfuls of books from the library of the university; and he lived
another life in these--sharing, in a hundred different forms, the
agony of the War. He was not writing yet; he was filling up his soul
with the thing, making it a reservoir of impressions. Some times it
would seem that the reservoir was nearly full, and he would be
seized with a hunger to be at work; he would go about possessed by
it--absent-minded, restless, nervous when he was spoken to. It was
hard for a man who listened all night to the death-groans of the
thousands piled up before "Bloody Angle", to get up in the morning
and be satisfactory in the rôle of "mother's assistant".
Here, again was the torment of this matrimonial bond to a man who
wished to be an artist. He had to live two lives, when one was more
than he could attend to; he had to be always aware of another soul
yearning for him, reaching out to him and craving his attention. To
be sure, Corydon was interested in what he was doing; she even made
heroic efforts to read the books that he was reading. But she had so
many duties, and so many headaches; and when night came she was so
tired! She would ask him to tell her about his vision; and was not
the thing untellable? Why else did he have to labor day and night,
like a man possessed? He would explain this to her, and she would
bid him go on and do his work and not mind her. But when he would
take her at her word, and there would follow a week or two of
indifference and preoccupation--then he would discover that she was
Section 4. This never ceased to be the case between them; but
perhaps it was intensified at this time by the fact that their
sex-life had to be suppressed. This was a problem which they had
talked out between them before they came away. Thyrsis, who was