Part 9 out of 11
and indignant letter to Mrs. Channing, and then burned the letter.
Thyrsis never told her about his conversation with the husband, for
he knew she would never get over that insult. For himself, he
concluded that the Channings were lucky in having got into a quarrel
with them, as otherwise he would surely have compelled them to lend
him some money.
In truth, the advent of some fairy-godmother or Lady Bountiful was
badly needed just then. They had struggled desperately to keep
within the thirty-dollar limit, but it could no longer be done.
Illnesses were expensive luxuries; and there was the typwriting of
the book--some twenty dollars so far; also, there were many things
that happened when one was running a household--a tooth-ache, or a
telegram, or a hot-water bottle that got a hole in it, or a horse
that ran away and broke a shaft. Little by little the bills they had
been obliged to run up at the grocer's and the butcher's and the
doctor's had been getting beyond the limits of their monthly check;
and to cap the climax, there came a letter from Henry Darrell,
saying that the next two checks would be the last he could possibly
So Thyrsis set to work once more at the shell of that tough old
oyster, the world. He made out a "scenario" of the rest of his new
book, and sent it with the part he had already done to his friend
Mr. Ardsley. Then for three weeks he waited in dread suspense; until
at last came a letter asking him to call and talk over his
Mr. Ardsley had been reading all Thyrsis' manuscripts, nor had he
failed to note the triumph of "The Genius" abroad. It became at once
apparent to Thyrsis that the new book had scored with him; it was a
book that could hardly fail, he said--if only it were finished as it
had been begun. Thyrsis made it clear that he intended to finish it;
no man could gaze into his wild eyes, and hear him talk of it in
breathless excitement, without realizing that he would die, if need
be, rather than fail.
So then the author went in to have a talk with the head of the firm.
He spread out the treasures of his soul before this merchant, and
the merchant sat and appraised them with a cold and critical eye.
But Thyrsis, too, had learned something about trade by this time,
and was watching the merchant; he made a desperate effort and
summoned up the courage to state his demands--he wanted five
hundred dollars advance, in installments, and he wanted fifteen per
cent. royalty upon the book. To his wonder and amazement the
merchant never turned a hair at this; and before they parted
company, the incredible bargain had been made, and waited only the
signing of the contracts!
Thyrsis went out from the building like a blind man who had suddenly
received his sight. It seemed to him at that moment as if the last
problem of his life had been solved. He sent off a telegram to
Corydon to tell her of the victory, and a letter to Darrell, saying
that he need send no more money--that the path was clear before his
feet at last!
Section 7. This marked a new stage in the family's financial
progress; and as usual it was signalized by a grand debauch in
bill-paying. Also there was a real table-cover for Corydon, and a
vase in which she might put spring-flowers; there were new dresses
for the baby, and more important yet, a new addition to the house.
This was to be a sort of lean-to at the rear, sixteen feet wide and
eight feet deep, and divided into two apartments, one of which was
to be the kitchen, and the other an extra bed-room. For they were
going to keep a servant!
This was a new decision, to which they had come after much
hesitation and discussion. It would be a frightful expense--including
the cost of the extra food it would add over thirty dollars a month
to their expenses; but it was the only way they could see the least
hope of freedom, of any respite from household drudgery. It had
been just a year now since they had set out upon their adventure
in domesticity; and in that time Corydon figured that she had
prepared two thousand meals for the baby. She had fed each one of
them, spoonful by spoonful, into his mouth; and also she had washed
two thousand spoons and dishes, and brushed off two thousand tables,
and swept two thousand floors. And with every day of such drudgery
the heights of music and literature seemed further away and more
Thyrsis had seen something of servants in earlier days--he had
memories of strange figures that during intervals of prosperity had
flitted through his mother's home. There had been the frail, anaemic
Swedish woman, who lived on tea and sugar, and afterwards had gone
away and borne nine children, more frail and anaemic than herself;
there had been the stout personage with the Irish brogue who had
dropped the Christmas turkey out of the window and had not taken the
trouble to go down after it; there had been the little old negress
who had gone insane, and hurled the salt-box at his mother's head.
But Thyrsis was hoping that they might avoid such troubles
themselves; he had an idea that by watching at Castle Garden they
might lay hold upon some young peasant-girl from Germany, who would
be untouched by any of the corruptions of civilization. "A sort of
Dorothea", he suggested to Corydon; and they agreed that they would
search diligently and find such a "_treffliches Mädchen_", who would
be trusting and affectionate, and would talk in German with the
So now he spent several days hunting in strange places; and at last,
in a dingy East-side employment-office, he came upon his _Schatz_.
She was buxom and hearty, and fairly oozed good-nature at every
pore; she had only been a week in the country, and was evidently
naïve enough for any purpose whatever. She had no golden hair like
Dorothea, but was swarthy--her German was complicated with a
Hungarian accent, and with strange words that one had not come upon
in Goethe and Freitag, and could not find in any dictionary.
Thyrsis helped to gather up her various bags and bundles, and
transported her out to the country. On the train he set to work to
gain her confidence, and was forthwith entertained with the tale of
all her heart-troubles. Back in the Hungarian village she had
fallen in love with the son of a rich farmer, quite in Hermann and
Dorothea fashion; but alas, in this case there had been no "_gute
verstandige Mutter_" and no "_würdiger Pfarrer_"--instead there had
been a hateful step-mother, and so the "_treffliches Mädchen_" had
had to come away.
They reached the little cottage at last; and then what a
house-cleaning there was, what scrubbing of floors; and brushing
out the cobwebs, and scouring of lamp-chimneys and scraping of
kettles and sauce-pans! And what a relief it was for Corydon and
Thyrsis to be able to go off for a walk together, without first
having to carry the baby up to the farm-house! And how very poetical
it was to come back and discover Dorothea with the baby in her lap,
feeding it a supper of _butter-brod_ with a slice of raw bacon!
As time went on, alas, it came more and more to seem that the
Dorothea idyl had not been meant to be taken as a work of realism.
The "_treffliches_ _Maedchen_" was perhaps _too_ kind-hearted; her
emotions were too voluminous for so small a house, her personality
seemed to spread all over it. She would sing Hungarian love-ditties
at her work; and somehow calling these "folksongs" did not help
matters. Also, alas, she distributed about the house strange
odors--of raw onions, boiled cabbage and perspiration. So, after
three weeks, poor Dorothea had to be sent away--weeping copiously,
and bewildered over this cruel misfortune. Corydon and Thyrsis went
back again to washing their own dishes; being glad to pay the price
for quietness and privacy, and vowing that they would never again
try, to "keep a servant".
Section 8. The spring-time had come; not so much the spring-time of
poets and song-birds, as the spring-time of cold rains and wind. But
still, little by little, the sun was getting the better of his
enemies; and so with infinite caution they reduced the quantity of
the baby's apparel, and got him and his "bongie cowtoos" out upon
Meantime Thyrsis was over at his own place, wrestling with the book
again. He had told himself that it would be easy, now that he was
free from the money-terror. But alas, it was not easy, and nothing
could make it easy. If he had more energy, it only meant that his
vision reached farther, and set him a harder task. Never in his life
did he write a book, the last quarter of which was not to him a
nightmare labor. He would be staggering, half blind with
exhaustion--like a runner at the end of a long race, with a rival
close at his heels.
Also, as usual, his stomach was beginning to weaken under the
strain. He would come over sometimes, late in the afternoon, and lay
his head in Corydon's lap, almost sobbing from weariness; and yet,
after he had eaten a little and helped her with the hardest of her
tasks, he would go away again, and work half through the night.
There was nothing else he could do--there was no escaping from the
thing; if he lay down to rest, or went for a walk, it would be only
to think about it the whole time. He would feel that he was not
getting enough exercise, and he would drive himself to some bodily
tasks; but there was never anything that he could do, that he did
not have the book eating away at his mind in the meantime. It was
one of the calamities of his life that there was no way for him to
play; all he could do was to take a stroll with Corydon, or to tramp
over the country by himself.
He finished the book in May; and he knew that it was good. He sent
it off to Mr. Ardsley, and Mr. Ardsley, too, declared himself
satisfied, and sent the balance of the money. So Thyrsis sank back
to get his breath, and to put back some flesh upon his skeleton. He
was wont to say when he was writing, one could measure his progress
upon a scales; every five thousand words he finished cost him a
This summer was, upon the whole, the happiest time they had yet
known. The book was scheduled to appear early in September; and they
had money enough to last them meantime, with careful economy. Their
little home was beautiful; they planted some sweet peas and roses,
and Thyrsis even began to dig at a vegetable-garden. Also, it was
strawberry-time, and cherry-time was near; nor did they overlook the
fact that they lived in close proximity to a peach-orchard. These,
perhaps, were prosaic considerations, and not of the sort which
Thyrsis had been accustomed to associate with spring-time. But this
he hardly realized--so rapidly was the discipline of domesticity
bringing his haughty spirit to terms!
He built a rustic seat in the woods, where they might sit and read;
he built a table beside the house, where the dishes might be washed
under the blue sky; and he perfected an elaborate set of ditches and
dykes, so that the rain-storms would not sweep away their milk and
butter in the stream. He talked of building a pen for chickens--and
might have done so, only he discovered that the perverse creatures
would not lay except at the time when eggs were cheap and one did
not care so much about them. He even figured on the cost of a cow,
and the possibility of learning to milk it; and was so much
enthralled by these bucolic occupations that he wrote a
magazine-article to acquaint his struggling brother and sister poets
with the fact that they, too, might escape to the country and live
in a home-made house!
With the article there went a picture of the house, and also one of
the baby, who had been waxing enormous, and now constituted a fine
advertisement. The winter had seemed to agree with him, and the
summer agreed with him even better. Thyrsis would smile now and
then, thinking of his ideas of martyrdom; it was made evident that
one member of the family was not minded for anything of the sort.
The parents might become so much absorbed in their soul-problems
that they forgot the dinner-hour; but one could have set his watch
by the appetite of the baby. Nature had provided him, among other
protections, with a truly phenomenal pair of lungs; and whenever
life took a course that was not satisfactory to him, he would roar
his face to a terrifying purple.
He was one overwhelming and incessant outcry for adventure. He would
toddle all day about the place, getting his "mungies" into all sorts
of messes. He was hard to fit into so small a place, and there were
times when his parents were tempted to wish that some phenomenon a
trifle less portentous had fallen to their lot. But for the most
part he was a great hope--a sort of visible atonement for their
sufferings. He at least was an achievement; he was something they
had done. And he could not be undone, nor doubted--he put all
skepticism to flight. In his vicinity there was no room for
pessimistic philosophies, for _Weltschmerz_ or _Karma_.
Thyrsis would sit now and then and watch him at play, and think
thoughts that went deep into the meaning of things. Here was, in its
very living presence, that blind will-to-be which had seized them
and flung them together. And it seemed to Thyrsis that somehow
Nature, with her strange secret chemistry, had reproduced all the
elements they had brought to that union. This child was immense,
volcanic, as their impulse had been; he was intense, highly-strung,
and exacting--and these qualities too they had furnished. Curious
also it was to observe how Nature, having accomplished her purpose,
now flung aside her concealments and devices. From now on they
existed to minister to this new life-phenomenon, to keep it happy
and prosperous and she cared not how plain this might become to them
--she feared not to taunt and humiliate them. And they accepted her
sentence meekly, they no longer tried to oppose her. Her will was
become an axiom which they never disputed, which they never even
discussed. No matter what might happen to them in future, the Child
must go on!
Section 9. Thyrsis utilized this summer of leisure to begin a course
of reading in Socialism--a subject which had been stretching out its
arms to him ever since he had made the acquaintance of Henry
Darrell. He had held away from it on purpose, not wishing to
complicate his mind with too many problems. But now he had finished
with history, and was free to come back to the world of the present.
There were the pamphlets that Darrell had given him, and there was
Paret's magazine. Strange to say, the latter's reckless jesting with
the philanthropists and reformers no longer offended Thyrsis--he had
been travelling fast along the road of disillusionment. Also, there
was a Socialist paper in New York--"The Worker"; and more important
still, there was the "Appeal to Reason". Thyrsis came upon a chance
reference to this paper, which was published in a little town in
Kansas, and he was astonished to learn that it claimed a circulation
of two hundred thousand copies a week. He became a subscriber, and
after that the process of his "conversion" was rapid.
The Appeal was an "agitation-paper". Its business was to show that
side of the capitalist process which other publications tried to
conceal, or at any rate to gild and dress up and make presentable.
Each week came four closely-printed newspaper-pages, picturing
horrors in mills and mines, telling of oppression and injustice, of
unemployment and misery, accident, disease and death. There would be
accounts of political corruption--of the buying of legislatures and
courts, of the rule of "machines" of graft in city and state and
nation. There would be tales of the manners and morals of the idle
rich, set against others of the sufferings of the poor. And week by
week, as he read and pondered, Thyrsis began to realize the absurd
inadequacy of the placid statement which he had made to his first
Socialist acquaintance--that the solution of such problems was to be
left to "evolution". It became only too clear to him that here was
another war--the class-war; and that it was being fought by the
masters with every weapon that cunning and greed could lay hands
upon or contrive. In that struggle Thyrsis saw clearly that his
place was in the ranks of the disinherited and dispossessed.
This was not a difficult decision; for in the first place he was one
of the disinherited and dispossessed himself; and in the next place,
even before the "economic screw" had penetrated his consciousness,
he had been a rebel in his sympathies and tastes. Jesus, Isaiah,
Milton, Shelley--such men as these had been the friends of his soul;
and he had sought in vain for their spirit in modern society--he had
thought that it was dead, and that he, and a few other lonely
dreamers in garrets, were the only ones who knew or cared about it.
But now he came upon the amazing discovery that this spirit, driven
from legislative-halls and courts of justice, from churches and
schools and editorial sanctums, had flamed into life in the hearts
of the working class, and was represented in a political party which
numbered some thirty millions of adherents and cast some seven
Beginning nearly a century ago, these workmgmen had taken the spirit
of Jesus and Isaiah and Milton and Shelley, and had worked out a
scientific basis for it, and a method whereby it could be made to
count in the world of affairs. They had analyzed all the evils of
modern society--poverty and luxury, social and political corruption,
prostitution, crime and war; they had not only discovered the causes
of them, but had laid down with mathematical precision the remedies,
and had gone on to carry the remedies into effect. In every
civilized land upon the globe they were at work as a political party
of protest; they were holding conventions and adopting programs;
they had an enormous literature, they were publishing newspapers and
magazines, many of them having circulations of hundreds of thousands
The strangest thing of all was this. Thyrsis was an educated man--or
was supposed to be. He had spent five years in schools, and nine
years in colleges and universities; he had given the scholars of the
world full opportunity to guide him to whatever was of importance.
Also, he had been an omnivorous reader upon his own impulse; and
here he was, at the end of it all--practically ignorant that this
enormous movement existed!
In economic classes in college there had, of course, been some
mention of Socialism; but this had been of the utopian variety, the
dreams of Plato and St. Simon and Fourier. There had been some
account of the innumerable communities which had sprung up in
America--with careful explanation, however, that they had all
proven failures. Also one heard vaguely of Marx and Lassalle, two
violent men, whose ideas were still popular among the ignorant
masses of Europe, but could be of no concern to the fortunate
inhabitants of a free Republic.
And then, after this, to come upon some piece of writing--such as,
for instance, the "Communist Manifesto"! To read this mile-stone in
the progress of civilization, this marvellous exposition of the
development of human societies, and of the forces which drive and
control them; and to realize that two lonely students, who had cast
in their lot with the exploited toilers, had been able to predict
the whole course of political and industrial evolution for sixty
years, and to foresee and expound with precision the ultimate
outcome of the whole process--matters of which the orthodox
economists were still as ignorant as babes unborn!
Or to discover the writings of such a man as Karl Kautsky, the
intellectual leader of the modern movement in Germany; such books as
"The Social Revolution", and "The Road to Power"--in which one
seemed to see a giant of the mind, standing in a death-duel with
those forces of night and destruction that still made of the fair
earth a hell! With what accuracy he was able to measure the strength
of these powers of evil, to anticipate their every move, to plan the
exact parry with which to meet them! To Thyrsis he seemed like some
general commanding an army in battle, with the hopes of future ages
hanging upon his skill. But this was a general who fought, not with
sword and fire, but with ideas; a conqueror in the cause of "right
reason and the will of God". He wrote simply, as a scientist; and
yet one could feel the passion behind the quiet words--the hourly
shock of the incessant conflict, the grim persistence which pressed
on in the face of obloquy and persecution, the courage which had
been tested through generations of anguish and toil.
Thyrsis' mind rushed through these things like prairie-fire; and all
the time that he read, his wonder grew upon him. How _could_ he have
been kept ignorant of them? He was quick to pounce upon the
essential fact, that this was no accident; it was something that
must have been planned and brought about deliberately. He had
thought that he was being educated, when in reality he was being
held back and fenced off from truth. It was a world-wide
conspiracy--it was that very class-war which the established order
was waging upon these men and their ideas!
Section 10. It was not difficult for any one to understand the
ideas, if he really wished to. They began with the fact of "surplus
value". One man employed another man for the sake of the wealth he
could be made to produce, over what he was paid as wages. That
seemed obvious enough; and yet, what consequences came from
following it up! Throughout human history men had been setting other
men to work; whether they were called slaves, or serfs, or laborers,
or servants, the motive-power which had set them to work had been
the desire for "surplus value". And as the process went on, those
who appropriated the profits combined for mutual protection; and so
out of the study of "surplus value" came the discovery of the
"class-struggle". Human history was the tale of the arising of some
dominating class, and of the struggle of some subject class for a
larger share of what it produced. Human governments were devices by
which the master-class preserved its power; and whatever may have
been the original purposes of arts and religions, in the end they
had always been seized by the master-class, and used as aids in the
One came to the culmination of the process in modern capitalist
society. Here was a class entrenched in power, owning the sources of
wealth, the huge machines whereby it was produced, and the railroads
whereby it was distributed, and above all, the financial resources
upon which the other processes depended. One saw this class holding
itself in power by means of the policeman's club and the
militiaman's rifle, by machine-gun and battle-ship; one saw that,
whether by bribery or by outright force, it had seized all the
powers of government, of legislatures and executives and courts. One
saw that in the same way it had seized upon the sources of ideas; it
controlled the newspapers and the churches and the colleges, that it
might shape the thoughts of men and keep them content. It set up in
places of authority men whose views were agreeable to it--who
believed in the beneficence of its rule and the permanence of its
system; who would pour out ridicule and contempt upon those who
suggested that any other system might be conceivable. And so the
class-war was waged, not merely in the world of industry and
politics, but also, in the intellectual world.
And step by step, as the processes of capitalism culminated, this
war increased in bitterness and intensity. For, of course, as
capital heaped up and its control became concentrated, the ratio of
exploitation increased. The great mass of labor was unorganized and
helpless; whereas the masters had combined and fixed their prices;
and so day by day the cost of living increased, and misery and
discontent increased with it. As capital expanded, and new machines
of production were added, there were more and more goods to sell,
and more and more difficulty in finding markets; and so came
overproduction and unemployment, panics and crises; so came wars for
foreign markets--with new opportunities of plunder for the
exploiters and new hardships and new taxes for the producers. And so
was fulfilled the prophecy of Marx and Engels; under the pressure of
bitter necessity the proletariat was organizing and disciplining
itself, training its own leaders and thinkers forming itself into a
world-wide political party, whose destiny it was to conquer the
powers of government in every land, and use them to turn out the
exploiters, and to put an end to the rule of privilege.
This change was what the Socialists meant by the "revolution"--the
transfer of the ownership of the means of production; and it was
about that issue that the class-war was waged. Nothing else but that
counted; without that all reform was futility, and all benevolence
was mockery, and all knowledge was ignorance. So long as the means
of producing necessities were owned by a few, and used for the
advantage of a few, just so long must there be want in the midst of
plenty, and darkness over all the earth. Whatever evil one went out
into the world to combat, he came to realize that he could do
nothing against it, because it was bound up with the capitalist
system, was in fact itself that system. If little children were shut
up in sweat-shops, if women were sold into brothels, it was not for
any fault of theirs, it was not the work of any devil--it was simply
because of the "surplus value". they represented. If weaker nations
were conquered and "civilized", that, too, was for "surplus value".
And these epidemics of "graft" that broke out upon the body
politic--they were not accidental or sporadic things, and they were
not to be remedied by putting any number of men in jail; they were
to be understood as the system whereby an industrial oligarchy had
rendered impotent a political democracy, and had fenced it out from
the fields of privilege.
And so also was it with the dullness and sterility that prevailed in
the intellectual world. The master-class did not want ideas--it only
wanted to be let alone; and so it put in the seats of authority men
who were blind to the blazing beacon-fires of the future. It would
be no exaggeration to say that the intellectual and cultural system
of the civilized world was conducted, whether deliberately or
instinctively, for the purpose of keeping the truth about
exploitation from becoming clear to the people.
The master-class owned the newspapers and ran them. It had built and
endowed the churches, and taught the clergy to feed out of its hand.
In the same way it had founded the colleges, and named the trustees,
who in turn named the presidents and professors. The ordinary mortal
took it for granted that because venerable bishops and dignified
editors and learned college-professors were all in agreement as to a
certain truth, there must be some inherent probability in that
truth; and never once perceived how the cards were stacked and the
dice loaded--how those clergymen and editors and professors had all
been selected because they believed that truth to be true, and
believed the contrary falsehood to be false!
And how smoothly and automatically the system worked! How these
dignitaries stood together, and held up each other's hands,
maintaining the august tradition, the atmosphere of authority and
power! The bishops praising the editors, and the editors praising
the professors, and the professors praising the bishops! And when
the circle was completed, what _lése_ _majesté_ it seemed for an
ordinary mortal to oppose their conclusions!
The bishops, one perceived, were "orthodox"--that is to say they
were concerned with barren formulas; and they were "spiritual"--they
were concerned with imaginary future states of bliss. The editors
were "safe" and "conservative"--that is to say, their souls were
dead and their eyes were sealed and their god was property. And when
it came to the selecting of the college professors, of the men who
were to guide and instruct the forthcoming generations--what
precautions would be taken then! What consultations and
investigations, what testimonials and interviews and examinations!
For after all, in these new days, it could be no easy matter to find
men whose minds were sterilized, who could face without blenching
all the horrors of the capitalist regime! Who could see courts and
congresses bought and sold; who could see children ground up in
mills and factories, and women driven by the lash of want to sell
their bodies; who could see the surplus of the world's wealth
squandered in riot and debauchery, and the nations armed and drilled
and sent out to slaughter each other in the quest for more. Who
could know that all these things existed, and yet remain in their
cloistered halls and pursue the placid ways of scholarship; who
could teach history which regarded them as inevitable; who could
care for literature that had been made for the amusement of
slave-drivers, and art which existed for the sake of art, and not
for the sake of humanity; who could know everything that was
useless, and teach everything that was uninteresting, and could be
dead at once to the warnings of the past, and to all that was vital
and important in the present.
Section 11. Not since he had discovered the master-key of Evolution
had Thyrsis come upon any set of ideas that meant so much to him. It
was not that these were new to him--they were the stuff out of which
his whole life had been made; but here they were ordered and
systematized--he had a handle by which to take hold of them. The
name of this handle was "the economic interpretation of history".
And its import was that ideas did not come by hazard, or out of the
air, but were products of social conditions; and that when one knew
by what method the wealth of any community was produced, and by what
class its "surplus value" was appropriated--then and then only could
one understand the arts and customs, the sciences and religions,
which that community would evolve.
In the light of this great principle Thyrsis had to revise all his
previous knowledge; he had to cast out tons of rubbish from the
chambers of his mind, and start his thinking life all over again.
Just as, in early days, he had exchanged miracles and folk-tales for
facts of natural science; so now he saw political institutions and
social codes, literary and artistic canons, and ethical and
philosophical systems, no longer as things valid and excellent,
having relationship to truth--but simply as intrenchments and
fortifications in the class-war, as devices which some men had used
to deceive and plunder some other men. What a light it threw upon
philosophy, for instance, to perceive it, not as a search for truth,
but as a search for justification upon the part of ruling classes,
and for a basis of attack upon the part of subject-classes!
So, for instance, on the one side one found Rousseau, and on the
other Herbert Spencer. Thyrsis had read Spencer, and had cordially
disliked him for his dogmatism and his callousness; but now he read
Kropotkin's "Mutual Aid as a Factor in Evolution", and came to a
realization of how the whole science of biology had been distorted to
suit the convenience of the British ruling-classes. _Laissez-faire_
and the Manchester school had taught him that "each for himself and
the devil take the hindmost" was the universal law of life; and he
had accepted it, because there seemed nothing else that he could
do. But now, in a sudden flash, he came to see that the law of life
was exactly the opposite; everywhere throughout nature that which
survived was not ruthless egotism, but co-operative intelligence.
The solitary and predatory animals were now almost entirely extinct;
and even before the advent of man with his social brain, it had been
the herbivorous and gregarious animals which had become most numerous.
When it came to man, was it not perfectly obvious that the races which
had made civilization were those which had developed the nobler virtues,
such as honor and loyalty and patriotism? And now it was proposed to
trample them into the mire of "business"; to abandon the race to a
glorified debauch of greed! And this travesty of science was taught
in ten thousand schools and colleges throughout America--and all
because certain British gentlemen had wished to work their
cotton-operatives fourteen hours a day, and certain others had wished
to keep land which their ancestors had seized in the days of William the
Conqueror! Shortly after this Thyrsis came upon Edmond Kelly's great
work, "Government, or Human Evolution"; and so he realized that
Herbert Spencer's social philosophy had at last been cleared out of
the pathway of humanity. And this was a great relief to him--it was
one more back-breaking task that he did not have to contemplate!
Section 12. Then one of his Socialist friends sent him Thorstein
Veblen's "Theory of the Leisure Class"; a book which he read in a
continuous ebullition of glee. Truly it was a delicious thing to
find a man who could employ the lingo of the ultra-sophisticated
sociologist, and use it in a demonstration of the most revolutionary
propositions. The drollery of this was all the more enjoyable
because Thyrsis could never be sure that the author himself intended
it--whether his sesquipedalian irony might not be a pure product of
nature, untouched by any human art.
Veblen's book might have been called a study of the ultimate destiny
of "surplus value"; an economic interpretation of the social arts
and graces, of "fashions" and "fads". Where men competed for the
fruit of each other's labor, the possession of wealth was the sign
of excellence. This excellence men wished to demonstrate to others;
and step by step, as the methods of production and exploitation
changed, one might trace the change in the methods of this
demonstration. The savage chief began with nose-rings and anklets,
and the trophies of his fights; then, as he grew richer, he would
employ courtiers and concubines, and shine by vicarious splendor. He
would give banquets and build palaces--the end being always "the
conspicuous consumption of goods".
Later on came those stages when he no longer had to gain his wealth
by physical prowess; when cunning took the place of force, and he
ruled by laws and religions and moral codes, and handed down his
power through long lines of descendants. Then ostentation became a
highly specialized and conventionalized thing--its criterion
changing gradually to "conspicuous waste of time". Those
characteristics were cultivated which served to advertise to the
world that their possessor had never had to earn wealth, nor to do
anything for himself; the aristocrat became a special type of being,
with small feet and hands and a feeble body, with special ways of
walking and talking, of dressing and eating and playing. He
developed a separate religion, a separate language, separate
literatures and arts, separate vices and virtues. And fantastic and
preposterous as some of these might seem, they were real things,
they were the means whereby the leisure-class individual took part
in the competition of his own world, and secured his own prestige
and the survival of his line. Some philosopher had said that virtue
is a product like vinegar; and it was a pleasant thing to discover
that French heels and "picture-hats" and course-dinners were
Thyrsis would read passages of this book aloud to Corydon, and they
would chuckle over it together; but the reading of it did not bring
Corydon the same unalloyed delight. In the leisure-class _régime_,
the woman is a cherished possession--for it is through her that the
ability to waste both time and goods can best be shown. So came
Veblen's grim and ironic exposition of the leisure-class woman, an
exposition which Corydon found almost too painful to be read. For
Corydon's ancestors, as far back as documents could trace, had been
members of that class. They had left her the frail and beautiful
body, conspicuously useless and dependent; they had left her all the
leisure-class impulses and cravings, all the leisure-class
impotences and futilities to contend with. They had taught her
nothing about cooking, nothing about sewing, nothing about babies,
nothing about money; they had taught her only the leisure-class
dream of "love in a cottage"--and she had run away with a poor poet
to try it out!
The depth of these instincts in Corydon was amusingly illustrated by
the fact that she always woke up dull and discouraged, and was
seldom really herself until afternoon; and that along about ten
o'clock at night, when for the sake of her health she should have
been going to bed, she would be laughing, talking, singing, ablaze
with interest and excitement. Thyrsis would point this out to her,
and please himself by picturing the role which she should have been
filling--wearing an empire gown and a rope or two of rubies, and
presiding in an opera-box or a _salon_. Corydon would repudiate all
this with indignation; but all the same she never escaped from the
phrases of Veblen--she remained his "leisure-class wife" from that
day forth. Not so very long afterwards they came upon Ibsen's "Hedda
Gabler"; and Thyrsis shuddered to observe that of all the heroines
in the world's literature, that was the one which most appealed to
her. Nor did he fail to observe the working of the thing in himself;
the subtle and deeply-buried instinct which made him prefer to be
wretched with a "leisure-class wife" rather than to be contented
with a plebeian one!
THE PRICE OF RANSOM
_The faint grey of dawn was stealing across the lake; and still the
spell was upon them.
"There thou art gone, and me thou leavest here
Sole in these fields! yet will I not despair."
So she whispered; and he answered her--
"He loved his mates; but yet he could not keep,
Here with the shepherds and the silly sheep.
Some life of men unblest
He knew, which made him droop, and filled his head.
He went; his piping took a troubled sound
Of storms that rage outside our happy ground._"
Section 1. In the course of that summer there befell Corydon an
adventure; Thyrsis had gone off one day for a walk, and when he came
back she told him about it--how a young lady had stopped at the
house to ask for a drink of water, and had sat upon the piazza to
rest, and had talked with her. Now Corydon was in a state of
excitement over a discovery.
Whenever Thyrsis met a stranger, it was necessary for him to go
through elaborate intellectual processes, to find the person out by
an exchange of ideas. And if by any chance the person was insincere,
and used ideas as a blind and a cover, then Thyrsis might never find
him out at all. In other words, he took people at the face-value of
their cultural equipment; and only after long and tragic blunderings
could he by any chance get deeper. But with his wife it happened
quite otherwise; this case was the first which he witnessed, but the
same thing happened many times afterwards. With her there would be a
strange flash of recognition; it was a sort of intuition, perhaps a
psychic thing--who could tell? By some unknown process in
soul-chemistry, she would divine things about a person that he might
have been a life-time in finding out.
It might be a burst of passionate interest, or on the other hand, of
repugnance and fear. And long years of practice taught Thyrsis that
this instinct of hers was never to be disregarded. Not once in all
her life did he know her to give her affection to a base person; and
if ever he disregarded her antipathies, he did it to his cost. Once
they were sitting in a restaurant, and a man was brought up to be
introduced by a friend; he was a person of not unpleasant aspect,
courteous and apparently a gentleman, and yet Corydon flushed, and
could scarcely keep her seat at the table, and would not give the
man her hand. Years after Thyrsis came upon the discovery about this
man, that he made a practice of unnatural vices.
He came home now to find Corydon flushed with excitement. "She has
such a beautiful soul!" she exclaimed. "I never met anyone like her.
And we just took to each other; she told me all about herself, and
we are going to be friends."
"Who is she?" asked Thyrsis.
"She's visiting Mr. Harding, the clergyman at Bellevue," was the
Bellevue was a town in the valley, on the other side from the
university; it had a Presbyterian church, whose young pastor Thyrsis
had met once or twice in his tramps about the country. This Miss
Gordon, it seemed, was the niece of an elderly relative, his
housekeeper; she was studying trained nursing, and afterwards
intended to go out as a missionary to Africa.
"She's so anxious to meet you," Corydon went on. "She's coming up to
see me to-morrow, and she's going to bring Mr. Harding. You won't
mind, will you, Thyrsis?"
"I guess I can stand it if he can," said Thyrsis, grimly.
"You mustn't say anything to hurt their feelings," said Corydon,
quickly. "She's terribly orthodox, you know; and she takes it so
seriously. I was surprised--I had never thought that I could stand
anybody like that."
Thyrsis merely grunted.
"I guess ideas don't matter so much after all," said Corydon. "It's
a deep nature that I care about. But just fancy--she was pained
because the baby hadn't been baptized!"
"You ought to have hid the dreadful truth," said he.
"I couldn't hide things from her," laughed Corydon, "But she says I
can make a Socialist out of her, and she'll make a Christian out of
His reply was, "Wait until she discovers the sensuous temperament!"
But Corydon answered that Delia Gordon had a sensuous temperament
also. "She seemed to me like a Joan of Arc. Just think of her going
away from all her family, to a station on the Congo River! She told
me all about it--how wretched the people are, and what the women
suffer. She woke up in the middle of the night, and a voice told her
to go--told her the name of the place. And she'd never heard it
before, and hadn't had the least idea of going away!"
Thyrsis was unmoved by this miracle. "I suppose," he said, "you'll
be hearing voices yourself, and going with her. Tell me, is she
"You wouldn't call her pretty," said Corydon, after a little
thought. "She's just--just dear. Oh, Thyrsis, I simply fell in love
"You certainly chose an odd kind of an affinity," he said. "A
"It's worse than that," confessed Corydon. "She's a Seventh-day
"Good God! And what may that be?"
"Why, she keeps Saturday instead of Sunday. She calls it the
Sabbath. And she thinks that 'evolution' is wicked, and she believes
in some kind of a hell! She's not just sure what kind, apparently."
"You watch out," said he, "or the first thing you know she'll be
baptizing the baby behind your back."
"Would that do any good?" asked Corydon, guilelessly.
He laughed as he answered, "It would, from her point of view."
To which she replied, "Well, if we didn't know it and the baby
didn't, I guess it wouldn't do any harm."
"And it might save him from some kind of a hell!" added Thyrsis.
Section 2. Miss Gordon came the next morning, Mr. Harding with her;
and the four sat out under the trees and talked. She was a girl some
three years older than Corydon, but much more mature; she was short,
but athletic in build, and with a bright personality. Thyrsis could
see at once those fine qualities of idealism and fervor which had
attracted Corydon; and to his surprise he found that, in addition to
her religious virtues, the Lord had generously added a sense of
humor. So Delia Gordon was really a person with whom one could have
a good time.
The Lord had not been quite so generous with the Rev. Mr. Harding,
apparently. Mr. Harding was about thirty years of age, tall and
finely-built, with a slight, fair moustache, and a rather girlish
complexion. He was evidently of a sentimental inclination, very
sensitive, and a lovable person; but the sense of humor Thyrsis
judged was underdeveloped. He was inclined towards social-reform,
and had a club for working-boys in his town, of which he was very
proud; he asked Thyrsis to come and give a literary talk to these
boys, and Thyrsis replied that his views of things were hardly
orthodox. When the clergyman asked for elucidation, Thyrsis added,
with a smile, "I don't believe that Jonah ever swallowed the whale".
Whereupon Mr. Harding proceeded with all gravity to correct his
misapprehension of this legend.
The fires of friendship, thus suddenly lighted between the two
girls, continued to burn. Delia Gordon came nearly every day to see
Corydon, and once or twice Corydon went down to the town and had
lunch with her. They told each other all the innermost secrets of
their hearts, and in the evening Corydon would retail these to
Thyrsis, who was thus put in the way to acquire that knowledge of
human nature so essential to a novelist. Delia had never been in
love, it seemed--her only passion was for savage tribes along the
Congo; but Mr. Harding had been involved in a heart-tragedy some
time ago, and was supposed to be still inconsolable. Incredible as
it might seem, he was apparently not in love with Delia.
Also, needless to say, the pair did not fail to thresh out problems
of theology. Delia made in due course the dreadful discovery of the
sensuous temperament; and also she probed to the depths the
frightful ocean of unorthodoxy that was hid beneath the placid
surface of Corydon. But strange to say, this did not repel her, nor
make any difference in their friendship. Thyrsis took that for the
sign of a liberal attitude, but Corydon corrected him with a shrewd
observation--"She's so sure of her own truth she can't believe in
the reality of any other. She _knows_ I'll come to Jesus with her
It was a wonderful thing to Thyrsis to see his wife's happiness just
then; she was like a flower which has been wilting, and suddenly
receives a generous shower of rain. It was just what he had prayed
for; having seen all along that her wretchedness was owing to her
being shut up alone with him. So now he did his best to repress his
own opinions, and to let the two friends work out their problem
"Oh, Thyrsis," Corydon exclaimed to him, one night, "if I could only
have her with me, I'd be happy always!"
"Then why don't you get her to stay with you?" asked Thyrsis,
"Ah, but she wouldn't think of it," said Corydon. "She doesn't
really care about anything in the world but her Congo savages!"
"We might try," said he. "When does she complete her course?"
"Not until the end of the year."
"Well, we can do a lot of arguing in that time. And when the book is
out, we'll have money enough, so that we can offer to pay her. She
might become a sort of 'mother's helper.'"
Section 3. So Thyrsis began a struggle with Jesus and the Congo
savages, for the possession of Delia's soul. He set to work to
interest her in his work; he gave her his first novel, which
contained no theology at all; and also "The Hearer of Truth"--the
social radicalism of which he was pleased to see did not alarm her.
And then he gave her the war-novel, and saw with joy how she was
thrilled over that. He laid himself out to make his purpose and his
vision clear to her; and then, one afternoon, when Corydon had a
headache and was taking a nap, he led her off to a quiet place in
the woods, and set before her all the bitter tragedy of their lives.
He pictured the work he had to do, and the loneliness to which this
consigned Corydon; he told her of the horrors they had so far
endured, and what effect these had had upon his wife. He showed her
what her power was--how she could make life possible for both of
them. For she had that magic key which Thyrsis himself did not
possess, she could unlock the treasure-chambers of Corydon's soul.
But alas, Thyrsis soon perceived that his efforts had been in vain.
Delia was stirred by his eloquence, but the only effect was to move
her to an equally eloquent account of the sufferings of the natives
of the Congo basin. It was important that he should get his books
written; but how much more important it was that some help should be
carried to these unhappy wretches! They never saw any books, they
were altogether beyond his reach; and who was to take the light to
them? She told him harrowing tales of sick women, beaten and
tortured and burned with fire to drive the devils out of them.
Thyrsis met this by attempting to broaden the girl's social
consciousness. He showed her how the waves of intelligence,
beginning at the top, spread to the lowest strata of society--changing
the character of all human activities, and affecting the humblest
life. He showed her the capitalist system, and explained how it
worked; how it reached to the savage in the remotest corner of the
earth, and seized him and made him over according to its will. It
was true, for instance--and not in any poetic sense, but literally
and demonstrably true--that the fate of the Congo native was
determined in Wall Street, and in the financial centres of London
and Paris and Brussels and Berlin. The essential thing about the
natives was that they represented rubber and ivory. And Delia
might go there, and try to teach them and help them, but she would
find that there were forces engaged in beating them down and
destroying them--forces in comparison with which she was as
helpless as a child. It was true of the Congo blacks, as it was true
of the people of the slums, of the proletariat of the whole earth,
that there was no way to help them save to overthrow the system
which made of them, not human beings, but commodities, to be
purchased and passed through the profit-mill, and then flung into
But Thyrsis found to his pain that it was impossible to make these
considerations of any real import to Delia. She understood them, she
assented to them; but that did not make them count. Her impulses
came from another part of her being. Her savages were naked and
hungry and ignorant and miserable; and they needed to be fed and
clothed, and more important yet, to be baptized and saved. She was
all the more impelled to her task by the fact that all the forces of
civilization were arrayed against her. The fires of martyrdom were
blazing in her soul. She meant to throw herself over a precipice--and
the higher the precipice, and the more jagged the rocks beneath, the
greater was the thrill which the prospect brought her.
Section 4. They went back to the house; as Delia had arranged to
spend the night with them, and as Corydon's headache was better, the
controversy was continued far into the evening. Thyrsis took no part
in it, he listened while Corydon pleaded for herself, and pictured
her loneliness and despair.
Delia put her arms about her. "Don't you see, dear," she
argued--"all that is because you are without a faith! You cast out
Jesus, and deny him; and so how can _I_ help you? If you believed
what I do, you would not be lonely, even if you were in the heart of
"But how can I believe what isn't _true?_" cried Corydon; and so the
skeletons of theology came forth and rattled their bones once more.
A couple of hours must have passed, while Thyrsis said nothing, but
listened to Delia and watched her, probing deeply into the agonies
and futilities of life. He had given up all hope of persuading her
to stay with them; he thought only of the tragedy, that this noble
spirit should be tangled up and blundering about in the mazes of a
grotesque dogma. And the time came when he could endure it no more;
something rose up within him, something tremendous and terrible, and
he laid hold of Delia Gordon's soul to wrestle with it, as never
before had he wrestled with any human soul except Corydon's.
The truth of the matter was that Thyrsis loved the religious people;
it was among them that he had been brought up, and their ways were
his ways. This was a fact that came to him rarely now, for he was
hard-driven and bitter; but it was true that when he sneered at the
church and taunted it, he was like a parent who whips a child he
loves. Perhaps Paret had spoken truly in one of his cruel
jests--that when a man has been brought up religious, he can never
really get over it, he can never really be free.
So now Thyrsis spoke to Delia as one who was himself of the faith of
Jesus; he cried out to her that what she wanted was what he wanted,
that all her attitudes and ways of working were his. And here were
monstrous evils alive upon the earth--here were all the forces of
hell unleashed, and ranging like savage beasts destroying the lives
of men and women! And those who truly cared, those who had the
conscience and the faith of the world in their keeping--they were
wasting their time in disputations about barren formulas, questions
which had no relationship to human life! Questions of the meaning of
old Hebrew texts that had often no meaning at all, and of folk-tales
and fairy-stories out of the nursery of the race--the problem of
whether Jonah had swallowed the whale, or the whale had swallowed
Jonah--the problem of whether it was on Friday or Saturday that the
Lord had finished the earth. Because of such things as this, they
drove all thinking men from their ranks, they degraded and made
ridiculous the very name of faith! As he went on, the agony of this
swept over Thyrsis--until it seemed to him as if he had the whole
Christian Church before him, and was pleading with it in the voice
of Jesus. Here was a new crucifixion--a crucifixion of civilization!
Thyrsis cried out in the words, "Oh ye of little faith!" Truly, was
it not the supreme act of infidelity, to make the spirit of
religion, which was one with the impulse of all life--the force
that made the flower bloom and oak-tree tower and the infant cry for
its food--to make it dependent upon Hebrew texts and Assyrian
folk-tales! Delia preached to him about "faith"; but what was her
faith in comparison with his, which was a faith in all life--which
trusted the soul of man, and reason as part of the soul of man, a
thing which God had put in man to be used, and not to be feared and
Then came Delia. She would not admit that her faith depended upon
texts and legends; it was a faith in the living God. She was not
afraid of reason--she did not outrage it--
"But you do, you do!" cried Thyrsis. "Your whole attitude is an
outrage to it! You never speak of 'science' except as an evil thing.
You told Corydon that 'evolution' was wicked!"
"I don't see how evolution can help my faith"--began the other.
"That's just it!" cried Thyrsis again. "That is exactly what I mean!
You do not pay homage to truth, you do not seek it for its own sake!
You require that it should fit into certain formulas that you have
set up--in other words that it should not interfere with your texts
and your legends! And what is the result of that--you have
paralyzed all your activities, you have condemned your intellectual
life to sterility! For we live in an age of science, we cannot solve
our problems except by means of it; the forces of evil are using it,
and you are not using it, and so you are like a child in their
hands! Not one of the social wrongs but could be put an end
to--child-labor, poverty and disease, prostitution and drunkenness,
crime and war! But you don't know how, and you can't find out
how--simply because you have thrown away the sharp tools of the
intellect, and filled your mind with formulas that mean nothing! How
can you understand modern problems, when you know nothing about
economics? You have rejected 'evolution'--so how can you comprehend
the evolution of society? How can you know that civilization at this
hour is going down into the abyss--dragging you and your churches
and your Congo savages with it? I who do understand these things--I
have to go out and fight alone, while you are shut up in your
churches, mumbling your spells and incantations, and poring over
your Hebrew texts! And think of what I must suffer, knowing as I do
that the spirit that animates you--the fervor and devotion, the
'hunger and thirst after righteousness'--would banish horror from
the earth forever, if only it could be guided by intelligence!"
Section 5. All this, of course, was effort utterly wasted. Thyrsis
poured out his pleadings and exhortations, his longing and his pain;
and when he had finished, the girl was exactly where she had been
before--just as distrustful of "science", and just as blindly bent
upon getting away to her savages and binding up their wounds and
baptizing them. And so at last he gave up in despair, and left Delia
to go to bed, and went out and sat alone in the moonlight.
Afterwards, though it was long after midnight, Corydon came out and
joined him. He saw that she was flushed and trembling with
"Thyrsis!" she whispered. "That was a marvellous thing!"
He pressed her hand.
"And all thrown away!" she cried.
"You realized that, did you?" he asked.
"I realized many things. Why you set so much store by ideas, for
instance! I see that you are right--one has to think straight!"
"It's like a steam-engine," said Thyrsis. "It doesn't matter how
much power you get up, or how fast you make the wheels go--unless
the switches are set right, you don't reach your destination."
"You only land in the ditch!" added Corydon. "And that's just the
way I felt to-night--she'd take your argument every time, and dump
it into a ditch. And she'd see it there, and not care."
"She doesn't care about facts at all, Corydon. And notice this
also--she doesn't care about succeeding. That's the thing you must
get straight--her religion is a religion of failure! It comes back
to that criticism of Nietzsche's--it's a slave-morality. The world
belongs to the devil; and the idea of taking it away from the devil
seems to be presumptuous. Even if it could be done, the attempt
would be "unspiritual'; for the 'world' is something corrupt--something
that ought not to be saved. So you see, she's perfectly willing for
the Belgians to have the rubber."
"'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's'!" quoted Corydon.
"Yes, and let Caesar spend them on Cleo de Merode. What she wants is
to save the _souls_ of her savages--to baptize them, and to perish
gloriously at the work, and then be transported to some future life
that is worth while. So you see what the immortality-mongers do with
"Ah!" cried Corydon, swiftly. "But that need not be so!"
"But it _is_ so!" he answered.
"No, no!" she protested. "You must not say that! That is giving
up--and I felt such a different mood in you to-night! I wanted to
tell you--we must do something about it, Thyrsis! It made me ashamed
of my own life. Here I am, failing miserably--and all that work
crying out to be done! I don't think I ever had such a sense of your
power before--the things you might do, if only you could get free,
if only I didn't stand in your way! Oh, can't we cast the old
mistakes behind us, and go out into the world and preach that
"But, my dear," said Thyrsis, "that wouldn't appeal to you always.
"Never mind my temperament!" she cried. "I am sick of it, ashamed of
it; I want the world to hear that trumpet-call! I want you to break
your way into the churches--to make them listen to you, and realize
their blasphemy of life!"
She caught hold of him and clung to him; he could feel, like an
electric shock, the thrill of her excitement. He marvelled at the
effect his words had produced upon her--realizing all the more
keenly, in contrast with Delia, what a power of _mind_ he had here
to deal with. "Dearest," he said, "I must put these things into my
books. You must stand by me and help me to put them into my books!"
Section 6. Delia Gordon went away to take up her work in the city;
but for many months thereafter that missionary impulse stayed with
them. They would find themselves seized with the longing to throw
aside everything else, and to go out and preach Socialism with the
living voice. They were still immersed in its literature; they read
Bellamy's "Looking Backward", and Blatchford's "Merrie England", and
Kropotkin's "Appeal to the Young". They read another book about
England that moved them even more--a volume of sketches called "The
People of the Abyss", by a young writer who was then just forging to
the front--Jack London. He was the most vital among the younger
writers of the time, and Thyrsis watched his career with eager
interest. There was also not a little of wistful hunger in his
attitude--he had visions of being the next to be caught up and
transported to those far-off heights of popularity and power.
Also, they were kept in a state of excitement by the Socialist
papers and magazines that came to them. There was a great strike
that summer, and they followed the progress of it, reading
accounts of the distress of the people. Every now and then the pain
of these things would prove more than Thyrsis could bear, and he
would blaze out in some fiery protest, which, of course, the
Socialist papers published gladly. So little by little Thyrsis was
coming to be known in "the movement". Some of his friends among the
editors and publishers made strenuous protests against this course,
but little dreaming how deeply the new faith had impressed him.
In truth it was all that Thyrsis could do to hold himself in; it
seemed to him that he no longer cared about anything save this fight
of the working-class for justice. He was frightened by the prospect,
when he stopped to realize it; for he could not write anything but
what he believed, and one could not live by writing about Socialism.
He thought of his war-book, for instance. It was but two or three
months since he had finished it, and it was his one hope for success
and freedom; and yet already he had outgrown it utterly. He realized
that if he had had to go back and do it over, he could not; he could
never believe in any war again, never be interested in any war
again. Wars were struggles among ruling-classes, and whoever won
them, the people always lost. Thyrsis was now girding up his loins
for a war upon war.
So there were times when it seemed that a literary career would no
longer be possible to him; that he would have to cast his lot
altogether with the people, and find his work as an agitator of the
Revolution. One day a marvellous plan flashed over him, and he came
to Corydon with it, and for nearly a week they threshed it over,
tingling with excitement. They would sell their home, and raise what
money they could, and get themselves a travelling van and a team of
horses and go out upon the road on a Socialist campaign!
It was a perfectly feasible thing, Thyrsis declared: they would
carry a supply of literature, and would get a commission upon
subscriptions to Socialist papers. He pictured them drawing up on
the main street of some country town, and ringing a dinner-bell to
gather the people, and beginning a Socialist meeting. He would make
a speech, and Corydon would sell pamphlets and books; they had
animated discussions as to whether she might not learn to make a
speech also. At least, he argued, she might sing Socialist songs!
Thyrsis was forever evolving plans of this sort; plans for doing
something concrete, for coming into contact with the world of every
day. The pursuit of literature was something so cold and aloof, so
comfortable and conventional; one never pressed the hand of a person
in distress, one never saw the light of hope and inspiration
kindling in another's eyes. So he would dream of running a
publishing-house or a magazine, of founding a library or staging a
play, of starting a colony or a new religion. And then, after he had
made himself drunk upon the imagining, he would take himself back to
his real job. For that summer his only indiscretions were to buy
several thousand copies of the "Appeal to Reason", and hire the old
horse and buggy, and distribute them over some thirty square miles
of country; also to help to organize a club for the study of
Socialism at the university; and finally, when he was in the city,
to make a fiery speech at a meeting of some "Christian Socialists."
Because of this the newspaper reporters dug out the accounts of his
earlier adventures, and "wrote him up" with malicious bantering. And
this, alas--as the publisher pointed out--was a poor sort of
preparation for the launching of the war-novel.
Needless to add, the two did not fail to wrestle with those
individuals whom they met. Thyrsis got a collection of pamphlets,
judiciously selected, and gave them to the butcher and the grocer,
the store-clerks and the hack-drivers in the town. But a
college-town was a poor place for Socialist propaganda, as he
realized with sinking heart; its population was made up of masters
and servants, and there was even more snobbery among the servants
than among the masters. The main architectural features of the place
were fraternity-houses and "eating-clubs", where the sons of the
idle rich disported themselves; once or twice Thyrsis passed through
the town after midnight, and saw these young fellows reeling home,
singing and screaming in various stages of intoxication. Then he
would think of little children shut up in cotton-mills and
coal-mines, of women dying in pottery-works and lead-factories; and
on his way home he would compose a screed for the "Appeal to
Section 7. Another victim of their fervor was the Rev. Mr. Harding,
who stopped in to see them several times upon his tramps. Thyrsis
would never have dreamed of troubling Mr. Harding, but Corydon found
"something in him", and would go at him hammer and tongs whenever he
appeared. It must have been a novel experience for the clergyman; it
seemed to fascinate him, for he came again and again, and soon quite
a friendship sprang up between the two. She would tell Thyrsis about
it at great length, and so, of course, he had to change his ideas
about Mr. Harding.
"Don't you see how fine and sensitive he is?" she would plead.
"No doubt, my dear," said Thyrsis. "But don't you think he's maybe
just a bit timid?"
"Timid," she replied. "But then think of his training! And think
what you are!"
"Yes, I suppose I'm pretty bad," he admitted.
This discussion took place after he and Mr. Harding had had an
argument, in which Thyrsis had remarked casually that modern
civilization was "crucifying Jesus all over again." And when Mr.
Harding asked for enlightenment, Thyrsis answered, "My dear man, we
crucify him according to the constitution. We teach the profession
of crucifying him. We invest our capital in the business of
crucifying him. We build churches and crucify him in his own name!"
After which explosion Corydon said, "You let me attend to Mr.
Harding. I understand him, and how he feels about things."
"All right, my dear," assented Thyrsis. "When I see him coming, I'll
But that would not do either, it appeared, for Mr. Harding was a
conventional person, and it was necessary that he should feel he was
calling on the head of the family.
"Then," said Thyrsis, "I'm supposed to sit by and serve as a
"You're to answer questions when I ask you to," replied Corydon.
Through Mr. Harding they made other acquaintances in Bellevue. There
was a Mrs. Jennings, the wife of the young principal of the High
School; they were simple and kindly people, who became fond of
Corydon, and would beg her to visit them. The girl was craving for
companionship, and she would plead with Thyrsis to accompany her,
and subject himself to the agonies of "ping-pong" and croquet; and
once or twice he submitted--and so one might have beheld them, at a
lawn-party, hotly pressed by half a dozen disputants, in a debate
concerning the nature of American institutions, and the future of
religion and the home!
Thyrsis seldom took human relationships seriously enough to get
excited in such arguments; but Corydon, with her intense and
personal temperament, made an eager and uncomfortable propagandist.
How could anyone fail to see what was so plain to her? And so she
would bring books and pamphlets, and lend them about. There was a
young man named Harry Stuart, a fine, handsome fellow, who taught
drawing at the High School. In him, also, Cordon discovered
possibilities; and she repudiated indignantly the idea that his
soulful eyes and waving brown hair had anything to do with it. Harry
Stuart was a guileless and enthusiastic member of the State militia;
but in spite of this sinister fact, Corydon went at him. She soon
had her victim burning the midnight oil over Kautsky and Hyndman;
and behold, before the autumn had passed, the ill-fated
drawing-teacher had resigned from the State militia, and was doing
cartoons for the "Appeal to Reason"!
Section 8. Corydon's excitement over these questions was all the
greater because she was just then making the discovery of the
relationship of Socialism to the problems of her own sex. Some one
sent her a copy of Charlotte Gilman's "Women and Economics"; she
read it at a sitting, and brought it to Thyrsis, who thus came to
understand the scientific basis of yet another article of his faith.
He went on to other books--to Lester Ward's "Sociology", and to
Bebel's "Woman", and to the works of Havelock Ellis. So he realized
that women had not always been clinging vines and frail flowers and
other uncomfortable things; and the hope that they might some day be
interested in other matters than fashion and sentiment and the
pursuit of the male, was not a vain fantasy and a Utopian dream, but
was rooted in the vital facts of life.
Throughout nature, it appeared, the female was often the equal of
the male; and even in human history there had been periods when
woman had held her own with man--when the bearing of children had
not been a cause of degradation. Such had been the case with our
racial ancestors, the Germans; as one found them in Tacitus, their
women were strong and free, speaking with the men in the
council-halls, and even going into battle if the need was great. It
was only when they came under the Roman influence, and met slavery
and its consequent luxury, that the Teutonic woman had started upon
the downward path. Christianity also had had a great deal to do with
it; or rather the dogmas which a Roman fanatic had imposed upon the
message of Jesus.
It was interesting to note how one might trace the enslavement of
woman, step by step with the enslavement of labor; the two things
went hand in hand, and stood or fell together. So long as life was
primitive, woman filled an economic function, and held her own with
her mate. But with slavery and exploitation, the heaping up of
wealth and the advent of the leisure-class _régime_, one saw the
woman becoming definitely the appendage of the man, a household
ornament and a piece of property; securing her survival, not by
useful labor, but by sexual charm, and so becoming specialized as a
sex-creature. For generations and ages the male had selected and
bred in her those qualities which were most stimulating to his own
desires, which increased in him the sense of his own dominance; and
for generations and ages he taught the doctrine that the proper
sphere of woman was the home. If he happened to be a German emperor,
he summed it up in the sneer of "Kuche, Kinder, Kirche". So the
woman became frail and impotent physically, and won her success by
the only method that was open to her--by finding some male whom she
Such had been the conditions. But now, in the present century, had
come machinery, and the development of woman's labor; and also had
come intelligence, and woman's discovery of her chains. So there was
the suffrage movement and the Socialist movement. After the
overthrow of the competitive wage-system and of the leisure-class
tradition, woman would no longer sell her sex-functions, whether in
marriage or prostitution; and so the sex might cease to survive by
its vices, and to infect the whole race with its intellectual and
moral impotence. So would be set free the enormous force that was
locked up in the soul of woman; and human life would be transformed
by the impulse of emotions that were fundamental and primal. So
Thyrsis perceived the two great causes in which the progress of
humanity was bound up--the emancipation of labor and the
emancipation of woman; to educate and agitate and organize for which
became the one service that was worth while in life.
Section 9. The nights were beginning to grow chilly, and they
realized that autumn was at hand, and faced the prospect of another
winter in that lonely cabin. Paret, who had come down to visit them,
had given it a name--"the soap-box in a marsh." Thyrsis saw clearly
that he could not settle down to hard work while they were shut up
there. Corydon's headaches and prostrations seemed to be growing
worse, and she could simply not get through the winter without some
help. As the book was ready, they had some money in prospect, and
their idea was that they would buy a farm with a good house. So they
might keep a horse and a cow and some chickens; and there might be
some outdoor work for Thyrsis to do, instead of trudging aimlessly
over the country.
They utilized their spare time by getting the old horse and buggy,
and inspecting and discussing all the farms within five miles of
them; an occupation which put a great strain upon their diverse
temperaments. Thyrsis would be thinking of such matters as roads and
fruit-trees and barns--and above all of prices; while Corydon would
be concerned with--alas, Corydon never dared to formulate her
vision, even to herself. She had vague memories of dilettante
country-places with great open fire-places, and exposed beams, and a
broad staircase, and a deep piazza, and above all, a view of the
sunset. Whenever she came upon any vague suggestion of these
luxuries, her heart would leap up--and would then be crushed by
some reference to ten or fifteen thousand dollars.
Corydon was a poor sort of person to take an inspection-trip. She
would gaze about and say, "There might be a piazza here"; and then
she would look across the fields and add, "There'd be a good view if
it weren't for those woods"--and wave the woods away with the
gesture of a duchess. So, of course, the observant farmer would add
a thousand dollars to the asking-price of his property.
On the other hand, when Thyrsis with his remorseless thoroughness
would insist on getting out and inspecting some dilapidated and
forlorn-looking place--then what agonies would come! Corydon would
pass through the rooms, suffering all the horrors which she might
have suffered in years of occupancy of them. And there was no use
pleading with her to be reserved in her attitude--she took houses in
the same way that she took people, either loving them or hating
them. So, from an afternoon's driving-trip, she would come home in a
state of exhaustion and despair; and Thyrsis would have to pledge
himself upon oath not to think of this or that horrible place for a
single instant again.
There were times when Thyrsis, too, in spite of his lack of
intuition, felt the atmosphere of evil which hung about some of
these old farms. Having lived for a year and a half in the
neighborhood, and been favored with the gossip of the washerwoman,
and of the farmer's wife, and of the girl who came to clean house
now and then, they had come to know the affairs of their
neighbors--they had got a cross-section of an American small-farming
community. It was in amusing accord with Thyrsis' social theories
that the only two decent families in the neighborhood inhabited
farms of over a hundred acres. There were several farms of fifty or
sixty acres occupied by tenants, who were engaged, in plundering
them as fast as they could; and then a host of little places, of
from one to twenty acres, on which families were struggling
pitifully to keep alive. And with scarcely a single exception, these
homes of poverty were also homes of degradation. Across the way from
Thyrsis was an idiot man; upon the next place lived an old man who
was a hopeless drunkard, and had one son insane, and another
tubercular; and then down in the meadows below the woods lived the
Hodges--a name of direful portent. The father would work as a
laborer in town for a day or two, and buy vinegar and make himself
half insane, and then come home and beat his wife and children.
There were eleven of these latter, and a new one came each year; the
eldest were thieves, and the youngest might be seen in midwinter,
playing half-naked before the house. The Hodges were known to all
the neighbors for miles about, and the amount of energy which each
farmer expended in fighting them would have maintained the whole
family in comfort for their lives.
Thyrsis had travelled enough about the New England and Middle
Atlantic states to know that these conditions were typical of the
small-farming industry in all the remoter parts. The people with
enterprise had moved West, and those who stayed behind divided and
mortgaged their farms, and sunk lower and lower into misery and
degradation. This was one more aspect of that noble system of
_laissez faire_; this was the independent small-farmer, whose
happiness was the theme of all orthodox economists! He was,
according to the newspaper editorials, the backbone of American
civilization; and once every two years, in November, he might be
counted upon to hitch up his buggy and drive to town, and pocket his
two-dollar bill, and roll up a glorious majority for the Grand Old
Party of Protection and Prosperity.
Section 10. The date of publication of the book had come at last. It
was being generously advertised, under the imprint of a leading
house; and Thyrsis' heart warmed to see the advertisements. This at
last, he felt, was success; and then the reviews began to come in,
and his heart warmed still more. Here was a new note in current
fiction, said the critics; here were power and passion, a broad
sweep and a genuine poetic impulse. American history had never been
treated like this before, American ideals had never been voiced like
this before. And these, Thyrsis noted, were the opinions of the
representative reviews--not those of obscure provincial newspapers.
Victory, it seemed, had come to him at last!
He came up to the metropolis on the strength of these triumphs; for
he had observed that when one had a new book coming out was the
psychological moment to attack the magazine-editors. One was a
personality then, and could command attention. It was the height of
a presidential campaign, and the Socialists were making an
impression which was astonishing every one. The idea had occurred to
Thyrsis that some magazine might judge it worth while to tell its
readers about this new and picturesque movement.
To his great delight the editor of "Macintyre's Monthly" looked with
favor upon the suggestion, and asked to see an article at once. So
Thyrsis shut himself up in a hotel-room and wrote it over night. It
proved to be so full of "ginger" that the editorial staff of
Macintyre's was delighted, and made suggestions as to another
article; at which point Thyrsis made a desperate effort and summoned
up his courage, and insinuated politely that his stuff was worth
five cents a word. The editor-in-chief replied promptly that that
seemed to him proper.
Two hundred dollars for an article! Here indeed was fame! The author
went home, and thought out another one, and after a week came up to
the city with it.
In this new article Thyrsis cited a presidential candidate before
the bar of public opinion, and propounded troublesome questions to
him. Here was the capital of the country, heaping itself up at
compound interest, and demanding dividends; here were the people,
scraping and struggling to furnish the necessary profits. Would they
always be able to furnish enough; and what would happen when they
could no longer furnish them? Here were franchises obtained by
bribery, and capitalized for hundreds of millions of dollars; and
these millions, too, were heaping up automatically. Were they to
draw their interest and dividends forever? Here were the machines of
production, increasing by leaps and bounds, and the product
increasing still faster, and all counting upon foreign markets. What
would happen when Japan had its own machines, and India had its own
machines, and China had its own machines? Again, the processes of
production were being perfected, and displacing men; here were
panics and crises, displacing--yet more men. Already, in England, a
good fourth of the population had been displaced; and what were
these displaced populations to do? They had finished making over the
earth for the capitalists; and now that the work was done, there
seemed to be no longer any place on the earth for them!
Such were the problems of our time, according to Thyrsis; and why
did the statesmen of the time have nothing to say about them? When
this article had been read and discussed, young "Billy" Macintyre
himself sent for Thyrsis. This was the "real thing", said he, with
his genial _bonhomie_; the five hundred thousand subscribers of
Macintyre's must surely have these mirth-provoking meditations.
Also, the editors themselves needed badly to be stirred up by such
live ideas; therefore would Thyrsis come to dinner next Friday
evening, and, as "Billy" phrased it, "throw a little Socialism at
Section 11. So Thyrsis moved one step higher yet up the ladder of
success. The younger Macintyre occupied half a block of mansion up
on Riverside Drive--just across the street from the town-house of
Barry Creston's father. Thyrsis found himself in an entrance-hall
where wonderful pictures loomed vaguely in a dim, religious light;
and a silent footman took his cap, and then escorted him by a soft,
plush-covered stairway to the apartments of "Billy", who was being
helped into a dress-suit by his valet. Thyrsis, alas, had no
dress-suit, and no valet to help him into it, but he sat on the edge
of a big leather chair and proceeded to "throw a little Socialism"
at his host. Then they went down stairs, and there were Morris and
Hemingway, of the editorial staff, and "Buddie" Comings, most
popular of novelists, and "Bob" Desmond, most famous of
illustrators. And a little later on came Macintyre the elder, who
had also been judged to stand in need of some Socialism.
Macintyre the elder was white-haired and rosy-cheeked. He had begun
life as an emigrant-boy, running errands for a book-shop. In course
of time he had become a partner, and then had started a cheap
magazine for the printing of advertisements. From this had come the
reprinting of cheap books for premiums; until now, after forty
years, Macintyre's was one of the leading publishing-concerns of the
country. Recently the important discovery had been made that the
printing of half-inch advertisements headed "FITS" and "OBESITY"
prevented the securing of full-page advertisements about
automobiles. The former kind was therefore being diverted to the
religious papers of the country, whose subscribers were now getting
the "blood of the lamb" diluted with twenty-five per cent. alcohol
and one and three-fourths per cent. opium. But such facts were not
allowed to interfere with the optimistic philosophy of "Macintyre's
The elder Macintyre seemed to Thyrsis the most naïve and lovable old
soul he had encountered in many a year. When he espied Thyrsis, he
waited for no preliminaries, but went up to him as he stood by the
fire-place, and put an arm about him, and led him off to a seat by
the window. "I want to talk to you," said he.
"My boy," he went on, "I read that article of yours."
"Which one?" asked Thyrsis.
"The last one. And you know, Billy's got to stop putting things like
that in the magazine!"
"What!" cried Thyrsis, alarmed.
"I won't have it! He must not print that article!"
"But he's accepted it!"
"I know. But he should have consulted me."
"But--but I wrote it at his order. And he promised to pay me--"
"Oh, that's all right," said the old gentleman, with a genial smile.
"We'll pay for it, of course."
There was a moment's pause, while Thyrsis caught his breath.
"My boy," continued the other, "that's a terrible article!"
"Um," said the author--"possibly."
"Why do you write such things?"
"But isn't it true, sir?"
Mr. Macintyre pondered. "You know," he said, "I think you are a very
clever fellow, and you know a lot; much more than I do, I've no
doubt. But what I don't understand is, why don't you put it into a
"Into a book?" echoed Thyrsis, perplexed.
"Yes," explained the other--"then it won't hurt anybody but
yourself. Why should you try to get it into my magazine, and scare
away my half-million subscribers?"
Section 12. They went in to dinner, which was served upon
silver-plate, by the light of softly-shaded candles; and while the
velvet-footed waiters caused their food to appear and disappear by
magic, Thyrsis fulfilled his mission and "threw Socialism" at the
The company had its guns loaded, and they went at it hot and heavy.
The editors wanted to know about "the home" under Socialism; to
which Thyrsis made retort by picturing "the home" under capitalism.
They wanted to know about liberty and individuality under Socialism;
and so Thyrsis discussed the liberty and individuality of the
hundred thousand wage-slaves of the Steel Trust. They sought to
tangle him in discussions as to the desirability of competition, and
the impossibility of escaping it; but Thyrsis would bring them back
again and again to the central fact of exploitation, which was the
one fact that counted. They insisted upon knowing how this, that,
and the other thing would be done in the Cooperative Commonwealth;
to which Thyrsis answered, "Do you ask for a map of heaven before
you join the Church?"
It was "Billy" Macintyre who brought up a somewhat delicate
question; how would such an institution as "Macintyre's Monthly" be
run under Socialism? Thyrsis replied by quoting Kautsky's formula:
"Communism in material production, Anarchism in intellectual". He
showed how the state might print and bind and distribute, while men
in "free associations" might edit and publish. But one could not get
very far in this exposition, because of the excitement of the elder
Macintyre. For the old gentleman was like a small boy who is being
robbed of his marbles; if there had been a mob outside his
publishing-house, he could not have been more agitated. He took
occasion to state, with the utmost solemnity, that he disapproved of
such discussions; and "Billy", who sat between him and Thyrsis, had
to interfere now and then and soothe the "pater" down.
Mr. Macintyre's views on the subject of capitalism were simple and
easy to understand. There could be nothing really wrong with a
system which had brought so many great and good men into control of
the country's affairs. Mr. Macintyre knew this, because he had
played golf with them all and gone yachting with them all. And this
was a perfectly genuine conviction; if there had been the slightest
touch of sham in it, the old gentleman would have been more cautious
in the examples he chose. He would name man after man who was among
the most notorious of the country's "malefactors of great
wealth"--men whose financial crimes had been proven beyond any
possibility of doubting. He would name them in a voice overflowing
with affection and admiration, as benefactors of humanity upon a
cosmic scale; and of course that would end the argument in a gale of
laughter. When the elder Macintyre entered the discussion, all the
rest of the company moved forthwith to Thyrsis' side, and there were
six Socialists confronting one business-man. And this was a very
puzzling and alarming thing to the old gentleman--his son and his
magazine were getting away from him, and he did not know what to
make of the phenomenon!
Section 13. Thyrsis judged that the tidings must have got about that
there was a new "lion" in town; for a couple of days after this he
was called up by Comings, most popular of novelists, who asked him
to have luncheon at the "Thistle" club. And when Thyrsis went,
Comings explained that Mrs. Parmley Fatten had read his book, and
was anxious to meet him, and requested that he be brought round to
tea. The other was tactless enough to let it transpire that he knew
nothing about Mrs. Patton; but Comings was too tactful to show his
surprise. Mrs. Patton, he explained, was socially prominent--was
looked upon as the leader of a set that went in for intellectual
things. She was interested in social reform and woman's suffrage,
and was worth helping along; and besides that, she was a charming
woman--Thyrsis would surely find the adventure worth while. Then
suddenly, while he was listening, it flashed over Thyrsis that he
_had_ heard of Mrs. Patton before; the lady was in mourning for her
brother, and Corydon had recently handed him a "society" item, which
told of some unique and striking "mourning-hosiery" which she was
introducing from Paris.
Thyrsis in former days might have been shy of this phenomenon; but
at present he was a collecting economist on the look-out for
specimens, and so he said he would go. He met Comings again at five
o'clock, and they strolled out Fifth Avenue together to Mrs.
Patton's brown-stone palace. Thyrsis observed that his friend had
been considerate enough to omit his afternoon change of costume, and
for this he was grateful.
Mrs. Patton was still in mourning, a filmy and diaphanous kind of
mourning, beautiful enough to placate the angel Azrael himself. A
filmy and diaphanous creature was Mrs. Patton also--one could never
have dreamed of so exquisite a black butterfly. She was very sweet
and sympathetic, and told Thyrsis how much she had liked his
book--so that Thyrsis concluded she was not half so bad as he had
expected. After all, she might not have been to blame for the
hosiery story--it might even have been a lie. He reflected that the
yellow journals no doubt lied as freely about young leaders of
intellectual sets in "society" as they did about starving authors.
Mrs. Patton wanted to know about Socialism, and sighed because it
seemed so far away. She made several remarks that showed real
intelligence--and this was startling to Thyrsis, who would as soon
have expected intelligence from a real butterfly. He got a strange
impression of a personality struggling to get into contact with life
from behind a wall some ten million dollars high. Mrs. Patton had
three young children, and her husband was one of the "Standard Oil
crowd"; she complained to Thyrsis that "Parmy"--so she referred to
the gentleman--was always in terror over her vagaries.
It was a new discovery to the author that the very rich might live
under the shadow of fear, quite as much as the very poor. Their
wealth made them a target for newspaper satire, so that they dared
not depart from convention in the slightest detail. Mrs. Patton told
how once she had ventured to romp for a few minutes with some
children on the grounds of the "Casino", and the next day all the
world had read that she was introducing "tag" as a diversion for the
There came other callers, both women and men; Percy Ambler, man of
fashion and dilettante poet; and with him little Murray Symington,
who wrote the literary chat for "Knickerbocker's Weekly", and was
therefore a power to be propitiated. There came Blanchard, the young
and progressive publisher of the "Beau Monde", a weekly whose
circulation rivalled that of "Macintyre's". There came also young
Macklin, Mrs. Patton's nephew, with his monocle and his killing
drawl. Macklin came by these honestly, having been brought up in
England; but Thyrsis did not know that--he only heard the young
gentleman's passing reference to his yacht, and to his passion for
the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé; and so he had it in for Macklin.
Thyrsis had got involved in a serious discussion with Mrs. Patton
and Symington, and was in the act of saying that the social problem
could not be much longer left unsolved; and then he chanced to turn,
and discovered young Macklin, surveying him with elaborate
superciliousness, and asking with his British drawl, "Aw--I beg
pawdon--but what do you mean by the social problem?" And Thyrsis,
with a quick glance at him, answered, "I mean you." So Macklin
subsided; and Thyrsis learned afterwards that his remark was going
the rounds, being considered to be a _mot_. It appeared the next
week in the columns of a paper devoted to "society" gossip; and many
a literary reputation had been made by a lesser triumph than that.
Thyrsis got new light upon the making of reputations, when he looked
into the next issue of "Knickerbocker's Weekly". There he found that
Murray Symington had devoted no less than three paragraphs to his
personality and his book. It was all "sprightly"--that was Murray's
tone--but also it was cordial; and it referred to Thyrsis' earlier
novel, "The Hearer of Truth", as "that brilliant piece of work".
Thyrsis read this with consternation--recalling that when the book
had come out, not two years ago, "Knickerbocker's Weekly" had
referred to it as a "preposterous concoction". Could it be true that
an author's work was "preposterous" while he was starving in a
garret, and became "brilliant" when he was found in the drawing-
room of Mrs. "Parmy" Patton?
Section 14. Thyrsis went on to penetrate yet deeper into these
mysteries; there came a call from Murray Symington, to say that Mrs.
Jesse Dyckman wanted him to dinner. Jesse Dyckman he recognized as
the name of one of the most popular contributors to the magazines
--his short stories of Fifth Avenue life were the delight of the
readers of the "Beau Monde".
"But I can't go to dinner-parties with women!" protested Thyrsis. "I
Murray took that message; but in a few minutes he called up again.
"She says she doesn't care whether you dress or not."
"But then, I don't _eat!_" protested Thyrsis, who had recently
discovered Horace Fletcher.
"I know _that_ won't count," said the other, laughing. "She doesn't
want you to eat--she wants you to talk."
Mrs. Jesse Dyckman inhabited an apartment in a "studio-building" not
far from Central Park; and here was more luxury and charm--a
dining-room done in dark red, with furniture of some black wood, and
candles and silver and cut glass, quite after the fashion of the
Macintyres. Thyrsis was admitted by a French maid-servant; and there
was Mrs. Dyckman, resplendent in white shoulders and a necklace of
pearls; and there was Dyckman himself, even more prosperous and
contented-looking than his pictures, and even more brilliant and
cynical than his tales. Also there was his sister, Mrs. Partridge,
the writer of musical comedies; and a Miss Taylor, who filled the
odd corners of the magazines with verses, which Corydon had once
described as "cheap cheer-up stuff".
So here was the cream of the "literary world"; and Thyrsis, as he
watched and listened to it, was working out the formula of magazine
success. Mrs. Dyckman sat next to him, displaying her shoulders and
her culture; it seemed to him that she must have spent all her spare
time picking up phrases about the books and pictures and plays and
music of the hour, so as to be ready for possible mention of them at
her dinner-parties. She had opinions on tap about everything;
opinions just enough "advanced" to be striking and original, and yet
not too far "advanced" for good form. Jesse Dyckman's short stories
were the sort in which you read how the hero handled his cigarette,
and were told that the heroine was clad in "dimity _en princesse"_.
You learned the names of the latest fashionable drinks, and the
technicalities of automobiles, and met with references to far-off
and intricate standards of social excellence.
To Thyrsis it appeared that he could see before him the whole career
of such a man. He had trained himself by years of apprenticeship in
snobbery; he had studied the fashions not only in costume and
manners, but also in books and opinions. He had been educated in a
"fraternity", and had chosen a wife who had been educated in a
"sorority"; they had set up in this apartment, with silver
service and three French servants, and proceeded to give dinners,
and cultivate people who "counted." And so had come the pleasant
berth with the "Beau Monde"; one or two stories every month, and one
thousand dollars for each story--as one might read in all newspaper
accounts of the "earnings of authors".
The "Beau Monde" might have been described as a magazine for the
standardizing of the newly-rich. A group of these existed in every
town in the country, and had their "society" in every little city.
They would come to New York and put up at expensive hotels, and get
their education in theatres and opera-houses and "lobster-palaces";
in addition they had this weekly messenger of good form. In its
advertising-columns one read of the latest things in cigarettes and
highballs and haberdashery and candies and autos; and in its
reading-matter one found the leisure-class world, and the
leisure-class idea of all other worlds. Young Blanchard himself was
in the most "exclusive" society; and if one stayed close to him, one
might worm his way past the warders. Among the regular contributors
to the "Beau Monde" and to "Macintyre's", there were a dozen men who
had risen by this method; and some of them had been real writers at
the outset--had started with a fund of vigor, at least. But now they
spent their evenings at dinner-parties, and their days lounging
about in two or three expensive cafés, reading the afternoon papers,
exchanging gossip, and acquiring the necessary stock of cynicism for
their next picture of leisure-class life.
It was what might have been described as the "court method" of
literary achievement. The centre of it was the young prince who held
the purse-strings; and the court was a coterie of bookish men of
fashion and rich women whose husbands were occupied in the
stock-market. They set the tone and dispensed the favors; one who
stood in their good graces would be practically immune to criticism,
no matter how seedy his work might come to be. Nobody liked to
"roast" a man with whom he had played golf at a week-end party; and
who could be so impolite as to slight the work of a lady-poetess
whom he had taken in to dinner?
Section 15. Thyrsis studied these people, and measured himself
against them. He was not blinded by any vanity; he knew that it
would not have taken him a week to turn out a short story which
would have had the requisite qualities for Macintyre's--which would
have been clever and entertaining, would have had genuine sentiment,
and as large a proportion of sincerity as the magazine admitted. He
could have suggested that he thought it was worth five hundred
dollars, and "Billy" Macintyre would have nodded and sent him a
check. And then he could have moved up to town, and got a
frock-coat, and paid another call upon Mrs. "Parmy" Patton. Then his
friend Comings would have put him up for the "Thistle", he would
have got to know the men who made literary opinion, and so his
career would have been secure.
Nor need he have made any apparent break with his convictions. In
"society" one met all sorts of eccentrics--"babus" and "yogis",
Christian Scientists, spiritualists and theosophists, Fletcherites,
vegetarians and "raw-fooders". And there would be ample room for his
fad--it was quite "English" to be touched with Socialism. All that
one had to do was to be entertaining in one's presentation of it,
and to confine one's self to its literary aspects--not setting forth
plans for the expropriation of the house of Macintyre!
Thyrsis had one grievous handicap, of course. He would have had to
keep his wife and child in the background; for Corydon, alas, would
not have scored as a giver of dinner-parties. From a woman like Mrs.
Jesse Dyckman, skilled in intellectual fence, and merciless to her
inferiors, Corydon would have turned tail and fled. Thyrsis was able
to sit by and let Mrs. Dyckman wave the plumes of her wit and spread
the tail-feathers of her culture before his astonished eyes, and at
the same time occupy his mind with studying her, and working out her
"economic interpretation". But Corydon took life too intensely, and
people too personally for that.
But she would have let him go, if he had told her that it was best.
So why should he not do it--why should he turn his back upon this
opportunity, and return to the "soap-box in a marsh" to wrestle with
loneliness and want? The fact of the matter was that the thing which
seemed so easy to his intellect, was impossible to his character.
Thyrsis could not have anything to do with these people without
hypocrisy; merely to sit and talk pleasantly with them was to lie.
They were to him the enemy, the thing he was in life to fight. And
he hated all that they stood for in the world--he hated their ideas
and their institutions, their virtues as well as their vices.
He had been down into the bottom-most pit of hell, and the sights
that he had seen there had withered him up. How could he derive
enjoyment from silks and jewels, from rich foods and fine wines,
when he heard in his ears the cries of agony of the millions he had
left behind him in that seething abyss? And should he trample upon
their faces, as so many others had trampled? Should he make a ladder
of their murdered hopes, to climb out to fame and fortune? Not he!
It seemed to him sometimes, as he thought about it, that he alone,
of all men living, had power to voice the despair of these tortured
souls. Others had been down into that pit, and had come out alive;
but who was there among them that was an _artist;_ that could forge
his hatred into a weapon, sharp enough and stout enough to be driven
through the tough hide of the world of culture? To be an artist
meant to have spent years and decades in toil and study, in
disciplining and drilling one's powers; and who was there that had
descended into the social inferno, and had come back with strength
enough to accomplish that labor?
So it seemed to him that he was the bearer of a gospel, that he had
to teach the world something it could otherwise not know. He had
tried out upon his own person, and upon the persons of his loved
ones, the effects of poverty and destitution, of cold and hunger, of
solitude and sickness and despair. And so he knew, of his own
knowledge, the meaning of the degradation that he saw in modern
society--of suicide and insanity, of drunkenness and vice and crime,
of physical and mental and moral decay. He knew, and none could
dispute him! Therefore he must nerve himself for the struggle; he
must deliver that message, and pound home that truth. He must keep
on and on--in defiance of authority, in the face of all the obloquy
and ridicule that the prostitute powers of civilization could heap
upon him. He must live for that work, and die for it--to make real
to the thinking world the infamies and the horrors of the capitalist
THE CAPTIVE FAINTS
_"Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt thou go?
Soon will the high Midsummer pomps come on."
"Do you remember how you used to tell me that?" she whispered.
"And always young!" he added.
"How did I keep so?" she said, with wonder in her voice; and he
"Thou nearest the immortal chants--of old!-
Putting his sickle to the perilous grain
In the hot corn-field of the Phrygian king,
For thee the Lityerses-song again
Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing!"
Then a smile of mischief crossed her face, and she asked, "Which
Section 1. Thyrsis came back to his home in the country, divided
between satisfaction over the four hundred dollars worth of booty he
had captured, and a great uneasiness concerning his novel. It had
had with the critics all the success that he could have asked, but
unfortunately it did not seem to be selling. Already it had been out
three weeks, and the sales had been only a thousand copies. The
publisher confessed himself disappointed, but said that it was too
early to be certain; they must allow time for the book to make its
way, for the opinions of the reviews to take effect.
And so, for week after week, Thyrsis watched and hoped against
hope--the old, heart-sickening experience. In the end he came to
realize that he had achieved that most cruel of all literary
ironies, the _succés_ _d'estime_. The critics agreed that he had
written a most unusual book; but then, the critics did not really
count--they had no way of making their verdict effective. What
determined success or failure was the department-store public. It
would take a whim for a certain novel; and when a novel had once
begun to sell, it would be advertised and pushed to the front, and
everything else would give way before it, quite regardless of what
the critic's had said. A book-review appeared only once, but an
advertisement might appear a score of times, and be read all over
the country. So the public would have pounded into its consciousness
the statement that "Hearts Aflame", by Dorothy Dimple, was a
masterpiece of character-drawing, full of thrilling incident and
alive with pulsing passion. The department-store public, which was
not intelligent enough to distinguish between a criticism and an
advertisement, would accept all these opinions at their face-value.
And that was success; even the critics bowed to it in the end--as
you might note by the change in their tone when they came to review
the next work by this "popular" novelist.
So Thyrsis faced the ghastly truth that another year and a half of
toiling and waiting had gone for nothing--the heights of
opportunity were almost as far away as ever. He had to summon up his
courage and nerve himself for yet another climb; and Corydon would
have to face the prospect of another winter in the "soap-box in a
It was now November, and Thyrsis had written nothing but Socialist
manifestoes for six months. He was restless and chafing again; but
living in distress as they were, he could not get his thoughts
together at all. He must have been a trying person to live in the
house with at such a time. "You ask me to take love for granted,"
said Corydon to him once; "but how can I, when your every expression
is contradictory to love?"
How could he explain to her his trouble? Here again was the pressure
of that dreadful "economic screw", that was crushing their love, and
all beauty and joy and hope in their hearts. They might fight
against it with all the power of their beings; they might fall down
upon their knees together, and pledge themselves with anguish in
their voices and tears in their eyes; but still the remorseless
pressure would go on, day and night, week after week, without a
There was this little house, for instance. It was all that Thyrsis
wanted, and all that he would ever have wanted; and yet he could not
be happy in it, because Corydon was not happy in it. He must be
plotting and planning and worrying, straining every nerve to get to
another house; he might not even think of any other possibility--that
would be treason to her. So always it seemed--he had to turn his face
a way that he did not wish to travel, he had to go on against every
instinct of his own nature. His love for Corydon was such that he
would be ashamed whenever his own instincts showed themselves. But
then he would go alone, and try to do his work, and then discover
the havoc this had wrought in his own being.
Just now the tension had reached the breaking point; the craving for
solitude and peace was eating him up.
"What is it that you want?" asked Corydon, one day.
"I want to be where I don't have to see anybody," he cried. "I want
to rough it in a tent, as I did once before."
"But it's too late to go to the Adirondacks, Thyrsis!"
"I know that," he said. "But there are other places."
He had heard of one in Virginia--in that very Wilderness of which he
had written so eloquently, but had never seen. "Isn't there some one
who could come and stay with you?" he pleaded.
"I don't know," replied Corydon. But the next day, as fate would
have it, there came a letter from Delia Gordon, saying that she had
finished a certain stage of her study-course, and was tired out and
in fear of break-down. So an invitation was sent and accepted, and
Thyrsis secured the respite which he craved.
And so behold him as a hermit once more, settled in a deserted cabin
not far from the battle-field of Spotsylvania. He had got rid of the
vermin in the cabin by burning sulphur, and had stocked his
establishment with a canvas-cot and a camp-stool and a lamp and an