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They sat in the darkness, watching where the starlight gleamed upon the water.
"We had always hope," she was saying. "How endlessly we hoped!"
"Could we do it now?" he asked; and after a pause, he quoted from the poem--
"Unbreachable the fort Of the long-batter'd world uplifts its wall; And strange and vain the earthly turmoil grows, And near and real the charm of thy repose, And night as welcome as a friend would fall!"
Section 1. Thyrsis came home beaten and crushed, worn out with overwork and worry, his heart black with rage and bitterness and despair. He met Corydon in the park, and she listened to his story, white and terrified. She had swallowed all her disappointment, had stayed at home with the baby while he went with the play; and now the outcome of it all was this!
"What are you going to do?" she whispered; and he answered, "I don't know. I don't know."
She saw the terrible state he was in, and she dared not utter a single word of her own grief. She bit her lip, and choked back her tears. "This is my life," she thought to herself; "I must endure, endure--that is all!"
He could not afford even to sit and talk with her very long; there was no time to indulge in the luxury of despair. His money was gone, and he was in debt for some that he had borrowed. Since irregular eating had been telling upon him again, he had been getting his meals with an acquaintance of the family, who kept a boarding-house uptown. On the strength of his prospects, she had trusted him for four dollars a week; and now the play had failed, and he had to go and tell her, and listen to new protests as to his folly in refusing to "get a position". But in the end she bade him stay on; and so he was divided between his shame, and the need of something to eat day by day.
Time dragged on, and still there was no gleam of light. There were shameful hours in these weeks--he touched the lowest point yet in his life. This was a typical cheap boarding-house, a place where the drudges of trade were herded; it was a home of sordidness and ugliness--to Thyrsis its people seemed like carefully selected types of all things that he hated in the world. There was a young broker's clerk, whose patter was of prices, and of fortunes made without service. There was a grey-haired bookkeeper for a giant "trust", a man who could not have had more pride in that great engine of exploitation, or more contempt for its victims, had he been the president and chief owner thereof. There was a young divinity-student, who made greedy reaches for the cake-plate, and who summed up for Thyrsis all the cant and commonness of the church. There was a dry-goods clerk, who wore flaring ties, and who played the role of a "masher" upon the avenue every evening. And finally there was a red-faced Irish-man who wore large shiny cuffs and a false diamond, and who held some political job, and was voluble in behalf of "the organization".
Among these people Thyrsis sat three times a day, silent and tortured, paying a high price for each morsel of food he ate. But also he was lonely, and craving any sort of respite; and in the course of time he became acquainted with several of the younger men. One of the diversions in their pitiful and narrow lives was to gather in some room and indulge in petty gambling; sitting for hours upon hours with their faculties alert upon the attempt to get from each other some small fraction of that weekly stipend which kept them alive. Sometimes they played "penny-ante", and sometimes _vingt_ _et_ _un_; once, as it chanced, they needed another player, and they urged Thyrsis to join them.
And so, for the first time in his life, Thyrsis learned what it meant to lay his soul upon the lap of the goddess of chance. From eight o'clock that evening until two the next morning, he sat in a suffocating room full of cigarette-smoke, trying in vain to win back the dollar or two he had lost at the outset; flushed and trembling with excitement, and hating himself with a bitter and tormenting hatred. And so he discovered his vice; he discovered that he had in him the soul of the gambler! And all the rest of the winter he had to wrestle with that shame. He would go to his dinner, tired and heartsick; and they would ask him to play again; and he--the man who carried a message for humanity in his heart--he would yield! Three times during that winter he fell into the mire; on Washington's birthday he began to play in the morning, and stopping only for meals, he played until long after midnight. Forever afterwards he was a humbler and a gentler man because of that experience; understanding how squalor abases one, and how swiftly and stealthily an evil passion closes its grasp about the soul.
Section 2. Of this shameful thing he said not a word to Corydon. But he avoided meeting her, because of the depths of his despair. And so at last there came a letter from her--a long and unusual one. Corydon, too, was having her troubles, it appeared.
"I am writing in haste," she said; "I shall mail the letter at once, before my resolution fails me. At least a dozen times I have made up my mind to tell you or to write you what is here, and each time I have turned back. But now I have got to a stage where I must have your help.
"I enclose a long letter which I wrote you years ago, before we were married. I was looking over some old papers the other day and came upon it. Generally when I wrote you letters that I did not send, I tore them up; but something led me to keep this one--I had a feeling that some day it would be interesting as a curiosity. You see, I am always persuading myself that I can get over this trouble, and learn to laugh at it; and I am always succeeding--but only to have it crop up in some different form. I have told you a little of it now and then--but stop and read the enclosed, and you will see."
So Thyrsis read the old letter--a missive of anguish and terror, and beginning with elaborate preludings and hesitations:
"I implore you to be patient with me this once; and when I have gotten through, I want you still to love me, if possible. I have been trying to get the courage to write you something that is so mean and low, childish and almost imbecile, that there have been moments in which my horror of it was absolutely unspeakable; when I have imagined myself as a soul damned, when I thought that if you knew, you would think I had a diseased brain. I only ask you to read patiently what I am going to write; but know that every word is a horrible effort, that it is torture and humiliation to me to write it. I have a feeling now as though I were psychologically dissecting something.
"It must have been eight years ago, when I was sick in bed; in a fever or delirium I conceived the idea that there was a coffin under my bed. The thought took hold of me, somehow, like an octopus, and I used to writhe under it, and get into fearful perspirations. I never went near a bed that I didn't think of this thing with the same horror.
"And so I seemed to have created a nervousness, a sense of dread, before which I was absolutely helpless. I cannot tell you how hopelessly or fearfully I suffered, or what depths of despondency and despair and blackness I was cast into. I cannot understand how a creature could so manufacture torments for itself. But this is not all, just for once have mercy--and yet even now I am laughing at myself!
"The winter I was sixteen I was much disappointed that I could not go to college, and almost the whole winter, when I was not diverted, I would brood over this habit. As I grew older, it would come to me in spasms, and it seemed to my dawning sense so monstrously child- like, so insane, that I was aghast that it had power to affect me. I can find no words to tell you of the unspeakable horror with which I saw, in my older days, that a thought could so torment me; the mere fact of its being able to torment I could never forget. I know it was silly, unreasonable; and yet every time it came to me I would be plunged into a hopelessness and melancholy, than which I can honestly conceive nothing more fearful upon earth.
"Well, I continued to pursue myself with this morbidity (I would almost, rather kill myself than write this). As I got older my terror was less, but my melancholy greater, until I would be only half conscious of what I was allowing myself to do. I seemed to have engendered within myself a hob-goblin. Once--it was only last winter--I saw a nasty word written on a fence, and it sent a shudder through me, for I knew it would follow me and make me think of other things like it. I felt, since thoughts have such power to terrorize me, how can I ever get away from them?
"Oh, how I have struggled--tried to say it was not true--that I was just as sane as other people! And this made my thirst for beauty all the more maddening, and my melancholy all the more complete! So I have lived, at intervals, and words cannot describe the hell that I have endured, the more horrible because it seemed to me so unreasonable, so insane. It occurred to me more or less this summer, though in a milder form; but it often frightened me more than ever, as I felt how beautiful you were, and what you would think of me, if you knew I was capable of being the prey of such thoughts. So they were always more dreadful to me.
"Can you possibly understand how the thought of a word could make me shudder? The mere idea of my being capable of thinking of anything that was not beautiful! When I longed to be only the embodiment of beauty--and sometimes I _am_ beautiful! I look into the glass, and I seem to have something in my face that is a promise of a glory to come--a light, a something,--I love to imagine it. And then, that a thought should knock me prone, and make me cringe--from the mere fact of its lowness and meanness!
"For the last two or three days I have again victimized myself; and when I was not studying I was asking myself in anguish what was the matter with me, and if there was no hope for me on earth. I dodged around and tried to laugh it off, then I went to the piano and lost myself in the dissatisfaction of my playing; but when I stopped, I was conscious of a great depression, as though I were chained in a dungeon. I jumped up, and said I could stand it no longer. I will tell Thyrsis, I said; but no, I will die first! I added. He could not tolerate me afterwards, he would think me only fit for the insane-asylum. Oh, why should I be so cursed? And then, somehow, I imagined that I told you, and that you laughed at me, that you pitied me--and that you held out your hand, and said, 'Come, you _shall_ find beauty--poor, deluded, wretched, little creature!' I really imagined that this had happened, and I was relieved as with a draught of fresh air.
"Oh, God in Heaven, to think that I could ever have been so degraded! My head hurts, and I absolutely am dazed, to think that I have been able to write you of something for which (though it has not been my making) I am so ashamed and humiliated I can hardly hold my head up. I think in my short life I have atoned for the sins of many souls."
Section 3. Such was the old-time letter. "And now," wrote Corydon, "I don't want you to think that if I did not send you this, it was because I was afraid to do it, or unwilling to trust to your love. It was simply because I felt that I could conquer these things--that it would be weak and contemptible of me not to do so. Nor is the reason I write you now that I have not been able to conquer them, that I am still at the mercy of such habits. I am a grown woman, and I am not afraid of words; I tell myself this a hundred times; and it is true--and yet there is a way in which it is not true. The thing is so intricate--I never get to the end of it; I rid myself of the fear of a hateful idea, but there remains the fact that I should have been afraid; there is the fear of fear. And then comes a flood of shame--that I should have it in me to be afraid of fear!
"Thyrsis, as I write to you now I see clearly how perfectly preposterous and unreal all this is; and again there comes to me the impulse to tear up this letter, and banish the troop of hob-goblins from my mind. But no, this time I am determined to make a clean breast of the thing--for I see that secrecy and solitude are what it feeds on. If I were happy and busy with you such ideas would have no power over me. But think how it is, with my loneliness and despair! I don't want to say anything to make your task harder--but oh, Thyrsis, it is frightful to have nothing to do but wait, and wait, and wait! The baby wakes me up in the night and I lie for hours--it is at such times that these phantoms take hold of me. Do you realize that I literally never know what it is to have more than three or four consecutive hours of sleep?
"No, I am not insane, I tell myself; I am not insane! It is the circumstances of my life that cause this melancholia and misery. It has been my life, from the very beginning--for what a hopeful and joyous creature I would have been, had I only had a chance as a girl! I know that; and you must tell it to me, and help me to believe it."
Thyrsis read this with less surprise than Corydon had imagined; for she had been wont to drop hints about her trouble from time to time. He was shocked, however, to find what a hold it had taken upon her; the thing sent a chill of fear to his heart. Could it be after all that she had some taint? But he saw at once that he must not let her see any such feeling; the least hint of it would have driven her to distraction. On the contrary, he must minimize the trouble, must help her to laugh it away, as she asked.
He went to meet her in the park, and found her in an agony of distress; she had mailed the letter, and then she had wished to recall it, and had been struggling ever since with the idea that he would be disgusted with her. Now, when she found that such was not the case, that he still loved her and trusted her, she was transported with gratitude.
"But dearest," he said, "how absurd it is to be ashamed of an idea! If ugly things exist, don't we have to hear of them and know of them? And so why frighten ourselves because they are in our minds?"
"But Thyrsis," cried she, "they are so hateful!"
"Yes," he said. "But then the more you hate them, the more they haunt you!"
"That's just it!" she exclaimed.
"But what harm can they do? Can they have any effect upon your character? You must say to yourself that all this is a consequence of the structure of your brain-cells. What could be more futile than trying to forget? As if the very essence of the trying was not remembering!"
So Thyrsis went on to argue with her. He made her promise him that in future she would tell him of all her obsessions, permitting no fear or shame to deter her; and so thereafter he would have to listen periodically to long accounts of her psychological agonies, and help her to hunt out the "hob-goblins" from the tangled thickets of her mind. They were forever settling the matter, positively and finally--but alas, only to have something unsettle it again. So Thyrsis had to add to his other accomplishments the equipment of a psycho-pathologist; he brushed up his French, and read learned treatises upon the researches in the _Salpêtrière_, and the theories of the "Nancy School".
Section 4. Another month passed by, and still there was no rift in the clouds. Once more Corydon was forbidden to see him, and so her pain grew day by day. At last there came another letter, voicing utter despertion. Something must be done, she declared, she was slowly going out of her mind. Thyrsis could have no idea of the shamefulness of her position, the humiliations she had to face. "I tell you the thing is putting a brand upon my soul," she wrote. "It is something I shall never get over all my life. It is withering me up--it is destroying my self-respect, my very decency; it is depriving me of my power to act, or even to think. People come in, relatives or friends--even strangers to me--and peer at me and pry into my affairs; I hear them whispering in the parlor--'Hasn't he got a position yet?' or 'How can she have anything to do with him?' The servants gossip about me--the woman I have for a nurse despises me and insults me, and I have not the courage to rebuke her. To-day I went almost wild with fury--I rushed into the bathroom and locked the door and flung myself upon the floor. I found myself gnawing at the rug in my rage--I mean that literally. That is what life has left for me!
"I tell you you must take me away, we must get out of this fiendish city. Let us go into the wilderness as you said, and live as we can--I would rather starve to death than face these things. Let us get into the country, Thyrsis. You can work as a farm-hand, and earn a few dollars a week--surely that could not be a greater strain upon us than the way things are now."
When Thyrsis received this, he racked his brains once more; and then he sat down and wrote a letter to Barry Creston. He told how he had worked over the play, and how it had gone to ruin; he told of his present plight. He knew, he said, that Mr. Creston had been interested in the play, and that he was a man understood the needs of the artist-life. Would he lend two hundred dollars, which would suffice until Thyrsis could get another work completed?
He waited a week for a reply to this; and when it arrived he opened it with trembling fingers. He half expected a check to fall fluttering to the floor; but alas, there was not a single flutter. "I have read your letter," wrote the young prince, "and I have considered the matter carefully. I would do what you ask, were it not for my conviction that it would not be a good thing for you. It seems to me the testimony of all experience, that artists do their great work under the spur of necessity. I do not believe that real art can ever be subsidized. It is for men that you are writing; and you must find out how to make men hear you. You may not thank me for this now, but some day you will, I believe."
After duly pondering which communication, Thyrsis racked his wits, and bethought him of yet another person to try. He sat himself down and addressed Mr. Robertson Jones. He explained that he was in this cruel plight, owing to his having devoted so many months to "The Genius." Even the actors had received something for the performances of the play they had given; but the author had received nothing at all. He asked Mr. Jones for a personal loan to help him in a great emergency; and he promised to repay it at the earliest possible moment. To which Mr. Jones made this reply--"Inasmuch as the failure of the play was due solely to your own obstinacy, it seems to me that your present experiences are affording exactly the discipline you need."
Section 5. However, there are many ups and downs in the trade of free-lance writer. The very day after he had received this letter, there came, in quick succession two bursts of sunlight through the clouds of Thyrsis' despair. The first was a letter, written in a quaint script, from a man who explained that he was interested in a "Free People's Theatre" in one of the cities of Germany. "You will please to accept my congratulations," he wrote; "I had never known such a play as yours in America to be written. I should greatly be pleased to translate the play, so that it might be known in Germany. Our compensation would have to be little, as you will understand; but of appreciation I think you may receive much in the Fatherland."
To which Thyrsis sent a cordial response, saying that he would be glad of any remuneration, and enclosing a copy of the manuscript of "The Genius". And then--only two days later--came the other event, a still more notable one; a letter from the publisher who had been number thirty-seven on the list of "The Hearer of Truth". Thyrsis had got so discouraged about this work that he now sent it about as a matter of routine, and without thinking of it at all. Great, therefore, was his amazement when he opened the letter and read that this publisher was disposed to undertake it, and would be glad to see him and talk over terms.
Thyrsis went, speculating on the way as to what strange manner of being this publisher might be. The solution of the mystery he found was that the publisher was new at the business, and had entrusted his "literary department" to a very young man who had enthusiasms. The young man held his position for only a month or two; but in that month or two Thyrsis got in his "innings".
The publisher wished to bring the book out that spring. He offered a ten per cent royalty, and the trembling author summoned the courage to ask for one hundred dollars advance; when he got it, he was divided between his delight, and a sneaking regret that he had not tried for a hundred and fifty!
The very next day came the contracts and the money; Thyrsis marvelled at the fact that there were people who could sign checks for a hundred dollars, and apparently not mind it in the least. With the money he was able to pay all his debts, and also a bill which Corydon had received from a "specialist" who had been treating her. This was a new habit that Corydon was developing, as a result of headaches and backaches and other obscure miseries. These amiable "specialists" permitted one to run up a bill with them; and so, whenever Thyrsis made a new "strike", there were always debts to eat up the greater part of it.
They had now another hope to lure them; new proofs to read, and in due time, new reviews. But it would be fall before they could expect more money from the book, and meantime there was still the problem of the summer. So, as usual, Thyrsis was plotting and planning, groping about him and trying one desperate scheme after another; his head was like a busy workshop, from which came every hour new plans, new expedients, new experiments. And meanwhile, of course, deep down in his soul there was forming the new work, that some day would emerge and take possession of him, driving everything else from his consciousness.
People would repeat to him, over and over, their dreary formula--"Get a position! Get a position!" And patiently, unwearyingly, Thyrsis would set himself to explain to them what it was like to be inspired. It was not perversity upon his part, it was not conceit; it was no more these than it was laziness. It was something that was in him--something that he had not put there himself, something that he could not take out of himself; a thing that took possession of him, without any intention upon his part, without any permission; a thing that required him to do certain acts, and that tore him to pieces if he did not do them. And how should he be blamed because he could not do as other men--because he could not take care of himself, nor even of his wife and child? Because he could not have any rights, because he could not possess the luxuries of manhood and self-respect? Because, in short, he was cast out into the gutter for every dog to snarl at and for every loafer to spurn? Could it be that in this whole civilization, with its wealth and power, its culture and learning, its sciences and arts and religions--there was not to be found one single man or woman who could recognize such a state of affairs, and realize what it meant?
Section 6. About this time Thyrsis thought of another plan. Perhaps he might get some one to publish the play in book form--that would bring him a little money, and possibly also it might help him to interest some other manager or actor. So he took the manuscript to his friend Mr. Ardsley, who told him it would not sell, and then gave him another lecture upon his folly in not having written the "practical" novel; and then he took it to the publisher for whom Prof. Osborne acted as reader. So he had another conference with that representative of authority.
"I'll get him some day," Thyrsis had said to himself, after their last interview; and he found that he had almost "got" him now. There was no chance of the play's selling, said the professor, and therefore no recommending it for publication; but it was indeed a remarkable piece of work--one might possibly say that it was a _great_ piece of work.
To which the author responded, "Why can't one say that surely?"
"I'm not quite sure," said the other, "whether your violinist is a genius, or only thinks he is."
Thyrsis pondered this. "That's rather an important question," he said.
"Yes," admitted the other.
"There ought to be some way of deciding such a question definitely."
"Yes, there ought to be."
"But there isn't?"
"No--I'm afraid there isn't. We know too little about genius as yet."
"But, professor," said Thyrsis, "you are a critic--you write books of criticism. And that's the one question a critic has to answer."
"Yes, I know," said Prof. Osborne.
"And yet, when you face the issue, you give up."
"It has generally taken a long time to decide such a matter," was the professor's reply.
"Yes, it has," said the other; "and meantime the man is starved out."
There was a pause. "You have never had any such experience yourself?" asked Thyrsis. "Of inspiration, I mean."
"No," was the answer. "I couldn't pretend to."
"So your judgments are never from first-hand knowledge?"
The professor hesitated. "I am dealing with you frankly---" he began.
"I know," said Thyrsis, "and I appreciate that. You understand that it's an important point for me to get clear. I've felt that all along about you--I've felt it about so many others who set themselves against me. And yet I have to bear the burden of their condemnation--"
"I never condemned you," interposed the other.
"Ah, but you did!" cried Thyrsis. "You told me that I knew less about writing than anyone in your class! And you spoke as one who had authority."
"But you had given no indications in the class-room--"
"I know! I know! I tried to get you to see the reason. I wanted to create literature; and you set me down with a lot of formulas--you told me to write about 'The Duty of the College Man to Support Athletics!'"
"It's difficult to see," began Prof. Osborne, "how we could teach college boys to create literature--"
"At least," said the other, "you need not follow a method which would make it impossible for one of them to create literature if he had it in him."
"Does it seem to you as bad as that?" asked the professor, a little disturbed.
"It truly does," said Thyrsis.
"But what would you say we could do?"
To which the boy replied, "You might try to get your pupils to feel one deep emotion about life, or to think one worth-while thought; then they might stand a chance of knowing how it feels to write."
Section 7. Thyrsis was still reading in the papers and magazines of philanthropists and public-spirited citizens; and he was still sitting down to write them and explain his plight. He would beg them to believe that he wanted nothing but a bare living; and he would send copies of his books or articles or manuscripts, and ask these people to read them. And about this time an unusual thing happened--one of these philanthropists answered his letter. He wrote that he did not agree with Thyrsis' ideas, by any means, but appreciated the power of his writing, and was certain that he had a career before him. Whereupon Thyrsis made haste to follow up his advantage, and wrote another letter--one of the most intense and impassioned that he ever composed in his life.
He told about the new book he was dreaming. For years he had read his country's history, and lived in it and thrilled with it. Especially had he read the Civil War; and now he was planning a book that should hold the War, and all the meanings of the War, as a wine-cup holds the rich flavors and aromas of the grape. A titan struggle it had been, the birth-agony of a nation; and it was a thing to be contemplated with amazement, that it should have produced so little in the way of art. Half a dozen poems there were; but of novels not one above the grade of juvenile fiction.
What Thyrsis was planning was a new form; a series of swift visions, of glimpses into the very heart of the nation's agony. He described some of the scenes that were haunting him and driving him. The winter's night in the ditches in front of Marye's Heights, when the dead and dying lay piled in windrows, and the soul of a people sobbed in despair! The night on the field of Gettysburg, when the young soldier lay wounded, but rapt in his vision, seeing the hosts of the victorious future defiling upon that hallowed ground! The ghastly scenes in Andersonville, and the escape, and the long journey filled with perils; and the siege of Petersburg, and the surrender; and last of all the ecstasy of the dying man in the capital, when the grim, war-worn legions were tramping for two days through the city. Such, wrote Thyrsis, was the book that he wished to compose, and that was being stifled in him for the lack of two or three hundred dollars.
Upon the receipt of this letter the philanthropist wrote again, suggesting that the poet come to see him and talk things over. He sent the price of a railroad ticket to Boston; and so Thyrsis made the acquaintance of a new world--one might almost say of a whole new system of worlds.
For here was the Athens of America, the hub of the universe. In Boston they worshipped culture, they lived in literature and art and the transcendental excellences; and by the way of showing that there was no snobbery in them, they opened the gates of their most august mansions to this soul-sick poet, and invited him to tea.
Thyrsis got a strange impression among these people, who were living upon their knees before the shrine of their own literary history. One was treading here upon holy ground; in these very houses had dwelt immortal writers--their earthly forms had rested in these chairs, and their auras yet haunted the dim religious light of these drawing-rooms. There were old people who had known them in the flesh, and could tell anecdotes about them--to which one listened in reverent awe; at every gathering one met people who were writing biographies and memoirs of them, or editing their letters and journals, or writing essays and appreciations, criticisms and commentaries and catalogs and bibliographies. And to be worthy of the visitations of such hallowed influences, one must guard one's mind as a temple, a place of silences and serenities, to which no vulgar things could penetrate; one excluded all the uproar of these days of undisciplined egotism--above all things else one preserved an attitude of aloofness from that which presumed to call itself "literature" in such degenerate times.
To have become acquainted with these high standards was perhaps worth the rent of a room and the cost of some food and clean collars. So Thyrsis reflected when, after his week of waiting, he had his interview with the benevolent philanthropist, who explained to him, at great length, how charity had the effect of weakening the springs of character, and destroying those qualities of self-reliance and independence which were the most precious things in a man.
Section 8. It was a curious coincidence, one that seemed almost symbolic--that Thyrsis should have gone from the Brahmins of Boston to the Socialists of the East Side!
In one of the publishing-houses he visited, Thyrsis had met a young man who gave him a Socialist magazine to read; as the magazine was published in the next building, Thyrsis went in and met the editor. About this time they were crowning a new king in England, and Thyrsis, who had no use for kings, wrote a sarcastic poem which the Socialist editor published free of charge. And so the boy discovered a new way in which he could relieve his feelings.
"I see what you want," he admitted, in his arguments with this editor; "and it's the same thing as I want--every man with any sense must see that, in the ultimate outcome, all this capital will be owned by the public and not by private individuals. But what I object to is the way you go at it. The industrial process is a necessary thing; it is drilling and disciplining the workers. They are not yet fitted for the responsibility of managing the world."
"But," asked the editor, "what's to be the sign when they _are_ fitted?"
"When they have been educated," Thyrsis answered.
To which the editor responded, "Who is to educate them, if we don't?"
That was an interesting point; and Thyrsis found little by little that a new light was dawning upon him. He had somehow conceived of industrial evolution as something vast and intangible and mechanical, something that went on independent of men, and that could not be hurried or delayed. What this editor pointed out was that the process was a definite one, that it went on in the minds of men, and involved human effort--of which the publishing of Socialist literature was a most essential part.
"You ought to hear Darrell," said the man; and a few days later he wrote Thyrsis a note, asking him to go to a hall over on the East Side that evening.
Thyrsis went, and found a working-men's meeting-room, ill-lighted and ill-ventilated, with perhaps two hundred people in it. The chairman introduced the speaker of the evening; and so Thyrsis got his first glimpse of Henry Darrell.
He was something over forty years of age, slight of build; his face was pale to the point of ghostliness, and this impression was heightened by a jet black mustache and beard. One's first thought was that this man was no stranger to suffering.
He was not a good speaker, in the conventional sense, he fumbled for words, and repeated himself--and yet from his first sentence Thyrsis found himself listening spellbound. The voice went through him like the toll of a bell; never in all his life had he heard a speaker who put such a burden of anguish into his words--who gave such a sense of gigantic issues, of age-long destinies hanging in the balance, of world-embracing hopes and powers struggling to be born. Here was a prophet who carried in his soul the future of the race; who in the sudden flashes of his vision, in the swift rushes of his passionate pleadings, evoked from the deeps of the consciousness forces that one contemplated with terror--confronted one with martyrdoms and agonies and despairs.
"Revolution" was his title; he pictured modern civilization as it presented itself to the proletarian man--a gigantic Moloch, to which human lives were fed, a monster from whose dominion there was no deliverance, even in the uttermost parts of the earth. He pictured accident, disease and death, unemployment and starvation, child-labor, prostitution, war; he was the voice of the dispossessed of the earth, the man beneath the machine, ground up body, mind and soul in this "world-wide mill of economic might". And he showed how this man dragged down with him all society; how the chain that bound the slave was fastened also to the master--so that from the poverty and oppression and degradation of this "downmost man" came all the ulcers that festered in the social body. He saw the great economic machine grinding on day and night, the mighty forces rushing to their culmination. He saw the toiling millions pressed deeper and deeper into the mire; he saw their blind, convulsive struggles for deliverance; he saw over them the gigantic slave-driver with his thousand-lashed whip--the capitalist state, class-owned class-administered--backed by the capitalist church and the capitalist press and capitalist "public sentiment". So the hopes of the people went down in blood and reaction sat enthroned. The nations, ridden by despotisms, and whirled into senseless wars, ran the old course of militarism, imperialism, barbarism; and so civilization slid back yet again into the melting-pot!
Thyrsis had never heard such a speech as this in his life. When it was over, he went up to the platform where Darrell sat, looking more exhausted and pain-driven than ever; and in a few hesitating words he told of his interest, and asked for the speaker's address, that he might write to him. And that night he posted a letter, introducing himself as a young writer, who felt impelled to learn more about Darrell's ideas.
In reply came a note from the other, asking him to dine with him; and Thyrsis answered accepting.
Then, as chance would have it, he mentioned the circumstance to his mother. "Darrell!" she cried. "You don't mean Henry Darrell!"
"Yes," said Thyrsis. "Why?"
"And you would meet that man?"
"Why not?" he asked, perplexed.
"Haven't you read anything about him in the papers? That monster!"
"What do you mean?"
"A man who deserted his wife and children, and left them to starve, and ran away with some rich woman!"
Thyrsis recollected vaguely some sensational headlines, about the clergyman and college professor who had done the shocking things his mother spoke of, and was now a social outcast, and a preacher of anarchy and revolution. He recalled also that there had been a woman, beautiful and richly-dressed, with Darrell at the meeting.
The boy was not disturbed by all this, for he had long ago made up his mind that every man had to work out his own sex-problems; in fact, his first impulse was to admire a man who had had the courage to face the world upon such an issue. But he was sorry he had mentioned it to his mother, for she wept bitterly when she found that he meant to accept the invitation. That was the culmination of her life's defeat--that her son, who had been designed for a bishop, should be going to sit at table with Henry Darrell and his paramour!
Section 9. Thyrsis went to the apartment-hotel where Darrell lived, and was introduced to the beautiful lady as Mrs. Darrell, and they went down to the dining-room--where he noticed that everyone turned to stare at them as they entered. It made him feel that he must be doing something quite desperate; and yet it was not easy to imagine any wickedness of the man opposite to him--his voice was so kind, and his smile so gentle, and his whole aspect so appealing. He was dressed in black, and wore a soft black bow at his throat, which made still more conspicuous the pallor of his face; Thyrsis had never met a man he took to more quickly--there was something about him that was like a little child, calling for affection and sympathy.
Yet, also, there was the mind of a thinker. He was a man of culture, in the most vital sense of the word; he had swept the heavens of thought with a powerful telescope--had travelled, and knew many languages, and their literatures and arts. He had tested them all by a strong acid of his own; so that to talk with him was to discover the feet of clay of one's idols.
He spoke of Dante and Angelo, who were two of his heroes; he told of great experiences among the latter's titan frescos. He spoke of Mazzini, whose greatness as a writer the world had yet to appreciate; he spoke also of Wagner, whose music he valued less than his critical and polemical work. He told of modern artists both in Germany and Italy--revolutionary forces of whom Thyrsis had never heard at all. The day must come, said Darrell, when Americans would discover the great movements of contemporary thought, and realize their own provincialness. America thought of itself as "the land of the free", and that made it hard to teach. It was obvious enough that there had never been any real freedom in America--only government by propertied classes. The Revolution had been a rebellion of country gentlemen and city merchants; as one might know from the "constitution" they had adopted--one of the greatest barriers to human progress ever devised. And so with the Civil War, which to Darrell was one of the deeds of the newly-risen monster of Capitalism.
They went upstairs again, and Thyrsis found another man seated in the drawing-room. He was introduced by the name of Paret, and Thyrsis recognized him as the editor of "The Beacon", a magazine of which he had chanced upon a copy some time before. It was the first Socialist publication he had ever seen, and it had repelled him because its editor had printed his own picture in a conspicuous place, and also because in his leading editorial he had dealt flippantly with an eminent reformer and philanthropist for whom Thyrsis had a profound respect.
But here was the editor himself--not merely his photograph: a little man, clad in evening dress, very neat and dapper. He had a black beard, trimmed to a point, and also a sarcastic smile, and he impressed Thyrsis as a drawing-room edition of Mephistopheles. He lounged at ease in a big chair, not troubling to talk; save that every now and then he would punctuate the discussion with some droll reflection that stuck in one's mind like a burr.
Some one spoke of certain evangelists who were conducting a temperance campaign among the workers in the steel-mills. Said Paret: "If I had to live in hell, I'm sure I'd rather be drunk than sober!" And a little later Thyrsis spoke of a novel he had been reading, which set out to solve the problem of "capital and labor". Its solution seemed to be for the handsome young leader of the union to marry the daughter of the capitalist; and Paret remarked, with his dry smile, "No doubt if the capitalists and their daughters are willing, the union-leaders will come to the scratch." Again, Darrell was telling about the ten years' struggle he had waged to waken the Church to the great issue of the time; and how at last he had given up in despair. Paret remarked, "For my part, I never try to talk economics with preachers. When you talk to a business-man, he understands a business proposition, and you can get somewhere; but when you talk with a preacher, and you think he's been understanding you, you find that all the time he's been thinking what Moses would have said about it."
There came other guests: a German, hard-fisted, bullet-headed--editor of an East Side labor-paper. Some one spoke of working-men losing their votes through being unemployed and cast adrift; and Thyrsis remembered this man's grim comment, "They lose their votes, but they don't lose their voices!" There came a young man, fair as an Antinous, who with his verbal battering-ram shook the institutions of society so as to frighten even the author of "The Higher Cannibalism". There came also a poetess, whose work he had seen in the magazines, and with her a Russian youth who had come to study the thought of America, and was now going home, because America had no thought. Thyrsis had a good deal of patriotism left in him, and might have been angered by this stripling's contempt; but the stripling spoke with such quiet assurance, and his contempt was so boundless as to frighten one. "These people," he said--"they simply do not know what the intellectual life means!"
When Thyrsis went home that evening, he carried with him new ideas to ponder; also some of Darrell's pamphlets and speeches--the product of his ten years' struggle to make the teachings of Christ of some authority in the Christian Church. Thyrsis sat up late, and read one of these pamphlets, an indictment of Capitalism from the point of view of the artist and spiritual creator. It was a magnificent piece of writing; it came to Thyrsis like an echo out of his own life. So, before he slept that night he had written a letter to Darrell, telling of his struggles and his defeats. "I do not ask you to help _me_" he wrote. "I ask you to read my work, and decide if that be worth saving. For ashamed as I am to say it, I am at the end of my resources, and if some help does not come, I do not know what will become of me."
Thyrsis had now tried all varieties of the great and successful of the earth--the publishers and editors and authors, the college professors and clergymen, the statesmen and capitalists and philanthropists. And now, for the first time, he tried the Socialists. He trembled when he opened Darrell's reply. Could it be that this man would be like all the rest?
But no, he was different! "Dear Brother:" he wrote. "I understand what you have told me, and I appreciate your position. Send me your manuscripts at once; I leave to-morrow for a lecture-trip, and on my way I will read everything, and let you hear from me on my return. In the meantime, I should add that I am helping two Socialist publications, and a good many individuals too, and that my resources have been absurdly exaggerated in the public prints. I say this, that you may not overestimate what I might possibly be able to do."
Section 10. So Thyrsis sent a manuscript of his play, and a copy of his first novel, and a set of proofs of "The Hearer of Truth"; and then for a couple of weeks he waited in suspense and dread. He could not see how a man like Henry Darrell could fail to appreciate his work; but on the other hand, after so many disappointments and rebuffs, how could he bring himself to believe that any one would really give him aid?
At last came a second letter; a letter full of warm-hearted sympathy--pointing out the faults of immaturity in his work, but also recognizing its real merits. It closed with this all-important sentence: "I will do what I can to help you, so come and let us talk it over."
Thyrsis went; and as they sat in his study, Darrell put his arm about him, and told him a little of his own career. He had begun life as a street-waif, a newsboy and bootblack; and once when he was ill, he had gone to a drug-store for help, and the druggist had given him a poison by mistake, so that all his life thereafter he had more sick days than well. He told how, at an early age, he had gone to a country college to seek an education as a divinity-student; he had arrived, weary and footsore, and with his last cent had bought a post-card to let his mother know that he was safe He told how, as a clergyman and college professor the gospel of the time had come to him; how he had preached and labored, amid persecution and obloquy, until he had come to realize that the Church was a dead sepulchre; and how at last he had thrown everything to the winds, and given himself to the working-class political movement.
Then Thyrsis, scrupulous as ever, said, "I know nothing about Socialism. I mean to study it; but I might not come to believe in it--how can I tell? I would not want you to help me under any misapprehension."
At which the other smiled gently. "I am working for the truth," he said.
They talked about Thyrsis and his needs. Presumably, he said, he would have money from his new book in the fall, but meantime he wanted to take his family into the country. He could live on thirty dollars a month; it would be a matter of some two hundred and fifty dollars. Darrell said he would give him this; and Thyrsis sat there, powerless to thank him, his voice trembling, and a mist of tears in his eyes.
He went on to tell his friend of the work that he meant to do. Darrell had said that to him the Civil War was a crime; but Thyrsis did not know what he meant by that. "I believe in my country!" he said. "It has tried for high things--and it will come to them! I know that it can be thrilled and roused, and made to see the shame into which it is fallen."
Darrell pressed his arm, and answered, with a smile, "I won't argue with you about the War; you go ahead and write your book!"
So Thyrsis went home to Corydon, as one who brings a reprieve to a prisoner under sentence of death. Such a deliverance as it was to them! And such transports of relief and gratitude as they experienced! He sang the praises of Darrell, and of the new friends he had made at Darrell's; also he brought an invitation for Corydon to come with him to an evening reception the next week. They were anxious to meet her, he said; and Corydon was anxious to go.
But, alas, this did not work out according to expectations. Thyrsis discovered now what his wife had meant when she wrote that suffering and humiliation were breaking down her character. She could not bear to meet intellectual people, to take part in the competition of their life. For the most part these were men and women of intense personalities, absorbed in their own ideas, keenly critical, and not very merciful to any sort of weakness. And Corydon was morbidly aware of her own lack of accomplishments, and acutely sensitive as to what others thought about her. A strange figure she must have made in any one's drawing-room--with the old dress she had fixed up, and the lace-collar she had borrowed for the occasion, and the sad face with the large dark eyes. The talk of the company ran to politics; and Corydon had nothing to say about politics. She could only sit in a corner while Thyrsis talked, and suffer agonies of humiliation.
To make matters worse, there came a literary lion that evening; one of the few modern writers whose books Corydon knew and loved. But when they were introduced, he scarcely looked at her; he went on talking to an East Side poetess whose opinions were fluent and ready. So Corydon found herself shunted into a corner with an unknown old lady. It was one of Corydon's peculiarities that she abhorred old ladies; and this one questioned her about the feeding of infants and told her that she was ill-equipped for the responsibilities of motherhood!
On her way home she poured out her bitterness to Thyrsis. "I can see exactly how it is," she said. "They all think you've married a pretty face!"
"You haven't given them much chance to think otherwise," he pleaded.
"They don't want any chance," she exclaimed. "They've got it all settled! You are the rising light, which is to astonish the world--and I'm your youthful blunder. I stay at home and take care of the baby, and they all feel sorry for you."
"Do you want them to feel sorry for _you?_" he asked.
To which Corydon answered, "I don't want them to know about me at all. I want to get away, and stay by myself, and get back my self-respect." And so it was decided that in a couple of weeks more--the first of April--they would shake the dust of the city from their feet. They sent for their tent and other goods, and began inquiring about a place to camp.
Section 11. A few days more passed; and then, one Sundav morning, Thyrsis' mother came to him in tears, with a copy of a newspaper "magazine-supplement" in her hand.
"Look at this!" she cried; and Thyrsis stared.
There was a full-page article, with many illustrations, and a headline two inches deep--"Henry Darrell to found Free-Love Colony! Ex-college professor and clergyman buys farm to teach his doctrines." There was a picture of Darrell, standing upon a ladder and nailing up an announcement of his defiance to the institution of marriage; and there were pictures of his wife and child, and of the farm he had bought, and a long account of the colony which he was organizing, and in which he meant to preach and practice his ideas of "free love".
Thyrsis was half dazed. "I don't believe it!" he cried; whereat his mother wrung her hands.
"Not believe it!" she exclaimed. "Why, the paper even gives the price he paid for the place!"
So Thyrsis took the article and went to see Henry Darrell again; and there followed one of the most painful experiences of his life.
He found his friend like a man blasted by a stroke of lightning. His very physical appearance was altered; his voice shook and his eyes were wild, and he paced the room, his whole aspect one cry of agony.
He pointed Thyrsis to a lot of clippings that lay upon the table--the first editorial comments upon this new pronouncement. There was one from an evening paper, which had close upon a million circulation, and had devoted its whole editorial page to a scathing denunciation, in which it was declared that "Prof. Darrell's morality is that of the higher apes."
"Think of it!" the man cried. "And the thing will go from one end of the country to the other!"
"But"--gasped Thyrsis, bewildered--"then it is not true?"
"True?" cried Darrell. "True? How can you ask me?"
"But--the colony! What is it to be?"
"There is not going to be any colony. I never dreamed of such a thing!"
'And haven't you bought any farm?"
"My wife bought a farm, over a year ago--because we wanted to live in the country!"
"But then," gasped Thyrsis--"how dare they?"
"They dare anything with me!" cried the other. "_Anything!_"
"And have you no redress?"
"Redress? What redress?"
He went on to tell Thyrsis what had happened. He and Mrs. Darrell had gone down to the farm to see about getting it ready, and a woman had come, representing that she wished to write a magazine article about "the country-homes of literary Americans". Upon this pretext she had secured a photograph of the place, and of Darrell, and of his wife and child. She had even attempted to secure a photograph of his wife's aged mother, who lived with her, and who was involved in the affair because the money belonged to her. Then the woman had gone away--and a couple of weeks later had come this!
"And I thought they were through with us!" Darrell whispered, with a shudder. "I thought it was all over!"
He sat in a chair, with his face hid in his arms. Thyrsis put his hand upon his shoulder, and the man caught it. "Listen," he exclaimed. "You can see this thing from the outside, you know the literary world. Do you think that I can ever rise above this? Is there any use in trying?"
"How do you mean?" Thyrsis asked, perplexed.
"I mean--is it worth while for me to go on writing? Can I ever have any influence?"
Thyrsis was shocked at the question--as he had been at the way Darrell took the whole thing. He knew that his friend had money enough to live comfortably; and why should any sort of criticism matter to a man who was economically free?
"Brother," he said, "you have forgotten your Dante."
"How do you mean?" asked the other.
"_Segui il tuo corso e lascia dir le gente!_" quoted Thyrsis; and then he added, "You don't seem to realize that these are newspapers, and nobody really credits them."
"Ah, but they do!" cried Darrell. "You don't know what I have been through with! My oldest friends have cut me! Clergymen have refused to sit at table with me! The organization that I gave ten years of my life to founding has gone all to pieces. I have been utterly ruined--I have been wiped out, destroyed!"
"But, my dear man," Thyrsis argued, "you are setting out to teach a new doctrine, one that is abhorrent to people. And how can you expect to avoid being attacked? It seems to me that either you ought not to have done it, or else been prepared for some of this uproar."
"But because a man becomes a Socialist, are they to libel him in these foul ways?"
"I don't mean that. It's not only that you are a Socialist, but that you have defied their marriage-laws."
"But I haven't!" exclaimed Darrel.
"What do you mean?" asked Thyrsis, perplexed.
"I have defied no law--nor even any convention. I have done everything that the world requires."
Thyrsis stared at him, amazed. "Why, surely," he gasped, "you and--and Mrs. Darrell--you are not _married?_"
"Married!" exclaimed the other. "We were married here in New York, by a regularly-ordained clergyman!"
Thyrsis could not find words to express his dismay. "I--I had no idea of that!" he gasped. I thought--"
"You see the lies!" cried the other. "Even _you_ had swallowed them!"
It took Thyrsis some time to adjust himself to this new point of view. He had thought of his friend as a man who had boldly defied the convention of marriage; and instead of that he was apparently a man cowering under the lash of the world's undeserved rage. But if so--what an amazing and incredible thing was the mesh of slander and falsehood in which he had been entangled!
Section 12. Little by little Thyrsis drew from Darrell the story of his marital experience. Before he had been of age, as a poor student, he had boarded with a woman many years his senior, who had set out to lure him into marrying her. "I don't believe that she ever loved me one hour," he said. "She had made up her mind that I was a man of brilliant parts, and that I would have worldly success. To me the thing was like an evil dream--I couldn't realize it. And I can't tell you about it now--it was too horrible. She was older than I, and so different--she was more like a man. And for twenty years she held me; I had to stay--I was utterly at her mercy!"
The man's voice fell to a whisper, and he pressed Thyrsis' hand convulsively; there were tears upon his cheeks. "I could not tell it all to anyone," he said. "It makes me cry like a child to think of it. I'm only getting over it little by little--realizing how I was tortured. This woman had no interest in me, intellectual or spiritual; she brought up my children to despise me. I would stay upstairs in my study, writing sermons--that was all my life! For twenty years I waded through my own blood!"
Darrell paused to get control of himself, and then went on.
"One of my parishioners was my present wife's mother. She was one of the old-time abolitionists, and she was wealthy; and now, in her old age, she saw the new light, and became a Socialist. This, of course, was like gall to her family; they were powers in the state--the railroad people, who control the legislature and run the government. And so their newspapers denounced me, and denounced the university where I taught.
"Then came her daughter--a young girl out of college. I was at their home often, and we became friends. She saw how unhappy I was, and she tried to open my wife's eyes, and to win her over to me. But, of course, she failed in that; and then, little by little we found that we loved each other. You know me--you know that I am not a base man, nor a careless man; and you will believe me when I tell you that there was nothing between us that the world could have called wrong. We knew that we loved, and we knew that there was no hope. And that went on for eight years; for eight years I renounced--and strove with every power of my heart and soul to make something out of that renunciation, to transmute it into spiritual power. And I failed--I could not do it; and in the end I knew the reason. It was not beauty and nobility--it was madness and horror; it was not life--it was death! The time came when I knew that our renunciation was simply a crime against the soul. Can you see what I mean?"
"Yes," said Thyrsis, "I can see."
'And see what that meant to me--the situation I faced! I was a clergyman--and preaching a new crusade to the world. It was like being in a cage, with bars of red-hot metal. A hundred times I would go towards them--and a hundred times I would shrink back. But I had to grasp them in the end."
"I see!" whispered the other.
"The thing was becoming a scandal anyway; the world was bound to make a scandal of it, whether we would or no. It was a scandal that I visited in another woman's home, it was a scandal that I spent her money in my propaganda. The very children on the streets would taunt my children about it. And then, my health broke down from overwork; and the mother was going abroad, and she invited me to go with her and her daughter; and, of course, that made it worse. So at last the old lady came to me. 'You love my daughter,' she said, 'and the world has thrown her into your arms. You must let a divorce be arranged, and then marry my daughter.'"
"And you got the divorce yourself?" asked Thyrsis.
"No," said Darrell. "There were grounds enough; but it would have meant to attack my wife in the public prints, and I would not do it. I had to let her charge me with desertion, and say nothing."
"And, of course, they distorted that," said Thyrsis.
"They distorted everything!" cried the other. "My present wife gave my first wife all her patrimony; and I thought that was generous--I thought it was a proof of love. But the newspapers made it that she had bought me!"
"And they distorted your second marriage?" asked Thyrsis.
"They lied about it deliberately," was Darrell's reply--"Some of our friends gave little addresses of greeting; and so the newspapers called it a new kind of wedding--a 'Socialist wedding', which we had designed for our new kind of unions! And now, when we buy a farm, so that we can live quietly in the country, they turn that into a 'free love colony'!"
Section 13. Thyrsis went away from this interview with some new problems to ponder upon. He had seen a little of this power of the newspapers to defile and torment a man; but he had never dreamed of anything as bad as this. This was murderous, this was monstrous. He saw these papers now as gigantic engines of exploitation and oppression--irresponsible, unscrupulous, wanton--turned loose in society to crush and destroy whom they would.
They had taken this man Darrell and they had poured out their poisons upon him; they had tortured him hideously, they had burned him up as with vitriol. As a public force he was no longer a human being at all--he was a deformity, a spectre conjured up to bring fright to the beholder. And through it all he was utterly helpless--as much at their mercy as an infant in the hands of savages. And what had he done? Why had the torture been visited upon him?
Thyrsis pictured the men who had led in this soul-hunt. They were supposed to be enlightened Americans at the dawn of the twentieth century; and did they truly hold to the superstition of marriage as a religious sacrament, not to be dissolved by mortal power? Did they really believe that a man who had once been drawn into matrimony was obligated for life--no matter how unhappy he might be, no matter to what indignities he might be subjected? Or, if they did recognize the permissibility of divorce--then why this hue and cry after Darrell, who had borne his punishment for twenty years, and had waited for eight or ten years to test the depths of his new love?
The question answered itself; and the answer fanned Thyrsis' soul into a blaze of indignation. All this patter about the deserted wife, sitting at home with her children and weeping her eyes out--all that was so much hocus-pocus for the ears of the mob. The chiefs of this Inquisition and their torturers and slaves wrote it with their tongues in their cheeks. What they saw was that they had got securely strapped upon their rack the man who had threatened their power, who had laid bare its sources and exposed its iniquity. And they meant that if ever he came out of their torture-chamber, it should be so mangled and crippled that never again would he lift a finger against them!
The gist of the "Darrell case", when you got right down to it, was a quarrel over property; it was the snarling of wolves who had been disturbed at their feeding. Darrell had denounced wealth and the exploiters of wealth, and now he had married a woman of wealth; and was he to get away with his prize? That was the meaning of all the loud halloo--for that the hounds were unleashed and the hunting-horns sounded. Thyrsis pictured the men who "wrote up" the Darrell story. He had known them in the newspaper-world--the servants of the giant publicity-machine; living and working in the roar and rush of it, in a stifling atmosphere where the finer qualities of the soul were poisoned and withered over night. They lived their lives, almost without exception, by means of alcohol and coffee and tobacco; they were scornful, disillusioned, cynical beyond all telling and all belief. Their only god in heaven or earth or the waters under the earth was "copy". To such men there were two possible bonds of interest in a woman--the first being lust, and the second money. In the case of Henry Darrell they found both these motives; and so how clear the story was to them!
Thyrsis thought, also, of the men who owned and managed the papers; those who had turned loose the hunt and directed it. Rich men were they, who had built these publicity machines for their own purposes. And what were they in their private lives? Some of them were notoriously dissolute; and still others hid their ways under a veil of hypocrisy--just as in their editorials they hid their class-interests under pretenses of principle. And how easy it would have been for Darrell to get what he wanted without losing his reputation--if only he had been willing to follow the example of these eminent citizens! Thyrsis knew one man, the editor of an appallingly respectable journal, who had invited a young girl to his wife's home and there attempted to seduce her. He knew the proprietor of another, whose cheerful custom it was to go about among his newly-married women-friends and suggest that, inasmuch as he was a "superman," and their husbands were weaklings, they should let him become in secret the father of their children. This amateur eugenist was accustomed to maintain that the great men in history had for the most part been bastards; and Thyrsis, knowing this fact about him, would read editorials in his papers, in which Henry Darrell was denounced as an enemy of the home!
Meantime Thyrsis was reading Darrell's books and pamphlets, and coming to realize what a mind was here being destroyed. For this man, it seemed to him, was master of the noblest prose utterance that had been heard in America since Emerson died. He went again to hear him speak, in another ill-lighted and stuffy hall before less than a hundred people; and the pain of this was more than he could bear. He went home that night with his friend, and labored with him with all the force of his being. "You stay here," he declared, "and put yourself at the mercy of your enemies! You waste your faculties contending with them--even knowing about them is enough to destroy you. And all the while you might escape from them altogether--might do your real work, that the world knows nothing of. No one can hinder you. And when you have written the book of your soul, then your tormentors will be--they will be like the tormentors of Dante! Go away! Go away to Europe, where you can be free!"
And so before long, he stood upon a steamer-pier and waved Henry Darrell and his wife farewell. And every now and then would come letters, telling of long, long agonies; for Darrell had to fight for those few rare days when ill health would permit him to think. So year by year he labored at what Thyrsis knew, if it was ever finished, would be America's first world-poem; and in the meantime eminent statesmen and moralists who were alarmed at the progress of "Socialist agitation", would continue to conjure up before the public mind the night-mare spectre of the once-respected clergyman, who had deserted his weeping wife and children, and run away with a rich woman to found a "free-love colony"!
Section 14. A couple of days after the Darrells sailed, Thyrsis set out himself to find a home. On account of the new book, he would have to be near a library, and so he had selected a college-town not far from New York. He went there now, and put up for a week at a students' boarding-house, while prosecuting his search.
A strange experience it was to him, after the years of struggle and contact with the world, to come back to that academic atmosphere; to find men who were still peacefully counting up the "feminine endings" in Shakespeare's verse, and writing elaborate theses upon the sources of the Spenserian legends. Upon his excursions into the country some of these young men would tramp with him--threshing out, student-fashion, the problems of the universe; and how staggering it was to meet a man who was about to receive a master's degree in literature--and who regarded Arthur Hugh Clough as a "dangerous" poet, and Tennyson's "Two Voices" as containing vital thought, and T. H. Green as the world's leading philosopher! And this was the "education" that was dispensed at America's most aristocratic university--for this many millions of dollars had been contributed, and scores of magnificent buildings erected!
Thyrsis saw that a partial explanation lay in the fact that in connection with the university there existed a great theological seminary. Some of these future ministers came also to the boarding-house, and Thyrsis listened to their shop-talk--about the difference between "transubstantiation" and "consubstantiation", and the status of the controversy over the St. John Gospel. He heard one man cite arguments from Paley's "Moral Philosophy"; and another making bold to state that he was uncertain about the verbal inspiration of the Pentateuch!
To Thyrsis, as he listened to these discussions, it was as if he felt a black shadow stealing across his soul. He wondered why he should hate these men with a personal hatred; he tried to argue with himself that they must be well-meaning and earnest. The truth was that they seemed to him just like the law-students, men moved by sordid and low ideals; the only difference was that their minds were not so keen as the lawyers'. Thyrsis was coming little by little to understand the economic causes of things, and he perceived that this theological world represented a stagnant place in the stream of national culture; it being a subsidized world, maintained half by charity, vital men turned from it; it drew to itself the feebler minds, or such as wished to live at ease, and not inquire too closely into the difference between truth and falsehood.
Section 15. A few miles out from the town Thyrsis found a farm with an abundance of wild woodland, where the farmer gave him permission to camp. And so he went back and got some lumber, and loaded his tent and supplies on a wagon, and wrote Corydon that he would meet her the next afternoon. With the help of the farmer's boy he labored the rest of the day at building the platform, and putting up the tent, and getting their belongings in order. The next day he was up at dawn, constructing tables and stands; and later on he hired the farmer's "jagger-wagon", and drove in for Corydon and Cedric and the trunks.
It was a glorious spring day, of turquoise sky and glinting sunshine; and later, when the sun was low, the woods were flushed with a glow of scarlet and purple. It lent a glory to the scene, shedding a halo about the commonest tasks; the unpacking of blankets and dishes, the ranging of groceries upon shelves. They were free from all the world at last--they were setting out upon the journey of their lives together!
So it was with singing and laughter that they went at their work. The baby crawled about on the tent-floor and got into everybody's way, and crowed with delight at the novel surroundings; and later on his mother gave him his supper and put him to bed; and then she spread a feast of bread and butter, and fresh milk and eggs and a can of fruit, and they sat down to the first meal they had eaten together in many a long, long month.
They were tired and ravenously hungry; but their happiness of soul was keener even than any physical sensation, and they sat leaning upon their elbows and gazing across the table, reading the wonder in each other's eyes.
"It has been a year since we parted!" whispered Corydon.
"Just a year!" he said. "It seems like ten of them."
"And do you remember, Thyrsis, how we prayed! How we prayed for this very hour!"
He took her hands in his. Once more they renewed their pledges of devotion; once more the vision of their hopes unrolled before them. "From now on," he whispered, "our life is our own! We can make it whatever we will. Let us make it something beautiful."
And so there they made a compact. They would speak no more of the year that was past; it was a bad dream, and now it was gone. Let it be swept from their thoughts, and let them go on to make the future what they desired it to be.
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