An Anarchist Woman
III: Domestic Service (Continued)
It is possible that in fifty years people now called “anarchists” will have in America as respectable a place as they now occupy in France. When we are more accustomed to social thought, we shall not regard those who radically differ from us, as mad dogs or malevolent idiots. We may, indeed, still look on them as mistaken, but what now seems to us their insanity or peculiar atrociousness will vanish with our growing understanding and experience. When we become less crude in civilisation, they will seem less crude to us. When, with growing culture, we see things more nearly as they are, the things we see, including the anarchists, will seem more sympathetic.
This book is not an attempt to justify any person or set of persons. It is not a political or economic pamphlet. It represents an effort to throw light on what may be called the temperament of revolt; by portraying the mental life of an individual, and incidentally of more than one individual, I have hoped to make more clear the natural history of the anarchist; to show under what conditions, in connection with what personal qualities, the anarchistic habit of mind arises, and to point out, suggestively, rather than explicitly, the nature, the value, and the tragic limitation of the social rebel.
I: School and Factory
When I first met the heroine of this tale, Marie, she was twenty-three years old, yet had lived enough for a woman of more than twice her age; indeed, few women of any age ever acquire the amount of mental experience possessed by this factory hand and servant girl. She had more completely translated her life into terms of thought than any other woman of my acquaintance. She had been deeply helped to do this by a man of strange character, with whom she lived. She had also been deeply helped by vice and misery. The intensity of her nature showed in her anæmic body and her large eyes, dark and glowing, but more than all in the way she had of making everything her own, no matter from what source it came. Everything she said, or wrote, or did, all fitted into her personality, had one note, her note. But perhaps the most intense quality of all was—and is—this never-failing though gracefully manifested energy, resulting in unity of character and temperament in expression. To keep everything in tone is a quality of art; it is also a sign of great, though not always obvious, energy.
Marie was born in a Chicago slum in 1884. Her mother, half French and half German, was endowed with cruelty truly international. Her father was a drunken machinist of German extraction, generally out of a job. Both the parents beat the little girl, the mother because she was cruel, the father because he was a beast.
Her earliest memories are connected with the smoky streets of the West Side. The smell of the Stock Yards suggests her youth to her, as the smell of walnuts brings back to the more fortunate country man the rich beauty of a natural childhood. The beatings she received from her parents and the joy of her escape to the street—these are the strongest impressions derived from her tender years. To her the street was paradise; her home, hell. She knew that when she returned to the house she would find a mother half crazy with poverty and unhappiness and a father half crazy with drink; and that, if for no other reason than for diversion and relief, they would beat her.
The authorities finally succeeded in forcing the little girl’s parents to send her to school, where she remained only two years. She was not quite ten years old at the time, and the memories she has of her school life are only a trifle less unpleasant than those of her home. The last day in school especially lives in her recollection; and she thus described it in a letter to me:
“It was a warm morning toward the end of May, and room seven in the Pullman School was pervaded with an intense excitement. For soon examination day would come and the pupils were being prepared for the occasion. The children fidgeted uneasily in their seats and even the teacher became nervous and impatient, glancing often at the big clock which ticked so monotonously and slowly. Soon it would be twelve o’clock and teacher and pupils would have a respite for a few hours. If only those stupid children would solve those problems in arithmetic, the most difficult study, they would not have to stay after school. But it happened just as the teacher had feared: A dozen children, of whom two were boys, did not give correct answers. After the school was dismissed the stupids were ordered to go to the blackboard, and stay there until they saw the light.
“Meanwhile the teacher sat at her desk with a despairing look on her face and the general air of a martyr, as she noticed the futile efforts of those stupid children. But she was evidently determined not to help them out of their difficulty. After a while, one of the boys solved the problem and was dismissed. The other children looked at his work and quickly copied it before the teacher could erase it from the blackboard. Not I, however, for I was at the other end of the room and my eyes were weak. I enviously watched the other children leaving the room, until I was alone with the teacher. I tried the terrible, senseless problem again and again and became so confused and nervous that I was on the verge of tears. All the little knowledge I had of mathematics left me completely. Finally the teacher lost her patience and showed me how to get the answer.
“‘You stupid girl!’ she said, ‘you will never pass the examination.’
“But I did not care. I ran from the school-house, and on my way home kept saying to myself: ‘I don’t have to pass, for I’m going to work next week, and I’m so glad. Then I’ll never, never have to study arithmetic any more. Oh, how I wish next week were here already.’ I was not quite twelve years old and I would have been working even then if my prospective employers had not instructed my parents to secure a certificate showing that I was fourteen years old.
“The next Monday morning, bright and early, with this new certificate, which was sworn to by my mother and duly attested by a notary, I presented myself at the office of Messrs. Hardwin & Co., in South Water Street. They were wholesale dealers in miscellaneous household supplies, from bird-seed and flavouring extracts to bluing and lye, the latter the principal article. Mr. Hardwin, a benevolent looking old gentleman with a white beard and a skull-cap, glanced at the certificate, and patting stupid me kindly on the head, hired me for two dollars a week, and sent me upstairs where I was put to work washing old cans collected from the ash barrels and alleys of the city. After being cleansed, they were filled with lye, and new covers sealed on them. Then they were covered with neat white labels, and packed in cases and delivered to all parts of the United States.
“This sort of work was not what I had expected to do. But I was told by my mother that all people who worked for their living had to start in that way, and gradually work themselves upwards. So I waited patiently for the time when I might, perhaps, secure the position of labelling. Then, too, I thought that great place would bring an increase of salary, for I had already learned that the lighter the work, the heavier the pay.
“About this time the firm received large orders for lye, and all hands were put to work filling the cans with this corrosive material, for which purpose rubber gloves were used. As I was the latest addition to the factory, and the greenest girl in the place, it was easy for the older and more experienced girls to secure the best gloves for the work. The old, worn out ones, which were full of holes, fell to me, who was too young and timid to rebel against these conditions. After a week of this work my hands were all eaten by the lye and it was torturing agony to move them in any way. At night my mother used to put salve and bandages on them, but this treatment was of little avail because the next day my hands would be covered with that horrible stuff which ate deeper and deeper, until the pain became unbearable.
“So, one morning, I went to Mr. Hardwin and begged him, with tears in my eyes, to let me work at something else until my hands were healed. He looked at my swollen fingers and said: ‘My poor girl, you certainly shall work at something else. I will give you a nice easy job making bird-seed boxes.’
“I was immediately put at my new work, which seemed really delightful to me, but I was rather lonely, as I was the only girl on that floor. I made thousands and thousands of those boxes, which were stacked in heaps upon the shelves above my head. Directly behind me was a great belt, connected with the cutting machine up-stairs, which all day long cut out the round pieces of tin needed to cover the cans of lye after they were filled. This belt as it whirled round and round made a great noise. But I soon grew quite used to it. I became like a machine myself. All alone I sat there, day after day, while the great belt whirred out the same monotonous song. I kept time to its monotony by a few movements of the hands endlessly repeated, turning out boxes and boxes and boxes, all alike. I saw, heard, and felt almost nothing. My hands moved unconsciously and instinctively. At this time, I think, the first feeling of profound ennui came to me, that feeling which to shake off I would at a later time do anything, anything, no matter how violent and extreme it was. Only at noon time when the whistle shrieked did I seem alive, and then I was dazed and trembling.
“The great belt then stopped whirring for half an hour and I sat and ate my frugal meal, listening eagerly to the talk going on about me. Sometimes the girls made me the butt of their jests, for they were envious of me, because of my easy job, and hinted that I was not getting this snap for nothing. All of this I did not in the least understand, for I was not much more than twelve years old.
“One morning I was surprised and delighted to see Mr. Hardwin come in and ask me how my hands were, and if I still suffered much pain. I was so grateful that tears came to my eyes as I answered. That night I told my mother what an extremely kind and good man Mr. Hardwin was. He repeated these visits several mornings in succession, always asking me how I was getting along, and patting me on the head or shoulder as he went away. I had been working perhaps two months at this job, when one morning it happened that I was the first one of the employees to arrive at the factory. While I was in the dressing-room removing my wraps, a knock came on the door, and Mr. Hardwin entered. Quickly seizing me in his arms, he covered my face with kisses, and did not quit until he heard someone approaching. He left hastily, saying ‘Don’t tell!’ the only words he uttered during the scene. I was so amazed that I did not even scream. Nor did I understand, but I did feel troubled and ashamed. All that morning I was uneasy and nervous, and the following day I waited outside until some of the girls came, so that I should not have to go into the factory alone. The day following I received an envelope with my pay, and was told that my services were no longer required.
“I got a beating at home as a result of my discharge, but as I soon found another job, my parents became comparatively kind to me again. This new work was in a candy factory, where I was both startled and amazed at the way the beautiful, sweet candies were made. I remained there about six months, when I was discharged because I had been late several times in one week. The next job was in a brewery, where I labelled beer bottles. This was the cleanest and most wholesome place I ever worked in. We had a whole hour for dinner, and the boys and girls were all so jolly. Nearly every day after lunch we played on mouth organs and danced on the smooth floor until the whistle blew for work again. Oh, there, it was good to work! Three times a day each employee received a bottle of nice cold beer, which, after several hours of hard work, tasted lovely. The people there seemed to think it was not evil to be happy, and I naturally agreed with them against the good people outside. But one ill-fated day my parents heard that a brewery was an immoral place for a young girl to work in, and that if I remained there I might lose my character and reputation. So I was taken away and put to work in another place and then in another, but I am sure that I never again found a place that I liked half as well as the dear old bottled beer shop.”
When Marie was about fifteen years old, her mother took her away from the factories and put her into domestic service. Factory work was telling on the girl’s health, and the night freedom it involved did not please her mother. The young woman for some time had felt the charms of associating with many boys and girls unchaperoned and untrammelled. She liked the streets at night better than her home.
“When I got into the street,” said Marie, “I felt like a dog let loose.” Of course, she hated to go into domestic service, where the evenings would no longer be all her own, but her mother was still strong enough to have her way.
“At that time,” Marie wrote me, “I was a poor, awkward girl, somewhat stupid, perhaps, but who would not be at my age and in the same environment? I had received most of my education in the factories and stores down-town, which was perhaps beneficial to everybody but me. Even my mother, who in some ways was stupid and hard, noticed that this sort of education was likely to have what is called a demoralizing effect on me. So she induced a kind-hearted, philanthropic woman, Mrs. Belshow, to take me as servant girl. Mrs. Belshow was high in affairs of the Hull House Settlement Workers, and generously paid my mother one dollar and a half a week for my services.
“Mrs. Belshow had a beautiful house. At first these fine surroundings, to which I was entirely unused, made me more awkward than ever. But soon I got accustomed to the place and became very serviceable to my employer. I was lady’s maid as well as general housekeeper, and my fine lady duly appreciated my work, for she never asked me to do service after half-past nine at night or before half-past five in the morning. Besides, she allowed me Sunday afternoon free, but only to go to church or Sunday School. For the honourable lady told me very kindly that she did not wish to interfere with my religion in any way whatever. This advice I accepted meekly, as I was greatly in awe of her, though I should have much preferred to spend my half holiday in my home locality and to dance there with other stupid boys and girls in Lammer’s Hall, where the entrancing strains of the concertina were to be heard every Sunday afternoon. The young folks out that way were not strong on religion; or, if they were, they would receive all the soul’s medicine necessary by attending church in the morning, no doubt thereby feeling more vigorous and fit for enjoying the dance afterwards.
“But I, poor stupid, had learned from my mistress that dance-halls were vile and abominable. Of course, I believed all that Mrs. Belshow told me. I had not the slightest idea that she did not know everything. Why, she belonged to Hull House, that big place in Halsted Street, which had flowers and lace curtains in all the windows, and big looking-glasses and carpets and silver things on the inside; and many beautiful ladies who wore grand silk dresses and big hats with feathers came to see my mistress nearly every day, and they all talked a great deal about the evils of dance-halls and saloons and theatres. I had always stupidly thought that those places were very nice, especially the dance-halls, because I always enjoyed myself there better than anywhere else. I had never been in a theatre, but I had often been in the saloons to rush the can for my father, and I had noticed that people seemed to enjoy themselves there. There were long green tables in the saloons on which men played pool, and there were books scattered about in which were jokes and funny pictures. And the men played cards and told stories and danced and sang and did about anything they wanted to. This seemed to me good, and I felt sure at the time that if I were a man I should like to be there, too.
“But now I learned that these were terrible places, dens of vice and crime. What vice was, I did not know, but crime meant murdering somebody or doing something else dreadful. I thought about what I heard the fine ladies say until my poor little head became quite muddled. Left to myself, I could not see anything so terrible about these places, but if these finely dressed ladies said they were terrible, why they must be so. They knew better than I did. But I wondered dreamily if all terrible places were as nice as dance-halls.
“After the novelty of the situation wore away, life became rather wearisome to me, and I sometimes wished I were again working in the old factory. I thought of the evenings, when my day’s work in the factory was done and I was walking in the streets with my chums, telling them, perhaps, of the small girls who worked with me in the factory, and of the guys who waited for them on Saturday nights and took them to the show. And one of the girl’s guys always used to give her a whole box of the swellest candy you ever tasted.
“Dreaming thus one day of all the happy times I had known, I loitered over my work, as I fear I often did, and was sharply reprimanded by my mistress, the honourable lady, who wanted to speak to me as soon as possible on a matter of grave importance. I finished making the bed in a hurry and went into the presence of Mrs. Belshow, who said to me:
“‘My dear child, how old are you?’
“‘Past fifteen, ma’am.’
“‘Fifteen! H’m, you’re quite a big girl for your age. I’m astonished that you have no more self-respect, or your mother for you! How is it that she allows you to go about with such short dresses? Why, it is shameful; I am surprised, for your mother seemed to me a sensible sort of a woman. I declare, I never would allow my daughter to expose herself in such a shameless manner, and I certainly will not allow anyone in my employ to do so. Only the other day my attention was called by some of my friends to your most careless condition. They said they could not help noticing it, it was so dreadful. It is this kind of thing which causes a great part of the vice and immorality with which we are surrounded. Unless a mother has common decency enough to clothe her child properly, it seems hopeless for us to accomplish anything. Now, my dear child, I want you to go home this very night and tell your mother you must positively have some long dresses, or no self-respecting person would care to associate with you. And you must try to have at least one respectable garment by Sunday, for I am ashamed to have you seen going out of my house in your present condition. Run along now and don’t be home later than ten this evening.’
“During this long harangue I stood gazing on the floor, blushing painfully. I wanted to tell my mistress why I had no longer dresses, but could only stammer ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘no, ma’am,’ and was very glad to escape from the room as soon as my lady had finished.
“When my mother heard about the affair, she was very indignant, and demanded why Mrs. Belshow did not buy the dresses for me. ‘For my part,’ she said, ‘I have no money to waste on such trash. I’m sure, what you are wearing now is all right. It’s not so short, either, nearly down to your shoe tops. But I suppose I must get you something, or she will fire you. I’ll give you a dress that’ll be long enough all right—one that goes right down to the floor, and if Mrs. Belshow doesn’t like it, she’ll have to lump it. I can’t afford to get you new dresses every year and you not through growing yet. Gee, that Mrs. Belshow must think we’re millionaires!’
“When I made my appearance the next Sunday morning in a neat long skirt, the honourable lady praised me very highly, saying that now I looked like a respectable young woman. ‘Why, you actually look pretty, my child,’ she said. ‘You must get a nice ribbon for your neck, and then you will be fine.’ This remark made me very happy, for I had been secretly longing for a dress of this kind. Now, at last, I was a real grown-up lady. Perhaps I might soon have a fellow, who would take me to the show, just like the girls in the factory. I thrilled with joy. Later I looked into the mirror a long while, admiring myself and dreaming of the afternoon, when I would be free. I decided that I would go to the dance, and pictured to myself how surprised and envious the other girls would be, when they saw me looking so fine. I would certainly not miss one single dance the whole afternoon, for I was sure the boys would be fascinated and that the swellest among them would see me home in the evening.
“These joys made the morning an unforgettable one; but soon it was time to get ready to go. I went to my room and curled my hair, and then was more pleased with myself than ever. I really looked pretty! Oh, the joy of it! I do not need to explain, even to a man. Briefly, I looked sweller than ever. The only thing needed to complete my toilet were some bright ribbons to fix in my hair and around my throat. I recollected having seen some very pretty ribbons in my mistress’s scrap-bag which would do admirably. So I brought the scrap bag from the store room and dumped the contents on my bed, and soon found just what I wanted—two beautiful bits of silk. I hastily stitched them together, and was all ready to go. I could return the silk to the bag the next morning and my mistress would never know they had been gone. I thought regretfully what a shame it was to throw such beautiful things into a scrap-bag.
“Poor, vain little me! I came home later than usual, that never-to-be-forgotten night!—very tired, but very happy. And I had been escorted all the way by the grandest young man I had ever known. I lay awake for a long time, reviewing everything that had happened. I had never dreamed it was possible to be so happy. It was because I was now a grown-up lady! I should never forget that all my happiness was due to my mistress, for it was through her that I had my long dress. I decided to be more serviceable than ever, not dream and dawdle over my work, and never to be angry when my mistress scolded me. I would disobey her only in one thing—about going to Sunday School. At least, I would not go every week, perhaps every other Sunday, so she would not notice. In the midst of these good and delightful thoughts I fell asleep, and slept so soundly that the alarm bell in the clock did not awaken me at the usual hour.
“It did awaken Mrs. Belshow, however, who was just about to drop off to sleep again, when it occurred to her that she had not heard me moving about as usual, so she went to my room and aroused me in the midst of a beautiful dream about the handsomest boy you ever saw just as he was paying me the greatest attention!
“Jumping out of bed, I was horrified to find it was six o’clock, fully half an hour late. I rushed about my work, dreading the moment, yet wishing it were over, when my mistress should summon me for the scolding I was sure would come, for if there was one thing Mrs. Belshow hated more than anything else, it was being late. All too soon came the dreaded moment. Breakfast was scarcely over, when I was requested to go to my room. That was rather surprising, for, as a rule, I received my scolding in the lady’s room, while I was assisting her to pull on her stockings or comb her hair.
“I had scarcely crossed the threshold of my room when my knees knocked together and I nearly fell over, for there, standing in the centre of the room, with a piece of silk in her hand and an ominous frown on her face, stood my mistress. She pointed an accusing finger at me and asked coldly, ‘Where did you get this?’ Receiving no answer, she continued, ‘Don’t tell any lies, now, to add to your other crime.’ I stood there, as if glued to the floor and could only gaze at her dumbly and appealingly. I tried to speak in vain; but even if I had been able to, she would not have given me a chance. She brought all her eloquence to bear upon the stupid girl before her; she wanted to make me see what a very evil act I had committed.
“‘Oh, how sorry I am!’ she cried, ‘that this thing has happened. But you are very fortunate that it has occurred in my house, rather than in somebody else’s, for I know what measures to take to cure you of the propensity to crime which you have so clearly shown. I shall, of course, have to send you away immediately; for I could never again trust you in my home, for although it is only a trifle that you have stolen,—yes, deliberately stolen,—yet anyone who takes only a pin that belongs to another, will take more when the opportunity offers. So, in order to cure you of this tendency, I myself will conduct you to your mother and impress upon her the necessity of guarding and watching you carefully, as a possible young criminal. I never should have expected this of you, for you have quite an honest look. Now, dress yourself quickly and bundle up whatever belongs to you. I will remain in the room while you are packing. Are you sure you have taken nothing else which does not belong to you?’
“This question loosened my tongue, which hitherto had clung tightly to the roof of my mouth. Dropping on my knees before my mistress, I fervently swore that I had taken nothing, that I had not meant to take anything. I had meant to wear the pieces of silk only once and then put them back where I had found them. With tears rolling down my face, I begged her not to tell my mother.
“‘I will work for you all my life without pay,’ I cried, ‘if you will only not tell my mother. Indeed, I did not mean to steal, so please don’t tell my mother!’
“This I urged so vehemently and with such floods of tears that finally my kind-hearted mistress said: ‘My dear child, if you will promise me faithfully never to do anything like this again, I will not tell your mother. But let this be a lesson to you; never to take anything again, not even a pin, that does not belong to you. You can never again say, with perfect truthfulness, that you have not stolen. I am glad to see that you have such respect for your mother that you do not want her to know of this, and for your sake I will not tell her. I have a meeting at Hull House to attend in half an hour, and before I leave I wish you would scrub up the kitchen and your room and then you can go.’
“So saying, the honourable lady left the room quite satisfied with herself for having (perhaps) rescued another human being from the paths of vice and crime. I went about my work with a heavy heart. Forgotten were all the joys of yesterday! Now, just as I was becoming used to my place, I must leave it. And I must tell my mother some reason for it. But I could not tell the truth. Ah! yes, I would say that my mistress was about to close up the house and go South for the winter. That would be a fine excuse. I had heard and read that many rich people go South for a time in the cold weather, so surely my mother would not doubt it. I went away, feeling easier in my mind, and never saw my honourable mistress again.
“Many days have passed since then, and I have been serving several different ladies. I learned a lesson from each one of them; but I shall never forget what I learned from the kind-hearted, philanthropic Mrs. Belshow, a prominent settlement worker in a large city. It’s a lesson that Mrs. Belshow will never learn, or could never understand. All of which shows, perhaps, that I was simple at the time rather than stupid; for I find that I am still receiving my education—not from books, but from the way people treat me, and from what I see as I pass through life.”
III: Domestic Service (Continued)
“Nearly a year had passed,” continued Marie, “since I had began to work at service, and my experiences had not been of the sort that makes one love one’s fellow-creatures. For the most part I had worked for people who were trying to make a good showing in society and had not the means to do so. How often during those weary days of drudgery I looked back at the dear old days when I used to work in the factories! Then I could go to the dance! Now, it was very difficult, even if my mother had not been so strongly against it. I could not understand why my mother so sternly forbade me to go. When I asked her why she objected, the only answer I received was: ‘It is improper for a girl of your age.’ ‘Why is it improper?’ I asked myself, and could find no answer. So I disobeyed my mother and danced whenever I had the chance. Whenever I did succeed in going, my heart almost broke from sheer happiness. Oh, how supremely, wonderfully joyous I felt! How I forgot everything then—my mother, my drudgery, everything that made life disagreeable! Whenever the music started, I felt as if I were floating in the air, I could not feel my feet touching the floor. All the lights merged into one dazzling glow and my heart kept time to the rhythm of the music. When the music stopped, the glorious illumination seemed to go out and leave only a little straggling light from a few badly smelling kerosene lamps. The beautiful, fantastic music had been in reality only a harsh horn accompanied by a concertina or some other stupid instrument jangling vile music. The young boys and girls were all a common, stupid lot, and the odour of the stock yards permeated the room. But when the mystical music begins again, and the dance starts, presto! change, and I am again floating in rhythmic space and the faces and dim lights have changed into one glorious central flame.
“I shall never forget one awful night, when my mother, who had heard that I was at the dance, came into the hall, and there before all the boys and girls dragged me out and away to our home. I was so ashamed that I did not show myself in that dance-hall again for months. I cannot help thinking my mother was wrong, for I needed some outlet to my energy. Like many a poor working girl, I had developed into womanhood early and consequently was full of life. The dance satisfied this life instinct, which, when that outlet was made difficult, sought some other way.
“At that time I had a position as nurse-maid, my duties being to take care of two beautiful, but spoiled children, who had never received proper care, because their mother a wealthy woman, was too indolent, to make any effort in that direction, spending most of her time lying in bed with some novel in her hand. The house was filled with sensational, sentimental books. They were to be found in every room, stacked away in all the corners.
“At first I attempted to do what I thought was my duty, that is, to keep the children neat and clean and try to train them to be more gentle and obedient, but I soon saw that what their mother wanted was for me to keep them out of her way. My ambition about them faded away, and I sought only to fulfil my mistress’s wishes. I used to take the two children up into the store-room, in which were all sorts of miscellaneous things, including stacks and stacks of paper-covered novels, lock the door, and allow the children absolute liberty, while I sat down comfortably and examined the books.
“Here a new life opened before me. I read these novels constantly every day and half the night, and could hardly wait for the children to have their breakfast, so eager was I to get at my wonderful stories again. Even when it was necessary to take the children out for an airing, a novel was always hidden in my clothes, which I would eagerly devour as soon as I was out of sight of the house. During the four weeks spent at this place I read more than forty novels. Even on Sunday, when I was free, I sprawled out on the bed and read these sensational books. I thought no more of my beloved dances, for I was living in a new world. Here I was in a beautiful house, where I did almost nothing but loll in the easiest chairs and feed my soul on stories about beautiful, innocent maidens, who were wooed, and after almost insurmountable difficulties, won by gallant, devoted heroes.
“But soon I became so absorbed that even the few duties I had, became very irksome to me, for they interfered somewhat with my reading. Every morning I had to bathe and dress the little ones, who, not seeing the necessity for these operations, struggled and screamed and bit and kicked. I had accepted this daily scene as a matter of course, but every now and then it rather irritated me. One morning the hubbub was unusually long and loud, so much so that the noise disturbed the mother, who was breakfasting and reading in bed. She came to the room in a stew and asked me what was the matter. When I told her, she angrily said: ‘When I engage a nurse girl for my children, I do not expect to hear them squealing every morning. Remember that, and do not let me hear them again.’
“The little boy, who was precocious for his age, heard what his mother had said, and seeing that he had not been scolded for his ill behaviour, began to scream and struggle more than ever, and his little sister imitated him, in a dutiful, feminine way. I then lost my patience, seized the little boy, dragged him to his mother and said: ‘Here’s your boy. Tend to him yourself; I cannot.’
“I was, of course, told to bundle up my belongings at once and go. I did not forget to pack away among my things some of the novels, feeling that since they had all been read by Madame, they were only in the way. When I said ‘good-bye’ to the children, Madame came to me and said very kindly, ‘Marie, I’m really sorry this has occurred, for you are one of the best nurse girls I have ever had, and the children seemed to get along so nicely with you, too!’ I was so surprised at this speech that I could make no answer and so I lost my chance of remaining, for it is quite certain she wanted me to stay. But it was fated to be otherwise, and once more I returned to the home of my parents.
“My mother was not overjoyed to see me. It was a mystery to her why I did not keep my jobs longer. I promised to get another place as soon as possible and begged her to allow me to stay at home the rest of the week. To this she consented rather grudgingly, and I flew to my beloved books and read till supper time. I was beginning at it again in the evening when my mother rudely snatched the book from me saying, that it was not good for young girls to read such stuff. I begged earnestly to be allowed to finish just that one story and she finally said that perhaps I might read it the next day. In the morning I could hardly curb my impatience; it seemed as though my mother were inventing all sorts of useless things for me to do, just to keep me from the book. But at last I was free and, hastening to my room, was soon absorbed in another world. I was suddenly recalled to this earth by a sharp blow on my head, and the book was again snatched from me and thrown into the fire and burned. It seemed that mother had been calling me and that I had been too much absorbed to hear; that she had finally lost her temper and decided to punish me.
“‘Don’t ever again read such trash as this,’ she cried in a rage. ‘Have you any more of them?’
“‘No,’ I said, fearing to tell the truth, lest the rest of the books meet the same fate.
“She then sent me on an errand. As I left the house I felt uneasy, thinking that my lie might be discovered. The moment I returned, I saw by the expression on my mother’s face that my fears had been realised. The storm broke at once.
“‘Oh, what an unfortunate woman I am!’ she cried, ‘to be treated thus by my own flesh and blood, by the child that I brought into the world with so much pain and suffering. O, God, what have I done to deserve this? O God, what have I done to be cursed with such a child?—so young, yet so full of lies. What will become of her? Have I not always done my duty by her and tried to raise her the best I knew how? Why did she not die when a baby? I like a fool, toiled and moiled for her night and day and this is my reward.’
“I had heard these expressions often, for my mother was a hysterical woman in whom the slightest thing would cause the most violent emotions which demanded relief in such lamentations. And yet, frequent as they were, they never failed to arouse in me feelings of shame and rage—shame that I had caused my mother suffering, and rage that she reproached herself for having brought me into the world. That expression of hers never failed to make me wish that I had never been born—born into this miserable world where I had to toil as a child, and could not go to dances or even read without receiving a torrent of abuse and an avalanche of blows. What harm had I done by my reading? True, I had not heard my mother calling, but how often had I spoken to her without being heard, when she was engrossed in some newspaper or book!
“So I remained quiet, when my mother railed at me for my lie, too ashamed and bitter to make defense or reply. This silence, as usual, made my mother still more angry and she shouted: ‘You ungrateful wretch, I’ll tell your father, and he’ll fix you so you won’t feel like lying to your mother for some time to come.’
“That threat nearly paralysed me with dread, for my father was to me a strange man whom I had always feared; my mother, when she wanted to subdue me, only needed to say: ‘I’ll tell your father.’ I remembered the last time my father had whipped me. I was a big girl at the time, more than fourteen years old, and working down town. I had to rise very early in the morning, and it often happened that I would fall asleep again after my mother had called me. On that particular morning mother had more difficulty than usual in arousing me, scolding me severely, and I replied rather impudently, I suppose. She waited till I had got out of bed and was standing in my bare arms and shoulders over the wash bowl, and then she told father, who came with a long leather strap, which I knew well, as it was kept only for one purpose, and beat me so severely that I carried the marks for a long time. The strap was about two inches broad, and with this in one hand, whilst he held me firmly with the other, he belaboured me in such a way that the end of the strap curled cunningly around my neck and under my arms and about my little breast, making big welts which swelled at once to about a fourth of an inch in diameter and were for a few days a most beautiful vivid scarlet in colour. Then they toned down and new and milder tints came, and finally there was only a dull sort of green and blue effect. Finally even these disappeared from my body, but not from me.
“Now, when I thought of the possible consequences of the lie I had told, I could feel those marks on my shoulders and arms. And, at my mother’s threat, the thought that I might be beaten again made me flush with shame. A feeling of rebellion, of vivid revolt, came over me. Why not resist, why not defend myself? I remembered what a factory girl had once told me—how she had defended herself against her brother by striking him with a chair.
“That is what I will do, I said to myself, trembling with excitement, if my father tries to beat me again. I am too old to be whipped any more. I don’t care if he kills me, I will do it. Perhaps when I die, and they see my grave, they’ll be sorry.
“When father came home in the evening, he seemed to sense trouble at once, for suddenly coming down on the table with his fist, he demanded: ‘What in hell is the matter? Here you both are going around with faces as if you were at a funeral. I’m working hard all day, and when I come home at night, by God, I don’t want to see such faces around me. What in hell is it, now tell me!’
“Mother told him, and he said: ‘Very well, just wait till I’ve had supper, for I’m damned hungry, then we’ll have a little understanding with my lady, who’s so mighty high-toned since she worked for those swells. I’ll soon show her, though, she is no better than we are.’
“When the important task of supper was over he called me to him. I was trembling in every limb, for I knew that my father was a man of few words and that he would without delay proceed to action. I managed to get a chair between him and me. He went to work deliberately, as if he were a prize-fighter. First, he spat on his hands, and was about to give me a knock-out-blow, when I, with the courage of desperation, raised the chair above my head, crying out, ‘Father, if you strike me, I’ll hit you with this chair.’ He was so astonished at my audacity that his arms fell to his sides and he gazed at me as if he had lost his senses. I took advantage of this pause to make for the door, but before I could escape, he seized me by the arm and hurled me back into the room, and then with blood-shot eyes and bull-like voice he cursed and cursed. My mother, fearing the effect of his terrible rage, tried to intercede, but he pushed her aside, shouting, ‘Oh, she’s the daughter of her mother all right, and she’ll turn out to be a damned —— just like you!’
“He then came up to me, where I was standing really expecting my death, and to my surprise only pressed his fist gently against my head saying: ‘See how easily I could crush you. The next time I hear anything about you, I will.’ Cursing me and mother, he left the house and he took him to a nearby saloon where he drank himself insensible. Toward morning he was brought home. Poor man, he just couldn’t bear to see long faces about him, especially after a hard day’s work!
“In a few days I secured another place, this time in a middle-class family. I remained there nearly a year and was considered by my mistress a model of willingness, patience, endurance, gentleness, and all the other slavish virtues. I never spoke except when spoken to and then I answered so respectfully! The children might kick and abuse me in any way they chose without any show of resentment from me. This my mistress noticed and duly commended. ‘Those dear children,’ she said. ‘You know they do not realise what they are about, and so one ought not to be harsh to the dear pets.’
“I gave up reading books and even newspapers; partly I suppose because I had for the time satiated myself, especially with sentimental and trashy novels, and had not yet learned to know real literature, and partly because, in my state of humility, I listened to my mistress when she said reading took too much time, that it was better to sew, dust, and the like, when I was not busy with the children. Everything I do, I must do passionately, it seems, even to being a slave. I gave up dances, too, and on my days out dutifully visited my parents. I had no friends or companions and was in all respects what one calls a perfect servant—so perfect that the friends of my mistress quite envied her the possession of so useful a slave.
“I got pleasure out of doing the thing so thoroughly; but yet it would not have been so interesting to me if it had not been painful, too. I was enough of a sport to want as much depth of experience, while it lasted, in that direction as in any other—in spite of, perhaps partly because of, the pain. And what pain it was, at times! Who knows of the bitter hatred surging in my heart, of the long nights spent in tears, of the terrible mental tortures I endured! Sometimes it was as if an iron hand were squeezing my heart so that I almost died; sometimes as if a great lump of stone lay on my chest. And my mistress seemed each day somehow to make the iron hand squeeze tighter and tighter and the stone weigh heavier and heavier. If she had only known what a deadly hatred I bore her—a hatred that would not have been so severe if I had not been so good a servant—had given myself rope, had satisfied my emotions! If she had understood that my calm, modest bearing was only a mask which hid a passionate soul keenly alive to the suffering inflicted on me, she would have hesitated, I think, before she entrusted her precious darlings to my care.
“This period of virtuous serving was the severest strain to which my nature, physical and moral, was ever put. I finally became very ill, and had to be removed to my mother’s house, as completely broken in body as I had apparently been in spirit.
“I sat near the window gazing vacantly at the scene below. All the morning I had sat there with that empty feeling in my soul. From time to time my mother spoke to me, but I answered without turning my head. Since my illness I seemed to have lost all interest in life, and this, although everybody was kind to me. My mother gave me novels to read and money to go to the dances. The books I scarcely glanced at, and what I did read seemed so silly to me! And the dances had lost their charm. I went once or twice, but the music did not awaken any emotion in me, and I sat dully in a corner watching, without any desire to join in. And this, when I was hardly past sixteen years of age!
“The day before, I had been down town looking for a job in the stores, for my mother had told me that I might work in the shops or factories again, if I wished. Although even this assurance failed to interest me, I had obediently tried to find a position, but oh! how weary I was and how I longed for some quiet corner where I might sit for ever and ever and ever without moving. This morning I was wearier than ever, my feet seemed weighted, and I could hardly drag them across the room. My mother asked me anxiously, if I were ill. ‘No, no,’ I said. ‘Then my child,’ she replied, ‘you must positively find work. You father is getting old and it would be a shame to have him support a big girl like you—big enough to make her own living. Don’t you want to go back to your last place? She would be very glad to have you, I am sure.’
“This last remark aroused me, and I replied that I would never go back, even if I had to starve. ‘Don’t worry, mother,’ I said, ‘I’ll go now, and if I don’t find a place, I won’t come back.’ ‘Oh, what a torture it is to have children,’ moaned my mother. ‘Don’t you know your father would kill me if you did not return?’
“Her words fell on heedless ears, for I was already half way down the stairs. I bought a paper and in it read this advertisement, ‘Wanted: a neat girl to do second work in suburb near Chicago. Apply to No. — Wabash Avenue.’ Within an hour I presented myself at Mr. Eaton’s office, was engaged by him, received a railroad ticket and instructions how to go to Kenilworth the following evening. On my way home I made up my mind to tell nobody where I was going. I packed my few belongings and told my mother that I had secured a place with a certain Mrs. So-and-so who lived in Such-and-such a street. I lied to the best of my ability and satisfied my mother thoroughly.
“The next morning I went away, and was soon speeding to Kenilworth, where I was met at the station by my future mistress and her mother, two extremely aristocratic women, who received me kindly and walked with me to my new home, instructing me on the way in regard to my duties in the household. These consisted mainly in being scrupulously neat, answering the door-bell and waiting on the table. I began at once to work very willingly and obligingly, and also helped the other girl working in the household, and everybody was kind to me in return. I did not, however, take this kindness to heart as I would have done a year or two earlier, for I had learned to my cost that kindness of this kind was generally only on the surface.
“But my new mistress soon proved to be a true gentlewoman, who treated her servants like human beings. To work for a mistress who did not try to interfere with my private life or regulate my religion or my morals was an unusual and pleasing experience for me. This lady was as tolerant and broad-minded toward her servants as she was toward herself, rather more so, I think, for cares and age had removed from her desires and temptations for which she still had sympathy when showing themselves in younger people. I soon saw, to my astonishment, that things which my mother and my other employers had told me were evil, and which I had learned almost to think were so, did not seem evil to this sweet lady. I remember how kindly and sadly she said to me once, when I had spent half the night out with a young man: ‘Little Marie, it is a sad thing in life that what seems to us the sweetest and the best, and what indeed is the sweetest and the best, often leads to our harm and the harm of others. It would be foolish of me to pretend to know which of your actions is good and which is bad; but remember that life is very difficult and hard to lead right, and that you must be careful and always thoughtful of what is good and what is evil. I myself have never learned to know for sure what is good or evil, but as I grow older I am certain that we act always for the one or for the other.’
“Under these conditions, in the home of such a sweet and tolerant woman, all the throbbing joy of life and youth awoke again within me. Cut off from the old scenes and companions, I entered upon a new existence. I made many friends with the young people in the neighbourhood, and for the first time felt free and without the opposition of anybody. I had not written my mother or in any way let her know where I was, and no disturbing word came from my past. I sang all day at my work, and in the evening I joined my new companions and together we roamed and frolicked to our hearts’ content. I had many young men friends and could satisfy my desire to be in their society, talk to, dance with them, without arousing evil thoughts in others or, consequently, in ourselves.
“Under these happy influences I grew healthier and more wholesome in every way. People began to say I was pretty, and indeed I did grow to be very good-looking. My figure had reached its fullest development and the rosy bloom of youth and of health was in my cheeks. I was strong and vigorous, self-reliant and independent, and very happy. I became quite a favourite and the recognised leader in the mischievous frolics of the young people. Hardly an evening passed that did not bring a scene of gaiety. It seemed to me that I had never lived before and that I was making up for all the pleasures I had not known. There was, indeed, something heartless and cruel in my happiness, for I never once wrote to my mother, selfishly fearing to have my present joy disturbed.
“My fears had good reason, too, it seems, for I had lived in those pleasant surroundings only a few months when one evening, while I was enjoying myself at a moon-light picnic, I was approached by a sober, stern-looking man who drew me away from my friends and asked me my name. When I had told him, he showed me a newspaper clipping of an article with the head-lines, ‘Mysterious Disappearance of a Young Girl.’ For some moments I stood as if turned to stone, gazing stupidly at the paper. Then troubled thoughts took possession of me. ‘What shall I do? What will become of me?’ I remembered my mother so often saying that if I ran away I would be put in the House of Correction. At this thought I shuddered and exclaimed aloud, ‘No, no.’ The man had been watching me closely and he asked: ‘Is it true,’ pointing to the article. I stared at him, for a moment too absorbed in my inner terror to be very conscious of him. When he repeated the question, I looked at him with a more intelligent expression in my eyes, and he, seeing my condition, spoke to me kindly and persuasively.
“‘Tell me the truth,’ he said, ‘And I will help and advise you.’ So I told him the whole story, and he reassured me, saying, ‘Don’t be afraid, little girl, I have no doubt your mother will forgive you if you explain to her in the way you have to me. It is hard for children to understand their parents. I know, for I have children of my own, and sometimes they think me unkind when I am trying to do my best for them.’ He was kind, but he was firm, too, and said that if I did not write my mother, he should do so himself. So I at last consented, and as a result went back to the city: for my mother, my unfortunate, cruel mother, wanted me for some strange reason, to be near her.”
IV: Adventures In Sex
When Marie returned to her home, she found that her father had died. It made little difference, practical or otherwise, to her or to her mother, except to make her stay in the house less dangerous, though quite as irksome, as formerly. Her mother had, of course, reproached her bitterly for her conduct in running away, and had kept up her complaint so constantly that Marie could hardly endure her home even for the night and early morning. So for that reason, as well as for the need of making her living, Marie went again into service, going quickly from one job to another in the city.
And now there came for her a period of wildness, in the ordinary sense of the word. It was not the simple joys of her Kenilworth experience. She had returned to her mother’s home in a kind of despair. It seemed to her as if the innocent pleasures of life were not for her. She had been torn away from her happiness and had been compelled to go back to conditions she hated. Her passions were strong and her seventeen-year-old senses were highly developed by premature work and an irritating and ungenial home. So, in a kind of gloomy intensity, she let herself go in the ordinary way of unguarded young girlhood. She gave herself to a young fellow she met in the street one evening, without joy but with deep seriousness. She did not even explain to him that it was her first experience. She wanted nothing from him but the passionate illusion of sex. And she parted from him without tenderness and without explanations, to take up with other men and boys in the same spirit of serious recklessness. She had for the time lost hope, and therefore, of course, care for herself, and her intense and passionate nature strove to live itself out to the limit: an instinct for life and at the same time for destruction.
From this period of her life comes a story which she wrote for me, and which I quote as being typical of her attitude and as throwing light on her personality.
“The Southwest corner of State and Madison Streets is the regular rendezvous of all sorts of men. They can be seen standing there every afternoon and evening, gazing at the surging crowd which passes by. One sees day after day the same faces, and one wonders why they are there, for what they are looking. Some of these men have brutal, sensual faces; others are cynical-looking and sneer. These, it seems, nothing can move or surprise. They have a look which says: ‘Oh, I know you, I have met your kind before. You do not move me, nothing can. I have tried everything, there is nothing new for me.’ And yet they cannot tear themselves away from this corner, coming day after day and night after night, hoping against hope for some new adventure.
“Others stand there like owls, stupidly staring at the rushing tide of faces. They see nothing, and yet are seemingly hypnotised by the panorama of life. Here, too, pass the girls with the blond hair and the painted faces; they ogle the men, and as they cross the street raise their silken skirts a trifle, showing a bit of gay stocking. Here, too, is the secret meeting-place of lovers, who clasp hands furtively, glancing around with stealth. All this is seen by the sensual men, who glance enviously at the lovers, and by the cynical men whose cold smiles seem to say: ‘Bah! how tiresome! wait, and your silly meetings will not be so charming!’
“On my evenings off I had sometimes stopped to gaze at this, to me, strangely moving sight. I saw in it then what I could not have seen a few months before; but not as much as I can see now. Then it excited me with the sense of a possible adventure. Strange, but I never went there when I was happy, only when I was uncommonly depressed.
“On a chilly Sunday evening in October I was waiting on this corner to take a car to the furnished room of a factory girl, named Alice, whom I knew was out of town. As I was out of a job and did not want to go home, I had availed myself of her place for a few days. As I was waiting on this corner, I saw a face in the crowd that attracted me. It was, as I afterward learned, the face of a club man, who had, on this Sunday evening, drifted with the crowd and landed at this spot. He, too, had stopped and gazed around him, idly. Several times he started as if to move on, but he apparently thought this place as good as any other, and so remained. He seemed not to know what to do, to be tired of himself. His face was quite the ordinary American type, clean-cut features, rather thin and cold, with honest grey eyes, but, in his case, a mouth rather sensuous and a general air of curiosity and life which interested me.
“I was sufficiently interested to allow several cars to pass by, while I watched him. I noticed by the way he looked at the women who passed that he was familiar with their kind. Several gay girls tried to attract his attention, but he turned away, bored. Finally I began to walk away, and then for the first time his face lighted up with interest. I was apparently something new. I wore a straw hat, and a thin coat buttoned tightly about my chest. My thin little face was almost ghastly with pallor, and it made a strange contrast with my full red lips, which were almost scarlet, and my big glowing black eyes. He probably saw that I was poor, dressed as I was at that season. Why is it that for many rich men a working girl half fed and badly dressed is so much more attractive than a fine woman of the town or a nice lady?
“As I passed him, he said, ‘Good evening,’ in a low and timid tone, as if he thought I surely would not answer. I think it surprised him when I looked him full in the face and replied, ‘Good evening!’ He still hesitated, until he saw in my face what I knew to be almost an appealing look. I knew that in the depths of my eyes a smile was lurking, and I wanted to bring it forth! A moment later, I smiled indeed, when he stepped forward, lifted his hat, and asked with assurance: ‘May I walk with you? Are you going anywhere?’
“‘Yes, I am going somewhere,’ I said, smiling. ‘To a meeting place in Adams Street to hear a lecture.’
“‘Oh, I say, girlie,’ he cried, ‘You’re jollying. That must be a very dull thing for you, a lecture.’
“‘Sometimes it’s funny,’ I said. But I did not say much about it, as I had never yet been to a lecture. I made up for that later in my life! I of course had no intention of going to this.
“‘Come,’ he urged, ‘let’s go in somewhere and have something to eat and drink.’
“‘Yes, I will have something, not to eat, though, but let us go where there are lots of people and lights and all that sort of thing,’ I finished, vaguely.
“Charley tucked my arm in his and we walked along State Street until we came to a brilliantly lighted café. The place was crowded with well-dressed men and beautiful women, eating and drinking, chatting and laughing. Waiters were hastening to and fro. An orchestra was playing gay music, as we wound our way through the crowd to a table. I was painfully conscious that my shabby coat and straw hat attracted attention. Some of the women stared at me with a look of conscious superiority in their eyes, others with a look of still more galling pity. Charley, too, I thought, seemed nervous. Perhaps he did not relish being seen by some possible acquaintance with so dilapidated-looking a person!
“But soon I lost consciousness of these things and gave myself up to the scene and the music. My sense of pleasure seemed to communicate itself to my companion, who ordered some drinks; I don’t know what they were, but they tasted good—some kind of cordial. I took longer and longer sips: it was a new and very pleasant flavour. He ordered more of the same kind and watched me with interest as I drank and looked about me.
“‘Oh,’ I said, ‘what beautiful women, and how happy they are! look at that one with the blond hair. Isn’t she beautiful, a real dream?’
“Charley replied in a tone of contempt: ‘Yes, she’s beautiful, but I would not envy her, if I were you—neither her happiness nor her good looks. She needs those looks in her business. Nearly all the women here belong to her class.’
“Charles looked at me intently as he said this. Perhaps he thought I would be angry because he had brought me to such a place. But I watched the girls with even greater interest and said: ‘Ah, but they must be happy!’
“Charles shrugged his shoulders and said, with contempt and some pity in his eyes, ‘A queer sort of happiness!’
“I looked at him rather angrily. He did not seem just to me.
“‘You don’t like them,’ I said, ‘you think they are vile and low. But you men seem to need them, just the same. Oh! I think they are brave girls!’
“Charles looked at me in apparent astonishment. But then a thought seemed to strike him. He was thinking that I might be one of that class, for he asked me questions which showed me plainly enough what he was worrying about. He encouraged me to drink again, and said with a self-confident laugh, ‘you’re a cute one but you cannot fool me with any such tricks.’
“I paid no attention to his remarks, and did not answer any of his personal questions. He could find out nothing about me. I would only smile and say, ‘I don’t want to know anything about you, why can’t you treat me the same way?’
“I could see that the less he knew, the more interested he became. He plied me with drinks, perhaps thinking that the sweet liquor would loosen my tongue. Soon I began to feel a little queer and the room began to go round, taking with it the faces of the men and women. After this dizziness passed, I felt very happy indeed, and smiled at everybody in the room; and wanted to go and tell them all how much I liked them. But I did not dare trust my legs, they felt so heavy. I thought I would like to stay there always, listening to the music and watching the people.
“I suppose my happiness heightened my colour, for Charles said, ‘what a beautiful mouth you have, what red lips. One would almost believe they were painted. How your upper lip lifts when you smile, Marie! Don’t you want to go out now?’
“‘Yes, yes,’ I replied, hastily, ‘I must go home now.’
“I sprang from my chair, I made for the door, but he, quickly seizing his hat, followed me and took my arm. I went very slowly for my feet seemed weighted. They were inclined to go one way, while I went another. So when Charles led me I was quite thankful. As we went out into the street he asked me where I was living, what I did, and if I were married, all in one breath. This made me laugh merrily, as I assured him I was not married. I told him I lived away out on the West Side and that he could see me home, if he wanted; but not to, if it was out of his way, for I was used to going alone. He eagerly accepted, and we took a car.
“I fell dreaming on the way, of all nice things. The days in Kenilworth came back to me and I smiled to myself and wistfully hoped my present happiness would last. My companion eagerly devoured me with his eyes, and asked me many pressing questions. I answered only very vaguely, for my mind was full of other things. So finally Charles, too, was silent, and merely watched me.
“Suddenly I woke to the fact that I was at Alice’s room, so I hastily arose and signalled to the car to stop. Turning to Charles I extended my hand in a good-bye and said: ‘This is where I live.’ But he quickly got off with me saying he would see me to the house. ‘I don’t like to leave you alone this time of night,’ he said. As we stopped in front of the dilapidated-looking frame building where I was staying for a few days, he seemed much embarrassed and not to know what to say. Pointing upwards, I said, ‘that’s where I live.’ ‘Do you live alone?’ he asked. ‘Yes, now, not always. Good night—Charles,’ I answered, mischievously, but with a real and disturbing feeling taking possession of me.
“But he seized me by the hand: ‘Don’t leave me yet, girlie,’ he pleaded. ‘Think how lonesome I’ll be when you are gone!’ He drew me to him in the darkness, and I did not object, why should I? My lips seemed to prepare themselves and after one long kiss that sad intensity seized me; and I sighed or sobbed, I don’t know which, as we went up the stairs together.
“An hour later, as he was about to descend the stairs, I said: ‘Charles, when will you come again?’
“‘Oh, I can’t tell,’ he replied ‘but it will be soon.’
“‘Well,’ I said, ‘remember I shall be here only a few days. Alice will be back within the week. Come Wednesday evening.’
“But he left with the remark that it might not be possible! I did not care for him deeply, of course, it was only an adventure, but this stung me deeply. The light way he took what he wanted and then seemed to want to have no tie remaining! I felt as he did, too, really, but I did not want him to feel so! I imagined in what a self-satisfied mood he must be, how he walked off, with his lighted cigar! He probably wondered what sort of a girl this was who had given herself so easily? Partly, too, no doubt, he laid it to his charm and masculine virtue: though he knew women were weak creatures, he also knew that men were strong! Ah! I could almost hear him muse aloud, in my imagination. His reveries, perhaps, would run about like this:
“‘I was rather lucky to happen along this evening! She was certainly worth while, though pretty weak, I must say. She had fine eyes and, by jove, what a mouth! She said, “Wednesday.” I think I will go, though it is never good policy to let girls be too sure of you. Besides, how do I know she isn’t playing me some game?’
“I didn’t know as much then as I do now about man’s nature, but now I make no doubt that as the time passed between then and Wednesday Charles’s desire grew: it began with indifference, but ended, I am sure, with intensity: for men are like that! Their fancy works in the absence, not in the presence, of the girl. I am sure the girl with the red lips and the deep dark eyes haunted him more and more as time went on!
“At the time, I didn’t know just why, but I did know that I wanted nothing more of Charley. He had never been anything but a man to me—he was a moment in my life, that was all. But I decided to meet him, for only in that way could I really finish the affair. Otherwise, if I merely broke the engagement, he could imagine whatever he wanted to account for it. No, he must be under no illusion. He must know that I did not want him!
“I waited for him in front of the house, and on the appointed hour he arrived, looking very happy and eager. He greeted me with much warmth, to which I responded coldly. He suggested going inside, but I said: ‘No, I am going away. I have been waiting here to tell you so, in case you came to-night.’
“‘But,’ he exclaimed in an aggrieved tone, ‘Did not you ask me to come, and now you say you are going away. Is that fair to me?’
“I shrugged my shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know, but I’m going. Good-bye,’ and I turned from him and started to walk away. His tone changed to anger, as he said: ‘Now, see here, Marie, I won’t stand for any nonsense of this kind. You can’t treat me like this, you know. What right have you to act in this lying way?’
“I had been walking away and he following, and as he stopped talking, he took my arm, which I jerked away and impatiently said: ‘Well, to be frank, I don’t want you to-night. Whether I have a right to act so, I don’t know or care. Why I asked you to come I don’t know, unless it was because I felt different from what I do now.’
“Charles adopted a more conciliating tone and asked me when he might come. His interest in me seemed to grow with my resistance.
“‘I guess you’d better not come at all,’ I said, coolly.
“‘But I want to,’ he said. ‘Do name the night, any night you say.’
“Then I turned to him with angry eyes, and cried out, ‘Oh, how stupid you are! Don’t you understand that I don’t want you at all?’
“I again started to walk away, but he seized my arm and shouted angrily: ‘You cannot leave me like this without explaining some things to me. In the first place, why did you pull me on last Saturday night, and who are you to turn me down like this?’ I answered, with flashing eyes, ‘I owe you no explanation, but I will answer your questions. As to who the girl is who can dare to turn you down, you know very well she is not what you think, or you wouldn’t so much object to being turned down, as you call it. As to pulling you on, you were the first to speak or, at any rate, it was mutual, so you need not demand any explanation. What you really want to know is why I don’t want you now. If I were a man like you, I suppose I should never even think of explaining to anyone why I happened to change in feeling toward some persons, but as I’m a woman, it’s different. I must explain!’
“This speech I have no doubt made him angry, but his pride came to the rescue and he said with a show of indifference: ‘I was angry, it is true, but only for a moment. It was irritating to me to have a girl like you show the nerve to throw me down; for I’m not accustomed to associate with your sort.’
“At this insolence my face flushed hotly and I opened my mouth to make some indignant reply, but I thought better of it and only walked away, laughing softly to myself. As I went away, I heard him mutter, ‘What a cat.’
“But, I imagine, he didn’t forget me so easily. I have no doubt that the girl with the red lips and deep dark eyes haunted him for a long time. Who was this girl who had given herself to him once and only once? It is this kind of a mystery that makes a man dream and dream and curse himself.
“Probably for some time, as he joined the crowd at State and Madison Streets, he hoped to see me as I passed, but all things come to an end and his passion for me did, no doubt, too. But, in the routine course of his club life, moments came, perhaps, when he thought of little Marie, her red lips, deep eyes, and pale, pale face. I doubt if he ever told this story to any of his boon companions.”
V: Marie’s Salvation
On account of the irregularity of her life, Marie lost job after job. Her relations with her mother, never good, grew worse and worse. Her profound need of experience, in which the demand of the senses and the curiosity of the mind were equally represented, impelled her to act after act of recklessness and abandon. But, as in almost all, perhaps all, human beings, there was in her soul a need of justification—of social justification, no matter how few persons constituted the approving group.
The feeling that everybody was against her, that she was on the road to being what the world calls an outcast, gave to her life an element of sullenness and of despair. Perhaps this added depth to her dissipation, but it took away from it all quality of joy as well as of peace. If her sensuality and her despair had been all there was in her, or if these had constituted her main characteristics, this story would never have been written. Perhaps another tale might have been told, but it would have been the story of a submerged class, not prostitutes, white slaves; and then it would have been the story of a submerged class, not of an individual temperament.
What was it that kept Marie in all really essential ways out of this class of social victims? It was because, in the first place, of the fact that her nature demanded something better than what the life of the prostitute afforded. And it was natural that the greater quality of personality that she possessed should attract the kind of love and social support needed essentially to justify to herself her instincts. When she was very young Marie secured the genuine love of two strong and remarkable personalities; and at a later time, there gathered about these three, other people who enlarged the group, which gave to each member of it the social support needed to remove essential despair and desperate self-disapproval.
One of these two persons so necessary to Marie’s larger life was a woman whom she had met several years previous to this point in the story.
This woman was a cook, Katie by name. She was born in Germany, and her young girlhood was spent in the old country. She had only a rudimentary education, and even now speaks broken English. But she was endowed with a healthy, independent nature, a spontaneous wit, and a strong demand to take care of something and to love.
As natural as a young dog, she never thought of resisting a normal impulse. Her life as a girl in Germany was as free and untrammelled as a happy breeze. She lived in a little garrison town in the South, and the German soldiers did no essential harm to her and the other young girls of the place. These things were deemed laws of nature in her community. What would have been dreadful harm to a young American girl was only an occasional moment of anxiety to her. It never occurred to her that it was possible to resist a man. “I had to,” she said, very simply, and did not seem to regret it any more than that she was compelled to eat. She is also very fond of her food.
She came to America and worked as cook in private families. She was capable and strong and was never out of a job. She never took any “sass” from her mistress; in this respect she was quite up to date among American “help.”
At the time she first met Marie she had been working for a family several years, and had reduced her employer to a state of wholesome awe. She remained, like a queen, in the kitchen, whence she banished all objectionable intruders. Her mistress had a married daughter, also living in the house, who at first was wont to give orders to Katie, and to interfere with her generally. One day Katie drove her out of the kitchen with a volley of broken English. The daughter complained to the mother, who took Katie’s side. “You don’t belong in the kitchen,” she said to her indignant daughter.
This episode filled Katie with contempt for her mistress.
“She ought to have taken her daughter’s side against me,” she said, “you bet I would have, if I had been in her place.”
The daughter had two young children. It was to take care of them that Marie came into the household. Marie’s mistress liked to stay in bed and read novels, and this experience is the one described by Marie in an earlier chapter, how she locked herself and the children in the store-room and read her mistress’s books.
Katie fell in love with Marie almost at once. She was fifteen years older than the young girl and as she had never had any children, all the instinctive love of an unusually instinctive nature seemed to be given to Marie. She saw that Marie was not practical or energetic, and this probably intensified the interest felt by the more active and capable woman. She took the young girl under her wing, and has been, and is, as entirely devoted to her as mothers sometimes are to their children.
The German cook was about thirty years old at that time and had never loved a man, though she had had plenty of temporary and merely instinctive relations with the other sex. So it was her entire capacity for love, maternal and other, that she gave to Marie.
Almost at once Katie began to treat Marie as her ward. She took her side against her mistress, when the latter scolded the girl on account of her indolence or slowness. “Marie is so young,” she would say, “almost a child; and we ought to go easy on her.” She also looked after Marie’s morals and tried to prevent her being out late at night. This kind of care had its amusing side, as Katie herself was none too strict about herself in this regard.
For instance, Katie fancied the butcher’s boy who used to come to the kitchen every day with meat. He was only sixteen, and quite inexperienced in the ways of the world.
“I did him no harm,” said Katie. “But I taught him everything there was to know. My life was so monotonous and I worked so hard then that I had to have him. I absolutely had to, but I think I did him no harm and he was certainly my salvation. But I didn’t let Marie know anything about it. She was too young. When she found out, years afterwards, she was quite cross with me about it.”
This kind of relation existed between Katie and Marie for several years. About the time the girl went to Kenilworth and had her idyllic experience, Katie married. Nick was a good sort of a man, easy and happy, and a sober and constant labourer. Katie had saved some money, in her careful German way, had even a bank-account of several hundred dollars. It was not an exciting marriage; neither of them was very young or very much in love, at least Katie was not, but it was a good marriage of convenience, so to speak, and it might have lasted if it had not been, as we shall see, for Marie, and Katie’s affection for her.
When Marie started in on her career of wildness, Katie and Nick, her husband, had a little home together. Into this home Marie was always welcomed by Katie, but Nick was not so cordial. They knew about the girl’s looseness, and in their tolerant Southern German way, they did not so much mind that, and Katie was distinctly sympathetic: Marie was old enough now, she thought. But Nick did not like the hold the girl had on Katie’s affection.
“You’ll leave me for her, sometime,” he would say to his wife, ominously. Katie would laugh and call him an old fool. She couldn’t foresee the circumstances that would one day realise her husband’s fears.
It was about this time that Marie met the man who has influenced her more deeply than anyone else or anything else in her life, who gave her a social philosophy, though to be sure what would seem to most people a thoroughly perverse and subversive social philosophy; but by means of which she had a social background, and a saving justification—was saved from being a mere outcast.
Terry, at the time he and Marie met, was about thirty-five years old and an accomplished and confirmed social rebel. He had worked for many years at his trade, and was an expert tanner. But, deeply sensitive to the injustice of organised society, he had quit work and had become what he called an anarchist. His character was at that time quite formed, while the young girl’s was not. It was he who was to be the most important factor in the conscious part of her education. But to explain his influence on Marie, it is necessary to explain him,—his character, and a part of his previous history.
Terry is a perfect type of the idealist. We shall see how, in the midst of what the world calls immorality and sordidness, this quality in him was ever present; even when it led to harshness to persons or facts. Not fitting into the world, his attitude toward it, his actions in it, and his judgment of it, are keen and impassioned, but, not fitting the actual facts, sometimes unjust and cruel. Tender and sensitive as a child, his indignation is so uncompromising that it often involves injustice and wrong. But the beauty in him is often startlingly pure, and reveals itself in unexpected conditions and environment. I cannot do better in an attempt to present him and his history than to quote voluminously from his letters to me, adding only what is necessary for the sake of clearness. He wrote for me the following poetic outline of his life:
“The fate of the immigrant, sprung from peasant stock, is to grow up in the slums and tenements of the great city. Such a fate was mine. To exchange the rack-rented but limitless fields of Irish landlordism for the rickety and equally rack-rented tenements, with the checkerboard streets, where all must keep moving, is only adding sordidness to spare sadness. Surely, the birthday’s injury is felt in a deep sense by the poor. But the patient fatalism of the peasant (so fatal to himself) is equal to every calamity.
“I came from an exceptionally well-to-do family of tenement-farmers, but a few generations of prolific birth rate, with the help of successive famines and successful landlordism, reduced us to the point of eviction. Enough was saved from the wreck to pay for our passage in a sailing vessel to America. After being successfully landed, or stranded, on New York, my father, with the true instinct of the peasant, became a squatter on the prairies of Goose Island. Here we put up, in the year 1864, a frame shanty of one room, in which the nine of us tried to live. My father, the only bread-winner, made from seven to eight dollars a week. Absolute communism in the deepest and most harmonious faithfulness prevailed. Truly, as Burns says:
‘We had nae wish, save to be glad,
Nor want but when we thirsted;
We hated naught but to be sad.’
“I rejoice to say that I never got over this first blessed lesson in communism; even though it was on a small scale, the family contained the unity of a Greek tragedy. The heart that throbs with little things may finally throb for the world. And I learned nothing in these days except the lessons of the heart. The only necessary thing of which we had almost enough was bread. The struggle for existence, began on one continent, has continued on the other, with the surviving members of the family standing shoulder to shoulder for lack of room.
“Armed with a throbbing faith in everything but myself, I boldly and voluntarily entered the arena of commercial activity at the pliable age of eight. My first job away from home was in a mattress factory. Ah, that first job! I was a triumphant Archimedes who had found his fulcrum. I helped move the world, for twelve hours a day and for two dollars a week.
“Then and later, I, like all people who possess nothing, found that my best visions have come to me while at work on something in which I had wistful faith; and when I lost faith I blindly followed the economists and philosophers who can never know the mystic power of work over the worker. And it may be that herein lies the secret of the philosopher’s ignorance and the worker’s slavery. A man stands to his job because of the visions that come to him only when at work.
“Though I helped move the world, I was not an Atlas, and at last, I grew tired, for I found the world moved me out of all proportion to my capacity. Even at an early age, I found that I had not the heart for the fray. Stamped on my narrow forehead, on my whole being, perhaps, so clearly that every unsympathetic boss could understand at once, was the mark of the visionary. My pitiable willingness to work was truly tragic.
“We were an eccentric family, especially in our peculiar aloofness from others. We clung desperately to one another long after the necessity was past. Neither eviction nor commerce could disband us. Only marriage or death could separate us. Though we were Catholics on the surface, we were pagans at bottom. I had fed my fill on the fairy tales of Ireland. Fortunately, these fairy tales were told to me, not read, and told in such a way that they led me to seek no individual foothold in a world at war with my heart: they helped to take away what the world calls personal ambition. They strengthened my natural quality as a dreamer, my tendency to care only for the welfare of the soul. If I could bring about no change in this world, it should effect no alteration in me. This, as I grew older, became a conscious passion with me: not to allow myself to be affected by the world, or its ideals. Such was, at an early age, my romantic resolution. Now, as the colour in my hair begins to match the grey in my eyes, and I look back over the changes of almost half a century, I detect in the wreck of my life almost a harmony, and something rises above the ruins.
“On that frail foundation from fairy land my trembling imagination rested, even amid the sordid developments of my experience. How often did I take my youthful oath that the day should never come when I would out-grow my feeling for all the world! I have been put to the test, and, I hope, not found wanting.
“The end of my first ten years of life found me regretfully divesting myself, one by one, of my beloved folk-lore tales, and reverently folding them away, in preparation for the fray. I worked, during my second ten years, as a journeyman tanner and currier; knocked by fate and the boss from shop to shop and from town to town. I naturally sought solidarity with my fellows. Class feeling awoke in me, and voluntarily and enthusiastically I joined the union of my craft. Though I strained at its narrow confines, I was at one with my class. During the ’70’s and ’80’s the eight hour movement laid me off on several strikes, long and short. This enforced leisure was not idleness for me, for in these periods the world of science, art and philosophy shot their stray gleams into my startled mind, and I found time to ponder on what leisure might do for the mob. What did it not do for me, and what has it not done for me since? And I in the very ecstasy of my being was one of this mob.
“Whole hours, whole nights, I stole from my needed rest to read and ponder on our human fate. Sundays! Things after a day’s labour incomprehensible to my stunned brain were easily grasped on a glorious morning of religious leisure. The apathy of my fellows—how well I understood it when, with nerves unstrung and muscles relaxed, after a tense twelve hours of toil, I fell asleep over my beloved books! And how well, too, I understood their amusement—the appeal of the poor man’s club!—when in gay carousal we tried to forget what we were. Even in the saloon and dance-hall we told tales of the shop! Oh, the irony of it! Was there no escape from the madness of the mart, no surcease from the frenzy of the factory or the shibboleth of the shop!
“Yes! How well I recall the gay transformation in my shop-mates when the whistle blew on Saturday night. The dullest and most morose showed intelligence then. The prospect of rest, be it ever so remote—even in the hereafter—roused them from their lethargy. How alert and cheerful we were on holidays, even the prolonged holiday of a strike brought its pinched joys. Quite a number of my ancient comrades of industry looked forward to the Poor House with a hopefulness born of thwarted toil. The luckiest ones out of the thousands whom I knew were those few who, overcome at last, could find some sheltering fireside and keep out of the way until nature laid them off for good; the living envied the dead.
“I took part in the famous bread riots of ’77, when I had to fly from the shop, before an infuriated mob armed with sticks, stones, pikes, and pitchforks. In the same year I saw from a distance the great battle of the viaduct, when the mob, armed as in the bread riots, faced the federal troops and were shot down and dispersed. It was about this time, too, that I stood by as the ‘Lehr und Wehr Verein’ in their blue blouses of toil and shouldered rifles strode ominously onward. These men were the first fruits in America of Bakunin’s ideals and work in Europe. They, too, were put down, by an act of legislature.
“These proletarian protagonists whipped me into a fury. My father, too, had his rifle, and when drunk he invoked it, as it hung on the wall, thus: ‘Come down, my sweet rifle, how brightly you shine! What tyrant dare stifle that sweet voice of thine.’ But my father was only a Fenian revolutionist; and as it was only a step for me from Ireland to Internationalism, I was soon beyond his creed.
“We had come to America during war times, with the spirit of revolt already germinating within us; and although we were against slavery, our sympathies were with the South. We were natural as well as political democrats, and even when the mob was in the wrong, I always became one of it. How finely elemental, how responsive to the best and the worst, is the mob when the crisis comes!
“Although my thoughts were forming through my readings and the larger events about me, the everyday life in the shop was perhaps the deepest cause of my growing revolt. The atmosphere of the frenzied factory is well calculated to produce a spirit of sullen and smouldering rebellion in the minds of its less hardened inmates. From the domineering boss down to the smallest understrapper, the spirit of the jailer and turnkey is dominant. Much worse than solitary confinement is it to be sentenced to ten hours of silence and drudgery. The temptation to speak to the man at your side is well nigh irresistible. But to speak means to be marked, to have hurled at you a humiliating reprimand, or, as a last resort, to be discharged.
“No lunching between meals is allowed, although it is a well-known fact that few workers have the appetite at dawn to eat sufficient food to last them till their cold lunch at noon. From this comes the terrible habit, among the older toilers, of the eye-opener, a gulp of rot-gut whiskey, taken to arouse the sleeping stomach and force sufficient food on it to last till noon. As a convalescent victim of this proletarian practice I am well aware of its ravages on body and mind. It is the will-of-the-wisp of false whiskey followed by false hope, leading into the fogs and bogs of the bourgeois and the quicksands of the capitalist.
“To be a moment late, means to be docked and to have it rubbed in by an insult. To take a day off, well—death is taken as an excuse. There is no such thing in a shop as social equality between boss and men. In my last position as foreman I had charge of three hundred men. Many of them were faithful comrades in many a brave strike, where starvation pressed hard, whence they had emerged with hollow cheeks and undaunted hearts. I soon came to know them all, personally, intimately, and liked them all, though I felt most strangely drawn to those who worked for one dollar a day. They all did their work faithfully, and there was no complaint from the front office. One day, however, the owner charged me with treating the hands as if they were my equals. I tried to make him see the human justification of it, but he would have none of it. He was a typical boss and also a millionaire banker.
“It was about this time that I discovered the deepest tonic my nerves have ever known. The explosion of the Haymarket bomb found a responsive chord, the vibrations of which will never cease in me, I hope. The unconscious in me was at last released, and I held my mad balance on the crater’s edge and gazed into it. Hereafter, I was to live on dangerous ground, at least in thought. No more doubt, no more shuffling now. I must try the chords of my heart, the sympathy of my soul, in open rebellion. The iniquities of civilisation had ruined a fine barbarian in me, and almost made of me a maudlin miscreant, willing to hang upon the skirts of a false society. The Haymarket bomb made me strip again and for a nobler fray.
“Of what avail was it, I reflected, to raise one’s voice in the wilderness of theories? How do any good by a social enthusiasm merely expressed in theory? Such thin cerebral structures are shattered to pieces in the ordeal of life. Ah, but this anonymous Avatar, this man with the bomb! His instinct was right, but how far short it fell, and must always fall. He had settled the strife within him and become definite to himself: that was all he had done. I too must settle the strife within me. I was plunged into prolonged dreams from which I was aroused by hunger, hunger of many kinds, and driven into my former haunt, the shop.
“But now, when I stripped for work in the factory and donned my vestments of toil, I stood forth without falsehood. I knew, if not what I was, at least what I wanted, rather what I did not want. I did not want this, this society!
“Each morning as I took my place in the shop I had the feeling of my boyhood—as if I were celebrating a High Mass before the sacrifice of another day. There was much of the Pontifical in me, for I was a rapt radical. Each morning on my way to Commercial Calvary I saw another sacrifice; I overtook small shrivelled forms, children they were, by the dim dawn. How their immature coughings racked my heart and gave me that strange tightening of the chest! I could not keep my eyes from the ground whence came the sound of small telltale splashes, after each cough. Many times I stopped to hold a child who was vomiting.
“Here was a woe too deep for tears; and I must look with dry eyes or I should fail to see. Have you ever noticed the searching dry gaze of the poor? It is like the seeing, wistful look of a child—which few can bear without flinching. I had no need to read Dante’s imaginary ‘Inferno.’ I was living in a real one which made all imagination seem trivial. ‘The short and simple annals of the poor’ seems like poetry, but only superficially, for it is not truth, but a fiction. It is false, for the annals of the aristocracy are not so long, neither are they so complex.
“I am not trying to plead for anything. I am trying merely to express. Prepared for everything, I have forgiven everything, even myself. Everything that could happen has happened to me, perhaps the worst that happened did not come from without, but from within. My family came off safely enough from the fray of the factory. Only two of us were maimed for life and five claimed for death—out of a family of eleven. That left half a dozen for the statistician to figure on.”
Terry, a transcendental poet, who worked in the shop for many years, had quit it some time before he met Marie. The above letter shows, in a general way, the mood which finally brought about his social self-exile, so to speak. The letter which follows gives a specific instance of the kind of experience which disgusted the idealist with the imperfect world. He had been living against society, had foregathered with outcasts and had thrown down the gauntlet generally to organised society, for some years, but he still from time to time worked at some job or other. An incident happening some years after the meeting with Marie, which is still to be described, is sufficiently typical of what finally threw him entirely out from society to be truthfully illustrative at this point.
“I was keeping open house for all comers, regardless of law or order, morality or money. I wished to hurl myself and my theories to the test, and gauntlet my defiance to a withered world. It was a happy time, looked back on now as a dream, in which, however, there was an undertone of nightmare. We had three little rooms up many mild flights of unbalustered stairs. Our main furniture consisted of mattresses which, like morning clouds, were rolled away when the sun arose.
“For the shocking salary of six dollars a week I was collector for the Prudential Insurance company. One rent day I lacked the necessary four dollars and a half. I telegraphed my other ego, my dear brother Jim, in Pittsburg. The same day brought from him a telegraph money-order for twenty-five dollars, and soon afterward a letter asking me to go to Pittsburg and help him out. I had always been deemed an expert in the leather line, especially in locating anything wrong in the various processes. My brother was a member of a new millionaire leather firm, which was losing thousands of dollars every week because they were unable to locate the weakness in the process. Jim wanted me to find the flaw.
“It was with the utmost repugnance that I quit my happy slum life, but I loved Jim, and it was the call of the ancient clan in my blood. When I arrived in Pittsburg, without a trunk, and with other marks of the proletarian on me, Mr. Kirkman, the millionaire tanner, showered me with every luxury—every luxury except that of thought and true emotion. Never before did I realise so intensely my indifference to what money can buy. My private office in the shop was stocked with wines and imported cigarettes: but I was not so well off as in my happy slum.
“I toiled like a sleepless sisyphus, and one day, in a flash of intuition, I located and showed the flaw in an obscure process; I was completely successful.
“I had put no price on my services. For Jim’s sake, I had worked like a Trojan, physically and mentally, for a month. With unlimited money at my disposal, I had drawn only twenty dollars altogether, and this I sent to Marie, to keep the wolf away from the Rogues’ Gallery, our flat.
“When the factory was running smoothly, I told Mr. Kirkman that I would break in a man for my place. He made me a tempting offer to take full charge of the shop. I told him I would not be a participant in exploiting his ‘hands,’ who were getting only $7 to $8 a week. Furthermore, I said I would not stand for the discharge of any man for incompetency. I had never in the shop met any man I could not teach and learn something from in return; I had never discharged a man, and never would. The millionaire boss nevertheless continued to urge me to take the position, and my brother Jim offered me two thousand dollars’ worth of stock at par and a large yearly salary. Well, I suppose, there’s no use of anybody’s trying to move me when Jim has failed.
“I quit Pittsburg with nothing but the price of a ticket to Chicago, though my brother told me the firm would send me a check for $500 or $1,000 for my services as an expert. When, with a beating heart, I returned to my dear Rogues’ Gallery, all was change and dispersion. No more happy times in our little balcony of fellowship, which had overlooked in its irresponsibility the jarring sects and insects of this world: the most delightful place in this world to me is a home without a boss, and this home was for the time gone. The possibility of being unfair to Marie makes me draw a veil over the cause of the breaking-up of the Rogues’ Gallery.
“Poor Jim found that the firm would not pay me a cent for my really brilliant month’s work, for the reason that I had refused to be a conventional boss and had no written or verbal contract or agreement. Jim therefore resigned, forfeiting fifty dollars of weekly salary and twenty-five thousand dollars in stock, ten thousand of which he had offered me to stay. Mr. Kirkman thought all the world of Jim and could not run the shop without him. Nor could he recover from the blow, for he loved my brother, as everybody did. Mr. Kirkman died a few weeks afterward, and after a year or two the firm went into the hands of a receiver. All this happened because of a few paltry dollars, which I did not ask for, for which I did not care a damn—and this is business! I heartily rejoice, if not in Mr. Kirkman’s death, at least in the dispersion of his family and their being forced into our ranks, where there is some hope for them.
“My brother Jim was one of the maimed ones in my family. Twenty years ago, defective machinery and a surgeon’s malpractice made one arm useless. The Pittsburg affair broke up his beautiful home. He and his whole-souled wife and charming children, into whose eyes it was an entrancing rapture for me to look, were a family without a boss; they needed none, for they loved one another perfectly. Jim is dead now, and the best I can do is to send you his last letter; it has the brevity of grief:
“‘I have no explanation to offer for my silence, more than a feeling which possessed me shortly after my arrival here—a desire to be considered a dead one, and am doing all but the one thing that will make my wish a reality. I am long tired of the game, and only continue to play because of the hardships my taking off would cause those who at present are not able to care for themselves. A way out of it would be to take them along, but I think if the matter were put before them, they would decline my proffered service; and take a chance as half-orphans. You calling up our boyhood days in “Little Hell” makes me question still further if I have any right to deny those dear to me the delights that only the young can feel and enjoy. I made a great mistake in coming to this Ohio town. The chase for dollars which I am performing here seven days every week is very disgusting to me, and every day only adds to the pangs. I am out all day selling goods, pleading for trade and collecting for former weeks’ business; and in the evening I must do the necessary office work. Every day is the same, except Sunday, when I make up the book-keeping for the whole week and prepare statements and the like, to begin the usual round on Monday morning. It is a hell of a life and I wish it were done. I have some consolation in being able to call up at will those that I love. I have many a waking dream, while tramping the hills, about the comrades that have added to the joys of my former existence. Let me hear from you occasionally, because a letter from you seems to revive some of the old feeling that formerly made life passable.’
“I suppose I shall recover in time from Jim’s death. I wish I could have been with him when he died. During his last half-unconscious moments the nurse proposed to send for a priest. Jim’s soul must have made a last effort, for raising himself erect, he flung these words: ‘I hire no spiritual nurse,’ and then asked his daughter of fourteen to bring him a volume of Emerson and read to him. When she returned with the book, he was gone.
“Of course, the doctor and all the wise ones have diagnosed Jim’s case. But I think he sized up his case in that letter I sent you. He died of that great loneliness of soul which made of his wasted body a battered barricade against the stupidity which finally engulphed him. The soul of social and individual honour and commercial integrity, he had the misfortune to find few like himself. He yearned for the ideal; and I am sure he went down with that hope for humanity. Let us trust that there is an ever increasing number of human beings who have Jim’s malady—‘seekers after something in this world, that is there in no satisfying measure, or not at all.’ If this letter seems boisterously blue, remember it is only the sullen marching of the black sap preceding the unfurling of the emerald banners of spring, when all things break into a ‘shrill green.’”
VII: The Meeting
The mood of rebellious idealism sometimes expresses itself in actual anti-social conduct and life. So it was with Terry. He is the most consistent anarchist I have known, in the sense that he more nearly rejects, practically, all social institutions and forms of conduct and morality. He is very sweet, and very gentle, loves children and is tender to every felt relation. There is a wistful look always in his eyes. He is tall, thin, and gaunt, his hair is turning grey; but there is nothing of the let-down of middle age in his nature, always tense, intense; scrupulously, deeply rebellious.
Even before his meeting with Marie, his open acts of sympathy with what is rejected by society had put him more and more in the position of an outcast. Some of the members of his family had become fairly successful in the ways of the world. Terry might easily have taken his place in comfortable bourgeois society. But his temperament and his idealism led him to the disturbed life of the radical rejector. And he was rejected, in turn, by all, even by his family.
Between him and his mother there was perhaps an uncommon bond, but even she in the end cast him out. He wrote of her:
“She taught me that I did not belong in this world; she did not know how deeply she was right. When she crossed my arms over my childish breast at night and bade me be prepared, she gave me the motive of my life. She told me I would weep salt tears in this world, and they have run into my mouth. She loved me, as I never have been loved before or since, even up to the hour of my social crucifixion: then she basely deserted me. But I rallied, and the motive she implanted in me remains. Though a child without any childhood, I had my reason for existence, just the same. Everything is meaningless and transitory, except to be prepared. And I finally became prepared for anything and everything. My life was and is a preparation—for what? For social crucifixion, I suppose, for I belong to those baffled beings who are compelled to unfold within because there is no place for them without. I am a remaining product of the slums, consciously desiring to be there. I know its few heights and many depths. There have I seen unsurpassed devotion and unbelievable atrocities, which I would not dare, even if I could, make known. The truth, how can we stand it, or stand for it? I think a sudden revelation has wofully unbalanced many a fine mind. Hamlet, revealing himself to Ophelia, drives distraught one of the sweetest of souls. Fortunately we never know the whole truth, which may account for man being gregarious. One cannot help noticing that they who have a hopeless passion for truth are left largely alone—when nothing worse can be inflicted upon them.”
Terry’s experience in the slums was no other than many another’s, but the effect it made upon his great sensibility was far from ordinary. In another letter, speaking of what he calls his “crucifixion,” he wrote:
“Only great sorrow keeps us close, and that is why, the first night after one of my deepest quarrels with my mother, I picked out a five-cent lodging-house, overlooking my home, to pass the night of my damnation in sight of the lost paradise. I never had any reason, or I would have lost it. Let me hope that I am guided by something deeper than that. All my life I have felt the undertone of society; it has swept me to the depths, which I touched lovingly and fearfully with my lips.
“Whenever and wherever I have touched the depths, and it has been frequent and prolonged, and have seen the proletarian face to face, naked spiritually and physically, the appeal in his eyes is irresistible and irrefutable. I must do something for him or else I am lost to myself. If I should ever let an occasion go by I am sure I never could recover from the feeling that something irreparable had happened to me. I should not mind failure, but to fail here and in my own eyes is to be forever lost and eternally damned. This looks like the religion of my youth under another guise, but I must find imperishable harmony somewhere. The apathy of the mass oppresses me into a hopeless helplessness which may account for my stagnation, my ineffectiveness, my impotence, my stupidity, my crudeness, and my despair. I have always felt lop-sided, physically, especially in youth. My awkwardness became, too, a state of mind at the mercy of any spark of suggestion. My subjectively big head I tried to compress into a little hat, my objectively large hands concealed themselves in subjective pockets, my poor generous feet went the way of the author of Pilgrim’s Progress. The result is a lop-sided mind, developed monstrously in certain sensitive directions, otherwise not at all. A born stumbler in this world, I naturally lurched up against society—but, as often happens I have lost the thread of my thought: my thoughts, at the critical moment, frequently desert me, as my family did; they seem to carry on an alluring flirtation, and when I think them near they suddenly wave me from the distance. But, like a lover, I will follow on—follow on to platonic intercourse with my real mistress, the proletarian. And soul there is there. I have met as fathomless spirits among the workers as one will meet with anywhere. Art never has fathomed them, and may never be able to do so. Often have I stood dumbfounded before some simple day-labourer with whom I worked. Art does not affect me, as this kind of grand simplicity in life does. I keep muttering to myself: there must be a meaning to our lives somewhere, or else we must sunder this social fabrication and create a meaning; and so my incantations go on endlessly.
“The proletarian is that modern sphinx whose thundering interrogative society will be called upon to answer. You and I know too well that society hitherto has answered only with belching cannon and vain vapourings of law, religion, and duty. But the toiling sphinx, who has time only to ask terrible questions, will some day formulate an articulate reply to its own question, and then once more we shall see that our foundations are of sand—sand that will be washed away, by blood, if need be. Some there are who will weep tears over the sand: the pleasures and the joy may die, for to me they are cold and false. My joy cannot find place within the four walls which shut out the misery and brutality of the world.
“How be a mouthpiece for the poor? How can art master the master-problem? They who have nothing much to say, often say it well and in a popular form; they are unhampered by weighty matters. It takes an eagle to soar with a heavy weight in its grasp. The human being, rocking to and fro with his little grief, must give way in depth of meaning to him who is rocked with the grief of generations past, present, and to come. It is then that love might rise, love so close to agony that agony cannot last: the love that will search ceaselessly, in the slums, in the dives, throughout all life, for the inevitable, and will accept no alternative and no compromise.”
This was the man who met Marie at a critical time of her life. He was about thirty-five years old, had experienced much, had become formed, had rejected society, but not the ideal. Rather, as he dropped the one, he embraced more fervently the other. He had consorted with thieves, prostitutes, with all low human types; and for their failures and their weaknesses, their ideas and their instincts, he felt deep sympathy and even an æsthetic appreciation.
Marie, as we have seen, was only seventeen, unformed and wild, full of youthful passion and social despair, on the verge of what we call prostitution; reckless, hopeless, with a deep touch of sullenness and hatred. She was working at the time in the house of one of Terry’s brothers. Katie, too, was employed there; although she lived with Nick, her husband, she still occupied herself at times with her old occupation; and, as ever, she watched Marie with a careful eye, rather vainly so just then, for this girl was as wild as a girl well could be.
One day Terry paid one of his infrequent visits to his brother’s home, and saw the plump and pretty Marie hanging clothes in the yard. He was at once attracted to her, and entered into conversation. He was deeply pleased; so was the girl; and they made an appointment. He soon saw what her character was, and this was to him an added attraction.
“I had been looking for a girl like Marie,” he said, “for several years. I had made one or two trials, and they always got me into trouble with my family. But the other girls did not make good. They were too weak and conventional and could not stand the pace of life with me. I had early formed a contempt for the matrimonial relation. Five years I had nursed my rebellion and waited for a chance to use it. As soon as I met Marie I felt I had met one of my own kind. It was partly the fierce charm of a social experiment, the love for the proletarian and the outcast; for I felt Marie was essentially that. This element of my interest in her Marie never understood—this unconscious propaganda, as it were. She thought it was all sex and wanted it so.”
Katie saw that Terry was making up to her beloved Marie, and tried to prevent their meetings; but in vain; the attraction was too strong. Katie blackguarded Terry on every occasion, until she finally saw it was hopeless, and then invited him into her house to meet the girl. There he began to go frequently and the intimacy grew. Nick warned Terry against the girl on account of her loose character. “I have often found her,” he said, “misconducting herself with some fellow or other. Why, she does so with everybody. Only this evening I found her on the front door-step with young Bladen. She is not the kind for you to be serious about. Everybody knows how common she is.”
Nick did not understand that an argument of that kind tended only to confirm Terry in his interest in Marie. Terry answered him laconically: “That’s all right, Nick. When you don’t want her, just send her to me.”
Nick, as we have seen, was jealous of Marie, because of Katie’s love for her; so he fomented trouble between the two women. Katie, too, was at this time more exasperated with the girl’s conduct than she had ever been before; and they had frequent quarrels. As the result of one of them, Marie went off with Terry to his family flat, where he was living alone at the time—to “have a fish dinner,” telling the relenting Katie that she would return in the evening. But she stayed there with Terry all that night, for the first time. In the morning Katie turned up bright and early, burst into the flat, and reproached Terry so bitterly that they almost came to blows. But when Marie took Terry’s side, Katie, terribly disappointed and hurt, yet made up her mind that it was inevitable; and Terry and Marie began to live together.
How did Marie feel about all this? What was her condition at the time, and her attitude toward this strange man, so different from every other she had met? In a long letter to me she has given an account of it all.
“I wrote you about my adventure with the club man. Well that was only a single instance of what finally became frequent with me. I had grown so fearfully tired of the life I was leading in domestic service that the only problem for me was how to get away from it all. For a time, I had thought I could get away only by marriage. I was ready to marry anybody who offered me food and shelter, and I had even thought of prostitution as a means of escape from domestic drudgery. I had not the slightest idea of what prostitution in its accepted sense meant. I knew in a vague way that women sold their bodies to men for money, that they lived luxurious lives, went to theatres and balls, wore beautiful gowns and seemed to be gay and happy. I was willing to marry any man who offered me a home, without the least suspicion that in that way, too, I should prostitute myself. But no one at that time offered me this means of escape, so I was quite ready to take the only other way, as I thought, left to me.
“About this time I met an old girl-friend whom I had not seen for several years; she was a domestic servant, too, but was in advance of me in her recklessness. When I met her again she was in the mood to lose all the little virtue left to her. She was quite willing to sell herself: she had done enough for love, she said, marriage was now an impossibility, and she might as well realise on her commercial value. To these ideas I agreed, and we arranged to meet in two weeks from that day and try an experiment. Meanwhile she was to go back to her home, get her belongings, and tell her parents she had secured a place as a servant-girl in Chicago.
“I left my position, and finding things too disagreeable at home where I continually quarrelled with my mother, I went to visit Kate, until my friend should return.
“How my ideas and ideals had changed! When I first began to dislike the work I was forced to do, I dreamed that some charming fairy would come and release me: I had been taught such a view of life from the novels of Bertha M. Clay and E. D. E. N. Southworth. Some rich man, young and charming, possibly the owner of the factory I was working in, would fall passionately in love with me, marry me and carry me away to his palace! Gradually, my ideas came down. I should have been glad to marry a foreman, then some good mechanic, and finally, some workman, however humble, whom I would love dearly. And now I was deliberately preparing for a life of prostitution!
“It was then, while living with my dear friend Kate, whom I sometimes helped in the work she did out, that I met my first, my last, my truest lover and friend, Terry. We met just at the right moment. I was filled with rebellion at the powers that were crushing me, breaking me, without realising why, or how, or what I might make of myself, when he came along and taught me in his own quiet and gentle convincing way how cruel and unjust is this scheme of things, and pointed out to me the cruelty and tyranny of my parents and of all society. He showed me that marriage such as I had contemplated was a bad form of prostitution, and he told me why. Of course, I did not grasp all the things he told me at once, but I listened and felt comforted; I began to feel that perhaps I might amount to something, might have some life of my own, and that my rebellion was perhaps justifiable. I began to understand why work was so objectionable to me and why I rebelled against the authority of my parents. My conceptions of freedom were crude, but I began to feel that my revolt was just, and was based upon the terrible injustice whereby the many must toil so that the few may live in splendour. I will not weary you with all the details of the things I learned at that time from Terry. To you it might seem very raw and crude, and you no doubt have read some of the pamphlets written by socialists and anarchists dealing with the labour question in all of its aspects. But to me these ideas were quite new and they seemed grand and noble.
“And Terry revealed to me, too, almost at once, the great inspiring fact that there is such a thing as beauty of thought—that there is poetry and art and literature. This, too, of course, came little by little, but do you wonder I loved a man who showed me a new world and who taught me I was not bad? He put good books into my hands, and to my grateful joy I found I liked these books better than the trash I had hitherto read.
“I felt so much better, after seeing so much of Terry, that I decided to go to work again. Terry was against this. ‘Try it,’ he said, ‘But I assure you you don’t need to work. I have tried doing without work for many years, it is much easier than it seems.’ Nevertheless I got a job in a bicycle factory, but I only stayed a few days. It seemed like a stale existence to me! And besides, I was in love and wanted to be with Terry all the time. ‘By God,’ I said to him that night, ‘you are right! I’ll never work again.’
“My friend Gertrude, the girl with whom I had intended to go in the last reckless experiment, came to Terry’s flat to see me, and get me to go with her. I had thought, after I gave up work, that Terry might offer me marriage, but he told me quite frankly that it was against his principles to marry anybody. I was a little hurt and astonished at this, but as I was very much in love and was already beginning to imbibe his ideas, it did not matter so very much to me.
“So, when Gertrude came, I led her to Terry and asked him what he thought about her plan. He said to us: ‘The kind of prostitution you contemplate is no worse than the kind often called marriage. Selling your body for a lifetime is perhaps worse than selling it for an hour or for a day. But the immediate result of this kind of prostitution which you plan is very terrible practically. It generally leads to frightful diseases which will waste your bodies and perhaps injure your minds. The girls you envy are not always as happy, gay, and careless as they seem. It is part of their business to seem so, but they are not, or only so for a very short time. Perhaps you will be better off so than in domestic drudgery. It is a choice of evils, but if you are very brave and courageous you may perhaps get along without either. But if forced to one or the other, I recommend prostitution. It may be worse for you but, as a protest, it is better for society, in the long run.’
“He pictured to us as truly as he could the life of the street-walker; he did not seem to think that morally it was worse than any other life under our social organisation, but he did not make it seem attractive; nor did he make the life of the domestic servant or factory-girl seem attractive. He seemed to feel that one might look on prostitution as, under the circumstances, a grim duty—but it was certainly grim.
“We were rather incredulous at the picture Terry had drawn of the life we had resolved to lead. Gertrude turned up her pretty little nose and said it would not be like that with her. We talked about it all that day and night; and Gertrude decided to have a try at it, while I was undecided. I was somewhat piqued at Terry’s attitude. I had expected him to oppose my plan, to do all in his power to prevent it. But I did not understand him. He knew that if I were determined, nothing would prevent me, and all he could do was to give us a faithful picture of what such a life would be.
“Things were happening of which we were ignorant for a time, but which helped to settle our immediate problem. I had often been seen going into Terry’s flat, and this was food for gossip. It was said that Terry had started a bad house, and had done so in the flat belonging to his family, who were in the country at the time. These stories reached my mother’s ears, and also were told to Terry’s mother and sisters, and the mischief began. I was forbidden ever to cross my mother’s threshold again, and he was requested to leave the home of his virtuous sisters which he had polluted and contaminated by his debaucheries with that immoral person, myself.”
Marie omitted, in the above letter, the details of the split with the two families. It seems that Terry had, on hearing about the “rumours,” gone to his family, then near Chicago, and presented to them his philosophy of life; also his determination not to give up Marie, and not to marry her. It was then that the last rung was put in the ladder of his family crucifixion, as he would call it. It was then that his mother “basely deserted him;” and Terry left for good, rejecting the money offered him.
“I passed them up,” he said, scornfully, “and after spending the night in the lodging-house, I beat my way back to Chicago. I had been gone several days, and when I got back to the flat, where I went only to get Marie and clear out for God knows where, I found her gone, and no apparent way of finding her address. I went to see her mother, and had an awful scene with her. The violent woman was in hysterics and, after a long dispute, implored me to find her daughter. ‘I’ll find her,’ I replied, ‘for myself,’ and left.
“Marie afterwards told me that she and Gertrude had gone to see her mother, when I was in the country with my family, and that her mother had driven them away. Perhaps, the mother realised the change in the girl. Perhaps, too, she realised what must happen, if she drove her away. Yet she did drive her daughter away. From her own point of view, it was diabolical to do so. Her anger, her exasperation and her outraged desire to rule drove her to doing what she must have felt was the worst thing she could do. And she did it in the name of virtue! Perhaps it was for the best: I believe it was, but she did not and I cannot see where her spiritual salvation comes in.”
Terry finally found Marie—found her in the midst of a short experiment, in company with Gertrude, “in one of the social extremes,”—to be plain, leading the life of a prostitute.
I ask the reader to pause here and reflect. Pause, before you conclude that this book is an indecent and immoral book. Reflect before you conclude that this woman is an immoral woman. I am engaged in telling a plain tale in such a way that certain social conditions and certain social considerations and individual truths may be illustrated thereby. Consequently, I shall not pause, though I ask the reader to do so, in order to point a moral in any extended way. In return for the readers’ courtesy and tolerance, I will here reassuringly assert that there will be found in these pages no detailed description of Marie’s life during her few months of prostitution; and nothing whatever, from cover to cover, of anything that in my judgment is either immoral or indecent.
Well, Terry found her, and Terry did not try to “reform” her. But he stood by her, and was more interested, more in love with her than ever. In addition to his personal interest, he felt an even stronger social interest in her. To live with a girl like that was unconscious propaganda. This passion, as he calls it, was now more deeply stirred than when he first met her. This deeply aroused his imagination and his keen desire to see what the naked constitution of the soul is, after it is stripped of all social prestige.
If Marie had been simply a low, commercial grafter, Terry, the idealist, would not have been interested. But Terry knew that Marie cared nothing whatever for money. He regarded her as a social victim and in addition a vigorous and life-loving personality, an excellent companion for a life-long protest against things as they are. He saw she had the capacity for deep and excited interest in truth, an emotional love for ideated experience. These two human beings were wonderfully fitted to each other: no wonder they loved!
Terry, telling me about the girl’s experience during the two weeks or so before he found her, dwelt especially upon how well she was treated.
“She has a way of getting the interest, almost the deference, of many people. She and Gertrude were often reduced to the proverbial thirty cents, but they had little difficulty in getting along. For instance, one day, almost broke, they went to a restaurant and ordered two cups of coffee. The negro waiter knew what they were, and offered them a nice steak, at his expense. Nor did he try to ‘ring in,’ to make their acquaintance. He treated them with great respect. They went there several times afterward, and always found the negro waiter beaming with the desire to help them for quite disinterested reasons, and he never tried to meet them outside. Marie always appreciated a thing like that. She took a delight in thinking about the fine qualities in human nature.”
Marie is a frank woman, but it is natural that she could never bring herself to talk about this period of her life with entire openness. She has, however, written me a letter in which she tells the essential truth, although clothing it with a certain pathetic attempt to conceal the one episode in her life about which, to me, she was perhaps unreasonably reticent. She did not say that she and Gertrude were separated from Terry for a time, but she wanted to convey the impression that she and Terry, from the start, struggled along together, which was essentially, though not literally, true. Continuing her account, from the time the two families cast her and Terry out, she wrote:
“So there we were, thrown out into the harsh world, shelterless and almost moneyless. But we all three put our little capital together, amounting to about eleven dollars, went down town, and hired a furnished room. We managed to live a week on this capital, and then Terry pawned his watch, which gave us five dollars. Gertrude soon disappeared with an old rouê and went out of our lives. Terry and I kept along as best we could. Kate helped us as much as we would allow her to, and sometimes paid for our room, and I would sometimes eat at her house.
“During this period I was in a curious state of mind and body. Living in the midst of so-called vice, I was at first both attracted and repelled. Yet my strongest feeling was a hatred of the life I had formerly led, and I was determined not to go back to it, happen what might. I should probably have gone much farther than I did, had it not been for my love for Terry, which made me feel that I did not want to throw myself entirely away. So I did not know whether to go into the game entirely or keep out of it. Terry did not try to influence me, but seemed to watch me, to make me feel that he would stand by me in any event.
“For a time we were both of us dazed and stunned by our sudden change in life. The change was much greater for Terry than for me. I don’t know what his thoughts and feelings at that time were. They must have been terrible. For years he had lived, for the most part with his family, a quiet, studious life, the life of contemplation; and now he was suddenly plunged into the roar and din, with an ignorant and disreputable girl on his hands whom he would not desert. We were certainly on the verge of destruction. The inevitable would have happened, for no other choice was left me, and I should have drifted with the current and Terry would do and could do nothing.
“Just at the crucial moment, Terry met an old friend who offered him a political job, organising republican workingmen’s clubs, and Terry accepted it. No one can understand how bitter this was to Terry. To work for a political organisation was to him great degradation. He did it for my sake, for the thirty-five dollars a week, so that I could be free to live as I wanted. I did not realise at the time how much his sensitive nature suffered, and I took poor advantage of the freedom his money and character gave me. What an intolerable burden I must have been to him, and yet he never even intimated a desire to leave me!
“I had an opportunity now to satisfy my desire for pleasure. Terry put no obstacles in my way. Yet the cup already tasted bitter. I tried to deny to myself that this life of pleasure was an illusion, and so I plunged into the most reckless debaucheries: I really would be ashamed to tell you of the things I did. I had affairs with all sorts of men, many of whom I did not know whether I liked or hated—seeking always excitement, oblivion. I frequented cafés where the women and men of the town were to be found, and made many acquaintances. Two or three of them proposed marriage to me. They no doubt wanted to ‘save’ me, and thought I was a prostitute. I did not care to disabuse them on the subject: in fact I don’t know whether I was what they called me or not.
“This life lasted only two or three months, but it seems like so many years to me. At the end of that time Terry’s work was over, and we left down town and roomed with a respectable radical family. My health had broken down. I weighed only a hundred pounds, although three months earlier I had weighed one hundred and forty. My beautiful, healthy body had wasted away. Ah! how proud I used to be of this body of mine! how I used to glory in the vigorous, shapely limbs, the well-moulded breasts and throat. But all this passed away before my youth had passed away.”
Marie here pathetically omits to state the immediate cause of her ill health—a long and terrible experience in the hospital, the result of her excesses, during which time Terry was the only one to care for her, from which place she came broken in health, thin and pale, with large, dark, sad eyes, looking as she did when I first met her.
VIII: The Rogues’ Gallery
“My terrible experiences during these months,” continued Marie, “had at least the advantage of bringing me nearer to him who was and is the inspirer of whatever is worthy or good in me. It helped me to appreciate him, and surely everything I suffered, everything I may still suffer, is not too much to pay for that. He has made for me an ideal, and, without that, life is but a sorry, sorry thing. During those wild months I, of course, thought little of those things, those wonderful new things which I had heard of from him, but now, when we were living quietly with our anarchist friends, and the surroundings were in harmony with the mood for thought, my interest awakened. I read a great deal and listened attentively to the talk of the people around me, and slowly my ideas became more and more clear.
“It took a long time for me to learn, to really understand what the others were interested in. I did not dare to ask Terry too many questions, especially there, where everybody admired him and looked up to him so. A new shyness came over me when I began to see him in the light of a philosopher and a poet. He seemed so far above me and I felt myself so small and unworthy. But it was not long before I really began to feel a strong interest in all that was said, in all these social theories, in these ideas about the proletaire, about art and literature; and I began to read books in a far different spirit from what I used—I began to see in them truth about life, and to love this truth, whatever it was. And I loved the freedom of the talk, and, above all, I loved the feeling that from the highest point of view I was not an outcast, and that the people who seemed to me the best did not so regard me. It helped to give me the self-respect which every human being needs, I think.
“I thought for a long time that I was very lucky indeed to get admitted into this atmosphere. And, indeed, I know I was lucky, but there came a time when, for a while, I was very unhappy, not in the society of the radicals—I always loved that—but among these particular people, because they could not, after all, rid themselves of some conservative prejudices. After a while I began to see that even those enlightened people really had contempt for what I had been, or for my ignorance, perhaps for both.
“This family, with whom we were staying, was supposed to have broad and liberal ideas, and its members prided themselves on the fact that they really put their theories into practice. Their home was run on a sort of communistic basis, and the men and women who lived there were not tied to each other by any legal bonds, for they believed in freedom of love. They never made much noise about their ideas, or rather their practice, and were what you might call refined or cultured anarchists.
“Terry and I had nothing in a worldly way, and we lived there on ‘charity,’ so to speak, though that word was, of course, never used. We did, however, what work there was to be done in the household, trying in this way to give some compensation in return for a bed to sleep on and the simple food necessary to keep our bodies alive.
“Now, after a while, I began to feel crushed, oppressed in this home, among these cold, cold, refined people, although they were anarchists. They could not help showing me their contempt: they made me feel inferior. They never said one word that indicated such a feeling, but I could feel it by their attitude, by the attitude even of the little child in the house. They looked upon me much in the same way as my former mistress used, when I was the servant in the house, except that they were bound by their theories to give me a nominal respect and to try charitably to improve my mind and make of me a philosophical anarchist.
“It was painful to me to see these people, who were so humane, who could not bear to see the lowly oppressed, who could not bear to have injustice done, to see these people pass me by in insulting silence, look at me with cold, unsympathetic eyes! How it hurt me, not to receive the word of encouragement from the kind look of people I looked up to! So I crawled into my shell and did not go about much with the others. I think I was forgotten by nearly everybody for days at a time. Terry shared the room with me, and brought me food, as I grew more and more unable to eat with the cold superior ones. He brought me tobacco, too, and here it was, sitting all day alone, that I began the cigarette habit: if it had not been for that, I think I should have gone mad.
“I never ceased to love Terry, but I had a bitter feeling against him, too. He was always kind and good to me, but he spent most of his time with his intellectual friends, and I began to feel that even he was being ‘charitable’ to me. So after much misery and despair, I accepted a proposal of marriage from a friend of my wild days and fled with him to St. Louis. He took me to the home of his sisters and parents, where I lived in peace and quiet for three weeks, recovered some of my health and strength, and was able to review my past and think of my future; and reflect on my coming marriage.
“The people I was with now were kind and sympathetic. They did not know about my past life—only my prospective husband knew—he, of course, knew all. The others thought I was a poor shop-girl, tired and overworked. They were refined people, fairly well-to-do, rather bourgeois, but with good hearts, and so innocent that they believed everything their son told them, and received me as a daughter and sister.
“Perhaps my nature is perverse, I don’t know; but as soon as I got a little rest and peace, I began to think of what I had left and especially of Terry. It was not only my love for him that called, but what my life with him had been and would be if I returned—a life that was not a commonplace life, a life of intelligence and freedom. Already I was bored by the quiet goodness of the people I was with, and I wanted ‘something doing’!
“I saw Terry again as I had seen him first, with the glamour of ardent love, the love that overleaps all barriers and, if only for an instant, stands face to face with love, unhesitating, tumultuous, and triumphant. The memory of even one perfect moment can never leave us, even if life be ever so dark and harsh and bitter, there will always be that single ray of light to illumine the darkness, and keep our steps from utter and complete stumbling.
“I thought of Terry day and night, and grew so melancholy that my new found friends were alarmed and suggested hastening the marriage, in order to let me go South with my husband. This alarmed me terribly and I begged that no such step should be taken. With much inward trembling, I proposed that the marriage should be postponed and that I return to Chicago. They would not listen to this, and I could see in their honest faces the deepest amazement and a kind of suspicion. So I took refuge in tears, pleading ill-health and offering no more suggestions.
“That same day I wrote Terry a long letter, in which I told him that I still loved him, could not forget him, but had taken this step in desperation because I could no longer endure living among these people in Chicago, his friends, but not mine; that here in St. Louis I had found a certain measure of peace and quiet which had lately been disturbed by the realisation that soon I must decide to take a step which would perhaps separate us two irrevocably, that I longed more than words could tell to see him, to look into his face. I could never go back, I wrote, to that life I had been living, because what I had learned from him of what life is and what makes it worth living, had made that thing impossible for me. So, I wrote, I could not go back, and how, without him, could I go forward? So here I was, weak, perplexed, and I begged him to write me, to advise me what to do.
“Very soon his reply came—the truest, kindest reply that I could have received. He too had suffered since I left him, and comprehended only too well why I had done as I did. Our suffering would help us to gain a more comprehensive knowledge of life and of each other. And if I still loved him, I should follow the inclination of my heart and return to him. We two might start out again, wiser and surer for what had passed. He assured me of his love, but warned me not to expect too much from him, that our material comforts would be few, for he was as poor as I, and however much he might wish to provide better, he knew that, for one reason or another, he could not. But if I would be content to share his crust and his love, much happiness and joy might be in store for us. He finished his letter with a quotation from Browning’s ‘Lost Leader’:
‘Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a ribbon to tie in his coat.’
“My hesitation disappeared at once, although it hurt me greatly to carry out my resolution to return to Chicago. It cost me many a pang to shock and hurt the dear good people, to seem so ungrateful for all their love and kindness. But it had to be. I could not do otherwise. I returned to Chicago two days after receiving the letter, and my lover and I met and clasped hands and gazed into one another’s eyes. We were reunited, or rather united truly, for the first time, with better understanding on both sides.
“Since that day, now six years ago, we have travelled the rough road together, assisting one another as best we could, often stumbling and misunderstanding and hurting one another, for we continually tried to get deeper and deeper into real knowledge, real life, and it is hard to reconcile all things. Generally to gain much, one must compromise, but Terry and I did not wish to compromise. His and mine has been a difficult and dangerous relation, but an interesting one. Very soon after my return to Chicago, I felt much more at ease, no longer a stumbling-block in his way; and I gained confidence, strength, and knowledge. I met many people of the true communistic spirit, and by social intercourse with them developed in every way. I continued to read good books and attended lectures on the social problems of the day. So after a time I became what is called an anarchist, just as Terry was.
“The reasons my books and companions brought forward for the justification of anarchism were like meat and drink to me. I was filled with enthusiasm for the ideas of a freedom which I now think is perhaps impossible in our society. But I thought that the ‘downtrodden,’ the ‘working classes,’ held the fate of the world in their hands, if they could but realise it. As time passed, my enthusiasm waned, for I began to see many difficulties in the way of this beautiful idealism. At times, I even doubted if the ‘mob’ were worthy of liberty at all. Such thoughts, however, passed away whenever I saw the crowds of workers streaming from the factories and stores, and looked upon their loutish, brutal faces, wherein there was never a gleam of pride, of the joy of creation, of intelligent effort. Then I would think, surely, surely, humankind is not meant to be thus. Why, even the little birds, the tiny little ants, what intelligence they display in their work; little kittens and dogs playing in the streets, what unrestrained joy is theirs! Work ought to be a pleasure and a blessing: and it would be so if we could only choose our labour, if we could create, do those things for which we are fitted, voluntarily, because of the need within us, for the outward expression of our life, our hope and joy. So, work would cease to be the curse it is to-day.
“And surely if we were free men and women, we would find our place in the scheme of things, surely each one of us would seek the place suited to his individual nature, and so perhaps at last everything would be a part of the harmonious whole.
“When I think of things as they are and as they might be, I grow dizzy and sick at heart, that mankind can be so blind, so hopelessly ignorant, so unspeakably cruel, so weak and cowardly. I am only a novice, I know, and there is so much for me to know, to learn, to strive for—much that I, and hundreds and thousands of others, will never reach, for we are burdened with heavy chains which we cannot break. Yet, there must be somewhere on this big earth, some little place fitted for me, some small corner where I must be of some value to myself.
“To you, no doubt, my sufferings and struggles will seem petty and my ideas crude and commonplace; but, if so, the pity is all the greater. After the agony I went through, freedom seemed to me the noblest thing in the world, and I thought it the solution of everything. Since then my ideas, perhaps, have become somewhat less ‘crude,’ but I have never for a moment lost faith in the thought that freedom is the most essential, the most necessary condition for us, if we are to endure life.”
It is certainly what Marie calls “crude” to talk of liberty without careful definition. Absolute freedom is inconceivable. But I am not interested in presenting an argument: I am interested in the description of a state of mind, of a section of society, of a certain emotional view of things. The value, however, of these general ideas is undoubted, in the spiritual improvement and moral comfort of thousands of people. I think that Marie and Terry and the other characters that will appear in this book are decidedly better off for the ideas they hold: that about these ideas, or rather ideals, perhaps, they have grouped a society in which they are not outcasts, in which their lives seem from some points of view justified. And even in my opinion, though I live in different circumstances, and see greater difficulties in the way of the realisation of any social ideal than they do, yet I feel that their way of looking at things is useful to the larger society of men, ultimately. And, I, like other people, have deep respect for a consistent and courageous life, based upon a principle or principles which I may not hold myself.
The next scene in the life of Marie and Terry took place in what they called “The Rogues’ Gallery.” This was during the time that Terry held a position in the Prudential Insurance Company, whose employ he left, as we have seen, in order to go to Pittsburg, to find the flaw in the tannery process, at his brother Jim’s request. He hired three little rooms, and up to the time he went to Pittsburg, he welcomed to his home everybody who was “against” things. Later on, he became more particular in his associates—that is to say, he demanded of them something more than mere disreputability, to use the conventional word. But at that time he loved everything that the world hated or cast out. That was his principle of action, his norm of judgment. Seeking the truth with undivided passion, he rid himself at a later time, at least partially, of this prejudice, and became quite able to “pass up,” as he calls it, that is reject, a human being even though he might be a thief, a practical anarchist, a prostitute, or a souteneur. But at the time of the existence of the Rogues’ Gallery he loved everything rejected by society, without making too nice a use of his natural taste.
There, in those three little slum rooms, gathered a strange society—a society held together on the basis of its utter rejection of the larger society of men. To be an acceptable member of this society, the individual must in some way be a social rebel—either practically or theoretically, or both. When Terry saw in some being rejected by society a spark of thought or of feeling, he was excited and happy. It was obvious to him, as to all persons who think and have practical contact with many different kinds of people, that there are in life no heroes and no villains; it was obvious that in the lowest thief or prostitute there was that possibility of light and spiritual grace which all true souls desire. Terry’s function was to make them conscious of this; to organise, so to speak, the outcasts upon a philosophic and æsthetic basis and so save them to themselves, at least.
This was his great experiment with Marie, about which a large part of this book is to be concerned. But this interest, this effort, extended itself to many other individuals, and whenever Terry could feel himself in contact with what he felt was essentially human, and, at the same time, to his sense beautiful, he was filled, as I have said, with that deep excitement of pleasure, which was both intellectual and moral. I remember, one day, he said to me: “How often, during the lifetime of the Rogues’ Gallery, did I saunter down State Street with the pleasing knowledge that I would find some ‘low’ person, girl or man, whom I knew I could get at, who would strip himself or herself bare to me in a spiritual sense, and would be revealed disinterestedly, would have no axe to grind and no contemptible small ends to gain, and no tradesman’s commercial morality and no grafting conventionality, no moral cant based on self-interest—some being so near the ‘limit’ that he was intellectually and morally fearless and did not need to pose, from whom some truth could be derived, whose sincerity and power of straight-seeing was not warped and concealed by any bourgeois ambitions, by any respectability.”
From time to time Terry would take one of these beings home with him—to his Rogues’ Gallery and to Marie and to the other intimates, mainly more or less self-conscious anarchists, all or nearly all derelicts of the labouring class. There they could stay as long as they æsthetically fitted, could share the communal cigarette, beds, beer, and food. And Terry and Marie and their friends would talk and read aloud—Terry the teacher, giving transcendental light into the nature of the good, the beautiful, and the true. Many an outcast here came first to a pleasing sense that from some points of view he was not altogether bad, nay, that he had unexpectedly good points. Many of them to some philosophic intensity; conversation became a joy, strangely unknown hitherto. The educational character of this meeting place was marked, but, as I have said, Terry’s indiscriminating passion for the outcasts of the proletaire limited the intellectual development of his little society. At a later time, a much more developed society grew around Terry and Marie, as we shall see, when we get to the Anarchist salon, or the intellectual drawing room of the Anarchist Proletaire.
Terry’s main effort was, at this time, and for years afterwards, naturally directed toward Marie’s spiritual education. Hitherto Marie has revealed herself to the reader as a rather commonplace, very physical, rather lazy, and quite egoistic person, one of many, with no distinguished characteristics. But she was unusually endowed in some ways. Eminently plastic, up to a certain point she rapidly assumed forms suggested by Terry’s spiritual touch. She derived from him her interest in all high things, in philosophy, art and literature, but there always remained an interesting distinction in the way she reacted to her education. Terry remained always the rather transcendental philosopher, with a predominant ethical sense. Marie, as she developed, showed a deeper and subtler feeling for expression and a surer sensing of human character, a juster psychology. Her nature is essentially less beautiful, by far, than that of Terry, but more real, in a way, more robust, and so constituted that in a long spiritual conflict she would wear out the finer qualities of her lover. But this is anticipating, except in so far as it is true that from the start Marie’s psychological vividness showed itself, often, of course, with base and physical concomitants. In this connection I will quote a letter which well illustrates this side of her character, and which also shows a contrast to some of her loftier but more conventional and less true qualities. She had been attending an anarchists’ ball and she wrote:
“I danced a great deal and felt very happy, without the aid of any stimulant either. I did not have any feeling of irritation or even indifference toward anybody, not even toward Rose. I am fascinated by Rose, and I sometimes think I hate her. I always like to be near her when there is no one else around. She reveals herself to me then; in fact quite throws off the mask which all women wear. In order to encourage her to do this, I apparently throw down my own mask. Oh, how I gloat over her then, when she shows me a side of her life and betrays secret thoughts and feelings to me half unconsciously! Sometimes I succeed in having her do this when there is a third person present, and the look of hatred which passes across her face when she perceives she has made a mistake, is a most interesting thing to see. But she immediately comes to my side and we kiss each other and call each other ‘angel girls’ and ‘darlings.’ Thus we play with each other, and it is a stand-off which is cleverest. She is quite puzzled sometimes by my frankness about some things, for instance, about her looks. I notice she compliments me on my looks whenever I am decidedly off colour, when I wear a green ribbon, or a dowdy dress, or big shoes. But I am honest with her in these things, and I like to see her look well. The game is more interesting then.
“Well, at this ball, I wanted to dance with a certain man, but I did not wish to ask him myself. So I requested Rose to do so, and she consented, and I was soon whirling around in his arms. I had felt curious about him for a long time: I did not know just what the state of my feeling toward him was. I did not know whether I liked or disliked him, but I had often experienced a sort of thrilling sensation when he happened to pass by or touch me, or even when he mentioned my name, which had occurred only once since I knew him. ‘Good evening, Marie,’ was all he said. But the name and the way he said it seemed new, and it kept recurring to me at unexpected times and always troubled me. When I fancy I hear that name in his voice I feel sad and lonely, and my heart aches. I see him often, mostly at our Sunday evening lectures. We are very distant, and I am often rude to him, not answering when he speaks to me.
“So when I danced with him the other night, I was agreeably surprised to find that I did not experience any unusual sensation at all. And I was relieved, too, for I had a sort of instinctive feeling that he was not worthy of any strong interest. After the dance was over, we went down-stairs together and he kissed me. You know, the radicals all kiss one another freely and it does not mean anything special, as a rule: often it is done without any feeling at all, just a common habit. But this time I was astonished to find that the moment he touched me I had the same thrilling sensation, only more intense, as when I heard him speak my name. I resisted however, and just then I heard Rose’s voice ring out exultantly, ‘Oh, if you knew how crazy Marie is about you, how she raved when she first met you and so on.’ You can imagine how I felt then. I managed to get away and drank and smoked and danced all the evening and never looked at him again. When we all went away Rose and I kissed each other and called each other ‘darling girl.’
“In some moods I would like to be a big, beautiful, heartless woman like one or two I know. In such moods, how I would make men suffer! I was talking about this to little Sadie the other day, and she assured me solemnly that she would do that when she was thirty, but not merely to make men suffer, but to develop them.”
As Terry continued to read aloud and talk in his Rogues’ Gallery, Marie grew to reflect more and more the results of the reading of good things, and of the thinking and talking about these things. It shows how some temperaments are able to connect literature and philosophy with life, and thereby see their real meaning, quite independently of any merely conventional culture or education. One of the greatest prejudices of our time (and of all times) is the belief that intellectual culture, which is merely the perception in detail of how life and thought is expressed in form, is peculiarly dependent upon academic or conventional education. And yet, of course, somewhere or other, the nature capable of understanding form must come in contact with it, before the meaning of the whole thing is incorporated into its daily habit. Terry was Marie’s point of contact with form, in its deep relation to life. Marie felt this and loved him and was grateful, to the depths of her nature, so different from his, so animal, so unideal, in comparison! She wrote:
“Terry gave me a new way to express myself, and that, after all, is the only thing worth living for. And he gave me this new way without trying to make me give up any other way of self expression, my sensuality, for example. This sensuality I have sometimes regretted, but not directly through Terry’s influence, except that he has shown me the beauty of something else. He is a winged thing in comparison with me, but he is so wonderfully tolerant that he can see beauty in even the baser part of my nature. Why should I regret what I am, anyway? I believe that the only purity that means anything is that which results from working one’s nature out harmoniously, not suppressing it. Terry must be a wonderful man, to have been able to encourage me in many new directions, and to take away the maiming sting of regret for what I inevitably was and could not help being.
“I do not think an ordinary person could have made me see the beauty of anarchism. I know that the anarchistic ideas are rather shocking, even at their best, and of course they naturally appeal most to the man with the hoe, inciting him to rebel, while the man behind the idea is usually endowed with so much sensitiveness that he shrinks from the rebellion part of the programme himself; he is not a man of action, only a man of ideas. It is shameful, some think, to disturb the blissful ignorance of the man with the hoe, for when the gleam of intelligence shines in his eye and he is aroused to the knowledge of his degrading position, he is likely to rebel in the most healthy but brutal manner, so much so that the æsthetic reformer shrinks back from the consequences of the propagation of his own ideas. Of course, the brutality of the proletariat is not nearly so subtle as that of the aristocracy, and it takes some cleverness to discover that the latter is brutality at all. It requires time and patience to drive into the thick heads of the workers that they are downtrodden, and that their oppressors are worthless parasites. When they finally do awaken to this idea and rebel, how terribly shocked the world is because these brutes have not the cleverness or delicacy to be more subtle in their brutalities.
“In your last letter you wrote of the crudeness of most propagandists of anarchism, naming Anatole France as one of the rare anarchists who express themselves otherwise than crudely. He rarely or never, you say, ever mentions the word ‘anarchism,’ although much of his writing is calculated to destroy belief in the value of organised society as it now exists. Don’t you think you are perhaps prejudiced too much against certain words because of their associations? I know that many words are objectionable to refined, cultured people because they have been so long associated with the coarse and brutal mob, the working class, as the socialists would say. But you must remember that anarchism is intended to appeal to this ‘mob’ especially; that its doctrines might not be needed by refined people who ought to have enough sensibility not to enjoy ‘freedom’ unless it is shared by the coarse and brutal workers. Believe me, there is nothing so degrading as poverty. It makes the slave more slavish and the brute more brutal. It acts like a goad, spurring people on to do things which make them seem to themselves and others lower and lower, until they are truly no longer human beings but animals.
“Therefore it is that the propaganda of anarchism is generally crude. It is true that much good literature is permeated with the ideals of anarchism, for instance, Shelley, Whitman, Thoreau, and Emerson. Such reading is excellent as a means of humanising and making anarchists of refined people, but how could you appeal to the rebellious workers with such books as these? For instance, my father, do you think he could read Ibsen or any of the others? Indeed not; but let him go to a meeting where he can hear Emma Goldman speak, or let him read Jean Grave, or Bakunin, or some other writer of ‘crude’ pamphlets, and he might become interested, he might be able to understand. But since it seems that truly refined people cannot enjoy the pleasures of freedom without being, at any rate at times, worried because of the condition of the ‘mass,’ what is to be done? This objectionable crudity must remain until there is a demand for something more subtle on the part of the workers for whom is intended all propaganda. The rich and cultured presumably have brains which they can use to solve the problems for themselves or to digest the things written by Anatole France and others. But how do you suppose that I, for instance, could a few years ago have relished Anatole France? Wouldn’t you think it idiotic for anyone to have given me such books, at that time, with any expectation of my appreciating their refined and evanescent anarchism?”
It must have been a strange sight that of Terry sitting on his dilapidated bed in the Rogues’ Gallery, with his eternal cigarette in his mouth, talking to Marie and perhaps to some prostitute or pickpocket! We begin already to see the result on Marie’s education: that will appear complex and manifold, but it is likely that on many a half-formed creature who afterward passed out of Terry’s life, his words yet made an impression which perhaps in some later darkness revived an idea which explained and justified his miserable existence.
IX: The Salon
The Rogues’ Gallery went the way of all good things: it ceased to exist when the creative spirit was gone. Terry went to Pittsburg, as we have seen, to find the flaw in the tanning process, and while he was away Marie attempted to conduct the academy of anarchism. But she was too much interested in what is called “life” to make a sustained mental or moral effort without the inspiring presence of a man whose central passionate ideas never changed. The personal jealousies which Terry’s philosophic attitude and idealism tended to dissipate became, during his absence, too strong for the bond uniting the “rogues,” and when Terry returned he found that his little colony had dispersed and that Marie, unable any longer to pay the rent, was living with her old friend Katie.
This was, to our idealist, a deep disappointment. On the heels of his final break in Pittsburg with society came this sign of woman’s weakness. Terry might easily have expected it, but one of the limitations of an idealist is an insufficient knowledge of realities. To men of his temperament there is always a distinct shock envolved in coming face to face with an actuality. Truth is the element of the idealist, but an abstract truth into which concrete realities seldom fit. Terry did not, or tried not to, mind, at this time, this continued sexual freedom, or rather vagaries, of Marie’s life; for that fitted into his scheme of personal freedom: he zealously strove to respect the private inclinations of every human being. But the least sign, in any of his acquaintances, of a compromise with the integrity of the soul, of any essential weakness, met with no tolerance from him. “He passed him up,” on the spot, with a scornful wafture of his hand. That Marie had yielded to the stress of circumstances, had been unable to hold out in the Rogues’ Gallery, galled the relatively uncompromising, exigent idealist. If she had resorted to temporary prostitution to hold the society together he would have admired her. But, instead, she weakly sought, like any merely conservative woman, the shelter of Katie’s roof. The first seed of the essential discord which finally resulted, at a much later time, in their relations was planted thus in this deep irritation of Terry’s soul; it did not, however, affect seriously his love for Marie as a person or his interest in her as a social experiment. But it tended to make him feel more lonely and to render him more hopeless of any realisation of the ideal, as he saw it.
When Terry returned, without a job, and with no intention of trying for one, and found Marie living with Katie, he had a long talk with the two women. Katie was still with her husband, Nick, but she was willing to quit him in order to live with and take care of, her darling Marie. She proposed to Marie and Terry to hire some rooms and all live together. She would work as cook in a restaurant and thus support the three of them.
To this eager desire of Katie’s Terry refused to consent; but he also refused to work. What was to be done? He was too proud willingly to live on Katie, and he was principled against labour. Katie wanted the luxury of her proposed arrangement. She quarrelled with Terry, but he interested her. Already she began to look on these two as her superior cultivated ones, aristocrats, with whom it was a joy to live and for whom it was a pleasure to work. To work for them, especially for Marie, she would drop her old Nick, good dull man, in a moment.
An event which happened just at the right moment to decide things, finally brought about the union of the three. One night Terry was drinking in a saloon, talking philosophy, and quoting literature. Some rapid lines from Swinburne had just left his lips when an elderly man, who had been listening to Terry’s talk approached him and said: “You are the man I’m looking for, won’t you have a drink?”
As he spoke, he flashed a fifty dollar bill over the bar and repeatedly treated the crowd, all in Terry’s honour.
“Before we separated that night,” said Terry, telling me the story, “I learned that the old guy had fifty thousand dollars and that he would soon go down and out, for he had all sorts of bad diseases. He knew it himself, but he was an old sport and he wanted his fling before he died. He liked me and wanted me to be bar-tender in a saloon he owned. He lived above the saloon and wanted a housekeeper to take care of the rooms. So I told Kate here was her chance. The next day Marie, Katie, and I moved into the rooms, where the old man lived, too, and I began my work as a bar-tender.
“I did not regard this job as work: it was really graft, for I had decided that my old friend, not long for this world, did not need all of his money and that I might as well turn part of it toward Katie, to help maintain a common house for us all. So, every night, after the day’s work, I turned the roll that I received behind the bar over to Katie, who tucked it away in the bank. I don’t know whether the old guy knew about it or not, if he did, he did not care. He died after two or three months, but Katie had increased her bank account by three or four hundred dollars.”
Terry is strenuous about this story. He is evidently anxious lest it be thought that he later became a mere parasite on Katie. He prides himself on having taught her to steal from an unkind world, but he does not like the idea that she has slaved for him without any help in return. Katie did not prove to be a good pupil. She was not naturally “wise,” in the slang sense, but gained what she gained by hard labour. Even while she was housekeeper for the old guy she felt she earned all the money she tucked away.
“I worked hard for the old man,” she said, “and I only got about one hundred and thirty dollars for all my work. I thought I made that much.”
There is a slight difference in the amount received, in Terry’s account and in Katie’s, but it is clear that it was not very much. It is interesting and characteristic that Terry wants it to appear to have been “graft,” while Katie looks upon the money as honest wages, received in an unconventional way.
Nick was definitely deserted, and the new “salon” formed, with Terry and Marie as the bright particular stars and Katie as the happy means of living, if not in luxury at least in independence. They lived on her eight or nine dollars a week with the comfortable feeling that there were several hundred dollars tucked away in the bank, the result of Katie’s savings and Terry’s ideas.
The salon was of a more select and higher order intellectually than had been the Rogues’ Gallery. The people who frequented the three little slummy rooms on the West Side where Terry, Marie, and Katie lived were mainly anarchists in theory, and occasionally one or another of them was so in practice. They mainly consisted of rebellious labourers who had educated themselves in the philosophy of anarchism. They had ideas about politics and government and the relation between the sexes. They were indeed all “free lovers,” and quite naturally so; the rebellious temperament instinctively takes as its object of attack the strongest convention in society. Anarchism in Europe is mainly political; in America it is mainly sexual; for the reason that there is less freedom of expression about sex in America than in Europe: so there is a stronger protest here against the conventions in this field—as the yoke is more severely felt. While I was in Italy and France I met a number of anarchists who on the sex side were not ostentatiously rebellious. They were like the free sort of conservative people everywhere. But in political ideas they were more logical, sophisticated, and deeply revolutionary than is the case with the American anarchists, who, on the other hand both in their lives and their opinions, are extreme rebels against sex conventions. It is only another instance of how unreason in one extreme tends to bring about unreason in the other. Our prudishness, hypocrisy and stupid conventionality in all sex matters is responsible for the unbalanced license of many a protesting spirit.
So there was many an “orgie” in the salon—sexual and alcoholic: and many wild words were spoken and many wild things done. But these same extreme people were gentle and sensitive, too, and emotionally interested in ideas. They went to lectures on all sorts of social subjects, they read good books of literature and crude books on politics, they grouped together and enjoyed to a certain extent their communistic ideas. They published their anarchistic newspapers and they welcomed into their ranks people who otherwise could have attained to no consolatory philosophy—who would have had no society and no hope. And they did not do it for the sake of charity—hollow word!—but from a feeling of fellowship and love. You, reader, who may think ill of thieves and prostitutes—too ill of them, perhaps: if you can come to see that social differences are of slight value in comparison with the great primal things and the universal qualities of human nature, you will perhaps be better if not more “virtuous” than before, and may be kinder, less self-righteous, and do far more good, no matter how “charitable” you are now inclined to be. You have never been able to arouse the real interest of the proletariat, for the simple reason that you have never been really interested in them. But you do arouse their hatred and their contempt. They ought not, of course, to hate and despise anything, especially anything that means as well as you do. But they, though they are anarchists, are human, all too human, sometimes, like the rest of us. Here are some of the ideas of the salon about you, about us, let me say, as voiced by Terry and Marie. To begin with, Terry: about our “culture” he writes:
“There is not much doubt about the sapping influence of culture. It seems that narrowness of range means intensity of emotion. This is seen in the savage, the child, and uncultivated men as well as other animals. I might even go farther and say we see it in such titans as Balzac and Wagner, who seek to compress all the arts into their own particular art. The mind that finds many outlets generally overflows in dissipation of energy instead of digging a deep single channel of its own. And yet to focus our feelings to one point may be a dangerous accomplishment. For instance, the fulminating fire of Swinburne’s radium rhymes, while harmless to himself, may become dangerous through me or some other ‘conductor.’ Unfortunately, the inability to foretell the ultimate effect of any given idea produces that form of inhibition called conservatism, and to this vice people of so-called culture are especially prone. It takes recklessness to be a social experimentalist or really to get in touch with humanity. Our careful humanitarians, our charitable ones, never do, for they stick to their conservatism. How we do fashion our own fetters, from chains to corsets, and from gods to governments. Oh, how I wish I were a fine lean satirist!—with a great black-snake whip of sarcasm to scourge the smug and genial ones, the self-righteous, charitable, and respectable ones! How I would lay the lash on corpulent content and fat faith with folds in its belly; chin and hands; those who try to beat their breast-bone through layers of fat! Oh, this rotund reverence of morality! ‘Meagre minds,’ mutters George Moore, and my gorge rises in stuttering rage to get action on them. Verily such morality as your ordinary conservative person professes has an organic basis: it has its seat in those vestiges of muscles that would still wag our abortive tails, and often do wag our abortive tongues.
“To arouse such fat ones to any onward flight it may take the tremendous impact of a revolution. It may take many upheavals of the seismic soul of man before the hobgoblins of authority are finally laid in the valley.
“How many free spirits have been caught and hampered in the quagmire of conservatism. Yet they have the homing instinct of all winged things: they return to the soul and seek to throw off the fat and heavy flesh of social stupidity. Many great free spirits there have been who possess this orientation of the race and have brought us tidings of the promised land. How many thundering spirits have commanded us to march by the tongued and livid lightning of their prophetic souls, but how few of us have done so! Why, to me, this world is a halting hell of hitching-posts and of truculent troughs for belching swineherds. The universe has no goal that we know of unless Eternity be the aim; let us then have the modesty of the Cosmos, and no other modesty, and be content to know our course, and be sure to run it.
“I have tried for freedom, indeed, everywhere, but I find the ‘good ones’ always in my way. How well I know the cost of my attempt! My heavy heart and my parched and choking throat, they know! I may indeed beat my breast alone in the darkness in a silent prayer for freedom and hear no response from the haunting hollows of the night. Such hungry freedom I had and have; and I could share it only with the outcasts of the world: the fat and rotund charitable ones would none of it. This freedom is possessed only by him who is afflicted over much with himself because he has been crazed by others and made mad by his escape from them. I suppose I am mad, for to believe myself perfectly sane in a greatly mad world is surely a subtle species of lunacy. And yet I am compelled to act towards others as if they were more sane than I. To feel as if one were eternally in a court-room trial, with lean lunatics for lawyers and fat philistines for judges, this is life.
“I am only one of the human victims who studies his own malady because he likes universal history. The world has thrown me back upon myself and made me at times what is called mad. After being down-hearted for some time, I grow superstitious and imagine that some strange and fatal spell is hanging over us all. Even my own acts and thoughts take on the futility of nightmare, and Nirvana is very welcome, if I could be sure of it, but I had rather stay what I am than start life all over again in some other shape, with a possible creeping recollection of my former existence. I have at times startled intimations that I lived in vain in some former unhappy time; so I shall try to postpone the eternal recurrence as best I may.”
Thus Terry tries not only to reject the laws of “fat” society, but at times he strives against what he imagines to be the deep laws of the universe: he tries to stem the tide of fate, and this in the name of Truth! It shows how far remote from reality is the truth of the idealist; and yet such an attitude is often forced upon a sensitive spirit by rough contact with imperfect society. Although Terry is the most perfect specimen of the anarchists I have known, yet they all have more or less the quality of idealism so marked in him.
Marie’s letters teem with the spirit of revolt, which of course was the atmosphere of the salon. With her it is always less ideal, more personal, more egotistic than with Terry. In one of her letters she told “how she was led to try to get a job again, in order to buy some pretty things.” A few days’ search, however, disgusted her and brought her back completely to the mood of the salon, and led her deeply to appreciate Hedda Gabler, and to condemn American morality and the “good” people. Of Hedda she wrote:
“Her character always did appeal to me, but last night I was in the mood especially to understand and sympathise with Hedda, to be Hedda, in fact. For a few hours I was as brave and wonderful in thought and feeling as she. It was the reaction from my stupid days in hunting a job. Her disgust with everything, her search for something new and different, the fascination she felt for saying and doing dangerous and reckless things—this I could understand so thoroughly! I was in a very reckless and discontented mood, but I was able to get away from myself and become Hedda for awhile; and this made me think of what a wonderful thing it is, what a power Ibsen has, to produce such emotions by merely stringing a few words together. Why, the very name Hedda, Hedda Gabler! When Eilert says it, what does it not convey! Terry and I had a long talk about it, and about literature in general, so the result was that I became calm, quiet, and reflective—as I love to be, but which I can be only very seldom. I have an almost continuous craving for something new and strange, like Hedda. But somehow reading and thinking about her calmed me. I can find new emotions in books, and this satisfies me for a time, but they are never vital enough to last me long. It is only sterile emotions we derive from literature, and so I turn again restlessly to life.
“But when I turn to life I find for the most part people who are unwilling to give themselves up to life, who will not follow out their moods, or have none. When I am no longer capable of abandoning myself, why continue? Most people seem to me to be dried up. They look as if they never felt anything, so expressionless, so automatic are they, as if they had been wound up to walk and talk, and eat and sleep in precisely the same way for a certain number of years. This seems to be the American type. I suppose you have read of the Caruso affair—how he kissed a woman in Central Park, or wanted to, and the howl it made? The way they all jumped on him, in the name of morality! And you remember what happened to Gorky, when he was here? Why, these American stiffs, what do they mean by morality? Since they are much too cold-blooded for immortality, what do they know about it? This country is composed of pie-eating, ice-water drinking, sour-faced business people. If one with emotions comes to this country, he is of course immoral. If there were no foreigners here, this country would resemble the North Pole.
“I’m glad I am not an American in blood, for then I would not be as interesting to myself as I am now. Sometimes I stand before my mirror and look at myself for a long, long time; it always surprises me that I look so commonplace. Surely, something of what I have in me ought to show in my face. But I know it’s there, anyway. I know I’m altogether different from anyone else, I know it with a kind of fierce joy; not better, of course, but different.
“For instance, this regularity and system they talk about! You wrote me to be more regular and the like of that, if I wanted to sleep better. You, too, are a typical American! Just imagine me drinking milk to make me sleep or grow fat! The thought of such a thing makes me shudder. Your remark about amorous sport being a soporific if performed regularly and without excitement made me double up with laughter. But I am quite sure that the performance of such a ‘duty’ would not induce sleep. I am only moved to such things by new lovers, and then I desire not sleep but wakefulness. And then, too, usually such desires come to me at noon, not at night, and who ever heard of sleeping at noon!
“As for the other physical exercises that you recommend, I do walk along muddy, prosaic streets and work in our household until I grow weary and ask the gods what sins I have committed. My beloved cigarettes, which are as dear to me as sleep itself, my solace when sleep flies, my comfort, you would take these away from me! What would I do without them? I am without them sometimes, when Terry takes some of my tobacco, and then I am angry at him! The only plan I have is to have enough tobacco. Otherwise, I have nothing arranged, no plan. You think there is something fine in having logical arrangements for all things. I have never felt that way. I am only a poor creature of an hour, of a moment, and have never had plans. I would love to be where you are now, in Paris, that home of the planless, the free and joyous and emotional people.”
What most people think is good, is worth while, is in good taste, the salon rejected; partly, of course, in the spirit of mere rejection, of revolt, but based nevertheless on a higher ideal of human love than obtains in our society. These anarchists are not historians or practical people and they are not as much interested in what society must be as in what society ought to be; and because they see that society is not what it ought to be, because they as unfortunate members of the labouring class feel that the origin of our society is the root of injustice, they rebel totally against that society, rejecting the good with the evil. They passionately believe that the real and radical evil in our social world is partly kept there by our very justice, by our very morality, our very religion—kept there not so much by what is called evil in our society as by what is called good. They see that much large kindness is prevented by the morality which is expressed in the idea of private property, that much large virtue is denied by the institution of marriage, that psychological truth and Christian kindness at once are not considered by the social court, which looks only to the law—to the complex, historical law, so often meaningless and unjust to human feeling, so often based upon special “interests” and ancient prejudices.
Their situation, as proletarian interpreters of the working class, enables them to see whatever is true in this view with peculiar vividness. For, of course, it is to their interest to see this truth; for truth is only an impassioned statement of our fundamental needs.
The salon was composed of the poor and the criminal, and what kept it together was the human desire to form a society, the norms of judgment of which should give value to the individual members—the deep need of justification.
There were fakirs in the salon, unkind people, unjust people, vicious people; there were mere “climbers,” persons who saw their only chance for recognition and livelihood in the espousal of anarchistic ideas. But there were also kind people, relatively just people, and moderate ones, honest and strenuous with themselves. There were none perfect, as there are none perfect in any society. We shall see how Terry became disgusted finally with the anarchists themselves, preferring even insanity and probable death to them.
And Marie’s letters are full of satire of her companions, of the perception of their weaknesses and inconsistencies. She never embraces or rejects them so completely as Terry does, for she sees them more clearly; therefore she sees them more humorously, understands them better. Her letters teem with “psychological gossip,” so to speak, in which some of her companions seem portrayed with relative truth. One she wrote me, while I was seeing something in London, of an anarchist named Nicoll, who was a friend of William Morris and still edits Morris’s old paper, is full of both appreciation and satire of a number of “radicals”:
“An old friend of Nicoll’s used to talk to me by the hour about him. He, the friend, an ordinary, rather stupid fellow, once helped poor Nicoll, got a room for him and gave him money, after he was released from prison. He felt proud to think that a man like Nicoll would accept hospitality ‘from a poor bloke like me,’ as he put it. His friendship with Nicoll has been the great event of his life. Whenever anything occurs in the radical movement which recalls ever so slightly the affair of which Nicoll was the scapegoat, his old friend will say, in his funny Jewish Cockney, ‘That’s always the wey, like Nicoll’s kise, for example.’ Then he launches forth into eloquent streams of denunciation, for he does not regard Nicoll as at all insane, but on the contrary, ‘the finest man ever downed’ by aristocrats like Turner and Kropotkin.
“This affair has made our friend pessimistic about anarchism, at times, and inclined to join the socialist party. His life is made miserable by the ceaseless debate of his mind and soul over which of these two philosophies is the best one for the race. He, suspiciously, is always looking for another case like Nicoll’s, and is doubtful about all movements, not only anarchism and socialism, but all which preach liberty, justice, and the like, such as Theosophy, Single Tax, Sun Worshippers, Spirit Fruiters, Holy Rollers, Upton Sinclair’s Helicot Colony, and Parker Sercombe’s Spencer-Whitman Centre. All these he has tested and found more or less wanting. Life grows daily more melancholy for him, as he continues, on account of ‘Nicoll’s Kise,’ to probe beneath the surface of all the cults and movements which profess boundless love for humanity, truth, justice and freedom.
“P. R., whom you have also met in London, has got himself into trouble by making inflammatory speeches in Germany. When they talked of arresting him, he immediately claimed American citizenship. But if he ever turned up in America again they would clap him in jail so quick it would make his head swim. He, together with McQueen, was arrested here some years ago for helping start the New Jersey riots, but he skipped his bonds, to the great disgust of the bondsmen, who were comrades in the movement. The movement in the whole United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia was divided into factions over this affair, and very nearly went to pieces. But it was ridiculous to arrest him in the first place, for he could not incite a feather to riot. He is one of those flamboyant wind-bags, with a terrific command of high-sounding phrases, eloquent gestures, and fine eyes—the kind sixteen-year-old girls admire—to think I once loved him, or thought I did! He is a big little physical coward and prides himself on being the realisation of Nietzsche’s Uebermensch.
“The movement in Chicago is about to resume its usual winter activity by the opening of the Social Science League this Sunday evening. There are many cultured people in this city who think the Social Science League is too crude and vulgar to grace with their presence, therefore it has been resolved to establish another society of a more exclusive order, in which may be discussed important questions in a more subdued, rational, and artistic way. It is especially desired that only the ‘artistic’ anarchist be admitted to this new society. The crude element of anarchism is to be excluded as much as possible, but what cannot be excluded is to be subdued. If this is impossible, it shall be expelled. All illustrious lights will speak there. Terry has been invited, but has refused on democratic grounds, and sticks to that ‘bum’ society, the S. S. League.
“One of the girls who has gone over to the ‘swells’ is Mary. She is a factory girl and an important little person, who prides herself on the amount of culture she possesses, and the famous people she has met and talked with. I introduced her once to a literary man, but she did not know he was so, at the time, and only nodded coldly. But when she found he was the famous Mr. F—— she was angry at me for not putting her ‘next’ and was much distressed, for here was another famous man whom she had nearly talked with.
“Another girl whom I know has done a wonderful thing with a certain man. He is a great, strong German, who guzzles beer and bullies the other fellow in his arguments about anarchism. When I first knew him, several years ago, he was married to a nice non-resistant sort of a girl, whom he treated awfully bad—without intending to. For he is really generous and good-hearted, but is firmly imbued with the idea, which he thought was the beginning of anarchism, that one must be firm and have one’s own way and do all that one wants to do, without allowing any scruple of conscience or morals or delicacy to interfere; that to be a man and an anarchist one must never allow a petticoat to come between you and your desire. So he did what he wanted, regardless of anybody. He was a sort of brutal Overman; one could not help admiring the kind of barbaric splendour there was about him. And his poor wife idolised him and would stand everything from him.
“Now he is here with another girl. Talk about a change! He has turned from a lion to a mouse. She is a little bit of a thing, only nineteen, rather silly and not very attractive. She is pretty in an outward way, but her features are unlit by any glimmer of feeling or thought, or even good nature—a slothful, empty sort of prettiness. She makes him walk a chalk-line, and it is contemptible and ridiculous and pitiful to see that big man cringe before this poor, pretty, empty little thing. Once in a while he tears himself away, and a glimmer of his old self returns; for an hour or two he plays his old rôle again, but if she finds out about it, it is very unpleasant for him. It is strange how weak women can subdue at times these big, husky creatures. But the more they succeed, the more dissatisfied they grow, until at last they feel contempt for the man they have subdued. The girl in this case feels that way about this big, powerful man. If he would assert himself, she would love him, as she did when she saw how he bullied his wife and all others. But at bottom we women are pleased, for it is a triumph for our sex, though we feel a little jealous because not one of us could have been the lion-tamer, instead of this weak little creature. Terry is wild about it, and tries to lead the enslaved Hercules into evil ways and keep him out at night, but all these things have lost their charm for the big man, who now would rather stay at home with the little girl. She, however, finds things very tedious, particularly in the day time, when her big man is at the factory, for she has nothing to do. So she passes her time at Esther’s house.
“I would go crazy were I in Esther’s place. Poor Esther, she doesn’t know what to do, either, for she cannot be always ill. She takes pleasure in being an invalid, but she can’t use this plea for sympathy all the time, people get tired of it. But Esther is fortunate in having somebody to whom she can tell all her aches and pains and their history. She has found a unique occupation, in scrubbing. She starts Monday mornings and finishes Saturday afternoons, and then on Monday starts again. I was with her a week, and that’s the way she spent the days. Perhaps she is like Mary Maclain and finds a peculiar inspiration in this fascinating task. If you were a woman I would write more about Esther’s scrubbing, which is very wonderful, but you probably would not understand. Jay, her lover, comes home from work every evening, and, after eating the chaste evening meal of rice and beans, lights his corncob pipe, settles himself comfortably in his chair and listens carefully to the description of the aches and pains which have afflicted Esther that day. These pains continue in spite of all the beautiful scrubbing. He suggests different remedies until his pipe is finished, then he calmly retires to his library and reviews a book and reads several pamphlets, writes an article for ‘The Demonstrator’ or ‘The Appeal to Reason’ or some other radical paper and attends to his voluminous correspondence with the leading radicals of the day. Then he retires for the night, also Esther, after the farewell scrub of the dishes, table, and the rest, and the kids, too, go to roost. When I was there, I also went to bed, though it was only about half past eight.
“About half past five in the morning a most infernal alarm clock emits a most hellish noise. Jay and Esther tumble from their couch, light the lamp, and resume their occupations. After a very chaste breakfast Esther continues her scrubbing and Jay finishes his correspondence and puts in the rest of the time until seven o’clock, when his work in the factory begins, in studying the new language, Esperanto. Oh, I spent a most charming and delightful week there; I could hardly tear myself away.”
One of Marie’s amorous episodes led her to Detroit, with a “fake” anarchist, of whom there are many. After a week or two of dissipation and disillusionment, Marie returned, very ill, to the “Salon,” where Terry received her with his usual stoicism, and acted as trained nurse. Repentant and disgusted, Marie wrote me from her convalescent bed:
“I am still far from well, but am much better. My illness was caused by too much dissipation, which I plunged into for relaxation. For some weeks previously I had got a particularly large dose of my environment. Terry and I live in surroundings which would kill an ordinary person. Our little home is not as bad in the summer time. We can have the windows and doors open, but now in this cold winter we must all live in one room, a very small room, where there is a stove. The dampness penetrates right through the walls and the wind comes through the holes in the window panes. Sundays are the hardest days for me. Then Kate, queen of the kitchen, is here, and she delights in cooking all sorts of things on that day, so for the remaining six days our home smells of her culinary operations—most abominable, this odour of stale cookery! And what a mess our rooms are in on Monday morning! You wouldn’t comprehend, even if I told you. I have to clean up all this, and I wish I could fly away every Sunday. At times I get so tired of this way of living. I hope some day I may find a large barn with a hay loft: I would immediately abolish Kate and her cookery and would be comfortable for once in my life.
“So I ran away, for a time, partly for relief, partly because I was rather taken with a Detroit anarchist who was visiting us. Though he was a comrade, he was really a Philistine, which I did not see till afterwards. I saw only that he was young and lusty and wanted a lark, as I did, so I went with him on an awful tear, and returned terribly done up, as you know.
“I have been lying here in this little room for three weeks. I thought surely I should die, and I was neither glad nor sorry. It was curious, this sensation of approaching death. All these days Terry sat opposite me at a table reading or writing. I could see him distinctly at times, at other times everything was misty or completely dark, only his voice reached me from such a long, long distance. He sat there like an implacable fate, with calm, cold eyes, gazing above and beyond me. Between two slow heart beats I felt it was almost a duty to call him and bid him farewell, but some strange sense of shyness held me back. I tried so hard to think of what I might do, and the most grotesque and comical things suggested themselves. At one lucid moment I had the brilliant idea of becoming a jockey!
“Other ways of passing my life revolved ceaselessly in my brain, and now at last perhaps I have found it. Now that I am better I am reading Swinburne aloud, in bed. The sound of my voice carried along with the music of his matchless rhythms is to me a delight and a wonder. I have discovered that the Garden of Proserpine should be read only when one is in a reclining position. Then one’s voice conveys more perfectly the weariness of all things mortal and the sweet delight of rest. I find I must practice breathing more deeply, if I wish to render the voluptuous, sinuous lines. Don’t you think this is a great ambition, to read Swinburne well? I am so glad to find something to do, something I love to do. Perhaps I may escape from all by this.
“It is now five days since I started to write to you, but I still lie on my back and dream and have not found my place, and never shall. Swinburne’s never-ceasing, monotonous rhymes have palled upon me. Even this is sordid, and then, if so, what is the rest?—the daily life filled with brutish and shallow men and women? When I can no longer endure poetry and daily life—it is then that I rush into brutal dissipation, from which I awake sick in mind and body, without hope or desire for anything but sleep: and then, once more, the Garden of Proserpine reveals itself to me, or some other thing of beauty. It is an eternal round.
“I often think that the only way for me to be in harmony with the scheme of things would be to go down into the gutter. Some years ago during my brief period of—prostitution, I suppose—I felt a strange importance. It was death to me, but something real, too. I was fulfilling a need of society, a horrible need, but a need. And then, too, all my men friends often go to these houses. All the nice, intellectual men are to be met there—men from all ranks of life—men a girl like me could never meet in any other way. During that brief time, at moments between a sleep and a drink, I used to have this fancy, which sometimes makes me shudder now, as I think of it, and yet somehow seems such a fine satisfying protest—a feeling that some day I would be seen waddling about the streets of Chicago, known to all the denizens of the under world as Drunken Mary! I saw myself fat and repulsive, begging nickels from the passers-by and perhaps strangled at the end by some passing hobo for the few nickels in my stocking. And am I essentially worse than you, or my lady, or anyone whom Society protects and honours? To me poet and pimp, politician, reformer, thief, aristocrat, prostitute are one. Caste and class distinctions are too subtle for my poor brain and too outrageous for my heart, which still tries to beat with and for humanity.”
Terry refers only in a line or two, characteristically, to this adventure and illness of Marie.
“She is seriously ill, the result of a mad adventure. As I exist for others when they are in pain, I am her trained nurse. She is now recovering from the drugs, the debauching, and the raving madness of sleepless nights. I will give you an account sometime of a strange piece of magic charlatanism, practiced under the guise of beautiful art!...
“I think her growing recovery is largely due to the inability to secure a doctor to christen her disease. I feel rather worn with domestic drudgery, cooking, laundering, wrestling with disease without and demons within. Still, as a trained nurse who can go sleepless for three weeks, I do not look upon myself as a failure.”
Marie’s health improved slowly, due in part to the unsanitary conditions of her home. She wrote:
“The roof of this miserable shack leaks all the time. The other day the owner came around in his automobile. I was speechless. It made me mad to think of that hound, riding in his car which we had paid for. Oh, the miserable people who live in these two houses: old, decrepit women who earn their living by washing clothes for others. It would make your blood boil to see them. And then to see that fat dog in his auto, accepting money from them and not ever giving them a whole roof in return. When I saw him I wanted to say so much. I could only choke. Oh, when you hear of the brutality of the mob, don’t believe it. The mob may indeed, under the impulse of the moment, burn and destroy; but think of the cold brutality of a judge sitting on his bench and calmly condemning some poor wretch to be killed, and this with no emotion. How can this be? The revolutionists in France were the kindest beings, in comparison. They had personal injuries to avenge, and all they did was to strike off an enemy’s head and that was the end. There was even a chance of being saved, if the doomed one could find the right expression, some little sentence that would affect the brutal (?) people. But this could not happen before a judge!
“The trouble with the poor is, they have not enough imagination. They are not refined in their cruelties. They could never invent the Bull Pen, but would only quickly destroy. It is raining to-day, and I have been moving about trying to find a dry spot where I can continue writing without having a large splash come down on my nose. But I guess I’ll have to give it up. Oh, that cursed landlord! I’d like to do something to him, not so much for myself as for those poor old things, they are all rheumatic and stiff, but continue to live here because, poor souls, they think the rent is low. Ye gods, the place is not fit for dogs to live in, and yet he charges all the way from five dollars up for these filthy, worm-eaten, rotten holes. And yet the old decrepit inhabitants of this rich man’s house unbend their stiff knees in profound salaams whenever he appears.”
But in these leaky rooms of Kate’s there was often much jollity and gaiety, when the “Salon” had its sessions, and proletarians of the pale cast of thought sat and smoked their cigarettes, drank their beer, kissed their girls, and talked of philosophy and literature and social evil and possible regeneration. Then they were always happy, whatever the subject of their talk. Marie wrote me to my villa in Italy:
“You write of your beautiful gardens and seem quite happy. We too are well and happy in our little old joint; you are the only one missing to make our circle complete. But perhaps sometime you can be with us, with a can on the table and good talk going round, and then I’m sure you will not miss your Italian garden. Emma Goldman and Berkman have been visiting Chicago, and we had some jolly good times while they were here. She is a good fellow, when she is alone with a few choice friends. Then she lets herself out. The other day we gave a social for these two celebrated ones. Positively, no police, reporters, or strangers were admitted. Next day there was a hue and cry in all the papers, dark conspiracy, and so on! But all we did was to have a great time: everybody was drunk before morning, and everybody felt kindly toward the whole world, and would not have cursed even the greatest ‘exploiter.’ We finished the evening or rather the morning by an orgy of kissing. It was quite interesting and innocent. Smith has at last begun to return my affection. I think he likes me a little now. At least, he calls here frequently, and he told me once he would like to tear me limb from limb! This remark made me shudder, not unpleasantly. It must be good to be torn in that way by such a nice man.
“The rose-leaves you sent from Italy retained some of their sweet smell. The rose is my favourite flower, and I like to imagine that perhaps some day my dust will be soil for roses. Last summer I found a poor little stillborn thing which had been hastily thrown aside, near a place where Terry and I were camping. Some poor little ‘fleur de mal’ which I covered from sight, in the sand, and marked the place with some stones and flowers. The next year I found some wild white daisies growing there. This made a deep impression on me and strengthened my hope that I, too, might become soil for roses, flowers of love.
“Henry is a rose, too, in his way. He is getting more picturesque every day. At the Emma Goldman social he was ornamented with a new straw hat, which had a very high crown and narrow brim with little black ribbons for the side. Also, an enormous tie, the ends of which fluttered gaily and coquettishly in the wind. His curling black locks nearly reached his shoulders, and he has vowed never again to cut his hair, as a protest against the conventions of society. I left the social with him, and as we walked down the street in the morning he was a target for all eyes. He was talking philosophy and love to me, but this changed to fury. He flung his arms about, and shouted to the crowd: ‘Oh, you monkeys, sheep, dogs,’ and several other kinds of quadrupeds and birds. Henry is a peculiar man, but he is as sincere as anybody living and is a friend of that wonderful man, Kropotkin. When Kropotkin was in Chicago some years ago a reception was given him at Hull House. Poor Henry eagerly hastened there to see his friend—dressed in unbecoming and informal attire. He had not seen Kropotkin for years, and so anxious was he to meet him again that he forgot his raggedness. But the dear, sympathetic settlement workers were decidedly polite in showing Henry the door. But, at the psychological moment, Kropotkin appeared, threw his arms around Henry, kissed him, and carried on like an emigrant who runs across an exile.”
X: More of the Salon
“I have been imagining you in Paris,” wrote Marie, “having a delightful, bohemian time. My ideas of Paris are all derived from reading Balzac, who has certainly created the most delightful, gay and mysterious, sad, mystic, sordid, everything one could wish in a city of dreams and realities.
“When Terry brought me ‘Evelyn Innes,’ by George Moore, the other day, I dug into it with zeal and delight, and was surprised and pleased with his subtle psychology, during the first part of the story; but psychology can be carried to the point where it becomes incomprehensible, stupefying and monotonous. I finally grew indescribably weary of the problems of Evelyn’s soul, but I kept on to the end, and then sank back on my pillow exhausted. I think I shall stop reading for a while, lest I have literary indigestion. I’ll try to be satisfied for the time with Swinburne and Shelley. Our anarchistic poet lectured on Shelley, the Poet of Revolution, the other night, and I was disappointed. He did not do justice to Shelley either as a revolutionary poet or as a poet of beauty. I think Shelley should be spoken of with a delicate passion, which our anarchist poet lacks. He tried hard to speak with fervour, but there is no fire in him, and what is a poet without fire? Perhaps it was as well, for what’s the use in casting pearls before swine? For the critics in the audience arose and condemned Shelley because he was a socialist, or because he was not one. Some of these critics seized upon the word libidinous. Oh! there was their clue! The lecturer arose like an outraged moralist to repudiate the scandalous charge of libidinousness. I was so disgusted I vowed I would never go to another meeting.
“I have indeed been going to so many ‘humanity lectures,’ and clubs, such as the Shelley Club, where the divine anarchist B—— misinterprets the great bard every week to his flock of female admirers, and had been reading so much Swinburne and other sublime things that recently I have had a reaction, and there is nothing now at the Salon except Nietzsche. He is a relief, although I feel that if I were to keep on with him I should go mad. When I feel my brain begin to turn, I start scrubbing or some other stupid thing.
“Though Nietzsche says some very bitter things about women, who have no place whatever in his scheme of things, except perhaps for the relaxation of the warriors, yet there is something dignified in his very denunciation. His attitude toward our sex is so different from that of Schopenhauer, and many other philosophers. They usually take the ‘rag and a bone and a hank of hair’ attitude, and are disgusting. But Nietzsche warns men that women are dangerous, and danger, in Nietzsche’s philosophy, is a sublime thing. Also, we must become the mothers of his Overmen.
“Terry, too, is much interested just now in Nietzsche; quite naturally, for Terry is one of those ‘men of resolute indolence’ who will not work without delight in his labour. He talks a great deal just now of a plan to seek some cave and there try to become an ‘Overman.’ I pointed out to him that that was difficult, for to become an Overman he must of course ‘keep holy his highest thought,’ without being disturbed by the struggle for existence, and that, like Zarathustra, he must have an eagle and a serpent to minister to his wants. And I suggested that I might be his eagle, for Zarathustra says that woman is still either a cat or a bird or at best a cow. I prefer to believe that I am a bird, and as such could minister to my sweet Overman. But Terry wouldn’t have it so, and replied that of course I was a bird, in a way, but he would rather have me as a pussy, or as a combination of cat, bird, and cow. I thought that too cruel, so now I am determined to be none of them, but to become an Overwoman, and so be a fitting relaxation for my warrior, my Overman. ‘Tis but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous, and I think, in this letter, I have made that step.”
Marie’s moods are many, and in her next letter she wrote in quite a different vein:
“I almost wept when reading your letter about the baby. Perhaps it was because of the line, ‘A little daughter was born to me.’ It recalled to me this Christmas time many years ago when I was a little child and I heard the story of the little Jesus. ‘And unto us a child was born.’ How those words ring in my ears! So vividly come back to me the pity I felt when I heard the story of the poor little infant born to be crucified. It always made me cry—out of pity, the pity of it all! And I wonder if we are not all, all of us, born to be crucified.
“But I suppose I must congratulate you on assuming the responsibility of fatherhood for the third time. You might long ago have studied pre-natal influences and the rights of the unborn. I hope you have not neglected these sacred duties. It surprised me that you wished for a girl, for not long ago you expressed the opinion that women were soulless creatures without memory! Suppose your daughter should not be an exception, how would you feel then?... You have been very active. As for me, I fear my only activity will be that of a dreamer. I differ from the dreaming class only in one respect and that is, in making confidences, which dreamers never do. They shrivel up into themselves. They usually create their own sorrows, which have no remedy except the joys they also invent. They are natural only when alone, and talk well only to themselves.”
In the same letter she plunges into the gossip of the Salon:
“I don’t blame Scott for his carelessness. The poor fellow has been suffering terribly because of his wife, who has left him and gone off with a new love to a new home. Scott has been quite heroic about it, but he suffers. You know how in our radical society men and women try to deny that they are jealous, try to give freedom to each other. But whatever our ideas may be, we cannot control our fundamental instincts, and poor Scott is now a wounded thing, I can assure you. But he speaks beautifully of his wife—even packed up her things for her and escorted her to the new place.
“Scott came here the other night with your friend the journalist, Fiske, who has become quite a part of our little society. I am sorry to say that he is quite sad, too, but for a different reason. The poor fellow seems to be suffering from lack of literary inspirations. He has a habit of asking people what shall he write about. He asks Terry, and even me, and in pity I am trying to write up the old women in our tenement for him....
“I see a good deal of Thompson and his wife Minna. Now that Thompson, who was a famous radical, is more prosperous, he is growing careful and conservative. The glory of her husband is reflected in Minna. I don’t call at their home so much as I did, because I made what they call a break there the other day. I thoughtlessly introduced myself as Miss L—— to someone of his relatives or relatives’ friends, after she had already introduced me as Mrs. C——. And Thompson informed me next day that it was inconvenient to explain such things to conservative people, and that I ought to be more careful in dealing with the unenlightened ones. I suppose I ought to think more of the reputation of my friends.”
Marie likes the Jews of the Salon, many of them, very much, but there are some she doesn’t, as the following shows:
“Things are rather dead in the ‘movement,’ just now. But there is something doing among the Jewish radicals, who, you know, are very important in any radical movement here in Chicago. No wonder things are lively when the Jews have such a leader as Mr. Kohen, whom one might believe to be the long wanted Messiah, destined to lead his race into the promised land, which is evidently Chicago. There was a hot time about three weeks ago in the Masonic Temple meeting when this modern prophet demonstrated to us who were not Jews that they (he and his friends) were the chosen people who would not only liberate themselves but also us from the yoke of capitalist oppression; and contrary to all previous rules, they would do this without any consideration of moneys; all that Mr. Kohen expected in return was due appreciation. I suppose I ought to be grateful to Mr. Kohen, but somehow I am not. I ought, too, to be grateful to our Jewish Madonna, Esther, but there again I am not. Poor girl! she is really the Madonna of the Chicago movement. All the sorrows and troubles of the Salon rest upon her poor shoulders, and she silently suffers, sacrifices and redeems. Then there is little Sara, another chosen one. It is she who is chosen to make men miserable for the good of their souls. She has been very pensive since the great poet B—— left, for now she has no one to worry about. I suggested to her that she might worry about Terry, if she liked, and she said she would try, with a weary little sigh. It was she who one day explained to me at great length that all love except sensual love was of a transient character. If, she said, man swears he loves you, but does not show any physical interest in you, you can bet that his passion is of that intangible sort that has the radiant tints but also the evanescence of dew!...
“I am going to a ball next Sunday night. It’s on the Jewish holiday in memory of the time when poor Moses led the Jews from Egypt and they had to eat unleavened bread. All the orthodox Jews will spend the day praying in the synagogue, without tasting food or drink. They make up for it the next day, though, you bet. The ball is given every year by the radical Jews, usually right in the Ghetto, and nearly always the followers of holy Moses jump on those who no longer follow, and there’s a hot time. Last year the radical Jews, mostly anarchists, had to have police protection! The police are good for something, after all! What should we do without them? We would exterminate each other without delay!”
Perhaps Marie’s temporary “grouch” against the Jews was partly due to the irruption into her Society of three new and attractive Israelites of her own sex—an event happening about that time. In one of these newcomers, Terry, it appears, was somewhat interested, and Marie has often admitted that her philosophy of freedom is powerless to overcome her “fundamental emotions.” Writing of Miss B—— she said: “She is a regular little Becky Sharp, very demure and quiet, and proper and distinguished. All the women hate her, and the men flock about her, for she is pretty and a free lover, of course. She comes once or twice a week to our salon, and then Terry is always present, and they get along famously. She talks of ‘the realm of physics,’ or ‘of biology,’ and I admit it bores me, her voice is so monotonous. She takes evident pleasure in Terry’s society. Perhaps I am a little jealous, but it does not make me feel any different toward him, and that is the main thing, the only thing I really care about....
“I must admit that I grow tired at times of the ‘movement.’ Kate says she has cut it out altogether, and Terry goes to the meetings very seldom. I dutifully attend the lectures, where they talk about the same old things in the same old way, and also the socials and visit the comrades once in a while. But they do get on my nerves sometimes. I prefer to stay at home, in the inner circle of the salon, reading and sucking at my cigarette when I have one. I scrub the floor once in a while, just because of sheer weariness from not doing anything.
“Terry has been writing an article on ‘the general strike,’ but did not finish it. He is like me in lacking energy enough to carry out any plan or purpose unless great pressure is brought to bear upon him either from within or without. I am sure that if he continued to feel strongly about the general strike he would go on to finish it. But he has a great distrust, really, of the ‘labour’ movement and of labour leaders. He believes that all social improvement must come from the workers, but how many difficulties there are! One of the greatest is the lack of good leaders. I myself have not much hope for the workers as long as they remain sheep who are lost without leaders, are dependent and led either by honest men who know not clearly how, where, or why, or by intelligent men, whose intelligence usually takes the form of trickery and self-interest. The intelligent honest ones seem not to be cut out to be leaders, or successful in any way. Sheep are led or driven most easily by those who can make the most noise, and they follow as readily over the precipice as over the road. The slightest thing serves to frighten and scatter them in all directions, in outward confusion and helplessness, unless the burly insistent watchers are for ever at their heels. Leaders of such a herd must often be unscrupulous to have any success, must use their intelligence for all sorts of devices, often cruel and unjust, to keep their flocks from wandering: any means justifies the end, which is the good of the cause.
“Perhaps it is a good sign that people from the higher walks of life are beginning to take notice of the workingman’s problem, and maybe the ideal leader will come from above, but even so I doubt if that will help much. I have a feeling that all movements dependent on leaders must necessarily fail. Of course, I know that the people of the ‘higher life’ fear the stupidity and brutality of the mass of workers, and argue that leaders are necessary to guide and restrain them. This is only partly true; there is hardly any doubt about the stupidity of the mob, but they are not at all so brutal. True, during times of strike they will throw stones and slug strike-breakers, but they are not nearly as brutal as the ‘scabs,’ who are incited, aided, and protected by the employers and police, and who lack the emotional exaltation which often inspires the workers to this violence.
“During the teamsters’ strike I witnessed a scene where the strikers hustled the scabs, overturned several huge wagons loaded with beef, in the centre of one of the poorest districts of Chicago, where the people were suffering from want of meat, but the wretches did not even have sense enough to help themselves from this plentiful store which was left on the street guarded only by one or two policemen. And there would have been no danger of arrest, for the policemen could easily have been swept aside by the rest of the mob. It made me mad. I felt like shouting at them, ‘you fools, why don’t you help yourselves?’ How differently a hungry bunch of kids would have acted!”
Terry, in his very different way, wrote on the same subject:
“I never knew a sincere, not to say honest, labour leader, from business agent up. Poor proletaire! forever crucified between two sets of thieves—one rioting on his rights, the other carousing on his wrongs. Labour plods while plunder plays, thus runs the world away. But if he should take it into his thick head to be his own walking delegate some day!”
This strange master of the “salon,” this poetic interpreter of the philosophy of the man who has nothing, has, in spite of his pessimisms, a profound mystic hope. He wrote:
“That toiling humanity—the labour movement—to me is a thing so vast, that whatever other movements try to exclude themselves from it, they must be swallowed up in it. All other things are but the shadows cast behind or before the ever-marching phalanx of the unconquerable, the imperishable proletaire. This is the hope which sends its thrill through us when nothing else can. At the bottom of my heart I know I am living but for one thing, and my life has been nothing but a preparation for this. Of and for myself I have accomplished nothing: for to be ever ready and alert is not accomplishment.... I see a profound hope in the proletaire, for to him is granted that intense, wistful awareness of his common lot and life with his fellows. His very crowding in factories and tenements, salons, unions, and brothels, brings it home to him. Yes, this very lack of space must remorselessly rub it in, even by dumb, physical close contact. The friction resulting from ten living in one room must make one of them phosphorescent—and capable of giving light to humanity. The tenement houses are harmless boxes of lucifers as long as none is ignited. The inhabitants are wofully benighted, but they possess wonderfully the quality of brotherhood, of oneness, hence arises their wonderful psychology and their æsthetics, so full and overflowing with pathos, so piercing, it carries one to that borderland where comic and tragic make marriage.
“This strange crowding in our consciousness of things that do not seem to come from us and yet are of us—this clamouring consciousness is what drives me to despair and makes me feel I have not the form or shadow of things, though I may have the substance. Yet I am determined to strain my self-consciousness even to the breaking point; for though I know madness lies that way, there stands my Ideal, beckoning. I must grasp this great common thing which comes from all of us, from us crowded proletarians, and yet is not in any one of us. Together we enjoy and suffer more than any one of us alone. There is, I believe, something deeper than the deepest woe: our racial consciousness is there and we must find it. At moments of great insight we are suddenly made aware of this, the mysterious unity of the Race, but it is flashed and gone and we must await another crisis. It is only in moments of sublime sorrow that the depths of the racial consciousness is heaved up to us. Joy cannot do this, for joy is narrow and wants us to do away with sorrow; but sorrow never wants us to do away with joy. Keats always beheld joy in an external attitude of farewell and this is profoundly and perfectly mystical and real: joy is swallowed up in something deeper, away down in the common racial consciousness. We must all strive to be men beyond essential harm; else, standing blindly before the meaning and destiny of the race, we should go mad. Most of us try to think, intellectuals; fear to abandon ourselves to alarming states of feeling where reason is crowded to the wall. And yet I feel that by abandoning ourselves completely to mere feeling lies our only hope to find the logic of the race that no individual reason can master.
“Let me tell you of something that recently happened to me which shows how strong this race feeling is, as opposed to merely individual or family feeling. I heard that my mother was dying. I had become reconciled long ago, had seen many things more clearly; for if joy is of the heart, sorrow is of the soul, by which we see. I wonder if woman has a ‘lake’ in her heart. I used to think my mother had, and when I called to see her once more, the old love-longing caught me by the throat. My presence seemed to help her some, but, though moved, I had passed beyond the family boundary-line, and was engaged in stripping myself of everything not belonging to the soul. If I wish to be something more than myself, I must be prepared to lose all, even myself. And what is my family and my mother?”
Terry does not like to use the word “religion.” But he certainly belongs to the type of the religious man. One of the most marked characteristics of the religious temperament is this abandonment of personal and family ties, this indifference and often hostility to social law, “this emotional devotion to something intangible.” All the anarchists and social rebels I have known have, more or less, the religious temperament, although a large part of their activity is employed in scoffing at and reviling religion—as they think the God of theology has been largely responsible for the organisation of social and political injustice. But the deeply religious spirits have often been hostile to theology, as well as to all other complicated forms of society. Here are some religious words:
“There must be some meaning,” wrote Terry, “for all this ancient agony. Oh, that I might expand my written words into an Epic of the Slums, into an Iliad of the Proletaire! If an oyster can turn its pain into a pearl, then, verily, when we have suffered enough, something must arise out of our torture—else the world has no meaning. On this theory, all my pangs are still to come. I too will arise out of my sacrificial self and look back on my former bondage in amaze, even as I now look down on the dizzy slums where I am and yet am not! It cannot be that I came up out of the depths for nothing. If I could pierce my heart and write red lines, I might perhaps tell the truth. But only a High Silence meets me, and I do not understand. In letting myself down to the bottomless, I discovered I could not stand it long enough. I am dumbly dissatisfied. I feel like a diver who has nigh strangled himself to bring up a handful of seaweed, and so feels he must down again—and again—until he attains somewhere the holy meaning of Life.”
Terry feels that somehow deep in his life he has been crucified, that society has nailed him to the cross:
“I was alone on the cross and with bloodshot, beseeching eyes beheld the world objectively. Yet I was aware of a harmony beyond me, though not in me or around me.”
It is this “harmony beyond,” this religious sense of “something far more deeply interfused” which, ever conscious in the idealist’s mind, makes the concrete vision of everyday fact so ugly, leads to anarchism of feeling profound and constant.
But in this world, which as a whole the heart rejects—“my heart,” said Terry, “is the last analysis of all things”—the idealist sees things of beauty which constitute for him the elements of perfection, elements which in some future state he dreams may be fully realised in a social whole.
“I saw a fine thing from the window to-day,” Terry wrote, “a thing of sheer delight, the complete transfiguration of a human being. An Italian street labourer came into the yard and sprawled on the grass to eat his own lunch. He was bandy-legged from being coaxed to stand alone too soon. But he had a most wonderful face; all the mobility which toil had banished from his form must have sought refuge in his eyes and his caressing countenance. Catching sight of some children playing ‘house,’ he jumped up and in a most charming way offered them all of his cakes and went back to his luncheon. The children instinctively brought him back some of the cakes, which he not only refused, but offered them the rest of his food. They gathered in a semicircle while he spoke to them. There came something in his face and attitude which I have seen many ‘cultured’ people vainly attempt. He absolutely was one of them; the children stood spell-bound, dazed at the sudden transformation of a man into a child. The imagination that can become one with its object is a high form of unconscious art and rests upon the heart and the mass feeling of the race. The ancient folk-lore and ballads must have arisen from some such fusion as this. How unfair, at least unwise, it is to judge the individual action of the proletaire, when he is made for action in the mass.”
This vague philosophy and transcendental ethics pass naturally enough, at times, into the feeling of violent revolution, where bomb-throwing, if not advocated, is emotionally sympathetic.
“Just now,” wrote Terry, “there is strong predisposition among the ‘reds’ to resort to Russian methods. It needs only the occasion, which must be waited for, and cannot be created. When the ‘error’ is great enough, the ‘Terror’ will surely rise to the occasion. Were it not for my faith in this, I should be glad to see Humanity lapse back to whence it came.”
In the idealist there is a growing impatience with the world; in his attempt to react even against Nature and some of the necessary qualities of men there is such inevitable failure that no moral revolutionist or anarchist can indefinitely endure the struggle. He is destroyed by his fundamental opposition to the world which he seeks to destroy. Therefore, impatiently, weakly, he sometimes breaks out—with a bomb—even against his philosophy and his temperament.
He is led into contradictions. One of them touches upon his feeling of “class consciousness.” Terry at times, as a transcendental moralist, rises above this feeling, but his special instinct as a “labour” man often asserts itself against and in contradiction to his passion for the oneness of the race. In my intimate association with him I sometimes saw that, much as he liked me, he felt that I was of another “class.” In the work which resulted in my book, The Spirit of Labour, I frequently came in discouraging contact with this “class” distrust of me—in him and in others. Marie alone seemed free of it, in her relation to me, and yet she wrote:
“I think we have a peculiar sympathy for each other, and yet I realise that in some subtle way there is not that perfect understanding there ought to be. Just think of what extremes we two come from—how different our social environment! I know you understand as nearly as is possible for one of your class, and yet I doubt if you can really sympathise with the ideas of anarchism which springs naturally from only one class—the labour class. Do you not hesitate sometimes and doubt that all men are worthy of the better things of life, the coalheaver as well as the banker and artist? Even I hesitate sometimes, when I see the coarseness and ignorance of these poor plodders of earth, and when I think of all the really great things that slavery has accomplished. But who knows how much greater things might be, if done freely by free men? When I remember that these poor plodders have never had a chance, I relent and feel so sorry and so hopeless. How often Terry and I have walked along the boulevards, admiring the beautiful homes of the rich. Oh, it used to make me wild! I felt that I belonged to humanity, and yet I could only enter these beautiful homes as a servant, an object of contempt—an object of contempt supposed, moreover, to have morals, and religion, too!”
Of “class consciousness,” Terry wrote: “Class feeling has always been a deep problem to me: it emanates from profound depths. This reflection concerns you. Many of your ‘labour’ friends here seem to regret that there were many things they could not tell you; not that they had any conscious lack of faith in you as an individual; indeed, they had great faith in you as a person. Their distrust of you was a class distrust; they dreaded to betray the interests of their class. They felt a fundamental antagonism, not to you as an individual, but to you as a member of your class. From their Social Sinai they enunciate the eleventh commandment, ‘Thou shalt not be a Scab!’, and the other ten commandments do not seem to them so important. But you, they think, cannot feel this commandment as they do, so passionately, so fully. To them, it is the keynote of solidarity; to you, partly at least, a principle of division, of separation.
“No wonder our class—the thinkers among them—rejects the morality of your class—property morality, and the rest meant only to make property morality as strong as a law of God. I made at one time the fatal mistake of the many simple labourers who are organically honest. I spent most of my best life in seeking a solution of our hard lot from those above me. After a loss of many feathers and some brave plumage, but no down, I must in all humility beat my way back to the traditional lost ideals of our organically incorporated class.... Perhaps the most conscienceless class who seek to solve the insoluble is the ‘cultured’ class. But most of them seem to me like artistic undertakers officiating at the ‘wake’ of Life. With their platitudes, their prudery, and their chastity, they make for death. These languid ones desire to have life served up to them in many courses. Greed lies at the bottom of their being, and so they preach content to the masses, though for the workers they have nothing in their shallow souls but contempt. This cultured leisure class has had the time and cunning to perpetrate one great and tragic trick. They have made social falsehoods so complicated that they themselves neither understand nor wish to understand.... Why is it that in all the great authors I detect an air of condescension, marking their contempt for those who make and keep them what they are? With what fine contempt the ‘rube’ is surveyed by the faker who has plucked him! Must I put these classic souls of art in the same category? The art for art’s sake people—these make me sick. It is at best an argumentative confusion springing from the fact that in the perfect work of art there is such a fusion of form and substance as to resist dissociation and defy analysis. Perhaps this fact accounts for Tolstoi’s contempt for some of the classic art. It seems to me that most classic art is one of two things: either it smacks of smug content and over-fed geniality or it is permeated with a profound pessimism. The philosophers are worse than the artists; they are the ringleaders of the betrayers of humanity. Art at least makes the atonement of beauty for its mistakes, but this cannot be said of philosophy.
“Herbert Spencer, for instance, who represents the high-water mark of a philosophy that will not hold water, pours out the vials of his bottled-up wrath on the poor unfortunates of London who are compelled ‘to make a living’ by tips in opening the carriage doors or holding the horses of the wealthy. He had nothing but loathing for the pregnant girl who tries to break her ‘fall’ by taking advantage of the ‘poor laws.’ For the workingman, who sincerely tries, at least, to settle the ‘affairs of State’ in the pot-house over a mug of ale, Spencer had nothing but contempt; but to the parliamentary people who settle the same ‘affairs’ over champagne and prostitutes, he played the lick-spittle.... The recantation of his ‘Social Statics’ is the worst case of intellectual cowardice on record.... He went down with final contempt for the workers who served him, gave him his daily bread, made his ink, pen, and paper and bound the twenty volumes of his philosophy of falsehood! May his ‘works’ rest in oblivion!...
“In dismissing Spencer, it is worthy of note that the very thing which made him pause in the righting of social wrongs is the thing which will cause the Revolution, namely, the complicated nature of social falsehoods. In recanting his published truth on the land question, he admitted that, although the legal title to land was obtained by murder and dispossession of original occupants, the matter was now too complicated to be dealt with. If this be so, if justice cannot be done because of the difficulties in the way, then all hail to the simplicity and elemental justice of a Red Revolution!...
“Yes, sometimes I feel like the crudest of the revolutionists, although I call myself a philosophical anarchist. Sometimes the jails seem to yearn for my reception, and I question my right to be at large. Nothing but a decreasing cowardice leaves me at liberty. And if I could not do more for my soul behind the bars than I have done in front of them, then I am fit only for durance vile. I, who have out-fasted the very flies till they fled my room, dread but one thing in the life of a prison—that I should have no time for reflection and repose! but out of a born anarchist it would make of me a compulsory Socialist, condemned to work for the State—a veritable dungeon of disgrace.
“It is not so much that I love life, though as a rule the poor, who are so close to life, worship it in a way that puts all other things to scorn. I know nothing that reaches farther up or deeper down than this. It is only in the gutter that life is truly worshipped. And that is why I search for my last faith there—in the gutter, whence all faith really springs.
“And yet to have faith even in the gutter is an act of deep imagination. In the rotting rooms beneath me lives a worker with a family of six girls and one boy. Capitalism has crucified his carcass for fifty years and now ‘laid him off.’ He has been looking for work for the last month. I watch the insanity in his restless, aimless movements, and I feel desperate enough to try to get him a job. Unfortunately, he does not drink; so his pipe, ever in his mouth, is the only obstacle between him and the mad-house, or the poor-house. Every morning at six o’clock, his sandwich dinner concealed in his pocket, he makes a brave show of walking away briskly in his hopeless search for work; for there are too many younger men. His assumed activity is only put on till he turns the first corner, for he tries to conceal his lameness and decrepitude, especially from his wife, who strains her gaze after him. Just before starting off he takes the superfluous precaution to put some shoe-blacking on his hair which shows white about the temples. He comes back after a six hours’ search, about noon, his neglected dinner still in his pocket. He has tramped ten or twelve miles with no open shop for him. He does not blame anyone, but regards it all as an accident that has happened to him in some unfortunate way. He broods over this till I can see it in his eyes; but I don’t dare say anything to him. He is too old, and I might only make his trouble worse. If I were a sculptor I would put him before the world in a material almost as hard and I hope more enduring than itself. His arms never hang down by his side, but seem to be set in the position required by his last job, shovelling. It reminds me of the time, thirty years ago, when I was laid off, and the madness first got in and crouched behind my eyes....
“Yes, I suppose I am mad. It is true that if I cannot have the intellectual red that heralds the approach of Dawn, then I want the red light of Terror that ushers in the Night. My feelings have been clamouring for many years against my cowardly better judgment. I believe some day they will break loose and throw me, as from a catapult, even up against the stone wall of atrocity we call Society.”
Thus the idealist becomes frenzied at times at the incredible difficulties in the way of a total revolt against society, even against nature. We shall see how the absolute nature of his anarchism led Terry further and further along the path of rejection, “passing up” one thing after another, even letting anarchism as a social enthusiasm go by the board and making his continued relation with a human being, even with Marie, a practical impossibility.
XI: The End of the Salon
Terry’s love for Marie was partly due, as we have seen, to his passion for social propaganda: that she represented the “social limit” was a strong charm to him. She, woman-like, always insisted on the personal relation, and for a long time his interest in her personality as such, combined with his social enthusiasm, was strong enough to keep the bond intact. When, however, his social enthusiasm paled, and his merely individualistic anarchism became stronger, his interest in Marie weakened. The times grew more frequent with him when he doubted the social side of anarchism itself—when this social propaganda seemed as hollow and as unlovely as society itself; and when he saw the weaknesses and vanities of his associates, how far they were from realising any ideal. Then, more and more, he was thrown back upon himself, for as his hope in the new society weakened, his hope in Marie as an embodiment of it weakened also.
Marie’s sex interests, always freely and boldly expressed, played, at first, no part in the growing irritability of their relations. Marie’s occasional “affairs” with other men, sometimes taking her away from the salon for a time, were taken by Terry in silence. Even when he came face to face with the fact of Marie’s absence of restraint in this respect, lack of delicacy and feeling for him, he did not complain. To do so was against his principles of personal freedom; and the fling in the face of society envolved in Marie’s conduct pleased him rather than otherwise; also there was in him a subtle feeling of superiority over other men, in the fact that he was without physiological jealousy, or if not, that he could at least control it.
Even Marie’s jealousy of him, whenever he was in the society of another woman, he took with a patient shrug. Terry’s interest in other women was not a passionate one: in it was always an element of the pale cast of thought, and Marie had no real cause for jealousy. But Terry tolerantly took it as a feminine weakness and tried to shield Marie from this unreasonable unhappiness. On her account he gave up many a desire to talk intimately with some female comrade. But Marie had no such tolerance for him. Not only was she quite free with other men and to the limit, but she often went into a real tantrum of jealousy. One day she followed Terry all over town, fearing that he had an appointment with a well-known radical woman. Marie often acknowledged to me her inconsistency. “But, you know,” she would say, “our principles and ideas do not count much when our fundamental emotions are concerned.”
This was a true remark of Marie’s, and I have often had occasion to perceive the great degree of it throughout the radical world. Men and women often try in that society to be tolerant; they give one another free rein sometimes for years, but generally in the end, the resistance of one or the other weakens; human nature or prejudice, whichever it is, asserts itself, and tragedy results. This I had occasion to see over and over again: how nature triumphed over the most resolute idealism and brought about in the end either ugly passion or pathetic unhappiness.
As Terry began to doubt his deepest hope, as he began to turn away from the ideas about which his salon was formed, he saw and felt more clearly the limitations of Marie’s personal character; and her acts began to hurt him. Perhaps he began to lose faith in both—Marie and the Salon—at the same time.
“I am afraid,” he wrote, “that the days of the salon are numbered. I am of the opinion that most of our latter-day radicals are on a par with our latter-day Christians. They have grown weary, or wary, of their original purpose. They seem to think Liberty a beautiful goddess who will never come: they willingly believe in her as long as there is no danger of or in her ‘coming.’ How frantically most of the radicals signal back the ‘waiting’ reply: the track is not clear for the coming of Liberty!—and they do not want to have it cleared!...
“You will be surprised to know that I have dropped the radicals, with the exception of Thomson, and I fear he too must walk the plank and go by the board. I am becoming quite implacable toward these intelligent people, and the salon will soon be void of my presence. The spirit of it has gone already and cannot be revived. That is why I left my mother’s home—because the spirit of home had gone—and why I must leave the salon. I cannot submit to being a discordant spirit; therefore I must be a wandering one.
“So I must leave Katie and Marie. If I could make a living I would work for it, as I did when I thought so. But I shall never work—or toil rather—for sheer subsistence except behind the bars. I am driven to be a parasite, for honest living there is none. The time is up, and I must leave. Several years ago I ruined whatever robustness I had by tending bar so that Katie might knock down some three hundred dollars. At one meal a day and a place to try to sleep, I think that she and I are about even; she also thinks so, though she never says so, to me. She is willing and able to take care of Marie, for she has five hundred dollars in the bank and a great love for the girl.”
Terry, sometimes terribly frank, is extremely reticent about Marie; and the account of their misunderstanding comes mainly from her letters:
“I have had such a bad misunderstanding with Terry, or he with me, I don’t know which it is. My God, but women can be brutal, though! You ought to read Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild.’ You might substitute women for dogs. Some years ago I was a feast for the dogs (women), and now I see much of this same fierce brutality in myself, and poor Terry is feeling it. I have been away with a man, and Terry somehow feels it much more keenly than ever before.
“And yet I love Terry: surely if I ever knew what love means, I love him and have loved him always. Though I am the most brutal person on earth, I am so without intention, without knowing it even, at times. And I am so tired that sometimes I have no feeling for anything, not even for Terry, and he does not understand that. I feel out of harmony with every one just now. It is hardly indifference, rather a terrible weariness. Perhaps my recent reading of Nietzsche has helped to give me a feeling of weary hopelessness. And then, too, the spirit of our salon is gone; I don’t know exactly why. Even Terry has changed very much in his feelings and ideas. He is not much interested in the things he used to be absorbed in. He is more cynical, especially of social science, and yet he seems to me to be making a very science of looking at things unscientifically. He seems to be holding his emotions in check, is less impulsive than ever, and is losing much of that delicacy of feeling and expression which was so admirable in him.
“I too am growing cynical, and I hate to do so. I should like to accept people at their apparent value and not always look for motives, as I am getting more and more to do. I should like to approach everything and everybody with a perfectly open heart, as a child does, but I find that I no longer do that, that I am always prejudiced. I am sure that this is due to Terry’s influence, for he more and more excludes everything: nothing is good enough for him. He passes up one person after another and he has no joy in life. His personality is so much stronger than mine that I am like a little thin shadow, weaker than water, and he can always bring me around to see his way of looking at people and things.”
This note in Marie—protest against Terry’s tendency to cut out the simple joy of life—grew very strong at a later time; now, however, it was only suggested, and played no important part.
Indeed, the idea of his leaving her was to her an intolerable thought; and yet there is many a letter which suggests the approaching dissolution of the salon and of their relation. They were both, at times, terribly tired of life: with no strenuous occupation, the word of Nietzsche and of world pessimism, of excessive individuality, tortured their nerves and made everything seem of no avail.
Work takes one away from life, is a buffer between sensitive nerves and intensest experience. Strong natures who for some reason are dislocated and therefore do not work, or work only fragmentarily, come too much in contact with life and often cannot bear it; it burns and palls at once. So it was with Terry and Marie. Without either work or children, they were forced into strenuous personal relations with one another and into a feverish relation with “life.”
“I feel so depressed,” she wrote; “so many things have happened this last year which seemed trivial at the time, but have had big results, while other things which seemed events have turned out to be only incidents, and very small ones. Thus, a careless remark of mine resulted in a quarrel between Terry and me which did not lessen with time, but grew larger and larger, until now the relations of us two idyllic lovers are anything but pleasant. And a very serious attack of love from which I suffered last summer has passed as quickly and lightly as a breath of wind, while another light love of mine, which came to me last February, has assumed large proportions simply because I have been abused for it by Terry, whom no one could ever displace in my heart. I was bound to defend my lover from the attacks of Terry, whom I had always regarded as above such a common display of irritation in such matters. So this other man became a sort of ideal lover in my mind, and all because of Terry’s opposition. This man had wooed me in a great, glorious, godless fashion. He was a big man in the labour world, and he flattered me immensely, but I should never have cared for him, if Terry’s nature had not suddenly seemed to weaken....
“I have been so uneasy about Terry lately. He has been talking so much about joining the criminal class. He seems to be losing his interest in our movement and to be looking for some other way of escape, as he calls it. He says his liberty is only a figment of his mind, that he has now reached the time for which he had all along been unconsciously preparing himself. I am, of course, used to this kind of talk from Terry. He has been in the depths of despondency often enough, but nothing ever came of it except a saloon brawl. He would usually seek Harris; they would break a mirror or a few glasses in some saloon, and the next day Terry would have a headache, after which he was usually content to browse around his philosophy in that mild and subtle way of his, for a week or so.
“But now Harris is gone, and Terry does not know any other person quite so strenuous in the fine art of breaking glasses and barroom fixtures in general, so, finding no vent for his accumulated despondency, he may possibly do real things. I feel so sadly for him and wish I could help him. The Lord knows I would be willing to break any amount of glassware with him, but he has not much confidence in my aim, I guess; women never can throw straight. In fact, he has little confidence in me in any way lately, for he never tells me the details of his schemes, but only throws out dark and terrible hints....
“Truly, something may indeed happen this time. He is so anti-social. He positively won’t go out anywhere to meet people, won’t go to our picnics or socials, and in manner is very strange, distant, cold, and polite to Katie and me. One would think he had been introduced to us just five minutes before. Perhaps he thinks that Katie and I want him to go to work—common, vulgar work, I mean, for Katie has lost her job and we are living in the most economical way, for we don’t know when another desirable job can be found. Now, Terry really ought to know that I shouldn’t have him work for anything in the world. I know that Katie has not said the least word to him, but he is so terribly sensitive that perhaps he suspects what she may be thinking.
“Katie is despondent, too, and nearly makes me crazy talking of her life, past, present, and future, in the most doleful way. Last night, after talking to me for two hours about the misery of life, she made the startling proposal that she and I commit suicide. ‘For,’ said she, ‘I cannot see anything ahead of me but work, work, like a cart-horse, until I am dead. I’d rather die now and be done with everything, and you had better come with me, for you haven’t anything, and if I went alone, what would become of you, such a poor helpless creature; see how thin you are, I can almost look through your bones! Who would take care of you?’
“After talking in this strain for what seemed to me hours and hours, Katie went to bed and to sleep, and then came Terry from his solitary walk—he usually goes for a walk if there are any indications that Katie will do any talking—and entertained me by carelessly, carefully hinting at one of his dark, mysterious plots. Then he, too, went to bed, and I, too, had forty winks and seventy thousand nightmares.”
But Marie, even in this growing strain, never failed in her love and admiration for the strange man with whom she lived. On the heels of the above came the following:
“Terry is one of those characters who has not lost any of his distinct individuality. His is a nature which will never become confounded or obliterated in one’s memory. The instantaneous impression of large soul, sincerity, and truthfulness he made upon me at our first meeting has never left me. This impression must have been very strong, for generally these impressions grow weaker, if people live together so closely as poor people must. All his faults, as well as perhaps his virtues, come from the fact that he is not at all practical. In spite of his experience, he does not know the world, and is a dreamer of dreams. His wild outbursts are the result, I think, of his sedentary life. Sometimes we two remain at our home for weeks without venturing out, without hardly speaking to each other, and then suddenly we burst out into the wildest extravagances of speech!”
A few days later there was a wilder burst than ever, and Terry left the salon. Marie wrote:
“Last week we all had a row, and Terry has not been seen or heard of since. The last words he uttered were that he should return for his belongings in a few days. I am dreadfully sorry about it, especially that we could not have parted good friends. I realise and always shall be sensible of the great good I had from him and shall always think of him with the best feeling and greatest respect. The parting has not been a great surprise to me, for it really has been taking place for a long time, ever since he withdrew his confidence from me, now months past, and I have been acting with other men without his knowledge. Nothing mattered in our relation but mutual confidence, but when that went, it was, I suppose, only a question of time. And, at the same time that he withdrew spiritually from me, he seemed to lose his interest in the movement, and grew more and more solitary and hopeless.
“I don’t know what Terry is doing, or where he has gone, and I am uneasy. I would not fancy this beautiful bohemian life alone with Katie, and I don’t know what to do.”
“Terry is still away,” she wrote a few days later, “and my horizon looks bleak and lonely. I want to be alone where I can collect my thoughts, but, even when Katie is out, I cannot think, but sit by the window staring at the old women hanging up the clothes which everlastingly flap on the lines tied between the poor old gnarled willow trees. Poor old trees, their fate has been very like that of the old women. They bear their burden uncomplainingly, groan dolefully in the wind, and shake their old palsied heads. Even the sparrows, true hoboes of the air, disdain to seek shelter in their twisted arms. They will die as they have lived, withering away.
“I try to interest myself in household affairs, but that is so stale and unprofitable. Neither can I read: my thoughts wander away and Terry intrudes himself constantly on my mind. I may get so desperate that I will seek a job as a possible remedy: perhaps in that way I could get tired enough to sleep....
“I have been trying to meet Terry, but he is as elusive as any vagrant sunbeam. I feel it would do me a world of good to have a long heart-to-heart talk with him. If I could only see him once a week and have him sympathise with me in a brotherly fashion and hear him say, in his old way: ‘Cheer up, Marie, the worst is yet to come,’ I should be comparatively happy and satisfied.”
Several more days passed, and with the lapse of time Marie’s mood grew blacker. Her next letter to me had a deep note of sorrow and regret and remorse:
“Terry has been away since August thirteenth. He came, while I was out, for his things. I fear it is his farewell visit; for he has not shown the slightest disposition to meet me and talk things over. I have tried in every way to see him again, but he has thus far ignored my existence. I had an idea that we two were made for each other, but I have been an awful fool. Last February, as you know, I had an affair, if it may be dignified by even that name, and just for the fun of the thing I went with this light love to Detroit, and came home ill, as you already know. I returned to Terry full of love and regret and most properly chastened by my illness and disappointment; for other men almost always disappoint me. But I found him positively beastly. The way he abused that poor man was terrible, and I had to defend him, for I know that Terry was unjust to him. I begged him to blame me, not the other man, for it was all my doing, but that only made matters worse.
“I know that some people can conceal their obnoxious qualities and show only the sweet and lovely side of themselves. I sometimes like to see the reverse side of the medal, and I expected Terry, as a student of humanity and an anarchist, to welcome any phase of character which might enable him to understand me more completely.
“I must hesitate in attributing Terry’s attitude to jealousy, for I have had some affairs before, and he never seemed to care about them in the least; indeed, I often felt piqued, and thought he did not mind because he did not care about me enough. The following two weeks were, I can truly say, the most infernal and awful that ever happened to me, and I wished thousands of times that I might die, and I did come very close to it. I cannot describe that hellish time or give you any idea of Terry’s conduct during those weeks. He was no longer the calm, philosophical Terry that you know, but the most terribly cruel thing the mind of man can conceive.
“Now, I know these are strong words, and I don’t know if you can imagine Terry that way, or if you can believe me when I say it is so. I have thought of it so many times, and I have come to the conclusion that perhaps while I was away, he and Harris had a great debauch together and that Terry must have taken some dope which unbalanced him for a while.”
I do not think it needs “dope” to explain Terry’s conduct. Marie, perhaps, could not understand the possible cruelty of a disappointed idealist. When Terry began to see that neither the anarchists nor Marie would ultimately fit into his scheme of things, when his idealistic hope began to break against the hard rocks of reality, he was capable, in his despair, of any hard, desperate, and cruel act.
“During this awful time I did not blame Terry, dope or no dope. I considered it all coming to me, and even wished it would keep on coming until it killed. But I made up my mind right then and there that if it was fated that I should keep in the game, there should be no more ‘affairs’ for me. And so help me God I have not had any from that time—six months ago—till the day Terry left me. And that other man’s name has not once passed my lips in Terry’s presence, and when it was mentioned by others when he and I were there, I grew dizzy and sick.
“In time, these dreadful things were thought of as little as might be, and Terry and I became excellent, though platonic friends, a novel and fascinating relation, wherein sex had no part. Night after night have we sat around this table, discussing books and people, trying to penetrate the mystery of things strange and new to us. I should rather say that he talked, and I was his eager listener. Often, after tossing restlessly on our pillows, when no sleep would come ‘to weight our eyelids down,’ the rest of the night would be spent in reciting poetry, the inevitable cigarette in one hand, the other gesticulating in the most fanciful and fervid manner. He would recite in passionate whispers—so as not to awaken Katie—for hours at a time, poems from Shakespeare to Shelley, and Verlaine to Whitman, poems tender and sweet, bitter and ironical and revolutionary, just as the mood suited him. His feeling for poetry and nature seemed to grow as his hope for human society grew less.
“So our relations were ideally platonic—the kind you read about in books. Nevertheless, some of the old bitterness remained in Terry’s heart, for at times he became depressed and melancholy and so sensitive about the least little thing that I was nervous and in hot water all the time for fear I might inadvertently say or do something to hurt him or make him angry. I admit I am not as placid as I look, and Katie, too, is very inflammable, so you can understand how tense the atmosphere was at times.
“Not very long ago, at the breakfast table one Sunday morning, I urged Terry to come to a meeting of the ‘radicals,’ adding that he was becoming a regular hermit and that it would do him good to have more social pleasure. He turned on me savagely, called me a hypocrite, and a contemptible one at that, and made a few more remarks of the kind. After a few days of strained politeness on both sides I made bold to ask him for some explanation—and I have got it coming yet!
“These are just the facts. I don’t go into all the little details of our many little vulgar rows, about the most trivial things. I am sure, if Terry writes you about this, that his innate delicacy would never permit him to go into these sordid details, too many of which I have perhaps told you. But I am made of rougher stuff than he. I am never quite as unreasonable as he can be at times, but I am commoner.”
Terry did, indeed, express himself in a much more laconic way about the quarrel, than Marie. On the day he left, August thirteenth, he wrote me the following note:
“The premonition in my last letter is fulfilled: the salon knows me no more.”
A later talk I had with both Katie and Terry throws light upon the precipitating cause of Terry’s departure on the thirteenth of August. It was due to Terry’s sensitiveness about his money relationship to Katie. On that morning Terry was asleep on the couch, when Katie got up, made breakfast, and she and Marie asked Terry to join them.
“Not me,” said he.
“I think you have been eating on me long enough,” rejoined Katie. “It’s time you got out.”
Katie had never allowed herself a remark of this kind before. But she had not found another job and the three had been on edge for some time.
The remark brought about the climax so long preparing.
“I’ll go,” he replied, “as soon as I have finished this cigarette.”
“In the wordy war that followed,” said Terry, “we all three went the limit in throwing things up to each other. I told Katie that if it had not been for me and Marie she would not have had anybody to steal for; that I was eating on her stealings and mine, too. And then I left.”
Although, as we shall see, this was not the end of the relation between Terry and Marie, it was in reality the sordid end of the idealistic Salon.
XII: Marie’s Attempt
While Marie was trying to find some trace of Terry, the latter was wandering about the country.
“I have been tramping about the country,” he wrote me, “living most of the time in the parks. This life, where you ‘travel by hand,’ crowds out consecutive meditation, but I like it because I can go away at the first shadow of uneasiness betrayed on either side. My existence now is so responsive and irresponsible that it comes very close to my heart. I am living a life of contrasts: one week I spent with a rare friend who has many good books and admires me for the thing for which all others condemn me. Strange, is it not, that the one thing which redeems me in his far-seeing eyes is what places me beyond redemption in the minds of others. I have spent some sleepless nights in his fine home, kept awake by the seductions of social life tugging at my heart-strings. So one night I stole away from this seduction and slept with some drunken hoboes in the tall soft grass, where I could have no doubt about being welcome. I might as well doubt the grass as those pals, who without question hailed me as an equal. I, having the only swell ‘front,’ tackled a mansion, and the Irish servant-girl, to whom I told the truth, gave me a whole hand-out in a basket, enough for all of us. My brother hoboes swore I should be the travelling agent of the gang. But a copper gave me the ‘hot foot,’ while I was ‘pounding my ear’ in the woods with the other ‘boes, so I straightened and hiked to the stock yards, where I feel more at home with the Hibernians.
“Never have I seen Life more triumphant and rampant, more brimming over with hope and defiant of all conditions, hygienic and otherwise. I am rooming with an Irish family whose floor space is limited, so we all have shake-downs, and in the morning can clear the decks for action with no bedsteads in the way. I am very ‘crummy,’ badly flea-bitten, overrun with bed bugs, somewhat fly-blown, but, redemption of it all, I am free and always drunk. Still, I am really getting tired of playing the knock-about comedian and shall soon ‘hit the road.’
“I am willing to do anything for Marie I can, except to love her as I once did, but never shall again. Even spirits die, and the spirit of the salon is so dead that it is beyond resurrection.”
Marie, however, would not believe that the spirit of the salon, or at any rate, as much of that spirit as depended on the relation between her and Terry, was dead; she was more conscious than Terry of the ups and downs of the human nerves and heart and the ever-present possibility of change, and she went to work in a wilful attempt to get back her lover. Her next letter was a triumphant one:
“I am a very happy girl to-day, and I must write to tell you so before the mood vanishes, for I have learned that good moods are very fleeting.... The cause of my happiness is, of course, that I have at last met Terry and we have had a long, delightful talk together, and I hope our misunderstanding is all cleared up. Only, now I am afraid I shall begin to pine and fret because we cannot be together always, though reason and philosophy and logic all tell me that the new relation between us two is the very best, noblest, most ideal—or at least they try to tell me so. It very nearly approaches the anarchistic standard, too.
“There is something fascinating in this new state of affairs. It is just like falling in love all over again: the clandestine meetings, with the one little tremulous caress at parting—which is all we are bold enough to exchange—thrill me; it is the mysterious charm of the first love-affair! It makes my blood sing and dance. I lie awake the whole night thinking of our meetings and trying to bring them vividly back to me.
“And, do you know, what makes me supremely glad is the feeling that Terry is going to love me again, that I am going to win him back. He thinks that love is an enslaving thing and harmful to the soul, but my dear lovely idealist and dreamer has loved me once and he must love me again. I am so in love with love and almost as fanatical about it as the ecstatic artist is about art: love for love’s sake, art for art’s sake. I never did—and hope I never shall—get over that feeling of awe at the mystery and beauty and elusiveness of that great force in life—love. And I have always felt so sorry for people, sincere people, who told me honestly that they have felt that wonder-in-spring sensation only once in all their lives. It made me think that I had at least one thing to be very thankful for, that I was different from them, that I could experience the divine flame, and experience it continually. If you knew how often I have fallen in love with Terry!
“Poor Terry, I feel so sorry for him, too; he has no place to stay, though he could stay indefinitely at three or four houses that I know of, where his friends would feel only too glad to have him. But he says he does not want again to attach himself to any person, place, or cause, because the time would come when he should have to break away, and then he should have to experience death again. So he intends to move about whenever and wherever the whim suits. But I am sure this life will not satisfy Terry for long, for there is really very much of the hermit in him....
“I am going to see him again in a few days, so I have the pleasantest things to dream of. If I am to win Terry back, I must be extremely careful: one false move would be likely to queer the whole thing. Oh, I am tremendously happy, for I am sure I shall win my dear Terry back again!”
The next letter, written about a month later, has a note of discouragement, and also a slight suggestion of an effort to steel herself against possible developments in the future:
“When I go among the comrades and friends, I must keep such careful watch over myself. I don’t want to show them how I feel about our separation. The movement had the strongest conviction that I was so wrapped up in Terry—I was always so frantically jealous of him, you know—that I would surely die, or go crazy, if I were ever separated from him. So they are all guessing at present, and don’t know just what to think of me. Apparently I am just the same, in fact some better, for I laugh and talk more, much more than I ever did.
“Terry and I have met several times since I wrote you, and I am almost discouraged, and think at times it would be better for me not to see him at all. I have to be so careful, and it is awfully hard to control my impulses to tell him what I feel! But I dare not do that or he would never see me again, and I hardly think I could stand that. He is so very cold and friendly; of course, he does kiss me when we meet and at parting, but in such an indifferent way, and if I allow my lips to linger or cling to his for just the least part of a second, you ought to see how abruptly, almost roughly, he turns away. And I must not even notice it, and it hurts terribly. I don’t understand how anyone can be so dreadfully cold. It makes me thrill all over when I see him bend his head toward me for the customary kiss, and I close my eyes so that I may enjoy more intensely that blissful eternity which I expect, and alas! only one short, perfunctory little peck, and it is all over—before my eyes are hardly closed.
“However, hope has not entirely left me. After being so intimate with Terry for seven years I ought surely to know something of his moods and disposition; and I do hope and expect that he will in time grow weary of roaming about and living the way he does now and that he will begin to yearn for feminine influences and caprices and tyrannies, and I hope, for mine in particular!...
“I should be much happier if I did not care for him so much, and I hope that in time I may have only a strong friendly interest in him. At times I envy him: he is so care-free, without the slightest responsibility toward anything or anybody; he can break from old associations and habits so easily and light-heartedly. I never could have done that....
“I am awfully absent-minded these days; you would laugh at some of the funny things I do. I ride on the cars miles past my street, and wander about and forget where I am going. Sometimes I think of things and then forget I was thinking.”
In another six weeks’ time came still more gloomy news:
“Our meetings are as uncertain, unpremeditated, and unarranged as his wanderings about the city are. It happened that I was all alone for the whole of last week, eight precious days of freedom, especially from Katie and her woes. I love her, as you know, but she does get on my nerves, at times. So I wrote Terry, asking him to come and visit with me for several days. It must have been my Jonah day, for the letter reached him, and he came and stayed here with me for the whole seven days. During this time we talked a great deal of our life together and of our life since we have not been together, and with his most calm and philosophical air he spoke of our circumstances, past and present. It seemed so pleasant and homelike, so much like the old days, to have dear Terry here with me, and I felt such lazy content to see and hear him, that at times I awoke with a start, for I could not keep myself from the idea that our separation was only a horrid dream.
“So, when he said things that ought to have hurt me dreadfully, I positively couldn’t feel hurt. Somehow, the sound of his voice was so pleasing that I missed the sting of some of his pessimistic reflections about our love; it seemed to me that he spoke of others, surely not of our two selves! But now, since he has gone, and I have been forced to think of the things he said, many of the easily accepted but only half understood reflections on our love have come back to me with all their sting. And I must now believe that I have passed out from Terry’s life utterly, and that there is no return, nor hope of return. The most I could possibly hope for is an indifferent friendship, for so he has willed it, or perhaps fate, rather, has so willed it. ‘Dead love can never return,’ he said. And I am now only one of the people he knows! It is so terrible that I must avoid the blow, must seek an independence of my own.
“And I had such high hopes, such dreams of pillowing his dear head on my bosom, and, alas! he would consider that intolerable. And, upon reflection, his head would, in fact, rest very uneasily on my scrawny breast!
“So I am trying to resign myself and to readjust what is left of my life. It seems pitiful, though, that my life has been so commonplace all through. Not one single exception, not one thing that ever happened to me, or that I ever did, has been different from the experiences of all the world. My life with Terry, which I surely expected would be different, would be an exception to the commonplace love affairs of all people, has now ended the same way as everyone else’s.
“Well, I have had seven years of life, that is perhaps a little more than some people have, and I ought to be satisfied with that. The biggest chapter of my life is over and done and closed for ever and I will try not to look back or think of it too much. And I shall tell you the same as if I were making some solemn vow, that I will not try any more to regain the love I have lost.”
This resolution of Marie’s seemed to have helped her considerably, for her later letters are not quite so exclusively concerned with the unhappy aspect of her relations with Terry. The strong vitality of mind and temperament which enabled this factory girl and prostitute to adjust herself to a relatively intellectual and distinguished existence still stood her in good stead, and enabled her to meet the present deeply tragic situation step by step and not go under: her youth and vitality and her love of life triumphed, as we shall see, over even this terrible rupture; the consolatory philosophy of anarchism, which had educated her, largely fell away, with the love of the man who had created it for her. But the work of the social propagandist has been done on Marie: the woman is a thoroughly self-conscious individual, as capable of leading her life as only are very few really distinguished personalities. Her next letter shows again a more general interest, though still largely concerned with Terry:
“The other night Terry spoke for the Social Science League on ‘The Lesson of the Haymarket’—referring, as you know, to the hanging of the anarchists in 1886. The Saturday Evening Post had quite a lengthy notice about it the day before the lecture, and nearly all the morning papers spoke of it the day after. The lecture hall was well filled with people who do not usually attend the S. S. League. And I think these people, who were not radical, were much shocked and disappointed, for Terry was not a bit gentle and well-mannered, nor as philosophical as he nearly always is. I thought his lecture good, though there was something forced about it. Perhaps because he no longer has so much faith was the cause of his greater violence. It was as if he was trying to remember what he had once felt; and that made the expression rougher than if it had been more spontaneous. I really do not believe that he is, at bottom, at all violent. But he tried to be so in this lecture. He advocated assassination and regicide and other most violent and blood-curdling things. His voice and manner, however, in saying these terrible things were not at all convincing. When replying to the critics, he was most violent, and was hissed and shamed, over half of the audience leaving the hall, very angry and indignant. I thought, for a while, that a regular free fist-fight would follow, and it very nearly did, but Terry had a few friends with him, among them a German hen-pecked anarchist I must write you about, and your friend Jimmy, both of whom were ready to stand by Terry.
“Needless to say, Terry was gloriously drunk, and utterly reckless, and after the meeting was over quite a bunch of us became as drunk as he, though not quite so gloriously. He was quite helpless toward the small hours, when our party broke up, and I took Terry home with me, as Katie was not there, and on the way I had the pleasure of acting as a referee when he and a stranger, who Terry fancied had insulted him, did really have a fist-fight; I gathered up their hats and neck-ties and kept out of the way, ready to call assistance if need be, which fortunately was not necessary, for they only rolled around in the dirt a little, and Terry only had his chin smashed slightly by the fall.
“Drunk as he was, he did not strike the other man, though being stronger he could have pounded the life out of him; he only tripped him up and rolled him on the ground. Terry is certainly instinctively and naturally gentle and chivalrous, and I loved him as much as ever as I took him home and put him to bed.
“I am beginning to think I am a genius in taking care of drunken men, for I have managed in some way to take home and care for quite a number of them, for instance, Harris, who is the most unmanageable and perverse creature when drunk. I had an experience taking him home which I would not dare write you; and I can hardly realise to this day how I even succeeded in half carrying and half dragging him to our home from away down town. He certainly was the limit.
“On Monday the papers were all shrieking for Terry’s head—wanted him deported or persecuted or prosecuted. But Terry has a good many friends and too much of a reputation as a philosopher; and his friends and his reputation prevented his becoming a martyr. Two friends, both newspaper men, managed to eliminate the most objectionable parts of Terry’s terroristic utterances from their respective papers, and Terry’s sister, the lawyer, one sergeant of police, and the ferocious but humane Tim Quinn did the rest. For the present, therefore, Terry’s desire to be acquainted with the inside of a prison, or otherwise to suffer for the cause which he still half-heartedly believes in, is frustrated.
“To me the most important aspect of the lecture was that he prepared it in our home. So, for another week, we enjoyed one another’s company; and after the lecture he not only went home with me, as I have said, but he has remained ever since. I am trying not to build up any more hopes on this, because I know that Terry has been in a particularly reckless mood, and does not care much where he is. I am sorry that he could not find a better outlet for his mood than lecturing for the Social Science League, but that perhaps is a better and more harmless way than getting in with the criminals, as he has wanted to do so often of late. You may be sure, however, that his talk on the platform will not be forgotten, and should anything happen, in any way like the McKinley affair, for instance, I am sure things would be made very unpleasant for him. So I hope nothing will happen.
“Terry is really harmless. He expends all of his energy in desiring and thinking and talking, and has nothing left over for action. Whenever he had any scheme in mind I did not like, I used to encourage him to talk about it, knowing that he thus would be satisfied, without acting. He lives almost altogether in the head and in the imagination, and is really a teacher, in his own peculiar way, rather than an actor or practical man. That is why he takes offence at what seems to me such little things: they are not little to him, in his scheme of things, which is not the scheme of the world, and, alas! not even mine, I fear. He is so terribly alone, and growing more so, and I feel so awfully sorry for him.
“Especially since our rupture I have been compelled to be so careful not to hurt his feelings or trespass on his ideas of right and wrong; for he imagines he can feel what I am thinking and feeling, even if no words are said. He says words only conceal thought and do not express it. At times I feel so oppressed and depressed that I should experience the keenest ecstasy if I could hurt him in some physical way, use my muscles on him until I were exhausted. In imagination I sometimes know the fierce delight and exaltation of my flesh and spirit in hurting this man whom I love, in hurting him morally and physically—and I feel the lightness of my heart as the accumulated burden of my repression rolls away in the wildest, freest sensations.
“Of course, I have only felt this way at times; and at those times I know I was very passionate and unreasonable. I had regular fits of jealousy and anger, but at other times I had a boundless pity for him, there was something so pathetic about his gestures and his voice when he told me he knows just how I feel about him, that I could have cried out with the ache of my heart. It was so terrible to see how he suffered in his heroic attempt to suffice unto himself, to defy the world. He tries to think and feel deeper and higher than anyone else, but this is a terrible, terrible strain. It is all fearfully sad, and sometimes I wish I had never known him.”
About his speech, Terry wrote:
“I am one of the by-products that do not pay just now, until some process comes along and sets the seal of its approval on me. Just now I am deemed worse than useless, and since my speech on ‘The Lesson of the Haymarket Riot’ the authorities are looking for a law that will deport me. This will suit me, as I will swear that I am a citizen of no man’s land. What I really need is not deportation, but solitary confinement, for the sake of my meditations. For even with my scant companionship I feel as if I were a circus animal. I still clutch convulsively to the idea that thought is the only reality and all expression of it merely a grading down of what was most high. If I am shut up I must cease talking and may think about real things, that is, ideal things. That would help me to put up with the world, which cannot put up with me unless I am in cold storage. There is a mental peace which passeth all understanding, and perhaps I might find that peace in prison. I have been insidiously poisoning my own mind for some time, and unless I can stop this I had better cease from talking, which does not seem to purge me of my unconscious pose, and retire to solitude behind the prison bars. There, undisturbed, I can meditate and often remember peacefully the beautiful things I have known in literature and nature. Beauty is like rain to the desert, it is rare, but it vanishes only from the surface of things, and deep down who knows what secret springs it feeds? As my sands run out, the remembrance of the brief beauty I have known will break over me like the pleasant noise of far-off Niagara waters on the stony desert of my life.
“I once thought that I could help the mob to organise its own freedom. But now I see that we are all the mob, that all human beings are alike, and that all I or anyone can do is to save his own soul, to win his own freedom, and perhaps to teach others to do the same, not so much through social propaganda as by digging down to a deeper personal culture. Though I sometimes think that just now the prison would help me, yet I also long at times to talk to the crowd. I wish to tell the smug ones that we waste our lives in holding on to things that in our hearts we hold contemptible. I wish to tell the mob just why there are thirty thousand steady men out of work in this city: to do this I may take to the curbstone.”
After his speech Terry returned to the home of Katie and Marie, as has been described by Marie, but on no basis of permanence. He thus speaks of it:
“You may think that I, too, have ‘cashed in’ my ideals; for I am back at the Salon—for how long nobody knows—by special proxy request of Katie. I will spare myself and you any moralising on my relapse.”
Katie, explaining Terry’s return, said: “When he went away, Marie was sad all the time. She could not eat nor sleep and was looking for her lover every day. After weeks had passed I said to her: ‘When you see Terry at the Social Science League, bring him home.’ ‘Do you mean it, Katie?’ asked Marie, her eyes sparkling. She did so, and Terry went quietly into his room, and the next morning I made coffee as usual and Terry came out, and it was all right; it might have been all right for good, if this damned Nietzsche business had not come up.” But that is anticipating.
It was after Terry’s return that the famous miner Haywood, just after his acquittal from the charge of murder in connection with the Idaho labour troubles, visited Chicago, and spent most of his time at the Salon with Terry and Marie and several of their friends. The Salon was temporarily revived, like the flash in the pan, under Haywood’s stimulating influence. Terry wrote of him:
“Haywood has the stern pioneer pride of the West. There is a mighty simplicity about him. He is Walt Whitman’s works bound in flesh and blood. He is a man of few words, and of instinctive psychic force, and is the big blond beast of Nietzsche. He knows just what he is doing and why, and has a great influence on the crowd: the mob went wild at his mere presence, and after his brief speech he came absolutely to be one of them. The swaying mass becomes, at his touch, in close contact with their instinctive leader. He is too much in touch with the people to agree with narrow trades-union policies. At a secret meeting in this city with Mitchell and Gompers he hinted that the Western Federation of Miners would amalgamate with the American Federation of Labour on the ground of no trade agreements and the open shop, and warned them that no man and no organisation was strong enough to stand in the way of this development. The Socialist party made him a big offer, but he replied that the Labour movement was big enough for him.”
Of Haywood, Marie wrote: “He is a giant in size, but as gentle as the most delicate woman. He has only one eye, but that a very good one which does not miss things. He has been made into a regular hero by the people here, but he is the most modest man I have ever met. He is sincere and unassuming, so calm, with no heroic bluster about him. His voice is quiet and gentle. We had a blow-out for him, and all those present were very discreet. We all forgot our years and our troubles and we showed him a good time. I hardly think that even you, with all your democracy, could have stood for all the things that happened. Haywood is a big, good-natured boy, but quite sentimental, too. I think he liked me pretty well. I am sure he could have won many much more attractive girls than I, but somehow he took to me right from the start. I was introduced to him along with a whole bunch of girls, all good-lookers, too, but I sat back quietly and was the only one who did not say nice things to the hero.”
XIII: Marie’s Failure
Though Terry was back in what was formerly the Salon, and though the old spirit seemed at times to be still alive, yet it was more in appearance than in reality. It is difficult to regain an emotional atmosphere once lost; and it is especially difficult to live by the gospel of freedom, when once the eloquence of that gospel is no longer deeply felt. Then there is nothing left to take its place—no prosaic sense of duty, no steady habit, no enduring interest in work. As these two human beings drifted further and further apart from their common love and their common interest, the idealistic man became more self-centred, more unsocial, more fiercely individual, and the emotional and sensual woman became more self-indulgent, more hostile to any philosophy—anarchism such as Terry’s, with its blighting idealism—which limited her simple joy in life and in mere existence.
So their quarrels became more brutal, more abrupt. Both intensely nervous, both highly individualised, their characters conflicted with the intensity of two real and opposing forces. A tragic aspect of it all was that it was due to Terry’s teaching that Marie attained to the highly individualised character which was destined to rebel against the finally sterilising influence of her master. Even physical violence became part of their life, and words that were worse than blows. The strong bond which still lingered held them for a time together, notwithstanding what was becoming the brutality of their relations. One day Marie called Terry to his coffee and he refused. A quarrel followed, in the course of which she hit Terry on the head with a pitcher, and the resulting blood was smeared over them both. When calm came again she said to him:
“Terry, how can we live together?”
“Ain’t we living together? Doesn’t this prove it?” he replied, grimly.
And this man would use violence in return—and this was the delicate idealist, the idealist whose love for Marie had at one time been part and parcel of his high dreams for humanity and perfection, a part of his propaganda, a part of his hope: during which period he had been scrupulous not to use force of any kind, spiritual or physical, on the girl whom he doubly loved—the girl whom he held in his arms every night for years with a passionate tenderness due to his feeling of her physical fragility and her social unhappiness, rather than to any other instinct.
“Marie,” he said, “did not fully understand the character of my love for her. She loved me intellectually and sensually, but not with the soul. She wanted my ideas, and sex, and more sex, but not the invisible reality, the harmony of our spirits. From the day that I fully understood this, my confidence in her and in all things seemed to go. She felt that I had withdrawn something from her, and it made her harder. She began cruelly to fling the amours that I had tolerated as long as I hoped for the spiritual best in my face. It was a kind of revenge on her part.”
Practical troubles, too, lent their disturbing element to the little remaining harmony of the three.
“We shall probably be forced to leave our rooms in a short time,” wrote Marie. “Our landlord has asked us to leave, without giving any other reasons than that he wanted a smaller family in these most desirable rooms! Terry is indignant, for we have been quiet and orderly, and Katie has always paid the rent in advance. We shall certainly stay until the police come and carry us out and our household goods with us.
“It is true that we have had unusual difficulty in paying the rent and in getting enough to eat and smoke; and this has not added to our good-nature. You have no doubt read about the ‘money stringency’ in this country. Times are indeed very hard, thousands of men are out of a job, and the so-called criminals are very much in evidence. For a long time Katie could not find work to do and could not get any of her money from the bank, so that things looked very ‘bohemian’ around here for a while. She could not get anything to do in her own line, and finally had to go out to ‘service.’ But this she could not stand more than a week, for Katie has fine qualities and is used to a certain amount of freedom, so she couldn’t stand the slavishness of the servant life, though she had good wages and nice things to eat, which Katie likes very much.
“When Katie started in on this venture she had the proverbial thirty cents, which she divided up with me—Terry had not returned from his wanderings at that time—and I recklessly squandered ten cents of this going to and returning from the Social Science League. In a day or two there was nothing edible in our house but salt, so I squandered my remaining nickel for bread. I made that loaf last me nearly four days: I ate only when I was ravenously hungry, so that it would taste good, for I hate rye bread. I slept a good deal of the time. I suffered terribly, though, when my tobacco gave out, and I spent most of my time and energy hunting old stumps, and I found several very good ones in the unswept corners and under the beds. I even picked some out of the ashcan. These I carefully collected, picked out the tobacco and rolled it in fresh papers, as carefully as any professional hobo.”
When Katie was temporarily hard up, that naturally put Terry and Marie “on the bum.” But they remained “true blue” and did not go to work, Marie being willing to put up with all sorts of discomfort rather than try for a job. She continued:
“It is a strange thing that nobody came to our house during these six days. But on the sixth day, Terry came, and then I had a good square meal, and he even left me carfare and some of the horrible stuff he calls tobacco. Two more days elapsed before Katie returned. Until then I lived on that square meal. I had ten cents from Terry, but I was sick of rye bread. On the day that Katie returned, in fact only a few hours before, I was foolish enough to visit an anarchist friend, Marna. I was awfully lonely and thought a little change would do me good. So I went to Marna, but got there a little too late for supper. I must admit I was hungry. I hinted to Marna that I was, said I’d been in town all day, and things like that, but she did not catch on and I was stubborn and wouldn’t ask. Stephen was there, and for a moment I thought I might eat. He had not had his supper, and he said that if Marna was not too tired to cook, he would go and buy a steak. I tell you, the thought of that steak was awfully nice and I had to put my handkerchief to my mouth to keep the water from flowing over. I offered to cook it for him, but he passed it up. I made one more desperate bluff and asked him if he would get some beer for us! And I reached for my purse, and for one wild moment I thought sure he had called my bluff and would really take my only nickel, my carfare home. I nearly fell over with suspense, but in the nick of time he went out, refusing my money. And I even taunted him, asked him if he thought it was tainted!
“When the beer came, I drank most of it. Beer is a great filler, but of course it went straight to my head and feet—that is, my head got light and my feet heavy. But I managed to navigate to the street car and so on home, where I found Katie, a cheerful fire and a delicious smell of cookery and coffee.
“Now, I must make you a confession. During these six days I had some thoughts of working, the only thing I could think of being a job as a waitress. But when a vision of ham and pert females and more impertinent males came to me my courage oozed away, and I did not even try. I don’t think I’ll ever work again. Did you ever read Yeats’ story ‘Where There is Nothing?’
“I love Marna, as you know, but when she talks to me about ‘work,’ ‘health,’ and the like, I feel like becoming even more solitary than I am. She says I am not ambitious! Ye gods, I think I am ever so much more ambitious than she! I am more ambitious to live in these little squalid rooms than in the mansions of the rich. My kind of happiness—I mean ideally—is not Marna’s kind; and I am sure now that if I ever find it, it will be in the slums. Here I can sit and muse, undisturbed by the ambition of the world. Blake comes to me as an indulgent father to his tired and fretful child and sings to me his sunflower song. If I were in a castle I don’t think even Blake could soothe my restless spirit.
“But, unfortunately, even in the slums one needs to eat. Without warning I tumble from my air castles because some horrible monster gnaws at me, and will not let me be, however much I try to ignore him. That mean, sneaking thing is hunger. And because I am only mortal, and because the will to live is stronger than I, I must eat my bread. I often cry when I think of this contemptible weakness. I have often tried to overcome this annoying healthiness of my body. How can people be gourmands? Even Shelley and Keats had to eat. What a repulsive word ‘eat’ is! I would I could eat my heart and drink my tears. The world is what it is because we must eat. See the whole universe eating and eating itself, over and over! If it were not for this fearful necessity, Terry and I should not, perhaps, have failed in our high attempt!
“‘The chief thing,’ said Oscar Wilde, ‘that makes life a failure, from the artistic point of view, is the thing which lends to life its sordid security.’
“But alas! to this sordid security, or to the care for it, we are driven by our need of bread. If Terry and Katie and I had never had this need, we might have become angels of virtue and insight. But on account of this we never could really attain freedom; that embittered our souls and turned us at times viciously against each other.”
Terry’s growing jealousy, which seemed to surprise Marie, was a sign of the weakening of his philosophy, as far as it was social and not purely individual. It may seem strange that after his real love for her appeared to pass, his jealousy increased; but this was due to several causes: if his social interest in her—his propagandist interest—had continued, her sexual license would have continued to feed his passion for social protest. But when Marie had ceased to interest him as a “case,” or a “type,” or a “victim,” the only bond remaining must be that of the pure individual soul or of the body. Terry’s lack of sensuality—his predominating spiritual and mental character—precluded any strong tie of the physical kind. So there remained, as a possible tie, only a close spiritual relation between two individuals, a soul bond—and this Marie’s character and conduct tended to prevent. Terry, if they were to be together, saw that the deeper personal relation must exist, now that there was no other—and so he was jealous of any conduct which showed in Marie a lack of sensibility for the deeper spiritual life; hence the physiological jealousy, which he had not felt, or had controlled at one time, showed itself. No doubt his increasing nervousness was an added reason—nervousness due to the long strain, physical and mental, which his life and social experiment had involved.
During these last weeks Marie had another lover, and was especially careless in not concealing any of its manifestations. She, too, on her side, was subject to greater and greater strain. Terry’s growing loneliness and austerity, his melancholy and unsociability, his negative philosophy, all this tended more and more to inhibit her natural young joy in life and to give it violent expression. The philosophy of anarchism had increased her natural leaning to the free expression of her moods and passions, and now, with weakened nervous resources, she hardly cared to make any effort to restrain what she called her temperament.
“Yes, he became my lover,” she wrote, “and we disappeared for a few days. Did you ever read George Moore’s Leaves From My Lost Life? In it is a story called ‘The Lovers of Orelay.’ My lover and I spent our few days together in much the same way as did the lovers in the story. We had our nice secluded cool rooms and beautiful flowers. I threw my petticoats over the chairs and scattered ribbons and things on the dressing table just like the girl in the story. And we had nice things to drink and good cigarettes, and had all our breakfasts and suppers served in our rooms. The little adventure turned out better than such things usually do; nothing awkward happened to mar our pleasure in any way, and I’m glad it happened—and is over and done with.
“You may think me a very light-headed and heartless and altogether frivolous person from my actions. But I felt so humiliated and so sorry and so desperate about Terry that I was ready to embrace any excitement, just to forget that our great relation had gone. This time it was to get away from myself, not in the old physically joyous mood—and to get away from Terry’s poisonous philosophy of life.
“This lover of mine was so joyous, so healthy, so vigorous, so full of life! He was very different from Terry, and I really needed him as a kind of tonic. And yet, of course, I did not care for him deeply at all. In fact, I want never again to have a deep relation to anybody, if this between Terry and me must go.
“This profound failure has made me reckless; Terry is sensitive now, and knows from my manner and face and the way I express myself just how I am feeling toward any other man. The other day an old lover of mine turned up in Chicago, and this brought about a scene with Terry.
“To explain this episode I must go back several years. I once knew a Swiss boy, a typical Tyrolean. The day I met him in Chicago he had just arrived from his native land, and seemed so forlorn and lonely and miserable that my heart went right out to him. He was such a big, handsome child, too, about twenty years old. He could not understand a word of English, and no one talked to him, but me, who, as you know, had parents who spoke German. He was delighted and told me his whole life story, how he became emancipated and one of the Comrades. His eyes sparkled so and his cute little blond curls jumped all over his head with the enthusiasm and joy of having found some one to talk to, that I was quite content to sit and watch and listen. And he thought me the most sympathetic person in the world.
“Had I only known the result of my impulse to say a few words to a lonely boy! For he did fall in love with me, and in such sturdy mountaineer fashion that I very nearly had nervous prostration—and he too—in trying to get away from his strenuous wooing. For he started out to win me in the same style that he would have used toward one of the cow-girls in his native Alps. He waylaid me and followed me around everywhere, just camped on my trail; wanted to carry me away to some place out West, where there were mountains. The more I discouraged him, the more lovesick and forlorn he became, until finally he became the laughing-stock of the ‘movement,’ and I was chaffed about it unmercifully. He knew I had a lover, but that was no obstacle; and he told me several times with fine enthusiasm that he would not object to sharing his love with another man! He had read something about free love, and thought he should like to be an Overman and superior to petty jealousies.
“Strange to say, my curly-headed Swiss lover did not ‘insult’ me, as they call it, though I naturally enough supposed that he wanted to, but didn’t have enough courage. But I was wrong, as I discovered later, when I grossly insulted him! Perhaps a girl is loved only once in a lifetime in just that way, perhaps not at all, and I often think I made a mistake in being so cruel to my boy lover. I might in time have learned to love him in the right way, but I couldn’t at that time, perhaps because I was so much occupied with Terry, my own lover, and with the movement, which was new to me and very charming, for I had just discovered it.
“At times I had an immense pity for the poor boy and would have done anything to help him feel better. I had not the slightest physical feeling for him, but I should have been quite willing to indulge him, if he had asked me. That was part of our philosophy and my kindness. But he did not ask me, though he often had the opportunity. He was quite content to be with me and kiss my hands, and beg me to love him a little. When he saw I did not like to have him kiss me so much, he would grow so sad and forlorn and tiresome. One day he was at the Salon with others and annoyed me by hanging about me all the time, until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I called him into another room and told him bluntly that I would indulge him, if that would help him, only he must for heaven’s sake leave me alone!
“Now, this was a most indelicate thing for me to do, and I blush as I write of it, but I was so desperate and possibly a little under the influence of whiskey—a most convenient and universal excuse—and had tried all other means of ridding myself of this annoyance, even to slapping his face and forbidding him to come to the house! When I slapped him, he simply kissed the hand that smote him, and when I forbade him to return to the house, he followed me about the streets. If I told you all the silly and ridiculous things the youth did or all the mean, brutal things I did to cure him, you would scarcely believe me.
“Now when I made that abrupt proposal to him, he blushed to the tip of his ears, and then grew very angry, and called me an animal and a beast and said he had loved me because he thought I was different from that; that he did not want that kind of love from me. After a while his vehemence and anger turned to tears, and he kissed my hands and sobbed out his intention of going away. I was repentant and very sweet and kind to him while he stayed, but soon he did go West and I did not see him again till a few weeks ago, when, one Saturday night, I found him waiting for me at our rooms. I was astonished and not too glad to see him, especially now that Terry is so sensitive.
“When Terry came home, he looked suspiciously at me and at the poor Swiss, but though I was quite innocent, I could not turn the poor fellow away, after he had come so far to see me. But I did not feel at all friendly to him, and I did not speak to him the next day, especially as Terry went away for several days, to give me a chance, as he put it, to enjoy my love. Then I told the Swiss with heat that I never wanted to see him again, and he went away for good.”
Marie, however, seemed about this time to have lost any sensibility about Terry’s emotion that she may have possessed. Perhaps it was because, as I have said, she felt that the relation of mutual confidence was really broken and nothing very much mattered. Anyway, she went so far in her carelessness that Terry could not help coming in disagreeable contact with what was growing painful to him, though he would be far from admitting it.
Katie, describing these last weeks, said that Terry grew more and more jealous and inclined to violence. He was very imaginative, and saw in Marie’s eyes “something wrong,” as Katie put it. Marie could not be expressive to Terry after an “affair,” and Katie saw that Terry understood the meaning of this inexpressiveness. Also, when Terry went away for a day or two, without an explanation, Marie was equally “imaginative.” Both were intensely proud, both intensely interested in their “individuality.” One day Terry went away, without an explanation, and returned, after a few days, “pleasantly piped,” as he put it, sat down and began to undress. It was dark, and he had no idea that somebody else was there. But Marie called out harshly, “You can’t sleep here.”
“I understood,” said Terry. But Katie replied, “That’s all right,” and she slept on the couch.
“This kind of thing,” said Katie, “put them further and further apart. Terry couldn’t help feeling the sting there was in it. Marie had done the same before, but it was in a different spirit. One of the last scenes was when H—— was visiting us. He and Marie were having coffee in her room, and Terry was in the other room. Marie and H—— called Katie to come and have coffee with them. Terry was not invited and this later brought about a terrible quarrel.
“But,” said Katie, “it was not really jealousy, though that was part of it, that brought about the last break. They calmed down, but then began to read Nietzsche again, and I think went daffy over him. Terry tried the Overman theory on me and Marie. Americans cannot understand German philosophy.”
Nietzsche’s doctrine of the distinguished individual being “beyond good and evil,” a man superior to the morality of society, his hatred of Christian civilisation and Christian ethics, his love of the big forcible blonde who takes his right by his strength only, all this was congenial to Terry’s character, and especially so after the weakening of his social philosophy. The aloofness of the Overman, the individualistic teachings of Zarathustra, appealed to the anti-social Terry, to the man who more and more went back to his egotistic personality, to whom more and more the “communist” Christian anarchists made little appeal, who more and more became what is called an individualist anarchist, with whom there is little possibility of relationship, who is essentially anti-social, whose philosophy is really that of social destruction. This indeed is the anarchist who lives in the public mind—a destroyer. But what the public mind does not see is that this destructive anarchist is the result of a lost hope in anarchistic communism, a lost hope of radical extension of social love, in absolute solidarity.
XIV: Marie’s Revolt
“The winners fall by the wayside,” wrote Terry, “while the losers must ever on—hearkening to some high request, hastening toward a nameless goal. I am loser, for my motives are large and my actions small. In my desire to embrace the universe I may neglect a comrade. I can be as hard as my life and as cruel as its finish. I have only an ideal, and whenever anything or anybody gets in the way of it I am ruthless in feeling. I must not give up all that I have—what is in my imagination: I have nothing else.”
Yes, Terry is hard. He “passes up” remorselessly not only the individual, but all society; but it is the hardness of the idealist, of the man who is still religious in the sense that he sees a beyond-world with which to compare this world and find it totally lacking. So, more and more he “passed up” Marie, found her more and more lacking, more and more human. The fact of her being a social outcast no longer had its strong appeal. He became hard and cruel to her through idealism, just as she had been hard and cruel to him through sensuality and false philosophy. But her hardness never equalled his fine scorn.
For a year or two preceding this point in the situation I had been living in Europe, and had met a good many men and women who had given a larger part of their lives to the making of a social experiment. Some of them, discouraged, had returned to a “bourgeois” manner of life, some even to a “bourgeois” philosophy. Almost all of the anarchists I have known lost their philosophy and enthusiasm with middle age, and experience with the actual constitution of things, combined with disillusion regarding the ideal. Most of them had been hurt or broken by their attempt, but they all retained a certain something, a certain remaining dignity of having struggled against the inevitable, and had acquired insight into some of the deeper things in life, though having lost some of the childlike simplicity which is a characteristic of the social rebel.
I saw a great deal of an old Frenchman, who had known Bakunin, and had been astute in the dangerous work of the “International” in England and Germany. An associate of William Morris and the other English anarchists who at that time called themselves socialists, my friend came in contact with much that was distinguished in mind and energy; he afterward carried the propaganda of revolutionary socialism to Germany, where he was arrested and imprisoned for five years. He is now a handsome, white-haired, well-preserved old man, with fine simple manners and joy in simple things, love of children and of long conversations with friends, good will and peace. He has retained a certain mild contempt for the “bourgeois,” for people who prefer an easy time in this world to an attempt, even a foolish one, for radical improvement. But he knows the world now, and I fancy many of his illusions are gone.
Another of my radical friends is now only thirty-six years old; but already he is tired and discouraged, socially speaking. He is a Frenchman, too, with all the easy mental grace and intellectual culture of his race. Soon after his student days at the Sorbonne, the social fever of our day, which burns in the blood of all who are sensitive, took possession of him. Like Terry, he was drawn emotionally to an interest in the social outcast; like Terry, a girl in that class interested him, and he took up the cause of the girls, and led an attack against the policiers des mœurs, the special police who attempt to regulate prostitution in Paris. He spent all the money he had in the attempt, lost his respectable friends, and, after several years of fruitless effort, hope left him. When I met him he was living quietly, in bohemian fashion, drawing a very small salary and devoting himself to abstract philosophy, to science, and to pessimistic memories of the days of his social enthusiasm, or what he now calls his social illusions.
One of the most pathetic social experiments I have known was made by a young girl, whom I also knew at Paris. She generously determined that she would have no sex prejudices; and for several years she strove against the terribly strong social feeling in that regard. Not only theoretically but practically she persisted in thinking and acting in a way which the world calls immoral. She wanted to show that a girl could be good and yet not what the world calls chaste. She did not believe that sex-relations had anything to do with real morality. In one way, she has been successful. She is as good now—better—as when she began her experiment. She is broader and finer and bigger; but she has suffered. She has been disappointed in her idealism, disappointed in the way men have met her frank generosity, she has been injured in a worldly way. Her strongest desires are those of all good women—she deeply wants the necessary shelter for children and social quiet and pleasure, and these essentials are denied her because of her idealism. She half feels this now and is tired and discouraged.
Another woman who has paid heavily for her “social” interests is in quite a different position. She is married to a man who is also a social idealist. He is so emotionally occupied with “society” that nature and life in its more eternal and necessary aspects touch him lightly. He hardly realises their existence. She tries to follow him in this direction; strains her woman’s nature, which is a large one, to the uttermost. It is probable that the loss of his child was due to this idealistic contempt for old wisdom. Not a moment must be lost, not a thought devoted to anything but the revolution; this necessitated social activity, and that exclusively. Where was the opportunity for the quiet development and care of an infant? The children of the “radicals” are few, and as a rule do not grow up in the best conditions. This certainly is a terrible sacrifice entailed upon the social idealist.
Writers in France and in Europe generally are much more interested in radical ideas of society and politics than they are in this country. The most distinguished among them are from the American point of view radical, at least. There is hardly a play of note produced in France or Germany that does not in some way trench upon modern social problems. Anatole France is a philosophical anarchist, and so is Octave Misbeau. It is not a disreputable thing to be so in France. An Emma Goldman there would be an object of respect. The prime minister of France was generally regarded as an anarchist before he went into office. A man of the type of Hervê would be deemed a madman here. Even a man as little radical as Jaurès would be considered a terrible social danger in America and could not conceivably have the power he exerts in France, where they have a respect for ideas as such.
But, combined with this interest in social things and this willingness to entertain the most radical ideas, there is a note of pessimism and disillusionment. Anatole France’s work shows this double tendency well. He reflects the social revolt and lack of respect for the old society in a most subtle way, but also he mirrors the failing hope of the social enthusiast. He has a deep sympathy for the social idealist, but nearly every book suggests the inevitable wreckage of enthusiasm on the rocks of actuality.
When, after an absence of several years, I returned from Europe and went again to Chicago, I found Terry alone, disheartened, and different from the Terry I had known. Soon I saw that in him had taken place a process not unlike that which had happened to my friends abroad and which was reflected in European literature. His letters and Marie’s had already indicated, as we have seen, his social disappointment. But I found him more bitter even than I had expected; cut off even from the anarchists, nourishing almost insanely his individuality, full of Nietzsche’s philosophy of egotism, rejecting everything passionately, turning from his friends, turning from himself. Old society had long been dead for him and now he had no hope for the new!
Besides, Marie was not with him: she had revolted and run away. I had expected to see her in Chicago; she had written me that she would be there, but when I arrived I learned from Terry and Katie that she had gone away. During the few weeks preceding my return to Chicago, the quarrels between the three had grown in poignancy. Terry, unlike some of the disappointed anarchists I have known, could not settle back into an easy acceptance of life. With him it was all or nothing. More and more fiercely he rejected all society, even, as we have seen anarchist society. Of course, Marie came more and more in the way of this general anathema. She was young and pleasure-loving, and at last her nature could no longer stand this general rejection, the absence of the simple pleasures of life. It was not their quarrels, even when they came to blows, that determined her action. It was a revolt from the radical sterility of Terry’s philosophy. Katie furnished her with the necessary money, and she went away to California. There this tired creature, this civilised product of the slums, this thoughtful prostitute, this striving human being full of the desire for life and as eager for excellence as is the moth for the star, went into camp, and there, in the bosom of nature, her terrible fatigue was well expressed in the great sense of relief that resulted: a new birth, as it were, a refreshing reaction from slum life and overstrained mental intensity. This new birth and this reaction from Terry’s philosophy are well expressed in her letters to Terry and to me. To me she wrote:
“I have not dared to write you before for fear of your anger toward me for my abrupt dismissal of our plans of meeting, but I could not help it. The life instinct in me would not be doomed, but was insistent in its demands and made me flee from insanity and death. So here I am, far away from civilisation, from the madding crowd, away up in the mountains, making a last effort to live the straight free life of Nature’s children, a suckling at the breasts of Mother Earth. And truly her milk is passing sweet and goes to the head like wine, for I feel intoxicated with the beauty and joy of all things here in this new, wonderful world. I did not know that such beauty existed, and my appreciation of it is so intense that it produces sensations of physical pain. I live much as the birds do, or at least try to—no thought of the morrow, or of the past, except when I receive a letter from dear old Katie or from Terry. Katie asks me if I have found a job yet, and Terry has some sweet reflections about death or dead things. But I recover in an amazingly short time from these blows, climb to the mountain-top, extend my arms to the heavens, and embrace passionately the great, grand, throbbing stillness.
“I have been here now a whole month and have not yet wearied of it for a moment. Each day brings a new, wonderful experience; and each day I feel a real part of the great wonderful scheme of things. Indeed, I am becoming a part of nature. I have grown so straight and tall, and so beautifully thin and supple that I can dart in and out of the stream without bumping myself against the rocks, can climb steep hills, and let the winds blow me where they will. I should not be at all surprised to awaken some morning and find that I had become one of the tall reeds that sway to and fro along the banks of our mountain stream.
“In one of my brief periods of returning civilisation, just after receiving a terrible letter from Terry, I had myself weighed at the store and post-office of the town not far away from our camp; my weight was exactly eighty pounds! It seemed to me that I was fading away into something wild and strange. But I have never felt such physical and mental well-being since I can remember. I hardly need to eat, but our camp cook actually forces me to swallow something. He is a German ‘radical’ of the old school. Frightfully tired of the radical bunch as I am, I like this simple old man. He is like a part of Nature, has lived on her bosom all his life, and loves her and no other. We have visitors at our camp occasionally, and they bring things to eat and drink. When they are gone, the cook and I live on what is left and get along as best we may. There are lots of wild fruits and nuts growing about here and they are delicious. Neither of us has any money nor care for the morrow.
“After I arrived here, all the bitterness of life vanished. I thought and felt very beautifully of Terry, and always shall, for I have made an ideal of him, and his grand, noble head, like a blazing tiger-lily perched upon a delicate and slender stem, will always be for me the greatest, most wonderful recollection of all the years. But I have no longer any desire to be with him, yet I do love and adore him, my own wonderful, sweet, great Terry!”
To Terry she wrote: “I am intoxicated by all this beauty and love the very air and earth. I feel the ecstasy of the æsthetic fanatic. Were I not disturbed by thoughts of you, I would indeed become another Eve before the fall, though I have strange desires and my blood beats as in the veins of married women. But no lovers can quench my fever. All the tiresome males are far away and I feel new-born and free. The air is scented with balsam and bey, and a pure crystal stream flows through this valley between two hills covered with giant redwood trees, and rare orchids of the most curious shape and colour toss wantonly in the breeze on the tree and hilltops. Birds and fishes and reptiles disport themselves in the sunshine, and giant butterflies of the most marvellous colours flutter so bravely among the ferns and flowers. There are no tents here in our camp, but we are covered with the fragrant branches of the spicy pines and nutmeg trees. It is a Paradise, and I think of you always when I am in the midst of beauty.
“My trip here included an eighteen-mile walk—in one day—think of that! I am getting as thin and strong as a greyhound. I don’t wear clothes at all, but when I do, it is the old man’s overalls, which I put on to go to town to get groceries or call for the mail. At night, our old cook builds a huge fire of redwood logs, and then his tongue loosens and he quotes poetry by the column or talks of his experience as a preacher, actor, village schoolmaster, and vagabond. Without a cent he travels all over California, as strong and rugged as any redwood tree that grows in this wonderful valley.
“It is so secluded here that no one would suspect campers were about. The trail leads down a steep descent. How stately it is between the huge stems of the trees, along our beautiful creek, cool and clear as crystal, and filled with trout and other fishes. There I sit in the sun and allow the water to pour over my shoulders.”
In another letter to Terry she writes:
“Our sylvan retreat has been somewhat disturbed by the advent of Mrs. Johns, her children and her dog. Annie is also here, but they will not remain long, it is too quiet, too lonely, and the nights are too mysterious and uncanny, strange noises to disturb the slumbers of the timid. And besides there is nothing to do, no hurry or bustle or activity. The spirit of repose, of rest, of sweet laziness broods over this spot, inviting us to dream away the hours among the spicy pine trees. And for two such active ladies it is very dull here. Even when they go to town they return disgusted and weary in spirit because of the slowness of the natives, who are half Spanish, half Mexican. Even the beautiful trail winding in and out among the mountains does not compensate them for the dreadful slowness of the natives. I, however, love this slowness and converse amicably with the natives. And when I am a little active I go fishing, or climb about, or take a lesson in Spanish from my old philosopher-cook. I am now learning a little peasant song, the refrain being, ‘Hula, tula, Palomita,’ and it does sound so beautiful that I repeat it over and over. It means, ‘Fly, fly, little dove!’
“The fishing I do not care for much. It is exciting for a time, but soon grows a bit too strenuous for my lazy temper. The little stream is filled with trout; one has flies for bait which have to be kept on the move continually. Walking and jerking the lines out of the water continually soon makes my arms and legs tired. I like best of all to lie in a bed of fragrant leaves, my head in the shade and the rest of me in the sun, the murmur of the brook in my ears, the skies mirrored in my eyes, fantastic dreams in my mind—in these you are seldom absent. At night I sleep as I have never slept—a deep, dreamless slumber. I awake to a cold plunge in the stream. Oh, it just suits me! I am tired of people, tired of tears and laughter, of men that ‘laugh and weep,’ and ‘of what may come hereafter, for men that sow to reap.’”
A letter from Terry came like a dart into her solitude and for a moment disturbed her mood—her deeply hygienic, fruitful mood. She wrote to him:
“Your letter was a dreadful, an overwhelming shock. It aroused passions in me which I thought were laid to rest. But, after getting very drunk, I had sense enough to sleep over it, so that this morning I am almost my new self again. Last night I felt like cursing you with all the wrath of the earth and heaven. The last three weeks I have been camping here, caught in the spell of the wonder and beauty of nature. I have written you the half crazy rhapsodies of a girl intoxicated with the joy of life and health. Now I do indeed think that life is beautiful and worth the living. No, I do not worry about you. I am as happy and care-free as the birds, and live in and for the moment. Everything in the past is dead. Only when your letter came, these old things of my old self raised their heads for a little time, but they too shall die speedily, if I mistake not. Life is too wonderful, too beautiful to be marred thus by the ends of frayed and worn-out passions, by memories or regrets of you. I have become happy, healthy, and free, free without hardness, and in my freedom and joy I have found my love, my beautiful Terry, whom I may love passionately, tenderly and for ever, the dear ideal one. Is it not wonderful? I crown myself with flowers and go forth to meet him every day. I kneel at his feet and caress his dear hands. For I love him dearly, this very new Terry. Yet, my dear, if you should come near me, I mean, you, my old poisonous Terry, I would flee from you as from a pest. I would loath myself and the sun and flowers and all the other beautiful things of earth. I do not think of you at all, my old Terry, but I think of you and love and adore you, my new, wonderful Terry, and I make myself beautiful for you. So, my dear old Terry, I will leave you to ‘lice and liberty,’ to your ‘hard free life,’ and I will now lave myself with the pure crystal waters and make myself clean again, and then look on the sun once more and dream again of my own adorable Terry.”
In this letter, Marie said, by implication, a deep truth about social revolt. She could never have lived her life without him, this strange, poetic man. He awoke in this outcast, rather vicious girl, a keen longing for the excellent, for the pleasures of the intelligence and the temperament; he gave her an assured sense of her own essential dignity and worth; defended her against the society that rejected her. This was a truly Christ-like thing to do, and this she could never forget or do without. So, in her wilderness, she holds fast to her ideal Terry. But with this idealist she could not live, practically. The growing irritation felt by him because of his radical mal-adjustment to this world rendered him step by step more impossible to live with. Harshness, injustice, became forced upon him as qualities of his acts. How could he be fair when he had no understanding of the nature of actuality? It is probable that no woman can ever get so far away from actuality as a few rare idealists of the male sex. Marie’s relative good sense, her vitality and love of life, finally rebelled against an idealism so exquisite that it became cruelty and almost madness. And this is the way with the world. The world cannot, in the end, endure the idealist, though it has great need of him. The world can endure a certain amount of irritation, a certain amount of fundamental revolt, but when that revolt reaches the point of absolute rejection, the world rebels, the worm turns. Marie represents the world and the worm.
Plato said there should be no poets in his Republic. Poets are too disturbing, they fit into no social organisation, for the truth they see is larger and often other than the truth of mankind’s housekeeping, of human society. So they are against society. They are for nature, both God’s nature and man’s nature, but man’s organisation arouses their passionate hostility. Therefore, said Plato, let us have no poets in our Republic. But Plato was a poet, and he probably knew that poets, though inimical to the actual working of any actual society, yet are necessary to keep alive the deeper ideals of humankind, to arouse perpetually the instinct for something better than what we have, something deeply better, something radically better, not the mere improvements, palliatives, of the practical man and the conservative, bourgeois reformer.
XV: Terry’s Finish
Terry had given Marie life, and she had finally used this vitality to free herself from him and his too exigent idealism. The result of his relation to her seems from this point of view pathetically ironical; but it is only a symbol of the ironical pathos of his relation to society in general; he and his kind act as a stimulant and a tonic to the society which rejects and crushes them. The anarchist is in a double sense the victim of society. He is, in the first place, generally a “labour” victim, is generally the maimed result of our factory system; and, in the second place, his philosophy, needed by society, reacts against himself and turns the world against him. So he is a double victim, a reiterated social sacrifice.
When I went to Chicago this last time I found Terry, as I have said, despondent and disillusioned; and intensely savage in his rejection, not only of capitalistic society, but apparently of all society. In a way, he had left his old moorings, the “proletariat” no longer appealed to him. This mood was not a part of his philosophy: it was an expression of his disappointment, of his disillusionment. He talked about his own life and Marie’s with an almost brutal frankness. He seemed to take a sad pleasure in stripping the illusion of human worth and beauty to the bare bones. In spite of his words, in spite of his previous letters, it seemed clear to me that Marie had not lost her hold on him entirely, and that he deeply felt her defection. Through her he had failed socially and personally. Around her much of his life, intellectual and personal, had been wound. Lingeringly he talked of her, of her qualities; he seemed to try to steel himself against all need of human relation; incidentally he rejected me and other friends, finding us wanting. Marie, too, was not perfect, and must be “passed up”; but his mind rested, in spite of himself, on this woman and his life with her. Some of the things he said and wrote to me about this time indicate his present mood toward me, Marie, the anarchists, proletariat, and the world in general.
A year or two ago he wrote me: “No one, very close to me geographically, can ever get much out of me. This is a family trait and is too deep for me. So don’t be downcast if we should ever meet again and you should find me as stoical as some crustacean of the past. Some such antediluvian feeling animates me to take advantage of your distance and clamour up out of the depths.”
He did, indeed, “clamour up out of the depths” very eloquently, but when I saw him in Chicago I found that I had somehow “lost touch,” like the rest of the world, with him. He felt it and wrote me:
“While you were in Italy, I sent you a letter in which I represented myself as one clamouring up out of the depths of his being to you who might understand. Now I sincerely and deeply regret having made this attempt with you. In the same letter I predicted that your return might find me back in the depths of my being, where I belong. I regret I did not stay there when you came along. This feeling is due to no fault of yours or mine; but points to the fact that I must become still more exclusive and circumspect.”
Of Marie he wrote: “This attachment between two human beings is in all circumstances very terrible. The bond between Marie and myself was as strong as death, and partly so because of our great and essential differences. The first night we spent together struck one of the deep things in our discord. I was too nervous and sensitive to touch her that night, and in the morning she bitterly reproached me. The first book that really aroused her to the meaning of life was ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin.’ Deeper than this difference was her galling interference in my affairs which never prompted me to meddle in hers. And her failure to appreciate or reciprocate my respect for the integrity of her personality is the hardest blow she can ever give to me. I have the same fatal charge to make against almost all men; the exceptions are so few and doubtful that I doubt whether I can ever gain from another that intense receptive attitude which I am willing to bestow. Fortunately for me, this illusion that there are such intense perceivers re-creates itself out of the veriest dust and dross of humanity. Like Shelley’s ‘Cloud,’ my illusion may change, but it cannot die. Now I am in a state of mind when I am willing to let everything go by default—everything except my last illusion, that I can never let myself out to anyone. To Marie—and to you—and one or two others—I have been sorely tempted to lay myself out—but not even the moon can seduce me to reveal myself. My dead and buried self is my first and last seduction. This is crazy, of course, but I am heartily sick of all the ‘sense’ I know or can know. I believe, however, that I have lived so close to the ‘truth’ that its shadow has been cast over all my life. If, in the last analysis, all is illusion, I shall stick to the most powerful one—myself. My feeling for Marie arises largely from the fact that she is an expression of the irreparable part of my life—of its deepest essence.
“A year ago to-day, on the thirteenth of August,” he wrote, “occurred my first, last, and only breakaway from the best pal I have ever hoped to have, Marie. Now that it has passed, I see it in its proper proportions, just as if it had happened to someone else, but to one as near and dear to me as myself. I have broken away from the Mob, too. My sympathy for what is called the People has been worn down to a mere thread that might easily be broken and turn me against them. When one has been stoned long enough, one may easily turn into something as hard as stone itself. I am like the knight of old, turned inside out. I am developing a coating of internal mail, as so many of the attacks come from within. But worse than attacks from within or without is the sordid security and mental inertia of all the people about me: they are strangling me just as surely as if they put a rope around my neck. By day they hurry on like ghosts about their business, and by night they gather in the little tombs of many rooms they call their homes.
“You may call it madness, this my cutting off of all things. I know that I have kept off madness a long while now. I have shrunk from ‘business’ to social anarchy and pure beings, from these again I have shrunk to books and poetry, from these again into the solitude of myself where only I am really at home. Though I have lost my general bearings, I still stand at the helm of myself. I am going to pieces on the rocks of the world, but I still inhabit the realm of the soul.
“When I could no longer see my ideals rise out of my work, I quit that work; for then the work was no longer an expression of myself. This is the origin of all modern problems. A man stands to his job because of the visions that come to him only when at work. He sees in imagery his own possibilities arise out of the thing on which he is at work, and easily links himself to his fellows. Thus does the worker make of his eternal cerebral rehearsals an endless chain of imaged solidarity binding him in a maze from which he can never think his way out. The fixed gaze of those who try to grasp the abstract is proof of this.
“When I could no longer see my ideals arise out of human solidarity, I quit my fanatical belief in the possibility of a Utopia. So that now I am not even an anarchist. I am ready to pass it all up.”
When I saw Terry for the last time, and found him in this almost crazy crisis of extreme individualism, where he hopelessly “passed up” everything—human society, love and friendship, all the things his warm and loving Irish heart really desired, I felt that here indeed was a complete expression of the spirit of revolt. It was so extreme that I and no one else could follow him in it. It had passed beyond the point where social rebellion may be useful or stimulating or suggestive poetically and had reached the sad absurdity of all extreme attitudes. One lesson Terry’s proud and strenuous soul has never learned: that the deeper and simpler things in social growth we must take on faith. We cannot demand an ideal reason or justification for all social organisation, for the ways that human beings have of living together. The elementary social forms at least must be instinctively and blindly accepted. To go beyond in one’s rejection the anarchism of the social communist into what is called individualistic anarchism is mere egotistic madness and has as its only value the possible poetry of a unified personal expression. Into this it was that Terry fell, and of course he could find no support for it except in his own soul, which could not bear the strain. No soul could, for, struggle as we may, we are largely social and cannot stand alone. Terry’s life well shows the sympathetic source of social rebellion and its justification, but it also shows the ultimate sterility of its extreme expression.
The latest word I have about Marie is that she is at work “keeping house for a respectable family” in San Francisco. Her experience in camping-out seems to have rendered her normal to, for her, an extreme degree. Going to work certainly represented as radical a reaction from Terry and his philosophy as well could be imagined. A friend of mine in San Francisco writes of her: “She is now to all appearances a good, respectable girl. She wants to live a new life, is working hard, and is trying to break away from smoking. Sometimes she feels the restraint severely, and comes to our house where she knows she can smoke and express herself. She is in better health, and I think now is in close enough touch with nature not to want to go back for nourishment to ideas and the slum.”
The latest word I have from Terry shows him faithful to the end—faithful to his character and his mood:
“There is a rumour that Marie has got a job at general housework. This gave me the blues—after all our life together, this the end! I’d rather have her do general prostitution, with the chance of having an occasional rest in the hospital. But perhaps her drudgery will kill her enthusiasm for ‘vita nuova!’
“I should have answered your letter had I not been suffering from an old malady of mine which is accompanied by such mental depression that I could not answer the communication of even a lost soul. I had to seek surcease in my old remedy of hasheesh and chloroform, which was a change from suffering to stupidity. But I shall not swell the cosmic chorus of woe by raising my cracked voice against impending fate. I am more and more alone, more and more conscious of a growing something that is keeping me apart from all whom I can possibly avoid.”
Terry is nearing his logical end, while Marie is still struggling for life, life given her in the beginning by this strange man, whose influence was then to take it away from her; and from this, like the world, she rebelled. “Anarchism” she embraced as long as it enhanced her being; as long as this deeply emotional philosophy added to the fulness of her life, she saw its meaning and its use; when it finally tended to sterilise her new existence, its “pragmatic” value was nothing.
This is the test of all social theory: How It Works Out. In Marie’s case, as in the case of many proletarians, it worked out well, as a general civilising and consoling philosophy, for a time, but when carried to an “idealistic” extreme, it tended rapidly towards general death—from which all live things react. So it was with Marie: she left her “poisonous” Terry and sought for another vitalising experience. Goethe said that the best government is that which makes itself superfluous. Terry’s spiritual influence on Marie, important for her in the beginning as rendering her self-respecting and mentally ambitious, had become superfluous. But it had been of great value to the girl. So, too, with our society. The extreme rebellious attitude educates us—sometimes to the point where rebellion is superfluous.
Page 54: woman amended to women
Page 97: acount amended to account
Page 102: interst amended to interest
Page 145: pamplets amended to pamphlets
Page 148: envolved sic
Page 154: senstive amended to sensitive
Page 166: inconsistences amended to inconsistencies
Page 172: beause amended to because
Page 241: concious amended to conscious
Punctuation has been standardised.
Where a word is hyphenated and unhyphenated an equal number of times, both versions have been retained: pickpocket/pick-pocket; upstairs/up-stairs.
 Terry’s letter, like Marie’s, I give verbatim.—H. H.
 See “The Spirit of Labour,” Chapter 4, called “An Anarchist Salon,” for a description of some of the principal members of this society.—H. H.
 This is worthy of some of the mythological-Christian paintings of Mantegna, where the vices are being scourged by the indignant virtues.—H. H.