[Autograph: To my friend Harry Ridings Ben Hecht 2 Oct]
Limited edition for private circulation only, consisting of two thousand and twenty-five numbered copies. Only two thousand copies for sale. Published September 1922.
PRESS OF PRINTING SERVICE COMPANY CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT NINETEEN-TWENTY-TWO COVICI - McGEE Chicago
All Rights Reserved
A Mysterious Oath
Drawings WALLACE SMITH
Chicago COVICI - MCGEE 1922
First Drawing 20 Second Drawing 42 Third Drawing 58 Fourth Drawing 74 Fifth Drawing 88 Sixth Drawing 94 Seventh Drawing 106 Eighth Drawing 132 Ninth Drawing 168 Tenth Drawing 174
This dark and wayward book is affectionately dedicated to my enemies—to the curious ones who take fanatic pride in disliking me; to the baffling ones who remain enthusiastically ignorant of my existence; to the moral ones upon whom Beauty exercises a lascivious and corrupting influence; to the moral ones who have relentlessly chased God out of their bedrooms; to the moral ones who cringe before Nature, who flatten themselves upon prayer rugs, who shut their eyes, stuff their ears, bind, gag and truss themselves and offer their mutilations to the idiot God they have invented (the Devil take them, I grow bored with laughing at them); to the anointed ones who identify their paranoic symptoms as virtues, who build altars upon complexes; to the anointed ones who have slain themselves and who stagger proudly into graves (God deliver Himself from their caress!); to the religious ones who wage bloody and tireless wars upon all who do not share their fear of life (Ah, what is God but a despairing refutation of Man?); to the solemn and successful ones who gesture with courteous disdain from the depth of their ornamental coffins (we are all cadavers but let us refrain from congratulating each other too courteously on the fact); to the prim ones who find their secret obscenities mirrored in every careless phrase, who read self accusation into the word sex; to the prim ones who wince adroitly in the hope of being mistaken for imbeciles; to the prim ones who fornicate apologetically (the Devil can-cans in their souls); to the cowardly ones who borrow their courage from Ideals which they forthwith defend with their useless lives; to the cowardly ones who adorn themselves with castrations (let this not be misunderstood); to the reformers—the psychopathic ones who publicly and shamelessly belabor their own unfortunate impulses; to the reformers (once again)—the psychopathic ones trying forever to drown their own obscene desires in ear-splitting prayers for their fellowman's welfare; to the reformers—the Freudian dervishes who masturbate with Purity Leagues, who achieve involved orgasms denouncing the depravities of others; to the reformers (patience, patience) the psychopathic ones who seek to vindicate their own sexual impotencies by padlocking the national vagina, who find relief for constipation in forbidding their neighbors the water closet (God forgives them, but not I); to the ostracizing ones who hurl excommunications upon all that is not part of their stupidity; to the ostracizing ones who fraternize only with the worms inside their coffins (their anger is the caress incomparable); to the pious ones who, lacking the strength to please themselves, boast interminably to God of their weakness in denying themselves; to the idealistic ones who, unable to confound their neighbors with their own superiority, join causes in the hope of confounding each other with the superiority of their betters (involved, but I am not done with them); to the idealistic ones whose cowardice converts the suffering of others into a mirror wherein stares wretchedly back at them a possible image of themselves; to the idealistic ones who, frightened by this possible image of themselves, join Movements for the triumph of Love and Justice and the overthrow of Tyranny in the frantic hope of breaking the mirror; to the social ones who regard belching as the sin against the Holy Ghost, who enamel themselves with banalities, who repudiate contemptuously the existence of their bowels (Ah, these theologians of etiquette, these unctuous circumlocutors, a pock upon them); to the pure ones who masquerade excitedly as eunuchs and as wives of eunuchs (they have their excuses, of course, and who knows but the masquerade is somewhat unnecessary); to the pedantic ones who barricade themselves heroically behind their own belchings; to the smug ones who walk with their noses ecstatically buried in their own rectums (I have nothing against them, I swear); to the righteous ones who masturbate blissfully under the blankets of their perfections; to the righteous ones who finger each other in the choir loft (God forgive me if I ever succumb to one of them); to the critical ones who whoremonger on Parnassus; to the critical ones who befoul themselves in the Temples and point embitteredly at the Gods as the sources of their own odors (I will someday devote an entire dedication to critics); to the proud ones who urinate against the wind (they have never wetted me and I have nothing against them); to the cheerful ones who tirade viciously against all who do not wear their protective smirk; to the cheerful ones who spend their evenings bewailing my existence (the Devil pity them, not I); to the noble ones who advertise their secrets, who crucify themselves on bill-boards in the quest for the Nietzschean solitude; to the noble ones who pride themselves on their stolen finery; to the flagellating ones who go to the opera in hair shirts, who excite themselves with denials and who fornicate only on Fast Days; to the just ones who find compensation for their nose rings and sackcloth by hamstringing all who refuse to put them on—all who have committed the alluring sins from which their own cowardice fled; to the conservative ones who gnaw elatedly upon old bones and wither with malnutrition; to the conservative ones who snarl, yelp, whimper and grunt, who are the parasites of death; who choke themselves with their beards; to the timorous ones who vomit invective upon all that confuses them, who vituperate, against all their non-existent intelligence cannot grasp; to the martyr ones who disembowel themselves on the battlefield, who crucify themselves upon their stupidities; to the serious ones who mistake the sleep of their senses and the snores of their intellect for enviable perfections; to the serious ones who suffocate gently in the boredom they create (God alone has time to laugh at them); to the virgin ones who tenaciously advertise their predicament; to the virgin ones who mourn themselves, who kneel before keyholes; to the holy ones who recommend themselves tirelessly and triumphantly to God (I have never envied God His friends, nor He, mine perhaps); to the never clean ones who bathe publicly in the hysterias of the mob; to the never clean ones who pander for stupidity; to the intellectual ones who play solitaire with platitudes, who drag their classrooms around with them; to these and to many other abominations whom I apologize to for omitting, this inhospitable book, celebrating the dark mirth of Fantazius Mallare, is dedicated in the hope that their righteous eyes may never kindle with secret lusts nor their pious lips water erotically from its reading—in short in the hope that they may never encounter the ornamental phrases I have written and the ritualistic lines Wallace Smith has drawn in the pages that follow.
Fantazius Mallare considered himself mad because he was unable to behold in the meaningless gesturings of time, space and evolution a dramatic little pantomime adroitly centered about the routine of his existence. He was a silent looking man with black hair and an aquiline nose. His eyes were lifeless because they paid no homage to the world outside him.
When he was thirty-five years old he lived alone high above a busy part of the town. He was a recluse. His black hair that fell in a slant across his forehead and the rigidity of his eyes gave him the appearance of a somnambulist. He found life unnecessary and submitted to it without curiosity.
His ideas were profoundly simple. The excitement of his neighborhood, his city, his country and his world left him unmoved. He found no diversion in interpreting them. A friend had once asked him what he thought of democracy. This was during a great war being waged in its behalf. Mallare replied: "Democracy is the honeymoon of stupidity."
There lived with him as a servant a little monster whom he called Goliath and who was a dwarfed and paralytic negro. Goliath's age was unknown. His deformities gave him the air of an old man and his hunched back made him seem too massive for a boy. But in studying him Mallare had concluded that he was a boy.
Goliath had been one of the first symptoms of Mallare's madness. He had brought the little monster home from an amusement park one summer night. Goliath had been standing doubled up, his pipe stem arms hanging like a baboon's, his enlarged black head lifted and his furious eyes staring at a Wheel of Fortune.
When they left the confetti-electrics of the park behind, Mallare spoke to the dwarf whose wrinkled hand he was holding.
"If you come home with me I will make you a servant and give you a fine red suit to wear. Also, I will call you Goliath for no reason at all, since I am at war with reason."
Goliath said nothing but sat staring happily out of the window of an automobile as they rode home.
The home of Fantazius Mallare was filled with evidences of his past. There were clay and bronze figures and canvases covered with paintings. These had been the work of his hands. It was to be seen that he had once given himself with violence to the creation of images. And for this reason he was still known among a few people as an artist.
In the days when he had worked to create images Mallare had been alive with derisions. He desired to give them outline. But the desire went from him. The brilliant fancies of his thought began slowly to bore him. The astounding images that still bowed themselves into his mind became like a procession of mendicants seeking alms of him. He folded his hands and with an interested smile watched his genius die.
At the time of this curious tragedy Mallare was thirty. He kept a Journal in which he wrote infrequently. There was in this Journal little of interest. Apparently he had amused himself during his youth jotting down items of preposterous unimportance.
"I saw a man with a red face," he would write one week. The next he would add a line, "There are seven hundred and eighty-five normal strides between the lamp-post and my front door." Turning a page a month later he would meticulously set down the date, the hour of the day, the direction of the wind and under it write out, "I have a stomach ache from eating peaches."
The Journal bristled with innocuous informations. An acquaintance of the period, interested in Mallare's work as an artist, smiled and commented, "These are, no doubt, symbols. A psychological code into which you have translated great inner moments."
Mallare answered, "On the contrary. They are the only thoughts I have had in which I could detect no reason. It has amused me to put down with great care the few banalities which have normalized my days. They are very precious to me, although they have no value in themselves.
"It is the ability to think such absurdities as you have read that has kept me from suicide. The will to live is no more than the hypnotism of banalities. We keep alive only by maintaining, despite our intelligence, an enthusiasm for things which are of no consequence or interest to us.
"That I saw a man with a red face aroused in me a gentle curiosity lacking in words or emotion. The desire to live is compounded of an infinity of such gentle curiosities which remain entirely outside of reason. This never-satisfied and almost non-existent curiosity we have toward things, masquerades under the intimidating guise of the law of self-preservation. Man is at the mercy of life since, his intelligence perceiving its monotony and absurdity, he still clings to it, fascinated by the accumulated rhythm of faces, impressions, and events which he despises.
"It is a form of hypnosis, and these words I have written in my Journal are the absurdities by which life seduced me from abandoning it. I am grateful to them and have therefore preserved them carefully."
The history of Mallare's madness, however, is to be found in this Journal. There are two empty pages that stare significantly. The empty pages are a lapse. It was during this lapse that Mallare smiled with interest at the spectacle of his disintegration. There follows, then, a sudden excited outburst, undated. In it the beginnings of his madness pirouette like tentative dancers.
"Perhaps the greatest miracle is that which enables man to tolerate life," the passage starts, "which enables him to embrace its illusions and translate its monstrous incoherence into delightful, edifying patterns. It is the miracle of sanity. To stand unquestioning before mysteries, to remain an undisturbed part of chaos, ah! what an adjustment! Content and even elate amid the terrible circle of Unknowns, behold in this the heroic stupidity of the sane ... a stupidity which has already outlived the Gods.
"Man, alas, is the only animal who hasn't known enough to die. His undeveloped senses have permitted him to survive in the manner of the oyster. The mysteries, dangers, and delights of the sea do not exist for the oyster. Its senses are not stirred by typhoons, impressed by earthquakes or annoyed by its own insignificance. Similarly, man!
"The complacent egomania of man, his tyrannical indifferences, his little list of questions and answers which suffices for his wisdom, these are the chief phenomena or symptoms of his sanity. He alone has survived the ages by means of a series of ludicrous adjustments, until today he walks on two legs—the crowning absurdity of an otherwise logical Nature. He has triumphed by specializing in his weaknesses and insuring their survival; by disputing the simple laws of biology with interminable banalities labelled from age to age as religions, philosophies and laws.
"Unable, despite his shiftiness, to lie the fact of his mortality and decomposition out of existence, he has satisfied his mania for survival by the invention of souls. And so behold him—spectacle of spectacles—a chatty little tradesman in an immemorial hat drifting good-naturedly through a nightmare.
"It is for this ability to exist unnaturally that he has invented the adjective sane. But here and there in the streets of cities walk the damned—creatures denied the miracle of sanity and who move bewilderedly through their scene, staring at the flying days as at the fragments of another world. They are conscious of themselves only as vacuums within which life is continually expiring.
"Alas, the damned! From the depths of their non-existence they contemplate their fellowman and perceive him a dwarf prostrate forever before solacing arrangements of words; an homunculus riding vaingloriously on the tiny river of ink that flows between monstrous yesterdays and monstrous tomorrows; a baboon strutting through a mirage."
The history of Mallare's madness begins thus. And the pages continue. The writing on them seems at a glance part of a decoration in black and white. The letters are beautifully formed and shaded. They resemble laboring serpents, dainty pagodas, vines bearing strange fruits and capricious bits of sculpture.
To the end Mallare fancied himself aware of the drift and nuance of his madness. Its convolutions seemed neither incomprehensible nor mysterious to him.
An intolerable loathing for life, an illuminated contempt for men and women, had long ago taken possession of him. This philosophic attitude was the product of his egoism. He felt himself the center of life and it became his nature to revolt against all evidences of life that existed outside himself. In this manner he grew to hate, or rather to feel an impotent disgust for, whatever was contemporary.
When his normality abandoned him, he avoided a greater tragedy. In a manner it was not Mallare who became insane. It was his point of view that went mad. Although there are passages in the Journal that escape coherence, the greater part of the entries are simple almost to naivete. They reveal an intellect able to adjust itself without complex uprootings to the phenomena engaging its energies. The first concrete evidence of the loathing for life that was to result in its own annihilation appears in a passage beginning abruptly—
"Most of all I like the trees when they are empty of leaves. Their wooden grimaces must aggravate the precisely featured houses of the town. People who see my work for the first time grow indignant and call me sick and artificial. (Bilious critics!) But so are these trees.
"People think of art in terms of symmetry. With a most amazing conceit they have decided upon the contours of their bodies as the standards of beauty. Therefore I am pleased to look at trees or at anything that grows, unhandicapped by the mediocritizing force of reason, and note how contorted such things are."
Mallare's point of view toward his world—the attitude that went mad—was nothing more involved than his egoism. His infatuation with self was destined to arrive at a peak on whose height he became overcome with a dizziness. He wrote in his Journal:
"It is unfortunate that I am a sculptor, a mere artist. Art has become for me a tedious decoration of my impotence. It is clear I should have been a God. Then I could have had my way with people. To shriek at them obliquely, to curse at them through the medium of clay figures, is a preposterous waste of time. A wounded man groans. I, impaled by life, emit statues.
"As a God, however, I would have found a diversion worthy my contempt. I would have made the bodies of people like their thoughts—crooked, twisted, bulbous. I would have given them faces resembling their emotions and converted the diseases of their souls into outline.
"What fatuous, little cylindrical creatures we humans are! With our exact and placid surfaces that we call beauty. And these grave and noble houses we erect!
"Yes, I ought to have been a God. I should have had my way with people then. I could have created a world whose horrors would have remained a consoling flattery to my cynicism."
There are entries that follow whose significance is lost in a serpentine rhetoric. They hint at nights of critical terrors. During the writing of them Mallare was engaged in a desperate pursuit of himself. He was escaping. He perceived his thoughts racing from his grasp like Maenads down a tangled slope. The dread of finding himself abandoned brought his will into life. If he were to go mad he would leap upon his mania and ride it—quietly into darkness. He would be a gay rider astride his own phantoms. Rather that than let the first insane capering of his intellect unhorse him and leave him gibbering after a vanished mount.
The incoherence of the Journal suddenly glides into an adagio. The panic has ended. And the lifeless eyed man again smiles triumphant out of the pages.
"My room is red. It is hung with red curtains. I have bought only red things to put in it. The sun coming through my red curtains reddens the air of the room.
"I prefer to live in this painted gloom because it is possible I hate the sunlight. I hate even my rivals the trees. Today I walked and found trees that resembled too closely people passing under them. One is impotent before such betrayal.
"But here in my rooms I find an almost complete annihilation of life. I am bored with inventing causes for my hatred. There is a diversion on earth called humanity—creatures full of enamelled lusts and arrogant decays who go about smiling and slyly obeying laws which protect them from each other. But they no longer divert me.
"They tell me of health and sanity. And I say sanity is the determined blindness which keeps us from seeing one another. More than that, of course: which keeps us from seeing ourselves. And health is the lame artifice of our bodies which keeps us from loathing one another. I see and I loathe. Yet I must beware of falling to sleep in explanations."
A month or a year may have passed between this and the continuation. Whatever the period, a clarity arrived. Mallare's mind grappling with the nightmare shadows engulfing it, distorted his reason to give them outline and was saved. The writing, however, becomes more labored in appearance as if the letters of words were now decorations in themselves.
"I have listened for years to the prattle of men who call themselves egoists. It is a title by which they have sought to identify me. To label a mystery suffices for its dismissal and thus they seek to dismiss me. There is in egoism, however, a depth to which all but myself are blind. I have found this depth in myself and out of it rises a definition which I must consider cautiously. There is but one egoist and that is He who, intolerant of all but Himself, sets out to destroy all but Himself. Egoism is the despairing effort of man to return to his original Godhood; to return to the undisputed and triumphant loneliness which was His when as a Creator He moulded the world to His whims and before He divided Himself into the fragments of race and nature. This is the explanation out of the depth.
"I must be cautious and keep my eyes open. Secrets fly from the blind. Mount, I say, and ride this secret and observe its direction. To return thus to Godhood means to destroy All. And I were madder than I am to play with this prospect, unless, perhaps, there lie concealed in the elements, chemistries still unknown which might be utilized for such destruction.
"As it is, I can with my thought deny and re-create and impose upon the world of reality a world of phantoms more pleasing to my nature. In my red room I sit and give birth to persuasive horrors. People shaped like dead trees. People freed from the monotonous hypocrisy with which a despondent Nature endows their outlines. I have become aware that lobsters, beetles, crabs, and all the crustacean monsters that abound are not the abnormal accidents of creation, any more than were the animate gargoyles of prehistoric eras. They are the things which an Ego intent upon the diversion of truth fashioned in the beginning. Each thing to seem as each thing was. But the courage of this Ego deserted Him and He grew frightened when He came to give body to His most useless creation—Thought. And He compromised. Yes, I could live among people fashioned truthfully in their own images as are the crustaceans."
With this entry Mallare found it necessary to destroy the work his hands had created. He attacked the canvases and figures in his red room. Goliath who, preoccupied with his own deformities, had remained indifferent to his master, serving him faithfully however, listened to Mallare one night.
Sitting in the center of the room, his black hair grown into a long slant across his pale forehead, Mallare talked to his servant as a man, still asleep, reciting a dream.
"Here in this room, Goliath," he said, "are interesting works of art which I am about to destroy. On the canvases are dithyrambic burlesques in color, vicious fantasies, despairing caricatures. My fingers fashioned them and I remember the pleasant sleep each brought me. But now I must beware of sleep. My egomania, like a swollen thing, has become impossible to articulate or to reduce to the impotent ironies of clay and paint. But I must beware of falling asleep under it.
"My friends have vanished as naturally as if by death. I have forbidden them to come. This disturbs them, but see to it, Goliath, that no one ever enters my room unless I bring them. Frighten them if they come.
"Tonight, while there remained a little sanity, I had made up my mind to kill myself. But I have changed it. I will destroy instead my work. This is because I find the compromise easier and the destruction, perhaps, more interesting. I feel disinclined to abandon the things I loathe. The world with its nauseous swarm of life, its monstrous multiplications which are the eternal insult to the Omniscience I feel, still holds me. I am caught in a tangle and I remain suspended and inanimate, in the depth of a nightmare. But with your aid, Goliath, I will continue tenaciously mimicking an outward sanity so that people, when they see me, will go away happy in the assurance that I am as stupid as they."
Rising from his chair Mallare attacked, one by one, the canvases and statues. Goliath watched him in silence as he moved from pedestal to pedestal from which, like a company of inert monsters, arose figures in clay and bronze. The first of them was a man four feet in height but massive-seeming beyond its dimensions. Mallare had entitled it "The Lover."
Its legs were planted obliquely on the pedestal top, their ligaments wrenched into bizarre muscular patterns. Its body rose in an anatomical spiral. From its flattened pelvis that seemed like some evil bat stretched in flight, protruded a huge phallus. The head of the phallus was enlivened with the face of a saint. The eyes of this face were raised in pensive adoration. At the lower end of the phallus, the testicles were fashioned in the form of a short-necked pendulum arrested at the height of its swing. The hands of the figure clutched talon-like at the face and the head was thrown back as if broken at the neck. Its features were obliterated by the hands except for the mouth which was flung open in a skull-like laugh.
The figure on the whole was the flayed caricature of a man done so cunningly that through the abortive hideousness of its outlines, its human character remained untouched.
Mallare swung the figure by its base against the pedestal until it splintered and fell to pieces. He stood whispering to himself—
"This was the lover. My statue of the lover. Dead, now."
A dozen similar caricatures in clay and bronze vanished under his attack. Standing against the wall and blinking at the rutilant glare of the room, Goliath the dwarf waited nervously. He had become aware that his master was acting strangely. A look of ferocity slowly came into the deep black of his face. His misshapen body trembled.
Mallare, the destruction ended, turned to him.
"And finally a last figure," he murmured. "Goliath, too. Do you agree, Goliath? You will find a congenial company in the souls of these friends I have butchered."
Goliath shook his head vigorously.
"Go 'way," he answered. Mallare nodded.
"Thanks," he smiled. "You reminded me in time. It is easy to mistake you for one of my creations. Although I never created such eyes, improbable eyes alive with murders. Go to bed."
Alone amid the wreckage, Mallare turned to his Journal. A precise smile was on his lips and his eyes slanted toward the debris on the floor as if he were watching the fragments, fearfully. His hair made a black triangle against his forehead. He began to write:
"I am too clever to go mad. To go mad is to succumb to the sanity of others. Since I avoid death, I must be wary of his misshapen brother. Yet, I can prove to my satisfaction tonight that I am mad. I have destroyed something. It was because the intricate presences of life awaken too many despairs in me.
"Now I am alone. I must be cautious of my thought. I feel words like rivals in my head. Alas, I must think in words. Words are the inevitable canonizations of life. But worse, they are property loaned me and not my own. I must have my own and live with it entirely. Yet there is some comfort in words. They are not entirely sullied by their promiscuity. Words are like nuts people pass each other without ever opening. The insides of words are often virginal. But many words—too many words—constitute intelligence and intelligence is the stupidity which enables man to imprison himself in lies.
"Years have passed and I still live. I do not look for death. Death is too simple a variant of destruction. My cleverness demands more of me than to destroy the world by hiding myself from it. And there is a song of windows in the high streets that sometimes relieves the black tension of my mind.
"It is important now that I retrace my way toward a makeshift of Omnipotence. But for this I will have to find a woman."
It was autumn. The air was colored like the face of a sick boy. Upon the streets rested a windless chill. The pavements were somber as during rain. There was an absence of illusion about buildings. They stood, high thrusts of brick, stone and glass, etched geometrically against a denuded sky.
Fantazius Mallare walked slowly toward his home. Over his head, trees without leaves stamped their gnarled and intricate contours on the shadowed air. A pallor covered the roofs. It was afternoon but a moon-like loneliness haunted the autumn windows.
Mallare lived in another world. Neither trees nor buildings conveyed themselves to his thought. Within his own world he was sane. His relation to the phantoms and ideas which peopled his mind was a lucid one. Mallare's world was his thought. He had retired within himself, dragging his senses after him.
The street through which he walked was like an unremembered dream. The faces that passed him vanished before his eyes. He walked, seeing nothing that was visible, hearing nothing that had sound. He had accomplished an annihilation.
Three months had passed since he had written in his Journal the command to find a woman. She was waiting for him now as he returned to his home. In the three months he had devoted himself to her transformation.
Mallare no longer raged. In the lucidity of his thought was a strange lapse. There had vanished from it all images of life except those of his own creation. His thought emptied of its projective sense, he found it difficult for him to translate his ideas in their relation to the world from which they had escaped. Yet he wrote in his Journal;
"I am aware of something that no longer lives in my mind. Dim outlines haunt me. Dead memories peer through the windows of my tower. Life grimaces vaguely on the edges of my madness. I can no longer see or understand. The world is a memory that expires under my thought. I am alone. Yet how much of me must still be the world! My dearest phantoms are, after all, no more than distorted reminiscences. I fear, alas, this is the truth. Yet it is pleasant to be alone with one's senses, to feel an independence."
The woman awaiting him was a curious creature. He had found her with a family of gypsies on the outskirts of the city. She was young—eighteen. His money had bought her release. She was called Rita and after two weeks she had agreed to come home with him. An old man in the caravan had said to her:
"This man is crazy. You can see that by his eyes and the way he walks. I have listened to him for two weeks and I know he is crazy. But you go with him, Rita. He is lonely and wants a woman. You go with him and obey him. You are young and he will teach you. Perhaps even you will fall in love with him. You are an ignorant child. Your mind is like a baby's. And perhaps you will not understand that he is crazy."
Among the gypsies with whom she had lived Rita was known as a simple one. She was never to be trusted to enter the cities they visited. She would remain with the wagons, helping to cook and wash. When men came to her in the evening and, sitting beside her, sang and played on guitars, she would listen for a moment and then run off. The old ones of the caravan said:
"She is not grown up. We must treat her like a child because there is still only a child's heart in her. She is beautiful but without sense. Some day she will make a good wife. But there is danger that she may give her body to strangers. Because she does not know about such things. We must be careful for her."
Sitting along the summer roads outside the city Mallare talked to the child. She listened without understanding but after days had passed, dreams of the man with the black hair slanting across his forehead came to her when she was alone. So when the Old One of the caravan said—
"You may go with this stranger. You can go away if you wish"; she nodded and smiled with happiness.
Mallare brought her home. And she had lived in the carnelian room that was colored like the inside of a Burgundy bottle ever since. Goliath was her slave. Mallare was her God.
At first he had said little to her. She wanted him to talk but he neither talked nor paid other attention. He brought her ribbons and dresses, trinkets, jewels, and playthings. She had a room in which to sleep but all day she sat in the room that was hung with heavy red curtains through which the sun filtered in a rouged and somber glow. Vermilion fabrics covered a long couch against the wall. Red carpets, red tapestries, tawny vases of brass inlaid with niello; crimsons and varying reds struck an insistent octave of color around her.
Mallare was absent during the days. She wondered where he went. He would return in the evenings with gifts. This had continued for a month. Then had begun a more curious existence.
One night Mallare had said to her:
"You must never talk to me any more but listen always to what I say. If you remain here you will have everything you wish. But you must not go outside. Do you understand?"
She closed her black eyes and nodded. He continued—
"I desire to make something out of you. If you stay here you will learn what I want you to be."
Thereafter he had sat for days at a time in the room with her. Goliath brought them food.
To Rita the smiling man who never ceased talking to her became like one of the Djinns the old ones of the caravan used to tell stories about, in the nights along the roads. The words he spoke became a languorous mist in her ears. She listened and understood only that this man with the black hair slanted across his forehead and the silent eyes, was talking to her. This made her happy.
At night she slept alone dreaming of the sound of his voice. Her heart became filled with awe. The strange room with its red colors was a Temple such as she had heard about but never seen. Mallare was a God who sat in its center and around whom grew a world of mysteries.
When she awoke her heart grew eager. Perhaps he would let her sit closer to him this new day. Perhaps his hands would touch her hair. She dreamed that some time he would play a guitar and sing to her as the men of the caravan used to do. But if that happened she would not run away as before. She would draw close to him and kiss his hands.
But the two months had passed without change. Except that the days became for Rita only the sound of a voice in her heart and the image of a face staring out of her secret thoughts.
She wore fine clothing. Rings crowded her fingers until her hands seemed little effigies of themselves. Her black hair was looped over her ears. A gold band was around it. She would have been happy if he had sat closer to her while he talked. Then the mystery of the words he spoke would not have separated them. Now she could lie on the couch, her head on her hand, her eyes burning and watch his lips move.
Her mind never asked what he was saying. His words carried him away. They were part of the mystery of him. Out of them she gleaned fugitive meanings as one recognizes for an instant familiar faces in a passing crowd. But she was content to lie watching him. A lethargy filled her. The days were like parts of a dream. At night, alone, she lay awake remembering them as a child playing with delicious fantasies.
She was asleep on the couch when Mallare came in. Goliath shuffled away as his master appeared. He had been standing in the center of the room, staring at the sleeping Rita, his eyes rolled up and his huge black head rigid.
She woke and Mallare smiled at her. Her eyes grew large and her red lips parted.
Mallare, seating himself, studied her with calm. She was his creation. He was giving her life. His mind was beginning to conceive her as a part of the phantoms that lived in him and that were his world. This illusion diverted him. His objective sense fast vanishing, he was gradually perceiving her as a tangible outline of his own hallucinations.
She was no longer the childish-minded gypsy girl he had found with the caravan. She was a fantasy of Mallare. There was no body to her but the body of his curious thoughts. A silent and adoring image of his brain stared back at him from the vermilion couch. This pleased him.
His madness had translated her into his inner world. At moments a gleam of doubt disturbed his illusion. As he talked a consciousness of her eyes would tangle his words. Her eyes would become two dark intruders, and he would rise and walk away.
"I must be careful," he would mutter nervously.
Away from her the illusion would leave him and his thought would consider lucidly the situation it had created.
"My madness plays with a dangerous toy," he pondered. "She is a woman and her eyes are filled with desire. Perhaps she has not even understood the things I have told her. I must be careful, however, not to betray my illusions with this lingering sanity. When I am with her I conceive her a phantom—a something which has stepped out of my madness to divert it. Her body becomes like one of the dreams in my brain. Her little hands reach like cobra heads among my intimacies. She is very beautiful that way. In my mind I caress her as a part of myself. I speak to her and it seems as if my words are talking to each other. Yet her eyes intrude and frighten me."
Now, as he studied her, the illusion he desired again filled him. His eyes turned inward saw only a dark-eyed phantom, a woman of mist that was no more than a hallucination drifting through his thought. He addressed this image of Rita softly.
"It is pleasant to be in love with you," he said. "Because love hitherto has been one of the abominations. In the world I have destroyed love existed. It was the foul paradox of egoism. Man, feeling suddenly the torment of his incompleteness, embraced woman. He was inspired by the mania to transform his desires into possessions.
"His heart taunted him. His brain filled with despairing vacuums. And he said to himself, 'I have become a deserted room. A woman will enter. Her beauty and desire will be gifts that will furnish me once more. She will be something I possess within myself.'
"In this illusion was contained the foul paradox of egoism. For in the world I have destroyed, egoism died in the embrace of love. The mania for possession which flattered man into seeking woman was no more than a shrewd mirage of his senses, that tricked him into the fornications necessary only incidentally to himself but vital to the world which he fancied love obliterated.
"For all these strenuous admirations of beauty—what are they but the subterfuges by which man hopefully conceals his lacking egoism from himself? He admires the tints of hair. His thought trembles before the curve of a neck. Graceful images unravel in his mind at the sight of a woman's breasts. To himself he declaims, 'I am in love with her. She is beautiful. I will take her beauty in my arms. There is an emptiness in me that clamors for the charm and mystery of this woman.'
"Accordingly he embraces her. There is tenderness between them. Their bodies, indeed, seem to have become overtones that mate in a delicious and inaudible melody. But this melody must be brought closer so that its beauty may be more definitely enjoyed. This melody must be played on instruments and not on thin air.
"And, selah! The egoist beautifying himself with love, finds himself removing his shoes, tearing off his underwear, fondling a warm thigh and steering his phallus toward its absurd destiny. The transvaluations—the ineffable and inarticulate mysteries he fancied himself embracing—turn out to be a woman with her legs wrapped around him. His desires for the infinite sate themselves in the feeble tickle of orgasm. Cerberus seduced from his Godhood by a dog biscuit!
"As for those animals whose egoism has never escaped their testicles, they are not to be spoken of as men. Their imagination discharges itself through their penis. They are the husbands in the world I have destroyed. They understand neither beauty nor disillusion. The vagina is a door at which they deliver regularly like industrious milkmen. They are the sexual workmen to whom fornication is as much a necessity as poverty is to incompetents.
"I alone have found the way in which to love. I love and grow richer. I am mad. Yet how admirable my madness is! My eyes and senses are enslaved by a radiant phantom. As I talk your outlines grow luminous. Your eyes become like conquered Satans. They crawl inside my brain like amorous spiders. Your lips are the libretto of a dream. Your breasts are little blind faces raised in prayer. Your body flutters like a rich curtain before the door of enchantments. I look within. Thus I possess you and my senses without leaving themselves, enter the infinity of my mind."
Mallare's eyes closed. He remained rigid in his chair. A murmur that Rita could no longer hear came from his lips, as if voices were speaking out of a depth.
"Rita ... Rita," they said, "See, eyes prowling like golden tigers. Cobra hands playing over my soul. Mine ... I walk with you through gardens, deeper and endless."
The murmur ended. Rita, watching from the couch, lay trembling. Warm tongues spoke within her body. Her breasts tightened until they felt impaled on their own nipples. Her child's mind was alive with impulses driving her like slow whips. She would crawl shivering to his feet. Her breasts would press their pain against his knees. Desire like an impossible anger filled her. She closed her eyes and felt herself moving from the couch. She would lie at his feet.
Her hands reached out. Mallare regarded her blankly for a moment. A wildness slowly filled his eyes. He sprang up. Goliath crouching in a corner of the dim room watched his master raise the velveted figure in his hands and fling it with a cry against the wall.
"Fool!" he shouted. "Intruder!"
Goliath cringed as his master rushed past him to the door. He listened to his feet flying down the stairs toward the night.
Rita lay with her head hanging over the couch. Her lips were opened. Her teeth gleamed like little deaths. She lay motionless as Mallare had flung her.
Goliath shuffled to the couch. His huge black face stared over her closed eyes.
He remembered that he had thrown the girl against the wall and he paused. The street was black. Great shadows balanced themselves on his eyes.
"I have escaped from myself," he muttered.
He stood trying to remember himself. But his mind was like a night. Shapes tip-toed through its dark. A hooded figure loomed in his mind. It swung toward him as if it were flying out of his eyes. Other figures swept by. They assumed strange postures as they passed. His thoughts regarded them tiredly. He desired to join the figures fleeing out of him. Then he would vanish with them.
"I am too clever for that," he murmured aloud. "Yet it would be pleasing. To think in dark, hooded figures; ah—they have adventures! And I would sit like a night alive with witches."
He stared with a smile at the street.
"I no longer see or understand," he whispered. His hands felt his sides.
"Yet here I am. There is a life within me that I dare not enter. I must remember this. Write 'Forbidden' over its black doors. To succumb to my madness would be to lose it."
He resumed his walk.
"She intruded," he remembered. "Perhaps I have killed her. That would be pleasant. Except that she was necessary as an image. I am the mirror and she is an image alive in me. Her desire is a happy shadow I embrace."
Mallare's eyes opened to the night.
"Strange," he thought, "I see and yet what I look at remains invisible. But tonight outlines dance. The night is a maniac suffering from ennui. His dark eyes are weary with the emptiness they create. Vainly he searches for life, his eyes devouring it, and leaving only his own image for him to contemplate.
"I am not so mad as that. Or I, too, would sit like the night gorged with monotonous shadows. Instead, I translate. A memory of sanity gives diverting outline to the shadows in me. I am not a maniac like the night. My mind closes like a darkness over the world but I enjoy myself walking amid insane houses, staring at windows that look like drunken octagons, observing lamp posts that simper with evil, promenading fan shaped streets that scribble themselves like arithmetic over my face.
"These must be the things I look at. But they are my improvement. The world is not so outrageous if one is sufficiently mad to pull it into taffy shapes and incredible scrawls.
"But I must be warned. My madness sought to avenge itself at her intrusion. It overcame me with its anger. She was not content to let me possess the beautiful image of her. Although I have explained the thing to her clearly. It is possible she does not understand. I will talk to her again with greater lucidity. I will tell her that I do not desire her except as a dream for my mirror. But I have said that to her."
Under the green-white sputter of a street lamp, Mallare halted. His mind was preoccupied with unraveling the mystery of Rita. He stood, a tall figure without a hat, a slant of black hair across his forehead, and ignoring eyes. A beggar in a ragged overcoat shuffled, head down, toward him.
"She is only a child," Mallare thought, "but it is evident that passion already lifts her breasts. Her simplicity is betrayed by incipient orgasms prowling for an outlet. This, she fancies, is love. It is fortunate she is a virgin. Still, I must not rely too greatly on that. For virginity is an insidious bed fellow for a maiden. Forefingers and phallic shadows have ravished her in dreams. And if she is a virgin in spirit as well as body, she is still a woman—and therefore dangerous.
"Ah, what loathsome and lecherous mouths women are! Offering their urine ducts as a mystic Paradise! Stretching themselves on their backs and seducing egoists with the unctuous lie of possession. The mania for possession—that most refined of all instincts—the most heroic of insanities! How easily they circumvent it! To desire is merely to love. But to create in oneself the objects of desire—that is to be mad and above life. Beyond it.
"I must explain this to her. If she loves me well enough she will understand. All things are possible in love. I will explain to her that I possess her at will without the loathsome absurdities of sex."
The beggar paused and mumbled beside Mallare. Watery, reddened eyes waited patiently for the alms asked. Mallare had fallen into silence. He stood regarding the beggar intently. His thought labored for a moment, scratching in silence at doors swinging slowly shut. His thought withdrew and Mallare was alone.
He stood up tall and stern in a darkened chamber. His eyes stared intently at the figure of Rita. Her face, pale and alive, smiled imploring in the mendicant's place. He talked, but the beggar, still patient, heard no sound.
"You have followed me," said Mallare inside his chamber. "Very well. It is useless to explain matters to you. You pursue me with your lecherous body. I have warned you. Now I will kill you. I will take your throat in my hands and that will be an end of you. You will fall down."
The beggar uttered a cry of terror. Mallare's hands had reached suddenly to his throat and their fingers, like inviolable decisions, closed on it. The ragged one screamed. A man with a slant of black hair across his forehead who had stood smiling at him had without sound or warning reached out his hands to murder him. The beggar gasped and writhed, his eyes staring with horror into the immobile face of his assailant. And within himself Mallare continued the strange conversation.
"You see how simple it is," he said. "After you are dead I will continue to enjoy for a time the uninterrupted image of you. You will haunt my thought until you grow dim. But I will possess the vanishing shadow.... But now you die."
Mallare tightened his hold on the beggar's neck and the man's cries ended. His head fell forward. Mallare held the dead figure erect, shaking it gently and smiling at the one in his thought.
"Ah, Rita," he whispered, "it is over now."
His hands released the throat they were holding. The beggar fell to the ground. Mallare stared at the body and then knelt beside it. His hands passed over the dead face.
"Poor Rita," he continued. "No longer dangerous."
He bent over and kissed the matted hair of the dead man.
"Death," he said aloud as he rose, "is an easy friendship. You would have been sorry a moment ago. But now you are neither sorry nor glad. See, your body is a humble little gratitude."
Mallare walked away. His thought, like a cautious monitor, re-entered the doors that had closed upon it.
"Curious," he said aloud, "she followed me and I killed her. Madness is, alas, too logical. I remember almost nothing of the incident. It is a part of the shadows not of me. Still I know it exists. My hands feel tired. But there is nothing to regret. She came too close. And now she lies dead in a strange street. They will find her and perhaps ask me about it. What do I know? Nothing. My memory is innocent. It is after all my superior. I must remain, unquestioning, at its side. This is a pact."
He returned to his home. The familiar room greeted him like a friendship. He sat down and closed his eyes. Goliath had gone to bed. And she was no longer here.
His hands felt tired. He was alone again. But he would remember her. Eyes like conquered Satans. They would crawl again like spiders through his brain. Breasts like little blind faces raised in prayer. Her body fluttering like a rich curtain before the door of enchantments. These were still his.
"Tomorrow, Rita," he murmured aloud to his thoughts.
A figure stirred on the couch. She had watched him come in, his hair disheveled, his body dragging. Her eyes had followed him as he sat down. But she had waited motionless. Perhaps he had come back to kill her. She lay shivering. Then his voice called her name.
Standing slowly, Rita waited. He was asleep but he had called her. She moved cautiously over the heavy carpet. Mallare opened his eyes. He looked at the burning-eyed figure of the girl his hands remembered having killed in the strange street.
"A hallucination," his thought muttered. "But the dead do not come back."
The scene under the green-white street lamp played its swift detail through his mind again. He remembered the white throat, the pale, imploring face. A shudder passed his heart. He had murdered her. Yet here she stood once more, looking at him.
"Ah," he thought. "Mad, completely mad. Yet it is not as unpleasant as I feared. Why, indeed, am I startled? This is what I desired. To create for myself out of myself. And here my phantoms have become so rich and strong that they confront me. I desired to be God. And I have answered my own prayer. It is an illusion. Its substance is only the life my madness gives it. Yet I, who am the companion of my madness, may enjoy it."
Rita shivered again as he laughed.
"Come closer," he whispered to her. "Or are you too timorous a hallucination, Rita? Come closer and let me see. What a curious sensation! To caress the figures of my madness! Then there is no longer any sanity in me. For my fingers are aware of hair. Ah, dear child, Mallare is completely mad since at last his senses betray him. But they betray him sweetly. For though I babble to myself you have no existence, though I smile at the thought of caressing a phantom, my senses derive a mysterious pleasure from this contact with nothingness. Curious ... curious ... come closer, Rita. Now smile at me. Yes, your lips move. You are an automaton born of my words. Give me your hand. It is warm and trembling. Ah, my phantom is in love with me. But that love, too, is an illusion I create. No, do not come too close. Let me grow accustomed first to my madness. You are happy, eh? How marvelous your eyes! They were beautiful before when they crawled like round spiders through my brain. But elusive. They fled from me, my madness pursuing them into dark, empty corners.
"But now I have grown cleverer. It is necessary to be superbly clever in order to fool one's senses like this. But take off your clothes, little one. I want to see how clever I am. Has my phantom a body, too, or is it only a face and an illusion of fabric I have created? Your velvet dress, Rita, take it off. Ah, what a virginal phantom."
Rita, trembling before the gleam of the eyes that had opened to her, listened anxiously. An ecstasy drifted like a cloud over her senses. He had touched her. His hands had passed over her head as she had dreamed they might. His eyes were smiling with intimacy at her face. But he had warned her never to speak. She must not spoil it by speaking. She stood swaying before him.
"Your velvet dress," he repeated.
Her hands reached dreamily to her body. He would see now how beautiful she was. The men in the caravan had called her beautiful. But she had run from them. That was long ago. Now she would show him how the skin of her body looked, how her breasts made pretty curves, and how she had washed herself in the perfumes he had given her.
"Ah," murmured Mallare, his eyes filling with wonder. "How incredibly clever my madness has become! My little phantom undresses. Illusion—yet my conveniently stupid senses are deceived. But what delicious deception! See, her throat and breasts are white. Her body is white. I may reach out and touch the flesh of her thighs. I am as indecent as God for I have given her sex. But what a plagiarist I am! My phantom is as charming and naive as an art student's copy. Still, she is not a woman and therefore not hateful. Without life, even this may be considered entertaining."
His hands moved cautiously over her body, his fingers slipping experimentally over the flesh of her buttocks and thighs.
"Interesting," he smiled. "Like St. Anthony I create odalisques for my seduction. Ah, but there is a difference. This is mine ... mine!"
His eyes gleamed with a quick frenzy at the naked figure.
"Speak. I desire you to speak, little one. If I can believe in the illusion of flesh and eager eyes, then I can believe in the illusion of sound. Come speak. I am at the mercy of my madness. If you speak to me, little one, I will understand. My stupid senses that retain their earthly logic will be ravished at the sound of your voice. But I will chuckle at my cleverness. Tell me, are you mine? Can you say, 'I am yours'? Can you give yourself to me and deceive me with the beautiful illusion of submission? Tell me. Speak to me."
Her eyes burning toward him, Rita nodded her head.
"Yours," she whispered. "Whatever you say, I am."
"Clever, clever," Mallare muttered, "it speaks to me and I hear. It says 'yours.' I become too involved. Or perhaps this is only a dream. Of course, what else can it be? Part of me has fallen asleep and is dreaming. And because I am mad I fancy myself awake. And my senses obey me. Desire whispers to them, 'Hear voices. See flesh. Feel desire,' and like five little awkward masochists they prostrate themselves before my madness.
"But my senses are of no great interest. There is this other—this mania of possession of which passion, compounded of all the senses, is but an unimportant fragment. I am a man with a woman inside him. I possess the secret of the hermaphroditic Gods. I am complete."
Rita kneeled beside him and his hands stroked her black hair. Her face remained raised in adoration. Mallare, observing her eyes, nodded satisfactions at them.
"Who but Mallare could have done this?" he whispered aloud to her. "Mallare, infatuated with himself, desires still a further adoration. So he creates infatuated phantoms. I am tired now. My hands are tired. Return, little one, to the couch of my madness and sleep for a time in its shadows."
Mallare shut his eyes and his hands dropped to his side. Rita arose and smiled at him. He had spoken strangely, but his words were no longer mysteries since he had caressed her. She would lie now at his feet as she had dreamed of doing. She stretched herself out on the thick carpet.
Her childish mind fondled its unexpected memories. He had looked at her body and spoken beautiful words to it. She remembered the talk of the old ones of the caravan. A woman belongs to a man. This meant that she belonged to him. She had said, "Yours."
Her face smiled itself to sleep.
From the Journal of Mallare dated November.
"I no longer understand myself. My thoughts stretch themselves into baffling elasticities. My brain is a labyrinth through which reason searches in vain for itself. I walk cautiously. Yet I am lost.
"To think has become like adding a continually increasing column of figures. I sit and add. The figures will add up into a finite sum and this sum will be the understanding of myself. I apply myself carefully to each figure and say, 'two and three are five. Five and seven are twelve.' But as I reach what seems an end I find more figures waiting me.
"I can no longer add up the fragments or interpret them. I must be content now to sit and wait until this part of me—my relation to myself—splinters into fragments and I become a dice box shaking with mysterious and invisible combinations.
"It is the phantom Rita that is threatening to drive me into darkness. Since I murdered her in the street, the hallucination has become overwhelming. It is with me almost continually. When I open my eyes from sleep I find it waiting at my bed. The hallucination leaves me when I am outside, although at times a trace of it returns and I seem more to feel its presence within me than behold it with my senses.
"Yes, I am clinging desperately to these moments of objectivity which enable me to write. But even they threaten to betray me. For as I write doubts dance like macabre figures among my words. The very sentences seem to stretch themselves into ridiculous postures. And I must almost close my eyes and stumble blindly through a storm of denouements.
"I desired to create for myself a world within which I might love and hate—to be a God lost within his dream. Madness was necessary, so I embraced it. But my dream becomes the product of a Frankenstein. She—the hallucination—is more real to my senses than am I. And I can no longer control her. My senses are unfaithful to me. They philander clownishly with this mirage of my thought. Then what is there left? I. This grim figure stumbling with his head down through a storm of denouements. I persist—an unwelcome visitor, a bargain-hunting tourist in Bedlam. I remain.
"But it is a boast that laughs back at me. For I will soon be a little plaything of my phantom. Last night I walked until I thought I had rid myself. Her eyes alone lingered. Her hands moved like slow dancers. But I walked and said to myself, 'I am tired of nonsense. I am tired of this monotonous hallucination. At least let me be unfaithful to my dream since I am the God who created it.'
"I walked to the street where a month ago she had followed me under the arc lamp. It was cold and I grew tired. I came back to sleep. 'Gone, she is gone,' I whispered to myself. The room appeared empty. I was cautious, knowing the ruses of this thing in my mind. For my madness and I are no longer friends. My madness hides for me and plays tricks.
"But she returned. I smiled at her. It is folly to grow angry with one's own hallucinations. That would be a double madness. As she stood before me, my treacherous senses leaped to their sterile feast. And I smiled.
"'My egoism has betrayed me,' I reasoned. 'The love that gleams from the eyes of this hallucination is the invention of my egoism. Alas, I love myself too much, for the passion for Mallare with which my madness endows this illusion of a woman, threatens me. My senses have already abandoned me. They no longer obey the direction of my will. And I must stand like a scold, laughing and sneering at them as they yield themselves to her. She is more powerful, therefore, than I, even though her existence is no more than a shadow cast in front of my eyes.'
"I reasoned in this fashion and continued to smile. It would be best, perhaps, to humor her. Who knows but even hallucinations are subject to wiles and coquetry. A disturbing fancy, this—one of the distortions that insist upon raising their mocking heads from the midst of my cautious sentences.
"She came and knelt beside me and I shook my head at her. She was dressed in a gown I had never seen before. It was red. I spoke aloud and said—
"'See, how abominably clever I am. My madness is a jack of all trades. It makes new dresses for its phantoms. It arranges their coiffures. It even puts rouge on their cheeks.'
"But as I talked her hands reached out to me. To look into her eyes that are always alive with flames is to succumb. For then I find myself dreaming my dream is not a dream. My senses clamor that I join them.
"'Forget. Forget,' they whisper, 'come with us.'
"But I chose to persist. I remain. To sit in an empty whorehouse and masturbate.... No! If this hallucination grows powerful enough to trick my senses into clownish fornications, let my madness enjoy them. Not I. We are no longer friends, my madness and I.
"She pressed her cheek against my leg. I could feel her body trembling.
"I remained motionless and spoke to her. 'Each night you grow bolder,' I said. I am no different from other Gods in that I seem to have endowed you with the instinct of profanation. But at least Eve did not turn on Jehovah with the whore tricks learned from His apple. There is consolation, however, in the fact that I, too, can remain indifferent. Indifference is the wisdom of God.
"'You may play with me. Yet I know that the burn of your hand on my body is an absurdity, of interest only to my idiot senses. My arms reach out to embrace you. Your breasts surprise my fingers. Come, sit in my lap if you wish. No, I would rather enjoy you as before—standing before me naked. Take off your clothes.'
"While I talked she clung to me. Her lips passed kisses over my face. I continued, however, to observe; to remain a spectator. She removed her clothes, tearing them from her body and laughing. And standing before me naked but for her black silk stockings and red slippers, she held out her arms. But I shook my head and smiled.
"'I am the victim of an overwhelming desire to masturbate,' I said to her, 'since I find it difficult to resist you. But if I yield to the mysterious reality you have assumed I will become too grotesque for my vanity to tolerate. I will remain aware while possessing you that my penis is beating a ludicrous tattoo on a sofa cushion. I choose rather to emulate the pride of St. Anthony, who shrewdly refused to play the whoremonger with shadows.'
"I smiled at her and she laughed. She crouched on her feet staring up at me. Raising my eyes from her, I saw Goliath. He was standing in the curtains of his room, watching me with a curious, open-mouthed fury. I saw that the little monster was beginning to understand that I was mad, and this irritated me. There was danger in him, since even through his stupid head must have passed a wonder of what had happened to Rita.
"I frowned at Goliath and his head rolled frightenedly on his heavy shoulders.
"'Why do you bother me when I wish to be alone?' I cried. 'Go to your bed and leave me.'
"I stood up and went for him. His head fell and he dragged himself back into his room. This was, perhaps, the most curious thing in the incident. 'I am ashamed of being seen with this nude phantom,' I thought. For a moment the mad idea came to me that she was visible to Goliath—that he was watching us—me and this figment of mine. My anger was shame. My senses are logical in their pretenses. How can I stand out against them, if they grow cleverer than I, more persuasive than I, and lead me finally into the total madness of accepting them as Mallare—the one Mallare, the lunatic who has escaped himself? I must not escape.
"When I returned she was still crouching on the floor. I decided to experiment. Perhaps there was still some lingering sense in me that would fail to succumb to this astonishing make-believe.
"'Come here. On the couch,' I ordered her.
"She obeyed. She stretched herself out and I sat beside her. The odor of her body was distinct. Perfumes spread a clever gloss over the woman smell, the bitter salt odor that stirred from between her closed thighs. I smiled, for the logic of this illusion grows entertaining. But I had decided on experiments. My hands stroked her hair, feeling of its strands. My fingers pressed at the skull beneath the warm skin of her head. Then I held her breasts, that had once seemed to me like two little blind faces raised in prayer. But imagery no longer decorates my thought. My hallucination is no longer a weaver of magical phrases. But stark, real—its heart beating under ribs, its skin glowing with perspiration, its nipples standing out. As I caressed her I heard her say:
"'Yours. Yours. I am your woman.'
"Her thighs opened and her arms that had been held toward me fell to her sides. My hand slipped between. There was warm flesh. Yes, it was flesh to my mind. And I sat for moments allowing the illusion to stir a passion in me. I would throw myself on this thing, hold it in my arms, give myself to it. Where was the wrong in that, since it was only myself I ravished—a phantom mocking me behind my eyes?
"Goliath saved me. I saw him standing once more in the curtains of his room. His long arms were beating against his sides, the black fingers opening and shutting like frantic talons. He stood with his head rolling as if he were trying to stand erect. His eyes were insane.
"I sprang away, again pulled by the unmistakable emotion of shame. He glared at me for a moment, but as my hand caught his face he toppled over and lay whining. I picked him up and threw him into his bed and locked the door of his room.
"When I returned she still lay. Her eyes were closed. She looked at me and I saw she was weeping.
"'Since you are not to be reasoned out of existence, since you seem to resist what is left of my sanity—there is nothing to do but tolerate you.'
"I sat in my chair and spoke to her.
"'It will end in my loathing you,' I said. 'I created you in order to possess you beyond the realism of the senses. For a time your body was like a rich curtain before the door of enchantments which I might enter at will.
"'But there is no longer a door. Your body alone confronts me. In this way I am reduced to enjoying my dream with my senses. Then it means only that I have achieved nothing more by my madness than the privilege of masturbating with the aid of an erotic phantom.
"'Alas, the reason of it is clear. Man's fiber is fouled throughout with sex. I sought to emancipate myself from all relation to life. The delusion of my hopes is more to be pitied than the disorder of my vanity. For I see now that man is a collection of adjectives loaned to a phallus. His intellect is no more than a diverting hiatus between fornications. His soul, yes, his very egoism on which he prides himself, is a synthetic erection.
"'To possess! What a delusion! And for its sake I threw my genius away. I stripped the world from my eyes that it might not intrude upon the universe within me. A paradise in which I might strut alone. Possess myself. Yes, and here I am, aware at last of folly. For my senses belong to life. And though I buried myself in a madness deeper than night, they would still cling to me. Though I castrated myself, they would remain—five invisible testicles. It is impossible to possess. Folly to attempt. As long as the senses remain life clings like a dead whore to my darkness. Even my madness that I prided myself upon is a babbling witch astride a phallus, her lips bending over it with grewsome hungers.
"'There is only one castration—death. What am I now? Mad? Yes. And worse. Disillusioned. I have closeted myself with a lecherous animal and it turns on me. That is the reward of the privacy I hungered after.
"'And you who lie and weep on a couch are no longer the dream of a God, but the crude marionette created by lust for its own diversion. I thought only to go mad. But I see I have become an idiot.'
"There was no more to say. Her weeping ended and she vanished. But she will return. In my sleep her outline wanders like an amorous ghost haunting the grave of my senses. Ah, I must be cautious now, more cautious, always cautious. It would be too easy to yield. And if I yielded and returned again my defeat would be unbearable. I think it is easier to die. Death is no more than a premature torment. Its name alone is a suffering. Its reality but a final illusion.
"But I persist. I still remain. There is a rhythm to things that still seduces me. A gentle curiosity that gives the lie to my bewilderment. I sit, an audience, shedding crocodile tears at a melodrama.
"Tomorrow ... tomorrow. Who can think that word is still himself? What difference does it make if I grow uncomfortable and swollen with illusions? I persist. And who knows but tomorrow will be a door in my labyrinth ... a bottom to this pit into which I have fallen?"
From the Journal of Mallare dated December.
"Her murder was simple. We stood under an arc lamp and my hands killed her. I remember her face looking imploringly at me. And when I went away I leaned over and kissed her hair. She was dead in the street. It was simple.
"Now I must kill again. It is no longer simple. I must teach her to hate me. She will vanish then. It is clear in my thought. My hands are useless against her now. I have held them about her neck and she laughs.
"All day she runs around in the room. At night she comes to my bed. Her hands wake me up. She plays with me. I lie thinking how she may be murdered this second time. She has grown loathsome. I allow her to cover my body with kisses and listen to her laughter. Pollutions result. I am powerless against her lips and terrible fingers. She devours me night after night like a succubus. I lie and masturbate with a phantom.
"But I will discover a way to kill this thing. I close my eyes and lie powerless while she repeats the refrain I once taught her. 'Yours ... yours. I am your woman.'
"I have hurled her out of bed, hurled her body against the wall. She continues to laugh like a child. I think of her as real. Goliath knows I am mad. He watches me while I struggle with this thing. He is filled with terror. I have told him to go, but he remains.
"She sleeps in the bed that Rita used. I have seen her there. Stood beside her listening to her breathe. If I die she will pursue me in death. She is more real than I. I must kill her. My hands have never touched her since the night on the couch. I have kept myself intact. I still remain. She is a virgin. My thought is mad. It plays with the idea of fornication. Once, screams frightened her out of my bed. I lay unable to resist. My body reached toward her. An anger that was like death blinded me. I cried out and saved myself. My thought crept back from the madness. I called myself back.
"I can no longer close my eyes to her. She grimaces in the dark. And she is at my heels in the street. I have decided there is a way to rid myself of her.
"Mallare ... Mallare is no more. Madness jostles him off the scene. He annihilated a world and a new monster sprang up in its place.
"My words return. Ah, tired warriors covered with the grime of battle—they troop back to my mind out of the dark. Mallare returns. But what a caricature! See him like a fanatic priest driving the devil out of his soul with whips.
"This would be a God, this hermaphroditic prostitute who fondles himself at night. Mallare ... weep. Whips will not rid you of this monster. Mallare, the plaything.
"But there is a way to be rid of her. Hate will darken the gleam of her body. She will vanish. But do I hate her? My madness is infatuated since it makes her so radiant. And who am I that I laugh at my madness? It is I who am insane. Not this other Eden maker whose mania I applauded. I, Mallare, tear at my hair.
"I look in the mirror over my bed. Eyes red and gleaming look back at me. This is my face, but I am no longer there. And whose are these eyes looking back at me? The eyes of Mallare's friend, red and gleaming. His friend who betrayed him. Hair slanting over a forehead. Mouth wide and thin. No longer mine. They belong to the mirror. Mallare's words whimper before them.
"Weep ... weep, impotent one. The feet of your madness walk solemnly over you. They kick gravely at a carcass. Lie beneath them and watch Mallare dance away, whirl away with lecherous shadows in his arms. But she will die too. I am thinking of death. Mallare the egoist asks alms of death!
"Windows break inside me. I look out of broken windows. I am gone and away. Empty rooms. My hands feel walls. Mallare asks pity of darkness. Pity him."
She sat looking out of the window. He had gone away early in the morning. It was growing dark now. The cold street dwindled. Windows lighted up. People that looked from the distance like black toys moved through the darkening street.
She could tell when he came because his walk was different. The hours built pointed roofs to her dream. She played behind happy walls but her eyes remained outside, watching from the window.
This was part of a game—to hide away and wait. To put on her clothes carefully in the morning; bright silks and petticoats and a dress on top; jewels on her fingers; bracelets and earrings; gold bands through her hair. To make her cheeks red and paint black lines in her eyes; then paint her lips and fingers red—these things hid her. She must be hidden when he came—concealed behind paints and clothes so that when he looked at her it would be someone else he saw.
A tall man with black hair. His face was white. His eyes were silent and hidden. But when they looked at her they screeched like parrots. They ruffled up and yellow points came into them.
He liked to walk up and down pretending she was nowhere, pretending there was no Rita, pretending he was looking for her. Then she ran around and one by one she took off the things—the dress, the petticoats, the silks, the jewels and bracelets and gold bands. Each one she took off was for him. It was a game. She came out of hiding places. Each one she took off was a secret she confessed to him.
She sat at the window dreaming of the ways she belonged to him. Her thought was a pantomime which prostrated itself before his memory. She remembered sacrifices.... He would lie cold in his bed. Then she crawled to his side. She dared not look at his eyes. They were above her and kept themselves hidden. She vanished before the thought of them.
Then his body grew warm under her hands. Her lips made his body tremble. He was white and naked like her. He was a fire to which she fed herself. The moment came when there was no longer any Rita. A little ember lay burning happily in his passion.
When he fell asleep she went away. In her own bed she lay dreaming words that were like hiding places. Only he could lure her out of them. After he fell asleep she carried memories of him into herself.... He had smiled. His body had shivered. His fingers had clutched at her face. He had picked her up and fought with her. When he did this it was as if he lifted her to his eyes and she could look at him—as if the wind lifted the flames about.
The street was dark. But he would come soon. He only stayed away till it grew dark. Now it was his time again. The street and all the lights would open the door and come into the room. And she would be waiting, hidden away. It was exciting to wait. It was the way he kissed her—by making her wait and pretending when he came that there was no Rita.
The night was like a story that frightened. As she watched from the window she remembered the caravan along the roads. Fires and dark faces and red handkerchiefs. The night along the roads changed the trees into birds that flew away. The wagons went to sleep. Everyone slept but Rita. The horses had dreams and whispered to themselves.
Along the roads where the caravan stopped there would be a fire at night to watch. Rita sat alone looking at the flames. Dreams came out of the fire and walked away. Then, hours afterward, they came back when the fire was low. They stood around the coals and finally crawled into the ground. Darkness remained. The wagons became ghosts. She grew sad and wanted to go away with the night like the dreams that crept back into the dead fire.
Now his eyes were like the hiding places she had wished. She trembled. He was coming. She could see him out of the window, walking slowly in the street below. She closed her eyes.
The door opened and her heart bowed itself. Her fingers, stiffened with colored rings, pressed at her breasts. Now there was a game to play. He walked up and down pretending Rita was hidden. He was cold and far away. His face walked like a dead man back and forth in the room. Goliath shuffled as fast as he could and hid himself in the curtains. She crouched in the chair, her knees drawn up, her eyes cringing with delight.
She could watch his face. When he was far away she had further to go to reach him, and each step was like a kiss she gave him. His anger, his words, his cold face and his hands striking her were wild roads down which she ran toward a fire that waited.
He paid no attention but walked up and down and his eyes ignored her. But he would begin to talk soon. She would undress for him. One by one, rings, bands of gold, silks and petticoats—each that came off was like a part of her already burning.
She stood up naked. Only she was left now. Her body caressed her with its desires. She must go on undressing. There was something more to give him. She would remove something of herself—her arms, her breasts, her white thighs. She gave these to him with her dresses and jewels. They were things for him to burn up.
He was looking at her because she had crawled to his feet. This was when he began to talk to her—when she placed her arms around his feet and bent her head to the floor.
"Yours," she whispered.
He was motionless and far away and tall above her. He stood like the night. His white face was the cold moon. She waited and heard the wind blow against the windows. She waited for him to grow warm.
His hands lifted her up. He held them around her neck, his fingers tightening. She opened her eyes and loved him. He talked to her. She listened and wished to die in his hands, if he desired her, if it would make his eyes smile at her.
But his fingers loosened and he threw her down. She lay smiling on the floor as he walked away. He went on talking, louder and louder. His voice was like a sword swinging. He was angry. His words were soft and quick.
She looked up only when he laughed. He was standing against the red curtains laughing. His finger was pointing to her. He stood watching her with his eyes screeching like parrots and laughing as he pointed.
Kneeling, she covered her face with her hands. His laughter came nearer. His hands began to strike. Pain leaped to greet them. Pain, like wings, raised her body to his eyes. His hands were striking and tearing. They played a game with her body.
Candles lighted in her head. He was laughing and throwing himself against her. She felt blood come out of her and cover her with little flames. But he would let her come close soon. After he had struck her and become like a fire she would crawl close to him and he would let her give herself, what was left of herself.
His hands knocked her down again and she lay without moving. He was still laughing and pulling at her. She kneeled and covered her face. Her head kept nodding at him.
Now she would die. He would devour her. Her body fell and rose as if he were swinging her around his head. His hands drove nails through her breasts. Her voice ran away from her and screamed. But she continued to nod her head and to come toward him out of the hiding places. His blows were binding her body with red ropes. But soon she would lie against him and give herself to his passion. She would feel his body burning from the blows he had given her. She closed her eyes and screamed. He grew larger and she was no longer able to understand the pain....
When she awoke Goliath was bending over her. He was whispering excitedly. Sunlight made red shadows in the room.
"Where is he?" she asked.
She slid to the floor and then stood up carefully. Pain halted her and she moaned. But her eyes continued to hunt the room.
"Where is he?" she asked again.
Goliath watched her and his head rolled excitedly. She straightened and dragged herself to the door of his room. It was empty.
"Mallare," she cried. Her hands beat against her head, "Mallare."
Goliath remained watching her naked figure stumbling through the rooms as she called the name. She returned to the couch and threw herself face down. She lay moaning and tearing the cushions with her fingers.
He had gone away. He had beaten her not because he loved. He hated her. And he had taken himself away from her. She understood. He no longer wanted her. He had laughed and tried to kill her.
With a scream she rushed into his bedroom and threw herself against the unused pillows. Her arms struck at them. She began to talk aloud in the language she knew.
"Gone away, gone away," she cried. "I am yours and you gone away."
But words were too involved. She beat at the pillows and screamed. When he came back she would kill him. While he sat in his chair writing she would creep close and drive a knife. That was what would happen to him because he no longer loved her and because he had beaten her to say goodbye.
It was day outside. When it grew dark again he would come back. She would wait, but not as before. She was no longer his.
In her room Rita bathed herself and searched for her old clothes. She found them hidden—the wide dress with red and yellow stripes, the many blue and scarlet petticoats that she had worn when he brought her home from the caravan; the long black earrings, the green and orange shawl for her head. She put these on. They hid the vivid marks on her body.
Dressed in her gypsy clothes she came into the room again. It would be long to wait. But darkness would come and then he would open the door again. She lay down on the couch and sighed.
Mallare, wrapped in a heavy overcoat, his hands in thick gloves, walked from his door into the street. The cold straightened him. The deserted night mirrored itself in a thin coating of snow that overlay the roof-tops.
"They sleep," he thought. His head bent toward the wind. "The streets are empty. The night is mine. I must think of what has happened. There is something inexplicable in what has happened. My hands fought with a phantom. That, of course, is nonsense.
"How do I know my hands fought? Merely because I remember them striking. Yet that may have been an illusion too! Then why are my hands tired? Why do my arms ache? Another illusion, of course. Logic is independent of truth. Logic is the persuasive repetition of ideas by which man hypnotizes himself. I must beware of logic. It will but tie me hopelessly to hallucination. I must think without evidence. I do not know anything. What I see, hear, smell, touch is nothing. I can no longer summon my senses as witnesses.
"And is that unusual? I must sink to moralizings in order to understand myself. What is reality but the habit of illusion. Man sees the unexpected once and identifies it as hallucination. He sees it twice and calls it phenomenon. But if he acquired the habit of seeing the unexpected, he accepts it as reality.
"In the same manner in which he builds phantoms into furniture, converts his Gods into sciences, his myths into laws; in that way he also reduces his furniture into phantoms. He converts his emotions into music, his nervous disorders into literature, his three elemental desires into thought. He is continually holding a mirror to nature and worshipping the childish phantoms within the mirror.
"This is the basis of egoism—the mania to change realities into unreality. Because man is the tool of reality. Of unreality he is the God. It is this desire to dominate which inspires him to avoid truths over which he has no sway and to invent myths. Gods and virtues over which he may set himself up as creator and policeman. It is this which causes him to cloud the simplicities of nature in a maze of interpretations. It is by his interpretations that he achieves the illusion of importance. Ignored by the planets, he invents the myth of mathematics and reduces the universe to a succession of fractions and Greek letters on a blackboard.
"This, of course, for man the egoist. The more humorous spectacle is the one in which man finds himself awed by his own lies. His Gods, his myths, his phantoms come home to roost. He stands blinking in a veritable storm of lies. His yesterday's lies, his today's lies, his tomorrow's lies—all his obsolete interpretations, his canonized interpretations; all his systems, his philosophies; all his Gods and Phantoms—these riot and war around him. Error endlessly assassinates itself in a futile effort to escape its immortality.
"And in the midst of this horrendous confusion, stands man—naive and powerless. But he has his sanity. He blows it up carefully like a soap bubble and strikes a defiant posture in its center. And against the walls of his bubble, his phantoms storm in vain. Within his bubble he proceeds calmly to assert himself."
It was snowing. The night, white with snow, stared like a blind man. A phantom world hung in the air. Houses and street withdrew silently. The snow covered them. Mallare walked on, staring into the heavy weave of flakes.
"A great white leopard prowling silently," he murmured. "It snows. The moon has come down and walks beside me. The wind blows and the moon gallops away on a white horse. A gentle annihilation. The night has fallen asleep and this is a dream that pirouettes in its head. The street becomes a bridal couch.
"Ah, the snow is like my madness. It snows, snows. I climb silently among soft branches and white leaves. Delirium sleeps with a finger to its pale lips. I must continue to think. The storm hangs like a forgotten sorrow in my heart. But my thought persists. It crawls like a little wind through the forgotten storm. It rides carefully from flake to flake.
"I overtake myself. What a quaint imbecile I am. Or rather, was. In my effort to emancipate myself from life, I succeeded only in handing myself over to my senses. And my senses, I perceive, belong not to me but to the procreative principles of biology. They have been loaned to me by a master chemist. When I die my cherished soul will disintegrate into nothing. It will become a useless thing. It will unquestionably go to a Heaven which is as non-existent as itself. Heaven is the emptiness into which souls vanish. Very good. But my senses, these are immortal. They will, in some inexplicable way, I am certain, continue their idiot career.
"I must consider them. I have learned one thing. They are indifferent to reality and unreality. They contain life within themselves. All that exists outside them is extraneous—shadows among which they divert themselves.
"The hallucination that overpowered me but never seduced my intelligence became a reality to them. She was a shadow with which my senses diverted themselves. Then why do I look upon the business as illogical? The illogical thing is not that I feel tired from striking her who had no tangible existence, but that I should be able to reason beyond the reach of my senses. Yes, that I should succeed in wresting them from their prey. For the shadows with which the senses divert themselves are tyrants they may never hope to abandon. Man is at the mercy of his phantoms. Behold, I arrive at a conclusion which means I am bored with the subject.
"I prefer the snow. But there is time for the snow. I must establish premises. Climb out of the abyss on a ladder of premises. What did I say about logic? Oh, yes, the persuasive repetition. One flake remains invisible. A thousand flakes are of no account. It is only when the flakes repeat themselves too endlessly for my eye to distinguish that I finally ignore them and walk contentedly in a storm. Thus with logic. When I have surrounded myself with an infinity of assurances, my error vanishes in the constant repetition of itself. And I am reassured. And sane.
"Yet I must think simply. The snow seduces me into fellow labyrinths. I've destroyed her. My senses were in love with her. They responded to her kisses. She was a Thought able to ravish my body. This is what the pathologists would identify as a triumph of the psychic sex center. What charming palaverers—the pathologists! Man crawls in a circle around himself and fancies himself an invader—a pathologist.
"A matter of no interest. What I have done, as the Christian Scientists ably put it, is to rid myself of this Thought. But why was it necessary to strike at it with my hands, to tear it with my fingers? This worries me. But did I do these things? I must convince myself that I didn't. I remember sinking my hands into her body, pulling at her flesh. I remember blows given. She screamed. I struck her and flung her down. These things I recall.
"But they do not interfere with my convictions. For of what are they proof? The blows I gave were no more than a shrewd make-believe. To my senses she was real, and it was necessary therefore to destroy her realistically. It was easy for my mind to ignore this Thought. I was never its victim. I merely created it. My senses that belong to life and not to me, however, became victimized.