NEW YORK AND LONDON
BOOK I THE VICTIM BOOK II THE SNARE BOOK III THE VICTIM HESITATES BOOK IV THE VICTIM APPROACHES BOOK V THE BAIT IS SEIZED BOOK VI THE CORDS ARE TIGHTENED BOOK VII THE CAPTURE IS COMPLETED
BOOK VIII THE CAPTIVE BOUND BOOK IX THE CAPTIVE IN LEASH BOOK X THE END OF THE TETHER BOOK XI THE TORTURE-HOUSE BOOK XII THE TREADMILL BOOK XIII THE MASTERS OF THE SNARE BOOK XIV THE PRICE OF RANSOM BOOK XV THE CAPTIVE FAINTS BOOK XVI THE BREAK FOR FREEDOM
It was in a little woodland glen, with a streamlet tumbling through it. She sat with her back to a snowy birch-tree, gazing into the eddies of a pool below; and he lay beside her, upon the soft, mossy ground, reading out of a book of poems. Images of joy were passing before them; and there came four lines with a picture—
"Hard by, a cottage-chimney smokes, From betwixt two aged oaks, Where Corydon and Thyrsis, met, Are at their savory dinner set."
"Ah!" said she. "I always loved that. Let us be Corydon and Thyrsis!"
He smiled. "They were both of them men," he said.
"Let us change it," she responded—"just between ourselves!"
"Very well—Corydon!" said he.
Then, after a moment's thought, she added, "But we didn't have the cottage."
"No," said he—"nor even the dinner!"
Section 1. It was the Highway of Lost Men. They shivered, and drew their shoulders together as they walked, for it was night, and a cold, sleety rain was falling. The lights from saloons and pawn-shops fell upon their faces—faces haggard and gaunt with misery, or bloated with disease and sin. Some stared before them fixedly; some gazed about with furtive and hungry eyes as they shuffled on. Here and there a policeman stood in the shelter, swinging his club and watching them as they passed. Music called to them from dives and dance-halls, and lighted signs and flaring- colored pictures tempted them in the entrances of cheap museums and theatres; they lingered before these, glad of even a moment's shelter. Overhead the elevated trains pounded by; and from the windows one could see men crowded about the stoves in the rooms of lodging-houses, where the steam from their garments made a blur in the air.
Down this highway walked a lad, about fifteen years of age, pale of face, and with delicate and sensitive features. His overcoat was buttoned tightly about his neck, and his hands thrust into his pockets; he gazed around him swiftly as he walked. He came to this place every now and then, but he never grew used to what he saw.
He eyed the men who passed him; and when he came to a saloon he would push open the door and gaze about. Sometimes he would enter, and hurry through, to peer into the compartments in the back; and then go out again, giving a wide berth to the drinkers, and shrinking from their glances. Once a girl appeared in a doorway, and smiled and nodded to him; he started and hurried out, shuddering. Her wanton black eyes haunted him, hinting unimaginable things.
Then, on a corner, he stopped and spoke to a policeman. "Hello!" said the man, and shook his head—"No, not this time." So the boy went on; there were several miles of this Highway, and each block of it the same.
At last, in a dingy bar-room, with saw-dust strewn upon the floor, and the odor of stale beer and tobacco-smoke in the air—here suddenly the boy sprang forward, with a cry: "Father!" And a man who sat with bowed head in a corner gave a start, and lifted a white face and stared at him. He rose unsteadily to his feet, and staggered to the other, and fell upon his shoulder, sobbing, "My son! My son!"
How many times had Thyrsis heard those words—in how many hours of anguish! They sank into the deeps of him, waking echoes like the clang of a bell: they voiced all the terror and grief of defeated life—"My son! My son!"
The man clung to him, weeping, and pouring out the flood of his shame. "I have fallen again—I am lost—I am lost!"
The occupants of the place were watching the scene with dull curiosity; and the boy was trembling like a wild deer trapped.
"Yes, father, yes! Let us go home."
"Home—home, my son? Will you take me home? Oh, I couldn't bear to go!"
"But you must come home."
"Do you mean that you still love me, son?"
"Yes, father, I still love you. I want to try to help you. Come with me."
Then the boy would gaze about and ask, "Where is your hat?"
"Hat, my son? I don't know. I have lost it." The boy would see his torn and mud-stained clothing, and the poor old pitiful face, with the eyes blood-shot and swollen, and the skin, that had been rosy, and was now a ghastly, ashen gray. He would choke back his feelings, and grip his hands to keep himself together.
"Come, father, take my hat, and let us go."
"No, my son. I don't need any hat. Nothing can hurt me—I am lost! Lost!"
So they would go out, arm in arm; and while they made their progress up the Highway, the man would pour out his remorse, and tell the story of his weeks of horror.
Then, after a mile or so, he would halt.
"What is it, father?"
"I must stop here, son."
"I must have something to drink."
"But, my boy, I can't go on! I can't walk! You don't know what I'm suffering!"
"I've got the money left—I'm not asking you. I'll come right with you—on my word of honor I will!"
And so they would fight it out—all the way back to the lodging-house where they lived, and where the mother sat and wept. And here they would put him to bed, and lock up his clothing to keep him in; and here, with drugs and mineral-waters, and perhaps a doctor to help, they would struggle with him, and tend him until he was on his feet again. Then, with clothing newly-brushed and face newly-shaven he would go back to the world of men; and the boy would go back to his dreams.
Section 2. Such was the life of Thyrsis, from earliest childhood to maturity. His father's was a heritage of gentle breeding and high traditions—his forefathers were cavaliers, and had served the State. And now it had come to this—to hall bedrooms in lodging-houses, and a life-and-death grapple with destruction! And when Thyrsis came to study the problem, he found that it was a struggle without hope; his father was a man in a trap.
He was what people called a "drummer". He was dependent for his living upon the favor of certain merchants—men for the most part of low ideals, who came to the city in search of their low pleasures. One met them by waiting about in the lobbies of hotels, and in the bar-rooms which they frequented; and always the first sign of fellowship with them was to have a drink. And this was the field on which the battle had to be fought!
He would hold out for months—half a year, perhaps—drinking lemonade and putting up with their raillery. And then he would begin with ginger-ale; and then it would come to beer; and then to whiskey. He was always devising new plans to control himself; always persuading himself that he had solved the problem. He would not drink in the morning; he would not drink until after dinner; he would not drink alone—and so on without end. His whole life was drink, and all his thoughts were of drink—the odor of it always in his nostrils, the image of it always before his eyes.
And the grimness of his fate lay here—that it was by his best qualities that he was betrayed. If he had been hard and mercenary, like some of those who preyed upon him, there might have been hope. But he was generous and free-hearted, a slave to his impulses of friendship. And this was what made the struggle such a cruel one to Thyrsis; it was like the sight of some noble animal basely snared.
From his earliest days the boy had watched these forces working themselves out. The gentleman and the "drummer" fought for supremacy, and step by step the soul of the man was fashioned to the work he did. To succeed with his customers he must share their ideas and their tastes; and so he was bitter against reformers, who interfered with the gaieties of the city, with no consideration for the tastes of "buyers." But then, on the other hand, would come a time of renunciation, when he would be all enthusiasm for temperance.
He was full of old-fashioned ideas, which would take the quaintest turns of reactionism; his politics were summed up in the phrase that he "would rather vote for a nigger than a Republican"; but then, in the same breath, he would announce some fine and noble sentiment, out of the traditions of a forgotten past. He was the soul of courtesy to women, and of loyalty to friends. He worshipped General Lee and the old time "Virginia gentleman"; and those with whom he lived, and for whose unclean profits he sold himself, never guessed the depths of his contempt for all they stood for. They had the dollars, they were on top; but some day the nemesis of Good-breeding would smite them—the army of the ghosts of Gentility would rise, and with "Marse Robert" and "Jeb" Stuart at their head, would sweep away the hordes of commercialdom.
Thyrsis saw a great deal of this forgotten chivalry. His nursery had been haunted by such musty phantoms; and when he first came to the Northern city, he stayed at a hotel which was frequented by people who lived in this past—old ladies who were proud and prim, and old gentlemen who were quixotic and humorous, young ladies who were "belles," and young gentlemen who aspired to be "blades". It was a world that would have made happy the soul of any writer of romances; but to Thyrsis in earliest childhood the fates had given the gift of seeing beneath the shams of things, and to him this dead Aristocracy cried out loudly for burial. There was an incredible amount of drunkenness, and of debauchery scarcely hidden; there was pretense strutting like a peacock, and avarice skulking like a hound; there were jealousy, and base snobbery, and raging spite, and a breath of suspicion and scandal hanging like a poisonous cloud over everything. These people came and went, an endless procession of them; they laughed and danced and gossiped and drank their way through the boy's life, and unconsciously he judged them, and hated them and feared them. It was not by such that his destiny was to be shaped.
Most of them were poor; not an honest poverty, but a sham and artificial poverty—the inability to dress as others did, and to lose money at "bridge" and "poker", and to pay the costs of their self-indulgences. As for Thyrsis and his parents, they always paid what they owed; but they were not always able to pay it when they owed it, and they suffered all the agonies and humiliations of those who did not pay at all. There was scarcely ever a week when this canker of want did not gnaw at them; their life was one endless and sordid struggle to make last year's clothing look like new, and to find some boarding-house that was cheaper and yet respectable. There was endless wrangling and strife and worry over money; and every year the task was harder, the standards lower, the case more hopeless.
There were rich relatives, a world of real luxury up above—the thing that called itself "Society". And Thyrsis was a student and a bright lad, and he was welcome there; he might have spread his wings and flown away from this sordidness. But duty held him, and love and memory held him still tighter. For his father worshipped him, and craved his help; to the last hour of his dreadful battle, he fought to keep his son's regard—he prayed for it, with tears in his eyes and anguish in his voice. And so the boy had to stand by. And that meant that he grew up in a torture-house, he drank a cup of poison to its bitter dregs. To others his father was merely a gross little man, with sordid ideas and low tastes; but to Thyrsis he was a man with the terror of the hunted creatures in his soul, and the furies of madness cracking their whips about his ears.
There was only one ending possible—it worked itself out with the remorseless precision of a machine. The soul that fought was smothered and stifled, its voice grew fainter and feebler; the agony and the shame grew hotter, the suffering more cruel, the despair more black. Until at last they found him in a delirium, and took him to a private hospital; and thither went Thyrsis, now grown to be a man, and sat in a dingy reception-room, and a dingy doctor came to him and said, "Do you wish to see the body?" And Thyrsis answered, in a low voice, "No."
Section 3. So it was that the soul of this lad had grown sombre, and taken to brooding upon the mysteries of fate. Life was no jest and no holiday, it was no place for shams and self-deceptions. It was a place where cruel enemies set traps for the unwary; a field where blind and merciless forces ranged, unhindered by man or God.
Thyrsis could not have told how soon in life this sense had come to him. In his earliest childhood he had known that his father was preyed upon, just as certainly as any wild thing in the forest. At first the enemies had been saloon-keepers, and wicked men who tempted him to drink with them. The names of these men were household words to him, portents of terror; they peopled his imagination as epic figures, such as Black Douglas must have been to the children of the Northern Border.
But then, with widening intelligence, it became certain social forces, at first dimly apprehended. It was the god of "business"—before which all things fair and noble went down. It was "business" that kept vice triumphant in the city; it was because of "business" that the saloons could not be closed even on Sunday, so that the father might be at home one day in seven. And was it not in search of "business" that he was driven forth to loaf in hotel-lobbies and bar-rooms?
Who was to blame for this, Thyrsis did not know; but certain men made profit of it—and these, too, were ignoble men. He knew this; for now and then his father's employers would honor the little family with some kind of an invitation, and they would have to swallow their pride and go. So Thyrsis grew up, with the sense of a great evil loose in the world; a wrong, of which the world did not know. And within him grew a passionate longing to cry aloud to others, to open their eyes to this truth!
Outwardly he was like other boys, eager and cheerful, even boisterous; but within was this hidden thing, which brooded and questioned. Life had made him into an ascetic. He must be stern, even merciless, with himself—because of the fear that was in him, and in his mother as well. The fear that self-indulgence might lay its grisly paws upon him! The fear that he, too, might fall into the trap!
It was not merely that he never touched stimulants; he had an instinct against all things that were softening and enervating, all things that tempted and enslaved. For him was the morning-air, and the shock of cold water, and the hardness of the wild things of the open. Other people did not feel this way; other people pampered themselves and defiled themselves—and so Thyrsis went apart. He lived quite alone with his thoughts, he had never a chum, scarcely even any friends. Where in the long procession of lodging and boarding-houses and summer-resorts should he meet people who knew what he knew about life? Where in all the world should he meet them, save in the books of great men in times past?
There was not much of what is called "culture" in his family; no music at all, and no poetry. But there were novels, and there were libraries where one could get more of these, so Thyrsis became a devourer of stories; he would disappear, and they would find him at meal-times, hidden in a clump of bushes, or in a corner behind a sofa—anywhere out of the world. He read whole libraries of adventure: Mayne-Reid and Henty, and then Cooper and Stevenson and Scott. And then came more serious novels—"Don Quixote" and "Les Miserables," George Eliot, whom he loved, and Dickens, whose social protest thrilled him; and chiefest of all Thackeray, who moulded his thought. Thackeray knew the world that he knew, Thackeray saw to the heart of it; and no high-souled lad who had read him and worshipped him was ever after to be lured by the glamor of the "great" world—a world whose greatness was based upon selfishness and greed.
Thyrsis knew no foreign language, and fate or instinct kept him from those writers who jested with uncleanness; so he was virginal, and pure in all his imaginings. Other lads exchanged confidences in forbidden things, they broke down the barriers and tore away the veils; but Thyrsis had never breathed a word about matters of sex to any living creature. He pondered and guessed, but no one knew his thoughts; and this was a crucial thing, the secret of much of his aloofness.
Section 4. In one of the early boarding-houses there had been a little girl, and the families had become intimate. But the two children disliked each other, and kept apart all they could. Thyrsis was domineering and imperious, and things must always be his way. He was given to rebellion, whereas Corydon was gentle and meek, and submitted to confinements and prohibitions in a quite disgraceful manner. She was a pretty little girl, with great black eyes; and because she was silent and shy, he set her down as "stupid", and went his way.
They spent a summer in the country together, where Thyrsis possessed himself of a sling-shot, and took to collecting the skins of squirrels and chipmunks. Corydon was horrified at this; and by way of helping her to overcome her squeamishness he would make her carry home the bleeding corpses. He took to raising, young birds, also, and soon had quite an aviary—two robins, and a crow, and a survivor from a brood of "cherry-birds." The feeding of these nestlings was no small task, but Thyrsis went fishing when the spirit moved him, secure in the certainty that the calls of the hungry creatures would keep Corydon at home.
This was the way of it, until Corydon began to blossom into a young lady, beautiful and tenderly-fashioned. Thyrsis still saw her now and then, and he made attempts to share his higher joys with her. He had become a lover of poetry; once they walked by the seashore, and he read her "Alexander's Feast", thrilling with delight in its resounding phrases:
"Break his bands of sleep asunder, And rouse him like a rattling peal of thunder!"
But Corydon had never heard of Timotheus, and she had not been taught to exploit her emotions. She could only say that she did not understand it very well.
And then, on another occasion, Thyrsis endeavored to tell her about Berkeley, whom he had been reading. But Corydon did not take to the sensational philosophy either; she would come back again and again to the evasion of old Dr. Johnson—"When I kick a stone, I know the stone is there!"
This girl was like a beautiful flower, Thyrsis told himself—like all the flowers that had gone before her, and all those that would come after, from generation to generation. She fitted so perfectly into her environment, she grew so calmly and serenely; she wore pretty dresses, and helped to serve tea, and was graceful and sweet—and with never an idea that there was anything in life beyond these things. So Thyrsis pondered as he went his way, complacent over his own perspicacity; and got not even a whiff of smoke from the volcano of rebellion and misery that was seething deep down in her soul!
The choosers of the unborn souls had played a strange fantasy here; they had stolen one of the daughters of ancient Greece, and set her down in this metropolis of commercialdom. For Corydon might have been Nausikaa herself; she might have marched in the Panathenaic procession, with one of the sacred vessels in her hands; she might have run in the Attic games, bare-limbed and fearless. Hers was a soul that leaped to the call of joy, that thrilled at the faintest touch of beauty. Above all else, she was born for music—she could have sung so that the world would have remembered it. And she was pent in a dingy boarding-house, with no point of contact with anything about her—with no human soul to whom she could whisper her despair!
They sent her to a public-school, where the sad-eyed drudges of the traders came to be drilled for their tasks. They harrowed her with arithmetic and grammar, which she abhorred; they taught her patriotic songs, about a country to which she did not belong. And also, they sent her to Sunday-school, which was worse yet. She had the strangest, instinctive hatred of their religion, with all that it stood for. The sight of a clergyman with his vestments and his benedictions would make her fairly bristle with hostility. They talked to her about her sins, and she did not know what they meant; they pried into the state of her soul, and she shrunk from them as if they had been hairy spiders. Here, too, they taught her to sing—droning hymns that were a mockery of all the joys of life.
So Corydon devoured her own heart in secret; and in time a dreadful thing came to happen—the stagnant soul beginning to fester. One day the girl, whose heart was the quintessence of all innocence, happened to see a low word scribbled upon a fence. And now—they had urged her to discover sins, and she discovered them. Suppose that word were to stay in her mind and haunt her—suppose that she were not able to forget it, try as she would! And of course she tried; and the more she tried, the less she succeeded; and so came the discovery that she was a lost soul and a creature of depravity! The thought occurred to her, that she might go on to think of other words, and to think of images and actions as well; she might be unable to forget any of them—her mind might become a storehouse of such horrors! And so the maiden out of ancient Greece would lie awake all night and wrestle with fiends, until she was bathed in a perspiration.
Section 5. About this time Thyrsis was making his debut as an author. He had discovered a curious knack in himself, a turn for making verses of a sort which were pleasing to children. They came from some little corner of his consciousness, he scarcely knew how; but there was a paper that was willing to buy them, and to pay him the princely sum of five dollars a week! This would pay for his food and his hall bedroom, or for board at some farm in the summer; and so for several years Thyrsis was free.
He told a falsehood about his age, and entered college, and buried himself up to the eyes in work. This was a college in a city, and a poor college, where the students all lived at home, and had nothing to do but study; and so Thyrsis missed all that beneficent illumination known as "student-life." He never hurrahed at foot-ball contests, nor did he dress himself in honorific garments, nor stupify himself at "smokers." Being democratic, and without thought of setting himself up over others, he was unaware of his greatest opportunities, and when they invited him into a fraternity, he declined. Once or twice he found himself roaming the streets at night with a crowd of students, emitting barbaric screechings; but this made him feel silly, and so he lagged behind and went home.
The college served its purpose, in introducing him to the world of knowledge; but that did not take long, and afterwards it was all in his way. The mathematics were a discipline, and in them he rejoiced as a strong man to run a race; and this was true also of the sciences, and of history—the only trouble was that he would finish the text-books in the first few weeks, and after that there was nothing to do save to compose verses in class, and to make sketches of the professors. But as for the "languages" and the "literatures" they taught him—in the end Thyrsis came to forgive them, because he saw that they did not know what languages and literatures were. On this account he took to begging leave of absence on grounds of his poverty; and then he would go home and spend his days and nights in learning.
One could get so much for so little, in this wonderful world of mind! For eight cents he picked up a paper volume of Emerson's "Essays"; and in this shrewd and practical nobility was so much that he was seeking in life! And then he stumbled upon a fifteen-cent edition of "Sartor Resartus", and took that home and read it. It was like the clash of trumpets and cymbals to him; it made his whole being leap. Hour after hour he read, breathless, like a man bewitched, the whole night through. He would cry aloud with delight, or drop the book and pound his knee and laugh over the demoniac power of it. The next day he began the "French Revolution"; and after that, alas, he found there was no more—for Carlyle had turned his back upon democracy, and so Thyrsis turned his back upon Carlyle.
For this was one of the forces which had had to do with the shaping of his thought. Beginning in the public-schools he had learned about his country—the country which was his, if not Corydon's. He had read in its history—Irving's "Life of Washington," and ten great volumes about Lincoln; so he had come to understand that salvation is of the people, and that those things which the people do not do—those things have not yet been done. So no one could deceive him, or lead him astray; he might laugh with the Tories, and even love them for their foibles—quaint old Samuel Johnson, for instance, because he was poor and sturdy, and had stood by his trade of bookman; but at bottom Thyrsis knew that all these men were gilding a corpse. Wordsworth and Tennyson, Browning and Swinburne —he followed each one as far as their revolutionary impulse lasted; and after that there was no more in them for him. Even Ruskin, who taught him the possibilities of English prose, and opened his eyes to the form and color of the world of nature—even Ruskin he gave up, because he was a philanthropist and not a democrat.
Thyrsis had been brought up as a devout Episcopalian. They had dressed him in scarlet and white to carry the train of the bishop at confirmation, and had sent him to an afternoon service every day throughout Lent. Early in life he had stumbled on a paper copy of Paine's "Age of Reason," and he read it with horror, and then conducted a private auto da fe. But the questions of the book stayed with him, and as years passed they clamored more loudly. What would have happened, astronomically, if the sun had stood still? And how many different species would have had to go into the ark? And what was the size of a whale's gullet, and the probable digestive powers of a whale's stomach?
And then came more fundamental difficulties. Could there, after all, be such a duty as faith in any intellectual matter? Could there be any revelation superior to reason—must not reason have once decided that it was a revelation, or was not? And what of all the other "revelations", which all the other peoples of the world accepted? And then again, if Jesus had been God, could he really have been tempted? To be God and man at the same time—did that not mean both to know and not to know? And was there any way conceivable for anything to be God, in which everything else was not God?
These perplexities and many others the boy took to his clerical adviser, a man who loved him dearly, and who gave him some volumes of the "Bampton lectures" to read. Here was the defense of Christianity, conducted by authorities, and with scholarship and dignity; and Thyrsis found to his dismay that the only convincing parts of their books were where they gave a resume of the arguments of their opponents. He learned in this way many difficulties that had not yet occurred to him; and when he had got through with the reading his mind was made up. If any man were to be damned for not believing such things, then it was his duty as a thinker to be damned; and so he bade farewell to the Church—something which was sad, in a way, for his mother had been planning him for a bishop!
Section 6. But Thyrsis was throwing away many chances these days. He went into the higher regions to spend his Christmas holidays; and instead of being tactful and agreeable, he buried himself in a corner of the library all day long. For Thyrsis had made the greatest discovery yet—he had found out Shakespeare! At school they had taught him "English" by means of "to be or not to be", and they had sought to trap him at examinations by means of "man's first disobedience and the fruit"; and so for years they had held him back from the two great glories of our literature. But now, by accident, he stumbled into "The Tempest"; and after that he read every line of the plays in two weeks.
He lost his soul in that wonderland; he walked and thought no more like the men of earth—he dwelt with those lords and princes of the soul, and learned to speak their language. He would dodge among cable-cars and trucks with their heavenly melodies in his ears; and while he sung them his eyes flashed and his heart beat fast:
"Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"
There were a few days left in those wondrous holidays; and these went to Milton. There was a set of his works, enormously expensive, which had been made and purchased with no idea that any human being would ever read them. But Thyrsis read them, and so all the beauty of the binding was justified. For hours, and hours upon hours, he drank in that thunderous music, crying it aloud with his hands clenched tightly, and stopping to laugh like a child with excitement:
"Th'imperial ensign, which full high advanced, Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind, With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed, Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds!"
And afterwards, when he came to the palace that "rose like an exhalation", all of Thyrsis' soul rose with it. One summer's day he stood on a high mountain with a railroad in the valley, and saw a great freight-engine stop still and pour out its masses of dense black smoke. It rose in the breathless air, straight as a column, high and majestic; and Thyrsis thought of that line. It carried him out into the heavens, and he knew that a flash of poetry such as that is the meeting of man's groping hand with God's.
It was about here that a strange adventure came to him. It was midwinter, and he went out, long after midnight, to walk in a beautiful garden. A dry powdery snow crunched beneath his feet, and overhead the stars gleamed and quivered, so bright that he felt like stretching out his hands to them. The world lay still, and awful in its beauty; and here suddenly, unsuspected—unheralded, and quite unsought—there came to Thyrsis a strange and portentous experience, the first of his ecstasies.
He could not have told whether he walked or sat down, whether he spoke or was silent; he lost all sense of his own existence—his consciousness was given up to the people of his dreams, the companions and lovers of his fancy. The cold and snow were gone, and there was a moonlit glade in a forest; and thither they came, one by one, friendly and human, yet in the full panoply of their splendor and grace. There were Shelley and Milton, and the gentle and troubled Hamlet, and the sorrowful knight of la Mancha, with the irrepressible Falstaff to hearten them all; a strangely-assorted company, yet royal spirits all of them, and no strangers to each other in their own world. And here they gathered and conversed, each in his own vein and from his own impulse, with gracious fancy and lofty vision and heart-easing mirth. And ah, how many miles would one have travelled to be with them!
That was the burden which this gift laid upon Thyrsis. He soon discovered that these visions of wonder came but once, and that when they were gone, they were gone forever. And he must learn to grapple with them as they fled, to labor with them and to hold them fast, at the cost of whatever heartbreaking strain. Thus alone could men have even the feeblest reflexion of their beauty—upon which to feed their souls forever after.
Section 7. These things came at the same time as another development in Thyrsis' life, likewise portentous and unexpected. Boyhood was gone, and manhood had come. There was a bodily change taking place in him—he became aware of it with a start, and with the strangest and most uncomfortable thrills. He did not know what to make of it, or what to do about it; nor did he know where to turn for advice.
He tried to put it aside, as a thing of no importance. But it would not be put aside—it was of vast importance. He discovered new desires in himself, impulses that dominated him in a most disturbing way. He found that he took a new interest in women and young girls; he wanted to linger near them, and their glances caused him strange emotions. He resented this, as an invasion of his privacy; it was inconsistent with his hermit-instinct. Thyrsis wished no women in his life save the muses with their star-sewn garments. He had been fond of a line from a sonnet to Milton:
"Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart."
But instead of this, what awful humiliations! In a summer-resort where he found himself, there was a girl of not very gentle breeding, somewhat pudgy and with a languishing air. She liked to have boys snuggle down by her; and so Thyrsis spent the whole of one evening, sitting in a summer-house with an arm about her waist, dissolved in a sort of moon-calf sentimentalism. And then he passed the rest of the night wandering about in the forest cursing himself, with tears of shame and vexation in his eyes.
He was so ignorant about these matters that he did not even know if the changes that had taken place in him were normal, or whether they were doing him harm. He made up his mind that he must have advice; as it was unthinkable that he should speak about such shameful things with any grown person, he bethought himself of a classmate in college who was an earnest and sober man. This friend, much older than Thyrsis, was the son of an evangelical clergyman, and was headed for the ministry himself. His name was Warner, and Thyrsis had helped him in arranging for some religious meetings at the college. Warner had been shocked by his theological irregularities; but they were still friends, and now Thyrsis sought a chance to exchange confidences with him.
The opportunity came while they were strolling down an avenue near the college, and a woman passed them, a woman with bold and hard features, and obviously-painted cheeks. She smiled at a group of students just ahead, and one of them turned and walked off arm in arm with her.
"Good heavens!" exclaimed Warner. "Did you see that?"
"Yes," said Thyrsis. "Who is she?"
"She comes from a house just around the corner."
"But who is she?"
"Why—she's a street-walker."
This brought to Thyrsis' mind a problem that had been haunting him for a year or two. Always when he walked about the streets at night there were women who smiled at him and whispered. And he knew that these were bad women, and shrunk from them. But just what did they mean?
"What does she do?" he asked again.
"Why, don't you know what a street-walker is?"
"Not very well," said Thyrsis.
It took some time for him to get the desired information, because the other could not realize the depths of his ignorance. "They sell themselves to men," he said.
"But what for?" asked Thyrsis. "You don't mean that they—they let them—-"
"They have intercourse together. Of course."
Thyrsis was almost dumb with dismay. "But I should think they would have children!" he exclaimed.
"Good Lord, man!" laughed the other. "Where do you keep yourself, anyway?"
But Thyrsis was too much shaken to think of being ashamed. This was a most appalling revelation to him—it opened quite a new vista of life's possibilities.
"But why should they do such things?" he cried.
"They earn their living that way," said the other.
"But why that way?"
"I don't know. They are that kind of women, I suppose."
And so Warner went on to expound to him the facts of prostitution, and all the abysses of human depravity that lie thereabouts. And incidentally the boy got a chance to ask his questions, and to get a common-sense view of his perplexities. Also he got some understanding of human nature, and of the world in which he lived.
Here was Warner, a man of twenty-four, and of a devout, if somewhat dull and plodding conscientiousness; and the last eight or nine years of his' life had been one torment because of the cravings of lust. He had never committed an act of unchastity—or at least he told Thyrsis that he had not. But he was never free from the impulse, and he had no conception of the possibility of being free. His desire was a purely brute one—untouched by any intellectual or spiritual, or even any sentimental color. He desired woman, as woman—it mattered not what woman. How low his impulses took him Thyrsis realized with a shudder from one remark that he made—that his poverty did not help him to live virtuously, for about the docks and in the workingmen's quarters there were women who would sell themselves for fifty cents a night.
This man's whole life was determined by that craving; in fact it seemed to Thyrsis that his God had made the universe with relation to it—a heaven to reward him if he abstained, and a hell to punish him if he yielded. It was because of this that he clung to the church, and shrunk from any dallying with "rationalism". He disapproved of the theatre, because it appealed to these cravings; he disapproved of all pictures and statues of the nude human form, because the sight of them overmastered him. For the same reason he shrunk from all impassioned poetry, and from dancing, and even from non-religious music. He was rigid in his conformance to all the social conventions, because they served the purpose of saving him and his young women-friends from temptation; and he looked forward to the completion of a divinity-course as his goal, because then he would be able to settle down and marry, and so at last to gratify his desires. He stated this quite baldly, quoting the authority of St. Paul, that it was "better to marry than to burn."
This conversation brought Thyrsis to a realization that there was a great deal in the world that was not found in the poetry of Tennyson and Longfellow; and so he began to pry into the souls of others of his fellow-students.
Section 8. Warner had given him the religious attitude; and now he went after the scientific. There was a tall, eager-faced young man, who proclaimed himself a disciple of Haeckel and Herbert Spencer, and even went so far as to quote Schopenhauer in class. Walking home together one day, these two fell to arguing the freedom of the will, and the nature of motives and desires, and what power one has over them; and so Thyrsis made the startling discovery that this young man, having accepted the doctrine of "determinism," had drawn therefrom the corollary that he had to do what he wanted to do, and so was powerless to resist his sex-impulses. For the past year this youth, a fine, intellectual and honest student, had gone at regular intervals to visit a prostitute; and with entirely scientific and cold-blooded precision he outlined to Thyrsis the means he took to avoid contracting disease. Thyrsis listened, feeling as he might have felt in a slaughter-house; and when, returning to the deterministic hypothesis, he asked how it was that he had managed to escape this "necessity", he was told that it must be because he was of a weaker and less manly constitution.
And there was yet another type: a man with whom there was no difficulty in bringing up the subject, for the reason that he was always bringing it up himself. Thyrsis sat next to him in a class in Latin, and noticed that whenever the text contained any hint at matters of sex—which was not infrequent in Juvenal and Horace— this man would look at him with a grin and a sly wink. And sometimes Thyrsis would make a casual remark in conversation, and the man would twist it out of its meaning, or make a pun out of it—to find some excuse for his satyr's leer. So at last Thyrsis was moved to say to him—"Don't you ever realize what a state you've got your mind into?"
"How do you mean?" asked the man.
"Why, everything in the world seems to suggest obscenity to you. You're always looking for it and always finding it—you don't seem to care about anything else."
The other was interested in that view of it, and he acknowledged with mild amusement that it was true; apparently it was a novelty to him to discuss such matters seriously. He told Thyrsis that he could not remember having ever restrained a sexual impulse in his life. He thought of lust in connection with every woman he met, and his mind was a storehouse of smut. And yet he was not a bad fellow, in other ways; he handsome, and a good deal of an athlete, and was planning to be a physician. "You'll find most all the fellows are the same," he said.
Not long after this, Thyrsis was selected to represent his college on a debating-team, and he went away to another city and was invited to a fraternity-house; and here, suddenly, he discovered how much of "college-life" he had been missing. This was a fashionable university, and he met the sons of wealthy parents. About a score of them lived in this fraternity-house, without any sort of supervision or restraint. They ate in a beautiful oak-panelled dining-room adorned with drinking-steins; and throughout the meal they treated their visitor to such an orgy of obscenity as he had never dreamed of in his life before. Thyrsis was trapped and could not get away; and it seemed to him when he rose from the table that there was nothing left clean in all God's universe. These boys appeared to vie with each other in blasphemous abandonment; and it was not simply wantonness—it was sprawling and disgusting filthiness.
One of this group took Thyrsis driving, and was led to talk. Here was a youth whose father was the president of a great manufacturing-enterprise, and supplied him with unlimited funds; which money the boy used to divert himself in the pursuit of young women. Sometimes he had stooped so low as manicure-girls and shop-clerks and stenographers; but for the most part he sought actresses and chorus-girls—they had more intelligence and spirit, he explained, they were harder to win. He had his way with them, partly because he was handsome and clever, but mainly because he was the keeper of the keys of opportunity. It was his to dispense auto-rides and champagne-suppers, and flowers and jewels, and all things else that were desirable in life.
Thyrsis was appalled at the hardness and the utter ruthlessness of this man—he saw him as a young savage turned loose to prey in a civilized community. He had the most supreme contempt for his victims—that was what they were made for, and he paid them their price. Nor was this just because they were women, it was a matter of class; the young man had a mother and sisters, to whom he applied quite other standards. But Thyrsis found himself wondering how long, with this contagion raging among the fathers and the sons, it would be possible to keep the mothers and the daughters sterilized.
Section 9. These discoveries came one by one; but Thyrsis saw enough at the outset to make it clear that the time had come for him to gird up his loins. The choice of Hercules was before him; and he did not intend that the course of his life was to be decided by these cravings of the animal within him.
From the grosser sorts of temptation he was always saved by the fastidiousness of his temperament; the thought of a woman who sold herself for money could never bring him anything but shuddering. But all about his lodging-house lived the daughters of the poor, and these were a snare for his feet. It seemed to him as if this craving came to a man in regular pulses; he could go for weeks, serene and happy in his work—and then suddenly would come the restlessness, and he would go out into the night and wander about the streets for hours, impelled by a futile yearning for he knew not what—the hope of something clean in the midst of uncleanliness, of some adventure that would be not quite shameful to a poet's fancy. And then, after midnight, he would steal home, baffled and sick at heart, and wet his pillow with hot and bitter tears!
So unbearable to him was the thought of such perils that he was impelled to seek his old friend the clergyman, who had lost him over the ancient Hebrew mythologies, and now won him back by his living moral force. With much embarrassment and stammering Thyrsis managed to give a hint of what troubled him; and the man, whose life was made wholly of love for others, opened his great heart and took Thyrsis in.
He told him of his own youthful struggle—a struggle which had resulted in victory, for he had never known a woman. And he put all the facts before the boy, made clear to him the all-determining importance of the issue:
"Choose well, your choice is Brief and yet endless!"
On the one hand was slavery and degradation and disease; and on the other were all the heights of the human spirit. For if one saved and stored this mighty sex-energy, it became transmuted to the gold of intellectual and emotional power. Such was the universal testimony of the masters of the higher life—
"My strength is as the strength of ten Because my heart is pure."
And this was no blind asceticism; it was simply a choosing of the best. It was not a denial of love, but on the contrary a consecration of love. Some day Thyrsis would meet the woman he was to cleave to, and he would expect her to come to him a virgin; and he must honor her as much—he must save the fire and fervor of his young desire for his life's great consummation.
Such was the ideal; and these two men made a compact between them, that once every month Thyrsis would write and tell of his success or failure. And this amateur confessional was a mighty motive to the lad—he knew that he could never tell a lie, and the thought of telling the truth was like a sword hanging over him. There were hours of trial, when he stood so close to the edge of the precipice that this alone was what kept him clear.
Section 10. The summer had come, and Thyrsis had gone away to live in a country village, and was reading Keats and Shelley, and the narrative poems of Scott. There came a soft warm evening, when all the world seemed a-dream; and he had been working hard, and there came to him a yearning for the stars. He went out, and was strolling through the streets of the village, when he saw a girl come out of one of the houses. She was younger than he, graceful of form, and pretty. The lamp-light flashed on her bright cheeks, and she smiled at him as she passed. And Thyrsis' heart gave a great leap, and the blood surged to his face; he turned and looked, and saw that she was gazing over her shoulder at him.
He stopped, and turned to follow, his meditations all gone, and gone his resolutions. A trembling seized him, and every nerve of him tingled. He could feel his heart as if it were underneath his throat.
In a moment more he was beside the girl. "May I join you?" he asked, and she replied with a nod.
Thyrsis moved beside her and took her arm in his. A moment later they came to a place where the road was dark, and he put his arm about her waist; she made no resistance.
"I—I've seen you often before," she said.
"Yes," he replied, "I have seen you." And he suddenly remembered a remark that he had heard about her. There was a large summer-hotel in this neighborhood, which as usual had brought all the corruptions of the city in its train; and a youth whom Thyrsis had met there had pointed out the girl with the remark, "She's a little beast."
And this idea, as it came to him, swept him away in a fierce tide of madness; he bent suddenly down and whispered into her ear. They were words that never in Thyrsis' life had passed his lips before.
The girl pushed him away; but she laughed.
"You don't mind, do you?" exclaimed Thyrsis, his heart thumping like a hammer.
"Listen," he whispered, bending towards her. "Let us go and take a walk. Let us go where no one will see us."
"Where?" she asked.
"Out into the country," he said.
"Not now," she replied. "Some other time."
"No, now!" exclaimed Thyrsis, desperately. "Now!"
They had been moving slowly; they came to a place where a great tree hung over the road, shadowing it; and there they stopped, as by one impulse.
"Listen to me," he whispered, swiftly. "Listen. You don't know how anxious I have been to meet you. It's true—indeed it's true!"
He paused. "Yes," said the girl, "and I have been wanting to meet you. Didn't you ever see me nod to you?"
And suddenly Thyrsis put his arms about her, and pressed her to him. The touch of her bosom sent the blood driving through his veins in torrents of fire; he no longer knew or cared what he said, or what he did.
"Listen to me," he raced on. "Listen to me! Nobody will know! And you are so beautiful, so beautiful! I love you!" The words burned his lips, but he forced himself to say them, again and again—"I love you!"
The girl was gazing around her nervously. "Not now," she exclaimed. "Not to-night. To-morrow I will meet you, to-morrow night, and go with you."
"No," cried Thyrsis, "not to-morrow night, but now!" And he clasped her yet more tightly, with all his strength. "Listen," he panted, his breath on her cheek. "I love you! I cannot wait till to-morrow— I could not bear it. I am all on fire! I should not know what to do!"
The girl gazed about her again in uncertainty, and Thyrsis swept on in his swift, half-incoherent exclamations. He would take no refusal; for half his madness was terror of himself, and he knew it. And then suddenly, as he cried out to her, the girl whispered, faintly, "All right!" And his heart gave a throb that hurt him.
"I'll tell you," she went on, hastily, "I was going to the store for something, and they expect me home. But wait here till I get back, and then I'll go with you."
"You mean it?" whispered Thyrsis. "You mean it?"
"Yes, yes," she answered.
"And it will be soon?"
"All right," said he. "But first give me a kiss." As she held up her face, Thyrsis pressed her to him, and kissed her again and again, until her cheeks were aflame. At last he released her, and she turned swiftly and darted up the street.
Section 11. And after she was gone the boy stood there motionless, not stirring even a hand. A full minute passed, and the color went out of his cheeks, and the fire out of his veins, and he could hardly stand erect. His head sunk lower and lower, until suddenly he whispered hoarsely, under his breath, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"
He looked up at the sky, his face ghastly white; and there came from his throat a low moan, like that of a wounded animal. Suddenly he turned, and fled away down the street.
He went on and on, block after block; but then, all at once, he stopped again and faced about. He gripped his hands until the nails cut him, and shut his teeth together like a steel-trap. "No, no!" he muttered. "No—you coward!"
He turned and began to march, grimly, as a soldier might; he went back, and stopped on the spot from which he had come; and there he stood, like a statue. So one minute passed, then another; and at last a shadow moved in the distance, and a step came near. It was the girl.
"Here I am," she whispered, laughing.
"Yes," said Thyrsis. "I have something I must say to you, please."
She noticed the change in a flash, and she stopped. "What's the matter?"
"I don't know just how to tell you," said Thyrsis, in a low, quivering voice. "I've been a hound, and now I don't want to be a cad. But I'm sorry for what we were talking about."
"You mean what you were talking about, don't you?" demanded the girl, her eyes flashing.
Thyrsis dropped his glance. "Yes," he said. "I am a cur. I beg your pardon. I am so ashamed of myself that I don't know what to do. But, oh, I was crazy. I couldn't help it! and I—I'm so sorry!" There were tears in his voice.
"Humph," said the girl, "it's all right."
"No," said Thyrsis, "it's all wrong. It's dreadful—it's horrible. I don't know what I should have done—-"
"Well, you better not do it any more, that's all," said she. "I'm sure you needn't worry about me—I'll take care of myself."
Thyrsis looked at her again; she was no longer beautiful. Her face was coarse, and her anger did not make it any better. His humility made no impression.
"It is so wrong—-" he began; but she interrupted him.
"Preaching won't help it any," she said. "I don't want to hear it. Good-bye."
So she turned and walked away; and Thyrsis stood there, white, and shuddering, until at last he started and strode off. Clear through the town he went, and out into the black country beyond, seeing nothing, caring about nothing. He flung himself down by the roadside, and lay there moaning for hours: "My God, my God, what shall I do?"
Section 12. It was nearly morning when he came back and crept upstairs to his room; and here he sat by the bedside, gazing at the haggard face in the glass. At such times as this he discovered a something in his features that filled him with shuddering; he discovered it in his words, and in the very tone of his voice—the sins of the fathers were being visited upon the children! What an old, old story it was to him—this anguish and remorse! These ecstasies of resolution that vanished like a cloud-wrack—these protestations and noble sentiments that counted for naught in conduct! And his was to be the whole heritage of impotence and futility; he, too, was to struggle and agonize—and to finish with his foot in the trap!
This idea was like a white-hot goad to him. After such an experience there would be several months of toil and penance, and of savage self-immolation. It was hard to punish a man who had so little; but Thyrsis managed to find ways. For several months at a time he would go without those kinds of food that he liked; and instead of going to bed at one o'clock he would read the New Testament in Greek for an hour. He would leap out of bed in the morning and plunge into cold water; and at night, when he felt a longing upon him, he would go out and run for hours.
He took to keeping diaries and writing exhortations to himself. Because he could no longer use the theological prayers he had been taught, he fashioned new invocations for himself: prayers to the unknown sources of his vision, to the new powers of his own soul—"the undiscovered gods," as he called them. Above all he prayed to his vision of the maiden who waited the issue of this battle, and held the crown of victory in her keeping—
"Somewhere beneath the sun, Those quivering heart-strings prove it, Somewhere there must be one Made for this soul to love it—
Some one whom I could court With no great change of manner, Still holding reason's fort, While waving fancy's banner!"
All of which things made a subtle change in his attitude to Corydon, whom he still met occasionally. Corydon was now a young lady, beautiful, even stately, with an indescribable atmosphere of gentleness and purity about her. All things unclean shrunk from her presence; and so in times of distress he liked to be with her. He would drop vague hints as to sufferings and temptations, and told her that she seemed like a "goddess" to him.
Corydon received this with some awe, but with more perplexity. She could not understand why anyone should struggle so much, or why a youth should take such a sombre view of things. But she was perfectly willing to seem like a "goddess" to anyone, and she was glad if that helped him. She was touched when he read her a poem of his own, a poem which he held very precious. He called it
"A song of the young-eyed Cherubim In the days of the making of man."
And in it he had set forth the view of life that had come to him—
"The quest of the spirit's gain— Lured by the graces of pleasure, And lashed by the furies of pain. Thy weakness shall sigh for an Eden, But the sword shall flame at the gate; For far is the home of thy vision And strong is the hand of thy fate!"
Section 13. Though Thyrsis had no time to realize it, it was in this long and bitter struggle that he won whatever power he had in his future life. It was here that he learned "to hold his will above him as his law", and to defy the world for the sake of his ideal. And then, too, this toil was the key that opened to him the treasure-house of a new art—which was music.
Until he was nearly out of college Thyrsis had scarcely heard any music at all. Church-hymns he had learned, and a few songs in school. But now in poetry and other books he met with references to composers, and to the meaning of great music; and the things that were described there were the things he loved, and he began to feel a great eagerness to get at them. As a first step he bought a mandolin, and set to work to teach himself to play, a task at which he wrought with great diligence. At the same time a friend had bought a guitar, and the two set to work to play duets. The first preliminary was the getting of the instruments in tune; and not knowing that the mandolin is an octave higher than the guitar, they spent a great deal of time and broke a great many guitar-strings.
As the next step, Thyrsis went to hear a great pianist, and sat perplexed and wondering. There was a girl next to him who sobbed, and Thyrsis watched her as he might have watched a house on fire. Only once the pianist pleased him—when he played a pretty little piece called somebody's "impromptu", in which he got a gleam of a "tune." Poor Thyrsis went and got that piece, and took it home to study it, with the help of the mandolin; but, alas, in the maze of notes he could not even find the "tune."
But if he could not understand the music, he could read books about it; he read a whole library—criticism of music, analysis of music, histories of music, composers of music; and so gradually he learned the difference between a sarabande and a symphony, and began to get some idea of what he went out for to hear. At first, at the concerts, all he could think of was to crane his neck and recognize the different instruments; he heard whole symphonies, while doing nothing but watching for the "movements," and making sure he hadn't skipped any. One heartless composer ran two movements into one, and so Thyrsis' concert came out one piece short at the end, and he sat gazing about him in consternation when the audience rose to go. Afterwards he read long dissertations about each symphony before he went, and he would note down the important points and watch for them. The critic would expatiate upon "the long-drawn dissonance forte, that marks the close of the working-out portion"; and Thyrsis would watch for that long-drawn dissonance, and be wondering if it was never coming—when suddenly the whole symphony would come to an end! Or he would read about a "quaint capering measure led off by the bassoons," or a "frantic sweep of the violins over a trombone melody," and he would watch for these events with eyes and ears alert, and if he found them—eureka!
But such things could not last forever; for Thyrsis had a heart full of eagerness and love, and of such is the soul of music. And just then was a time when he was sick and worn—when it seemed to him that the burden of his life was more than he could bear. He was haunted by the thought that he would lose his long battle, that he would go under and go down; and then it was that chance took him to a concert which closed with the great "C-Minor Symphony."
Thyrsis had read a life of Beethoven, and he knew that here was one of the hero-souls—a man who had grappled with the fiends, and passed through the valley of death. And now he read accounts of this titan symphony, and learned that it was a battle of the human spirit with despair. He read Beethoven's words about the opening theme—"So knocks fate upon the door!" And a fierce and overwhelming longing possessed him to get at the soul of that symphony.
He went to the concert, and heard nothing of the rest of the music, but sat like a man in a dream; and when the time came for the symphony, he was trembling with excitement. There was a long silence; and then suddenly came the first theme—those fearful hammer-strokes that cannot be thought without a shudder. They beat upon Thyrsis' very heart-strings, and he sat appalled; and straight out he went upon the tide of that mighty music-passion—without knowing it, without knowing how. He forgot that he was trying to understand a symphony; he forgot where he was, and what he was; he only knew that gigantic phantoms surged within him, that his soul was a hundred times itself. He never guessed that an orchestra was playing a second theme; he only knew that he saw a light gleam out of the storm, that he heard a voice, pitiful, fearful, beautiful beyond utterance, crying out to the furies for mercy; and that then the storm closed over it with a roar. Again and again it rose; Thyrsis did not know that this was the "working-out portion" that had forever been his bane. He only knew that it struggled and fought his fight, that it pleaded and sobbed, and rose higher and higher, and began to rejoice—and that then came the great black phantom-shape sweeping over it; and the iron hammer-strokes of Fate beat down upon it, crushed it and trampled it into annihilation. Again and again this happened, while Thyrsis sat clutching the seat, and shaking with wonder and excitement. Never in his experience had there been anything so vast, so awful; it was more than he could bear, and when the first movement came to an end—when the soul's last hope was dead—he got up and rushed out. People who passed him on the streets must have thought that he was crazy; and afterwards, that day and forever, he lived all his soul's life in music.
As a result of this Thyrsis paid all his bank-account for a violin, and went to see a teacher.
"You are too old," the teacher said.
But Thyrsis answered, "I will work as no one ever worked before."
"We all do that," replied the other, with a smile. And so they began.
And so all day long, with fingers raw, and arms and back shuddering with exhaustion, Thyrsis sat and practiced, the spirit of Music beckoning him on. It was in a boarding-house, and there was a nervous old man in the next room, and in the end Thyrsis had to move. By the time he went away to the country, he was able to play a melody in tune; and then he would take some one that had fascinated him, and practice it and practice it night and day. He would take his fiddle every morning at eight and stride out into the forest, and there he would stay all day with the squirrels. They told him once how a new arrival, driving over in the hotel 'bus at early dawn, had passed an old Italian woman toiling up a hill and singing for dear life the "Tannhauser March." It chanced that the new arrival was a musician, and he leaned out and asked the old woman where she had learned it. And this was her explanation;
"Dey ees a crazy feller in de woods—he play it all day for tree weeks!"
Section 14. By this time Thyrsis had finished at college, passing comfortably near the bottom of his class, and had betaken himself to a university as a graduate student. He was duly registered for a lot of courses, and spent his time when he should have been at the lectures, sitting in a vacant class-room reading the book that had fascinated him last. His note-book began at that time to show two volumes a day on an average, and once or twice he stopped at night to wonder how it had actually been possible for him to read poetry fourteen hours a day for a whole week and not be tired.
He taught himself German, and that led to another great discovery—he made the acquaintance of Goethe. The power of that mighty spirit took hold of him, so that he prayed to him when he was lonely, and kept the photograph of the young poet in his pocket, to gaze at it as at a lover. The great eyes came to haunt him so that one night he awoke crying out, because he had dreamed he was going to meet Goethe.
In the catalog of the university there were listed a number of courses in "rhetoric and English composition". They were for the purpose of teaching one how to write, and the catalog set forth convincingly the methods whereby this was done. Thyrsis wished to know all there was to know about writing, and so ne enrolled himself for an advanced course, and went for an hour every day and listened to expositions of the elements of sentence-structure by Prof. Osborne, author of "American Prose Writers" and "The Science of Rhetoric". The professor would give him a theme, and bid him bring in a five-hundred word composition. Perhaps it was that Thyrsis was lacking in the play-spirit; at any rate he could not write convincingly on the subject of "The Duty of the College Man to Support Athletics." He struggled for a month against his own impotence, and then went to see his instructor.
"I think," he said, "I shall have to drop Course A."
The professor gazed over his spectacles at him.
"I don't think I am getting any good out of it."
"But how can you tell what good you are getting?"
"I don't seem to feel that I am," said Thyrsis, deprecatingly.
"It is not to be supposed that you would feel it," said the other—"not at this early stage. You must wait."
"But I don't like the method, sir."
"What's wrong with the method?"
Thyrsis was embarrassed. He was not sure, he said; but he did not think that writing could be taught. Anyway, one had first to have something worth saying—
"Are you laboring under the delusion that you know anything about writing?" demanded the professor. (He had written across Thyrsis' last composition the words, "Feeble and trivial".)
"Why, no," began the boy.
"Because if you are, let me disabuse your mind at once. There is no one in the class who knows less about writing than yourself."
"I think," said Thyrsis, "it's because I can't bring myself to write in cold blood. I have to be interested. I'm sure that is the trouble."
"I'm sure," said the other, "that the trouble is that you think you know too much."
"I'm sorry, sir," said Thyrsis, humbly. "I've tried my best—-"
"It is my business to teach students to write. I've given my life to that, and I think I know something about it. But you think you know more than I do. That's all."
And so they parted. Thyrsis kept a vivid recollection of this interview, for the reason that at a later stage of his career he came into contact with Prof. Osborne again, and got another glimpse of the authoritarian attitude towards the art of letters.
Section 15. Thyrsis had not many friends at college, and none at all at the university. He had no time to make any; and besides, there was a certain facetious senior who had caught him hurrying through the corridors one day, declaring in excitement that—-
"Banners yellow, glorious, golden, On its roof did float and flow!"
But he had long ago ceased to hope for a friend, or to care what anybody thought about him; it was clear to him by this time that he had made himself into a poet, and was doomed to be unhappy. His mother had given up all hope of seeing him a bishop, and they had compromised upon a judgeship; but here at the university there was a law-school, and he met the students, and saw that this, too, could not be. These "lawyers" were not seeking knowledge for the love of it—they were studying a trade, by which they could rise in the world. They were not going out to do battle for truth and justice—they were perfecting themselves in cunning, so that they might be of help in money-disputes; they were sharpening their wits, to make them useful tools for the opening of treasure-chests. And this attitude to life was written all over their personalities; they seemed to Thyrsis a coarse and roistering crew, and he shrunk from them in repugnance.
He went his own impetuous way. He stayed at the university until he had taught himself French and Italian, as well as German, and had read all the best literature in those languages. And likewise he heard all the best music, and went about full of it day and night. By this time he had definitely beaten his devils, and had come to be master of himself; and though nobody guessed anything about it, there was a new marvel going on within him—he had, in a spiritual sense, become pregnant.
There were many signs by which this state might have been known. He went quite alone, and spoke to no man; he was self-absorbed, and walked about with his eyes fixed on vacancy; he was savage when disturbed, and guarded his time unscrupulously. He had given up the very last of the formalities of life—he no longer attended any lectures, or wore cuffs, and he would not talk at meal-times. He took long walks at impossible hours, and he was fond of a certain high hill where the storms blew. These things had been going on for a year; and now the book that had been coming to ripeness in his mind was ready to be born.
It had its origin in the reading of history, and the fronting of old tyranny in its cruel forms. Thyrsis had come to hate Christianity for many things by that time, but most of all he hated it because it taught the bastard virtue of Obedience. Thyrsis obeyed no man—he lived his life; and the fiery ardor with which he lived it was taking form in his mind as a personality. He was dreaming a hero who should be Resistance incarnate; the passionate assertion of man's right and of man's defiance.
It was in the days of ferocity in Italy, the days of the despot and the bravo; and Thyrsis' hero was a minstrel, a mighty musician whose soul was free. And he sung in the despot's hall, and wooed the despot's daughter. This was the minstrel of "Zulieka"—-
"His ladder of song was slight, But it reached to her window's height; Each verse so frail was the silken rail, From which her soul took flight."
Thyrsis went about quite drunk with the burning words with which the minstrel won the lady, and tore her free from the mockeries of convention, and that divinity that doth hedge about a princess. He bore her away, locked tightly in his arms, and all his own—into the great lonely mountains; and there lived the minstrel and the princess, the lord and the lady of an outlaw band. But the outlaws were cruel, and the minstrel sought goodness; and so there was a struggle, and he and the lady went yet deeper into the black forest, where they dwelt alone in a hut, he a prince of hunters and she a princess of love. But the outlaws led the despot to the place, and there was a battle; the princess was slain, and the minstrel escaped in the darkness. All night he roamed the forest, and in the morning he lay by the roadside with a bow in his hand, and when the despot rode by he rose and drove the shaft through his heart. Then they captured him, and tortured him, and he died with a song of mockery and defiance upon his lips.
Section 16. Now, when these things first came to Thyrsis, he whispered in awe that it would be a life-time before he could write them. And a year passed thus, while every emotion of his life poured itself into some part of that story, and every note of music that he heard came out of the minstrel's heart. At last the time came when he was so full of it that he could no longer find peace; when the wonder of it was such that he walked along the street laughing, and with tears in his eyes. Then he said to himself, "It must be done! Now! Now!" And he looked about him as a woman might, seeking some place for her labor.
That was in the late winter, when the professors at the university, and all his relatives and acquaintances, had given him up as a hopeless case. He had stopped all his writing for money—he had a hundred dollars laid by, and that would suffice him; and he was wandering about whispering to himself: "The spring-time! The spring-time! For it must be in the country!" When April had come he could stand it no longer—he must go! So he left all behind him, and set out for a place in the wilderness.
When he reached it, he found a lake that was all ice, and mountains that were all snow; the country people, who had never seen a poet, and knew not the subtle difference between inspiration and insanity, heard with wonder that he was going out into the woods. But he set out alone, through the snowy forest and along the lake-shore, to find some place far away, where he could build a hut, or even put up a tent; and when he was miles from the village, he came suddenly on a little wonderland that made his heart leap like the wild deer in the brake. Here was a dreamland palace, a vision beyond all thinking—a little shanty built of logs! It stood in a pretty dell, with a mountain streamlet dashing through it, and the mighty forest hiding it, and the lake spread out in front of it. It was all wet snow, and freezing rain, and mud and desolation; but Thyrsis saw the summer that was to be, and he sat down upon a stone and gazed at it, and laughed and sang for wonder and joy.
Then he fled back to the village, and found the owner of the earthly rights to this paradise, and hired it for a little gold; and then he moved out, in spite of the snow. At last his soul was free!
Twice a week they brought him provisions, and there he stayed. At first he nearly froze at night, and he had to write with his gloves on; but he did not feel the cold, because of the fire within. He climbed the mountains and yelled with the mad wind, and tramped through the bare, rocking forest, singing his minstrel songs. And all these days he walked with God, and there was no world at all save the world of nature. Millions of young-hearted things sprang up out of the ground to welcome him; the forests shook out their dazzling sheen, and the wild birds went mad in the mornings. All the time Thyrsis was writing, writing—thrilling with his ecstasy, and pouring out all his soul. He kept a little diary these days, and for weeks there was but one entry—"The book! The book!"
And then one day came a letter from his mother, saying that she was coming to the village nearby to spend the summer; also that Corydon's mother was coming, and that Corydon would be with her!
_The streamlet tinkled on. She sat, gazing about her at each familiar tree and rock. And meanwhile he was reading again from the book—
"Here, too, our shepherd-pipes we first assay'd!"
"Is that from 'Thyrsis'?" she asked. "Read me those lines that we used, to love so much."
And so he turned the page, and read again—
"A fugitive and gracious light he seeks, Shy to illumine; and I seek it, too. This does not come with houses or with gold, With place, with honor, and a flattering crew: 'Tis not in the world's market bought and sold— But the smooth-slipping weeks Drop by, and leave its seeker still untired; Out of the heed of mortals he is gone, He wends unfollow'd, he must house alone; Yet on he fares, by his own heart inspired."_
Section 1. On the train Corydon was writing a letter to a friend, to say where she was going, and that Thyrsis was there. "I don't expect to see anything of him," she wrote. "He grows more egotistical and more contemptuous every day, and I cordially dislike him."
But when a man has spent three or four weeks with no company save the squirrels and the owls, there comes over him a mood of sociability, when the sight of a friendly face is an event. Thyrsis had now written several chapters of his book, and the first fury of his creative impulse had spent itself. So when Corydon stepped from the train, she found him waiting there to greet her; and he told her that he was laying in supplies for a feast, and that on the morrow she and her mother were to come out and see his fairy-palace and have a picnic dinner.
They came; and the May put on her finest raiment for their greeting. The sun shone warm and bright, and there was a humming and stirring in grass and thicket; one could feel the surge of the spring-time growth as a living flood. There was a glory of young green over the hill-sides, and a quivering sheen of white in the aspens and birches. Corydon clasped her hands and cried out in rapture when she saw it.
And Thyrsis, picturesque in his old corduroy trousers and his grey flannel shirt, played the host. He showed them his domestic establishment—wherein things were set in order for the first time since he had come. He told all his adventures: how the cold had crept in at night, and he had to fiddle to keep his courage up; how he had slept in a canvas-cot for the first time, and piled all the bedding on top, and wondered that he was cold; how he had left the pail with the freshly-roasted beef on the piazza, and a wild cat had carried off pail and all. He made fun of his amateur house-keeping— he would forget things and let them burn, or let the fire go out; and he had tried living altogether on cold food, to the great perplexity of his stomach.
Then he gave a demonstration of his hard-won culinary skill. He boiled rice and raisins, and fried bacon and eggs; and they had fresh bread and butter, and jam and pickles, and a festive cake. And after they had feasted, Thyrsis stretched himself and leaned back against the trunk of a tree, and gazed up at the sky, quoting the words of a certain one-eyed Kalandar, son of a king, "Verily, this indeed is life! 'Tis pity 'tis fleeting!"
Afterwards he took Corydon for a walk. They climbed the hill where he came to battle with the stormwinds, and to watch the sunsets and the moon rising over the lake. And then they went down into the glen, where the mountain streamlet tumbled. Here had been wood-sorrel, and a carpet of the white trillium; and now there was adder's tongue, quaint and saucy, and columbine, and the pale dusty corydalis. There was soft new moss underfoot, and one walked as if in a temple.
Thyrsis pointed out a seat beside a deep bubbling pool. "Here's where I sit and write," he said.
"And how comes the book?" asked Corydon.
"Oh, I'm hammering at it—that's the best I can say."
"What is it?"
"Why—it's a story. I suppose it'll be called a romance, though I don't like the word."
Corydon pondered for a moment. "I wouldn't expect you to be writing anything romantic," she said.
Thyrsis, occupied with his own thoughts, observed, "I might call it a revolutionary romance."
"What is it about?"
He hesitated. "It happens in the middle ages," he said. "There's a minstrel and a princess."
"That sounds interesting," said Corydon.
Now in the period of pregnancy the artist's mood is one of secretiveness. But afterwards there comes a time for promulgation and rejoicing; and already there had been hints of this in the mind of Thyrsis. The great secret that he was cherishing—what would be the world's reception of it? And now suddenly a wild idea came to him. He had heard somewhere that it is the women who read fiction. And was not Corydon a perfect specimen of the average middle-class young lady, and therefore of that mysterious potentiality, "the public", to which he must appeal? Why not see what she would think of it?
He took the plunge. "Would you like me to read it to you?" he asked.
"Why, certainly," she replied, and then added, gently, "If it wouldn't be a desecration."
"Oh, no," said Thyrsis. "You see, when it's been printed, all sorts of people will read it."
So he went back to the house and brought the precious manuscript; and he placed Corydon in the seat of inspiration, and sat beside her and read.
In many ways this was a revolutionary romance. Thyrsis had not spent any of his time delving into other people's books for "local color"; he was not relying for his effects upon gabardines and hauberks, and a sprinkling of "Yea, sires," and "prithees." His castle was but the vaguely outlined background of a stage upon which living hearts wrought out their passions. One saw the banquet-hall, with its tapestries and splendor, and the master of it, the man of force; there were swift scenes that gave one a glimpse of the age-long state of things—
"Right forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne."
There was a quarrel, and a cruel sentence about to be executed; and then the minstrel came. His fame had come before him, and so the despot, in half-drunken playfulness, left the deciding of the quarrel to him. He was brought to the head of the table, and the princess was led in; and so these two met face to face.
Here Thyrsis paused, and asked, "Are you interested?"
"Go on, go on," said Corydon.
So he read about his princess, who was the embodiment of all the virtues of the unknown goddess of his fancy. She was proud yet humble, aloof yet compassionate, and above all ineffably beautiful. And as for the minstrel—
"The minstrel was fair and young. His heart was of love and fire."
He took his harp, and first he pacified the quarrel, and then he sang to the lady. He sang of love, and the poet's vision of beauty; but most of all he sang of the free life of the open. He sang of the dreams and the spirit-companions of the minstrel, and of the wondrous magic that he wields—
"Secrets of all future ages Hover in mine ecstasy; Treasures never known to mortals Hath my fancy hid for thee!"
He sang the spells that he would weave for her, the far journeys she should take—
"For thy soul a river flowing Swiftly, over golden sands, With the singing of the steersman Stealing into wonderlands!"
Section 2. This song was as far as Thyrsis had written, and he paused. Corydon was sitting with her hands clasped, and a look of enthrallment upon her face. "Oh, beautiful! beautiful!" she cried.
A thrill of pleasure went through the poet. "You like it, then?" he said.
"Oh, I like it!" she answered. And then she gazed at him, with wide-open eyes of amazement. "But you! You!" she exclaimed.
"Why not I?" he asked.
"How in the world did you do it? Where did you get it from?"
"It is mine," said Thyrsis, quickly.
"But I can't imagine it! I had no idea you were interested in such things!"
"But how could you know what I am interested in?"
"I see how you live—apart from everybody. And you spend all your time in books!"
Thyrsis suddenly recollected something which had amused him very much. Corydon had been reading "Middlemarch," and had told him that Dr. Casaubon reminded her of him. "And so I'm still just a bookworm to you!" he laughed.
"But isn't your interest in things always intellectual?" she asked.
"Then you suppose I'm doing this just as an exercise in technique?" he countered.
"It's taken me quite by surprise," said Corydon.
"We have three faculties in us," Thyrsis propounded—"intellect, feeling, and will; and to be a complete human being, we have to develop all of them."
"But you spend so much time piling up learning!"
"I need to know a great many things," he said. "I'm not conscious of studying anything I don't need for my purpose."
"What is the purpose?" she asked.
He touched the precious manuscript. "This," he said.
There was a pause.
"But you lose so much when you cut yourself off from the world," said Corydon. "And there are other people, whom you might help."
"People don't need my help; or at least, they don't want it."
"But how can you know that—if you never go among them?"
"I can judge by the lives they live."
"Ah!" exclaimed Corydon, quickly, "but people aren't to blame for the lives they live!"
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because—they can't help them. They are bound fast."
"They should break loose."
"That is easy for you to say," said Corydon. "You have no ties."
"I did have them—I might have them still. But I broke them."
"Ah, but you are a man!"
"What difference does that make?"
"It makes all the difference in the world. You can earn money, you can go away by yourself. But suppose you were a girl—shut up in a home, and told that that was your 'sphere'?"
"I'd fight," said Thyrsis—"I'd break my way out somehow, never fear. If one doesn't break out, it simply means that his desire is not strong enough."
Thyrsis had been surprised at the depth of Corydon's interest in his manuscript; he had not supposed that she would be so susceptible to anything of the imagination. And now he was surprised to see that her hands were clenched tightly, and that she sat staring ahead of her intently.
"Are you dissatisfied with your life?" he asked.
"Is there anything in it that I could be satisfied with?" she cried.
"I had no idea of that," he said.
"No," she replied; "that only shows how stupid you can be!"
"But—you never showed any signs—"
"Didn't you know that I was trying to prepare for college last year?"
"Yes; but you gave it up."
"What could I do? I had no help—no encouragement. I was groping like a blind person. And I told you about it."
"But I told you what to study," objected Thyrsis.
"Yes," said the girl; "but how could I do it? You know how to study—you've been taught. But I don't know anything, and I don't know how to find anything out. I began on the Latin, but I didn't even know how the words should be pronounced."
"Nobody else knows that," observed Thyrsis, somewhat inconsequently.
"It was all so dull and dreary," she went on—"everything they would have had me learn. I wanted things that had life in them, things that were beautiful and worth while—like this book of yours, for instance."
"I am really delighted that you like it," said Thyrsis, touched by that.
"Tell me the rest of it," she said.
Section 3. Thyrsis told his story at some length; in the ardor of her sympathy his imagination took fire, and he told it eloquently, he discovered new beauties in it that he had not seen before. And Corydon listened with growing delight and amazement.
"So that is the way you spend your time!" she exclaimed.
"That is the way," he said.
"And that is why you live like a hermit!"
"Yes, that is why."
"And you think that you would lose your vision if you went among people?"
"I know that I should."
"But how do you know?"
"I know because I have tried. You don't realize how hard I have to work over a thing like this. I have carried it in my mind for a year; I have lived for nothing else—I have literally had no other interest in the world. Every sentence I have read to you has been the product of work added to work—of one impulse piled upon another—of thinking and criticizing and revising. Just the little bit I have done has taken me a whole month, and I have hardly stopped to eat; it's been my first thought in the morning and my last at night. And when the mood of it comes to me, then I work in a kind of frenzy that lasts for hours and even days; and if I give up in the middle and fall back, then I have to do it all over again. It's like toiling up a mountain-side."
"I see," whispered Corydon. "And then, do you expect to have no human relationships as long as you live?"
Thyrsis pondered for a moment. "Did you ever read Mrs. Browning's poem, 'A Musical Instrument'?" he asked.
"No," she answered.
"It's a most beautiful poem," he said; "and it's hardly ever quoted or read, that I can find. It tells how the great god Pan came down by the river-bank, and cut one of the reeds to make himself a pipe. He sat there and played his music upon it—
'Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan! Piercing sweet by the river! Blinding sweet, O great god Pan! The sun on the hill forgot to die, And the lilies reviv'd, and the dragon-fly Came back to dream on the river.
'Yet half a beast is the great god Pan, To laugh as he sits by the river, Making a poet out of a man. The true gods sigh for the cost and pain,— For the reed which grows nevermore again As a reed with the reeds in the river.'"
Thyrsis paused. "Do you see what it means?" he asked.
"Yes," said Corydon, "I see."
"'Making a poet out of a man!' That is one of the finest lines I know. And that's the way I feel about it—I have given up all other duties in the world. If I can write one book, or even one poem, that will be an inspiration to men in the future—why, then I have done far more than I could do by a lifetime given to helping people around me."
"I never understood before," said Corydon.
"That is the idea the minstrel tries to voice to the princess. At first he pours out his soul to her; but then, when he finds that she loves him, he is afraid, and tries to persuade her not to come with him. He tells her how lonely and stern his life is; and she has been born to a gentle life—she has her station and her duty in the world. But the more he pleads the hardness of his life, the more she sees she must go with him. Even if the end be death to her, still she will be an inspiration to him, and give wings to his music. 'Be silent,' she tells him—'let me fling myself away for a song! To do one deed that the world remembers, to utter one word that lives forever—that is worth all the failure and the agony that can come to one woman in her lifetime!'"
Corydon sat with her hands clasped. "Yes," she said, "that is the way she would feel!"
"I'm glad to hear you say that," remarked the other. "I must make it real; and I've been afraid about it. Would she really go with him?"
"She would go if she loved him," said Corydon.
"If she loved him. But she must love his art still more."
"She must love him," said Corydon.
Thyrsis shook his head. "It would not do for her to go with him for that," he said.
"Why not? Doesn't he love her?"
"Yes; but he is afraid to tell her so. They dare not let that sway them."
"I don't understand. Why not?"
"Because personal love is a limited thing, and comparatively an ignoble thing."
"I don't see how there can be anything more noble than true love between a man and a woman," declared Corydon.
"It depends on what you mean by 'true' love," replied Thyrsis. "If two people love each other for their own sakes, and go together, they soon come to know each other, and then they are satisfied—and their growth is at an end. What I conceive is that two people must lose themselves, and all thought of themselves, in their common love for something higher—for some great ideal, some purpose, some vision of perfection. And they seek this together, and they rejoice in finding it, each for the other; and so they have always progress and growth—they stand for something new to each other every day of their lives. To such love there is no end, and no chance of weariness or satiety."
"I had never thought of it just so," said the girl. "But surely there must be a personal love in the beginning."
"I don't know," he responded. "I hadn't thought about that. I'm afraid I'm impersonal by nature."
"Yes," she said, "that's what has puzzled me. Don't you love human beings?"
"Not as a rule," he confessed.
"But then—what is it you are interested in? Yourself?"
"People tell me that's the case. And there's a sense in which it's true—I'm wrapped up in the thought of myself as an art-work. I've a certain vision of the possibilities of my own being, and I'm trying to realize it. And if I do, then I can write books and communicate it to other people, so that they can judge it, and see if it's any better than the vision they have. It is a higher kind of unselfishness, I think."
"I see," said Corydon. "It's not easy to understand."
"No one understands it," he replied. "People are taught that they must sacrifice themselves for others; and they do it, blindly and stupidly, and never ask if the other person is worthy of the sacrifice—and still less if they themselves have anything worth sacrificing."
Corydon had clenched her hands suddenly. "How I hate the religion of self-sacrifice!" she cried.
"Mine is a religion of self-development," said Thyrsis. "I am sacrificing myself for what other people ought to be."
Section 4. They came back after a time, to the subject of love; and to the ideal of it which Thyrsis meant to set forth in the book. It was the duty of every soul to seek the highest potentiality of which it had vision; and as one did that for himself, so he did it for the person he loved. There could be no higher love than this—to treat the thing beloved as one's self, to be perpetually dissatisfied with it, to scourge it to new endeavor, to hold it in immortal discontent.
This was a point about which they argued with eager excitement. To Thyrsis, love itself was a prize to be held before the loved one; whereas Corydon argued that love must exist before such a union could be thought of. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes shone as she maintained the thesis that the princess could not go with the minstrel unless his love was given to her irrevocably.
"If you mean by love a sense of oneness in the pursuit of an ideal, then I agree with you," said Thyrsis. "But if you mean what love generally means—a mutual admiration, the worshipping of another personality—then I don't."
"And are lovers not even to be interesting to each other?" cried Corydon.
But the poet did not shrink even from that. "I don't think a woman could be interesting to me—except in so far as she was growing. And she must always know that if she stopped growing, she would cease to be interesting. That is not a matter of anybody's will, it seems to me—it is a fact of soul-chemistry."
"I don't think you will find many women to love you on that basis," said Corydon.
"I never expected to find but one," was Thyrsis' reply; "and I may not find even one."
She sat watching him for a moment. "I had never realized the sublimity of your egotism," she said. "It would never occur to you to judge anyone else by your own standards, would it?"
"That is very well put," laughed Thyrsis. "As a matter of fact, I have a maxim that I count all things lost in the world but my own soul."
"Why is that?"
"Because I can depend on my own soul; and I have not yet met anything else in life of which I can say that."
Again there was a pause. "You are as hard as iron!" exclaimed the girl.
"I am harder than anything you can find for your simile," he answered. "I know simply that there is no force existing that can turn me from my task."
"You might meet some woman who would fascinate you."
"Perhaps," he replied. "I have done things I'm ashamed of, and I've a wholesome fear of doing more of them. But I know that that woman, whoever she might be, would wake up some morning and find me missing."
Then for a while he sat staring at the eddies in the pool below. "I have a vision of another kind of woman," he said—"a woman to whom my ideal would be the same compelling force that it is to me—a living thing that would drive her, that she was both master of, and slave to, as I am. So that she would feel no fears, and ask no favors! So that she would not want mercy, nor ask pledges—but just give herself, as I give myself, and take the chances of the game. Don't you think there may be just one such woman in the world?"
"Perhaps," was the reply. "But then—mightn't a woman be sure of your ideal, but not of you?"
"As to that," said Thyrsis, "she would have to know me.
"As to that," said Corydon, "she would have to love you."
And Thyrsis smiled. "As in most arguments," he said, "it's mainly a matter of definitions."
Section 5. At this point there came a call from the distance, and Corydon started. "There is mother," she exclaimed. "How the afternoon has flown!"
"And must you go home now?" he asked.
"I'm afraid so," she replied. "We have a long row."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I wanted to advise you about books to read. You must let me help you to find what you are seeking."
"Ah," said Corydon, "if you only will!"
"I will do anything I can," he said. "I am ashamed of not having helped you before."
They had risen and started towards the house. "Can't you come to-morrow, and we can talk it over," he said.
"But I thought you were going to work," she objected.
"I can spare another day," he replied. "A rest won't hurt me, I know. And it's been a real pleasure to talk to you this afternoon."
So they settled it; and Thyrsis saw them off in the boat, and then he went back to the little cabin.
On the steps he stood still. "Corydon!" he muttered. "Little Corydon!"
That was always the way he thought of her; not only because he had known her when she was a child, but because this expressed his conception of her—she was so gentle and peaceable and meek. She was now eighteen, and he was only twenty, but he felt towards her as a grandfather might. But now had come this new revelation, that astonished him. She had been deeply stirred by his work—she had loved it; and this was no affectation, it was out of her inmost heart. And she was not really contented at all—she had quite a hunger for life in her!