Read CHAPTER IV - Adventures In Sex of An Anarchist Woman , free online book, by Hutchins Hapgood, on ReadCentral.com.

When Marie returned to her home, she found that her father had died. It made little difference, practical or otherwise, to her or to her mother, except to make her stay in the house less dangerous, though quite as irksome, as formerly. Her mother had, of course, reproached her bitterly for her conduct in running away, and had kept up her complaint so constantly that Marie could hardly endure her home even for the night and early morning. So for that reason, as well as for the need of making her living, Marie went again into service, going quickly from one job to another in the city.

And now there came for her a period of wildness, in the ordinary sense of the word. It was not the simple joys of her Kenilworth experience. She had returned to her mother’s home in a kind of despair. It seemed to her as if the innocent pleasures of life were not for her. She had been torn away from her happiness and had been compelled to go back to conditions she hated. Her passions were strong and her seventeen-year-old senses were highly developed by premature work and an irritating and ungenial home. So, in a kind of gloomy intensity, she let herself go in the ordinary way of unguarded young girlhood. She gave herself to a young fellow she met in the street one evening, without joy but with deep seriousness. She did not even explain to him that it was her first experience. She wanted nothing from him but the passionate illusion of sex. And she parted from him without tenderness and without explanations, to take up with other men and boys in the same spirit of serious recklessness. She had for the time lost hope, and therefore, of course, care for herself, and her intense and passionate nature strove to live itself out to the limit: an instinct for life and at the same time for destruction.

From this period of her life comes a story which she wrote for me, and which I quote as being typical of her attitude and as throwing light on her personality.

“The Southwest corner of State and Madison Streets is the regular rendezvous of all sorts of men. They can be seen standing there every afternoon and evening, gazing at the surging crowd which passes by. One sees day after day the same faces, and one wonders why they are there, for what they are looking. Some of these men have brutal, sensual faces; others are cynical-looking and sneer. These, it seems, nothing can move or surprise. They have a look which says: ’Oh, I know you, I have met your kind before. You do not move me, nothing can. I have tried everything, there is nothing new for me.’ And yet they cannot tear themselves away from this corner, coming day after day and night after night, hoping against hope for some new adventure.

“Others stand there like owls, stupidly staring at the rushing tide of faces. They see nothing, and yet are seemingly hypnotised by the panorama of life. Here, too, pass the girls with the blond hair and the painted faces; they ogle the men, and as they cross the street raise their silken skirts a trifle, showing a bit of gay stocking. Here, too, is the secret meeting-place of lovers, who clasp hands furtively, glancing around with stealth. All this is seen by the sensual men, who glance enviously at the lovers, and by the cynical men whose cold smiles seem to say: ’Bah! how tiresome! wait, and your silly meetings will not be so charming!’

“On my evenings off I had sometimes stopped to gaze at this, to me, strangely moving sight. I saw in it then what I could not have seen a few months before; but not as much as I can see now. Then it excited me with the sense of a possible adventure. Strange, but I never went there when I was happy, only when I was uncommonly depressed.

“On a chilly Sunday evening in October I was waiting on this corner to take a car to the furnished room of a factory girl, named Alice, whom I knew was out of town. As I was out of a job and did not want to go home, I had availed myself of her place for a few days. As I was waiting on this corner, I saw a face in the crowd that attracted me. It was, as I afterward learned, the face of a club man, who had, on this Sunday evening, drifted with the crowd and landed at this spot. He, too, had stopped and gazed around him, idly. Several times he started as if to move on, but he apparently thought this place as good as any other, and so remained. He seemed not to know what to do, to be tired of himself. His face was quite the ordinary American type, clean-cut features, rather thin and cold, with honest grey eyes, but, in his case, a mouth rather sensuous and a general air of curiosity and life which interested me.

“I was sufficiently interested to allow several cars to pass by, while I watched him. I noticed by the way he looked at the women who passed that he was familiar with their kind. Several gay girls tried to attract his attention, but he turned away, bored. Finally I began to walk away, and then for the first time his face lighted up with interest. I was apparently something new. I wore a straw hat, and a thin coat buttoned tightly about my chest. My thin little face was almost ghastly with pallor, and it made a strange contrast with my full red lips, which were almost scarlet, and my big glowing black eyes. He probably saw that I was poor, dressed as I was at that season. Why is it that for many rich men a working girl half fed and badly dressed is so much more attractive than a fine woman of the town or a nice lady?

“As I passed him, he said, ‘Good evening,’ in a low and timid tone, as if he thought I surely would not answer. I think it surprised him when I looked him full in the face and replied, ‘Good evening!’ He still hesitated, until he saw in my face what I knew to be almost an appealing look. I knew that in the depths of my eyes a smile was lurking, and I wanted to bring it forth! A moment later, I smiled indeed, when he stepped forward, lifted his hat, and asked with assurance: ’May I walk with you? Are you going anywhere?’

“‘Yes, I am going somewhere,’ I said, smiling. ’To a meeting place in Adams Street to hear a lecture.’

“‘Oh, I say, girlie,’ he cried, ’You’re jollying. That must be a very dull thing for you, a lecture.’

“‘Sometimes it’s funny,’ I said. But I did not say much about it, as I had never yet been to a lecture. I made up for that later in my life! I of course had no intention of going to this.

“‘Come,’ he urged, ’let’s go in somewhere and have something to eat and drink.’

“’Yes, I will have something, not to eat, though, but let us go where there are lots of people and lights and all that sort of thing,’ I finished, vaguely.

“Charley tucked my arm in his and we walked along State Street until we came to a brilliantly lighted cafe. The place was crowded with well-dressed men and beautiful women, eating and drinking, chatting and laughing. Waiters were hastening to and fro. An orchestra was playing gay music, as we wound our way through the crowd to a table. I was painfully conscious that my shabby coat and straw hat attracted attention. Some of the women stared at me with a look of conscious superiority in their eyes, others with a look of still more galling pity. Charley, too, I thought, seemed nervous. Perhaps he did not relish being seen by some possible acquaintance with so dilapidated-looking a person!

“But soon I lost consciousness of these things and gave myself up to the scene and the music. My sense of pleasure seemed to communicate itself to my companion, who ordered some drinks; I don’t know what they were, but they tasted good some kind of cordial. I took longer and longer sips: it was a new and very pleasant flavour. He ordered more of the same kind and watched me with interest as I drank and looked about me.

“‘Oh,’ I said, ’what beautiful women, and how happy they are! look at that one with the blond hair. Isn’t she beautiful, a real dream?’

“Charley replied in a tone of contempt: ’Yes, she’s beautiful, but I would not envy her, if I were you neither her happiness nor her good looks. She needs those looks in her business. Nearly all the women here belong to her class.’

“Charles looked at me intently as he said this. Perhaps he thought I would be angry because he had brought me to such a place. But I watched the girls with even greater interest and said: ’Ah, but they must be happy!’

“Charles shrugged his shoulders and said, with contempt and some pity in his eyes, ‘A queer sort of happiness!’

“I looked at him rather angrily. He did not seem just to me.

“‘You don’t like them,’ I said, ’you think they are vile and low. But you men seem to need them, just the same. Oh! I think they are brave girls!’

“Charles looked at me in apparent astonishment. But then a thought seemed to strike him. He was thinking that I might be one of that class, for he asked me questions which showed me plainly enough what he was worrying about. He encouraged me to drink again, and said with a self-confident laugh, ’you’re a cute one but you cannot fool me with any such tricks.’

“I paid no attention to his remarks, and did not answer any of his personal questions. He could find out nothing about me. I would only smile and say, ’I don’t want to know anything about you, why can’t you treat me the same way?’

“I could see that the less he knew, the more interested he became. He plied me with drinks, perhaps thinking that the sweet liquor would loosen my tongue. Soon I began to feel a little queer and the room began to go round, taking with it the faces of the men and women. After this dizziness passed, I felt very happy indeed, and smiled at everybody in the room; and wanted to go and tell them all how much I liked them. But I did not dare trust my legs, they felt so heavy. I thought I would like to stay there always, listening to the music and watching the people.

“I suppose my happiness heightened my colour, for Charles said, ’what a beautiful mouth you have, what red lips. One would almost believe they were painted. How your upper lip lifts when you smile, Marie! Don’t you want to go out now?’

“‘Yes, yes,’ I replied, hastily, ‘I must go home now.’

“I sprang from my chair, I made for the door, but he, quickly seizing his hat, followed me and took my arm. I went very slowly for my feet seemed weighted. They were inclined to go one way, while I went another. So when Charles led me I was quite thankful. As we went out into the street he asked me where I was living, what I did, and if I were married, all in one breath. This made me laugh merrily, as I assured him I was not married. I told him I lived away out on the West Side and that he could see me home, if he wanted; but not to, if it was out of his way, for I was used to going alone. He eagerly accepted, and we took a car.

“I fell dreaming on the way, of all nice things. The days in Kenilworth came back to me and I smiled to myself and wistfully hoped my present happiness would last. My companion eagerly devoured me with his eyes, and asked me many pressing questions. I answered only very vaguely, for my mind was full of other things. So finally Charles, too, was silent, and merely watched me.

“Suddenly I woke to the fact that I was at Alice’s room, so I hastily arose and signalled to the car to stop. Turning to Charles I extended my hand in a good-bye and said: ‘This is where I live.’ But he quickly got off with me saying he would see me to the house. ’I don’t like to leave you alone this time of night,’ he said. As we stopped in front of the dilapidated-looking frame building where I was staying for a few days, he seemed much embarrassed and not to know what to say. Pointing upwards, I said, ‘that’s where I live.’ ‘Do you live alone?’ he asked. ‘Yes, now, not always. Good night Charles,’ I answered, mischievously, but with a real and disturbing feeling taking possession of me.

“But he seized me by the hand: ‘Don’t leave me yet, girlie,’ he pleaded. ‘Think how lonesome I’ll be when you are gone!’ He drew me to him in the darkness, and I did not object, why should I? My lips seemed to prepare themselves and after one long kiss that sad intensity seized me; and I sighed or sobbed, I don’t know which, as we went up the stairs together.

“An hour later, as he was about to descend the stairs, I said: ’Charles, when will you come again?’

“‘Oh, I can’t tell,’ he replied ‘but it will be soon.’

“‘Well,’ I said, ’remember I shall be here only a few days. Alice will be back within the week. Come Wednesday evening.’

“But he left with the remark that it might not be possible! I did not care for him deeply, of course, it was only an adventure, but this stung me deeply. The light way he took what he wanted and then seemed to want to have no tie remaining! I felt as he did, too, really, but I did not want him to feel so! I imagined in what a self-satisfied mood he must be, how he walked off, with his lighted cigar! He probably wondered what sort of a girl this was who had given herself so easily? Partly, too, no doubt, he laid it to his charm and masculine virtue: though he knew women were weak creatures, he also knew that men were strong! Ah! I could almost hear him muse aloud, in my imagination. His reveries, perhaps, would run about like this:

“’I was rather lucky to happen along this evening! She was certainly worth while, though pretty weak, I must say. She had fine eyes and, by jove, what a mouth! She said, “Wednesday.” I think I will go, though it is never good policy to let girls be too sure of you. Besides, how do I know she isn’t playing me some game?’

“I didn’t know as much then as I do now about man’s nature, but now I make no doubt that as the time passed between then and Wednesday Charles’s desire grew: it began with indifference, but ended, I am sure, with intensity: for men are like that! Their fancy works in the absence, not in the presence, of the girl. I am sure the girl with the red lips and the deep dark eyes haunted him more and more as time went on!

“At the time, I didn’t know just why, but I did know that I wanted nothing more of Charley. He had never been anything but a man to me he was a moment in my life, that was all. But I decided to meet him, for only in that way could I really finish the affair. Otherwise, if I merely broke the engagement, he could imagine whatever he wanted to account for it. No, he must be under no illusion. He must know that I did not want him!

“I waited for him in front of the house, and on the appointed hour he arrived, looking very happy and eager. He greeted me with much warmth, to which I responded coldly. He suggested going inside, but I said: ’No, I am going away. I have been waiting here to tell you so, in case you came to-night.’

“‘But,’ he exclaimed in an aggrieved tone, ’Did not you ask me to come, and now you say you are going away. Is that fair to me?’

“I shrugged my shoulders and said, ’I don’t know, but I’m going. Good-bye,’ and I turned from him and started to walk away. His tone changed to anger, as he said: ’Now, see here, Marie, I won’t stand for any nonsense of this kind. You can’t treat me like this, you know. What right have you to act in this lying way?’

“I had been walking away and he following, and as he stopped talking, he took my arm, which I jerked away and impatiently said: ’Well, to be frank, I don’t want you to-night. Whether I have a right to act so, I don’t know or care. Why I asked you to come I don’t know, unless it was because I felt different from what I do now.’

“Charles adopted a more conciliating tone and asked me when he might come. His interest in me seemed to grow with my resistance.

“‘I guess you’d better not come at all,’ I said, coolly.

“‘But I want to,’ he said. ‘Do name the night, any night you say.’

“Then I turned to him with angry eyes, and cried out, ’Oh, how stupid you are! Don’t you understand that I don’t want you at all?’

“I again started to walk away, but he seized my arm and shouted angrily: ’You cannot leave me like this without explaining some things to me. In the first place, why did you pull me on last Saturday night, and who are you to turn me down like this?’ I answered, with flashing eyes, ’I owe you no explanation, but I will answer your questions. As to who the girl is who can dare to turn you down, you know very well she is not what you think, or you wouldn’t so much object to being turned down, as you call it. As to pulling you on, you were the first to speak or, at any rate, it was mutual, so you need not demand any explanation. What you really want to know is why I don’t want you now. If I were a man like you, I suppose I should never even think of explaining to anyone why I happened to change in feeling toward some persons, but as I’m a woman, it’s different. I must explain!’

“This speech I have no doubt made him angry, but his pride came to the rescue and he said with a show of indifference: ’I was angry, it is true, but only for a moment. It was irritating to me to have a girl like you show the nerve to throw me down; for I’m not accustomed to associate with your sort.’

“At this insolence my face flushed hotly and I opened my mouth to make some indignant reply, but I thought better of it and only walked away, laughing softly to myself. As I went away, I heard him mutter, ’What a cat.’

“But, I imagine, he didn’t forget me so easily. I have no doubt that the girl with the red lips and deep dark eyes haunted him for a long time. Who was this girl who had given herself to him once and only once? It is this kind of a mystery that makes a man dream and dream and curse himself.

“Probably for some time, as he joined the crowd at State and Madison Streets, he hoped to see me as I passed, but all things come to an end and his passion for me did, no doubt, too. But, in the routine course of his club life, moments came, perhaps, when he thought of little Marie, her red lips, deep eyes, and pale, pale face. I doubt if he ever told this story to any of his boon companions.”