On account of the irregularity of
her life, Marie lost job after job. Her relations
with her mother, never good, grew worse and worse.
Her profound need of experience, in which the demand
of the senses and the curiosity of the mind were equally
represented, impelled her to act after act of recklessness
and abandon. But, as in almost all, perhaps all,
human beings, there was in her soul a need of justification of
social justification, no matter how few persons constituted
the approving group.
The feeling that everybody was against
her, that she was on the road to being what the world
calls an outcast, gave to her life an element of sullenness
and of despair. Perhaps this added depth to her
dissipation, but it took away from it all quality
of joy as well as of peace. If her sensuality
and her despair had been all there was in her, or if
these had constituted her main characteristics, this
story would never have been written. Perhaps
another tale might have been told, but it would have
been the story of a submerged class, not prostitutes,
white slaves; and then it would have been the story
of a submerged class, not of an individual temperament.
What was it that kept Marie in all
really essential ways out of this class of social
victims? It was because, in the first place, of
the fact that her nature demanded something better
than what the life of the prostitute afforded.
And it was natural that the greater quality of personality
that she possessed should attract the kind of love
and social support needed essentially to justify to
herself her instincts. When she was very young
Marie secured the genuine love of two strong and remarkable
personalities; and at a later time, there gathered
about these three, other people who enlarged the group,
which gave to each member of it the social support
needed to remove essential despair and desperate self-disapproval.
One of these two persons so necessary
to Marie’s larger life was a woman whom she
had met several years previous to this point in the
This woman was a cook, Katie by name.
She was born in Germany, and her young girlhood was
spent in the old country. She had only a rudimentary
education, and even now speaks broken English.
But she was endowed with a healthy, independent nature,
a spontaneous wit, and a strong demand to take care
of something and to love.
As natural as a young dog, she never
thought of resisting a normal impulse. Her life
as a girl in Germany was as free and untrammelled as
a happy breeze. She lived in a little garrison
town in the South, and the German soldiers did no
essential harm to her and the other young girls of
the place. These things were deemed laws of nature
in her community. What would have been dreadful
harm to a young American girl was only an occasional
moment of anxiety to her. It never occurred to
her that it was possible to resist a man. “I
had to,” she said, very simply, and did not
seem to regret it any more than that she was compelled
to eat. She is also very fond of her food.
She came to America and worked as
cook in private families. She was capable and
strong and was never out of a job. She never took
any “sass” from her mistress; in this
respect she was quite up to date among American “help.”
At the time she first met Marie she
had been working for a family several years, and had
reduced her employer to a state of wholesome awe.
She remained, like a queen, in the kitchen, whence
she banished all objectionable intruders. Her
mistress had a married daughter, also living in the
house, who at first was wont to give orders to Katie,
and to interfere with her generally. One day
Katie drove her out of the kitchen with a volley of
broken English. The daughter complained to the
mother, who took Katie’s side. “You
don’t belong in the kitchen,” she said
to her indignant daughter.
This episode filled Katie with contempt for her mistress.
“She ought to have taken her
daughter’s side against me,” she said,
“you bet I would have, if I had been in her
The daughter had two young children.
It was to take care of them that Marie came into the
household. Marie’s mistress liked to stay
in bed and read novels, and this experience is the
one described by Marie in an earlier chapter, how
she locked herself and the children in the store-room
and read her mistress’s books.
Katie fell in love with Marie almost
at once. She was fifteen years older than the
young girl and as she had never had any children, all
the instinctive love of an unusually instinctive nature
seemed to be given to Marie. She saw that Marie
was not practical or energetic, and this probably
intensified the interest felt by the more active and
capable woman. She took the young girl under
her wing, and has been, and is, as entirely devoted
to her as mothers sometimes are to their children.
The German cook was about thirty years
old at that time and had never loved a man, though
she had had plenty of temporary and merely instinctive
relations with the other sex. So it was her entire
capacity for love, maternal and other, that she gave
Almost at once Katie began to treat
Marie as her ward. She took her side against
her mistress, when the latter scolded the girl on account
of her indolence or slowness. “Marie is
so young,” she would say, “almost a child;
and we ought to go easy on her.” She also
looked after Marie’s morals and tried to prevent
her being out late at night. This kind of care
had its amusing side, as Katie herself was none too
strict about herself in this regard.
For instance, Katie fancied the butcher’s
boy who used to come to the kitchen every day with
meat. He was only sixteen, and quite inexperienced
in the ways of the world.
“I did him no harm,” said
Katie. “But I taught him everything there
was to know. My life was so monotonous and I
worked so hard then that I had to have him. I
absolutely had to, but I think I did him no harm and
he was certainly my salvation. But I didn’t
let Marie know anything about it. She was too
young. When she found out, years afterwards, she
was quite cross with me about it.”
This kind of relation existed between
Katie and Marie for several years. About the
time the girl went to Kenilworth and had her idyllic
experience, Katie married. Nick was a good sort
of a man, easy and happy, and a sober and constant
labourer. Katie had saved some money, in her
careful German way, had even a bank-account of several
hundred dollars. It was not an exciting marriage;
neither of them was very young or very much in love,
at least Katie was not, but it was a good marriage
of convenience, so to speak, and it might have lasted
if it had not been, as we shall see, for Marie, and
Katie’s affection for her.
When Marie started in on her career
of wildness, Katie and Nick, her husband, had a little
home together. Into this home Marie was always
welcomed by Katie, but Nick was not so cordial.
They knew about the girl’s looseness, and in
their tolerant Southern German way, they did not so
much mind that, and Katie was distinctly sympathetic:
Marie was old enough now, she thought. But Nick
did not like the hold the girl had on Katie’s
“You’ll leave me for her,
sometime,” he would say to his wife, ominously.
Katie would laugh and call him an old fool. She
couldn’t foresee the circumstances that would
one day realise her husband’s fears.
It was about this time that Marie
met the man who has influenced her more deeply than
anyone else or anything else in her life, who gave
her a social philosophy, though to be sure what would
seem to most people a thoroughly perverse and subversive
social philosophy; but by means of which she had a
social background, and a saving justification was
saved from being a mere outcast.
Terry, at the time he and Marie met,
was about thirty-five years old and an accomplished
and confirmed social rebel. He had worked for
many years at his trade, and was an expert tanner.
But, deeply sensitive to the injustice of organised
society, he had quit work and had become what he called
an anarchist. His character was at that time quite
formed, while the young girl’s was not.
It was he who was to be the most important factor
in the conscious part of her education. But to
explain his influence on Marie, it is necessary to
explain him, his character, and a part
of his previous history.