The mood of rebellious idealism sometimes
expresses itself in actual anti-social conduct and
life. So it was with Terry. He is the most
consistent anarchist I have known, in the sense that
he more nearly rejects, practically, all social institutions
and forms of conduct and morality. He is very
sweet, and very gentle, loves children and is tender
to every felt relation. There is a wistful look
always in his eyes. He is tall, thin, and gaunt,
his hair is turning grey; but there is nothing of
the let-down of middle age in his nature, always tense,
intense; scrupulously, deeply rebellious.
Even before his meeting with Marie,
his open acts of sympathy with what is rejected by
society had put him more and more in the position of
an outcast. Some of the members of his family
had become fairly successful in the ways of the world.
Terry might easily have taken his place in comfortable
bourgeois society. But his temperament and his
idealism led him to the disturbed life of the radical
rejector. And he was rejected, in turn, by all,
even by his family.
Between him and his mother there was
perhaps an uncommon bond, but even she in the end
cast him out. He wrote of her:
“She taught me that I did not
belong in this world; she did not know how deeply
she was right. When she crossed my arms over my
childish breast at night and bade me be prepared,
she gave me the motive of my life. She told me
I would weep salt tears in this world, and they have
run into my mouth. She loved me, as I never have
been loved before or since, even up to the hour of
my social crucifixion: then she basely deserted
me. But I rallied, and the motive she implanted
in me remains. Though a child without any childhood,
I had my reason for existence, just the same.
Everything is meaningless and transitory, except to
be prepared. And I finally became prepared for
anything and everything. My life was and is a
preparation for what? For social crucifixion,
I suppose, for I belong to those baffled beings who
are compelled to unfold within because there is no
place for them without. I am a remaining product
of the slums, consciously desiring to be there.
I know its few heights and many depths. There
have I seen unsurpassed devotion and unbelievable
atrocities, which I would not dare, even if I could,
make known. The truth, how can we stand it, or
stand for it? I think a sudden revelation has
wofully unbalanced many a fine mind. Hamlet, revealing
himself to Ophelia, drives distraught one of the sweetest
of souls. Fortunately we never know the whole
truth, which may account for man being gregarious.
One cannot help noticing that they who have a hopeless
passion for truth are left largely alone when
nothing worse can be inflicted upon them.”
Terry’s experience in the slums
was no other than many another’s, but the effect
it made upon his great sensibility was far from ordinary.
In another letter, speaking of what he calls his “crucifixion,”
“Only great sorrow keeps us
close, and that is why, the first night after one
of my deepest quarrels with my mother, I picked out
a five-cent lodging-house, overlooking my home, to
pass the night of my damnation in sight of the lost
paradise. I never had any reason, or I would
have lost it. Let me hope that I am guided by
something deeper than that. All my life I have
felt the undertone of society; it has swept me to
the depths, which I touched lovingly and fearfully
with my lips.
“Whenever and wherever I have
touched the depths, and it has been frequent and prolonged,
and have seen the proletarian face to face, naked
spiritually and physically, the appeal in his eyes
is irresistible and irrefutable. I must do something
for him or else I am lost to myself. If I should
ever let an occasion go by I am sure I never could
recover from the feeling that something irreparable
had happened to me. I should not mind failure,
but to fail here and in my own eyes is to be forever
lost and eternally damned. This looks like the
religion of my youth under another guise, but I must
find imperishable harmony somewhere. The apathy
of the mass oppresses me into a hopeless helplessness
which may account for my stagnation, my ineffectiveness,
my impotence, my stupidity, my crudeness, and my despair.
I have always felt lop-sided, physically, especially
in youth. My awkwardness became, too, a state
of mind at the mercy of any spark of suggestion.
My subjectively big head I tried to compress into
a little hat, my objectively large hands concealed
themselves in subjective pockets, my poor generous
feet went the way of the author of Pilgrim’s
Progress. The result is a lop-sided mind,
developed monstrously in certain sensitive directions,
otherwise not at all. A born stumbler in this
world, I naturally lurched up against society but,
as often happens I have lost the thread of my thought:
my thoughts, at the critical moment, frequently desert
me, as my family did; they seem to carry on an alluring
flirtation, and when I think them near they suddenly
wave me from the distance. But, like a lover,
I will follow on follow on to platonic
intercourse with my real mistress, the proletarian.
And soul there is there. I have met as fathomless
spirits among the workers as one will meet with anywhere.
Art never has fathomed them, and may never be able
to do so. Often have I stood dumbfounded before
some simple day-labourer with whom I worked.
Art does not affect me, as this kind of grand simplicity
in life does. I keep muttering to myself:
there must be a meaning to our lives somewhere, or
else we must sunder this social fabrication and create
a meaning; and so my incantations go on endlessly.
“The proletarian is that modern
sphinx whose thundering interrogative society will
be called upon to answer. You and I know too well
that society hitherto has answered only with belching
cannon and vain vapourings of law, religion, and duty.
But the toiling sphinx, who has time only to ask terrible
questions, will some day formulate an articulate reply
to its own question, and then once more we shall see
that our foundations are of sand sand that
will be washed away, by blood, if need be. Some
there are who will weep tears over the sand: the
pleasures and the joy may die, for to me they are cold
and false. My joy cannot find place within the
four walls which shut out the misery and brutality
of the world.
“How be a mouthpiece for the
poor? How can art master the master-problem?
They who have nothing much to say, often say it well
and in a popular form; they are unhampered by weighty
matters. It takes an eagle to soar with a heavy
weight in its grasp. The human being, rocking
to and fro with his little grief, must give way in
depth of meaning to him who is rocked with the grief
of generations past, present, and to come. It
is then that love might rise, love so close to agony
that agony cannot last: the love that will search
ceaselessly, in the slums, in the dives, throughout
all life, for the inevitable, and will accept no alternative
and no compromise.”
This was the man who met Marie at
a critical time of her life. He was about thirty-five
years old, had experienced much, had become formed,
had rejected society, but not the ideal. Rather,
as he dropped the one, he embraced more fervently
the other. He had consorted with thieves, prostitutes,
with all low human types; and for their failures and
their weaknesses, their ideas and their instincts,
he felt deep sympathy and even an aesthetic appreciation.
Marie, as we have seen, was only seventeen,
unformed and wild, full of youthful passion and social
despair, on the verge of what we call prostitution;
reckless, hopeless, with a deep touch of sullenness
and hatred. She was working at the time in the
house of one of Terry’s brothers. Katie,
too, was employed there; although she lived with Nick,
her husband, she still occupied herself at times with
her old occupation; and, as ever, she watched Marie
with a careful eye, rather vainly so just then, for
this girl was as wild as a girl well could be.
One day Terry paid one of his infrequent
visits to his brother’s home, and saw the plump
and pretty Marie hanging clothes in the yard.
He was at once attracted to her, and entered into
conversation. He was deeply pleased; so was the
girl; and they made an appointment. He soon saw
what her character was, and this was to him an added
“I had been looking for a girl
like Marie,” he said, “for several years.
I had made one or two trials, and they always got me
into trouble with my family. But the other girls
did not make good. They were too weak and conventional
and could not stand the pace of life with me.
I had early formed a contempt for the matrimonial
relation. Five years I had nursed my rebellion
and waited for a chance to use it. As soon as
I met Marie I felt I had met one of my own kind.
It was partly the fierce charm of a social experiment,
the love for the proletarian and the outcast; for I
felt Marie was essentially that. This element
of my interest in her Marie never understood this
unconscious propaganda, as it were. She thought
it was all sex and wanted it so.”
Katie saw that Terry was making up
to her beloved Marie, and tried to prevent their meetings;
but in vain; the attraction was too strong. Katie
blackguarded Terry on every occasion, until she finally
saw it was hopeless, and then invited him into her
house to meet the girl. There he began to go
frequently and the intimacy grew. Nick warned
Terry against the girl on account of her loose character.
“I have often found her,” he said, “misconducting
herself with some fellow or other. Why, she does
so with everybody. Only this evening I found
her on the front door-step with young Bladen.
She is not the kind for you to be serious about.
Everybody knows how common she is.”
Nick did not understand that an argument
of that kind tended only to confirm Terry in his interest
in Marie. Terry answered him laconically:
“That’s all right, Nick. When you
don’t want her, just send her to me.”
Nick, as we have seen, was jealous
of Marie, because of Katie’s love for her; so
he fomented trouble between the two women. Katie,
too, was at this time more exasperated with the girl’s
conduct than she had ever been before; and they had
frequent quarrels. As the result of one of them,
Marie went off with Terry to his family flat, where
he was living alone at the time to “have
a fish dinner,” telling the relenting Katie
that she would return in the evening. But she
stayed there with Terry all that night, for the first
time. In the morning Katie turned up bright and
early, burst into the flat, and reproached Terry so
bitterly that they almost came to blows. But
when Marie took Terry’s side, Katie, terribly
disappointed and hurt, yet made up her mind that it
was inevitable; and Terry and Marie began to live
How did Marie feel about all this?
What was her condition at the time, and her attitude
toward this strange man, so different from every other
she had met? In a long letter to me she has given
an account of it all.
“I wrote you about my adventure
with the club man. Well that was only a single
instance of what finally became frequent with me.
I had grown so fearfully tired of the life I was leading
in domestic service that the only problem for me was
how to get away from it all. For a time, I had
thought I could get away only by marriage. I was
ready to marry anybody who offered me food and shelter,
and I had even thought of prostitution as a means
of escape from domestic drudgery. I had not the
slightest idea of what prostitution in its accepted
sense meant. I knew in a vague way that women
sold their bodies to men for money, that they lived
luxurious lives, went to theatres and balls, wore beautiful
gowns and seemed to be gay and happy. I was willing
to marry any man who offered me a home, without the
least suspicion that in that way, too, I should prostitute
myself. But no one at that time offered me this
means of escape, so I was quite ready to take the
only other way, as I thought, left to me.
“About this time I met an old
girl-friend whom I had not seen for several years;
she was a domestic servant, too, but was in advance
of me in her recklessness. When I met her again
she was in the mood to lose all the little virtue
left to her. She was quite willing to sell herself:
she had done enough for love, she said, marriage was
now an impossibility, and she might as well realise
on her commercial value. To these ideas I agreed,
and we arranged to meet in two weeks from that day
and try an experiment. Meanwhile she was to go
back to her home, get her belongings, and tell her
parents she had secured a place as a servant-girl
“I left my position, and finding
things too disagreeable at home where I continually
quarrelled with my mother, I went to visit Kate, until
my friend should return.
“How my ideas and ideals had
changed! When I first began to dislike the work
I was forced to do, I dreamed that some charming fairy
would come and release me: I had been taught
such a view of life from the novels of Bertha M. Clay
and E. D. E. N. Southworth. Some rich man, young
and charming, possibly the owner of the factory I
was working in, would fall passionately in love with
me, marry me and carry me away to his palace!
Gradually, my ideas came down. I should have been
glad to marry a foreman, then some good mechanic,
and finally, some workman, however humble, whom I
would love dearly. And now I was deliberately
preparing for a life of prostitution!
“It was then, while living with
my dear friend Kate, whom I sometimes helped in the
work she did out, that I met my first, my last, my
truest lover and friend, Terry. We met just at
the right moment. I was filled with rebellion
at the powers that were crushing me, breaking me, without
realising why, or how, or what I might make of myself,
when he came along and taught me in his own quiet
and gentle convincing way how cruel and unjust is
this scheme of things, and pointed out to me the cruelty
and tyranny of my parents and of all society.
He showed me that marriage such as I had contemplated
was a bad form of prostitution, and he told me why.
Of course, I did not grasp all the things he told me
at once, but I listened and felt comforted; I began
to feel that perhaps I might amount to something,
might have some life of my own, and that my rebellion
was perhaps justifiable. I began to understand
why work was so objectionable to me and why I rebelled
against the authority of my parents. My conceptions
of freedom were crude, but I began to feel that my
revolt was just, and was based upon the terrible injustice
whereby the many must toil so that the few may live
in splendour. I will not weary you with all the
details of the things I learned at that time from
Terry. To you it might seem very raw and crude,
and you no doubt have read some of the pamphlets written
by socialists and anarchists dealing with the labour
question in all of its aspects. But to me these
ideas were quite new and they seemed grand and noble.
“And Terry revealed to me, too,
almost at once, the great inspiring fact that there
is such a thing as beauty of thought that
there is poetry and art and literature. This,
too, of course, came little by little, but do you
wonder I loved a man who showed me a new world and
who taught me I was not bad? He put good books
into my hands, and to my grateful joy I found I liked
these books better than the trash I had hitherto read.
“I felt so much better, after
seeing so much of Terry, that I decided to go to work
again. Terry was against this. ‘Try
it,’ he said, ’But I assure you you don’t
need to work. I have tried doing without work
for many years, it is much easier than it seems.’
Nevertheless I got a job in a bicycle factory, but
I only stayed a few days. It seemed like a stale
existence to me! And besides, I was in love and
wanted to be with Terry all the time. ‘By
God,’ I said to him that night, ’you are
right! I’ll never work again.’
“My friend Gertrude, the girl
with whom I had intended to go in the last reckless
experiment, came to Terry’s flat to see me, and
get me to go with her. I had thought, after I
gave up work, that Terry might offer me marriage,
but he told me quite frankly that it was against his
principles to marry anybody. I was a little hurt
and astonished at this, but as I was very much in
love and was already beginning to imbibe his ideas,
it did not matter so very much to me.
“So, when Gertrude came, I led
her to Terry and asked him what he thought about her
plan. He said to us: ’The kind of prostitution
you contemplate is no worse than the kind often called
marriage. Selling your body for a lifetime is
perhaps worse than selling it for an hour or for a
day. But the immediate result of this kind of
prostitution which you plan is very terrible practically.
It generally leads to frightful diseases which will
waste your bodies and perhaps injure your minds.
The girls you envy are not always as happy, gay, and
careless as they seem. It is part of their business
to seem so, but they are not, or only so for a very
short time. Perhaps you will be better off so
than in domestic drudgery. It is a choice of
evils, but if you are very brave and courageous you
may perhaps get along without either. But if forced
to one or the other, I recommend prostitution.
It may be worse for you but, as a protest, it is better
for society, in the long run.’
“He pictured to us as truly
as he could the life of the street-walker; he did
not seem to think that morally it was worse than any
other life under our social organisation, but he did
not make it seem attractive; nor did he make the life
of the domestic servant or factory-girl seem attractive.
He seemed to feel that one might look on prostitution
as, under the circumstances, a grim duty but
it was certainly grim.
“We were rather incredulous
at the picture Terry had drawn of the life we had
resolved to lead. Gertrude turned up her pretty
little nose and said it would not be like that with
her. We talked about it all that day and night;
and Gertrude decided to have a try at it, while I was
undecided. I was somewhat piqued at Terry’s
attitude. I had expected him to oppose my plan,
to do all in his power to prevent it. But I did
not understand him. He knew that if I were determined,
nothing would prevent me, and all he could do was
to give us a faithful picture of what such a life
“Things were happening of which
we were ignorant for a time, but which helped to settle
our immediate problem. I had often been seen going
into Terry’s flat, and this was food for gossip.
It was said that Terry had started a bad house, and
had done so in the flat belonging to his family, who
were in the country at the time. These stories
reached my mother’s ears, and also were told
to Terry’s mother and sisters, and the mischief
began. I was forbidden ever to cross my mother’s
threshold again, and he was requested to leave the
home of his virtuous sisters which he had polluted
and contaminated by his debaucheries with that immoral
Marie omitted, in the above letter,
the details of the split with the two families.
It seems that Terry had, on hearing about the “rumours,”
gone to his family, then near Chicago, and presented
to them his philosophy of life; also his determination
not to give up Marie, and not to marry her. It
was then that the last rung was put in the ladder of
his family crucifixion, as he would call it. It
was then that his mother “basely deserted him;”
and Terry left for good, rejecting the money offered
“I passed them up,” he
said, scornfully, “and after spending the night
in the lodging-house, I beat my way back to Chicago.
I had been gone several days, and when I got back
to the flat, where I went only to get Marie and clear
out for God knows where, I found her gone, and no
apparent way of finding her address. I went to
see her mother, and had an awful scene with her.
The violent woman was in hysterics and, after a long
dispute, implored me to find her daughter. ‘I’ll
find her,’ I replied, ‘for myself,’
“Marie afterwards told me that
she and Gertrude had gone to see her mother, when
I was in the country with my family, and that her mother
had driven them away. Perhaps, the mother realised
the change in the girl. Perhaps, too, she realised
what must happen, if she drove her away. Yet
she did drive her daughter away. From her own
point of view, it was diabolical to do so. Her
anger, her exasperation and her outraged desire to
rule drove her to doing what she must have felt was
the worst thing she could do. And she did it
in the name of virtue! Perhaps it was for the
best: I believe it was, but she did not and I
cannot see where her spiritual salvation comes in.”
Terry finally found Marie found
her in the midst of a short experiment, in company
with Gertrude, “in one of the social extremes,” to
be plain, leading the life of a prostitute.
I ask the reader to pause here and
reflect. Pause, before you conclude that this
book is an indecent and immoral book. Reflect
before you conclude that this woman is an immoral
woman. I am engaged in telling a plain tale in
such a way that certain social conditions and certain
social considerations and individual truths may be
illustrated thereby. Consequently, I shall not
pause, though I ask the reader to do so, in order
to point a moral in any extended way. In return
for the readers’ courtesy and tolerance, I will
here reassuringly assert that there will be found
in these pages no detailed description of Marie’s
life during her few months of prostitution; and nothing
whatever, from cover to cover, of anything that in
my judgment is either immoral or indecent.
Well, Terry found her, and Terry did
not try to “reform” her. But he stood
by her, and was more interested, more in love with
her than ever. In addition to his personal interest,
he felt an even stronger social interest in her.
To live with a girl like that was unconscious propaganda.
This passion, as he calls it, was now more deeply stirred
than when he first met her. This deeply aroused
his imagination and his keen desire to see what the
naked constitution of the soul is, after it is stripped
of all social prestige.
If Marie had been simply a low, commercial
grafter, Terry, the idealist, would not have been
interested. But Terry knew that Marie cared nothing
whatever for money. He regarded her as a social
victim and in addition a vigorous and life-loving
personality, an excellent companion for a life-long
protest against things as they are. He saw she
had the capacity for deep and excited interest in
truth, an emotional love for ideated experience.
These two human beings were wonderfully fitted to
each other: no wonder they loved!
Terry, telling me about the girl’s
experience during the two weeks or so before he found
her, dwelt especially upon how well she was treated.
“She has a way of getting the
interest, almost the deference, of many people.
She and Gertrude were often reduced to the proverbial
thirty cents, but they had little difficulty in getting
along. For instance, one day, almost broke, they
went to a restaurant and ordered two cups of coffee.
The negro waiter knew what they were, and offered them
a nice steak, at his expense. Nor did he try
to ‘ring in,’ to make their acquaintance.
He treated them with great respect. They went
there several times afterward, and always found the
negro waiter beaming with the desire to help them
for quite disinterested reasons, and he never tried
to meet them outside. Marie always appreciated
a thing like that. She took a delight in thinking
about the fine qualities in human nature.”
Marie is a frank woman, but it is
natural that she could never bring herself to talk
about this period of her life with entire openness.
She has, however, written me a letter in which she
tells the essential truth, although clothing it with
a certain pathetic attempt to conceal the one episode
in her life about which, to me, she was perhaps unreasonably
reticent. She did not say that she and Gertrude
were separated from Terry for a time, but she wanted
to convey the impression that she and Terry, from
the start, struggled along together, which was essentially,
though not literally, true. Continuing her account,
from the time the two families cast her and Terry
out, she wrote:
“So there we were, thrown out
into the harsh world, shelterless and almost moneyless.
But we all three put our little capital together,
amounting to about eleven dollars, went down town,
and hired a furnished room. We managed to live
a week on this capital, and then Terry pawned his
watch, which gave us five dollars. Gertrude soon
disappeared with an old roue and went out of
our lives. Terry and I kept along as best we
could. Kate helped us as much as we would allow
her to, and sometimes paid for our room, and I would
sometimes eat at her house.
“During this period I was in
a curious state of mind and body. Living in the
midst of so-called vice, I was at first both attracted
and repelled. Yet my strongest feeling was a
hatred of the life I had formerly led, and I was determined
not to go back to it, happen what might. I should
probably have gone much farther than I did, had it
not been for my love for Terry, which made me feel
that I did not want to throw myself entirely away.
So I did not know whether to go into the game entirely
or keep out of it. Terry did not try to influence
me, but seemed to watch me, to make me feel that he
would stand by me in any event.
“For a time we were both of
us dazed and stunned by our sudden change in life.
The change was much greater for Terry than for me.
I don’t know what his thoughts and feelings
at that time were. They must have been terrible.
For years he had lived, for the most part with his
family, a quiet, studious life, the life of contemplation;
and now he was suddenly plunged into the roar and
din, with an ignorant and disreputable girl on his
hands whom he would not desert. We were certainly
on the verge of destruction. The inevitable would
have happened, for no other choice was left me, and
I should have drifted with the current and Terry would
do and could do nothing.
“Just at the crucial moment,
Terry met an old friend who offered him a political
job, organising republican workingmen’s clubs,
and Terry accepted it. No one can understand
how bitter this was to Terry. To work for a political
organisation was to him great degradation. He
did it for my sake, for the thirty-five dollars a
week, so that I could be free to live as I wanted.
I did not realise at the time how much his sensitive
nature suffered, and I took poor advantage of the freedom
his money and character gave me. What an intolerable
burden I must have been to him, and yet he never even
intimated a desire to leave me!
“I had an opportunity now to
satisfy my desire for pleasure. Terry put no
obstacles in my way. Yet the cup already tasted
bitter. I tried to deny to myself that this life
of pleasure was an illusion, and so I plunged into
the most reckless debaucheries: I really would
be ashamed to tell you of the things I did. I
had affairs with all sorts of men, many of whom I
did not know whether I liked or hated seeking
always excitement, oblivion. I frequented cafes
where the women and men of the town were to be found,
and made many acquaintances. Two or three of them
proposed marriage to me. They no doubt wanted
to ‘save’ me, and thought I was a prostitute.
I did not care to disabuse them on the subject:
in fact I don’t know whether I was what they
called me or not.
“This life lasted only two or
three months, but it seems like so many years to me.
At the end of that time Terry’s work was over,
and we left down town and roomed with a respectable
radical family. My health had broken down.
I weighed only a hundred pounds, although three months
earlier I had weighed one hundred and forty. My
beautiful, healthy body had wasted away. Ah!
how proud I used to be of this body of mine! how I
used to glory in the vigorous, shapely limbs, the well-moulded
breasts and throat. But all this passed away
before my youth had passed away.”
Marie here pathetically omits to state
the immediate cause of her ill health a
long and terrible experience in the hospital, the result
of her excesses, during which time Terry was the only
one to care for her, from which place she came broken
in health, thin and pale, with large, dark, sad eyes,
looking as she did when I first met her.