Read CHAPTER XI - The End of the Salon of An Anarchist Woman , free online book, by Hutchins Hapgood, on ReadCentral.com.

Terry’s love for Marie was partly due, as we have seen, to his passion for social propaganda: that she represented the “social limit” was a strong charm to him. She, woman-like, always insisted on the personal relation, and for a long time his interest in her personality as such, combined with his social enthusiasm, was strong enough to keep the bond intact. When, however, his social enthusiasm paled, and his merely individualistic anarchism became stronger, his interest in Marie weakened. The times grew more frequent with him when he doubted the social side of anarchism itself when this social propaganda seemed as hollow and as unlovely as society itself; and when he saw the weaknesses and vanities of his associates, how far they were from realising any ideal. Then, more and more, he was thrown back upon himself, for as his hope in the new society weakened, his hope in Marie as an embodiment of it weakened also.

Marie’s sex interests, always freely and boldly expressed, played, at first, no part in the growing irritability of their relations. Marie’s occasional “affairs” with other men, sometimes taking her away from the salon for a time, were taken by Terry in silence. Even when he came face to face with the fact of Marie’s absence of restraint in this respect, lack of delicacy and feeling for him, he did not complain. To do so was against his principles of personal freedom; and the fling in the face of society envolved in Marie’s conduct pleased him rather than otherwise; also there was in him a subtle feeling of superiority over other men, in the fact that he was without physiological jealousy, or if not, that he could at least control it.

Even Marie’s jealousy of him, whenever he was in the society of another woman, he took with a patient shrug. Terry’s interest in other women was not a passionate one: in it was always an element of the pale cast of thought, and Marie had no real cause for jealousy. But Terry tolerantly took it as a feminine weakness and tried to shield Marie from this unreasonable unhappiness. On her account he gave up many a desire to talk intimately with some female comrade. But Marie had no such tolerance for him. Not only was she quite free with other men and to the limit, but she often went into a real tantrum of jealousy. One day she followed Terry all over town, fearing that he had an appointment with a well-known radical woman. Marie often acknowledged to me her inconsistency. “But, you know,” she would say, “our principles and ideas do not count much when our fundamental emotions are concerned.”

This was a true remark of Marie’s, and I have often had occasion to perceive the great degree of it throughout the radical world. Men and women often try in that society to be tolerant; they give one another free rein sometimes for years, but generally in the end, the resistance of one or the other weakens; human nature or prejudice, whichever it is, asserts itself, and tragedy results. This I had occasion to see over and over again: how nature triumphed over the most resolute idealism and brought about in the end either ugly passion or pathetic unhappiness.

As Terry began to doubt his deepest hope, as he began to turn away from the ideas about which his salon was formed, he saw and felt more clearly the limitations of Marie’s personal character; and her acts began to hurt him. Perhaps he began to lose faith in both Marie and the Salon at the same time.

“I am afraid,” he wrote, “that the days of the salon are numbered. I am of the opinion that most of our latter-day radicals are on a par with our latter-day Christians. They have grown weary, or wary, of their original purpose. They seem to think Liberty a beautiful goddess who will never come: they willingly believe in her as long as there is no danger of or in her ‘coming.’ How frantically most of the radicals signal back the ‘waiting’ reply: the track is not clear for the coming of Liberty! and they do not want to have it cleared!...

“You will be surprised to know that I have dropped the radicals, with the exception of Thomson, and I fear he too must walk the plank and go by the board. I am becoming quite implacable toward these intelligent people, and the salon will soon be void of my presence. The spirit of it has gone already and cannot be revived. That is why I left my mother’s home because the spirit of home had gone and why I must leave the salon. I cannot submit to being a discordant spirit; therefore I must be a wandering one.

“So I must leave Katie and Marie. If I could make a living I would work for it, as I did when I thought so. But I shall never work or toil rather for sheer subsistence except behind the bars. I am driven to be a parasite, for honest living there is none. The time is up, and I must leave. Several years ago I ruined whatever robustness I had by tending bar so that Katie might knock down some three hundred dollars. At one meal a day and a place to try to sleep, I think that she and I are about even; she also thinks so, though she never says so, to me. She is willing and able to take care of Marie, for she has five hundred dollars in the bank and a great love for the girl.”

Terry, sometimes terribly frank, is extremely reticent about Marie; and the account of their misunderstanding comes mainly from her letters:

“I have had such a bad misunderstanding with Terry, or he with me, I don’t know which it is. My God, but women can be brutal, though! You ought to read Jack London’s ‘The Call of the Wild.’ You might substitute women for dogs. Some years ago I was a feast for the dogs (women), and now I see much of this same fierce brutality in myself, and poor Terry is feeling it. I have been away with a man, and Terry somehow feels it much more keenly than ever before.

“And yet I love Terry: surely if I ever knew what love means, I love him and have loved him always. Though I am the most brutal person on earth, I am so without intention, without knowing it even, at times. And I am so tired that sometimes I have no feeling for anything, not even for Terry, and he does not understand that. I feel out of harmony with every one just now. It is hardly indifference, rather a terrible weariness. Perhaps my recent reading of Nietzsche has helped to give me a feeling of weary hopelessness. And then, too, the spirit of our salon is gone; I don’t know exactly why. Even Terry has changed very much in his feelings and ideas. He is not much interested in the things he used to be absorbed in. He is more cynical, especially of social science, and yet he seems to me to be making a very science of looking at things unscientifically. He seems to be holding his emotions in check, is less impulsive than ever, and is losing much of that delicacy of feeling and expression which was so admirable in him.

“I too am growing cynical, and I hate to do so. I should like to accept people at their apparent value and not always look for motives, as I am getting more and more to do. I should like to approach everything and everybody with a perfectly open heart, as a child does, but I find that I no longer do that, that I am always prejudiced. I am sure that this is due to Terry’s influence, for he more and more excludes everything: nothing is good enough for him. He passes up one person after another and he has no joy in life. His personality is so much stronger than mine that I am like a little thin shadow, weaker than water, and he can always bring me around to see his way of looking at people and things.”

This note in Marie protest against Terry’s tendency to cut out the simple joy of life grew very strong at a later time; now, however, it was only suggested, and played no important part.

Indeed, the idea of his leaving her was to her an intolerable thought; and yet there is many a letter which suggests the approaching dissolution of the salon and of their relation. They were both, at times, terribly tired of life: with no strenuous occupation, the word of Nietzsche and of world pessimism, of excessive individuality, tortured their nerves and made everything seem of no avail.

Work takes one away from life, is a buffer between sensitive nerves and intensest experience. Strong natures who for some reason are dislocated and therefore do not work, or work only fragmentarily, come too much in contact with life and often cannot bear it; it burns and palls at once. So it was with Terry and Marie. Without either work or children, they were forced into strenuous personal relations with one another and into a feverish relation with “life.”

“I feel so depressed,” she wrote; “so many things have happened this last year which seemed trivial at the time, but have had big results, while other things which seemed events have turned out to be only incidents, and very small ones. Thus, a careless remark of mine resulted in a quarrel between Terry and me which did not lessen with time, but grew larger and larger, until now the relations of us two idyllic lovers are anything but pleasant. And a very serious attack of love from which I suffered last summer has passed as quickly and lightly as a breath of wind, while another light love of mine, which came to me last February, has assumed large proportions simply because I have been abused for it by Terry, whom no one could ever displace in my heart. I was bound to defend my lover from the attacks of Terry, whom I had always regarded as above such a common display of irritation in such matters. So this other man became a sort of ideal lover in my mind, and all because of Terry’s opposition. This man had wooed me in a great, glorious, godless fashion. He was a big man in the labour world, and he flattered me immensely, but I should never have cared for him, if Terry’s nature had not suddenly seemed to weaken....

“I have been so uneasy about Terry lately. He has been talking so much about joining the criminal class. He seems to be losing his interest in our movement and to be looking for some other way of escape, as he calls it. He says his liberty is only a figment of his mind, that he has now reached the time for which he had all along been unconsciously preparing himself. I am, of course, used to this kind of talk from Terry. He has been in the depths of despondency often enough, but nothing ever came of it except a saloon brawl. He would usually seek Harris; they would break a mirror or a few glasses in some saloon, and the next day Terry would have a headache, after which he was usually content to browse around his philosophy in that mild and subtle way of his, for a week or so.

“But now Harris is gone, and Terry does not know any other person quite so strenuous in the fine art of breaking glasses and barroom fixtures in general, so, finding no vent for his accumulated despondency, he may possibly do real things. I feel so sadly for him and wish I could help him. The Lord knows I would be willing to break any amount of glassware with him, but he has not much confidence in my aim, I guess; women never can throw straight. In fact, he has little confidence in me in any way lately, for he never tells me the details of his schemes, but only throws out dark and terrible hints....

“Truly, something may indeed happen this time. He is so anti-social. He positively won’t go out anywhere to meet people, won’t go to our picnics or socials, and in manner is very strange, distant, cold, and polite to Katie and me. One would think he had been introduced to us just five minutes before. Perhaps he thinks that Katie and I want him to go to work common, vulgar work, I mean, for Katie has lost her job and we are living in the most economical way, for we don’t know when another desirable job can be found. Now, Terry really ought to know that I shouldn’t have him work for anything in the world. I know that Katie has not said the least word to him, but he is so terribly sensitive that perhaps he suspects what she may be thinking.

“Katie is despondent, too, and nearly makes me crazy talking of her life, past, present, and future, in the most doleful way. Last night, after talking to me for two hours about the misery of life, she made the startling proposal that she and I commit suicide. ‘For,’ said she, ’I cannot see anything ahead of me but work, work, like a cart-horse, until I am dead. I’d rather die now and be done with everything, and you had better come with me, for you haven’t anything, and if I went alone, what would become of you, such a poor helpless creature; see how thin you are, I can almost look through your bones! Who would take care of you?’

“After talking in this strain for what seemed to me hours and hours, Katie went to bed and to sleep, and then came Terry from his solitary walk he usually goes for a walk if there are any indications that Katie will do any talking and entertained me by carelessly, carefully hinting at one of his dark, mysterious plots. Then he, too, went to bed, and I, too, had forty winks and seventy thousand nightmares.”

But Marie, even in this growing strain, never failed in her love and admiration for the strange man with whom she lived. On the heels of the above came the following:

“Terry is one of those characters who has not lost any of his distinct individuality. His is a nature which will never become confounded or obliterated in one’s memory. The instantaneous impression of large soul, sincerity, and truthfulness he made upon me at our first meeting has never left me. This impression must have been very strong, for generally these impressions grow weaker, if people live together so closely as poor people must. All his faults, as well as perhaps his virtues, come from the fact that he is not at all practical. In spite of his experience, he does not know the world, and is a dreamer of dreams. His wild outbursts are the result, I think, of his sedentary life. Sometimes we two remain at our home for weeks without venturing out, without hardly speaking to each other, and then suddenly we burst out into the wildest extravagances of speech!”

A few days later there was a wilder burst than ever, and Terry left the salon. Marie wrote:

“Last week we all had a row, and Terry has not been seen or heard of since. The last words he uttered were that he should return for his belongings in a few days. I am dreadfully sorry about it, especially that we could not have parted good friends. I realise and always shall be sensible of the great good I had from him and shall always think of him with the best feeling and greatest respect. The parting has not been a great surprise to me, for it really has been taking place for a long time, ever since he withdrew his confidence from me, now months past, and I have been acting with other men without his knowledge. Nothing mattered in our relation but mutual confidence, but when that went, it was, I suppose, only a question of time. And, at the same time that he withdrew spiritually from me, he seemed to lose his interest in the movement, and grew more and more solitary and hopeless.

“I don’t know what Terry is doing, or where he has gone, and I am uneasy. I would not fancy this beautiful bohemian life alone with Katie, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Terry is still away,” she wrote a few days later, “and my horizon looks bleak and lonely. I want to be alone where I can collect my thoughts, but, even when Katie is out, I cannot think, but sit by the window staring at the old women hanging up the clothes which everlastingly flap on the lines tied between the poor old gnarled willow trees. Poor old trees, their fate has been very like that of the old women. They bear their burden uncomplainingly, groan dolefully in the wind, and shake their old palsied heads. Even the sparrows, true hoboes of the air, disdain to seek shelter in their twisted arms. They will die as they have lived, withering away.

“I try to interest myself in household affairs, but that is so stale and unprofitable. Neither can I read: my thoughts wander away and Terry intrudes himself constantly on my mind. I may get so desperate that I will seek a job as a possible remedy: perhaps in that way I could get tired enough to sleep....

“I have been trying to meet Terry, but he is as elusive as any vagrant sunbeam. I feel it would do me a world of good to have a long heart-to-heart talk with him. If I could only see him once a week and have him sympathise with me in a brotherly fashion and hear him say, in his old way: ‘Cheer up, Marie, the worst is yet to come,’ I should be comparatively happy and satisfied.”

Several more days passed, and with the lapse of time Marie’s mood grew blacker. Her next letter to me had a deep note of sorrow and regret and remorse:

“Terry has been away since August thirteenth. He came, while I was out, for his things. I fear it is his farewell visit; for he has not shown the slightest disposition to meet me and talk things over. I have tried in every way to see him again, but he has thus far ignored my existence. I had an idea that we two were made for each other, but I have been an awful fool. Last February, as you know, I had an affair, if it may be dignified by even that name, and just for the fun of the thing I went with this light love to Detroit, and came home ill, as you already know. I returned to Terry full of love and regret and most properly chastened by my illness and disappointment; for other men almost always disappoint me. But I found him positively beastly. The way he abused that poor man was terrible, and I had to defend him, for I know that Terry was unjust to him. I begged him to blame me, not the other man, for it was all my doing, but that only made matters worse.

“I know that some people can conceal their obnoxious qualities and show only the sweet and lovely side of themselves. I sometimes like to see the reverse side of the medal, and I expected Terry, as a student of humanity and an anarchist, to welcome any phase of character which might enable him to understand me more completely.

“I must hesitate in attributing Terry’s attitude to jealousy, for I have had some affairs before, and he never seemed to care about them in the least; indeed, I often felt piqued, and thought he did not mind because he did not care about me enough. The following two weeks were, I can truly say, the most infernal and awful that ever happened to me, and I wished thousands of times that I might die, and I did come very close to it. I cannot describe that hellish time or give you any idea of Terry’s conduct during those weeks. He was no longer the calm, philosophical Terry that you know, but the most terribly cruel thing the mind of man can conceive.

“Now, I know these are strong words, and I don’t know if you can imagine Terry that way, or if you can believe me when I say it is so. I have thought of it so many times, and I have come to the conclusion that perhaps while I was away, he and Harris had a great debauch together and that Terry must have taken some dope which unbalanced him for a while.”

I do not think it needs “dope” to explain Terry’s conduct. Marie, perhaps, could not understand the possible cruelty of a disappointed idealist. When Terry began to see that neither the anarchists nor Marie would ultimately fit into his scheme of things, when his idealistic hope began to break against the hard rocks of reality, he was capable, in his despair, of any hard, desperate, and cruel act.

Marie continued:

“During this awful time I did not blame Terry, dope or no dope. I considered it all coming to me, and even wished it would keep on coming until it killed. But I made up my mind right then and there that if it was fated that I should keep in the game, there should be no more ‘affairs’ for me. And so help me God I have not had any from that time six months ago till the day Terry left me. And that other man’s name has not once passed my lips in Terry’s presence, and when it was mentioned by others when he and I were there, I grew dizzy and sick.

“In time, these dreadful things were thought of as little as might be, and Terry and I became excellent, though platonic friends, a novel and fascinating relation, wherein sex had no part. Night after night have we sat around this table, discussing books and people, trying to penetrate the mystery of things strange and new to us. I should rather say that he talked, and I was his eager listener. Often, after tossing restlessly on our pillows, when no sleep would come ‘to weight our eyelids down,’ the rest of the night would be spent in reciting poetry, the inevitable cigarette in one hand, the other gesticulating in the most fanciful and fervid manner. He would recite in passionate whispers so as not to awaken Katie for hours at a time, poems from Shakespeare to Shelley, and Verlaine to Whitman, poems tender and sweet, bitter and ironical and revolutionary, just as the mood suited him. His feeling for poetry and nature seemed to grow as his hope for human society grew less.

“So our relations were ideally platonic the kind you read about in books. Nevertheless, some of the old bitterness remained in Terry’s heart, for at times he became depressed and melancholy and so sensitive about the least little thing that I was nervous and in hot water all the time for fear I might inadvertently say or do something to hurt him or make him angry. I admit I am not as placid as I look, and Katie, too, is very inflammable, so you can understand how tense the atmosphere was at times.

“Not very long ago, at the breakfast table one Sunday morning, I urged Terry to come to a meeting of the ‘radicals,’ adding that he was becoming a regular hermit and that it would do him good to have more social pleasure. He turned on me savagely, called me a hypocrite, and a contemptible one at that, and made a few more remarks of the kind. After a few days of strained politeness on both sides I made bold to ask him for some explanation and I have got it coming yet!

“These are just the facts. I don’t go into all the little details of our many little vulgar rows, about the most trivial things. I am sure, if Terry writes you about this, that his innate delicacy would never permit him to go into these sordid details, too many of which I have perhaps told you. But I am made of rougher stuff than he. I am never quite as unreasonable as he can be at times, but I am commoner.”

Terry did, indeed, express himself in a much more laconic way about the quarrel, than Marie. On the day he left, August thirteenth, he wrote me the following note:

“The premonition in my last letter is fulfilled: the salon knows me no more.”

A later talk I had with both Katie and Terry throws light upon the precipitating cause of Terry’s departure on the thirteenth of August. It was due to Terry’s sensitiveness about his money relationship to Katie. On that morning Terry was asleep on the couch, when Katie got up, made breakfast, and she and Marie asked Terry to join them.

“Not me,” said he.

“I think you have been eating on me long enough,” rejoined Katie. “It’s time you got out.”

Katie had never allowed herself a remark of this kind before. But she had not found another job and the three had been on edge for some time.

The remark brought about the climax so long preparing.

“I’ll go,” he replied, “as soon as I have finished this cigarette.”

“In the wordy war that followed,” said Terry, “we all three went the limit in throwing things up to each other. I told Katie that if it had not been for me and Marie she would not have had anybody to steal for; that I was eating on her stealings and mine, too. And then I left.”

Although, as we shall see, this was not the end of the relation between Terry and Marie, it was in reality the sordid end of the idealistic Salon.