Read CHAPTER XIII - Marie’s Failure of An Anarchist Woman , free online book, by Hutchins Hapgood, on

Though Terry was back in what was formerly the Salon, and though the old spirit seemed at times to be still alive, yet it was more in appearance than in reality. It is difficult to regain an emotional atmosphere once lost; and it is especially difficult to live by the gospel of freedom, when once the eloquence of that gospel is no longer deeply felt. Then there is nothing left to take its place no prosaic sense of duty, no steady habit, no enduring interest in work. As these two human beings drifted further and further apart from their common love and their common interest, the idealistic man became more self-centred, more unsocial, more fiercely individual, and the emotional and sensual woman became more self-indulgent, more hostile to any philosophy anarchism such as Terry’s, with its blighting idealism which limited her simple joy in life and in mere existence.

So their quarrels became more brutal, more abrupt. Both intensely nervous, both highly individualised, their characters conflicted with the intensity of two real and opposing forces. A tragic aspect of it all was that it was due to Terry’s teaching that Marie attained to the highly individualised character which was destined to rebel against the finally sterilising influence of her master. Even physical violence became part of their life, and words that were worse than blows. The strong bond which still lingered held them for a time together, notwithstanding what was becoming the brutality of their relations. One day Marie called Terry to his coffee and he refused. A quarrel followed, in the course of which she hit Terry on the head with a pitcher, and the resulting blood was smeared over them both. When calm came again she said to him:

“Terry, how can we live together?”

“Ain’t we living together? Doesn’t this prove it?” he replied, grimly.

And this man would use violence in return and this was the delicate idealist, the idealist whose love for Marie had at one time been part and parcel of his high dreams for humanity and perfection, a part of his propaganda, a part of his hope: during which period he had been scrupulous not to use force of any kind, spiritual or physical, on the girl whom he doubly loved the girl whom he held in his arms every night for years with a passionate tenderness due to his feeling of her physical fragility and her social unhappiness, rather than to any other instinct.

“Marie,” he said, “did not fully understand the character of my love for her. She loved me intellectually and sensually, but not with the soul. She wanted my ideas, and sex, and more sex, but not the invisible reality, the harmony of our spirits. From the day that I fully understood this, my confidence in her and in all things seemed to go. She felt that I had withdrawn something from her, and it made her harder. She began cruelly to fling the amours that I had tolerated as long as I hoped for the spiritual best in my face. It was a kind of revenge on her part.”

Practical troubles, too, lent their disturbing element to the little remaining harmony of the three.

“We shall probably be forced to leave our rooms in a short time,” wrote Marie. “Our landlord has asked us to leave, without giving any other reasons than that he wanted a smaller family in these most desirable rooms! Terry is indignant, for we have been quiet and orderly, and Katie has always paid the rent in advance. We shall certainly stay until the police come and carry us out and our household goods with us.

“It is true that we have had unusual difficulty in paying the rent and in getting enough to eat and smoke; and this has not added to our good-nature. You have no doubt read about the ‘money stringency’ in this country. Times are indeed very hard, thousands of men are out of a job, and the so-called criminals are very much in evidence. For a long time Katie could not find work to do and could not get any of her money from the bank, so that things looked very ‘bohemian’ around here for a while. She could not get anything to do in her own line, and finally had to go out to ‘service.’ But this she could not stand more than a week, for Katie has fine qualities and is used to a certain amount of freedom, so she couldn’t stand the slavishness of the servant life, though she had good wages and nice things to eat, which Katie likes very much.

“When Katie started in on this venture she had the proverbial thirty cents, which she divided up with me Terry had not returned from his wanderings at that time and I recklessly squandered ten cents of this going to and returning from the Social Science League. In a day or two there was nothing edible in our house but salt, so I squandered my remaining nickel for bread. I made that loaf last me nearly four days: I ate only when I was ravenously hungry, so that it would taste good, for I hate rye bread. I slept a good deal of the time. I suffered terribly, though, when my tobacco gave out, and I spent most of my time and energy hunting old stumps, and I found several very good ones in the unswept corners and under the beds. I even picked some out of the ashcan. These I carefully collected, picked out the tobacco and rolled it in fresh papers, as carefully as any professional hobo.”

When Katie was temporarily hard up, that naturally put Terry and Marie “on the bum.” But they remained “true blue” and did not go to work, Marie being willing to put up with all sorts of discomfort rather than try for a job. She continued:

“It is a strange thing that nobody came to our house during these six days. But on the sixth day, Terry came, and then I had a good square meal, and he even left me carfare and some of the horrible stuff he calls tobacco. Two more days elapsed before Katie returned. Until then I lived on that square meal. I had ten cents from Terry, but I was sick of rye bread. On the day that Katie returned, in fact only a few hours before, I was foolish enough to visit an anarchist friend, Marna. I was awfully lonely and thought a little change would do me good. So I went to Marna, but got there a little too late for supper. I must admit I was hungry. I hinted to Marna that I was, said I’d been in town all day, and things like that, but she did not catch on and I was stubborn and wouldn’t ask. Stephen was there, and for a moment I thought I might eat. He had not had his supper, and he said that if Marna was not too tired to cook, he would go and buy a steak. I tell you, the thought of that steak was awfully nice and I had to put my handkerchief to my mouth to keep the water from flowing over. I offered to cook it for him, but he passed it up. I made one more desperate bluff and asked him if he would get some beer for us! And I reached for my purse, and for one wild moment I thought sure he had called my bluff and would really take my only nickel, my carfare home. I nearly fell over with suspense, but in the nick of time he went out, refusing my money. And I even taunted him, asked him if he thought it was tainted!

“When the beer came, I drank most of it. Beer is a great filler, but of course it went straight to my head and feet that is, my head got light and my feet heavy. But I managed to navigate to the street car and so on home, where I found Katie, a cheerful fire and a delicious smell of cookery and coffee.

“Now, I must make you a confession. During these six days I had some thoughts of working, the only thing I could think of being a job as a waitress. But when a vision of ham and pert females and more impertinent males came to me my courage oozed away, and I did not even try. I don’t think I’ll ever work again. Did you ever read Yeats’ story ’Where There is Nothing?’

“I love Marna, as you know, but when she talks to me about ‘work,’ ‘health,’ and the like, I feel like becoming even more solitary than I am. She says I am not ambitious! Ye gods, I think I am ever so much more ambitious than she! I am more ambitious to live in these little squalid rooms than in the mansions of the rich. My kind of happiness I mean ideally is not Marna’s kind; and I am sure now that if I ever find it, it will be in the slums. Here I can sit and muse, undisturbed by the ambition of the world. Blake comes to me as an indulgent father to his tired and fretful child and sings to me his sunflower song. If I were in a castle I don’t think even Blake could soothe my restless spirit.

“But, unfortunately, even in the slums one needs to eat. Without warning I tumble from my air castles because some horrible monster gnaws at me, and will not let me be, however much I try to ignore him. That mean, sneaking thing is hunger. And because I am only mortal, and because the will to live is stronger than I, I must eat my bread. I often cry when I think of this contemptible weakness. I have often tried to overcome this annoying healthiness of my body. How can people be gourmands? Even Shelley and Keats had to eat. What a repulsive word ‘eat’ is! I would I could eat my heart and drink my tears. The world is what it is because we must eat. See the whole universe eating and eating itself, over and over! If it were not for this fearful necessity, Terry and I should not, perhaps, have failed in our high attempt!

“‘The chief thing,’ said Oscar Wilde, ’that makes life a failure, from the artistic point of view, is the thing which lends to life its sordid security.’

“But alas! to this sordid security, or to the care for it, we are driven by our need of bread. If Terry and Katie and I had never had this need, we might have become angels of virtue and insight. But on account of this we never could really attain freedom; that embittered our souls and turned us at times viciously against each other.”

Terry’s growing jealousy, which seemed to surprise Marie, was a sign of the weakening of his philosophy, as far as it was social and not purely individual. It may seem strange that after his real love for her appeared to pass, his jealousy increased; but this was due to several causes: if his social interest in her his propagandist interest had continued, her sexual license would have continued to feed his passion for social protest. But when Marie had ceased to interest him as a “case,” or a “type,” or a “victim,” the only bond remaining must be that of the pure individual soul or of the body. Terry’s lack of sensuality his predominating spiritual and mental character precluded any strong tie of the physical kind. So there remained, as a possible tie, only a close spiritual relation between two individuals, a soul bond and this Marie’s character and conduct tended to prevent. Terry, if they were to be together, saw that the deeper personal relation must exist, now that there was no other and so he was jealous of any conduct which showed in Marie a lack of sensibility for the deeper spiritual life; hence the physiological jealousy, which he had not felt, or had controlled at one time, showed itself. No doubt his increasing nervousness was an added reason nervousness due to the long strain, physical and mental, which his life and social experiment had involved.

During these last weeks Marie had another lover, and was especially careless in not concealing any of its manifestations. She, too, on her side, was subject to greater and greater strain. Terry’s growing loneliness and austerity, his melancholy and unsociability, his negative philosophy, all this tended more and more to inhibit her natural young joy in life and to give it violent expression. The philosophy of anarchism had increased her natural leaning to the free expression of her moods and passions, and now, with weakened nervous resources, she hardly cared to make any effort to restrain what she called her temperament.

“Yes, he became my lover,” she wrote, “and we disappeared for a few days. Did you ever read George Moore’s Leaves From My Lost Life? In it is a story called ‘The Lovers of Orelay.’ My lover and I spent our few days together in much the same way as did the lovers in the story. We had our nice secluded cool rooms and beautiful flowers. I threw my petticoats over the chairs and scattered ribbons and things on the dressing table just like the girl in the story. And we had nice things to drink and good cigarettes, and had all our breakfasts and suppers served in our rooms. The little adventure turned out better than such things usually do; nothing awkward happened to mar our pleasure in any way, and I’m glad it happened and is over and done with.

“You may think me a very light-headed and heartless and altogether frivolous person from my actions. But I felt so humiliated and so sorry and so desperate about Terry that I was ready to embrace any excitement, just to forget that our great relation had gone. This time it was to get away from myself, not in the old physically joyous mood and to get away from Terry’s poisonous philosophy of life.

“This lover of mine was so joyous, so healthy, so vigorous, so full of life! He was very different from Terry, and I really needed him as a kind of tonic. And yet, of course, I did not care for him deeply at all. In fact, I want never again to have a deep relation to anybody, if this between Terry and me must go.

“This profound failure has made me reckless; Terry is sensitive now, and knows from my manner and face and the way I express myself just how I am feeling toward any other man. The other day an old lover of mine turned up in Chicago, and this brought about a scene with Terry.

“To explain this episode I must go back several years. I once knew a Swiss boy, a typical Tyrolean. The day I met him in Chicago he had just arrived from his native land, and seemed so forlorn and lonely and miserable that my heart went right out to him. He was such a big, handsome child, too, about twenty years old. He could not understand a word of English, and no one talked to him, but me, who, as you know, had parents who spoke German. He was delighted and told me his whole life story, how he became emancipated and one of the Comrades. His eyes sparkled so and his cute little blond curls jumped all over his head with the enthusiasm and joy of having found some one to talk to, that I was quite content to sit and watch and listen. And he thought me the most sympathetic person in the world.

“Had I only known the result of my impulse to say a few words to a lonely boy! For he did fall in love with me, and in such sturdy mountaineer fashion that I very nearly had nervous prostration and he too in trying to get away from his strenuous wooing. For he started out to win me in the same style that he would have used toward one of the cow-girls in his native Alps. He waylaid me and followed me around everywhere, just camped on my trail; wanted to carry me away to some place out West, where there were mountains. The more I discouraged him, the more lovesick and forlorn he became, until finally he became the laughing-stock of the ‘movement,’ and I was chaffed about it unmercifully. He knew I had a lover, but that was no obstacle; and he told me several times with fine enthusiasm that he would not object to sharing his love with another man! He had read something about free love, and thought he should like to be an Overman and superior to petty jealousies.

“Strange to say, my curly-headed Swiss lover did not ‘insult’ me, as they call it, though I naturally enough supposed that he wanted to, but didn’t have enough courage. But I was wrong, as I discovered later, when I grossly insulted him! Perhaps a girl is loved only once in a lifetime in just that way, perhaps not at all, and I often think I made a mistake in being so cruel to my boy lover. I might in time have learned to love him in the right way, but I couldn’t at that time, perhaps because I was so much occupied with Terry, my own lover, and with the movement, which was new to me and very charming, for I had just discovered it.

“At times I had an immense pity for the poor boy and would have done anything to help him feel better. I had not the slightest physical feeling for him, but I should have been quite willing to indulge him, if he had asked me. That was part of our philosophy and my kindness. But he did not ask me, though he often had the opportunity. He was quite content to be with me and kiss my hands, and beg me to love him a little. When he saw I did not like to have him kiss me so much, he would grow so sad and forlorn and tiresome. One day he was at the Salon with others and annoyed me by hanging about me all the time, until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I called him into another room and told him bluntly that I would indulge him, if that would help him, only he must for heaven’s sake leave me alone!

“Now, this was a most indelicate thing for me to do, and I blush as I write of it, but I was so desperate and possibly a little under the influence of whiskey a most convenient and universal excuse and had tried all other means of ridding myself of this annoyance, even to slapping his face and forbidding him to come to the house! When I slapped him, he simply kissed the hand that smote him, and when I forbade him to return to the house, he followed me about the streets. If I told you all the silly and ridiculous things the youth did or all the mean, brutal things I did to cure him, you would scarcely believe me.

“Now when I made that abrupt proposal to him, he blushed to the tip of his ears, and then grew very angry, and called me an animal and a beast and said he had loved me because he thought I was different from that; that he did not want that kind of love from me. After a while his vehemence and anger turned to tears, and he kissed my hands and sobbed out his intention of going away. I was repentant and very sweet and kind to him while he stayed, but soon he did go West and I did not see him again till a few weeks ago, when, one Saturday night, I found him waiting for me at our rooms. I was astonished and not too glad to see him, especially now that Terry is so sensitive.

“When Terry came home, he looked suspiciously at me and at the poor Swiss, but though I was quite innocent, I could not turn the poor fellow away, after he had come so far to see me. But I did not feel at all friendly to him, and I did not speak to him the next day, especially as Terry went away for several days, to give me a chance, as he put it, to enjoy my love. Then I told the Swiss with heat that I never wanted to see him again, and he went away for good.”

Marie, however, seemed about this time to have lost any sensibility about Terry’s emotion that she may have possessed. Perhaps it was because, as I have said, she felt that the relation of mutual confidence was really broken and nothing very much mattered. Anyway, she went so far in her carelessness that Terry could not help coming in disagreeable contact with what was growing painful to him, though he would be far from admitting it.

Katie, describing these last weeks, said that Terry grew more and more jealous and inclined to violence. He was very imaginative, and saw in Marie’s eyes “something wrong,” as Katie put it. Marie could not be expressive to Terry after an “affair,” and Katie saw that Terry understood the meaning of this inexpressiveness. Also, when Terry went away for a day or two, without an explanation, Marie was equally “imaginative.” Both were intensely proud, both intensely interested in their “individuality.” One day Terry went away, without an explanation, and returned, after a few days, “pleasantly piped,” as he put it, sat down and began to undress. It was dark, and he had no idea that somebody else was there. But Marie called out harshly, “You can’t sleep here.”

“I understood,” said Terry. But Katie replied, “That’s all right,” and she slept on the couch.

“This kind of thing,” said Katie, “put them further and further apart. Terry couldn’t help feeling the sting there was in it. Marie had done the same before, but it was in a different spirit. One of the last scenes was when H was visiting us. He and Marie were having coffee in her room, and Terry was in the other room. Marie and H called Katie to come and have coffee with them. Terry was not invited and this later brought about a terrible quarrel.

“But,” said Katie, “it was not really jealousy, though that was part of it, that brought about the last break. They calmed down, but then began to read Nietzsche again, and I think went daffy over him. Terry tried the Overman theory on me and Marie. Americans cannot understand German philosophy.”

Nietzsche’s doctrine of the distinguished individual being “beyond good and evil,” a man superior to the morality of society, his hatred of Christian civilisation and Christian ethics, his love of the big forcible blonde who takes his right by his strength only, all this was congenial to Terry’s character, and especially so after the weakening of his social philosophy. The aloofness of the Overman, the individualistic teachings of Zarathustra, appealed to the anti-social Terry, to the man who more and more went back to his egotistic personality, to whom more and more the “communist” Christian anarchists made little appeal, who more and more became what is called an individualist anarchist, with whom there is little possibility of relationship, who is essentially anti-social, whose philosophy is really that of social destruction. This indeed is the anarchist who lives in the public mind a destroyer. But what the public mind does not see is that this destructive anarchist is the result of a lost hope in anarchistic communism, a lost hope of radical extension of social love, in absolute solidarity.