The Romantic Egotist
Narcissus Off Duty
DURING Princeton's transition period, that is, during Amory's
last two years there, while he saw it change and broaden and live
up to its Gothic beauty by better means than night parades,
certain individuals arrived who stirred it to its plethoric
depths. Some of them had been freshmen, and wild freshmen, with
Amory; some were in the class below; and it was in the beginning
of his last year and around small tables at the Nassau Inn that
they began questioning aloud the institutions that Amory and
countless others before him had questioned so long in secret.
First, and partly by accident, they struck on certain books, a
definite type of biographical novel that Amory christened "quest"
books. In the "quest" book the hero set off in life armed with
the best weapons and avowedly intending to use them as such
weapons are usually used, to push their possessors ahead as
selfishly and blindly as possible, but the heroes of the "quest"
books discovered that there might be a more magnificent use for
them. "None Other Gods," "Sinister Street," and "The Research
Magnificent" were examples of such books; it was the latter of
these three that gripped Burne Holiday and made him wonder in the
beginning of senior year how much it was worth while being a
diplomatic autocrat around his club on Prospect Avenue and
basking in the high lights of class office. It was distinctly
through the channels of aristocracy that Burne found his way.
Amory, through Kerry, had had a vague drifting acquaintance with
him, but not until January of senior year did their friendship
"Heard the latest?" said Tom, coming in late one drizzly evening
with that triumphant air he always wore after a successful
"No. Somebody flunked out? Or another ship sunk?"
"Worse than that. About one-third of the junior class are going
to resign from their clubs."
Spirit of reform and all that. Burne Holiday is behind it. The
club presidents are holding a meeting to-night to see if they can
find a joint means of combating it."
"Well, what's the idea of the thing?"
"Oh, clubs injurious to Princeton democracy; cost a lot; draw
social lines, take time; the regular line you get sometimes from
disappointed sophomores. Woodrow thought they should be abolished
and all that."
"But this is the real thing?"
"Absolutely. I think it'll go through."
"For Pete's sake, tell me more about it."
"Well," began Tom, "it seems that the idea developed
simultaneously in several heads. I was talking to Burne awhile
ago, and he claims that it's a logical result if an intelligent
person thinks long enough about the social system. They had a
'discussion crowd' and the point of abolishing the clubs was
brought up by some oneeverybody there leaped at itit had been in
each one's mind, more or less, and it just needed a spark to
bring it out."
"Fine! I swear I think it'll be most entertaining. How do they
feel up at Cap and Gown?"
"Wild, of course. Every one's been sitting and arguing and
swearing and getting mad and getting sentimental and getting
brutal. It's the same at all the clubs; I've been the rounds.
They get one of the radicals in the corner and fire questions at
"How do the radicals stand up?"
"Oh, moderately well. Burne's a damn good talker, and so
obviously sincere that you can't get anywhere with him. It's so
evident that resigning from his club means so much more to him
than preventing it does to us that I felt futile when I argued;
finally took a position that was brilliantly neutral. In fact, I
believe Burne thought for a while that he'd converted me."
"And you say almost a third of the junior class are going to
"Call it a fourth and be safe."
"Lordwho'd have thought it possible!"
There was a brisk knock at the door, and Burne himself came in.
"Hello, Amoryhello, Tom."
"'Evening, Burne. Don't mind if I seem to rush; I'm going to
Burne turned to him quickly.
"You probably know what I want to talk to Tom about, and it isn't
a bit private. I wish you'd stay."
"I'd be glad to." Amory sat down again, and as Burne perched on a
table and launched into argument with Tom, he looked at this
revolutionary more carefully than he ever had before.
Broad-browed and strong-chinned, with a fineness in the honest
gray eyes that were like Kerry's, Burne was a man who gave an
immediate impression of bigness and securitystubborn, that was
evident, but his stubbornness wore no stolidity, and when he had
talked for five minutes Amory knew that this keen enthusiasm had
in it no quality of dilettantism.
The intense power Amory felt later in Burne Holiday differed from
the admiration he had had for Humbird. This time it began as
purely a mental interest. With other men of whom he had thought
as primarily first-class, he had been attracted first by their
personalities, and in Burne he missed that immediate magnetism to
which he usually swore allegiance. But that night Amory was
struck by Burne's intense earnestness, a quality he was
accustomed to associate only with the dread stupidity, and by the
great enthusiasm that struck dead chords in his heart. Burne
stood vaguely for a land Amory hoped he was drifting towardand it
was almost time that land was in sight. Tom and Amory and Alec
had reached an impasse; never did they seem to have new
experiences in common, for Tom and Alec had been as blindly busy
with their committees and boards as Amory had been blindly
idling, and the things they had for dissectioncollege,
contemporary personality and the likethey had hashed and rehashed
for many a frugal conversational meal.
That night they discussed the clubs until twelve, and, in the
main, they agreed with Burne. To the roommates it did not seem
such a vital subject as it had in the two years before, but the
logic of Burne's objections to the social system dovetailed so
completely with everything they had thought, that they questioned
rather than argued, and envied the sanity that enabled this man
to stand out so against all traditions.
Then Amory branched off and found that Burne was deep in other
things as well. Economics had interested him and he was turning
socialist. Pacifism played in the back of his mind, and he read
the Masses and Lyoff Tolstoi faithfully.
"How about religion?" Amory asked him.
"Don't know. I'm in a muddle about a lot of thingsI've just
discovered that I've a mind, and I'm starting to read."
"Everything. I have to pick and choose, of course, but mostly
things to make me think. I'm reading the four gospels now, and
the 'Varieties of Religious Experience.'"
"What chiefly started you?"
"Wells, I guess, and Tolstoi, and a man named Edward Carpenter.
I've been reading for over a year nowon a few lines, on what I
consider the essential lines."
"Well, frankly, not what you call poetry, or for your reasonsyou
two write, of course, and look at things differently. Whitman is
the man that attracts me."
"Yes; he's a definite ethical force."
"Well, I'm ashamed to say that I'm a blank on the subject of
Whitman. How about you, Tom?"
Tom nodded sheepishly.
"Well," continued Burne, "you may strike a few poems that are
tiresome, but I mean the mass of his work. He's tremendouslike
Tolstoi. They both look things in the face, and, somehow,
different as they are, stand for somewhat the same things."
"You have me stumped, Burne," Amory admitted. "I've read 'Anna
Karinina' and the 'Kreutzer Sonata' of course, but Tolstoi is
mostly in the original Russian as far as I'm concerned."
"He's the greatest man in hundreds of years," cried Burne
enthusiastically. "Did you ever see a picture of that shaggy old
head of his?"
They talked until three, from biology to organized religion, and
when Amory crept shivering into bed it was with his mind aglow
with ideas and a sense of shock that some one else had discovered
the path he might have followed. Burne Holiday was so evidently
developingand Amory had considered that he was doing the same. He
had fallen into a deep cynicism over what had crossed his path,
plotted the imperfectability of man and read Shaw and Chesterton
enough to keep his mind from the edges of decadencenow suddenly
all his mental processes of the last year and a half seemed stale
and futilea petty consummation of himself ... and like a sombre
background lay that incident of the spring before, that filled
half his nights with a dreary terror and made him unable to pray.
He was not even a Catholic, yet that was the only ghost of a code
that he had, the gaudy, ritualistic, paradoxical Catholicism
whose prophet was Chesterton, whose claqueurs were such reformed
rakes of literature as Huysmans and Bourget, whose American
sponsor was Ralph Adams Cram, with his adulation of
thirteenth-century cathedralsa Catholicism which Amory found
convenient and ready-made, without priest or sacraments or
He could not sleep, so he turned on his reading-lamp and, taking
down the "Kreutzer Sonata," searched it carefully for the germs
of Burne's enthusiasm. Being Burne was suddenly so much realler
than being clever. Yet he sighed ... here were other possible
He thought back through two years, of Burne as a hurried, nervous
freshman, quite submerged in his brother's personality. Then he
remembered an incident of sophomore year, in which Burne had been
suspected of the leading rtle.
Dean Hollister had been heard by a large group arguing with a
taxi-driver, who had driven him from the junction. In the course
of the altercation the dean remarked that he "might as well buy
the taxicab." He paid and walked off, but next morning he entered
his private office to find the taxicab itself in the space
usually occupied by his desk, bearing a sign which read "Property
of Dean Hollister. Bought and Paid for."... It took two expert
mechanics half a day to dissemble it into its minutest parts and
remove it, which only goes to prove the rare energy of sophomore
humor under efficient leadership.
Then again, that very fall, Burne had caused a sensation. A
certain Phyllis Styles, an intercollegiate prom-trotter, had
failed to get her yearly invitation to the Harvard-Princeton
Jesse Ferrenby had brought her to a smaller game a few weeks
before, and had pressed Burne into serviceto the ruination of the
"Are you coming to the Harvard game?" Burne had asked
indiscreetly, merely to make conversation.
"If you ask me," cried Phyllis quickly.
"Of course I do," said Burne feebly. He was unversed in the arts
of Phyllis, and was sure that this was merely a vapid form of
kidding. Before an hour had passed he knew that he was indeed
involved. Phyllis had pinned him down and served him up, informed
him the train she was arriving by, and depressed him thoroughly.
Aside from loathing Phyllis, he had particularly wanted to stag
that game and entertain some Harvard friends.
"She'll see," he informed a delegation who arrived in his room to
josh him. "This will be the last game she ever persuades any
young innocent to take her to!"
"But, Burnewhy did you invite her if you didn't want her?"
"Burne, you know you're secretly mad about herthat's the real
"What can you do, Burne? What can you do against Phyllis?"
But Burne only shook his head and muttered threats which
consisted largely of the phrase: "She'll see, she'll see!"
The blithesome Phyllis bore her twenty-five summers gayly from
the train, but on the platform a ghastly sight met her eyes.
There were Burne and Fred Sloane arrayed to the last dot like the
lurid figures on college posters. They had bought flaring suits
with huge peg-top trousers and gigantic padded shoulders. On
their heads were rakish college hats, pinned up in front and
sporting bright orange-and-black bands, while from their
celluloid collars blossomed flaming orange ties. They wore black
arm-bands with orange "P's," and carried canes flying Princeton
pennants, the effect completed by socks and peeping handkerchiefs
in the same color motifs. On a clanking chain they led a large,
angry tom-cat, painted to represent a tiger.
A good half of the station crowd was already staring at them,
torn between horrified pity and riotous mirth, and as Phyllis,
with her svelte jaw dropping, approached, the pair bent over and
emitted a college cheer in loud, far-carrying voices,
thoughtfully adding the name "Phyllis" to the end. She was
vociferously greeted and escorted enthusiastically across the
campus, followed by half a hundred village urchinsto the stifled
laughter of hundreds of alumni and visitors, half of whom had no
idea that this was a practical joke, but thought that Burne and
Fred were two varsity sports showing their girl a collegiate
Phyllis's feelings as she was paraded by the Harvard and
Princeton stands, where sat dozens of her former devotees, can be
imagined. She tried to walk a little ahead, she tried to walk a
little behindbut they stayed close, that there should be no doubt
whom she was with, talking in loud voices of their friends on the
football team, until she could almost hear her acquaintances
"Phyllis Styles must be awfully hard up to have to come with
That had been Burne, dynamically humorous, fundamentally serious.
From that root had blossomed the energy that he was now trying to
orient with progress....
So the weeks passed and March came and the clay feet that Amory
looked for failed to appear. About a hundred juniors and seniors
resigned from their clubs in a final fury of righteousness, and
the clubs in helplessness turned upon Burne their finest weapon:
ridicule. Every one who knew him liked himbut what he stood for
(and he began to stand for more all the time) came under the lash
of many tongues, until a frailer man than he would have been
"Don't you mind losing prestige?" asked Amory one night. They had
taken to exchanging calls several times a week.
"Of course I don't. What's prestige, at best?"
"Some people say that you're just a rather original politician."
He roared with laughter.
"That's what Fred Sloane told me to-day. I suppose I have it
One afternoon they dipped into a subject that had interested
Amory for a long timethe matter of the bearing of physical
attributes on a man's make-up. Burne had gone into the biology of
this, and then:
"Of course health countsa healthy man has twice the chance of
being good," he said.
"I don't agree with youI don't believe in 'muscular
"I doI believe Christ had great physical vigor."
"Oh, no," Amory protested. "He worked too hard for that. I
imagine that when he died he was a broken-down manand the great
saints haven't been strong."
"Half of them have."
"Well, even granting that, I don't think health has anything to
do with goodness; of course, it's valuable to a great saint to be
able to stand enormous strains, but this fad of popular preachers
rising on their toes in simulated virility, bellowing that
calisthenics will save the worldno, Burne, I can't go that."
"Well, let's waive itwe won't get anywhere, and besides I haven't
quite made up my mind about it myself. Now, here's something I do
knowpersonal appearance has a lot to do with it."
"Coloring?" Amory asked eagerly.
"That's what Tom and I figured," Amory agreed. "We took the
year-books for the last ten years and looked at the pictures of
the senior council. I know you don't think much of that august
body, but it does represent success here in a general way. Well,
I suppose only about thirty-five per cent of every class here are
blonds, are really lightyet two-thirds of every senior council
are light. We looked at pictures of ten years of them, mind you;
that means that out of every fifteen light-haired men in the
senior class one is on the senior council, and of the dark-haired
men it's only one in fifty."
"It's true," Burne agreed. "The light-haired man is a higher
type, generally speaking. I worked the thing out with the
Presidents of the United States once, and found that way over
half of them were light-hairedyet think of the preponderant
number of brunettes in the race."
People unconsciously admit it," said Amory. "You'll notice a
blond person is expected to talk. If a blond girl doesn't talk we
call her a 'doll'; if a light-haired man is silent he's
considered stupid. Yet the world is full of 'dark silent men' and
'languorous brunettes' who haven't a brain in their heads, but
somehow are never accused of the dearth."
"And the large mouth and broad chin and rather big nose
undoubtedly make the superior face."
"I'm not so sure." Amory was all for classical features.
"Oh, yesI'll show you," and Burne pulled out of his desk a
photographic collection of heavily bearded, shaggy
celebritiesTolstoi, Whitman, Carpenter, and others.
"Aren't they wonderful?"
Amory tried politely to appreciate them, and gave up laughingly.
"Burne, I think they're the ugliest-looking crowd I ever came
across. They look like an old man's home."
"Oh, Amory, look at that forehead on Emerson; look at Tolstoi's
eyes." His tone was reproachful.
Amory shook his head.
"No! Call them remarkable-looking or anything you wantbut ugly
they certainly are."
Unabashed, Burne ran his hand lovingly across the spacious
foreheads, and piling up the pictures put them back in his desk.
Walking at night was one of his favorite pursuits, and one night
he persuaded Amory to accompany him.
"I hate the dark," Amory objected. "I didn't use toexcept when I
was particularly imaginative, but now, I really doI'm a regular
fool about it."
"That's useless, you know."
"We'll go east," Burne suggested, "and down that string of roads
through the woods."
"Doesn't sound very appealing to me," admitted Amory reluctantly,
"but let's go."
They set off at a good gait, and for an hour swung along in a
brisk argument until the lights of Princeton were luminous white
blots behind them.
"Any person with any imagination is bound to be afraid," said
Burne earnestly. And this very walking at night is one of the
things I was afraid about. I'm going to tell you why I can walk
anywhere now and not be afraid."
"Go on," Amory urged eagerly. They were striding toward the
woods, Burne's nervous, enthusiastic voice warming to his
"I used to come out here alone at night, oh, three months ago,
and I always stopped at that cross-road we just passed. There
were the woods looming up ahead, just as they do now, there were
dogs howling and the shadows and no human sound. Of course, I
peopled the woods with everything ghastly, just like you do;
"I do," Amory admitted.
"Well, I began analyzing itmy imagination persisted in sticking
horrors into the darkso I stuck my imagination into the dark
instead, and let it look out at meI let it play stray dog or
escaped convict or ghost, and then saw myself coming along the
road. That made it all rightas it always makes everything all
right to project yourself completely into another's place. I knew
that if I were the dog or the convict or the ghost I wouldn't be
a menace to Burne Holiday any more than he was a menace to me.
Then I thought of my watch. I'd better go back and leave it and
then essay the woods. No; I decided, it's better on the whole
that I should lose a watch than that I should turn backand I did
go into themnot only followed the road through them, but walked
into them until I wasn't frightened any moredid it until one
night I sat down and dozed off in there; then I knew I was
through being afraid of the dark."
"Lordy," Amory breathed. "I couldn't have done that. I'd have
come out half-way, and the first time an automobile passed and
made the dark thicker when its lamps disappeared, I'd have come
"Well," Burne said suddenly, after a few moments' silence, "we're
half-way through, let's turn back."
On the return he launched into a discussion of will.
"It's the whole thing," he asserted. "It's the one dividing line
between good and evil. I've never met a man who led a rotten life
and didn't have a weak will."
"How about great criminals?"
"They're usually insane. If not, they're weak. There is no such
thing as a strong, sane criminal."
"Burne, I disagree with you altogether; how about the superman?"
"He's evil, I think, yet he's strong and sane."
"I've never met him. I'll bet, though, that he's stupid or
"I've met him over and over and he's neither. That's why I think
"I'm sure I'm notand so I don't believe in imprisonment except
for the insane."
On this point Amory could not agree. It seemed to him that life
and history were rife with the strong criminal, keen, but often
self-deluding; in politics and business one found him and among
the old statesmen and kings and generals; but Burne never agreed
and their courses began to split on that point.
Burne was drawing farther and farther away from the world about
him. He resigned the vice-presidency of the senior class and took
to reading and walking as almost his only pursuits. He
voluntarily attended graduate lectures in philosophy and biology,
and sat in all of them with a rather pathetically intent look in
his eyes, as if waiting for something the lecturer would never
quite come to. Sometimes Amory would see him squirm in his seat;
and his face would light up; he was on fire to debate a point.
He grew more abstracted on the street and was even accused of
becoming a snob, but Amory knew it was nothing of the sort, and
once when Burne passed him four feet off, absolutely unseeingly,
his mind a thousand miles away, Amory almost choked with the
romantic joy of watching him. Burne seemed to be climbing heights
where others would be forever unable to get a foothold.
"I tell you," Amory declared to Tom, "he's the first contemporary
I've ever met whom I'll admit is my superior in mental capacity."
"It's a bad time to admit itpeople are beginning to think he's
"He's way over their headsyou know you think so yourself when you
talk to himGood Lord, Tom, you used to stand out against
'people.' Success has completely conventionalized you."
Tom grew rather annoyed.
"What's he trying to dobe excessively holy?"
"No! not like anybody you've ever seen. Never enters the
Philadelphian Society. He has no faith in that rot. He doesn't
believe that public swimming-pools and a kind word in time will
right the wrongs of the world; moreover, he takes a drink
whenever he feels like it."
"He certainly is getting in wrong."
"Have you talked to him lately?"
"Then you haven't any conception of him."
The argument ended nowhere, but Amory noticed more than ever how
the sentiment toward Burne had changed on the campus.
"It's odd," Amory said to Tom one night when they had grown more
amicable on the subject, "that the people who violently
disapprove of Burne's radicalism are distinctly the Pharisee
classI mean they're the best-educated men in collegethe editors
of the papers, like yourself and Ferrenby, the younger
professors.... The illiterate athletes like Langueduc think he's
getting eccentric, but they just say, 'Good old Burne has got
some queer ideas in his head,' and pass onthe Pharisee classGee!
they ridicule him unmercifully."
The next morning he met Burne hurrying along McCosh walk after a
"Whither bound, Tsar?"
"Over to the Prince office to see Ferrenby," he waved a copy of
the morning's Princetonian at Amory. "He wrote this editorial."
"Going to flay him alive?"
"Nobut he's got me all balled up. Either I've misjudged him or
he's suddenly become the world's worst radical."
Burne hurried on, and it was several days before Amory heard an
account of the ensuing conversation. Burne had come into the
editor's sanctum displaying the paper cheerfully.
"Hello there, Savonarola."
"I just read your editorial."
"Good boydidn't know you stooped that low."
"Jesse, you startled me."
"Aren't you afraid the faculty'll get after you if you pull this
"Like this morning."
"What the devilthat editorial was on the coaching system."
"Yes, but that quotation"
Jesse sat up.
"You know: 'He who is not with me is against me.'"
"Wellwhat about it?"
Jesse was puzzled but not alarmed.
"Well, you say herelet me see." Burne opened the paper and read:
"'He who is not with me is against me, as that gentleman said who
was notoriously capable of only coarse distinctions and puerile
"What of it?" Ferrenby began to look alarmed. "Oliver Cromwell
said it, didn't he? or was it Washington, or one of the saints?
Good Lord, I've forgotten."
Burne roared with laughter.
"Oh, Jesse, oh, good, kind Jesse."
"Who said it, for Pete's sake?"
"Well," said Burne, recovering his voice, "St. Matthew attributes
it to Christ."
"My God!" cried Jesse, and collapsed backward into the
AMORY WRITES A POEM
The weeks tore by. Amory wandered occasionally to New York on the
chance of finding a new shining green auto-bus, that its
stick-of-candy glamour might penetrate his disposition. One day
he ventured into a stock-company revival of a play whose name was
faintly familiar. The curtain rosehe watched casually as a girl
entered. A few phrases rang in his ear and touched a faint chord
of memory. Where? When?
Then he seemed to hear a voice whispering beside him, a very
soft, vibrant voice: "Oh, I'm such a poor little fool; do tell me
when I do wrong."
The solution came in a flash and he had a quick, glad memory of
He found a blank space on his programme, and began to scribble
"Here in the figured dark I watch once more,
There, with the curtain, roll the years away;
Two years of yearsthere was an idle day
Of ours, when happy endings didn't bore
Our unfermented souls; I could adore
Your eager face beside me, wide-eyed, gay,
Smiling a repertoire while the poor play
Reached me as a faint ripple reaches shore.
Yawning and wondering an evening through,
I watch alone ... and chatterings, of course,
Spoil the one scene which, somehow, did have charms;
You wept a bit, and I grew sad for you
Right here! Where Mr. X defends divorce
And What's-Her-Name falls fainting in his arms."
"Ghosts are such dumb things," said Alec, "they're slow-witted. I
can always outguess a ghost."
"How?" asked Tom.
"Well, it depends where. Take a bedroom, for example. If you use
any discretion a ghost can never get you in a bedroom.
"Go on, s'pose you think there's maybe a ghost in your
bedroomwhat measures do you take on getting home at night?"
demanded Amory, interested.
"Take a stick" answered Alec, with ponderous reverence, "one
about the length of a broom-handle. Now, the first thing to do is
to get the room clearedto do this you rush with your eyes closed
into your study and turn on the lightsnext, approaching the
closet, carefully run the stick in the door three or four times.
Then, if nothing happens, you can look in. Always, always run the
stick in viciously firstnever look first!"
"Of course, that's the ancient Celtic school," said Tom gravely.
"Yesbut they usually pray first. Anyway, you use this method to
clear the closets and also for behind all doors"
"And the bed," Amory suggested.
"Oh, Amory, no!" cried Alec in horror. "That isn't the waythe bed
requires different tacticslet the bed alone, as you value your
reasonif there is a ghost in the room and that's only about a
third of the time, it is almost always under the bed."
"Well" Amory began.
Alec waved him into silence.
"Of course you never look. You stand in the middle of the floor
and before he knows what you're going to do make a sudden leap
for the bednever walk near the bed; to a ghost your ankle is your
most vulnerable partonce in bed, you're safe; he may lie around
under the bed all night, but you're safe as daylight. If you
still have doubts pull the blanket over your head."
"All that's very interesting, Tom."
"Isn't it?" Alec beamed proudly. "All my own, toothe Sir Oliver
Lodge of the new world."
Amory was enjoying college immensely again. The sense of going
forward in a direct, determined line had come back; youth was
stirring and shaking out a few new feathers. He had even stored
enough surplus energy to sally into a new pose.
"What's the idea of all this 'distracted' stuff, Amory?" asked
Alec one day, and then as Amory pretended to be cramped over his
book in a daze: "Oh, don't try to act Burne, the mystic, to me."
Amory looked up innocently.
"What?" mimicked Alec. "Are you trying to read yourself into a
rhapsody withlet's see the book."
He snatched it; regarded it derisively.
"Well?" said Amory a little stiffly.
"'The Life of St. Teresa,'" read Alec aloud. "Oh, my gosh!"
"Does it bother you?"
"Does what bother me?"
"My acting dazed and all that?"
"Why, noof course it doesn't bother me."
"Well, then, don't spoil it. If I enjoy going around telling
people guilelessly that I think I'm a genius, let me do it."
"You're getting a reputation for being eccentric," said Alec,
laughing, "if that's what you mean."
Amory finally prevailed, and Alec agreed to accept his face value
in the presence of others if he was allowed rest periods when
they were alone; so Amory "ran it out" at a great rate, bringing
the most eccentric characters to dinner, wild-eyed grad students,
preceptors with strange theories of God and government, to the
cynical amazement of the supercilious Cottage Club.
As February became slashed by sun and moved cheerfully into
March, Amory went several times to spend week-ends with
Monsignor; once he took Burne, with great success, for he took
equal pride and delight in displaying them to each other.
Monsignor took him several times to see Thornton Hancock, and
once or twice to the house of a Mrs. Lawrence, a type of
Rome-haunting American whom Amory liked immediately.
Then one day came a letter from Monsignor, which appended an
interesting P. S.:
"Do you know," it ran, "that your third cousin, Clara Page,
widowed six months and very poor, is living in Philadelphia? I
don't think you've ever met her, but I wish, as a favor to me,
you'd go to see her. To my mind, she's rather a remarkable woman,
and just about your age."
Amory sighed and decided to go, as a favor....
She was immemorial.... Amory wasn't good enough for Clara, Clara
of ripply golden hair, but then no man was. Her goodness was
above the prosy morals of the husband-seeker, apart from the dull
literature of female virtue.
Sorrow lay lightly around her, and when Amory found her in
Philadelphia he thought her steely blue eyes held only happiness;
a latent strength, a realism, was brought to its fullest
development by the facts that she was compelled to face. She was
alone in the world, with two small children, little money, and,
worst of all, a host of friends. He saw her that winter in
Philadelphia entertaining a houseful of men for an evening, when
he knew she had not a servant in the house except the little
colored girl guarding the babies overhead. He saw one of the
greatest libertines in that city, a man who was habitually drunk
and notorious at home and abroad, sitting opposite her for an
evening, discussing girls' boarding-schools with a sort of
innocent excitement. What a twist Clara had to her mind! She
could make fascinating and almost brilliant conversation out of
the thinnest air that ever floated through a drawing-room.
The idea that the girl was poverty-stricken had appealed to
Amory's sense of situation. He arrived in Philadelphia expecting
to be told that 921 Ark Street was in a miserable lane of hovels.
He was even disappointed when it proved to be nothing of the
sort. It was an old house that had been in her husband's family
for years. An elderly aunt, who objected to having it sold, had
put ten years' taxes with a lawyer and pranced off to Honolulu,
leaving Clara to struggle with the heating-problem as best she
could. So no wild-haired woman with a hungry baby at her breast
and a sad Amelia-like look greeted him. Instead, Amory would have
thought from his reception that she had not a care in the world.
A calm virility and a dreamy humor, marked contrasts to her
level-headednessinto these moods she slipped sometimes as a
refuge. She could do the most prosy things (though she was wise
enough never to stultify herself with such "household arts" as
knitting and embroidery), yet immediately afterward pick up a
book and let her imagination rove as a formless cloud with the
wind. Deepest of all in her personality was the golden radiance
that she diffused around her. As an open fire in a dark room
throws romance and pathos into the quiet faces at its edge, so
she cast her lights and shadows around the rooms that held her,
until she made of her prosy old uncle a man of quaint and
meditative charm, metamorphosed the stray telegraph boy into a
Puck-like creature of delightful originality. At first this
quality of hers somehow irritated Amory. He considered his own
uniqueness sufficient, and it rather embarrassed him when she
tried to read new interests into him for the benefit of what
other adorers were present. He felt as if a polite but insistent
stage-manager were attempting to make him give a new
interpretation of a part he had conned for years.
But Clara talking, Clara telling a slender tale of a hatpin and
an inebriated man and herself.... People tried afterward to
repeat her anecdotes but for the life of them they could make
them sound like nothing whatever. They gave her a sort of
innocent attention and the best smiles many of them had smiled
for long; there were few tears in Clara, but people smiled
misty-eyed at her.
Very occasionally Amory stayed for little half-hours after the
rest of the court had gone, and they would have bread and jam and
tea late in the afternoon or "maple-sugar lunches," as she called
them, at night.
"You are remarkable, aren't you!" Amory was becoming trite from
where he perched in the centre of the dining-room table one six
"Not a bit," she answered. She was searching out napkins in the
sideboard. "I'm really most humdrum and commonplace. One of those
people who have no interest in anything but their children."
"Tell that to somebody else," scoffed Amory. "You know you're
perfectly effulgent." He asked her the one thing that he knew
might embarrass her. It was the remark that the first bore made
"Tell me about yourself." And she gave the answer that Adam must
"There's nothing to tell."
But eventually Adam probably told the bore all the things he
thought about at night when the locusts sang in the sandy grass,
and he must have remarked patronizingly how different he was from
Eve, forgetting how different she was from him ... at any rate,
Clara told Amory much about herself that evening. She had had a
harried life from sixteen on, and her education had stopped
sharply with her leisure. Browsing in her library, Amory found a
tattered gray book out of which fell a yellow sheet that he
impudently opened. It was a poem that she had written at school
about a gray convent wall on a gray day, and a girl with her
cloak blown by the wind sitting atop of it and thinking about the
many-colored world. As a rule such sentiment bored him, but this
was done with so much simplicity and atmosphere, that it brought
a picture of Clara to his mind, of Clara on such a cool, gray day
with her keen blue eyes staring out, trying to see her tragedies
come marching over the gardens outside. He envied that poem. How
he would have loved to have come along and seen her on the wall
and talked nonsense or romance to her, perched above him in the
air. He began to be frightfully jealous of everything about
Clara: of her past, of her babies, of the men and women who
flocked to drink deep of her cool kindness and rest their tired
minds as at an absorbing play.
"Nobody seems to bore you," he objected.
"About half the world do," she admitted, "but I think that's a
pretty good average, don't you?" and she turned to find something
in Browning that bore on the subject. She was the only person he
ever met who could look up passages and quotations to show him in
the middle of the conversation, and yet not be irritating to
distraction. She did it constantly, with such a serious
enthusiasm that he grew fond of watching her golden hair bent
over a book, brow wrinkled ever so little at hunting her
Through early March he took to going to Philadelphia for
week-ends. Almost always there was some one else there and she
seemed not anxious to see him alone, for many occasions presented
themselves when a word from her would have given him another
delicious half-hour of adoration. But he fell gradually in love
and began to speculate wildly on marriage. Though this design
flowed through his brain even to his lips, still he knew
afterward that the desire had not been deeply rooted. Once he
dreamt that it had come true and woke up in a cold panic, for in
his dream she had been a silly, flaxen Clara, with the gold gone
out of her hair and platitudes falling insipidly from her
changeling tongue. But she was the first fine woman he ever knew
and one of the few good people who ever interested him. She made
her goodness such an asset. Amory had decided that most good
people either dragged theirs after them as a liability, or else
distorted it to artificial geniality, and of course there were
the ever-present prig and Pharisee(but Amory never included them
as being among the saved).
"Over her gray and velvet dress,
Under her molten, beaten hair,
Color of rose in mock distress
Flushes and fades and makes her fair;
Fills the air from her to him
With light and languor and little sighs,
Just so subtly he scarcely knows...
Laughing lightning, color of rose."
"Do you like me?"
"Of course I do," said Clara seriously.
"Well, we have some qualities in common. Things that are
spontaneous in each of usor were originally."
"You're implying that I haven't used myself very well?"
"Well, I can't judge. A man, of course, has to go through a lot
more, and I've been sheltered."
"Oh, don't stall, please, Clara," Amory interrupted; "but do talk
about me a little, won't you?"
"Surely, I'd adore to." She didn't smile.
"That's sweet of you. First answer some questions. Am I painfully
"Wellno, you have tremendous vanity, but it'll amuse the people
who notice its preponderance."
"You're really humble at heart. You sink to the third hell of
depression when you think you've been slighted. In fact, you
haven't much self-respect."
"Centre of target twice, Clara. How do you do it? You never let
me say a word."
"Of course notI can never judge a man while he's talking. But I'm
not through; the reason you have so little real self-confidence,
even though you gravely announce to the occasional philistine
that you think you're a genius, is that you've attributed all
sorts of atrocious faults to yourself and are trying to live up
to them. For instance, you're always saying that you are a slave
"But I am, potentially."
"And you say you're a weak character, that you've no will."
"Not a bit of willI'm a slave to my emotions, to my likes, to my
hatred of boredom, to most of my desires"
"You are not!" She brought one little fist down onto the other.
"You're a slave, a bound helpless slave to one thing in the
world, your imagination."
"You certainly interest me. If this isn't boring you, go on."
"I notice that when you want to stay over an extra day from
college you go about it in a sure way. You never decide at first
while the merits of going or staying are fairly clear in your
mind. You let your imagination shinny on the side of your desires
for a few hours, and then you decide. Naturally your imagination,
after a little freedom, thinks up a million reasons why you
should stay, so your decision when it comes isn't true. It's
"Yes," objected Amory, "but isn't it lack of will-power to let my
imagination shinny on the wrong side?"
"My dear boy, there's your big mistake. This has nothing to do
with will-power; that's a crazy, useless word, anyway; you lack
judgmentthe judgment to decide at once when you know your
imagination will play you false, given half a chance."
"Well, I'll be darned!" exclaimed Amory in surprise, "that's the
last thing I expected."
Clara didn't gloat. She changed the subject immediately. But she
had started him thinking and he believed she was partly right. He
felt like a factory-owner who after accusing a clerk of
dishonesty finds that his own son, in the office, is changing the
books once a week. His poor, mistreated will that he had been
holding up to the scorn of himself and his friends, stood before
him innocent, and his judgment walked off to prison with the
unconfinable imp, imagination, dancing in mocking glee beside
him. Clara's was the only advice he ever asked without dictating
the answer himselfexcept, perhaps, in his talks with Monsignor
How he loved to do any sort of thing with Clara! Shopping with
her was a rare, epicurean dream. In every store where she had
ever traded she was whispered about as the beautiful Mrs. Page.
"I'll bet she won't stay single long."
"Well, don't scream it out. She ain't lookin' for no advice."
"Ain't she beautiful!" (Enter a floor-walkersilence till
he moves forward, smirking.)
"Society person, ain't she?"
"Yeah, but poor now, I guess; so they say."
"Gee! girls, ain't she some kid!"
And Clara beamed on all alike. Amory believed that tradespeople
gave her discounts, sometimes to her knowledge and sometimes
without it. He knew she dressed very well, had always the best of
everything in the house, and was inevitably waited upon by the
head floor-walker at the very least.
Sometimes they would go to church together on Sunday and he would
walk beside her and revel in her cheeks moist from the soft water
in the new air. She was very devout, always had been, and God
knows what heights she attained and what strength she drew down
to herself when she knelt and bent her golden hair into the
"St. Cecelia," he cried aloud one day, quite involuntarily, and
the people turned and peered, and the priest paused in his sermon
and Clara and Amory turned to fiery red.
That was the last Sunday they had, for he spoiled it all that
night. He couldn't help it.
They were walking through the March twilight where it was as warm
as June, and the joy of youth filled his soul so that he felt he
"I think," he said and his voice trembled, "that if I lost faith
in you I'd lose faith in God."
She looked at him with such a startled face that he asked her the
"Nothing," she said slowly, "only this: five men have said that
to me before, and it frightens me."
"Oh, Clara, is that your fate!"
She did not answer.
"I suppose love to you is" he began.
She turned like a flash.
"I have never been in love."
They walked along, and he realized slowly how much she had told
him ... never in love.... She seemed suddenly a daughter of light
alone. His entity dropped out of her plane and he longed only to
touch her dress with almost the realization that Joseph must have
had of Mary's eternal significance. But quite mechanically he
heard himself saying:
"And I love youany latent greatness that I've got is ... oh, I
can't talk, but Clara, if I come back in two years in a position
to marry you"
She shook her head.
"No," she said; "I'd never marry again. I've got my two children
and I want myself for them. I like youI like all clever men, you
more than anybut you know me well enough to know that I'd never
marry a clever man" She broke off suddenly.
"You're not in love with me. You never wanted to marry me, did
"It was the twilight," he said wonderingly. "I didn't feel as
though I were speaking aloud. But I love youor adore youor
"There you gorunning through your catalogue of emotions in five
He smiled unwillingly.
"Don't make me out such a light-weight, Clara; you are depressing
"You're not a light-weight, of all things," she said intently,
taking his arm and opening wide her eyeshe could see their
kindliness in the fading dusk. "A light-weight is an eternal
"There's so much spring in the airthere's so much lazy sweetness
in your heart."
She dropped his arm.
"You're all fine now, and I feel glorious. Give me a cigarette.
You've never seen me smoke, have you? Well, I do, about once a
And then that wonderful girl and Amory raced to the corner like
two mad children gone wild with pale-blue twilight.
"I'm going to the country for to-morrow," she announced, as she
stood panting, safe beyond the flare of the corner lamp-post.
"These days are too magnificent to miss, though perhaps I feel
them more in the city."
"Oh, Clara!" Amory said; "what a devil you could have been if the
Lord had just bent your soul a little the other way!"
"Maybe," she answered; "but I think not. I'm never really wild
and never have been. That little outburst was pure spring."
"And you are, too," said he.
They were walking along now.
"Noyou're wrong again, how can a person of your own self-reputed
brains be so constantly wrong about me? I'm the opposite of
everything spring ever stood for. It's unfortunate, if I happen
to look like what pleased some soppy old Greek sculptor, but I
assure you that if it weren't for my face I'd be a quiet nun in
the convent without"then she broke into a run and her raised
voice floated back to him as he followed"my precious babies,
which I must go back and see."
She was the only girl he ever knew with whom he could understand
how another man might be preferred. Often Amory met wives whom he
had known as dibutantes, and looking intently at them imagined
that he found something in their faces which said:
"Oh, if I could only have gotten you!" Oh, the enormous conceit
of the man!
But that night seemed a night of stars and singing and Clara's
bright soul still gleamed on the ways they had trod.
"Golden, golden is the air" he chanted to the little pools of
water.... "Golden is the air, golden notes from golden mandolins,
golden frets of golden violins, fair, oh, wearily fair.... Skeins
from braided basket, mortals may not hold; oh, what young
extravagant God, who would know or ask it?... who could give such
AMORY IS RESENTFUL
Slowly and inevitably, yet with a sudden surge at the last, while
Amory talked and dreamed, war rolled swiftly up the beach and
washed the sands where Princeton played. Every night the
gymnasium echoed as platoon after platoon swept over the floor
and shuffled out the basket-ball markings. When Amory went to
Washington the next week-end he caught some of the spirit of
crisis which changed to repulsion in the Pullman car coming back,
for the berths across from him were occupied by stinking
aliensGreeks, he guessed, or Russians. He thought how much easier
patriotism had been to a homogeneous race, how much easier it
would have been to fight as the Colonies fought, or as the
Confederacy fought. And he did no sleeping that night, but
listened to the aliens guffaw and snore while they filled the car
with the heavy scent of latest America.
In Princeton every one bantered in public and told themselves
privately that their deaths at least would be heroic. The
literary students read Rupert Brooke passionately; the
lounge-lizards worried over whether the government would permit
the English-cut uniform for officers; a few of the hopelessly
lazy wrote to the obscure branches of the War Department, seeking
an easy commission and a soft berth.
Then, after a week, Amory saw Burne and knew at once that
argument would be futileBurne had come out as a pacifist. The
socialist magazines, a great smattering of Tolstoi, and his own
intense longing for a cause that would bring out whatever
strength lay in him, had finally decided him to preach peace as a
"When the German army entered Belgium," he began, "if the
inhabitants had gone peaceably about their business, the German
army would have been disorganized in"
"I know," Amory interrupted, "I've heard it all. But I'm not
going to talk propaganda with you. There's a chance that you're
rightbut even so we're hundreds of years before the time when
non-resistance can touch us as a reality."
"But, Amory, listen"
"Burne, we'd just argue"
"Just one thingI don't ask you to think of your family or
friends, because I know they don't count a picayune with you
beside your sense of dutybut, Burne, how do you know that the
magazines you read and the societies you join and these idealists
you meet aren't just plain German?"
"Some of them are, of course."
"How do you know they aren't all pro-Germanjust a lot of weak
oneswith German-Jewish names."
"That's the chance, of course," he said slowly. "How much or how
little I'm taking this stand because of propaganda I've heard, I
don't know; naturally I think that it's my most innermost
convictionit seems a path spread before me just now."
Amory's heart sank.
"But think of the cheapness of itno one's really going to martyr
you for being a pacifistit's just going to throw you in with the
"I doubt it," he interrupted.
"Well, it all smells of Bohemian New York to me."
"I know what you mean, and that's why I'm not sure I'll agitate."
"You're one man, Burne going to talk to people who won't
listen with all God's given you."
"That's what Stephen must have thought many years ago. But he
preached his sermon and they killed him. He probably thought as
he was dying what a waste it all was. But you see, I've always
felt that Stephen's death was the thing that occurred to Paul on
the road to Damascus, and sent him to preach the word of Christ
all over the world."
"That's allthis is my particular duty. Even if right now I'm just
a pawnjust sacrificed. God! Amoryyou don't think I like the
"Well, I can't say anything elseI get to the end of all the logic
about non-resistance, and there, like an excluded middle, stands
the huge spectre of man as he is and always will be. And this
spectre stands right beside the one logical necessity of
Tolstoi's, and the other logical necessity of Nietzsche's" Amory
broke off suddenly. "When are you going?"
"I'm going next week."
"I'll see you, of course."
As he walked away it seemed to Amory that the look in his face
bore a great resemblance to that in Kerry's when he had said
good-by under Blair Arch two years before. Amory wondered
unhappily why he could never go into anything with the primal
honesty of those two.
"Burne's a fanatic," he said to Tom, "and he's dead wrong and,
I'm inclined to think, just an unconscious pawn in the hands of
anarchistic publishers and German-paid rag waversbut he haunts
mejust leaving everything worth while"
Burne left in a quietly dramatic manner a week later. He sold all
his possessions and came down to the room to say good-by, with a
battered old bicycle, on which he intended to ride to his home in
"Peter the Hermit bidding farewell to Cardinal Richelieu,"
suggested Alec, who was lounging in the window-seat as Burne and
Amory shook hands.
But Amory was not in a mood for that, and as he saw Burne's long
legs propel his ridiculous bicycle out of sight beyond Alexander
Hall, he knew he was going to have a bad week. Not that he
doubted the warGermany stood for everything repugnant to him; for
materialism and the direction of tremendous licentious force; it
was just that Burne's face stayed in his memory and he was sick
of the hysteria he was beginning to hear.
"What on earth is the use of suddenly running down Goethe," he
declared to Alec and Tom. "Why write books to prove he started
the waror that that stupid, overestimated Schiller is a demon in
"Have you ever read anything of theirs?" asked Tom shrewdly.
"No," Amory admitted.
"Neither have I," he said laughing.
"People will shout," said Alec quietly, "but Goethe's on his same
old shelf in the libraryto bore any one that wants to read him!"
Amory subsided, and the subject dropped.
"What are you going to do, Amory?"
"Infantry or aviation, I can't make up my mindI hate mechanics,
but then of course aviation's the thing for me"
"I feel as Amory does," said Tom. "Infantry or aviationaviation
sounds like the romantic side of the war, of courselike cavalry
used to be, you know; but like Amory I don't know a horse-power
from a piston-rod."
Somehow Amory's dissatisfaction with his lack of enthusiasm
culminated in an attempt to put the blame for the whole war on
the ancestors of his generation ... all the people who cheered
for Germany in 1870.... All the materialists rampant, all the
idolizers of German science and efficiency. So he sat one day in
an English lecture and heard "Locksley Hall" quoted and fell into
a brown study with contempt for Tennyson and all he stood forfor
he took him as a representative of the Victorians.
"Victorians, Victorians, who never learned to weep
Who sowed the bitter harvest that your children go to reap"
scribbled Amory in his note-book. The lecturer was saying
something about Tennyson's solidity and fifty heads were bent to
take notes. Amory turned over to a fresh page and began scrawling
"They shuddered when they found what Mr. Darwin was about,
They shuddered when the waltz came in and Newman hurried out"
But the waltz came in much earlier; he crossed that out.
"And entitled A Song in the Time of Order," came the professor's
voice, droning far away. "Time of Order"Good Lord! Everything
crammed in the box and the Victorians sitting on the lid smiling
serenely.... With Browning in his Italian villa crying bravely:
"All's for the best." Amory scribbled again.
"You knelt up in the temple and he bent to hear you pray,
You thanked him for your 'glorious gains'reproached him for
Why could he never get more than a couplet at a time? Now he
needed something to rhyme with:
"You would keep Him straight with science, tho He had gone wrong
"You met your children in your home'I've fixed it up!" you cried,
Took your fifty years of Europe, and then virtuouslydied."
"That was to a great extent Tennyson's idea," came the lecturer's
voice. "Swinburne's Song in the Time of Order might well have
been Tennyson's title. He idealized order against chaos, against
At last Amory had it. He turned over another page and scrawled
vigorously for the twenty minutes that was left of the hour. Then
he walked up to the desk and deposited a page torn out of his
"Here's a poem to the Victorians, sir," he said coldly.
The professor picked it up curiously while Amory backed rapidly
through the door.
Here is what he had written:
"Songs in the time of order
You left for us to sing,
Proofs with excluded middles,
Answers to life in rhyme,
Keys of the prison warder
And ancient bells to ring,
Time was the end of riddles,
We were the end of time...
Here were domestic oceans
And a sky that we might reach,
Guns and a guarded border,
Gantletsbut not to fling,
Thousands of old emotions
And a platitude for each,
Songs in the time of order
And tongues, that we might sing."
THE END OF MANY THINGS
Early April slipped by in a hazea haze of long evenings on the
club veranda with the graphophone playing "Poor Butterfly" inside
... for "Poor Butterfly" had been the song of that last year. The
war seemed scarcely to touch them and it might have been one of
the senior springs of the past, except for the drilling every
other afternoon, yet Amory realized poignantly that this was the
last spring under the old rigime.
"This is the great protest against the superman," said Amory.
"I suppose so," Alec agreed.
"He's absolutely irreconcilable with any Utopia. As long as he
occurs, there's trouble and all the latent evil that makes a
crowd list and sway when he talks."
"And of course all that he is is a gifted man without a moral
"That's all. I think the worst thing to contemplate is thisit's
all happened before, how soon will it happen again? Fifty years
after Waterloo Napoleon was as much a hero to English school
children as Wellington. How do we know our grandchildren won't
idolize Von Hindenburg the same way?"
"What brings it about?"
"Time, damn it, and the historian. If we could only learn to look
on evil as evil, whether it's clothed in filth or monotony or
"God! Haven't we raked the universe over the coals for four
Then the night came that was to be the last. Tom and Amory, bound
in the morning for different training-camps, paced the shadowy
walks as usual and seemed still to see around them the faces of
the men they knew.
"The grass is full of ghosts to-night."
"The whole campus is alive with them."
They paused by Little and watched the moon rise, to make silver
of the slate roof of Dodd and blue the rustling trees.
"You know," whispered Tom, "what we feel now is the sense of all
the gorgeous youth that has rioted through here in two hundred
A last burst of singing flooded up from Blair Archbroken voices
for some long parting.
"And what we leave here is more than this class; it's the whole
heritage of youth. We're just one generationwe're breaking all
the links that seemed to bind us here to top-booted and
high-stocked generations. We've walked arm and arm with Burr and
Light-Horse Harry Lee through half these deep-blue nights."
"That's what they are," Tom tangented off, "deep bluea bit of
color would spoil them, make them exotic. Spires, against a sky
that's a promise of dawn, and blue light on the slate roofsit
hurts ... rather"
"Good-by, Aaron Burr," Amory called toward deserted Nassau Hall,
"you and I knew strange corners of life."
His voice echoed in the stillness.
"The torches are out," whispered Tom. "Ah, Messalina, the long
shadows are building minarets on the stadium"
For an instant the voices of freshman year surged around them and
then they looked at each other with faint tears in their eyes.
The last light fades and drifts across the landthe low, long
land, the sunny land of spires; the ghosts of evening tune again
their lyres and wander singing in a plaintive band down the long
corridors of trees; pale fires echo the night from tower top to
tower: Oh, sleep that dreams, and dream that never tires, press
from the petals of the lotus flower something of this to keep,
the essence of an hour.
No more to wait the twilight of the moon in this sequestered vale
of star and spire, for one eternal morning of desire passes to
time and earthy afternoon. Here, Heraclitus, did you find in fire
and shifting things the prophecy you hurled down the dead years;
this midnight my desire will see, shadowed among the embers,
furled in flame, the splendor and the sadness of the world.
May, 1917-February, 1919
A letter dated January, 1918, written by Monsignor Darcy to
Amory, who is a second lieutenant in the 171st Infantry, Port of
Embarkation, Camp Mills, Long Island.
MY DEAR BOY:
All you need tell me of yourself is that you still are; for the
rest I merely search back in a restive memory, a thermometer that
records only fevers, and match you with what I was at your age.
But men will chatter and you and I will still shout our
futilities to each other across the stage until the last silly
curtain falls plump! upon our bobbing heads. But you are starting
the spluttering magic-lantern show of life with much the same
array of slides as I had, so I need to write you if only to
shriek the colossal stupidity of people....
This is the end of one thing: for better or worse you will never
again be quite the Amory Blaine that I knew, never again will we
meet as we have met, because your generation is growing hard,
much harder than mine ever grew, nourished as they were on the
stuff of the nineties.
Amory, lately I reread Fschylus and there in the divine irony of
the "Agamemnon" I find the only answer to this bitter ageall the
world tumbled about our ears, and the closest parallel ages back
in that hopeless resignation. There are times when I think of the
men out there as Roman legionaries, miles from their corrupt
city, stemming back the hordes ... hordes a little more menacing,
after all, than the corrupt city ... another blind blow at the
race, furies that we passed with ovations years ago, over whose
corpses we bleated triumphantly all through the Victorian era....
And afterward an out-and-out materialistic worldand the Catholic
Church. I wonder where you'll fit in. Of one thing I'm sureCeltic
you'll live and Celtic you'll die; so if you don't use heaven as
a continual referendum for your ideas you'll find earth a
continual recall to your ambitions.
Amory, I've discovered suddenly that I'm an old man. Like all old
men, I've had dreams sometimes and I'm going to tell you of them.
I've enjoyed imagining that you were my son, that perhaps when I
was young I went into a state of coma and begat you, and when I
came to, had no recollection of it ... it's the paternal
instinct, Amorycelibacy goes deeper than the flesh....
Sometimes I think that the explanation of our deep resemblance is
some common ancestor, and I find that the only blood that the
Darcys and the O'Haras have in common is that of the O'Donahues
... Stephen was his name, I think....
When the lightning strikes one of us it strikes both: you had
hardly arrived at the port of embarkation when I got my papers to
start for Rome, and I am waiting every moment to be told where to
take ship. Even before you get this letter I shall be on the
ocean; then will come your turn. You went to war as a gentleman
should, just as you went to school and college, because it was
the thing to do. It's better to leave the blustering and
tremulo-heroism to the middle classes; they do it so much better.
Do you remember that week-end last March when you brought Burne
Holiday from Princeton to see me? What a magnificent boy he is!
It gave me a frightful shock afterward when you wrote that he
thought me splendid; how could he be so deceived? Splendid is the
one thing that neither you nor I are. We are many other
thingswe're extraordinary, we're clever, we could be said, I
suppose, to be brilliant. We can attract people, we can make
atmosphere, we can almost lose our Celtic souls in Celtic
subtleties, we can almost always have our own way; but
I am going to Rome with a wonderful dossier and letters of
introduction that cover every capital in Europe, and there will
be "no small stir" when I get there. How I wish you were with me!
This sounds like a rather cynical paragraph, not at all the sort
of thing that a middle-aged clergyman should write to a youth
about to depart for the war; the only excuse is that the
middle-aged clergyman is talking to himself. There are deep
things in us and you know what they are as well as I do. We have
great faith, though yours at present is uncrystallized; we have a
terrible honesty that all our sophistry cannot destroy and, above
all, a childlike simplicity that keeps us from ever being really
I have written a keen for you which follows. I am sorry your
cheeks are not up to the description I have written of them, but
you will smoke and read all night
At any rate here it is:
A Lament for a Foster Son, and He going to the War Against the
King of Foreign.
He is gone from me the son of my mind
And he in his golden youth like Angus Oge
Angus of the bright birds
And his mind strong and subtle like the mind of Cuchulin on
His brow is as white as the milk of the cows of Maeve
And his cheeks like the cherries of the tree
And it bending down to Mary and she feeding the Son of God.
His hair is like the golden collar of the Kings at Tara
And his eyes like the four gray seas of Erin.
And they swept with the mists of rain.
Mavrone go Gudyo
He to be in the joyful and red battle
Amongst the chieftains and they doing great deeds of valor
His life to go from him
It is the chords of my own soul would be loosed.
A Vich Deelish
My heart is in the heart of my son
And my life is in his life surely
A man can be twice young
In the life of his sons only.
Jia du Vaha Alanav
May the Son of God be above him and beneath him, before him and
May the King of the elements cast a mist over the eyes of the
King of Foreign,
May the Queen of the Graces lead him by the hand the way he can
go through the midst of his enemies and they not seeing him
May Patrick of the Gael and Collumb of the Churches and the five
thousand Saints of Erin be better than a shield to him
And he go into the fight.
AmoryAmoryI feel, somehow, that this is all; one or both of us is
not going to last out this war.... I've been trying to tell you
how much this reincarnation of myself in you has meant in the
last few years ... curiously alike we are ... curiously unlike.
Good-by, dear boy, and God be with you. THAYER DARCY.
EMBARKING AT NIGHT
Amory moved forward on the deck until he found a stool under an
electric light. He searched in his pocket for note-book and
pencil and then began to write, slowly, laboriously:
"We leave to-night...
Silent, we filled the still, deserted street,
A column of dim gray,
And ghosts rose startled at the muffled beat
Along the moonless way;
The shadowy shipyards echoed to the feet
That turned from night and day.
And so we linger on the windless decks,
See on the spectre shore
Shades of a thousand days, poor gray-ribbed wrecks...
Oh, shall we then deplore
Those futile years!
See how the sea is white!
The clouds have broken and the heavens burn
To hollow highways, paved with gravelled light
The churning of the waves about the stern
Rises to one voluminous nocturne,
...We leave to-night."
A letter from Amory, headed "Brest, March 11th, 1919," to
Lieutenant T. P. D'Invilliers, Camp Gordon, Ga.
We meet in Manhattan on the 30th of this very mo.; we then
proceed to take a very sporty apartment, you and I and Alec, who
is at me elbow as I write. I don't know what I'm going to do but
I have a vague dream of going into politics. Why is it that the
pick of the young Englishmen from Oxford and Cambridge go into
politics and in the U. S. A. we leave it to the muckers?raised in
the ward, educated in the assembly and sent to Congress,
fat-paunched bundles of corruption, devoid of "both ideas and
ideals" as the debaters used to say. Even forty years ago we had
good men in politics, but we, we are brought up to pile up a
million and "show what we are made of." Sometimes I wish I'd been
an Englishman; American life is so damned dumb and stupid and
Since poor Beatrice died I'll probably have a little money, but
very darn little. I can forgive mother almost everything except
the fact that in a sudden burst of religiosity toward the end,
she left half of what remained to be spent in stained-glass
windows and seminary endowments. Mr. Barton, my lawyer, writes me
that my thousands are mostly in street railways and that the said
Street R.R.s are losing money because of the five-cent fares.
Imagine a salary list that gives $350 a month to a man that can't
read and write!yet I believe in it, even though I've seen what
was once a sizable fortune melt away between speculation,
extravagance, the democratic administration, and the income
taxmodern, that's me all over, Mabel.
At any rate we'll have really knock-out roomsyou can get a job on
some fashion magazine, and Alec can go into the Zinc Company or
whatever it is that his people ownhe's looking over my shoulder
and he says it's a brass company, but I don't think it matters
much, do you? There's probably as much corruption in zinc-made
money as brass-made money. As for the well-known Amory, he would
write immortal literature if he were sure enough about anything
to risk telling any one else about it. There is no more dangerous
gift to posterity than a few cleverly turned platitudes.
Tom, why don't you become a Catholic? Of course to be a good one
you'd have to give up those violent intrigues you used to tell me
about, but you'd write better poetry if you were linked up to
tall golden candlesticks and long, even chants, and even if the
American priests are rather burgeois, as Beatrice used to say,
still you need only go to the sporty churches, and I'll introduce
you to Monsignor Darcy who really is a wonder.
Kerry's death was a blow, so was Jesse's to a certain extent. And
I have a great curiosity to know what queer corner of the world
has swallowed Burne. Do you suppose he's in prison under some
false name? I confess that the war instead of making me orthodox,
which is the correct reaction, has made me a passionate agnostic.
The Catholic Church has had its wings clipped so often lately
that its part was timidly negligible, and they haven't any good
writers any more. I'm sick of Chesterton.
I've only discovered one soldier who passed through the
much-advertised spiritual crisis, like this fellow, Donald
Hankey, and the one I knew was already studying for the ministry,
so he was ripe for it. I honestly think that's all pretty much
rot, though it seemed to give sentimental comfort to those at
home; and may make fathers and mothers appreciate their children.
This crisis-inspired religion is rather valueless and fleeting at
best. I think four men have discovered Paris to one that
But usyou and me and Alecoh, we'll get a Jap butler and dress for
dinner and have wine on the table and lead a contemplative,
emotionless life until we decide to use machine-guns with the
property ownersor throw bombs with the Bolshevik God! Tom, I hope
something happens. I'm restless as the devil and have a horror of
getting fat or falling in love and growing domestic.
The place at Lake Geneva is now for rent but when I land I'm
going West to see Mr. Barton and get some details. Write me care
of the Blackstone, Chicago.
S'ever, dear Boswell,