An Anarchist Woman by Hutchins Hapgood, New York: Duffield & Company, 1909.
An Anarchist Woman
On account of the irregularity of her life, Marie lost job after job. Her relations with her mother, never good, grew worse and worse. Her profound need of experience, in which the demand of the senses and the curiosity of the mind were equally represented, impelled her to act after act of recklessness and abandon. But, as in almost all, perhaps all, human beings, 'there was in her soul a need of justification-of social justification, no matter how few persons constituted the approving group.
The feeling that everybody was against her, that she was on the road to being what the world calls an outcast, gave to her life an element of sullenness and of despair. Perhaps this added depth to her dissipation, but it took away from it all quality of joy as well as of peace. If her sensuality and her despair had been all there was in her, or if these had constituted her main characteristics, this story would never have been written. Perhaps another tale might have been told, but it would have been the story of a submerged class, not prostitutes, white slaves; and then it would have been the story of a submerged class, not of an individual temperament.
What was it that kept Marie in all really essential ways out of this class of social victims? It was because, in the first place, of the fact that her nature demanded something better than what the life of the prostitute afforded. And it was natural that the greater quality of personality that she possessed should attract the kind of love and social support needed essentially to justify to herself her instincts. When she was very young Marie secured the genuine love of two strong and remarkable personalities; and at a later time, there gathered about these three, other people who enlarged the group, which gave to each member of it the social support needed to remove essential despair and desperate self-disapproval.
One of these two persons so necessary to Marie's larger life was a woman whom she had met several years previous to this point in the story.
This woman was a cook, Katie by name. She was born in Germany, and her young girlhood was spent in the old country. She had only a rudimentary education, and even now speaks broken English. But she was endowed with a healthy, independent nature, a spontaneous wit, and a strong demand to take care of something and to love.
As natural as a young 'dog, she never thought of resisting a normal impulse. Her life as a girl in Germany was as free and untrammelled as a happy breeze. She lived in a little garrison town in the South, and the German soldiers did no essential harm to her and the other young girls of the place. These things were deemed laws of nature in her community. What would have been dreadful harm to a young American girl was only an occasional moment of anxiety to her. It never occurred to her that it was possible to resist a man. "I had to," she said, very simply, and did not seem to regret it any more than that she was compelled to eat. She is also very fond of her food.
She came to America and worked as cook in private families. She was capable and strong and was never out of a job. She never took any "sass" from her mistress; in this respect she was quite up to date among American "help."
At the time she first met Marie she had been working for a family several years, and had reduced her employer to a state of wholesome awe. She remained, like a queen, in the kitchen, whence she banished all objectionable intruders. Her mistress had a married daughter, also living in the house, who at first was wont to give orders to Katie, and to interfere with her generally. One day Katie drove her out of the kitchen with a volley of broken English. The daughter complained to the mother, who took Katie's side. "You don't belong in the kitchen," she said to her indignant daughter.
This episode filled Katie with contempt for her mistress.
"She ought to have taken her 'daughter's side against me," she said, "you bet I would have, if I had been in her place."
The daughter had two young children. It was to take care of them that Marie came into the household. Marie's mistress liked to stay in bed and read novels, and this experience is the one described by Marie in an earlier chapter, how she locked herself and the children in the store-room and read her mistress's books.
Katie fell in love with Marie almost at once. She was fifteen years older than the young girl and as she had never had any children, all the instinctive love of an unusually instinctive nature seemed to be given to Marie. She saw that Marie was not practical or energetic, and this probably intensified the interest felt by the more active and capable woman. She took the young girl under her wing, and has been, and is, as entirely devoted to her as mothers sometimes are to their children.
The German cook was about thirty years old at that time and had never loved a man, though she had had plenty of temporary and merely instinctive relations with the other sex. So it was her entire capacity for love, maternal and other, that she gave to Marie.
Almost at once Katie began to treat Marie as her ward. She took her side against her mistress, when the latter scolded the girl on account of her indolence or slowness. "Marie is so young," she would say, "almost a child; and we ought to go easy on her." She also looked after Marie's morals and tried to prevent her being out late at night. This kind of care had its amusing side, as Katie herself was none too strict about herself in this regard.
For instance, Katie fancied the butcher's boy who used to come to the kitchen every day with meat. He was only sixteen, and quite inexperienced in the ways of the world.
"I did him no harm," said Katie. "But I taught him everything there was to know. My life was so monotonous and I worked so hard then that I had to have him. I absolutely had to, but I think I did him no harm and he was certainly my salvation. But I didn't let Marie know anything about it. She was too young. When she found out, years afterwards, she was quite cross with me about it."
This kind of relation existed between Katie and Marie for several years. About the time the girl went to Kenilworth and had her idyllic experience, Katie married. Nick was a good sort of a man, easy and happy, and a sober and constant labourer. Katie had saved some money, in her careful German way, had even a bank-account of several hundred dollars. It was not an exciting marriage; neither of them was very young or very much in love, at least Katie was not, but it was a good marriage of convenience, so to speak, and it might have lasted if it had not been, as we shall see, for Marie, and Katie's affection for her.
When Marie started in on her career of wildness, Katie and Nick, her husband, had a little home together. Into this home. Marie was always welcomed by Katie, but Nick was not so cordial. They knew about the girl's looseness, and in their tolerant Southern German way, they did not so much mind that, and !Katie was distinctly sympathetic: Marie was old enough now, she thought. But Nick did not like the hold the girl had on Katie's affection.
"You'll leave me for her, sometime," he would say to his wife, ominously. Katie would laugh and call him an old fool. She couldn't foresee the circumstances that would one day realise her husband's fears.
It was about this time that Marie met the man who has influenced her more deeply than anyone else or anything else in her life, who gave her a social philosophy, though to be sure what would seem to most people a thoroughly perverse and subversive social philosophy; but by means of which she had a social background, and a saving justification -was saved from being a mere outcast.
Terry, at the time he and Marie met, was about thirty-five years old and an accomplished and confirmed social rebel. He had worked for many years -at his trade, and was an expert tanner. But, deeply sensitive to the injustice of organised society, he had quit work and had become what he called an anarchist. His character was at that time quite formed, while the young girl's was not. It was he who was to be the most important factor in the conscious part of her education. But to explain his influence on Marie, it is necessary to explain him,-his character, and a part of his previous history.