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conversation is lacking in any pretense liberty from the prickly contact of of newness. One need not resent this real thought. They are as tranquilizas an absence of artifice. Nothing is ing as a geranium. more trying than talk that strains to The real crisis for any of us is in that produce new tricks. It has been moment when the great new idea proved that small talk, like small knocks at the door of the mind. It change, is indispensable. New forms may be only a tapping. It may have of ordinary solution would be appall- a thunder in it. At first, perhaps, ing, and we all understand that when while we are interrogating, it gets only one asks, "What's new?" he does n't one toe inside the door, so that we cannecessarily wish to know. A new not slam a rejection. Some people way of saying "How are you?" might have safety-chains on all their mental elicit absolutely disastrous detail. We doors. The idea may come in the should, I think, make some allow- robes of art.
robes of art. Art, “style,” are only ance for this in estimating the conver- the clothing, the expression of ideas, sation, so-called, that is incidental to and all ideas do not come in the garb purely social adventure. When Rémy of conscious device. The challenge de Gourmont declares that talking to of the new idea may come as when, by some people is "like chewing a blotter," the Hibernian tradition, a hat is tossed one can't avoid the suspicion that his into a
“Am I welcome?" asperity acquired its edge not merely Being admitted to contact, the coming from a kind of person, but from a kind of the latest thing, when it is a veriof situation. "Starting something" in table idea, may represent for you the the wrong place or at the wrong time is supreme hour. You may afterward often as calamitous for the sensitive as show it the door. You may kick it starting something with the wrong down-stairs and hope not to be person. With regard to talk it is haunted. You may let it stay. How clear that, in the average experience, momentous such hospitality may be! most places and most times may seem How upsetting to one's mental houseto be wrong. When we feel savage, keeping!
keeping! When the latest thing carmost persons quite naturally come ries not a bit of jargon, a frippery of into the same classification. All of color, a twist of taffeta, a whimsical which tends to give a thrill to the dis- dissonance of music, a freak of draftscovery of rightness. Some one to talk manship, a changed slouch in the huto is the object of an elemental hunger, man figure, a fresh futility in politics, but this need not mean that the some a new wrinkle in religion; when it carone would be welcome if his talk were ries not merely a new inflection, but a too new. Have n't you experienced new flame, a concept, a revelation, the restfulness of trite persons--per- that grows in the warmth of the mind sons all of whose ideas and expressions to dominating dimensions, and throws have a mellowed oldness, even when into a changed perspective all notions they themselves are quite young? of living and of destiny, the ultimate You need no alertness whatever. No test has arrived. newness will jump into your lap like History is littered with tragedies of an impertinent poodle. You can sit latest things that were ideas. These back with such persons and enjoy may have found their man in a climax
of action, or in a still night when choice Susan B. Anthony what it cost them meant a lone agony of renunciation. to suggest that women might leave the “Obsessed by an idea”-ah, yes. A fa- kitchen for an hour or so every year to naticism is the other fellow's obsession, go to vote. Or turn to the honored Then again, the right idea sometimes living. Ask Charlotte Perkins Gillodges with the wrong man, or the man what it cost her in printed misother way about. All the bitter plati- representation to advocate the ecotudes rise up to remind us of the reite- nomic independence of women, or rated calamities that have stalked the even day nurseries and coöperative new idea.
housekeeping years too soon. The trouble is that the latest thing We are living in an era of latest often comes too early—too early for things in tinsel and in testimony-latits conduct. Sometimes the
the est things such as have been happening newest thing in thinking looks like the since the beginning of time. We are one unpardonable newness. The gro- being tested as Athens or Syria or tesqueness of recantation, the pathos Salem was tested. We have abanof all the thought martyrdoms, color doned certain systems of torture, rethe records of human struggle. And tained others, invented a few delicate in our quaintly self-conscious era it is variations. We still pillory, though impossible to give the most meager without stocks. We still banish, thought to the subject of new ideas though with a more elaborate collecwithout getting the flash of awkward tive formula. We have a larger sense and heroic figures-of figures cringing of history. We admit with an increasor courageous under the stare of the ing glibness the book fact of vast proestablished. There is something droll gressive change, but we betray the in our habit of accepting martyrs same old disposition to fury when without feeling implicated. We see some one suggests that we are not Roger Bacon in his cell as a most through. The latest thing is right unfortunate victim of an obsolete stu- enough if it is amusing; if we can banpidity. We are sorry without acquir- ter about it or buy it or keep our priving any deep suspicion of ourselves. ilege of detachment, if it has a decent An ethical statute of limitations saves propriety in keeping itself separated as us from chagrin when we hear of the a sight or sound. If it assails the allhumiliations heaped upon Galileo or of-us, if it insists, if it demands; if it Harvey. We find an amelioration in involves confession, atonement; if it the joke that can accompany the trag- involves root change, it ceases to be edy of invention. “You know,” said merely the latest thing and becomes the British Admiralty to Ericsson, the latest menace. Art, business, so“your boat with its screw propeller ciology-all know its interruptions. seems to go and seems to turn, but It is the eternal disturber. It is the you must see that a craft cannot be enemy of all that would "stay put." steered from the point at which its It checks the yawn of complacency. It power is applied.” And we are still jostles the strutting "art form.” It at our old tricks, still early with ridi- frightens the finished. Which is to cule or rebuke, still late with honors. say that the latest thing is our oldest Ask the spirits of Lucy Stone and paradox.
HERE are too many writers facetiousness stung her into further and too few cooks." The vehemence.
dean laughed at her outright. "But I'm telling you I ain't every
His superior glance placed body.” With her fist she struck his ដឹង her. “The trouble with you desk, oblivious of what she was doing. is that you are a Russian Jewess. You “I'm smart from myself, not from want the impossible."
books. I never had a chance when I Sophie Sapinsky's mouth quivered was young, so I got to make my chance at the corners, and her teeth bit into when I'm ‘too old. I feel I could yet the lower lip to still its trembling. be younger than youth if I could only
“How can you tell what 's possible catch on to the work I love." in me before I had a chance?" she said. “Take my advice. Retain the po
“My dear child,”—Dean Lawrence sition that assures you a living. Aptried to be kind,-"the magazine ply yourself earnestly to it, and you world is overcrowded with native will secure a measure of satisfaction." born writers who do not earn their The dean turned to the mahogany salt. What chance is there for you, clock on his desk. Sophie Sapinsky with your immigrant English? You was quick to take the hint. She had could never get rid of your foreign taken up too much of his time, but idiom. Quite frankly, I think you are she could not give up without antoo old to begin."
other effort. "I'm not so old like I look." So- "I can't make good at work that phie heard a voice that seemed to chokes me." come from somewhere within her "Well, then see the head of the speak for her. “I'm only old from English department,” he said, with a the crushed-in things that burn me gesture of dismissal. up. It dies in me, my heart, if I don't The professor of English greeted give out what 's in me."
Sophie with a tired, lifeless smile that “My dear young woman,"—the fell like ashes on her heart. A chill dean's broad tolerance broke forth went through her as she looked at into another laugh,—"you are only his bloodless face. But the courage of one of the many who think that they despair drove her to speak. have something to say that the world “I wasted all my youth slaving for is languishing to hear." His easy bread, but now I got to do what I
want to do. For me, oh, you can't her. She remembered it was he who understand,-but for me, it 's a case had welcomed the extension students of life or death. I got to be a writer, on the evening of her first attendance. and I want to take every course in He moved deferentially aside for her English and literature from the begin to pass. For one swift instant Sophie ning to the end."
looked into kindly eyes. "Could he The professor did not laugh at So understand? Should I cry out to him phie Sapinsky as the dean had done. to help me?" flashed through her He had no life left for laughter. But mind. But before she could say a his cold scrutiny condemned her. word he passed and the door had
“I know," she pleaded, “I ain't up closed. to those who had a chance to learn Sophie stopped in the hall. Had from school, but inside me I 'm al- she the courage to wait until he came ways thinking from life, just like Em- out. "He's got feelings," "her in
' erson. I understand Emerson like he stincts urged her. "He's not an all
. was my own brother. And he says: right-nik, a stone heart like the rest of “Trust yourself. Hold on to the them." thoughts that fly through your head, “Ach!” cried her shattered spirit, and the world has got to listen to you "what would he, the head of them all, even if you 're a nobody.' Ideas I got have to do with me? He would n't plenty. What I want to learn from even want to stop to listen.” the college is only the words, the quick Too crushed to endure another relanguage to give out what thinks it- buff, she dragged her leaden feet down self in me just like Emerson.”
the stairs and out into the street. All The preposterous assumption of this the light went out of her eyes, the ignorant immigrant girl in likening strength out of her arms and fingers. herself to the revered sage of Concord She could think or feel nothing but staggered the professor. He coughed. the choked sense of her defeat.
"Weller," -he paused to get the That night she lay awake staring exact phrase to set her right,-"Em- into the darkness. Every nerve within erson, in his philosophy, assumed a her cried aloud with the gnawing ache tolerant attitude that, unfortunately, of her unlived life. Out of the dim the world does not emulate. Perhaps corners the specter of her stunted girlyou remember the unhappy outcome hood rose to mock her—the wasted, of your English entrance examination.” poverty-stricken years smothered in
Sophie Sapinsky reddened painfully. the steaming pots of other people's The wound of her failure was still fresh. kitchens. "Must I always remain
"In order to be eligible for our buried alive in the black prison of my regular college courses, you would dumbness? Can't I never learn to have to spend two or three years in give out what's in me? Must I choke preparation.”
myself in the smoke of my own fire?” Blindly, Sophie turned to go. She Centuries of suppression, generations reached for the door. The professor's of illiterates, clamored in her: “Show prefunctory good-by fell on deaf ears. them what 's in you! If you can't She swung the door open. The
The write in college English, write in ‘impresident of the college stood before migrant English.'
“'I can't make good at work that chokes me'”
She flung from her the college cata- how to write or don't know how to logue. About to trample on it, she write, I 'll be a writer." stopped. The catalogue had fallen open at the photograph of the presi
82 dent. There looked up at her the one She was at the steaming stove of the kind face in that heartless college restaurant at the usual hour the next world. The president's eyes gazed morning. She stewed the same tzimonce more steadily into hers. Sophie mas, fried the same blintzee, stuffed hesitated; but not to be thwarted of the same miltz. But she was no longer her vengeance, she tore out his pic- the same. Her head was in a whirl ture and laid it on the table, then she with golden dreams of her visionary ripped the catalogue, and stuffed the future. crumpled pages into the stove. It All at once a scream rent the air. roared up the chimney like the song of “Koosh! where in hell is your head?” the Valkyrie. She threw back her thundered her employer. “The blinthead with triumph, and once more her zee burning in front of her nose, and eyes met the president's.
she stands there like a yok with her "Let them burn, these dead-heads. eyes in the air!" Who are they, the bosses of education? "Excuse me," she mumbled in conWhat are they that got the say over fusion, setting down the pan. “I was me if I 'm fit to learn or not fit to only thinking for a minute." learn? Dust and ashes, ashes and “Thinking?" His greasy face purdust. But you,” she picked up the pled with rage. "Do I pay you to picture, "you still got some life. But think or to cook? For what do I give if you got life, don't their dry dust you such wages? What 's the world choke you?”
coming to? Pfui! A cook, a greenThe wrestlings of her sleepless night horn, a nothing-also me a thinker!" only strengthened her resolve to do the Sophie's eyes flamed. impossible, just because it seemed im- "Maybe in Smyrna, from where you possible. “I can tear the stars out of come, a cook is a nothing. In Amerheaven if it wills itself in me," her ica everybody is a person." youth cried in her, "Whether I know "Bolshevik!” he yelled. “Look only