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Evans, Mildred (ed.) / Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVIII, Number 1 (October 1918)

Stevens, Michel
The superior being,   p. 8

Page 8

October, 1918
The Superior Being
THERE was a man who had a dog, a fine big
dog with inquisitive ears and an energetic tail.
But the man was a sottish being; his eyes were bleary
and red-rimmed. He was dirty, and he shambled
along unevenly. In fact he seemed an unfit-at least
an inconsistent, companion for the big dog. Still the
man had been worthy-at times. On one Christmas
eve he had heard children caroling, and he had wept
and stolen fifty dollars for a gift to his long-neglected
family. Once, very long ago, he had written a poem
about a girl. And in all of his vagrant, thieving years.
he had not once been intentionally mean. His aes-
thetically tender regard for heirlooms, during his
robberies, was remarkable. People everywhere mar-
veled at it, and often wondered that he spared such
valuable things. Something apart from mere policy,
from fear of being caught, made him careful of sleep-
ing babes, of all helpless things. In fact the man had
a strange, fine soul-deeply hidden.
But last week he had broken bounds. He had
killed a man; not maliciously, simply in a man to man
struggle for existence; an attack was ample grounds
for defending one's self, he argued. He had long
taken for granted his right to obtain a living as he
saw fit. But the law, he knew, was remarkably in-
considerate of personal moral standards.
On this day the man and his dog were walking along
a muddy swamp road-the "superior" being, weak
and spineless; the animal, alert and powerful. The
man was a silent fellow, and the dog was today a
silent dog, alarmingly silent. He barely sniffed at
butterflies that brushed past his nose. Suddenly he
looked at the dog and swerved over onto a broad rock
by the roadside.
"Dash me! You're a fine critur," he said, "An'
you love me." He laughed cynically. "You're all
as does, all as has reason to. I played 'em all dirt,
I suppose, lightin' out when I got tired of 'em. May-
be yes-maybe no. Maybe it's good I han't bothered
em these years. Lord, you're a fine un."  He lifted
the dog's head between his hands. "You blitherin'
fool of a worshiper." He started. "You look hu-
man!" he gasped. "Your eyes-the're sayin' it. You
know! God-I can't stand it! You're the only
one as respects me, an' your eyes say you'll hate me-
if I don't." He let the dog's head drop and covered
his face with his hands.
For hours he sat with his face covered, and the an-
imal watched him, motionless. Then, abruptly, he
threw his arms about the furry neck and wept bitterly.
The dog whined and awkwardly licked his dirty
streaked face. Finally the man stood up. The red
sun on the edge of the swamp put a wild fire in his
bleary eyes, and for a moment he stood erect.
"You win," he said simply. He looked back at
the village smoke, curling above a distant grey mead-
ow. "I oughta get there afore moon-up. Well," he
continued "they can never say I let a innocent hang
for me."
HE GREAT sculptor's massive head with its
finely chiseled mouth and nose and chin was
silhouetted against the northern light, for the little
model who perched near him. He sculptured only the
real; that is, the real as he saw it, in all its ugliness.
The little model was enamoured of the sculptor and she
sat near him as he worked, and whispered him her ador-
ation, which fired him.
And the little model went on whispering, and
whispered, too, her little fancyings, in warm, passionate
words. Her belief was firm that with this great, this
wonderful art, he would make something that was
really very beautiful, that would make the world so
happy it would be great and good for joy. To tell
the truth, she was a little disappointed that the wonder-
ful art could produce anything which was so ugly as
these things.
But time passed, and a strange thing seemed to be
happening to the sculptor. He went on modeling these
ugly things, but at night when he lay on his cot in the
moonlight they must have arisen and in vengeance
moulded their features on him. Yet they did it
so insidiously, so delicately, that the sculptor never felt
their touch. One day, however, as he was putting a
polish on the brazen shield of a Medusa, he saw his
face reflected in it. It sent a chill through him, and
he felt as though perhaps too they had their fingers
about his heart.
He called weakly to the little model-suddenly he
had missed her voice. But she had been gone for a
long time and though he sought for her, wildly, dis-
tractedly, like a child its mother, she could not be
I think she went away to die.

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