University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The Literature Collection

Page View

Meyer, Ernest L. (ed.) / Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVII, Number 1 (October 1917)

Knowlton, Helen
Liberation,   pp. 3-6

Page 5

reach conclusions. Prof. Haegel had come at just the
right time. He was a strange mixture of genius and
egoism. His compositions in music were charming and
fanciful, but they lacked the strength of objectiveness.
He was a little too old and a little too egotistical to be
attractive personally to Jessica; but she loved the ideas
he brought to her. And she had gained tremendous-
ly in music under his guidance. She preferred not to
have him touch her hand when he showed her posi-
tions on the key board * * * She could talk with
him, too, better when he sat on the other side of the
room. She thought of this as she lay in bed. But it
did not guide her in her decision, for she was troubled
about it. She realized guiltily the same repugnance
for her father. She drew away from him more and
more, disliking his caresses-and she blamed herself
for the feeling. Was there not, she thought, something
wrong with her to feel so toward her own father?
When she finally finished her thinking about the
matter, she had concluded that she ought to get away.
Such dislike, such repugnance for her own father was
wicked. She needed a rest and a change * * M
And she went down to breakfast searching for a way
to get it. There was Prof. Haegel.
Jessica's morning wore away with various house-
hold duties. But through the whole process of pre-
paring the twins for school and marshalling the feeble-
minded Norwegian maid through the details of the
morning work she was thoughtful. The apparently
insurmountable task of gaining order from the chaotic
house, which everywhere bore traces of the children's
raid, she accomplished mechanically. Her hands were
aware, from habit, of what had to be done, her work
needed no attention.
Lunchtime brought the twins home rollicsome and
engrossed in their own interests-Little Alice arrived
furtive. Her father was remarkably tender with her,
but intuitively she understood that his caresses had a
double meaning-they were meant to rebuke poor Jes-
sica as well as to comfort her. When he placed Little
Alice on his knee and asked her sympathetically all
about her morning at school, the child wanted passion-
ately to have Jessica on the other knee-then every-
thing would be all happy and nice again.
Mr. Marsh's attitude reinforced Jessica's decision
to see Prof. Haegel that night. As she wished to avoid
another tele a lete with her father she announced her
intention as the children were leaving the table.
"John and Henry," she said to the twins, "I am go-
ing to have your supper a little early as I am going out
tonight. Alice, dear, you may sit up and have dinner at
seven with father." And then quite casually she added
turning to her father, "And I shall be here later on in
the evening with Prof. Haegel." She escaped immedi-
ately to her room leaving her father non-plussed. Here
was Jessica repeating misdemeanors consecutively! He
was astounded, for such an attitude of self-resignation
to the cruelty of life as he had shown the past few days
usually won Jessica over and melted her into passion-
ate self-blame.
Prof. Haegel came and carried Jessica away for
dinner. In a glory of light blue fluffiness which intoxi-
cated Little Alice Jessica ran down the stairs to meet
him. And through the dinner, which they ate at a
large and brilliant hotel Prof. Haegel fascinated Jes-
sica. He was at his best, as impersonal as he was cap-
able of being, telling of unique experiences rather than
of his own reactions toward things. And except for
his eyes, Jessica thought as she watched him across
the table from her, he was remarkably handsome. His
immaculate full dress made him younger than his
thirty-five years. But his eyes seemed to drink her in,
and when she met them she felt lost, almost caged. So
she evaded his eyes and watched his delicate, nervous
hands which he used continuously to emphasize and
punctuate as he talked. In her almost unused evening
dress, which replaced the practical house-gowns she
usually wore-in the lively, free atmosphere of the
strange hotel Jessica felt emancipated. It was all new
and refreshing, the difficulties of her household, the re-
strictions of her father were remote. She felt recre-
ated, unjailed-except when she looked at his eyes.
As Jessica turned on a soft light in the living-room
at home and motioned Prof. Haegel to a seat across
the library table she felt an atmosphere of intimacy and
of approaching doom. The hotel was left behind and
all the impersonality of Prof. Haegel's ideas were also
left there. She felt more poignantly than ever before
a certain recoil from him. But a squeak of slippers in
the hall, witnessed that her father was hovering on
guard; and drove her back to Prof. Haegel for refuge.
He said nothing, but he turned his intense, eager eyes
upon her; she felt possessed in his gaze and she breath-
ed sharply with the determination to escape. Her ideas
shifted in a second-her own room, her own home
without Prof. Haegel seemed suddenly a refuge. But
he had mistaken her harsh breathing for passion for
him and in rapture over her surrender he seized her
and held her to him. She felt suffocated under his
caresses; in a moment she had disengaged herself
roughly. With the table between them she looked up
confused; she was ready to send him away, to free
herself from him forever, when she beheld her father,
rebuking and stern in the door-way. He spoke with
parental authority in his voice, "Jessica, what does
this mean? Is this the way you behave with your
October, 1917

Go up to Top of Page