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Crane, Frank D.; Emmerling, Margaret; Latimer, Margery (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XXII, Number 5 (March 1923)

Fearing, Kenneth
Via mentis,   pp. 132-134


Page 133

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
but you. Therefore the book should be published
anyway. "
" Right. Why should I-?"
"Stop. Stop! Stop! Don't please; please
don't tell me you're an egoist; that there's no
right, no wrong, that everything is arbitrary, that
you feed yourself, that there's no reason why you
should go around brotherhooding the rest of
humanity. "
"Well," laughed Randall, "what is your par-
ticular aversion to my uttering such beatific senti-
ments?"
"My lad, you little reek-." Cummings inter-
rupted himself. "Supposing, Randall, that the
quaint little Victorian, Miss Charlotte Bronte,
were to be dining with us today, and were to be-
gin the conversation by announcing:
" 'It's terrible, it's terrible the way the richer
classes roll in luxury, paying no heed to the cries
of their poor brothers, starving at their very
doors!'
"I believe, Randall, that you would faint with
an acute attack of nausea. In fact, your face be-
trays your annoyance. But picture yourself talk-
ing to a man of the next age from ours-. Your
contempt for Victorianism would be a mere irri-
tation compared to the disgust that 1999 will have
for us of the age of Scepticism and Irony. They
will look back at us as a brood of ghastly body-
snatchers, deriving our entire sustenance from
prowling about the graveyard of Victorianism,
fattening on ipuerile destructiveness. Today-
what do we do today? Pick and re-pick the bones
of sentiment, ignorance-yes, and even supersti-
tion and science. It's unfortunate we don't re-
alize the English decadents finished the job in ten
years-artistically. Americans have fallen into
the habit, for twenty years now, of sneering tire-
lessly-in print. It's horrible. It's pathetic.
"By God, man! do you know what modern art-
ists are doing? 'Portraying Accurately', 'Re-
vealing', 'Voicing',-and the pitiful part about
that is there's nothing worth portraying, reveal-
ing, or voicing, and worse,-much worse, by the
hot arms of Baal !-the age is so ludicrous it
doesn't know it isn't worth the paper it's written
on; it wallows, giggles, slobbers like an old, sick
archangel, in its own portraiture. Why, it's get-
ting so bad that artists can't starve.
"The next age speaking of us-can you hear
themI 'They wore dirty shirts, and they were in-
tellectual', or, 'They didn't live-they only knew
how living was done.'
"That's all they'll say of us. Nobody will want
to hear any more. " Cummings concluded his ora-
tion in a breathless burst of contempt.
"Well, well, well. So you've found us out, have
you?" Randall retorted caustically. "But sup-
pose you give us the next age in another little
nutshell. That would come in handy, extremely
handy. "
" The next age-the next age is going to explore
the mind. "
Randall exploded into laughter.
"Good! I can imagine how pleased the Poe-
James-Wharton fans would be to hear that; to
know that the psychologists' foundations were to
be carried on."
" Yes. Carried on. Carried on-! 'Swept
away' might be more accurate."
"I surmise that you're going in for the psychic.
Beg pardon, but ghost-raising is a matter for the
police, rather than literary exploration. But
what form will the discoveries take? What will
your pioneers have to say?" Randall's voice was
coldly satiric.
"I don't know," Cumimings returned abstract-
edly. Then he roused himself; "Let's get out of
here and get some air."
As they left the building together, Cummings
turned to Randall once more.
"I don't know," he added, smiling drily, "I
don't know, but I can indicate. It will be like
turning a stocking inside out, then turning it in-
side out again-and finding a third lining."
III
Walking slowly, they traversed several blocks,
engaged in smooth, half-hearted conversation.
Only in occasional lapses to silence, when the
thunder of the city beat inward more deeply, did
the cob-web of vitality spread itself, vaguely en-
meshing them.   A   mechanical word thrown
against the skein of noise and broken, changing
images each time destroyed the growth of the del-
icate fabric. Both men wished subconsciously to
be alone.
And so at the station, where Randall was to
take his suburban train, they parted perfunc-
torily.
Cummings turned back and retraced his steps
into the loop. It contented him to idle along, look-
ing into the shop-windows, at the faces of the pas-
sers-by. Cummings found by approximate calcu-
lations that every fiftieth person in the hurrying
throng was an indelibly unique individual. For
every forty-nine faces in viscous putty there was
one other that stood utterly apart reflecting an
March, 1923
13$.


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