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Tristans ehre. Only why did these German tenors invariably bleat like that?

She glanced down at her knuckles. His hand had left them a little sticky. She She wondered how distinguishable were the parquet occupants to those in the parterre boxes. But she looked toward the stage again, instead.

On the stage the lovers faced each other, motionless, mute, the lovedraught hot in their crazed veins, the image of each of them flaring suddenly glorious and naked in the other's bottomless eyes. They too had faced each other like that, she and her husband, in the first years before the children were born, exultant as this superhuman pair in their new skeins of slavery, mastery, ache and rapture. She remembered the "Tristan" of their honeymoon, and the dawn of the next morning. He had had to go downtown early, so that they had kept awake, deliciously drowsy and unreckoning, and laughed with the first sunlight over their bedclothes, the first wheels and sparrows in the street below. He had called her his Isolde, outright, over and over, that nightand she had loved the dear simplicity of his doing that.

Land ho! The shore, the mariners rejoicing. The curtains swept down.

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her how little lunch he had been able to snatch before meeting her, for fear of her fretting. The children had been quarreling when she left home, she told him, and the new nurse-maid was hopeless with them. They nodded to some people who lived on the same block with them, and who were walking up and down, too. They went back to their seats, telling each other fervently how much they were enjoying it.

The moonlit garden, the great trees plumed with silver of a summer's night, the castle wall sheeted with white ecstasy . . . and, below it, the wavering flambeau, the scarf which beckons Tristan into his love's arms, the meeting, dreaming, swooning, in a drench of tremulous and blissful music. Warm languor stole across the house like a heavy scent, like a breath of gardenias under dew. She threw her head back and sighed for a long instant. Her husband twitched himself upright, separating his lulled spine discreetly from the cushioned back of his chair.

Yet she could remember what strange and hateful meaning this garden scene had had for her the third time-no, the fourth time, it must have been, because that other woman had not come East until they were married four-let's see— oh, well, years enough ago that she could now admit to herself what a simpleton she must have seemed about it. She had been so jealous. Her husband had insisted on her coming to "Tristan" in spite of everything. The box-office had shunted them into a "blind" corner whence they could see only a pinched, distorted corner of the stage. They had been perched high over the

violins, the sound of them rising with sarcastic swiftness, coiling and flaying around them like a foul python, a taunt of the fearful, a wrath thrashing amid all the peace and satisfaction of her little world. She had despised him at that "Tristan," and loved him as never before. Oh, well. . . .

The famous soliloquy of King Mark had begun. Her husband leaned back into his seat again. He was praying silently that they would cut out some ten minutes of it, the way they used to in more merciful and unmusical days. Noble and all that, but-thank God, over at last!

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And once more between acts they stomped as aimlessly as everybody else up and down the main corridor. They nodded again to the people who lived on the same block with them. They discussed the singers. He thought the new Brangäne had a lovely figure, but he felt a little too empty to risk saying so. They went back to their seats, telling each other carefully how much they were enjoying it.

The sick Tristan, desolate and slightly foolish in his old-fashioned nightgown, went through the calisthenics of his celebrated despair

under the old tree. Over the spent sea drifted the reedy sorrow of the shepherd's tune. The hard bright

horizon broke at last with the dot of sails, and Isolde came-to this pitiful, gashed, feverish wreck of the man she had adored came Isolde hastening, clasping, comforting, stanching his opened wounds against her own hurt heart, shielding his corpse from coldness with her own lifeless body.

Her husband had never had more than an occasional sore throat. But when he was sick he was the littlest of her children. And once, when pneumonia had threatened, they had not been able to tear her away from his bedside. Until, in the night, she had known how unthinkable it would be if she were left alone, like that—like that—

It was her turn to reach out for his hand. But she touched his knee, instead; and, guilty, a little annoyed, he woke up. He had been dozing.

"Pretty near the Liebestod," he announced hastily.

She looked away again. This time straight up into the parterre. The splendid millionaire smiled as she caught his eye. She smiled back.

"Liebestod," muttered her husband. And went back to sleep. Somebody behind them said, "Sh!"



A Resident Alien to Alien Critics


HEN I read certain vindictive strictures on America, wherein one philosophic observer after another analyzes human life in this country to such disparaging result, I feel a longing to make some sort of a reply. Like all "strangers within the gates" I have had my shocks and my malicious reactions; but these experiences, granting them freely their due place, have left a margin, a borderland, of something else, about which it would seem ungrateful to hold my tongue. I think that the worst things in this country are emphatic and imposing, the best things imponderable and fluid; and for that reason any adequate answer to these old-world criticisms must go to work in a subtle indirect manner and deal in nuances and intimations rather than in downright indignant


And, after all, is not this in itself the best retort that could be made? Against these point-blank accusations that the American Scene exercises a sinister influence upon human civilization, is it not the most penetrating apologia we could make use of, to throw into relief just those intangible things that touch most intimately the life of the spirit, indicating them here, and again there, dispersed through the whole chaotic

spectacle? Yes, and not only indicating them; showing the effect of these finer fragilities, these aspects of American life that are less solid than bricks and mortar, less obvious than bridges and railroads, upon at least one old-world mind.

A "resident alien" like myself whose profession carries him into every part of the country feels as he reads books such as the recent ones by Joad and Siegfried that these attacks are much easier to make than to answer. It does not suffice to enumerate certain outstanding advantages which America possesses over all other quarters of the globe; advantages that no indictments can shake. Over these the more intangible felicities ebb and flow and waver, like clouds of midges above a powerful life-giving stream.

The solid advantages can be quickly summed up. Such is the indulgence women enjoy and their unrestricted self-expansion; such are the economic opportunities for the masses of the unprivileged; such are the endless labor-saving and health-preserving scientific inventions; such is the thinning out of those "armies of the homeless and the unfed" that poison the wells of life for all; such is the airy buoyancy and gaiety-in spite of all its devastating extremes of

heat and cold-of the atmospheric climate of this continent.


Commenting upon the most obvious of these solid advantages, let me say at once that while we foreigners detect plenty of limitations to democracy along political and economic lines we are compelled to do unstinted honor to what it offers in the purely human and social field. Many a rough shock at first does the educated European receive! I remember well what I felt when my leisurely patronizing tone-that peculiar class-conscious tone of Englishmen abroad-was received on all sides by amused indulgence. I remember what I felt when I was first addressed as a man rather than as a gentleman. "This man wants soand-so"; "Here's a man saying soand-so"; "Give the man back his seat, honey." By degrees however as I was buffeted into accepting my essential status quo, just Anthropos Erectus among other anthropoids, I came to recognize what a great moral advance had been made in this particular. Reconciled to being a man, it was more difficult to slip naturally into the rôle of being a guy. "This guy wants his ticket"; "Here's a guy kicking about his seat." But even this has almost come now to seem no real derogation from primitive human courtesy.

It is not only women in America who benefit by this large equality. Young people, over here, of both sexes are given an indulgence and a consideration which is an absolutely new thing upon the face of the earth. The children of Manhattan, for instance-who can forget the audacity with which they bathe in

prohibited fountains and burn bonfires under the very noses of the police? Those street bonfires have always seemed to me a brave symbol of the achieved freedom of youth in this country. How the little imps dance round them! And, to my mind at least, this fire-dance of the New York children is sufficient evidence that an atmosphere exists here less disciplined by the bureaucratic "verbotens" of organized paternalism, whether imperial or Fascist or communist, than anywhere else in the world.

One other commentary I would like to make on these solid advantages. Is the amazing power of public opinion over here to be included among these superiorities? This public opinion in America is, it seems to me, a psychic phenomenon which cuts both ways. Led by the press, and reflected in the press, it does sometimes put an end to abominable evils, but more often-one has to admit it-it sets itself to hunt down and destroy that free expression of individual genius upon which the life of our race depends.

On the other hand, over against this, it must be allowed that endless "queer ones," up and down this chaotic country, can live and die in their own extraordinary by-paths and back-waters, unnoticed, unspecified, uncatalogued; persons who, on the other side, would be smoothed out and pruned and trimmed and polished by the pressure of some little group or coterie or class. The feelings of such eccentrics in America must I suppose be more flagrantly outraged, their loneliness must be more acute, than would be the case abroad; but if they do manage to put

forth their blossoms, like seedling peach-trees in Middle Western dooryards, they display a strange and spontaneous quality, the beauty of original sensitiveness thrown into sharp relief against the primordial waste of the landscape.


No doubt one of the great misunderstandings about Americans is due to the "protective coloring" with which people who do not fit into the standardized verdicts of their community evade the detection of their peculiarities. In England-with the weight of his class behind him-a man can be as eccentric as he pleases. It is indeed his joy and delight to assert his idiosyncrasies. English individuality therefore protrudes itself and fortifies itself where American individuality hides itself; but you have only to scratch one of these citizens and you'll find a prickly philosopher.

But, as I have suggested, over and above these obvious benefits to humanity of the American Scene there hover a thousand nuances of delicate intimation, which in my own opinion are of far rarer, far finer significance. But one has to wander like an old-fashioned "bagman," up and down all manner of out-of-the-way quarters of this country, playing the Quaker and waiting patiently upon the Spirit, to catch these more subtle flavors of the confused hurly-burly.

How, for instance, can the ways of such a continent be as inimical as these critics hint to the nobler motions of the soul when a man can wake up as I have done on many a Sunday morning in the most flagrant of all American cities, New York it

self, and listen to the silence in the cool-blowing summer air, while the wind rustles the ailantus leaves at the window, lifting them up and letting them fall like undulating seaweed in a vast green rock-pool? Sunday mornings in America are indeed halcyon seas of luxurious quiescence to any one wakeful enough to be conscious of their peace. There is no deeper calm to be found in the depths of the ocean, in the heart of the desert. It is a psychic calm, produced by the relaxation of the quivering nerves of the most electric of all peoples. Such nerves when they do relax, relax to a level of abysmal somnolence unparalleled elsewhere, and out of these "fields of sleep" if the cool wind still blows what friendly sounds reach the ear! The echoing hoofs of the milkmens' horses, the siren-calls from the river, bringing rope smells and tar smells and the splash of waves at port-holes and the glittering, rocking sun-path to the horizon's rim, the twitter of sparrows, the murmur of pigeonsall these sounds as they come to us here, no less than anywhere else on the earth's surface, have the friendliness of those faint race-memories that Wordsworth loved to note as they came and went.

But it is the silence itself on these Sunday mornings rather than any sound, rather even than the mass bell from St. Joseph's or the bell-buoy in the river, that seems to be the sleep of the great, taut, tense city, relaxed at last, taking her fill of "deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill." That wave-washed mountain of delicate towers, what may be its multitudinous, its Atlantean dream? Millions of sleepers, in apartment

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