EPILOGUE:

THE FALL OF GREENWICH VILLAGE

White against the roof-tops and black against the sky.
Wheeling in squadrons, the pigeons fly --
Like deadly planes that hover over towns aflame!
Like confetti flung from windows when the peace-news came!

Oh, why must I remember what I would forget?
Why wheel my fancies in that weary circle yet?
War and peace, peace and war -- that is all I know!
Shall I never see the birds as I saw them long ago?


    If Greenwich Village was not quite a myth, it may yet become one.  It needs, like Troy, only a poet to sing its fall:
-

"How many a strength hath fallen since thy fall,
Ah, Troy! yet still must men remember thee,
Though none doth weep o'er Corinth's funeral,
Nor Carthage left forsaken by the sea,
Orchomenos, nor Thebes, nor Nineveh!
All these have been and are not, but the fate
Of Troy, that never was, how wondrously
It moves the heart in these swift years and late!"

Greenwich Village, doubtless, was nothing much
to sing of; but neither, perhaps, was Troy!

"A castle built in cloud-land; or at most
A crumbling clay-fort on a windy hill,
Where needy men might flee a robber host,
This, this was Troy! and yet she holds us still;
And I that rhyme, right sore against my will
And lingering long before the words of woe,
This ending of my task must I fulfill
And tell the tale of Ilios's overthrow."

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

    So sand one of Troy's poets; and so, in prosier words, say I.  This Greenwich Village, this dingy slum where "needy men might flee" for peace from the victorious hosts of a huge robber-civilization too ready to enslave them to its dull tasks, -- this tiny refuge for desperate young lovers of beauty, in the midst of the rushing metropolis, -- this fragile respite of theirs was already doomed.  Greenwich Village could not remain forever islanded amid the roaring tides of commerce.  Already the barriers were being broken down; Seventh Avenue was being extended southward, the new subway was being laid; in a little while the magic isolation of the Village would be ended.  The tangle of crooked streets would be pierced by a great straight road, the beautiful crumbling houses of great rooms and high ceilings and deep-embrasured windows would be ruthlessly torn down to make room for modern apartment buildings; the place would become like the rest of New York City -- its gay, proud life would be extinguished.  This was inevitable. . . .  But a worse and swifter doom than we could guess was to fall upon Greenwich Village.  It was to become a side-show for tourists, a peep-show for vulgarians, a commercial exhibit of tawdry Bohemianism.
    Let me briefly set forth the causes of that catastrophe.
    Little restaurants, of which Polly's had been the first, sprang up to minister to our comforts, tucked away in basements and garrets, gay with varicolored furniture, named with odd, childish, playful names.  Here did the serpent enter Eden, demonstrating again the dear old doctrine of economic determinism.  Restaurants can scarcely cater exclusively to the impecunious elite -- than an honorable few bravely did so, till overtaken by the Day of Reckoning; a quixotic example that was not widely imitated.  These little restaurants served to advertise the Village to the people from up town, who presently began to come on sightseeing tours, with their pockets full of money and their hearts full of a pathetic eagerness to participate in the celebrated joys of Bohemian life.  The restaurants responded by laying on villagy quaintness in thick daubs, to tickle the fancy of the visiting bourgeoisie; and every day new restaurants and tea shops sprang up underfoot and overhead to meet the demands of this new clientele.
    As for the Villagers, they left these restaurants as fast as they were invaded by the uptown crowds; they found new eating-places, as yet unknown to the invaders -- only to be forced sooner or later to flee from these in turn!  It was partly a question of finances; good food at a cheap price was not what the up-towners desired -- they wanted atmosphere; and the restaurateurs concentrated on atmosphere to the neglect of cuisine, in deference to their whim.
    But it was not merely a matter of food; a certain Village snobbishness was also involved.  These up-towners, like all foreigners, were judged inevitably by their worst representatives -- and some of them were pretty bad.  Too many of them had no manners; they flocked in to stare and giggle and make loud remarks; and they tried, half enviously and half contemptuously, to buy their way into Village companionship.  They thought nothing of intruding upon a private party, introducing themselves, asking to be shown about, and offering genially to pay for everything!  It was rather pitiful, this anxious desire, on the part of people who had worked respectably all their lives, to be shown how to play; but it was very tiresome.  And what could we do about it?  There they were; we could not put them out of our Village!  We could only, if it came to that desperate pass, go away ourselves.
-
    We had left one thing out of our calculations: the fact that we had something which it seemed all bourgeois America -- sick to death of its machine-made efficiency and scared respectability -- wistfully desired to share with us; we had freedom and happiness.  And these fellow-citizens of ours had the money with which to buy, as they fondly hoped,  freedom and happiness.  And with that golden key they did, indeed, open the door to our citadel.
    Confession is good for the soul.  I was one of those who, with the best of intentions, assisted in that betrayal; for I was one of a committee which went about looking for a place to hold the first Greenwich Village ball, and discovered Webster Hall.  Those balls finished the process which the restaurants had begun.  Yes, and it was I who furnished, out of my Roget's "Thesaurus," that name, "Pagan Rout," so potent in its appeal to the fevered imaginations of the bourgeoisie!  The first of these Village balls were, perhaps, all that the credulous up-towner could have dreamed; they were spontaneously joyous and deliberately beautiful -- focusing in a mood of playfulness that passion for loveliness which had after all brought us to the Village; but the later balls were likely to be dreadful, being given merely to make money.  It pays to advertise some things, but not freedom and happiness; it is too easy for the ignorant purchaser to accept a cheap substitute.  We had, in fact, shown the more commercially enterprising among us another way to make money out of the bourgeoisie.
    The villagers were beginning to leave the village for the suburbs; and those that still remained were hard to find, so closely did they secrete themselves.  And now, to fill the gap left by their disappearance from their old haunts, appeared a kind of professional "Villager," playing his antics in public for pay or profit.  Doubtless it is necessary for people to make a living; and perhaps this method was as honest as most others; still, there was something shocking about it --  to a Villager.  It was a bitter thing to have to look at these professionals, and realize that this was the sort of person oneself was supposed to be!  Perhaps the imitation, like a malicious caricature, was too close for comfort; and the foundations of a future settled respectability may have been laid in the heart of many a careless inhabitant of the Village by seeing just some such mawkish counterfeit, and having to ask himself, "Do I really seem like that?"
    There was one -- I will call him Willy the Wisp.  He went about from table to table, in the Village restaurants, selling his candies -- "psychic candies," he called them, in the line of patter which accompanied the sale.  "They are the color of your psyche," he would say gently.  "Yes, dear lady, I have looked into your subconsciousness, and seen its secret need, and these are especially for you!"  The visiting bourgeoisie, vastly entertained, sat attentively listening to his whole speech from beginning to end -- flattering themselves perhaps that they were being inducted into the mysteries of Village psychology.  It pleased them, too -- looking at his frail slip of a body, so utterly useless in the mills of industry from which they drew the profits they were out spending tonight -- it pleased them, no doubt, to pay him a quarter for a handful of sweets.  Perhaps they had a sense of patronizing the arts!  Perhaps, in finding somebody in the Village to patronize, they were triumphing over it, asserting the final superiority of their own respectable virtues over its wayward freedoms. . . .  But why did I suffer when I saw Willy the Wisp come into a restaurant? -- why did I writhe in my chair as he delivered his pretty little speeches? -- why did I turn away, and wish I wasn't there, and try not to hear or see him?  Was it, indeed, as some cynical person might say, that he was too much a symbolic figure nakedly revealing the state of all the arts today, of all the artists, and even of my haughty and scornful self? -- offering the bourgeoisie, in our poems and pictures and plays and stories, "psychic candies," and saying gently, "Yes, dear lady, I have looked into your subconsciousness, and seen its secret need, and these are especially for you!" -- then pocketing the reward with a shameless smirk.  Oh, I have no doubt Willy the Wisp despised the bourgeoisie as much as I ever did!  I applaud his enterprise in selling bonbons for top prices; and perhaps bonbons were the very utmost of his creative capacities.  Yet he was to me a half-tragic and utterly painful figure, filling me with a sense of shame and futile rage.  I suppose I wanted Willy the Wisp, for the honor of Greenwich Village, to bang that fat profiteer over the head with his tray, and go, free and happy, off to jail!  The idea must have occurred to him more than once, but no doubt he dismissed it as absurd.  And Greenwich Village was no longer as absurd as it used to be -- it was becoming more practical every day; even in its apparent madnesses there was good sound business method.  That was perhaps the trouble with it.

    And there was another thing, which I will touch upon but lightly.  It was impossible to escape some association with those barbarians from up town.  Sooner or later one got to know them.  The most chauvinistic and prejudiced Villager was sooner or later caught speaking to them.  And, of course, it was then discovered that all up-towners were by no means such impossible folk!  In fact, the more one saw of them, the more one felt them to be not so different after all from one's precious self.  Some of them, indeed, were very nice.
    Could this be because oneself was becoming bourgeois!  Perhaps!  For one could hardly possess a talent and exercise it in the Village for several years without attracting some notice from the outside world and beginning to reap some worldly rewards from it.  And gradually one discovered in oneself certain bourgeois traits -- the desire for, say, a house in the country, and children, and a settled life -- for one becomes tired even of freedom!  Then let the bourgeoisie take Greenwich Village, by all means!  We would move to the country, and be respectable!
    And yet -- not all of us moved to the country, and settled down, and became respectable.  Concerning these different fates which might befall a Villager, let me tell a story, which I shall change only enough to avoid giving pain.

    In those days when our Village, though doomed, still brightly lived -- in the latter days of that time of dreams which now seems like a dream -- four young men sat at a table in the Purple Purp.  At ten in the morning on that winter day, the Purple Purp was a leisurely place -- so leisurely that the young man who brought us our ham and eggs and coffee paused to join us in an argument about vers libre; and the blue-smocked, bobbed-haired girl in charge had time to dance with us in turn, to the music of the phonograph.  We were the only patrons if the Purple Purp at that untimely hour.
    We were breakfasting after a long night of talk and a few hours' sleep in someone's studio.  There had been a party, and much drinking of hot mulled wine; and of the dozen who still lingered after the rest had departed, nobody wanted to go home in the snow; so the obliging host and hostess pulled mattresses from various couches and made one vast divan across one end of the studio floor, upon which the exhausted revelers might fall and sleep.  The party danced and played and quarreled and made up about us unheeded,  rose to its climax of friendly racket and hullabaloo, and died down at last into the peace of stupor -- except for us in our corner, who still raised our voices noisily in the silence, shouting eager speech to each other.  And then, toward dawn, weariness suddenly came upon us; and after briefly considering going out through the snowy streets to our own beds, we flung ourselves down wherever we could find room.
    Our argument had become rather maudlin toward the last, not from drink but from sleepiness.  Heaven knows how, we had got on to the subject of children, and their relation to the artistic life.  Julian had said an artist had no right to have children; Ben remarked impatiently that in the future the community would take care of children and not leave them to the private enterprise of parents; and Paul suggested that children might enjoy and profit by the candor of a Bohemian home.  I remember that discussion, because just as I was dropping off to sleep a few moments later, a door off the studio opened, and two children entered, and boy and a girl, about three and four years old, clad in their nightgowns and very wide awake.  They did not seem to be surprised at seeing the sleepers on the floor; they wandered curiously about, looking at our sleeping figures by the [ale light of city dawn that filtered in through the skylight.  They were regarding us with that air of respectful deference with which children view the proceedings of adult life.
    "That's Mrs. Dow, and here's Mr. Doe," said the little boy.  It was odd to hear these two friends of mine described as Mr. and Mrs. -- as though they were grown-up people, and not the most delightful and irresponsible artist-children in the world!  So they went about, identifying us, calling us by the titles of our adulthood.  "That's father over there," said the little boy, pointing to our gay and whimsical host.  I became more sharply aware of the identity of the lovely madcap on the divan to my right, whose tangled curls fell all about her sleeping head -- and I waited for these children to give her presently her due rank and title in the world in which according to them, she belonged.  The little girl paused thoughtfully in front of her.  "And here's mother!" she said.
    Somehow it seemed both sad and funny that she should be that!  There was an incongruous and pathetic dignity in the term.  I smiled with close-shut eyes, and her son and daughter passed on, tiptoeing so as not to wake these men and women whose privilege it was, as rulers of the great world, to stay up all night and go to bed at dawn.  And then I slept, and awakened in broad daylight in the disheveled studio, and went with my three friends to the Purple Purp for breakfast.  And now the discussion that had gone on all night was resumed again -- to last all day, until late in the evening.
    I had known these three others for some time, bit it so happened that yesterday was the first time we had all met together.  Today, as we sat at the table, drinking our endless cups of coffee and smoking cigarettes, the differences that had made us clash all night in argument began to seem less interesting than the fundamental likeness beneath those differences; and we began to talk of that and to celebrate it, jestingly and yet with a kind of wonder.
    We were different enough in our histories.  Julian had been the spoiled and tyrannized son of rich parents; they had tried to make a business man and a respectable citizen out of him.  He wanted to be a poet; and he had just mustered up the courage to leave his business -- and his wife -- and come to Greenwich Village to write poetry and starve.  Of course, no one ever did quite starve in Greenwich Village; it was one of the beautiful things about the place that no one who thought he could write or paint or make music need ever go hungry if he were not too proud to share the hospitable poverty of his friends.  Here Julian was; and the path which had led him to us was strewn with ruins.
    Paul there, leaning back in his chair and flickering his ashes to the floor with a nervous gesture, was a young reporter who had rashly thrown up a good newspaper job and come to New York to write short stories full of a brutal and uncompromising realism.  He had been here a year and had yet to sell his first story.  But he wrote on.  There was no discouragement in his face; and if there seemed to be a brooding melancholy in his dark eyes, it may have been over the difficulty which, even in Greenwich Village, attends upon the having of too many love affairs at one time.  He made a precarious and uncertain living, just enough to keep him going; I remember his telling me afterward that a loaf of bread left in his room, after a party we had had there one evening, had been his food for the next three days.  And his emotional life was by far the most irregular, at this period, of all our lives; while the mood of the Village was now lapsing into domesticity of a sort, he still maintained a fierce and complicated freedom.  And yet, in spite of all this economic and emotional wretchedness, he had an air of earnestly pursuing some deliberated course of action; there was, I remember Julian saying laughingly, a kind of perverse puritanism in Paul's Bohemian habits.
    Ben, my third friend, had been a tramp, and was no involved in revolutionary politics.  He looked a little of the vagabond still, a kind of Gypsy-man, with his thin muscular body decked out in corduroys and flaming necktie and flannel shirt, and his queer-shaped laughing face and rumpled hair.  It was an accident, of a career diversified by many accidents, that had brought him here.  He laughed at Greenwich Village, he despised it -- he regarded us as idlers, triflers, butterflies of a summer's day; or, as he liked to put it, children playing on the edge of a volcano.  He lived in a world of violent realities -- of strikes and jails and the untold atrocities of the continual vendetta between militant capitalism and the militant proletarian -- and beyond that, in a world of violent hopes and fears, of world wars, of famine, pestilence, and class massacre.  But, though he scorned us as the butterflies of a day, the though of our impending extinction in the world cataclysm moved him, I think, to love us all the more and make the best of our society while yet he might.
    In a sense I was the bond between the three, for I could understand them all.  In our long night of splendid and useless argument, in which they had come no nearer agreement than a mere friendly contempt for each other's illusions, I had agreed with each of them in turn.  Julian believed that the world needed beauty, Paul that it needed candor, and Ben that it needed the cleansing flame of revolution.  And meanwhile the world remained deeply indifferent to all our efforts on behalf of beauty, truth, and the future.  That neglect was the bond which drew us together.  In howsoever different ways, we all scorned the world we lived in.
    But, as it seemed at this moment, the strange thing about our companionship was not that we had be devious individual paths come together at last, nor that, coming together, we had been able to recognize beneath these surface differences of opinion the same deep disdain of the accustomed ways of the world; no, the strange thing was that it should have taken us so long to find each other.
    Oddly enough, Paul had once worked as a reporter in the town in which Julian grew up; and they had met and despised each other.  That was more astonishing now than complete unawareness of each other's existence would have been.  It was not circumstances merely that had kept them apart; it was ignorance and fear.  And, as if to complete the irony, Ben had chanced to be in that same town, years ago, for a few days, as a tramp.  "I remember," he said, "that some kind gent gave me a dime on Christmas day -- and maybe that kind gent was one of you two boys!  Anyway, I was about starving, and that dime helped me to the biggest free lunch in town."
    They began to orient their memories with reference to Ben's sojourn in that town.  They fixed the time, seven years ago, and reckoned up their ages at that date.  What were they all doing that Christmas eve?
    "I had just come home from college for the holidays," said Julian.
    "I was covering a story for the 'Record,'" said Paul.
    "And I," said Ben, "was sleeping under a railway trestle."
    "I might have been spared years of misery if I had known you boys then," said Julian wistfully.  "I thought I was all alone in that town."
    "I, too," said Paul.  "I hadn't a friend in the world -- except Flaubert.  With a live man to talk to, I might have made the break sooner."
    "I was lonely enough," said Ben.
    And they had none of them, in their loneliness, suspected that the town might hold friends -- friends that were to be -- and yet never now, perhaps, such friends as they might have been then when most they needed each other.
    They played for a while with the fancy of what would have happened if they had all met that CHristmas eve -- say, down town in a barroom; would they have had a true word to say to one another?
    "If you think I'd have told the truth, in the presence of an enterprising young reporter," said Julian, "you are very deeply ignorant of the psychology of protective coloration!  I'd have been afraid to open my mouth."
    "And I'd not have failed to remember," said Paul, "that your father was one of the stockholders of the dirty sheet I worked for.  Give myself away in front of you -- no, thank you!"
    "You were pretty scared of each other!" said Ben.
    "That's how America managed to keep us apart so long," said Julian; "by making sure we'd never know each other if we did chance to meet.  And a pretty good jon it was, too.  It's taken us a good many years to find each other.  But we fooled 'em after all.  Here we are -- safe in Greenwich Village!"
    Yes, here we were; and it seemed as though something ought to be done about it -- something adequate to mark the occasion.  But -- after all, we had not triumphed over the hostile world; we had merely escaped from it with our lives.  We were still to perform those deeds which would justify our revolt.  But we were still young; give us seven years more!
    We began to talk of those next seven years -- not quite as noisily as we had talked of the seven gone before.  For all our bravado, the mystery of an unknown future oppressed us.  What would happen to our lives in those seven years?  What would we have accomplished, in our chosen realms of the Beautiful, the True, and the Utopian -- what found or failed to find -- what "of despair, of rapture, of derision?"
    Ah, well!  When those seven years were over -- then we would know.  And we could tell each other then.
    So it was that, lingering late in the evening at that table, we planned to meet again in seven years.  We fixed the date in our minds.  It would be in December of the year 1924.
    At the same place -- at the same bar -- at the same table.
    That evening in December, 1924, came.
    I went to the Purple Purp -- now under another name; things had changed in Greenwich Village, as all over the world.
    I went, though I knew the meeting we had planned could not be held.
    Paul might be there -- if he remembered, and if he cared to come.  Fortune had changed for Paul in the meantime; and perhaps Paul himself had changed.  I did not know; I had not seen him for a long time.  But I knew he was very successful, very prosperous.  He might not care to attend so melancholy a memorial as this,
    For Julian was dead, by his own hand.
    And Ben, for the sake of his opinions, was in prison.
    I had been dulled to tragedy, I thought.  So many had died -- more nobly, doubtless, than Julian -- but the death of one's friend is different.  It strikes into one's own personal life, throwing its shadow into every little corner of one's daily thoughts.  It afflicts with the poignant ache of unanswerable questionings.  And yet it was not the dead I mourned; Julian was at peace; it was his living and suffering self of yesterday that had, as a debt paid too late, my praise and pity.  Must one's friend die before one can know how much one loved him?
    Nor, perhaps, need I mourn for my friend in prison.  He knew well enough what prison meant, and he need not have gone; he might have been out in the sunshine today.  But prison was a part of the career he had deliberately chosen for himself.  His mind was braced to meet it.  And yet -- can any one be so utterly prepared as to face without regret the loss of liberty, of friends and love?  These things were as dear to him as to any man alive; and I must wish them for him, even though he had heroically put them by.  Ten years? -- I told myself it would not be so long.  But it had been nearly a year already that Ben had been in prison.  How many years, I wondered, would it be before I saw him free?  Another year?  Two more years?  These things were not agreeable to think about; and therefore I had to think about them.  The pain of these thoughts was a debt I owed, if to nothing else, at least to friendship.
    Julian and Ben -- I had seen them both many times since that day when we talked so gaily together.  I had bidden Ben good-by on his way to prison, and I had seen Julian only a few days before his self-willed death.  I had reproached myself afterward for not having somehow saved him; if only I had been with him that day!  For it was a mood; and (who should know better than I) such moods pass.  Yet some men --  and Julian was one of them -- are ruled by their moods.  Who was I to have hoped to stand between my friend and his dark wish?  I knew something, and could guess more, of the motives which had irresistibly impelled him to act.  And, as I thought of his life, it seemed to me that I ought to have known all along to what end it was shaping itself.
    The determination of events is so clear in retrospect!  Seen so, his death was as inevitable -- had been as inevitable that day when we sat so gaily talking at the little table -- as plain for a prophetic eye to read, as the fate of Ben.  And perhaps (I began to think) those other fates, Paul's and mine, had been on the cards, too!
    I found, when I came into the restaurant, that I had done Paul an injustice in doubting that he would come.  He was there, waiting for me at the little table.
    We found it at first hard to talk to each other.  It seemed absurd to carry out our old promise and tell what had happened in those seven years to us.  It would have been too smug a mockery of those two friends of ours, for whom destiny had no sweeter gift than the prison and the grave.
    So I was thinking when presently Paul leaned back in his chair, flicked with that nervous gesture of his a tiny cigarette-ash to the floor, and, with the old look of brooding in his eyes, began to speak.
    "I suppose," he said, "under the circumstances, I ought to be ashamed of being so -- successful.  Well, I'm not.  The truth is, I don't care.
    "I tried," he went on, "to do the thing I wanted to do -- tell the truth.  People don't want to hear it.  They may, some day -- in that future Ben was always talking about.  They may; but I doubt it.  They prefer lying dreams -- and probably they always will.  I've learned, you see -- and it's taken me long enough -- what the human mind is really like.  And it's nothing to cry about.  I've always been clever enough at telling lies; and I might as well lie for the magazines at twenty cents a word as for the newspapers at space-rates."
    I said something, but he paid no attention, and went on.
    "The other night Bilkins gave a party.  Bilkins," he explained, "is a suburban neighbor of ours, a commonplace and unimportant cog in the machine of big business, whose income is nevertheless considerably larger than that of the President of the United States.  We were invited, my wife and I; and we went.  I have been working hard, lately, and not going to any suburban parties, so my impressions were fairly sharp.  I remember that I contrasted this party with the one that time here in the Village, you remember, when we talked all night with Julian and Ben.  The great difference, of course, was that at this party there wasn't any talk, and there was all the booze in the world.  In Greenwich Village, as I remember it, we were all young idealists.  If we kissed the girls, we did it on principle; we didn't have to get drunk to do it, so that we wouldn't remember it next morning and be ashamed of ourselves.  In fact, if we ever did get drunk, it was an accident; we didn't do it on purpose -- we didn't need to get drunk, because we were never ashamed of anything we did.  The more I associate with the bourgeoisie, the more I marvel at our young innocence here in Greenwich Village.  We were all so damned noble!  Even the cruel things we did, were done as -- as Shelley might have done them.  But I think we of the bourgeoisie -- for I count myself one of them, now -- are wiser.  We know it isn't any use to be noble.  There's nothing to be noble for.  We aren't fooling ourselves about Art or Revolution or Truth.  We know that we're out to have a good time.  Well, I drank champagne that night, which left me clear-headed.  I didn't particularly enjoy kissing the girls in corners -- that's a relic of my Greenwich Village training; I am disgusted at people's doing things they think are wrong.  Nevertheless, I had a good time.  And that's what I want to tell you about."
    He lighted another cigarette.  "I had just been reading in the paper about another famine somewhere in the world.  I've come near enough to starving, myself, to know what it must feel like.  I thought about those starving people while I was eating Bilkin's dinner.  I thought also of Ben, in his prison stripes; I was wearing a very jaunty suit of evening clothes.  I thought about Julian; I was drinking champagne, and dancing with some lovely girls.  And those thoughts didn't interfere with my enjoyment.  And one would say that thinking about such things would make me miserable.  But I wasn't at all miserable.  Because life is like that.
    "Ben in prison, for telling the truth.  People don't like the truth; no wonder they put him in prison!  But why should Ben be in prison for such people?  Why not here at Bilkin's party, drinking champagne and dancing with some lovely girl?
    "And Julian -- he thought the world wanted beauty: he found our that it didn't.  But why commit suicide because of that?  Julian was too sensitive.  He should have kept his beauty here," -- Paul struck his breast lightly -- "as I keep my truth.
    "No -- I danced, and felt that it made very little difference where one was -- in the grave like Julian, or in prison like Ben, or here at Bilkins's party.  It was all the same.  I wasn't sorry for Ben, or for Julian.  I wasn't even sorry for myself.
    "Life goes on, you know.  And we go on with it.  And in a very real sort of way, we enjoy ourselves.  I had a very good time at that party.  I have a very good time, all round.  It's a mistake to suppose that one can't be happy in a meaningless world.  Because at the end of all one's thinking is the question, 'Well, what of it?'  And there isn't any answer, and there's nothing to do but live and enjoy life.  After all, that's what we're built for."
    His talk shook me more than I wished to show.  It seemed to me that Paul's doom was more akin to Ben's and Julian's than I had realized.  Success like his was an extreme like the prison or the grave.  And yet -- I could understand how Paul felt.  And I respected him, in some odd way, for feeling as he did.  Whoever has once lived for unreal things, such as without any disrespect one may call Beauty or Truth of the Future, can never in an utterly simple way be at home among life's realities, however good and innocent these realities may be.  He can only try to -- and remain an alien.
    Paul put out his cigarette.  "You've never been out to my place, have you?  Come, and bring your wife.  Helen will be delighted to show off her two lovely babies."
    We shook hands, and he went away.
 

    I sat alone at the table for a long time -- and then went out to wander about the Village.
    Perhaps I was seeking for something to assuage my loneliness.
    I went into old places.  I saw no one I had ever known, and all was changed.
    The Village -- our Village -- was dead and gone.
    Here were young people, as young as we once had been, as gay and eager.  They were the new Greenwich Villagers.  They did not mind the changes, because they had never seen our Village.  And perhaps they had a healthy insensitiveness to all this uglification and pretense.  Under the aegis of our legendary gaiety, they were enjoying themselves, in their fashion.  Perhaps they were more robust than we had been.  Doubtless they knew already all the things we had so painfully learned.  For them the world would never suddenly go blank of meaning.  They were accustomed to its not having any meaning.  I saw ourselves, in retrospect, as touched with a miraculous naïveté, a Late-Victorian credulousness, a faith, happy and absurd, in the goodness and beauty of this chaotic universe.  These young people knew better.  Well, it was their Village now; let them have it, and make of it what they chose!
    I went out from the noise and smoke into the crisp December air, feeling old.  Presently I felt older than that -- I felt dead.  A ghost, I walked about the midnight streets, meeting other ghosts - friends and comrades and sweethearts of those lost, happy years.  Together we revisited those glimpses of the moon.
 
 

THE END





 
 

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