from the warm darkness of the compound, there came a harsh and piercing cry that rose to an excruciating pitch, then, note by note, sank back once more to silence.
There are many legends about Masefield; he is the kind of figure that gives rise to legends. And, as he is curiously reticent about his early life, some of the most extravagant of these legends have persisted and have, for many people, become true. But the bare facts of his life are interesting enough. As a young man he grew sick of life, of the kind of life he was living, and went to sea as a sailor before the mast. He had neither money nor friends; or, if he had, he relinquished both. The necessity to earn a living drove him into many adventures, and 75I am told that for a time he was pot-boy in a New York drink-den. Here his work must have been utterly distasteful, but the observing eye and the impressionable brain of the poet were at work the whole time, and one can see clearly in some of Masefield’s long narrative poems many evidences of those bitter New York days. How Masefield came to London and settled in Bloomsbury, becoming the friend of J. M. Synge, I do not know. For six months he was in Manchester, editing the column entitled Miscellany in The Manchester Guardian, and writing occasional theatrical notices. I have been told by several of his colleagues on that paper that Masefield’s reserve was invulnerable; he quickly secured the respect of his fellow-workers, but not one of them became intimate with him. He lived in dingy lodgings, he worked hard and, at the end of six months, withdrew to London on the plea that he found it impossible to do literary work at night.
His panic would have been unmanly in a normal human; but Hartford all his life had been impressed with the horror of contamination. He ran blindly, though he knew that his deepened breathing was drawing the germ-laden air of Kansas deeper into his lungs. He ran through lanes of sunflowers, flailing his arms, into the darkness, away from the alien girl, away from the fear of going septic. He ran and stumbled and fell and ran again. All his life he'd been warned of the consequences of becoming infected with the bacteria against which he had no defenses. Now he was so infected.
"Oh, Lady Caroline, why should I do anything else? The desire for making money has gone from me altogether with the receipt and perusal of that letter. She was the spur that urged me on; my dreams of fame and wealth and position were for her, not for myself; and now----"
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