The Parting Genius by Helen Coale Crew
From The Midland
The parting genius is with sighing sent.
Milton's Hymn on the Nativity.
It was high noon, blue and hot. The little town upon the southern
slope of the hills that shut in the great plain glared white in the
intense sunlight. The beds of the brooks in the valleys that cut their
way through the hill-clefts were dry and dusty; and the sole shade
visible lay upon the orchard floors, where the thick branches above
cast blue-black shadows upon the golden tangle of grasses at their
feet. A soft murmur of hidden creature-things rose like an invisible
haze from earth, and nothing moved in all the horizon save the black
kites high in the blue air and the white butterflies over the drowsy
meadows. The poppies that flecked the yellow wheat fields drooped
heavily, spilling the wine of summer from their cups. Nature stood at
drowsy-footed pause, reluctant to take up again the vital whirr of
At the edge of the orchard, near the dusty highway, under a huge
misshapen olive tree sat a boy, still as a carven Buddha save that his
eyes stood wide, full of dreams. His was a sensitive face, thoughtful
beyond his childish years, full of weariness when from time to time he
closed his eyes, full of dark brooding when the lids lifted again.
Presently he rose to his feet, and his two hands clenched tightly into
I hate it! he muttered vehemently.
At his side the grasses stirred and a portion of the blue shadow of
the tree detached itself and became the shadow of a man.
Hate? questioned a golden, care-free voice at his side. Thou'rt
overyoung to hate. What is it thou dost hate?
A young man had thrown himself down in the grass at the boy's side.
Shaggy locks hung about his brown cheeks; his broad, supple chest and
shoulders were bare; his eyes were full of sleepy laughter; and his
indolent face was now beautiful, now grotesque, at the color of his
thoughts. From a leathern thong about his neck hung a reed pipe, deftly
fashioned, and a bowl of wood carved about with grape-bunches dangled
from the twisted vine which girdled his waist. In one hand he held a
honey-comb, into which he bit with sharp white teeth, and on one arm he
carried branches torn from fig and almond trees, clustered with green
figs and with nuts. The two looked long at each other, the boy gravely,
the man smiling.
Thou wilt know me another time, said the man with a throaty laugh.
And I shall know thee. I have been watching thee a long timeI know
not why. But what is it thou dost hate? For me, I hate nothing. Hate is
The boy's gaze fixed itself upon the bright, insouciant face of the
man with a fascination he endeavored to throw off but could not.
Presently he spoke, and his voice was low and clear and deliberate.
Hate is evil, he said.
I know not what evil may be, said the man, a puzzled frown
furrowing the smooth brow for a swift moment. Hunger, now, or lust, or
Hate is the thing that comes up in my throat and chokes me when I
think of tyranny, interrupted the boy, his eyes darkening.
Why trouble to hate? asked the man. He lifted his pipe to his lips
and blew a joyous succession of swift, unhesitant notes, as throbbing
as the heat, as vivid as the sunshine. His lithe throat bubbled and
strained with his effort, and his warm vitality poured through the
mouthpiece of the pipe and issued melodiously at the farther end. Noon
deepened through many shades of hot and slumberous splendor, the very
silence intensified by the brilliant pageant of sound. A great hawk at
sail overhead hung suddenly motionless upon unquivering wings. Every
sheep in the pasture across the road lifted a questioning nose, and the
entire flock moved swiftly nearer on a sudden impulse. And then the man
threw down his pipe, and the silence closed in softly upon the ebbing
waves of sound.
Why trouble to hate? he asked again, and sank his shoulder deeper
into the warm grass. His voice was as sleepy as the drone of distant
bees, and his dream-filmed eyes looked out through drooping lids. I
hate nothing. It takes effort. It is easier to feel friendly with all
thingscreatures, and men, and gods.
I hate with a purpose, said the child, his eyes fixed, and
brooding upon an inward vision. The man rose upon his elbow and gazed
curiously at the boy, but the latter, unheeding, went on with his
thoughts. Some day I shall be a man, and then I shall kill tyranny.
Aye, kill! It is tyranny that I hate. And hatred I hate; and
oppression. But how I shall go about to kill them, that I do not yet
know. I think and think, but I have not yet thought of a way.
If, said the man, thou could'st love as royally as thou could'st
hate, what a lover thou would'st become! For me, I love but lightly,
and hate not at all, yet have I been a man for aeons. How near art thou
I have lived nearly twelve years.
Like a flash the man leaped to his feet and turned his face westward
towards the sea with outstretched arms, and a look and gesture of utter
yearning gave poignancy and spirit to the careless, sleepy grace of his
face and figure. He seized the boy's arm. See now, he cried, his
voice trembling upon the verge of music, it is nearly twelve years
that I have been a wanderer, shorn of my strength and my glory! Look
you, boy, at the line of hills yonder. Behind those hills lie the blue
sea-ridges, and still beyond, lies the land where I dwelt. Ye gods, the
happy country! Like a great child he stood, and his breast broke into
sobs, but his eyes glowed with splendid visions. Apollo's golden
shafts could scarce penetrate the shadowy groves, and Diana's silver
arrows pierced only the tossing treetops. And underfoot the crocus
flamed, and the hyacinth. Flocks and herds fed in pastures rosy with
blossoms, and there were white altars warm with flame in every thicket.
There were dances, and mad revels, and love and laughterhe paused,
and the splendor died from his face. And then one starry nightstill
and clear it was, and white with frostfear stalked into the happy
haunts, and an ontreading mystery, benign yet dreadful. And something,
I know not what, drove me forth. Aie! Aie! There is but the
moaning of doves when the glad hymns sounded, and cold ashes and dead
drifted leaves on the once warm altars!
A sharp pull at his tunic brought his thoughts back to the present.
The child drew him urgently down into the long grass, and laid a finger
upon his lip; and at the touch of the small finger the man trembled
through all his length of limbs, and lay still. Up the road rose a
cloud of dust and the sound of determined feet, and presently a martial
figure came in sight, clad in bronze and leather helmet and cuirass,
and carrying an oblong shield and a short, broad-bladed sword of double
edge. Short yet agile, a soldier every inch, he looked neither to the
right nor to the left, but marched steadily and purposefully upon his
business. His splendid muscles, shining with sweat, gleamed satinwise
in the hot sun. A single unit, he was yet a worthy symbol of a
The man and boy beneath the tree crouched low. Art afraid?
whispered the man. And the boy whispered back, It is he that I hate,
and all his kind. His child-heart beat violently against his side,
great beads stood out upon his forehead, and his hands trembled. If
you but knew the sorrow in the villages! Aye, in the whole
countrybecause of him! He takes the bread from the mouths of the
pitiful poorand we are all so poor! The women and babes starve, but
the taxes must be paid. Upon the aged and the crippled, even, fall
heavy burdens. And all because of him and his kind!
The man looked at the flushed face and trembling limbs of the boy,
and his own face glowed in a golden smile that was full of a sudden and
unaccustomed tenderness. Why, see now, he whispered, that is easily
overcome. Look! I will show thee the way. Lifting himself cautiously,
he crouched on all fours in the grass, slipping and sliding forward so
hiddenly that the keen ear and eagle eye of the approaching soldier
took note of no least ripple in the quiet grass by the roadside. It was
the sinuous, silent motion of a snake; and suddenly his eyes narrowed,
his lips drew back from his teeth, his ears pricked forward, along the
ridge of his bare back the hair bristled, and the locks about his face
waved and writhed as though they were the locks of Medusa herself. Ah,
and were those the flanks and feet of a man, or of a beast, that bore
him along so stealthily? The child watched him in a horror of
fascination, rooted to the spot in terror.
With the quickness of a flash it all happenedthe martial traveller
taken unaware, the broad-bladed sword wrenched from his hand by
seemingly superhuman strength, a sudden hideous grip at his throat,
blows rained upon his head, sharp sobbing breaths torn from his panting
breast ... a red stain upon the dusty road ... a huddled figure ...
silence. And he who had been a man indeed a few brief, bright years,
was no more now than carrion; and he who through all his boasted aeons
had not yet reached the stature of a man stood above the dead body, his
face no longer menacing, but beautiful with a smiling delight in his
deed. And then suddenly the spell that held the child was broken, and
he leaped out upon the murderer and beat and beat and beat upon him
with helpless, puny child-fists, and all a child's splendid and
ineffectual rage. And at that the man turned and thrust the child from
him in utter astonishment, and the boy fell heavily back upon the road,
the second quiet figure lying there. And again the man's face changed,
became vacant, bewildered, troubled; and stooping, he lifted the boy in
his arms, and ran with him westward along the road, through the fields
of dead-ripe wheat, across the stubble of the garnered barley,
fleet-footed as a deer, till he could run no more.
In a little glen of hickory and oak, through whose misty-mellow
depths a small stream trickled, he paused at last and laid the boy upon
a soft and matted bed of thick green myrtle, and brought water in his
two hands to bathe the bruised head, whimpering the while. Then he
chafed the small bare feet and warmed them in his own warm breast; and
gathering handfuls of pungent mint and the sweet-scented henna, he
crushed them and held them to the boy's nostrils. And these devices
failing, he sat disconsolate, the curves of his mobile face falling
into unwonted lines of half-weary, half-sorrowful dejection. I know
not how it may be, he said to himself, smiling whimsically, but I
seem to have caught upon my lips the bitter human savor of repentance.
Utter silence held the little glen. The child lay unconscious, and
the man sat with his head in his hands, as one brooding. When the sun
at last neared the place of his setting, the boy's eyes opened. His
gaze fell upon his companion, and crowded and confused thoughts surged
through him. For some time he lay still, finding his bearings. And at
length the hatred that had all day, and for many days, filled his young
breast, melted away in a divine pity and tenderness, and the tears of
that warm melting rolled down his cheeks. The man near him, who had
watched in silence, gently put a questioning finger upon the wet
What is it? he asked.
Repentance, said the boy.
I pity thee. Repentance is bitter of taste.
No, said the boy. It is warm and sweet. It moves my heart and my
What has become of thy hatred?
I shall never hate again.
What wilt thou do, then?
I shall love, said the boy. Love, he repeated softly.
How came I never to think of that before?
Wilt thou love tyranny and forbear to kill the tyrant?
The boy rose to his feet, and his young slenderness was full of
strength and dignity, and his face, cleared of its sombre brooding, was
full of a bright, untroubled decision. The cypresses upon the hilltops
stood no more resolutely erect, the hills themselves were no more
steadfast. Nay, he said, laughing a little, boyishly, in pure
pleasure at the crystal fixity of his purpose. Rather will I love the
tyrant, and the tyranny will die of itself. Oh, it is the way! It is
the way! And I could not think of it till now! Not till I saw thee
killing and him bleeding. Then I knew. Then, more gravely, he added,
I will begin by loving thee.
Thou hast the appearance of a young god, said the man slowly, but
if thou wert a god, thou would'st crush thine enemies, not love them.
He sighed, and his face strengthened into a semblance of power. I was
a god once myself, he added after some hesitation.
What is thy name? asked the boy.
They called me once the Great God Pan. And thou?
My father is Joseph the carpenter. My mother calls me Jesus.
Ah ... said Pan, ... is it Thou?
Quietly they looked into each other's eyes; quietly clasped hands.
And with no more words the man turned westward into the depths of the
glen, drawing the sun's rays with him as he moved, so that the world
seemed the darker for his going. And as he went he blew upon his pipe a
tremulous and hesitating melody, piercing sweet and piercing sorrowful,
so that whosoever should hear it should clutch his throat with tears at
the wild pity of it, and the strange and haunting beauty. And the boy
stood still, watching, until the man was lost upon the edge of night.
Then he turned his face eastward, whence the new day comes, carrying
forever in his heart the echoes of a dying song.
Copyright, 1920, by John T. Frederick. Copyright, 1921, by Helen Coale Crew.