My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris

Chapter xiv.

Work and Sophy.

Now began for me a most delightful time. Sommerfeld relieved me of nearly all the office work: I had only to get up the speeches, for he prepared the cases for me. My income was so large that I only slept in my office-room for convenience sake, or rather for my lechery’s sake.

I kept a buggy and horse at a livery stable and used to drive Lily or Rose out nearly every day. As Rose lived on the other side of the river, it was easy to keep the two separate and indeed neither of them ever dreamed of the other’s existence. I had a very soft spot in my heart for Rose: her beauty of face and form always excited and pleased me and her mind, too, grew quickly through our talks and the books I gave her. I’ll never forget her joy when I first bought a small bookcase and sent it to her home one morning, full of the books I thought she would like and ought to read.

In the evening she came straight to my office, told me it was the very thing she had most wanted and she let me study her beauties one by one; but when I turned her round and kissed her bottom, she wanted me to stop: “You can’t possibly like or admire that”, was her verdict.

“Indeed I do,” I cried; but I confessed to myself that she was right; her bottom was adorably dimpled; but it was a little too fat, and the line underneath it was not perfect. One of her breasts, too, was prettier than the other, though both were small and stuck out boldly; my critical sense could find no fault with her triangle or her sex; the lips of it were perfect, very small and rose-red and her clitoris was like a tiny, tiny button. I often wished it were half an inch long like Mrs. Mayhew’s. Only once in our intercourse did I try to bring her to ecstasy and only half succeeded; consequently I used simply to have her, just to enjoy myself and only now and then went on to a second orgasm so as really to warm her to the love-play; Rose was anything but sensual, though invariably sweet and an excellent companion. How she could be so affectionate though sexually cold was always a puzzle to me.

Lily, as I have said, was totally different: a merry little grig and born child of Venus: now and then she gave me a really poignant sensation. She was always deriding, Mrs. Mayhew; but curiously enough, she was very like her in many intimate ways — a sort of understudy of the older and more passionate woman, with a child’s mischievous gaiety to boot and a childish joy in living,

But a great and new sensation was now to come into my life. One evening a girl without a hat on and without knocking came into my office. Sommerfeld had gone home for the night and I was just putting my things straight before going out; she took my breath; she was astoundingly good-looking, very dark with great, black eyes and slight, girlish figure: “I’m Topsy”, she announced and stood there smiling, as if the mere name told enough.

“Come in”, I said, “and take a seat: I’ve heard of you!” and I had.

She was a privileged character in the town: she rode on the street-cars and railroads too without paying; those who challenged her were all “pore white trash”, she said, and some man was always eager to pay for her: she never hesitated to go up to any man and ask him for a dollar or even five dollars — and invariably got what she wanted: her beauty was as compelling to men as her scornful aloofness. I had often heard of her as “that d — d pretty nigger girl!” but I could see no trace of any negro characteristic in her pure loveliness.

She took the seat and said with a faint Southern accent I found pleasing, “You’ name Harris?”

“That’s my name”, I replied smiling: “You here instead Barker?” she went on: “he sure deserved to die hiccuppin’: pore white trash!”

“What’s your real name!” I asked.

“They call me ‘Topsy’,” she replied, “but ma real true name is Sophy, Sophy Beveridge: you was very kind to my mother who lives upstairs: yes”, she went on defiantly, “she’s my mother and a mighty good mother too and don’t you fergit it!” she added, tossing her head in contempt of my astonishment.

“Your father must have been white!” I couldn’t help remarking for I couldn’t couple Topsy with the old octaroon, do what I would. She nodded, “he was white all right: that is, his skin was!” and she got up and wandered about the office as if it belonged to her. “I’ll call you, ‘Sophy’,” I said; for I felt a passionate revolt of injured pride in her. She smiled at me with pleasure.

I didn’t know what to do. I must not go with a colored girl: though I could see no sign of black blood in Sophy and certainly she was astonishingly good-looking even in her simple sprigged gown. As she moved about I could not but remark the lithe panther-like grace of her and her little breasts stuck out against the thin cotton garment with a most provocative allurement: my mouth was parching when she swung round on me; “You ondressing me”, she said smiling, “and I’se glad, ‘cause my mother likes you and I loves her — sure pop!”

There was something childish, direct, innocent even about her frankness that fascinated me and her good looks made sunshine in the darkening room.

“I like you, Sophy”, I said, “but anyone would have done as much for your mother as I did. She was ill!”

“Hoo!” she snorted indignantly, “most white folk would have let her die right there on the stairs: I know them: they’d have been angry with her for groaning: I hate ’em!” and her great eyes glowered.

She came over to me in a flash:

“If you’d been American, I couldn’t never have come to you, never! I’d rather have died, or saved and stole and paid you — “ the scorn in her voice was bitter with hate: evidently the negro question had a side I had never realised.

“But you’re different”, she went on, “an’ I just came — “ and she paused, lifting her great eyes to mine, with an unspoken offer in their lingering regard.

“I’m glad”, I said lamely, staving off the temptation, “and I hope you’ll come again soon and we’ll be great friends — eh, Sophy!” and I held out my hand smiling; but she pouted and looked at me with reproach or appeal or disappointment in her eyes. I could not resist: I took her hand and drew her to me and kissed her on the lips, slipping my right hand the while up to her left breast: it was as firm as india-rubber: at once I felt my sex stand and throb: resolve and desire fought in me, but I was accustomed to make my will supreme:

“You are the loveliest girl in Lawrence”, I said, “but I must really go now: I have an appointment and I’m late.”

She smiled enigmatically as I seized my hat and went, not stopping even to shut or lock the office door.

As I walked up the street, my thoughts and feelings were all in a whirl: “Did I want her? Should I have her! Would she come again?”

“Oh Hell! women are the very devil and he’s not so black as he’s painted! Black?”

That night I was awakened by a loud knocking at my office door; I sprang up and opened without thinking and at once Sophy came in laughing.

“What is it?” I cried half asleep still.

“I’se tired waiting”, she answered cheekily, “and anyways I just came.” I was about to remonstrate with her when she cried: “You go right to bed” and she took my head in her hands and kissed me. My wish to resist died out of me. “Come quickly!” I said getting into bed and watching her as she stripped. In a hand’s turn she had undressed to her chemise: “I reckon this’ll do”, she said coquettishly.

“Please take it off”, I cried and the next moment she was in my arms naked. As I touched her sex, she wound her arms round my neck and kissed me greedily with hot lips. To my astonishment her sex was well — formed and very small: I had always heard that negroes had far larger genitals than white people; but the lips of Sophy’s sex were thick and firm, “Have you ever been had, Sophy?” I asked.

“No, sir!” she replied, “I liked you because you never came after me and you was so kind and I thot that I’d be sure to do it sometime, so I’d rather let you have me than anyone else: I don’t like colored men”, she added, “and the white men all look down on me and despise me and I— I love you”, she whispered, burying her face on my neck.

“It’ll hurt you at first, Sophy, I’m afraid”; but she stilled all scruples with “Shucks, I don’t care: if I gives you pleasure, I’se satisfied” and she opened her legs, stretching herself as I got on her. The next moment my sex was caressing her clitoris and of herself she drew up her knees and suddenly with one movement brought my sex into hers and against the maiden barrier. Sophy had no hesitation: she moved her body lithely against me and the next moment I had forced the passage and was in her. I waited a little while and then began the love game. At once Sophy followed my movements, lifting her sex up to me as I pushed in and depressing it to hold me as I withdrew. Even when I quickened, she kept time and so gave me the most intense pleasure, thrill on thrill, and as I came and my seed spirted into her, the muscle inside her vagina gripped my sex, heightening the sensation to an acute pang; she even kissed me more passionately than any other girl, licking the inside of my lips with her hot tongue. When I went on again with the slow in-and-out movements, she followed in perfect time and her trick of bending her sex down on mine as I withdrew and gripping it at the same time excited me madly: soon, of her own accord, she quickened while gripping and thrilling me till again we both spent together in an ecstasy.

“You’re a perfect wonder!” I cried to her then, panting in my turn, “but how did you learn so quickly?”

“I loves you”, she said, “so I do whatever I think you’d like and then I likes that too, see?” And her lovely face glowed against mine.

I got up to show her the use of the syringe and found we were in a bath of blood. In a moment she had stripped the sheet off: “I’ll wash that in the morning” she said laughing while doubling it into a ball and throwing it in the corner. I turned the gas on full: never was there a more seductive figure. Her skin was darkish, it is true; but not darker than that of an ordinary Italian or Spanish girl, and her form had a curious attraction for me: her breasts, small and firm as elastic, stood out provocatively; her hips, however, were narrower than even Lily’s though the cheeks of her bottom were full; her legs too were well-rounded, not a trace of the sticks of the negro; her feet even were slender and high-arched.

“You are the loveliest girl I’ve ever seen!” I cried as I helped to put in the syringe and wash her sex.

“You’re mah man!” she said proudly, “an’ I want to show you that I can love better than any white trash; they only gives themselves airs!”

“You are white”, I cried, “don’t be absurd!” She shook her little head: “if you knew!” she said, “when I was a girl, a child, old white men, the best in town, used to say dirty words to me in the street and try to touch me — the beasts!” I gasped: I had had no idea of such contempt and persecution.

When we were back in bed together: “tell me, Sophy dear, how you learned to move with me in time as you do and give me such thrills!”

“Hoo!” she cried, gurgling with pleased joy, “that’s easy to tell. I was scared you didn’t like me, so this afternoon I went to wise ole niggah woman and &sk her how to make man love you really! She told me to go right to bed with you and do that”, and she smiled.

“Nothing more?” I asked: her eyes opened brightly, “Shu!” she cried, “if you want to do love again, I show you!” The next moment I was in her and now she kept even better time than at first and somehow or other the thick, firm lips of her sex seemed to excite me more than anyone had ever excited me. Instinctively the lust grew in me and I quickened and as I came to the short, hard strokes, she suddenly slipped her legs together under me and closing them tightly held my sex as in a firm grip and then began “milking” me — no other word conveys the meaning — with extraordinary skill and speed, so that in a moment I was gasping and choking with the intensity of the sensation and my seed came in hot jets while she continued the milking movement, tireless, indefatigable!

“What a marvel you are!” I exclaimed as soon as I got breath enough to speak, “the best bedfellow I’ve ever had, wonderful, you dear, you!”

All glowing with my praise, she wound her arms about my neck and mounted me as Lorna Mayhew had done once; but now what a difference! Lorna was so intent on gratifying her own lust that she often forgot my feelings altogether and her movements were awkward in the extreme; but Sophy thought only of me and, whereas Lorna was always slipping my sex out of her sheath, Sophy in some way seated herself on me and then began rocking her body back and forth while lifting it a little at each churning movement, so that my sex in the grip of her firm, thick lips had a sort of double movement. When she felt me coming as I soon did, she twirled half round on my organ half a dozen times with a new movement and then began rocking herself again, so that my seed was dragged out of me, so to speak, giving me indescribably acute, almost painful sensations. I was breathless thrilling with her every movement.

“Had you any pleasure, Sophy?” asked as soon as we were lying side by side again.

“Shuah!” she said smiling, “you’re very strong, and you — ” she asked, “was you pleased?”

“Great God!” I cried, “I felt as if all the hairs of my head were travelling down my backbone like an army! You are extraordinary, you dear!”

“Keep me with you, Frank”, she whispered, “if you want me, I’ll do anything, everything for you: I never hoped to have such a lover as you. Oh, this child’s real glad her breasties and sex please you. You taught me that word, instead of the nasty word all white folk use; ‘sex’ is good word, very good!” and she crowed with delight. “What do colored people call it!” I asked: “Coozie”, she replied smiling, Coozie! good word too, very good!

Long years later I heard an American story which recalled Sophy’s performance vividly.

An engineer with a pretty daughter had an assistant who showed extraordinary qualities as a machinist and was quiet and well behaved to boot. The father introduced his helper to his daughter and the match was soon arranged. After the marriage, however, the son-in-law drew away and ’twas in vain that the father-in-law tried to guess the reason of the estrangement. At length he asked his son-in-law boldly for the reason: “I meant right, Bill”, he began earnestly, “but if I’ve made a mistake I’ll be sorry: waren’t the goods accordin’ to specification? Warn’t she a virgin?”

“It don’t matter nothin’!” replied Bill, frowning.

“Treat me fair, Bill”, cried the father, “war she a virgin?”

“How can I tell?” exclaimed Bill, “all I can say is, I never know’d a virgin before that had that cinder-shifting movement.”

Sophy was the first to show me the “cinder-shifting” movement and she surely was a virgin!

As a mistress Sophy was perfection perfected and the long lines and slight curves of her lovely body came to have a special attraction for me as the very highest of the pleasure-giving type.

Lily first and then Rose were astonished and perhaps a little hurt at the sudden cooling off of my passion for them. From time to time I took Rose out or sent her books and I had Lily anywhere, any when; but neither of them could compare with Sophy as a bedfellow and her talk even fascinated me more, the better I knew her. She had learned life from the streets, from the animal side first; but it was astonishing how quickly she grew in understanding: love is the only magical teacher! In a fortnight her speech was better than Lily’s; in a month she talked as well as any of the American girls I had had; her desire of knowledge and her sponge-like ease of acquirement were always surprising me. She had a lovelier figure than even Rose and ten times the seduction even of Lily: she never hesitated to take my sex in her hand and caress it; she was a child of nature, bold with an animal’s boldness and had besides a thousand endearing familiarities. I had only to hint a wish for her to gratify it. Sophy was the pearl of all the girls I met in this first stage of my development and I only wish I could convey to the reader a suggestion even of her quaint, enthralling caresses. My admiration of Sophy cleansed me of any possible disdain I might otherwise have had of the negro people, and I am glad of it; for else I might have closed my heart against the Hindu and so missed the best part of my life’s experiences.

I have had a great artist make the sketch of her back which I reproduce at the end of this chapter: it conveys something of the strange vigor and nerve-force of her lovely firm body.

But it was written that as soon as I reached ease and content, the Fates would reshuffle the cards and deal me another hand.

First of all, there came a letter from Smith, telling me how he had got a bad wetting one night and had caught a severe cold. The cough then had returned and he was losing weight and heart. He had come to the conclusion, too, that I had reached, that the moist air of Philadelphia was doing him harm and the doctors now were beginning to urge him to go to Denver, Colorado: all the foremost specialists agreeing that mountain air was the best for his lung-weakness. If I couldn’t come to him, I must wire him and he’d stop in Lawrence to see me on his way West, he had much to say —

A couple of days later he was in the Eldridge House and I went to see him. His appearance shocked me: he had grown spectre thin and the great eyes seemed to burn like lamps in his white face. I knew at once that he was doomed and could scarcely control my tears.

We passed the whole day together and when he heard how I spent my days in casual reading and occasional speaking and my Topsy-turvey nights, he urged me to throw up the law and go to Europe to make myself a real scholar and thinker. But I could not give up Sophy and my ultra-pleasant life. So I resisted, told him he overrated me: I’d easily be the best advocate in the State, I said, and make a lot of money and then I’d go back and do Europe and study as well.

He warned me that I must choose between God and Mammon; I retorted lightly that Mammon and my senses gave me much that God denied: “I’ll serve both”, I cried, but he shook his head.

“I’m finished, Frank”, he declared at length, “but I’d regret life less if I knew that you would take up the work I once hoped to accomplish, won’t you?”

I couldn’t resist his appeal: “All right”, I said, after choking down my tears, “give me a few months and I’ll go, round the world first and then to Germany to study”.

He drew me to him and kissed me on the fore-head: I felt it as a sort of consecration.

A day or so afterwards he took train for Denver and I felt as if the sun had gone out of my life.

I had little to do in Lawrence at this time except read at large and I began to spend a couple of hours every day in the town library. Mrs. Trask, the librarian, was the widow of one of the early settlers who had been brutally murdered during the Quantrell raid when Missourian bandits “shot up” the little town of Lawrence in a last attempt to turn Kansas into a slave-owning state.

Mrs. Trask was a rather pretty little woman who had been made librarian to compensate her in some sort for the loss of her husband. She was well-read in American literature and I often took her advice as to my choice of books. She liked me, I think, for she was invariably kind to me and I owe her many pleasant hours and some instruction.

After Smith had gone West I spent more and more time in the library for my law-work was becoming easier to me every hour. One day about a month after Smith had left, I went into the library and could find nothing enticing to read. Mrs. Trask happened to be passing and I asked her: “What am I to read?”

‘Have you read any of that?” she replied pointing to Bonn’s edition of Emerson in two volumes. “He’s good!”

“I saw him in Concord”, I said, “but he was deaf and made little impression on me.”

“He’s the greatest American thinker”, she retorted, “and you ought to read him”.

Automatically I took down the volume and it opened of itself at the last page of Emerson’s advice to the scholars of Dartmouth College. Every word is still printed on my memory: I can see the left-hand page and read again that divine message: I make no excuse for quoting it almost word for word:

“Gentlemen, I have ventured to offer you these considerations upon the scholar’s place and hope, because I thought that standing, as many of you now do, on the threshold of this College, girt and ready to go and assume tasks, public and private, in your country, you would not be sorry to be admonished of those primary duties of the intellect whereof you will seldom hear from the lips of your new companions. You will hear every day the maxims of a low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. ‘What is this Truth you seek? what is this beauty!’ men will ask, with derision. If nevertheless God have called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, ‘As others do, so will I: I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season’; — then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand thousand men. The hour of that choice is the crisis of your history, and see that you hold yourself fast by the intellect. It is this domineering temper of the sensual world that creates the extreme need of the priests of science . . . Be content with a little light, so it be your own. Explore, and explore. Be neither chided nor flattered out of your position of perpetual inquiry. Neither dogmatize, nor accept another’s dogmatism. Why should you renounce your right to traverse the star-lit deserts of truth, for the premature comforts of an acre, house, and barnf Truth also has its roof, and bed, and board. Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread, and if not store of it, yet such as shall not take away your property in all men’s affections, in art, in nature, and in hope.”

The truth of it shocked me: “then perish the buds of art and poetry and science in you as they have perished already in a thousand, thousand men!” That explained why it was that there was no Shakespeare, no Bacon, no Swinburne in America where, according to population and wealth there should be dozens.

There flashed on me the realization of the truth, that just because wealth was easy to get here, it exercised an incomparable attraction and in its pursuit “perished a thousand, thousand” gifted spirits who might have steered humanity to new and nobler accomplishment.

The question imposed itself: “Was I too to sink to fatness! wallow in sensuality, degrade myself for a nerve-thrill?”

“No!” I cried to myself, “ten thousand times, no! No! I’ll go and seek the star-lit deserts of Truth or die on the way!”

I closed the book and with it and the second volume of it in my hand went to Mrs. Trask.

“I want to buy this book”, I said, “it has a message for me that I must never forget!”

“I’m glad”, said the little lady smiling, “what is it?”

I read her a part of the passage: “I see”, she exclaimed, “but why do you want the books 1”

“I want to take them with me”, I said, “I mean to leave Lawrence at once and go to Germany to study!”

“Good gracious!” she cried, “how can you do that? I thought you were a partner of Sommerfeld’s; you can’t go at once!”

“I must”, I said, “the ground burns under my feet: if I don’t go now, I shall never go: I’ll be out of Lawrence tomorrow!”

Mrs. Trask threw up her hands and remonstrated with me: such quick decisions were dangerous; “why should I be in such a hurry!”

I repeated time and again: “If I don’t go at once, I shall never go: ‘the ignoble pleasures’ will grow sweeter and sweeter to me and I shall sink gradually and drown in the mud-honey of life.”

Finally seeing I was adamant and my mind fixed: she sold me the books at full price with some demur, then she added:

“I almost wish I had never recommended Emerson to you!” and the dear lady looked distressed, almost on the verge of tears.

“Never regret that!” I cried, “I shall remember you as long as I live because of that and always be grateful to you. Professor Smith told me I ought to go; but it needed the word of Emerson to give me the last push! The buds of poetry and science and art shall not perish in me as they have ‘perished already in a thousand, thousand men!’ Thanks to you!” I added warmly, “all my best heart-thanks; you have been to me the messenger of high fortune.”

I clasped her hands, wished to kiss her, but foolishly feared to hurt her and so contented myself with a long kiss on her hand and went out at once to find Sommerfeld.

He was in the office and forthwith I told him the whole story, how Smith had tried to persuade me and how I had resisted till this page of Emerson had convinced me: “I am sorry to leave you in the lurch,” I explained; but “I must go and go at once”.

He told me it was madness: I could study German right there in Lawrence; he would help me with it gladly. “You mustn’t throw away a livelihood just for a word”, he cried, “it is madness, I never heard a more insane decision!”

We argued for hours: I couldn’t convince him any more than he could persuade me; he tried his best to get me to stay two years at any rate and then go with full pockets: “you can easily spare two years”, he cried, but I retorted, “not even two days: I’m frightened of myself.”

When he found that I wanted the money to go round the world with first, he saw a chance of delay and said I must give him some time to find out what was coming to me; I told him I trusted him utterly (as indeed I did) and could only give him the Saturday and Sunday, for I’d go on the Monday at the latest. He gave in at last and was very kind.

I got a dress and little hat for Lily and lots of books beside a chinchilla cape for Rose and broke the news to Lily next morning, keeping the afternoon for Rose. To my astonishment I had most trouble with Lily: she would not hear any reason: “There is no reason in it”, she cried again and again, and then she broke down in a storm of tears: “What will become of me?” she sobbed, “I always hoped you’d marry me!” she confessed at last, “and now you go away for nothing, nothing — on a wild-goose chase — to study”, she added in a tone of absolute disdain, “just as if you couldn’t study here!”

“I’m too young to marry, Lily,” I said, “and — ”

“You were not too young to make me love you,” she broke in, “and now what shall I do? Even Mamma said that we ought to be engaged and I want you so, — oh! oh!” and again the tears fell in a shower.

I could not help saying at last that I would think it all over and let her know and away I went to Rose. Rose heard me out in complete silence and then with her eyes on mine in lingering affection, she said:

“Do you know, I’ve been afraid often of some decision like this. I said to myself a dozen times, ‘why should he stay here? the wider world calls him’ and if I feel inclined to hate my work because it prevents my studying, what must it be for him in that horrible court, fighting day after day? I always knew I should lose you, dear!” she added, “but you were the first to help me to think and read, so I must not complain. Do you go soon?”

“On Monday,” I replied, and her dear eyes grew sombre and her lips quivered. “You’ll write?” she asked, “please do, Frank! No matter what happens I shall never forget you: you’ve helped me, encouraged me more than I can say. Did I tell you, I’ve got a place in Crew’s bookstore? When I said I had learned to love books from you, he was glad and said ‘if you get to know them as well as he did, or half as well, you’ll be invaluable’; so you see, I an following in your footsteps, as you are following in Smith’s.”

“If you knew how glad I am that I’ve really helped and not hurt you, Rose?” I said sadly, for Lily’s accusing voice was still in my ears.

“You couldn’t hurt anyone,” she exclaimed, almost as if she divined my remorse, “you are so gentle and kind and understanding”.

Her words were balm to me and she walked with me to the bridge where I told her she would hear from me on the morrow. I wanted to know what she would think of the books and cape. The last thing I saw of her was her hand raised as if in benediction.

I kept the Sunday morning for Sommerfeld and my friend Will Thompson and the rest of the day for Sophy.

Sommerfeld came to the office before nine and told me the firm owed me three thousand dollars: I didn’t wish to take it; could not believe he had meant to go halves with me but he insisted and paid me.

“I don’t agree with your sudden determination,” he said, “perhaps because it was sudden; but I’ve no doubt you’ll do well at anything you take up. Let me hear from you now and again and if you ever need a friend, you know where to find me!”

As we shook hands I realised that parting could be as painful as the tearing asunder of flesh.

Will Thompson, I found, was eager to take over the hoardings and my position in Liberty Hall; he had brought his father with him and after much bargaining I conveyed everything I could, over to him for three thousand five hundred dollars, and so after four year’s work I had just the money I had had in Chicago four years earlier!

I dined in the Eldridge House and then went back to the office to meet Sophy who was destined to surprise me more even than Lily or Kose: “I’m coming with you,” she announced coolly, “if you’re not ashamed to have me along; you goin’ Frisco, — so far anyway — “ she pleaded divining my surprise and unwillingness.

“Of course, I’ll be delighted,” I said, “but — ” I simply could not refuse her.

She gurgled with joy and drew out her purse: “I’ve four hundred dollars”, she said proudly, “and that’ll take this child a long way”.

I made her put the money away and promise me she wouldn’t spend a cent of her money while we were together and then I told her how I wished to dress her when we got to Denver, for I wanted to stop there for a couple of days to see Smith who had written approving of everything I did and adding, to my heart’s joy, that he was much better.

On the Monday morning Sophy and I started westwards: she had had the tact to go to the depot first so that no one in Lawrence ever coupled our names. Sommerfeld and Judge Bassett saw me off at the depot and wished me “all luck!” And so the second stage of my life came to an end.

Sophy was a lively sweet companion; after leaving Topeka, she came boldly into my compartment and did not leave me again. May I confess it? I’d rather she had stayed in Lawrence; I wanted the adventure of being alone and there was a girl in the train whose long eyes held mine as I passed her seat, and I passed it often: I’d have spoken to her if Sophy had not been with me.

When we got to Denver, I called on Smith, leaving Sophy in the hotel. I found him better, but divined that the cursed disease was only taking breath, so to speak, before the final assault. He came back with me to my hotel and as soon as he saw Sophy, he declared I must go back with him, he had forgotten to give me something I must have. I smiled at Sophy to whom Smith was very courteous-kind and accompanied him. As soon as we were in the street, Smith began in horror:

“Frank, she’s a colored girl: you must leave her at once or you’ll make dreadful trouble for yourself later”. “How did you know she was colored?” I asked. “Look at her nails!” he cried, “and her eyes:

no Southerner would be in doubt for a moment. You must leave her at once, please!”

“We are going to part at Frisco”, I said. And when he pressed me to send her back at once, I refused. I would not put such shame upon her and even now I’m sure I was right in that resolve.

Smith was sorry but kind to me and so we parted forever.

He had done more for me than any other man and now after fifty years I can only confess my incommensurable debt to him and the hot tears come into my eyes now as they came when our hands met for the last time: he was the dearest, sweetest, noblest spirit of a man I have met in this earthly pilgrimage. Ave atque vale.

As the time drew on to the day when the boat was to start, Sophy grew thoughtful. I got her a pretty corn-colored dress that set off her beauty as golden sunlight a lovely woodland, and when she thanked and hugged me, I wanted to put my hand up her clothes for she had made a mischievous, naughty remark that amused me and reminded me we had driven all the previous day and I had not had her. To my surprise she stopped me: “I’ve not washed since we came in”, she explained.

“Do you wash so often?” “Shuah,” she replied, fixing me.

“Why?” I asked, searching her regard.

“Because I’m afraid of nigger-smell,” she flung out passionately —

“What nonsense!” I exclaimed.

“Tain’t either”, she contradicted me angrily, “My mother took me once to negro-church and I near choked: I never went again; I just couldn’t: when they get hot, they stink — pah!” and she shook her head and made a face in utter disgust and contempt.

“That’s why you goin’ to leave me”, she added after a long pause, with tears in her voice; “if it wasn’t for that damned nigger blood in me, I’d never leave you: I’d just go on with you as servant or anything: ah God, how I love you and how lonely this Topsy’ll be!” and the tears ran down her quivering face. “If I were only all white or all black,” she sobbed: “I’m so unhappy!” My heart bled for her.

If it had not been for the memory of Smith’s disdain, I would have given in and taken her with me. As it was, I could only do my best to console her by saying: “a couple of years, Sophy, and I’ll return; they’ll pass quickly: I’ll write you often, dear!”

But Sophy knew better and when the last night came, she surpassed herself. It was warm and we went early to bed: “it’s my night!” she said: “you just let me show you, you dear! I don’t want you to go after any whitish girl in those Islands till you get to China and you won’t go with those yellow, slit-eyed girls — that’s why I love you so, because you keep yourself for those you like:— but you’re naughty to like so many — ma man!” and she kissed me with passion: she let me have her almost without response, but after the first orgasm she gripped my sex and milked me, and afterwards mounting me made me thrill again and again till I was speechless and like children we fell asleep in each other’s arms, weeping for the parting on the morrow.

I said “Good-bye!” at the hotel and went on board the steamer by myself: my eyes set on the Golden Gate into the great Pacific and the hopes and hazards of the new life. At length I was to see the world: what would I find in it? I had no idea then that I should find little or much in exact measure to what I brought and it is now the saddest part of these Confessions that on this first trip round the world, I was so untutored, so thoughtless that I got practically nothing out of my long journeying.

Like Odysseus I saw many cities of men; but scenes seldom enrich the spirit: yet one or two places made a distinct impression on me, young and hard though I was: Sidney Bay and Heights, Hong Kong, too; but above all, the old Chinese gate leading into the Chinese City of Shanghai so close to the European town and so astonishingly different. Kioto, too, imprinted itself on my memory and the Japanese men and girls that ran naked out of their hot baths in order to see whether I was really white all over.

But I learned nothing worth recalling till I came to Table Bay and saw the long line of Table Mountain four thousand feet above me, a cliff cutting the sky with an incomparable effect of dignity and grandeur. I stayed in Cape Town a month or so, and by good luck I got to know Jan Hofmeyr there who taught me what good fellows the Boers really were and how highly the English Premier Gladstone was esteemed for giving freedom to them after Majuba: “we look on him with reverence” said my friend, Hofmeyr, “as the embodied conscience of England”; but alas! England could not stomach Majuba and had to spend blood and treasure later to demonstrate the manhood of the Boers to the world. But thank God, England then gave freedom and self-government again to South Africa and so atoned for her shameful “Concentration Camps”. Thanks to Jan Hofmeyr I got to know and esteem the South African Boer even on this first short acquaintance.

When I went round the world for the second time twenty years later, I tried to find the Hofmeyrs of every country and so learned all manner of things worthful and strange that I shall tell of, I hope, at the end of my next volume. For the only short cut to knowledge is through intercourse with wise and gifted men.

Now I must confess something of my first six months of madness and pleasure in Paris and then speak of England again and Thomas Carlyle and Ms incomparable influence upon me and so lead you, gentle render, to my, later prentice years in Germany and Greece.

There in Athens I learned new sex-secrets which may perchance interest even the Philistines though they can be learned in Paris as well, and will be set forth simply in the second volume of these “Confessions”, which will tell the whole “art of love” as understood in Europe and perhaps contain my second voyage round the world and the further instruction in the great art which I received from the Adepts of the East — unimaginable refinements, for they have studied the body as deeply as the soul.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/harris/frank/my-life-and-loves/chapter14.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:51