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The Dominant Impulse
by [?]

I

Calmar Bye was a writer. That is to say, writing was his vocation and his recreation as well.

As yet, unfortunately, he had been unable to find publishers; but for that deficiency no reasonable person could hold him responsible. He had tried them all–and repeatedly. A certain expressman now smiled when he saw the long, slim figure approaching with a package under his arm, which from frequent reappearances had become easily recognizable; but as a person becomes accustomed to a physical deformity, Calmar Bye had ceased to notice banter.

Of but one thing in his life he was positively certain; and that was if Nature had fashioned him for any purpose in particular, it was to do the very thing he was doing now. The reason for this certainty was that he could do nothing else with even moderate satisfaction. He had tried, frequently, to break away, and had even succeeded for a month at a time in an endeavor to avoid writing a word; but inevitably there came a relapse and a more desperate debauch in literature. Try as he might he could not avoid the temptation. An incident, a trifle out of the ordinary in his commonplace life, a sudden thrill at the reading of another man’s story, a night of insomnia, and resolution was in tatters, and shortly thereafter Calmar Bye’s pencil would be coursing with redoubled vigor over a sheet of virgin paper.

To be sure, Calmar did other things besides write. Being a normal man with a normal appetite, he could not successfully evade the demands of animal existence, and when his finances became unbearably low, he would proceed to their improvement by whatever means came first to hand. Book-keeping, clerical work, stenography–anything was grist for his mill at such times, and for a period he would work without rest. No better assistant could be found anywhere–until he had satisfied his few creditors and established a small surplus of his own. Then, presto, change!–and on the surface reappeared Bye, the long, slender, blue-eyed, dreaming, dawdling, irresponsible writer.

Being what he was, the tenor of Calmar’s life was markedly uneven. At times the lust to write, the spirit of inspiration, as he would have explained to himself in the privacy of his own study, would come upon him strong, and for hours or days life would be a joyous thing, his fellow-men dear brothers of a happy family, the obvious unhappiness and injustice about him not reality, but mere comedy being enacted for his particular delectation.

Then at last, his work finished, would come inevitable reaction. The product of his hand and brain, completed, seemed inadequate and commonplace. He would smile grimly as with dogged persistence he started this latest child of his fancy out along the trail so thickly bestrewn with the skeletons of elder offspring. In measure, as badinage had previously passed him harmlessly by, it now cut deeply. No one in the entire town thought him a more complete failure than he considered himself. Skies, from being sunny, grew suddenly sodden; not a tenement or alley but thrust obtrusively forward its tale of misery.

“Think of me,” he confided to his friend Bob Wilson one evening as during his transit through a particularly dismal slough of despond they in company were busily engaged in blazing the trail with empty bottles; “One such as I, a man of thirty and of good health, without a dollar or the prospect of a dollar, an income or the prospect of an income, a home or the prospect of a home, following a cold scent like the one I am now on!” He snapped his finger against the rim of his thin drinking glass until it rang merrily.

“The idea, again, of a man such as I, untravelled, penniless, self-educated, thinking to compete with others who journey the world over to secure material, and who have spent a fortune in preparation for this particular work.” He excitedly drained the contents of the glass.