To those who have followed a routine or system of living in this world—wh_ave, by slow degrees and persistent effort, built up a series of habits, tastes, refinements, emotions and methods of conduct, and have, in addition, achieved a certain distinction and position, so that they have said to one
"Go!" and he goes, and to another "Come!" and he comes, who have enjoye_ithout stint or reserve, let or hindrance, those joys of perfect freedom o_ction, and that ease and deliberation which comes with the presence o_omparative wealth, social position, and comforts, the narrowing that come_ith the lack of means, the fear of public opinion, or the shame of publi_isclosure, is one of the most pathetic, discouraging and terrifying thing_hat can be imagined. These are the hours that try men's souls. The man wh_its in a seat of the mighty and observes a world that is ruled by a superio_ower, a superior force of which he by some miraculous generosity of fate ha_een chosen apparently as a glittering instrument, has no conception of th_eelings of the man who, cast out of his dignities and emoluments, sits in th_ark places of the world among the ashes of his splendor and meditates upo_he glory of his bygone days. There is a pathos here which passes th_onception of the average man. The prophets of the Old Testament discerned i_learly enough, for they were forever pronouncing the fate of those whos_ollies were in opposition to the course of righteousness and who were mad_xamples of by a beneficent and yet awful power. "Thus saith the Lord: Becaus_hou hast lifted thyself up against the God of Heaven, and they have brough_he vessels of His house before thee, and thou and thy Lords, thy wives an_oncubines, have drank wine in them, and thou hast praised the gods of silve_nd gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone… God hath numbered thy Kingdom an_inished it. Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting; thy Kingdom i_ivided and given to the Medes and the Persians."
Eugene was in a minor way an exemplification of this seeming course o_ighteousness. His Kingdom, small as it was, was truly at an end. Our socia_ife is so organized, so closely knit upon a warp of instinct, that we almos_lways instinctively flee that which does not accord with custom, usage, preconceived notions and tendencies—those various things which we in ou_ittleness of vision conceive to be dominant. Who does not run from the ma_ho may because of his deeds be condemned of that portion of the public whic_e chance to respect? Walk he ever so proudly, carry himself with wha_ircumspectness he may, at the first breath of suspicion all are off—friends, relations, business acquaintances, the whole social fabric in toto. "Unclean!"
is the cry. "Unclean! Unclean!" And it does not matter how inwardly shabby w_ay be, what whited sepulchres shining to the sun, we run quickly. It seems _ribute to that providence which shapes our ends, which continues perfect i_endency however vilely we may overlay its brightness with the rust of ou_ortal corruption, however imitative we may be.
Angela had gone home by now to see her father, who was now quite old an_eeble, and also down to Alexandria to see Eugene's mother, who was also badl_eteriorated in health.
"I keep hoping against hope that your attitude will change toward me," wrot_ngela. "Let me hear from you if you will from time to time. It can't make an_ifference in your course. A word won't hurt, and I am so lonely. Oh, Eugene, if I could only die—if I only could!" No word as to the true state of thing_as given at either place. Angela pretended that Eugene had long been sick o_is commercial career and was, owing to untoward conditions in the Colfa_ompany, glad to return to his art for a period. He might come home, but h_as very busy. So she lied. But she wrote Myrtle fully of her hopes and, mor_articularly, her fears.
There were a number of conferences between Eugene and Myrtle, for the latter, because of their early companionship, was very fond of him. His traits, th_nnocent ones, were as sweet to her as when they were boy and girl together.
She sought him out in his lovely room at Kingsbridge.
"Why don't you come and stay with us, Eugene?" she pleaded. "We have _omfortable apartment. You can have that big room next to ours. It has a nic_iew. Frank likes you. We have listened to Angela, and I think you are wrong, but you are my brother, and I want you to come. Everything is coming ou_ight. God will straighten it out. Frank and I are praying for you. There i_o evil, you know, according to the way we think. Now"—and she smiled her old- time girlish smile—"don't stay up here alone. Wouldn't you rather be with me?"
"Oh, I'd like to be there well enough, Myrtle, but I can't do it now. I don'_ant to. I have to think. I want to be alone. I haven't settled what I want t_o. I think I will try my hand at some pictures. I have a little money and al_he time I want now. I see there are some nice houses over there on the hil_hat might have a room with a north window that would serve as a studio. _ant to think this thing out first. I don't know what I'll do."
He had now that new pain in his groin, which had come to him first when he_other first carried Suzanne off to Canada and he was afraid that he shoul_ever see her any more. It was a real pain, sharp, physical, like a cut with _nife. He wondered how it was that it could be physical and down there. Hi_yes hurt him and his finger tips. Wasn't that queer, too?
"Why don't you go and see a Christian Science practitioner?" asked Myrtle. "I_on't do you any harm. You don't need to believe. Let me get you the book an_ou can read it. See if you don't think there is something in it. There you g_miling sarcastically, but, Eugene, I can't tell you what it hasn't done fo_s. It's done everything—that's just all. I'm a different person from what _as five years ago, and so is Frank. You know how sick I was?"
"Yes, I know."
"Why don't you go and see Mrs. Johns? You needn't tell her anything unless yo_ant to. She has performed some perfectly wonderful cures."
"What can Mrs. Johns do for me?" asked Eugene bitterly, his lip set in a_ronic mould. "Cure me of gloom? Make my heart cease to ache? What's the us_f talking? I ought to quit the whole thing." He stared at the floor.
"She can't, but God can. Oh, Eugene, I know how you feel! Please go. It can'_o you any harm. I'll bring you the book tomorrow. Will you read it if I brin_t to you?"
"Oh, Eugene, please for my sake."
"What good will it do? I don't believe in it. I can't. I'm too intelligent t_ake any stock in that rot."
"Eugene, how you talk! You'll change your mind some time. I know how yo_hink. But read it anyhow. Will you please? Promise me you will. I shouldn'_sk. It isn't the way, but I want you to look into it. Go and see Mrs. Johns."
Eugene refused. Of asinine things this seemed the silliest. Christian Science!
Christian rot! He knew what to do. His conscience was dictating that he giv_p Suzanne and return to Angela in her hour of need—to his coming child, fo_he time being anyhow, but this awful lure of beauty, of personality, o_ove—how it tugged at his soul! Oh, those days with Suzanne in the prett_atering and dining places about New York, those hours of bliss when sh_ooked so beautiful! How could he get over that? How give up the memory? Sh_as so sweet. Her beauty so rare. Every thought of her hurt. It hurt so badl_hat most of the time he dared not think—must, perforce, walk or work or sti_estlessly about agonized for fear he should think too much. Oh, life; oh, hell!
The intrusion of Christian Science into his purview just now was due, o_ourse, to the belief in and enthusiasm for that religious idea on the part o_yrtle and her husband. As at Lourdes and St. Anne de Beau Pré and othe_iracle-working centres, where hope and desire and religious enthusiasm fo_he efficacious intervention of a superior and non-malicious force intervenes, there had occurred in her case an actual cure from a very difficult an_omplicated physical ailment. She had been suffering from a tumor, nervou_nsomnia, indigestion, constipation and a host of allied ills, which ha_pparently refused to yield to ordinary medical treatment. She was in a ver_ad way mentally and physically at the time the Christian Science textbook,
"Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures," by Mrs. Eddy, was put int_er hands. While attempting to read it in a hopeless, helpless spirit, she wa_nstantly cured—that is, the idea that she was well took possession of her, and not long after she really was so. She threw all her medicines, of whic_here was quite a store, into the garbage pail, eschewed doctors, began t_ead the Christian Science literature, and attend the Christian Science churc_earest her apartment, and was soon involved in its subtle metaphysica_nterpretation of mortal life. Into this faith, her husband, who loved he_ery much, had followed, for what was good enough for her and would cure he_as good enough for him. He soon seized on its spiritual significance wit_reat vigor and became, if anything, a better exponent and interpreter of th_ignificant thought than was she herself.
Those who know anything of Christian Science know that its main tenet is tha_od is a principle, not a personality understandable or conceivable from th_ortal or sensory side of life (which latter is an illusion), and that man (spiritually speaking) in His image and likeness. Man is not God or any par_f Him. He is an idea in God, and, as such, as perfect and indestructible an_ndisturbably harmonious as an idea in God or principle must be. To those no_etaphysically inclined, this is usually dark and without significance, but t_hose spiritually or metaphysically minded it comes as a great light. Matte_ecomes a built-up set or combination of illusions, which may have evolved o_ot as one chooses, but which unquestionably have been built up from nothin_r an invisible, intangible idea, and have no significance beyond the faith o_redence, which those who are at base spiritual give them. Deny them—know the_o be what they are—and they are gone.
To Eugene, who at this time was in a great state of mental doldrums—blue, dispirited, disheartened, inclined to see only evil and destructiv_orces—this might well come with peculiar significance, if it came at all. H_as one of those men who from their birth are metaphysically inclined. All hi_ife he had been speculating on the subtleties of mortal existence, readin_pencer, Kant, Spinoza, at odd moments, and particularly such men as Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, Lord Avebury, Alfred Russel Wallace, and latterly Sir Olive_odge and Sir William Crookes, trying to find out by the inductive, naturalistic method just what life was. He had secured inklings at times, h_hought, by reading such things as Emerson's "Oversoul," "The Meditations o_arcus Aurelius," and Plato. God was a spirit, he thought, as Christ had sai_o the woman at the well in Samaria, but whether this spirit concerned itsel_ith mortal affairs, where was so much suffering and contention, was anothe_atter. Personally he had never believed so—or been at all sure. He had alway_een moved by the Sermon on the Mount; the beauty of Christ's attitude towar_he troubles of the world, the wonder of the faith of the old prophets i_nsisting that God is God, that there are no other Gods before him, and tha_e would repay iniquity with disfavor. Whether he did or not was an ope_uestion with him. This question of sin had always puzzled him—original sin.
Were there laws which ante-dated human experience, which were in God—Th_ord—before it was made flesh? If so, what were these laws? Did they concer_atrimony—some spiritual union which was older than life itself? Did the_oncern stealing? What was stealing outside of life? Where was it before ma_egan? Or did it only begin with man? Ridiculous! It must relate to somethin_n chemistry and physics, which had worked out in life. A sociologist—a grea_rofessor in one of the colleges had once told him that he did not believe i_uccess or failure, sin, or a sense of self-righteousness except as they wer_elated to built-up instincts in the race—instincts related solely to th_elf-preservation and the evolution of the race. Beyond that was nothing.
Spiritual morality? Bah! He knew nothing about it.
Such rank agnosticism could not but have had its weight with Eugene. He was _oubter ever. All life, as I have said before, went to pieces under hi_calpel, and he could not put it together again logically, once he had it cu_p. People talked about the sanctity of marriage, but, heavens, marriage wa_n evolution! He knew that. Someone had written a two-volume treatise o_t—"The History of Human Marriage," or something like that and in it animal_ere shown to have mated only for so long as it took to rear the young, to ge_hem to the point at which they could take care of themselves. And wasn't thi_eally what was at the basis of modern marriage? He had read in this history, if he recalled aright, that the only reason marriage had come to be looke_pon as sacred, and for life, was the length of time it took to rear the huma_oung. It took so long that the parents were old, safely so, before th_hildren were launched into the world. Then why separate?
But it was the duty of everybody to raise children.
Ah! there had been the trouble. He had been bothered by that. The hom_entered around that. Children! Race reproduction! Pulling this wagon o_volution! Was every man who did not inevitably damned? Was the race spiri_gainst him? Look at the men and women who didn't—who couldn't. Thousands an_housands. And those who did always thought those who didn't were wrong. Th_hole American spirit he had always felt to be intensely set in thi_irection—the idea of having children and rearing them, a conservativ_ork-a-day spirit. Look at his father. And yet other men were so shrewd tha_hey preyed on this spirit, moving factories to where this race spirit was th_ost active, so that they could hire the children cheaply, and nothin_appened to them, or did something happen?
However, Myrtle continued to plead with him to look into this ne_nterpretation of the Scriptures, claiming that it was true, that it woul_ring him into an understanding of spirit which would drive away all thes_ortal ills, that it was above all mortal conception—spiritual over all, an_o he thought about that. She told him that if it was right that he shoul_ease to live with Angela, it would come to pass, and that if it was not, i_ould not; but anyhow and in any event in this truth there would be peace an_appiness to him. He should do what was right ("seek ye first the Kingdom o_od"), and then all these things would be added unto him.
And it seemed terribly silly at first to Eugene for him to be listening at al_o any such talk, but later it was not so much so. There were long argument_nd appeals, breakfast and dinner, or Sunday dinners at Myrtle's apartment, arguments with Bangs and Myrtle concerning every phase of the Scienc_eaching, some visits to the Wednesday experience and testimony meetings o_heir church, at which Eugene heard statements concerning marvelous cure_hich he could scarcely believe, and so on. So long as the testimonie_onfined themselves to complaints which might be due to nervous imagination, he was satisfied that their cures were possibly due to religious enthusiasm, which dispelled their belief in something which they did not have, but whe_hey were cured of cancer, consumption, locomotor-ataxia, goitres, shortene_imbs, hernia—he did not wish to say they were liars, they seemed too sincer_o do that, but he fancied they were simply mistaken. How could they, or thi_elief, or whatever it was, cure cancer? Good Lord! He went on disbelieving i_his way, and refusing also to read the book until one Wednesday evening whe_e happened to be at the Fourth Church of Christ Scientist in New York that _an stood up beside him in his own pew and said:
"I wish to testify to the love and mercy of God in my case, for I wa_opelessly afflicted not so very long ago and one of the vilest men I think i_s possible to be. I was raised in a family where the Bible was read night an_orning—my father was a hidebound Presbyterian—and I was so sickened by th_anner in which it was forced down my throat and the inconsistencies which _hought I saw existing between Christian principle and practice, even in m_wn home, that I said to myself I would conform as long as I was in m_ather's house and eating his bread, but when I got out I would do as _leased. I was in my father's house after that a number of years, until I wa_eventeen, and then I went to a large city, Cincinnati, but the moment I wa_way and free I threw aside all my so-called religious training and set out t_o what I thought was the most pleasant and gratifying thing for me to do. _anted to drink, and I did, though I was really never a very successfu_rinker." Eugene smiled. "I wanted to gamble, and I did, but I was never _ery clever gambler. Still I did gamble a bit. My great weakness was women, and here I hope none will be offended, I know they will not be, for there ma_e others who need my testimony badly. I pursued women as I would any othe_ure. They were really all that I desired—their bodies. My lust was terrible.
It was such a dominant thought with me that I could not look at any good- looking woman except, as the Bible says, to lust after her. I was vile. _ecame diseased. I was carried into the First Church of Christ Scientist i_hicago, after I had spent all my money and five years of my time o_hysicians and specialists, suffering from locomotor ataxia, dropsy and kidne_isease. I had previously been healed of some other things by ordinar_edicine.
"If there is anyone within the sound of my voice who is afflicted as I was, _ant him to listen to me.
"I want to say to you tonight that I am a well man—not well physically only, but well mentally, and, what is better yet, in so far as I can see the truth, spiritually. I was healed after six months' treatment by a Christian Scienc_ractitioner in Chicago, who took my case on my appealing to her, and I stan_efore you absolutely sound and whole. God is good."
He sat down.
While he had been talking Eugene had been studying him closely, observin_very line of his features. He was tall, lean, sandy-haired and sandy-bearded.
He was not bad-looking, with long straight nose, clear blue eyes, a ligh_inkish color to his complexion, and a sense of vigor and health about him.
The thing that Eugene noted most was that he was calm, cool, serene, vital. H_aid exactly what he wanted to say, and he said it vigorously. His voice wa_lear and with good carrying power. His clothes were shapely, new, well made.
He was no beggar or tramp, but a man of some profession—an engineer, ver_ikely. Eugene wished that he might talk to him, and yet he felt ashamed.
Somehow this man's case paralleled his own; not exactly, but closely. H_ersonally was never diseased, but how often he had looked after a perfectl_harming woman to lust after her! Was the thing that this man was sayin_eally true? Could he be lying? How ridiculous! Could he be mistaken? _Thi_an?_ Impossible! He was too strong, too keen, too sincere, too earnest, to b_ither of these things. Still—But this testimony might have been given for hi_enefit, some strange helpful power—that kindly fate that had always pursue_im might be trying to reach him here. Could it be? He felt a little strang_bout it, as he had when he saw the black-bearded man entering the train tha_ook him to Three Rivers, the time he went at the call of Suzanne, as he di_hen horseshoes were laid before him by supernatural forces to warn him o_oming prosperity. He went home thinking, and that night he seriously tried t_ead "Science and Health" for the first time.