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Chapter 26

  • The most dangerous thing to possess a man to the extent of dominating him i_n idea. It can and does ride him to destruction. Eugene's idea of th_erfection of eighteen was one of the most dangerous things in his nature. I_ way, combined with the inability of Angela to command his interest an_oyalty, it had been his undoing up to this date. A religious idea followed i_ narrow sense would have diverted this other, but it also might hav_estroyed him, if he had been able to follow it. Fortunately the theory he wa_ow interesting himself in was not a narrow dogmatic one in any sense, bu_eligion in its large aspects, a comprehensive resumé and spiritual co- ordination of the metaphysical speculation of the time, which was worthy o_nyone's intelligent inquiry. Christian Science as a cult or religion wa_hunned by current religions and religionists as something outré, impossible, uncanny—as necromancy, imagination, hypnotism, mesmerism, spiritism—everything, in short, that it was not, and little, if anything, tha_t really was. Mrs. Eddy had formulated or rather restated a fact that was t_e found in the sacred writings of India; in the Hebrew testaments, old an_ew; in Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, St. Augustine, Emerson, and Carlyle. Th_ne variation notable between her and the moderns was that her _ruling unity_as not malicious, as Eugene and many others fancied, but helpful. Her _unity_as a _unity_ of love. God was everything but the father of evil, whic_ccording to her was an illusion—neither fact nor substance—sound and fury, signifying nothing.
  • It must be remembered that during all the time Eugene was doing this painfu_nd religious speculation he was living in the extreme northern portion of th_ity, working desultorily at some paintings which he thought he might sell, visiting Angela occasionally, safely hidden away in the maternity hospital a_ne Hundred and Tenth Street, thinking hourly and momentarily of Suzanne, an_ondering if, by any chance, he should ever see her any more. His mind ha_een so inflamed by the beauty and the disposition of this girl that he wa_eally not normal any longer. He needed some shock, some catastrophe greate_han any he had previously experienced to bring him to his senses. The loss o_is position had done something. The loss of Suzanne had only heightened hi_ffection for her. The condition of Angela had given him pause, for it was a_nteresting question what would become of her. "If she would only die!" h_aid to himself, for we have the happy faculty of hating most joyously on thi_arth the thing we have wronged the most. He could scarcely go and see her, s_bsessed was he with the idea that she was a handicap to his career. The ide_f her introducing a child into his life only made him savage. Now, if sh_hould die, he would have the child to care for and Suzanne, because of it, might never come to him.
  • His one idea at this time was not to be observed too much, or rather not a_ll, for he considered himself to be in great disfavor, and only likely to d_imself injury by a public appearance—a fact which was more in his own min_han anywhere else. If he had not believed it, it would not have been true.
  • For this reason he had selected this quiet neighborhood where the line o_urrent city traffic was as nothing, for here he could brood in peace. Th_amily that he lived with knew nothing about him. Winter was setting in.
  • Because of the cold and snow and high winds, he was not likely to see man_eople hereabouts—particularly those celebrities who had known him in th_ast. There was a great deal of correspondence that followed him from his ol_ddress, for his name had been used on many committees, he was in "Who's Who,"
  • and he had many friends less distinguished than those whose companionshi_ould have required the expenditure of much money who would have been glad t_ook him up. He ignored all invitations, however; refused to indicate b_eturn mail where he was for the present; walked largely at night; read, painted, or sat and brooded during the day. He was thinking all the time o_uzanne and how disastrously fate had trapped him apparently through her. H_as thinking that she might come back, that she ought. Lovely, hurtfu_ictures came to him of re-encounters with her in which she would rush int_is arms, never to part, from him any more. Angela, in her room at th_ospital, received little thought from him. She was there. She was receivin_xpert medical attention. He was paying all the bills. Her serious time ha_ot yet really come. Myrtle was seeing her. He caught glimpses of himself a_imes as a cruel, hard intellect driving the most serviceable thing his lif_ad known from him with blows, but somehow it seemed justifiable. Angela wa_ot suited to him. Why could she not live away from him? Christian Science se_side marriage entirely as a human illusion, conflicting with th_ndestructible unity of the individual with God. Why shouldn't she let him go?
  • He wrote poems to Suzanne, and read much poetry that he found in an ol_runkful of books in the house where he was living. He would read again an_gain the sonnet beginning, "When in disgrace with fortune and men'_yes"—that cry out of a darkness that seemed to be like his own. He bought _ook of verse by Yeats, and seemed to hear his own voice saying of Suzanne,
  • > "Why should I blame her that she filled my days >     With misery …
  • He was not quite as bad as he was when he had broken down eight years before, but he was very bad. His mind was once more riveted upon the uncertainty o_ife, its changes, its follies. He was studying those things only which dea_ith the abstrusities of nature, and this began to breed again a morbid fea_f life itself. Myrtle was greatly distressed about him. She worried lest h_ight lose his mind.
  • "Why don't you go to see a practitioner, Eugene?" she begged of him one day.
  • "You will get help—really you will. You think you won't, but you will. Ther_s something about them—I don't know what. They are spiritually at rest. Yo_ill feel better. Do go."
  • "Oh, why do you bother me, Myrtle? Please don't. I don't want to go. I thin_here is something in the idea metaphysically speaking, but why should I go t_ practitioner? God is as near me as He is anyone, if there is a God."
  • Myrtle wrung her hands, and because she felt so badly more than anything else, he finally decided to go. There might be something hypnotic or physicall_ontagious about these people—some old alchemy of the mortal body, which coul_each and soothe him. He believed in hypnotism, hypnotic suggestion, etc. H_inally called up one practitioner, an old lady highly recommended by Myrtl_nd others, who lived farther south on Broadway, somewhere in the neighborhoo_f Myrtle's home. Mrs. Althea Johns was her name—a woman who had performe_onderful cures. Why should he, Eugene Witla, he asked himself as he took u_he receiver, why should he, Eugene Witla, ex-managing publisher of the Unite_agazines Corporation, ex-artist (in a way, he felt that he was no longer a_rtist in the best sense) be going to a woman in Christian Science to b_ealed of what? Gloom? Yes. Failure? Yes. Heartache? Yes. His evil tendencie_n regard to women, such as the stranger who had sat beside him had testifie_o? Yes. How strange! And yet he was curious. It interested him a little t_peculate as to whether this could really be done. Could he be healed o_ailure? Could this pain of longing be made to cease? Did he want it to cease?
  • No; certainly not! He wanted Suzanne. Myrtle's idea, he knew, was that someho_his treatment would reunite him and Angela and make him forget Suzanne, bu_e knew that could not be. He was going, but he was going because he wa_nhappy and idle and aimless. He was going because he really did not know wha_lse to do.
  • The apartment of Mrs. Johns—Mrs. Althea Johns—was in an apartment house o_onventional design, of which there were in New York hundreds upon hundreds a_he time. There was a spacious areaway between two wings of cream-colore_ressed brick leading back to an entrance way which was protected by _andsome wrought-iron door on either side of which was placed an electric lam_upport of handsome design, holding lovely cream-colored globes, shedding _oft lustre. Inside was the usual lobby, elevator, uniformed negro elevato_an, indifferent and impertinent, and the telephone switchboard. The buildin_as seven storeys high. Eugene went one snowy, blustery January night. Th_reat wet flakes were spinning in huge whirls and the streets were covere_ith a soft, slushy carpet of snow. He was interested, as usual, in spite o_is gloom, in the picture of beauty the world presented—the city wrapped in _andsome mantle of white. Here were cars rumbling, people hunched in grea_oats facing the driving wind. He liked the snow, the flakes, this wonder o_aterial living. It eased his mind of his misery and made him think o_ainting again. Mrs. Johns was on the seventh floor. Eugene knocked and wa_dmitted by a maid. He was shown to a waiting room, for he was a little ahea_f his time, and there were others—healthy-looking men and women, who did no_ppear to have an ache or pain—ahead of him. Was not this a sign, he though_s he sat down, that this was something which dealt with imaginary ills? The_hy had the man he had heard in the church beside him testified so forcibl_nd sincerely to his healing? Well, he would wait and see. He did not see wha_t could do for him now. He had to work. He sat there in one corner, his hand_olded and braced under his chin, thinking. The room was not artistic bu_ather nondescript, the furniture cheap or rather tasteless in design. Didn'_ivine Mind know any better than to present its representatives in such _uise as this? Could a person called to assist in representing the majesty o_od on earth be left so unintelligent artistically as to live in a house lik_his? Surely this was a poor manifestation of Divinity, but——
  • Mrs. Johns came—a short, stout, homely woman, gray, wrinkled, dowdy in he_lothing, a small wen on one side of her mouth, a nose slightly too big to b_leasing—all mortal deficiencies as to appearance highly emphasized, an_ooking like an old print of Mrs. Micawber that he had seen somewhere. She ha_n a black skirt good as to material, but shapeless, commonplace, and a dar_lue-gray waist. Her eye was clear and gray though, he noticed, and she had _leasing smile.
  • "This is Mr. Witla, I believe," she said, coming across the room to him, fo_e had got into a corner near the window, and speaking with an accent whic_ounded a little Scotch. "I'm so glad to see you. Won't you come in?" sh_aid, giving him precedence over some others because of his appointment, an_e-crossed the room preceding him down the hall to her practice room. Sh_tood to one side to take his hand as he passed.
  • He touched it gingerly.
  • So this was Mrs. Johns, he thought, as he entered, looking about him. Bang_nd Myrtle had insisted that she had performed wonderful cures—or rather tha_ivine Mind had, through her. Her hands were wrinkled, her face old. Wh_idn't she make herself young if she could perform these wonderful cures? Wh_as this room so mussy? It was actually stuffy with chromos and etchings o_he Christ and Bible scenes on the walls, a cheap red carpet or rug on th_loor, inartistic leather-covered chairs, a table or desk too full of books, _ale picture of Mrs. Eddy and silly mottoes of which he was sick and tire_ung here and there. People were such hacks when it came to the art of living.
  • How could they pretend to a sense of Divinity who knew nothing of life? He wa_eary and the room here offended him. Mrs. Johns did. Besides, her voice wa_lightly falsetto. Could _she_ cure cancer? and consumption? and all othe_orrible human ills, as Myrtle insisted she had? He didn't believe it.
  • He sat down wearily and yet contentiously in the chair she pointed out to hi_nd stared at her while she quietly seated herself opposite him looking at hi_ith kindly, smiling eyes.
  • "And now," she said easily, "what does God's child think is the matter wit_im?"
  • Eugene stirred irritably.
  • "God's child," he thought; "what cant!" What right had he to claim to be _hild of God? What was the use of beginning that way? It was silly, s_sinine. Why not ask plainly what was the matter with him? Still he answered:
  • "Oh, a number of things. So many that I am pretty sure they can never b_emedied."
  • "As bad as that? Surely not. It is good to know, anyhow, that nothing i_mpossible to God. We can believe that, anyhow, can't we?" she replied, smiling. "You believe in God, or a ruling power, don't you?"
  • "I don't know whether I do or not. In the main, I guess I do. I'm sure I ough_o. Yes, I guess I do."
  • "Is He a malicious God to you?"
  • "I have always thought so," he replied, thinking of Angela.
  • "Mortal mind! Mortal mind!" she asseverated to herself. "What delusions wil_t not harbor!"
  • And then to him:
  • "One has to be cured almost against one's will to know that God is a God o_ove. So you believe you are sinful, do you, and that He is malicious? It i_ot necessary that you should tell me how. We are all alike in the morta_tate. I would like to call your attention to Isaiah's words, 'Though you_ins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red lik_rimson, they shall be as wool.'"
  • Eugene had not heard this quotation for years. It was only a dim thing in hi_emory. It flashed out simply now and appealed, as had all these Hebrai_ursts of prophetic imagery in the past. Mrs. Johns, for all her wen and he_ig nose and dowdy clothes, was a little better for having been able to quot_his so aptly. It raised her in his estimation. It showed a vigorous mind, a_east a tactful mind.
  • "Can you cure sorrow?" he asked grimly and with a touch of sarcasm in hi_oice. "Can you cure heartache or fear?"
  • "I can do nothing of myself," she said, perceiving his mood. "All things ar_ossible to God, however. If you believe in a Supreme Intelligence, He wil_ure you. St. Paul says 'I can do all things through Christ whic_trengtheneth me.' Have you read Mrs. Eddy's book?"
  • "Most of it. I'm still reading it."
  • "Do you understand it?"
  • "No, not quite. It seems a bundle of contradictions to me."
  • "To those who are first coming into Science it nearly always seems so. Bu_on't let that worry you. You would like to be cured of your troubles. St.
  • Paul says, 'For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.' 'The Lor_noweth the thoughts of the wise—that they are vain.' Do not think of me as _oman, or as having had anything to do with this. I would rather have yo_hink of me as St. Paul describes anyone who works for truth—'Now then we ar_mbassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you i_hrist's stead, be ye reconciled to God.'"
  • "You know your Bible, don't you?" said Eugene.
  • "It is the only knowledge I have," she replied.
  • There followed one of those peculiar religious demonstrations so common i_hristian Science—so peculiar to the uninitiated—in which she asked Eugene t_ix his mind in meditation on the Lord's prayer. "Never mind if it seem_ointless to you now. You have come here seeking aid. You are God's perfec_mage and likeness. He will not send you away empty-handed. Let me read yo_irst, though, this one psalm, which I think is always so helpful to th_eginner." She opened her Bible, which was on the table near her, and began:
  • "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under th_hadow of the Almighty.
  • "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in him wil_ trust.
  • "Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from th_oisome pestilence.
  • "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and thy buckler.
  • "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow tha_lieth by day. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in the darkness; nor fo_estruction that wasteth at noonday.
  • "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but i_hall not come nigh thee.
  • "Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
  • "Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, th_abitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague com_igh thy dwelling.
  • "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
  • "They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against _tone.
  • "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder, the young lion and the drago_halt thou trample under foot.
  • "Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him. I wil_et him on high, because he hath known my name.
  • "He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble.
  • I will deliver him and honor him.
  • "With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation."
  • During this most exquisite pronunciamento of Divine favor Eugene was sittin_ith his eyes closed, his thoughts wandering over all his recent ills. For th_irst time in years, he was trying to fix his mind upon an all-wise, omnipresent, omnipotent generosity. It was hard and he could not reconcile th_eauty of this expression of Divine favor with the nature of the world as h_new it. What was the use of saying, "They shall bear thee up in their hand_est thou dash thy foot against a stone," when he had seen Angela and himsel_uffering so much recently? Wasn't he dwelling in the secret place of the Mos_igh when he was alive? How could one get out of it? Still—— "Because he hat_et his love on me—therefore will I deliver him." Was that the answer? Wa_ngela's love set on him? Was his own? Might not all their woes have sprun_rom that?
  • "He shall call upon me and I shall answer. I will deliver him in trouble. _ill deliver him and honor him."
  • Had he ever really called on _Him_? Had Angela? Hadn't they been left in th_lough of their own despond? Still Angela was not suited to him. Why did no_od straighten that out? He didn't want to live with her.
  • He wandered through this philosophically, critically, until Mrs. John_topped. What, he asked himself, if, in spite of all his doubts, this seemin_lamor and reality and pain and care were an illusion? Angela was suffering.
  • So were many other people. How could this thing be true? Did not these fact_xclude the possibility of illusion? Could they possibly be a part of it?
  • "Now we are going to try to realize that we are God's perfect children," sh_aid, stopping and looking at him. "We think we are so big and strong an_eal. We are real enough, but only as a thought in God—that is all. No har_an happen to us there—no evil can come nigh us. For God is infinite, al_ower, all life. Truth, Love, over all, and all."
  • She closed her eyes and began, as she said, to try to realize for him th_erfectness of his spirit in God. Eugene sat there trying to think of th_ord's prayer, but in reality thinking of the room, the cheap prints, th_omely furniture, her ugliness, the curiousness of his being there. He, Eugen_itla, being prayed for! What would Angela think? Why was this woman old, i_pirit could do all these other things? Why didn't she make herself beautiful?
  • What was it she was doing now? Was this hypnotism, mesmerism, she wa_racticing? He remembered where Mrs. Eddy had especially said that these wer_ot to be practiced—could not be in Science. No, she was no doubt sincere. Sh_ooked it—talked it. She believed in this beneficent spirit. Would it aid a_he psalm said? Would it heal this ache? Would it make him not want Suzann_ver any more? Perhaps that was evil? Yes, no doubt it was. Still—— Perhaps h_ad better fix his mind on the Lord's Prayer. Divinity could aid him if i_ould. Certainly it could. No doubt of it. There was nothing impossible t_his vast force ruling the universe. Look at the telephone, wireles_elegraphy. How about the stars and sun? "He shall give his angels charge ove_hee."
  • "Now," said Mrs. Johns, after some fifteen minutes of silent meditation ha_assed and she opened her eyes smilingly—"we are going to see whether we ar_ot going to be better. We are going to feel better, because we are going t_o better, and because we are going to realize that nothing can hurt an ide_n God. All the rest is illusions. It cannot hold us, for it is not real.
  • Think good—God—and you are good. Think evil and you are evil, but it has n_eality outside your own thought. Remember that." She talked to him as thoug_e was a little child.
  • He went out into the snowy night where the wind was whirling the snow i_icturesque whirls, buttoning his coat about him. The cars were running u_roadway as usual. Taxicabs were scuttling by. There were people forging thei_ay through the snow, that ever-present company of a great city. There wer_rc lights burning clearly blue through the flying flakes. He wondered as h_alked whether this would do him any good. Mrs. Eddy insisted that all thes_ere unreal, he thought—that mortal mind had evolved something which was no_n accord with spirit—mortal mind "a liar and the father of it," he recalle_hat quotation. Could it be so? Was evil unreal? Was misery only a belief?
  • Could he come out of his sense of fear and shame and once more face the world?
  • He boarded a car to go north. At Kingsbridge he made his way thoughtfully t_is room. How could life ever be restored to him as it had been? He was reall_orty years of age. He sat down in his chair near his lamp and took up hi_ook, "Science and Health," and opened it aimlessly. Then he thought fo_uriosity's sake he would see where he had opened it—what the particular pag_r paragraph his eye fell on had to say to him. He was still intensel_uperstitious. He looked, and here was this paragraph growing under his eyes:
  • "When mortal man blends his thoughts of existence with the spiritual, an_orks only as God works, he will no longer grope in the dark and cling t_arth because he has not tasted heaven. Carnal beliefs defraud us. They mak_an an involuntary hypocrite—producing evil when he would create good, formin_eformity when he would outline grace and beauty, injuring those whom he woul_less. He becomes a general mis-creator, who believes he is a semi-God. Hi_ouch turns hope to dust, the dust we all have trod. He might say in Bibl_anguage, 'The good that I would, I do not, but evil, which I would not, _o.'"
  • He closed the book and meditated. He wished he might realize this thing i_his were so. Still he did not want to become a religionist—a religiou_nthusiast. How silly they were. He picked up his daily paper—the _Evenin_ost_ —and there on an inside page quoted in an obscure corner was a passag_rom a poem by the late Francis Thompson, entitled "The Hound of Heaven." I_egan:
  • > "I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; > I fled Him, down the arches of the years … >
  • The ending moved him strangely:
  • > Still with unhurrying chase, > And unperturbèd face > Deliberate speed, majestic instancy > Came on the following Feet, > And a voice above their beat— > "Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."
  • >
  • Did this man really believe this? Was it so?
  • He turned back to his book and read on, and by degrees he came half to believ_hat sin and evil and sickness might possibly be illusions—that they could b_ured by aligning one's self intellectually and spiritually with this Divin_rinciple. He wasn't sure. This terrible sense of wrong. Could he give u_uzanne? Did he want to? No!
  • He got up and went to the window and looked out. The snow was still blowing.
  • "Give her up! Give her up!" And Angela in such a precarious condition. What _evil of a hole he was in, anyway! Well, he would go and see her in th_orning. He would at least be kind. He would see her through this thing. H_ay down and tried to sleep, but somehow sleep never came to him right an_ore. He was too wearied, too distressed, too wrought up. Still he slept _ittle, and that was all he could hope for in these days.