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.