The trouble with Angela's system, in addition to a weak heart, was that it wa_omplicated at the time of her delivery by that peculiar manifestation o_ervous distortion or convulsions known as eclampsia. Once in every fiv_undred cases (or at least such was the statistical calculation at the time), some such malady occurred to reduce the number of the newborn. In every tw_uch terminations one mother also died, no matter what the anticipator_reparations were on the part of the most skilled surgeons. Though not cause_y, it was diagnosed by, certain kidney changes. What Eugene had been spare_hile he was out in the hall was the sight of Angela staring, her mouth pulle_o one side in a horrible grimace, her body bent back, canoe shape, the arm_lexed, the fingers and thumbs bending over each other to and fro, in and out, slowly, not unlike a mechanical figure that is running down. Stupor an_nconsciousness had immediately followed, and unless the child had bee_mmediately brought into the world and the womb emptied, she and it would hav_ied a horrible death. As it was she had no real strength to fight her wa_ack to life and health. A Christian Science practitioner was trying to
"realize her identity with good" for her, but she had no faith before and n_onsciousness now. She came to long enough to vomit terribly, and then san_nto a fever. In it she talked of Eugene. She was in Blackwood, evidently, an_anted him to come back to her. He held her hand and cried, for he knew tha_here was never any recompense for that pain. What a dog he had been! He bi_is lip and stared out of the window.
Once he said: "Oh, I'm no damned good! I should have died!"
That whole day passed without consciousness, and most of the night. At two i_he morning Angela woke and asked to see the baby. The nurse brought it.
Eugene held her hand. It was put down beside her, and she cried for joy, bu_t was a weak, soundless cry. Eugene cried also.
"It's a girl, isn't it?" she asked.
"Yes," said Eugene, and then, after a pause, "Angela, I want to tell yo_omething. I'm so sorry, I'm ashamed. I want you to get well. I'll do better.
Really I will." At the same time he was wondering, almost subconsciously, whether he would or no. Wouldn't it be all the same if she were really well—o_orse?
She caressed his hand. "Don't cry," she said, "I'll be all right. I'm going t_et well. We'll both do better. It's as much my fault as yours. I've been to_ard." She worked at his fingers, but he only choked. His vocal cords hur_im.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry," he finally managed to say.
The child was taken away after a little while and Angela was feverish again.
She grew very weak, so weak that although she was conscious later, she coul_ot speak. She tried to make some signs. Eugene, the nurse, Myrtle, understood. The baby. It was brought and held up before her. She smiled _eak, yearning smile and looked at Eugene. "I'll take care of her," he said, bending over her. He swore a great oath to himself. He would be decent—h_ould be clean henceforth and for ever. The child was put beside her for _ittle while, but she could not move. She sank steadily and died.
Eugene sat by the bed holding his head in his hands. So, he had his wish. Sh_as really dead. Now he had been taught what it was to fly in the face o_onscience, instinct, immutable law. He sat there an hour while Myrtle begge_im to come away.
"Please, Eugene!" she said. "Please!"
"No, no," he replied. "Where shall I go? I am well enough here."
After a time he did go, however, wondering how he would adjust his life fro_ow on. Who would take care of of——
"Angela" came the name to his mind. Yes, he would call her "Angela." He ha_eard someone say she was going to have pale yellow hair.
The rest of this story is a record of philosophic doubt and speculation and _radual return to normality, his kind of normality—the artistic normality o_hich he was capable. He would—he thought—never again be the maunderin_entimentalist and enthusiast, imagining perfection in every beautiful woma_hat he saw. Yet there was a period when, had Suzanne returned suddenly, al_ould have been as before between them, and even more so, despite hi_remulousness of spirit, his speculative interest in Christian Science as _ay out possibly, his sense of brutality, almost murder, in the case o_ngela—for, the old attraction still gnawed at his vitals. Although he ha_ngela, junior, now to look after, and in a way to divert him,—a child whom h_ame speedily to delight in—his fortune to restore, and a sense o_esponsibility to that abstract thing, society or public opinion a_epresented by those he knew or who knew him, still there was this ache an_his non-controllable sense of adventure which freedom to contract a ne_atrimonial alliance or build his life on the plan he schemed with Suzann_ave him. Suzanne! Suzanne!—how her face, her gestures, her voice, haunte_im. Not Angela, for all the pathos of her tragic ending, but Suzanne. H_hought of Angela often—those last hours in the hospital, her last commandin_ook which meant "please look after our child," and whenever he did so hi_ocal cords tightened as under the grip of a hand and his eyes threatened t_verflow, but even so, and even then, that undertow, that mystic cord tha_eemed to pull from his solar plexus outward, was to Suzanne and to her only.
Suzanne! Suzanne! Around her hair, the thought of her smile, her indescribabl_resence, was built all that substance of romance which he had hoped to enjo_nd which now, in absence and probably final separation, glowed with _adiance which no doubt the reality could never have had.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with _leep." We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and only of dreams are ou_een, stinging realities compounded. Nothing else is so moving, so vital, s_ainful as a dream.
For a time that first spring and summer, while Myrtle looked after littl_ngela and Eugene went to live with her and her husband, he visited his ol_hristian Science practitioner, Mrs. Johns. He had not been much impresse_ith the result in Angela's case, but Myrtle explained the difficulty of th_ituation in a plausible way. He was in a terrific state of depression, and i_as while he was so that Myrtle persuaded him to go again. She insisted tha_rs. Johns would overcome his morbid gloom, anyhow, and make him feel better.
"You want to come out of this, Eugene," she pleaded. "You will never d_nything until you do. You are a big man. Life isn't over. It's just begun.
You're going to get well and strong again. Don't worry. Everything that is i_or the best."
He went once, quarreling with himself for doing so, for in spite of his grea_hocks, or rather because of them, he had no faith in religious conclusions o_ny kind. Angela had not been saved. Why should he?
Still the metaphysical urge was something—it was so hard to suffer spirituall_nd not believe there was some way out. At times he hated Suzanne for he_ndifference. If ever she came back he would show her. There would be n_eeble urgings and pleadings the next time. She had led him into this trap, knowing well what she was doing—for she was wise enough—and then had lightl_eserted him. Was that the action of a large spirit? he asked himself. Woul_he wonderful something he thought he saw there be capable of that? Ah, thos_ours at Daleview—that one stinging encounter in Canada!—the night she dance_ith him so wonderfully!
During a period of nearly three years all the vagaries and alterations whic_an possibly afflict a groping and morbid mind were his. He went from wha_ight be described as _almost_ a belief in Christian Science to almost _elief that a devil ruled the world, a Gargantuan Brobdingnagian Mountebank, who plotted tragedy for all ideals and rejoiced in swine and dullards and _runting, sweating, beefy immorality. By degrees his God, if he could hav_een said to have had one in his consciousness, sank back into a dua_ersonality or a compound of good and evil—the most ideal and ascetic good, a_ell as the most fantastic and swinish evil. His God, for a time at least, wa_ God of storms and horrors as well as of serenities and perfections. He the_eached a state not of abnegation, but of philosophic open-mindedness o_gnosticism. He came to know that he did not know what to believe. Al_pparently was permitted, nothing fixed. Perhaps life loved only change, equation, drama, laughter. When in moments of private speculation or socia_rgument he was prone to condemn it loudest, he realized that at worst and a_est it was beautiful, artistic, gay, that, however, he might age, groan, complain, withdraw, wither, still, in spite of him, this large thing which h_t once loved and detested was sparkling on. He might quarrel, but it did no_are; he might fail or die, but it could not. He was negligible—but, oh, th_ting and delight of its inner shrines and favorable illusions.
And curiously, for a time, even while he was changing in this way, he wen_ack to see Mrs. Johns, principally because he liked her. She seemed to be _otherly soul to him, contributing some of the old atmosphere he had enjoye_n his own home in Alexandria. This woman, from working constantly in th_soteric depths, which Mrs. Eddy's book suggests, demonstrating for herself, as she thought, through her belief in or understanding of, the oneness of th_niverse (its non-malicious, affectionate control, the non-existence of fear, pain, disease, and death itself), had become so grounded in her faith tha_vil positively did not exist save in the belief of mortals, that at times sh_lmost convinced Eugene that it was so. He speculated long and deeply alon_hese lines with her. He had come to lean on her in his misery quite as a bo_ight on his mother.
The universe to her was, as Mrs. Eddy said, spiritual, not material, and n_retched condition, however seemingly powerful, could hold against th_ruth—could gainsay divine harmony. God was good. All that is, is God. Henc_ll that is, is good or it is an illusion. It could not be otherwise. Sh_ooked at Eugene's case, as she had at many a similar one, being sure, in he_arnest way, that she, by realizing his ultimate fundamental spirituality, could bring him out of his illusions, and make him see the real spiritualit_f things, in which the world of flesh and desire had no part.
"Beloved," she loved to quote to him, "now are we the sons of God, and it dot_ot yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear"—(an_he explained that _he_ was this universal spirit of perfection of which w_re a part)—"we shall be like him; for we shall see him as He is."
"And every man that has this hope in him purifieth himself even as He i_ure."
She once explained to him that this did not mean that the man must purif_imself by some hopeless moral struggle, or emaciating abstinance, but rathe_hat the fact that he had this hope of something better in him, would fortif_im in spite of himself.
"You laugh at me," she said to him one day, "but I tell you you are a child o_od. There is a divine spark in you. It must come out. I know it will. Al_his other thing will fall away as a bad dream. It has no reality."
She even went so far in a sweet motherly way as to sing hymns to him, and now, strange to relate, her thin voice was no longer irritating to him, and he_pirit made her seemingly beautiful in his eyes. He did not try to adjust th_uriosities and anomalies of material defects in so far as she was concerned.
The fact that her rooms were anything but artistically perfect; that her bod_as shapeless, or comparatively so, when contrasted with that standard o_hich he had always been so conscious; the fact that whales were accounted b_er in some weird way as spiritual, and bugs and torturesome insects of al_inds as emanations of mortal mind, did not trouble him at all. There wa_omething in this thought of a spiritual universe—of a kindly universe, if yo_ought to make it so, which pleased him. The five senses certainly could no_ndicate the totality of things; beyond them must lie depths upon depths o_onder and power. Why might not this act? Why might it not be good? That boo_hat he had once read—"The World Machine"—had indicated this planetary life a_eing infinitesimally small; that from the point of view of infinity it wa_ot even thinkable—and yet here it appeared to be so large. Why might it no_e, as Carlyle had said, a state of mind, and as such, so easily dissolvable.
These thoughts grew by degrees, in force, in power.
At the same time he was beginning to go out again a little. A chance meetin_ith M. Charles, who grasped his hand warmly and wanted to know where he wa_nd what he was doing, revived his old art fever. M. Charles suggested, wit_n air of extreme interest, that he should get up another exhibition alon_hatever line he chose.
"You!" he said, with a touch of heartening sympathy, and yet with a glow o_ine corrective scorn, for he considered Eugene as an artist only, and a ver_reat one at that. "You,—Eugene Witla—an editor—a publisher! Pah! You—wh_ould have all the art lovers of the world at your feet in a few years if yo_hose—you who could do more for American art in your life time than anyone _now, wasting your time art directing, art editing—publishing! Pouf! Aren'_ou really ashamed of yourself? But it isn't too late. Come now—a fin_xhibition! What do you say to an exhibition of some kind next January o_ebruary, in the full swing of the season? Everybody's interested then. I wil_ive you our largest gallery. How is that? What do you say?" he glowed in _eculiarly Frenchy way,—half commanding, half inspiring or exhorting.
"If I can," said Eugene quietly, with a deprecating wave of the hand, and _aint line of self-scorn about the corners of his mouth. "It may be too late."
"'Too late! Too late!' What nonsense! Do you say that to me? If you can! I_ou can! Well, I give you up! You with your velvet textures and sure lines. I_s too much. It is unbelievable!"
He raised his hands, eyes, and eye-brows in Gallic despair. He shrugged hi_houlders, waiting to see a change of expression in Eugene.
"Very good!" said Eugene, when he heard this. "Only I can't promise anything.
We will see." And he wrote out his address.
This started him once more. The Frenchman, who had often heard him spoken o_nd had sold all his earlier pictures, was convinced that there was money i_im—if not here then abroad—money and some repute for himself as his sponsor.
Some American artists must be encouraged—some _must_ rise. Why not Eugene?
Here was one who really deserved it.
So Eugene worked, painting swiftly, feverishly, brilliantly—with a feelin_alf the time that his old art force had deserted him for ever—everything tha_ame into his mind. Taking a north lighted room near Myrtle he essaye_ortraits of her and her husband, of her and baby Angela, making arrangement_hich were classically simple. Then he chose models from th_treets,—laborers, washerwomen, drunkards—characters all, destroying canvase_requently, but, on the whole, making steady progress. He had a strange feve_or painting life as he saw it, for indicating it with exact portraits o_tself, strange, grim presentations of its vagaries, futilities, commonplaces, drolleries, brutalities. The mental, fuzzy-wuzzy maunderings and meandering_f the mob fascinated him. The paradox of a decaying drunkard placed agains_he vivid persistence of life gripped his fancy. Somehow it suggested himsel_anging on, fighting on, accusing nature, and it gave him great courage to d_t. This picture eventually sold for eighteen thousand dollars, a recor_rice.
In the meantime his lost dream in the shape of Suzanne was traveling abroa_ith her mother—in England, Scotland, France, Egypt, Italy, Greece. Aroused b_he astonishing storm which her sudden and uncertain fascination had brough_n, she was now so shaken and troubled by the disasters which had seemed t_low to Eugene in her wake, that she really did not know what to do or think.
She was still too young, too nebulous. She was strong enough in body and mind, but very uncertain philosophically and morally—a dreamer and opportunist. He_other, fearful of some headstrong, destructive outburst in which he_hrewdest calculations would prove of no avail, was most anxious to be civil, loving, courteous, politic anything to avoid a disturbing re-encounter wit_he facts of the past, or a sudden departure on the part of Suzanne, which sh_ourly feared. What was she to do? Anything Suzanne wanted—her least whim, he_oods in dress, pleasure, travel, friendship, were most assiduously catere_o. Would she like to go here? would she like to see that? would this amus_er? would that be pleasant? And Suzanne, seeing always what her mother'_otives were, and troubled by the pain and disgrace she had brought on Eugene, was uncertain now as to whether her conduct had been right or not. She puzzle_ver it continually.
More terrifying, however, was the thought which came to her occasionally as t_hether she had really loved Eugene at all or not. Was this not a passin_ancy? Had there not been some chemistry of the blood, causing her to make _ool of herself, without having any real basis in intellectual rapprochement.
Was Eugene truly the one man with whom she could have been happy? Was he no_oo adoring, too headstrong, too foolish and mistaken in his calculations? Wa_e the able person she had really fancied him to be? Would she not have com_o dislike him—to hate him even—in a short space of time? Could they have bee_ruly, permanently happy? Would she not be more interested in one who wa_harp, defiant, indifferent—one whom she could be compelled to adore and figh_or rather than one who was constantly adoring her and needing her sympathy? _trong, solid, courageous man—was not such a one her ideal, after all? An_ould Eugene be said to be that? These and other questions tormented he_onstantly.
It is strange, but life is constantly presenting these patheti_aradoxes—these astounding blunders which temperament and blood moods brin_bout and reason and circumstance and convention condemn. The dreams of ma_re one thing—his capacity to realize them another. At either pole are th_ccidents of supreme failure and supreme success—the supreme failure of a_bélard for instance, the supreme success of a Napoleon, enthroned at Paris.
But, oh, the endless failures for one success.
But in this instance it cannot be said that Suzanne had definitely conclude_hat she did not love him. Far from it. Although the cleverest devices wer_esorted to by Mrs. Dale to bring her into contact with younger and t_er—now—more interesting personalities, Suzanne—very much of an introspectiv_reamer and quiet spectator herself, was not to be swiftly deluded by lov_gain—if she had been deluded. She had half decided to study men from now on, and use them, if need be, waiting for the time when some act, of Eugene's, perhaps, or some other personality, might decide for her. The strange, destructive spell of her beauty began to interest her, for now she knew tha_he really was beautiful. She looked in her mirror very frequently now—at th_rtistry of a curl, the curve of her chin, her cheek, her arm. If ever sh_ent back to Eugene how well she would repay him for his agony. But would she?
Could she? Would he have not recovered his sanity and be able to snap hi_ingers in her face and smile superciliously? For, after all, no doubt he wa_ wonderful man and would shine as something somewhere soon again. And when h_id—what would he think of her—her silence, her desertion, her mora_owardice?
"After all, I am not of much account," she said to herself. "But what h_hought of me!—that wild fever—that was wonderful! Really he was wonderful!"