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She Buildeth Her House

By Will Levington Comfort

Author of "Routledge Rides Alone," etc


With a Frontispiece By
Martin Justice

Philadelphia & London
J. B. Lippincott Company
1911

COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

Published May, 1911

PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS
PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.


A BOUGH BROUGHT WITH SINGING
TO THE FEET OF
HER
WHO CROSSED THE SANDS ALONE
IN ADORING PILGRIMAGE
FOR HER SON


[Illustration: HE REACHED THE CURBING OF THE OLD WELL WITH HIS BURDEN]




Contents


FIRST CHAPTER. PAULA ENCOUNTERS THE REMARKABLE EYES OF HER FIRST GIANT,
AND HEARKENS TO THE SECOND, THUNDERING AFAR-OFF

SECOND CHAPTER. PAULA CONTEMPLATES THE WALL OF A HUNDRED WINDOWS, AND
THE MYSTERIOUS MADAME NESTOR CALLS AT THE ZOROASTER

THIRD CHAPTER. CERTAIN DEVELOPING INCIDENTS ARE CAUGHT INTO THE CURRENT
OF NARRATIVE - ALSO A SUPPER WITH REIFFERSCHEID

FOURTH CHAPTER. PAULA ENCOUNTERS HER ADVERSARY WHO TURNS PROPHET AND
TELLS OF A STARRY CHILD SOON TO BE BORN

FIFTH CHAPTER. PAULA IS INVOLVED IN THE FURIOUS HISTORY OF SELMA CROSS
AND WRITES A LETTER TO QUENTIN CHARTER

SIXTH CHAPTER. PAULA IS CALLED TO PARLOR "F" OF THE MAIDSTONE WHERE THE
BEYOND-DEVIL AWAITS WITH OUTSTRETCHED ARMS

SEVENTH CHAPTER. PAULA BEGINS TO SEE MORE CLEARLY THROUGH MADAME
NESTOR'S REVELATIONS, AND WITNESSES A BROADWAY ACCIDENT

EIGHTH CHAPTER. PAULA MAKES SEVERAL DISCOVERIES IN THE CHARTER
HEART-COUNTRY, AND IS DELIGHTED BY HIS LETTERS TO THE SKYLARK

NINTH CHAPTER. PAULA IS DRAWN INTO THE SELMA CROSS PAST AND IS BRAVELY
WOOED THROUGH FURTHER MESSAGES FROM THE WEST

TENTH CHAPTER. PAULA SEES SELMA CROSS IN TRAGEDY, AND IN HER OWN
APARTMENT NEXT MORNING IS GIVEN A REALITY TO PLAY

ELEVENTH CHAPTER. PAULA IS SWEPT DEEP INTO A DESOLATE COUNTRY BY THE
HIGH TIDE, BUT NOTES A QUICK CHANGE IN SELMA CROSS

TWELFTH CHAPTER. CERTAIN ELEMENTS FOR THE CHARTER CRUCIBLE, AND HIS
MOTHER'S PILGRIMAGE, ACROSS THE SANDS ALONE TO MECCA

THIRTEENTH CHAPTER. "NO MAN CAN ENTER INTO A STRONG MAN'S HOUSE, AND
SPOIL HIS GOODS, EXCEPT HE WILL FIRST BIND THE STRONG MAN"

FOURTEENTH CHAPTER. THE SINGING OF THE SKYLARK CEASES ABRUPTLY; CHARTER
HASTENS EAST TO FIND A QUEER MESSAGE AT THE GRANVILLE

FIFTEENTH CHAPTER. QUENTIN CHARTER AND SELMA CROSS JOIN ISSUE ON A NEW
BATTLE-GROUND, EACH LEAVING THE FIELD WITH OPEN WOUNDS

SIXTEENTH CHAPTER. PAULA, FINDING THAT BOTH GIANTS HAVE ENTERED HER
CASTLE, RUSHES IN TUMULT INTO THE NIGHT

SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER. PAULA SAILS INTO THE SOUTH, SEEKING THE HOLY MAN OF
SAINT PIERRE, WHERE LA MONTAGNE PELÉE GIVES WARNING

EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER. PAULA IS INVOLVED IN THE RENDING FORTUNES OF SAINT
PIERRE AND THE PANTHER CALLS WITH NEW YORK MAIL

NINETEENTH CHAPTER. QUENTIN CHARTER IS ATTRACTED BY THE TRAVAIL OF
PELÉE, AND ENCOUNTERS A QUEER FELLOW-VOYAGER

TWENTIETH CHAPTER. CHARTER'S MIND BECOMES THE ARENA OF CONFLICT BETWEEN
THE WYNDAM WOMAN AND SKYLARK MEMORIES

TWENTY-FIRST CHAPTER. CHARTER COMMUNES WITH THE WYNDAM WOMAN, AND
CONFESSES THE GREAT TROUBLE OF HIS HEART TO FATHER FONTANEL

TWENTY-SECOND CHAPTER. CHARTER MAKES A PILGRIMAGE TO THE CRATERS OF
PELÉE - ONE LAST DAY DEVOTED TO THE SPIRIT OF OLD LETTERS

TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER. CHARTER AND STOCK ARE CALLED TO THE PRIEST'S HOUSE
IN THE NIGHT, AND THE WYNDAM WOMAN STAYS AT THE PALMS

TWENTY-FOURTH CHAPTER. HAVING TO DO ESPECIALLY WITH THE MORNING OF THE
ASCENSION, WHEN THE MONSTER, PELÉE, GIVES BIRTH TO DEATH

TWENTY-FIFTH CHAPTER. THE SARAGOSSA ENCOUNTERS THE RAGING FIRE-MISTS
FROM PELÉE EIGHT MILES AT SEA, BUT LIVES TO SEND A BOAT ASHORE

TWENTY-SIXTH CHAPTER. PAULA AND CHARTER IN SEVERAL SETTINGS FEEL THE
ENERGY OF THE GREAT GOOD THAT DRIVES THE WORLD

TWENTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER. PAULA AND CHARTER JOURNEY INTO THE WEST; ONE
HEARS VOICES, BUT NOT THE WORDS OFTEN, FROM RAPTURE'S ROADWAY




She Buildeth Her House




FIRST CHAPTER

PAULA ENCOUNTERS THE REMARKABLE EYES OF HER FIRST GIANT, AND HEARKENS TO
THE SECOND, THUNDERING AFAR-OFF


Paula Linster was twenty-seven when two invading giants entered the
country of her heart. On the same day, these hosts, each unconscious of
the other, crossed opposite borders and verged toward the prepared
citadel between them.

Reifferscheid, though not one of the giants, found Paula a distraction
in brown, when she entered his office before nine in the morning, during
the fall of 1901. He edited the rather distinguished weekly book-page of
_The States_, and had come to rely upon her for a paper or two in each
issue. There had been rain in the night. The mellow October sunlight was
strange with that same charm of maturity which adds a glow of attraction
to motherhood. The wonderful autumn haze, which broods over our zone as
the spirit of ripening grains and tinting fruits, just perceptibly
shaded the vivid sky. A sentence Paula had heard somewhere in a play,
"My God, how the sun does shine!" appealed to her as particularly
fitting for New York on such a morning. Then in the streets, so lately
flooded, the brilliant new-washed air was sweet to breathe.

Paula had felt the advisability the year before of adding somewhat to
her income. Inventory brought out the truth that not one of her talents
had been specialized to the point of selling its product. She had the
rare sense to distinguish, however, between a certain joyous inclination
to write and a marked ability for producing literature; and to recognize
her own sound and sharp appreciation of what was good in the stirring
tide of books. Presenting herself to Reifferscheid, principally on
account of an especial liking for the book-page of _The States_, she never
forgot how the big man looked at her that first time over his
spectacles, as if turning her pages with a sort of psychometric faculty.
He found her possible and several months won her not a little
distinction in the work.

Reifferscheid was a fat, pondrous, heavy-spectacled devourer of work. He
compelled her real admiration - "the American St. Beuve," she called him,
because he was so tireless, and because he sniffed genius from afar.
There was something unreservedly charming to her, in his sense of
personal victory, upon discovering greatness in an unexpected source.
Then he was so big, so common to look at; kind as only a bear of a man
can be; so wise, so deep, and with such a big smoky factory of a brain,
full of fascinating crypts. Subcutaneous laughter that rested her
internally for weeks lingered about certain of the large man's sayings.
Even in the auditing of her account, she felt his kindness.

"Now here are some essays by Quentin Charter - a big man, a young man and
a slow worker," he said. "Charter's first volume was a thunderer. We
greeted it with a whoop two years ago. Did you see it?"

"No," Paula replied. "I was too strong for literary trifles then."

"Anyway, look out for Charter. He didn't start to appear until he was an
adult. He's been everywhere, read everything and has a punch like a
projectile. An effective chap, this Charter. He dropped in to see me a
few weeks after my review. He confessed the critics had made him very
glad.... 'I am doing a second book,' he confided to me. 'Down on my
knees to it. Work-shop stripped of encomiums; no more dinner-parties or
any of that fatness. Say, it's a queer thing about making a book. You
never can tell whether it's to be a boy or a girl....'"

Paula smiled reservedly.

"I asked him what his second book was to be about," Reifferscheid went
on. "'Women,' said he. 'How novel!' said I. He grinned genially.
'Reifferscheid,' he declared, in his snappy way, 'women are interesting.
They're doing the thinking nowadays. They're getting there. One of these
mornings, man will wake up to the fact that he's got to be born again to
get in a class with his wife. Man is mixed up with altogether too much
of this down-town madness. Women don't want votes, public office, or
first-hand dollars. _They want men!_' ... I always remembered that
little bit of stuff from Charter. He says the time will come when classy
girls will get their heads together and evolve this ultimatum, which
will be handed intact to adorers: 'No, boys, we can't marry you. We
haven't any illusions about celibacy. It isn't nice nor attractive, but
it's better than being yoked with hucksters and peddlers who come
up-town at night - mental cripples in empty wagons. Go away and learn
what life means, what it means to be men - _what it means to us for you
to be men_! Learn how to live - and oh, boys, hurry back!'"

"Splendid!" Paula exclaimed.

"Oh, yes, Charter is a full deck and a joker. He's lived. He makes you
feel him. His years are veritable campaigns. He has dangled in the
vortices of human action and human passion - and seemed to come out
whole!..." Reifferscheid chuckled at a memory. "'Women are interesting,'
Charter finished in his dry fashion. 'I just got to them lately. I wish
I could know them all.'"

"I love the book already," Paula said. Reifferscheid laughed inwardly at
the feminine way she held the volume in both hands, pressing it close.

"It's the only book on my table this morning that I'd like to read," he
added. "Therefore I give it to you. There's no fun in giving something
you don't want.... Are you going to hear Bellingham to-night?"

She was conscious of an unaccountable dislike at the name, a sense of
inward chill. It was almost as reckonable as the pleasure she felt in
the work and personality of Quentin Charter.

"Who's Bellingham?" Paula swallowed dryly after the first utterance of
the name.

"Mental magician. I only mentioned him, because you so seldom miss the
unusual, and are so quick to hail a new cult or odd mental specimen."

"Magician - surely?" she asked.

"He comes rather stoutly recommended as such," Reifferscheid replied,
"though personally mine is more than a healthy skepticism. There's a
notice this morning of his lectures. He recently hypnotized a man to
whom the medical profession was afraid to administer an
anaesthetic - held him painless during a long and serious operation. Then
Bellingham is the last word in alchemy, feminine emotions, causes of
hysteria, longevity, the proportions of male and female in each person;
also he renews the vital principle, advises unions, makes you beautiful,
and has esoteric women's classes. A Godey's Ladies' man. Some provincial
husband will shoot him presently."

Paula took the surface car home, because the day was so rare and the
crowd was still downward bent. The morning paper contained an
announcement of Quentin Charter's new book, and a sketch of the author.
A strange, talented figure, new in letters, the article said. The
paragraphs had that fresh glow of a publisher's perennial high hope.
Here was the book of a man who had lived; who drew not only upon art,
history, and philosophy for his prisms of thought, but who had roamed
and worked and ridden with men, keeping a sensitive finger ever at the
pulse of nature; a man who had never in the most insignificant degree
lowered the import or artificially raised the tension of his work to
adjust it to the fancied needs of the public. In spite of the
enthusiastic phrasing, everything about Charter fascinated her; even the
make-up of the unread book in her hand, and the sentences that gleamed
from the quickly turned pages.

She had ridden many squares, when the name of Dr. Bellingham stood out
before her eyes in the newspaper. The chill in her arteries was
perceptible as before, when Reifferscheid spoke the name. It was as the
latter had said - the famous healer and telepathist was to start a series
of classes for women.

Paula lived alone in a small apartment at the _Zoroaster_, "Top-side o'
Park." Few friends, many books, within a car ride of the world's best
fruition in plays, lectures, music, and painting - yet the reality of it
all was the expansion of her mind in the days and nights alone. The
subtle relations of things encroached upon her intelligence with a
steady and certain trend. She never had to pass, like so many of cruder
nature, through the horrid trials of materialism; nor to be painfully
bruised in mind from buffeting between manhandled creeds and the pure
ethics of the Lord Christ. Hers was not an aggressive masculine
originality, but the complement of it - that inspiring, completing
feminine intelligence, elastic to a man's hard-won concepts and ready
with a crown for them.

Something of this type of woman, the big-brained brothers of men have
written and chiselled, painted, sung and dreamed of, since human thought
first lifted above the appetites. There must be a bright answer for each
man's particular station of evolution in the world's dumfounding snarl
of the sexes - one woman to lighten his travail and accelerate his
passage to the Uplands. For we are but half-men, man and woman alike.
The whole is two, whose union forms One.... This is the key to Nature's
arcanum; this, the one articulate sentence from all the restless
murmuring out of the past; this, the stupendous Purpose weaving the
million thrilling and truant activities of the present hour - the clean
desire for completion - the union of two which forms One.

The search for this completing woman is the secret of man's roving in
the gardens of sense. His frequent falls into abysmal depravity are but
results incidental to the occultations of his Guide Star. From reptiles
in the foul smoke of chaos, to the lifted spines of manhood on a rising
road, Man has come; and by the interminable torture of the paths which
sink behind, he has the other half of eternity to reach the Top.

From a child whose fairies were only enchanted into books for day-time
convenience, darkness to Paula meant visions, indeed. Often now at
night, though she never spoke of it, the little apartment was peopled by
the spirits of her reading and her ideals - mystics, priests, prophets,
teachers, ascetics. To the congenial dark they came - faces unlike any
she had ever seen, but quite unmistakable in her dreamings. Once when
she pampered a natural aversion to meat for several months, soft
foot-falls and low voices (which had nothing whatever to do with her
neighbors across the hall, or the elevator-man in any passage) began to
rouse her in the night. New York is no place for such refinements of
sense, and she checked these manifestations through physical exercise
and increased diet. She was seldom afraid, but there was a tension in
all her imaginings, and she grew marvellously in this twenty-eighth
year - furnishing her mind more sumptuously than she knew. Reifferscheid
saw this in her eyes and in her work.

Throughout the swiftly passing day, Paula realized that she would go to
Prismatic Hall in West Sixty-seventh Street, where Dr. Bellingham was to
organize his lecture-course that night. Against this foreknowledge was a
well-defined distaste for the man and his work. Between the two, the
thought of the evening crowded frequently into mind until she became
impatient with herself at the importance it assumed. It was with a
certain feminine manipulation of conscience, so deft as almost to be
unconscious, that she excused her own curiosity on the ground that her
disfavor for the doctor and his message would be strengthened by the
first meeting, beyond the need of further experience.

One concession she made to her natural aversion - that of going late. She
was in a mood poignantly critical. The real Paula Linster, she fancied,
was at home, "Top-side o' Park"; here was just a sophisticated
professional surface, such as reporters carry about. The Hall was packed
with women; the young and the jaded; faces of pup-innocence; faces
bitten from terrible expeditions to the poles of sense; faces tired and
thick from the tread of an orient of emotions; slow-roving eyes which
said, "I crave - I crave! I have lost the sense of reality, but seven
sick and pampered organs crave within me!"

The thought came to Paula - to be questioned afterward - that man's evil,
after all, is rudimentary compared to a worldly woman's; man's soul not
so complicated, nor so irrevocably identified with his sensual organism.
She could not avoid pondering miserably upon woman's innate love for far
ventures into sensation, permitting these ventures to be called (if the
world would) searches for the holy grail. The inevitable attraction for
women which specialists of the body possess, actually startled her.
Bellingham was one of these. On the surface of all his sayings, and all
comment about him, was the bland, deadly insinuation that the soul
expands in the pursuit of bodily health. About his name was the mystery
of his age, whispers of his physical perfection, intimations of romantic
affairs, the suggestion of his miraculous performances upon the
emotions - the whole gamut of activities designed to make him the instant
aversion of any normal member of his own sex. Yet the flock of females
had settled about him, as they have settled about every black human
plague - and glorious messiah - since the birth of days.

The thrilled, expectant look on several faces brought to Paula's mind
the type of her sisters who relish being shocked; whose exaltations are
patently those of emotional contact; who call physical excitement the
glorifying of their spirit, and cannot be persuaded to confess
otherwise. Woman as a negation for man to play upon never distressed her
before with such direct and certain pressure. Here were women intent
upon encountering a new sensation; women who devoutly breathed the name
of Motherhood next to Godhood, and yet endured their pregnancy with
organic rebellion and mental loathing; women who could not conceive of
love apart from the embrace of man, and who imagine a "message" in
deformed and salacious novels, making such books popular; women of
gold-leaf culture whose modesty fastens with a bow - narrow temples of
infinite receptivity....

Why had they come? In the perfect feminine system of information, the
whisper had run: "Bellingham is wonderful. Bellingham tells you how to
live forever. Bellingham teaches the renewal of self and has esoteric
classes - _for the few_!" They had the sanction of one another. There was
no scandal in being there openly, nor any instinct, apparently, to warn
them that secret classes to discover how to live forever, had upon the
surface no very tonic flavor. The digest of the whole matter was that
revelations sooner or later would be made to a certain few, and that
these revelations, which would be as fine oil upon the mental surfaces
of many women near her, would act as acid upon the male mind generally.

In the sickening distaste for herself and for those who had to make no
concession to themselves for coming, inasmuch as society permitted; and
who would be heartfully disappointed in a lecture on hygiene that did
not discuss the more intimate matters of the senses, Paula did not
appraise the opposite sex at any higher value. She merely reviewed
matters which had come to her vividly as some of the crowning frailties
of her own kind. The centre of the whole affair, Dr. Bellingham, was now
introduced.

He looked like a Dane at first glance. His was the size, the dusty look
and the big bone of a Dane; the deep, downy paleness of cheek, the
tumbled, though not mussy hair. He was heavy without being adipose,
lean, but big-boned; his face was lined with years, though miraculously
young in the texture of skin. The lips of a rather small and feminine
mouth were fresh and red as a girl's. In the softness of complexion and
the faintest possible undertone of color, it was impossible not to think
of perfected circulation and human health brought to truest rhythm. The
costliest lotions cannot make such a skin. It is organic harmony.
Exterior decoration does not delude the seeing eye any more than a
powder-magazine becomes an innocent cottage because its walls are
vine-clad.... Directly behind her, Paula now heard a slow whisper:

"I knew him twenty-five years ago, and he is not a moment older to look
at."

She seemed to have heard the voice before, and though the sentence
surged with a dark significance through her mind, she did not turn.
Bellingham's words were now caressing the intelligence of his audience.
To Paula, his soft mouth was indescribably odious with cultured passion,
red with replenishment, fresh with that sinister satisfaction which
inevitably brings to mind a second figure, fallen, drained. His presence
set to quivering within her, fears engendered from the great occult
past. Strange deviltries would always be shadowed about the Bellingham
image in her mind.... Here was a man who made a shrine of his body,
invested it with a heavy hungering God, and taught others - women - to bow
and to serve.

To her the body was but a nunnery which enclosed for a time an eternal
element. This was basic, incontrovertible to her understanding. All that
placated the body and helped to make fleshly desires last long, was
hostile to the eternal element. Not that the body should be abused or
neglected, but kept as nearly as possible a clean vessel for the spirit,
brought to a fine automatic functioning. It was as clear to Paula
Linster as the faces of the women about her, that the splendid sacrifice
of Jesus was not that He had died upon the Cross, but that He put on
flesh in the beginning for the good of infant-souled men.... To eat
sparingly of that which is good; to sleep when weary; to require
cleanliness and pure air - these were the physical laws which worked out
easily for decent minds. Beyond such simple affairs, she did not allow
the body often to rule her brain. When, indeed, the potentialities of
her sex stirred within, Paula felt that it was the down-pull of the old
brood-mother, Earth, and not the lifting of wings.

Bellingham's voice correlated itself, not with the eyes and brow, but
with the Lilith mouth - that strangely unpunished mouth. It was soft,
suave. There was in it the warmth of breath. The high white forehead and
the tousled brown hair, leonine in its masculinity - seemed foreign as
another man's. She hearkened to the voice of a doctor used to women; one
who knows women without illusion, whom you could imagine saying, "Why
bless you, women never say 'no.'"

The eyes were blue-gray, but toned very darkly. The iris looked small in
contrast to the expanse of clear white. They were fixed like a bird's in
expression, incapable of warming or softening, yet one did not miss the
impression that they could brighten and harden, even to shining in the
dark. Heavy blonde brows added a look of severity.

Paula's spirit, as if recognizing an old and mortal enemy, gathered
about itself every human protecting emotion. Frankly hateful, she
surveyed the man, listening. He talked marvellously; even in her
hostility, she had to grant that. The great sunning cat was in his
tones, but the words were joined into clean-thought expression, rapid,
vivid, unanswerable. He did not speak long; the first meeting was
largely formative. Paula knew he was studying his company, and watched
him peer into the faces of the women. His mouth occasionally softened in
the most winsome and engaging way, while his words ran on with the
refined wisdom of ages. And always to her, his eyes stood out cold,
hard, deadly.

Finally, she was conscious that they were roving near her; moving left
to right, from face to face, as a collection-plate might have been
passed. Her first thought was to leave; but fear never failed to arouse
an impulse to face out the cause. The second thought was to keep her
eyes lowered. This she tried. His words came clearly now, as she stared
down into the shadow - the perfectly carved thoughts, bright and swift
like a company of soldiers moving in accord. As seconds passed, this
down-staring became insufferable as though some one were holding her
head. She could not breathe under repression. Always it had been so; the
irresistible maddened the very centres of her reason - a locked room, a
hand or a will stronger than her own.

Raising her head with a gasp, as one coming to the surface from a great
depth of water, she met Bellingham's glance unerringly as a shaft of
light. He had waited for this instant. The eyes now boring into her own,


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