Copyright
Will Levington Comfort.

She buildeth her house online

. (page 4 of 23)
Online LibraryWill Levington ComfortShe buildeth her house → online text (page 4 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


when first alone with white paper and an idea. He shakes down a crow's
rookery and believes in his heart it's an eagle's nest. That there are
men in the world paid to open his package, inspect and return same
respectfully - and do it again - is an uncommercial peculiarity of a most
commercial age. Editors rely upon the more or less technically flawless
products of the trained, the "arrived"; writers who have forgotten their
dreams - rung the bell once or twice - and show a willingness to take
money for the echoes.

"An expensive reading staff is not necessary for these contributors;
their stuff goes to the heart of things at once. But what sorry caravans
halt in the outer courts of a magazine-office; what sick, empty,
unwashed confusion is impounded there! Yet a company of men moves ever
through and about, peering into the unsightly, unsavory packs - ever
ordering away, ever clearing the court, lest the mess rise to heaven....
But perfect pearls have been found in these restless, complaining
trash-heaps, and will be found again. Men are there to glance at all,
because one of these pearls is worth a whole necklace of seconds.
There's no way out of it. To make lasting good in the literary game, one
must be steeled to reverses - long, ugly corroding reverses. This is the
price which a man pays for the adjustment of his brain and hand to the
needs of the time. As flesh needs bone, he needs these reverses. They
clear the fat from the brain; increase the mental circuits, and lend to
the fibres that firm delicacy which alone can carry live hot emotions
without blowing out, and big voltage ideas swift and true to their
appointed brilliance of expression.

"I'm gabbing a lot, but I was going to tell you about Bertram Lintell. I
was first in the office to get his manuscript, and I raised the cry of
'Pearl.' It was faulty, but full of the arrogance of unhurt youth. The
face of Twenty-one with all its unlined audacity stared out from the
pages, and every page was an excursion. Here was a true subconscious
ebullition - a hang-over from a previous incarnation, like as not. It was
hard, glassy, but the physical prowess of it stimulated. Frank, brutal
boyishness - that was the attraction. I shouldn't have taken it."

"You what?" Paula asked.

"It was a shame to take it," Reifferscheid mused, "but someone else - the
next man, would have. You see, he needed buffeting - seven years at
least. I knew he didn't have the beam and displacement to stand making
good so young. It was doing him an evil turn, but we sent him the brass
tag that shines like gold. Lintell was not adult enough to twig the
counterfeit, not mellowed enough to realize that nothing is so sordid,
nothing labeled so securely to Failure, as conscious success. As I say,
I saw him at work two or three months ago. He was a patch-haired, baby
lion still, dictating stories first draft to a stenographer, supplying
demand like a huckster - the real treasure-house of his soul locked for
life and the key thrown away.... Even money turns the head of the
multitude, but money is small beer compared to the fiery potential wine
of literary recognition. Long hammering, refining reverses, alone
prepare a man for this. Quentin Charter said something of the kind: that
a young writer should live his lean years full length, and if he really
craters the mountain, he will praise every god in the Pantheon because
his achievements were slow.

"Lintell's present stuff is insufferable. The point is he may have had
in the beginning no less a gift than Charter's. That's why the new book
sickens me so.... By the way, I got a letter from Charter this
afternoon. I meant to bring it along, but I'll pass it over to you in
the morning. It's yours, Miss Linster, though he did me the honor to
think that I had written his critique. He says you crawled right inside
his book. We don't usually answer letters of this kind. There are
writers, you know, glad to turn a review office into an Admiration
Exchange. But you'll want to write to Charter, I'm sure. He's different."

Paula did not answer, but she was pleased and excited that her review
had been a joy to this thunderer of the West, and that he had answered
her tidings of high hope for the future.




FOURTH CHAPTER

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


Paula went upstairs to the editorial rooms with Reifferscheid the
following morning for Charter's letter. This she carried into the
city-office to be alone. Forenoon is the dead time of a morning
newspaper. The place seemed still tired from the all-night struggle to
spring a paper to the streets. She thrust up a window for fresh air and
sat down in a reporter's chair to read.... The letter was big with
boyish delight. "When a man spends a couple of years growing and
trimming a pile of stuff into a sizable book," he had written, "and the
first of the important reviews comes in with such a message of
enthusiasm, it is the heart's 'well-done' long waited for." Beyond this,
there was only a line or two about the book. It had been in the
publisher's hands six months, and he was cold to it now. _The States_
had interested him, however, because there was an inclination in the
article to look at his work to come. In fact, some of the thoughts of
the reviewer, he wrote, were sympathetic with the subject-matter
simmering in his mind. Naturally, the coincidence had thrilled him.
Charter, believing that Reifferscheid had done the work, wrote with
utmost freedom. This attracted Paula, as it gave her a glimpse of a
certain fineness between men who admire each other. The issue was not
closed.... She wanted to answer the letter then and there at the
reporter's desk, but Reifferscheid knew she had not gone. He might come
in - and laugh at her precipitation.

After a night of perfect rest, Paula's mind was animated with thoughts
of work - until she reached the _Zoroaster_. Something of Bellingham's
tormenting energy was heavy in the atmosphere of her rooms. When passing
the full-length mirror, she turned her face away in fear. Impatiently
she caught up one of the new books (and Charter's letter for a marker),
and hurried across to the Park. The fall days were still flawless.

It was not yet ten in the morning, and few people were abroad. She sat
down upon one of the weathered knobs of Manhattan rock which had worn
through the thin skin of soil, and allowed herself to think of the
formidable affliction. To all intents, the magician had dispossessed her
of the rooms, identified for years with her personality and no other.
She could not put away the truth that the full forces of her mind were
at bay before the psychic advances of the dreadful stranger. This was
not long to be endured. Inasmuch that his power did not harmlessly
glance from her, she felt that there must be great potentialities of
evil within herself. This conviction made her frightened and desperate.
She should have known that it was her inner development, her
sensitiveness which had made her so potent an attraction for Bellingham.
The substance of her whole terror was that there had been moments under
his spell, when she had not been at all the mistress of her own will.

The suggestions which he projected had seemed to her the good and proper
actions. She knew it as a law - that every time her own divine right to
the rule of her faculties was thus usurped by an evil force, her
resistance was weakened. Yet there was a shocking unfairness in the
thought that she was not given a chance. In the throne-room of her mind,
she was not queen. All the sacred fortifications of self seemed broken,
even the soul's integrity debased, when Bellingham crushed his way in
and forced her to obey. This is the great psychological crime. When one
has broken into the sacred precincts, the door is left open for other
malignant, earth-bound entities foully to enter and betray....

There was no one in whom she could confide, but Madame Nestor. Almost
any professional man, a physician especially, would have called her
revelations hysterical.... Her constant and growing fear was of the time
when she should be called by Bellingham - and nothing would supervene to
save her. Some time the spell might not be broken. She became ill with
tension and shame as this unspeakable possibility seethed through her
mind.... Better death than to continue in being passion-ridden by this
defiler, in the presence of whom she became so loathsome in her own
sight - that she dared not pray....

Somewhere far off children were talking. Their voices warmed and
cleansed her mind. There was a stimulating thud of hoofs on the
turf-roads. She tried to read now. Her eyes travelled dutifully along
the lines of her book, without bringing forth even the phase of a
thought from the page of print. A swift step drew her glance down the
foot-path. Bellingham was approaching. His shoulders were thrown back,
his long arms swinging so that every muscle was in play, striding
forward at incredible speed. He filled his lungs with every cubic inch
of morning air they could contain, and expelled the volume with gusto.
She had once seen a rugged Englishman take his exercise as seriously as
this, on the promenade of an Atlantic liner before the breakfast-gong.
To all appearances, Bellingham did not have a thought apart from his
constitutional.

Paula sat very still on the rock. Her slightest movement now would
attract his attention. It occurred to her afterwards that she had been
like a crippled squirrel huddled in the fork of a tree - the hunter and
his dog below....

At the point where the path was nearest her, he halted. The thing
happened exactly as she might have conceived it in a story. For a moment
he seemed to be searching his mind for the meaning of his impulse to
stop. An unforgettable figure, this, as he stood there with lifted head,
concentrating upon the vagary which had brought him to a standstill....
Paula may have been mistaken in her terror, but she never relinquished
the thought that her proximity was known to him - before his face turned
unerringly to the rock and his bright gray eyes filled with her
presence.

"You are Miss Linster?" he asked, smiling agreeably.

She nodded, not trusting her voice.

"You attended the first of my Prismatic Hall lectures ten days ago?... I
seldom forget a face, and I remember asking one of my committee your
name."

Paula found it rather a unique effort to hold in mind the truth that she
had never spoken to this man before. Then the whole trend of her mental
activity was suddenly complicated by the thought that all her past
terrors might be groundless. Possibly Madame Nestor was insane on this
subject. "It may be that her mad words and my stimulated imagination
have reared a monster that has no actuality."

The bracing voices of the children, the brilliance of mid-forenoon, the
man's kingly figure, agreeable courtesy, and commanding health - indeed,
apart from the eyes in which she hardly dared to glance, there was
nothing to connect him even vaguely with the sinister persecutions which
bore his image. The whole world-mind was with him. What right had she to
say that the world-mind was in error and she normal - she and the
unreckonable Madame Nestor?... Paula recalled the strange intensity of
her mental life for years, and the largeness of her solitudes. The
world-mind would say she was beside herself from much study.... More
than all, no power was exerted upon her now. Who would believe that this
Bellingham, with miles of the metropolis between them, had repeatedly
over-ridden her volition, when she felt no threatening influence at the
present moment, almost within his reach - only the innate repulsion and
the fear of her fears?

"I hope to see you again at the meetings, Miss Linster."

"They do not attract me."

"That is important, if unpleasant to learn," he remarked, as if
genuinely perturbed. "I have been studying for a long time, and perhaps
I have taken a roundabout road to discovery. It is quite possible that
the values of my instruction are over-estimated by many.... Do you mind
if I sit down a moment? I have walked a hundred squares and will start
back from here." From his manner it was impossible to imagine irony
covert in his humbleness.

"Certainly not, though I must return to my apartment in a moment.... I
did not like the atmosphere - the audience - that first night," Paula
added.

"Nor did I, altogether," he said quickly. "But how can one choose the
real, if all are not admitted at first? With each lecture you will find
a more select company, and there will be very few when the actual
message is unfolded."

He glanced away as if to determine the exact point through the trees
from which the children's voices came. His profile was unquestionably
that of an aristocrat. The carriage of his head, the wonderful
development of his figure, his voice and the gentle temper of his
answers, even the cut of his coat and the elegance of his shoes
suggested an unconscious and invariable refinement which controverted
the horror he had once seemed.

"It may be that I am not quite like other people," she said, "but I
cannot think of physical perfection as the first aim in life."

"Nor can I," he answered; "still I think that after the elimination of
poisons from the physical organism, one's mental and spiritual powers
are quickened and freer to develop."

"Do you always shape your philosophy to meet the objections of your
disciples - so?"

"You are stimulating, Miss Linster, but I have made no concession to
adapt myself to your views. I only declared that I weed out my classes
before real work begins, and that physical disease retards mental
growth. I might add that I do not lecture for money."

"Why do you teach only women?"

"There are several reasons," he replied readily enough. "I have found
that a mixed audience is not receptive; there is a self-consciousness,
sometimes worse, something of a scoffing spirit, which breaks the point
of my appeal. Women are aroused to interest when a man appeals directly
to them. They do not like to betray a profound interest in any subject
apart from the household - when their lords are present. Man
instinctively combats any source which tends toward mental emancipation
on the part of women. It is only a few decades ago that women were
forced to abide entirely within their domestic circle. Instead of using
a superior physical strength now to keep her there, man's tendency is to
ridicule her outside interests. So I have found that women prefer to
study alone."

Bellingham answered thus circuitously, but his manner suggested that he
was grateful for the inquiry, since it gave him an opportunity to
express matters which had only been half-formed in his mind. Paula,
whose every question had come from an inclination to confound him, began
to realize that the spirit was unworthy and partook of impertinence.

"I believe in automatic health," she said impatiently. "It seems to me
that refinement means this: that in real fineness all such things are
managed with a sort of unconscious art. For instance, I should not have
health at the price of walking twice a hundred blocks in a forenoon - - "

"The point is eminently reasonable, Miss Linster," Bellingham remarked
with a smile. "But what I find it well to do, I rarely advise for
others. I am from a stock of powerful physical men. My fathers were
sailors and fishermen. They gave me an organism which weakens if I
neglect exercise, and I seem to require about five times as much
physical activity as many men of the present generation. I have
absolutely no use for this tremendous muscular strength; in fact, I
should gladly be less strong if it could be accomplished without a
general deterioration. The point is, that a man with three or four
generations of gentle-folk behind him, can keep in a state of glowing
health at the expense of about one-fifth the physical energy that I
burn - who come from rough men of mighty outdoor labors."

This was very reasonable, except that he seemed far removed in nature
from the men of boats and beaches. She had dared to glance into his face
as he spoke, and found an impression from the diamond hardness of his
eyes, entirely different from that which came through listening merely.
But for this glance, it never would have occurred to her, that her
questions had stretched his faculties to the slightest tension. She
would have arisen to go now, but he resumed:

"I cannot bear to have you think that my energies are directed entirely
in the interests of lifting the standards of health, Miss Linster.
Really, this is but a small part of preparation. It was only because I
felt you ready for the important truths - that I regretted your absence
after the first night. Do you know that we live in the time of a
spiritual high-tide? It is clear to me that the whole race is lifting
with a wonderful inner animation. In the next quarter of a century great
mystic voices shall be heard. And there shall be One above all.... I
tell you people are breaking down under the tyranny of their material
possessions. After desire - comes the burden of holding. We are
approaching the great _ennui_ which Carlyle prophesied. There is no
longer a gospel of materialism. The great English and German teachers
whose work was regarded as supreme philosophy by the people ten years
ago, are shown to be pitiful failures in our colleges to-day - or at
best, specialists of one particular stage of evolution, who made the
mistake of preaching that their little division in the great cosmic line
was the whole road. Materialism died out of Germany a few years
ago - with a great shock of suicide. The mystics are teaching her now. I
assure you the dawn is breaking for a great spiritual day such as the
world has never seen. Soon a great light shall cover the nations and
evil shall crawl into the holes of the earth where it is dark.... There
is shortly to be born into the world - a glorious Child. While He is
growing to celestial manhood - New Voices shall rise here and everywhere
preparing the way. One of these New Voices - one of the very least of
these - is Bellingham to whom you listen so impatiently."

Every venture into the occult had whispered this Child-promise in
Paula's ears. There was such a concerted understanding of this
revelation among the cults, that the thought had come to her that
perhaps this was a delusion of every age. Yet she had seen a Hindu
record dated a hundred years before, prophesying the birth of a Superman
in the early years of the Twentieth Century. There was scarcely a
division among the astrologers on this one point. She had even been
conscious in the solitudes of her own life of a certain mystic
confidence of such a fulfillment.... She dared not look into
Bellingham's face at such a moment. The ghastly phase of the whole
matter was to hear this prophecy repeated by one to whom the illustrious
prospect (if he were, as she had believed) could become only an awful
illumination of the hell to which he was condemned. It was - only
unspeakably worse - like hearing a parrot croak, "Feed our souls with the
bread of life!..." Paula stirred in her seat, and Charter's letter
dropped from the book in her lap. She seized it with a rush of grateful
emotion. It was a stanchion in her mind now filled with turbulence.

"There never was a time when woman's intelligence was so eager and
rational; never a time," Bellingham went on, "when men were so tired of
metals and meals and miles. The groan for the Absolutely New, for the
utmost in sense and the weirdest of sensations, for speed to cover
distances and to overcome every obstacle, even thin air - all these
express the great weariness of the flesh and make clear to the prophetic
understanding that man is nearing the end of his lessons in three
dimensions and five senses. There is a stirring of the spirit-captive in
the worn mesh of the body."

The woman traced her name with her forefinger upon the cover of the book
in her lap; again and again, "Paula - Paula - Paula." It was a habit she
had not remembered for years. As a little girl when she fought against
being persuaded contrary to her will, she would hold herself in hand
thus, by wriggling "Paula" anywhere. All that Bellingham said was
artfully calculated to inspire her with hope and joy in the world. So
marvelously were the words designed to carry her high in happiness, that
there was a corresponding tension of terror in remembering that
Bellingham uttered them. Yet she would have felt like a lump of clay had
she not told him:

"What you say is very wonderful to me."

"And it is the women who are most sensitive to the Light - women who are
already unfolding in the rays, yet so far-flung and dim." Bellingham's
voice was a quick emotionless monotone. "Perhaps you have noted the
great amalgamation of clubs and classes of women which each year turns
its power to more direct effort and valuable study. Another thing, let
the word Genius be whispered about any child or youth, and he becomes at
once the darling of rich matrons. What does this mean - this desire of
woman to bring out the latent powers of a stranger's child? This veiled,
beautiful quality is the surest sign of all. It is the spirit of
Rebecca - which, even in the grief for her own dead babe, turns
thrillingly to mother a wayfarer's Starry Child. Verily, when a woman
begins to dream about bringing prophets into the world - the giants of
those other days are close to her, crowding closer, eager to be born
again."

Paula turned to him and arose. His face was not kindled. It was as if he
were an actor reading lines to memorize, not yet trying to simulate the
contained emotions. There is a glow of countenance where fine
thought-force is in action, but Bellingham's face was not lit with the
expiration of mind-energy, though his eyes glittered with set, bird-like
brightness.

"I must hurry away now," she told him hastily. "I must think upon what
you have said."

"I truly wish," he added softly, and with a kindness she felt, because
her eyes were turned from him, "that you would join one of my wiser
classes. You would be an inspiration. Besides, the little things that
have been given me to tell - should be known by the very few who have
reached your degree of evolution."

"Thank you," she faltered. "I must think."

"Good-by, Miss Linster."

Reaching the street in front of her apartment house, she turned just in
time to see him disappear among the trees. He strode forward as if this
were his world, and his days had been a continuous pageant of
victories.... Her rooms were all cleared of disorder, her mind refreshed
and stimulated.... That night between eleven and twelve she was writing
to Charter. There were a half dozen penned pages before her, and a smile
on her lips. She poured out a full heart to the big Western figure of
cleanliness and strength - wrote to the man she wanted him to be.... The
day had been strange and expanding. She had suffered no evil. The
thoughts remaining with her from the talk in the Park were large with
significance, and they had cleared slowly from the murkiness of their
source. These, and the ideal of manhood she was building out of
Charter's book and letter and Reifferscheid's little sketch of him, had
made the hours rich with healing. She was tired but steady-nerved as she
wrote.... There was a faint tapping at her hall-door.




FIFTH CHAPTER

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


Paula thrust the sheets of the letter in her desk drawer and admitted
Selma Cross, an actress whose apartment was across the hall. These two
had chatted together many times, sometimes intimately. Each had found
the other interesting. Hints of a past that was almost classic in the
fury of its struggle for publicity, had repeatedly come to Paula's ears,
with other matters she greatly would have preferred not to hear. Selma
Cross was huge to look upon, and at first thought without grace. There
was something uncanny in her face and movements, and an extraordinary
breadth between her yellow eyes which were wide-lidded, slow-moving and
ever-changing. She was but little past thirty, yet the crowded traffic
of her years was intricately marked.

"I saw the light under your door, and felt like coming in for a few
minutes," she said. "I must talk to some one and my maid, Dimity, is
snoring. You see, I'm celebrating for two reasons."

"Tell me, so I can help," Paula answered.

"Vhruebert has taken a play for me. You know, I've been begging him to
for months. The play was made for me - not that it was written with me in


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryWill Levington ComfortShe buildeth her house → online text (page 4 of 23)