Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chapter One

    Had it somehow come about in the Creator's original design that there were no angels, only men, good or bad, it is highly unlikely that Toby and Jelena Skinner would ever have been inspired, or even permitted, within the ordering of Providence, to take up permanent roots in the diocese of Hastings. That particular region of the Church, by the time the couple arrived, had become so remarkably corrupt, especially in its bishop, as well as in other significant areas of leadership, that it had acquired the mood of an insane asylum wherein the inmates run the building rather than register for treatment.
    This is not to say that the bishop and a significant proportion of his priests were crazy in the clinical sense. They were in fact quite in control of their faculties, and knew very well what they were doing, especially when it was inordinately sinful and perverse. Nor was this diocese, tucked quite out of the way in the south-east mountain ranges of British Columbia, totally unique within the Church of that time, of just before, and painfully long after, the Second Vatican Council. The Church Universal was suffering throughout itself, on every continent, from the incontinent, especially the incontinent clergy preying on the young, of both sexes, and each other. But the diocese of Hastings could boast, in its own perverse way, of being. proportional to its modest population, one of the front runners, and could also claim the special uniqueness of both a bishop and a president of its little university as clerics in high places who had blandly bid goodbye to their clerical vows of chastity. And, in order to hold on to their sinecures in the land of sinful behaviour, these men collaborated, whenever necessary, to prevent the honest clergy, the reverend sisters, and any informed or suspicious laity from getting at the roots of this extremely ugly problem.
     Nor, for some time, were the other agencies of protection of much use over these questions. The police, the relevant government ministries, were slow off the mark, not entirely from want of information, but from want of knowing how to deal with the information, or having the will. It was a social predicament, in certain ways similar to the chaos in the Church preceding the reforms of the Council of Trent, which could be changed only by extraordinary virtue and an indescribable intensity of the spiritual life, the infallible activity - and passivity - of the determination to get to perfection, on a personal basis, and thus drag the institution of the Church, at least, into the aura of decency. For, if the Church does not lead, every other organization must fail.
     And it also could be said, that had the Church Militant been the only segment of the organization that God was concerned about, that there were not in fact the Church Triumphant, or the Church Suffering, that Toby and company would as well have been prohibited from bringing their manifest abilities to this, in so many ways, unfortunate segment of the visible portion of the entirety of Catholicism. After all, no matter how naturally talented, intelligent, and strong-willed a man might be according to his native fashioning, he is still a life-long victim of original sin, vulnerable to his own inherent frailties and limitations and further vulnerable to the iniquities and indifference to real value of his fellow human beings. In Toby's case, the difficulties of the diocesan personnel - I speak here of the professionals - would have been so disappointing and discouraging that without the assurance in faith that all his frustrations, accepted in Christ's patience, would do a good deal for the souls in purgatory and, at least elsewhere in the universe, the conversion of sinners, he would have no doubt given up and gone elsewhere, for he was a man with a mission in his mind and a fire in his belly, and the sort of being who could not abide thinking that he was not always of some good use or another.

    But the angels quite naturally make it possible for a soul that contemplates to be useful everywhere, and in their own turn know of so few that take the way of contemplation and the perfect spiritual work seriously, that they are forever bringing their own jurisdictions to the habitually prayerful ones quite hand over fist, putting him or her at work now somewhere in deepest Africa, next in China, and a little later in Moscow, or Rome, or New York, or even the Pasadena Playhouse. Thus, in a certain sense, and except for the sorrow in the lack of salvation in the derelict clergy and religious he had to live amongst, Toby was even grateful for the horrors of the Hasting diocese. They gave him something to endure, to be tempted to despair over - without ever surrendering to; he had the glorious vocation of the contemplative, against which all other callings suffer a certain lack of lustre, a conspicuous dullness vis-a-vis the constant and omnipresent light of the angels - although, in this life, not always the pleasant light of the good ones.
     But that was, in its perfect degree, in retrospect. In the reality of the unfolding present, the diocese was unquestionably a nightmare, especially to someone seemingly inspired to such high expectations, of both the educational and spiritual lives.

Chapter Two

    Even getting back to Hastings had been something of a battle, in the summer when Toby's teaching career in the North had come to an end. He had been so gloriously successful in the classroom and in the community that it had been hard to believe he would not be kept on in the Catholic school, where he and Jelena had been content to work for very modest wages, but even those wages were too much for a system that flourished on the apostolic spirit of unmarried, unfamilied, volunteers, and the halcyon days had come to a close. The priests were sorry, the sisters regretful, but that's how it was. The Skinners were two adults - only one of whom was a teacher - now with two children, and too expensive for the slim resources of the parish and the diocese, in those days before the government decided to support separate schools. The axe had come down well before the school year was over, when Jelena had taken the train to Vancouver, with the children, to visit her parents for a fortnight.

    Toby had taken the news fairly calmly. He had become accustomed to surprises, well versed both in life and study with a God who liked breaking molds in the name of improvement. So far, throughout his twenty-eight years, he had survived all the sudden contradictions, and would do so again. And he knew he was simply far too good in the classroom not to be in demand. He was too natively studious and well-read, too artistically talented, too amusing - for the sake of learning and the wisdom that would eventually make him a spiritual director - either directly or indirectly - of the highest ranks in the Church - and also too awfully good at discipline, not to be necessary to children, to the Catholic education system, to the Church itself, and to ever be out of work.
     Or so he had thought, up to that point.

    He had told Jelena as soon as she came back from Vancouver, of course. He had not called with the news. He did not want to worry her parents, particularly her mother. Hopefully the future would be straightened out before they had to know.
     But where to go?
     In the last months of teaching in Sitka Flats he stayed awake a lot wondering if he should head for an Indian reserve school. He'd begun his teaching career substituting in native schools, and made some good points, even thought they were not Catholic students, but on a Catholic reserve, with his successes in art and music, with a hope of taking the native's skills with quiet into Thomistic metaphysics, he might be able to work some great stuff. But no inspirations reared their head, and he had been, after all, hooked up with a bishop who had plenty of natives under his jurisdiction.
(Years later, Toby realized those sleepless hours had been all about the suffering of the native children under predatory clergy, and not just in his own diocese.)
     So it was fall-back time, a return to the fiery flood of inspirations that had come upon him when he first met Jelena, provoking his love affair with the town where she had grown up, far away in the Kootenays, the burgh of Hastings.
     But Jelena had absolutely no appetite for returning to the land of her childhood. It was not that she had no happy memories. Quite the contrary, as evidenced in her scrapbook and the stories she had told Toby from the beginning. She had loved where she had grown up, loved the town that had raised her - although she was not born in Hastings - and seen her through her first university year, in the little Catholic college established, at the suggestion of Rome, only a few years before she attended.
But once she had settled on the Coast, thanks her father's transfer, she grew even fonder of the big city - because of its culture, not because of its increased shopping opportunities - and of the university, because she not only loved study and the classroom, but assumed she would, as a professor of literature, make university life her own for the rest of her days. She had always been a blue stocking's blue stocking, but with an equal passion for the arts, which kept her from the least threat of the academic's accidie.
     But she had at least two personal qualities which had gravely endangered her supposed vocational choices. The first, which affected most manners of young men she had hitherto encountered, was the happy possession of the face of a film actress, with large brown eyes that could dance like a pair of nymphs but also take in everything within their view at the same time.
    The other virtue, which was specific to Toby's interests - although usually terrifying to the lads and other things in pants that started with the face and the dancing eyes - was that she was an omnivorous reader. Thus Toby had known at once that she was not simply intelligent much above the average, but that she knew books. Thus she knew his life work, and he knew he could tolerate no rivals. This was not just love at work; this was destiny.
     And then there was her singing voice, and it was really music that had exposed them to each other as what they each really cared about, over and above the verbal skirmishing that goes on between students thrown together on a huge secular campus which somehow has not been allowed to destroy or even dampen the real depths of personal faith.
     Even though he had grown up in the West Coast city, big and getting bigger, and had loved the place to the extent of falling into excruciatingly patronizing attitudes toward the poor souls who had not grown up there, it was not until Jelena showed up that he had completely taken all it had to offer under his tyro writer's wing, and even then it had taken some pretty heavy handed intrusions from his guardian angel, and his guardian angels commanders-in-chief, to get him completely receptive.

    So, when the crunch came down, the conversations naturally turned to Vancouver and the possibility of returning there.
     "You almost had a job at that new high school in the East End," Jelena said at one point. "In fact you did have it, if you'd decided to take it. Notre Dame, wasn't it? Maybe the same principal is still there. I've always been really happy in Vancouver. I know I would be again."
     "It was only four years ago. But I'm so glad we went north. Camden Falls was incredible. I don't think Vancouver could have offered that much of a challenge. And we would never have had the chance to live with a priest, to be so much at the heart of a parish and mix with all those clergy passing through. I don't know of any writer who got such a break. Not that I've been able to do much with it. There always seems to be so much to learn about education. That's what hurts about having to leave here. I've really proved something with the art and the music and the philosophy and the meditation. I know I have. But neither the bishop nor Clancy seem to appreciate it the same way I do."
     "Man proposes,' etcetera."
    "Of course. And there have always been the visions from Hastings. Your fault, of course, from growing up there."
     "But that president of the college you went to see before we went to Camden Falls: he wouldn't hire you."
    "No. I've always wondered why I took the trip. Mind you, you had a visit with your Mom, and I got a look at the town I'd dreamed so much about. And it was most definitely Providence at work. God sent a log to take out the propeller shaft of the Canadian Prince just so I could get ride on a boat and the bus to Hastings to get a look at the college. And, remember, Father McPatrick was on the Prince on the night of trip. Now there was a coincidence. Remember? He went barreling after the Minister of Education, coincidentally on the trip as well, and bashed him about over financial aid to Catholic schools." Toby would laugh at himself. "Very precise of God, don't you think? To be provided with a working view of my future boss at the very time I was flitting off to the Kootenays to talk to someone I hoped would be my boss? As it was, I wonder if I was speaking with an idiot. I wanted to talk about Saint Thomas and his relations with education, and he asked me about John Dewey. Months later, under McPatrick and his gallant little school, I was learning about how John Dewey had destroyed generations of American reading students and any Canadians stupid enough to follow suit. You can say that for the Vancouver school authorities. I don't think they bought the bullshit. At least not my grade one teacher. I was a phonetic whizz by the New Year."
    "You've learned a lot in four years. Me too. Maybe we could be some real use to a parish in Vancouver. Maybe even the diocese. Remember that I'm virtually an old friend of the co-adjutor archbishop."
     "So you'll write him a letter?"
    Jelena was quiet for a bit. "No. That I know I can't do. For heaven's sake, Toby. You’ve never been incapable of speaking for yourself." She would laugh. "And in that, Michaelson would suspect that you'd come to take over his diocese. How many times do I have to tell you that the clergy don't like laity who study? Who know Saint Thomas, and worse, the mystics? Good Lord, even McPatrick, who was and is the salt of the earth, had trouble with you. And the pastor here, just as much. You've said so yourself. But Vancouver is bigger than an archbishop. We'd survive. There's always the culture. And the ocean. And your memories of growing up on the Coast. You haven't even begun to write about them, and, God knows, you have some wonderful stories to tell."

    "Yes, I have. But only when I'm ready to do them right."

Chapter Three

    When they had left Vancouver five years earlier it had been with great expectations and only one problem: what to do with all their books. Throughout his earlier student years, Toby's library had not been extensive. What he had collected for himself was respectable, no junk, and only some of classics ancient and modern that a serious writer requires to read over a lifetime. People loaned him books they thought a writer should read and he used the university library. But Jelena had gathered her volumes from the time she became literate and had shelved a lot more along the way. Her basement room in her parents' Vancouver home had been a modest library in itself - from which Toby had been given A.A. Milne, to test his qualifications for fatherhood, which obviously was to include reading to his children - and all of these had come to their joint stock after the wedding, to be moved into their first home together, a sub-rented apartment close to the beach in Kitsilano, which they held down until the middle of August and their departure for Jelena's teaching job two hundred miles up the Coast.
     For the week previous to the move the apartment living room had to be a sorting station. In the middle of room stood three piles of books: those which could definitely stay behind - a friend had offered a basement - those which had to go with them, and the maybes. The first made the smallest pile, while the second and third began fairly equal, only to have the traveling section grow much faster than the remainder pile. In the end, four boxes stayed and nine headed north. The rest of their freight was wedding presents and Toby's trunk, which held, among other things, his typewriter. The only furniture was Jelena's modest record player. Toby also owned a guitar and a tenor banjo, and each of them had a three-speed bike. Toby had bought his months earlier, having given up his car, and Jelena had asked for hers as a wedding present from her parents. She had ridden it to work, getting to her downtown office, over the Burrard Bridge, in much less time than those going in their cars.

    The modest guitar had been replaced by a better, and the tenor banjo succeeded by a five-string Toby had found in the little music store in the Flats. There were also more books, of course, some of them even coming from correspondence study with an Eastern university, but the only additional furniture had to do with the children. For five years they had lived in teachers' quarters provided by their employers. They'd had no need to buy furniture. Wisely, they had bought a collapsible crib, which had flown before, and flew again when they headed forever out of the north. Except for their personal luggage, all else went by train, to lie in a freight shed until they could decide what to do with it. Jelena took a handful of novels from the family store to tide her over the mystery interval. Toby latched on to his Carmelites.
    They were by no means worried about the future. They would unquestionably land on their feet somewhere. Providence might be puzzling, but it also possessed an impeccable mind for getting the round pegs in the round holes. Yet, at the same time, they were not agreed about where they should go.
    Toby, in his heart of hearts, was pretty much for Hastings. In the long run, it had to be Hastings, if visions meant anything, but of course it could be later than now, especially considering how fond he was of Sitka Flats and the life there, so much of the arts as well as teaching for the Church. And visions had always to be scrutinized, no matter how wonderfully they might possess one, how delightfully, how irresistibly, they broke the heart and let in some further insight into the mind of Christ and the Virgin Mary, to say nothing of that spiritual companion who was forever hovering about and sprinkling salt and light on everything, one's guardian angel and whomever he brought in his wake. Of course they would wind up in Hastings one day, because he was a mystic and a Thomist and in Hastings there was a new, young, Catholic university named after the Mother of Christ. But Jelena knew the town. She had grown up there. It had been, for all its charms, a catch basin for small minds, stupid factions, and a provincial mentality that just might drive her cosmopolitan husband bonkers.
    In the beginning, of course, it had been nothing of the sort. In the beginning, in the 1880's, Hastings was the principal city - by frontier standards - of one of the richest mining regions in the world. Only the diamond mines of the Transvaal had a greater lure for investors, writers, romantics, traveling actors, musicians and prostitutes. The ore in the mountains - silver, lead, zinc consistently, and gold and copper in certain locations - stared at the prospector from the rock in his hand, peeled in shards under the stroke of his knife or chisel, and wove fantastic dreams in the minds of those with any amount of money for shares in the bonanza. Along with the same kind of ore bodies immediately south of the line, the products of these mines, run through the American smelters, provided ten percent of the gross national product of the United States. This was too generous to the Americans, naturally, for Canadian financial interests, and thus came a huge smelter north of the Forty-Ninth, and some more railway. So, in those days, Hastings was notable on the world stage.
     But like so many mines, hers dwindled. So then lumbering became the larger employer, and orchards were also a substantial form of wealth until irrigation made the warmer Okanagan the queen of the fruit growing trade, and then Hastings settled, like British Army officers retired on half-pay, into restrained gentility. When people are no longer rich, unless they possess some other genius in their midst, they resign themselves to thinking provincially, not expecting too much of each other, and become more and more suspicious of excellence. This does not stop them, generally, from being respectable, but it does make them resist having their personal boundaries widened from forces within their own community.

    Then, toward the end of the Depression, Rome created a new diocese out of the south-east corner of the political province and made Hastings the see. There were no other towns in the region appreciably larger, and Hastings lay in the centre of the territory the new bishop would have to supervise, travel within for confirming children, bucking up his clergy and religious, and so forth. Besides, the Anglicans had already done something of the same. No new cathedral building was required, because the founder of the original parish, backed by the faith and generosity of his flock built as the initial church a modest basilica, against the day of the inevitable designation.
    What is of concern is what, or who, went along with the creation of the diocese of Hastings, that is, a bishop to rule over it, in this case the Reverend William Walter Michaelson, at the time of his appointment rector of the cathedral in Toronto and a genuine priest in every way; prayerful, kindly, and reasonably firm. He was also a builder, and as he had no need to erect a cathedral, he eventually created an old folks home and hospital, setting it under the care of the nuns of those days, a children's camp, and as his last creation before his obvious talents took him to a larger responsibility, a small college. He had never been flooded with vocations to the priesthood, and Rome had suggested that if the sons of immigrant miners and woodsmen could be persuaded to study at the university level, some of them might study themselves into the priesthood. This was working in Africa, so why not in British Columbia?
    The college had begun in utter modesty in Hastings, in very small buildings, at the time Toby was then in high school in Vancouver, and it is a fact, interesting to ponder as the future unrolled, that when Toby read about this beginning in a small story in the newspaper, he actually wondered what it would be like to go to university in a confessional situation. And then when he was going on to the classrooms of the ten thousand, sprawled all over the western end of the Point Grey peninsula, he was comforted by the knowledge that if he were in danger of losing the faith he did have among the high-powered cynics of the secular institution he could always take his battered soul to the Kootenays, or south to one of the American church affiliated schools. He had excellent memories of his two months, in grade four, in a church run private school in Ontario.
    Now in all truth, although Toby was no Aloysius Gonzaga in his youth, and totally unschooled, thanks to the wonders of modern secular education in the matters of philosophy, theology, and mysticism by book larnin' of the formal sort in those areas, he was about as much likely to lose the actual faith he had in the general Christian scheme of thing as Caesar or Alexander or Bernard Montgomery were to lose their grasp of military science. There are degrees to the metaphysical intensity that make up the operating efficiency of different angels, and in Toby's case his invisible guardian not only came about as powerful as such creatures can be, but he was not entirely invisible. Since Toby's earliest childhood memories, his hidden sidekick had a way of turning up the lights, literally, on any situation, and around the university, given all that steamy intellectual ferment over constantly contradictory concepts, he seemed never to turn them off. Or at least not until Toby left. Occasionally returning in subsequent years, Toby was always put to musing as to why the campus seemed so drab, in comparison with how he had known it.
    And as for having his faith threatened, it was really the other way around. He challenged his company. Within his first weeks as a regular on the campus paper, he had found himself one evening at home inspired to crank up his noisy old typewriter and bang out a piece comparing the poisoning of Socrates to the crucifixion of Christ, left it the following morning on the editor's desk, and opened the next day's paper to find it printed therein. He was never moved to write anything like it again, but it was a clear indication to everyone of what basically ran up and down his backbone. Following this little publication, his English lecture referred to the subject of mysticism one rainy afternoon while the class was encountering the metaphysical poets, and there was a significant show of light in the classroom, but Toby prayed that none of it would identify him, and kept his mouth shut. Nobody but nobody was to intercept his own journey to whatever it was he was to write about when he finally, really, simply had enough life and study experience to know what he was up to.
    This was a specially intense display of the light. Most of the time, at home, on the campus, elsewhere in his travels, it was of a lower key, but definitely pleasant enough, and reassuring him that he was in the place and amongst the people he was supposed to be with.
    Then, after four years of this light and accompanying spirit and all the adventures that went with them, had come Jelena, who doubled everything. And she had grown up in Hastings, in the Kootenays, which had intruded an image and a spirit into his sometime musings on his future, and that also had a doubling effect. Yet these effects had been something he never seemed to get permission from the Muse to write about. At twenty-two he had insisted to Jelena, vehemently as was his wont, that as Hemingway and Fitzgerald had been published at twenty-five, he was sure to do the same, if not sooner. Yet here he was three years older than twenty-five, , stuffed full of experiences with man and God neither of those two had ever dreamed of, let alone been able to write and publish, and yet neither could he write of such things, no matter how much his typewriter might clatter over other subjects, and no editor or publisher had ever nodded contractual approval over the lesser items he had sent them.
     So, was he now a teacher out of a job for the sake of his writing? Once could, after all, go back to the city and hang out with the very dear old literary friends and maybe get some inspiration, some direction, and some clarification. Yet why was his first concrete act of looking for a new placement the writing of a letter to the bishop of Hastings, with the result of an encouraging reply saying they should meet as soon as he was settled in the place? Jelena had not been overjoyed, but then she knew that he could speculate, and even make profoundly involved approaches to people and projects and then do an immediate about face. They would work this out, just as they had worked everything out.

    Sister Principal and the pastor and some of their friends came to see them off at the airport. Father Clancy put a wad of bills in Toby's hand, as had his father the day Toby and Jelena got married, and their plane climbed into a clear sky. They were to start the search for the new life staying with Jelena's parents. And perhaps on the flight south they would get a look at the Waddington Range, the mountains Toby had lived amongst the summer before he met her.

Chapter Four

    For all its culture, especially musical culture, America in the middle of the twentieth century had yet to rival Europe in the creation of grand opera on the Italian or German scale. As the Met or San Francisco had amply proved was that the nation could certainly mount an opera, and then prove to bring on plenty of world class performers, but the compositions lagged behind. Gershwin's Porgy and Bess inclined toward the older models of musical drama, but not enough that it shook free the more ambitious venue. What did thunder around New York, of course, was the second daughter of that genre of inspiration, the musical, in the native tongue and full of singable songs with the sort of memorable phrases that people could use, as with the Bible and Shakespeare, as guide lines in their daily lives.
We have all heard, if not sung, we have all quoted, 'Some enchanted evening . . .' etcetera.

    But, actually, while Jelena and Toby did indeed first see other across a crowded room, the evening had not been in any way enchanted for her. She was simply out with an acquaintance from her home town, who belonged to a fraternity, and thus wound up at a fraternity dance in a very modest rented hall on the New Year's Eve of her first year in Vancouver and on the campus. She was not really having a good time, and thus was ready to be most aware of a pair of couple who were. Well, to be perfectly honest, she was not entirely sure that the girls were having an unflawed evening, but the two young men were constantly laughing and chatting, dressed as Highlanders, dancing vigourously with their dates.
    The slightly taller one, she noted especially, had very good legs below the tartan and moved like a dancer even when he was only walking. Her date, noting her interest at one point, told that the lad was not actually a member of the fraternity, but lived in the frat house. He was a musician, he had heard, and he and his roommate, the other kilt, were supposed to
be writing a play together. He knew nothing about the play, but he had heard them sing a very funny song they had written together.
    Jelena never saw the young man again, because by that time he was no longer about the campus, but was working in the city, until one wet night in November, ten months later, when she came lolloping down the stairs from the Green Room in the old UBC auditorium, the hang out room for the Players'Club. She was with two other girls, all of them members of the cast of the English Department's annual production of a classic, Ibsen's 'Peer Gynt' in this case. She gave a little 'whoop' when she and her companions hit the bottom of the stairs, not because of Toby and any memories she might have of the New Year's Eve event, but because he was with her most recent significant male interest. Toby was there to pick up one of her companions for a ride home. That young lady had been a very sweet and good friend of his for several months, the girl of New Year's Eve having moved on.
Noting the energy, and the big brown eyes, Toby said to his companion, "Who's that?"
     "Jelena Omagh," he said.
     "Oh," said Toby. He did not recognize her from the New Year's Eve party, where she had come dressed as a nurse, and he drove the other girl home without any more thought about the incident, as they had plenty to talk about, and then he did the long drive to his parent's house at the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, on the hill above Port Moody.
     This other girl was a very sweet creature. They had got together in the spring, a couple of months after the girl from the party had moved on. But it was more a case of keeping each other pleasant company than a real romance. She had spoken of a boyfriend at a different university, almost a fiancĂ©e. Toby had gathered, from the profession the lad was studying for, that he was not much inclined toward the arts, and she was. She acted, she wrote, she sang to his small guitar. But one night recently, when he had found himself, not for the first time in recent months, in a very strange, puzzling, and painful mental state, and asked her to keep him company at a movie, she had been frightened when he told her about his current state of soul. It had not helped either of them that the plot of the film, a murder mystery called "Footsteps in the Fog", was concerned with a victim who wondered if she were going crazy, over the question of being stalked. This had become a common thought for Toby. By religion, she was Anglican, which in his mind put her close to the Catholic girls he had known in his cadet corps and the university. She had entered his life like a vessel of innocence, not long before he went into the woods, and she had got hold of some philosophy texts for him while he was there, then become his companion when he got back and re-entered life on the campus. Yet between them they did not have the words for what had become the most pressing daily questions regarding the constant hammering that assaulted his soul. Time after time he seemed to startle her, and he did not know why. And he also knew he found other girls around the newspaper office just as interesting.
    And Jelena had started showing up in those same offices, coming down to write or deliver articles to do with the Players' Club and some other campus organizations she belonged to. Toby had his own column to write, and all sorts of friends from earlier years, but he noticed her, and once, when she seemed to be in an odd relationship with one of those friends, he wrote her a poem. It was by no means a rival of the least deliberations of Keats, but it was proof of personal notice. The poem said that she was barking up the wrong tree, and yet he would have had to admit that he was by no means certain that he was the right one.
    Years later, their campus got down to trying to teach courses on the subject of mysticism. It is unlikely that any of these sessions were presided over by actual mystics, as universities, and even seminaries crediting themselves with competence in ascetical and mystical theology are profoundly effective, steeped in academic vices, of contradicting real mystics as solidly as the Sanhedrin contradicted Christ, but they were at least in place, and had they existed then Toby Skinner might have had a reason to think of a university degree as representative of his own experience. As it was, his presence back on the campus and in law school, from the present academic and professional formation aspect was an enormous joke. In a sense, he was wiser and more experienced than any professor on the campus, as none of them were capable of adjudicating his intellectual bent, yet as he had no idea what he really was, he had to function, he had to be present, through the artificial means of enrollment, once again, in the law school. This had not stopped the Holy Spirit in any way from flooding him, day after day, with the intimations that would guide the rest of his adult life, much beyond anything the university could teach him, but it left Toby puzzled about his relationship with an organized world.
     It had also puzzled Rosalind, the sweetest of companions. She had begun to think that a dentist you knew was much safer that an artist who did not even know himself.