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often when he raged at himself as an egotist something would whisper
ingratiatingly: "No. Genius!" That was one manifestation of fear, that
voice which whispered that he could not be both great and good, that
genius was the exact combination of those inexplicable grooves and
twists in his mind, that any discipline would curb it to mediocrity.
Probably more than any concrete vice or failing Amory despised his own
personality--he loathed knowing that to-morrow and the thousand days
after he would swell pompously at a compliment and sulk at an ill word
like a third-rate musician or a first-class actor. He was ashamed of the
fact that very simple and honest people usually distrusted him; that
he had been cruel, often, to those who had sunk their personalities in
him--several girls, and a man here and there through college, that he
had been an evil influence on; people who had followed him here and
there into mental adventures from which he alone rebounded unscathed.
Usually, on nights like this, for there had been many lately, he could
escape from this consuming introspection by thinking of children and the
infinite possibilities of children--he leaned and listened and he heard
a startled baby awake in a house across the street and lend a tiny
whimper to the still night. Quick as a flash he turned away, wondering
with a touch of panic whether something in the brooding despair of his
mood had made a darkness in its tiny soul. He shivered. What if some
day the balance was overturned, and he became a thing that frightened
children and crept into rooms in the dark, approached dim communion with
those phantoms who whispered shadowy secrets to the mad of that dark
continent upon the moon....
Amory smiled a bit.
"You're too much wrapped up in yourself," he heard some one say. And
"Get out and do some real work--"
He fancied a possible future comment of his own.
"Yes--I was perhaps an egotist in youth, but I soon found it made me
morbid to think too much about myself."
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