history of this book is in itself an interesting and amusing narrative.
After the publication of The Unobstructed Universe,
Betty informed us that some time must
elapse before she would be ready to give another "divulgence." So it
occurred to me to examine once again the records of the work Betty did
while she was still here. Twice already they had been combed for
material—the extracts used in making
The Betty Book
and Across the Unknown.
While those two books
dealt to a large degree with Betty's training, the effort had been to
select material from a viewpoint of universal application. Now another
viewpoint might prove valuable—that of Betty's own education
irrespective of any concern with others than herself.
Perhaps it was largely for my own
satisfaction; in any case I did again go through the roughly million and
a quarter words that were the records of Betty's work while here.
Passages directed at her personally, and no one else, I red-penciled.
Next I cut them out and pasted them seriatim. They totaled nearly two
hundred thousand words. For the first time I read them consecutively; and realized that, even with no further arrangement,
I had a
Furthermore, it had growth-interest, it moved, it climaxed—most gloriously, I thought.
Here was obviously a book to be
written. Therefore, as I am a writer of books, I set blithely about it.
No light job, I realized. I must tell
the story as clearly and simply as possible; I must be accurate, for
this sort of thing depends on its integrity; I must use, of those two hundred thousand words, only about one-fifth,
lest the reader be confused
as well as bored by the repetition necessary for the perfection of Betty's
My first attempt was to follow
chronology and to quote from the records verbatim such excerpts as
would best illustrate each step of Betty's progress; with, of course, the
necessary editorial connective tissue. That did not work at all. Betty's
instruction was indeed from simple to complex. But definitely it was not
chronological. Her orderly graduation from grade to grade was an illusion. My
re-perusal of the record made clear to me that actually, in essence, she was given
the whole thing at once. I can go back now and perceive that the whole
plan and the whole accomplishment is laid out in the first hundred or so
pages. In other words, Betty was exposed to the entire experience and
instruction much as a photographic film is exposed—sharply to the dot of
the opening and closing of the shutter. But, just as the image resulting
is latent and must be developed out, so was Betty's comprehension and
control latent, and it too must be developed out. Her training was just
When once I had got that through my
head, the reason for a number of things became clear to me. As, for
instance, the Invisibles' maddening habit of abandoning one subject for
another, and yet another; returning to each, apparently at random, and
certainly at odd times. Now I was able to see that what my logical mind
had wanted to be a building process, one brick on another, was in fact
the aforesaid developing-out, the whole image becoming more and more
defined only as the development proceeded. Whatever might be the
illusion of a step-by-step-gradedschool;
I now saw, as I struggled to work out a chronological presentation
of the material, it came about
because the Invisibles had successively brought to major prominence, one
after the other, single details of the whole image, subduing temporarily
all the rest. But never was a detail so clarified as to obviate their
need for back-tracking. They were inveterate moppers-up.
Realization that chronology offered
no satisfactory frame for this story cleared my mind for a re-write. To
do this re-write I had to use a cardindex system and from it take all
that had been said on any particular phase, whenever and wherever, and
then piece it together into a cohering pattern. I had already found that
method necessary in making
The Betty Book, but as the
latter dealt only with beginnings, and as this book dealt with the whole
picture, I assumed it to be outmoded. So I did it in that sequence. For
example, in dealing with
some fundamental concept, such as
Contact with the Source, I might find it made prominent from, say, about
page 1200 to about 1300, but already on page 4 something had been said
so apposite that it must be fitted into the later, more extended
And that did not work either. If I
quoted a passage entire, it was too long. Worse yet, the new sequence could not be made to behave any more
than had the chronological method, because it, too, skipped about. My
brother Harwood did grand work in searching records, correlating them,
showing their connection. I did a lot of writing. At last we produced
something—not the right something. None the less we agreed to be
satisfied. And then, as I was ready to pass the manuscript on to the
publishers, Betty herself, through Joan, of
The Unobstructed Universe,
turned it down flat. It must be
done over again.
"You have," said Betty, reinforced
by her coadjutors—I here adopt their own bold habit of putting a
condensation, though an accurate one, in quotes—"collected an admirable
lot of building blocks. Good building blocks. Your trouble is that you
are trying to use them undressed for the job, and even yet you are
influenced by the chronological order of their delivery." Now I will
begin to quote the Invisibles verbatim. "You see, Betty was
drilled, drilled, drilled
for twenty years, over and over again
in the same things, with enormous elaboration in her instruction. Of
were many repeats, and in many
places. You cannot take your readers in three hours over the whole of
those twenty years. Your job is a selective job. You have the obligation
to dip into any portion for clarity. You must pick out the bits that
seem the sharpest illustration of Betty's systematic travel of the
Road—no matter where they come. The public has to have a straight line. It just can't be expected to jump over twenty years.
"Furthermore," the Invisibles pointed
out, "you are not now writing a didactic book, like
The Betty Book
Across the Unknown.
This is a drama, and must be written as such; with three Acts. Act I: How
Betty was taught to tap the Source. Act II: Her actual experience after
she had learned to do so. Act
III: What she did with it, and what it did to her. Only don't present the narrative as three
Acts or three Parts; obliterate the joints.
"Now," they further instructed, "use
what you have already written as building blocks. Distribute them in
three piles, as they fall under one or the other of the three Acts. Then
go ahead. And slash out all but the best that applies."
This was the scheme of my final
rewrite. I bad this advantage: I was in weekly touch through Joan, and
so could submit my results. Betty and her Invisibles did a lot of "rejiggering,"
as they called it; recasting, transferring,
changing phraseology. So sometimes
there may be found a slight variance in my quotation and the original
record, or a difference in sequence. And of course it has been necessary
for the sake of both clarity and case to condense as of one continuous session
the material scattered over several.
But Betty was right in her insistence
on the dramatic form. The actual process of her development is in no sense
altered by it; rather it becomes clearer, and more easily to be followed.
So this book, like the others, is a
collaboration. My brother Harwood and I for the spade work; Darby and Joan
for criticisms and suggestions; and Betty and her Invisibles through Joan
for personal supervision and approval of the final form.
write this book for three reasons: First, to satisfy numerous readers of
The Unobstructed Universe—the third of the so-called
"Betty books" and dictated by her through another psychic after her
death—who demand insistently to know "how Betty got that way"; second,
to answer questions from the many who, in one way or another, are
setting out on the path Betty followed; third, because in her own
training Betty was given a
pattern for living which could well be used by all of us.
For one by-product of
The Betty Book,
Across the Unknown,
written before Betty's death, as well
as The Unobstructed
Universe, published just
eighteen months after she died, is a widespread interest in Betty
herself. This is more than a mere curiosity as to personality. The
latter is well enough defined by what these books report of her words
and thoughts. Rather, people want to know—to judge by their letters—how
that personality came about. Flow much was her original self? How much
was of her own volitional development How much was due to her training
* Betty's name for discarnate personalities.
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Invisibles?* What was that training?
As applied to her, alone, or to be aspired to by others? For of course a
good deal of the teachings in the three books is an account of training
methods for mankind in general. In a word what hundreds of my
correspondents say they want is a biography of Betty.
But not a biography in ordinary
definition. Rather a biography of inner life and development. What made
her what her three books show her to be? After all, that is the
essential aim of any biography—to evaluate the expansion of a person's life, and to
examine the influences and happenings and accomplishments that brought this
person to wherever he or she had landed by that pausing-time we call
As with most lives that grow to an
ultimate fullness, material in Betty's case is embarrassingly abundant.
The difficulty is not of search, but of selection and arrangement. The
whole record of the work Betty did in the higher consciousness, both
while she was still here and after her death, runs to two thousand four
hundred single-spaced pages. From the two thousand done in her lifetime
I have clipped those passages that carried individual instruction. These
make over three
* Referring to
the beyond-earth consciousness into which she had the ability
psychically to enter.
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hundred pages—all material from which
to select. Besides, there are, of course, my own recollections of nearly
forty years. And in addition, more than a year after her death, I came
upon a filing folder containing a miscellany of papers in which from
time to time she herself had set down jottings of her own attitude
toward the work she was doing, and the impression she had of it.
So, in order to make a start, it is
necessary to adopt a point of view. It must be this: that here is an
account of one person's psychic training for a specific job of what later, after her
death, she was to call "divulgence" It is quite aside from the
purposes—and also the possibilities—to do a portrait or a "character
sketch" of Betty. She was as many sided as she was femininely elusive.
When I think of attempting it, I share her own impatience with words.
"It's like trying to look at the
stars in the daytime," she once complained. "It's perfectly clear until
I bring it into the daylight of words, and then it's gone. I don't want
to be silly; but the words make one laugh: they are so long-drawn-out
for the amount of idea in them. It is as impossible to put my world*
into words as it is to put the ocean in a bucket." Again and again I
remember her interrupting her reporting to express that despair over the
impossibility of containing such things in
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language. Nearing the end of her long
experience she wrote this, in her own person, one of the fragments I
found in her files.
"Seeing the thing makes it too big
for words; they stumble. A condensation of words is a flat crystallized
process. Reality is a rounded thing, that pulses. It overflows the mold
of words. I cannot tell what my words are doing. I can only radiate
myself. That is my form of expression. Take it from me as I pass: it is
This gives me a glimpse for my point
of view. Betty did radiate herself. For example, many people, seeing her objectively, remarked on how naturally and without effort she
assumed the age of her companions of the moment. She could join children or
old people—or anybody between— and
for the time being actually one of
them. And obviously this was by no taking thought of condescension or
adjustment. She entered their
world so interestedly and wholly that she blended with it.
A friend had two children aged six
and four. In due time the mother presented them with a baby sister; and
the happy idea occurred to her that Peter and Sally could pick out the infant's godmother. They consulted.
"Can we have anyone we want? Anyone
at all?" they asked.
"Anyone," the mother assured them,
wondering which of a very large family of aunts and cousins it would be.
THE ROAD I
KNOW 19 "Then we'll take Betty
White," said they.
Partly because of this faculty,
people flocked to Betty with their problems and troubles. She gave them tea—and radiated; and sympathized
with them in
her way, which was not at all a coddling way, but as bracing as a frosty morning. She seemed
almost to avoid feeding them specific advice; and they went away a
little puzzled over why they felt so much better about things. Not that she
had no specific advice, when it was really appropriate. Nor that she
lacked the moral courage to speak out in meeting when—rarely—an almost
brutal bluntness would really do some good.
Three days after she had died a man
took me aside.
"I want to tell you something," said he. "Do you remember, a number of
years ago, how intolerant I
was of people? About little things, I mean?"
"I certainly do," I agreed.
"And perhaps you noticed that all at
once I quit?" "I certainly
did," said I. "Everybody did."
"Well, one evening, after I'd been
holding forth about so-and-so's lipstick, and what's-her-name's swank
and a lot of my usual guff, Betty took me off in a corner. 'See here,
Jim!' said she—and I'll never forget how she looked me in the eye—'you
are just about the poorest sportsman I know.' " He chuckled ruefully. "That put me back on my heels," said he.
I could well imagine it, for Jim in
his day had been a fine amateur athlete, and in sports had always held—
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and still holds—to the high code of
the sportsman. "I swallowed hard and asked her what she meant,"
continued Jim. " 'I'll tell you,' said she. 'You like to put people into
classifications, and then you get mad at them when they do the perfectly natural things
that prove you were right!'
"That," said Jim, "opened my eyes. Do
you know," he went on somewhat
hesitatingly, "there had always been a word that somehow I had never found the meaning for. I knew
what the dictionary said, and how people used it, and all that, of
course; but what I mean is it didn't hold a satisfying idea somehow. Didn't
click—" he floundered.
"I get you," said I. I use 'em in my
"Yeah. And then I knew Betty, and
when I saw her sitting so small and straight at the head of her table
and the little proud poise of her head, and her gaiety and wit, and saw
her so gracious to all sorts of people, always, everywhere—no, gracious
means condescending somehow, it wasn't that—Well, I got the meaning of
"What was the word?" I asked.
"Aristocrat," said Jim.
I remember Austin Strong sitting
silent at a gay dinner party, his elbow on the table, his chin in his
hand, watching Betty with the playwright's look of speculation and analysis,
and finally giving it up with a sigh.
THE ROAD I
KNOW 21 "That damned charm! " he
muttered, shaking his head.
For Betty's outer person was just
that. Charm—charm and gaiety. And a delightful wit, that was wit because of new angles of view, and of modes
of expression so original and unexpected that the stiffest formalist
must yield to it. I suppose
it carried so far because it was in no way artificial, or considered, or thought over. It was
Betty's normal language, the way she thought, and therefore the way she
spoke. Like all wit of that kind, while unforgettable, it is equally
unquotable. In report most of it becomes mere museum mountings without
the breath of life. But no one was ever bored with Betty. Even though
what she had to say might be dryly statistical, one found himself alert
for what she would make of it. I lived with her thirty-five years,
and—though there was plenty more—in all that time I was always
relishingly entertained, and continually anticipating what next.
However, it was not the outer
expression but the inner person that made the charm memorable; made it stick,
as it were. Apparently people never forgot Betty. She made an indelible
impress. After her death I received several hundred letters—and I mean
pages long, not mere
"notes of condolence." An extraordinary number of them were from people
who had met her
and years before—from twelve to
thirty-two years before—but who wrote as though
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her personality were to them as of
yesterday. On my return home, after her death in Upland in 1939, my
secretary told me that a very aged Negro had hobbled in to say how sorry he
was. "Mis' White, she was
he. Investigating, I found
that this man had given the windows of our new house their first washing when the
builders had cleared out, and that was all the contact he had ever had with
us. The house was finished in 1919.
Now I am not setting down these
things as a partisan of Betty. I am her partisan of course; but my point
is that so became and so remained everyone who had even casual contact
with her. And, I am convinced, this has been true, not essentially
because of the outer characteristics, but because of what she called
"radiation." This power of radiation probably was inborn; the training
of her Invisibles was directed toward its conscious unfoldment. I say it
must have been inborn, for obviously there must have been something to
work on, something to develop. So, though this biography is of the
inner, it must be built on a foundation of outer circumstance, and we must deal
briefly with the latter.
Betty was a little woman. She always
firmly maintained that five feet was her "official height." For thirty
years I made her a standing offer of five hundred dollars
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—for herself or her pet charity—if
measurement would prove that claim; and a further offer of one hundred
dollars if she would be measured at all! These offers she always refused with
dignity. Nevertheless her proportions were so harmonious, and she
carried herself with so spirited a lift of the head that her tiny
stature had its own unique personality. People called her "exquisite"; I suppose
that was the adjective most often used to describe her. Also she seemed to have
the secret of perpetual youth. Until her last illness at fifty-nine, her
figure was as slender and well-formed; her hair as soft and abundant and
brown—she never had a gray hair; her skin as smooth; her cheeks as shell
pink as at twenty-five. This is not my own—and fatuous—opinion, but the
occasion for wondering remark by so many of her friends that I have to believe it factually true.
"Why!" exclaimed a visitor, seeing
her in bed with her hair about her on the pillow, "she's just like a little
The statement of all this would have
slight importance, were it not for the possibility—worth
considering—that this too may well be the "outward and visible sign" of
that inner thing she called
development of which we
are to deal with in this book.
Continuing for the moment with the
physical, Betty's small body was soft and feminine, but somewhere in
it—or in the spirit that animated it— dwelt a deceptive
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endurance. Before my marriage I had
led a rather unusually venturesome life, in all parts of the world, and
this I continued afterward. And Betty went along. Horse and pack in the
Sierra and Rockies; the cattle roundups of Arizona; afoot and back-packing in
the trailless back country; canoe travel; fourteen months of
in Central Africa; years of cruising
along the Pacific Northwest coast. Nor was she taken along as a
considered and pampered sightseer. Naturally I eased things for her when
I could, but often it was not possible to ease things at all. These were
no play trips. The mountain travel was before the days of made trails
and guides: we carried everything we needed—even to horseshoes—on
horseback, for five months at a time; we slept without cots or tents;
and sometimes rode fourteen hours of a day, and then cooked and made
camp. Arizona of those days had no dude ranches: Betty slept on the ground, and arose
at four to a real cow-puncher breakfast of thin, greasy fried steak and
soggy soda biscuits, and saw no more food until nightfall; and in the
hours between rode the breakneck lava doing her full share in the cattle
drive. On foot trips in the
woods she carried her own appropriate back-pack. The
safari of her day in Africa was no modern Cook's tour of prearrangement: we took our bearers from the savage
tribes. As for Alaska—well, one day she went out on a shore excursion with Charley, who is six feet one and
weighs a hard hundred and eighty pounds.
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Charley promised to take good care
of her. On their return he flopped into a deck chair.
"If ever," he cried fervently, "you
get me out in the woods again with that—with that dam little chipmunk—"
I remember at the White House seeing
Theodore Roosevelt staring across the lunch table at her small and vivacious personality decked in
the pink things and
ostrich-feathered big hat of the period. "I don't believe it," he muttered to me at last.
Her steady coolness and courage were
probably also manifestations of an inner quality. In strenuous outdoor
life there must be emergencies. She met them. If the nature of the show
was one—a lion muss-up for instance—to which she could not contribute,
she was behind the guns, where she belonged, and keeping quiet. When
there was something she could do, she did it, calmly and efficiently.
Sometimes that something took coolheadedness, sometimes real courage.
Once in Africa a buffalo appeared, silently, unexpectedly, actually to crop the top of
a low bush beneath which she
was sitting. The instinctive feminine reaction—and the usual masculine, I suspect—would be
to squawk and flutter, and so to be instantly crushed by hoof and horn.
Betty slowly eased herself flat to the ground and
THE ROAD I KNOW
lay immobile the eternity before I
could get hold of a rifle. Of a wild and stormy day that kept me close
to an ailing and uncertain engine of the little cruiser she and I
conducted for some years up the British Columbia coast, a violent sea
threw her against the spokes of the wheel where she stood at her post,
breaking two of her ribs. I did not know this until we reached a port,
three days later.
"Why should I tell you?" she answered
my reproach. "There was nothing to be done about it."
Suffering—of others—tore her heart;
but she could cut steadily and coolly into human flesh, when a
backwood's accident made minor surgery necessary. I've seen her cut a
deeply imbedded fishhook from a man's arm with entire coolness and dexterity, a
lot calmer than the man himself— until afterward! Then she wailed.
A curious and interesting angle to
this is that she came to it not only without preparatory training or
experience, but with what ordinarily would be called a handicap. She was
raised in Newport, with subsequent
backgrounds of fashionable hotels in Bermuda, Florida, Jamaica,
California. From babyhood to the very noon I married her she was tagged
about by a personal Negro
"mammy," who dressed and undressed her, and picked up things after her. Her
education was in an "exclusive" girls' school, where, she later confessed,
she learned "the whole of nothing."
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So, for a honeymoon, I took her into
the Sierra where she slept on the ground and no tent; ate camp food of
my cooking; and got along by way of wardrobe—for four months—on what she
could stuff into one small duffle bag. This seemed to me then a nice
easy trip! I had been up in the Hudson Bay region, carrying everything I
owned on my back; and here we had horses to do the carrying, and I did
the cooking and hard work, and all Betty had to do was sit a horse and
look at the scenery—and—oh, yes—make the bed and help pack and do the
laundry and maybe wash dishes occasionally when the horses strayed!
Taking a lot for granted in the beginning, only years later did I
realize that I was favored with a very miracle of adaptability. For
Betty had a good time always; a joyous, zestful, outflinging good time. She
always had that, right through life. For her the world was, indeed, full of a
number of things. She scorned the thought that it could ever be
otherwise. "Old age?" she answered someone's pessimistic objection. "But
why old age at all? Old age is when you stop looking at things!"
Sometimes, to tease her, I would
describe her as the world's greatest mongrel, and to prove it I would gabble, almost in a breath, as it were,
the catalogue of her mixture.
"She is half-Spanish, half-Scotch.
She was born on the Isthmus of Panama, raised in Newport, and married a
Westerner. Her mother was a Roman Catholic, her
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father a Scotch Presbyterian, she was
brought up an Episcopalian, and now what is she?"
And this, together with my suggestion
that she was less than five feet tall, she ignored with dignity.
One gift, that she had always
possessed, was greatly developed, or perhaps only more clearly disclosed,
by the life she led with me. That was her kinship with animals as well as
with human beings. She understood them, and—more important—they
understood and had confidence in her. Often I have rounded the bend of
an Alaskan river to see Betty, sitting on a cut bank, talking to a raven
beside her. On my appearance the bird would at once fly away—though I
was, perhaps, a hundred yards distant, and Betty but two or three feet.
We were having a good deal to do, at that time, with the big Alaska
brown—sometimes called Kadiak—bear, and as we were taking moving pictures and
not killing, the camera demanded much shorter range than the rifle.
While these animals by no means deserve their reputation for ferocity,
they are to be treated with respect. One day Betty, walking upstream,
met one of them, somewhere between twelve and fifteen hundred pounds of
live bear, walking down stream. She stopped, drew herself up to her full
five feet (?), and pointed a commanding finger.
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"Now you are a nice bear," said she,
"but you go away! Go away!" she repeated more sharply.
The bear stopped, looked at her to
see if she meant it, dropped his cars exactly as a well-mannered dog
obeys, and turned off at right angles into the brush.
After a few such experiences—not only
with bear, but with deer and other wild creatures—I began to pass up the
movie when occasionally she would say:
"I wouldn't fool with that one, he's
Quite often, when we had anchored
near shore, a yellow jacket would visit the cabin. Betty would hold her
hands about a foot apart and extended toward the insect, and—believe it
or not—that creature would go out of the hatch and away like a bullet.
"I just convey to him that this is
not a nice place for a yellow jacket to be," she answered our queries.
But she confessed she could do nothing with flies.
"They are too scatter-minded," she
When we married I owned a horse named
Bullet. Bullet was a wonderful mountain horse, but he demanded respect.
Even I, whom he knew well, had to get aboard with neatness and dispatch.
Bullet tolerated no sloppiness. If I fumbled or dawdled, or caught
against the cantle, or anything like that, down went his head in protest
and up arched his back. But he was not treacherous. Once I was properly
in the saddle, I could do anything the lawful occasions of rough
mountain travel demanded, even to picking things off the ground or
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mounting on the wrong side, or waving
slickers to head pack animals, or shooting a gun—anything; anything at
all. That was for me. But he was not so tolerant of others. Indeed, I
did not permit others to ride him after a friend of mine—a fine
rider—found himself on one side of a high sharp picket fence and Bullet
on the other, when the dust had cleared. That is, I permitted no others
but Betty. She could not reach both the pommel and the stirrup from the
ground, so she wound the saddle strings around her hand and literally
shinned up Bullet's foreleg, and Bullet turned his head to watch
benignly, standing like a rock until she was well settled in the saddle,
his ears on the half-slant of virtue.
My picket-fence friend was horrified
when he first saw this performance.
"It's criminal!" he expostulated
vehemently. "Some day he'll kill her." But I knew better, and so did
Betty. And so did Bullet.
Anecdote of this sort I could recall
by the score. But one other picture seems to insist. One day the Austin
Strongs, Betty and I were wandering through San Francisco's open-air zoo. Betty was some distance ahead of us. We saw her stop for
a long time before a cage in which dozed a great lion, boredly oblivious to the
throngs of people passing or trying vainly to attract his attention.
After a time Betty walked away. That lion opened his eyes, got to his feet, followed to
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end of the cage, lifted his head
staring after the tiny figure just as far as he could see her in the crowd. Then he
sighed, lay down again, and closed his eyes.
We pursued Betty.
"What were you doing to that lion? "
"I made him pictures," said she
simply, "pictures of the African veldt." 6.
I shall get no further piling up such
incidents. After all it is not really a portrait that is intended, but
only to show a training in spirituality. Granted that spirituality is, as
Betty expresses it, such a "skiddy" word, its avowed practitioner is ordinarily looked upon as someone apart from
hearty living. I have sought to suggest that Betty was in no sense
apart— apart from anything She had a healthy and holy horror of anything
resembling asceticism. She used and enjoyed to the full all of human
life. "Asceticism means you
are afraid of something," she pointed out. She had an equal horror of any taint of superiority, of the "teacher" attitude.
Zest; joyousness; the glow of
radiation; a genuine love "for all things great and small." Simple
elements of personality, but rarely to be met unalloyed. People felt the rarity,
without recognizing it.
One day, months after Betty's death, I was driving
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home from the city, with a friend—a
"Wasn't it wonderful," he said out of
a prolonged silence, "that they
loaned us Betty for a little while."