Then she observed carefully how her face felt with that placid expression and studied to keep it always with that feeling, until by and by her features were fixed and now the placid face is always there, for she has established in her brain an automatic vigilance over it that will not allow the muscles once to get “out of drawing.”
What kind of an old woman this acquaintance of mine will make I do not know. I am curious to see her—but now she certainly is a most remarkable hypocrite. The strain in behind the mask of a face which she has made for herself must be something frightful. And indeed I believe it is, for she is ill most of the time—and what could keep one in nervous illness more entirely than this deep interior strain which is necessary to such external appearance of placidity.
There comes to my mind at once a very comical illustration of something quite akin to this although at first thought it seems almost the reverse. A woman who constantly talked of the preeminency of mind over matter, and the impossibility of being moved by external circumstances to any one who believed as she did—this woman I saw very angry.
She was sitting with her face drawn in a hundred cross lines and all askew with her anger. She had been spouting and sputtering what she called her righteous indignation for some minutes, when after a brief pause and with the angry expression still on her face she exclaimed: “Well, I don’t care, it’s all peace within.”
I doubt if my masked lady would ever have declared to herself or to any one else that “it was all peace within.” The angry woman was—without doubt—the deeper hypocrite, but the masked woman had become rigid in her hypocrisy. I do not know which was the weaker of the two, probably the one who was deceiving herself.
But to return to those drawn, strained lines we see on the people about us. They do not come from hard work or deep thought. They come from unnecessary contractions about the work. If we use our wills consistently and steadily to drop such contractions, the result is a more quiet and restful way of living, and so quieter and more attractive faces.
This unquietness comes especially in the eyes. It is a rare thing to see a really quiet eye; and very pleasant and beautiful it is when we do see it. And the more we see and observe the unquiet eyes and the unquiet faces the better worth while it seems to work to have ours more quiet, but not to put on a mask, or be in any other way a hypocrite.
The exercise described in a previous chapter will help to bring a quiet face. We must drop our heads with a sense of letting every strain go out of our faces, and then let our heads carry our bodies down as far as possible, dropping strain all the time, and while rising slowly we must take the same care to drop all strain.
In taking the long breath, we must inhale without effort, and exhale so easily that it seems as if the breath went out of itself, like the balloons that children blow up and then watch them shrink as the air leaves them.