“I know not, gentlemen,” said Foster, “where your designs tend to; but in one thing I am bound up,—that, fall back fall edge, I will have one in this place that may pray for me, and that one shall be my daughter. I have lived ill, and the world has been too weighty with me; but she is as innocent as ever she was when on her mother’s lap, and she, at least, shall have her portion in that happy City, whose walls are of pure gold, and the foundations garnished with all manner of precious stones.”
“Ay, Tony,” said Varney, “that were a paradise to thy heart’s content.—Debate the matter with him, Doctor Alasco; I will be with you anon.”
So speaking, Varney arose, and taking the flask from the table, he left the room.
“I tell thee, my son,” said Alasco to Foster, as soon as Varney had left them, “that whatever this bold and profligate railer may say of the mighty science, in which, by Heaven’s blessing, I have advanced so far that I would not call the wisest of living artists my better or my teacher—I say, howsoever yonder reprobate may scoff at things too holy to be apprehended by men merely of carnal and evil thoughts, yet believe that the city beheld by St. John, in that bright vision of the Christian Apocalypse, that new Jerusalem, of which all Christian men hope to partake, sets forth typically the discovery of the grand secret, whereby the most precious and perfect of nature’s works are elicited out of her basest and most crude productions; just as the light and gaudy butterfly, the most beautiful child of the summer’s breeze, breaks forth from the dungeon of a sordid chrysalis.”
“Master Holdforth said nought of this exposition,” said Foster doubtfully; “and moreover, Doctor Alasco, the Holy Writ says that the gold and precious stones of the Holy City are in no sort for those who work abomination, or who frame lies.”
“Well, my son,” said the Doctor, “and what is your inference from thence?”
“That those,” said Foster, “who distil poisons, and administer them in secrecy, can have no portion in those unspeakable riches.”
“You are to distinguish, my son,” replied the alchemist, “betwixt that which is necessarily evil in its progress and in its end also, and that which, being evil, is, nevertheless, capable of working forth good. If, by the death of one person, the happy period shall be brought nearer to us, in which all that is good shall be attained, by wishing its presence—all that is evil escaped, by desiring its absence—in which sickness, and pain, and sorrow shall be the obedient servants of human wisdom, and made to fly at the slightest signal of a sage—in which that which is now richest and rarest shall be within the compass of every one who shall be obedient to the voice of wisdom—when the art of healing shall be lost and absorbed in the one universal medicine when sages shall become monarchs of the earth, and death itself retreat before their frown,—if this blessed consummation of all things can be hastened by the slight circumstance that a frail, earthly body, which must needs partake corruption, shall be consigned to the grave a short space earlier than in the course of nature, what is such a sacrifice to the advancement of the holy Millennium?”