Balder (whose perceptions were unlimited by artistic requirements) probably needed no second glance to assure him that his uncle was a mummy of many years’ standing. But no effort of mental gymnastics could explain him the fact. Were this real, then was his steamboat adventure a dream, the revelation of the ring a delusion, and his water-stained haversack a phantom. He wandered clewless in a maze of mystery. Nor was this the first paradox he had encountered since overleaping the brick wall. He began to question whether supernaturalism had not teen too hastily dismissed by lovers of wisdom!
Thus do the actors in the play of life plod from one to another scene, nor once rise to a height whence a glance might survey past and future. Memory and prophecy are twin sisters,—nay, they are essentially one muse, whom mankind worships on this side and slights on that. This is well, for had she but one aspect, the world would be either too confident or too helpless. But in reviewing a life, one is apt to make less than due allowance for the helplessness. Thus it is no prejudice to Balder’s intellectual acumen that he failed for a moment to penetrate the thin disguises of events, and to perceive relations obvious to the comprehensive view of history. We will take advantage of his bewildered pause to draw attention to some matters heretofore neglected.
The happiness of man.
When Manetho,—who shall no longer perplex us with his theft of a worthier man’s name,—when Manetho felt himself worsted in the brief strenuous struggle, he tried to drag his antagonist overboard with him. But his convulsive fingers seized only the leathern strap of the haversack. Balder—his Berserker fury at white heat—flung the man with such terrible strength as drove him headlong over the taffrail like a billet of wood, the stout strap snapping like thread!
Manetho struck the water in sorry plight, breathless, bruised, half strangled. He sank to a chilly depth, but carried his wits down with him, and these brought him up again alive, however exhausted. Too weak to swim, he yet had strength left to keep afloat. But for the collision, he had drowned, after all!