No journal of a life has been our tale; rather a glimpse of a beginning! We have traversed an alpine pass between the illimitable lands of Past and Future. We have felt the rock rugged beneath our feet; have seen the avalanche and mused beside the precipice, and have taken what relief we might in the scanty greensward, the few flowers, and the brief sunshine. Now, standing on the farewell promontory, let us question the magic mirror concerning the further road,—as, before, of that from the backward horizon hitherwards.
Mr. MacGentle’s quiet little office: himself—more venerable by a year than when we saw him last—in his chair: opposite him, Dr. Balder Helwyse. The latter wears a thick yellow beard about six inches in length, is subdued in dress and manner, and his smile, though genial, has something of the sadness of autumn sunshine. The two have been conversing earnestly, and now there is a short silence.
“We must give up hoping it, then,” says Mr. MacGentle at last, in a more than usually plaintive murmur. “It is hard,—very hard, dear Balder.”
“Now that I know there is no hope, I can acknowledge the good even while I feel the hardship. Her dreams have been of a world such as no real existence could show; to have been awakened would permanently have saddened her, if no worse. But she is great enough to believe without seeing; and in the deepest sense, her belief is true. She still remains in that ideal fairy-land in which I found her; and no doubt, as time goes on, her visions grow more beautiful!”
Thus Balder Helwyse, in tones agreeably vigorous, though grave and low.
“Yes—yes; and perhaps, dear Balder, the denial of this one great boon may save her from much indefinite disquiet; and certainly, as you say, from the great danger of disappointment and its consequences. Yes,—and you may still keep her lamp alight, with a more lasting than Promethean fire!—But how is it with you, dear boy?”
“Let none who love me pray for my temporal prosperity,” returns Helwyse, turning his strong, dark gaze on the other’s aged eyes. “I have met with many worshippers of false gods, but none the germs of whose sin I found not in myself. The I to whom was confided this excellent instrument of faculties and senses is a poor, weak, selfish creature, who fancied his gifts argued the possession of the very merits whose lack they prove. God, in His infinite mercy, deals sternly with me; and I know how to thank Him!”—
Mr. MacGentle does not reply in words; but a grave smile glimmers in his faded eyes, and, smiling, he slowly shakes his venerable head.
One more brief glimpse, and then we are done.—
A pleasant parlor of southern aspect, looking through a deep bay-window over a spacious garden. Here sits a stalwart gentleman of middle age, with a little boy and girl on either knee, who play bo-peep with his wide-spreading yellow beard. How they all laugh! and what a pleasant laugh has the stalwart, dark-eyed gentleman,—so deep-toned and yet so boyish! But presently all three pause to take breath.