Prince Balder’s hand trembled, the telescope slipped; the quick effort to regain it lent it an impetus that shot it far into the water. It had done its work and was gone forever. The beautiful princess was once more a vague speck across a mile of rapid river; now, even the speck had moved beyond the trees and was out of sight!
The episode had come so unexpected, and so quickly passed, that now it seemed never to have been at all! But Helwyse had yielded himself unreservedly to the influence of the moment. Following so aptly the fanciful creation of his thought, the apparition had acquired peculiar significance. The abrupt disappearance afflicted him like a positive loss.
Did he, then, soberly believe himself and the princess to have exchanged glances (not to speak of thoughts) across a river a mile wide? Perhaps he merely courted a fancy from which the test of reason was deliberately withheld. Spirits not being amenable to material laws, what was the odds (so far as exchange of spiritual sentiment was concerned) whether the prince and princess were separated by miles or inches?
But however plausible the fancy, it was over. Helwyse leaned back on the rock, drew his hat over his eyes, folded his hands beneath his head, and appeared to sleep.
The Tower of Babel.
In a perfect state of society, where people will think and act in harmony with only the purest aesthetic laws, a knowledge of stenography and photography will suffice for the creation of perfect works of art. But until that epoch comes, the artist must be content to do the grouping, toning, and proportioning of his picture for himself, under penalty of redundancy and confusion. People nowadays seldom do or think the right thing at the fitting moment; insomuch that the biographer, if he would be intelligible, must use his own discretion in arranging his materials.
Now, in view of the rough shaking which late events had given Balder and his opinions, it is doing no violence to probability to fancy him taking an early opportunity to pass these opinions in review. It would be easy, by a glance at the magic ring, to reproduce his meditations just as they passed through his brain. Brevity and pertinence, however, counsel us to recall a dialogue which had taken place about three years before.
Balder and his father were then in the North of England; and the latter (who never concerned himself with any save the plainest and most practical philosophy) was not a little startled at an analogy drawn by his son between the cloud-cap on Helvellyn’s head and the Almighty! Premising that the cloud-cap, though apparently stable, was really created by the continuous passage of warmer air through a cold region around the summit of the mountain, whereby it was for a moment condensed into visibility and then swept on,—having postulated this fact, and disregarding the elder’s remark that he believed not a word of it,—Balder went on to say that God was only a set of attributes,—in a word, the perfection of all human attributes,—and not at all an individual!